Angeal knocked on the doorframe of Sephiroth's office. Sephiroth looked up in question.
"Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I'm off to spar with Harry now in case you wanted to watch."
"I do," Sephiroth stood and shrugged into his jacket. He swept his hair over one shoulder and followed Angeal to the elevators. "Did you read the message I sent you?"
Angeal punched the 'down' button, "The one about Harry's documents being forged? Yeah. I'm trying to think of a way to get information out of him, but short of drugging him nothing comes to mind. He's good at deflection, damn him."
"That reminds me…"
The elevator arrived. Three businessmen were inside of it, but when they saw Sephiroth standing there they vacated it. Sephiroth secretly hated it when people did that. What were they so afraid of? He wasn't even armed. Was he really that scary? He knew logically that it was a gesture of respect, but he'd had enough of being singled out for special treatment. Sometimes he just wanted to blend in.
They stepped inside.
"What are you reminded of?" Angeal prodded, leaning back and folding his arms.
"Oh. In your conversation with him when his accent returned, did he say anything else you found unusual?"
Angeal snapped his fingers, "Magic! He said something about losing the fight because he forgot his magic. I completely forgot about it until now. At the time I must have thought it was just nonsense. Do you think he really does have access to magic?"
"I didn't find anything in his bag."
Angeal coughed, looking mildly uncomfortable, "After our conversation I got suspicious. I had Zack, my protégé, bring Harry's bag of belongings to me. I searched it thoroughly and found nothing unusual. No photographs or mementos either. Only clothing and textbooks."
"Isn't that unusual in and of itself?" Sephiroth asked, stepping out as their elevator landed.
"I thought about that, but maybe not. He has no family and he wasn't close with what he did have, so he wouldn't carry photographs of them. And if there is any truth to what he told me about leaving Kalm for Wutai to find meaning, he wasn't invested in his community. He wouldn't have left like that if he had close friends."
"I see the logic in that. I still find it unbelievable that someone like this has managed to be in my army for almost a year without my noticing anything unusual."
Angeal smiled and opened the door to the training room he used with Zack. Harry wasn't due to arrive for another half an hour. "Hey, I'm the idiot that got distracted at the Crater. I knew something wasn't right then, but I was more interested in sleeping with him than figuring him out."
Sephiroth took a seat against the wall and set to work on a small tangle in his hair. He said nothing. Angeal began to warm up.
"Should I send the Turks to Wutai to see what they can find there?" Sephiroth asked after a while.
"Good idea. We should send them to the Crater as well and see if they know anything."
Sephiroth abandoned his hair and pulled out his PHS. He began typing a message to Tseng detailing forays into Harry's location and possible magic use. When he'd finished he pulled a basic Materia out of his pocket. He was planning to work on mastering it in the desert that night, but now he had a better idea.
Angeal turned and caught it.
"For Harry. See how he reacts."
Sephiroth stood, "I'm going to conceal myself in the observation deck. I won't be able to see as much, but I don't want to alarm him so soon."
Angeal nodded and let him go.
The training rooms were interconnected and shared a communal shower. There were four observation decks, one on each side of the outer walls. They were usually used during the hand-to-hand aspect of the SOLDIER exams, but sometimes a mentor would use it to observe his pupils or to monitor two soldiers that didn't necessarily get along to ensure that they didn't kill each other or do too much damage.
He settled in to wait. He still had a few minutes before he could expect Harry's arrival. In the mean time Tseng responded to his message. He messaged him back, frowning, with Harry's alleged life story. He thought again about Angeal's affair with Harry. Perhaps it was for the best that he was observing their fight. This way Angeal would have more self-control, knowing that he wasn't actually alone with Harry.
That stabbing feeling he had when he thought about them together was jealousy. He'd made his peace with that. But what was he supposed to do about it? Harry was his inferior and he had no business crossing that line. He was responsible for the well-being of his army, and that meant keeping his personal life out of it.
In spite of his noble intentions, when the door opened and Harry stepped through, his heart stood still.
He had several theories about why Harry had such a strong effect on him. One was that, like his attraction to Simone, there was something primal inside of him that needed a healthy partner. He also thought that it could have something to do with Harry as a person. Harry was physically attractive to him, but he also liked the way he could read his face so easily. He liked the way he smelled, and he wanted desperately to know more about him. He had the paltry (and forged) information about him memorized. It wasn't enough. He wanted to know him.
Angeal said something to him and Harry laughed. Sephiroth couldn't hear anything. He wished he could. It hadn't occurred to him that he would want to eavesdrop.
Harry warmed up and Angeal pretended to as well. Harry's stretches were standard ShinRa movements. His flexibility appeared to be somewhat above average. Sephiroth began drafting notes on his PHS that he would email to his computer for later revising.
He jotted down 'Possibility of hypermobility syndrome'.
They circled one another, still talking. Sephiroth made a half-hearted effort to read their lips before deciding that it was too much of a distraction. They held wooden practice swords in the ready position as they circled. Each waited for the other to make the first move.
Harry struck and then darted back so quick Angeal had to over-extend to retaliate. Sephiroth read a compliment on his lips. Harry smiled shyly.
They sparred for an hour. They had agreed to half of that so they wouldn't over-strain Harry's tender shoulder, but Harry said at the halfway mark that he felt fine. Sephiroth was glad that they decided to continue on. He was mesmerized by the way Harry moved and didn't want them to stop. He had already noted that he should acquire the security feed for examination.
Harry's sharp sweeping motions belied him as a self-taught swordsman. He didn't fight in any of the specific styles or 'schools' of swordsmanship. His movements were almost jerky, but graceful. He never once lost his balance, an unusual feat for a first-year soldier. And the most surprisingly thing of all was that Angeal only managed to land less than ten hits on him during their entire hour.
Angeal was a First Class SOLDIER, and a Commander. He, along with Genesis and Sephiroth, were among the first to be genetically altered with Mako. Their doses were much higher. When pressed, Angeal could sprout wings and fly. And yet he was unable to catch a simple soldier with a blunt wooden sword.
Sephiroth couldn't believe his eyes. It wasn't that Harry could float or teleport, but he seemed to. He was never where you expected him to be, and so quick! Angeal sported a bruise on his chin from a sharp smack of the toy sword.
Angeal clapped him on the back and Harry grinned at him. The grin fell away when Angeal took something out of his pocket and held it up for him to see. It was the Materia Sephiroth gave him. Angeal was saying something. Harry shook his head. Angeal insisted, and Harry let the Materia be forced into his hand.
He held it awkwardly at first, and then began to roll it between his palms casually as Angeal continued to talk. Harry bit his lip, looking down. He mumbled something, and Angeal raised his eyebrows. Sephiroth would've killed a man to know what they were saying.
Something went 'boom'. Harry dropped the Materia, and Sephiroth squinted through the rising cloud of smoke, trying to see what happened. When it cleared Harry was clutching his face, or perhaps just his eyes, and Angeal was hovering trying to see what was wrong. Harry took his hands away to reveal bright green tear tracks down his cheeks. The Mako was bleeding away.
Sephiroth had never seen anything like it. Harry appeared to be in pain. Angeal took him by the arm and guided him out the door. Just before they disappeared from sight Sephiroth saw him take something out his pocket.
Sephiroth's PHS rang.
"Hey, uh, Harry's had some kind of accident and he doesn't feel so good. I'm taking him to the medics. I'll come over as soon as I'm done to talk, okay?"
"I will see you then."
Angeal hung up. Sephiroth sent the message of notes to himself and then pocketed the device. He lingered in the hallway, unsure of what to do. He wasn't sure he wanted to be confined in his apartment just now. He ached to follow them to the hospital and find out if Harry was going to be alright.
He gnawed his lip almost to the point of drawing blood and then set off for his apartment.
Harry was very uncomfortable. He was strapped to a sort of dentist's chair. There was tape holding his eyes open, and metal instruments encircled them. He could feel the body heat of the seven people in white coats crowded around him.
As soon as the staff at the hospital determined that he wasn't actually injured, he was relayed to the laboratories. An aide pounced on him and before he knew what was going on he was strapped to this chair.
He was utterly convinced that they were going to remove his eyes from their sockets for science.
The last thing he expected was a further complication with his magic and Mako. He thought he was over the worst of it, that all he would have to worry about was itching and possibly burning in his veins. He didn't expect a casual flick of his magic to send it pulsing out of his body.
From listening to the scientists he'd gathered that there was nothing for it. Something inside of him was incompatible with Mako. He felt real dread when they began discussing the best way to determine what it was. Apparently he was the very first person to have this sort of incompatibility. They were worried that it was a new genetic mutation that would soon begin cropping up in more and more recruits.
He understood their concern, he really did. If others had his incompatibility, the SOLDIER Program would collapse. But he also knew that he was the only person on the Planet with this incompatibility, unless there were other aliens he didn't know about. He couldn't say that, of course, and he was genuinely frightened that more in-depth analysis of his blood and physiognomy would result in the revelation of something abnormal that would give him away.
The clamps were removed from his eyes and the tape casually jerked off. He blinked up at the scientists. Only one of them was actually looking at him. His wide brown eyes took in Harry's un-tinted eye color and asked him if it'd hurt when the Mako escaped. Harry nodded. The scientist pursed his lips and wrote this down.
Harry was unstrapped and told to report back to the laboratories in three days, when they'd finished analyzing their data and come up with some tests to run.
That was unacceptable. One way or another, he needed to find a way to get out of it.
His mind was whirling with possibilities when he pushed open the door to his barracks. He immediately knew that something was wrong. His eyes were throbbing and hazy, but he could see that Zack was slouched on his bed, and that he wasn't happy.
For once everyone else was in the barracks, probably because of the proximity to curfew. They were also paying very close attention to him. Ostensibly they were engaged in card games, sleeping, or just chatting with friends, but they were watching him out of the corners of their eyes or taking glances.
He pushed his shoulders back and went to his bunk. He sat beside Zack and reached out to touch him, concern on his lips. Zack pulled his legs to his chest, out of reach.
"Zack, are you okay?"
Zack curled his lip and muttered something. Harry didn't catch it and said so.
"I said you never let me have anything for myself!"
"What are you talking about?"
Zack got off the bunk and stumbled a little. He grabbed hold of the next bunk to keep his balance. He was disheveled and he smelled like alcohol. Harry sighed.
"Zack, don't be like this. I know you're upset about Angeal, but its totally okay, I promise. I told him that I only want to do three sessions, and he agreed. So in no time you'll have him back to yourself."
Zack looked like he was going to cry.
"You don't get it…" he whispered. Harry strained to hear him. "You don't get it. I know."
"Know what?" Harry's entire head was throbbing from his magic reclaiming space previously occupied by Mako. His entire body ached from overdoing it with Angeal, and he was tired from a long day of training and classes. He didn't want to have an argument, and he definitely didn't want to have an argument in front of everyone else in the barracks.
"Damn it, I know that you slept with him!"
Harry was stunned. He could say nothing. Zack sniffed and sat across from him.
"Did you think I was blind? I went to visit you when you were in the hospital. I skipped class so I could be there when you would have more energy, and what do I see? I see my mentor, my mentor, sitting with you and looking so fucking upset I can't stand it. And it was so obvious from the way he was talking to you, sitting so close and talking the way he was. Fuck, Harry, why didn't you say something? I've been waiting and waiting for you to tell me, but you never did. You lied."
The tirade ended, but not for good. Zack took a long drink of water from his bottle and shoved it back into the pocket of his bunk.
"What kind of friend are you? I'm always the one making time for you, accommodating you. I like you and I thought that you were a good person, but I guess not. I must be wrong about you, because why else would you keep something like this from me? You know how much Angeal means to me."
Harry had never thought that he was being a bad friend, but Zack was right. Harry wasn't used to making and maintaining new friends. He was used to Ron and Hermione, George and Neville. People that'd known him since he was a little kid and gone through war with him. People that knew all about his moods and understood why he needed to be alone sometimes. Zack wasn't any of these things. Zack was just a talented kid from Gongaga that wanted to be his friend.
Harry swelled with emotion. He reached out for Zack.
"God, I'm so sorry. Zack, I've been known to do this before. I'm so stupid, I just don't think sometimes."
Zack didn't move. Harry let his arms drop. He stubbornly held onto the belief that he could make this right. He just wished everyone wasn't watching.
"Zack, I didn't tell you about Angeal and me because I didn't want to freak you out. You're straight, and as far as you knew Angeal was too. I didn't want to make things weird between you by telling you that we had a past."
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Zack muttered, squatting to dig under the bunk by Harry's feet for his things. He began to change into his pajamas. Harry parted his lips to speak but bit the words back when he saw a streak of salt water on Zack's tan cheek. He hated to know that he was responsible for it.
Zack crawled into his bunk in time for the lights to go out. Harry sighed and began to get undressed in the dark. Someone bumped him roughly in the dark, causing him to smack his head against the bed-frame. He said nothing, only got ready as quickly as possible before getting into bed.
His body hurt, and now his heart did too.
He spent the next day torn between finding a way to get through to Zack, who was stonewalling him, and a way to get out of his laboratory visit. He also needed to get to Kalm as soon as possible. Every day he waited was another day closer to the end of this world.
It was a sobering thought, and it soon overwhelmed his intentions regarding Zack. He spent his study period re-evaluating all his information on electricity instead of studying for his test on Wutain Ethics.
Reno attempted to start a whispered conversation about going down to Midgar that weekend, but Harry couldn't concentrate and told him he'd think about it. He wasn't sure that he would still be in Midgar that weekend, if all went well.
All he had to do was find a way to get put on suspension. He could take a slug at a sergeant, but he liked his sergeants, even the nasty ones. There was something about impersonal male authority that made him not want to fuck with it.
An opportunity was handed to him, gift-wrapped, that night. He returned to the barracks sweaty and exhilarated from a long run on the track. He'd needed the extra endorphins to lift his spirits. Things were starting to look bleak.
He intended to take a shower and fall into bed. What he found waiting for him was the entire squad minus Zack, who was still in a training session with Angeal. He raised his eyebrows as he walked to his bunk.
"Is something going on?"
"Yeah." It was Bobby, a shaven-headed punk from the Slums. He was a trouble-maker and considered the unofficial leader of the squad because he once killed a man in a knife fight. Harry never tried to assert himself, preferring to exist as a satellite of the squad rather than a member of it. He sighed.
"Okay, what did I do, Bobby?"
"You fucked Zack's mentor."
Harry groaned, "One, that was a long ago. Two, that is none of your business. That's between Zack and I. Good night."
He turned to get undressed. Someone grabbed his shoulder and spun him back around. A fist came flying at his face. He ducked and it smashed into the bed frame. Bobby howled, grabbing his hand. Blood was spurting from it, and Harry could see white bone sticking out.
Instead of acting as a deterrent, the sight of blood inflamed the others. They came at him all at once. Harry fended them off as best as he could, but there were a lot of them and he was terrified that he'd hurt them. He was already exhausted from his run, and quickly becoming more so as the rain of fists and booted feet didn't abate.
He swung out with his full strength on instinct when someone got too close, and the boy, Charlie, went down like a sack of potatoes. Harry spared a thought of concern but was soon distracted by a pair of hands taking hold of his throat. He grunted and grabbed his assailant by the hair, tearing his from him. The guy went flying, leaving Harry with a handful of brown hair and blood.
This was getting ugly. He spun and punched someone sneaking behind him in the stomach. There was a loud crack as he broke their ribs. He noticed the knife in his hands and knew on an animal level that he had done what was right to defend his life against a legitimate threat.
Speaking of threats, where were the sergeants? The barracks were monitored. Someone in security would have noticed the fight by now and alerted the sergeants that there was an incident, especially one involving this many participants.
He was forced to retreat from the seven remaining to the door, where he was pinned in place. He kicked one of them in the head, and they fell. A pool of blood formed around their head where he had broken the skin and possibly fractured their skull.
The door behind him moved inwards. Harry toppled forward onto Lars. The door burst open and slammed against the wall. Two sergeants and a lieutenant stood there, heaving from pushing the door in. they stared at the chaos in the room in speechless wonder.
Bobby was curled in the fetal position, clutching his wrist and moaning. Three soldiers lay in various states of consciousness on the floor, and many more were bleeding or forming large purple bruises on their faces.
Amazingly, Harry Potter, the soldier described as the victim by the security guards, was the least injured. A nasty cut was forming on his cheek and he was favoring one leg over the other, but he still had all of his teeth.
The room was filled with sounds of heaving breaths and moans from the fallen.
"Potter, come with us. The rest of you stay here and wait for medical assistance!"
Those that were able saluted, and Harry followed his superiors into the hall. There was an awkward silence when the superiors realized they weren't sure what to do with Harry. He was the one the others ganged up on, but he was also responsible for seriously injuring his fellow soldiers. They were supposed to remove him for his own protection, but now it appeared that they needed to remove him for the protection of the others.
They elected that the lieutenant should take him to a nurse to get his cut looked at while the others attended to those remaining in the barracks.
Harry was on pins and needles during his stint in the hospital; they only grew worse when he overheard that he was supposed to be taken to a holding cell for disciplinary consideration. He felt like he'd swallowed a rock when he overheard in the next conversation that two of his assailants were now in intensive care, and that a third soldier had died of head trauma.
He hadn't meant to kill anyone.
End Chapter 15
In the interest of my self esteem and frequent updates, chapters are going to be a little shorter from now on. Okay? Awesome.