ch. 4. call it vanity
He wasn't sure what he had expected that first time, but his mind had imagined something along the lines of praying, hand-holding, all that mystical shit people usually associated with the Cetra. In comparison to that expectation, what Ifalna did first felt surprisingly anti-climatic and almost mundane: she took a blood test. Adding onto that was that he was in some run-down apartment in Midgar's slums, he couldn't help but feel the situation was unreal and that there was a good chance the whole thing was just a dream.
"Why did you trust Fenrir?" he finally said, partly to distract himself, and partly because the question had been nagging at him the past couple days. "Before you knew him, why did you trust him to help you escape?"
"I'm afraid the answer to that question will be rather unsatisfying," Ifalna started. "Basically, a week before he appeared in the labs, I started having dreams, almost like I was living this other life while I was asleep. I didn't know what they meant at first, but as soon as I laid eyes on him, I just knew, I guess, that what I had been seeing were his memories." She only had to take one glance at Genesis' face to gauge his reaction, laughing at his look of contempt. "I told you, didn't I? Unsatisfying."
"I'm still not exactly… reconciled with the idea that the Planet is alive, much less can speak and send visions to certain people," Genesis said carefully.
Ifalna only nodded. "That's understandable."
There was a pause, before Genesis asked, "What did you see?"
"In those… visions," he elaborated.
Ifalna made a face, almost as if just the thought of Fenrir's memories left a bad taste in her mouth. "Too much," she finally responded. "But that man has far too heavy a burden to carry alone."
Ifalna gave a short smile. "I know he doesn't look it, but he's very, ah, ambitious. And idealistic. If the world were about to end, he'd still do his best to save it all."
Genesis made a noise of irritation at her response. She was impossible to converse with. It was like the woman only spoke in riddles. "But I still don't get it. Where does he come from, what is his agenda?" he asked, more rhetorically than anything. He knew Ifalna wouldn't be so kind as to make his life easy and answer straightforwardly.
"Hmm… " Ifalna only made a sympathetic noise. "How about you stay for dinner? You can talk with him then, get to know him."
Dinner. Get to know him. Like he was some girl with a crush, trying to get her object of interest to finally notice her existence. The woman made it sound so deceptively simple it pissed him off. As if the man would tell him all his secrets because they shared a meal together. It was ridiculous.
And besides, he didn't need her help.
But before Genesis' could voice his protests, the woman pulled the needle out of his arm. "There we go. Don't worry; I have a friend who can help me analyze this." She put away the sample for safe-keeping, before turning back to him. "So? You feeling hungry? Fenrir will be home soon."
Genesis stood up. "I'm busy tonight."
"Of course," the woman accepted, leading him out to the living room. "Oh, but Aerith wanted to show you something!" Ifalna gave him a pleading smile. "I hope you wouldn't mind humoring her?"
There was something about this woman that made it near impossible to say no to her. In fact, her whole demeanor was almost too gentle, too accepting. Genesis cast a longing look towards the door and gave a short sigh. "…Fine," he acquiesced reluctantly.
Ifalna gave him a grateful look before going into the other room. "Aerith?" he heard the woman say. "Didn't you want to show him something? … Okay, now don't take up too much of his time, he's busy, alright?"
Within seconds, the girl from the day before shot out from the other room, holding up a book. "Look!" she said proudly, holding it up for his inspection. "Uncle bought me my own copy! What do you think?"
He stared at her for a moment in utter perplexity, when his eyes caught of the title. LOVELESS: the Collecter's Edition.
That isn't... she didn't…
As he opened the book and looked through it, he felt a wave of surprise rippling through him. The girl had underlined quotes—not even, she had annotated them.
And then his heart fucking melted onto the floor.
That Genesis had stayed talking with Aerith until Fenrir came home had probably surprised the man as much as it surprised Genesis. But the girl, she was just… so fucking precious. Precocious, maybe a little (but he had been at her age as well, so he wouldn't fault her there), but she was also genuinely curious of the prose in a way that Genesis had never found in another. In fact, Genesis was so caught up in sharing some of his favorite lines with Aerith that he didn't even notice when Fenrir came in until he heard Ifalna mention his name.
"Fenrir! Genesis is joining us for dinner tonight," she informed the older man.
"He is?" Fenrir asked, looking at Genesis for confirmation.
Genesis swiveled his gaze towards Ifalna in betrayal—she, of course, only smiled back brightly—and then towards Aerith, who was looking at him with this horribly hopeful look on he face. Damn the girl. Damn that precocious, fantastic little girl. For all he knew, it had been a set-up all along.
"Yes, I am," he finally answered.
Fenrir didn't seem to react and just shrugged and began to put his stuff down. Ifalna, however, being the busybody that she was, immediately began bustling about.
"Aerith," she called to the little girl. "Help me with dinner?"
"Okay!" Aerith responded. She turned to Genesis with a large smile. "That was fun! And you're good at teaching." She ran off before Genesis could respond.
It was only when Fenrir sat down beside him that Genesis had realized what had happened; Ifalna had basically left the two of them alone. Manipulative, tricky woman.
Still, Fenrir didn't seem to mind Genesis' company so much as he relaxed beside him. The man had taken off his blazer and tie, and had unbuttoned his white dress shirt slightly as he leaned back into the couch. Yet even that simple move of relaxation seemed heavy; or was it just Ifalna's words coming back to him? That man has far too heavy a burden to carry alone.
"Long day?" Genesis found himself asking, a second later berating himself at that inane turn of conversation. Small talk. He didn't do small talk.
Fenrir gave him a pensive, sidelong glance, as if curious that he had initiated the conversation. "I suppose," the man mused thoughtfully. "Rufus Shinra can be quite… the troubling kid to watch over."
Genesis let out an unkind snort. "You mean obnoxious."
The man gave a crooked smile. "That's one way to put it." He turned an interested gaze upon Genesis . "And… how was your day?"
"Fine," Genesis replied loftily, deciding not to make a sarcastic remark about becoming a guinea pig for a nosy, busybody woman. "Feeling a little restless. Angeal's out of town, so I'm out of sparring partners."
"And the General?"
"Busy being a mascot for the company."
There was flit of a smile that crossed across the man's face at the phrase, almost like enjoying an inside joke. "Sounds like quite the predicament."
"Well, you know anyone you might be interested in helping relieve my boredom?" Genesis asked. He looked at the other man, daring him to rise to the challenge.
"Depends," Fenrir answered vaguely. "When?"
"Tomorrow, 5pm. SOLDIER training room."
Fenrir gave Genesis an appraising look. "We'll see."
As much as Genesis found himself dreading the dinner that he was somehow coerced into attending, it hadn't been that bad of an affair. Despite not being blood-related to Aerith and Ifalna, it was surprising how well Fenrir fit into their dynamic, as if he had lived with them all his life. As Aerith excitedly went over what happened in school (where Ifalna informed him that she was enrolled under the name "Emory Wallace"), Fenrir had listened attentively.
If there was one thing that Genesis learned from the dinner, it was that Fenrir certainly wasn't a conversationalist. When the man spoke, his manner made it seem as though every word chosen carefully and even after that, checked three times before the sounds finally came out. But Genesis soon realized that the man's words said nothing about him; rather, it was his expressions that betrayed the man.
It was as plain as day, the man adored Aerith. When she spoke, there was a crinkle around Fenrir's eyes that displayed such joy that Genesis had to wonder if maybe the man really was the girl's uncle. Because could a stranger really show so much affection for a girl he had only met months ago?
But he had to admit, this girl was pretty endearing. Even as found himself taking himself finally taking leave, when the girl had stopped to ask if he would join them for dinner next week, Genesis couldn't say no.
Obviously, she had been taught far too well by her mother.
Genesis had expected an uncomfortable hour or so of waiting around for the Turk to show and had even brought a book to read while he waited. However, to his surprise, the man was already there, dressed in a plain t-shirt and sweatpants, warming up.
"How long have you been here?" Genesis asked when he came up. Fenrir shrugged.
"Just enough to warm up."
Genesis grinned. "So you're all ready then?" His hand drifted down to his rapier.
However, the man held up his hand. "Wait, we're not going to spar using blades. I don't even have a sword to use."
"So? Just use one of Shinra's practice blades."
Fenrir rolled his eyes. "Against your custom-designed weapon? I'm not suicidal. Besides, you already have the advantage over me with speed and strength. It's not fair you get your weapon of choice."
"Fine," Genesis huffed, crossing his arms. "What are you proposing then?"
The man grinned. "No weapons. No materia. Unarmed combat."
Genesis stared at him flatly. "You're joking, right?" When Fenrir's expression didn't change, Genesis only looked at him in more incredulousness. "You mean to say, you want us to… brawl like some unrefined drunkards?"
"Levels the playing field though, doesn't it?" The man gave Genesis a long stare. "Don't tell me… you're weren't trained in unarmed combat?"
Well… technically, he had been trained in unarmed combat and didn't do half-bad, but he just so much better with his rapier and materia. They compensated for his height, and worked well with his speed. But hand-to-hand fighting? How long had it been since he had actually had a real fight without a weapon? If ever?
"Fine," Genesis finally gritted out, pride winning over logic. He put his sword down and began to walk towards the middle of training ground. "Let's do this. Watch, I'll make you regret saying I had the body of a girl."
The other man's faced clouded over in confusion for a moment, before clearing, seeming to recall the words they exchanged at their first meeting. "Oh… that." Fenrir let out a small chuckle. "Pity. I meant it as a compliment, too."
Genesis narrowed his eyes at his opponent. "Excuse me?"
"You know." Fenrir grinned. "I meant your body suits that feminine, pretty boy face of yours perfectly."
And then Genesis saw red.
In retrospect, he probably should have known better to attack the man head-on, especially when he was so obviously goaded. But that realization didn't come until Genesis found his kick caught mid-swing and his center of gravity suddenly shifting as the other man flipped him over. Genesis only barely caught himself and tucked into a roll as he hit the ground—but if his reflexes hadn't been so fast…
As Genesis stood up, he appraised Fenrir with a calculating look. Obviously, the man was faster than he expected—meaning, he'd just have to make sure he was faster.
Fenrir barely gave Genesis a moment of breathe and immediately started his own onslaught. Genesis dodged each attack reflexively, all the while thinking his strategy. The man didn't just attack blindly—each one of his strikes were calculated, aimed at the more vulnerable spots, and even more, the moves flowed from one another smoothly. This man wouldn't slip up; Genesis would have to launch his own offense.
Finally, Genesis took his chance. After blocking one of Fenrir's punches, he immediately aimed a strike towards the man's midsection. Yet somehow, the man managed to block the blow yet again and Genesis found himself evading back to dodge the counterstrike.
Damn it, if he just had rapier, he would be owning the man. But he hadn't done unarmed combat in so long, he couldn't even execute the moves without the slight awkwardness and hesitation in his every motion. And he couldn't just lose after the man all but called him a girl. Screw it, he was going to win.
And so he tried again and to his triumph, he actually landed some substantial hits on Fenrir, though he had probably received an equitable amount of damage in the process. But the moves that the man had pulled out were almost unbelievable; not only were the shoulder rolls smooth and obviously practiced (which was something to think about), but the man's evasive maneuvers were practically on the level of SOLDIER, even able to smoothy flip through the air to land on his feet when he was knocked up. The man had to have been trained somewhere. He certainly couldn't have been some self-taught street rat.
Before he knew it, at least fifteen minutes had passed in their spar, and though Genesis was loathe to admit it, unarmed combat wasn't too bad a way to spar. Of course, he still longed for his rapier, but their something definitely more gritty about hand-to-hand combat and the feel of striking into actual flesh when a strike connected.
"Ready to give up?" Genesis taunted as he broke away from another tangle, putting some distance between the two to catch his breath. The other man seemed to be in the same condition and maintained the space as they circled round.
Fenrir just smirked in response. "You know, what do I get when I win?" he asked casually. "I mean, you uphold your pride and masculinity and shit like that. So what about me?"
Genesis snorted. Cocky bastard. "Don't be daft; you don't even have a chance of winning."
The man's smirk only widened. "We'll see."
And then before Genesis knew what was happening, Fenrir was suddenly behind him -did he suddenly become even faster?-and one well placed kick to the back of Genesis' knee caught him unawares. After all the sparring, Genesis was just a bit too tired to react fast enough-not to mention still being startled that Fenrir had suddenly sped up-and tumbled to the ground. He tried to roll away quickly, but within seconds, there was a heavy foot on his chest, holding to him his place.
"Like I said," Fenrir said, a victorious smile on his face, "what do I get?"
Author's Note: Tralala, it's an update. Hi guys. How's life.