Was peace so hard to get around here? Cloud Strife often wondered as he paced up and down the length of the Seventh Heaven Bar as Tifa tended to the injured man that was currently resting in his bed. Peace. Quiet and happiness. That was all he asked for. All that he wanted. Not riches. Not fame. Just the silent serenity that had recently fallen on the Seventh Heaven family…and was just as easily destroyed.
Two Hours Before
Sound of two giggling children raced towards the church doors that they had found comfort in. Both of them were pushing their curfew, but they knew their guardians wouldn't be too upset….at least they were pretty sure. The dark chocolate haired girl hurried deeper into the church with an older boy right behind her.
"I win! I win! I beat you again, Denzel!" She giggled to herself as she came to a stop at the water's edge of a pool within the hollow church shell. A few broken pews and shattered mosaic windows were all that was left of the once beautiful church and now the only voices within it were slum children or such as on this occasion, Denzel and Marlene.
"Okay, fine. You won this time, but all the other times you cheated and got a head start!" The lighter haired boy said with a frown then knelt beside the waters edge lightly dipping his hand in the cool liquid as an idea came to mind. "Hey, Marlene?"
A shriek echoed throughout the building as Denzel brought his hand through the water and up towards the girl as the cold water lightly sprayed her. She shrieked then giggled in delight as she dropped down and returned the splash towards Denzel, who was furiously trying to distract Marlene from doing the same. Both children were so enraptured in their games that they hadn't even realized the monster was silently watching them, waiting for the opportune time to strike the hapless kids. The children's defenses were dropped as they laughed and played and then the monster pounced.
Denzel was the first to catch a glimpse of the monster as it leapt towards its prey. He instantly grabbed Marlene's arm and yanked her close to him in hopes of shielding the younger girl somehow. They had no where to run and he had no idea if the monster would follow them into the water, which was probably what would have happened if they had taken that chance. Marlene only saw the blur of the monster before she was pulled into Denzel's embrace as they waited for the inevitable.
What came however wasn't what they were expecting. A deep battle cry sounded then a loud thump. Both of which thoroughly surprised the kids even further. Since they didn't feel the teeth or claws of the monster on them, they looked up to see the back of a broad shouldered, dark haired man holding up the large buster sword that had formerly rested within the church. The monster had been cleanly cut through with the blade and had fallen to the floor with a moan then shuddered before finally falling still. The children remained huddled as they watched the young man slowly turn around as he dropped the sword onto the broken wooden floor.
"A-Are you…alright?" He asked them breathlessly as they nodded then he took a single step forward-and collapsed in a heap onto the floor. Marlene instantly pulled away from Denzel and hurried towards the fallen man who was trembling unconscious on the ground. She nervously brushed back the dark strands on his sweat slicked face then at his shoulders slowly traveling down to his arm and hands. A dark mess of goop had seemingly stained his skin. But both children could easily identify what it was.
"Denzel! He's sick! He-he's got the stigma too!" Marlene cried out as she began to push again the man's chest in hopes of getting him to wake up while Denzel quickly moved by Marlene's side to confirm what she had said. Marlene was never wrong. Denzel shuddered as he recalled his own battle with Geostigma. It was days of laying helpless in bed, pain wracking his body throughout the night and being discriminated because of it. It was Sephiroth. The man who had tormented Denzel's hero, Cloud Strife.
"He's not waking up, Denzel!" Marlene said again as a sob began to rise up in her throat when the man wouldn't respond to her pleas and rough shakings. Denzel was at a loss of what to do. He knew the man was probably going to die. It had been two years since the end of the stigma, but this one man was able to hold on for so long without help…was something he'd never know.
"I…Marlene…we…" He said then looked up towards the back of the church where the pool of water had formed. Maybe…its not too late.
"Lets bring him towards the water. It might still work." Denzel said as he stood up and grasped one of the man's arms and attempted to drag him towards the pool as Marlene did the same. Both children were breathless by the time they had gotten to the edge and the Samaritan's breath was slowing even more so. Marlene released her hold on the man and carefully cupped a bit of water in her hands before pouring the healing waters onto the infected arm and wrist. She waited a moment to see the man stir, but he did nothing. Lower lip trembling, Marlene brought more water forward this time trying to get it into his mouth.
"Come on! Please work, please! Don't take him away after he saved us. Please work." She pleaded as she again resorted to shaking the comatose male but still nothing. Denzel silently watched as Marlene continued to work on the man even though there were no signs of him among the living anymore.
"G-G-Get Cloud! He can fix him! G-Go Denzel! Please!" She begged her friend with tears rolling down her rosy colored cheeks. " Cloud can make this better! He always does!"
The young boy didn't like the idea of leaving Marlene alone by herself with a corpse, but he didn't have it in him to tell her that the man she was so futilely crying for was gone. He quickly rose to his feet and dashed out of the church back towards the city of Edge where his guardians, Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockheart waited anxiously for the two children.
"Cloud! Tifa!" Denzel shouted out as he pushed open the front door to the Seventh Heaven Bar. A dark brown haired woman looked up from behind the bar then quickly leapt over the counter seamlessly as she hurried towards the frantic boy.
"Denzel! Where have you been? Where's Marlene? What happened?" She asked bombarding the child with questions that he wasn't sure how to answer just yet. Then by some miracle a blond haired man stepped into the scene after hearing Tifa's overflowing round of questions.
"Give him a breath, Tifa." Cloud said as he moved towards the pair then carefully lifted Denzel up to sit him down on one of the bar stools. Cloud made a silent gesture to take a breath and after doing as told Denzel looked to Tifa then Cloud anxiously.
"Marlene and I went to the church and there was this monster that attacked us." Both adults eyes's widened and jaws tensed.
"Denzel is Marl-"Tifa began to ask as her heart began to pound in her chest. If anything happened to Marlene, her father would eat them alive.
"We didn't get hurt because this man finished it off before it could get to us. But then he fell and Marlene saw that he has the stigma-"Denzel yelped out when he felt Cloud's hand tighten on his arm and a moment later all he could see was deep azure eyes.
"He has Geostigma? Are you sure?" Cloud asked as he leaned over Denzel while the little boy furiously nodded then glanced helplessly to Tifa when he noticed Cloud beginning to tense up. Cloud flinched when he felt a gentle hand rest on his back then stood up with a grimace.
"I'd better go. Denzel, I want you stay here with Tifa-"
"But, Cloud-" Denzel argued wanting to go back and make sure Marlene was okay, but he knew when Cloud said no. It meant no. He frowned as he watched Cloud stride out of the bar and onto the streets to get his motorbike, Fenrir.
Riding Fenrir was the most relaxing thing for Cloud. The feel of the rushing air, everything blurring around him like he was leaving this planet and moving to the next without any cares or worried. It'd all just vanish. Then at other times riding Fenrir was the most stressful as he zoomed down highways and dirt roads when chasing an enemy or rushing to a friend's rescue. His tires skidded as he slammed down the break in front of the almost-forgotten church, then in a mad dash clumsily kicked up the kick stand then raced inside the church afraid of what he'd find…what he did find however sent a stabbing pain in his chest.
Marlene had one arm thrown around a dark haired man's waist as she sobbed into his chest weakly shaking him and pleading for him to wake up. Cloud sighed looking away This is going to be harder than I thought. He slowly began to walk forward when Marlene finally noticed his presence in the church, her dark hazel eyes were red with crying and cheeks tear stained.
"C-Cloud! He won't wake up! Please help him, please!" She cried out as Cloud knelt by her side then lightly pressed two fingers at the man's throat. Nothing. No pulse. He withdrew his hand then slowly turned to Marlene unsure of how to handle the situation. Tifa is better at this kind of thing.
"Marlene. You …you did the best you could-"
"No! He can't be gone! He can't!" She sobbed out as she again began to shake the man, but found her hands being pried off the corpse and wrapped in leather gloved fingers.
"Marlene. Its okay. He's…"Cloud struggled to find the right wording for it. "He's at peace."
"H-He saved us! And I…I tried to save hi-him!" She continued to wail as she fought against Cloud's arms then inevitably threw herself into his embrace sobbing loudly into his chest. She wanted so badly to save the young man, especially after he saved her and Denzel. Her thin fingers pressed hard against Cloud's chest as she cried and cried while Cloud simply knelt there with her. He wasn't sure of what else to do other than keep her in his awkward embrace and let the little girl sob out her sorrows. When her tears finally began to slow the twenty-five year old slowly began to stand up then lifted the tiny eight year old girl into his arms and moved to walk out of the church when a muffled groan echoed throughout the empty space.
The ex-SOLDIER tensed then quickly turned around moving to reach for his blade while trying to keep a firm hold on the exhausted little girl. His mako blue eyes scanned the church all over once more then finally rested on the corpse…or at least it was supposed to be a corpse. Another loud groan escaped from the man then he rolled over onto his stomach and pushed himself up to all fours. Cloud quickly placed Marlene on the ground then hurried towards the revived man, silently motioning to Marlene to stay where she saw. He was thankful to the man for saving Marlene and Denzel, but he had his doubts on whether this man did so with good intentions.
"Hey. You okay?" He asked him as the young man sat up and leaned against one of the broken pews. The dark haired man nodded then turned his head away from the blond as he coughed out mucus and what seemed to be the remnants of what was left of the Geostigma.
"Marlene. Get him some of the water." Cloud said as he kept a hand on the grimacing twenty-something year old. The young girl dashed forward cupping some of the water from the pool then dashing back to the young man as she brought her hands up to his lips to give him what was left of the water from her palm. Once the water was gone Marlene moved to get more when a firm hand grabbed her arm, she turned around to see the young man lightly smiling at her then slowly shook his head.
"Thank you." He whispered out hoarsely then took in a shuddering breath as he tried to gather himself together. Meanwhile Cloud knelt beside the shaking man trying to piece where he had seen him before this encounter. He was sure he had seen him before…but where?
"Do you have a place where we can take you?" Cloud asked quietly but his only answer a headshake 'no'. Frowning Cloud sighed then looked up through the broken window silently asking for help with this strange man.
"I…I travel around the world…don't have…a home…" The man said as his azure eyes began to soften then looked towards Marlene as she moved to sit beside him, shyly placing her hand over his comfortingly.
"Then you can come with us!"
"Marlene." Cloud said reprimanding. How on Gaia was he supposed to get it through the eight year old's head that they just can't pick up people like stray puppies.
"He needs our help, Cloud. Just until he's back up on his feet!" Marlene insisted as she began to move closer to the young man, eventually getting his arm to wrap around her shoulders. She didn't know why exactly, but she knew she had to help him. It was just a feeling and she had to act on it. "Tifa says we should always try to help those less fortunate than us! Right?"
"Yes, Marlene, she did say that but-"
"Well we have a home and he doesn't! We're healthy but he's sick. He's less fortunate than us, right?" Marlene continued to persist as her voice began to rise and Cloud's head began to shake from side to side. It was times like these did Tifa really shine through the little girl. Stubborn.
"Its okay, kiddo. I just need to sit here a bit and I'll be…fine." The young man said slowly breathing out the last word, not wanting the little girl to argue with her guardian but the damage was already done. Cloud stood up with a sigh then looked to Marlene then the trembling man.
"You're right. But I suppose it wouldn't hurt if you stayed with us for a bit. Living out here isn't all that great." Cloud said as a light chuckle escaped his pale lips then held out his hand to the young man. "Take it from someone who's tried it."
"Alright." The man said rather hoarsely then accepted Cloud's hand to help him up, however when he was finally standing on two feet he nearly collapsed to the ground once more from fatigue. The ex-SOLDIER's reflexes were faster as he caught the man from falling once more as Cloud slung the man's arm around his shoulders.
"Marlene, get the doors." Cloud motioned as Marlene gave a light cheer then hurried to do as she was told. Happy that she was given another chance to help out the young savior. She knew there was more to this than meets the eye. When the trio had finally gotten onto the bike and returned to Edge, the young man was looking exhausted from everything. While the water did heal his Geostima, it didn't give him the strength he lost during those years of struggling.
"Cloud! Marlene! What happened?" Was the first thing Tifa Lockheart said when she rushed out of the bar after hearing the roar of the motorcycle stop outside her bar then she froze at the sight of the third passenger.
"Don't blame me. Its all your fault anyways." Cloud mumbled as he lifted Marlene off the bike then moved to help the semi-conscious man down as Tifa looked at him skeptically.
"Yeah. Marlene's been spending too much time with you." Cloud grunted out under the weight of the man then the load noticeably lightened as Tifa moved to help the two make it into the bar by slinging the young man's other arm around her shoulders.
"And what does Marlene spending time with me have to do with this?" Tifa argued but never the less continued to help with the fatigue ridden man, never once telling them that they'd refuse housing for him. They slowly made it through the bar and up the stairwell to Cloud's room where they laid the stranger down on the bed as Marlene hurried to the bathroom to grab a wet cloth to lay on the man's forehead.
"She's too much like you." Cloud finally answered Tifa's question earning an inquisitive glance. "Always wanting to help strangers."
"Then that means I've done a good job with her. Goddess knows this world could use some more kindness after everything that happened." Tifa said with a light smirk then winked at Marlene who firmly nodded in agreement with her role model before moving to sit on the bed beside the new resident.
"So would you mind telling us your name?" Tifa asked as she lifted the washcloth away from the man's forehead and lightly cleaned up his face and arms. He grimaced weakly then shook his head again.
"You don't want to tell us your name?" Tifa asked again with a surprised look on her features as the man shook his head again at the question then tried to reply again.
"Don't…have a…name. Was never given...one." He gasped out then closed his eyes as he focused on staying conscious, which was hard enough as it was. It had been ages since he had actually laid in a bed and the feel of the cool cloth brushing against his feverish skin only made him want to sleep all the more.
"That's crazy!" Marlene exclaimed then received a scolding look from Tifa before she continued on. "Everyone has a name. What do people call you? Don't you go by something?"
"Marlene-" Cloud said about to ask her to come with him down stairs when the man's eyes opened one more time as he struggled to answer the little girl's question as best he could. He owed it her after saving his life.
"Sometimes-" He paused warily. "-I go by …my father's name, if nothing else."
"And what would that be?" Cloud questioned curious to know if this was the connection he was searching for in wondering how the young man seemed so familiar.
"Its…Angeal. Angeal Hewley."
*bangs head against wall* I shouldn't be writing more stories...but this idea was begging me to write it. Angeal needs more love. Yep. He's the only manly looking guy in FFVII, really if you think about it. Everyone else *except Cid and Barret* could pass off as girls! So now I'm off topic. Reviews are greatly welcomed! ~God Bless!~