Fallen Angels Chapters 15-19
And a *second* update of the story *grins*.
Chapter 15: Exit, Stage Left
Zack stared at Abel as he changed. It wasn’t the rapid change of a Limit, but a slower one, as if Abel was taking his time to show that he had complete control over his shifting. A part of Zack was afraid of this stranger collard on Sephiroth’s bed, but it was drowned out by the wariness that lay in every line of Abel’s form. Even the wings that were folded against the silver man’s back rustled softly as fine tremors shook him.
He’s afraid of us, Zack realized with a start, Afraid of us and what we might do to him because of this. A quick glance at Cloud and Sephiroth showed that they realized it as well. He opened his mouth to say something when the door of the bedroom burst open with a loud bang. There was a twang of metal breaking, a rustle of feathers, and a shattering of wood and glass as the only evidence that Abel had bolted. One minute, Abel had been sitting on the bed, tense enough to start humming and the next, he was gone.
“Sweet Freya!” gasped Cloud, his eyes huge as he ran for the busted window. He peered out it before collapsing slightly in relief. “He’s in the barn.” Zack absently nodded. Okay so he hadn’t been the only one to not see Abel run. That made him feel better.
“You had better have a very good reason for bursting into my quarters like that, Reno,” Sephiroth stated, his voice cold and clipped as he turned to glare at the Turk.
Reno was looking a bit wide-eyed as he stared at the broken window. “What the fuck happened, yo? I ain’t seen anyone move like that without being blurred from Haste!”
There was a growl, and Sephiroth was looming over Reno. “Why are you here?”
“There’s a group of zoloms near New Midgar,” Reno announced. “The Boss needs you an’ the Firsts ta clean ‘em out before they nest.”
Zack rested a hand on Sephiroth’s shoulder, hoping to calm the Silver General down before there was one less Turk among the ranks. “That means we’re gonna need the chocobos in the stable.”
Instead of replying, Sephiroth stormed out of the room, his hand lashing out to scoop up the Masamune. Zack glanced at Cloud who nodded and hurried after Sephiroth while Zack took a firm grip on Reno’s shoulder, escorting the Turk out of the rooms. He caught a maid in the hallway and smiled at her alarmed look. “Can you get someone to repair the window in the Kings’ bedroom?”
She nodded, her eyes a bit wide, but Zack was already dragging Reno down the hallway. The redhead was protesting every step of the way, trying to jerk free, but Zack’s fingers remained firmly locked around Reno’s arm. It wasn’t until they were outside that Zack finally stopped, turning the redhead to face him.
“Look, you’re a great guy and a great Turk, but you’d better pray that I can fix the problem that you just created,” he drawled, clapping Reno on the shoulder and nearly buckling the Turk’s knees from the force. Leaving Reno, Zack made his way towards the stable, trying to figure out how to coax Abel into trusting them.
It was a very good thing he was use to taming the skitterish to touch. After all, he’d had plenty of practice with Sephiroth and Cloud.
Chapter 16: Confusion and Sorrow
Huddled in the far corner of the hayloft, Abel wrapped his arms around his knees and waited. What he was waiting for, he didn’t know. He wasn’t sure why he bolted like he had, other than he had been running almost entirely on instinct. The metal collar lay nearly, warped and torn from his hands. It had been partially broken when he had bolted, and he had torn the rest of it in frustrated anger. What right did they have to just assume they knew what was best for him? They weren’t his handlers or even part of his chosen family. A bitter laugh slipped out of his as he buried his face in his knees. He hadn’t been this confused since he had turned against the humans during Armageddon.
Only this time, there isn’t a war to occupy my attention, he sighed, just wanting things to go away so he could go back to his life at the Vatican such as it was.
Just then, the barn door opened, and Abel heard the large birds stirring in their stalls. He hadn’t gotten a good look at them on his wild flight into the barn, but he had gotten the impression of large, feathered, and powerful. He listened as there was a jingling of tack and a low murmur of voices that sounded like Sephiroth and Cloud. But where was Zack? As if summoned by his thoughts, Abel heard light footsteps crossing the hayloft before stopping next to him, and he braced himself for whatever Zack planned to do.
“Why’d you run? I know Reno can be annoying, but he’s not scary. Unless someone hands him explosives or alcohol,” remarked Zack, and Abel cautiously looked up to find the brunet crouched next to him with an open and honest expression on his face. Zack smiled and reached out a hand, but Abel flinched away hard enough to smack into the corner with a loud thunk. “Hey, easy there. We’re not gonna hurt ya.”
“I don’t understand,” whispered Abel, starting to tremble again. He snarled and clenched his hands in his hair. “You’re not my handlers or chosen family, so why do you think you know what’s best for me?”
“What handlers?” Asked Zack, his voice slightly guarded, and Abel’s head snapped up as he narrowed his eyes, trying to decide if the brunet was serious. Zack continued looking at Abel, waiting for the answer.
“Military.” The word hung in the air between them, and Abel turned away to stare at his knees again. It wouldn’t take much for Zack to realized he was a danger to them and could be allowed around them anymore. The thought brought fresh tears to his eyes from the increased aching in his chest, and Abel wished that these three had remained strangers. Then it wouldn’t hurt so much when they shoved him away after realizing their mistake.
“You too?” The honest curiosity in those two words jerked Abel’s head around, and he found himself staring once more at Zack who had a look of understanding on his face. It was that look that made Abel truly wonder about these people who were willing to kidnap him from the Vatican and lay claim to him at his sister’s request despite what they knew about him.
Abel licked his lips, nervously. “What do you mean, me too?”
Sitting down next to Abel, Zack regarded the silver haired man with a serious expression. “Let me tell ya about this guy I’ve known for a while now. His birth mother agreed to bear a living experiment and the Perfect Weapon for a scientist who had sold his soul to the All Mighty Test Tube. My friend was raised in a lab where human interaction was what happened to others and emotions, other than curiosity, were annoying baggage.”
Unable to help it, Abel’s eyes narrowed in suspicious anger. They story was almost a perfect reflection of his own life with a few differences such as someone giving birth to him and being raised in a lab. He gritted his teeth as he softly growled. “I don’t know what you’re getting at or what my sister told you about my history, but your story needs work.”
Chapter 17: Little Lost Lordling
Zack blinked in surprise at Abel’s growled comment. Did Abel think he was making this up to appease the skitterish man? Instead of shooting back a comment or snarky reply, Zack took a couple of breaths to soothe his wounded ego, and that’s when he saw it, deep in pale blue eyes. The look of a lost little boy who wanted to believe but had been hurt so badly in the past that he was afraid to.
He nodded and held out a hand in invitation. “Come on. Got a few things to show ya.”
Warily, Abel stared at the hand before sliding his fingers into Zack’s. Smiling, the brunet pulled Abel to his feet and lead him out of the hayloft. Sephiroth and Cloud were already waiting at the door on their chocobos, and Cloud tossed Zack the reins for Loki with a grin. The red chocobo had a double saddle strapped to his back, allowing Abel to ride behind Zack without forcing him to sit on the smooth, slippery feathers. Swinging up into the saddle, Zack helped Abel up as he grinned at the others.
“We were wondering if you were going to join us,” remarked Sephiroth, all traces of his previous anger gone, and Zack felt Abel flinch as if struck.
“It’s a chance to show some zoloms that they’re encroaching,” replied Zack with a bright grin, acting as if the comment had been directed at him all along. “Plus, it’ll give Abel a chance to see you in action.”
It wasn’t until the words left his mouth that Zack realized that Abel had never even seen them spar against each other. From the surprised look in Sephiroth’s eyes, the Silver General realized it too, and Zack watched as a predatory light appeared in materia green eyes.
Those zoloms didn’t stand a chance.
Chapter 18: Emotional TNT
Cloud glanced over at Abel as they road towards Gaia’s Path, the road that ran between the Northern Kingdom Midgar and New Midgar on Gaia. The priest still seemed wary, as if he was seconds away from bolting again, but Cloud didn’t think he’d run any farther than he had before. After all, Abel could have been halfway back to the Vatican by now with his wings, but instead, he had only gone as far as the barn. That meant Abel still wanted to be there.
Unless there was another reason holding him here, mused Cloud, remembering what he had overheard in the barn. Between that and the conversation in the bedroom, Cloud was developing an uneasy picture of Abel’s life that rivaled Sephiroth’s. A myriad of emotions continued flickering across Abel’s face - anger, fear, weariness, sorrow, exhaustion - as if he didn’t have the energy to hide them behind a mask any longer.
And we haven’t told him that he’s no longer with the Vatican, sighed the blond, wondering if that would help Abel’s state of mind or hurt him further. He knew some people built their whole lives around what they were while others had no idea they could be anything different. People like that could be highly dangerous once they found themselves adrift from everything that was familiar. He wondered if Abel would be that way or if they’d be able to catch him when he fell.
Chapter 19: True Colors
Lost in his thoughts, Abel wasn’t paying any attention to the route they were taking, but he noticed when they emerged from the small grove of trees into an almost desolate waste. The sun pounded down on the brown land, baking the ground and air until it stole the breath from wet lungs.
“Welcome to Gaia, Abel,” Zack greeted over his shoulder, and Abel tightened his grip on the brunet’s waist as the bird they were riding seemed to prance instead of walk. “It doesn’t look like much, but it’s home for the most part.”
That was the only warning Abel had before the birds proved they didn’t need operational wings to fly. He yelped as their mounts took off, racing across the landscape, and Abel gripped Zack’s waist a bit tighter. It was awkward with the huge sword strapped across Zack’s back, but Abel managed. The birds turned in a southernly direction and continued running, their pace never slowing as they appeared to enjoy the chance to stretch their legs.
As they traveled, Abel watched the landscape change as green plants crept in among the desolate brown, revealing where life was struggling to hold on. Soon, more and more green appeared until everything was lush and alive even as the scent of brackish water appeared on the air.
“We’re almost there,” Zack shouted over his shoulder. As if his words were a signal, the sounds of clashing weapons, explosions and angry hissing reached Abel’s ears. The birds squawked loudly and raced towards the sounds, somehow increasing their speed yet again. There was the sound of metal being drawn, and Abel glanced over to find an almost six foot long blade in Sephiroth’s hand while the twin of Zack’s blade was in Cloud’s grip.
Cresting a hill, Abel’s eyes widened at the sight of the battle being fought in the swampy land. About half a dozen men wielding blades of various sizes were fighting snakes that were easily twenty feet long with heads as large as wine caskets. Fangs nearly as tall as Abel snapped at mud-stained figures who danced out of the way. Brown scales were nearly invisible against the muddy ground while pools of brackish water were dug deeper from thrashing bodies. Abel watched in surprised awe as one of the men launched a bolt of ice at a snake while another tossed green light at a companion who looked more stable when it had faded.
Then Sephiroth and Cloud were there, blades singing as they attacked the colossal serpents. Excited cries went up among the men, and the few who seemed to be flagging found their second wind. Abel slid from the back of the red bird to better watch the grace of the fighters. The last time he had seen anything close to that grace and skill was when Lilith and Cain had sparred together.
Suddenly, a tail whipped put of the watery mud to fling Cloud away from the other fighters with enough force to stun the blond. Abel saw two ripples starting near the dazed fighter and reacted, all previous emotions and problems forgotten under then burning need to protect.