Fallen Angels Chapter 20-24
Okay, here is the next five chapters of Fallen Angels. *wry grin* I'll try to get chapters 25-29 typed up sometime soon and posted as well. Then everyone will be caught up with my notebook.
Chapter 20: Blood, Sweat, and Fears
Cloud shook his head, trying to shake the fuzzy feeling out of his brain and refocus on the fight. He couldn’t afford to be distracted, even from a blow to the head. He staggered to his feet just as a pair of zoloms rose out of the murky water to flank him, and he braced himself for their attack.
Suddenly, an animalistic howl split the air, cutting through the sounds of the battle. A blur of silver and black struck the first zolom with enough force to daze it before a blade of ruby removed its head in a spray of blood. The headless body fell to the ground, twitched a few times before falling still. Then the second zolom crashed to the ground, headless and twitching before strong arms wrapped around Cloud. Yelping, he managed to keep a hold of his Buster sword even as his face was pressed against black fabric. Tipping his head back. He found himself staring up at a determined and protective Abel Nightroad.
This is what they saw, he realized with a touch of awe as he stared at the burning red eyes and pearl white fangs peeking out over black lips. This fierce protector was what the village had been lucky enough to see, and Cloud wondered how anyone could mistake this man for a monster.
“You’ll be safe here,” Abel stated, his voice deeper than usual but no less comforting. Cloud blinked in surprise as Abel landed near the chocobos and Zack, releasing the blond once their feet were on the ground. Turning, Abel spread his feathered wings again before he flew into the thick of the battle.
“You okay, Spike? That was a rough blow you took,” remarked Zack before the cool green of a Restore washed over Cloud, taking the last of the pain with it.
“How could anyone be afraid of him?” asked Cloud, his eyes fixed on Abel as he flew around the zoloms, maneuvering the giant serpents into place for the other Firsts to take them out. Once, he traded his wings for a wicked looking blood red scythe that lopped off the head of a zolom before he took to the air again. “He’s a protector, not a monster.’
“People fear what they don’t understand,” Zack said, walking up to stand next to Cloud as they watched the dying battle. “It’s a fact of life. Even we’re feared despite everything we’ve done to protect the planet and her people.”
It took a few seconds for Cloud to realize that Zack was talking about the SOLDIERs and not just the three leaders. “Maybe, but we have the support of people who understand and each other. Abel doesn’t have even that much.”
Chuckling, Zack draped an arm around Cloud’s shoulders. “I think after today, he’s going to have a lot more support than he’s use to.”
Cloud found himself absently nodding in agreement. If there was one thing the SOLDIERs were good at, it was supporting those they considered theirs and closing ranks on any who threatened them.
After all, Sephiroth would do nothing less for his men than they were willing to do for him.
Chapter 21: A Dirty Job
Looking around as the last zolom fell to the ground dead, Sephiroth started taking a count of his men and noting which ones needed medical attention. That task was proving harder than he wanted due to the mud smearing skin and coating uniforms. A fluttering of black caught Sephiroth’s attention, and he turned to find Abel quietly walking away, attempting to draw as little attention to himself as possible.
“Nightroad!” Sephiroth’s voice cracked out like a whip, cutting through the men’s chatter to draw all the attention to Abel as well as stop the man in his tracks. The Firsts fell silent, glowing eyes turned to follow Sephiroth as he stalked across the muddied field towards the other silver haired man. Only a little mud stained the edge of Abel’s robes while Sephiroth’s coat was streaked with mud and blood as the mess clung to his hair.
He stopped in front of Abel who was curled in on himself, blue eyes wide and wary. “Yes, sir?”
Sephiroth raked his eyes over Abel’s body as he tried to determine if the other man was injured. “Are you injured in any way?”
“No, sir,” whispered Abel, finding the ground extremely interesting even as the wind tossed his long hair around them.
Reaching out with gloved fingers, Sephiroth gently lifted Abel’s face to stare into pale blue eyes that swam with a myriad of emotions. “Did you give any consideration to you safety during your actions?”
That got a confused expression, eclipsing the others in Abel’s gaze. “They required protecting, I protected them. Their safety is precedent over mine.”
Growling softly, Sephiroth buried his hand in Abel’s hair, making sure he had the other man’s full attention for his next words. “Your safety is just as important to me as any of my men, if not more so. Understand?”
There was a squishing of mud as the men gathered around them, and Sephiroth glanced around as he continued gripping Abel’s hair. Zack and Cloud joined them with the chocobos’ reins in their hands, and Sephiroth glanced at Cloud, eyes taking in the blond’s condition. Cloud simply smiled and tilted his head towards Abel, indicating it was because of him that Cloud was unharmed. Sephiroth’s gaze returned to Abel who was growing more aware of their audience, and the Silver General knew it was only his grip in Abel’s hair that kept him there instead of running from the attention.
Not that he’d let Abel run far before catching him again. He promised himself that he would continuously chase after Abel each time he ran to prove to him that Sephiroth was serious about his claim on the other silver haired man. At least until Sephiroth managed to place ap ermanent collar on the man to keep him nearby.
Chapter 22: Insult to Injury
He could feel all the eyes on him, staring at him nad judging him. Abel knew there were Sephiroth’s men, and he had no right to be here among their number. He hadn’t been thinking about their reactions to him, only that they needed protecting. The easiest way to do that was maneuver each of the snakes into killing blows since he couldn’t carry them off the battlefield like he had with Cloud.
“Who’s your friend, sir? A new recruit?” asked a deep, mellow voice, and Abel managed to twist his head around to spot the man who spoke. Dark skin that made him look like someone from the Lost African Continent with a smooth head and eyes glowing a warm amber.
There was a light hearted laugh from one of the others, a skinny man with messy dark hair and ruby eyes. “Nah, you’re looking at it all wrong, Reggie. This has got to be the guy that’s driving Turk Reno crazy with his beliefs.”
“And what beliefs are those, Jackson?” inquired Zack, his face open and friendly as ever.
Jackson shrugged. “Well, to hear Reno talk, Priest Nightroad won’t call for favors no matter whose bed he warms but is canny enough for any political arena veteran.”
Closing his eyes as his face heated in humiliation, Abel tried to turn away only to be stopped by the firm grip in his hair. Snarling wordlessly, he swiped at Sephiroth’s arm and surprised the general enough to let go. Whirling, he stormed away, heading back towards Midgar and the Northern Kingdoms. He didn’t care what Sephiroth said or did, but Abel was not going to stand there and listen to gossip about what others thought of him. First a monster and now a bed warmer. He wasn’t sure what was worse, but he wasn’t going to stay there to find out.
Chapter 23: Sympathetic Ear
Resisting the urge to start swearing, Cloud grabbed the reins that Zack tossed him and hurried after Abel. Jackson was a good First, one of the best, but sometimes he just didn’t think before he spoke. Sephiroth would correct Jackson and probably speak to Tseng about Reno.
He managed to catch up with Abel after a few minutes and patiently walked next to him, Thor calmly following on the ends of his reins. He didn’t say anything, just continued walking as Abel tossed him a couple of wary glances that turned into curiosity. Cloud knew that what Abel needed now was an unbiased opinion and someone who would listen when he started talking. He knew, because not so long ago, Cloud had been in a very similar mind set when he had been told to his face that the only reason he was a First was because of his ability to spread his legs for Zack and Sephiroth.
It wasn’t until their boots were crunching through the sandy grass that was the border of the Wastelands that Abel lost the angry tension in his shoulders and opened his mouth to speak.
“They’re wrong, you know,” Cloud remarked before Abel could say anything. “You’re a protector. That village you saved from that vampire believes you are a guardian angel, and after today, I can see why.” He felt a sliver of satisfaction as those pale eyes widened in surprise.
Abel shook his head, his voice soft. “I’m not an angel. I was never that lucky.”
“Why? Because your wings are black instead of white?” asked Cloud before shaking his head. “I have never seen the rule that angels only have white wings.”
That got an explosive sigh from Abel. “He should have just left me at the Vatican. I don’t even know why he chased after me.”
“You’re the third person that Sephiroth has chased after to bring them back to his side.” Cloud’s voice was just as soft with fond admiration as he spoke. “Don’t get me wrong. If any of his men were in trouble, he’d find a way to help. But to actually care about someone enough to chase them down and drag them back to his side?” Cloud shook his head. “Those people are limited to Zack, myself, and now you.”
“But why?” asked Abel, his confusion growing. “I’m not worth it.”
“Sephiroth believes you are,” continued the blond. He took a breath and pushed on, knowing Abel needed to hear his information even if he should be a bit gentler at breaking it to him. “And your sister seems to trust his intentions enough to force that cardinal into releasing you from your vows to both her and the Vatican. Of course, your sister also threatened to take you away from both of them if Sephiroth’s actions didn’t fit his words.”
There was a thump next to him, and Cloud looked over to find Abel sitting on the ground, a stunned look on his face. It looked like Abel was taking the news harder than Cloud had thought he would. Sephiroth wasn’t going to be happy with Cloud, but it needed to be done. As long as Abel believed that he was still bound to the Vatican and that cardinal, then he’d never move on.
Mounting Thor, Cloud walked the chocobo over and pulled Abel up behind him. Then, he turned the brilliant gold bird towards Midgar and started back for the castle.
Chapter 24: Drifting in Chaos
It wasn’t possible, but Cloud had no reason to lie to him. Abel Nightroad was no longer part of the Vatican and the AX Department. Catarina had turned him loose and cast him adrift without an anchor. He had no friends as he had carefully cultivated all to see him in certain ways, always the gentle if foolish priest and never the monster, and any handlers were dead and dust by now.
One hand drifted up to stroke the metal clasp that held his robe closed, the collar of a priest, before letting his hand drop again. It wasn’t a proper claim anymore, not when there wasn’t anyone willing to back that claim up. Catarina had put it on him when she had asked him to help her newly created AX fight rogue vampires. Now it was a simple piece of brass.
So lost in his tangled thoughts that the next thing he was consciously aware of was standing in Sephiroth’s rooms in Midgar. The sound of a shower in the next room had been the noise that had pulled him out of his chaotic thoughts. The door to the bathroom was open, and Abel could make out the pile of filthy leather and metal that was Sephiroth’s preferred uniform. The door to the sitting room was open as well, offering him a second way out if he wanted. Part of him wanted to strip and climb into that shower while another part wanted to rip the shower curtain open and demand answers.
Instead, Abel turned and left the Royal Rooms, heading for someplace to sit and think or perhaps see if Sephiroth would chase him again. He wasn’t completely sure which reason controlled his actions.
Some time later, Abel found himself in the hot spring caverns beneath the castle and made his way deeper into them. Winding around the various pools, he stopped at one that was tucked away from the others and felt his lips twitch with faint amusement. This was the pool that he had first met Cloud, Sephiroth and Zack in.
He stripped off his mud stained robes, letting them lay where they fell before he eased into the hot water. Sitting on the ledge that ran around the edge of the pool, Abel stared at the swirling rippled of water and did his best not to think about anything for a while.