It was the first day back to school, and Genesis was excited. His backpack was full of everything he needed for the new year, plus a new book he'd gotten to read during breaks the day before--a real book, a big kid book written in Standard and not Mideelian. He was in the second grade now, so he wasn't a baby any more.
He sat on the rim of the fountain and swung his feet out while he waited. He had time, and he did this every day going to school--he always left home a little early, and waited here for Angeal. He hummed a little to himself as he swung his feet out, waiting, and he looked out the way he knew Angeal came.
He was about to start getting bored when he saw Angeal walking up the path, and he jumped off the fountain and started waving his hand excitedly and yelling, "Angeal! Angeal!" to get his attention. Angeal saw him, grinned, and ran over.
"Ready?" Genesis said, and Angeal nodded with a "Uh-huh!" and adjusted his backpack then stuck out his hand. Genesis reached over and shyly took the hand Angeal held out, still a little amazed that Angeal never pulled away from him. No one touched him much at home--even the other kids would kind of keep their distance even though they always were around him--but Angeal would always take his hand or grab his arm to get his attention, and even sometimes hug him. He liked that, and thought Angeal was lucky that his mother liked giving hugs.
Genesis hadn't known he liked hugs until he made friends with Angeal. But he was still always a little nervous that Angeal would jerk away or wipe his hand off like Mother did sometimes, or get that look, so he was always a little afraid sometimes to hug him or take his hand first.
Angeal didn't pull away; just grinned wider, nodded once, then tugged a little on Genesis's hand, and off they went to start the first day of second grade.
It was when they got to the second grade rooms that they realized Genesis's room was room 2-2 but Angeal's was 2-1.
Angeal had started to go into 2-1, but Genesis frowned and said, "That's the wrong room. It's 2-2," and tugged on Angeal towards 2-2.
"But Genesis, my paper says 2-1!" Angeal said, frowning himself and pulling his hand free. He took off his bag and took out the classroom assignment carefully. "See? It says I'm in 2-1."
"But mine says 2-2!" Genesis said, and pulled out his own paper. They compared them and saw the number was different.
By then, one of the second grade teachers had noticed and come over. "May I?" she asked with a polite smile, and took their room assignment sheets. "Angeal?" she said, and Angeal nodded. "You're in the room next to here. Genesis, you're in my class," she said, smiling at the two of them. "I'm Mrs. Konstantopoulos, and let's have a good year together, OK? Angeal, you should hurry to your room, since class will start soon. Your homeroom teacher, Miss Moulitsas, is very nice and you don't want to keep her waiting. She wants to meet you!"
"Oh," Angeal said and looked at his feet, just as Genesis burst out with, "Why aren't we in the same room?! We were before!"
"I dunno," Angeal said, frowning as he picked up his bag. "But I guess I gotta--"
"No," Genesis said, his lip poking out angrily.
"Huh?" Angeal said, blinking. "But--"
"No. We're in the same room," Genesis said, shaking his head sharply. He turned to Mrs. Konstantopoulos. "I wanna be in the same room. Put us in the same room."
"Genesis, you can see each other during recess," Mrs. Konstantopoulos said gently, kneeling down to his level to try to talk to him.
Genesis narrowed his eyes, stuck out his lip, took a deep breath, and exploded.
Halia Konstantopoulos shook her head, glaring out from the fresh ice pack on her black eye. The black eye today had been the final straw; she went to the principal and insisted something be done now about this. She had done her best, but after three weeks, enough was enough and she was officially throwing in the towel.
The principal called in both the Rhapsodoses and Gillian Hewley, which had brought them to where they were now, in the principal's office having a conference. "That boy...I've been teaching for fifteen years, and I have never seen a child act like that. Not every day for three weeks. He has refused to accept that he and Angeal are not going to be in the same room. Every morning and then every afternoon after recess, he pitches a fit. And if he's not kicking and screaming, he's glaring at me the whole day. He has refused to do any of his work and if I ask him a question he either ignores me or starts yelling. This happened today," she said, gesturing at her face, "when recess ended and I was trying to drag him into class because he had been trying to go into Angeal's class. He's done that several times, by the way. Either try to go into Angeal's class or drag Angeal into mine." She shook her head. "That boy is not stable," she muttered.
Iapetus and Adrasteia threw each other a look that made Halia suspect they either knew the boy was off or were about to try and have her fired, or quite possibly both.
"Genesis is not unstable," Gillian Hewley said firmly. "Truthfully, he reminds me of someone I used to know," she said with a strange half smile Halia couldn't figure out. "He once told us the story of how he refused to give up this one stuffed toy of his and pitched an absolute fit as a child when his parents tried to make him not take it to school. So for months he dragged it with him to school every day." Her smile grew slightly rueful. "It just looks like Angeal is Genesis's stuffed toy."
The silence was almost painful and Halia wondered if the woman was aware of what what she had said just sounded like.
Gillian sighed. "Is there any reason why they can't just be put in the same homeroom? It would be the easiest solution," she said blandly. "I certainly don't have a problem with it. To be honest, seeing Genesis getting so upset all the time is starting to bother Angeal."
"To say nothing of my black eye," Halia said, fighting the urge to ask what was wrong with the woman and her sense of perspective. This is why I hate parents some days, she thought in irritation.
"Mayor Rhapsodos? Mrs. Rhapsodos?" the principal said, stressing Iapetus' position as he shot a look at Halia, who just glared and gestured at her black eye. And the administration. Hate them some days, too.
"I am a busy man," Iapetus said, sounding annoyed. "Just move the Hewley boy if that's what Genesis wants so badly. You should have just done that three weeks ago."
Halia stared at him with her mouth hanging open, and everything to make sense: Genesis was spoiled rotten. "Fine. Put them together, then," she said. "But if we're moving students, I want him out of my class."
"Halia, we can't," the principal said tiredly. "Your homeroom is the smallest. We'll have to move Angeal into your room."
"Oh, perfect," she said, crossing her arms as a voice in her head started screaming--not only Genesis still in her class, but now Angeal, which meant dealing with his mother, who was clearly on her own planet. "He's going to be insufferable!"
"Hey!" Hewley said suddenly, frowning. The Rhapsodoses stayed silent, and Hewley shook her head. The Rhapsodoses shot each other a look, then a glare at Halia and the principal, but Halia did not care--their spoiled brat had given her a black eye after three straight weeks of day-long temper tantrums, so her caring about their "position" in the town was hovering somewhere around "nil."
Hewley sighed again, then squared her jaw. "When will you move Angeal?"
"We can move him tomorrow," he said. "I'll let Miss Moulitsas know she's losing a student."
I hate my life, Halia thought, but plastered a fake smile on her face. "I'm sure she'll be delighted," she said, and then glared at them all and adjusted her ice pack.
"Hewley," Mr. Rhapsodos said, quickly looking down the empty hallway to make sure no one was there. "Are you sure this is a good idea? All things considered..." he began, and Gillian cut him off short.
"Iapetus, what do you mean by that? I've watched them, and Genesis is a normal little boy," she said firmly. "And I'm not worried about how he's latched onto Angeal; it seems like no one else can keep up with them. They are friends." Her voice remained firm. "Yes, Genesis is a bit more...forceful about things, but he's not the unstable monster that woman was painting him as. And if I thought he was dangerous in some way, do you honestly think I would let my son near him?
"And if nothing else," she said, pragmatic to the end, "you can't begin to deny that Angeal keeps Genesis calm. I'm utterly shocked to hear of Genesis throwing tantrums like that, because he never has in any of the times I've seen the two of them together. They balance each other out."
She bit her tongue against the rest; that the two of them balancing each other out ran both ways. Angeal on his own had been shy and withdrawn, and far, far too serious and sensitive for a child his age. But when he was with Genesis he was different, more outgoing and more certain, even if that certainty only came from following after Genesis. So while Angeal may have kept Genesis from going too far out of bounds, Genesis made Angeal go past his own boundaries. They balanced, and she could see the change in her son, and the thought of him going back to the serious, quiet, and withdrawn little boy he had been was out of the question. She worried suddenly that she had let too much slip: they didn't know anything about Angeal other than he was her son. She knew they had to suspect something about Genesis, but she had always played it down.
Iapetus shook his head. "All right, Hewley. I'm trusting your judgement on this, but I think it's a bad idea." He sighed. "We never should have taken him," Iapetus muttered under his breath, leaving Gillian frowning more and wishing suddenly that they hadn't taken the boy, either.
Hollander had tried to get her to take Genesis as well, saying she could monitor him best, but she'd balked at the idea--she was still pregnant and the idea of one baby was terrifying enough for her; two was completely out of the question and no way she could, on the pittance ShinRa had offered her, support herself and two children. She'd always thought it had been for the best, especially since the Rhapsodoses were so well-off and respected, but she suddenly had a sinking feeling that when she'd said no, she'd made a dreadful mistake.
They had just entered the entryway to the school building when Adrasteia turned on her.
"Just what has ShinRa dumped on us?" she said, hissing the words low and under her breath.
"What?" Gillian said, trying to ignore the flare of panic Adrasteia's words had sent through her.
"You heard me. What has ShinRa dumped on us?" Adrasteia's face was cold as she looked around carefully. "That boy...that boy isn't normal. I've known that since he was a baby. What is he?"
"A child," Gillian said forcefully.
"You mean a failed experiment," Adrasteia said slowly, and Gillian blanched. "You might," Adrasteia said, the words almost sickeningly sweet, "want to tell Hollander to be more careful with his secrets." Her face darkened. "Now. I want to know exactly what it is that that boy is," she said, her words sharp and crisp. "And want to know what other little surprises, like today, that we're in for. And if you don't tell me, then ShinRa can have their failed little experiment back. Tell me the truth right now, or else I am done with that child. I will ship him back to ShinRa or I send him to the first orphanage that will take him. We deserve to know what he is and what he have to be prepared for.
"We never should have allowed ShinRa hide their sick little secrets here," she muttered under her breath. "Let alone blindly taken one into our home."
Gillian's jaw tightened and she looked away before she drew a sharp breath. Both of them were glaring at her, and she realized, like it or not, that they were right. They hadn't been told anything, and the gods only knew what Hollander had let slip. She'd thought that not telling them would have been for the best, but...
Well. She'd made mistakes in regards to this project before--mistakes she could never atone for, and she knew it--and this was just one more.
"It was under something called Project G," she finally said, looking away. "Look, not here," she said, shaking her head. They were right near the playground, and Angeal and Genesis were tearing around after each other--the two of them hadn't noticed them yet, but she knew full well it wouldn't be long before they did, and she also knew how good their ears were and how both of them were a hair too observant--especially Genesis, who had a quick little mind like a mithral trap and a dogged, determined stubborn streak--this whole mess about homerooms as proof--to boot. "I'll tell you as much as I can of what you want to know--and yes, my hands are tied about how much I can say," she said, narrowing her eyes at the look of anger that flared on Adrasteia's face, "but I won't do it here."
"So what am I getting into?" Halia said as soon as she saw Calliope Moulitsas come back into the teacher's room from the principal's office. She looked up when Calliope sat down at her desk next to Halia's, and Halia sighed. "Getting that Angeal boy on top of the demon," she said, using the nickname she had given Genesis after the first three days of school.
Calliope hesitated, and Halia groaned.
"No, no!" Calliope said quickly. "He's not like your Genesis. It's just...it's just that he's shy, is all. He's shy, and he's quiet, and he's a little bit smaller than the other boys, not to mention he's foreign and he doesn't have a father around...well, some of the other kids have started picking on him. It's not that bad now, and I've tried to stop it, but I can see it getting worse. So it's probably for the best he's being moved, especially to a room where he already has a friend. Maybe this way he'll smile or something, instead of frowning all the time," she said, the last sentence half under her breath.
Halia made a face. "Fabulous." She groaned. "They do not pay me enough for this."
"Angeal is a good little boy," Calliope said, smiling faintly. "He's just serious, like he's sixty, not six. So maybe he'll rub off on your demon."
"Or the two of them will destroy my classroom and send me into an early retirement," Halia said gloomily, and Calliope laughed.
A sing-songy voice cut in. "I told you that--"
"Don't even start, Aris," Halia said, shooting Aristotle Athanasiadis a venomous look. "Don't even say it."
"All right," Aris said with a smile dripping with Schadenfreude. "This is me not saying that I said from the beginning that splitting those two up would be a terrible idea."
"One day, I am going to poison your coffee," Halia said, her non-blackened eye twitching.
Aris only grinned more. "Aww, Halia, you say the sweetest things. Careful, or your husband will get jealous."
She grabbed a notebook off her desk and threw it at his head. Since she could only see from one eye because the other was swollen, her aim was very off, but she vowed that she was going to get Malebolge extract somewhere, and we'd see who was laughing then.
"Oh, and some advice for you, having both of them," Aris said, and Halia thought he was enjoying this far too much. "If you ever need to leave someone in charge of the room, let Angeal do it, because that way you get both of them doing it. Same thing with Genesis in charge, actually, but if Angeal is in charge, Genesis will actually listen to him. Sort of. Well. Sometimes. Mostly. Oh, and both of them are fluent already in Standard, especially Angeal since his mother is from Midgar. Just let the two of them do their own thing during Standard classes. Angeal likes to help and is actually pretty good at it, but I usually just let Genesis read a book or something because, well, if the kid he tried to help isn't getting it right away, he'll start to loose his patience, and, heh..." Aris said with a wicked little grin and a fake-innocent shrug.
"I hate my life," Halia moaned, and thudded her head against a desk again, and Aris went back to work, whistling cheerfully.
One day, she swore. Malebolge extract, right in his coffee, and she banged her head against the desk again.
When she finished talking, the first words out of Adrasteia Rhapsodos' mouth were, "I want that thing out of my home."
Gillian felt like she had been slapped. "What?"
"I want that thing ShinRa passed off as a child out of my home," she repeated icily.
"He's not a thing being passed off as a child," Gillian said sharply. "He is a child. He's human, only exposed to--."
"He's not human, he's a monster--a Chímaira," Adrasteia spat out, and Gillian remembered suddenly some of the ridiculous myths from the area, ones Adrasteia seemed to fully embrace. Chímaira was a man-made imitation of Gryps, a mythic animal created by the gods out here, that had gone mad and tried to destroy the world simply because it was an "abomination." She wanted to bang her head against a wall or something at the ridiculousness of it.
"No. He's a just a boy."
"A boy that may 'deteriorate' and can somehow inject those 'cells' he was exposed to into others," Adrasteia ended in disgust. "What does that even mean, 'deteriorate'? And how will he even inject his cells into others? Will he even be able to control it or know what he's doing? What if--get it out of my house or I get it out myself," Adrasteia said, her voice a low hiss.
A jolt of panic went through Gillian as suddenly as anger did. "No," Gillian said, her words careful. "No, I will not, and no, you will not," she began, when Iapetus spoke. He had been quiet the whole time and his face going colder and blanker the more Gillian had talked, the opposite of Adrasteia's visibly growing disgust.
"Hewley," Iapetus said slowly. "Genesis was your project, wasn't he?"
She met his eyes. "Yes," she said, somewhat warily. Iapetus was no fool, and it was obvious that the wheels in his head had been turning.
"That means," he said, his words still thoughtfully slow, "that he is ultimately your responsibility."
"What are you getting at?" she said, frowning in confusion. "Yes, he's my responsibility on some level still, which is why I live here. ShinRa made it a condition for me being released from my contract."
And for keeping my son, she thought to herself, but knew better than to say those words. She still had kept a lot from them--namely, her part in everything biologically related, from egg donations to volunteering herself to gestate the Jenova cells initially injected into Genesis, down all the way to Angeal himself. That much, they didn't need to know. They had only asked about Genesis, and that was all they needed.
And even that, it seemed, had been too much.
"If he is your responsibility, then he should be yours fully. ShinRa promised us a child, not an experiment. Take your experiment back...and in return, well. We still want a child," he said, and Gillian blinked.
"A fair trade, isn't it? Take Genesis and leave. Go wherever you want; we'll give you the money to do so. ShinRa won't mind since you're still fulfilling your contractual obligations. Take him and leave...but you can leave us a child. You can leave Angeal with us. One for the other.
"You and ShinRa owe us."
She couldn't believe her ears, and something in her snapped in rage. "Are you out of your mind?! My son," she said, narrowing her eyes dangerously, "is not for trade or sale. And neither is yours," she said, the last word sharp.
"ShinRa told you to take him and they're making sure you're both very well taken care of for your efforts," she said, her jaw clinching. "And if anything happens to that child," she said, staring at both of them, tight-faced in her rage, "or if there are any signs that he's not being cared for to the best of your abilities...well. It would be a shame if anything happened to your orchards. Or your position, Iapetus. Or Banora itself," she said, and her smile was tight-lipped with no teeth. Gillian had never once in her life made an idle threat, and some part of her almost wanted them to try and call her on this.
If anything happened to that boy--anything at all--she would see the town razed to the ground. ShinRa may have been punishing her for quitting, but she still had connections and they still had a vested interest in their still-running side experiments. And, she thought, this had to just be shock talking. They had raised Genesis since he was only a few months old--she hadn't even had Angeal yet when the Rhapsodoses took him. It just wasn't possible from them to not on some level care for him, and especially a child like Genesis, who was almost preternaturally charming when he chose to be. Once they calm down...
And if they didn't and persisted in this madness, she'd raze the town herself if they tried to take Angeal from her.
The thought to just take Genesis and run--all three of them, just run--hit her, and then a panicked voice in her head started yelling it was impossible. She knew, she knew, that there was no way she could raise two children--she had left ShinRa and the way she had done so ensured she would never be able to find work anywhere on the planet as a scientist again. ShinRa had blacklisted her so thoroughly nowhere would touch her, and the pittance they offered her for her reports on Genesis and Angeal now on barely kept them fed and a roof over their heads. It was all she could do to scrape by with only two mouths to feed; she couldn't imagine trying to add a third.
And, if she took him and reported it was because the Rhapsodoses were failing with the boy...she knew what that meant, too. She knew exactly what would happen--ShinRa would find them and Genesis would find himself in a laboratory.
She didn't doubt for one moment that they'd take Angeal as well, too, or have any compunctions about a bullet in her brain if she refused--or even horrifyingly worse, they could decide to just "terminate" the entire project--her, Genesis, and Angeal. And if she just fled, and didn't tell ShinRa...
The very thought of what could happen in that case made her blood run cold.
What kept her safe and her son free was the pressing--from her and eventually Hollander--that the boys could be raised out of a ShinRa lab, and the promise that they would be sent in if they proved to be better than originally expected or if they were 'underperforming.' If she upset that balance in any way...
It was impossible, completely impossible, and more than that, she was not going to let them just walk away from what they owed that child or run the slightest risk that their temper tantrum could end up hurting her son. Whether they liked it or not, they were Genesis' family--her responsibility was to monitor Genesis' progress; their's was to raise him. And by all the gods they may have believed in, they would honor their word. They were not backing out of their responsibilities just because of some stupid mythology.
Iapetus sucked in a sharp breath and narrowed his eyes at her angrily, but she refused to back down. He let out a disgusted snort. "Adrasteia," he said coldly, jerking his head. "Let's go."
They stood up and marched out of the empty classroom that had been speaking in, stiff-shouldered and full of bristling pride, and when the door closed, she let out a sigh of relief, and then realized that she had been right about one thing--when she'd said no to Hollander about taking Genesis years ago, she had made a terrible, terrible mistake.
Just one of many.
"Angeal, honey," Gillian said the next morning, and Angeal looked up from his breakfast, his cheeks puffed out slightly from the food.
"Hmm?" he said, wide-eyed and spoon sticking out of his mouth, and she couldn't help but laugh.
He gave her a slightly confused look, and she had to stifle another laugh at it.
"You know how you and Genesis had different homerooms?" she said, and Angeal nodded.
"Yeah. He's still mad. I don't know why they won't just let us be in the same room," Angeal said from around the spoon in his mouth and frowning slightly.
"Well, about that. I went to the school yesterday. They called me and Genesis' parents in, remember?"
"Well, we decided that you two should be in the same homeroom from now on. You're moving to Genesis' homeroom starting today."
Angeal's whole face lit up. "Really, Momma?" he said, and his eyes were all but glowing from happiness.
She nodded, and Angeal jumped out of his seat, ran over to her, and threw his arms around her. He started bouncing excitedly and babbling about wait until Gen found out and how he couldn't wait to tell him and to go to school that day, and she suddenly wished they had just done this three weeks ago. The last week or so, Angeal had been dragging more and more the closer it came for him to leave for school, and the less and less happy he had looked about it.
"Finish your breakfast," she finally said, and he went wide-eyed.
"Oh, yeah," he said sheepishly, and sat back down, and she felt her lips twitching into a smile again.
Angeal could barely contain his excitement. He was all but running to the square, where he and Gen met every day before they went to school. As soon as he saw Genesis sitting at the well, he started running seriously. "Genesis! Genesis!!"
He ran until he got to Gen, panting for breath. "Guess what, guess what!" Angeal said excitedly when he caught his breath. Usually Genesis would have already been up and heading towards him, but today Genesis had been sitting at the fountain, staring out into space. Angeal didn't pay it too much attention, too excited by his big news.
"What?" Genesis said, blinking.
"Momma said they're gonna put us in the same homeroom today!" he said excitedly, and Genesis' face lit up.
"Really?!" he said, and Angeal nodded.
"Momma said I was gonna get to move into your homeroom today!"
Genesis hugged Angeal, and Angeal grinned and hugged him back. Genesis didn't really hug him first very often, and sometimes Angeal wished he would. He liked hugs.
Genesis suddenly pulled back. "We gotta go, or we'll be late!" he said, and Angeal nodded.
"'Kay," he said, then stuck out his hand. Genesis grabbed it, and the two of them took off running.
Halia poured herself one last cup of coffee, sincerely wishing it was laced with apple ale, before she took a deep breath. "I can do this, I can do this, they are just children," she muttered, and did her able best to ignore Aris snickering off to the side.
"Have fun," he said in a sing-songy voice, followed quickly by, "Ow, Calliope! That tea's hot!"
Calliope gave her a wink when she put Halia's tea down on her desk as she was giving out the morning cups of tea, and Halia was glad to know at least someone had her back.
"Don't worry," Calliope said. "Angeal's a good boy, and you never hear Genesis getting into trouble when the two of them are playing during recess. Don't worry. Maybe this is for the best," she said brightly.
"Best. Sure," Halia said, with an "I hate my life" laugh. The bell rang ten minutes later, and she took one last swig from her coffee mug. "That bell is the sound of my doom," she said glumly, and ignored all the snickers from the other teachers, traitors every one. She stood up with a sigh and headed towards her class.
She had only barely stepped foot in the room when Genesis Rhapsodos pounced.
"Is it true, is it true?" he said, tugging at her shirt. "Is Angeal really gonna move into this room?"
She nodded. "Yes. He'll be coming after he says his good-byes to his room."
A big, wide grin spread out over his face, and she blinked, startled at the sudden realization that Genesis was an almost stunningly beautiful child when he smiled.
"Where's he gonna sit? Can he sit by me?" Genesis said excitedly, and she nodded, because at this point, there was no reason to put her foot down about it--she'd just sit them both in the back or something.
He suddenly threw his arms around her in a hug, and that alone threw her into a mild state of shock the entire day, one that only grew after Angeal came over with his backpack and books, and the two of them got him settled in.
Once Angeal was in the class, it was if Genesis Rhapsodos was a completely different child. He was attentive, he was cheerful, and he was completely agreeable to everything. He went from a raging monster to a sweet, helpful angel.
Aris was right, she thought. ...Dammit.
It took a few days, but Angeal was finally getting used to his new homeroom. Genesis' class was already at different places from his, but Genesis was happy enough to help him catch up where he was a little behind, and to keep him from getting bored when he was ahead.
It was one of the classes--math--where Angeal was already a lesson ahead that Angeal noticed it. He hadn't been paying much attention to the exercises, since he'd done them already, and had been daydreaming slightly. He had looked over at Genesis to see where Genesis was, and his eyes suddenly went wide and his mouth fell open slightly.
"Genesis," he said, poking Genesis to get his attention.
"What?" Genesis said, frowning slightly. Genesis wasn't good at math, and he'd been frowning at his exercises.
"Your neck," Angeal said, and put down his pencil to point to a small bruise, one that was almost completely covered by Genesis's hair; it only caught Angeal's eye when Genesis had tilted his head and his hair moved. It was half-healed, at the point where it was mottled purple and yellow. "What happened!"
Genesis frowned more. "What?" he said.
"Your neck," Angeal said again, and this time reached over and touched the bruise lightly with a fingertip. "You hurt it."
Genesis raised his hand up and touched the same space, and winced slightly, then his frown grew into an angry pout. "Nothing," he said, tucking his chin down and narrowing his eyes.
"But--" Angeal started, upset, and Genesis's eyes flared angrily, and he reached over Angeal's desk, grabbed the pencil Angeal had just put down, and snapped it in half.
Genesis didn't quite know why he did it, other than he wanted Angeal to shut up.
"You broke my pencil!" Angeal said suddenly with a horrified look of dismay, and before Genesis could do or say anything, Angeal's lower lip had started trembling. "Why did you break my pencil?"
"It's just a pencil!" Genesis said, feeling weird and not liking it, like he'd done something wrong, even though it was Angeal's fault. If Angeal hadn't been bugging him... He scowled and looked away from the tears welling up in Angeal's eyes and the betrayed look Angeal was giving him. "Just use another one."
"I don't have another one," Angeal said, sniffling and his breath beginning to hitch. His face crumpled, then he bit his lip and picked up his broken pencil and started trying to do his work with it, sniffling.
Genesis couldn't look at him, just stared at the window with his arm crossed and lip poking out, and sniffled.
"Genesis? Angeal? What's wrong?" Mrs. Konstantopoulos said suddenly. Genesis scowled and waited for Angeal to get him into trouble.
"Nothing," Angeal said, sniffling a little but trying to stop, tears still rolling down his cheeks. "My pencil broke."
One of the boys, Clearcus, burst into laughter. "Cry baby, cry baby!" he said tauntingly, and Angeal's let out a small sob and dropped his head, wiping his eyes with his fists as lost his battle trying to hold back his tears and his shoulders started shaking. Genesis shot Clearcus an angry look, but Clearcus didn't seem to notice. "Cry baby! Lookit the crybaby!"
"Clearcus!" Mrs. Konstantopoulos said sternly, and he closed his mouth, but still kept a mean-spirited smile on his face.
"Here, Angeal, you can use one of my pencils. It's OK," Genesis said, and Angeal nodded.
Angeal sniffled and wiped at his eyes again, and Genesis turned a long, narrowed-eyed glare that was pure venom at Clearcus, and smiled when the boy startled.
He was gonna get Clearcus for making Angeal cry.
He waited until the end of the day, when it was cleaning time. He'd planned this--he had been helping give the homework sheets out, and when Telemachus was taking his, Genesis held on a little bit too tightly, and the sheet tore. That meant Mrs. Konstantopoulos had to go make another copy during cleaning time, which meant no teacher.
As soon as she was gone, he stomped over to Clearcus' desk, pulled out Clearcus' pencil case, and took out a pencil, then stuck a tongue out at him and stomped back towards his desk.
"Hey! You took my pencil! Gimme my pencil, Genesis!" Clearcus yelled.
"No," Genesis snapped. Genesis was setting things even--Angeal's pencil had gotten broken, so he needed a new one. Since Clearcus had made Angeal cry because of it, Angeal was getting his pencil.
"Give it back, Genesis!" Angeal said angrily, throwing down his cleaning rag. "That's not yours! It's his!"
"But--!" Genesis said, his lip poking out, but Angeal wouldn't back down.
"No!" Angeal said, angrily crossing his arms, and Genesis narrowed his eyes.
Halia had known on some level that was coming, and had dreaded it. While Genesis Rhapsodos had been like a completely different child--one who was bright, paid attention, and oddly charismatic for someone so young--she remembered all too well why she had referred to him as "the demon child" when talking about him the first three weeks.
She knew all too well what it looked like when Genesis was about to throw the mother of all tantrums, and it looked like the demon child was about to return.
Angeal Hewley had been sent by the gods for all the change just having him around had done, even if she couldn't even begin to imagine what it was about Angeal that Genesis had latched on to, other than him being Genesis's total opposite in terms of pretty much everything, from personality to family situation, and the way none of the other kids could keep up with them in their sports class outside--if the two of them were together on a team, that team would win, and when they were separate it quickly turned into a competition just between them, shock as it was to see tiny little Angeal Hewley keeping up whatever the pace Genesis set--but it looked like the gods were revoking their gift, and after less than a week--she had left the room to go to the teacher's room to make a quick copy of a worksheet after Telemachus accidentally tore his while the kids cleaned the classroom at the end of the day, and had come back to find this. The two of them were about to have a face off of some sort, and with as meek a little boy as Angeal seemed to be and as much as he followed Genesis around, she knew this was going to end badly.
The two of them were nose to nose, and Genesis had his lip sticking out, in the bad way, the "thirty seconds away from screaming and kicking" way. And Angeal was glaring at Genesis, his arms crossed and head tilted in a way that was far more stubborn than she would have imagined the boy capable of, and she could only imagine how well Genesis would take Angeal of all people defying him.
This was going to get ugly.
She had just geared herself to go over when Genesis tilted his head more with pure pride, fully matched by the stubborn pursed-lip look Angeal gave him, and she figured it was too late and things were about to fall completely apart when all of a sudden, Genesis' angry pout turned sulky. He crossed his arms and looked away angrily, shoulders hunched in and not looking at Angeal. He shoved whatever he had been holding--it looked like a pencil--at Clearcus, and then scowled.
Angeal gave Clearcus a look and shrugged, and then picked up both his bag and Genesis' in one hand, grabbed Genesis' arm by the other, and pulled him outside, all the while, most mind-boggling of it all, chewing Genesis out--as they went past her, she couldn't miss Angeal's, "You can't do that, it's not nice, Gen! That was his! You'll get in trouble!"
Genesis was still scowling and was being all but dragged away, but he was very obviously letting himself be dragged out--Halia knew far too well how well trying to make Genesis Rhapsodos go somewhere or do something he didn't want to went and had gotten the black eye from a flailing fist to prove it--and she just stood there with her mouth hanging open.
Genesis Rhapsodos, the demon child, had just given in to someone.
"Class dismissed. You...you can all go home now," she said, decided it was close enough and the day was over, and was backed up by the final bell ringing. She gave Telemachus his sheet, then wandered back down to the teacher's room in something of a haze, wondering if maybe she hadn't gotten something about Genesis and Angeal completely backwards somehow.
They were almost to the gate when Genesis dug his heels in and yanked his arm free.
"Gen?" Angeal said, stopping in surprise and still frowning.
"I gotta go to the bathroom!" Genesis said, still pouting slightly and not completely looking at Angeal. "And gimme my bag. I left my book in my desk. You wait here."
"'Kay," Angeal said with a sigh, giving Genesis his bag. "You're not gonna take his stuff again, right?" he said pointedly with a frown.
Genesis heaved an exaggerated and aggrieved sigh. "No, I'm not gonna take his stuff, Angeal," he said sounding annoyed.
"OK," Angeal said and smiled, then crouched down and picked up a stick to start drawing animals in the dirt while Genesis ran back.
Genesis waited until almost everyone was gone before he went in. There were two or three kids left in the room, and Genesis made a quick "Get out" gesture at them, and they nodded and left.
Leaving the room empty except for him and Clearcus, who was still at his desk, putting things into his bag.
"Hey, Clearcus," he said.
Clearcus looked up from his backpack. "What do you want, stupid?" Clearcus said angrily, and Genesis narrowed his eyes. He went over to Clearcus' desk so fast Clearcus' eyes went wide, and he grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up. "Let go of me, stupid!" Clearcus yelled, then winced when Genesis tightened his arm. "Ow! Let me go! Ow!" he said, trying to get free, and Genesis just tightened his grip more and more, then finally shook Clearcus. Hard.
"The more you try to get loose the more it'll hurt," he said. Something cold and dangerous gleamed in Genesis' eyes, and Clearcus' lower lip began to tremble and he went still.
"Get your pencil box," Genesis said, and squeezed Clearcus' arm. Clearcus winced and tears welled up in his eyes, but he pulled the case out with his free hand.
Genesis held out a hand. "Gimme a pencil."
Clearcus pulled one out and gave it to Genesis, and Genesis smiled, let go of Clearcus' arm, and slipped the pencil over his shoulder and into his backpack.
"Hey, that's my--!" Clearcus began angrily with a sniffle, and then his words dried up when Genesis turned on him, his eyes narrowed into fine slits.
"No, it's mine," Genesis said, his voice low and eyes burning, and Clearcus stumbled back, rubbing his arm where Genesis had grabbed it before. "Because you just gave it to me. Right?"
Clearcus swallowed then nodded, and Genesis smiled before he dumped everything in Clearcus' desk onto the floor. "Clean that up. It's your stuff, so it's your mess," he said with a sharp, dangerous little smile on his face, and then stepped on everything as he walked over to the door. At the door, he stopped and gave Clearcus that sharp little smile again, and Clearcus flinched, then bit his lip against another sniffle and started picking up his things. Genesis' smile widened, just slightly, and he tilted his chin up and his smile was replaced with a disgusted look before he walked out without a look back.
When he got to the entrance to the school, he saw Angeal and took off at a run for him. "Angeal! Let's go!" he said, and grabbed Angeal's arm to tug him up. "Race you!" he said, and Angeal grinned, then dropped his stick and jumped to his feet at Genesis' tugging, and they took off for the orchards, running for all they were worth.
The phone rang, and Gillian picked it up quickly, wondering who could possibly be calling her.
"Dr. Hewley, I presume?"
She let out a faint sigh. "Hello, Hollander. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"
"What, a man can't simply call an old colleague and see how she's doing?"
"You never 'simply call'," she said, raising an eyebrow. "What is it you want?"
"I was calling to see how the projects are doing."
"Your son," she said pointedly, "is in school right now. As is Genesis. They should be done soon."
"How are they getting along?"
"Thick as thieves," she said, smiling faintly. She knew it wasn't the answer he wanted, but she refused, refused, to act as if they were anything more than children. "They get on so well Genesis pitched a fit when they weren't in the same homeroom. We finally had to change Angeal's room, and now there don't seem to be any problems."
"It's unsurprising they would gravitate to each other, all things considered. They're not regular children, after all."
That stung her for some reason and she tightened her jaw. "But they are regular children."
He ignored her. "I just sent you details on some physical tests, endurance and the like, that I'd like you to do on them. And if you can, send me a new blood sample from both of them. I'd also like to arrange for IQ tests, since we need to compare their progress to Project S."
"I'd rather not."
"It doesn't matter."
There was a long silence, and when Hollander spoke again, his voice was softer. "Gillian, you know I still--"
"Save it," she said, shaking her head even though he couldn't see her. "I don't feel like listening to it, no matter what it is."
"Gillian. Look, I--" he began, then sighed. "You should come back. I miss...I miss working with you," he said quietly. "We did good work together."
"Do you know why I left?" she said, her voice quiet yet angry. "Do you know when I decided to?"
"You had qualms about the project and how Hojo was--"
"It was the day I felt my son move inside me," she said, cutting him off. "That was the day I realized he wasn't an experiment, but my child. He was a living thing, a part of me, and I could never think of him as just a project again. That is why I gave him a real name instead of the project name, because he wasn't a project, he's wasn't a lab sample, he wasn't an experiment, he was my son. I quit because I realized what I had become and what ShinRa...what we were doing--that we were playing with living, breathing things, with children. With my child. I quit because I got my humanity back. And I will never go back or let you have my son--your son. He will never be Subproject Apocrypha again."
Hollander's voice was cold. "Apocrypha or Angeal, it doesn't matter. He will always be Subproject A, no matter how much you pretend otherwise. And don't pretend to think for a split second that ShinRa wouldn't have ordered 'your son' ripped out of you and taken away had you not agreed to a few 'conditions' to quitting. You don't 'quit' something like this, Gillian, and you know it, and all your talk about 'my son' and 'your son' ring very hollow coming from you, considering Genesis," Hollander said with what sounded like disgust, and Gillian felt like she had been slapped.
But it's different, a voice inside of her yelled. It's different. Genesis was an experiment from the first and we all did what we needed to to be able to run it without interference. But Angeal...Angeal wasn't wasn't like that. He was mine and part of me before I gave him to ShinRa, I just didn't know it until it was too late. Angeal's different.
"Besides," Hollander finally said after a long silence, a hint of a smile in his voice. "Don't you want to know if they're better than Hojo's Project S? It was always as much you against Hojo as it was me."
"...I don't care," she finally said, and it twisted like a lie in her mouth, like the lie it was--some part of her had stirred, the part that had worked so hard to use the Jenova DNA, that had been willing to let herself be a guinea pig and had almost ecstatically volunteered her son when she found out she was pregnant, seeing it as merely fortuitous timing to let them test out their newest hypothesis. And part of her felt sick at that, that there was still some part of her that thought of her son as an experiment, as 'Subproject A.' "Angeal...Angeal is my joy. I love him more than I thought it as possible to love anything, and I feel it every time I look at him. He is my greatest joy." Her hand tightening on the phone, and when she next spoke, her words were a low, pained whisper.
"But I can never forget how he came to be 'Subproject A.' My greatest joy," she said thickly, "is also my greatest sin. And I remember that every time I look at him as well," she said, closing her eyes, and then hung up the phone. Then she sat down heavily in a chair and put her face in her hand, and tried not to think about anything at all.
And when Angeal came home and gave her a tentative, "Momma...?" and looked up at her with wide, worried blue eyes, she scooped him into her lap and held onto him.
He was a good boy, always had been, and didn't squirm or try to get down, just sat with his head on her chest while she held on to him. After a while, she sighed softly. "Angeal, can you do something for me?" she asked.
"What, Momma?" he asked, not raising his head from her chest.
"Can--can you go bring me my laptop? But be careful and don't drop it."
He nodded. "Okay. I'll be careful!" he said, and slid off her lap, heading towards her room. He brought the laptop to her a few minutes later, carefully holding it in both hands, looking around to make sure there was nothing he would trip over.
"I was careful, Momma!" he said proudly, holding it out to her with both hands.
"Yes, you were," she said, taking it from him, then patting him on the head. "Thank you." She put it on the table and turned it on, and almost as soon as she had, Angeal had scrambled somehow into her lap like he had been when she had sent him off to get the computer, sideways with his head on her chest. He was getting bigger and heavier, and wouldn't be able to sit on her lap like this for much longer.
It was a jarring realization of sorts.
She logged into the ShinRa network. She had left, yes, but the work she had done, the things she had been a part of--Hollander was right; there was no quitting, and she knew it. Not if she didn't want there to one day be a knock on the door and men in black suits on the other side when she answered.
She pulled up the files, on Project G and Subproject A. And stared at them, without opening any of them, Angeal heavy on her lap and his head warm against her chest as he sat half-dozing.
The number of people with access to these files was limited, and these were the only records. It would be so easy to delete all of them, right now, and for there to be no more trace of either 'project'. A few keystrokes, and it would all be gone. All of the records, all of the work, all of it, and her hands hesitated over the keys, and she closed her eyes for the briefest of moments.
A few keystrokes later, and all of the files Hollander had sent on the tests he wanted her to run had been downloaded onto her computer, and she had logged out. She felt sick at herself--sick at what she was doing, and worse, sick at the flutter of excitement that had run through her when she saw the files.
Her greatest joy was her greatest sin...and he would always be Subproject A.