Sephiroth watched as Angeal and Genesis played chess. “The Art of War”* was lying open and forgotten on Sephiroth's lap, because Gen's behaviour was more interesting than chapter five: 'Strategy Military Power'. Genesis made funny faces when he lost his pawns and smirked when he was beating Angeal. In those moments Rhapsodos's eyes were bright and he looked like he could levitate from happiness. Angeal only smiled then, and his eyes became cloudy for a second, like he was thinking about something nice. Like Genesis's happiness was making him happy too.
In Sephiroth’s nine-year-old life he hadn’t had a better pair of friends. Or any other friends. Two years ago Hojo let him play with these two and Sephiroth remembered that day very well, when he saw them for the first time: Genesis's different red hair and Angeal's deep, wise blue eyes – just like his own. They were so opposite and yet Sephiroth strangely felt a strong connection to them. Suddenly he had felt like... like he wasn't alone.
“I'm bored,” murmured Genesis, looking at the chessboard with dislike. “And I don't care what Hollander said about this stupid game...”
“It isn't stupid,” Sephiroth said quietly, closing his book. “It develops your ability for logical thinking. It's very useful in field battle.” Hojo told him that so many times his words had been engraved in Sephiroth's mind and he spoke them without thinking. Bad move. He prepared himself for those looks which he received every time he said something a kid his age shouldn’t say.
However it didn't happen. Instead, Angeal chuckled, sat closer to Sephiroth and patted his arm. “You and I know it but this little blockhead? No.” He pointed at Genesis, who blushed and looked away, pretending to be mad at them. Sephiroth felt his lips curve in a small smile. Hewley looked pleased with that, and Sephiroth wondered again how different he was that when he showed the littlest of human reaction – something which people were doing all the time - Angeal was so happy. His friends were happy, because he saw in corner of his eye that Genesis had looked at him and smiled too. Friends. He needed to be careful with that word around Hojo. Something told him that the doctor wouldn't approve. That strong connection, sense of safety and happiness – if it was safety and happiness, because Sephiroth still couldn't name feelings. Couldn't entirely believe that he had feelings – another thing Hojo shouldn't know.
“Kingdom for your thoughts” whispered Genesis, softly touching his elbow. He didn't even know when the redhead had come to sit so close to him. “You seemed distracted. You aren't angry at us, are you? I know we promised you a trip to lake, but it’s going to storm. You need to come back next week, so we have time.”
“How do you know?” asked Sephiroth with curiosity in green eyes. “In Midgar it never rains.”
“How do you not know?” The surprise in Gen's voice made the silver-haired child uncomfortable. Angeal murmured something to himself and punched his redhead friend's head. “Ow! Geez, calm down.” They were looking at each other and Sephiroth again felt alone. It was a strange feeling, which made his heart ache. Interesting. “You see these dark clouds, right?” Genesis pointed at the window. Indeed the sky was black. Almost as black as Sephiroth's dreams where he was alone, closed somewhere. Where he was looking as if from a distance at his own body fighting with something small and blond and very powerful, before darkness ate him again, stifling his screams of objection... “That says it will rain, and probably thunder with a lot of lightning and claps. You know what lightning is?”
“Lightning** is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. A leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 220,000 kilometres an hour, and can reach temperatures hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels known as fulgurites which are normally hollow and can extend some distance into the ground.” recited Sephiroth. He hadn't heard thunder, true, but he had learned about it. “It happens often here?”
“No, it's rare. But in this hot summer there have been five thunderstorms in two months,” answered Angeal in light tone, as if he wasn't impressed by Sephiroth's knowledge. Maybe he wasn't. “We can't play...” the rest of his sentence drowned in a deafening clap. Someone screamed. A short, high squeak, which made Sephiroth shiver. “Sephiroth, calm down.” Angeal grabbed him by the arms and then Sephiroth realized that he was screaming and – for Shiva – he couldn't stop. Not when something was rumbling above their heads and it seemed like the rain and wind wanted to destroy Angeal's house. No, not when glass in the windows shook with each... No, the floor isn't shaking, realized Sephiroth. I'm quivering. However he couldn't stop. He was clutching Angeal's arms, sobbing. He was glad that Madam Hewley wasn't at home. Sephiroth didn't want her to see him like this. When he was behaving like some frightened child...
“Seph, hush, everything is all right... For Odin, Genesis, why are you searching in my wardrobe?” Angeal sounded angry. It was weird, because Angeal never was angry. Maybe he was angry at him, Sephiroth?
“I know you hid your old toys here” said Genesis. He started speaking again, but Sephiroth didn't hear him, because there was another clap, the glass shook even harder, and he screamed again. Angeal was hugging him now so firmly that he could feel his heartbeat. It a strange way it calmed him a little. “Here, take it.” Rhapsodos inserted something fluffy in his arms. He grabbed and looked at it. It was a little fox. In the past it probably was red, but now his fur was orange. “I bought it for Angeal for his fifth birthday.”
Sephiroth nodded, clutching the plushie to his cheek. It was really soft and had two different coloured eyes: black and blue. His first toy. Something warm grew in his heart.
Angeal shifted, taking Sephiroth in his arms again, and the nine-year-old laid his head on Angeal’s arm and closed his eyes. Genesis started massaging his back in comforting way. They were whispering 'Everything will be all right,', 'Hush, Seph, hush.' They were sitting on Angeal's old couch, hugging themselves and listening to the elements. Sephiroth felt a strange feeling of belonging, being loved.
The thunder ended the next morning. Sephiroth didn't scream again.
Years later Sephiroth was hiding boxes with Angeal’s and Genesis's things in his closet. They had gone away, but he couldn't let troopers throw away their stuff. Instead, he had taken as many photos, letters from home and battle fields, books, DVDs with 'Loveless,' and Angeal's plants as he could and went to his apartment.
In the darkest corner of closet the General saw a small box with words written in a child's hand. Intrigued, and thinking he knew what was there, he reached for it. As he had suspected there was an old, orange toy with black and blue eyes. Something clenched painfully in Sephiroth's chest. He remembered sleeping with the fox, 'Vili,***' his mind prompted, when he was alone, without his friend to hug him. He had grabbed it after his first killing; its smell was oddly calming, like the presence of a best friend.
After he turned sixteen he didn't need it. When there was thunder he was lying between Angeal and Genesis, being kissed and stroked by them, reaching his orgasm all night, letting them take care of him. They had showed him that he was human too, could feel, be sad, happy, angry... They never laughed at him, not once. It didn't matter how angry Genesis was at him, he never mentioned these moments of Sephiroth's weakness.
And now... now they were gone.
Sephiroth hid the boxes with photos of them, leaving only few which he wanted to frame. He placed their books on bookshelves, plants on windowsills in the kitchen and in his bedroom. Then he looked at Vili on the coffee table. A fox from Angeal, Hewley's beloved little toy, which he had given to Sephiroth without hesitation, because the General had needed it.
Sephiroth sat on his couch and stroked the plushie's fur uncertainly. He wasn't as soft as he remembered, but still nice to touch. Slowly – because he was now the General; he shouldn't do things like that – he grabbed the fox. The toy was watching him with sadness, like it knew what happened to his first owner, that there was another thunderstorm, but one they needed to endure alone. Even slower he laid Vili on his lap, smiling lightly.
Sephiroth felt safe, like the first time he had seen the storm. He was sitting on the couch, watching the night's sky and hugging the little fox. It still smelled like Banora's apples, sun, Genesis's laugh, and Angeal's smile and happiness. It was almost like when he was nine.
Only this time nobody wiped his tears.
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