Pairing: Sephiroth/Cloud; PG/PG13 for FLUFF WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME and then a sudden turn to darker thoughts.
Note: A 'what-if' I started ages ago and finally dusted off that's based on a few assumptions: that Hojo never took Cloud, that circumstances are stable enough to allow Cloud into the SOLDIER program, and that Sephiroth knows Vincent is his daddy. Some things are relevant to the actual story, but overall I'm not sure what I was really going for with this one.
Word Count: 1,912. Unbeta'd.
Written for fateofshadow because she's awesome and because I would've never finished this if not for her. <3
Sephiroth wasn’t very pleased to catch Cloud slipping into his quarters.
“How did you get in here?” he hissed, thinking of things like ‘rules’ and ‘favoritism’ and ‘inappropriate relations with a minor.’ Cloud just looked around the utilitarian rooms with mild curiosity.
“Would you believe me if I said it was magic?”
Sephiroth gave him a Look.
“Elena,” he admitted. “She’s trying to get Tseng to notice her, I think.”
As he spoke, Cloud was setting his knapsack on the dining table and then poking around the kitchenette. Having been sitting at that same table when the blond came in unannounced, Sephiroth watched, his irritation now underscored with confusion. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t think fungus is one of the daily recommended food groups.” He had opened the fridge and was now prodding at something that might’ve once been leftover pizza, if one applied a judicious level of imagination and deductive reasoning.
“I do hope you’ve tried to disabuse Elena of the notion that Tseng might make a good romantic partner.”
Cloud had moved on to his cupboards, and the general was pointedly ignoring the resulting facial expressions. “Nah, she’s already got her eye on Tifa. Oh, Tifa’s one of the girls from my village, she just moved here to Midgar,” he explained. “Hel, Sephiroth, what do you live on, uncooked pasta and sword kata?”
“You’re hardly one to talk,” Sephiroth retorted stiffly, and Cloud put back the package of raw noodle he’d found in one of the upper cupboards with a wince.
“I’m sorry, you’re right. I blame it on spending too much time with Zack,” he said ruefully. When he came back to the table to root around in his knapsack, Sephiroth put a hand on his forearm.
“Cloud, what are you doing? I thought you were in a meeting with Commander Gysahl about being relocated to the chocobo cavalry.”
Eyes bright with the glow of a SOLDIER Third, Cloud met his stare evenly. “I was, but since I still haven’t made my final decision there wasn’t much to be done.”
“We discussed this, Cloud. I don’t want to be one of the reasons keeping you in a place that’s stifling you, and I know Zack would say the same thing.”
And whatever Cloud might say, Sephiroth could tell that he did feel stifled – by the city, by ShinRa, by other matters of regulation and obligation. The blond had spent too many years carving his independence out of nearly irreversible psychological damage to bend so easily to this current routine.
“Please don’t look at me like that.”
“Like I’m going to break all over your kitchen floor,” said Cloud dryly. He took Sephiroth’s hand and gave it a brief squeeze before releasing it. “Sephiroth, I have time to decide what I want to do. AVALANCHE has already destroyed two reactors, so the Planet’s got some breathing room, and I’m in SOLDIER, which means I’ve got a better chance of surviving than I ever have before. You can have some breathing room of your own, you know.”
When Sephiroth didn’t reply, Cloud continued, “You worry too much when it comes to me. I don’t need to be protected, and if you want me to prove it then I’ll be happy to kick your ass in the training room.”
How was the general supposed to explain how Cloud made all reason fly out the window when the war in Wutai had hardly ever shaken him? Or the possessiveness, when Sephiroth had learned very quickly in childhood not to have an emotional attachment to something that could be taken away?
Apparently he didn’t need to, however, because Cloud gave him a searching look and nodded slowly. There was no way Sephiroth could know that Cloud was thinking of things like ‘Jenova’ and ‘Lifestream’ and ‘who knows what both Hojo and the Planet have done to mess us up.’ “So, any food allergies I should know about?”
Sephiroth blinked. “…No.”
Cloud pulled several packages out of his knapsack and wandered back over to the counters with his load. “You wouldn’t believe the time I had trying to find some of this stuff. Enough Gongagan spice to flavor every dish within a hundred miles and yet basic herbs are practically unheard of.”
It didn’t take a genius to see that the younger SOLDIER was preparing to cook. Sephiroth had covered the paperwork he was working on as soon as he heard his door open purely out of habit – such were the dangers of associating with people in a lower security clearance – and while Cloud was always a welcome distraction, he couldn’t help but ask.
“…Did I forget someone’s birthday?”
“What? Oh. No, I just finished talking with Gysahl early and decided to make sure you ate properly tonight.” Cloud was doing something with sauce and a plastic bag and what looked like a slab of meat. Sephiroth was tempted to keep asking why, but finally just shut his mouth and mentally shrugged. Cloud was nothing if not practical, and he did have some unexpected free time, and agonizing with Sephiroth over something that wasn’t even a proper decision yet was useless.
If Zack were around, he’d probably start gaping at the small, uncharacteristically content smile on his superior’s face.
“So Elena is pursuing a girl from your hometown?” he offered as a verbal olive branch.
“Has been for a while. The first time they met, I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone flirt so smoothly and then panic afterwards. Then she got all defensive until she realized I wasn’t going to get angry at her.”
Sephiroth had moved from the table to the opposite side of the counter, sitting on the barstool that Genesis had insisted was absolutely necessary and leaning on his elbows to watch Cloud do whatever-he-was-doing with the various ingredients. “Do you have an interest in Tifa as well?”
“Did,” Cloud stressed. “A long time ago. And if you keep implying that I’d mess with two people at once I really will take you on in the training room and embarrass you in front of all your men.”
“My apologies, Cloud, I didn’t mean to imply anything of the sort,” he said softly.
Without missing a beat on the cutting board, Cloud flicked him a look that was a little sad. “Yes, I know, it just reminds me that I have a lot to pay back Hojo for. But anyway, I don’t think Tifa’s actually realized yet what hit her.”
Sephiroth thought about the little he knew of Elena and laughed aloud. “So then why is Elena trying to get Tseng’s notice?”
“She wants to be a Turk, y’know. And she will be, it’s just a matter of convincing Tseng to look past her pretty brown eyes. And temper. And her big mouth.” Cloud grinned. “I think we should be more concerned about what she’s going to do to get that notice.”
“I’ll tighten security around the more sensitive SOLDIER information,” he snorted.
As Cloud recounted to him an incident from earlier that day concerning two cadets and a chocobo, Sephiroth watched his work-roughened hands. They were squarer than his own, nicked with tiny scars that Cloud said had came from all the chores of village life he’d done as a kid, and which handled the meat and the few fresh vegetables with familiar ease. Cloud had come in wearing his dark uniform trousers and white undershirt and, as he moved around the tiny kitchen, the carved pendant he always had swung lightly on its thin cord.
“Do you really believe in gods?” Sephiroth asked without thinking, cutting Cloud off mid-sentence. Cloud paused and followed the man’s line of sight, glancing down at his necklace, then shrugging.
“I dunno. Not really.”
“Then why do you wear that?”
Cloud put the meat in a pan and put the pan in the tiny oven, washed his hands, and came around the counter to stand in front of Sephiroth with his hands braced on either side of him. Even with Sephiroth sitting, the two were of a height.
“I wear it so that you’ll always have something to be curious over, now that I’m all corporeal and everything,” and he pressed his lips to the general’s temple.
Frowning, Sephiroth put his hands on Cloud’s hips and nudged him back slightly. “I’m serious.”
“So am I.”
Sephiroth was about to give him another Look before he noticed the smile that Cloud was trying to hide. He sighed.
“My mum gave it to me.” Cloud said, taking pity. “It was important to her, and I guess I need that reminder that there was once a community that would’ve accepted me regardless of what I’ve done.”
Sephiroth frowned, wryly wondering if he should start a Survivors of Science Experiments club. Free scientist-shaped punching bags to the first five members. Then Cloud did that thing that made him wonder if the blond had some sort of psychic ability and immediately guessed what he was thinking. Leaning in close enough that Sephiroth’s eyes nearly crossed, Cloud murmured, “Vincent’s half Wutaian, so…hmm. You’ve got that almond shape to your eyes, though your nose is a bit too long and narrow. You definitely got the high cheekbones, though.”
“I’m too pale.”
“So’s Vincent,” was the unconcerned reply.
“My hair is white.”
“Silver, and that just makes you shiny. Ha, no wonder Zack follows you around.”
“I conquered their nation.”
“…Okay, yeah, that might put a damper on the family reunion,” Cloud confessed. He was still bracketed between Sephiroth knees, and his hands had migrated from the edge of the countertop to rest lightly on the general’s thighs. “Good thing you’ve got a backup plan. I mean me, Zack, and Aeris,” he added when Sephiroth gave him a confused look.
“Well,” he said slowly, “I suppose that would cover the east and west continents, as well as the southern islands.”
“Actually the Cetra are from Knowlespole, up near Icicle, so you’ve got the northern parts too. And Vincent gives you Wutai.”
“If you say something about being a child of the whole Planet, I’ll have Gysahl put you on triple duty.”
“I’m not a Regular anymore,” Cloud pointed out.
“No, but do you really think he’s going to argue with me?”
“…If ShinRa were a meritocracy, I’d be your superior,” he muttered. Sephiroth smirked, which prompted Cloud to lean in again to kiss it away. Since their first kiss a week ago, they’d never gone further than that; Cloud, used to having his world tipped every which way, had spent ten minutes pondering a physical relationship and accepted it with a rueful shrug.
Sephiroth, on the other hand, hadn’t been able to bring himself to such an easy reconciliation. He was no stranger to casual sex just as Cloud wasn’t, was able to hold on to some level of detachment even during the most passionate of moments; maybe it was the mako in both their bodies, maybe it was something Hojo had done or some remnant of Jenova, but Sephiroth was too-aware of the need that seemed to burn under his flesh. He wanted to crawl inside of Cloud’s skin, into his head, wanted to have and consume like the dinner cooking in the kitchen and be consumed in return. He wanted to hold Cloud until skin bruised and bones broke and then still hold tighter.
He wasn’t entirely sure that Cloud would actually say no.