|If The Fates Allow
Author: Chibi Cheesecake PM
A snapshot of sorts of Cloud, Zack, and Sephiroth on Christmas Eve. Some ZackAerith. Set sometime after LuckyLadybug’s story, ‘A Simple Mission in Triplicate’ so this is an AU of sorts. A big thank you to her for permission to write this!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Cloud S. & Sephiroth - Words: 5,198 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 4 - Published: 12-24-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3966024
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Merry Little Christmas
Notes: (Excuse the ramblyness!) At first I was hesitant about posting this here at but then I was like, "Aw heck with it." XD This is basically a fanfic based off an RP that was based off another fanfic that also spawned a totally different fanfic. It is a little convoluted, I know, but I'll try and explain the universe this takes place in as best I can:
Okay, so, sometime after Dirge of Cerberus takes place, Sephiroth, under Jenova's influence, casts a spell of sorts that flings most of the cast of FF7 onto Earth. They are separated from each other, and most of them don't remember their past lives. The spell backfires, however, and Sephiroth's memories are wiped as well. He and Cloud are actually working together, running a successful business. They all slowly begin to regain their memories; Sephiroth might have gone crazy again if not for the influence of Zack, who has been watching over everyone as a sort of ghost. Sephiroth and Cloud grudgingly begin working together when they realize they have a common enemy in Jenova. She is finally sealed away after a long battle, and by this time Zack and Aerith have been restored to life on Earth as well. You can read parts of that story in LuckyLadybug's fic 'Twilight and Dawn'.
So anyway, this fic takes place a few weeks after her story 'A Simple Mission in Triplicate', in which Zack finds Angeal and helps restore his memory, and Sephiroth and Zack's old enemy Dalton resurfaces. In that story, Sephiroth nearly dies to save Cloud. Thinking Sephiroth is dead, Cloud confesses that he has come to think of Sephiroth as a friend.
I really apologize if it's convoluted, and I really appreciate any readers who will stick this story out anyway.
Some thanks are in order: first off, to LuckyLadybug for letting me play in her universe (and use her villains, Rakesh and Dalton). And credit for some of the dialogue must go to her, since a handful of scenes were adapted straight from our RPs. And a thank you to the folks at the livejournal community "littledetails", for their help with the appearance of Cloud's scar.
Once inside the building, they could hear voices coming from down the hall, and they found Dalton, Denzel, and Marlene, as well as Azazel Rakesh, inside a large group room of sorts. Apparently Dalton had been expecting that Cloud would bring others with him, because there were a handful of Dalton's henchmen standing menacingly in the background.
"Cloud, Tifa!" Marlene squeaked. Dalton was holding her by the arm, and Rakesh had Denzel. Cloud was more concerned with the gun in Rakesh's hand.
"You let them go!" Tifa cried indignantly, coming forward. "They don't have anything to do with you!"
"Now, now, let's all just calm down. We don't want anyone to get hurt, now, do we?" Dalton smirked cruelly, gripping Marlene's arm tightly, causing her to squeal in pain.
That was when Denzel decided he'd had enough. "Don't hurt her!" he screamed, wrenching himself away from Rakesh. That was when all hell broke loose. Denzel ran at Dalton, kicking and punching until Dalton, irritated, loosened his grip on Marlene enough for her to get away. Denzel continued to try and beat on Dalton, but Cloud ran forward and pulled him back somewhat roughly. The further they were away from this man, the better.
Cloud always kept one eye on the gun in Rakesh's hand, even as the henchmen began to get involved in the fight. He heard the 'click' of the gun being cocked, and it made his blood run cold; he had been counting on Rakesh not firing if Marlene and Denzel were standing so close to Dalton, for fear of accidentally shooting Dalton instead. But Cloud didn't have to worry; a well-placed kick from Tifa knocked the gun from Rakesh's grip, where it slid across the floor. Dalton moved to try and grab Marlene and Denzel again, but was halted by the Masamune being brought mere inches from his face.
Tifa rushed forward and scooped up Marlene with one arm and wrapped the other tightly around Denzel's shoulders. Her eyes met Cloud's for a moment – 'Take them and get out of here. Never mind us,' he told her silently. The look on her face told him she understood.
They all froze, each watching the other. Rakesh had lost his gun, and Dalton his bargaining chips. But they didn't seem to want to let the matter settle, and honestly neither did Cloud. They'd gone after Marlene and Denzel-!
"Must this really end in violence?" Dalton smirked. Somewhat ironically, Rakesh immediately moved to retrieve his gun, but a well-placed punch from Angeal halted that effort. Cloud saw Zack grab the gun, scowling, and click the safety back on. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tifa and the kids leaving stealthily, Angeal restraining Rakesh, Zack and Sephiroth taking care of the henchmen...and at the opposite side of the room, Dalton trying to make his escape as well.
Something in Cloud just about snapped then; he shouted in anger and ran at Dalton. Dalton whirled around to face him, and Cloud saw the glint of the blade too late.
Dalton stepped back and smirked, removing the bloodied weapon, as Cloud swayed on his feet and clutched his side. However, much to Dalton's surprise, being stabbed only seemed to have made Cloud angrier. The smirk on Dalton's face faded as Cloud stared up at him with icy eyes. Once again, Cloud lunged forward, only to be grabbed round the shoulders by Sephiroth, who had witnessed the entire situation.
Regaining his confidence, Dalton once again leered at them. "So weak," he sneered at Cloud. "This is the man the great Sephiroth died for? Pathetic. Honestly...how does it feel, Mr. Strife, knowing that-" But whatever it was that Cloud was supposed to feel, Dalton didn't get to finish.
"Would you just SHUT UP!?" Zack was shouting, coming over to join the scene. In a rare act of unrestrained anger, he punched Dalton straight in the face, knocking the other out cold.
Zack dropped to his knees, gripping Cloud by the shoulder. "Cloud! H-Hey, stay with me!"
But the pain was nearly excruciating, and his vision began to cloud up. He could see Zack's concerned face and feel Sephiroth trying to stop the bleeding and hear Angeal calling an ambulance, but they all seemed so far away. Cloud closed his eyes and knew no more.
But Cloud had recovered, of course, and was released from the hospital on the evening of December twenty-third. Zack was ecstatic to have him back in time for Christmas, as were Marlene and Denzel. The others were relieved he was alright, and Cloud was just glad to get out of the hospital and go home.
It was funny, he thought as they pulled into the long driveway. He never expected that he would think of Sephiroth's house as being "home".
Getting inside was a bit of an ordeal that involved Tifa supporting one half of him and Zack the other. "Careful," Zack muttered. "It's a bit snowy out."
As soon as they'd opened the door, Marlene and Denzel were running over to them, excitement plain on their faces, but at the same time it was obvious to see they were still worried about him. Cloud was just relieved to see them again, unharmed.
Aerith was coming over then, putting her arms around Marlene and Denzel and ushering them back. "Goodness, you two, let them get inside the door!" She nodded in satisfaction as Zack shut the door behind them. "Now, then," she said, looking Cloud up and down. "...Are you alright?" Of course she had been to the hospital to see him, but mostly she had been trying to entertain Denzel and Marlene, as Tifa had wanted to spend as much time by Cloud's side as she could.
"I'm fine," Cloud said gruffly, a little embarrassed at all the fuss. He really just wanted to go upstairs and sleep. He still felt disoriented and overall drained.
Aerith nodded. "You look positively worn-out," she remarked. Leave Aerith to pick up on that sort of thing immediately. "You just get some sleep, okay?"
He conceded silently and slowly began to make his way up the stairs. He knew the others were watching him, to make sure he could get up the stairs alright; but he was a little too tired to care.
He'd barely eased himself down onto the bed when there was a soft knock, and Denzel's voice – "It's us."
"Yeah, come in," Cloud said. No sooner had he done so than Marlene flung the door open, running over and gently crawling into his lap. She wrapped her arms around him carefully so as not to hurt him.
"We were really, really worried!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah, I was worried about you guys, too," Cloud smiled slightly, putting his arm around her shoulders.
"Cloud, it's almost Christmas!" she exclaimed.
"Really? I hadn't heard," he quipped. Marlene giggled.
"Here you are!" came a voice from the doorway, and they looked up to see Zack. "Hey, Cloud needs a lot of rest if he's going to get better, right?" he said, looking at Denzel and Marlene. "Besides, Tifa says it's time for you guys to go to bed."
Marlene nodded obediently and gently slid off of Cloud's lap. "Night, Cloud!" she chirped, trotting out of the room. Denzel, on the other hand, didn't really move; just stood hovering by Cloud.
"What is it?" Cloud asked him.
Denzel just shuffled his feet. "Nothin'," he said. "Just wanted to make sure you're really okay, that's all."
"...Yeah. I'm alright now," Cloud said slowly. There was obviously more to Denzel's unease than that.
"'Cause, you wouldn't have gotten hurt if me and Marlene hadn't gotten kidnapped in the first place," Denzel mumbled.
Cloud frowned. "Denzel. You had no control over what Dalton did. It's not your fault."
"But I just ran away!" Denzel burst out, looking at Cloud with teary eyes. "I didn't help or fight or anything, I just ran away, and y-you got hurt..."
Still frowning concernedly, Cloud leaned forward to look Denzel in the eye. "I just wanna be brave," Denzel was sobbing.
Cloud reached up and put his hands on the boy's shoulders. "...That man is dangerous, and he wouldn't have hesitated to hurt you and Marlene. There's no way anyone would have expected you to or wanted you to try and fight. You stayed calm, and you protected Marlene and helped get both of you out of danger. That's bravery, not sticking around for a fight when it would be better to get out."
Denzel nodded, burying his face in Cloud's shoulder. "Don't die, okay?"
"...I know. I won't." Cloud, in a rare display of open affection, returned the hug.
He sent Denzel on to bed, once Cloud was sure he would be alright. Cloud watched him leave the room; Zack, from his spot in the doorway, frowned. "Geez," he sighed, crossing the room and sitting on the bed next to Cloud.
"I guess they did feel kinda guilty about what happened...We tried to keep them occupied, but you know..."
"What kind of person goes after kids like that, anyway?" Cloud scowled. "...Do you think we have to worry about Dalton for now?"
Zack sighed. "I sure hope not. Somehow he and Rakesh managed to get away, I guess because we were so preoccupied with your injury. But the police are on it. ...And I don't think he'd come around here if he knows what's good for him," Zack added, remembering the tirade Barret had gone on when he'd found out what happened. Zack had never heard so many swear words in one sentence before.
"...We decorated some," he spoke up, changing the subject.
Now that he thought of it, Cloud had noticed the lights outside the house. "I bet Denzel and Marlene loved you for that."
"They were a big help! They were pretty excited about it."
Cloud smirked to himself. Of course Denzel and Marlene would be excited about anything Zack cooked up; both of them adored him. Tifa once theorized that it was because if Cloud was cool, and Zack was one of Cloud's oldest friends, then Zack was cool by association.
"Hey, what're you smirking at?"
Cloud recounted Tifa's theory, at which Zack grinned and gave Cloud a mock-smug look. "Well, I am pretty awesome."
Cloud rolled his eyes at this.
"You don't think so?" Zack asked, pretending to be hurt.
"I don't know," Cloud replied. "Maybe you're cool. Just a little. Although anyone who gets as excited about Christmas as you..."
"Hey, don't knock Christmas!"
"This fat guy spends the night breaking and entering, and people are happy about it?"
"...You haven't won yet!" Zack declared. "I'm going to get you in the Christmas spirit, just you wait."
Cloud leaned back into the pillow, thoroughly relaxed. "You're such a dork," he remarked.
Zack stood up, taking his cue to leave. "Dorks make things interesting! Anyway, g'night, Cloud."
That was true. Life had certainly not been boring since Zack had been restored. "...Night."
... And Cloud, loathe as he was to admit it openly, was grateful for every second.
He glared half-heartedly at the bright sunlight streaming in through the blinds on his window. Cloud eased himself out of bed and crossed the room to look out the window to see that snow had blanketed the world while it had been sleeping, and still more snow was falling. Now that he thought about it, it had been snowing a little when Tifa and Zack had brought him home the night before.
He heard muffled shouts; he looked to see Zack, Marlene, and Denzel out in the snow. It looked as though they were pulling Aerith from the porch into their game as well. Cloud was genuinely glad to see Marlene and Denzel enjoying themselves after what they'd been through the last few days.
...Though he didn't really see the big deal over the snow. He supposed it was exciting because it was Christmas Eve...or something. Growing up at the base of a mountain, Cloud had seen plenty of snow in his lifetime.
His mother had always told him the snow made everything clean so they could have a fresh start come springtime. Though there was a part of him that would always associate snow with Great Glacier and Gaea's Cliffs, and the way he'd felt during that leg of their journey. That was right after they'd lost Aerith, and he was so consumed with finding Sephiroth and avenging her death that the harsh conditions hardly fazed him. That was why he'd passed out in the middle of the snow.
But that was almost four years ago now, and besides it was literally worlds away.
Moreover a part of him would always think of Zack when it snowed. He'd first met Zack in the snow, after all. He had wondered why the First Class SOLDIER hadn't been cold, but later on he figured the energy Zack just seemed to give off probably did the trick.
...Nine years had passed since Cloud had been that wide-eyed sixteen-year-old boy. And, though it stung to think of it, he had probably stayed sixteen until five years later.
And now there was a wholeness in his heart that he would have never thought possible to have. Maybe that was part of the reason he didn't really get into the whole Christmas idea – there was nothing this Santa Claus character could bring him that would outshine the things he already had.
Zack was all too happy to get outside as well. Sure, it was cold, but after spending so much of the last few days cooped up in the hospital, it felt good to be out in the brisk air.
He'd gotten Aerith to join them, as well. She had said she would step out for five minutes, and that had been something like half an hour ago. Her cheeks were red from the cold, and the falling snowflakes were melting in her hair. Zack thought she looked positively radiant. She was so cute when she laughed.
Right then, Zack was nailed in the chest with a snowball. "Take a picture, it'll last longer!" Aerith teased, her hands on her hips.
At some point Zack realized he was being watched, and turned to see Sephiroth standing on the porch. "Okay, cease fire!" Zack called to the others, bounding over to the porch. "Hey, Seph!" he chirped. "Wanna join us? You'd be good at this!"
Sephiroth just looked at him with a deadpan expression. "...Good at throwing lumps of snow...?"
"Aww, you're no fun," Zack mock-pouted.
"I never advertised otherwise."
"True!" Zack grinned and folded his hands behind his head. "Do you know what time it is?" Now that he thought about it, they'd been out here a while; since right after breakfast.
"Shoot, I meant to go check on Cloud..."
"I'll do it," Sephiroth answered. "Before you find a way to rope me in to playing in the snow," he added, in reply to Zack's quizzical look. With that, he turned and headed back inside.
Zack stood on the porch, grinning. Meanwhile, out in the yard Aerith and Marlene were starting a snowman; Denzel was gathering sticks for its arms.
Maybe Seph claimed he just didn't want to play, but Zack knew there was a big part of him that was genuinely concerned for Cloud's welfare now. As enthusiastic about the whole Christmas thing as Zack was, the friendship between Sephiroth and Cloud was more valuable to him than anything that could be wrapped up and placed under a Christmas tree. As was having Angeal back.
It had been frightening, to find Angeal and realize that he remembered nothing of Gaia. But Zack didn't let it keep him down for long; he had refused to give up on Angeal. It had paid off – Angeal was living with them, after all. And Zack knew it was good for Sephiroth as well, to have his old friend back. Zack was extremely grateful for Angeal's presence, and he was pretty sure Angeal was glad to be there as well.
...Although, you could wrap Angeal up and put him under a tree. He probably wouldn't like it very much, though.
He found Cloud awake and mostly dressed.
"Zack wanted me to check on you."
"I'm fine," Cloud answered with a half-shrug.
"Just what's to be expected from being stabbed in the gut," Cloud answered wryly.
"Heh." Sephiroth nodded at the extra gauze on Cloud's nightstand. "The bandages will need changed."
Cloud folded his arms. "Yeah, so...?"
"...So, I'll do it, if you don't have any violent objections," Sephiroth deadpanned.
In reply, Cloud somewhat grudgingly removed his thin undershirt. He knew Sephiroth was right about the bandages needing to be changed, and Cloud wasn't sure if he'd be able to do a proper job of it on himself; this would be a bad thing, considering how early the wound was in the healing process. Sephiroth crossed the room to stand next to Cloud, bandages in hand, but he got no further than that – suddenly he had frozen and was eyeing something else on Cloud's stomach. He looked somewhat horrified.
Cloud, bewildered and startled, followed his gaze, and it clicked. He backed away from Sephiroth.
On Cloud's stomach was a large scar, wide in the middle and with a vague 'Y'-shape to it. On his back in the same position one would find a similar, rougher-looking scar from an exit wound.
Sephiroth looked away but he had instantly realized the origins of the brand. Tifa would have a similar one on her abdomen, and Zack surely sported scars from that night as well.
"You probably shouldn't be standing," Sephiroth muttered, after an uncomfortable silence.
A shadow of guilt passed over Cloud's face. "I..." He placed a hand over the scar, feeling the tight, rough skin beneath his fingers. He had grown so used to it, he hadn't even thought... "I wasn't thinking. You shouldn't have seen that," he mumbled. "...I'm sorry."
At the candid apology, Sephiroth looked over at Cloud, surprised by the other's actions.
"I'm used to it, so I forgot..." Cloud trailed off awkwardly, slightly disturbed at how distressed Sephiroth seemed to be over this. What the hell was he even supposed to say? "...It reminded me of what happens when I'm not strong enough. I used to hate that, but I don't anymore," he said slowly. "It's...it's in the past now."
"Is it really in the past?" Sephiroth mused aloud. Was he a fool, for thinking that he and Cloud could actually be friends, despite the ever-present obstacle of Nibelheim?
"Of course it is!" Cloud said, a growing edge in his voice. "You're not the only one who's done things they regret!"
"You did not kill an entire village of innocents, Cloud."
"Maybe not, but I remember cutting down an awful lot of Shinra MPs who never did anything but what they were ordered to do," Cloud retorted, his voice growing softer. "A whole sector died because I didn't get there in time to stop the Turks. And what about Zack? He killed a lot of SOLDIERs, didn't he?"
"...It was to save you and himself."
Cloud nodded. "I know that, and I'm grateful, but those SOLDIERs never really did anything wrong, did they?"
Sephiroth didn't reply.
Cloud sighed. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "All I'm saying is...we all have ghosts. And maybe Nibelheim...maybe that wasn't even entirely your fault."
At this, Sephiroth turned to stare at Cloud, openly shocked. Cloud shrugged and ran a hand through his hair, embarrassed now.
"I mean, Jenova... I've done some terrible things, too, when I wasn't in control of my mind." Obviously, the memory of the hurtful things he had said to Sephiroth and Zack while he was under the control of Gunju Rakesh was still fresh. And then long before that, he had handed over the Black materia to Sephiroth twice, and hit Aerith on top of it. There was a part of Cloud that had come to deeply fear not being in control.
Sephiroth said nothing for a moment. "...You had hallucinations, the first night you were in the hospital."
Cloud frowned. "Hallucinations?"
"You don't remember?"
Cloud shook his head. "I remember talking a lot, but that's it..."
"You suffered hallucinations most of that first night. We came to suspect that Dalton had poisoned you with some kind of substance on the knife he stabbed you with, but as you hadn't been acting strange at the time, we didn't think to bring the knife with us for testing."
Cloud just stared. Now that Sephiroth mentioned it, he did remember feeling extremely hot; he must have run a fever. Vaguely, he could recall being certain that there was a fire in the room, and someone – Tifa or Zack, maybe? – telling him there was no fire. He glanced at Sephiroth in recognition. Had he been hallucinating about Nibelheim...? Once again, his expression grew guilty. Was that was this whole awkward, painful situation was about? Now he was dying to know what he'd said.
Sephiroth smirked somewhat at the look of understanding on Cloud's face. "You really don't remember what you said?"
Cloud just gave him a vaguely frustrated look. Sephiroth smirked wider. He remembered it clearly, and likely wouldn't forget it any time soon.
"There's no fire, Cloud," Zack was saying, holding Cloud by the shoulders and attempting to keep him from getting up. "That was a long time ago."
Cloud allowed himself to be pushed back onto the bed, suddenly adopting a much calmer appearance. "You have to go save him," he mumbled.
"Save him?" Tifa asked.
"Yeah, from himself," Cloud said. Even in his delusional state, he could still distinguish between the Sephiroth at Nibelheim and the Sephiroth that he now considered a friend.
Zack swallowed. "Alright. You just lay there and relax, Cloud. Everything'll be okay."
Sephiroth hovered by the door. He was considering just leaving the room; it was likely that if Cloud saw him, he would think he was seeing the Sephiroth of his delirium. Besides, Tifa likely didn't want him around.
But then Cloud turned and locked eyes with Sephiroth. Neither said anything for a moment.
"You saved yourself," Cloud said, after a moment. He knew this was not the Sephiroth of Nibelheim. This was not the Sephiroth he wanted revenge on. This was a much different Sephiroth. And it was something that Cloud had known for a long time now, but somehow the fever was making that clearer than ever.
Sephiroth paused, then shook his head. "No. That was because of Zack." When his memories had come back, Zack had been the only thing that prevented him from heading down the same path of madness as before.
"But you wanted it," Cloud interjected. "You wanted to be a good person. And you are."
Tifa was bewildered, Zack was happy, despite the situation, and Sephiroth was just stunned. Cloud was generally unpredictable, but this was more than unpredictable.
"Yeah," Cloud sighed a bit, as if the point was obvious and didn't need reiterating. He had dropped off to sleep then, and was completely lucid when he awoke the next morning.
Sephiroth glanced at Cloud, who was staring back at him expectantly, as if he were waiting for a reminder of what he'd said.
"You said I was a good person now," Sephiroth said simply.
"...Oh." Cloud crossed his arms. "Bet Zack was thrilled."
"He was a little more concerned about the gaping hole in your side," Sephiroth answered dryly, "but yes, he seemed glad to hear you say that."
Cloud exhaled. This was the sarcastic banter he'd come to expect from his former enemy. No more of this heavy stuff about the past.
"So, did you mean it?" Sephiroth asked, with a tone that suggested he didn't care either way.
Cloud frowned. "What kind of question is that?"
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow.
"I wasn't coherent enough at the time to lie, right? So I guess I must have meant it," Cloud said gruffly.
"Heh. I suppose you're right," Sephiroth folded his arms. The past was there, of course, and nothing would ever make it truly go away, but they could move on from it. It was funny that Cloud, of all people, was reminding him of this. Cloud had changed a great deal from the time when Sephiroth looked him in the eye and called him a failed experiment.
Sephiroth finally moved forward and went back to the task at hand, which was re-bandaging Cloud's wound. "You're starting to sound somewhat like Zack," Sephiroth remarked.
"Huh?" Cloud was visibly surprised. "I'll never be that optimistic."
"I don't think anyone will." But still, it was that endless optimism of Zack's that endeared him to everyone he met. It was Zack that had been the main catalyst in bringing Sephiroth and Cloud together – neither of them wanted to hurt their mutual friend, and if that meant they had to tolerate each other's presence, then so be it. That had changed, of course; Cloud no longer thought of Sephiroth as a murderer and Sephiroth no longer thought of Cloud as stubborn and rude.
Though, they had continued to use Zack as an excuse for the times they showed concern for the other. That argument didn't really hold water anymore.
The friendship between Sephiroth and Cloud, and the changes they'd both undergone; that was probably the true miracle of Christmas.
Or maybe that Zack managed to snowball both Angeal and Sephiroth that evening.
Happy holidays, everybody, and thanks for reading!)