Disclaimer: In no way do I hold claim over any of the characters of Kingdom Hearts, who are currently owned by Square. Despite my attempts to grab hold of even a cardboard cut-out of my favourite characters, my efforts have fallen short so they will probably always remain under rights of Square (the world is so unfair :P)
AUTHOR'S WARNING: This fic has been bumped up to a yaoi pairing between Sephiroth and Cloud. You have been warned so proceed at your own risk.
Chapter 16 - End of Darkness
The late morning sun poured through the partially covered window, warm rays dancing over the mussed blankets of the bed as well as the two bodies curled together. The light was mindless as it moved back and forth with the gently moving drapes, but its tendrils slipped over tanned naked skin, alighting features and body contours. It was only stopped from playing over the faces of the two sleeping men by a single white wing, allowing both to continue sleeping on in the blissful silence of morning, their only companion the sunlight and shifting drapes.
Cloud lay quietly tucked against his lover, his strong body pressed up tightly against Sephiroth's as they both slept. His long golden silver hair had come undone during the night from its braid and cascaded down his back and mingled with the pure silver hair of Sephiroth. He was bathed in warmth as his head was tucked under Sephiroth's chin and his face pleasantly nestled up against the older man's neck, the warm constant pulse of his lover keeping him lulled in sleep.
However, he slowly awakened after several more minutes of blissful quiet, his legs managing to untangle themselves from being wrapped with Sephiroth's, and he stretched them out. His shoulder twitched as silky feathers brushed against his skin, the protection from the sun tickling him back into wakefulness. He slowly opened his eyes and blinked passed the last tendrils of sleep, yawning as he shifted back a bit from being so tightly tucked against Sephiroth, who was surprisingly still asleep. He scratched the back of his head and flipped onto his back, allowing his body to wake up again.
He lifted a hand and ran his fingers over the wing that still covered his and Sephiroth's face and blocked out the sun from bothering them. He smiled when the wing twitched under his touch and pulled back a bit, the first soft murmurings of the planet slipping into his mind and rooting where he could only faintly hear the whispers. The small calls of the planet nearly put him back asleep, but he managed to resist by rubbing his eyes and yawning again, forcing himself to wake up and possibly torment his still sleeping lover into the world of the wakeful with him.
He was nearly disappointed when Sephiroth woke up without his help, but merely smiled at the older man when their gazes met. He blinked when light shone on his face as Sephiroth pulled the white wing back and stretched the appendage, both of them having to cover their eyes from the onslaught of sunlight. He flipped onto his side again and pulled the covers over his head, stubbornly refusing to get up to fix the problem and merely went about ignoring it as best he could instead. He didn't have to wait long before he was joined under the blanket by Sephiroth who also seemed intent on ignoring the open drapes rather than thinking of the option of getting up - or more precisely rolling over - to cover the window.
Sephiroth tucked his wing against his shoulder, the appendage stiff from being extended all night, and he merely remained under the blanket with Cloud. It was rather childish to refuse to get up and close the drapes, but he was much more content to simply stay at Cloud's side for the moment, especially considering he just woken up. He reached an arm out and pulled Cloud's body up against his own almost protectively, feeling the need to keep the younger man close now that they were lovers.
Cloud shifted over and slipped up against Sephiroth's body again, leaning up to place a small affectionate kiss on Sephiroth's lips. He sighed contently and ran his finger tips down the older man's chest, unable to deny how much better he was feeling, most noticeable by the fact that planet was a strong presence in his mind. While his muscles were a bit stiff, he was feeling quite normal again rather than being plagued by droozyness and the taint from the darkness. It was a nice feeling that he allowed himself to enjoy for once.
Sephiroth ran his fingers over Cloud's back, both to comfort the younger man and to feel for the patches of darkness that still remained on his new lover. Things were proceeding well and the heat from Cloud's skin was evident, only a one notable patch left on Cloud's lower back. Of course, the blonde's left hand was still cool, but even now, he could watch the darkness fading and allowing a normal hand to be there. The progress to remove all the darkness only made the previous night all the better in his own mind.
Cloud looked up at Sephiroth and the silence between them was another of the companionable ones. He pulled himself back a bit so that he wasn't having to crane his neck too much, instead pushing himself up to lean on one elbow. The blanket was making things stuffy, so he pushed it back and winced at the bombardment of light from the window. He glanced over at it and smiled at just how beautiful the morning was, a new day that did not hold the Heartless as previous days had.
"We should go outside today," he said absently, tilting his head a bit when Sephiroth sat up and kissed his neck playfully. His eyes continued to stare out the window, and he would love to watch the sea again today. "We should spar too," he added.
Sephiroth bent to kiss Cloud's neck again, but stopped at the mention of sparring. That was an exercise he had not done in a long time. His last sparring partner at the castle had been Cloud, and he was certain that he had ended up the loser of that mock battle too. "Spar? I'm not sure if you are in good enough condition to be wielding that sword of yours," he finally replied and kissed Cloud's shoulder instead of the blonde's neck.
Cloud looked at Sephiroth and merely quirked an eyebrow. "My condition is fine," he replied then added, "besides, you might actually be able to beat me in a fight if I'm not at full strength." He grinned to show his joke, but he could only gasp when he was pounced and wrestled to the bed, laughing softly when he was finally pinned down. "See, you might be able to win."
Sephiroth rolled his eyes and simply lay down over the younger man's body, tangling his fingers in Cloud's hair with a soft sigh. "I just didn't win back then because I had lost my mind," he replied, matter-of-factly.
"What's changed from then to now?" Cloud asked in complete seriousness, but Sephiroth's mock glare had him chuckling. He lifted his arms and slung them lazily over the older man's waist, simply relaxing under Sephiroth's weight. "I would like to spar though. I haven't really had any exercise in awhile."
Sephiroth merely made an affirmative noise but said little else since today was probably the first day that he wanted to just stay indoors and not move at all, from the bed at least. The thought of sparring was a nice one though, and he knew that just lying around all day would cramp his muscles, a feeling he could do without. Besides, today looked warmer than the day before, and he supposed that Cloud's improved condition did require a bit more activity since he knew that returning to the castle would have them both back under heavy duties to make things go back to working order. Both former Generals would be needed for that job.
Cloud allowed his eyes to close even as he ran his fingers along the silky feathers of Sephiroth's wing, but in the mood to care for anything other than the current moment that he was willingly trapped in. He smiled sleepily at Sephiroth's wing shifting towards his touch, and he sighed contently when the older man's head lay on his shoulder, turning his face to nuzzle Sephiroth's neck.
"If you keep that up, I won't bother to put in the required thought on if I will let you out of the house to spar with me because we won't be sparring today," Sephiroth murmured after a few moments of reveling in the tender affection from his lover. He opened open eye to regard Cloud smiling at him and simply smirked. "Unless you want to lie around in bed all day."
Cloud chuckled softly and lay comfortably under the warmth of his own body heat, Sephiroth's weight and the warm sunbeams drifting in the window. "As much as lazing around all day sounds nice, I would like to see if I still have any skill left after lying around for the last while."
Sephiroth nodded slowly, admitting a slight bit of disappointment. Still, as much as he too would like to lie around, getting up and being generally productive always had its benefits as well. Besides, he did want to get out of this cabin again, and he refused to allow Cloud remain alone even if the blonde was feeling better. As far as he was concerned, it was up to him to decide when Cloud was well enough again... and maybe the planet.
Cloud closed his eyes and dozed again for a few minutes before the feeling of fingers stroking his back woke him, and he once again considered just lying around doing nothing at all. No, he really needed to get up and stretch his muscles. He opened his eyes again to regard Sephiroth watching him and smiled a little dreamily, and he nearly fell asleep again. Luckily, the planet nudged his mind awake and ordered him up and about - the first actual contact with the Lifestream had given him.
He pushed himself up to sitting up and stretched out his arms, smiling a little at the satisfactory pops his joints made before he made the attempt actually get to his feet. He crawled over Sephiroth and would have been just fine had his lover not smacked his bottom playfully, which caused him to fall right off the side of the bed to the floor. He could hear Sephiroth half-snickering and faking some sort of worry for his health, especially given he was in a rather precarious position with his legs still on the bed and his shoulders on the floor.
Sephiroth leaned over the side of the bed to make sure that Cloud wasn't injured - aside from pride of course. He noted that the blonde was not terribly amused, so he reached down and hauled Cloud back up onto the bed, sitting his lover on his lap. Again, Cloud still did not look amused with his smack that had caused a slight wound to the blonde's pride. "You look like such a child pouting like that, Cloud."
Cloud stiffened at the jab and glared at Sephiroth. "I was trying to get up," he said in response, shooting Sephiroth another accusing glare.
"Indeed, but you appeared to fall over instead," Sephiroth point out with a big smirk on his face.
"Only because you helped me fall," Cloud remarked dryly and brushed long silvery gold hair back over his naked shoulders. He managed one more small glare at Sephiroth before he slid from the older man's lap and set his feet on the floor, rising up to his full height. He yawned and stretched again, taking the time to shake out the considerable amount of hair that he still carried.
Sephiroth shook his head as Cloud's stubbornness seemed to be in full force this morning, but he did take the time to admire the view of Cloud's nudeness. He reached out with a hand and stroked the back of Cloud's buttocks and thighs affectionately, smirking a little at the younger man's small moan. "Are you so sure..."
"I'm sure," Cloud said, cutting off what Sephiroth had to say. If he returned to the bed, he would probably not be able to stumble out of it for awhile. He really did wish to spar, even as the new giddiness of being in a relationship for the first time in his life hung heavy around him. He smiled warmly and walked away from the bed and from Sephiroth, moving over to the only dresser in the cabin.
He rooted through the wooden cabinet for something appropriate to wear outside and found some pants that looked like they may fit him without his wings out. He smiled at his traditional navy pants and slipped them up his body, doing up the button and turning around in them. It had been a very long time since he had worn anything so constricting - at least when compared to a sheet.
Sephiroth admired Cloud from a distance for some time before he also managed to drag himself from the bed. He quickly stretched and walked over to where Cloud was standing, wrapping his arms around his lover's waist before Cloud could go back in the dresser for more clothing. He rested his chin on the younger man's shoulder and ran his hands over the waistband of Cloud's pants, making a small unimpressed noise from his throat. "I prefer the sheet," he commented.
Cloud smiled and turned his head so that he could watch Sephiroth, quirking an eyebrow. "You just like it better because you don't have to take the time to think when removing it," he joked, and smirked at the slightly startled look that Sephiroth gave him in return.
Him and joking never really went along too well, but... things were going so well and his mood was just that good. Plus, he was only just beginning to learn about sexual banter, and he felt the need to figure it out by using it on Sephiroth more often. He was certain that Sephiroth enjoyed it despite the odd looks he received, and he was pleased that he could still catch the older man off-kilter sometimes. Breaking that stony expression sometimes took work, especially if Sephiroth was in an off mood, but it appeared that vaguely sexual comments did the trick most of the time.
Sephiroth eventually settled for shaking his head and stepped around Cloud to the dresser, shifting around clothing contained within until he found a pair of pants to suit him for the day. He slipped into them and waited for a slap to his exposed backside, but Cloud didn't take the bait; he still had plenty of work to do on his new lover as Cloud was still quite clueless at the best of times. Standing up again, he turned to face the younger man, finding Cloud off mindlessly braiding that mass of silky hair. "You're wearing a shirt, correct?"
Cloud looked over to the window and ducked a bit to get a better look at the weather before looking back at Sephiroth. He casually shrugged even as his fingers worked through his hair. "It looks nice enough where I won't need one," he finally replied, nodding his head towards the window.
Sephiroth glanced at the window then back at Cloud, not entirely convinced. "Wear one and if it gets too hot, then you can take it off again."
"Yes mother," Cloud remarked dryly, giving Sephiroth a look that spoke just how much the older man's insistent nagging sometimes got on his nerves. Sephiroth got after him about everything lately, since he had been sick anyway. "I'll take one, but I'm not wearing it unless I'm cold."
Sephiroth's eyes narrowed a bit. "You're wearing it."
"No, I'm not," Cloud replied, aware that this was moving right along to bickering.
"Yes," Sephiroth shot back.
"Yes," Sephiroth said and reached out to grab Cloud and wrestle his lover into submission like he had always been able to do.
Cloud dodged under Sephiroth's arm and batted it away, glaring at the older man. When Sephiroth took another grab for him, he twisted around the reaching hand and seized Sephiroth's wrist in return. "No means no," he said.
"Your mother said that once..."
"..." Cloud blinked and found himself struck speechless. He attempted to grasp the context in which his mother might say such a thing to Sephiroth, and when the older man smirked at him knowingly, he winced. "Oh, that's gross... you're not allowed to reference that!"
Sephiroth rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders as innocently as possible, though he really didn't mean it. That was probably the first time he managed to get that kind of reaction from Cloud, and he admitted it was amusing. "Oh, but Cloud, I could tell you all sorts of things about your mother. We carried on for over a year together, so I know all sorts of..."
"No! Just no!" Cloud turned away and walked in the opposite direction. He almost forced himself to forget that Sephiroth had been in a relationship with his mother, and even sometimes denied the age gap between them. Technically, Sephiroth was about thirty-five years older than himself, but looking only twenty-five, it was easy to forget.
He cast a glance over his shoulder at Sephiroth and glared at the smirk that returned to his lover's lips. "No, I don't want to know anything about that. The fact that my parents were together is bad enough to think about, but you... uh, we're lovers so no talk about my mother in that way."
Sephiroth chuckled softly and walked over to Cloud, resting his arms across the back of the younger man's shoulders, nestling his face into Cloud's hair. "She was a special woman, one with a little too much fire in her belly. She had a wonderful smile."
"I... never saw it often," Cloud replied softly. It was only then that he realized that his mother had been a subject that he and Sephiroth had stayed away from as if it were taboo. His mother was their link, really. "I remember her staring out the window overlooking the sea, and she would knit. She had a distant look to her eyes and would get mad at me if I worked too hard."
Sephiroth slowly nodded his head, thinking for a moment. He remembered the chair by the window, but Elecia had not used it often, though he heard rumours that she did after Walian's death and the announcement of her child's death. The sadness in Cloud's voice was not difficult to pick up on, and he sighed a bit. "She loved you. After Walian died, you were her life."
Cloud snorted, passing such a thought off more for his own emotional benefit. He lived more under Grakas' hand than that of his mother. "Mother was waiting for you, Sephiroth."
"I saw her at Walian's funeral, the day she said that you were dead. She refused to look at me for the entire ceremony, and only when I managed to corner her did she show what the actual problem was." Sephiroth turned his head so that his temple rested against Cloud's ear, remembering that day so long ago. "She cried on my shoulder when she told me that her only child was dead and that she would never forgive herself. Looking back on it now, I'm certain she never forgave herself for locking you away... she thought she would kill you slowly."
Cloud remained silent, his eyes drifting to the floor. Yes, he could have found all of this out through the planet, but it was pain he still really wished to stay away from. He never went looking for such memories from others, since he was only very small when his father had passed away. It was not a part of his life that he wished to dig around in.
After some time, he finally asked, "Why didn't you ask her to date with you again?"
Sephiroth removed one of his arms from resting against Cloud's shoulder and wrapped it around his lover. "I did, but she refused. Again looking back on it, I believe she was doing what she thought would protect you the most and having me around... could have been dangerous."
"Because no one knew who my father was?" Cloud asked softly, glancing over his shoulder to watch Sephiroth, surprised when the older man flinched only slightly but still flinched.
Sephiroth slowly nodded. "That was the real issue, or at least one that weighed heavily on everyone involved. You know the laws... if I had sired you, your life would have been ended. Neither I nor Walian knew for certain if we had sired you... so your life was kept a secret, more on Walian's part than mine. I would have fought the court laws, but upon the announcement of your death, I didn't see the point. At that time, I believed Elecia, so until you appeared again at fifteen, I thought you were dead."
Subconsciously, Cloud reached out to the planet and confirmed the information for himself. He leaned back into Sephiroth's weight. Even though he wasn't Sephiroth's son, he did think the rule that a bastard could not sire children was a very harsh and unjust one. It was no fault of the child to be made a bastard; the parents were at fault.
Cloud slipped from Sephiroth's grasp, only to have some of his long hair seized. He was drawn back to Sephiroth again, his gaze seeking the older man from over his shoulder, taking note that Sephiroth was smirking a little. "What are you smirking about?" he asked when he finally came to rest against Sephiroth's chest again.
"I just think that you look quite funny in pants again, canary," Sephiroth commented casually as he ran a hand over the waistband of Cloud's navy pants, feeling the material under his fingers. "And I think that we should spar now. Take a shirt with you, but I won't make you wear it unless it gets cold. Agreed?"
Cloud watched Sephiroth wearily and finally nodded his head in agreement. That was probably the best that he was going to get from Sephiroth at this point in time, so he wouldn't fight such lenience. Plus, it was nice to leave the previous topic of conversation for now, wanting to keep things light before sparring.
He walked away from the older man again and managed to pick himself out a tank-top, tossing it over his still bandaged shoulder casually. He walked around the small cabin and remembered that he wasn't sure if he actually had a weapon for sparring, his sword having been left behind at the Coliseum after fighting Sephiroth. He was displeased with such a fact and turned to face Sephiroth again. "I don't have a sword..."
Sephiroth looked up from the shirt he had just pulled over his head, glancing over towards Cloud who was doing the warrior's equivalent of pouting. "Yes, Pain and Panic brought it in when you were sleeping a few days ago. I stored it in the bathroom closet."
Cloud quirked an eyebrow at Sephiroth. "...you stored my sword in a closet in the bathroom? The most important material object I own and you put it in the bathroom?" He gave Sephiroth a displeased look.
"If it makes you feel better, my sword is there too," Sephiroth replied wearily, walking over to where Cloud was standing. He lifted a hand to touched the younger man's golden spikes of hair.
Cloud contemplated for a moment, thinking that Sephiroth's sword being next to his was less scoldable. He finally nodded. "Fine, it does make me feel better," he returned and walked to the bathroom. Sure enough, he did find both his standard issue weapon and Sephiroth's Masamune, pulling both weapons from the closet and returning to Sephiroth's side again. "That's a big closet."
Sephiroth nodded when Cloud returned, smirking a little. "Yes, I had the closet specially built to house my sword. I used this cabin as a place where I could train without being interrupted. Basically, all of my holidays were spent out here in my early days." He walked over and grabbed his sword from Cloud, running a hand down the sheathed blade with a fond smile on his lips.
Cloud nodded his head and slipped around Sephiroth wordlessly, his shoulder brushing against the older man's as he passed by. He walked around the table and over to the door, pulling it open and allowing the cool forest hair to wash over his body, blowing his long silvery gold hair back. He looked over to find Sephiroth already at his side, ready to go out again into the forest, and he stepped outside without hesitation.
The sounds of the forest were lovely to his ears, the sounds of song birds in the trees, small forest creatures moving about listlessly, the wind whistling through the tree branches, and even the far off sound of waves lapping at the rocky shores. It was all just an orchestra of nature, one he found himself drawn into because he was part of it, and even the murmur of the planet was just another soft rhythm to the music around him. The staccato of life was put on hold for this performance, the world just a different instrument playing in the orchestra, another addition to the flowing river of music.
Sephiroth stopped when Cloud did, staring at his lover curiously when Cloud seemed to just become lost in being outside again. They had been outside just two days ago, but this moment seemed to grab hold of Cloud and refuse to let go. He lifted a hand slowly and lay it on Cloud's naked shoulder, giving it a small push as he caused Cloud to take a step, directing his lover in the direction of the open area where he had practiced for years. He wasn't certain of how long Cloud would remain lost, but it was nice to see his lover relax outside of their bed.
Cloud opened his eyes when the sunlight hit his eyelids, squinting momentarily as he gathered himself and looked over to Sephiroth who was leaving his side. Glancing around, he found himself standing at the edge of a sizeable open field, this obviously the place where they would spar. It seemed comfortable enough.
Sephiroth glanced over his shoulder at Cloud and smirked a little as he unsheathed his blade, turning to face the blonde. "Warm up and then we will see just how good you are, my little canary."
"I'm not little and I can swipe the grass with you still, so don't get cocky, old man," Cloud shot back and swiveled his blade. He wasn't actually sure how well he would do as his muscles did feel a bit stiff still. He could blame that on Sephiroth as well, especially if he lost.
Cloud panted heavily as he stared at the ground, his shoulders heaving with effort, and he felt the sudden coolness of a blade press against his throat. He closed his eyes and dropped his blade from his hands, thoroughly exhausted from practicing with his lover, and his pride had been throughly beaten into submission.
He sighed heavily when the blade left his throat and looked up at Sephiroth standing over him. He had been beaten in every fight that they engaged in, his strength still returning to him and his coordination without the darkness to help him along. His muscles burned and it was made worse by the fact the he knew for certain that Sephiroth had been holding back on him, but there had been no mockery from his lover when he failed at even some of the simple things and made mistakes. He had been shocked when Sephiroth had encouraged him and even forced him to repeat his actions without mistake, and it was like old times of their sparring again.
Sephiroth walked over to Cloud kneeling on the ground and he slipped an arm around his lover's waist, hauling Cloud up and helping the younger man over to a fallen log to rest. He had to be patient with Cloud, more worried from his lover's state of being than worried about not getting a good fight from the younger man. Cloud was in no state to really be pushing too hard. "I think that is enough for today, Cloud. We've been out here for four hours. You're exhausted. Let's go back inside and you can have a nap and some lunch."
Cloud shook his head stubbornly, not about to give up on his sparring just yet. He needed this, needed to know just how bad he was after defeating his own darkness. He climbed back to his feet again, ignoring Sephiroth's warning look, and he walked back to the middle of the sparring field, grabbing the sword he had dropped after a particularly hard hit from Sephiroth. He gripped the sword in his hands and lifted it, setting his will and muscles against gravity and his eyes slipped over to Sephiroth. "Again," he ordered.
Sephiroth walked after Cloud, standing opposite to his lover, and he was pleased as much as he was worried about Cloud pushing himself. It was impressive to see, and it was surely the reason that Cloud had been so successful. "Alright, but this is the last one and then we go inside. You need to rest."
"Stop treating me like a child," Cloud snapped in return, gripping his blade tighter. He had to be back to top shape before returning to the palace.
Sephiroth quirked an eyebrow and slipped into his defensive stance, blade extended towards Cloud. "You know I'm not doing this to punish you. The last thing I need is for you to collapse from exhaustion, so stop pushing yourself to be the hero so much."
Cloud had never thought of himself as the hero, just a soldier looking to defend the kingdom he had been born and raised in. However, he did suppose that he was a hero, but that didn't mean that he was doing all of this for the glory and praise of the people he served. He just didn't want to be considered weak by anyone, not even Sephiroth. It was quite sad, but it was something that he felt he needed to do after so many years of being just weak little boy.
Sephiroth lowered his guard a bit, making note that Cloud was not attacking and was struggling to hold such a large sword up. Sometimes having a very stubborn lover didn't have benefits. He sighed heavily and nearly walked over to Cloud again, to convince his lover that it was best for them to have a rest for a few hours. "Cloud, let's get you something to eat and some rest. We can try again this evening, if you so insist."
Cloud only shook his head to Sephiroth's words and forced his stance to be offensive a second before he charged Sephiroth. He swung in a diagonal slash, gritting his teeth when his blade was parried, but he immediately drew back for a horizontal slash at the older man's midsection. Again his blade was parried and Sephiroth shoved his blade back. He stumbled only a little, his steps awkward in their exhaustion. He huffed in frustration and reached back to the gentle warmth of the planet for comfort, and it reached to him in return, warming his mind and assuring him.
He set his shoulders again and took a step to his left, watching as Sephiroth countered his step with a one to the right. He circled the older man slowly, looking for weakness in Sephiroth's stance and drawing back on memories of their previous fights. He pivoted on the ball of his left foot and suddenly launched forward in an attempt the impale Sephiroth on his sword, immediately slashing to the right since that as where Sephiroth side-stepped to.
Sephiroth lifted his sword and parried the slash, quickly counter-attacking with a slash of his own. He noted that Cloud was slightly better balanced for this round of sparring and the attacks against him were much more dangerous. Second wind, possibly? He didn't have time to contemplate before he was under attack again, dashing back a few steps and parrying the three slashes aimed in his direction. He immediately countered, impressed that Cloud held ground for the first time in their spars.
Cloud hopped out of the way of Sephiroth's blade, slipping behind his own massive chunk of metal to protect himself. His arms shuddered at the force of Sephiroth's swing, and he knew that he would drop his sword soon. He needed one hit, one hit in all of their spars to satisfy himself that he would and could get better with the return of his strength. That's all he was asking for... one good hit on Sephiroth.
He drew the sword up again in front of his body, picking a location that he determined he would aim for, the chest. He summoned up the last of his energy, and he put all of his concentration into aiming perfectly, judging for movement in one direction or the other. He would hit, needed this more than anything now. He pushed off with his right foot and stabbed forward with all of his strength, feeling a warmth on his back that was definitely not just the sun.
Sephiroth shifted his sword and watched Cloud attack him, and it was plainly obvious that this was all his lover had left. He shifted his weight, preparing to simply step to his right and out of the attacks range with a simple flap of his wing, but he was stopped dead when he felt tendrils of green wrap around his wrists. His eyes widened in surprise at the flickering appearance of wings on Cloud's back and opened his mouth to order the blonde to stop the attack.
Cloud shifted his weight to the side to make the pass since Sephiroth was shifting but not moving fast enough to get away from his blade, slamming the massive flat side of the blade into Sephiroth's chest. He felt the older man's body shudder under the force of his blow as he made his pass, drawing the blade along with him until he skidded to a halt a few feet after Sephiroth.
Turning to regard the older man, he blinked at the sight of fading energy tendrils of the planet and immediately dropped his sword. Despite his lack of energy, he made it back to Sephiroth's side in time to have the older man drop all weight into his arms, and he collapsed down to the ground in a heap under Sephiroth's weight. He grunted under the weight, but managed to murmur, "are you alright?" He half-feared he had accidentally drained Sephiroth's life force.
"Cheater..." Sephiroth shot back, but he didn't entirely mind the ache in his ribs. While Cloud had definitely not pulled the attack, he was more amused by the fact that the blonde had resorted to using the planet's energy. He reached back and tangled his fingers into his lover's golden hair, not ready to get up just yet, and it didn't appear that he was hurting Cloud at all. "Had I known you would have resorted to dirty tactics, I would have been less gentle with you."
Cloud leaned his head into the hand stroking his hair, letting out a soft groan. "I didn't mean to use my other powers, but I really wanted to hit you... I must have just tapped into it." He shifted over a little so that he could press his cheek against Sephiroth's shoulder blade. "Forgive me, though?"
Sephiroth glanced down at Cloud and smirked a little, giving his lover a suggestive look. "Maybe after tonight I'll forgive you," was his reply.
Cloud blinked, a little confused and not entirely picking up on the look. "What are we doing tonight?"
"Eating, I'm sure. Then I will tuck you into bed and tie your wrists down and have my way with you," Sephiroth said casually, but the look that took over Cloud's features was an amusing one. He chuckled and rolled off of Cloud, looking down at the now forming bruise on his left side. Running a gentle hand over the tender wound, he glanced at his lover who was slinking over. It was very obvious that Cloud didn't mean to actually cause him such an injury. "We should head back inside, canary."
"Alright," Cloud said and climbed to his feet before helping Sephiroth up. He picked up both his sword and the Masamune, watching Sephiroth test the wound. He could heal it again, but when he reached out to do so, Sephiroth simply grabbed him and pulled him close. "I should heal your wound," he protested softly.
Sephiroth chuckled and began to direct them back towards the cabin, not concerned about his wound in the least. "Save your energy, Cloud. I could heal myself if I needed to, but I don't need you more tired that you already are."
Cloud pouted a little, but he kept up with Sephiroth anyway, more because the older man's hold on him forced him to. "I'll be alright," he said stubbornly, making the attempt to stand more on his own. He managed it for a few meters before he was once again forced to lean on Sephiroth's weight. Obviously, he had used too much energy just trying to prove himself again in the fighting area.
Sephiroth felt a smirk tug at his lips as he continued to walk, an arm wrapped around his lover's waist as the cabin came into sight through the trees. He half-carried Cloud along to the cabin and urged his lover inside right away. He took their swords and ordered Cloud to go lie down. He knew Cloud was very tired since the blonde put up no words of protest against his order, and he simply put their swords away before returning to his lover's side again. "Are you hungry?"
Cloud opened his eyes to regard Sephiroth leaning over him and silently shook his head to the thought of food. He was in the mood to just dropping off into sleep for a few hours. "Sit with me," he asked softly. He smiled a little when Sephiroth did sit beside him and allowed his eyes to close again, sighing at the feel of fingers smoothing down his hair.
"Sleep, my canary," Sephiroth said softly, hoping to convince the blonde to have a nap. It must have been trying on Cloud to have to be so energetic.
Sighing softly, Cloud nestled into the pillow under his head and turned his face towards Sephiroth's hand, silently hoping to be soothed into sleeping. The older man was good about picking up his subtle hint, and he smiled sleepily when a large hand caressed his face and neck. It wasn't long before sleep was irresistible, and he slipped away from the world of the wakeful.
Panic tripped over a tree root and fell flat, letting out a small groan. It picked itself back up and looked over to where Pain was equally trudging through the forest back to where they both thought the cabin was. Of course, they had thought the cabin was in many directions and had found themselves wandering around the woods for a few days. Panic wasn't worried, since there were enough squirrels and frogs in the forest to keep both itself and Pain full for months. Heck, it probably didn't even need to eat.
"Panic... I feel fat! Have I gained weight?" Pain waddled up beside Panic and pointed at the pot-belly it carried.
Panic investigated the state of its friend and thought for a moment. "Hmmm...nope, still the same weight you were before we left."
"Okay," Pain chimed, thoroughly satisfied. "Are we there yet?"
"No... not yet," Panic replied.
Pain nodded and trudged a few more paces before looking around for any sign of the cabin. How they had managed to find it the first time was confusing, but they had obviously made it. It wandered around until tripping over a root much like Panic did moments before. "Ah, ah, Panic, I've fallen and I can't right myself!"
"Do you want me to roll you the rest of the way," Panic inquired as it approached its fallen friend. After a brief investigation, the green demon stared down at the maroon one, waiting for an answer.
Pain thought for a moment while grabbing onto its thin tail. It was never very good at making these split second decisions that could mean life or death! "Um... I'll take number D, please."
Panic held up its green hand and counted on its fingers. "One, two, three, four, D...?" Thinking for a moment, it simply shrugged and grinning toothily. "Okay, I'll just roll you then and you can squeal like Hades cross-dressing."
They both froze before shuddering at that memory.
"I'll keep a look out for the cabin," Pain announced when Panic began to roll it along the path. The maroon demon made small pained noises when it hit rocks and tree stumps, but it continued to keep a look out for any sign of a cabin. There was blue one way, brown another, and green the other two ways, but no cabin. A few rolls and the maroon demon was a little dizzy, so it couldn't protest the fact that there was a rather large hill coming up.
Panic paused at the hill and scratched its head. There was not much pause before the green demon just shoved Pain off and watched the maroon demon hit every bump on the way down before continuing on to crash through bushes. It snickered at the pained yelps and cries for help and trudged down after Pain. "Did you find the cabin?"
Pain eventually stopped rolling after hitting something rather bush-like and full of thorns. Looking around, it could see no cabin. "Uh... not yet! I'm still looking," Pain called back to Panic before managing to right itself and wander out of the bushes with branches and thorns sticking out every which way. Its eyes caught on something nearby, a path. "I found a path!"
Panic caught up to Pain and brushed off some of the bush branches, looking at the path that Pain was pointing at. "Weren't we already on a path when I pushed you down the hill?"
"Uh...I smell salt?"
Panic blinked and looked around, sniffing the air and also smelling salt. That meant they were close to the sea where Cloud liked to sit. They had to be getting close then! "Okay, here's the plan. We keep walking on the path until we find the cliff that overlooks the sea. We don't walk off the cliff, but we find that other path that went back to the cabin! Got it?"
Pain looked a little confused for a moment before just grinning and nodding its head. The maroon demon turned around and waddled down the path, looking for the sea but trying not to fall into it. It stopped when something suspiciously looking like a cabin was on the outside of the plan that they were traveling along, and Pain looked back at Panic who had taken up singing happy songs of the good ol' days in the Underworld.
Panic ran into Pain, bowling the other demon over and sending them both to the ground. It chuckled nervously and climbed to its feet again, looking down at Pain. "How come you stopped? Did you see the sea?"
"No... but I found a cabin," Pain announced as it rolled back to its feet and dusted itself off again. The maroon demon pointed towards the cabin in question and looked at Panic. "That's the one, right?"
Panic wandered closer to the cabin and stared at it for several moments, trying to find out distinctive features that would point out if this was indeed the right cabin. "Well... that moss looks quite similar. I think that window was right there too..." It walked to the door and poked it. "Hmm, the wood feels the same too. I guess we made it!"
"Yay, now I won't be so cold at night," Pain chimed and walked up to the door, looking way up at the handle that was completely out of reach. "Um... do we knock again? I can't reach the handle..."
Panic shoved on the door, but it didn't budge from its closed position, and the green demon looked at Pain with keen eyes. "I've got an idea. Let's do what Hades does when he wants us to open doors! That will work!"
Pain looked confused and a little worried. "You're going to kick me?"
"No, no, you can kick me. That way I'll get to the door knob and open it, and you can run in to announce our return. It will be... like a surprise!" Panic grinned.
"I like surprises," Pain said and walked a few feet away from Panic who followed a certain distance and stopped. "Okay, I'll kick you, and you get the door." Taking a rather large fast waddle, Pain sort of ran into Panic and sent the other demon flying with its sheer bulk, and there was no chance of stopping its forward momentum, so it just kept going forward, hoping the door would open in time.
Panic yelped when it was sent flying through the air and hit the door, latching onto the door handle and twisting with as much vigor as it could possibly muster. There was a click of the door and, when Pain ran into it, the door opened wide. Panic lost its grip and fell down onto the floor, managing to sit up to yell, "surprise!"
Cloud let out a shocked cry and nearly fell right out of bed to the floor, but he managed to catch himself with Sephiroth's help. Without thinking about it, he grabbed the blankets and pulled them over his and Sephiroth's nude forms, lying down over his lover in an attempt to cover up just what activity they were doing. He quickly slipped off of straddling his lover and just resorted to lying beside, and he noted that Sephiroth carried the look between shocked and ready to kill.
He quickly wrapped his arms around Sephiroth's neck to draw the older man's attention back to him. After, he tried to make it look like he wasn't panting or sweating, then looked at the newly arrived Pain and Panic. "Pain, Panic, you made it back!"
Sephiroth ground his teeth together in aggravation. What serious harm would it do to just kill both of those demons? "You could have knocked," he growled out and wrapped his arms around Cloud's waist. Stopped just when it was getting to the best part. He glanced down at Cloud and smirked a little before his attention shifted to Pain and Panic collecting themselves at the door. "Can you wait another ten minutes outside?"
Cloud blinked and protested with, "it doesn't take you that long to..."
"Foreplay, canary, foreplay," Sephiroth hissed out and slapped Cloud's backside to keep the blonde silent. He then looked back at the two demons who obviously had no clue about anything important.
Panic dusted itself off and looked at the two men, grinning toothily. The little green demon help Pain up again and asked, "what were you guys doing?"
"Playing a game," Sephiroth replied smoothly, no hint of a lie. When Cloud looked ready to protest about his lying, he muttered softly, "you can put that mouth to better use anytime." He got a hard slap for that one and groaned when Cloud began to pull away from him. His lover was obviously not in the mood for sexual banter and was more for taking his words for face-value, meaning Cloud had lost the mood completely. There were days where killing the interruption would be the easiest course.
Pain had trouble standing up, wheezing and coughing in exhaustion from that small running. It leaned on Panic for support and gasped for breath, looking over at the tense pair. Obviously Sephiroth had won the game they had been playing because Cloud looked a little mad. "Can we play in your game?"
Sephiroth snickered a little and sat up fully, stretching out his wing before folding it against his shoulder again. "No, it's a game only Cloud and I can play," he said and reached out to take Cloud back into his arms to silently apologize for his comment.
Cloud swatted Sephiroth's hands away and shifted further from the silver-haired man, working his way down to the end of the bed. Once there, he stretched and rolled his shoulders a bit, finding the place where his pants had been tossed. He grabbed them and climbed into the material again, looking over at Pain and Panic. "You two look cold. Did you make it to the palace?"
Panic shut the door when there was no order to wait outside again, and it bounded over to where the bed was, mindless of the tension between the two lovers. "We found the palace, alright. Aerith is such a nice lady, and she showed us all around to the neat places to explore in the palace. When we left, she said that everything was prepared for you guys to come back."
Pain sat on the floor looking a little pathetic, trying to get Sephiroth's attention for a hand up on the bed, but the silver-haired man was steadily ignoring it. "We had to sleep outside in the woods! We couldn't find the cabin, so I slept with toads and ate squirrels. I was cold..."
Cloud looked down at Pain and blinked. "Toads are cold-blooded... why didn't you sleep with the squirrels and eat the toads?"
"...I never thought of it like that," Pain admitted, and it grinned at Sephiroth's soft groan. Hades made that noise a lot when they completed missions.
Sephiroth just shook his head, feeling a headache coming on with such stupidity. Still, his eyes were mostly trained on Cloud who was giving him the cold shoulder for the moment, but he planned to change that. "When should we head back then, Cloud?"
Cloud didn't even look back at Sephiroth as he answered with, "the sooner the better."
Sephiroth sighed heavily and knew that he would have to do more than just talk casually to get Cloud to return to him. That was rather frustrating given the good time they had been having before the useless demons showed up and ruined everything, as usual. "Pain and Panic... since you two are cold, why not go for a nap on your blanket? Cloud and I have much to discuss about when we will be going back to the palace... among other things."
Pain looked at Panic and likewise, a big grin appearing on both of their faces at this new job. In complete unison, they both chimed, "okay," and took off to their corner, nearly colliding with each other in an effort to out do one another. The wall made quick work of that as they slammed into it, falling over. They both groaned in unison and fell unconscious in unison.
"...their stupidity never ceases to amaze me," Sephiroth said as he rubbed his forehead, gaze fixing on the only conscious occupant and the one he wanted closer. "Cloud, come back up here."
"No," Cloud replied and climbed to his feet. He was mad about the comment and embarrassed about nearly getting caught by Pain and Panic. He walked a few paces before he was forced to stop at the feel of Sephiroth directly behind him, the older man obviously having teleported over to him. "Don't even think about it..."
"Too late," Sephiroth muttered as he wrapped his arms around Cloud's waist, pulling the blonde close even as Cloud put up a mild struggle. "Come back to bed, Cloud. You know I meant no real harm by my comment. I was simply trying to get you to be quiet long enough so that I could ease your embarrassment about nearly getting caught because I know you were." He slowly leaned back before taking his first step towards the bed again, finding Cloud refusing to follow. "Canary... there is no need to fume like you are. I apologize for the comment." Again, he took a step back, smirking in triumph when Cloud took a step back with him.
He looked over at the two demons snoring loudly and set his hands on the younger man's waist, easing the pants down from Cloud's hips. Before the blonde could protest, he swept Cloud into his arms and walked back to the bed, tucking his fuming lover under the covers before following himself. "Now... where were we?"
Cloud pouted at Sephiroth, but he slipped close and curled up at the older man's side. "I believe we were about to talk about when we were going back to the palace."
"...that can wait. I can't," Sephiroth replied simply and pinned Cloud down to the bed, smirking arrogantly. He leaned down for a kiss and was pleased when Cloud gave him a hesitant one. "They won't wake up, canary," he assured and urged his lover's legs apart with a thigh, settling himself comfortably.
Cloud glanced over to where Pain and Panic appeared to be sleeping then up at Sephiroth who was giving him a very lustful look. He sighed softly and leaned up to kiss Sephiroth affectionately on the lips, and that was all the incentive his lover needed to get things going again.
The return to the palace of Hollow Bastion was not loud or in celebration. Cloud passed the town and gates of the palace with relatively no spotlight cast on him, except for a few children that promised that they would grow up to be just like him. It was a return that he wanted, no parties, no screaming people cheering him, no sudden idolization of what he could do being the planet's strong heart.
Cloud had somehow managed to dig up one of his old uniforms to wear back to the normal court, not about to walk around in a sheet anymore. His armour was a little uncomfortable, more for the weight that he was no longer used to carrying around on a constant basis, but he accepted it as required for his return. The only real different feature was his long silvery blonde hair that was allowed to cascade freely down his back, unable to figure out the logistics of braiding before Sephiroth had insisted that they leave.
He stopped at the entrance way to stare up at the massive castle, the planet murmuring softly in the back of his mind how clean the place felt. He closed his eyes a moment and enjoyed the feeling of light everywhere, like a warm blanket that covered the planet that he was to protect for all time. It was the perfect return, and the light breeze held a wonderful whisper on it of his adoptive-daughter's approach.
He didn't need to open his eyes to know her life force before him. He knew she was standing in the doorway watching him, and he sensed the shift of her delicate arms to better clutch the basket of flowers that she held. His lips twitched upwards at the corners. "Lilies, Aerith?"
"You're not even looking..."
"I don't have to," Cloud replied and finally opening his eyes, looking at the brunette a moment. He stepped towards her at the same time that she walked to him, and he wrapped an arm around her without hesitation for the first time in what seemed like years to him. It solidified that his struggle had come to an end. "Thank you for taking care of things while I have been away."
Aerith smiled warmly and hugged the blonde tightly. "You feel so warm now. I'm so glad," she said softly. She pulled back a little and stared up into Cloud's blue eyes. "You should be thanking Leon for taking care of things. He has done well and reorganized everything while you were away."
Cloud nodded his head and finally glanced to the side when he felt Sephiroth step back, about to retreat to let him have this moment. He cleared his throat and gestured back with his chin. "Aerith... you remember the General Sephiroth, don't you?"
Aerith peered around her adoptive father's arm to the silver haired man standing back, and she giggled softly when she found Cloud being leveled with a glare. "I remember," she said softly and looked between the pair. "It seems you two have found your lights. I'm very glad for that... but I knew you two couldn't be lost in the darkness forever. You would have found each other eventually."
"Aerith..." Cloud said and scratched the back of his head nervously. It wasn't that easy to tell what they were to one another, was it? He supposed Pain and Panic weren't the most perceptive enough to be a real basis for comparison. "It... was just recent..."
"Awww, father is growing up..." Aerith teased playfully, and she laughed at the sight of Sephiroth's half-hidden smirk.
Cloud didn't look impressed. "Aerith..."
"And here I thought you would smile again, but it appears no luck yet." Aerith reached out and patted Cloud's cheek affectionately, planting a quick kiss on the other. He was looking so much better, and she supposed she owed Sephiroth for bringing Cloud back again.
"Who is the ruler of this place now that Ansem is gone?" Sephiroth didn't entirely want to interrupt the moment between Cloud and the little one that the blonde had adopted. Still, it would be a waste if nothing actually got done, and the beginning of the day had been tiring and was making him irritable. "And what is the status of the Royal Guards?"
Aerith peered around Cloud's arm again then glanced up at the blonde. "No one rules Hollow Bastion yet, but we have come up with a few select choices for the job." She smiled mysteriously. "The Royal Guards are with their families. None of them have been called back to duty, though... some have come to inquire about Cloud."
Cloud watched Aerith then looked back at Sephiroth, sensing the brunette's thoughts. "You will rule Hollow Bastion, Sephiroth."
"You heard me," Cloud said and flipped back a strand of long hair and turned back to Aerith as if the matter was settled and no more issues would arise from it. "You are still royalty, so you will rule."
Sephiroth appeared next to Cloud in a flash, staring down at his lover with an distrusting eye. He looked to the little girl who was simply smiling innocently at him. Were these two conspiring against him within the first five minutes of being together? He should have known Cloud would do something like this. "No one will trust me in such a position of power."
"Yes they will," Aerith slipped in and continued to smile. "You have Cloud's trust, and you are the strong heart's light. You cannot go astray again."
"But..." Sephiroth started.
"She's right," Cloud interrupted and waved a dismissive hand at Sephiroth. He knew the older man could handle the duty, and he sensed that Sephiroth wanted it to prove himself again. "You're position of power will be backed by me, so there will be no problems for the people. Besides... the planet guards your heart."
Sephiroth stood silently processing what Cloud was saying to him, glancing between the two shorter people. He suddenly realized with a mental push of the planet that he really had no choice in this matter. He was outmatched not only by a girl and the planet, but his lover was going to insist. He got the feeling that Cloud would be stubborn about it as well, but he could be just as stubborn. "Cloud no..."
"Yes," Cloud replied.
"Yes," Cloud said and gave Sephiroth a glare. He lifted a hand and a spark of green wisps surrounded his fingers before lashing around and curling around the older man's legs, jerking Sephiroth upside down in front of him. He tilted his head to the side and an arrogant smirk pulled over his lips. "And that is final... Lord of Hollow Bastion."
"Why do I put up with you again," Sephiroth asked dryly. He was not pleased about hanging upside-down and crossed his arms over his chest to state this silently.
Cloud said nothing more and set Sephiroth down again before turning to Aerith and wrapping an arm around her shoulders, looking up at the bright blue sky. He smiled his first real smile in years and felt the planet smile back to him. "It's a wonderful day to start again..."
FINALLY FINISHED! Yeah yeah, it took me like... two years to get this finished, but I appear to have had to put it down to get the last chapter out successfully. I'm so glad to have it done, and I thank everyone that has kept up with my story. I hope that you have enjoyed it, and I look forward to writing for anyone willing to read again.