Chapter: Nine - "Nightmares, the Past, and Clones"

Last Edit Date: 01.04.2005

Warnings: R for Reno, Cloud, Sexual tension, and freaky nightmares.

NOTES: I do not in any way ship Cloud and Sephiroth. I avoid those like the plague because I do not see it, and I don't like the way they look together. I don't like Sephiroth. I don't like the way he looks. I love his character when he goes insane though! (purrs) "I'm going to see mother." (giggles hysterically) I can just see him saying that in a really snooty voice.

And don't think I don't like SephirothCloud simply because I haven't read any. When I first got into FFVII, that's what I read, and it didn't hold my attention long enough for me to stay in the fandom longer than a week. Then I saw a VincentCloud doujinshi, and I came back. Then I saw the light, and became the RenoCloud fan I am today. Now, without further ado, on with the story.

,;;, WARNING: Keyboard Not Attached. Press F10 to Continue. ,;;,

Cloud opened his eyes, blinking. The room was dark, and there were soft sheets under him and over him. He blinked slightly as he shifted, realizing that he wore no cloths - strange, because he didn't sleep in the nude. The door opened, and he watched wearily as a figure entered the room.

"Awake, Chobo-head?"

A tremor of fright and excitement flooded him. Only one person called him that - "Zack?"

The man stepped into the moonlight, grinning, grey-blue eyes almost silver. "Who were you expecting? Vincent?"

Cloud froze at this question, eyes widening. A chill ran down his spine and settled in his gut, leaving him prickling wit goose flesh. Zack didn't know Vincent. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to ask, though, the sheets sticking to his back as he watched the man he wasn't sure he knew from between his feet.

Zack continued forward, grinning until he was beside Cloud. He bent over, propping his chin up on his folded arms, smiling down at the man. "Cloud, Cloud, Cloud, what am I going to do with you? So small - you saved the world, and yet you haven't grown an inch from when we escaped."

Cloud's breathing wasn't quiet even, though he wasn't sure if it was fear or not.

Zack lifted a hand, and silver glinted. Cloud's eyes widened in panic at the sight of the scalpel, yet his body refused to move. Cold steel froze his skin, and he was strapped down, expose, unable to do anything, leather chaffing his skin.

"The good Dr. Hojo was so disappointed when you ran away, Fluff-for-brains." Zack said, sounding very melancholy. "Why'd you do it? Why'd you leave?"

The scalpel dug into his chest, and blood erupted. Cloud screamed - more in terror than anything, because it didn't hurt like it should - and strained against the leather straps.

"Why'd you leave me to die?" the words were spoken emotionlessly, and the scalpel dug downward, into his stomach, and was ripped upward.

Blood - blood everywhere, and thick ropes of intestine.

"Silly little failure." Sephiroth said, withdrawing the blade. Cloud watch with eyes too wide and too clear as the man licked the blood from the blade, and grinned at him. "Come back to me. Come home."

Cloud wanted to scream, but was gagged with a kiss.

Fireburningandmakeitstopbutitcan'tanditwon't -

Sweat drenched his clothing, and he scrambled backwards into the rock wall, chest heaving and dizzy with hyperventilation. It was burning! It hurt!

He clawed at his clothing, jerking his shirt up to stare at his chest. No-no-no, it was all there wasn't any blood - he ran his hand up and down his skin, almost not believing it, fingers jumping over all the slick scar tissue that littered his body.

"It wasn't real -" he hissed, fingers rubbing at the long lateral scar that ran the length of his body - from collar-bone all the way down to disappear under his waistband. He clamped a hand over his mouth to force his breathing to slow, tugging down his shirt, eyes shut tight.

Not real, he repeated silently. It wasn't real, Sephiroth doesn't want me, not again - don't think I can do that again…

Then his eyes snapped open, and flickered around the cave. A flash of returned light, and he focused on it.

Reno was against the other wall, slouching, eyes watching him closely. Cloud felt his hair stand on end, bristling, muscles coiling, ready to pounce - couldn't be caught weak, weak killed you - before he forced himself to calm down.

"Voyeur much, Reno?"

The lights flickered as Reno blinked, and there was just enough light to reflect a pale glow as he grinned. "I don't know about your experiences, but if that was a wet-dream, I'm glad mine aren't like that."

Cloud closes his eyes out of spite since they'd both gotten used to the small light they shed, immersing the two of them in darkness. "You're right - you don't know about my experiences."

"Who is Zack?"

Cloud's muscles coiled, and he was almost to Reno before he caught himself. He opened his eyes and glared at the man, backing away. He settled himself against the wall, wrapping his arms around his knees, his side to Reno, facing outward. "Why?"

"Obvious reasons - you said his name."

Cloud stared at Reno for a very long time before half shutting his eyes and resting his chin on his arms, peering into the forest outside. "Him. The SOLDIER."

"Ah - the one Hojo took away from you."

Cloud stilled at this assumption, his eyes flickering back to Reno though he doesn't move. "Took him - No. The one I left." There was a beat of silence, and Cloud wondered what Reno would say this time to keep him talking. He knew the movements of Reno's game.

"Alright, I'll bite. What'dya mean?"

For a moment, Cloud was surprised - Reno would usually back off from topics that Cloud found touchy. "I left him in the mountains - lost him - I think it rained- They got him, but I never found out -" Everything was blurred and shattered. Memories weren't quiet right, didn't hang on his soul correctly. "I don't remember."

"Don't or don't want to - that's the question you should be asking and aren't."

"Oh, that was just fucking poetic, Reno." Cloud snapped, watching with rap attention as the redhead drummed out a chaotic beat on his wrist, fingertips hitting the skin stretch over bone harsh and fast.

"It happens." he said finally. "So you left the guy to die in the mountains."

Again, Cloud coiled, ready to spring, and made himself unwind. "It happens." he snarled. He didn't have to explain himself to Reno - of all people- Didn't need to tell the man he'd been sick with Makou-poisoning, and couldn't save the man he'd -admittedly - lusted after, couldn't tell him that he was lucky to be alive. "I regularly leave my best friends on mountain tops. You should have been there when I had the whole group on Gaea's Cliff."

Reno gaped at him a moment before doubling over, clapping a hand to him mouth. Cloud allowed himself a small smirk at the sound of strangled laughing. "Though I see it didn't work, Cloud." Reno said, and for a confused and bizarre moment, Cloud could have sworn the man was purring, but he told himself that Reno's voice was rough because of the fever that he knew burned bright after he clawed the wound open. Wordlessly, he reached over to the small pile of fruit and picked up the one he knew to be ripest.

"Catch." he said, and only waited long enough for Reno to look before tossing it over.

"What? Are you trying to keep me up all night?"

Before Cloud could even begin to think, words tumbled out of his mouth. "There are better ways I can think of to keep you up all night, now eat the damned fruit."

There was a short silence in which Cloud assumed Reno was trying to figure out just what Cloud was implying with that, and in which Cloud was trying to figure out just what he meant. Finally, Reno spoke up. "And just what would some of those ways entail?"

Cloud loosened his arms, causing one leg to fall against the ground, and leaned back on his hands, regarding Reno with his cheek pressed against his shoulder. "I'm not sure I wanna find out. The virus is having fun right now, and I don't really have a clue what I'm doing. Don't expect much that's logical from me, okay?"

"I won't - especially after that."

"Good - now, goddamnit, eat that fucking fruit!"

"Should I read between the lines?"

"I ... what are you talking about? I couldn't speak between the lines if I tried right now, and if you think there's something there, let me know so I can not say it again."

Reno grinned at him from across the cave. "Nah, this is too fun."

Cloud gave him a look and sunk the rest of the way down onto the dirt floor, sprawling. "You would think so - I think I may be feverish."

"Then maybe you should eat the fruit."

"I'm not that feverish, and that wouldn't help anyway."

"Then why do you think it would help me?"

"Because your voice is rougher than usual."

"You've been paying close attention, huh, Cloud?"

"I claim virus and Makou heighten senses, and if that fails, that I never actually said that, it was just a fevered hallucination."

"There you go with the hallucinations. Are you sure you don't have some weird fetish about screwing someone while they're delusional?"

"Pretty sure, because if I did, then I'd want to screw you and your damned narcissism issues."

"I'll have you know that my narcissism issues are not delusions and are perfectly logical."

"Then maybe I should find someone with a delusions fetish and get laid."

"Now that sounds like a plan, Cloud! We'll kick that into action once we're back on mainland."

Cloud huffed, and rolled over onto his side, staring at the wall. "If, you bastard." he growled. "I doubt you'll get back alive simply because you know too fucking much, and I'm Z's pet Jenova-farm."

Reno chuckled, and a chill went down Cloud's spine. "Back to being bitter, huh? Suck it up, Strife. I don't want to hear it, and it really pisses me off when I have to be around somebody as fucked up as you, okay?"

The reaction was already underway when Cloud finally felt the red-hot fury slice into his spine, buried into his stomach. He had Reno pinned against the wall; they were dangerously close, the force of his weight grinding the redhead into the cold stone. Reno's teeth were clinched from the pain, wincing.

"It pisses you off?" Cloud asked, and was slightly disturbed by how much it sounded like he was purring. "This ... makes you angry?" Heat was quickly trapped between the narrow space of their bodies, and he was close enough to know that Reno could feel every breath he took. "So easy to provoke, Reno?" Gods, it sounded like he was trying to seduce the man! "Lack of control - Silly Turk!" unexpected laughter bubbled up from Cloud's throat, and he rocked backwards, away from Reno, and he let himself fall off his heels, legs stick up at odd angles as he sat on the dirt floor, holding his side and chuckling as if he couldn't stop.

Dammit, the world was swirling at it wouldn't stop - thecolorsburredagainandhewasn'tsurewheretodrawthelineanymore. "I'm going home!" he snickered. "Sephiroth told me I could! I'm going to see my brothers ! I wonder if Mother will be there too?"

Cloud ignored the fact that Reno was staring at him like he'd lost his mind - mostly because he was sure it was true. "And Zack will be there - Sephiroth told me so. No - wait, Sephiroth - Seph…" Cloud curled into himself grabbing at his skull. "But she's screaming again - why doesn't she stop?" His vision went white. "No, no - she's dead - should be - why am I hearing her again?"

Weight, and the world turned upside down, pain sparking across his shoulders, sharp edges digging into his body. Slender fingers full of strength clamped down on his mouth, forcing his head back and baring his throat. Panic flooded him. Couldn't have that - it was weak, it was surrender, and that got you killed. Jenova doesn't want to die.

Nausea made his head swirl, his stomach churning, and his eyes were staring sightlessly upwards. His breaths were fast and harsh, air rushing in and out of his nose. His skin itched like it wanted off him, and his limbs didn't seem to want to exist anymore, feeling oddly heavy. Dully, he understood that this wasn't a good sign, but his awareness was softening and going black.

Warm and invasion jerked him rudely back, the cave ceiling jerking into perspective through brilliant red hair. He unsteadily swam through sensations, disoriented by the abruptly aborted change. Confusion weighed heavily on his responses, instinctively reacting, and then he finally caught onto just what was happening.

Reno was kissing him.

The panic button was promptly slammed with a sledgehammer.

What the ? He tensed, struggling between the flight or fight response, and suddenly decided upon both. His arm jerked up, ripped from the redhead's grip, and lashed out, freeing most of his upper body of weight. His body twisted violently, almost able to escape, and he dug his fingers into the dirt, pulling. A hand tightened around his ankle, and he twisted at the waist, aiming a foot for Reno's face. The redhead easily dodged it, grabbing that leg by the knee, and jerked Cloud back, twisting his body.

Cloud's vision swam and his head ached sharply where it hit the floor, disoriented. He didn't have time to struggle more than slightly when the damned man did it again. Confused thoughts swam through his head.

'I don't want you - what in the hell are you thinking? What if I had gone ahead and changed, what then? Damned bastard is always been a fucking pain in the ass and doing things that don't make sense ... at least he's a good kisser.'

That thought jerked him back to the present, and in a fit of anger, he bit Reno. The redhead jerked up sharply, stormy blue eyes wide in shock, and Cloud glared venomously.

"Just what in the fuck are you doing, you stupid bastard?" Cloud demanded.

Reno's shocked expression melted into a smirk, and he settled down heavily on Cloud's legs. "What in the hell do you think?"

"Get the fuck offa me." he growled, struggling against Reno's grip, though admittedly not as strongly as he could have.

"Why? I'm comfy up here."

"Who in the hell told you it was a good idea to molest me, dammit?" Cloud snarled. "You could have just infected yourself."

"Well, you weren't originally complaining."

"I hit you, didn't I!"

"I decided to pass that off as the virus."

"What the - you - Reno -" he finally gave up, falling back against the dirt. "You gonna die, you know that?"

"What? Are you gonna kill me now?" Reno purred, leaning forward slightly.

"If you're infected, I doubt the virus would let me. Why in the hell do you think I won against Sephiroth? Jenova had a better hold on him at the time."

"The more you say, the more I think I want to get infected. But I wouldn't want the psychotic episodes to go with it."

Cloud stared at the man for a moment, still disoriented; his mind took that opportunity to flip through memories and information. "Well, I can't assure you anything because I don't know anyone who wasn't infected that also wasn't fucked up previous to it. Seph always was infected, Hojo always a bastard, Vincent with his masochism and melodrama, and they're the only ones I can recall."

"And you with amnesia."

Something tugged at Cloud, and he responded immediately; Reno had let his guard down. He jerked and twisted violently, and almost upended the Turk on his back. He'd forgotten that Reno hadn't a Turk for nothing.

His breath left him in a strangled yelp as arms wrapped around his chest, trapping his arms, and he hit the ground with added weight on his back.

"Goddamnit!" he snarled, twisting in vain. "Infected or not, I'm gonna kill you!"

Or maybe he wasn't, as Reno chuckled that particular way that made shivers and chills travel his spine.

He still wasn't sure if it was fear or not.

,;;, Almost Oblivion ,;;,

Something was bothering Z. She wasn't quiet sure what it was. Something just on the edge of her mind kept tugging at her, but she could never quiet catch it to figure out what it was. She snorted and continued with her observations.

"Subject One, you're doing better than I thought you would - Jenova likes you greatly." she purred, noting that the Jenova was now freely moving around the blond's body. It was being 'smarter' this time; it wasn't ravaging his body as it had done to the others. One's body was teeming with the alien cells, and her earlier hyperbole was practically true. Destroy One's body, and while One himself would cease to exist, his body would reform and Jenova would guide it through survival.

He was strong enough now for her to proceed with her plans, which would have killed him if he was weaker. "And then Beta can have his fun." she tittered, running her hands down the computer monitor. She spun around, and stalked off toward the cargo hold. It was time to gather her specimens. If they were lucky, they could catch them while One was asleep.

She'd given it some thought, and perhaps she would try the experiment with Two also. She doubted he'd live through it, but since he'd be handy and what she planned didn't exactly take very much in the way of resources, she might as well try. First, she'd have to get Beta taken care of, then Alpha. They were the two she was more concerned with.

She couldn't wait for Beta to settle the virus. Once he did, she could splice his infected cells with his original, and she would be provided with a new - better - Sephiroth. Someone born with the Virus.

Really, she was surprised that Hojo hadn't understood that One was the perfect breeding ground. He didn't interact on the level that most people did with the virus, and this made him much more stable. Of course, that could have been why Hojo ignored this - he didn't want a breeding ground, he wanted a warrior.

Subject One was most definitely not a warrior - she'd listened, she knew that Two was effectively containing One. Such a shame that One's cells had a protein that worked to control the virus instead of letting the virus exploit them.

This revelation threw doubts on her plan, but she'd dismissed them shortly after thinking of them. If One had a protein that restrained the Jenova cells, then couldn't there be other out there that had the necessary proteins to not interact with the virus at all? Or even kill the virus?

Even though the virus came from space didn't mean that there wasn't a chance that an antidote didn't exist on the Planet. That's how species usually evolved - something wipes out those who don't have the required mutation, only the mutated survive, which makes them stronger.

Momentarily, she wished that the idiots back at Nibelhiem hadn't destroyed Hojo's files. Thank Hojo's paranoia that he hid the DNA samples for Alpha and Beta so well.

,;;, Singin' in da rain on a clear and sunny day,;;,

Key typed frantically on the computer, trying to record data and keep an eye on the swiftly scrolling page at the same time. "Unbelievable - his DNA shouldn't be doing this." he muttered, eyes fixed on the screen before him. Before his eyes, the strands were shifting just slightly, changing minor things - speed, stamina, reflexes, and other things that didn't make sense to change.

"What's my original doing?"

Key jumped at the voice, and glanced over his shoulder at Beta on the table. The blond was sitting up, long pale legs dangling over the edge, brilliant blue eyes watching him intensely. The ginger-haired boy scowled. "One is not doing anything. That virus is doing it - that virus we're gonna put into you."

The spiky haired youth was unfazed. "I heard you say his name once - Cloud. Doesn't that mean that's my name, too?"

Key scowled. "No." he bit out harshly. "You don't have a name. You're Subject Beta - a toy - a clone."

The blond bit his bottom lip, glaring sullenly at him. "Z said that Jenova had a genetic memory…"

"And?"

"Does it?"

"As far as we can tell - what the hell? Go back to sleep, you reject!"

Beta stared at him balefully for a long moment before twisting and unfolding his long limbs on the table, closing his eyes. Key glared at him a moment longer before turning back to the DNA sample.

"Damned gangly kid..."

,;;, Card Collapse ,;;,

The dark haired man stared with mild fascination as the young girl snuck herself along the wall toward him, her dark eyes focused on Z. He glanced at the doctor, and then twisted over onto his hands and knees, crawling over to the side of his cage.

"Hey," she whispered, something about her bubbling with insane energy. "You wanna help me out?"

Alpha quirked his eyebrow, somehow charmed; she obviously wasn't agreeing with what Z was doing, and there was a quirky spastic quality to her that perked his interest. "Well, I certainly don't know what you think I can do from in here, but I'm listening."

"Okay, you know that in a few hours this crazy woman is gonna go catch Cloudy-kun up and have some fun with his pet virus, right?"

"I hope I know that - I'm part of the experiment." he said, humored. She rolled her eyes, tucking a stay hair back behind her ear.

"I'm a friend of Cloud's, and I'd really like to help him out. Mostly something along the lines of - oh, I dunno, bustin' him out o' here, and blowing it sky-high. Taking you and Beta with us, of course."

Alpha grinned. "I like the way you think. You have a plan?"

The young woman's eyes gleamed almost psychotically. "Oh, do I ever."

,;;, Anything that you could have done ,;;,

This sucked so much.

Reno had the perfect plan to deal with Cloud, and now they were on the fucking run. Great.

They'd been hiding the shadows for several hours now, but how much longer that was going to last couldn't be told. Apparently Z was back to get them, and Cloud really didn't want to go. Oddly enough, when Cloud had realized that there was someone nearing their cave, he'd shoved Reno off, and the only thing that kept the man from restraining Cloud again was the fact that Cloud had a firm grip on his shirt and was jerking him into the nearby foliage. Reno regretted being just about useless for the first twenty meters or so of their escape, but it had taken him that long to sort out just what the man was doing, at first thinking that it was just another psychotic episodes that seemed to happen whenever Cloud got confused.

Cloud was high-strung as ever, and Reno was nearing delusional and he knew it. Between the fever and lack of sleep, he didn't have much impulse control - not that he had a lot to begin with. He was quiet sure that the only thing that was stopping him from sneak-attacking Cloud was the fact that he was quiet aware that if he got caught by those lumbering imbeciles, he wouldn't enjoy it.

He was starting to regret not eating that fruit like Cloud told him to - they were high in sugar and that might have helped him continue at a better clip. As it was, he was slowing Cloud down since the man was mostly lost in feral instincts and Reno was still quiet capable of logic.

Across from him, Cloud tensed up, and Reno knew that this meant that Z's henchmen were near. The blond grabbed his arm and yanked him up roughly; Reno barely caught his footing, trying to follow, but staring behind them where he could hear the other men.

It wouldn't take much.

He kept pace with Cloud, and as always, Cloud let go of his arm. Reno spun abruptly, and took off full tilt, mostly blind and unaware of his path. It didn't matter, he was making enough noise to both draw the henchmen and drive the man that was more animal at the moment away.

'Gods, I hope they at least give me some fucking medicine before they do what ever they're gonna do to me, or put me out of my misery quietly.'

A root caught his foot and he hit the ground hard. "Shit!"

He lifted his head from the ground and spit, trying to remove the taste of leaves. Damn, busted his lip, too. He sat up, body aching, and grabbed his head. Perhaps running away was not the brightest idea he'd ever had. Damn, impulse-control was more important than he thought - especially if this was the result.

Snap !

Reno froze, and chuckled nervously. He twisted at the waist and looked up at the two hulking men. Fuck. "Hi!" he said cheekily. He was a survivor - he'd make it. Then he found himself staring up the barrel of a tranquilizer gun. "Shit."

He really needed to learn that impulse-control thing.

Well, the ground wasn't that ha -…

,;;, What would you have done,;;,

Cloud sulked in the shrub he was currently hiding under. As pissed as he was about what Reno had done, and how much he wanted to go beat the crap out of those guys just so he could beat the crap out of Reno for doing something so stupid, he wasn't willing to get himself caught just to do it. He was slightly proud to have gotten was far away from the henchmen as he had, but knew it was partly due to them having to pack up Reno in a steel cage.

Really, Hojo had better transportation for his specimens than this bitch. She could at least have better-lookingtransport, if not more comfortable or resourceful. Weren't women supposed to like that look better stuff? As far as he knew, they usually went to a lot of effort for it.

He shifted forward, struggling not to pant with exertion. He crawled out from under the bush, bending his back until it strained in an effort not to disturb the leaves and create knowledge of his passing.

Warning!

Fuck.

Dr. Z stood there, smirking at him, a shotgun in her hands.

"Hello, Subject One," she purred.

He really wasn't going to like this.

A loud explosion, red-hot pain, and then nothing.

,;;,TOBECONTINUED,;;,

Twice the chapter deserves twice the commentary!

And Yes, I did mean to type in "Chobo-head" and not "Choco" or "Chocobo".

No, the Zack in the dream was at no point Sephiroth. That was Zack, and then it was Sephiroth. Again, this are not real people, they are figments of Cloud's torment psyche. No, Sephiroth is not coming back. I hate the bastard.

Whee what for FootSoldier!trained Cloud trying to escape from Turk!trained Reno! (giggles hysterically in the corner).

Don't tell me you didn't see the psychotic episode coming. I never let them get too close without one. (purr)

(stares blandly at the 'lets sit on Strife and talk' part) ...Wtf? Sometimes I hate being an author that writes character-driven, and not plot. Reno just had to have a conversation with Cloud right after molesting him, though I think that Prickles is just as much to blame. Ugh. Yes, please talk instead of molesting each other. Then again, I guess I should call myself lucky, because Reno decided to kiss Cloud - That wasn't my doing. (holds up hands) Seriously. I did not see that coming.

Heh, lookit. Z doesn't realize that Alpha/Zack has the proteins that kill the Jenova virus. Irony, man, Irony. And now we see that both Key and Hojo have a thing for calling Cloud a reject. (rolls eyes)

And no, the henchmen did not shoot Reno in the eye. That would kill him, hun. There were two, it was the second on that got him.

Ouch. In case you don't remember, refer to Chapter Two, Section One, Paragraph Thirty, and Chapter Nine, Section Two, Paragraph Three, or Chapter Six, Section Two, Paragraph Seven as to why Z decided to gun him down with a freakin' shotgun. Isn't Z the nicest person?

Yes, those comments that are centered and bolded in mean nothing, and have no relation to the story, they're just for fun. n.n;

Please leave a snide remark after the rant!

rant BAD grammar checker thing! Bad! bad! (hits with stick) X.x It gave me SOO much trouble ... /rant