Disclaimer: Wise man say, The World is Square. Wise Esse say, no fricken' kidding! Wise ass say, like you really need a disclaimer this far into the story? Who the hell reads these stupid things, anyway?
Warnings: Pretty sure this one's clean, folks. Er, except for the above.
Notes: Esse has heroically denied the urge to download AC. Esse is waiting patiently for the US release. Esse thinks having such strict values sucks big time. I need the prettiness that is Reno! Don't mind me sobbing in my corner.
Yowzers: FFnet will, like, let me respond to reviews. Neat-o. You've got questions? I've got babble. Righteous! —Warned ya, that it'd be a while before I updated. This fic, it's a January thing.
M is for the Madness that she gave me
"Red Riding Hoodlum filled his pockets with ammunition until he could carry no more, and then he remembered his grandfather again."
Snuggling deeper into his afghan, Sephiroth yawned behind a tentacle and blinked drowsily at his puppet. He was great, and he was terrible to behold in his fury, but it was also far past the hour all good little Generals retired to their beds — and fury was hard to maintain with his darling stuffed Kujata cradled in his arms. Not that he couldn't fly into an awe-inspiring rage at a moment's notice — if it were needed — though awesomeness would prove difficult to achieve with his hair done up in paisley rag curls and his tentacles tipped with pink mittens. He could be ranting and laughing maniacally, but it was late, and his blue blankie was fuzzy and warm, and his puppet was reading him a bedtime story. Tomorrow, he'd be terrible to behold in his fury; tonight, he'd be dowdy in his domesticity.
"'Oh grandfather, what big ears you have,' he said."
Cloud's voice was pleasant when he wasn't threatening him, or whining at him, or singing the chorus of his theme under his breath. A man could do worse in his choice of minion, he mused, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was Hojo that had done the choosing.
"'The better to listen to Blue Öyster Cult with, my dear.'"
A doorbell rang, filling the non-space with the clarion tones of The Reaper. "How peculiar," Sephiroth said, mildly annoyed with having story time interrupted. "I don't recall having a doorbell."
"Hmm," Cloud hmm'd noncommittally, as opposed to his umm, signifying his desire to stay uncommitted — or his ahm, warning to the wise that he was totally committed — or even his erm, which tended to slip out when he was doodling in his Mog's Garden coloring book instead of listening to vital strategy during important Avalanche brouhahas. "'Oh grandfather, what a big…'" he paused, rereading the line, trying to remember if dongs had ever figured prominently in the fairy tales his mother used to make him read by himself whenever she went out to bet on the chocobo races. "Umm," he stalled, checking the cover of the book; it matched his admittedly fuzzy childhood memories, gold-stamped letters spelling out Grimm's Tales for Fairies. "Gah…"
Loud knocking saved Cloud from having to finish the story.
"How odd," Sephiroth said, having pulled out his pocket thesaurus, for he was brilliant, and he was suavely glib — when he was given the time to write his speeches out beforehand — and he absolutely hated repeating himself, which did tend to happen whenever he left his pocket thesaurus behind in the Soldier locker room after impaling practice. Zack had been regularly sending him Planet-grams mocking his egocentric Bwahaha! Zack, being dead, didn't get out much, and had little to amuse him. Sephiroth, being nearly omniscient, had ordered a dozen extra thesauri from Amazon, along with an electronic dictionary which came in handy whenever he had to look up the plural for thesaurus. The herd of thesauri were currently lounging at the far side of the cavern, snacking on synonyms and irregular verb forms.
The knocking continued, louder, scattering the thesauri and necessitating another look into his pocket thesaurus. "How queer…" One silvery eyebrow rose, and he shook his ribboned head. "No, I don't think so. Too shibboleth." A flip of a page, and he tried again. "How astounding. No. How prodigious. Yuck. How bizarre." He pursed his lips, then smiled his demented yet outstandingly sexy smile. "Yes, how bizarre. Someone is knocking at my door, and yet I have no door to knock upon. Bwahaha!" He winced, his smile slipping. "I can't believe I did that. Cloud, be a good little puppet and see who it is not knocking upon my door."
Cloud, who'd stolen his blankie and fallen asleep while he was perusing his reference library, had to be slapped awake. Then, after a brief tug-o-war for possession of the darling stuffed Kujata, Cloud grumbling went to answer the knocking — darling stuffed Kujata dangling from his hand, leaving Sephiroth to inspect the foot-long pinions now separated from his wing, and speculate on not only how his minion had managed to draw his Yoshiyuki so quickly, but where he had drawn it from, seeing as how the pocket in subspace was currently closed to all but current residents — and even they'd only be let in after showing proper identification.
"Who was it?" he grumbled, for he was now wide awake, and Kujata-less, and more than willing to start in on the awesome fury.
In abject fear, Cloud moseyed back — as fast as a mosey-ing man could mosey, which falls somewhere in between casually strolling and skipping to the lua. "Run, hide!" he shrieked, much as he had shrieked when given Muki's underwear. "It's horrible. It's terrible. It's mosey-ing right behind me!" He dove behind Sephiroth, and pulled the blue blankie over his head. "Kill it, kill it!"
It was a two-inch-tall, hopping, hot-glued-together Jenova. "…reunion?..." she squeaked, and hopped, and involved herself in a life-or-death battle against a dust bunny before resuming her hopping and squeaking. "…reunion reunion…"
"Mother." Sephiroth was less than pleased, which logically left him rather neutral with a craving for Funions, about the alien's reappearance. "I see you've managed to pull yourself back together. Did you happen to bring the mail with you?"
"…reunion…" she said/squeaked sadly. "…reunion…puppet…bwahaha…"
"No, Cloud's my puppet, Mother. Mine. If you're so hot for Reunion, go after Hojo."
Jenova grimaced with as much disgust as a two-inch-tall pieced-together alien virus could display, which, considering that she was already pretty disgusting, said a lot about her opinion of merging with Hojo. "…reunion…" she denied with a shiver that shook off the tip of her nose.
"I'm glad we agree." Sephiroth was powerful, and Sephiroth was single (except for his sometimes loyal, sometimes exasperating, and at all times fun to tease minion, who didn't count, because, duh, who counts minions?), and Sephiroth really was too old to be living with his mommy. "Now could you go, Mother? Don't you have that dead flower girl to harass?"
There was a soft, squishy-splat type noise which was Cloud smooshing Jenova with a fly swatter.
"You can't kill her, you know," Sephiroth said, snatching up the fly swatter. "Don't you think I've tried? Just when you think you've disposed of the last of her, she shows back up, possessing a gerbil, or some such." He smacked his mother half a dozen times as proof. "See? She's worse than a Timex."
"Hello? Hel—loooo?" Cait Sith bumbled his way down, tripping over rocks and stray strands of Lifestream and itty-bits of Jenova. "There you are!"
Sephiroth tried swatting the mog/cat, to no avail. "Didn't I overdose you on laxatives?"
"Oh, silly me," the cat shrugged, rolling his eyes and waving his Starlight Phone. "I just got caught up in the rush; I forgot I hadn't eaten any of the brownie. Because I'm stuffed, you know?" The mog bounced, and the cat cheered, and the General thought about toasting the both of them with Flare for the pun. "Want me to tell you your fortune?" Cait asked, rocking back and forth.
"I know my fortune," Sephiroth hissed; quite an accomplishment, for a sentence that had no sibilants. "I'm going to win, and rule the Planet, and demand that Scarlet throw away all her crotch-less panties!"
"Ugh, I'm gonna be sick," Cloud moaned, clutching his stomach; whether his nausea stemmed from the mention of Scarlet, or the scatterings of Jenova slowly crawling back together, or from the piece of brownie he couldn't stop himself from nibbling earlier was hard to tell.
"No you're not!" Sephiroth commanded.
"No I'm not," Cloud repeated mindlessly; he then snapped out of the trance, and stomped his foot angrily. "I hate it when you do that." Yoshiyuki made another appearance, and signed autographs, but couldn't get near enough to Sephiroth to clip his feathers because there was now another party member in the cavern, weakening the blade. Yoshiyuki disappeared quickly.
"Well, hate to burst your bubble," Cait Sith said in fake solicitousness, "but my predictions are never wrong, and it says right here," the cat pointed to the mog's belly, and the ticker tape gruesomely sticking out, "that your lucky number is 69, your blood-type shows traces of Klingon DNA, and Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit. So there!"
"Reeve, have you been drinking again?" Cloud prodded the mog/cat, who giggled, and jiggled, and cut out paper dollies from the fortune.
"We've tried contacting him on the PHS, but he's not answering," Red XIII said, padding in a dignified fashion across the rock floor, after falling in a far from dignified fashion down the staircase.
"Didn't I poison you?" Sephiroth asked the dog/cat, while using a mittened tentacle to flick a bit of his Mother off the side of the rocky platform to the bright haziness below.
"Chocolate should never be given to a cat, or a dog," Nanaki answered smugly. "I knew better than to eat it."
"Then why did you run off?"
If a cat/dog could blush, Red would be doing so, but since a cat/dog can't blush, he had to settle for a hastily written sign which read 'Plëz kØnsiðr më ßlµshing.' In his defense, he had no thumbs, and his education from Bugenhagen had consisted mostly of tirades against Shinra's retirement system and hardly at all of lessons in spelling. "Tifa's legs looked like chocobo drumsticks. I got excited…"
"…reunion…" Jenova chirped in agreement, making her way back over the edge — for she could fly and could not fall, and wanted to make sure no one forgot about her, even for a minute, even though they really wanted to.
"Hmm." Cloud toyed with his spikes, and fiddled with his earring, and pictured in his mind Tifa strutting about warking like a chocobo. "Ermm… There's enough of us here to play Bridge. Any of you want to play Bridge? Hearts? Spades?"
"No thumbs," Nanaki sat pretty, and held out his paws as proof, while Jenova searched the floor carefully, complaining, "…no…reunion!…hands…"
"But we need four players." And Cloud truly, desperately needed something to take his mind off of chocobo-Tifa, running through the fields and streams and responding to the Chocobo Lure of lonely, horny backwoods' men.
"Wait for it." He was great, and he was wise, and while he didn't particularly want to sit around playing cards with his worst enemies — well, not worst enemies, or even next to worst enemies, more like acquaintances that had over stayed their welcome, because he barely knew most of them, except Cloud, who was sorta like a best enemy — it was better than listening to his Mother natter on about her little dispute with the Cetra.
Vincent showed up right on schedule.
"Weren't you yadda yadda yadda," Sephiroth made a twirling motion with his finger, then returned to stacking the deck of cards in his favor. He played, after all, to win.
"If people are to maintain their cherished misconception that I am a vampire, they can not see me eat," Vincent intoned cryptically, sweeping his cape dramatically, and tightening the loose screws in his mechanical arm fussily.
"I'd forgotten to record Fear Factor. I didn't want to miss Heidegger tightrope walking across Cosmo Canyon."
"Did he make it?" Nanaki asked, fearing for the safety of the people he was duty-bound to protect as per clause 17-a of the Seto Agreement.
"To the ground?" Vincent grinned a fangy, satisfied grin. "He made — quite a splash. It will take weeks of purification before they attempt relighting Cosmo Candle."
The various eews and grodies were drowned out by the opening chords of The Reaper. "For My sake," Sephiroth floated to the foot of the unstable staircase, "I do not have a doorbell, for I do not have a door to answer, and the next time I hear it, I shall find the culprit and flay the flesh from his writhing bones—"
One of the few surviving singers from the choir eeped and fled from his xylophone, leaving behind a burdened postal worker.
"Sign here," the woman said, holding out her clipboard.
"Certainly." He scrawled out his name with a flourish practiced numerous times on requisition forms citing the need for additional bootlaces, for Zack had continually tied his together in knots of incomparable complexity, consistently making him late for roll call.
She handed him a large envelope, then left — somewhere, for neither Meteor nor Holy nor chihuahuas nor pause of game could stop the courier from the swift completion of her duties, and the even swifter journey to the closest bar where she hoped for a sordid assignation with the soused Reeve.
"Interesting." Sephiroth was mighty, and a marvel to behold when wielding Masamune — but he looked a bit silly using the blade as an oversized letter-opener, although that, too, was a marvel to behold. "Did you know it's national mako awareness month?" He pointed at the cancellation stamp. "It's from the here-after. I hope it's not another missive from Gast; like I care that he considers me an abomination of science…"
The cavern was silent as something pink fluttered out of the envelope, to drift slowly to the ground.
"I'll be damned," Sephiroth said, stepping back.
"Probably," Vincent agreed, still smiling that very deranged, disturbing smirk. "And your soul shall be mine!"
"That's it, Mister." Cloud marched forward, and pulled the fake fangs from Vincent's mouth. "No more Hot Topic for you." Tossing the vampire teeth away, he peered down to take a better look at the fallen contents of the envelope. "Hmm. It looks like," he tilted his head one way, then the other, working out the muscle cramp he'd gotten from peering down, "well, it looks like Aerith. Only flat."
"There's also a note." Sephiroth tapped the end of the envelope, catching the piece of pink, posy-scented paper with two tentacles. "What do you know? She did manage to mail herself from the afterlife. The only way she could afford postage was to leave the realism of 3-D for old-school 2-D spritehood. She asks that we re-inflate her…"
"I don't have any lips."
Vincent, sulking over the cruel dissipation of his carefully constructed mystique, said nothing at all, but that wasn't unusual; it was his whimpering and cowering in revulsion that was out of character.
Cait Sith glanced at the caped man hiding behind him, then shrugged — both sets of shoulders. "I'd like to help, but I don't actually breathe."
"Aerith, you've returned! I knew you could be resurrected!" Cloud dropped to his knees in front of the flattened flower girl, and chapsticked his lips. "I'll save you!" His heroic act was interrupted by Sephiroth, who picked him up by the collar of his purple turtleneck and rattled him. "Lemme down; I've gotta save Aerith!"
Keeping a firm grasp on his puppet — though whose puppet he actually was at the moment was debatable — Sephiroth shook his head, causing his paisley ribbons to bounce merrily. "You, cat/dog. I'm sure I saw a bicycle pump around here somewhere. Fetch it."
"Arf arf," Nanaki said drolly, twitching his tail and not making the slightest attempt to stand. "It's behind you, Your Cluelessness."
"Hmph." Sephiroth retrieved the pump, and slowly inflated the flower girl, stopping for breakfast, a potty break, and a Gilligan's Island marathon. And Aerith slowly went from 2-D to 3-D, and then a bit beyond 3-D into 32-DD and in desperate need of Tifa's suspenders until the General of Shinra (and occasionally General of a small tribe of Jumpings that called Ice Gate home) relented, and released a bit of air.
"Aerith," Cloud whispered reverently, forestalled from kneeling by the tentacle wrapped around his waist. "You came back."
Patting herself — and quite happy being 32-C — Aerith twirled around, and grabbed the hose of the bicycle pump, unplugging it with relief. "There now," she said, her voice the chiming of little bells rung by angels high on opium. Cloud?" she asked, and flowers bloomed, and robins sang, and mako futures dropped below 50 gil a barrel.
"Mind telling me," she screeched, grabbing hold of his ear and giving it a good yank, "what exactly you were doing with Tifa the night before you entered the crater?"
Startled, Sephiroth dropped his precious puppet into the angry pink claws of the enraged flower girl. "She came back from the dead for that?"
"…good…of reason…as any…" Jenova said/squeaked, patiently waiting for her hot glue gun to heat. "…reunion!..."
All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Now imagine it on a xylophone. Bwahaha! Blue Öyster Cult all the way. And… those aren't lyrics. Nope. Nuh-uh. They just look like lyrics. Yeah. That's it. Call off the gestapo, FFnet, you're scaring us clinically depressed, middle-aged recluses.