Author's Note: FFVII belongs to Square-Enix, so do its characters. The story belongs to me. This is an AU tale, obvious pairings from the beginning, and believe me, what you see is what you get. Two points of difference: one, Vincent is not a monster. Two, I made Cloud taller. He had always seem taller than five foot seven to me, even when I was playing the game and saw AC pics, so here he's five ten. Let's not make him too obvious of an uke, shall we?
The soldier at the door saluted, his voice rang through loud and clear. A bit unnecessarily loud, in fact, Zack thought. He glanced at his companion and fellow general, and wondered why they were currently here. They just received an order to retreat directly from the Prime Minister. Their victory against the Avalanche was a costly one, and Zack knew the soldiers could all use a bit of respite. His forces were scattered after the battle at Orion, and he and Sephiroth were supposed to gather up and condense Zack's troops, making Orion the new holdout, about 70 kilometers closer than their previous position at Ancen. Zack was sure the Prime Minister would want an assault on Nadia next, but to take down the heart of the Holy Land would require the army to be at a much stronger state than the present.
Which did not explain at all why Sephiroth, instead of heading directly to the comm. station and informing the divisions, and Zack himself getting his horse and rounding up the troops near the edge of the battlefield, had somehow end up in front of this tent. Major Cloud Strife's tent, to be exact. Sephiroth had requested Zack to show him the location, and Zack, albeit curious but knew better than to question Sephiroth's inquiries, had obliged at once. He figured this would be explained later, if he really cared enough to ask. They had been comrades long enough.
"Is Major Strife in there?" Zack asked.
"Uh . . . yes, sir. He is, but . . ." the soldier fumbled.
Zack raised an eyebrow. He glanced at the tent door, into the lit crack between the fabric pieces. "This is General Sephiroth. He needs to see the major. Is there a problem?"
The soldier visibly paled. "Um, uh, sir, he is a bit . . . busy . . . at the moment."
Zack looked at Sephiroth, and the other general looked back pointedly. Well, there goes any argument, Zack thought. "Step aside, private, I'm sure whatever Major Strife's doing, he could spare a few moments."
The soldier did not look any less rattled, but saluted dutifully and stepped aside. Zack walked forward, lifted up one of the flaps and felt the warm air inside hit him squarely in the face. He scanned the inside, expecting to see the major at his desk pouring over maps, but came completely to a halt at the scene before him and stared with his mouth wide open.
On the small makeshift bed inside the tent lay a very naked Major Cloud Strife. His ever-defiant spiky blond hair a mess now on the pillow, soaked with sweat. His face a mask of pure ecstasy, if the breathy moans escaping from his lips were any indication. He was wrapped around an equally naked brunet, fingers entwined in the mass of long brown hair, as his arms stretched across the man's back. The soldier on top (there were no civilians around) had his face buried in the major's neck, probably leaving trails of marks on the junction below the ear. He was on his hands and knees, sprawled on the bedspread and rocking back and forth, as the blond's legs under him tensed in sync with the rhythm. A thin film of sweat covered both bodies, making their skin shine dully under the filtered sunlight. Labored breathing permeated the room. The bed creaked steadily, the covers were strewn to the side, its end dangling onto the floor as the air surrounding it drank in the heavy scent of sex floating above the once-clean bedspread.
Zack blinked. Twice, before he remembered that there was someone else standing beside him and a definite reason for their visit. He cleared his throat, directing his gaze toward the left wall and suppressing a laugh, then waited.
"God, David," the blond snapped, "what the hell do you want?"
"Sorry to interrupt, Major, but . . ." Zack answered with a straight face.
He saw the brunet on top immediately still, a quiet gasp escaped him as he looked up at the entrance, eyes wide open in shock. Zack himself did a double take. "Lieutenant Valentine?!" His voice sounded just as incredulous as he felt. The brunet blanched.
"Ah, shi-" he heard the blond curse as Vincent Valentine quickly scooted backwards, dragging a sheet with him to cover up his privates. Cloud Strife sat straight up and began to reach for his scattered clothes around the bed. Zack recovered from his surprise and finally let out the laughter he had been holding in for the past few minutes, doubling up and grabbing onto a tent pole for support.
"Well," He said between breaths, "I see you have no problem unwinding after a battle, soldiers."
There were worse situations, Vincent was sure, than where he was right now. The battle just past, for example, where he had stayed in the trench for a good two days and a night, eating nothing and drinking from only one canteen of water. They were supposed to ambush the enemy forces within the camp, when the besieged reach their breaking point and decide to try to fight through. Vincent, being the second lieutenant, was supposed to lead his division, literally being the first person sticking his head out of the safety of the trench once the enemy decided to move out. The first person, the first target.
He remembered trembling slightly from the cold, legs numb from staying crouched for so long, and his fingers holding onto the wooden rosary as he always did before a crucial battle. And was it crucial! They had Orion within their grasp. Vincent could feel it touching his fingertips. His men had lain with him, quiet and breathless as the wind howled on the plains. Vincent wasn't scared, but he'd be damned if he denied his anxiety. A churning feeling roamed inside his stomach, and his heart stayed at his throat, leaving a huge air gap between the two organs. Vincent was, if anything, on the edge with his wits barely intact.
Now, inside his – Cloud's – overly warm tent, standing in his sleep pants beside his fellow soldier, who was clad in only a pair of boxers and a loose shirt as two generals poured over them, Vincent decided there really weren't that many situations worse than this. He shifted his weight, the previous activities had left a strain on his knees and Vincent didn't want to think about the irony. Well, he tried to comfort himself, at least we're in this together.
"This is General Sephiroth," General Zack lounged in his chair. "I'm sure his name is not unfamiliar to you, Lieutenant."
"No, sir." Vincent replied. Who hadn't heard of the great general Sephiroth? The man had never lost a battle. Shinra's potential capture of the Holy Land would be inconceivable without him. To say that Vincent was very uncomfortable with the idea of this General Sephiroth walking in on him and Cloud was a severe understatement.
The general was a truly a sight to behold. The long platinum hair was pulled back in a high ponytail, leaving two strands free above the thin arched eyebrows. It gave the man an eerily cold air, as if the silver color was an indication of his brute strength. A pair of demon-ridden eyes, sharp and focused, looked down upon the young soldiers. Vincent felt as if two high-powered searchlights went through him, glowed with jade and edged with steel, and centered directly onto his soul. He heard his heart thumping loudly in his ears and suppressed a shudder.
Outwardly, however, he kept his neutral expression.
"Is there something you need to discuss with Major Strife?" Zack spoke up, turning to face Sephiroth. The white-haired man nodded.
"Yes. Major Cloud Strife," he said to Cloud, who stood up straighter when his name was called. "I want to recruit you back to my division."
What? Vincent was alarmed. Now? When they had just scored a victory at Orion, thanks to the major's brilliant efforts? Cloud couldn't leave! They needed him here. He needed him here.
Apparently he wasn't the only one with the problem. Zack frowned and leaned forward, his elbows scraping the chair arms. "Wait, when was this decided?"
"Just now," Sephiroth replied.
"Don't I get any say in this?"
Sephiroth settled back against the chair's cushions. "Go ahead."
Zack scoffed lightly. "Well, first of all, Major Cloud Strife had been a valuable asset to my troops. This victory wouldn't have been possible without him. I certainly don't wish for him to leave this place, especially since we're out to attack Nadia any day now." He paused slightly. "Is this already official?"
Sephiroth shook his head. "No."
"Then can't you wait a little bit before he had to go join you back in Mana?"
Good Lord, Vincent sweated. Mana was about as close to Shinra City as war could allow, and consequently more than three weeks travel on horseback from where they currently were. If Cloud got rerouted there, it was pretty much farewell, because neither one of them could possibly spare the time to visit each other, not even meeting halfway. Vincent prayed for General Zack's intervention.
"No," answered General Sephiroth, "my division is no longer at Mana. They're on their way here."
Zack's eyes widened. "What?"
"General," Sephiroth folded his hands together, "why do you think I've come to you? Just to chat and catch up on old days? I've been reassigned to join forces with you and secure this hold point. Also, if we're going to take Nadia, we should at least combine our strengths, don't you think?"
The surprise washed off of Zack's face and broke into a grin. "You old trickster, you've been holding out on me! Why didn't you tell me when you first got here?"
Sephiroth leaned back, stretching out his long legs on the limited floor space. "Does this mean Major Strife's transfer have been approved?"
Zack sighed. "I suppose. Not like I could've stopped you anyway. O Mighty Lord Sephiroth, thy words are law."
He was openly mocking him, but Sephiroth only chuckled at Zack's antics. "Well, since you approved it. Major Strife," he turned to the blond, but not before sparing a glance at Vincent. "My first order for you: you're to help General Zack gather up any and all scattered troops around Orion. Get dressed."
"Yes sir," Cloud saluted, then proceeded near the table, where all of his clothes lay in a bundle, and quickly dressed himself. Vincent listened to the rustle, knowing fully well which button Cloud was going to clasp first and how the complicated buckle of his belt snap together. His stance was a little bit relaxed, after hearing the transfer did not involve an immediate and permanent relocation of his lover. Vincent almost sighed in relief.
Zack stood up and yawned, stretching his limbs out toward the ceiling. "Oh, man, you gotta leave the fucking ground work to me, huh? What're you doing then, contacting your own troops?"
"No," Sephiroth replied. "I have some business to discuss with . . . Lieutenant Valentine, is it?"
Vincent felt his heart skip a beat. He thought he was being paranoid about the general, about how those eyes never seemed to leave him even though Sephiroth was blatantly looking elsewhere. He heard the fumbling of a belt and knew Cloud's attention was on them, too. But he managed to gather wits and retained his composure. No one in the room should know there was anything amiss.
"Come on, Major," Zack suddenly said, "let's go. We still got soldiers out there."
"Yes, sir. Coming, sir." Cloud replied hastily. He followed the general to the entrance, throwing back a concerned glance toward Vincent on his way out. Another quick order from Zack hurried him, and Cloud lifted the flap and disappeared into the red evening sun.
Now left alone with only General Sephiroth in the small confined space, Vincent began to feel a pressure building at his temples. The general hadn't moved, simply stared hard at him in his sitting position. If looks could kill, Vincent was sure he'd be dead a couple of times over. However, the neutral expression remained firmly on his face, his body was rigid and his eyes focused straight ahead with undivided attention.
Inside, he was utterly terrified.
Sephiroth looked over the young man standing in the middle of the room. Long dark-brown hair cascaded down the shoulders, nicely framing the high cheekbones and the pointed chin. The sharp eyes showed supreme intelligence, although right now they seemed a bit shaky, Sephiroth decided. The body was well toned, as expected of every soldier; the only thing marring the pale flawless skin was a large and distinct scar on the young man's left arm. It was wide and jagged, took up the entire length of the arm from wrist to collarbone. It looked like someone had taken a knife with nails stuck on the side and simply dragged it down the flesh.
Even with that, the boy was a fine-looking soldier if there ever were one.
Not bad, Strife, Sephiroth thought dryly. Not bad at all. In fact, I'd say you'd exceeded my expectations at both finding someone quickly and finding someone this good. He let a sneer creep up his features, not missing the quick glance from the brown eyes as the young soldier kept his attention stance.
"At ease, Lieutenant," he finally said, stood up from his chair and walked a few steps toward the brunet.
The young man obeyed, but didn't seem to be breathing any lighter. Sephiroth chuckled. He knew the certain kind of effect he had on others. Good. Makes things much easier.
"How long has this been going on?" The general asked casually.
The young man gave him a questioning look.
Oh come on, don't play stupid. Sephiroth waited. The lieutenant's eyes met his for a second, then moved off to a nonexistent spot toward the right. "Two years."
"Two years?" His surprise was genuine. "It's been going on for two years and General Zack is not aware of it?"
"Sir, with all due respect," the lieutenant replied calmly, "there are other things for General Zack to focus on than a soldier's personal life. As do most others."
Not a dull tongue, this one. Sephiroth cocked his head sideways, trying to figure out what exactly is the character of Lieutenant Valentine. "What's your full name, Lieutenant?"
A pause. Then, "Vincent Valentine, sir."
"Well, Vincent," Sephiroth crossed his arms. "You should know, then, that things such as . . . personal affairs . . . are not exactly within the tolerance of the army code."
He began walking, circling around the brunet in just slow enough pace to make the scrutinized uncomfortable. The brunet said nothing, and Sephiroth couldn't help but smirk in satisfaction. "There should be some consequences to such actions, don't you agree?"
He got behind the soldier and stopped, watching as the muscles on Vincent's back tensed in reflex. "You have nothing to say?" He pushed, and walked closer, letting his breath hit the brown strands splayed on the back.
Still no answer. Maybe this Vincent knew he was bullshitting. If Zack had recruited him, then undoubtedly he must have read the code front to back many times. Sephiroth decided to change strategy. "Why did you join the army, Lieutenant?"
"Is that relevant, sir?" Finally, the silent spoke. Not an acceptable answer, but Sephiroth could work with that. He stepped even closer, his attention on the mass of hair. Hmm, was that . . .?
"I'll decide on that, Lieutenant. Just answer the question." Sephiroth said, reaching toward the back of Vincent's neck. He heard the brunet unsuccessfully suppressing a gasp, and saw slight movement of the tattooed back muscles. Sephiroth let his hand linger, but didn't touch, waiting for Vincent's reply.
"It's in the records," the young man said.
Alright, now you've done it. Good job, Lieutenant, you just proved yourself to be a real hardass. Sephiroth let his hand land then, parted enough of the hair to see what he needed, and then practically walked into Vincent, ignoring the young man's subtle arch of his back and the squaring of his shoulders. He grabbed a silky curl in his fingers and put his mouth next to Vincent's ear.
"I don't think this is regulation, soldier," Sephiroth whispered, yanking on the strand for emphasis. "At least not for your class. It better be gone the next time I see you. You know where I'll be."
With that, he abruptly backed away, feeling the loss of heat as the brief contact ended succinctly. Sephiroth walked around the brunet, not sparing another glance as he exited the tent. He did need to go to the comm. towers to check on the position of his troops.
When he got under the waning sunlight, the general sighed. He almost regretted drilling the young man. Almost. It was unfortunate that this Vincent wasn't just a spineless mongrel with a pretty face. It could have gone so much better, had the stubborn fool decided to play smart and cooperate with him. Sephiroth was willing to give him a chance to walk away.
Oh but you left me with no choice now, Lieutenant Valentine. Sephiroth clenched his fists. You're begging for me to break you.
Vincent let out the breath he had been holding for the past however many minutes and nearly collapsed onto the floor. He fell backwards on the bed, his legs refused to support anymore of his weight. Having the most fearsome general literally breathing down his neck took a hell of a lot out of him. Vincent wouldn't have been a bit surprised if Sephiroth chose to pull his sword out and slice through his throat right then and there. One quick move, the blood wouldn't even have time to splatter, and all that'd be left of Vincent Valentine would be a stiff corpse with a cut artery.
Now the million-dollar question was: why?
He had a hunch. Hell, more than just a hunch, because the only thing he had ever done since he met the general was fucking someone senseless. Someone named Cloud Strife, whom the general just happened to take a peculiar kind of interest in. Vincent wasn't stupid. He had three guesses on what kind of interest, but his mind was screaming the word "platonic" through his skull. He swung an arm over his eyes, blotting out the fading sunlight from his frayed vision.
He shoved the predicament into the future. At present, Vincent only wanted to worry about the relatively minor nuisance of losing his hair. It seemed trivial, but he knew the general saw it, and the records would no doubt show it if Sephiroth bothered to take up his word. It wouldn't be trivial then, and Vincent only hoped this was the worst that could come out.
He didn't believe for a second it'd work that way.