Cloud looked at everything they'd collected to dress his lover up as a woman so they could have a night out and not deal with rabid fans. Cloud had collected the twenty packets of temporary hair dye - twelve dark red, four black and four a lighter red-blond - and the contact lenses, blue-green for him and a very dark grey for Sephiroth. Sephiroth had contributed the tanto knife and the painted metal fan, and Zack had somehow come up with a woman's formal kimono and trappings, Wutaian style hair ornaments and the make-up, including dark blue-green nail polish.
"No." The nail polish was what made Sephiroth balk, not that Cloud could blame him, he was sure that he would have balked earlier. "The dye is pushing it, and I'm fairly confident that will wash out even with hair like mine, but I will not wear nail polish, and certainly not something that dark."
"But it's supposed to go with the kimono and the girl I asked said..." Sephiroth was shooting an almost pleading look at Cloud, so he interrupted Zack - since Sephiroth never really got the hang of saying 'no' to the other man socially.
"Zack, don't be stupid, he'll never be able to get it all off properly. At least with the hair dye he can claim it's the remains of a prank you played on him if it doesn't come out properly. And not every woman wears nail polish; the kimono is eccentric enough to explain the lack anyway. Sort out the clothes while we do our hair and contacts." That got him a startled look from Zack, but a grateful smile from Sephiroth as they made their way to the bathroom.
"Do you think we'll need that excuse?" Sephiroth spoke from the shower as he started washing his hair, while Cloud mixed the four packets of dye they'd be using for his lover's hair together in a cup.
"Doubt it, but it's there if we need it. Leave the conditioner until after you rinse the dye out."
"Yes Cloud, so how are we going to do this?" Sephiroth immediately stepped out of the shower, looking just a little lost.
"I'll paint the dye onto your eyebrows first, then we can start working it through your hair. It says five to twenty minutes, so we should wash it out of your eyebrows as soon as we've finished doing your hair."
"Shouldn't we do your hair first Cloud?" Sephiroth's eyes were lowered submissively as he spoke, but he had started to speak up for his opinions on personal matters and Cloud wanted to encourage that.
"Because the dye will take longer to work on my hair? Good point. I'll wash my hair while you comb yours out." It didn't take that long to wash his hair, and Sephiroth was nowhere near finished with his by the time Cloud got out of the shower. But he probably would be by the time Cloud added the dye to his hair - he thought he could get away with leaving his eyebrows the way they were, since he was going fairly close to his natural colour - especially compared to Sephiroth.
"Should I paint your eyebrows Cloud?" But if his lover wanted to return the favour that was another matter.
"Go ahead. Generally people have eyebrows a bit lighter or darker than their hair. We're trying to make yours darker, I guess mine can be lighter easily enough." Cloud shut his eyes as Sephiroth took the brush they were using for this, and dipped it into his almost empty packet of dye. Then his lover took hold of his chin, steadying it, and Cloud could just barely feel the brush running over his brows.
"Done." Sephiroth released his chin, stepping back as Cloud opened his eyes.
"Thank you. Your turn now." And he held out his hand for the brush. It took a surprising amount of concentration to just get the brows without marking the pale skin beneath, but he managed and put the brush in a cup of water to soak. Then he moved around to work on Sephiroth's hair. Cloud fastened the larger top section up and out of the way while he applied the dye to the lower section, combing it through from the roots. Then he divided the top section again and repeated the process on the middle section of Sephiroth's hair, before adding the little bit of black dye he'd kept back to the mix and working on the topmost layers.
"Clean your eyebrows off while I get the dye out of my hair. Then you can wash it out of yours." Cloud's hair wasn't exactly the colour he'd hoped for, more a strawberry blond than the redder shade he'd wanted, but Sephiroth's came out looking magnificent, a dark wine red shade lighter at the ends and on top. The gamble Cloud had taken in holding back a tenth of a packet of black dye to mix in for the last layer had worked, and the topmost layers of Sephiroth's hair weren't noticeably darker or lighter than the rest. But Cloud thought that if they did this again he'd steal a little bit of Sephiroth's dark red dye, in an attempt to make his own hair redder. After all, there was some of the dye left anyway, even after doing all of Sephiroth's hair, not much, but enough that Cloud could easily steal a drop or two of the red.
"Contacts now. Do you want me to do yours, or would you rather do them yourself?" Sephiroth looked hesitant, and Cloud knew that meant he had a question, or objection and thought it would upset Cloud if he voiced it. "It's alright if you'd rather do it yourself, I trust you, but I'm not comfortable letting anyone so close to my eyes."
"I...could you demonstrate for me? I'm not sure how to do this."
"Not a problem." Cloud washed his hands, making sure he rinsed all of the soap off, and waiting for Sephiroth to do the same, then put the lenses in carefully, and slowly to let Sephiroth see how, watching his lover do the same afterwards. His eyes were changed more subtly in colour than Sephiroth's, adding the slit pupils and a hint of green, as compared to his usual pure bright blue, while his lover's eyes were now a dark green with a somewhat more muted Mako glow. Sephiroth wrapped a towel around his hair, and they both pulled robes on as they returned to Zack. Cloud hadn't expected there to be new clothes for him too, and he'd brought the best of his civilian gear, black dress trousers and a thin black jumper. What was laid out for him however...
"What's going on Zack?" When he glanced at Sephiroth Cloud could see a hint of smugness in his eyes, but from what Zack knew, or thought he knew, about their relationship he was the easier target.
"Sephiroth thought that if he had to dress like a woman you should wear something different too. What, you don't like what he picked out for you?"
"They're great." And they were, black leather pants and vest, dark green silk shirt and a long, dark blue leather coat. "I was just surprised that's all." Cloud turned to see how his lover was reacting, there was something in his eyes as he looked at Zack..."Thank you Sephiroth, you've got great taste."
"Thank you." Sephiroth turned his attention to the kimono Zack had laid out for him as Cloud began getting dressed. "I have no idea how I should wear this."
"Let me help you then." Zack offered with a pseudo-lecherous grin.
"We should get your hair dry first." Cloud stopped dressing, wearing only the pants. "Go get your hairdryer Zack." The dark SOLDIER had hair long enough that he had to need one. He pushed Sephiroth down into a chair and pulled the towel from his hair, using it to rub the worst of the water from that hair. When Zack returned with the hairdryer he thanked him absently and began the process of drying Sephiroth's hair in sections.
"If we're going to start with the hair you have to let me play with it while Cloud gets dressed."
"That won't take long." Cloud didn't quite protest as he handed the comb over to Zack and picked up his shirt. Zack had obviously dressed while they'd been in the shower, in grey leather and purple silk. Zack had only just started pinning Sephiroth's hair by the time Cloud was dressed, and he smiled to see how unexpectedly competent the big SOLDIER was at this. "Practise a lot on Aeris?" He couldn't keep from teasing Zack about his skill, and the girl he'd talked about so much.
"Why yes, I did. However could you tell?" He should have expected Zack to just play along with the teasing. "She helped me pick this out for you as well Sephiroth. Cloud, can you try to do the make-up? Go for as subtle as you can."
"I'll try." Cloud really wasn't sure this was a good idea, but at least if he screwed up too badly it would be simple enough to wash off. "If it's okay with you Sephiroth?"
"Feel free." Cloud glanced at the array of colours Zack had provided and decided to work with the greys.
"Shut your eyes please." He started by spreading the lightest grey all over the eyelid, then he had to stop and think about how he'd seen women paint their eyes. Still, it was good enough that Zack made a quiet sound of approval when he looked at it and only added some black liquid to line Sephiroth's eyes, emphasising their almond shape and the mascara to darken his lashes. Sephiroth painted his lips himself, a deep purple-red that almost matched his hair and Zack helped him get dressed, with Cloud fuming wordlessly because he didn't know how to do it and determined to be able to help his lover if they ever did this again.
When they were finished Cloud couldn't believe how well it had worked, Sephiroth did look like a woman, albeit an unusually tall, and muscular woman with the Mako eyes of a SOLDIER's daughter. Cloud offered his arm, and Sephiroth rested his hand lightly in the crook of his elbow, letting Cloud escort him from Zack's quarters.
"So, what will we be doing before we eat?" It was only half past four and Cloud was pretty sure that Zack would have booked the restaurant for a bit later than that - he knew that he'd expected it to take longer to get Sephiroth disguised properly.
"I booked our table at Catrone's for six, so we don't have enough time for a movie before we eat."
"And beside a movie's more a date type of thing, isn't it?" It might be nice to do something like that with Sephiroth, or rather with Sera, but he wasn't sure if his lover would be willing, or have the time, to dress up like this just to go see a movie with Cloud.
"Yeah, it is. We could take a slow walk there instead of getting the train if you like, but that won't take more than fifty minutes or so." Why was Zack looking at Sephiroth with that puzzled frown on his face?
"I suppose you want us to stop and have a few drinks along the way then?" Cloud only spoke when he realised that Sephiroth wasn't going to, and he glanced at his lover as he tried to work out why he didn't seem to want any input into the discussion.
"Yeah, if you don't mind Sera." Cloud was glad they'd briefed Zack on what name he should use while Sephiroth was dressed like this, even if he didn't like the way he was using it almost as a weapon. Still, Zack was right, Sephiroth should be taking some part in the conversation; if he was dressed normally he would have said something by now, and Cloud reached up to touch Sephiroth's cheek, turning his face so that Cloud had a better view of him.
"Sera, I'm sure you've got an opinion on this, and I want to hear it." He spoke quietly, just loud enough that Zack would be able to hear as well, but he came to a standstill as he spoke, letting Sephiroth know without words that they wouldn't be moving until he said something.
"I don't have a problem with stopping for a drink on our way to Catrone's, as long as it's just one." Sephiroth was only just whispering, and there was something different about the way he spoke, something in the tone that Cloud couldn't quite pin down that made his voice sound feminine, even though it was so deep. "But I don't think I should say much while I'm dressed like this, I can't do much to disguise my voice."
"You're doing better than you think, but we didn't think of that, did we?" And Cloud couldn't quite believe that they hadn't considered the issue until Sephiroth brought it up.
"No, we didn't. So, you've got an excuse not to say much, fair enough. Just...try to have fun, please?"
"I will." Sephiroth smiled at Zack, the surprisingly sweet smile he sometimes gave Cloud when he was just waking up, or after they made love, and Cloud stifled his instinctive envy to see his lover offer that smile to someone else, instead starting to walk again, allowing Zack to lead the way.
"I guess it might help us keep people from realising who you are, since it can add to that whole submissive thing."
"Submissive thing?" Zack sounded surprised at that, and Cloud hesitated, realising that he might given Zack a clue to the true nature of his relationship with Sephiroth that they couldn't afford to let him have. But Sephiroth just squeezed his arm supportively, and he remembered that he'd already laid the groundwork for this act, a few months back.
"I've told a few people that my girl's submissive. Figured it would be another way of keeping anyone from realising who I'm really involved with." Cloud paused then, letting Zack come to his own conclusions, because he wasn't going to lie outright about his relationship with Sephiroth - after all for all he knew SOLDIERs could tell when you were lying because of their enhanced senses.
"Since Sephiroth's anything but, hadn't really thought about that." Cloud really didn't get how Zack could believe what he was saying, considering how easily he bullied Sephiroth into going drinking with him and socialising when he didn't really want to, but Zack's blind spot was useful for him and Sephiroth. "That why you gave Cloud enough money to pay for most stuff before we left?"
"Not really, or just a bit depending on how you see the tradition of the man paying for everything on a date." Cloud felt confident in answering for Sephiroth, since they'd talked about it earlier in the week. "I don't make as much as you or Sera, but it's pretty odd for the woman to be the one paying and it wouldn't be fair to expect you to pay for everything, so we planned this out in advance." He hadn't been happy about it, but he'd agreed, especially when Sephiroth pointed out that he'd feel guilty if he let Cloud try to pay for everything on his own and that he didn't think a submissive woman was likely to handle money when her lover was with her.
"Yeah, I usually pay for things with Aeris, and I don't really like it when she insists on paying her share." That was pretty clear from Zack's tone of voice. "I mean...she really doesn't have much money, at least I don't think she does."
"But it would hurt her pride if you insisted on paying for everything all the time, if you didn't let her pay her share when she could." It had hurt Cloud's pride a bit that Sephiroth had been so determined to give him the money for today, and from the way his hand tightened a bit on Cloud's arm his lover had recognised the implication. He stroked Sephiroth's hand, but this once he wasn't going to worry that much about his emotional state, he wanted Sephiroth to think a bit about what he'd said.
"Hadn't thought of it that way, but...I like taking care of her, and even sending money back to my family I've got a hell of a lot more to spend on stuff like this than she does. And what else would I be spending it on?"
"Your bike?" Cloud shrugged as he made the suggestion. "Or whatever you spent your money on before you met Aeris. But yeah, I see what you mean, you want to spend your money on her, on things to make her happy, and she doesn't quite get that." He paused for a moment before deciding to expand on that a bit. "My mother doesn't get that I want to send some of my money home to her, to make her life that little bit easier, but she accepts it because I insist. I hadn't realised you sent money home to your family too."
"Well, I'm from Gongaga, a country boy, the way you are, and you know how much less money there is in the smaller villages and towns." And Zack cared about people, Cloud got it. He didn't think Zack's family would be in the same sort of financial situation Cloud's mother had to worry about, but he doubted that the rest of his immediate family put together would make as much as Zack did.
"Jungle not mountains, but it's the same thing really. Most people either can't live there or don't want to. And the wildlife's pretty dangerous around the Nibel mountains compared to near Midgar. It like that around Gongaga?"
"Yeah, one of the things you want to avoid like the plague are the Touch Mes. They're these real bright yellow frogs with green or white bellies, and if you attack them and don't dodge in time then you start turning into one of them. Not something you want happening to you, I can promise you that."
"Sounds like you're talking from experience there." It wasn't quite a question, but Cloud was sure there was a story behind Zack's words, and even if Sephiroth had heard the story before Cloud hadn't.
"You believe me? You aren't just playing along to laugh at me when you hear the story?"
"Yeah, I'll laugh if you do something stupid in your story, but why wouldn't I believe you about the Touch Mes? We've got some pretty weird monsters around Nibel. One of them's basically a flying jellyfish. Doesn't that sound weirder than your frogs?"
"I guess. I'm just not used to anyone believing me about the Touch Mes, not until they face them for themselves. Even then they don't really believe you can get frogged unless it happens to someone where they can see it. I don't know why people think I'm lying about this."
"Because it sounds a bit like the lead in to one of your practical joke perhaps, Zack?" Sephiroth glanced at Cloud as soon as he'd finished speaking, waiting for him to say something.
"Yeah, your reputation works against you there." Sephiroth looked down again as Cloud agreed with him. "But are you seriously telling me that in all of SOLDIER there's only one guy from Gongaga?" He'd have expected the recruiters to try and get more people from Gongaga after Zack had done so well.
"Couldn't handle anymore like me I'd say."
"And I agree. One of Zack is more than enough for any department. I gather Tseng feels the same way about one of his Turks called Reno."
"Should I ask how you know that Sera?" Cloud smiled to let Sephiroth know that he was teasing, but Sephiroth still looked uncomfortable with the question.
"Tseng's feelings about Reno are fairly common gossip, he falls into the same category as Zack does, saved from severe disciplinary action for his attitude by his competence."
"Gossip in the higher levels of the company or with the admin staff then?"
"Probably. Since I know most of the gossip in the army, and I've never heard that." Neither had Cloud, but that was a lot less significant. The conversation died after that, and they walked the rest of the way to Catrone's in companionable silence, without bothering to stop for a drink along the way.
"I'm sorry sir, your table isn't available just yet. But if you'd care to wait in the wine bar it will be ready within twenty minutes. And of course you can bring your drinks over to your table with you once you're seated." Not really a surprise, although Cloud hadn't expected Catrone's to have a wine bar for some reason and they followed the maitre d's directions to the bar, taking a table near the door.
"I'll get the drinks in, so what do you two want?"
"Let us have a chance to sit down first." Cloud was holding a chair for Sephiroth as he spoke, but he glanced over at the bar, thinking. "I'll have a half of cider. Sera?"
"Vodka and coke, please." Not the sort of thing he normally wanted to drink, but Cloud thought it sounded like something a woman might be expected to drink, so Sephiroth had been thinking about what he should order, and Zack didn't say anything about it, just going to get the drinks from the bar.
"I should probably go and help Zack fetch the drinks to the table." Instead of taking his own seat. Cloud didn't really want to leave Sephiroth alone at the table, not the way he looked just now, but he felt obliged to give Zack a hand.
"Please, don't leave me here alone. I'm sure Zack can manage three drinks by himself." How much of that was for an audience? Sephiroth hadn't tried to stop Cloud going to the bar physically, not even to catch hold of his sleeve, and his body language screamed submissive, what with the way he'd bowed his head, and kept his eyes focused on the table in front of him rather than looking at Cloud.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Cloud took hold of Sephiroth's hand as he sat down to his lover's right, stroking across the wrist and the base of Sephiroth's palm with his thumb idly as they waited. "A gentleman doesn't leave a lady as beautiful as you on her own, and I am trying to be a gentleman tonight."
"You're doing very well, truly." Sephiroth glanced up at Cloud from beneath lowered lashes with a smile and licked his lips slowly, sensually. "I appreciate it."
"Good." Then Cloud let his hand shift and tighten just a little on Sephiroth's wrist; even though he couldn't really hurt him he knew what it would look like if anyone was paying enough attention to notice. "But you're teasing me now. Stop it."
"Yes Cloud. I'm sorry." And he looked down again, this time focusing on Cloud's hand, as Cloud relaxed his grip, shifting to lift Sephiroth's hand to his lips, so that he could kiss his lover's wrist in a show of 'remorse' for hurting 'her', even if he hadn't left any marks. He had the feeling that they were both overacting a bit, but it was fun, and from the smile still playing across Sephiroth's lips he felt the same way.
"You're forgiven." Cloud heard someone approaching from behind him and to his left and he turned his head, to see that Zack had been served. "Sorry Zack, I couldn't exactly leave Sera alone here."
"This is a nice place, I'm sure you could have left her alone without her being hassled or anything." Zack put their drinks down before taking his own chair as he spoke.
"I did ask him not to leave me." Sephiroth glanced up at Zack before lowering his eyes again as he took a sip of his drink. "I didn't think it would cause you problems."
"Ahh...it's okay I guess, I managed on my own, and if Sera asked you to stay with her it's a bit different."
"Good." Cloud didn't say anything else, he didn't think he needed to. Instead he enjoyed his cider, and the sight of Sephiroth actually relaxing in public, and waited for Zack to say something. But for once Zack seemed content to just sit in silence, and people watch, although Cloud was pleased to join in once he began speculating about some of the other people at the bar in a quiet voice.
"Sirs, madam, your table is ready."
"Thanks." Zack took the lead as they followed their waiter into the restaurant, letting him set them up with menus and offer a wine menu. "You can come back in ten minutes or so, we'll probably be ready to order then."
"Yes sir." A slight bow, and the waiter left them to look through their menus. Cloud made his choices in a few minutes, and waited for the others to put their menus down as well.
"So Sera, what are you having?" It bothered Cloud a bit that his menu didn't have any prices on, but he wouldn't rock the boat by saying anything about that yet.
"The salmon as a starter, followed by the steak, with a jacket potato. And you Cloud?"
"I think I'll start with the prawns, followed by the fowl, with buttered rice. Zack, what about you?" He was still studying his menu, and Cloud hoped to push him into a decision.
"Oh, I'm having the soup, whatever it is today, then the trout." He folded his first menu away, only to open the second menu, the one for the wine. "Any preferences for the wine?"
"None at all, Sera?" Cloud could tell that Sephiroth wasn't going to say anything unless he was prompted to, and he was sure his lover had an opinion on the matter.
"I think white wine would be best Zack, and something fairly dry if you would."
"Not too sweet, yeah, that works for me." Zack glanced at his watch, and then around the restaurant. "Our waiter should be coming over soon, you want me to order for all three of us?"
Sephiroth just looked at Cloud when Zack's eyes rested on him, and Cloud realised that meant he'd have to answer for both of them. But the answer was obvious anyway considering how self-conscious he was about his efforts to disguise his voice. "Yes please. You know Sera doesn't want to speak too much, so this way it won't stand out as much."
"SOLDIER portions all around then. The same reason." And Cloud could always give Sephiroth some of his food, as long as they weren't too suggestive about it. Their waiter was carrying a basket of buns, and a covered dish when he came over to take their order, setting both items in the middle of the table before pulling out his notebook. Zack ordered for the three of them, ignoring the waiter's surprise at being asked for all SOLDIER portions, requesting a jug of iced water as well as two bottles of his chosen wine.
"Sera, is this the right knife to use for the butter?" Cloud was guessing, he'd never eaten somewhere as fancy as this, but he didn't want to embarrass his lover or his friend, so he asked for guidance quietly enough that only a SOLDIER would have heard him. "Good, do you want me to prepare a bun for you?" He figured he should offer when Sephiroth gave a small nod of agreement.
"Yes, please." Sephiroth just smiled his thanks when he handed the buttered bun over before buttering one for himself, and Cloud was impressed with how neatly his lover managed to eat it, compared to the way he got crumbs on his clothes. They'd eaten all but three of the buns by the time their waiter arrived with Sephiroth's salmon and Cloud's prawns, and it only took him a few moments to go and get Zack's soup. Sephiroth and Zack both ate neatly, but swiftly, and Cloud still had half a dozen of his huge prawns left when they'd finished.
"Go ahead, take a couple of my prawns if you'd like Zack." Sephiroth was too restrained to eye Cloud's plate the same, so he turned to 'her' with a smile. "Sera, would you care to try my prawns?"
"Please." He started to lift a hand, before he realised Cloud had something else in mind, then sat waiting as Cloud peeled a prawn out of its shell, dipping it in the small bowl of sauce provided before offering it for Sephiroth to take from his fingers, which he did, slowly, sensually, licking the ends of Cloud's fingers, and again with the other three prawns Cloud offered him.
"Fuck! That's practically obscene." And from the way their waiter looked at them as he collected their plates he felt the same way. Their main courses were served on huge platters, half again the size of normal plates, and Zack's trout took up just about all of his plate. Sephiroth's steak had to weigh nearly a pound, and his jacket potato was just as large, and Cloud was served with a whole fowl, split into two halves to serve not the single half fowl he'd expected, with a huge mound of buttered rice. And the vegetable dish was just as oversized and well filled, containing carrots, broccoli, green beans, peas, sweet corn and mashed turnip.
"You lot really need to eat this much food?" Cloud didn't think he'd seen SOLDIERs eating so much when he'd been in their canteen, but he hadn't been paying that much attention to what Sephiroth or Zack had been eating, or in a position to see what other SOLDIERs ate.
"Yes, and no. SOLDIERs need to eat more meat than normal humans, and we do need to eat more overall, but some of us prefer to just eat more often, and snack throughout the day, while others do tend to eat huge meals." Sephiroth shrugged one shoulder, almost elegantly and Cloud thanked him with a smile.
"And normal humans do order SOLDIER portions in a restaurant sometimes, it's just women don't do that very often."
"I see." Cloud let Zack and Sephiroth have half his fowl, as well as some of his buttered rice, and he felt pleasantly sated by the time his plate was empty.
"Would you care to see the desert menu, sirs, madam?" Cloud was already shaking his head when the waiter finished speaking, but Zack glanced at Sephiroth almost wistfully, asking for the bill when he shook his head.
"You know I don't really have a sweet tooth Zack." There was a hint of apology in Sephiroth's voice, but his words seemed to bother Zack a bit, and Cloud wasn't sure why.
"Yeah, I know." Zack smiled as he replied, and when the bill arrived Zack let Cloud pay half, even if it was using Sephiroth's money.
"If you would excuse me?" Cloud nodded at Sephiroth at once, he didn't get why his lover was waiting for him to acknowledge his words before leaving their table, but he could work with it. He smiled as he watched Sephiroth walk away from the table, taking pleasure in his lover's incredible grace and sense of balance, even if there was something different about how he was walking now compared to normally.
"Why's he doing that?" Zack sounded frustrated, and his voice was a bit loud for Cloud's tastes.
"Doing what?" Cloud kept his own voice quiet enough that no one would be able to hear it besides Zack, or at least he thought he did.
"Asking your permission for just about everything!"
"I don't know why she waits for my approval before leaving the table, you've picked out places where she isn't going to need an escort or anything, not like when you dragged me and Sephiroth out drinking with you. But I'm sure I told you that Sera is submissive, it's probably got something to do with that."
"Ah...part of the act, right?" Zack was quieter now, looking just a little embarrassed. "Do you think she's enjoying herself? Seph didn't like it when I brought him to places like this the first time we went out drinking."
"Yeah, I think so. She's smiling a lot, and hasn't she drunk more than Sephiroth did when we went drinking with him?"
"Yes she has. I think it's because nobody's bothering her the way they do Seph. Even in places like this he had to deal with admirers, so I started taking him to less...snobby places, hoping people there would be easier to handle." Zack's laugh held a hint of bitterness, not that Cloud knew how to help . "I thought people'd be too polite to intrude at upscale places, but it didn't turn out that way."
"I guess rich folk can think they're entitled to disturb Sephiroth, and to his attention, even when he's clearly with a friend." Cloud was being cynical, but he'd heard enough about how most ShinRa execs acted to be sure he was right, even if he hadn't had the 'pleasure' of meeting them himself.
"If they're anything like the ShinRas they probably do. I've met Rufus and he's a total brat, and his father's even worse. Guess the people they hang around with aren't going to be any different."
"No, they aren't. Not in any real way." Sephiroth looked almost apologetic as he sat back down at the table, eyes cast down and a soft smile on his face as he glanced at Cloud from beneath lowered lashes. "They don't have as much money or power as the ShinRas, but they think just the same way."
"I'm glad I don't have to deal with them then. And you've got my full sympathy." Cloud couldn't think of anything better to say to Sephiroth, but he was truly grateful he wasn't important enough to meet the ShinRas.
"Thank you Cloud. This was a really good idea." There was a 'but' in there, Cloud could almost hear it, even though Sephiroth clearly wasn't going to say it aloud, so he made a guess.
"Yes, we've had fun. But it's getting late, Zack, what say we call it a night?"
"Yeah, sure." Zack stood with a smile, and Cloud offered Sephiroth a hand to stand up. "Sera, want to do it this way next time?"
"As long as Cloud comes with us, yes. Otherwise...we can still use the same principle, but a different execution of it." Sephiroth looked at Cloud as he spoke, and Cloud nodded with a faint smile as he put his arm around Sephiroth's waist, in response to the implied invitation to join Sephiroth and Zack next time they went out drinking.
"I meant the principle." Zack sounded oddly...annoyed, to put it lightly, and Cloud wasn't sure why. "You look great, Sera, but I don't have the patience to play the gallant for you the way Cloud is."
"I wouldn't want you to do that for me, Zack. I'm sure you can find someone who'll appreciate your attentions far more than I would." Cloud only noticed the way Sephiroth stiffened in displeasure as he spoke because he had an arm around his waist, and he had to wonder what had upset his lover, if he'd missed or misunderstood something. "Cloud, do we really need Zack to escort us back?"
"Not if you'd rather he didn't, and not if there's somewhere else he'd rather be." Cloud left the decision to Zack, since he hadn't met up with friends tonight the way he had last time.
"No, nowhere else I want to be. But if you two want to have a nice romantic stroll back together you just have to ask."
"Sera?" Cloud reached up, resting the back of his fingers against Sephiroth's chin. "Would you like to walk back alone with me?"
"Please Cloud, please." Cloud hesitated, looking at Zack, ready to repeat the request if he had to, but Zack spoke before he could open his mouth.
"I won't intrude where I'm not welcome. Go on, I'll find another pub to drink at." Cloud was missing something, he knew it, but he certainly wasn't going to risk embarrassing Sephiroth by asking in front of Zack. So he set off on a slow walk back, with his lover on his arm.
"Should I ask what that was about with Zack?"
"It's not really important, but...Zack doesn't approve of the game we were playing, in fact he really disapproves. It bothers him to see me behave submissively, even when he 'knows' it's just an act - at least that's what I thought he meant when he talked to me while you were getting drinks. I don't know exactly how to act like a woman, but those books...they tend to assume the submissive will be a woman, so I just acted as submissively as I wanted to." Cloud wasn't sure how he felt about that - he'd been exaggerating his own behaviour and he'd thought Sephiroth was doing the same.
"Yes, it was an act, in part, but built on a core of what I want to be free to do. And...you know how casual Zack is about touching people. I made the mistake of thinking he was flirting with me when I started to trust him. I didn't do anything about it, didn't feel ready to before learned that he's not interested in men at all. But...you saw how he kept on 'forgetting' to call me Sera."
"I see." Cloud guessed it made sense when Sephiroth explained it all like that. Zack had kept on reminding himself who Sephiroth was, because he found 'Sera' attractive - Cloud had seen that, but he hadn't recognised it at the time. They walked the rest of the way back in companionable silence, and then Cloud helped Sephiroth sneak into his quarters, sharing his amusement at their actions, and laughing with him when they were inside. He sat down on the couch, and Sephiroth joined him after setting his weapons aside, leaning against him, and wrapping an arm around his waist, while Cloud put his arm around his shoulders.
"Did you have a good time tonight Cloud?"
"Yes, I really liked having a chance to treat you as my lover in public. And it was good not to have to deal with your rabid fans." Cloud kissed Sephiroth's cheek before continuing. "What about you? Did you have fun?"
"Yes, yes I did." There was a soft, warm, satisfaction in Sephiroth's voice as he nodded into Cloud's shoulder, and Cloud closed his eyes to better hear the purr underneath Sephiroth's words. "I agree, it was really good to be able to go out, be your lover in front of other people, and not have to worry about the way people see me."
"Maybe we could do it again sometime, so we can have a proper date." Cloud was probably being selfish to bring that idea up, when it took Sephiroth so much time and effort to get into this costume, but he wanted Sephiroth to know that he didn't want to hide his relationship with him, that he wanted to treat Sephiroth like his lover whenever he could.
"Yeah...that sounds good." The faint sleepiness of Sephiroth's voice made Cloud feel as if he was taking advantage of his lover somehow, and when he started stroking Sephiroth's hair his fingers caught on one of the ornaments Zack had put there, and he reluctantly opened his eyes.
"We need to shower, get that dye out of your hair." Sephiroth sat up, slowly, clearly reluctant to lose contact with Cloud, and Cloud let his hand slip slowly from Sephiroth's head.
"And yours too."
"Yes. And mine too." Cloud laughed softly as he agreed with Sephiroth, then watched with an appreciative smile as his lover pulled the ornaments from his hair one by one and shook it out to fall down his back as he stood. "We need to take the contact lenses out first. I left two cases and a bottle of storage fluid here this morning." Cloud had bought contact lenses they'd be able to use again - the only type that would do what Sephiroth needed only came that way, and he wasn't going to waste money on a pair of contact lenses he could only use once, when he could get a reusable pair for nearly the same price. Sephiroth removed his contact lenses without Cloud's help, then stepped back, and smiled at him.
"Undress me?" He held his arms open, standing passive, and waiting for Cloud to act. Cloud hugged him and nuzzled into his throat for a moment before he started by untying the cloth belt. He unwrapped the kimono, letting it fall to the floor behind Sephiroth and took in the sight of his lover dressed only in black lingerie and dark blue flat slippers.
"I hadn't realised how little padding Zack used." The only place he'd used it was in the bra, but Cloud only thought about how his words came across when a hint of...upset crossed Sephiroth's face. "You put up such a perfect act, and I didn't really notice how well the kimono disguised you. But you still look incredible."
"Ah...thank you then." Cloud kissed Sephiroth, and finished what he'd been doing, before moving to the shower.