But right now, the blonde was asleep, encased in the thin blankets on his hard bed, in a peaceful night's rest undisturbed by nightmares, as he was tentatively getting accustomed to ever since after he had been cured of the stigma. However, a peaceful night, it would not be for very long.
His eyes fluttered open when he heard a strangled cry, a male voice cracking a few rooms over. Groaning, Cloud untangled himself from the sheets, and leapt to his feet. 'What is it now?' he frustratedly thought. This hadn't happened in weeks.
He was halfway to the door, intending on stumbling down the dark hall, when this task was spared him, as another dark figure collided with the swordsman right in the threshold of the door.
"Niisan!" it wailed into his bare chest, the thin arms entwining around him, and holding on tight, practically grappling his thin waist.
"What is it, Kadaj?" Cloud asked, trying to sound calm and comforting, despite the fact that he'd just been rudely awakened in the middle of a very good dream.
The younger boy gave no answer, instead eliciting only a few whimpering sounds. Cloud sighed, and petted his soft silver hair gently.
"What is it?" he asked again, "Did you have another nightmare? It's been a long time since your last one."
Kadaj nodded slowly, at last chancing to look up at his older brother. His emerald eyes were gleaming with tears, visible in the night only through their mako-glow, just as Cloud's were. He hiccupped, and gasped, "I... I'm sorry I woke you up. It was just... just... just so..." he stopped there, his thin frame vibrating with the intensity of his sobs, and shuddered breath that he sucked in past pale lips.
"That's all right, don't worry about it." Cloud rubbed an eye, and flicked some hair out of his face, "Come on, it was just a dream okay? Nothing to be worried, or scared of..." he tried to reason with the distraught boy.
Kadaj merely whined again, biting his lip so hard that it became even paler under the force. He hugged his own arms, gripping the bare flesh that poked out from beneath a white silk shirt.
His brother sighed, "They won't hurt you." he assured him, putting a hand firmly on the slim shoulder, "Sephiroth and Jenova won't hurt you ever again, I promise..." he bent down to the man's shorter level, meeting his reluctant gaze.
Poor thing... he was always so ashamed of having the nightmares... a grown boy like him. And to be so affected... but Cloud knew what those dreams were like, and now real they could be. No doubt even Vincent would be able to share in this experience, the usually perfectly collected member of the AVALANCHE group. He and Cloud had once spent a night up together, when both of their sleeps had been wracked by the horrifying images. They traded and swapped stories they'd seen playing out before their unsconcious minds with startling clarity. It had been an enlightening experience to say the least.
"I've said time and time again that I would protect you." he assured him, drawing the trembling body a little closer to his own, "See? My weapon's right over there, if anything ever happens..." Cloud indicated the buster sword leaning against the wall by his bed.
Kadaj nodded, but he still didn't fully believe him. It was like trying to raise a child, Cloud thought, a fully grown, emotionally distraught child, so it was a rather awkward situation. After the battle, several months ago, Kadaj had come to him... he charged, with sword in hand, then fell straight into the mercenary's arms, then the rain started...
Cloud had begun to lay the limp body of the Sephiroth clone down onto the metal ground, when he felt the bullet tear through his flesh. He turned, there were the other brothers, loyal to the last... he had no choice but to fight him, and a family death seemed to be what they wanted anyway.
The explosion had sent the swordsman flying back, to land who knows where. When he awoke, he was in the water in Aeris' church, rather, the shallow shoreline of Aeris' lake, as it now had become affectionately called by the residents of Midgar... a healing water, it cured wounds, eased hunger... a true miracle by the girl.
He had returned with the group on the Shera, to the spot where Kadaj's body had been, by his own hands, laid down. To his surprise, he found it still there... it was time that the man be finally put to rest. Him, and Sephiroth both. As Cloud once again bundled the deadweight into his arms, it surprised him yet more, when he heard the squeak of leather rubbing together, and felt a hand close into a fist around his clothes... Kadaj was still alive.
He'd taken him back in, unwilling to let the boy die. He bathed him in the healing waters, and all was fine. He took care of him, fed him, clothed him, provided him with a room to stay in on Cid's airship, until he could find a place of his own. The two found themselves a decent apartment to live in. Kadaj was all alone, his brothers were dead, as was the only mother he had ever known, if she could be called that.
Cloud often wondered why he wouldn't attack him. Why Kadaj had chosen to just submit. He wondered, still, why the boy seemed so timid all of a sudden, why he was plagued nightly by... what he could only imagine could be the cause for such screaming, and lashing out in his half-sleep. It had been weeks after the incident before Kadaj had so much as spoken a word to him, and it was only then that he found out.
To transform into Sephiroth had been a traumatic experience... He felt the searing pain of Jenova infesting his body, passing from cell to cell, until it had completely taken over. His old form collapsed, and mutated, being remade in the image of Sephiroth, the image and the mind, and just Kadaj had ceased to exist for a moment. He'd been swallowed up in the darkness, and the pain, and the laughing, chiding voice of Jenova in what would be her final moment of glory... and then... defeat.
For Sephiroth only, it was defeat, he felt his body break, and would not succumb to returning as a part of the lifestream, or as a part of Jenova again. The great general would not twice be trapped as a dribble of liquefied green goo, and so he gave up, let Kadaj have the broken form back.
From those mere minutes of pure torture, Kadaj was saved. From the dark abyss, he returned into a warm body, warmed further still by the rivers of blood that seeped through his leather getup, which felt like heaven in comparison to the terrifying hell that his mother and brother had banished him to. And who did his eyes first catch sight of, mere moments after being rescued? None other than Cloud Strife, the brother which he had thought, and had accused of going astray, but no... he had been on the right path all this time. How could he have been so blind?
Time had passed since then, Kadaj had settled down, opened up, become, again, no more than an innocent boy, laughing and playing as any other would, despite that he looked much older than his true mental age. Cloud found this behavior amusing at the least, and quite endearing... he would have never believed, had he not known, and witnessed it first hand, that the adorable boy that so often shadowed his steps with that air of innocence had had the eyes of a heartless killer only a few months before.
"Do you want to stay here?" Cloud asked the boy, who had begun to survey him curiously after his long, reminiscing silence.
Kadaj vigorously nodded, and stepped closer. Cloud smiled, and lifted the light body up in his arms, carrying him over to the bed. Kadaj curled up in his brother's embrace, lying in a fetal position once the mercenary gently put him down on the mattress. He himself slipped in next to him, and pulled up the covers.
He turned to face the boy, watching him curiously. Azure eyes met mint-green, the latter wavering slightly, in a questioning stare.
"Do you still get nightmares, Niisan?" the soft voice sounded.
"Are they as bad as mine are?"
"No, I don't think so."
Kadaj sighed, and shifted awkwardly under the blankets. Silent tears began streaking down his cheeks, Cloud saw, because of the pearly moonlight that came filtering in through the windows.
"Oh, Kadaj, don't cry..." he gently reached out, wiping the wetness away with his thumb. The boy drew in a sharp gasp, and sobbed, his hands feebly finding their way up to Cloud's shoulders. His fingers knitted around Cloud's neck, and he pulled himself in closer. Cloud, as well, extended his reach around Kadaj's waist, encircling him with his arms.
"It will be okay, everything will be okay..." he kept saying, as the water spread from Kadaj's eyes, to Cloud's bare shoulder. It was not long before the tears began to subside, and the boy's tense form relaxed. He looked up, resting his chin in the niche between Cloud's shoulder and neck, and watched his face.
They lay together in the silence, Cloud gratefully counting the moments that went by that his brother didn't cry... he hated it when he cried, and he imagined Kadaj hated it to, for different reasons. It was so odd seeing the once proud and haughty boy so humbled, so weak, and it was very similar with Sephiroth... but the ex-Soldier tried very hard not to let the two people mesh themselves together in his head... that was a mistake to never make again.
When he looked back, the boy's eyes were closed, and his breathing was steady... he hoped he was asleep again, and he hoped that this time it was a more restful slumber... after all, now if he screamed, it would be right next to Cloud's ear.
"I love you, Niisan..." his mumbled words came softly to the swordsman's ear...
He must've heard wrong... he thought Kadaj had been asleep... Cloud looked down again. Indeed, he was, eyes closed, chest rising and falling rhythmically. Maybe he was speaking in his sleep... maybe he was really awake... Cloud didn't know... and he didn't have the heart, or the energy left to find out. That night, side-by-side, two brothers, two enemies would rest beneath the same blanket.
Author's Note: No, this is not meant to be slash... I can see why you would take it that way, but it's just supposed to be nice, and sweet... and maybe a little angsty. Oh well, such things happen. I've had this idea in my head ever since I saw the Advent Children movie, and I decided to write it now, taking a short break from the trying plotline of my Vincent-based story... A.K.A. I'm getting a Turk overdose. I hope you liked it, and I hope you review!