Title: Turk!Cloud

Author: Aiko Namika

Fandom: Final Fantasy VII

Pairings: Sephiroth/Cloud, Reno/Cloud

Disclaimer: I lay no claim to Final Fantasy VII or any associated products; they belong to Square Enix and all of their associates. I'm merely messing around in the world, playing with the characters.

Warnings: Yaoi, shounen ai, major AT (Alternate Timeline), about two instances of lemon

Note: This is based on a "what if?" universe, the vague plot of which can be found a href"http://aikonamika. Please don't mind the incoherence. I took the thirty prompts from the first prompt community I found, which was the "Thirty for Three" community.


#19 – Time

He didn't know how it would work, and he wasn't particularly sure that he really cared, either. But when he'd fallen asleep and found himself standing in an endless field of flowers, surrounded by white, and Zack had been there and said, We can give you another chance, he'd taken it. He'd accepted before he knew if there would be any sort of price, whatever the consequences.

Another chance, to get it all right, to earn the forgiveness he felt he'd never gain this way...it was all that he'd ever wanted.

So he'd gotten up the next day, did his deliveries, and returned to Seventh Heaven for the last time. At least, the last time as this self, in this time. He'd told them all that he'd been offered a long-term job, and that it was something that, to be honest, he really, really wanted. He wasn't sure when he'd be coming back, but it wouldn't be any time soon.

When Denzel had glared at him, he could only smile sadly and ruffle the boy's hair, and then told him that, as soon as he was old enough and had the legalities taken care of – as in, had a license – then Fenrir was his. That had brightened Denzel up a bit, though he was still upset that Cloud was leaving at all.

That night he'd gotten a ride out to where the Buster Sword rested, and put the entirety of Tsurugi together, and drove it into the ground parallel to Zack's old sword. If things worked out the way that he hoped they would, he wouldn't need it any longer.

Then he'd leaned back against the Buster Sword, closed his eyes, and fell asleep, stopping one last time in that field of flowers and light to say goodbye to Zack and Aeris, and even to the Remnants, who had come to wish their Nii-san good luck, so that maybe Sephiroth wouldn't have to fragment into them this time.

When next he woke up, he was fifteen years old again.

#26 – Hidden

Dammit, I can do better than this! Cloud thought to himself as he fumbled his way through one of the kata they were being taught. The other cadets around him were picking up on the moves with more or less the same luck that he was having, some of them catching it faster than others. He actually knew the entire thing by heart, could remember sliding through each motion with a thoughtless grace – it was one of the easiest katas that he knew, actually.

But he couldn't show that, not yet. In this time he was known to not be the best at things, either in combat or out, and he couldn't make it seem like he'd suddenly woken up and become an expert – which he had, really. That would cause way too much attention though, attention of a kind that he really didn't want. So instead he forced himself to fumble, and trip, and keep up with his apparent clumsiness.

At least, he'd done that at first. It hadn't taken him long to make it look like, in the middle of one class, something had suddenly clicked within him, and things were starting to make sense. He could increase his training, and with every "revelation" that he experienced, he could put forth more and more of his real skill and effort.

It felt like it was dragging out and taking way too much time to do this all, but he couldn't go any faster than this. Until he was a full SOLDIER and expected to know this, he had to keep his real skills hidden.

#17 – Fever

Cloud had always thought that he'd failed the SOLDIER exam the first time around because he hadn't been in good enough physical or mental shape. He'd been weak, and not a great fighter, and his sense of self-worth had been almost nonexistent. While he had problem now as well, they were different from what they had been the first time he'd lived through this part. At least this time he'd made it to the mako testing.

Of course, that was where the problem came in.

He didn't know if it was a side result of being experimented on and altered, living through hell, and then being sent back in time to go through it all again, but he'd ended up with a higher than normal amount of natural mako in his bloodstream. And unfortunately, it was reacting badly with the injected mako, doing its best to force the artificial substance out of his body, or at least to destroy it.

All of which meant that he was tossing and turning on his bed, twisting in the grasp of a fever that would not leave him alone or even let him rest.

He'd failed the exam again, he knew. It was because of a different reason this time, but he'd failed it. And as he gasped desperately for the slightest hint of cooler air, all he could think was a despairing, What am I going to do now?

#28 – Get out

"Hey Spike, it'll be okay. So you failed this time, but not everyone gets into SOLDIER on their first try! You just need to wait until the next time examinations come around, and then you'll knock them all on their asses. I'll even help you, okay?" Zack held Cloud close, running his fingers through spiky blond hair. It was weird, how the kid wasn't really crying. Yeah, there were tears, but they seemed to just be escaping on their own.

Cloud had just drawn into himself the moment he saw the letter rejecting his application to the SOLDIER program, even though he'd been fairly sure that he'd failed after that disastrous mako test. Now he sat, almost comatose in his SOLDIER friend's arms, his entire body slumped as if he'd been completely broken. And maybe he had been.

Zack knew that his friend had been resting all of his hopes on getting into SOLDIER – it had been his dream from the moment they'd met, the shining star that he'd been reaching after with a desperate hand. All of the kid's efforts had been directed toward reaching that goal, and now, without it...

He may be saying that Cloud could re-try, but they both knew that he'd been failed on a medical basis, and medical was for keeps. There was no way the blond was ever going to get into SOLDIER now, and the black-haired man worried for his friend's safety. Shiva's tits, he worried for the kid's life, because now what did he have to drive him?

A knock at the door distracted both of them, and glowing violet eyes glanced at the closed portal, and then at Cloud, who was pulling himself back together. The knock sounded again, and the kid shifted away from Zack, wiped his face once, and nodded.

"I'm good," he muttered lowly, and then went to answer the door, leaving Zack still sitting on his bunk and watching after him.

"Cadet Strife, may I speak with you in private?" The cultured voice caught Zack's attention faster than he'd thought possible, and he snapped his gaze over to see the familiar blue suit of a Turk standing in the doorway. A familiar Turk too, and he himself stood up to go greet Tseng.

"Yes sir? What can I do for you?" Cloud responded, brow furrowing for a moment in confusion.

"If Commander Fair would step out for a few minutes, I have a few things that I would like to discuss with you," Tseng said, nodding pleasantly to the SOLDIER, who raised an eyebrow and then nodded.

"I should get going, yeah." He reached out and gently ruffled blond spikes, grinning at the muffle squawk that Cloud made, followed by a glare from those bright blue eyes. "I'll see you at dinner tonight Cloud, and then maybe we'll practice afterward?" The SOLDIER held out the offer to the blond, hoping that the chance to do something utterly physical would be attractive, his usual grin in place.

"...yeah. Thanks, Zack. I'll see you then." With that, Cloud stepped back into the room, allowing Tseng to join him, while Zack exited, the door shutting behind him. He regarded the closed door with a thoughtful gaze for a few seconds, before shrugging and heading back to the office he shared with Sephiroth. Oh well. Whatever the Turk wanted with the kid, it couldn't be bad.

#18 – Clouds

When he gave up his last name for the Turks, he hadn't expected to be teased so badly for his first. At least when his instructors had called him "Strife," it had sounded cool - being called Cloud all the time seemed to dampen a bit of his coolness factor, especially when the jokes started up.

"I hear the Turks have started getting desperate for member; they've gone and grabbed a little cloud to work for them!"

"I think there's an open window around here; I saw a cloud drifting through the hallways back there."

"A bit cloudy-minded, are we?"

The biggest problem wasn't just the jokes, it was that most of the jokes were just plain bad, to the point where, if he'd been a more expressive person, he would have been groaning in pain at them.

#21 – Naptime

It always felt weird to simply knock someone out instead of killing them in a single, precise stroke of his sword, even after he'd been a Turk for so long. Part of him still expected to be able to wield the overly-large weapon from his memories, but he'd never been modified this time around, and so the best he could do was one of the standard broadswords from the armory.

Of course, Turks rarely used bladed weapons other than knives, which just bothered Cloud all the more.

Laying his target out with a well-placed punch, he knelt over the unconscious body and checked the pulse absently, confirming that it was steady, before pulling out a syringe filled with a knock-out drug. It had taken him a while to be able to handle needles calmly, and he'd initially explained it away as an odd fear that he'd developed as a child. The other Turks hadn't done anything more than help train himself not to react to that fear.

After injecting the sedative into his target, he picked the man up and slung him over one slim shoulder, carrying the sleeping guy back to base. He might as well enjoy this last nap of his – there wouldn't be another like it for some time.

#10 – Rent

After being in the past again, Cloud figured that it was probably about time that he did something to make sure that things changed. There was no need to just go through the same hell all over again when he had forewarning; he also didn't care if what he did changed the future – Shiva, by his own existence in the past, he'd already altered everything irreparably, and the world hadn't come to a horrible doom yet.

Plus, he had the feeling that he was supposed to change things around, to keep some of the atrocities of the past from happening again.

That was why, one fine, smoggy morning in Midgar, he got up a bit earlier than usual and applied the previous week's lessons in hacking to sneak into Sephiroth's computer, find the orders for a mission to Nibelheim, and change the flag on it from "Urgent" to "Not Urgent" – meaning that someone other than the world-famous general and his second in command would be heading out to that reactor.

Part of him wondered if he should feel bad about possibly condemning someone to death if Jenova tried to take them over, but the rest of him didn't give a shit. He'd saved Sephiroth's life essentially, as well as Zack's. And to him, that was all that mattered, and he'd still only just begun to repay the planet what he owed.

Next up, see if he could "accidently" unveil some notes about a certain General's mother being a human woman...

#25 – Looking

"Shit, man. I know you've got more mako than most people, but your eyesight can't be that good, can it?" Reno asked, peering through his binoculars at the target. Cloud lay on the roof beside him, sniper rifle set up, a shattered scope lying on the ground to the side. Despite the condition of the scope, the blond Turk was still going through all of the motions needed to finish the assignment.

"I mean damn, I can barely see them without the binocs, yo. Much less draw a bead on anyone from here without a scope," he continued, still watching the pair off in the distance. "Tseng wouldn't be mad if we went back and got another one, yo. It aint like they're goin' anywhere for now."

Receiving no answer, he finally looked up from the binoculars, narrow eyes looking over the younger man. Cloud had the sniper rifle set up to his shoulder, and was peering down the barrel carefully, one eye squinted shut.

"Shit, yo. I'll buy you a fucking drink if you can do it without a scope," he muttered, and shook his head. It was fucking impossible to deal with the kid. Which meant that Cloud was going to take a shot, miss, and alert the target to the fact that he was being targeted...and Reno would have to call in the troops to make sure the guy never made it out of the building. It would all be messy as hell, and he'd probably get called up on it, and Cloud would get some sort of punishment that Reno really didn't want to think about.

But baby Turks were baby Turks, and you had to let them make their own mistakes sometimes. He'd made more than his own fair share, and his teachers had never stopped him.

Pulling out his PHS, he looked through the binoculars again, studying the target in the distance, and prepared to call Rude and have him be ready. To his side, there was the sharp report of the sniper rifle firing, followed by the sound of Cloud reloading, and then firing again. Before his disbelieving eyes, not only did the target go down – a nice little hole right through his head – but the guy he'd met to make the deal with stared in shock at the corpse, and then went down himself seconds later, the second shot taking care of him.

Slowly Reno looked over at Cloud, who was calmly disassembling the sniper rifle and putting it away, and stared.

"Goddamn. You..."

"You owe me a drink," Cloud said calmly, just the hint of a smirk curling at his lip as he packed away the shattered scope.

#14 – Forbidden

Other than the amiable relationship that the Turks had with Zack, most connections with SOLDIERs were strained at best and outright hostile at worst. The Third Class SOLDIERs generally provided the most trouble; they were aggressive and not far up enough in the chain of command to be at all comfortable dealing with the blue-suited Turks, especially as they saw them so rarely. Second Classes were better, but there was always a good deal of tension between them, with each side seeing their own methods of dealing with problems as being better. Even First Classes, other than Zack, were uncomfortable around the Turks. There was always the quiet rivalry between the two organizations that meant that, for the most part, there was rarely any fraternization between the troops.

None of that stopped Cloud from lurking on the observation platforms and watching practices whenever General Sephiroth was sparring.

The Turk cadet had given up on his childhood dream of becoming a SOLDIER, as well as his second-time-around attempt to do the same, but that didn't get rid of his infatuation for the silver-haired General. Some part of him wondered whether, along with the mako that had apparently survived the time displacement with him, some of the Jenova cells had come along with. Maybe that explained why, even after all that he'd gone through dealing with the insane version of Sephiroth, he could still watch him with starry eyes and the faintest of blushes.

"Like what you see?" It was only through sheer force of will that Cloud kept himself from jumping out of his skin at the sudden voice, and instead he allowed his gaze to lazily drift to the side, widening slightly at the bright red hair that indicated a certain Turk who also happened to be his commanding officer. Well, as much as Turks really had officers.

"Reno, sir!" he managed to bite out, before a lazy hand waved him silent. Even as he turned to face the full Turk, he couldn't help it when his gaze drifted momentarily back toward Sephiroth, watching as the practice sword – he never used Masamune in practice bouts like these – swept through a familiar pattern, and he knew that the First Class that the General was sparring was about to go down hard. He'd felt that blow a time or two himself.

"I don't blame you," Reno said, grinning at the distracted cadet, who jerked his gaze back to Reno's while sporting wide eyes and a darkening blush. "I mean, he's one damn fine piece of meat, yo." Cloud ducked his head a bit, damning his fair skin and the fact that he couldn't control his reactions as easily as he used to. He'd have to work on that, and work hard.

"He's out of my reach, sir," he finally said softly, even as his traitorous gaze tried to return to Sephiroth's powerful body. "It doesn't matter if I like what I see or not. I'm certain that he had plenty of admirers..."

"Too right," the Turk said, and stuck his hands in his pockets, even as he blatantly watched the General. "He's a fucking fine piece of fruit, but he's forbidden fruit for all o' that. But you know what they say," he added, and smirked directly as Cloud. "Forbidden fruit's always the sweetest, when you finally get it. And when has anything being forbidden stopped a Turk?" With that last comment, Reno turned away and started sauntering out of the observation room, ignoring the flustered cadet he left behind.

"When has anything being forbidden stopped a Turk...?" Cloud murmured thoughtfully to himself. Sephiroth was the SOLDIER General. He was as unapproachable as an ice block; at least unless your name was Zack Fair, in which case you were armed with an ice pick and a flame thrower. He was a SOLDIER, and everyone knew that SOLDIERs and Turks didn't get along; unless, again, your name was Zack Fair, in which case you were practically adopted as the bratty cousin. He was the man who had ruined Cloud's life, in the future-that-hadn't-happened, that Cloud refused to let happen.

He was, as Reno put it, a fucking fine piece of forbidden fruit; but really, when had something being forbidden stopped a Turk? And Cloud was a Turk this time around, and he had no intention of just going quietly into the night. So maybe he'd reach out his hand, and try to pluck that fruit anyway, no matter the costs.

#8 – Babies

Reno liked to call him and Elena his "cute little baby Turks," which generally meant that he had Elena's handgun in his face and one of Cloud's knives at his throat. Well, if he wasn't already up and running by the time the pair got to him.

"Why do you always do that?" Cloud asked him one time after a particularly invigorating chase, which ended up with the three of them in a bar somewhere down in the Slums. He wasn't actually sure which sector they were in, though he was fairly sure he'd seen the bar itself before – then again, he'd seen a lot of bars since that one time Reno had done his best to drag them all through every watering hole below the Plate.

"Well, you two are just so cute, yo. All blond hair and big eyes and shit," the red-head explained, and then drew himself up. "And shit, you're still babies in the Turks compared to me, yo!"

"What, so you want us to make eyes at people before killing them?"

#13 – Irritating people

Cloud's not sure who's more irritating: Zack or Reno. They both like to bother him when he really doesn't want to be bothered, and he's got ties to the both of them that prevent him from merely beating the pair over the head and leaving them for dead. For one thing, Reno's his superior, and Zack's a SOLDIER First Class.

Even after he was recruited into the Turks, Zack did his best to keep tracking him down, until Cloud has come to expect the presence of the black-haired SOLDIER at least twice a week, if not more often. Then, once he's been rather firmly wrangled, Zack will take him down to a restaurant or café and make him be social with him, or he'll take him to see Aeris down in her church. They only ever do the latter activity after Cloud's changed into civvies, because she doesn't need to be reminded that he's a Turk and could be ordered to bring her in at any moment.

Zack is annoyingly cheerful at him all the time and thinks that Cloud made one of the biggest mistakes of his life when he joined the Turks, because he can see the innocence and naïveté that first drew him to the kid slipping away with every day. He dreads the day that he'll have to go on a mission with the kid and see him kill a man in cold blood, merely because he was ordered to. On the other hand, he didn't mind it when, during a mission gone wrong, it was one of the kid's knives that took down a smuggler that had snuck behind him during the fight. He still has the scar on his back where the smuggler got too close, before blond spikes and an avenging sense of protection came charging through to guard his back.

So, until Cloud slips away from him entirely into the Turks, he'll bother the kid and encourage him to forget himself some times, though he's always had that wary sense that he knows everything that's going on around him. It doesn't matter, though. As long as he can hold on to some of the kid's humanity, he's happy even when Cloud loses his temper and threatens him with that short sword he likes to call a long knife.

No matter what Cloud says out loud, he likes the attention, no matter how annoying the SOLIDER might be. Because it's Zack, and he already had to watch his friend die once, and then had to live on without him – even though part of that time, he thought he was Zack. So when he does end up cutting the dark-haired man, he immediately pulls out the Cure materia that he saved so much for, and heals the wound he left, and apologizes for not being able to mend the fabric of Zack's shirt.

Zack just laughs and ruffles his hair, and teases him about being a mama chocobo, which prompts another threatening glare from Cloud, and they're right back where they started.

Reno likes to baby him and tease him about being so very young, and calls him "rookie" all the time. But he also hauls him around to all of the bars that he knows, both above and below the Plate, even when Cloud protests the treatment the entire time and struggles against his hold. Their suits, so very distinctive at times, ensure that they aren't troubled by anyone at all, though the motion of people getting out of their way is far more subtle than the open wave that surrounds a SOLDIER, especially one in uniform.

The red-head likes to flirt with him all the time, too, though that seems to be something that comes as naturally to him as breathing. He'd like to screw Cloud, yes, but he's willing to wait until the blond gives in on his own free will, instead of feeling pressured into it. That doesn't stop him from groping Cloud teasingly all the time, even when he was a Turk cadet instead of a full Turk. There's just something about the blond that makes him so very molestable, and who is he to ignore a call like that?

There's nothing really serious in his attentions, though, and they both know that, and it's about all that's kept Cloud from putting Reno through a wall, insubordination or no.

On the other hand, he's also the guy that showed Cloud how to fight with the EMR, and helped him to refine his aim with guns of all sort, until working with them is second nature. Cloud still prefers bladed weapons though, and Reno even allows him to use knives as his preferred melee weapon, and when his "birthday" comes around – the day he joined the Turks – the red-head presents him with that oh-so-long knife, that almost resembles a sword.

Swords in general are usually for SOLDIERs, and Cloud keeps it in a sheath down his spine, inside of his suit jacket, and rarely actually uses it. Reno has no clue how much of a comfort it really is to Cloud, to have something like a sword at hand, even if he can only really use it in extreme emergencies. The first time he ever did use it was to guard the older Turk's back, during a mission when everything went FUBAR with no warning.

Zack and Reno might be the most irritating people that he knows, but Cloud wouldn't give them up for all the gil in the world, and he'll gladly kill to keep them safe and protected. As long as they're around and safe, he's happy, and he'll put up with anything they throw at him. Well, almost anything.

#1 – Bloodlines

The moment he was officially accepted into the Turks, he lost his last name, the name that his mother had given to him. Strife was no more, and he was merely Cloud; or rather, Cloud Turk, if anyone really needed a last name for him so badly. That day became his new birthday, or at least it was the one that he celebrated after that, though his mother still sent him presents on his old birthday.

He was never sure how to tell her that he'd joined the Turks instead of getting into SOLDIER like he'd told everyone in Nibelheim he would. Of course, initially he was still adjusting to the fact that his mother was still alive in this timeline, and that he hadn't lost her just yet. If he had anything to say about it, he wouldn't lose her at all, at least not to anything other than old age.

Beyond his tenuous relationship left with her – bound by half-real memories and the occasional letter – Cloud thought at first that he really didn't have any family at all. Yeah, Zack was his friend, but the sheer fact that he was a part of the Turks meant that he'd never be quite that brotherly with the SOLDIER this time around.

Then the other Turks slowly started integrating themselves into his life, to the point where, as Reno's current protégé, they were almost like older siblings to him. When he mentioned this, almost shyly, to the red-head, Reno had started laughing before ruffling Cloud's already-spiky hair.

"Of course we are. We're Turks, yo. Family, and all that shit. We're all we got in this crazy world."

After that he began to settle into his position as "little brother" more comfortably, and found that he kind of liked it, no matter what Reno said about him being the baby of the family. Then Elena joined the Turks full-time, and Cloud found himself with a younger sister, which was a completely new experience to him, from both lifetimes. He kind of liked it, though.

Sometimes blood relations didn't matter in family; their bloodline was found in their suits and their reputation, in their names alone. They were Turks, and that was all that he really needed some times.

#16 – Pillows

So soft... Slim limbs stretched out, luxuriating in the size of the bed and the quality of the linens used upon it. It was fine, high-quality cotton that felt better than even silk, cool and comforting. The bed was the perfect firmness as well, and the pillows...oh, the pillows.

They occupied almost the top quarter of the bed, scattered all over the headboard mattress, covered in a variety of materials and colors, ready to come to hand when they were needed. One might think that a single, lightly-built Turk wouldn't need that many pillows, but Cloud loved them all, and often found himself in the middle of pillow-nests in the middle of the night. They were damn comfortable, too.

And it's Sunday. Don't have to work today. Perfect, he continued, wrapping his arms around a body pillow and tugging it to his chest. No need to worry about his duties, no need to both with the safety of himself and everyone around him, no need for any of that at all. None

With that reassurance in mind, Cloud yawned, rolled over, and cuddled back into his pillows.

#15 – Stop that


Footsteps echoed up the stairs leading to the reactor core, black shoes shined to perfection, each step calm and steady.


Pale fingers, callused from both knives and guns, touched the door at the top of the stairs, underneath the menacing sign that read "JENOVA."


Her whispers swept through the back of his mind, but he ignored them as they tugged and pulled at his thoughts, trying to twist them this way, make him think this thing. He ignored each effort as if she meant nothing to him, as if he didn't hear her.


Almost negligently, he pushed the doors open, stepping into the room beyond, looking up the thick cables to the strange, metallic effigy that stood waiting. And there, behind it – he didn't rip it off, just slipped behind it, slim form fitting where a tall, powerful build couldn't have – she waited for him.


Again she tried to pull at his thoughts, pushing and twisting away at them, and he fed her a few, unnecessary memories to keep her occupied, so that the agonizing pain of having his mind burrowed into didn't distract him too much. They were simple things, memories of travel, tedious times where nothing much really happened, but it took her precious seconds to realize that.


As he stood before her tank, she suddenly seemed to realize that his intentions were not nice, had never been nice, and that he wasn't here to respond to her call.


"Shut up."

Silence. She seemed shocked, as if no one had ever told that to her, as if no one had ever stepped in her way before so daringly and silenced her.

Before she could recover from that shot, he brought his gun up, pointed right between her eyes, armor-piercing rounds at the ready, and fired.

#22 – Remembering

He remembered the first time he'd been in this room, when they'd first found Vincent.

The ex-Turk hadn't wanted to talk to them, hadn't wanted anything to do with them, had just wanted to lie in his coffin and sleep away his sins, but they hadn't let him. They'd dragged him out, and made him face the world, and made him confront his sins, and while he hadn't forgiven himself when Cloud had left, he had begun to try.

This time around, he wasn't going to allow the man who had once been his friend to molder away in his coffin any more than he had the first time. But now, at least, he had a distinct advantage that he hadn't had last time.

He entered the room that he'd found, scanning his surroundings as he'd been taught before taking more than a step inside, and then focused on the only covered coffin. Approaching it slowly, he checked each of the opened coffins as he came closer, gun held cautiously in one hand, spring-loaded knife ready to come into his other hand at a mere flex of muscle.

Bringing one foot up, he shoved the coffin lid off, listening to it slam onto the floor, and had the barrel of his gun pointed between open red eyes before the sound had even begun to die away.

Vincent looked exactly as he remembered from the first time, clad all in black, with the blood-red cloak circling his shoulders, the red band holding his long black hair out of his face, golden claw contrasting with the black shooting glove. Idly he wondered what the ex-Turk saw when he looked at him: a slight blond with spiky hair, gun held confidently, dressed in what must be a very familiar navy blue suit. Did he look strong, or weak? Confident, or scared?

The standoff continued for several seconds before he broke it with a cold, "Who are you?" Silence followed his question, and he wondered if the ex-Turk would actually answer with his identity, or give him a cryptic remark and try to pull the lid of his coffin back on, so that he could go back to sleep. With a kid who had looked like your average cocky adventurer, he wasn't surprised that Vincent had chosen to do the latter. But would he ignore a fellow Turk?

"Vincent Valentine." Apparently not.

Cloud let his eyes widen in surprise, but didn't drop the sights of his gun at all.

"...that's impossible. He's been dead for almost thirty years." He saw Vincent's own eyes widen, only the slightest fraction, and probably would never have noticed it if he hadn't been looking for it.

"It's been so long since he imprisoned me..." The ex-Turk shook his head. "Hojo altered me, and then locked me in here. I imagine he would have reported me dead." I was dead, Cloud knew he was thinking. His old friend was rather predictable like that.

"How can I believe you?" he asked flatly.

"I don't suppose there is anyone left who would remember me," Vincent responded, and Cloud frowned a bit, and then unclipped his radio with his spare hand, raising it to his mouth. His gun didn't waver, nor did his gaze.

"Boss, there's something down here you need to see..."

#4 – Surprise

It is generally very, very hard to surprise a Turk. On the other hand, Turks often specialize in surprising other people.

Most people didn't seem to expect surprises from Cloud, though he wasn't all too sure why; Reno said that it was because he always looked so young and innocent, but you couldn't wear their suit and remain innocent, and as for young...well, he'd stopped being young a long time ago.

It didn't help his case, though.

After a while he started taking advantage of those expectations though, using them to get into places where no one else in the Turks could go. Because those other guys, they might be plotting something, but Cloud? Nah, he was a good kid. Friend of Commander Fair's, right? Couldn't be bad.

The day that he loved that reputation the most was the day that he walked straight into Hojo's top lab, left a little surprise on the table in plain sight, and then walked straight out once more, completely and utterly unchallenged by the guards that were posted there.

He did hope that Hojo enjoyed his little "surprise." He'd put so much work into it, after all.

#23 – If it wasn't you...

"You're a little cocktease," Reno growled as he shoved Cloud up against the wall of the alley. Inside of the club, he could hear the music still pounding, matching the rhythm of his heart.

"Took you long enough to notice," he said back, lips curving into a smirk that was far more familiar on Reno's face than his own. Then he couldn't make an expression like that, because his mouth had been pressed wide open, and Reno was doing his best to find out what his tonsils were doing back there, only to discover that he didn't actually have tonsils any more.

"You wouldn't think it, not with you," the red-head gasped when they finally separated for air, though that didn't mean that his hands weren't busy. Instead, they were busy slipping underneath fabric to touch hot, sweaty skin, sliding against pale flesh, claiming it as their own, at least for the night.

Neither of them was wearing anything resembling their usual suits in the least, though Cloud hadn't bothered to take in details. Black leather, of course – that was practically expected, considering the setting. He'd stolen one of Elena's silk shirts, a shade of light blue that she rarely wore, but looked damn good on him, and left it open over a thin, sleeveless shirt. Easy to move in, fun for dancing in, the sleeveless shirt clinging to his body and showing it off while the silk hid it in tantalizing sweeps of blue.

"I mean, you're cold, icy, little Cloud, yo. But you were practically shoving my cock into your ass out there," Reno continued, and traced Cloud's neck with his tongue before biting savagely. He couldn't help the moan that escaped, and clung to the older Turk's shoulders.

"Maybe I don't want to be cold, icy Cloud tonight," he breathed back, the smirk curling back into existence. "And maybe I want your cock in my ass," he added.

Then everything got kind of confused, and his pants were around his knees while Reno's were just open at the fly, and Reno snickered at him when he found the condom and lube wedged into his back pocket, then there were fingers in his ass and he was moaning at cursing as he braced himself against the wall of the alley. Suddenly everything was still, the red-head's hands tight on his hips, the tip of his cock pressing teasingly at his asshole without quite entering.

"This aint about the job, yo. I aint doin' this just 'cause you work for me," Reno said, voice serious.

"I fucking know that, and if you don't hurry up and fuck me, then I'll go back in there and find someone who can finish this job!" Cloud snarled incoherently, and heard Reno growl loudly before leaning over him, chest against his back, cock now deliberately taunting him.

"If you do that, then I'll brand it onto your ass, yo. 'Cloud of the Turks is a fucking cocktease.' You won't be able to go anywhere in Shinra without everyone knowing that, yo!"

"Then why don't you hurry up and screw me, yo?"

And then he was, and Cloud knew that there would be bruises on his hips, and scrapes along his hands from the brick, and maybe even marks on his chest and face from being pushed against the wall. Then Reno's hand was around his own cock, and no matter what the older Turk said, Cloud wasn't the only cocktease around, because that hand was way too fucking talented and held him on the edge for way too long, before finally coming through on everything it had promised. Everything was white, and pleasure, and he didn't even care that this was Reno and not the man that he really wanted, with long hair of his own and a far more powerful build, a guy who wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near a dive like this, and he managed to bite back the name before it escaped his lips.

Gasping, Cloud came back to himself, Reno's weight heavy against his back, and pushed away from the wall a bit. The red-head staggered slightly as he moved, and then pulled himself out of Cloud's body, discarding the condom with a wet splat against the far wall of the alley. He pulled a scrap of cloth out of some pocket, and cleaned up first himself, and then Cloud, before leaning down and giving the blond one last kiss.

"Maybe not so much a cocktease, yo. Fun times. Thanks," he said, before tucking himself back into his pants and zipping up, then returning to the club. Cloud shook his head a bit before pulling his own pants, and stretching to relieve the ache that was already building.

Yeah. It might not have been quite who he wanted, but it was still worth it for now.

#30 – Touch

The first time that Sephiroth brought him into his bed, Cloud spent over half of the time just touching his lover; running his fingers along pale, scarred skin (it might look flawless occasionally, but the man had been in a war – he'd collected scars the way some people collected stamps), or gathering handfuls of silver hair together, always surprisingly soft despite their extreme length and all that the General did.

To his surprise, Sephiroth seemed just as enamored over touching him in return, large, broad hands spread out to span as much skin as possible, skin that was usually hidden by the neat blue suit; or rubbing against the back of his neck and down his spine, where his long knife was usually sheathed when he was up and about, or examining his own collection of scars – his weren't the broad marks of war, but the small, scattered, quiet brands of a different type of combat, where secrecy and stealth were the order of the day.

Cloud knew that their bodies looked so very different from one another's – Sephiroth was a soldier, as well as a SOLDIER, and so he was constructed for big battles, muscles ready to carry him through the fiercest knots of combat, strength and speed and reflexes enhanced by the mako and the Jenova. Cloud himself had never gained the height of his past-future self, nor the bulk, having been left unaltered this time around, and was instead slim and fast, built for slipping around in places where he really shouldn't be, if anyone could figure out that he was there in the first place.

But their differences made him all the more attracted to his lover, and when he arched beneath that powerful body, hands stretched up to grasp at whatever they could, he knew that this, this was exactly what he had wanted. What he had waited for. This was his whole reason for living now.

#2 – Kisses

Kisses, Cloud decided hazily in the very little part of his mind that wasn't occupied, tasted nothing like he'd heard them described in the cheesy romance novel that Elena had dared him to read. Or at least Sephiroth's kisses didn't.

They weren't sweet, or spicy, but instead tasted like skin and spit and a little bit of whatever the General had last been eating – was that broccoli? – and something else that didn't have a name but he liked anyway.

As he felt the Jenova cells within him rousing to the presence of Sephiroth's own genetics, he wondered vaguely if these kisses – if those touches – were anything like incest. And if they were, then he was sad that he hadn't taken up Loz on his offer to "play" with him, because he thought that maybe it would have been almost as incredible as this.

Almost. Because now he had everything he'd ever wanted and more; close friends, brothers and sisters of spirit, and the kisses and touch of the one man he'd wanted above all else. He wouldn't give these kisses up for anything.

But he let all of that drift away into the haze surrounding his mind, and gave himself up to Sephiroth in an act far more satisfying than being the General's Puppet had ever been.

#5 – Love bites

"Hey Cloud, what have you been...ooh, what have you been up to?" Glowing violet eyes stared intently at the Turk, a leer spreading across his lips, while Cloud just stared in incomprehension.

"Just the usual, why?" Zack's leer widened, and Cloud almost rolled his eyes. Instead he stared directly at the SOLDIER, coughing a bit to catch his attention. "What's on me?"

"'Just the usual,' huh? Looks like you've been keeping something from me, if your 'usual' gives you these," Zack said, and reached out with a gloved hand to tap the side of the blond's neck, right above the white shirt collar he was wearing.

Cloud frowned and turned to the reflective surface of a picture, ignoring the image behind the glass to look at whatever it was that had caught...Zack's...attention...

There, in plain sight above his collar, darkening his usual pale skin, was a hickey.

In shock he touched it himself with one hand, and immediately he remembered last night, arching up against Sephiroth, the silver-haired man's mouth hot against his neck, nipping so very gently, always so conscious of his increased strength whenever he was with his lover. And, apparently, rather possessive of his lover, to leave a mark where he knew the suit wouldn't cover it, because Sephiroth rarely did anything that wasn't deliberate and planned out far in advance.

"So? You holding out on me? Who's the lucky guy? Or is it a girl, 'cause I'm pretty sure you're gay, but I've been wrong before..." the SOLDIER rambled on, pulling Cloud from his musings. With a blush that took several seconds to control, he turned away from his friend, mumbled something that could have been, "shut up Zack, it's nothing" or "I've taken a new job at the Honeybee Inn" (Zack was pretty sure that wasn't it), and fled into the Turks' offices, his friend's laughter chasing him the entire way.

After the door closed behind him, he leaned against it and groaned in frustration, then moved to go ask Elena if she had some concealer he could use. And he'd get back at his lover for that mark, and then the General could deal with his nosey second in command asking uncomfortable questions.

#9 – Talking over Distance

Officially, Cloud was on the rooftop of Rufus' mansion in Costa del Sol to check out the surroundings and make sure that they were secure. Unofficially, he was on the rooftop of Rufus' mansion in Costa del Sol to talk to his lover over the PHS without Reno constantly interrupting and asking if they were having phone sex yet. And to check out the surroundings and make sure that they were secure.

"So then he had to buy her a new dress? Why?"

"I was told it was because no woman would want her clothing dry-cleaned by the same place that works on SOLDIER uniforms, and they're the only business that knows how to properly remove ichor. Since it was his fault they ran into it, he had to buy her a new one," Sephiroth replied calmly, well used to his the chaos that followed his second around like a lost puppy.

Cloud shook his head and laughed. Zack had, of course, given in uncomplainingly, because Aeris had lost none of her persuasiveness, and the SOLDIER was head-over-heels in love with her, and would do anything to her. Idly, the Turk wondered if she'd figured a way to get her boyfriend into drag just yet, but he didn't dare ask that sort of question without revealing way too much, if only the fact that he himself had once worn drag.

"That's just like him. I'll bet he promptly headed out to go get a new outfit for her. Did you manage to escape before he dragged you along?" he asked, leaning back against the angle of the roof, scanning the lawn before him.


Something in those words made him sit straight up once more; that wasn't Sephiroth's "My second-in-command is an idiot, but he's a useful idiot and I'm rather fond of him, so I'll let him live" voice. He sounded almost hesitant, but there was anticipation there as well.

"You'll have to show me what he bought you when I get back," he replied, allowing flirtation to slip into his voice.

"I believe that I shall. I think that you will...enjoy it," Sephiroth replied, and Cloud could hear his lover's version of the same thing. Oh, he knew that he would enjoy it, no matter what it was, when Sephiroth used that voice.

"I-" he started, and was cut off by a voice that was ringing out from the window just below him, underneath the eves of the roof.

"Yo! You two having phone sex yet?" Reno called, his smirk almost audible.

"...I'll call you back later. I need to go kill my boss."

"Of course. Enjoy yourself," Sephiroth replied promptly.

"Oh, I will," he purred, then snapped the PHS shut and pulled out his knives. "Oh Reno, come back here..."

#7 – Hugs

The first time Zack hugged him, he almost did his best to break the SOLDIER's arm from sheer surprise, but managed to pull himself back at the last second. He knew that the dark-haired man had seen the beginning of that reflexive movement, but he dealt with Sephiroth every day, so one twitchy little cadet shouldn't bother him.

Cloud did notice, however, that Zack went out of his way to hug him after that, until he'd gotten so used to it that he was automatically leaning into the touch whenever he came up.

The awkward part of hugs came years later, when Zack was trying to convince both him and Sephiroth that hugs were part of a good relationship.

#11 – Snowfall

"D-damn, it's c-cold," Elena muttered, drawing her thick jacket further around her in a futile attempt to shut out the wind. She'd even given up her skirt for heavy winter pants, and was eyeing their guide's thick fur hat with longing. Then she glanced over at her partner, and couldn't help but wonder how the hell he wasn't freezing his ass off.

Cloud was dressed in light winter clothing, warm enough to keep him covered, but nothing like the layers that Elena had thrown on herself. Unlike her, however, he also looked perfectly comfortable, as if the temperature was no more than a cool fall breeze. How the hell was he doing that?

As they approached the drop point, they had to leave their guide behind, and she shivered even harder, because that meant that there was one less person to break the wind for her. Cloud, of course, looked utterly unaffected by the difference, and continued on, occasionally stopping to wait for her to catch up. He didn't look impatient or upset with her, which was one reason why she was glad that she was partnered with him, and not Reno. However, when he glanced up at the sky, he obviously saw something that caused him concern, because he did begin to urge her to pick up her pace.

"What's wrong?" she asked, even though she did as she was told, stretching her legs out a bit to lengthen her stride as much as she dared on the rocky surface.

"There's a snow storm coming," he replied, and she wondered how he could tell that just by looking at the sky. It wasn't as if she had any experience with meteorology – she was from Midgar. They didn't have weather there, not really.

When the storm caught them halfway back from the drop point, he was the one that found them a shallow cave that was devoid of any other residents, and they curled around each other for warmth, though she was fairly certain that she needed it more than he did.

"What the heck is up with you?" she wondered sleepily, her head resting on his shoulder.

"Nibelheim's colder than this during the winter," he responded, equally as quietly, though far more alertly. He'd obviously chosen to take first watch, then. "I'm used to temperatures like this, so they don't really bother me all that much." There was something else there that he wasn't telling her, but she didn't push it. Not when he was so warm, and the snow was still falling outside.

#20 – Far away

Cloud looked around the apartment in confusion for a second, standing just inside the door with his suit jacket draped over one shoulder, before he remembered why it was empty. Sephiroth was gone, on some mission somewhere for some reason; he didn't care about finding out right now, not when he was tired and sore and missed his lover.

He hung the jacket up, and then headed for the bathroom, shedding his clothing along the way in neat, orderly piles that could be picked up in the proper order on the way back to the bedroom, until he was completely naked. Turning on the shower, he absently scratched at a healing scab on his chest, the wound long and shallow, barely having cut the skin. It hadn't bothered him in the least until now, and it was itching like crazy, and he knew that his slightly accelerated healing was kicking in to take care of it.

When he got cuts like this and Sephiroth was home, his lover would always wash the wounded part with tenderness, assuring the both of them that it was as trivial as it seemed. When he got worse wounds, the General was even more careful, making sure that his every need was met as far as he could take care of.

But Sephiroth wasn't home, and he was left wishing that he was wherever the silver-haired General was, just...being with him. Having the cuts washed, or maybe being pulled until that long, strong chest was pressed against his back, heat a line along his ass as he arched into his lover's touches until neither of them could take it any longer, and he was either lifted up and settled upon his lover's cock, or turned and pressed against the shower wall to cling to strong shoulders as his own cock was sucked, before being urged downward to repeat the favor. Or taking the lazy option, and just rubbing against one another until they needed to shower all over again.

Instead, he was left to clean his own skin, and then to take himself in hand and relieve the pressure that had been building inside his groin, a poor substitute until, once again, his lover returned to his side for the little things that he needed.

#12 – Alone

There were a few days in existence that Cloud wished that he hadn't gained quite as many friends as he had ended up with. In fact, he wished that he didn't have friends at all, or at leas that they would respect his space and his timing.

Today was one of them, though not for reasons that anyone would understand. After all, the tragedy that it marked hadn't happened yet, and as long as Cloud had his say, it never would. It had been averted so far, and so he would do his best to keep pushing it further and further away from the realm of possibility.

Though he had never been all that fond of the town, Cloud refused to allow Nibelheim to burn once again. And if he wanted to take a moment to sit and reflect on the path that had brought him to where he was today, then he had every right to do so, no matter that Zack had accused him of being broodier than Sephiroth, and Reno had wondered what had crawled up his ass and died.

He didn't care what they said about him just then. He just wanted a chance to be alone and remember all of the pain that he had ended up going through because of that horrible, damnable night.

#29 – Tattoo

Reno was the one to insist that he get a tattoo of some sort, though Cloud himself didn't think that it was particularly necessary. That didn't stop the red-head from getting him fairly drunk one evening and dragging him off to a tattoo parlor, where he badgered the blond until he came up with an idea for something to permanently mark his skin.

Cloud didn't want anything nearly as distinctive as Reno's eye-marks, and so decided that he wanted to get it done somewhere that he could easily cover up. When looking through design ideas for back tattoos, he saw something that made his eyes light up, and went to explain his idea to the artist. Both tattooist and Reno were slightly skeptical, and Reno said it would look all out of balance, but the tattooist didn't care as long as he was paid well, and it would look interesting, at least.

Days later, when Cloud finally took the bandage off, a single white angel wing spread itself across his left shoulder blade, the longer flight feathers curving down along his back.

#27 – Fluffy things

Cloud had never expected Rude to be much of a cat person, but there he was, navy suit perfectly pressed, ever-present sunglasses firmly in place, bald head shining, with a fuzzy little kitten perched on his shoulder and staring around the Turk office with wide, surprised eyes. His foreboding stance absolutely dared someone to ask about the fuzz ball's presence, and since most of the people in Shin-Ra weren't fools, they stayed silent.

The blond man had expected Reno to say something teasing about the kitten, which hadn't yet moved from its perch, but was surprised once again. Instead, the red-head approached his quiet partner (and his feline companion) and leaned over the kitten, cooing at it and rubbing his fingers along its spine, gaining a pleased spine-arch in return. He'd even wagged a few long strands of hair in its direction, and while that received a few playful bats, the kitten seemed disinclined to pursue the chase.

Tseng entered the office, his dark eyes flicking over each of his Turks and acknowledging their status, noted the kitten, and then moved on to whatever it was that he was doing before. Cloud wondered then if this had happened before, and if so, he must have been away each time, because he was still confused.

Elena was absolutely useless upon catching sight of the little thing, squeaking at it in a baby voice and petting it, hovering over the dark Turk and his fuzzy companion until Rude gave her a Look, which sent her back to her desk. It didn't keep her from staring longingly at the feline, and occasionally making a short trip over there once again to pet it for a few seconds.

He himself had expected the kitten to ignore him – actually, he was fairly sure that Rude had trained it to do practically that. Therefore, he (and everyone else in the office) was very, very surprised when the kitten took one look at him when he was at Rude's desk to talk to him, and promptly decided to abandon ship, leaping from Rude's shoulder to Cloud's suit jacket, climbing up his body surprisingly quickly, to settle itself in a warm, purring ball on top of his head, amidst blond spikes of hair.

#6 – If only

"I wonder what the world would be like, if something had gone...differently," Zack said, staring up at the dark sky from the roof of the Tower while they both searched for anything resembling stars.

"Differently?" Cloud asked, peering at something before deciding no, it was just the reflection of something in the distance. "What sort of differences?"

"I dunno," the SOLDIER replied. "If, maybe...you'd gotten into SOLDIER. I be you'd be First Class by now, and we'd have been working together the entire way. Or, for something more entertaining, if you had been born a girl; or if I'd been born a girl. Or if one of us were dead now, what would the other one be like? Things like that, you know?" Cloud looked his friend over slowly, and then shook his head.

"You worry too much. You know stuff like that can't happen. There's only this life, to do with as we can," he replied, voice nonchalant and relaxed. He doesn't let his discomfort show – he knows one of the possible "what ifs" all too well.

#3 – Giving Up


Cloud stared up at Reno, face pale but expressionless, as everything he'd done since he'd been sent back in time came crashing down to confront him, and he knew that his secret was secret no longer. He had no way of avoiding this – not with all the work the other Turk had done. But he wanted to keep his superior's attention, and keep him from cutting him off before he'd told the whole story (in brief), and to keep him from assuming that he was batshit crazy (which he probably was, but in a different way).

"Once," he said softly, reaching back so very, very long ago to the memories that were still tattered and broken, "there was a boy who wanted to be a SOLDIER."

Reno raised his eyebrow at the beginning of the story, but let his subordinate continue on, as long as he told him everything.

"The boy was from a small town, and he wanted to prove that he was strong, and he promised not to return until he was a SOLDIER, and left them behind. He entered training, far away from his home, and found that, while he was eager, and did his best, he wasn't good enough to enter SOLDIER. Maybe if he had more time, he could have become stronger and tried again, but something happened first.

"The boy was sent on a mission back to his home town, along with another trooper; SOLDIER whom he greatly admired, and who had befriended him; and the man that the boy admired most of all, the great General. But the boy hadn't filled his promise, and so he told no one in the town of his presence other than his mother, and they did not know that he was there."

At the mention of "the great General," Reno's eyebrows rose again. He knew about Cloud's near-obsession with the man, and wondered how it connected to this story. It had to, or else the younger Turk wouldn't have mentioned it.

"In the town, something horrible happened, and the General went insane, and slaughtered almost everyone there. He burned the town down, and went to the mako reactor that was near there, all in response to a call only he could hear. At the reactor, there was a fight, and the boy and the SOLDIER were left to die, while the General fell into the mako reactor itself.

"But the SOLDIER and the boy didn't die, and they were taken captive, because they had seen the great General's fall. They were held captive for five years and tortured and experimented upon, until they were no longer quite what they had once been. After five years they escaped, and ran for a place that they thought was safe. However, they were hunted the entire way, and the SOLDIER died protecting the boy; and before he died, he gave the boy his sword and sent him the rest of the way to safety.

"The boy, who physically wasn't a boy any longer, but a man that was equal to a SOLDIER, forgot who he was for a long time, until he was reminded of his identity through pain and loss. He fought the specters of his past, and came into his own, though he still sharply felt the loss of all that he had once loved and cared for, even though, in the end, the planet ended up with a lot more to hope for than it once had."

"And the kid found the love of his life and lived happily ever after, yeah?" Reno said, snorting. "What the hell does that have to do with-"

"I'm not finished, sir," Cloud interrupted, eyes serious. That was the expression he wore on the most important of missions, the ones that he did not dare fail, because to do so would mean...everything. "That's just the beginning. The really important part comes now.

"Because the boy wasn't happy, and though he had friends and people he could almost call family, he couldn't settle down, and he couldn't give up the tattered remnants of his old dream. So when, one night, the spirit of the SOLDIER that had died reached out to him from the Lifestream and gave him an option, he took it. He was sent back in time, to try and alter what had happened, to change the past, so that, at least in one world, he could be happy. The Planet had decided that he deserved that chance."

...time travel. The red-head's expression of skepticism was completely and utterly obvious on his face. But he hadn't broken in again, and instead let the blond continue.

"When he awoke in his own past, he trained himself until he was approaching the level of skill he had possessed in the future, though since he had had SOLDIER-strength and abilities, he couldn't quite reach that. He took the SOLDIER test again, and while he passed the section that had ruined his dreams before, he found that, as a result of the experiments that had been done to him, and the gift that the Planet had given to him, he would never be able to be a SOLDIER.

"The boy thought that his dreams were crushed, and he would have to go through everything all over again, and that he would lose everything all over again. Then he was approached by a man named Tseng, who had seen his skill and wanted to recruit him. The boy accepted the offer, because maybe he could change history that way, and so the boy, who had once wanted to become a SOLDIER, became a Turk instead."

Finally Reno couldn't take it.

"And so, what did this "boy" do, yo? To change things this time around."

"He hacked into the General's computer, redirected the assignment of the mission that had started it all, and then, when he got the chance, went back to his home town and did his best to destroy the thing that caused the General to go insane and the world to nearly end," Cloud answered calmly.

Reno stared at him for a good, long while, and Cloud sat where he was and waited. There wasn't anything else he could do. Okay, so he hadn't gone into any sort of detail about all of the shit that had happened to him over those years, hadn't even touched the concept of Sephiroth coming back from the dead, but less being a clone of his (if failed), the whole Meteor incident, and then the thing two years later with the Remnants, much less gone into any detail about Jenova and the fact that she was an alien, or Sephiroth's actual parentage. But that wasn't really all that important if Reno didn't accept the bare bones of the story. It all hinged on that.

"So..." Awkward silence. "The future, yo?"

And the chance was given.

#24 – Dreaming

"Looks like you've gotten yourself pretty much taken care of," a voice said from behind Cloud, and he opened his eyes to look around himself. The last thing he knew, he'd gone to sleep sticky and satisfied, wrapped up in arms stronger than even the most powerful regular SOLDIER. But now...

It was a place that he hadn't seen for years, one that he'd almost forgotten, except for the fact that you could never forget it.

A field of white and yellow flowers stretched on before him into eternity, the sky and ground illuminated with white light, and when he turned around he saw a pair of very familiar figures. Side-by-side, Aeris and Zack smiled at him, and he returned the expression fully, glad to see them – even though he'd seen a slightly different version of them just earlier that day. But these two were different – they knew everything that he had gone through.

Which meant that he was in the Lifestream now, though hopefully he was just visiting, not here for good.

"We just wanted to check up on you one last time, and reassure you that all those that you cared about from your future are fine. They miss you, but..." Aeris trailed off, and then smiled brightly. "You're so much happier where you are than where you were."

"This is goodbye for good," Zack added, and then reached out and ruffled his hair. "Don't let me bully you around too much, but that doesn't mean that you can't give in occasionally. It's part of what makes life so interesting, right?" Cloud rolled his eyes at that, but stayed silent in regards to it.

"Take care of yourself, Spike," the SOLDIER ordered, leaning in to plant a loving kiss on one of the blond's cheeks, while Aeris kissed the other side. She added, "We love you," and then they faded away into the darkness of normal dreams, leaving a warm spot on each cheek.

Notes on the 'Verse

- For #23 ("If it weren't you...") I had initially intended on Zack/Cloud, because that's one of my favorite FF7 pairings. Then my brain stepped in and said, "Sorry, but Zack happens to be in a rather committed relationship with Aeris." So I was left staring at the prompt, going, "Uh..." until Reno stepped up with his usual cocky grin and said, "I'd tap that." So Reno/Cloud came into being in this 'verse, to my surprise.

- I know next to nothing about the way that the Turks are run, and everything that I do know comes from fanfiction. If I've gotten something wrong, then just attribute it to my own lack of knowledge and the fact that this is AU. I actually tried not to go too far into detail on them.

- On a sub-note of the above, my personal sense of the Turk structure in this fic was that Tseng was Turk Leader and Reno was his Second (don't know if that's actually cannon), and then there was a small, core group of Turks; essentially, the officers, the Turks who show the most skill and potential. There are other Turks who aren't quite as central, and who are thus stationed in places other than Midgar. And there are the Turk cadets, who are handpicked from various places, including SOLDIER trainees who didn't get in for one reason or another, or who found the Turks to be more attractive than SOLDIER. Cloud started out as a Turk cadet, and turned out to be very, very talented at that sort of thing, and as soon as he "graduated" from the training (a.k.a. survived it), he entered the core group of Turks stationed in Midgar.

- I don't actually know how Cloud and Sephiroth finally got together, but I imagine that it had something to do with Reno and Zack getting together to help things along. There may have been copious amounts of ribbon involved as well. Cloud just blushes and refuses to tell me whenever I ask him, and Sephiroth won't even deign to look at me. Zack and Reno snicker.

- The Cloud of this timeline is a lot less moral than the Cloud of the game; in this 'verse, at least, he has his few Precious People, who he will defend until death. Those precious people are as follows: Sephiroth, Zack, Aeris, and the core group of Turks. Probably Rufus as well, because he is a Turk, and anything else wouldn't be allowed. The others from AVALANCHE and his previous timeline are almost as important, but not quite Others he might help, but if something calls his loyalty into question, he'll protect his People first, and damn whatever laws or morals that might get in the way of that. Thus why he had no problem taking out Jenova and Hojo long before they could do anything; preemptive strikes are perfectly allowed.

- When he was sent back in time, Cloud had most of the same alterations that he had before, but in a much, much smaller percentage. It was enough to make him stronger and faster, but not nearly as much as a SOLDIER; with the alterations, it makes it seem like he was merely born with a higher level of natural mako than most people, as the Jenova cells don't really show up. Unfortunately, it altered him enough that the SOLDIER injections didn't take, and instead made him sick.

- I borrowed several concepts from various other fanfics, including the idea that Turks don't have last names, Reno is the second in command, and a couple of others that I don't remember off the top of my head. I lay no claim to these ideas: I just really liked them. If they're cannon, then yay?