Well, as promised everyone, this is it....the very last chapter. This is the 'bonus' chapter that my muses gifted to me, and which I now gift to you. I just want to say a massive, massive, thank you to everyone that read, and especially to the ones that bothered to review.
I know I've made a few new fans along the way, and I think that warms me just as much as hearing from my old faithfuls. May my newbies, become oldies :)
Well, until the next time that inspirtation strikes me, I hope you all enjoy this chapter, and I look forward to any comments or questions you might have. Take care and be safe....Mitts
Oh, and before I forget, for those of you following Family, the latest chapter of that story has also been published :P
Cloud looked around at the shrouded faces of the Council of Elders. Not a single one of them had given him any encouraging sign that everything was going to be alright.
He tugged at the cuffs holding his hands together, the tight metal bands cutting into his wrists, while his arms, pulled tight behind his back, ached.
"Council members, and the defendant, may sit," came the voice of one of the Elders.
Cloud thankfully turned his pinioned arms towards the guard standing behind him, waiting patiently for them to be released. Then he rubbed at his raw wrists for a moment, before sinking down onto the hard wooden chair in the defendant's box, glancing around the room.
There were sixteen men opposite him, all dressed in the brown and gold hooded robes of the higher sanctions. They were seated facing him in a semi circle, waiting to judge him. Waiting to condemn him. Cloud found himself swallowing nervously, his throat and mouth dry. He blinked hard several times, his mind frantically trying to think of what he had been accused of, the reason for him being there.
Upon his arrival back at base camp, his friends had been overjoyed to see him. His escape from the Shin-Ra army had been hailed a miracle, and he was made to tell about it over and over again until his commander in chief had intervened, insisting that he go to the medical section and report in to get his wounds seen to.
The doctors on the campus had taken a keen interest in him, jotting down notes and taking pictures of all his injuries, including the bruising around his ravaged anus.
Being given the all clear, Cloud had been allowed a few days to settle back into the routine of camp life, had been granted permission to rest and recuperate before taking up his duties once again.
Everyone wanted to know what it had been like, his imprisonment. Cloud found himself talking freely of the beatings that he had suffered. But for some reason, he clammed up tight over the sex he had shared with the general.
Yesterday morning, his commander had summoned him to his room. Extending his hand out in greeting, he had told Cloud to sit. Cloud had shook the offered limb warmly, and had taken the seat confidently. He wasn't at all surprised at being called for. It was only obvious that his superior would want to know the details for himself, and Cloud had willingly supplied all the information asked of him.
But again, Cloud had found himself keeping certain details a secret. His commander hadn't pressed him, didn't try to force him to answer any question he felt uncomfortable with. And Cloud had been grateful to the man for that. Even his friends had given up in their attempts to find out from him what the great General Sephiroth was like. All Cloud wanted to do, was forget the man.
By evening time, Cloud had been arrested.
Now, listening to the heavy silence that fell over the room, Cloud nervously chewed on his lower lip. The small metal chip that had been imbedded in his temple that morning seemed to be throbbing against his skull, and he wished he could rip it out. But he knew it would only be removed once his 'trial' was over. The device was used as a truth detector. It monitored brainwaves, picking up changes in the wearers thinking patterns, and heating up by degrees to tally with fluctuation.
He heard his name and rank called out, and he stood to attention.
"Cloud Strife....you have been called here, before the Elders, because we believe you to have become a turncoat...a traitor."
Cloud's eyes narrowed in puzzlement, a look of disbelief on his face. "I beg your pardon, sir?" he said, bewildered.
"We believe you are withholding information from us," the voice continued. "Why would you do that, Strife?"
"Because....I'm not, sir," Cloud stated, trying to sound convincing.
The chip in his head burned a little.
"People that withhold secrets always do so for a reason, Strife," added another nameless voice.
Cloud twisted to look at this new accuser, again a denial upon his lips. "I don't know what you're talking about, sir."
The stinging burning of the chip caused his eyes to water.
"You were caught, during your mission, yes?"
Cloud nodded, and the pain receded.
"You were imprisoned, correct?"
Again Cloud nodded, the aching almost completely gone.
"You were tortured during your time there?"
"Yes sir, I was."
Cloud found his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. He didn't want to mention the silver haired man's name. He never wanted to say it, ever again. But he knew he couldn't lie about who had hurt him either, not unless he wanted the embedded chip to fry his brain.
"You were asked a question, cadet."
"I.... I....It was....."
"You have been heard to tell your friends that you were tortured by the legendary General Sephiroth. Is this true?"
Cloud hesitated. He hadn't used the word 'tortured' to his friends. He had said he was beaten, that much was true. But he had never told them why he was beaten.....as a prelude to sex.
"So, we are to take your silence as a 'yes'?"
Cloud simply nodded, lowering his face, hoping to again avoid the issue.
One of the Council members stood up, holding aloft a folder.
"This, my fellow judges, is a report of the boy's injuries upon his return here. He claims he was tortured. By Shin-Ra's greatest leader, no less. Well gentlemen, I ask that you study the details and photos of his, 'wounds'. General Sephioroth is well known, by everyone, to be a violent, deranged man. Do these findings really have the bearings of such a madman?"
"I came back with a black eye....a swollen cheek," Cloud protested, lifting his head up and staring across at the hooded men, as if he could still show them the extent of the damage that had been done to his face.
"Oh yes, and how very simple such things would be to administer to oneself," one of the other Elders countered, to which a murmur of agreement went around the room.
As the standing Elder sat, another threw a question at Cloud.
"Did you truly even meet with this, General Sephiorth?"
Cloud felt trapped. He wanted to run from the room, wanted to escape this line of questioning. Once free from the terror of being incarcerated within the walls of the Shin-Ra barracks, he had thought he would be allowed to forget his captor, and what he had done to him. Now, these men, his own peers, were forcing him to recall it over again. And not just remember it, but they wanted him to speak about it. He swallowed hard, trying to force down the molten lump that was seemingly lodged in his throat.
"I ask again, Strife....Did you ever meet......"
"Yes!" Cloud shouted.
Silence filled the room for a moment while they took in his answer. Then the barrage of questioning began again.
"How did he torture you?"
"Were you kept with other prisoners?"
"How many times did you try to escape?"
"Were you able to liaison with members of your group whilst there?"
"What did you give as your defense at your trial?"
Cloud closed his eyes and rubbed his face tiredly. His shoulders slumped forward, and he felt drained and exhausted. He didn't understand why this was happening.
A hand touched him gently on the shoulder, and he turned his head to see the guard offering him a glass of cold water. Cloud's eyes welled with tears as he instinctively found himself lifting the glass towards the light, checking it for cleanliness. He almost wanted to throw the glass and its contents to the floor for daring to be yet another reminder of the man that had caused all this trouble for him. But he didn't. Instead, he gulped the drink down and handed the empty vessel back safely to the waiting guard.
"We'll take it a little slower for you, shall we?"
Cloud took a deep breath, and squared his shoulders.
"Are you ready?"
"I'm ready, sir."
"Where were you kept?"
"At first, I was isolated, sir."
"And then..... I was kept in the private quarters of General Sephiroth."
More quiet murmuring followed his answer.
"How many escape attempts did you make?"
"None, sir. Though it wasn't through lack of not wanting to try," Cloud hastened to add. "But, but....it was impossible. I was chained at all times. Rarely left alone. And even when I was, I was securely locked in his room with no way out."
"At your trial, how did you plead?"
Cloud was a little thrown off at the sudden change in questioning.
"There...was no trial," he admitted.
Laughter rang around the room now, and Cloud felt his temper grow.
"You were a prisoner of war, and yet you were denied a fair trial? Why would that be, unless of course, they had no need to try an ally...one of their own?"
"That's not true...I'm not a member of Shin-Ra," Cloud argued angrily.
"How were you tortured?"
"What? I mean....electro shocks. Beatings."
"So, no fingernails were ripped from their beds? No white hot irons were placed upon you? No whips or canes used so brutally upon your back that you were marked or scarred?"
Cloud shook his head.
"Isn't it true that you were, maybe still are, the lover of this General Sephiorth? Isn't it safe to say, that he has sent you here to spy on us? Haven't you been sent back on his orders, to infiltrate us? How much have you already told him about the goings on here, Strife?"
"I'm not his lover. I hate the bastard," Cloud retaliated strongly.
"The results from the medical examination made upon your return here shows that, prior to your unbelievable 'escape', you had engaged in anal intercourse. You had allowed someone to penetrate and violate your body. And there are clear indications that it was a sordid act that you were well use to. You were, in fact, enjoying a sexual relationship with the general, were you not?"
"He raped me!"
The words were uttered with force before Cloud could even stop them.
"How many times? Once? Twice?"
"Were you raped simply as a means for him to extract information from you? Or did you sleep willingly with him?"
Cloud began shaking his head, wanting to deny the last allegation, but knowing he couldn't.
"How many times did you try to prevent him raping you, Strife?"
"Every time," Cloud hissed.
"So, you fought him each and every time?"
"You want us to believe, that you tried nobly to protect your honor? That you risked your life, by daring to raise a hand against him? And yet in fact, the photographic evidence we have from your examination results clearly show that, not only did you not incur any broken bones, but neither did you even sustain a single fracture anywhere upon your person. Can you explain to us, Strife, how such a powerful man as this Sephiroth, would let such an act of subordination go unpunished?"
"Strife... Was he a gentle rapist? Or were you not really trying to fight him off? After all, who wants to really harm their lover?"
Cloud could only stand and stare at them all. As far as he was concerned, they had already made up their minds about him, and had decided where his loyalties lie. "You weren't there," he said quietly, submissively, all fight gone out of him.
"No we weren't' agreed one member of the Elders. "But you can be sure that if we were, we would not be coming back here with love bites and marks of passion upon our bodies. Perhaps, for us, we might not ever have made it out alive at all."
"What are you saying?" Cloud asked, aghast. "That I should have stayed there? That I should have died in that hellhole?"
A heavy silence met his question.
"Fuck the lot of you," Cloud yelled, his patience lost. "I thought it was bad there. All I could think about, all that kept me going, was knowing that someday, somehow, I would make it back here. Home. But it's not my home any longer is it? You've just made it into another prison for me. And for why? Because I wasn't treated the way you wanted me to be?" He spat upon the floor in front of him. "And you dare to accuse the general of being a madman."
"You are defending him, Strife?"
Cloud recognized the owner of this questioning voice, even if he couldn't see the man's face. It was his own commander in chief.
"You were one of our best fighters, Strife," the voice continued. "If you would, please explain how you allowed yourself to get captured so easily. It was planned, was it not? You led your comrades to the ambush. You knew the Turks were lying in wait for them. You sold out your own allies."
"I didn't!" Cloud screamed. "I swear to you I didn't." His knuckles turned white with the grip he had upon the wooden barrier in front of him. His teeth were bared, his nostrils flaring. He was ready to kill the next person that dared to challenge his loyalty.
"Tell us, why did this General Sephiroth single you out for his own personal attention, Strife?" another Elder asked. Cloud jerked his head around to face this latest accuser. "What made you so special?"
"I don't know why he picked on me, sir," Cloud admitted. "Perhaps he simply found me attractive." His softly spoken voice was drowned out amid the snickers that rent the room.
The Elder who was seated in the centre of the group now stood up, and his voice rang out clearly with the powerful strength of authority.
"I believe the boy tells the truth," he said serenely, his masked face directed at Cloud.
The others become quiet at his words, and a hush now filled the room as all the other hooded faces turned towards the dominant speaking male.
"I believe it is indeed possible for another man to attach feelings for one as pretty as Cadet Strife. While I do believe that he is indeed hiding something from us, I also feel that, what it is he is trying to keep hidden are in fact his own private thoughts and feelings about his experiences within Shin-Ra. And those inner turmoil's, my fellow comrades, I believe he has to learn to come to terms with by himself."
Several hooded heads were nodded in agreement, and Cloud felt his knotted insides slowly un-tense.
"Cadet Strife, it is my decision that you will be taken from here, and you will be debriefed before resuming your duties. You will tell of everything and anything that you have learned that will be of benefit to us, and you will mention whatever you think will assist us in understanding our enemy better. We need to discover any small chink in their armor. You will tell us the names, if known, of every person you came into contact with. You will also tell of their roles within the group. I want to know everything there is to know, Strife, about life within Shin-Ra, and the goings on there." The speaker paused for a moment before finishing his speech. "As for your own personal memories of your time spent there.... you may keep those to yourself."
Cloud breathed a sigh of relief, his blue eyes closing briefly in silent prayer, giving a small nod of acceptance towards the main speaker.
"Escort him out."
Once his debriefing session was over, Cloud did his best to settle back into his old routine.
Desirous of sexual release, he had taken advantage of the affections one of his friends had begun to show him, returning the man's shy kisses and advances.
They were in bed now, naked, and petting heavily. The man's cock was hard and weeping with need, while Cloud was having trouble getting his to harden. Even though his veins were pumping with desire and wanting, an erection eluded him.
"What's wrong?" came a muffled voice from between his open thighs.
"Hit me," Cloud answered.
A brunette head raised inquiring eyes upwards. "What?"
Cloud thought about the times of passion he had shared with the general. And in each and every memory, he remembered pain coupled with his sexual gratification.
"I want you to punch me," he said to the kneeling man.
"I'm not going to hit you, Cloud," his friend replied, not understanding. He tried to go back to performing fellatio on the blonds soft cock, but Cloud stopped him by smacking at his face.
"Strike me back," Cloud goaded.
Hurt and angry, his friend had stood up and, thrusting his feet into the legs of his pants he had let his disappointment show.
"You're not there any longer, Cloud. You're not a prisoner any more. You have to stop thinking about it. You didn't enjoy your time there, did you?"
"No. But the sex was good," Cloud countered, glibly.
The dark haired man walked towards the doorway, pausing to look back at Cloud, shaking his head sadly.
"You're sick, Cloud. You really need to see someone."
"No," Cloud groaned into his pillows as the door closed behind his friend. "The one person I need to see is the one person I can never see again."
Over the next few weeks, Cloud found himself visiting the brothel and paying for men, like he thought he would do when he had been a prisoner. And for a while, paying men to fight with him before letting them fuck him seemed to work. But then came the night when the brothel owner had turned him away.
"You're too damn rough, Strife. Not one of my boys's has ever left your company without being covered in cuts and bruises. And lately, they say you're getting rougher. You're seriously going to hurt one of them, Strife, and I can't allow that. You do realize I lose money on them when you leave them all bruised up, don't you? If you damage them so badly they can't work, who pays for their earnings, eh?"
Cloud had practically begged and pleaded, even offered to double the asking price. But the owner had steadfastly refused.
Dejected, Cloud had returned to his room, gathered up his meager belongings and, taking one final look around at what had once been all that he knew and loved, he had picked up the keys to his motorbike.
Adjusting his goggles, his face set and determined, Cloud started Fenrir up with a roar, and without looking back once, he drove out into the darkness, steering his vehicle towards Midgar, hoping to come face to face with his destiny.