An ordinary boy, Cloud Strife attempts to be one of the best soldiers in his Academy with the help of his best friend Raphael only to come across some unwanted attention from his idol, General Sephiroth. An AU fic, soon to be a novel...somewhat, and it contains a mixture of FFX, VIII and VII, so you might come across some very familiar descriptions. :) The worldmap is not entirely fixed on VII, by the way, so do expect places like Balamb, Dollet and Besaid to come into the picture. Still playing FFVII, so please bear with me if I don't get everything right! Also, it would be nice if you'd review, hope I'm not asking too much:)

All characters and events are fictious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright ©Micheal Lee 2005-2008. All rights reserved. No portion of this work of fiction may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

It began one day in the Midgar Military Mercenary Academy. One day that was no different from the unchanging, unceasing monotony that lurked in the halls in the realm of the cadets and militia alike. Monotony. Attainable throughout the years spent here. No one could set foot inside and not feel the lull of dullness pull at oneself. It was almost like swallowing sweet poison: you gave in to it at first, felt yourself weakening under its pressure and before you realised it was too late, your legs dropped to the floor. Soon, so did the rest of you.

Many a boy and girl would try their worth in the Academy where it ran a military programme called SOLDIER for gifted students. This special force comprising of militia frequently dispatched youthful fighters all around the world on missions that often required fighting, the usage of magic and summoned creatures called Guardian Forces. Thus, the students were often equipped with various lethal weapons and magical spheres called Materia that often took few to many years to master. There was no such thing as a limit to the number of weapons the instructors of the Academy could wield, which was also one of the things that made it renowned worldwide. Artilleries ranging from swords and guns to whips and gauntlets were as common as snow in the northern region as were nunchakus and staffs. Once they were fully mastered, the owner frequently chanced to either remodel it or try their hand at another instrument. It was always profitable to know how to handle more than one equipment in different situations.

General Sephiroth felt no inclination to shift himself from the calm tranquillity of the office of which he had been occupying since morning doing paperwork. He had been informed of the gathering of militia for the usual, lacklustre, weekly morning assembly in the Great Hall by another stuttering student who trembled at his belligerence. Tedious, that was what it was. Vain, weak-hearted and stupid revolting clowns who chose to bore the cadets with their equally useless speeches about themselves. In fact, if the academy could deliver its speeches without the students being involved, he would be more than obliged to listen. It usually pertained to unimportant matters, like the rules in the cafeteria, annual activities and awards.

Another factor that made SOLDIER so legendary was because of the hailed Wutaian warrior, the great Sephiroth. He became a sort of semi-god or idol to young boys aspiring to be like him in the programme and a heart-throb to maidens because of his remarkable progress in the ranks of the armed forces. From a mere trainee to a General, and a great General at that, in only two years, when it took a painful period of four to at least make it as Lieutenant. However, quickly earning himself a position high up in the ranks did nothing to diminish his ennui of staying there. Neither could he leave, even if he desired so.

Sephiroth sighed and glanced resentfully at the clock hanging on the wall. He would have to attend it anyway, as it was highly expected from someone who held the post of General.

Vain, weak-hearted and stupid, he cursed under his breath as he donned a splendid leather robe and fastened one of the many buckles on it. Fingers traced the fair expanse of skin on his chest as he admired himself in the mirror. Tendrils of platinum blond hair fell into his face, and with a delicate flick, he pushed them away, as if they would mar his appearance. With two violent movements, Sephiroth tugged on his gloves and flexed his lithe fingers a few times to ensure they fitted comfortably between them. Made from the finest elk hide which had been dyed three times to obtain the perfect shade of black, it was the most excellent pair of the highest quality and Sephiroth would settle for no less.

He carefully slid his hands underneath his head and pushed his hair outwards. Magnificent locks of hair fanned out, catching the morning light and finally coming to rest themselves just below his rear end. With a turn of his shoulders, he proceeded out of the room, closing the door behind him.

The General passed from compartment to compartment, from passage to passage, of the large and irregular building; till emerging from a somewhat total and dreary silence pervading that portion of the school that he had traversed, he came upon the hum of a thousand voices and presently entered a wide, long room with great deal tables, two at each end. Seated around the tables were a congregation of boys and girls, ranging between thirteen and twenty. Seen by the dim lights, their number appeared to be countless.

They were uniformly dressed in black straitjackets with white lining and baggy trousers; navy blue skirts for the ladies, which were graced by a pair of combat boots, as was how the militia wore. A bright yellow bow was woven into their collars. Strapped to their forearms, hands, waists, backs, thighs and calves were their weapons. General Sephiroth had done similarly: his long sword, Masamune, had been hung on the right side of one lean hip.

He took a seat near the door, along with the other instructors and a jovial-looking auburn-haired commanding officer of whom he acknowledged as he passed. He was met by a cool breeze and the view of the entire hall at his feet; now that he could see, there weren't over a thousand students anyway, more like seven hundred. Figures in dark colours moved about, some fighting over for seats, others only chatting away. The buzz of talk rose like a fire belching soot into the air, wafting like smoke towards the rafters. Heads that were mostly a boring brown colour filled the assemble room. In some parts of the large crowd, red and yellow ochre burst brightly whereas others were accented by black. The place reminded Sephiroth of a prison, rather than an academy.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sephiroth noticed many an avid cadet had paused momentarily in his or her tracks at a horse's length to ogle unnervingly at him. Being famous throughout the world, the flint-haired man was quite used to this given attention when people stared in amazement either because of who he was or just his good looks. Unlike others, Sephiroth's sharp but slightly feminine features that contrasted to his masculine body and baritone voice were a rare but wondrous beauty to behold in men, which was why he was sought after a tremendous number of individuals.

Finally, a noble-looking man strode into the Great Hall, the many badges adorning his breast catching the light and almost blinding Sephiroth. The Major General, Johann, wore the black of his school and a sword at his waist. He was lean like a fighter, and his most imposing feature was his elegantly hooked nose. He came to rest beside Sephiroth and held out his arm in welcome. The two men clasped hands in the military fashion, careful to show no weakness in grip. The voices of the students died away in a heartbeat as Johann stood close to the microphone: their Major General was about to present a speech.

'A very fine morning greets us this day…'

Sephiroth ignored him. Vain, weak-hearted and stupid, he repeated to himself, without the slightest giveaway of emotions. It was nothing overly crucial, indeed, just as he had predicted. Cynical flint grey eyes surveyed the room. He noted the weary looks of the students as the effect of the excess of speeches became clear: some sighed loudly, others yawned. Several glanced at their wrists to check the time, many resolved to daydreaming. Poor souls.

He scanned the sea of murky brown. A bright colour of some sort caught the corner of his eye and he followed the trail until both rested upon a pinprick of blond hair just several yards away from him.

Sephiroth's mind sharpened. This was interesting: fair hair was never really common amongst the students, nor amongst the instructors, and the said person happened to be a cadet himself. Upon closer inspection, the General saw that it was a rather tall boy, barely eighteen years old, with a broadsword strapped to his back. He was nodding gravely at a few of his friends, and whenever he did so, unkempt locks would fall into his face, obscuring the intense blueness of his eyes. His head was so full of spiked hair that Sephiroth knew with utter certainty and with concealed amusement that he'd have to get up extra early every morning to comb them. A spark of sapphire winked at him in the light from his ear as he tilted his head to a certain degree.

Sephiroth admired the lad's physical form greatly. It was masculine, with firm muscles and taut limbs. Sephiroth's grey eyes followed the movement of those luscious pink lips as he spoke, outlining every plane and crevice of his athletic figure, not missing a single sight of a curve of muscle on the student's body. The fact that it was so drab in the academy was probably what made him stand out so much. The General could not help but look: he called for attention, just by being there in the same room. And he looked like the perfect candidate for SOLDIER; at least that was what Sephiroth told himself. If he did, how did this boy slip past his attention, as anything rarely did? Could he be a lowly cadet or a high-ranking officer?

Turning his head away from the pretty sight, Sephiroth made a mental note to find out the young buck's name later.

Students flooded out of the hall and into a bright sunny day, twittering and chatting away, impaling the cold morning air. Winds blew about, changing directions, trying to tug trees and bushes alike from their grounds with fingers that could not be seen by the eye. Beyond the hall, wolfgrass and coltgrass sprang as insidiously and as quietly as mould on second day bread. Perfectly pruned shrubs were tamed to be kept out of the way of the footpaths under the trees. The trees, on the other hand, were in full bloom, branches bearing the weight of a thousand blossoms. They clawed at the Heavens, beckoning, calling.

Fleeting images of the blond youth flickered in his mind like an old movie, twisting itself like a snake. So he walked alone. Not actively avoiding the residents of Midgar Military Mercenary Academy, but actively seeking them out. Naturally, it was almost impossible for one to be alone in the corridors of the academy. Sephiroth watched the bright bloom of light in the skies from just outside the decorative boundary that divided the officer's Headquarters from the rest of the Academy, though not out of appreciation for the view. He was in no hurry to return to his office on the fifth floor; the marble halls held no allure for him – they were only walled-in spaces and he did not miss them in the least.

The approaching figure was a familiar one. Sephiroth frowned, absorbing in the cadet's slim figure making his way in the opposite direction towards him.

Pale hair loomed in sight. The boy stood in the same pathway, eyes scanning the editorial boards for anything that would catch his eye. His eyebrows tensed together, radiating a field of displeasure.

At the moment, the boy would probably not make a terribly easy opponent, judging from what was physically presented to him, Sephiroth decided, tucking a longer strand of silver hair behind his ear. Their physical stature was different enough to make it an unfair fight without even taking dexterity into account. The blond swordsman was only a little on the undersized side, but was still about a head shorter than Sephiroth. Still, he could prove to be a worthy opponent in sparring.

Swivelling his head to halt a passing student, Sephiroth waited for her to catch her breath. She was nothing short of pretty, with dark curls and olive skin. Brushing her hair from her eyes and smoothing her skirt and giving the General a salute, she smiled nervously.

'General Sephiroth!' she prompted, standing erect. The silver-haired man nodded in acknowledgement. He glanced at her nametag. Rebecca Lee. Student ID No. 11375.

'Cadet Lee,' said Sephiroth coolly. 'Do you see that golden-haired student with a broadsword at his back?' He nodded at the lone figure rather vaguely: a soft turn of the head. 'Who is he?'

The girl was puzzled for a moment. Before she could think of a reply, she shot a look towards said student, fumbling for an answer. Studying him for only what could have been a moment, she looked back at the expectant General and said, voice strung with pride:

'That's Cloud Strife, sir!'

'Cloud?'

'Yes, sir! He's a First Class Mercenary, one of the top mercenaries in his class.' Lee was obviously pleased with herself for possessing that much knowledge.

Cloud Strife. So that was his name. It suited him well enough for a middle-ranking soldier and an excellent student who had looks that could maim. Sephiroth couldn't deny not having heard the name before; but he knew little of the boy. He had heard of the school's most reclusive and hardworking student—whispers were never very soft amidst students and instructors. Cocky, ambitious and probably as frigid as an icicle. Probably. Much was not said about that butter brown hair nor the fine features that were, at present, marred by a look of absolute and total boredom.

Cadet Lee was dismissed. Sephiroth was fighting away the irresistible impulse to speak with the blond boy a little. Shaking his head and casually stepping forward, the silver-eyed General shared Cloud's viewing of the boards as he walked pass. He gave an inward smirk as the young cadet averted his gaze to meet his superior's and bit back a frightened gasp. For a moment, as silver clashed with blue, the world slowed down. As always was between cadets and their peers, a respectful salute was given. But this time, Cloud seemed to perform this simple move with grace. Sephiroth saluted back; he knew much about salutations and this young boy's seemed like an act of newly learned beauty.

'Good day, General,' said Cloud, not unpleasantly. Sephiroth smiled. Ah, the voice, so young, rich in power and force; low and inviting, like a purr from his throat.

Nodding, he began, rather politely, 'Good day. Cadet Strife, I presume.'

Fervently, the younger man nodded, sending fair spikes swaying like a blade of grass. 'Yes, sir,' he said.

'What's your rank, cadet?' his superior added thoughtfully.

Cloud seemed to falter for a moment. 'Err … I'm a 3rd stage mercenary, sir.'

'I see.'

'Sir?'

'With your built, I almost mistook you for one of the upperclassmen. It's quite rare to see a student with your physique like you.'

'Oh,' Cloud murmured, hanging his head to hide his embarrassment. 'Thank you, sir.'

Sephiroth held out his hand for the younger man to shake. He watched as Cloud's head bolted upwards, many emotions conflicting upon his visage: his eyes first registered surprise, followed by panic and recognition. Tentatively, Cloud slid his gloved hand into the General's unsure of what he had to do. With a firm but brief squeeze, he slowly drew his hand away, only to find a certain reluctance on the other man's part.

A sly but sultry inward smile dashed across Sephiroth's features as their fingers came into contact. An unreadable expression could be seen on Cloud's face; he felt some electrical jolt in his spine. The hairs on his neck lifted as the feeling waned and dissolved into nothingness.

'I'm going to be rude and leave our acquaintance early. Good morning, cadet Strife.' Sephiroth allowed the boy's name to roll off his tongue like a wave of emotion. He prudently left the place before Cloud could find his tongue again and made his way out of the school gardens swiftly. All in all, it had been a boring day, save that look on the boy's face.

He was also oblivious to all the whisperings that trailed behind him. Oblivious, or perhaps he just did not care.

'Wow, did he just speak to Cloud?'

'He must have had some interest in him, that General!'

'He's said to be nearly beyond your reach! I wonder what it was he said.'

'Did you hear it?'

'Wonderful, isn't it?'

'Shocking, I call it!'

Cloud was thrown into a stupor. Standing there, startled blue eyes wide with shock, palm still hovering in mid-air, he stared blankly at the spot the General had occupied merely seconds ago. Did he just caress his hand? It certainly seemed so, thought Cloud as he forced his gaze upwards only to meet the sight of the General's silvery hair billowing flamboyantly behind him. Blue eyes watched as the lanky figure slowly disappeared into the horizon before shifting them downwards.

His cheeks were engulfed in flames. In all his two years of training in this prestigious school, he had rarely seen the General so closely before and when he did in the past, they were usually on opposite sides of the room or he was talking to an instructor. Suddenly aware of the looks of awe he was receiving, he hastily departed from the third-floor corridors, the belts encasing his sword chinking like shells. Students eyed him with a shrewdness about them as he swiftly entered another floor then proceeded about their businesses. The rumours of the unexpected encounter of the General and Cloud Strife would start to crawl around the school like vines, but it would be quickly dismissed as soon as the week was over.

The swordsman was not one to give an outward show of expressions, but this particular incident had unmistakably disturbed him greatly. It was the physical contact that had forced him to wonder why, to flinch and swerve his way from passing students, to shy away from their gaze. Cloud felt the part where their fingers brushed to be completely unnerving. The flesh burned now in an indescribable twinge.

The thoughts sounded downright ridiculous to Cloud. What a simple touch of the hand on his own did to turn him into a simpering maiden! It could be, after all, a small mistake. The idea made Cloud snort with amusement. He shook his head, and trudged up the stairs, booted feet padding softly against the cold marble floor as he took the path that lead him to the boys' dormitory.

The door of the room he shared with three other boys opened without releasing so much as a squeak when it swung on its rusty hinges the moment Cloud pushed it, causing him to sigh in relief. The spacious lime green chamber was fairly well-kept, except for occasional sweet wrappers and loose notes scattered here and there on the floor, but other than that, the two double-decker beds facing each other were neat and tidy. However, the swordsman did not dive for his bed instantly, for he needed to confirm something first, so he squatted beside a duffle bag he owned and fished out a printed card that was his weekly schedule. Cobalt eyes narrowly scanned it. After a while, Cloud exhaled slowly: he had no lessons until an hour from now, which meant he had ample time to sleep before his class.

Cloud selected the lower bed on his right with the floral prints on a backdrop of green, pulled back the covers and hopped into it. He desperately needed to rest his mind after that unceremonious encounter.

ML: Well, what do you think? Please leave a review to let me know your thoughts:D