No child in their right mind would spend time in the rusted out junkyard that passed for a public playground in the slums, and so the clone was able to hide in a tubular slide without being discovered. He'd been shot a couple of times, but after digging out the bullets his wounds healed decently on their own. He'd also been mother fucking electrocuted by Aerith, but after shaking for a few hours and spitting up an ashy version of blood, he was feeling better.

He was aching, tired, cold and starving – but he was feeling better.

He'd only slipped out in search of food once, and it resulted in the quick deaths of four overly concerned citizens who wanted to assist a charred little boy with blood all over his clothes. Four more murders, and then it was a hasty scuttle back up into the slide.

Sephiroth didn't have a single fiber of suicidal tendency, and neither did his clone… although it would have been much easier just to die than go on living. He had no idea what to do now.

Aerith had betrayed him, and as a result Cissnei had gotten terribly hurt, possibly even lost enough blood to die. It wasn't his fault for tearing her arm off, it was self-defense. What sentient creature on Earth wouldn't fight to the death for their freedom against being returned to the Shin-Ra Medical Labs?

While hiding in the playground, he'd been alone in the freezing cold with his thoughts, and made a series of difficult decisions. He would not go back to the labs alive, that was just a fucking fact.

He'd been stupid to go to Aerith in the first place. But how was he supposed to know she actually had some sort of dumbass secret strength? She seemed like any other skank from the slums who was trying to bag a SOLDIER to take care of her. He didn't know what a Cetra was, but suspected maybe Zack was giving her Mako or training her or something… it was weird, but it was a very small detail lost in the raging, swirling storm of shit his life was turning out to be.

Now that the Turks were looking for him, he would have to continue to kill anyone who tried to interact with him, or anyone who saw him. Especially in the slums, where every citizen turned into a fucking professional bounty hunter when Shin-Ra posted an award for someone's capture.

He would even have to kill Cloud if they were both unfortunate enough to cross paths, because he was the most dangerous person of all. One concerned phone call to General Sephiroth about a sweet little boy who looked just like him would result in biblical fury. He couldn't imagine what Sephiroth would do to him if he knew about a rogue clone who happened to know every minute detail of his life.

What a stupid thing to be.

"I just wanna go to sleep," the little clone wished aloud, his childish voice echoing back at him in the plastic confines of the slide. It was the first thing he'd said out loud in a day, and it felt so good to talk that he whispered again. "Please just lemme wake up and be home."

'I'll take you home.'

The clone let a long silence distance himself from the unexpected sound of Jenova's voice in his mind. After a moment the fright of it passed, and the clone buried his face in the soft hood of his bloody, stolen Prada jacket.

'If you let me help you, I'll take you home.'

"Nevermind, bye now," the clone laughed aloud to cover up the terror he felt whenever Jenova spoke to him. In this particularly vulnerable state he decided to just run, and gathered his courage to kick and clamor his way down out of the slide.

Unfortunately, a group of teenage boys were all sitting in the rubber gravel around the slide's exit, and seemed just as surprised to see the clone as he was surprised to see them.

The little boy flopped over onto his stomach and scrambled back up into the plastic slide, but it was a futile attempt to turn back time. There came a rapping from the outside, "Hey, kid! We know you're in there!"

The clone kicked back at the area where whomever was outside had knocked. "Fuck off!"

"What are you doin' in there?" Another voice called.

"Just go away!" The clone begged. "Forget you saw me!"

A new voice echoed up the plastic slide, "You a fuckin' narc?"

"Who even says narc? Hey! - " the clone cried out in surprise as two hands reached up the bottom of the slide to drag him out by his feet.

There were six teenage boys in all, and the clone shook his head somberly as they forced him out of the slide and to stand up before them. They were all young, cute, stupid, and terribly unlucky. Most of them didn't look like they even lived below the plate, but probably just thought it was a cool place to make friends and hang out – like Cloud.

One of them grabbed the hood of the clone's jacket. "What are you doin' out so late, kid?"

"You tryna listen to me deal?" A boy who was much older than the rest of them accused, exposing himself as a drug dealer. That was probably why the rest of the boys were hanging out with him in the first place. "You wearin' a wire?"

"No, you stupid asshole! I just wanted to mind my own fuckin' business, but now I'm gonna have to kill all of you!" the little clone shouted. "How do you think that makes me feel?"

The teenage drug dealer didn't comprehend what had just been said to him, and stepped back with a scowl. He lifted his fist but apparently didn't have the heart to hit a child, so he passed the order along the line. "Joey, fuckin' knock this brat out 'til I decide what to do with him."

It wasn't hard to kill civilians, and there was no joy in it. There wasn't even relief after the last one fell into the rubber playground gravel, glittering with broken glass in the streetlights. The clone was seventeen bodies deep into a murder spree. Seventeen bodies and one arm.

"What the fuck am I gonna do?" the clone whispered aloud, dropping back down onto the slide to sit. He considered just staying there until someone found him surrounded by dead teenage boys, and just did him the favor of putting a bullet in his head.

'Go where I tell you to go.'

General Sephiroth would never have obeyed anything Jenova instructed him to do. Sephiroth was scared to death of her voice, of her touch, of the way she made him feel. It was the same way clones made him feel… like there was something seriously missing in his life, a connection to family and to others like himself. The clone knew that there was nothing that Sephiroth wanted more, on a human level and on his most fucked up, genetically warped levels. But to Sephiroth's advantage, he had plenty to live for, plenty of opportunity to serve Shin-Ra as a free thinking, independent entity, and plenty of people to build a family with. Sephiroth didn't need Jenova.

The clone didn't have that luxury. If someone in the Universe was willing to help him, even if it was her, he would accept it. She could lead him into some sort of death trap for all the clone cared; he was tired and starving and demoralized to the point of no return.

The clone walked a path on the sidewalk completely free of humans, until he felt a mental tug to stop. It was a small dwelling, a narrow, crooked little house nestled between a larger apartment building and a convenience store. The place was inconspicuous, almost invisible in the bright neon lights of the store and the towering presence of the apartment building. It was handmade, welded together from pieces of plate material than periodically showered onto the slums with often fatal effects.

'You can rest here.'

The door to the house was unlocked, and opening it unleashed a foul odor. The doorway led right into the dark living room, where the television was deafeningly loud and being watched by the eyes of a man who obviously had been dead for weeks. He'd been an overweight man, and in death that extra weight had only served as that much more flesh to rot.

The clone groaned aloud at a decaying body slumped in the chair, hooking his shirt up over his nose with an outcry of repulsion, "Great place!"

'Get rid of the body.'

"Oh, just get rid of it? Why didn't I think of that?" he grumbled.

'I hate sarcasm,' Jenova told him sharply. 'Your big brother is sarcastic. I hate it.'

The clone hesitated for a moment at the mention of a brother. "You mean Sephiroth?"

'Don't be like him.'

That was a tall order, considering he was Sephiroth. But he supposed he did owe Jenova some gratitude for giving him a place to hide. "… Sorry. I just dunno what to do with a big, dead civilian."

'Divide him into smaller pieces.'

The language that Sephiroth and Jenova shared had a strange, simplistic poetry to it. The clone carried out the order with a kitchen knife and a trash bag. It was a task to focus on, and strangely therapeutic to dissect and dispose of something.

It helped him put his thoughts in order.

Cissnei deserved worse than her arm ripped off for trying to take him back to the lab. Same with Elena and Tseng. They knew what the labs were like for a clone… and yet they wouldn't respond to any appeal he'd made to just let him go, to forget they'd met, to forget he'd gone to Aerith's stupid fucking church to seek out a little sanctuary. They had no personal interest in escorting a clone back to the labs. It would have made no difference in their lives to have just forgotten that Aerith called them down. Didn't they have any fucking heart at all?

Of course they didn't. They were Turks. Same with SOLDIERs, who were now surely hunting to kill him and not try to zip tie him and escort him anywhere. SOLDIERs wouldn't ask questions either, they would just shoot on sight and say 'sorry' later if it happened to be the wrong target.

What a funny shift in perspective it was to be an outsider.

The clone threw several bags full of dead guy into the dumpster behind the convenience store, and the stench of death was damn near concealed by the slum filth. After the body was gone, the clone went about dragging the chair it'd been rotting in outside, too. He then found some bleach in the kitchen and went to town to disinfect the place.

There was something almost nostalgic about the sharp musk of heavy cleaners. It reminded him of everything he refused to return to, and he was even more determined to hold onto his freedom and never be taken to the labs alive. Even this ritual of cleaning up a deteriorated and filthy space to live in reminded him of a parallel in his own life; of leaving the labs and finding the loft and making a place of his very own to call home.

There was no daylight below the plate, but it was morning by the time the clone was satisfied with the cleaning. Everything in the dead guy's kitchen was expired or rotten, but he did find some Jell-O cups in the refrigerator, and took them all to the living room where the television was still on. He landed on the couch with a plop, light headed off the fumes of cleaner, and ultimately exhausted as he started to shovel Jell-O into his mouth. He was too exhausted to properly relax without decompressing, and so he flipped through the dead man's television channels until he landed on the Shin-Ra news network.

"It's going to be a beautiful and frosty autumn morning in Midgar!" The department store catalogue model turned broadcast personality was thrilled to announce. "Tonight we're expecting a major snowfall, so make sure to cover up those plants!" Her smiled faded and she became suddenly serious, "City official Gary Miller responds to allegations of using his hands to stimulate his lawyer underneath the table at his recent public hearing concerning spousal support in his recent divorce."

The clone started to cry. It was sudden, but he felt that he'd earned it. "Hey! Miss Jenova? Are you still there?"

It was the first time he'd ever actively reached out to her, and she responded immediately. 'Yes.'

"I wanna go home!" The clone eagerly bawled to the only fucking thing on planet Earth who gave a shit about him or his problems or his tears. He needed pity. "I'm tired of this, I just wanna go home!'

'Kill Sephiroth.'

"I don't need you to tell me that!" the clone blubbered, all composure lost. "But even if I had a chance, he's way too strong!"

'Weaken him.'

"I dunno how!" he sniffed, crumpling down to shove his head between his knees. It was pretty easy at his current size and proportion, and he was able to squeeze in on himself and quell the pounding in his head and the queasy ache in his empty stomach.

'Start with his humans,' Jenova advised. 'They're the reason he abandoned us.'

Sephiroth's humans. The clone winced as his memory replayed the sound Cissnea's arm made when it tore free from the socket. The crunching rip of flesh and bone, her throaty scream of pain, Aerith's high pitched wail of surprise, Tseng shouting her name, and the worst sound of all… Elena's guttural cry of shock at witnessing a limb being torn from her girlfriend.

He'd only been alive for a short while, a newborn in the grand scheme of things. But he'd killed more people already than Sephiroth had in his first two years as a SOLDIER. The number of people he'd killed in Wutai was far lower than most people would expect, because Sephiroth had a certain, unadvertised softness. He felt relieved to show mercy, he always tried to rescue civilians, but the heroic stories told amongst the army were of how Sephiroth would have done anything for his brothers in arms.

Sephiroth's best interests lay in performing well enough for the army to preserve a place outside of the lab. And the clone's interests lay in never getting put there to begin with. They were the same, but attacking life from opposite directions.

"Did you make me?" the clone asked Jenova.

'Yes, with Sephiroth's help.'

"Oh gross!" The little boy shouted. "He actually is my dad?"

It took Jenova a heartbeat to understand what he was asking. 'I'm your mother. Sephiroth is dead to us.'

The clone sighed in bitter resignation because the whole thing was disgusting. Jenova and the clones thought they were all one, and her goal was for them to become one again… whatever that meant. It probably just meant butt fucking. But he decided to just listen to this bullshit until he figured out what he was really going to do.

He lay down on his side with a growl of disdain. "So what the hell'd you make me for?"

'A second chance to take my son home. You deserve to be raised by your own kind. That was the mistake I made with your brother. He's one of them, now. And when the time of reckoning comes, we'll judge him right along with them.'

"Or sooner?" The clone added. "I'd really like to get my apartment and my job and my boyfriend back – "

'You'll break away from those desires. We have work to do… I want you to listen to me carefully, because I'm going to tell you things that I've never told Sephiroth. He would never listen, but you're different. We come from the stars, and our family is waiting for us…'

He tuned her out immediately. On the Shin-Ra news network, a brief story about a manhunt in the slums held the clone's attention, which he assumed was about himself. Then there was another story about Rufus' upcoming birthday ball. Then another one a six-year project of replacing all the plumbing in Midgar so civilians wouldn't get sick from the tap water anymore.

The clone's attention was fixed on the television until an invisible hand touched the top of his head. He made an effort not to back away from that touch, for the first time not completely recoiling. It was a feminine hand, soft, with something distinctly sharp and claw-like on the edges that scraped against his scalp in a way that was sickeningly pleasurable to a person who needed a little physical comfort at that very moment.

He looked up to the empty space behind him where the owner of that invisible hand might have been. There was only a void and silence, so he gulped. "... What?"

'You're the only one I've ever made all on my own,' she said, a hint of sadness in her slithering voice as it broke through the seductive glaze of television noise. 'You're more a part of us than Sephiroth ever was.'

"There's no difference between us," the clone muttered indignantly, subtly trying to tilt his head to force her invisible hand to slide off.

'There's one difference between you and your brother. You're going to be a good boy,' a wet purr resounded with the invisible hand becoming heavier on his head. 'That's what I'll call you… my good little boy.'

In Jenova's language, 'good' simply meant neutrally obedient to one's master's wishes, and 'boy' referred more to reproduction capabilities than to gender. She was calling him a reproductive slave, a stud to use in order to make more clones without scientific interference.

She'd already tricked Sephiroth into it once. He was the result.

'When you're a big boy, you'll have more than you ever dreamed of. I'll make you a living god. We're going to take this planet for ourselves, and we're going to use it as our vessel to go back home. I'll make you so happy.'

"That sounds… neat," the clone tried to agree amicably, but inside his stomach was in knots from filthy mental flashes of what she had in mind for his future.

It was subliminal, almost nonsense, shifting bodies and oozing bile and tongues and teeth and appendages that humans didn't have. Sephiroth knew Jenova as a passive, dead piece of chum floating in a tank, but what flashed in the clone's mind was alive, fast moving, and there was a churning, deep sea of creatures just like her. They seemed to be able to live underwater, but writhed on land in a fuck pile that never slowed, was never satisfied, and didn't care about who or what hole it was fucking as long as it was connected to the rest of the group.

That was the common life, and that was far below Jenova. The ruling class was more intelligent, more reserved, but engaged in activities that the clone's Earth-based mind couldn't comprehend. He didn't know what he was looking at, but he could smell it.

Sephiroth and his clone could handle mental grossness, in fact found pleasure in horror movies and gore. But when the smell of it invaded the clone's senses, he felt bile rise in his throat. The reproductive gooey juices, the bodies, the sweat, the fecal matter – it all culminated into the most overpowering, evil odor he'd ever experienced.

"Please stop," the he finally asked. "I'm tired."

'Does it make you want to touch yourself?'

He reacted with a cry of outrage, but faked it into a laugh. "Not really."

'You don't have the right parts, yet…' Her claws dug hard into the back of his head. 'When we get home, I'll give you a much better body to use. I'll have a new body as well... we'll do beautiful things together.'

"Okay!" he squeaked, sucking in a terrified breath before he tried to speak in a calm manner. "I'm… really tired. Sorry. Please lemme go to sleep now."

To his surprise, his appeal worked. The invisible hand lifted off of him, and the air in the house became lighter, less oppressive. Her sweet stench left with her presence, but it was still lingering somewhere above the atmosphere.

When the he was alone again, he felt confusion and rage bubble up underneath his fear and fatigue.

If Jenova was trying to seduce his loneliness into going on some intergalactic road trip to a slimy alien orgy… it was scarily close to working. Was home actually somewhere out in the galaxy where a society of creatures like Jenova waited for them to return and breed with them? What would that place be like? Surely an entire culture had to boast some sort of cuisine, some sort of entertainment, something. But from what he'd just seen, his suspicions were true: it was all about butt fucking and throwing up in each other's mouths under the sky of a different color.

Home was on the plate. Home was a place where Cloud's record collection waited for him to move in and fill the loft with music. Home was Shin-Ra HQ, the training floor, the army. Home was pizza, the near constant ache in his left hand, scary movies and the joy of taking off his boots after hours or days of wearing them. It was brewing coffee, listening to movies he'd watched a dozen times, treating blisters and walking around naked and free. Home was safe, and content, and where all bad things were kept far away.

Home was not lying fully clothed on a dead man's couch. It wasn't a constant battle in his mind between finding a way to kill himself and going on living.

When Aerith asked the clone what his name was, that question had shaken his reality to the core. He was not Sephiroth, not anybody, but he wanted the life that Sephiroth had.

If that life didn't exist at all… then the clone didn't want to exist, either. And if Jenova was gunning for Sephiroth and world domination, then maybe that was the clone's true purpose in life: to shut down that entire fucking agenda. Just because his new life sucked, didn't mean the entire planet had to go to shit.

Sephiroth was definitely going to die. But not because Jenova wanted him to.

He could play it cool and ride this out until he figured out how to get rid of her, because he was for damn sure over it. Sephiroth had some medicine at his place that could help keep her out of his mind and her invisible hands off of him, so that was his next goal.

Weaken him... the clone thought, kicking up a leg in victory as it all came together. There was medication right there in Sephiroth's fucking bathroom cabinet that would put him into a coma in minutes, making it easy to kill him. An overdose might even do the entire job without the clone having to do anything but inject it.

Even sneaking into the loft wouldn't be difficult. The clone let out a relieved puff of air as a plan started to come together in his mind. He didn't need anyone to help him solve his problems.

He was about to become Sephiroth's problem.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"Cloud, get up," Sephiroth called.

It was four o'clock in the morning. Of course there was no response.

"Cloud," Sephiroth called again, pulling open the shower curtain to glare out. He'd left the bathroom door open, and it gave him the perfect view of the lump his boyfriend formed underneath the blankets. "Get up."

"You can take that tone if you want, but you knew the risks from the start," Cloud announced loudly. "I never guaranteed we'd sell all the aluminum."

Sephiroth wasn't sure if he'd heard that right, but it usually didn't matter. He'd heard more random rambling sleep talk from Cloud than he knew what to do with, but there was no time for it this morning. "Don't make me come over there. Time to get up."

"… Ungff… what?" Cloud's voice croaked out huskily, completely different from the confident sleep talk just moments ago. His rumpled head emerged, and he blinked rapidly as reality came into focus. Upon looking at the clock, he fell back over with a booming groan, "Why are you waking me up so early? We set the alarm for four-thirty!"

"What difference does half an hour make?"

"A huge one!" Cloud seethed. "This is the middle of the fucking night!"

"Quit bein' a brat and get in here," Sephiroth commanded, closing the shower curtain.

"I don't even take showers before morning drills, what's the point?" Cloud whined, rolling over onto his stomach under the covers.

"You're covered in dried up jizz."

"I don't care."

"You can't go to school like that."

"WHY NOT?"

"'Cause you're gonna get jizz dandruff all over my truck," Sephiroth growled, getting right down to the root of the problem. "You're bein' fuckin' disgusting and lazy, get in here and take a shower."

"NO!"

Sephiroth jerked the shower curtain open, "Cloud!"

Cloud got a dark chill from hearing that barking command in his lover's voice, but was too stubborn to respond to it. He curled in on himself like a dying star, and hoped that Sephiroth would simply forget that he existed.

Sephiroth did not. He marched from the shower and seized all of the blankets, rendering Cloud a defenseless ball of naked limbs. "Get in the goddamn shower, you smell like a fuckin' dirty jockstrap."

"Never!" Cloud uttered with all the drama of a teenager who was being actively denied sleep. "If you love me, you'll love my filth!"

"I'm done playin' witchu," Sephiroth grunted under his breath as he scooped Cloud up, grappling with his obstinate boyfriend's limp, resistant form to get it through the bathroom door. "How do you make yourself so fuckin' heavy when you want to? You weigh nothin'..."

Cloud wailed wordlessly as the bright bathroom lights infiltrated his eyes. He knew he was defeated, but still forced Sephiroth work to get his lifeless body into the tub.

"There!" Sephiroth cried in victory, dropping him on his feet and rudely shoving Cloud's cum-encrusted head right under the water.

The hot water felt good, damn near orgasmic as it hit Cloud's sore shoulders and back, but he refused to give Sephiroth the satisfaction of letting him know. After a moment of sulking under the shower head, he pointed his nose in the air as he moved his wet hair out of his eyes. "Why do you always have to boss me around?"

"Look at yourself."

Cloud could see all the evidence of the previous day's sexual activity peeling off his torso and legs and running down the drain. He sheepishly grabbed the shower gel and began to lather up, "… Okay, you were right. I was dirty."

"Wash your ass," Sephiroth grumbled, going back to work on his hair.

"Wash your ass," Cloud told him with a side eye, as he'd gotten a turn on top himself. He grumpily put one foot up on the edge of the tub and made sure to get in deep between his legs with the lather. He had to giggle a little, and looked up to find Sephiroth grinning back at him. "… I'm not a four o'clock in the morning person."

"I know."

Cloud couldn't resist standing up onto his toes to press a kiss onto Sephiroth's soft, wet lips. "… No matter how early it is and how little sleep you get, you're always ready to go to work like a machine. How can I be like that?"

"You gotta find somethin' worth gettin' up for."

Cloud batted his eyes in romantic expectation. "What was worth getting up so early this morning?"

"You, of course… your smelly ass woke me up out of a dead sleep," Sephiroth explained with a serene expression, going back to work on washing his hair.

It made Cloud laugh, but it was a lie. Sephiroth had suffered from uneasy sleep, and ominous dreams. When he closed his eyes he was on the run from something, but not a monster or anything tangible that he could fight or kill. It was a looming situation, a feeling of unease that crept up into the corners of an ordinary dream and took it over.

Several times he jolted awake to the feeling of Cloud's body curled up behind him. Cloud didn't seem to sense his lover's uneasy sleep, and spent all night pressed against Sephiroth's back as a little version of a big spoon. Sephiroth would normally have switched sleeping positions, but he liked Cloud's body behind him and his slim arm lying territorial across his waist. It was a warm human tether back to reality. He would let the calming sound of Cloud's deep breathing lull him back to sleep, but the unease was still waiting for him the moment he lost consciousness.

Sephiroth decided to just stay up.

He'd wandered around the loft for a while, looking for a distraction until he decided that some training in the VR room would make him feel better. Getting there early was essential, because more SOLDIERs around meant more gawkers, and more guys stopping him to ask him dumbass technique questions. He really just wanted a balls to the wall training session to start his day, and decided to take a bath first. And when he discovered just how fucking much semen had dried up in his hair, he decided to wake Cloud up. Any amount of semen on his body was quadrupled on Cloud's.

Cloud's smile was carefree and lopsided as he took a little shampoo for himself and worked it into his hair before reaching down to wash his pubes. "I bet we'll start to like mornings better once we're roommates. It's like how multiplying two negatives numbers makes a positive!"

Sephiroth's eyes were drawn to the sight of soapy bubbles running down Cloud's lean body, and his hands moving clinically over his tight, tan skin. "… You're never gonna be my fuckin' roommate. Don't lemme hear you say that word ever again."

Cloud let out a mock-frightened warble. "Ooh, so we're not roommates… yet you refuse to marry me. You expect me to just live in sin the rest of my life?"

Sephiroth let out a bursting laugh, and it was an unhinged little sound that early in the morning. "Alright already. I promise, someday we'll make it legit."

Cloud would have probably been more affected by that if it hadn't been four in the morning. As it was, he just gave a deep sigh and reached for the shampoo bottle, "I just like to tease you, Seph. I talk about getting married and having kids and shit, but that's all it is. Just talk."

This was an entirely new sentiment coming from Cloud, and Sephiroth was suddenly nervous. He hesitated before asking, "So… if we're not roommates, married, or living in sin, what do you wanna be?"

"Us," Cloud told him mildly as he scratched conditioner into his scalp. "I was talking to my mom, and she sort of made me realize something… I already have everything I want. I was raised by chick flicks and a pack of insane, single mothers and the ultimate goal was always getting married. That's not us though, and I understand that. As much as I like the thought of having kids someday a long time from now, I don't want them at all if you don't want to be their father. I know you're going to think I'm stupid for saying so, but I think you'd be a really great dad. But that's beside the point - if we're each others family, and the rest of our lives is just you and me getting up together and going to work, just like this… what else do I really need?"

Cloud had just reached into Sephiroth's chest and ripped out his beating heart. He didn't even seem to realize it as he turned into the water to rinse his hair, eyes closed and lips tight as he tilted his head back.

Sephiroth tried to say something, but as usual, the correct words couldn't easily rise up from his heart to his mouth without his brain throwing them out as unsuitable. Time to reply elapsed to something awkward, and eventually Cloud moved away from the water.

"Did you make any coffee?" Cloud asked, wiping water off his face as he opened his eyes.

Sephiroth took the chance to run his fingers through Cloud's wet hair, and down to gently clasp the back of his delicate, slim neck as he found the voice to speak. "… Yeah. I put some water in your kettle, too."

Cloud smiled up at him. "Why are you so sweet to me?"

Sephiroth quickly found his footing through sarcasm, "Sweet? Two minutes ago I had to drag you into the shower. You were actin' like I was killin' you."

"Eh," Cloud dismissed his bratty behavior as he slipped his arms around Sephiroth's waist. "You always know what's best for me."

Sephiroth closed in on Cloud, pulling his head and shoulders into a tight, urgent embrace.

Although Sephiroth hadn't verbally responded to his little speech, Cloud could hear the quick pace of his heart. He pushed his cheek against Sephiroth's chest, nuzzling that steady, thudding beat from the outside. He was nearly fluent in how to read Sephiroth's body language, which was always more honest than the words he said. Heavy fingertips rubbing against his scalp, a long hug in strong arms, and the pounding thud of Sephiroth's heart told Cloud that at least his words were well received. That physical reaction was important, because that was the kind of man Sephiroth was.

Sephiroth leaned down to kiss the top of Cloud's head, and then paused. He kissed the top of Cloud's head again, and then put his chin on top of the curve of his skull thoughtfully. "… Hang on a second."

"What?"

"Look up at me," Sephiroth tilted Cloud's chin up, his eyes dancing as he gauged his lover's appearance. "… Holy shit."

"Holy shit what?" Cloud gasped, turning his face away. "Did I break out last night? Don't look!"

As a person who struggled with actual skin issues as a teenager and still sometimes as an adult, Sephiroth never saw any evidence of Cloud's so called break-outs. "No dipshit, you got taller."

"Stop it, Seph! That joke is never funny!" Cloud boomed in embarrassment, bumping him away with his hip.

"I'm not fuckin' with you this time," Sephiroth was still pushing on the top of Cloud's head to make sure some of his hair wasn't sticking up to create an illusion. "I think you were actually right about that limit break pushin' a growth spurt."

"… You're not joking?"

"I'm serious."

"Do you have like, a tape measure or something?" Cloud asked, looking up at Sephiroth curiously. He bent his knees a little, trying to see if his view of his beloved had changed. It was hard to tell because he was looking up his nose either way.

Sephiroth stepped out of the shower and dug around in one of the bathroom drawers before pulling out a lengthy strip of cloth measuring tape, "I got this?"

Cloud looked on from the shower in disbelief, as he routinely snooped through Sephiroth's bathroom drawers but never saw that before. "Where'd that come from?"

"I wanted to measure my hair," Sephiroth admitted.

"Why?" Cloud laughed. "How long is it?"

Sephiroth ignored that question. "C'mere."

Cloud dunked his head under the spray until it was fully soaked, and then turned off the water. He stepped out of the shower and onto the bath mat, slicking his hair flat and standing up as tall as he could with a hopeful little smile.

Sephiroth had to smile back. "You're cute."

Cloud's expression dropped. "… If you're fucking with me I'm gonna be so mad."

"I'm not," Sephiroth laughed with his tongue between his teeth.

"Now I know you're fucking with me!"

"Let's make a bet," Sephiroth hummed thoughtfully as he tossed the rolled up strip of measuring cloth back and forth between his hands. "How tall do you think you are?"

"I'm five-five and a half," Cloud mumbled, never pleased to announce this information out loud, especially to someone nearly a foot taller than him.

"If I'm right that you got taller… you gotta do somethin' for me."

"Like what?"

"I dropped my phone and the screen's got a crack."

Cloud gasped in horror, "Oh no!"

"I mean it's still usable, but I've been wantin' a new one forever. I already called the phone people, and they say we can get new ones."

Cloud was on an emotional roller coaster, and was now crying out in supreme joy, "REALLY?! Me too? Awesome!"

"And I'm payin' extra so we don't have to turn in the old phones full of naked pictures."

Cloud had to laugh. "Why don't we just save the pictures on your computer, then delete them off the phones?"

"I can't risk that. They'll find a way to retrieve the pictures, then my naked ass will be everywhere. No turning in the old phones. I gotta destroy them," Sephiroth decided. "Just take my credit card and go take care of it this weekend while I'm at the Crater. Get our new phones, but don't you dare give 'em your old one. Got it?"

Cloud didn't mind being sent on this little errand at all, but Sephiroth was asking as though it was some sort of official mission. "Of course! You don't even have to make a bet with me to get me to do it."

"That wasn't the bet," Sephiroth bit his lower lip as he searched for the right words. He never, ever found them, so he just looked down at his boyfriend's wet, naked body and said what he was thinking. "The new phones we're gettin' are gonna have video recording, and I want you to spend your weekend fillin' mine up with movies of your ass."

"Whatever!" Cloud cried out, shoving Sephiroth's chest as clarity dawned on him. "You're lucky you even get pictures, I'm not making movies now! I'm not a porn star!"

"You're better," Sephiroth told him honestly.

Cloud was turning red, "There's one hundred million guys on the internet, way better looking than me who are perfectly willing to - "

"You're better," Sephiroth repeated.

"You're crazy," Cloud accused. "You probably want me to do something depraved and gross, anyways."

"Can't I just watch you play around a little bit? Just doin' whatever it is you do when I'm not here. Even if you miss me, I know it's nice bein' all alone after a long week at school... I bet you spend a lotta time teasin' one out..." A sly grin spread across Sephiroth's mouth when he glanced down to find that Cloud's body was a least a little bit interested in the suggestion. "... I just wanna see you do it. Would you at least think about it for me?"

Cloud worked to not shy away from how quickly his body reacted to a little erotic narrative from those soft lips. He was just so good at it, and it made Cloud flustered. "Okay, fine… If you win and I really did get taller, I'll make one video. But what do I get if you're full of shit?"

"Same thing. What do you wanna see me do?" Sephiroth wondered, almost regretting the question.

A sudden, bright smile lit up Cloud's face, "Would you do something super sensual? Like a bubble bath with you rubbing your hands all over yourself... and maybe playing with your nipples and stuff before jerking off?"

Sephiroth's nose wrinkled, "That's what you wanna see?"

"Yeah!"

Every dirty picture Sephiroth sent Cloud was weighed against the possibility that he would piss him off someday and they'd all be leaked. Video would be a little less forgiving, especially if he was rubbing his nipples in a fucking bubble bath, but the hopeful expression on Cloud's sweet face made him uneasily agree. "Okay, I guess…"

"Deal!" Cloud exclaimed enthusiastically, then held his breath as Sephiroth touched the measuring tape to his forehead.

He seemed to be displeased with the result, and was deeply considering the analysis. "Can you make yourself cry on purpose?"

"What?" Cloud balked.

"It's really hot when you come so hard you cry a little," Sephiroth murmured. "Try to do that in the video you're gonna make for me. You're five-seven."

"Bullshit!" Cloud snatched the measuring tape away and looked for himself in the mirror. To his amazement, the readout with his feet flat and his back straight was indeed five feet, seven inches. "Oh my GOD!"

"See? Toldja you got taller," Sephiroth gloated. "I win."

Cloud was too far-gone in ecstasy to care. He bunched up the ribbon of measuring tape into a furious little ball and threw it up into the air like confetti. "YES! Oh yes! Oh fucking sweet Jesus! Sephiroth?! You think I'll grow more every time I limit break?!"

"I'm scared to find out."

Cloud laughed, throwing his arms up around Sephiroth's neck. "Do you realize I've grown five inches since I met you? You don't have such a shrimpy little boyfriend anymore! I'm a total stud!"

"Hell yeah, you're fuckin' hot," Sephiroth readily agreed.

"And you loved me way before I became hot!" Cloud cried in supreme victory. "Your low standards paid off in the end!"

That was too absurd to even respond to. Even if he hadn't gained an inch or a pound since meeting him, Sephiroth would have been totally satisfied. Cloud had magic in his hands and on his lips, everything else was just a very nice bonus.

Sephiroth pressed his body against all of it as he moved in close to Cloud. "… You done in the shower?"

"Yeah."

"Wanna get dressed?"

Cloud's hands lifted to frame Sephiroth's hips and pull him closer, "Can we not?"

Sephiroth couldn't contain a broad smile. "Not so bad gettin' up early, right?"

From his vantage point, Cloud was given a view in the bathroom mirror of Sephiroth's strong back, wet hair and cute, athletic little ass. His rampant joy from his growth spurt faded only slightly when his brain began the inevitable comparison between the two of them. Sephiroth was just better in every way.

Cloud mentally complimented himself on how deeply cut his muscles were, and strong he was becoming, although it was presented in a petite package. He could still fit his entire body inside Sephiroth's and have plenty of room to spare, but his body was still perfectly capable of holding down this big, gorgeous man.

Sephiroth turned his head to see what Cloud was staring at, and smiled at him in the mirror. "What?"

"We look good naked," Cloud admitted aloud.

Sephiroth assessed them both with an approving nod. "I'd fuck us."

Cloud looked away from the mirror and up at Sephiroth. "I have a regret."

"About what?"

"About how I acted the other night at Dirty Rubbers, being so stupid and embarrassed about the mirror. That's not like me."

"You get a little shy sometimes, but you're still cool," Sephiroth gave his chin an affectionate pinch. "It's no big deal."

Cloud shook his head, "You don't understand. When I'm alone, I actually… like to watch myself in the mirror."

Sephiroth's face didn't change at all for a moment, until he realized what was being implied. Slowly his eyebrows lifted, "Say what?"

The volume of Cloud's voice dropped, "... I like to watch myself in the mirror when I'm..."

"Why don't I know about this?" Sephiroth demanded, bending his knees a little to slip his hands down to cup Cloud's ass. "Why you keepin' secrets like that from me?"

"Because it's personal!" Cloud giggled, unable to resist rolling his hips against Sephiroth's when their groins pressed together. Sephiroth's cock was stiff against him, and it made it much easier to talk about sexual matters knowing he was being actively listened to. "When we were in the dressing room with that big mirror, I think I was just afraid of you seeing us making love, because… my body's nothing like yours. I was afraid I might look really stupid, or awkward to you."

"You don't," Sephiroth assured him.

"I know there's not a lot of time and we have to leave soon, but… I'm feeling really brave and really tall, and really horny right now. Will you sit down?"

Sephiroth immediately dropped down onto the toilet seat.

Cloud was bright red, and struggled to form the words. "You... can't really see anything in the mirror from there... most bathrooms are designed that way on purpose so you don't have to watch yourself on the toilet. You have to sit on the edge of the tub."

"You know this from experience, huh?"

Cloud nodded.

Sephiroth designed the bathroom himself, and Cloud was correct about the mirror placement. He would have given anything to go back in time and make the entire fucking bathroom wall a mirror. He slid over to the edge of the bathtub, and looked up at Cloud to very eagerly accept whatever was about to happen.

Cloud approached him to stand between his spread knees, and pressed his nose to the top of Sephiroth's head. The smell of his hair and scalp was slightly diluted from the shower, and Cloud smiled as he kissed a line down Sephiroth's forehead, down his nose and finally to his lips. Cloud smiled against his mouth when he felt Sephiroth's hands cup his ass and spread his cheeks apart.

Cloud broke away from the kiss to turn his head to look in the mirror. Sephiroth's long fingered hands spread across the entire span of his cheeks, like his body had designed itself around providing Sephiroth the perfect handful of ass. Cloud arched his back, offering a better angle and a wider gap for Sephiroth to see his hole in the mirror's reflection.

"That looks good," Sephiroth murmured, watching Cloud's body move and react to him in the reflection. He gave one cheek a light slap.

"Do it harder," Cloud whispered, riding high on a brave rush of lust.

Sephiroth snickered under his breath, and obliged Cloud with a nicely resonating slap. It left a tiny pink mark on his cheek, which Sephiroth then matched on the other side. He loved the sound that escaped Cloud on impact, and did it again on each side to force that beautiful, shocked moan out of him again.

Cloud was breathing hard as he roughly pushed his forehead against Sephiroth's. "... Wanna kiss it, now?"

"Am I dreamin'?" Sephiroth asked aloud.

Cloud had to laugh, and steadied himself with his hands on Sephiroth's shoulders. "Please don't make me lose my nerve. This is hard for me…"

"Askin' me to kiss your ass should be the easiest thing in the world. Turn around."

Cloud covered his face, making a noise between a giggle and a groan as he obeyed and shyly presented his ass. Sephiroth reached down to take one of Cloud's ankles and guide that foot up onto the toilet seat. It left him slightly bent over and wide open at the perfect height for Sephiroth's tongue to drag up the back of his freshly washed balls and up to his ass. Sephiroth greatly preferred the way Cloud tasted naturally to the soapy, sterile taste after a shower, but just the feeling of his puckered hole against his tongue was enough to make him push his face in deeper.

Cloud watched their reflection in slightly disturbed awe as Sephiroth's strong jaw worked against the curve of his cheek. Sephiroth ate ass like it was the best taste in the world, and Cloud was too distracted by watching him work to feel any embarrassment at all. He nudged back against his face, and smiled when his hips were grabbed by rough hands to pull him even closer. Cloud finally let a moan slip free as Sephiroth stretched his tongue out to lick a hot line up the back of his balls.

After pushing his face in again to give it one last deep swipe of his tongue, Sephiroth squeezed Cloud's thigh, "Turn around again."

He took his foot off the toilet seat to turn his hips toward Sephiroth's mouth, and gasped as the head of his cock was immediately slurped between wet, warm lips. Cloud snuck glances at the mirror between watching the actual thing, and never noticed or particularly cared how shallow Sephiroth gave head. It felt so good between his soft, pale lips, with his hot tongue working against the tip, but eventually Cloud became restless with curiosity.

"Hold still, Pretty," he whispered, steadying Sephiroth's head with gentle hands and getting his fingers into his wet hair. He then inched his hips forward, watching in the mirror as his cock slowly disappeared between Sephiroth's lips. Less than halfway down, Sephiroth gagged slightly, prompting Cloud to let him go and pull back a bit.

Something like shame crept onto Sephiroth's face, "I'm limited. Sorry."

"No, I'm sorry!" Cloud giggled, kissing Sephiroth's abused throat as he slid down onto his knees in front of him.

"You gonna show me how it's done?" Sephiroth encouraged, brushing Cloud's wet hair off his forehead.

"I just wanna taste you," Cloud stuck his tongue out and ran it along the firm, slightly rounded contours of Sephiroth's chest. He kissed both small nipples and paused to leave a sucking mark against the top of his ribcage near his tattoo, a favorite stop on the way down Sephiroth's body. He then ran his tongue down to his belly button, and Cloud sat on his calves, abandoning his boyfriend's perfectly sculpted stomach to instead kiss against the top of his thighs.

Cloud was feeling very much like putting on a performance for his boyfriend that morning. He spread Sephiroth's legs wider as he settled into work, smiling at how Sephiroth's cock twitched involuntarily at the feeling of his lips kissing along the shaft. It looked thick and delicious against the silver matting of his damp, trim pubic hair, especially as a couple of water drops still had yet to dry from the hard muscled expanse of his lower stomach. Cloud stuck out his tongue to lick those droplets off of Sephiroth's clean skin, and then ducked his head to lick the salty moisture that pooled on the tip of his cock.

Cloud easily took most of it, letting it jab against the back of his throat before tightening his mouth and pulling back to drag his lips up the thick shaft. He looked up as he tilted his head, letting Sephiroth watch his tongue slip around the rosy head before popping his lips against it in a kiss.

With a few more passes, Cloud worked up the tolerance to drop down all the way. He shook his head a little, working down the last few centimeters until his lips were pushed against Sephiroth's abdomen, and his throat was full of his pulsing cock.

Sephiroth's hands tenderly rubbed the back of Cloud's head, and then tightened in his wet hair as he began to suck in earnest. The bathroom filled with that beautiful sound of wet suction, accented by Cloud's gasps for air between passes of his lips.

The mirror didn't do much for Sephiroth's view, because all he could really see was the back of Cloud's head bobbing up and down. It was soft core compared to the killer point of view he had naturally, but it was extremely nice to see the reflection of Cloud's back and ass as he knelt before him, bouncing a little bit on his calves in arousal and excitement as he worked.

Cloud suddenly pulled away with a sharp gasp, rubbing his reddened lips together, "Can I do whatever I want?"

"Would you please?" Sephiroth grinned down at him.

Cloud hopped to his feet, and leaned past Sephiroth to search among the products for their tube of lubricant. Sephiroth ran hands up his thighs and kissed his ribs as he twisted around to find the lube. They'd gotten away with using conditioner or body wash as lube a couple of times, but eventually learned the hard way the "external use only" was a polite way of saying "it's a horrible idea to use this as sexual lubricant, because one wrong move and it's going to feel like your ass is on fire". During that fateful sexual encounter, Cloud suddenly started to cry out and struggle in his arms, and Sephiroth's ego told him that he was doing a fantastic job… until Cloud punched him in the shoulder and demanded to be put the fuck down. Since then, they made sure to leave a bottle of PleasureGlide in the shower at all times.

Cloud retrieved it with a shy smile, opening the top of the cap with his teeth. He turned it upside down to let it drizzle out onto Sephiroth's erection, waving the bottle to let ribbons land on his upper thighs, lower stomach and chest as well.

Sephiroth's face lit up with a sharp smile. "What the hell are you doin'?"

"You said I can do what I want! I want you wet and shiny..." Cloud explained, biting his lip as he spread lube all over Sephiroth's chest, stomach, thighs and arms. "Fuck, that's gorgeous..."

"You know I gotta go to work, right?" Sephiroth pretended to complain as he arched against Cloud's hands as they greedily rubbed all over his body.

"We'll take another quick shower," Cloud waved off the concern by pushing Sephiroth's thighs together. He then turned around to face the mirror, and threw a leg over Sephiroth's lap. "Help me figure this out."

"Ain't nothin' to figure out," Sephiroth was easily able to lift Cloud up by his knees, leaving him wide open and exposed in front of the mirror.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Cloud whispered, leaning back against Sephiroth's chest. He savored the sight of his boyfriend holding him up and his big cock so hard and eager to push inside. He reached down to point it towards his body, brushing the head against his hole and giggling when his body involuntarily twitched in response.

"I love when it winks like that," Sephiroth said, watching from over his shoulder.

"Don't be gross right now," Cloud tsked, trying to concentrate on relaxing.

After a few moments of trial and error, Cloud got the right angle to let Sephiroth's head sink inside. He gasped as it slipped in, pushing lube around his hole with a deliciously wet slide of hard flesh against willing body.

After an inch or two disappeared, Cloud nodded. "Put me down slow."

Sephiroth gently released his hold on Cloud's thighs to let him ease down until his feet were touching the floor. He remained patient and still as Cloud sank down lower with tiny, teasing wriggles of his hips as he took it deep inside.

When he was fully seated, Cloud let out a sharp exhale, "I need to just sit here a second."

Sephiroth swallowed down a moan at the feeling of that perfect little ass hugging him balls deep. That rounded curve was still pink from getting slapped, and looked damn good resting against his lap. He ran his hands up Cloud's slim back appreciatively. "... You doin' okay?"

Cloud moved then, just a slight circle of his ass on top of Sephiroth's thighs. "… Yeah. I could almost come without even moving."

"You wanna try?" Sephiroth smiled as he bumped his lips against Cloud's neck from behind.

"Not really," Cloud whispered with a strained giggle, experimentally tightening his inner muscles before relaxing again. "I'd rather just… totally use you right now."

Sephiroth growled in his throat, completely surprised by how forward Cloud was being that morning. "Do whatever feels good."

"Look," Cloud suggested.

Cloud's eyes were bright as they met Sephiroth's in the reflection, and the narrowed as he lifted his thighs to drag his tight ass up the base of Sephiroth's cock. He paused before dropping back down with a smack of his soft ass against Sephiroth's thighs.

Cloud gave a few more experimental lifts and drops before he found his footing and began to bounce steadily against Sephiroth's lap. "Seph…"

"What?" Sephiroth asked innocently, running his hands over Cloud's thighs as they worked to lift up and then relaxed to let him drop back down.

Cloud hissed slightly, "This feels so good."

"Not shy about the mirror this time?"

Cloud shook his head, his mouth a tight line as he swallowed down a deep groan. "Mm-mm."

"Good," Sephiroth's eyes were fixed on the way Cloud's cock was wagging from the motion of his hips. That was one of his favorite things about watching Cloud ride, especially when it started to drool out between his legs. He didn't want to encroach on Cloud's power, so he gave it an experimental brush of his fingers to gauge Cloud's reaction.

"Touch me," Cloud nodded, covering one of Sephiroth's hands with his own and moving it to his groin. Cloud gasped as he began to move his hips a slightly different way, stimulating himself from the inside as he began to bounce faster. "I like to - "

"What?" Sephiroth asked, curious about Cloud's sexual demands because so far, they'd been a fucking a dream come true.

"Seph…" Cloud whispered again, turning his head to brush his lips against Sephiroth's as he spoke. "... I like to watch us fuck."

Sephiroth kissed that last word off his lips, because that was by far his favorite thing that Cloud had ever said. He pushed his tongue into Cloud's mouth, enjoying the sensation of a wet, hot tongue caressing his. "You feel good, baby?"

"So good," Cloud assured.

"C'mon," Sephiroth purred, moving his fist around Cloud's cock a little faster in case he missed the point.

"Almost," Cloud told him, his smoky blue eyes burning underneath his wet, dark lashes. There was something very erotic about eye contact via the reflection, and as a bonus he wasn't missing any of Sephiroth's hardened, concentrating expressions either. "… I want you to come inside me."

"In this tight little ass?" Sephiroth asked, staring back at Cloud's reflection as he kissed his cheek from behind.

"Fill it up," Cloud whispered.

"You're fuckin' nasty this mornin'," He smiled, unable to resist popping his hips up against Cloud's ass, adding to the bounce.

"Sorry," Cloud pretended to apologize, licking his lips while still staring into his vivid green eyes. "I know you have to go… I promise I won't make you late for work. Just… let me use you for a little longer, Sir."

"What?" Sephiroth asked, straining to be still and let Cloud ride. He focused his pent up aggression on a little play acting, and thrust his hand into Cloud's damp hair to tug his head backwards when he didn't answer right away. "What'd you just say to me?"

A wide smile spread on Cloud's mouth as he continued to bounce steadily on Sephiroth's lap, "Please… let me use you a little longer?"

"What?" Sephiroth growled, turning Cloud's chin to look at him up close. "What'd you call me?"

"Sir," Cloud whispered the operative word again, tonguing a hot kiss onto his boyfriend's parted lips. He tangled his fingers into long, wet hair. "You're gonna make me come so hard, Sephiroth."

He loved the way Cloud rolled his r's as he said his full name. His lips were open against Cloud's, swallowing small whimpers with answering with deeper, rumbling groans of his own. The beautiful slap of flesh echoed off the acoustics of the bathroom, and the dull roar of pumping blood filled their ears like the sound of an oncoming train.

Sephiroth held himself strong and steady for Cloud's use, enjoying being fully connected to a hot, tight little body that was finding its own pleasure from his. Watching Cloud's back and ass as he rode was like the kind of daydream he'd have before he even recognized how much he lusted after a male body; heated skin, rolling muscle, a sweet ass taking him deep, and the relentless pull of someone strong and familiar having their way with him.

He noticed Cloud's thighs trembling as he continued to work, and that his pace was desperate but slowing down. He let Cloud struggle for a few more moments, as that exhausted determination was something erotic in and of itself.

Finally he kissed the side of Cloud's face, smiling at the salty taste of sweat. "You ready for some help?"

"Yes," Cloud hissed, dropping deep and pushing Sephiroth's hard cock against the best angle inside one last time. He fully understood that he was about to unleash a beast, and he was ready for it.

Sephiroth stood up and bent Cloud over the bathroom sink without disconnecting from his body. In the next instant he was behind him and pounding hard, growling in his throat as his balls slapped against the back of Cloud's.

"Seph!" Cloud cried out, his forehead pressed against the cool counter top.

"Open your eyes," Sephiroth demanded, reaching forward with one hand to prop Cloud's chin up. "You wanted to watch us fuck, right?"

Cloud throat bobbed in appreciation of the view. Sephiroth's athletic hips were pumping hard behind him, sending a reverberation that made Cloud's ass bounce just enough. His handsome face was set into harsh lines of concentration, that severe culmination of tension before the most beautiful moment of release. When their eyes met in the reflection, Sephiroth's hand let go of his hair and smoothed it, and his lips softened into an intimate smile that nobody else in the world ever got to see.

Sephiroth couldn't help smiling at the expression Cloud wore when he was about to come. There was always a touch of confusion, and a wild, desperate light in his eyes as his cheeks and chest flashed bright pink. It wasn't some porn-esque, wanton expression at all – it was completely involuntary, and wasn't something that Cloud could recreate on purpose if he wanted to. It was pure honesty, and it summed up the kind of lover and partner that Cloud was.

"Oh fuck," Cloud's voice cracked, and his body tightened on Sephiroth. "Seph!"

"Do it," Sephiroth urged, slowly dragging his fist down to the base of Cloud's cock and letting it pulse against his palm.

Cloud was gasping and soft, unintelligible whispers that sounded like Sephiroth's name escaped as he pushed himself against the inside of Sephiroth's hand. He worked himself on Sephiroth's cock from the inside, using it to prolong the climax. His thick semen splattered against Sephiroth's bathroom cabinets, and somewhere in the back of his mind he was balking at the mess he'd just made, but it was immediately hushed by Sephiroth's deep, throaty cry of release against his ear.

Sephiroth's climax was sudden, a surprisingly sharp burst of release that burned bright and fast. He let it out deep inside of Cloud, giving him exactly what he'd asked for. His balls pulsed against the back of Cloud's, and he could feel him holding himself tight and then relaxing, hugging him and coaxing more out as he rolled his ass back.

Cloud smiled back at him with lidded eyes, nudging backwards with one more tight, internal squeeze of muscle. Sephiroth gave his ass a mild slap as he pulled away, unable to help glancing down to admire the damage he'd caused to Cloud's body.

"Hmm," he couldn't help but groan, as Cloud's ass never looked prettier than when it was reddened and drooling out his load. "... Let it run out."

"Don't be disgusting and ruin my afterglow," Cloud sighed dreamily, tightening it up impossibly tiny. It actually served to push out a dab of Sephiroth's semen, making it bubble as it slid down the back of his balls.

"This is afterglow," Sephiroth held Cloud's hips in place, dipping his knees to press himself up between Cloud's thighs. He wrapped his arms around Cloud's shoulders from behind, and began to rock him slowly in place in front of the mirror. "See? There's cuddling."

"Cuddling is nice," Cloud whispered as he felt his boyfriend's cock still stiff between his legs. "... You wanna keep going?"

Sephiroth groaned in mock disapproval. "You just drained half my fuckin' HP and it's not even enough for you."

"So in theory, think I gained some experience points?" Cloud grinned as he craned his neck up and looked up at Sephiroth expectantly.

"If you did, you fuckin' earned it." He obeyed the silent request and leaned down to let Cloud press sweet kisses across his jaw, chin, and lips. Sephiroth accepted the gentle assault, meeting the ones that landed on his mouth with soft, available lips.

The post-sex endorphins arrived with those kisses, and Sephiroth was lifted out of the confines of his aching body to something heavenly. To be sexually wrung out by this young man was the ultimate in satisfaction, and his heart pounded against his ribcage as Cloud's body and lips pulled away.

Cloud pulled on Sephiroth's hand as he turned to step into the tub. "Now we have to clean up all over again!"

"Your fault," Sephiroth responded, looking twice as ravaged as the endorphins faded and he was left feeling exhausted.

Cloud on the other hand was fully energized as he went about his post-sex cleanup routine. It involved a lot of bending over and awkward angles. "When you get home from the Crater, can we go to Ikea and get one of those hand held shower things?"

Sephiroth raked his hands down his face, not even caring if he was rinsing off all of the lube he was doused in. "Sure."

Cloud let out a little cheer, "Fuck work and fuck school. Let's go back to bed and leave everything we have to do for another day. Let's just sleep in late… then we can go get some food, go to Ikea, maybe go see a movie, then come home and just sit around and cuddle…"

Those were Sephiroth's favorite kind of days. He'd shared many with Cloud, and they'd have many, many more together in the future. "Can't fuck work this time. Can we do that when I get home?"

"It's a date," Cloud smiled as he turned off the water. He stepped out of the tub and began to dry off, and turned around to huff at the General, who was still leaning against the wall and half asleep. "Seph!"

"What?"

"It's four-forty, and you still have to dry your hair!" Cloud laughed, not even mentioning the fact that Sephiroth's abdomen was still slick with lube. "We have to leave like right now."

"Carry me."

Laughing at the reversal of their former roles, Cloud found gusto to peel Sephiroth's lazy body off the shower wall, "Come on, I'll dry your hair for you. It the least I can do after draining your life force."

"Thanks babe," Sephiroth yawned, straddling the toilet seat backwards and resting his head on his arms while Cloud performed the task of toweling off, then drying his hair in sections. He'd done this many times, and made much quicker work of it than if Sephiroth were doing it himself.

"This is an awkward length, isn't it?" Cloud smiled, running his fingers through the short silver hair around Sephiroth's temples where the medical lab had shaved a small area on his head the previous year.

"Doesn't bother me," Sephiroth purred, enjoying the feeling of someone taking care of his hair for him.

Cloud stroked the area of short, glossy hair for a moment. "You're going to cut your hair someday, aren't you?"

"I don't plan on it," Sephiroth sighed. "But maybe."

"I wouldn't mind," Cloud decided, imagining that crop of short hair covering his beloved's head, and maybe even half shaved. Sephiroth would look catastrophically handsome with no long, gorgeous hair to soften the blow of how striking his bone structure was. "... But if you do ever decide to cut it, please don't shock me with it. I'd need plenty of warning, or else I might have a heart attack."

"Cloud."

"Hm?"

"... I was serious, before. Someday we should make this legit between us. I know you want to."

For a few moments the only sound was the hair dryer, and then Cloud cleared his throat. "I told you... you don't have to do anything like that. We're good how we are. We're already legit."

"I know," Sephiroth picked his cheek up off of his arm and turned a gaze back at Cloud. "... I was just thinkin', it'd be nice havin' a real last name."

Cloud turned off the dryer. "What? You want to be a Strife?"

Sephiroth shrank a few centimeters, "That's dumb, isn't it?"

"No," Cloud put the dryer down and pulled Sephiroth's shoulder to face him. "When is someday?"

Sephiroth thought for a moment, deciding what length of time would be appropriate for either of them to reveal catastrophic flaws or back out gracefully. "How does five years sound?"

"Reasonable," Cloud agreed, and extended his pinky finger.

Sephiroth curled his pinky around Cloud's. One was long, pale and the nail was bitten to a bloody stump. The other was short, tan, and the nicely manicured nail was dotted underneath and around the edges with dirt. Those pinkies belonged together, and Sephiroth had to grin as he pulled on Cloud's pinky to kiss it. "Don't talk to me about this again for five years, though."

Cloud leaned forward, nose to nose with his beloved. "... Talk about getting married, you mean?"

"Ugh," Sephiroth groaned, letting go of Cloud's pinky. "Nevermind, I don't wanna."

"No, you do want to! I was perfectly willing to drop the matter, but you're just so in love with me that you need to legally own me!"

"When you put it that way... yeah, pretty much."

"But wait! Are we getting married in five years, or are we going to start planning to get married in five years?"

"Aw, shit..." Sephiroth grumbled. "I dunno. The first option."

"So we need to start planning in four years if we're getting married in five years," Cloud was blinking rapidly. "And! And, and can I start calling you my fiancé? No, no, no! I don't want to start calling you that yet, because long engagements never work out, so we should wait! We're... we're just planning right now. Nobody can know but us, because then they'll be even more horrible and discouraging than they already are about everything... what we have is a secret, pre-planned engagement!"

"Who's horrible and discouraging?"

Cloud wasn't listening, "And this isn't your proposal! You have to like, do something romantic in four years! When I least expect it!"

"'Kay."

"I really don't want a ring, though," Cloud grimaced. "They're uncomfortable and seem dangerous in our work. Can we just not do rings?"

Sephiroth let out a gust of air, and lifted his hand up. "Fuck yes, thank God. I love you for sayin' that."

"I love you, too!" Cloud beamed, hitting Sephiroth's hand in an affectionate high-five. "Kiss me!"

Sephiroth reached back to curl an arm around Cloud's waist, and leaned up to meet him in a smiling kiss. "... Talk to ya in four years."

"Don't forget, though!"

"I won't," Sephiroth's lips curved into a smile at how happy Cloud was, even though all he'd really done was agree to the idea. He didn't want to be greedy with his feelings anymore, not when Cloud was always so generous with his own. There was always the possibility that they'd just set an expiration date for their relationship, because a whole fuck of a lot could happen... but Sephiroth had a feeling that Cloud was his teammate for life.

Cloud turned the dryer back on to finish his future husband's hair, and found that he was even more enamored with it than usual. "Forget what I said before – no husband of mine is cutting his gorgeous hair off."

Sephiroth had to chuckle at the change of heart. "Look how much work it takes, though. You don't even gotta do anything to your hair and it looks awesome."

Cloud glanced in the mirror and grimaced to find that it had fully air dried already, and was sticking up in every conceivable direction. "You like it when it's like this?"

"Hell yeah, I do."

Cloud squinted one eye suspiciously, fully prepared to be the butt of a joke. "You prefer this to when I fix it?"

"It always looks good," He offered gently, knowing he was treading on sensitive ground. "But my favorite is when it looks like it does right now."

Cloud realized that Sephiroth was the only person in his entire life who had never attempted to scratch his spikes down flat, or lick his hand to attempt to slick it down, or complain that his hair was blocking the view of something. If anything, Sephiroth played with his hair in a fully appreciative sense, instigating his spikes to stand up wilder.

Sephiroth wanted to marry these spikes.

After a moment of hesitation, Cloud decided to let his hair be free, and instead pulled on his uniform while Sephiroth squeezed into some leather. After a quick stop in the kitchen to fill two thermoses with their hot drink of choice and grab a pastry for the ride, they finally made it out the front door. Cloud wasn't even late for school; Sephiroth drove on the sidewalk to get him there on time.

"Text me when you get to the Crater, love!" Cloud told him after their final kiss goodbye. He trotted happily towards the direction of the training field before he heard Sephiroth's voice call out to him across the parking lot.

"Did you leave your jizz all over the bathroom cabinets?"

Cloud froze and turned around to offer Sephiroth a guilty shrug. "Sorry!"

"Can you do somethin' about that while I'm gone?" Sephiroth asked with a sleepy, but very satisfied grin.

"I'll take care of it this weekend," Cloud rocked on his feet with a playful smile. "... After I get the new phones broken in. I lost a bet this morning, right?"

"You better clean up after yourself. I'm bringin' a DNA kit back with me," Sephiroth teased. "I better not find anything under the blacklight."

"Maybe I'll write my name on the bathroom cabinets!" Cloud stuck out his tongue.

"Nasty..." Sephiroth responded with approval in his tone. He clearly wanted to stay and flirt some more, but instead rolled up his window and sailed the tank out of the parking lot.

Cloud waved shamelessly as he left, maybe to be noticed In Sephiroth's rear view mirror or maybe not. He liked to think Sephiroth gave at least one glance backwards whenever he had to leave. Cloud dropped his arm when the tank was gone, and had a smile on his face as he walked to class.

There were a group of cadets smoking nearby. They'd just overheard General Sephiroth discussing bodily fluids with Cloud Strife, but it wasn't even a story worth repeating. If it was anybody else other than Cloud it might have been viable gossip, but as it was, Sephiroth and Cloud's bodily fluids were old news.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Cloud met the day head on and even did pretty okay in his first advanced sword training class, was conscious enough to pay attention in his academic classes, and didn't allow anyone to make a fuss over him – although nobody had that intention in mind anyway. Everybody got hurt, everybody bled, and almost everybody broke a limit. Cloud was the smallest, but he certainly wasn't special, so he held it together until the very end of the day.

The stupid baseball class was the one that actually finished him. When he swung the bat, he felt and a pop in his side that gave way to searing pain. He hobbled back to the dugout and managed to play it off until the final bell, and then sat there casually until his classmates had cleared the baseball field.

When Cloud was finally alone, he gingerly tried to stand up, but failed. And so he began to travel to his dorm room by the only mode possible: rolling.

He made it off the baseball diamond and was in the middle of an uninterrupted lateral roll across the training field when he heard Skylar's voice call out to him, "Cloud! What the hell are you doing?"

Cloud cursed under his breath, but then masked any pain by posing carelessly on his stomach as though he was simply lying on his bed. "Hey Skylar! What's up?"

"I haven't seen you since you were all bloody. You feel better?"

"Yeah, thanks for asking!" Cloud grimaced a little as he turned onto his side to appear relaxed as Skylar approached him. "Guess what? I got into an advanced sword training class with Junior SOLDIERs!"

"That's awesome! … So why are we rolling?"

Cloud's pose faltered a little, "It's good for your core."

"Can you get up?"

"No."

"C'mon loser," he laughed, very gently helping Cloud to his feet and brushing some of the snow off of him. "So how did the Junior SOLDIERs treat you?"

"As expected," Cloud teetered a little bit on wobbly legs. "… They're terrifying up close. Way scarier than First Class SOLDIERS."

"They're just assholes who got a little Mako and think they're so much better than us."

"I know, it's the unbalanced part that makes them scary." Cloud shivered as his muscles began to cool down and he felt the winter chill. They were encouraged to wear only tank tops considering that was the SOLDIER uniform, even at the Northern Crater. Showing up for morning drills in a hoodie was considered rookie behavior for Cadets in their second year at the Academy. Cloud crossed his arms against the cold. "Where are you going right now?"

"To my room to change, then to get some dinner. I was thinking about going to the gym, too. I need a leg day."

"Leg day sounds great!" Cloud nodded pleasantly, pretending that he wasn't in horrible pain and that he wasn't leaning all of his weight on his friend as they took small baby steps. "I'm not supposed to lift anything heavy for a bit, maybe we can make it a whole leg week challenge. What do you think?"

"I think you need to go to medical," Skylar answered.

"No!" Cloud yelped. "Just walk me to my room. Cam has a whole case of potions."

"Why didn't you just ask?" Skylar shrugged out of one strap of his backpack, then dug around inside until he took out a potion to offer.

Cloud hesitated, because those were damn expensive. He didn't mind taking one from Cameron because as roommates, they often bought communal supplies and it always evened out. But his side was splitting and he was sort of feeling like maybe he was bleeding internally or something, so he took the can. "…Thank you so much."

"No big deal," Skylar watched as his friend struggled to swallow the entire can of nasty, but extremely effective medicine.

"But the Advanced class is really fun!" Cloud burped when he was finished, able to stand up a little straighter and walk on his own as the potion took effect. "William got transferred to that class too, so I'm not the only one who isn't a Junior SOLDER. I got moved out of my Infantry class to make room for it in my schedule. I wish they would have moved me out of Wutainese instead!"

"Why? I do all your work for you."

"I do all my work myself! You just… double check it," Cloud then offered him a very formal 'thank you my dear friend' kind of saying in Wutainese that was only ever found on greeting cards or embroidered on old lady pillows. When Cloud attempted to speak Wutainese, he sounded like a disgruntled gay toddler. It wasn't actually much different than he normally sounded.

Skylar grabbed the strap of Cloud's snow-encrusted backpack. "C'mon, I'm hungry. Let's change in your room then get some food."

"Okay!" Cloud sped up, practically prancing now that he wasn't in any pain – not even from the quick, rough sex he'd scored that morning. He then slowed down, wrinkling his eyebrows as a distant memory hinted from an unconscious place in his mind. He wasn't mad at Skylar, but he should have been. Where his anger used to be was instead a hazy memory of a gentle conversation while the world was spinning. "...We talked when I was hurt, right?"

"Yeah. I was with you on the helicopter ride back."

"That's right!" Cloud remembered, and then groaned, "Did I say anything embarrassing?"

"Not at all." Skylar wrapped his arm around Cloud's neck. "Don't worry, I'm already over you."

Cloud smiled and wrapped his arm around Skylar's waist as they walked. He wanted to say something, but he didn't have any idea of how to communicate his relief to have this boy in his life as a best friend. He loved Skylar. He wanted to be in SOLDIER with Skylar, he wanted Skylar at his wedding in five years, he wanted Skylar over at his house for cheesecake when they were in their sixties.

Skylar filled the amicable silence with a triumphant noise. "I sucked a monster cock on Sunday night!"

Cloud was struck by giggles at the outburst. "Really?"

"Like, jaw stretching monster."

"Was the rest of him cute?"

"Definitely."

"You fuck him?" Cloud prompted.

"Nah."

"He fuck you?"

"I don't think it'd be possible with a dick like his."

"Did he at least get you off?" Cloud asked.

"Nah."

"Why do you always do that?" Cloud wondered, only understanding the natural give and take that a committed couple shared during a sexual experience.

Skylar however, had the working knowledge of a single man and understood how fleeting and meaningless a sexual encounter could be. He shrugged a shoulder. "There's like this power knowing you can play someone like that. Like... just getting someone really hot to come for me is enough sometimes."

"I can understand that I guess," Cloud conceded with a side eye before perking up. "So this guy you were with is cute and has a monster cock? He obviously doesn't go to this school."

"He used to."

Cloud slowed his roll a little bit. "...Is it who I think it is?"

Skylar had every intention of making Cloud work for this information, but he had to fucking tell somebody before he exploded. "Angeal."

"Are you…" Cloud sucked in a chestful of air before bellowing, " – FUCKING KIDDING ME? Oh! Did you go on a date? Where'd you go?"

"No, we didn't go on a fucking date, Cloud. We went to a bar, and then I sucked him off in the bathroom."

"That's a date, though!" Cloud gushed, clasping his hands happily.

"It was not," Skylar insisted.

"What do you consider a date, then?"

"A date is like..." Skylar sighed. "You talk for a long time. Months. Years, even. And you're attracted to each other, but you cultivate this amazing friendship before anything happens. And then he finally asks you out. You hold hands, and you eat something, and you go to the movies, and at the end you just like, have a little kiss. And you try to be a whore and make him go further, but he's a respectable boy and goes home. Then you run into your room and write in your journal, and like just furiously masturbate. And then you go to sleep happy, because you're in love and it's totally pure. Then he doesn't think you're a slut and he calls back the very next day."

It took Cloud a lot of restraint not to interrupt Skylar during this explanation, and he began counting the rebuttals off on his fingers. "First of all, you are a slut. Second, you're this big macho top all of the sudden, so you can't even fit into your own fantasy because you don't let anyone treat you like that. Third, I've been on that so-called dream date that you described. I'd much rather Sephiroth take me somewhere sleazy to get me drunk and let me blow him, than do all that shy tip-toeing. Being a virgin was the darkest time of my life!"

"First of all," Skylar mimicked. "You were a virgin for like five minutes last year, so don't act like you waited for anything but an opportunity. And I'm a slut, I know that. But I just want a guy to like... not take advantage of that. I want a guy that I really like to tell me no, and that waiting is worth it. Not for love or anything, but just... to wait for… something."

"So your dream guy rejects you sexually and strings you along for some undetermined length of time, for some obscure reason that isn't love?"

"It doesn't sound as nice the way you say it."

"If a guy actually treated you like that, you would slit his throat!" Cloud predicted, shivering hard as a winter wind gusted at them from the flat training field.

"I wouldn't mind someone taking time with me, to at least attempt to care about me," Skylar rubbed his bare, goosebump covered arms as he took a look all around them. They were getting closer to the dorms, and there was heavier traffic of cadets, and he certainly didn't want anyone overhearing this conversation. He lowered his voice, "Like I don't need to be in love, because I can't force that or expect that. And it's not the most important thing in my life right now, anyways. But I guess if it happened… that'd be nice."

As someone who had always considered love a top priority in life, Cloud pondered his friend's situation. He even put himself into the equation, because Skylar certainly saw some sort of potential for romance between the two of them. Cloud wasn't sure if he would even consider Skylar dateable if Sephiroth weren't a factor... if for no other reason than Skylar had managed to fuck every decent looking person in school, and he had rarely enjoyed any of those encounters. Skylar was looking for something very specific, and very imaginary.

Cloud changed the subject. "So... are you going to see Angeal again?"

"I dunno."

"Do you want to?"

"I dunno."

"You have to know what you want, and ask the Universe for it out loud!" Cloud proclaimed. "Or else you'll never get it."

"I want Cloud Strife to have an older brother," Skylar asked the Universe out loud. "Who is... taller, less whiny, and has a bigger ass. And who realizes punk is dead and doesn't listen to shitty, outdated music -"

"HEY!" Cloud roared.

"And would never wear acid wash jeans - "

"It's back in style, though! I'm a trendsetter!"

Skylar continued, "And is cool, and laid back, and always has a blunt ready to burn. And is Wutainese so I can be with him forever without my family giving me shit."

Cloud glared up at his friend as he came to a realization, "Skylar, you want to date yourself."

"Of course I do. Should I ask the Universe to give me a clone?"

"You are one narcissistic sack of shit!" Cloud shoved him with a wordless shout of rage. "Can you stop making this all about you and talk more about Angeal, please?"

"Yes!" Skylar smiled, a little more enthused about the entire experience. "He's a nice guy. And he's got an amazing body. And... a massive wiener."

Cloud let out a squawk of a noise at the thought of it, even forgiving his friend for using the least appealing euphemism for a penis in existence. "Make a hand circle!"

Skylar demonstrated Angeal's circumference by making what Cloud often referred to as a 'hand circle'. Angeal's circle required much more of Skylar's palms then seemed possible, but he insisted, "Not even exaggerating."

"Whoa!" Cloud looked up at Skylar through the opening between his hands, "That's like getting fucked by a sandwich!"

"I know!" Skylar laughed. "He seemed really agreeable to being bottom... I'm guessing because he usually doesn't have a choice."

"No kidding! It would literally kill me!" Cloud made a similar circle with his own hands and peered down the barrel. He couldn't fathom what kind of soul searching it would require to sit on such an object. "Did you eat his ass?"

"Not on the first date," Skylar laughed a little through his nose at how frank Cloud could be when asking sexual questions. It was a big contrast to how he used to talk about it when they'd first met. "It was nice, though... really muscular and a little hairy. Way different than what I'm used to."

Cloud gawked up at the sky as his brain filled with preposterous images. "Topping someone with a cock that huge would feel like an insult. Would you be into it?"

"Way, way, way into it!" Skylar admitted, even to himself. "He's different one-on-one. Like… I know for a fact that man's been blown in a bathroom before. But he acted really cute and shocked, like I was taking advantage of him. He pretends he's this little innocent thing, and it's kind of hot."

Cloud was covering his mouth with both hands, and removed them to shoot his friend a grin. "How was kissing?"

"Have you ever made out with a bisexual guy?"

Cloud snorted, "No."

"Well, that's how Angeal kisses."

"How do bi guys kiss?"

"Have you ever made out with a girl?"

"No."

"What the hell, Cloud?" Skylar laughed. "What were you doing at parties when you were twelve years old if you weren't making out with curious guys and girls?"

"I wasn't allowed to go to parties..." Cloud groped for an excuse for having no social life as an adolescent. Cameron knew all of this shit, but Cloud had managed to keep his past mildly classified at the academy, since he'd gone to all the trouble to reinvent himself and everything. "... I spent my childhood working to take care of my abusive drunk mother. Horrible woman."

"Oh bullshit, you're the biggest mama's boy I've ever met!"

"Alright... the truth is, I was a loser in Nibelheim. Not a loser like I am now, but like an actual loser," he admitted with a shrug. "I was always short, skinny, and awkward... but also really antisocial and sad. Nobody wanted to kiss me."

"Their loss," Skylar consoled, unable to resist peeking down the front of Cloud's tank top. Even if he was working to accept the fact that he was never going to be with Cloud, Skylar would always appreciate the view down his shirt. "I bet any of those people would love to kiss you now."

"Probably," Cloud narrowed his eyes with a smug grin, as Tifa and her bitchy little friends were extremely friendly on social media. Cloud shamelessly posted shirtless pictures of himself, his friends, and sometimes even of Sephiroth. But it was actually a group picture in the gym mirror that made all the girls in Nibelheim start seriously discussing a group trip to Midgar. Not to visit Cloud, but to meet Cameron, who was obnoxiously photogenic. "... Eh, they can all go to hell. Anyways, how does a bisexual guy kiss?"

Skylar sighed, "I can't describe it. It's just a little different."

"Is it weird to think that a guy you're interested in also likes girls?" Cloud wondered.

"No. Why?"

"I think it might be strange. Like... what if he's always comparing?"

"Sephiroth dated a lot of women. Don't you think he compares?"

"I think he just had different expectations," Cloud hummed as they approached the Rufus building. "He probably thought I'd be less clingy because I'm a guy. Surprise!"

"You're the definition of cling."

"I think you could exercise a little cling," Cloud slid his keycard to swing through the door and let out a sigh of relief as he stepped into the warmth. "Act like you're interested. Actually be interested. Cling without shame or mercy!"

"How does one cling to some guy they barely know?" Skylar asked, following his friend inside.

"Delusion and fantasy!" Cloud advised as he jogged up the stairs. "Or better yet, have you texted Angeal today? You should!"

"What do I say?"

"Say 'good morning'!"

"Nobody wants a 'good morning' text from someone they're not serious about. And it's fucking four in the afternoon, saying 'good morning' doesn't even make sense!"

"That's the beauty of a text! They don't have to make sense!" Cloud opened his door and was already working to get his clothes off, which were soaking wet with melted snow.

"HEY ASSHOLE!" Psychopath hissed, marching up to Cloud with a fierce glare. He was usually pretty pissed when Cloud was gone for a whole weekend, but this absence had stretched from Friday morning all the way until this very moment. "WHERE THA FUCK HAVE YA BEEN?"

"Missing you!" Cloud snatched Psycho's long, lean form up off the floor and gave the top of his head a kiss.

"Quit leavin' home, then!" Psycho yowled, giving Cloud's arm a warning scratch out of an emotional mix of feline possessiveness and bitter anger.

Cloud knew better than to throw the cat when he started clawing. Instead he indulged in a few moments to give Psychopath kisses and scritches while the cat rhythmically sank his claws into Cloud's bare shoulder. "Text Angeal!"

"I'm too busy watching you make out with Cam's cat."

"Text him!" Cloud demanded, putting Psychopath down. He snatched a fresh, dry pair of sweatpants and a hoodie out of his closet and closed himself into the bathroom.

"… Maybe," Skylar sighed, slipping off his fatigues and briefs which were drenched in a cold winter sweat and snow. He made awkward eye contact with Psychopath while he was naked. "… What are you staring at?"

"Your pubes," Pyscho answered calmly. "How come they're so dark? How come ya got so much of 'em?"

"I hate this fucking animal," Skylar whispered incredulously to himself as he yanked on dry underwear, completely regretting his decision to change in Cloud's room.

"Daddy?" Psychopath called out to Cloud, "How come dis creep's pubes are black if his hair's blonde? It's outta control."

Cloud let out a shrill laugh from the bathroom. "Psycho, that's a rude question!"

"What's he gonna do about it?" the cat challenged.

"Shove you into a sack, tie it tight and throw you into the ocean," Skylar answered, fully dressed.

"Bring it on," Psycho invited, his tail flapping against the windowsill.

"Did you text Angeal yet?" Cloud called from the bathroom, still giggling.

Skylar smiled and gave Psychopath a rough scratch on the head as he sat on Cameron's bed to pull his boots back on. "I'm not in a rush."

The door to the bathroom flew open, and a half naked Cloud dashed out. Like a robot drone with x-ray vision, he thrust a hand into Skylar's bag and snatched his cell phone. He was back in the bathroom behind a locked door in less than a second.

"I don't care what you say to him," Skylar snorted as he tied his laces. If Cloud thought he was going to chase him or be offended, he was mistaken. Although... Cloud certainly had the capacity to be humiliating, and Skylar's sheen of indifference faded. "But what are you saying to him, though?"

Cloud emerged from the bathroom fully dressed as he handed the phone back, "I told him good evening."

Skylar took his phone and glared at the screen. "... Handsome. You wrote 'good evening Handsome'. And you capitalized handsome?"

"Yeah! It'll make him imagine you all shiny and naked and lounging in bed like a queen..." Cloud struck a ridiculously seductive pose with his hands behind his head. "Men love getting that text."

"What men? You've only dated one, you know!" Skylar frowned, hating that Angeal would now see him as an overeager little idiot cadet. That routine worked for Cloud, but that's because Sephiroth was probably some other similar brand of clingy and insane. His face drained of color as a response lit up his phone screen. "Fuck! He already wrote back!"

"What'd he say?"

"He wrote… 'evening Sexy.' And he… capitalized sexy."

Cloud smiled knowingly as he shoved his foot inside some Converse without bothering to undo the laces. "And that my friend, is how you get into a man's head. Next time, send the text earlier than this and you'll be on his mind all day!"

Skylar put a little more faith in Cloud's technique. "What should I say now?"

"Nothing. Make him wait! You're too busy being sexy with a capital 'S' to text him back right now… wait a couple hours." For the record, Cloud Strife had never actually been able to follow this advice at any point in his relationship with Sephiroth.

"You have a lot of practice with this," Skylar acknowledged, totally believing Cloud's lie as he put his phone away.

"You know, you can really torment a guy with just a couple of words," Cloud let out a low sound in his throat. "Sephiroth's really good at that… every single morning he sends me something really sweet and sensual just to say hello. It's the perfect thing to wake up to."

"Read me the text he sent you this morning," Skylar challenged dryly.

"I woke up with him this morning."

"Then read me the last morning text he sent."

"Sure," Cloud fearlessly pulled out his phone. "Saturday morning… nevermind."

"No, you have to tell me what super sensual text you got on Saturday morning."

Cloud sighed quietly and recited the short series of texts aloud with better grammar than his boyfriend had typed it with, "I'm up because I felt something tickle my arm, and I was so ready to kill the shit out of a bug. It was just one of your little blonde stray hairs floating around. Your hair is here in bed with me, why aren't you? Miss you much, see you tomorrow."

Skylar didn't laugh, or even smile. "… I'd love to get a text like that from my boyfriend. If I had one."

Cloud sheepishly slid his phone into this back pocket. "Let's go eat."

They were soon back out in the snow on their way to the cafeteria. Cloud was listening for the chimes of Skylar's phone, just as nervous about getting another text as Skylar was pretending not to be.

"So when Angeal texts again, don't write him off as a perv if it's something sexual. He's not trying to treat you like a slut, he's only human."

"Barely," Skylar muttered. "With that huge wiener he's part horse."

"Please stop saying wiener!" Cloud cried. "I'm trying to get off vicariously and I can't do it if you use that word!"

"If they're serving corndogs tonight I'm gonna get like four of them to show you how big this thing is."

They unfortunately weren't serving corndogs, but a twenty ounce can of Redbull also demonstrated the girth nicely. Skylar could fit his mouth around the can with a little work, but poor Cloud could not. So much for living vicariously.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

The first hard snow of winter fell that evening, right before Sephiroth and Vincent's flight to the Northern Crater. The airship was delayed a few hours until the storm eased up, ensuring a very hungry, grumpy, and irritable flight for everyone on board. Vincent and Sephiroth hardly spoke, but somehow being mutually pissed off near each other was its own kind of male bonding experience.

Every so often Vincent would look at Sephiroth and grunt, "Fuckin' bullshit."

Sephiroth would agree with a roll of his eyes.

By the time they arrived at the Northern Crater base, it was the middle of the night and no real work could be done. It annoyed Sephiroth, who was very keen on getting this stupid investigation over with as soon as possible. Now they were already a day behind schedule.

Even though it was so late, Sephiroth's demanding stomach couldn't sleep without eating. They'd fed him on the airship, but he definitely needed more than a microwave meal and some stale cookies.

Sephiroth went to the cafeteria and was disheartened that it was dark and deserted at that time of the night. He didn't want to settle for vending machine food, he had a hunger that brownies and chips wouldn't... fulfill.

Sephiroth stood up a tall, looking around the room for a moment. There was some sort of intense deja-vu here. It was the sharpest, most bizarre feeling that he'd done this exact same thing before.

Deciding that there was nothing notable about this experience, he went back to weighing the option of a vending machine feast. He chalked the weird feeling up to having been to the base so recently, but it seemed like more than that… as though he'd dreamt of being here. Even the very specific nuance of facing a ravenous hunger and not wanting to eat from a vending machine. Not just any generic vending machine either, this exact selection right down to the cheap sticks of gum at the bottom.

Not only that, but everything around him felt strikingly familiar. It was a tantalizing feeling, like something was on the very tip of his tongue. Sephiroth looked around the room, following the pull of this strange familiarity. He slid over the counter of the cleaned out and empty buffet line into the darkness of the kitchen. There were refrigerators, food storage closets, stoves, and cases full of dishes, trays, and cooking equipment. Even just the layout of the cabinets full of trays and pots was distinctly familiar, although he hadn't been back in this area of the base when he and Vincent were inspecting it.

The odd feeling waned. It left him standing in the middle of the back kitchen in front of a wall of coolers. He touched the handle of the door and tightened his grip to open it, when he let out a snort and went back the way he came.

Cloud had a theory about deja-vu, and was always excited when he experienced it. He seemed to believe in astral projection, or that the soul might leave the body and wander around at night, sometimes producing eerie dreams of very real places. Sephiroth knew that Cloud talked in his sleep almost every night, and sometimes moved around in response to dream stimuli. Sephiroth had gotten sleep kisses, as well as sleep kicks from Cloud. He'd never witnessed it, but it stood to reason that Cloud might have suffered from sleep walking, giving a dreamy impression of places or situations he would later see in waking life.

It made Sephiroth wonder if he ever did the same thing. Maybe he'd gotten hungry one night and walked in his sleep to the base kitchen, ate something and wandered back to bed. That might provide a reasonable explanation. If that was the case, he hoped he was at least wearing pants at the time.

Sephiroth sat on the counter to swing his legs over to the other side when he noticed an open doorway with a light on inside. There was a hallway that held the offices of the kitchen workers. Safety posters, employee schedules and bulletin boards full of notes were tacked on the walls, and the agonizingly familiar feeling returned.

Sephiroth crept up to the doorway, wondering if he might stumble upon some employees fucking or something equally as scandalous. Instead it was an old woman at a desk, and she was holding her head in her hands. She wasn't upset or crying, but rather taking a moment for personal reflection or was perhaps just resting her eyes. It was an intensely private moment.

Sephiroth tried to sneak away, but she noticed movement at the door. "Hello?"

Busted, he had to shamefully return to the doorway. "I didn't mean to bother you."

"General Sephiroth," The lady acknowledged with surprising military familiarity, and snapped into a salute. "I'm former Lieutenant Irene Nowicki, the Crater Base kitchen manager. Do you want something to eat? We had dinner ready for you and Commander Valentine, but your flight was delayed so we cleaned up. I can make you some- "

"At ease, Lieutenant," Sephiroth begged her, totally embarrassed by this very professional little old lady. She'd clearly been in the Shin-Ra army long before he was even born, and was his least favorite type of person to salute him. His excuse for being there sounded really stupid, so he lied: "I was just taking a look around before the investigation tomorrow. I didn't mean to bother you."

She relaxed a bit, but her stare was intense. "I hope you find the intruder… five civilian workers on my staff died horribly of spinal injuries last week. I know they weren't Turks or SOLDIERs, but they were very decent people. I want to see whoever did it dead."

Sephiroth had read the briefing on the intrusion, but honestly had glossed over the deaths of the kitchen staff. They were civilians who worked in food services at Shin-Ra headquarters, and had been contracted to work at the Crater Base at three month intervals. Sephiroth filed it away in his brain as casualties and nothing more.

Former Lieutenant Nowicki was still staring up at him, expecting answers, and probably wondering what an asshole like General Sephiroth could possibly do to help. Ever since the Rolling Stone cover and the media bullshit that followed, the older people in the Shin-Ra army were a little extra unimpressed with the three young Generals and the direction recruitment was heading. But it had been the President's call to craft a cooler, revamped image for the Shin-Ra army… and Cadet recruitment for the following year was already one of the biggest in history, and definitely the biggest since the war against Wutai came to an end.

But here in this secluded part of the world, with nobody else to turn to, this strong little lady was looking up to Sephiroth for leadership and assurance. "Commander Valentine and I are gonna figure out who did this… we're in the middle of nowhere, so there's nowhere to go without leaving an obvious trail. We'll kill her for what she did. We can eat her if you want."

The old lady's eyes went wide, searching for either humor or seriousness in that statement. Sephiroth bit the side of his mouth in disbelief that he'd just said that... he was becoming a Strife, it was fucking inevitable.

"I... know they said it was a woman who did it," Former Lieutenant Nowicki told him, carefully sidestepping the topic of cannibalism. "But I know that it wasn't a woman. I'm not entirely sure it was a man, either. At least not a fully grown man."

"Why?" Sephiroth asked very professionally.

"The construction team working on the base uses the kitchens here freely; if they don't want to spend money on the food we cook, they can keep their own food caches and make meals for themselves. Usually they all come in here in the morning when we're opening, make some lunch for themselves to grab at noon, write their names on it and store them in the cooler. Whoever broke into the base killed all the kitchen staff they came across and stole at least fifteen lunches. They took the food to the men's restroom to eat, and then left all the garbage behind. I know it wasn't a woman, and it's not somebody concerned with DNA evidence. I kept everything in the freezer for analysis."

Sephiroth was trying to remember all of this to parrot back to Vincent the next day. "Anything else?"

She continued. "Another important fact that I think is being glossed over is what the intruder ate. Peanut butter, lunchmeat, pudding, cheese, chips - does that sound like a meal a Wutainese spy would go after? And what kind of female in her right mind would take that much food to the men's room, and then time to pick out all the vegetables and tear off the crusts to leave behind in the garbage? We're looking for a cross dressing SOLDIER, probably from Midgar, and more boy than man."

"Be available to work with us tomorrow on the investigation," Sephiroth ordered. He knew he was the muscle and the tactical thinker, and felt damn lucky to have found this treasure of a woman to do all the heavy deduction for him.

"I'd be honored," She agreed, but didn't smile or show any pleasure in the recognition. She was real old school Shin-Ra like that.

"Where can I find you in the morning?"

"I'll be serving you breakfast at seven hundred hours," she answered. "We can go over everything in detail that I know afterwards."

"Perfect," Sephiroth turned to leave the room. "Tomorrow morning, Lieutenant."

"Young man," she barked.

He paused and looked over his shoulder, "... Yeah?"

"I know you're hungry and you were sniffing around here for food," She got up from her chair and reached for a hairnet. "Let me make you something to eat."

Sephiroth almost refused, but just couldn't resist tiny, bossy people who insisted upon giving him what he really wanted. And what he really wanted was some cold, leftover pizza, which the former Lieutenant just happened to have in one of the coolers that didn't contain dead bodies.

He took four slices on a paper plate and quickly vacated the kitchens with his prize. He was actually looking forward to the investigation now. He had Nowicki to do the work for him, and he planned on just standing around and agreeing with everything she said.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

The next morning Sephiroth piled pancakes, donuts, bacon, eggs, fruit, and coffee on a tray, totally unconcerned about nutritional content. He needed to develop a layer of protective blubber if he was going to be stuck at the Northern Crater for any length of time.

Sephiroth spotted Vincent sitting at a table alone, a cup of coffee and a single piece of toast in front of him. He was a thin man and he ate like one.

"Here's the plan," Sephiroth announced, dropping down into the seat across from Vincent and placing his tray in such a way to invite Vincent to eat. "We've got a good contact in the kitchen who's gonna show us around today. We get all the info she's got, work it over, figure out where the intruder went, find 'em, kill 'em, and then leave. If we do this right we can get outta here tomorrow."

Vincent didn't look up from his newspaper. "Shhh."

That was an odd reaction, and Sephiroth frowned. "What?"

"You don't make plans," Vincent told him. "I make plans, and you pipe down and act like you're interested in bein' here."

"Let's err towards efficiency, that's all I'm sayin'."

"Err towards efficiency," Vincent mocked. "You sound like Lazard."

Sephiroth slumped low in his seat, but wasn't too moody to dig into his breakfast. "I'm the muscle. I just wanna kill somebody and go home."

Vincent could only agree. "Yeah me too, but they need to see us here for a few days. Can you manage to pretend you aren't an asshole for a few days?"

Sephiroth made a noise of complaint through a mouthful of pancakes.

Vincent smirked, "Trappin' can be just as much fun as stompin' around and cuttin' someone's head off."

"No shit. I'm a tactical genius, didn't you know?" Sephiroth told him will a full mouth, rattling off what newspapers had called him since he was a teenager.

"Genius?" Vincent huffed. "You're just a lucky little shithead who makes good guesses."

Sephiroth wasn't offended at being written off, and in fact found great pleasure in it. A wide smile spread across his face as he shoved some bacon into his mouth. "So that's what you think of me?"

"To me, you'll always be a crazy little kid," Vincent turned the page of his paper. "A little kid in a big coat playin' war games with his friends."

"Fair enough. But what if I was like, really good at my job?" Sephiroth challenged. "What if I actually like it? And what if I'm actually as smart as they say I am? What then?"

Vincent reached out to take some of his bacon. "Well, if that's the case... I'm awfully proud of ya."

Sephiroth continued to eat with a smile. After a few minutes of his chewing and Vincent's calm page turning, Sephiroth couldn't stand it anymore. "I'm like, kinda proud of you too."

"Don't say anything nice to me 'til I'm dyin'," With more of a taste for food, Vincent helped himself to one of Sephiroth's donuts. "Or better yet, already dead. Say nice shit about me at my funeral."

"I'll try," Sephiroth shoved a section of an apple fritter into his face.

"You know..." Vincent thought aloud, "I only remember my dad sayin' he was proud of me like... once. My mom died in a train derailment, super sudden. I was gonna talk at her funeral, but I couldn't. He said he was proud of me, anyways. That was the only time, I think."

"What were their names?"

"Collette was my mom, and Grimoire's my dad."

"And how'd he die?" Sephiroth asked, stabbing his eggs and jamming them into his mouth.

Vincent sputtered a laugh. "He's not dead."

Sephiroth's eyes shot up. "What? Where is he?"

Vincent thought for a moment before giving Sephiroth an apologetic half shrug, "He's worse than me, Seph. He's not into like... family and shit."

"You're sayin' I can't talk to my grandpa?" Sephiroth clarified. "Or you just don't want me to talk to him?"

"Grandpa," Vincent repeated incredulously, picking up his newspaper to fan his suddenly red face. "Shit. Jesus."

"Hey, if you're embarrassed and ashamed of your adopted son, it's cool," Sephiroth shrugged right back at him. "Family ain't a big deal to me, either. I mean, what the hell? Nobody's gotta give a shit about Sephiroth, I don't have feelings or nothin', I wasn't created with them - "

"You little shithead," Vincent sneered, seeing the manipulation but unable to help falling for it. "When this investigation is through... if you can fuckin' behave... I'll call him and tell him you wanna talk. That might actually be the thing that kills him."

"He knows about me?" Sephiroth wondered, his insides going a bit warm that maybe Vincent had spoken of him to someone else.

"Oh yeah," Vincent laughed. "You were what made him quit his job at the medical lab. He couldn't stomach all the genetic experimentation. Broke your mom's heart, he was one of her favorite coworkers."

Sephiroth was silent for a moment, his jaw twitching as he stared directly into Vincent's blood red eyes. Finally, he licked his lips. "What happened to you that made you like this?"

"What?" Vincent asked, genuinely shocked.

"What coulda possibly happened to you, in your middle class, fuckin' upper plate Midgar life, to make you like this?" Sephiroth demanded, his anger funneling his volume down into a dark whisper. "After all I been through, I'm still more fuckin' normal than you. How?"

"Everyone goes through shit, Seph."

"But I wanna know what the fuck happened to you," Sephiroth didn't raise his voice, but something about his tone seemed monstrously loud. "Why do I gotta ask specific questions to you to get basic fuckin' information? It's like every time we talk I find out shit I shoulda known since I was a kid!"

"Grim Valentine ain't got nothin' to do with you," Vincent whispered back. "He tried everything to stop you from even bein' conceived. So if he'd stuck around, you wouldn't be here. So be grateful he left."

That felt like a knife right in Sephiroth's heart, and his voice cracked slightly. "So... someone in this fucked up company actually had some sense, some fuckin' basic human morals? And you never thought I'd might wanna know about him, or talk to him?"

"It never occurred to me," was Vincent's answer.

"You're gonna put me in contact with him the minute this bullshit mission is over with."

"You're gonna respect me as the head of this investigation and act accordingly for however long it takes," Vincent responded coolly. "And when it's complete, I'll call him and have him come meet with us in Midgar."

"Us?" Sephiroth shook his head with a barking laugh. "Nobody invited you."

"If you can get that miserable old fucker to talk, I'll be impressed. I don't think you're gonna get anything out of him."

"A chance to talk shit about you?" Sephiroth pushed four strips of bacon into his mouth at once. "You wanna bet I won't get him to talk?"

Vincent tapped his long fingers against a cigarette pack lying on the table beside his plate. "Not really."

"Thought so."

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

After the latest Jenova incident, Rhonda made a copy of Sephiroth's apartment key with his permission. She had taped it securely underneath Sephiroth's mailbox, which was nested unassumingly in a row of twenty boxes downstairs. The General didn't feel vulnerable knowing that she could get into his apartment whenever she felt the need to. If there was anyone in the Shin-Ra army that he trusted with his privacy, it was her.

Nobody else would ever know about the key but the two of them, until there was an occasion where they needed to get into his apartment for safety reasons. Sephiroth felt good about it, especially considering that Cloud would soon move in. If ever there was a reason for him to call Rhonda for help, she would be able to get inside immediately or send whoever was nearby.

The clone approached the mailbox, and after a casual scan of the area to ensure that nobody was watching him, he felt underneath. The key wasn't centered, but taped along the edge where it would never fall free or be felt by accident.

He couldn't believe it when his fingers brushed the tape and the outline of the key. Surely it wouldn't be so easy to break into his own home?

But it was. He planned to tighten security immediately, because if he was a wild Murphy's Law clone that just popped out of nowhere, it stood to reason that there were others. The General was truly comfortable in his bubble where everything was normal, but he was lax in the simple task of protecting himself from himself.

Once inside the loft, the little clone had access to Sephiroth's identity, his computer, his work information, his money, his fucking internet porn history… it was so easy to intrude upon his own life. He knew exactly where Sephiroth was and exactly when he would be coming home.

But most importantly, the clone had access to his medication. A few pills later, Jenova was just a dull tone in the back of his skull.

There wasn't much food in the kitchen, so the clone ordered several pizzas using his own credit card. It was only a small risk, knowing Sephiroth he didn't worry about his bank account all that much, especially away on a mission. And it wasn't even suspicious activity since pizza was the number one, most often purchase.

His usual delivery man seemed confused, but ultimately didn't ask any questions when the adolescent signed for 'his uncle Sephiroth'. It was sort of like being McCauley Culkin in Home Alone, only downside being that he was trapped in the worst role in a really shitty movie forever. He was already impatiently checking for signs of growth in his body, and if memory served him, those changes didn't kick in until age eleven.

Until then, he just enjoyed the empty loft. He dirtied dishes, slept in his bed, wore his own comically large clothing, and just enjoyed rewatching movies he was normally too busy to rewatch.

One lazy, indulgent night he was watching mindless judicial court television and nibbling on some cold garlic knots when he heard a key scratching at the front door.

He'd lost track of the days. The clone realized with a gasp of horror that it was Friday night...

If he was lucky, it was Cloud. If he was unlucky, it was the General home early...

There was an awkward pause after the initial key scratch, giving the clone fractions of a second to turn the TV off and drop the remote. In a red alert panic, he made a clumsy dive over the back of the couch and slid into the narrow space against the wall, garlic knot still in his mouth.

The door swung open and Cloud and his ability to fill a room with noise and commotion stumbled in. "No, no I don't want to hang up, I'm finally here!" There was the rustle of plastic, and then several thunks of bags hitting the floor. "Jesus, Seph! You yell at me about my jizz, but you just leave a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink all week long? This whole place is a mess!"

The clone was damn near hyperventilating, but didn't even dare to breathe. Tenderly, he removed the garlic knot from his mouth and took a bite out of anxiety.

He heard Cloud's footsteps come closer. "There are pizza boxes everywhere! I don't remember it being this much of a mess when we left. Yeah well, you can act innocent all you want, but I'm looking at the evidence…" Cloud paused before giggling. "Shut up…. No, you shut up. I refuse to marry you if you're gonna make me your slave... Well... I guess I wouldn't mind that much..."

Cloud's voice and footsteps trailed down the hall, and the clone peeked around the side of the couch. He got a glimpse of Cloud, only enough to tell that he was wearing his Academy uniform and talking on his phone as he disappeared down the hallway towards the bedroom, but then immediately turned around to return the way he came. The little clone quickly slid back into hiding.

"You're a pig," Cloud broke into a fit of giggling. "Stop talking like that, I'm not gonna see you for another week. Oh? Really? Mm… I've been thinking about making that video all week... I don't really need much inspiration for it..."

The little clone rolled his eyes while silently gagging to himself. If he was going to have to lie there and listen to phone sex he would rather fucking die.

Cloud's voice was a soft purr from the kitchen, "I think I can find something like that at Dirty Rubbers… but right now I'm only wearing my school uniform. What are you wearing? That's so sexy… Yes it is. Your ass looks really good in the First Class pants… I like the way the crotch bunches up when you walk..."

The clone was searching for something, anything to kill himself with. Cloud suddenly plopped down on the couch, his weight putting nearly unbearable pressure on the clone. He could only afford shallow breaths, but found the will to finish his garlic knot. Food was the only comfort he had in the world; if Cloud was going to suffocate him to death, he wasn't going to miss out on his final garlic knot.

Cloud was oblivious as he continued to aggressively bait the General. "Can you send me a picture? Just unzip your pants and… Why not? But, maybe you could just stay quiet and… Oh. Okay, I understand. No it's okay… yeah it's late there. But why do you have your uniform on if you're about to go to bed?"

The clone remembered how fun it was for the General to get Cloud worked up on purpose, and then leave him hanging. He was so relieved that his little kid body couldn't react to the fact that his sort-of lover was inches away and being blue balled by his larger counterpart. As it was, he just found it… nostalgic and sweet and heart breaking.

He wished he'd grabbed more garlic knots.

Cloud couldn't stay mad at whatever Sephiroth was saying to him, so he laughed softly. "Yeah, but it's still not fair… will you make it up to me when you come home? Okay. I'm gonna clean your stinking apartment, now… Alright, call me tomorrow. I love you. Sweet dreams."

Cloud closed his phone, and his weight redistributed as he stretched out on the couch. It took the pressure off the clone, and the two of them laid there, inches apart from each other for a long while.

The little clone had no physical ability or mental willingness to feel sexually attracted to Cloud. It was strange, and it was freeing. But he could hear Cloud's breathing, could smell his cologne, could imagine how warm and nice a hug would feel at that moment in contrast to the cold wooden floor he was trying to disappear into. Cloud gave perfect hugs; long, cuddly tight ones that lasted as long as his hugging partner needed it to.

He became annoyed with himself when he came to the realization that he was fantasizing about a fucking hug. He had to put forth an effort not to snort at his own childishness.

Cloud eventually got up and his light footsteps traveled into the kitchen with the pizza box mess, the clone squirmed to the edge of the couch and peeked around it again. He got a better look at Cloud moving around the tastefully designed kitchen, his earbuds in and humming along to whatever he was listening to.

Cloud was huge. In the eyes of a six-year-old, Cloud was a mature, responsible, fully grown man cleaning his boyfriend's kitchen like a fucking adult. Even Cloud's voice sounded much deeper than the clone remembered as he hummed to himself while doing the dishes, every so often singing along strings of words.

Cloud definitely could sing better than he let on, which Sephiroth always assumed. Just like dancing in public, Cloud would rather be silly and make fun of himself than put any real effort into it and be made fun of instead. But alone, Cloud could rock his hips to any beat, and sing along in a smooth, even voice that remained on key.

I miss him, the clone thought to himself before he could help it.

He reminded himself that Cloud didn't love him. Cloud loved Sephiroth, and the clone was not Sephiroth. He'd had enough time to make peace with that truth. His heart rate slowed as he began to make a very serious series of decisions about himself, Cloud, and his space in the scheme of things.

With Sephiroth out of the way, he could take a hold of his life. He could take time in figuring out how to be permanently rid of Jenova. He could grow up. He'd meet someone new. He had the chance to live his life all over again. He couldn't do it without hurting Cloud, so the best thing would be to take all the hurt away at once.

He slid out from behind the couch, and stood in the living room. He was frozen, waited for Cloud to notice him, and in the moment of that shock and surprise, the clone would attack.

It would be quick, and totally painless for Cloud.

Cloud didn't belong in this army, this shitty electric company, or this fucked up city. He would be dead and in the Lifestream where he belonged. That was the safest place Cloud could possibly be. He'd always be young, and happy, and gorgeous. Sephiroth would be there soon, too.

It was the right thing to do, and it would be so easy. Just like the boys in the playground. His slim neck and bones breaking would feel just like theirs did. It'd be over in a moment.

The loft would be quiet again. It was always quiet before Cloud showed up in their life.

At the sink, Cloud jumped when he heard a loud, thumping bang. He pulled out his earbuds while glancing around the empty kitchen, and then peeked into the living room beyond that.

Cloud was slightly withered with dread, "... Hello?"

No reply.

Cloud regained his height and squared his shoulders, "Alright. We always knew it would come to this... if there are any ghosts here, now is not the time to make your presence known. I'm innocent! I'm too easy of a target! Wait until Sephiroth comes home and go after him!"

Again no reply, so Cloud figured he'd pacified any angry spirits. He put his earbuds back in and returned to work on the sink full of filthy dishes.

From across the loft, inside the closet of an unfinished room, the clone decided to take Cloud's advice. He'd wait until Sephiroth came home, and take care of business then.

Cloud could live with it, or not. It'd be his choice. The clone hoped Cloud would want to stick around, though... as long as Cloud was around, it was never quiet. The clone liked that.

A/N

1 - Hello! Thanks for all your awesome reviews and encouragement during another long bout of hiatus with this story. It's been very difficult forming this chapter, because my heart just can't take it. I'm a bad person who writes bad things, and then I feel miserable about it until I go back and turn it all into gratuitous sex and garlic knots.

2 - As always, I hope the length makes up for the wait. I really don't mean to take as long as I do between chapters, I'm just busy like everyone else is. Hopefully this is just a squishy little story where you can come when you want, reread things to catch up, and enjoy new content when I'm able to give it to you.

3 - I can't project exactly when the next chapter will be out, but there will always be more. So no worries about me giving up anytime soon, haha.