Title: Three-Twenty-Seven part 4
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Pairings: Zack/Cloud, and Sephiroth
Warnings: Crack, fluff, humour, slight crossover with Chobits, slice-of-life
Word count: 1759
Disclaimer: As much as I would love to lay claim to Cloud, I'm kinda scared of Seph's Masamune. So well, I don't own Final Fantasy 7 or any of its characters.
Summary: Cloud's first time as Sephiroth and Zack's secretary, and he sincerely hopes it's the last as well.
Meetings were, in theory, the most functional ways for the upper echelons of a company to get together and discuss their company's plans, formulate solutions to solve problems, project future earnings, and the perfect opportunity for everyone to smile at the other while subtly checking if the hole they'd nailed in the voodoo dolls had appeared on their enemy's chest.
In reality, however, things often do not turn out the way people theorize, and that really makes one wonder why there are so many god-damn theories in the world anyway. So in a real Shinra meeting, the only thing that is theorized to happen and really does happen is the thing with the voodoo dolls, though everyone knew better than to say it out loud. Other things that usually happened at a Shinra meeting included fighting for the donuts (using mind games and social rules to make the other give up their share of donuts willingly), bugging the secretary for coffee (the volume of the voice yelled at the poor harassed woman seemed to be proportionate of the requester's lack of popularity within the company), and playing hangman on the dossiers. And yes, discuss about the company, of course.
Cloud's first official task as General Sephiroth and Zack's persocom was be a good enough substitute for their secretary at one of those long-winded, never-ending meetings that Shinra company seemed to enjoy having. Basically, he was to be there to take notes for the two, as Sephiroth said that Zack had a tendency to drift off and Genesis liked bothering him at the meetings, and usually it was the same thing about asking Sephiroth to admit defeat over the title of 'prettiest SOLDIER'. At other times, when he wasn't busy with that, Genesis would be humming songs and seemingly writing lyrics in his dossier. It was a bad habit Angeal and he had never gotten Genesis to stop.
As Cloud stood behind the two men, having rejected the secretary's offer to get him a chair and Zack's offer to just sit on his lap, he did a quick matching of profiles of all the people present at the meeting and his data files.
First off, there was President Rufus at the end of the table. To his left was Heidegger, Head of Shinra's Public Safety Maintenance Department, and to his right was Scarlet, Head of Shinra's Weapons Development Department. Both were, according to the files Hojo had provided Cloud with, obnoxious individuals and dubbed 'gya ha ha' and 'kya ha ha' respectively. And then there was Reeve, Head of the Urban Development Department, and while the man looked decent enough, Hojo mentioned that he was useful only when one wanted to teach cats to speak with a Scottish accent. Hojo was seated beside Scarlet, dressed in his usual lab coat, and thankfully, with clothes underneath that damn coat. Sometimes the man buttoned up his coat so much that Cloud couldn't see if he was wearing anything else, and combined with the creepy looks Hojo kept shooting him with, Cloud had a nagging feeling that man was a secret flasher. As it was, the man had hung a sign in the toilet of the science lab that read 'Flash after use'. Of course the man had denied any accusations and claimed that it was a misspelling for 'Flush after use', but Cloud couldn't help but think otherwise.
Those people basically made up the higher echelons of Shinra. Finished with his profiling, Cloud turned to the other side of the table, where the highest ranking SOLDIERs were present. Lazard, while not a SOLDIER, was the director of SOLDIER welfare, so he occupied the first seat. To his right was Angeal, who was subtly trying hard not to twitch at Genesis, who was right beside him, singing the newest chart-topper. The song, according to Cloud's files and the internet, was only recently released by international pop sensation G, and wow, was Genesis' singing an exact match of G's voice? Vaguely, Cloud wondered if Genesis' gasp of pain sounded just like G's too when Sephiroth stepped on his foot, the action concealed to most by the huge mahogany table but completely visible from Cloud's angle. Zack made up the last of the meeting's attendee, but from the way he was looking out of the window with glassy eyes, he might as well have not been attending.
Cloud's internal mechanisms sped up and finished the profiling, fitting everyone's names, designations and information with a photo. When he was done, he waited for the meeting to start. Oh wait a minute. Had that plump and round man, with a huge bald spot right on top of his head like an island surrounded by wisps of hair, been there before? And he was sitting beside Heidegger too, so he was important? Cloud quickly browsed through his files and pulled up his profile page. Oh, so that was Palmer, head of… whatever that is he worked on. Hojo didn't seem to care enough about him to even list it down, mentioning that the man was only good for drinking sugar with his tea. Oh wait, he probably meant drinking tea with sugar. Then again, from the teaspoons of sugar he was drowning in his teacup…
…Whatever. That man was inconsequential.
"So what's on today's agenda?" Rufus asked, nodding towards his secretary who promptly came forward and recited a list of things. The meeting quickly took flight from there, and within the span of about twenty minutes, they'd covered lots of things. Like Rufus approving the suggestion of increasing the SOLDIER and troopers' pay by 5 gil to deal with worldwide inflation so they could buy an extra donut for their work week, and getting more vending machines inside the company so they could earn that 5 gil back. Zack had woken up for a bit when everyone started talking about the 5th anniversary celebrations of the Gongaga reactor, but otherwise, he was out cold with his eyes wide open. It scared Cloud a bit.
And then Heidegger started throwing out the issues he wanted to discuss. Like the recent attack launched by anti-Shinra group Avalanche on the North Corel reactor, the damage taken, the lack of captives by SOLDIER, the residents demanding compensation (which was a moot point to discuss because there was no way they were giving money away like that; Shinra wasn't known as a charitable company, really), and yada yada yada… The man went on and on and on, and suddenly Cloud envied Zack's ability to shut down so completely and yet keep up pretenses of being awake. Vaguely, he wondered if the others had also mastered the skill, and also if he could get someone (preferably not Hojo) to install an energy-efficient mode for him so he could do what Zack was doing.
As it was, the only thing that Cloud thought was note-worthy was simply this: North Corel reactor attacked by anti-Shinra group Avalanche, day XX month XX year XXXX.
Suddenly, just when sleep-mode was about to kick in, he heard his name being called and he snapped to attention, only to see Heidegger looking at him with a strange look that reminded him strongly of how Hojo used to look at him until President Rufus forced him to give Cloud away to Zack (and Sephiroth).
"So this is the humanoid computer that was recently produced?" the man asked gruffly.
Cloud was not given a chance to answer when Hojo snorted, adjusting the thick glasses on his nose until they were so high, it looked as though they were meant to see what was on the ceiling instead of what was in front of him.
"Persocom. That's the name I've given my creation," Hojo replied, now leaning forward in his seat to look a better look at Cloud. "I've equipped him with the best components Shinra has to offer, and installed enough programs inside him to make him an impossibly efficient and capable helper in any field of work, be it military, domestic or office work. In order to simulate a real human, the personcom has also been installed with specially-designed simulation packages that give him human-like emotions and reactions. That means he functions almost exactly like a real human would have, blood, flesh and all, though all that can be changed or fine-tuned with a change in his settings. And while I'd have liked to experiment on humans and make something out of that, that would have thrust this whole fic into the controversial issues of genetic manipulation, cloning, cruelty against humans…yada yada yada, so instead I made a Persocom from scratch. No human parts were involved or were harmed in the making of this Persocom."
When everyone in the room turned to look at him, bewilderment evident in their eyes and some even looked like they wanted to ask him what he'd been smoking, Hojo coughed into his fist. Somewhere far, far away, inside a coffin, in a faraway backwater town named Nibelhelm, someone sneezed violently.
"Beautiful work, isn't he?" Hojo said quickly.
Heidegger nodded, and when Palmer saw this, he quickly nodded as well. On the other side of the table, Scarlet snorted and turned away to powder her face again, not noticing (or ignoring) how Reeve was trying hard not to sneeze. Rufus had a faint smile on his face, as did Lazard and the SOLDIERs.
Unused to such attention and intense scrutiny from such a crowd, Cloud edged closer to his current caregivers, especially when both Hojo and Heidegger started giving him /that/ look like he was a piece of choice meat. The urge to ask Zack and Sephiroth for an extra jacket –no, a long-sleeved trench coat! - was almost too difficult to ignore.
"Oh yeah! Cloud's definitely a beautiful piece of work! And he was so comfy to hug in bed!" Zack exclaimed all of a sudden, his jovial expression a sharp contrast to Cloud's utter horror. It contrasted even more with the murderous looks on Heidegger and Hojo's faces.
Cloud spent the rest of the meeting edging closer and closer towards Sephiroth and further and further away from Zack, Hojo and Heidegger. And as the three men spent the next fifteen minutes discussing how there should be more Persocoms that look as good as him – and preferably even younger-looking, suggested H-kun, whose name has been erased to preserve anonymity - Cloud made a mental note to hack into their WikiShinra pages and update the information with a new snippet. Shotacon, H-kun was. And the other two were perverts, both of them.
Three-Twenty-Seven part 5
Word count: 1232
Summary: Cloud's first meeting with Genesis, Angeal and Lazard. Someone should have told him that all high-ranking SOLDIER personnel were slightly off their rockers.
Immediately after the meeting, Cloud tried to access WikiShinra to edit H-kun's profile page and add that new information he'd just learnt about the man, that he was a total shotacon. His decision to update the man's profile page was cemented when H-kun leered at him again while everyone filed out of the meeting room, and Cloud had to suppress a shiver. Maybe he'd be better off at finding a decent man in Wall Market where the number one lecher of the slums was rumoured to live.
But the decision was taken out of his hands when Zack grabbed him and shoved him up front before wrapping his arms around him like a huge teddy bear. A huge, cold teddy bear who was currently trying to leech as much body heat from Cloud as possible, if the way Zack kept their bodies flush against each other was any indication.
His first instinct was to pry the man's hands off him (he'd have to activate crowbar mode first though). Then Genesis gave him a lopsided smirk, and all his instincts flew out of the window and behind the nearest possible cannon fodder. Zack happened to be it.
"Aww, Cloud… you look like a chocobo who just realized that there's a Fantasia Fried Chocobo fast food chain!" Zack chirped, patting the blond on the head dotingly.
Lazard adjusted his glasses, eyes fixated on the hissing blond still half-hidden behind Zack.
"Well, now that you mention it, he does look somewhat like a chocobo…" he said amidst Genesis and Angeal's silent chuckles, and he probably would have said more, except that Cloud turned his kicked chocobo eyes on him all of a sudden. Lazard coughed into his hand. And then he held out his other hand which he had not coughed into and offered it to the blond like an olive branch.
"We've already met inside the board room, but it certainly doesn't hurt to introduce myself again. I am Lazard, director of SOLDIER welfare. This here is Angeal and the one in red is Genesis, both first classes."
The two nodded at Cloud, though their nods were evidently different. While Angeal's was kinder and sincere, Genesis' was tinted with a trace of superiority and arrogance. It was enough to prompt Cloud to shove Zack in front of himself even more. Wincing, Cloud guessed Genesis wasn't too happy about him being Sephiroth's Persocom, seeing as how he held sort of a grudge towards the man.
So when Genesis's lips suddenly curved into a smirk and gestured for him to come over, Cloud thought hell was freezing over. Even if hell, for some strange reason, did not freeze, Cloud knew his legs were, for they were keeping him firmly behind Zack and made no move to walk over.
That didn't seem to bother Genesis much, however.
"I supposed you're living with Sephiroth and the puppy?"
They both ignored Zack's indignant protests that Cloud addressed Genesis as 'sir' while not doing the same for him, and his subsequent "hey why didn't you object when Genesis called me, your master, a puppy?"
"I see. You have it tough, little one. Living with Sephiroth isn't an easy task. After all, he's…"
To Cloud's surprise, Sephiroth wasn't the one to stop Genesis from running off. In fact, the silver-haired general looked as calm as he always did, and Cloud silently suspected that nothing short of the world exploding would rile him up. Or maybe he'd just say something along the lines of "if the world is to end, then we must simply laugh." Wait a minute; that sounded like a quote from another game… Wait another minute; what another game?
Sometimes, Cloud thought that the programs that Hojo had installed into his system were bonkers. Anyway…
To Cloud's surprise, Sephiroth wasn't the one to stop Genesis from running off. In fact, the silver-haired general looked as calm as he always did, and Cloud silently suspected that nothing short of the world exploding would rile him up. The one who actually spoke up was, instead, Angeal, who had also grabbed Genesis' shoulder and pulled him back with a look in his eyes that told him to shut up.
It did nothing to wipe the smirk off Genesis's face.
"Ah yes, I suppose it would be much more interesting if you found out about it yourself, little one," he said with a shrug. "If it ever bothers you, being his Persocom and all, you could always request a transfer over to me or Angeal. Now, if you'd all just excuse me…" With that, the man turned around and stalked off before rounding a corner and disappearing from view.
"Don't let him bother you, Cloud. Genesis just likes to make others worry," Angeal consoled, pinching his nose in an attempt to drive off his headache.
"Especially when it's got something to do with Seph," Zack added, snickering. "Don't you ever wish you didn't join the competition for the prettiest SOLDIER in Shinra?"
From Lazard and Angeal's rapidly darkening auras, Cloud could just almost see their thoughts above their heads: weren't you the one who filled up the application form for Sephiroth? Something along those lines.
Sephiroth merely shook his head.
"Genesis is not someone who'd hold a grudge over something this petty."
From Lazard and Angeal's auras that were darkening even more rapidly than before and were now laced with a tinge of disbelief, Cloud could see more thoughts above their heads: what makes you think Genesis isn't someone like that? Something definitely along those lines.
Sephiroth added, "Besides, it's not like Genesis didn't win the competition."
By now, Lazard and Angeal's auras were now blacker than black and laced with a healthy dose of WTF, and Cloud could see even more thoughts above their heads: Genesis won Mr. Photogenic; you came in first, second and third. Something definitely, 100% confirmed, plus a stamp of guarantee along those lines.
Suddenly, Cloud could see why Angeal was known as the emotional leader for SOLDIER and why they needed Lazard as a director for SOLDIER welfare. They were probably the glue holding the military together: soft, malleable and sticky. On the other hand, Sephiroth and Genesis were thumbtacks: stuck things together well enough, but always with a bit of a sting. And it helped that Genesis was a prick.
Then what about Zack? Looking sideways, where the brunet was grinning at him winsomely and offering a hand, Cloud thought that Zack was probably duct tape.
"While these people here continue to debate over the reason why Genesis acts the way he does, shall we go for lunch? I'm starving!"
It seemed like the question was just a formality, because before Cloud could even answer, Zack had already grabbed his hand and pulled him away towards the general vicinity of the cafeteria.
Yup, definitely duct tape. Despite the dark side Cloud had witness the night before when Zack groped him in his sleep, Zack apparently also had a lighter side where he was nicer and sweeter than the other guys. And his grin was bright enough he could probably hold the universe together, if he wanted to.
Still, Cloud thought as he slapped a wandering hand away, he would much prefer Zack if the man did not show his dark side more often and try to paw him every other second…
Three-Twenty-Seven part 6
Word count: 797
Summary: If Cloud had known that taking minutes for the meeting would give him so much trouble, he would have never agreed to helping out.
Spell checks programs were, seriously, double-edged swords.
On one hand, it gave the people who couldn't spell hope that maybe their term papers wouldn't be dotted with too many red underlines and a look from their lecturers like they were spelling bee competition rejects.
On the other hand, it made people who used to be able to spell just fine entirely too dependent on them so much so that their ability to spell correctly with pen and paper fell drastically to near-zero levels.
In Cloud's case, spell checks were the vilest, most evil and malevolent beings to ever grace the planet.
"Cloud, why does your spell check program think my name is a misspelling?"
Cloud squirmed under Sephiroth's unwavering stare. On the desk beside the man, a copy of the minutes from the meeting just that morning laid innocently and completely unaware of the trouble it was getting Cloud into. Well, not that it was the minutes' fault of course, but in Cloud's eyes at this point in time, it had committed a crime on the same level as his internal spell check program.
Then again, logic told him that it was neither the minutes nor the spell check program's fault. Sephiroth's name was the problem, it being so uncommon after all. It was not something a sane human being would even dare utter in the presence of the man with a seven-foot sword, however.
"…I'll add your name to the spell check's word list," Cloud replied uneasily.
Sephiroth nodded and turned back to the printed document.
Cloud felt his posture stiffening again when Sephiroth's eyes stopped scanning across the page, and then the man continued to read on and Cloud let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding.
Repeat pattern every other second.
By the time Sephiroth was on the second page, Cloud was certain he would need to replace his mechanical heart soon or suffer from a sudden heart attack after all the wear and tear it had gone through in just that hour alone.
It was moments like this that Cloud was relieved that Sephiroth wasn't his only master. In one giant leap and war cry, Zack pulled Cloud into his arms like he was his long lost love, and all the tension that was present earlier instantly melted away faster than ice cream did inside a microwave.
"Cloud~~~ Do you use the Western Continent's spelling standard? You're using 'z' instead of 's' for your words," he asked, a slight whine in his voice.
Cloud's struggles to wriggle free were to no avail. Were Zack's arms made of solid steel and his stomach made of lead? Cloud was never giving Zack any more of his elbow jabs. And despite all his effort, Zack still had him pinned to his chest so tightly Cloud was sure they would need a crowbar to separate them later on.
With Zack's lips so close to his ear, Cloud almost shuddered when he felt rather than heard the other man's utter of 'heaven'. An annoying voice inside Cloud's head (probably one of those 'bonus' programs Professor Hojo had insisted he install) noted the interesting irony that heaven and hell could both be found in Zack's embrace, since the embracee and embracer obviously had opposing thoughts about the same thing.
Through it all, Sephiroth never lifted his head from the document.
"Yes Zack, my default setting is the Western Continent's spelling. Is that a problem?" Cloud asked.
"Of course it is!" Zack looked absolutely affronted. "We're on the Eastern Continent! You should be using the Eastern Continent's spelling conventions!"
Almost at once, Zack grabbed an extra set of the minutes that Sephiroth had printed and jabbed at a line on the second page.
"See? Your spell check took the 'u' out of my honour! No one messes with my honour!"
Cloud wanted to attribute that stiffness in his right cheek to Hojo's horrible construction of his body. He really wanted to. But faced with a Zack who was almost pouting and going on and on about how he was an honourable man with his 'u' left intact, Cloud knew that the stiffness had more to do with the fact that he found it difficult to even crack a grin now.
And then, all of a sudden and completely out of the blue, Zack added, a teasing tone in his voice, "You wouldn't like me if I weren't an honourable man, would you?"
Whatever negative feelings Cloud might have had earlier dissipated in an instant, and despite himself, a blush started to blossom across his face.
As Cloud felt himself burn up and Zack continued to grin at him winsomely, Sephiroth never looked up from the minutes, even though a faint smile graced his lips.
Ah, life was good.