Disclaimer: Squeenix owns it all; for fun, I'm just saying "what if...?"
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Pairings: Cloud/Zack; Cloud/OC
Warnings: Anal, AR/AU, Language, M/M, Minor, Non-con, Oral, SH, Violence
AN the first: I took the structure of this world from Aoi Para's "Causes Stain, Stay Away" because I can easily see ShinRa imposing a repressive class structure and then exploiting it. My interpretation is, of course, completely different.
AN the second: Although yaoi is a pervasive theme in my story, so far there's been very little smut. When it is included, there will be a content warning. If you don't like explicitness just PM me and I'll send you an edited version.
Chapter 1. The Proposal
Chapter 1. The Proposal
"Cloud Strife; no middle name. Born to Autumn Strife after a non–consensual encounter with three higher classed ShinRa employees; Paternity unclaimed."
Cloud felt his face flush as Commander Lind coldly recited the facts of his conception. 'Non consensual' was a clean, clinical way to describe gang rape. He didn't say anything however. He'd known something was wrong as soon as he was called to the Commander's office. He was an average recruit, doing well in all his classes, trying hard to get to the next level of military training without drawing too much attention; hoping to hide in the teeming mass of anxious recruits. When he heard his name on the loudspeakers, he knew he'd been caught.
"It says here that you were born in Nibelheim fourteen years ago but that must be a mistake. Right, Recruit Strife? After all, everyone knows that the minimum age for military service in ShinRa is sixteen." Cloud kept his eyes on the floor, praying it would open up and swallow him whole. "Recruit Strife, did you lie to the Recruitment Officer?" he mocked
He squeezed his hands even tighter together. Cloud swallowed. His mouth was so dry it hurt. He could stick to his claim of late birth registration. According to his squad mates, Nibelheim was a backwater pimple full of ignorant hicks. It was a common Midgarian misperception of any town other than Midgar – and Costa del Sol. The Commander might believe it.
"Answer, Recruit." The Commander might believe it, but that smooth, cold voice said that the other man in the room would not. General Sephiroth, legendary hero, Commander-in-Chief of all of ShinRa's military forces. Cloud stole a quick peek at the uncompromising face. There was no mercy, no impatience, and no curiosity. He might've been a wind-up doll for all animation his face displayed.
Now Cloud felt sick. He nodded his head in silent answer, unwilling to trust himself not to throw up if he opened his mouth.
It should have been a question. It wasn't. The Commander pushed a glass of water across the table to Cloud. He reached out his hand, embarrassed to see it shaking, and gripped it. When he brought it to his mouth, it rattled against his teeth, but he managed to take a sip without letting any slop out.
"My mother," he started, his voice just barely reaching his own ears. He cleared his throat, took another sip of water, and tried again. "My mother isn't, hasn't been, well. Not for a while. It'll get worse. She needs," he took a breath, knowing he was stumbling through his explanation, "she needs, to get checked out at a hospital but, as an E, she won't be allowed to, you know, go to one. If I get accepted…"
"You'd be recategorized as a C and you could authorize her treatment," the Commander finished for him.
"Yes, sir," He finally managed to look at Commander Lind hoping to see kindness, understanding – something to give him hope.
"And it couldn't wait two more years?" Cloud shook his head, unable to explain the urgency that had gripped him the morning that he'd looked at her and seen her illness. It had been mid-winter. She'd been reaching for the bowl to mix up breakfast pancakes. Cloud had been sitting at the table chopping the chewy remnants of last fall's apples. They'd been talking casually about their plans for the day – laundry for her, and math lessons with Tifa for him; when she'd flinched, and Cloud knew, in a year and a half, maybe two, his mother would be dead.
"So you lied in order to save your poor, sick mother. Should we consider you noble, Strife and forgive you?" There was no kindness, no understanding in the General's voice. Cloud dropped his eyes and shook his head. Damn it to fucking hell, he thought but didn't say. He rarely swore out loud.
He'd sworn once around Mayor Lockheart and his daughter once when he was younger. Something mild like damn or hell, he didn't remember now, but the Mayor had freaked. He'd made Cloud wash his mouth with soap – the cheap, burning stuff used to wash dishes. His ma had been angry that her seven–year–old son had been swearing, but she'd been furious at the Mayor. Lockheart would never have done that to any other child in the village, but because it was a Strife….
Looking at the powerful men sitting on the other side of the desk, Cloud figured their reaction if he swore right now would probably be similar to Mayor Lockheart's had been so many years ago. He kept his mouth shut.
"You were 5'1" and 110 pounds when you joined," the commander read from the sheets in front of him, "you've added some height and weight since then. Not as much as we would expect from a sixteen-year old but then," he paused to look at Cloud accusingly, "you're not actually sixteen."
The water he'd sipped was burbling in his stomach like that weird science experiment he'd seen on TV when he first came to Midgar and had been willing to watch anything because he'd never had a television before. The Mayor had had one, the only one in the village, but of course, he'd never allowed Cloud to watch it.
"Shall I read you some of your instructor's comments?" That wasn't a question either. "'Recruit Strife shows promise in most combat skills. His lack of strength and reach is offset by his natural coordination and quickness'. 'Strife is intelligent and processes information rapidly. His written work shows a good understanding of the material; however he is unwilling to contribute his opinions in class.' 'Strife is confident and aggressive in one–on–one combat but is shy and reticent in group work or social settings.' 'Strife has formed no particular friendships with any of his classmates. He shows no preference for either male or female company. His sex drive is abnormally low for his declared age.' It goes on to speculate that you are younger than allowed and probably a virgin. We've already cleared up the confusion about your age."
Cloud had been staring at the Commander in wonder. His instructors had said those things, about him? At the last comment, however, he reared back in shock. His face, more than merely warm, he barely resisted the urge to bring his hands up to hide behind.
"Are you a virgin, Strife?" The General's voice, silky and bored, demanded an answer; demanded the truth.
There wasn't even the ticking of a clock to listen to, but finally Cloud managed to push the answer out, "Y-yes, sir." He went back to staring at the floor, so he didn't see the look that passed between the two men. It wouldn't have been reassuring anyway as it was filled with calculation.
"Are you going to kick me out, sir?" It was the hardest thing he'd done since he'd left his mother, crying, on the road out of Nibelheim, but he had to know. The two older men could draw this out for a long time, too long for Cloud's roiling stomach. ShinRa was the easiest way to become a class C citizen but it wasn't the only way and, if the commander threw him out, he needed to get started on his other options right away; before it was too late for his Ma.
"How did the unclaimed child of an E citizen get D3 status?"
Fuck. If the Commander had asked the question, Cloud would've ignored it and repeated his own. He didn't have the guts to ignore the General though.
"My mother invoked Thane Law." He looked up at his interrogators, seeing puzzlement in the Commander's eyes and a narrow-eyed curiosity in the General's. "It's from before ShinRa. In Thane Law, the Mayor is the town's Guardian, sworn to protect and take care of its citizens. Because he failed to keep my mother safe from her attackers, then failed again when he couldn't get any of the ShinRa people to admit to the attack, he was technically at fault. She made him accept partial responsibility for me."
"Like a foster parent?" Commander Lind asked.
"Like a mentor," Sephiroth clarified. Cloud looked at him in surprise. How had he known?
"That's right, sir. I didn't live with him but I received the same schooling as his daughter; money for clothing and food, things like that."
"And so a lowly E learns how to read and write and do his sums, and gets bumped up to D class." The commander finally understood, "Clever."
"How did your mother know Thane Law well enough to invoke it?" Again, Sephiroth was asking questions Cloud didn't want to respond. Again, he couldn't ignore the soft spoken, but very real demand for an answer.
Another sip of water delayed his response for a moment or two. The long answer would probably result in them looking at him and treating him the same way the townspeople had: badly, but there was a short answer that was odd but not completely off the wall. A quick look at the silver–haired General convinced Cloud not to try the short answer, but maybe something in between would be okay.
"My mother's family used to be the village Speakers. The old laws and customs are part of our family history
"'Speakers?'" the Commander questioned.
"Priests or priestesses. Literally, 'Keeper of the Words'. They were supposed to be precognitive and would spout prophecy at the oddest times. They were also supposed to be natural magic wielders."
Cloud felt as if his jaw was on his knee. "How do you know all that?" he asked, bewildered, before his mind caught up with his mouth. "Um, sir."
It was barely a smile, more like a quirk of the lips, but Cloud saw it. "I spent my childhood in the Nibel Mountains."
Cloud could only blink at him. A picture in his head of this overpowering man as a child running along mountain passes as he had done; falling and scraping his knees, stuffing himself with berries until the juice stained his lips and chin. He couldn't help it he smiled at the image.
Sephiroth frowned. It was his turn to be taken aback. He had seen pictures of Strife, of course, and had known he was a pretty child. His delicate features were dominated by large eyes and complimented by surprisingly full lips. During the interview, he had added shy and vulnerable to his description. However, it wasn't until Cloud stared at him in wide-eyed astonishment, and then slowly blinked, that he added tantalizing and erotic. As he looked at the boy's smile and his slightly parted lips, he wanted to slide his tongue softly into the warm depths, to explore the textures he would find there; to experience the taste of innocence.
Lind broke the spell. "Recruits aren't exposed to materia. And since he's too young to be promoted we'll never know if he has an affinity for magic"
Cloud looked at the ground in horror. For a moment, just a brief moment when he was staring so rudely at Sephiroth, the General had stared back and Cloud had forgotten what was at stake. His future, his mother's life, all his dreams and hard work. How had he managed to forget all that?
"Am I expelled then, sir?" He asked softly, unable to project his voice.
"You should be," Sephiroth responded. Cloud shuddered. "However, there is a situation you would be ideal for."
Hope. "A situation, sir?"
"As a recruit with a preference for the military, you would have been given information of what life is like as a Cadet." Cadet was the next stage of military training, where they sorted out fighters from peacekeepers and decided whether you were best suited for active or support duties. It was also where they recruited for SOLDIER and some organization called Turks that Cloud had never heard of before coming to Midgar.
"I see there is a notation from Instructor Fell that he took you aside and gave you more specific advice." The Commander stopped. Cloud was blushing again.
"Well, Recruit." Did General Sephiroth want Cloud to repeat what Fell had said? Surely it was there in the notes. He peeked out from under lowered brow to see the General's eyes watching him steadily. Odd, Cloud thought, in pictures his eyes always look silver but there was a hint of green in them too; pale green but rich, like the buds on an evergreen in spring. One brow rose in silent demand and Cloud stopped his musing and returned his mind to the here and now.
He cleared his throat. "He said that, um, I should find a mentor as soon as possible." He stopped and looked up; checking to see if that was enough. Both of his superiors had brows raised. Obviously, they wanted the whole thing. "He suggested an army officer or even SOLDIER because they had reputation and rank enough to stop others from, um, preying on me, you know, sexually. He was just being alarming, right, scaring the country boy?"
"Unfortunately not," Sephiroth answered.
"Oh," Cloud couldn't think of anything else to say. He'd wanted it to be a joke, just another one of the nasty teases he'd been subjected to because of his hair, his hometown, his size, or his class, but he hadn't quite believed it. Inspector Fell was one of the decent ones.
"There has always been a shortage of women in the military, but even if the ratio was one-to-one, there would still be a group of men preying on those more vulnerable than themselves. Mentoring has, for the most part, kept things under control."
"Most bullies are also arrogant and stupid which makes them easy to catch. Or they surround themselves with sycophants and cowards who are only too willing to give them up to anyone they perceive as stronger." There was an odd look on the General's face, one of sly satisfaction. Cloud could only assume that the General spoke from personal experience. He didn't doubt he would be the strongest person in the room in any situation.
"However, there's a new group that is preying on my trainees."
"Our trainees," Sephiroth corrected.
"Our trainees... and the army privates and the civil guard patrollers. The only low level personnel that haven't been preyed upon are the SOLDIER 3rd classes."
"I've given them permission to use whatever means necessary to protect themselves, up to and including deadly force." This time Sephiroth's smile wasn't gentle or hidden; it was a hunting wolf's display of sharp, deadly weapons. Cloud swallowed. Maybe another small sip of water would be okay.
"We know who they are; their leader is an A4, but all their victims have been B4 or lower and have refused to identify their attackers formally. There is no similarity in looks which leads us to believe that victims are picked based on their Class alone."
It was smart... wicked, but smart. Most crimes, even rape and murder, weren't prosecuted if the perpetrator was two or more classes above the victim. After all, Cloud had heard one news commentator say, there had to be some perks to being higher classed. Understanding the reasoning behind how the gang chose their victims made Cloud very nervous. He was D3. Even if it was higher than the level he'd been born to, here in ShinRa, he had been the lowest ranked recruit in his class.
"You think they'd, um, attack me?" he asked hesitantly.
"With your looks, they wouldn't be the only ones." Cloud looked at the General in surprise at the compliment. He cursed his pale mountain skin as he felt himself blush.
"So you're, um, saying it isn't s-safe for me to continue at ShinRa."
Now the Commander displayed his shark like smile, "Here's the thing, Strife. Neither the General nor I believe that this kind of thing is good for the forces. Preying on your fellow service members weakens morale and erodes discipline, and we want it stopped. And you're the perfect bait."
Shit, shit shit. Of course he'd known what was coming as soon as they'd mentioned being unable to prosecute the gang. Warning sirens were going off very loudly in his mind. "Why am I perfect, sir?" It was a stall, he already had a good idea, but he needed time to think.
"You're pretty and vulnerable. Irresistible in fact." If Sephiroth's smirk was any indication, he knew exactly why Cloud had asked and he had phrased his response in a manner guaranteed to cause the boy maximum embarrassment. It worked. Cloud's face was flaming red, "You're also only fourteen."
Commander Lind picked up the explanation, "There aren't many rules ShinRa sticks to, but the age of consent is one of them. It won't matter what class they are, what age they think you are. When it's revealed that they attacked a minor…" He didn't have to finish the sentence. People had been hung for raping children.
"There would have to be penetration. Just physically harassing you wouldn't be enough, considering the difference in class. And we would have to get the attack on tape or they could claim it was teasing that got out of hand." The general's dispassionate tone somehow made it seem more horrible.
Cloud realized they were negotiating; His raped and violated body in return for… what?
"We will arrange for you to have backup, someone posing as your mentor who will keep all the others off you until the target group makes its move. At that point he will call for support and do the taping."
He knew one thing he wanted more than anything: "I want my mother's treatment authorized immediately."
"As soon as the operation is a success."
"Not later. As soon as we've signed the contract." His breath was coming in jerky fits. He was arguing with his commanding officer, with his class B1 commanding officer. "And she'll need transport to the hospital; whichever one's nearest." He couldn't look at them, he couldn't, but he wasn't going to back down. His mother needed the treatment. He'd leave ShinRa if they didn't agree.
"That can be arranged." General Sephiroth said it so it would be done. "Commander Lind will draw up a contract…"
Cloud didn't know whether to jump for joy or throw up at the release of tension. He did neither. Instead, he took a deep breath, trying to slow down his heart and sooth his clenching stomach. "One last thing – request. I, um. It's just… shit," he muttered. "I don't want my first time to be rape."
The gruff commander coughed, as if Cloud had shocked him by saying plainly what he'd agreed to do. Sephiroth smiled, a full smile, but with a sly sensuousness that disturbed Cloud almost more than the thought of being raped. "Are you asking one of us to do the honours?" he asked delicately. Sephiroth's smile deepened when Cloud's cheeks flared and he tried to stutter out a denial. He just wanted somebody kind and patient and nice and not too ugly.
It was strange how appealing the vision of a naked Cloud Strife, spread out beneath him, was to the general. He could picture that pretty mouth gasping out his name as he moved inside him. However, Sephiroth had learned long ago to limit his sexual partners to those who had been altered enough to survive the experience. Mako wasn't the only thing in his veins. Professor Hojo had injected him with an ocean's worth of chemicals and other substances. The combination, even diluted in his semen, had proven to be occasionally lethal.
"We would be asking someone to break the law," Lind started, refusal in his voice. He was a military commander, not a dating service – not a pimp. Sephiroth cut him off, "It will be arranged."
Okay, Cloud thought, it's done. Ma's going to be okay. I've got a chance at becoming more than that weird little Strife. Everything was going to be fine.
He swallowed "Sirs, um, where's the nearest bathroom? I need to throw up."