Little Bird Chapter 8
Cloud woke up with his head pounding like a jackhammer. He had been struggling against illness ever since he had seen Aerith and Zack two days ago, but this morning it seemed that he had finally lost the battle against it. He could barely see when he opened his eyes but even so, he could tell that Sephiroth wasn't there. He shivered and wrapped the blanket tighter around himself.
The blizzard rarely let up for long and even Sephiroth agreed that they could not travel in such conditions. Thankfully, the angle of the wind never allowed the snow to make its way into their cave, but that made it no less cold. Sephiroth would venture out when he wasn't locked in a memory and catch them food, which was probably where he was now. That was fine. Cloud needed the extra rest. He had just barely drifted back to sleep when the crunching of boots alerted him to the General's arrival.
"What on earth are you doing? Get up." Cloud flinched as one of those boots met his side. "Have you died already?" The silver haired man dropped the large bird like creature next to Cloud and yanked the young man up a few feet by his hair. "Why won't you move? Is my toy broken after so little use?"
Cloud opened his eyes blearily, barely feeling the pain in his scalp. He saw his tormentor frown slightly, thought whether it was with concern or irritation Cloud couldn't tell. He was dropped and the General's wonderfully cold hand was placed on his forehead, after which the man jerked back as though stung. "You have quite the temperature, pet. How long have you been in this state?" Fingers ghosted over Cloud's heated cheek before they were taken away. "Did you plan this?" A wicked smile alighted on his face and he started to reach out again, his hand like a claw. Then softly, "No." The hand dropped first, and then went to his own forehead. "No. You are ill. You must return to health. Soon. Now. Please." He paced quickly, turning sharply as he went and though he spoke to Cloud, he barely glanced at him as he moved.
"Not your fault. Of course not. You didn't." The general's hand raked down his face and he looked directly at the blonde. Cloud noticed with some nervousness that the General's pupils had slit. Faster than he could blink, Sephiroth's arms were wrapped around him. "Don't die. Not like this. You can't. You promised. I'll fix you."
"Letting me breathe might help." Cloud smiled weakly and accepted the slap as his punishment for beginning to develop a sense of humour. Another blanket was tossed onto him carelessly and the General began cutting up their next meal.
"Do not mock my concern Cloud," The General's voice wound through the air like silk. "I can assure you it is not a lengthy visitor." He glanced over thoughtfully before taking out a materia and turning it to the blond. "Sleep."
He caught Cloud's head before it cracked off the stone and set it down gently. "Too hot, far too hot." He murmured. He cursed himself for letting the boy go unchecked for so long. 'I have almost entirely lost control of myself. It doesn't matter though,' The silver haired man smiled wistfully. 'Soon it will all be over. Soon I will rest in a place where even Mother cannot reach me'
He looked down at the blonde. 'He is so sweet. He is mine. He will do it. His blade at my throat, or perhaps my heart. Driving through me... piercing through me....' His pulse quickened and he bit his lip so hard that he drew blood. "Exquisite. You will truly be stunning, Cloud." He lowered his face to the other's and kissed the place beside Cloud's mouth, flicking his tongue out and tasting the soft skin. Trailing his tongue down the young man's neck he came across the faint scar his teeth had made weeks ago. Sephiroth's first impulse was to leave another mark, to bite into that flesh until the blood gushed out of the blonde's neck, covering them both. "No!" The General jerked himself away before he had the chance to act out his desires. "No." He said a little more quietly.
He cradled his head in his hands, hearing the echoes that seemed to fade only when he made contact with Cloud. Screams, a rippling excitement, blood of the enemy spraying against his face, a long sword flashing, tearing through the people of Wutai, no mercy. He looked up and saw a woman shrinking away from him, covered in her husband's blood. "What are you?!" She shrieked, scrabbling backwards.
He lowered his sword. "I am SOLDIER first class Sephiroth. Your husband was forming another rebellion against ShinRa corp. His actions have now been halted."
"ShinRa took everything from us, including my son... " She stood shakily, her legs trembling.
"ShinRa works for the betterment of the people. I imagine the loss of your son was simply a necessary casualty."
"Necessary casualty?" The woman laughed bitterly and spat at Sephiroth's feet. "How dare you. My child was playing outside when he was shot in the head! What was his crime?! Tell me SOLDIER first class Sephiroth, what did he do wrong?! My husband was fighting to avenge his death, as your father would were you unjustly killed!" She drew herself up to full height, staring at him coldly.
"I have no father. I would not know that pain." Sephiroth was taken aback by the look in the woman's eyes. He was used to hostility, to murder, to insanity, but her face spoke of bitterness, brokenness, and pity.
"No." She spoke softly. "I supposed you wouldn't. Monsters do not feel, do not have family. However," She moved towards him. "If you have even a touch of pity, then I must ask you to kill me."
The young General's mouth went dry but he attempted to keep his voice level. "No. You have done nothing wrong. I have fulfilled my orders, I will take my leave of you now. I am sorry for your loss."
"No you aren't." She drew a knife from the table beside her. "Kill me or I'll kill you." She started towards him.
"Stop this!" She broke into a run, aiming the knife at his throat. There was a flash of metal as his hand moved to protect himself before he felt the impact of her torso speared on the Masamune. "No..." She looked at him triumphantly with rapidly fading life. There was a soft gurgling noise from her throat and she spoke her last words.
"Remember this SOLDIER. Monsters died alone. You will die alone."
The General blinked. Cloud was on the floor at the feet of the now dead woman, and then the woman, the room and Wutai were gone. "You should be sleeping," said Sephiroth wearily. "I used that materia for a reason."
"Your yelling woke me up."
The blonde coughed and tried to sit up, but was quickly forced back down by the flat of the Masamune."Don't get up. Just go back to sleep. I will see if there is anything in here that I can use for our next meal."
Cloud looked at him as suspiciously as he could through bleary eyes to which Sephiroth returned a frosty glare. Eventually the blonde brushed the sword away, only slightly slicing his finger in the process and lay back down. He did a good job of ignoring Sephiroth's stare and drifting back to sleep. Once the blonde's breathing evened out, the General fell to his knees, barely grasping enough sanity to stop him from screaming. He clutched his head, willing himself so calm down and see only what was around him. When he finally raised his head he murmured something so faint that no one farther than two inches of him would have heard it. "It's getting worse."
"Oh come on Tifa! He's not entirely at fault, you said it yourself!"
"I said no, Yuffie!"
The ninja's frown was completely lost on Tifa, as she was currently scanning a map. The woman chose to ignore the sound of her visitor's foot tapping against the floor.
"Fine then. Don't help. Let everyone be miserable forever and ever and ever! Let's see how easily we find Cloud with a pilot too depressed to fly and a wounded friend-"
"He's not my friend; friends don't hide things fro-"
"-A wounded friend who feels so sad and guilty that his control over his transformations is slipping! Everyone's all awkward and awful and no one knows what to do and now you're just being a meanie!"
"Yuffie," Tifa spun away from her map and glared at the girl. "I am absolutely exhausted; I don't have time for this. Once we find Cloud we'll sort this out but for now- "
"Wow, you really don't get it, do you? Cloud doesn't want to be found. He made a choice and if you don't accept that now, you never will." Tifa looked as thought she'd been slapped and remained dumbstruck until the ninja spoke again. "The only person who would have any actual idea of where Cloud is right now would be Vincent, but right now, he's too messed up to do anything, but right now, he's our only chance." She smiled slightly, stomach turning. "Right?"
The older of the two sat back down, exhaling heavily and laying her palms over her eyes. "Alright. Tell me what I need to do." She said finally, and the younger inwardly celebrated. Phase one of her plan was complete.
'Don't worry Vincent,' She thought silently. 'I'll fix everything, you just watch!'
Cloud woke up with his back pressed against something warm and firm. He jerked up but was stopped by his captors hands. "Seph, what the hell are you doing?" He croaked. Sephiroth's face remained expressionless but he dipped an old, battered looking ladle into an equally old black cauldron. Upon bringing it out again, Cloud noticed that the ladle was filled with a hot, steaming broth. At least, he thought it was broth. The soft glow of a few materia based ingredients was also there.
"Drink. You will feel better." The liquid was tipped into the blonde's mouth as he began to protest, causing him to sputter a bit before he began to drink. It was wonderfully warm and already, Cloud felt its effects on his throat. "You needn't worry about the cleanliness; whoever left it here thought he would be back."
Cloud nodded drowsily, pushing away the second ladleful, wanting to go back to sleep, but the General made him drink two more before the blonde was allowed to close his eyes once more. Through his hazy mind he still made out his captor's icy voice. "This storm should pass within the next day or so. It would be wise on your part to be in top condition by then, but we shall see. Either way, you should know that we will travel to the crater as soon as the weather lifts. There is no time for us to wait out another storm." As though he was punctuating his point, the general stiffened before muttering to himself again.
Feeling worried, Cloud began to stir, ready to move if anything happened but worrying about his ability to do so. He smelled the sweet scent of flowers and musk on a strand of wind that ghosted over his cheek and stilled. A gentle, non tangible hand lay on his forehead served to drown out all of the insane chattering. "Please," whispered Aerith's voice in his ear. "Hurry."
Barret squinted and the girl throwing up over the edge of the deck. "You serious Kid?"
Yuffie wiped her mouth and glared at him. "I wouldn't joke about this! I need you to help me. Those morons will never fix this on their own. I need you to trust me on this and not try to stop me."
"Cid ain't gonna like this."
"We're not gonna tell him! That's the point! You want him to be happy again, right?"
The bear like man looked taken aback. "'Course I do! He's bein' an asshole and it's pissing me off!"
"So what do ya say?" she beamed.
"Ah what the hell, sign me up." He glanced at her face and said. "You know kid, you've grown a lot since you first joined us. I hope this works."
Yuffie leaned over the edge again as her stomach heaved. "It better." She muttered. "For all our sakes."
Stage two was complete.
When Cloud snapped awake once more it was already dark out. His head felt wonderfully clear from the healing materia in the soup. He turned his face so that he could see the mouth of the cave. Sephiroth had been right about the blizzard letting up. Already the lethal wind had died down and snow was falling gently to the ground, thick and white. As he sat up and stretched, he noticed that the silver haired man was nowhere to be found. 'Huh. I guess he went out again.' The blonde yawned and stood, still a little woozy on his feet. He caught Sephiroth's coat before it fell off of him and let a small smile twitch his lips, rubbing his thumb against the leather. 'For a guy that wants me to hate him, he sure does send some mixed signals.'
His rumbling stomach brought him back to the present before he could remember where that line of thinking had gotten him before. The smell of the soup made his mouth water as he stumbled over to the cauldron, careful not to step in the fire underneath it. He drank from the ladle thoughtfully as he looked at the trench coat. 'It's hard. He's evil; he killed my friends, my mother, but was that really him? No... Well, yes, but not the him that I knew. Something else developed, he's absolutely bat shit, but still, there's hope, always. The hero who loved and protected the people is still there, and I can't help but l-' "No!" The ladle clattered to the ground from Cloud's shaking hands. "Shit... SHIT! I have to kill him, I HAVE to! I don't have a choice! And he might be outside freezing to death while his memories keep pulling him back down further and further into his stupid fucking darkness!"
He looked at the coat once more, this time as though it had wronged him horribly. "I should go find him and make sure he doesn't die before I get to kill him." He started out, but stopped short. "He doesn't have his coat." It was a redundant statement considering what he was holding, but the reason for it was the image that had flashed through his mind. Sephiroth, bare-chested in the cold, goose bumps stretching over his skin with nipples hard, gasping a white cloud of steam in the frigid air. "Oh. Shit." Cloud bit his lip, willing his new found erection to go away, but the more he tried to think of unappealing things, the more the god like man appeared in his mind. 'Hell with it.' He thought, and sat, slipping his hand into his pants and wrapping it around his throbbing length. His bit his lip, barely stifling the moan trying to burst forth. "Nnh! Seph!"
"My my, what do we have here?" came a silky voice from the mouth of the cave. Cloud filled with dread as his head slowly turned. The silver haired man stood there, seemingly amused though his eyes registered all of the shock the rest of his face seemed to reject. "It seems that you are not quite as indifferent to my advances as you would have me believe." He set down the lumber he was carrying and in the blink of an eye was in front of the startled blond.
"Sephiroth, listen," Cloud scooted backwards. "It's not- I'm just-"
"It seems fairly straightforward to me." A smirk twitched the general's face as he dropped to his knees and crawled towards the stuttering man. "You have a very specific problem which I would be more than happy to help with." He reached out a hand and trailed a finger up the outline of Cloud's erection, causing the other man to shudder with pleasure.
The blond bit his lip, caught between conflicting emotions, the first being how horribly wrong this situation was, how this wasn't his Sephiroth, but he wanted it, god how he wanted it. Unfortunately, before he had time to respond, the decision was made for him as his pants were jerked down and warm breath brushed against his cock. "Shit! Sephiroth, no, I'm still si- aahn!" His protests were cut short as the man's lips wrapped around the tip of his shaft.
The General ran his tongue from tip to base, enjoying the sounds he heard from Cloud's mouth. "Sick or not, you began this..." He whispered and made another long, deliberate lick down the shaft. "Of course, I could always stop." He hid his cruel amusement beneath a curtain of silver hair as he began to pull back, stopped suddenly by a shaking hand.
"Please..." Cloud's hand caught in a few strands of the general's hair, cheeks burning.
Sephiroth composed his face into a blank stare before looking up at the boy. There was a pure carnal hunger there that shocked him for a moment. 'He never ceases to surprise me.' "Please what?"
An embarrassed flush darkened Clouds cheeks further and the blonde turned to glare at the rock beside him. "Don't stop." He muttered.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you."
"Please don't stop!" Cloud cried out in frustration.
"Because... I need it. Don't stop." Once again, the blonde turned away, defeated.
"Well, if you insist." Sephiroth smiled in triumph, pupils dilating rapidly. "Spread your legs further."
As soon as the blonde did so, he lowered his head and took the length into his mouth again, this time letting him in as deep as he could go and sucked. Cloud swore and clutched Sephiroth's hair violently, jerking into his mouth. Those piercing green eyes stared up into frantic blue ones as the ministrations continued. One hand pried the two clutching ones from his hair and held them together. The other brushed against the young man's entrance causing a strangled gasp to escape from him. The General smiled around the shaft and let a deep note hum through his throat, causing vibrations to run through the stiff cock.
"Nnnh! Seph... FUCK!!" Cloud came in the silver haired man's mouth, arching with a deep moan.
Sephiroth swallowed the bitter liquid, letting the length slip from his mouth. "So vulgar, I shouldn't have let you come so early. Was that..." The general's voice trailed off as he saw the look on the blonde's face. The younger man leaned towards him, pausing by his ear. "Cloud, what-"
Sephiroth's eyebrows shot up and he began to pull away. "That's enough."
The young man's hand grabbed his shoulder. "I want you to fuck me. Hard. Rip me until I-"
Cloud crashed into the side of the cave with the force of the General's blow and when he looked up, he saw clarity on the silver haired man's face. Clarity and disgust.
"Have dignity Cloud. You are no whore! To see you act like one is sickening. You want me to tear you apart? Why? Because that is the only form of sexual contact I have shown you?" The General turned away, shaking with fury. "You are worth more than that. Act like it." The General pulled on his trench coat and sat by the fire, putting the freshly found lumber on the dying flames.
Cloud remained where he had fallen, black spots dancing before his vision from the impact. 'What the hell did I just try to do? I just asked him to... dammit...' He curled up, disgusted with himself. He hadn't wanted a repeat of Costa de Sol. He had simply been willing to settle for it since he couldn't have the gentle, willing version.
He stood and made is way over to the straight backed figure tentatively. "Sephiroth?" He spoke quietly.
The man turned to look at him, exhaustion evident in his face. "I am sorry for striking you. I could have handled that situation better. But Cloud, We can't do what you want us to; we can't have that kind of connection. Once we do, it will be that much harder to kill me, you know that."
"It won't matter," Cloud lowered his eyes, glaring at the floor. "You're inside my head, right? You can just MAKE me kill you." He glanced at Sephiroth's face to see if his words had made an impact. They had. The general's face was startled and guilty.
"How did you know tha-" His expression went blank and glazed before turning fearful, but this was not a child's fear, this looked too familiar. "N... No... Was I? Was I created like this too? Am I the same as all these monsters...?" Sephiroth's shoulders began trembling. He glared at someone behind him. "You saw it! All of them... were humans... I've always felt since I was small that I was different from the others. Special in some way."
Then it dawned on Cloud, 'I know this memory... this was just before we started losing him.'
"But... Not like this... " He flinched, as though hearing the inhuman shriek of the monster in the pod from his memories. "Am I...... human?" A deadened shadow passed over the man's face, before becoming the frozen mask of today. His gaze snapped over to Cloud. "If you're well enough to be awake and acquiring... pleasure then you're awake enough to spar." A thin sheen of cold sweat was visible on the General's face but Cloud chose not to comment, instead grabbing his sword.
"Okay then, let's go."
"How many of those have you had today?" Barret looked at his chain smoking friend and the newly cigarette butt covered deck.
"Man, when are you two gonna stop avoiding each other?"
Cid ground the cancer stick between his teeth. "Hell if I know. If ya remember, we didn't 'zactly hit it off the last time we talked."
"You tried to deck him when he could barely get up."
"I don't want to talk about him!" The pilot glared and stubbed out his cigarette before lighting another.
"C'mon Cid! Don't let this drag on any more. It was a dick move you pulled but he's not gonna hate you."
"An' why the fuck should I care if he hates me? He fucked us all over!"
Barret summoned the little patience that still remained inside him and kept his voice level. "Yeah. But he's our friend and he had his reasons. We've moved on so why haven't you?"
"Tifa hasn't," Cid grumbled out stubbornly.
"Dude, you really want to compare yourself with Tifa?" The bear like man pinched the bridge of his nose with his good hand. "Just don't let this thing with Vincent turn into another Shera thing."
"The hell're you talking about? Shera and I get along fine!"
"Yeah, now you do. It only took years of her trying to make up her mistake to you and then it turned out to not be her fault. But sure, now you two're fine."
The blonde's mouth fell open, cigarette falling from his lips, anger and denial evident on his face. "Now wait just a goddamn-"
"Forget it Barret." A soft female voice caused both men to look towards the door. Yuffie's eyes were red rimmed and puffy, as though she'd been crying. "Plan's off."
The bear like man's eyes widened. "What? Why?"
She sniffed and wiped her nose. "Tifa messed up. Vincent's too fucked up to give her answers so-"
"Hold on!" The blonde cut in. "What the hell is this about?!"
"I wanted to get you and Vinny to stop fighting," she said dully "so I tried to get Barret and Tifa to get you two talking again. But Tifa... She still thinks that he's completely aware of where Cloud is, and when she couldn't get the answer out of him, she had him moved to our holding facility."
Cid was away from the railing and moving across the floor before you could blink an eye, and only stopped when Yuffie barred the door with her arms outspread. "Outta the way kid." He muttered, trying to brush her off to the side.
She stood her ground and shook her head. "No."
"Whaddaya mean no!? I'm gonna go see him just like you wanted so-"
"You don't get to see him anymore! You wasted that chance!"
He looked at her with raised eyebrows. "S'cuse me?"
She glared up at him. "You hurt him too much. He's losing control of himself more often 'cause he can't focus on keeping it all in! He's hurting because of you and your fucked up issues. Do you have any idea how guilty and vulnerable he feels?"
"That's bull sh-"
"HE'S HAVING NIGHTMARES AGAIN!" She bellowed over him in a voice that seemed like it should come from someone much larger. Her lip trembled and she bit it to keep it still.
Cid seemed to have been struck dumb, face going slack. "Shit..." He ran a hand over his face.
"The other day when I tried to wake him up, he almost attacked me because of it." A tear started to spill over her right eye but she blinked it away. "You messed him up, now I'm going to fix him."
Barret seemed deeply disturbed by the scene unfolding in front of him. "Yuffie, maybe you should just-"
"Fuck off Barret!" she yelled angrily "I'm done with this!"
Cid put up his hands in a kind of defence, also seemingly stunned by the young ninja's actions. "Kid, why are you doing this? I get that you're trying to help but..." He trailed off as she muttered something, lowering her gaze slightly. "What?"
"I said I love him. I love Vincent, and I'm going to fight you for him. At first I figured that he'd only be able to be fixed by you, but the other night, he said that he wished he could've loved me instead. So you know what? Maybe I get a chance. Maybe you've blown yours. Either way, I won't let you have him without a fight." She looked up at him coldly and fingered the giant shuriken on her back. "Or are you too scared Gramps?"
The bear like man started towards her behind Cid but the pilot held up a hand to stop him. "Alright Kid. Have it your way." He chuckled and lit a cigarette before grabbing his lance where it lay on the deck.
"You guys aren't really gonna fight." Barret said this more to reassure himself than to get through to the two figures in front of him.
There was a moment of silence before the ninja lunged forward and struck out. A clang of metal followed her attack as Cid blocked it and threw her back through the doorway. She twisted her body so that the bottoms of her feet hit the wall and she threw three smaller shuriken at him before landing and running down the hallway, gaining distance on him.
"Thought you wanted a fight Yuffie!" Cid ducked and followed her, noticing the warning signs as she skidded to a halt and faced him down the hall. He flattened himself against the wall as the giant shuriken whizzed by, missing him by inches. "Bad move Kid!" He ran at her, frowning slightly as he noticed that she wasn't running. A soft whistling of air had him get out of the way once more, this time suffering a cut on his shoulder from the spiked behemoth. He squinted and managed to strike it with his lance just hard enough that it went off course and crashed into a wall, sticking there. A few more of the tiny variety were easily avoided as he dropped and thrust out at her legs, effectively slashing one of the limbs.
The girl leapt above him and dropped something familiar looking. "Oh, fuck." Then the Ink spread through the air and engulfed his vision. "Playin' dirty huh Yuff?! That's just fuckin' fine!" Pain ripped through his leg, almost causing him to fall over. He cast out his lance in the direction of the attack, meeting only air. "Little bitch..." He strained his eyes through the black fog that impaired his sight, finally making out a slight movement. He staggered blindly at it, swinging his weapon wildly until it made contact with its target's soft stomach.
Grabbing her shoulder, he threw her like a rag doll into the wall. His vision cleared slightly and he saw her pained expression. "You obviously don't get this so I'm goin' to spell it out for you. I'd do anything to save Vincent. I'm a fuckin' moron sometimes who doesn't know when to stop pickin' fights, but I love the ever loving shit out of him, and no kid is gonna keep me from protecting him. To be clear," he pointed his lance at her throat "I'd kill you to get to him, and if he wants you over me then he can tell me himself without some adolescent ninja wannabe tryin' to take him away. Are we clear?" Her nod barely registered on his blackened vision, but it was enough. "Good. Now tell me which way the Goddamn holding cell is."
The hand that wasn't attached firmly to her wound pointed. "Down the stairs, second door on your right." As he staggered off, she called after him "What if I had used poison instead of darkness, huh?"
Cid glanced back at her through the smoke. "Wouldn'ta made a damn difference and you know it. Just might've meant you were serious about this." He gave her a half smile. "Thanks." And then he headed off again.
"No problem..." she murmured.
"Did it work out the way you wanted it to Sweetie?" Tifa reached down a hand to her. "That's some nasty cut you have."
Barret wiped the sweat off of his forehead. "You're a crazy bitch, you know that kid? I believed it and I KNEW what was coming!"
Yuffie looked up a little sheepishly. "I actually think I might have believed it for a second too." But she shook her head gently at their questioning gazes.
"You think he'll be able to find Vincent?" asked the long haired woman worriedly.
"Psh! Of course he will! We can't interfere with the rest of this now. Stage three is complete!" The ninja stuck her tongue out while Tifa helped her to her feet. "After all, I'm the Great Ninja Yuffie!"
The snow had stopped by mid afternoon, and the men in the cave left behind everything but their weapons and the clothes of their back in favour of travelling light. They trudged through the knee deep snow silently, a tension steadily building as they grew closer to their destination. The few monsters that got in their way were quickly diced without much thought.
"Cold, huh?"Cloud murmured. When he received no reply he spoke in a louder voice. "Isn't it funny how some monsters look like they could be small woodland creatures?" He glanced over at the general to see if any impact had been made with his words, but Sephiroth looked stony faced as ever. Eventually Cloud cut to the chase, voicing a concern that had been plaguing him for a while. "So how are we going do to this once we get there? Do we just start fighting or do we say 'ready, set, go!' or what?"
The silver haired man gaze flicked over to him him with an annoyed look of puzzlement on his face. "I am not certain. We will know once we are there. For now you should attempt to save your energy by not talking."
"Well, okay, but-"
"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear." Sephiroth rounded on the blonde, the Masamune just brushing the young man's lips. "I just told you not to talk. Understand that you can still fight me without a tongue."
Cloud looked at him irritably, but didn't speak again. One never knew when the General's threats were idle.
The blonde's eyebrows furrowed in thought. It seemed that even his captor wasn't certain of their course of action upon their arrival. 'I guess all he really knows is what he wants the end result to be. Still,' he thought 'I don't think I can just get there and say: "okay, this is it, I'm going to kill you now!" I'm not angry yet; but l guess his control will solve that problem. Dammit.' An icy wind twirled around them, causing goose bumps to rise on his arms. He rubbed them quickly but almost instantly ducked as something came flying at him.
"Pick it up." Came Sephiroth's curt voice, and when Cloud looked at the shape in the snow and saw the trench coat. "Well? Put it on. You are still recovering and we wouldn't want a relapse now would we?"
The younger man was about to protest but at the look on Sephiroth's face he decided that it would be better for his long term survival if he didn't fight the General on this point. The silver haired man nodded as Cloud slipped on the now too familiar coat and the two continued on.
After a while the rock face gave way to an opening up ahead.
"Is that it?" The blonde asked. "I've never seen it from this angle before. Maybe this opened up after our last battle?"
Another nod. "The planet scarred over inside, sealing the mako energy below ground once more."
The two stood at the entrance, neither really wanting to cross the threshold that would signal the end of their journey, and the beginning of something else. Cloud swallowed anxiously, and that soft noise seemed to break the spell.
"Let us go." Sephiroth murmured, stepping through without so much as a glance back. The General would have seemed calm and uncaring to the untrained eye, but Cloud took in the stiffness of the back and the subtle clenching of his hands. He bit his lip and followed, blinking at the sudden darkness.
They weaved through the narrow tunnel system that had opened up, many times having to double back as they hit dead ends the planet had caused. When they reached a gap in the path, the silver haired man wordlessly looped an arm around Cloud's waist and flew them over it, both men gazing down into the swirling mako that the planet had failed to seal.
Landing delicately, Cloud looked up and saw the open sky above them. He saw Sephiroth glance upwards briefly before locking eyes with him. The younger man held his gaze for a moment before breaking the silence.
"What happens now?"
"Now, we wait."
Cid limped down the stairs, feeling his way along the wall as the blood steadily ran down his leg. "Second door..." he muttered, groping for the handle. He slipped inside and was almost immediately tackled against the wall. He squinted through the black fog to see Vincent's eyes glowing an inhuman yellow. "Vin, it's me."
A snarl. White fangs glinted in his hazy vision before shrinking. The eyes lost their luminous yellow colour and faded to red. "Cid... You're bleeding! Did I-"
"Nah," The chain smoker put up his hand wearily as Vincent dropped to inspect the wound. "I got in a scrap with the kid."
The red eyed man looked at him sharply before rummaging in a cupboard and pushing a liquid to Cid's lips. The blonde man resisted, but soon swallowed the bitter tasting remedy, watching as his vision cleared. The face revealed to him looked thin and pale, dark circles streaked under its eyes; but it was Vincent, and nothing could be more beautiful. He rested his forehead against the others gently and whispered, "I'm sorry. I had no right to-"
"Enough. You were well within your rights to be angry. Let me have a look at that leg." Vincent broke their skin to skin contact with lowered eyes and a slight flush on his cheeks. The pilot watched, fascinated as the dark haired man set to work at repairing the skin with peroxide and gauze. "I was not left in the possession of any cure materia, so I am afraid that this is the best I can do for you right now."
Cid stared at him a while longer. "Yuffie said you got nightmares."
"How is she? You were beginning to talk about a fight-"
"I was beginnin' to talk about your goddamn nightmares!" He flinched at his own tone of voice and did his best to soften it. "I'm worried about you. You look like death warmed up. Yuffie said you were losin' control."
"By the sound of it, Yuffie has said a lot of things." Vincent snapped, his gaze boring a hole in the wall. "Yes. All of these things are true. I have had a great deal on my mind and it has caused a bit of havoc of my body. Now you. You fought with her, and I assume that you both received damage. Why?"
Cid squinted, reaching into his pocket for a cigarette but finding nothing. He muttered a curse and chewed his lip instead. "She said some shit to get me riled up."
"Undoubtedly, but what?"
"Lemme ask you somethin', just for my own piece of mind." A slender eyebrow rose in response, but the Chaos holder didn't try to stop him and so Cid ploughed on ahead. "It was somethin' else the kid said. That you wished you could've loved her."
Vincent's face was unreadable, save for a slight tightening of his jaw. "What is the question?"
A slight pause, then, "Yes. I am certain you would agree that she would be an easier person to love."
Cid felt his heart drop like a weight down to his stomach. So there it was, said out loud. "Huh." Was all he could manage at first. "I guess that's it then. We fought 'cause of you, over you actually. I said I wouldn't believe it unless I heard it from you; but now I look like an idiot." He started to make his way to the door but that smooth voice stopped him.
"I don't believe you understand. It would be much easier to love Yuffie, as she and I do not argue, but the fact remains that I love you, and only you." Cid's head snapped back, mouth slightly open. "I cannot undo what I have done, and I have no right to ask for forgiveness. I am a monster that can no longer control myself; but I love you more than I can convey with words alone. You stormed brazenly into my life and pulled me- unbidden I might add, out of the darkness I had created for myself. I have no right to ask or expect anything of you, and I know that I have broken what we had, but do you think that we could attempt to start again? No lies, I promise..."
Cid walked back to him and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. "You're really fuckin' cheesy sometimes, you know that? Okay. Let's start over." He wrapped his arms around that too thin body and guided the dark haired man to sit on the bed, taking a seat beside him. "So tell me about yourself."
A shy smile lit up the face of the other man. "My name is Vincent Valentine; I was once a member of the Turks..."
"So," Cloud began, "this is the place. It's weird to think that we're here again, isn't it?"
Sephiroth looked around carefully. "This is where I waited, where I was frozen, where you and I did battle. The echoes are stronger here." A shudder ran up his spine, pupils dilating rapidly.
"It feels as though they are about to overtake me... So loud, they are everywhere here... Why? You are here... They should not be-"
Suddenly the general clutched his head and began to scream. Cloud had to clap his hands over his ears in an attempt to block out the unearthly sound that filled and reverberated around the crater. Energy seemed to build up and dash around for miles, shattering stalagmites and laying deep gashes in the wall. As abruptly as it began the screaming stopped, but Sephiroth didn't let go of his head and he began to convulse where he stood.
Cloud called out tentatively. "Sephiroth?"
The man in front of him began babbling as he jerked around, seeming to jump from one memory to the next. "Didn't mean to kill it!" twitch "But I'm just a teenager!" spasm "The Great Sephiroth, huh?" jolt. They came faster and faster. "But where is my Mother? Professor Gast is dead?! I hate you. Husband forming another rebel group. Not a monster! Stop! War. Why? Child. Hojo... No! Monster? Mother! Jenova, monster, no, stop stop stop MOTHER!" It was as though marionette strings were cut as the silver haired man went limp, collapsing to his knees with blank eyes, a final sentence pushing out of his lips. "Am I...... human?"
The blonde went to him, calling his name louder but Sephiroth stood with little to no effort, facing away from him. "Mother, let's take this planet back together. I've thought of a great idea. Let's go to the Promised Land." He paused, registering Cloud without turning. A low chuckle started in his throat, building until an insane laugh was echoing around the crater. "They've come again, mother." He paused again, this time speaking directly to Cloud. "With her superior power, knowledge, and magic, Mother was destined to become the ruler of this planet." Cloud felt goose bumps rise as he watched on helplessly. "But they... Those worthless creatures are stealing the planet from mother. But now I'm here with you, so don't worry." He made a motion with his hands as though ripping something out of the air in front of him.
"That's enough." Though it was a whisper, Cloud knew the General had heard him. "Snap out of it." He reached out and put a hand firmly on the other man's shoulder.
"Oh, but Cloud... There is nothing to snap out of. You will die here, and the world will follow, now unhand me or I shall have to kill you before the fun can really begin."
For a moment, Cloud forgot to breathe, in the next, there was a clang of metal as the Buster Sword parried what would have been a finishing blow. He evaded another strike, more out of fear than coherence. "You aren't even going to give me an edge?" He tried to joke, voice shaking. The general had an expression of maniacal glee on his face.
"Now why would I do that?" Sephiroth purred, eyes glinting.
"You want me to kill you!" Cloud jumped backwards to avoid being cut in two.
"Do I? Oh dear, I suppose this means I've changed my mind, hasn't it? Think clearly Precious, why in Mother's name would I want to die? I have so much left to do. This planet was as good as mine. The only thing standing in my way was, and still is you. You will die here; not me."
The blonde blocked the next attack and struck back; shedding the trench coat in one fluid motion in the second it took for the General to be knocked back. "You're lying. I know you now, and this isn't you talking!" He barely managed to avoid the ball of fire shot his way, the hairs on his arm sizzling.
"It is." The sounds of metal clashing rang through the crater again and again. "I am all that is left." He managed to cut Cloud's left arm while ducking an incoming swing. "Too slow!" He crowed, "Always too slow!"
It was all the blonde could do to defend himself against the onslaught. Fear welled up in his stomach. 'I'm not strong enough. Shit!' The force of the next attack was enough to knock him to the ground, sword skittering out of his grasp. He threw up a hand in a feeble attempt to block the inevitable, closing his eyes.
"Cloud!" Sephiroth's voice was clear and ragged and the blonde's head snapped up. There was fear in the General's face too; fear and clarity. "Cloud... you can't be afraid, you must do this! Fail and you doom us both! ...I'm sorry."
Cloud nearly asked why the silver haired man was apologizing, but the answer came in the feeling of something ripping open in his head. Everything became muffled, replaced by a red haze as he screamed, digging his fingers into his scalp. Even his scream seemed to fade into the abyss as the General's face smoothed into a comfortable insanity. Then the pain receded, but the feeling did not. "You killed them all... My mother, my friends, my village... too many more to count, all so that you could live out your petty little dreams. And for what!?" He lunged across the floor, snatching up his sword once more. "To please the Mommy you don't have?"
Sephiroth's face turned livid as he struck out, only to be thrust back by the blonde. "What's the matter Sephy? Did I touch a nerve? She doesn't exist, and you shouldn't either. You only cause pain!" The silver haired man tried to attack again, but was forced back by Cloud's strength. He escaped what would have been a fatal blow with only a shallow cut on his stomach.
The blonde simply batted away the next ball of fire, rushing at the General with everything he had. All he could remember were the faces of the dead villagers, of his mother, of Aerith. They had been slaughtered mercilessly, and Cloud would not let their deaths go unpunished, but the righteous anger was quickly becoming something much more primitive, more sinister. Reason faded from his head leaving only the roaring urge to hurt, to kill, he needed no reason.
A sadistic smile crept over Cloud's face as the General seemed to falter slightly, uncertainty flashing over his face briefly. Then the blonde attacked, hacking and slashing with such speed and ferocity that it was all Sephiroth could do to fight the onslaught. Gashes appeared on both parties but neither seemed to notice as they continued their deadly dance. Another blow and the Masamune went flying, a spatter of blood now decorating the younger man's sword. Sephiroth had caught the blade before it could bury its self too deeply in his side, but damage had certainly been done. The silver haired man jerked it out of him and tried to fly to where his own sword had landed, but Cloud's hand gripped his ankle and flung him to the ground.
An animalistic growl rose from the blonde man's throat as he threw the buster sword where Sephiroth's blade fell and leapt on the man with teeth and nails bared. He tore savagely at the being beneath him, knocking back the arms that tried to protect it. All he knew was that this man represented pain and hatred and that he wanted to crush every last breath of air from him. With that thought, he wrapped his hands around the lean throat under him and began applying pressure.
A face of calm clarity looked up at him, growing pink with oxygen deprivation. There was a look of hope in those eyes that made Cloud stop. 'Wait... I... No. He must die, he kills and hurts and violates! ...but that wasn't him... In his right mind he never would- No! He hurts! I hurt because of him! He'll destroy everything!' The thought panicked him enough to retighten his grip.
A warm wind swept by him and a warm pair of intangible hands stroked his hair, soothing the pain from his damaged mind; not enough to take away the feelings entirely, but enough to put him back into control; enough to finally make him understand. "I can't." He let go of the General's neck, smiling weakly at the astonished face. "Shit. I think you knew I couldn't from the start, or if you didn't, they did."
Sephiroth didn't stop to ask who, but the dismay on his face was evident. "No! Cloud, I am going to lose control again, do it now!"
"No. I can't." Cloud watched the General's face start to change. "It doesn't have to end like this, fight it!" He placed his hands on the silver haired man's cheeks. "You can do this, please..."
Sephiroth's face contorted and he began to struggle, though whether it was against Cloud or himself, the blonde couldn't tell. He searched inside his own head to where Sephiroth's presence was still deeply embedded and began to follow it as though it were a guiding rope between the two minds. The few Jenova cells inside him were happy to spur his journey along until he encountered something foreign. When he nudged against it, it seemed to recoil as though burned. A wave of understanding rushed through him and he made a very gentle stroking motion with his consciousness.
"I'm here." He echoed back in Sephiroth's mind. He reached out and attached himself to what he recognized as the Sephiroth he knew and began pulling. Pain erupted on both ends but neither made a move to change their course of action.
Cloud came out of it first, having let go right at the forefront of the General's mind. He watched as the two parts fought for dominance, and the hands that had helped him alighted on Sephiroth's forehead. He saw Aerith and Zack, just barely visible, their eyebrows knit with worry and concentration, and placed his hands through theirs.
A shuddering gasp rose from the body underneath him. "Cloud?" It asked weakly. He pulled his hands away and saw the silver haired man as he remembered him, but with a look of anger on his face. "What are you thinking?! Do you honestly think that I will be able to stay sane for-"
"I love you."
Sephiroth's tirade died in his throat. He exhaled, a crease forming between his eyebrows. He watched as Cloud drew the cure materia out of him and healed them both. "You can't." He tried, hoping that his words would reach this ridiculous blonde's head.
Cloud looked at him. "Why not? Because I have to kill you? That's the only reason I can find; and it's a pretty stupid one."
"Do you not remember what I have done? Whom I have hurt? I raped-"
"I know what you've done," the blonde replied quietly "but is doesn't change the way I feel. And you know what? I don't think you're all that indifferent to me."
Sephiroth closed his eyes, wanting to cry, to scream, anything. He wanted to give in and let his feelings rule him as they hadn't since he was a child. But he couldn't. To do so would doom the entire planet to death, and he couldn't allow that to happen. Even now, he could feel the insanity trying to control him as though it were a disease that he couldn't get rid of. "If this were any other situation-"
"But it isn't. Yes, these feelings are selfish; how could they not be? But I can't change them. I love you. Do you love me?"
"That's... I cannot."
"Sure you can. You're capable of emotion just like me. But that doesn't answer my question."
"You... Why are you making this so difficult?" The General bit out, the temptation was immense.
"Are you kidding me? This is one of the simplest things ever!" Cloud stopped to grin at something Sephiroth couldn't see. "The biggest things in life always are. Your feelings won't change a situation I've already made my mind up about. For real this time: do you?"
Cloud was right. He was right and he was smug about it. The silver haired man sat up, touching the recently knit wound on his side. "Of course I do." He muttered bitterly. "You are in all likelihood the only creature I've ever truly given my love to. That is one of the reasons that I cannot be allowed to live. Don't you understand?!" His voice rose. "If I am allowed to live, I will kill you! Let me die with the knowledge that I have not! How long do you think I will remain sane? A week? A day? I can assure you that it will be exponentially shorter than that."
"We can find another way, I know we can."
He took the younger man's shoulders firmly, willing himself not to give in to the blonde's comforting words. "No Cloud. It would be selfish of me to allow this to continue. It was selfish of me to involve you in the first place, to involve others. Despite my hampered judgement I am still at fault here! To me, you are a beautiful soaring bird representing the freedom that I cannot hope to obtain. I captured you in the hope that you could set me free. I locked you up, tortured you and expected you to fight me to the death; all in the hopes that along the way you would free me from what I have become. But I went about it in the wrong way."
Cloud brushed the hands off his shoulders, leaned forwards and kissed him. I wasn't a long kiss, nor was it particularly passionate, but its significance was immense. He wrapped his arms around the general. "How much time?"
Sephiroth was still slightly stunned by the kiss and the warm body pressed against his own. "Pardon?"
"How much time before I have to pull you out of yourself again?"
The General prodded at his own mind tentatively, wincing at what he found. "Two hours, maybe less."
Cloud nodded thoughtfully and began taking off his shirt.
Sephiroth's mouth dropped open. "What are you doing now?" He asked, colour rising to his cheeks. "You can't possibly think that we... that you and I are... right now!"
"Why not?" Cloud flashed him an impish grin that was betrayed only by the weariness in the blonde's face. "We have two hours right now, and until I can figure out what to do, I don't want to waste a second of what I know I have." He chucked his shirt at the general's face.
Sephiroth caught it and looked at the younger man's bare chest. "Compelling argument," Was all he said as Cloud continued to undress. He shook his head, trying to clear it, to formulate a plan before he- There. There it was. The silver haired man once more turned his attention to the now very naked blonde.
"Well?" prompted Cloud, flushing at the gazing raking over his body "Aren't you going to undress? It's pretty damn cold here!" He didn't need to ask twice, and soon he was pulled flush against Sephiroth's exposed body.
A soft gasp was all the General allowed to escape from Cloud's mouth before giving in completely and covering it with his own. Their kiss was much needier than the first, desperation clacking their teeth together as their hands roamed over each other's bodies.
Sephiroth's hands slipped down to grip Cloud's buttocks, causing the blonde to moan and grind against the older man. The two broke their kiss to breathe and Cloud allowed himself to be lowered to the ground.
"You won't regret this?" The General murmured into Cloud's neck.
"If you don't hurry up, I might not live long enough to find out. Hey," he kissed the horrified face that had just extracted itself from his neck "I'm kidding. Of course I won't regret it."
The silver haired man once again turned his attentions to that delicate neck, sucking the faint scar that he had left in what now seemed like another life. He slipped a hand underneath the other man and inserted a finger, stretching him before realizing another problem. "We need lubrication Cloud; I will not take you dry again."
The blonde groaned, not bothering to hide his discomfort and irritation. "Now you remind me! We don't have time for this, move back for a sec." As soon as the General complied, Cloud sat up and popped his own fingers into his mouth, slicking them with as much spit as he could before taking them out and slipping two inside himself, pumping them in and out in a steady rhythm. When he looked up, he saw Sephiroth jerking himself off slowly, lower lip caught between his teeth.
"Heh, you like this then?" Cloud panted.
"Please...tell me when you are ready" Sephiroth managed to say in a strained voice, smearing the precum down his shaft. The sight made Cloud start to shake with need. He retracted his fingers and spread his legs.
"How about now?"
The silver haired man threw himself across to Cloud and kissed him deeply before positioning himself at the man's entrance and sliding in. He groaned at the tightness, the feeling only amplified when Cloud cried out and dug blunt fingernails into his back. "I'm okay..." The younger whispered "I just need a sec."
Sephiroth nodded, concentrating on Cloud's needs to stop him from falling into a delirium and thrusting before he was ready. The small nod, when it came, became one of Sephiroth's favourite gestures as he was allowed to pull out partway and thrust back in, starting with shallow thrusts.
Sephiroth sank his teeth into Cloud's shoulder and buried himself in the man to the hilt. He picked up a stronger pace as the blonde writhed in ecstasy underneath him. He watched the man's face, how open it was, how alive it was, how alive he was. He wrapped his fingers around Cloud's erection and pumped, feeling his own climax approaching. Adjusting his angle, Sephiroth hit Cloud's prostate. Stimulation from both the front and the back proved to be too much for the blonde as he came, wrenching Sephiroth's face down to meet his in a frenzied kiss, and after a few thrusts, the General followed him into oblivion.
He pulled out gently, smiling softly as Cloud groaned at the loss, and kissed him softly once more before lying beside him, breathing heavily.
"Floor's cold." The younger remarked.
"It was you who wanted to have sex in a crater in an arctic region. You will be lucky if you avoid getting sick again."
"Nah, being this close to the lifestream makes you warmer."
Sephiroth turned and wrapped his body around the shivering one, nuzzling his face into Cloud's hair. 'Oh Cloud...' he thought "Forgive me."
Vincent bolted upright from where his head had been resting on Cid's lap, almost colliding with the pilot's face in the process. "Cid! We have to hurry, where is Tifa?! We must get the airship moving!"
"Woah, woah! Vin, calm the fuck down! Yer shakin' all over!" His attempts to calm his lover down did nothing. "What's this about?"
"It's Sephiroth! He is sane and telling us to take Cloud back immediately. Telling me he's in great danger! We must hurry!"
"Tellin' you? How?"
"Through my mind!"
Cid blinked, trying to make sense of the situation. "Are you sure? You mighta been dreamin'. How would he-"
"Cid, please. Right now I need you to believe me more than ever and trust that I know what I am doing! There is no time to explain!"
Cid's face turned grim, but he nodded. "Okay. Where to?"
"The North Crater!"
Sephiroth stood and stretched, extending a hand to invite Cloud to do the same. The blonde tried to get up but fell the moment he made it to his feet. "Oh wow, my legs are like jelly. You know, I thought that was a myth but that's exactly what it's like. So how much time do we have left?" He asked, managing to successfully stand without collapsing.
"I hope that there is still enough." Sephiroth muttered.
Cloud had heard him. "Me too, I don't really like the idea of going back in your head. We'll find a way though, trust me."
Sephiroth just gave him a tight smile and held him for a moment. "Use your shirt to clean yourself up; you may wear my coat in its place. I am beginning to think it looks better on you."
The blonde laughed and shook his head. "That's not possible, but I'll accept your offer, I'm getting cold again." Once dressed and with the buster sword in place, he interlocked his fingers with Sephiroth's and the two began walking towards the exit.
"Damn... I forgot my sword." He glared at the disbelieving look he was getting from the blonde. "Am I not allowed to be absent minded on occasion? Keep going, I move faster than you; I will catch up." When Cloud started off, Sephiroth felt his stomach clench. "Wait." The younger turned. "How were you able to fight your hate?"
Cloud's eyebrows raised but he answered truthfully. "Some friends helped me out, but they wouldn't have been able to if it was actually directed at you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm totally capable of hatred, but I don't think I ever really hated you. It's more that I feared you."
"And your friends helped you conquer this fear?" Time was running out.
"Then what did?"
"How?" The General was becoming frustrated.
"Because I love you."
The fight seemed to drain out of the silver haired man, but he did his best to keep it out of his face. The voice ahead was still fairly happy, though it was becoming slightly uncertain. "Can I go now?"
Sephiroth walked forwards a few steps, feeling the waves of insanity beginning to creep up his spine. He fought them off and pulled Cloud into a soft kiss, much like their first one. He tried to convey everything he felt through that one bit of contact before pulling away and smiling. "Now you can go. I love you too."
Cloud beamed; his face heating up to a dull pink. "I'll see you soon." He started walking away then, and it was all the General could do not to reach out and beg him not to go. Instead he whispered "I hope not..." and summoned his sword.
He wished he hadn't seen the look on Cloud's face as he cut through a layer of the overhanging rock, blocking Sephiroth's way out and putting a barrier between the two of them, wished he hadn't seen the fear, the confusion the betrayal. But then everything was splendid and he was wondering why he had locked his pretty little pet out.
'No,' he thought, pushing down that delicious insanity where nothing was wrong, 'Not this time.' He heard Cloud pounding his fists bloody against the rocks. He had to hurry. Soon the boy would think to use his sword.
He tilted the point to his chest. "I have opened your cage little bird; now fly to your freedom.... and let me have mine." With inhuman strength, he gripped the blade plunged the sword through his heart, and knew no more.
Cloud didn't have to see Sephiroth to know that he was dead. He felt the severing of the connection between their minds and screamed, trying to physically drag it back with his hands. He couldn't believe it; he wouldn't, it hadn't happened. Sephiroth was just waiting behind those rocks for cloud to come and get him, he hadn't made them fall, why would he? He wouldn't. He wasn't dead.
He swung the buster sword off of his back and began to slash at the rocks, turning them to dust in his need to get through. As soon as there was a hole big enough, he forced his way through and ran to the limp figure of his former captor. "Seph?! Seph, don't worry; I'll get you to help! Just hold on!" He grabbed the hilt of the Masamune, feeling a wave of fiery pain rocket up his arms. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered someone telling him that only Sephiroth could wield the Masamune. He jerked it out of the quickly cooling body, angry burning streaks starting up his skin. He dropped it and picked up the silver haired man. "Shit, you're really cold... you said that you could deal with the cold you dumbass." Cloud spoke in a wavering voice, holding the body close, burying his face into that soft hair. "Let's go get help..." And with slow, shambling steps, he began carrying The Great Sephiroth outside.
"Huh... Would you look at that; it's snowing again."
"Did he say where?" Tifa pressed, looking out the window through the thick snowfall. The blizzard had started about three hours before and so far neither the Turks, nor the landing crew had found anything.
"No, I apologise." Vincent looked downcast. "He was not clear as to where they would be, and chances are that they have moved since then. Still, in this weather they could not have gotten very far."
"I know." The woman gave him an attempted smile and touched his shoulder briefly before turning her attention once more out the window.
The walkie talkie crackled to life, making them both jump. "This is search party number two. We've found something, but you might not like it."
Tifa grabbed the walkie talkie and spoke into it, barely managing to keep her voice level. "Is it him?"
"Well, it sure looks like him, but he's got-"
"THEN BRING HIM ABOARD!" She yelled, probably terrifying whatever poor volunteer from the air ship it was into considering a new line of work. She then spoke normally into the machine. "This is Tifa calling from the airship, all landing parties please report in."
"Landing party one, reporting in. Nothing of interest."
"Landing party three, reporting in. Same story Tifa."
"Landing party four, reporting in. One wounded, monster attack. No fatalities."
She tried to hide the impatience in her voice. "Come on back guys, I think we've found him."
"What about us?" Came an indignant voice on the other end.
"Oh," she paused, smiling a little into the walkie talkie, "Turks can come back too Reno."
The machinery went silent and she rubbed a hand down her face. "I should have gone down there with them. I'm no good to anyone up here."
Vincent put a comforting hand on her shoulder, looking into her brown eyes with his red ones. "You are the best healer we have. By the sounds of it, they will need your services. If one of the parties had found Cloud injured and you were down there with another, you would be unable to help him."
"I know. But I feel like I'm going to burst from all this anxiety!"
The door burst open, and Landing Party Two came in with an unconscious Cloud wrapped protectively around a cold, dead Sephiroth. The blonde would spasm every so often and upon checking his pulse, Tifa found that it was very faint. Something else she noticed, but refused to comment on was the fact that he was wearing Sephiroth's jacket.
"Get him to the bed in the office, and get that murderer away from him; he's just making him colder!"
"Miss, we've tried, he just won't let go."
Tifa closed her eyes and tightened her jaw. "That's fine then. Just keep him warm until I get there." Okay, so he was almost dead and had a loving death grip on the man who killed Aerith. She could deal with that. The important part was that he was alive, and she intended to keep him that way. She opened her eyes again. "Vincent, can you greet the rest of the landing parties?"
His response was immediate. "Of course. Go."
That was all the confirmation she needed and she tore down the hall after the men without a glance back. 'Damnit Cloud, please hold on!'
When Cloud woke up, he was in a warm place. Grass tickled his cheek and his eyes snapped open. As he sat up, he saw that he was sitting in a green field covered in the yellow and white flowers that Aerith used to plant. Oddly enough, he did not feel a sense of panic at this discovery, only one of acceptance. What he didn't like was that he was no longer holding Sephiroth's corpse, for he knew now that the General was dead. He had killed himself to save everyone; including Cloud. This didn't seem to bother him either.
He walked through the field, breathing in the sweet scent of the flowers until he caught sight of two figures on the hill ahead. He made his way up, and smiled as he saw Aerith and Sephiroth speaking quietly. "Hey guys!" When the two turned to him, Cloud could feel his heart swelling with an inexplicable sense of joy. Sephiroth looked more at peace than cloud could ever remember seeing him, and Aerith's serene beauty was no longer halved by intangibility.
The General stood and beamed at him, opening his arms wide, but when Cloud attempted to go to him Aerith held up a hand to stop him. "You shouldn't be here, not yet. If you touch us, this," she spread her arms and spun once "all of this will become permanent. You'll have to stay"
Sephiroth's eyes widened slightly and he dropped his arms. Impatience flared in Cloud before it was lost again in the tranquility that emanated from the place. "But I want to stay. The people I love are here."
"There are still people you love out there. What about Tifa, Barret and the others?"
Tifa. The word sounded like pain, but he knew he owed her something. "I want to stay here... But I would like to say goodbye."
"Cloud," this time it was Sephiroth who spoke, "when I ended my life, it was so that you and the others could live happily, without the threat of my existence. I cannot force you to do anything, and even in this paradise, all I can see is that it lacks you, but I will still be here when it is your time to come. I will be waiting with an outstretched hand."
Cloud could see that it hurt Sephiroth to say this, and he did not want Sephiroth to hurt more than he had already. It seemed wrong.
"Wow, you guys are mean!" Interjected a familiar voice from behind him. Turning to face Zack and seeing how vibrant he'd become made him forget the pressure to leave this place. "Let the poor guy decide on his own!"
"Is it always like this?" Cloud asked, refraining from hugging his friend, though he longed to do so.
"It is whatever you want it to be. This is the Lifestream!" Zack laughed. "Say your goodbyes first; then see if you want to stay."
"Zack!" Aerith sounded angry, and Zack flinched, but in a playful way.
"Face it Aerith, a guy's gotta do what he feels is right."
Cloud had stopped listening, and was staring into Sephiroth's too green eyes; even as the scene started to fade they were the last things to go before he was staring at himself on a bed with Tifa watching him.
The woman jumped, looking around but seeing nothing. He went to her and wrapped his arms around her. She was in no danger of dying; she could not see him. "Cloud?" she called out, touching her shoulders where he held her. "Are you there?"
"Not for much longer. What happened to Sephiroth's body?"
"We buried it. We could barely make you let go before it started to smell. That was a week ago." She was still looking around uncertainly.
"Tifa, after this, you may never hear from me again, so I need you to do some stuff for me okay?"
She seemed to barely choke back a sob. "Why?!" she cried out, "You're right here, why do you have to go!?"
"Oh Tifa..." He held her tighter, sending her all the feeling of compassion and love he could manage. "This is something I need to do. It's not like you'll never see me again. Before you do though I need you to make me a few promises."
She nodded violently, tears now flowing freely down her face.
"Learn to forgive. Live with the passion that you always have, 'cause life is beautiful. Just look at that sunset!" She turned her face to the window and watched the warm red and yellow glow as it poured into the room. "Marlene needs a Mom while Barret's away all the time, and no one will ever be as good a bartender as you are. And you know, you don't have to do that stuff; you can travel! But find what's important to you and go through with it." Cloud looked beside him and saw Sephiroth smiling gently. "Lastly, love will always find you in the strangest of places; don't be afraid to embrace it."
He kissed her on the cheek and watched her hand fly up to the place in shock. "Live, Tifa. I'll see you when the time comes."
"Are you leaving because of him?" She asked softly, as though afraid of the answer.
"Yes," he admitted, "I love him very deeply. There is really no rhyme or reason for it, I just do."
"I loved you." She whispered, and Cloud felt a lump in his throat.
"I know. I will always love you too. You've been with me since childhood, I'd have to or you'd've knocked my brains out by now."
She burst out laughing through her tears, her body soon shaking with both sobs and mirth.
Cloud was looking at Sephiroth again, waiting patiently. The blonde knew he'd wait forever if he had to. "I have to go now, you won't forget what I said?"
She shook her head. "Never." She managed in a strangled whisper.
"Pass my message along to the rest of them too, and smile! There's enough sadness in the world as is." A slender, masculine hand stretched out to him. "I loved you all, never forget that. Goodbye Tifa." He reached out his own hand, interlocked his fingers with Sephiroth's, and was gone.
She stayed there for a while, shaking with silent sobs until Yuffie came in to relieve her. "He's gone Kiddo." Was all she could say before giving the ninja girl a watery smile and pulling her into a tight embrace.
When she left for the bridge later, Yuffie ran after her with something clutched in her hands. "You dropped this!" she called, handing over a slightly crushed flower. Tifa fingered its yellow petals and smiled.
"Okay guys, let's go home."
Somewhere far beyond space and time, in a field covered with yellow and white flowers, four people stand on a hill, hands held, watching the world as they once knew it, or maybe watching nothing at all. And they smile.
End Little Bird.
It was a gorgeous sunny day on the airship. A man leaned over the railing with a full cigarette pack beside him, untouched. He watched the people disembarking, hugging and going their separate ways.
"I believe that that is everyone." Vincent said from the doorway. "After Tifa left it was only a matter of time before they all decided to go home, especially after that speech of hers."
"Yeah," the blonde man on the railing agreed, still watching the people. "That was some pretty heavy stuff she said, but it sure as hell touched a lot of people. Cloud would be proud."
The red eyed man walked over to join him, smiling beneath the collar of his coat when an arm encircled him. "I am certain that he is proud somewhere." He rested his head on Cid's shoulder and breathed in the man's musky scent.
"So what next on the agenda for you?" Asked the pilot in an attempt to be subtle.
"Well," Vincent put a finger to his lips as he thought. "I would like to go and thank Lucrecia for all of her guidance, and I would certainly like to visit Cloud and Sephiroth's graves, but after that I don't know where to go. I have no home to speak of unless I wish to return to the coffin in the basement of the ShinRa Manor."
"Well that leaves you with only one choice then by the sounds of it." Said Cid gruffly.
Vincent looked at the pilot from underneath his lashes, unable to keep the smile from his voice. "And what choice might that be?"
"You're really gonna make me say it out loud?"
"Not if you don't wish to."
Cid threw his arms in the air in mock exasperation. "Well what choice do I got?" More seriously, he turned Vincent so that he was staring the man in the eyes. "Vincent Valentine, will you stay with me and put up with my grumpy ass?"
The dark haired man's eyes seemed to dance. "Only if you agree to put up with my unstable semi-homicidal tendencies."
"You fuckin' know I will."
"Then I suppose I shall have to stay by your side forever. I fear that you are saddled with me for life, or as long as you wish to be."
Cid pressed a kiss on Vincent's lips and held him close. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
The two began to walk back inside, but Vincent paused for a moment. "I am sad that our friend's journey came to an end so early. I wish that there was something I could have done to prevent it, but I am glad that through this, you and I have started on a journey of our own."
The pilot smiled at his lover and ushered him back inside with an arm around the waist. As he followed him in, he turned to look at the sky one last time and could have sworn he felt a warm wind brush over his cheek.
This is it guys, the end of the line. Thanks so much to everyone who stayed with me until the end! Let's hear it for not waiting seven months to update this time, hurray! That being said, I'm pretty sure my butt's gone flat and I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome because I wrote over half of this today. I have never been so inspired to finish something! I chose the name Little Bird because it reminded me of the saying: "If you love something, let it go. If it comes back it's yours etc,etc." The image I always got in my head was a small but strong willed bird stuck in a cage by someone that thought they needed it (though probably not to the extent Sephiroth did). I actually really like this chapter and that terrifies me! It means that there is probably something horribly wrong with it.
Okay, enough dawdling, a final shout out to all of those who reviewed!
Superwitch: Ack! Not my floors! Hope you liked this chapter, even though it is that last.
Wintersheart1766: Lengthy things flatten my tush and mess up my spinal alignment, but yes, as you say, they are pretty darn good. Hope you like it.
yaoi-midnight-mistress: Your reviews seem to have a tendency to make me bake more than I ought to, thanks!
MizuYousei: The characters are great, always have been. The problem lies solely with me. Hurray for sooner updates!
Deathcas: D'aww, thanks. I worry that I made Yuffie too serious for this chapter, but it just seemed to feel right.
Kags21: Thank you! Hope you approved of the ending.
demonlifehealer: In tears? Really? I know I shouldn't be as thrilled about that as I am, but the fact that I brought that emotion out of you feels good. Darn good.
MikiMuo: Thanks! I try to stay as close to what I perceive the characters to be as possible.
Micro chibi baka-san: Hope this was soon enough, at least it wasn't seven months this time!
luminousSpark: I personally love Sephiroth as a character and I like to get down and fish through his gooey mind bits to come up with stuff.
Thank you so much everyone! It's because of you guys (and Mooky) that I was able to write this story, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys and give you internet cake-yes, with yaoi frosting, out of affection. Farewell until we meet again, thanks for reading, enjoying, and reviewing, and always live your life with passion; no matter what you do.