Warnings: Very AU, language, yaoi
Disclaimer: I do not own FFVII or its characters. I make no money from this fiction.
Summary: Opening night for Midgar Dance Company's newest show may be the beginning of something more than just a hot new act.
There is only so long a person, even a teenager, can ditch responsibility before life starts detouring from shirker-like satisfaction to outright boring.
Cloud rolled over in bed. It was a lazy kind of movement born out of melancholy rather than lethargy. He felt like he'd been glued to the bed for his entire life. For someone used to massive amounts of physical exercise to be cooped up for so long was rather depressing. Not that the bed was uncomfortable, quite the opposite actually. It was soft; the kind of perfect softness that hugged all the curves and supported all the dips. He could have spent the rest of his life sleeping in that bed. But at night. After a full day's work.
He wasn't at full health yet or even a normal weight, but he was feeling good enough to be depressed about the fact that he wasn't healthy…if that made any sense. He didn't want to be in bed anymore. He wanted to dance.
Dancing was his life. He loved it. He breathed, ate, and slept dancing. He did it well, it made him feel accomplished, and sitting here like a fat cow made him feel a little frantic inside.
All that frantic energy escaped his body in a long, drawn out sigh as he settled deeper into the pile of blankets and closed his eyes.
Maybe he could convince Sephiroth he needed to get moving again. It wasn't doing him any good to lie around like a beached whale…skeleton.
Cloud rolled over again with a burst of restless energy. The moonlight from the windows shone on the photographs that lined Sephiroth's walls. In the dark, it looked liked rows and rows of shiny squares floating around the room. If he'd smoked some pot it'd be way more entertaining than it was right now.
In the time he'd spent recovering in this room, Cloud had studied those photographs. They seemed rather random at first, until he'd asked Sephiroth about one in particular that he didn't understand. It was a picture of a rather dull hallway. That was it. Just a hallway as plain and generic as any other Shinra building hallway.
"What's this?" Cloud had asked, touching the green tacks that held the picture up by the top corners.
Sephiroth had glanced up from the laptop he'd dragged into the bed. "Hmp?" he'd mumbled around the pen dangling from his mouth.
Cloud smiled. Sephiroth chewed on pens.
"This hallway. Why do you have a picture of it?"
Sephiroth had shrugged and continued to type. "That was where I found out I was being promoted to General."
Cloud's eyes widened. He looked at the photo again with newly reverent eyes. "I…I thought you told me that you were in Wutai when you became General."
"I had to go back and forth sometimes. Public relations and that bullshit. Press conferences didn't work well on the battlefield." The man scribbled something out on the ledger sitting on the bed before typing again. "They told me as I was walking to one of the auditoriums for yet another press release. They did the promotion ceremony, and two hours later I was back on a plane to Wutai."
Cloud fiddled with the tacks for a moment longer before moving along.
Most of the pictures were like that. Some were self explanatory, like the shots of Sephiroth's roommates doing stupid shit, or heroic shit.
"Do you always carry a camera?" Cloud wondered as he traced the outline of a miniature Genesis fighting with something that looked very scary and a smidgeon unreal.
In answer, Sephiroth pulled a tiny, digital camera out of his pocket.
"Do you have any pictures of me?"
Sephiroth ignored him in favor of the laptop.
"Stop buggin' me. I gotta finish this tonight."
Cloud smiled a tiny, knowing smile. "You do, don't you?"
The older man turned a page in the ledger more violently than necessary.
"Where are they?"
"It'll make me feel better," Cloud said in a tiny, sweet voice.
Sephiroth sighed and closed the laptop. "You'll think I'm a stalker."
"I thought we already confirmed your stalker status," the blond teased.
The silver haired man leaned and fished under the bed with a practiced movement before sliding a long, squat plastic bin out from underneath. Cloud's head cocked, sending his blond spikes waving. He stepped forward and settled on the floor cross-legged. The edge of the bin unlatched with a 'pop' and the blond lifted up the top.
Inside was…something that should be creepy but Cloud found rather endearing.
There were pictures, all right. Pictures and ticket stubs and programs. Cheap bootleg DVD's of performances. Cloud looked through everything with interest. This was how Sephiroth fell in love with him. All these scrapes of paper had been fawned over and well loved by the look of it.
This collection of crap was responsible for the best thing that ever happened to him.
Cloud pulled a plain paperboard box out and opened the lid. Pictures of him dancing filled the interior in perfect little stacks. They were the kind of pictures that theaters specifically forbid. Appearently, Sephiroth was above the whole, "Please, do not take any pictures or video during the performance," warning. The blond was astonished at how many of his concerts Sephiroth had attended. How had he not known someone so famous was a frequent patron of his shows?
Probably because he didn't give a shit about anything but the dancing. He didn't see the audience. He didn't look at the VIP guest list like everyone else did. They would 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the big names while he did mindless relevé-pliésin the corner.
He'd been so oblivious.
Another box contained what Cloud could only call 'candid' photographs. Pictures of him entering the performing complex, pictures of him getting on the bus, and one random set of pictures of him at the gas station by his apartment buying…toothpaste.
"You really were a stalker."
"Only when I was in town."
And they had left it at that.
Present-day Cloud smacked his lips and worked his mouth to develop some moisture. Thirsty. He pulled himself to a sitting position on the side of the bed and rolled his head loosely on his shoulders. The bed creaked a little as he stood up and pulled a robe off the floor to head to the kitchen. While Sephiroth kept it rather warm in their room to pander to Cloud's constant chill, the rest of the apartment was cold to accommodate SOLDIER metabolism and high body heat. The blond's little sweatpants wouldn't cut it, but the robe was overly large and warm. And comforting as it was Sephiroth's, and very much smelled like him.
The blond walked in a flu-like haze down the hallway. Everything seemed very late. It was so dark, the moon not actually visible through the huge panels of windows as they faced the wrong direction. It felt like it was the latest of latest nights.
He really wished Sephiroth was home to ward off the weird middle-of-the-night feeling he had right now, but the man was working overnight because of him taking up so much time lately. Sephiroth still had deadlines and paperwork and a job to do regardless of Cloud's usurpation of his life.
He still wished he was here.
The blond was rather puzzled when he reached the kitchen and didn't have to turn on the light. Because it was already on. Because the kitchen was packed full of people Cloud didn't know.
They were SOLDIERs, that much was obvious.
The big men were loitering around with various beer bottles strewn everywhere and held in hand. Cloud felt rather…tiny compared to so many mountains of sheer body building muscle and testosterone.
"Hey, chickabo!" Zack pounced on the little dancer. "Hey guys! Meet Cloud! Isn't he just so fucking cute?" Zack picked the small teenager up and shook him around a little, like a five year old at show-and-tell.
The men smiled indulgently at Zack and waved, grunted, or spoke a rather terse, "'Sup?"
The blond tottered a little bit when he was set back on his feet and caught himself on the counter.
"Whoa there killer," one of the big men laughed, helping the little teenager steady himself.
"S-sorry," Cloud stuttered as he looked around with large, deer-in-the-headlights blue eyes.
"You're ok, kid," the man smiled.
"So, you're the piece of ass the General's been mooning over for…fuck, what's it been? Three fucking years or some fucking shit?" a SOLDIER with sandy blond hair and a tattoo of a cactuar on his bicep asked.
"I'm…sorry?" Cloud was bewildered. Completely taken off guard and unable to respond in any kind of rational reply the blond stood in the bright lights of the kitchen with his skinny arms wrapped around himself as if they could protect him from the overwhelming presence of so many very large men.
"Be nice, for fuck's sake," Zack scolded and punched the other man hard enough that Cloud winced at the impact of flesh on flesh.
"Ya, fuck," another man said. His hair was green. Neon green. It didn't go well with his complexion. It made him look like he was about to vomit at any moment.
"This is Cloud," Zack said, as if his guests were particularly slow. "He's Seph's fucking boyfriend, so be nice for fuck's sake. Have a little class, you fuck-tards."
Cloud had never heard the word 'fuck' said so many times in his life.
Scratch that. One cast of Westside Story he'd danced on had been worse than this…but only barely.
"Um…hi?" Cloud peeped.
"Want a beer?" somebody asked and popped the cap off a bottle by using his bellybutton.
"Um, no. Thanks. I mean no thank you. Just, I needed some water."
"Go ahead, Spiky. Don't let us be in your way," Zack waved toward the sink.
Cloud clenched the folds of his robe in his hands and turned toward the cabinet that held the glasses. Which happened to be behind the bulky form of bottle cap guy.
"Excuse me?" Cloud cheeped in his quietest, most unassuming voice.
"He is fucking adorable," the big man rumbled. He looked older than the rest, maybe in his thirties? And hard-worn. And kind of scary. "Almost makes me wanna be queer. You and the brass are fucking rubbing off on me."
The rest of the men laughed uproariously, as if that was the funniest thing they'd ever heard. It must have been and inside joke.
"Are all dude ballerina's gay?" green haired guy asked abruptly.
Cloud's mouthed opened and closed several times as his fuzzy and overwhelmed mind tried to process the rather crude and unexpected question.
"I…I never really, um. No?"
They all laughed again and Zack ruffled his hair.
"But a lot of them are, right? Gay?"
Cloud slightly bristled at that, once the inappropriateness of the questioning finally caught up with him. But he immediately deflated as he remembered he was the center of the unwanted attention of several intimidating SOLDIERs. "Not…really. A lot of producers and directors are, though."
The guffaws were enough to split his eardrums.
"See! See!" Green haired guy screamed. "It's always the boss. The boss is always gay!"
It must be an inside joke because the men seemed to collapse into themselves at the absolute hilarity of the situation.
Or…there really were a lot of empty bottles in the kitchen.
"Can…can I just get a glass? Please?" Cloud whispered hopefully into the air of the kitchen.
"Ya, sure kid," bottle-cap guy hiccupped and wiped his eyes. He turned and pulled a glass out of the cupboard behind it and handed it to Cloud who snatched it. The blond hustled out of the kitchen like a receiver who just caught the football and was booking it for the in-zone to win the game.
Not that Cloud would have ever understood the simile.
The blond ended up in Sephiroth's small ensuite bathroom. He filled the glass in the sink and returned to the bedroom. The water was cool and refreshing as he gulped it down. The blond sat down on the bed and looked at the old-fashioned clock on the nightstand. It was silver with a large, round white face and fancily spooled black hands that regally made their way round and round until, way too early in the morning, the tiny clapper on top raised holy hell to make Sephiroth get up and start the day.
Cloud hated the stupid thing.
It was 3am.
What in hell were all those SOLDIERs doing in the apartment at this time of night?
Cloud sighed. Those men in the kitchen were wholly unappealing to him. Zack was ok, but the rest were just…not his kind of people. Where all SOLDIERs like that? So crude and lacking in manners? The only SOLDIERs he'd been exposed to were Sephiroth's roommates, and while they were all neurotic to the extreme, they were polite.
Those men were not polite.
Zack seemed to like them, though. Maybe they were just drunk.
He wished Sephiroth was here.
Cloud turned the light on the side table off after setting the glass down. The blond lay down on the bed and rolled himself into the blanket. He was glad he couldn't hear the stupidity of the men in the kitchen from here. They made him nervous.
He really wished Sephiroth was here.
Sephiroth didn't come home until 6am. He looked tired, Cloud thought as he watched the other man through slitted eyes. The General pulled his coat off after he quietly closed the bedroom door behind him. He was obviously trying to keep from waking Cloud as his boots were already off. The blond could hear the soft shuffling of bare feet on the hardwood floors where they weren't covered by the soft, cushioned rugs.
The silver haired man sighed heavily and ran his fingers through his hair before pulling off belts and straps to eventually shuck his pants.
Cloud almost smirked but kept his face neutral. Sephiroth wore bikini-briefs.
It was these stupid little things that made Cloud fall further in love with Sephiroth.
Kind of like Sephiroth's stalker box but not quite as creepy.
The dancer closed his eyes as Sephiroth climbed into bed. The bigger man felt cold as he snuggled up under the blankets and curled around the smaller body.
"Hey," the blond breathed. He scooted back, offering his body heat to the chilled man behind him.
"You should be sleeping," Sephiroth rumbled. The bigger man's breathing was already deepening toward slumber.
"So should you," Cloud replied. Big arms hooked around his smaller body and trapped him in a comfortable embrace.
"I'm gonna catch a few and go back," Sephiroth yawned and buried his face in Cloud's tuft of yellow hair.
"I'm sorry you have to work this hard to catch up."
Cloud could feel the big body behind him shrug.
"I'll be done soon. A couple more days like this and it'll all be finished."
"I'm still sorry."
"'S worth it," Sephiroth mumbled.
Cloud closed his eyes and listened to the sound of Sephiroth's breathing turn regular and deep. "I hope I am," he whispered into the early morning air.
"I want to go to practice," Cloud said firmly to Zack a few hours later.
The dining room table, Cloud had found, was rarely used for dining. It mostly acted as a catch-all for random crap that nobody wanted to deal with. Or, in this case, a place to play monopoly.
Zack was a bastard and made Cloud actually say the word for each property. Pointing and saying, "I want that one," wasn't cutting it. And he had to read the cards.
"Hmph?" Zack asked as he tried counting out the bills to purchase a house for one of his properties.
"I want to go back to practice. At the theater."
Zack shook his head and gathered up one of the tiny plastic houses. "I don't know if you're ready for that, chickaboo."
Cloud sighed and rolled the dice. "I know I'm not ready to go back to performing, but I am ready to practice a little again. I'm going stir crazy." He slowly counted the dots on the dice before moving his piece, the little wheelbarrow.
Zack watched Cloud for a moment before propping his head up with his arm, elbow planted on the table. "Well…maybe. Talk to Seph about it. As long as you don't go nuts and only do a little bit at a time, you should be fine. Could you do it here? Do you need to be in the theater? It might be easier to convince Seph if he doesn't have to let you go too far out of his sight."
"He's still terribly overprotective," Cloud sighed. He absentmindedly straightened his money.
Zack shrugged. "He has all the right reasons to be. To his mind, at least. He's lost a lot, kid. Or…never had it in the first place. He doesn't want to loose you."
"I know," Cloud heaved out exasperatedly. "I know. I don't know why, but I know."
"He loves you," Zack said softly, sincerely.
"Why me. What is it about me? I'm…I'm nothing remarkable. I'm nothing. I'm a nothing with so many fuck-ups he should have left me the second he talked to me."
"He thinks you're something. Seph isn't someone to pay attention to nothing."
Cloud stared at the board, not really seeing it. "Then…what am I?"
"According to the guys last night, you're Sephiroth's sweet piece of ass."
The blond flushed and Zack roared with laughter.
"I didn't think they were gay," Cloud glowered.
"They're not. They just don't know what else to think about you. All they see is the People magazine and tabloid crap they print about Seph and what few bits they get from me. Seph doesn't talk about himself much to the guys."
"But…they were all here last night. I thought maybe you did that a lot, so maybe Seph would join you…when you did stuff…like that…"
Zack shook his head. "Whenever I have friends over, Seph hides in his room. He's not really social."
"Neither am I," Cloud pointed out.
"Yaaa…" Zack rubbed the back of head in a sheepish kind of way. "Sorry that me and the guys kind of put you on the spot last night. I was kinda…drunk."
"I figured," the blond sighed. "I'm sorry if I'm not as exciting as they are."
"They're fun sometimes…but not always," the spiky haired brunet winked. "You're a sweet guy, Cloud. Despite what you think of yourself, you're fun to be around. A real sweetheart."
Cloud blushed again and Zack smiled wolfishly.
"It's your turn," the blond pointed out with a pout and pushed the dice toward Zack.
"Maaaybe," Zack said in a wheedling kind of voice, "you should take some time to think about what you like about yourself, and then you would understand why we like you."
"I'll…I'll think about it."
He thought about it, alright. He thought about it long and hard and came up with nothing. He was needy and bitchy. He had more faults than a shattered wine glass. He wasn't really that nice to people.
Why did people feel the need to be nice to him?
The blond looked at himself in the mirror of Sephiroth's bathroom. It was a pretty piece of art. Totally out of place in a bathroom, but pretty. It looked like an antique, or a really good reproduction of an antique. All carved wood painted in artfully cracked gold paint. The mirror itself was slightly smoky, not enough to obscure his image but enough to make it look like the room around him was darker than it actually was.
His reflection stared back at him. The blond turned his head this way and that, examining his face. Maybe…he was…good looking?
In that 20's starlet, waif kind of way. All pale skin and big eyes. He had to admit, he looked a little better since he'd gained some weight. Not quite so skeletal. He'd lost the starving orphan look and graduated to…something almost pretty. Cloud was topping the scales at almost ninety five pounds now. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd weighed this much.
And Sephiroth wanted to see him at one hundred and ten.
He already felt like he was horribly overweight. He felt like his strength was gone, weighted down by every extra ounce that clung to his frame.
Cloud turned sideways and looked at his profile. He had a nice ass, he supposed. It wasn't the kind of ass he looked for in a guy. He liked a nice, strong ass. The kind that looked like it could crack brazil nuts. His was…bubbly. But, he'd heard some guys liked bubble butts. His waist was small, abdomen hard and corded with core muscles. The shoulders were broad for a person of his height, and made him look a little less girly then he might have otherwise.
He turned back to the mirror and leaned forward to seriously regard his face a few inches from the surface. He'd been told his eyes were beautiful by more than one person. Pictures had been taken of his blues and plastered on magazines, banners, and programs. They were pretty, he guessed. He'd always hated them. They were so easily moved to tears. They were too expressive. He could give away his deepest secrets without even knowing it when people looked into his eyes.
He'd always liked his hair, despite the many similarities it shared with a bird's nest. He thought it made him look a little badass to counteract the baby face it framed.
Ok, so…recap. Likes: hair. Dislikes: everything else.
Cloud sighed and banged his head softly against the mirror. He, apparently, was beautiful. Sephiroth thought he was beautiful. Why?
He turned and stomped out of the bathroom and plunked down on the floor next to the bed. He pulled out the storage bin under the bed and snapped it open. With a vigor he hadn't felt for a long time, he sifted through Sephiroth's stalker box. Pictures. So many pictures. He couldn't see…see…what was it?
What did Sephiroth see in these pieces of paper that made him fall in love with a stupid little fucked up blond idiot. Said blond idiot couldn't see any reason for Sephiroth to love him. Nothing. Nothing.
Cloud threw down a pile of photos in frustration and looked at what was left in the box.
The DVDs. He hadn't looked at those yet.
He picked up the pile and went into the living room. Angeal was sitting on the couch with a newspaper and a cup of tea in front of him on the coffee table.
Cloud balked for a moment. Angeal was somewhat intimidating to the little blond. He didn't talk much, and when he did it was usually to chastise someone. Did he dare disturb the burly SOLDIER? Did he challenge Angeal's quiet time and possibly provoke a bitch out?
"I need the TV," Cloud said firmly, marching into the common area.
"Go for it," the brunet said with a distracted wave.
Cloud was taken aback. "Oh…uh. Thanks."
The blond went to the huge TV and turned it on with the remote. He'd gotten good at using the DVD player and TV over the space of his illness. It was a few moments before the video began to roll. This was one of the few legally purchased videos of his performances Sephiroth had. The rest were bootlegs and probably bad ones. He wanted to watch the clearest first to see what in the hell Sephiroth…saw…in…him…
Cloud cocked his head to the side and stared at the huge screen in puzzlement.
Did he really look like that?
He'd never watched himself dance before. Well…not like this. Watching himself in the wall of mirrors in a dance studio to correct errors was very different from watching himself in third person. It was almost hypnotizing, the way he moved. He knew he was good. It was one of the few things in life he was proud of: his ability to dance and do it better than anyone else. Dancing was his everything. Nothing else had ever existed beyond it. Not the crappy apartment, the mountains of debt, or the pain he pushed his body through. Not the fact that he couldn't read, or didn't eat, or that he was hardly sentient outside of the theater. Everything could be ignored when he danced. And when he wasn't…life was just another pile of shit to wade through until the next time he could ignore it.
And then…one of the most famous men in the world had uprooted his life and shown him that there was more, that there was hope.
That maybe he was worth something.
"Hey, kid," Angeal's low, rumbling voice made Cloud start a little.
"That's…really beautiful. You're a pretty amazing dancer."
Cloud's big eyes blinked as he watched himself move across the stage. "Ya. Beautiful."