Almost Karma

By BluWhispers

Chapter 6

Disclaimer: I own nothing and make no money from this work. Final Fantasy VII and its characters and settings belong to Square Enix.

Warnings: Swearing, mature themes, and yaoi. Don't like, don't read. Enough said.

A/N (1): Sorry for the late update guys. Real Life got in the way majorly. Still, a big thank you to everyone – new readers and old - when I saw that I'd passed the 300-review mark I was ecstatic! Thank you for sticking by me, and thank you to those who messaged me asking if I was alive – I'm so very very sorry for the hiatus – as an avid reader myself I know how much it sucks to have fics that I follow go without updates for extended periods of time. Thank you for understanding!

A/N (2): Axiam recommended a picture on DeviantArt after reading the Sephiroth as Superman bit last chapter. For anyone who's interested, go to DeviantArt and search "Sephiroth secret". You'll know which one I'm talking about. Twilight's Aura informed me that the guy who voices Sephiroth (English version) also voices Superman on Cartoon Network – I had NO idea, but it seems to just cement the image of Sephiroth as Superman.

A/N (3): Darkspider bought me Fenrir ear-rings and a whole load of Cloud and Seph stuff! This chapter is for you, hun! I'm sorry I've been MIA – I just haven't had time for anything!

A/N (4): I don't know how many of you are aware of this. Cloud Strife Perfume. That's all I'm saying on it. OK never mind I'll say it again – Cloud Strife Perfume. Seriously.

/Reno and Rude were in Seventh Heaven. Drinking.

Well, Reno was doing most of the imbibing. Rude was just keeping his partner out of trouble – the red-head had been a bit weird lately, even by usual Reno standards, so Tseng had kicked the two of them out and told them to go hunker down at their usual watering-hole. It went without saying that Rude was supposed to monitor AVALANCHE as well.

"Where's my ear-ring?"

Rude flicked his eyes over to Reno. The red-head was touching his right ear, looking around them as though he expected to find something twinkling back up at him. Rude's brow furrowed slightly more than usual.

"You're wearing it." He nodded meaningfully towards the vicinity of Reno's left ear. Hopefully the red-head would understand – he was denser than usual these days.

Reno looked confused. "No, I'm not. I have two ear-rings man."

Two?

Rude racked his brain. Reno had been his partner since the red-head had joined the Turks – it had been meant as punishment for pissing Cissnei off; sic him with the loud-mouthed rookie and watch the red-head make them both look like idiots. Rude had all but resigned himself to a career of humiliation, degradation, and early retirement; but Reno had proven himself surprisingly astute and handy in a fight. They made for a good team – Reno could always be counted on to do something obnoxiously ridiculous, but the younger man always got the job done. He just had fun doing it. It was something Rude had come to respect and like about his street-smart colleague, and he had fought tooth and nail to have Reno retained as his partner when the hood-rat's probation was over.

Reno had only ever had one ear-ring.

"You've never had two ear-rings, Reno." He explained patiently, signaling Tifa for another drink. She nodded absent-mindedly, moving to fix it even as her eyes were fixed on the door. No need to ask who she was hoping to walk into the bar. Rude had long ago accepted that she would never return his feelings, but that didn't mean he couldn't stop looking at her and wishing she would just get over a certain angsty swordsman.

Reno was still touching his right ear, and panic was beginning to seep into his eyes. "No, man. I swear I've always had two."

A glass was slid across the bar, and Rude caught it instinctively. He was a regular here because Reno was a regular here, and every time Rude came to collect his perpetually promiscuous partner he'd get suckered into having a drink – which would turn into One Wild Night and the next day Tseng would have a cow.

"Reno, we've been partners for years," he took a sip. It was perfect, as usual. "Only your left ear is pierced." There was the matter of a nipple piercing that had been yanked off rather painfully by a pissed off prostitute, but Rude had been pinky-sworn to secrecy on that. It Never Happened.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn'd.

Reno's breathing was speeding up now. Rude turned to look at him, concerned. It seemed the red-head was serious and seriously sotted (and mind-fucked because of some time-bending but Rude was practicing Selective Amnesia just like his anger management therapist told him to). Rude thought hard – he was an observant man, naturally perceptive, and he noticed everything. It was why he made such a fine Turk. But he was absolutely certain that Reno had never had two ear-rings.

This was all Strife's doing.

Fucking emo blondie.

While Spiky was running around gettin' his freak on in the past, Rude was stuck here dealing with a hyperventilating-and-incredibly-sotted Reno.

Blondes.

"Well, you're not wearing it now." He figured the best thing to do was try to calm Reno down, puzzle it out logically. Never mind that Reno was pretty drunk out of his mind – the red-head had been drinking mojito after mojito steadily for the past seven hours – and naturally incapable of rational thinking. They could work this out; they were partners.

Never mind that Reno was having an identity crisis of Strifean proportions. Rude was starting to believe that blondness was infectious.

Strife really grew on you.

"You remember what happened to it?" He was facing Reno completely now, keeping his body-language relaxed and open, as one would a frightened child. Because that was exactly what Reno looked like now – terrified out of his fucking mind by all the mind-fucking Strife's time-traveling was doing. The next time Rude saw Strife, somebody was gonna get hurt real bad.

Reno frowned, looking around the bar although his eyes were glassy and unfocused. Even Tifa had stopped staring at the door and had turned to look at them now, brow furrowed. No one had ever seen Reno anything less than self-assured; the red-head was the resident jack-ass, and this side of Reno was rather scary in its vulnerability.

"I…" Reno frowned harder, and Rude could see he was trying his best to remember, pinching his ear-lobe so hard his entire right ear had gone white. "I don't know." He raised wide green eyes at Rude then, and the bald Turk nearly fell off his bar-stool.

Reno was shit-scared.

In that one instant, the red-head had looked sixteen years old; young and inexperienced the way he'd been when they'd first met, though without the trademark cockiness that usually carried through to everything Reno did. Rude's fists clenched, and he heard the sound of glass breaking, felt something sharp and icy and wet in his left hand, heard Tifa gasp a little in surprise. He'd crushed the glass, and its contents had spilled all over the bar and all over his hand – mingling with the blood and shards but he couldn't feel anything because there was a muted buzzing in his ears, and his field of vision was becoming blurred around the edges.

I'm gonna kill him.

/"Zack."

The dark-haired SOLDIER turned upon hearing his name called – Tseng was walking down the corridor towards him, looking for all the world like he had simply happened by and was stopping to chat. But Zack knew him better than that – Tseng wanted something.

He played along anyway.

"Tseng! Good to see you, man!" Tseng endured the friendly slap on the arm with a tolerant smile; he'd gotten used to it already. "Where's Verdot been keeping you? It's been ages!" Well, technically they'd spoken a couple times the past two weeks but no one needed to know that. As far as everyone was concerned, SOLDIERs and Turks stayed out of each others' way and that was that. If it wasn't for Zack's reputation as SOLDIER's Mr Nice Guy, his speaking to Tseng like that would have raised a lot of eyebrows.

Tseng just smiled, relaxing slightly so as to keep up appearances. "I've been busy looking into that cadet – Strife – you remember him?"

Do I remember him? I've been obsessed with him!

But they were acting out a charade, so Zack grinned rather vacantly and nodded. "Yeah, the blond kid who broke another cadet's arm, right? He's good! I sparred with him a little last week."

Tseng nodded. "I heard about that. Sorry I wasn't there to watch."

There was the opening. Zack smiled, clapping Tseng on the shoulder lightly. "Yeah, you missed out." Zack made his eyes brighten as though he'd just remembered something that pleased him. "Seph came to watch though!"

Tseng raised an eyebrow, and this time Zack could tell it wasn't faked or forced.

SOLDIER 1 – Turk 0.

This is how we do it.

"Really?" Tseng looked impressed, leaning against the wall and looking very un-Turk-like in his indolence. "And what did the General have to say about the cadet?"

It's what he DIDN'T say that matters.

Zack just grinned. "He was pretty impressed. Said I should give the kid private training coz he's perfect for SOLDIER." He ran a hand through his dark hair, it was still a little damp from his shower – he'd only just wandered into work. "Haven't approached the kid yet though. Dunno if I should." At that he looked meaningfully at Tseng, who nodded.

"Well, I think you should." The Turk pushed off the wall casually, making to walk off. "Maybe you could ask him about his acquaintances while you're at it."

What?

"Huh? Whaddya mean?" Zack cocked his head to the side, arms folded loosely across his chest.

Tseng stepped in closer, lowering his voice so that only Zack's Mako-enhancements allowed him to hear the Turk's next words. "He's been spotted with a certain Person of Interest twice." At that Tseng's eyes scanned their surroundings with practiced ease. Seeing that they were alone, he continued in his hushed tone. "The first time was just before he started exhibiting his…talents. We wrote it off as a coincidence, but now we think it might be more than that." At that Tseng quickly straightened up and smirked, making it look like he'd just told Zack some very juicy piece of gossip about some mutual acquaintance. Zack played his part with ease – he was dying to know more as it was.

"Who?"

Tseng just shook his head. It went unspoken – no way could he reveal that information. Zack's shoulders sagged a bit, and he debated just punching the smug looking Turk. He'd never been one for meaningless violence, but now seemed to be as good a time as any to get with the senseless rage program.

Tseng had started to turn. "Well, it was good seeing you Zack." He smiled. "You know, a lot of people have been talking about the 'power of prayer' since that whole 'The Secret' series." There was a slight tug to his lips. "But I personally think that God's still on vacation." The Turk nodded his head slightly in farewell and walked off. Zack called out a cheery "bye" to Tseng's retreating back.

A church in the slums, huh? Zack turned and walked the other way, heading towards Sephiroth's office. I'll ask him later.

Feeling slightly better now that he had this delicious little morsel of information about Cloud, Zack started humming his new favorite tune.

"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me…"

/"I think the Gunny needs to get laid."

Reno was huffing and puffing along next to Cloud, their morning PT session turning into a nightmare of a marathon. Cloud himself was winded, but he forced himself to keep going, to keep running at his usual speed even though his legs felt about ready to fall off and the stitch in his side was screaming Bloody Murder. He was in pain, dammit! But no, he had to save the world, and he couldn't do it if he was just Spiky the Loser.

I'm a glutton for punishment.

Most of their bunk had gotten ear-rings now, and apparently Jared had almost gotten a tongue piercing - it was only Ralph's informing him that he'd drool like an idiot for awhile after getting it that had dissuaded the blond. Cloud was a little glad – he knew Jared with a tongue piercing would just insist on everyone getting a 'taste' of his new flavor. And Cloud had turned into quite the little player recently.

A part of Cloud was glad for this new symbol in his left ear. Where before it had been just him trying to be someone else, now it was a mark of friendship – Ralph had called it Team Fenrir's mascot, but Cloud was waiting to get his usual ear-piece made before he agreed with the other cadet.

He missed his baby.

As they ran, he allowed his mind to drift off, glad that everyone was too tired for their usual banter. Yesterday had been fun, and he'd been surprised at how many cadets from other bunkers had joined them. Lunch had been raucous and noisy – filled with insults and more lewd jokes than usual – not that Cloud blamed them. For most of them women were welcome sights after so long in their all-male training environment. Reno had kept his promise and not mentioned a thing about Aeris - saying only that Blondie had gotten lost - for which Cloud was glad. He could tell that Ray and the others realized that something was up, but they were at least discreet enough not to ask. If there was one thing that made Cloud glad he was back here, it was the new friends he was making. Never mind that Nibelheim was approaching – he had friends, and he knew they were the type to stand by him. He couldn't really remember what happened to them after Nibelheim the first time around – he'd been far too stand-offish and self-absorbed to pay attention to anything but his usual misery. This time though, he was making sure to show in his own way how much he appreciated their company – even though all he was doing was talking to them and helping them out with homework, but it was the thought that mattered anyway. Cloud had never been a very expressive person, and he was pretty sure everyone knew that.

Although Tifa had mentioned once that during the first hunt for Sephiroth he'd been far more expressive than later – he'd wondered what had happened to change things, but the answer was simple. He'd killed him. It didn't help that after the first time he'd killed Sephiroth, Cloud had actually begun to move on with his life, to surge ahead of even Tifa, but then the Geostigma came. If there was ever a sign of divine justice, that was it – Cloud was clearly never meant to be Mr Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy.

Cloud wondered when he'd get to talk to the General – Aeris seemed to think he actually had a chance at something with the silver-haired man, but then again Aeris was an eternal optimist. He figured the best way to get to know Sephiroth this time around was through Zack, but the First was either busy or biding his time or – and this last option made his heart clench painfully – wasn't interested in him. Cloud knew that couldn't be true though – this time around Zack actually had a reason to approach him, as opposed to before, when they'd been just two guys trudging along in the snow talking about small towns and Mako reactors. Or maybe Zack only spoke to people who were weak, only bothered to protect those who couldn't defend themselves. Zack always could be counted on to play the Knight in Shining Armor. Either that or the man had some serious macho issues and a need to prove himself; but Cloud doubted that was the case. Zack was the perfect guy – he had practically everything: charm, looks, smarts, skills; why would he need to prove himself anymore than he already had? No, it was Cloud who always had something to prove, Cloud who always had a chip on his shoulder and a need to excel, because maybe then people would like him.

No matter how old he was, no matter what he'd been through, at the end of the day he was still the wimpy little bastard whom no other kid wanted to play with.

Quit being so damned depressing.

It was hard not to be, not when he'd always sought so desperately for acceptance and approval. He had a feeling that no matter how many times he reminded himself that he was here to change things, he'd never feel truly satisfied until Nibelheim was successfully averted.

And when you're successfully in his bed?

He stumbled slightly at that errant thought; recovering quickly enough that all Reno did was shoot him a quick look. The red-head probably chalked it up to him being exhausted – they all were, but it didn't look like their sadistic instructor was about to let up anytime soon. Cloud re-focused himself mentally – he just had to get through PT, and then they would go to hand-to-hand class, and have fun with the Keysi Fighting Method. Cloud had never really cared much for hand-to-hand combat, but Zack had been good at pretty much everything, which had carried over to Cloud. That and Tifa had taken it upon herself to educate him in pugilism just in case his beloved First Tsurugi was ever too far away to help. Not that that had ever happened in the future, but Cloud was grateful for Tifa's amazing foresight – her teachings were certainly serving him in good stead here.

He was looking forward to their KFM free-sparring session. Being Batman was fun when you were only fighting jokers.

Mercifully the whistle sounded as Cloud and Reno were reaching the Gunny. They stumbled to a stop gratefully, Cloud doing his best to breathe steadily and walk on the spot and Reno doing his best to become one with the filthy track. The Gunny didn't give them all much time to catch their breath – as soon as the last of the stragglers reached him, he gave another blast of his whistle and ordered them to suicide drills.

No one had any energy to groan.

As they wobbled towards hand-to-hand, Cloud found himself wondering about Reno's hairstyle. He'd never really paid attention to it before – Reno had always been more of a drinking buddy and resident jack-ass – but here, as cadets, he was surprised to realize that Reno's hair was just in a short pony-tail; in fact it wasn't even beginning to show signs of The Mullet - Cloud had never really bothered with appearances, but now that he was comfortable enough around Reno, he was beginning to play Spot the Differences - personality-wise and physically.

Well, not that the red-head was too different. As far as Cloud was concerned, Reno would always be Reno, even if the future Turk had a different hairstyle.

He'll always be business upfront, party in the back.

Reno made mullets look good. Not that Cloud would ever consider getting one. Really – he'd been called white trash more times than he could remember and he didn't need this outward badge of Bastard Pride.

At least Jeffries had a heart – the Staff Sergeant had taken one look at the pathetic, panting, puppy-eyed cadets and told them to just get into pairs and work on their techniques. There was a collective sigh of relief from the group, and Cloud was exhausted enough to venture a weak smile at Jeffries, which was reciprocated by a thump to the back that almost sent the blond sprawling.

SOLDIERs.

He got Ray for his partner again, because it seemed Reno wanted to take it easy in practice. Not that Cloud could blame him – they were all shaking and still trying to catch their breaths – Payne was a sadistic bastard-and-a-half. Cloud was looking forward to a nice, relaxing time of pretending he wasn't capable of knocking the Junon kid to the ground in two seconds.

It took Jared only five minutes of dodging Brian's rather wobbly attacks to become his usual chatty self, and try as he might Cloud couldn't say he'd missed the silence. Talking was proof that they were alive, proof that he was here and part of the group, and at least Jared was funny.

Zack's really funny too.

Cloud stomped that thought out ruthlessly – he'd all but accepted that there was no way he could approach Zack without seeming like a vapid fan, so the only other viable course of action was to wait until the First decided to approach him. Cloud wanted to look forward to it but there was the matter of higher hopes leading to a more crushing disappointment, so Jared's lewd wit was a welcome relief.

"God, I'm filthy," the taller blond moaned dramatically, stretching in such a way that he simultaneously dodged another of Brian's vibrating elbows while making his own sweat-drenched shirt ride up slightly to expose hip-bones framing a rather tantalizing V.

Good grief.

Cloud was turning into SUCH a pervert.

"Yeah, Payne likes giving us a hard time." Ralph grinned from Cloud's other side, ducking low and spinning around to deliver a quick jab to where Reno's shoulder had been less than a second ago.

Cloud bit his lip to prevent himself from saying something along the lines of liking it hard, twisting his torso to avoid a knee to the ribs from Ray. His back protested the movement, but it was protesting everything today so Cloud had given up listening to it pull a 70's on him.

He concentrated on the talk going on around him, preferring not to focus on his fighting because focusing on his moves always reminded him of the countless times he'd fought to save himself and his friends. Ray brought up the subject of clubbing again, and Reno mentioned a place under the plate. And that was that – somehow the rest of the bunk managed to hear about it within seconds and Grant was bopping along to some nameless tune that only he could hear while grappling with another cadet. Cloud just shook his head, smiling a little because he couldn't help it. He supposed he wouldn't be smiling when they actually went to the club, seeing as his dancing lessons consisted of watching his mother waltz around their living room with an imaginary partner. He'd always wondered if she was dancing with the memory of the man who'd sired him, but he'd never asked.

Which reminded him of his resolution to be a better son this time around, so he decided to write a letter to her later.

"Cloudy." Hearing it chorused by so many amused voices, Cloud jerked his head up and narrowly dodged an elbow to his face. He smiled apologetically, and he must have been really tired because he ventured an explanation without any prompting – Tifa would fall over in shock if she knew he was talking without being forced to.

"Was thinking about writing a letter to my mom later." And instantly bit his tongue because he really didn't need to sound like a total mummy's boy right now - he was training to be the lean, mean, killing machine he'd be in the future, dammit - but then he chided himself internally. Why should he care what the others thought – she was his mother, and he'd be damned if he threw away this second chance to show her how much he loved her.

That didn't stop him from flushing slightly as the others awww'ed and cooed and teased him for being such a sweetheart. Cloud blamed his pale complexion for it.

"Seriously though," Ray grinned. "You're living in the past, man." At that Cloud's heart skipped a beat, and an irrational paranoia seized him while the words echoed in his head. How many times had he been told those exact words by AVALANCHE? How many times had he told them to himself, sitting by the little field of flowers and seeing only brown hair and water? How many times had he heard it whispered in the wind as he looked at his dull reflection in a rusty sword on a cliff edge?

Too many times, a little voice whispered in his head.

Ralph was talking, and Cloud heard him as though through a fog, but gradually the black-haired cadet's words penetrated the haze of memories.

"…phone."

Huh?

Cloud must have spoken his thoughts out loud again, because when his eyes refocused Reno was chuckling and even Brian was giggling.

Ray laughed. "Ralphy said, 'why don't you just use a phone?'"

Oh.

Cloud wanted to kick himself. Or Reno, who was nearly doubled over with laughter, but Ralph did that for him – attacking the distracted red-head and sending the two of them tumbling to the ground because even distracted Reno was a helluva opponent and could always be counted on to flip someone off in every sense of the word.

Jared was still snickering, but he managed to sound coherent when he pointed at Ray and said that their sugar-daddy had a pretty sweet new cell-phone.

"All the better to pimp you ho's out with, my dear." Ray had a distinctly wolfish leer to his face, even as he adopted a saccharinely-sweet tone.

Cloud rolled his eyes, but he accepted Ray's offer to use his cell later. He hoped he remembered the number though – Nibelheim didn't exactly have a YellowPages, boondocks that it was.

By the time hand-to-hand finished, calling their mothers had become all the rage among the cadets, and Cloud wished he'd invested in telco-stocks. He had to remind himself not to get all big-headed about being a trend-setter though, because the last thing he needed was to develop a huge ego – he wasn't the Fat President.

Of course Jared wanted to call everyone's mothers too but that was just Jared being Jared.

Lunch was a rowdy affair – with word of the planned club-night turning into an impending dance-off between the bunkers. Cloud was saved from being volunteered as his bunker's representative by Reno and the others – he would have kissed them if it wasn't still broad daylight. He REALLY didn't know how to dance – it was the one thing he'd never actually learned or picked up from Zack; over-sized test-tubes didn't exactly lend themselves to optimal marimba conditions. The guys wanted to teach him, but he was pretty sure he had two left feet – even so, it didn't stop them from vowing to make him a groove-master by the end of club-night.

Good grief.

Cloud wanted to break a leg.

/In Battle Comms class Cloud was trying to ignore the fact that Jared was practically drooling on his shoulder as the other blond opted to catch up on his beauty sleep. Cloud supposed he couldn't really blame the other cadet – class was ridiculously boring at the best of times, and today's lesson ranked among the worst he'd ever had. Their instructor seemed not to notice how most of the cadets had their heads buried in their arms on the tables, or he just didn't care. Their loss if they didn't pass their exams – there were more than enough boys signing up for SOLDIER training every year to fill the ranks anyway, even with the stringent testing procedures. Sephiroth was a helluva guy-magnet, and now that he thought about it, Cloud understood why the recruitment booths seemed more like shrines to the General than anything – just wave Sephiroth's picture around and people came running.

He glanced at the clock – five minutes left to class – so he shifted slightly, waking Jared. The other boy yawned noisily, rubbing sleep from his eyes and accidentally-on-purpose letting his wandering hands nudge Cloud's ass. Cloud just rolled his eyes. Reno was still fast asleep, and he debated waking him – he'd done it plenty of times in Seventh Heaven, when the red-head was too sotted from one of their perpetual drinking competitions – but even though the other boy was still just a cadet here Cloud couldn't shake the memory of how keen the Turk's survival instincts were.

Then again, it wasn't like Reno had his nightstick or Mako enhancements here.

As he was mulling over being the resident alarm-clock, Ralph just went ahead and jabbed Reno in the ribs. The red-head woke soundlessly, arm pinning Ralph's neck to the back of their seats, other hand going for the Rocket Town cadet's face in a claw-like grip before Cloud intervened. Reno blinked sleep from his eyes, releasing Ralph with a muttered apology. For his part the black-haired cadet took it all in stride, rubbing his throat and swearing never to wake Reno again in his life. Cloud let go of Reno from where he'd practically been melded to the taller boy – holding hands and wrapped around the other's waist – and turned back to the board to the sound of Jared's snickering insinuations. Their instructor hadn't even noticed the almost-mutilation of Ralph's face.

As the cadets started to pack their things noisily, signaling the end of class even though their instructor was still droning on and on, the door opened and Staff Sergeant Jeffries walked in. Instantly all the cadets straightened, pausing in their escape and rising to attention. Jeffries nodded at them, passing a slip of paper to Corporal Maran before turning and walking out, but not before the Staff Sergeant eyed the damp patch on Cloud's shirt. The blond didn't flush, but he did cut his eyes accusingly to Jared, focusing on Jeffries again just in time to see the amused tilt to the Staff Sergeant's lips. He offered a small smile in return.

Corporal Maran cleared his throat, not even waiting to see if he had the cadets' attention before announcing that they would start Driver's Ed next week – at that most of the cadets cheered while some groaned. Cloud remembered falling of his bike and crashing his truck more times than anyone else before – but since he'd practically become the God of Bike Riding in the future, he was looking forward to the familiar thrum of an engine and the feel of raw power between his legs.

Pervert.

Cloud had been spending too much time with Reno.

The guys had started talking excitedly about finally getting behind the wheel after forever, and it turned out that Jared had been a motocross racer before joining cadet training, and Ralph had practically grown up in a garage – Cloud wanted to snort at the stereotypical Rocket Town image – and he wasn't surprised to learn that Ray had been playing with several (very expensive) cars and bikes since he was old enough to be able to reach the pedals without a prosthetic limb made out of soda cans. Reno was smirking, and Cloud remembered that the future Reno was addicted to helicopters. It came as no surprise that Brian had never driven before – Cloud remembered the other cadet trying desperately to drive shift the last time. All the books in the world didn't help when it came to split second decisions and synchronizing movements, and Cloud was very glad for his own experience, even though he didn't say anything. He supposed he'd have to control himself, seeing as how tiny little cadets from Nibelheim weren't supposed to be Supermen on bikes, but he couldn't help the excited little fluttering in his chest as he came this one step closer to Fenrir.

Daddy's coming.

God, he missed his baby.

They headed towards First Aid class considerably more energetically than when they'd dragged themselves towards Battle Comms, and Cloud settled into his usual seat at the back with Reno next to him. Jared had already grabbed Cloud's Battle Comms notes during the walk to First Aid, and he was fending off Ray's attempts to steal it – though Cloud doubted anyone actually fended off potential muggers that provocatively, no matter how good-looking said mugger was.

Cloud didn't even bother taking notes or paying attention in this class, leaning back in his seat and doing the 'cloudy' thing nonchalantly – the others just ribbed him good-naturedly but he ignored them – Brian would take enough notes for everyone to copy anyway.

Cloud couldn't wait for Driver's Ed.

/There was a knock on his door, and Sephiroth called an authoritative 'come in' without lifting his head from his paperwork. He heard the door being opened, his keen senses picking up the scent of cadet soap and sweat, and he raised his head slightly.

Strife was standing at the doorway, looking very much like a rabbit caught in the headlights that was pretending it actually had a death-wish. Sephiroth wanted to smirk – it seemed the little cadet had what Zack liked to call 'balls'.

And balls are a very good thing to have, a distinctly Zack-sounding voice whispered in his head. Sephiroth frowned internally – this Strife conundrum was starting to get on his nerves. He was glad he'd finally just gotten Zack to sneak the boy into his office for an impromptu meeting/interrogation. Sephiroth did not like not knowing everything about everything – in battle, ignorance was deathly bliss, and Sephiroth didn't become General by championing World Peace and respecting Privacy Laws.

He motioned for Strife to close the door, and watched as the petite blonde hesitated only marginally before removing his hand from the handle after shutting the door almost soundlessly. The cadet still wouldn't meet his eyes, and Sephiroth was disappointed. From Zack's accounts, the blonde was a tough, smart fighter – the boy should at least be able to face the General head-on. Not that Sephiroth could blame him – even the Shinra directors couldn't look him in the eye; Hojo was the only one who loved staring at him with that perpetually-dissecting gaze.

Still, a part of him had been hoping…

For what?

Sephiroth didn't want to finish that train of thought. This was all Zack's fault.

Strife had started chewing on his bottom lip nervously, and unbidden the unconscious action drew Sephiroth's gaze. The boy had full pink lips, and they looked soft.

If Sephiroth had been Zack, he would have kicked himself. As it was, this internal debate led to his tone being harsher than it normally would have been when he spoke at last.

"Explain your inconsistencies, cadet."

To Strife's credit, he only flinched minutely, tensing almost unnoticeably, hands clenching slightly at his sides before the cadet straightened, putting his hands behind his back, squaring his shoulders marginally. If Sephiroth had been Zack, he would have applauded the boy's 'balls'.

"General, sir. I decided to apply myself to my classes." It was the first time Sephiroth had heard Strife's voice, and he had to admit it suited the cadet in an odd, man/boy way. There was an underlying tremor which the General attributed to nerves, but what caught his attention most was boy's tone of voice. It was at once cool and detached, yet invested with emotions that Sephiroth did not want to get within Masamune-length of. Zack was the Dr Phil of the two of them – Sephiroth was more the CSI-type.

He narrowed his eyes at the cadet who was still lingering by the door. Sephiroth wanted to smirk – did the boy really think he'd make it out of the office before Sephiroth could reach him? He debated letting the blonde believe in this false sense of safety, but he'd had enough of the boy's almost evasive personality, and answers had been eluding him. Sephiroth wanted the truth, and he was going to get it – one way or another.

"Come here." The General watched with almost malicious glee as the cadet stiffened, mind no doubt furiously debating the repercussions of making a run for it. Sephiroth just waited. He knew that there was no way a mere cadet would dare defy him, not when all of SOLDIER and all of Shinra didn't dare gainsay him. Sephiroth might be on their payroll, but he worked for them because he chose to – and if something better came along, Sephiroth had no qualms about leaving. There was no doubt that the expression on the President's face would be infinitely amusing if Sephiroth ever handed in his resignation.

Strife took an infinitesimal step forward, and all the while Sephiroth remained still as a statue, brilliant green eyes taking in everything about the cadet, cataloguing every minute detail. He noticed the slight shifting of weight that indicated nightly activities of the male persuasion, remembered Zack's deliberately off-handed comment about Strife and a red-headed bunk-mate. Then Strife took another, bigger, step forward, and Sephiroth wondered if he should tell the cadet that his concealed weapon wasn't very well concealed – especially when he walked, and especially not to him, the General.

Sephiroth was pretty sure every red-blooded male had noticed the weapon – it was hard not to miss it when it was right next to a certain anatomical part on the pretty little cadet.

Pretty little cadet?

Luckily, Sephiroth was saved from an abusive internal tirade when Strife took a deep breath, the action drawing the General's attention to the boy's chest as it expanded, thin shirt drawing tight over nipples that looked hardened by the highly efficient air-conditioning. Then the blonde took the remaining steps forward to stop inches from Sephiroth's table, breath leaving him almost soundlessly as it rustled the papers on the desk slightly. Sephiroth still hadn't moved, knowing he was unnerving the boy with his stillness, wanting to unnerve the boy, because nervous individuals tended to blurt out things they normally wouldn't say, and Sephiroth wanted his answers.

He rose to his feet soundlessly, towering over the already diminutive cadet, knowing full well how imposing his appearance was. Strife didn't move, but his right hand – his sword hand – twitched slightly, the miniscule movement easily overlooked if one wasn't the General. Sephiroth wanted to smirk. He was liking this cadet more and more.

Strife still hadn't moved, hadn't raised his head from where he appeared to be dissecting the desk, and Sephiroth wondered if the boy's hair was as soft as it appeared to be.

He decided to say something before he could pursue that train of thought any further.

"I doubt a mere application of self is enough to justify this sudden jump in ability." He kept his voice neutral, cool, business-like. No need to put the boy on the defensive just yet.

Strife still didn't speak, keeping his head down, and Sephiroth wondered if the cadet was just tongue-tied the way most people were in his presence. Zack and Tseng were the only ones left in Shinra who didn't lose their coherency around the General, and a part of Sephiroth wished for the good old days when Angeal and Genesis and he had been friends. He pushed that thought away ruthlessly. Emotions were worthless in battle at best, a liability at worst.

"Cadet Strife." This time Sephiroth let a little threatening note slip into his tone, allowed a slightly more demanding nuance. He'd learned from experience that just this subtle pressure was enough to reduce most people to blubbering, bumbling buffoons.

Strife had only tensed even more subtly, right hand twitching as though itching to grab an imaginary sword. Sephiroth raised an eyebrow slightly – this boy was obviously a born swordsman, a natural warrior. It would be a pity to lose him, but Sephiroth wasn't about to let the cadet get away with whatever it was he'd been doing simply because the youth had talent.

They stood like that for awhile - one imposing, tall, menacing presence; the other quiet, deferring, still. Both of them soundless, waiting, anticipating.

Sephiroth broke the silence when he was certain it had unnerved the cadet enough.

"Come around the table."

At this Strife tensed noticeably, back stiffening, fist clenching. He didn't move for a few seconds, before turning and walking around the majestic desk to stop an arm's length away from the General. Sephiroth didn't miss how the cadet had deliberately placed himself between him and Masamune. He wanted to applaud the boy's foresight, if he didn't deem it an unnecessary precaution. He had a reputation to maintain after all, and it wouldn't do if word got out that he was skewering tiny little cadets in his office as though they were chocobo-colored marshmallows.

He reached out, closing the distance between them, feeling more than seeing the blond flinch and tense, knowing the cadet was longing to step back, put more distance between them, run as far away as possible from whatever it was the General was planning to do. But to Strife's credit he stood his ground after a sharp intake of breath, and Sephiroth allowed his hand to fist the boy's shirt, yanking him forward with more force than was necessary, making the cadet collide with his chest and filling his senses with Eau de Cadet and something else that was undeniably Strife.

Strife's short, sharp breaths were falling on Sephiroth's chest below his collarbone, and this close the General could feel their difference in stature more acutely. The boy had a presence, a way about him that made him appear if not bigger, then tougher and stronger than he physically was. Sephiroth could see the brilliant SOLDIER in the cadet even now, knew with certainty that this tiny little blonde would someday become a great swordsman, an even greater warrior. He knew he would have to tread carefully, knew he wanted this boy's allegiance, maybe even his friendship.

And his body?

Sephiroth had been spending far too much time with The Black Porcupine.

He was still holding Strife's shirt, and he twisted his fist in the thin fabric.

"You will not tell me?" He made his voice cold and menacing this time, wanting his answers and deciding he was going to get them even if he had to break the boy, rules be damned. Zack wouldn't be happy about it, but Sephiroth knew Zack would make excuses for him, cover for him no matter what. The Brigadier General could take 'Semper Fi' to the next level.

Strife refused to speak, didn't move even though Sephiroth was sure the boy wanted nothing more than to lash out and make a run for it. He applauded the cadet's control. Zack would do well to learn a few things from the little blond.

"Very well." He shoved the boy onto his desk, knocking papers onto the floor, not caring at this moment that he was making a mess of his highly organized office. He pinned the cadet face-down, grabbing slender arms and twisting in a way he knew had to hurt. Strife refused to make a sound, and somehow that just fueled Sephiroth's desire to break the boy's control even more. Grimly he decided to make sure that Strife knew who was in charge here – he would teach Strife to ask "how high" when he said "jump".

He ripped the blond's shirt, using it to bind lithe arms in such a way that if the blond tried to move them in the slightest, the shirt would pull his head back painfully. The makeshift bonds held Strife's mouth open, thin fabric drawn tight between two rows of perfect teeth. There was no way the position wasn't hurting the cadet, since Sephiroth had tightened the bonds cruelly, but Strife still refused to make a sound, although Sephiroth could see the boy's fists were clenched tight, could see the taut line of developing shoulders. He reached below the cadet, feeling the blond tense even more when his hand came to rest near the boy's groin. He squeezed, felt Strife start, and leaned over to speak directly into a perfectly shaped ear.

"Cadets are not allowed weapons, Strife." This close Sephiroth could hear the thrum of blood rushing through the blond's veins, could hear the thundering of the cadet's pulse. Strife's eyes were clenched tightly shut, so Sephiroth grabbed the boy's ass with his other hand, squeezing cruelly and knowing it had to hurt. Strife's eyes had flown open in shock, before closing again from the pain. His breath was coming faster now; adrenalin pumping through his veins, but still the blond didn't try to fight, holding himself still despite what the General was doing, despite knowing that the General was about to do.

"You like being treated like a whore, don't you?" Sephiroth's tone was as vicious as his grip, never having been a gentle lover and not intending to start. He needed the rush of a furious fuck, liked the feeling of pounding in brutally. It made him feel alive as only one other thing could – being in battle and hearing the chorus of war. It was what he'd been born for, and he didn't need Hojo telling him that constantly to know it.

Strife tensed even more, but Sephiroth could see the flush on the boy's cheeks, felt a slight hardening between the blond's legs even as he heard the cadet's pulse speed up. He allowed himself a small smirk – this was going to be fun.

He straightened, stepped back slightly, keen eyes not missing how Strife seemed to simultaneously sag slightly with relief and arch back in a subtle attempt to seek out more contact. Sephiroth grabbed the boy's fatigues, yanking them down with plain boxers to reveal twin pale, firm globes. The musky scent of arousal filled his nostrils, and he turned, walking to the window and deliberately looking out over the city, letting Strife believe he'd been abandoned in that wanton pose.

He leaned against the cool glass, crossing his arms and keeping his back to the cadet bent scandalously over his desk. To his credit, Strife simply held his position, neither shifting nor making a sound. Sephiroth didn't want to admit that this only further fueled his desire, didn't want to admit that Strife had a hold over him no matter what. He was frustrated, or as close to frustrated as he could be without dealing with corrupt, inept bureaucrats. The whole situation with Strife had been plaguing him far too much, and Sephiroth needed to end it now, before the cadet became a SOLDIER and they had to work together.

"Do you want me to touch you?" His tone was politely impersonal, as though discussing the weather. He eyed Strife's faint reflection in the glass, but other than that made no move to indicate that he was even aware of the cadet's presence. The blond shifted subtly, fatigues and boxers sliding further down lean legs, baring more of that smooth skin to the cold office air. Sephiroth angled his head slightly so that he could watch the cadet out of the corner of his eye.

"Do you want me to fuck you?" A sharp intake of breath, and Strife shifted more noticeably this time. Sephiroth could see the youth's muscles beginning to tremble with the strain of holding his pose without making himself more comfortable. It seemed the boy had his pride, refusing to show the General how affected he was despite the obvious scent of attraction. Sephiroth was impressed. Usually his bed-partners would be begging by now. He knew the effect he had on people, had known it since he was a child, except once upon a time he'd been too innocent to understand. But since he'd joined SOLDIER, since he'd gone through cadet training, he'd learned to use his every asset to his advantage. Zack had once commented on his Turkishness, and Angeal had made a similar comment years before. Sephiroth pushed the parallels out of his mind. He didn't want to think about the dark-haired ex-SOLDIER. Especially not now when a pretty little cadet was spread so invitingly over his desk.

"Step out of your pants." Sephiroth watched as Strife hesitated only marginally before moving to do his bidding, the standard-issue boots making it difficult for the cadet to succeed without bumping his length against the cool table. Sephiroth could hear the soft hisses and gasps as the blond tried to avoid stimulation to his no-doubt growing arousal, but otherwise the General didn't move from his position by the window, preferring to let the boy struggle.

At length Strife stepped out of his pants, pushing the fatigues and the boxers away with his booted feet. The blond leaned heavily against the desk, the bonds keeping him from being able to rest his head against the tabletop. Sephiroth eyed the way the boy's neck muscles were straining with the effort of keeping his position – moving his arms would cause the bonds to pull against his head, but moving his head caused the bonds to tug the blond's arms even more painfully. Sephiroth watched the boy for a while longer, waiting until the trembling muscles threatened to cramp before turning and walking back to his desk. He grabbed the makeshift bonds, yanked back painfully and was rewarded with a muted cry that Strife couldn't stifle. The silver-haired man allowed himself a feral smile before undoing the knots, rearranging the bonds so that they simply held the cadet's arms firmly behind his back. Then he stepped back.

"Pick up your fatigues and your boxers." He watched as Strife tugged lightly at his torn shirt. "With your mouth, cadet." Strife stiffened, but slowly raised himself off the table and stepped back, some of Sephiroth's previously neat paperwork stuck to a toned, sweaty chest. The General stood impassive. "Put them on the desk and bend over." Sephiroth couldn't deny how much the sight of the blond's mouth around his own boxers and fatigues was affecting him, but he clamped down on the rising arousal. He would not let the cadet know how much he wanted this too.

When Strife dropped his clothes on the desk and bent over again, resting his forehead against more papers, Sephiroth eyed the lithe back glistening with sweat. Then he stepped forward, picking up the cadet's boxers with one hand, the other going for blond locks and grabbing them in a rough hold, yanking the boy's head back to stuff skivvies into a pretty mouth, stopping only when the blond nearly gagged. Then he dropped the cadet's head back onto the tabletop, listening to the dull thud as Strife's forehead struck papers when the boy didn't catch himself in time. He looked down at Strife's legs, the harness for his weapon standing in stark contrast against the pale skin. Reaching down, Sephiroth unfastened the strap, lifting the sheathed blade and examining it.

A butterfly knife suited the blond somehow, in a way Sephiroth couldn't quite explain. There was no doubt that the cadet was meant for a sword, and yet the image of the tiny youth wielding an exotic and deadly balisong only seemed to further heighten Sephiroth's arousal. There was something about Strife that seemed to affect Sephiroth no matter what, something about those eyes and that controlled manner that insinuated itself under Sephiroth's skin despite his best attempts at ignoring it.

He pulled the blade out of its sheath, then lowered his hand to nudge at Strife's cheeks with the metal warmed by the blond's own skin. The cadet started, jerking forward slightly and bumping his own length against the table. There was a soft moan that Sephiroth might have missed if he didn't have keener senses than any other SOLDIER. So it seemed the little blond liked playing with fire. Try as he might, Sephiroth couldn't deny that he liked this kinky side to the quiet cadet.

What is it about you that makes you so impossible to ignore, Strife?

"Would you like me to make you bleed, slut?" Sephiroth breathed into a flushed ear. Strife couldn't mute his gasp at that – Sephiroth had always been a master of manipulation, and seduction was an excellent way of getting what one wanted while having a good time.

A very, very good time.

He wondered why he seemed to have a permanent Zack-voice in his mind, even when his nostrils were filled with Strife. Though the blond was diminutive, barely topping Sephiroth's collarbone, Strife seemed to have filled the Sephiroth's immediate awareness completely.

He pushed all those thoughts away – deciding to analyze them later – for now, he had some business to attend to.

He nudged the balisong in slightly, past the puckered opening, enjoying how Strife tensed instantly at the invasion, how short breaths became slightly louder, how the blond tried to relax to let the knife in yet pretend that he was not involved in this, that he didn't want this.

Who are you trying to fool, Strife? You've always wanted me.

Sephiroth wondered at the ageless finality of that thought – the sheer knowing imbedded in it. He wondered how he knew; reminded himself to think about it LATER, forced the butterfly knife further in a bit harder than he would have if he hadn't been so forcefully trying to push away errant thoughts.

Strife's pained gasp was muted by the boxers in his mouth, but Sephiroth caught it anyway. He pulled the knife out slightly, liking how the movement was not smoothened by lubrication, liking how Strife moved slightly with the balisong as though trying to retain it inside him. It seemed Cloud Strife really liked pointy objects.

The General chuckled lightly, twisting the butterfly-knife ruthlessly and making the blond cry out this time. "It won't be over so fast, Strife." The silver-haired man whispered, before giving in and biting hard on the flushed tip of an ear. Strife made a sound halfway between a startled cry and a moan – whatever it was, it went straight to Sephiroth's groin. He wanted to slam the pretty little blond against the desk again and again with the force of his thrusts, but more than that he wanted to make the cadet scream his name in desperation. He wanted Strife to beg.

Sephiroth rotated the knife once more before yanking it out brutally. Strife seemed disappointed, if the soft whine was any indication. Sephiroth pulled the boxers out of the cadet's mouth and held the balisong in front of Strife – knowing the hovering blade must be filling the blond's nose with its musky scent, knowing that the blond knew what was coming, what the General wanted.

When Strife opened his mouth in soundless surrender, Sephiroth almost lost all control.

As it was, he moved his wrist, letting the blond take almost all of the balisong in but keeping a hold on it.

"Suck."

The command was cold, yet roughened slightly with desire that Sephiroth was having a hard time keeping under wraps. But Strife was much further along than the General, if the way the blond shivered was any indication.

Perfect lips closed around the intricate blade handle, and Strife's cheeks hollowed as the blond obeyed the General's command, tasting himself and the tang of metal. Sephiroth moved the knife in and out, enjoying the constant suction that gave just the right resistance to his movements, not wanting to imagine those lips around his cock because then he would really get hard and the blond would know how much he was affected by all this.

Then he decided he didn't care.

Strife's lips made a 'pop' sound as the balisong was yanked out, before letting a sharp gasp through as the butterfly knife was forcefully shoved deep inside the blond's ass. Then Sephiroth grabbed a fistful of blond hair, spinning the boy around and shoving him onto his knees, narrowly missing the table.

"Keep it in." This time the General's voice was rough with desire, and Strife inhaled sharply, keeping blue eyes shut tight even as his lips remained parted wantonly.

Sephiroth sat himself down on his chair, one hand still in blond spikes.

"Suck me."

That was all it took – Strife was beyond resistance, if the arousal was any indication. Hard, red, and weeping, it seemed the blond was ready for release. But Sephiroth would make him beg for it, wanted to hear the cadet cry out in need.

Before he could wonder why he wanted so badly to make the little blond scream for him, warm breath above his fly brought Sephiroth back to attention instantly. Strife suckled him through the expensive fabric of his tailored suit, the warmth and moisture making Sephiroth harden instantly.

He tightened his grip in the cadet's hair, the order unspoken, and Strife obeyed instantly, using pearly whites to unzip the General, the tent making progress slightly bumpy, before the scent of arousal through black silken briefs filled the air, and Strife let out a small moan that made the General's length twitch in response unbidden.

Sephiroth's grip in the blond's hair was now painfully tight, and Strife wasted no time obeying him. The cadet tugged at black briefs with his teeth and Sephiroth's length was freed, slapping the blond lightly on a flushed cheek as it emerged. Then there was glorious wet heat around him and Sephiroth had to take a deep breath, eyes closing for an instant before opening to stare at the sight of Strife taking him in half-way, cheeks hollowed as the boy sucked hard.

Then Sephiroth just shoved the blond head down, enjoying as the boy nearly gagged. A small part of him filed away the fact that the cadet's teeth never once scraped him.

Blondes have more fun.

The General fucked Strife's mouth brutally before holding the boy down so that all of himself was between parted lips, the cadet's nose buried deep in Sephiroth's scent. The blond made gagging noises but Sephiroth didn't care, holding him down and tightening his grip in not-so-subtle warning.

He pulled the blond head off just as the cadet's face was turning a mottled purple, letting Strife take a desperate gasp of air before spinning him around and shoving the blond back into the table.

From this angle Sephiroth could see the tip of the balisong peeking out between twin cheeks, and he slapped Strife hard, watching as the pale globes jiggled the weapon inside the boy, enjoying the gasp and moan that his action earned. He hit the blond again, on the other cheek this time, and Strife moaned again, louder.

Then Sephiroth shoved his finger in, moving it in and out languidly as if in counterpoint to the abrupt entry. He watched Strife writhe before him, wriggling his reddened ass tantalizingly, before the General used his other hand, palm spread to encompass one pale globe, index finger teasing an opening that was puckering flirtatiously. He pushed another finger in, twisting, pulling in and out while keeping Strife pinned and spread, enjoying the show and the delicious sounds the panting blond was making before pulling his fingers and the balisong out and rising to his feet.

Strife's whine was aborted as the head of Sephiroth's length nudged against his opening. This time the blond didn't try to mask the sharp intake of breath, didn't try to hide the forced relaxation of a lithe body. Sephiroth kept himself still, for once grateful for the lessons in self-control that had filled his days as a child, before resolving not to think about it for now and ramming himself into Cloud Strife.

This time the blond cried out.

The sound of his name coming from perfect lips, the feeling of tight, rough heat around his member, the sight of a beautiful body bent taut and quivering over his desk, the knowledge that the door was unlocked and anyone could walk in at anytime…all of it coupled together to give Sephiroth probably the most heady arousal he had ever had in his life.

He took a moment to savor it, breathed it all in, Strife's sobbed breaths filling his ears, before a tangy scent pierced through the haze of desire and made itself known.

Blood.

You will not forget this.

Grimly he wondered when he'd become such a sadist. He'd always liked it rough, but he had never enjoyed inflicting pain on others. If only because he hated the expression on Hojo's face every time the mad scientist did something to him that would normally cause pain in a human.

But I'm not human. I'm not like them.

It was a slight movement on Strife's part that brought Sephiroth back from his dark thoughts. The cadet had moved his hips slightly, as though it might help him escape the pain, as though it would negate the fact that this was rape, no matter his earlier arousal.

Sephiroth moved then, slightly at first, stretching the blond, before pulling out a little and thrusting in almost gently, the thick red liquid around his length not exactly optimal lubrication but better than none.

When it seemed the cadet had grown accustomed to Sephiroth's size, the General pulled out almost all the way before slamming back in. Strife screamed again, breath he had been about to take making him choke. Then Sephiroth repeated his actions, this time changing the angle slightly, and Strife cried out – this time in pleasure and pain.

Gotcha.

Sephiroth switched tactics then, pulling out slowly, painfully slowly, making Strife whimper and move back pleadingly, but Sephiroth held himself still and used his grip on the cadet's hip to still the boy. The breathy whine from Strife was music to his member, and when Strife tightened the muscles around Sephiroth the General almost lost it.

Slutty little blond, aren't you?

The General didn't care, easing back in slowly, making sure to graze Strife's sweet spot on his way, then pulling back out equally slowly and making sure to lightly nudge a certain spot again on his way out. Strife was writhing against the desk now, breathy moans and pants coming louder and louder, but the blond hadn't begged yet, and Sephiroth so wanted to hear it first.

Deciding to go with a direct route, since Zack liked reminding him crudely about blonds and their thinking capabilities, he grabbed a fistful of soft spikes and yanked back, baring a pale, slender neck – the General wasted no time, nipping at a fluttering pulse barely visible beneath pale skin. Strife moaned louder this time.

"Beg."

The order made Strife shiver deliciously, tightening around Sephiroth even more. The General would have been impressed if he believed that the blond was doing it on purpose, if the cadet was trying to beat the General at his own game.

He bit again, hard, almost breaking skin, before slamming the blond head into the desk. Strife didn't cry out at the rough treatment, so Sephiroth tightened his grip further on slender hips and soft hair.

"Beg for it, slut."

Already tight muscles spasmed around his length, and it was all Sephiroth could do not to just give in to temptation.

"Please…" it was soft and hoarse, Strife's throat working as though to swallow saliva to lubricate a passage dried out by constant pants and moans.

It was the most beautiful song Sephiroth had ever heard.

And that was all he needed, all he could take. He started slamming into the blond hard, knowing the cadet's arousal must be hitting the table painfully with each thrust, not caring because he preferred to grip bruisingly tight on pale hips and golden hair as he fucked the cadet hard.

Strife's moans were getting louder and louder, but Sephiroth wanted to hear the magic word one more time before letting the boy cum.

He stilled suddenly with a quick twist, and Strife screamed in desperate need.

"Please! Please please please General please!"

It was raw, needy, and exactly what Sephiroth had been waiting for.

He obliged then, mostly because he wanted to unload in the boy too. But the cadet didn't need to know that.

He increased his speed, making sure to hit the blond's prostate with each thrust, with each time he pulled out almost fully. Deep, hard, fast, it was how he liked it, and he knew the blond liked it too.

As the blond neared his release, Sephiroth shoved his face harder into the table, before yanking the boy's head back and arching him painfully. The General bent slightly, still thrusting, biting hard on a pale neck and drawing blood this time, even as his hand moved forward to shove two fingers into an open mouth and mimicking the movements of his length.

It was enough to drive the lithe cadet over the edge. Strife screamed Sephiroth's name as he came hard over the usually pristine desk, thick white liquid splattering onto smudged, crumpled papers and dark wood.

The spasmodic tightening around him, the way the blond was shaking in his release, the echo of his name cried out by perfect lips, it was all too much. Sephiroth held his release off a while more, framing slender hips with both hands, holding tight and just slamming that perfect ass onto his member brutally again and again and again until he finally came, Mako-tinged cum mixing with the cadet's blood and filling the boy with himself.

He bit the blond hard once more, harder than he had before, just so he wouldn't say anything stupid – as far gone as the blond was Strife still gave a shaky, pained moan.

And then Sephiroth woke up.

He was lying face down in his massive bed – thank God he was alone – and he had a fist wrapped around his still-throbbing length, thick warm liquid covering himself and the satin sheets. His heart thundered still, the dream had been so vivid, so real, every thing about Strife so authentic that he swore he could still smell the boy, could still hear Strife's soft pants through his own fast breaths, could still feel soft skin under his hand.

But it was only his satin sheets and himself in his majestic room, and after awhile he rolled over, throwing an arm across his eyes as though that might shield him from the reality that he just had the best imaginary sex of his life with a boy almost 10 years his junior.

Sephiroth really wanted to kill someone.

/Several buildings away in the Shinra compound, a breathless blond started awake. He was sweating profusely, breath coming in harsh pants, shock at the sudden awareness slowly stilling his shivers. Heartbeat thundering in his ears, Cloud still attempted to listen for the sounds of slumbering bunk-mates, terror at possibly having been heard not helping him calm himself.

He prayed then – prayed that no one had heard him, that no one knew, and strained his ears as he remained as still and unmoving as possible face-first on his bunk with a mouthful of coarse pillow.

At length his heartbeat and breathing slowed enough, and as he listened to the quiet, steady breaths around him, the slight rustling of movements as some bunkmates shifted positions in their sleep, he calmed more. It didn't seem as though anyone was aware, it didn't seem as though he had woken anyone up. But there was one person who was probably as adept as, if not more than, him at feigning sleep – and Cloud finally allowed himself to shift position and peek at where he knew Reno's bunk was.

It was dark in the bunks, and not for the first time he wished he had his Mako enhancements to back him up, but the glow would give him away too, so he strained his eyes until he thought he could make out the shape of the other boy. There was a steady rise and fall of breath, soft breathing, and the boy was in his regular sleeping position. Cloud still watched for awhile, counting the seconds, knowing that even though the future Turk was good at acting, he had more of something than the red-head: Patience. After five minutes of silent waiting and watching, and only seeing Reno shift a little in his sleep, Cloud deemed it safe enough to rise soundlessly. He padded out of the bunk and down the hallway towards the bathrooms, glancing around cautiously, but no one was awake. He didn't know what time it was but it seemed too dark for this time of year to be his regular waking time.

He washed up as silently and quickly as possible, cursing under his breath at not bringing a change of skivvies because now he'd have to sleep with a wet patch in his underwear, but there was nothing he could do – rummaging for clothes now would likely wake Reno up and he didn't want to have to explain why he was changing out of stained underwear in the dead of the night.

He splashed cold water on his face, the shock of it helping to shake off the last vestiges of the most vivid dream he'd had in years. As he bent over the sink, bracing himself on arms that still quivered slightly, droplets of water slipping and sliding along his face like caresses of a phantom lover, he became aware of a pain in his neck, and a faint but familiar smell.

Glancing in the mirror, his eyes widened in shock, and his heartbeat sky-rocketed again.

There, on his neck, were three sets of perfect bite-marks and blood leaking from two of them. As Cloud stared in shock, they started to heal and close, fading under his alarmed gaze until there was nothing left to prove that it had been anything more than his imagination. He lifted a pale, shaky hand and touched his neck gingerly, as though anything more than the softest of touches might shatter this illusion, and as he watched in the mirror his trembling hand wiped away the blood to reveal pristine, unmarred skin. Cloud didn't want to admit it, but that cold hand wrapped around his heart was more than likely terror now. He was going crazy again, he was seeing things that weren't there again, but as he lifted his hand up to eye-level he could still see the blood on it, could still smell the tang of proof that it hadn't been a dream, that it had been real; but he reminded himself that he of all people should know how well his mind could play tricks on him when fuelled with such strong desire – and the desire HAD been strong – and the only way to know that it was really blood he was seeing on his hand would be to wake another cadet and have them tell him that yes, it was blood.

Don't be stupid.

Except it was hard to be rational when everything that had been happening recently defied all bounds of common sense.

Breathe. Just breathe.

He could do that.

Cloud didn't know how long he stood there, taking deep breaths until his breathing and heartbeat slowed to a reasonable level, until the shaking stopped, until the blood dried and crusted where it had smeared over his palm. The sun would probably be rising soon, and he had to get started on his personal training, but still he found himself immobile before the mirror, staring at the dark marks on his hand and wondering if he should wash it off or keep it as a memento – but that would be delusional, like one of those crazy fans who purchased sweat-stained socks of their idols off stores swearing they were authentic – so he turned the tap back on and scratched the blood off with his fingernails.

When he looked back up in the mirror, it was just him – hair slightly mussed – but just him. No marks, no blood, nothing out of the ordinary.

Just a dream.

He pushed away the twinge of something at that thought. Time to train.

Goodbye my Almost Lover.

The next lines of the song were too depressingly true to think about. A good workout was what he needed.

Cloud refused to think about the workout he'd just had. It wasn't real. It was just wishful thinking.

It was wonderful.

A/N (1): I normally post only upon reaching 20,000+ words. But I've been so swamped that to even get this far took me forever. And I've had no time to work on it more so thank you for understanding! I've been trying to get back to this fic but sometimes when I'm so busy thinking about work (when I'm not at work) it's hard to get the momentum going for this fic.

A/N (2): Quick reminder: the Keysi Fighting Method was used in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I've kept with the Batman references because I'm a fan.

A/N (3): I wasn't actually around for the 70's, but I referenced the many protests of the era in the hand-to-hand training bit.

A/N (4): The "pretty little cadet" line in the SephCloud section was taken off a review by Axiam – "one day, [Sephiroth] won't be able to resist the urge to just jump the pretty cadet". I liked it so much I had to use it.

A/N (5): SephCloud goodness for everyone! Just because I couldn't wait for them to shaggy-shaggy-boom-boom either – so sue me but they're HOT together and this IS a SephCloud fic.

A/M (6)*** NEW!: I've had a few reviews about how uncomfortable it would be if Seph used an unsheathed blade on Cloud. I apologize for not making this clearer before - the balisong/butterfly knife is like a pocket/switch blade. The blades are hidden in the handles, and unless they are unlatched they stay safely hidden.

A/N (7): The "breathe, just breathe" thought line is from the song by Anna Nalick entitled "Breathe" – the first line of the song is a reference to the estimated time that Cloud woke from the "dream".

A/N (8): "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy – the lines after "Goodbye my Almost Lover" are "goodbye my hopeless dream/ I'm trying not to think about it/ can't you just let me be/ so long my luckless romance/ my back is turned on you/ should've known you'd just bring me heartache/ almost lovers always do".

A/N (9): As I'm an intensely visual person, I've been meaning to draw a picture of Cloud and the boys in class – looking all gangster and cool, leaning back in the back row, and just being awesome. But again - Real Life got in my way. Would anyone else be able to do it?

A/N (910: I have decided to go pro – and I'd like to thank you all for giving me the confidence I needed to chase my dreams of becoming a writer. I WILL be continuing this story, and I'll see it through to the end since Cloud deserves a happy ending - and I'm not rich enough to buy SquareEnix and force them to do my bidding (yet) but I will also be focusing on writing my own original novel, so updates might come less frequently (as if they already aren't) here. See you all next chapter!