Title: Sky Metamorphosis

Pairing: Sephiroth x Cloud

A/N: Sephiroth and Cloud~! Another one of my major addictions…I shouldn't have started writing this fic, since I have an un-updated Vampire Knight fic…But the story is just so stuck in my head that I had to start writing it. Hope you guys like it!

Disclaimer: I hope Final Fantasy is mine, but it ain't…Ah, the woes…

Chapter One

A soft groan was heard in the darkened room before a lone figure sat up. The other boys slept on, filling the silent air with the occasional snores or grunts. The figure shook his head to clear away his sleepiness, his unruly hair falling all over his face. Giving a stray strand a soft pull, he decided that he had better cut his hair as soon as possible. Slipping onto his slippers, he grabbed his towel and clothes before making way out of the room and into the brightly lit white halls of the Shinra training faculty. Turning in the direction of the shared bathrooms, he walked slowly through the seemingly deserted hallway. It was too early in the morning and seeing that they did have one hell of a training yesterday, it was no wonder that none of his peers were awake yet.

Turning a corner and pushing open the white double swinging doors which led to the baths, he sighed softly to himself when he felt a particular sharp jab at his abdomen as a result of his movements. Stopping in front of a whole line of sinks and mirrors, he washed his face before raising his head to look at his own image projected by the mirror. The first thing he registered was how unkempt his blonde hair is, sticking out in an anti-gravity manner and falling softly around his face in the front, framing it and giving it an almost delicate look. His face wasn't at all manly, void of all the sharp edges and unrefined callousness. In fact, it was roundly and slender, almost in the shape of the acorn, and his skin was in a soft cream white. These two features, accompanied by the pair of almond shaped blue eyes with long eyelashes and slim brows, were enough to set his face as one which is too feminine for a male's features. And if he were being completely honest to himself, his features were too beautifully refined that he almost loathed it sometimes.

It was a fact in SOLDIER's barracks that guys with looks like his were often subjects to bullying and humiliation. Almost sub-consciously, his hand rested on his waist, tracing gently in circles. With a small wistful sigh, his lips set into a deep firm line, and with both hands on the hem of his shirt, he pulled it off with a swift tug.

Biting his lower lip to keep himself from making any noise, he looked down at the blue and black bruises formed around his abdomen. Scrutinizing one particularly large patch at his side, he sighed again before reaching into one of the pockets on his saggy military issued pants and took out a tube of ointment. He had been forced to resort to keeping a few useful items such as bandage, plaster, ointment, and a few cotton pads in his pockets after he had been almost bludgeoned to unconsciousness a few weeks before. It was really rather useful, and it had been an excellent excuse for him to hone his medicinal and bandaging skills.

A sarcastic albeit amused scoff escaped his lips, and he wondered how on Gaia he could still manage to humor himself with the situation he's in. But he knew better than to fall deep into depression, no, that was one thing his stubbornness would not allow him privilege to. He was Cloud Strife damn it! Born and raised in the harsh and chilling environment of the Nibelheim Mountains, and he would be damned if he allowed those city-raised, fed by a silver spoon, good for nothing bunch of bullies with all brawns but no brains to get the best of him.

If there had been one thing that his mother had been inexplicably proud of her son, aside from his obvious good looks of course, was the stubborn determination and optimism that he had in him. And Cloud was determined to live up to that reputation. But still, these few weeks had been abnormally tough on him, and even someone as hopeful as him was beginning to feel strained and stressed. Raising his head again to his reflection in the mirror to mutely observe the dark circles under his eyes and noting that his eyes seemed to have lost a tint of its brightness, Cloud shook his head morosely.

Yes, he was starting to lose faith and he knew it.

He couldn't really help it, but the taunts and bullying had taken a whole new level recently. At first it had only been mindless jeers and remarks on his small and lithe built and pretty looks. He had remained unmoved to all those, his docile and more peaceful nature more willing to just take it and tolerate it, hoping it will pass. But it seemed that his lack of response irked the bullies even more, and they had then resorted to vandalizing his properties and pulling odd pranks on him. Making him trip or fall during combat training, ruin his notes, hideaway his homework—that sort of stuff, and Cloud had been almost tempted to just get in a fight with them but stuffed the thought away at the notion of the more damaging punishment he would receive. If there was one thing that being bullied in his hometown had anything good to teach him, it was that he had to remain cool headed and ride out the storm. He wasn't at all as confident as he had been before, to tell the truth, he had been the most awkward, self conscious, insecure and bitter child. But the stern and loving hand his mother raised him by had forced him to look things with a more mature perspective, after he had gotten out of his awkward twelve year old stage. And the absence of a father figure and a male authority role in his household had made him to be the one to learn to take up the mantle and protect his mother. The both of them looked out for one another, and it was also her who encouraged him to enroll himself in the SOLDIER training.

The thought of his mother send waves of longing for her presence. There really wasn't a day that he didn't get by without missing her. But a sharp wave of pain from his bruise as he applied the ointment bought him back to his current thoughts—the bullies.

Cloud had taken some satisfaction at seeing how bewildered they seemed at his lack of response, and they weren't really used to it, seeing that the victims usually cower in fear and beg them for mercy when they did such things. But Cloud knew that people like them gain their sadistic joy and pleasure at the stake of other people's pain and fear, and he wasn't going to let them have it that easily. They had then left him alone for a brief period of time, unnerved by him, he supposed. And he had been so naïve to have thought that it would end at that, that they would take the cue that he wasn't to be intimidated and to leave him the hell alone. But no, the thick headed skull that they were innately blessed with wasn't enough to get the information through to their pea sized brain suspended in their empty skull. Cloud laughed a little at the image, his voice vibrating through the hollow and silent stalls of the bathroom.

They had came back, more ferocious, more violent, more displeased than before. And seeing that he did not respond to their usual threats and antics, they had decided to take out their frustration through the only means they found satisfactory. They resorted to violence, of course, the only thing their level of intelligence could think of. They would ambush him in secluded corners, deserted hallways, at the end of class where Cloud was the last to leave. And Cloud never did go down without a fight. He always lost, naturally, seeing that there were over twenty of them, all of them twice his size, and there was just so much evading and hitting one lone person could inflict before being overwhelmed by the rest of the harsh and ever coming blows. If he were lucky, his other classmates would notice his absence and they would alert the instructors, leaving him with only a bruise or two and a split lip. But if he were unlucky, he would end up half beaten to death. He had been in and out of the infirmary more times than he could keep count of, and the rest of his classmates shunned him as they too were afraid of the bunch of bullies. But at least they sometimes offered the occasional sneaked whispers of greetings or care towards him and they did their best to alert the instructors when they knew he was cornered. A few of them, mostly his roommates, helped him out with his homework and lent him notes when he hadn't been able to make it to classes due to injuries and since he couldn't really blamed their fear, he appreciated these small and unseen gestures of kindness and friendship.

But even though the bullying didn't really affect him, except that the outcome usually was a pain the ass, what bothered him the most was how bad his grades were affected. He is now barely able to keep up with his classes. His grades had been well in the beginning. He absorbed theory classes like a sponge and was eager to participate in physical training to hone his physique. The only session he hated was the morning drills where they had to do inhumanely massive amounts of workout. But still, he had been able to keep up. Now, his grades were dropping with a gradient steeper than the Nibelheim mountain cliffs and he is beginning to dread the outcome. He could still worm his way through all those theory classes with the notes and books that he had, but with his wounds, he was way behind in his physical training, and everyone knows that the most important thing in an excellent Soldier is being able to combat perfectly. And that, was something he was excruciating lacking at.

The bullying just seemed incessant, something the instructors had no power over of. Only President Shinra himself or the General Sephiroth had the authority to discharge a cadet, and before that, a case was to be brought up and a trial be held. But seeing that the head of his bullying gang—Malcolm McGavin was the son of a higher up Shinra executive, it was no wonder that no one dared to make a motion against them. President Shinra and General Sephiroth himself were two extremely high authoritative figures and Cloud would bet his money for a miracle to happen rather than have either one of them to be concerned over a lowly cadet. Even if they knew, Cloud doubt that the President would do anything, seeing that the only thing that he is concerned with are profits for the company. In fact, Cloud figured that bullying was a way for the company to root out weaklings and make their tasks easier of choosing new Soldiers. It would be no surprise that the President himself allowed such things himself with the objective of being able to choose only the best of the bunch.

As for General Sephiroth, Cloud wasn't sure exactly what he would do. The man was an enigma. It seemed that all the people worshipped and loved him as much as they shunned and feared him. There were so many legends surrounding the man himself that one couldn't really discern which is exaggerated and which is the truth. It had been said that the General himself had single handedly won the Wutai war for Shinra and that he was capable of amounts of magic welding with materia that no normal person was able to conjure. And then of course were rumors and scandals about the history of the General. Where he was from, how he came to be, and who were his parents…All that stuff shrouded another mystery on the General. And the man himself was magnificent. His silver hair and green eyes were all attributes to his already overly handsome features and were the swoons of many infatuated souls around the Earth. But despite the seemingly lack of information of the man, the one thing Cloud was certain is the amount of revered respect that all his subordinates and people seemed to have of him. They would willingly die for him, as could be seen from his mass of loyal troops and the way his instructors would all speak of the General in front of them—their eyes ablaze with admiration and loyalty, and pure respect lacing their tones and words. Cloud himself was a big fan of the General, but unlike those other fan boys which swooned and became loving-eyed when they saw a picture of the General, Cloud actually admired the man for his strength. The General was his idol in a weird sort of way, someone he looked up to and strived to become. It was one of the reasons he entered the training, he had the dream of one day standing beside General Sephiroth and fighting side by side with him.

Wincing again as another raw bruise was rubbed too hard, Cloud's eyes turned a deep blue and the colors swirled around in raging turmoil as sorrow and a faint hint of desperation crossed his face.

With his condition now, his dream is as good as gone.

Zack Fair made his way stealthily through the brightly lit Shinra corridors. Not that he really needed to escape attention, seeing that the worker uniform and cap he had on had all but erase the tell-tale signs of the spiky black hair and famed uniform of the General's left hand. God, how much would he pay for Sephiroth to see him now. The man had an odd quirk of pointing out Zack's flaws which mainly consists of how indiscreet he is as a Soldier First Class. In fact, Sephiroth always points out sarcastically that he was surprised Zack had managed to pull off his stealth assignments as successfully as he had with his constant outbursts and flashy attitude.

Zack would just scowl or pout, whichever deemed useful for the situation, and proceed to rant on about some random thing that he had heard or encountered. And although Sephiroth always put on an air of insufferable tolerance and patience while listening to his ranting, Zack was more than willing to bet that the General in fact enjoyed his company immensely. They were basically best friends, and even though Sephiroth hadn't yet admitted it, the unusually humane side of him which he showed Zack through his sarcastic remarks or sincere response was more than enough to ensure Zack of the fact.

Zack was of course, both honored and glad that he had that place in the man's heart, seeing how detached the General could be. Frowning slightly, Zack made another turn and looking around, realized he was in the SOLDIER Training barracks. Keeping his head down in case of some early cadet recognizing him and making a fuss about it, Zack prodded stealthily in the direction of the cafeteria.

It had been Angeal's idea for this plan, and Zack was only carrying it out. He was sure he wouldn't really be murdered after this stunt, seeing that Genesis had also a hand in it. But there was a big possibility the two generals would just act innocent as if they had nothing to do with the plotting along with Zack. Well, when it comes to that, Zack could always run and hide. He was the fastest runner of his group after all. Humming happily after reassuring himself of his unlikely chance of demise, Zack pondered on about Sephiroth.

Really, the man might be a prodigy in all other things, but when it comes to human interaction and basic emotions, he was as informative as a stone, meaning that he knew absolutely nothing on the matter. It wasn't that the man had no emotions himself, no, Sephiroth was perfectly capable of normal emotions such as joy, grief, pain and anger, it is just that he had more control over himself and didn't let others see past his usual façade that had others finding him utterly emotionless. No, the General is capable of feelings, it's just not a well-known fact when one is made to be a ruthless killing machine and stern leader.

What Sephiroth really lacks, is communication skills. He was sometimes utterly insensitive and untactful in his remarks and behavior that people takes him as rude and inapproachable. But Zack knew that this is really a result from living a shunned life up until the moment. That's why Zack had been getting on with his private 'Make-Seph-More-Sociable' project, which had until now, provided more trouble than benefit for both Zack and Sephiroth. He was in fact seriously considering to call off the plan, but then Angeal had none too subtly dropped in remarks of 'how lonely Seph is' and all that crap and his heart had all but softened. But now, he had a new formed plan, that is, getting more friends for the General. The only friends Sephiroth had are him, Angeal and Genesis. Tseng is somewhat a mutual ally of sorts, and that's it, the General's small and pitiful social circle.

It had sounded so easy, but two months into the plan had proved Zack just how much of a disaster it had been. At first, he had tried looking for suitable candidates amongst the upper ranked SOLDIERS who were almost the same age as Sephiroth, but whenever he set them up for a meeting most of them will get all rigid and formal while the small minor will simply perform a convincing act of a gaping fish without even the basic skills of communication. He had then tried the normal working staffs in the office, a few secretaries and clerks and heads of department but again it was a total failure, more disastrous than the last attempt. He had to clean up and make excuses to Sephiroth as to why the people Zack brought in always managed to either faint, drop into fits, or convulse uncontrollably in front of him. So far, Zack had managed to use up every single disease and excuse which is thinkable, and since he wasn't that suicidal or desperate enough to start looking for worthy candidates amongst Sephiroth fans, he had decided to put a stall on his mission until he found the perfect candidate. So now, he was back to plotting unusual ways to annoy Sephiroth.

Genesis had wickedly dropped a hint to Zack that Sephiroth really detested the food in the SOLDIERS Training facility and Zack had all but made up his mind at the spot that he was going to dish some for Sephiroth. Seeing that he couldn't really waltz into the cafeteria during the morning—it would send waves of cadets into shock and excitement, so he decided to execute his plan in the early morning. He was certain nobody would be up at this ungodly hour, it was only four in the morning damn it! Not even he woke up this early usually, unless of course, he had evil plans to carry out. Besides, he had already managed to talk the trainees' instructors into giving them a sudden Physical test which involves lots of hand-to-hand combat, sword fighting and Materia casting which was sure to exhaust the cadets and thus ensuring him a safe route in the morning.

Zack was so relaxed by the unusual silence and too confident of him being the lone person awake in the whole Shinra building that he was startled out of his thoughts when he bumped into a smaller figure as he rounded the corner. It appeared that the person was in a hurry as he crashed into Zack with a strength which was strong enough to send him recoiling back from the impact. Zack was able to remain unmoved from his usual experience and by pure reflex, shot his hand out to catch the person.

Mentally berating himself for not noticing the cadet's presence, Zack pulled his cap lower down to hide his identity as he made sure the cadet was standing firmly before releasing him. The cadet was disoriented for a moment, before coming to his senses and giving a smile, grabbed Zack's hand and muttered a pleasant 'Thanks' before hurrying away again. It was obvious that Zack's disguise had worked since there was no flash of recognition through the blonde's face, but then again, he hadn't really looked at Zack that well. Zack stared at the back of the cadet as he hurried away, and took note of the unruly blonde hair and the flash of beautiful sea blue eyes as the cadet had stared at him for a moment while muttering his gratitude.

The blonde cadet was one of the most striking people that Zack had seen, and that was saying something about the good looks that he had, seeing that Zack had been around his fair share of handsome people. Unsure as to why, Zack's mind immediately flashed towards the image of Sephiroth. While the blonde hadn't been as manly and gorgeously sexy as Sephiroth, the boy was utterly indescribably beautiful in his own way. And somehow, Zack felt a strong pull towards the cadet. He was certain it wasn't because of the blonde's looks, but more of a mental and spiritual urge to look out for the blonde cadet. He wasn't really sure why, but he just felt that way. Maybe he could ask Aerith when he meet her again. She was half Cetra, one able to be in tune to the planet's lifestream and thoughts so maybe she might have some divine answer as to why he felt this way. He remembered that Aerith had mentioned something about destined people meeting and forming a strong and unbreakable bond but he didn't really understood it then.

Of course, Zack's keen eyes had also caught the small wince that the cadet had made when he had bumped into Zack, accompanied by the way he seemed to carry himself too rigidly as he walked away, as if trying to hide in something, and Zack couldn't help but wonder if the blonde was hurt. Feeling much like an over-protective older brother, Zack decided to do a check up on this cadet later.

Now back to the matter at hand, he wondered where did the kitchen workers kept their overnight gruel?

~End Chapter~

A/N: That's it, the first chapter! I didn't want Cloud to be angsty and bitter so I decided to take another approach to his personality… This chapter had been more of a foresight and a setting ground as to how Cloud is as a person and the story will develop now onwards, so forgive me if there is a lack of action in this chapter.

Please review!! It would really make my day and let me understand more about my readers~