Author's Note: Hi. Last chapter before the epilogue here, Children. Have fun. I know I will. Also, this chapter is dedicated to MeykoLove for always being there to tell me exactly what he/she thinks of the story! I love knowing what's going on in my reader's heads… Here's to hoping that you'll all be there to read my next FFVII Sephiroth/Cloud story, "The Deal." Good luck!
Disclaimer: Has it been mine for the last sixteen chapters? It hasn't? Oh, okay… I was just making sure…
Warning: Violence. Slash. Non-Slash. Language.
Sephiroth looked at the television with hard green eyes. Fury raged through his veins at the images. He was angry at Genesis for doing such a thing to Cloud, angry at Cloud for telling them to save Gaia-damned Aeris, and angry at himself for allowing Cloud to be taken in the first place. He wanted to know that Cloud was alright, to hold the blonde in his arms once more, and to kill something. Oh, how he wanted to kill something, preferably something named Genesis. The man would die for laying a hand on his beautiful little blonde. That much was for sure.
"Seph, how can he be so…" Zack trailed off, at a loss for words. Selfless; Sephiroth was sure that was the word that Zackary was going for. And though the General didn't know the answer to that; he didn't like it. Cloud had always been a bit too caring in Sephiroth's eyes, but that was going over the top. His life was at risk and he was asking them to save the Cetra, which Zackary would do, but Sephiroth would be going straight for Cloud. The General stood with a flourish before marching towards the door. There was no time to spare.
Zack looked at the now blank TV only once more before rushing after his silver-haired superior. Knowing who had taken Aeris and Cloud chilled Zack to the core. He knew that Genesis had a bit of a temper, but to go to such extremes over… well, who knew what it was over? Also, considering that Angeal disappeared around the same time as Genesis, it meant that Zack's old instructor was in on it, too. The Lieutenant wasn't sure if he could handle fighting Angeal, but he tried not to worry about that as he followed Sephiroth's long strides. He wasn't sure exactly where they were headed, but he would find out soon. Zack just hoped that it would be soon enough.
Reeve awoke to a yelling Rufus and a bored looking Hojo. Reeve knew from experience that his head was in Rufus's admittedly comfortable lap and could tell that they hadn't noticed his consciousness yet. He listened to their words around a peaceful, melodic murmur in the back of his mind.
"I don't care if you're his father!" Rufus's shout was enough to make Reeve smile. The blonde never did know when to stop and listen. Hojo simply cocked a brow. "No! Don't you dare look at me like that! You cannot just waltz in here and act like you're the ruler of time! I swear if Reeve is hurt I'll- I'll- I'll do…something!" At that point in Rufus's rant, both father and son chuckled. Rufus gasped and looked down, connecting blue with brown. "Oh, thank Gaia you're awake. Are you alright? Did he do anything to you? I swear, if he did…" Reeve's eyes brightened just a little as he listened to the many questions and threats fired off by Rufus. With a smile, Reeve decided to put a stop to Rufus's little tirade, and leaned up, sealing Rufus's lips with his own. Immediately, the younger male melted into the kiss, and Reeve smirked before separating.
"What's she saying? Where is Aeris?" Hojo's halfway-impatient voice interrupted their moment, and Reeve turned his eyes to the professor.
"By 'she', I'm assuming you mean the voice in my head that wasn't present before , as Reeve knew he wouldn't.
"Now Reeve, you're going to have to give me a straight answer, or we'll be standing here all day, and I just don't have that kind of time." Almost immediately after Hojo's words were spoken, Rufus reentered the conversation.
"Okay, he's definitely your father. I've never heard anyone else use such an exasperating line." And true to Rufus's words, Reeve had never heard anyone but himself use the line either. He wasn't completely sure where he picked it up from, either… Brown eyes narrowed.
"You mean you really are my…" Reeve trailed off when Hojo rolled his eyes.
"Father, yes. We've already gone over this. Now, we can have a nice family moment as soon as I get back if you tell me where your sister is, and hurry. I'm not sure how much time we have left." Chocolate stared into chocolate for a moment after Hojo's speech before Reeve surprised even himself by conceding and closing his eyes, focusing on the voice. At first, it just sounded like a repetitive blur of words, saying everything and nothing at once, but it straightened out the more he concentrated. Over and over again, Reeve repeated Hojo's question in his mind, and eventually, he found what he knew to be the answer.
"Flowers. Cetra. Cliff. Grounds. Water. Cliff. Wood. Trees. Mine. Used. Wood. House. Cliff. Water. West. Mine. Cetra. Pain. Help. Cliff. Water. Help." Reeve's eyes snapped open, pulling himself away from the alluring, repetitive voice. He repeated what he understood the words to mean.
"Aeris is in a house somewhere to the west, on a cliff next to the water. She's in pain and needs help." That was all Reeve could get out before Hojo was up and out the door. Somehow, he knew that they would be seeing a lot more of Professor Hojo and, somehow, that didn't bother him at all.
Jackary looked at Adrian, and Adrian looked back.
"You can't be serious." Adrian whined to his taller counterpart, but Jack ignored him. By putting Adrian in charge, the General had basically put Jackary in charge. That was smart, considering that Jack knew that they would probably screw something up and was ready to put someone who knew what they were doing in his place. That led him to where they were now: outside of the Turk's headquarters. "Jack, they'll kill us." This time, midnight blue eyes focused on the other First Class SOLDIER before a single, black brow rose in question. Orange orbs rolled at the action before, "Alright, they'll kill me, but I'm kind of important, too, you know." Jack smirked lightly at Adrian's correction before ignoring the younger male once more and knocking on the large wooden double doors. Moments passed before it swung open to reveal the only two Turks that managed to pique Jack's interest: Tseng and Vincent Valentine.
"Greetings." Jackary's words were smooth, and while he got no response from Valentine; Tseng nodded. "The General's on an indefinite leave. You're not. As a Turk, it's your duty to ignore us and our problem of having no one in charge. As friends of General Sephiroth and Lieutenant Fair, it's your duty to fix it." The elder First's tone was colorless as he said this. Tseng held Jackary in a staring contest before stepping back in acceptance. Jack, knowing that he wasn't out of the woods just yet, simply raised his head a little higher in acknowledgement before stepping inside. He couldn't help but think how much more professional he would look without his orange-eyed lover trailing behind him like a lost child…
Tired azure eyes opened slowly before focusing on the first thing they saw: brown hair. It was beautiful brown hair that had been mussed up beyond belief during a night of passionate honeymoon sex that had Cid grinning in remembrance. He wrapped a muscular arm around the thin waist beside of him, unintentionally waking her up. Honey brown eyes cracked open before tilting back to meet azure. A sleepy smile made its way to the young girl's face as she leaned back into his strong chest.
"Morning…" was her sleepy greeting.
"Mornin'." Cid's greeting was gruffer than hers as he leant down to kiss her. Her tongue met his eagerly and they danced for a moment before Yuffie spoke up.
"We should probably get going… You know, to tell them that war isn't necessary…" Yuffie trailed off uncertainly, and Cid thought about it seriously for a minute or two before deciding that the soft flesh beside of him sounded like more fun.
"Probably…" He muttered, moving down to kiss her neck. She giggled a bit at the sensation.
"Then come on. We've got to--" Her words turned into a sharp gasp as his innocent caresses took a lot more of a sexual turn. Neither of them tried to stop what was to come next. After all, they had all day, right?
Emperor Kisaragi looked at the vast land before him, his deep blue robes flowing in the wind, accentuating the golden trim. Time seemed to slow as a helicopter got closer and closer to reaching the ground, setting a grim frown onto his face. In exactly fourteen hours, he would arrive at the ShinRa headquarters and, if Yuffie wasn't there and married, then he would declare war. Deep brown eye closed in resolution as he stepped onto the flying vehicle. It had to be done.
Sephiroth looked at the house where he had first met Angeal and Genesis-which lay only a mile or two away from the ShinRa cliffs-for only a moment before striding inside. Smoky green connected with emerald and the General growled. Reno. Almost immediately, the red-head yelped and turned to run. Sephiroth had Masamune out and swinging towards Reno before a minute could pass, but his blow was intercepted by another sword. The other sword, however, was red.
"I see you got my message." Genesis had a grin to match the Cheshire cat's as he initiated the next attack. The auburn-haired man seemed to have forgotten just how much weaker he was than Sephiroth. Zack seemed to know the same thing as he shouted something about searching for Aeris before going off in his own direction. Swiftly, the General delivered one of his more powerful attacks; successfully sending his once-companion sprawling on the ground. Reno, who had moved behind Genesis, saw the battle for what it really was and fled to another room, presumably the one with Cloud in it. Genesis, back on his feet but with a bit of a limp, spotted that too and went after him. Sephiroth was quick to follow. When he entered the room, he saw Genesis with the blood-red blade of his sword against a dead-looking Cloud's neck. The sight had him frozen before he could think to breathe.
"Genesis, don't--" Sephiroth stopped short as he felt something pierce the skin of his side. Slowly, he reached down, pulling out a small dart. Emerald orbs darted over to the direction of where the dart had come from to see Reno, hands shaking with what looked to be a modified .45 magnum pointed right at Sephiroth. Suddenly, Sephiroth's vision went blurry and his balance was thrown off. Just before the General passed out completely he looked into dull blue eyes and swore. He had been so close, too…
Zack stumbled into a white room in his search for Aeris. While the figure he saw lying on the stark white bed wasn't his Cetra, it was enough to bring tears to his eyes.
"An-Angeal? Angeal!" Zack rushed over to the bedside as fast as he could before beginning to shake the older male. "Oh, Gaia! Angeal, what's wrong!? Please, wake up! Come on, Buddy, please!" The Lieutenant was in hysterics by the time he finished; his face buried in an unresponsive chest. Zack neither heard the footsteps coming up behind him nor sensed the object swinging towards the back of his head.
Angeal heard Zack's heartbroken voice shouting for him to wake up and tried his hardest to move. The shouts only lasted for a moment before disappearing, and the weight on his chest was removed. Still, Angeal tried to move something, anything. His pup was in trouble… And in a white, empty room, for the first time in years, his fingers twitched.
Reno looked between where the General had fallen and where Genesis had thrown Cloud. He still hadn't moved from his spot by the wall. Slowly, he slid down into a sitting position. The red-head needed to do something, and fast.
Yuffie looked at the Highwind from the inside for the first time in amazement. Everything about it was wonderful; from the leather interior to the way it smelled of smoke and cologne, of Cid. As if hearing her thoughts, said man lit up a cigar and took a long drag.
"I hope you're ready, Girlie, 'cause this is gonna be one long-ass fuckin' flight." At the gruff man's words, the young ninja grinned.
"Just try and keep up." And, over the roar of the engine, one could hear the boisterous laugh of Cid Highwind
Vincent looked at the man in front of him, Jackary Salem, with caution. While Linkhouse reminded him lightly of Lieutenant Fair, Salem was leaning more towards Sephiroth, and that was enough to get anyone on edge. Yet, as he watched Tseng and Salem interact, he couldn't help but be amused. They were dancing around each other like the floor was cover in grenades, and, even more amusingly, the SOLDIER was winning. His logic of SOLDIERs needing a leader was winning out over Tseng not feeling like it. The hybrid almost smirked. At least it was entertaining.
Tifa looked at Zack, who was chained to the wall a little ways away from Aeris. While she'd rather have his arms around her than pinned to a wall, there was no guarantee that he had broken free of Cloud's spell yet. She giggled. It would be fine; she had read up on this kind of thing. You either had to kill the caster or destroy the object that the spell was cast on. So, in the end, either Cloud or Aeris would have to die. Her giggle took a higher, less sane pitch as she thought of what Cloud had looked like by the time Genesis had gotten finished with him. Tifa didn't have it in her to end the suffering that he so righteously deserved, but she could certainly get rid of Aeris. Just as soon as Zack would wake up she would do it. Otherwise, how would he know what she was doing for him, for them? Her father would be proud…
She smiled kindly at the memory of her father always telling her to go for what she wanted. If he hadn't been such a hypocrite then maybe he'd still be alive… Tifa could remember him preaching about keeping families together just as easily as she could remember him tearing their little family apart by bringing all of those whores into their home. Perhaps, if he would have practiced what he preached, then she wouldn't have locked him in the cellar and lit the house on fire. Oh well, things had turned out better in the end, and they would get better still. Her hands fiddled with the gun excitedly. All she had to do now was wait for Zack to wake up…
Genesis watched startling green eyes open with a grin. His revenge – his carefully planned revenge – would finally play out. Tonight. Everything would happen tonight. Sephiroth sneered in his direction before struggling against his binds, but he resisted for only a moment before recognizing the material he was fighting against and stopping. Though it was hard to get, Genesis had found the same type of metal that the professors had used to hold them down for experiments before. There was no way that the binds would be broken.
"I see that you've decided to join the world of the living once more." The ginger man paused to take in the General's glare, which managed to make him shudder even with the younger male completely confined, before continuing. "Don't worry, you don't have to stay long; I'll make sure of that." And he would. Soon enough, he would. "You see, I've always a had a problem with degeneration, as I'm sure you know, but I've spent the past few years studying it. I've studied it closely; so close and for so long that it nearly drove me crazy, but I found something." Genesis's grin got wider under his once-friend's watchful gaze, and he began to pace. "I found that the degeneration cells can only live in one being at a time, and, interestingly enough, it enjoys jumping. More specifically, it enjoys jumping through blood. There's one main cell that goes towards any open wound in my body, and if I touch someone else's open wound with my open wound--"
Green eyes widened just a fraction before going back to normal. Sephiroth had caught on. "That's right. I can transfer my… illness into someone else. I've done it before, too. In mere seconds, my body goes back to being twenty-nine, and the person I've transferred it to takes on all of the years that my body has aged that it wasn't supposed to and then some. I've done it before, and could have just left that person to suffer through my fate, but why should they have to do that? They shouldn't. You, however, deserve to know what it feels like to go from thirty to sixty in all of two seconds. Do you know why?" Genesis paused, spinning to face the General, but said man had no expression on his face. Maybe he didn't remember, but Genesis certainly did.
Sunday, December Eighteenth, 3010, Near The Edge Of The ShinRa Cliffs:
Genesis walked towards the cliffs, where Sephiroth, Angeal, and he were going to meet. He made sure to be early, well, earlier than usual because Sephiroth and Angeal – mainly Angeal – were always complaining about his tardiness. He, only ten minutes late, stopped dead in his tracks a few feet away from his friends, startled by the words coming from what he knew to be Angeal's mouth.
"I'm not joking, Sephiroth. This has been going on for a while now." Angeal's voice was sad, pleading Sephiroth to understand. It was what had Genesis ducking behind a stone wall; curious about what they were saying. Whatever response was given was too quiet for even Genesis to hear, forcing him to peek around the corner; just in time to see Sephiroth finish the short shake of his head. A negative response, as per usual. Angeal reached forward, placing his hand on Sephiroth's bicep. It always perplexed Genesis how the silver male was the youngest of them all, but still larger and taller. "Why not? What's so wrong with the idea of us being together?" At those words, Genesis felt his heart come to an abrupt halt. Angeal liked Sephiroth? No, he had to have heard wrong. He was much closer to Angeal than Sephiroth could ever hope to be. So it stood to reason that the ebony-haired man would like him, right? He listened with baited breath, straining his ears to hear Sephiroth's response. Sadly, he could not.
"Tell me then; what would it take for you to return my feelings?" Genesis cringed at Angeal's question. There was no way around it now. Though the younger male's reply was as inaudible as ever, he brushed Angeal's hand off of his arm, and that was enough of an answer for Genesis. Sephiroth had turned his unrequited love down.
"But they are real, Sephiroth! I know it. And I think that I might- I might just love you…" The response was immediate for both Sephiroth and Genesis. Sephiroth immediately placed both of his hands on Angeal's triceps before whispering something and walking away. Genesis immediately felt his heart shatter into a million pieces, despair washing over his very being. The man he loved was in love with someone else. As Sephiroth disappeared in another direction, the redhead's infamous anger flared to life, sending him marching towards a downcast Angeal.
"How could you!?" Angeal looked up sharply at Genesis's broken shout. Grey eyes widened frantically and the slightly younger man went to wipe away his tears, but Genesis felt no sympathy. "I thought we had something – something special!" Genesis's voice rose two octaves, and he shoved Angeal roughly, not noticing how slick the ground beneath them was from the recent frost. Angeal, unprepared for the violent movement, stumbled back.
"Genesis, what are you--" Began Angeal, but he was swiftly interrupted by the redhead.
"But as soon as I let down my shields, let you in, you ditch me for someone else. For Sephiroth!" Again, Angeal's eyes expanded in shock. Before the ebony-haired male could so much as open his mouth to defend himself, Genesis had delivered another harsh push, a push that had the shorter male stumbling over the edge, literally. Though Angeal tried to catch himself, the cold frost had slicked the ground to a nearly unimaginable degree, and any hopes of staying at the top of the cliff was lost. Angeal's body tumbled raggedly down the rocky cliff, catching a few times before coming to a stop a few hundred feet down. Genesis panicked; rushing down a rarely used path which he knew would take him to Angeal. Though the man was breathing, there were no other signs of life. What had just happened!? One minute, they had been talking, the next, Angeal was gone. How? Angeal had been right in front of him and… and… and jumped. Suddenly, it made sense. Angeal, so torn over Sephiroth's rejection, had jumped off of the cliff; tried to commit suicide. And it was all Sephiroth's fault. If the silver-haired male had just accepted Angeal, or simply let him down more gently, then none of that would have happened. Carefully picking up the still form of Angeal, Genesis silently began to do two things: carry his love back up the cliff and plotting his revenge.
Friday, December Twelfth, 3016, Inside The Third Room On The Left:
Genesis snapped out of his reverie with a growl, swiftly looking over Sephiroth once more. There was no way of telling what the General was thinking at the moment, and that killed Genesis. Quickly, his anger getting the best of him when no answer came, Genesis delivered a hard blow to Sephiroth's solar plexus. The silver-haired man didn't so much as flinch. The lack of reaction only managed to fuel his anger, and Genesis lifted Sephiroth as far as the binds would let him by the scruff of the General's shirt. "I asked you a question!"
But instead of the anger which he had spotted when Sephiroth had first awoken, Genesis saw the General's usual blank mask. And then, as if to spite Genesis, the silver-haired man looked away, searching for something behind him. First, the action had his temper skyrocketing, then, Genesis realized just what the younger male was looking for. A grim smile made its way to Genesis's face.
"Looking for the blonde?" This seemed to be the correct question as emerald orbs darted to Genesis. "There's no need to do such a thing. The little red head's had his eyes on the boy for quite a while now. There's no doubt in my mind that their very… busy at the moment. I might bring him to see your body once it's all done though, if you insist…" Genesis smiled as the desired effect of his words was achieved, and Sephiroth growled at him angrily.
Sephiroth felt all of his control slip at the mention of that boy touching, fucking, his Cloud. Rage swirled inside of him like the fiercest hurricane. The General narrowed his eyes dangerously. He knew that Genesis would only feed off of the reaction, but he couldn't help it; Cloud was his. As expected, Genesis smirked. "Does it make you angry to know that your blonde is off fucking someone else?" Again, Sephiroth's anger flared. "Or perhaps he's not. Maybe they haven't done a thing? You'll never know." Suddenly, Sephiroth was calm again. Well, not calm, per say, but he was no longer furious. There was a simple reason for this quick change. While Genesis was a brilliant actor; he had problems with keeping the truth out of his lies. No one had touched Cloud. It was a large relief, but it barely held a flame to the fact that Reno could be fixing that at that very moment. Genesis, seeing that Sephiroth had gotten his temper under control, frowned once more.
"Fine. You don't want to play games, we won't. Let's get this party started." And with those curt, angry words, Genesis sliced his hand.
Angeal, for the first time in he wasn't sure how long, opened his eyes and saw. The sudden blast of color nearly blinded him once more, but, thankfully, didn't. Though his muscles were weaker than he could ever remember them being from not moving in so long, he immediately tried to stand. Something was wrong, and he had to stop it. With only determination fueling his steps, Angeal stumbled through the house, throwing open every door that he found. Two rooms and a closet later, he stumbled upon what he was sure would classify as his worst nightmare. Sephiroth's wrists and ankles were shackled and chained to a spot on the floor so that he couldn't move with a deep cut across his face. That wouldn't be so horrid if it weren't for the blood dripping from Genesis's hand as well. He had been listening throughout the years; knew what would happen if Genesis's wound touched Sephiroth's, and rushed forward.
Slitting his palm on a passing piece of metal from the broken down room which Genesis most likely kept wrecked for that very occasion, Angeal latched his hand onto the red-head's. The effect was immediate. Pain rushed through Angeal as he felt his body taking on an immediate fifty years and then it was replaced with pleasure; he gained the years back. It was a startlingly quick cycle that Angeal refused to stop. It had to be done. Genesis tried to pull back, but Angeal's grip tightened.
"Angeal! What are you- Why are you--" Genesis searched for an answer, still trying frantically to get free, but Angeal wasn't about to let that happen, and cut into the older male's quick questions, watching the constantly changing face all the while.
"This is wrong, Genesis! You're wrong! Sephiroth doesn't deserve to die, you do, and I'm here to make sure that happens!" Angeal's raspy word got quicker along with their degeneration and regeneration swirling between them.
"No! Angeal, stop it! This is Sephiroth's fault! He--" Genesis began speaking quickly, but as the process became more rapid, he slowed down.
"He did nothing. Now, you wanted to live with me, but we both know that won't work, so die with me instead." And with those last words, Angeal felt his breath slip away from him. He would die, to right wrongs and give Sephiroth the life that he deserved; he would die. And so he did. The light faded from his eyes at the same moment that it faded from Genesis's, and Angeal died. He died happily, looking into the eyes of what would never be his and knowing that his silver-haired friend would go on. That was enough for him, as it had always been.
Zack awoke slowly, his head pounding to a violent beat. The first thing he spotted had him forgetting all of the pain.
"Aeris! Oh, thank Gaia!" The relief of seeing her breathing was enough to make him want to cry. Instinctively, he reached forward to comfort her, but found his arms restrained. Swiftly, he began to struggle, yet… He couldn't break free of the constricting metal. Hurriedly, he looked over at his fiancée, assessing her wounds. While there were many, they weren't dire.
"Z-Zack?" Tears welled up in…green eyes? The last he remembered, Aeris's eyes were teal. Zack had no time to ponder that as Aeris choked out a sob. "Zack, you have to get out of here!" Whatever Aeris was going to say next was cut off by another voice; a voice that Zack knew all too well.
"Hello, Zackie! I see that you're finally awake. Don't worry, I waited for you." Her voice was as sweet as molasses and Zack hated it. When he looked over at the woman, his hatred burned anew with fear as his fuel. In her hands lay a gun that Zack was too discombobulated to identify, and it was pointed at Aeris. "I waited so that you would be able to see me kill her; to feel your heart being freed from that half-Incubus's spell. And now you're awake." She finished her speech by standing up and taking a step closer to Aeris. Violet eyes widened. Not Aeris. Anyone but Aeris. Knowing what was about to happen; knowing that there was nothing that he could do to stop it; Zack did the only thing he could. He closed his eyes to prevent himself from seeing his beloved die mere feet away.
Zack's sensitive ears rang when he heard the distinctive sounds of a gun releasing its seed of destruction onto the world and a very feminine scream. The firearm rang out too many times for Zack to count – or perhaps he just didn't want to know how many bullets were being shot into his darling Cetra – and his skin tingled unpleasantly as he felt a warm, thick liquid splash onto his face and clothes. Time seemed to go in slow motion as Zack felt a hot fluid run down his face. He wasn't sure whether it was Aeris's blood or his own tears. He wasn't sure there was a difference. What did it matter if there was? His other half was gone, gone to a world where he now wanted to be. No, it was where he now needed to be. Was a life without Aeris worth living? He didn't think so. Tan lids closed more tightly over violet orbs. He didn't want to see her blood; be reminded of the woman he couldn't save. Losing her was like losing the sun, and nothing could survive without the sun.
Hojo surveyed the bloody scene with calm brown eyes. Red decorated the room with inconsistent dots. The most blood, however, was on the floor, pooling around pretty brown hair and an awkwardly twisted female body. The red made a stark contrast to the dark room, reflecting what little light was in the room and illuminating everything.
"Y-you…" A surprised whisper escaped scared lips and the scientist looked up from the bullet-riddled body of Tifa, whom he'd shot just before she could do the same to Aeris, into the eyes of his daughter. They were a sparkling green, just like that of her mother. If he had needed any more proof that Reeve had been connected with Gaia; that was it. As twins, the two could never achieve their full potential without the other. Violet eyes snapped open, honing first on the large-chested girl's body, then on Hojo's darling daughter, and finally on Hojo himself. The Lieutenant sputtered, trying to find the right words, while Hojo calmly walked over to the dead girl; searching for the keys to unlocking their shackles. When he found them, he headed straight for Aeris. Immediately, the black-tinted-blue-haired man protested.
"Stay away from her, Hojo! Do you hear me!? If you hurt her, I swear, I'll--" The younger man's brash rambling threats were interrupted by Aeris's soft, tired voice as Hojo unlocked her bindings.
"It's alright. He's… You're the man from the church." Aeris's words came out as a statement, but he was sure that it was a question.
"Yes, and a lot more, but we'll have time to talk later, alright?" Aeris gave a weak nod to answer Hojo's inquisition before falling limp into his arms; asleep. Gently, he laid her down. After making sure that she was situated, he walked over and crouched in front of Zack. Locking brown orbs with violet, Hojo finally spoke to Zack.
"If you so much as think about hurting my daughter, I'll kill you." The warning was evident, and after purple orbs darted between Hojo and Aeris a few times, realization seemed to dawn. Zack stared ahead silently while Hojo released him, and, while the good doctor was finishing up, he finally spoke.
"You've got a Hell of a lot of explaining to do." There was no judgment in the man's voice, and for that, Hojo was thankful.
"I'll clear everything up, I promise, but after we save your friend." Zack nodded at Hojo's words before standing up and walking over to Aeris. Hojo watched silently as the SOLDIER tenderly picked up his daughter, giving her a loving smile before heading for the steps. Just as silently, the good doctor followed.
Reno finally looked up from his spot on the floor. He didn't care how powerful Genesis was; there was no way that he could beat the General. With that in mind, he quickly went over to Cloud's lifeless form and picked him up. No matter how light Cloud was, dead weight was dead weight, and Reno struggled with him. After about a minute, he was able to lift the blonde from the ground and place one of the limp hands over his shoulders. Half-carrying, half-dragging his young almost lover to the door, Reno began to hurry. Who knew how long he would have before the General rid himself of Genesis? With that in mind, he quickened his pace, all but stumbling towards the ShinRa cliffs.
Cid snarled at the bastard who refused to let them so much as enter the ShinRa building.
"Were you not fuckin' listening to a damn thing I just said!? We need to get up there or a Gaia-damned war is gonna break out!" Yet, no matter what Cid said, the man wasn't budging. He had half a mind to go back to the Highwind, get his spear, and force his way in, but something in the back of his mind told him that it wouldn't work out too well.
"I'm sorry, but without an appointment, I'm afraid you're just going to have to wait." His tone was polite with a threatening edge. Who the fuck did this guy think he was!? No one threatened Cid Highwind! Just as Cid was about to tell the man exactly what he thought of "making an appointment," two slim arms wrapped themselves around his left bicep.
"I'm so sorry about him. We'll go call in, alright?" Without waiting for a response, Yuffie dragged a cursing Cid away from the man and behind an empty trash bin. "We don't have time to argue with him, Cid. We've got to get in there now." Her voice was urgent, and Cid, still in a bad mood, sneered at her.
"And how are we supposed to pull that shit off, huh? We're totally fuckin' screwed if we can't get past that bitch. If ya haven't noticed, Girlie, he's blockin' off the only door." At Cid's biting words, Yuffie grinned. She hadn't spent the past twelve years of her life training with the Wutai ninjas for nothing. Immediately, she set to work teaching Cid what may possibly be the most important lesson of his life: how to scale walls. It took him only a few minutes for Cid to catch on, and they were climbing in no time. They made it all the way to the twenty-seventh floor before being spotted and forced to flee to the inside of the building. Yuffie growled, keeping her breath even so that she wouldn't tire out. They still had thirty-three more floors to go, and battles to fight on the way there. She could only hope that the General wasn't in.
They made it all the way to the fifty-ninth floor before being cut off by two SOLDIERs and two Turks. The tallest of them, a Turk with brown hair, questioned them first.
"Is there any particular reason you decided to break into the ShinRa headquarters?" His voice had a bored tone to it, and the man had a lazy air about him, but Yuffie wasn't fooled. He was dangerous.
"To fuckin' stop a damned war! Why can't anybody just fuckin' listen for once!? Gaia damn it!" Cid's outburst almost brought a smile to her face, but she knew that they weren't out of the woods just yet. With the way things were looking, she wasn't sure if they ever would be.
"Am I to understand that my daughter has not yet been found?" The Emperor's tone showed none of the exhaustion that he felt. It was not the ShinRa heir who answered him, but a man standing beside of him.
"That is correct." The young man's tone was hard, but failed to hide everything. Whatever was happening to Yuffie at the moment wasn't good. His daughter would never let a war take place over her. In his mind, he knew that it was wrong to begin a war over something that they had no control over, but it had to be done. Emperor Kisaragi would find his daughter even if he had to tear apart an entire country to do it.
Rufus jumped when he heard the door behind him slam open. He spun on the spot to see the cause of the disturbance and found a panting but determined Yuffie Kisaragi along with another man that he would recognize even after years of not seeing him.
"Oh, Gaia, Father told me that you had died! Where have you been all of this time!? Why didn't you call!?" Rufus's words were rushed and excited, as he gripped his elder brother. He didn't know how Cid was still alive, but he was, and that was all that mattered. As soon as his questions were finished, he noticed that the princess was no longer beside of them.
"Father! I'm sorry that I ran away, but I had to! Just like you have to stop this war!" Her words were cut off by the Emperor's stern voice.
"Yuffie, the contract has been made. You must marry--" This time, it was the daughter who interrupted, and Rufus finally let go of his brother to look at the scene going on behind them.
"A ShinRa male. And I did." Swiftly, she held up herleft hand; showing off a beautiful diamond ring. Instantly, the old ruler's eyes darted over to Cid and then down to his left hand, which also had a ring. The man was as speechless as Rufus. Immediately, Rufus realized what that meant for him. Azure eyes darted towards chocolate brown, and Reeve nodded. He no longer had to be wedded to Yuffie. Reeve and he could… The thought made him want to start crying. Rufus hugged Cid harder. Reeve was right; everything turned out fine in the end. In the midst of his happiness, he missed the fact that it had begun to rain.
Tseng held back a smirk. He had a feeling that she was the real deal, and he had been in no mood to deal with a war, so letting them past had been no weight on his conscience. Slowly, he laid down his royal flush, listening to Linkhouse groan and throw down his cards down before digging out his wallet with a mental grin. They had been playing all day from the warm depths of Sephiroth's office. Usually, when a game took place in the General's office, the General was playing, and Tseng always lost when that happened. So he would enjoy his winning streak in his place of infinite losses with pleasure while he could. Swiftly, Vincent dealt them all another hand, preferring to watch rather than play. They ignored the pounding rain outside, opting to concentrate on the game. After all, it was just a storm.
Sephiroth didn't ask questions when he saw Hojo walk in with Aeris and Zack. He didn't panic or sneer or even really register that it was Hojo who had walked in. Now wasn't the time for such things. If Zackary trusted the man, even if just for this short period of time, then he did too. As quickly as Hojo could unlock him, Sephiroth was up and out the door. Something told him that Cloud was out there; out there in the freezing rain with the obsessed redhead. The General barely noticed when Zack handed the Cetra to Hojo and told him to get her to a doctor. He just kept running. Soon enough, Zack was beside of him, running as fast as he could to keep up with the General. They didn't speak; they didn't need to. Minutes passed endlessly, threading through the General's mind at a non-stop rate. What if he was too late? Cold water droplets pounded onto his skin, telling him to slow down, but he refused. The ground became slick beneath his feet, destroying his sense of balance.
After what seemed like – and for all Sephiroth knew could have been – forever, he spotted Reno, dragging Cloud towards the ShinRa cliffs. He ran faster. Zackary was left behind in his rush to get to Cloud. The redhead didn't even see him coming. A swift punch was delivered to Reno, sending both him and Cloud, who he refused to let go of, sprawling closer to the edge. The rain pounded so hard that Sephiroth, even with his mako-enhancements couldn't see two feet in front of him. It pounded against his skin harshly, and the General wasn't sure whether he was hearing the water going wild beneath them or the wind trying to defy gravity and rip the very trees from the ground where they sat. Reno stumbled away, closer and closer to the edge; to the roaring waters beneath him. Sephiroth saw the fear in his smoky green eyes, and relished it. Without a second thought, he unsheathed Masamune. Reno would die for touching what was his. With a feral growl escaping his lips, the General swung. It was a fierce blow that cracked the earth which it struck.
Surely, it would have killed Reno had it hit him, but it hadn't. No, the Cadet had scrambled backwards, at the last possible moment, pushing himself into Cloud. Cloud, whose lifeless form had been lying uselessly behind Reno, was sent tumbling over the edge of the ShinRa Cliffs and into the ruthless waters raging below. Sephiroth didn't have time to think. He dropped Masamune and dived; dived hundreds of feet down into the uncaring waters of an enraged ocean. Losing Cloud was not an option. Not again.
Sephiroth felt the waters pushing him harshly around, but he forced his way through. He couldn't find Cloud. Feeling his breath running out, Sephiroth pressed towards the surface. He would get oxygen and then keep looking. And unexpected wave crashed violently into him, pushing him deeper into the cold, dark waters and knocking what little air he had left out of him. Water instantly tried to take its place. He choked in a gasp, gagging as the water rushed down his throat and into his lungs. It never stopped pushing against him, throwing him around in the waters so cold that Sephiroth wasn't sure if his limbs were really even there. As Cloud flashed through his mind, the General fought harder to reach the surface. It was a futile attempt as the cold fury of the storm made the dark waters rage on, pushing him farther and farther into the black abyss of the water. He was pushed so far down that the storm fury could no longer reach him; the waters calm, but even colder than before. It didn't matter. Sephiroth wasn't struggling anymore. And so his body sank downwards; oblivious to the dark nothingness of the world around him.
Zack had watched the scene play out in front of him with unmasked horror; knowing that any help he had to offer would only get in the way. Slowly, he bent over to pick up Masamune. No hesitation was made as the Lieutenant finished what his superior had started and sent the overly large sword through Reno. He did that only once as once was all it took. Reno's heart gave out immediately after being hit, and though Zack was tempted to kick it over the edge, he decided against it. The body wasn't his to dispose of. Violet eyes looked through the haze of rain for only a moment before turning around. Sephiroth wouldn't want someone to look for him, so Zack wouldn't look. Instead, he would go back to the house, retrieve what he was sure was Angeal's body, and head back to Midgar.
Sephiroth opened his eyes but saw nothing. It was a cold blackness that surrounded him; the kind of chilling dark that could only be found at the bottom of the ocean, where the sun never ventured far enough to reach. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he did. All thoughts vanished as he saw Cloud, floating in the same dark abyss, his hair shining dully through the gloom. Sephiroth swiftly began to swim towards him, but was forced to stop mere feet away; forced to stop by a beautiful woman suddenly crouching behind Cloud. Her eyes were no color and every color at once – like the sun – and they were glaring fiercely at the General while she gathered his blonde up in her arms. Without delay, Sephiroth reached for Masamune, but his hand grasped at empty water. Faintly, he wondered why he didn't need to breath, but passed it off as the woman/creature's doing.
He opened his mouth to shout at her, plead with her, say something, but no words came out. He couldn't speak. It appeared he didn't need to as the majestic being separating Cloud from him spoke out loud and clear into his mind.
"Mine. ULTIMATE. Mine. Back to Lifestream. Time. ULTIMATE." Sephiroth knew from Cloud's description of her voice and peculiarities that this was the embodied form of Gaia, herself. He glared right into her otherworldly eyes. She wanted to take Cloud back to the Lifestream; away from him. She wanted to kill Cloud. But she was wrong. Cloud was his. It became apparent that though he couldn't talk, she could hear him.
"Mine! Time. Mine. Back to Lifestream. Time. Back to Lifestream." It seemed that she wasn't happy with Sephiroth claiming that Cloud belonged to him and not her, and he growled before trying to take a step closer. Suddenly, she was right in front of him, forcing him to stare endlessly into her eyes; eyes that held the souls of the lost. They were burning flames of agony and pleasure that had Sephiroth tearing himself apart. Still, she got closer, testing his strengths and weaknesses, forcing herself into his soul. Faintly, he felt soft flesh touch his own. It was deathly cold, breaking Sephiroth free of her spell; away from her. Without realizing he was doing so, Sephiroth made a grab for Cloud. Cloud, who had felt frozen to the General even in the coldest crevices of the ocean. His strong arms closed around nothing, and she was gone once more; backed away to make sure that he couldn't steal Cloud from her. Swiftly, he was brought to a startling realization. He couldn't beat her. If she wanted Cloud then there was nothing he could do about it. Cold chills curled around his heart at the thought of spending the rest of his days without the sweet blonde. If she was going to take Cloud; she would have to take Sephiroth as well.
"Not time. Silver Threat. Not time. Stay. Silver Threat. Stay. Not time." Her words froze Sephiroth. She wouldn't take him. Gaia was going to leave him to suffer the world alone because it wasn't his time. That failed to make sense in Sephiroth's mind. How could it possibly not be time to take his life? Cloud was his life. If she killed Cloud, then she would be killing him. He would fall apart without Cloud, and Cloud would fall apart without him. They were one. Green eyes looked up, meeting the endless pools of colorless color from what could either have been inches or worlds away. They stared at him, assessing him.
"One life." That was all she said. It was all she needed to say. Slowly, she released Cloud, allowing him to float over to Sephiroth. The time it took for the blonde to reach the General felt like an eternity, but he didn't dare move, just in case she decided to take him back. As soon as their skin touched, he felt Cloud's lack of pulse; knew that the blonde was dead; knew that the life force no longer resided in his blonde. Somehow though, he also knew that the sould had not yet been taken. That's what Gaia had been there for. She wanted to personally pick up the soul of her ULTIMATE. The General wasn't sure how he knew that, but he did. Abruptly, Sephiroth felt his own life force being ripped from his very being before something twisted, tangled, and tied it around both Cloud and him; slowly bringing the blonde back to life. They would share the same life span. When Cloud would die, Sephiroth would die as well, and the General was fine with that because Cloud was his life. He always had been, even if neither of them had known it.
Before he could blink, the waves swallowed him up once more, but this time, he wasn't alone. Sephiroth's hands gripped tightly at Cloud, trying desperately to keep the blonde with him against the wishes of the waters. And then they were on the shore. The deep, dark, freezing waters had tossed them ashore, allowing Sephiroth to feel the warm sand beneath him and, more importantly, the warm body in his arms. Cloud's chest rose and fell gently, bringing a smile to the General's face. The rain that had fallen so harshly before was now nothing more than a warm, light drizzle. Sephiroth took his time picking up Cloud, making sure that the blonde's body – which held none of the fresh wounds or bruises that it had before falling into the water – was completely comfortable before beginning the long trek back to Midgar. They had time to spare.
Violet eyes widened as Sephiroth walked into the infirmary dripping wet and cradling Cloud like the world's most precious jewel. Sephiroth looked up from his blonde and Zack withheld a gasp. For the first time ever, Sephiroth's emerald eyes were completely open. They held nothing but care for Cloud, and though the Lieutenant was sure that the walls would be back up by tomorrow; they were down now. Slowly, as the General situated Cloud on the bed next to Aeris's, Zack greeted him.
"Hey." Zack's words were soft, and Sephiroth looked up from his blonde once more. They could do nothing but stare at each other for a moment before Sephiroth nodded, a small smile coming to his face. Zack grinned. Everything would be fine.
Two Weeks Later:
Aeris walked down the aisle with a happy smile on her face. She quietly leaned into her father, overjoyed at actually having a father. Though she still wasn't sure how she had managed to land such a good guy, she wasn't complaining. With a kiss to her cheek, Hojo separated from her. The priest began reading, but Aeris wasn't listening, too lost in the pools of violet to do anything but stare lovingly. There were only two words which she did hear, and they came from Zack's mouth.
"I do." His grin was blinding, and when the preacher paused for a second time, she took it as her cue to respond.
"I do." With that said, Zack snatched her around waist before pulling her in for a kiss. She couldn't have asked for a more perfect wedding if she tried.
Rufus looked at the newlyweds with longing blue eyes.
"We're going to do that soon, too, right?" He turned his head to face Reeve, who was looking thoughtfully at the Lieutenant. Reeve didn't answer. "Hey, we're getting married soon, aren't we?" Rufus pushed Reeve slightly when no response was put forth. Chocolate brown eyes looked down into azure, and, finally, Reeve replied.
"If we haven't tied the knot by next month, you can kill me." His voice held a bored seriousness that had Rufus smiling and leaning back into his chest.
"I'll keep that in mind."Rufus's retort was met with a kiss.
Cid looked around the small wedding with a frown. They had stayed for the past two weeks so that he could catch up with his brother, and also because of a crious blonde that had told them quite a story. It was the Lieutenant himself that had invited the pilot and his little princess after hearing that they had been friends with Cloud in a past life. He guessed that he liked the man, but not as much as the blonde. Still, that wasn't what was bothering him. As they walked to the dinner tables, Cid bent down slightly and asked Yuffie a serious question.
"You don't mind not havin' a wedding like this, right?" Cid hoped to Gaia that she didn't mind. He didn't have anything to offer but his heart and that killed him. She looked at him incredulously.
"You're fucking kidding me, right? Of course I don't mind! In fact, if I could do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing!" Her voice matched her eyes in their honest intensity, and Cid's grin was back at full force. Silently, he thanked Gaia.
Vincent seated himself quietly, glancing over at his lover when Tseng put forth an inquisition.
"You don't want to get married, do you?" Tseng's voice was as blank as his face and Vincent made sure that he mirrored that.
"Not in a million years." His response was enough to make Tseng glance over at him, locking their eyes. Silently, they shared a small, sincere smile. They didn't need a priest to tell them what they had together was real.
Sephiroth stood quietly, tapping his spoon against his wine glass to get everyone's attention. Of course, that was hardly needed. His tall, 6'3 frame and overpowering air had everyone turned his way before he had finished standing up. The fact that he was wearing a form-fitting black tuxedo helped as well. He had practiced this a thousand times, and discussed it with Zackary to make sure that it was alright. His Second-in-Command had agreed wholeheartedly. Once Sephiroth was sure all eyes were on him, he began to speak.
"Now, we all know that this is Zackary's evening, but I find it much too stressful to spend an entire day concentrating solely on Zackary, so I'm going to cut that short." He turned to face Cloud, who was dawned in a white tux on Sephiroth's request. The General had nearly taken Cloud in the pews when he first saw the white on the blonde. Blue eyes gazed up at him curiously, and Sephiroth motioned for him to stand. He did.
"A few weeks ago, you asked me why, if I hated you in a past life, how I could possibly love you now. I didn't have an answer back then. I do now. I love you because of your presence. Because every time you walk into the same room as me, my day brightens. And I hated you because of your presence. Because every time you walked out of the room my day would tumble down hill, and I couldn't figure out why. I love you because every moment that I see you, you're all I can think about. I hated you because every moment that I couldn't see you, you were all I could think about. I love you because of your eyes. Because that's where the sun rises and sets. And I hated you because of your eyes. Because I knew that the sun would never rise and set for me and only me. I love you because of your hands and how they can do anything and everything that everyone else can and can't do. And I hated your hands because they just looked wrong to me. They still do."
With graceful ease, Sephiroth slid onto one knee and took a small velvet box out of his pocket. Cloud gasped.
"Cloud Strife, would you mind making me the happiest man in the world?" And he opened the box to reveal a gold band with two diamonds on the farthest edge, two emeralds nearer to the middle, and one sapphire decorating the center of the ring, topping it off beautifully. The General didn't have time to blink before receiving an armful of Cloud.
"Yes! Yes, of course I will! When!?" Cloud's grip on Sephiroth loosened so that he could pull back and look straight at the older man. Sephiroth smiled.
"That depends." He said offhandedly, waiting for Cloud to take the bait. Hios blonde didn't disappoint.
"Depends on what?" Cloud's soft voice was like music to the General's ears, and Sephiroth looked right into those beautiful sapphires that Cloud called eyes before responding.
"Is the priest still here?" The priest was, indeed, still there.