Author's Note: First, I'd like to thank everyone who's reviewed. It really does make an author's day to know that her work's being loved. Also, just a heads up about this chapter: I'm trying to flesh out the characters a bit. I'm interested in knowing how you think I did with it. It's something I'm working on.
Disclaimer: Characters and settings belong to Square Enix.
Rating: T for now, but will go up.
Worth It All
Sephiroth wasn't quite sure how Zack always seemed to manage to con him into doing the most outlandish things. Once, Zackary had finagled him into wearing a bright pink button up to work. The tall man still couldn't remember what the brunette had done or said to get him into the horrid looking shirt, but he'd ended up wearing it all day nonetheless.
And today, he'd put together a full scale SOLDIER search for a little blonde cadet when he hadn't even had a moment's rest. Zack, Sephiroth knew, needed to take it easy with the way the mission they'd been on had ended up panning out with an admittedly difficult battle. Even though Zack was surely in pain from the barely Cured injuries he'd sustained, the brunette hadn't taken a break in looking along with everyone else.
To top it all of, Sephiroth was now being dragged through the slums by the frantic SOLDIER First Class. The brunette had suddenly snatched his hand and attached himself like a leach. The silver haired general hadn't tried too hard to get his hand back though. In truth, he didn't care all that much over the bizarre way that this day was currently shaping out to be. He was too tired. Besides, if you hung around a particular SOLDIER First Class long enough, it was just something that you got used to.
The silver haired man would admit to himself that he was anxious to find the young blonde too. Certainly not as much as Zack, but the general found himself wanting to find him safe and sound anyway. He supposed it had something to do with the mystery that as of late seemed to be growing around Cadet Cloud Strife. Sephiroth wanted to know how such innocence could be shattered by a nightmare into the look of a man who had been through too much. Sephiroth wanted to know what would cause a young man to run from the aid of skilled professionals after suffering seizures. Sephiroth wanted to know why he couldn't let one Cloud Strife go.
There was just something about the young cadet that Sephiroth couldn't get out of his head. In all honesty, the silver haired man couldn't remember when a single person had captured his attention so well. The worst part of it was that Sephiroth couldn't even put a finger on the "why." There was just something about the young man that made the tall general want to know him. Maybe it was the innocence or the pained looks dredged up by nightmares. In the end, the general of Shinra Inc found himself wanting to understand this strange little creature that Zack taken to.
Somehow, the silver haired man wanted to blame his good friend. From all of his ramblings, Sephiroth never would have guessed that the blonde had suffered enough to have nightmares like the ones he'd witnessed in the infirmary. He also would not have thought Cloud to be someone so innocent and pure in appearance. If Zack hadn't introduced Cloud into his life, then Sephiroth wouldn't have this puzzle on his hands—a puzzle concerning the apparent insanity and illness that had sprung up over night, so to speak, in an otherwise healthy youth. To the tall silver haired man, a puzzle like Cloud Strife was something he had to figure out.
Stifling the sigh that wanted to escape, the taller man focused on just where the fumbling brunette was taking him. It appeared to be a dilapidated building, wooden and tall. The building had large double doors that were carved with delicate images depicting what he supposed was the Cetra and the Lifestream eons ago. There were stained glass windows, some with smashed out panes, that caught the ugly light of Midgar and somehow made it more aesthetic. It was a church, Sephiroth realized. An old church in the middle of the slums.
Zack released his hand, coming to an abrupt stop. Sephiroth had to take a quick step to the side to avoid running into the other man. Giving the First Class a questioning look, the silver haired general noticed that Zack was focused on something else. Flicking his glowing emerald eyes back to the church, he noticed the slight figure that had just emerged. There was no mistaking the shock of spiky golden hair or the sapphire pools. Cloud Strife had just walked out of this rundown church, his hand still on the edge of the door.
Seeing as Zack didn't seem like he'd be making a move towards the cadet, Sephiroth took it upon himself and began to approach the young man.
Cloud sucked in a sharp breath. It was Sephiroth, alive and seemingly sane if Zack's company was anything to go by. His sharp green eyes were just as Cloud always remembered them to be in his dreams—slitted like a cat's and glowing ever so slightly. His long silver hair shifted with step that used feline grace and predatory prowess.
The blonde could remember a time when the general had been his idol, the man that he wanted to be and stand beside. It had been his goal upon joining up with the military. Those days seemed so long ago, and maybe they were, but right now, they were the present. That thought was just a bit frightening to Cloud. The slight cadet didn't know if the two of them had ever had a conversation before the mission that ended it all. This was new ground, ground that felt more like quicksand. Cloud's heart beat faster with every step Sephiroth took.
"You've worried you dear mother, little chocobo." What? What did Sephiroth—the smooth voiced general who was feared by millions—just say to him? Cloud could only blink and look blankly up into the depths of emerald holding him in place.
"Oi!" Zack bellowed, snapping out of whatever had kept him from running up to the youth like Cloud had anticipated. "He's my chocobo!" The brunette rushed up and wrapped his arms around the blonde, squeezing tightly.
"And I'm a good mommy-brother to my little Spiky," the SOLDIER First Class continued, sticking his tongue out.
"And that's how you lost him?" Sephiroth cocked an elegant silver eyebrow.
"Didn't loose him. He ran away."
"And that's so much better?" the general gave a mock sigh before looking back at the slight cadet and giving a brief smile.
Cloud had to have been in some alter universe or something, not the past. There was just no way that Sephiroth, as in the Sephiroth, was teasing Zack. It just wasn't possible. Sephiroth had a sense of humor? And Sephiroth had smiled at him! This wasn't happening; it just couldn't be, could it?
"I'm not a chocobo," Cloud was horrified to hear himself say. Why was he finding himself just letting words slip right out of his mouth like that? It wasn't like him.
The silver haired man smirked. "Is that so, Cadet?" His voice was as rich and smooth. Not full of rage and insanity like before. There was playful warmth to it. And it told him that the tall man was teasing. Cloud supposed the open quality was because he was at ease with Zack and an ill and obviously not quite all there cadet. It was a pleasant change to what he was used to, Cloud realized.
"Come on, my Spiky. Gotta get you back to those crazy nurses. Swear they were going nuts over their sweetheart going missing. Blamed it all on me, of course." Zack steered him away from Aerith's church while chattering away. It felt so normal. It was something that Cloud had missed so terribly about Zack—his ability to calm the blonde down during any situation.
Cloud stumbled a step or two, trying to keep his tired legs up with Zack's longer stride. He'd had a long day, walked pretty far and this body was just exhausted. Cloud thought, sleepily, maybe it had something to do with his spirit coming back in time or whatever Gaia had done to him.
"Zackary," Sephiroth's rich voice said.
"What?" asked the SOLDIER First Class, having been interrupted in telling Cloud about the search that they'd put together.
Blue eyes noticed a hand gesturing towards him a split second before his lids closed and he couldn't find the desire to open them back up.
"Oh," came Zack's voice from beside him. "Um, I'm still recovering from the mission and all…"
Cloud felt Zack move away and he tried to reach out. His tired limbs did little more that fumble with thin air before falling back to his sides. Then, warm hands took a hold of him and he was picked up, cradled against a broad muscled chest.
The smell of leather, sweat and a musky undertone lulled Cloud into a deep and restful sleep.
Zack smiled to himself, a huge face splitting grin. Sephiroth was holding Cloud like he'd break any second, excuse him if he thought it was just a teensy bit funny. After all, it wasn't everyday that the famed general was seen carrying around a chocobo boy, now was it?
When he'd seen Cloud come out of the church, Zack's heart had stopped its frantic beating and slowed down. It was such a relief to see him all in one piece and seemingly fine. Well, as fine as a kid can be after having unexplained seizures. Still, Zack couldn't help but embrace the calm feeling that overcame him at the sight of the blonde. Everything was going to be fine.
And the look on Seph's face. It was different and not something that Zack was used to seeing on the mostly serious general. He'd seemed so content. The SOLDIER First Class realized suddenly, that the other man had been worried too. His shoulders and muscles had relaxed at seeing the young blonde unharmed. Zack stifled a giggle. And now Sephiroth was holding that little blondie. He wasn't sure what was going on with the silver haired man, but far be it from him to stop him—so long as Zack supervised of course.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Zack continued to lead the way back to the train station. He'd already used Seph's PHS to let the other SOLDIERs know that the little chocobo had been found and the three of them were headed back. It hadn't taken long for the two warriors to fall into a rather peaceful silence.
Now that his panic was gone, the brunette thought back to the gorgeous young woman who'd saved the day. Aerith. Zack smirked. He'd be making a return trip to the slums, that was for sure. If he had any chance of catching that little beauty again, he'd happily come everyday.
Nodding to himself, Zack chanced a quick glance at Sephiroth with his precious bundle of Cloud and couldn't imagine how this day could end any better.
Author's Note: Um…I'm pretty sure by now that you all know that I'd love to hear your thoughts with a lovely review.