Chapter 10

Disclaimer- I still own absolutely nothing and make zero profit from any of my writing endeavors.

These are the last few unrelated drabbles I wanted to include under this category.


Take my picture- It's too bright. The light practically burns his sensitive eyes and he half-heartedly wishes he'd brought a pair of sunglasses along with him. He winces as flash after dazzling flash continues to appear, the light bouncing off the smooth white walls in all the wrong ways. He wonders what the final product will look like, whether there'll be any of the subject matter at all, or just one, big, resounding ball of white.

Cloud shakes his head, he's being picky again. Tifa would behead him if he got into an argument with any of her coworkers before he had even started working there. Leaning back awkwardly, he lets out a small puff of air, trying to calm his frayed nerves. He had been asked to wait here over half an hour ago. Digging his cellphone out of his pocket, he hurriedly texts Tifa, asking her if he had been forgotten.

His finger hits the send button when a deep voice summons him. "Cloud Strife?" Looking up, he's met by what has to be the most casually dressed person here. With a pair of blue jeans and a dark sweater, he still manages to command an air of respect and elegance. Smiling, the man extends a well-manicured hand towards Cloud who scrambles to his feet. "It's nice to finally meet you. My name is Reeve Tuesti; I'm in charge of artistic coordination. I must say, I thought you would be much older, your portfolio was extremely impressive".

Cloud flushes, not knowing what to do with the compliment, because it's Reeve Tuesti and even a moron like him knows who that is. Cloud's always loved photography, something about the way a memory could be preserved made the blood rush through his veins in a way nothing else could. He had started out with photos of flowers, people in his small hometown (the girls always wanted a photographer) and then moved on to sceneries. Most of his work had been odd jobs, commissions and freelancing. That is, until Tifa submitted some of his work to her boss.

Struggling to keep up with Reeve, he swerved around harried models, grumpy staff and imposing equipment. For the most part, people chose to either ignore him or shoot him dirty looks. Cloud was an intruder in their coven of fashion.

His first model looked eccentric. Cloud had never really dealt with high-end fashion before. In the back of his mind, he wonders if this is what fashion is all about. The model's wearing an atrociously bright red trench coat and the tightest pair of brown jeans that Cloud has ever seen and he bounces up to the set. Genesis, as Cloud learns is the man's name, looks faintly bemused when he hears Cloud's the photographer. Nevertheless, he good naturedly smiles at the blond, wishes him good luck and strides over to makeup where he proceeds to engage in an animated conversation with a dark-haired man. Cloud winces when he almost knocks the mascara bottle out of the make-up artist's hands. He'll be working with this guy?

Almost as though he can feel Cloud's gaze, Genesis' eyes move in the mirror, narrowing when they land on Cloud and a smirk graces his lips. He winks lazily and Cloud feels an unfamiliar heat coil low in his stomach. He busies himself with setting up his camera.

A week later, he's back at the same building. This time, he's not as intimidated. Reeve had loved his work and he's on probation now. A few more successful photo shoots and he might have a permanent place in the company.

"The Goddess is not something to snigger about Zackary Fair! Great are her mysteries and her benevolence has no limit."

Cloud's back stiffened. That voice.

A wry grin on his face, he worries at the strap of his camera bag. Genesis as it turned out, was a fantastic model. Once he got in front of the camera, he was an entirely new person. Someone who pouted and leered and smirked in just the right way. It had nearly driven Cloud crazy, because it was positively divine photographing Genesis. It was art at its finest, and there was something else as well.

At the end of the shoot, after the final photo, Genesis hadn't moved off set. Instead he had kept his gaze fixed on Cloud and when the flustered blond had caught his eye, the model had licked his lips.

Jumping to his feet, he was fully prepared to run and hide when a pale hand landed on his shoulder. "Cloud," an all too familiar voice purred in his ear, "You're early."

Shrugging his shoulders nervously he muttered, "Well, Mr. Tuesti never told me who I was assigned to, so I thought…" He was cut off by Genesis' laughter. The man had a nice laugh, he thought dazedly. "I thought you knew, you've been assigned to me! Which is wonderful, because that last shoot was fantastic. Where did you work before, you must have had some brilliant mentors."

"Actually," he said shyly, "I'm just freelancing now. I worked at home and taught myself I guess."

"That's very impressive Cloud. I can definitely see why Reeve wants to hire you. Talent like yours would be a crime to waste. Speaking of wasting, have you eaten? Come on, it's lunch time, my treat!" Cloud doesn't really have much of a say in the matter as he's almost dragged off to a small café across the street, Genesis' arm snaked around his waist.

Oddly enough, Cloud muses as he leans into Genesis' side, he's quite happy with the situation.

Across the Great Divide- Getting drunk was an awful idea. No, scratch that, getting drunk and then losing the keys to your room was an awful idea. But nevertheless, that was exactly what Cloud had proceeded to do, despite the fact he couldn't hold his alcohol. It had been a small party, to celebrate the end of the semester, open to everyone, including book worms like Cloud. So he had sauntered over to the old garden shed where the illicit gathering was being conducted and then proceeded to stick to the wall through the entire evening. There was no one in the room that he'd want to befriend, no one who was sober enough to remember him in the morning.

On a whim, he had picked up a glass of punch and sipped it, hoping the alcohol would take the edge off. Oh and it had, three glasses later and he was this close to making his way to the shadier part of the venue and doing Gaia knows what. Thankfully, what shred of common sense had not been dulled with the alcohol screamed at him to leave. Stumbling up the long winding staircases, he had only stopped once to pet the bright blue Moogle he could have sworn he had seen.

His feet carried him, almost on autopilot back to his room, and he thought longingly of his bed. Sleep sounded wonderful right now. Now all he needed were his keys, where were they? Oh, that's right. They were in his wallet, which he had kept safely in his desk drawer because who knew the people who came to these parties. Oh. Oh

"Shit." He cursed again. Of course he could always just bang on the door and hope his roommate would let him in. But there was a greater chance that Sephiroth would slice his head off or something. Tall and imposing, the man rarely smiled; at best you'd get an amused smirk out of him. He was an absolute genius though, and was head of the student council. Sephiroth was popular. He had a fixed group of friends and a contingent of admirers, more than one of whom had tried to ambush Cloud for details on their idol.

Not that any of them had a chance though. Sephiroth wasn't interested in girls. It was strange what the man felt comfortable sharing with him. Well, it was strange until Sephiroth had asked him out to lunch. Cloud had then proceeded to drop his coffee while falling off his chair and of course that landed on his keyboard and he'd spent a week without his laptop and a month's worth of his allowance he got from college to fix it. He wasn't really sure that he wanted to date Sephiroth, they didn't seem to have any common interests, they never really saw each other outside of their room and Sephiroth had never pursued the topic after that. In Cloud's mind, it was just a silly bet that had gone wrong.

Cloud was the co-editor of their college paper. What that meant was he got to listen to a bunch of whiny students argue about why their column should be included in the newspaper.

Maybe he could double back and sleep in someone else's room? Except, he wasn't that great at making friends. The only two people he had managed to befriend were Aerith and Tifa and there was no way he was going to the girls' dorm now.

"Are you going to come inside or do you plan to spend the remainder of the evening staring at the wall?" His head shot up at the sound of his irritated roommate's voice. He looked like he had woken up from a terribly deep sleep.

"I could hear you thinking from here! And where were you anyway?" His eyes widened as Cloud swayed slightly trying to organize his thoughts, "You went to that party? Every time I think you can't get any more stupid. Come on."

The next morning, Cloud wakes up with a massive headache and it feels like something has died in his throat. He rolls over and groans into the pillow, because, why was the world so loud? Eventually though, he makes it to the bathroom and brushes his teeth. Washing up, he feels considerably less disgusting, though his headache is still there. By the time he stumbles into the living area, Sephiroth has already left but Cloud notices that the curtains are drawn to keep the extra light out. There's a flask of tea on the table and a note under it, telling Cloud that if he plans to do something this stupid, to please carry his phone with him. There's a line at the bottom, which looks like it was scribbled in haste telling Cloud there's a bag of animal crackers in case he gets hungry.

Tifa raised her eyebrows, "He bought you animal crackers. That's actually rather sweet." He hums noncommittally, munching on a zebra's head. "Where's Aerith?"

"I'm not really sure; I think she said something about meeting up with her mentor for some paper. Don't try and change the topic though. You still haven't explained why you turned down Sephiroth in the first place."

He rolls his eyes and digs out a giraffe, "Tifa, we've been through this. He doesn't like me, however hot I may think he is, there's nothing really beyond that." He's barely finished his sentence when his phone vibrates. Sliding it out of his pocket, his eyebrows raise. It's Sephiroth.

His roommate has never, ever texted him before, barring once when he'd left an important essay in the room and needed Cloud to pick it up for him. Cloud didn't even know he still had his number.

How are you feeling? The text reads. Fumbling, he types back, A lot better, the crackers really did the trick! Thank you. He adds a smiley for an added effect. Then he realizes something and types, How'd you know I liked that kind?

It's less than a minute before he gets a reply. You mentioned it once, along with the fact you can't stomach radishes and like soupy noodles. Cloud flushes and replies, Oh. Wow. I didn't really think you were listening.

Awkward.

A muffled giggle makes him belatedly realize that Tifa is still very much there. "You're worse than a teenage girl and her first crush. I'm not sure whether this is sweet or just plain disturbing."

He sticks his tongue out at her and checks his phone again. Of course I was listening, why wouldn't I be?

It's two days later when Cloud runs into Sephiroth in the hallway. Literally runs into him, he's late for a class and slams into his roommate. He barely has time to stutter a, "Sorry", before he's off again.

Lunch is going to be a real treat, he supposes, both Tifa and Aerith are busy today and he can't skip lunch because he has a three hour lab after that, and it's organic chemistry which means he'll be on his feet for three hours.

Holding his tray, he looks around for an empty table when he hears an unfamiliar voice call out his name. Glancing to his right, he sees Zack, who's on the football team, waving at him. Was he actually calling Cloud? Any doubts he might have had are dispelled when Zack hollers his name out. Cloud moves towards them, mainly to keep Zack from shouting again, but he notes that Sephiroth too looks faintly embarrassed.

He gingerly sits next to Sephiroth who nods at him. "Ignore Zack. Someone gave him sugar." Smiling nervously, Cloud meets all of Sephiroth's friends and inwardly gapes at the fact that even though they're popular, they're actually quite nice. Most of them are more than bizarre, but they're really friendly and welcoming and not at all like what he had expected.

"Where are Aerith and Tifa?" Sephiroth enquires softly. "Uhm, Tifa had kickboxing practice because they have a tournament next week and Aerith is in the botany lab still." They make small talk, about their homes, families, pets (Wait, so you didn't set your pet llama on fire in middle school? Cloud, I never had a llama. Why would I have a llama?)

Cloud laughs at a remark Sephiroth makes, when he notices that Sephiroth is staring at him contemplatively. "Um…Is everything ok?"

"Why did you turn me down?"

There's no ambiguity in his question and yet Cloud finds himself puzzling over the statement for a few seconds. "I didn't really turn you down. You caught me by surprise."

"If I remember correctly, your response was 'Shit. Shit. Double shit' and for variety I believe, 'Oh hell no.'"

Cloud winces, "That was because I had fried my laptop's circuit board! Besides, you barely had ever talked to me before that about regular stuff. And you never really bothered after that so I just let it go too."

"Would you like to give it another try?" Cloud pauses in the middle of viciously stabbing a carrot, looking at him bewildered. "Would you like to, grab a coffee after college?"

He shakes his head ruefully, "I can't, I've got to edit some articles for tomorrow's paper, but," he adds holding up his hand, "If you want, maybe after that? We can go to that waffle place down the road."

Sephiroth's eyes, he notices, crinkle just a bit when he smiles. "I would like that a lot."

Cloud ignores the warmth on his cheeks and Zack's, "Hey I want waffles too!" and links his fingers shyly with Sephiroth's. "Sounds like a plan."

Recognition- He doesn't know what to say. Social situations have never been his forte but this, this is beyond even his worst nightmares and there's nothing he can say, nothing he can do, that will make things better. His throat burns and there's a slightly sour feeling in his stomach as his old friend, one of his oldest, looks at him, with eyes as blank as a freshly wiped slate.

"I'm sorry… Do I know you? I feel like I should, but I can't seem to remember."

Sephiroth sits down next to him, amazed that this illness seems to have taken away the very soul behind the man who once led an army, the man whose soul once had an unquenchable thirst for poetry and art, the man who had once been his brother-in-arms. Gone are the witty comments, crude jokes and sarcasm, the spark of life that knew no bounds.

His friend, his advisor…his brother, is hidden somewhere behind a mask of blankness and there's nothing he can do. For a split second Genesis smiles at him and Sephiroth can almost imagine that his friend is back to normal.

Then Vincent and Cloud come back from the kitchen and Genesis smiles at Cloud politely and asks who he is.

When they leave, Genesis insists on clinging to Vincent's arm and accompanying them to the door and bids them a fond farewell, asking them hopefully if they'll return tomorrow. "We don't really get a lot of visitors."

If he tries, he can almost forget the painful grip Cloud has on his hand, which only intensifies when they hear Genesis asking, "I'm sorry, I can't thank you enough for helping me, but…who are you?"

He can almost pretend to not feel the stinging in his own eyes as he grips Cloud's hand back, just as tightly.

Foreign- The delicate silver wind chimes Aerith's hung in front of the door ring as the front door swings open. Sephiroth doesn't bother to look up from his book, it's pouring outside. It's probably just another person who had been caught in the torrential downpour. Aerith is out in seconds, fussing over her latest customer, whom, from the conversation, seems to be drenched.

He can't hear the other person, but he doesn't really want to either. He's perfectly happy ensconced in his own bubble of serenity, a mug of tea steaming in front of him. Aerith has ushered the poor soul into a chair near him and he can hear her leaving to get a towel.

That's when he hears him for the first time. Soft and unsure, stumbling over his words, it's evident that English isn't his first language. He thanks Aerith, though the words sound entirely too foreign on his tongue.

Sephiroth's curiosity is piqued and he furtively glances over the top of his book. The stranger looks like his voice, if that's possible. Soft, awfully young and quiet. He also bears the appearance of a drowned rat, he's started shivering too. Sephiroth idly wonders where Aerith is with that towel. He catches the younger boy's eyes and nods at him. His eyebrow quirks as the other quickly glances away.

Aerith comes bustling in with a huge fluffy towel and a pot of tea. The boy seems frantic as he waves at the tea and shakes his head, muttering something in a foreign language and pointing. Sephiroth understands before the kind hostess can, he doesn't have the money to pay for that. He's not quite sure why he does it, something about the worn soles of the boy's sneakers maybe or the tattered sweater he's wearing invokes a strange, if not unwanted feeling deep within him.

"It's alright Aerith, just put the tea on my tab." She looks confused for a second before it dawns on her and she smiles at him. "Of course. Would you like to maybe keep him company? The poor dear looks exhausted, I'll just see if we have at least some sandwiches that he can have."

He's uncomfortable with this. It's one thing to pay for his tea; it's another to keep the boy company. Sitting down, he glances at him again and asks, "What's your name?"

It takes a few minutes for the question to register, but when it does, he shyly replies, "Cloud." Then he adds, "Thank you for tea," pointing at the pot and cup. Shrugging Sephiroth replies, "You're welcome, but it's really Aerith that you should be thanking not me."

Cloud looks lost and Sephiroth sighs. "Never mind. Where are you from?"

They continue like that, with broken sentences and sign language and Sephiroth garners that Cloud is from Nibelheim, part of the old backwater portion of the country which explains his lack of control over the city's language. He's come to Midgar with the hope of earning a living for himself. Cloud's not too comfortable talking about his family, a fact made evident by the way that he ducks his head and refuses to continue.

Other than that, he doesn't get much except that he really has no place to go and is waiting till the storm stops to make his way over to the church and perhaps see if they have a room for him.

Aerith clucks her tongue sympathetically, "It's hard enough to get a job in the city, let alone the fact he can't speak English. These people are like wild animals at the best of times." Her eyes fix on Cloud nibbling at his cheese sandwiches, and a determined light takes over them.

"You know…I've been thinking for some time about hiring someone to help me around the shop. He wouldn't need to speak much to start off with. He could clean, wash the dishes and I could teach him how to cook slowly." Sephiroth knows that look in her eye and he smiles.

And that's how Gainsborough café gains a new chef. He stops by on an almost daily basis, mainly for his tea but occasionally to sit and talk to Aerith. Every time he visits, Cloud beams at him, cheerfully chattering away in a mixture of steadily improving English and his own native language. He's a lot healthier now, less withdrawn and adores Aerith. Vaguely, Sephiroth is reminded of Chocobo chicks that follow their mothers around from place to place.

One day, he's surprised when Cloud places a plate with a slice of cake in front of him. He looks up surprised, "I didn't order this."

The boy shakes his head, "Taste!" he insists. So Sephiroth does. It's actually quite nice, he notes, lemon flavored and not too sweet. He relays this to Cloud who beams and flushes, fiddling with his apron and says, "For you, because, you gave me this." He waves his hands around in the general direction of the café and Sephiroth understands. There are no more words exchanged, there's no necessity.

His visits to the café become more frequent and he spends more time there, but for once it's not because of the tea. Cloud is improving in leaps and bounds and soon there are some of his items in the glass display for sale. Little by little, he lets out snippets of his past, bullying, an absent father, a wistful mother and above all else, a desire to be free.

At some point, Sephiroth realizes that his fondness for Cloud has evolved from a simple friendship to something else entirely. He's not too sure if he's completely comfortable with that notion just yet, but it doesn't stop him from returning daily.

His friend from work, Zack, accompanies him once and it's obvious that he's smitten with Aerith. Luckily, the young woman returns his affection and doesn't seem to mind his disastrous attempts at baking in order to impress her.

It's one quiet afternoon, when Zack's leaning over the counter, and Aerith's blushing prettily at something he says, Cloud asks him softly, "What's it like to fall in love?"

He does a double-take, he's answered plenty of strange questions before but nothing could have prepared him for this. Sephiroth thinks back to the way his heart painfully clenches at the sight of Cloud's flour stained cheeks, the way he's been reading through self-help books and internet sources just to help Cloud with his English.

"It's…difficult to describe. But it's a wonderful experience." Cloud smiles wistfully at Zack and Aerith, and slowly nods his head, "Yeah, it is. Seph, if Aerith and Zack get together, they'll want to live together too right?"

Sephiroth shrugs; Cloud has the privilege of calling him 'Seph' because, among other things, his full name had been too difficult for the boy to pronounce. "It's possible, but I don't think she'll kick you out or anything. She likes you too much."

"Yes, but I do not want to be a… a trouble?" he finishes with a questioning look on his face. "Burden," Sephiroth corrects gently, "And you won't be. You work here and earn your living. You're hardly a burden."

Cloud turns to him with a smile, "Thanks Seph. You always make me feel better." He idly wonders if he's imagining the slight blush dusting the boy's cheeks.

It's a spur of the moment idea really, but he finds himself asking Cloud to move in with him. He's only a short walk from the bus stop, he can pick him after work and he isn't adverse to the idea of company. They fall into an easy routine, Sephiroth finds himself drawn more and more to the boy.

He's not sure when their relationship morphs into something else, he suppose it's been in the making for a while. During one of those weekend movie marathons they have, Cloud falls asleep, his head on Sephiroth's shoulder and to him, it's the most natural thing in the world. The next morning, Sephiroth pecks Cloud on the cheek, muttering a, "Have a good day at work."

He's never really wondered whether they'd need more than that easy togetherness they've developed until Zack asks him, "So…you and Spiky are dating?" Sephiroth just wants to finish reading his book, not discuss the nuances of his relationship with Zack.

"Have you told him that you loved him?" Sephiroth drops his book.

"What?"

Zack speaks slowly, like he's speaking to a small child. "Have you told Cloud that you loved him?"

He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. "I haven't. We don't need to. I mean, it's understood isn't it?"

Zack looks at him like he's fighting a mix of confusion and irritation. In the end though, there's no further discussion and Sephiroth finds himself smiling at Cloud who's placing a tray of chocolate gateaux on the shelf.

That night, he finds Zack's voice swirling around and around in his head. Almost as though he can sense his consternation, Cloud asks, "Is something wrong?"

This time, it's Sephiroth who struggles with his words. "I know I've never said this, but you know…that I well…" he trails off. Cloud looks amused. "I know. I love you too." He presses a reassuring kiss to his lover's lips. "You waited for me at the beginning; you were patient while I was learning. I can wait until you're ready to say those words to me. For however long it takes."

Sephiroth knows it's only a matter of time before he can tell Cloud how much he loves him, till he can express his emotions verbally. But until then, he'll do everything he can to show Cloud instead.


Author's Note-

To start off with, I know it's been a long time since I last updated. I've had some of these drabbles with me for once but I've never had the time to compile them. Additionally, I lost my notepad with the others. I'm not sure how the first drabble ended up as a Cloud/Genesis, but it happened.

The third prompt was initially meant to be a reference to the mako treatment's side effects but I decided to leave the cause up to the reader.

As for the last prompt, I'm blaming it on spending too many hours with cups of coffee and tea thanks to college. Although not specified, I estimate Cloud's age as between 18 and 20 while Sephiroth is 23.

This is it for this particular story. I want to thank everybody who took the time to read this, review and favorite, you guys are amazing!