Title: Sleeping Arrangement
Characters: Cloud Strife, Zack Fair, Sephiroth, Genesis Rhapsodos, Angeal Hewley, Kunsel, Vincent Valentine, Aeris Gainsborough
Warning: AU, based on Sinnatious' The Fifth Act
Pairings: Slight pairings indicated
Word Count: 8,030 according to Word 2007 (Why I keep writing it longer and longer? -.-; )
Beta-reader: Wintersheart1766 (Give her lots of hug and love because of her wonderful beta works)
Author's Note: Yes, I've got the permission from Sinnatious to write a fanfic out of her/his fanfic. Yes, this is not a very-much sequel. Yes, I am shamelessly pimp my own ideas and twist around the story. So yes, this might resemble the original, except it has more spices ;P
Disclaimer: All characters depicted in sexual situations in this post/fanfiction/fanart (including material in the comments) are fictional and are intended to be and considered to be by the author of said material of the legal age of consent in the United States or any other countries, regardless of what age these characters may be in the material they are derived from.
Cloud's annoying habit of disappearing for an entire day, without one word to anyone, was causing normally calm nerves to fray. They should be used to it by now, but only managed to remain distracted until around noon, nervous by noon and panic by evening. Even though they were well aware of his need for privacy and that he was a big boy who could take care himself, somehow they would all find themselves together relying on Sephiroth's cellular "lo-jack" to locate his position. If he was somewhere safe within the Shinra building they would leave him to his peace. This constant surveillance had started just after they transported back to Midgar from Nibelheim those many months ago. It was only recently eased up on, after the blond came back from his little trip to Modeoheim looking a lot more stable and they all had agreed not to monitor him as closely/obsessively as before.
Unfortunately, they came to regret that decision sooner rather than later when they could not seem to locate the blond in any of his usual brooding places for the entire day. Of course Sephiroth had managed to easily locate the blond who was apparently on the roof top of the ShinRa building. It was a welcoming sight at first, but the blonde's precarious position at the edge of the building stopped them in their tracks as they each felt hearts hammer in the chests with fear.
It was the night of the new moon; when sky is pitch dark, barren of the moon's light with only a sparse smattering of glittering tiny stars alight. They had found him, a figure as dark as the night, standing stiffly at the very edge of Shinra's roof top; blond spiky hair being blown about by the wind and glowing in the reflections of thousands of neon lights that surrounded the plate fifty floors below. The wind was strong this high up and it blew Cloud's loose garments as if they were the flag and he was the pole.
It was an alarming situation and Zack immediately started in Cloud's direction in an effort to reach the enigmatic blond, but Genesis was too quick for him and clamped a strong hand on his shoulder in restraint. Sephiroth's blood ran cold at the sight of his friend so close to the edge and almost ran at the man himself, but quickly regained his slipping control. Angeal was wary; keeping his twitching hands clenched at his sides and not moving a muscle. Kunsel was currently looking around the roof, considering another route to approach the blond.
It was a tense and delicate situation; one wrong action might very well cost the blond his life. To think they had all believed the blond was not suicidal anymore just last week.
Cloud had heard their arrivals, but he chose to simply ignore them. He did not make any moves, not even a single twitch. He just kept his gaze on the bustling crowd on the Plate below, completely ignoring their presence.
Cloud was far too lost inside his own thoughts to care that he now had company and he was not in the mood for socializing. He was not about to let them know about the dark thoughts and nightmares which had been haunting his sleepless nights these past few weeks. It was bad enough that they knew he was suicidal. For them to learn of his nightmares would only serve to complicate the matter, as it would entail a few more little truths, which he hoped to keep to himself, slipping out into the, already too deep, pool of common knowledge. He sighed and wondered, somewhat ridiculously, when his life had become so complicated.
The SOLDIERs held their breath, still unsure how to approach the man without startling him or driving him even closer to the edge where he might slip and fall. In the end it was another blur of red that surprised them all and approached the lone figure in front of them.
"Wha–?" Zack blinked in confusion.
"Vincent!" Genesis hissed, as he recognized the red tattered cape. The reckless action enraged the red commander; the last thing they needed was exactly that sort of stunt. Such sudden movement could have startled the blond and caused him to slip and plummet some fifty floors to the plate below.
Vincent dropped close to the blond and walked to his side; his cape blowing as wildly as his long raven hair in the strong winds.
"Cloud," He offered his greeting, but made no move to pull the blond from the edge.
Cloud did not even glance at the ex-Turk or acknowledge his greeting in any way. He knew that the raven haired man would not be offended by his action. The older man had somehow understood his burden and he was supportive despite his silence. After all, they more or less lived and now carried the same nightmare.
Seeing that the sudden appearance of the ex-Turk did not cause the blond to topple down from the edge, they decided to cautiously approach the duo, who were now standing silently side by side.
Sephiroth was his usual self and though Genesis held his tongue, his face bore an obvious frown that clearly said he was feeling put out by this lack of conversation, much as the constant tapping of his finger on his elbow did. Zack tried not to fidget like he normally did when he was nervous; he was really too far above the ground not to be an accident just waiting to happen, whilst Kunsel had fared better on keeping silent, even if his occasional wary glances to the plate below them spoke a lot of his uneasiness. Angeal seemed to be as adept as Vincent with regards of perching himself like a gargoyle statue high upon a tower and if it weren't for the slight frown marring his otherwise calm face, he could easily be mistaken for one of the statues.
Then after what seemed like eternity plus a day in complete windblown silence, Cloud suddenly spoke.
"Sometimes it gets too quiet."
This was obviously meant to be some form of explanation, but they knew if they just held their tongues no matter how it grated on Zack's nerves or fueled Genesis' temper, the brooding SOLDIER would likely share more of what he was thinking. Sephiroth, a quiet man himself, still could not help but frown during the silence; it being devoid of the answers he sought. It seemed that only Angeal and Vincent were able to ride out the silence like they were on par with the blond.
Just as they were hoping, but none too soon after the first sentence he had uttered, Cloud spoke again, "Back there, I had them and they kept me grounded on sleepless nights like this."
And they were silent again.
Vincent turned to look at Cloud closely then he asked in his smooth deep baritone, "Who were you living with?"
After a long silence, a whisper as soft and thin as a hair's breadth amidst the bellowing wind around them.
"Tifa, Marlene and Denzel." There was a pause of hesitation before Cloud continued, "There were always glasses to wash, dishes to dry or I would just sit and listens to them sleep." He was looking ahead not saw not to what lay before him. Too far in his mind to actually enjoy the view.
In short, the blond was missing his past friends despite the present company he had now. The loneliness reared its ugly head whenever it was dark. His PHS never rang at ungodly hours anymore and it seemed funny to Cloud, that he was missing them now despite all of his complaints in the past and wishes to be left alone. He missed not having them by his side anymore.
The very next day after his quiet confession, Cloud found his usual room was devoid of his things. Instead taped to the door there was another keycard with a note attached.
The elegant cursive handwriting was undeniably Genesis', it said:
"You are moving in with us to our new humble abode. Genesis."
It was with much less of a struggle than they had been expecting that Cloud moved in to the much bigger, three bedroom apartment with Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth. Both he and Sephiroth had their own private rooms while Genesis and Angeal shared the bigger room. The apartment was nice and quite spacious, complete with a wide balcony which was a perfect spot for him to brood.
Zack and Kunsel were their next door neighbors, sharing smaller three bedroom apartment, a spare room just in case someone stopped by to visit overnight who usually turned out to be either Cloud's young nephew or their other SOLDIER friend, Luxiere.
Since the day he moved in Cloud never complained about a lack of sound anymore.
In the early days of their friendship, Angeal and Genesis had worked incessantly at ridding Sephiroth of what they considered a very bad habit, which was his preference to sleep only when his body had reached its limit to stay awake. Recalling this, he found it endlessly entertaining when he noticed the familiar actions being displayed by the blonde and was amused at how the blond resisted the legendary nagging of his two old friends.
Genesis had mostly 'tsked' in a disapproving manner and then managed to drag the blond, who would fight all teeth and nails in his usual silent brooding way, to his bed. All resistance came to an abrupt halt when Genesis threatened to sing him to sleep, should he refuse to or be unable to sleep on his own.
Unbelievably, Angeal was actually worse than his childhood friend in this matter. His constant worrying combined with his perfectionism meant he was only satisfied when he had tucked the blond into bed personally.
By the end of the first week in their noble quest of seeing the blond to obtain his much needed and well deserved rest, they also found that getting Cloud to go to sleep was nowhere near as hard as getting him to stay asleep. He was already a light sleeper, not to mention accustomed to short stolen periods of rest, thus it became almost routine for one of them to stumble upon a very awake blond in the middle of night when he had been thought to be sleeping soundly.
Sephiroth had been the first to discover the fugitive of sleep as he had stumbled out from his room in the middle of night, due to his own sleeping issues and was seeking something to ease his ailment. He had quietly come down the dark hall and into the main room on his way to the kitchen for something to drink, when his SOLDIER enhanced vision spotted the little blonde insomniac sitting quietly in the dark dining room.
Cloud was gazing outside the balcony glass door clad only in his sleeping attire, a loose shirt and his boxers. He had his legs folded before his slim chest and his arms encircling the folded limbs, deeply immersed in thought.
It was obvious that he had not noticed Sephiroth's presence or just simply ignored him. Curious and surprised, Sephiroth decided to call the blond out of his stupor.
Upon hearing his name being whispered, almost intimately, in the husky, somewhat sleepy voice of his rival, Cloud felt shivers as they ran down along his spine. He turned to look at the silver haired General who only wore comfortable pajamas pants and left his smooth, well muscled chest bare.
"Did I wake you?"
The soft hesitant voice carried out across the room, so unlike the fierce warrior persona Sephiroth faced so often in battle or sparring sessions.
Trying to stifle his yawn, Sephiroth glanced back toward the blond, noticing the bare thighs of his enigmatic rival. His mind was unexpectedly pleased by the image and his first instinct had been urging him to caress the inviting smooth skin. Practicing his legendary restraint, he quickly shook the stray thought from his head. Frowning slightly, he wondered if his sleeplessness was somehow causing his brain to malfunction.
"No," he replied after a long moment of silence, for which the blond remained unaware of his inner mind's crisis.
A comfortable silence passed between them and Sephiroth moved silently to the kitchen, he returned with two glasses which he set down on the dining room table; one in front of the blond and one on the seat opposite him, no doubt for himself. Then he walked to the refrigerator and opened it, causing the light cast a soft orange hue on his chiseled face and the silver hair that cascaded down over his shoulder when the General bent forward. He took out a carton of milk then closed it the door. It was dark once again, saved the illumination from the soft moonlight and the weak fluorescent lights stationed upon the whole ShinRa building, which shone through the balcony door when it was dark.
Sephiroth poured the milk into the glasses then set it aside.
Cloud muttered his thanks, a bit surprised by the supposedly antisocial man's hospitality toward him. He reached for his glass, cradling it in both hands as he contemplated his answer. Sephiroth pulled out his chair and settled into it prepared to wait for the reply.
"Drink it. Zack says it helps."
Cloud shrugged; he felt the heat of his blush as it crept onto his cheeks, strangely touched by the rare kindness being offered to him by the usually cold and distant general. He was eternally thankful that it was dark enough that the man opposite him would most likely not notice his discomfort or his traitorous blush.
"I'm not a puppy."
An amused snort was the only answer from the General, but Cloud did not comment any further as both men sat quietly, enjoying the strange camaraderie they shared, each accompanied by a glass of milk.
It was inevitable that Genesis would find out about Cloud's late night training sessions.
On nights when sleep eluded him, Cloud would sneak out of the apartment and steal away seeking the lull of familiar sword exercises as he fought monsters greatly outnumbering him. It would easily distract his mind away from his dark thoughts and afforded him no time to dwell on his past, as he was moving constantly to engage and slay the relentless flow of monsters coming at him. True, his muscles screamed in protest, but better physical exhaustion than mental exhaustion.
But what the blond did not calculate into his plans was Genesis' little quirk for reading his beloved literature alone in the dead of night. So one night, after he had completely exhausted himself in another rough round of monster hacking, what he did not expect was one auburn haired commander dressed only in his silk maroon robe, lounging on his beloved sofa with a thick book perched upon his lap.
To say Cloud was surprised, when their different shade blue eyes met, was understatement since the blond SOLDIER had only few second to remind himself not to let his jaw dropped somewhere to the carpeted ground.
Similarly, the auburn man had his eyes gone wide, as wide as, saucers since he did not plan to be interrupted by the blond warrior who was supposed to be sleeping in his room.
His voice seemed painfully loud and clear in the middle of the quiet room, dimly lit by the standing reading lamp at the corner of the sofa. Cloud felt himself cringe and prayed that it was merely his sensitive ears that made the voice sound as loud as he had imagined it. The last thing he actually needed was for the whole household to be awakened; having the loud dramatic commander learnt of his night time exercise was bad enough.
"Where, in the name of the goddess, have you been?"
Clearly Genesis was not amused to see his friend had snuck out. He eyed the blond up and down and judging from the still sweaty breathless figure, First Tsurugi sheathed on his back, he had easily guessed that the blond had just finished some sort of rigorous training, no doubt sweeping out another den of monsters from one of the simulation programs.
Cloud said nothing as he averted his eyes; he felt guilty, like a child who got caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar as the now familiar blush adorably stained his cheeks, though if asked, he would claim it was caused by his previous physical exertion.
Genesis put down his book and stood up, gesturing the blond toward the bathroom to have a quick wash, clearly he had not used the shower facility installed within the training room.
"Go on, wash yourself. You stink of sweat."
Cloud had become accustomed to Genesis' habit of using blunt words to conceal his true feelings, so he merely nodded before walking quietly to his room to put away his blade and all his battle gear and retrieve a towel. Passing by the still obviously upset Genesis, he awkwardly entered the bathroom and ignored the red commanders lingering gaze.
Once he heard the soft click of the lock followed then by the gentle sound of a running shower, Genesis sighed and walked silently in his slipper clad feet toward the kitchen.
After the short refreshing shower, Cloud emerged from the bathroom clad only in the fluffy light blue bathrobe, courtesy of Genesis', only to be once again surprised by the auburn haired man that stood before him, obviously waiting for him to finish his shower.
"I have made some tea."
Cloud did not need another round of interrogation, which made him wary of the invitation, especially after he had purposely tired himself out in hopes of garnering some dreamless sleep. However, the smell of fragrant jasmine mixed with a dip of honey had lured his olfactory senses and it was simply too tempting for him to decline. Not to mention it was best to play by the red haired male's rule if one wished to avoid another ruckus.
Cloud sat down gingerly in the spot where Genesis had made room where the tray containing two steaming cups of tea was set before him on the small table at the front of the sofa. Thankfully, the auburn haired man remained strangely silent, not saying anything, but simply gesturing for him to help himself to the tea.
After seeing the wary blond cautiously pick up his cup of tea, made of fine china with falling leaves in its detail, Genesis relaxed into his seat. He reclined on his beloved sofa, almost as if he was a cat curling comfortably, and resumed reading his book. He occasionally sipped on his own tea, sweetened by two teaspoons of honey and seemed oblivious to the blond sitting just beside him.
They spent the next moments in comfortable, albeit on Cloud's part a bit perplexing, silence save the occasional slight rustle of rich quality paper. Both of them content with their surroundings and neither feeling the need for words.
Cloud, having nothing to occupy his thoughts at the time by chance noticed certain details of the SOLDIER lounging before him. The golden hue that shone from the lamp seemed to emphasize the artistic features of Genesis; the beautiful face, the elegant column of his neck, the pale skin in contrast to the dark maroon silk of his robe which teasingly bore a bit of collarbone on his right side. When he suddenly realized he was indeed checking out his comrade he quickly berated himself for the slip of control and averted his eyes from the sight before him to concentrate on his tea once again.
Unbeknownst to him, the pale icy blue eyes had in turn appreciated the sight displayed before him from the rim of his book; the still wet hair where droplets of water clung upon the tips of the slightly flattened bangs, the smooth skin bared by the collar of the loosely tied robe down to the sternum, the angular face lit by the dim light as well as the full pinkish lips pursed forward to blow the steam away. All in all it was quite hard for Genesis not to lean forward and capture those tempting lips with his own.
After the tea was finished, Cloud was ushered to bed by Genesis who tucked him in snuggly, smiling impishly all the while. The blond however had frowned indignantly, but said nothing to the irritating man. Then, giving into his temptation just a bit, Genesis leaned down and brushed his lips gently against the blonds' frown.
The small act of affection had come so suddenly that Cloud's mind went blank for a while which was enough time for the red haired Commander to have retreated back to the door. Genesis paused for a second before exiting the room, delighted to see the blond still stupefied by his actions, "Good night, Cloud."
Then the door was closed and after a while Cloud pulled the blanket over his head, hiding the furious blush of his cheeks as he attempted to calm his thumping heart. Strangely, he rather enjoyed the slightly heady way in which he was feeling.
Sometimes, Cloud was the one who would be awakened from his sleep at night; this time by a soft tapping and dim lights coming through the gap beneath his bedroom door. Curious, he walked out from his room to investigate, but as soon as he opened his door, the soft tapping abruptly ceased. What he saw in the dim light was the burly Commander sitting at the dining table with fingers perched and motionless above the keyboard of his laptop.
Angeal had heard the soft swish of door being opened and was surprised to see the blond warrior was awake in this hour.
"Cloud? Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up."
Angeal was dressed in a white wife beater showing all his well developed muscles and a pair loose cotton pants, while perched upon his nose was a pair of tiny reading glasses. It was one of the side effects of the degradation, while there was nothing too damaging his eye sight had been challenging him when reading small print. Thus not wanting his eyesight to worsen, he had taken care to put on his prescribed reading glasses whenever he worked on his reports.
Cloud walked silently to the dining table which was illuminated by the dining room's light set to its dimmest. He shrugged as he approached the older man who had resumed his typing.
"I can't sleep anyway; work?"
Angeal chuckled, "Just some field reports from the newest mission and some other reports that are already late."
Cloud simply nodded in understanding.
Feeling a bit guilty about waking up the blond, Angeal stopped his typing and saved his work. He stood up, removing his glasses, and walked toward the kitchen counter.
"Would you like some hot chocolate?"
Assuming this was an invitation to join him, Cloud set himself down in the chair opposite Angeal's.
"Yes, that would be nice."
Angeal was adept at cooking and he also made the best hot chocolate. His big hands were sure when they measured the chocolate powder, dumping it into a saucepan with some milk. The stirring was light and almost soundless while he dropped a few of chocolate bits into it, letting them melt as he heated the mixture to just the right temperature. Then with practiced ease, he grabbed a bottle of rum and measured a full shot of it into a bright blue mug with yellow sunshine details that was Cloud's present from Zack when he moved in. He poured the warm cocoa on top and giving it a final stir.
In the dim light, Cloud rested his gaze on the black haired SOLDIER's shoulders; they were broad, even broader than Sephiroth's. He was somewhat transfixed by watching the ripples of the muscles contracting and relaxing in a hypnotizing rhythm. Realizing belatedly that had been staring for far too long, he moved his eyes elsewhere and accidently found his gaze resting on the, surprisingly low riding, cotton pants, worn on slender hips, baring a strip of tanned skin and thinking how nicely the pants clung and shaped his backside.
Overall, the raven haired SOLDIER was pleasing to the eyes, while rugged in appearance he had assets that made him as stunning as any of the others even in this simple attire. Mentally chiding himself for checking out his fellow comrades, Cloud stopped staring, even if a part of his mind was busy wondering how those muscles would feel beneath his palms.
Angeal turned around with a mug of hot chocolate in his hand, he walked around the table and stood behind the chair in which Cloud was sitting. He set the mug before the blond, stretching out his arms beside him.
"Here you go."
Cloud was surprised by the deep calm voice which came from behind and above him and looked up reflexively.
Angeal, who was not expecting the blond to look up, went to straighten himself and slowly drew his arms back to settle on the edge of the table; keeping his cool, save for the barely audible gasp when his breath caught in his throat the instant his deep blue eyes got caught up in the huge, luminous sky blue eyes belonging to one Cloud Strife.
From that point of view, Angeal could see the angular almost feminine face up close, the pale tempting column of his neck all the way down to a plane of smooth pale skin of the chest and lower abdomen where the waistband of his boxers hid away the rest. Then there was the sight of the bare unblemished thighs which continued down to slim legs. Shortly, his brain supplied to him that this enigmatic blond before him was beautiful, as uniquely beautiful as Genesis and even Sephiroth.
Cloud, meanwhile, looked up to a broad strong shoulder, the muscular arm outstretching as if wishing to embrace him from behind then up to the strong square jaw shadowed by slight stubble which he often saw set in determination. The raven haired SOLDIER had the sort of features that screamed calm strength embroiled with honor and pride.
Angeal cleared his throat softly then straightened up; the strange spell was broken as was their gaze.
Cloud had averted his head and stared of to the side, trying to hide the inevitable blush that was creeping onto his cheeks. He reached out for the mug and pulled it toward him.
The words came soft and steady, but Angeal could easily hear the gratitude as well as a hint of shyness in them.
"You're welcome, but you should go back to bed once you drink it. Your sleep hours are still our primary concern."
A noncommittal grunt was the only answer he got from the blond.
He smiled and moved back to his seat leaving Cloud to muse over his hot chocolate whilst he resumed his work, unbothered by the steady gaze coming from the blond.
As if the nights were not strange enough, there came a night when Cloud encountered the silent ex-Turk who had settled on the railing of the balcony outside the shared apartment. When Cloud made note of his presence he unlocked the sliding glass door and approached the raven haired man.
The ex-Turk only tilted his head in greeting before jumping down of his perch. The graceful manner in which he always moved, coupled with the way his red tattered cape softly billowed in the night breeze made it almost seem as if he were floating in mid air.
"What are you doing here?"
The quiet man folded his arms in front of his chest drumming his fingers, both human and claw, lightly on the inside of his elbows.
"Visiting," Vincent said deadpanned as if it was normal when one visited in the middle of the night and through the balcony, nonetheless.
Cloud had only blinked on the short reply before the much older man continued in his calm voice, "Demons tend to appear when it is dark."
It dawned to Cloud that the long haired man was merely concerned of his well being, as unorthodox as his way seemed. That little detail had made the blond chuckled in response, humbled by the notion that the antisocial vampire had decided to come out from wherever he lurked, just to visit him.
Cloud smiled at him and turned to walk toward the kitchen, leaving the glass door ajar as a silent invitation to his illustrious guest to come inside.
Vincent soundlessly followed the blond into the dining room and then watched as the blond made his way into kitchenette area; no doubt Cloud intended to do his duty as a hospitable host. He, in turn, ventured further into the shadowy apartment, easily maneuvering himself to the living room. It was dark but he did not mind the darkness, not when he was the welcomed guest of a kindred spirit.
Soon the fragrant scent of chrysanthemums drifted out to tease his olfactory sense and it was something of a surprise seeing that he had never told anyone about his preference of scented tea.
Cloud returned with a tray in his hands and upon the tray balanced two cups, a pot of tea and a plate of snacks, which were ginger biscuits judging from the scent; the ginger mixed pleasantly with the other scents of chrysanthemums and fresh citrus. He put the tray down with a soft clink then moved to switch on one of the standing lamps, setting its light to the dimmest.
"Does my future self tell you all this?" inquired Vincent, as he gestured towards the tray.
Cloud shrugged, faintly remembering the many escapades between the resident vampire and the grumpy pilot. He remembered the blond pilot had only grinned at him when he had stumbled on them and said that it was the vampire's snack time. That was just after the DEEPGROUND fiasco and he and the raven haired man were aboard "The Shera". Vincent at that time had only sighed in exasperation at the 'vampire' reference, but seemed content with the companion as well as the food.
"No. It was Cid."
Intrigued by the unfamiliar name, Vincent tilted his head, "Cid?"
Cloud was munching away on ginger cookies, but politely answered after he swallowed the bits, "Cid Highwind, he was our pilot. You both were quite close."
Vincent mused over this tidbit of information, no doubt curious about the man who was said to be close enough to him or at least to his future self, to gain the trust required to become privy to such small personal preferences. He absently thought about how this sort of disclosure would have come to be as he picked up a slice of fresh citrus daintily with his clawed hand and then dipped it into his cup.
Cloud resumed his munching, thinking, somewhat absently himself that he ought to see about introducing his friend to the brash pilot or maybe even arrange a 'chance' meeting of the Head of Urban Development Department. He had always wondered if the Head of WRO had had 'feelings' toward the quiet gunner. Cloud smirked remembering how the man always acted like nervous teenager before his first date whenever the ex-Turk was in close proximity to him.
While there was no guarantee that they would take the bait and sally forth to become 'best buddies', Cloud figured there wasn't anything to lose and perhaps the gunner would not be so alone anymore. Seemed like a proverbial 'win-win' situation to him.
Now others might not believe this, but believe it or not, the most sedate sleepless nights were the ones that Cloud spent over at Zack and Kunsel's place; usually weekends.
Most of the time the anti-slumber party consisted of Cloud and the two noisy hyperactive firsts along with his young nephew. The dark spiky haired SOLDIER had officially dubbed those nights as movie marathon nights, for which both he and Kunsel would rent a stack of DVDs. The young cadet would be in charge of making popcorn, the traditional obligatory food for movie night as Zack insisted. The blond himself would be the one who to prepare the vast array of mixed beverages for their eager consumption. He sometimes even concocted mild alcoholic ones for his young nephew, as the cadet had protested that he was tired being treated like a toddler.
Young Cloud had vehemently reminded everyone that he was from Nibelheim where everyone had drunk their first alcohol since they could hold their own glasses. A disclosure that had made both Zack and Kunsel to turn their heads to his uncle for confirmation. A fact that sadly, was true as the older counterpart had only nodded sourly accompanied by his long suffering sigh.
The movies they watched were many and varied, ranging from super cool action movies or silly comedic movies, courtesy of Zack, to horror and thriller movies, as they were Kunsel's all time favorites. The young Cloud, who had just learned what DVD was when he came to Midgar and had never actually seen that many movies at all, decided he liked detective movies and fantasy medieval series the best after a few experiments with all the other movie genres. The trio had tried to guess what the enigmatic blond liked, but really, they never would have guessed that Cloud's favorites were seemingly childish cartoons, be it the old black and white or the new colorful ones.
Sometimes there would be another SOLDIERs tagging along for movie night. More often than not it would be a Soldier by the name Luxiere, a close comrade of both Zack and Kunsel. The SOLDIER Second was familiar enough with Cloud so he did not object his presence, even with his unhealthy fondness toward Wutaian cartoons; he was almost at the same level of obsessed as Genesis was with LOVELESS.
Genesis was never likely to join this little gathering as he once complained that he could not stand the ruckus. The only time he had joined them, they all had to endure seemingly endless versions of LOVELESS and without warning a very graphic bisexual sex porn which had made the poor young cadet as red as lobster and almost choke to death on his popcorn. That had caused the red commander to be banned almost forever from joining another movie night.
Angeal's choice of movies was somewhat better than his old friend since his choices usually were nice, but boring documentaries. He reasoned that if one was going to while away the night stuck in front of the "box" as he called it, that they should at least watch something educational. Nobody even tried to explain how that defeated the whole purpose of having these kinds of movie nights, which was to relax, have fun and not study. Then Angeal would surprise them all by sneaking in a few of the newest and coolest action movies. So they all held their peace to let Angeal rent the movies some of the times.
Sephiroth's taste when it came to movies was surprising, unlike the more predictable choices of his other two friends. The General unexpectedly liked 'chick flicks' and Wutaian dramas which are kind of like soap operas, but no one was stupid enough to dare laugh in front of the General, especially when he had straight out dared them to with a weird tiny smile on his face. Just an arch of his eyebrow was enough to have them silence or at least camouflage their laughter.
Cloud had come to treasure this time and although he was still far from being the light hearted "cut up" that Zack and Kunsel were. Any time spent in the easy company of his best friend and former mentor, always had a way of lightening his mood. Having Kunsel and his young nephew also helped ease his tension.
Sometimes when they were all, but he, fast asleep, Cloud would still be there, relaxed on the sofa, as content as he could be just to listen to the sounds of their sleep. He relished the sound of regular heart beats as well as the light snore coming from Zack who was currently sprawling all over his lap. The heat on his side where his young self had drowsily leaned was reassuring, his sleeping face was so peaceful and innocent that he couldn't help but think perhaps his efforts had indeed helped improve the future for the cadet. Kunsel who had draped himself onto Zack and was definitely in an unconscious and hilarious struggle to remain on the couch which was being hogged by his large immovable friend, had also been a kind reminder of happy times.
There his dark thoughts and nightmares were chased away, keeping them at the back of his mind at least for a few hours and Cloud was glad to have this reprieve, however short it was.
Sometimes, when Cloud had no missions to attend to, he would sneak out during the day and take the train to sector five slums in order to visit Aeris at her church. On occasion Zack would accompany him on the excursion, but most of the time he took care not to interrupt the two young love birds during their time alone.
Cloud did not mind being alone in the church, after all there were times when he had spent many a day during his darker times alone in the church; his body struggling with Geostigma. He was used to the creaks and moans of the former place of worship and that carried over to this time line as well. This dilapidated building had always been his sanctuary whenever he wished to take a break from his life. Something about the fragrant smell of the flowers combined with the soft sunlight and fresh spring water had always soothed his weary soul. That was why sleep came easily when he rested here.
It was then inevitable that one day Aeris found the blond warrior; sleeping peacefully in the front row of pews.
Cloud had only meant to close his eyes for a brief rest but his body and his mind had entirely different ideas and his body won out as both his mind and body succumbed to much needed sleep. Even in his time of slumber, he felt a presence looming above him and his instincts tingled, causing him to wake.
Cloud had sensed nothing wrong even with his eyes closed. The church was pleasantly quiet save the muffled footsteps and occasional hum of conversation outside of the church. He did not feel any urge to fight off imminent danger either. In fact he could practically feel the warm smile and soothing presence that always accompanied a particular flower girl. He knew without doubt that she was, at that very moment, smiling mischievously at him.
Cloud cracked one of his eyes open and there she was. A teenage girl with long wavy chestnut hair tied up in a pink ribbon. Her green eyes shone with joy as well as mirth.
"Hello, Mr. Cloud."
Cloud grimaced inwardly at the name she insisted on calling him, but no one could win an argument with her, so he just let her call him what she liked.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep."
Aeris only laughed and shook her head as she smiled sweetly at the blond.
"Don't worry too much, sleepyhead. The church is open for every one, including one very tired SOLDIER."
Cloud offered his somewhat sheepish smile in return as he got up into a sitting position, "I sleep easily here."
"Must be you've been neglecting your sleep again, Mr. Cloud."
"Did Zack tell you that?"
"Silly," said Aeris as she chuckled. "Your eyes are like a panda already, Mr. Cloud. Or should I call you Mr. Panda from now on?"
Cloud could only shake his head as he answered, "I am catching up my sleep here."
"You seem to like this church so much, Mr. Cloud."
Cloud closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he answered, "Yes, I like the church. It reminds me of my home. "
Aeris hummed in acknowledgement and nodded.
Cloud continued, "The scent of flowers mixed with the soil and spring water is both relaxing and refreshing. It helps me to relax if I need rest and refreshes me when I need energy."
"This is like home to me too, a place where I can speak to the Planet freely."
Cloud only nodded in his reply, not knowing what to say, but was grateful that the Cetra had confided this fact to him in an ease.
The little sudden exclamation from Aeris had almost made Cloud jumped from his seat and before he could ask her, she had already sprinted to the corner of the church where her flower carts were stored.
Aeris looked for a small pot which her boyfriend had graciously made some for small flower containers. Once she found it, she immediately walked toward her garden. She kneeled on the soil, unbothered by the blond as he came to kneel beside her. She looked at the flowers and decided to dig out one of the younger plants whose petals had yet to open in full bloom.
Soon the flower with a soft pinkish hue was transferred into the small pot including its root and some soil. Aeris patted the soil; after she deemed it ready she turned and practically shoved the potted plant into the hands of the blond beside her. She inwardly thought that the pinkish flower complimented the blue eyes of the blond quite well.
At first Cloud was a little bit confused; all he could see was the little plant in the pot and Aeris' blinding sweet smile. So his hands accepted the gift automatically while his brain worked to catch up.
Cloud looked flabbergasted. "For me?" he asked somewhat stupidly.
Aeris nodded cheerfully and said, "You miss your home so with this flower, you can have your home anywhere you are."
Cloud was speechless, gratitude choked in his throat, making it hard to come up with any intelligible reply.
Aeris did not seem to mind and only smiled knowingly, "Take it home, Mr. Cloud and may it help you to have your sleep."
Cloud could only nodded before finally willing his throat and tongue to work properly again.
"Thank you," he said in a voice both timid and gruff which had brought another beaming smile on her lips, nonetheless.
"I thought my ears would start bleeding if I had to hear even one more kya ha ha or gya ha ha out of those pompous, uncouth cretins."
Genesis wrinkled his face in distaste as he remembered how awful it had been having had to sit through an already tedious luncheon with Heidegger on one side and Scarlett on the other. His poor ears would never be the same again after such a vicious combination; it was a miracle he wasn't struck deaf as mole.
Sephiroth had also winced remembering the awful voices reverberating in the hall during the luncheon to commemorate the first mako reactor built in Midgar. He too, had been one of the unlucky souls who sat in close proximity to the duo, his seat being directly across from the executive members of ShinRa. A given since he was the General, which was actually a curse in more ways than one and he spent much of the three hour ordeal cursing his SOLDIER's enhanced senses.
"I cannot even begin to fathom why the event organizer felt the need to have microphones for them."
Angeal sighed, "Well at least we can enjoy a nice quiet evening. No doubt they are still there torturing those other poor souls."
"Thank the Goddess for that little mercy!"
"I just hope the meeting is not rescheduled to this weekend. I am being permitted to choose the films for movie night this Saturday."
"Getting addicted to those chick flicks, General?" drawled Genesis, teasing his old friend, who was clearly upset at the possible schedule disruption, as it would interfere with his watching his favorite movies.
Sephiroth snorted, "They are definitely better than watching your LOVELESS recitals over and over again."
Genesis waved his hand and remarked lazily, "It's obvious that you haven't an artistic bone in your body."
Angeal enjoyed his mirth in silence even if he was rolling his eyes.
"LOVELESS is truly the pinnacle of this era, a piece of art that has defined us, our minds and our very nature beyond any other words ever written. Is it really any wonder that people still seek out the wisdom it holds, be it in the past, present or even in the future; as our Cloud has perfectly demonstrated time and time again. I believe he has a nice grasp upon this poem." Genesis had carried on with his little speech in the flaunting way that was his signature, adding elegant hand gestures and a graceful bow here and there as if he was performing on stage.
Sephiroth shook his head and retorted sarcastically, "That is because our dear Cloud has not had to hear it repeated over and over like broken record, Genesis."
Genesis had hissed indignantly and was ready to launch his own argument, before Angeal butted in.
"Sephiroth, you know better than to insult his precious LOVELESS. And Genesis, don't mock Sephiroth about his movie choices ok? Behave, children." With that Angeal walked on ahead eager to get to their already near shared apartment.
Genesis struggled against his pride to hold his tongue and though he was still seething he settled on a loud displeased "hmph" which afforded him all the dignity of a petulant child as he pouted in anger.
Sephiroth, meanwhile, had kept his silence, but one could easily see the pouty looking frown upon his lips. Both resembled children who had just been scolded by their teacher.
'This is getting really old already' Angeal thought to himself; sighing inwardly upon seeing his two friends nearing the apartment with the same petulant faces, he stopped and fished around in his pockets for his keys.
Genesis raised his eyebrow seeing his childhood friend had stopped to search for his keys.
"Don't you think Cloud will be there to open the door for us?"
"I don't know, I don't really hear him. He could be outside with Zack and Kunsel or spending some time in the cafeteria with his nephew."
"He is inside," Sephiroth stated with certain conviction.
Genesis huffed, blew is bangs of his face and rolled his eyes and Sephiroth, who though completely puzzled by the reaction, decided to let it go.
Then Angeal inserted the key and turned the lock gently. Once the door was opened, a sight greeted them had almost made them speechless.
There was Cloud, clothed in his usual loose T-shirt and grey boxer, curled up on the couch, sleeping soundly. His usually solemn, serious face had relaxed considerably and its expression was just peaceful. The angelic face he wore as he slept made him look younger, beautiful and delicate, despite the fact that he was an experienced warrior. One of his arms was stretched out and he appeared to be holding onto something which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a petal from off a lily; the very kind of flower that grew in the church and was brought home by the blond just yesterday.
From that day on, that particular flower had become a constant decoration in their apartment. Angeal even took up gardening again. So few little pots of the flowers had appeared and were hung along the wide balcony. Somehow, with the presence of the delicate blooms, Cloud's sleepless nights became less and less.
1. It won't make any sense if you do not read Sinnatious' The Fifth Act, so go read it first. It was an awesome piece!
2. Have to say sorry that I got tied by the real life so much that I don't have that much time to write regularly. Hence, the delay. Then my beta's compie broke on her so yeah, I had to wait for sometime for the complete beta version.
3. Okay, well, umm...I guess you guys notice the slight pairings up there? I'm just experimenting things so I don't know why Genesis is currently leading. Uhh...well...it's not completely Gen anymore. *laughs and runs to hide*
4. Next chapter will be late as well...seeing that I am currently juggling with two man jobs. Blekh...seriously blekh.
5. I don't know why I write this long...it's supposed to be like drabble length, not 8000 something words length.
6. I'm shutting up now, so happy reading! ^.^