This monster was written because I have a thing for Cloud with pretty kitty Jenova eyes. Yup, whenever you picture Cloud in this fic you've gotta picture him with Sephy's eyes but blue. It's fun, try it. Also, cute sweet adorable SephirothCloud, for the soul. Happy Holidays everyone! This is my present to all of you ;) And! I knoooow the timeline is super super wrong. I'm okay with that. Just go with it. (Also, IM coming very very soon.) I'm rather proud of this fic ^^;
Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII blahblahblah (no, not even Angeal ;~;)
Sephiroth was not very pleased to wake and see the sky. An extraordinarily white sky was not his bedroom ceiling, and therefore he was not where he was supposed to be. He should have sat up, reached for Masamune, gotten himself away from wherever he was—instead he watched the colorless sky above placidly, in no rush to do anything.
Then the sky turned a fantastic blue and the sun came out—oh...no—there was someone leaning over him. Oops.
"You're awake," the boy stated. It was who he had heard earlier. "Are you okay?"
Sephiroth's manners made him answer the boy's questions; he exhaled and was then able to talk.
"I'm fine," he answered, sitting up. He really wasn't, but he wasn't about to burden some kid with his troubles. He looked around, keeping his senses trained on the boy. He wouldn't be taken unawares if he was a threat.
Where were his men? Where was he? What had happened to Shin-Ra? How did he get here?
"Where am I?" he asked his companion, getting the most pressing of his questions out of the way. There was hard, cracked earth in every direction; he could see patches of snow occasionally in the distance. It wasn't chilly, though, and even if it was the Mako in his system would have kept him warm.
General Sephiroth was in the middle of snowy nowhere in sleep pants and a t-shirt, sans Masamune, and more tranquil than he ever was at any other time. The panic was taking its sweet time rising. Drugs, perhaps?
He glanced at the boy. He had retreated a ways, sitting on his knees, looking ready to bolt if Sephiroth tried to go towards him. Hmm?
The blond was clothed in ratty pajamas and wore a pair of thick socks with a small hole on one heel. He was young, though how young he couldn't guess. He—
The boy's eyes were just like his.
The blond realized Sephiroth was staring and remembered his question. "I don't know," he said softly, relaxing the littlest bit. Blue eyes, catlike in a way Sephiroth had never seen on anyone but himself, met green.
"I dream about this place sometimes. This is the first time I've seen you here."
Dreaming? That would explain a lot, but he was lucid. Sephiroth dug a nail into his palm. Ouch. Yes, lucid—he couldn't be dreaming.
"Am I dreaming too, do you think?" he asked despite himself.
The boy sat down fully, crossing his legs. He squinted and frowned, examining the man who had appeared in his little sanctuary. At length he said hesitantly, "Maybe. Probably. It's not like normal dreams when I'm here, if you're wondering why you feel like you're awake."
Sephiroth was silent, pondering this. If this was true, he was in some kid's dream. His men, Shin-Ra and he himself were safe, though, so he relaxed. A bit.
The boy had moved closer, just a bit, and was openly studying him, curiosity written all over his face.
Sephiroth looked at the little thing, who stiffened when he did so. He swallowed then said softly, "Hi. I'm Cloud."
"Sephiroth." He held out his hand, and after a beat Cloud took it. His fingers were cold and his grip was weak, but Sephiroth's was firm out of habit and the blond's fingers tightened in an effort to keep up. After a slightly awkward handshake, maybe Cloud's first, they let go and went back to staring at each other.
"...I think I'm dreaming you up," Cloud said dazedly, speaking at him, rather to him. "I've never seen anyone with eyes like mine before. And your hair's a weird color."
Sephiroth smiled, because he was half-convinced he was dreaming Cloud up. "I haven't either. This is probably a coping mechanism of some sort."
There was more silence, weird and unnatural. Cloud started looking up at the sky; Sephiroth looked out at the horizon, blurring into whiteness.
"Your hair's not exactly common either," he murmured finally. "Where I come from it's rare to see something other than black or brown."
Cloud patted his spikes self-consciously. "Hey—my mom has blond hair. Most of the people in town are redheads."
"Hmm," Cloud grunted, imitating him.
Sephiroth stood eventually, drawing Cloud's gaze. He smoothed down his shirt and asked, "Would you like to go for a walk?"
He was being exceptionally chatty today, with this dream-boy. He wouldn't ponder it.
"Okay," Cloud agreed, standing on legs that were incredibly skinny, obvious even through his pants. Kid looked half-starved.
They set off in a random direction. Sephiroth walked barefoot, noting curiously how the ground felt no different whether he was walking on the hard earth or a patch of snow.
"Once I ran for as long as I could," Cloud piped up. "I don't think this place ever ends."
It was unnerving, being this exposed. Couldn't be helped.
"How old are you?" he asked. Cloud's footsteps were light, making next to no noise.
Cloud changed their course, gently nudging Sephiroth with his elbow. They walked side by side in the silence. Sephiroth had never been good with conversation. Cloud didn't seem to mind.
"I guess you don't live in my town. I'd know you if you did."
Sephiroth stuck his hands into the pockets of his soft pants, watching his toes sink into the snow without the accompanying crunch or coldness. "No, I suppose not. I live in Midgar."
"Wow. I've heard stories about Midgar."
"Yeah, like how bright it is. And trains. And how neat the people there are."
"It's really not that great a place. It's very dirty, and the crime rates are extraordinarily high."
"I think I'd like it more than Nibelheim."
'Nibelheim' rang only the faintest of bells. He'd look at a map once he woke up... if he even remembered this.
Soon Cloud stopped walking. "I'm waking up," he said mournfully, sitting down in a place that looked no different from where they had first appeared. Confused, Sephiroth sat too.
Cloud grabbed his hand, lying down. He held it with both of his own. Sephiroth scooted closer to his strange new acquaintance and leant over him so he could look down into his eyes. It struck him how this was opposite of how he had woken up here.
"When you wake up in real life you fall asleep here," Cloud explained, eyes drooping. "Um... thanks, Sephiroth, for being here. It was nice to meet you."
Sephiroth squeezed the boy's hand the littlest bit. "It was nice meeting you as well."
Cloud's eyes shut and his grip slackened on the captive hand, but he didn't quite let go. "I hope I see you again sometime," he murmured. Sephiroth blinked and he was gone—he was alone in this strange place.
There was no sign that Cloud had been here—his footsteps in the snow a while back had disappeared. Interesting.
Sephiroth stretched out his legs and leant back on his hands, looking up at the sky. As wintery as ever. Hm.
He missed the company Cloud provided, a bit. Sephiroth laid down after a short while, curling up on his side, realizing that, for many a time, Cloud had been in here alone. Unpleasant...
Sephiroth reached out and turned off his alarm clock, staring at the 06:00 until it changed.
This was his apartment, just as it had been last night. His covers were warm, his bed comfortable, the ceiling an off-white completely different from that of the endless, low sky he had seen in his dream. He remembered it all.
After a few minutes of indecision, something he rarely, if ever, felt, Sephiroth got out of bed and moved towards the shower, readying himself for another day at Shin-Ra.
It took him a week to convince himself his dream had been just that—a dream.
He was no fool. He was a lonely, hurt bastard; he very easily had thought up someone who—pah—had been like him, who wasn't scared on some level of his unnatural appearance, who might have, in some way, been able to sympathize. He had Angeal and Genesis, great (and his only) friends, who knew what it was like to grow up in Hollander's lab—who was he to wish for someone else, his own special 'friend?' It was foolish and the whole idea of being in Cloud's dreams was absurd, so it didn't happen. Didn't. Happen.
And life continued as usual. War loomed again and then was declared, so he went to Wutai. Silver Demon indeed.
It was a full four months before he dreamt of Cloud again.
Cloud was a short distance away, drawing in the snow with his fingertip and occasionally trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue. He didn't notice him. Sephiroth sat for a time, watching Cloud's back. It was snowing hard, but he wasn't cold—it felt like it did last time.
Here he was again.
"Cloud," he called finally. The teen jumped and whirled around, eyes wide.
"...Sephiroth!" he gasped in disbelief, abandoning his doodles and rushing over. "Y-You're back!"
"I am," the General marveled, not believing it either.
Cloud fell to his knees beside him. "I-I-I thought," he stuttered, hands waving frantically. "I just—wow, you're back. I didn't think I'd see you again."
"I convinced myself we hadn't," he confessed, almost ashamed.
"I hoped we had," Cloud said softly. He smiled, and Sephiroth found himself smiling too. There were those strange, pretty eyes again. He was either mad or... well. It didn't matter really.
"Just a warning. I could be woken at any moment."
Sephiroth gave a tight sigh. "I'm in the middle of a war, Cloud. My men and I could be under attack at any time."
Cloud's mouth fell open and he gave him a look of complete surprise and awe for a few seconds. "...War?" he parroted, "You're in an army?"
Better for the kid to know who he was dealing with. "I'm a General in Shin-Ra's army," he explained. "Shin-Ra's a company in Midgar."
"Ohhh. There's a reactor in Nibelheim."
"I'm sorry about that."
"It's okay. Not your fault."
They got up and moved to where Cloud had been drawing. It didn't look like anything, but Cloud told him it was a Nibel dragon and Sephiroth said it was excellent. He set about drawing the layout of his camp, using this extra time to try and formulate something.
"So," Cloud said brightly, "You're really strong?"
"I think so. I need to be, since I'm the General."
Cloud examined his clothes. "Does everybody wear that?"
He was still in his uniform; he had managed to pass out on a cot inside one of the warmer tents—his men had orders to wake him if anything went wrong. He hadn't slept in three days.
"No. I have one friend who wears clothes similar to mine, but the uniform most men wear is very different."
"Your best friend?"
Sephiroth smirked, picturing the face Genesis would make at being referred to as Sephiroth's "best friend." "I suppose so. I have two good friends. Him—Genesis—and Angeal. How about you?"
Cloud made an indifferent noise, plucking at his worse-for-wear pajamas. "I...don't really have any friends. It's okay, though." He frowned and drew something else, then turned to Sephiroth almost shyly. "You're my friend?"
Sephiroth nodded. "Sure."
Cloud flushed and moved away to a fresh patch of snow, drawing furiously. Sephiroth looked up at the sky—it was darker than last time. The snowflakes falling disappeared when they hit the ground, probably appearing above them and completing a cycle.
"Is it snowing right now, in Nibelheim?"
"Yeah," Cloud answered, voice dark. "It's especially snowy this year."
In Midgar, Sephiroth knew, snow wouldn't fall for another month or two. He purposely hadn't looked at any world maps, not wanting to find Nibelheim and be forced to admit that Cloud possibly existed. He looked around again and asked, "Is Nibelheim in a mountainous region?"
"Mm-hmm. We're right in the Nibel mountains, sorta near Rocket Town."
"You're not too far from Wutai," Sephiroth said with a smile. "It's snowing—here...too..."
Cloud scrambled over to him as he fell backwards, suddenly too tired to stay upright. "Thanks for visiting me again," he said quickly. "Be careful, please."
"...'Will," Sephiroth mumbled, vanishing. He sprang out of his cot, reaching for Masamune. The Second in his tent hissed something into a radio, nodded at Sephiroth and ran out.
Be careful, Cloud had said. He wasn't about to die in battle, especially not when there was a kid in Nibelheim, probably, who had eyes like his and couldn't draw to save his life and wouldn't want him dead. He'd get to the bottom of this before he'd let anything happen to himself.
He was careful. Sort of. Not by anyone else's standards. He led his men well, annihilated the enemy—many of them, so many—and followed Shin-Ra's orders. He'd be victorious because he was designed to be victorious. Angeal and Genesis fought too. It was hard, seeing his friends kill, but he couldn't talk.
It was tempting, telling them about Cloud, but he refrained. There were more important things to talk about in the few times he saw them in this gaiaforsaken place. He was quiet, doing his best to be careful and win the war and stay sane.
And, sure enough, Wutai fell. It was after considerable loss of life, money and resources, but it did. Mostly. Sephiroth and Angeal were shipped back to Midgar while Genesis stayed behind, dealing with the smaller skirmishes. Phew.
It seemed his reputation had gotten bigger over the course of the war. Now when he wet out to eat or to the store people stared, whispered and nudged their friends.
All this fame? For what? Murder. He had killed hundreds single-handedly in that war, and he had people asking for his autograph at home.
It was annoying, but he dealt with it. Angeal was largely in the same boat as him, and they found themselves hanging out more, more often than they had before the war. Genesis would be back soon enough and things would be back to normal, if not better than they had been before.
The thing was... he had a secret now. And he hadn't spoken to Cloud in over half a year. Cold weather had become warm, and Sephiroth, after so long, was beginning to doubt himself again. If it really had happened, and Cloud really was out there somewhere, it didn't seem like they were going to meet again.
It was kind of depressing, actually. But, life had to go on—so he trained and taught and worked hard. He was good at that.
It took him by surprise, when he woke up in a field of flowers. This third time there was no snow, and the sky was blue. Finally.
Cloud had been behind him. Sephiroth sat up fully and turned, seeing the boy rush over. He was wearing shorts and had in his hands a bunch of flowers, freshly-picked.
"I knew you'd show up," he said with a grin. "It's been a while."
"It has," Sephiroth agreed. He frowned. "Do you come here more often than I do?"
Cloud tossed his flowers into the air, watching them flutter down. "Not since I met you the first time. You come every time I do."
"That's good." He had been worried, almost, that Cloud spent time in this unnatural place by himself.
"What have you been up to?"
They began walking like they had the first time they met. This time it was bright, and easily you could imagine it was warm and there was a pleasant breeze.
"We won the war." Cloud seemed happy to hear that. "I got a new apartment. I saw a play a few days ago. How about yourself?"
"Tomorrow's my birthday," Cloud said gleefully. He giggled wildly at Sephiroth's surprised face and ran ahead, jumping up and down in his excitement.
"My mom's going to make me a cake," he babbled, picking more flowers and tossing them into the air. "She even said I could stay home from school!"
Sephiroth watched him, amused. Cloud realized this and went red, dropping his hands to his sides. The older man laughed quietly and asked, "What did you ask for? Any presents?"
"Well, my mom doesn't have much money. Maybe I'll get a book. It's okay if I don't," he added hastily, like Sephiroth thought he was greedy or something. As if.
"I'm sure it will be a great birthday."
"I hope so!"
Curiosity beat manners, and Sephiroth asked him about Nibelheim.
"It's really cold," Cloud said immediately. "My room is always freezing, except in the summer. There's lots of flowers blooming in this field near my house just like these. We get monsters that come down from the mountains sometimes. The people are... ah, not the nicest. Otherwise it's okay. What about Midgar?"
The boy was obviously holding quite a bit back, but it wasn't his place to pry. Sephiroth hummed, twirled a pink flower between his thumb and pointer finger and told him about the city. Cloud couldn't believe the plate, no matter how Sephiroth described it to him. He seemed interested in the slums and WallMarket, making noises of sympathy as he learned about the filth the people beneath the plate lived in.
"Tell me about your friends," implored Cloud after they sat down to rest. "Ooops—nevermind." He flopped backwards. "My mom must be waking me up."
"Have an excellent birthday," Sephiroth said warmly.
Cloud passed the last few flowers in his hands to him. "Thanks so much," he said sleepily, then was gone.
Even for a while after Cloud left, Sephiroth was in good spirits. The blond had been happier than he had ever seen him before. It was a shame that their timezones were so different—Cloud woke a few hours before he did out there. Time here was so different, sometimes just an hour or so, even if a whole night passed in the 'real' world, Cloud had told him.
This time he didn't have to wait long before he himself woke. Sephiroth rolled out of bed, yawning and feeling light; Cloud's happiness was infectious.
In his office that day he wrote "Cloud's Birthday" on the nineteenth on his calendar.
It took only three days for them to meet again.
The sky was dark, Sephiroth noted as he sat up. No Cloud in sight... no—there he was, not too far away, lying down on his back.
"I'm here," he called softly. Cloud didn't even twitch.
"Hey," the boy responded weakly.
Slightly worried, Sephiroth inched closer. Where was the happy teen from just a few days ago?
He got too close and Cloud scrambled into a sitting position, looking down at the flowers that wouldn't crush under his weight. Sephiroth couldn't see the boy's face and said hesitantly, "...Cloud... are you alright? Is something wrong?"
"I'm fine," Cloud said, so quietly it was nearly inaudible.
Sephiroth was, predictably, not convinced. He was terrible at consoling people, but... Cloud was Cloud; he had to try.
"You can tell me anything," he awkwardly offered after a minute. "It's not like I can do anything with the information." That sounded sort of wrong so he tacked on a hasty, "I'm here to help."
Cloud said nothing, and Sephiroth let out a quiet puff of air. Smooth. He eyed the teenager—ripped long-sleeved shirt and sweatpants in summer. Yes, something was wrong. He could hazard a guess or two.
Sephiroth tried to think of a new approach and absently ran his fingers through his hair, grabbing it and holding it up. He could have really used a hair tie of some sort... but, alas.
He glanced over to find Cloud had been watching him think. He tried to look away, but it was too late.
"Cloud." It wasn't intentional, but he said it in his 'General voice.' The blond cringed.
"...Got jumped on the way home from school today," he muttered finally. Sephiroth crouched before him, reaching out and putting a gentle finger beneath his chin, making him look up.
One cheek was bruised and swollen, his lip was split, and he had a black eye. There was a thick bandage on his chin and a smaller one just above his eyebrow.
"They got you good," he said with a hint of a smile, trying to get Cloud to do the same.
He got a small one. "You should see what I did to the one guy."
Sephiroth ran his fingertips lightly over Cloud's hurt cheek. He closed his eyes and frowned, concentrating—and green tendrils of magic drifted from his fingers to Cloud's flesh. "Heal," he breathed, keeping his hand there until he was satisfied Cloud was fully healed.
Those blue eyes that Sephiroth pondered so much went from saddened to surprised. Cloud patted his face and stretched out his limbs, even breathing deeply. They had probably broken a rib of his, Sephiroth thought darkly.
"Magic?" Cloud gasped.
"I don't always need a materia," Sephiroth affirmed.
"...Thanks," Cloud sniffed. He shuddered and looked back at the ground.
Sephiroth stopped crouching and sat, close by but giving Cloud his space.
In a quiet voice a minute later Cloud hissed, "I hate them." He banged his fist into the ground each time he said it. "I hate them, I hate them, I hate them!" Then he was quiet, stiff, jaw clenched. He exhaled—all the tension drained out of him and he looked at Sephiroth tiredly.
"Did you ever have to deal with bullies?"
Sephiroth considered. "When I was very young, yes. I was different... silver hair that young, different eyes-" he glanced at Cloud and held his gaze, "-and I've always had some difficulty socially. It stopped when I showed them all I wouldn't stand for it."
Cloud nodded, and Sephiroth said with a lopsided smile, "I'm not telling you to go hurt people."
"I know that!" Cloud pushed him. Sephiroth didn't sway an inch. Cloud pouted and sat again, crossing his legs.
"Oh. Will you tell me about your friends? We ran out of time last time."
"Sure." Sephiroth laid back, looking up at the sky, and he felt Cloud crawl over to lay beside him in the same position.
He told Cloud about Genesis and Angeal, and how they had known each other for years. Never had Sephiroth considered himself an expert, but by the way Cloud was hanging onto his every word, he was the momentary 'friend guru.' He almost laughed.
Cloud did laugh brightly when he quoted some LOVELESS and then sourly spoke of his hatred for the poem and Genesis whenever he'd spout lines of it (which was always). He talked about Angeal's garden hidden in a courtyard and of Zack Fair, Angeal's new mentee.
"You'd like him," he told the blond confidently.
He even talked about Shin-Ra, and SOLDIER. Cloud kept asking questions, like "How big are the buildings?"; "Do you like them?" and "Really?"
The teen was fun, he had to admit. Shin-Ra didn't seem too exciting a place, but Cloud seemed to think it was fascinating, listening closely to every little story the General could come up with.
Sephiroth talked himself into a sleepy stupor, and he and Cloud laid there, both beginning to stir in the real world.
"What's your favorite thing about Shin-Ra?" Cloud murmured, curling unintentionally into Sephiroth's side.
The General yawned. "The food... just kidding... I don't know."
"Haha. Thanks again for the Cure."
"My pleasure... again, happy birthday."
Cloud's voice was very quiet; he almost missed it. "Thanks. See you soon, Sephiroth."
The warmth at his side vanished, and Sephiroth rolled over, smushing more flowers until he was on sheets and blinked sleepily at his pillow. Ahh—he could get used to this.
He was going to do it.
Of course, he had considered the pros and cons, but in the end he needed to tell someone, anyone.
Sephiroth shifted unnoticeably in his seat, watching his friends—now three—poke around Angeal's office. Angeal was trying to get Zack to stop pulling things out of his bookcase, and Genesis was rooting through the drawers of the desk.
"Hey... guys," Sephiroth eventually ventured.
Hearing the word "guys" come out of General Sephiroth's mouth was enough to make them all stop and stare.
Dammit. Sephiroth resisted the urge to twist back and forth on Angeal's desk chair and said, "I thought I should tell you something. I..." he paused, trying to work out how to say it.
"Yeah, Seph?" Genesis perched on the edge of the desk and the other two moved closer, concerned.
"I've been having these dreams for quite some time," he said finally. "In these dreams I meet a boy named Cloud... and I think I am really meeting him through dreams. He's real—he lives in a town called Nibelheim."
They all seemed sufficiently surprised. "Woah," Zack breathed.
Angeal was frowning. "How do you know it's not just a dream?"
Sephiroth frowned too. "Because he thought I wasn't real at first. And he's told me things I couldn't have thought up myself. I know it doesn't sound possible... but I really do believe in him." He tapped his finger against the armrest of the chair and said softly, looking away, the most important thing out of all of this, "He has eyes like mine."
It was just as he feared. Immediately any part of them that had been believing him was extinguished. And—yes—there it was—pity in their eyes.
"Sephiroth," Genesis said sadly, shaking his head.
Did they really think that he was pathetic enough to come up with Cloud on his own! To need a companion so badly that he'd dream one up? He had long ago come to terms with the fact that he was different; he wasn't a child who needed an imaginary friend.
Zack was only meaning well when he said hesitantly, "We're your friends, Seph—you've got us, right?" but it pissed Sephiroth off to no end. He left the room, saying nothing about it then and later when they joined him for dinner, shooting each other glances when they thought he wasn't looking.
He didn't mention Cloud to them again; he never should have brought him up.
Was he really making the boy up? He honestly didn't think so, he concluded after a lot of thought. It was unlikely there was a boy from a tiny town with his eyes and it was unlikely that they were sharing dreams, but...
He wanted desperately to believe in Cloud, so he did.
The next time he saw Cloud, several months later, he was pleasantly surprised.
He had put on weight and didn't look quite so starved and frail anymore. Muscle, just a bit but significantly more than what had been present before was on his tiny frame—he looked good.
Cloud smiled brightly when he spotted him, running over. It was fall in this realm again—bleak, and with a stormy sky overhead.
"Good evening," he greeted, curious and amused at how this time Cloud fidgeted almost nervously.
"Uh—hi, Sephiroth. How're you?"
"Fine," he answered easily. He wasn't really, because they were dealing with a new class of Cadets and the others were still acting weird around him, but it wasn't important really.
They exchanged more pleasantries, Sephiroth growing more curious and Cloud more flustered, until Cloud cleared his throat and took a deep breath.
He gave him a firm look, head up and shoulders back. "I've done some research," he said, "and I've decided that I... I want to join the Shin-Ra Army."
—He'd discourage him just once, General be damned.
"...It's a hard life," Sephiroth said heavily, looking Cloud in the eye so he could make him understand. "People die every day under my command. Shin-Ra's not friendly."
He was quiet, letting it sink in, then continued. "Cloud... even knowing you could die—just like that—and knowing there's no returning to your normal life, do you still want to be part of SOLDIER?"
Cloud didn't waver. "I know what I'm getting into, Sir. I still want to join. I feel like it's what I'm supposed to do."
Sephiroth had to give in. "Okay then, Cadet," he said with a small smile, looking down at one of his future men, "Welcome to Shin-Ra. I'll look for your paperwork in the upcoming months." They shook hands, let go and stood there.
"Don't call me Sir again," Sephiroth sighed. Cloud giggled and started leading him in the direction of this night's walk.
They talked more about Shin-Ra, less about Sephiroth's experiences and more about what Cloud could expect. The boy listened intently to everything, looking sufficiently intimidated at some of the harder classes and workouts. Sephiroth assured him that with lots of dedication and hard work he would succeed.
Then Cloud wanted to know more about his friends again, so Sephiroth racked his brain, trying to think of more interesting stories. They weren't that hard to think of.
Sephiroth, with a heavy heart, told Cloud of how he had tried to tell them about him, and how they hadn't believed him and had been acting strangely around him ever since.
Cloud gave him a sympathetic look and reached up to give Sephiroth a not-quite hug, but more than a casual arm around his shoulder.
"I know you're not crazy," he said, then smiled. "Well—maybe you are. But, that would mean I'm crazy too." He laughed, then sobered. "I didn't tell my mom about you yet...I probably should, I'm sorry."
"No no," Sephiroth said, shaking his head and rubbing his hand soothingly down the teen's back. "Don't do it until you're ready to."
Cloud considered this, tilting his head, then nodded with a smile. Sephiroth smirked and tugged Cloud's waist so the boy could sit right next to him. Cloud let go of Sephiroth's shoulder and sat with his legs straight out in front of him, head leaning on Sephiroth's upper arm. Comfortable enough.
They talked of Shin-Ra for a while more, and then Sephiroth asked a question that had been plaguing him ever since they met. He used his thumb to gently twist the boy's face to the left, towards him.
He studied Cloud's eyes for a while. They didn't glow, but were stunning regardless—they were a bright, calming blue with tiny flecks of green and an amberish color, closer to his pupil than the whites.
It was odd. Sephiroth maybe started to understand what startled other people so when they looked at him. He was used to his own eyes, after seeing them in mirrors for his whole life, but Cloud's were different, unusual—not scary or unsettling, however, but interesting. Beautiful. He examined the boy's pupils, not quite as thin as his but perhaps longer.
It occurred to Sephiroth that his examinations may have been a bit awkward for Cloud, and he glanced at his face, but Cloud seemed content to study his own green eyes. Fair enough.
"Do you know why your eyes are like this?"
Cloud blinked, momentarily shielding the objects in question from sight.
"I was just born with them," he answered. "That's what my mom said—I've seen my baby pictures, too." He laughed, "They're kind of strange."
He looked away, out at the strange dreamscape. "She's always said I shouldn't be ashamed about anything I have no control over, but...ah..."
Sephiroth nodded, understanding—of course he did.
"How about you?" Cloud asked, facing him again.
"Like you, I was born with them," he said carefully. He had his suspicions that it was all Hojo's doing, but he didn't say them aloud. Here was Cloud, untainted by Hojo's madness, as innocent as he could be, living the life he had, and in many ways just as ostracized and different as he was.
He snorted at the tiny made for me voice in his head and told Cloud, "Watch out for a man named Hojo when you arrive at Shin-Ra. Don't ever be alone with him." His serious tone made Cloud nod gravely.
"A...scientist," he answered uneasily. "I'm his pet project, have been since I was born. Stay away from him—He'll undoubtedly take an interest in you."
"I'll be careful."
Sephiroth didn't say a word about what he'd do to Hojo if he ever touched or hurt Cloud, but he got a feeling Cloud understood anyway, that and the sincerity with which he meant stay away from him.
Conversation turned to lighter things, like favorite foods, books and movies. Cloud ate a repulsive-sounding meal on holiday occasions with Nibel wolf liver and... unspeakable things. The blond sounded ravenous as he proclaimed loudly, "We're going to get one of these cheeseburgers as soon as I get to Midgar!"
"I'll take you...so—mewhere nice," Sephiroth said, yawning at the same time Cloud did. "You don't want to know what's in the cheap ones at McMidgar's."
Cloud flopped backwards, and Sephiroth followed him. After a moment's indecision Sephiroth rolled onto his side, prompted a sleepy Cloud to as well, then tugged him backwards so his thin back pressed against his chest. He left his arm there, draped across Cloud's waist and buried his face into the teen's hair, incredibly tired.
"I wanna go to one of those," Cloud whined, covering Sephiroth's hand on his tummy with his own. "The closest one's in, like, Rocket Town."
"Mm," Sephiroth grunted. He said, before he lost his chance, "I hope we meet again before the term starts. If not... look for me."
Cloud didn't answer, but his hand weakly tightened, letting Sephiroth know his message had been received. Then Cloud disappeared.
Sephiroth frowned at the loss of comfort and warmth, but the memory of them were enough to ease him into slumber completely. He woke up, stretching, and got out of bed with a rare smile. He really didn't act like himself at all, when around that boy... but that was okay.
He became a workaholic. ...More of one.
Angeal, Genesis and Zack were concerned, but he didn't pay them too much mind. He was General, and as General, he had to make everything perfect.
Cloud was coming. So, he examined the Cadet program, every bit of it. He made sure the funding was going to the right places—which it wasn't, he realized as he poked his head into the decaying barracks and then in the new Third training gym. He made sure the instructors were decent, adjusted the core classes a little, and personally sat in on all kinds of classes (much to the Cadets' fright) to make sure they were up to scratch.
He felt sort of guilty, doing all this for Cloud. The teen had made him promise not to give special treatment of any sort. This wasn't special treatment, though—this would benefit all his future men. He was just grateful that he had Cloud around to finally make him care about the poor Cadets.
Sephiroth closely monitored the influx of new applications, and he sat frozen in his chair when the picture of a certain blond came up.
This was it—any remaining doubt in Sephiroth's mind crumbled away to nothing as he glanced away from the shyly smiling boy, eyes as striking through a lens as they were in real life, and read the name. Cloud Strife. 5 foot 6, 118 pounds, eye color: Blue, birthplace: Nibelheim. It wasn't his place, really, to read more than that, so he didn't. He minimized the screen and went for a walk of all things, seeing Angeal on his way down a flight of steps.
"Haven't really talked to you in a while," his friend said, voice light but eyes critical. "How have you been, Seph?"
"Busy," Sephiroth replied—everyone could attest to that. Inside, he was grinning ear-to-ear, but he managed to keep his face neutral. Mostly.
Angeal, who could always read him like a book, remarked, "You seem happy." He nodded in thanks when Sephiroth held open a door for him.
"Do I?" The way he said it made Angeal shake his head with a snort, and they strolled around the compound in the sun, even though it was chilly, catching up on many months of less than suitable interaction.
After talking to Angeal he went back to work, sending an email to Lazard about his progress and another to Genesis, mentioning that he had heard about a new production of LOVELESS in a city a few hours away. Then the General sat, looking around at his office, the framed awards, books and expensive furniture, and smiled.
His life was getting a hell of a lot better.
Sephiroth had thought that he and Cloud might not dream of each other again, or not until after Cloud arrived at Shin-Ra. It turned out Sephiroth woke to see a bright sky and excited blue eyes a week and a few days before Cloud's sixteenth birthday, and a few weeks before the fall term started.
"Sephiroth!" Cloud said happily, pulling the older man to his feet. "I mean—Sir! I mean Sephiroth!" He laughed, giddy, and Sephiroth smiled. He looked healthier than ever in small shorts and a baggy t-shirt—it was nice to see him less frighteningly pale and skinny.
Cloud launched into his plans and preparations, and Sephiroth listened intently. He was getting exited, and he wasn't the one moving to a new, unknown city.
He mentioned his mother, "My mom's still kind of uneasy about the whole thing, but she wants me to be able to do what I want to do."
"How did she take it when you said you wanted to join?"
Cloud flushed. "Well," he said, tapping his fingertips together as they walked through the field, "I told her the day after we spoke last time... right after I told her about you—and me, us, uh, whatever this is. I think it was a little much for her."
"Mm," Sephiroth hummed sympathetically.
"She said she didn't want me just... joining the army because of you, some guy in my dreams. I'm sure she doesn't think you're real... oh well."
"I could call or write to her some day, if you wanted—to ease her fears."
"She'd appreciate that, thanks." Cloud was quiet, then said softly, "I tried to tell her that it's not just you, why I want to join SOLDIER. I want to be strong too, and I need to get away from Nibelheim. I mean, you are some of it, I really look up to you and you're, well, uh, you...and all, but-" He stopped, blushing and unable to get his thoughts across correctly. Sephiroth smiled, letting Cloud stew in flustered silence before changing the topic.
"Is all your paperwork in?"
"Yes!" Cloud said enthusiastically, relieved at the change in topic. "I got my roommate assignment and everything."
"What's your room number?"
They exchanged information, and Sephiroth gave Cloud his PHS number, making sure he could remember it.
Cloud giggled as he bent to pick a red flower, "I feel like some kid giving away all this information on the internet. You're not some forty year old predator, are you?"
Sephiroth shook his head. "Not the last time I checked."
They didn't arrange a time to meet or anything, sure they'd work it out somehow. After some last-minute instructions, like which office to go to and what streets to avoid on his way from the train station, Sephiroth watched as Cloud sprawled out in the flowers.
"Bye, Sir," he said cheekily, and was gone.
Sephiroth laughed, voice ringing out in the silence, before lying down himself. He folded his arms beneath his head and watched the sky for a long while, not really thinking about anything in particular. Eventually the sky morphed into his bedroom ceiling and he continued to lay there long after his alarm clock stopped ringing. This was it... and he was definitely ready.
There were over a hundred gazes on him, but none of them felt different from any other. That, of course, was to be expected, but he couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.
In front of him sat all of Shin-Ra's newest Cadets. Out there, somewhere... was Cloud. It was disappointing, how all the fidgeting boys were wearing their helmets and were in full uniform—he couldn't search for bright spikes. That might have been a good thing, Sephiroth thought, clapping demurely as Lazard left the podium and inwardly groaning as Heidegger prepared to say his bit. If he did see Cloud, what would he say anyway? He hadn't rehearsed anything in his head yet.
He had already spoken—first, actually—welcoming the newest Cadets. Now, as he stood just a bit to the side, he could think.
He wondered what Cloud was doing right now. Maybe he was sitting still, eyes trained on Heidegger, or maybe he wasn't paying the annoying man—
"BWA hah hah!"
—a bit of attention and was looking at him instead? Maybe he knew how hard Sephiroth was looking at the crowd of identical boys, looking for some sort of sign that would identify one as who he was looking for?
He wanted to know how the trip went, and if he made it through Midgar alright. What his first thoughts about Shin-Ra were. If it was weird seeing him stand on this stage in his full uniform, in such a position of power—it was certainly weird picturing his dream-boy in a Shin-Ra uniform, as one of his subordinates.
When the short assembly ended and all the Cadets filed out, Sephiroth stared at their seats for a time before catching up to Genesis, Zack and Angeal, who were chatting about this year's group.
"Whaddaya think, General?" Zack asked, looking awfully pleased about being introduced as a First Class. "Any potential?"
"I think so. We'll have to wait and see."
He lasted two days. There were two days of tense waiting, of keeping his eyes open and not seeing anything. He wasn't going to barge into one of the boy's classes, but he wanted to see him (Sephiroth could only hope that Cloud wanted to see him just as badly and he wasn't being unnaturally clingy. General Sephiroth didn't cling).
He found himself outside Cloud's door—A309, Cloud had said in his pleasing northern accent—and he knocked, feeling instantly foolish.
The door opened after a few seconds, and a boy looked up at him, eyes going wide. Cloud wasn't here.
"Is Cadet Strife available?" he asked anyway, back straight, eyes narrowed and probably making the poor kid shit his pants.
"Uh—n-n-n-no, Sir—he's doing errands, I think. I'm sorry," he apologized.
"No matter," Sephiroth said dismissively. "Tell him the General is looking for him." He turned to leave, then stopped. He hadn't thought this out.
"If you tell anyone other than Strife, I will know," he said dangerously. The boy nodded frantically, shaggy brown hair flopping, and Sephiroth left the way he had come.
The poor kid—in his first week, no less! Ah well, his work was done. Now he'd wait.
On Friday his friends invited themselves over. Angeal busied himself in the kitchen, Genesis used his jacuzzi and Zack tried to teach him how to play a video game.
"No— 'X' swings the bat, Seph-"
"This is ridiculous," Sephiroth said crossly after a few minutes (he had missed the ball all three times and struck out).
"You just suck!" came Genesis's gleeful voice from the hallway. He emerged looking well-soaked, and in a red bathrobe that he kept on the back of Sephiroth's door for occasions such as this.
"Your turn to pitch," Zack said, having way too much fun.
"Where's your strainers?" Angeal called from the kitchen.
There was a soft knock at the door, and Zack instantly yelled, working both controllers now, "Pizza's here!"
Sephiroth ignored him, because Zack said that every time someone came to the door. "...Bottom cabinet, second from the right," he said to Angeal, who had entered the living room to see who it was.
The General got off the floor and carefully walked to the door, pausing with his hand just away from the doorknob. He shivered once then opened it.
A pair of familiar, strange blue eyes stared up at him. Sephiroth took in the image of Cloud right there, in front of him, on his doorstep, hair cut a bit shorter than it had been the last time he saw him and nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot and shit, Cloud—
He exhaled, and Cloud's face flew out of focus. He wrapped his arms around the teen who had leaped up to hug his neck.
Sephiroth stumbled into his living room a few feet, squeezing Cloud as tightly as the boy was squeezing him—hard, just to make sure he wouldn't—couldn't—go away.
"Sephiroth," Cloud said loudly into his hair, kicking his feet and nearly making Sephiroth drop him. "It's me—I'm here—"
"Woah," he heard one of the others say behind him.
Sephiroth breathed in deeply, pleased with the familiar scent and warmth and fuck, his dream-boy was in his fucking home, every bit as real as he himself was.
He turned, adjusting the still-clinging boy and looked at his friends.
"Meet Cloud Strife," he said with the widest, most smug grin on his face the others had even seen.
Zack was closest. "Cloud? You mean-"
"Cloud," Sephiroth said, setting the now-shy boy on his feet, "Meet Commanders Genesis Rhapsodos and Angeal Hewley, and SOLDIER First Zackary Fair."
"Uhh—hello," Cloud said, shocked to see them there. He waved, then saluted, not sure what to do. Sephiroth let the other three stare at Cloud (or, more specifically, his eyes) for a moment before putting a hand on the boy's back and steering him deeper into the apartment.
He grabbed a coat of his and folded it over his arm. "You won't be cold, will you?" he asked Cloud. He answered his own question with, "Maybe." He found another, smaller coat in the back of his closet and draped it over Cloud's shoulders. Then he was in the kitchen, grabbing his keys off the hook, turning to see Cloud shrugging into the coat, looking overwhelmed.
"So he is real," Genesis said first, padding over to the blond. Cloud looked sufficiently embarrassed (Genesis was in his robe, after all). The redhead said, gently touching Cloud's chin so he'd look up at him, "You have lovely eyes, little one."
"T-Thanks, Sir," Cloud stuttered.
Sephiroth shot Genesis a look, which went ignored. "I'll be back," he told Zack and Angeal. He opened the door, and Cloud scampered outside after saying goodbye to his three new superiors. With one last snooty look Sephiroth shut the door, and then it was just the two of them.
They looked at each other, Cloud slightly out of breath from all the activity that had occurred in the last few minutes. Then they both smiled, slightly shyly.
"Hi," Cloud said breathlessly.
Sephiroth studied the way the boy's t-shirt haphazardly hung off one shoulder, now covered by his jacket, and how his jeans reached the top of his sneakers—he had only ever seen him barefoot or in hole-filled socks. "Hello," he said back. There was so much more he wanted to say, but for now, that was all he could manage. So, he started walking.
After a second or two Cloud hurried forward so he could walk beside him. "Where are we going?"
Sephiroth waited. Cloud's eyes slipped shut in concentration, and the General held his breath—the whole of Midgar held its breath—and then Cloud's pretty blues flew open. He threw his head back and cried, "This is the best thing in the whole world!" He waved his first cheeseburger around, nearly knocking down a salt shaker.
Sephiroth hid a smile behind his own burger, watching as a few other diners turned around to stare at the loud teenager.
"We need a million of these in Nibelheim!"
A slender silver eyebrow rose, and Cloud flushed and sat down fully. He carefully set his cheeseburger down, like it was made of something infinitely fragile, and nibbled a french fry. His face twisted in unimaginable bliss and Sephiroth had to look away, lest he—Gaia forbid—start laughing in public.
"It's weird," Cloud said after shoving an absurd amount of fries into his mouth and swallowing. "Seeing you...eat."
Now self-conscious, Sephiroth wiped his mouth with a napkin. Cloud grinned. "I mean—I dunno. It still doesn't feel real, that I'm really meeting you."
Sephiroth murmured, popping a fry into his mouth, "I know how that feels."
There was a moment where they each watched the other eat, fascinated by their presence, and then Sephiroth asked, "How are you liking Shin-Ra?"
Cloud told him about his classes and the other Cadets. He had been super busy the first week, which was why it took him until Friday to find time to come visit. His teachers were nice... two of them, and he had already made a few friends.
"One guy asked me if I was your son," Cloud said with a chuckle.
Some time later Sephiroth apologized for making him go through that awkwardness earlier, and he promised to introduce him to his friends properly later.
"I almost feel like I know them," Cloud said, playing with his straw, "since you told me so many stories about them." He went pink, "I didn't know Genesis—er, Commander Rhapsodos was so..."
"He had just taken a bath," Sephiroth said with a snort. "Don't worry about him. He's nice—usually."
Cloud told him about his trip (all had gone well, thankfully), and how his mom had cried as he left before demanding that he wrote to her. Sephiroth tried his best to narrate his week, much to Cloud's fascination. He commented on the first assembly, and how he was wondering which Cadet was Cloud.
"I was near the front, on the right! Er, your left. I thought you looked at me once. It was strange, seeing you in person for the first time up on stage like that." He stopped then and confessed, looking away at the nearly-empty restaurant, "It's still strange. I spent so long wishing you were real, and... well, you are."
"So are you," Sephiroth answered, folding his arms comfortably across his chest and studying Cloud. He got a feeling the conversation was a little lopsided and said softly, "I'm glad we were able to meet," he paused, "while we're awake." That sounded weird but he was positive Cloud knew what he meant.
Cloud relaxed into the soft booth seat and smiled at him, full and happy and glowing. "Me too, Sir."
Sephiroth's eyes narrowed at the title and Cloud laughed, knees bumping into his under the table.
They talked themselves into sleepy stupors, food long finished. The manager's head poked out from the kitchen; he saw it was General Sephiroth who was staying so late and promptly disappeared into a back room.
"We had better leave," Cloud said uncertainly as the man's curious face vanished.
Sephiroth left a wad of Gil on the table, not bothering to wait for the check and stood, much to Cloud's amazement. He ushered the teen out, checked to make sure he was wearing the borrowed coat in the early fall weather, then started walking towards home. This time they were mostly silent, just walking and shooting glances at the other, just to reassure themselves that they were still there.
There was a quick lesson at the train station, of how to use the special Midgar city tickets, and of how to not make yourself seem like too much of an outsider, which could be disastrous in a place like Midgar (Cloud didn't have to worry as long as he was around, though, Sephiroth told him—he'd protect him from any threats).
The Shin-Ra building loomed closer and taller and greener with every step. They stopped a distance away, far enough to be unnoticeable to any guards or people watching.
Cloud's eyes were especially lovely in this greenish light. Sephiroth looked down at him, entranced, almost shy but not enough to stop Cloud when the boy hesitantly stepped forward and wrapped his arms around his chest, just beneath his armpits. Cloud's face disappeared near Sephiroth's collar bone, and Sephiroth dropped his chin onto the boy's hair, own arms hugging him back.
Things were different now—Cloud was his subordinate, a boy he had only really just met, but he was also the boy he had known for over two years now. The teen had spilled his guts to him, let himself be seen at his weakest, and almost always had a smile for him. What was there to be shy about? This was Cloud, the boy with his eyes, young, warm, made for him—nope, nothing at all.
"I'm glad I dreamed of you, Sephiroth," Cloud's voice came, slightly muffled. His grip on the back of Sephiroth's coat tightened.
Sephiroth laughed silently, not making any noise but was sure the other could feel the vibrations in his chest. He cupped the back of Cloud's head, felt his warm breath on his neck and answered, "I'm glad I dreamed of you, Cloud."
They stayed like that a minute longer, and then Sephiroth gently pushed Cloud away, towards the building. "I'll see you soon," he called.
"Definitely! Bye, Sir!"
The grinning face disappeared as Cloud hurried inside. Sephiroth smiled and began strolling towards his own building, back to his friends, to explain...if they were even still there.
For once, Sephiroth woke first.
It was snowing again, big fat flakes that went through his body. He waited impatiently, not really sure what would happen. He stayed lying in the snow he couldn't really feel—and soon a warm, dozing blond appeared in his arms. In just a few seconds, he would wake, so Sephiroth used this brief opportunity to observe.
They appeared here in the same positions they had fallen asleep in—a comfy tangle of limbs, Cloud's back pressed to Sephiroth's chest, the older man spooned up behind him. That was interesting. He pictured the Cloud of a year or two ago, curled up in a tight ball in the Nibelheim winters, appearing in a lukewarm universe with sunshine and uncrushable flowers.
The young man began to shift a little, eyes fluttering before opening fully. He stared at the sky for a second, then turned in the older man's arms to say with a pout, "I go to sleep so I can get away from you!"
Then they both laughed. Sephiroth sat up, pulling Cloud into his lap. The sight of snow made him want to cuddle Cloud close, in an effort to keep him as warm as possible, but it wasn't necessary, as it wasn't chilly. Cloud didn't seem to mind regardless.
"I didn't think this would happen again," Cloud said softly, looking around at the snow. The scenery had changed—it wasn't the barren nothingness of Nibelheim anymore, but the middle of Midgar. The area they were in reminded Sephiroth of an endless, sprawling version of a park that they walked to sometimes.
It had been...what? Nine months or so since the last dream, and about half a year since Cloud had enrolled in Shin-Ra. It was striking, the changes; now Cloud had a healthy amount of developing muscle and was clad in soft pajamas he had gotten for Christmas (Sephiroth's matched). The warm socks Genesis had gotten him had no holes.
Cloud stuck out his tongue, trying to catch a snowflake like had once before. The tiny balls of white passed right through his flesh.
Sephiroth drew that soft mouth into a short kiss, pressing their foreheads together afterward. He half-expected their breath to fog between them, but it didn't. Cloud's hands came up to cup his cheeks and he smiled, eyes trained on Sephiroth's.
"Want to go for a walk?" he breathed.
Sephiroth stood after pushing Cloud to his feet. The blond grabbed his hand and started walking—you could almost see the Shin-Ra building in the distance. Maybe.
No matter how long or how well he knew Cloud in the real, waking world, the one holding his hand and aimlessly leading him through this place would remain his dream-boy, the one-of-a-kind person from a far-off town with the matching eyes and the cute smile. The one who was there just for him, who was better than anything he could come up with himself, even in his wildest dreams. These dreams were wilder. That didn't make any sense. Hah.
Cloud smiled at him, and they strolled through the endless snow to who-knows-where.
I'm considering doing this whole thing again from Cloud's POV as a second chapter. Thoughts? :0
I hope you enjoyed it! Again, Happy Holidays! ~Tobi