Walking Out on Destiny: Season Three
Episode Seven: Adult Games
"Who is he, Tseng?"
Tseng scrunched his nose at the question, confusion evident. Reno had burst into his office early this morning and stood staring at him with accusatory eyes. He'd even locked the door when he came in and Tseng had had no idea what he wanted. Reno usually wasn't even alive this early in the morning, much less had anything worth being angry about.
"Beg your pardon?"
"Who. Is. He? And don't lie. I mean, you've never lied before but you didn't say anything. I expected you to say something if there was ever someone else besides me."
"There is no one else," Tseng said, not sure what Reno was getting at.
"No one?" Reno scoffed. "Then who the hell is this guy you keep foolin' around with?!"
Tseng tried to call upon whatever Reno could be talking about, but then he remembered Vincent. His eyes lowered and a flush involuntarily touched his cheeks in embarrassment. "Ah…him."
"Yeah! Him. Care to explain that?"
Tseng shook his head. "There is no one else I am romantically involved with, Reno. This man…is simply someone from my past I'm having a hard time letting go of."
'Bullshit! Tseng you told me the only person you ever been in love with like that was Vincent Valentine, and he's been dead for –"
"Can I trust you, Reno?" Tseng asked abruptly.
"What? Of course you can, but—"
"Please," Tseng looked him in the eyes and Reno's anger died at the gentle plea and internal confusion in those eyes. "Can I trust you?"
Reno breathed in deeply through his nose and exhaled. "Alright…yes. Yes, you always could."
Tseng motioned for Reno to sit in the chair as he got up. He went to Reno and sat courageously in his lap and rested his head on the redhead's chest where it was exposed by his unbuttoned shirt. His hands cling to the fabric and it left Reno too stunned to move, but soon he did when he felt the light tremble in Tseng's body. He smacked his tongue and wrapped his arms around the Wutain while silently calling himself and idiot. Tseng had been far too stressed these days and he should've approached this whole thing differently. But what could anyone expect from him? Did Tseng expect him to be ok seeing the bruises of someone else's teeth on Tseng's beautiful shoulders? How far had they even gotten? Did Tseng let this guy have his body in ways Reno had to nearly beg for?
"Nothing has happened. Nothing has changed," Tseng whispered. "I can swear to you that I did not have sex with this man you've seen."
Reno sighed knowing the truth when he heard it, especially from Tseng. Still, it wasn't good enough to soothe Reno's fears. "Who is he, Tseng?"
"When I journeyed out to Nibelhiem and found Professor Hojo once more, he had…done something unexpected. He made me swear to hold it secret and, knowing what it was, I chose not to tell anyone for my own sake. From then on, I'd been secretly working hard to help him with this thing for my own ends. Now that it has come to fruition, I am unsure if I've done the right thing."
Reno pulled Tseng back a bit so that he could look the Wutain in the face and see his weary eyes clearly. "What'd you do Tseng?"
"Remember what I told you? That the only man I'd ever loved was my mentor Vincent Valentine. That the only man I would do anything for was Vincent Valentine…?"
"No…no way! That guy's been dead for years. He had a freakin' hole through him. You saw him get put in the ground."
Tseng shook his head. "I know what I saw, but I also know that Hojo's genius – disturbed though he may be – has no limits. He is alive, Reno. He's alive and he's going to help us," Tseng said touching the collar around Reno's neck. "He's going to help both of us."
Reno shook his head and took Tseng's hand. "Yeah, that's great and all…but him being back. All this time, it means I never had a chance, did I?"
It took a moment for Tseng to understand what Reno meant by those words. He hadn't actually thought of Reno's feelings between the company, Rufus, and the violent trysts with Vincent. He stared at the redhead for a moment, taking in those chartreuse eyes. How did he feel about Reno? He didn't love him…not that way yet. He definitely cared about him, definitely wanted him. Reno had made it possible over the last few months to get a handle on himself and his sexuality. Reno had been the patient lover he wanted and the friend he needed more than anything. Yet in his flurry of mixed emotions about Vincent, he'd forgotten Reno – his feelings and his trust. Tseng felt the guilt of it pour atop all he'd been doing in his life so far and it made him feel weak and somewhat cruel.
Tseng leaned forward and kissed Reno's mouth gently, no hesitance or cautious fear behind it. He could admit that it was something close to love he felt for Reno and that made him guiltier for the way he'd brushed the redhead aside lately.
Reno responded in kind to the kiss. He'd wanted answers and he'd gotten them, but he still didn't feel any better. However, having Tseng willingly in his arms with no reservations was worth the rotten feeling in his gut. Whatever Vincent was doing to stress Tseng out, it hadn't stopped the Wutain from wanting the intimacy they'd shared over the past few months and he was more than grateful that that had not changed. But, Reno was concerned. In this singular moment, he felt a boiling hatred that brewed like dark liquor deep in the recesses of his heart. He wanted to find Vincent, wanted to beat the living shit out of him in hopes of making him understand exactly what he was doing to Tseng after all his lover had been through for the bastard. He wanted to make that dumbass see just what Tseng was throwing at his feet and just to rub in the bastard's face that he knew what Tseng needed. Most of all, he wanted to push Vincent away from Tseng. He wanted to teach Tseng, show him that Vincent was not the end all be all. Tseng didn't need him. Tseng did not need Vincent Valentine. Not anymore.
Reno brought himself back to the here and now, sliding his hand into Tseng's hair, entangling in it. Tseng broke from the kiss and a genuine smile spread over his sharp features as cool gray bore into verdant irises. Reno slowly pulled Tseng back down pressing a soft chaste kiss to Tseng's lips, a show that his anger had been drained right out of him.
"Don't ask me to let you go, Reno," Tseng murmured against his lips. "Not now, not yet…please."
Reno was almost struck speechless at the plea, at the sincerity and weariness in Tseng's voice. He shook his head and held Tseng close. "Stupid," he muttered as he hugged Tseng to him. "You've always had me…and you always will."
It wasn't that he'd meant to; it just kind of happened. That was the only way Cloud could reason what had happened between he and Sephiroth. Both of them had agreed to stay away from each other for a bit, keep their relationship professional and platonic for a while. While things started to get better with Zack there was still Angeal hanging over their relationship, pulling and pushing Zack at every turn supposedly for Zack's benefit. Still his jealousy and abandonment was no excuse for what he'd done with Sephiroth, right? No matter if it was just a little bit of heavy petting, it didn't mean that it was innocent nor did Zack deserve that. Besides, Sephiroth was so much older than him and he was only 15 going on 16 and while that made him a grown man where he came from it was certainly not right here. He could get Sephiroth into a lot of trouble no matter what age of consent was and whatever Midgar counted as statutory. Hell he could get himself kicked out the SOLDIER program…just…ugh!
Cloud took a solid hit to his face from Kyle and he tumbled backwards, hitting the mat hard. It had been well broadcasted punch, how the hell did he still get hit by it.
"Where you at, princess!" Kyle shouted, though there was still a certain amount of concern in the question.
Cloud got up and wiped his lip. "Sorry, my head's just…"
"Strife!" Richards called out. "Get your fucking head the game, the general's watching."
That was the problem. Cloud couldn't focus knowing the general was right there, the very definition of stoic and authority. Every time he caught the other's eyes on him, Cloud couldn't help but think back to their sick days or at least that one day in particular. It had been heavy on his head and it was making him perform terribly. Still he couldn't just say don't watch your future troops anymore. That just sounded stupid in his head and would probably sound even worse out loud. Sephiroth and the others had an obligation and a right to be there, but even with that in mind, Cloud couldn't stop feeling as though he was the only person Sephiroth was watching was him. It also didn't stop him from noticing that Angeal and Zack were missing.
"Sorry, sergeant!" Cloud said, pulling himself back in the fight. Focus. What the hell could they be up to now? No matter what it was, Zack and Angeal were always together. Always off somewhere. Always leaving him behind to wait like a fucking pet at the door!
"Fuck Cloud, chill!"
Cloud didn't even notice when he'd clipped Kyle in the shin or when he'd right hooked him in the jaw. Kyle backed off, a bruise already festering against his jaw. Though they were both Mako enhance, but it didn't stop this sort of shit was hurting. Kyle moved his jaw, feeling it pop unpleasantly. Cloud shook his head trying to clear the vitriolic thoughts from his head.
"Shit, sorry Kyle! Are you alright?" he asked as he went to look at the damage done.
"Seriouslly, Cloud where you at today? That's a lot of fuckin' rage you got pent up. What's going on, ain't gettin' anyway from your boyfriend?"
Cloud punched him the side. "Shut the fuck up. Here I was actually concerned about you for a second."
Kyle chuckled and straightened up. He flicked his thumb at Richards. "Gonna do you a favor, princess," he muttered. "Hey sergeant, I think Cloud's still not fully recovered. Can we take a break?"
Richards glanced at his watch and nodded. "Yeah. In fact, everyone take a breather, okay. Thirty minutes tops, any later I'll write you up."
Everyone groaned tiredly, though they were very grateful for the break in hand to hand. Cloud sighed and thanked Kyle as he stole a glance at Sephiroth who was now talking to Genesis.
"Hey, Cloud, wait a minute," Kyle said grabbing Cloud's arm.
"Look, you wanna see your boyfriend, right? I know where they are. They're in the 1st Class training rooms. I saw 'em training on my way here. If you're lucky you can catch Zack."
"Wait..why are you…" Cloud was actually confused. Kyle wasn't the type of guy to…well help anyone, especially not Cloud no matter if they did have some form of friendship. "I mean, thanks but why?"
"If it keeps you from breaking my jaw, I don't mind telling Richards you got the flying shits instead of telling him you ran off to dick ride your boyfriend."
Cloud chuckled and shook his head. "Thanks, Kyle."
"Don't thank me. Go get your dick sucked and come back with your damn head in the game!"
Cloud smiled and ran off. Zack really was here. He wasn't on a mission; he wasn't halfway around the planet. He was here. Cloud decided he would sneak onto the SOLDIER floor and surprise him. He didn't even glance at Sephiroth who had a frown on his face as he watched the boy disappear from the training room.
"I wonder where our little chicabo is going," Genesis commented idly.
"Doesn't matter," Sephiroth said, turning away from the glass. "As long as he doesn't get into anything stupid."
Genesis hummed and crossed his arms, leaning against the glass. "I wonder even more so where Angeal and Zack are…and what's more, when are they going to squash the bullshit between them."
Sephiroth didn't answer at first but he eyed Genesis with an accusing glare. "You knew?"
"Of course, Angeal can't even take a shit without me knowing its consistency. I thought you already knew?"
"I knew about the one incident…but I suspected that it was not isolated. It's not something you or I should be concerned with. We're supposed to keep our relationship with Cloud professional and interfering with his love life is a step too far."
"Telling that to me or yourself?" Genesis asked with a soft smile.
Sephiroth frowned and remained silent.
Genesis observed Sephiroth for a moment, his less than stiff posture, his lightly hunched shoulders. He'd never seen Sephiroth look quite so glower, not even when they'd broken up. It was…well it was refreshing to actually see Sephiroth feeling an emotion enough for it to show physically. The question was: what emotion was he portraying? Doubt? Envy? Frustration? Anger, perhaps? Regret…?
Genesis wanted to know, he wanted to know what was on his best friend's mind, know so that he could somehow help. He moved closer to the taller man and placed a soothing hand on his shoulder.
"Come now, Seph. What's going on with you?" he asked in honest concern.
"I…I believe I made a grave mistake with Cloud. I think I've confused him…or maybe I forced him into something I shouldn't have."
Genesis frowned and pushed down the instinct to lay any accusations at Sephiroth's feet. Cloud had someone and if Sephiroth had compromised that, he would give him a hell of earful just as he'd done Angeal about his explicit relationship with Zack. Neither would be pleasant, but he decided first to hear the man out.
"What sort of mistake?"
"Cloud and I….we've kissed and…well a few more things happened but I didn't sleep with him. He's perfectly untouched save for few touches that probably shouldn't have happened on my part." Sephiroth explained in a low voice. "But if it was just physical it wouldn't have gotten out of hand in the first place. I never even would've kissed him. But there's just…something there. Something I'm not used to that makes me feel as though I'm being pulled to him and I think it's vice versa." Sephiroth's frown deepened. "It's like I've been waiting all my life for someone with a pull like that…but I never even knew it."
"Sounds almost like you're in love," Genesis said with a chuckle. "You're making it quite more dramatic than you need –"
"It's more than that," Sephiroth declared. "It's…just more than that. Something…something inside me wants him more than I've…" He hesitated to say.
Genesis gave a small melancholy smile. "More than you've ever wanted us…wanted me?"
"Yes…" he admitted. "Genesis, when I'm with you or Angeal that pull is powerful on its own but I can turn it off when I need to. I can put it aside for best interests…but with Cloud, I can't. It's distracting; annoying on most days, but in the end it…it feels good. I've been having these strange visions lately…they involve him or…someone like him. Dressed in all black, hair like sunshine and eyes…eyes so blue, so cold and so deadly. He brings that strange need for him in one hand and in the other my death."
Genesis was quiet, watching how distant Sephiroth became as he put into words as best he could what sounded like delusional thinking. Genesis licked his lips as he attempted find something to say. That was honestly a lot to think about and as much as he wanted to brush it off as a uniquely imaginative wet dream, the seriousness in Sephiroth eyes and the slight dilation of his viper like pupils gave Genesis pause.
"Does he kill you in your dreams?" Genesis asked carefully.
"Sometimes…" Sephiroth whispered. "In the end, he always wins one way or another."
Genesis remained silent at the declaration, being careful of what to say so that he wouldn't make Sephiroth feel like he didn't believe him. Genesis knew dreaming, knew the sorts of visions something as simple as a crush could conjure up. This…was not it. What person dreamed and obsessed over someone who…well who wasn't even that person yet and act as though the act of killing was the greatest ecstasy he could experience.
"You should speak to, Hojo," Genesis offered. There was a large amount of reluctance in the advice but he didn't know what else to tell Sephiroth. "You told me that Cloud was getting the same Mako treatment as you had been…perhaps there's something there but I wouldn't dare recommend you going to your mother. I hate to say it but Hojo is the lesser evil and the man deals in facts and would sooner to tell the truth. Plus…he seems to care about Cloud. He can tell you if something is going on with you two that's making you feel like that."
Sephiroth narrowed his eyes. "It's a little but funny, isn't it?"
"My parents created me to be perfect. To be the apple of their eye and yet no matter how much they perfect me, improve me, they've both seem to have fallen for Cloud's innocence and imperfections."
Genesis looked down at the floor. "Because they think as scientist think and scientist are very superficial and fickle. They create one successful project and because it is perfect, they seek to go further. If project is already perfect, what interest does it hold if you cannot improve upon it anymore?" Genesis moved to stand beside Sephiroth, his shoulder brushing against Sephiroth's leather clad bicep.
"We're dead ends, Sephiroth. We are as far as they could go with the SOLDIER program. Cloud…apparently offers something new to them, something that fulfils them as we could not. But, you should see it as a blessing, a gift that we are obsolete. And pray for the one who can surpass what we are."
Sephiroth glanced at the top of Genesis's hair, spying the silvery dead hairs peaking through the apple cinnamon tincture of Genesis's beautiful hair. They were becoming dead ends? No not him. He was still far to valuable to Lucrecia and even Hojo. Genesis spoke of himself. It seemed to be something that weighed heavily on Genesis. Had Hollander given up on Genesis…?
"I think we've seen enough and this conversation is too heavy," Sephiroth decided. "Have lunch with me. My treat?"
Genesis snorted. "It's always your treat."
Cloud made good time to the SOLDIER floor, Kunsel having let him pass since he was there to see Zack. Most of the SOLDIERs knew him well or at least of him. They would greet him; give him playful shoves as he went by. Strange bunch, but Cloud was glad to somehow be on their good sides. Unfortunately, he was having trouble finding Zack and Angeal. He'd checked all the training rooms meant for 1st Class use and they were in none of them. He made it to the last one – the one he knew Angeal, Genesis, and Sephiroth often trained in. He entered and looked around finding it dark and deserted as all the others. It was lunch after all; all the SOLDIERs were probably in chow. He almost gave up when he saw the lights on in the adjacent locker room. He smiled when he heard Zack's voice speaking. He entered, creeping around in hopes of scaring them shitless. He peered around a column of lockers, a mischievous that immediately fell as his eyes widened.
Angeal leaned close to Zack, had him pinned against the lockers with Zack's legs wrapped securely around his waist. He kissed his apprentice deeply, silencing whatever Zack had been trying to say and Cloud felt his heart drop so hard that he had to hold in a soft choke. Zack pulled back, his hand pressing against Angeal's chest.
"Fuck you if you're not making this so fucking difficult," Zack growled breathlessly.
"You could always say no," Angeal said with a playful smile. "You just won't."
Zack rolled his eyes. "Where's that honor you preach about, old man? We shouldn't be doing this. We were supposed to stop."
"You say that every time and each time you've come back. You keep pushing the responsibility of stopping this onto me like you're a kid. You're not a child anymore Zack, you're here because you want to be."
"You sure don't help," Zack grumbled. "You never leave me any choice."
"How much choice do you leave me when you decide to take the lead, Zack. I didn't start it this time," Angeal sighed almost wearily. "You and these mixed messages are getting old. Have you even told him yet?"
"Of course fucking not!" Zack snapped. "How the hell do I tell Cloud that the reason I'm gone so much is because I'm letting my superior fuck my brains out after every mission?"
Cloud clenched his fists and pressed his back against the lockers silently. He trembled, angry beyond all reason as tears welled up his eyes.
"He…he doesn't deserve all this sneaking around, Angeal. I want him."
"Yet, you're here with me." Angel touched Zack's cheek lovingly.
"Yeah, I'm here with you."
Cloud shook his head in defeat and looked around the corner at them, the concern of being caught no longer a concerned. Neither of them seemed to notice, they were far too entrapped in each other's eyes.
Zack sighed and lowered his gaze. "I'm so stupid."
"You're not stupid. You're just confused. You're right, what we're doing is dishonorable. It's nothing good and I should've let it go the day I forced us to be platonic again. I thought because it was just once you'd get over it. I wanted to play your attachment to me off as me having been your first and I was glad when started dating Cloud. But…I guess I wasn't over it and neither were you."
"The only right thing to do would be to leave, Angeal. To walk out of here and never let this happen again," Zack said lifting his gaze. "I just want to make him happy. Kid's never been in a fair fight in his entire existence whether it's physical or fucking emotional. Cloud needs someone just for him and…"
"You can't be that person," Angeal said firmly. "Zack, whether you choose to come to me or not, you need to let him go until you even yourself out. When you're not confused, you'll make a better decision."
"I don't want to let him go, Angeal," Zack said wearily. "I love him."
Then why are you here? Cloud bit his lip to stop the sob bubbling up from his chest and walked away. There was no reason to stay here, listening to them talking about him as if he were a complication for their relationship. He slipped out of the training room and away from the first class floor, a hunch in his shoulders and eyes glassy. He moved on autopilot until his feet led him back to where Kyle waited near the bathrooms. He didn't even get sick on the elevator. The other boy smiled in relief when he saw Cloud but furrowed his brows at Cloud's expression.
"Trouble in paradise, princess?" Kyle asked in attempt to liven Cloud up.
Cloud looked up at him and forced a smile. "Nah, he just wasn't there. Guess I missed him."
"Too bad. You feelin' any better though?"
"Yeah…I feel clear headed now. Come on, before Richards comes looking for us."
Rufus stepped into his father's office. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"You been real quiet, brat," Reginald said puffing a cigar. The smell made Rufus nauseated. "Since you're bitch of a mother died, you've been real quiet and I don't think I like that."
Rufus's eyes looked up at his father, meeting his eyes with no challenge, no feeling. He was perfectly impassive. Since his mother's brains were blown out right in front him, he now could see this man for what he was: a weak slob of a man who had not right to the company despite his name being on it. Overweight, heart barely keeping up with his diet, lungs already riddled with tar and possible cancer from his cigars, arteries clogged, and cholesterol up. One puff too many would put the bastard in the ground before anyone ever could. However, Rufus would not wait; he wasn't willing to wait for Karma. He would be karma for the fat bastard.
"I don't fucking like that look either."
"How would you prefer I look?" Rufus asked calmly. "Should I have not washed my mother's gray matter and blood off? Would that have pleased you, father?"
Reginald narrowed his eyes, slamming his fist on the table. Rufus never flinched though his heart did skip and the sudden noise. "Don't get fucking smart with me boy. Get over it, your mother is dead and I hope you got a good taste of her brains because no amount of Mako and Hojo's bullshit is going to bring her back. You want to get back at me, you're going to have to do much more than run your goddamn mouth. From now on I own you. You want free of your chains, little dog, it'll be over my dead body."
Rufus met his father's ranting with the same unaffected expression and did not back down. He'd always thought himself a child in the face of a horrible demon when it came to his father. He was always frightened and cornered by the big bad demon that his mother was married to. However, his mind was no longer innocent and as he stood there unmoving, he could hear his mother's voice in his ears.
Rufus, this is not your fault.
No…the one to blame was right in front of him, chomping down on a cigar. Yes, Reginald ShinRa was no god, no demon, no unbeatable foe. Reginald was not all powerful. He was just a man….just a man. Reginald was obsolete, was past his prime and only held a metaphorical power that he clung to desperately like rat on sinking ship. Rufus would make him sink after all…the devil was always stronger than a man.
"What would you have me do, father?" His voice was even and unchanged from his tone showing that Reginald's tantrum did nothing.
Reginald scoffed and blew smoke out the side of his mouth. "You're whore of mother willed controlling power of the Turk's life contracts directly to you, legally affective upon her death. Not even your age was an issue and my shareholders are not happy but they're too fucking cowardly to try and cheat the contract. Wanting to honor Elloria or some bullshit," he said with a chuckle. "Until I can find a loophole around it, you own them. So, keep up with your silly little lessons with them and if they do anything suspicious, you report it to me. I want to know what they're doing at all times. You hear me boy?"
Rufus raised an eyebrow, still not fully sure why his father feared the Turks. Perhaps it was a matter of control? "Yes sir."
"Thos fucks will be disbanded even if it kills me!" he growled leaning back in his chair. "You're old enough to hate me then you're old enough to work. No more hiding behind skirts and breasts unless you're fucking them. You're going to be a man now and take responsibility for everything you do."
Rufus nodded submissively. "Anything else, father?"
Reginald narrowed his eyes at the boy. He was strong, he gave him that. Rufus was just like his mother, all defiance and no give. He'd wagered that taking away Elloria would take away all the strength and rebellion she had been sown, but Elloria's imprint was deep in Rufus. So deep that he could see her standing there in his posture, his glare, his piercing eyes. Something like regret tainted the smooth taste of his cigar and he took a deep puff and released it.
"Get out of my sight, boy."
Rufus turned on his heel without another word and left the room. Reginald watched him go, the authority in his step making Reginald bite down on his cigar. When he was gone, Reginald looked down at the portrait of his younger self, thin and fit and dangerous beside what had been meant to be his pretty trophy wife. Even back then, Elloria was the stronger and had no problem showing that she was.
"He's just like you, you stubborn bitch. You must be laughing in hell at me, but you'll be quiet soon. I'm going to break that boy to my hand one way or another and you'll be able to do nothing about it but watch just like I always wanted."
The weekend came upon Cloud too fast as he packed up to go for the weekend. Kyle had already departed for some girl he'd met at the diner they frequented. Rosso and Dom were headed out, having invited him along, but Cloud had declined. He needed solitude, needed quiet to go over what he would do. Today he'd gotten high scores in the scrimmages despite being outclassed by everyone he'd been pitted against. It left him with a higher confidence but when the high of victory wore off, he was left with all these poisonous thoughts about what he'd witness and what it meant for him.
He needed someone to talk to, yet at the same time there was no one he could tell. Calling his mother would be more of a pain because she would instantly hate Zack simply because he had hurt Cloud. He couldn't go to Zack himself because…fuck, how was he even supposed to look at Zack? Sephiroth? No, they were strictly staying apart to prevent what happened that day from continuing. He certainly didn't want to involve Genesis and he and Tseng didn't know each other well enough to keep that sort of confidence with him. Hojo…well Hojo was too much a fact feeder. He would make the decision simplified which would be to remove Zack from his life. He only had one place he could think of going and he wasn't even sure if this was ok.
Once he was done packing, he flipped the lights and left the barracks. He pushed his ear buds in his ear as he slung his backpack over his shoulders. The music drifted through the buds and eased his mind as he walked along the avenues heading to the railway. He used his military ID to bypass paying for the trip. He sat down on the clean seats and sighed, leaning back against the window and watching the city roll by. It was soothing and along with the music it helped him forget his troubles.
Cloud grew lost in the soft vibrations of the train and the rhythm in his ears. He was calm by the time his stop came up and he bustled off with the crowd. Midgar was such a strange place. It wasn't as daunting as it had been from afar when riding with Tseng and Genesis. The city welcomed him into its bosom, showed him amazing sights and wonders that made him happy he came. He never felt regret for deciding to make this journey. People passing by, stores to window shop, hidden nooks and crannies to explore, it was so much better than Nibelhiem had ever been for him. The best part, he was completely anonymous. No one knew his face, no one knew his family, or where he came from. Every interaction was impersonal and even when eyes locked it meant nothing. Just move along and keep walking. It was comforting to be just a stranger. No one knew his problems; no one was spreading rumor about him to the whole town. Just people he didn't know and people who didn't know him.
Cloud trudged through the sector until he found Reno's parlor. He walked in looking around for the redhead, frowning when he couldn't.
"Hey kid. Over here, yo!"
Cloud jumped slightly and turned to see Reno waving to him. He smiled and went to him though he tried not to be too eager. "I almost thought you weren't here."
"Me I just go here not long before you walked in. I needed to clear my head and drawing on skin always does the trick. That and booze but I got shit heavier than paperwork to tend to tomorrow, so skin it is."
He motioned for Cloud to sit on a stool while he lit up a cigarette. "You just wandered in, kid? If you say yes you're probably lying. You got the look of someone who ain't got no one else to turn to."
Cloud averted his eyes. "Yeah, something like that…"
Reno eyes Cloud's face. He knew that look. He'd been on the receiving end of it and had been the barer of it several times. Kid'd been betrayed…
"Hey, you said something before about getting a lil ink done right."
"Well yeah, but I told you I'm scared of needles."
"Everyone's scared their first go around," Reno said casually. "But I ain't putting pen to paper yet."
Cloud shrugged in response and watched as Reno picked up a pencil and a sketch book. "You draw too?"
"Where do you think most of these designs come from?" Reno said arching his brow at Cloud. "What I can't be artistically inclined either?"
"No! I mean…you're a Turk. Turks work a lot harder than we SOLDIERs do. I just wondered how you have the time."
"I don't. Not really anyway. I have something better, money. I handle money real well, almost to a fault so when I decide I don't wanna be holed up in an office, I high-tail my ass out of there and come here." Reno tapped the paper with the eraser of the pencil. "So, still feelin' shy?"
Cloud furrowed his brows, but the blush on his cheek told Reno that he didn't have to elaborate. "I'm not getting a tattoo," he declared, but even as he said it he let down his bag and began to roll up his shirt. He turned around putting his back to Reno and showing off smooth skin. Reno lifted a brow with a light smirk. Kid had a beautiful back, was going to be a fucking knock out when he got older. He was already hardening up seeing the slight muscle building in his shoulders.
"Come on, whole shirt, Kid. No one's looking at you."
Cloud licked his lips and in a quick motion, pulled his shirt off before he could change his mind. Reno pulled him over and made him sit on the chair exposing his back. Reno slid his hand over Cloud's skin, making Cloud's breath hitch in surprise.
"Ain't you pretty all over, kid," Reno complimented. "Just stay right there, promise no needles if you keep still."
Cloud nodded and relaxed in the chair. He breathed deeply and let it out slowly. He heard Reno's pencil scratching on paper and the white noise of people chattering softly in the place eased his nervousness.
"So kid, let's talk. Looks like you been having something to say since you got in here."
"Am I that transparent?"
"Nah, not anymore transparent than any other person who's passed me by. I'm a Turk, reading people is my thing, plus I'm an eidetic. I remember everything I see, hear, and smell. It makes it easier to recall people's mannerisms."
"Wow…I wonder how you're able to keep that much…stuff in your head."
"Just think, if something really traumatizing happened, I'd never forget it for the rest of my life."
Cloud cringed at the thought. "That would suck."
"Yeah does. So stop changing the subject."
Cloud chuckled a bit. "…well…where do I even start."
"With the facts I would assume," Reno replied as he erased an out of place line.
"My boyfriend is cheating on me," Cloud forced out. The feeling was very much like vomiting, shitty coming up but a fucking relief when it was out.
Reno's pencil paused. "You caught him?"
"Yeah, but he doesn't know I know. I saw them together on the SOLDIER floor…they were in a locker room discussing me of all things. Like I was some hitch in their perfect couple bullshit."
"Sound about right. Zack hasn't even talked to you about Angeal or their history, huh?"
"No," he murmured.
"Angeal and Zack went at it once back when he was still 3rd class. I know because I'm Turk. We're paid to know when any one of the big three takes a shit." Reno puffed his cigarette. "Anyway, things didn't work out that first time cause Angeal was all about honor, integrity, and upholding the rules and all that conservative bullshit. Weird for a guy who sleeps with two other dudes, but anyway, Zack got his feelings hurt because Angeal called what they had a mistake. I spend a lot of time drinking with him when Angeal turned their relationship back to the hero-worshipping friendship. So, instead of being hurt, Zack decided to move on and try out other people. First one was me."
Cloud looked over his shoulder at Reno. "Really?! You were into Zack?"
"I'm in to anything kid, as long as it's in the right package. But to be honest, it was more of a drunken 'fuck that guy' type of fuck. We hooked up a few more times before our jobs demanded too much. Then there was his friend Kunsel who helped take the edge off his Mako injections but Kunsel went and found himself a girl so no more fun for the puppy. So Zack started having a fling here and fling there, nothing serious because in reality he wanted Angeal so bad he could cut his dick off." Reno exhaled on the smoke and the scratching of the paper continued. "Then came Sephiroth and as far as my knowledge they haven't slept together, well haven't as far as dick in the ass goes. They just play around more than anything."
"So…Zack's just, really used to having his freedom…and he still hasn't let go of Angeal."
"Yep, I will tell you that Zack is a hell of a good guy. Fucking knight in shining armor type. But he's only human, ya know. He makes human mistakes. He's probably still in love with Angeal and always will be, but Angeal placed himself in a position where he couldn't have him. He broke Zack's heart. But Zack's too much of an optimist to let that hold him down. Angeal would never admit it to himself but the only reason he never tried to stop Zack from seeing other people was because he was secure that he'd been the best Zack had ever had and the only one to care about him so much. Sounds twisted right?"
"A bit….why didn't he just take back what he said. Why didn't he just talk to Zack?"
"Because that's the kind games we play when we're adults, kid. I know you're getting up there but there's still a sort of…rule book, guidelines, ya know. For someone like Angeal, he lost his chance to be with Zack but at the same time he made sure Zack couldn't be with anyone meaningful by being the one to pop Zack's cherry." Reno smirk. "Then came the twist in the tale, you're adorable ass came along and offered him something of what he'd found with Angeal. Zack smiles just that much brighter when you're around him. You've been making him happy, helping him get over Angeal by being something that he could want and not be ashamed of wanting. Someone who'd – as gay as it sounds – follow their heart and not some bullshit moral code. I think that's what pulled Angeal's interest back to Zack; the fact that someone else was making him happy where he couldn't."
"That's sick," Cloud whispered angrily.
"That's how you play the game. No one who loves anyone can ever be completely honest with them. At least it's something I learned about those vanilla types."
"Yeah, um, ya know," Reno paused to scratch his head. "People engage in regular old conservative sex, like straight intercourse, no extra kinky shit added. Christ kid, you're gonna need to do some research before you go around getting your cherry popped in this city."
Cloud pondered that, thinking about what wasn't vanilla. "Do you think if I…I mean if Zack and I, like, if we sleep together would it…"
"Don't take that road kid," Reno said his carefree tone replaced by a flat firm tone. "Don't ever think that the only way to keep someone is to fuck 'em. You ever get a point with Zack where you think that's the only fuckin' answer, then there's nothing to save about that relationship."
Cloud's posture seemed to slump over the chair.
"Things like this are tough in any relationship. That's the fucking game of being an adult. But win or lose, if you stayed true to what you feel or think, you'll always walk away with no baggage. Because you did what you had to do no matter what it was."
Cloud turned his head to the side and glanced at Reno out the corner of his eye. "I should leave him then?"
"You should see where your heart's at," Reno said brushing away eraser shavings and ash from his cigarettes. "You already know where his is at…and it ain't with you. I will say one thing though. Angeal and Zack are good people…they're just not good for you. It's amazing how many roads to hell that one good person can pave in a lifetime."
Cloud nodded to himself. Reno was right; Zack's heart was with Angeal and vice versa. He was certain of it. Now what? A passing thought came to his mind. "Say, Reno?"
"Have you ever…done anything not vanilla?"
"All the time kid," Reno responded as if he were talking about the weather. "You want pointers?"
"Uh, no I mean, I was just curious what's considered…not vanilla."
Reno chuckled a bit. "You're a little young to know about that sort of thing."
"I'm not too young to fuck," Cloud spat indignantly.
"Yeah you aren't that. Ever get off to biting, or nail scratching, things that leave scars."
Cloud shrugged, a blush coloring his cheeks. "I like it when Zack holds me too hard and leaves bruises, he pins me down sometimes. He doesn't bite as much as I'd like him to but…I still like it."
"Mmhmm, what about that do you like? The pain or just the spontaneity of it?"
Cloud bit his bottom lip as he recalled the way Zack would bite at his neck. "…the pain…" was his answer. "I like it when he has injections; he's a lot rougher with me on those days."
"You might be into a little bit of what I'm into kid. Depends on how far you like to take that pain. Everyone's different. Sometimes people dance just outside the vanilla box like that…others are like me, never born with the box to begin with. You might have a little spice in that vanilla of yours. But like I said, you got a long way to go before you decide on that type of thing."
"Let me guess, another one of those games only adults play?"
"Exactly. But don't worry. I've been playing adult games since I was fourteen," Reno said confidently. "You'll figure out what you like soon as you're ready. Also, done."
Cloud sat up and turned in the chair so that he could look at the sketch Reno had done. It was rough, but very precise, deliberate in its lines and strokes of graphite. It was a wolf, a fierce looking creature seemingly ripping its way out of the paper with a glowing ball akin to the sun being devoured. It's eyes were fierce and almost alive. It was so…threatening and yet beautiful.
"You want it, don't ya," Reno teased.
"I could never…I mean look at me. What would I look like with this thing on my back?"
"Pretty fucking sexy I'd say." Reno smirked. "Come on, you're part of the Fenrirs aren't ya. You howl and everything."
"Yeah but..I mean look at me," Cloud said gesturing to his thin frame.
"That's the good thing about intense shit like this. You grow into them."
Cloud had no retort for that. Instead he looked at the image, imagining it being on his back and catching attention when he changed. The idea of someone tracing their fingers along it piercing eyes and sharp looking teeth.
Reno chuckled and closed his sketchbook. "Free, if you let me do it on your birthday."
"My birthday is on Sunday," Cloud said.
"I'll see you then. Hopefully it'll mark some changes?"
Cloud stepped into Zack's apartment, finding the black haired teen watching television, eating take out. His indigo eyes glanced at Cloud and his entire face brightened, chasing away the bitterness in Cloud's heart. Always that smile; always genuinely happy to see him.
"Done for the week chocobo head?" Zack asked cheerfully as he held up a bag of takeout he'd ordered for Cloud.
Cloud took a deep breath and nodded moving to sit next to Zack. "Yeah I'm worn the hell out. Conte was hard on us this week. We started materia practicals next week so I'm gonna be really fucking worn out after that."
"Oh man, I love materia practicals! You get to light people you don't like on fire!" Zack said excitedly. "I miss training days. I got away with a lot of shit those days, even lighting my CO on fire and shit."
Cloud couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up. "I don't think I'm going to light anyway on fire, but I think I'll be ahead. I learned how to work this lightning materia on my own."
"Yeah you got it up to bolt three all by yourself." Zack eyed the yellow stone at Cloud's neck curiously. "You never told me how you got it?"
"I didn't?" Cloud opened his bag of take out. He broke a couple of chopsticks and began to dig in. "Um, well I told you how I met Sephiroth. He gave me this materia to protect myself. It was already mastered when I got it; all I had to do was figure out how to use it. It's one of the most important things I own."
"Seph actually gave that to you," Zack said with a smile. "Damn, even back then…"
Zack shook his head and wrapped his arm around Cloud and pulled him in close. Cloud was surprised at the sudden embrace and couldn't stop himself from tensing at first. He wondered if he and Angeal had fucked after he'd gone. Had Zack hurried home to wash the scent from his body? Snapping out of it, he lowered his food to the coffee table and leaned into Zack, burying his face in Zack's muscled chest and breathing in the fresh scent of soap and his natural scent. He looked up at Zack from his position wondering how he was supposed to deal with this. What had made Angeal so much better if it was because Cloud that Zack became appealing to Angeal again? Did he keep going back to Angeal after his mission because he and Cloud hadn't had sex yet? Hadn't in some primitive way marked Zack as his territory? The thought didn't make sense logically, however Cloud felt a strange sort of desperation. It was what Reno had warned him about, but what if? He wanted Zack. No matter what his mother said, no matter what Angeal said, no matter what Zack had been doing with Angeal, no matter what he'd been doing with Sephrioth. He still wanted him. Wanted to be with him, wanted to keep him, wanted to be wanted by him. He loved this idiot who couldn't get his shit together and honestly, he was scared. He was scared to lose him.
Zack was his first in so many things and the thought of all that being thrown aside for another burned someone where deep. Maybe if he just…let go and let it happen, they would be better.
You ever get a point with Zack where you think that's the only fuckin' answer, then there's nothing to save about that relationship.
Cloud shut out Reno's words. What did Reno know anyway? They barely knew each other, he couldn't judge that Cloud's relationship would be just like others who have tried and failed. Those people weren't he and Zack.
Cloud slipped his hand up into Zack's mess of hair and tugged it lightly, making the other teen look down at him. "I've been thinking," he said softly. "Well, not so much thinking as more like…been trying but never got the chance to just go for it."
"Uh...thinking about what?"
"It's just…well I'm going to go for it because I've been ready but you just haven't been here," he babbled. "But you're here now…so I'm going to say it. I want you to turn off your phone and I want you to put it far away from us."
"But what if it's –"
"No," Cloud said putting his foot down as best as his nerves would allow. "Just…no Zack. You and me, okay?"
Zack noted the look in Cloud's eyes, the strange glassiness as if he were fighting back some sort of emotion. That gave Zack reason to pause but he wasn't allowed to say anything as Cloud pushed himself up and pressed his mouth against his. Zack returned it with a gentle, sweet pressure that always made Cloud simply float into him. He pressed himself closer to Zack, maneuvering himself into Zack's lap so that he straddled him. He slipped his hands into Zack's hair, scrapping blunt nails against scalp. Zack's hands slid up his thighs to rest on his back and his ass, pressing him closer. The hand on his ass squeezed tight as Zack's tongue slipped into his mouth to dance with his own.
Cloud's whimpering moans pulled a soft growl from Zack. Cloud broke the kiss after a moment and brushed his lips along Zack's jaw down to his neck. He kissed and sucked there first before biting down hard on his skin. Zack arched, a pleasure hiss slipping from his lips.
"Fuck, Cloud," he murmured. "What's gotten into you?"
"I want you. Right now, no interruptions, no leaving, no Angeal. Please. Please."
"Shit, that's fine with me."
Zack nipped at Cloud's ear and picked Cloud up, lifting them both from the couch. Cloud didn't stop his assault of Zack's neck, kissing and biting where his teeth could find purchase. Zack carried them to his bedroom and Cloud didn't waste any time when he was put down, immediately pulling off his over shirt and wife beater. Zack was on him again, kissing him hungrily. Cloud tugged at Zack's t-shirt, pushing it up so that he could get to the smooth skin and hardened muscle beneath. He dug his nails into Zack's shoulders and bit Zack's bottom lip knowing the small stings and pains riled Zack up like a feral animal.
"Shit," Zack cursed in a breathless rush, his head butting Cloud aside to bite hard and suck bruises into Cloud's neck before he moved down.
Cloud's head fell back on the pillows giving Zack as much access to his neck and his body arched into the heated one above him. His inhibitions were turning to hesitant relief and passion that was fueled by his desperation and need. He needed this validation more than Zack did. He needed to prove that Angeal wasn't a serious thing. Angeal was just sex – probably fucking good sex, but sex none the less. It was just that Zack hadn't had anyone take their time; give him something to desire without pushing him away afterwards like a one night stand. In Cloud's mind this was what the problem was, this was the solution.
Zack moved from Cloud's neck going down his chest. He sucked at lean newly forming six pack, nipping his way down to Cloud's navel and the light trail of hair leading down. He was tugging at Cloud's cargo pants with his teeth when a loud vibration and song erupted from Cloud's pocket, startling them both. Who in the hell in their right mind…
"Staring at the blank page before you; open the dirty windows; let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find!"
Cloud sighed, his head falling back on the pillow. Zack chuckled and backed up from Cloud, giving him room to answer. Cloud felt a bit embarrassed that it was his phone that got them this time, but Cloud knew who it was and he would never ignore her. He dug his phone out and answered.
"Aerith, what's up? You okay?"
"Hey Cloud," the flower girl said a bit uncomfortably, toying with her hair as she got her shit together on what she wanted to say. "Um, I'm interrupting something, aren't I?"
"No, no, it's ok, me and Zack were just…watching a movie," he said quickly, trying to control his panting. "Something wrong?"
Zack's brow arched and he began chuckling. Cloud mouthed for him to shut the fuck up. Zack stretched and laid his head on Cloud's stomach as he spoke with…Aerith? He sort of remembered Sephiroth dropping her name a few times. They were roommates or something? He wondered when Cloud had gotten the chance to get to know her.
"It's…I was wondering if you would come over tonight. Sephiroth hasn't come home yet and judging by the time I don't think he's coming home tonight. I'm normally not so paranoid but…well you know, I could use the company." Aerith flinched at how helpless she made herself sound. She'd spent many a night in this apart alone and it had never bugged her. She wasn't cut out for the lying thing.
Cloud sat up, pushing Zack back gently, an apology already on the tip of his tongue towards the other man. "Yeah, it's ok Aerith. I don't mind. I'm on my way."
Zack made a face. "Really?" he whispered.
"Thank you Cloud," Aerith said with a relieved sigh. "I'll see you soon."
When she hung up Cloud fell back on the pillows. "Shut up, it's Aerith. She's a sweetheart and I think Sephiroth would kill me if I didn't answer her call."
"What is she like, his girlfriend or something?" Zack asked curiously.
"More like sister figure or something. You're mad aren't you?"
"Uh…" Zack looked down at his pants where his erection pressed against his sweats. "I would say frustrated would be the word. But no, I'm not mad. Go check on her, I'll be here all weekend."
Cloud smiled and slipped off the bed. "My birthday is Sunday…"
"You don't have to remind me, I've already got something for you. Now get going so you can come back quicker."
Cloud chuckled and kissed Zack's cheek and thanked him for understanding.
When they'd hung up, Aerith felt the heavy burden of guilt on her conscience. She knew what had been happening; Cloud's path through life was one that was clearest to her next to Sephiroth. She could see the hurt and regret in Cloud, the so deeply seeded wound that would scar his heart. If she let things continue as they were, Cloud would bleed out from all the trauma his first times had brought. He would fall easily into the clutches of her and Aerith would lose both he and Sephiroth. But no, she wouldn't let this first time be the nail in Cloud's coffin of woe.
By all rights, she shouldn't have been interfering. Her mother had told her time and time again not to interfere with the flow of time and event. Gaia would always have a plan for all those connect to the Lifestream, even for Sephiroth. But from what she'd seen they already had. It was already further off track than anyone could predict and yet Aerith was shown these moments, these paradoxes where she could change the courses. Why be shown them if she wasn't supposed to use them. Aerith had already made a promise to herself that she would see Cloud and Sephiroth happy. Whether it was together or not. What Cloud came close to doing tonight was a huge mistake and would've burned the entire world around them. Of course she had no right to judge it, but as she relaxed she could already saw the events shift and the planet called to her. Cloud and Sephiroth would suffer no matter what….but she was here. She existed and because she did, she could at the very least lessen their burden.
"Ok, Cloud. Here we go. Ready?" She asked looking down at her phone.
A/N: wow..it has been…literal years….But I'm back. Sorry I haven't been around. So much ick has happened but I'm back to this. I'll be updating as the chapters come. Hope you like this and I hope my writing style hasn't changed too much. But yeah here you go. I'm back. I'll continue Tempest Corpse as well since I really liked that one. Reviews are always and forever welcomed.