The Little Guy
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Sephiroth tried to breath, but his chest had seized again and refused to move. White eyes seared into him for what felt like forever before a blond head leaned towards him and sniffed.
Suddenly, a glowing hand came up to hover in front of his forehead, and Sephiroth's body sucked in a shocked lungful of air at the current of power that jolted his entire body like an electric shock. His chest heaved with gasping breaths as the hand on his throat finally loosened enough for him to breath.
The hand released him, and Sephiroth slid down the wall of the mako reactor to collapse on the ground as shaky limbs refused to keep him upright. Wide green eyes remained fixed on Cloud's pale northern skin and the inhuman eyes that glowed in his sockets.
"Cloud?" Sephiroth had to try a few times before the word came out clearly, but the other man didn't respond. Slowly, Sephiroth forced himself to his feet by using the wall for support. "Cloud? Can you hear me?" No reaction. Hesitantly, Sephiroth placed a hand on Cloud's shoulder, but again, no reaction.
"-can't go down there!"
Sephiroth looked up just in time to see Genesis fall into the mako tank, white wings trailing from his back and eyes shot through with green.
Cloud pulled a giant sword from thin air and swung it through the space Genesis used to be. It split the walls of the mako tank with ease, and wisely Genesis retreated into the air. Cloud followed him with a powerful surge of his legs, moving with a speed that Sephiroth was hard pressed to follow.
Genesis didn't stand a chance. Cloud caught his ankle and threw him down into the pit before he could fly away. When he raised his sword to cut Genesis in half, Sephiroth moved without thought to catch Cloud's hands and stop his sword.
He expected to be pushed aside, but Cloud paused instead. When Genesis moved to escape, Cloud planted a foot down on the man's chest and ignored the frenzied clawing at his leg. Wounds inflicted healed before a drop of blood could spill.
Cloud looked back and forth between Genesis and Sephiroth with a blank expression before suddenly, the giant sword melted into a flurry of green sparks. Gentle hands pushed Sephiroth aside before Cloud fell to the ground to straddle Genesis. His right hand replaced his foot, holding Genesis pinned to the ground with an eerie strength, while his left slowly came to hover above Genesis's head.
Genesis screamed like a wild animal was ripping apart his guts and eating him alive, and Sephiroth couldn't move with the war that fought inside him. He couldn't attack Cloud, but he couldn't continue to watch Genesis suffer either.
His indecision saved him from making a decision when, after what felt like aeons of screaming, Genesis finally went limp and collapsed to the ground with a dazed expression. Slowly, his wings began to disintegrate into green sparks, and colour slowly bled back into his hair and face until finally, he lay there prostrate and staring up at Cloud with infinite wonder as green leached from his eyes.
"'Infinite in mystery is the gift of the Goddess,'" he murmured under his breath before his eyes rolled up in his head and he passed out.
Cloud stood from his crouch and looked up and sniffed at the air again. Without warning, he jumped straight up to the top of the shaft. Sephiroth followed him instinctually.
He found Zack pinned against the wall, reddened eyes wide with shock as Cloud held a hand to his forehead just as he had with Genesis. Zack jolted with surprise before slowly collapsing to the ground in a twitching heap as Cloud let him go.
"Cloud?" Sephiroth tried again, placing a hand on Cloud's shoulder. The man turned to him with that same eerily blank expression and bore into him with that inhuman gaze. "Cloud… please…" Sephiroth bowed his head and tried to breath. Had the mako driven Cloud crazy? He'd only been under for five minutes, but unrefined mako… What had it turned him into?
Slowly, a hand came up to Sephiroth's face. For a moment, he worried that Cloud would zap him again with that strange energy, but instead his fingers slowly sank into silvery strands and tightened.
Sephiroth's knees went weak. With a painful thud, he collapsed to the hard steel floor at Cloud's feet. "Cloud?" he murmured hopefully.
The glowing power of Cloud's eyes slowly began to fade as he pulled Sephiroth's hair to tilt the General's head back and bare his vulnerable throat.
"Cloud?" Sephiroth whispered, eyes fixed on the searing ring of blue that began to crawl its way through the white until Cloud's true eyes stared down at him blankly. They glowed such azure blue… it had to be mako poisoning. And what about Cloud's hallucinations? Would he try to kill Sephiroth again?
"I… know… you…" Cloud said slowly, as though each word were a trial.
Sephiroth nodded. "Yes, Cloud." His mouth remained open to speak, but his voice died in his throat when the hand tightened again on his hair and his eyes closed to the sudden pleasure-pain.
Hot lips scorched his own as Cloud claimed and plundered and fucked into his mouth with a slow, steady, smooth assuredness that would have had Sephiroth's knees wobbling if he weren't already prostrate on the ground. He didn't know how long they stayed like that, but suddenly Cloud's mouth withdrew and Sephiroth couldn't stop the whine that clawed its way through his throat at its sudden departure.
Sephiroth opened foggy eyes to find glowing blue watching him carefully. The paralyzed blankness had been replaced by Cloud's usual blank look. His lips pressed slightly into a line, the corners tight and drawn down slightly, while a pensive frown furrowed his brow so slightly very few would have noticed.
"Why am I naked?"
Sephiroth blinked and glanced at Cloud's bare, toned chest before swallowing down the sudden lust that raced through him. "You fell." Sephiroth coughed to clear the roughness from his throat. "Into the mako."
Understanding flashed through Cloud's eyes as he glanced over towards the mess that he'd made of the mako reactor. "JENOVA is gone?" He frowned and tilted his head to the side, a faraway look in his eyes. "No. Not all gone. Just… most of it." He closed his eyes and frowned. "What…" He shook his head and scowled. "Stop yammering for fuck's sake. Why can't you ever give me a break?" He let out a loud sigh and scraped a hand through his hair. "Yeah, yeah. I'll deal with it soon. You've waited this long, you can wait a few more days. I'm not traipsing my lily white ass across the continent."
Alarm raced through Sephiroth at the sight of Cloud speaking to the air as though someone were there.
"Cloud? Are you hearing voices?"
Cloud glanced down at him and relaxed the grip he had on Sephiroth's hair before slowly massaging the General's scalp. "It's not what you think, Seph. It's just the planet acting like a child. Not JENOVA. Falling into that tank may have scrambled me a bit, but I'm still me… Mostly. It's… complicated." He frowned and raked a hand through his hair again. "Come on. We've got shit to do so I can stop this incessant yammering, and I'm going to need clothes for…" He paused, head tilting to the side. "Wait, seriously?"
Abruptly, green sparkles coalesced out of the air around Cloud before forming into an odd mix of SOLDIER, not-SOLDIER clothing. One black pauldron with a silver wolf protected his left shoulder above a pink ribbon tied to his bicep while a number of blades filled a complicated harness on his back. His vest had been unzipped a bit at the top, and it did little to hide his strong chest and tight torso while his baggy black pants and heavy boots hid everything else away.
Sephiroth eyed the leather fabric that hung from a strap at his left hip to the ground, but didn't cover any other part of his body. "What's that for?"
Cloud, who had been busy running hands all over himself and his swords to make sure they were there, looked up with a small frown of confusion. "What's what for?"
Sephiroth pointed to the useless-looking swath of leather. "That." He eyed the buckle and leather harness that held it in place. "Doesn't it get in the way?"
Cloud blinked. "That's your question? Really?" He shook his head. "I somehow manage to materialize clothing out of thin air, and you focus on the one stylish and useless part of my outfit. Tifa got it for me when the half-trench coat went into fashion around Edge. With my swords, I couldn't exactly wear it, so she had it custom-made to attach to the harness. I was a gift, in spite of its uselessness." When he crossed his arms over his chest, Sephiroth couldn't help but stare at his biceps. His build had changed slightly since he fell in the mako tank. He wasn't any taller than before, but through the glowing of his skin it had been impossible to miss the sudden muscle tone and increase in mass. "What about your trench coat? Doesn't it get in your way when you fight? Wouldn't that make it rather useless as well?"
Sephiroth smirked. "My trench coat is intimidating to my enemies, so it is not useless. And no, it doesn't get in the way at all when I fight, whereas I find it hard to believe that that thing doesn't occasionally get caught between your legs."
Cloud stared at him for a long moment. "Ha. Ha. Asshole. You're totally trolling me. I didn't think you'd have it in you." He shook his head and grabbed Sephiroth by the hair again. Without a word, he kissed and bit and licked into the General's mouth until the man was gasping for air and more contact. With a vindictive surge of pleasure, Cloud stepped in between Sephiroth's kneeling legs and rubbed his shin against the length hardening beneath baggy pants. The moan that ripped from Sephiroth's chest pleased him enough to forgive the commentary on his wardrobe.
"Uh, guys? Get a room?"
Cloud flipped Zack the finger without looking up from Sephiroth's reddened lips. "Why don't you go check on Genesis in the tank and I'll come get you when we're done." Cloud had nothing but bad memories of this place, and now was as good a time as any to change that.
"Ugh. Fine. But you so owe me, Strife."
Cloud ignored him.
Once the footsteps had completely disappeared, Cloud started working on Sephiroth's belt. "Did you bring any lube?" he breathed into the man's mouth as he got the first buckle undone.
Sephiroth shivered. "I… didn't think."
Cloud's head tilted to the side and his eyes glowed bright like lights for a moment. "You can't be… seriously? What the hell did you make me into, you… you… ugh."
"Cloud?" Sephiroth frowned as the blond's eyes refocused on him.
"Sorry. Just, the Planet. Apparently I'm not… well. It's complicated. Let's talk about it later." Without another word, he spun Sephiroth around and pushed him down onto his hands and knees. He ripped down Sephiroth's pants, pulled white cheeks apart, and speared his tight hole with his tongue. The General shouted in surprise before slowly devolving into quiet groans and heaving, gasping breaths.
Cloud focused on opening him up and getting as much of his no-longer-normal saliva into him as possible. He ignored the green sparks it gave off and ignored the Planet's impatient mental pushing at the edges of his consciousness. I'm having a moment here. Leave me alone or I'll sink myself to the bottom of the ocean and you can figure out a way to save yourself without me.
The Planet curled up in a mental ball and sulked, and Cloud took the opportunity to return his entire focus to the much more pleasant experience of opening Sephiroth up for his cock. Once he'd gotten enough slick into the gorgeous, keening beauty that was Sephiroth, he opened his pants and pulled himself free. He grabbed Sephiroth's hair and pulled him upright and into a hot, spine-searing kiss while his other hand guided his cock into that tight ass.
Sephiroth sighed into his mouth and melted in his arms once he'd sank hilt deep. Cloud used his new strength to manhandle the man into position for the best angle and deepest penetration. Knees firmly planted on the ground, he leaned back towards his heels and brought Sephiroth's torso with him. Two hands grabbed long, muscular thighs right above the back of his knees and lifted Sephiroth off his cock with an easy, inhuman strength. Holding Sephiroth suspended in the air over his cock, he slowly fucked into him with the power of his quads and legs.
Sephiroth's head fell listlessly back in a spill of silvery locks. His mouth opened but whatever sound he would have let loose choked in his throat and stalled in his chest. Cloud watched what he could see of that slack expression from this angle as he nailed Sephiroth's prostate over, and over. He could see green sparks with each thrust, and it took him a moment to realize that he was actually seeing green sparks with each thrust, and Cloud paused and stared around at the crazy that had become of his life.
Sephiroth scrabbled at his arms. "Cloud," he gasped, demanded, begged all in one panted breath of a word, and Cloud's brain recorded that gasp of his name, overwriting permanently all the taunting memories from his past-that-would-never be. The sound echoed in his mind and lit a fire in his belly, and Cloud pulled out and manhandled Sephiroth onto his back in a spill of silver hair so he could watch the man's expression as Cloud broke him apart.
Sephiroth wheezed as Cloud slammed back into him, and long, tight legs wrapped around Cloud's hips and back to keep them connected as Cloud moved faster than any human had business moving. His skin took on a golden glow and the green sparks increased in their density around them to the point where they blocked off sight of the reactor entirely.
"I can't- I can't- Cloud, please-"
Cloud ignored Sephiroth's plea and slammed into his prostrate harder. "You'll come without my hand on you, or not at all," Cloud grunted out into Sephiroth's ear before biting at his neck. So close, almost- He groaned his release into Sephiroth's neck, and the silver-haired General's entire body seized in a silent rictus of pleasure as he came between them. It took Cloud a few seconds to realize that Sephiroth himself was literally glowing with pleasure. He watched in worry as the energy slowly faded from white skin and Sephiroth collapsed in a boneless heap against the hard floor.
"Seph?" Cloud reached up and cupped Sephiroth's cheek. Glowing green eyes rolled behind half-lidded eyelids before finally managing to focus on him.
"C-Clou…" he slurred and blinked slowly before his mouth twisted into the dopiest smile Cloud had ever seen on his face. It made him look terrifyingly young. "Clou…d. Cloud." His smile widened into a full on grin.
Cloud blinked and held a hand to Sephiroth's forehead. His temperature appeared to be normal. "You okay?"
"I'm… great." Sephiroth nuzzled into his hand with a contented purr. "That… was awesome."
Cloud stared. 'Awesome?' Since when did Sephiroth say awesome? "Are you sure you're okay? You're a little… loopy."
Sephiroth blinked. "I feel great. Actually, I feel the best. Better than… than… chocolate."
Cloud's mouth fell open. "Better than chocolate?" That was a high compliment, coming from Sephiroth.
"Oh yeah. I feel… loose. It's weird. But awesome."
He sounds totally high. Thanks, Planet, I can't even have normal sex now. My cock literally has supernatural powers. "Sorry. I think… things are a little weird since I fell into the mako. Maybe it's better if we hold off on-"
Sephiroth moved faster than Cloud could react and knocked him right off his heels and onto his back. "No. Stop talking. We're good. I'm good. You're good. Well, you're a little glowy and I think you fucked magic into me, but I don't care because that felt better than chocolate so you're not allowed to take it away from me. So. Stop talking and let me have my afterglow." He rubbed his face against Cloud's chest, ignoring the occasional cold scrape of zipper, and instead tried to get as close as possible.
Cloud said nothing for a moment and started gently carding his fingers through Sephiroth's hair as he tried to figure out what to do next. Keep moving forward. Figure out weird shit later. "Can we talk about Shinra?"
Sephiroth grunted and grumbled. "What about Shinra?"
"Well, the Planet in my head isn't going to shut up after I wipe out the rest of JENOVA. Next she's going to start bitching about the mako reactors sucking the blood out of her, and I don't think I could put up with such torturous whining for the rest of my life, so… we should figure out what we're going to do about that."
Sephiroth sighed. "Ugh. That sounds too hard to think about right now."
Cloud kissed his silver crowned head. "Sorry."
"Let's get back to the mansion. More minds, more problem solving."
Cloud cleaned them up efficiently and had to help Sephiroth get vertical again. When the General stumbled trying to do something as simple as walking, Cloud couldn't suppress the pleased grin as he wrapped an arm around Sephiroth's waist and helped him walk back towards the reactor tank.
"Zack! Is Genesis awake yet?"
Genesis was jumping up and out of the reactor a moment later with the smuggest expression on his face that Cloud had ever seen. "Yeah, thanks to you two." His eyes skated to Sephiroth and his lips spread in a shit-eating grin. "Sephiroth! I don't think I've ever seen you so mellow. Blondie's good for you."
Zack jumped up just in time to see Sephiroth's dopy smile as he said, "Yeah, Cloud's pretty awesome."
Zack covered his face with both hands. "Oh. My. God. I am traumatized for life. I will never look at you two the same ever again."
"Get over it, Zack."
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"So, what's the plan?"
Cloud sighed and leaned back against the wall with both arms crossed. "Well, the first order of business is getting rid of the JENOVA remnants. That means all the monsters exposed to JENOVA that have mutated need to be wiped out, and all the SOLDIERs need to have the JENOVA cells purged from their systems."
"Is that what you did to me?" Genesis asked from where he perched on the arm of the couch. Zack had flung himself across the length of it the moment they returned from the reactor, leaving no room for anyone else. Vincent stood quietly in the shadows of a corner and watched the proceedings with thinly-veiled curiosity.
"Pretty much. From what I remember when I was… well, you were a bit of a harder fix than Zack, for example."
"What was with the glowing?" Zack complained from the couch as he pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off a headache.
Cloud sighed. "It's a little confusing, communing with the Planet, but from what I've been able to grasp, I'm… well, her hands and feet. I'm supposed to do the things that she can't do, but that the WEAPONs are too big and destructive to pull off."
Genesis's eyes glowed with satisfaction. "'There is no hate, only joy / For you are beloved by the goddess / Hero of the dawn, healer of worlds.' You're the Avatar of the Goddess."
Cloud blinked. "Uh… I… guess that's one way of putting it."
"And after JENOVA is completely gone, what's next?" Genesis asked eagerly, and the change from his behaviour when compared to before threw Cloud off.
"Well… the reactors are a problem. If they aren't all shut down in… another five to ten years, the planet will never recover and eventually births will slow before stopping completely. Already, Midgar is a dead zone. Nothing grows there naturally."
Sephiroth worried at his lower lip with a frown. "That will be problematic. The President makes a lot of money off the reactors. He will refuse to shut them down. He also has an unhealthy obsession with something I've heard him call the 'Promised Land.'"
"We could join AVALANCHE and blow up the reactors?" Genesis suggested.
Cloud frowned. "That was messy, last time. The chance of casualties is too high, plus the exposure to mako will create an unprecedented number of poisonings. The medical facilities won't be prepared to deal with the influx." He sighed. "It's too bad we couldn't just run the company ourselves. There are people in Cosmo Canyon that have been researching and implementing solar and wind power for years. Not that Shinra would ever hire them to build him a farm of windmills or solar panels." He scrubbed a hand through his hair.
Sephiroth cleared his throat. "So you're saying, if you had the power, you'd be able to fix the mako problem by the deadline without casualties?"
Zack opened his eyes and stared at Sephiroth with a disbelieving, horrified look. "I know that tone of voice. That is the bad tone of voice. What are you thinking, Sephiroth? Share with the class before you make a very bad decision. Like taking on an entire encampment in Wutai by yourself, you idiot."
Sephiroth raised a cool eyebrow. "If you'll remember correctly, my decision saved a lot of SOLDIERs lives with very little impact on our resources."
"Yeah, and you nearly got yourself killed, you idiot."
Cloud planted a hand on the back of Sephiroth's neck, drawing the silver-haired man's attention to him. "What are you thinking, Seph?"
Sephiroth looked at Cloud with a very calm, serious expression. "We take over the company, as you said." When Cloud stared at him in disbelief, he continued, "If our objective is get rid of the mako reactor technology, then it would be imperative to remove the President and his family from positions of power. Neither the father nor the son would ever agree to completely tear down the foundations of their company and wealth, regardless of the credibility of our source. Their first priority is money, and solar and wind powered technology must be more expensive or difficult to manage if they haven't already sunk their fingers into it."
"What about Palmer and Scarlet? They're both in the President's pocket. Neither of them would bow down without a fight, and a lot of Scarlet's research and technology relies on mako. You're talking about taking control of the company that runs the world. It's not going to be as simple as removing the President and his son from power," Genesis interrupted. "Not to mention Hojo. And the SOLDIERs with their mako injections."
"SOLDIER wouldn't be much of an issue, actually. The amount of mako used for injections is tiny compared to what the cities eat up for electricity," Cloud interrupted. "Hojo would also be a problem, I agree. Especially since JENOVA has been the linch pin of his entire career. While Gast may have discovered her, Hojo obsessed over her."
Silence filled the room.
"I would happily kill Hojo, if it were necessary," Vincent cut in, gold claw clenching at his side. "He's responsible for… all this," he gestured to his entire body.
Genesis sighed. "If we're talking murder, then the list would be long. Hojo, Scarlet, Palmer, the President, Rufus… the Turks would get in our way. So might as well add them to the list. The SOLDIERs would follow Sephiroth, like all those deserters followed me when I left. SOLDIER are loyal to their commanders, not the company. But still, that's a lot of dead people, all to take over one company."
Cloud sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Why do you think I decided to be a Janitor instead of deal with this fucking shit? This situation is mind-boggling to fix."
"But you are very good at fixing things," Sephiroth murmured, looking at Cloud pointedly. At the blond's incredulous look, he raised an eyebrow. "My coffee maker. My printer. Cynthia's incompetence. Heidegger's embezzling. You've kicked up more dirt in Shinra in the short time you've been at Shinra as my secretary than has been kicked up in the past ten years. If anyone could fix it, it'd be you. We just need to pave the way for you." He looked at Genesis meaningfully, and the redhead nodded.
"He'd make a good President."
The ground fell out from beneath Cloud. "No. No. No no nonono I am NOT becoming the President of Shinra!"
Genesis grinned and raised his hand in the air. "All in favour of President Strife, raise your hand."
Sephiroth and Vincent immediately raised their hands, and Zack groaned from his place on the couch. "Oh my fucking god you're all crazy bastards," the SOLDIER bitched before raising his own hand.
"I guess it's official, then. Now, just to clarify, are we taking over before or after we wipe out the JENOVA problem?"
Sephiroth hummed thoughtfully. "There are ups and downs to both propositions. With control of SHINRA, it would be easy to order all the SOLDIERs back to purify the JENOVA from them. Otherwise we would be hunting them down all over the globe and potentially fighting the company at the same time, especially if they hear we've defected. However, if we deal with JENOVA first, then Cloud can focus his entire attention on fixing the problems in the company. It would be rather a lot to do everything at once."
"You're crazy," Cloud complained from where he'd started sulking against the wall. "You're all fucking crazy. Making me President. I don't WANT to be President!"
"You'll be the first President elected by the Generals of Shinra. Get over it," Genesis shut down his complaints with a smirk. "It's hard being a Hero."
"I hate you."
Cloud watched with slowly growing horror as Genesis and Sephiroth began to talk through the logistics of the plan they'd decided on - taking over SHINRA first - with Vincent occasionally interjecting with Turk-like thoughts and suggestions.
I can't believe this is my life.
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They got the Nibelheim reactor up and running again before they left, so the remote town wouldn't be without electricity until windmills were built in the area. Sephiroth was the one to remember the need of it, Cloud was ashamed to admit, since the generators in the reactor would only last for a few weeks before the lack of mako conversion would result in a black out in town.
And they want me to run a company, Cloud silently bitched to himself as they loaded into the air transport that Zack had called for the night before. Jared and Maurice, who had thankfully both missed the glowing and impending takeover conversation, sat by and made conversation with the now recovered Genesis. Sephiroth sat between Cloud and Zack, nearly bouncing with energy in spite of staying up all night with Genesis and Vincent planning the details of their coup. Cloud had a feeling that it had something to do with the glowing and green sparks from when they had sex, but he didn't exactly want to have that conversation with anyone right now. It was hard enough talking to the Planet about it and figuring out what exactly he was now.
The short of it, he had gotten out of the Planet, was that he was exactly what Genesis had called him. An Avatar. The hands, feet, and mouth of the Planet. The long of it was far more complicated than that. Cloud could now summon his clothes and sword out of the ether, like Sephiroth had in the future with the masamune, because he was apparently now something like a materia. To keep him alive when he'd fallen in the tank and to make it easier for the Planet to get what she wanted, the bitch had infused his entire body with mako until he was saturated. He didn't bleed anymore. He'd checked. It was very fucked up to slice your arm open and see it heal almost instantly with a few green sparkles.
Hell, he didn't even know if he could eat anymore. Why the fuck is this my life?
The blond looked up from the floor of the air transport and met Sephiroth's concerned gaze. "Yes?"
"Are you doing okay?"
Cloud just stared at him before turning to look back down at the floor.
Sephiroth reached an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in tight. "Get some sleep. You'll feel better."
"Then rest your eyes."
Cloud closed his eyes with a sigh and let his head fall back against Sephiroth's arm.
He woke to the air transport hitting the ground and the other SOLDIERs cheering at their safe arrival home. The Turks met them upon leaving the plane, and Cloud couldn't help but tense up at the sight of Veld and Tseng.
"General. I heard you were successful in bringing Genesis back. I thought I'd congratulate you in person," Veld said with an overly polite smile.
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "That was very thoughtful of you. I have some information to report to the President, if you could please set up a meeting."
Veld's eyebrows rose in surprise. "What information would that be?"
"Genesis intends to recall all the SOLDIERs that deserted with him, after making a formal apology to the President. He would like to take responsibility for their actions so that they will not be punished upon their return. I'm sure the President will be happy to hear that we will no longer be so short-staffed."
"Of course. Would you like a chance to eat first or shall I set up the meeting immediately?"
"Immediately. Thank you."
Veld nodded and walked away with his PHS held to his ear. Tseng remained behind, obviously to keep an eye on Genesis and not even trying to be subtle about it. Zack left with the other SOLDIERs to get cleaned up and write their reports. Cloud kept away the unease creeping up on him by checking his email and catching up on all the things he'd missed while they'd been away.
Fuck. During all their planning nobody talked about who is going to replace the department heads. Guess that'll be my job. Better start reading. With a goal in mind, Cloud started perusing the company's employee records using Sephiroth's authorization codes, which he'd used without the General's knowledge to suss out Heidegger's embezzling. No one had caught him at it yet, so he hadn't bothered asking for higher security clearances.
Apparently, one of his Planet Avatar upgrades included ridiculous, inhuman speed-reading, and Cloud had to admit that even though he'd been totally fucked over by recent events, he at least had some tools that would discourage him from killing himself to escape the tedious agony.
By the time they reached the main meeting room, Cloud had more or less disappeared into the woodwork with his intense readings and had a few prospective department heads in mind to replace Scarlet and Palmer until someone more suitable could be hired or he dismantled the departments entirely and restructured them from the bottom up. The more readings he did and the more reports he hacked from his phone, the more he realized exactly how uselessly fucked up Shinra Company was.
Cloud didn't pay any attention as Genesis sucked up to the President and blamed his degrading condition for the temporary lapse in sanity that had pushed him to leave the company in search of a cure. Halfway through the meeting, however, something unexpected threw a wrench in the works and drew Cloud's eyes away from his PHS screen.
Hojo burst into the room with a scowl. His eyes fixed on Genesis with disbelief. "How did you get rid of the degradation? It was impossible to cure," he demanded with furious eyes.
Genesis looked to Sephiroth. The silver-haired General nodded. Without a word to Hojo, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a frog, which he then placed on the meeting room table before casting the Toad spell. Vincent appeared in his black and red glory.
Hojo's eyes widened in shock. "You!"
"Hello Professor." Without another word, Vincent shot him between the eyes.
Cloud watched with some satisfaction as Hojo's head exploded in a shower of blood and brain matter. The President blubbered in his seat in shock before Sephiroth swiftly removed his head from his shoulders. The four of them turned to look at Veld and Tseng with blank expressions.
"V-Vincent?" Veld had gone absolutely white as he stared at his past partner.
Vincent gracefully jumped off the meeting room table without so much as a whisper of noise. "Veld. It's… been a while."
Veld looked back and forth between Hojo, Vincent, and the President's slack body. "What's going on, Vincent?"
Vincent watched Veld carefully. "Hojo shot me and experimented on me. The President likely approved of it. He's always thought of his employees as tools rather than people."
Cloud moved quickly and pulled Tseng's hand out of his pocket to take his PHS. He deleted the message that Tseng had been in the process of sending to an RS. He quickly checked the previous messages to see if any other SOS's had gotten out before returning to the conversation thread with Rufus Shinra.
"Where is Rufus right now?" Cloud asked curiously as he stared down Tseng.
"Do you intend to kill him?"
Cloud hummed. "Not my call."
Tseng looked to Sephiroth, and the General sat on the table's surface with a casual air. "Rufus's continued survival depends on his answers to the questions we have for him. Tell him to come up here to negotiate with us, or we will hunt him down and kill him without giving him the chance to argue for his life."
Cloud gave the Turk a meaningful look before holding up the PHS. "What should I type to him?"
Tseng looked impassively between Sephiroth and Cloud. "Please type, 'Rufus, the dog is down. Please come to the main meeting room. Code Green-Alpha-Nine.'"
Cloud typed the message in less than a second with his new speed and sent it before pocketing the PHS. He pulled out his own PHS and returned to his research without a word.
The tense silence that followed would have been excruciating had Cloud not been surfing Shinra's files with a clear goal in mind to keep his attention away from the events taking place inside the room. By the time Rufus arrived, Genesis had also taken a seat on the table next to Sephiroth and had started filing his nails.
Cloud put his PHS away to watch the proceedings carefully. While he didn't know Rufus, he hoped he'd be able to tell whether the man would be willing to play ball with them or not. Rufus had been a slippery fuck no matter his age.
"General. This is a surprise," Rufus said coolly as he stepped farther into the room. The door closed behind him with a click, and the heir to Shinra Company sat down at the meeting table with aplomb.
He never ceased to piss Cloud off.
"Shinra. Your options are quite simple. You will hand over control and ownership of Shinra Company to Cloud Strife here, or I'm going to do to you what I did to your father."
Rufus glanced at his father's corpse before turning back to Sephiroth. "May I ask what incited this rebellion against my father and his company?"
Sephiroth's expression didn't so much as flicker. "No, you may not. You will draw up the paperwork, or I will kill you. If you choose the first option, then you will have two more choices. To retire or work for Shinra."
Rufus glanced at Tseng and Veld, the latter of which stood next to Vincent and seemed to be carrying on a conversation through Turk sign language. "If I chose to work rather than retire, what job would you give me?"
Cloud flipped open his PHS and drew up Rufus's file, more for show than for any true need to double check information. "I haven't decided yet. All he seems to be good for is knowing all the President's dirty secrets, blah blah Promised Land - by the way, that's where you go when you DIE you idiots it's not an actual physical place - blah blah Neo Midgar oops cancelling that project - blah blah apparently has no actual technical skills besides moonlighting as a Turk on weekends. It's not an impressive resume for our future direction. Might be better if you use your inheritance to buy the Golden Saucer. You'd make money over there while also managing to stay out of our way." Cloud looked up from his PHS to see that Rufus had a very interesting expression on his face. "But then, you'd never actually back down and go away, would you? No, you grew up thinking that you have a right to the whole world. You own it, and you can do whatever you want with it to get what you want. Isn't that right?"
Sephiroth watched Rufus carefully before he sighed. "I see. That's too bad. I'd hoped I'd be wrong in this case."
Before Sephiroth could move, Tseng had already shot his gun.
Unfortunately for Tseng, Cloud was very fast.
Cloud dropped the bullet onto the floor in front of Tseng and took the gun from his suddenly nerveless fingers. With a small grunt of effort, he bent the gun in half before dropping it onto the floor.
"Why are you doing this, Sephiroth? Why can't we come to an agreement? A compromise?" Rufus demanded from where he still sat in his seat.
Sephiroth drew his sword. "We'll manage without the paperwork, I'm sure. It was all a farce to get you in this room." His head tilted to the side. "Shinra Company trained their General well. 'Eliminate all targets in the way of your Objectives, SOLDIER.'" Without another word, he swung his sword.
Cloud watched Tseng and Veld as Rufus's head parted from his shoulders. Tseng looked horrified and pained, while Veld had manoeuvred closer to Vincent after apparently finishing his conversation. He didn't look happy. In fact, he looked the angriest Cloud had ever seen him, but the anger wasn't directed at Cloud or Sephiroth, or even Genesis. It had all been directed at Rufus. At the President. At the Company that had tortured and experimented on his partner for years.
So, friends and partners are more important to some Turks than bosses. Good to know.
"Cloud. Hack the President's access codes. If we can't manage the physical paperwork, then we'll just have to fake the digital."
It had all been part of the plan, after all.
. , . , .
It took them two weeks to complete their takeover of Shinra Company. Both Scarlet and Palmer had fled the building, having been deemed the lesser of threats to be hunted down or ignored depending on the circumstance. There was only so much that a small group could manage with the time and resources at their disposal, so Sephiroth had prioritized with his amazing, prioritizing brain.
Cloud still couldn't believe he was President.
I mean… What. The. FUCK.
At times he felt like his life had been highjacked and strapped to a psychotic chocobo. It didn't help that now he had WAY more problems to deal with than just "Destroy JENOVA. Save the Planet." No, on top of managing all the bullshit paperwork that Shinra generated just by EXISTING, he had to spend his evenings purging JENOVA from each batch of SOLDIER that Sephiroth sent his way in that eerie, annoying, frustratingly organized way of his.
Why couldn't Sephiroth run the company? He would have done such a better job compared to Cloud.
"No, I'm serious. I'm President Strife of the Former Shinra Company- Look, it's a working name. We've had a lot on our hands over here- Yes, I was serious about the windmills. Do you think I have fucking time to shoot air out of my ass jerking you around? How much fucking money do I have to offer you before you'll send a goddamned set of blueprints to my Head of Urban Development? — Yes, we're aiming to shut down the mako reactors. DUH. I'd like to still be living on this planet in forty years instead of asphyxiating in open space when it turns into a chunk of useless space rock— Gaia theory blah blah I've already heard it all, that's why I'm onboard with the damned windmills. —Look, I'm sending you an air transport. Please get on it with all your best and brightest and some goddamned plans for windmills before I hack it from your systems and don't give you credit for inventing it— Yes. For Fuck Sakes." Cloud hung up.
Cloud groaned and buried his head in his arms as Sephiroth snuck behind him and started massaging the back of his neck. "This is why I wanted to stay a janitor. I could be scrubbing stains from underneath twenty years of wax right now, and instead I'm fighting Shinra's horrible fucking reputation trying to GET SOME SHIT DONE AROUND HERE. FUCK. What do you have on AVALANCHE?"
"They're a slippery lot. We followed some of your suggestions, but they still saw us coming from a mile away and made a break for it. At this rate, I think we're just going to have to keep them busy until all the mako reactors are shut down and they'll have no more reason for existing."
"That's not going to work, and you know it. There's always some fucker with a vendetta and an evil secret plan waiting to fuck everything up."
Sephiroth kissed the back of his neck. "You focus on the long term solution. We'll put out the fires. That's our job."
"I wish your job was to suck my cock all day. It would make this job endurable."
"Your wish is my command."
And that's how Cloud found himself sitting in the deceased President Shinra's office chair with a head of silver hair pooled between his legs when Tseng burst inside to inform him of another AVALANCHE attack and Sephiroth - the troll - didn't even bother to stop while Tseng gave his report.
- Toki Mirage -
Aaaand that's maybe a wrap? I mean, it could go both ways. I could write another chapter tying all the ends together in a pretty bow, or I could leave you all to do that in your heads. I hate that I tortured you all for so long without closure. It took me so long to get in the mood and headspace to finish this chapter. I knew I'd do it, eventually, I just didn't think it would take me so bloody long. So I'm sorry for that. Let me know if you want an epilogue or not? With me, it's hard to say that another story arc won't explode out of it if I try to write more. I'd hate to leave everyone hanging if it takes me five years to finish this story again, if you know what I mean. The possibilities are always endless. I'm bad at finishing things. I'm working on it. I'm also a little rusty on the FanFic writing since I've been doing more Original lately. Let me know how I did with this one? Thanks guys! You are all super awesome for sticking with my ADD ass for this long! I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did, once I finally figured out how to write this bloody chapter. It was a hoot. :)
P.S. For those who are interested: My novel is coming along well. I'm on like, the 7th version of it I think. If we count the first version of Bloody Skies being the first version. It is now nothing AT ALL like Bloody Skies. It's like BS mutated into an alien specimen, was eaten by a demon, and then spat out as fertilizer for a brand new patch of daisies. I'm at 50k for word count, and I think I'll be the closest I've ever been to a viable novel once I finish it. It's planned as the first in a series of 4ish, and I won't decide whether to try to publish it myself through Amazon like Kryptaria or try to sell it to a publishing house until I actually have an edited manuscript. Yay for 2016 goals. As for a life update, I have work! Work relating to my degrees! Yay! Holy crap! I did it! Lots of hard work, paid off, equals Very Happy Me. I will try to finish more of my FFNET projects as time/focus/inspiration permit. Thanks for reading.