Author's Note: It's been so long, I had to go look to see how I formatted these!
Here is the answer to the burning question of why Sephiroth is afraid of chocobos.
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy 7 does not belong to me and it's sad that I have to go look up things that I've forgotten the names of.
"This... is a wonderful chocobo!" - Chocobo Billy
Commander Genesis Rhapsodos was in an unusually good mood.
It was the first thing Cloud noticed when he'd dragged himself out of bed at an ungodly hour that morning. Yawning and rubbing his eyes, he'd stopped short in surprise at the sight of his mentor dancing about the apartment, singing some sickeningly cheery song at the top of his lungs. Genesis greeted him in a flourish of twirls and waltzed him into the kitchen, where he'd set out a plate of fresh pancakes. They ate, Genesis chattered nonstop, then got ready to head out for their mission at seven o'clock.
Commander Genesis Rhapsodos was in an unusually good mood.
Cloud was terrified.
"My friend, your desire is the bringer of life, the Gift of the Goddess," Genesis sighed contently. "Isn't it a glorious day?"
"No," Sephiroth grumbled, glancing up from his book to give the redhead a death glare. Genesis smirked back.
Not for the first time, Cloud felt like he was being left out of some inside joke between the two Firsts. Occasionally Genesis would sit down and tell him humorous and embarrassing stories of things that happened to him, Sephiroth and Angeal (but mostly Sephiroth and Angeal) when they were younger, but it wasn't the same as actually being there. And since Cloud liked to think of himself as being relatively close to the commander, he couldn't help but feel that he was still missing an entire part of Genesis' life. Some experiences just beyond training, LOVELESS, and being accused of stealing the redhead's favorite can opener.
He might have been worried about the success of their mission today, what with Genesis' giddiness and Sephiroth's pouting, but his mental capture card was a tad bit laggy.
The truck they were riding in hit a rut, pitching the three of them in random directions. Instead of screaming at the driver to watch where he was going or risk being put through the windshield, the Red General simply straightened his coat and flicked his hair out of his eyes. "What's the matter, Sephiroth?" he asked, an unmistakably teasing note carrying his voice.
"Someone's grumpy today. Could it be that you're not looking forward to the mission?"
Sephiroth's expression was so icy, it was a wonder everything within a twenty-mile radius hadn't frozen solid. Chuckling, Genesis turned to look out the window.
Squirming uncomfortably in his seat, Cloud finally mustered the courage to speak up. "Is... is there something I should know?" he squeaked.
"Well, you see—"
"No," Sephiroth interrupted, cutting Genesis off. Lips pressed in a thin line, he pulled his book closer to his face, as if that would help shut the rest of the world out.
Cloud didn't feel any better about the situation.
"I guess you'll just have to see when we get there," Genesis shrugged mysteriously. "While we wait, I have a game I can teach you. It's called Tanks, and basically what you do is..."
And so the next hour found Cloud attempting to play a surprisingly simple yet incredibly challenging strategy game that consisted of a lot of finger-tapping, mental math, and him losing. He was going to have to take the game back to Midgar and play it with Zack to redeem himself.
Finally, the truck ground to a halt and the driver cut the engine, signaling that they had reached their destination. Cloud followed Genesis out of the vehicle, yawning and stretching his legs. When he glanced around, he was surprised to see white wooden fences surrounding a large red barn. The pattern of a chocobo had been done on the roof with the shingles.
"A chocobo farm?" he asked, giving his mentor a confused look.
Grinning, Genesis nodded. "Chocobos are the only way to get where we're going in the swamps," he replied, leading the way towards the barn.
Cloud brightened considerably. "I get to meet a real, live chocobo?"
"You sure do, Feather-Head."
He chose to forgive Genesis for that one. Just this once.
As they waltzed through the barn doors into the surprisingly tidy chocobo stable, Cloud happened to catch sight of Sephiroth. The general trailed behind them, looking more nervous than the he'd ever seen before. Because Sephiroth just didn't get nervous. He faced off monsters and Wutains and Hojo's leftover lunch without batting an eyelash. What on Gaia could have him so frightened then?
"Ooh, look at this one, Sephiroth," Genesis oozed, stopping by one of the stalls. The chocobo in question cooed softly at Genesis, poking its head over the gate.
Cloud hurried over to the stall and stared, wide-eyed, up at the bird, who regarded him with an equally fascinated gaze. Lifting a hand, he gently stroked the chocobo's feathers. "Hello, there."
"Wark," said the chocobo.
Giddy with a childlike glee, Cloud twisted to look back at Sephiroth. "Do you want to pet him?"
The general stiffly shook his head and didn't budge from the center of the aisle. Cloud's grin faded a little.
"Why not?" he asked. "He's friendly."
"'Course he is! One o' the finest birds I got!"
An old man wearing glasses thick enough to rival Hojo's came into view, shuffling down the barn aisle. One of the straps on his overalls was broken and several pieces of straw were embedded in his beard. As he passed Sephiroth, he clapped a hand on the general's arm.
"Good t' see ya again, General," the old man said and all three SOLIDERs flinched at the volume of his voice.
"It's… good to see you too, Bill," Sephiroth replied.
"Now you, Sonny," Bill said, shuffling over towards Cloud, "have a good eye for chocobos. Don't ya?"
Cloud blinked. "Um, d-do I?"
"Just like m' grandson. Billy. Yeah, Billy sure knows how to spot 'em."
Chocobo Bill continued to talk as he approached the stall, but instead of addressing Cloud, he directed the conversation to the chocobo in the stall. The bird tilted his head curiously while Cloud felt the beginnings of utter humiliation being to set in. He yelped when Bill's hand came down on his head and roughly ruffled his hair.
"Zanzibar here is a champion," Bill informed the chocobo—Zanzibar, apparently. "Won me, uh… two… four… eh, lots o' money in dem races, y'know!"
Cloud cleared his throat. "Excuse me, sir? I'm over here."
"Eh?" Bill leaned closer to the chocobo. "What's that, Sonny?"
"I'm over here," Cloud repeated. He waved a hand in front of the old man's face. "That's the chocobo."
Bill finally looked at Cloud. He squinted, then glanced back at Zanzibar. Then again at Cloud. Realization dawned on his wrinkled face and he laughed. "What're ya doin', wearing that chocobo getup then, Sonny? Don't confuse an old man!"
Heat burned Cloud's cheeks despite his attempts to choke his mortification. "Sorry, sir."
"You can ride ol' Zanzibar here, jes' 'cos I like ya, Sonny."
And with that, he waddled off to drag Sephiroth down the aisle, yammering noisily about a quiet bird he had for the general.
Cloud buried his face in his hands, wishing someone would just put him out of his misery. Of course, the someone who frequently threatened to do that was standing right beside him, undoubtedly biting back barely contained mirth. Not seconds later, right on cue, Genesis sputtered with laughter. Cloud banged his head against the wall.
"Shut up!" he snapped through his gloves. "You've never been confused with a chocobo before."
That only proceeded to make the commander laugh harder. "Y-You're right, I haven't!" he managed, snorting. "But i-it's hilarious!"
Cloud gave Genesis a pointed shove, unable to look up at him. "Go saddle your chocobo," he muttered.
"Do you want me to ride you, Zanzibar?"
Fumbling with the latch on Zanzibar's gate, Cloud slipped inside the stall and slammed the door shut behind him. Genesis' giggles trailed behind him as he made his way to the other end of the barn. Zanzibar turned his head to gaze down at Cloud.
Cloud couldn't help a smile, reaching out to pat the bird. "I guess at least you're a good-looking chocobo."
Fifteen minutes later, Cloud had Zanzibar ready to go and the two were best friends. The large yellow bird followed Cloud amicably down the aisle as they headed outside. Cloud pulled Zanzibar to a stop, however, when he noticed Sephiroth. The general was pressed against the back wall of a stall, paralyzed as a large chocobo stretched out its head towards him.
"Is everything alright, Sephiroth?" Cloud ventured to ask.
Sephiroth's expression stated that everything was clearly not alright, and Cloud tied Zanzibar outside and entered the stall. The chocobo's attention was immediately diverted to Cloud and the general sagged against the wall in relief. Cloud gave the chocobo a scratch on the head and was rewarded with a heavy sigh as the bird leaned into the touch.
"What happened?" Cloud asked. The chocobo didn't seem ill-tempered. In fact, it seemed rather affectionate in Cloud's unprofessional opinion. He staggered backwards when it shoved its head against his chest.
Sephiroth's entire form tensed and he gave Cloud a guarded look. After a moment, he said, "I don't like chocobos."
"They're kind of smelly, but once you get past that—"
"It's not the smell," Sephiroth interrupted. His eyes darted left and right, checking to see if anyone was within earshot, but the barn was empty. "They're big… and they have large claws and sharp beaks…"
Several seconds ticked by until the tension snapped and Cloud's blank expression turned to one of astonishment. "You're afraid of chocobos?"
Grimacing, the general nodded.
"But why?" Cloud had to ask, bewildered. "You're so much more powerful than they are."
And he was, too. But Sephiroth looked down at his feet and folded his hands. "I was feeding a chocobo greens once and it… bit me. It hurt." Sephiroth's head snapped up and his eyes bored into Cloud's. "I wanted the bird eliminated at once, but Bill said 'no.'"
"You can't just kill a chocobo because it bit you."
"It was obviously vicious!"
"It wasn't vicious," Cloud argued. "I'm sure it didn't mean to bite you. It was probably just hungry and your hand was in the way."
A statement like that was risky with the general. It insinuated that Sephiroth had somehow done something wrong, however unintentional. But Cloud was something of a SOLDIER (and chocobo) whisperer and could get away with things like that. Besides, he hadn't outright stated the general was crazy. That was Genesis' job.
Sephiroth considered. "I suppose…" he said at length. "Perhaps you're right."
"You haven't had any altercations since, have you?"
The general shook his head.
A smile spread across Cloud's face. "See? Chocobos are good animals. And I think this one just wants to be friends."
The chocobo turned his head and warked at Sephiroth, causing the general to jump and plaster himself up against the wall again. Cloud sighed.
"Would you like me to get him ready for you?"
Sephiroth nodded. "Thank you, Strife." He inched his way out of the stall, then inched his way around Zanzibar, keeping a respectable distance between himself and the chocobo. "Genesis has always enjoyed teasing me about the chocobos."
Well, of course he did. It was Genesis.
"Is he not afraid of them?"
"He likes chocobos, I think," Sephiroth mused. "He likes dragging me along on missions that involve chocobos. I suppose he'll be dragging you on them too, from now on."
Thus, Commander Genesis Rhapsodos stayed in an unusually good mood for the remainder of the day.
A/N: Oh my goodness, I had way too much fun with Chocobo Bill. Genesis and Cloud will have to return to the chocobo farm just for him :P
I hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving!