Disclaimer: Fanfiction for a reason.
Pairing: As always – Seph/Gen.
Dedication: To Gabriel - for watching re-runs of Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Upstairs Downstairs with me and taking notes with me as well.
Author's Note: What else would you expect from me really? Another Gothic tale of big proportions. I really needed to write this, I just had to get it out of my twisted mind. This chapter isn't so twisted though, okay perhaps it is, but we love Gen. :)
The Perfect Line
"Letters have come!"
Daisy waved the thick packages in her hands and the servants settled around the chipped kitchen table. Quickly, she handed them out – all the usual people for some were more loved by those they left at home than others (had they any of course) – feeling the many eyes of her curious co-workers burn into her with hot intensity.
Seated on a stool in the far corner of the room, Genesis looked on with half amounts of tedium and dulled interest.
"William! You're mother has written again...Anna, your father. Oh he has moved to Junon by the looks of it...Margret, from your sister Felicity...Thomas...Mary...Ruth...Spencer..."
Placing a palm on Genesis' tense shoulders, a footman, tall lad, with dark hair and a personality too vibrant for a servant leant towards him, eyes still watching Daisy shuffling through the heap of letters in her hands.
"I'll bet you my letter is at the bottom of that pile." he said lowly, "I have a lady friend."
Genesis scoffed and straightened the cuffs of his tail-coat, "You said that the last time and nothing arrived for you, Zackary."
He lifted his head and looked up at Daisy, standing across from him at the other end, holding a thin rectangle with a glinting stamp and a flaming red wax seal. Some moments passed before he rose slowly from his seat to retrieve the last remaining envelope.
"Who is it from?" he asked, and the girl checked.
"No one, Mister," she frowned, "It doesn't have an address on it."
Crossing the room, Genesis plucked the letter from her fingers without any words and the room fell into a pondering silence. One of the maids muttered something to another and the butler hushed them with a finger to his lips.
Skimming his fingers over the envelope, the red wax seal with a familiar crest, he turned it over and traced the fine cursive letters of his name, a soft smile perking up a corner of his cerise lips. Shaking his head briefly, he tucked the letter into his breast pocket and went to stand at the side of the room by Zackary, who pestered him the contents of the letter and why he dared not open it to which he answered with naught but silence.
Ringing stirred them as the bells disturbed their time.
"The bells are chimin'! Get up, get up, the whole lot of you! Mistress is ill – let her not ring the bell thrice! Come on – move! The lot of you!"
The cries of the lady's maid startled the servants from their quiet recreation and downstairs buzzed with haste. There was the grab of silver trays and the morning meal carefully arranged into porcelain dishes – of cakes and eggs and a teapot with fresh bergamot tea. On the other side of the kitchen waited the footmen, the most polished and trim looking of all in their tailored suits and immaculate white gloves, to take those trays before the Mistress and the Lord.
For the past several weeks, Madame Strife was in a most troubling state. It all began with her hair becoming easily misplaced, to something far more serious as her flesh dissolved beneath her skin. Not a piece of food that she ate seemed to give her back any substance. There were, of course, visits from the finest doctors of all of Mideel, and even as far as Midgar, but each diagnosis was as grim as the last. She will not live for much longer, they each said and Lord Strife himself had lost fire to combat with any words. He too was in a most crippling health – the man being silly enough to ride his steed through the blistering cold and the unrelenting rain due to his heartbreak over the state of his wife bought himself pitiful lungs ill with infection and a cough that expelled blood from his mouth.
Who was to take his place as Lord of the manor, and Lord of the state? His son of course – Cloud Strife – and the very thought of him as a ruler of Mideel, the very last hope of the Strife dynasty in the continent. However, the thought of him as Earl of Mideel was a very laughable situation to imagine. He was most un-royal, let alone noble, but the order of the law had to work by his way for truly, he was chosen by divine right.
The lady's maid wiped her forehead and surveyed the frantic actions of the servants. All silver trays decorated with fresh lilies, pink and yellow roses, the footmen stepped from the shadows, and she frowned slightly at one.
"Genesis." she snapped, and he turned his head gently towards her, "I want you to serve the young Lord Cloud today."
"Of course. I would be delighted." He replied with a dainty little smile that merely darkened as he followed the other footmen, silver tray in his hands.
As they reached the carpeted corridors and ascended the many stairs, Zackary whispered his way, "Don't take it personally, Genesis."
He simply smirked wider and flicked his hair from his eyes, "For what reason? I know it is that I may be pretty, but that my height is unforgiving. Thankfully Maestro Cloud has a strong liking towards me and simply sees the face and wants only to see the face and the body, not the height. Personally, I believe if I were any taller, my pretty features would not be the first part of me seen by another, so it would truly be distracting."
The boy laughed softly and shook his head, "You already are distracting."
Genesis scoffed, "And you are so charming, Zackary."
They reached a fork in the corridor and each of them parted ways without any utterance of a farewell. Genesis felt the eyes of armoured guards follow his path and he dared not meet their stares. There was one, however, potent and deadly directed so impiously with thoughts of the naked grace of his body. Near twice his age and with a barrel for a belly, he drank liquid amber in the night and slept with men and women alike. Still he held a sword with practised finesse and gained his title as a General within reason; such a strategic mind he had, it fascinated the young footman so much he spent a brief, nightly hour in his bed.
Muted footfalls on the red thick carpets dyed by the blood of lives passed, and the strangest sensation swept over him – a knowing one, but such thoughts were taken aside as a pair of charming maids opened the tall, rosewood doors into a room of lavish decor.
The doors shut behind him and he spotted the youth with his head out the window.
He tilted his chin and spoke sardonically, "I do hope you do not fall, Lord Strife. It would be a tragedy."
Said man stood fully to his height and closed the windows, drawing the curtains quickly with a pink flush across his cheeks.
"You are here." he said, turning to face the footman with a stretching smile, "I have done some thinking."
Genesis, with all his courtesy, did try hard not to make a debasing comment about his Lord's intelligence and instead lay the gleaming silver tray down on the small, circular dining table.
"Do share if you so please." he replied, busying himself with his cufflinks.
Cloud's smirk widened marginally as he drew closer to the footman who thought of how horribly unattractive he was.
"I need a valet, Genesis."
The statement caused him to snap his eyes up into those of his Lord, "A valet?" he repeated, bemused and uncertain of the proposal.
He laughed, "No Genesis...I need a valet. Someone who can come to me whenever I need them...however, wherever..."
He let his sentence hang in the air and Genesis stiffened with anxiety, those thin, dry fingertips
"You are not suggesting that I–" he paused, terror evident in his state, but Cloud merely chuckled to confirm such fear. "But this is absurd! Lord Strife, have you not thought of the consequences?"
"Consequences?" he scoffed, running a hand down the footman's chest, "What consequences?"
"Sodomy!" he cried, swatting that hand away, "They will convict you of sodomy and it will be my head in the noose!"
He turned away and went to occupying himself with rearranging the flowers in the vase, much to his lord's displeasure.
"Come on, Genesis...Nobody has to know..."
Reaching out for a slim hip, he hoped to convince him, but instead his actions were evaded as Genesis moved away bitterly, "No they do not. But secrets never remain so."
He sighed a silly sigh – mind clouded (and Genesis thought of how he was named so rightly), "This is for the both of us."
"Well you certainly are selfless." he replied sardonically and turned away from the boy putting him in an affair of offence.
"D-don't turn your back on me!" he hollered, childishly and Genesis offered him a mocking laugh.
"How petty..." he said haughtily, "I already have and will do so many more times."
Resolve worn and clear angry reigned over Cloud. He clenched his fist and ground his teeth, fought the urge to make spiteful comments.
"I'll...I'll...I'll make you into a scullery maid!"
Genesis found himself amused, "Oh splendid. Will I wear those dresses too?" he mocked and turned to face the immaturity of this irate thing that dared to believe himself so tyrannical, "Cloud...your threats are quite hopeless. Honestly, do you believe that turning me into a scullery maid will aid you in your life lacking in ardour? You have a much better chance with me still a footman, at least that way I can respect you for a minuscule degree of tolerance."
"You will be my valet!" he roared, slamming a fist carefully on the little table, causing the silver to give a little rattle.
The footman, having found himself conquered over this child made his way to the door, "I disagree."
"I own you!"
He paused. Stilling at the words and Cloud smirked. How he hated that fact and there was no retort he could spout, but instead submit to the arms curling around his waist and follow the demands from that sneering mouth.
The moon glowed a crescent shape that night, and stars glittered like diamonds on black velvet curtains that drowned the daylight into the dark. The servants quietly muttered their goodnights and hurried off into their rooms in the attic (or downstairs for the kitchen maids and the cooks) to avoid the fast approaching cold of the bitter season.
In the amber hues of candlelight, Genesis ran his fingers through his fiery hair and sat down by his writing desk, placing the letter he received that day amongst the others he had received – all of which were written in the same cursive. He thought for some moments, producing a quill from a drawer and watched the warm light play against the brilliant white of the soft plume. He felt himself become so filled with foolish thoughts – a rush of overwhelming joy at each glance of the drawn curves which made up his name. His name which inspired the many words after it, the tale which was then told...and how he loved it, wanting so much to be consumed by a state of romanticism. Love – how it did hurt to be without it for so long and in such a place that bored him, nothing ever distracting him from the sense of grief he felt.
Without further ado, he gathered blank sheets of paper and dipped his quill into ink:
I have received your letter today and I am uncertain when you shall receive mine. I must tell you though, I was worried, so very, very worried when I had not heard from you for so long. I understand though, the time it takes for the letters you send me to arrive...but it was one week too late, which turned into two, then three before I began counting months of delay! I was so dreadfully worried – feared that your life has gone before I could ever tell you –He paused briefly, his thoughts suddenly irrational and he brought himself to chastising them before continuing - slowly inking the next few words.
...what a wonderful man you truly are. A great man, with many grand things to come to you. For your life to be cut so short is a tragedy for all of the world!
But before I venture any further, I must ask you, how are you? Honestly, how are you? You tell me that you are well, but I wish to know so much more. I do miss your company also, I do wish that you allowed me to go with you – yes I admit, I am stubborn and terribly silly at times, that rather than be much of a help, I would get myself killed, but you must let me this one bit of romanticism or you are a cruel devil! Oh...that probably made you laugh – poor little Genesis calling you bad names. So sad and pitiful and the like...
Upon reading your letter though, I am thoroughly impressed by you furthermore, and not only that, but ever so pleased to hear that you are safe! And yes, you are free to ridicule me on that, I do not mind. I know your skill, your tactical and strategic mind, but even the most grandest of strategists get killed on the battlefield – and do not let that dishearten you (for if you ever are disheartened – if possible – I would be most upset and...unimpressed). However, I should expect more of you. You are a man worthy of all respect, and how I do revere you! You being everything I can strive to be, but in my attempts fail to come anything close to.
And how is your wound? See! You are no man made of iron! How careless of you to dare allow a sword into your flesh? I could swear my heart did stop upon reading that, and I do hope, do hope so much that you have healed fully and completely recovered – I mean completely. I do not want you coming to me with a rotting limb! Despite you saying that you have healed fully, I refuse to believe. The only way in which I can believe you is not in seeing that you have strength to write to me, but that you are to stand before me! Even so, how could I ever stay mad at you, you have had me fearing for you so much! How close you have come to death...
Bullet wounds, blades beneath your skin, infiltration, treachery, betrayal, misleading orders...the life of a solider can never be for me, at least not in this life. You never fail to amaze me with how you manage to survive under such conditions and I am so pleased to hear that the ordeal with the Western Continent has reached some ease. I like to think that it was your doing which has done such – your skills in both leadership and battle. You never, ever fail to amaze me, Sephiroth.
And speaking of the Western Continent, do not tell me more of your battles for I fear I may become ill out of childish concern. I need not fuss over you so much, you are a most valiant and skilled fighter, but...I cannot help myself. You occupy each and every one of my thoughts...how could I think of anything else other than you and not worry when I learn the hardship you must face each day?
I sigh, Sephiroth, simply because I miss you. It has been far too long since we last met, and I am uncertain as to when I will ever go to Midgar again. The Queen is ill and not expected to live much longer, as for the King...he too is resting in what shall become his deathbed. There are no trips to Midgar for me it seems, but I could ask the child, only I cannot be so hopeful...he is a silly boy and he does think I fancy him. Poor, poor Cloud Strife...believing that someone so incompetent can gain my heart. Such a fool.
But I am...saddened...by myself. He asked me to be his 'valet' – in other circumstances I would have been thrilled, had I not known you especially. Instead, however, I took up his invitation with shame. I am to be his valet once he takes the throne.
I am sorry Sephiroth, but fate was never to be kind to us.
Please, do write to me. I cherish your words dearly. Yours faithfully, Genesis.
That line seemed cruel and distasteful - the final word glaring at him like something so virtuous against the sinfulness of his state. With a last thought and no room for further contemplation, he struck out the final word and felt both satisfied and pained by the bare truth of his words.
Long shadows engulfed his path, footsteps echoing in silence with the world drowned in a pool of silver light against livid darkness. Wind assaulted loosely draw curtains as a latticed window became unhinged. General Vonstein woke abruptly, feeling the chill settle in his room. He rose, irritated, tossing thick luxurious sheets from his unfit, nude figure and made to shut the window, donning a sable robe as he strode.
Fixing the latch back into place, he gave the window a drunken curse and a dainty knock sounded on his door.
"Who be it?" he snarled – alcohol putting his mind in a strange displacement.
In came the first footman, a bottle of apple cider and an amber glowing lantern in hand with a tender smile fixed to his full, red lips.
"A drink and company, sir?"
A smirk curved the General's thin lips and he sunk back into the bed eyes fixed determinedly on Genesis' slender form as he bent down to rest the lantern by the foot of the bed.
"Do I have to answer?"
A soft laugh and he seated himself on the edge of the bed, laying a tender hand on the man's cheek, "I suppose not."
Lips briefly meeting as Genesis turned away to whisper so enticingly, "Tell me of your adventures in the far West. Of the men you fought, the hardships you encountered...speak of your heroism. Your accomplishments as the General you are."
A light kiss to the temple, and he busied himself with uncorking the bottle, all the while listening to the smug man speak of his battles in the Orient.
He desired to hear the familiar, calming baritone articulating formulated strategies – the romantic rush in the battlefield, full of power and awe. The realm of honour and dishonour, of regiments and numbers – masses and tactics – that roar of ten-thousand men with the swish of metal in the still air and the thunderous staccato of guns. A story of life in the dead and death in the living, where every man wore Death's robes and it was one's wisdom that determined the length of their survival.
Instead, he picked up such talk in very few of this man's words – all talk of his selfishness, not a mention of the raw bloodiness of war. It would upset you, my sweet, he did say, but Genesis asked no further, just the fine details, to hear a voice from a body who understood such experiences, albeit with less regard and far less passion. He was more concerned with winning over the footman with his high talk of himself.
In all actuality, Genesis would have scoffed. For now, however, like with many nights before, he filled two stately glasses with cider and gave one to the General. A wordless toast with lust mistaken for the sinful kind in azure – they drank, and he was thanked by a wandering hand undoing his immaculate collar.
Fingers skimming along his pale throat and he sighed, closing his eyes with nostalgic bliss with the succinctly spoken words of war aloft in the thickening air. Hand curving into his luscious hair, tangling calloused fingers in locks that shone a rich ruby in the candlelight, slowly pushing the footman down towards his need of satisfaction.
Flashing his eyes open, gazing from beneath his lashes at the man twice his age, he offered an innocent smile, haunted by the act that was so desired at that moment. But he resisted, shook his head and turned away from his loins.
"So soon?" he questioned, and took the General's glass and rested his own, still full on bedside table.
A chuckle, low – rumbling from deep within a heaving chest.
Cider splashed into the glass, spilled over the rim by a careless shaky hand, dripping down those perfectly white gloves, soiling them. Resolve wearing thin, he near slammed the bottle down a loud clunk resonating and the old man jumped.
"Genesis...you are a spirited one tonight." he drawled laying a hand too high for modesty on his thigh.
A smirk and that forbidden, unknown, mistaken lust shone in his eyes once more as he pulled from his breast pocket a crystal vial.
"Sir..." he began, moving to straddle him.
"What is that?"
Genesis spied the vial, one-handily removed the orb, like stopper, pouring the contents into the drink, "It's formula, sir. Given to me by my father as a gift. It is a very potent and most invigorating liquid..." swooping low, face barely an inch from his lover, "it will enhance your desire, sir. And make this cider so much more enjoyable."
The false hint had been bought and the General hastily stole the glass from his hand and downed the contents without further ado. He shifted slightly, sat the glass beside Genesis' and paid the footman all of his undivided attention – pleasure crossing his features.
"What is it called?" he asked, unbuttoning the footman's waistcoat.
Genesis brushed aside a strand of greying hair and muttered so seductively, "Belladonna."
The General stiffened. Throat clamped and he pitifully brought his hands to his neck like some weak attempt to stop the poison from entering his gut.
With a pithy tilt of his head and a cold smile pressed to his lips, Genesis picked up his lantern and retraced his steps out of the room, eyes not leaving the sorry state of the man as he pulled the sheets with him – tumbling out the bed with a dull thud. Satin concealing and pooling amidst his round body. Sporadic coughing, red fluid spurting forth from his open mouth – gaping at the man of his desire.
Betrayal, treachery – and for what reason?
Genesis felt no sin in his act, a General should foresee all and this man played into his palms, so easy to cruelly manipulate.
And he left, door closing soundlessly behind him as silence seized Vonstein.
Who was to say a footman could not wear the robes of Death?
And yet all the while he thought as he neared his own quarters, soon, my love, soon.
I hate writing Cloud. It's not challenging at all. Also...Genesis HAS a motive for his actions, if you haven't gathered. Honestly, I never did see him as the lusting, sex crazed minx people portray him to be - I'd like to see him as manipulative and will use any tactic to do such.
Cloud...Cloud is just sick in the head with 'power'.