Dialectic - disputation or debate, intended to resolve differences between two views rather than to establish one of them as true
"I'm not interested in preserving the status quo—I want to overthrow it." – Machiavelli
He kept seeing the same scene over, or rather, two different scenes of the same event, flashing between each other like a poorly-edited film. But the change in lighting and setting didn't matter, as his eyes were only on Sephiroth, slowly pushing the Masamune into his chest, first in Nibelheim and then in ShinRa's lab. The movements were slow, playing at a crawling rate, and if it wasn't for that then Cloud wouldn't have caught the slight difference in the man's expression. In one scene, the man's face was stone, the vision of ice and control. But in the other, there was the slight look of surprise reflected in those viridian eyes, almost as if he himself wasn't sure of his actions.
And then there had been screaming, alien, inhumane screaming—and then the scene played again. And again. And again.
He was missing something, he was sure, but as the images played over in his head in mind-numbingly grotesque detail, he couldn't see it. The images came back faster: the blurred outlines grey and concrete shapes of what must have been Midgar as he walked through its haziness, hands tight onto a wound that probably would have killed him if not for the Mako pulsing through his veins, powering his every step. Aerith's bright eyes, perhaps too little bright and shiny, her shaking arms somehow keeping hold of him. Sephiroth, pushing a sword him, a phantom wound that had suddenly become real again, only to suddenly grasp his head before falling to the ground. Unconscious? Dead? Cloud hadn't bothered to check.
And then there was peace.
But he was still missing something.
Perhaps that was it, just knowing that the poison that had plagued him all his life had finally been vanquished, perhaps that was made Cloud feel so motionless. After all, that couldn't have been the end. There had to be another shoe to drop, something else to fight against, some other loose end that was surely untied, it didn't just end like that.
"Cloud?" There was a voice, a familiar voice calling for him, somewhere. "Cloud, can you hear me?"
Suddenly, lucidity flooded into him all too quick; the lights were suddenly far too strong, and Cloud had to quickly blink away the unbidden tears, taking a long breath to slow his beating heart.
A hand took his ever so gently. Cloud finally looked over to his side, and there stood Aerith. She somehow looked different, perhaps slightly older, perhaps slightly more sophisticated somehow, and yet it was Aerith all the same. A sigh of relief travelled through his body-she was alive. It hadn't been a dream after all.
"Aerith..." he breathed out, squeezing her hand slightly, needing to feel her warmth. "Aerith, I... what happened?"
But she didn't appear to be listening. As soon as the words left his mouth, she suddenly deflated, as if the world had just been lifted from her shoulders. "Oh thank the Planet," she murmured in relief. "You're okay."
"Aerith?" Cloud asked, now confused. "What's going on?"
"You..." She struggled to find the words. "You've been going in and out the last few days. Shalua texted me you were awake, but wasn't responding to anything, and when she said that you maybe had lost some brain function, I-" She suddenly stopped, and seemed embarrassed, upset, happy, all the same time. The hand onto Cloud's tightened further, shaking slightly. "I'm sorry. I'm doing this all wrong. Maybe I shouldn't be here, just wait, I'll get Shalua to tell you-"
"No," Cloud said, pulling her down before she had even fully risen. "No, I... I'm glad you're here. Please. Stay." At her hesitant look, he added a more insistent tone. "Please," he repeated.
"I..." After a breath, she sat back. "I'm just..." Her head fell forward, hiding her face, as she leaned into his shoulder.
"I just thought you'd never wake up."
Her odd tone struck Cloud, yet he stayed calm nonetheless. "Why?" he asked. "How long have I been out? … Not even, where am I?"
"You're in Mideel. Shalua does her research here." Silence. Then: "... And you've been out six months."
"Oh. How did I get here?"
"I... arranged a helicopter," Aerith hedged. "I might have also bought out the clinic to keep you here."
"You bought out the… and a helicopter? Where did you get the money for that?"
Aerith shook her head. "That's not important. Cloud, how are you feeling?"
Cloud took a moment to let the information fully hit him. "Two months, huh?" Two months. Lots of things could happen in twomonths. Sephiroth could probably burn the world in less. Yet somehow, the next words that ended up coming out of his mouth were, "No wonder my breath's so bad."
Aerith started to make a weird noise, sounding something like an odd cross between a giggle and an whimper. "You idiot," came the muffled whisper. Then, she suddenly pulled back and was glaring at him fiercely, the odd glimmer in her eyes only adding to the baleful look. "You're not allowed to do that again."
He attempted a half smile. "I promise."
When she smiled in response, Cloud felt as if he had just laid eyes on her again for the first time after coming back, feeling that same disbelief, yet incredible hope that this was really real, that this wasn't just one of those bittersweet dreams that he would have to wake up from. He found himself squeezing her hand again, just for that warm reassurance.
"Good," she said, seemingly satisfied. "Then. I... I have to ask." She looked at him, as if waiting his permission to continue.
"Anything," he assured her, despite the ominous feeling he already knew what she was going to ask. And sure enough, the words out of her mouth were just as he expected.
"Cloud... what happened that day?"
He ended up telling her everything.
The story he told ended up with was only a rather condensed version, leaving out all names and places, save for two: Jenova and Sephiroth. He eventually got to how he woke up where he had, that future being only but a dream, and how a chance encounter changed everything, finally ending on that fateful day.
At first, when he talked, the words had come out stiff, especially as he had to edit much of the specifics out on the fly, but as he went on, the flow became easier. In fact, as he let out each incredible, unbelievable event, an almost exhilarating feeling of... absolution, almost began to fill him. Finally, he was being honest; finally, he wasn't hiding anymore.
And then he was done.
There was a brief moment where a cold-blooded fear seized him fast-what if she didn't believe him-but before he can even play out any sequence of possible events, Aerith suddenly said into the silence, "I believe you." And that was that.
"... You do?" he repeated dumbly. It wasn't until all the tension had left his body that he had realized just how much he needed her to understand, needed her out of all people to be on his side.
"I... felt it that day. The Planet suddenly breathing, like something had been taken off its shoulders... And then later when Tseng told me that Science Department had been set on fire and a lot of materials had been destroyed, I knew that... something must have happened. "
Cloud stopped, feeling like he had just been splashed with cold water. "The Science Department had been set on fire?" he repeated. "Then..." He felt the horror grab at him. "Then I didn't stop it, it really is happening all over..."
A hand quickly grabbed out to his and gave it a vicious squeeze.
"No," Aerith said firmly. "I felt it die, Cloud. Trust me on this, you did it. We'll go back to Midgar, we'll search out the Science Department, we'll even visit Sephiroth if we have to-but you are not allowed to beat yourself about this anymore." She poked him. "But for now, you need rest."
Cloud frowned. "Well." But Aerith had that look on her face, and he knew better than to argue against her, so decided not to say anymore on that topic. "Wait... so you really believe me?"
She gave him a smile. "So I don't know, maybe I'm just as crazy as you, but... I think that... that dream you had? Maybe that was the Planet, just giving you the knowledge that you needed."
"I... Yeah. I guess," he said, still a little in disbelief that she took his explanation so easily, yet still so relieved that she did.
Aerith giggled and poked him. "No need to be so modest. You might have just saved the Planet and all."
"I," he started stiffly, "No. It wasn't just me. Even if not for me, there were others would could have... You know."
"You'll have to tell me about them," Aerith said. "I'd love to hear stories about your friends-or even better, we could meet them all over again! Like reading your favorite book for the first time, right?"
Cloud smiled. One day, he might seek them all out again, though some would probably be more difficult to find. Yuffie, in particular, would be troublesome. And perhaps, one day, he'd tell Aerith her own story. But for now, he just wanted to stay in this present, and linger on those memories some other time.
"One day," he promised. "Now what about you? What happened while I was out?"
The smile on Aerith's face grew, almost taking on an illuminating quality as she pulled a piece of paper out of her bag. "Well..." As she unfolded it, Cloud realized why it had seemed so familiar as his gaze fell upon the block letters headlining the top: THE BACK-UP PLAN (WITH WHICH TO SAVE THE WOLRD). "Do you remember this...?"
It took a while for Cloud to wrap his head around Aerith's own story. Apparently, she was working for ShinRa as a spokesperson. She was also apparently in charge of the newly formed energy initiative and thus was also leading the Science Department in research. It all seemed so surreal, so ridiculously ironic that Aerith, out of all people, would fill by the power void left behind by Hojo, that Cloud felt his spirits lighten, despite the lingering, unexplainable unease he kept feeling.
"I guess I don't need to seduce someone for their money now," Cloud finally said with a grin and was rewarded with a delighted peal of laughter from Aerith.
"Still, what are you going to do now? You have no reason to stay in Midgar now." Aerith's eyes took on a bright sheen. "Oh, are you going to travel?"
The question gave Cloud pause, as he thought back to his original plans. He thought of Machiavelli reading, thought of his plans to work up the company ladder and eventually use his future knowledge to manipulate everything towards his goals; but that had only been because he had never wanted to get Mako treatment ever again and wouldn't have power otherwise. Obviously, that had changed, but also it seemed that Aerith had already gotten so much more progress than he would probably ever would have, merely on reputation alone. Now, he could step back. But did he want to?
"I've done enough travelling," Cloud said with finality, hearing Tifa's silly little phrase in his head. Shilly shally dilly dally. Last time, when Reeve had started up the WRO, he had only distanced himself, thinking it was better for everyone, that they would eventually forget about him. But what had it really done?
Aerith's eyes widened. "Don't you want to search out your old friends though?"
"They don't know me anymore," Cloud replied.
"Yes, but that shouldn't matter," Aerith insisted. "It'll be just like… reading your favourite book for the first time again!"
"I'd…" The words were only just coming to him, so tentative that Cloud felt the slightest bit of apprehension fill him as he spoke. "I'd much rather write a new book, and see where that goes. Make a home." He gestured towards the BACK-UP PLAN. "Maybe I could… help you."
Aerith paused, her pensive look turning into a one of surprise. Then, her eyes alight with surprise as a glowing started to spreak across her face. "Well." She looked at the paper in between them. "I still haven't filled the city with flowers yet..."
Chapter One: "There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others" - Machiavelli
"I have to… talk to it?' Cloud questioned. Aerith did her best not to giggle at his expression and make Cloud more self-conscious than he already was. Cloud had already been nervous about planting in general, somehow having convinced himself that would kill the flowers they had just planted, and had repeated and questioned her every instruction like they were missile codes. This one particular instruction, however, Cloud had seemed to draw a line, even stepping back as he stared at the plant warily.
"Yup! Shall I show you?" She kneeled beside the dirt and patted it lovingly. "Hello Sunshine!"
"Sunshine?" Cloud interjected.
"He needs a name!" Aerith insisted.
"Sunshine's a he?"
Aerith ignored Cloud and continued on. "My name is Aerith, and I'm your new mother! Just to introduce myself: I'm eighteen years old, my favourite colour is blue—like the sky!—and I like mint chocolate." She turned to Cloud, and gestured for him to join. "See? It's easy."
Cloud sighed, a reluctant look on his face as he crouched down beside Aerith. "Hi… Sunshine. My name is Cloud. I'm…" Cloud paused, screwing up his face in thought. "… sixteen? No, wait… Yeah, it was my birthday two weeks ago. I'm seventeen. Well. Twenty-three." He turned to Aerith. "That good?"
She was staring at him like he had grown three extra arms. "It was your birthday two weeks ago!?"
She gave him a cell phone.
And a surprise party.
Cloud! How are the flowers? You've been talking to them, right?
I've been telling them bedtime stories. Every night.
"Aerith!" Reno quickly caught up to said girl and began to stride along her as she moved to the Science Department as per her usual schedule. "Aerith, Cloud's back in town!"
"I know." She gave him a curious look. "But how do you know?"
"I saw him! At one of Urban Dev's construction sites!" Reno's eyes were wide. "I knew I recognized one of them, but to think, little bitty Cloud…" Reno held a hand up. "He's so tall now! And he's built! With actual muscles! Talk about a growth spurt." He gave her a sidelong look. "So you two must be hanging out all the time? Like the good ole' days?
"Not so much anymore," Aerith said wistfully. "I'm kind of stuck in this building all day. I just end up texting him non-stop."
Reno stopped. "He finally has a cell phone?" Quick as a flash, Reno reached into his pocket and took out his own model. "What's his number?
Aerith. Who did you give my number to?
What are you talking about?
I've been getting some… propositioning text messages. All signed, "Red hot babe".
Ooh, you have a secret admirer? You should flirt back.
"Is your friend settling back in?" Tseng asked quietly. Not that he really needed to, in the empty practice range, but given the topic of conversation, Aerith could understand his precaution.
"Yes, he's doing fine." She hesitated. "His story seems to be holding up."
It was convenient that construction workers usually were never officially on ShinRa's payroll, many of them being Wutai immigrants looking for decent work. But if it hadn't been for Tseng arranging the whole cover-up for Cloud, he might have never had this change to begin with. Aerith gave Tseng a long look, wondering how much she owed this man, wondered how she would ever repay him.
As if sensing her thought, Tseng's serious demeanor lightened a bit and he gave her a side-long smile. "You're improving." Almost teasingly, he added, "Maybe you just might be able to protect me one day."
Hey Cloud, another budget meeting dragging long. Raincheck?
Don't worry about it.
"Flowers?" asked Aerith, when she saw the bouquet being presented to her. She took it carefully, and warily placed it on her desk.
"Imported, of course. I saw your latest demo," Rufus said. "With the electric watch. It was… impressive."
His face said that he was anything but impressed. It sometimes scared Aerith how well she had learned to read Rufus' expressions and their manipulations; his polite and vaguely interested face only vaguely masked the condescension in his tone.
Aerith knew that the progress was slow. She had been unable to sustain any sort of electronics that required intensive power, and investors were starting to talk, but that Rufus had actually dropped the Science Department to gloat about incensed her in a way that no one else could. But she couldn't anything about it. Not yet.
"Thank you," Aerith forced out. "They're beautiful."
You gave my number to Reno?
He finally told you, huh.
No... But no one else ends every sentence with either 'yeah' or 'you know'.
Oh. That is true.
I've asked 'Red Hot Babe' to meet me tonight. … I wonder if Reno is going to crossdress.
If he does, please put your camera phone to good use!
To say that Aerith was surprised to see Sephiroth dropping by the Science Department was an understatement. The man had left her an invitation to come visit the last and only time she had gone, but she had forgotten about it soon after and never took him up on her offer.
The man looked as uncomfortable as Aerith imagine Cloud would look if he ever decided to come by; his hands were casually placed at his side for easy access to his weapon, and his stance was stiff and poised to spring easy into combative stance. Aerith felt a wave of sympathy wash over her, remembering Cloud's tale. While Cloud might not exactly agree, Aerith felt like Sephiroth had partially been a victim of circumstance; she only remembered vaguely what it was like to grow up in the Science Department, but even those memories made her shudder sometimes.
She gave the man in front of her a curious look. "Can I help you with something?"
"Give this to Cloud," Sephiroth stated, having her a scrap of paper with some numbers on it. "It's my number."
Aerith drew herself up, trying not to let too much of her nervousness show. It wouldn't do to oust Cloud now, not when he tried to hard to stay under the radar. "I'm sorry, what are you talking about?"
"Just give it to him," Sephiroth said finally, before walking away..
Aerith tried to remember when Cloud told her of his visit to Sephiroth. It had been the very first day Cloud had gotten back to Midgar; without a second though, he hightailed to the address that Aerith gave him, insisting he needed to make sure that Jenova was dead. That night, when he eventually returned, Aerith remembered the scene so clearly. The boy had suddenly looked so much older, probably much closer to his real age, slumping against the couch.
"How did it go?" she had asked.
"He was.. grocery shopping. I nearly didn't even recognize him, he looked so… different." Cloud had sighed, long and breathy. "You're right. I'm just.. bracing for something that's not going to happen."
"Did you talk to him?"
"No, he didn't even see me, I made sure of that."
She remembered clucking her tongue in dissatisfaction. "Don't you think you should tell him? About Jenova? About his real parents?"
"You already told him he's not an Ancient," Cloud had defended. "Does he need to really know anything beyond that? And how would I even explain that knowledge?" He had paused, and then softly, added, "I just… want to move past this. Make a new life that doesn't revolve around that man."
But as Aerith watched the Sephiroth walk away and recalled the oddly determined look on the man's face, she wondered if that would even be possible.
Aerith, when are you free? I have something to show you.
"It's beautiful," she finally said.
And it was. The garden, after only a month of work, already had a few blossoms. But just the scene of those little peeks of colour among the dirt was more than enough to fill Aerith with a swelling sense of pride at Cloud.
It really was happening. The city was going to be filled with flowers.
"You need to have your own flower shop," Aerith insisted suddenly.
"Shop?" Cloud asked. "Not a stall?"
"Shop," Aerith repeated. "A large shop. So that everyone will come and be able to have some for their own-a nursery! A plant nursery!" She turned to Cloud. "You will, won't you?"
He just gave her a smile, the usual minuscule smile he would give as he humoured her random whims. "And what will be called, this nursery-or whatever-of ours?"
"Mm," she hummed out, turning back to the tiny blossoms as if they would suddenly spell out the answer. And a second later, they did. "...Radiant Garden."
"Radiant Garden," Cloud said, testing it out. "That sounds nice."
They shared the following silence, looking on contentedly at their project. In the palm of her hand, Aerith fingered the piece of paper with Sephiroth's number on it.
Chapter Two: "It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both." – Machiavelli
"There was a boy today," Vincent said suddenly during dinner. "At the convenience store. Staring at you."
"Is that so? You think he recognized me then?" Sephiroth had been wondering how long it would take for people to notice him, and to find his new residence. He was rather surprised that it hadn't happened already.
"I think he was looking for you," Vincent said. "Was scanning the area until he saw you. And then he... kind of watched you, for a while, actually."
Sephiroth waited, but Vincent didn't elaborate further. "And then...?" he finally prompted.
"Nothing," Vincent answered simply. "He just walked away."
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow at the anti-climatic end to the story. "Well, what did he look like?" he asked, only mildly wondering if he should be worried.
Vincent paused in thought. "... He had hair like a chocobo."
He waited. He began going to that grocery store more often, began looking out of the corner of his eye for peeks of outrageously bright yellow hair.
Because surely the boy wouldn't just seek him out only to leave him alone afterwards?
When Sephiroth told Vincent of Cloud, of his suspicion that the boy must have had some kind of interaction with ShinRa while they were still stationed in Nibelheim, or had come across the files later, the older man had adopted a thoughtful look.
Now, Vincent's words echoed briefly in Sephiroth's head: "Perhaps, one would condemn his hero upon learning that his idol is a monster. Or perhaps he would try to save him."
As Sephiroth waited for Cloud to appear, in the back of his head he wondered which one it was. Did Cloud look upon him as a monster? Or was it something different?
Yet Cloud never came.
Finally, it hit him. As he watched the latest ShinRa press conference and saw Aerith Gainsborough walk up to the podium, he realized that other than Vincent, she was the only one who knew his location. So if Cloud had known where to look to find him, then perhaps...
When Sephiroth saw the 'unknown' number on his phone, he allowed himself the briefest breath of anticipation.
There was a short silence. Then. "It's Cloud."
Sephiroth felt his breath catch ever so slightly as his suspicions were confirmed. "Hello, Cloud," he answered, after a pause. "It's been a while."
"Why are you looking for me?" The boy's voice was terse; obviously, he was not in the mood to engage in small talk.
"I want to fight you again," Sephiroth answered bluntly.
In the ensuing silence, Sephiroth briefly wondered what would happen if the boy said no, if he up and disappeared again. He wondered how far he would go to chase after Cloud.
"... Fine," he heard the voice on the other line say. "But, if I win... you'll leave me alone."
" And if I should win? Do I get my own reward?"
The boy snorted. "You can try."
Once again, Sephiroth found himself at the mercy of Cloud's blade, the buster sword poised perfectly at his throat. He let go of his own blade, and raised his hands in defeat. "I yield," he said, and oddly enough, didn't feel disappointed in the least. The fight had gone beyond his expectations, had been better than he could have ever dreamed.
How long had it been since he had last had someone he could truly go all out with? How long had it been since someone could match his every strike and give him double in return?
Cloud lowered his sword warily. "Then.. you'll fulfill your end of our bargain. As we agreed."
"Yes," Sephiroth said, remembering their phone conversation. "I will not break our agreement."
Cloud put his sword upon his back, seemingly satisfied. "Then we're done here."
"I went to Nibelheim." Sephiroth watched Cloud freeze ever so slightly. "I went into the mansion, read all the files there. Found out about who my parents are. You must have done the same; how else would you have known?"
"Those files are wrong, though," Cloud said, turning around. "Jenova's not your mother."
Sephiroth stayed silent, wondering why Cloud was so adamant about proving this one point. If Sephiroth pretended to be ignorant of this fact, how far would Cloud go to prove its truth? How much would Cloud eventually reveal?
"Why should I believe you?" Sephiroth said. "Whyshould I believe you? Out of all the people who have meddled in my life, who have told me what to believe, what makes you any different?"
Cloud was stony-faced. "Believe what you want. We have an agreement," he said, finally. "If you come after me or Aerith ever again, I will not hesitate to kill you." He turned away to walk towards his motorcycle.
But Sephiroth wasn't about to let it end so easily, and as he watched Cloud's retreating, he found himself calling out words that he hadn't planned, or had even thought about saying.
"Your mother said you were in love with me." Cloud was already putting on his helmet, perhaps couldn't even hear his words at this point. And yet, Sephiroth felt himself continuing to talk, as if it would make a difference. "Was she wrong? What if... I said-"
But Cloud had already gone.
Chapter Three: "But above all else, be armed"-Machiavelli
Your mother said you were in love with me.
Was she wrong?
What if I said-
By the time Cloud found himself back where Aerith was waiting, a deep-set horror had filled him. He had heard Sephiroth's last words, how could he have not-just-what-What had he been about to say?
Aerith came up to Cloud, a concerned look on her face. "Cloud? Is... everything alright?"
Cloud turned to her, wondering how he could even begin to explain the story. His mouth worked as his brain tried to string the thoughts together, but nothing worked. He just found himself gasping at unfinished phrases. "I... I..."
And then, the oddest urge to laugh began to bubble up in him.
No way, no way Sephiroth had been about to confess his undying love-or whatever-to him. The man had barely had even spoken to him before, and half of their conversations had taken place in the middle of some kind of fight anyway. Surely, the man had been about to say something else, anything else.
He looked to Aerith, waiting patiently as he gathered his thoughts.
"I need to call my mother."
"Mom? It's... Cloud."
"Cloud! You got a cell phone! Finally decided to actually call home for once, have you? Well? What is it, coming to ask for money or whatever it is you boys usually want, are you?"
"No-It's-It's not like that."
"Good! If it's not urgent then, maybe you could stand a few minutes of small talk then with your tired old mom? How are things? Have you met anyone nice? When were you going to tell me you dropped out of the SOLDIER program and became the General's personal secretary?"
"About that... Just what exactly did you say to the General?"
"Oh, he found you then? Well, nothing important, really. Just that you were an obsessive little fanboy and that he was the sole reason you went to ShinRa."
"I might have also mentioned the lifesize poster of him in your room."
"And... I might have warned him that you would probably confess your eternal love for him in the future."
"Mom, were you trying to embarrass me?"
"But you should have seen him, honey! He looked like, I dunno, he had just lost his puppy or something. Tell me you took him back?"
"Took him back? No, it's not like-that."
"Well, what else am I supposed to assume?"
"Anything else. How is it that scandalous office affair is the first thing that comes up in your mind?"
"Something's got to keep me amused around here. ... Cloud? You're being awfully quiet."
"It's nothing...I've just missed you."
When he finally told Aerith what happened, her eyes were wider than the moon.
"Oh Cloud," she said, the same mixed of awe and horror on her face as she raised a hand to cover her mouth, "What would you have said?"
"We don't know what he was going to say!" Cloud said, slightly defensive.
"Yes, but if he, you know," Aerith lowered her voice for effect, "'Cloud, I've loved you since the first moment you pointed a blade at me' and all that! How would you have rejected him?" Her eyes grew even wider. "Would you have even rejected him?"
"Yes," Cloud answered emphatically.
"You wouldn't even give him a chance?"
Cloud gave her an incredulous look. "Would you?"
"Technically, he hasn't done anything wrong yet," Aerith answered, raising a finger as she listed each of her reasons. "Also, he's appealing to look at. You were in love with him once-"
"I was twelve, that's not love, it's idol-worship."
"-Plus," Aerith continued on, ignoring his interruption. "Think about it. What if-hypothetically-he does go insane again? It'd be much easier to keep tabs on him like this."
"By-dating him?" Even the word felt disgusting in Cloud's mouth.
Aerith then broke face, and started to giggle. "I'm sorry-you should-you should see the look on your face!" Then she took Cloud's hand in hers. "I was just playing you, sorry, that was mean of me. But really, if you think about it, does this really change anything?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you said he was going to leave you alone, right?" Aerith had a thoughtful look on her face. "If he keeps his word... then, this doesn't really matter, does it. You can just pretend it never happened."
A small feeling of relief entered Cloud. "Right... Of course."
But he couldn't.
He wanted to go back and knock upon Sephiroth's apartment and ask just exactly what he had been about to say.
He waited until the Radiant Garden plant nursery had its grand opening.
He waited until Aerith had her final breakthrough, and was able to present her completely sustainable, Materia-powered household to the world.
He waited until he had traveled around the Planet and made little visits with his old friends (though they didn't know it).
He waited until he found a bakery called Crescent Patesserie and saw the one person he hadn't been able to find, Vincent Valentine, working the counter through the window.
Just as Cloud stepped in, he saw Sephiroth bring out a plate of new pastries to set into the glass display.
And before he could stop himself, he found himself calling out to the other man.
"Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are." - Machiavelli
"I could say the same: a flower shop?"
"You've heard of it?"
"Who hasn't heard of the Radiant Garden flower shop?"
"Semantics. What are you doing here?"
"I... I forgot to tell you last time. Lucrecia Crescent is alive."
"Sorry, it sort of... slipped my mind."
"My mother is alive."
"She's living-I guess-along the shoreline of the Wutai Sea."
"Anything else? Any other significant things you can happen to magically know about my life?"
"No. I don't think so."
"I suppose that's a relief."
"... That day. What were you... going to say?"
"I... don't know."
"And what does it really matter to you? Where I was about to confess some profound feelings or offer you a million dollars? You want me to leave you alone, right?"
"No, I just didn't-understand. What you could possibly want with me? If not revenge-"
"Attempting to kill you? And what you possibly might have thought as your mother?"
"You chose not to kill me and didn't end up killing the monster that had possessed me."
"Then what could you have possibly wanted from me?"
"Well, at first it was answers... but then I found someone else who told me. But then, after that..."
"I guess... a companion. A rival. Someone who I could go all out against."
"Well, I also just wanted to understand why. Why you had come to ShinRa in the first place knowing the things you did, why you had wanted to kill Jenova, just how you could be as strong as me. Back then, I had thought-no. It doesn't matter now."
"So just say it."
"I thought you had done it- to save me."
"... I'm sorry?"
"It's not a difficult jump of logic. You displayed an obvious infatuation towards me as an adolescent-"
"I was twelve when I bought that poster."
"-and if, hypothetically, you had come across the files in ShinRa's mansion, perhaps, you had thought to come to ShinRa to see if it was true. But you didn't want to actually join SOLDIER, so you dropped out before it could happen. Then, under my employment, when you saw how Jenova's cells were dangerous to me, you finally decided that you had to kill her and planned it all out."
"I'm assuming, by that reaction, you weren't in love with me."
"No. Is that... okay, so then, that day... you would have confessed feelings for me? Emotionally manipulate me so that you would have some kind of sparring partner?"
"At the time, I believe I was also somewhat flattered that my image had also moved someone to commit such drastic actions for my sake."
"So I was also an ego-boost. Seriously, if you were willing to pretend to have feelings for me just so that I would train with you, do you think that maybe you actually...?"
"Don't tell me you're hoping for a real confession from me now."
"What can I say, I'm flattered that my fighting skills has moved someone to... what was it? Commit such drastic actions for my sake."
"So where does that leave us now? Am I still to hold by word to 'leave you alone'?"
"Hmm. Well, how about another spar? If you win, then fine, that deal's off."
"And if you win...?"
"Who knows. You just might have to confess your love to me this time."
author's note: whewwww.
honestly, I knew that if I didn't finish this story this summer, I probably never would, so I forced myself to work on it, but the more I worked on it, the more sluggish it all felt until finally I told myself that I would let myself write whatever silliness I thought of just to finish it. I don't know.
Is it better not to finish stories that are good as they are? Or to force yourself to write it out, even if what you have doesn't seem that good?
anyway, this series is done. I refuse to attempt another Cloud/Sephiroth for a long long time. antisocialcreaturesbleh. THIS IS WHY I PREFER GENESIS/CLOUD.
As for the last scene, I kind of really only included it in as a joke to myself to see if I could sum the fic's events and the motivations behind the characters actions so it actually made plausible sense. I think I only ended up realizing that OMG, this fic could have been finished so much sooner if I had just locked them in a closet and forced them to talk out their issues!
Anywayyy. Thanks for reading! hope you lovelies all have a wonderful end to your summer!