He's The One
Summary: Cloud is not like other cadets and that causes trouble, but nobody cared until the big guys upstairs paid a visit and Genesis found something he wasn't looking for. A puppy of his own.
OH, AND THIS IS SLASH! You have been warned.
A/N: Last Fic had Albus Dumbledore quotes on every chapter. This shall have a song lyric reflecting the mood or action of the chapter. I own nothing.
"I kick down the walls around me, they don't know how strong I am. I'm not defined by boundaries, they could never understand." – Status Quo (Starkid: The Space Tour)
Zack was one of the few First Classes who were not examiners to look over the Soldier Exams. Most First Classes did not care who would become Thirds, or even Seconds, and only bothered to view the exams if they were special cases. Zack had been one of those; he had most of the senior Firsts present at his exam – though he had not known at the time– and Zack was sure Cloud would be one too.
That is why Zack Fair was early for once, to beat the other Firsts to the viewing room above the training arena. Every Soldier First had heard the news, practically all of ShinRa had, the only one in the dark was the cadet himself. Cloud Strife would be facing Sephiroth in the arena; the General who had examined no less than the most promising Seconds was going to spar with Genesis' protégé. Zack would be damned if he could not give moral support because his comrades were too busy betting, even if his friend could not see him.
Not to mention, with Cloud's revelation, Zack had had a few realisations in regards to these exams. Namely, that they were a dangerous situation for the blonde cadet. The mastermind behind Cloud joining ShinRa had thought of many problems that might affect his end game and Cloud appearing to have obvious prior training was one. It was his idea to simply put a foundation for someone else to build upon in Cloud, instincts and some core knowledge, and he had probably been hoping it would be Angeal that would sand away all of Cloud's rough edges into a smooth finish. He got what he wanted but not with whom he wanted.
Genesis, like his protégé, was a wildcard within the company. If Cloud revealed more than he should in his fight against Sephiroth, pulled out all the force and skill that he had been storing, there was no telling exactly what Genesis would do. Cloud had more skill than his mentor knew in certain aspects of a fight and Zack could only hope that if he used them, Genesis would act like Cloud learnt every single bit of it from him.
"Don't look so nervous, Fair. This is Cloud, my protégé, who is completing his exam, not some piss poor cadet who can't tell a broadsword from Masamune. He will pass, even against Sephiroth."
Zack rolled his eyes, any worries about Genesis' reaction to Cloud's untested skills dispersed for the moment.
A crowd of Firsts and Seconds barrelled through the doors of the observation room, none of them examiners. They crowded behind Genesis, Zack and Angeal to try and see through the window to the arena, anticipation rolling off them. The Firsts had talked this exam up to be the best show of the year, taking the tales of Genesis' and Sephiroth's private sparring matches and applying them to a fight between the General and Cloud. They were fully expecting there to be blood.
Genesis had no idea how he managed to keep Cloud's examiner a secret from the blonde, or how anyone else had managed it either. Genesis had no hand in who happened to be picked to examine his protégé, it was not a favour he had called in, but he nearly died an early and meaningless death when he was told that Sephiroth had requested to examine Cloud.
Genesis had no doubts about the boy's abilities, especially against the normal Firsts and Seconds who conducted the exams, but the General was on a whole other level. Always had been, and it was a level even Genesis could not hope to reach. Some small part of the redhead feared for Cloud's safety, despite the trust he had in his friend.
"He won't be fighting with Masamune, will he?" Zack questioned, glancing sideways at Angeal. Zack mirrored the way Genesis felt about this examination, full of confidence in Cloud's abilities but unsure of their execution or the opposition they would be faced with.
Genesis removed his red leather coat and hung it over a chair that he had pulled over to the window, just in case he felt that standing for the entirety of the examination was too much. Zack received no answer but a shrug from Angeal and moved closer to the window as the blonde cadet was ushered in.
Cloud looked tired, however still determined and focused. Genesis felt a swelling of pride as Cloud swung his broadsword through the air a couple of times, warming up and renewing the feel of his weapon. The blonde turned to face the dark glass where the observation room was and tipped his head towards it, a small smile on his lips.
The Firsts behind Genesis roared at the acknowledgement, Angeal laughed, and Zack clapped and cheered loudly though Cloud could neither hear nor see him. Genesis simply crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes sparkling at the courage of his cadet. If any other cadet had known so surely he had an audience, he would have been struck with fear but Cloud invited their eyes, their judgement, because Genesis had made sure he was ready.
The doors of the arena were opening again to admit Cloud's first examiner, his second examiner was a Soldier Second named Kunsel, who stood beside Zack. Sephiroth would assess Cloud's abilities first-hand in a fight situation, while Kunsel would watch for technique, weak-spots, strategies and tactics, and perceptiveness.
Genesis watched as his black and silver clad friend strode into the room and stopped in front of his protégé, his young friend, and soon-to-be Soldier Third.
Cloud stopped moving and consciously relaxed the grip on his sword as the doors he had only just walked through began to open again. They told him that he would get five minutes to compose himself before his examiner entered the room and surely it could not have gone so quickly.
Cloud's body tingled with nervous energy and the sensation of being watched but he willed his hands to stop shaking. His mind was a mess of emotions that roiled together in a storm of his own creation; he was prepared, full of dread, chaotic, and controlled. His eyes darted around the room, from the floor to the dark window, to stop on the open doors and the figure coming through them.
"Oh dear Gaia, I'm going to die," he breathed, as his eyes dried and started tearing from lack of blinking as he stared at the General advancing towards him. He head rotated to follow as Sephiroth walked towards him, moving mechanically from one side to another, till Sephiroth was stopped in front of him. Absently, he wondered if someone had been listening in on his and Zack's conversation and this was his punishment. His eyes wandered back to the dark glass, wishing he could see Zack or Genesis through it.
"I didn't know ShinRa was fond of public executions," Cloud intoned, eyes snapping back to the General. He flipped his sword around; if ShinRa were going to kill him for what he was doing then he was going to go down swinging and if he was truly so unlucky as to have the General for his examiner then he would give him a fight to remember.
Sephiroth unsheathed a normal sized Katana and tossed the sheath away, where it clattered to the ground. The sound seemed so loud in the mostly empty arena. Cloud unleashed a breathe he did think he was holding in but evidently was, his plan of seeming unfazed by the General's appearance was not going to plan as he breathed his relief at not seeing Masamune.
The General smirked, his somewhat disturbing green eyes lighting up in amusement.
"Only if it promises to be a good showing, Cadet Strife."
They stepped back from each other and took up a fighting stance. Cloud re-checked his grip on the broadsword and catalogued the information he could glean from Sephiroth's own bearing and body before the fight began. Blue eyes took in the grip on his sword, perfect for the type and length and though it was not Sephiroth's most used weapon, he held it as if he had never used anything else. There was nothing in his stance or positioning that Cloud could use before any blows were struck and with Sephiroth's size in comparison to his own, Cloud would only be able to rely on agility and his mind to win.
The examinations were timed, with fifteen minutes per exam or if one of the participants has yielded the exam would be considered over. The rules were simple, light cuts and bruises may be dealt but no serious injuries were allowed, hand to hand was a different examination all together and therefore swords were the only weapon in play, and to yield you must be no longer able to continue or held at sword's point on neck or chest.
A faint buzzing noise filled the room as the loudspeaker was turned on and a voice sounded out, "Begin."
Cloud's eyes snapped back to Sephiroth's and the next second the clang of steel on steel met his ears, his sword was blocking Sephiroth's swipe to the shoulder, his body automatically stepping out of the way before his brain fully processed what was happening.
Cloud's eyes narrowed. He threw off Sephiroth's sword and ducked out of the way, never turning from his opponent and keeping his sword held in horizontally in front of him, ready to defend or attack. Sephiroth pivoted and swung for Cloud's right leg, steel rang out again. The General blocked his shoulder as Cloud pulled back and spun trying to swipe his sword across the area. This time when sword met sword, they grappled and tried to push the other off balance. Cloud stood no chance against Sephiroth's strength, monitored to do no harm to him or not. He was thrown back.
Cloud rolled away as Sephiroth's sword came down towards him, jumping to his feet and swiping at Sephiroth's legs. Sephiroth blocked Cloud and Cloud blocked Sephiroth, but only barely. Cloud attacked Sephiroth and Sephiroth attacked Cloud, with Cloud being the worse off each time. He sported no cuts but would have bruises aplenty. He was no match for Sephiroth in strength or strategy, the General always saw him coming.
Cloud blocked a head blow from Sephiroth, his arm burning as the weight of the man was forced upon it. Cloud decided the only way to combat Sephiroth's forethought was to be as unpredictable as possible, to be a wildcard. He let his mind clear, the space contracted to just him and the General, and everything was suddenly in sharp detail. He did not like using this narrow focus when he sparred, it made it difficult to notice anything but his opponent, but on this occasion it was an advantage.
He placed his other hand on the blade and pushed Sephiroth's katana to the side, the steel sliding off the answering metal and towards Cloud's shoulder. Cloud twisted, the blade whispering past his skin, turned and swept for Sephiroth's legs. He landed a blow that would bruise any other human, before switching hands and blocking Sephiroth's recovery. He stepped away, knowing he could not win the grapple, and pivoted to quickly whack Sephiroth on the wrist, hard enough to make a Soldier Third drop his sword and to break a normal man's wrist.
Cloud moved again, ducking out of the way of Sephiroth's blows, remaining out of his reach and using his small stature to put Sephiroth into uncomfortable positions in order to reach him before Cloud delivered blows of his own. Sweat glistened against the blonde's skin, his hair starting to dampen at the roots. The fight was hard and his body longed to remind him of his limited energy, but it was not yet ready to betray him. His arms still held when they grappled until Cloud once again moved nimbly away to avoid being thrown to the floor, and his legs and feet still moved as he directed. Endurance was one thing Genesis was still working on in Cloud.
He sidestepped a blow that was aimed at his side, once again bruising Sephiroth's arm in the process, for which he got the hilt of Sephiroth's katana cracking against his ribs. The pain flared and was gone as Cloud's mind pulled him back into the fight, where pain and exhaustion were irrelevant for the moment. He stumbled slightly but regained his footing.
There was a buzzing in Cloud's ears, and his breath sounded harshly from between his teeth and lips. His arm shook just slightly as he blocked another blow from Sephiroth. The pressure increased and Cloud's eyes narrowed at his opponent, flashing darkly at the amusement and energy inside the green gaze. Sephiroth would never tire from an easy spar such as this was.
Their swords remained locked between them. The shaking increased but Cloud would not relinquish is pressure on Sephiroth's katana. He gritted his teeth and resolved to keep going, even if on will power alone.
The voice from the loud speaker floated dimly into Cloud's ears and he and Sephiroth drew back in sync, their bodies remaining poised on the brink of action. Cloud was not going to let them think that he could not keep going or that they had broken his focus. He stood like a soldier ordered to stand down, still ready for action if need be, not a cadet relieved that his exam was over.
Sephiroth moved first, retrieving the sheath for the katana; sheathed the gleaming metal and nodded at Cloud.
"You fight like Genesis, Cadet Strife. Every move is calculated despite its recklessness, yet you also fight in style that I imagine is known only to you and together they make a most confusing combination."
Cloud stood and stared as Sephiroth left, whether he had passed or not would be emailed to Genesis via PHS the following day but there was a small chance Genesis would be texted his result earlier, if Sephiroth was feeling generous. His life up to now had been built upon his eventual entry into Soldier so that there would be no failure. Cloud could not doubt his passing, he had lasted fifteen minutes against Sephiroth as a cadet. Cloud Strife had stood toe-to-toe with the General and lasted, that was a fact that Cloud could not ignore, how many others could say the same?
A smile broke over the blonde's face. That smile, those lips, parted to let out a choked giggled and soon, Cloud gave into the warmth spreading through his body and laughed. His hands covered his mouth as he cackled into them, shoulders shaking.
Genesis smiled at the sight his cadet made, half-bent in the arena laughing like a loon. Genesis had never seen Cloud laugh half-so hard as this; it was quite endearing to watch. Genesis turned from the window and walked out of the emptying room with Zack and Angeal. Zack had not shut-up throughout the spar, Angeal had 'har-ed' and 'hmm-ed' is way through, and all Genesis could feel was pride. The small bit of himself that had felt want was thoroughly denied. He did not want to think about the way seeing Cloud dripping sweat, eyes so entirely determined, had affected him. His pride as a mentor, as the one who taught at least some of those skills, was enough to quash any other feelings that had arisen of late.
Genesis focused on the image of Cloud laughing instead, much safer. Cloud was right to laugh so freely, after such an amazing display. The First Classes and Second Classes present would probably talk about this for weeks, the cadet who did not yield to the General. Cloud would be quite famous, regardless of his score, in Soldier, first: as the only cadet to face the General as his examiner and second: to not have yielded to him in the course of that exam. Genesis chuckled too. He could only imagine the legends that should arise of his protégé if he ever made it to First Class.
His protégé. His Cloud.
Genesis laughed again, making Angeal and Zack look back at him. He quirked a fine eyebrow and smirked.
"Cloud Strife, the puppy 2.0. New and Improved. Well, more a chocobo than anything."
Sorry if the fight is a little 'bleh,' I'm developing how I write them and I'm not very proficient. It's hard to move what I see in my head onto paper.
If you like the movie 'Four Brothers' please check out my fic 'Blood Pays.' I honestly don't think it's that bad but please be gentle.