Note: Happy New Year to everyone! Well, this took more time than I expected. Then again it's the longest part of the entire story and so full of fluff I think I have cavities, so hopefully you'll forgive me. :) So here you go, and to whom it may concern, yes, I'm going back to working on my other ongoing fanfic. Thanks for reading!
(And nanashi, I love your reviews! Can you believe I hadn't realized the irony of bringing Hojo's fall through Vincent before you commented on it? XD)
Part 6 of 6
Cloud was warm and comfortable. There was a gentle white light all around him, teasing the inside of his eyelids. He sighed in pure contentment and felt someone's arms tighten around his waist. Something very soft brushed against his skin. He opened his eyes and stared in wonder.
A big black wing was curling over him, its feathers gently brushing his arm.
He turned his wrist and run a finger along its edge. It quivered. As if in answer, a warm gust of breath sighed against Cloud's nape. He froze. Something about this was not right, and the heavy contentment in his limbs was slowly fading.
Somewhere very close, something rang.
It broke the quiet so cleanly Cloud jumped. His next instinct was to reach for his phone, but he had a moment of disorientation. The edge of the bed was farther than it should have been, and this wasn't his cell phone's ring.
A quiet curse sounded near his ear. The heavy, warm weight that had been resting against his back moved and a long, strong arm unlooped from around his waist to reach for the nightstand and the phone there.
Cloud found himself lying on his back, staring at a very naked Sephiroth looming over him and pressing the phone to his ear like this situation was perfectly natural.
Sephiroth's hair had slid over his shoulder in tantalizing disarray to tickle Cloud's neck. His free arm was bracing him on the mattress, still pressed against the small of Cloud's back. The gentle white light of a cloudy mid-morning bathed his skin in soft tones and highlighted every feather of the huge dark wings curling above him. Cloud could only stare, his mind strangely empty.
Sephiroth had turned his head to look at his wings too. His face was oddly unreadable as he listened to the person on the phone.
"… I am aware. Yes, I'll be down shortly. Yes."
He hung up, pensive. He shifted his wings.
"Do you know when I deployed these?"
Jolted out of his mindless shock, Cloud felt his brain catch up with the situation and his face begin to heat up.
"No," he answered curtly.
He now had vivid, very vivid memories of what had happened a few hours ago in this bedroom—way too vivid for his sanity's sake—but he couldn't remember the wings, and they would have been hard to miss.
Sephiroth hummed thoughtfully and glanced at him.
"Are you alright?" he asked when Cloud wouldn't meet his eyes.
Cloud pressed a hand against his face and slowly dragged it up to tangle in his hair. No, he wasn't alright. He had been so carefully weighing the pros and cons of this, and now he had jumped in without looking and it had already come to the point where he was terrified to ask Sephiroth exactly what he wanted from him.
Sephiroth moved aside. With a rustle of feathers, his wings retracted to allow him to sit up. His green eyes were locked on Cloud.
"Are you regretting this?"
A cold weight was sitting on Cloud's chest. He reached deep for his hidden reserves of strength. His hand fell to the bed and he met Sephiroth's gaze head on.
"That's up to you," he whispered.
Sephiroth's face lost the cool immobility of marble. He bent down, a soft light in his eyes, and gently kissed him. Despite everything, Cloud found himself relaxing at his contact.
"Up to me?" Sephiroth breathed against his lips. "Hmm… Well, there is this gorgeous, brilliant, painfully loyal and utterly stubborn young man in my bed, and I can't say I want to see him leaving anytime soon."
Cloud stared at him, wide-eyed. Sephiroth solemnly looked back.
"I can't say I have a lot of experience in long-term relationships, Cloud, but I'd like to give it a try… If you're willing?"
For some reason, he suddenly had trouble catching his breath.
"Yes," he whispered. "Okay. Sure."
Sephiroth smiled and it was a beautiful thing. Then he coaxed Cloud in a deep, long kiss that left his thoughts muddled and his body pleasantly warm. Still, there was something nagging him…
He broke off the kiss, disoriented.
"Wait… Don't you have… this morning…"
"An executive meeting, yes," Sephiroth answered, and he was perfectly articulate and even sounded amused, the bastard. "That call was the head secretary panicking because I was not yet in my office. Good to know I can trust you to remember such a detail even in this situation."
Cloud glared at him, lips pressed thin in displeasure, but it didn't keep his cheeks from reddening. He should have remembered sooner…
Sephiroth bent down to press a few kisses to the hollow of his throat, making him shiver.
"I'll have to see if I can make you forget something work-related, just once," he said in a low, low voice.
This voice was doing indescribable things to his inner organs. Cloud shoved him away before he lost the strength to do so.
"Whatever! Just go, damn it!" he yelled.
Sephiroth laughed but obliged him, leaving the bed to wander in the adjacent bathroom. Cloud sat up and looked at the bedroom around him, lost. He was going to have to search for his clothes strewn all over Sephiroth's apartment. It would… take some getting used to.
"You've been amazing so far," Cloud said. "Nearly four months in and Sephiroth has barely uttered more than a passing remark on your work. It might be a new record."
Reeve Tuesti, Sephiroth's new manager, looked troubled and a little unsure.
"It's a good thing that he doesn't say anything about my work?..."
"Oh, yes. Believe me, it is. Sephiroth is hard to content and even harder to impress. At this point, he's looking for any excuse at all to consider you incompetent and let you go. The day he opens his mouth to utter a compliment to you, even a mild or backhanded one, is when you can be sure he trusts you and truly considers you to be part of his staff."
It occurred to Cloud that he might be scaring the poor guy off. However, Reeve only laughed and seemed, of all things, relieved. Cloud had hired the man because he had impressed him with how calm and reliable he had appeared during their first meeting, and Reeve certainly had yet to disappoint.
"Oh, so it's like that, huh? I'll do my best, then. I'm sure I don't have it half as bad as you. You know, when I first realized how insane your workload is, I couldn't believe you hadn't quit long ago. But I'm starting to understand why you're still here. He's so hard at work himself, so driven you can't help but want to be a part of that, right? He drags you in. It's so challenging!"
"That's it exactly," Cloud whispered, impressed.
Reeve probably didn't hear him above the music and the conversations all around them. The party was in full swing by now, rich and famous guests mingling all around Sephiroth's penthouse. The host himself was somewhere on the balcony, last time Cloud had seen him. It was the first party Sephiroth threw since the penthouse's security measures had been reinstated and strengthened, and plenty of celebrities had answered his invitation.
"Strife. Still Sephiroth's lapdog, I see."
And of course, some uninvited guests had slipped in too. Cloud mentally steeled himself and turned. Scarlet was as always stunning in a very low-cut blood red dress, her blonde hair coiled in an elaborate chignon to leave her long neck enticingly bare. Her pregnancy had left little to no trace on her striking figure. She was coldly staring him down, lips painted red twisted in a smirk.
He opted not to enter her game and remained silent. Of course, it would take more than that to unsettle her. She snagged a champagne glass from the tray of a passing waiter.
"How goes slobbering over your master's heels?" she asked without even looking at him. "Are you still madly in love with him? What am I saying, of course you are."
Despite all his resolution to not let her affect him, Cloud could feel an icy glare slowly forming on his face. Ever since the first time they had met, Scarlet had been certain he was head over heels for Sephiroth. Of course, he could now admit to himself that she was right, but her speculation had been born purely out of jealousy and an inability to understand that he could be working for Sephiroth for reasons outside of the man's stunning good looks.
Reeve had clued in on the quickly cooling atmosphere. He looked torn, unable to tell if an intervention would help or worsen the situation. Cloud gave him an out:
"Reeve, I think I see Tseng over there. You wanted to talk to him, right?"
"Ah… Yes, you're right. I guess I'll… I'll see you later, Cloud."
He turned away with a last troubled look for him, looking remorseful at leaving him to the she-wolf. Scarlet gave no sign she had even noticed the manager that had been standing just three feet from her. She was sipping her champagne, looking at Cloud through half-lidded eyes.
"You know he'll never even look at you, right?" she laughed in a husky voice. "Sephiroth likes power. We're alike in that. Kindred spirits… There's no way he'll even take you to his bed, you poor little glorified secretary."
His tongue was burning with everything he wanted to fling at her face. He was barely reigning himself in. He forcefully reminded himself that verbal sparring was not his forte and flaunting a hidden relationship to get back at her would be the worse way to handle this. It would actually be akin to letting her win. He would not jeopardize what he had with Sephiroth because of her.
They had been seeing each other for more than a month now and it was the happiest Cloud had been in a very, very long time. He hadn't let himself realize how much he had wanted this before he had dived in head-first. Now he couldn't get enough of it. Sephiroth's special smiles for him when they were alone in his office, the way he'd sometimes drag him up to the penthouse at the end of the workday and barely wait for the stairway's inner door to close before kissing him, the nights spent in his arms and the mornings waking up next to him…
They had chosen not to make it public before they felt steady enough with each other. Only Angeal, Genesis and Zack knew, and Scarlet would not be the first exception, no matter how much he wanted to prove her wrong and watch her beautiful face contort in rage and defeat.
"Nor will he take you back anytime soon," he shot back instead. "Not after that stunt you pulled."
She waved it away, contemptuous.
"Oh, please! Sephiroth'll understand. It was just business. I played my hand, I lost. I lost to you, I'm guessing, since you seem to do all his dirty work…"
She smirked coldly and he suddenly had a bad feeling about this. Scarlet hated losing. And if she felt it had been his fault…
"Well, it was well played, I'll grant you that," she said flippantly. "You're nothing if not a professional. Too bad you'll never be anything else to him. Now, I think I'd like to see Sephiroth! I should go beg for his forgiveness and all that, and it's been so terribly long since we've seen each other… I heard he has yet to find anyone else worthy of his attention, the poor soul. Maybe I could… comfort him?" she suggested coyly, confirming his suspicion.
"Don't you have a husband now?" he rebuked in an icy voice.
She rolled her eyes.
"Come on, sugar. He knows better than to think he'll be enough for me. I'm too much to handle for one man. Now, why don't you be a good little employee and lead me to Sephiroth, hm?"
He glared at her and didn't budge from his spot.
Rationally, he knew he should do as she asked. Despite everything she thought she knew about him, Sephiroth would never let in his bed someone who had already backstabbed him, unless as a way to wreak vengeance from it. He was also not a cheater, despite his multiple lovers. If he was seeing someone, he would not bed anyone else before breaking it off with them.
But Cloud had this deep-set drive to not let this despicable woman anywhere near Sephiroth… as well as a tiny, immature voice claiming from inside his heart that Sephiroth was his, damn it.
She didn't look impressed.
"No? Well, I guess I'll go look for him myself and tell him how uncooperative you're being with guests tonight…"
Just as she was turning to do that and he was scrambling for a way to distract her, or better yet, get her to trip on her absurdly high heels and crash through a window to endure a fifty floors drop, a commotion started at the other end of the room.
Zack appeared next to him, eyes bright and Aerith at his elbow. Aerith was wearing a simple but beautiful pink dress, no make-up and only a couple of discreet pieces of jewellery. She looked out of place in the gloss and glitter of the party. As far as Cloud was concerned, she was the most stunning woman on the entire floor. He could certainly see why Zack brought her with him for moral support at these things.
"Hi, Aerith," he said with a small smile for her.
"Hi Cloud!" she chimed in, beaming in answer.
"Yes yes," Zack jumped in, his eyes silently laughing at them both, "you guys love each other and I'd definitely need to worry if Cloud's attentions weren't otherwise occupied. Now listen! Spike! The special investigation team is here."
Cloud's amused smirk dropped. He nodded.
"Get Sephiroth. He should be on the balcony."
He turned and moved toward the place near the buffet where half the guests were now staring at what was happening. Scarlet had stopped not far from him, intrigued by what she certainly hoped was a good scandal. He saw her follow him from the corner of his eyes, drawn like a vulture to a corpse. Privately, he smirked.
His face reflected nothing of what he felt when he made it to the scene.
The source of the screaming was, of course, a red-faced and spluttering Heidegger, veins threatening to burst at his temples. A black man, strangely enough wearing sunglasses indoor, was restraining him and closing a set of handcuffs around his wrists. A red-headed and lanky guy stood nearby, flashing a badge to the mayor's bodyguards, a nightstick nonchalantly propped against his shoulder. A petite blonde woman was trying to read his rights to Heidegger, but she seemed half a minute away from snapping at the spittle flying at her face from the plump man's unending rant. All three of them were wearing the same uniform, black and crisp suits and shoes. Behind them, Cid was scratching his head in bemusement, having probably had to provide clearance for the agents to get to the top floor.
"Strife!" Heidegger hollered when he saw him. "Get me Sephiroth here at once! This is unacceptable!"
"I'm here, Mayor. No need to shout at my assistant."
Sephiroth emerged from the crowd like Moses parting the sea, looking regal and supremely unbothered by it all. Angeal and Genesis were following him, the first politely puzzled, the second downright yawning. The guests that were discussing this strange situation in eager whispers fell silent at their arrival.
"Now, what is happening?"
"Apologies for crashing your party," the red-haired agent drawled, unimpressed by the audience. "Mr the Mayor over here is being charged with assistance to a known army felon, breach of confidentiality, as well as colluding with several red-flagged mercenary groups. We just thought we'd get him at a time when we'd knew for sure where he was."
Heidegger had gone so red he was nearly purple, but his screams had stopped. He had apparently realized exactly who he was asking for help, and from what. While most people around them had gasped and started another round of heavy gossiping, Sephiroth and his two friends remained utterly unsurprised. Heidegger's eyes were bulging at them, his long beard shaking—from rage or fear, Cloud wasn't exactly sure.
"I see," Sephiroth said. "If that is the case, far be it from me to interfere with justice. However, I will ask you to please leave quickly as you are disturbing my guests."
His piercing green eyes turned to Cloud.
"See them out, Cloud."
Cloud didn't bother nodding as Sephiroth was already turning away. A lot of things had changed between them, but their working relationship hadn't. Angeal and Genesis followed their friend without comment, though the red-head wore a lazy smirk.
Heidegger came back to life, now screaming incoherent threats and promises of vengeance to their retreating backs.
"I'll get you! You'll see! I'll get you for this, you mangy birds!" he hollered at the top of his lungs even as the black-skinned agent was pushing him toward the elevator.
The guests exchanged funny looks, mocking smirks already on their faces as they traded damning whispers. Minutes ago, some of them had been shamelessly schmoozing to the mayor. Now, he was nothing but laughingstock to them. Such was the world of celebrities.
Before he turned away to follow the agents, Heidegger and Cid out, Cloud took the time to find Scarlet in the crowd. She was looking remarkably composed, but the paleness of her face betrayed her.
Cloud made sure to catch her eyes. He stared at her long and hard. He wanted her to now for sure that this hadn't been a coincidence; that Heidegger had been meant to fall tonight, in Sephiroth's turf, and that she had been meant to be here to see it; so that she would know she would be next if she ever stepped one toe out of line again. She stared back, her lips pinched, then she turned and disappeared in the crowd. She wouldn't approach Sephiroth tonight, nor probably ever again.
Feeling unaccountably vindicated, Cloud left to perform his last duty of the evening. To everyone's doubtless relief, the elevator ride was silent, Heidegger noisily catching his breath after his last exertion. He was furiously glaring at Cloud, but refrained from another rant.
They got off at the ground floor and Cloud took the time to thank Cid and assure him he had done his duty by bringing the agents up. When the night guard went back to Barret and their watch, Cloud turned to find Reno waiting for him. His two colleagues, Rude and Elena, had stopped with Heidegger near the front doors of the building.
"Yo Blondie, just wanted to say thanks for the cooperation," the agent said with half-lidded eyes.
"That's fine. I'm glad we could find an agreement."
"Yeah well… Everyone up there in the totem pole was getting pretty itchy with that creep Hojo spilling the beans every which way. Your guy actually gave us a hand in "arbitrarily declassifying" the stuff, you know? Sure you don't want to give us his name? I think we'd consider recruiting him. He's good."
Cloud wordlessly shook his head, well used to the wheedling by now. He wasn't sloppy enough to believe him and sell Vincent. Reno sighed.
"Thick-headed, huh? Whatever, whatever. I got instructions not to push it. We're leaving it at status quo with you guys for now. Be thankful!"
"More like forced status quo, no?" Cloud said quietly. "You can't go against them without raising a big fuss, not with how popular they are. Kind of defeat the point of "secret weapons" if you have to tell everyone and their mother what they are in order to get them back…"
"Whatever, Blondie. You keep your boss happy in bed and we'll keep doing our job."
Cloud couldn't stop the faint rush of blood to his cheeks at the crude and unexpected jab. He glared at Reno who laughed hoarsely.
"Ha! Nailed it, huh? Damn, I'm good."
Still chuckling, he turned on his heel and joined his colleagues. Rude and Elena nodded at Cloud, then pushed Heidegger out. Soon, they were gone.
Cloud sighed and rolled his head, trying to unwind the tense muscles of his neck and shoulders. Maybe he could coax Sephiroth in giving him a massage later. The thought brought a smile to his face.
The last immediate threat to them was gone. Things were finally looking up.
"Would you mind looking up when I'm talking to you, Cloud?"
Cloud blinked and tore himself from the screen of his laptop. Sephiroth was standing over him with a small annoyed frown.
"What is it?" Cloud asked, confused. "You know I listen to you even when I'm not looking at you."
Sephiroth had been commenting about the beauty of the scenery, something he hadn't seen fit to answer to. Had it actually offended him? Cloud glanced around.
Zack had landed the helicopter at the top of a high cliff from which they had a splendid view of the surrounding lands: lush forests, sprawling plains and rivers sparkling in the starlight all the way to the horizon. Angeal, Genesis and Zack were standing near the drop-off, silhouetted against that background. Cloud had opted to sit beside the helicopter with his computer.
"That's not the point, Cloud. We left the office hours ago and it's the middle of the night. Won't you stop working for the day?"
"I'm going to be up anyway, why shouldn't I be working?"
Sephiroth lifted a hand to his brow, irritated.
"Cloud, you and I are going to need to define a clear-cut line between work and leisure at some point. I swear half the time you come to the penthouse, you find something to work on…"
Cloud coughed, astonished.
"You think I work too much? That's got to be the most hypocritical thing I ever heard you say, Sephiroth."
Sephiroth didn't look impressed.
"I never work when you are visiting me, Cloud."
With a flash of guilt, Cloud realized he was right. Sephiroth too had often been working at home, but that habit of his had drastically diminished since they had started their relationship. But if Cloud were to even try to respect office hours…
"Sephiroth, I'm barely staying afloat of my current workload," he said with stark honesty. "I'm sorry if you feel I'm not trying hard enough at this, but…"
He stopped and stared at his laptop, distressed. He truly loved Sephiroth, so much that it frightened him sometimes, but he wouldn't, he couldn't let what they had interfere with his work. It would be a discredit to both his professional pride and Sephiroth himself.
The rustle of gravel moving made him look up as Sephiroth sat next to him, so close their thighs touched. With a sinking feeling, Cloud saw he was frowning.
"This isn't going to work," he announced, and Cloud tried not to feel like an ice blade had just shot through his heart.
He had known there had been a high probability something like this might happen. He had been afraid he wouldn't be able to work at his usual standard when he kept having the urge to kiss his boss every single time he saw him, but… the opposite problem shouldn't have come as a complete surprise either. Sephiroth and him were practically married to their works, of course trying to begin a serious relationship together would hit a snag somewhere.
"I need a second PA," Sephiroth declared.
"… Uh?" Cloud could only utter.
Sephiroth had lifted a hand to his chin and seemed to be deep in thought about logistics and practical repercussions.
"If it's taking so much of your time, there is clearly enough work for two people. The problem would be to find someone we could both learn to work with in a reasonable time frame."
He glanced at Cloud and found him wordlessly gaping. He frowned.
"Focus, Cloud. We need to find you a colleague. If you can start compiling a list of possible candidates…"
"There is Reeve," Cloud blurted out in a desperate effort not to look this gift horse in the mouth. "He has hinted a few times that he was tired of his other clients and would like to branch out some day, if he ever got the occasion."
"Tuesti?" Sephiroth repeated, surprised. "Hum…"
After a few instants of careful consideration, he said:
"Yes, it could work. If he agrees to shoulder some of your duties on top of his usual ones… You'd have to find the time to train him, of course."
"I doubt it'd be a problem. He seems like a quick-learner."
"Then it's decided. Set a meeting with him ASAP so we can discuss it."
Cloud mindlessly nodded, still recovering from the shock. Sephiroth was willing to change a working arrangement that had suited him perfectly for years, all for the chance to spend more leisure time with Cloud. Warmth was pooling in his belly, spreading through his body in tiny shivers.
It did occur to him that Sephiroth would never have made such a proposition for Cloud's sake alone, but he had known that for a long time already. Five years ago, he might have thought this man perfect, but he had long since learned the truth: Sephiroth was egocentric, uncompromising, impatient and downright dangerous when crossed. Yet here he was, purposefully going out of his way to make what they had work.
Cloud carefully set his laptop aside, turned and drew a surprised Sephiroth in a deep kiss. God, he loved this man.
Although he didn't seem to realize what he had done exactly to warrant such an enthusiastic reaction, Sephiroth leaned down to accommodate the kiss and wrapped his arms around him. Cloud would have happily stayed there a good long while if a boisterous voice hadn't seen fit to interrupt them.
"Come on, you lovebirds!" Zack yelled at them. "There'll be time enough for that later. Let's go while we have the night all to ourselves!"
Cloud drew back to glare at him, and found his grinning friend to be alone on the cliff. He instinctively looked up and his lips parted in fascination. It seemed Genesis and Angeal had tired of waiting for Sephiroth. High above their heads, they were engaged in what appeared to be an animated game of tag. Their laughs could be heard from the ground as their wings circled against the background of the night sky, alternatively blocking stars.
Sephiroth stood up beside him and his wings deployed from slits through the back of his long-sleeved shirt. A small smile formed on Cloud's face as he watched the hidden eagerness in his eyes.
Apparently, Zack used to bring Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth to remote locations like this one about once a month so they could stretch their wings and taste the skies, but they had put these trips on hold when the whole Hojo debacle had started. They had waited until it had become certain that Heidegger was out of the picture to come here. Sephiroth hadn't flown since his wing had healed, and despite how well he had hidden it, Cloud knew how much he had waited for this. Cloud too was impatient to finally see him fly.
But as he was waiting for Sephiroth to approach the cliff edge, his lover surprised him by bending down, catching his hands and pulling him to his feet.
"What are you doing?" Cloud asked, his eyebrows rising as he was dragged to the drop-off.
"I didn't bring you here so you could stay glued to your screen, Cloud."
He stopped when he saw the strange harness a grinning Zack was holding.
"You didn't think Angeal'd be cruel enough to leave me stuck on the ground every time we did this, huh, Spike? Hold still."
Within moments, Cloud found one part of the harness settled around his torso and its twin around Sephiroth's. A sturdy rope was running between the two.
"Don't worry," Zack said as he adjusted some last buckles, "it's only for safety's sake. Sephiroth'll be holding you tight anyway."
He winked, but Cloud was preoccupied with a dawning realisation.
"Oh no," he said, breathless. "We can't…"
"What's the problem, Cloud?" Sephiroth asked, completely unruffled. "You said it yourself: you love heights as much as I do."
"But your wing just healed! I can't…"
A lesser man might have rolled his eyes. Instead, in a tone of endless patience, Sephiroth said:
"My wing is perfectly fine, Cloud."
Then he closed his arms around him and launched them off the cliff.
Cloud gave an undignified shriek as his stomach took flight. He instinctively wrapped his arms around Sephiroth's neck. Their trajectory soon incurved from the straight fall it had been until trees were rushing under them.
Cloud opened his eyes wide despite the sting of the cold wind. Air was roaring against his ears, ruffling his hair and raising goose bumps on his arms. The open night sky was all around them, huge and free. Big black wings lazily beat, carrying them under the stars.
If he hadn't been already utterly in love with flying, Cloud would have been lost the moment he turned his head and saw the fierce look of joy and freedom in Sephiroth's eyes.
"… and now for some news of the showbiz world! Famous actor Sephiroth announced yesterday to the surprise of all his fans that he was currently in a relationship with his personal assistant, one Cloud Strife. Sephiroth, who has never made a mystery of being bisexual, is also known for his long string of past lovers. However, he also emphatically declared that Cloud Strife and him had been seeing each other for close to two months before going public, a pretty atypical behaviour for this man who has never made it a habit to shy from the media. This has led to countless speculations about how serious Sephiroth might be about his new boyfriend."
Cloud was aware he was wearing a silly little smile since he had woken up, but he couldn't seem to get rid of it. His cheeks were starting to cramp, damn it.
He stretched his sore body and leaned his forearms on the railing of the balcony, staring at the cars in the streets below. It was still early enough on a Saturday morning that there wasn't much traffic.
Saturdays didn't use to be off days for Cloud. Sundays were: they were the days he took care of his apartment, did the laundry, caught on some sleep, checked on his friends and went to the gym. But Sephiroth was prone to have whims on Saturdays, or movie shootings, song recordings or whatever else, so Cloud usually just saved himself the grief and worked. But for once in his life, he had nothing of great importance to work on thanks to his new colleague, and Sephiroth was sleeping in.
The absurdity of this thought was enough to make him smile again. Sephiroth and sleeping in did not mix… except, apparently, after nights which he spent zealously trying to convince his lover that sleep was overrated. Cloud self-consciously blushed and tugged his open shirt closer to his chest littered with bite marks. How could he ever regret agreeing to the public announcement after a night like that?
Behind him, through the open doors of the balcony, the TV kept droning on.
"… and fans wonder: could this mean the end of Sephiroth's on and off celibacy? Well, girls, don't despair: at least his new boyfriend is hot!"
Cloud felt himself blush even more. What did that have to do with anything? He was glad he had been able to talk to Tifa beforehand about this. The thought of her learning of his relationship with Sephiroth from this overly peppy anchor was enough to make him cringe.
At least Tifa had seemed to take it well, though she had dryly informed him she thought he was a complete masochist. To his relief, though, there were now back on friendly terms. That was enough for him.
He made to go back inside and turn the TV off, but the sound cut off before he even reached the doors. That damn smile was back on his lips as soon as he spotted Sephiroth putting the remote control down. Freshly out of bed, Sephiroth was only wearing soft pants, and the reason why was also the cause of his faint scowl: his wings were out, curling over his shoulders where strands of his hair had scattered over the feathers.
"This is ridiculous," he said as soon as he saw Cloud. "Isn't it annoying you? You should wake me up if they start taking too much space in bed."
"Hi to you too," Cloud whispered.
Sephiroth's frustration lessened. He joined Cloud on the balcony and wound his arms around him, his wings automatically disappearing in his back as he stepped out in the open.
Ever since the beginning of their relationship, the wings made an unplanned appearance once every few nights Cloud spent in Sephiroth's bed. Cloud could tell it rattled Sephiroth. He was used to hiding his extra appendages from his lovers, and this sudden lack of control unnerved him.
Sephiroth gifted him with a chaste kiss as his morning greeting.
"It doesn't annoy me," Cloud said when they parted. "I usually end up wrapped in them. It's soft and warm, I don't mind."
Sephiroth hummed, unconvinced.
"Come on, I made breakfast," Cloud offered.
He slipped out of his embrace and made his way to the kitchen. Sephiroth followed him, though Cloud could tell he was distracted. His eyes were absently wandering around the penthouse.
While Cloud was at the counter pouring tea in two mugs, arms wrapped once more around him, this time from behind.
"You know, Cloud, I am starting to feel that this place is much too big…"
Cloud stopped and stared at him over his shoulder.
"You seriously are just noticing that?" he said with no small amount of incredulity. "Of course it's too big, Sephiroth! You have four guest rooms, a private training room and a frigging helicopter landing pad on the roof! All that's missing is a swimming pool. Or not even; the tub in the master bathroom could serve that purpose, I'm sure."
Sephiroth let him rant with an air of tired patience.
"You didn't let me finish."
He let go of Cloud to relieve him of a mug and a loaded plate and turned to set them on the table.
"It's much too big… for one person."
Cloud froze just as he was going to take a sip of his tea. Was Sephiroth really asking what he thought he was…?
Sephiroth turned back to him. He looked neutral.
"Besides, it takes you approximately seven minutes to come here from your apartment, which is very annoying."
That was such a typical comment that Cloud couldn't help it: he laughed.
"Are you seriously… seriously suggesting that I…?"
"Move in, Cloud."
The laughter died on his lips with his breath. Cloud felt like he had just been sucker punched. Sephiroth had never extended such an offer to any of his previous lovers, even those that had lasted the longest. And yet, after just two months together, he…
Sephiroth's burning green eyes were focused on him, intent and earnest. Cloud tried to swallow through his dry throat.
"We just announced we were together in the first place," he whispered, his voice nearly lost. "Don't you think that'd send the media in a frenzy?"
"I'm not asking my PR manager, Cloud. I'm asking the man who makes me feel safe enough I forget every single one of my self-preservation instincts when he's sleeping next to me."
It had been said so starkly, so unexpectedly that Cloud felt a brief vertigo. Tea from his forgotten mug spilled on his hand and he realized he was shaking. He carefully set it down. Sephiroth was still waiting for his answer, his stunning eyes boring into him like he would be able to see the words before they formed on his tongue.
Well, Cloud thought. His apartment was really too small anyway. And the penthouse had a bigger balcony.
He wrapped his arms around Sephiroth's neck, tangled his hands in his hair and set to erase the triumphant smile already lifting the corner of these pale lips.