This is a story that I had been posting over only on AO3, kind of as a personal experiment. I have now decided to start posting it here.
This story is a Time Travel/AU revolving around Sephiroth being sent back to a world where alternate events shape its future.
This will eventually be YAOI, but I'm not revealing the pairings as of yet, because I don't want to spoil the plot. It WILL NOT be Old Sephiroth/Young Cloud. They will have more of a father/son relationship.
Since she's caught up on my other stories, fenhuang is now working on beta'ing this story as well :)
I hope you enjoy. - DHT
When Sephiroth had asked for a chance at redemption, wanting to break the endless cycle of resurrection by Jenova, then defeat, this wasn't what he was expecting.
The brown headed Cetra who he had slain appeared before him and offered him a kind smile. "You can help the one you hurt the most."
He originally thought that she meant herself. He had killed her after all, then again, he had killed hundreds if not thousands of people between his role as Shinra's General and his ensuing insanity.
When he awoke, he found himself standing in Nibelheim. Not just Nibelheim, but the real one. The town that existed before his genocide. Then it struck him, "The one you hurt the most."
"Cloud." He said out loud with a heavy breath. His mind had returned to him. Freed from Jenova's grasp, but he still didn't relish seeing the blonde again and he was sure that the feeling would be mutual.
But if this was Nibelheim from before the fire, then Cloud wouldn't hate him yet.
He was drawn out of his thoughts when someone walked into him or rather right through him.
"What is this?" Sephiroth asked, looking at the man who just continued on his way. He then realized that no one was paying attention to him at all. It was like he didn't even exist.
"If I don't exist, then how am I suppose to help anyone!"He yelled at no one particular. He hoped maybe the dead flower girl would appear to him and explain things further, but it seemed he hadn't earned an explanation.
Just then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a pack of children, they were hitting something. Probably a poor animal. For lack of anything else, he walked over and gasped. That wasn't an animal at all.
"Cloud!" The man said, even in a small 6 year old body Sephiroth would recognize his rival. He was confused, but even more so when the blonde glanced at him a moment before receiving another punch to the face.
"Enough!" Sephiroth screamed at the boys, all at least 2 years older than the small blonde.
It however had no effect. The only one who seemed to notice anything was Cloud again.
In frustration, he reached out to grab the boy about to swing again and failed.
"How am I suppose to help him like this!" Sephiroth demanded an answer again, but none came.
Finally, after a few more minutes, the boys seemed to get bored as Cloud's head rolled to one side.
"Cloud!" Sephiroth cried again. Even after all he had done, seeing his rival get beaten to a pulp when he was a small child and couldn't defend himself. Well, it touched a place in his heart he thought was long dead.
Hesitantly, he reached out, trying to touch Cloud and was startled when he actually connected.
"You need medical attention." Sephiroth said, looking the boy over. In this small town, he didn't know where he would find it.
He stood and looked around, realizing that several of the town's people had to have seen the altercation and had to see the small unconscious boy and were doing nothing.
"If you won't help me, help him!" Sephiroth screamed towards the sky. "He was your friend, right? Your savior, your champion!"
There was still no response and he began to wonder if the Cetra was mocking him.
Not sure what else to do, he turned and picked the boy up. "I don't know which one is your house."
The boy was out cold and didn't respond. This was not Sephiroth's day.
"There has to be something in the mansion to bind your wounds. But will I even be able to touch them?" Sephiroth said with a growl.
He took a chance anyway and moved as swiftly as he dared to the Shinra Mansion. It seemed either no one really cared for Cloud or Sephiroth's own invisibility extended to the blonde while he was in his arms.
He found the mansion easily enough and was relieved when he could open the door. It seemed his insubstantial-ness only extended to people who weren't Cloud.
He was surprised though to see that the place was in decent shape. The mansion was clean, the creatures that infested the place in the future were nowhere to be seen. If it had been abandoned, those who left had only left a few months ago.
He didn't hesitate long however as the boy in his arms started to grow pale. He swiftly made his way down to the labs, assuming that there would be something of a first aid kit located there, if nothing else.
"Stay with me, Cloud." Sephiroth said, descending the stairs.
When he reached the lab, he placed Cloud's small frame down on one of the examination tables before turning to rummage through the cabinets. He found stack after stack of useless lab equipment before finally coming across some bandages and disinfectant.
Taking a cloth that he found on the counter, he cleaned Cloud's wounds, wiped them with the disinfectant and wrapped them to stop the bleeding. Once that was done, he looked the boy over a bit more.
He didn't find any more severe damage until he came to the boy's right ankle. It was swelling and bent at an odd angle. Swearing a bit, he went to find something to use as a splint. The only solace he had was that, if this was the past, Cloud had obviously survived without his help. With the town folk's reaction, he wasn't sure how that had been possible.
Once the boy's leg was splinted, he picked him up and carried him back up the stairs. He had done all he could for now and decided to let the child rest upstairs in one of the bedrooms instead of the lab.
Cloud still wasn't moving, but he had a pulse and he was still breathing. Selecting one of the larger beds, Sephiroth laid him down in the middle and covered him up.
"I need to find out what's going on." Sephiroth said, turning his gaze from the boy to the walls.
There were no calendars or anything to tell him exactly when or where he was. He assumed that Cloud was 6, but he was so small and appeared chronically malnourished.
It was obvious Cloud wouldn't wake for some time, likely not until the next morning. Decision made, Sephiroth left the room and once again descended to the basement. His best source of a relevant time frame was down in those files.
Sephiroth slowly entered the library, remembering that, in his old life, this was the last place he could claim some semblance of sanity. Now he hoped these pages would keep him from going insane.
Stepping up to the book case, which was new and mold free, he ran his hand across the files. Many of them had been damaged overtime when he had done his initial reading. Now everything was pristine. Finally his had stopped over a file titled. "Project S".
Pulling it off the shelf with a heavy sigh, he sat down in the chair and flipped it open.
"First Post-Birth Entry August 27th 065, Specimen S is showing early signs of accelerated development. Specimen C however is progressing at a normal infant like rate. Further observation is required."
Sephiroth's eyes narrowed. He was certain that he had been the only subject in the original project "S", who was this subject C?
He read further in. "Entry 17 November 19th 066. Gast has decided to shut project S down since Project G is showing more promising results. Project S has been encouraging, but project C is likely a complete failure. Subject C is to be sent to Midgar and raised with a surrogate family. Subject S will stay in Nibelheim for further observation."
He knew that wasn't right. Genesis had been the failure. It was the cause of his degradation. No one but Genesis had been given a surrogate family either.
What were these files?
He flipped to the end. "Entry 99 July 7th 071 Subject S deemed too unstable to continue even lab observations. Subject completely abandoned and turned over to town. This will be the last entry in his file. Site will be shut down and files sealed."
What in Hades was this? The mansion had been abandoned before Cloud was even born? Sephiroth had been abandoned in the town? None of this made sense. He threw the file down and stood again.
He grabbed another file further on down the bookcase labeled. "Jenova Project Outline." And flung it open.
Inside he found files on two women. Lucrecia Crescent, that name rang a bell. He remembered hearing whispers in the lifestream, once he had been separated from Jenova, that she had actually been his mother.
There was a picture and he could believe that she had been related to him. Her face and eyes, even her hair reminded him of himself.
Then his eyes narrowed. Under her photo her description read. "Hojo's assistant, Doctor Crescent, mother of Specimen C. Sephiroth Crescent- Status -Deceased Died in Childbirth"
He was the project C the file had been speaking of? Sephiroth frowned. Was the Cetra girl purposely playing a trick on him? Did she think he was foolish enough to believe this? He scoffed, then turned the page anyway.
When his eyes landed on it, he about dropped the folder. There was a woman who looked strikingly like the Cloud he remembered. Her description read. "Nibelheim native woman, Elle Strife, Mother of Specimen S, Cloud Strife. Status: Deceased- Died In Childbirth"
This was just beyond ridiculous. Cloud was at least 8 years younger than Sephiroth. None of these files made any damn sense. He threw the file to the ground and stalked out. It was obvious that he wouldn't get his answers here. Maybe Cloud could clear some things up when he woke.
He stalked back up and through the mansion to the room he had left Cloud in. The boy was still sleeping soundly. He knew it couldn't be true, but, at least to satisfy his curiosity, he walked to Cloud's side. Even as a child, Sephiroth had always healed rapidly, so he pulled back one of the bandages on Cloud's head. Sephiroth couldn't say he'd ever been truly startled in his entire life, before now that was. The large gash, which had been along Cloud's forehead, was now just an angry red mark.
Even worse, the boy started to stir. Sephiroth backed up a bit and Cloud sat up, opening his eyes.
When he did, he started to scream. "NO NO NO!" He scrambled out of the bed. "NOT HERE AGAIN, NO!" He was in a dead panic and threw himself out of the bed.
"Wait, calm down." Sephiroth said, grabbing the small child with both arms, pinning him to his chest.
"NO PLEASE!" Cloud cried. Tears were running down his cheeks. "NOT AGAIN, PLEASE. LET ME GO, THEY SAID THEY WERE LETTING ME GO. NO MORE NEEDLES."
"Just calm down, ok, no one is going to hurt you." Sephiroth said, he didn't have much experience dealing with children, but he had seen SOLDIERS with PTSD before and Cloud was showing signs.
Sephiroth was surprised again when Cloud seemed to have enough strength to start forcing his arms apart.
"No one is going to inject you with anything, Cloud. I only brought you here to tend your wounds. If you calm down, we can leave." Sephiroth said, trying to keep his tone neutral.
"PLEASE." Cloud whimpered when he realized that he wasn't getting away easily.
Sephiroth just stood with the boy still in his arms and practically ran out of the mansion. Once they were outside, Cloud's violent sobs turned into calmer tears as Sephiroth continued to hold him.
Finally, when the boy settled, he looked up at Sephiroth and gasped. "You're- you're an Angel?"
"An angel?" Sephiroth said, confused.
"I see your wing, you're an angel." Cloud said, no longer resisting Sephiroth hold.
Sephiroth just glanced back over his shoulder to confirm that his wing was not currently out. What had the boy seen? And he had clearly said 'wing', not 'wings'. There were just too many questions and not enough answers.
"Where are your parents, your home?" Sephiroth decided that he would start simple, but Cloud just tilted his head down.
"My mother is dead, I don't have a home or a father." Cloud said, looking up at Sephiroth with tear stained, but mako green eyes.
Had the reports been right? It wasn't possible, was it? Sephiroth was sure that his memory hadn't been that fractured.
"What date is it, Cloud?" Sephiroth said smoothly.
"Um, I'm not sure the day. They don't tell me. But I think it's November 071 something." Cloud said with a smile before continuing. "My angel knows my name!"
Sephiroth just looked to the sky for a moment, even if he was certain that it would hold no answers. The only things that were clear, were that Cloud had no one to take care of him and he couldn't stay in Nibelheim. How Sephiroth was suppose to help him, when Cloud was the only one that could see him, the silver haired man didn't know.
"You'll come with me." Sephiroth said finally. "How long has it been since you've had a proper meal?"
"Meal?" Cloud said, confused.
"Eaten, Cloud, eaten until you were full?" Sephiroth asked again, the boy did look like he was slowly starving to death.
"Um, I got some bread Mr. Kraus put out for the birds about two weeks ago, I think." Cloud said softly.
Suddenly some of the guilt Sephiroth had for razing the town was gone. "You haven't eaten anything for two weeks? Nothing at all?" The boy really was starving to death. Only the mako in his system was keeping him alive.
"No," Cloud said, shying away like he was expecting to be hit.
"Come, the first thing we need to do is getting you food." Sephiroth said before standing.
Cloud stood and stumbled a bit, ankle still weak, before Sephiroth bent over and picked him up, heading around the town and down the mountain. He didn't want to risk going near the reactor, or Rocket Town for that matter.
"What's your name? Or do I just call you angel?" Cloud finally asked.
"My name is Sephiroth." He said as the town shrank in the distance. Angel was too close to Angeal and he didn't want to think about that right now.
"That's a nice angel name. Seph-i -i-roth." Cloud tried it out.
Finally, when the town was a decent way in the distance, Sephiroth stopped. He walked over to an area where hikers had obviously used as a campsite before. There were already a few log benches surrounded by a make-shift fire pit. He sat Cloud down on a log. "Stay here, I'm going to start a fire, then I'll get you some food."
Cloud just nodded and sat straight as a board on the log. He barely even blinked, Sephiroth noticed. "You can relax, just don't wander from the site." He finally said.
"Oh." Cloud said, slumping a bit as his shoulders relaxed. He gave Sephiroth a sheepish look.
Sephiroth continued his walk away from the camp, bending over and picking up firewood. He started analyzing everything he knew so far about this world.
He had been sent here to help Cloud, who appeared to need more help than ever. Somehow, the scientific experiments that gave birth to Sephiroth, Angeal and Genesis had been skewed. Genesis had proven to be the successful experiment. Angeal was never even mentioned in the paperwork Sephiroth had seen. Sephiroth himself had been determined a failure all the way around and given up for adoption. The oddest part of all was Cloud, who had been apparently born 8 years early and included in the original experiment, but later determined to be unstable and abandoned.
This was some strange world indeed. And to top it off, it seemed he was stuck raising the boy. He had never liked children, but even he didn't have the heart to abandon Cloud again. Even if it hadn't been clear that his mission for redemption was to help the boy.
He would have to find some place remote enough that his presence wasn't detected. It was obvious people couldn't see him, but he didn't want to take a chance. However, there would need to be a populace within a reasonable distance so they could retrieve supplies Sephiroth couldn't harvest from the wild.
As he walked back to camp, Cloud was looking at the sky. "Do you come from the heavens? Doctor Hojo once said my mother came from there." The small boy asked.
Sephiroth froze for a moment, before placing the logs down. "No, I didn't come from the heavens. I can't really explain where I came from. And I doubt your mother did either... What was her name?"
"Jenova." Cloud said, looking over to Sephiroth. He wanted to say he was surprised, but somehow, in this crazy world, it made sense that Cloud believed Jenova was his mother.
"She... was not your mother." Sephiroth said, not enjoying the irony. "Your mother was a woman by the name of Elle Strife."
Cloud just looked at Sephiroth startled. "But Hojo-"
"Hojo is a lying bastard. I should know." Sephiroth said as he attempted to start the fire.
"I never liked him anyway." Cloud said, looking down. "Thank you for telling me, Sephiroth. And for taking care of me."
Sephiroth stood, looking at the fire. "Don't worry about it, ok, you've had enough to worry about. I'm going to go get you some food. Just stay safe, ok?"
"Ok." Cloud said with a nod, while Sephiroth left the camp again.
Once out of camp, Sephiroth looked to the sky again. "Is this your idea of a joke?" He called. Again, no answer.
"Fine, but I don't know how much help I'm going to be. I know how to deal with SOLDIERs, not with children!" He called out in frustration. "If you leave him with me, he'll become a SOLDIER, you realize that, right?"
He just growled, before spotting his prey. The deer was dead before it even realized that Sephiroth was there. He had cut its head clean off.
"If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it my way." Sephiroth said firmly. He wasn't a parent. He didn't know how to coddle a child and really didn't want to. He could however make sure Cloud's needs were met and teach him how to fight, how to survive.
When Cloud was old enough, he would send him to Shinra. Shinra would be able to care for the boy once he was 15. 9 years, Sephiroth just had to survive 9 years.
Mind made up, he hauled the dear back to camp. The first lesson would be on how to properly prepare food.
A year passed without much incident. Sephiroth had decided to settle 15 miles from Kalm on the other side of Midgar. It was close enough for what they needed, but far enough out of the way that no one bothered them.
Sephiroth had tested his 'invisible' status and it was true that the only thing he couldn't interact with were other people. He had managed to build them a small log cabin home and had taken to training Cloud.
"Now again." Sephiroth said, pushing the boy's feet together again. An hour a day, Sephiroth would instruct him on proper sword technique, a large straight wooden pole currently stood in for a real sword.
Cloud had a look of concentration on his face, before he raised his 'sword' over his head and swung.
"Good, now do it again." Sephiroth said, evaluating the 7 year old.
Cloud did as he was told and brought the sword up again, doing his best to keep it straight.
"Relax your grip or you will wear yourself out to soon." Sephiroth critiqued "Now again."
Shifting his hands, he raised the sword again and swung.
"That's enough for today." Sephiroth finally said. "You may read or do something else recreational if you wish. In 2 hours, we will prepare dinner."
"Yes, sir." Cloud said with a bow before running off. He only called his angel sir when they were training.
Cloud dashed to his room, pulled his favorite book off the shelf and began to read. Sephiroth wasn't sure what the story was about, but it wasn't Loveless and that's all that mattered to him. Cloud loved to read and Sephiroth feared what would happen if Cloud ever got his hands on a copy.
Sephiroth didn't know much about kids, but he was pretty sure Cloud wasn't normal. He never disobeyed, everything he owned was neat and tidy and he never complained about his chores or his sword work. Over all, he behaved like an obedient SOLDIER.
Over the past year, Cloud had opened up to Sephiroth quite a bit. Sephiroth had vague memories of his childhood in a lab, but they had been nothing like Clouds. It seemed that, nearly every day until the project had been shut down, Cloud had been subjected to some kind of invasive test at Hojo's hands. The man had been desperate to prove that his subject was the better specimen. At least, that's what Sephiroth had gathered from the way Cloud talked. No wonder the boy had been determined to be unstable.
Sephiroth hated to admit it, but the biggest thing he was worried about was the one thing he himself had lacked as a child, friends.
Cloud was well on his way to becoming an introverted social outcast. Sephiroth just didn't know what to do about it. It wasn't like there were other kids to play without this far. And he couldn't spend too much time in Kalm without someone getting suspicious.
"Cloud, do you ever get lonely?" Sephiroth said, stepping into the boy's room.
"Why would I be lonely? You're always here." Cloud said with a confused look on his face.
"I mean, I'm an adult. Don't you want someone your own age to play with?" Sephiroth replied.
Cloud just scowled. "Why, so they can try and beat me up again?"
Sephiroth just relented this line of questioning. It wasn't like there was anything he could have done if Cloud had actually wanted friends.
"You're thirteen today, Cloud." Sephiroth said, as the boy stood stalk still, ready to begin his sword training for the day. They have moved it up to 3 hours when Cloud stamina had increased with age.
"Yes, sir." Cloud said, but couldn't suppress his grin. Only two more years until he could go, join SOLDIER and make his angel proud.
"I have a present for you." Sephiroth said, moving around behind the pile of firewood and handing Cloud something wrapped in cloth.
Cloud just stared before pulling the cloth off and the hilt of a massive sword was revealed. He gripped it and uncovered it completely. He stared at the sword in awe. It wasn't First Tsurugi, Sephiroth couldn't have made that sword right now if he had wanted to. But he did remember that Cloud used to use a sword similar to it, if not this very sword.
"I received Masamune at age 13. I thought it was time you had your own. It's called Ragnarok. Treat it well and it will last you a life time." Sephiroth said, a bit of pride in his voice.
"Thank you, sir." Cloud said, running his hand along the blade to familiarize himself with it.
"Since you haven't handled anything like Ragnarok before, we will start back at the basics and move up as you progress." Sephiroth said.
Cloud just nodded, taking a defensive stance.
"Swing" Sephiroth instructed and Cloud lifted the sword high, but when he brought it down, it went wide.
"Adjust for the center of balance and try again." Sephiroth said, inspecting Cloud's stance.
Cloud again did as he was instructed. Sephiroth wasn't kidding when he said that Cloud had never touched a sword like Ragnarok before.
Cloud, now Fourteen, opened the door and placed Ragnarok down as he entered.
"I've got the supplies." Cloud called as Sephiroth came out of the back of the house.
"Good." Sephiroth said as Cloud sat the bags down.
They had been running low on many things Sephiroth just couldn't make out here in the woods, including several cooking herbs. As Sephiroth took out the items and inspected them, he noticed an addition.
"Cloud, we don't have much gil, you can't buy something without asking. You know this." Sephiroth said, pulling out the news paper.
"I didn't buy it. The man at the store gave it to me." Cloud protested.
Sephiroth just looked at the cover and was startled. A picture of Genesis was plastered across the front. Only it wasn't Genesis. He was dressed in a full length black coat, with only red for trim, his hair was longer than normal too and pulled back into a pony tail. His eyes were much colder than Sephiroth remembered. Genesis had always been full of fire, this man seemed to be full of ice.
The headline read "GENERAL GENESIS LEADS FIRST SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN AGAINST WUTAI"
Sephiroth read through the article, which ended in a recruitment speech for SOLDIER. The tale was very familiar. The descriptions however were ones he remembered only being used on himself, never on his commander. What had happened to him in this world? Sephiroth pondered for a moment, before he realized. 'Genesis was the success, they raised him like they did me.' It was the first time in his life he had felt compassion for Genesis Rhapsodos. "The fates are cruel indeed, my friend." He said softly, before nearly slapping himself. Next thing he knew, he would be the one reading Loveless.
"No wonder they gave this to you. You looked to be about recruitment age. Didn't realize you already plan to join after your next birthday." Sephiroth said, though the statement didn't make him feel as happy as it once did.
In the past 8 years, he had grown attached to the boy. He looked at him almost like a son. Sephiroth felt pride when Cloud accomplished things. Part of him wished he had never planted the seed in the boy's head.
"Four months, right?" Cloud said, a rare grin on his face.
Sephiroth just nodded. In four months, Sephiroth would lose the closest thing to a family he'd ever had.