So yah really nothing to say about why this took so long to update other then the fact that my muses for certain stories took a holiday. I think some of them are back from summer (and spring?) vacation so hopefully you'll see some more updates in the near future.
Anyway I hope this chapter was worth the wait.
For those of you that saw this update before- I've fixed what I screwed up plotwise. I really need to keep better notes.
Chapter now beta'd!
Sephiroth sat in the room he had claimed, deep in thought. Even in his search for answers he hadn't been unaware of what was going on. From what he could pull from Shinra's database, his mother had died in childbirth just like the report at the lab had stated. Vincent, who had avoided his fate at the mansion and knew that Sephiroth was his son, had decided to give the boy up for adoption. The reason had been listed as "Career difficulties." Raising a child as a Turk would have been near impossible on his own. Sephiroth knew this, but it seemed so anticlimactic after everything else.
He wondered if Valentine even knew that his son was in SOLDIER or if he cared to keep tabs on him. Sephiroth knew it shouldn't matter to him, but after raising Cloud he felt he understood the bond between a father and child at least on some level. He wanted his alternate self's father to care for him, even if he seemed to have been raised by two loving parents.
Though thinking on his younger self, that twisted his stomach. He had witnessed the kiss between Cloud and his other. It was awkward to watch, but it was understandable. He himself had been interested in men. In fact, when he looked back, he realized that he and Genesis had been on the cusp of an actual relationship when the man had lost himself to degradation. Try as he might though, all these years later he couldn't be upset over his actions at Nibelheim. His friend's mind had been broken and he had been reaching out. He knew now that his own actions there would have been different if Jenova had not manipulated his mind. Trying for so long to find a way to help Genesis, only to throw him away. He shook his head and cleared his thoughts, old regrets were not something to dwell on right now.
What truly bothered him was that Cloud had no clue what was even going on. He was more lost than even Sephiroth was when the idea of a relationship had presented itself. He was also much younger. There wasn't anything to do but sit back. His younger self would be a much better instructor in that area and seemed to have no intention of taking advantage of Cloud. He had to admit even that, with everything, watching his younger self kiss someone he thought of as his son did seem slightly disturbing.
Cloud, Sephiroth and Angeal stood ready to board the transport plane that would take all of the men and Genesis to Wutai. They had spent the day before training together. Cloud had gone over everything he could, anything to give the two a leg up in Wutai. When the day had ended, Cloud had wanted to talk to Sephiroth before he left, but his mentor told him that he was as ready as he would ever be. Told him that he was proud and that he needed to be out, spending time with his friends.
The blonde had looked at him a moment, hugged his mentor and slipped back out. He was sucked into watching some show with Angeal and Seph. He never did pick up on the plot, but it felt nice when Seph had wrapped his arms around him.
What that meant he hadn't even begun to contemplate.
Cloud was however pulled from his thoughts as Genesis walked out, looking regal as ever as he strode in front of his troops, doing a minor inspection. The General's eyes swept over everyone, face an expressionless mask. Though again, when he reached Angeal and Sephiroth, his eye seemed to glass over before falling on Cloud. "Everyone on the plane. Strife, you're with me. We have a few things to go over on the way to Wutai." His voice was firm as always and Sephiroth and Angeal looked at Cloud before moving to board the plane.
The blond looked back to his friends before turning to board the plane. Angeal looked shocked and confused, Seph a bit hesitant. Cloud remembered that he hadn't told Angeal about his assignment and, judging from the look on the other man's face, Seph hadn't mentioned it either. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do about it now. He couldn't keep Genesis waiting, so he grabbed his things and smoothly made his way to the front of the plane where the General had entered.
The rest of the troops fell in line to board at the back as he stepped up into the front of the plane. Once inside the officer's quarters, Genesis turned to Cloud. "Put your things anywhere." The tone was slightly casual and it caught the blond SOLDIER off guard.
He obeyed however and tossed his bag down next to a few he saw sitting on the floor of the plane already. Ragnarok was laid to rest next to his bag. Cloud wasn't sure what Genesis expected out of him. He supposed though that he was about to find out as he stood.
"Take a seat." Genesis instructed. "Even SOLDIERs have trouble standing during takeoff." The blond did as he was told and sat as the General took the seat next to him. Cloud was quiet as he still felt that he didn't know enough details of the deployment to offer anything useful. He was about to ask for them when Genesis spoke.
"I'll admit, Cloud," The General using his given name threw him yet again. "You've had me stumped since I first saw you." Genesis's eyes were calculating as ever when he talked. Cloud could hear the rear of the plane close. They would be taking off shortly. "I was always told that no one could possibly be as strong as I was. It wasn't possible. I was elite, special." Cloud wasn't sure where Genesis was going with this, but suddenly the air in the plane felt much more dangerous and he wished that he hadn't left Ragnarok with his other things. Rapier was still at Genesis's side.
"Then you came along." Genesis continued. "You tore through your entrance exam like it was child's play. Everything else you've done including your spar with me as seemed to come as easy to you as breathing. I wondered how you could exist when I was told that I was alone."
Cloud still stayed quiet. He had expected to hear about the war effort, not the General's personal feelings on him. The plane started to taxi down the run-way and the blond started to feel nervous. Genesis was a challenge for him to handle and, if he decided to do something, Cloud would be at a clear disadvantage.
Sensing the confusion in the other man, Genesis almost smiled. Cloud had had him at his wits' end for days. It was nice to see the blonde caught so off guard. "You have been a mystery." Genesis admitted as the plane started to take to the air. "But I think I've finally figured something out." The General's tone of voice changed slightly as he spoke those last words.
With grace only Genesis could posses he leaned over the side of his chair and pulled Cloud into a deep kiss as the plane flew into the air. It was certainly different than kissing Seph had been. Whereas Seph had been eager and fiery, inviting, this felt like Genesis was trying to suck him in and devour him whole. Take everything and leave nothing behind.
It was a good feeling, even for one who understood so little about feelings and romance. He also took it as a sign that Genesis liked him, like Seph had described. So he returned the kiss, trying to reassure the General that he liked him too. The air was thinner the higher they flew and even with his enhancements the combination of the kiss and the lack of air left the blond feeling slightly light headed. Cloud felt a leather gloved hand snake into his hair as he returned the kiss. Awkwardly he slipped his own arm around Genesis's back, as much for support as for the true desire to touch the other man.
When the lips were pulled away, Cloud felt a bit of loss he couldn't explain and, as his eyes met the General's again, there was something burning behind them that hadn't been there before. "You're mine, you understand that, right?" Genesis's voice was firm as he spoke, his own experience with the idea of a relationship only slightly better than Cloud's. But he was a man that knew what he wanted and had no reason not to just take it.
"Yours?" Cloud somehow found the will to speak. A battle of swords he had mastered, a battle of wills was another story. Here Genesis had the clear advantage, especially when Cloud was so confused.
"Mine." The General's voice was just as firm.
"But Seph and Angeal-" Cloud started to protest, still not sure exactly what Genesis was asking.
"Are beneath us. They might be something for the average man to look upon in awe, but they are nothing but a couple of useless recruits I was forced to take along so I could have you." Genesis's voice was as close to anger as it could be.
Cloud didn't know much and his goal had been to get closer to Genesis, but he still wanted to protest and argue. Instead he took a deep breath. Seph and Angeal had each other, Genesis had no one... still, he couldn't just give them up without a fight. Especially when he was so uncertain of what it was exactly that Seph wanted out of him.
"They are my friends. Some of the first I ever had." Cloud muttered, looking away.
Genesis's eyes narrowed as he studied Cloud. "I've never had a friend. They're useless."
"They've taught me a lot." Cloud admitted. "Besides, don't you want to be my friend? I thought that's what this was about."
"I want to be more than your friend Cloud." Genesis nearly purred. Though the confidence he was showing was only masking his own doubts about his actions."I thought that was obvious." A slight change in tone with the last words were the only thing to give away that he wasn't as certain about his actions as it seemed.
"Oh." The blond swallowed as he was suddenly reminded of the books he had read. Was that was Genesis wanted? Could he give that? Just as the night with Seph, Cloud didn't know. At least here however Genesis was making his intentions more clear. "I" He tried to speak again, only he didn't know what to say.
Genesis had to resist smiling yet again. It seemed the blonde wasn't infallible after all and it just seemed to make him more endearing to the ginger. However his military mind was already working. Giving up ground wasn't something the General of Shinra's army was used to doing, but it didn't mean that he didn't know how, especially when he actually wanted something. Cloud hadn't out right refused him. If he was to have the blond, Cloud wouldn't be separated from the pair of idiots sitting in his cargo hold it seemed.
Calculating eyes studied Cloud a bit more as Genesis tried to figure out just how much ground he would have to give. The blond shifted, it was obvious that the General was treating him like property to be claimed, the problem was that Cloud didn't know why that could be such a bad thing.
Before Genesis could speak however, Cloud broke the silence, looking out the window. It was clear that he was trying to understand what Seph and Angeal meant to him as much as he was trying to get the General to understand. "Before I came to Shinra, the only person I ever really knew was my Mentor." Cloud started. "I thought that was all I needed, what point was there in knowing other people?" The blond looked back to Genesis, hoping he might understand. "I thought the way you do, that they were useless."
The General decided to stay his tongue and leaned back in his seat to listen. Crossing his arms, he just kept his eyes looked on Cloud.
The blond sighed, he wasn't good at this, but he had to try. "You're right, you know, they are clueless. I couldn't believe how bad they were at combat. How undisciplined they were." Another deep breath, he couldn't ramble. He needed to be clear. "But they accepted me, showed me what there was other than a sword in my hand, and I'm still learning. That's why I need them. I haven't known them long, but they've shown me things I've only read about in books." When Cloud finished, he looked away, back out the window.
Genesis was about to tear into Cloud for being foolish, warriors like them didn't need things like that. But then he realized at the same time that he was reaching out to Cloud because of his beloved book. The retort died in his throat.
Swift as his mind was however, he didn't remain silent for long. "You can have your friends then." Genesis stated, almost as if he was giving an order. Something else seemed to be on the tip of his tongue and the blond sat confused for a moment trying to read the other man when it dawned on him exactly how much Genesis was like himself.
"I'm sure they would teach you too. Then maybe you'd understand better." Cloud offered hesitantly.
Another unreadable look crossed Genesis's face and Cloud thought he'd lost the other man until the ginger looked away. "I suppose they need some way to prove themselves useful. But Cloud, I will state this again. You are mine. "
"What do you want from me?" Cloud asked, hoping for a clarification. All this 'affection' he'd been receiving lately was a bit hard to handle. So much of this he still didn't truly understand. The blond thought that he'd guessed at the General's meaning, but he needed to be sure.
"I want you." Genesis affirmed. "I waited too long for someone like you to come along. You're a match for me in every way I could want, I wouldn't have to worry about my enemies getting to you and I am certain that there's no one else better suited for me."
Slowly Cloud nodded, it made sense, and for two people who had no idea what love truly was, logic would rule. Besides, Cloud felt something in him flutter as Genesis leaned in to claim another kiss. He still wasn't sure what Seph had been getting at either, but Seph had Angeal, Genesis had no one. No one until now.
The younger Sephiroth sat next to Angeal on the transport plane with his arms crossed and eyes closed. It wasn't the first time he'd flown, his family took a vacation every year to Costa del Sol after all, but it still didn't mean he enjoyed it.
Angeal just laughed at his friend. "Come on, I figured after our enhancements you'd get over this."
"Hn." Sephiroth muttered, he certainly preferred to be on the ground. "I'm not sick, I just still don't like being in the air. I'd rather drive a motorcycle to Wutai."
"Well, I don't even think SOLDIER can survive that long without air, even if your beloved bike could." Angeal snickered before leaning back a bit.
"Meh, I could find a way." Sephiroth remarked, before shaking his head. "Still, I want to know what General Genesis wanted with Cloud.'
"I don't know." Angeal shrugged at his friend.
"I mean, I know he's the General's second, but I want to know why." Sephiroth finally sounded out.
A look crossed Angeal's face. "Didn't care to tell me?" It was true that he'd been frustrated with his friend's behavior since they'd come to Shinra. He couldn't blame Cloud, but Sephiroth had been treating him a bit second rate.
"He just told me the other night and I've been thinking about it. I just I don't know." Sephiroth sighed, at least trying to sound slightly apologetic.
"Hmm." Angeal's lips thinned a bit but, then a smile broke out on his face. "I suppose I can't stay mad at you. But I really don't know what's up."
Sephiroth was about to speak once more when he heard a bit of a laugh to his other side. "You two really are clueless, aren't you?"
The silver haired man scowled, despite his typical easy going nature, he still didn't like to be made fun of. He was about to retort when Angeal put his hand on Sephiroth's shoulder and spoke himself. "We haven't been told much, no." He admitted smoothly.
"Hey, no offence intended." The man replied, holding up his hands. "You're rather new, it always takes awhile for this group to warm up to new comers, bit of a family here." He informed the pair as he put his hands down. Everyone else still seemed to be ignoring them.
"Doesn't help that some of the guys are a bit sore that you're even here. I mean it takes years of hard work just to get a chance at this position usually. And truthfully, you're a bit rough around the edges." The SOLDIER admitted.
"I can see how that might irritate someone." Angeal nodded in agreement as Sephiroth seemed to calm down a bit.
"We were rather surprised ourselves." The silver haired SOLDIER finally admitted. "I mean, Cloud I understand, us? It was like a weird dream."
The man who had taken the time to speak with them nodded his head. "It is rather unusual. Can you tell me more about Strife though? I mean, we're all rather curious about him. You two seem to be the only ones he even speaks to."
Once the question was asked, people finally turned to look at those involved in the conversation. It was an odd feeling to say the least.
"There's not much for us to tell." Angeal finally admitted. "I mean, we met him during our entrance exam. He was a bit distant at first, but he's opened up rather well. Cloud's skills are amazing though. I've never seen anything like it."
Sephiroth nodded in agreement. "He hasn't told us much, really." The man admitted, suddenly feeling his stomach twist that he knew so little about the blond he was currently falling for. Not that he would have given away much to people who didn't even know Cloud.
With the admission however it seemed that the rest of the men lost interest in the conversation. Before the SOLDIER that had spoke to him turned away, Sephiroth asked his own question. "What is he doing with Cloud up there anyway?"
"Oh that," The SOLDIER laughed a bit. "I imagine that he's briefing him on what he needs to know. He usually doesn't bother with it though. It's not like he really needs the help. Anyway, just relax and you'll do fine." With that the man slapped Sephiroth on the back and turned away again.
The younger man didn't know what to think as he sat back and reclaimed his position with his arms crossed and eyes closed. Again a feeling of jealousy flowed through him, he just couldn't pinpoint who he was jealous of.
The flight would take 9 hours and after their initial interaction things had reached an equilibrium between Genesis and Cloud. The General almost seemed in awe at the idea of touching someone else. Cloud, who wasn't exactly familiar with physical contact himself, found it slightly awkward, but at the same time there was something about touching Genesis like this that he couldn't bother to get the man to stop. It threw him off, how different the interaction was with Genesis versus Seph.
Seph had seemed cautious, gentle and calm. It was like sitting on a still lake in the middle of a warm summer day. Genesis however felt like he was in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane, fighting just to keep his head above water. The blond had to admit that the part of his nature that drove him to fight, to find a challenge enjoyed this just a bit more. There was also the fact that Genesis wasn't another version of his mentor.
Eventually Genesis had explained the mission to Cloud. It seemed that there were some insurgents that had taken up residence in a village just south of the line Shinra had been pushing. It was their job to clear them out and push the line further north. Simple enough a task it seemed. It had been assigned just as much to sway public opinion on the war tha,n anything. The General and his unit were hardly needed to complete the task.
The blond could sense that Genesis was bored with the war. Perhaps that was why he had decided to pursue some kind of storybook romance with him. Cloud didn't know, but he was now more than ever determined not to fail at his goal. The General would no longer be alone. He found it ironic however that he hadn't even known what he was trying to offer Genesis until he'd met Seph and Angeal.
The briefing had been short and, when it was finished, Cloud watched curiously as Genesis walked over to a brown leather bag he'd brought on board. "Do you play chess?" The general asked, something sparkling in his eye.
Cloud nodded, "My mentor said it was a good way to begin learning strategy."
Blue eyes looked on in amazement as the closest thing he'd heard to a laugh fell from the General's lips. "Hollander said the same thing." He stated as he unrolled a leather mat. "It was a gift, one of the few I have received." Genesis explained. "Normally I play against myself to pass the time on the flights, when Loveless isn't enough. But I thought you might be interested."
The blond watched the redhead, trying to gauge what laid behind the glowing mako eyes and found that he couldn't. He knew that the General was plotting something, but for the life of him he couldn't fathom what.
Rather than getting frustrating he found the prospect rather exhilarating. "I would be happy to play." Cloud finally replied and moved to sit at a small table set up in the cabin. Genesis smirked a bit and place a pile of white tokens etched with an image of the piece they represented in front of Cloud. In front of himself was a similar pile of black tokens.
Silently they placed their pieces on the mat as the blond wondered exactly what they were playing for. Two sets of eyes were locked on the mat, calculating as each piece moved and, when one fell, the other wondered if it had been a predicted move. As the match drew on, a smile found itself across Cloud's face. It was like playing against his Sephiroth and the blond realized that, while Seph might physically resemble his mentor, Genesis was like him in so many other ways.
For his part the General's lips never moved, but he didn't regret asking Cloud to play. It was certainly more challenging than the coming battle would be, more challenging than anything he'd done in a while outside his spar with the man sitting across from him.
However when Cloud moved his Knight and declared checkmate, Genesis's eyes quickly scanned the mat and one of the most honest expressions he'd ever had settled on his features, if just for a moment. The General was truly surprised that he had lost. "I've never." He stated, before looking back up at Cloud and schooling his features. To anyone else the reaction might have been horrifying, but the blond just looked back at Genesis.
"Learning to deal with failure is something everyone should have to experience." Cloud replied smoothly.
"I suppose your mentor taught you that." Genesis replied quickly, mind still going over the last match, trying to determine where he'd gone wrong.
The new SOLDIER just shook his head. "Yes, he did."
The General sat quiet for a moment longer, seeming to come to a conclusion that placated him before picking up the pieces. For him failure had never been an option. He never had truly learned to deal with it. Coupled with the fact that despite his earlier forwardness the idea of letting someone close to him still caused a bit of uneasiness, the ginger was far more quiet than even normal for him, contemplating everything. He had suspected that Cloud to have an impact on him. At the moment though he couldn't comprehend just how big that impact was going to be.
Part of him wanted to run, but that would be just another failure and it seemed that he'd already done that twice. The game of chess and judging Cloud. At the same time though the idea of unraveling the blond stirred something in him that he'd never known before.
Cloud let the man be and went back to his original seat. With Genesis lost in his own thoughts, it gave Cloud the chance he had needed to think about his friends. He knew that Seph had been jumpy about the General. There was a lot the blond needed to tell his friend that he knew, but he also wanted Seph's advice. Whatever this relationship was that Genesis wanted from him, he wasn't sure about where he wanted it to go. He knew that he liked what had happened so far, but that was all. Certainly the young silver haired man could help him get things straightened out.