AN:2.6.13: Combined chapters 1&2 and moving into 'Better Left'.

Chapter 1: Cloud

AN: Hey everybody, sorry about the non-updates. I'm working on them! I've been gone for most of the last four weeks, but I'm back now. Anyway, I've been into FF lately and I got to thinking about messing with the timeline and characters and plots. And this popped out of nowhere. It's my first try at drabble, so...yeah. Not my usual stuff. But, I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: If I owned any of the stories, plots, characters and worlds that appear in my stories, I'd be rich and nothing would be canon. Thanks for not mistaking the original as mine and realizing I have no control over canon situations. I would also like to point out that I am mearly writing fiction and therefore, writing to please myself. If you dislike what I write, then you can choose not to read it, thank you.

Warning: human experimentation, child abduction, child abuse (it's experimentation and torture so yeah...), AU, ooc-ness, m/m pairings (which means yaoi, which means male on male), perceived incest (but they aren't actually, obsessions, possible violence, slightly graphic (both sexual and non), chan (15/21), I think that's everything...

Blood and Fire


Cloud's head was filled with green. Green, and fire. Everything burned, his blood, his skin, the air. He thrashed violently against the thick metal restraints, moving no more than a fraction of a millimeter. The pain of bruises and rashes was nothing compared to the feeling of being ripped atom by atom into nothingness. With another silent, throat ripping scream, he collapsed into the inevitable darkness that followed the green fire. Being unconscious was so much better than being awake.


Cloud Strife, son of the local pariah and inheritor of the same title, had been exploring the day his life ended. He had just finished celebrating his birthday with special pancakes for breakfast. Deciding to see if he could get any farther on his adventure than the last time he'd gone out, Cloud had made a hasty lunch and scampered off with a quick "See you later, Mum!". After hours of walking in his five-year-old stride, he sat down on the edge of the road and pulled out his lunch. He wasn't too far from where he'd stopped last time, about a quarter of a mile. He smiled to himself and let his feet sink into the greenish glowing puddle beneath him. It was fairly deep, coming up to his knees, but the tingling felt good on his hot feet, so he left them where they were and began eating.

Later he would wonder why that was the last thing he remembered, eating lunch on the side of the trail. But he supposed it really didn't matter now. Cloud struggled to obey the loud voice calling him back to the land of the living, the raspy voice that always greeted him. When he finally opened his eyes, the dark haired man was frowning down at him and shaking his head. Cloud got a moment to wonder why the man was unhappy before his throat was ripped open, more green fire spreading through his vision. It wasn't so overwhelming now, as it used to be. He could still vaguely sense his body as the fire consumed him. He didn't understand what was happening, he didn't know why. But, he thought about his mother, and wondered if she was okay.


The next time Cloud woke, he was nearly alone, staring up into bright green. There was no demanding voice, there was no fire or burning. But the green was still there, mixed with an odd hint of blue. He blinked at the green above him, mildly surprised when it blinked back slowly. And then he realized that they were eyes. He startled enough to try and sit up, and nearly gasped when he was not restrained in a horizontal position any longer. He turned to look at the green eyes and found them locked on him, studying, analyzing, curious. Cloud managed a shy smile and received a blink for his effort. Slowly a hand was extended, and Cloud took it tentatively.

"Hello," He heard himself say, surprised when the wounds he knew had been in his throat did not ache, but more thrown with the sound of his voice. It was different. "My name is Cloud,"

"It is very pleasant to meet you, Cloud," The older boy, for that's what the green eyes belonged to, replied just as softly, "My name is Sephiroth,"

"Sephiroth," Cloud tested the name as his hand was dropped slowly, "That's a nice name,"

The boy, Sephiroth, blinked, looking more than a little startled.

"Thank you," He finally said.

They fell into a soft, comfortable silence in the small, dimly lit, plainly furnished room.


Cloud learned quickly. He was not to talk back, in fact he did not speak. Not to the doctors and very rarely to his new teachers. He was to learn, quickly, effectively and most of all, silently. He was given weird treatments every few hours, days, weeks...he was never sure. Time didn't seem to pass at all. The one time he ever asked about his mother he had been locked in a terrifyingly dark room and pumped with green fire for decades. He never asked anything again.

The one person he was always allowed to speak with was Sephiroth. The older boy taught him sometimes, in mathematics, science, language, tactics. But, mainly, they were locked into their holding room. It looked like a bedroom for brothers, two beds, two desks, two bookshelves with copies of the same books, but it was little more than a facade.


Sometimes when Cloud had nightmares he would crawl into Sephiroth's bed. He never figured out how, but the boy always knew when Cloud needed to share his personal space. It had seemed a bit awkward at first, trying to gain comfort from the only living object in the room, though they barely knew each other, but it had become more comfortable over the years. Now Cloud slipped between the sheets and pressed himself into the other boy's chest, snuggling deeply into the safe haven of Sephiroth. He was only a little startled when Seph's arms wrapped around him and pulled him a bit closer, that was new.


They had been moved. After however long Cloud had been with them, they were all being moved. Cloud was loaded up heavily with drugs and chained, barred and locked into a cage that was placed with the rest of the luggage. He was still small, even after the few years it had been. He found it a bit odd when he didn't feel the jostle of bumps in the road, only belatedly realizing the whirling in the distance was the sound of helicopter blades. Months of practice wiped his face of fear before it could cross his face.


The strangers were new, and a bit different from Sephiroth and Cloud. He watched from behind Sephiroth as the others inspected them critically, blue and green eyes raking over the newcomers. The redhead was cocky, loud and arrogant, Cloud disliked him almost instantly. The brunette was calm, even-headed and trying to be friendly. Cloud wasn't sure how he felt about them, but when Sephiroth's reassuring hand squeezed his, he stepped a bit from Sephiroth's shadow and managed to introduce himself.


Genesis had not gotten better with time. The red-head was prone to violent outbursts that led to physical altercations, more than once ending with Sephiroth putting him down for pummeling Cloud. Angeal tried to fend off the arguements when he could, but he was only one boy, and couldn't do everything by himself. None the less, Cloud got along with him best out of the new additions.


Cloud had been taught weapon's training for years now, starting just before they left Nibelheim. This was the first time he'd be using them, however. He dodged out of Sephiroth's attack and quickly bounced back to his offensive.

After sparing they sat on the edge of the training room and sipped at their water. They received odd looks from some of those who passed by, sitting so close they touched sides, but it didn't bother them, so they didn't see the point of it bothering others.


Cloud was miserable for weeks when Sephiroth was removed from him. Even Genesis and Angeal had been taken. Yet Cloud was left with the doctors. Despite his vehement denial, he found himself dwelling on Genesis' last words. "He's only leaving because he prefers us,"


Cloud was shocked when the nurse that came to pick him up for him next examination paused to wish him a 'Happy Birthday'. When he asked how old he was now she smiled and said, "You're fourteen,". Cloud scowled when the woman looked away. Sephiroth, Angeal and Genesis had been taken away at sixteen. Two years was too long. They'd already been gone for so long. Cloud carefully blanked his face as he was strapped back down to the metal table. He wished Sephiroth would come back.


It had been barely a week after his 'birthday' when Hojo gave him the stack of paperwork. He filled out what they needed him too and dismissed it without another thought. They always gave him evaluations and things, he wasn't sure why they needed him to fill out his date of birth, his current residency and average height, but he filled them out anyway.

The next morning found him standing stoically in front of the SOLDIER Prep. building with a small, badly scaled map, a schedule and bunk assignment scrawled beside it. He was out of the lab for the first time in years. Cloud inhaled the smells, different from what he remembered of his hometown, but welcome. He strode inside the building and located his new lodging. After quickly organizing his few belongings into the trunk at the end of his bed he snatched his nearest course book and began reading, Hojo would be displeased if he failed any of his assignments. Perfection was demanded, and Cloud only existed to supply it.


When he saw Sephiroth for the first time in ages, he said nothing. The man was his superior officer now, and did not have any business with a SOLDIER candidate. And even though his mask remained over his face, he felt joy well up inside him, as something that had been missing was slightly given back.


His Squad despised him. Cloud didn't really understand why. If they weren't going to perform at maximum they shouldn't envy or belittle him for doing what they wouldn't.


His classes were...boringly easy. He stopped paying attention to the lectures after the first day, realizing how far behind the class actually was. He'd thought that perhaps the text was for the first weeks of the class, but was proven wrong when the syllabus was handed to him. With a sigh Cloud settled into the seat of his Battle Tactics class and began running through the Wutaian battle strategies in his head, drawing miniature schematics in his notes for further analysis, if the class was going to waste his time, he would simply find something to occupy the space.


His weapons training class was...decent. When he bested his classmates withing the first ten seconds of the match, even holding back, he was ordered to personal training and given a daily access pass to the Shinra SOLDIER VR room. If he couldn't fight humans, machines would have to do. He hoped he could get out of training soon. This was boring.


Approximately twelve months, one week and three days after joining the SOLDIER Prep course, Cloud was tested for mako tolerance and began his final exams. The green fire flared briefly across his vision but he didn't even twitch now. He raised a silent eyebrow to the lab technician who asked him to sit up.

Cloud obeyed and waited patiently while the man snagged his superior for discussion. He had had such high hopes for this operation. He'd heard it was difficult, but if that flare of fire was it, he seriously doubted that anything they threw at him would actually knock him over.

He was released after a call to the Department Head, who contacted Hojo, who relayed that Cloud was not to be tampered with and that any further exams would be handled by him specifically. Better the evil you know, at least.


Cloud was the first Cadet since the war to pass SOLDIER 3rd straight into SOLDIER 2nd. He wasn't surprised, and neither were his teachers or superiors, his peers, however, snarled at him now. He still didn't understand why. Perhaps Hojo would know? Cloud shook that thought out as quickly as it appeared. Hojo did not answer questions, especially those asked by his experiments. Or as Cloud thought of them, Hojo's toys.

Briefly Cloud wondered when he'd stopped being human.

He wasn't sure.


The first time Cloud met First Class Zack Fair, they were on a mission to Junon for monster clearing. He allowed the man to chatter aimlessly for the short ride there, but contributed nothing to the conversation. He didn't realize that this made Zack all the more eager to get Cloud talking. Sometime between the day and a half it took to clear out the problem, Zack decided Cloud was his friend. Just before they split ways Cloud said his first words.

"Thank you for your assistance, Sir. If there is nothing else, I will return to my duties."

Zack decided to take this as progress.


It took months for Cloud to stop fighting Zack's constant interference with his 'free' time. Time he used to study and practice, or finish extra paperwork, or even fill out Hojo's surveys. The first time Cloud disappeared for days (held in the labs for Hojo's newest idea) Zack panicked so badly he was restrained, physically, by General Sephiroth. When he was asked about his new worries, he explained about his new friend and his sudden disappearance. Angeal and Genesis were forced to later tell Lazard that the VR room was in need of dire maintenance and that Sephiroth was requesting several days leave.


When Cloud woke up back in his SOLDIER quarters, there was a loud pounding on his door, and his head felt a bit fuzzy. After taking a moment to settle his head, he went to greet his guest.


"CLOUD!" Cloud resisted the urge to defend and attack when a familiar head of black hair launched itself through his door and tackled him.

"Zack, what is the meaning of this?" Cloud raised an eyebrow at his overly affectionate friend.

"You went missing for days, Cloud, I was worried about you!"

Cloud calmly explained that he was held in the labs for observation and treatment, the standard lie, at the behest of his leading physician. After reassuring Zack that he would try to warn the man next time, Cloud was left alone with the last request Zack had made.

"Oh, Cloud! I mentioned you to my mentor and his friends, they want to meet you. So I'll pick you up at six tomorrow and we'll go to dinner, sound good?"

Cloud wasn't sure if socializing was going to be any good for him.


Cloud paced silently behind his door, waiting for the tell-tale sign of Zack's hurriedly excited footsteps. He was dressed in his only set of civilian clothes, formal black slacks and a blue button down. He could do nothing about his hair, but he did press his shirt and slacks. He hoped it was enough. He stepped out when his sensitive hearing picked up the clip of Zack's soles on the tile and left his apartment.

He paused with indecision when Zack merely gaped at him and whistled.

"Wow, Cloud! You clean up great!"

"Thank you," Cloud wasn't certain that it was a compliment, but took it as one and dismissed the slight uneasiness in his stomach.


The restaurant was small, not formal, and rather cheap. The dim light was refreshing, as the harsh lighting in Shinra often bothered his over-sensitive eyes. He followed Zack to a table at the back of the restaurant, hidden from most of the other patrons and relatively secluded. It was rather private and Cloud liked it almost instantly. He sat down beside Zack and waited, apparently their other companions were taking a very scenic route to avoid any crazy fans.

When Cloud caught sight of their dinning companions for the night his heart stopped. Blue locked with green and for an instant everything outside of that gaze meant nothing. When the world sped back into reality Cloud found himself seated quite comfortably next to Sephiroth for the first time in years.

"It's nice to see you again, Cloud," Angeal, Zack's mentor, greeted with a charming smile. Genesis remained a bit rude and agitated all evening, but Cloud couldn't really bring himself to care too much. Sephiroth was there. Right next to him, at last. He felt whole again.

Zack was confused by their familiarity until Genesis snapped at him and explained they had grown up together. Undisturbed by this outburst, Zack puffed up proudly at the thought of reuniting lost siblings and was cheerful the rest of the evening.


After meeting with them the once, Zack never let Cloud off if he could drag the SOLDIER 2nd with him to have fun or hang around with the generals. It took several months to officiate but eventually Sephiroth became Cloud's official mentor, giving them ample time to reconnect.


When they weren't practicing, sparring, finishing paperwork, or working on something else for Shinra, Cloud and Sephiroth would sit in the General's office and cuddle quietly. Sometimes they would talk, about the war, the labs, Zach. But, mainly they stayed in silence.

Chapter 2: Sephiroth

Blood and Fire


For as long as he'd been alive, he had never seen another child within the labs. And he had never really been close to anyone there, either. He did not, for those reasons, understand the ideas of compassion and love, as he had never had a reason too.

Sephiroth was eleven when he stopped being alone. It had been a normal day, or as normal as anything was recently. He hadn't connected the dots until the other child appeared. The doctors had been rather distracted lately, and he'd had fewer exams.

It had been too late to do anything about the boy's treatments, but he tried to help anyway.

The blue eyes he met upon the boy's awakening astonished him.


Cloud, the newest addition to Hojo's experiments, was a fairly quiet child. He lacked the self confidence that his books said normal children brimmed with, this could (theoretically) have been due to the numerous experiments done to the child, but Sephiroth wasn't sure. What he liked most about Cloud, however, was the boy's natural curiosity. He absorbed knowledge almost as quickly as Sephiroth himself did.


Cloud's frequent nightmares were terrifying to listen too. The boy wasn't a screamer, which Sephiroth was both thankful for and cursed. Cloud would whimper, almost silently, and beg quietly for whatever it was to stop.

Sephiroth never pushed Cloud away when the boy needed to lean on him. The instinct to protect was nearly natural. Cloud was his, and Sephiroth took excellent care of his thing.


The mornings when Sephiroth woke to emptiness were the most terrifying. Because he was never sure if Cloud would come back. Sometimes he wondered if his feelings were irrational, but Cloud was the only living thing Sephiroth ever worried about.


They were moving. They were moving and Cloud wasn't there. Sephiroth didn't outwardly show it, but he was frantic as he was being prodded into one of the helicopters with several of the lab techs. Cloud had been missing since the early morning and no one would tell him anything. What had happened? Was Cloud alright? Where were they taking him? And why wasn't Cloud with him?

Sephiroth stared at the metal walls of the chopper blankly, trying to figure out why Cloud wasn't there. The only things he came up with were dreadful to think about. So he didn't.


Midgar was...ugly. The smog that lingered over the plate, the rich crushing the poor beneath them. Sephiroth wondered why they needed to be here for Hojo's work. Nibelheim was nice, from what Cloud could sometimes recall. But, the doctor's funds were probably being threatened because Hojo's promises weren't being wholly fulfilled. Did that mean Cloud was going to be let go? Perhaps that was why he wasn't with Sephiroth. The teen glowered lightly. He didn't want Cloud to be taken away. Cloud was his.

The odd sense of relief that filled him when Cloud was lying half unconscious on a bed in their cell was short lived. Cloud was half unconscious! They had drugged him for the trip? Why? Had he been ill? Had something gone wrong?

The questions faded when Cloud woke, his own relief evident by the slight exhale of breath as their eyes met. They were still together and hadn't been separated. Sephiroth could still teach him and Cloud could still talk with him.


Sephiroth was filled with pride every time Cloud was praised by his instructors or successfully passed another test. Cloud would be on his level with a few more years of training. Perhaps they would be let out of the labs for something eventually. The doctors and techs were always whispering about SOLDIER and something about ShinRa the energy company. Maybe they would join this SOLDIER program...?


Sephiroth disliked the intruders. The two boys were new, strange, interfering. Cloud was scared at first, and Sephiroth made sure he came off as protective and ready to fight if necessary. But he was proven wrong when the others merely introduced themselves. Angeal was..nice. Level-headed and mature, a young man of good morals. Genesis, however, was going to be a problem. The boy was rash, quick to anger and very volatile. He could be fine one moment then completely pissed in seconds. Genesis and Cloud did not get along and Sephiroth soon found himself having to reprimand the boy for taking his anger out on the blond.

But, the real problems were what Genesis said, not what he did. None of his physical attacks hurt as badly as the vicious filth he could spew at Cloud, and Sephiroth didn't know how to fix it. Cloud had always had a minimal amount of self worth, which had actually angered Sephiroth a few times as he was the one who had been raised in a lab. But, then, sometimes Cloud would talk about his old life. Before the labs. And Sephiroth understood that Cloud had not been wanted by anyone except his mother. And this belittling had gotten so ingrained that Sephiroth really couldn't do anything but be there for the boy.

He was getting better at reading Genesis' body language. Eventually, he would be able to intercept those comments before they ran loose.


He was being sent away. They were making him leave they didn't even give him a chance to say good bye. Sephiroth scowled at the doctor that had forced him into the elevator. Cloud wouldn't understand, he wouldn't know what had happened.

They wouldn't let him take Cloud with him. Apparently Cloud was still too unstable to let out yet. Yet. There was a chance. Cloud would make it out eventually. Sephiroth took a deep breath and threw himself into his new work. If he performed well enough, if he did everything they asked, he would see Cloud again.


War. Angeal and Genesis were going to war and he was staying here. Sephiroth glowered out of his office window, if he was lucky he would set the Plate aflame. On the upside, Cloud was still here. He wasn't allowed to talk with Cloud, but sometimes he would see the boy while in the labs for his monthly dosage. He missed talking with Cloud, the intelligent conversation, the open posture, the easy acceptance. The people Sephiroth talked to these days didn't understand him. They couldn't read his minimal facial expressions, they didn't take his posture cues, mostly they didn't understand how to interact with him. He may be a First, but he was damn terrifying, apparently.


He was being sent away, again. Further, this time. All the way to Wutai, in fact. Three months. He could end this damn war in three months, and then be back here for when Cloud got out. He didn't want to miss the boy.


Every morning at dawn, precisely before the sun crested the mountains, Sephiroth woke for him morning routine. But, he added something. Just one thing that was more important than any piece of his routine. He had built a small shrine in Wutai custom, just a remembrance shrine. A simple thing with the only picture Sephiroth ever bothered to carry. The blue eyes that smiled up at him from the carved wooden frame filled him with purpose. They were the reason he continued.


Sephiroth stood above the battle field calmly, calculating the tactics and strategizing. This would be his final battle. This would finish the war. He was nearly two years over his estimation, thanks to witless Generals who did nothing but cower. He could already picture the carnage after the battle. Both sides would take heavy losses, but Sephiroth new exactly what he was doing. Aiming for the heart.

It lasted a grand total of sixteen hours. Estimated casualties were higher than any five previous skirmishes before combined. But, this was planned. Sephiroth made his final push to victory. And it was glorious.


Despite popular belief, Sephiroth loved all things Wutain. The food was delicious, the customs elegant and refined, and most importantly the people were a lot like himself. Proud, strong, calm, intelligent. He would miss the land and it's ferocious people. But, they weren't Cloud.


He was finally back in Midgar. Back to training, missions and paperwork. He'd been promoted on the field to General, along with Angeal and Genesis. There was a lot more time spent in the office, less time wandering in search of Cloud.

Angeal and Genesis both took on apprentices. And even through their infernal coaxing he silently rebuffed their plans to get him one as well.


Cloud was out! After all his waiting Cloud was finally here! In SOLDIER. Sephiroth kept his eyes roaming over the crowd of candidates. If any one noticed his peripheral always held Cloud in it, no one commented.


It took every ounce of will he had not to kidnap Cloud from the cadet program. Now that he was so close it was hard to ignore his presence. Sephiroth paced in his office for hours between paperwork and the occasional mission. Over the course of the next year his thoughts centered on one person. Cloud. Only Cloud. And how he was going to get back to their innate closeness.


When Sephiroth learned that Zack, Angeal's hyper little puppy, was apparently friends with Cloud. Honestly, he saw red for all of three seconds before he registered that his Cloud was apparently missing. Angeal and Genesis had followed him to the VR room because he looked about ready to commit murder, and he sort of did. The machines were obliterated to shrapnel and scrap.

He'd grudgingly agreed to stay home and calm down for a few days. Much to Lazard's obvious thanks.


It took some careful acting to get Zack to ask Cloud to dinner with them. And much more self control than he'd like. It was hard, knowing that Zach was a part of Cloud's life while he was not.

The dinner was alright, the food was decent. But Cloud. Cloud was like sitting in heaven once more. And the best part was that Cloud remembered him.


His days were nearly filled with Cloud again. Training, paperwork, even a few missions. His increase in productivity made a few of the higher ups quite happy.


Sephiroth hovered over the pale shoulder, grazing lips and teeth across the skin, pulling a moan from the body beneath him. He glanced up to catch his eyes. Startling sky blue gazed back.

He'd been having dreams lately. Rather...racy dreams. About Cloud. They were intense. Pleasurable. Indulgent. He just didn't know what to do about it.


Cloud was over for dinner tonight. Helping him prepare something that Angeal had showed him how to cook several times. Sephiroth was hyper aware of Cloud's presence. A bright star in the dark.

"What is it?" Sephiroth blinked at Cloud's question, finding himself staring at the blonde.

"I..." He stepped away from the counter he'd been leaning on and closed the space between them. He didn't know what to say. His heart was pounding in his ears and Cloud's face was flushed prettily. He bent forward and snatched Cloud's lips in a chaste kiss, one hand cupping the boy's cheek. Lean arms rose to pull him closer, and Sephiroth positioned an arm to wrap around Cloud's waist. He deepened the kiss slowly, setting the blonde on the counter for easier access.

"I think I love you, Cloud," Sephiroth whispered huskily, resting his head on the boy's shoulder.

His answer were to hands clutching tightly at his shoulder blades. Fingers fisted in the leather.


Cloud spent the night, clinging to Sephiroth as the slept. Not going further than kisses and gentle touches, though Sephiroth wanted more. Something told him it wasn't time yet. He was waiting for something, something big.


"Actually, I think I saw that coming," Zack rubbed a finger across his chin as he stood in the doorway with a stunned Angeal and Genesis. "I mean, Sephiroth doesn't really get people, but Cloud and Seph are just...perfect together, I don;t think I'm making any sense,"

"You aren't," Angeal spoke up, running a hand down his face, "But, honestly, your right. Even when we were younger, Sephiroth and Cloud were inseperable."

Sephiroth glanced up from his paper work and scowled.

"You have mission reports I need finished," Cloud just smiled as the two generals and Zack ducked out of the door quickly.


Cloud settled back on the bed and stared up at Sephiroth challengingly. Sephiroth mentally hesitated, wanting to know if Cloud was absolutely certain.

"Sephiroth, please, I want this," Cloud reached up for him as if reading his thoughts. "I want you,"

Sephiroth gave a sharp nod and leaned forward once more, barely hesitating before he began to prepare Cloud.