Unbeta'd chapter here, mostly because with Thanksgiving and My (DHT) daughter's birthday I nearly even for got we needed to post. The beta has the chapter, but not in time to have it full edited to post. That in mind, the response we got last time when asked was basically "go ahead and post" so here we go. Chapter 15, it will be replace when we get the corrected chapter from fenhuang.
For those of you curious however this story isn't even halfway done. Without spoiling to much I will say that while it may look like it's winding down, it wont stay that way forever. There's still a bit of a ride for these two yet to go.
This is a little early again thanks to Thanksgiving. Getting ready to head out to see the family! I hope for all our readers here you have a good holiday! Whether you celebrate it or not :). (Happy Hanukkah too! )
We do want to say thank you to everyone sticking with us. And hope you continue to do so until the end. Every review really does help with the motivation. -DHT & darksargonas.
Genesis made his way around the side of the house in time to hear Cid let out another curse. As he stepped in the doorway, he found the man furiously turning on and off a light switch. "Damnit, I didn't realize they never converted to Mako power."
"Thats not exactly a bad thing." Genesis commented, before realizing how odd that would sound coming from him. "My family's orchard didn't convert until around the time I left for SOLDIER. There's probably a generator in the basement and hopefully some coal left behind."
He didn't know exactly how to operate one and they were louder, and dirtier than Mako power, which is how ShinRa had won the populace over so quickly. In Genesis and Sephiroth's case however, having one less thing binding them to the company was a good thing.
"You boy's got a flashlight? Cid asked, almost embarrassed to be caught unprepared.
Genesis for a moment thought about simply springing a ball of fire to life in his hands before quickly dismissing the idea. It would be as reckless as attacking Vincent's door back at the manor had been, especially if the dust from the coal was in the air. Rethinking his approach, he unsheathed Rapier and ran his hand along the blade allowing the Rune's to glow.
"Thats a damn fancy flashlight." Cid snorted, but the light would be enough to guide their way to the basement. He turned and led the pair to a door, again forcing it open to reveal cobwebs, and a dirty, dusty scent, but no musty, moldy smell which was remarkable. It meant the roof had likely done its job of keeping water out of the house, and make it far more easier to repair.
Genesis went first, having the light source, as Cid followed behind him, and Sephiroth brought up the rear. The stairs creaked under the weight of three grown men, but it was clear that while it was old, the house had been well built. Thick oak beams were exposed in the ceiling of the old basement, one foot by one foot wide, and Genesis had to wonder if they wouldn't survive a behemoth running into them. Certainly nothing in the last several years had been built this well.
"I remember it was over around here somewhere." Cid muttered, gesturing to the far right. He recalled vaguely his grandfather once showing him how to handle the thing.
Genesis made his way across the basement. There was a thick layer of dust on the ground, disturbed only by their footprints now, and a door that would likely lead to a cellar if the Rhapsodos Manor was anything to go by set off to the left. There were shelves, and boxes all stacked up, it was clear that when the house had been abandoned most of the items had stayed right where they were.
Walking over to an old coal fire stove, Genesis was happy to see there was at least a small supply near it. With the condition of the house he guessed one of the outbuildings held more. The sulfur content in the black material could be explosive, and leaving too much of it in one's residence wasn't smart.
"We should be able to get this going, and get the lights working so we can explore the rest of the house." Cid confirmed as he tossed several of the chunks of coal in. Genesis in turn casted a low level fire spell, easily lighting the flame needed to garner their energy.
When it was done Cid brushed the dust off his hands before looking at the pair. "Well then, now that we've got power coming, you to mind telling me exactly why you're so interested in my grandparent's place? I've pretty much figured out you're not here on Shinra's behalf."
Genesis glanced at Sephiroth if only for a moment, before looking to the pilot. His features however were calm as a smile graced his face. "You'd be correct." he nodded, putting Rapier away as the lights in the basement flickered on. "It wounds my pride to say, but I've had about enough of the war in Wutai. I cracked under the pressure, and needed to get away. Currently we're looking for a place to settle down."
"You'n the General left the ShinRa Military?!" Cid asked after a moment, it was indeed a shock and a lot to take in. By the looks of the pilot, it was clear he would have never expected to hear such a thing.
The ginger nodded, as Sephiroth stood by silently, keeping his word of letting Genesis handle the situation. "That we did, and we are sorry if it offends you." Genesis apologized.
"Wow, but yer plannin' on headin' back right?" Cid asked, "What about the war?"
"The war will be fine without us." Genesis insisted, and his mind once again drifted back to his friend he'd left behind. For the first time he realized that the war would fall to Angeal, and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. His friend had what was needed to lead SOLDIER in the right direction.
Even while Genesis spoke, offering up a smooth explanation that was no doubt making his lover suffer, Sephiroth noticed Cid's gaze drifting towards himself. Having to take the blame for what would be seen as nothing but an 'atrocity' in ShinRa's eyes was not easy for Genesis. It would undoubtedly eat away at the ginger as time passed by, and Sephiroth knew he could not stand by so easily and simply allow this to happen. That was what ultimately moved the former General to speak, despite his promise to let Genesis handle the explanation.
"It is quite clear things are far more complicated than they appear." Sephiroth replied softly, catching a glance from Genesis out of the corner of his eye.
Of course the other man would be worried that Sephiroth would use this opportunity to render any attempt to give a good explanation to Cid useless by 'coming to the rescue' with all of the information. If Sephiroth were a colder individual, he might have used it as a ploy to earn someone's trust that was needed for the occasion, however, he was no longer under the employment of ShinRa, as far as he was concerned, and Genesis would never be subjected to that kind of underhanded callous strategy.
"Yer damn right it ought t'be." Cid countered.
Sephiroth merely offered a nod, "I have no misgivings about the apparent irresponsibility our actions have given. The decision to leave was as much my own as Genesis's."
He saw Cid's hands go up in defense, as if the man were preparing for a comment that would have tried to paint himself innocent.
"I understand your investment, Mr. Highwind, and I assure you, if there were truly a risk of ShinRa backing out on you because you have chosen to associate with us, then I would not have allowed us to pause here, and potentially settle down. Should they even think of putting pressure on you, over our involvement, they will find me at their front door much more quickly than they could have ever accounted for, and I suspect, when everything is said and done, this is a move they would not wish to see taken." Sephiroth continued.
"Fuck me, remin' me not t'make an enemy of you any time soon." Cid muttered, shaking his head. "Alright, I get't. Y'got secrets that you aren't willing to part with on a complete stranger. And I'd be a fool if I said ShinRa's execs allowed the media and their own PR group to make things involving you two that transparent. We all know that ain't par fer the course with the folks back home. While I wish I could understand the whole of it, I'll respect what you've shared so far, 'an I appreciate the vote of confidence and promise to watch my back." Cid was grinning again by the time he was done talking.
There was hardly a situation outside of losing his chance at going to space that would put a damper on the blond's mood. Given Sephiroth's insistence, it appeared even associating with these two would have little impact on the matter, so why should Cid be bothered?
Sephiroth merely nodded and offered Genesis a neutral look. If it wasn't for the fact that he made the gesture at all, despite his masked expression, it might not have been obvious he was making sure Genesis was okay with the way he handled it.
Genesis, however, was rather surprised with Sephiroth's response, he had been completely ready to take full responsibility, after all the ginger had been the cause of their defection in the first place. Genesis had been playing politics his whole life, and he was very aware of what he was doing. There were a lot of ways he could take his lover's words, but in the end he realized that Sephiroth wasn't doubting his ability to handle the situation, and was instead trying to protect him.
"Seph, it's alright." He muttered placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "He's right things are complicated, more then we can say, mostly because we don't understand all of it, but what I said was true, I have no desire to return to Shinra, not now or ever."
"With Sephiroth's reassurance I doubt you need mine, but we will make sure you are not held responsible for whatever wrath we may or may not incur." The former commander offered as he turned back to Cid. "That being said if you are no longer interested in doing business with us we will understand."
Cid crossed his arms, obviously thinking before he shook his head, "I've dealt with a lot've pricks myself in the company, and I can't really fault ya for bein' sick of 'em. Trust me boys I can handle myself." The pilot wasn't about to leave the two men out to dry, he'd found out fairly quickly that he actually liked them, and their mysterious friend upstairs.
"Can't say I'm not surprised yer interested in this place, but if you still want t'see the rest of it I don't min' showin' it to you." It was the best way he could get across that he really cared. He knew it had to be something serious when he'd asked, and while he didn't get any actual answers- something that had not passed him by- he could respect the ones he'd gotten and the way they'd been upfront with him about the risk of involvement.
That however was when it hit him. "Damn you boys were responsible for the blockade in Junon weren't you?"
Genesis looked at Sephiroth, feeling almost guilty, and realizing this above everything might jeopardize their relationship with the pilot. "We can't say for sure, we didn't even know about it until you told us, but it's very possible. I'm not sure they even know where we are right now."
Cid just ran a hand through his hair, and laughed. "Well damn, at least I've got the reason." He wasn't sure how else he was supposed to react to the news. He couldn't fault these two...but damn it stung. They picked a fine time to decide to leave, and part of him still worried over the state of the War. Especially with the departure of Sephiroth.
Fuck, he hoped ShinRa handled that bit of truth very carefully. If word got out…Nope. Not gonna place blame. Besides, if worse came to worse, surely these two would act for the benefit of the people, right? There didn't appear to be anything nefarious involved here. In fact, as Cid studied both men, he was getting the inkling that they were just tired of being used. Who could fault anyone for that kind of attitude?
Sephiroth appeared to remain neutral and at ease throughout the entire exchange. He had promised to allow Genesis to handle the situation, and so far, he was doing an admirable job. Cid was clearly developing his own ideas, even with what little information he had been given, but by the looks of him, though worried, he didn't appear to be offended. Sephiroth's own instincts were satisfied with that knowledge and the urge to speak up and clarify had been minimal. Enough for him to ignore, as Cid appeared intelligent enough to have figured out what Genesis was trying to get across.
It was a good thing.
The former General hated to have a misunderstanding arise so early, and though he was not at all bothered by the idea that they might have to pick up and move on in search of another place to settle, part of him was hoping they could make this expedient as possible. The more time they had to decide if this would end up as their new home, the more room they had for adjusting, and with the unpredictable weather patterns of summer in this area coming soon...
Sephiroth had already gone over the ranch house with a critical eye, as far as his knowledge about such things were concerned, he could tell this place would require a lot of work before it was livable again. A challenge that he was up to task for, assuming Cid decided to allow them to purchase the property from him.
"I think a tour of the rest of the area would suffice, yes. Assuming you are still willing to humor us." Sephiroth replied and shifted on his feet, more than ready to get moving again.
Cid ran a hand through his hair, and nodded. "Alright, well unless y'all want to see anything more down here, let's head back up'n I'll show you the rest of the house. Then if yer interested I can show you the rest of the grounds."
Genesis took a quick look around, sheathing Rapier once more, everything looked in order and not on the verge of toppling over. The ginger took a few steps across the opening the door he had spotted earlier, it went down a few more steps leading to a cellar just as Genesis had earlier assumed. Curiosity abated he looked back to Cid, "Alright, let's check the rest of this out shall we?"
The pilot made his way up the steps, "This place has three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms an' a toilet downstairs." As he described the house, he thought a bit more about the General's predicament, the fact that the pair was more worried about his involvement spoke volumes about their character. Especially since it was their asses, not his, that would be in the hot seat if anything went down. The apology about their possible involvement was appreciated but he realized there wasn't a damn thing the General could do about it. Though it if the ports had been closed because of these two, then he at least held some hope that they would reopen soon. ShinRa couldn't afford to keep them closed to long without a clear reason why, and they sure as hell weren't going to tell the world the truth.
Genesis followed the pilot, Sephiroth close behind, both listening to the Cid's description as he flipped the lights on. "Here's the kitchen." Was all the man sad allowing them to take away their own opinion of the place.
It was larger than most modern kitchens, mostly because when it was built Cid's grandmother likely spent more time in here then families did now days. There was an ice box, but no actual refrigerator, and old gas stove sat to one side, newer than the rest of the kitchen but still boarding on antique . It had beautiful dirty porcelain that Genesis imagined had once been a glistening white, with blue rose accents and pearl and silver colored handles.
There were oak cabinets, fine craftsmanship shown through under the dust, as the ginger ran his hand over a beautifully inlaid flower. The owner of this home had obviously loved roses. A large sink took up a good slice of counter space, and Genesis was unsurprised to find no microwave or dishwasher. Such things would have seemed so out of place in this home.
The floor itself was hard wood, and the walls had peeling white paint. A large butcher block table sat off to one side and he could just imagine what Sephiroth could do with a kitchen this size.
Sephiroth appeared to absorb every inch of the old house as they were led through it. The size of the kitchen certainly wasn't lost on the General, and he was already imagining the masterpieces he could concoct with a fully loaded stage like this. A gas stove? That was rare, and yet a treat and a half in the cooking world.
Even still, he was as cold as ice outwardly with every glance he passed over the ranch house. For all the world it seemed as though he were not interested in anything Cid was showing them. He had even clasped his hands behind his back, by this point and adopted that old fashioned military stance, as though he were being led through a brand new base rather than a place that could potentially have been a home for himself and Genesis.
And perhaps even Vincent.
The raven-haired gunman certainly hadn't escaped his mind, and his lack of presence was not unnoticed. Part of him wanted to confront Genesis over what had been spoken between them, however, now was not the time, as Cid was still willing to humor them and show them around the property, despite their apparent inconveniences they might have forced the pilot to endure.
Cid's patience with the matter was certainly earning him a few high marks with the former Silver General, though Sephiroth was inwardly amused with the idea that he was certain Mr. Highwind wouldn't have given 'two shits' of Sephiroth's opinion on him. It almost endeared the man to him immediately, in the way a cat might consider a mouse that figured it was being bold as it wandered around in front of it.
When Sephiroth caught Gen's glance, he gave a curt nod, as if to say he approved. Immediately, there was a bleeding of tension and the former General realized he was being stared at by both men. Sephiroth was certain he hadn't allowed any expression to ripple to the surface of his features, though perhaps his sudden silence might have led them to believe something was wrong.
What was he expected to do in this situation?
Sephiroth paused to give it some forethought, as though that might enlighten him on the rules of engagement in a situation like this. After all, even with all of the improvements he had made in his personal relationship with Genesis, the fact remained, he still knew next to nothing when it came to social interactions with the rest of the world. They were clearly looking for some verbal cue from him, and he was not sure what to say.
In the end, Sephiroth snapped an "It is acceptable. Shall we move on?" with that militaristic finality he was famous for.
Genesis held back a sigh, he wasn't frustrated with Sephiroth, just with the situation. His lover's social problems were well known to him, and while the man seemed alright with the idea of not going back to ShinRa, it seemed (from Gen's position, at least) he was already starting to become lost, and all they were doing was looking at a rundown house.
Guilt washed over him not for the first time, he was the reason his lover was putting up with this. If he had just- no that was a bad idea he realized. Running off to Wutai to die would have been worse on Sephiroth, he knew that now. That aside however, even if the former General was willing to split the heat for leaving Shinra, as far as Genesis knew he was the reason they weren't going back.
Was he being a coward? Was Sephiroth sacrificing everything he knew just to make him happy? He shook the dark thoughts from his mind as Cid's eyes were on the other man. They could discuss it later, right now they had a house to see.
Cid however was still amused, and not at all put off by the General's display. The pilot left the room and headed into what would have been the living room. A large stone fireplace set on one side, and while all the furniture had been removed, it was easy to tell the life that had once been in this room. The floor again was all hard wood, the walls a dark green color, shadows were on the wall were pictures once hung, and elegant light fixtures hugged the ceiling all along the walls.
There were 2 large windows, one that faced the porch where they had come in, and another looking out the side of the house, partially blocked by the morning glory vines that grew up the side of the home. There was a staircase on the far side, a closet, and as Genesis took it all in. He glanced up the stairs before spotting the small half bath. It had tile on the floor, a small pale pink pedestal sink, and a pale pink toilet, as the rose theme from the kitchen seemed to continue. There was a small musty smell but nothing that truly worried the ginger.
As he moved on around he realized the down stairs made a bit of a circle as he ended up in a dining room, a chandelier hanging over were a large table likely once sat. The paint was a lighter blue, and another door on the far side that lead back into the kitchen where they had started.
"I'm assuming the bedrooms are upstairs?" Genesis asked casually looking back at the pilot.
"Yep, should be safe enough too," the pilot took a glance up the stairs. "Three total includin' my grandparent's old room. There's a separate bathroom up there, and one connected t'the master. Ready t'take a look?"
Genesis shot a quick glance at his lover before nodding. "I think so."
So far the ginger really liked the house, and while in ways it reminded him of his parent's home back in Banora, it was far warmer. Really it seemed unfair that a place so warm would be falling apart when the house back in Banora had been so cold, and kept in perfect condition.
There was plenty of space. Far more than Sephiroth was used to, even with his private apartment in the ShinRa tower. The kitchenette had been small, and the dining room even more so. While the living room had not been very big, Sephiroth had rarely spent enough time there to care. His bedroom had been clean, kept orderly and he owned a minimal amount of things to fill it. In fact, if one had actually been brave enough to enter his apartment, they would have found that the majority of items within it actually belonged to Genesis, rather than the former General.
He wouldn't even begin to know what to do with all this space, or how to fill it.
His gaze went towards Genesis, a trace of curiosity reflecting in his glowing green eyes. Perhaps his lover would have a better idea of things. In the end, he supposed the decorating of their possible new home, no matter where they ended up, would be left to the ginger. Sephiroth honestly had no desire or say in those matters. From the sounds of it, upstairs would provide even more room.
How anyone could live in such a large space was beyond him, but then this was made for a lifestyle that was so completely alien to him that he supposed it was understandable why he would be confused. An entire family used to live here at some point. He had barely begun getting used to the idea of having two friends, in Angeal and Genesis. The concept of 'family', as much as he longed for it, was still beyond his grasp. Sephiroth's gaze swept once more over the living room, then back towards the dining room. He had a hard time picturing what it must have looked like, when this place was full of life. Did they gather in the living room to talk? What did families talk about anyway?
The dining room was a mystery to him as much as the living room. He could see where a large table had sat for years, the indentations of the table legs left soft grooves in the wooden floor. Sephiroth could even pick out the scuff marks of chairs as they were moved back and forth. Had they all sat around the table and eaten together? Did they talk about things over meals as well? So much of that simple life had been out of the former General's grasp, even from the very first day he had learned to walk. And yet, it had been the longest burning desire he had ever harbored in his whole life. Even the times he shared with Genesis and Angeal, or both, had been rare. Especially gathered around the same table, and they usually spoke of work-related issues anyway.
Sure, being a Hero was a good thing. Especially when he knew he could personally inspire people beyond what the recruitment posters instilled. However, the reality of it was, he wanted nothing more than to experience all the trivialities most people took for granted when having a family. He worked for so long, and so hard to protect so many other people's families, and yet he knew he would never be allowed to have one of his own. He simply didn't have the time, and he was the property of ShinRa Electric Company. Or at least, he had been at one time.
Sephiroth knew there was no place back in Midgar left for him, and despite what his lover might be thinking at the moment, it had little to do with Genesis having asked him to walk away. The Jenova Project was a dark storm on the horizon, a nightmare he would have to face soon enough, and that knowledge had been enough to turn him away from loyalties he had never once questioned before. But did that mean he had the right to start a family with Genesis now?
The former General was not so sure as he fell in step behind Genesis and Cid while they made their way upstairs. He expertly avoided Genesis's gaze for the moment, at least until he knew his thoughts would not be so plainly visible, reflecting in his eyes.
Sephiroth knew next to nothing about what it took to raise a family, let alone know how to interact with each member. Sephiroth had Genesis, and he was content with that intimacy. Then there was Angeal and Zack, though those two would likely be distanced from him and his lover, once the dust settled. He hardly knew Vincent, and suspected the other man would disappear from their lives before long. Not that he could blame him. All in all, Sephiroth hardly knew anyone else well enough to even remotely call 'family'. Suddenly the idea of living on such a large farmstead seemed terribly lonely, even for someone as introverted as himself. But Genesis was already in love with this place, Sephiroth could tell, and by the looks of Cid as he continued watching the two of them, it would appear the man was already making his decision.
Genesis would be happy, and there was going to be a lot of work to get this place up and running again, should that outcome be favorable, though Sephiroth was likely to remain reticent about his own place in any of this.
Genesis followed Cid up the stairs of the old home, each step creaking under his boots. His lover was right, the ginger had already decided his opinion on the place, and with the pilot's attitude he actually dared to hope that they might have actually found a place so soon.
That was until his eyes drifted back to Sephiroth. He could tell something was wrong, but thats as far as it got. Whether it had to do with the house, Vincent, leaving ShinRa or any number of things his lover could be brooding over, was lost on the ginger. If Genesis was privy to where the man's thoughts had gone he'd likely have fainted out of shock. He knew how much the idea of family meant to Sephiroth but the concept that he might possibly want one would have been beyond his imagination.
The former General had done so much for him so far, and while Sephiroth would tell him he owed the man nothing, that his actions had been born of love, out of the desire for Genesis to live, it didn't change the fact that the ginger felt he had to do something. While Angeal certainly had been the one focused on honor, the concept wasn't lost on the ginger. Sephiroth had willingly given Genesis literally everything he had. All the former Commander had to give was his love.
Part of him wanted to promise that he'd never argue with Sephiroth again, but he knew better. His very nature was to fueled by fire to make that impossible, and even then he thought that his lover enjoyed their arguments when they didn't get too serious.
Either way, Cid was either obvlious or had enough sense to stay out of whatever was going on between the two. The pilot wasn't sure what to make of Sephiroth's opinion of the place, though the fact that he was still here was a good sign he supposed. The General didn't seem like a man that would waste his time if he wasn't interested. Genesis Rhapsodos seemed a bit easier to read, and while he contained his reactions he could see the sparkle in the other man's eye.
As they reached the top floor, the staircase curved around a bit revealing a long hall with 5 doors. 2 of which swung open enough that Genesis could catch a glimpse of the rooms beyond. Cid made his way forward and opened the first door on the right.
"This would be the bathroom, not that you couldn't figure that out on your own." he chuckled swing the door open and revealing blue and white tile, a bathtub, but no shower, a vanity and a simple toilet.
At least its not pink, Genesis thought glancing at the sailboat border tile around the room.
Across from the bathroom was a linen closet. And from there the next two rooms, one on the left and one on the right, were a pair of bedrooms, almost identical, a window, a light, a closet, hardwood floors and blue paint on the wall. Genesis assumed they had been for a pair of boys (or more) and suddenly realized why the downstairs bathroom and kitchen looked the way it did. A woman's touch in a home over run by men.
At the end of the hall sat one more room, the master. The door had already swung open, and Cid hung out in the hall letting the other two explore. For him it still felt weird entering his Grandparent's bedroom, respect for their privacy too ingrained.
More hardwood, and red walls, something that made Genesis smile if just a little bit. Two windows, as Genesis looked out over the grounds. A large enough closet for the two men so used to military life. The last door was the master bath, a toilet, a bathtub with a shower that looked as if it had been added later. And two sinks, each with a mirror and an old medicine cabinet in between.
With Cid still in the hall, giving them a bit of privacy the ginger made his way over to his brooding lover, wrapping his arms around the other man. "I think we've seen everything in here, unless there is something you want to take a closer look at."
Sephiroth stared at the arms that had reached around his form for several moments, confused as though he had suddenly grown a second pair. Or at least that was the expression that flashed across his features briefly before he relaxed and patted Gen's hands where they had come to clasp around his stomach.
"I have seen enough to satisfy me." He replied softly, pushing enough warmth into the words to prevent Genesis from worrying about his thoughts too much. "Shall we venture outside for the rest?"
Genesis nuzzled the other man's neck, he couldn't help it. This might very well be their bedroom, and as much as he missed the shared apartment back at Shinra, his home was with Sephiroth. It was the other man that had warmed the cold metal walls and made the space welcoming.
"Shall we then?" He asked unwinding himself from his lover, and slipping his hand down into a black leather glove.
Sephiroth simply let himself be led by Genesis, as Cid nearly snorted at the sight. It wasn't that he had a problem per say with their relationship, it was just...who could imagine someone like Sephiroth so...warm. Even if his expression and stance remained neutral as possible, it was clear how much the ginger meant to him, how much of his attention was focused on the other man rather than his surroundings.
"Like I said before." Cid started as they made their way back outside of the house, turning off lights as they went. "There's about 97 acres but its mostly just land, pastures and what not, there's a small pond, and a bit of woods. You're welcome to take a look at it all, but I imagine the buildings are of more interest."
Genesis just nodded, truthfully the house was what had held his interest. He'd seen plenty of barns and outbuildings before, and couldn't imagine how much difference there could be in them. Even if they were unusable he wouldn't have cared. The house itself seemed to hold a spell over him.
Sephiroth took a moment to look across the yard, even as overgrown as it had become, he could still tell where paths and trails led towards the other buildings on the ranch. It must have looked amazing during the years this place was still lived in. He was certain they could restore it to its former glory, if given enough time and a chance. It might not have been a war, but the challenge of keeping mother nature at bay on such a large piece of land was certainly there. Not to mention, ninety-seven acres meant for plenty of area to patrol and hunt for monsters that would inevitably be drawn to the area in search of an 'easy' meal.
His green-eyed gaze swept across the first few yards of weeds and saplings, towards the area he had seen Vincent go. There was no sign of the man in his glaringly red coat, a fact that the former General was fully aware of, even if he was hiding his concern aptly. If the mysterious gunman chose now to depart from them, he wouldn't have blamed him, though perhaps he could have waited until Sephiroth was able to give him a ride back to town. The silver-haired male knew he owed him that, at the very least.
A quick glance at Genesis and Cid, while noting their curious expressions had him switching his gears back towards the current topic at hand and he tilted his head to offer a silent response at first. He knew Genesis would understand the gesture, though for Cid's sake, he did part his lips a moment later and replied.
"A tour with the other buildings will be sufficient. The rest of the land is not important as of yet."
Genesis fell back next to Sephiroth as Cid made his way across the yard towards the tool shed nearest the house. "Should be somethin' in here we can use to clear out some of this shit." the pilot cursed, as he tried to force the rusted metal door open.
The ginger had seen where Sephiroth's eyes had gone and guess his thoughts. He wanted to reassure his lover that the mysterious gunman would still be there, but he had to many of his own doubts about that. He'd done his part to try and get the man to stay, but he feared it hadn't been enough. Vincent reminded him so much of Sephiroth when they'd first met, seemingly wishing for nothing but solitude. The man in the coffin however didn't have the constraints of Shinra to force him into Genesis's presence long enough to break through that shell. It hadn't hurt that underneath his ice, Sephiroth had actually wanted friends, companionship, and the ginger doubted Vincent wanted or needed either at this point in his life.
When Cid gave it another shove, obviously not going to ask for help from the two men here who's strength easily doubled his own, Genesis moved to wordlessly help the man, only as soon as his weight shifted in that direction Sephiroth brushed passed him, offering his own assistance.
A scowl instantly formed on the ginger's face. "Oh so now I can't even help open a door? What afraid there's a dragon hiding behind it?" he snapped irritably, in spite of himself.
Cid who was surprised a bit himself by the assistance just lifted an eyebrow before moving to enter the shed, only to be driven back by a hissing noise. A creature, a silky green with large wings splashed with red emerged, fangs dripping poison down its large teeth. It didn't get a second snarl out before Masamune was in Sephiroth's hand, and the creature was dead on the ground.
"You were say?" Sephiroth's tone was neutral as he spoke but Genesis could almost see a hint of amusement in his eyes.
"That wasn't a dragon it was a Velcher Task!" The ginger snarled. "So are you going to get a shelf or a wire cage to put me on display?!" The ever present sparks flared again. "I'm going to call Hollander and have him head to Rocket Town, just so he can check me out, and tell you I'm fine!" he continued to rage. The fact that he was giving a bit too much away to their tour guide would hit him later, but for now, he seemed to preoccupied with his hurt pride over the matter.
Genesis's temper was flaring higher, when he could think rationally he understood and appreciated the man's concern for him, it was a clear sign of how much Sephiroth really did love him. Moments like this however, he felt almost worthless, for a man so used to having to handle things on his own, and fight for everything he had, it was near impossible to accept anymore help from his lover then he already had.
The argument was poised to continue that was until a low deep chuckle filled the air. Cid was standing in the doorway holding a machete, as the laughter continued and he held his chest. "Ya'll are priceless." he snorted. "Fight'n over a damn worthless door. I have a feeling our little town just got a lot more interesting."
Normally Genesis would have just fireballed his rant's intruder, but he stopped and stared. No one not even Sephiroth had dared to actually laugh at him while he was on a ro. Even if he did realize the former General found some of his arguments entertaining. For his part Sephiroth was ready to defend the poor pilot, but was surprised to find Genesis had started laughing himself.
"I can't even." He shook his head. Tension bleeding away, he would have to have a serious talk with his lover about how long this 'babying' was going to last, but for now he just smiled at Cid. "You may be very right there." and the implications on both parties that they were likely going to stay wasn't lost. That above everything had lifted Genesis's mood once more.
"Now then, if we're all done bitch'n about doors, this is the storage shed, not much to it. You can take a peek inside if ya like, but I figured we'd head on out to the barn."
"I am fine." Sephiroth replied smoothly, not having any interest at all with the idea of inspecting the shed just yet. Besides, he was a little busy reeling from Genesis's sudden anger, feeling conflicted and a bit put off. After all, he had only made the action out of concern.
As there was only one machete, and Cid likely knew the lay out better than anyone, Sephiroth made a rare show of allowing someone else to take the lead. He fell behind Cid and did his best to ignore Genesis, in case the other man decided he wanted to spark up another argument while they were moving through the brush and overgrowth.
If he did, Sephiroth felt he might just shove his lover into the nearest hedge and be done with it. Let it be said, that while the former General had an irrefutable amount of patience, (most days, though Cloud might disagree), even he had his limits for what he could handle. While Genesis was still recovering and he might never attempt to get as rough with him as he had in the past, Sephiroth certainly wasn't going to let him get away with it for very long either. A man could only be expected to deal with so much before he is finally forced to break or retaliate. In Gen's case, Sephiroth usually retaliated, and always in an unpleasant manner. The silver-haired male had a cruel streak running just beneath the surface, and it could become apparent when he was pushed too far.
'I will become that nightmare, if you truly insist.' were the words that often ended some of their worst arguments in the past. Whatever the case, Genesis seemed to believe Sephiroth was capable of it, and it tended to sober him quickly. Or so it appeared that way from Sephiroth's point of view. What his lover truly thought in those dark periods was beyond him. Quite frankly, he preferred not having to go there at all, if he had a choice in the matter. The knowledge might have only confused him further, or make him sick.
Thankfully, and more due to Angeal's efforts than anything, it had been at least two years since their fights had ever taken that drastic of a turn. These days, Gen knew when to back off, and while Sephiroth still had much to learn in the way of relationships and social interactions, he had at least figured out when to keep his mouth shut. To a point. Some things just bared being spoken, especially when he felt his lover was going to do something that was clearly a tactically ill-advised decision that could have ultimately ended up with Genesis, or both of them hurt.
Sephiroth re-adjusted his thoughts towards the present, however, and kept an eye out. This place had been allowed to be recaptured by nature, and nature was quite unforgiving if one did not keep their guard up.
Genesis, simply followed Cid as well, and while his temper had been quelled for the moment he made no affectionate gesture towards his lover. If Sephiroth had lashed out at the ginger right at the moment it would have destroyed the idea that they could have gotten along without Angeal. The issue of his independence, and self worth was one of Genesis's sore spots and it always had been since he was a small child.
As it was once again reality had a way of destroying Genesis's dreams. He had wanted so badly to have a peaceful life with Sephiroth that he almost forgot that that life had to contain the former General, and himself. His temper alone would haven't allowed it to be peaceful or quiet. In the end however it was more of a comfort than anything. The idea that even after everything else some things wouldn't change made him smile.
For the moment however Genesis was so engaged in his own mind that he didn't notice that they'd reached the barn, nearly running into Cid's back he became aware just in time to stop before his folly was discovered, (except by chance by his lover).
"Well this is it." Cid took a drag from his cigarette as he held his hand out towards the barn. It was obvious the structure was in worse shape than the house. The roof had caved in, and one of the doors was half gone.
A large tree had started to grow almost into the barn, likely disturbing the foundation, and thick brush surrounded the entire thing.
Genesis nearly snipped at Sephiroth, asking if he needed permission to enter the building or not, before moving over to one of the doors slid intact and pushing it to the side. It moved easily enough and the taunt, 'Look I can open a door after all.' nearly fell from his lips. But he managed to bite his tongue. He'd have hated for the barn to get caught up in a literal fire fight, and given the age of the building and current weather conditions he didn't doubt that it would go up in a matter of minutes.
He didn't wait for Sephiroth to try and stop him as he pushed his way in, walking over the debris. There were loose board scattered around the dirt floor, a few animal stalls. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, as he had thought before it was exactly like every other barn he'd ever seen. Still a challenging smirk crossed his lips as he stood atop the pile of old wood. He looked eyes with Sephiroth daring him to say something before he heard a snap, and the pile shifted ending up with the former commander flat on his back covered in the very debris he had just sought to conquer.
Sephiroth displayed his usual amount of restraint when he refrained from mocking Genesis for his foolish move. He could tell there was still tension in the ginger's form, just by the way he had stomped through the path that Cid had cut away for them. Of course, nearly running into the pilot from behind hadn't helped matters. Honestly, the urge to reach out and smack Genesis across the back of the head was almost too high for Sephiroth to resist.
But he did. For the sake of their relationship as much as saving face in front of Mr. Highwind. It wouldn't do them any good if they only proved that they might end up destroying the entire area from a lover's quarrel as much as try to restore it to its former glory.
He didn't even bother to ask him if he was alright. Instead, Sephiroth skirted past the pile of wood and the former Commander, glowing eyes picking out details rather perfectly despite the dark within. There was a strong smell of dirt and rotten wood. Not a good sign, though he wasn't exactly an expert in these matters. Gloved fingers lifted to inspect a heavy beam of wood, only to pull away with a chunk as though it had been made of styrofoam.
He heard a soft curse from Cid behind him and stepped away, slightly worried he might have done something wrong. However, a quick glance at Cid once more had him relaxed as he realized the pilot was focusing his disappointed glare towards the wooden beam itself, rather than the former General.
"What exactly is wrong with this? I do not imagine it is supposed crumble like this, if at all."
The only thing Genesis had actually hurt was his pride, as he sat still waiting for Sephiroth to say something, when the man didn't and simply walked passed him, the ginger was at a loss if only for a moment. Cid seemed to be taking his cues from Sephiroth and didn't even bother to look at the fallen former Commander. Instead the pilot answered the question presented.
"Termites, nasty little bugs, seems they've made a meal of the barn instead of the house though." Cid scowled as he knocked on another piece of wood. "Kinda embarrassing truth be told, I didn't realize they'd infested the place."
Genesis who had recovered from his previous misstep simply came to walk over next to them, dusting himself off. If Sephiroth and Cid were content to pretend the incident never happened so was he. His eyes fell on another piece as he chipped away at it a bit with his hand. "From the looks of it, there isn't an active colony here, at least in this part of the barn. This damage is old and none of them are about." When your business literally revolved around trees you tended to pick up a lot on insects and other pests that could damage them. Genesis knew about Termites, even if that knowledge had lost its relevancy to him nearly 10 years ago, and he didn't like them.
Cid looked at Genesis and nodded, he'd never have guess the Commander for a country boy, not with the way he carried himself, talked and dressed, but it was beginning it become clear he was just that. The questions to why they were here and interested in the place were starting to fall into place. The pilot began to think that just maybe Genesis and Sephiroth were the people he'd been waiting for to take over his old family home. At first he'd just entertained them because it was something to do to take his mind off the Rocket delays. The idea that they'd actually want to settle down in a place like this had been laughable to him, but now he could tell that Rhapsodos definitely like the old ranch, and knew his way around better than most. Sephiroth on the other hand. Well he thought that the man might just be humoring the ginger.
Then again it was almost more like he had no idea what he was doing, and if he had been raised in the city it explained everything. Cid had to stop from letting out another laugh.
"I think you're right there Red." Cid looked up at Genesis as the man looked at him curiously over the nickname. "Either way this old barn will be a bit more work to fix up then the house, if it wouldn't be better to just knock it down. It's pretty rotten, from the inside out."
Genesis looked up at the roof and nodded. "I'm sure something could be done to save it, I'd hate to lose all that history."
Cid just gave the ginger a pat on his back. "Well if anyone could fix this place up, I'm sure it would be a couple of hard working SOLDIER's." he laughed before stepping back. "Anything else you boys want to see?"
Genesis simply looked at Sephiroth as he spoke. "I think I've seen enough how about you?"
Sephiroth regarded both men with a silent expression and demeanor for several moments. His gaze lifted to look around the barn once more, then back to them. In the end, he offered a faint, uncharacteristic shrug before stepping back over the wood pile and away. That signaled he was finished far more eloquently than any words he might have offered.
It would seem the former General had hit that stage where he was no longer interested in keeping up social appearances. Or, for those who were keen on such things, as Genesis had learned over the years, the reality of it was, Sephiroth was starting to become exhausted with the stress and efforts of maintaining a sociable outlook. Introverts tended to work that way, after all. They required little exposure to the rest of the world, and when they did, they often got drained quickly before needing to retreat back to their solitude to recover for the next outing.
He was always excellent at delivering his cues, however, and could certainly hold up his facade indefinitely if needed, but Sephiroth wanted nothing more than to be done with this exchange and make his way back to the hotel room. It was nothing against Cid, Sephiroth was certain he would like the man, and if they were allowed to maintain this property, he was sure he would befriend the man over time and be able to open up a little more. Until then, however, Cid was just another stranger that he had to put up with and didn't trust. Of course the arguments with Genesis certainly hadn't helped Sephiroth's mood either.
He picked his way back out towards the truck, managing to miss Vincent's reappearance when the gunman suddenly swept up beside Genesis and Cid from somewhere else within the barn. His entry had come from another end, and though he might have had to pick his way through brush and leaves, there wasn't a single speck of dirt or cobwebs on him. As immaculate as Sephiroth appeared most days.
"There is dry rot." Vincent spoke up, then pointed in the direction he came from. "At the base by the doors that would have led into a pasture. Most of the fencing is still up, from what I could see."
Evidently, Vincent had decided to check the perimeter of the property.
Though truthfully, the walk had done him some good, as he appeared quite calm and collected once more. His thoughts were back in order and he had made his decision, however, he was unlikely to voice it just yet. There was no guarantee Cid would allow them to buy the property, after all. And Vincent had not been present during the tour of the house.
Genesis was just as eager to get back to the hotel room as Sephiroth was, not from social exhaustion- the ginger thrived in the company of others- but because there were so many things he wanted to discuss with his lover. However he could tell that the topics he wanted to cover would likely have to wait until morning. The ginger could be impatient at the best of times, but even he knew that pressing Sephiroth much further in this state would only end in a backlash.
Begrudgingly he admitted to himself that a night's rest often calmed his own temper and let the rational side of his mind take over.
Vincent's reappearance made him smile however, that would be at least one less thing on their minds. The longer the gunman stuck around the more likely it was that he would just stay with them.
"Thanks for the tour." Genesis stated, offering Cid a smile. The pilot's eyes however were back on Vincent.
"Good to know it's still standing." the man chuckled, "Even if the barn's fall'n apart the house was at least in manageable shape."
Genesis silently fell into step beside Sephiroth as the group made their way back to the truck. The sun was getting close to setting and the ginger hadn't realized just how much time this little adventure had taken. The ginger had already figured he would go back and take a bath, soak a bit, and let Sephiroth have some time to himself, perhaps curl up with his beloved book a bit. In the end he didn't want to have serious arguments with his lover, not anymore. If the other man had something he wanted to discuss or do Genesis would go along with it, otherwise the night would belong to Sephiroth.
For Cid's part he had taken the chance to hang back by Vincent, if the man was upset that the silent gunman had taken his own tour of the property unguided he didn't show it. Really he'd actually enjoyed himself today. He loved the rocket but the whole project was full of stress, and this little diversion had been just wanted he needed, iced with a few mysteries he had to solve.
When they got back to the truck Cid pulled out a card. "I imagine you boys will need a bit to think about whatcha want to do. When yer ready to talk give me a call, or just come on down to the rocket." he took his smoke out of his mouth as he spoke before handing it to Genesis. "Though Shera was crazy when she said I needed those, well suppose she'll be happy I finally got to use one." he chuckled before jumping up in the back of the truck.
Genesis simply looked at the card for a moment. /Cid Highwind- Head Rocket Scientist, Shinra Co./ /Rocket Town- 27 N Main, 832-555-7970/
He nodded at the man before pocketing the card and slipping into the truck himself.
The engine roared back to life and they were all soon leaving the old ranch behind. Curiosities had been satisfied and new ones replaced with it. Everyone certainly had something to dwell on that would leave them busy for the rest of the evening. Vincent was pleased to note he had a better hold on the truck this time around and didn't land in Cid's lap, and Sephiroth was enjoying the silence in the cab with his lover.
By the time they reached Rocket Town and pulled up in front of the inn, the sun had set and only the most vibrant of purples and rose colors still hung across the horizon. Overall, it was a beautiful day.
Sephiroth offered his own thanks to Cid before departing, then eyed Vincent curiously.
The gunman stared right back at him and they seemed to share a silent exchange for several moments until the former General gave him a curt nod and turned on his heel to head up to the hotel room. Vincent hesitated at the entrance of the inn, as if unsure he wanted to get into his room just yet, and looked back towards the town. Over all, it would have been wise to just call it a night, but Vincent had spent the last couple of decades asleep. There was opportunity to learn of more news and immerse himself in the current affairs of the world if he went back to the tavern. Which is exactly what he ended up choosing to do.
Sephiroth and Genesis would likely make a decision tomorrow, and all four of them would sit down for a serious discussion over the next few steps.
In the end, Sephiroth had decided to take a shower himself and call it an early night. All discussion could wait for the morning, as far as he was concerned.
Once back at the hotel Genesis let Sephiroth have the shower first, as tempting as it was to follow him in, he knew that the man needed his space, and truth was, his pride was still a bit too wounded.
The silence to the ginger was almost painful as so many things ran through his mind, all of them he wanted to talk about right now. But he realized that if his lover could put up with what he had today, then Genesis could put up with waiting until morning to work out their plans. It didn't however stop his mind from racing as he sat in the tub, eyes closed.
Already he was picturing what the farmhouse would look like when repaired. Shining new paint on the exterior, reconditioned floors, new paint and wallpaper on the walls, updated appliances and a kitchen that Sephiroth could really shine in. So many details ran by, and most would have wished for a pen and piece of paper to keep track of them, but Genesis simply let himself absorb it all. It almost felt silly to ask his lover what kind of countertops he preferred, if he wanted the bathroom to be done in green. He was so far ahead of himself it was stupid, but the questions burned to be asked, and he bit his lip and sighed.
The biggest question he had avoided was if this was really what his lover wanted. Today had been taxing on him, and while he knew their own spats had added to it, this was all new places and people to deal with. Sephiroth was a man who relished being in control and right now he wasn't in control of much of anything.
He ran a washcloth down his arm, as water droplets pooled along his skin, sticking to the hairs there. There was quite a bit of dust and grime that had built up during the day, and the water felt nice. As much as he bulked at Sephiroth's coddling of him the last few days, it would have been nice to have shared the water with him, feel his strong hands washing away the day.
Though if things worked out there would be plenty of time for that in the old house they'd just visited and in the end Genesis realized that even if Sephiroth was uneasy about the situation at the moment, he would be that way anywhere away from Shinra. The country, away from people would be a good place for him. A bit of solitude and seclusion would fit the man well.
Stretching he stood out of the water, pulling the drain, and wrapping a towel around himself. Sephiroth meant the world to him, even if he had a horrible way of showing it. Silently he stood in the doorway, his lover was already asleep and he wondered how long he'd taken in the bath. Either way it was a clear sign of just how exhausting the day had been for the former General.
A chance to watch Sephiroth sleep was rare, and so Genesis took advantage of it as a bit of moonlight slid through the window. At the moment his lover looked almost otherworldly, and the ginger realized that the real reason that he had such a problem letting Sephiroth take care of him- now that he was supposedly better- is that he truly had no way to return the favor. He yearned to be Sephiroth's equal, but when the man seemed so infallible and with Genesis's illness, it had been a weakness that destroyed any illusion of standing beside him.
He didn't want the other man to bear the weight of everything on his own, he wanted to be there to help and support him, but even to someone who knew him as intimately as Genesis, it seemed as if Sephiroth never needed any help at all. The former General's perfection was something that the ginger loved, but it also infuriated him on other levels.
Feeling a wave of exhaustion wash over him, Genesis simply tossed the towel to the side, and slipped into bed naked next to the man he loved, tentatively he wrapped his arms around the sleeping figure, holding him, if only in this moment at least pretending to be the one taking care of Sephiroth, instead of the other way around.
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