Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
About Deviant Member lucy25/Female/United States Groups :iconremnant-fanclub: Remnant-FANCLUB
dA's First Remnant Fanclub
Recent Activity
Deviant for 11 Years
Needs Premium Membership
Statistics 389 Deviations 2,022 Comments 12,331 Pageviews

Newest Deviations

Random Favourites

deviation in storage by ImageC0rrupt3d
deviation in storage by ImageC0rrupt3d
deviation in storage by ImageC0rrupt3d
deviation in storage by rennerei

Wishlist

Activity


A/N For Enide-Dear's Family Bliss universe contest!!! I hope you enjoy it, Enide!
Pairings: ValenWind and Kadaj/Reno!
Summary: Moments of strife and reconciliation in the ValenWind household.



Stepping on Toes

In the end, it was inevitable that they would hurt one another. There were too many memories, too much resentment, too much pent-up paranoia, and far too much pain for it to go any other way.

Hurting each other was inevitable. It was all about what happened next.




“Yer broodin’ again.” Cid commented, leaning into Vincent’s space at the table. “Thought we’d worked through the broodin’ phase.”

“Some things are worth consideration.” Vincent kept his voice even and his eyes low.

“Come on, don’t give me that.” Cid complained, scooting his chair closer. “The boys are out playin’ or fuckin’ or pesterin’ the neighbors. No reason to hold back on me, Vince.”

“Perhaps I simply don’t want to talk about it.”

“Perhaps yer givin’ me the runaround an’ feeling sorry for yerself.” Cid said in a halfway snide mimicry.

Under the table, Vincent’s gauntleted hand curled in agitation.

“I’d prefer to be alone, Chief.” He forced his voice to be kind—forced his words to be gentle.

Cid, to his credit, stopped halfway through sliding his hand under Vincent’s shirt. His eyes flicked up from where they’d been enjoying the pale column of Vincent’s neck, and met his gaze.

“Would ya really?” Cid asked after a moment, his gruff voice unsuited to such quiet, uncertain questions.

“Sometimes. I wasn’t made for this. For family life.”

“Ya weren’t ‘made’ at all.” Cids lips pulled down in a frown, and he removed his touch from Vincent to fish out a cigarette. “Jest because He fiddled around with ya—”

“I was not referring to Hojo’s experiments.” Vincent tucked his chin, hiding behind the mantel of his increasingly sentient cape. “Even before that. There is a reason I did not have a partner in the Turks. I have always been a solitary person.”

“What, I’m crampin’ yer style?” Cid demanded, flipping open his lighter. The fire reflected dancing in his blue eyes, highlighting his annoyance.

“You make me tired sometimes.” Vincent replied, too honestly. “It would be nice to know that I could leave sometimes without you falling apart, or relapsing into alcoholism, or fighting with the boys.”

“Ya jest spent forever layin’ upstairs while I hunted down yer demons! No one fell apart then, did they?”

“Forgive me. I do not mean to sound ungrateful for what we have. But Cid, try to understand. I know to you I was away, and not with you. But to me that time was simply nonexistent. Like being in the coffin again.”

“Yer askin’ for a break?” Cid asked softly.

“I just want some time.” Vincent replied. “You have your work and your workshop. Spaces that are yours at least in spirit, and only shared by others. I would like time to find that freedom for myself.”

Cid took a long drag, and Vincent fel disappointment well inside himself at the way the man obviously closed himself off as he inhaled.

“Well shit, Vince.” he drawled, too casual to be true. “I ain’t never had th’ power ta trap ya here.”

Vincent didn’t know how to fix the look in Cid’s eyes. So instead he did as he’d wanted to for weeks. He fled his safe home in search of the loneliness that he sometimes found himself missing.




“My bad.” Reno gasped, clinging to Kadaj’s wrist, legs thrashing as the remnant held him off the ground by his neck. He did it as though Reno weighed nothing. The flaring eyes glaring up at him flickered with rage.

“Don’t call me that.” Kadaj hissed, his lips pulled back in rage, baring sharp bone-white teeth.

“Never again.” Reno swore, his voice choked by the fingers slowly tightening around his throat.

Kadaj put him down, and stood in place breathing hard while Reno escaped the room.

Later, Reno grabbed them both a beer from his apartment’s fridge, and clinked the bottles lightly together. Swallowing hurt after the rough treatment, but he was a Turk. He was used to pain. Kadaj grimaced at the taste of the beverage, but drank none the less. There were some memories that needed burying so badly that any shovel would do. Reno almost offered him a hit of his prized drug stache, but he’d avoid it if he could. Highwind might never forgive him for that.

“Do you have a cure materia?” Kadaj muttered over the edge of the bottle after half an hour and two beers had passed for them both.

“Yeah.” Reno said with a shrug. His voice sounded rough and wrong in his ears. “Slotted in my EMR.”

Kadaj left the table without a word, and Reno closed his eyes, breathing, trying to trust. Kadaj wouldn’t club him over the head with the mag rod. Probably. Even if he did, he almost certainly wouldn’t kill him with the hit. Again, probably. But then, he hadn’t thought the remnant would try to murder him for the ‘Little Seph’ comment earlier that night either.

When the chair across from him scraped back, Reno looked up in time to watch Kadaj hold the materia over his arm, watching Reno closely. Their eyes met and locked together. Then Kadaj slowly sank the orb into his forearm as though he were no more substantial than pudding. But Reno had felt and kissed and gripped that forearm—he knew that it was as solid as his own.

He inhaled deeply at the rush of healing magic that poured over him. The touch of Kadaj’s spell sent shivers down his spine, but it eased the ache in his throat.

“Never again.” Kadaj whispered.

“Never again.” Reno agreed.




Kadaj liked his Turk lover’s scars. They were so human, so fragile, so Reno. It was easy to kiss them and fondle them and play with them, and Reno seemed to revel in his brushes with death.

‘Makes me feel alive, yo.’ He always drawled with hooded, well-pleased eyes.

They had the house to themselves for once, at last, and Kadaj did love having the home-turf advantage so dearly. It was fine being in Reno’s apartment, but this bed smelled like him, and the act of claiming his lover meant that much more when it was on his own territory.

“You gunna kiss me everywhere but my dick?” Reno asked, sprawled lazily amid the blankets, his little shivers of desire betraying how deeply he wanted Kadaj’s touch.

“Well, now that you mention it.” Kadaj summoned his wickedest grin, pressing his cheek back into Reno’s knee, drawing his teeth over the surgical scar there from when he’d ripped a tendon years ago.

“Ah fuck, yo.” Reno’s grin was rakish and pleasant, despite the way he twisted just a little in want. “You’re killin’ me here.”

“That’s the plan, Turk.” Kadaj replied, biting Reno’s ankle lightly.

“Hey, woah, easy on the biting.” Reno’s voice shifted in pitch, but Kadaj rolled his eyes, sliding down to his Turk’s foot.

The stroked a thumb over the missing toes, felt Reno shiver in tension. He smirked as he lowered his lips, nipping lightly at the scar. Reno hissed in a breath, stiffening, and Kadaj blinked, looking up at him, surprised it had such a potent effect on him.

He went still when he saw Reno’s face.

The redhead had gone sheet white, his eyes wide and glassy, his lips parted. Even as Kadaj watched in growing confusion, he started to tremble. Actually tremble. As though he were afraid.

It wasn’t right. Kadaj couldn’t make it mesh with the Turk he knew. He couldn’t understand how this could be the same cocky Reno who’d smiled through surgeries, who’d laid beside not only him but his wildcat brothers with a lazy confidence that in no way reflected his actual strength. He’d never seen him afraid. Only seen him shocked once or twice. He pulled back, hands withdrawing slowly.

“Reno?” He asked after a long moment, edging closer.

A blink of those glazed eyes answered him, a shuddering breath dragged from between shaking lips. Kadaj pressed his hand very lightly to the center of Reno’s chest, and held it there, feeling the thready, panicked pulse under his fingers. He didn’t know what to do with this. Didn’t know how to help or what to say. But he knew what he would do for his brothers, and that would have to do.

He slid his other hand into Reno’s hair, and drew him slowly forward, placing a soft kiss on his forehead. A ragged breath gasped in from the body below him answered the touch, and it was followed by another. Kadaj stayed still, one hand in Reno’s hair, one on his chest, watching, waiting for his Turk to fight through his mind and back to him.

“When I say easy on the biting,” Reno finally said, the words trembling as though he were freezing to death in the cold. “I mean it.”

“Got it.” Kadaj choked back on the unwelcome emotions that had risen in him with Reno’s panic. “No need to be dramatic about it.”

“Brat.” Reno growled, inhaling a deeper breath.

Kadaj could never say it. Could never apologize for causing the flashback. But he pressed his hand over Reno’s heart while he calmed down, and he stroked his hair gently instead of yanking and pulling. He waited, almost patiently, while the Turk calmed down. It was the closest he could ever come.

He hoped that Reno understood the apology. He hoped he understood the endearment.

“Right.” Reno finally snarled, not pulling away but instead gripping Kadaj tightly and turning them over to hover over him, still pale, but grinning again, his eyes sparkling. “You raise the memories, you drive ‘em out, yo.”




Vincent came home some time later with flowers. Cid crushed the poor bouquet between them the moment his husband stepped into the room. Even Yazoo eventually averted his eyes from the passion of the kiss they shared.




Yazoo and Loz didn’t quite understand the levels of drama between their family. The two of them settled most of their troubles, their flashbacks, and their arguments without ever saying a word. Or, at least without saying much. “You’re beautiful” would work wonders on Yazoo. “I think you’re clever” always seemed to soften Loz.

So though they were kind to Kadaj when he pouted, and made extra sure to keep Cid busy when he moped, and made Vincent tea when they could, it was never fully understood for them. What they did understand was the moment it ended. Because in the end, they had come to accept their new normal—the chaos of Cid and Reno yelling at each other while Kadaj grinned pleasantly with wicked delight in his eyes, and the warm low sound of Vincent laughing into his breakfast.
Stepping on Toes
For Enide-Dear  's Family Bliss contest!!! I hope you like it, dear!
Loading...
Chapter 7

Overhead the motor was whirring again. His toes scraped over the ground, digging in, fighting to gain purchase—To stop the relentless slide towards the flames. His wrists were screaming points of pain, attached by cruel metal cuffs to the grinding motor’s track on the ceiling.

The flames before him burned with an ugly blue gas light. With every inch of ground, the heat increased. He could almost feel his skin cracking and peeling away from flesh. He couldn’t scream. He was parched dry. His voice had died in his throat long ago. Was it days now? He’d lost track of time.

The motor dragging him forward cut out at last, leaving him dangling before the fire, closer than ever. He tried to calculate the distance, but he couldn’t keep his eyes focused. They were burned dry, unfocused, almost blinded. Every day it had hauled him closer, every time left him there, thinking maybe he would finally die. That maybe it was finally as bad as it could get.

He should have been glad he was alone. But if he could have screamed, he’d have been screaming for the others—For anyone to share the bright pain of the room. For anyone who could make him feel alive, even for a moment, as he roasted to death.




Cloud jerked awake from the nightmare, aware suddenly of screaming from down the hall. He was halfway out the door with his sword in hand before he was fully awake and aware of the fact that his nightmare was only that—a nightmare. He paused a moment in the doorway, long enough to hear the familiar sound of the abruptly cut-off scream, muffled by the hand of one of the other remnants. He waited, poised, in case things turned violent. He hadn’t had to intervene yet, but he’d heard scuffles break out between the brothers more than once after one of them screamed at night. He wasn’t sure if tonight’s screaming had been Yazoo or Kadaj—It was difficult to tell them apart, at least in comparison to the easily-identifiable sobbing howls of Loz’s nightmares.

Cloud calmed down slowly, listening to the hushed voices from down the hall without focusing enough to hear words. He’d stopped worrying about the nightmares being a ploy. Ever since the first time he’d slammed into their room after hearing screams to find Kadaj tearing at Loz’s comforting arms with eyes blinded by fear and absolute desperation he’d known they were real. He tried not to wonder what they were dreaming of.

He lowered his blade, stepping back and letting out a slow breath. His heart was still racing from the nightmare. If he’d been home at 7th Heaven, he would have gone downstairs and done some extra cleaning for Tifa. As it was, trapped as the warden in his own little jail, he sat on the bed with Tsurugi laying over his lap, fingering the edge of the butterfly blade on its side.

It shouldn’t have surprised him to have a nightmare. In the morning, he’d be heading to Edge alone. Even leaving the remnants in the most capable hands he knew, it still felt unsettling— like leaving a stove on intentionally. He worried at the inside of his lips with his teeth, anxious and temporarily immobilized. He only stopped when he tasted the iron tang of mako tinted blood.

They’d behaved thus far, but not out of good will Cloud was sure. Since the first barest outline of rules, the list had grown and grown. Now it was thirteen bullet-points long. The remnants still insisted they couldn’t read them, so Cloud had made certain they had them memorized. He wasn’t sure he believed their illiteracy story, but he wasn’t about to put himself in the position of playing the bad guy if they claimed ignorance after breaking his edicts.

He closed his eyes, halfway hoping for guidance from beyond. Aerith and Zack were silent. They had been for a long time. Cloud hoped it was approval and not disappointment that kept them that way. He wanted to believe that he was doing what they would, though he was certain that Zack’s good humor and Aerith’s kindness would be better suited to this task. He was sure either of them would have had the remnants tamed ages ago.

He let out a slow breath, lying back on top of his bed sheets. He slid his gaze out the window, watching the distant stars in the night sky and waiting for sunrise. He felt the familiar, warm feeling that came with thinking about outer space wash over him. They’d spent so many nights listening to the usually gruff and straight-forward Cid wax poetic about space. Cloud thought fondly of those nights spent lying on his back with Nanaki’s head pillowed on his chest and the rest of the party lying still and silent, but unmistakably awake. He remembered the red shine of meteor slowly blotting out the stars, night by night, till even on the Highwind the red light of it cut through closed doors and windows.

A part of him missed that light. Its presence had been a terrible reminder of the impending doom lying just above their planet, but it had also been a sign of purpose the likes of which he’d never known before. It was the force that had brought Avalanche together in the face of unspeakable odds.

Now, quietly lost and unspeakably lonely, Cloud stared out at the safe, calm night sky, and allowed himself to miss the disaster that had turned them all from terrorists into heroes.




With sunrise came the now-familiar sound of bickering from downstairs. Cloud blinked out of the half-asleep doze he’d fallen into, and sighed at the sound of pans slamming around downstairs. He’d given the remnants permission to cook more out of self-defense than a desire for them to pull their own weight. There were only so many knife-edged remarks on his culinary skills he could take from Yazoo. Eventually he’d decided that letting the remnant cook would require less cleanup than decapitating him.

It did, however, mean that his charges tended to have much nicer breakfasts than Cloud himself did. He’d taken to skipping the meal all together. Superiority was not something he wanted to foster in them. He took a slow breath, stretching out the stiffness that had gathered in his back and shoulders.

‘Weak.’ A darkly amused voice purred in Cloud’s mind.

Downstairs, something broke. Cloud paused for a moment. Hearing voices he was used to, but not the voice that had echoed through his mind just then. Not since the Stigma.

“First,” he said quietly to the air, standing and sliding into his sword harness. “If I’m weak, you’re weaker. And second,” he slid Tsurugi into place at his back, cracking his neck. “If you never had to stretch a sore muscle, then you were even less human than I thought.”

Cloud paused, waiting for a rebuttal, but none came. He shrugged, letting himself smirk a little. Even if his verbal sparring opponent was dead, it always felt good to have the last word.

He steeled himself with a slow breath, then walked downstairs. The remnants voices petered out as he approached, and he restrained a sigh. It was to the point that he almost wished they wanted to talk to him. But then, that would never happen.

Kadaj was straightening the turtleneck sweater he’d taken to wearing when Cloud walked in, his eyes cast to the wall. Yazoo was leaning back in the chair next to him, his challenging gaze fixed on Cloud’s face. The salve Irene had sent home to look after Kadaj’s burns sat nearby. Cloud assumed they were healing well, but ever since Kadaj had gotten his hands on better fitting clothes that would hide the uneven burns on his neck, he had worn them constantly around Cloud.

Loz risked a small smile at Cloud before going back to munching on his breakfast. Cloud was fairly sure it was an egg and spinach sandwich. It smelled delicious, and Cloud resisted the urge to glare at Yazoo in retribution for it. He did, however, glance long enough to watch the slender remnant sliding his fingers down the long scar over his cheek.

“Good morning.” Cloud said into the silence as he moved over to start some water heating.

“Sure.” Kadaj muttered, a paragon of sunshine as always.

“It’s getting cloudy.” Loz replied when Yazoo didn’t step in. They always seemed to speak in turns, Cloud had noted. Kadaj got first dibs on speaking, then Yazoo if he had a comment to offer, then Loz would input his opinion. “Not, like you kinds of Cloudy. Just the, um, overcast kind.”

“Smooth.” Yazoo drawled.

Retorts, it seemed, were fair game between Kadaj and Yazoo, depending on the mood of the room. If Kadaj was angry, he monopolized retorting privileges. Cloud took Yazoo’s snide, cold remark as a sign that the youngest remnant wasn’t angry, at least.

“It’s winter.” Cloud said blandly. “It will probably snow before too much longer.”

A beat, and Kadaj said nothing. Yazoo heaved a sigh, and Cloud glanced over to watch him lean on one arm on the table.

“I like the snow.” He purred mildly. “It’s like home. You know—”

“And by home you mean the Northern Crater, I know.” Cloud said dryly. “You’ve used that line before.”

“Shit.” Yazoo muttered under his breath.

“You’ll have to work harder to get under my skin.” Cloud chided mildly before freezing, halfway through pouring the coffee grounds into his personal filter.

Was that banter? Was he bantering with a remnant? That was not how things were supposed to go. He cleared his throat sharply, turning back to his task and trying to put the thought from his mind.

“I’m driving back to Edge today.” He said into the silence, wondering if Yazoo had been experiencing the same existential discomfort from their short exchange.

“I am not riding in that car with you again.” Kadaj snapped at once. “I’m not riding on anything that isn’t a motorcycle.”

“I’m not exactly eager to listen to your whining and belching all the way to Midgar either.” Cloud snapped in reply. “So you’re not coming.”

Silence, for a moment, and Cloud could feel their fixated attention on the back of his neck. He fought the urge to reach for his sword.

“You’re leaving us here.” Kadaj said slowly.

“Yes.” Cloud poured the hot water, waiting for it to percolate through the coffee grounds. Gods he needed the caffeine after the interrupted night.

“Alone.” Kadaj filled in.

Cloud snorted, setting the kettle back on the burner and turning to him with an arched eyebrow.

“There’s trusting you to obey the rules and protect your skins, and then there’s being an idiot.” He said dryly. “I’m not stupid enough to think you three wouldn’t manage to worm into trouble or away from me. Vincent’s going to watch you.”

“The Turk?” Kadaj demanded.

“The demon?” Yazoo supplied, his eyes narrowed.

“We don’t like him.” Loz finished the trio’s thoughts, all of their eyes fixed on Cloud, a lovely set of frustration, annoyance, and concern.

“I don’t care if you like him.” Cloud waved a hand, turning back to his coffee, waiting for the final pool of hot water to drain through the grounds. “Liking him isn’t the point. The point is, he has pretty elegantly proven that he can handle you three, and that he’s willing to do so.”

“By handle you mean—”

“That he could have a bullet through Kadaj’s skull before you two could take him out.” Cloud replied with a grim satisfaction. Imagining the remnants failing his standards and being summarily disposed of didn’t fill him with the sort of daydreamy longing that it used to, but it still held some satisfaction. Especially when it was followed by muffled, frustrated cursing from the smallest of them.

“And what will you be doing?” Asked Yazoo coldly, usurping the order as he often did when Kadaj was threatened in any way. “Cuddling with your precious family.”

“Probably.” Cloud turned, his black coffee finally held in hand. He prefered it with cream and sugar, but it looked cooler to drink it black. He assumed. “And then I’m bringing Irene back here.”

There was a moment of silence while Kadaj whipped his head back to Cloud from where he’d been glaring at Yazoo, silver hair falling into his face. The middle brother lifted an aristocratic eyebrow while Loz broke into a mild smile.

“I’m fine.” Kadaj snarled defensively.

“She was nice.” Loz reminded his brother mildly.

“Who the hell is that?” Yazoo asked, glancing between his brothers, obviously displeased to have been left out of the inside circle.

“She’s the lady who stitched you up while you were sliced to pieces.” Cloud replied mildly, lifting a hand to tap his own cheek to remind Yazoo of his mark. “And the only reason you have just a scar, instead of a pierced cheek.”
Yazoo’s revolted face was mildly satisfying.

“I don’t remember that part.” Kadaj muttered. “I had just gotten my brain fried by an idiot.”

It was Cloud’s turn to look away. He could imagine the triumph in Kadaj’s face, and had a brief, abrupt mental image of the young man high-fiving his sullen brother. If they were normal teenagers, maybe. But they were anything but normal.

“Complain all you like.” Cloud took a slow sip of gross coffee and leveled his gaze back at the three of them. “Doesn’t change reality. I’ll be back with her by this evening. I expect you three to have done your share of the chores, and to have behaved for Vincent.”

“As if we have a choice.” Yazoo muttered.

“Can we still play outside?” Loz whined.

“Do we have to do your stupid reading practice?” Kadaj sneered.

Cloud rolled his eyes skyward and prayed for patience. It arrived in the form of a knock on the door that sounded only twice—businesslike, professional, and decisive.

“Up to your babysitter.” He called over his shoulder, smirking at the disgusted sound Yazoo made at his back.

Vincent arched an eyebrow at him when Cloud opened the door, his face hidden behind his usual mantel, but his expression clear.

“Riling them up for me?” he rumbled.

“They’re always like this.” Cloud replied with a shrug. “I trust your judgement to handle them as you see fit.”

“It’s not my first circus.” Vincent replied, stepping into the house with long, slow steps, and more gravitas than Cloud had ever been able to command. “Go home, Cloud.”

“Call me if you need me.” Cloud replied, lifting a hand to give Vincent a short, two-fingered salute. “I’ll answer for you.”

Vincent’s reply was to shift his cape to the side, letting Cloud catch a glimpse of the phone strapped to his hip before he walked out of the hallway. Cloud stepped out of the house without another glance, and headed for Cid’s. He trusted Vincent completely, and now that the option was there, he couldn’t wait to be out of the house and away from his charges. Even if it was only for a little while.

He sipped his coffee while he hiked the distance to Cid’s combination home and workshop. He caught himself casting glances back at the house as he went, as though waiting for it to explode, but soon enough it vanished behind the hills.

Cid was waiting for him with the truck’s keys and a heaping helping of sarcasm. Cloud bore his snide comments and invasive questions with the ease of long practice, but he did so while climbing into the car and stowing his sword and coffee. He was ready to be on the road. He desperately wanted to get there in time to have a while with Tifa and the kids. He missed his little family, whatever it was. He knew he was doing the right thing in keeping a handle on the remnants, but that didn’t make it easy.

He drove off while Cid was still yelling at him about how frustrating he was, but it was with a smile and a wave, and he could tell that the pilot’s cursing was affectionate, because his face was just red and not the wild, vein-straining purple shade it turned when he was really angry. Then it was just him and the road, and though he wasn’t great at stickshifts, cars never bothered him so long as he was the one driving.

He turned on the radio, and turned it up till it overpowered the rumbling of the engine. It would only have been better if he’d been on his motorcycle. The freedom was heady, and warm and—

He lifted his head to the wind, closing his eyes, inhaling deeply. Freedom smelled like dusty sands overheated by the sun and the exhaust of a ratty old truck, and the clinging smell of mako that still stuck to Cloud no matter how hard he tried to get rid of it. But it was freedom, and he loved it, and for a moment he was at peace.

Cloud shook the thoughts away, catching a breath and shifting gears when he realized he’d let the truck slow down too much. Zack’s memories again. Ever since he’d stood in that room with Tseng… Was it only three weeks ago now? Cloud frowned. So recent, and yet it felt like so much time had passed. The memory of that room, and the choking smell of sweat and blood rose, and he shook it off, reminding himself that Kadaj needed no pity and no help now. He was fine.

Or as fine as he deserved to be, at least.

He breathed slow through the trip. None of this was what he was built for. He was made to fight, and though for a while he’d waited eagerly for the fighting to stop, now he found that he missed it. Maybe he could pick up some monster hunting work soon. After all, he would need a supplemental income soon enough. His savings would only last him so far. Now that he was off the WRO payroll, the mercenary life might be his best bet. It had certainly led him to interesting places the last time he tried it.

He felt his heart leap when he passed the first proper sign stretched over the deserted highway proclaiming that he was approaching Edge. He’d missed the ramshackle city. He hadn’t realized how homesick he was until he just then. In a way, until he’d left, he hadn’t realized that he thought of Edge as home.

The warm feelings froze when he recognized the helicopter sitting on the road before him, and the figure standing before it, clad in white. He stood with his legs apart, his hands crossed confidently before him, his blonde hair perfectly slicked back, one elegant strand falling into his face.

Rufus Shinra. He should have known.

For a moment, Cloud strongly considered just plowing into him. It would serve him right, standing in the middle of the road as though he owned it. Though knowing Rufus Shinra, he might actually own the road. There was no telling with his family

Cloud glanced to either side of the helicopter as he slowed the truck to a stop, popping the door open and stepping out into the street. Tseng and Elena flanked the chopper, and in the pilots seat Cloud could see Reno, drumming his fingers on the equipment panel. Cloud couldn’t spot Rude, but he was certain he was there. Probably readying a rocket launcher in the body of the chopper. Cloud grabbed his sword as he left the cab of the truck, slinging it easily into the harness on his back. Rufus’s calm, superior gaze didn’t waver even for a moment. The young president didn’t even flinch. He might have been an asshole, but Cloud couldn’t accuse him of being a coward.

“Rufus.” Cloud acknowledged, walking forward without hesitation.

“Cloud.” Rufus held still, letting Cloud approach without moving. “You look well.”

“You’ve dropped the wheelchair act, I see.” Cloud replied coldly, stopping a solid seven feet from where Rufus was standing.

“Hardly an act. It’s not as though the stigma and the explosion left me entirely unharmed.”

“I don’t care.” Cloud waved a hand between them. “Tell me what you want and get out of my way.”

“There’s no need to be hostile.” Rufus commented, one hand dropping to the side while his other stroked over his own chin lightly, halfway hiding his smirk. “We’re hardly enemies, Cloud.”

“I’d like to think I made myself perfectly clear about my stance on you the last time we talked.” Cloud said, shifting so that one foot was in front of the other, side-eyeing Rufus from a position where he could see Tseng more clearly. The Turk wasn’t looking at him, and his hands were loose at his sides. It was the perfect ‘I don’t care’ pose. Cloud didn’t trust it for a minute

“The last time we talked, I was trying to make sure you wouldn’t join with us.” Rufus said with a chuckle. “Don’t tell me you missed that.”

“If that was you trying to drive me away, you could have gone about it a lot more directly.” Cloud said blandly, lifting one hand to rest on his sword in a clear threat.

Rufus actually had the audacity to laugh. A low chuckle, paired with him tucking his chin, narrowing his bright eyes and parting his lips in a wicked grin.

“I wasn’t trying to drive you away.” Rufus chuckled. “Just to get your blood boiling. And it did work, didn’t it. In the end, you sided with us perfectly. Played right into my hand, and took up arms against the remnants.”

“I’d have done that without you.” Cloud narrowed his eyes. “Get to the point before I end our discussion more permanently.”

“Empty threats.” Rufus said with a wave of his hand.

The ex-president stepped out of his firm stance and strode forward easily. The sound of metal reached Cloud’s ears, and he glanced to Rufus’s legs, watching the stiff motion. Leg braces, he wondered, narrowing his gaze on him a moment before flicking his eyes back up to meet Rufus’s gaze. He didn’t take his hand off his sword, but he didn’t draw it either.

“I want to talk about them.” Rufus purred. “I understand why you ran off like that, Cloud. If anyone has a reason to be uneasy with torture, it’s you. It was a miscalculation to bring you in on their treatment. Not a call I would have made, but I assume Reeve had his own reasons to want you there.”

“I had my own reasons to be there.” Cloud corrected. “Reeve doesn’t approve any more than  you do.”

“It’s beside the point now.” Rufus said with a wave of his hand. “You took them, and you have as much right to do so as anyone. But Cloud, I want you to see things from my perspective.”

“I don’t think it’s possible.” Cloud scowled at him as darkly as he could, shifting into a stronger stance. “I could never be as selfish as a Shinra.”

“No?” Rufus smiled in response. “What if I told you it wasn’t selfishness?”

“You would be hard pressed to prove it.”

“Look at this world, Cloud.” Rufus murmured, his voice pitched suddenly lower, suddenly intimate. The smile fell away, leaving him unusually serious. Cloud blinked, eyes narrowing suspiciously at the change. “It is alive, certainly, and that much was uncertain for a while. But what world are we leaving behind us in the wake of all this pain? There are so many children with no one to turn to, and so many of those we could have turned to died when the planet stopped meteor. How many people over forty years old have you seen since meteor fell?”

“Cut to the chase.” Cloud said grimly. He didn’t need Rufus telling him. He knew that the planet had taken the lives of older people first, as though trying to spare the children of the world. He’d have known it from Denzel’s story even if Reeve hadn’t shown him the statistics.

“We are this world’s leaders now.” Rufus took another half step forward, invading Cloud’s space just a touch, pressing him. “It’s up to us to decide what life we leave for those who come after us.”

“And this has something to do with me.” Cloud prompted, refusing to back down from the intimidating blond with his ice-blue eyes.

“You’re leaving the WRO to be a prison guard.” Rufus replied dryly. “The hero of our planet, relegated to guarding three beings who hate him more than anyone else in the world. You could be doing so much good, Cloud. I know you won’t join me, but Reeve has proven himself to you, hasn’t he? Even Vincent works for them now. I hear Barrett’s considering joining their payroll as well. It’s practically Avalanche 2.0. And yet, you hover in Rocket Town, once again stuck doing nothing.”

The worst part about talking to Rufus Shinra was that the bastard was always right. As little as Cloud wanted to listen, every word that came out of his mouth was true. He clenched his jaw, eyes narrowed, watching for the catch. For the moment that would change his mind. He didn’t let it shake him that Rufus knew they were in Rocket Town. He’d expected that. Rufus would have name dropped the house if he’d known they were there. Tseng shifted in the periphery of Cloud’s vision, and he took a slow breath, finding what he’d been waiting for.

“So you want me to give them back.” He said blandly. “Let your Turks torture them.”

“They would be reaping only what they have sown.” Rufus replied with a slow smile. “Or hasn’t Vincent told you what they did to Elena and Tseng.”

“As if Elena and Tseng themselves are guiltless.” Cloud said darkly. “I’m not interested in an eye for an eye, Rufus. And I’m not interested in your form of justice.”

“Oh?” Rufus raised an eyebrow. “And your version of justice is so much clearer?”

“I haven’t forgotten what Shinra did to my friends.” Cloud stepped forward this time. He wasn’t tall enough to loom, but he pressed Rufus’s space, and watched the other man’s eyes narrow in challenge and response. “I haven’t forgotten Scarlett trying to execute Tifa live on television. I haven’t forgotten how you tried to blame us for Meteor and Sephiroth. Your justice has nothing to do with what’s right, and everything to do with what benefits you.”

“What benefits me might benefit you, this time.” Rufus purred, not bothering to deny Cloud’s words. “Might benefit those children too. If you return them, I’d even grant you a finders fee. For your trouble, of course. I don’t want to be your enemy in this, Cloud.”

“Then don’t get in my way.” Cloud snapped.

“Not an option.” Rufus bit back. “I won’t let those monsters go free to take this world again. I’m not the man I was, Cloud. The tower’s collapse—the stigma—They changed me.”

“Assuming that you really don’t want to see your Turks get killed.” Cloud let the mako flare in his eyes, watched Rufus glare in response. “I would recommend you get into your chopper and fly away. Right now, before this escalates and someone gets hurt.”
He flicked a pointed look to Tseng and Elena. He could hear Rufus grinding his teeth. A part of him was surprised at the reaction. It was almost like the man actually cared.

“Have it your way.” Rufus said softly. “But remember that I offered you a peaceful resolution to this.”

“Trust me, Shinra.” Cloud turned his back on the other man, striding back towards his car. “You’re not fooling anyone here but yourself with the innocent act.”

“Perhaps not.” Rufus said behind him. “I’m sure we’ll meet again soon, Strife.”

Cloud jammed the truck into gear the moment he was inside, and swerved off the road instead of waiting for the chopper to take off. Elena’s wide eyes followed him every moment, and the blame in them was piercing. He tried not to think on it.

His sense of peace gone, Cloud watched the helicopter take off in the rear view mirror, and drove at last into Edge proper, heading for 7th Heaven and trying not to let Rufus’s blame gnaw too deeply at him. He forced himself to remember his reasons—Kadaj’s trembling sweat-drenched form and heart-rending pleas, Yazoo’s blood soaked body and gory scars, Loz’s broken hands and tear filled eyes. And yet the memory of Denzel’s corruption and Marlene’s fear rose in counterpoint, reminding him vividly of how deeply afraid his kids still were of the pieces of Sephiroth who had tried to take them from their home.

He parked behind the bar, and put his head in his hands, trying to breathe through it all. It was a no-win situation, and he knew it. No matter what he did from here, someone would be hurt more than he could bear.
Ugly Truths Chapter 7
So so many apologies. I know this has been a long time coming. Enide-Dear , KorNaXon , poppydayson special apologies to all of you, and tu FunkySockzLover . You guys are all so important to me, and I want you to know that I'll do my absolute best not to leave you hanging again!

Chapter One: boomchick.deviantart.com/art/U…
Previous Chapter:<da:thumb id="432466036">
Loading...
It's that time of year again, when National Novel Writing Month eats my soul and takes my fanfiction time away from me.

I'm hoping to catch up on posting the fics I have written here! It takes a strange amount of energy for me to post the fics here. I'm a lot better at getting them up on Tumblr and ff.net But I love you guys, and I want to involve you too!

I know a lot of you came for my remnant stories. I'm afraid they've been killing me inside recently.

Ugly Truths sits open in my browser at all times, sitting there, its google doc waiting, its cursor flashing, the beginning of the latest chapter scribed in perfect black ink. It's good. It's also only about 500 words long. Below that sits the rub—notes of chapters to come, of stories untold, of character development I don't know how to tackle.

It's never off my mind. It exhausts and eats at me, and I know I lose fans every day it goes unposted, and it kills me, because I love all of you, but Seph/Cloud is easy, and it flows, and I almost never have to fight it.

And the remnants, the dear remnants, who I've known and loved for nearly 10 years now—has it really been nearly ten years?—they bite back and claw away, and refuse to submit. It's why I love them, after all...

I digress. I'm trying to write this novel. I'm trying to write the fics I should write. I hope you all forgive me for not being the author I wish i could be.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore)
A FFVII fanfiction
Written by Boomchickfanfiction
Illustrated by tomowowowo
WARNINGS: VIOLENCE, TRAUMA, BLOOD, DISTURBING IMAGERY, GRAPHIC WRONGNESS. Happy Halloween, y’all.




Cloud knew something was horribly wrong the moment he stepped out of the elevator on the nearly unoccupied First Class level of Shinra’s HQ. The door to Sephiroth’s apartment was ajar. The door to Sephiroth’s apartment had never been ajar. Not a single day in the two years Cloud had known him. He stopped outside it, staring at the smear of blood on the doorknob, and felt his stomach drop in fear.

He drew the training blade off his back, keeping a firm grip on it with one hand while he pushed the door carefully open with the other. It swung open on silent perfectly-oiled hinges. Everything inside the apartment looked untouched, but Cloud’s eyes fixed on the droplets of blood on the usually pristine hardwood. There was a faucet running somewhere, filling the air with quiet white noise.

He edged closer and closer to the sound, trying to quiet his breathing and steady his hand. He gripped the blade tightly stepping up to the open bathroom door. He leaned slowly around the corner, his heart in his throat and the sound of the rushing water closer than ever.

He looked in time to see shining silver hair, and a kitchen knife digging into the tender flesh of Sephiroth’s cheek.

“Seph!” Cloud screamed, lunging forward. He dropped his sword with a resounding crash, grabbing Sephiroth’s wrist with both hands and wrenching it downwards away from his skin.

He was alarmed when Sephiroth’s hand fell away easily at his pull. He almost cracked his head against the wall when he wasn’t met with the resistance he expected. Even more bizarre were the tremors wracking the arm he was clutching. The knife clattered into the sink, dropped from twitching fingers.

“What are you doi—” He looked up, and his voice died in a sharp scream of alarm.

Sephiroth stared down at him, his brows twisted, his chin coated in blood. Shining steel stitches covered his lips like a macabre zipper. His eyes were intense, and his breath was rough through his nose. Cloud watched Sephiroth’s jaw tighten and shift, pulling at the stitches in his lips.


“Gods.” Cloud rasped. “Gods, Sephiroth what—What the hell!?”
Sephiroth pulled back from him, shaking his head, unable to speak. His lips tightened together, then started to draw apart, tearing at the stitches, dragging skin and making fresh blood stem from each end of every stitch.

“No, wait!” Cloud cried, jerking forward from where he was half-leaning on the sink. He grabbed Sephiroth’s bare arms, pressing forward to catch the back of his neck with one hand, trying to meet his eyes. “Sephiroth please, don’t hurt yourself!”

His voice came out shrill—Terrified. Sephiroth made the softest of grunting sounds, his brow twisting. But he stopped fighting the stitches, slowly looking down at Cloud. Blood dripped between them, falling on the shoulder of Cloud’s shirt, then the chest as Sephiroth’s head turned. Sephiroth’s jacket was streaked with blood that had fallen from his chin.

“Let me—” Cloud couldn’t breathe.

He sucked in a breath, then another. He’d known something was wrong, but this—This was beyond wrong— It was like a surrealist painting intruding in his life. Sephiroth’s eyes gazed at him, bleak, from above a stitched-shut mouth. Cloud wished for all the world that he could leave the room and pretend he’d never seen anything.

But then Sephiroth would hurt himself. There was no re-gaining the ignorance he’d had before he’d looked into this room. He pushed aside horror and fear, and gasped in a breath to calm himself.

“Let me help you.” He whispered, sliding his hand from Sephiroth’s neck to his shoulder. “Please, don’t tear yourself up. I know you’ll heal, but please.”

For a moment, Sephiroth was tense. He looked like he would argue. He grimaced as though pained, and Cloud didn’t blame him. The newly-torn cuts at the end of every stitch pulled with any facial twitch he permitted. Then the silver-haired man bowed his head slowly, pressing his forehead to Cloud’s, and a shaking breath escaped him. His twitching hands lifted, resting on Cloud’s biceps, and the blond returned the grip a moment before brushing Sephiroth’s beautiful hair back over his shoulder into place.

“Let’s get you free.” Cloud said firmly. “I need you to sit down, okay? I’m going to find something a little better suited than a kitchen knife. I’ll be right back.”

Sephiroth’s only reply was to sink down onto the seat of the toilet, hunched in on himself and dripping crimson blood onto the tiled floor.

Cloud kept his pace calm and controlled until he left the room. Then he sprinted for the toolkit he used to maintain his motorcycle. He dug through it with a ferocity, hunting for the wire cutters he knew had come with it, even if he had never used them. The gleaming steel sutures in Sephiroth’s lips were nothing like the medical stitches he’d seen before, and he wouldn’t have the control with a pair of scissors to keep from cutting him up worse.

He finally dragged them free, wincing at the oil stains on them, and returned to the bathroom. He hesitated just before turning the corner, but shook off the edge of his mind screaming for him not to go any farther—To reject the reality that life was presenting him. Sephiroth needed him. He would not let him down.

“Let me get these sterile.” He whispered as he walked into the room, unable to keep but fixing his gaze on the pale, bloody form of his brutally muted boyfriend.

Sephiroth made the softest of sounds. It might have been understanding, impatience, or just pain. Cloud couldn’t tell. He dug an alcohol wipe out of their medical kit, scrubbing off the business ends of the wire clippers, then the handles too. He knew Sephiroth’s obsession with keeping wounds clean, and as fast as he wanted to go, he needed Sephiroth’s cooperation to do it.

“Good enough?” He asked the man, throwing the alcohol wipe away and looking to him.

Sephiroth was shaking worse now. His throat worked, and he gave a terse nod. Cloud watched his hands open and close where they were braced on his knees, the shaking unabated.

He moved over, crouching before him. He steadied himself on one knee, taking in the damage. There were at least fifteen stitches spanning Sephiroth’s usually soft lips. They were held in neutral expression, no sassy smirk or agonized grimace able to escape them. The stitches across the soft arch in the center of his lips were crossed in an ‘x’ that mirrored their natural curve.

“Don’t move, okay?” Cloud whispered, his voice weak at the thought of what could happen if Sephiroth shifted abruptly while he held the wire cutters to his face. “Just hold really really still.”

He lifted a shaking hand, pausing as Sephiroth’s hands lifted to catch his halfway there. The man held his hand for a moment in between his, as though steadying him. He met Cloud’s eyes and gave a slow nod, taking a deep breath through his nose. Cloud leaned forward, just enough to kiss one of Sephiroth’s fingers, the softest of touches, meant to provide him with some affection—some calm.




Then Sephiroth released him, and there was no impediment to Cloud beginning the twisted work but his own reluctance. He carefully placed his free hand against Sephiroth’s chin as an anchor point, and slowly slid the bottom blade of the wire cutters between Sephiroth’s sewn-shut lips.

He snipped the first wire, and almost cried with relief when he saw it spring open. He could do this. He could set him free. He bit his lip as he gripped the end of the wire in his fingers. He waited until Sephiroth had closed his eyes and given the smallest of nods, then pulled, dragging it out of his lips. He tried not to watch the way it tugged at the vulnerable skin.


“One down.” He whispered, readjusting his hands to isolate the second wire. Blood seeped from between Sephiroth’s lips where Cloud had opened the gap, and Cloud had the sinking suspicion that it was not all from the stitches. He tried not to think about it. He tried not to think about anything.

He cut three wires and pulled each out, laying them on the floor at Sephiroth’s feet, before the man pulled away.

Cloud wondered why for a moment. Then Sephiroth choked and coughed through his nose, his eyes clenched shut. Cloud braced him with a hand against his chest, offering support just in case Sephiroth really was as weak as he looked.

He waited for the fit to pass, rubbing small circles into Sephiroth’s chest with his thumb, hoping that it was comforting, at least in some way. Sephiroth finally caught his breath again, though it was ragged and too-quick. He seemed to be having trouble getting enough air with only his nose.

Cloud lifted a hand to cup his cheek, then jerked it away again quickly. He’d felt something move. Something that was not a tongue. Something hard that had poked against the skin for just a moment.

A soft squeak caught in the air before the room went quiet again.

“Is there something in your mouth?” Cloud whispered, his voice trembling.

Brows twisted and eyes clenched shut in an expression of pain, Sephiroth nodded.

“Something alive?” Cloud rasped, barely able to make himself say the words.

Another nod.

Cloud barely grabbed the trash can in time before he was heaving into it, his stomach rebelling without consent from his brain. He grimaced, fighting back the tide of sickness with sheer willpower. He dragged his head back up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve artlessly, trying not to tremble.

Sephiroth made the softest of sick sounds, his expression tensing further still as he fought it back.

“I’m sorry,” Cloud whispered, on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, don’t throw up, you can do this, Seph. I’m going to get it out, I promise.”

A hand groped for him blindly, and Cloud caught it, clinging tightly in response, steadying Sephiroth with his grip as best he could.

“Got a handle on it?” Cloud asked when Sephiroth’s breathing seemed to have evened again.

A slow nod, and Sephiroth drew his hand away, wiping it across the bloody surface of his chin, his eyes cracking open to stare at the liquid in quiet resignation. He let out a slow breath, stripping out of his restrictive jacket while they were in a pause.

“Let me finish.” Cloud whispered. “We’re already three in, Seph, we can do this.”

He picked up the clippers from where he’d dropped them, but didn’t bother sterilizing them again. There was something alive in Sephiroth’s mouth. Nothing he did was going to make his OCD worse at this point. His hands held a fine tremor that would not stop.



He worked more quickly, forcing himself to keep his hands steady and his breathing even. He couldn’t think too much about what was happening. He’d lose it the moment it caught up to him, and that had to be after Sephiroth was safe. He found a slow rhythm of snip and remove, snip and remove.

By the time he’d reached the X at the center of Sephiroth’s lips, the man was shaking worse than ever, and Cloud’s shoulders were getting tired from the strange position. He had to grab a towel to wipe away some of the blood pouring from between his lips before going back to work. There was so much of it it was sometimes hard to see the trailing ends of wire.

Something shifted with a squealing sound behind Sephiroth’s teeth, and the man jerked just as Cloud pressed the clippers together. He gasped as he sliced deep into Sephiroth’s lip, setting a fresh stream of blood free.

“I’m sorry!” Cloud’s hand fumbled for some toilet paper to staunch the bleeding on the ugly cut. “I’m sorry, Sephiroth, I—”

Sephiroth touched his hand, shaking his head twice and squeezing his wrist. His eyes tightened at the corners as he stared at Cloud, his expression all tension. He pulled the paper away from his bloody lip, taking Cloud’s other hand and pressing the cutters back against his bound mouth. Cloud swallowed hard at the obvious, silent request. He assented, removing the blood-soaked paper away from the already-healing skin, swallowing his guilt.

“I won’t slip again.” He whispered, more reassuring himself than Sephiroth of the fact. “You’re going to be okay.”

He bit his lip as he lifted his trembling hand back into position, and isolated the crossed wires before closing the wire clippers on them. They were halfway done. The slit in Sephiroth’s upper lip where Cloud’s hand had slipped started knitting together even as he watched. It was an awful sight. Cloud tried not to let himself dwell on it. There were so many wires left to go.

Snip and remove, snip and remove. He tried not to think about the fact that the wire he was cutting was being pulled from his lover’s soft lips, or about the blood that fell anew from every place he drew the stitches free. He tried not to think about how badly his actions had to be hurting Sephiroth, even without his hand slipping. He tried hardest not to think about the towel between Sephiroth’s legs, soaking up the pool of blood.

Sephiroth made a jerking motion, and Cloud jerked his clippers away abruptly.

“Only two more.” He said briskly. “Only two more, Seph, and you’ll be—”

Not fast enough for the General, it seemed. Sephiroth bowed his head and ripped his mouth open despite the final two wires holding it closed. He cupped his hands before his face, and reached inside his mouth with two fingers. The clotting blood from his mouth pooled in his hands, and something large and wet slid free. For a moment, Cloud thought it was his tongue. Then it shuddered, and gave the smallest of squeaking sounds.

For a moment, everything was still. Cloud stared at the sight of his lover, lips parted, the two final stitches hanging like rings from the corner of his mouth, his top lip shredded where he’d pulled free. In the palms of his hands, a blood-drenched mouse trembled, sneezing Sephiroth’s blood out of its little nose.



“Cloud.” Sephiroth rasped, sounding numb and distant. “I need something to hold it in.”

“Wh—What?”

“The mouse.” Sephiroth, turned his head for a moment, cupping one hand over the other and making a strained sound, like he was holding back a retch. “I need something to… To hold it in…”

“You’re not going to… That is, you want to…?”

“Not its fault.” Sephiroth rasped, blood spilling from his lips with every word.

Cloud sprinted it into the kitchen without further comment, hunting through the tupperware his mother had sent them as a joke about their domesticity. He found a roomy one, and swiftly stabbed three holes in the top so the creature would be able to breathe. He practically skidded when he went to his knees before Sephiroth again, holding the container open.

The gentle reverence with which Sephiroth laid the shivering half-drowned creature in the box was one of the most heart-wrenching things Cloud had ever seen.

He closed the box firmly, but carefully. The way Sephiroth had handled the rodent meant that Cloud couldn’t imagine being cruel with it. He set it carefully out of the way and looked up to his lover.

“How bad?” He whispered, trying not to let his voice shake.

“Just a lot of blood.” The words were slurred, and Sephiroth shook his head a little, trying to clear it. “A lot of blood and fur and… Hand me the rubbing alcohol.”

Cloud passed it without a word, then instantly recoiled as Sephiroth pulled off the cap and tipped it into his mouth, shifting bonelessly off the toilet to spit the bloody alcohol into the tub.

“Seph you shouldn’t—”

“It was afraid.” Sephiroth rasped. “Bit and scratched at my tongue, at my gums, at—I can—I can still feel its tail in my throat and—”

He broke off, retching but just tipped back more of the rubbing alcohol. Cloud could only stare as the man swallowed it like it was water, all but bathing his torn mouth and lips in the burning fluid. Sephiroth drained the bottle, then barely managed to rearrange himself to the toilet before throwing it all up again. He choked in breaths between bouts of vomiting up what looked like coffee grounds. Cloud had learned enough first-aid to know digested blood when he saw it.

He forced back his nausea, moving over and wrapping an arm around Sephiroth’s back in support. He hadn’t expected the man to lean on him, but he was strong enough to hold him in place when he did.

“Keep breathing.” He urged in a whisper, though he knew the words were stupid. Sephiroth was coughing over the toilet bowl, wracking chokes of sickness, and coughing meant breathing. That didn’t mean it was comfortable.

“Don’t,” Sephiroth heaved in a gasp of air. “Don’t be afraid.”

“You’re hurt.” Cloud whispered, squeezing Sephiroth ever so slightly where he held him around the shoulders. “Of course I’m afraid. Sephiroth, what the hell happened?”

Sephiroth drew breath to speak, but gagged instead, shuddering as blood dripped from his lips. Cloud winced in sympathy and shook his head.

“I made a mistake.” Sephiroth managed to croak. “It won’t happen again.”

“A mista—No, we’ll talk later. For now getting you well is what’s important.”

“Do we have anything the mouse can eat?” Sephiroth asked, looking bizarrely worried about the little creature that had torn the inside of his mouth to shreds.

“I’ll check.” Cloud promised. “But after we get you looked after, okay? I was… I just want to be sure you’re alright.”

Sephiroth let out a slow breath of air, nodding quietly.

“Would you turn on the shower?” He whispered. “I need this blood off me, but the tub is filthy…”

Cloud glanced around the blood-spattered bathroom, but decided not to argue that the bathtub was the easiest to clean mess thus far. He stood, slowly, making sure Sephiroth wouldn’t slump without him before turning on the shower. He pulled the shower head off its detachable hook to spray the blood in the bed of the tub down the drain, or at least closer to it.

“Can you get up?” He asked Sephiroth with quiet worry, hearing the man shift.

“I didn’t lose that much blood.” Sephiroth rumbled.

“But you’re shaking…” Cloud’s words trailed off in uncertainty.

“After effects.” Sephiroth said with a weary numbness. “The paralytic leaves me shaky once it wears off. It will be gone within an hour. I’ll be like nothing ever happened.”

“Just because you’re physically healed doesn’t mean you’re okay…” Cloud whispered, but he didn’t object further than that.

He just aimed the shower-head away while Sephiroth climbed into the tub with exhaustion in every line of his face. The silver-haired man didn’t even bother trying to stand. He lay back in the tub with heavy sigh of relief. Cloud carefully drew the shower head down to help him scrub the blood off his chest. He was more grateful than ever for the long hose that allowed Sephiroth to stay lying down while he got clean.

“The last two,” Sephiroth whispered, wiping the last of the blood off his chin, blinking as though his eyelids were suddenly feeling very heavy. “Will you take them out?”

“You couldn’t have waited one more minute?” Cloud asked softly, even as he retrieved the dropped clippers once more.

“My passenger was drowning.” Sephiroth murmured, his eyes cutting over to the little box. Inside, the mouse was intermittently circling the tupperware and cleaning itself of Sephiroth’s blood. If it survived, it was going to be the most mako enhanced mouse in the world without a doubt.

Cloud bit his lip, catching one of the circles of wire, snipping it swiftly and pulling it free. Sephiroth didn’t even flinch this time.

“How are you so calm?” He whispered softly, his hand resting over Sephiroth’s chest, feeling him breath.

“Fear will not change reality.” Sephiroth rumbled. “The last one, Cloud, please…”

Cloud took a slow breath, slicing out the final stitch, pulling it away and sliding his thumb lightly over Sephiroth’s lip, wiping away the drop of blood that welled there.

“You’re okay?” He whispered in quiet concern. “You’re really okay, right?”

"I would hesitate to call myself at full capacity," Sephiroth lifted a hand, brushing his sopping wet bangs back out of his face. "But I am alright, Cloud. The damage was temporary. And predominantly psychological."

"That’s why I’m worried!" Cloud objected, shaking his head and tossing the wire-cutters onto the blood-soaked towel. "You’re physically stronger than anyone I know, you heal at the drop of a hat, you’re incredible at it, but your mind—your heart…"

"More fragile." Sephiroth agreed wearily. "It was… I will not lie. I was experiencing a very unpleasant series of emotions when you arrived.”

"I noticed. You were about to slice your face open."

"The knife wouldn’t cut the wire." Sephiroth rasped, lifting a finger to the lines over the corner of his lips, where the torn segments of his upper lip were slowly healing back together, leaving dual lines of scabs. The rest of his wounds had already healed. He felt the join of the healing flesh with a fingertip, then let his hand drop back to his side, leaning his head back in the tub.

"And your answer was to slice your face open."

"I couldn’t stand it much longer." Sephiroth whispered. "Better to endure a little pain than to have the life of another of His victims on my hands."

"It’s a mouse."

"It was trembling. It was afraid, and it was inside the mouth of a predator. That is no way to die. I’m amazed its heart did not give out before you got to me."

Cloud didn’t argue further, he just slid his hands over Sephiroth’s jaw, cupping his cheeks in both hands.

"Will this happen again?" He asked seriously.

"It has never happened before." Sephiroth said as a reply, giving a weary shrug. "Cloud, please, I will answer your questions, just…"

"What do you need?" Cloud asked, shaking off his own hesitations and doubts.

“Touch.” Sephiroth replied succinctly. “Affection…”

"Done." Cloud murmured, sliding into the tub with his drenched lover and laying over his chest without concern about being too heavy.

One of Sephiroth’s arms anchored around his waist, and the man tilted his head till it was resting against Cloud’s.



"The worst part." He whispered after a long moment, "Was that he knew the two people I would have once gone to for help were gone… He laughed, that I would be alone to ‘clean myself up.’ That was worse…Than anything he could have hurt me with."

"You can come to me." Cloud whispered, his brows twisted.

"I couldn’t." Sephiroth rasped. "Not like that. I am glad you came, but I could not have gone to you."

"You don’t trust me?"

"You live on a floor of the building where I would be seen."

Cloud softened at the words, nodding his understanding. He lifted a hand, stroking his fingers over the barely-visible pale points of scars rimming Sephiroth’s lips.

"What was it for?"

"I laughed at him." Sephiroth muttered. "It was… Foolish. Arrogant. I’m so numb to being hurt, I wasn’t expecting anything this…"

"Fucking sick?"

"I was going to say ‘creative,’ but I like yours more."

Sephiroth turned his head as he finished the words, kissing Cloud’s fingers softly, his eyes falling closed. He sighed, the breath warm on Cloud’s fingers.

"You’re exhausted." Cloud whispered, watching the soft green glow of Sephiroth’s eyes and the stress lines under them.

"The paralytic." Sephiroth said with a tick of his shoulders approximating a shrug.

"You mentioned that. You couldn’t move?"

"If I could have moved, I would not have allowed a mouse to be sewn into my mouth, Cloud."

Cloud gave the softest of retching sounds, pushing away from Sephiroth and clenching his eyes shut, trying to calm himself. He breathed slowly through his mouth till the urge to vomit passed.

"Sorry." Sephiroth commented after a moment.

"It’s fine." Cloud slumped back against his chest, wrapping his arms around Sephiroth’s neck and shoulders. "I’m not the one who got hurt."

"But you had to deal with it nonetheless." Sephiroth whispered. "You did not ask for that any more than I asked for it to happen. I will not mention it again. At least not until some time has passed."

"Thanks." Cloud whispered, pressing a soft kiss to Sephiroth’s chest. He could still smell blood all over him, but it was, at least, a lesser amount than it had been before.

"Do you think it will be okay?" Sephiroth whispered in quiet concern.

"The mouse?" Cloud asked, following his look.

"I’m very enhanced." Sephiroth whispered in quiet concern. "Being in that much blood… it might have been burned, or gotten sick. It almost certainly has mako poisoning from having it in its mouth…"

"I’m really more worried about you." Cloud murmured honestly.

"I’ll be better if the mouse lives." Sephiroth sat up slowly, steadying Cloud against his chest as he did.

Cloud slid his hand over his shoulder. “Then I’ll do what I can to help it. But you need to be in bed, Sephiroth. You need rest.”

"As soon as it’s clean and looked to." The general promised, shifting his eyes off the mouse to look down at him. "Cloud… I am.. Thank you. For everything. You didn’t have to do that."

"I had to." Cloud whispered, pressing a soft kiss to Sephiroth’s chin, unwilling to kiss his lips so close on the healing of the injury. "I really did. Let’s look after the mouse so you can lie down."

Sephiroth nodded, waiting for Cloud to stand out of the tub before following him, his motions slow and careful.

"How are you feeling?" Cloud asked, even as he stooped, lifting the box with the mouse carefully, trying not to jostle the little creature, wincing when it scrambled in fright.

"Sick." Sephiroth said succinctly. "Tainted. But better."

"Chugging rubbing alcohol was not a wise way to deal with that, you realize."

"I never claimed to be wise. I am only good at faking. And it helped."

"Maybe your brain, but I’m pretty sure your stomach could have done without it."

Sephiroth shrugged, stepping up with a little tremble beside Cloud as they reached the kitchen table, where Cloud carefully set the mouse. He slumped with a sort of exhausted grace into a chair.

"I’d have been sick anyway. Might as well feel like it did some good."

Cloud glanced back to watch the man’s long-fingered hand rest slowly over the mouse’s current enclosure, almost protectively, and wondered how he ever could have thought of Sephiroth as the heartless ‘general.’

Cloud pulled open the fridge, looking around, trying to think what he knew of mice. Were they carnivores? Vegetarians?

"Do you think mice like mashed potatoes?"

"Worth a try…"

Cloud was pulling out the leftover potatoes when it all sunk in past the layers of calm he’d forced on himself. He sucked in a hollow gasp, then dropped to his knees, no longer able to stand.

"Cloud?" Sephiroth’s voice seemed far away, and Cloud tried to breathe. His lungs wouldn’t work, frozen by shock and horror. Blood and sickness and stitches, and the pain in those green eyes—the fear.

"You’re in shock." Sephiroth was whispering from somewhere, and a warm weight settled at Cloud’s back. "I am so sorry, my sweet Cloud. I’m sorry."

Cloud wheezed, lifting a hand to cling to Sephiroth’s wrist, even as he slid slowly towards darkness.

He woke only moments later as his body automatically started breathing in unconsciousness.

"You’re okay." Sephiroth whispered, as Cloud’s vision slowly slid back into focus, untunneling. "Relax. Just breathe, Cloud, you’re okay."

"Sorry." Cloud whispered, blinking tears of shock out of his eyes. "Sorry…"

"It’s not your fault." Sephiroth whispered, brushing a hand through Cloud’s hair slowly. "Just breathe for a while, alright? I know this was not the homecoming I would have wanted you to return to."

"I think I left the door open." Cloud realized suddenly, lifting a hand to his head, catching his breath.

"I did it first." Sephiroth said with a small shrug. "Come. Up. Let me get you in a chair, and I’ll see to it."

"But—"

"And then we will rest together." Sephiroth’s hand squeezed lightly where he held Cloud’s arm. "I promise."

Cloud let Sephiroth guide him to a chair by the table, and slumped in it, closing his eyes and focusing on steadying his breathing. The silver-haired man padded quietly through the apartment, and Cloud listened to the sound of his feet on the floor, and of the door closing.

A soft squeak drew his attention and he looked into the box. The little mouse was staring out of the box at him with wide red eyes, washing its face with tiny pink paws. Cloud couldn’t help the smallest of smiles. Under the blood, it was a white mouse. it had been stained uncomfortably pink, though, and Cloud did his best not to think about it too hard.

"You’re kind of cute." Cloud whispered, because it was better to have something to focus on other than silver stitches in bloody skin. "I hope we can find somewhere good for you to go. Heck, I hope you live through this…"

The mouse blinked back, and its red eyes flickered briefly. Cloud rubbed his eyes, sure he’d imagined the sight of softly glowing blue in the beady-eyed gaze.

"Bonding?" Sephiroth asked, sounding a little too tired to be playful.

Cloud rested his head on the table, feeling too emotionally exhausted to hold it up any more. “Nah. I don’t do rodents… I like dogs, though.”

"Adrenaline crash?" Sephiroth suggested, walking to the cabinets, sorting through them before coming out with a shallow sauce-dish he’d purchased after seeing them at Wutaian peace talks.

"Yeah." Cloud agreed. "Probably."

He watched Sephiroth fill the shallow dish with water before walking over. The man opened the top of the container and set the dish inside, not seeming to flinch when the mouse scurried away from his hand.

"Silly." Cloud scolded the mouse. "You shouldn’t be scared of him."

"Everyone is scared of me, Cloud." Sephiroth whispered. "You and Zack are exceptions."

"But you could have killed it and you didn’t." Cloud objected as Sephiroth closed the lid.

"That describes my interaction with every living soul in this building." Sephiroth replied with a loftily arched brow, walking to the cabinet to look through it for something palatable for their guest.

“Grains, maybe?” He muttered to himself.

“It likes the water.” Cloud commented as he watched the mouse slowly start drinking from the little dish Sephiroth had left behind, hoping to help Sephiroth feel a little better about the whole thing.

“Good.” Sephiroth whispered, relief stark in his voice as he returned with a box of rice and a bag of carrots. “I hope these will do to replenish its energy.”

“Looks right.” Cloud commented with a shrug, his head still on the table.

“You’re surprisingly calm.” Sephiroth murmured, carefully lifting the corner of the container furthest from the water so the mouse wouldn’t be scared away from its drink.

“Too tired to be freaked.”

“Easy little one.” Sephiroth’s voice took on a low, gentle note as he carefully placed the food into the box, filling the corner with rice and carrots for the mouse that had been, moments ago, an instrument of torture.

Cloud watched the mouse cower, and sighed.

“Don’t suppose you’ll want to give it back.”

“He said it was a failure.” Sephiroth said blankly. “And that it suited me. It would not live. And it probably has seen no kindness in its life. I would sooner feed it to a snake than give it back to him.”

“I’ll take that as a no, then.” Cloud sighed. “Seph, can we go to bed?”

His words came out in a whine, but the kiss Sephiroth pressed to his forehead was all indulgent affection.

“Come on.” The man whispered. “Up with you. Let’s go to bed and give our guest some privacy in which to relax.”

“I’m supposed to be taking care of you, aren’t I.” Cloud sighed, shifting to rise stiffly.

“You did.” Sephiroth said, bracing him with a hand at his elbow. “And I feel much more myself.”

"You still sound a little rough still." Cloud muttered.

"I would rather not discuss it." The words came out slightly ragged, and Cloud leaned against Sephiroth’s side in support.

"Got it."

The closed the bedroom door behind them, and slid into bed without further discussion. Cloud wrapped around Sephiroth as best he could, tangling the fingers of one hand in Sephiroth’s hair and hooking one leg around his hips to anchor them together.

"Will you be able to rest?" Cloud whispered, trailing his free hand lightly over Sephiroth’s mouth. He paused over the healing line where his wire clippers had been jostled by his fear and sliced Sephiroth’s lip. The mark was almost invisible now.

"Probably not." Sephiroth’s lips brushed over Cloud’s fingers as he spoke, but he did not dislodge the touch. "But I will stay and relax and breathe. That is enough."

"Alright." Cloud dropped the touch slowly, and shifted to kiss Sephiroth with all the gentility he could muster. He tasted like blood, and made a disapproving noise, but he permitted the soft kiss.

"Go to sleep." Sephiroth muttered when they parted. "Before I decide washing my mouth forty five more times is a more valuable use of my time."

"I love you." Cloud whispered, nestling his head under Sephiroth’s chin and clinging to him tightly. "I am so sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for." Sephiroth rumbled in reply, his words shaking in his chest, thrumming under Cloud’s ear. "You were brave and gentle, and I am grateful to you. Now rest, and forget. It will never happen again, Cloud. You will never have to do that again."

"If you’re hurt, I want to help." Cloud whispered, his eyes squeezing shut. "Don’t hide from me just because you’re worried about upsetting me."

"Sleep." Sephiroth said softly. "We’ll have time to talk tomorrow."

Cloud closed his eyes to sleep. The vision of Sephiroth bloody and disfigured sprung to mind, and Cloud trembled, feeling tears spring to his eyes.

"Seph…" He whispered, splaying the hand that wasn’t holding his hair over his heartbeat.

"Shh." Sephiroth’s wide hand slid down Cloud’s back in comfort. "I’m right here, Cloud."

Cloud bit his lip to keep from being too loud, but he couldn’t help the tears that slid down his cheeks, wetting Sephiroth’s chest where they were curled so close together.

His lover didn’t comment. His hand stayed on Cloud’s back, gentle and comforting, until Cloud cried himself to sleep.




Cloud walked up to the apartment and paused outside for just a moment. Door closed, check. No bloodstains, check. No strange sounds from inside… Not check. Something was being moved around with a fair amount of ‘clanging’ involved. It didn’t seem outright dangerous, but Cloud didn’t trust it. Ever since the nightmarish homecoming two days ago, everything seemed to be setting him on edge.

He opened the door slowly, glancing around the entryway.

"Welcome home." Called a familiar, low voice after a momentary pause.

Cloud let himself relax at the words, slumping back against the door as he closed it.

"Thanks." He called, stripping off his shoes and sword harness. "What are you working on?"

"Oh…" Sephiroth sounded surprised to be asked. "Well…"

Cloud paused at the hesitance in that word. Then he walked slowly into the kitchen.

A plastic monstrosity was taking up their dining room table. It was covered in colorful tubes, twisting in and out of a main container. Inside, the mouse who had been sitting in tupperware, recovering from Mako poisoning for the last two days, was pressing its paws against the clear plastic of the cage. Sephiroth was standing at the sink, holding a half-filled mouse’s water-bottle.

"What…" Cloud blinked, looking around the room. "What on earth is—You’re keeping it?"

"Her." Sephiroth corrected, his green eyes flickering over to Cloud.

"What?"

"And her name is Hestia." Sephiroth said mildly, turning back to filling the water bottle.

"Sephiroth—"

"I was doing research into the matter of relocation, and the survival rate of relocated animals, especially those raised in captivity—"

"Seph, I—"

"The chance of her living is abysmal, and giving her back is not an option, she’d be killed, probably slowly—"

"I know—"

"Really they aren’t expensive pets, and she is already slightly fond of me, she did not bite at all when I moved her to her new home," He turned off the water, screwing on its lid, "And she is rather cute now that she is clean, so I didn’t think it would—"

"Seph." Cloud stepped forward, pressing a hand to his chest. "It’s fine."

"What?"

"It’s fine." Cloud gave him a small smile. "Probably not normal, but it’s fine. Relax. You don’t have to explain to me, you know."

"Don’t I?"

Cloud glanced over at the fancy cage, watching as the mouse—Hestia, he reminded himself—pressed a foot to her tiny spinning mouse wheel, giving it an experimental push, her wide ears lifting as it spun under her touch.

"No." Cloud murmured. "I think it’ll be good for you, actually. Just maybe not in the dining room?"

Sephiroth gave him a warm look of relief, drawing him into the softest kiss, before moving to place the water bottle in its holder. Hestia, her eyes glowing a soft blue that had replaced their natural pink entirely, leapt on top of the wheel in her cage in a single easy motion and started running for the sheer fun of it, spinning the wheel into a blur.

"Well one thing’s for sure." Cloud muttered, tilting his head to the side. "She’s definitely your mouse."

Sephiroth looked back at him with a small, fragile smile, and Cloud smiled back, fighting off the mental image of stitches in those perfect lips.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore)
Summary: After an explosion goes off too close to Cloud, he loses his hearing. But in the battle that preceded the injury did he lose something more?
Pairings: None
Warnings: Offscreen death, mentions of failed CPR
A/N: This is a stand alone short that took me far too long to finish. It’s a somewhat harsh one, I’m afraid…(and poorly edited)

Survivor’s Guilt


Zack’s apartment held none of the familiar warmth Cloud had come to associate it with. Cloud squinted at the world, his brows twisted and his vision blurred by tears. The ringing in his ears was unabating, even though he knew that at this point it was entirely internal. “Tinnitus from acoustic trauma” the doctor had written on a piece of paper. Cloud had barely been able to focus on the writing, and hadn’t managed to bring himself to care.


Zack led him back to the bedroom, his hand warm on Cloud’s back. His lips were moving whenever Cloud looked over at him, but he could only hear the softest muffled sounds, as though Zack were trying to talk to him underwater. The bomb had been too loud. Cloud hadn’t managed to pay attention well enough to know if his hearing would come back. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted it too.

He hadn’t been able to save anyone. In the deepest part of himself, he was glad that he’d been hurt. It was only fitting.

He sat on the bed when Zack pushed lightly on his shoulder, and gazed blearily as the Soldier pulled out the pad of paper the doctor had given him, scribbling on it swiftly.

‘I’m going to make you some tea. Try to rest, okay?’ The writing said, followed by a little doodle of a heart and a cartoonish sleeping face.

Cloud didn’t smile. He couldn’t. He cast Zack a doleful look, taking the pencil from his hand and scrawling his reply rather than trying to speak.

‘Go away Zack.’

He shoved the pad and pencil towards Zack, turning over on the bed to better ignore his best friend. The guilt coiling inside him only built at his own harsh response, but he couldn’t face Zack’s relentless optimism and affection. Not now.

A warm hand rested over his shoulder for a moment, but Cloud shrugged it off, curling in on himself. The hand retreated, and Cloud was left alone. It was a long time before he snuck a glance over his shoulder. Zack was gone.

The way his chest tightened at that fact was completely irrational and Cloud knew it. Zack was only respecting his wishes, after all. He had no right to feel so abandoned.

He curled up tight on the bed and covered his mouth with a hand, hoping desperately that he was succeeding in silencing the shuddering tear-choked breaths escaping him.

He stayed there, lost in guilt and memory. If he had been faster, or better… If he’d been a little stronger… If it had been someone else instead of him, maybe everything could have been averted.

When fingers brushed over his arm, Cloud jumped, jolted out of his guilt violently. He jerked away from the touch, whirling, ready to glare at Zack for all he was worth. His rage flickered and vanished when his gaze met cool green eyes and a solemn presence that was nothing like Zack’s warmth and enthusiasm. Cloud’s mouth went dry automatically at the sight of the General. He’d met him four times before, had even spoken with him—held entire conversations—but he had not been prepared to face him over this.

Sephiroth gazed at him a long moment, then sat slowly on the edge of the bed, pulling out the notebook Zack had been carrying. His gaze never left Cloud even as he wrote, his left hand sure and quick as he jotted down neatly spelled words. When he handed the notebook to Cloud, the trooper took it in both hands. When General Sephiroth handed you something, you took it.

‘They tell me you refused a restore in medical.’ The note read, succinct and perfectly scribed, despite the apparent inattention of the man writing it.

‘I don’t want it.’ Cloud wrote back, offering the book briskly, averting his eyes and hoping Sephiroth left soon. He didn’t want to cry in front of the General. Zack must have called him in. Cloud’s face felt like it was burning in shame. Sephiroth must have known about his failure by now.

One pale silver eyebrow lifted as Sephiroth took the note from him without more than glancing at it. He sat there a long moment before writing back to him.

‘CPR is rarely effective. Even in ideal circumstances the chance of the victim recovering is infinitesimal.’

Cloud barely managed to read the whole sentence. His entire body was shaking with tension. His lips tightened, and he shoved the unwelcome words away, pushing Sephiroth’s hand back towards himself. The ringing in his ears got louder as he fought back tears. He ducked his chin, his hands twisting into the covers surrounding him, just to have something to hang onto.

"I had to try," Cloud choked. His voice was barely audible even to himself, wavering and strangely pitched, but his eyes were too foggy with tears to write. "Zack would have tried. You would have…"

Sephiroth interrupted him with a sharp gesture. Cloud flinched, but the General just took Cloud’s chin in hand and lifted his head, forcing him to make eye contact. Then Sephiroth gravely shook his head, so slowly it barely set his arching bangs in motion. Cloud felt something go cold inside himself at the look on Sephiroth’s face, even through the fog of tears.

Sephiroth turned back to the paper between them and started writing. Cloud watched the words appear on the page with a sick, terrible finality.

‘I rarely stop for the wounded, and never for the dead.’ He wrote. ‘I know the fundamentals of CPR, but I have never attempted it, and doubt I ever will.’

"What?" Cloud whispered, or tried to. He wasn’t sure he made a sound, but Sephiroth answered anyway.

'If I had stopped for every body in Wutai, we would have been destroyed before the war ended. It is why we started assigning the helmets in the first place. So that Soldiers would stop trying to tend to one another based on personal attachment.'

Cloud’s fingers clenched in the covers. He trembled, thinking of the faceless bodies of infantrymen on the battlefield. It must have been a massacre. And Sephiroth—his HERO—had never stopped to help them.

He drew a breath, unsure what he would say, or even if it would be intelligible through his tears and deafness. But he stopped at the look on Sephiroth’s face. The man was regarding him with a blank, sad expression in his eyes, as though all the life had been drained out of him.

He mouthed something, but Cloud shook his head at him. He could no more read his lips than he could hear him. It was one thing to divine Zack’s words from his animated features, but Sephiroth’s lips barely moved when he spoke, and his gestures and facial expression gave nothing away.

Sephiroth looked down at the paper instead, writing slowly.

‘I am not a hero. I am a warrior. Zachary is a hero. And so are you, for trying despite the odds.’

Cloud took the pencil from him almost before he finished writing. His fingers shook as he added a sloppy question under Sephiroth’s grim statement.

‘Could I have saved him if I’d done better?’

His mind was still repeating all their instruction. Roughly one hundred beats per minute to the heart, firm pressure, but careful of breaking ribs, pause to check for breathing and heartbeat, continue, skip the breathing into lungs, wait for medical assistance, except assistance never came—only a barrage of fire from the enemy, knocking him away from his friend’s body and leaving his ears ringing and his brain dazed and his body immobile…

Sephiroth’s hands cupped his cheeks, and Cloud blinked back to reality, finding the man staring intently at him, a frown on his features. Cloud took a shaking breath, then another, tears cascading down his cheeks. Only when he was breathing steadily again did the frown smooth off Sephiroth’s features. He brushed his fingers over Cloud’s cheek and drew his attention down to the page.

'No one could have helped him.'

Cloud shattered right then and there. He collapsed over the notebook, sobbing his anguish and sorrow. He could still feel the other trooper’s still chest under his shaking hands as he tried to gather his strength to start CPR. Could still see the trail of blood leaking from his parted lips as he forced his still chest into motion. Could still see the glazed horror in his eyes.

Sephiroth’s hand rested lightly on his back, unmoving, but present. Cloud lay there, sobbing like a child until he couldn’t stomach it anymore. He choked in a breath, forcing the tide of emotions back. He sat up slowly, wiping the tears off his face, and received an approving nod from Sephiroth for it. The man’s eyebrows were slightly furrowed. It was hard to tell if the expression was distaste or concern, and Cloud found himself internally split, uncertain about the intent of the look.

The General removed his hand, lifting the notebook again, writing steadily as Cloud tried to calm his shaking. When Sephiroth placed it between them, Cloud didn’t shy away from reading it. He braced himself for what words it might hold, and found himself confused for a moment. It wasn’t what he’d expected to read.

‘Denying yourself care does no good for anyone.’

Cloud fumbled for the pencil, adding a shaky question mark under the words rather than trying to reply coherently.

Sephiroth caught his eyes again, and lifted his arm, indicating his bracer. One of his matera glowed softly as the General awakened it with a touch of his long-fingered hand. Cloud flinched at the sight of the restore, biting his lip. Sephiroth made no move to cast on him, though. He sat still, waiting, and Cloud caught a breath, realizing that just like Zack and the medics, Sephiroth wouldn’t force him to accept the healing. But the expectant look on the General’s face and the words glaring up at him from the page made Cloud question his motivation to refuse.

Finally, he lowered his head and nodded. Before he’d even finished the motion, he felt the tingling of a healing spell wash over him. He shuddered as his ears popped, a rush of sound coming with the restore. He shuddered, feeling sick to his stomach, but he didn’t let himself show the weakness he felt.

“Very good.” Sephiroth praised, his voice low and quiet. It rang perfectly clearly in Cloud’s ears.

“How do you live with it?” Cloud whispered, his voice shaking, but suddenly audible again. He winced at how fragile he sounded.

“With not attempting to revive those killed in battle?” Sephiroth asked, his voice dull and blank. “I have no option, Cloud. If I were to tie myself up in those thoughts, I would be unable to help my men who are still standing.”

Cloud lifted his eyes to Sephiroth’s grim face, watching him lower his hand from casting the restore, sitting still on the bedside.

“You were foolish to try.” Sephiroth whispered, his voice soft. The words stung, but Sephiroth’s expression remained calm and strangely gentle. “You stood a better chance of putting yourself in danger than anything.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Cloud whispered. “I just couldn’t…”

“I did not say I blamed you.” Sephiroth shifted slightly on the bed, as though he were awkward. “Or that it was wrong of you to want to help. But you stood a very real chance of being killed yourself by stopping to help. And removing your helmet to provide CPR made it that much more likely that you too would fall. You have taken the required emergency rescue class, have you not?”

“Yes sir.” Cloud croaked.

“It’s Sephiroth.” The man corrected gently. “We are both off the clock. Tell me the first rule you learned, Cloud.”

“D…” Cloud trailed off, the words feeling like they were gagging him as he spoke them. “Don’t add to the pile of bodies…”

“That’s right.” Sephiroth murmured. “It was heroic of you to try and help your friend. It was the decent, kind, human thing to do.” His inflection on the word ‘human’ felt wrong somehow, but Cloud couldn’t find the breath or the strength to ask him why.

“I’m supposed to just let people die, then.” He choked. “To just walk past their bodies.”

“Yes.” Sephiroth said, his voice firm and low. “You are not a medic. You are a Trooper, and you will one day be a Soldier. Your job is not to help the fallen. It is to protect those who are still standing. Do you understand, Cloud?”

“I’m sorry.” Cloud whispered.

“Don’t be.” Sephiroth replied, touching his hand to Cloud’s hair, the motion far gentler and less familiar than Zack’s rough, affectionate noogies. “You were very brave, Cloud, and very kind. I have no doubt now that you will be a fine Soldier, and save many lives in doing so. For now, you must rest.”

“Yes sir.” Cloud whispered, ducking his face and hiding it behind his hands to hide the tears on his cheeks. “I’m sorry. I know a Soldier shouldn’t cry…”

“Why not?” Sephiroth asked softly. “There is strength too in sorrow. Accept it. Let it happen. And then, when you are ready, move on from it.”

Cloud’s chest tightened, but he nodded solemnly in acceptance of Sephiroth’s words. He jerked his head up when The man rested a blanket over his shoulders, but he froze only for a moment before letting himself lie back on the bed, curling on his side to hide his face in his pillow. He ached in sorrow, but somehow the guilt had settled. If Sephiroth said there was nothing he could have done, Cloud had to believe him.

Sephiroth left Cloud once the young man had cried himself to an almost peaceful sleep. He didn’t close the door all the way, just in case he or Zack were needed. He entered the kitchen with slow, measured steps, thinking over what he’d learned.

“How is he?” Zack asked eagerly the moment Sephiroth entered the room.

“Sleeping.” Sephiroth replied slowly. “He seems to have achieved at least some level of peace.”

“Oh, man.” Zack whispered, leaning against the counter and wiping a hand over his face. He looked unusually tired. Sephiroth had seen him more energetic heading into surgery to have shrapnel removed from his abdomen.

“Why did you call me?” Sephiroth asked, his voice low. “You surely would have been more reassuring.”

“I wasn’t the right person for that job.” Zack replied with a small shrug. “I know a thing or two about guilt, but…”

“But?” Sephiroth prompted, seeing Zack trying to work out how to phrase it.

“He didn’t need optimism or comfort.” Zack said after a moment. “He needed someone blunt and direct. I’m guessing you told him the truth.”

“Of course.” Sephiroth said blankly. “But you are just as well equipped to do so.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t.” Zack said softly. “I’m too good at reading people, Seph. And I’m way too interested in making Cloud happy. And sometimes he needs that, sure. Sometimes everyone does. Doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer to everything. He trusts you, he respects the hell out of you, and he’ll believe that you’re telling him the truth and not trying to make him feel better.”

Sephiroth lifted an eyebrow. “You mean to tell me  you used me because Cloud knows that I am blunt and have no interpersonal skills?”

“Yeah, basically.” Zack gave him a grin that was only a little sheepish. “And you have interpersonal skills, Sephiroth. They just stem from a backbone of reality that Cloud needed tonight.”

“I see.” Sephiroth said, looking to the floor for a moment as he filed the new information away.

“Sorry,” Zack said after a moment of silence. “It just wasn’t doing him any good to lie there feeling guilty…”

“I’m glad.” Sephiroth corrected with a small shake of his head. “It is not often that I can be of use to someone suffering.”

“Aw, don’t say that.” Zack said with a frown.

“I was not of any use to you.” Sephiroth argued, lifting unwavering eyes to Zack.

The First paused, hesitating for the first time. He looked around his kitchen, appearing to consider. His eyes flickered to everything in the room that was not Sephiroth before they finally returned.

‘You stuck around.” He offered eventually. “I don’t think there was anything anyone could do better than that to help me.”

Sephiroth nodded in acceptance, and said no more.

“Anyway.” Zack said after a moment. “I’m sure he’ll be better after sleeping. Thanks for coming down, Seph. I know you were probably getting ready for bed. I’ll keep an eye on him from here.”

Sephiroth nodded, turning away from his friend. Then he paused, considering. Something in his chest was giving that unfamiliar pang again as the thought of tear-filled blue eyes and an almost unintelligible voice, wavering in misery over his perceived failure. He took a slow breath and turned back to face Zack.

“If it is no trouble.” He said slowly, feeling out every word as he spoke it, “I would rather stay.”

Zack blinked at him in surprise, his hands stilling where he’d been pulling a bag of potato chips out of his cabinet. He finished the motion slowly, his eyes fixed on Sephiroth. Then a warm smile crossed his face, filled with the look Sephiroth associated with approval. His heart warmed despite himself at the perceived success of his impulse.

“Of course, man.” Zack said, smiling warmly. “My home is yours and all. Wanna watch movies while we wait for him to wake up?”

“Alright.” Sephiroth conceded, blinking when Zack tossed him the bag of chips.

“Cool.” The younger First said, seeming to perk up by the moment. “And I know you’re super awkward about friendship stuff, so I’ll talk you through how to help him out over the next couple days. Sound good?”

“Yes.” Sephiroth whispered, startled by how relieved the simple words made him feel. “Thank you.”

He took mental notes as Zack blabbered about the emotions Cloud would experience, and how Sephiroth ought to react to them. He noted the exact turns of phrase Zack used to ensure that he was neither lying to nor hurting Cloud.

It was only after they’d settled in to watch the movie, with Zack munching on his chips and drinking a bottle of beer that Sephiroth realized this was the first time in a long time the two of them had spent more than a few minutes together off the clock. He found himself relaxing with the constant stream of babble.

In the morning, he would be ready to face the shaken trooper. And hopefully, between himself and Zack, they could help get their youngest friend to a point where he was strong enough to save the lives he so desperately wanted to.

deviantID

Boomchick
lucy
United States
Current Residence: Georgia
Current Hobbies: Writer, musician, artist, milkmaid.
(Seriously, I live with goats. It's pretty cool.)
Desired Career: Novelist!
Interests
It's that time of year again, when National Novel Writing Month eats my soul and takes my fanfiction time away from me.

I'm hoping to catch up on posting the fics I have written here! It takes a strange amount of energy for me to post the fics here. I'm a lot better at getting them up on Tumblr and ff.net But I love you guys, and I want to involve you too!

I know a lot of you came for my remnant stories. I'm afraid they've been killing me inside recently.

Ugly Truths sits open in my browser at all times, sitting there, its google doc waiting, its cursor flashing, the beginning of the latest chapter scribed in perfect black ink. It's good. It's also only about 500 words long. Below that sits the rub—notes of chapters to come, of stories untold, of character development I don't know how to tackle.

It's never off my mind. It exhausts and eats at me, and I know I lose fans every day it goes unposted, and it kills me, because I love all of you, but Seph/Cloud is easy, and it flows, and I almost never have to fight it.

And the remnants, the dear remnants, who I've known and loved for nearly 10 years now—has it really been nearly ten years?—they bite back and claw away, and refuse to submit. It's why I love them, after all...

I digress. I'm trying to write this novel. I'm trying to write the fics I should write. I hope you all forgive me for not being the author I wish i could be.

AdCast - Ads from the Community

Comments


Add a Comment:
 
:iconenide-dear:
Enide-Dear Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2015
Hi dear!

You won 3 price in my Contest and thus won....a fic by me :XD: let me know what you want!
Reply
:iconboomchick:
Boomchick Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2015
OH MY GOSH! I thought we wouldn't know till May! i can't believe i didn't check back sooner! THAT'S SO EXCITING!!!

Is it okay for me to request something in the FB verse? <3
Reply
:iconenide-dear:
Enide-Dear Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2015
Of course! :D
Reply
:iconboomchick:
Boomchick Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2015
YAY!!! May I request Yazoo and Loz-centric serious fic? Maybe them going on an adventure together, or protecting the family, or saving each other... Just something about how those two are in the grand scheme of their bewildering and delightful and overall dangerous family! :)
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconxxeuterpexx:
xXEuterpexX Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015   Traditional Artist
I love your fanfictions! I follow you over at fanfiction.net, I can't wait for you to update for "Storms and Tides"!
Reply
:iconbritannica-graced:
Britannica-Graced Featured By Owner Edited Feb 19, 2015  New member Hobbyist Writer
Hi there! I found your stories over at Archive if Our Own. I love Ugly Truths so much, and I can't tell you how happy I am to find more Remnant fics in your gallery. RemnantsYaayPLZ for Funky 
I love how you portray all the characters, but Yazoo is my special favorite. I love the personality you've given him. Kudos to you on such awesome work! I'm going to go binge read more of your awesome stories.  Reading Emote - 13 NaNo #16 
Reply
:iconvioletmoonprincess:
VioletMoonPrincess Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2014  Student General Artist
We live in the same state! Excuse me while I fangirl for a moment
FangirlChiyo Fangirling Icon Hamtaro Mouse Emoji-02 (Kawaii) [V1] Adorable Girl Anime Emoji (Sho happy) [V6]  

Also I love all of your SephiCloud fanfiction and can't wait for more in the near future. 
Reply
:iconboomchick:
Boomchick Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014
AW, THANK YOU!!!! And OMG,*WAVES AT FELLOW GEORGIAN*

I really need to update on here! I've been falling behind on DA as my Tumblr gets more active. Naughty!

Many thanks for reading and for dropping me a message! <3
Reply
:iconidontspeakhuman:
idontspeakhuman Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for watching my page!!
Reply
:iconsnowbanshee:
SnowBanshee Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
I was heavily inspired by your fics about little Sephy and this is the result: snowbanshee.deviantart.com/art…

So thank you. And keep the amazingness flowing
Reply
Add a Comment: