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.
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.”
“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…"
"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."
"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.
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.
"And her name is Hestia." Sephiroth said mildly, turning back to filling the water bottle.
"I was doing research into the matter of relocation, and the survival rate of relocated animals, especially those raised in captivity—"
"The chance of her living is abysmal, and giving her back is not an option, she’d be killed, probably slowly—"
"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."
"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."
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.