FATHERHOOD

10

Cloud took Riku back for his follow up at ShinRa labs and sat with him while he had his vitals checked and details of the past month were given. There had been no further instance of Sephiroth-like behavior during the previous week, however they still hadn't figured out where Riku had spent the other two days that he was AWOL.

He fidgeted as he waited for the inevitable mako shots and Cloud watched him for signs of panic. Riku twisted his hair and chewed his lip before suddenly hopping off the gurney and sweeping Cloud up into a passionate kiss. "I'm nervous…distract me."

Cloud gave him adequate distraction until a nurse entered. Clearing her throat. "Sorry." Riku said smiling as he released Cloud.

Taking his seat out of the way, Cloud watched Riku settle himself back and stretch out his arm for the nurse who was smiling sweetly. As she went about her work he turned his attention back to Cloud and leered at him, licking the remnants of their kisses from his lips. The blonde blushed and turned his head away until the nurse called his attention. "Mr. Strife…if you would please assist just in case."

Cloud took his place and held Riku's hand. He looked up and smiled but then as the needle pricked his arm his eyes flashed with rage and his face contorted into a mask of hatred. Cloud grabbed his arms and pinned him down as Riku repeated over and over, "Not yet…no …not yet."

"We have to." Cloud said quietly as the nurse timed the first two injections and Riku began to drowse.

"Cloud…I can't see you…" Riku mumbled.

"You have your eyes closed baby." Cloud chuckled as the nurse gave the last injection.

Riku's eyes opened but only in slits and he smiled drunkenly. "There you are."

Shaking his head, he sat down and lay his head on the sheet to listen to his lover's rhythmic breathing and the beep of the monitors.

An hour later the nurse was back to wake him. Cloud was awake already and watched as she shook Riku gently. He came around much faster this time and Cloud was hopeful that this would be the last set of injections. "Where is Cloud?" Riku asked the nurse as she helped him into a sitting position.

"He's right behind me…right there." She moved to the side so Riku could see him and he smiled. "Hey baby…remember when I had my first surgery and stayed with you because you made it quiet?"

"Yes I remember." Cloud smiled.

"It's…" Riku gasped and then shook his head. "Fuck."

"Tell me what you're feeling. Are you in pain?" The nurse asked immediately checking the readings on the monitors.

"No…I was dreaming about when I had surgery before…could we please whisper right now?" Riku grumbled quietly.

"Yes, Riku. I apologize. That's a normal reaction and it will fade." The nurse whispered.

"Ok…Imma be sick." Riku hissed as Cloud grabbed a pan and held it for him. The nurse allowed Cloud to help as she made notes and adjustments before sticking a needle into his hip. Cleaning him up, she got him a fresh sheet and a warm blanket.

"Mr. Strife, he is exhibiting signs of mako poisoning as I'm sure you're aware. This is a good sign however. It means that if our calculations are correct he shouldn't require any more injections and his recovery will be complete. We do need to monitor him more closely for the next 24 hours, so we would like to keep him here."

"That sounds good to me…but I'd like to stay with him." Cloud said watching Riku stare blankly at the wall while beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

"Of course. We'll have a bed brought in for you shortly. You may take meals here too if you wish, however he needs to stay away from solid food right now." The nurse said as she made her way toward the door. "We really appreciate what you're doing here…with him. We appreciate what you are protecting us from. Thank you."

Cloud nodded and sighed then turned back to Riku who was still staring and sweating. Mentally preparing for a long night, Cloud dampened a cloth and began to bathe the sweat from Riku's face as he whined softly, eyes fixed and dilated. He put drops into his eyes as he remembered the misery of mako poisoning.

The nurse came back with a bed for Cloud and paperwork. "If you need us for anything, buzz or call out."

The afternoon and night were uneventful and the next morning when the nurse returned for vitals, Riku's eyes were tracking her movements. He was recovering already.

"Good morning Riku." She smiled.

"Mmmm" He hummed and blinked slowly.

"What progress! That's wonderful. The doctor will be in to see you shortly. Would you like to go home today?"

Riku nodded and his eyes rolled back. He was asleep again. Smiling and shaking her head, the nurse stepped out and told Cloud that Riku seemed to be recovering very quickly from the mako and he should be able to go home in the afternoon, pending the doctor's approval.

"Great. He'll be more comfortable at home." Cloud smiled and peeked inside to see him asleep.

"I believe that's true of most people." She left with that and he returned to Riku's side.

The doctor breezed in and checked everything but Riku's shoe size. "I think this is it. I don't see any reason for him to come back unless there is a problem. You're aware of the recovery process and you have the list of side effects and the numbers to call in case you need us to pick him up." The doctor informed. "But you're Cloud Strife so…I'm confident that if there is incident you can bring him in yourself."

Cloud nodded and mentally mocked the doctor. Just because I can doesn't mean I want to. Do people ever wonder if I get tired of popping my cape every time some nut-job decides to try and blow up the world? Probably not.

"When he is able to roll over on his own, you may take him." The doctor said and then left. Roll over, Cloud thought. That's the most ridiculous thing…His thoughts were interrupted by Riku moaning. Turning around, he yelped. Riku was standing by the bed holding his head.

Cloud rushed to his side and hit the buzzer for the nurse because he knew better than to yell. She popped her head and seeing her patient standing, she smiled and brought a wheelchair. "Goodbye Riku." She whispered and Cloud wheeled him out.

Halfway home he was singing quietly as his head lolled on the seat. Stopping the song he said, "Cloud…"

"Yes?" the blonde smirked as he drove.

"Mmm hungry."

"Of course you are." Cloud wheeled into Riku's favorite fast food place and ordered for him.

"Cloud…"

"Yes?"

"I want you."

"I want you too but you need to eat."

"Cloud…"

"Yes?"

"He's gone."

Cloud's head snapped around to see Riku smiling with his eyes closed. "That's great Riku."

"Cloud?"

"Yes?"

Riku opened his eyes only to squint. "Do you still love me?"

"More than ever." Cloud said without hesitation.

Over the next few weeks Riku recovered completely and wrecked Cloud at every available opportunity. One afternoon while Riku was napping, Cloud got a surprise visit from Vincent.

"How've you been?" Cloud asked quietly.

"I've been worried about Riku. He never calls and neither have you. I heard about his treatments from someone at ShinRa weeks ago but I was so pissed I was afraid to come over. Goddammit, he's your boyfriend, but he's still my kid." Vincent hissed as quietly as he could and still sound angry.

"I'm sorry…I didn't know he wasn't calling." Cloud said. "Want a drink?"

"Hell yes." Vincent snapped. "And then I want to hear how he's doing."

Cloud fixed them both a drink and returned to sit across from Vincent. "He's doing great now Vince. He recovered from the treatments like anyone else who has mako poisoning. It wasn't pretty but we got through it."

"You could have called during his recovery." Vincent growled.

"I didn't want to worry you…and I didn't know how you would react to what we were trying to accomplish." Cloud said honestly. He had seen Vincent pissed and this wasn't serious.

"I wanted him to get better as much as you did…regardless of what was wrong with him." Vincent sighed.

"But how would you have reacted to hearing Sephiroth tell you that he knew you were his father? How would you have been able to turn a deaf ear to your dead son's voice? It wasn't easy for me so I can only imagine what it would have been like for you." Cloud said sympathetically.

"I guess I understand." Vincent said begrudgingly. "Yuffie on the other hand…"

"I get it and like I said- I didn't know he wasn't talking to you guys. He's not here every minute of the day." Cloud said and the moment he said it, he began to wonder what Riku had been doing with his time. He thought of the others coming over saying 'Where's Riku?' "Let me go wake him…I know he'd like to see you."

Vincent nodded and Cloud went to the bedroom and closed the door behind him. Riku was sleeping sounding with his eyes half open as he had begun doing after the mako recovery. Sitting on the bedside he whispered his name and watched long silver lashes flutter, lids pull apart like they were weighted and a smile spread across the peaceful expression. Cloud sighed and smiled down, wiping a stray strand of silver away from his cheek. "Vincent's here…he's been worried about you."

Riku's eyes went wide at that and he began to sit up on the bed. Cloud stood to allow him room to dress but instead Riku pulled him down and kissed him greedily, rolling him over under him. Cloud grunted and broke the kiss to hiss, "Don't do this right now, he's already pissed."

"Why is he pissed?" Riku asked a little grumpily, but crawling off of his lover.

"Because he found out about the treatments from someone at ShinRa…he had no idea. I didn't know that you hadn't been talking to him." Cloud said guiltily.

"I guess I should have called him and Mom…but honestly Cloud…they didn't make an effort either yanno?" Riku cocked a brow as he stuffed himself into his jeans, wincing at the discomfort. "Help me with this later?"

Cloud chuckled, "You're fuckin impossible. All you think about is eating and fucking."

"You know…I think I'll use that when I talk to Dad." Riku grinned looking around for a shirt and then throwing his hands up as he strolled into the den. "Hey Dad…sorry I haven't called or been by."

Vincent looked at him and his face paled a bit. Cloud emerged from the bedroom and saw his old friend's expression and became worried.

"It's alright, son…I was just worried…about…I'm sorry but Cloud? What the actual fuck? Are you not seeing this? Does this not fucking alarm you at all?" Vincent turned to Cloud and snapped.

"See what?" Riku asked getting worried and touching his own face.

"The eyes…Riku…its ok baby." Cloud comforted and turned back to Vincent. "He had mako shots…you said you knew."

Vincent stared. "I did know…I just didn't expect that after a few shots. I'm sorry son…I was just shocked. I wouldn't have been if you had been visiting with your mom and me like a dutiful son should."

Riku snickered as he hugged Vincent. "There now…you sound more like yourself. How is Mom?"

"Pissed." Vincent said frankly, patting Riku's bare back and stroking his hair that was growing out nicely.

Riku made a face and picked out his cell, holding a finger up to both Cloud and Vincent as he called Yuffie. Hitting the speaker button they heard her answer and Riku said, "Hi Mom…I'm sor…"

He was cut off immediately by Yuffie ranting in her native tongue, unfortunately all of which he understood. She began to wind down and he spoke up. "I miss you Mom…is it cool if I come by tomorrow?"

"It is always cool if you come by! This is still your home Riku! How could you keep something like this from us?!" Yuffie wasn't exactly yelling but neither was she using her indoor voice.

"I just wanted to make sure it worked first and there was no point in getting you and Dad all worked up and having to go through it too. Cloud took good care of me and I'm all better now." Riku explained.

Yuffie huffed. "I'll decide if you're better or not…and I'll decide if he has been taking good care of you or not when I see you …tomorrow…no excuses young man."

"Yes, ma'am…and no ma'am. I love you Mom." Riku said as he propped on the back of the sofa while Cloud and Vincent watched him smiling.

After the phone call, Vincent sat and stared at Riku until he started to fidget. "Say it…just say it. I can feel you thinking it Dad."

"You look more like Sephiroth every time I see you." Vincent said flatly. "There…I said it…now I need a drink. Cloud! Get me a drink."

"You know since we're discussing the bog silver elephant in the room, I was thinking…since he was my donor and your kid…should I be calling you Grandpa?"

"No!" Vincent snapped and Cloud laughed.

Riku grinned and they all relaxed and chatted about the upcoming school semester. Riku gazed at the both of them and figured this was as good a time as any to drop this idea he had been mulling over since his mako shots. "So I been thinking…"

They looked at him, listening raptly as he continued, "I don't want any yelling, it's just something that has appealed to me for a long time…and now that I'm healthy, well…it's actually an option."

"What's an option?" Cloud asked because he had a pretty good idea where Riku was going but he hoped he wasn't right.

"The military…" Riku said looking up at his lover and his father through silver bangs, mako eyes glowing. It was almost too much for Vincent. Cloud had time to get used to it having been with Riku every day but Vincent was overwhelmed. Cloud wasn't surprised when Chaos rumbled and Riku bit his lip and looked away.

"Don't be upset…please. I just feel like, knowing the things I know…it would be a waste not to put it all to good use."

"Knowing what things?" Cloud and Vincent asked.

"The things that Sephiroth knew. I lost his voice, but I didn't lose his memories…some are disturbing but all the strategic battle plans, all the programs he wanted to start and stop inside ShinRa…I just feel like I should fulfill some of these dreams he had. Dreams to better the planet for everyone." Riku said quietly.

Cloud gaped silently. "Why haven't you said..?"

"I didn't want to upset you or have you take me back for more shots…but as long as I'm not trying to take over the world…then I don't see a problem." Riku began. "I mean he wanted to do things that would benefit everyone in Midgar, not just people above plate. He wanted better schools and an actual police force for the slums too."

Vincent was shocked. "You should write proposals for these things. Joining the military won't do anything but get you killed."

"I have the mind of a great General at my disposal Dad. I would move up and be able to implement these things a lot faster than if I were just joe college writing a proposal."

"You're a lot older than most recruits baby." Cloud said and Vincent snarled at the term of endearment.

"He's not a baby." Vincent snapped.

Cloud smiled and licked Riku's face, making him giggle. "I've marked him, so now he's mine."

Vincent growled.

"I know I'm older by a few years, but I have other advantages that would push me along. I bet Rufus would let me test in and be placed if I asked him." Riku said thoughtfully.

"Uuuugh are we really discussing this?" cloud moaned and Riku made a pouty face.

Vincent shook his head. "Son you don't know how ShinRa works. They would turn you into a guinea pig, just like they did Sephiroth."

"If they wanted Sephiroth's expertise then they will take me on my own terms, right Cloud?"

"Right Cloud?" Vincent mocked. "You seem to forget what they did to me…and Cloud for that matter."

Riku sighed. "But isn't ShinRa different now since Rufus nearly died and killed everyone on earth by letting his psycho scientists run the company into the ground?"

"Well that didn't sound like Sephiroth at all." Vincent snorted and Cloud looked at Riku warily.

"What all do you have in there that you're not telling us?"

Riku was quiet and Cloud wasn't altogether sure that he wasn't once again listening to the long dead voice of his father. "I have lots of his memories…not like you would think though. I know the things that happened to him when he was kept in the labs, but I'm not bombarded by images. I know what he wanted to do before he got sick…the things in my head are like data…its' not like having Jenova whispering into my gray matter."

When he spoke the name, Cloud and Vincent both turned their faces away. Riku looked sad and then continued. "He wanted to do good. He wanted to do great things for regular people. I want to see those visions through…and I don't see why that's a problem."

Cloud looked up at him to see silver brows knitted and green mako eyes flashing on the verge of anger. Deciding now was not the time to find out how much of Sephiroth's temper he had retained, Cloud tried to be diplomatic. "Look…why don't we talk to Rufus…there has to be an option for you that doesn't involve the military."

"Fine. I mean…I don't necessarily want to join the military…but as his son…it's a sure fire way in the door." Riku admitted and Vincent sighed with relief.

"So are you guys at least willing to give it some thought?"

"As long as you start college on schedule, I will talk to Rufus myself if I have to and see what kind of executive spot he will offer you. There will be no need for the military for you." Vincent offered.

"I think that's a great idea." Cloud agreed. "But it would be better coming from Vincent. Rufus and I don't always see eye to eye and they would look at it differently if I proposed it."

"Ok I get that and I appreciate it but what if I went to talk to him on my own? Wouldn't that show more maturity and willingness to commit on my part?" Riku asked them.

They looked at one another and nodded. "But don't sign anything…nothing." Cloud added.

"And don't volunteer to be a part of any test group…even if its taste-testing pie for the cafeteria." Vincent said making Cloud laugh and nod. Riku relaxed and sat with the two men as he thought about his future.

The next day he went to visit Yuffie and got his ass chewed face to face before she cried about his eyes and cooked his favorite dinner. He played video games with Ven and Vani just like old times, except his reflexes were boss now and he kicked their asses. He told Yuffie that he planned to go talk with Rufus about a position at ShinRa and before she could go off on another rant, he explained the types of programs he was interested in implementing. She was impressed and touched. She hadn't known that side of Sephiroth and decided that night that she should say a prayer for the soul of the man that she had hated for so long.

Riku started school on time and was insanely popular with the girls, much to his amusement. When Cloud came by one day to pick him up for a lunch off campus, his case wasn't helped at all. A couple of girls showed up at the same restaurant and insisted on being introduced.

"Hi Riku…mind if we join you? I had some questions about our English paper…this is ridiculous." The girl speaking was Yuna and she was just fishing. Riku knew this and smiled politely and offered Yuna and her quiet friend Selfie a seat with them.

"Yuna, Selfie, this is Cloud. Cloud, these ladies share my English class." Riku said politely. Cloud was nice to the girls who were clueless as to who he actually was, and asked him where he went to school or if he had already graduated.

"I was in the military and if there's a graduation from there, then I guess that's what I did." Cloud said and Riku snorted, making him giggle. The girls seemed oblivious so they carried on with their seemingly innocent interrogation until Riku checked his watch and said, "Sorry ladies, I need to get back. Enjoy the rest of your lunch, it's on us."

The girls giggled and thanked them but the giggling stopped when they saw them walking out of the restaurant, Riku's hand tucked comfortably into Cloud's back pocket.

The next time Cloud came by the campus, he had lunch in the cafeteria with Riku, Roxas, Ventus, Vanitas, and Axel. He was sad that Sora declined his offer to join, but he hoped for the best and carried on. Sora would come around eventually.

In between school work and sex and food, Riku found time to write a couple of proposals to present to Rufus, and made an appointment to talk with him. He was nervous when the day arrived, but there were things in the back of his mind that made him feel like he had the upper hand. He wasn't sure why, but he had all the confidence of a man who had already cleared this hurdle and more. Must be him, he thought.

Sora had been sitting alone in the library when he was abducted by his brother and his stupid redheaded boyfriend. They literally abducted him. Roxas threw a pillow slip over his head and Axel picked him up and carried him to the car. They drove him to Cloud's where, once inside, they sat him on a chair and used two of Cloud's belts to hold him there.

Cloud watched the entire fiasco and when they were done and Sora's chair was dragged in front of him, he said, "I want you to know I had nothing to do with this."

"I'm sure you didn't. But I know what it's about." Sora grumbled. "I still think it's gross that you're with Riku but you and him are welcome to be gross to each other. Being kidnapped made me realize how much I miss my crazy ass family. I love you Dad."

Cheers went up from across the room and Axel and Roxas started dancing a samba. Cloud watched them silently as Sora laughed hysterically. "Untie him Roxas…Roxas…ROXAS!"

The dancing ceased and Sora was freed after which the three left immediately so they could tell everyone and welcome Sora back into the fold. Riku had to be first and Sora balked at having to face him after being such an ass. Axel shoved him toward Riku who was sitting under a tree on the quad eating an apple while he studied for his next class.

"Hey Riku…you got a minute?" Riku looked up, surprised and dropped his apple. Sora smiled as it rolled a few feet away.

"Sure Sora…wanna sit?" Riku said quietly wondering if this was going to be a conversation or a confrontation.

Sora sat and sighed. "Something happened today that got me to thinking…and I guess I can be cool with you and Dad, you know…"

Riku nodded. "Thank you." He left it at that because he was sure there was more to come. Sora really had been an asshole.

"I was an ass…but it was because I was hurt. I really don't think it's gross with you two…I was just jealous. I was more invested than you were is all…in us I mean." Sora said picking at blades of grass.

"But you dumped me for that chick…" Riku said squinting his eyes and turning up the sensitivity on his bullshit meter.

"Yeah I did and when I realized it was a stupid mistake, it was too late. Look that's not what I came here to say, ok. I've had time to sort it out and I'll find someone else. I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry and I miss you…all of you I mean. Everyone." Sora said trying to specify but also getting it out there that he missed Riku. He had to know how serious he was about Cloud and there was only one way to find that out. Sora remembered how it had been with Riku…it was intense, but he had been sick most of the time. He was well now and there was no illness and surgery to complicate things.

"Have yo talked to Cloud?" Riku asked. Clearly more worried about his boyfriend's feelings on the matter than his own.

"Yeah…I talked to him." Sora smiled a tiny bit as he thought of the samba.

"Well…I'm glad you're coming around, Sor. I've missed you too. We all have, I mean." Riku said and smiled. He really wanted to hug Sora but he didn't want to send the wrong message, so he just sat and smiled.

"So we're good?" Sora looked into his eyes with a lonely stare.

"Yeah…we're good. Come over tonight?" Riku said and the as the words slid from his lips he remembered how many times before he had said those words to Sora.

Sora winced at the invitation and then smiled. "Sure…to Dad's right?"

"Yeah. We'll order take out and be lazy." Riku smiled almost apologetically. Sora nodded and stood prompting Riku to stand as well.

"So I'll see ya…don't forget…or chicken out."

Sora laughed. "I won't chicken out. Hey maybe Ven and Vani will come too?"

"Sure yeah, the more the merrier right?" Riku snorted and Sora smiled again and nodded but he looked like he wanted to crumble. Riku couldn't help himself, he stepped over and hugged Sora.

Sora hugged him back tightly but then stepped back. "I apologized for being an ass…that doesn't change how I feel about you…felt about you…so don't ok. Just don't do things like that and this will work a whole lot better."

"You're right. I'm sorry. No hugging." Riku mumbled and put his hands behind his back.

"Ok. I'm gonna go. Thanks Riku."

"No problem."

Later that evening everyone had gathered at Cloud's for dinner. Sora was last to show, but at least he showed. After the initial weirdness of having him back they settled into their old routine of dinner and a movie. Snuggling in with Roxas and Axel, Sora seemed to feel at home. Ventus and Aqua sat with Vanitas since his new girlfriend had decided to not come at the last minute. She got cold feet seeing as she was his first year psychology professor.

The boys noted only one difference in this movie night and movie night one year prior. Instead of Riku curling up to Cloud, Cloud sat curled on Riku's lap. That could have meant nothing, but if any of them had known how Cloud was once with Sephiroth, it would have made all the difference in the world.

Sora fell asleep there and when everyone else had gone to their room or to their home, Riku covered Sora with a blanket and tucked it around him gently. He smiled down at the sleeping brunette and then looked up at Cloud beaming. Cloud smiled and nodded, then reached for his hand and they went off to bed together.

The day of the meeting with Rufus ShinRa was finally here and all Riku's anxiety was gone. When he went into the office, he felt comfortable, like he had done this a million times before. Taking his seat, he waited for Rufus to look over his proposals. He lifted his brows a few times and then lay the neatly put together reports on his desk. "If I gave you some current figures, could you show me how this will work for the company as well as the people?"

"I will do my best. I don't see how it would differ a lot from what I ran already, but then I don't work in your finance department either." Riku blurted making Rufus smile.

"If I like it, there is an executive aide position in it for you until you graduate…after which time, if I am pleased with your progress, you will be offered a permanent position here at the company. I do however have a task for you that may seem a little out of left field. It has nothing to do with your proposals, but I would like to hear your views on the matter none the less." Rufus slid a folder across the desk.

"I'll have the numbers for you tomorrow, you may pick them up at my convenience…but this…I want you to look this over and give me a report, say…in a week." Rufus said and Riku knew immediately that this was a test of obedience as well as expediency. Two reports in a week plus what he had to do for school was ridiculous, but Riku wasn't about to let Rufus know he would be swamped.

"Yes sir, in a week. Thank you for the opportunity." Riku said as he stood. "When can I get those numbers?"

"I'll just email them to Cloud." Rufus said and then held up a finger. "Wait little one…I need some contact information from you before you leave. What yo have there is sensitive and if you are going to be joining my merry band of thieves, then I need to be able to get a hold of you…whenever I want."

Riku chuckled and took his seat again to scribble down everything from his cell number to his class schedule. He didn't see Rufus shiver at his laugh, nor did he see the grimace when he watched the familiar handwriting slide across the page of stationery.