FATHERHOOD

9

The next day Cloud sat down with Riku to have a talk that was long overdue. "Do you remember last night when we talked about Sephiroth?"

Riku sat across from him cutting a banana into slices and dropping them into his cereal. "Mmmhmm…what about it baby?"

Cloud smiled but then thought, get your shit together Cloud and stop mooning. This is serious. "When you…when he talks to me…takes over...what does it feel like?"

Riku paused before shoveling a huge spoonful of cereal and fruit into his mouth. "I can hear him…but I can't control him. I can hear him til I get mad anyway…he's an asshole, but he's my dad so…"

Riku chewed as Cloud thought and then asked, "Do you remember everything?"

Riku shrugged. "I donno. I know he takes over sometimes when we're in bed an I get pissed. I get scared for you when he does that…an like I said when I get mad, I can't hear him until I calm down." Riku pointed to his chest with his spoon after shoving another bite into his mouth, making Cloud smile again. "Gorra bad tumper."

Scarfing down the rest of his meal, Riku stopped Cloud from leaving the island in the kitchen where they had been sitting. "Wait…I wanna ask you…um…when you were with him…" Riku made a face and looked down at the countertop. "Were you in love with him?"

Cloud nodded. "Yes…I was."

Riku looked up at his face. "Do you think that's why you love me? Because of the part of me that's him?"

Cloud was shocked but before he spoke, he thought. "That's a fair question. No. I love you because of the parts that are you. I wish that this craziness would stop but I won't bail on you because of it. We'll get through it together."

Riku nodded and smiled. "I wanna be normal."

"I've no idea what that is, but if that's what you want, then I want it for you." Cloud laughed making Riku giggle.

Over the next few weeks Cloud had become a wreck watching Riku for signs of Sephiroth. He would surface once in a while but he never stayed long and it was usually in the wee hours of the morning. He thought of talking to his therapist about his anxiety but he would just give him more mind numbing meds. He wanted to talk to Vincent about it but Riku asked him not to. "Sephiroth was his kid…what if he doesn't want to make him go away?"

"True…but he would want what's best for you." Cloud reassured him.

"We can tell him…just not yet." Riku said as he shuffled his feet. "There's gotta be somethin we can do."

"We could go to the labs…I really don't like the idea of taking you there, especially considering his history with that place, but…" Cloud pondered and Riku perked up.

"Can we nnnot….not labs?" Riku slurred getting Cloud's attention.

"Riku..." Cloud whispered. "Riku, are you in there?"

"Define in there, baby..." Riku mumbled.

Cloud stared silently and Riku mumbled, "I wish he would leave us alone."

"Let's go talk to the ShinRa scientists and see if there's anything they can do." Cloud said soothingly.

"They're the ones who woke him up." Riku whispered.

By morning Cloud had an idea and before Riku could protest he shuffled him off to the car and drove him to ShinRa. Marching him into the labs, he waited for the head of the science department to show. Once he was there Cloud stepped toward him speaking pointedly but quietly. "You did something during his surgeries that caused the part of his DNA that belongs to the General to come forward and he's having problems controlling it."

"Well he has Sephiroth's genes...he's his biological child. We explained to him and his father that the surgeries would have a marked change on his personality."

"He said that you people did this to him. I want it undone." Cloud hissed.

"I will look at his case and get back with you but I assure you nothing can be done today." The scientist said as he looked over Cloud's shoulder. Riku was staring right at him grinning and giving him the bird with both hands. That's Sephiroth alright, the doctor thought as he turned his focus back to Cloud.

"Call me as soon as you decide how you're gonna fix this." Cloud said and turned to Riku who was staring solemnly at the floor.

When they left, Cloud drove them to the train station and they rode to the slums to try plan B. Cloud had come up with a back-up plan but didn't mention it to Riku at all. Walking through sector five Riku began to mutter. "...said church ...nobody said...anything..."

"What was that?" Cloud asked taking his hand.

"I said I am not going to that church you brat. Taking me there will accomplish nothing." Riku snapped.

"We'll see." Cloud said tightening his grip on the hand he held until he was literally dragging Riku. By the time they reached the church it was a veritable tug of war. "Get your ass in here Seph." Cloud hissed. "If I break Riku's bones, they'll heal."

Snatching him forward, he finally got him across the threshold but once they were inside, it became a fight. Cloud wrestled him to the floor then dragged him by a foot kicking and screaming to the water that pooled in the center of the broken floor. Riku was clawing at the floor boards and screaming like a maniac up until the second Cloud tossed him into the water. He flailed and gasped briefly, sputtering until Cloud jumped in and with both strong hands on his shoulders, pushed him under.

Riku grabbed his leg and bit him hard and Cloud went down howling. They wrestled in the water and Cloud soon got the upper hand. Sephiroth's genetics or not, Riku just wasn't strong enough. Cloud held him down, refusing to look into the beautiful aqua eyes that he was sure were terrified. Inside he cried and cursed Sephiroth for pushing him this far as he waited for Riku to stop fighting him.

Once there was no more movement, and no more bubbles, Cloud lifted him out of the water and laid him on the floor. Climbing out, he shook all over because Riku was, for all means and purposes, dead. Beginning CPR the blonde thought of all the possible scenarios. If this worked, the drama would be over and they could get on with their lives. If this didn't work, Riku would be traumatized and probably hate him. If the CPR didn't work and he couldn't get him back, he would be with both of them in the lifestream because Vincent would kill him.

Riku sputtered and began hacking. Cloud smiled down at him waiting for him to hack up the healing water. As soon as Riku could focus he scrambled away from Cloud shivering. "What the fuck!?"

"I'm sorry Riku and I couldn't tell you beforehand without him knowing… I had to try." Cloud said crawling toward him.

"Try to kill me?" Riku barked.

"Can you still feel him there?" Cloud asked reaching out to Riku but having his hand slapped away. The scowl on Riku's face was impressive, Cloud thought. He was really pissed.

"I can't feel shit yet except scared! Just gimme a second Jesus fuck!" Riku panted as he tried to stand and glared at Cloud. "Take me home...please."

"I'm sorry Riku...I was trying to help. This is a place of healing and peace and I thought…"

"You thought if you killed me here I'd be at peace? You thought you could drown him outta me?" Riku dropped his gaze as he thought and tried to calm himself. "I hope it worked. But if it didn't are you gonna kill me?" Riku asked nervously as Cloud helped him stand, consumed with guilt.

"Not unless he tries to destroy the planet using your body." Cloud said honestly.

"But it's not my fault!" Riku said, his shoes squeaking across the floor as they made their way to the doors.

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Cloud said. "And I know it's not your fault."

Sitting quietly leaking water into Cloud's interior while he drove, Riku thought of how cold Cloud had sounded and the blunt way he said that he would kill him but he hoped he didn't need to. He wanted to laugh at himself for even considering staying with someone who would openly admit such a thing. He needed time to process. That night Riku went home to Vincent and Yuffie's and Cloud doubted he would ever be back. Going home to his empty apartment, he sat alone regretting and worrying until he fell asleep only to dream of drowning Riku.

Three days passed before Riku showed up at his door. He had a bag in his hand and Cloud looked at it trying to decide if it was a staying a few days bag or a bringing all your shit back cause it's over bag.

Riku dropped the bag in question, then reached behind him to lock the door. "Where's everyone?"

"Out" Cloud said as Riku approached him, face still unreadable.

"I missed you. Can I stay?" Riku asked but before Cloud could answer he was kissing him and walking him backward to the sofa.

"Mmhmm" Cloud tried to say as they both began shedding clothes.

"Goddamn, sorry...I couldn't wait to get back here to you." Riku said as he pulled Cloud close to him. "Your skin...oh my god...the way you feel the way you taste...I could just..."

Cloud stopped him only long enough to re-direct them from the sofa to the bedroom. "That was the longest three days of my life Riku. I thought you hated me." Cloud said as his lover pushed him gently down onto the bed.

Riku paused, staring at the blonde. "Three days?"

"Yes baby. It's been the days since I saw you." Cloud said wanting to hold and comfort him as his words brought back memories of the times before his brain surgery when he would frequently lose time and then cry because he had missed so much.

Riku sat on the bed deflated and Cloud took his hand. "Where were Vince and Yuffie?"

"When I got home yesterday...the other day, dammit...sorry...they weren't there. They'd gone to...I donno. They left a note, somethin about Yuffie...Wutai! They went to Wutai."

"So you've been alone all this time?" Cloud was concerned. The only thing scarier than having Sephiroth speak to him through Riku was having Sephiroth loose in the world again.

"Did anything seem strange when you left? I mean was the house in order?" Cloud began to worry that Sephiroth had spent three days plotting his next attack.

"Yeah..." Riku rubbed his face. "Like I said, I thought I had just slept over at Dad's and when I woke up I wanted to be here with you."

"Do you think it's possible that you were up and around for those days and just don't remember?"

"Anything is possible. Damn...sorry." Riku began to dress and taking the queue, so did Cloud.

"Where should we start looking for clues?" Riku asked Cloud as he watched him pull his shirt over his head.

"Well, you could try calling your brothers… just to hear what they have to say... if they mention anything." Cloud grabbed Riku's hand and tugged him toward the door.

"We'll go to Vince's and see if we can find anything there." Cloud picked up his keys and left with Riku in tow.

In the car Riku checked his phone to see that his last outgoing call had been three days prior. He had a couple missed calls and a voice mail from Vanitas so he listened. "Hey Riku…Mom and Dad said for me to check up on you because you seemed really tired. Anyways, I came by but you were asleep so I didn't wake you. Love ya."

"Vanitas said I was asleep and that was the day before yesterday so apparently I wasn't out and about that day." Riku mumbled.

Cloud opened his mouth to speak when his phone rang and it showed a ShinRa number. "Hello?"

"Mr. Strife we think we may have found a solution to your problem. Can you bring Riku in?"

"On our way." Cloud said making a u-turn so abruptly that Riku giggled.

"What's up?"

"ShinRa labs. They think they can help." Cloud reached over and took Riku's hand and squeezed it. "It's gonna be ok." Riku kissed his hand and nodded.

Arriving in the labs they were both hopeful. A doctor came in and sat, folding his hands on his desk before he began. "Mr. Strife, Mr. Valentine, what we have come up with is our best guess. It's a trial, but it's all we can come up with until we have more information. Sephiroth was very unstable...even on a molecular level. What we propose to do is start an injection regimen of altered mako."

Cloud growled and the doctor held up his hands. "I know how you feel about that Mr. Strife, and I assure you we will take every precaution to ensure his health and safety...as well as the safety of our planet."

Riku spoke up then because they were talking about him like he was a walking time bomb. "Look, first of all...I'm right here. Stop talking about me like I'm some kind of lab rat."

Cloud and the doctor looked at one another, both recognizing a complaint often made by the man himself.

"Second, I'm a fuckin...sorry...I'm an adult and I think I can decide what I allow into my own body." Riku scolded.

"Of course you're right Mr. Valentine. What do you think of this trial?"

"I wanna do it." Riku looked at Cloud as he spoke. "If I don't then I'm prolly gonna be nutty as a squirrel turd from trying to keep it at bay anyway...so let's do this." Turning back to the doctor, he added. "If I lose my shit, sorry, Cloud can kill me. Whether I'm healed or dead, either way I'll be at peace."

The doctor nodded closing his folder and Cloud stared at Riku. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah I'm sure. Look…my whole life has been one trial after another...what's one more?"

"But if this doesn't work, they'll want to try something else and on and on until you're not even the same person anymore." Cloud lamented as he remembered Sephiroth's never ending visits to the labs.

"I'm not the same person now, Cloud! Maybe this'll work and I'll be free..." Riku blurted and blinked twice as if he was aware of what he said but didn't mean to.

Hearing another of Sephiroth's remarks from Riku's lips, Cloud wanted to cry. He had drowned him in the church and all it did was piss him off. "Ok but if you change your mind at any point, it will stop. I promise."

The doctor smiled and then slid some papers across the desk with a pen and Cloud shoved them right back mumbling, "Fuck that…he's not signing shit." Riku smiled and winked as if to say everything would be alright.

Dressed only in ShinRa issue sweat pants Riku sat on the side of the hospital bed swinging his feet. "So when this is over do I get ice cream?"

Cloud had been a bundle of nerves from go, but Riku's silliness brought him around and he barked out a laugh. "When this is over you can have anything you want."

"World domination?" Riku asked wagging his eyebrows.

"Except that...idiot." Cloud snickered and a nurse entered the room smiling with three syringes.

Cloud hissed and looked away. Riku looked at the green liquid and gagged, then mumbled, "He's rebelling...he...fuck that...m not gonna..."

Cloud noticed the beads of sweat forming on Riku's forehead and whispered to the nurse. "He may need restraints."

She nodded so Cloud stepped over and told Riku he should lie down. "Eh...don't wanna..."

Cloud nodded and forced him down onto the bed while the nurse applied the restraints to his wrists and ankles. "I'm sorry Mr. Valentine but it's for your own safety and the…"

Riku growled "…and the safety of others I get it. Just get on with it!"

The nurse looked at Cloud and he nodded so she quickly administered the first shot. Riku hissed and then grew quiet as Cloud watched his pupils expand and contract slowly. Waiting five minutes exactly, she administered the second.

Cloud watched Riku chew his lip and then look at him nervously. "M sleepy...m I sposed ta be sleepy?"

The nurse smiled at him and patted his hand. "Yes, you may feel drowsy. Sleep as long as you like and when you wake up you'll likely be very hungry."

Cloud was touched to see her being so kind to Riku. That wouldn't have been allowed if Hojo was still in charge, he thought and wondered if that would have made any difference in how Sephiroth had felt about his lab visits.

Riku nodded and mumbled, "Ssso like normal then..."

Cloud and the nurse both chuckled and Riku smiled closing his eyes. She administered the last injection and checked her watch. "I'll be back in an hour Mr. Strife. If anything changes on his monitors, we'll be alerted."

"Thank you." Cloud sat down and propped his feet up, ready to nap. Riku began to snore softly and that was all he needed to doze off. When he woke it was because the nurse had come in to check on the patient.

"Mr. Valentine?" She shook Riku gently and he moaned. "Mr. Valentine, I need you to wake up please. I have some questions for you."

Riku mumbled and wiggled an arm still in restraints. She looked at Cloud with a crooked smile and he grinned. "I can try."

Cloud leaned down and whispered, "Are you ready for some ice cream?"

The nurse covered her mouth with a hand as she stifled a laugh and Riku's eyes opened slightly scanning the room and the other two inhabitants. "Where is it?" he croaked. Cloud grinned and the nurse couldn't help herself and laughed out loud.

Blood was taken for testing and everything about Riku was noted down to the length and thickness of his hair before he was allowed to dress. The doctor came in and asked a lot of questions about how he was feeling and made more notes. When he finished, he looked at the both of them smiling. "I'll see you back in a week. Call us immediately if there is an episode or any side effect listed here." Giving them the list, he shook their hands and walked them out.

In the car Riku was smiling and Cloud grinned back at him. "What?"

"I donno what I want first, sex or food." He giggled and Cloud smirked.

"That's mako alright."

Deciding that drive through fast food was the way to go, Riku ordered enough for three people and they went back to the apartment. Sora was there and when they stumbled through the door all over each other, he snapped. "Fuck!" then stomped off to his bedroom. Cloud winced and Riku dropped his head. "Go talk to him…I'll eat. Then your ass is mine."

Cloud kissed his cheek and went to knock on Sora's door. "Can I come in?"

"Sure whatever." Sora growled from the other side of the door.

Cloud entered and sat on his bed where he lay facing the wall. "Sora…I'm sorry you saw that."

"Me too." Sora hissed. "I'm movin out Dad. I love you but I can't…I just can't. It's not right and when it all goes to hell I don't wanna be around."

"I don't want you to move out Sora but if that's how you feel then there's nothing I can do to keep you here." Cloud said quietly.

"You could stop…with him." Sora grumbled.

"No…I won't do that." Cloud said and then stood to go. "I'm sorry Sora. If there's anything I can do...aside from that, let me know."

"There's nothing." Sora said still facing the wall.

Riku ate in silence until a sad Cloud come back in and sat down by him. "Wha he fay?"

Cloud mumbled, "Don't talk with your mouth full…"

Riku smiled with his jaws packed full of food. "Won be fayin vat rater."

Cloud shook his head smiling. "You're gonna eat all that and then need a nap."

Riku smiled, closely resembling a squirrel with his cheeks full and shook his head. "I wan fu you an den nap."

"Ever the romantic." Cloud chuckled.

Axel and Roxas had called Kairi but she knew they were just fishing for gossip about her and Sora's breakup so she blew them off. They speculated and concluded that Sora was in fact being an asshole.

"I think Dad and Riku could be happy together…just not forever." Roxas said.

"Why not forever?"

"The age thing. I think Riku will eventually wanna be with someone his own age."

Axel thought about and shook his head. "This is Riku we're talkin about and he gives fewer fucks about that kind of stuff than most people. I think he's in it for the haul. But that's just my opinion."

"You could be right. I guess the only thing we can do is wait and watch." Roxas sighed.

"They're hot together." Axel said and Roxas slapped his arms. "Shut up talkin about my dad bein hot…its creepy." He laughed.

Cloud wasn't sure about mako enhanced Riku while he watched him sleep at the labs but after his enormous meal and brief nap, he decided that enhanced Riku was a good thing, a great thing even. Sora had left so they had the apartment to themselves thankfully. Had anyone else been there they would've thought someone was ransacking the bedroom.

It began as it always began but soon Riku wasn't able to control his strong urges to squeeze and bite and hold too tightly. Cloud reveled in the strength and began to realize how much he had been holding back with Riku before to keep from hurting him. Now the gloves were coming off as it were and he lost himself in the experience.

Everything was extreme- every sound, every touch and taste, even the color of Cloud's eyes and Riku knew it had to be the treatments that he was given, but he loved it. He had never felt so close to being Cloud's equal as he did now and his confidence seemed to be well received by his lover. After hours of sex and only a few instances where Cloud had to physically restrain him for being too rough, Riku lay with a pillow over his face. His muscles and organs seemed to buzz with electricity while his skin radiated heat and crackled lightning each time he was touched.

Cloud watched him as he lay perfectly still, too still for Riku. Knowing what he was feeling from the mako, he tried not to disturb the bed or the sheets that were next to his skin but not covering him. Riku reached up to drag the pillow off his face and whispered, "How do you ever rest? My body is so hyper-sensitive right now…I think I can hear fucking…sorry- I can hear dust settling."

Cloud didn't whisper but he spoke softly. "It takes some adjusting and it won't always be this extreme. The first two days are harder."

Riku rolled to face him and reached out to gently thread his fingers through blonde spikes. "Amazing…"

Cloud smiled and then yawned. As he closed his mouth, he laughed because Riku was staring at him with huge eyes. "What?"

"You're not goin to sleep are you?" Riku looked almost disappointed.

Cloud laughed and crawled on top of him smirking. "You had your three little mako shots and all of a sudden you're superman. I was submerged in that shit for months…so no…we can stay up as long as you like."

Riku was grinning as his hands began to explore again, feeling every dip and curve as well as every scar and follicle. "Will it always be like this…with us I mean?"

"I will always love you, if that's what you mean." Cloud said allowing Riku to do whatever he wanted as he sat looking down at his expression of wonder.

"But if something bad happens…if I get lost and he takes my mind…you have to kill me." Riku's hands felt like feather's brushing gently over his skin.

"That's not going to happen." Cloud whispered not wanting to entertain the thought.

"How do you know?"

"Because I won't let him have you Riku…I'll find a way to stop him."