Disclaimer: Don't own anything FFVII.
A/N: I'd like to thank those of you who have reviewed, favorited and alerted so far. Thanks! As of right now, TTC has been favorited 131 times and there will be 237 emails that go out when I post this. That just makes me insanely happy! Thanks everyone!
I'm sorry about the long hiatus. I was doing the August Fic-A-Day shorts competition over on Twisting the Hellmouth, and sometimes barely had time to write my fics for that. But I'm working on all my neglected fics now and I thank you for your patience. On with the fic!
Time to Change
Chapter Nine: Developments
Tseng slowly stepped into the church in the Sector Seven slums. He wasn't sure what to expect, but the sight of the young girl kneeling, tending to flowers that no longer existed for him, wasn't it. Oddly enough, it was a sight he'd walked into many times over many years both now and Before. But he was used to not coming here anymore, and when he did come, he only ever found a blond man with a sleeping roll near a pool of water, flowers only very occasionally dotting the edges.
"Tseng!" the girl said as she turned, a bright smile on her face. She had greeted him the same way for years now, and it made a small smile twitch his lips.
"Hello, Aerith," he replied, gazing intently at her. Then he asked her a question that was – quite possibly – the most bizarre thing she'd ever heard him say. "Is it always cloudy in the mountains?"
Aerith Gainsborough gaped at the dark haired man a moment, long enough for him to begin to believe he was wrong. Finally, she answered him. "Only in Nibelheim," came the soft reply.
This time the smile came swift and sure, only to fade away – along with most of the blood in his face – as she continued talking.
Cloud walked dejectedly alongside Genesis. Sephiroth still wasn't talking to him, and it made him feel like even more of a heel for hiding everything this long. During their walk, he realized that he hadn't wanted to say anything because he liked just having this uncomplicated friendship with the man. This cold distance, though... had it been worth it? Had having five years of Sephiroth's affections been worth the separation he now felt? The widening chasm between them felt like he would need a rocket to cross, and he didn't like it. Not one bit.
Sephiroth was angry. Cloud hadn't trusted him in all these years, it seemed. He hadn't told him this one important truth about himself and that hurt. Sephiroth considered that. He was angry because he was hurt. Cloud hurt him. Therefore, Hojo was wrong. Sephiroth could feel affection. Cloud was his friend, and his silence on this subject hurt. But it also hurt that he was hurting Cloud. He could see it in the droop of the boy's shoulders. Even his hair seemed to droop. It would be amusing if it weren't his friend. His first and best friend. They would have to talk this out, he knew. But neither were good at expressing themselves so something would have to spark that talk. Maybe he could goad Genesis into something.
Cloud's PHS trilled as a call came through and his snatched it up, answering quietly. Only Sephiroth was still awake, having watch currently, and the blond didn't want to wake the other two.
"Tseng? Why are you calling so late?"
"My apologies. I didn't take the time difference into account. It doesn't matter, however. I still would have called."
"What is it, Tseng?" Cloud was very wary now. Tseng almost never prevaricated.
"There has been a... development."
"What kind of development?"
"Cloud?" a new voice said. The blond blinked rapidly, thinking he'd never hear that voice again.
"Aerith?" he whispered, voice choked as he saw her impaled again on Masamune in his mind's eye.
"Cloud, we're not the only ones to come back."
"Oh yeah? Who else? Zack? Reeve? Rufus?" He laughed the last name out.
"No, Cloud. You don't understand. Jenova found a way to push someone through the portal Gaia made."
Cloud sat up ramrod straight at that.
"Aerith, who else came back?" he growled into the mouthpiece.
"We don't know. We don't even know when they'll show up. The only thing we're certain of is that it's not Sephiroth."
Cloud's eyes flickered up, only to meet angry green. His own closed on a sigh. He knew what he had to ask, and it sucked.
"Are you sure?"
"Aside from the fact that he hasn't tried to kill you yet?"
"Yes." Cloud's eyes were once more locked on the Silver General's, hoping there was proof positive that the insane Sephiroth wasn't anywhere near him.
"His... in the Lifestream, every essence has a distinct... flavor, I guess you could call it. I've tasted his many times before. This one is unfamiliar to me."
"Good." But was it? Was it really good that, although it wasn't his mortal enemy once more, they now had no lead on who, exactly, it actually was?
"Damn. Listen, Aerith. See if you can get Tseng to get you out of Midgar. Get Cid to put you up, or, better yet, see if you can get into Wutai and stay with Yuffie. It could be anybody; I don't want you in that kind of risk."
"I'll see what I can do. I can't promise anything, though."
"Good. And, Aerith? Try to level up your Limit Breaks, okay?"
"Of course! Tseng told me about Genesis and Angeal. I'll do my best, Cloud."
"I never thought you wouldn't."
"Tseng has something he needs to tell you now," she said, and Cloud thought he detected something gleeful in her voice.
"Cloud, Vincent shared your concerns with me before I left Nibelheim. Once I returned to Midgar, I was able to run a comparison. I wanted you to know that it is a match for Vincent, not Hojo."
Cloud was once again looking at green eyes, but this time they seemed bewildered. Cloud's own face, however, reflected his fierce joy at this news.
"Thanks, Tseng. I'll let them know."
Cloud watched Sephiroth as he put his PHS down. The man was watching him, and Cloud was about done with the silent treatment.
"Whoever Jenova sent back, you can believe that it's not going to be a good person."
"Is that why you thought it could be me?"
"I confirmed it wasn't because I had to, not because I thought you were her puppet again. I knew you weren't, but I had to make sure. I had to because if I was wrong, if you were hers again, then it wouldn't just be me in danger. I could handle just me. I could even deal with you killing me. But not if it put everything else at risk. So yeah, I had to ask. I just wish we knew who it was. I don't like unknown dangers." Cloud sighed. "Do you hate me?"
Now it was Sephiroth's turn to sigh. "I was – am – very angry that you withheld this information from me. I understand some of why you did it. In the beginning, you couldn't be sure how I would react to it. I just wish you had shown more faith in me sometime during the last five years."
"It's not that! I just... I didn't want things to change. I knew that once you knew what I knew, things would be different. I didn't want that. I was happy and I was selfish and I didn't want to lose your friendship. You were my first friend in this timeline who didn't know what I'd been through or what I'd done and you still liked me."
"Now that you're friends again, can you both shut up so the rest of us can get some sleep?" came Genesis' voice. Cloud and Sephiroth moved away a bit and lowered their voices more, but that was the best they could give the cranky redhead.
"What was Tseng saying about Hojo and Vincent?"
Cloud wondered if Vincent would kill him or not, but he wasn't going to withhold any more information from the silver haired man.
"Vincent had Tseng run a DNA comparison to confirm your parentage," Cloud started, watching as his friend stared at him with unfathomable eyes.
"And when Tseng said the match was Vincent and not Hojo, I assume that means that Hojo is not my father?" The general was definitely not slow on the uptake.
"Right. When we saw you and Vincent together for the first time, it struck me and Yuffie that you two looked a lot more similar than you and Hojo ever did. In the Before time, Vincent only knew you as the enemy, so we never saw you both like that. But now... and for Hojo to have done that to both of you..." Cloud was angry. Very angry that his friends had their lives torn away by that one madman. "It's unconscionable. He's a plague on Gaia and her people and needs to be put down like any monster."
Cloud was pacing now, hoping for a monster to attack them so he could let his frustration and anger out on it. He calmed at Sephiroth's hand on his arm.
"I will not say anything to Vincent until you tell him," he offered and Cloud nodded. He would tell the dark ex-Turk as soon as he showed up.
"I didn't want to tell you that Vincent might be your father because if Hojo really was, then I would hate myself for giving you that false hope. But I'm really glad that Hojo has no claim on you now. And Vincent won't let this go unpunished, either."
It was time to rouse the other two now and continue on to the base. Less than a day's walk was left, and Cloud was just happy to have his friend back.
12 September 2012
Word Count: 1612 (According to Open Office, which doesn't always give me the same word count as FFN or even Word does.)