Disclaimer: Don't own.
A/N: Wow! It's been an age and a half. Fail. So first, I'd like to thank everyone who has reviewed, followed and/or favorited. You guys rock. 77 emails will be going out with this update, so yaya! Secondly, thank you for your patience with me. It's not long, it's not awe-inspiring, but it is the next chapter. Part of this has been written for well over a year, but some of it just wasn't working. And I was submerged in the Sherlock fandom for most of that time. I hope you enjoy it! I'm off to work on the next chapter for Time to Change now.
Take Me Back
Chapter Three: The Proposal
Contrary to how it sounded, Cloud actually liked Genesis. The man reminded him a lot of Yuffie. Small doses of him and he was fine. More than that was bound to try the patience of the Goddess, however. He was arrogant, rude, conceited and very full of his abilities. He was also a good friend to those he called such, talented with Materia, knowledgeable about more than that stupid play he kept reciting at every turn and trustworthy. He was hard to handle but had your back in a fight in a way that made Cloud not worry about him. At all. Which was strange. Only Vincent had ever inspired such confidence in his abilities from Cloud, although he would wager that Angeal and definitely Sephiroth would be just the same. Four people he didn't need to concern himself with in a fight. He worried about the others, which could be deadly. It was a relief to have the redhead at his side, then.
Before leaving for Nibelheim, Sephiroth had divulged the extent of Genesis' illness and the basic facts about what he'd learned. Cloud had then shared with Genesis, and the man knew he wasn't alone in his plight. Cloud liked to think it helped. He also chose to tell the man some truths about himself and Sephiroth.
"You know, Sephiroth recently found out about his own upbringing. I think that's how he found out about you, too," Cloud began, watching Genesis from his peripheral. When the man slowly nodded, Cloud figured he'd caught the implication.
"Sephiroth was raised by Professor Hojo, you know? He claims to be the progenitor of the greatest creation known to Gaia." Cloud stared off into nothingness while holding the rapt attention of the man across from him. "What kind of man says that to a kid? He never said he was proud of his son or that his child was the strongest SOLDIER there was. No, he was just boastful about his creation, his experiment, his specimen," Cloud spat the last word out.
"How do you know so much about it?" Genesis queried.
"There are a lot of things I know about Sephiroth," the blond said. When he continued, his voice was very quiet. "But the last bit there, I know that because Hojo would go on and on about Sephiroth while he was working on me." The admittance was painful. Everyone he knew had known for many years, so having to share that bit of himself with another hurt. It hurt in a way he was unprepared for, so he moved along the back of the truck to ask the driver how much longer until they reached the mountains. It didn't matter that he knew the route like he knew Fenrir; he just needed something to get him away from the awfulness of it all. He'd made the conscious decision to let the man know there were others like him, but that was it. He couldn't bare his soul to someone. It wasn't in his make-up and he barely knew the man, besides.
But it helped. Genesis became more snarky and less sullen as the time went by; especially as the man read much of what Sephiroth had gone through.
When they were in Nibelheim, Cloud discovered a couple things. First, the locals were blind. To not notice the shady business going on on ShinRa property? Odd. Even if it was private property, the kids always dared each other to get close to the mansion if not go right inside; or get up close to the reactor. And he counted himself among those blind fools, since he hadn't seen anything as a child, either. Second, Gaia or Minerva or hell, even Aerith... somebody had made it so he didn't exist in a younger form here. His mother wasn't even a Strife here. She was a Flaxwood, and had a brunette daughter. He didn't want to ponder on that; especially since the girl seemed popular enough. Well liked, at the very least. And apparently rather happy to consider settling down soon. The folk of Nibelheim tended to marry young, after all, and she looked to be docilely looking for her lifelong partner. Cloud had never had that. Nobody liked him; he was a runt and too smart and too weak to be anything but a bully's wet dream. He couldn't wait to leave and the girl was his opposite. So he was relieved that he wasn't usurping his own place here. And lastly, Hojo was too confident; secure in the knowledge that his precious Jenova specimen was safe. He hadn't expected her to be there, to be honest, and was shocked when she was.
Now, he was in Midgar and Sephiroth just told him they needed to talk. His ex-nemesis told him they'd need to be out in the wastes, at least, before he'd talk though. Apparently, he didn't expect Cloud's reaction to what he wanted to say to him to be in any way favorable. This had piqued the blond's curiosity. What could the man want that would cause Cloud to need space to beat on things? So with a confused state of mind, he trailed after the ShinRa poster boy and into the wastes.
Zack, having been unceremoniously shuffled out of his friend's apartment with his mentor and Genesis, looked perplexedly at those men. "Well, that was special!" he said, in reference to Sephiroth's curt dismissal of them.
"Indeed, Puppy. But not wholly unexpected," was Angeal's reply.
Genesis just waved a hand about. "Sephiroth will get his way, as always. Perhaps it'll improve his attitude." The redhead fiddled with his PHS before sending his silver friend a message.
My friend, your desire is the bringer of life, the gift of the goddess.
Cloud was searching out monsters now. He was angry, he was baffled, and he was actually considering it. He thought about all he knew of Sephiroth, and of Zack and Vincent. He thought about what he learned of Genesis and Angeal. How Genesis was more fragile than he wanted others to know. How Angeal was honorable, but would follow his friend into the deepest pits of hell if Genesis gave any indication that he was wanted. How Sephiroth was left alone because of that deep and abiding friendship; and because of Hollander's experimentation going wrong, of course. Cloud wasn't so certain that Hojo hadn't sabotaged his fellow scientist, in fact. And that thought brought Cloud's thoughts back to Vincent, and he wondered how his old friend was doing on his self-imposed mission. He also hoped he'd be let in on the action. Of course, that meant that he would have to be on the run from ShinRa again for killing the director of their Science Department. He was surprisingly torn about that. And it would put Sephiroth in a very awkward position, if Cloud took him up on his offer. And hadn't that conversation blown the blond's mind! The problem was, he really was actually considering it. After getting over his mad, he realized it may be the best solution to their problem. But for Sephiroth, of all people, to suggest such a thing!
They had gotten far out into the Wastes before Sephiroth turned to Cloud.
"I have a solution to your problem, Cloud," the general said. His uncharacteristicly hesitant tone caught Cloud's attention even more than the words.
"Oh?" the blond had asked, unsure if he really wanted to know.
"Please listen with an open mind. What I am proposing does cover all the points you enumerated earlier."
A blond eyebrow lifted in query.
"I would suggest that you claim to be..." Sephiroth looked away, took a deep breath, then continued. "My lover."
The reaction was instantaneous. "No! No way! How could you- What would make you- Just... why?" The final word had come out far more confused than Cloud would have liked, but if he and this sane Sephiroth – although his sanity was debatable at the moment – were to work together more, he knew he would have to let him in a bit. And.. well, the man was kind of growing on him.
Sephiroth hadn't answered Cloud's question, but hours of pondering it had led the blond to some basic conclusions on his own. Cloud and Sephiroth knew more about each other now that anyone else knew of them. They shared a tumultuous history – adversarial, yes, but it was theirs – that bound them tighter than mere friendship ever could. Neither were strangers to having a platonic bedmate, and they would have to share in order to keep the ruse up. But therein lay Cloud's largest objections. Living with Sephiroth would keep them close, and make it easier for Cloud to take action should it be necessary. However, it also left him vulnerable to the silver-haired warrior. He couldn't keep up a state of readiness and cautious alertness indefinitely. It just wasn't possible. So the question then became, could he do it? Could he learn to trust this man that was once his enemy?
Sephiroth glanced down at his PHS as it chimed with a message alert. Genesis really did hit the proverbial nail on the head sometimes. He smirked as he replied.
Loveless. Act Three.
That done, he resumed watching Cloud. He had good form, no useless or unnecessary flourishes while fighting. Nothing like Zackary or even Genesis, in fact. He found himself oddly anxious waiting for Cloud's answer. He also found himself hoping for the smaller man to acquiesce. Cloud was, after all, his equal in nearly everything. They would suit, and perhaps would even make the ruse reality one day. But Sephiroth's first concern was to gain the friendship of his fellow time traveler. Who was currently returning to him. The blond stopped in front of Sephiroth, who eyed him for injuries briefly before lifting an eyebrow.
"I've made a decision," Cloud said.
End Note: So. Good? Bad? Ugly? Let me know!
Word Count: 1663
11 February 2014