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Beloved, Chapter 4

Title: Beloved

Rating: M, for violence, language, slash.

Summary: FFVII, post DoC.  Genesis/Cloud, one-sided Tifa/Cloud.  It all starts when Cloud tries to leave during the middle of a Loveless performance.

Author’s Note: Progress!  It has been a crazy week.  I totally had a long list of things I wanted to mention in this author's note, but when the time came forgot all of them.  Hope you like this chapter. And thanks to Little House in the Woods for her beta services!


Previous chapter




____________________

Beloved

Chapter 4


____________________



Five days later the blond SOLDIER walked into the church, and Genesis was waiting.

 

“It seems I misjudged you, Cloud Strife.”

 

He would give the man credit – he scarcely reacted to his call.  Genesis lounged on the wooden beam serving as his vantage point.  It forced Cloud to look up at him, squinting against the afternoon sun pouring through the hole in the church roof.

 

“Lovely place you have here,” he offered, dangling a foot over the empty space.  Green vines and white flowers crawled over the altar, the pews, every available patch of floor - save for the small pond of unbelievably clear water sparkling in the centre.  The air was sweet with the syrupy scent of freshly bloomed blossoms and wet earth.  A regular little slice of paradise in dead, barren Midgar.

 

“How did you find it?” Cloud asked, already in stance to draw his sword.

 

Genesis scoffed.  “It wasn’t particularly difficult.  I could hear that bike of yours half a sector away.”

 

He didn’t relax.  Another point in his favour.  If Cloud were as nervous about Genesis’s existence as Genesis was about his, perhaps they could do business after all.

 

He swung down to the ground, scattering flowers with his landing, their sweet fragrance enveloping him in a perfumed cloud of pollen.  Cloud took a step back, fingers on his sword, but didn’t yet draw.

 

“At ease, SOLDIER.  I said that I would kill you if you came back looking for me.  I’ve come here looking for you.”

 

The distinction appeared to be of little comfort.  If anything, the man’s expression only grew warier.

 

Genesis toed a flower.  The soft white petals folded under his touch.  “You and I need to talk, Cloud Strife.”

 

“What about?”

 

“About what you want, and why I should trust you.”

 

“What if I lied?”

 

Cautious individual.  Genesis smirked.  “You think you can lie to me?  I’ve come to the conclusion that I was vastly overestimating your acting skills in our previous meetings.”

 

“Acting skills, huh?”  The words obviously weren’t meant for him and sounded strangely bitter.

 

He raised an eyebrow, intrigued.  “Care to prove me wrong?”

 

To his surprise, Cloud gave a sad little smile, and then straightened, somehow seeming to swell, becoming taller.  The transformation in his demeanour was as natural as it was startling.  And then, louder than he’d raised his voice even when they’d been fighting - “My name is Cloud Strife.  SOLDIER, First Class.”

 

The face was different.  The name wrong.  The accent too soft and round.  But that tilt of the head, that pose, that confidence, the easy cadence of those words – Genesis recognised it.

 

He seized the blond by the shirt and near shook him.  “You knew Zack Fair?”

 

The act slipped away as quickly as it had been put on, and Cloud broke his hold, expression shuttered.  Wordlessly, he pointed past him towards the altar, where the flowers grew especially thick.

 

Genesis’s breath caught in his throat.

 

He’d overlooked the metal monument hidden amidst all the greenery.  From above, it didn’t look much like anything.  But from the ground…

 

The Buster Sword.

 

With that link, all the other pieces fell into place.  Now he knew where he'd seen that head of spiky blond hair.  He possessed some dim memory of cradling this limp, unresponsive body in his arms - of vacant, glowing eyes as he taunted his best friend’s former student.  "You were Hojo's other experiment.  Specimen C."

 

Cloud Strife.” The words were as firm as one could get without shouting.  Genesis distractedly nodded his agreement – he himself held no love for being labelled a specimen. 

 

His thoughts raced as though in battle.  This was a scenario he’d never imagined.  How very serendipitous, that they would meet again after so long.  His heart ached with nostalgia, and familiar words tumbled from his lips.  Only Loveless could truly capture the gravity of such a circumstance – that anything of his cherished childhood friend remained… “He is guided by hope that the gift will bring bliss
And the oath that he swore to his friends.

 

Cloud gave him an odd look, the question visible in his eyes.  Genesis sighed – the solemnity of the moment broken.  “You mean to tell me that even after attending the play, you cannot recognise it?”

 

“Not enough to quote it from memory,” he muttered.

 

Genesis folded his arms with a huff.  “I am surrounded by philistines.  That was disgraceful, by the way, trying to leave in the middle of the performance like that.”

 

Cloud didn’t even try to defend himself.  “Why did you run off after?”

 

Was he really so naïve?  “Come now.  I have been in hiding for the better part of a decade.  Why do you think?”

 

“I said before.  ShinRa’s not a problem anymore.  They’re not out here looking for you.  They don’t even know you’re still alive.”

 

Genesis studied him.  Cloud met his gaze unflinchingly.  “You truly didn’t tell them.  Why?”

 

He received only a shrug in response.

 

No matter, for now – it was unimportant, and it suited him to be overlooked by ShinRa.  He gestured vaguely towards the ruins outside.  “Even if you’d kept your silence, there was a chance someone else might recognise me and tip them off if I lingered.  It may be over ten years since my official death, but within Midgar at least, I had plenty of fans.  SOLDIERs First Class, even those of us who were not Sephiroth-” his lip curled on the name. “-were regularly paraded in front of the press to promote recruitment and improve public relations.  As I understand it, there were even newsletters.”  His quest for recognition so many years ago now worked against him.

 

Which made attending a Loveless performance in particular a risk, considering some of his most ardent fans once formed a study group dedicated primarily to the play – one of their more noble pursuits.  Yet in his opinion, the risk had been worth it.  Genesis had not been to a theatre production in near a decade.

 

What was the point of a second chance at life, if you didn’t truly live it?

 

Cloud looked pensive.  “I think… I remember.”  His voice was so soft it barely stirred the air.  He kept muttering to himself, but Genesis picked up the words ‘Red Leather’ and ‘Silver Elite’, which indicated he was on the right track.  Just as well.  He wasn’t in the mood to educate some recovering mako addict on SOLDIER history.

 

At least the mako addiction explained why the blond struggled to remember him.  It also assured him Cloud truly held no love for ShinRa.  Fellow escaped specimens were reliable that way.

 

“You seem to have made a remarkable recovery, considering,” he mused, inspecting him critically.  The case had been severe – he recalled that much.  Cloud Strife had been little more than a vegetable, a glassy-eyed dead weight.  Genesis had briefly considered killing him to put the poor thing out of his misery. Serendipity, perhaps, that he hadn’t.

 

Cloud didn’t have any comment on that.

 

“And Zack Fair,” he said.  “What happened to him?”

 

Cloud’s gaze grew dark, and he looked away.  Dread curled down Genesis’s spine. 

 

He’d suspected, of course.  Zack, like any SOLDIER, would never have left his sword behind.

 

“ShinRa,” was all Cloud offered. 

 

It said everything.

 

It had been too long for him to feel any sort of real grief over the news, but regardless, Zack Fair had been important to him.  The last human connection with Angeal, the SOLDIER who had fought him and shown him the path to restoring his honour…

 

“He was a fine example of a SOLDIER,” Genesis murmured.

 

Cloud nodded, gaze distant.  They stood in silence for thirty long seconds.  It appeared they had more in common than they thought.

 

“So, Cloud Strife,” he finally said, “how does this work?”

 

He received only a frown in response.  Impatient, Genesis extrapolated, “You claim you seek ‘understanding’.  Under certain conditions, I would not be adverse to an… information exchange, but you have not even specified what precisely it is you wish to understand.”

 

It took a long time for the man to respond – so long that Genesis began to think he wouldn’t get a reply.  And when he did, his response was vague enough to almost be infuriating.  “I’m not sure where to begin.”

 

“Then why bother in the first place?” Genesis made no effort to soften his caustic tone.  “And for that matter…” His eyes narrowed.  “I’m willing to believe you have nothing to do with ShinRa.  But that fails to explain the Turks.  If not me, what are they searching for?”

 

The jump in tension was so sharp the air seemed to crackle. 

 

“…There was a clone sighting,” Cloud eventually replied, shoulders hunched.

 

It was testament to his acting skills that Genesis managed to conceal his surprise.  “Copies?”  Surely any remaining had degraded beyond recognition by now.

 

Cloud gave him a confused look.  “What?  Oh.  No.  Not one of yours.”

 

Then whose?  Surely not any of Angeal’s.

 

Could it be… Hojo had tried making other Sephiroth clones aside from Zack Fair and Cloud Strife?

 

Another long minute of silence stretched between them – Genesis unwilling to ask more and reveal his ignorance, and Cloud unwilling to share. 

 

Until abruptly, a high-pitched buzz shattered the stalemate.

 

Cloud made no move to answer – instead waiting until the phone rang out before removing it from his pocket and flipping it open.  He held Genesis’s gaze as he thumbed the number pad, breaking it only to grimace when a tinny, illegible voice murmured through the speaker.

 

Genesis waited with what he thought to be sterling patience as the blond snapped the sleek black phone shut and sighed.  “I have to get back.”

 

“Trouble at home?” he mocked.

 

Cloud didn’t rise to the bait.  His curiosity, it appeared, would go unsatisfied.  “What are you going to do now?”

 

He gave a careless shrug in reply.  “The same as always, I expect.”  Surveying the other man imperiously, he added, “I suppose, if you are so inclined, you may seek me out again so we can conclude this… transaction.”  Injecting a touch of threat to his tone, he continued, “Obviously, I expect you to keep this and any further encounters to yourself, else you can consider any kind of deal null and void.”

 

Cloud nodded and stared at the gleaming Buster Sword, avoiding meeting his eyes. “How long do you plan to keep hiding?”

 

Genesis smirked and turned on his heel.  As he walked away, he turned and called over his shoulder, “I think the question you should be asking, Cloud Strife, is how long you think you can survive without hiding.”

 

He left Zack Fair’s legacy standing there among the flowers, phone still cradled in his hand.

 

“Dreams of the morrow hath shattered soul
Pride is Lost.
Wings stripped away, the end is nigh
Such is... the fate of a monster.”

 

 

………………………………

 

 

As usual, Cloud parked Fenrir in the garage behind the bar.

 

That had been… unexpected.  After the last two encounters, he never imagined Genesis would seek him out.  Or that such a meeting would end without swordplay and a significant amount of fire. 

 

His heart felt strangely light.  There was still a lot he didn’t know, but that Genesis was someone who knew Zack before Nibelheim, someone who truly knew him and respected him… He might have overcome his guilt, but he hadn’t realised how liberating it felt to share his grief, for that one moment, with someone for whom the loss wasn’t abstract.

 

He only wished he could have stayed longer.  Despite months of believing otherwise, he’d never really spoken to any SOLDIER other than Zack – unless you counted Sephiroth, but that could hardly be called conversation so much as a vitriolic mix of threats and taunts and lies. But at least Genesis had come around and agreed to meet with him again later. 

 

What to ask, he didn’t yet know.  Between the information Shelke had provided and their meeting today, he’d finally solved at least part of the mystery regarding his memories.  Maybe something about Zack, or SOLDIER, or – he shuddered – the wing.  He should have asked about the clone, but Genesis’s confusion when he’d brought it up made him wonder if he’d misinterpreted the evidence there, and he hadn’t wanted to risk upsetting the tenuous truce.  Diplomacy wasn’t one of Cloud’s strong points, but keeping his mouth shut was.

 

The keys jingled as he removed them from the ignition.  At the very least, he’d confirmed Genesis wasn’t interested in anything other than hiding from ShinRa.  It alleviated his guilt at keeping his discovery a secret.  The clone was a separate problem, but one he’d already washed his hands of.  A Tsviet might have been a problem, but a single Sephiroth clone – if that was what they were dealing with – bore little threat without Jenova remains.

 

He walked around to the front of the bar.  Quiet again, but that was normal for the middle of the week.  A larger group of teenagers loitered across the road this time, openly eyeing him. 

 

His good mood vanished like a spectre under fire. 

 

It didn’t matter that he wore sunglasses.  They knew what he looked like now.

 

Cloud ignored them, walking past Seventh Heaven’s entrance and further down the street.  No need to bring trouble home.

 

The shuffle of footsteps followed him, though no taunts reached his ears.  They were waiting until they were in a more deserted area where no one would interfere, then.

 

Cloud let them follow for three blocks, then abruptly turned the corner and broke into a dash, heading several buildings down before leaping up onto a roof.

 

The group came running around the corner after him, and stumbled to a stop when they saw he’d vanished.  With furious whispers they scattered, searching the alleyways and nearest side streets for him.

 

Cloud watched for a moment longer, then left and made his way back towards Seventh Heaven across the rooftops.  People never thought to look up. 

 

Idiots.  Did they really think numbers would make a difference against someone mako-enhanced? 

 

They didn’t even bring guns.

 

“Cloud?” Tifa poked her head into the service hallway at the sound of the door, dishrag still clutched in her hands.  She must have been cleaning up.  “Why did you come in through the back?”

 

“Have you shut for today?” The bar was empty, but the lights were still on. 

 

“Just closing up now.”

 

He nodded, and stalked over to the front door, locking it.  Just in case.  Tifa could handle herself, but there were the kids to think about too.  No point in getting anyone else caught up in it.  He checked the window, but the street was empty. 

 

“Did something happen?” Tifa’s voice held that worried note again. 

 

He didn’t answer.  “Marlene and Denzel?”

 

“Upstairs.  I was about to start making dinner.”  Her gaze on his back felt heavier than a Buster Sword.  “Was it those kids outside again?”

 

“Nothing happened,” he said, and headed upstairs.

 

“Cloud!”  Tifa tossed the dishrag on the counter and hurried after him.  “This is important!  If they’re giving you trouble we should talk about it!”

 

At times like this, his relationship with Tifa felt a lot like being married, with none of the perks.

 

Cloud didn’t want to discuss it.  “Why did you call me back?” he asked.

 

She hesitated.  “It’s… It can wait.  Don’t worry about it.”  He stared at her.  “It was just a delivery request.  I wrote it down for you.”  She gave him a small smile and pointed towards his office. 

 

Cloud didn’t believe her.  It sounded important – he wouldn’t have left Genesis behind without talking more, otherwise.  If it had just been about a delivery, Tifa would have left the information in the message.

 

“Why don’t you go say hi to the kids.  I’ll go organise that dinner.” She gave him a soft smile, and hesitantly, a kiss on the cheek. 

 

He stood silently in the hallway for a long moment, listening to her footsteps disappear down the stairs, before following the quiet murmuring of children’s voices to Marlene’s room.

 

“Cloud!” Denzel scrambled to his feet, grinning. 

 

“Hey,” he greeted.

 

Marlene’s face lit up and she all but fly-tackled him into a hug.  “I didn’t think you’d be back today!”

 

Confused, he glanced at Denzel.  The warm welcome felt nice, but neither Marlene nor Denzel got particularly upset when he disappeared anymore.  They were both mature enough now not to take it personally.

 

“Tifa’s been a bit…” he whispered, shuffling in place and looking sheepish.

 

Then it made sense.  Tifa’s anxieties invariably passed on to the kids.  Much like their presence spared him any serious attempts at intimacy, his presence provided a barrier to their foster mother’s tensions.

 

Guilt spiked through him at the thought.  The reason Tifa was anxious was probably because of him.

 

“C’mon, Cloud!” Marlene tugged on his shirt, dragging him over to the table.  “Denzel and I drew a picture!  Come see!”

 

“What?  Marlene, don’t-” Denzel started to protest.

 

Cloud gave him a small smile.  “It’s nice of you to play along with her.”

 

Denzel stared at his shoes, a pleased grin creeping onto his face.

 

“Here it is!” Marlene proudly thrust the picture at him.

 

Cloud stilled. 

 

It was them.  Him, Tifa, Marlene, Denzel, Barret, and Red XIII apparently filling the role as the family pet.  Denzel’s hand was obvious – he’d drawn in a rather well rendered Fenrir, and if the detail and shading were anything to go by, First Tsurugi and Barret’s gun arm as well.  The rest was done in the typical child’s scrawl, though Marlene had progressed beyond stick figures and now coloured inside the lines.

 

The part that bothered him was the eyes. 

 

Everyone else had a pair of black dots.  His were two blue, empty circles.

 

“It’s great,” he said, managing a small smile for their sake.  Marlene beamed at him; Denzel just looked embarrassed.

 

Marlene didn’t mean anything by it.  If anyone else in the picture had blue eyes, they probably would have been drawn the same way – it didn’t necessarily allude to their mako glow.  He was simply feeling sensitive because of the business earlier.

 

How did Vincent deal with it?  How did Shelke, or Red XIII?  The constant reminders that they weren’t human, that they didn’t quite belong with everyone else.  No matter how much they played at it, they would never be normal, or have normal lives and normal loves and normal worries.

 

“I think the question you should be asking, Cloud Strife, is how long you think you can survive without hiding.”

 

“Let’s go downstairs,” he said, “Tifa’s making dinner.”



 
Next chapter


Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
reighost
Jun. 30th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
TT_TT
No matter how much i read it's not going to be enough, your writing is too good! Now i have to wait another week for the next update? *fallsoutofchairtorollonthefloor* NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
eatsyourface
Jun. 30th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's so lovely you're dealing with the tensions that having a former SOLDIER might bring to the family. It's easy to forget that some people's fears about ex-SOLDIERS wouldn't be totally unfounded considering past histories, and that they'd react ... very poorly considering.
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 07:58 am (UTC)
Agreed, it's a plot point I haven't seen much of so I thought it might be interesting to explore. DoC, for all its flaws, would have been really quite terrifying for the rest of the populace.
typezer0
Jun. 30th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
Waah, I love this soo much. Poor Cloudy, having to deal with all those idiots. I hope he and Genesis can find comfort in the common ground.
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 07:58 am (UTC)
Thanks!
firedraygon97
Jun. 30th, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
First theatre attendance in a decade! It's no wonder Genesis had to stop Cloud from leaving, haha.

I'm a little amused that Cloud includes Red XIII in the playing at being human category. I'm sure by human you mean it figuratively, but I can't help thinking about their infiltration of that ship!

Great chapter. Looking forward to next week!
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 08:00 am (UTC)
The withdrawal must have been terrible. The real reason Genesis went crazy?!

Ahahaha never did ShinRa seem so incompetent as that moment. Come to think of it... it was awfully optimistic of AVALANCHE, too. Oh FF7, you were so cracky.

Thanks!
caterfree10
Jul. 1st, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
And common ground is met without a fight breaking out yay! \o/

aslkfhlskdjflsk that drawing tho ;; *pets Cloud*

AKSJFHDSKLJFHSLKD I NEED MOAR *FLAILS*
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
\o/ Haha, sorry, more coming soon!
darkbombayangel
Jul. 1st, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
I just love the chapter!!! Can't wait for the next chapter! ^-^
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
Thanks!
phamalama
Jul. 1st, 2012 04:06 am (UTC)
Oh, Cloud. Children are the most observant of them all! Can't wait to see more of Cloud and Genesis interaction in the next chapter!
sinnatious
Jul. 1st, 2012 08:19 am (UTC)
Thanks! Hope you like that one too.
swyrel
Jul. 1st, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Sin! I am still waiting for the day that I can get through a chapter in your FFVII fics w/o saying "poor Cloud T_T". Even though I feel so bad for him, I like the twist. I haven't seen a fic yet where he's kind of hated after Meteor. And Marlene. T_T Please don't draw pictures of Cloud anymore. You didn't mean to hurt his feelings, but he's kind of sensitive it seems... T_T Genesis, you should just go ahead and jump him so he can get some loving.

And the mention of Genesis' pyromania! I bet he's going to be off pouting now b/c he didn't get to play w/ the fire materia that time~

GAH, I can't wait to play Crisis Core! My PSP needs to hurry and get in~ I was going to play Birth by Sleep first, but I think it'll be fun to go through the game while I'm waiting on chapter from you XD

Can't wait for the next one!
sinnatious
Jul. 2nd, 2012 09:23 am (UTC)
Oh dear, you have a point. It will happen one day, promise! (...Maybe not in this fic, though.) XD

Glad you like the twist. The hero/celebrity angle makes awesome sense and all, but the other side of the coin seemed more likely to me after DoC.

*___* You will be kept busy with awesome games for months!
azardarkstar
Jul. 14th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
Like being married without the perks? I think you've nailed it Cloud. :)

I'm not sure who I feel worse for here. Cloud, for obvious reasons (sorry, Marlene). Genesis, for not realizing what happened. Tifa, for wanting an impossible dream.

I do wonder if Cloud will eventually just leave. He loves them all the best he can, but half his problems would be solved if they just stopped pushing him. I like Tifa here; she's sympathetic. But she doesn't really understand. For her, it was all one nightmare night and fighting to recover from losing her family and friends. For Cloud, it was that plus years of torture, a few mental breakdowns, and then some more nightmares heaped on top of that. It isn't something a person just gets over. He's allowed to be sad and broody.
sunnepho
Aug. 10th, 2012 05:18 am (UTC)
Ugh, poor kids. They sound very much stuck in the middle of a foul situation. Oh Cloud, if you're going to run away, do it properly. You've made him still kind of wishy-washy, and it rings so true to his AC character.

I can only imagine that the situation with the teenagers is just going to get worse, too.

Ahh, Cloud torture! :(
love_michiyuki
Aug. 19th, 2012 01:25 am (UTC)
I just want to take those stupid, ignorant kids and bash their heads against a wall T_T
(Anonymous)
Dec. 29th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
“I think the question you should be asking, Cloud Strife, is how long you think you can survive without hiding.”

...Ouch. That was a low blow. (And so accurate to Cloud's fears.)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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