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Beloved, Chapter 23

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: Some really good prompts coming through the Xmas giftfic post - and also some where I am like 'seriously, are you guys trolling me now?!'  XD  Either way, I have actually started tackling a couple, will hopefully get at least one set out before the New Year (although I'm running behind on this fic, which should probably take priority.  Graaah I always slow down towards the end.)

And as always, special thanks to Little House for the beta.



Previous chapter


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Beloved Chapter 23

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The crash resounded across the ruins – an explosion of shattering wood and tiles that shivered straight through his chest.


His gaze whipped around, focusing on the riding cloud of dust and smoke and fire billowing from the Church.  “Genesis!”


He took a reflexive step forward, but Reno was still there, electro-rod swinging and not even missing a beat in the face of the blast.  “The fuck did you just do?!” he snarled.


Cloud didn’t have time for this.  He batted aside the electro-rod, moving to sidestep Reno, but then Rude was running in to tackle him and the Church was on fire-


A hard elbow to jaw knocked Rude flat on his back before he could connect.  In the follow-through Reno managed to snag his wrist.  Without thinking, Cloud struck his arm.  There was a crunch of bone, and the Turk swore on a pitch that could shatter glass. 


It barely registered.  Cloud had already left him behind, running for the Church.


His heart hammered at the sight and a dull roar filled his ears.  The entire rear of the building had collapsed into rubble.


No sign of Genesis.


What went wrong?  Had they miscalculated?  Had the Turks left another trap inside the Church?  But even they wouldn’t dare mess with the spring-


Then that all-too-familiar sensation of static slithered up his spine, and Cloud knew.


Sephiroth.”


The low chuckle that followed ran across his skin in a prickle of amusement, the bond echoing the sound.  “Cloud.”  His archenemy descended from the sky, black wing spread wide, landing as light as a feather.  “I’ve been expecting you.”


Held in his grasp was the last person he expected to see.


“Cloud!”


His throat grew tight, and it became suddenly difficult to breathe.  “Tifa?!”


Seeing Tifa again was like a punch to the gut.  A messy tangle of emotions tumbled through him, hurt, resentment, betrayal, laid fresh like the wound was mere minutes old.  But beneath that, the echoes of family, familiarity… and most importantly, fear.


Sephiroth’s arm was wrapped around her chest, pinning her arms to her sides and evidently squeezing hard enough that her breath came in shallow gasps.  Bruises stood out stark against her skin.  A trail of blood ran to her jaw from a cut on her forehead.


Tifa had fought.  Tifa had lost.


And now Tifa was in very real danger.


“Look what I found, Cloud,” Sephiroth drawled, jostling his captive briefly as though to show her off.  Her feet didn’t even reach the ground. 


“Let. Her. Go,” Cloud ground out through his teeth.  Inside, he was calculating, wondering if he could move fast enough, how bad Tifa’s injuries were, if she could break away herself if he just gave her a window-


As though reading his thoughts, Sephiroth raised Masamune, letting its edge drift across her throat.  Tifa remained still, eyes tracking the blade for a moment before flicking back towards Sephiroth’s face, their dark brown depths filled with hate.


“Don’t move,” Cloud said immediately, the words more for Tifa than Sephiroth because in that instant it was too easy to see her trying to fight anyway, and paying the ultimate price.  Memories of Nibelheim flashed behind his eyes, of his childhood friend drenched in blood, limp on the cold grey Reactor floor. 


“I believe that’s supposed to be my line, Cloud,” remarked Sephiroth.


His glare snapped to his opponent, fingers curling and uncurling around First Tsurugi’s hilt.  “What are you trying to do?”


Sephiroth only smiled at him, the expression slow and cruel and taunting.  Cloud itched to wipe it off his face, but he didn’t dare attack.  Not when the slightest slip of Masamune could end Tifa’s life.


For one long breath, none of them moved, hung in a stalemate – Sephiroth taunting, and neither Cloud nor Tifa in any position to act on it.


Until it was broken by the shift of rubble and hacking coughs behind them.  It took all of Cloud’s self-control to hold his position as he glanced out the corner of his eyes, desperately searching for their owner.


Genesis obliged, throwing a cracked wooden beam from his shoulders like it was made of foam as he rose from the wreckage.  He was covered in soot and dust, his jacket ragged and torn, but unquestionably alive.  “Sephiroth.”


“Genesis.  You survived.”  Sephiroth sounded faintly amused.  “Surprising.”


“Of course I survived.  You think a bit of fire and some lumber is enough to defeat a SOLDIER First Class?” he snarled.


Genesis had a point – and Cloud suddenly felt foolish for worrying.  The explosion had been bad, but not enough to kill a SOLDIER.  So why-


The water.


A horrible chill ran through him, as cold and desolate as Shiva’s embrace.


The Church was in ruins. The spring buried under dirt and rubble. 


They’d lost the water.  Their only hope of saving Weiss.


Sephiroth had known.  Had probably been waiting for them.  Two steps ahead, as always.


“Who are you?” Tifa demanded, oblivious to her comrade’s quiet horror and apparently not even remotely intimidated by Masamune at her throat.


Cloud stiffened in anxious anticipation, but her captor didn’t seem to mind.  “He’s a failure,” Sephiroth answered.  “A particularly stubborn one.”


“Fine words from a man who refuses to stay in the Lifestream where he belongs.”  Genesis flicked his wrist, igniting a fireball that danced above his palm.  His rapier was nowhere to be seen – likely still buried in the wreckage.  A disadvantage.


Sephiroth merely smirked in response.  “That would be unwise, Genesis.  Or don’t you care about the girl?”


Cloud could see the retort forming, and cut in, “It’s Tifa.”


The fireball in Genesis’s hand flickered briefly, the only outward sign of any surprise.  “Taking hostages now?  I am unsurprised to find you are a monster even in death, Sephiroth,” he snapped.


“And you would know all about monsters, wouldn’t you?” Sephiroth drawled.


Genesis bared his teeth.  “It takes one to know one, after all.”


There were questions burning in Tifa’s eyes, but Cloud kept his attention carefully on his enemy.  “Sephiroth.  Why are you doing this?”  The attack on the Church made sense, but it wasn’t like him to take hostages.  Even if he’d intended on murdering Tifa in front of an audience, he wouldn’t have wasted so much time doing it. He had a flair for cruelty, not for dramatics.


Sephiroth regarded him through half-lidded eyes.  “You mean you haven’t guessed yet?  I suppose that is expecting too much of a puppet.”


His muscles twitched, but he fought the reflex down.  Rising to Sephiroth’s bait never accomplished anything.


Seeing that he wouldn’t receive a response, he continued, “I’m feeling generous, Cloud.  I’ve decided to offer you a trade.”


“Don’t-” Tifa started to say, but choked on her words as Sephiroth tightened his grip.


Everything began to gain a filter of unreality, as though he were merely an observer, trapped in a waking dream.  His mouth had turned dry and his lips numb as he mechanically asked, “What are you talking about?”


“An exchange.”  He tilted his head towards him, the gesture slight but painfully clear.  “You… for the girl.”


“Cloud!  You can’t- I won’t forgive you if-” Tifa called again, fighting against Sephiroth’s unyielding grasp, muttering curses under her breath.


His eyes were fixated on Masamune – hovering a hair’s breadth from her neck, a thin line of crimson already visible from where her struggles had brushed it.  “What guarantee do I have that you won’t just turn around and kill her anyway?” Cloud asked slowly.


“Don’t even think about it!” Genesis snapped.  “That woman betrayed you, Cloud.”


Tifa flinched and fell silent.


Cloud shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut before snapping them open again, chastising himself for even that tiny slip of attention.  He didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to have to make that choice.  Couldn’t make that choice.


No matter whatever resentments and frustrations he still held, he could never.  He could never just stand there and watch Sephiroth do to Tifa what he’d done to Aeris.


But he didn’t trust Sephiroth not to kill her anyway¸ as soon as Cloud lowered his sword. 


Didn’t trust he would stop at him and Tifa, either.


“Put down your sword, Cloud,” Sephiroth ordered.  A jolt of electricity shot through the back of his head, as though compelling him to obey. 


He locked his knees and tightened his grip, thoughts racing, looking for a way out, anything.


“Cloud,” Tifa murmured – her voice low and urgent, coaxing him out of his head.  “Do you have it with you? Yuffie’s stash.”


What was she getting at?  He’d brought along his favourite materia – Restore, Water, a smattering of the basics, and Neo Bahamut which still sat spent and silent.  None of which would be any good – even if they were at all effective against Sephiroth, in the time it would take to cast Tifa would be…


Restore.


His breath caught jagged in his throat.  She couldn’t be suggesting…


Her gaze was level.  Steady.  “It’ll work.  You’re stronger than you were back then.”


Back when none of them had been good enough with a Restore materia.  When none of them had been strong enough or fast enough to heal such a severe wound before Aeris slipped beyond the reach of their last precious tuft of phoenix down.


Sephiroth frowned, and tightened his grip even further.  Tifa gasped, lips twisting into a grimace, but her dark brown eyes didn’t leave Cloud’s face.  Waiting.  Trusting.


“What are you waiting for, Cloud?” Sephiroth drawled, his tone taking a turn for the dangerous.  He tilted his head, slowly.  Considering.  “Perhaps the girl is no longer enough?”  His gaze slid to Genesis.  “Maybe you think you’re fast enough to save one.  But can you save both?”


Cloud froze.


Genesis scoffed.  “Your arrogance has not faded at all.  I welcome you to try.”


“Do you think you can truly evade me without a sword?” Sephiroth taunted.


Genesis twisted his wrist, and the fireball in it flared.  The burst of heat washed over them in a stifling breeze.  “I grow tired of repeating myself, old friend.  I am a SOLDIER First Class.”


That only earned another smirk from Sephiroth as he refocused his attention forward.  “I’m growing impatient, Cloud.”


His gaze skipped between Tifa and Genesis, frantically calculating.  It was risky enough just with Tifa.  Genesis was injured and didn’t have his sword.  But even then, in this form, Sephiroth wasn’t as fast as he used to be.  Genesis could surely avoid at least the first couple of attacks levelled at him, especially at that range.


He had no choice.  He needed to trust Genesis could last long enough on his own.  There were no other options.


“You still don’t get it,” Cloud said, “I hold everything precious.”


He leapt forward, First Tsurugi in one hand, the other desperately reaching for his materia.  Masamune jerked, and Tifa pushed back with all of her strength, even as the steel bit into her throat, spilling crimson down her neck. 


Sephiroth let go and whirled away, barely evading First Tsurugi.  Tifa dropped, falling in slow motion, eyes wide and blood staining her lips.  Cloud caught her before she could hit the ground, her body a sagging deadweight in his arms, head lolling for one dangerous second, exposing that awful, gaping wound, before he dropped his sword to cradle it.


The materia hummed to life, agonisingly slow as each heartbeat pumped more blood from her body.  A second passed, and then another, and Tifa’s eyes turned glassy and unfocused.  He poured more energy into the spell, everything he could spare without overloading it, transfixed on the jagged, horrific slash across her neck, fighting to ignore the rivers of red soaking into her shirt and running over his gloves.  Staccato explosions burst in the background.


“Hold on.”  His voice came out strained.  The healing light grew warm, and the Restore materia finally flared.  Tifa choked as the wound halfway closed, colour flooding back to her face for a precious few seconds as she struggled to draw breath through a serrated wind pipe. 


Again.  “Don’t die!” Cloud croaked, fumbling with the materia for a better grip, nearly dropping it, his gloves were so slippery with blood.  Tifa’s blood.  It was a nightmare made real, but he wouldn’t let it be permanent, he wouldn’t, this had to work-


The materia flared again.  This time, Tifa wheezed, and coughed.  It was wet, and hoarse, but the blood flow slowed to a trickle, and she was alive.  She was breathing.


He let out a shaky breath of his own, and started warming up the materia for a third cast.  He turned his head, tracking Sephiroth, as another blast of heat and roar of fire washed over them.


His spell faltered, though, as he saw Genesis standing tall, leather coat flapping from the shockwaves. Holding his ground even as Sephiroth attacked, a barrage of flames raining in a protective ring around him.


Enough to buy him time.  But each circle was tighter, and closer, and then Sephiroth was through the flames, Masamune brandished and driving straight for him.


Why wasn’t he moving?


“Genesis!”  The warning tore from his lips, too late to do any good.


Masamune pierced his shoulder, tearing through leather and flesh.  Genesis staggered back a single step, face twisted in a snarl.  He raised his hand, magic growing within it, and fired point-blank at Sephiroth’s chest.


The resulting explosion thundered across the ruins, tossing dust and debris into the air.  Cloud threw himself over Tifa, grit peppering his back.


As soon as it died down, he twisted around again.  “Genesis!” he coughed.  He was a SOLDIER First Class, he couldn’t go down that easy, why hadn’t he dodged-


“What a pity,” Sephiroth remarked from behind him.  “That we had to do this the hard way.”


Cloud whirled, dropping Tifa.  Letting her fall, still rasping, still injured, to the ground.  How had Sephiroth-


He dove for his sword, but Sephiroth was too close.  A single gloved hand wrapped around his throat.  Cloud choked.  It tightened, crushing his windpipe, and then he was being lifted off the ground, feet kicking uselessly in the air.  He struggled to focus on the Restore – if he could get Tifa on her feet again…


The materia was knocked from his fingers and rolled across the ground with a glassy ring.  “There’s no one left to interfere now, Cloud,” Sephiroth drawled.


He grit his teeth, and slammed a fist against Sephiroth’s elbow.  It didn’t budge.  In terms of raw strength, his foe had always held the advantage – that hadn’t changed with Weiss’s body.  Without his sword, without that distance, Cloud would always be outclassed.


“Isn’t this familiar?” Sephiroth mocked.  “Where is that strength now?”

Stupid.  He’d been so worried about protecting Genesis and saving Tifa that Cloud had completely forgotten to worry about himself.  He desperately reached through the static haze rising in his thoughts, scrambling for another materia, anything, to get away.


“Go to sleep, Cloud,” Sephiroth murmured.


The command shot like lightning to the back of his brain.  He struggled against it, clinging on with his fingernails, but the static rose in a roaring wave, whiting out all else. 


His arms fell limp, and his head dropped.  All he could hear was a raspy voice calling his name, until that too faded into silence.



Next chapter

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
caterfree10
Dec. 15th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
SON OF A SALDKFJHDSLASKJFHDSJLKVBLINCXBVLIEWOXLKMNSDVBCVDF

I hope you realize that, with the rate of these cliffhangers, I'm not likely to actually last to the end of this fic. B'| Granted, it doesn't help I practically sped-read this because I was very eagerly following the action, BUT MINOR DETAILS.

Oh god at least Gen's okay but oh god Tifa's on the edge and oh god we do not need a repeat of Aerith (and we may not even get as good an ending to that seeing as Tifa's human as opposed to Cetra asdlfjkdjlfkhsdfkj) but then oh god Gen's fucking MIA in the middle of a fight again and oh god Cloud's being controlled by Seph again askfjhdslkjfhs GODDAMMIT RUDE AND RENO IF THERE'S ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO WAKE UP AND STALL OR SOME SHIT UNTIL GEN GETS BACK IN THE RING AND/OR CLOUD GETS HIMSELF OUT OF SEPH'S CONTROL, THAT'D BE REALLY APPRECIATED RIGHT ABOUT NOW ASJFKHDLSKFHSLKDJFHKLAJFHDJSK ooh, record for longest run-on sentence review going on rn, I should check this /brick'd

I'm just going to go curl into the corner and die until the next update revives me, k? k. X_x
sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
I cannot actually figure out how not to leave you guys on a cliffhanger anymore. When it reaches this stage of a fic it's really hard!

Zombie caterfree at Christmas!
caterfree10
Dec. 16th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Too true, goodness knows it happens in many good fics as they get closer to the end. Oh well, price to pay for following good fic. *nod*

BRAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNSSSSSSSSSSSSSS xD I actually played a one-armed zombie in a high school production of Night of the Living Dead! Good times, omg. x3
sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
...Your high school was way, way cooler than mine.
caterfree10
Dec. 17th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)
Helps that we had the most badass theatre teacher ever. <3 Though damn our smallness and lack of good funding! No recognition anywhere near the same level as the rest of the schools in the area. ;;
signrain
Dec. 15th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Where is Nanagi??!?

sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 09:23 am (UTC)
I have not forgotten him!
signrain
Dec. 16th, 2012 11:16 am (UTC)
Glad to hear that xD

ynyuki
Dec. 15th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
First Reaction: :D!!! Beloved Update!!!

Second Reaction: O_O Sephy you've earned more Evil points this time...

Third Reaction: Nooooooo Clooooooud Q_Q...

End Reaction: Nooooo... Cliffy agaiiiiin...

<3 x.x
sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
As though Sephiroth's evil points weren't already in the billions? XD

<3
fezastwin
Dec. 16th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
I haven't left a review on the last couple chapters, because all it would have said would have been "G'ah! Cliffhanger!" and here you went and did it AGAIN.

You Meanie! ;)

I'm thinking Genesis had a plan to lure Seph in close to somehow dose him with the water.
Whatever it is, it better work.

Rude and Reno better get their butts in gear and get over there, because Tifa is the last person on Genesis' priority list right now.

I'm also wondering if you've ever read esama's kind of weird FFVII time travel fic, "Ultima", as her teenage Cloud was rather fond of using that sleep command...
sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
Heh, I would apologise, but it would be a lie. :) I would think you would be used to my propensity for cliffhangers by now! Thanks for commenting though.

Ah, I haven't! I love esama's work as a rule, but A/B/O and D/S-style verses are a bit of a squick for me personally so I tend to avoid them.
fezastwin
Dec. 16th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I usually don't go in for that either, and esama's Cloud was kind of evil in that his command for sleep was actually to stop breathing.

Anyway, try not to leave us hanging here for too long, but do go and enjoy the holiday - Thanks for a great read :)
reighost
Dec. 16th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
Holy shit! God damn your cliffhangers~! *headdesk* soooo evil! Btw i apologize if i was one of the people 'trolling' you, it wasn't my intention at all, i just really want to see my prompt written! XD Loved this chapter, too much given my reaction to reaching the end... *sigh~!*
sinnatious
Dec. 16th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
LOL, by the trolling I was mostly referring to all the requests for fic-universe crossovers. Not a bad thing, but I'm just waiting for someone to say 'we have to go deeper!' and add another layer to the fic-ception. Anyhow, I will hopefully get to a decent chunk of the prompts (looking at the number, no way I'll manage all of them), but I really don't know yet. Fingers crossed!
(Anonymous)
Dec. 16th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
Comments.
Cliffhanger and I have a love/hate relationship. Love your work as always thanks!
I'm not as worried for Cloud as I probably should be and just deep down, secretly I'm rooting for Tifa not to make it. I'm a horrible person I know.
ladyazurith
Dec. 17th, 2012 05:06 am (UTC)
Re: Comments.
And somehow I didn't realize LJ had logged me out when I commented :)
sinnatious
Dec. 17th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Comments.
It seems to have been endemic yesterday!

Oh, ouch! XD Poor Tifa. Thank you though.
ladyazurith
Dec. 17th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Comments.
Seems so :)

And I know, I'm horrible. I just have issue with Tifa, and the way she acted in this fic doesn't make those issues any better.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 16th, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
Genesis T_T God, Sin, how can you do this to us every week? You are truly an evil author. A wonderful genius one, but still evil.

And Tifa, stop making me like you. Although, it would've been more noble for her to sacrifice herself wo knowing that Cloud would save her right after. But, def gets points for letting Sepiroth (stupid cockblocking voyeur bastard ihu so much) spice into her neck like that so Cloud didn't have to sacrifice himself. Thong I guess it all worked out in Sephiroth's favor anyway.

Well, I still have the hope that Genesis survived! I mean, someone has to help Tifa save Cloud after all. Otherwise she'll just get herself killed while blundering her way throuh the rescue.

And the Turks should know that Cloud is innocent now, yes? Or were they knocked out through all that?

And excuse me, but I'm just going to go sob in the corner until the next chapter bc omg Genesis T_T
swyrel
Dec. 17th, 2012 04:53 am (UTC)
...didn't realize I forgot to log in on my phone when I posted that lol

And omg, wtf autocorrect! Spice and thong do NOT fit into those sentences! /facepalm
sinnatious
Dec. 17th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
Ahahahaha that combination of words... I knew what you meant though. :P

Technically I'm only doing this to you every fortnight. Does that make it worse or better?

I am sort of morbidly amused by your different standards of self-sacrifice. 'Well, she let her head get half cut off, but she fully intended to survive it, so minus ten points'. I mean, yeah, you have a point, but ouch! XD
darkbombayangel
Dec. 18th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
No not a cliff hanger! I hope Genesis have a plan. ^-^
sinnatious
Dec. 18th, 2012 09:15 am (UTC)
For some reason, Avengers just popped into my head just then.
"We need a plan!"
"I have a plan: attack." *jumps out of plane*
ladyazurith
Dec. 19th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
Gets even more amusing when you realize the similarities between Genesis and Cap, both the world's first Super Soldiers and displaced out of time. (Although Genesis's time gap isn't as long. But a lot still changed).
Of course this might only be amusing because I was suppose to be asleep over 4 hours ago.

(Also right now, I'm picturing Genesis as Tony and Steve's love child O_o)

Edited at 2012-12-19 07:46 am (UTC)
kitty11chan
Dec. 28th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Gah! Someone must write this! That would totally be his second chance (Aerith's idea, of course).
kitty11chan
Dec. 28th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
ZOMGWTFSQUEE!!!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 3rd, 2013 05:53 am (UTC)
Genesis scoffed. “Your arrogance has not faded at all. I welcome you to try.”

Genesis. :3 You just write him so, so incredibly well. I would say that he continues to be the best character, but that is such a tight competition that it wouldn't be fair to your characterization of everyone else.

“You still don’t get it,” Cloud said, “I hold everything precious.”

That is the most :3 and c: callback ever.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )