Got up two hours early this morning to work on #2, had to do #3 tonight. Didn't know I could write a whole non-drabblish fic in three hours. Almost midnight. Must post fast. NEEED SLEEEEP. Will try to get comments answered tomorrow night, honest! Just toooooo tired right now...
Disclaimer: totally not mine; never even played it in fact...
Prompt: Sephiroth/Cloud. A resurrection technique that really shouldn't have worked. Author's decision about how much angst is involved on Cloud's behalf... [for misskalloway]
Notes: I think I used up the month's angst quotient on that last fic! (sweatdrop) I'm slightly reusing the theory I laid in behind Calling, but I'm also putting a twist into it too, because the timeline for that one takes too long for a fic I've got to finish in less than three hours...
There were things that people would do for you, when you'd saved the planet. Cloud didn't like asking, because it felt ...shameful somehow, that people poured out gratitude at his feet and would bend over backwards to do anything for him that he'd even hinted at wanting, just because he happened to be a particularly successful repeat murderer.
So he tried not to talk much, because people tended to blow things out of proportion -- the last time he'd unwisely mentioned being hungry after a long ride for a delivery, he'd found himself being presented with a little girl's lunch, and she and her friend both had stars in their eyes, and ...he wasn't about to take food away from children, but they'd looked so devastated when he'd tried to say no, and... it was just... awkward. So it was better not to talk much, and not to ask for anything.
But there was still one thing he needed that he couldn't just do for himself. Two things, really, but they were deeply interconnected. He'd only realized it himself when Reeve had mentioned that the Nibelheim reactor was the next on the decomissioning and dismantling list.
The first part had been relatively easy to ask for, in the grand scheme of things. Still awkward, and embarrassing. And when Yuffie had learned why he was asking it -- even half of why -- suddenly he'd been roped into swearing to and signing on all kinds of things that he probably should've read more closely, except that he truly didn't know of a way to do it without her. Or rather, without some of her people. Knowing the sovereign ruler of an independent nation was even more embarrassingly useful than being a particularly successful repeat murderer who'd saved the world a couple times, really.
The half dozen pearl divers she'd brought with her looked skeptically at the surface of the water, and Cloud had wanted to apologize then and there -- it was going to be really damn cold -- but he couldn't apologize for what he needed, even though why he needed it was probably going to go down in the record books of all-time unpopular ideas. In the end, he just stood and looked down at his boots as Yuffie chattered on about what it looked like and what a coup for Wutai it would be when Cloud handed it over to them after he was done. And then did it all over again in Wutain, only he suspected she was adding some commentary there, because some of her gestures were ...not exactly on topic. The additions seemed to involve gesturing toward him, some wild flailing that involved hair tearing gestures, and much shaking of her head.
...Great. The pearl divers were smirking now. ...He should've asked if Red knew anybody that could breathe water.
Half of them dove in; two others were spinning the piston that drove air into the diving hose for them, and the last one set a fire with a quick gesture from materia and then very prosaically sat down to fish.
When Cloud got done blinking over the thought that anybody would fish in this place, he sat down next to the fisher. The fisher looked at him, brow quirked, and offered the pole with a fluid spill of syllables that meant pretty much nothing to him.
"Uh," Cloud said.
The fisher grinned, with a roll of the eyes that was far too familiar, and pushed the pole into Cloud's hands, and then reached into his pack for the pieces of another.
It took a week's worth of dives, and the fish were a useful addition to the dried and preserved stuff they'd packed. Cloud had picked up a few words of their language in the meantime, and wondered how many of them were profane; it wasn't like Yuffie would tell him, after all. She'd get too much amusement out of watching him curse like Cid without knowing what he was saying.
So Yuffie wasn't much help, but one of the pump-handlers seemed ...nice, and not overawed, and not given to pranks. So he was almost kind of maybe confident he had the words approximately right when he bowed carefully and tried to tell them thank you.
From the guffaws and the spiky-hair-gestures and the elbow-flails and the knee-slapping, the fisher apparently thought it was the cutest thing he'd ever seen: a chocobo-boy offering reisetsu. Cloud scowled at his feet and waited for the chattering to be done so that he could get on Fenrir and get on with it.
He'd had the first half in his hands for a month before he finally gave up on thinking of anything that was an even remotely plausible excuse, and admitted to himself that, like it or not, he was going to have to ask for help with this part too. This part even more than the last. Because everybody knew how to motivate Yuffie, but the other half he needed was... not so easily used for motivation. More the opposite, really. And unless he wanted to learn Lifestream breaking and entering skills along with the rest of the more mundane breaking and entering and other questionable things he'd learned as an ecoterrorist... he was going to have to ask for help.
From Reeve, at that. Nobody else would have given him the opportunity without the lecture -- well, Rufus wouldn't have given him the lecture, but he was pretty sure he could throw Rufus a lot further than he could trust him, and being around Rufus always gave him the itch to try it out to be even more sure.
Knowing the three rulers of pretty much the whole damn planet definitely had a lot of good points to beat out that successful repeat murderer gig. The fact that Rufus was one of the three of them did put a bit of a damper on it, but hell. Life was way, way far from perfect on this mudball.
...Zack? Cloud asked, because the tone of that thought had sounded awfully familiar for a moment.
Zack didn't exactly answer, but there was something that felt like a grin tickling between his shoulderblades, where there couldn't be anybody actually there watching him in order to grin, but. ...Yeah.
...all right. All right. Scratch that head count again. Five of the rulers of pretty much the whole damn planet and its overly rambunctious afterlife.
But he really, really didn't like thinking about that seventh, and hopefully number four and her spent-too-much-time-grinning-at-people consort had done something pretty permanent about seven during that last round.
So it all kind of came back around to number six. Again.
Cloud wondered faintly, dismally, whether he was really kidding anybody, even himself.
Reeve didn't ask why.
He'd wanted to ask; Cloud had seen it all but itching in the way his hands fidgeted with his pen, with the corner of the stack of papers on his desk, the way he kept readjusting his tie, a dozen and a half different things to stop himself from asking.
Gratitude was just as uncomfortable as need. But Cloud was so grateful for the way Reeve didn't ask that he shook the man's hand as he left.
And he made it all the way back to Fenrir and onto its seat before his knees decided they'd had enough and were going to quit on him unless he started treating them with more respect.
"Well," Cloud said, half to himself and half in case four and five were eavesdropping. "That could've been a lot worse."
The fact that it could have been so much worse, and hadn't been, made Cloud wonder what was going to go wrong. In his experience, life wasn't done with you until it had gone worse.
Of course, the answer to 'what could go wrong' was ...pretty phenomenally long, actually, and he just kept adding things to it.
He really ought to take the materia, give it back to Yuffie, let her hang it on some wall somewhere in Wutai, and forget about it. But...
This was the first thing he'd wanted for himself in ...a long time. Years. At least eight years; last year had been the second coming, and then two years before that had been the first, and then for the five years before that he'd been in a tank being tortured, and, really, the way he figured it, the planet kind of owed him some of the backlogged birthday and Yule presents he'd never gotten.
He'd gone off and saved the stupid thing twice, after all. The planet could stand to show a little gratitude, while gratitude was going around.
...All right, so this idea was probably going to take a lot more than eight years' worth of presents to make up for it. But it wasn't like he hadn't gotten used to the idea of deferred maintenance...
...and sitting on Fenrir staring at nothing in front of the WRO building was really not a PR-boosting, confidence-building gesture for the world shareholders, several of whom were looking at him oddly and sideways.
Cloud put his goggles back on and turned toward the port at Junon. He hoped the ferry food had gotten better now that it wasn't being produced by the Shinra military.
It was harder than he'd thought, waiting in Nibelheim during the weeks it took for the technicians to drain the Mako reservoir at the base of the reactor. The buildings were too much right, when he remembered them in flames, and the people were too much wrong.
Reeve must have said something to Vincent, and Cloud could have thought about holding a grudge for that (especially after he'd been so careful about not asking). But Vincent had just as many Nibelheim nightmares to exorcise as Cloud did, and at least they could reassure each other that they were still real and still sane at the end of the day.
...For a certain value of sane, that was. Cloud toyed a little with the idea of telling Vincent why he was waiting for the decommissioning of the Nibelheim reactor, but he valued Vincent's opinion of him a little too much to admit to something that sounded this crazy, in this place most of all.
So he honed each of the pieces of his sword to a razor's edge, and Vincent cleaned his gun -- repeatedly, possibly in his sleep -- and they discovered that the hotel's taste in video channels ranged from bad to appalling.
Cloud was pretty sure there were still books in the mansion's basement library, but he sure as hell wasn't volunteering to go get them. In fact, he needed to ask around quietly to see if anybody would mind burning it, before he went through with the insanity. There wasn't a good reason to have it there anymore, and all kinds of bad reasons to want it gone.
In hindsight, Cloud wondered why he'd ever doubted whether the workers would let him know if they found anything. They let everyone know; they came boiling out of the building like bees from a kicked hive, frantic and furious and panicking, chattering a mile a minute. As they poured down the mountain pass, gesticulating and arguing at the tops of their lungs, Cloud silently ducked and dodged and wove his way upstream.
It really wasn't hard to guess what had set off that kind of reaction in them, after all. This was Nibelheim. Everyone was used to seeing ordinary monsters on a daily basis.
The Mako had crystallized around his body, and the familiarity of that was like a sucker punch to the gut. But it was his body, this time -- the body Cloud had thrown into the reactor, not the clones Hojo had created and Jenova had possessed, and not the revenant shells She had woven out of nothing but pure will and desperation. If there was anything left of him, now that Aeris had driven Her out of the Lifestream -- if there was anything of his own left, it was here.
Cloud cursed himself for a fool for the thousandth time, and took Holy out of his pocket, and pressed it against the Mako-crystalline shell encasing him, and watched it begin to dissolve.
He could hear Cid cursing already, really: what the FUCK are you smoking, kid? You didn't learn your goddamn lesson the LAST dozen times -- shut up, Shera, I'm making a point -- the last dozen or so times you had to beat down his psycho zombie ass? You for damn sure need to get your head checked again, I don't think you've EVER been right in the head since I've known you, kid, and that's saying something--
It was too familiar; but he really hoped the inversions of the details were enough to make the difference. Hoped, and prayed, and... prayed some more, because there were a couple of them he could ask, and the Planet really did owe him a favor.
Because this time it was his own choice, made through his own free will. And this time the power he handed over was the polar opposite of the death and destruction Sephiroth had called upon before. It was Aeris' power, and she wouldn't let things go wrong -- she wouldn't have let him find her mother's materia so easily if this was really as crazy as the Cid in his head was making it sound -- at least, he really, really hoped she wouldn't.
All those little quips about the gods' sense of humor weren't very reassuring at the moment, because Aeris' sense of humor really fit right in with them a little too well...
...except that he still wasn't breathing, really. Cloud was pretty sure that wasn't good for long-term resurrection prospects.
Aeris giggled in the back of his head, and a wind that really shouldn't have been there at the pit of a sealed reactor ruffled through his hair.
Don't you remember any of the stories? she asked. The old stories. The really good ones. The ones that end with happily ever after.
I haven't had a whole lot of luck with happily ever after, Cloud said, staring at the still, ice-pale curve of his cheek, and the thick soft curve of his lashes. Or with memory, either.
Let's give him a hint, Zack said, with laughter in his voice. There was a drop dead gorgeous babe who'd been sleeping in a tower for way the hell too long, only it wasn't Vincent.
Stop that, Aeris said. You don't know how to tell a romantic story.
Romantic, Cloud said, and was suddenly desperately glad that his voice couldn't break in panic when it was only in his head.
What else is it when the prince searches for his lost love for so long? Aeris said, and her voice was bubbling with the same laughter that Zack's held. Boys. No sense of romance in either of you, honestly! --So. One day the prince fought his way through the field of thorns to reach the heart of the castle, and he found his beauty lying there asleep...
I get it, Cloud said, miserably. I get it already. This is insane.
Well, yeah, Zack said. But you already hear voices in your head. You're practically an expert at insane by now, y'know.
Thanks a lot, Cloud said, even as he found himself bending forward, and closing his eyes. This is a terrible idea. Why am I doing this again? Cid's going to swear at me. Barret's going to shoot me. Red has those mournful puppydog eyes--
Happily ever after, silly, Aeris said.
There's no such thing as happily ever after, Cloud said, and kissed him.
Well, Aeris said, as Sephiroth's silver lashes flickered softly, then parted to reveal those eerily shining cat-slit green eyes. There's happily for a good long while, anyhow.
Sephiroth took a breath.
Cloud couldn't really blame him for not being sure what to do about it, considering how long he'd spent being dead and all, and considering what a hard time Cloud himself was having with lungs he'd thought were perfectly fine up until those eyes had opened and everything had knotted up in his chest.
"Uh," Cloud wheezed, and thumped himself in the chest, and tried again. "...Hi."
Sephiroth's too-perfect lips curled upward, into an entirely too smug smile.
Cloud was pretty sure that was legal grounds for kissing him again.
If not, he was going to have some words with Reeve when he got back, because newly resurrected ex-wannabe-genocidal-overlords had no right looking that damn kissable and that damn smug about it without expecting there to be consequences.
Lots of consequences. Lots and lots.
Cloud was going to make a list of the consequenses, really, as soon as he got tired of kissing.
...The 'getting tired of kissing' part was probably going to take a while, though.
Afterfic note: A quick Wiki-ing turned up that "Eglanteria" is the genus name of the sweet-briar rose. (ducks hurled missiles! I needed a name fast; I've only got half an hour left 'til midnight... I don't think I've even got time for a last proof given how long it takes to clean Word-converted HTML... @__@)