Title: Infinite Possibilities
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth, (Sephiroth/Cloud eventually)
Rating: T Overall
Summary: Aerith took all the crazy homicidal darkness out of Sephiroth and hugged it to death. And then she didn't really know what to do with him, so she shoved him back to life and told him to do better this time.
In this chapter: Sephiroth ponders Fin ponders Sephiroth..
Notes: Mostly original game canon, using a few snippets from later details.
Thankfully, upon arrival, Mideel looked to be pretty much in one piece. At least as far as Sephiroth could figure. He knew it had been pretty much destroyed years before, and that it was pretty much his fault, but it had already been rebuilt, so he hadn't really thought much about heading over there. He also wasn't really ready for a bigger town than the one he was in. He figured he'd been dropped where he'd been dropped for a reason, after all. He trusted that Aerith had a plan. Or... at least an idea for a plan. If Zack was involved, well, maybe it wasn't the best idea for a plan, but... He trusted Aerith, oddly enough. She'd... given him his sanity back when he certainly hadn't deserved it.
But she'd done what she could for Cloud, too.
Aside from the condition of the town, Sephiroth was far too aware of one other thing - his motorcycle was running on virtually nothing. While it could apparently go back and forth around town and to Marsia's and the summer folk homes for a month without thinking about fuel, the trip to Mideel - at full blast - had done it in.
Possibly, he had enough money to get himself at least part of the way back, but that might mean not eating. And it didn't help much if he still had a day or so of walking.
He supposed he could sell one of his hard-earned materia.
Easing his bike to a stop alongside Cloud's when they got to a small place that looked more like a cafe than a bar, Sephiroth decided not to worry about it just yet. He might be able to find a few odd jobs and...
He saw Tifa a moment later, cleaning a broken pane of glass out of one of the front windows. Apparently there had been some damage...
"Welcome back, Cloud," Tifa called when she saw them. And then she simply stared. "You brought someone back with you?"
Either she really hadn't recognized him or she was just being cautious.
"This is Fin," Cloud explained as he headed over to her. "Was there much damage?"
"Here? Just the window and a few bottles and dishes. Smells pretty awful inside, but it's not bad. A few other houses are worse, I think, but nothing too major," she explained.
"It's nice to meet you," Sephiroth offered, reaching to take the hand broom and dustpan from her. "Allow me to finish up here. I do all the odd jobs around my town and I've fixed my share of window panes."
Tifa nodded slowly and handed over the tools. "Thanks... Ah, my name is Tifa. Tifa Lockhart."
"My pleasure," Sephiroth replied, aiming for a soft smile. "Cloud stayed in town overnight since it was storming, and I followed him back because of the earthquake."
He wasn't going to say a thing about actually chasing after Cloud. Nope. Not at all. And he was going to give Cloud a chance to quickly tell Tifa whatever the current theory was on his origins.
Tifa had already cleaned up all of the glass that had fallen free of the pane, and carefully, Sephiroth pulled out the remaining shards, depositing them in a pile on the dustpan. He'd rather have had some work gloves for the task, but of course all of his tools - well, Alexei's tools - were in Alexei's garage hours away.
Though he had no reason to rush, either. Tifa led Cloud inside under the presumption of checking for damage and they vanished into a back room fairly quickly. But things were quiet, and he went about picking glass out of the window frame for a few more minutes before finishing. From there he'd need to carefully pop off some of the detail and trim of the window, but the construction was basic and he didn't think it would be difficult at all. Finding a new piece of glass might be the hard part if there were a lot of windows waiting to be fixed.
He let himself into the cafe and found a sturdy garbage can to dump the glass in. Already, it had bits of bottles and everything else in it, though there still looked to be a rainbow of tiny glass shards behind the bar. And definitely a smell.
Well, he thought as he surveyed, there would be nothing more disarming than re-emerging to the potential enemy sweeping up and then mopping. Of course, he had no idea where--
A broom was easy to locate, and he had a dustpan. A mop would be more difficult and likely have to wait, but he was patient. Before starting on the sweeping, he slipped back out to his motorcycle and brought his sword in. No sense leaving it out as temptation. Anyone after the bike would be sorely disappointed.
He set the weapon on a table near the door and slipped behind the bar to start sweeping.
Halfway through, Tifa and Cloud reappeared. And stared at him. Tifa glanced from him to the window and then back to the broom he was holding.
"I hope you don't mind -- I figured I'd make myself useful. A little vinegar in the water when I mop should take care of most of the alcohol smell, too," Sephiroth said. Marsia had taught him about the vinegar. Tori had reinforced it. Hopefully, it would work on multiple levels.
"Th-thank you," Tifa managed. "I didn't expect..."
"If we can get a pane of glass, I can fix the window too," Sephiroth continued. "I should probably wait until morning to head back, and before I do, I'm going to need to find fuel for my motorcycle."
"I'll cover it," Cloud said quickly. "And you can stay with me. I... told Tifa that you came out to check on me."
"I owe you one, Fin," Tifa said carefully, still looking him over. "More than one, I think."
Sephiroth shook his head. "This is really about all I can do. I don't have a lot of practical training, but I've gotten pretty good at fixing and cleaning things."
"He also took out a Sea Worm that had come up onto shore," Cloud noted. Sephiroth froze. He hadn't mentioned that - only that there'd been some intrustive wildlife. But Tori probably had, when Cloud had first brought the sword in.
"Well, I do have a military background," Sephiroth said. "Though I've been away from that for awhile. Mostly I drifted and when I had a chance to metaphorically 'start over', I took it. It's been going fairly well so far."
Mostly, he wasn't lying. It felt kinda good.
"I'll make something to eat," Tifa said after a long, almost awkward moment. "There's a bucket and mop in the back, and I do have vinegar... You don't have to do it, but..."
She let it linger that it would be really, really nice if he would. And then she ducked into the back.
"What did you tell her about me?" Sephiroth questioned as Cloud looped around the bar and sat on one of the stools. There were a handful of tables in the place, and maybe four bar stools. But then again, it wasn't a large town.
"I think she thought I was going to bite," Sephiroth said. He laughed. "Unless I've got it totally wrong."
Cloud shook his head quickly. "Nothing like that, Fin. You... remind me a bit of someone we used to know, and I mentioned that, but..."
"Sephiroth?" Sephiroth asked. He wasn't sure why he was pushing now, of all times. But it had just come out of his mouth and hopefully it wouldn't seem...
"That's what you called me when you first came to," Sephiroth replied. "If I look like your friend, at least I won't feel so weird about all the looks you keep giving me."
"I... Did I?" Cloud asked, shaking his head. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry? For what?"
"It's a long story," Cloud replied. "You... do remember Sephiroth, right?"
Sephiroth nodded carefully. "The war hero, right? I... Hmm... I don't really know much about him after that, though. He..."
Well, there was a bit of time missing. More than once.
"Yeah. I wanted to be like him. Didn't you?" Cloud looked up, but more at the bottles remaining behind the bar than anything else.
"I guess so," Sephiroth replied. "But that wasn't really why I joined. For me... I guess it just happened."
How much of his life had he really had a choice in? What if he'd been more suited to be a concert pianist? He kept sweeping and wondered if he still had time to learn.
"You look like him," Cloud said softly. "Not entirely, but... enough."
"Should I apologize for that?" Sephiroth questioned. He knelt to push broken glass into the dustpan using the hand broom.
Sephiroth exhaled and then stood, dumping the dustpan's contents into the garbage. Another good sweep and then he could mop, which would be good, as the floor was starting to get really sticky.
Maybe mopping would be a better priority.
"Good," he said, giving Cloud a little smile. "I'm going to go find a mop and bucket and I'll be back."
A couple of minutes later, when he returned with his quarry, Cloud hadn't moved.
Tifa had helpfully left a bottle of white vinegar by the mop bucket, and Sephiroth had dumped most of it in. If nothing else, the smell would be replaced...
No sooner had he thrown down a good layer of water than Tifa appeared with three plates piled high with sandwiches and vegetables and even a cold pasta salad.
"I just pulled everything out and sort of got carried away," she said, shaking her head. Sephiroth remembered her with longer hair, but now it was cut short - shorter than Cloud's, which was long and threatening a ponytail, but nowhere near as short as his own.
"It looks amazing," Sephiroth replied. And it wasn't fish. That alone was something to be grateful for. "Thank you."
Tifa shook her head. "Thank you." She gestured at the area behind the bar. "You're far more efficient at that than I've ever been and I've been doing it for half my life."
"Let me at least pull up the water and then I'll eat," Sephiroth said, reaching with the mop to clean up the mess he'd just made. The smell was already waning, he was pleased to note, though he also knew he'd have to clean the bottoms of his boots thoroughly or he'd keep smelling like booze.
Tifa nodded and made her way over to one of the tables, setting everything out and then ducking back to grab silverware, napkins, and drinks.
Thankfully, she just poured plain soda for all three of them. Sephiroth hadn't touched a drop of alcohol yet, despite some very attractive offers, and didn't intend to. Not when he still didn't know how fragile his sanity might be.
Cloud slid off his stool and gave Sephiroth one long, lingering look that wasn't supposed to be caught, Sephiroth realized. But there was a mirror behind the bar and he'd moved just right to catch a spot where bottles had fallen from and left a gap.
A forlorn blue. Watching. Wanting.
Sephiroth had never really thought anything would be easy. Nothing was ever really easy, unless it was manual labor. But anything with Cloud... especially with Tifa near...
Sephiroth knew he could avoid temptation. It would be safer. Besides, lunch was waiting and then he had mopping to do. And the rest of Mideel to possibly check on. And fuel to buy.
And a night to spend with Cloud. Hopefully Cloud just meant in a completely separate room, likely on a sofa, with a dull book to lure him into an uninterrupted and dead sleep.
There was a faint aftershock that nonetheless made the bottles behind the bar rattle. Sephiroth grabbed at one as it fell, catching it in mid-air.
Both Cloud and Tifa were staring at him.
"Got it," Sephiroth replied cheerfully, setting it back on the shelf and then giving the entire rest a little push back to where they should be. Not bad, really. Hopefully.
And then he circled around to eat.
Later, as Sephiroth was showering in Cloud's modest home set back behind the cafe, he couldn't help but wonder if he really was 'Fin' now. He'd lived as Fin constantly, except for the handful of moments where he'd needed to be Sephiroth. And really, were his actions then not things that Fin might do?
When did he become someone else?
Was he supposed to?
Was it cheating, if he became Fin?
Was Fin really different from himself?
Was Fin real?
The water washed over him and he scrubbed without really meaning to. Cloud and Tifa accepted him as Fin, and as the day passed, they relaxed around him. He and Tifa showed each other tricks with cleaning. Cloud helped him fix not only Tifa's window but also those of several other town residents. They'd worked, side by side.
There wasn't going to be an answer, he realized. Not right away, at least. Maybe not ever.
Tifa had promised to find him a clean shirt while he showered, which was more than he really needed. Sure, he'd gotten a little dirty and smelly, but he was just going to get dirty and smelly again. The shower was transient and more a way to have a bit of time to himself than anything else.
He washed the shampoo out of his hair, not bothering with conditioner, and turned off the water. There was a towel for him, and he quickly dried his hair and then his body, pausing at one point to look at himself in the partly steamed-over bathroom mirror.
Yes, he looked like himself. But he looked like 'Fin', too, if Fin could be real.
And then he wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the bathroom just as Cloud was hanging a clean t-shirt on the back of a chair by the bathroom door. His pants were draped over it, too. His boots and socks were on the floor. He hadn't really been bothering with underwear.
Cloud's eyes did not meet his. Instead, they dipped lower, along scar-free skin tanned by the southern islands sun. Down to where the towel was wrapped.
"Thanks again," Sephiroth said, not able to hold in a little chuckle. Yes, he was curious about touching Cloud and apparently Cloud was curious about him in return. But he knew it wasn't the time for curiosity. Not yet. He knew he didn't get to indulge any personal pleasure yet. It was okay. He...
"You're definitely not Sephiroth," Cloud said softly before turning. "He had scars. You..."
"You... want me to be him?" Sephiroth asked. "I don't understand."
"I don't either," Cloud admitted. "I guess... I still have a lot of things to think about."
"As do I," Sephiroth replied. He pulled the shirt on and then the socks. Cloud was at least looking away, so he dropped the towel and pulled on his jeans a moment later.
He hung the towel on the chair and started to put his boots on. Maybe Cloud wasn't interested in him now that he'd confirmed the last of his suspicions. Sephiroth didn't think he wanted to know.
"You're staying tonight, right?" Cloud asked. "I mean... Tifa..."
"I am," Sephiroth confirmed. "Thought I might wander around town more first, though. It's not quite dark."
There was a pause.
"Well, might be easier if you showed me around..."
"Your voice is even the same." Cloud still hadn't looked back. Instead, he was staring at a shelf of little knickknacks and photographs in what served as the main room of his home. It was possibly even smaller than Ol' Willie's cottage, but Sephiroth didn't think Cloud was the sort of guy to really need much, either. Tifa was nearby. And he had his sword.
Sephiroth wanted to be honest. He... wanted to figure out who he really was first, though. If he was becoming a person of his own creation, or if 'Fin' was just a nickname.
"There's not much to see," Cloud said as he headed towards the door, saving Sephiroth the need to figure out what to say. "Most everything interesting was destroyed, though there are still some hot springs operating. And there are sometimes wild chocobos close to town. Monsters, too."
"Should we be armed?" Sephiroth questioned.
"Only if we're looking for a fight." Cloud finally glanced back at him. Sephiroth had brought his sword along back to Cloud's place when Tifa had announced that she was going to try opening for the evening. After that sort of shaking, she reckoned, everyone would need a drink.
Their eyes met. They both reached for their swords.
Apparently Cloud walked around town armed often enough for most of the townsfolk to not bat an eye. Though Sephiroth knew he was getting a few looks.
Some parts of town, those fueled by tourists, were mostly rebuilt. Other sections were not in such good shape, and Sephiroth vowed to himself to volunteer his services in the future. He knew he could do something...
Cloud also seemed to be something of a local hero. Children called out to him. Maybe that was what was keeping him and Tifa from moving on. During lunch, Tifa had talked about their time in Kalm and then Gongaga.
And then Mideel.
They walked farther, through the town's outskirts and little clusters of tourist cabins, out along trees and bare, scrubbly patches... The sun was finally down, but the stars were bright enough to see by and they really hadn't gone far enough to lose the lights of town entirely from over their shoulders.
"Got a weird question for you."
There was a crashing from the tall grass nearby, and Cloud's question was put on hold as a pack of angry green creatures rushed forth and quickly surrounded them.
"Well..." Sephiroth drew his sword and smiled. "I guess now is as good a time as any to test my new sword."
"Don't try to do too much," Cloud ordered. "If you get overwhelmed..."
It was on. Sephiroth rushed one of the beasts, well-aware he was leaving himself open from the sides. Before he could strike, though, he spun, catching a flanking one and then firing off a low-level fire spell that singed and stunned another of the monsters but didn't kill it. He sucked in his breath. Not as bad as before, but he'd been practicing at least one spell a day with the materia he'd been gifted previously.
"Left!" Cloud cried. Sephiroth turned and cut down a lunging monster and then finished off the burnt one with a second spell. That left three - Cloud had taken out two and was fighting another. When that one fell, they looked at each other for the briefest of seconds before each rushed a remaining monster.
Perhaps the entire battle had taken fifteen seconds. Sephiroth was short of breath, but Cloud didn't look much better. They looked at each other again and laughed. It felt good.
"You're really good with that," Cloud said, shaking his head. "Not Sephiroth-good, but good."
"I see that I have a lifetime of comparisons in front of me," Sephiroth replied, smiling. "And you're... really good too. I'd like to see you against something a little more threatening, though."
"Like you?" Cloud suggested, stepping back and raising his buster sword.
Sephiroth frowned. "I'm... dreadfully out of practice and I've had this sword all of two days," he reminded Cloud.
"You want me to go easy on you?" Cloud asked. He was smiling. It was a rare expression, Sephiroth knew, and he wasn't going to waste it.
Taking a stance, he waited. This wasn't life or death - it was friendly. But whoever made the first move was going to decide much of the fight.
Finally, after a few more seconds went by, he moved. He struck high, blocked, then low. Cloud didn't need to put much power behind the buster to make it move with a distinct weight, but Sephiroth thought he knew how to counter it. He was sure he'd fought Cloud wielding it before, but that part of his memories was a jumbled mess of just about everything.
And he had to remember that he didn't have the reach that Masamune had given him. He'd sacrificed a good two feet of sword and Cloud still had something as big as his entire body. Cloud also had speed. And stamina.
Sephiroth knew he was outclassed, and while he felt a little humbled, he mostly knew he'd just have to work harder. He moved. He improvised. And he didn't let up.
Finally, when he took a couple of steps back and realized he was really, really out of breath, he held up a hand.
"Good," Cloud said. "Wow."
"Good, because I'm about to fall on my ass," Sephiroth replied, opting instead to flop under his own power.
Cloud sat down beside him a moment later.
Sephiroth hadn't quite noticed how close Cloud had actually gotten to him.
"You had a question for me, didn't you?"
Cloud was quiet for a long moment, looking down at the ground.
"I'll ask some other time. It's not really important," he finally said.
"Whenever," Sephiroth replied, reaching to rest a hand on Cloud's shoulder. "You know where I'll be."
"Yeah. That's true."
"We should head back in a minute," Sephiroth continued. "Tifa's probably getting worried about us. If she's not busy making money hand over fist."
They sat a bit longer, not talking about anything in particular, before heading back to town. Sephiroth invited himself to sleep on Cloud's sofa, despite Cloud trying to offer him the bed.
He knew better.
He was glad that he was tired enough to sleep.
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