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: A good cup of coffee gets all the blame.
Notes: Mostly original game canon, using a few snippets from later details.
Morning was a bit of a surprise. Sephiroth didn't quite remember at first where he was, and had to look around once and then think about it to properly figure it out. But then he remembered the earthquake, and Mideel, and Cloud.
The sun was just rising, which made it about the normal time he woke. He helped himself to the bathroom and then headed out to wander and stretch. His muscles were sore - but Cloud had given him far more of a workout than he'd had since... Well, since he'd been dumped into an all new body and woke up naked on the beach.
He hadn't even thought about his body. How it wasn't really his. Or... perhaps was a replica but was missing all the things that would have made it properly his - scars, marks, memories.
Maybe it had been on purpose. There had definitely been marks that he wouldn't have wanted to face every day. A fresh start had required a new body. Yes... It made sense.
It didn't help the confusion settling in that he didn't really know who he was.
He turned a corner and stared at the sunrise.
He had been Sephiroth, hadn't he?
Yes, he had. It was all still there. He still was Sephiroth.
Cloud should probably know that.
He kept walking, wondering just how to tell Cloud. Maybe the time wasn't quite right. Maybe it never would be. But that sort of ruined the intent of telling him.
For all he knew, he wouldn't even see Cloud again. So it might not matter.
But it wasn't Cloud - it was Tifa who had found him.
"Morning!" she called as she ran up to him. "Cloud was afraid you'd left."
Sephiroth glanced up towards the sun. He'd been walking for longer than he'd intended. He'd probably looped around enough that the locals had to be wondering what he was up to.
He'd been thinking. That took time and footsteps.
"Just woke up before him," Sephiroth replied. "Thought I'd walk for a bit - stretch - Cloud really gave me a workout last night."
"So I heard," Tifa replied. "But only the barest of details. Mostly that you're pretty good and it's been awhile since Cloud could spar with anyone who could even remotely keep up with him."
"What about you?" Sephiroth asked. He was well aware that Tifa was a powerful fighter as well.
She raised a fist. "It just doesn't quite work in practice," she noted. "I feel how he does. But I'm sure I'll find someone. We both keep in shape, just in case."
"In case of what?"
Tifa frowned. "I don't know anymore. I mean... we didn't know at first if everything was really over. Just sort of kept waiting. How do you know when a war is over if there's no official announcement? We barely knew who we were fighting half the time. It's... Sometimes I don't think it's over."
"Mmm?" Sephiroth glanced over at her. They were walking, albeit slowly, and he couldn't quite meet her gaze.
"I'm not sure what Cloud has told you," Tifa said softly. "But... there were a lot of battles. We fought for a long time. And... It just doesn't always feel like that's over. Like the threat is really gone."
Sephiroth nodded. If he was the threat, well, he was walking beside her. But he wasn't - at least he hoped he wasn't the threat.
"If you ever need me..."
Tifa shook her head. "No. As much as I'd like to accept, well, it's not your fight."
"I'm starting to feel like it is," Sephiroth replied. He sighed and kicked at a pebble. "The more I talk to you and Cloud, the more he compares me to..."
He paused. It was infinitely strange to talk about himself in third person.
"Sephiroth. Whatever Sephiroth was to him. I get the feeling that it was something more than..."
"I don't know all the details," Tifa said quickly. "But there was something, yes. I hope that's not weird to you. You really do look like him, just... younger."
Sephiroth chuckled. Yes, that was about the only difference.
"I only met him briefly," Tifa continued. "But even your personalities are similar. I can't help but wonder if that isn't confusing to Cloud. If it wasn't impossible, I'd almost believe you to be him too. I can see where Cloud got his first theories from. But... you're you, Fin."
"I'm content with that."
They were back to Tifa's place, and Cloud was sitting on the porch with two cups of coffee.
"Morning," Sephiroth said to him. Cloud gestured to the coffee.
"I hope I got it right."
"However you made it is fine," Sephiroth replied, taking the mug. It smelled perfect, and the color was right. Just a tiny bit of cream was preferable, but black was good too. Pinch of sugar, unless it had been a rough night. Then it had to be sugar with just a pinch of coffee.
But it had been many years since a night like that.
Cloud had nailed it, though. How had...?
Sephiroth froze, but tried not to show it. When Cloud had stayed, he'd been making coffee while Cloud was packing to go. He hadn't even thought about it.
"It's perfect," Sephiroth said.
"I know," Cloud replied softly. "How...? I didn't even realize until I was thinking about what you might like in it... And then remembered you'd made it just like..."
"I'd say it's a long story, but it really isn't," Sephiroth admitted. He was caught and he knew it. At least now he wouldn't have to worry about how to tell Cloud -- he already had.
Tifa looked between them a couple times before frowning.
"Are you going to clue me in?" she questioned.
"He's Sephiroth," Cloud said firmly.
Sephiroth winced, then nodded. "Zack and Aerith say 'hi'."
Tifa's jaw dropped ever so slightly.
"But we just went over all the ways that was impossible," she said. "You're Fin. Fin..."
"There are only a finite amount of explanations for things," Sephiroth said. "And a finite amount of time allowed to keep my secret."
"But why...?" Cloud was just staring, now. "Seph..."
"The short version is that eventually, I became nothing but anger and hate," Sephiroth said. "I stopped being myself, stopped being an actual entity aside from pure malice. And then... it became an entity separate from me. Like I fell out of a cocoon of darkness."
Sephiroth shook his head. "Zack, actually. Laughed at me, offered me a hand, told me Aerith was off hugging my hate to death or something. It... That part is pretty fuzzy. I was missing a lot of my body and my mind, but together we all wove it back together. And I really understood what had happened and it... It wasn't a good feeling."
"What? She sent you back?" Tifa asked. "Why doesn't she just...?"
"She's doing more in the Lifestream than you could ever imagine," Sephiroth said. "I... That I'm not sure I should say too much about. But basically, after a lot of talking and a good scolding for killing her, even if it worked out in the end, she asked if I wanted to come try to fix some things."
Yes, now was the time to admit that so far he'd managed to accomplish all sorts of amazing things like fixing roofs and delivering booze to a chocobo farm and killing a Sea Worm.
"I didn't know I was going to get a refurbished body," he said after a moment. "Or that I'd ever run into anyone I knew who knew me well enough to figure it out."
"Why'd you lie?" Cloud asked.
Sephiroth sipped some of his coffee.
"Why would I tell the truth? You spent the better part of a year trying to kill me," Sephiroth said. "Both of you. It's been far better for everyone if I'm 'Fin', who just happens to have the same hair color and eye color and general build - and voice... Like I said, some of the details were a surprise to me. I guess Aerith had a limited amount of details to work with."
"You mopped my floor," Tifa interrupted. She frowned and then started laughing, almost uncontrollably. Sephiroth thought he understood. It was pretty ridiculous. He'd mopped her floor. Five years after literally trying to kill each other, yes, pleasantries and mopping.
"It's a start?" Sephiroth offered. He honestly didn't think he'd hold it against either of them if they killed him on the spot. Or at least singed him. Partly for lying, partly for being Sephiroth.
"Should I still call you 'Fin'?" Tifa finally asked, gasping for breath. "Because..."
"'Fin' is preferable, yes," Sephiroth noted. "But... whatever is comfortable. You don't even ever have to see me again. I'll just go back to Ol' Willie's cabin and fish and do odd jobs in the village."
Cloud shook his head. "No. That's not... you can't..."
Sephiroth set down his coffee mug and held his arms out at his sides. Wide open. Whatever Cloud wanted to do, it was okay.
Slowly, Cloud stood.
The waiting was the worst part. Cloud didn't have his sword with him, but that didn't mean he didn't have materia or any other weapons. He could probably throw a mean punch, though nowhere near as mean as one of Tifa's. But she didn't really seem upset. More... amused. Accepting. Maybe she'd just really liked his explanation. He didn't know and it wasn't the time to ask. Maybe she'd be angry later. Maybe it just hadn't hit. He really didn't know and he wasn't going to push the issue ever if he didn't have to.
Cloud still hadn't moved.
Sephiroth wondered if it was his t-shirt. He really had to get some better ones.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Cloud closed the gap and carefully put his hands on Sephiroth's chest, palms flat, before leaning, silent. After a couple of seconds, Sephiroth drew his arms in, awkwardly hugging Cloud and exhaling. He understood.
Yes, he was real. Yes, there was a real heart in a real ribcage under real skin, beating. He was real.
And he knew that was a scary thing, even if he was mostly sane and relatively depowered. Which Cloud hopefully remembered.
"Missed you," Cloud mumbled.
Sephiroth reached up with his left hand and ruffled Cloud's spikes.
In a way, he hadn't missed Cloud so much as thought about him often and hated everything he'd done to Cloud. He'd not really managed to hate himself much, just what he'd done. Hating himself wouldn't have been terribly productive and he at least needed some sort of outlet. So hating his actions... There would never be words to apologize. There would never be anything he could do to undo the years of agony he'd caused.
He couldn't hate himself, though, or he'd never get anything done. He wouldn't stay sane. He'd tear himself apart.
"I miss Zack, too. And Aerith."
"They're doing pretty well, for being dead," Sephiroth told him. They were. He assumed Aerith had some sort of sway over Zack's general lingering form in the Lifestream, since he'd seen a lot of other people fade to tendrils fairly quickly. But Zack held strong, being his usual silly and friendly self. Aerith did everything. She was probably holding off any other quakes, releasing the pressure slowly elsewhere, somewhere uninhabited.
"She's really okay..." Tifa smiled. Sephiroth winced at her over the top of Cloud's head. It's not that he didn't want Cloud pressed against him, he just didn't know what to do or say.
Finally, thankfully, Cloud stepped back. He was blushing, but Sephiroth couldn't fault him. He just still didn't know what to say or do. It wasn't like they'd had any sort of official relationship and really, he'd systematically destroyed Cloud's life. He didn't think it would be good to get involved again without really, really thinking about it.
In silence, he finished his coffee.
"I should get going," he said. Tifa nodded. Cloud was silent. That was the worst. But there were just no words. There was nothing. He had wanted to stay Fin and not deal with it. He wanted to be Fin so he didn't have to deal with it. But actions had consequences and it was time...
At least he knew who he was and who he wanted to be. Kind of.
"Mmm?" The look on Cloud's face was wholly unreadable.
"Come visit some time?"
Cloud nodded. Tifa sighed.
Sephiroth knew it was time to leave.
Tori was waiting for him when he got back into town. Or, not so much waiting as gave him a very strange look when he stepped into the General Store to see if there were any emergency job cards.
"Everything okay?" she questioned. Sephiroth glanced around, but the place was empty aside from Sindi, who was drawing down at the other end of the counter. Sindi seemed engrossed in what she was doing and she'd never much seemed to care what Sephiroth was up to, unless it involves something for her.
"Yeah," he replied. "Everything okay here?"
"You know, there is phone service between here and Mideel," she noted. Sephiroth was expecting a lecture on not checking in and letting her know that he and Cloud had arrived safely. "I mean, I know you don't have a phone for whatever reason..."
"Line is down," Sephiroth interjected. He'd seen no reason to shimmy up the poles to fix it yet, though if there were more Sea Worms, he thought it might finally be worth doing.
"But I do," Tori continued. "And someone named Tifa phoned and wanted to let you know that Cloud was packing a bag and would be on his way. Do I even want to know?"
Sephiroth couldn't help a chuckle. "It's complicated," he said. "But... you'll have to forgive me for not knowing quite how to explain. It's not a bad thing. We just... clicked, I suppose."
Tori eyed him for a long moment before shaking her head. "Fine with me. Might keep Ol' Lexei from wanting us to get hitched. No offense, of course."
"None taken," Sephiroth replied. "I did consider it, though."
"So did I."
They looked at each other and both shook their heads and laughed.
Down at the end of the counter, Sindi looked up at them and frowned. And then she went back to drawing.
While Ol' Willie's cottage was the perfect size for one person, it was a little crowded with two. And really, Sephiroth didn't spend much time there. Even on his days off, he was down on the beach or doing something outside. He wasn't sure he'd have a lot of time to spend with Cloud and hoped that would be okay.
Cloud had dumped his bag in the living room and sort of vaguely gestured at the sofa. That was all well and good, but Sephiroth liked the sofa. He liked to read. And Cloud, while being relatively intelligent, was not a reader. He knew that. So he was going to lose his reading spot, unless he managed to get Cloud into his bed. Which, if he was also in, meant he'd...
He wasn't going to think that far ahead. For all he knew, his body didn't even work that way. Thinking, as he watched Cloud from the kitchen, he couldn't remember a single instance of his body reacting to anyone. Nothing in the middle of the night or morning. No urges while showering. No urges in general.
It hadn't really crossed his mind, even though he'd definitely thought about Cloud. But he hadn't really thought about Cloud in that way.
He wondered if Zack was laughing at him somewhere.
Wasn't really worth pondering.
His body, he supposed, was a bridge to cross at some point in the future. For now, he just needed to figure out what to say to Cloud, how to act around him, and no, acting natural was not in the cards. He just didn't think there was a natural.
He also didn't think he'd ever get Cloud back to calling him 'Fin', no matter how preferable it was.
"Can I borrow a blanket?" Cloud asked. "Later, I mean."
"Of course. Luckily, blankets are one of the few things this place has in excess. Originally, I had plenty, and then I ended up with more. Blankets are apparently a favorite gift to give," Sephiroth noted. He had, as far as he knew, about twenty. Four had come with the place, and the other approximately-sixteen had come from various residents and even the summer folk. Tori had even given him one, along with a couple of packs of socks.
One had been quickly relegated to beach duty, but most were piled in the small closet set into the wall between the bathroom and bedroom. It held all the spare linens, which were not as numerous as the blankets, and a few other things. Really, towels were good gifts, too. He could have used a couple more of those.
Cloud blinked and Sephiroth made his way to the closet and opened it. "Your choice."
He wasn't sure what had happened to the one that he'd used the other evening. Maybe he'd tucked it somewhere, folded... Put it on the bed? It was around but not on the sofa, apparently. He still needed to do something about his cupboards, too, he realized. Hopefully the aftershocks had rattled everything back into place.
"A lot of blankets, yes," Sephiroth replied. He took Cloud's hesitation as an invitation to do the deciding and handed him a knit one with flowers. It was definitely a warm one, and the nights were starting to get chilly. He knew he'd eventually have to invest in a space heater, because while Ol' Willie had owned an actual home somewhere to return to, the cottage was now a year-round space. Sephiroth didn't think it would get too bad, but he knew he'd have to remember to ask Tori or Darius at some point.
"I still can't..."
Sephiroth wanted to ask if 'finish a sentence' was the right answer. But he felt the same way as Cloud. Maybe worse. He could talk about blankets and Sindi and fishing and why there was a pile of romance novels beside the sofa, but other than that, he just didn't know what to say to Cloud. Not about anything that mattered, anyway.
"I can't really think about it for too long," Sephiroth admitted. "I can't undo any of it, but I can move forward and help people here and anywhere else I can get myself in the future. Aerith didn't give me a new body and second chance for me to drive myself back into darkness by dwelling."
"I know," Cloud replied. "I understand. And you'd think that I'd hate you more, but so much of that is just gone. It's there, but it's not. I feel like I want to hate you, but I'm out of hate. Instead, I'm... I think I'm glad you're here. And I feel guilty about that."
"I missed you," Sephiroth said. "Somewhere even in madness."
"I missed you, too."
They stared at each other, quiet, for a long moment.
"What do you do when something impossible happens?" Cloud asked.
"Go with it," Sephiroth replied. It was probably a fairly bad idea to kiss Cloud. Probably meant that getting Cloud a blanket for the sofa was going to be a wasted effort. Probably meant he was going to get distracted and possibly make a mess of things.
He did it anyway.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!