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: Turns taken talking.
Notes: Mostly original game canon, using a few snippets from later details.
Sephiroth woke to unfamiliar warmth beside him. Much like waking up in Mideel, it took him a moment to figure out where he was and what was going on. But then he remembered - Cloud. Cloud had figured it out, because he'd made mistakes and also because Cloud was not stupid.
No, Cloud was not stupid at all. Cloud had grown up to be a good, honorable man. He made his living as a courier, on his own terms. He'd talked a lot, the night before, about everything. He'd done all the talking so that Sephiroth hadn't had to, which had been perfect. Cloud had obviously understood. So he'd done his part.
After that kiss -- well, after the two that followed it -- they'd just talked. Cloud had been of the same opinion that some things shouldn't be rushed even if technically they wouldn't be rushing at all. Sephiroth hadn't mentioned that possibly, nothing much more intense could happen. He was waiting on his body.
But they'd decided that sleeping in the same bed was more than okay. Sleeping - and just that.
Carefully, Sephiroth untangled himself from Cloud and crawled out of bed. Sunlight was peeking in around the edges of the heavy, dark curtains he'd put up, so it was some time of morning, at least.
He started about his morning routine. No need for Cloud to be up yet. Sephiroth read for a few minutes in between pushups on the deck and making fried fish with rice for breakfast.
It was going to be a clear day.
Finally, just when he was about to put Cloud's portion of the meal away, Cloud crawled out of the bedroom and just stared.
"Never going to be used to you doing things like making breakfast," Cloud admitted.
"We'd starve otherwise," Sephiroth noted. It was the truth. Someone had to cook and Tifa had noted at one point that Cloud wasn't really allowed to make meals.
"What are you doing today?" Cloud questioned. He was glancing around at the stacks of apparent boredom - books, fishing pole, laundry to be hand-washed in a tub...
"I'll go in to town, check the job board, and if there are jobs, do them," Sephiroth said. He started running water for dishes. "If there aren't jobs or if I get done early, I'll hang out in Alexei's garage, tinker with whatever is there, possibly sort women's clothing, trade with anyone interested, pet Alexei's cats and talk to Alexei for a bit. He's probably very curious about what's going on."
"Sounds..." Cloud frowned.
"Not what you'd expect me to be doing?"
"Especially the cats."
"They're white and have odd-colored eyes," Sephiroth noted. "Never much liked cats, but these three are alright."
Cloud shook his head and quietly poked at his food.
Sephiroth started dishes.
This was really why he almost didn't want to even try this...
"I guess maybe I can try fishing?" Cloud said after a long moment.
"You could see Marsia's chocobo farm," Sephiroth suggested. "I can draw you a map."
There was a pause.
"Okay. And by the way, this is actually really good. Something you put on it..."
"Secret," Sephiroth replied. He couldn't help a little smile. A lot of trial and error, mostly, more than a secret. But he wasn't going to tell. Not any of it.
He sent Cloud on ahead with a map, taking a few extra moments to look through the cupboards and debate what food he might actually need on hand.
Surprisingly, Sindi was minding the shop.
"Morning, Fin!" she called when he walked in. "There's lotsa jobs for you today."
"Well let's take a look at them," Sephiroth said with a smile as he headed over to the board. While he wouldn't consider four cards to be 'lotsa', one of them stuck out as being a particularly complicated job and one that would indeed take most of the day. Aside from opening a stubborn jar of pickled asparagus, helping Darius change a tire on his truck, and keeping an eye out for a lost set of keys, there was a card in Tori's handwriting - 'Not feeling well today, please help Sindi mind the store'.
"Your mother is sick?" Sephiroth asked, pulling down all the cards and walking over to the counter.
Sindi nodded. "She said she'll be okay tomorrow, but really needs to rest today. I know how to do pretty much everything, don't worry."
"Well, then I'll go take care of the other three jobs and then I'll be back," Sephiroth said.
"Thanks. I mean, I'm really okay here, but..."
Sephiroth nodded. "I'll just help clean up."
"Sounds good," Sindi said, waving as Sephiroth headed for the door.
He wasn't sure what to do about the keys, aside from just watch as he walked.
The pickled asparagus jar was a quick task - the jar lid was indeed quite stuck and even he struggled for a moment before it popped open. As a reward, he was given half of a loaf of bread, which was quickly returned to the motorcycle and wrapped carefully into one of the cargo bins.
Darius's tire didn't take long, either. Really, Darius just needed someone to do the lifting while he supervised.
After that, he checked back in on Sindi. She was coloring a drawing in her sketchbook, but she also offered him three receipts that looked accurate.
"I'm going to run down to Alexei's place," Sephiroth told her. The lady who'd lost the keys had stopped at the garage the other day and traded a few things.
"Gotcha," Sindi said. "Then you'll help clean up?"
"Exactly. And I need to get a couple of things, too."
Sindi grinned and pulled out the receipt pad. Sephiroth was glad that he had a limited amount of money on him, else he knew he'd fall victim to her salesmanship and smile.
Alexei was out on the porch, two cats on him and the third at his feet.
"Where have you been?" Alexei questioned when he saw Sephiroth. He shooed the cats off his lap and got to his feet. "I've heard all sorts of things. You went running off after the earthquake?"
"I was worried about a friend in Mideel," Sephiroth explained. "He's okay. And... actually, he's staying with me for a bit."
"Two people in Ol' Willie's place?" Alexei questioned. "You'll be tripping over each other."
"Pretty much," Sephiroth admitted. "But don't go dying and leaving your place to me just yet."
Alexei laughed. "Not just so you can have company, don't worry. Besides, you'd have to take in these three troublemakers..."
He went to gesture, but all three cats were gone.
There was a little jingle, however, from under the porch.
Alexei shook his head. "Whatever they found, it's noisy. Got it a couple of days ago and they'll ignore it for hours and then be entranced... Cats..."
Sephiroth opened his mouth to say something, but an entirely different thought hit him.
He dug his keys out of his pocket and shook them. It was almost the same noise.
"I'm supposed to be looking for a set of keys lost right around here," he explained, chuckling. "I guess that takes care of that..."
He stuffed his keys back into his pocket and knelt down to peer under the porch. Three pairs of odd-eyes peered back at him. Between them was a set of keys glittering against the dirt with a well-chewed stuffed bear hanging off one ring.
"Sorry, but I can't let you keep these," Sephiroth said as he reached and grabbed. He got a set of claws in the back of his hand and hissed, but there wasn't actually any blood when he drew his hand back. And that task was accomplished. Hopefully Della wasn't too fond of her keyring charm.
Alexei chuckled. "So now they're cat burglars?"
"I don't think they really meant to take them," Sephiroth said as he got to his feet. He still needed to poke around in the garage for a moment. Maybe. Or he could just drop off the keys and go back to Sindi. "Hey... Tori's not feeling well? Is this a normal thing?"
Alexei nodded. "She just wears herself out, that's all. She's got that store open every day, after all. If Sindi's minding the place, Tori is just tired and needs a day. If it's flat-out closed, then you should worry."
"Thanks... I'll stop back by when I can, okay?" Sephiroth gave Alexei a little wave and started back towards the general store. He left Della's keys on her porch along with the job card.
Sindi was still sitting at the counter, though she'd gained a bowl of macaroni and cheese.
She looked up when Sephiroth came in.
"All done?" she asked him.
"Yup. Even found Della's keys."
"I have a bowl for you. I made one for Mom, too," Sindi announced, smiling. She slipped off her stool and ran back into the back of the store before Sephiroth could say anything.
Sindi made a darned good mac-n-cheese.
"I have a list of things to do," Sindi said once Sephiroth had sat and started to eat. "It's pretty simple - sweep, make sure everything is in the right spot on the shelves, make sure the receipts are all together... I just haven't started any of it yet..."
"No sense in doing it all too early," Sephiroth noted, smiling. He completely understood her logic.
"Exactly," Sindi said. "But maybe after lunch we can do a few things."
Somehow, Sephiroth ended up doing pretty much everything. But he really didn't mind. He tucked the job card in with the receipts at the end of the day and felt good about closing the place up. It unnerved him a bit that Tori hadn't even appeared, but... He also trusted her to let someone know if she was truly ill.
Cloud was waiting for him when he got back to the cottage. He'd apparently been given food, and Sephiroth had a bag of food, which meant there was officially more food in the cottage than at any point previous.
"That was... I'm not sure what that was," Cloud admitted. "When I said I'd raced at the Gold Saucer, her eyes went wide and that was it for hours."
Sephiroth smiled. "Thought she might like you."
"She wants to hire me part time to run the birds around," Cloud said. "I don't know... I mean..."
"You have time to think about it," Sephiroth reminded him. He had his own groceries and gifts to put away, and what Cloud had brought back was scattered across the counter.
"I mostly helped mind the general store," Sephiroth said. "No money in that, but Sindi gave me a bag of rice. Probably worth more than what I did, but I'm not going to complain."
"I've heard you're a saint who can do no wrong, by the way," Cloud said. He... chuckled. Sephiroth exhaled slowly. "Not quite what I was expecting to hear. But between what Tori said and what Marsia said..."
"I did manage to get into a fight with one of Alexei's odd-eyed white cats," Sephiroth noted, holding up his hand. The scratches were barely visible, but there. "I doubt saints get beat up by cats."
"You need something to do here other than books."
"Don't worry, I didn't slip," Cloud said with a little headshake. "I think it's only when we're talking. When you're right in front of me."
Sephiroth reached to start on dinner. It was almost dark-- the day had definitely gotten away from him.
It was his night to talk. About everything. Once the words started flowing, it was hard to hold them back.
Who he was, who he'd been, how he was very different physically than he had been, and who he was hopefully going to be...
How he'd been figuring that out.
Cloud didn't judge. Cloud just listened.
This time, Cloud kissed him.
Tori was up and about when Sephiroth wandered into town the next day. He felt good. Clear, he supposed. Talking to Cloud had helped. Just talking had helped...
Tori, however, looked bad. Tired, mostly, and like she hadn't really done anything with her hair.
"Morning," she managed. "Thanks for helping Sindi yesterday. It sounds like she had you do a lot more than I'd intended."
"A born supervisor," Sephiroth noted. He smiled. "And I didn't mind. I was worried about you, though."
"Just a bad day," Tori said, shaking her head. "Yesterday was the anniversary of his death and it sort of snuck up on me. I was tired anyway and needed a day to myself."
That made a perfect bit of sense. This was supposed to be his fishing day, and he was just checking for calamities. But there was nothing on the board, thankfully.
"I can help today," Sephiroth said quickly. "If you need me."
"No, it's okay. Really... You have..."
"Cloud?" Sephiroth offered. "He and I aren't attached at the hip."
"But I'm thinking you're attached." Tori gave him a very knowing gaze.
Sephiroth nodded. "It's not easy to explain," he said. "We did know each other, and we've clicked..."
Tori waved her hand. "I'm not collecting gossip and I'm not judging. Don't worry."
He wasn't worried. He just knew it had to look strange. It was strange.
They were quiet for a moment.
"Fishing day?" Tori questioned.
"Yeah. I'd offer you part, but I know you get enough here. If I had nets and a boat..."
"I'm sure it'll happen," Tori said. "I mean, if you stick around."
That was it. She was more concerned he'd leave. Not that he'd ever really thought he'd stay forever. But...
"We'll see," Sephiroth said. "But not today. Today I just need some bait."
Cloud was not patient enough to fish. Not at all. Instead, Sephiroth had sent him to pick up interesting rocks and shells and anything else and they could make a proper outside firepit to cook over. He'd been meaning to do it, but it was also a lot of work for just himself.
He watched Cloud from the chair he'd dragged down to the shore, down to a section where there was more of a drop off than a beach and fish tended to gather. Cloud had shed a layer of clothing, and was getting a bit of color on his skin, rendering him a sort of golden color. Sephiroth was a bit jealous - he stayed fairly pale no matter what he did. At least compared to most of the rest of the town.
By midday, he'd caught enough fish to make a meal. While he had fish in the freezer for other cooking, fresh fish would be best over a fire.
Cloud had a fire going in the sand about a hundred feet out from the cottage.
"This is nice," Cloud said when Sephiroth sat down with his bucket of fish.
"I'll decide once we see if this works or not," Sephiroth replied. He was talking about the fish, but he realized a moment later, that perhaps it was a more general statement as well.
He didn't clarify, opting instead to get back up and head to the porch to get the tools he'd need to clean the fish and get them properly roasting.
Cloud just watched, occasionally poking at the flames.
Sephiroth wasn't sure if things were getting better or worse.
Cloud's hair smelled like the ocean.
"Do you not want me here?"
"I want you here," Sephiroth said. "It's complicated, though. Tori's afraid I'm going to leave the town for you. Two people don't really fit in this cottage. And I'm not sure I'm even allowed to have selfish desires anymore."
"We'll figure it out," Sephiroth continued. "You... know I wouldn't have gone after you if..."
Cloud nodded against him.
"I know that's not the answer you wanted to hear."
"I shouldn't have just up and invited myself to stay," Cloud replied. "I just... got ahead of myself. I spent so long chasing you and finally caught up."
Sephiroth kissed him. And kissed him again. It felt nice, and right, and somewhere in there, Cloud managed a little moan, but there was nothing else. There was the temptation to reach and see how he was affecting Cloud, but that would just be an invitation to trouble. Trouble -- any additional trouble - was not what he needed.
It was the one thing he hadn't quite been honest about yet. He'd said his body wasn't working the same. He hadn't detailed. He wanted, but...
"We've got time now," Sephiroth said. "I've never really... tried to do this sort of thing properly, so..."
"Me neither." Cloud pulled away, stretching and settling at the other end of the sofa. "We're going to do this properly?"
Sephiroth nodded. "I think so. At least properly enough that I don't have the entire town asking me improper questions."
Cloud managed a soft laugh. "I know Tifa is worried too..." He glanced away. "Is it wrong to not really want to leave her? I miss her... We've been together for so long even if it's just been as..."
"We're answering our own questions," Sephiroth told him. He smiled. "We'll figure it out. We have time now, and Mideel isn't really that far from here."
Cloud nodded. And smiled.
Of course, the second Sea Worm arrived the day after Cloud left. However, with a sword he was at least reasonably more familiar with, Sephiroth was able to rush on in and cast a couple of spells without feeling completely exhausted. It wasn't anywhere near as large of a beast as the last one, but it was just as fierce. It had come up on a different part of the town beach, away from the docks, at least.
Right as he was unleashing the first lightning spell, he realized that he had to be careful with his aim -- only a stone's throw from the beast was Sindi, clutching her sketchbook to her chest. Sephiroth had seen her down at the beach drawing before--
Sephiroth got himself between her and the worm.
"Run away!" he called to her. But Sindi was frozen with fear.
The Sea Worm was at least more interested in him by that point, though, and he threw out another spell and then lunged in with his sword, aiming for the head.
Sephiroth heard Tori's voice somewhere in there, but he didn't look away from his task. Hopefully Tori was tending to Sindi. Hopefully...
The Sea Worm flailed and managed to throw him, but he landed on his feet. It was dying, definitely, but still plenty angry at him.
He stood, glancing over finally. Yes, Tori had gotten to Sindi and was pulling her back.
Sephiroth smiled. He could do this. He could definitely do this.
He rushed the monster, blade flashing in the sun. It didn't take more than a few more seconds before the beast finally fell.
And then Sephiroth sank to his knees in the surf. Better than the last time, definitely, but he was still exhausted. It was unfair. At least Cloud hadn't seen him - that would have been a bit embarrassing, even if he had managed a victory. He was stronger but still felt weak.
Though if all of his power had been Jenova, then... he was glad not to have it.
The summer folk had mostly cleared out, which surprised Sephiroth. He'd nearly forgotten how quickly they'd arrived and for some reason hadn't quite expected their departure to be so startling as well. The season - and soon the year - was drawing to an end, he realized, and he'd really not even noticed. He'd been in town for the better part of the year. He'd done a lot, except he hadn't. Well... yes, he supposed...
He had to be passing, at least. His body was holding out. Had that even been a condition? Were there conditions? Sephiroth wished he could remember more things about his last conversation with Aerith.
But he couldn't.
Sephiroth reminded himself to have Tori order him a few more t-shirts as he packed a bag for a few nights in Mideel. He could handle strange advertising mascots, just like he could handle Sea Worms and odd-eyed cats.
He and Cloud still had a lot to talk about before they got anywhere near the parts that didn't involve talking.
Sephiroth zipped his bag and glanced one last time around the cabin. He'd stop through town on his way and check on Tori and Sindi. Maybe he'd see if she could order in what he'd need to finally fix the phone line to the cabin.
That seemed like the next thing he needed to do, after all.
Or, at least, it was a start.
After that, the possibilities were infinite.
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