Living Without Worry
Title: Living Without Worry (Brightest Blue Eyes Arc 3)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth/Cloud, multiple OCs, Full Cast
Rating: MA overall
Summary: Breakfast of champions. Reeve again. Safety?
"It... It was Elena!" Reno exclaimed, shakily pointing to the blonde beside him.
"It was," Rude added, expressionless behind sunglasses save for a hand half-raised as though he was considering the thought of reaching to actually push Masamune aside.
"You shot at Cloud," Sephiroth said, his tone almost scaring Cloud for a second as he ran up behind Sephiroth just in time to hear the conversation.
"You... Swords!" Elena cried as Masamune swung unwaveringly in her direction. She took a step back, slipping a bit as her slippers refused to grab on the wet grass.
"Actually, she was shooting at you," Reno said. "Her aim stinks."
"It wasn't that bad," Cloud said, considering telling Sephiroth to drop Masamune but having too much fun getting a last little bit of revenge for having his last week or so turn into absolute torment. "Only one went astray. Though if I'd managed to land that..."
"Swords!" Elena recanted, probably louder than she wanted to, given how hungover she likely was. Cloud thought to reach to lower Masamune's blade but paused to decide that really, Elena had done some rather decent shooting, at least for her condition. He'd kinda given her way too much to drink in order to get the information he'd needed.
"Usually we just use wooden practice swords," Cloud said, watching the tip of Masamune settle about an inch above where Elena's nightgown dipped to show cleavage, the metal just a hair's width from her skin. The blade stayed still, not shaking at all even as seconds ticked by in silence.
"This wasn't a battle?" Rude asked, pushing his sunglasses up onto his head as though somehow not seeing things through darkened lenses would make them a little more real.
"It's too wet for a battle," Sephiroth said. "And... Do you really think we'd fight to the death in our pajamas?"
He finally lowered Masamune and smiled, keeping the sword tight in his left hand while holding out his right in greeting.
"They are in their pajamas..." Reno confirmed, apparently finally paying more attention to something besides metal.
"You must be Reno," Sephiroth said, an almost friendly smile staying on his face. "I'm Angel, the owner of this resort. I apologize that I haven't had a chance to meet you sooner, but we've been doing a bit of work inside the main house..."
"Angel..." Reno repeated as though he was seeing something much more akin to a demon.
"No last name," Sephiroth replied, reaching in turn for Rude and Elena's hands. "Most of the amnesiacs... myself, Rae, Pretty... We generally don't end up with last names."
"Amnesiac," Elena said softly. "But... Reno..."
"Perhaps we could continue this somewhere without rain?" Sephiroth questioned, glancing back at the house. "All I can offer is bacon and instant pancakes, if you don't mind a bit of dust."
"Cloud..." Reno said, motioning for the blond to stay back as Sephiroth led Elena and Rude towards the house. Cloud wanted to laugh - all three Turks were still in their pajamas as well, Reno looking quite a bit more rumpled than usual.
"So I used a horribly underhanded tactic to get information out of Elena and now you know why," Cloud said. "But... he doesn't know anything. He's an amnesiac."
"Cloud," Reno began as he finally decided to walk towards the house. "That's no clone. That's the real thing."
"How do you know?" Cloud asked, trying to mask the interest in his voice. He knew Sephiroth was, well, Sephiroth. But Reno's logic was bound to be much more thought-provoking.
"Because that's Masamune he had pointed at my throat," Reno replied. "Not the first time I've seen that end of it, y'know? See, back... before... I just wanted to hold it and see if the stories were true that only he... Stupid story short, I know the business end of that thing and I know damned well a clone could probably wield it."
"But no clone could hold it that perfectly still while scaring the daylights out of a hungover Elena?" Cloud finished. He suppressed the urge to smirk.
They were almost to the porch, leaving Cloud to wonder what would possibly be more awkward, last night's dinner or the upcoming breakfast.
"Don't," Pretty said softly. Her voice came out as little more than a whisper, unable to pull air until Sixteen backed off, his eyes wide.
"S...Sorry!" he exclaimed, trying to get both of them off the floor in one awkward motion and almost succeeding.
"It's okay," Pretty managed as she brought a hand to her chest. The IV really hadn't pulled at her hand and it was easy to tip back into place. Other than the buzz of adrenaline now surging through her body, she was fairly sure that she hadn't actually been hurt.
Just trying to even out her breathing, Pretty nodded. She knew. She knew that burst of recognition quite well.
"S'okay," she said again, finally able to make sure she was still receiving the proper contents of her IV bottles. Everything seemed fine.
"I should... go..." Sixteen said quickly, moving for the door.
"Stay!" Pretty looked down to where the file-box had been knocked aside, folders spilling out of it. "I... I want to know why..."
"Cloud," Sixteen softly said as he turned to look back at Pretty. "I... I always have remembered this feeling of warmth and that name. Not so much an image as just this..."
"So they're together, then?" Sixteen asked, his voice cracking as he settled at the end of Pretty's bed. "Cloud and the clone?"
"You think he's a clone?" Pretty asked back. She kept bringing her hand back to her chest, wondering just what bruises she'd have in the morning. The idea still didn't seem right to her. Cloud seemed positive that Sephiroth was the man he'd been with as a teen. And she wasn't even going to try to doubt the feelings they had for one another.
"He has to be," Sixteen said. "Don't you think we'd be able to feel..."
"He's still remembering," Pretty said quickly. "And... He promised Cloud that even if he could still reach out, that he'd never try. I remember a morning when it was raining and Cloud... asked about that."
"You seem so sure that it's him," Sixteen whispered. "I'm not sure that... I don't think I want to believe you."
"Why?" Pretty asked.
"Because then I really am nothing."
Sephiroth wanted to laugh. He wanted to laugh and tell stories about some of the more lurid things he'd caught Reno doing some twenty years before. He had a hard time believing that everyone was getting so old around him, even if Mako helped preserve them into an almost ageless state. Still, Reno looked older, more beaten down.
Finally, not a one of the three Turks looked scared half to death, not like they had earlier. It could have had something to do with the pancakes he'd reconstituted for them, but he thought it might be more likely that he'd managed to convince them that he really had lost any memory beyond the previous decade.
Cloud seemed to be having fun, too, talking about the beasts on the island and even Pretty.
Elena was watching him so closely that he just wanted to stop everything he was doing and tell her it really was okay that she had shot at him. He understood - in her shoes, well, slippers, he would have shot at himself too.
"Vincent just told us that you'd moved to Mideel and were raising chocobos," Reno finally said after stuffing the better part of a pancake into his mouth and half-chewing it.
"I race at the Gold Saucer at least once a year," Cloud admitted almost as though he was surprised that anything other than the obvious situation had cropped up in conversation. "And usually after, at least one or two breeders will come and buy a couple birds."
"Vincent never mentioned a particular form of employment," Sephiroth said carefully as conversation lulled after that. "I didn't realize that he was part of an intelligence network. Though I can't imagine there's anything in these parts to keep anyone interested."
He could see both Reno and Elena shooting Cloud a various obvious look to which Cloud responded to with a very obvious look of his own.
"Well they were sent down here to investigate phenomenon that just happened to be Vincent," Cloud said. "So there really isn't."
"Reeve wanted to call you back," Elena said, looking directly at Cloud. "He thought you'd want to be involved, but Vincent stepped in and told him you'd found the sort of peace that you deserved."
"I wouldn't help ShinRa again," Cloud said. "I'd help Reeve. Or Vincent. But..."
"Cloud?" Sephiroth interrupted, not even want to be torn away from the conversation himself, but he could see Yuki and Matsuko on their way towards the porch. "Excuse me."
As much as he wanted to linger and see what information he could glean by stating the likely obvious, things needed to continue much as they had.
And, he hoped, much as they were going to.
Pretty was confused for a moment when she heard the knocking at her door. Sixteen needed to hide, he... Struggling with her blankets, she managed to sit up. Her room was empty and she was in bed.
"Come in," Pretty called just as the door opened. Dr. Lothaire appeared a moment later, smiling as he approached her with a syringe of glowing blue-green.
"Doctor..." Pretty began, eyeing the tip of a very long needle.
"Today's your big day," Dr. Lothaire said. "You're going down to the basement gym like you requested. Ysole seems to think you can handle at least a few minutes and has even asked another patient to be your partner."
"That's..." As thankful as she was to actually be allowed to go exercise, Pretty couldn't snap her attention away from the needle filled with mako.
"Trust me," Dr. Lothaire said, reaching to disconnect Pretty's IV and position the needle at the junction. "We've had much better success by giving patients small doses after their initial poisoning."
Shivering, Pretty was sure she could feel the cool liquid sliding into her body, snaking through her blood to join the rest of what had settled into her form. She couldn't look at the syringe and couldn't even turn her head back as she felt Dr. Lothaire take her hand and start to work at the tape that held her IV in.
"For the next week you'll be taking about twenty pills a day," Dr. Lothaire said as he worked. "After that, we should be able to get you down to just a handful and once you go home, none at all. If your stomach is holding up, you'll even be allowed down to the cafeteria."
"Thank you," Pretty whispered, finally looking over at her freed hand. She flexed it once, wincing at how stiff and sore it was. She wouldn't be able to hold even a practice sword very well, but it would be a start.
With a yawn, Pretty glanced around for Sixteen again, well aware that he wasn't there. They had talked until, apparently, she had fallen asleep.
"Go ahead and get dressed," Dr. Lothaire said after grabbing Pretty's chart and jotting something on it. "There's a waiting room past the nurse station if you go left. Reeve is waiting for you there."
"Reeve," Pretty said softly, quite curious.
But the doctor had already left, leaving Pretty to rush through a morning routine she wished could involve a little more than trying to pull her hair back and choosing from the small amount of clothing that Hikari had been able to pack for her.
Still, the thought of perhaps meeting another clone made her feel almost giddy. For all the things she hadn't managed to discover yet, the few things she had were all the motivation she thought she needed to push her own limits.
Stretching quickly after putting on her own clothing for the first time in what felt like ages, Pretty wondered if Sixteen could fight as well. Certainly he and his... 'brothers' seemed almost like a good word - had to be as stir-crazy as she was. But to keep them captive yet let them fight - Pretty thought she was missing a bit of the logic in that argument.
Smiling, Pretty made her way to the waiting room she only vaguely remembered seeing in passing. Reeve was there, looking almost too important in a crisp suit and long leather jacket.
"Um, hi," Pretty said, almost tiptoeing into the room. "I wasn't expecting you to come back so soon."
"I'm guessing you didn't find yourself in that box," Reeve said before standing.
"Not yet," Pretty admitted. "But I didn't get all the way through yet. I started reading about everyone and before I knew it, I'd fallen asleep."
"Then you'll forgive me for not bringing another box this morning?" Reeve asked, reaching to take Pretty's arm.
"Sure. But why are you here, anyway?" Pretty asked, over-emphasizing the question before hoping she hadn't actually offended Reeve in the process. She did want him around, after all. Having people to talk to was wonderful.
"Personal curiosity," Reeve replied. "After all, I can only wonder what Cloud's sparring partner is capable of."
"Oh," Pretty said as they reached the elevator. She wondered if she should be hungry, because she really wasn't.
"I'm really out of practice," she admitted a moment later, once she'd replayed a few months worth of memories of Cloud knocking her down and pulling her up again. "I don't think... I mean, I'm going to suck."
"We'll see about that," Reeve said coolly. "Your sparring partner is another patient here, actually. So perhaps you'll go easy on him."
"Was he a SOLDIER?" Pretty asked, forgetting for a moment that she was fairly sure she'd actually be dealing with a clone.
"Ah... Yes, I believe you could say that," Reeve replied after a pause. The elevator dinged that they'd arrived in the basement.
Taking a deep breath, Pretty followed Reeve out of the elevator and into another hallway. As long as she kept quiet, she wouldn't say anything improper. And that would at least keep her from a repeat of the previous night's incident.
Sprawled in the open, dry grass of the plains beyond the forest, Cloud could occasionally hear the soft warbles of his birds as they rummaged through the field for bugs or anything else they thought interesting.
It had taken a few minutes to convince Reno to just lay down and relax as well, the sun still low in the sky and nowhere near where it would be for the heat of the day.
"I guess I'd keep it a secret, too," Reno finally said.
The sky was an almost perfect shade of blue.
"He... He seems to remember knowing me before," Cloud admitted.
"You two... before?" Reno asked, rolling onto his side to actually pay more attention to Cloud than the lazy white clouds floating sparsely through the sky.
"Yes," Cloud admitted. "Before."
"I knew you'd hooked up with Vincent, after, but... Either way, it's a little weird thinking about you in bed with a guy you killed."
"Reno," Cloud warned, fairly sure that if he let the chocobo Reno had ridden get up to full speed on the way back, Reno wouldn't be able to hang on. It was nice to always have a back-up plan.
"Maybe I'm a little jealous," Reno continued. "Back then, he seemed untouchable. People threw themselves at him."
"So I did something different," Cloud replied. There had to be something else to talk about. Something.
"So does he ever let you fuck him?" Reno asked quickly, getting onto his hands and knees to lean over Cloud and catch a reaction.
"Bwah?" Cloud found himself coughing, stuck in a fit of annoyance so strong that what he really wanted to do was reach up and strangle Reno but all he could do was shove the man aside and look for a sputtering answer.
"That sounds like a yes," Reno said smugly.
"You haven't settled down?" Cloud asked, trying to turn things around.
"Not me," Reno said, moving to sit cross-legged beside Cloud. "Not Rude, either. Elena's going to be the one to end up with kids, if anyone."
"Married to your jobs."
"Going back to Midgar after this?" Cloud asked, tempted to try to pass a note along to Pretty. At least asking for her to try to watch Vincent a bit more closely. He knew Sephiroth was still debating whether or not to even acknowledge the clones but he... he'd been part of those experiments too. Even if he could only do something in secret, he wanted to do something.
"That girl, right? The one you can't decide if she's your sister or maid or whatever," Reno said. "Family isn't always blood."
"I know that," Cloud said, thinking of everyone else he really needed to invite for a nice, complimentary stay at the resort.
"There are nine left," Reno said flatly. "Nine. I ain't convinced that they need to be locked up, either. But up until today, I just thought they'd be safer - or we'd be safer - if they were."
"And then the great General Sephiroth made you pancakes while I tried not to burn the bacon," Cloud commented. "Maybe we're all insane, but we're... We're happy."
"Maybe I'll retire down here too," Reno mused, kicking his legs out and staring off to watch the pair of black chocobos they'd ridden out pull at a flowering plant.
Cloud groaned. He didn't even want to think about it.
"Are you going to tell anyone?" Cloud asked a moment later.
"Nah," Reno replied. "Not worth it."
"Not worth it?"
"Well, most people wouldn't care. They don't know anything other than what the ShinRa papers said about Sephiroth dying sixteen years ago," Reno said. "They'd just figure he's some middle-aged fellow living it up in a town full of middle-aged tourists."
"And Reeve... or even Tseng... They'd want him captured and brought to Midgar," Reno said bluntly. "That would be suicide."
"It would," Cloud agreed, knowing quite well that Reno was correct in that assumption. And for potentially the first time in his life, he knew he could trust Reno to be good to his word.
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