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This. Then. Again.

Title: This. Then. Again.
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth/Cloud
Rating: MA
Summary: Wandering from world to world, two dark hearts seek salvation.
Notes: Make Yer Own Canon Day! *sweatdrop*

"I'm cold," Cloud complained as they walked, pulling the remains of a ragged blue blanket around his shoulders.

"It's still daylight," Sephiroth replied, not looking over at his companion. "We aren't stopping to build a fire until the sun sets."


"Don't give up on me," Sephiroth snapped, stopping mid-stride to turn and grab Cloud firmly by the upper-arms, holding him still. "We haven't made it two years through this insanity just to let ourselves be conquered by the weather."

Cloud found himself staring into near-glowing green, wondering why they were still bothering. Two years, three worlds, no one they knew, having to start all over each time only to lose what they had...

"Are you sure this river will lead to a town?" Cloud asked, gazing over at the flowing water they'd been following for the last handful of days, ever since the last world they'd considered home had collapsed into spiraling darkness.

"Yes," Sephiroth answered, pointing out at the water as he let go of Cloud. "If there's a city anywhere nearby, it'll be on the bank of this river."

"That doesn't sound like you're sure," Cloud retorted, frowning.

"Keep walking."

And Cloud did, until long after the sun began to set and the pair finally stopped to build a fire.

Every night was getting to be the same - even when they had a house or any sort of space to share, neither ventured far. Cloud watched Sephiroth in the fire light, wondering how he could stand to eat the same food day after day and just keep walking without going mad. They'd always ended up in a town before, yet in this world they were just dumped off and forgotten, stuck walking in a direction that might never lead anywhere.

"I'm going to go get firewood," Cloud announced, confused as to just why he wanted to get up and wander around the forest when all he'd done all day was walk. Probably just because he needed to get away. Two years and not so much as anything Cloud could consider inappropriate had passed between them... Sephiroth was infuriating; while certainly he had stopped mourning for those lost in Hollow Bastion, he also hadn't bothered to notice what was available.

"Be careful," Sephiroth murmured, barely looking up. "If you aren't back in fifteen minutes..."

"I'll be back," Cloud replied, standing and heading off into the forest. He always came back, after all. He was strong now, smarter, and much older than any sixteen year old should be. He knew that should he ever run into anyone else he knew, he'd be able to beat them before they knew what hit them...

There were plenty of trees down and they split easily with just a little force. Knowing he still had minutes left, he walked slowly back to the fire, savoring his time alone.

"That should last til morning," Sephiroth said once Cloud came marching back, arms loaded with wood, probably one of the closest things to a compliment that had been paid since landing in this cold, uninhabited world.

Yes, he was cold again. Even with the ragged blanket that was as close to a jacket as he had, the cold was starting to bite deeper. Kneeling close to the fire, Cloud found himself watching Sephiroth again, realizing he'd never heard so much of a complaint from him.

"Still cold?" he asked, shifting how he sat and patting the ground with one gloved hand. "Come here."

Blinking, Cloud obeyed, finding himself between Sephiroth's legs, leaning back against heat as the fire warmed his front. Sephiroth pulled the blanket away only to drape it over them both, wrapping his arms around Cloud to hold it snug.

"How old are you now?"

"Huh?" Cloud felt absolutely hazy, unsure just how to handle the sudden attention.

"Sixteen, right?" Sephiroth queried again, letting out an audible breath.

"Yeah," Cloud replied, not entirely sure why that was being asked.

"When we find a town, then, you're old enough to be on your own..."

Cloud shivered, but not from the cold. Even while being so carefully attended to, he was being dismissed again.

"No..." he said softly. "I want to stay with you, still."

And Sephiroth did not answer, instead just holding him close for a few minutes longer until it was time to add more wood to the fire.

The next day was the same as the one before, walking endlessly towards something that Cloud was beginning to believe didn't exist. Neither bothered talking - after two years they were both out of things they'd readily admit to one another.

"It isn't as cold today," Sephiroth finally said, sometime after they'd stopped for a midday meal.

"It isn't." Cloud agreed, a little disappointed that he wouldn't get a chance to press close to Sephiroth's body again, drinking in his body heat and pretending in his mind that they could ever be something more.

"But the night might be..." Sephiroth dropped the sentence, holding out an arm to stop Cloud in his tracks. They were both silent as Sephiroth closed his eyes for a moment.

"What?" Cloud asked softly, not at all sure what the other man had sensed.

"Don't you smell it?" Sephiroth asked, more excitement in his voice than Cloud could ever remember hearing.

"Smell... it?" Cloud repeated before he too caught an odor on the wind. Smoke.

"Smoke..." he said slowly, mouth widening into a grin. "And smoke comes from fire."

"Which comes from people," Sephiroth added.

"Who live in a town!"

And they ran, not caring how ridiculous they looked in doing so, until the forest ended and indeed they were at the edge of a town.

A few hours later, well fed and having the contents of their packs washed by an inn maid as part of a modest fee costing only a few of the coins from their last world, Sephiroth and Cloud found themselves yet again sharing a space, trying not to look at the bed they'd have to share as well.

"Want to walk around town?" Sephiroth asked.

"I'm tired of walking," Cloud replied. "There's apparently some sort of hot springs in the back of this place. I want a bath."

"I'm going out then," Sephiroth stated, slipping from the room to leave Cloud yet again feeling absolutely rejected.

Taking off his boots and socks to slide into the slippers his hosts had provided, Cloud was at least happy to know that what had been a small amount of money on the last world left them as virtual kings on this one. There was a robe, too, and he dropped his clothing to the floor quickly, slipping into soft fuzz and knotting it tightly, suddenly quite intent on finding the baths somewhere else within the corridors of the sprawling inn.

Steam hit his face as he slipped into the men's bathing room, blinding him for a moment as he stumbled inside and closed the sliding door quickly behind him.

"Here, here..." a voice said as arms grabbed Cloud and pulled him to the edge of the room, stripping him of his robe and slippers before a bucket of water was dumped over his head, soaking him and leaving him unsure of whether to laugh or run.

Opening his eyes and pushing his hair away from his face, two other boys were smiling at him, pointing him towards a large pool that was producing the steam that filled the room.

"Now you can relax," one said. "Take your time but don't stay too long."

Nodding to the attendants, Cloud walked over to the pool, trying not to stare at the handful of other men who apparently couldn't care less about his presence. At first he felt as though he was being cooked alive. Even on that last world, hot water had been a luxury and not something to enjoy on a whim. He couldn't remember the last hot bath he'd had.

Ducking his head under the water, he came up smiling, disappearing into his own mind as he thought about the prospects of staying in this town forever.

"You've made yourself right at home."

Jumping out of his reverie, Cloud flailed in the water for a second before finding strong arms wrapped around his mid-section.


"Didn't mean to startle you," he replied, letting go and settling to sit beside Cloud, water hitting him mid-chest.

"I thought you were going out," Cloud said, trying to regain a bit of composure.

"The first person I found myself talking to mentioned how wonderful the baths were here," Sephiroth stated, smirking. "I took that as a hint to come join you."

"Yeah..." Finally Cloud had realized that he was now very naked next to Sephiroth who was also very naked. And just a moment before he'd been naked being held by Sephiroth who'd also been naked then, too.

He felt rather exposed.

"This is like a dream," Sephiroth commented. "For the first time in two years, things are finally looking to be not so bad."

Cloud didn't say anything, instead trying to look straight ahead and not at the body beside him. He was thankful that the heat was likely hiding the blush in his cheeks.


Turning, Cloud wasn't even sure how much time had passed. But as he looked over at his companion, Sephiroth stood and started climbing from the water, giving Cloud the sort of view that burned into his brain instantly.

"We should get out before we cook ourselves."

"Right," Cloud muttered, following behind and happy to be handed a towel very quickly by one of those smiling attendants. His growing arousal as he watched Sephiroth just casually dry off and accept his robe was not something that could be easily hidden. And the only thing he could think to do was sit down or... Managing to slip into his robe, he grabbed a dry towel, still folded, from the pile and held it squarely in front of himself.

"Towel?" Sephiroth asked as they were leaving.

"For you," Cloud said quickly, immediately wanting to sink into the floor or at least retract the double-meaning of his comment. "So your pillow doesn't get wet from your hair."

"Oh..." Sephiroth reached over to take it.

"I'll carry it," Cloud replied, trying to walk ahead now, knowing that nothing would hide the red his cheeks had to have turned.

"You're right," Sephiroth said once they reached the room. "We probably should just go to bed. It's been a long day. Quite a bit has happened..."

Nodding, Cloud finally felt calmed down enough to hand the towel over. Of course, now he had to share that bed. They'd slept in the same bed plenty of times before, but not... after... Besides, Cloud had always kept to one edge, terrified of accidentally making any contact with Sephiroth's body.

"Cloud... I can get another room if you'd like. Even if you did say you wanted to stay with me, you're acting..."

"No," Cloud interrupted. "It's not that. I..."

"This, then," Sephiroth suggested, stepping to where Cloud stood and leaning down so he could quickly and nearly-chastely kiss Cloud's lips.

"Yes..." Cloud whispered, unsure how he'd even remembered the word.

"That's something that takes time," Sephiroth replied, kissing Cloud again, still not doing more than letting their mouths meet. "And I'd want you to be sure..."

"I've always been sure," Cloud admitted, gaze dropping to the floor. "But you..."

"I don't want to take advantage of you just because I'm your first option," Sephiroth said, wrapping his arms around Cloud and holding him in a tight hug. "You're young and... I don't want to repeat my mistakes."

"We have time, right?" Cloud asked, bringing his own arms to rest around Sephiroth's body, relaxing and sinking in the sensation.

"Plenty of time," Sephiroth replied. "This is a happy place. It will take quite a bit for the heartless to break this world."

And Cloud let himself be guided off to the bed, no longer having to worry if he rolled over in the night.

"Going there again?" Cloud asked, lazily letting a bare foot swing down into the koi pool but pulling it back before the koi arrived to nibble.

"She is from another world, too," Sephiroth said for what had to be the thousandth time in the last two years. "She knows things... She's able to make sense of Ansem's research, of what I remember. I think she might be able to help bring things back."

"I'll leave a light on," Cloud replied, looking back to the fish and not to his lover's departing form.

It wasn't the first night he'd spent looking out over the rock garden and koi pond, alone save for the twittering little red birds that flitted amongst the miniature trees at the far end of the yard, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

The first time had been not more than a couple months after they'd arrived, quite close to when they'd found their little stone house with a large backyard...

Throwing bread scraps from a basket into the pool, Cloud watched the fish gather to eat.

But it was only after the first night that Sephiroth had not come home at all had Cloud been upset enough to say anything. Really, Cloud had always regarded that as being equally blessed and cursed, because the resulting argument had become physical very quickly and ended with the consummation of their burgeoning relationship.

But... Cloud threw more bread into the pond, watching for his favorite fish amongst the throng.

Oh, he was fairly sure that there was absolutely nothing physical between Sephiroth and that woman, despite her being a luscious temptress in body, it was her mind that Sephiroth seemed addicted to.

Once the basket was empty, Cloud took it back into the house and exchanged it for one of the swords resting near the back door. Nothing serious, just a slim katana, perfect for practice.

The yard was perfect for his movements and exercises. As twilight descended, Cloud didn't even feel the chill in the air as he took himself back through his training, back until in his mind he was waving a wooden sword made from two sticks tied together, fighting against the bigger and stronger Squall...


Of course, that explained everything. For the last two years he had been a complete fool - with that woman's research, things would go back to normal, Hollow Bastion would be as it was, and Sephiroth would be reunited with his last lover...

Cloud dropped the sword, not even listening as it clattered against the stone he soon found himself sitting on, staring upward as twilight turned to dark, willing tears away from his eyes.

Slowly he was learning the constellations of this world, learning their stories... He found himself staring up at the lovers in the sky, oblivious to the fact that he was being watched.


"You... You're home," Cloud whispered, getting to his feet and running across the yard, forgetting about his sword entirely.

"It's cold out here," Sephiroth said, taking a step away from the doorframe to pull Cloud into his arms. "You're freezing. What have you been doing out here, anyway?"

"Looking at the sky," Cloud answered, realizing that yes, he was cold if only because Sephiroth was so warm.

"I'll always have to keep you warm, won't I?" Sephiroth asked, guiding Cloud inside and closing the door. If he did happen to see the abandoned katana, he didn't say a word.

"It must be late," Cloud stammered as one of Sephiroth's hands toyed with the hair at the back of his neck.

"Not that late," Sephiroth answered as he glanced across the house to where a single candle was lit and sitting in a red hurricane lamp. "But I was worried because the house was dark."

"You left a candle burning for me?"

"Yes, but that was before I saw you outside..."

"In the dark?" Cloud asked, slipping from Sephiroth's grasp to go extinguish the small flame flickering in the darkness.

"You're my light."

Pausing, Cloud glanced back at Sephiroth. Maybe he wasn't... as... traitorous as previously thought. Maybe...

Right. Cloud continued over to the hurricane lamp and blew out the little votive that had already been wavering in a pool of its own melted wax.

Streetlamps outside made it more than bright enough for Cloud to cross back to where Sephiroth was waiting, holding out a hand.

"Let's go to bed," Sephiroth said, waiting for Cloud to reach back, which he did. He always did.

"Right," Cloud replied, letting himself be led down the short hallway to their bedroom.

"You're still cold," Sephiroth commented, squeezing Cloud's hand as though somehow that might warm his whole body. "You'll get sick."

"I don't get sick."

"That's because I always warm you up." Sephiroth let go of Cloud's hand to spark a tiny flame for the oil lamp in the bedroom. Cloud always liked this part, watching Sephiroth undress so casually, not at all ashamed of his body.

Trying not to take his eyes off of his lover, Cloud shrugged out of his own clothing before diving under the blankets, finally feeling the cold that had apparently been encompassing him.

Sephiroth was beside him in a moment, tangling their bodies together as Cloud found himself pulled close to hot skin. Kisses rained down upon his shoulders and upper back as he felt distinctive hardness press against his thigh.

Cloud could only gasp, shivering half from sensation and half from the chill that shot through his body. Hoping his hands were warmer than the rest of his body, he slipped one back between their bodies to wrap around that hardness, slowly stroking Sephiroth's arousal as he teasingly guided it near his opening.

"Is that all you want tonight?" Sephiroth asked in a whisper before tugging softly with his teeth at the stud in Cloud's earlobe. Cloud cried out a moment later as Sephiroth arched a bit, pressing arousal tight against him, the tip threatening penetration with only the barest amount of pre-come to ease the coupling.


"I won't hurt you."

"Hurt me," Cloud replied, already knowing that Sephiroth was reaching away for lubricant anyway. "Hurt me..."

The rest he couldn't find the words for... 'Hurt me, Own me, Make me so sure that this... That this is real.'

Slick fingers plunged into his body anyway, pressing deep quickly and sending sparks of pain along with pleasure, turning lost breath into more than gasping moans. The last of his evening in the yard flickered away as those fingers were pulled free and his leg forced up, spreading him enough for something more.

Bodies still wrapped together as they lay on their sides, Sephiroth shifted down as much as he could for letting Cloud use one of his arms as a pillow, thrusting into Cloud's body before pausing, waiting for Cloud's near-howl to wind down.

Cloud clenched his teeth, surprised at how different the position made things feel. With just little motions from Sephiroth, he could press back and coax the head of Sephiroth's erection to rub right where it felt good, barely stroking his own arousal because he was starting to think that he wouldn't have to. His other hand... he hadn't even realized that it was half tucked under his head, fingers twined with Sephiroth's.

"H...Harder," Cloud managed to stammer, finding himself on the edge of oblivion and unable to make the leap on his own.


"Please," he replied, "Harder..."

And yes, just a little more pressure, slightly quicker thrusts and he lost himself to release, feeling his seed hit his stomach in hot bursts, reminding him that he still wasn't quite warm enough.

Even with the muffled moans of Sephiroth's release not long after, he couldn't stop thinking of being cold, of being...

Still, he slept, waking late in the morning to find Sephiroth out in the yard, reading a thick and yellowed text.

"Would you like to go with me today?" Sephiroth asked, looking up as Cloud approached.

"No," Cloud replied. He would not go unless absolutely forced, and he couldn't think that...

"Let me re-phrase that. I'd like you to go with me."

"Why?" Cloud questioned.

"She has a theory, but to test it, she needs... lovers," Sephiroth explained. "Hearts with light."

Nodding slowly, Cloud couldn't help but feel apprehensive anyway. But he slipped back into the house to change from his robe anyway; Sephiroth would expect him to look proper and at least somewhat interested in whatever that woman was going on about.

And when he found himself being pulled into her house, Cloud remembered why he disliked her so much to begin with. Not just that she had Sephiroth fawning over her, but something more, something powerful. He could only imagine that on her own world she must have been someone important, either a queen or a priestess or some other sort of leader. Her charisma...

Cloud stood to the edge of the room, watching as Sephiroth sat down at a table cluttered with other texts, flipping it open.

"Here, Jenova," Cloud heard him say, pointing at a page. But the words vanished before being processed as Cloud found himself staring into a memory, watching Ansem touch Sephiroth much in the same way, an innocent hand on the shoulder before...

Somehow he hadn't really thought about it before, despite being witness to the entire scene. Sephiroth and Ansem had been involved, even if it wasn't quite as public as Sephiroth's involvement with Squall.

Oh, he couldn't believe that he'd been so amazingly stupid.


Cloud snapped his head up, not at all happy to be looking into bright green eyes, unsure of just what he was going to say if he had to open his mouth.

"Jenova has already woven the spell."

Spell? But...

"You were Ansem's lover," Cloud found himself spitting out, words full of venom. "You helped him and you're probably helping her."

"No, Cloud, it's not like that. You have no idea. I..."

He was interrupted by laughter as the floor beneath them flickered, drawing lines below that echoed above, surrounding them.

"Your heart brings only darkness," Jenova said, no longer the powerful priestess Cloud had saw just moments before but instead something much stronger and darker. He shuddered, grabbing for Sephiroth but unable to find him as he was blinded...

And then he heard the screams outside.

"Bring darkness to this world," Jenova said with smile. "And spread it wherever you go."

Cloud couldn't remember a thing after that moment, unsure of a single speck of reality as he fell and fell again, cast from the closest thing to heaven that he'd known.

"My own doing," he said to himself once he'd felt comfortable enough to stand and see where this new place was. It was a bright place, and warm. Finally he was not cold. Nor was he whole, or perhaps he was more than whole yet not...

Tucking leathery black beneath something that reminded him of that old blanket he'd used as a coat, Cloud slipped through high gates as he tried not to wonder if perhaps this would be the world where he'd finally find... everything.


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