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Of Stuffed Teddy Bears, Namedays, Idiots and Expensive Cake

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“How much do you know about birthdays, Sephiroth?”

It was an unfair question.

His arms laden with various items such as stuffed teddy bears, chocolates, and a bundle of roses, Sephiroth thought that it was a ridiculously unfair question. The individual who had asked it-Angeal, no surprise there-was looking at him rather like he wanted to laugh or weep. Either reaction was entirely out of place and completely unwarranted. The Great General of Shinra’s army had never celebrated his birthday. Sometimes he wasn’t entirely sure if his birthday was in September at all...there were moments when he was fairly convinced that a tech had told him it was in December, but that had never really mattered to him. Birthdays were frivolous, they were unnecessary. Why anyone would want to celebrate the day that they were expelled from another person’s body was beyond him. Besides, it was, technically, celebrating a year closer to one’s impending death. If that wasn’t morbid, he didn’t know what was.

But today was Genesis’ birthday.

Specifically, it was his first birthday since they’d declared themselves a couple, and he’d been determined to do the gesture of it justice even if he had no idea what he was doing. So he’d gone out...bought all of the things the internet said were proper birthday gifts for a lover-including a rather expensive car model that was currently sitting in HQ’s garage-and then made his way up the many, many elevators to Administration to deliver his gift. The problem was that he was waylaid by Hewley, who seemed to think that all of his gifts were a very bad idea. If he were a lesser man, he’d have been insulted. Sephiroth, however, was a man of great discipline and control-or so he liked to tell himself-so he was merely only a little bit miffed. And it didn’t matter that his gifts had cost him thousands of gil and that he would need to find someone else to take the not-even-released-yet car model, or that he would have to give the chocolates to someone who would likely take it the wrong way; he could deal with it.

That didn’t-of course-mean that he had to like it.

“I feel as if your question does not warrant a response considering what you know of me” the silver-haired FIRST said stiffly, clutching the teddy bear tighter.

Employees in their respective cubicles were starting to give them strange looks.

“You missed Valentine’s day, St. Patrick’s day and Easter” Angeal pointed out firmly. “I think it’s safe to say that holidays are not your cup of tea.”

“Genesis hates Valentine’s day and he said rabbits make him break out in hives” the younger man fired back. “And I abhor St. Patrick’s day. I don’t see the logic in acknowledging it at all.”

“Genesis says he hates Valentine’s day” his second-in-command said dryly. “And that’s mostly because any of the previous lovers he’s had to wine and dine on the date wanted or needed gifts like the ones you’re currently bringing him.”

“The internet-” Sephiroth began only to be interrupted.

“-Does not tell you everything that’s good and gold in the world” was the sage return. The silver-haired FIRST assumed he must have looked skeptical because Angeal sighed explosively. “I wish Lazard had never made those IT courses mandatory” the blue-eyed man muttered. “Half my squad can’t stop watching porn and my General thinks the world wide web is a wellspring of truth.”

“It’s not as if it was invented yesterday” the aforementioned man pointed out grouchily.

“It wasn’t” Angeal agreed, sounding equally cranky. “But HQ’s servers only opened for leisure-related access in the past month, and it’s not like Administration bothered to offer up any classes regarding the internet and self-control. Just bad planning all around.”

“That’s not my fault” the General replied, starting to feel somewhat irritated.

“No, but I also know you know better than to take things at face value unless you’ve been absorbing a lot of propaganda.” When the green-eyed SOLDIER opened his mouth to refute the older man’s statement he was met with a raised eyebrow. “Sephiroth, you watching cheesy internet soap operas is basically entertainment-related propaganda. Don’t deny it-” Angeal interrupted when Sephiroth pursed his lips to form a retort along those lines. “-I’ve heard you quoting Yellow Sunshine and Buttercup Brides too many times not to know.”

“The fact that you know means that you’ve watched them as well” Sephiroth replied.

Angeal’s cheeks turned faintly pink and he coughed.

“Yes. Well. I do. But I know better than to reference them in an attempt to ameliorate my romances, don’t I?”

“Do you have romances?”

The Commander gave him a hairy look.

“That’s awfully Genesis of you” he replied wryly. “And it’s none of your business.” Sephiroth wanted to pointed out that that was as good of a ’no’ as anything. But saying so would be-he admitted to himself grudgingly-equally as ’Genesis of him.’ And he was a bit sore concerning the whole affair of it. Holidays were complicated...they were messy and they were filled with technicalities depending on what you were celebrating. When it came to his redheaded lover, it was rather like walking on a gift-wrapped grenade strapped to a rabid grizzly bear holding a teacup. There was a 50% chance he might get a very good cup of tea and a 50% chance he might explode. And he didn’t really have anyone to turn his grouchiness at; so it was forced to simmer inwardly while Angeal shook his head in a sage manner and patted his arm. Angeal-the silver-haired man decided cantankerously-was a hypocrite. Because he’d seen the older man try to woo an office mate with a bouquet of roses and a drugstore card. “What I’m saying” his Commander continued in a voice that said he was probably reading his mind. “Is that no one’s perfect, so let me help you.” When the General looked dubious a dark brow was raised. “I’ve known Genesis longer than you have” was the wry continuation. “We’ll shop together, I’ve been meaning to get him something but missions kept putting it off.”

Sephiroth dithered.

This was-as he would soon find out-a mistake, but he was neither clairvoyant nor particularly insightful overall. And he didn’t want Angeal’s help. He’d picked out these presents himself, by himself. Granted he’d had a little help from Constance Evergreen and her Wheel of Woo, but that was neither here nor there. It had taken him months to compile the items he thought were right and wrong. That didn’t -of course-change the fact that if Angeal-who was too nice to point out the flaws in anyone-was going out of his way to point out his romantic gift-selecting flaws...he might want to listen. It was difficult because Sephiroth was-first and foremost-quite proud. Pride had a tendency to cloud his judgement, especially when it came to situations that he was awkward or bumbling in. However, he couldn’t in good conscience ignore an offer for council from his fellow First...and it would be better if he didn’t hide behind his pride to save face only to have his face broken later.

Of course, the minute he came to this decision Genesis decided to make his entrance.

Genesis was hard to miss on a bad day when he was being quiet because his hair was so loud. He was also very astute in not missing anything himself. Therein lay the rub because the minute those sapphire eyes landed on the two of them...they narrowed. Icy irises flicked from Angeal-who looked like he suddenly wanted to be anywhere but there-and to Sephiroth-who immediately wondered if he could survive a ‘fall’ out the windows from such a height. And he supposed it was playing a bit dirty to wish a fatal accident upon himself on his partner’s birthday but he was holding several stuffed teddy bears and he was very desperate. The concept of desperation came from the fact that Angeal was probably right and he was very, very wrong. This was further confirmed when Genesis looked blankly at the bouquet of roses before pulling a face.

“Who are those for?” he asked in a tone that bordered on snarky.

Looking back on that moment, Sephiroth would acknowledge he could have come clean right there, right then and he likely wouldn’t have come out of the situation any worse for wear. In the moment, however, his mind turned over the idea of his partner’s dissatisfaction on a day that was supposed to be about him and only him until he said the very first thing that popped out of his mouth. It would-realistically-have been better if Hojo hadn’t engineered him with the ability to speak, because then he wouldn’t be able to muddle things up so spectacularly. As fortune-or misfortune, however you wanted to slice it-would have, the green-eyed SOLDIER had a fully functional set of vocal cords and a mouth with which to use them. And he used them in order to put his foot in it, as some would say. Hefting his massive collection of what was-apparently-gratuitous gifts, Sephiroth ‘hmphed.’

“They’re not for you” he said flatly.

Angeal groaned, and he took that moment to about-face and hurry as fast as his overladen appendages could carry him in the opposite direction. As he was leaving, he could hear his redheaded lover bombarding his childhood friend with questions. Mainly, pertaining to what they’d been talking about, but also in question to why he was taking stuffed teddy bears and chocolates up to Administration.

”If the President wants goodies he doesn’t need his highest ranking General doing it” was the furious hiss. ’Geal you’ve got to stop from doing shit like this or people are going to think he’s spreading his legs for Shinra.”

It was rather ironic that in layman’s terms, he was already doing that. Sephiroth winced as the thought crossed his mind and threw one of the wayward teddy bears at an office clerk; who looked far too happy about being assaulted than was good for anyone with half a brain cell. He supposed he would need to write a memo to the entire section of Financing that he was not dating ‘Yeoman Smith’, including ‘Yeoman Smith.’ When he deposited his ‘gifts’ at reception with his secretary-who practically fell out of her chair-the silver-haired SOLDIER took a moment in his office to collect himself. Feasibly, he couldn’t think of anything else Genesis could or might want that he could deliver in a manner that wasn’t slightly tacky. Holidays were tacky overall.

So, he settled with a cake.

Specifically, he settled with calling in to a five star restaurant where Genesis had raved about the cake for an hour before negotiating a time and place to pick it up and feeling like he’d done the best that he could. This didn’t mitigate disaster, which came in the form of Angeal crashing through his office door to inform him that Genesis thought he was wooing his secretary. This confused him, because Genesis was not-by his memory-a jealous person. When his fellow FIRST informed him the redhead was ‘packing his bags’ the silver-haired SOLDIER vaulted out of his chair and practically ran all fifteen flights down to Residential in order to head off his wayward lover and correct his mistakes. By the time he arrived it was clear that his redheaded paramour was ready to leave.

Slipping into the apartment, the silver-haired man had to duck to avoid a pair of silk trainers being thrown at his head before he came face to face with the man of the hour. It was very clear that Genesis was deep in thought, but it wasn’t an envious or upset kind of thought. The older man looked pensive...exhausted...a little world-weary. Somewhat indignantly, Sephiroth acknowledged that none of this would have happened if Angeal hadn’t bothered to stop him. Granted, he didn’t have to listen to Angeal, but it wasn’t like he had anyone else to go to for advice to either. Casting around for something to say-which hadn’t been the brightest idea in the first place-the green-eyed man found that eloquence had left him. Because the fear that came with the mere idea of his partner’s departure was suffocating. He’d meant well...he really had. The whole idea of it had come from a desire to see the redhead happy with something, or several somethings, he could give him.

“My secretary is vapid, loud, juvenile and extremely shallow” Sephiroth deadpanned. Genesis paused in his packing, and for the briefest moment he would almost have sworn he saw a smile cross his lover’s lips. “I wouldn’t date her for as much money as you could throw at me I-”

“-I know.”

This brought him up short. Something about his silence must have been amusing, because the older man turned to look at him, and he was surprised to see his eyes glimmering with warmth. This was confusing, because according to Hewely’s report, Genesis was leaving because he suspected him of infidelity.

“I don’t understand” he deadpanned.

There was a very final-sounding *zip* as his lover closed his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. Around him, the great majority of his apartment was bare...devoid of personalization and appliances. Without another word, his second-in-command breezed past him...opened the door without sparing a glance over his shoulder. With nothing else to go on, and feeling slightly desperate, Sephiroth dogged after the scarlet-haired SOLDIER not unlike a certain young recruit who followed Angeal wherever he went whenever he could. He was surprised when the redhead didn’t head straight to the landing pad. But feasibly, he would have to go up to Administration to sign out for wherever he was going...whatever he was doing. The General was therefore even more surprised when Genesis bypassed Administration and went straight up to the floor just under the President’s quarters...his floor. And it made sense...some of his things were in Sephiroth’s apartment. If he was leaving to...who knows where...he would want them back.

When they reached the door to his flat, Sephiroth hesitated. Even as his hand inched into his pocket to grab his keycard, his mind raced for something clever to say...something that would fix this. Because he knew that neither of them wanted this...it was just a horrid misunderstanding. But even if he did voice his side of things there was no guarantee the damage wasn’t already done. And he felt miserable, because it always came down to this...his lack of ability to communicate things coherently. There was so much he wanted to say...but he didn’t know how. Maybe it was better-the Demon of Wutai decided girmly-maybe this was better. At least Genesis wouldn’t be saddled with someone who he had to decipher for the rest of his life. Maybe he’d find someone easier to get along with...easier to manage, easier to-

“-You gonna open the door?”

Sephiroth swallowed, palmed the keycard in shaking fingers and slid it into the receiving mechanism. The latch clicked...the door swung inwards…

...And he was assaulted with a sea of red.

Specifically, he was assaulted by the sight of what appeared to be boxes and boxes of red things in his apartment. For a moment he hysterically thought that Genesis was giving him some sort of underhanded metaphor for his imminent demise. Then, the aforementioned man waltzed in after him, threw the duffel back onto the floor and groaned...almost as if in...relief?

“Thought I was gonna have to carry that for the rest of my life” the redhead complained before going up to the stack of boxes. He contemplated them for a moment before his gaze returned to Sephiroth. “You’re gonna have to help me unpack these.”

Sephiroth was so confused.

Some of it must have shown on his face because Genesis gave him that look that reminded him of someone looking at baby who was being very loud. The older man then laughed, but it wasn’t deprecating or cruel, it was affectionate and exasperated.

“Seph, I’m moving in with you.”

‘Seph’ was stymied.

”What?”

Now Genesis appeared impatient. Kicking over one of the smaller boxes and not so much as wincing when something crashed inside, the blue-eyed SOLDIER marched up to him and put either hand on both sides of his face.

“I’m. Moving. In. With. You” he repeated slowly.

“But it’s your birthday” the younger man protested weakly.

At this, the Commander grinned.

“Yes” he said triumphantly. “It is. And you shouldn’t say no to someone on their birthday.”

“I didn’t say no” Sephiroth protested hastily only to earn himself a raised scarlet brow.

“You said those gifts weren’t for me.”

He flushed.

“They…” the General trailed off. “Angeal said you wouldn’t like them” he muttered. “And...I got the ideas for them off the internet.”

For a moment, it seemed like Genesis was making a titanic effort not to laugh. That thatch of red hair dropped down until their foreheads were pressed against one another. Exhaling something that was just on the edge of a chuckle, the red haired FIRST thumbed Sephiroth’s lower lip.

“You’re too damn cute” he muttered. When Sephiroth looked cranky about the statement he shushed him. “You’re very manly and dangerous too” he added in a self-suffering manner. “But Seph, I don’t care what you get me...I don’t care where it comes from. What matters is that you put so much thought into it. And I would have taken any of those things, just because they’re my first birthday presents from you.”

This wasn’t turning out at all like he’d expected it to. The green-eyed SOLDIER waited maybe a moment for the other shoe to drop before fumbling with the pocket in his leathers again. There was the rustle of paper, and he threw the aforementioned item-a receipt-into his lover’s hands before he could refuse it. For a moment, Genesis just looked at the restaurant ticker on the label. Then...ever so slowly, he raised incredulous eyes back to him.

“You’ve got to be shitting me” he said dryly.

“You talked a lot about the cake” Sephiroth replied.

The Commander laughed and it was a little breathless. He then swallowed and looked at the receipt some more. Apprehension bloomed in Sephiroth’s chest until Genesis focused on him once again...and the look in his eyes was one part love...one part amusement.

“Here’s the deal” he said crisply. “I’m not eating it if you’re not. It’s ours, not mine.” When it became clear that the younger man might protest, he held up a hand. “It’s a compromise” he continued just as firmly. “Take it or leave it.”

Still...he hesitated...until he realized no matter how long he hesitated, the answer would remain the same.

“It’s your birthday” Sephiroth sighed, reaching forward to wrap his arms around the redhead’s waist in order to draw him close. “You call the shots. If I have to consume questionable amounts of carbohydrates to make you happy, so be it.”

Genesis snorted, then he kissed him. It was a drawn out thing...something seeking but also something giving and grateful. After a moment he pulled away, but not so far that their lips weren’t touching anymore.

“You stupid idiot” he murmured into his mouth. “I don’t give a shit about birthdays….”

“...The only thing I want for my birthday, is you.”