No matter how many times Cloud said he wasn’t interested, he still got conned into looking into other peoples problems. Granted, with the worlds crashing together it was fair to say it probably was his problem too.
There had been rumors from foreign worlds that now touched their own that said this would happen. Many had apparently even claimed that all worlds really had once been joined together before calamity and darkness separated them.
It was hard to say if this was a brand new development or if the worlds were simply trying to correct themselves after… what? Centuries? Cloud had to wonder if it was true given what he’d seen. So many people from so many worlds came together and after a few bumpy starts, they were able to work together seamlessly.
Lightning. Vaan. He considered them his friends. They’d come together with a common goal even if that goal was to simply survive the war Cosmos and Chaos dragged them into. The entire ordeal had been a pain, but some good had come of it.
Cloud revved his bike and followed the little map he’d been given. The travel time gave him time to think and over think but it wasn’t like Cloud had a problem letting his mind appreciate Squall in dull moments. His poor mate was just as overworked as he was. SeeD was no different from every other force now on the planet. They were utilizing all of their resources and focusing on defensive measures for any ‘just in case’ scenario. Squall being a competent leader meant his presence was often required.
Cloud hoped that in time everyone would settle and he’d get to see his lover more. He’d travel into Squall world (country?) several times. Appearing in Balamb Garden had both surprised and delighted his mate to no end. Dealing with Squall’s friends had been similar to handling his own. Loud, cheerful, well meaning, and occasionally annoying.
Squall had returned to Midgar every chance he got too. It hadn’t quite been a year since the worlds collided and he was so very tired of having to schedule in being able to see his own mate.
If Squall showed up while he was on a wild goose chase for Reeve, he was going to be pissed. Avalanche hadn’t been exactly necessary since they’d had to deal with the remnants of Sephiroth but fuck if people weren’t trying to get them back together now. Reeve. Rufus. Even Barret was itching to get things done and make sure Midgar stayed safe. As safe as ever...
There was nothing wrong with being prepared but being too prepared would only be an invitation for someone else to fuck up. Nuclear deterrents didn’t always work. Every world was in a panic and the faster everyone would relax, the better.
Cloud had been roaming the countryside on his bike, but the terrain had quickly turned unrecognizable. With worlds zippering together there was no telling which one he found himself in now. He smelled salt on the air and largely ignored the smaller critters roaming about. He was no stranger to monsters or dangerous creatures but unless it bothered him he usually left little ones alone. It was bigger ones he got rid of to prevent them from hurting someone.
It was the whole reason Reeve sent him out this way.
Apparently an entire island hadn’t fared well in the merger and monsters were ravaging the new coastline. Reeve had asked Cloud if he could get rid of them before they turned inland. He wasn’t the only one getting dragged into these messes either. Barret, Yuffie, and even Vincent had been sent to new locations to settle different kinds of ruckus.
He felt his hackles rise and glanced around for signs of nearby danger. Fenrir was suddenly awake and peering out through his eyes. He could feel the faint changes his body went through when his inner beast was alert. The change to his eyes first and foremost.
“What’s wrong, Fen?” He muttered, words lost on the wind. He didn’t exactly get an answer, but he could still feel his wolf looking around. Fenrir didn’t generally take over Cloud’s body. More often than not they simply merged together, but twice Cloud felt his head turn just enough to know Fenrir was searching for something.
When darkness began to brush against his skin he scowled. He was no stranger to darkness but this felt like something new. He leaned forward, his bike speeding up as he chased the feeling. It didn’t matter if this was what he was originally after or not. It needed to be dealt with. Had he even thought of passing it by he was sure Fenrir would have fought for control.
Cloud heard the waves before he saw them and he had to finally stop when there was no where else to ride but into the ocean. It was so strange having an ocean suddenly right there… Something so huge that hadn't been there the year before.
Fenrir urged him to move and Cloud complied, seeing no reason to dilly dally. The sooner he got rid of whatever this was, the better. He was also a little too curious at what held Fenrir’s attention so rapidly.
He left his bike behind and followed worn paths that led down to a beach. It looked like a little spot that was once well loved and over run with people. Now it was trashed and looked more like someone’s nightmare interpretation of what a beach should look like. He’d seen his fair share of monsters but it took a hell of a lot of power to damage the landscape so badly.
A growl passed his lips, one not entirely his own just before a dozen little yellow eyed creatures rose out of the shadows on the ground. He had a hand on the hilt of his sword long before the first one had nerve enough to lunge. They were easy to destroy, but were also quick to multiply. Annoying little buggers.
When they started to run he gave chase, finding that they came in bigger forms. The way they moved was haunting, swaying and jerking like a marionette before jumping like an insect. When they got too overwhelmed they sank back into the shadows, running around uselessly before reappearing.
The way they wobbled towards him was down right creepy, but Cloud had dealt with creepy before. A swipe of his sword and they went poof. One little monster even had nerve enough to land on his back, it’s screeching so close to his ear that he jumped, startled. Cloud reached behind him, grabbing it by its neck and flinging it off of him. It wasn’t until he saw wisps of darkness trailing off it like smoke that he realized his claws where out, ripping through his own gloves and that these things didn’t bleed like normal monsters. They really were like living shadows.
Cloud growled again and the noise seemed to startle these things, even the bigger ones leaned away from the noise. It didn’t on the other hand, prevent them from attacking. It probably meant they weren’t very smart. They couldn’t be if they didn’t run from a threat.
Cloud dashed down the length of the beach and destroyed the creatures one after another for well over an hour. Their numbers were thinning but he could definitely see how they were capable of destroying a town. The sheer number of them made them the worst kinds of pests. The little shadow trick of theirs probably also made it nearly impossible to keep them out of homes and other areas.
He’d been so focused on the fighting that it took him a moment to listen to his senses. Fenrir was clawing at him from inside to fucking.pay.attention. and when he paused he could hear panting.
Were there people still left here? Had hadn’t seen a soul and had assumed anyone that hadn’t been killed had evacuated to a safer area.
Cloud jerked when he heard a voice, a little voice. He swung his sword, the beach nearly shaking over the impact as a dozen little shadow creatures disappeared. Following the noise he found a little cove just around the next bend where a little boy was surrounded by monsters. In his hand was a giant….key? The thing was bigger than he was.
“Go away!” he yelled, and damn if the creatures didn’t disappear the second he smacked them with the key. “Go away!” He made a noise that had Cloud go cold and Fenrir bristle. It was a raspy squeak of a roar.
“Go away! Go away!” He threw his giant key back and forth, getting rid of anything he hit and Cloud finally notice the faint glow of light around the boys weapon. It wasn’t the strength of the strikes that were defeating the monsters, but the light the boy harnessed.
When one of the creatures tackled him from the side he went down down a high pitched yelped and everything in Cloud twisted. He snarled with a force, watching every monster shudder and panic. Most took that time to escape but others still circled the small child.
Fenrir wanted those things ripped to shreds and Cloud could only agree. He ran forwards, noting the startled gasp from the boy while he got rid of the remaining shadows. He was so angry, and now he had the perfect way to vent it. Freeing the child had been most important, and killing the stragglers after that was merely a bonus. His mind spun, but even he could only multitask so much at once.
When the monsters finally appeared to be gone for good, Cloud whipped back around to the boy only to find him missing.
“Hey…” Cloud muttered, spotting the child running from him. He climbed up a huge pile of old drift wood on all fours like they were stairs and scurried into the few trees the island held. “Hey!”
Cloud ran after him, so many questions swirling in his mind. The boy was small and couldn’t have been older than five years old, he was practically a baby. To find him alone on a beach filled with monsters was upsetting enough, but Cloud felt so much more. The boy wasn’t just a baby, but a cub. Inside him was some teeny beast no doubt trying to protect themselves tooth and nail.
The last thing Cloud wanted was to scare him but he didn’t want to lose him either. Just past the palm trees was a dilapidated looking shack that was still standing by prayers only. The whole thing could have collapsed at any second and it had Cloud’s pulse picking up the second he laid eyes on it.
“Little boy,” Cloud called, smelling for the child and sure enough, there were trails both old and new leading in and out of the horrifying structure. “No one is going to hurt you. Come out please.” Cloud said, all the while trying to figure out how the boy got in and out. There wasn’t exactly a usable door.
He could hear the raspy whimpering from inside. A sad little cry of distress that should have called to the boys mother. Judging by the lack of smells no one was going to answer those pleas. Few things had ever made Cloud so angry, though it was fair to say most of his anger came from Fenrir.
Cloud heard it in his head over and over again. Cub, cub, cub. It was obvious Fenrir had been looking for him since they arrived.
“Please come out.” Cloud tried again, hesitantly touching the boards of the shack. Some god surely must have been looking out for this child to keep the boards from tipping over. He heard the crying, both a mixture of little human boy and animal cub. He smelled his fear too and for a moment Cloud just sighed and thought over his next move. He certainly couldn’t leave the child there but scaring him would only make things worse.
Cloud sat on the ground and started to do the one thing he wasn’t good at. Talk.
“My name is Cloud.” He started softly and knew the child could hear him with his enhanced senses. “I came here to stop those creatures. I don’t mean you any harm.”
He didn’t know what he expected, but he was hoping for anything.
“Can you tell me your name?” He paused and didn’t get a response. “Or how long you’ve been here?”
The whimpering grew louder.
“Oh little one, i’m not trying to hurt you…” But he’d fucking kill whoever was. Cubs should have been full of trust, blind to the dangers in the world. The fact that this one already knew the purpose of a weapon was disheartening.
“Come talk to me, please?”
He noticed a loose board at the bottom of the shack and gently tugged at it. It gave way easily and the amount of light it let into the small space told Cloud that the child was probably mostly in the dark in there.
“No one is going to hurt you. I won’t let it happen. We can talk about anything you like, okay?” He paused hearing an almost rumble, but it wasn’t exactly from the child like that other noises. That one was the boys stomach growling.
“We can eat.” Cloud continued. That got hitched breath as a response. Cubs could be bribed. “I was traveling here. I have food on my bike. Lots of food and water.”
The whining returned full force.
“I’m not coming in after you, i just want to see you.” Cloud said carefully, pulling the boards away one at a time. He kept an eye on the whole structure with every adjustment.
He had to move to his knees and bend with his face nearly touching the ground to look inside. The child was curled up in the far corner with his face hidden against his knees. The floor was littered with coconuts and crab shells that weren’t worth the trouble given their small size. Weren’t worth the trouble unless you were that hungry…
His feet were bear and he only wore shorts and a tee-shirt. He should have looked right at home on the beach but it was just so sad.
“Please come out.”
He didn’t want to reach in and grab him, and actually trying to get into the shack itself was out of the question.
The noises he made almost continuously were heart breaking and Fenrir watched closely finally making an echoing noise of his own.
They watched together through their shared eyes as the boys head shot up, gaze large and filled with tears. They made a soft sound again, not quite a growl but a rumble. It was the tell tale sign that meant they were similar. The sounds continued and the noises finally sparked curiously in the little boy, he inched closer to the opening that Cloud had made and look back into Cloud’s face.
Up close helped narrow things down for Cloud too. Both of their eyes were in an animalistic form but this close offered Cloud more hints. There were faint, darker stripes to the boys brown hair and teeny tiny fangs poking into his bottom lip. The smell though had Cloud growling happily.
“I have such a soft spot for kitty cats.” Cloud confessed with a small smile. “My mate is a kitty.”
He watched the boy go pink and he finally crawled out of the shack, the occasional stray tear still falling.
“You’re like me…” He mumbled, wiping his nose on his hand. The child had been living closely with his beast side to be so aware of him.
Not everyone had one. Only a small percentage did to start with and many were like Squall had been. They coexisted so seamlessly that the beast was never noticed. Never needed to be noticed. Cloud had needed to drag Griever out into the open, not just for himself but for Squall to acknowledge. Cloud and Fenrir had always been overly aware of each other.
“Yes i am.” Cloud nodded. “My name is Cloud and his name is Fenrir. What are your names?”
The little boy fidgeted, afraid to get too close to Cloud just yet. “I’m Sora. My tiger is Luna.”
“It’s very nice to meet you.” Cloud said. “How long have you been here?”
“Okay.” Cloud said slowly, almost getting a headache from how hard Fenrir was watching him. “Are you all by yourself here?”
Sora sniffed and nodded. “Everyone’s gone.”
“Because of these little monsters?”
“The heartless.” Sora hiccuped. “Yeah, i guess. Everything got all shaky and dark and people were disappearing and other ppl were leaving. Everyone’s gone.”
Cloud felt his heart twist. “How did you end up here all by yourself?”
He let out a noise that was half a sob and half a guttural chirp. “I live here! Where else could i go?! Everyone was gone! Riku’s gone! I couldn’t find him! I’m by myself!” He broke down into all new tears and Fenrir was beside himself until Cloud picked the boy up to cuddle him.
“It’s okay cub,” Cloud whispered. “You’re not alone anymore.” He made rough noises in his chest, the closest he could come to purring. Squall would have been so much better at comforting him. “I’m right here now.”
Sora turned and buried himself against Cloud’s chest. The tiny thing was touch starved and Cloud didn’t dare think about how many months this boy was here alone.
“You’ve been so brave.” Cloud praised, minding his own claws as he stroked the boys hair. “You’ve been so strong. You shouldn’t have had to protect yourself at your age but you did. I’m so proud of you.”
Sora practically went limp in his arms, clinging to the fabric of his shirt as if suddenly afraid he’d be put down.
When unaware of their beast halves, children grew up normal like fully human children. When they were aware and had been merging as much as Sora obviously had been, they took on more animals traits. This poor little boy desperately wanted someone to take care of him.
“Well done.” Cloud whispered, continuing to try and boost his confidence and not make him feel weak for wanting care.
If courting Squall had taught him anything, it was how to care for the touch starved.
“I’m so impressed.” Cloud grumbled in a low voice, cradling Sora against him and getting soft, gruff noises in return. Tiger cubs were downright adorable. “You even summoned a weapon. That’s such a big deal at your age. What an incredible thing to have learned.”
Sora peered up at Cloud, face red and puffy. “I dunno...dunno how though.” he whispered. “I just… i just open my hand and it shows up.” He demonstrated, holding his hand out for the long key shaped weapon to appear in his hand. Up close it looked even bigger than Cloud had originally thought. It was astounding the child could even lift the thing. It was also coated in a sort of light that Cloud was unfamiliar with.
“Perhaps that just means the weapon has chosen you. It looks to me like you’ve earned it so far.” Cloud said, watching the sword disappear again. Sora returned to clinging to him, and Cloud wasn’t oblivious to the constant gurgle of the boys stomach. He held tight, already understanding what Fenrir was trying to convey to him. The cub belonged to them now.
“Sora, do you know where those things come from? The heartless?”
“The door to darkness.” Sora sniffed, “I tried to cover it up but they just keep coming out.”
“Can you show me?”
“Mmm..” The growl/whine was unsure but he finally nodded. Cloud set the boy on his feet and stood up. Sora took off, swapping between two legs and crawling on all fours. The boy and the tiger were so closely tied together that even they seemed to have trouble telling who was who.
Cloud followed closely, some instinct in the back of his mind telling him to keep the boy safe and close.
It was a short little journey, which only horrified Cloud more. On some level he understood Sora seeking refuge in the sad little shack. It was the closest thing to shelter that he could manage. The fact that said shelter was apparently so closer to this door Sora told him about was appalling. At any point Sora could have been attacked and harmed.
The boy was either extremely lucky, or hasn’t slept a wink the entire time he’d been out here alone.
Sora stopped at a little cave, key appearing in his hand as he peered inside carefully. It was a practiced motion, one that must have been done hundreds of times. He was cautious and checked his surroundings before going in deeper. Cloud had to duck his head to fit inside and quickly took note of the fact that the cubs key threw light in all directions to light their way.
The tunnel was short before it gave way to an opening. The walls had pictures colored all over them and Cloud immediately knew this wasn’t Sora’s first trip inside. At the far wall, was a door that sat wide open. Inside the opening was pitch black. It wasn’t just a dim shadow but an inky void that was without a doubt a portal. To where, Cloud didn’t know or really care, but if it was how the heartless got in than it needed to be closed.
“I’ve tried to put stuff in front of it.” Sora mumbled. “They just push it away when they come through. I can’t get the door to move at all. I tried.”
“I believe you.” Cloud said, hesitantly moving closer to have a better look. “You called it the door to darkness?”
“That’s what Riku called it. He said it smelled bad. Felt bad. Said we shouldn’t touch it so we didn’t.” Sora said sadly. “I don’t know where Riku went. He’s been gone a long, long time.”
Cloud glanced back at the child, his lips trembling sadly. “I’m sorry Sora.”
Sora sniffed and shrugged. “Can you shut it?”
“Hm…” Cloud muttered, putting his hand on the wooden door and immediately seeing why Sora had trouble with it. The door itself felt flimsy but there was definitely something other worldly holding it open.
Cloud put a little strength into it, feeling Fenrir growl as they tried to shove it shut. It fought against him but whatever it was suddenly cowered at the full brunt of the Mako that ran through Cloud’s veins
With a grunt he shouldered the door shut but that wasn’t exactly problem solved. He’d barely given it an inch before it tried to slam open again and Cloud had to catch it before it whacked into him. For a second time he shoved it closed and held it there as if hoping it would latch.
Sora might not have had a bad idea at trying to barricade it shut. He thought it over quickly, wondering it he’d be able to find anything strong enough to keep the door from opening again when Sora gasped.
He threw a glance over his shoulder and saw Sora staring wide eyed at his key shaped blade. The light at its tip grew brighter and focused on the door.
“A key…” Cloud muttered to himself, looking back at the door that now had a dark keyhole ingrained in the wood. “Sora, pretend you’re locking a door and see what your weapon does.”
“Um, um, kay.” Sora muttered, holding the keyblade out with both hands. The light shot forward and Cloud moved in time to avoid it. It connected with the keyhole with an audible click.
When the light around the door faded, Cloud waited to see if the door would thrust open again. It didn’t.
“Well done Sora,” Cloud said after a few moments of silence. “You did it.”
Sora stared at him, stunned. His eyes dropped down to the keyblade in his hands and he shifted uneasily, but small bits of pride started to sparkle somewhere inside him.
“They can’t come out now?” Sora asked.
“I don’t think so, but i suppose we’ll have to see. It could reopen or there might be other doors like this one they can get through.” Cloud said, watching Sora deflate somewhat. “But for today, we won. We’ve kept things safe for the time being.”
Sora swallowed and nodding, obviously trying to think of that as good news instead of bad. Cloud gestured for them to leave the little cave and the pair headed back out into the fresh air.
It wasn’t hard to sense Fenrir’s pride in the child. He’d had to deal with many scary things and hadn’t fallen into despair.
“How about that food i promised.” Cloud said, offering Sora his hand. “Would you like some?”
Sora took it without question or hesitation. He just nodded, his poor stomach still making all kinds of noises. This was how cubs should be at this age. Filled with trust and following the good vibes. At the same time, Cloud was horrified at the notion that just anyone could have come upon this child and taken him.
This was for the best.
“Where’s the food?”
“On my bike. I parked down the beach a ways.” Cloud said, walking back down towards the beach where he’d come from. “After we eat, would you like to come with me?”
“With…” Sora’s mouth trembled again. “You?”
“Yes. I do not want to leave you here by yourself.” Cloud squeezed his hand a little. “Cubs don’t belong by themselves.”
Sora looked up at him, suspicious fear over taking any hope. “Where will you take me?”
“Home with me.” Cloud said. “I guess my home is a strange place but it’s safe. It’s filled with kind people.” Cloud smiled faintly. “I would love for you to meet my mate. I’m sure he would adore you.”
Something in Sora eased. “So i can stay with you? You’re not gonna leave me somewhere?”
“No.” Cloud promised. He didn’t want to tell the child that he might have to leave him with Tifa on occasion should he get sent out to do something dangerous. That conversation would come soon enough. It was better he understood that Cloud would always come home first. “I would very much like you to be apart of my family. Mine and Squall’s.”
Sora sniffed and stopped walking, tears falling all over again. “You want me?”
Cloud’s heart broke. He bent down, picking the cub up into his arms to cuddle him as they walked. “Yes little one. I want you.” Sora started bawling, these cries the loudest yet. The sounds switched back and forth between human and cub and it was obvious that Luna was just as surprised as Sora. The pair clung to Cloud tightly for the rest of the walk. Tiny claws pricked against Cloud’s neck but they were just marks his mate was going to have to forgive. A distressed cub was offered a lot of leeway. His distressed cub would probably end up spoiled. Though by him or by Squall was anyone’s guess.
The walk didn’t seem as long as it had when fighting heartless and Sora was finally calming down by the time Cloud spotted his bike. His breathing was labored and crying had taken out all the energy he could have had left. He had his cheek resting against Cloud’s shoulder, sniffing every few seconds.
“You’re warm.” Sora muttered. “Like sunshine.”
Cloud nearly tripped, the sweet words unlike anything he’d ever heard before. Even sweet words from his mate were taken completely different. Cubs were notoriously bad liars and hearing something so heartfelt melted Cloud’s heart.
“Really?” Cloud muttered, squeezing him gently. “I was thinking all of the warmth must be you.”
“It’s you.” Sora said, nuzzling his wet cheek against Cloud’s. Anyone else and it wouldn’t have been welcome, but his cub was worth more than he ever imagined.
“Thank you.” Cloud said, returning the affection and marking Sora’s cheek and neck with his own scent.
Sora growled happily and tilted his head for Cloud to do it again. He understood enough to know that the scent marking showed Cloud’s intent on keeping him.
When they arrived at his bike, Cloud set Sora down on seat and pulled out a packed lunch from the side compartment. Sora on the other hand had momentarily forgotten food in favor of the motorcycle. He touched his fingers against the cool metal, enamored with the machine.
“You said it was a bike.”
“It is. A very fast, very powerful bike.” Cloud smiled faintly, pulling out his thermos and pouring water into the lid for Sora to sip from. Sora tilted his head to drink from it instead of taking it from Cloud’s hand. Sora was more than a toddler, and ordinarily Cloud would have made him take it himself but after the last few months that boy had had, he deserved a bit of babying.
Cloud sat on his bike and they shared a lunch. Most of it was given to Sora and he’d never seen a child look so excited. It was really to be expected after only eating coconuts and raw crabs.
The darkness Cloud had sensed on the ride over had dissipated greatly and he was considering this a job well done. Reeve would have to be pleased by that.
“You’re going to sit in front of me.” Cloud said, sitting more comfortably on the bike and putting Sora in front of him. “I’m going to tied you to me, do you don’t have to worry about falling off.”
Cloud was floored by the trust and Fenrir soaked it up with pride. They had a tiger cub. Cloud unhooked one side of the cloth at his hip and wrapped it around Sora before attaching it to his belt again. Turning it into a improvised seat belt.
“You can hold on here.” Cloud said, pointing to a hand grip before pulling his riding glasses out from his pocket. He slipped them on Sora’s noise. “A little big but these will keep the wind out of your eyes.”
Sora crooned, purrs erupting instantly as he reached up to touch the glasses.
“It’s a bit of a ride, but you let me know if you need a break.” Cloud said, dropping a kiss on the top of Sora’s head.
The purrs grew louder and Sora snuggled back into Cloud’s chest.
Squall walked into Seventh Heaven like he’d been doing it all his life. There was something about the entire area that he liked but it was probably just because Cloud was there. The bar had Tifa’s heart and soul into it and he’d learned a lot about the location. After living in Balamb Garden for so long there was something uniquely charming about their headquarters being a bar. Fuck, how often had he wished for a drink when in a meeting back home.
Here that was standard.
“Hey, hey.” Reno offered Squall a cheesy smile. He was slumped over the bar, glass in his hand with Rude in the stool beside him. “If it isn’t Cloud’s man. How you doing?”
Squall raised a brow, kicking the stool out from under him as he walked by and suppressing a laugh when the red head fell to the floor with a yelp.
He hadn’t even realized Cid was hanging around somewhere until he heard him laughing from some corner of the bar. For whatever reason he usually found Squall amusing.
“Hey Squall, honey.” Tifa greeted, wiping down the bar top. “What can i get you?”
“Whatever passes for beer in this part of the world.” Squall said, taking a seat. “And the location to a surly blond.”
Tifa snorted, pouring a glass for him and setting it in front of him. “We’ll you’re timing isn’t half bad. He went out of an errand.” she air quoted. “Who knows what Reeve asked him to do this time. He called this morning though and said he’d be back by tonight.”
Squall fought a growl, Tifa didn’t deserve his attitude. “I see. I guess it could be worse. What kind of errands have you guys been doing?”
Tifa shrugged. “Same old, same old. Fight some monsters. Keep political big wigs from getting too many stupid ideas. Protect people from bullshit. All of our normal crap was put on hold when the worlds collided. Everyone so defensive.”
“Fuck, you’re telling me.” Squall said, taking a hit of his drink. “I try to leave and everyone’s in a panic like i’m off to kill myself.”
Tifa hummed, sounding amused. “Guess not everyone is as comfortable crossing into new worlds as we are. I guess Cosmos really put things in perspective.”
“Crossing nothing. It’s just new countries at this point.” Squall muttered. New world maps were being created, everyone trying to figure out just how all of these new places had been spliced together. It had turned everyone on to their heads thinking about all of the potentially new unexplored areas.
It was exciting, but such a headache.
“People will learn to get used to it.” Tifa shrugged. “How have things been on your end?”
“Mind numbing.” Squall sighed and sipped at his drink. “Panic seems to be spreading far and wide. I’m not looking for a reason or anything but there’s no cause for this level of distress.”
Tifa grunted. “I understand. At least you find room for breaks, or have you just up and run away again?”
Squall shrugged, a faint smile tugging at his lips. “I left a note.”
She threw her head back and laughed. “You two really are cut from the same cloth. Are they really still questioning where you’re wandering off to?”
“Not really but it’s better to have confirmation i guess. Selfie wanted to come check out Midgar but she had something to do this time.” Squall shrugged again, headed tilting to the side as Griever woke. It wasn’t so long ago that he was unfamiliar with the feeling. Usually his inner lion only appeared when he was in the middle of a fight but since meeting Cloud he’d been brushing up against Squall more often.
He felt the differences and could often communicate with the beast. It was something he was still getting used to but he was always more active around Cloud.
Griever waking was a good omen.
“Uh oh.” Tifa smirked at him. “I guess Cloud must be getting closer too.”
“Hm,” Squall smiled, not the least bit ashamed for Tifa to see his growing happiness. She’d been the first one aware of their relationship while fighting for Cosmos and she’d always been happy for them. She’d almost been as excited as as Cloud when Squall had first tracked Cloud down after their worlds merged.
“Try not to ruin any furniture.” Tifa taunted and Squall ignored the comment. He’d make no such promise. They didn’t exactly take turns with their exploits but he was silently hoping Cloud was in one of his dominant moods.
It wasn’t long before he could hear the roaring of a familiar motorcycle, and hadn’t that been a pleasant surprise to discover. Cloud on a motorcycle had been a pretty sight the first time and more than once he let his imagination run away with it.
It was a mystery to him why Cloud didn’t have hoards of fans fawning after him like some kind of fan club. He was attractive and strong and had evidently been protecting Midgar and it’s surrounding cities for years. What the hell did the man have to do to earn their respect? Not that he could truly complain. Cloud was all his now and he pitied anyone that didn’t respect their mate bond. Both could have tempers on occasion.
Squall’s eyes shut, far more wrapped up in the sounds of the nearing motorcycle than he’d ever been before. The increased enhanced senses he now had thanks to Griever had taken some getting used to but learning to be able to shut it off and on had helped. Cloud was always the easiest thing to hone in on.
“You’re freaking adorable.” Tifa muttered, returning to pouring drinks for other customers and leaving Squall alone.
He fought not to twitch when he heard the sound cut off. Cloud was close. Just outside. Griever bumped against him, the feeling jarring. Something was off and now he had to puzzle out what.
Cloud didn’t come right inside. He had to know Squall was at the bar and instead of making a beeline for him like usual his movements were steady and precise. His stride was shorter than it should be.
Griever fidgeted, his curiosity added to Squall’s until the pair of them were just plain confused. Cloud came in the back like he always did, but headed for the stairs to take him up to his room. It was all the confusion Squall felt like dealing with. He downed the rest of his drink and stood up to head into the back himself. Tifa was far from caring.
There was a second where he toyed with the idea that Cloud was hurt but he smelled no blood or infection. It wasn’t until he was out of the proper bar that a second smell caught his attention. While it was familiar he couldn’t place it but Griever had perked up tenfold. The reaction was strange enough given how jealous Squall knew the lion could be. How jealous they both could be but if Griever wasn’t worried then he had no reason to be either.
Squall stared up the stairs, looking at Cloud who stood at the top, waiting. On his hip was a little boy, one fast asleep and snuggled against his mates throat. This was… what was this? Griever’s pulse quickened but not out of any negative emotion. It was excitement?
Cloud nodded his head for Squall to follow him, watching him just as intently with Fenrir peeking out. He turned and walked to their room and Squall followed, trying to give himself the obvious answers. Were their obvious answers?
Squall paused at the door and watched Cloud sit on the edge of the bed with the boy still wrapped in his arms.
“He’s just a baby.” Cloud muttered.
“I can see that.” Squall said, stepping in quietly and shutting the door behind him. “Why do you have a baby? Where did you find him?”
Absolute rage flashed in Cloud’s eyes before it disappeared and he rocked the boy just slightly.
“Do you like him?” Cloud asked instead and something about the weight of his tone had Squall treading lightly.
“I’m confused.” Squall said instead, “But Griever seems to like him very much.”
Cloud shuddered and Squall had a feeling that was more Fenrir than Cloud. Relief that there would be no trouble from the lion. “I see.”
“Explain to me what’s going on.” Squall sat beside Cloud, their legs touching. The boy was so tiny and bony. He was clearly underfed and something about the knots in his hair made Squall want to brush it out. The poor baby needed a bath and a warm bed. There was something else too. Something he couldn’t put his finger on, a smell that he didn’t understand but it was almost overpowering.
“He’s mine.” Cloud said and there was finality in his tone. “Ours if you and Griever accept him.”
Griever roared the affirmative between his ears and Squall nearly swayed from the volume. “I think it’s safe to say Griever agrees but i’m still a little lost.”
Cloud tipped himself to the side, resting his head against Squall’s shoulder and Squall moved to hold him and not disturb the child. “He was all alone. Starving and defending himself from creatures made of darkness. No one was protecting him. It’s not right.”
Again. Griever roared and he could almost hear Fenrir’s reciprocating howl. His lion was suddenly pissed, but all he wanted to do was sooth his mate and drag the little boy into his arms.
“No child deserves that. What is it i’m feeling?”
Cloud tipped his head back and grazed his elongated teeth against Squall’s jaw. “He’s like us. He’s a cub.”
Squall tensed, understanding more than he thought he should. He hadn’t been so closely tied to his beast until recently but the thought of going without him now would have been like losing a limb. He didn’t have all the details yet, but the little boy being left alone now felt so wrong to him. “Oh.”
“Can you tell what he is?”
Squall shook his head. “He’s got claws and sharp teeth for sure. Griever is beside himself and only you holding him is keeping me from grabbing him to hold but other than that, i’m still trying to catch up with the rest of you.”
Cloud chuckled. “Fate has a sense of humor and clearly knows my weakness for kitty cats. He’s a tiger cub.”
Squall could feel Griever’s approval and he reached out to card his fingers through the boys hair. “What are their names?”
“Sora and Luna.”
Cloud nuzzled into Squall and let out a tired sigh as he sat up straight again. “You should have seen him. Living in a death trap and defending himself all by himself from creatures. He’s been so brave and frightened. I was not leaving him there.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted you too.” Squall said, almost surprised on how much he’d meant it. Sure he never planned on having children but he never planned on not having children either. It wasn’t exactly like he or Cloud would be able to make one anyway. Finding a little boy like them in need of parents was a gift though he didn’t know how they’d work out their strange long distance relationship with a child. They’d make it work.
He could smell Cloud on the boy and knew he’d been scenting him since he decided to keep him. It was a silly little thing that most wouldn’t notice, but to anyone with an enhanced sense of smell, they would know that there was nothing in their future but a swift death if they touched a hair on Sora’s head.
“You mind?” Squall mumbled, inching closer.
Cloud made a pleased rumble sort of sound and tilted Sora in Squall’s direction for him to press his face against his hair. Both of their scents on the child would only further instill in him how much he was wanted. After being abandoned it was the sort of reassurance he needed.
Sora shifted and grumbled, blinking blearily at his change of setting before reaching out to cling to Cloud.
“Hey sleepy head.” Cloud muttered. “We’re here.”
“Here?” Sora looked around the room shyly, not making eye contact with Squall as if already sensing the bigger feline in the room.
“Mhm.” Cloud hummed. “This is my mate. Squall and his lion Griever.”
Sora rubbed at his eyes and fidgeted, touches of fear in his scent as he pressed closer to Cloud.
“It’s alright.” Squall said, purrs erupting from his chest that had Sora brightening slightly. “Welcome home, Sora.” He reached out to touch Sora’s hair, finally noting the dark stripes that betrayed how close to the front his tiger was.
Cloud shifted him to sit between him and Squall. “I did tell you my mate would adore you. You’ll be safe with us.”
“You won’t be alone like that again.” Squall promised. He needed details and he knew he’d get them soon enough but now was the time to comfort Sora. For now, it was still an easy promise to make. They’d have to rearrange a few things but both were absolutely sure Sora was worth it. “Really?” Sora asked with an odd meek disposition. Squall had a sneaking suspicion that once he was more comfortable that docile attitude would take a turn for something more energetic.
Cubs, Griever told him, were mischievous little things.
“Really.” Squall promised, knowing he would be extending his trip this time by several days at least. He shared a look with Cloud and finally got his welcome kiss. It wasn’t like their usual welcomes, but they had an audience this time.
He and Cloud would have plenty of time to play later. Cubs came first.