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Sephiroth looked down at the teens, wondering how long they'd been practicing. It was a rare treat for him to sneak up on the pair; usually Cloud would have noticed him right away.

But at the moment Cloud was obviously quite occupied. Squall was barely pulling each swing of his wooden practice sword, yet Cloud was having little trouble blocking. Sephiroth couldn't help a slight grin at the sight of them actually seeming to recall and recreate their lessons.

Stepping back into the shadows, he continued to watch them. After a few minutes their serious facades crumbled, leaving them both yelling and laughing at one another. It was definitely an unusual afternoon. Both boys usually bordered on terminally melancholy. Each came from a shaky home life and generally seemed disinterested in most everything besides their practice swords and one another.

They'd hated one another at first. Squall disliked the younger Cloud. And Cloud was rarely stable, prone to lashing out.

Their hatred had turned to rivalry, and that had turned into a shaky but deep friendship. Sephiroth was always careful to either praise or admonish them both equally. He knew he couldn't play favorites with the teens.

Glancing down again, Sephiroth saw that Cloud had yet again decided that the inside fountain was much more suited as a swimming pool. And then apparently Cloud decided that Squall should join him.

Squall's annoyed tone echoed against the stone walls though his exact words were lost.

A little part of Sephiroth wanted to run down and join them, hold them both under the water until they flailed for mercy. He'd had no partner in mischief when he was that age - that had to be part of the reason he so enjoyed watching Squall and Cloud's reckless abandon.

Sephiroth watched them until they climbed from the water, dripping wet yet attempting to not drip on the floor. Squall pulled his shirt off first, throwing it at the low wall of the fountain. It hit the stone with a loud smack that caused both teens to look around to double check that they were alone.

Neither saw Sephiroth high in the shadows, neither saw him before one last glance to make sure they were safe.

If Sephiroth hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he never would have believed it when suddenly Cloud reached over and gave Squall's hand a quick squeeze. Especially since it was immediately returned.