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Heat, Fury, and Fascination

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Cloud’s body was tight with stress and drenched in sweat. Every muscle was sore. He was covered in scrapes and bruises, and he was so incredibly happy. For the first time since joining the infantry, he felt hopeful. He had always been small for his age, but, with Zack’s help, he was learning to make up for his size.

His new friend had been helping him train whenever he had even a moment of spare time, and Cloud was deeply grateful. It had only been a few months, but the results of his hard work were obvious to all of his instructors. They still couldn’t take him seriously because he was so small, but he was going to be allowed to participate in the next SOLDIER exam.

Cloud lifted his sword to block his friend’s next attack. He was surprised by the strength that Zack threw into the blow. Zack had been getting looser and looser with his SOLDIER strength. Cloud’s body slid back just a little bit, but he didn’t lose his balance. His knees never buckled. Zack beamed at him, clearly impressed.

Zack took a step back and put his sword back in its harness. Cloud was panting now. He set the training sword on the ground and finally sat down on the ground. He was so damn exhausted.

“You’re lookin’ great, Spike. You’ll be staring down First class in no time!” Zack was always easygoing and optimistic. He was TOO easygoing and optimistic, but Cloud loved the man for it. Zack made him feel different – happier. He’d never had a close friend before, and Zack had a way of making his world just a bit brighter.

Cloud stared up at his friend for a moment, then lifted his hand and beckoned Zack closer. Zack cocked an eyebrow, clearly confused, but approached anyway. Cloud kept beckoning until Zack was leaning over him. Then, in one swift motion, he took hold of Zack’s shirt and jerked him downward.

Zack landed ungracefully beside him. The man grunted, then rolled over and playfully tried to pin Cloud to the rubber mats that covered the practice room floor. Cloud grinned and rolled them over again, and soon they were playfully wrestling. They rolled apart after a moment and lay side by side, staring up at the fluorescent lights.

“Do you really think I’ll get into SOLDIER?” Cloud asked suddenly. Cloud never wasted time talking about frivolous crap. He spent most of his time sitting quietly while Zack talked on and on about some mission or game. So, when Cloud spoke, Zack answered (mostly) thoughtfully.

“You’re doing at least as well as I was when I took the exam. If Angeal ever gets back from Wutai, I’m going to ask him to take a look at you. He’s a million times better at this kind of thing than I am.” Zack shifted and brought his hands to rest behind his head.

Cloud turned to look at his friend, lovely eyes focused on the way Zack’s chest rose and fell. “I’m glad you’re my friend, even if you are an alpha bastard.” Cloud was grinning. There was nothing bastardly about Zack at all. The man was every bit the puppy everyone said he was.

“You’ll be rutting with the rest of us in no time, Spikey.” Zack was grinning again. “Alpha” was a term often used to describe those in SOLDIER. Mako injections made a man animalistic in unpredictable ways. Shinra attempted to keep the state of their mako-altered soldiers mostly under wraps, but everyone who worked for the company knew it was true.

Cloud wasn’t sure what it meant to be “in rut,” but he’d heard those in SOLDIER mention it often enough. Zack had been moody a few months back. He’d had apologized, but Cloud remembered how strange he had felt watching Zack tense and glare. Zack had explained that he was close to his rut. After that, Zack had disappeared into Angeal’s apartment for a few days, and came out a much happier man.

“Hey… Is it anything like going into ‘heat.’ You know, like… Is it really that animalistic?” Cloud questioned.

Zack looked at him, clearly a bit concerned. “We try not to talk about it too much… I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it would understand.”

“I think it’s a little hot. I don’t think I’d mind it much. You get full leave while you’re ‘rutting’ right? It sounds like you spend a few days masturbating,” Cloud mused quietly. It wasn’t like him to muse aloud, and Zack seemed to relax when it became clear that Cloud was genuinely interested.

The young SOLDIER glanced at Cloud and grinned. “Masturbating is not enough. There aren’t really soldiers who want to take it while they’re rutting either. They want to give it. Hard. It’s…. Really strange. You get really possessive and really… Growly? I mean in the animal way. Genisis came to visit while I was with Ang. I might have bitten his head off if he’d been anyone else.”

“So… You two are having sex then?” Cloud had always wondered. It was implied, but it was hard to imagine the two powerful men fighting for control in the bedroom.

“Yeah. Cloud… That might be something you need to think about. Being a SOLDIER really changes you. If you’re afraid of sex-“

“I’m not.” Cloud cut Zack off before he could finish.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you were, Cloud. I mean, I had trouble with it at first. I’m from the country too. I don’t know about Nibelheim, but Gongaza isn’t a very open place. I would have had a really rough time if I hadn’t trusted Angeal so much.”

“Maybe… I don’t think I’d want to have sex with someone I didn’t know.” Cloud paused, glancing over at Zack. “Are you and Angeal a couple?”

Zack’s brow furrowed. “No. He’s closer to Genisis than he is to me, I think… Why?” Cloud could see his friend swallowing. Zack was nervous.

“I understand if you don’t want to.” Cloud was watching his friend closely. He thought what he had started implying had been clear, but Zack’s expression was somewhere between terrified and hopeful and definitely confused.

“What are you saying, Cloudy?”

“Would you have sex with me? If I asked.” Cloud watched his friend curiously. He allowed himself a ghost of a smile. He could handle rejection. Zack’s expressions were worth some embarrassment.

“If you were in rut… If you wanted to. I-I would definitely do that for you, Spike. Don’t think I haven’t thought about if before.” Zack was blushing. Cloud had never seen his friend blush. Suddenly, he felt much more confident and dangerously bold.

The blond rolled over and moved to straddle Zack’s hips. “What if I wanted you now?” Cloud could see Zack swallow again. The man’s eyes grew wide. Zack’s hands shook as he moved to set them on Cloud’s hips.

“Cloud. I didn’t even know you liked men,” Zack whispered in clear disbelief. Cloud smirked and very deliberately rocked his hips down on Zack’s.

“I wont know if I don’t try. I’ve never had a friend like this, Zack. I’ve never had anyone I wanted to try with.” Cloud watched his friend intensely. “I want to try with you.”

Zack’s thumbs slid under the hem of Cloud’s Shinra-issued infantry shirt. Each thumb rubbed small circles in Cloud’s skin. Zack’s touch was warm, and Cloud found himself relaxing.

“I can’t now, Cloud. My rut is really close. I’m afraid it’ll start if I get you out of these clothes. I wont be gentle if I’m rutting, Cloud. I-If you’re a virgin, I don’t want to hurt you.” Zack’s words were soft and heavy with regret.

Slowly, Zack sat up, and pulled his friend tight against his chest before Cloud could think about moving away. “If you still want me… I’ll take you as soon as I get back from my next mission. I promise.” Zack was grinning at him again. “I leave tomorrow, but I’ll be back before you take your SOLDIER exam.”

Cloud rested his forehead against his friend’s and gazed deeply into Zack’s mako-bright eyes. “Don’t get hurt. I want you at your best.” Cloud was grinning. It was the most expressive that Zack had ever seen him, and, suddenly, he was excited to start his mission so that he could hurry back.

 

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Zack was not back before Cloud’s SOLDIER exam. Unexpectedly, Zack had been called to Wutai to join Angeal on his mission. Cloud had been somber since his friend at left. Cloud had always been quiet. He didn’t connect with other people the way Zack did, and he had no real friends among the infantry.

Cloud missed Zack terribly.

It was a miracle that they had met and become as close as they had. Somehow, Cloud’s quiet disposition had never bothered Zack. The man seemed to know what Cloud was thinking, and Cloud adored him for it.

Cloud had never been properly socialized. Spending time with other people was exhausting. He was drained by the effort of interacting with them. Being with Zack was as easy as breathing. His company wasn’t taxing. In fact, it was deeply relaxing. Cloud never felt more at ease than when he was curled up next to Zack.

The SOLDIER exam had been grueling and extraordinary. If had taken several days, and it had included material that Cloud never would have expected if Zack hadn’t been coaching him. He was testing on his strength, determination, and will to survive. He’d been given obstacles, field tests, written exams, but Cloud had survived it all.

Cloud had no idea how he had done in his examinations, but they had taken his blood and given him an extensive physical. Shinra might have done that with every candidate, but Cloud hoped it was because they needed to test how his body might react to the mako.

It was a Tuesday evening when Cloud was called away from his regular infantry patrols to meet with a Shinra doctor. Cloud shook with anticipation. Getting called into a medical center was probably a good sign, but he could very well be receiving failing results. He didn’t want to be too optimistic.

Anxiety curled in his lower stomach as he sat down in the doctor’s office and waited for the man leafing through the report in front of him to tell him whatever it was he needed to know.

“Cadet Strife. You had a very strong performance in your examinations. Your examiners had some reservations, but it seems as though some of the higher-ups have taken an interest in your case.” Cloud focused on the professional with quiet intensity. He hadn’t heard an answer, and that only increased his anxiety.

“You see… We’ve had some very unusual results with your blood work. It says here that you come from Nibelheim. Did you live near the reactor?”

“The entire town lives near the reactor,” Cloud answered simply. His expression never wavered. He waited patiently for the man to get to the fucking point. Cloud’s hands rested on his knees, gripping the caps more tightly than he should have.

“Well… There is nothing here that explains the results we’re getting. Professor Hojo has taken a personal interest. You see, physically, you certainly qualify for SOLDIER, and we’re prepared to let you in if you’ll agree to testing outside of the usual SOLDIER contract.” The doctor paused, as though he expected Cloud to ask a question.

Cloud sat quietly instead, so the doctor continued his explanation. “We’re concerned with your sample’s reaction to mako. You’ll be subject to extensive testing during your first few weeks of treatment. You may be asked to remain under observation at any point in the future. You’ll be compensated for your time on the same pay schedule as any SOLDIER on regular duty.”

“How long might I be held under observation?” Cloud questioned, his eyes narrowing. The man said “observation,” but that sounded like “confinement” to Cloud.

“For as long as we require.”

“I will not be held for longer than a seven day period.” Cloud’s gaze was intense and unwavering. He didn’t like this idea. He hated spending as much time as he did in the bright hallways already. He’d go nuts in confinement.

“We do not have to accept you into the SOLDIER program, Cadet. I think we should be clear. This is Shinra. You accept our terms, or you can return to the infantry until you contract is up.”

Cloud stared for a moment more, then swallowed hard. He didn’t have a home to go back to. Not really. He had nowhere else to go. This was the only goal he’d ever thought to work toward. His only friend was here, and he was sure his future was here too.

“I accept.” The answer was short, but it sealed Cloud’s fate in a new and terrifying way. The doctor took Cloud to the legal office, where he went through the paperwork with a designated desk jockey. Cloud looked through and signed forms for hours before they released him.

His mako injections would start in only two short weeks. Cloud was terrified. He was excited, but he was definitely terrified. He’d done it, but he wouldn’t deny that the doctor’s talk of “unusual” reactions worried him. Still, Cloud couldn’t wait to share the news with Zack.

Chapter Text

Cloud groaned as he slid out of bed. He was exhausted. He hadn’t received his injections yet, but the SOLDIER training had already begun. His work with Zack had prepared him, but the first week of the SOLDIER program was always hell. Shinra liked to have every body exhausted before the first injections.

Someone was knocking on the door. Cloud had no idea who it could be. He doubted anyone would know where to look for him now. Cloud had been moved out of the communal housing of the infantry and into a room of his own. It wasn’t much, but it was private. Cloud hadn’t had that luxury since he had left his mother’s home in Nibelheim.

Cloud rolled his stiff shoulders, and then opened the door. His eyes widened when he saw his visitor.

“Zack!” Cloud’s exclaimed, then moved to wrap his arms tightly around Zack’s neck. Zack’s muscular arms slid easily around Cloud’s middle and squeezed. The SOLDIER walked them backward and kicked the door shut behind them.

“I’m so damn glad to be home.” Zack was grinning down at him. “I can’t believe I was gone for so long. But you did it! You’re in SOLDIER! I knew you could do it, Spiky.”

Cloud pulled the man closer. Zack was still walking them backward. It was disorienting. Cloud just wanted to get a good look at the man. Zack had been gone for months, and Wutai was a dangerous place.

Zack led Cloud directly to the bed and pushed him back on it. Cloud shifted until his head rested against the pillows. Zack pushed Cloud’s legs apart and settled his body between them. He crawled upward until his body covered Cloud’s. Then, like a great lazy cat, Zack rested the full weight of his body against his smaller friend. His head came to rest against Cloud’s shoulder. Zack sighed loudly in contentment.

“Zack… What are you doing?” Cloud questioned. They were both fully clothed. Zack made no move to molest him. He just sat there, breathing in deeply.

“I’m smelling. I missed you. I missed the way you smell, and I miss having my smell on you.”

Cloud’s fingers slid slowly through Zack’s hair. He didn’t seem mind that Zack was crushing him. “At least let me have a look at you first. Are you hurt? How did you mission go?”

Zack lifted his head and Cloud framed the man’s face in his hands. He looked Zack over a moment, then leaned in and gently brought their lips together. Zack released a small sound of surprise, but soon began to return the kiss. Zack took charge almost immediate. Cloud was a bit clumsy, but Zack had the experience to guide him.

Zack pulled away after a moment. He was grinning again as he looked Cloud over. “If you keep welcoming me like that, I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off.”

“I don’t want you to. I need you. Now.” Cloud sounded as though he were giving an order. Zack looked taken aback.

“Are you sure, Cloudy? Right now?”

“I get my first mako injections tomorrow. We both know my body is going to be fucked up for a while. And… I want to know what this is like before I’m enhanced, Zack. This needs to happen. Tonight.” Cloud’s voice was quiet, but his tone was resolute. Zack leaned up and placed a sweet kiss to Cloud’s forehead.

“Let’s go to my place. The bed is bigger and I’ve got lube,” Zack insisted. He was grinning widely as he crawled off of his friend. Cloud followed, but more slowly.

“Slowly, Zack. I’m sore,” Cloud explained. Zack moved to wrap a steadying arm around the blonde, and then continued to lead him along.

“I forgot about the first week. You poor thing. Are you sure you’re really up to it?” Zack leaned over and nuzzled the side of Cloud’s face. Cloud allowed himself a ghost of a smile. Zack was always worrying for him.

“I’m fine, Zack. Besides… I’m planning on making you do all the work.” Cloud allowed Zack to lead him to the elevators. They lived in the same building now. It would only be a short ride up a few floors to reach Zack’s apartment.

“You’re going to let me be on top this time?” Zack questioned. He was grinning again. Cloud leaned into the man’s side.

“I prefer it,” Cloud answered. He was afraid of hurting his friend. Sex between two men was unfamiliar to him, and he knew it was easy enough to hurt your partner. He trusted Zack to ensure he was well cared for.

“I’m going to take good care of you, Cloud.” Zack always seemed to know what his worries were, and he always seemed to know exactly what to say to soothe Cloud’s worries. Zack watched Cloud with adoring eyes. His fingers slid gently along the curve of his lover’s back.

The elevator finally stopped on Zack’s floor. Zack took Cloud by the hand and led him toward his apartment. He fumbled with the keys for a bit in his eagerness, but managed to get the door open. Zack glanced over his shoulder, then stepped aside so that Cloud could enter first.

Cloud stepped passed Zack and looked around curiously. He’d never actually been to Zack’s apartment. They were both very busy, and infantrymen were strongly discouraged from visiting the SOLDIER restricted areas of Shinra. Zack had offered to smuggle him in a couple of times, but Cloud was vehemently opposed to getting his only friend into any kind of trouble.

The apartment was nice – much nicer than Cloud’s single room. It was modern and sleek. SOLDIER first class definitely had its perks. Cloud turned toward Zack and took a step forward. Zack closed the door behind him and moved in for another kiss.

Cloud’s fingers slid Zack’s dark hair. He pressed close, his free hand moving to rest against Zack’s hip. Cloud was shy about his words, but his every movement was bold. Zack was grinning against his lips.

“Slow down, Spikey.” Zack slid an arm under Cloud’s legs and lifted him with SOLDIER strength. Cloud yelped in surprise. Both arms wrapped tightly around Zack’s neck as his eager friend carried him through the apartment and into the bedroom. Sometimes Cloud forgot how incredibly powerful his friend actually was. Zack tossed Cloud on the bed with shocking ease. Zack stood at the food of the bed, his body between Cloud’s thighs.

“Did I scare you, Babe?” Zack’s eyes were bright with mischief. He was cocky. Too damn cocky for Cloud’s taste. The blonde’s legs wrapped around Zack’s hips and pulled him closer. The movement seemed to surprise Zack, and that was exactly what Cloud wanted.

“There’s something hot about the way you can throw me around,” Cloud purred. He reached for Zack’s shirt and jerked him downward once again. Zack landed on top of him, laughing.

“I don’t know, Spike. You seem to be the one always jerking me around.” Cloud shut the man up with another firm kiss. Zack’s hands were quick and sure as he undid the belts holding Cloud’s pants in place. He made quick work of every harness and holster, tossing them beside the bed.

Cloud released a half-growl and tugged at Zack’s shirt. He managed to get it off and tossed it to the other side of the room. Meanwhile, Zack had managed to get Cloud’s boots and pants out of the way.

“Take your pants off,” Cloud demanded as he pulled his own shirt over his head and set it aside. Zack grinned and quickly undid his own belts. Cloud would have to ask him how he did it so quickly later. Zack didn’t hesitate to slide out of his boxers at the same time, and, soon, the only fabric left between them was Cloud’s briefs.

“You’re even prettier with your clothes off, Cloud,” Zack praised as he moved to smooth his hands down Cloud’s chest and belly. Cloud arched into the gentle touch.

“I’m not pretty, Zack,” Cloud insisted. Cloud was openly looking at his friend’s body. Zack was beautiful. Every inch of him was perfectly toned. He looked soft and gently sun-kissed. Cloud had always been very pale. Zack wasn’t dark, but Cloud liked the soft contrast between their skin tones.

“Cloud, you’re beautiful,” Zack whispered as he gently hooked his fingers into Cloud’s briefs and slowly pulled them down Cloud’s silky legs. Cloud shuddered. He was already nearly fully erect.

“I missed you,” Cloud hummed as Zack slid between his legs.

“I know it, Spike.” Zack crawled forward. He reached into the bedside table and pulled out a small tube of lube. Zack opened the little container and slicked some of it over his fingers.

Cloud watched appraisingly as Zack rubbed his fingers together to warm the lubricant. “You know, you look pretty good naked...” Cloud whispered, his eyes focused on Zack’s manhood. He swallowed. It was about as long as he expected, but it was thicker.

“Scared?” Zack questioned as he lowered his head. Cloud obediently spread his thighs a little further. Zack’s fingers spread lube over Cloud’s entrance to prepare the area but did not slide them inside.

“Not with you,” Cloud promised. He could never be afraid of Zack. The man had his absolute trust and his adoration.

Zack very slowly eased a finger into Cloud’s virgin body. He held it still only a moment. When Cloud released a soft sound of discomfort, Zack began gently thrusting the single finger in and out of the man’s body. “It’s tight, Cloud… It’s so tight.” Zack leaned in to kiss Cloud’s thigh, and Cloud shuddered softly.

“Is that a bad thing?” Cloud looked a bit concerned. His eyes were soft with vulnerability.

“No, Gorgeous. I can already tell it’s going to feel amazing,” Zack explained as he slowly eased another finger in beside the first. Cloud shuddered and clenched around them. Zack paused a moment while Cloud adjusted, and then began gently thrusting his fingers again. “Try to stay relaxed, Cloudy. It wont take long.”

Cloud did his best to remain relaxed. It was impossible at first, but the gentle thrusting of Zack’s fingers soon made the burning feeling recede. His body relaxed and Zack began slowly moving his fingers further apart.

“It feels a bit strange…” Cloud whimpered softly. His fingers found the sheets on either side of him and gripped. He kept looking down at Zack. The stretching wasn’t bothering him as much as being unable to touch Zack was.

“Don’t worry, Cloud. It won’t feel strange much longer,” Zack promised. He leaned up a bit further and pressed a kiss to the head of Cloud’s length. Cloud’s body tensed in surprise. Zack smirked up at the beauty, and then lowered his head, enveloping Cloud’s length. He gave it a good, long suck.

Cloud shuddered and gripped the sheets with more enthusiasm. No one else had ever touched his dick before, and, certainly, no one had ever sucked it for him. It was warm and wet and fucking wonderful.

Zack continued paying attention to Cloud’s length while easing another finger inside of his lovely blonde. Cloud took a third finger without ever even noticing the additional intrusion.

Cloud was gasping and shuddering by the time Zack lifted his head. He licked his lips and gently removed his fingers. Cloud whimpered pathetically at the loss of them. “Zack?”

“Are you ready for me, Cloud?” Zack’s voice was deep and silky with lust. Cloud’s dick twitched in response to it. Cloud couldn’t remember ever having been so turned on. He wasn’t even under the blankets, but he felt too hot for his skin. His lower belly was tight with heat.

“I’m ready,” Cloud promised without hesitation. The relief was palpable when Zack’s body settled between his thighs. The man leaned over him and Cloud wrapped his arms around Zack’s neck and pulled him into a hungry kiss. Not touching the man had been painful. Each point of skin-to-skin contact was deeply comforting.

Cloud was so focused on their kiss that he barely felt Zack align himself. The man reached between them and slowly pushed inside Cloud’s tight, hot body. Cloud moaned loudly. His hands slid into the man’s hair and gripped. His body clamped down tightly on the unfamiliar intrusion.

“Zack…” Cloud gasped against his friend’s neck. He nuzzled the skin there and breathed in deeply. Cloud was stuck in a moment of disbelief. It didn’t seem possible that his friend could really be inside him.

“Take your time to adjust, Cloud…” Zack was panting and trembling. The effort to hold still was having a clear effect. Cloud smiled and drew Zack into another deep kiss. They both relaxed a fraction. Zack seemed to know when Cloud was ready. He drew his hips backward and gently thrust forward without bothering to break the kiss.

Zack released a low growl, and Cloud smiled against his lover’s lips. It was the first animalistic sound he’d ever heard from Zack. Cloud’s legs wrapped tightly around Zack’s hips. Zack’s thrust remained slow and deep. Each one drew a soft gasp from Cloud.

Zack took his time. He tried to make it last for as long as he was able. Cloud could tell he was getting close. Zack’s chest began to rumble with a growl so low and soft that it could have been a purr. Both of them were slick with sweat. Cloud’s eyes were half-lidded in pleasure. He was incredibly close. A few good strokes, and he’d be done for.

“Cloudy… I’m close,” Zack whispered huskily. Cloud moaned and nodded softly to signal his own impending orgasm. The growl grew deeper. Zack’s pace grew rougher as he reached between them to fist Cloud’s length. Cloud’s body clenched with pleasure.

Cloud felt a strange pressure inside. He looked down, a bit startled, but his attention was drawn away quickly when Zack bit deep into his shoulder. Cloud cried out in surprise, his body clamping down tightly on Zack as his own orgasm hit. Something was definitely wrong. Zack felt enormous, and the pressure was intense. It didn’t hurt, but something was definitely different.

Cloud allowed himself to relax completely against the pillows beneath his head. Zack’s entire body trembled. Gently, Zack removed his teeth and slid his tongue over the bite mark. Cloud glanced down at him and smiled. Zack looked dazed but not panicked.

“Cloud…?” Zack whispered. He moved to rest their foreheads together. “I’m so sorry… Are you okay?”

Cloud hummed to indicate that he actually felt very good despite the surprise ending. “What happened…?” He asked. He could still feel the pressure caused by whatever was going on inside him. Zack’s dick felt hot, and Cloud could just barely feel the mass inside him throbbing.

“Um… It’s something SOLDIERS have. We call it the knot. It expands sometimes when we orgasm. B-But it’s only ever happened to me with other SOLDIERS. If I’d thought this would happen, I would have warned you… I shouldn’t have bitten you either. I’m so sorry, Cloud,” Zack spoke in a rush. He sounded panicked, and Cloud quickly lifted a hand and slid his fingers soothingly through Zack’s hair.

“It’s okay. It was good…” Cloud smiled up at Zack, and brushed his fingertips soothingly against the nape of Zack’s neck. “I mean… It goes away, right?”

“Yeah… It’s just like… A thick bulb at the base. It kind of locks us with a partner for a while, but it’ll go down soon. Less than twenty minutes. I promise.” Zack still looked unsure and guilty.

Cloud pulled his friend into another brief kiss. He then rested back against the pillows once again. Zack smiled, clearly grateful at his friend’s attempt to sooth him. Zack lowered his head to nuzzle Cloud’s neck, then slowly forced himself to relax. They lay together, gently caressing and exploring one for a while. Cloud kept whispering reassurances to Zack until the man finally seemed to accept that he truly wasn’t bothered by the knot still buried inside him.

Eventually, the swelling went down, and the knot receded. They spent the rest of the night tangled happily together.

Chapter Text

Cloud left for his injections in the morning. He was sore and tired, but he had the benefit of the best night’s sleep he’d had in years. Waking next to Zack was heaven. Zack had roused him with soft kisses to the neck and jaw. Zack had wanted to make him breakfast, but Cloud knew he shouldn’t eat before the injections. He didn’t want to make the nausea any worse.

Zack promised Cloud that he could return to his apartment after. Cloud was going to have a difficult time adjusting, and Zack was more than happy to help him through it. For that, Cloud was very grateful.

The injections were routine. It took several hours to get through the process. The injections themselves were fairly quick, but they required six hours of direct observation afterward. They took a blood sample after each hour. Cloud’s reaction to the first mako injection had been instant.

Cloud felt like he’d been hit by a train. Despite having nothing new in his stomach, he still managed to spend the first few hours puking. He felt dizzy. He lost consciousness several times while he was stuck in the damned medical offices under observation. Every inch of him hurt, and the cramping in his stomach was so intense that Cloud worried he might be dying.

When they finally finished with him, the scientists prepared to have someone escort Cloud back to his apartment. Cloud insisted that he be allowed to call Zack first. Fortunately, Zack had finished his duties for the day. He answered his PHS at the first ring.

Zack came immediately to Cloud’s rescue. The blonde barely even remembered the walk back to Zack’s apartment. He did remember Zack helping him into bed, and that was the last thing he would remember for the next four days.

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Cloud woke feeling groggy and disoriented on that fourth day. It wasn’t as good as waking to the kisses he’d enjoyed his first morning at Zack’s apartment, but Cloud was damn grateful that the nausea seemed to have gone away.

“Zack…?” Cloud called from the bed. His voice was hoarse, and it sounded to loud to Cloud’s newly enhanced hearing. The sheets were drenched in sweat, but Cloud felt better. His head throbbed, and his eyes were extra sensitive to the light coming through the window, but he felt better than he had since the mako had entered his system.

“You feeling alright, Cloudy? You’ve been really sick,” Zack explained as he stepped through the doorway. He approached the bed and reached out to brush his fingers gently through Cloud’s sweat-slicked hair. Cloud’s state didn’t seem to bother him at all.

“I feel really gross…”

“Well, if you manage to stay awake for more than fifteen minutes, I’ll run you a bath,” Zack promised. His fingers continued to slide soothingly through Cloud’s hair. Cloud sighed. Zack’s fingers felt wonderfully cool to his heated skin.

“I think I’ll stay awake this time, Zack… I’m really starving.” Cloud reached for Zack’s other hand and carefully laced their fingers.

“Okay, Spike. If you’re hungry, then you’re doing a lot better. We’ll get you in the shower, and then we’ll get you fed.”

Cloud groaned, and forced himself to sit up. “I think I can handle the shower myself.”

“Take it slow, Cloud. You might not feel good, but you’re a lot stronger than you were when you fell asleep. You were out longer than I expected. The first round of mako has gone through your muscles by now,” Zack spoke with clear amusement. He wasn’t really worried. It was good to have Cloud up and moving again, and he was excited to see how his friend dealt with the enhancements.

“How long was I out?” Cloud looked up at his friend quizzically. It didn’t feel like much time had passed, but Cloud knew better than to trust his internal clock just then.

“Four days, Cloudy. You’re probably the last recruit up,” Zack explained. He gave Cloud’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Cloud shifted uncomfortably where he sat but didn’t seem especially worried about the lost time.

“I’ll try to be careful,” Cloud promised, offering his friend a bit of a smile. “Please feed me.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard you say ‘please,’” Zack teased.

“Shut up,” Cloud ordered. He tried to sound irritated, but his smile had grown wider. He slid out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. Even though he barely touched the bathroom door, it slammed shut. Cloud could hear Zack laughing in the bedroom, but chose to ignore it.

Cloud managed to get clean. He bent the shampoo bottle in half, cracked the handle on the shower, but otherwise he managed to get through it without much trouble. He felt different. He was aware of each drop of water hitting his skin. He felt stronger. He felt… Oddly predatory. It was a new feeling, and Cloud knew he liked it. He had waited a long time to feel like a SOLDIER, and the mako seemed to suite him well. Cloud left the bathroom in nothing but a towel.

“Zack? Do you have some clothes I could borrow?” Cloud questioned as he finally joined Zack in the kitchen. Something smelled great. It looked like Zack was working on some kind of oatmeal, but Cloud could see fresh fruits. Zack must have gotten some advice, because Cloud knew the guy didn’t usually cook.

“I hope that’s almost done,” Cloud remarked as he took a seat at the table. Now that he could smell it, he was much more interested in the food than clothes.

“Impatient, Spike?” Zack asked, glancing over his shoulder. He was already dishing up some of the hot oatmeal. He added the fruit last and set it in front of Cloud. Zack turned around to pour some orange juice, and Cloud was almost halfway through his oatmeal by the time Zack turned around.

“Slow down, Spike. There’s more when you’re ready for it. I’ll go find you something to wear.” Zack shook his head, but his smile was wide and his eyes were bright with amusement as he went back to the bedroom. Cloud didn’t wait for Zack to get back before he helped himself to seconds.

Zack returned, stopping to set a pile of folded laundry on the couch before he joined Cloud at the table. Fondly, he watched Cloud eat and waited patiently for Cloud to stop for breath. He had a question, and he wanted to make sure Cloud answered.

“You know, Cloud. I think you should spend some time with me and Angeal. Maybe you could meet Genisis too. You’re going to be working with us from now on, and I think having a few more friends would be good for you,” Zack suggested.

Cloud stiffened. He wasn’t good with people. He’d always known that. Zack was just a very happy exception, and the men Zack wanted him to meet were elite generals. They were his bosses’ bosses. Worse, they were important to Zack. Cloud did not want to disappoint Zack.

“I know you’re nervous, Spike, but there’s nothing to be nervous about! Angeal is my mentor and a close friend. He’ll love you because I love you, and what they say about him isn’t true. He’s not intimidating. Angeal is kind and honorable,” Zack paused a moment, then swallowed. This was clearly very important to him. “Please, Spike?”

Cloud shifted uneasily in his seat. “They won’t mind that I’m quiet?” Cloud looked down at his empty plate. He was nervous just thinking about it.

“You can just meet Angeal to start, alright? I know he wont mind. Genisis can be a bit… Harsh. But he’s a good man. I think you’ll get along fine,” Zack promised.

Cloud glanced up at Zack and carefully nodded. He could do this if it was for Zack. He could definitely do this. As long as he made the effort and didn’t offend anyone, he was sure that Zack would approve. Cloud was sure he could do that much.

“Great! I’ll set it up.” Zack was beaming, and Cloud knew he had made the right decision. He could do anything for a smile like that.

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“Ang!” Zack called, waving as he ran to his mentor. Angeal had finally returned from Wutai. The general had been asked to stay behind to wrap up loose ends when Zack had returned home. He’d had no choice but to accept, but he was very happy to be home again.

Angeal welcomed his protégé with a pat on the shoulder and a wide grin. He’d missed Zack a great deal, but he’d wait until they were behind closed doors to embrace Zack the way he wanted too. The generals drew enough attention without strong displays of affection in public.

“Happier now?” Angeal questioned. The general had teased Zack the entire time they’d been stuck in Wutai. Zack hated having human targets, but he’d hated being away from his little cadet even more. Zack had complained the entire time they were there, and he’d been overjoyed to be returning home to his Cloud.

“I don’t know. You know how it is. I missed Spike, and then I missed you! Ah! So I guess I’m doing better now,” Zack answered, leaning against Angeal’s side. “How did it go?”

“It went as well as can be expected really. I don’t think Shinra will be done with Wutai for a long time yet. They let me go, but Sephiroth is stuck there indefinitely,” Angeal explained as the pair walked back toward the SOLDIER living quarters. Angeal had only just left the helicopter that had brought him home. He was ready for a hot shower.

“You know you’re important to me, right?” Zack questioned, glancing at his mentor. He had that smile on his face that always came right before some sort of mischief. Angeal was already bracing himself.

“… Yes.” Angeal decided to answer simply, but his eyebrow was raised skeptically. Zack’s questions inevitably led to trouble. Angeal was used to it, but he was curious to see what his puppy was up to this time.

“Well, Spike is important to me too. He made it into SOLDIER while we were gone, and I think it’s high time you two met,” Zack explained as they navigated the Shinra grounds. They usually took the paths that would mean encountering the smallest number of people. This time, they took the fastest route, because Angeal was eager to be home.

“Ah! Well, I’m glad to hear he made it in. I had to speak up for the kid so that they’d let him take the exam. His instructors thought he was too small and docile to be in SOLDIER. They feel strongly about that hot-blooded alpha ideal,” Angeal explained as though it were a simple thing.

Zack stopped and gently tugged on Angeal’s arm to make sure his mentor wouldn’t walk ahead. “Ang… Thank you!” Zack drew the man into a tight hug. Zack rarely cared that people were watching, and he always seemed to forgot that Angeal worried about appearances. Zack had no idea that Angeal had helped in the first place. It felt a bit like favoritism, but Zack was happy he’d done it.

“I wouldn’t have said anything if he didn’t deserve the chance. His scores were all very good. He was exceptional. A quiet disposition seemed like a bad reason to keep him out of SOLDIER,” Angeal explained casually. In truth, Cloud had earned his shot, but Angeal wouldn’t have bothered to look into it if not for Zack. Angeal had been worried about how Zack might react if his little infantryman hadn’t made it in. Zack had seemed so set on it.

“Will you meet him then, Ang? It’ll just be the three of us. He’s really nervous about meeting everyone. I think once he meets you, he’ll be open to meeting everyone else,” Zack explained in a rush. He always spoke too quickly when he was afraid someone might say “no.”

“You really do like this kid, don’t you?” Angeal questioned, reaching out to muss Zack’s hair.

Zack grinned and didn’t even try to pull away as Angeal mussed his spikes. “I think I love him.”

“And you think I’ll love him too?” Angeal questioned, clearly amused. Zack looked so damn happy about Angeal’s petting. Zack was definitely some sort of puppy. A lovesick puppy, if Angeal was any judge.

“I know you will. I’m a little afraid you might steal him away from me,” Zack answered. He looked far more proud than worried as he said it. Zack had a lot of pride in his Cloud.

“Alright then. I could make dinner for us one night. We could watch a movie. If he doesn’t have to talk, he’ll have time to get used to me. We can do it this weekend. If it goes well, you two can spend the night. I’ll make breakfast,” Angeal offered.

“That sounds great, Ang! Really, really great,” Zack answered excitedly. “You know, he really liked that oatmeal and fruit thing you suggested. He ate like a horse and didn’t get sick afterward.”

“I told you. I still make it for Genisis after his routine injections. He can’t keep anything else down,” Angeal explained as the elevator stopped on the top floor, where the generals were housed. They remained mostly silent as they walked down the hall.

Finally, they stood outside Angeal’s apartment. Angeal unlocked the door, then turned to face Zack. “Are you and him dating now? Do you think… I mean, is it still alright if we keep helping each other out?”

Angeal shifted his weight from foot to the other. It was one of those rare shows of nervousness that Zack wasn’t accustomed to seeing in his mentor. Angeal glanced away for a moment and then refocused on his student. “I really missed you, Zack.”

Zack grinned, looking Angeal up and down. There was a part of him that liked knowing that he was so important to the general that losing precious time with him could make his mentor look so pathetically nervous. Angeal’s face was drawn into a somewhat mournful expression. Angeal truly seemed to think he was losing something. Zack needed to be quick about reassuring him, but he wanted to remember that expression.

“We haven’t really talked about dating, but I know he wouldn’t mind this.” They hadn’t talked about it at length yet, but they would soon. Zack was sure Cloud understood the nature of his relationship with Angeal now, and it didn’t seem to bother the lovely blonde. Zack was glad Cloud understood. He wasn’t sure what he would do if Cloud wanted him to chose.

Zack walked passed Angeal, very purposely brushing his body against the general’s as he slid by. Angeal grinned and followed is protégé. He was eager. Wutai was a lonely place, and showering with Zack was always an experience.

Chapter Text

Cloud groaned, glancing groggily over his shoulder at Zack. The raven-haired monster was nipping at Cloud’s neck. They were both already naked, and Zack seemed determined to take advantage of that. At least determined enough to wake Cloud from a very restful sleep.

Cloud had been excused from his drills, because he was required to get another damned examination to ensure his body was adjusting properly to the mako. Cloud hated to be examined, but he loved that he was able to sleep in because his appointment wasn’t scheduled until after noon. As a result, he and Zack had enjoyed a long, intense round of sex before bed the night before. Apparently, it hadn’t been enough to satisfy Zack.

“You really want to go again?” Cloud questioned. He turned around slowly until he was lying on his back. Cloud usually slept on his stomach, and he usually liked to be awake a good ten minutes before he had to move.

“I want you all the time, Cloudy. Besides, you look so sweet when you’re asleep! Makes me want a taste,” Zack practically purred. He was already slicking his fingers with lube. Cloud glared up at his best friend. The man had just assumed Cloud would say yes. He was right, but Cloud still felt like punishing the adorable bastard.

Manually, Zack spread Cloud’s legs apart. “You look so beautiful like that, Cloud,” Zack crooned. His fingers slid down the cleft of Cloud’s ass. A single finger slid boldly inside. It wouldn’t take long to prep Cloud after all the sex they’d enjoyed the night before.

“I am not beautiful,” Cloud argued grumpily. He scowled for only a moment before opening his arms to his best friend. The demand was clear. Zack grinned and leaned down to kiss Cloud firmly on the lips. One of the blonde’s hands slid into Zack’s hair. The other trailed its way down Zack’s back. Cloud loved to touch.

Zack hummed in pleasure and added another finger. Cloud shuddered. He broke the kiss long enough to give Zack a quick order. “Hurry up.”

Zack chuckled and did as he was told. His fingers moved more quickly as he leaned in to capture Cloud’s lips again. He was more eager this time. His kiss was much deeper, and Cloud moaned his approval into Zack’s lips.

After a moment, Zack removed his fingers. He moved to position himself, but Cloud scoffed and prevented Zack from lining up by closing his legs just enough to prevent Zack from settling between them.

Zack looked up at the beauty and cocked an eyebrow. He couldn’t imagine that Cloud would refuse him now. The blonde was already hard.

“You woke me up for this, so we’re going to play exactly the way I want to,” Cloud explained simply. His eyes held a challenge, and Zack was immediately interested in what the beauty had in mind.

“And how do you want to play, Cloudy?” Zack questioned. He was definitely a lot more interested in the game now that he was sure it was still going to end in sex.

“On your back, SOLDIER,” Cloud ordered. He sat up and pulled away from Zack completely. Cloud was smirking. He watched Zack closely to see if the pup was going to be obedient.

He wasn’t. Zack was smirking back at him. “Why do you want me on my back, Spikey?” He reached out to caress the man’s hip. Cloud really did look gorgeous naked.

“Why are you arguing?”

“Maybe I want you to force me,” Zack suggested. His eyes were bright with mischief. Cloud had suspected that Zack might like this kind of thing. Cloud shook his lovely head, and then refocused all of his attention on Zack. He reached out and pushed Zack backward with all of his newfound strength.

“You’re mine, SOLDIER. You’ll do as I say,” Cloud purred. Zack began to squirm, but Cloud moved to straddle him and Zack instantly went still. “That’s a good boy,” Cloud praised.

Zack swallowed and sat back obediently against the pillows. He had never been ridden before. He was feeling less rebellious now that he could see what his prize was. Cloud reached down and took Zack’s length in his hands. He allowed the head to just barely brush his entrance.

Zack released a low whimper. He held completely still. He knew Cloud wouldn’t like it if he tried to move too soon, and he definitely didn’t want to lose his prize.

“Do you want it, Zack?” Cloud’s voice was unusually silky. He looked like a contented cat hovering over Zack. It was incredibly hot. Zack hadn’t expected Cloud to enjoy taking control so much. He seemed miles away from the shy, country boy that Zack had first met in the Shinra training yards.

“Please, Cloud… Please… I want you,” Zack crooned. He lifted his hands and alighted them carefully on Cloud’s hips. He didn’t try to push Cloud down. Instead, his thumbs moved to draw soothing circles on Cloud’s hips. Cloud clearly approved of the treatment, because he slowly began sliding downward.

Zack gasped as his dick was enveloped in tight heat. He watched with half-lidded eyes as Cloud slid all of the way down. They fit together shockingly easily. Somehow Zack had thought this position would feel more awkward.

Cloud’s hands moved to grip the bar that served as the headboard on Zack’s metal bed frame. He braced himself and began to raise and lower his hips. The pace was heavenly. Cloud’s muscular body had no issue supporting itself as it slid up and down. Cloud was bracing himself on the headboard to keep the movement as smooth as possible, and it was fucking working.

“Fuck, Cloudy…!” Zack growled. His head lulled back against the pillows, but his eyes still followed Cloud up and down. That was definitely the best part about this position, Zack decided. He liked the show. Cloud was a beautiful display of contained power. His movements were slow and graceful. His stomach muscles bunched and then released beautifully, over and over.

Zack watched, transfixed, as Cloud moved. Then, Cloud smirked, and Zack felt the beauty clench around him with purpose. Zack whimpered and his grip on Cloud’s hips tightened. He gasped, and, unable to stop himself, he thrust upward.

Cloud moaned in response, and Zack decided that was license to do it again. Soon, they built up a mutual rhythm. The pressure built quickly. Cloud was the one whimpering now. He was close. Zack could see it in the beauty’s expression. Zack redoubled his efforts, and watched in fascination as Cloud came above him.

It was beautiful. Cloud was a surprisingly expressive person in bed. His eyes were half-lidded. Soft lips were parted as Cloud took deep breaths to calm his heated body. He trembled with each pulse of his orgasm.

Zack was right behind him. Cloud’s passage clenched tightly around Zack as the beauty road out his orgasm. Each pulse milked Zack of his own release. Cloud rested there for a moment. He waited until Zack seemed to come down from his high before carefully raised his hips until Zack slid out of him. Zack whimpered at the loss of the warmth that had surrounded him, but didn’t argue when Cloud left to find the bathroom.

Cloud returned once he’d thoroughly cleaned himself. He crawled into bed and resumed his earlier position on his stomach. He sighed in contentment. “Felling better, Zack?” Cloud questioned.

The beauty closed his eyes and relaxed. He hated cleaning immediately after the act, but he was going to have to leave soon. He wasn’t going to have time for a shower, so he couldn’t let the mess sit around.

“I’m perfect,” Zack answered. He rolled closer to the beauty, and reached out to trace circles in Cloud’s back. Zack applied gentle pressure, massaging Cloud’s skin with surprising skill. Cloud hummed, relaxing in complete contentment as Zack pampered him. Zack was always pampering him.

Since the night after his first injections, Cloud had spent every night at Zack’s apartment. At first, he’d been worried that Zack would get annoyed with his constant presence, but Zack still smiled at him and even complained when Cloud left first in the morning.

“You know, I do have to get dressed soon,” Cloud reminded. He glanced over his shoulder at Zack. Cloud knew he was wearing a stupidly blissful expression, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Zack was too damned good at providing after care.

“Are you sure?” Zack questioned lazily. Zack would have loved to spend all day in bed, and Cloud knew he was going to have to be the one to crawl away. If he held still, Zack would massage him until Cloud lost the will to leave.

With a disappointed groan, Cloud rolled onto his side and slid out of Zack’s bed. He stretched and yawned. Cloud’s movements were slow and deliberate, because he knew damn well that Zack was taking the time to appreciate the view of Cloud’s naked body.

Cloud took his time getting dressed for that same reason. Soon, he sat down at the foot of the bed to lace up his boots, and Zack crawled over to press a few last-minute kisses to Cloud’s neck, jaw, and cheek.

“Do you know when you’ll be back?” Zack questioned.

“I have no idea, but I should be back before you,” Cloud explained, glancing down at his lover. Zack took the opportunity to press a quick kiss to Cloud’s lips. All Zack had really wanted to hear was that Cloud was coming back again that night.

“Be careful down there. Those scientists are ruthless assholes,” Zack cautioned as he finally crawled out of bed.

“I will,” Cloud promised, but hurried out of the bedroom before Zack could distract him with his own morning routine of naked stretches. Cloud couldn’t afford to late.

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The medical ward Cloud was directed to was much more of a lab than an examination area, but Cloud wasn’t nervous until Hojo himself arrived to perform the examination. At first, Cloud thought he might be going crazy, but Hojo’s name tag was clearly visible. Admittedly, it was also hard to mistake the hunched back, large glasses, and greasy hair.

Cloud swallowed nervously and watched the man walk calmly around the room. Hojo started warming up several machines in the area. He didn’t say anything at first, but Cloud was still on edge. The man didn’t seem enhanced in any way, but he still walked like a predator. Cloud didn’t trust the man’s posturing.

“Alright, Mr. Strife. Remove your shirt, and we’ll get started,” Hojo ordered. He didn’t look at Cloud as he said it. He was preparing a needle nearby. Still, Cloud removed his shirt as asked. He watched Hojo closely once the material was out of the way. Cloud was more curious about what they would be doing now that Hojo was personally involved.

“I’m going to take three blood samples. Then I will perform some basic, health examinations, but, first, have you been experiencing any odd physical effects? Outside of those you were told to expect,” Hojo asked. He didn’t wait for Cloud to answer before he took the blonde’s arm. He found a vein with practiced ease and began drawing the first blood sample.

Cloud paused a moment. He hadn’t experienced anything unexpected, but there was something he wanted to ask about. “I’ve been having sex with another SOLDIER. He seems to…” Cloud paused for a moment. He’d been trying to think of a delicate way to phrase what he wanted to say. Then he realized how stupid that was. Hojo had started the SOLDIER system. “He knots, but I haven’t formed one yet.”

Hojo made a noise in the back of his throat but didn’t comment immediately. He set the blood sample he’d just taken aside and drew another needle. “Have you been the dominant partner?”

Hojo was already drawing another sample before Cloud answered. “No. I haven’t. Does it only form if you’re the dominant partner?”

“Usually, but, at this stage, it would not be unusual not to form one at all. It takes time for the mako to alter the body’s physiology. Your physical changes have only just begun,” Hojo answered. His words were clipped, almost irritated. Already, he was setting the second sample aside.

“Have you had any illness or abdominal cramping?” Hojo questioned. He took more time drawing the third sample. He was listening more closely this time, it seemed.

“Not since the initial injection,” Cloud answered. His own tone was emotionless and clipped. He knew now that he did not like this man.

Hojo meticulously set the blood sample aside then walked around the examination table to a small machine. Cloud hadn’t seen many machines while living in Nibelheim, so it wasn’t unusual that he wasn’t familiar with the devise. It had a small screen and seemed to be attached to a flattened probe.

Hojo handed Cloud a small clear tube. Cloud examined it. He was clearly confused. It looked a lot like the bottle of lube Zack had at home.

“Put a thick layer of that over your abdomen. You’re worried about the knot, aren’t you? I’m going to take a look and make sure everything is progressing as it should,” Hojo explained. Again, he wasn’t looking at Cloud. Instead, he seemed to be calibrating the devise.

Cloud scowled at the man’s back, but did as he was asked. The stuff he squeezed out of the tube didn’t feel anything like lube. It was gelatinous and freezing cold, but it spread easily over the skin. Cloud applied it generously then leaned back on the examination table.

Hojo turned with the flat appendage raised. “This will allow me to see what’s going on inside. Try to relax.”

Cloud sighed and forced himself to hold perfectly still as the odd wand moved over his abdominal muscles. Hojo seemed to be watching the screen very closely. He moved the wand over the area for a good twenty minutes before he set the wand aside and began writing quickly on a nearby clipboard. Cloud thought his examination was over, but then Hojo picked up the wand again. It was another hour before Hojo shut the damned thing off.

He passed a towel to Cloud. “Go ahead and clean that up. One of my aids will arrive shortly to give you the rest of your examination.” Hojo collected his notes and the blood samples as he spoke, then promptly left the room.

Cloud watched the man leave before beginning to wipe the vile jelly off his stomach. At least it had warmed up during his examination. A moment later, an aid did arrive. The young scientist checked Cloud’s blood pressure, listened to Cloud’s heartbeat, and asked the usual medical questions. He was far more talkative than Hojo had been. Actually, he asked far too many questions for Cloud, who was uncomfortable conversing with strangers.

The aid seemed to have finished, but continued to chat with him for several minutes after his last test had been given. Cloud fidgeted and waited to be told he could leave. He should have known the aid had been asked to keep him preoccupied.

Hojo opened the door and stepped through with a tray of familiar looking syringes. “Ah, very good. The injections are ready now.” Cloud started at the tray. He knew that he hadn’t been scheduled for mako today. The second round of injections was at least a couple of months away.

“After a thorough examination, it became clear that you were progressing more slowly than we would like. I’ve prepared a round of mako injections that your body should accept more readily. You’ll be excused from duty tomorrow, of course, but we will administer these before you leave.” Hojo explained.

Cloud grimaced, but forced himself to lie very still as Hojo began the injection process. Cloud hoped the second round went more smoothly than the first.

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Genesis knocked loudly at Angeal’s apartment door. Genesis had just returned from his mission earlier that morning, and he had been desperate to see Angeal or Sephiroth. However, Genesis hated to reunite with either of them when he still smelled like he’d spent weeks away from civilization.

Genesis had taken the time to shower and preen before arriving at Angeal’s door. He always liked too look his best for Angeal in particular. Sephiroth rarely cared for physical appearances, but Angeal took notice.

Shinra had sent the red general to investigate an increase in monster activity near Fort Condor. The investigation had been grueling, and they had not made the progress Shinra had hoped for, but Genesis had insisted on returning home ahead of schedule. His rut was impending. He could feel the pressure gathering in his lower stomach. Even the silken inner lining of his well-designed jacket made his skin itch. He knew he wasn’t going to last much longer.

Angeal opened the door, and Genesis pushed his way into the apartment. Angeal turned and wrapped an arm around Genesis. He pulled the red general back against his chest before Genesis could move further into the apartment. Genesis smiled and leaned back against Angeal. This was a game they often played. Genesis liked to be “caught.”

They stood in the doorway for a while with Angeal’s arms wrapped around Genesis from behind. The man’s face was buried in Genesis’s neck, and Genesis slowly began to relax. Being away for too long always made Genesis tense. He couldn’t seem to relax the tension without Angeal or Sephiroth, so the tension simply continued to build. He had a bad reputation among his men for having a temper. The longer he was away from the other two generals, the more irritated Genesis became.

“We’ve been apart too long,” Angeal whispered against Genesis’s skin. The red general shuddered in pleasure. He’d missed Angeal’s voice as much as he’d missed his touch and his scent.

“It’s time for my rut again,” Genesis explained.

“How soon? I’ve promised to spend a tonight with Zack and his cadet. He wants to introduce us.” Angeal breathed in deeply. It was hard to believe that he and Genesis had been apart for nearly three months already.

“Ditch them,” Genesis ordered. He turned in Angeal’s embrace and moved to wrap his arms around the man’s neck. “I’m here now. Zack’s preoccupied with the kid. We can have our own fun. I’m sure Zack’s cadet will keep him busy.”

“This means a lot to him, Gen,” Angeal insisted. His hands skimmed down Genesis’s sides. He knew he needed to be delicate. Genesis was temperamental when his ruts were near – much more so that Angeal or Zack. Perhaps more importantly, Genesis and Zack still weren’t close.

Genesis still was often jealous of the relationship Angeal shared with his protégé. It was difficult to fix. Genesis, Sephiroth, and Angeal had shared a close bond for years. They had been through experimentation together, and, now, they shared the responsibility of managing the SOLDIERs at Shinra’s command. Shared experience was a strong binder, and the three men now shared nearly everything. The generals were busy and closed off. It had been difficult for them to get accustomed to Zack.

“Angeal.” Genesis’s voice held a warning. He rested their foreheads together. Genesis’s eyes were blazing. The red general was always intense, but Angeal could see that this time he was walking a very fine line.

“I’m yours immediately after, Gen,” Angeal promised.

“You mean I’m not even invited to see Zack’s new toy?” Genesis questioned. Angeal could hear the growl forming at the back of Genesis’s throat. He could feel the light tremor of anger as it passed through Genesis’s body.

“He’s skittish, Gen. Everything’s new to him. Zack wants us to be gentle, and you’re-“

“Not gentle enough?” Genesis interrupted. He was audibly growling now. His eyes were flashing dangerously. He was clearly hurt. “This is just a passing fancy for Zack, Ang. He found something pretty to play with, and you’re afraid if you’ll lose Zack if you don’t play along with him.”

“It’s not like that, Gen,” Angeal tried to explain. He wasn’t sure how serious Zack was about Cloud, but he did know that being kind to the boy’s friend was important. Genesis accepted that Zack was incredibly important to Angeal, but he was clearly hesitant about extending that acceptance to Zack’s unknown friend.

“No. It is. You’re jealous, Angeal. You think it’s me, but you’re the one who’s jealous this time. Zack’s only ever looked at you before, and you’re afraid that he wont come back now that he’s looking elsewhere.”

“Zack’s made a friend, Genesis,” Angeal wasn’t sure what he was explaining now, but he knew he needed to say something to calm the man down.

Of all the generals, Genesis was the most protective of their small group. Angeal hadn’t realized that Genesis might see Zack’s new friend as a threat. He should have realized it more quickly. Genesis was especially sensitive with his rut impending.

“Have you ever worried that you might lose me, Angeal?” Genesis’s voice was dangerously even. When Genesis spoke without any amount of emotion, it meant something was terrible wrong. Genesis was furious.

Angeal attempted to wrap his arm around Genesis again. The man had the worst habit of escaping when an argument wasn’t going well. “I’ve never had to worry about that, Genesis.”

“Maybe you should,” Genesis snapped. With more force than Genesis would usually have used, he broke Angeal’s hold on him and stepped around the other general.

Angeal sighed as Genesis walked away. He slid a hand through his dark hair. He then slammed the underside of his fist against the nearby end table. The top of the table fractured, and Angeal sighed in deep displeasure. He hadn’t meant to hit it hard enough to cause any damage. He wished Sephiroth were around. The man seemed to do a better job of keeping Genesis calm.

Chapter Text

Zack had an arm wrapped tightly around Cloud. He was doing his best to help the blond support his weight, but Cloud was stubbornly refusing to lean on him. “Are you sure you want to go, Cloudy?”

“I’m fine, Zack. It’s not as bad as last time. I’m just a little nauseous,” Cloud explained. If he were honest, his stomach also hurt terribly. Every muscle seemed to be cramping up, and his guts felt like they were on fire. Still, he knew how important the meeting with Angeal was, and he was determined to see it through.

“I still think this is a bad idea, Spike. You don’t look so good,” Zack reasoned, even as they stood outside Angeal’s door.

“Angeal has probably seen you in the same state. I can rest here just as easily as I can at home,” Cloud attempted to reason. It was a damned lie, and Zack knew it. Cloud was tense and nervous, and Zack was worried about him.

The concerned look on Zack’s face made his feelings about the situation very clear to Cloud. Sighing, the blonde lifted a hand to knock on Angeal’s door. Cloud forced himself to smile, focusing on the door instead of Zack.

Angeal opened the door and immediately returned Cloud’s awkward smile with a warm smile of his own. “Welcome. You must be Cloud,” Angeal greeted. He extended his hand, and Cloud reached out and firmly shook it. “Come inside. Dinner is almost done.”

“Ang, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to eat. Those assholes gave him another set of injections today,” Zack explained in a hurry as he helped Cloud through the doorway.

“Already?” Angeal questioned. More mako so soon after his first injections was very unusual. “Was it a small dose?”

“A full set,” Zack answered as he led Cloud over to the couch. It seemed that the blond had stopped fighting Zack’s help so that he could focus on the conversation instead.

“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. We’re just having a quiet night in anyway,” Cloud insisted as Zack sat him down on the couch. “I really wanted to meet you, Angeal.”

Angeal frowned, looking over the pair. He had seen the picture in Cloud’s file before, but he was far more beautiful in person than Angeal had expected. Somehow, he had thought the man would be cute rather than graceful. The blonde watched Angeal closely. The intensity reminded him a bit too much of Genesis.

“I really wanted to meet you too, but I didn’t want you to push yourself to sickness doing it,” Angeal explained. He closed the door quietly then walked across the room to join the pair on the couch.

“It really isn’t that bad, and I know you’ll take it easy on me. Zack says you’re the kindest man he knows,” Cloud explained. Somehow, defending his right to be there had made him forget his nervousness. He continued to stare directly into Angeal’s eyes until the man sighed and shook his head in defeat. Genesis stared at him like that too.

“Alright, but I’m making you something different for dinner. Something easy to keep down. Did you like the oatmeal, or would you prefer something different?” Angeal questioned. His gaze was soft as he looked the two over. Zack sat on the armrest of the couch, leaning over Cloud. The dark-haired SOLDIER was clearly fretting and worried. There was something very adorable about the way Zack was fussing over the stubborn new SOLDIER.

“I really loved the oatmeal…” Cloud’s stubborn frown finally turned into a smile. “You taught him, didn’t you? I knew Zack couldn’t have figured that out on his own.”

Zack smiled too and gently nudged Cloud’s shoulder. “I could have if I wanted to. It would have been burnt, but I could have made it.” He paused, and then reached out to gently muss the blonde’s spikes. “It was better with Angeal’s tips.”

Cloud sighed in clear contentment, and Angeal began to feel like an intruder. He watched Cloud close his eyes and lean back into the couch cushions while Zack continued to play with his hair. However, when Angeal’s gaze moved to Zack, he found that his puppy’s eyes were on him instead. His expression was trying to convey something, and, for the first time in a very long time, Angeal had no idea what the message was.

The general frowned, looking away for a moment. “I think I’ll get that oatmeal started.” He hurried to escape to the kitchen. The dinner he’d been working on was mostly finished. If he could finish the oatmeal quickly, they’d still be able to eat together.

Zack watched his mentor leave with soft, concerned eyes. “Hey, Spike? Why don’t you relax a bit. I think I’ll go help Angeal in the kitchen.”

“No. You relax. I’ll go help him in the kitchen,” Cloud insisted. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, but he sounded serious enough.

“You should be resting,” Zack argued. He was definitely worried. He didn’t care what the men had said to Cloud in the lab. It wasn’t normal for anyone to receive so much mako in such a short time, and, now that he knew Hojo himself had overseen it, Zack was very suspicious.

“I’m the reason this is awkward, Zack. You can’t mediate everything.” Cloud opened his eyes, looking up at Zack with a surprisingly serious expression. “I need to do this. Let me… Try to connect to him on my own. He’s your friend, so… I should be able to do this.” Cloud swallowed visibly. He was trying very, very hard, and he desperately wanted Zack to see it.

Zack sighed, sliding his fingers through Cloud’s hair one, last time. “Are you sure you can stand on your own?”

“Positive,” Cloud insisted. Very carefully, he got to his feet. He did feel a bit off-balance, but he was sure he could manage the short walk to the kitchen.

Zack turned on the television, but refused to look at it until Cloud disappeared around the corner. He sighed and forced himself to try to focus on the pictures on the television. He wanted to give them as much privacy as he could, but a SOLDIER’s hearing always made that difficult.

Cloud entered the kitchen quietly. He kept one hand subtly on the wall to make sure he could keep his balance. He was trying not to seem as off as he knew he was. Everything felt strange, and he could admit (at least to himself) that he was definitely starting to get dizzy.

“Angeal… I really want to thank you for inviting me tonight. I’m really sorry it’s happening under these circumstances,” Cloud began. His hand moved from the wall to the counter as he approached the general.

Angeal looked up and smiled at the blond. He already had the oatmeal in the pot in front of him. Of course, he added far more to the bubbling oats than Zack had. “It’s not your fault, Cloud. You don’t have to apologize.”

“I do… I know I’m being stubborn, but… This meant a lot to Zack. He’s been wanting us to meet for a long time, and I couldn’t stand to let this fall through,” Cloud explained. He leaned on the counter, and watched with fascination as Angeal seasoned the simple dish in front of him until it began to smell like something restaurant quality.

“I think I can respect that, Cloud. I’m glad you came. Truly. I’d really like for us to get to know each other,” Angeal began, occasionally glancing up at the blonde as he worked.

Cloud was smiling in that awkward way again. The boy was definitely nervous. He kept swallowing, and, every few moments, he’d tilt his head just a bit so that his hair would hide his eyes. Angeal wondered if the beauty even knew he was doing it.

“Congratulations on making it into SOLDIER,” Angeal began again. Cloud rewarded him with a more genuine smile.

“Thank you. It still feels a little unreal. I think a part of me never thought this would actually happen,” Cloud answered. He moved a little closer so that he could get a better look at what Angeal was working on. Everything in the kitchen smelled incredible. It made Cloud hungry and queasy all at once, but watching Angeal work was worth the nausea.

“You should have more faith in yourself. Zack always knew you were going to get in. He’s talked about nothing else for months,” Angeal remarked. He was slowly beginning to relax again. Cloud seemed genuinely interested. Zack had said the boy was very skittish and quiet, but he was clearly making every effort not to be.

“That smells great,” Cloud remarked, quickly changing the subject. Angeal grinned. He wondered if boy was uncomfortable with compliments.

“That’s good, because it’s done.” Angeal reached for a nearby bowl. “Will you go get Zack while I get the table ready?”

“Sure,” Cloud answered. He turned to leave the kitchen, but as soon as he turned around, his knees buckled. Angeal watched, wide-eyed, as Cloud fell on his hands and knees. Cloud’s entire body shook, then arched as Cloud dry heaved twice.

Angeal dropped the spoon he’d been using to stir the oatmeal, and hurried over to the ailing blonde. He pressed an arm against the back of the boy’s knees and scooped him up with shocking ease.

Cloud released a whimper and leaned heavily against Angeal’s chest as he was carried into the living room. The sudden movement had brought on an intense wave of vertigo. Pain had blossomed suddenly in the back of his skull, and Cloud felt so damn sick.

Zack stood up as soon as he saw Angeal. The general took a seat on the couch and settled Cloud in his lap.

“Help me lay him down, Zack. Straighten up his legs for me,” Angeal ordered. Zack didn’t question him. Zack guided Cloud until he was lying mostly flat on the couch. Cloud’s legs were extended side by side, and his head rested carefully in Angeal’s lap.

“Deep breaths, Cloud,” Angeal ordered. Cloud took several long breaths while Zack looked on anxiously.

“Is something wrong with him?” Zack asked in an urgent whisper.

“He’s just a bit sick, Zack. Mako affects the body a bit differently than your average poison,” Angeal explained. He watched Cloud’s face closely as the beauty continued to take long, deep breathes. Cloud’s eyes were closed tightly. His face was still scrunched up with pain, and his entire body was tense again.

Zack hovered over the two of them, nervously fidgeting with worry for his friend.

“Zack… Would you please go turn off the burners in the kitchen?” Angeal asked. Zack seemed hesitant, but nodded and hurried off to do as he was asked.

“I’m so sorry…” Cloud whispered. He slowly lifted an arm and rested it over his eyes. He was so damn embarrassed. He was the one who had insisted on meeting, and he couldn’t even stay on his feet long enough to have dinner.

Angeal’s eyes slowly moved over the blonde’s body. Sudden worry had left the general feeling tense as well, but Cloud seemed to be doing better now that he was horizontal. “I don’t think you should worry about it.”

Cloud swallowed and forced himself to nod. He was worried he’d make it worse if he said anything else. Then, he felt Angeal’s hand brushing soothingly against his side.

“Do you need me to rub your stomach?” Angeal asked. He glanced toward the kitchen to make sure Zack wasn’t racing back, but there was no sign of him yet.

“No… But could you keep doing that?” Cloud asked. Angeal smiled and continued gently caressing the blonde’s side. There was something very endearing about the way the blonde had asked. He was still clearly nervous.

Angeal knew physical touch often helped Genesis and Sephiroth through their pains. It had never worked well for Angeal or Zack, but Cloud was clearly seemed to need touch. Angeal could feel that Cloud’s body had begun to relax. Very slowly, Cloud lowered the arm covering his eyes and forced himself to actually look up at Angeal. He still looked embarrassed, but he looked much less nervous.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to rub your stomach? You wouldn’t be the first to ask,” Angeal offered again. Cloud swallowed, glancing downward.

“Would it help? It feels like everything is on fire down there,” Cloud admitted. Angeal’s hand moved to the area almost immediately. He carefully lifted the hem of Cloud’s shirt. He used just his fingertips to gently massage the area.

Cloud released a long sigh, then turned his head and nuzzled his way into Angeal’s stomach. He breathed in deeply, and almost immediately the tension left his body. “You have a nice scent,” Cloud murmured. His words were muffled against Angeal’s stomach, but the general heard them.

He glanced up and could see where Zack was leaning against the wall nearby. He was grinning widely in approval, and Angeal was suddenly far less worried about how Cloud might change their lives.

-----------------------------------------------------

The rest of the evening went very well. Eventually they did eat. Cloud’s oatmeal was a bit overcooked, but it still tasted great and Cloud had been able to keep it down.

By the time the three of them sat down for their movie, the last of the awkwardness seemed to have dissipated. Angeal and Cloud reassumed their earlier position. Cloud still found lying on his back soothed his aching body. Zack found a place in a nearby armchair, and they all sat comfortably while the movie played.

Angeal still occasionally caressed Cloud’s sides and stomach. His other hand finally grew brave enough to slide through Cloud’s hair. Oddly, Cloud felt completely relaxed about the whole thing.

Zack continued to watch them, and his presence made Cloud feel very safe. Cloud usually didn’t care to be touched. Ever. He didn’t like people, but Angeal had quiet, gentle hands. The roughness of the warrior’s skin didn’t bother Cloud at all.

Soon, Cloud was almost asleep. He wasn’t paying any attention to the movie. He may have even fallen asleep if someone hadn’t started knocking loudly at the door.

Angeal frowned. Zack was already standing up to get the door, but Angeal carefully removed Cloud from his lap and got to his feet. He knew who was at the door, and he knew Genesis was going to be in a foul temper.

Cloud groaned and slowly sat up. Being conscious seemed like such a hassle at that moment. He would have much rather been asleep.

Zack was already opening the door. The young First grinned. “Genesis!”

The red general scowled. “Zack.” Genesis’s voice was clipped and cold, and Zack’s face fell. It had taken a long time for the red general to begin warming up to the energetic, young SOLDIER. Anytime Genesis fell back into cold distance left Zack feeling dejected.

Genesis slipped passed Zack and into the apartment. “Angeal… It can’t wait.” Genesis was dangerously close to snapping into his rut. The period of time was physically painful without a partner, and that was especially true for Genesis.

Genesis, despite outright refusing to socialize outside of his very small group of friends, was a very physically affectionate being. He required touch, and he was desperate for it when rutting.

“Just a minute, Gen. You should at least introduce yourself,” Angeal reasoned. Cloud blinked a few times, trying to force himself to wake enough to greet the newcomer properly.

“This is a joke, Angeal. I wasn’t even invited here tonight! Look at him. He’s just a pretty face. I doubt he’d have made it into SOLDIER if you hadn’t asked them to put him through the examination,” Genesis answered darkly. “Let’s go. Zack can play here all night long. We can use my place.”

Angeal’s eyes narrowed and his jaw set. “That was too much, Genesis.” He didn’t have to tell Genesis that his physical condition didn’t make up for what he’d just said.

Genesis looked briefly surprised. He felt guilty for about a half-second before it was replaced by fresh outrage. “Angeal, you belong to me!”

Angeal’s chest rumbled with a deep growl. Zack shuddered. Angeal didn’t assert his dominance very often, but Zack never thought of doing anything but submitting when he did. Genesis sneered. He took a step forward, clearly unhappy with Angeal’s challenge.

“You asked them to let me take the exam?” Cloud’s voice was soft, but it caught everyone’s attention. He didn’t look confused. He somehow looked stoic and pissed all at once. “Did you tell them to pass me?”

Genesis’s eyes focused on the blonde. He seemed glad to have a new target. Any fight between himself and Angeal was a vicious one. “I doubt he had to. If he took an interest, they pushed you through.”

“That’s enough, Genesis!” Angeal snapped.

“This has all been enough.” Cloud’s voice was dangerously cold. He didn’t have to raise his voice. He had a unique talent for putting his anger into his tone. Zack shifted nervously near the door. Cloud got to his feet and stalked toward the doorway with predatory grace.

Angeal reached out to gently touch the Cloud’s s arm when he walked passed, but the blonde jerked it away. Genesis released a low growl of his own, and Cloud lifted his head and met the red general’s gaze. The tension was almost palpable. Cloud’s eyes narrowed a fraction, but he never broke eye contact. Angeal didn’t know what to do for a moment. He thought he might have to restrain Genesis, but then the red general looked away. Cloud walked passed silently.

Zack swallowed nervously. It was unlike Genesis to submit even in small ways. Zack didn’t know what to think of it. Zack reached for Cloud as well, but Cloud pushed passed him. Zack watched after Cloud as he began walking down the hall, then turned back toward the two generals. “You two work it out. I’m going to make sure Cloud’s alright.”

Zack shut the door quickly behind him and jogged after Cloud. He wasn’t sure what he could say to calm the new SOLDIER down, but he knew leaving Cloud alone wasn’t a good option.

Angeal sighed, brushing his fingers through his hair. “Get out, Genesis.”

“Ang…” Genesis began. His voice was still hard, but it didn’t sound as angry as before. The general clearly had an erection now. The subtle shift in scent told Angeal that his rut had begun.

“I’m too angry to help you with this, Genesis,” Angeal growled. Genesis looked stricken. It was hard for Angeal to submit under regular circumstances. His instincts wouldn’t allow it without a physical fight now. Angeal was irritated with Genesis pretty often, but he had never refused to help Genesis when he needed it.

“I don’t want you anyway. You’re so caught up in Zack, you don’t even know what to do with yourself,” Genesis turned around. His entire body was tense, and his hands shook with barely concealed rage.

“You were awful to him, Genesis. You might not care much for people, but Cloud is kind and hardworking. It was cruel of you to make him feel unworthy,” Angeal whispered sternly. “They gave him additional mako shots today, Gen.”

Genesis paused. His back was already to Angeal. His hand already rested on the door. He knew how unusual it was for a new SOLDIER to receive large doses of mako. He was surprised the kid had managed to walk there.

“Sephiroth has been called back from Wutai suddenly,” Genesis remarked absently. “You may be asked to go back.”

“Sephiroth was expected to be there for months… Why would they call him back now?” Angeal questioned. That was fresh news to him, but Genesis always seemed to get his intelligence first.

“Ask someone else,” Genesis bit back. He left in a hurry, slamming the door shut behind him, and leaving Angeal alone with his thoughts.

Chapter Text

Cloud stared at the infantryman standing in his doorway. Wordlessly, he received the package the soldier held out to him. He man left in a hurry, and Cloud quietly shut the door. He wasn’t one for idle talk with strangers.

Cloud had been expecting his first orders to arrive soon. SOLDIERs were readily sent on missions. Usually the missions were sporadic. However, newly joined SOLDIERS always received their first missions all at once. They were sent on small, group assignments – practice runs for the more serious missions they would receive later.

Zack watched Cloud from the bed. The blonde had refused to return to Zack’s apartment the night before, but Cloud hadn’t prevented Zack from spending the night in Cloud’s little (surprisingly uncomfortable) room. He had refused to talk about what happened with Angeal and Genesis.

Zack had a lot to say. He was just waiting for Cloud to be receptive to it.

“New demands, Spike?” Zack sounded a bit nervous, and Cloud didn’t answer him. The blonde just sat down on the small couch he had pressed against one wall and began to read the documents he’d pulled out of the oversized envelope.

Zack waited quietly for Cloud to answer. It was always like this when Cloud was mad. He couldn’t be coaxed out of it either. Zack hated being patient, but he didn’t want to risk making Cloud any moodier.

“They’re orders…” Cloud finally answered. His eyes were narrowed in concentration as he stared at the sheet. “It’s… A guide mission. They want to send me to the Nibel Mountains as a guide… For General Sephiroth?”

Cloud swallowed visibly. Even he knew that was unusual. Sephiroth didn’t travel with fresh Thirds. New SOLDIERS simply didn’t go on two-man missions. They always traveled in groups. New SOLDIERS needed time to get accustomed to travel and fighting in their newly enhanced bodies. Cloud leaned further back into the couch cushions and crossed his legs as he continued looking over the document.

“That’s… That is pretty strange, Cloud. I mean… It’s a nice mission. Sephiroth is a good guy. He’ll make sure you don’t freeze to death, and maybe you can stop in Nibelheim and see your mom too, right?” Zack reasoned. He slid out of bed and slowly approached the couch. When Cloud didn’t do anything to oppose it, Zack squished his large body in next to the blonde on the couch.

Cloud glanced up at Zack. He bit his lip. “They’re testing me, aren’t they?”

“I don’t know what they’re doing, Cloudy. Everything they’ve been doing with you has been a bit odd. Do you have any idea why that might be?” Zack reached out and slid his fingers through Cloud’s hair. It didn’t seem to be doing as much to sooth Cloud’s worries as Zack had hoped, but at least he was allowing the touch.

“Before they let me into SOLDIER… They told me that my samples were reacting strangely to the mako. They made me agree to additional testing. I thought… I might not be absorbing it quickly enough? They asked me about Nibelheim and how close it was to the reactor,” Cloud explained. He nervously glanced up at Zack. He knew he should have mentioned this before, but he’d been so excited about his new position that he didn’t want to believe there was anything wrong. Now too many things were wrong, and Cloud wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“Absorbing issues would make sense, I guess. I was really worried about them giving you extra mako,” Zack admitted. He was especially worried when he found out that Hojo himself was examining Cloud. He hoped that the scientist hadn’t actually taken a personal interest. Hojo was a dangerous man. He made even Sephiroth nervous.

“Let’s just keep an eye on things and be careful, okay?”

“Yeah,” Cloud answered. Slowly, he leaned against Zack’s side. He nuzzled Zack’s shoulder and closed his eyes. “Angeal… Is he really the reason I got into SOLDER?” Cloud’s fingers curled into fists. He couldn’t stand the idea. He had worked so damn hard. He wanted to believe he was there because of that hard work.

Zack relaxed. Cloud was finally ready to talk. “Angeal says he didn’t. He says he only asked them to let you take the exam. They were thinking about disallowing it because of your quiet personality,” Zack explained.

“Because I’m… Quiet?” Cloud questioned. He looked mournful for a moment. “I shouldn’t even have been in those exams.”

“No, Spike!” Zack leaned over Cloud and wrapped his arms tightly around his friend. “Angeal says your scores were great. Before and after. He said you deserved the shot. I know he wouldn’t have said anything otherwise. I mean… You don’t know Ang very well, but his honor means everything to him.”

Cloud nodded briefly. Zack could tell that it didn’t mean he agreed. It meant he had heard the words and was thinking about them. Zack began lazily caressing Cloud’s side. The blonde shuddered, clearly reminded of the night before. He had been enjoying Angeal’s touch so much, and now he felt dirty about everything that had happened the night before.

Zack frowned. “Listen, Spike… I really owe you an apology.” Zack’s voice held a note of nervousness that Cloud wasn’t accustomed to. Usually, they didn’t have any reason to be nervous with one another, but Cloud wasn’t usually in a mood so bad that Zack couldn’t pull him out of it with a bit of playful banter either.

“Why?” Cloud questioned simply. Cloud focused on Zack’s face. He looked for any sign of what the man might be feeling. He saw traces of guilt, but Cloud had no idea why Zack was feeling guilty. “Did you ask Angeal to speak up for me?”

“No, Spike. This isn’t about Angeal,” Zack promised. Cloud watched him closely, and Zack sighed loudly and forced himself to continue. “I wasn’t… When Genesis said what he did… I should have said something. He shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.” Zack glanced to the side. He was ashamed. Zack had always thought of himself as the hero, and, if he was going to protect anyone, he wanted to protect Cloud.

“Zack… I really didn’t expect you to. You don’t have to feel guilty about that,” Cloud promised. He leaned more heavily against Zack’s side in an attempt to express that he truly wasn’t angry with his only friend.

“I should feel guilty, Spike! I should have defended you,” Zack explained. “Angeal is terrible at arguing with Genesis. They don’t fight often, but, when they do, they’re just awful.”

“I can defend myself,” Cloud answered. His voice had just a bit of edge on it. He was still testy about the subject. Cloud was always determined to prove his own worthiness.

“I know you can, Spike, but you shouldn’t have to do it alone. We’re partners,” Zack insisted. He slid his fingers gently through Cloud’s spikes. The beauty was staring at the floor, seemingly deep in thought.

“You okay, Spike?” Zack asked. Bright eyes watched Cloud’s changing expressions with fascination. The boy was definitely an enigma. Cloud’s eyes were very expressive, but Zack couldn’t always work out what they were expressing.

“I’ve never had a partner before. I guess I’m not used to leaning on anyone,” Cloud explained. His hand sought out Zack’s. He laced their fingers, but kept his eyes focused on the floor.

“I think… When I realized Angeal had helped get me into SOLDIER…” He trailed off. Cloud was clearly trying to collect his thoughts, but Zack knew exactly what he was trying to convey.

“Leaning on a stranger was unacceptable, and believing your own efforts had been worthless was even worse?” Zack guessed. Cloud nodded. That was exactly what he had been feeling.

“You handled Genesis well, you know. I could never have done that,” Zack mused. He leaned back against the couch cushions and pulled Cloud back with him. The beauty shifted and rested his head on Zack’s shoulder.

“What do you mean?” Cloud asked. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax. He could hear Zack’s heart beat and feel the rise and fall of his chest. It made his earlier anger feel silly. It was hard to be angry when someone was making you feel so deeply content.

“Well, Angeal and Genesis have always been close. They were friends in their childhood before ever coming to Shinra. Genesis means everything to Angeal, but I know they argue about me. Genesis gets angry sometimes, but I always stay out of it. I don’t want to hurt things for Ang. He’d be miserable if Genesis wasn’t around, you know?” Zack’s explanation was simple, but he felt much better after saying the words out load. He’d never had the chance to voice it. Cloud listened closely to every word. They waited in silence a moment before Cloud spoke up.

“Maybe Genesis wanted you to get into it?” Cloud suggested. “You make it sound like you’re all so separate, but I don’t think that’s true. I think you’re cautious around each other, because you’re afraid to lose what you have.”

He paused for a moment, and, when Zack didn’t speak, Cloud continued. “It’s stupid. You and Genesis could understand each other more if you talked about it. Talking might mean arguing, but that should be fine. Angeal loves you, and he loves Genesis. No one is going to lose anything.”

Zack chuckled. His fingers slid through Cloud’s spikes again. “You don’t sugar-coat anything. Do you, Spike?”

Cloud glanced up at him and cocked a lovely eyebrow. He’d spoken way more than he was accustomed to. Zack shook his head in amusement. His little lover was ready to sit quietly and do nothing for a while, but Zack still had one pressing question.

“When do you leave?” Zack questioned.

“Four days from now,” Cloud answered evenly, but Zack could feel the way Cloud tensed. Cloud was nervous about this first mission, and it was hard not to empathize. Zack wished that he were joining Cloud and Sephiroth on their mission. Being away from Cloud now was going to be especially difficult.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Sephiroth leafed through the documents that had been waiting for him just outside his apartment. He had arrived in the middle of the night and went immediately back to his apartment. Before his helicopter had even touched down at Shinra headquarters, new orders had been ready for him.

In a few days time, he was to leave for Nibelheim. His orders were to simply check the reactor and investigate reports of unusually aggressive Nibel Dragons in the area. They had provided him a guide. A young SOLDIER who was native to the region.

Sephiroth groaned and slid his fingers through his long, silver hair. His orders didn’t make sense. He was doing important work in Wutai. This mission was menial and unimportant. There must be more to the situation than they were providing.

Sephiroth wasn’t surprised to hear the knock at his door. He knew Angeal, at least, was home. They did not spend too much time apart if they could avoid it. Sephiroth was exhausted, but he would appreciate a presence beside him tonight. He slept better in close proximity to one of the other generals.

Sephiroth rose and went to answer the door. Angeal opened it quietly before Sephiroth reached it. “Sephiroth…” Angeal greeted. His voice was full of affection. Sephiroth opened his arms, inviting the embrace he knew Angeal wanted.

Angeal pulled Sephiroth into a tight embrace, and Sephiroth gladly returned the hug.

“We have a lot to discuss. Do you know anything at all about your orders?” Angeal questioned. Sephiroth pulled away and shook his head.

“I don’t know much. They’re sending me to the Nibel Mountains,” Sephiroth explained. “I’ll let you read the order,” Sephiroth offered. He turned and stalked tiredly back toward his office. Angeal was a half-step behind him.

In complete silence, Angeal read through Sephiroth’s orders. Sephiroth sat in his favorite leather armchair and waited for Angeal to finish his reading.

After some time, Angeal looked up, fretting. “Do you know anything else?”

“Nothing,” Sephiroth answered. He crossed his long legs and reached for the report. Angeal handed it back and leaned on Sephiroth’s desk.

“The guide they’ve assigned you. He’s Zack’s lover. He only had his first mako shots a couple weeks ago. They already gave him a second dose. Zack says Hojo has been overseeing it personally.”

Sephiroth frowned, looking at the documents again. There were no pictures of SOLDIER Strife among them. “Have you met him? Is he suspicious?”

“I’ve met him, but he seems safe. I think he’s the genuine kind,” Angeal explained. His tone sounded just a bit dejected. He still felt guilty about how their meeting had ended.

Sephiroth noted Angeal’s expression. If Cloud had hurt his friends in any way, Sephiroth was certainly going to find out how. Angeal was too soft on the young SOLDIERS, and Sephiroth had every reason to be suspicious.

“It wouldn’t be so suspect, if they hadn’t called me away from Wutai climb a mountain with him. It is the dead of winter in Nibelheim. It’s far too simple for them to set up something there. The winter dulls the senses,” Sephiroth reasoned.

“I doubt you have anything to fear from Cloud. Sephiroth… I want you to keep an eye on him for me. He’s new to his strength. He’s young, and he seems a little too eager to prove himself.” Angeal’s request didn’t surprise Sephiroth. Angeal was kind hearted, and Zack was very precious to him.

Sephiroth truly liked Zack. The man was friendly and outspoken. He spoke to Sephiroth like a friend instead of a general. Sephiroth liked that. Too many people watched him in stunned awe. Zack treated him like any other man. Sephiroth hadn’t spent much time with Zack, but he understood why Angeal was attached.

“I’ll try to keep Zack’s Cloud out of trouble,” Sephiroth promised. As long as Cloud wasn’t Hojo’s newest agent, Sephiroth would keep that promise.

“There’s something else, Sephiroth,” Angeal offered quietly. Sephiroth looked up at his friend. He could hear the reluctance in Angeal’s voice.

“What’s happened?” Sephiroth asked.

“Genesis and I had a disagreement. He entered his rut. He needs someone right now,” Angeal explained. Angeal’s gaze was focused on Sephiroth, and the silver general could see some of the concern in Angeal’s expression.

“Was it about Zack again?” Sephiroth asked, not unkindly. He watched his friend with soft eyes. Genesis was a passionate man, and he was very quick to anger. The red general was always concerned for Angeal. Sephiroth wasn’t sure why, but Genesis was convinced that Zack would hurt Angeal one day.

“Zack and Cloud. I met Cloud the other night. Genesis arrived in the middle of it. He was angry, and he took it too far,” Angeal explained. He knew he should have explained it more thoroughly, but he wasn’t immediately sure how to explain what had happened.

“And you were furious and could do nothing to help Genesis even if you had wanted to,” Sephiroth finished. Angeal seemed relieved when Sephiroth wrapped it up for him. Angeal nodded and looked toward the window for a moment. The city lights were beautiful this far above the smog.

“I know you’re exhausted, but Genesis needs you. He was alone for too long to begin with. He must be in pain by now,” Angeal explained. He knew that Sephiroth must have gathered that much, but he felt the need to say so anyway.

Sephiroth nodded and sighed. “I’ll go care for him. Do not worry… And Zack wont blame you.”

“I hope you’re right. I want to make it up to Cloud somehow. He looked very betrayed,” Angeal muttered. He crossed his arms as he spoke. Sephiroth noted the use of the word “betrayed.” He would ask more about what had actually transpired when he met with Genesis.

Logically, Angeal knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, but it felt wrong. When he had seen the look on Cloud’s face, Angeal hadn’t known what to say. Moments before, Angeal had felt Cloud’s acceptance. When Cloud had heard Genesis speak, Angeal felt that acceptance sour into pain. Angeal wanted those first moments of friendship back.

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Sephiroth didn’t knock. He opened Genesis’s door and invited himself inside. He could already smell Genesis. Genesis was definitely in rut; that much was clear. Sephiroth removed his clothing as he walked through the apartment. He undid every buckle. Genesis would have no patience for them now.

Sephiroth wore only his pants when he stood outside of the bedroom. “Genesis,” Sephiroth crooned. He opened the door.

Genesis was inside, completely naked. He lay back on the bed, shuddering miserably. He tried not to move even though his body desperately wanted some kind of friction. Even the expensive sheets were too much for him. Genesis wanted skin, and nothing else was a viable substitute.

Genesis felt painfully hot. He was a sweaty mess and could do nothing about it. His muscles hurt, and his erection was painful and sensitive. He turned his head and groaned in relief when he saw the silver general.

“Sephiroth,” Genesis growled. He found the strength to move then. He rolled onto his hands and knees and crawled forward. Sephiroth stood next to the bed. He unbuttoned his pants and stepped out of them, leaving his body blissfully naked to Genesis’s hungry eyes.

“You need me.”

“Yes,” Genesis answered without hesitation. He sat up on his knees and pressed a few kisses to Sephiroth’s neck and shoulder. They grew steadily more aggressive until Genesis bit gently into Sephiroth’s shoulder.

Sephiroth growled a warning. “You know I wont allow that yet, Genesis.”

Genesis released a low growl of frustration. Sephiroth was the most dominant of all of them. The silver general found it difficult to submit to anyone. He wanted to for Genesis, but Sephiroth would have to assert his dominance first.

“Don’t fight me on this, Genesis,” Sephiroth warned. Sephiroth lifted a hand, curling his fingers gently around Genesis’s throat. The touch seemed to calm Genesis. His growling ceased. His lips parted, and Sephiroth leaned in to reward him with a deep kiss. Genesis released a low groan of relief. He had been desperate for any kind of touch.

Sephiroth pressed Genesis back against the sheets. Genesis’s calm was gone immediately. He growled low in his throat. The red general attempted to sit back up, but Sephiroth held him down.

“Quiet, Genesis… Hush,” Sephiroth ordered. Genesis released a soft whimper and closed his eyes. This would have been so much easier with Angeal. Angeal had no problem submitting when his lovers needed him. Genesis tried to relax. Every instinct told him to push Sephiroth over and take him, but he knew that wouldn’t happen. Sephiroth would never allow it.

“Sephiroth… If I have to take it, then you’ve got to distract me,” Genesis begged. He reached up and slid his fingers slowly through the Sephiroth’s silken hair. Submitting was unbearably hard during a rut. It would have been impossible for Genesis with any other partner.

“I’m sorry, Gen…” Sephiroth whispered. He knew his dominance was sometimes too much for Genesis. He would try to finish quickly.

Genesis nodded. It was the best he could do to accept the apology in his current state. Sephiroth leaned in and kissed Genesis again. The red general moaned. He gripped Sephiroth tightly. Somehow, Sephiroth managed to reach into Genesis’s bedside table and find the lube without pulling away from the red general.

Genesis was incredibly tense during the preparation. His chest rumbled in a lower growl. Sephiroth didn’t growl back as he wanted to. Genesis buried his face in Sephiroth’s neck to keep himself calm, and soon the prep work was over.

Sephiroth guided himself inside with great care. Genesis arched just a bit. He gasped. The heat was intense. Every inch of him felt incredibly sensitive. “Hurry, Seph,” Genesis ordered. He was panting, body tense with strain. His instincts were rebelling, and he desperately needed to be distracted again.

Sephiroth pressed a kiss to Genesis’s forehead, and Genesis relaxed marginally. Genesis adored being kissed there. There was something romantic about a kiss that wasn’t too sexual. A kiss on the forehead always felt like a promise of protection. He preferred romantic gestures when he wasn’t in rut, but they worked to calm him even when his instincts were haywire.

Sephiroth drew his hips back and thrust forward. He leaned further over Genesis’s body, and his silver hair fell around the red general like a silken curtain. Genesis relaxed more completely, and Sephiroth began a steady pace. It took only a few moments for Genesis to grow calm. His growling ceased. Sephiroth was grateful. His own body relaxed.

Genesis nipped briefly at Sephiroth’s jaw. The general offered a rare smile, then moved to Genesis’s neck. The red general whimpered in anticipation. His body knew what was coming.

Sephiroth bit deep into Genesis’s shoulder. Unlike the rest of their group, Sephiroth had fangs and often drew blood. He did this time. Sephiroth groaned in pleasure. His orgasm usually came with the bite, and this time was no exception.

Genesis moaned weakly as Sephiroth’s knot expanded, holding their bodies together. Genesis’s own erection was still an angry red and dripping, but Genesis was determined not to cum until he was buried inside Sephiroth.

Sephiroth licked the small pinpricks he’d left in Genesis’s skin, then moved to nuzzle Genesis’s neck. He placed a warm, open-mouthed kiss there. Genesis tilted his head back and allowed Sephiroth to continue to pay attention to his throat. He knew he’d have what he needed very soon. Now that Genesis was marked and was covered in Sephiroth’s scent, the general would be able to tolerate being penetrated.

The promise of relief made Genesis far more compliant. His fingers slid lazily through Sephiroth’s hair. He even placed a few kisses of his own to Sephiroth’s throat. Soon enough, the knot receded, and Sephiroth obediently allowed Genesis to flip them over.

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Hours later, Genesis rested with his face buried in Sephiroth’s neck. They were both exhausted, but Genesis was determined to enjoy the lull in his rut. The lust would overtake him again very soon, and he wanted to ask Sephiroth about his time in Wutai and his unexpected return before it did.

“I’m leaving in four days,” Sephiroth stated before Genesis could determine what question he wanted to ask.

“Where are you going?” Genesis questioned. He breathed in deeply, enjoying Sephiroth’s unique scent.

“The Nibel Mountains. They’re sending me with Zack’s new friend. Angeal says you don’t like him much,” Sephiroth prompted. He was curious to hear what Genesis had to say about the new SOLDIER. Now that he knew Hojo was getting involved, investigating Strife had become a priority.

Genesis stiffened against Sephiroth’s side. “I was… I don’t actually know enough about the kid to have an opinion,” Genesis admitted. He was staring at Sephiroth’s chest, determined not to look the silver general in the eye.

“Angeal suggested otherwise.”

Genesis rested quietly for a moment. He’d already reflected on what he’d said quite a bit. He felt very conflicted about the little blonde. “Angeal was right. I was awful to him.”

“Is that so?” Sephiroth questioned. He knew that if he said anything, Genesis was sure to elaborate. Genesis was generally a well-thought individual. He was prone to reflection, but he didn’t always share if he wasn’t encouraged to do so.

“I have no idea if what I said was true. I shouldn’t have said it,” Genesis admitted. Genesis didn’t mind if he appeared rude as long as whatever he said was the truth. He had never been one to blindly say something just to hurt someone. It wasn’t surprising when his temper was explosive, but it was surprising when his anger was completely unwarranted.

“Why did you say it?” Sephiroth wondered. “Did he do something?” Sephiroth’s fingers tenderly traced the length of Genesis’s spine.

“It wasn’t Cloud I was angry at. Angeal looked so damn nervous,” Genesis paused a moment. He shifted closer to Sephiroth. “Angeal has been worried about Zack for weeks, but Zack’s only worry has been for Cloud. I guess when I saw how nervous Angeal was and how comfortable that blonde kid looked on his couch, I just got really mad. Zack just stood there too, watching Cloud,” Genesis sighed. His eyes were narrowed with guilt and irritation.

“I don’t think Zack loves Angeal enough, Sephiroth. It’s making me crazy,” Genesis finished. He had thought that for a long time, but it was a hard thing to put into words. Genesis didn’t mind sharing Angeal. Sharing him with Sephiroth had always been easy, but it was hard to share with Zack. Genesis couldn’t help but feel that the young man didn’t appreciate what Angeal offered him.

Sephiroth didn’t say anything. Genesis sighed. “I think I owe Cloud an apology.”

“I think you should talk to Angeal,” Sephiroth said firmly. Genesis’s eyes narrowed. Sephiroth was nothing if not direct. They sat in silence for a moment. Genesis wasn’t ready to agree to talk to Angeal just yet.

“It might be wise to apologize to the boy too… If he did nothing wrong,” Sephiroth mused. He was still suspicious about Cloud. He wasn’t completely convinced that the new SOLDIER was innocent, but he could see that Genesis was bothered by what he’d said.

“You should have seen him, Sephiroth. He didn’t flinch when I stared. He didn’t look away. The boy’s a bit intense,” Genesis began to explain. Sephiroth was surprised by that. Genesis never said that anyone was “intense.” As compared to Genesis, there weren’t many things that matched in intensity.

“He didn’t even raise his voice… I’m not sure his expression ever changed, but I felt awful,” Genesis continued. Actually, he’d felt well and thoroughly chastised. He couldn’t get that cold expression out of his head.

“Did you notice anything else about him?”

“He is alluring,” Genesis began. “His eyes are icy blue. He’s pale. His hair is blonde. Sharp features…” Genesis trailed off as he thought about it. “He looked fierce, but I know I hurt him.” Genesis’s voice was quiet and distracted. Sephiroth could hear the distress in it.

“He’ll be leaving with me in a few days. See me off. You can meet with him then. You’ll feel better if you say something to him,” Sephiroth suggested.

Genesis groaned. He abhorred apologizing, especially to people he wasn’t sure he wanted around, but Sephiroth was right. Angeal probably wouldn’t forgive him if he left things as they were with the little blonde anyway, and Genesis couldn’t live with that.

Chapter Text

Cloud stood quietly to the side while the aircraft meant to take him to the Nibel Mountains was loaded with supplies. He had no idea what to do with himself. This was his first mission after all. The men hadn’t wanted him to help load the craft, and so he was stuck waiting awkwardly to the side until they allowed him to board.

Cloud was horribly nervous. His first mission was one thing, but he had never imagined spending time alone with General Sephiroth. It was no secret that the silver-haired general had been the one to inspire Cloud to leave his hometown. Cloud had needed something to believe in then, and Sephiroth had been a hero he could look up to.

Cloud had never fit into Nibelheim. His mother had been his only real friend. The other children all found him unsettling, and the adults turned up their noses. Cloud was the bastard son of an unmarried woman, and that wasn’t something they could reward with even the barest bit of attention. It had been difficult for a young boy to understand why he didn’t seem to have a place.

Cloud wasn’t eager to return to his hometown, but he did know the mountains very well. His mother would be happy to see him, and Cloud had his first paycheck as a SOLDIER. Money was a rare thing in Nibelheim. The jobs there were few. Cloud’s mother grew her own food, prepared her own preserves, and earned a small sum every year for her baked goods and sewing.

Cloud’s one paycheck could make a substantial difference in her year, and Cloud was eager to pass it off to her. She hadn’t been the best mother in the world, but she had raised him, and she was the only family Cloud had remaining in the world.

Cloud was still contemplating how things might have changed in his hometown when Sephiroth entered the room. The man was tall and undeniably impressive. His movements were perfectly measured. He looked like the physical embodiment of power, and Cloud felt his mouth go dry.

He might have stood there awe-struck a lot longer if Genesis hadn’t walked in behind him. Cloud’s expression darkened. Genesis was impossible to ignore. He was even flashier than Sephiroth. His custom coat billowed behind him. Not a hair was out of place. He even smelled incredible.

Cloud might have extended the same hero-worship to Genesis different circumstances. As things were, he had no desire to be in the same room with the man, which was unfortunate, because Genesis began walking immediately toward him.

Cloud tried to stand a bit taller as Genesis approached. He felt stiff and irritated already. Genesis came to a stop just in front of Cloud. Genesis straightened, and Cloud found himself desperately wishing he were a foot taller. Everyone in Soldier seemed to be so much taller than him.

“Would you mind coming with me a moment? I need to have a word with you.” Genesis’s word choice suggested a question, but Cloud heard a command. He stiffened a bit further but nodded.

Genesis turned and led Cloud away from the busy cargo area. They found a more private space behind several large, metal shipping containers. Cloud stood quietly, waiting to hear what Genesis wanted.

“Listen… About the other night. I spoke out of turn. What I said might be true, but I don’t know that it is. I should have waited to get to know you before I insulted you,” Genesis stated simply.

The general’s feet were wide sent and he stance was dominant, but his arms were also crossed. Cloud could see that he was uncomfortable. The blonde was surprised. He had expected Genesis to warn him away from Angeal or even threaten him. Genesis wasn’t being particularly kind, but Cloud was glad he wasn’t hostile.

“That wasn’t an apology,” Cloud noted.

“It’s the best you’re going to get, Third,” Genesis stated simply. He seemed a lot more in control of himself than he had before. Cloud’s eyes narrowed. He hadn’t liked Genesis’s tone, but he’d realized something – something potentially important.

“You just recognized me as a Third,” Cloud muttered. He watched Genesis very carefully. He wanted to make sure that meant what he thought it meant. It could just as easily have been a general’s habit of addressing men as their station.

“Don’t get used to it. If I decide you didn’t earn it, you’ll never hear that from me again,” Genesis scoffed. He turned to leave, but Cloud found himself feeling… Much better. That had been an apology. Genesis was pretending it wasn’t, but Cloud definitely felt the apology in it.

He began to follow the red general. He quickened his pace until they were walking side by side. “I forgive you,” Cloud stated simply. Genesis halted in his steps, and Cloud stopped beside him. Genesis glanced at the blonde. Genesis still loved to be caught. He found himself charmed by Cloud’s quick response.

“You forgive me?” Genesis questioned. His tone sounded bored, but Cloud could see that had Genesis’s full attention.

“Yes.” Cloud answered. His tone was a bit clipped. He wanted to make it clear that he didn’t care much for these games. Surprisingly, Genesis seemed to get the message.

Genesis turned his full body to face Cloud. He couldn’t understand why the little blonde wasn’t more intimidated by him. Genesis couldn’t decide if the boy was bold or stupid, but he was quickly discovering that he wanted to find out.

He took a moment to examine the beauty’s face. Clould’s eyes were intensely focused on him again. He looked determined, and Genesis found his body language relaxing in response. There was something very disarming about Cloud’s apparent sincerity.

“When you come back from this mission. I think you should come see me. I think you should see Angeal too. He was furious about the way I spoke to you, and… I want to make it up to him,” Genesis explained simply.

Cloud cocked an eyebrow. That didn’t suggest that Genesis wanted to be his friend. Not really, but Cloud appreciated people who said exactly what they meant. Genesis was willing to try to make his lover happy. Cloud could appreciate the sentiment.

“He’s going to forgive you. If he needs to see us together to do it, that’s fine,” Cloud agreed. Genesis was pleasantly surprised by Cloud’s blunt answer and nodded gratefully.

“Safe travels, Cloud,” Genesis answered in parting. Cloud nodded and headed back toward the cargo bay. Surely they would let him board the machine now. He definitely felt better now that he’d cleared the air with Genesis.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The trip to Nibelheim was quiet. Cloud didn’t see Sephiroth during the voyage at all. He probably had a private space on the craft. He was the most elite SOLDIER in Shinra after all.

Cloud spent the entire ride nervously fidgeting on his own. He thought he might be getting motion sickness. His stomach was cramping, and he couldn’t seem to get comfortable. He didn’t speak to anyone on the ride over, and he found that he desperately missed Zack.

Cloud hadn’t realized how accustomed he’d grown to having his friend nearby. He was actually happy when they finally landed just outside of Nibelheim. Cloud collected his Shinra-issued survival pack and made his way out of the craft. He stood quietly to the side. He had no idea what to do with himself again, so he waited patiently to catch sight of Sephiroth.

Eventually, the silver general did exit the craft. He was just as impressive as before. Cloud swallowed nervously. His fingers twitched. He’d been looking forward to meeting the man for a very long time, but, now that it was happening, he had no idea what to say or do. It was too damn shocking to see the general walking toward him now.

“General Sephiroth,” Cloud greeted. Sephiroth nodded simply. He looked around them for a moment. The cargo the team was unloading wasn’t for them. It was for the staff maintaining the reactor. They were free to leave as soon as Sephiroth was ready.

Cloud waited quietly for a moment, but Sephiroth didn’t say anything. The general was staring at him now. Silver eyes looked him over closely. Cloud shifted nervously on his feet. Sephiroth’s gaze felt predatory, and the potency of that stare was making Cloud extremely uneasy.

“Sir. Would it be possible to visit my family before we make it up the mountain?” Cloud asked. He was terribly nervous, but he was trying hard not to seem so. Sephiroth was expressionless, but Cloud was sure the man could see right through him.

“Perhaps on our way back,” Sephiroth answered. He turned and walked toward the mountain. Cloud hurried to follow him. The blond scowled. Sephiroth couldn’t possibly expect them to just march up the mountain in the dead of winter, could he?

“General, we need to stop for a few more supplies. We’ll freeze if we go with just this,” Cloud explained.

“What we have will be sufficient. You’re a SOLDIER now. The mako will keep you warm.”

“Sir, the Nibel Mountains are dangerous this time of year. The storms and temperature drops are extremely sudden. We shouldn’t go without heavier gear. We’ll need something to protect the fire. We should have a roll of winter twine, or we might not find out way back,” Cloud argued.

Sometimes the flurries grew so intense that the only way to find your way back to where you were was to tie a piece of winter twine near to you and follow it back once the weather cleared (as one always had to find some form of shelter immediately). More than one hunter had followed the string in circles after getting lost in the winter storms. Many more than that had died wandering lost in the snow.

“We wont need it,” Sephiroth admonished. Cloud scowled, but followed the man anyway. He didn’t have much of a choice, but his every instinct told him it was stupid. Even the great general himself could freeze to death if he refused to be prepared.

Cloud only grew more irritated the further up the mountain they went. Cloud suggested several different paths as they made their way up the mountain, but Sephiroth stubbornly ignored his advice. He disturbed far more beasts than they needed to as a result. Sephiroth always cut them down in a hurry, but Cloud was more irritated with every monster that fell.

Cloud had no idea why he’d been asked to go on this trip if the silver general wasn’t in the habit of listening to his guides. The cramping in Cloud’s stomach was getting worse. His head hurt, and the temperatures were only getting lower.

Soon, they had made it well into the wilderness. Darkness was approaching. Cloud requested that they move more slowly so that he could keep their bearings, but Sephiroth hadn’t even bothered to answer that request. Cloud was tense worth worry. They were reaching a dangerous altitude.

“We should stop for the night,” Cloud insisted. He stopped moving, looking around them nervously. “The temperature is dropping rapidly. The sky is dark, and, if there are clouds here, the weather could turn in an instant. We can’t get caught in a storm after dark.”

Cloud shivered openly. The gear he’d been provided blocked the worst of the wind chill, but the cold was seeping under his clothing anyway. The general seemed unbothered by it, but Cloud’s body was not nearly as altered as the general’s.

“The reactor should be only a few hours walk from here. I don’t intend to stop until we reach it,” Sephiroth explained. “There should be a heated spot to sleep.”

Cloud’s eyes narrowed darkly. They were standing in two feet of snow, in the dead of winter. The last of his hero worship died at that moment. He had no intention of dying on the mountain, because the general thought he was more powerful than all of great Gaia.

“Sephiroth… You do not know this country as well as I do. We’re moving through dense forest in thick snow. The reactor is much further away than that, and the weather is going to turn.” Cloud didn’t even want to think about the greater beasts they could wander into at these heights.

“We should stop for the night,” Cloud finished.

“We keep moving. You’re safe it you’re with me, Strife,” Sephiroth ordered. Cloud was beyond irritated, but it was his first mission and Sephiroth was much more than just his immediate superior. The rage he was feeling only made his internal cramping worse. He felt awful, but he pressed onward.

It wasn’t long before they lost sight of the trail Cloud had been trying to keep them on. It was barely defined in the deep snow to begin with. It was very dark, and Cloud didn’t dare to light a torch. A fire would draw monsters like moths to a flame.

Only his enhanced eyesight kept him from losing Sephiroth. Cloud tensed as the first strong winds struck the mountains. He’d felt that the weather was going to turn for almost an hour, but now the storm was imminent.

Cloud reached out to take Sephiroth’s arm. The movement must have startled Sephiroth, because the silver general turned to look at Cloud. Almost immediately, the snow was on them and it was blinding. Cloud shuddered. He moved closer.

He didn’t even ask if Sephiroth wanted to keep moving. Instead, he tightly gripped Sephiroth’s forearm and began to draw him toward where he thought the nearest cliff-face was. If they were lucky, they might be able to find a place to shelter themselves from the worst of the storm. Already the snow was too thick to see more than a foot in front of them.

Cloud was deeply grateful when Sephiroth didn’t fight him, and he was equally relieved when his hands found rock instead of trees after only being lost in the snow for a short amount of time. Cloud was chilled to the bone now. They may well have frozen to death if they weren’t SOLDIERS. Cloud continued to move along the cliff-face and Sephiroth followed immediately behind him.

Sephiroth may have said something, but Cloud couldn’t hear it. The strength of the wind immediately stole any sound away. It felt like it had taken hours, but, miraculously, Cloud found an opening in the rock. It was blessedly small. Anything larger would surely have been home to some kind of monster.

Cloud ducked inside and attempted to pull Sephiroth in after him. The general refused to follow immediately. His hands traced the opening in the rock face for a moment before he followed Cloud into the small cavern. Fortunately for the both of them, the cave was larger on the inside.

Cloud sighed aloud, and was glad that he could hear himself again. He removed his pack and pulled items out of it until he found his bedroll. He used that to fashion a make-shift door to cover the opening.

When he turned around, Sephiroh’s hand was lit with some kind of flame materia. Cloud examined it for a moment, then sighed and moved to sit down against a nearby wall. The cave seemed to go much deeper. It would be hard to stay warm without a proper fire, and there was no way they could find wood now that the storm had begun.

Sephiroth sat a few feet away, the fire still dancing in his palms.

Cloud glared at him out of the corner of his eye. “We can try to find the trail again when the storm passes,” Cloud declared. He didn’t bother to hide his irritation. Every inch of him was sore and frozen now. He knew he couldn’t say “I told you so,” but he desperately wanted to.

Sephiroth sat very quietly for a while. His eyes were focused on the fire in his hands. “How long do the storms last?” Sephiroth questioned.

“Hours. Days. There’s no way to tell here. The weather is highly volatile,” Cloud explained. He’d explained that already. Sephiroth simply hadn’t wanted to listen.

Sephiroth sat quietly just a bit longer. “Cloud,” Sephiroth spoke the name to gain the blonde’s attention. Cloud glanced up at him, but didn’t offer more attention than that. “I apologize.”

That did get Cloud’s attention. He looked up completely now, blue eyes refocused on the silver general.

“I was under the impression Hojo sent you to lead me into something. He and I have been on… Bad terms,” Sephiroth explained. Cloud frowned as he listened, then nodded in understanding.

“I don’t like him either,” Cloud stated simply.

“What has he been doing to you? Angeal says he’s been overseeing your injections,” Sephiroth questioned.

“I only met him once. He just use a machine to examine my intestines, gave me some injections, and sent me on my way,” Cloud paused, thinking about it for a moment. “He was an incredibly creepy asshole about it though.”

Sephiroth chuckled and the deep sound startled Cloud and filled the small cave they now shared. “Well, I am sorry. I should have considered your input. If I had listened to you, we would not be here.”

Cloud nodded to insinuate his understanding. His stomach was still tied in knots, but he did feel a lot less irritated with Sephiroth. Zack had said the man was a good one. He should have known something odd was going on.

Cloud sighed and brushed his fingers through his hair. “Do you have a cure?” Cloud questioned. The pain in his lower stomach was only getting worse. It reminded him a lot of the pain from the mako injections, but now it seemed to be growing hotter.

“Are you hurt?” Sephiroth asked.

“It’s probably some kind of growing pains. My guts hurt. It was the same after the injections,” Cloud explained. He closed his eyes and tried to force his body to relax again. He heard a small noise, and, when he opened his eyes to investigate, Sephiroth had moved closer.

The silver general leaned in until he was uncomfortable close. Then he breathed in deeply. Cloud shuddered and shifted a bit further away.

“It may be your first rut, Cloud. If they gave you extra mako, that may very well have sped up the process. It used to happen to me when I was…” Sephiroth trailed off, shaking his head.

“My rut?” Cloud’s brow furrowed. He wrapped an arm around his middle and groaned. “Great… What can I do about it?”

“Nothing. We’re stuck here anyway,” Sephiroth answered. His expression grew more serious. “I wont help you through it. No one is allowed to fuck me, Cloud. I’m not going to make an acceptation now.”

Cloud’s eyes narrowed again. “Who says I’d want to?” Cloud’s chest rumbled, and he forced himself to quiet down when he realized he’d been very nearly growling… Which he had never done. Cloud stared at the ground, definitely irritated. He sat there for a while, silently freezing, before he finally glanced up at the general again.

“Would you mind… If we sat closer together?” Cloud hated to ask, but he was freezing cold. “My bed is covering the door, so I…” Cloud didn’t need to finish. Sephiroth had shifted closer and wrapped an arm around him. Cloud relaxed and leaned into the general’s side. The man was a lot warmer than him, and it was no time to be shy about touch.

Cloud allowed himself to close his eyes. He barely even noticed when Sephiroth pulled his own bedding over the two of them. This time, he found Sephiroth’s silence much less annoying, and, soon, he’d drifted off to sleep pressed against the general’s side.

Chapter Text

Sephiroth was breathing hard when he awoke. The soft scent permeating the cavern was delicious and unusual. His clothes felt scratchy and unpleasant on his heated skin. His head ached, and the hunger he felt was something completely alien. His inhuman eyes scanned the cavern, seeking the source.

Cloud was no longer pressed against him. He’d moved away and untangled himself from the bedding. The young SOLDIER was flushed and panting. Cloud felt too hot for his skin and the freezing air both relieved and pained him. His stomach muscles tensed and released over and over again. He’d barely moved, but his body’s reactions had completely exhausted him.

Sephiroth swallowed and attempted to collect his thoughts. This wasn’t right. No rut produced a scent like the one Cloud was producing. The blonde’s eyes were unfocused. He panted softly. Hojo must have done something to the beautiful creature. Sephiroth couldn’t even begin to guess what, and it was hard to care. This was the first time he’d ever physically wanted to do something he thought Hojo might have had a hand in.

Whatever was happening to Cloud made Sephiroth feel frenzied. Sephiroth’s rut should have been far off, but Cloud’s scent made him feel like it was imminent. He approached the blonde carefully.

Cloud released a soft sound of discomfort, but didn’t stop Sephiroth when the general leaned in and nuzzled his throat. The silver general breathed the sweet scent in deeply. He’d never experienced anything like it. He felt relaxed and possessive. Sephiroth rarely desired sex. He usually desired the contact more than the sex itself, but at that moment, he could think of nothing else.

“I wont force you, Cloud,” Sephiroth promised. He hooked his fingers in Cloud’s belt, threatening to undo the buckles. “Do you want my help?”

Cloud seemed to hesitate a moment, then nodded. The action would have been indiscernible to anyone else in the darkness, but Sephiroth could see Cloud’s every movement.

The boy looked pained, and Sepiroth genuinely wanted to see what was going on under the beauty’s clothes. His fingers deftly undid every buckle and cinch. He removed everything but the boy’s simple boxers and took a moment to admire him.

Genesis had said the young man was beautiful, but Cloud was stunning. Even Sephiroth recognized that the SOLDIER was an unusual beauty. His body was toned and pale. His eyes were large and expressive. He greatly resembled the snowy mountains he’d been born to in many ways. Even in the darkness of the cave, Sephiroth could appreciate Cloud’s form.

Cloud watched him expectantly. He reached out and gently tugged on Sephiroth’s leather sleeve. “Please,” Cloud begged. Sephiroth nodded and removed his long coat. He set it aside, and Cloud sat up to touch him. Sephiroth held perfectly still as the blonde’s fingers slid down the length of his bare chest. Cloud bit his lip, then leaned forward to gently nuzzle Sephiroth’s shoulder.

Sephiroth hummed. Something about the beauty’s gentle explorations pleased and soothed the beast inside him. Sephiroth hooked his fingers in Cloud’s boxers. The beauty froze for a moment, so Sephiroth made no further move to remove them.

“Cloud?” Sephiroth questioned. He wanted the permission. His fingers itched to get rid of the material, but Sephiroth hadn’t completely lost his control. Cloud’s scent was so enticing that holding back was quickly becoming difficult.

“I’ve never slept with anyone but Zack,” Cloud explained quickly. He swallowed very nervously and gently butted his forehead against Sephiroth’s shoulder again.

“I’ll be gentle,” Sephiroth promised. He hoped he could keep that promise. He felt more on edge by the minute. Cloud nodded and Sephiroth drew the material down the length of Cloud’s thighs. The blonde shuddered as his body made full contact with the cold stone floor of the cave.

Sephiroth breathed in deeply. The scent was much stronger now. The source of it was definitely between Cloud’s thighs. He swallowed hard and forced himself to pull away long enough to lay their bedding over the length of the cave floor. He reached out and managed to lift Cloud hips just enough that he could easily move him away from the stone and lay him on the less-than-ideal Shinra blankets.

Cloud must have appreciated it, because he pressed a gentle kiss to Sephiroth’s cheek. It was only the barest brush of lips. The softness of the gesture astonished the general. This absolutely wasn’t a rut. There was nothing gentle about a SOLDIER rutting.

“Lay back and spread your legs for me, Cloud,” Sephiroth ordered. Cloud swallowed, but nodded and didn’t argue. He slowly lay back against the blankets. Nervously, he spread his legs for Sephiroth’s inspection.

The general pressed a soothing kiss to Cloud’s thigh, but the beauty’s trembling didn’t stop. Fire lit the palm of Sephiroth’s hand again. The increased light allowed Sephiroth to see the liquid shining against Cloud’s thighs. He was producing his own, natural lubrication.

Sephiroth glanced up at Cloud. The beauty was watching him. He looked afraid, and Sephiroth felt an overwhelming need to comfort him. The general banished the fire and leaned over the beauty. He pressed a slow kiss to Cloud’s forehead. It had always calmed Genesis. He could only hope that it would have a similar effect on Cloud.

Instead of simply accepting the kiss, Cloud wrapped his arms around Sephiroth’s neck and pulled him down for a proper kiss. Again, Sephiroth was surprised by the gesture. Sephiroth hadn’t said so, but the only men he’d willingly slept with were Angeal and Genesis. Cloud was entirely new territory.

Sephiroth began removing the last of his clothing. Cloud was trying to watch him, but the darkness of the cavern didn’t allow him to see much. His eyes were not nearly as prepared for dark places as Sephiroth’s were.

The general returned, settling his body between Cloud’s legs again. The blond sat up further. He rested a hand on Sephiroth’s chest, preventing him from doing anymore.

“I… I’m sorry. T-This is difficult for me. I don’t know you,” Cloud whispered. Sephiroth was surprised the blonde could still think of anything when he was so clearly in need. Cloud was panting and shaking in an effort to hold himself back.

Sephiroth pressed their foreheads together. “Cloud… You’re very hard to resist just now,” Sephiroth whispered. He held very still. He didn’t want to frighten Cloud, and he didn’t want to force him either. Sephiroth held perfectly still, and waited for Cloud to make a decision.

Cloud brought their lips together again. He carefully pulled Sephiroth down on top of him. Sephiroth relaxed noticeably. His hand slid between Cloud’s thighs. Cloud was exuding heat. Sephiroth brushed his fingertips up the cleft of Cloud’s ass. He slid a finger inside Cloud’s body. There was no resistance at all. The passage was slick and impossibly hot.

“I wont hurt you,” Sephiroth promised again. It was as much to remind himself as to reassure Cloud. He added a finger. Cloud’s body accepted it easily. The boy hummed softly. The pain was less now that something was inside him.

“Does that feel alright?” Sephiroth questioned. He crooked his fingers gingerly inside the beauty’s body. Cloud released a soft sigh. Every movement of those fingers further relaxed the tightness in his stomach.

“It feels a lot better when you do that…” Cloud answered.

Sephiroth hummed as he added the last finger. Cloud was slick, but he wanted to make sure the sudden girth wouldn’t rip the beauty’s tight body. Cloud released a low moan. The gentle burn inside felt shockingly good.

Sephiroth slowly withdrew his fingers. Cloud whimpered. He reached out blindly, gently touching the Sephiroth’s cheek in the darkness. Cloud could not see nearly as well as Sephiroth in the dark.

Sephiroth smiled fondly at the soft touch. The gesture was familiar and unfamiliar all at once. Genesis sought contact in the same way, but he was never hesitant. Genesis demanded what he needed in bed. Cloud was uncertain and careful. His touch was light, but the request was so familiar.

Sephiroth followed Cloud’s touch forward. Cloud guided their lips together. The beauty released a low hum of contentment. Sephiroth leaned forward. He guided his length into place. He didn’t ask if Cloud was ready, instead, he began guiding himself very slowly inside.

Cloud gasped against his lips, but he made no move to stop Sephiroth as he pushed all the way inside. Cloud’s body still trembled. He clung to the general, and quietly willed his body to get accustomed to the intrusion.

Despite the slight discomfort, Cloud felt truly satisfied. He still felt hot, but he felt so much better than he had since the stomach cramping had begun. His fingers slid through Sephiroth’s hair and his legs tightened around Sephiroth’s hips. He drew Sephiroth’s hips forward. Sephiroth took the hint and began shallowly thrusting. He wanted to remain gentle to start. He was afraid his control would slip if he didn’t take this gradually.

Cloud leaned up and nipped at Sephiroth’s throat. Sephiroth released a low sound of pleasure. He was usually shy about having his neck touched, but Cloud didn’t seem threatening to him – especially now.

Cloud brushed the skin gently with his tongue between nips. Finally, he bit down on Sephiroth’s throat. That was something Sephiroth rarely tolerated, but now it excited him. His thrusts grew in speed and strength. He no longer worried about bruising the soft skin under his fingers.

Cloud’s body clenched around him magnificently. The heat was remarkable. At first, Cloud was completely silent, but the stronger Sephiroth’s thrusts became, the louder Cloud’s soft sounds became. Soon, Cloud’s gasped became muffled moans. Muffled moans quickly became unmuffled cries of pleasure.

Sephiroth’s hands gripped Cloud’s hips with bruising strength. Cloud didn’t seem to mind. Sephiroth could feel Cloud’s hands move to his back. The blonde gripped tightly, nails digging into the skin. Sephiroth growled. He leaned down and bit into the junction of Cloud’s neck and shoulder. Cloud’s grip grew tight. He held Sephiroth as close as he could and came hard.

Sephiroth’s entire body tensed with the strength of his own orgasm. He held Cloud tightly while the knot expanded. The blonde whimpered softly at the increased pressure in his overly-sensitive body but didn’t struggle. Cloud hid his face in Sephiroth’s neck and closed his eyes.

Each pulse of Sephiroth’s release soothed the heat in Cloud’s body. Cloud’s hands gently released Sephiroth’s shoulder blades. Instead, his arms wrapped themselves carefully around Sephiroth’s neck. He clung to the general - still desperate for touch even in the afterglow of his orgasm.

Sephiroth’s entire chest rumbled with a contented purr. Cloud hummed and carefully lifted his head from Sephiroth’s shoulder. He slowly leaned back into the blankets. Cloud smiled, grateful, when Sephiroth followed him downward. The general leaned over him and gently brought their lips together.

Cloud closed his eyes and lazily returned the kiss. The general immediately deepened the contact. Cloud released his own soft purr of contentment. He had expected Sephiroth to rest awkwardly without touching or caressing him until the knot went away. Cloud was glad that wasn’t the case.

Sephiroth, unlike Zack, was very careful not to rest his weight on Cloud while they waited for the swell of his knot to recede. Still, the man pressed soft kisses to Cloud’s neck. Cloud’s scent was still heavy in the air. Sephiroth was sure they would be fucking again before much longer.

They both rested quietly together. The silence grew more awkward the longer they waited. Cloud gently butted his head against Sephiroth’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Cloud finally said. He sighed loudly in something akin to despair. “If I had known it was coming maybe you wouldn’t have had to help me.”

“You couldn’t have known.” It was true. Something was different about the young SOLDIER. He didn’t seem to know what it was as far as Sephiroth could tell. How could he ever have guessed that this would happen?

Cloud was frowning. He looked away from the general, and Sephiroth found himself feeling uneasy. Cloud’s displeasure was having a powerful effect on him. Seeing that the blonde was displeased deeply unsettled Sephiroth, and the desire to comfort him was undeniable. The general carefully withdrew from Cloud’s body. Fortunately, the knot had receded enough to allow it.

Cloud turned on his side, facing away from the general. That bothered Sephiroth even more. He wanted to see Cloud’s face. Sephiroth lay down next to Cloud and drew the blonde’s smaller body back against his. Cloud tensed. The sudden intimacy had alarmed him.

Cloud slowly turned in Sephiroth’s embrace. Cloud couldn’t see anything, but the surprise on his face was clear to Sephiroth. Did the blonde think he was angry? Sephiroth scowled. He lifted a hand and summoned fire into his palm again.

Cloud squinted against the light. He closed his eyes completely for a moment and only opened them when they’d adjusted. Sephiroth watched him closely. The younger SOLDIER frowned and shifted closer. Sephiroth’s arm tightened marginally around him and Cloud felt oddly comforted by the gesture.

“You aren’t angry with me,” Cloud’s words were a statement. He could see that now. Cloud’s blue eyes met Sephiroth’s again. He was nervous.

Sephiroth leaned over and gently brushed his lips against Cloud’s. “It’s not over yet, Cloud… But I do not mind.”

“You said you wouldn’t help before,” Cloud reminded him. Cloud’s lips were pursed with worry as he looked away again.

“Typically, I wouldn’t have. This was something different.” Sephiroth didn’t explain any further. Cloud scowled up at him again. He wanted more of an explanation, but he could see that Sephiroth wasn’t going to give it to him.

Cloud sighed and rested his head against Sephiroth’s chest. He could feel the general’s fingers ghosting along his side and over his hip. Cloud glanced up at Sephiroth again. Sephiroth grinned, then banished the flame once again.

He gently pushed Cloud to lie flat on his back again. They didn’t need words after that. The second round was gentler and easier than the first, and the following session was even better.

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They remained in the cavern for two days. They slept, ate their rations, and had more than their fill of sex. The weather broke briefly once, but Cloud had still been in the throws of his heat and they could not risk leaving.

Cloud sighed, his head pillowed lazily on Sephiroth’s shoulder. Lying on the general had gotten much less awkward in the two days they’d been all over each other. Now that he knew Sephiroth would allow him, Cloud had no problem lounging all over the silver-haired warrior.

“Seems like your ‘rut’ is almost over,” Sephiroth remarked. His fingertips slid lazily down the length of Cloud’s back. He did that over and over. He’d nearly reach Cloud’s ass, then lift his fingers and start again at Cloud’s nape.

Cloud didn’t complain. The soft touches were nice. Sephiroth spent a lot of time absently tracing different parts of Cloud’s body when they weren’t having sex. Cloud only hummed as a reply to Sephiroth’s remark. He closed his eyes and continued to relax.

Sephiroth cocked an eyebrow, but allowed Cloud a few more moments of silence before he spoke again. “Not talking about this does not change the fact that we will have to leave soon.”

Cloud opened his eyes just enough to give Sephiroth a half-hearted glare. He knew they were going to have to leave. Honestly, only the first day of his ‘rut’ had been exhausting. He felt well rested and content now.

There were too many unknowns waiting after the mission was over. Cloud knew it was likely that Sephiroth would begin treating him like a stranger again. He knew it was selfish, but there was still a part of him that worshiped Sephiroth. He wanted to enjoy his childhood hero’s undivided attention for just a bit longer.

Sephiroth leaned in a pressed a kiss to Cloud’s forehead. He’d done that a few times since they’d made their peace. It should have been comforting, but it made Cloud’s chest hurt. He liked the unexpected gestures of affection. He didn’t want them to stop.

Cloud lifted a hand and gently slid his own fingertips down Sephiroth’s chest. After the initial encounter, the rest of his time with Sephiroth had been easy. Sephiroth had been very considerate during sex. Even when he was vigorous, he’d been careful not to actually harm Cloud in any way.

Cloud rarely needed to say anything. Communicating with Sephiroth had become very intuitive. The man was apparently hyper-observant. A choked gasp was enough to tell Sephiroth that he’d done something Cloud really liked. A simple look was all that it took to tell Sephiroth that he was hungry or cold or wanted to be held.

Maybe it wasn’t only his hero-worship. The only person Cloud had ever communicated with like this was Zack. Cloud felt like he’d finally connected with another person, and losing that was a frightening prospect.

“Why are you reluctant?” Sephiroth asked. Cloud looked up at the man again. He was surprised Sephiroth couldn’t guess. Cloud leaned up a pressed a gentle kiss to Sephiroth’s jaw. He glanced to the side and Sephiroth sighed softly. Neither Genesis nor Angeal was ever as tight-lipped about any problem.

Cloud scowled. Sephiroth’s sigh sounded frustrated, and he couldn’t help but feel badly about that. “I guess… I guess I’m just not ready to be strangers. I liked this.”

Sephiroth’s eyes widened marginally. Gingerly, he pushed Cloud over so that the beauty rested on his back. He then loomed over the blonde and closely examined Cloud’s expression. Sephiroth lifted a hand and gently brushed his naked thumb over Cloud’s lower lip. It was soft and still slightly swollen from the make-out session they’d enjoyed less than an hour before.

“Did you think I would abandon you afterward?” Sephiroth questioned. He briefly wondered when it had become his intention not to. He felt very protective of the blonde now. He knew much of that was instinct, but he couldn’t deny that he felt a bond. Sephiroth very rarely communicated with anyone. He had enjoyed more physical contact with Cloud over the last few days than he had with anyone save Angeal and Genesis.

Cloud’s jaw tightened as he grit his teeth. There was clear emotion in his eyes, and Sephiroth could see that he’d been right.

“I’m not good with people,” Sephiroth said the words bluntly. He knew that much was true. He was excellent at writing reports and intimidating any opposition, but the finer points of human affection eluded him.

“Me neither,” Cloud admitted. He swallowed and his eyes focused on Sephiroth’s face again. “But… I can talk to you. I know this is a bad way to start a friendship, but… I don’t want this to be the end.”

Sephiroth didn’t bother fighting the purr of contentment. Cloud wanted to spend more time with him. Cloud wanted to be his friend. A situation like this was so rare. Genesis and Angeal drew people in, but no one was anything other than afraid of Sephiroth.

“I want that too.” Sephiroth answered.

He began leaning downward, and Cloud met him in the middle for a very chaste kiss. Sephiroth wondered if Cloud would let him keep doing that now that his heat was dissipating. It was one of the many questions he was going to have to examine in this new friendship.

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By midday, both men were dressed and off. Sephiroth insisted that they not go to the reactor. Cloud had been reluctant to abandon their set mission, but Sephiroth had promised to explain it all in his report. Apparently, they had been away far too long already. The craft that had brought them there was waiting on them to return to Shinra, and Sephiroth’s time was valuable to the company.

He claimed that the mission was ridiculous in any case. He had no reason to be at the Nibelheim reactor and had no interest in what might be inside it. Cloud was wholly suspicious of that, but he wasn’t going to drag Sephiroth up the mountain.

The return to Nibelheim was uneventful. They avoided the worst of the weather, and Cloud led them through the easiest and least dangerous trails.

There was no time for Cloud to visit his mother. He gave the money he had set aside for her to a Shinra employee for delivery. Sephiroth had stood at his side while he gave the order. The intimidated look on the man’s face had told Cloud that the money would be delivered without any problems.

The ride back was equally uneventful. Cloud sat in his previous spot, but Sephiroth sat beside him. When Cloud began falling asleep on the way home, Sephiroth had pulled Cloud against his side and encouraged the boy to lean on his shoulder.

If any of the men walking through the craft noticed, they did not comment. Cloud was grateful for the proof that Sephiroth had meant what he had said in those caves. He napped in a shaking airship on a hard, wooden bench, and still, his sleep was restful.

Chapter Text

Cloud was groggy when they landed, but he was also in high spirits. Sephiroth was still at his side, and he remained at his side until Cloud was awake enough to leave. The general even walked beside him as they left the cargo bay. Cloud was hesitant to part ways, but he knew they would have to soon. Sephiroth would probably need to report to someone. Cloud paused in his steps once they’d reached a much quieter area.

“I have a meeting, or I’d ask you to have dinner with me,” Sephiroth said suddenly. The timing of it was awkward. He hadn’t waited for Cloud to turn toward him or for their eyes to meet, but Cloud found himself smiling. He liked the way Sephiroth didn’t wait for social cues.

Cloud turned and pressed a palm flat against Sephiroth’s chest. “You will come to see me soon.” Cloud’s voice was soft with newfound affection. He didn’t have to ask the question this time. He was sure Sephiroth would seek him out.

“You could come to me. I wouldn’t deny your company,” Sephiroth promised. Cloud’s smile grew. He looked around them to make sure no one was watching then pressed himself against the general. Sephiroth didn’t wait long to lean down and give Cloud a hard kiss.

“See you soon,” Cloud whispered against Sephiroth’s lips.

He wasn’t sure if he’d managed to make the tone seductive, but he had definitely tried. Now that he felt they were on equal ground, Cloud wanted the chance to tease Sephiroth. When he turned to leave, he trailed his fingers slowly across Sephiroth’s stomach.

Sephiroth watched the blonde until he was out of site. He admired the way Cloud moved, and he found himself wondering Cloud was subtly shifting his hips on purpose as he walked. It was incredibly sexy.

Even the gentle slide of fingers over Sephiroth’s middle had been enough to remind him of what it was like to have Cloud out of his clothes. The lust he felt for Cloud wasn’t fading, and there was something very unnatural about how badly he wanted to forget his duties and spend the afternoon leaving marks all over the young SOLDIER.

He let out a grunt of frustration then moved toward the main building. As much as he was enjoying his contact with the lovely blond, he wondered if his attraction was part of Hojo’s manipulation.

He really did have a meeting to attend, but he was going to start digging for information on whatever had been done to Cloud immediately after. He needed to know what had been done to Cloud, and he needed to know what lengths he was going to have to go to protect the blonde from further tampering.

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Cloud didn’t bother stopping by his own room. He went immediately to Zack’s apartment. He knocked loudly on the door and was hugely relieved when Zack answered. He’d had no idea if Zack would be home or not, but he’d been desperate to see his friend.

Zack barely caught sight of Cloud’s blonde spikes before the younger SOLDIER was hugging the wind out of him. Zack’s face broke immediately into a grin. He wrapped his arms around Cloud’s shoulders and squeezed hard. He buried his face in Cloud’s hair and breathed in deeply.

He smelled like Sephiroth. Zack nuzzled the soft spikes and continued to inhale. He smelled an awful lot like Sephiroth, but this was definitely his Spike.

Cloud nuzzled his shoulder, and Zack chuckled warmly. He lifted a hand and allowed his fingers to muss the spikes. Cloud usually shied away from that, but he didn’t move at all this time.

“I missed you too, Spikey,” Zack promised. Cloud released a full body shudder and went still. Zack’s excitement turned to concern. Something wasn’t right about that sudden change in his Cloud. Carefully, he pulled Cloud away from his shoulder and examined his face.

Tears were running down the blonde’s pale cheeks. Cloud’s shoulders began to shake, and Zack began to panic. He lifted Cloud against him and kicked the door shut as he carried Cloud to the couch. He sat down and settled Cloud in his lap.

Cloud buried his face in Zack’s shoulder again, and Zack didn’t prevent him from doing so. Cloud’s smaller body kept shaking. He released a few chocked sounds as he attempted to keep his tears in. Zack slowly rubbed the beauty’s back. His fingers made familiar circles as they traveled down the length of Cloud’s back.

“It’s okay, Cloud,” Zack promised. Zack made no attempts to hide his concern. He didn’t press Cloud to talk either. Soon enough, Cloud began to calm down. His shaking subsided, and Cloud began to relax once again. Zack waited as long as he could before prompting Cloud to talk.

“What happened?” Zack asked. He nuzzled Cloud’s spikey head again in an attempt further to sooth his friend.

“Well… A lot happened, but nothing I should have needed to cry about,” Cloud admitted. He fretted. As soon as he’d been in Zack’s arms, he’d felt sudden and instant relief. He hadn’t realized how stressed he’d been about his unusual ‘rut’ and all the sudden changes in his life until then.

“The stress gets to everyone, Spike… But I think you should tell me about your trip,” Zack urged. He knew how stressful the missions could be, but he wasn’t convinced that was all that was going on. He wanted to make sure Cloud was actually okay.

Cloud nodded and shifted a bit closer. “Take off your shirt first,” Cloud demanded. Zack cocked an eyebrow. That was an unusual request. Still, Zack lifted his shirt over his head and tossed it to the other side of the room.

Cloud sighed loudly. Zack’s scent clung to his clothes. It was better this way. Cloud could smell the scent rising from his friend more easily, and he wanted the skin-on-skin contact. He settled more fully against his friend and closed his eyes.

“I had sex with Sephiroth.”

“Wait… What?!” Zack looked down at his friend like he was nuts. Cloud had said it so simply. He hadn’t even opened his eyes, and he was smiling just a bit.

“I went into ‘rut’ on the mountain. We got snowed in and had non-stop sex for two days,” Cloud explained. He opened his eyes now, looking for his friend’s reactions.

Zack looked surprised but not hurt. “I can’t even imagine that… I just can’t imagine Sephiroth taking it up…” Zack paused, face now completely focused. He was imagining it now. He must have done that for Angeal and Genesis at some point, right? He did have that long, silver hair.

“No, Zack. I… I didn’t even think about giving it. It wasn’t anything like anyone said. It was… Well, I wanted him. I was desperate. I needed something inside me, Zack. It was physically painful to be so empty,” Cloud explained. Zack looked unconvinced and concerned.

“Are you sure it wasn’t just because anal penetration was the only contact you could get? Are you really okay, Cloud?” Zack’s usually upbeat voice was softened with worry. He didn’t want to believe that Sephiroth would take advantage of Cloud in any way, but he knew Sephiroth was intensely dominant. Angeal said as much many times.

Cloud looked up at his friend and tried to reassure him with a soft smile. “Sephiroth was a perfect gentlemen, Zack. He was… Extremely considerate. Everything felt great,” Cloud promised. Zack could hear Cloud’s sincerity, and it eased his worries just a bit.

“Was he better than me?” Zack asked. He was smiling like it was a joke, but Cloud glared at him anyway. Zack laughed and leaned down to kiss the tip of Cloud’s nose. He was feeling much more playful now that Cloud was home and safe and seemingly not emotionally scared by his time alone with Sephiroth.

“I am a bit jealous. I really wanted to spend that first rut with you,” Zack admitted. Cloud leaned forward and brushed their lips together with unusual gentleness. Zack hummed and gently nipped at Cloud’s lower lip. Cloud pulled away, looking both amused and relieved.

“You’re not angry with me, are you?” Cloud questioned. “We’re not a couple… But we kind of are. Should I have asked you about it first?” Cloud could see that his friend wasn’t upset or it might have been harder to ask. He was relieved that Zack’s behavior toward him didn’t seem changed.

Zack actually grinned again in response. He liked hearing Cloud referring to them as a “couple.” It felt good to think that a part of the blonde belonged to him.

“You didn’t need to ask me anything, Cloud. I mean… IF we were a couple, I might want you to discuss partners with me first,” Zack admitted. He had been thinking about that very seriously. “I couldn’t say ‘no’ to Sephiroth.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to Angeal,” Cloud promised. He was smiling back now. It felt good to finally be able to talk about it. Cloud did feel a bit nervous about his ‘rut.’ He wanted to ask more questions, but he wanted to talk about this so much more.

“I don’t think I could stop having sex with Angeal,” Zack admitted. He lifted a hand and brushed it through his own hair. He blushed softly. Clearly embarrassed.

“I don’t want to stop having sex with Sephiroth,” Cloud answered seriously. “I think… I think I finally made another friend. I want to keep spending time with him.”

“Well, we should all spend time together then. Angeal would love that. He thinks Sephiroth is painfully under socialized,” Zack answered in a rush. He was excited about the idea. Cloud watched Zack thoughtfully a moment, then asked the question Zack wasn’t ready for.

“What about Genesis?” Cloud asked. Zack looked a bit taken aback. His enthusiasm dampened a little, and Cloud sighed loudly and shook his lovely head. “He came to apologize to me before the mission. He asked if I would spend some time with him.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Cloud… But I really don’t think Genesis likes me much,” Zack answered. He smiled awkwardly, and Cloud leaned over and nipped at his jaw. Zack sat further back against the cushions. The gesture was unfamiliar. He wondered if it was byproduct of Cloud’s time with Sephiroth.

“You need to talk to him,” Cloud stated firmly. He couldn’t understand what was wrong between Zack and Genesis. It was like they couldn’t break the initial tension, and they’d just let it sit in place for too damn long.

“You need to talk to Angeal,” Zack countered.

“Fine. That’s what we’ll do.” Cloud was scowling as he said it, and Zack found himself amused. There was something very amusing about Cloud’s expressions when he was only passively irritated. Suddenly, facing Genesis didn’t seem so bad.

“You know… Too much happens when we’re apart. I’m going to get you a fucking PHS so that you can keep me updated,” Zack offered smoothly. It was a good way to change the subject. Truly, Cloud needed a personal PHS as a SOLDIER, and Zack needed more people to text when he was out and about.

“I could get my own,” Cloud suggested. He reached for a blanket that had been draped over the back of the couch and pulled it over the two of them.

“Yeah, but I don’t think you would. You’d have to talk to the people in tech, and I know how you hate that,” Zack explained. His fingers lazily stroked Cloud’s side. Cloud hummed and settled himself more comfortably against the Zack.

“Too many questions,” Cloud agreed. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax completely. He had missed Zack so much in those few days he’d been gone. He felt ridiculous and needy for it, but he hated being away from Zack for any amount of time.

“Hey, Cloud?” Zack questioned. Cloud only hummed again in response. He was almost asleep already. “Did you know that I love you?”

Cloud smiled groggily. He glanced up at his friend. The words weren’t unexpected, but Cloud felt warmth deep in his bones.

Even as tired as he was, he couldn’t leave Zack’s sweetness unrewarded. He leaned up and placed a careful kiss on Zack’s lips. “I love you too.”

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It was well after dark before Sephiroth returned to his own apartment. He stopped to knock on Angeal’s door and then Genesis’s. He didn’t wait for them to answer. He walked passed their doors and entered his own apartment. Once the two caught his scent in the hallway, they would join him.

He sat quietly on his own couch. Sure enough, Angeal let himself in only a moment later. He moved to sit on the couch next to Sephiroth, but didn’t say anything. He crossed his arms and waited. Genesis entered a few minutes later. His hair was wet. He must have been in the shower.

Genesis only glanced at Angeal. Sephiroth’s eyes narrowed marginally. The two were still arguing.

“How was your mission?” Angeal questioned. He turned further in his seat to look at Sephiroth.

“It went very well. It was surprisingly pleasant,” Sephiroth answered. He held a report in his hand. He looked slowly over the papers inside. There wasn’t as much new information on Cloud as he had hoped, and he couldn’t find out much about what had been going on down in Hojo’s laboratory. He was going to have to threaten some Turks if he wanted better intel.

“Pleasant?” Genesis questioned. Sephiroth didn’t usually describe his missions as pleasant. “Was the mountain air good for you?”

Sephiroth set his report aside and focused on his friends. “Actually, it was the company. I am fond of Cloud.”

“You’re fond of him?” Angeal questioned. Sephiroth didn’t immediately answer. He must have been deep in thought. He didn’t think he was ready to explain the extent of his fondness for Cloud. That was sure to bring up questions he wasn’t ready to answer.

Angeal and Genesis belonged to him as much as he belonged to them. If Sephiroth explained the situation now, they’d both get involved. The less he exposed his friends to Hojo, the better.

“He did accept my apology,” Genesis mused. He’d been meaning to bring it up, but the timing hadn’t been right yet.

“You apologized?” Angeal questioned.

“Of course I did. I can admit when I’ve been wrong,” Genesis huffed. He crossed his legs in irritation.

“Are you sure you apologized the right way, Gen?” Angeal asked. Sephiroth listened quietly. He was curious about that too. Cloud hadn’t mentioned Genesis at all in the time they had been together.

“Cloud had no issues with my apology,” Genesis answered simply. “He even agreed to visit me.” Genesis paused only briefly to examine Angeal’s face. “I’m going to treat him to something as soon as I’m back from my mission.” Genesis had received new orders and would be leaving in the morning. Sephiroth’s general report had already told him that, and he was sorry to hear it. They spent too much time apart.

“We’ll miss you, Genesis,” Sephiroth offered. Genesis stiffed at the words. He really didn’t want to leave. His eyes focused on Angeal.

“Will you?”

“Of course I will,” Angeal answered. His tone was dangerous. He hated it when Genesis called their bond into question. Every argument was a threat to the red general.

Even though Angeal’s words had an edge to them, Genesis visibly softened. The red general rested a hand on Sephiroth’s arm and leaned over the silver general so that he could speak more easily to Angeal.

“I’m sorry, Angeal. I was too harsh. I pushed you too hard, and I was uncivil with your guests.” Genesis spoke with an easy, poetic kind of grace. Angeal’s irritation was quickly replaced with something much warmer. He leaned over Sephiroth so that he could brush his lips against Genesis’s. Genesis released a soft sound of approval.

“I think we should spend the night together,” Sephiroth suggested. It had been a very long time since all three generals had been in the same room. Sephiroth had planned to take advantage of it from the beginning. There was nothing sexual about his request. He slept better when his small pack was gathered around him.

“I’d like that,” Angeal replied instantly. Genesis only nodded as he stood. He was exhausted, and he needed to be up early to catch his ride out of Shinra. Sephiroth smiled and followed Genesis. Angeal was right behind them.

Chapter Text

Zack scowled as he started at wood surface of Angeal’s kitchen table. He was very worried about Cloud. Only an hour before, he had been sitting with Cloud in a mess hall. Shortly after they’d gotten their food, a man had come to inform Cloud that his presence was required immediately in the examination rooms. No notice at all. Cloud had rushed to obey his orders, and Zack had gone immediately to Angeal to vent.

“Cloud has to go get a physical again,” Zack complained. His mentor brought him a hot mug of apple cider and Zack sighed loudly. “I’m worried about him, Ang! They gave him less than an hour to get down there.”

“I’m sure it will be fine, Zack,” Angeal soothed as he took a seat next to Zack. He had a mug of coffee instead of cider. Zack always preferred something sweeter than whatever Angeal was drinking.

To Zack’s trained eye, Angeal was a bit stiff. While there was no lingering awkwardness between Zack and Angeal, the general still felt badly about what had happened the night he met Cloud. Whenever Zack mentioned Cloud, Angeal stiffened.

“He forgives you, you know?” Zack whispered softly. Angeal looked up at him and sighed softly.

“It’s hard to just accept that, Zack. He might be saying that to placate you,” Angeal suggested. It was hard. He didn’t believe in second hand forgiveness. He couldn’t allow himself to believe it until he saw that forgiveness in Cloud.

“Cloud isn’t like that, Ang. He’s going to come talk to you soon,” Zack promised. “You know… If he survives the scientists.”

“He’s going to be just fine, Zack.”

“I don’t know. Things have been weird for him, Angeal. He went into his first rut already, and he makes it sound like he was happy to bend over for Sephiroth up there in the mountains.”

Angeal set his coffee cup down hard, looking at Zack with wide eyes. “What?”

“Cloud went into rut on the mountain, and he says he was feeling really submissive. I mean it came on too soon to start, but-“

“Cloud had sex with Sephiroth?” Angeal interrupted. He needed to come to terms with that part first. Why in all of the holy hells would Sephiroth not have mentioned that? The man was socially awkward, but that was big news.

“Yeah. He says it was really good. He’s been anxious to see Sephiroth since he got back,” Zack explained. He watched his mentor curiously. “Why do you look all surprised?”

“Sephiroth hasn’t said anything,” Angeal admitted, taking a drink of his coffee.

“Maybe he thought you already knew. Sephiroth’s a little weird like that sometimes. Cloud says he was very kind.”

“That’s a bit unusual too. Cloud probably wasn’t especially dominant. It was his first after all. His body hasn’t finished its major changes… But Sephiroth can’t have his authority challenged by anyone when he’s around a SOLDIER in rut. Even with Gen and me it’s hard for him,” Angeal explained readily.

Zack was listening closely as he drank his cider. He always drank everything twice as fast as Angeal. He’d want another cup very soon.

“Cloud says he was a gentlemen. They bonded while they were in Nibelheim. It’s just all very strange. It was a bizarre mission. They’re treating Cloud oddly, and I don’t like how often they’re wanting to prod and prick Cloud down in the labs,” Zack said the words while absently waving his spoon in front of Angeal. Angeal took another drink of coffee while he pondered the situation.

“Sephiroth did say that he was fond of Cloud,” Angeal finally said. “They may be a bit similar. Stubborn and quiet,” Angeal mused. “I suppose it makes sense that they would bond. Maybe they can understand each other.”

“Yeah…” Zack agreed. He set his empty mug beside Angeal’s half-empty coffee cup, and Angeal sighed. He took Zack’s mug and returned to the kitchen. He brought it back refilled with the spiced cider that Zack seemed to like the most.

Zack was watching him closely when Angeal returned. His expression was serious, and Angeal knew he was going to ask something important. The general returned to his seat and waited for his protégé to make his request.

“I’m going to talk to Genesis.”

That had not been a question, and it was not what Angeal had expected to hear. Generally, Zack and Genesis avoided each other and then forced themselves to make nice whenever they ended up in the same room for more than a few minutes at a time.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Angeal asked in a tone that insinuated it wasn’t. He knew it would probably result in a fight. He wasn’t sure he was ready to deal with Genesis in a rage again.

“Yes. I do. All of this has to stop. Genesis and I need an understanding. The way we just try to avoid each other and let things slide has been stressing you out, Ang. I don’t want to do it anymore, and I don’t think he’s ever wanted it that way,” Zack admitted. “I think we’ve been trying not to upset you, and we just made it a lot worse.”

Angeal looked at his protégé, a bit stunned. Zack was serious about this, and his determination was very lovable. “Genesis is gone, Zack. He left this morning, and I’m not sure when he’ll be back.”

“I’ll talk to him when he gets back. I promise.” Zack got out of his seat, leaving his cider to get cold as he moved to straddle Angeal. Angeal wrapped an arm around Zack’s middle.

Angeal smiled and rested their foreheads together. “It’s been nice being home, hasn’t it?” Zack didn’t answer. He leaned in and kissed Angeal deeply. They shared several kisses before Zack bit down on Angeal’s lower lip. Zack pulled away quickly and grinned.

Angeal was grinning back. He liked it when his pup tried to play.

Angeal’s hands slid lower and gripped Zack’s ass. He lifted Zack easily and Zack wrapped his legs around Angeal’s hips. The general carried Zack immediately to the bedroom and threw him on the bed.

Zack laughed as his back hit and bounced on the mattress, and Angeal wasted no time climbing on top of him. Angeal nudged Zack’s head to the side, and Zack squirmed as Angeal bit down on the junction of Zack’s neck and shoulder.

Zack’s fingers curled into Angeal’s hair. He arched his hips upward and rolled them against Angeal’s. The general slid his hands under Zack’s shirt, but, instead of pulling the shirt over Zack’s head, he ripped the material in half.

Zack laughed and looked up at Angeal with a clear challenge. He loved it when Angeal played rough. Zack always wore his worse training clothes when he visited Angeal. Angeal was rough on clothing. Still, Angeal was surprisingly careful when he pulled Zack’s pants down his legs.

Zack spread his legs, and Angeal covered his fingers thickly in lube. The prep work was unhurried and skilled. Somehow, Zack had managed to get Angeal to remove all his clothes in the meantime. Angeal always took it slow. He liked to make Zack squirm with impatience.

“Ang!” Zack begged. Angeal chuckled and finally removed his fingers.

“You’re an impatient pup today,” Angeal remarked. Zack scowled and squirmed away. He turned to lie on his stomach, folding his arms over the pillows at the head of the bed. Zack glanced over his shoulder and waited.

“What are you going to do about it?” Zack asked.

Angeal didn’t disappoint. He pressed kisses first to Zack’s ass. He paused to bite down playfully on one glute. Then Angeal began to lay a long line of kisses up the length of Zack’s back. He briefly paused after few kisses to bite and suck. Angeal liked to leave marks.

Zack released a deep hum of pleasure. Every now and then his body would jump when Angeal bit particularly hard. Angeal slowly moved his path upward. He spent some time at Zack’s shoulders, littering the skin with marks. He paused to nuzzle Zack’s shoulder, and Zack took the moment to roll onto his side.

Zack looked up at Angeal with mischievous eyes. He reached up and slid his hands over Angeal’s shoulders in a seductive caress. Angeal shuddered in enjoyment, but then Zack’s grip tightened and the young SOLDIER pushed them over and pressed Angeal into the mattress.

“My turn,” Zack commanded cheekily. Zack had firmly straddled his mentor and was holding him in place with his weight and the strength of his thighs.

Angeal smirked up at him. He overpowered Zack easily and pinned his protégé to the sheets. “No, Zack. Today I’m the one who doesn’t have any patience.” Zack’s grip on Angeal’s hips tightened in arousal.

Angeal reached between them to align himself, then buried his manhood deep with one, powerful stroke. Zack cried out. His nails bit into Angeal’s shoulders as he clung to the general.

Angeal’s thrusts were powerful and frenzied. They were exactly what Zack had needed. The younger SOLDIER was painfully hard after all of Angeal’s teasing. Zack didn’t even try to do anything skillful. He reached between them and fisted his length. It was impossible to keep time with Angeal’s frenzied thrusts, but it still felt damn good.

It wasn’t long before Zack came hard between them. Angeal pushed Zack further into the mattress, pinning Zack as his reached his own orgasm. The knot had already begun swelling, but the knot expanded rapidly now that Angeal had hit orgasm. The knot held their bodies effectively together.

Angeal panted in strain. There was something about sex that could exhaust a man so much faster than endurance training. Angeal trembled with the strength of his orgasm. His eyes were shut as he focused on the pleasant warmth spreading through his body.

Zack was smirking smugly up at him. He waited patiently for Angeal to come down from his orgasmic high then reached up to gently caressed Angeal’s cheek.

Angeal leaned down and brushed their lips together lazily. “Thank you, Zack. I needed that.”

“I did too,” Zack promised. Zack felt completely and wonderfully relaxed. He’d been so worried and tightly wound with stress that he hadn’t known what to do with himself. He felt much better now.

“I’m really sorry, Zack. I know I’ve been worried lately. I haven’t been giving you what you need,” Angeal admitted. Zack knew what he meant. Zack usually preferred to play in bed, and Angeal had been to distracted to indulge him.

“I’m just glad I have all of your attention right now. I definitely deserve it,” Zack joked. Angeal accepted his words readily. He settled lazily against Zack’s body. He wasn’t bothered by the mess of semen and sweat between them.

Angeal felt warm and content. He wished he could have asked Zack to stay with him for the night, but he knew Zack would be rushing back to Cloud as soon as that physical was over.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hojo was already impatiently waiting when Cloud entered the examination room. It was the same room as before, but Hojo looked significantly happier this time. Cloud didn’t trust it. Carefully, he sat down on the examination table and waited for Hojo to begin his examination.

“How are you feeling after your trip? High altitudes can be stressful on the body,” Hojo remarked as he took the usual set of blood samples.

“Fine,” Cloud answered simply. He did not want to make small talk, and he definitely didn’t want to talk about his mission or his budding relationship with Sephiroth around Hojo.

“Have you experienced a ‘rut’ yet?”

“Should I have been expecting too?”

“I’m going to need my questions properly, Strife,” Hojo answered simply. He didn’t snap, but his tone made his aggrivation clear. Hojo passed on the blood samples to an attendant then moved to the machine that he’d been tampering with last time.

“Yes. I did experience a ‘rut,’” Cloud answered.

“Anything unusual?” Hojo questioned.

“How would I know? I’ve never had a rut before,” Cloud countered irritably. He had no intention of making this line of questioning easy. He wanted to know more about what was going on in his body, but he also knew that he didn’t want Hojo to be the one to tell him.

“No matter. Excuse me,” Hojo dismissed as he left the room. Cloud cocked an eyebrow. The man always seemed to be ducking in and out of the room. It was suspicious.

Just like last time, another lab attendant came in to give Cloud his routine tests. They recorded blood pressure, measured his biceps, and checked his heart rate. The attendant was still writing his figures down when Hojo entered the room.

The scientist’s good mood had dissipated. He looked furious as he stalked around the room. When he looked up at Cloud, he was glaring.

“Your first mission was a failure, I see,” Hojo stated. Cloud winced. Sephiroth had said it would be fine, but Cloud still felt like they’d failed the mission. They had never reached the reactor. They never investigated the Nibel dragons. Shinra may as well have sent them on vacation.

“Sephiroth determined that we were wasting too much time in the area,” Cloud answered simply.

“I hope you rewarded him for his patience after slowing him down!” Hojo was glaring fiercely at Cloud.

“I don’t know what you mean, Sir,” Cloud answered. He was glaring back now. Hojo was completely infuriating, and Cloud’s pride was stung. He actually had slowed Sephiroth down after all.

“Take off your shirt!” Hojo ordered. He reached for a tube of the same nasty jelly that Cloud had needed to use last time. Cloud grimaced, but pulled of his shirt and accepted the tube. He laid back and coated his abdomen in the substance again. He hated it. He felt far too damn bare in front of Hojo’s prying eyes.

The same process repeated. Hojo prodded Cloud’s stomach with the strange wand attached to his machine and took numerous notes from the output on the screen. He still looked irritated, but the more he wrote, the less outright furious he seemed to be.

“Well, you didn’t make the progress I thought you would. I guess it makes sense that you would have failed this time.” Hojo put the wand aside and the attendant standing nearby offered Cloud a towel to wipe down his torso.

“I expect you to do much better on your next mission,” Hojo stated simply. He looked up at Cloud and sighed. “I am ordered another round of injections. The side effects will be severe this time, but they should finally get the job done.”

Cloud shuddered. He did not like the sound of that. His third round of injections before most SOLDIERS could expect their second. He hated the way the words “side effects” sounded coming from the scientist. He could guess that he was about to have a few unpleasant days.

The attendant left the room, presumably to collect the mako treatment. Hojo regarded Cloud closely while the blonde wiped the goo off his stomach. “You’ll be very sickly for a while, Cloud. I expect you spend some time with someone you trust until you’re back on your feet.”

When the attendant returned, Hojo got up to leave. Apparently, he didn’t feel the need to oversee the routine administration of injections. Cloud found himself wondering what the man felt he did need to oversee in the first place.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hojo quietly examined a file labeled “Omega” in his private office. Cloud’s test results had made it clear that he was not pregnant. The outright failure was beyond irritating. His examination of Cloud’s physiology and blood work indicated that the young SOLDIER would be fertile.

The first moment of discovery had been one of great excitement for Hojo. SOLDIERS, by design, were not biologically compatible with humans. It was a little known fact, but the men altered for SOLDIER were effectively sterile. This was an enormous asset for Shinra, who could keep their elite forces from forming strong familial links outside of the company. However, it made Hojo’s work difficult.

Sephiroth was, without any doubt, his finest creation. Sephiroth was the holy grail of scientific triumph. The monster Hojo had engineered was perfect. If Sephiroth had not been so pampered by the company (thus incurring a stubbornness that made him practically impossible to control), the silver general would have been the unstoppable force that Hojo had always wanted.

The problem now was that Hojo could not recreate his initial brilliance. All efforts to clone Sephiroth in any way were unsuccessful. Hojo had access to all of the samples that had originally created Sephiroth, but nothing worked as a means of recreating him. He couldn’t use Sephiroth’s DNA as a starting point either. Somehow, nothing proved to be compatible. Even his most promising subjects dissolved into madness.

Cloud represented a new hope. A healthy, natural base from which Hojo could continue to create. For a moment, he thought he had been wrong about Cloud’s capabilities, but now he had hope.

The newest examination had determined that, while Cloud would certainly have the capacity to bear children, he had not yet been altered enough to be fertile. His first heat had been false, and no eggs had been present.

Hojo’s intelligence network claimed that Cloud and Sephiroth had been seen together since their departure from Nibelheim. Their interactions had been described as “intimate,” and Hojo was sure that his plan had worked. Even if Cloud’s heat had been false and weak, it had managed to ensnare Sephiroth.

A dose of mako had been used to speed the change of Cloud’s body and evoke his heat. The cold peaks of Nibelheim were the perfect place. It was not suspicious to send Cloud, because he was native to the region. More importantly, the cold weather and the altitude were sure to give Cloud that final push into his heat.

The situation had been designed to control the time at which Cloud went into heat and to insure that he would be alone with Sephiroth when it happened.

When Hojo had read the negative results, he’d worried that his plan had not worked. He was happier to discover that Cloud simply hadn’t been ready. He wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment the heat would begin this time, but Cloud now had a pre-existing relationship with Sephiroth.

If Sephiroth had claimed him the last time, Hojo felt sure that Sephiroth would claim Cloud again. His reports all claimed that Cloud was antisocial. He was unlikely to have a sexual relationship with anyone else, and the new round of mako would insight his heat again. It meant a frustrating set back to Hojo’s schedule, but he was sure that new specimen was imminent.

Chapter Text

Cloud couldn’t remember how he got back to Zack’s apartment. He wasn’t even sure how long he was there before he was conscious again. His entire body trembled. He knew he had a fever, because he felt frozen even under the heap of blankets Zack had put over him.

“Zack?” Cloud called. His voice was husky and his throat felt dry. Everything hurt. Even opening his eyes was difficult.

“I’m here!” Zack called. Cloud felt remarkably relieved when he saw his friend hovering above him. A wet cloth wiped the sweat from Cloud’s forehead.

“Fuck, Cloud! You’ve been sweating green for days,” Zack whispered. Sure enough, the cloth Zack held was tinted with green. “I have no idea why they gave you an injection if you were just going to reject everything.”

“I hate them, Zack.” Cloud’s voice, while quiet, was thick with anger. His condition was far worse than last time. Cloud knew damn well he couldn’t walk. Even lying down, the dizziness was almost too much.

“I know you do, Spike.” Zack’s voice was so incredibly soothing. Cloud closed his eyes and forced himself to focus on the way Zack’s fingers were sliding through his hair instead of the pain.

“Listen, Spike. Ang and I have new orders,” Zack explained. His voice was strained with worry. “They’re sending us back to Wutai. I think we’ll be gone a lot longer this time. Weeks.”

Cloud was beginning to hate Shinra. He had only been on one mission, he was constantly trying to adjust to new injections, and they kept taking Zack away.

“You can’t be alone, Spike,” Zack said carefully. Cloud couldn’t have cared for himself if he wanted to, and Zack wanted to make sure he was going to be alright.

“Sephiroth.” Cloud only needed to say the name. His meaning was very clear.

“You think he’ll have time to care for you?”

“I know I’m not going to anyone else,” Cloud answered stubbornly. He definitely wasn’t going back to the damn medical wing so that the scientists could watch him sweat out mako for days.

“Well, we better go now… Is that okay, Spike?”

Cloud attempted to nod his head, but the action made him immediately nauseous. He held very still until it passed. Zack’s fingers slid soothingly through Cloud’s hair again. He could tell how difficult this was for his friend.

“I’m going to carry you, okay? Just hold on to me, keep your eyes closed, and try not to vomit,” Zack ordered as he peeled back the heap of blankets. Cloud’s shaking grew worse when his body was exposed to the air, but the blond didn’t complain.

Zack very gingerly lifted Cloud from the bed. Cloud bit his lip and never opened his eyes to avoid as much vertigo as he could. It was still hard. He felt like he might puke at any moment, but he managed to hold that in as Zack carried him away.

Cloud was glad his eyes were closed. He didn’t want to know how many people saw Zack carrying him through the SOLDIER’s residential building. Cloud kept himself pressed very close to his friend. The touch kept him grounded even as Zack’s walking continued to jar him.

Soon though, Cloud felt Zack shift the blonde’s weight in his arms so that he could lift an arm and knock on a door. They must have reached their destination.

Cloud heard the door open, and he wasn’t surprised when he felt the brush of Sephiroth’s leather gloves lifting him from Zack’s arms.

“What happened?” Sephiroth asked. Cloud swallowed thickly. He couldn’t answer or he was going to puke for sure.

“They gave him another dose of mako. He’s been unconscious since then. Now that he’s awake, he wants you,” Zack explained in a rush. Zack’s nervousness made Cloud curious. He cracked open his eyes and slowly tilted his head until he could look at Sephiroth.

The man looked murderous, and Cloud wondered how awful he must look for Sephrioth to look so pissed.

“Come in,” Sephiroth invited. He turned and walked directly to the bedroom. Cloud wanted to look around so badly it hurt, but he also didn’t want to vomit all over Sephiroth. Something told him that the general wouldn’t appreciate that.

The soft pat on the ground behind them told Cloud that Zack had removed his boots and was definitely following them.

Soon, Sephiroth was laying Cloud down in what must have been his own bed. Everything smelled very strongly of Sephiroth, and the sheets felt like silk on Cloud’s aching body. They were shockingly soft for a man like Sephiroth to have chosen himself.

Sephiroth pulled the blankets over Cloud, and Cloud felt immediately less queasy. He opened his eyes and watched as Sephiroth tucked the blankets around him. Zack walked to the other side of the bed and carefully sat down next to Cloud.

“What did Hojo do to you, Cloud?” Sephiroth asked. The man’s face was drawn and serious, as it often was, but there was a harshness to it that Cloud wasn’t accustomed to.

“It hurts, but it’s only mako, Sephiroth,” Cloud answered. His voice was soft with confusion. Sephiroth removed his gloves and set them on the nightstand. He then rested a hand against Cloud’s forehead. The blonde sighed, his body relaxed by the skin-to-skin contact.

“Would you tell me more… About Hojo?” Cloud questioned. Sephiroth’s was clearly very worried about him. Cloud wondered what he actually had to fear in the labs.

Sephiroth glanced up at Zack. He wanted to tell Cloud, but he was hesitant to share the same information with Zack.

“Please, Sephiroth,” Cloud whispered. He clearly wanted Zack to stay. Perhaps, on a rational level, Sephiroth knew it would be better for someone else to know. Sephiroth wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be around to protect Cloud.

“Cloud… Do you know where I was born?” Sephiroth questioned.

“No.”

“That’s because I cannot be sure myself. I would not be surprised to find that I didn’t have an actual birth. I was designed by Hojo, and I was raised in his labs,” Sephiroth explained slowly.

“What do you mean… Designed?” Zack spoke up softly from Cloud’s side.

“It means that I was created, Zack. I am as much a piece of Shinra property as any machine one of their engineers put together. More than half of my make-up is not recognizably human,” Sephiroth explained slowly.

Cloud, with great care, moved an arm out from underneath the blankets. The effort was surprisingly difficult. Everything he moved felt like it was full of pins and needles. Still, he managed to find Sephiroth’s hand and squeeze it.

“The experiments that created me were cruel, Cloud. I was not raised as a human might be. I was isolated in those labs, tested, and observed,” Sephiroth paused, clearly trying to consider his next words, “My body is covered in surgical scars. Hojo treats all of his experiments like machines. He’s takes them apart and put them back together. Sometimes, he changes the parts.”

Sephiroth’s hand squeezed Cloud’s more tightly. “Hojo is a man without mercy. His work with me only stopped when I became so valuable to the company that they refused to allow Hojo free access.”

“I do not know what he wants with you, but I will do what I can to protect you from him,” Sephiroth promised.

Cloud offered the general a weak smile. Sephiroth’s face was too expressionless, and Cloud could see how difficult talking about it was. He wished his body wasn’t such a mess. Sephiroth deserved more than a squeeze of the hand and a smile, but it was all Cloud could give.

“I’m glad you told me…” Cloud forced himself to say. His eyelids felt so heavy. He wasn’t even sure how long he was going to be able to keep his consciousness.

Zack reached out and gently slid his fingers through Cloud’s hair. Soon, Cloud was sleeping. His breathing seemed easy, and Zack felt himself relax just a little more. He glanced up at Sephiroth, who seemed to be in deep thought.

“Thank you, Sephiroth… For sharing that,” Zack whispered. He didn’t want to wake Cloud now that he was resting again. Sephiroth glanced up at him and Zack found himself feeling just a little nervous.

“I guess I want to tell you that you can lean on me. If you ever need to. If you need me for anything, I’ll be here,” Zack explained slowly. He slid his fingers through Cloud’s hair one more time then got to his feet.

“I guess, you know that Angeal and I have been called back to Wutai?”

“Yes, I know,” Sephiroth answered easily. He was still watching Zack very closely.

“Do you think you could take care of Cloud for me until he’s on his feet again? He doesn’t trust anyone else,” Zack explained. He mussed his own hair nervously as he waited for an answer. He wasn’t sure where he would go next if Sephiroth refused.

“Of course.”

Zack relaxed considerably. He looked at the general and smiled to show his gratitude. “Thanks for looking after, Spike. I’ll be back to check on him.”

Zack turned to walk out the door, but stopped in the doorway when he heard Sephiroth answer.

“Thank you, Zack… For listening, and for your words.” Sephiroth’s voice held sincerity, and Zack found himself smiling as he left. It felt good to be trusted by the silver general – even if it was only a little bit.

Sephiroth was one of Angeal’s dearest friends, and Angeal always worried that Sephiroth didn’t have enough people to lean on. Zack felt great knowing that the silver general might be on the way to accepting Zack’s friendship.

Sephiroth wasn’t smiling, but he did feel a deep sense of relief. He’d always known there was something he liked about Zack.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

When Cloud woke next, he could feel Sephiroth’s arms around him. The general must have removed Cloud’s shirt, because he could feel the skin of Sephiroth’s chest on his back. It felt nice.

Everywhere their bodies touched hurt a little less than the rest of him. Sephiroth’s fingers brushed lazily against Cloud’s stomach, and Cloud smiled. He’d thought Sephiroth was asleep.

“How do you feel?” Sephiroth asked.

“Better,” Cloud promised. He didn’t feel ready to leave bed, but he did feel better.

“It wont be long until they send me my next orders. I’m beginning to worry you may not recover before they send me away,” Sephiroth admitted. Fingers continued soothingly sliding over Cloud’s stomach. Cloud briefly wondered how many days he had lost sliding in and out of his fever.

“Thank you, Sephiroth. You didn’t have to take care of me, like this. I’m going to be fine,” Cloud promised. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the heat between them.

“Your pain… Distresses me, Cloud. I could not have left you alone,” Sephiroth admitted.

Cloud hummed. His hand found Sephiroth’s, and he laced their fingers. He squeezed to show his appreciation.

“Have Angeal and Zack left already?”

“No, though I expect the transport will take them tomorrow. Why? Did you want to say goodbye to Zack?” Sephiroth nuzzled Cloud’s shoulder, and Cloud shook his head.

“I wanted to talk to Angeal before they leave. I owe him an apology,” Cloud answered. “Do you think he’s home?”

“It’s pretty late. I’m sure he probably is.”

Cloud attempted to sit up and Sephiroth pushed him back down. “Feeling better does not mean you are well, Cloud. You’re not walking anywhere. I will take you.”

“I want to talk to him alone,” Cloud insisted.

Sephiroth scowled down at the blonde. Why in the hell would he want to do that?

Cloud stared defiantly up at Sephiroth for a moment then began to explain. “It’s important that I learn to interact with him on my own if I want to be his friend.”

Sephiroth stared a moment longer, then slowly looked away. It made sense. Building relationships was difficult, and Cloud wanted to improve in his abilities. Angeal was sure to appreciate it. The man liked to see a person’s effort.

“Fine then… But I’ll bring him to you. Don’t you dare get out of bed,” Sephiroth ordered. Cloud shuddered as the general left his side. He was already missing Sephiroth’s familiar touch, but he did want to see Angeal.

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Not much time passed before Angeal was quietly opening the bedroom door. Cloud attempted to sit up, but only really managed to prop himself up further on the pillows.

Angeal carefully knelt beside the bed. Cloud read pity and concern in his expression.

“I must still look pretty awful if you’re looking at me like that,” Cloud muttered.

“I don’t think anything could make you ugly, Cloud, but you do look awfully sick,” Angeal answered. He reached out and gently slid his fingers through Cloud’s hair. It would have been a bold move if Angeal really thought Cloud was still angry.

Cloud sighed softly and closed his eyes. He didn’t know how to deal with the complement, so he moved forward with his apology.

“I’m sorry… About how I reacted the last time we were together. I know it’s been a long time now, but I’m very sorry. I know you were only trying to help.”

“You didn’t really need my help, Cloud.”

“I might not have if the entry process was fair, but I did this time. I want to thank you for it,” Cloud countered. Angeal looked a bit surprised. He hadn’t expected Cloud to ever thank him. If Cloud had been even half as shy as Zack had always said he was, then Cloud had grown a lot as a person already.

“You’re welcome, Cloud,” Angeal finally said. He still looked stunned as he knelt quietly next to Cloud.

“I want for us to be friends. Sephiroth and Zack are both important to you, and they’re important to me… So we have something very important in common,” Cloud reasoned. He was watching Angeal’s face curiously.

The man wasn’t as outspoken and transparent as Genesis and Zack were, but he was noticeably kind. Angeal watched him in return. This man was definitely more analytical than Zack. Angeal always seemed to watch for changes in expressions and new reactions. Cloud wondered if those careful considerations were a part of his kindness.

“I would like very much for us to be friends, Cloud.”

Cloud smiled, soothed by the words. “I’m sorry we had to have this talk now. I didn’t want you to have to see me like this, but I was afraid letting it go until you returned from Wutai might be worse.”

“I’m glad you asked me to come, Cloud. I wanted to ask you some questions. About Zack and Sephiroth. I would have hated waiting,” Angeal admitted.

“What do you want to know?” Cloud asked.

“Sephiroth… Do you love him?”

Cloud smiled fondly as he thought about it. “I care for him very much. It might be too soon to say I love him.”

“But you love Zack?”

“I absolutely love Zack,” Cloud promised. Angeal’s expression was more thoughtful and soft now. That seemed to have been exactly what he wanted to hear.

“Zack told me that he wants to talk to Genesis. That’s never happened before, and I think I can guess who helped him make that decision,” Angeal accused lightheartedly. He could see that Cloud and Zack had been good for each other.

“Zack made the decision on his own, but I may have helped,” Cloud admitted. “I’m excited to see Genesis myself.”

“You are?” Angeal sounded skeptical, but Cloud carefully nodded. The movement still made him a bit dizzy, but it was his habit to answer with gestures whenever possible.

“I think Genesis was harsh because he cares about you so much. I can’t imagine he’d be mad at Zack for any other reason. Zack can make anyone love him,” Cloud explained. “He apologized, and he said he wanted all of us to spend time together.”

“All of us?” Angeal questioned.

“I think he meant you, me, and him… But I think we should invite Sephiroth and Zack. I think we’re all too linked not to get to know each other better.” Cloud spoke the words as if the solution was so simple. It warmed Angeal in an unexpected way.

It seemed peculiar to think of anyone else breaching the barriers the generals had build around their group, but, oddly, Angeal didn’t feel threatened by Cloud. Sephiroth didn’t either, and, he hoped, with time, Genesis might feel the same.

“Genesis should be home soon. His mission isn’t a long one, but Zack and I will be gone before he arrives.” Angeal was genuinely sad to say so. The three generals did spend most of their time away from one another, and it was hard on all of them.

“I’m sorry you wont see him. It must be hard to spend so much time apart,” Cloud muttered back. Angeal was genuinely surprised to hear his own thoughts mirrored in Cloud’s voice.

“Yeah, but that is the life we lead. It’s surprising they haven’t sent Sephiroth away already.”

“I’m glad they haven’t. I-I really don’t want to be alone,” Cloud whispered softly. It was true. He felt too vulnerable, and, the more time he spent with Zack and Sephiroth, the less equipped he felt to be completely on his own again.

“I hope he gets to stay a while then, Cloud… But you should try to get more sleep,” Angeal whispered. The general’s fingers brushed soothingly through Cloud’s hair again. Cloud was beginning to like the way everyone played with his hair. He’d rarely been touched like that before joining SOLDIER.

The blonde hummed his agreement and closed his eyes. He heard Angeal leave, and it wasn’t long after that Cloud fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Cloud was still dealing with his mako overdose, but he could finally function well enough to sit up in bed. He had even been making short walks to the bathroom on his own, but only when Sephiroth wasn’t around to insist that Cloud wasn’t well enough to walk.

Sephiroth had been taking excellent care of him, but the general was overprotective. Sephiroth brought him fine meals in bed, held him at night, and made sure he bathed regularly. But, every time Cloud took a tumble trying to get around on his own, Sephiroth’s mothering grew worse.

Worse, Cloud’s days had been boring.

Cloud spent a lot of his time curled up with his new PHS. Zack had dropped it off with Sephiroth before he left. The only number in it was Zack’s, but Zack was plenty of entertainment. Cloud was infinitely glad that his best friend was irresponsible enough to use his Shinra-issued PHS for personal correspondence.

Zack messaged Cloud constantly, and Cloud was getting more comfortable messaging him back. Mostly, they sent short messages back and forth about how Angeal hated eating rations or Sephiroth’s habits.

Zack’s last message held some interesting information. Genesis was coming home, and Cloud wanted to see him.

It had already been too long since Genesis and Cloud had last spoken, and Genesis wasn’t far away. Cloud was seriously considering trying to walk over.

Cloud glanced up as the bedroom door opened. Sephiroth looked him over from where he stood in the doorway.

“I’m going to visit Genesis,” Cloud stated before Sephiroth could ask him how he was feeling.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Sephiroth answered just as quickly.

Cloud sighed and pulled the blankets off of him. “I feel better, and I’m tired of sitting in bed,” Cloud insisted. He got slowly to his feet. Sephiroth hurried over to the bed to hover nearby. He was ready to catch Cloud if he fell, but he didn’t want to force the blonde back into bed.

“He might not even be there, and, if he is, he’s going to be in the bath,” Sephiroth explained. Cloud was already moving toward the bedroom door. He took quick, sure steps. He wanted to prove to Sephiroth that he could walk without trouble.

“At least let me check,” Cloud began to argue, but his vision blurred and his knees gave out before he even reached the living room.

Sephiroth quickly caught the blonde. The silver general growled, his face twisted in a scowl. “Damn it, Cloud!” He pulled the beauty against his chest and carried him back to the bedroom.

“Let me take care of you. It wont be for much longer, so bear with it,” Sephiroth ordered as he carefully set Cloud back into bed.

Cloud didn’t look at him. He stared at the comforter. His scowl looked more like a petulant pout to Sephiroth. It hadn’t escaped the general that Cloud was resistant to his help. Even Sephiroth could see that Cloud was uncomfortable with his own vulnerability, but that didn’t mean Sephiroth could let Cloud pretend he was immune to the mako’s effects.

The silver general sighed and reached out to brush his fingertips soothingly down Cloud’s cheek. He could see Cloud’s shoulders relax at the gentle caress.

“I’ll bring Genesis to you before my afternoon meetings,” Sephiroth promised. Cloud looked up at him then, and he didn’t move away when Sephiroth leaned in and brushed their lips together.

Cloud’s fingers slid into Sephiroth’s hair as he deepened the kiss. He attempted to pull Sephiroth down on top of him, but the silver general pulled away. Sephiroth was determined to keep every touch innocent between them until Cloud’s fever broke.

Cloud groaned but didn’t complain when Sephiroth left. He spent over an hour alone with his PHS before Genesis let himself in. He smelled heavenly. Sephiroth must have been right when he’d said Genesis would be in the bath, because the red general definitely smelled newly bathed and perfumed.

Sephiroth came in behind Genesis. The red general looked Cloud over curiously.

“Why is he in bed at this hour?” Genesis questioned.

“Mako poisoning. I was hoping I could convince you to keep him company while I meet with the President,” Sephiroth answered.

Genesis took a moment to think. He had been asked to attend those meetings as well, but he didn’t say so. Cloud’s mako poisoning intrigued him, but the fact that Cloud had actually asked to see him was even more intriguing. The boy was bold.

“I’ll look after him,” Genesis promised.

Sephiroth clasped Genesis on the shoulder. It was Sephiroth’s silent way of saying that he wanted to see Genesis later. The red general offered him a covert smile.

Genesis wasn’t sure he was comfortable allowing Cloud to see the way he usually interacted with Sephiroth. He definitely would have embraced the man otherwise. Genesis’s lips were still swollen from the few kisses they’d shared before returning to Sephiroth’s apartment, but it hadn’t even been nearly enough.

Sephiroth grabbed his leather coat and was gone in a hurry. Apparently, he was already late.

Genesis waited until he was sure Sephiroth was gone before he moved to sit carefully on the bed beside Cloud. The beauty was sitting up in bed and watching him attentively. Somehow, having those blue eyes focused completely on him was intensely satisfying.

“Mako poisoning?” Genesis questioned.

“A third round of injections,” Cloud explained. Genesis cocked an eyebrow. That was definitely interesting. Immediately, he began to understand Sephiroth’s worry.

“I’m sick of talking about it,” Cloud admitted. “How was your mission?”

“Miserable. I feel much better now that I’ve washed the grime off. Next time they had better send me somewhere with a proper inn,” Genesis answered irritably.

Cloud smiled, and Genesis paused to examine Cloud’s face a moment before he spoke again. Cloud was truly beautiful. His smile wasn’t wide or obvious. It was just the barest upturn at the corners, but it made him even more beautiful.

“I am interested in knowing what happened between you and Sephiroth,” Genesis answered. There was the barest hint of bite in his words.

To most, it would have sounded like jealousy, but Cloud heard worry in Genesis’s tone instead. Instantly, he was reminded of his last conversation with Angeal. The generals were surprisingly similar.

“We went into the mountains. We had sex, and we came back down the mountain. He was very careful with me. We talked a lot, and now we’re friends,” Cloud answered. It was the simplest answer he had, and it was the best he was willing to give at the moment.

Genesis nodded his understanding. He was still contemplating his follow-up questions when Cloud spoke again.

“Why have you been so harsh?” Cloud questioned. He was still trying to figure Genesis out. Everything the man said was a bit too sharp and hostile, and Genesis always attempting to seem disinterested. Cloud hated any façade. He wanted to know what was underneath.

The red general looked genuinely surprised again. He shouldn’t have been so shocked. Cloud was bold and blunt and completely unintimidated.

“I don’t want to be too nice to you yet. I might change my mind and decide I don’t like you at all,” Genesis answered immediately.

Cloud’s smile grew wider, and Genesis found himself surprised again when Cloud actually started laughing. He was even more beautiful now. Genesis was deeply unsettled by how disarming the blonde was.

“I’m sorry. I guess, if you’re going to admit you like me right now, I could tell you more,” Cloud answered. His eyes were still bright with amusement, and Genesis was mortified to feel the heat in his own face. Maybe he’d said more than he meant to.

“I want the details,” Genesis admitted. He crossed his arms and waited impatiently.

Cloud nodded and attempted to provide a more detailed story of what had happened. Genesis listened patiently and without rushing him. He didn’t look displeased. He didn’t ask Cloud to elaborate about the sex either, and, for that, Cloud was grateful.

“That doesn’t sound like a typical rut at all. Did Sephiroth talk to you about that?” Genesis questioned.

Cloud’s fingers tightened around the blanket that covered him.

“It’s been brought up a few times, but no one has talked to me about it yet. I know it wasn’t typical, but I have no idea how different it was,” Cloud explained slowly.

Genesis’s eyes softened. He could see how confused and nervous Cloud was. Subtly, he shifted closer to the blond and uncrossed his arms.

“When a SOLDIER goes into rut, the change is intense. We get more aggressive and dominant,” Genesis began to explain. One of his hands drifted down his own stomach. He rested his palm against his lower belly and spread his fingers. “A tight heat starts here. There’s cramping and pain if you don’t relieve the pressure. All you can think about is marking someone. The pain gets worse the longer you go without knotting.”

Cloud listened and nodded. What Genesis explained wasn’t far away from what had happened to him.

“Sometimes, the first rut is different. The body is still having major changes. The SOLDIER may be unable to knot. They rarely feel any sense of actual relief. An orgasm alone might be enough to stop the pain, but they are always aggressive. Sometimes more aggressive than SOLDIERs who have had multiple injections,” Gensis continued to explain.

Cloud shifted uncomfortably. He’d felt no aggression at all. He had never felt the need to pin someone down and lay claim.

“Your experience wasn’t like that, was it? Will you tell me a little more?”

Cloud looked up at Genesis and nodded. “I definitely felt the heat and the cramping, but I didn’t feel aggressive. I felt… Needy. Hungry. Sephiroth didn’t seem interested in having sex with me until my rut actually started. He said I had an excellent scent. We didn’t need lubricant either. My body made it’s own, and I was never told to expect that by anyone.”

Cloud wasn’t stupid. He knew damn well that his body was different.

“That is different. If I can learn find any answers for you, I will,” Genesis promised.
Cloud looked profoundly relieved, and Genesis wondered if anyone had taken the time to explain or talk to him about any of this before. All of the generals knew something was unusual about Cloud. It would have been impossible for Zack not to have noticed.

“Thanks for telling me that much. It’s been very hard to ask anyone about it. I don’t feel that I can trust the medical staff,” Cloud explained slowly.

Genesis nodded in understanding. They sat in comfortable silence a moment longer.

“I wanted to thank you too. For being good to Sephiroth,” Genesis explained. “I was afraid I would have to protect him from you… I’m glad that isn’t the case.

Gensis and Angeal had met Sephiroth when he was still an unsocialized, miserable experiment. It had taken a great deal of attentive care and coaxing to pull Sephiroth out of his own despair. Genesis was determined to protect the man Sephiroth had become.

“It’s hard to imagine Sephiroth needing protection,” Cloud mused quietly beside the red general.

“Sephiroth needs emotional protection. The people close to him have the power to wound him more than any physical force on Gaia,” Genesis explained quickly. “Sephiroth had a traumatic upbringing.”

“I’m aware,” Cloud answered. His expression darkened and his voice was somber.

“You know?” Genesis asked. He waited patiently for the confirmation

“Sephiroth told me that he was created by Shinra,” Cloud answered. He was sure that would be enough to confirm for Genesis that he knew enough.

Genesis nodded grimly. The confession was more surprising to him than any of Cloud’s previous behavior. He knew Sephiroth liked the beautiful blonde, but the red general would never have guessed that Sephiroth had come to trust him so much in such a short amount of time.

“I’m glad he’s had you to protect him,” Cloud finally said to break the silence. Genesis looked up from where he’d been intensely focused on his gloved fists. He hadn’t even noticed that he’d been lost in thought.

“Do you like poetry?” Genesis asked suddenly. Cloud was the one to look surprised this time.

“I’ve never thought much about poetry before,” Cloud admitted.

“That’s a pity. I thought I might invite you to the theater. Angeal and Sephiroth hate to go,” Genesis lamented.

“I would still go if you asked me too,” Cloud promised. Genesis regarded Cloud quietly. Cloud knew Sephiroth’s secret, and he was still there. Briefly, Genesis wondered if Cloud knew that Angeal and Genesis were also experiments. He was sure that Sephiroth wouldn’t tell Cloud without asking permission first, but it seemed unlikely that Cloud would shy away from their friendship now.

Genesis wanted to know more about the young SOLDIER. Much more.

Genesis removed one of his gloves. Carefully, Genesis reached out and touched Cloud’s forehead. It was still hot. “You should rest, Cloud… But I will invite you out another time.” Genesis offered Cloud a genuine smile, and the blonde seemed to relax.

“I’ll be hurt if you don’t come visit me again,” Cloud threatened as he carefully forced his body back down. Genesis helped him put the blankets back into place over him.

“I promise. I will come again,” Genesis soothed quietly. Once Cloud’s head rested safely against the pillows again, Genesis got to his feet and left the room. He needed to do some research of his own, and, if possible, he needed to talk to Angeal.

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Two weeks had passed since Genesis had come to speak with Cloud. Cloud was completely recovered and had been spending a lot of time in the practice rooms to sharpen the reflexes that had dulled while he’d been on bed rest.

Outside of practice, Cloud still spent most of his nights in Sephiroth’s apartment. He’d visited with Genesis a few times, but the man had been sent around the city and to nearby towns often. He was on trips frequently enough that their visits had been short and sporadic.

Cloud was getting very anxious. Genesis had kept busy, but Cloud still had not received any new orders. Neither had Sephiroth. It was unusual for SOLDIERs to have so much down time. They were both going stir crazy.

Cloud growled irritably and practiced a flurry of strokes. It didn’t do him much good to practice without a partner anymore, but he didn’t have Zack to help him. Most of the other SOLDIERs avoided Cloud altogether. He must have seemed unfriendly, or maybe it was because Cloud had been seen with the generals.

Cloud had become accustomed to practicing on his own, and so he was very surprised when Sephiroth spoke up from behind him.

“Want to train with me?”

Cloud turned to look at the silver general and grinned. He had never seen Sephiroth in one of the large, public training rooms. His unique, long blade was already drawn, and Cloud grinned and held his up in response.

“Go easy on me, General,” Cloud flirted.

Sephiroth smirked and stepped forward. Sephiroth’s movements were sharp and more graceful than Cloud’s, but it was clear that Cloud’s injections had given him a great deal of power already.

They started slow. Sephiroth was testing his reflexes and adjusting his strength to best fit Cloud’s level, but soon they were moving quickly. Blades moved in smooth arches and flourishes.

It was a lot like dancing, but much more exhausting. Soon, Cloud was covered in sweat, and their fighting had drawn a crowd of onlookers.

Still, they kept fighting. Sephiroth held back less the longer they fought. Cloud was adjusting to Sephiroth’s speed and strength much more quickly than Sephiroth would ever have expected. The SOLDIER had incredible talent.

It was only after Sephiroth began to notice their crowd that they slowed down. Cloud’s movements began to slow further as exhaustion set in, and, very suddenly, Sephiroth stopped. He looked over the crowd, glaring.

Cloud lowered his sword, and watched Sephiroth closely. Honestly, Cloud was incredibly turned on. Watching Sephiroth in action was more arousing than any amount of foreplay.

Sephiroth was tense. He had noticed something Cloud hadn’t. As always, eyes were on Sephiroth, but just as many eyes were on Cloud. Sephiroth could see the lust in them. Cloud was beautiful.

Cloud was smiling. He was covered in a thin layer of sweat, and his chest was heaving after the effort of their sparring. He looked positively sinful, and Sephiroth bristled with jealousy as more eyes focused on his partner.

He sheathed his blade and quickly stepped forward to grab Cloud’s arm. He pulled Cloud out of the room. The SOLDIERs quickly parted to make room for the general as they left.

Cloud was dazed and confused, but he followed Sephiroth closely. The general dragged Cloud along until they were out of sight and in a more private hallway.

Then he turned and pushed Cloud forcefully against a wall. The blonde gasped, and Sephiroth quickly brought their lips together. The kiss was fierce, and Cloud was grinning when Sephiroth finally pulled away.

The blond leaned up and nipped at Sephiroth’s lower lip. The silver general released a low growl. His hands found the back of Cloud’s thighs, and he lifted the beauty against the wall and settled between Cloud’s legs.

Cloud’s legs wrapped around him, and their lips met again. Neither of them thought about the Shinra security cameras watching them.

Cloud’s fingers slid into Sephiroth’s hair, and one of Sephiroth’s hands slowly slid beneath Cloud’s shirt. Cloud twitched and quickly broke the kiss.

“Not here,” Cloud ordered firmly.

Sephiroth groaned in frustration. He lowered his head and rested his forehead against Cloud’s shoulder. “Why not? Do you think anyone would be stupid enough to interrupt us?”

Cloud nuzzled the side of Sephiroth’s head. “Not here…” Cloud whispered again. Sephiroth didn’t argue. He pulled away from the wall and set Cloud on his feet again. He took Cloud by the arm and led him quickly down the halls. He didn’t pause once until they were in the elevator that would take them up to their rooms.

As soon as the elevator doors were closed, Cloud found himself pushed up against a wall again. Sephiroth rocked his hips down on Cloud’s, and Cloud returned the pressure with equal force.

Sephiroth’s hands were under Cloud’s clothing again. His nails carefully scraped along Cloud’s sides, then moved downward.

Cloud didn’t wait to feel those hands grip his ass before he jumped up and wrapped his legs around Sephiroth’s hips again. Sephiroth took his weight easily. The silver general’s arms wrapped tightly around Cloud as the elevator doors opened.

Their fiery make-out session didn’t stop even as Sephiroth carried Cloud down the hallway. Cloud wasn’t sure how Sephiroth managed not to run into any walls, but they reached the apartment without damaging anything.

Sephiroth did break their kiss to focus on opening the door, so Cloud moved to kissing and nipping at Sephiroth’s throat. They hadn’t had sex since before Cloud’s mako poisoning, and Cloud was eager to reacquaint himself with Sephiroth’s body.

As soon as they were through the front door, Cloud began violently tugging at Sephiroth’s clothes. Sephiroth helped Cloud remove his jacket before carrying him the rest of the way to the bedroom.

He pushed Cloud back on the bed, and Cloud unlocked his thighs so that Sephiroth could pull back. Cloud had expected Sephiroth to get out of his pants, but he started by helping Cloud out of his boots instead.

Cloud pulled his shirt over his head and threw it aside. Sephiroth smirked and pulled Cloud’s pants and briefs slowly down his legs until he’d taken them off completely.

Cloud looked up at Sephiroth expectantly. He was completely naked, and Sephiroth was still entirely overdressed.

The general’s smirk turned wolfish as he unbuttoned the top of his pants. “You need a shower, Cloud.”

Cloud cocked a lovely eyebrow. “Are you going to make me wait?”

“I thought we could take one together,” Sephiroth answered smoothly. He turned and left, sliding out of his remaining clothes as he made his way to the master bathroom.

Cloud watched after him, a bit wide eyed. Then he smiled and followed. He’d never had sex in a shower before, and he felt a lot less worried about that than sex in a public hallway.

When Cloud opened the bathroom door, the shower was already running. The water must have been hot, because steam was already filling the room. Sephiroth waited beside the glass shower door. He stood to the side and tilted his head toward the shower to indicate that Cloud should enter first.

Cloud stepped passed him, and sighed in deep contentment as the hot water hit his skin. “Sephiroth,” Cloud crooned. He turned toward the general, eyes half-lidded as he gestured for the general to join him.

Sephiroth rarely resisted when Cloud asked for his attention. He stepped into the shower and shut the door behind him.

Cloud’s arms slid around Sephiroth’s neck, but Sephiroth didn’t immediately lift him. The general’s hands slid slowly down the length of Cloud’s body. His fingers carefully explored every dip and curve of Cloud’s sides and abdomen.

“Sephiroth,” Cloud whispered again. His voice was huskier this time. He was painfully aroused, and he didn’t wait to wait any longer.

The general nodded and placed a careful kiss to Cloud’s temple. Cloud smiled softly. He’d been expecting a rushed, rough session, but Sephiroth clearly had other ideas.

Sephiroth turned Cloud to face the shower wall. Cloud shuddered as Sephiroth carefully bent him over. Cloud looked over his shoulder, watching curiously. It was very rare that anyone did anything to him from behind. Sephiroth pressed a kiss to Cloud’s shoulder, and the younger SOLDIER smiled and looked away. He could trust Sephiroth to take care of him.

Slick fingers began preparing Cloud for what would come next. Cloud hummed softly. Sephiroth must have already had some kind of lube in the shower, which meant he’d been planning this.

The prep work was quick. Sephiroth pulled away completely after only a couple minutes.

“Turn around,” Sephiroth whispered. Cloud turned to face his lover. Sephiroth’s arms slid around him. Cloud pressed closer and brushed his lips against Sephiroth’s throat. Resting skin-to-skin felt very different under the hot spray of the water. It was nice and deeply relaxing.

Sephiroth’s hands slid lower again. The found Cloud’s thighs and pulled the beauty up against him. Cloud’s legs wrapped around Sephiroth’s hips again, and the general quickly pressed Cloud’s back firmly against the shower tiles.

Cloud shuddered. The tiles were a lot colder than the hot water.

“I think you like that,” Sephiroth purred into Cloud’s ear. The man leaned entirely over Cloud.

“Like what?” Cloud murmured in reply. He reached between them give his aching length a few strokes.

“Being lifted. Being held,” Sephiroth answered. He leaned down and brushed his lips against the junction of Cloud’s neck and shoulder.

“I might like it.” Cloud smirked. He did like it. He liked Sephiroth’s strength, and he liked the way it felt to be pressed up against the general’s hard body.

Sephiroth reached between them and aligned his length with Cloud’s entrance. He was inside with one, smooth stroke. Cloud whimpered. His head lulled back against the tiles as his body attempted to adjust to the sudden intrusion.

Sephiroth’s lips explored Cloud’s neck again. He nipped at the flesh and littered it with love bites. The small bruises would be dark marks on Cloud’s skin before morning. Sephiroth wanted to make sure the other SOLDIERS knew not to approach.

“Sephiroth,” Cloud whimpered again. It wasn’t a question. Sephiroth knew Cloud well enough to know it was an order. Sephiroth smirked and nuzzled Cloud’s shoulder as he drew his hips back and pushed them forward.

Cloud moaned. The sound echoed in the small space, and Sephiroth was immediately captivated. Cloud’s arms wrapped tightly around Sephiroth’s neck. His fingers tangled in Sephiroth’s wet hair as Sephiroth began steadily thrusting.

The silver general experimented with the angles in an attempt to draw more of those delicious sounds from Cloud. His efforts were rewarded. Cloud grew louder and more eager as Sephiroth found the right spot and pace.

The positioning was surprisingly intimate to Cloud. He could feel Sephiroth’s hair adhering to his thighs and stomach. He could feel the heat of the water. Steam filled the room, and the only thing his eyes could focus on was Sephiroth.

Sephiroth lifted his head and his eyes locked on to his. Cloud purposely bumped their noses together, and Sephiroth leaned in to give him the kiss he wanted. The strength of his thrusts intensified, and the pressure in Cloud’s lower stomach became too much.

“Sephiroth!” It was all Cloud could say in warning before he came hard between them. His entire body tensed with the strength of his orgasm. His nails dug into Sephiroth’s shoulders in an attempt to ground himself, because Cloud truly feared he might fall.

Sephiroth didn’t stop his thrusting. He came shortly after, but his grip on Cloud didn’t falter. He cradled Cloud against him until his orgasm subsided.

Carefully, Sephiroth pulled out of Cloud’s tight body. Cloud whimpered at the loss. The beauty shook softly, and Sephiroth was careful as he helped Cloud find his feet. The general continued to support Cloud as he stood on shaky legs.

Cloud’s head rested against Sephiroth’s shoulder as he continued to enjoy the aftereffects of their lovemaking. Gingerly, Sephiroth began to wash Cloud’s body. He paid careful attention to every inch of Cloud.

Once Cloud was thoroughly recovered, he stole the body wash from Sephiroth and began to return the favor. Sephiroth seemed to enjoy the pampering even more than Cloud did. His chest rumbled with a deep purr of contentment.

Cloud even took the time to help Sephiroth wash his long hair and combed through it with his fingers before they rinsed the last of the conditioner away.

Clean and thoroughly satisfied, the two laid down for a long nap afterward. The amount of free time they had was suspicious, but it would have been an enormous waste not to take advantage of it while it lasted.

Chapter Text

More than three weeks had passed, and Cloud still had not been out on assignment. Angeal and Zack were still gone. Genesis had left for a short mission and already returned. Cloud had visited the assignments office twice to make sure there wasn’t a problem.

They started sending him along with the fucking patrols like a common infantry soldier. Cloud was pissed.

Shinra had kept Sephiroth close to home as well, but he’d started getting busier. Cloud wasn’t sure why Sephiroth was still at Shinra headquarters, but it seemed that they couldn’t afford to let one of their most valuable assets remain completely idle any longer.

They sent Sephiroth to events all over the city - parading their general around. Sephiroth had also been leaving to visit the surrounding areas on assignment, but he was never gone for more than a day at a time.

Cloud was becoming more restless by the day. He liked having Sephiroth close, but he felt useless. And, truly, there was nothing worse. Cloud had joined SOLDIER to prove his own worth.

Shinra had given him the injections, but they hadn’t given him a purpose.

Cloud was growling like any irritable alpha male when he reached Sephiroth’s apartment. He’d practically lived there the last few weeks. Whenever Cloud spent a couple nights at his own place, Sephiroth got anxious. It was easier, and more pleasant, to spend most of his nights beside the silver general.

Cloud was about to sit down when someone knocked at the door. Cloud looked up but didn’t immediately stand. Sephiroth had warned him not to let anyone in. Apparently, anyone who was allowed to be in Sephiroth’s apartment already had a key.

Cloud didn’t have to wait long to decide if he should open it or not, because Genesis let himself in.

“Cloud. I thought I heard you in the hall,” Genesis stated as he shut the door behind him. In truth, he had been waiting to catch Cloud’s scent all day.

“Genesis… How are you?” Cloud asked with a ghost of a smile. He was still frustrated, but he didn’t want to take it out on Genesis now that the man seemed to be warming up to him.

Genesis ignored the question and moved quickly to join Cloud on the couch. Cloud breathed in deeply. Genesis always wore a wonderful scent. He wondered briefly how the man managed to smell so pleasant. Most perfumes were too strong for SOLDIERs to tolerate.

“I thought I could convince you to join me for a play this evening,” Genesis requested. The red general’s eyes were focused intensely on Cloud. Cloud was beginning to see how much Genesis appreciated eye contact.

Cloud thought about it a moment. Part of him was too frustrated to want to sit down for a play, but there was a bigger part of him that was desperate to get away from Shinra for even a little while.

“Are you sure you want my company?” Cloud asked. Genesis gave Cloud a charming smirk. He ignored that question as well.

“Get your coat,” Genesis ordered instead.

Cloud shook his head and made his way to Sephiroth’s bedroom to grab his only decent jacket.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The play was long. It was full of love and betrayal. In truth, the story itself wasn’t bad, but Cloud had trouble sitting quietly for so long. By the time the play had finished, Cloud was bored out of his mind and eager for it to end. Still, he sat through the entire performance at Genesis’s side.

Genesis leaned against the armrest between their two seats, and Cloud enjoyed the sweetness of Genesis’s scent throughout the performance. Twice, he’d just barely felt a lock of Genesis’s hair brush his cheek.

As they were leaving the theater, Genesis grasped Cloud by the arm and began to guide him up the street.

“Thanks for coming with me. You looked tortured, but I’m glad you came,” Genesis offered briskly as they walked up the street. Cloud had no idea where they were going, so he allowed the red general to lead him.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Cloud mused. Genesis was smirking again.

“You hated it.”

Cloud didn’t argue again. Instead, he jogged forward a step so that they were walking side by side. “I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t want to.”

“Allow me to treat you to dinner as thanks,” Genesis insisted. His smile was wider. The blonde’s bluntness was still charming.

“You want to take me to dinner?” Cloud questioned.

Cloud cocked his head to the side, confused. It seemed like such an odd thing. No one had ever taken him out to have dinner before. There was no place to go in his hometown, and Zack and Sephiroth rarely left Shinra headquarters if they weren’t on a mission.

“It wouldn’t be much of a date if I let you go home hungry,” Genesis answered.

Cloud gave him a annoyed look, but Genesis only smiled back. Cloud decided not to ask him about the meaning on the word ‘date.’

Cloud could see water ahead. They continued to approach it. Then Genesis led him up a small set of stairs and into a brightly lit building. The restaurant must have been an expensive one. The décor was extravagant, and the tables were completely full.

Genesis exchanged a few words with the hostess, who then led them through the restaurant, up a flight of stairs, through a more dimly lit section of the restaurant, and then out to a small terrace.

The terrace was well lit and overlooked the water. There were several tables, but they were all empty. Only the center table had been set for guests, and Cloud wondered if Genesis had paid to reserve the entire terrace of the evening.

They sat down, and Cloud tried to get comfortable. The view was nice, and that was a rare thing in Midgar. The grandness of the gesture might have thrown him off balance, but he could appreciate the effort Genesis had made.

It still felt unwarranted. Cloud barely knew Genesis.

Genesis must have seen Cloud’s unease. “I wanted to make sure we would be alone,” Genesis explained simply. Cloud shrugged and focused on the view. They sat in silence for a moment. Genesis waited until Cloud broke the silence.

“I like this place. It’s pretty… I guess I’m not used to it. Midgar always looks… Dirty.” Cloud explained. He made an effort to look through the menu. It was hard to focus on what it said.

“People from Midgar don’t usually think that. Where are you from?” Genesis knew Cloud was from Nibelheim, but he hoped Cloud would tell him more about it if he asked.

“Nibelheim. It’s a very small town in the mountains. It rains and snows often. Dust doesn’t have a chance to collect the way it does here, and it’s definitely not as industrial,” Cloud answered simply.

They sat in silence for a moment. A waitress came and took their order. Cloud asked for something almost at random, because he still hadn’t really looked at the menu.

“I’m from the country as well,” Genesis explained. Cloud looked up, and Genesis relaxed. It really was nice to have Cloud’s undivided attention.

“I come from Banora. It’s vibrant and green there too,” Genesis continued.

“Tell me more about it,” Cloud asked. He scooted his chair a bit closer to the table. He then leaned over the wooden surface and rested his elbows on it so that he could be closer to Genesis.

Genesis mimicked the gesture. Normally, he wouldn’t have set his elbows on the table (as it was bad manners), but he liked the intimacy the closeness created.

“Well… I grew up in a fairly wealthy family. We had an apple orchard. Banora apples are the finest on this earth,” Genesis began. He sounded proud, and his voice was softer as he spoke of his hometown. It was clear that he was genuinely fond of the place.

“Are they really?”

“The lifestream runs close to the surface in Banora, and the soil appears to be better as a result. The apples are very sweet,” Genesis continued. “Many of the scents I wear come from Banora apple blossoms.”

Cloud smiled. He always liked the way Genesis smelled. Apparently, Genesis had noticed. “I’d like to try those.”

“I will share them with you one day,” Genesis promised. “It would be nice to go back sometime. Angeal and I spent our childhood there.”

“You were childhood friends?” Cloud asked. He tilted his head to the left. His spikes bounced just a bit when he moved his head.

“We were.”

“That explains a lot,” Cloud remarked idly.

There was another long silence after that, but this silence was far more comfortable than the first. The waitress brought them their food, and they ate quietly until Genesis ceased waiting for Cloud to break the silence.

“Cloud… Why did you agree to come with me?” Genesis finally asked. His voice was firm, and his attention was still focused completely on Cloud. Genesis was still attempting to appear unruffled and confident, but Cloud could see a faint glimpse of insecurity.

Cloud tilted his head again, and Genesis watched the way his spikes moved.

“Sephiroth loves you,” Cloud explained. Genesis’s expression became instantly colder.

“You felt you owed it to him to spend time with me?”

Cloud put down his fork. He felt a moment of true, internal panic. He tried to quickly collect his thoughts. He could see that he’d said the wrong thing… Or, perhaps, that he hadn’t said enough.

“Sephiroth loves you. Angeal loves you… I trust them to pick good people. I just…” Cloud paused. What he’d been trying to say wasn’t quite right. He decided that he’d try being simple instead, “I wanted to be your friend.”

Genesis paused. The coldness left his expression. He looked quizzical instead.

“You wanted to be my friend?” Genesis paused a moment, thinking about the words, then added, “Because they expected it of you?”

“No one pushed me to be your friend, Genesis. I guess I wanted to see what they see. You were harsh, but I think I might like that about you,” Cloud tried to explain. He swallowed uncomfortably. He didn’t know how to handle social confrontations.

Cloud shifted nervously in his seat. He was very glad the rest of the terrace was empty now. Genesis watched him a moment longer, then released a long sigh.

“I apologize, Cloud. I didn’t mean to trap you here. I just wanted to know you better. I already decided to trust Sephiroth’s judgment,” Genesis apologized. The red general did look unsettled. The man turned to focus on the water completely.

“What about your judgment?” Cloud asked. Cloud may not have had the correct explanation before, but that had been the right question. Genesis’s gaze turned quickly back to Cloud.

Genesis’s lips just barely twitched at the corners. “I haven’t made one yet.”

The rest of their conversation flowed more easily. The dinner was extravagant but comfortable, and Cloud felt much happier on the way home. He was certain now that he and Genesis could be friends.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Another two weeks passed quickly. Sephiroth was becoming even busier. It wasn’t unusual for him to leave for a couple days at a time. Even when he was home, he was often preoccupied.

Miserably, Zack was still gone. With every day that passed, Cloud became less angry and more depressed.

He missed Zack terribly. The PHS messages were far less frequent, and Cloud wasn’t able to spend much time with Sephiroth either. Cloud was lonely. A few short months before, he would never have felt as hopelessly lonely as he did now.

Cloud spent his days doing drills and exercising until he was too exhausted to think about how badly he missed his best friend.

Cloud walked slowly back to his room after his drills. He could feel that he was going to be sore in the morning, but he didn’t care. He took a very hot shower. Many of his aching muscles relaxed, but his stomach muscles didn’t. He wondered if he’d exercised his core a little too much.

Once Cloud was in fresh clothes, he sat down and idly watched the small television in his room. He hadn’t bothered buying a better one even though he now had the money to do so. The television was only a distraction anyway. He was barely even paying attention to it.

He wasn’t sitting long before the cramping in his lower belly became suspicious. Cloud tensed. The feeling was familiar now. He was even beginning to feel a bit nauseous.

Quickly, he got to his feet and pulled a coat around him. Cloud was a bit panicked. It was a bad time to go into rut. Sephiroth had left on a last-minute assignment earlier that day. Cloud wasn’t even sure how long he would be gone.

Cloud didn’t know what to do about his impending rut, but he did know he would be safer at Sephiroth’s apartment. He hurried to lock up his place. He made his way directly to the elevator that would take him to Sephiroth’s apartment. He tapped his foot irritably all the way there. He had no idea how long it took for the rut to actually start, but he knew he didn’t want to be caught in it out in the open.

He sighed in relief when the doors open and quickly made his way down the hall toward Sephiroth’s apartment door.

His steps paused when he caught the familiar scent of apple blossoms.

Genesis was home, and he would know when Sephiroth was coming back. Sephiroth never answered his damn PHS, but Genesis would surely have the actual mission details.

Cautiously, Cloud knocked at Genesis’s door. He’d never been to the man’s apartment, but he was certain that Genesis wouldn’t mind his visit.

He had to wait a moment, but, to Cloud’s great relief, Genesis did open the door.

The red general leaned against the doorway and looked Cloud over curiously. Genesis looked more casual than Cloud had ever seen him. The man was always covered in leather and looked overly formal. Today, he wore only a black sweater and a simple pair of pants. His hair was even a bit ruffled.

“Something you need, Cloud?” Genesis questioned. His voice was amused.

Cloud swallowed. “Do you know when Sephiroth will be home?”

Genesis’s stepped to the side. “He shouldn’t be gone for more than a couple of days,” Genesis assured. “What’s wrong? You look fraught.”

“Fraught?” Cloud questioned as he cautiously stepped into the apartment.

“Panicked,” Genesis amended. He shut the door behind Cloud.

Genesis’s apartment was very different from Sephiroth’s. The silver general had decorated his apartment in various shades of gray and white. Sephiroth’s place was extremely modern and sleek.

Genesis’s apartment looked very luxurious, but it wasn’t nearly as minimalistic. It was decorated in rich golds and reds. Many of the materials were natural. The room was surprisingly homey for someone as flamboyant as Genesis.

Genesis reached out and gently touched Cloud’s shoulder. The blonde jumped just a bit under the touch, and quickly turned to look at the general again. His blue eyes narrowed just a bit as he tried to focus.

“I’m going into rut, and I don’t know what to do about it,” Cloud explained simply.

“Oh… Sit down, Cloud,” Genesis ordered as he gestured to the nearby couch. Cloud nodded and moved to sit down. Genesis didn’t immediately follow him. He went to the kitchen, and quickly returned with a steaming cup of tea.

Genesis set the cup in front of Cloud then took a seat in a chair directly across from him.

“It’s going to be alright, Cloud. Try to relax. The more stressed you are, the more quickly your rut will begin,” Genesis explained patiently. He sat back in his chair. He said nothing until Cloud had taken a few sips of his tea.

“What if something goes wrong? We both know something is wrong with me. My body is different, and I don’t know how to prepare for it,” Cloud spoke. His sounded less rushed and panicked now that he was sitting with Genesis. Somehow, knowing someone was nearby made the situation a bit less terrifying.

“I know it’s frustrating, but it will be alright,” Genesis promised. The man was trying not to breathe in too deeply. Cloud was exuding an unusual scent already. It made Genesis feel strangely.

Cloud nodded and frowned down at his tea. He took a few more measured sips, before he focused his attention on Genesis again.

“I’m sorry we haven’t spent a lot of time together recently,” Cloud offered. Truthfully, he’d barely seen Genesis at all except in passing since they had got to the theater together.

“It’s my own damn fault. I’m the one who is busy. I could seek you out just as easily as you could come to me,” Genesis soothed.

Cloud rested a hand against his lower belly and cringed. His legs trembled, and he wondered if it was going to be painful every time he began his rut.

“Are you alright?” Genesis asked. He got to his feet and moved to join Cloud on the couch. He reached out to rest his hand gently over Cloud’s. “How badly does it hurt?”

Cloud shuddered, and his scent grew stronger. Genesis breathed in deeply this time. The hair on his arms stood on end. The reaction in his own body was strong. Heat pooled powerfully in Genesis’s lower belly. Genesis’s next rut should have been far off, but it suddenly felt imminent.

“Cloud… If you don’t want me to be the one to help you through this, I think you should leave now,” Genesis ordered. He leaned closer and took another curious breath.

Instead of moving away, Cloud leaned against the red general. The blonde’s head tucked itself between Genesis’s neck and shoulder. It was the most physical contact they had ever had.

“It hurts a lot worse this time,” Cloud whispered. Genesis’s fingers moved downward. The slid under Cloud’s shirt. He massaged the beauty’s stomach carefully with his bare fingers. The painful cramping seemed to subside just a bit.

“Cloud, I don’t think you heard me. I’m reacting to you,” Genesis explained again. “Let’s get you to Sephiroth’s room. You can wait for him there.”

Cloud buried his head further in Genesis neck. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“Cloud, if my rut starts, I wont be gentle.” Genesis’s voice was firm. He felt guilty already. He didn’t want to have sex with Cloud because Hojo had tampered with his hormones.

Cloud looked up at Genesis. His eyes were so bright and so blue. Genesis was so focused on them that he was caught completely off-guard when Cloud’s lips found his. Cloud’s kiss was shockingly soft and gentle. The blonde’s tongue swept over Genesis’s lower lip, and the red general was done for.

Chapter Text

Hey, All!

I know many of your know this already, but Heat, Fury, and Fascination has been down with technical issues for several weeks now. I JUST now got it fixed on my own, but, for those of you who don't know already, I'll provide a quick breakdown of what happened.

I received a request for HFF to become part of a collection. I saw no harm in it, so I accepted. However, the collection turned out to be a hidden collection. My work was tagged as a "mystery work," and could not be viewed. Normally, this would have been an easy fix: I just had to remove it from the collection.

However, the collection page disappeared, and it no longer appeared on my fic's edit page (so I couldn't remove it from there). So, my work was stuck in limbo.

I talked to the AO3 staff for a while. It was determined that it was a programming issue, and my problem was passed on to the programming team. However, the programming team is all volunteers, and I was told it would take some time to fix the issue.

I'm actually still waiting to hear back from the programming team. I finally managed to get HFF viewable again by experimenting with adding it to other collections. XD It still seems to have some glitch. It does not want to be removed from the collection I put it into to make it viewable, but that's alright with me.

Anyway!

Thank you all so much for your patience! I promise that I only stopped posting because of this issue! I missed all of my readers terribly, and I hope this fic hasn't been forgotten in the time I've been gone!

I'll be positing the actual Chapter 14 shortly!

It's good to be back.

With Love,
~Gemsom

Chapter Text

Genesis’s eyes flashed dangerously as he breathed Cloud in. His scent grew potent with a musk and faint smokiness that hadn’t been there before. His gaze and stance were fiercely predatory. Cloud nearly choked on the strength of his own reaction to the sudden change.

It was unmistakable: Genesis was in rut. Cloud might have had the good sense to be afraid if he hadn’t been so painfully aroused.

Genesis’s lips met his in a fiery kiss. Cloud’s shuddered, and the dampness between his thighs spread. Neither SOLDIER seemed to have much control any longer. Their lips moved together with primal hunger as they tore at one another’s clothes.

Genesis’s sweater made it off his shoulders with only marginal damage, but Cloud’s shirt left his body in shreds. The fasteners on each sets of pants were torn in their rush to feel skin. Both were eager and driven faster by the tantalizing scent rising from the opposite partner.

Genesis’s entire body rumbled with a primal growl as he lifted Cloud’s naked body against his. Cloud’s legs wrapped around Genesis with ease. The blonde’s heated skin felt perfectly soft and inviting to Genesis. Everywhere their skin touched was fire. The beast inside the red general was intrigued, and the soft sounds Cloud was making made it eager to please.

Genesis began walking toward the bedroom, but he was unwilling to stop his exploration of Cloud’s mouth to do so. He knocked over a floor lamp after only a few steps. Genesis snarled viciously at the distraction and set Cloud on the display table that rested behind his couch. Cloud’s body knocked over a vase and an expensive looking glass lamp. The glass shattered into many, small pieces that covered the surface of the small table.

Cloud whined when Genesis let go of him briefly to untangle himself from the lamp cord. The sound of breaking glass unsettled Cloud, but the lack of a lover under his nails was worse.

Genesis’s attention immediately returned to Cloud at the sound of his whimpering. He was helpless to Cloud’s calls and whims. All rationality was gone. Genesis swept aside the larger pieces of broken lamp with a brush of his arm. He was apparently unbothered by the glass shards that lodged themselves in his skin as he pushed Cloud back against the table.

Cloud gasped. The remaining shards cut into his back, but he barely noticed because Genesis was finally between his thighs once again. Cloud’s head lulled back in an attempt to offer Genesis his throat. Enticed by the invitation, Genesis leaned over him and buried his face in Cloud’s pale neck.

The general breathed in deeply. Cloud released a low, keening sound, and Genesis sank his teeth in deep. Blood ran thickly over his tongue. Cloud cried out, but not in pain. His nails sank into Genesis’s back with enough strength to break the skin. The blonde’s cock twitched against Genesis’s stomach. The sweet, musky fluid leaking from his entrance smeared over the tabletop.

Genesis pulled back and licked the wound a few times. Every gentle swipe of the tongue sent liquid heat directly to Cloud’s core, and also brought him the slightest spike of exquisite agony. He didn’t want it to stop, but he also desperately wanted more. He tugged at Genesis’s shoulders – urging him to continue.

“Please,” Cloud begged. He nuzzled the side of Genesis’s face. He felt so painfully empty. Every touch was only a bandage, and Cloud urgently needed a cure.

“Ask properly,” Genesis ordered. His voice was deeper and richer than Cloud had ever heard it. Cloud’s cock twitched again.

“Genesis,” Cloud answered. His tone was a demand more than a plea, but, surprisingly, the alpha didn’t mind being commanded even in the throws of his rut.

Cloud didn’t need to say any more, because Genesis’s lips were on his again. The slight tang of blood on the General’s tongue only fueled Cloud’s excitement.

Cloud was so focused on the tongue sliding over his that he hadn’t noticed the head of Genesis’s length probing his entrance.

Genesis forced his way inside with one, powerful thrust. The sudden intrusion was a shock to Cloud’s unprepared body, but the burn inside him immediately soothed the pain away. Cloud felt so weak and sated that his body went momentarily limp. He might have passed out if Genesis hadn’t immediately begun thrusting.

Cloud was hazy, feverish, and starved. He was hungry for more touch and greater intimacy. He clawed at Genesis, attempting to pull the red general as close to his heated skin as possible.

Genesis’s chest rumbled with an appreciative purr. His lips began sucking and nipping at Cloud’s throat. His hands gripped Cloud’s hips with bruising force.

Genesis seemed to increase his strength with every thrust. Every stroke was brutal, but neither of them would last long enough to cause real damage. Cloud spilled between them first. Cloud felt the general’s knot expanding almost as soon as his inner walls began clenching down in orgasm.

The friction was the most intense Cloud had ever experienced. The swollen flesh rubbed against his over-sensitive walls. It was too much, and it wasn’t enough. Cloud was barely aware of his own begging and whining and urging until Genesis stilled inside him.

Cloud released a low groan of deep satisfaction as Genesis’s release filled him. Usually, he never would have felt the moment his lover came, but, this time, each jet of semen felt like liquid fire inside him. The heat spread pleasantly through his core. Oddly, the warmth soothed his enflamed body instead of bringing him to burn hotter. It was heaven.

Genesis’s forehead rested briefly against Cloud’s. Neither had the ability to speak any longer, and neither was truly ready to stop. One round hadn’t been enough for a reprieve this time. Cloud’s eyes were still dazed with lust.

Genesis was only just calm enough to think to move them to the bed again. He lifted Cloud from the table. Cloud whimpered. The knot was still locked into place, and its every movement was giving Cloud too much stimulation.

“Gen,” Cloud rasped, but Genesis silenced his meek protests with another hungry kiss. Cloud’s hands slid into Genesis’s hair. He was perfectly distracted until Genesis slammed him into the bedroom door. The polished wood cracked down the center with the strength of Cloud’s impact.

Genesis must not have realized that the room was locked. Cloud hissed – disoriented by the collision, but the general barely seemed notice.

Genesis growled low in his throat when the damn thing didn’t open. The door had split and splintered on contact, but the lock hadn’t released. Irritated, Genesis drew back and kicked what remained of the thick wood. The door fell open on its side, and Cloud clung desperately to the red general as they finally entered the bedroom.

Cloud had been dazed by the impact with the door, but only momentarily. He was eager again as soon as Genesis laid his body against the soft, down comforter. Already, Cloud’s hands had left Genesis’s hair and were twisted in the material. The fabric tore under the strength of his grip.

Feathers began lofting through the space between them, but neither SOLDIER noticed or cared.

Genesis’s knot hadn’t gone away, but he was already thrusting again. His thrusts were powerful and unmeasured. Sex had never been so noisy or feral for either of them. Cloud’s moaning grew louder, and each sound encouraged Genesis to go harder.

Genesis’s face was buried in Cloud’s neck again. He paid special attention to the junction of Cloud’s neck and shoulder. His tongue soothed the bite wound he’d left earlier. His tongue slid lazily over the flesh a few times, as though to assure himself that the blood flow had stopped. Then, he moved slowly to the other shoulder.

Cloud’s fingers curled around Genesis’s biceps. His grip was just as harsh as the grip Genesis had on his thighs. His nails bit deep, but Genesis seemed to like it. The harder he gripped, the deeper Genesis’s purr became. They would both be bruised by morning.

Genesis’s tongue smoothed over the second junction of Cloud’s neck and shoulder several times as his thrusts grew in strength once again.

The red general’s second orgasm hit him like a truck. The man’s entire body shuddered with the strength of it. His purr turned into a bestial growl as he sank his teeth deep into the fresh skin he’d just prepared.

Cloud cried out in shock as the man’s teeth broke his skin again. Cloud should have been angry. Instead, it aroused him. The sharp pain soothed a need Cloud hadn’t even been aware of. Genesis held on tightly to the flesh as he road out his orgasm, and Cloud followed immediately behind.

Numbly, they clung to each other. There was no real break in Cloud’s heat, but there was a small lull. He didn’t feel his rationality returning. There was no moment of clarity as there had been after each orgasm in that cave with Sephiroth, but the pair did become gentler for a time.

Instead of blindly fucking and marking each other, Genesis focused on licking the wounds he’d left on Cloud’s shoulders. Cloud pressed apologetic, open-mouthed kisses to Genesis’s shoulders and arms. It wouldn’t last long. As soon as the swelling in Genesis’s knot went down, Genesis pulled out and turned Cloud on his stomach.

Genesis spent a good deal of time leaving bite wounds and marks all over Cloud’s pale flesh. Cloud eagerly returned the favor. Their bodies weren’t familiar with one another. To compensate, they each spent a considerable amount of time laying swift, visible claim to one another’s bodies.

The sex was seemingly endless. Every coupling was rough, but they were always followed by a short period of comforting licks and nuzzles. The short lulls weren’t enough to soothe their exhausted bodies, and the heat did not abate until both their bodies were physically incapable of continuing.

---------------------------------------------------------

Two days later, Genesis watched every rise and fall of Cloud’s chest. He sat beside the beauty, but he felt far away. For a very long time, Genesis had known he was a monster, but he had never seen the proof of it until now.

The bruises on Cloud’s hips were a dark purple. Genesis could see the outline of each of his fingers. His nails had broken the skin. His teeth had broken it in many other places.

Cloud was dotted everywhere with bruises and fresh wounds. Genesis clearly had broken the skin many times, but the worst were a pair of matching bite wounds on each of Cloud’s shoulders. One had closed well enough. On the other side, Genesis could see a trail of dried, flaking blood that trailed down Cloud’s body. It must have bled a while before the flow finally stopped. Genesis wondered how many times his teeth had reopened the injury during their time together.

There were cuts in Cloud’s back as well. They had scabbed over, but they were numerous. Genesis couldn’t recall making them, but he knew they were his fault.

The beauty looked completely serene while he slept, but Genesis knew that was only because Cloud was bone tired.

Cloud was a mess of dried sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids. Mostly the bodily fluids. They’d barely slept at all in their frenzy.

Genesis slid his fingers through his own hair. He was trying not to let the despair set in. He hadn’t really believed he would hurt Cloud. Not even in the throws of his rut, but he’d never experienced his rut so intensely. Genesis only remembered a few moments of the last two days. Ruts were often frenzied, but he’d never blacked out.

The disappointment may have been worse than the guilt. Genesis had wanted Cloud. The red general had been attracted to the blonde from the beginning, and it hadn’t taken much time for him to realize that Cloud was unique. Special. Genesis had wanted to know what it would be like to share the same bond with Cloud that Sephiroth did. Now that chance was dead.

Genesis wanted to romance Cloud. The beauty was so obviously unaccustomed to attention. He hadn’t even been looking for something sexual. Genesis had wanted to try pampering Cloud, and, instead, he’d been ruthless.

The more he thought of it, the angrier he felt. He was furious with himself. How could he have been so stupid? He was a respected general with hundreds under his command. He was a strategist, but he’d been completely helpless against his own bodily urges.

Still, his eyes continued to watch Cloud. Genesis made no efforts to move. The general was determined to at least protect Cloud properly until the blonde ordered him to leave.

Perhaps Genesis was actually waiting to see what hurt expression Cloud would give him when he woke. He wanted to see the betrayal. He needed to remember and know the damage he had done.

Genesis’s body stiffened when Cloud’s eyelashes began to flutter. Slowly, those stunning eyes were looking directly into his. Genesis’s chest constricted. Those eyes had captivated the red general so many times already.

“Genesis… Are you alright?” Cloud questioned. Cloud’s eyes had moved away from Genesis’s face and were now examining his body.

Genesis hadn’t paid much attention to himself since waking. His own body was covered in bruises and claw marks. His back, especially, felt raw.

“How could you possibly be worried about me when you look like that?” Genesis questioned. He reached out, hesitantly, and brushed his fingers through Cloud’s hair. He shouldn’t have touched Cloud so readily, but he’d desperately wanted to. His fingers itched to touch Cloud anywhere the blonde would allow it.

“I am so sorry, Cloud,” Genesis’s words were quiet and melancholy. Cloud attempted to sit up and gasped in pain. His lower body was on fire.

Genesis’s eyes were full of remorse. The man moved to stand, but Cloud caught his hand and pulled him back down. “I’m the one who stayed. You remember that, don’t you?”

Genesis’s eyes narrowed. “Cloud, I injured you.” He was more aware than anyone that Cloud wasn’t as altered as the generals. He shouldn’t have been as rough with Cloud as he was with Angeal or Sephiroth, and, instead, he’d been even rougher.

“I hurt you too,” Cloud growled. His eyes were narrowed in an odd mix of irritation and vulnerability. His growling continued as he pulled on Genesis. “Don’t leave.”

Carefully, Genesis sat down again. He reached out and brushed his fingers down the length of Cloud’s back. His touch was feather light, but even the barest amount of contact helped Cloud to relax.

“I don’t know if I want to be forgiven for this,” Genesis admitted. He had been as careful as possible to avoid the wounds on Cloud’s back, and that hadn’t been an easy thing. He felt terrible.

Cloud glanced up at him. “Genesis. This is hardly even an injury. You didn’t break any bones, and I’m not made of glass.”

“Your body tells another story,” Genesis argued. His eyes were hard, but his expression was too soft for the irritation he was trying to express.

Cloud pulled Genesis down to his level and pressed a kiss to his jaw. When the red general attempted to pull away, Cloud tugged Genesis further down and caught the man’s lips in a proper kiss. The general didn’t return it, and Cloud was vexed.

“If it bothers you so much, why not earn forgiveness instead of asking for it?” Cloud suggested. Genesis looked taken aback. Cloud continued to surprise him.

“I’ll have a cure brought to us,” Genesis promised. “Let me draw you a bath, at least. It’ll soothe your body.”

Cloud hummed in response and closed his eyes. Outside of his irritation with Genesis, Cloud felt completely satisfied. He barely felt the bruises or cuts. He felt wonderfully content.

He might have dosed off again, just for a moment, but soon Genesis returned. The red general lifted Cloud gingerly off the bed. Cloud leaned against the man’s chest and sighed in contentment.

Cloud smiled when he felt Genesis nuzzling his hair. He had expected Genesis to be squeamish about the mess, but the red general clearly didn’t mind. At the very least, Cloud’s hair, sticky with sweat, hadn’t given Genesis a reason for pause.

The bathroom was exactly what Cloud would have expected. It was larger than Sephiroth’s and more lavish. The claw-foot tub looked especially luxurious sitting on it’s own over a marble floor. The entire room smelled of apple blossoms, and the tub was full of bubbles. Cloud lips quirked in amusement. Bubble bath seemed like a childish luxury for an elite general to want.

Cloud had expected Genesis to let him down so that Cloud could get into the bath on his own, but, instead, the general lowered Cloud directly into the water. Some of his small cuts stung on contact with the water, but the temperature was wonderful. Cloud sighed loudly as his muscles began to relax.

Genesis knelt beside the tub. His arms rested on the rim as he watched Cloud lounge in the warm water.

Cloud cracked a single eye open. “Is the water scented?” Cloud asked curiously. The scent of apple blossoms was very strong.

“I use scented oils in the bathwater,” Genesis explained. Cloud hummed. That was a mystery solved. Genesis didn’t use cologne. His bathing habits made him smell good.

The red general began skimming the water with his fingertips. He looked lost, and the guilty expression on the general’s face was ruining Cloud’s bath.

“You have to stop looking so ashamed,” Cloud ordered.

“I can’t stand what I did to you.”

Cloud leaned forward and gently rested their foreheads together. “Was the sex that bad?”

Genesis smiled despite himself. His eyes focused on Cloud’s once again. He lifted his hand from the water and gently stroked Cloud’s cheek. He hated that their first time had been rough. He hated that he barely remembered it even more, but he wasn’t opposed to his choice of partner.

“I don’t regret you, Cloud. I regret hurting you.”

“Look, Genesis. That wasn’t like the last time for me. It was a lot more intense, and… It wasn’t a rut, was it?” Cloud pulled away just enough so that he could see Genesis’s entire face. “I reacted to it too, Genesis. You weren’t the only one to get carried away.”

Genesis nodded numbly. He’d been thinking about that himself.

“I think what you’re experiencing is something very different. You trigged my rut, and your body was prepared for it… Your body seems to be trying to draw a dominant partner instead of driving you to find a submissive partner,” Genesis explained.

Cloud shuddered. His expression darkened. The explanation did make some sense, but the concept unnerved him. “So… You think I’m the ‘female’ equivalent of a SOLDIER?”

Genesis thumb brushed soothingly over Cloud’s cheek. “I don’t think you’re any less worthy for it, Third-Class Cloud Strife.” He drew back, resting on his knees beside the tub. “I promised I would tell you if you became unworthy, didn’t I?”

Cloud nodded and offered Genesis a ghost of a smile. He’d forgotten Genesis’s first attempt at an apology. Genesis had called him by his rank then too. Genesis hadn’t forgotten how badly Cloud wanted to prove that he had earned his title.

“I am sorry, Cloud,” Genesis said again. “You know… I am a product of similar experiments to those that created Sephiroth. I was altered rather than engineered, but… I’m not really human anymore.”

Cloud watched him closely. He had already gathered that Genesis and Angeal must be different in order to rival Sephiroth, but he hadn’t expected Genesis to explain it to him now.

“I guess… I wish I hadn’t had the opportunity to hurt you this way. I feel more like a monster now than I ever did.” Now that Genesis had begun explaining, it felt like he couldn’t stop. The words were out before he’d even thought about them. Fortunately, he didn’t have the chance to say anything else, because Cloud cut him off.

“You’re not a monster. I can promise you that. Neither is Sephiroth.” Cloud’s tone was sharp, and he had Genesis’s undivided attention. Cloud paused for a moment to let the words sink in then continued. “You can be as harsh as you want. I’m not planning to abandon you, but you had better stop thinking of yourself as a monster. Imagine what Sephiroth would think if he heard you say that.”

Genesis focused on Cloud’s intense expression. That gaze held another challenge. Genesis looked away almost immediately. This wasn’t a battle he wanted to win, and it was becoming easier and easier to allow Cloud his victories. Guilt still ate at the general, but Genesis felt a new kind of warmth spreading over it.

Genesis couldn’t imagine how someone could challenge and scold him and still be so unbelievably inviting. He almost wished the heat would linger just a little longer. He wanted to taste Cloud while in his own mind.

Genesis must have sat there quietly for too long, because Cloud spoke again.

“Are you going to join me?”

Genesis took a moment to contemplate it, then nodded and got to his feet. Cloud leaned forward so that the red general could carefully sink into the water just behind Cloud. The beauty leaned back lazily against Genesis’s chest once the red general settled in. Neither of them was bothered when a small amount of water sloshed out of the tub.

Genesis slid an arm securely around Cloud’s middle. Cloud released another contented sigh. The smaller SOLDIER relaxed completely against Genesis’s chest.

The red general couldn’t remember the last time he felt so satisfied. It was much easier for Genesis to relax now that he was touching Cloud again. Even his guilt hadn’t silenced the possessive alpha inside. He’d needed to touch Cloud.

With great care, Genesis took one of Cloud’s hands in his. He brought it to his lips and tenderly kissed Cloud’s knuckles. Cloud hummed softly in response. Genesis began to think that Cloud was going to allow Genesis to pamper him after all.

He waited a moment, examining Cloud’s lithe fingers.

Infinite in mystery is the gift of the Goddess,” Genesis recited. A genuine smirk settled on his face. Cloud didn’t even open his eyes.

“I can’t be seduced by poetry.” Cloud sounded tired, but Genesis could hear his amusement.

“That wont stop me from trying,” Genesis told him. Cloud huffed, but didn’t protest. He didn’t mind so long as Genesis didn’t plan leave him. Still craving physical intimacy, Cloud pressed closer and allowed Genesis’s warmth to calm him.

Chapter Text

Cloud hummed in contentment as the magic sank into his skin. Receiving a Cure was a beautiful thing. The magic flooded every cell and soothed every muscle. He might have been fine without it, but rutting had strained his muscles more than he realized. His entire body had gone stiff after the nap he’d taken.

When the magic stopped glowing along Genesis’s arm, Cloud leaned forward and gently nudged the man’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what would be too intimate for the red general now that his heat was over, but Genesis seemed to appreciate the brief touch. The red general had been tense since they’d left the tub, and he’d been avoiding touch. Now his eyes had softened and some of the tension had left his shoulders.

“Sephiroth is going to flay me,” Genesis muttered. He reached out and gently trailed his fingers along Cloud’s throat. He could remember the wounds that had been there. It didn’t matter that he could not longer see them. Some sick part of him missed the visual claim that had once been there.

“No, he’s not,” Cloud promised. The blonde’s fingers curled in Genesis’s shirt and gripped. “I’m going to explain everything to him. It wasn’t your fault.”

Genesis smiled weakly. He gazed into Cloud’s eyes a moment longer. The need to kiss the blonde again was overwhelming, and he felt briefly awkward when he realized he had no right to do so.

Cloud’s lips quirked slightly as he pulled away. “Do you think he’s home?” Cloud asked. He was already making his way to the apartment door. He was going to check for Sephiroth. Genesis followed closely behind. Protective instincts lingered, and he couldn’t stand to let Cloud leave his sight just yet.

Genesis was much more nervous than Cloud, and maybe it was because he knew Sephiroth better. Cloud didn’t seem to realize how important he had already become to the silver general.

Cloud knocked on the door and Genesis shifted anxiously from foot to foot. Sephiroth answered the door almost immediately, and his usual scowl broke into a wide smile at the sight of Cloud. He opened his arms and Cloud stepped into them without hesitation.

Sephiroth buried his nose in Cloud’s hair and breathed in deeply. He paused, stiffening at the scent of apple blossoms. He knew that smell well. He could also smell the faintest trace of Cloud’s “rut.” An unmistakable streak of jealousy tore though the silver general. Sephiroth’s eyes flickered up to Genesis’s. He could see the guilt in Genesis’s eyes already.

“Were you careful?” Sephiroth asked. His voice was emotionless, but Genesis felt the sting of the accusation.

Cloud lifted his head from Sephiroth’s chest and scowled up at him. He was about to open his mouth when Genesis replied.

“I… I was careless,” Genesis answered. He averted his gaze. “He was injured.”

“What did you do?” Sephiroth’s voice was deep and commanding. Genesis almost flinched. No one could reprove him so effectively as Sephiroth. If he’d been looking, he would have seen the way Sephiroth’s features twisted with anger. The general gripped Cloud tightly around the waist.

Cloud pushed hard against Sephiroth’s chest and growled when the general’s hold didn’t loosen at all.

“Nothing he did was his fault.” Cloud’s voice was firm. Sephiroth looked down at him. He’d meant to queue Cloud to be silent, but he was surprised by how irritated the blonde looked. He hadn’t seen an expression like that since they’d first climbed the mountain in Nibelheim.

Sephiroth released a low growl. He hated the clear challenge to his own authority, but Cloud’s eyes only narrowed further. That didn’t surprise him as much as the answering growl from Genesis. Sephiroth returned his attention to Genesis. The red general had lost his submissive stance and was now staring directly into Sephiroth’s eyes. It had been a very long time since Genesis had challenged his dominance.

Sephiroth’s growl deepened and Genesis immediately followed suit. Rationally, Genesis knew that Sephiroth was no threat to Cloud, but the protective urge was overwhelming. Genesis itched to pull Cloud away.

“Cut it out!” Cloud hissed. He hit Sephiroth lightly on the chest to catch his attention. Even as the two alphas sized each other up, it was Cloud who was the angriest. His displeasure was so thick that they could both smell it.

Both alphas turned their full attention on Cloud. Sephiroth’s grip loosened and Cloud took a step back. The blonde crossed his arms and glared at the pair of alphas until each stopped their growling.

“I’m tired of this. I want to be comfortable with you both, and you’re making that impossible. You’re friends,” Cloud reminded them. He shook his head and stepped passed them both. He very purposely pushed Sephiroth’s shoulder as he stepped into Sephiroth’s apartment.

Sephiroth’s eyes followed him – amazed. He felt guilty on an instinctual level. He knew there was something different about that. It should never be so easy to diffuse aggression between two SOLDIERS.

Genesis’s eyes followed Cloud as he left. He waited until the beauty was out of sight before he reached out and brushed his fingers against Sephiroth’s hand. It was a small display of affection, but Sephiroth was still too angry to accept it. He pulled away and followed Cloud into the apartment.

Genesis hesitated. He knew Sephiroth wouldn’t welcome him now, but he also knew Cloud expected him to follow. Genesis didn’t think he could leave Cloud unless the blonde ordered it just then. He still felt a strong, lingering attachment to the young SOLDIER after his rut. He stepped through the doorway and followed the faint scent of Cloud to the living room.

Cloud sat quietly on Sephiroth’s sofa. His blue eyes were still narrowed with clear irritation.

Sephiroth moved to sit beside Cloud. He was looking over Cloud critically for signs of injury. Cloud stiffened but did not pull away when Sephiroth tilted his head a bit to get a better look at his neck – the site most commonly injured in rut.

“I gave him a Cure,” Genesis explained. He took a seat on Cloud’s other side, but he didn’t sit too close. He didn’t want to make Sephiroth any more tense than he already was.

Sephiroth’s eyes narrowed just a bit. He had wanted to see the damage Genesis left behind so that he could decide exactly how angry he was.

“My rut came a lot harder this time. I put him into rut too, Sephiroth,” Cloud explained. Sephiroth’s thumbs brushed soothingly over the skin of Cloud’s neck, but he did not immediately answer.

“How bad was it?” Sephiroth asked after a moment.

Cloud released a long sigh of exasperation. “Did you even hear me?”

“It was bad,” Genesis answered. He brushed his fingers through his rust brown hair. “He was covered in small wounds. I bit into both shoulders. Bruises on his hips…” Genesis trailed off. “I barely remember any of it.”

“It wasn’t that bad!” Cloud snapped, but Sephiroth was already growling again.

Genesis shifted uncomfortably. “I did not mean to hurt him, Sephiroth. I never want to hurt him.”

“I wasn’t that hurt,” Cloud argued again.

Sephiroth shook his head, then ran his fingers through his hair. He was clearly conflicted and agitated. “I need to think about this for a while,” Sephiroth muttered. Then, very promptly, he got to his feet and left.

Neither Genesis nor Cloud did anything to stop him. Cloud preferred that Sephiroth took some time to process everything. He certainly didn’t want Sephiroth to start snapping at Genesis instead. Cloud glanced over at Genesis and felt a strong pang of sympathy at the man’s guilty expression.

Cloud sighed softly and shifted closer. Carefully, he wrapped an arm around Genesis’s shoulders and pulled the man toward his chest. Cloud leaned backward so that Genesis could lean more completely against him, and Genesis didn’t fight him for even a moment. He needed the closeness and reassurance.

“It will be alright,” Cloud promised. His fingers slid absently through Genesis’s hair. It felt so strange to be so physically intimate with the man. They had only been friends for a few weeks, but somehow it felt natural. Perhaps it was a result of their shared rut, but Cloud felt no desire to be away from the red general at all. It felt better to rest close like this and breath the general’s scent in with each breath.

Genesis lifted his head to nuzzle Cloud’s throat, and Cloud’s fingers moved downward to rub soothing circles on Genesis’s nape. “I’m sorry I didn’t do more to comfort you after rutting, Genesis. I-I know you were shaken,” Cloud muttered into Genesis’s hair.

“Don’t worry about it. I was pretty distracted anyway,” Genesis soothed. He sounded distracted now. His mind was on Sephiroth.

“It is going to get better,” Cloud promised.

“I’m sure it will. Things might be better between the three of us once we get through this. It’s a good sign that he was willing to leave me alone with you,” Genesis explained. He sought out Cloud’s free hand and laced their fingers. He wanted to enjoy the physical closeness while he still could.

Cloud squeezed the hand in his. He felt more content after hearing that. The thought of the three of them getting along and spending time together was encouraging.

______________________________________________________________________

Three weeks passed, and the relationship with Genesis and Sephiroth was still a bit awkward. Worse, neither of them was giving Cloud the attention he wanted. He felt needier than ever and Genesis would do little more than hold his hand. Sephiroth offered soft kisses but resisted Cloud’s attempts to go further.

Cloud might have broken the sexless streak with one of them, but Genesis had left on a new mission less than a week after Cloud’s rut and had not returned since. Sephiroth had been leaving on small assignments nearby and was rarely home for more than a day at a time.

And now, Sephiroth was returning to Wutai. Cloud’s chest ached at the thought. Sephiroth was going to be gone a long time. As much as he should have expected it, some part of Cloud was still surprised. Sephiroth had been home for so long now, and Cloud had always had him nearby. He didn’t want to see him go.

Fortunately, Sephiroth and Angeal seemed to be on some kind of rotation. Sephiroth was leaving, but Zack and Angeal were coming home. Cloud was having the worst case of mixed feelings. He was so excited to see Zack again that he could hardly stand it, but that excitement was definitely dampened by the dread he felt over Sephiroth’s absence.

Cloud went to see Sephiroth off. The general gave him a surprisingly public and very passionate kiss goodbye. Cloud was missing him before his ship even left the ground.

______________________________________________________________________

The few days between Sephiroth’s departure and Zack’s return were the most painfully lonely Cloud had ever experienced.

Cloud paced anxiously in the cargo area while he waited for Zack and Angeal to step off the ship. It took far longer than Cloud wanted it to, but soon he saw the familiar dark hair of his best friend.

Cloud didn’t even attempt to hide his joy. Blue eyes grew wide in excitement. Zack’s eyes met his across the cargo bay, and Cloud rushed to his partner.

Zack barely opened his arms in time to catch the younger SOLDIER. Cloud buried his face in Zack’s shoulder and rubbed against it. He felt some satisfaction leaving traces of his scent on Zack’s clothing. Zack’s arms gripped him almost too tightly around the middle, but the bear hug was exactly what Cloud needed.

“I missed you too, Spike,” Zack purred into his ear. Cloud shuddered. He wanted so much to kiss his best friend, but he knew he should wait until they were behind closed doors. Instead, he tightened his grip on Zack.

When he glanced up from Zack’s shoulder, his eyes met Angeal’s. The general was eying them fondly from nearby.

Cloud grinned and pulled away from Zack. He stepped around Zack and approached Angeal. Angeal lifted his hand in greeting, but Cloud stepped passed his offered hand and pulled the general into a half-hug. Angeal blinked a few times, glancing up at Zack. His protégé tilted his head a bit to the side. Angeal took the hint and quickly returned the small embrace.

Cloud was smiling when he pulled away, and Angeal felt a strong wave of contentment. He certainly wanted to be closer to Cloud, and the young SOLDIER’s initiative gave him hope that they would soon be friends.

“Cloudy, why don’t you come over to Angeal’s place for drinks?” Zack asked as he walked over to join them.

Angeal smirked and shook his head. “You’re inviting yourself over to my place, Zack?”

Zack only smirked in response. He didn’t need to answer that. He knew damn well that Angeal wanted him there.

“I can go,” Cloud agreed. He wanted to hear all about their trip, and he didn’t have much time to do it in. Cloud had finally received new orders that morning. He would be leaving soon for his own mission, and he wanted to tell Zack all about it.

The walk back to Angeal’s place wasn’t too long. Cloud rambled on about Sephiroth and Genesis as they went. Angeal listened intently. He’d heard about some of the awkwardness between them, but Sephiroth didn’t communicate well at a distance. It was much easier to hear about everything that happened from Cloud.

Soon, they were settled on Angeal’s couch. Cloud was glad to be back in Angeal’s place. It was homey and relaxing there. Cloud thought it was best. Sephiroth’s place was a bit too sleek and cold. Genesis’s place was too fancy. Both apartments made Cloud feel like he shouldn’t touch anything. Angeal’s place felt homier. Nothing was for display only, and everything looked well-used. Wooden furniture was scraped. There were stains on the area rug. The coffee table had rings. There were even cracks in some of the end tables where unchecked strength had brought down objects with damaging force. Still, it was clean and well cared for.

Angeal sat in his favorite chair, drinking coffee even though it was late in the evening. Zack and Cloud sat cuddling on the nearby couch. Zack was drinking some kind of sweet cider, and Angeal had given Cloud a new kind of tea to try.

Cloud was very nearly perfectly happy. He wished the entire group got along so easily. Everything was so relaxed with Angeal and Zack.

“I’m leaving for my second mission in a few days. They’re sending me to help with efforts in Fort Condor,” Cloud explained.

“I hope it isn’t a long one. Genesis says that the living situation there is miserable,” Angeal remarked.

“I’ll be fine,” Cloud promised. Zack was trailing his hand up and down Cloud’s back. It was hard to worry about something as trivial as sleeping in a tent when Zack was making him feel so incredibly relaxed.

“Honestly, I’m more worried about returning to medical. They want me to go in for another exam before I leave,” Cloud explained. Zack’s fingers slid upward and into Cloud’s blonde hair.

“I hate it when they take you down there,” Zack admitted.

“It’s been a while since they made me go. It’s probably just a check up to make sure I processed the mako the way they expected,” Cloud explained. “I am a bit nervous though…”

Cloud shifted a bit closer to Zack. “You both know that I went into rut again while you were gone, and… It was so obviously different from others. Genesis kind of explained it to me a bit better, and I think I’ve finally decided to ask the medical staff about it. I guess, as much as I don’t want to, I’m not going to get answers anywhere else.”

Angeal nodded as he listened. “I’ll admit that I’ve been looking into it myself. Genesis contacted me after you rutted with him. He’s been worried. We were hoping we could fine some information and you wouldn’t need to deal with Hojo, but we haven’t found anything yet.”

Angeal took another drink of his coffee to hide his nervousness. His attempts to help Cloud before hadn’t been well received, but Cloud only looked grateful this time. The blonde nuzzled Zack’s neck and relaxed against his friend.

“I’m sure I’ll learn something this time,” Cloud soothed. “I’ll let you know as soon as I learn anything new.”

______________________________________________________________________

Meanwhile, Hojo was quite happily preparing for Cloud’s arrival. It had been a long, vexatious process, but he was sure he would have his new subject in a matter of days.

Keeping his experiment together had been extraordinarily bothersome. Initially, Shinra had been happy to let him keep Sephiroth close to home, but the more time passed, the more Hojo was expected to compromise. They had finally agreed to send Sephiroth only on short missions for a time. Admittedly, some of them had lasted a bit longer than Hojo would have preferred.

Hojo hadn’t known when Cloud would go into heat again. The rate of change in his body was too unpredictable, and Hojo couldn’t even begin to guess how long his fertility cycles might be after the change was complete. As such, Hojo had needed to make certain that Sephiroth was gone for no more than twenty-four hours at a time until he could be sure Cloud and him had coupled. In the end, Shinra had sent Sephiroth on a few two-day missions, but Hojo felt confident that Strife must be carrying.

The footage he’d been collecting was certainly promising. Sephiroth remained close to the blonde always. He had several tapes of Sephiroth and Cloud sharing intimate moments in the Shinra hallways. Their tenderness over the last few days made Hojo certain that Cloud must be pregnant, even if he did not realize it yet. Instinct was a powerful thing, and all the men surrounding Cloud seemed to have gentled.

It had certainly been a lot of work to make it happen. Keeping Sephiroth nearby hadn’t been Hojo’s only task. Cloud’s PHS records had made it clear that Zack Fair was a threat to his experiment. He’d had to keep Fair away from Shinra headquarters until he was sure Cloud’s period of fertility had passed.

Now the worst of his preparations were over. As long as Cloud was pregnant, he was ready to keep Cloud in the labs for an extended period of time. The mission Cloud had received had been a mere fabrication. Hojo didn’t want Cloud’s absence to seem suspicious.

He had made sure Sephiroth would be far away when he took the blonde. He didn’t want his previous experiment snooping around. He could not afford interference from Sephiroth. The silver general was too well designed. Keeping Sephiroth out of his current laboratory would have been impossible if the man had any desire to enter.

Hojo was even having a remote lab in Nibelheim prepared. Eventually, he would move his new subjects there to avoid any investigation from Sephiroth. He wasn’t sure it would be entirely necessary. He had already arranged for Cloud to be “killed in the line of duty.” He was sure Sephiroth would investigate the death of his mate, but Hojo doubted Sephiroth would find even a thread of proof that Cloud still lived.

Chapter Text

Cloud hated every scientist and doctor at Shinra. He was becoming more and more certain of that. A ball of dread had already settled in his lower belly, and anxiety had him jumpy and tense as he followed a medical assistant down the stairs to the examination room.

It was the same damn room Hojo had seen him in before. The room felt more constricting every time he entered. There were no windows, and the artificial light was too harsh. The square machine Hojo had used to examine his guts previously was already on.

Hojo didn’t seem to be present yet, and, for that, Cloud was grateful. The medical assistant began taking his blood pressure. Cloud was asked to remove his shirt even as the assistant performed the other physical tests.

Cloud didn’t fight the order. He simply took off his shirt and set it aside. The more quickly he got through the appointment, the sooner he could prepare for his mission. He was eager to prove himself this time. His last mission had been a failure, and he needed to demonstrate his worth as a SOLDIER. After all, if he could make it into First class, he could start joining his friends on their missions.

He was starting to get cold when Hojo finally joined them. The man went immediately to the square machine and began fiddling with the buttons. The assistant passed Cloud the same jelly from before. Cloud squeezed it into his hands and grimaced. Everything was so cold in the labs. He smeared the goop on his stomach and shivered. He couldn’t wait to get his shirt back on.

Hojo looked oddly happy when he approached the examination table. Cloud leaned back as he had before and Hojo instantly went to work. The examination was similar to the last but much shorter. This time, Hojo looked suspiciously ecstatic when he was finished.

“You’ve certainly done much better this time, Strife. You’re progressing as expected,” Hojo explained. He set the wand aside and quickly began scribbling away in his notes.

The lab assistant handed Cloud a towel, and he began carefully wiping the frigid jelly from his stomach. He felt better now that he knew that his examination was almost over.

“Listen… I’ve been experiencing something… Different during my ruts,” Cloud finally said.

“Yes, yes. That was to be expected,” Hojo answered simply. He didn’t look up from his notes. Cloud’s eyes narrowed. If it was to be expected, then why hadn’t anyone fucking explained it to him before?

“Could you explain it to me?” Cloud asked. He tried tot keep his irritation out of his voice. He still wanted answers.

“I can, but let’s get your injection handled first,” Hojo explained.

Cloud stiffened. “You’re giving me more mako?” Cloud had been sure that wouldn’t be the case this time. Hadn’t Hojo said that he had progressed as expected?

“Not this time. Think of this as a stabilizer. You’ve probably noticed that your body is undergoing some changes. This should help with that,” Hojo replied absently.

Cloud hated this. He preferred his explanations come before the treatment, but he didn’t argue when the lab assistant took his arm. The injection this time was little more than an average booster shot. The syringe was much smaller and less daunting than any of those involved in mako infusion. The liquid inside was clear and unintimidating.

“Would you please explain…” Cloud trained off when he felt a sudden wave of dizziness. The lab assistant quietly instructed Cloud to lie down, which he did. The vertigo distinctly reminded him of the mako poisoning, and Cloud knew (from unfortunate experience) that if he sat up any longer, he’d be vomiting everywhere.

Suddenly, his head felt heavy, and his mouth felt like it was full of cotton. Cloud blinked a few times in an attempt to clear his vision, but soon his entire body felt weighted down. His eyelids were the heaviest of all, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could fight to keep them open.

“Make sure he isn’t damaged on the way to his cell. Consider this subject to be in fragile condition,” Hojo spoke to his assistant instead of Cloud.

Cloud heard an affirmation from the assistant, but lost consciousness before he heard anything else.

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Cloud woke disoriented and cold. His entire body felt painfully stiff, and his head felt so heavy. He sat up slowly. The thin sheet that had been draped over him fell from his shoulders. Cloud shuddered in fresh horror when he found that he was naked underneath. Who had undressed him and when?

He glanced around the room. The brightness of the white lights hurt his eyes and made the aching in the back of his skull worse. The room was small, and every wall was white. Each surface seemed to be covered in some kind of very smooth, white tile. The ceiling was tiled too, but they were transparent enough to let the harsh light shine through.

No windows, either. This was a cell.

A single door sat in the center of one wall. Every seam was flush with the surface of the wall. A small, rectangular observation window sat near the top of the door, but there was no obvious way out.

Cloud felt the cold panic spread from his stomach outward. His chest constricted. He took a few breaths, trying to calm himself as he got to his feet. He looked around wildly for a moment. His fingers shook, and he wasn’t sure if that was a side effect of the sedative or his nerves.

He approached the observation window first. Cloud could see a small piece of a blank, unassuming hallway beyond. He hesitated a moment. Some part of him wanted to believe that this was a regular observation period, and that someone would be in to explain the situation any moment now. But he knew that wasn’t the case. Hojo didn’t need to sedate him to have him observed for a few days, and regular observation rooms weren’t fucking jail cells.

Cloud ran his fingers through his hair and gripped. His panic was getting worse, and he knew he needed to calm himself if he was going to find his way out. But first…

Cloud released his hair, drew back his fist, and punched the window as hard as he could. A dull ache pulsed through his knuckles, and the strange material of the window didn’t even crack. Cloud’s horror intensified. This room was meant to hold SOLDIERS against their will.

Ignoring the pain in his knuckles, Cloud checked the strength of the each wall in several places, but found them just as impenetrable. His knuckles were scraped and bloodied, but at least he knew now what he was dealing with.

Cloud’s breath came in ragged gasps as he paced the cell. Nothing changed. He continued pacing the room in a vague attempt to calm himself for over an hour, but, still, nothing changed.

He approached the small cot again and carefully sat down. He pulled the sheet around his shoulders and rocked himself carefully back and forth. He felt like he might choke on his own dread. Cloud dug his nails into his arms and forced himself to see passed his panic. He had to be ready if anything changed. He had to have a plan.

Hours passed, and no one disturbed the room. No one approached or walked by the small window.

However, the light changed as time passed. Cloud realized, with some horror, that the light was meant to simulate sunlight. It moved and dimmed as time passed. He supposed it was to avoid long-term issues with keeping subjects confined underground. That wasn’t a good sign.

Cloud had almost too much time to contemplate the situation. He was supposed to go on a mission to Fort Condor. The ship meant to take him would have already gone - if it had ever existed at all. No one would know to look for him here.

Cloud’s grip on his own shoulders tightened. He had at least a passive friendship with all three generals. Surely one of them would find out he wasn’t at Fort Condor. Cloud desperately wanted to believe that, but, even if it were true, that would take time.

Cloud could already feel the walls closing in on him in this place, but at least the lights had finally gone down and he could try to sleep.

--------------------------------------------------------

Hojo had taken samples of the embryonic fluid almost immediately after Cloud had first been sedated, but he examined the embryo’s growth for a few days before he finally took the true DNA sample he wanted. Gustation seemed to be a bit faster than expected, just a bit faster than Sephiroth’s had been, but the embryo was shockingly stable. There had been relatively little danger in taking a true sample.

Waiting had been hell. Hojo had never had a more difficult captive. If he wasn’t sedated or asleep, Cloud seemed to make trouble any time someone interacted with the cell. Even if it was just to push food into the room. The young SOLDIER had even made a break for it once, but he’d been subdued before he even made it out of the joining hall.

Now Hojo had him in a half-coma. It wasn’t ideal for the health of the new subject Cloud was growing, but Hojo had done his best to mitigate any ill effects.

Preliminary tests on the embryonic fluids confirmed a strong concentration of Jenova cells. Hojo had been excited to get his hands on the unborn subject’s DNA ever since. The fluid results had seemed to confirm that Hojo had exactly the subject he wanted.

But now, he held the print out of the actual DNA results.

Hojo saw white. Pure, hot rage boiled in his blood. Genesis Rhapsodos. None of his reports had even suggested that Cloud liked the man. Hojo tore the sheet in half. He could see now the errors in the subject’s make-up.

Hojo could not use this fetus. Hollander’s work was inferior garbage. Hojo couldn’t risk that his newest subject might degrade. He’d have to cut the little failure out and create a new base.

Hojo ripped the paper he held into many more little pieces. His knuckles turned white as he clenched his fists. He couldn’t believe that little, SOLDIER whore!

A natural base would have been so much better, but there was no longer any chance of that. Hojo would have to induce artificial pregnancy, and he’d have to do it without a viable semen sample. It was hardly ideal considering the numerous failures he’d had trying to clone Sephiroth previously.

The man barked orders at his assistants to have one of his operation chambers prepared. He stalked toward Cloud’s cell and pulled the door open with force.

Cloud was still strapped to the bed. His head turned toward the open door, but his eyes were still unfocused. He was heavily drugged and barely coherent, but Hojo didn’t need for the little idiot to understand him – He needed to vent.

“I practically gift wrapped Sephiroth for you!” Hojo almost growled. He approached the bed, but didn’t get too close. His eyes were narrowed in disgust. “And you come here full of inferior genetic material!”

Cloud looked confused. Good – He could at least partially understand what Hojo was saying. Hojo leaned just a little closer.

“You’ve ruined months of my work, Strife. You couldn’t conceive something appropriate naturally, and now we’re going to have to take less-natural alternatives,” Hojo hissed just under his breath.

Cloud’s entire body shivered. Hojo could see pale hands curling into loose firsts. Cloud’s eyes were narrowed – Defiant. That was good. At least Cloud would provide some entertainment over the next few months.

“It’s your fault I’m going to have to cut it out of you, Cloud. Everything that comes after this is going to hurt, and that’s your fault. You shouldn’t have been sleeping around.” Hojo paused a moment, taking in the way Cloud’s eyes grew wide with understanding.

“That’s right. You didn’t know, did you? That you were pregnant,” Hojo’s voice was becoming less of a hiss and more of a purr the longer he spoke. “Were” wasn’t the right word, but it was true enough now that the decision had been made.

Cloud was shaking visibly. His arms flexed as he strained against the restraints, but he could do nothing. Hojo was feeling less outraged the more he watched his subject struggle. He would get what he wanted, after all. It would take more time, but Hojo would have his subject.

His assistants came to wheel Cloud’s cot out of the room, and Hojo actually smiled. Until his new subject arrived, Hojo would have Cloud’s agony.

--------------------------------------------------------

Sephiroth rolled his shoulders to relieve the ache between his shoulder blades. The flight from Wutai had been a long one. At least he hadn’t been gone as long as he’d anticipated. There had been threats from a new terrorist group – AVALANCHE. The President was nervous, and wanted his secret weapon home and nearby. Sephiroth had only been gone a few short weeks.

Angeal and Zack were still at Shinra headquarters. Sephiroth was already on his way to Angeal’s apartment. He hoped the man would know where Cloud was. Some time away left Sephiroth with an overwhelming need to apologize. He’d been too jealous and oppressive before, and he wanted Cloud to know that he understood that.

Sephiroth knocked on Angeal’s door, but it was Zack who answered. The younger SOLDIER’s face grew bright. He grinned in delight, and Sephiroth couldn’t help but offer a partial smile in return. The boy’s enthusiasm was surprisingly infectious.

“You’re home!” Zack greeted. He stepped aside to let Sephiroth through. Sephiroth moved passed him and into the living room.

Angeal was sprawled over the couch with a report in his hands. When he glanced up and saw Sephiroth, Angeal quickly closed the report and set it aside. He sat up and made room for Sephiroth to join him on the couch. “It’s good to see you,” Angeal greeted. The man’s eyes were bright with happiness at the sight of his lover.

Sephiroth smirked and leaned over to greet Angeal with a kiss. The man let out a low groan of appreciation. His tongue slid lazily against Sephiroth’s lower lip, and the silver general responded by pushing Angeal back into his laying position.

Sephiroth loomed over Angeal for a while longer - continuing their short make-out session. It was Zack’s amused cough that finally broke them apart.

“I missed you too, you know,” Zack reminded. The boy wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at his own joke. On another day, Sephiroth might have kissed the kid just to put him off his game, but he was on a mission today.

“Do either of you know where to find Cloud?”

“Cloud is at Fort Condor,” Angeal answered immediately.

“And the service must be horrific, because I can’t get through to his PHS,” Zack continued. He moved to sit nearby. “Honestly, I’m worried. He had to go to medical before he left. What if he’s sick again?”

Sephiroth visibly stiffened.

“They took him to the science department?” Sephiroth knew damn well that Hojo had a personal interest in Cloud, and SOLDIERs went missing all the time when Hojo found something interesting about them.

Sephiroth got to his feet stiffly and moved toward the door with quick strides.

Zack said something after him, but Sephiroth didn’t notice. He could hear Angeal placating the young SOLDIER even as he left.

--------------------------------------------------------

Sephiroth knocked on the door to Rufus Shinra’s office. Rude and Reno stood on either side of the door. Truly, his question was for the Turks, but he could beat them into a bloody pulp and learn nothing if he did not first get permission from Rufus Shinra.

Many in the organization believed that the Turks served the President, but anyone who wasn’t the President knew that Rufus kept Veld on a tight leash. They all belonged to Rufus, and their work for the President was done only at his son’s mercy.

“Come in,” Rufus’s silky voice answered from behind the door. Sephiroth stepped through the doorway and Rufus set his folders aside to give the silver general his full attention. There were very few humans in the world that warranted Rufus’s undivided attention. “Human” was a loose term in this case, but Sephiroth still deserved Rufus’s respect.

“Tseng told me that you’ve offered a favor in exchange for the information you desire?” Rufus questioned. His eyes had that same laid-back, predatory quality that Sephiroth had come to expect of the heir. “Why should I need it? You belong to me.”

Sephiroth’s eyes narrowed. “I belong to your father, and that is exactly why you could use a favor.”

Rufus’s lips quirked. Sephiroth was always to-the-point.

“Genesis put out his feelers as well, you know. It’s hard to deny such a precious list of favors. Amazing that one, young SOLDIER could tie all three generals in knots,” Rufus remarked. His voice held an edge of suspicion, but Sephiroth didn’t comment. Cloud’s sudden appearance in their lives was painfully suspicious, but Sephiroth simply didn’t care.

Rufus pressed a button on his desk. Sephiroth didn’t turn to see, but he heard Rude and Reno enter the room just behind him.

“Report,” Rufus ordered simply.

“No information has been found about Cloud’s physical abnormalities yet. Hojo’s team has handled everything personally and confidentially. We can tell you that while Cloud’s mission appears official in every database, it seems to have been fabricated,” Rude explained in an eloquent, quick report.

“What does that mean?” Sephiroth half-snapped. He turned to face the Turks now. His eyes were narrowed with impatience. Rude looked completely unruffled by Sephiroth’s anger. Reno didn’t look intimidated, but he did look irritated.

“He didn’t get on the plane! He’s still here at Shinra!” Reno answered in an irritable rush. He spoke with much less respect than Rude, but Sephiroth had to appreciate him for it. The man didn’t waste any time.

Sephiroth turned and stalked out of the room with urgency. Rufus watched him go and smiled lazily. He knew Sephiroth would be good for that favor later, and, if everything progressed as he thought it might, he was going to need that favor sooner rather than later.

Chapter Text

Infiltrating the science department was unexpectedly simple. It was much easier than Sephiroth had ever allowed himself to believe it would be. The labs had been his childhood nightmare. They still haunted him, but now that Sephiroth knew Cloud was there, he did not hesitate. Sephiroth felt no need to hide his presence. Hot rage pulsed through his veins, but his fingers felt cool against the hilt of his Masamune.

Sephiroth felt no remorse nor did he worry about consequence as his blade cut cleanly through every barrier that stood between him and the depths of Hojo’s labs. Wood and metal alike yielded to his blade. It must have been clear that he would have been equally content to cut through scientists, because they scattered like rats before him.

Sirens filled the air, and red lights flashed on nearly every wall as Sephiroth continued his search. His boots echoed loudly on the hard, tile floor. Every movement was predatory. Sephiroth knew that these halls had never housed anything more dangerous than himself, and he wasn’t about to let the horror of his past keep him from finding Cloud.

Soon, the hallways were empty except for Sephiroth. He would have liked to track Hojo, but finding Cloud took priority. The mad scientist had probably already escaped anyway. The man was slippery, but Sephiroth would find him later – even if he had to track him across all of Gaia.

Sephiroth could scarcely believe that he had known Cloud for only a short time. The younger SOLDIER was a necessity now. Sephiroth could not imagine living without him. He knew his life would change after breaching the labs. Shinra would not overlook the destruction of their property, but Cloud was worth any hardship.

His search for the younger SOLDIER grew more desperate the longer he spent wandering the science facility. Great tubes housed deformed experiments. There were rooms filled with unfortunate subjects, but Sephiroth forced himself to ignore the atrocities he passed in favor of finding his lover.

All of his thoughts were for Cloud.

Soon, Sephiroth’s efforts were rewarded. The cell he found was deep underground. Through the small window at the top of the metal doorway, Sephiroth could see his Cloud. Relief made Sephiroth feel briefly weak in the knees, but that comfort was quickly replaced with mounting concern and disgust.

Cloud was naked and trembling on the bed. Thick straps held him in place. An IV fed something into his system. Sephiroth could only guess that it was some kind of sedative. The area where the IV met Cloud’s skin was painfully red. Sephiroth realized that Cloud had likely attempted to dislodge the needle many times.

Absently, Sephiroth lifted the clipboard from beside the door. With any luck, it would tell him what they had done to his loved one. The cell door unbolted easily enough. As soon as it was open, the powerful odor of antiseptic overwhelmed Sephiroth’s senses. It was far too familiar. The scent of science and surgery nearly completely hid Cloud’s natural scent from him.

Sephiroth watched as Cloud’s head lulled to the side. The blonde was clearly dazed as he attempted to focus on Sephiroth. The general knew immediately that Cloud must have recognized him, because water began to well in Cloud’s eyes.

Large tears ran down Cloud’s pale cheeks. The blonde struggled against his binds, but Sephiroth quickly stepped forward to calm him. He didn’t want Cloud to hurt himself further in his attempts to get free. Sephiroth removed the IV from Cloud’s arm first then brushed his fingers soothingly through Cloud’s hair. The blonde went very still as Sephiroth’s scent and touch calmed his battered senses.

“It’s okay now. I wont let them take you. Not ever again,” Sephiroth promised. He broke through each binding as quickly as he was able. With the skin exposed, Sephiroth could see that Cloud had rubbed his wrists and ankles raw in his attempts to break loose. The silver general’s resentment continued to grow.

Sephiroth attempted to lift Cloud off the bed, but Cloud struggled away. Sephiroth did not force the blonde to stay in his arms. He knew how hopeless and desperate one felt after spending time with Hojo. If Cloud wanted some independence, Sephiroth wasn’t about to be the one to take it away.

Cloud struggled to stand on shaky legs. Sephiroth removed his long coat and gingerly rested the garment around the blonde’s shoulders to cover his nakedness. With one hand, Cloud held the coat shut around him, and, with the other, he felt along the wall. He began taking steady, careful steps out of the facility, and Sephiroth followed immediately behind him.

Each step was agonizingly slow. Anyone else might have become impatient, but Sephiroth merely remained close and patiently ensured that Cloud did not fall. The slow pace gave Sephiroth a chance to skim Cloud’s file, and Sephiroth knew that the folder held information essential to helping his lover.

The file was labeled “Omega,” but Cloud’s profile was the first document in the folder. The written summaries were so in depth that it would take hours to read every word. Instead, Sephiroth skimmed the notes in the margin.

The file held the answers to so many questions. Cloud was described as a “natural anomaly.” Natural meant that some of his uniqueness had been innate. It seemed that Hojo had not tampered with the boy’s genetic make-up in any way. Instead, he’d hoped to use the natural base to further his experimentation in SOLDIER development.

Sephiroth did his best to continue to skim instead of read. He needed to know what had put Cloud in the state he was in. He forced himself to skip the majority of the file so that he could read the last few procedural reports.

He stopped in his tracks as he read the last few pages. Sephiroth scanned the words again then hurried forward. He stepped around Cloud and stood in front of him.

The look Cloud wore was fierce. His lips were set in a hard line and his eyes were narrowed. He looked furious and ready to depend himself, but Sephiroth knew better. Tears were still trailing down each of the blond’s cheeks. Sephiroth had known loss and helplessness, and he knew what it looked like. Cloud’s anger did little to hide his vulnerability.

Sephiroth reached out and pushed the jacket Cloud wore open, and there they were. The scars were so small that one might not even see them if they did not know to look. Small red lines extended less than a half-inch above and below Cloud’s navel. They were seemingly innocent - smaller than one might expect of an appendix scar, but they were a dark reminder of a terrible loss.

Cloud was trembling violently as Sephiroth looked. A low growl began at the back of Cloud’s throat, and Sephiroth’s chest began to hurt. He reached out and brushed his fingers gently along Cloud’s cheek. His lover was still trembling, but his growling ceased. His eyes softened marginally and a sob tore its way through Cloud’s tough front.

Sephiroth reached out to lift Cloud again. His lover struggled briefly, but Sephiroth ignored Cloud’s squirming this time. Soon, the struggling became less, and Cloud began to cry in earnest instead. The blonde wrapped his arms tightly around Sephiroth’s neck, and pressed as close as he was able while he sobbed.

Sephiroth kept his grip tight as he hurried out of the underground labs. The silver general’s anger was barely under control. He itched to tear someone or something apart.

Someone was going to pay dearly for Cloud’s pain.

_________________________________________________________

Sephiroth carried his precious burden with the utmost care, but his eyes must have been murderous. Anyone who glimpsed them as Sephiroth carried Cloud back to his home wisely ran in the opposite direction. Cloud was very carefully wrapped in Sephiroth’s coat to preserve his modesty, but Sephiroth was still anxious to hide him away.

Sephiroth didn’t want these soldiers to see the state Cloud was in. There were only a handful of men Sephiroth trusted, and they were surely waiting on the general’s personal floor.

Miraculously, no one got too close as Sephiroth carried Cloud through the final set of hallways and entered the elevator that would take them home. During that time, Cloud’s sobbing had stopped. Now, he rested in a near eerie silence as Sephiroth cradled him. The only indication that Cloud was even conscious was the tightening of his grip as Sephiroth opened the door to Angeal’s apartment.

All three of the men Sephiroth wanted to see were there. Genesis, Angeal, and Zack all sat around the living room. Clearly, they’d been watching a movie together. Three sets of startled eyes focused on Sephiroth, and Cloud instantly began to struggle in Sephiroth’s grip again.

With all the care he could manage, Sephiroth set Cloud on his feet. The blonde wavered a moment. His eyes briefly scanned the room. Then he lowered his gaze and hurried forward. Everyone but Sephiroth surprised when Cloud bypassed his best friend and instead pushed his way into Genesis’s arms.

Sephiroth watched, pained, as Cloud opened and closed his mouth a few times. He could see the blonde’s desperate attempt to apologize in each movement, but he seemed completely unable to get the words out. Instead, the blonde settled in the Genesis’s lap and buried his face in Genesis’s shoulder. Sephiroth could tell the beauty was crying again, because his shoulders shook with silent sobs. Sephiroth felt his chest constrict further. He couldn’t remember ever being so deeply affected by the pain of another.

Genesis looked confused but wrapped his arms firmly around Cloud’s body. The red general held the blonde close and buried his nose in blond hair. Clearly, he was off put by the strong smell of medication and disinfectant, but he kept Cloud close anyway.

Angeal and Zack watched on. Their expressions were dumbfounded. Both had believed Cloud was on a mission in Fort Condor. While Angeal had recognized Hojo as a threat, he had not truly believed there was any chance that Sephiroth’s suspicions were true. To see the blond before them now was beyond shocking - It was nearly unbelievable.

“What happened…?” Zack asked. He began to get to his feet. Zack wanted to go to Cloud, but Angeal held him back. He could see that Cloud was in a bad state. It was best not to crowd him until they knew the details of his condition.

“Cloud’s make-up is unlike our own. Hojo was studying his physiology. It seems that Cloud is… Was pregnant…”

Sephiroth trailed off as Genesis’s head snapped upward. The movement was sudden, and Genesis’s expression was quickly filling with realization. Cloud went ridged against him. The blond was obviously afraid of Genesis’s reaction. Immediately, Sephiroth recognized his mistake. It was a sensitive subject, and he should not have led with it. Sephiroth waited anxiously for Genesis to respond.

Sephiroth watched as Genesis slid an arm under Cloud’s knees. The red general got to his feet and tucked Cloud against his chest. Without a word, the man moved to walk back toward Angeal’s bedroom.

“Genesis-“ Sephiroth began again.

“Don’t,” Genesis growled with more authority than he usually would have used when addressing Sephiroth. He glared over his shoulder. His entire chest rumbled with a deep, angry growl. “If I hear one more word, I am going to go down there and burn each one of them alive.”

Sephiroth felt some prickle of relief as he realized that wrath was not for himself or Cloud.

Reassured that Genesis would keep Cloud safe, no one protested as Genesis took Cloud into the back room. Cloud didn’t need to hear what they were going to discuss. Not now. The blonde was traumatized. It would be some time before he was ready to face what was in his own file, and one of them could always explain the contents to Genesis later.

That in mind, Sephiroth moved to sit between Zack and Angeal.

Zack watched after Genesis until the door to Angeal’s bedroom closed. Only then did Zack pay any attention to the file in Sephiroth’s hands. Zack was still anxious to look after Cloud. The blond was his best friend, and lover, it didn’t feel right to be separated from him when Cloud was so clearly hurting. But he knew Sephiroth must feel the same, and, if Sephiroth could give them some space, then Zack could do it too… For a little while anyway.

_________________________________________________________

A couple hours later, Zack very quietly opened the door to Angeal’s bedroom. The room was unusually dark. Genesis must have shut the curtains for Cloud’s comfort. SOLDIER eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, and Zack could see clearly that Cloud was sleep.

The blond dozed peacefully with his body curled against Genesis. The red general was awake. His arms were wrapped protectively around Cloud but his eyes were focused on Zack.

“I can sit with Cloud now if you want to go look at Hojo’s file,” Zack offered. He could see the way the red general’s grip on Cloud tightened at the suggestion.

“I don’t think he can be without me right now,” Genesis answered quietly.

Slowly, Zack approached the bed. “He’s asleep, Genesis. I wont let anything happen to him.”

Genesis began to growl low in his throat but quickly stopped when Cloud shifted against him. Genesis swallowed nervously and nuzzled Cloud’s hair. He waited a moment to make certain that he hadn’t awoken the blond before his attention returned to Zack. Genesis sighed softly and forced his body to relax once again.

“I’m the one who can’t be separated from him… I’m not ready to read that file, and I don’t think I could leave him even if I wanted to,” Genesis answered. His expression softened, and Zack offered him a small, understanding smile.

“Do you think I could join you?”

Genesis seemed to hesitate a moment, then nodded. Some part of him knew Cloud would sleep easier with his friend nearby. Truthfully, Genesis knew Cloud would prefer Zack or Sephiroth at his side. It was guilt and shared loss that had brought Cloud into his arms first. As much as that thought hurt, Genesis desperately wanted Cloud to feel safe. Moreover, Genesis knew he could trust Zack with this. He’d been petty about Angeal’s bond with the young SOLDIER, but Genesis was absolutely certain that he could trust Zack to care for Cloud.

Zack tried to avoid shifting the bed too much as he joined him, but he was big and a bit clumsy. The bed shifted considerably as Zack lay beside them. Still, Cloud seemed completely undisturbed. The beauty must have been completely exhausted.

Zack allowed himself a moment to study Cloud’s sleeping face. “I should have done more. I was right here. I knew Hojo was up to something, and this still happened.”

“It’s not your fault. None of us were ready for this,” Genesis offered. He was too exhausted to do anything but offer the truth.

“Genesis… I-I know you lost more than the rest of us. What was taken from you and Cloud…” Zack trailed off. Emotions were welling up, and it was hard to finish his sentence.

“I’m forcing myself not to think about it,” Genesis answered. His fingers trailed slowly along Cloud’s side. “I never thought about being a parent… I mean… We’re monsters. The three of us should not be able to have children. We should not be able to pass on a curse like this.”

Genesis sighed, his eyes narrowing as he spoke. “But… His choice was taken from him, and I… I keep thinking about…” Genesis trailed off again. He lifted a hand to run his fingers through his own hair. He didn’t know how to explain that he’d been thinking about what it would have been like. Even if he knew he shouldn’t be a father, he could never deny that he would have wanted Cloud’s baby. He would have been terrified, but he would have been happy too.

“It’s okay, Genesis… I think we all understand,” Zack promised. “It’s not right. All of this is so wrong, and… I think we all feel guilty, but we shouldn’t have to. This should never have happened.”

Genesis nodded slowly. He was blinking back his own tears now. They stung at the back of his eyes. He didn’t want Zack to see him cry, and, he knew if any of those tears escaped now, they wouldn’t stop for a while. His loss was beginning to feel more real now that he wasn’t focused on calming Cloud.

Genesis was surprised when Zack lifted a hand to gently brush the hair from Genesis’s face. “It’s okay… I’ll leave if you want me to.” The understanding in the younger SOLDIER’s face was almost too much.

Angeal had always told Genesis that Zack was a kind soul. Genesis wasn’t sure he had ever quite believed it until now. The red general took Zack’s hand and pressed his cheek against the warmth of the young SOLDIER’s palm. Zack’s eyes widened a fraction, and Genesis offered him a small smile.

“Stay.”

Chapter Text

When Cloud woke, he was curled between Zack and Genesis, and he was warm for the first time in weeks. Genesis’s arm was wrapped around his middle. Zack’s legs were tangled with his own. Cloud knew he was safe... But his body refused to believe it. His skin prickled with anxiety.

Genesis stirred beside him, and Cloud carefully turned away from Zack to face him. Gen’s eyes searched Cloud’s a moment, but he said nothing. The silence only served to thicken Cloud’s misery. Guilt made him sick to his stomach.

“Gen, I’m so sorry,” Cloud’s voice broke. Tears began to roll down his cheeks. Genesis’s arm tightened around the blond’s middle.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Genesis promised. “I don’t want you to think that.”

“It was my fault... I-I didn’t even know. I should have. I-“ Genesis silenced Cloud with a gentle kiss, but the younger SOLDIER was still shuddering and sobbing as Gensis pulled away. Cloud’s eyes closed tightly in a vain attempt to better control his emotions. He was wildly uncomfortable in his vulnerability.

Cloud’s distress woke Zack. The young SOLDIER looked on helplessly as Genesis stroked Cloud’s hair.

“I want... I need... Can I...” Cloud took several breathes to calm himself. The sobs were starting to come in waves like hiccups. He couldn’t seem to get them to stop, but Genesis never interrupted. He waited patiently for Cloud to finish his request. “I need Sephiroth... I-I want to see Sephiroth.”

Genesis’s face fell, and Cloud felt his sense of guilt deepen. Genesis wanted to be someone Cloud could lean on, but it was Sephiroth he needed. Sephiroth could understand what he had been through. Some part of him still didn’t believe he was safe, but he was convinced that part would recognize Sephiroth - the man who had dragged him out of his prison.

“Please, Gen... We can talk later, but right now I need...” Cloud looked away. It was so hard to express what he was feeling. Truly, he didn’t want to say anything at all. The words felt like they were getting caught in his throat on their way out, and everything he said seemed to hurt Genesis further. He didn’t want to cause any more harm.

“It’s okay, Cloud. I understand...” Genesis murmured. The man attempted to cover his hurt with a smile, but Cloud couldn’t be so easily fooled. He would make it up to the red general later.

“Zack, will you go get him for us?” Genesis questioned. The red general was entangled with Cloud. It would take less time for Zack to crawl out of bed and fetch the silver general.

Zack still looked a bit lost, but he nodded nervously. The young SOLDIER was grateful for the chance to help and for the chance to leave the room. He hated to feel so helpless, and he itched with nervous energy.

Genesis took his time untangling himself from Cloud. It was hard to leave him. His instincts screamed at him to stay and comfort. It felt wrong to leave his lover - especially now that he knew what they had lost, but he managed to crawl out of bed anyway. He stood at Cloud’s bedside and stroked his blond hair soothingly until Sephiroth arrived.

They weren’t waiting long. Sephiroth had been waiting on standby since he’d brought Cloud home. Multiple Shinra messengers had arrived, but Sephiroth refused to let anything tear him away.

Genesis hesitated. Leaving was painfully difficult, but then Sephiroth stepped forward and rested a hand on the red general’s shoulder. Genesis felt his tense muscles relax. The two alpha’s shared a knowing look, and somehow Genesis felt better. He could trust Sephiroth. Leaving Cloud with him didn’t mean he’d abandoned the younger SOLDIER, and that knowledge quieted his raging instincts.

He was accepting the help of his pack.

Genesis left the room and shut the door quietly behind him.

“Cloud,” Sephiroth prompted. The blond hadn’t turned to face the door when Sephiroth entered. He still rested on his side. His body curled further in on itself when Sephiroth spoke.

The silver general walked around the bed so that he could face his young lover. When Sephiroth’s legs came into view, Cloud slowly lifted his head. Tears still snaked their way down Cloud’s cheeks, and his lips quivered. Slowly, he lifted his arms and Sephiroth lowered himself into them.

The embrace was uncomfortably tight, but Sephiroth didn’t care. He knew how much Cloud needed it.

“I’m here,” Sephiroth promised.

He felt Cloud nod against his chest. Cloud’s smaller body trembled as he tried to quiet his own sobbing once more. Sephiroth held his mate. He didn’t want Cloud to quiet himself. He wanted Cloud to cry until he felt a little better.

He did cry for quite some time before he was able to talk again.

By the time Cloud was calm, the two had moved to lay comfortably together on the bed. Cloud was half on top of the silver general and seemingly attempting to burrow his way into the general’s body. There was only space enough for the thin layers of their clothing between them. Sephiroth’s arm was curled around Cloud’s middle, and Cloud’s head was tucked into the space between the general’s neck and shoulder. One of Cloud’s leg was thrown over the general, as though to prevent him from moving away.

“I know you were hurt that I went to Genesis first,” Cloud whispered. His voice was a little hoarse, but Sephiroth heard the words clearly enough. “You have to understand, I... I needed to apologize somehow. I can’t stand what I did to him. What I...”

Cloud swallowed hard, and Sephiroth forced himself not to interrupt. Cloud’s anger was misplaced, but Sephiroth knew he needed to hear the words out loud if he was ever going to face his loss.

“It was my fault. That... That kid,” Cloud paused a moment. He sounded almost in pain. The thought that he’d held life was still a hard one to confront. His time in the cell had not made the thought any easier. “That child would have been his as much as... As much as mine. I took that away from him.”

Tears began to roll down Cloud’s face again, and Sephiroth wished he’d brought water with him. Surely Cloud was dehydrated, and Sephiroth knew there were more tears to come. Sephiroth tilted his head a little further toward Cloud, breathing in the scent of his hair.

Sephiroth’s free hand sought Cloud’s. He laced their fingers and brought their joint hands to rest over his stomach. “I understand, Cloud. I understood immediately... Now you need to understand that he doesn’t blame you. Not even for a moment. No one does.”

Cloud’s body stiffened against him. He was conflicted, and Sephiroth could understand that. It had taken years for Genesis and Angeal to make him understand the reality of his own trauma at Hojo’s hands.

“It’s still hard to believe... I-I wasn’t... I’m not ready for kids. I might not ever be. But I... I feel so...” Cloud stopped. Cloud tightened his grip on Sephiroth’s fingers. “Violated. He took my choice away. Our choice...”

Cloud paused to swallow. Sephiroth could see the struggle between grief, disgust, and anger. “They touched me everywhere... They took something from me, and I... I’m so angry!”

Cloud seemed to choke on his words. He pressed his face further into Sephiroth’s neck.

“I understand,” Sephiroth whispered into Cloud’s hair. The words from anyone else might have upset the blond, but Sephiroth’s words were true. It was comforting in a dark sort of way. Cloud felt less alone.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Cloud... And I understand it,” Sephiroth murmured. “Had the situation been different, that child might have been mine. I have never thought of having children. No one is less qualified to have them, but, when I read that file, I wanted to be the father,” Sephiroth admitted.

Cloud’s face was buried too far in Sephiroth’s chest to have seen the general’s expression, but he could hear the longing and pain in his voice. It was hard to imagine Sephiroth as a parent, but, somehow, it didn’t feel wrong either.

“I wanted that too,” Cloud whispered. Maybe it was a terrible thing to say. Cloud genuinely liked Genesis, but he was in love with Sephiroth. He wasn’t sure when infatuation and friendship had turned to love, but there was no sense in denying his feelings now. He could imagine what it would have been like to start a family with the man. Even if neither of them had been prepared, they could have made it work.

“Cloud... Do you love me more than Zack?” Sephiroth questioned.

It wasn’t the best time for such a question, but Sephiroth was unable to see that. He had been trying to decide for a while what it was he really wanted. He didn’t want to end what he had with Genesis and Angeal, but he also knew he couldn’t live without Cloud. His Cloud.

“Do you love me more than you love Genesis and Angeal?” Cloud questioned. He lifted his head from Sephiroth’s chest and stared directly into his eyes. His expression was deadly serious, and Sephiroth’s chest ached at the sight. He could never lie to such eyes.

“No... The love I feel for you is different than I what I feel for them, but it isn’t stronger,” Sephiroth answered. He looked away. Some part of him felt that he had failed his lover, but Cloud’s next words proved that wasn’t the case.

“I feel the same for Zack.” Cloud’s expression was anything but hurt. Instead, he looked quiet and distracted.

“I don’t think any of us should split apart. There’s no reason the five of us can’t be together. We should be together,” Cloud murmured. Sephiroth still looked uncertain, but the picture was clear to Cloud. He had already chosen his family. He didn’t feel safe anywhere else.

_____________________________________________________

 

Genesis waited in the living room while Sephiroth soothed Cloud. He lay across the length of the couch, one arm resting over his eyes to hide his misery. He was painfully conflicted. He’d been afraid that he’d ruined his friendship with Cloud before, and now... They shared a trauma - A loss. How was he supposed to handle it?

How were they going to move forward?

Cloud wasn’t safe from Hojo. The man had strong ties with President Shinra, and Shinra himself was surely in a quiet uproar now that his elite generals (each representing a significant investment) were refusing to leave their apartments. More importantly, what could he possibly do to help Cloud?

Angeal, who watched from the kitchen, was trying to give Genesis a little time to sort his thoughts. It was painfully difficult. He took a bit longer, dried the last of the dishes, then slowly approached his partner.

“Sit up, Genesis,” Angeal ordered. His voice was soft but authoritative, and, for once, Genesis did nothing to argue. He sat up, and didn’t struggle at all as Angeal pulled the man out of his seat and into a warm embrace.

It felt good to have Angeal’s large arms curled around him, but it didn’t quiet any of Gensis’s anxiety. The red general shuddered, and Angeal’s grip tightened. The generals didn’t need to be gentle with one another, and Genesis clearly needed his lover’s support.

“I don’t know what to do,” Genesis admitted.

“There isn’t anything to do, Gen. Just be here when he needs you. Cry if you need to, and we’ll figure everything out later,” Angeal answered. Genesis didn’t know how to accept that. There was too much going on outside of there apartments. It felt foolish to ignore it, but Genesis was in no shape to face it either.

Angeal could almost see the conflicting thoughts in Genesis’s head. He sighed and moved to sit on the couch. Gently, he tugged Genesis into his lap, and the red general wasted no time in making himself comfortable. Genesis’s face buried itself in Angeal’s neck, and Angeal’s arms wrapped tightly around him once more. It was a position that Angeal knew Genesis adored. The red general liked to feel that the bulk of Angeal’s body was shielding him from the world, and, especially now, when Genesis felt exposed, he appreciated Angeal’s comfort.

A large, warm hand rubbed Genesis’s back in soothing circles. Genesis allowed himself to close his eyes and willed his mind to go blank. He felt less panicked now. Sometimes, he forgot that Angeal was always at his side. Outside forces were a little less frightening when he considered that Sephiroth and Angeal... Perhaps even Zack were near to support him.

___________________________________________

 

The following morning was quiet. Cloud hadn’t left the bedroom, and Sephiroth only left for moments at a time to get food or water for his distressed mate. Angeal left to meet with the executive board and attempt to account for their absences. That left Genesis sitting awkwardly on his own... Until Zack arrived, of course.

The younger SOLDIER sat awkwardly on one side of the couch, while Genesis brooded on the other. Genesis was having trouble staying out of his own head. His worry must have been clear on his face, because Zack kept inching closer.

“It will be okay you know...?” Zack finally started.

Genesis stiffened.

“Cloud might not ever want to be near me again. He might never look at my face and see anything but the father of the child he lost, and I’m the experimental product of a company that would do this to him,” Genesis argued bitterly. His eyes were dull as he spoke. He was completely heartbroken by his prospects.

“Could isn’t like that, and I know him better than anyone,” Zack promised. He reached out and gently rubbed Genesis’s shoulder. The red general surprised himself by not pulling away.

“Sephiroth would leave with Cloud... And so would you. Angeal would never chose me over you and Sephiroth. I would be alone,” Genesis continued.

“That would never happen. Angeal would never leave you, and neither would I,” Zack promised with an awkward smile. “We have our ups and downs, but Angeal would never be happy without you. I don’t think Sephiroth could be either.”

“Sephiroth is in love with Cloud. You’d have to be blind not to see that he only has eyes for your friend.”

“Don’t say that! Sephiroth loves you too, and Cloud just needs a little space. He’s been through a lot,” Zack started, then seemed to pause. “Well, you’ve been through a lot too... It’s just fresh trauma, and Sephiroth knows what he’s going through.”

Genesis visibly deflated and leaned a bit further into Zack’s side. “You’re right... I shouldn’t be worrying about myself right now, anyway. I just wish I wasn’t so useless.”
Zack wrapped an arm around Genesis’s shoulders. “We’ll all stick together.”

Genesis rested his head lazily in the junction of Zack’s neck and shoulder. The younger SOLDIER had a nice scent. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t taken note of that before.

“You’re really sweet, Zack. I’m not sure I even deserve it... I’ve been awful to you.”

Zack seemed to relax, nuzzling Genesis’s hair. It was so much easier to relax around Genesis now that the scents of all of his favorite people were in the same space. “You were just afraid for Angeal, right?” Zack paused a moment. “I should have talked to you about it a long time ago.”

“I was jealous,” Genesis admitted. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply again. “Angeal was so in love with you. He spent time with you when he could have been spending time with me... And I was afraid you didn’t appreciate his time the way I did.”

Zack reached down and brushed his fingers gently over Genesis’s.

“I know I was wrong about that now,” Genesis admitted. “I was too harsh.”

“You were harsh toward Cloud too, remember? But he got passed it,” Zack reminded. Genesis released a high pitched whine of distress, and Zack tightened his hold on him.

“I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories, but... You should know that you bring more good than bad. You and Cloud have had a lot of bad luck so far, but Cloud’s been really happy to have you as a friend. He was really thrilled when you brought him that apology, you know?” Zack quickly tried to amend.

“I need to be more careful about these things,” Genesis admitted. He laced his fingers with Zack’s, trying to catalog his feelings about touching the younger SOLDIER. It wasn’t bad. It almost felt natural.

“I’ll help you, if you want? Especially with Cloud,” Zack offered.

Genesis was quiet for a moment, closing his eyes and allowing his body to relax a little further. “I’d like that.”