fandom: final fantasy vii (set post ACC, such as it matters)
pairing: sephiroth/cloud (and guest appearances by Link, Ganon, Mario, Bowser, Solid Snake, Psycho Mantis, Albert Wesker, and Jill Valentine. Oh, and a facilitator who is basically Dr. Phil :|)
rating: teen and up
genre: humor, crack!fic
words: 3000 or something, i’m ridiculous :(
content: brief mentions of sex, me attempting to be funny :|
Summary: In which Cloud and Sephiroth find themselves magically transported to a seminar called Fighting the Archenemy Within: Understanding and Reversing the Damage Inherent in the Hero/Villain Power Dynamic, and Cloud has strong opinions about what is, and is not, a dragon.
AN: Author has been home sick with a fever. Very possible that my interpretations of characters not related to FFVII are completely wacko, sorry? written for the sinsffchallenge prompt of “crack fic”, so you know, i claim artistic leeway >>
limit break (now with donuts!)
One moment, he and Sephiroth are facing each other across a barren landscape of dirt and rock, swords drawn, ready for their most recent confrontation --
-- and the next, they are standing in a conference room with a sign that says, Fighting the Archenemy Within: Understanding and Reversing the Damage Inherent in the Hero/Villain Power Dynamic!
Cloud reads the sign, once to himself and then out loud, as if somehow that will allow it to make sense. It doesn’t. He leans closer, peering at it, but all he sees is a small-print warning that says anything that occurs in this session may be used for promotional purposes, and to please limit the use of flash photography or video recording equipment.
Suddenly, Cloud realizes there are other people in the room -- an entire circle of them, all seated in chairs and staring very pointedly at him and Sephiroth. There are two empty seats in the circle. Cloud has a horrified idea of what this means, even before he and Sephiroth both are propelled towards the chairs by some unknown force.
The minute they’re seated on uncomfortable plastic chairs, a man appears in the center of the circle. He’s bald, has a full mustache and is wearing a suit. He introduces himself as Phil, and wastes no time in loudly addressing the odd assemblage of unwilling participants, informing them, “You’re here because an archenemy relationship is destroying your life. Today, we are going to put all this nonsense behind us and get real!”
This is Reno’s fault, somehow. Cloud just knows it.
* * *
There’s a brief moment of explanation, where they are informed all weapons are useless, magic is useless, physical strength is useless, and words can hurt so think about what you say before you say it.
Then, there’s a five minute melee while almost everyone checks to make sure that’s true, about the weapons, by trying to kill each other.
Cloud looks over at Sephiroth. “You don’t want to at least try to impale me with your sword, just for fun? I’m surprised at you.”
Sephiroth sweeps the room with a bored gaze. “It’s always tempting, but if I’m going to look as ridiculous as that,” he says, pointing to a man in a plumber’s cap who keeps trying to sucker punch something that looks a lot like a turtle, “I’ll pass, thank you.”
Cloud is grateful, but of course, he’ll never tell Sephiroth that. Instead, he says, “I wonder how badly you have to fuck up as a plumber to end up with an archenemy.”
Sephiroth responds with, “I wonder how badly you have to fuck up as an archenemy to end up with a plumber.”
Neither one of them mention the turtle.
* * *
“It’s just,” says the man with the pointy hat who is sitting next to Cloud, “There’s this whole prophecy thing, see, and -- ”
He doesn’t get a chance to finish before Phil interrupts him. “Ah, but see, Link -- that’s an excuse! You’re using the prophecy as an excuse for your behavior!”
“But if Ganon gets the Triforce, he’ll have dominion over Hyrule!” Link protests, and the pointy hat is slipping to a not-quite-as-jaunty angle. He jabs at it angrily. “It’s not like I asked to be the champion of the goddess. If he’d just leave Zelda alone, everything would be fine!”
“She’s really not that into you, you know,” Ganon tells Link. “I mean, she basically thinks of you like a brother.”
“What -- how would you -- shut up,” Link mutters, slipping down in his seat. “It’s not about that. I don’t want to live under your rule, you’re weird. And evil!”
“You’d rather live under the rule of a princess who can’t keep herself from getting kidnapped, or figure her own damn way out of a maze?”
Across the room, the turtle creature stares poignantly at the plumber and roars again.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” the plumber says, tiredly. He fixes Link with a world-weary look. “Your evil boar-human wizard thing has a point, kid. Save ‘em once, you’ll be savin’ ‘em forever.”
“How about you two,” Phil says, turning towards Cloud and Sephiroth. “What’s your name again? Sorry, we had a cancellation and you were a last minute addition. Wind Battle? Sky Clash? It’s something like that, isn’t it?”
“It’s Cloud Strife,” Cloud corrects.
“Cloud? That’s a really dumb name for a hero,” Ganon interjects. “Almost as dumb as Link.”
“Hey,” Link protests, “Listen, I --”
Phil doesn’t let him finish. “Do I need to get out the talking stick, Ganon, Link? Again?”
“We don’t have it anymore,” one of the others pipes up. He’s also dressed in a military uniform, and he leans towards his companion who is clearly trying to say something even though he’s wearing a gas mask. “Psycho Mantis says you gave it to that guy last week, the one who looks like the plumber, kinda. He beat the shit out of that monkey with it.”
“My cousin,” the plumber says, shrugging. He pulls the hat over his eyes. “What can I say? We got problems with authority figures. Y’know. If they’re...animals n’ such. Ain’t right.”
“And you are...Sephora?" Phil makes a face. "Wait, no, that’s the place where my wife spends too much money on lipstick. Fifty-four dollars for a thing of blush? Who does she think she is, a princess?”
“Watch out,” Ganon drawls sarcastically. “Link might think you’re holding her captive and shoot you with an arrow. Which by the way, still wouldn’t make her want to date you, Link. Even if it was made out of silver.”
“Seriously, would you shut up? It’s not like that. We’re friends.” Link scuffs one of his boots on the floor. “Besides, I have a girlfriend in Canada.”
“His name is Sephiroth,” Cloud supplies, because everyone is awkwardly trying not to look at Link and his miserable, lovestruck little face. Cloud has no idea where Canada is, but there’s a fake-girlfriend land in every world, isn’t there? “Sephiroth...Hojo?”
Sephiroth levels an icy-green stare at him. “No.”
“Wait, was Hojo his first name or last name, though? I’ve always wondered that.”
“That’s not even an answer,” Cloud huffs. “Then you can take your mom’s name -- your real one, not the alien -- and be Sephiroth Crescent.” Cloud starts snickering. “Or you could go with the whole Vincent is your dad theory and be Sephiroth Crescent Valentine. That’s more porn star than demi-god, but you do have on all that leather.”
A man across the room, who is wearing sunglasses and looks like some kind of Soldier operative, nudges the woman next to him. “You hear that, Jill? His last name is Valentine. Maybe you two are related. Too bad he’s prettier than you are.”
“Oh, shut up, Albert,” the woman snaps, crossing her legs. “And take off your sunglasses, no one cares about the T-virus. There’s a fire-breathing dinosaur over there, for fuck’s sake.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s a turtle,” says Cloud.
“So, Cloud and Sephiroth,” Phil continues, raising his voice pointedly, “What is the root cause of your conflict?”
“Cloud doesn’t like my post-apocalyptic travel plans,” Sephiroth answers. At Cloud’s speechless glare, he lifts one shoulder and says, “What? You don’t.”
“Not when they involve using the planet as your vessel!” Cloud points at Sephiroth in an accusatory fashion. “For starters, he went crazy, burned down my village and killed everyone in it!”
“Oh, you didn’t even like half of them,” says Sephiroth, before abruptly turning to address the woman next to him. “Excuse me, are you trying to braid my hair?”
“Sorry, it’s just, this is very boring,” she says, sighing. “And it’s right there.” She looks a little abashed. “I didn’t think you’d notice.”
“He wants to kill every living thing,” Cloud continues, somewhat helplessly. “I don’t know how to explain it other than that.”
“And that is the sort of mindset we need to work through!” Phil booms, turning towards the group at large. “You need to realize this is a conflict that involves only the two of you. Stop trying to make it about kidnapped princesses, weapons, viruses, vengeance or whatever the hell that fire-breathing dragon is in it for -- make it about the two of you!”
“It’s a turtle,” Cloud bites out, between clenched teeth. Somehow, the idea of that thing being a dragon offends him.
Phil crosses his arms and gives them all a bulldog stare. “You just can’t do that, though, can you. Because if you make it about the two of you, then it is something you could resolve, and if you resolve it... you lose your identity! You are afraid of losing your identity! You’ve wrapped it all up in this other person and your so-called battle, and you’re afraid of what will be left, if you strip it all away.”
There’s a long moment of silence. Phil nods, very seriously. “Now, I see we’re getting somewhere. Now we can begin the process of real change. Let’s get to work!”
Cloud looks over Sephiroth. “If this is hell,” he says, very quietly, “I see why you’re always trying to leave.”
Sephiroth makes a soft sound that may, or may not, be a laugh. “You should have just told him you’re obsessed with my sword.”
* * *
They have a ten minute break after that, for coffee and donuts.
Cloud stands next to Sephiroth, because he’s not very good in a crowd and because he’s not sure he wants to get any closer to any of these people. Better the devil you know…
He does wonder how the guy with the gas mask is going to eat his donut, but not enough to go over there and find out.
Sephiroth drinks coffee, and eats a powdered donut. He gets some of it on his jacket, and Cloud is torn between telling him it’s there and ignoring it. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Sephiroth looking disheveled in some small way. But on the other, he sort of likes how his archenemy is the best looking one here, so he reaches out and wipes the powder off.
Just as they’re finishing up, one of those moments happens in the group where everyone goes quiet at once -- everyone except for that one person, who inevitably says something embarrassing and everyone hears.
That person being Link, who is in the middle of saying, “....yeah, then I have to find that fucking fairy in the woods so I can get it up again.”
Even Phil doesn’t know what to say to that.
Link catches everyone’s stares and says defensively, “Why is everyone glaring at me? That’s what fairies are for, on Hyrule. You’re supposed to use them that way! What? What did I say?”
“So, Sephiroth, you’re saying to use the planet as your vessel?” asks Ganon, sounding very, very tired. “I don’t suppose you could email me the schematics, could you? I’m starting to think Hyrule and I could do with a little quality alone time.”
* * *
They are required to sit facing each other, nemesis-to-nemesis, and, according to Phil, tell their archenemy how they’ve hurt them.
“We need to see our archenemy as a person -- or, um, whatever,” he adds, waving a hand vaguely towards Bowser. “They do not pay me enough for this. I’ll never piss off Oprah again, I swear to god. Who wants to go first?”
Jill raises her hand. “I will.” At Phil’s nod, she turns to the man in the sunglasses and says, “Wesker, I was really hurt when you left us all for dead in that mansion and ordered us to split up. So we could be torn apart and ravaged by evil zombie dogs.”
“Jill, I was really hurt when you tackled me out of that window. I have glass in places that should not have glass, if you know what I mean.”
“That’s very good,” Phil praises them. “Though, Wesker, try to think in terms of emotional pain, rather than physical.”
“Jill, you weren’t very good at being a brainwashed weapon to bring about the destruction of mankind, and I was disappointed in you.”
“Oh, that sounds familiar,” says Sephiroth.
Phil must realize this is as good as he’s going to get. “Now, do the opposite. Tell your archenemy about a time they helped you, or made you happy.”
“Right now,” Jill says. “It makes me happy to know I disappointed Wesker.”
Cloud turns his head and gives Sephiroth a beatific smile. “That sounds familiar, too.”
Phil is telling Jill that she needs to embrace an attitude more responsive to healthy, positive change, and to try again.
Jill looks like she’s just been asked to eat a cactaur doused in lemon juice. “I -- it was -- before you turned me into a brainwashed weapon to kill Chris, you gave me medical attention after we fell into that chasm.”
“Good, very good,” praises Phil. “Wesker?”
“I think you look good in those pants,” is Wesker’s response. “No? All right. Thanks for breaking my fall out of that window.”
“Well, it’s a start,” Phil says, a bit awkwardly. “Moving on! All of the rest of you, go on, tell each other how you’ve been hurt.”
From behind Phil, there is a roar from the turtle creature. Then the plumber says, sort of angrily, “I wouldn’t drop-kick your koopas if you gave them a sideways range of motion, Bowser,” followed by, “Yeah, well, how do you think I felt, huh? Going in all those stupid pipes, making impossible jumps and, oh, what do I find out? Those coins are fucking worthless.”
Sephiroth and Cloud regard each other quietly.
“Go on.” Cloud is fairly certain he doesn’t need to give Sephiroth a laundry list of his sins, but he’s interested to hear Sephiroth’s answer on how Cloud might have hurt him. “Tell me how I hurt you.”
Sephiroth smiles slowly. Cloud tried that once, at home in the mirror, but all it did was make him look like an idiot dosed up on pain medication. Sephiroth has the expression down, though. Maybe that’s what he practices in the grey twilight between life and death. Smirking. “When I ask you to hurt me, or when you decide to do it on your own?”
Cloud flushes hot and hisses, “Shhh! Gaia, don’t say that kind of thing. There’s probably some other seminar we’ll get stuck in, if he hears you referencing our sex life.”
“There is,” Wesker says, leaning back in his chair. Cloud is gratified to see Wesker also looks like an idiot when tries the slow-grin. Or it could be those smarmy sunglasses. “The Lure of the Hate/Sex Relationship and How to Forge Gentler Bonds of Intimacy. It meets on Thursdays.” Wesker looks over at Jill and winks. “No donuts, though.”
“In your T-virus infested dreams, Wesker,” Jill snaps.
“Didn’t say I was there on Thursdays with you, now, did I?” Wesker pretends to bite at her. “Where do you think Chris goes on his lunch hour?”
Cloud puts his head back on the chair, looking straight up at the ceiling. “I have a headache. I wish that turtle would stop roaring. And it is a turtle. I don’t care what anyone says.” He rolls his head towards Sephiroth. “So?”
Sephiroth is looking at him in a way that makes Cloud shift in his seat and wish he had something to throw. It wouldn’t do anything, but it might make him feel better. “It hurts when you resist me, puppet.”
Cloud gives him a few seconds, but nothing else is forthcoming. He scowls. “Really? It didn’t, y’know, sting a little when you fell several hundred feet and hit the ground while holding a metal object? Or when I Omnislashed you? That didn’t hurt? Come on, that was my limit break.”
“Physical pain means very little to me,” Sephiroth says, shrugging. “Hojo made certain of that.”
There’s a moment when Cloud, sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair across from his nemesis in some bizarre group-therapy-themed dimension, really does look at Sephiroth and see a person instead of a monster.
Which is effectively ruined when Sephiroth leans in, voice a silken purr and says, “But thank you, Cloud, for handing over the Black Materia, that was very helpful. Aren’t you going to tell me a time when I made you happy, hmm? Other than last night, when I had you on your back and made you come for me?”
Cloud looks away, focusing on the bizarre room full of equally bizarre people in which they are trapped. It’s possible they’re dead and this is the Lifestream’s way of sorting things out, but Cloud doubts that. The donuts weren’t that good.
And he can’t deny that their...prior evening’s activities...didn’t make him feel good, but Cloud is pretty sure that’s not what Phil meant by happy. So he thinks, until he finds something that does.
“One time when I was training with Zack, back before...before Nibelheim. You came over and said something about how Zack needed to file a mission report instead of...training future Soldiers, or something.” Cloud smiles briefly at the memory. It was a throw-away line to someone like Sephiroth, who was a First Class Soldier, and it in no way was intended as an evaluation of Cloud’s skills. Still. “That made me happy,” Cloud says, softly, because it’s true.
Sephiroth stays silent, watching him with eyes that burn with rage.
* * *
“All right,” Phil says, sounding as tired as he looks, “Time to wrap this up. We have one last exercise, and we need to get through this one quick. I made it very clear on my contract that I would not do overtime, and I’m standing by that.”
“How do we leave, exactly…?” Link asks. “And can we go anywhere?” He looks over at Cloud hopefully.
“Hyrule’s champion, looking for a new home?” Ganon mocks. “Go ahead, really, I’ll have your mail forwarded.”
“I was just thinking it might be nice to have some fr--never mind.” Link sighs.
Phil clears his throat. Twice. “Just complete the exercise and you’ll be returned to your home...planet, world, pixelated universe, whatever. Look, Bowser, could you stop roaring? It’s stuffy enough as it is, and you’re really not helping. Next time I’m putting a clause in here about no fire-breathing dragons.”
“For the last time,” Cloud says, loudly, “it’s a turtle.” No one pays attention but the plumber, who sort of shakes his head in defeat and sits down, muttering mamma mia under his breath like a prayer mantra.
“So, what’s up with the giant sword?” Wesker asks, as Phil passes around notecards and some very tiny pencils. He nods at the blade strapped to Sephiroth’s back. “How are you even sitting in that chair? It’s eight feet long or some shit, what the hell are you overcompensating for?”
Sephiroth lifts his head and does that whole thing where he smiles through his hair. “Mercy,” he says, and Cloud has to give him style points because it comes off very well, it really does. Or would have, if --
“Um. Sephi--Seph -- guy who’s here with Cloud? Your hair is on fire,” Link points out. “Thought you should know.”
Behind them, Bowser roars.
* * *
Their final exercise is to put two truths and a lie on the card. Cloud thinks for a long time before making any marks whatsoever. He finally folds it in half and hands it to Sephiroth.
Sephiroth folds his card in half, too, and hands it to Cloud.
There’s a moment when their fingers touch, and the electricity makes Cloud shiver. Sephiroth’s eyes flash, and the world starts to blur.
When it stops, Cloud finds himself once again in barren landscape where he’d intended to fight Sephiroth -- only this time, he’s there alone. Blinking, Cloud looks around for Fenrir and wonders if maybe he fell off his bike, hit his head on a rock and imagined that happened.
He doesn’t think his imagination is quite that...vivid. And he knows the difference between a dragon and a fucking turtle, fire-breathing capabilities notwithstanding.
He reaches into his pocket and finds a white card, folded neatly in half. He turns it over and over in his fingers, stalling. He half expects it to be blank when he opens it, but it isn’t. Sephiroth’s handwriting is neat, precise, and elegant -- just like the man himself. It’s only one word, repeated three times:
Two truths and a lie. Of course. Cloud rubs his thumb over the card, then tucks it back in his pocket. He should have expected that, really.
It does make Cloud feel a lot better about his own response, though. As he climbs on his bike to head back to Edge, he imagines that somewhere, right now, Sephiroth is looking at a badly-drawn illustration of a turtle setting his hair on fire.