fandom: final fantasy vii (compilation), set post-ACC, part of the “sleeping with ghosts” ‘verse; vaguely interconnected, can be read as a standalone.
rating: teen and up
word count: 2698
summary: if cloud is a siren, then sephiroth is his fucking shipwreck.
an: i just like making these two stand around and talk, or think about things, idk. title from a translation of Homer’s Odyssey, in which he is describing the sirens’ song. Also my apologies if the ages used in here are wrong; the timeline makes me cry and want some candy. Pretend they're just too crazy to know better, okay? :D
One morning, Cloud wakes up and there is no sign of Sephiroth.
Cloud paces the length and breadth of the house, silent like some long-dead ghost grieving for a life that has faded into grey. Gradually he begins to wonder if Sephiroth was ever really there at all, or if he’s been staying in this house with nothing but his own delusions and shameful desires for company.
The thought makes something very much like fear rise up like bile in his throat, acrid and thick, and he breathes several times through his nose to calm the sudden nausea. This is ridiculous. He is not caught in some twisted hallucination of his own making -- and if he is, he’s sure as fuck not been caught there alone.
He thinks about standing beneath the harsh lights in the bathroom and seeing the marks he can feel on his body. He knows if he stares into the mirror, all of the bites and bruises will be reflected back at him without mercy -- gifts from a man who finds Cloud’s pain more satisfying than his pleasure.
As if you don’t want it, Sephiroth’s voice whispers, a sibilant hiss in the dark places of Cloud’s mind. As if you don’t writhe and sing beneath me, my little siren.
If Cloud is the siren, then Sephiroth is his fucking shipwreck.
Cloud shakes his head, briefly, face settling into a familiar scowl. He knows Sephiroth is real, he knows what they’ve done together, nothing is any different than it was last night, or yesterday morning, or the day before. Except that Cloud’s errant angel of darkness is nowhere to be found, and has apparently vanished as if he’d never been there at all.
Cloud walks over to the bed and smooths a hand over the rumpled sheets. He wonders if Sephiroth’s abrupt absence means he will not be back, and that they will not see each other again until they’re precariously perched on some edifice beneath a churning sky, swords drawn in rage.
I’m not that lucky, Cloud thinks, and finds a single, silver strand of hair half-hidden amidst the white sheets. Next to the bed, the window is closed but not latched. Cloud opens it, feels the cold air on his face and watches as a single, black feather is carried off by the wind.
Cloud rolls his eyes and closes the window. Sephiroth’s exits are always dramatic, even when he’s not there.
* * *
“You could have just left a note,” Cloud tells him, when Sephiroth returns from wherever it is he’s been for the last week. “But the feather was a nice touch. How many did you have to leave for that to work, anyway? Six? Seven? How come I never find any of those lying around other places….?”
Sephiroth’s arsenic eyes settle on him, empty and smooth as glass. He doesn’t answer. He’s been very quiet since Cloud came back to the house and found him there, dressed in his usual leather boots and the long black coat (still missing a button, which Cloud finds extremely satisfying in a childish way), the masamune a teasing glint of cold steel over his shoulder.
Sephiroth’s true armor is not the coat or the paulsons or even the deadly blade at his back. It’s the mask of inhumanity he wears so easily, like he really is some god born of a higher being, different than those creatures nourished by Gaia’s grace.
But you are of this world, Cloud thinks, staring into the vacant depths of Sephiroth’s eyes. If you weren’t, it wouldn’t be so hard to make you leave it.
“I came back here to kill you,” Sephiroth tells him, eyes gleaming with their customary mad fire, pupils slitted. Sephiroth, once Wutai’s demon, now Cloud’s.
“You came back for the same reason you left,” Cloud tells him. “Because I make you feel like a human.”
And that is when the smooth, inhuman beauty of Sephiroth’s face finally fractures and breaks, eyebrows pulling together in a fierce frown, mouth tightening at the sides. “I don’t want this, either, Cloud,” he says, and there’s a startling honesty in it, more so than Cloud expects. “If I don’t have you to hate, all that waits for me in the darkness is oblivion.”
“You don’t have the right to be here,” Cloud says, very carefully, words slow and measured. A chill breaks out over his body, a steady shiver from head to toe, because this thing standing before him is not anything that should exist. “The time you were given, it’s over.”
Cloud wishes he was as sure of that as he sounds. Because he can’t help thinking that if Gaia didn’t want her wayward son standing on her living soil, he wouldn’t be glaring at Cloud in a hallway with the mid-afternoon sun throwing shadows over his beautiful face.
Sephiroth pushes by him and leaves Cloud standing there, staring at the spot he just vacated, listening to the sound of his boots as he walks up the stairs.
* * *
Cloud wakes up and rolls over in bed, half-expecting to be tangled in the mass of Sephiroth’s hair or his limbs or the twisted sheets -- but instead he is alone, with nothing but the warmth in the spot where Sephiroth so recently lay to keep him company.
He knows Sephiroth is still there. Somehow, Cloud can feel it. They really do revolve like magnets around each other, opposite poles caught with a planet between them. Cloud groans quietly at that thought, arm flung up to cover his eyes.
That was dramatic. I guess that’s how I know my boyfriend’s back.
He laughs out loud at the absurdity of the thought. My boyfriend. Who wants to kill me. Who stays with me so he doesn’t get taken apart by the Lifestream he tried to destroy. Fuck my life, seriously.
Cloud lays in bed for a few moments, but there’s a strange tick at the corner of his awareness that won’t allow him to drift back off into sleep. If it is some sort of internalized warning mechanism, it’s apparently faulty -- somehow it doesn’t make a peep when he climbs into bed with Sephiroth, or climbs on top of him.
Annoyed, Cloud tries to ignore it and go to sleep. Finally, he flings the sheet back and gets out of the bed, pads over to the bathroom. The door is ajar. “Are you being dramatic in here?” He pushes it, slightly, and wonders briefly if he should have knocked.
No, you shouldn’t. Did he give you any warning before sliding a sword in your chest? No, no he did not.
Sephiroth is half-dressed, in a pair of loose cotton pants and no shirt. His hair is wet from a recent shower, slicked back off his forehead in a way Cloud’s never seen before . He turns to regard Cloud silently, and for some reason -- maybe the lighting or the time of night or the satisfaction that still thrums like a drug in Cloud’s veins -- he looks startlingly unlike the Sephiroth Cloud knows and wants so desperately to hate.
But he doesn’t look like the Soldier First Class that Cloud so vaguely remembers, either. Cloud’s eyes widen, almost owlishly, because it’s like he’s never seen the man before even though a few hours ago, that man was driving into him with his teeth buried in Cloud’s shoulder and Cloud’s hands shoved deep in that mass of silver hair.
Cloud reaches up and absently rubs at the teeth marks he can feel in his skin. Sephiroth is still watching him, solemnly, and he looks...tired. There are circles under his eyes, and when he blinks it’s almost too slow, like he’s trying to keep himself awake. His eyelashes are long, surprisingly dark, thick and full like a woman’s.
Cloud leans against the door jam. Something odd twists in his stomach as he stares at his old enemy, as his old enemy stares back. “I’m tired of this,” Cloud says, softly. “Aren’t you?”
Sephiroth nods. “Very.” He looks back at the mirror, staring at his reflection. “I don’t look any older than I did when we left for Nibelheim. You do, though.”
“Wow. That’s...how do you get me in bed when you try and kill me, call me names, and tell me I look old? I need to raise my standards.” Cloud meets Sephiroth’s eyes in the mirror. “You’ve spent a lot of time in the Lifestream. How old are you? Er. How old should you be?”
Sephiroth blinks again, that slow, heavy fall of lash-on-cheek. “I don’t know,” he says. “How old are you?”
“You don’t even know my birthday,” Cloud sighs, head falling back against the doorjam. “I guess that’s for the best. I don’t think I want to know what you’d get me for a present. And I’m twenty-five.”
“You were, what, sixteen? When we went to Nibelheim.”
Sometimes when Sephiroth says the name of their shared hometown, Cloud knows he’s doing it to make it hurt. This is not one of those times. “Yeah, I think so. I was twenty when I...after Zack broke us out of Hojo’s lab. How old were you?”
“Twenty-two,” Sephiroth says. His brow creases. “I think. Maybe older. I can’t remember.” His hands are on the basin of the sink, and Cloud watches him take a slow, deep breath.
It’s the most vulnerable Cloud’s ever seen him look. Cloud’s fingers twitch at his sides, and he reminds himself that this man is danger personified, he is without compassion or mercy and just because he’s having some strange introspective moment at two in the morning doesn’t mean any of that has changed.
“You don’t look -- exactly the same, as I remember,” Cloud says, very carefully. He isn’t sure this is a good idea, but nothing about this is, so what’s the point in holding back? “But my memories are...not that great. And I was young, and you --” he swallows past the sudden lump in his throat. It hurts to remember the esteem in which he once held Sephiroth, maybe more than anything else that has happened between them.
“I never exactly saw you like this, though. Half-dressed.” Cloud smiles a little, tiredly. “No more than you usually were, in that uniform, that is.”
Surprisingly, Sephiroth gives him the slightest hint of a smile. A smirk, but it’s close. “Are you trying to make me feel better, little stormcloud?”
“Not if you keep calling me that stupid nickname.” Cloud shifts, still leaning against the door, arms crossed over his chest. He’s naked, but for some reason that isn’t really a problem. This man has stripped away more than just Cloud’s clothes, has seen far beneath the skin he ravages with hands and teeth. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I never have, when it comes to you.”
Cloud steps forward. He reaches out and puts a hand on Sephiroth’s shoulder. His pale skin is warmer than it looks. Whatever the man is, blood runs through him and breath pushes out of his lungs. The honesty of the moment is making Cloud uncomfortable.
There’s a moment when the truth hits Cloud like a blade, so strongly his fingers fly up to press against the slight scar left on his own chest from the masamune’s kiss. “The reason you left isn’t just because I make you feel human, is it?” Cloud gives a little unhappy laugh. “It’s because you’re worried that if you stop hating me, you’ll have nothing to keep you from falling apart into nothing.”
“And what,” Sephiroth whispers, “Would your life be without me, Cloud?”
“Boring,” Cloud says, wryly. “And I’d probably get a lot more sleep.” The thing is, he knows Sephiroth is right. They’re both afraid of the same thing, really. There’s more than one kind of oblivion.
Sephiroth bows his head briefly, and his hair falls forward to frame his face. “Go back to bed, Cloud.”
“Come with me,” Cloud says, hand sliding down Sephiroth’s back. “It will keep us from having this conversation, if nothing else. I hate talking. I leave all the dramatic speeches up to you.”
“Good. I’ve never been all that impressed with yours.” Sephiroth straightens, absently raking a hand through his hair. Cloud sees those distinctive bangs of his are already drying in their customary points.
“You’re not with me for my monologues? I’m devastated.” Cloud reaches up and tugs on one of the strands of hair. “Why do they stick up like that?”
“Are you, of all people, asking me that?” Sephiroth rolls his eyes. “I don’t know, they’ve always done that. Isn’t that what you told me?”
“Jenova’s shared legacy,” Cloud intones, surprised at himself for saying that name out loud. “Cowlicks.”
Sephiroth laughs, and it’s short and close to a snort; in fact, it’s one of the most inelegant sounds Cloud has ever heard the man make. It also makes his heart take a tumble in his chest. He’s always thought Sephiroth was at his most dangerous with masamune in his hand and that gleam of vicious madness in his eyes, but he’s starting to think that’s not true.
Maybe he’s at his most dangerous in a pair of pajama pants with wet hair and circles under his eyes, standing in the bathroom at two in the morning and laughing at Cloud’s jokes.
Cloud does what he does best when confronted with things he doesn’t want to think about. He tells himself he’s betraying everything and everyone he loves, and turns on his heel to walk away, move forward, leave all that darkness that tempts and terrifies far behind.
Sephiroth does what he does best, and follows. Because if Cloud’s learned anything from their strange and bloody courtship, it’s that the darkness will always find him in the end.
* * *
It doesn’t have to be hate, you know. It could be something else, something just as strong, that makes him think of you when he’s trapped in the darkest of places.
The thought isn’t Cloud’s (unless he suddenly sounds like a sweet-voiced girl with old eyes and a kind smile), it just appears there in his mind, pulls him into wakefulness as gentle as a bell-chime.
Cloud’s eyes open, adjust to the darkness. Sephiroth’s arm is like a shackle around him, less like cuddling and more like restraint, his breath warm on the back of Cloud’s neck. Cloud can see the gleam of the moon beyond the window, shining with an unnatural, cheerful brightness.
That’s a battle I don’t think I can win, Cloud thinks, very clearly.
Maybe you already have, her voice answers. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe if you’d each stop fighting yourselves, you’d stop fighting each other, too.
It’s not that simple, Cloud thinks, almost desperately. Sephiroth shifts behind him, arm tightening almost in warning. Cloud wonders if Aerith is giving him the same lecture. He hopes so. Sephiroth deserves it.
Cloud, Aerith chides, gentle as ever, her voice sweetly exasperated, yes it is.
For normal people, maybe, he grouses. The moonlight is suddenly a soft kiss on the forehead, and somewhere in the distance he hears the hoot of an owl, which sounds suspiciously like it’s laughing.
Cloud huffs and deliberately closes his eyes. Apparently, everyone but him has mastered the art of the dramatic exit. Figures.