“Hungry? Don't Purge on an empty stomach, all foot longs are buy one, get one free today at Subway! That's not all! Bring back your receipt to any unlooted Subway location tomorrow for an additional free foot long! See your local manager for details about perks for customers who protect our locations with vigilante justice during the Purge!”
Sephiroth stared at the ceiling of Angeal's office. It was calm and quiet, and the only reminder of the holiday were occasional advertisements on the radio. “I haven't listened to actual radio in forever. It's like they play more commercials than anything. Why don't you listen to internet stations or somethin' without ads and talking?”
“Rich, considering you haven't shut the fuck up since you got here,” was Angeal's response as he typed. “We have like two hours until briefing and I need quiet.”
“I'll be quiet,” Sephiroth sank lower, his chin completely vertical as he hung his head off the back of the chair. “... I hate this day.”
The Purge occurred every May 21st at seven in the evening, and raged on until seven the following morning. A radical government council that called themselves the New Founding Fathers formed with President Shin-Ra's glowing consent, and they granted everyone in Midgar the right to do anything they wanted for twelve hours – murder, theft, arson, brutality – everything was legal.
And not only was it legal, but encouraged. By participating in the Purge, the individual had the chance to express forbidden desires, therefore making the world a better, safer place to live the rest of the year. It was a Purge of all evil, to funnel the rampant crime in Midgar down to one night without any interruption or consequence.
It sounded insane, but it worked. The top plate streets were safer than ever, and even the slums were less slummy than they had historically been. Crimes of passion that clogged up the judicial system vanished, and theft was almost nonexistent.
Everyone just waited for the Purge.
It was also a commercial moneymaker the likes of which the world had never seen. Every store carried products that advertised greater defense or benefit on Purge Night. Even Christmas bowed down to this monster of a holiday, as most gifts were exchanged in the vein of keeping loved ones safe during those twelve chaotic hours – or custom arsenal to Purge all the better with.
The daylight hours before the Purge commenced were pure chaos.
Angeal's office was the only peaceful place in the entire city of Midgar, and especially the Shin-Ra headquarters building. Everyone wanted a piece of the annual action that showed up on President Shin-Ra's doorstep – civilians and terrorists tried like hell all night to give the Shin-Ra Electric Company a piece of their mind. It was a real shit show, and all the nearby hotels were often booked by onlookers who wanted to watch from the safety of the upper floors, and help pick off intruders, sniper style.
It really did feel like all eyes in Midgar were on the Shin-Ra tower on Purge night. And visibly, they didn't even board up windows or put into effect an expensive defense system that most upper plate homes had installed. The only thing Shin-Ra needed to keep itself safe were SOLDIERs, and they were all too happy to oblige.
If SOLDIERs or army weren't assigned to work, they were aching to be let out early to go prepare themselves for the night ahead. Nobody asked, but everybody knew – SOLDIERs were assigned to protect the citizens of Midgar, but once a year they got a chance to act on every impulse that had to be regularly and chemically kept in check.
Sephiroth's office was the busiest place on the executive floor, as SOLDIERs and army were crowding his door to beg to stay at headquarters and play with the would-be intruders. Or if they were assigned to work and would rather go out and enjoy the holiday in their own private way, Sephiroth was still the man to ask.
Sephiroth didn't know why people felt the need to ask him shit like that when it was Lazard who did scheduling – but most of the SOLDIERs knew they had a buddy in Sephiroth and were more comfortable approaching him for permission to either stay or leave. He had a hard time saying no to people when it came to scheduling; usually he just needed bodies and didn't care whose they were. But things like favoritism came up, and general grumbling from those who chose to abide by their schedules without weaseling around them, so Sephiroth was often torn.
That's why he left a note on his office door declaring, 'DO WHAT YOU WANT AS LONG AS WE HAVE AT LEAST 50 2ND CLASSES HERE ALL NIGHT', and went to hide in Angeal's office to avoid anyone who needed clarification on that.
Sephiroth's work phone was turned off, but even from the dead he could sense that it was blowing up with calls and texts. But when his personal phone rang, he knew better than to ignore it. It was the newest member of the SOLDIER program - a recent enlistment who Sephiroth could not hide from no matter how much he might want to, and often had a lot of bitching to do about scheduling.
“Do you mind if I answer this?” Sephiroth asked.
Angeal sighed as he continued to work, “Whatever.”
“Hey baby,” Sephiroth answered with a sleepy sort of pleasantness.
“I still can't believe I have to spend Purge Night here alone again!” Cloud whined. “Why can't they let you just have it off one time? It's your birthday!”
“Because it's the Purge. I always work on the fuckin' Purge,” Sephiroth was sick to death of having this conversation. They'd been together for three years, and by now Cloud knew better but still liked to give him shit for things he couldn't control.
“There's plenty of other people there! Can't they just let you have this one night off?”
“Because it's the fuckin' Purge,” he repeated, offering no further explanation.
It wasn't even about his birthday, he'd never really observed it during his strange upbringing and made it clear after a few surprise parties as an adult that he didn't appreciate it. And there was no reason his boyfriend who was barely making above a Cadet's income should ever have to spend money on him, but Cloud liked to do it. Sephiroth expected that he would have a few birthday gifts and a small cake waiting on his kitchen counter despite his protests.
Birthdays were a relief to get out of, but missing out on the Purge? The very idea of it was straight out of his boyhood fantasies... sometimes in the middle of the year he found himself daydreaming of how he might celebrate if he had been born with the luxury of being a civilian. The Purge seemed to call for a certain level of anonymity that wasn't a reality for the General of the Shin-Ra Army. He had an obligation to keep the President safe... no matter how often Sephiroth sliced that red-faced monster's throat in his mind.
Cloud made one of his wordless little sounds of displeasure into the phone.
Sephiroth took a breath and spoke a little softer to him, “I wish I had tonight off with you, I really do. But I don't. I'm sorry.”
“Do you think maybe next year you could request the week off so we can go out of town or something nice like that for your birthday? Just skip this whole Purge bullshit?”
“No,” Sephiroth answered without passion.
Cloud entered a world of displeasure with a dramatic sigh, “Well can you at least have tomorrow off?”
“Sorry babe, gotta work,” Sephiroth lied. “I can try to come home for a little while in the mornin' but no promises.”
“You do have tomorrow off,” Angeal reminded him from the other side of his desk. He was the one who was pulling a double shift to accommodate Sephiroth's day off as a birthday favor, and wanted some fucking recognition.
Sephiroth shook his head and mouthed, 'It's a surprise!'
Angeal rolled his eyes.
“I just want you here for once...” Cloud lamented, rubbing his thumb against the side of his cell phone. It was often the only line of communication between the two of them most of the time, but even that was taken away on Purge Night – all cellular service was cut off for twelve hours. It wasn't fair.
“You're gonna be fine. You'll do what you always do: lock up in my apartment and sit tight until morning. Nobody's gonna bother you, you'll be safe.”
“I don't feel unsafe or anything!” Cloud stated petulantly. “I just feel like they could bend on this once in a while and let you... ya know. Celebrate.”
“Celebrate?” Sephiroth asked carefully. Cloud had just graduated from the Shin-Ra Military Academy and with the confidence that came with that, Sephiroth suspected he might have the desire to Purge. It was only a matter of time until Cloud was just as bloodthirsty as everyone else in the army. Sephiroth had seen lots of civilian and military couples alike Purging together, and it seemed like a truly romantic activity, way more intimate than Valentine's Day. Gearing up and arming each other to the teeth... having each other’s backs... trusting each other... settling each other’s scores... Sephiroth became lost in a little daydream of sharing something like that with Cloud.
“Of course I want to break some laws with you tonight... sodomy is still technically illegal, y'know?” Cloud offered with a small laugh.
It didn't do much to lighten his melancholy, but Sephiroth let himself smirk. “We don't need a holiday to break that law.”
“Okay...” Cloud relented. “If anything changes... will you call me before everything starts? I'll come to wherever you are.”
“I don't want you goin' anywhere,” Sephiroth told him sternly. “You stay inside. Lock up. Sit tight.”
Cloud paused, forcing himself to remember that Sephiroth cared about him and wasn't trying to brush him off or drive him insane by insisting on repeating that stupid safety mantra. He screwed a smile onto his face, “Yes love. Everything's locked up and I will sit as tight as I possibly can.”
“I got nothin' appropriate to say to that.”
Cloud's smile melted into something more genuine, “Seriously. Just be careful. Call me as soon as cell service picks back up in the morning, please? Don't worry about waking me up. Promise?”
“Alright, then. Happy Purge Night! But most of all, happy birthday. I love you.”
“Yeah,” Sephiroth grunted, closing his phone abruptly and pushing it into his pocket. “Christ.”
“What?” Angeal mumbled, his chin against his chest and his attention on his own phone.
“This night just sucks,” Sephiroth exhaled through his nose, looking around the office and finding nothing to either alleviate or aggravate his steadily growing frustration. “Do you ever just -”
“Quiet time,” Angeal mildly interrupted.
Sephiroth practically yowled in a stubborn yawning outlet of sound, “Let's just go get started!”
Angeal looked up from his phone. “There's still like two hours. Just chill out.”
“I'm anxious,” Sephiroth pushed his feet against the floor and cracked his back on the unforgiving metal chair. It felt good so he started twisting around and cracking other things. “You keep Zack on lock down, too?”
Angeal didn't look up. “What do you mean?”
Sephiroth began cracking every finger, “He never works on Purge Night. You keep him locked up somewhere like I do Cloud?”
Angeal just grunted.
Sephiroth's eyes brightened with curiosity, “... You ever done anything on Purge Night?”
“You know what I mean.”
Angeal nodded. “I Purge every year.”
“What?” Sephiroth asked in half-smiling shock. “You're like a walkin' episode of Law and Order. You actually release the beast on Purge Night?”
“It's patriotic,” Angeal confessed, but added nothing more.
Sephiroth gave him a few moments before kicking at him under the desk. “What? Tell me!”
“God you're fucking annoying today, get outta here!”
“No! Tell me.”
“Victim-less crimes. Mostly...”
“You can't get in trouble for admitting to doing somethin' on Purge Night. Tell me!”
Angeal took a deep breath. “I like to ...steal.”
Sephiroth was visibly disappointed, but asked, “Steal what?”
“Anything. Big expensive stuff, or just cheap stupid shit. Shit I don't even really want. I used to do it as a kid, but one time I got caught. It broke the habit real fast, so from then on, I just waited until Purge Night.”
Sephiroth crossed his arms, “Name one thing you stole last year.”
“Well... my secretary was really bad at using the online scheduling system – like I can't look at my own schedule because he only liked to write things down. He was obsessed with paper and writing, and it never really bothered me until I started thinking about it. So last year I stole everything off his desk, in his drawers, and all the little stupid notes he kept around. Everything.”
“Why?” Sephiroth fell on his elbow laughing.
“There's no why. I did it because it's how I celebrate Purge Night. There were all these little notes from his wife and drawings from his kid and stuff taped up... and these stupid affirmations from his stupid pull-a-day calendar. I took everything, he literally just came back to work to a computer, a desk, and a chair.”
“What'd you do with all his stuff?”
Sephiroth let out a lilting laugh, and it infected Angeal. They both let it play out in its' entirety. A good, long, genuine laugh with a friend is too rare to be interrupted.
“Did you ever do anything on Purge Night?” Angeal finally asked.
“Never,” Sephiroth answered. He never had the chance.
It was five o'clock in the evening, and only two hours until the holiday began. Cloud stared down out of the windows in Sephiroth's bedroom, watching with a perverse kind of curiosity as the people of Midgar's upper plate rushed around to either gear up for the night ahead, or board up against it. There was an electrical excitement in the air, a really truly alive sort of feeling. Cloud felt a bit displaced from it in Sephiroth's well-guarded loft. Just as Sephiroth would be patrolling Shin-Ra HQ to keep it safe, there were also SOLDIERs patrolling the neighborhood for his own well-being, too.
Cloud wasn't sure what he'd ever want to do if he was able to go out on this night. He didn't have much of a desire to kill anyone. Most of the things he enjoyed in life were legal; he was just boring that way. As Cloud pushed away from the window and was making the decision to either masturbate or make some dinner, his phone vibrated with a call from Rufus Shin-Ra.
Being sought out by Rufus for any reason was downright bizarre. Sometimes Cloud got a friendship vibe from him, but mostly he just felt like Rufus used him for whatever his current bidding was, and then laughed behind his back as soon as it was done.
But on a night like Purge Night... a call from Rufus could mean something much more grave than a little snobby, frenemy interaction. Cloud suspected Rufus was jealous of his skin, of his hair, and the fact that Cloud was eighteen and Rufus was twenty and therefore he would always be younger by default. Maybe Rufus was calling to tell him that he was going to kill him in two hours. Or disfigure him permanently. Or sell him to the Wutainese as a love slave and be rid of him once and for all.
Cloud thought too long about it and the buzzing of his phone stopped. He sighed with relief, but another call from Rufus began buzzing before he could even fully exhale. Cloud kept in mind that Sephiroth's apartment was more secure than Fort Condor, and answered the damn call.
“Hey Rufus,” he chirped, an edge of audible worry in his voice.
“Cloud! I'm glad you answered, I need to see you immediately.”
“Oh... yeah, sorry it's actually the Purge tonight and I'm not allowed to go anywhere.”
“No shit it's Purge Night. That's precisely why I need to see you immediately.”
“I really can't Rufus. Seph always puts me on lockdown all day – he gets an alert on his phone if his front door opens. Like he'll absolutely flip. And the whole apartment locks down with metal plates on the windows and front door at seven and they don't open back up until morning. I'm super stuck here.”
“I wasn't listening to anything you just said,” Rufus told him. “My driver is on his way to Sephiroth's apartment. Traffic is hell though, but I'll be there within the hour.”
Cloud paused, “Look Rufus, let's just be honest with each other. Do you wanna kill me?”
Rufus let out a whoop of incredulity, “As if I'd waste a bullet! Of course not, it's nothing like that. I just need to talk, and we have to do it right now.”
“... Talk about what?”
“I have a small proposition for you that I think you'll benefit greatly from. Financially, and professionally.”
Rufus growled impatiently, “It's something I need to talk about in person, not over the phone. Understand?”
Cloud rubbed his forehead, “Sounds real gangster, but the doors are locking in two hours, and I have to be inside.”
“We can get this squared away and slip out before the door locks. Or use a window or whatever? Either way, I'm on my way over there.”
“But I'm not like... entirely interested,” Cloud told him carefully.
“But you're not entirely uninterested!”
“I was trying to be polite. I'm actually super not interested.”
“I don't have time for this bullshit, so I want you to know something. You're the first person I thought of to help me with this mission tonight. I don't want you to feel like this last minute call reflects on my value of you as a member of my army, and as a f...fff... friend.”
Cloud was decided underwhelmed. “I'm assuming you want some help Purging. And not the bathroom kind for once.”
“That's the Strife I know and love! Picking on my insecurities! I did totally suffer from bulimia for many years, that's so you to pick up on that!” Rufus fake laughed, “Like I said, you're the first person I thought of to ask.”
“You're the person that will benefit most from my proposition.”
Cloud almost wanted to say that everyone else Rufus knew was either patrolling to secure his father, a drug addict, and/or a brainless socialite. “What if I hear what you have to say, but I don't want to help?”
“Then I go home,” Rufus told him breezily.
Cloud frowned. “What if it's like... ten minutes until the Purge starts and traffic sucks and you'd be stuck outside if you left? What if we forget the time and Sephiroth's doors lock? Then you'd be stuck here inside with me and god knows what you'll try to do to me once the Purge starts!”
“What do you think I'm gonna do to you?” Rufus asked, something dark and teasing in his tone. “All locked in together like that... If I was of a mind to do something to you, it wouldn't be murder.”
Cloud gulped. “Uh-”
“It's irrelevant! I'm not trying to become your problem on the most dangerous night of the year. My limo is a goddamn fortress on wheels and my driver is contractually obligated to die protecting us.”
“If you decide to help me, yes. If not, I leave you in peace. I like you Cloud, I have no ill intentions towards you tonight, or any other night. I mean that! You're normal, and I adore having you in my life, as peripheral as you may be. I could see us as great f-f-friends one day, whether you decide to indulge me tonight or not.”
Cloud was... slightly moved. Slightly. “Alright, hurry over. Sephiroth's gonna know I opened the door and he's going to be pissed. Will you call him and tell him you're coming over and explain why? You'll be lucky if he doesn't kill us.”
“Absolutely, I'll call him right away,” Rufus lied. “You won't regret this Cloud, and I will not abuse your trust!”
“I never said I trusted you!” Cloud reminded him strongly, but Rufus had already hung up.
Cloud hoped opening the door really quickly might not trigger the alarm to Sephiroth's cell phone, so when Rufus knocked, he ripped open the door, grabbed him by the coat and yanked him inside.
“What the fu-” Rufus yelped, but Cloud covered his mouth.
“Listen! Wait...” Cloud's eyes rolled side to side as he listened for the alarm. “... Maybe it didn't go off...”
It did, and Sephiroth felt his phone vibrate in his pocket but luckily for Rufus and Cloud, he was speaking to troops and couldn't check his phone.
“It worked!” Cloud patted down the wrinkles he'd left in Rufus' white coat. “Sorry about that. Want something to drink?”
“I'm going to kill my father tonight and I need your help.”
Cloud wilted against the wall. “... I knew it.”
“How?” Rufus asked.
“Just look at you,” Cloud motioned to Rufus' entire appearance. Slicked back strawberry blonde hair, a white linen suit, and a giant fucking rifle in his hand. “Of course you wanna kill your dad. I'm shocked you haven't done it already.”
“I've never Purged before,” Rufus admitted.
“Me either,” Cloud exhaled. “I can't. I can't do it, Rufus.”
“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Just listen to my plan.”
“C'mon,” Cloud pushed off the wall and went to the living room. He dropped onto the couch, not even moving away when Rufus sat down uncomfortably close to him.
“Alright,” Rufus took a breath, turning on his thigh to face Cloud. “My father's security is tight, but not as tight as you might think. He's counting on the SOLDIERs to keep the perimeter clear, and they will. Nobody on the inside attempts to take advantage of the Purge to kill him, because my dad is worth more to them alive. We can get past the SOLDIERs easily. We rough each other up, pretend we're being chased, and we seek sanctuary. They'll let us in without even thinking twice. Knowing my dad, he'll either be asleep, or loaded and screwing a honeybee or two. We kill them all. And by we, I really do mean we. As much as I despise the man, I might not be able to pull the trigger on my father. I might need you to do it.”
Cloud had the entire lower half of his face covered with both hands. “... And then?”
Rufus swallowed, “Then I become President of the company. Everything goes to me. And your life will change entirely.”
“How?” Cloud whispered.
“Five million gil,” Rufus answered. “Every year for the rest of your life. Negotiable – it could definitely go up in the future.”
“Oh shit,” Cloud groaned.
“And all the time with Sephiroth you want. I create Sephiroth's schedule. I own the lab. I call the shots. You want a year off with Sephiroth – without even so much as a phone call from Shin-Ra? You got it. Do you two want to retire together by age twenty-five? Done.”
“... Oh shit.”
“Anything else you could possibly think of that you want – done. You help me with this, and the rest of your life will be awesome.”
Cloud stood up and began to pace. “Sephiroth won't have this, though. He's not going to let this happen like that. He loves his job -”
“But he hates the lab. Hojo and my dad are trying to kill him, you know.”
Cloud nodded his head, “I know. I get that. They think they can do better than him... make a better version...”
“I can stop all -”
“No you can't,” Cloud interrupted. “We'd have to kill Hojo, too.”
Rufus broke out into a disbelieving smile, “Really? I'm down for that! It's gonna be tough, though. Hojo is Purging tonight for sure.”
“Well... I...” Cloud's stare became distant as he recalled all the sickness, pain, and torture that Dr. Hojo had brought into Sephiroth's life from the moment he was born. All the horror stories he'd heard from Sephiroth probably didn't even compare to the reality of it all. The worst of it had either been repressed, forgotten, or Sephiroth had simply spared Cloud of having to carry it on his mind. And Hojo walked around Shin-Ra like the owned the place, treated Sephiroth like a thing and not a person, and looked through Cloud like he didn't even exist.
Rufus watched Cloud's thoughts darken with anticipation. “You don't give a shit about the money, you're getting tempted by the thought of killing Hojo.”
“Yeah,” Cloud admitted “Maybe this? We find Hojo first... take care of him. By the time we show up at the SOLDIER perimeter we probably will be roughed up, so no need to fake that. Your dad will be the easy part.”
Rufus stood up with both fists clenched, “Yes!”
“We're doing this to make the world better,” Cloud said, partially to himself.
“It's a very noble cause!”
“I still wanna be paid,” Cloud told him sternly. “But I only want... maybe, five hundred thousand gil a year. I don't need or want a lot of money, Sephiroth takes care of me. I just want to take care of my mom, my family and friends...” Cloud's hands slipped up his own shirt, rubbing his suddenly aching stomach. “And Sephiroth can retire whenever he wants to – if he wants to. I just want to be able to spend more time with him... but let it be his decision when he wants time off. Just give it to him whenever he asks... but give him a lot of shit for it, and make him fight for it. He likes feeling like he's winning something. So be a hard ass boss just like your dad is.”
Rufus' smile was soft. “Okay.”
Cloud sniffed back anxious tears, “And um. If we can pull this off... just don't stab me in the back. You know? Don't ever make me or Sephiroth targets in the future. I'll be a good SOLDIER and protect you, you just have to promise to protect me, too.”
“Always. I mean it.”
“Even when you start getting old looking and I'm way hotter than you.”
“If that ever happens I will immediately kill you!”
Cloud smiled at him for a moment, before running towards the bedroom. “C'mon!”
Rufus curiously peeked in, “What?”
“We can't go out like this, it's our first Purge! We need to be dressed to kill!”
“Does Sephiroth even have anything decent to wear?” he asked, following Cloud into the walk-in closet as though he were walking into a damp cave.
Cloud began pulling down pieces of Sephiroth's armor. “I've always wanted to wear these! Catch!”
Rufus grunted as he struggled to catch a chunk of Sephiroth's shoulder armor, “This is like a bowling ball. There's no way you can walk around with these on!”
Cloud already had one of the shoulders strapped on, “It's not that heavy.”
Rufus let it drop to the floor with a thud, and reached up for a cardboard box marked 'Halloween', “What does he have in here?”
Cloud gritted his teeth, “That's not actually Halloween stuff! It's kind of a... sexy box.”
Rufus grinned in understanding as he explored the contents, “No judgment here. Can I borrow some of this for tonight? I wanna look as hot as possible when I kill my father.”
Cloud began taking off Sephiroth's heavy armor, “Now that you mention it... I do, too!”
“Let's dress like whores!”
Cloud began digging in the box with delight, “Who's gonna judge us?”
“Nobody. And if they do, we kill 'em.”
“What's wrong?” Angeal asked.
Sephiroth had all but fled from the briefing of the patrol troops and was now frantically checking his phone.
“My door opened twice,” Sephiroth growled, holding his phone up to his ear and shifting his weight. After a few moments, he was smashing buttons again. “He's not pickin' up.”
“You think someone broke in?” Angeal asked with mounting concern.
“No I don't,” Sephiroth told him, waiting impatiently for Cloud to answer. It was mere minutes until the Purge began, and there'd be no cell phone service at all until morning. After once again failing to get through to Cloud, Sephiroth called a third time.
“Alright, alright, don't be mad,” Cloud answered.
“What the fuck is goin' on?” Sephiroth's voice cracked, but he didn't care. “Is someone there?”
“Get back inside! There's only like ten minutes until -”
“I'm Purging tonight.”
“It's my right granted to me by the New Founding Fathers. As a citizen of Midgar and a member of the Shin-Ra army, I'm allowed to Purge and you're not the boss of me.”
“Don't give me that shit!”
“Don't worry, I'm with Rufus. We'll be safe.”
“Safe-ish,” Rufus called into the phone with a cackle.
“Jesus Christ, will you stupid queens please go back to the apartment? Please!?”
“No,” was Cloud's answer. “You'll see me soon. I'm headed your way.”
“I'm gonna fuckin' kill you if I see you out anywhere near here tonight,” Sephiroth hissed into the phone.
“It's legal if you really want to!” was the giggling response.
He cursed the fact that Cloud was the one person on Earth he couldn't scare with a passionately delivered death threat. Sephiroth rubbed his eyes, trying his best not to appear distressed in public, but it was hard. “Make me understand what you're riskin' your life for.”
“I wanna take out some trash in the medical lab.”
Sephiroth's eyes went wide. “... Are you for real?”
“Please go home. I'm beggin' you.”
“No. This is happening.”
“Listen to me...” Sephiroth tried to lower his voice. He knew there was nowhere in the building he could have a private conversation, so he just tried not to be too specific. “Don't bust in guns blazin' because it won't work. Do it quiet, fuckin' silent or you're gonna get yourself killed. One shot, one kill - don't drag it out, don't make a speech, don't make it a honor thing. If you see a shot you take it, if you don't you better just get the fuck outta there. Are you listenin' to me?”
“You can get almost anywhere through the ventilation system. When I was a kid I used to use the vents to sneak around all the time. I was able to fit until I was about sixteen... you and Rufus should be able to if you're not packin' too much. There's an easy way to get in through the vent in the cafeteria on the 61st floor. Just keep following the inclined path and it'll take you upwards... to wherever you're goin'. I can't explain it any better than that right now, but if I could do it you can do it.”
Cloud closed his eyes, “Is there any reason you can think of that I shouldn't do this?”
“Any real life reason – does Hojo know some secret that's keeping you alive? Is there something he does for your health that nobody else can?”
“... Kinda the opposite. His job is to try to kill me, the rest of the team keep me alive.”
“I'm going to do this, then. For both of us.”
“If you don't fit in the vent -”
“If I don't fit I'm going to find another way.”
Sephiroth let out a helpless little noise. “I really am gonna kick your ass for this.”
“I love you,” Cloud kissed into the phone.
“Love you,” Sephiroth grumbled, and then let out a quiet gasp when he was hung up on. He stared open mouthed at Angeal, who had been waiting and listening in. “... Cloud lost his fuckin' mind. He's gonna Purge with Rufus.”
Angeal shrugged, “You can't stop him if that's what he wants to do.”
“What if he gets hurt? What if he gets himself killed?”
“That's a risk you face almost every day, and he accepts that. And now he's a SOLDIER, he's grown, and he's gonna do the same thing. You gotta accept that, too.”
Sephiroth pouted. “I hate it!”
“The Purge allows people to do things that make the world better, even if it just makes living in this world easier... that's still making it better. And if you can't make the world easier to live in, maybe it's worth dying to at least try.”
Usually any time he had a problem, Angeal was his rock of support. But this time, there was something very grim and unyielding in his manner, as though he refused to even lie to give Sephiroth a little touch of comfort. Sephiroth frowned as something fell into place, “Zack's Purging, isn't he?”
“Every year. I can't stop him, and I don't even try.”
“What does he do?”
“Whatever he feels he has to in order to be himself the rest of the year.”
This somehow gave Sephiroth the comfort he was looking for. If an idiot like Zack could survive Purge Night out on his own, Cloud and Rufus would be okay. “They said they were on their way here. Just... make sure to tell the units if they see either Rufus or Cloud... let 'em in?”
“No problem,” Angeal clapped Sephiroth on the shoulder. “Everything's going to be okay.”
Genesis appeared at the end of the hallway, and Sephiroth called out to him, “Hey! Did you know your boyfriend brainwashed Cloud into goin' out to Purge tonight?”
“Let me attempt to mask my shock,” was the blithe response.
“Any idea what they're plannin' to do?” Sephiroth asked.
“My guess would be blow.”
At exactly seven o'clock, a siren echoed throughout Midgar. Every television was interrupted by a blue screen with rolling white text and a countdown clock.
A calm female voice announced, “Attention citizens – this is not a test. This is a message from the Midgar Emergency Broadcast System, announcing the commencement of the annual Purge. Any and all crime, including murder, is now legal for twelve continuous hours. All cellular and land line phone systems, fire, police and emergency medical services are suspended until the conclusion of the Purge at seven am tomorrow morning. All weapons are permitted for use, including materia and battle magic, and no individual or group is immune from the Purge. All travel to the top plate has been opened for free passage, and all automated trains will continue travel throughout the night. Blessed be the New Founding Fathers, and blessed be Midgar – a city reborn. May God be with you all.”
Cloud watched from the dark tinted windows of Rufus' limo as the people that had previously been scurrying for security or sanctuary were now ready for the hunt. Some people were wearing masks or costumes, but it was more than just dress up. It seemed as if people had removed a mask they were forced to wear the rest of the year, and what was left was the version of themselves that they pictured in their mind. Free, alive, uninhibited, wild.
Cloud worked at Dirty Rubbers, so he was somewhat used to occasionally wearing something revealing in public. For this occasion of literally dressing to kill, he'd mostly borrowed Sephiroth's clothes. He was wearing leather pants that had once shrunk in dry cleaning; they were a little too long and slightly looser than he would like, but he cuffed them and they looked good with combat boots. Cloud decided to forego a shirt, and instead wore Sephiroth's crossed belt over his chest, just to let his targets know who he was killing them for. He'd also taken the opportunity to smudge some charcoal liner around his eyes, and didn't do a single thing to his hair. It was as wild and free as the energy lighting up Midgar on this late spring evening.
Cloud yelped as a bullet suddenly hit the glass, and gulped as it bounced away without leaving so much as a smudge.
“This vehicle is probably the safest place in the city,” Rufus told him as he pounded his fist on the partition. “It's seven! Hand it over!”
The glass rolled down and a small envelope was tossed back, and Rufus snatched it up like meat to a tiger. He'd chosen to wear little leather boyshorts that Cloud had gotten from Dirty Rubbers and sometimes wore to tempt Sephiroth. Like Cloud, Rufus didn't bother with a shirt, only wore his own white linen jacket open, and his hair freshly slicked back. He'd borrowed a pair of Cloud's combat boots, and looked like he might kill someone or start gogo dancing at any moment.
Cloud watched as Rufus tore open the small envelope. “... What's that?”
“Words cannot describe,” Rufus answered. It was a little baggie of a foggy-looking crystalline powder.
Cloud gasped, “You can't have that!”
“But your sobriety!”
“Nothing's on the books as of one minute ago,” Rufus' skilled fingers were opening up the tiny plastic baggie. “And you're not going to tell anyone. Especially not Genesis... that's a new official clause in this Purge agreement.”
“But Rufus, your sobriety is really important!” Cloud cried. “This will be a huge setback for you, won't it?”
“Not tonight,” Rufus looked back into the envelope and laughed as he pulled out a compact mirror and an old credit card that looked to be from the 80's. “Ah. Rude knows me too well. You want some, Cloud? You never tried it, have you?”
“No, and I'm never going to!”
“Suit yourself,” Rufus made a small line on the mirror with the credit card, and quickly sniffed it up without hesitation. Then it seemed like something in him relaxed, a muscle that had been tense since Cloud had known him. He looked different as his eyes slowly opened, wild and awake, and not bored for the first time. “I... am... going to shred through more coke tonight than mother fucking Scarface.”
“One gram Rufus, and I'm not buying you a single bump more,” Rude commented from the driver's seat. “No mixing it, no begging me to get you anything else. When it's gone, it's gone.”
“Let me live!” Rufus lamented as he rolled the partition back up, not wanting to be reminded of restrictions at a time like this.
“I didn't agree to watch you get coked up!” Cloud complained. “Why do I have to be sober?”
“Wanna do some shots?” Rufus offered.
Rufus opened up a minibar, “Take your pick. Just make sure you're useful by the time we get to Headquarters.”
Cloud pulled out a bottle of Fireball and opened it up. “Make sure you're useful, too.”
“You don't know me. My mind is like a steel trap, especially when I'm raging.”
Cloud took a long pull from the bottle, and returned to looking out the window as the city began to move with energy and excitement of the Purge. “Hey Rufus... did you ever kill anyone before?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Not on Purge Night, though?” Cloud assumed.
“No. I've shot a few people... drug deals gone sour... a guy who tried to kidnap me when I was a kid... a lady who had a cup of acid that she was going to toss onto my mother at Junon fashion week a couple years ago.”
“Did you ever get into trouble for any of them?”
Rufus looked at Cloud, “I have never, and will never get into trouble for anything I've ever done in my entire life.”
“What about having to go to rehab so much?”
“Rehab is not trouble. Rehab is like... therapy and hugs and just faking it to get back out. I'll never see the inside of a jail. I've never been booked or processed, and I'm never going to. I can do literally whatever I want... except kill my piece of shit father. For that... I had to wait for the Purge.”
“Do you think the New Founding Fathers will bring you any kind of trouble for doing this?”
Rufus gave Cloud a scrunched look, “Of course not.”
“... So what made you decide to kill your dad?”
Rufus had just greedily snorted another line. “Hang on a minute.”
He snatched his shotgun from the limo floor near his feet, and jabbed a button that began to slide open the limousine's over-sized sun roof.
Cloud gasped and stooped low in his seat, “What are you doing!?”
Rufus stood on the seat and hopped up, pounded on the roof above Rude's head, “Don't slow down!”
Cloud didn't think there was any sort of acknowledgment from the driver, but Rufus began to shoot at pedestrians. His aim was deadly, as people on the sidewalk began to hit the pavement immediately.
The kickback from the gun was so heavy that it rocked the entire vehicle, and Cloud yanked on Rufus' legs, “Get back in here!”
“Feelin' alive yet?” Rufus howled into the warm evening air. “I was born dead inside! Show me how to feel something, mother fuckers!”
A pedestrian yelled something from the sidewalk. They had a pig mask and a machine gun, but Rufus didn't seem fazed in the slightest, “Pull over Rude, I made a friend! Here piggy!”
“Do not pull over, Rude!” Cloud yowled.
Rude pulled over.
Cloud watched in absolute terror as Rufus wasted the pig. All it took was one shot. The gaping hole it left in the would-be Purger's head was astounding, and blood bubbled from the mouth hole of his mask almost like an apple.
Rufus dropped back onto the seat and calmly closed the roof window as the limo started to move. Cloud stared with wide eyes while Rufus caught his breath, something far away in his eyes as he breathed deep and stared up at the moving city through the upper window.
“I decided to kill my father because I think I'll be a much better President than he is,” Rufus answered with a scream-softened voice.
Cloud nodded quickly, “Y-yeah. You will for sure.”
Rufus reached out and poked Cloud's chest with a finger. “I want you to take a shot.”
“I need like ten shots,” Cloud laughed into another deep swig of whiskey.
“I mean with my rifle. At a civilian. Until they're dead.”
Cloud back-washed a little bit into the bottle with a sputter. “I'm uh... Saving it for Hojo.”
“You've never killed anyone before, though. What if you don't have the stomach for it?”
“Trust me, I'll kill him. I can kill anyone who deserves it.”
Rufus scowled at him. “Your flimsy morality makes you look ugly. It passed over your face just now and it's hanging like a really basic-looking shadow. Take my rifle, get up in that window, and kill the next person we see on the sidewalk.”
“I don't want to,” Cloud whined into another drink.
“If they're out tonight, that only means they'd do the same thing to you given the chance.”
“I know that. It doesn't mean I want to pick off people at random. It's my first time killing somebody, so I want it to mean something, I want it to be special.”
Rufus leaned back into a loud guffaw, “It's not losing your virginity you fucking loser! It's taking a life. All life is precious. Everyone means something to someone. You can't romanticize the act of killing by assigning your lame little moral compass to it. It either all means something, or none of it means anything!”
“If I may,” came an even voice over the cracked partition.
Rufus scowled at the interruption, “What do you want?”
“I see a couple of punkasses on the sidewalk, and I just have a feeling they'd be fun to pick off.”
“Of course,” Rufus eagerly agreed. “Purge with me Rude! At least somebody is in the spirit!”
The limo swerved suddenly onto the sidewalk, blocking the path of two older teenagers who were sauntering down the walkway together with exaggerated swag. They'd obviously come from money, but were trying to appear a little more dangerous in freshly purchased street wear and guns that had only ever seen the inside of a range.
“Move the limo, bitch!” The taller of the two teens ordered, pointing his weapon at the driver's window while staying close to his companion. His baggy jeans were visibly quivering.
The shorter one thought better and shot at the tires instead. The bullets quickly bounced back, causing him to jump a little on the pavement. “Cock suckers! Come out and face us!”
Rude rolled the window down slowly and fully, and rested his arm on it.
One lowered his gun, “It's a Turk...”
The other didn't lower his gun, “Makes no difference. It's the Purge! Who's in the limo, bitch?”
“Vice President Rufus Shin-Ra, and his companion, Third Class Soldier Cloud Strife,” Rude answered.
“Third class, huh? What a loser!”
“Hey!” Cloud squawked through the glass.
“The VP, though... I bet he's real secure in there. Tell him to come out and face us!”
“Tell me yourself,” Rufus invited, popping up through the open roof and perching to a seated position. “We noticed you two and wanted to stop and say hello.”
“You did?” the taller one asked stupidly.
The other elbowed him into silence, rearing his gun up to point it at Rufus, “We want money! And we want your limo! You're now our hostage!”
“Of course you want money, just look at the way you're dressed. But I'm afraid all the money in the world doesn't buy size and intimidation.”
Even though he seemed to be the smarter of the two, the smaller one didn't comprehend what was just said. “Wh... what?”
“I'm not afraid of you,” Rufus clarified.
The kid pointed his gun at Rufus harder somehow, and stuttered, “O-oh yeah? Well you better give it up, or else I'll kill you!”
“And then my Turk and favorite Third Class SOLDIER will kill you, so we're at a crossroads. I'm more than willing to pay my way out of this predicament, but you have to prove that you're a real hardass out here on Purge Night.”
“Waste your beta,” Rufus suggested, motioning to his taller, less invested friend. “If you kill him, I'll suck your cock while writing you a check for more money than you could dream of.”
Without hesitation, the taller boys' brains were splashed on the sidewalk. He fell with an anticlimactic thud.
Rufus cocked his rifle and grinned as he pointed it at the remaining boy, “Die knowing that you're not even bougie.”
The kickback of the gun rocked the limo, and the bullet hit the kid with enough force to blow his head halfway off, but it hung on by a few tendons to his neck. His body stumbled back, still seeking balance as he crumpled into a heap beside his companion. There was something a little bittersweet about that.
Cloud stared at Rufus as he dropped back onto his seat. “Die knowing that you're not even bougie? What kind of one liner is that?”
“It was from the heart,” Rufus answered.
“I liked it,” Rude chimed in as he pulled away from the scene.
Rufus rested limply against the seat back, “I could totally get used to this. Rude, take the long way to headquarters!”
“No Rude, don't take any long ways,” Cloud appealed. “I wanna get this over with! I'm scared and I feel exposed and while I don't think the world will miss them, I don't wanna kill random kids!”
The edges of Rufus' eyes were pink, “Why not?”
“Because it goes against the whole spirit of our mission!” Cloud puffed out his chest. “Our mission is to kill two villainous sons of fucking bitches that are plaguing our lives! To get you in your rightful position of power, and to free Sephiroth of Hojo's sadistic medical experimentation! We might have all the time in the world to pick off random people on the sidewalk, but it's cheapening our purpose and making us no better than -”
“Rude! Pull over!”
“I'm already on it.”
A very large woman was Purging in lingerie that looked to be at least four sizes too small for her frame, and draped in a fur coat. She was toting an assault rifle and a huge teased dark mane of curly hair, and she glared at the limousine suspiciously as it squealed to a stop beside her.
Rufus leapt out with his hands up benignly, “Madame! Can I have a picture with you? You're sublime!”
“... Sure,” she grinned after a moment of thought, putting aside her lust of carnage and putting an arm around Rufus' waist. Rude took a quick snapshot of them with Rufus' phone, and they both waved as he hopped back inside.
“Wait! Take this my dear,” Rufus then pulled open a secret compartment near the minibar and retrieved a sizeable looking bankroll. He handed it to her and closed both her hands around it. “If you make it through the night, put it to good use and fill the world with more of your beauty.”
As they drove away, the woman shot at the limousine's window with a smile, and Rufus watched in wonder out the back window while his fingers were busy shaking out another line of coke from his baggie. “God! What I would give to be a fat old broad like her.”
Cloud squinted an eye at him in disbelief, “You're afraid of gaining ten pounds.”
“As a gay man, yes! As a woman... I'd be happy and humongous,” Rufus sniffed up the line with a shudder. “... I'm already reaching critical mass. Did you hear that Rude?”
“Sobriety lowers your tolerance,” Rude reminded him.
Rufus shook his head violently a few times, and was left with a dazed expression.
Cloud was already halfway down the bottle of Fireball, but was too anxious and excited to really feel the effects. He was curious about coke, but knew Sephiroth would somehow find out, and that somehow he'd have to answer dearly for it. Alcohol was acceptable, but Sephiroth was firmly against drugs.
And it wasn't exactly flattering on Rufus. He was a beautiful man, but the drug was pulling taut his features, reddening his eyes and nose, and was making him kind of look like... his father. He might have been about three hundred pounds lighter and forty years younger, but Rufus really did favor his father, which was no compliment.
“Cloud's right,” Rufus said rather suddenly, rubbing his nose as if he had an itch inside his brain.
Cloud peered at him as he took another deep swig of whiskey, “About what?”
“Rude, take us to Headquarters and don't delay. Let's put some meaning in our actions. I want to watch Cloud kill Hojo, and I want to waste anyone who tries to stop him.”
Rude slowed the limo and took a left turn, setting a direct course for headquarters. He was wearing shades, but Cloud could tell he was looking at him in the rear view mirror. “Do you know what you're getting into by going up against Hojo?”
“I imagine it's not going to be easy,” Cloud admitted. “But with you and Rufus to help me, we're going to be able to do it.”
“I feel so encouraged right now,” Rufus told him, surprisingly earnest. “Let's blow this fucker's head off.”
“No I mean really though,” Rude was still looking at and speaking only to Cloud. “Do you have any idea what kind of monster Hojo really is?”
“He's been torturing my husband since the day he was born,” Cloud spat, spilling a little whiskey on himself. “I think I know what kind of monster he is.”
“No, I mean the tentacle thing. Homeboy has a limit break just like we do, and it's not pretty.”
Cloud blinked, and a variety of expressions crossed his face. The one that stuck was determination, “Doesn't matter. I'm a Third Class now. I can handle it.”
“No you can't,” Rude told him.
“You're no match for anybody in the entire company,” Rufus agreed. “But that's why you have us. Between the three of us, I don't think we'll die in the attempt. At least not me.”
“What about your dad?” Cloud asked.
Rufus let out a booming sound of disgust, “You know what your problem is Cloud? You can't just relax and enjoy yourself. You've always gotta find something to bitch about. You know what that tells me about you?”
Cloud's arms were crossed, “What?”
“The sex must be incredible for Sephiroth to put up with you.”
They drove right into headquarters like it wasn't even a big deal. Rude had a story all cooked up about how the Vice President had decided to Purge but his green SOLDIER friend had chickened out, but nobody asked. They were ushered into the Presidential parking spot and that was that.
Rude walked in front of them, looking everywhere while appearing not to look anywhere as he led them inside the building. It appeared calm, but the atmosphere was tense. Nobody was trying to interfere with the shotgun carrying Vice President and his entourage, but Cloud had a feeling from the lingering glares of some of the Turks and office personnel that if he had been caught alone he'd be facing a fight for his life.
The elevators had been suspended until morning, so they had to climb 61 flights of stairs. Cloud and Rude were jogging up the stairs at a healthy pace, but Rufus was stomping up much slower and with much more difficulty.
“Guys, for fuck's sake! It's not a race, just slow down!”
Rude stopped and said nothing as he watched Rufus struggle. Cloud was blissed out on adrenaline and was feeling less merciful, “Come on, don't tell me you're this out of shape!”
Rufus sat down obstinately. “I need a break.”
“We can't stop now! Don't you have any more coke you can snort and get some energy?”
“No, I did it all in the limo. But I'm the most important one out of all of us and I say it's break time,” Rufus stated, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.
Cloud looked up towards the stairs above their heads and whispered. “... Do you guys hear that?”
Rude nodded, “I started hearing it a few floors ago. Someone's on their way down.”
“Should we be concerned about that?” Cloud asked.
“Take the safety off but don't aim,” Rude told him.
Rufus propped his shotgun on his knee and continued to smoke. Cloud readied his handgun but kept it down. Rude didn't appear to have any weapons on him, but the way his hands were held at his sides meant he was probably carrying several firearms.
The metallic clunk of someone rushing down the stairs was getting closer, louder. It was only one person, and they were fast and unafraid.
Rude reached down and tapped Rufus' shoulder, and pointed down the stairs. Without even a bit of attitude, Rufus obediently went halfway down. He continued smoking as he rested his shotgun on one shoulder.
Rude then reached out to more gently guide Cloud's shoulder down a step or two. He pulled his sunglasses down his nose to look into Cloud's eyes, and somehow the message to keep chill and follow his lead was communicated very plainly.
The person continued rushing down the stairwell. Cloud's heart rate matched the quick footfalls, until they stopped at the landing right above their heads. The person circled the landing, thinking.
Rude, Rufus and Cloud stared up, silent and waiting.
There was a sudden shriek of metal on metal, and the tip of a sword came tearing through the ceiling above their heads. It twisted around like a knife through butter, leaving a gaping hole.
Cloud's terror calmed into cool focus. He watched Rude, aiming up at the hole only when he did.
“You're interfering with the Purge of the Vice President,” Rude announced. “You've got the VP, a Turk, and a Third Class SOLDIER down here. Whoever you are, you're not our reason for being here so let's talk.”
After several moments of silence, a white but bloodied napkin came fluttering down from the ceiling. A throat cleared and called down, “My bad!”
Cloud dropped his gun, “Zack?”
His grinning head popped down from the hole he'd created, “Cloud?”
Rufus laughed from below, “This fucking tool? He had me going for a second!”
Zack looked sheepish, even from upside down, “Sorry! Um... you know the stairwell is SOLDIER fight club on Purge Night, right?”
“How is that any different from any other day on the training floor?” Rufus cackled, breathing hard and relieved to the point of giddiness.
“You're bleeding!” Cloud cried, pointing to a puddle dripping onto the floor below.
“Yeah! No simulations!” Zack's head disappeared and he came down the remaining stairs with his arms up jovially. There was a steady stream of blood pouring from a gash on the side of his head, and he had some wadded up napkins to blot at it. “I've been into it a couple of times already. You guys should probably get the hell out of here.”
“Escort us up,” Rufus commanded, but winced and rubbed his thighs. “Slowly.”
“Where are you going?” Zack asked, bending a little to let Cloud look at his wound.
“We're gonna kill Hojo,” Cloud chirped before Rufus shook him by the arm.
“Don't fucking spill our Purge plans! We can't trust this asshole tonight!”
“We can always trust Zack!”
“Cloud can always trust me,” Zack agreed, wrapping an arm around him. “Rufus on the other hand -”
Rude pressed his glock to the back of Zack's head. “Not the time to be funny.”
“Alright, alright, no idle threats on Purge Night, I get it!” Zack gulped and slithered away. “So uh. How are you getting into the lab?”
“Vents,” Cloud answered. Rude simply shrugged a shoulder.
“Yeah... vents are gonna be a tight squeeze for the big guy,” Zack frowned at the still steadily pumping wound on his head. “I tried healing this and it isn't closing. I could go up there and see about stitches? Get someone distracted, I dunno?”
“No SOLDIER would willingly go to the medical lab for something as frivolous as stitches,” Rufus huffed. “Genesis has had me give him stitches many times to avoid going there.”
“Is SOLDIER fight club open to Turks?”
Zack looked for a clean area of the napkins before pressing them to his cut, “Um. Never ran into one, but I suppose... why?”
“In hand to hand combat, I'm no match for a SOLDIER,” Rude began emptying his person of firearms and handing them to Cloud and Rufus.
“What are you doing?” Cloud asked.
Rufus nodded in approval as he took the weapons. “I assume you're going to let Zack beat the shit out of you?”
“I won't make it too easy,” Rude agreed, cracking his neck. He thought for a moment, and then took off his sunglasses and handed them to Rufus.
Zack smirked, “You're serious? You wanna fight me?”
“Just make sure I need more than stitches,” Rude told him, squaring up. “I've always wanted to see what a First Class was made of.”
“Try healing him again!” Rufus howled.
“It's alright,” Zack promised for the hundredth time, spitting blood out of his mouth. He had a fresh black eye but Rude was unable to walk. It was slow getting up the stairs having to carry the much larger man on his back, but they arrived on the 61st floor. “You guys get up into the vent, I'll meet you in the lab.”
“Rude?” Rufus asked hysterically, rubbing his shoulder. “Zack's got you, we'll meet up once you're healed!”
Rude's entire face was a bloody, swollen mess of bruised flesh. It seemed like one eye was open, but it was hard to tell. He lifted a hand and swatted Rufus off of him, so he was at least coherent.
“Hurry!” Rufus ordered Zack.
“Be safe guys,” Zack nodded to them before sprinting up the stairs.
Rufus and Cloud carefully entered the cafeteria from the stairwell, which luckily seemed to be vacant.
“He said there's a vent by a vending machine...” Cloud thought aloud, and it was obvious when he found it. The vent was centered right above one of the many machines, making it easy to hop up and reach the ceiling.
Cloud elected himself first, and easily climbed up. The vent's screws were quickly loosened with the help of a pocket knife, but once the cover was off his shoulders dropped. “There's no fucking way we're gonna fit in here.”
“Try,” Rufus ordered, crossing his arms. “If your fat ass can fit in there, it'll be easy for me.”
Cloud swallowed, rubbing his shoulders. “I... I think I might be like... claustrophobic.”
“You realize that now?!”
“Alright just shut the fuck up for a second!” Cloud slowly stood up to his full height, putting his head and shoulders up into the vent. It was a lot roomier than he initially thought, and he shakily began to pull himself up and inside. “Hey, I see what Sephiroth was talking about. One direction goes upwards, the other looks like it goes down!”
“Just get up there!” Rufus roared.
Cloud's hips were stuck at the opening, though. “My ass really is too fat!”
He could literally hear Rufus rolling his eyes from below, “It's Rude's guns, stupid. Leave them behind, we can come get them later.”
Cloud fell back down onto the vending machine, and began pulling guns from his pockets and storing them in the direction that they weren't going. “I don't think I can bring the sword...”
“Leave it! Who needs a fucking sword anyway, bring Rude's uzi and some ammo and let's go!”
It went against everything SOLDIER in him, but Cloud pulled the sword off his back and left it along with Rude's guns. He kept a small pocket knife, a magazine in each pocket, and put the strap of Rude's uzi around his neck. He pulled himself back up into the vent, and while there was definitely some pressure on the curve of his ass, he was comfortably in. He stuck his boot out and waved it, “Alright! I'm gonna start moving!”
Cloud crawled, trying not to breathe in too much. He passed by a patch of light from below and got a good look around, and realized the vents were extremely clean. Relieved, he took a deep breath and rested for a moment.
There was a clattering of weapons being added to the pile behind him, and then he felt the metal walls shiver with movement. “... I'm in. I had to take off my coat.”
Cloud giggled, picturing a mostly naked Rufus behind him in only boots and tiny boy shorts. “Alright, it's only like three more floors so it won't be too bad.”
“I'm fucking done with cardio today and stuck with a terrible view, don't tell me about how bad it is or isn't.”
“Did you think high profile Purge Night assassination wouldn't involve cardio?”
“Not this much!” Rufus said, already slightly winded.
“And the view isn't that bad,” Cloud grumbled.
“Just don't fart in my face alright?”
“Why not? Would Genesis consider that cheating?”
Rufus cackled in response, and Cloud couldn't help but laugh with him as he crawled.
They were being loud as fuck. And they were being followed.
1 – So this was part one in a stupid idea I couldn't stop thinking about – the Purge happening in the Blonde Ambition universe. I started writing this for Nanowrimo this year, just to get back into the swing of writing, since I was really focused on school the past couple years and got out of the habit. I decided to break it up into two parts, since there's a lot happening in the rest of this story and maybe it kinda deserves its own chapter.
2 – I LOVE the Purge movies, they're honestly like some of my top 10 favorite series. I think the concept is intriguing enough that even without seeing the films, everyone knows what the Purge is about. Who wouldn't want to indulge in one night where everything is legal?
3 – I think this mean friendship relationship between Cloud and Rufus is perfectly canon actually. It's a lot of fun to write because nobody's feelings ever get hurt. Well, maybe Cloud's a little bit, because he has a lot of them.