Sephiroth grabbed a rag when he went back in and began mopping up the blood, tea, and glass from in front of the fridge. He swore when a shard pierced his hand and he yanked it out roughly. When he heard the back door close a few minutes later, he swore again under his breath. Surely it didn’t take that long to say goodbye.
“Don’t come over here,” he said sharply as footsteps approached.
“Sorry.” The tremor in Cloud’s voice made him look up, and his irrational anger disappeared in a heartbeat. Cloud looked uncertain and incredibly vulnerable, clutching his arms to his chest as he backed away.
“Sorry, baby,” he said in a gentler tone, “I just don’t want you to hurt yourself. Go upstairs to the back bedroom and lie down there. I’ll be up as soon as I’ve made sure there aren’t any surprises to traumatize Mrs. Baxter.”
He sighed as Cloud quietly crept away. He had no right to be jealous, especially not when it had been his idea in the first place. And even if he couldn’t help being jealous, he had absolutely no right to take it out on Cloud. That was just cruel. He got the mess cleaned up and did a quick check of the rest of the room before writing a note telling Mrs. Baxter that they were tired after a late night and resting upstairs, as well as to watch out for any missed glass around the fridge.
Cloud lay on his side on the far side of the bed, facing the wall, and he didn’t move when Sephiroth came in.
“Are you sleeping?” he whispered.
“Sorry, sweetheart.” He lay behind Cloud and pulled his stiff form into his arms. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. You haven’t done anything wrong. I’m just an asshole who can’t keep his stupid jealousy in check.”
“It’s okay. I’m not upset about that.”
“No? It doesn’t upset you that I’d not only neglect your aftercare, but get mad at you for going along with my suggestion? And then try to pass it off as being concerned that you’d suddenly suffered brain damage and were about to walk through broken glass you knew was there?”
“Sorry, I’m just a bit out of sorts.”
“Do you want me to change you back? Might help you get feeling back to normal if you’re, you know, back to normal.”
Cloud stiffened even further, but then gave a small nod. “Yeah.”
“Be right back.” Sephiroth hugged Cloud tightly and got up as he heard the door open. He crept out quietly, not wanting to let Mrs. Baxter know that he was awake and potentially available to chat. Fortunately, the materia was still in his pocket, and his armlet was upstairs, so he was able to get it and get back to the bedroom while she was thumping around the kitchen. “I could get a job with the Turks,” he whispered as he lay back down.
Cloud snorted. “Yeah, you’re real stealthy.”
He rubbed Cloud’s back gently and, seeing that his eyes were closed, cast the spell. He didn’t look away as Cloud’s body returned to its far more familiar state. “There you go,” he murmured when the change had finished. “Is that better?”
“A bit. Will … will you spank me?”
Sephiroth considered the request and Cloud’s mood for a moment. “As long as you can promise me that you’re asking because it will help you feel better, and not because you think I’m angry and want to hit you, or because you feel like you should be punished for something.”
After several long minutes of Cloud lying there silently, he finally spoke again. “Yes. I can promise that. It’ll help clear my head.”
“Okay. Mrs. Baxter probably won’t be too long.” They lay quietly, listening to her putter around. She changed the sheets on the main bed, and Sephiroth stifled a laugh at her quiet, ‘goodness!’ as she did so. Surely they hadn’t made that big of a mess. Eventually he heard the door again, then the sound of her car driving away. “Up you get. I want you downstairs, naked, and waiting by the chair in the living room.”
Cloud stood immediately and stepped out of the now poorly fitting bikini he was in before leaving without a word. Sephiroth spent a few minutes gathering his thoughts. He needed to be in the exact right frame of mind for this if he didn’t want to hurt Cloud any further. Cloud was feeling off-balance and probably uncertain of where things stood between them now. He very much doubted that he regretted their night with Kain, but he needed reassurance that things could and would go back to normal. In short, he needed to help Cloud clear his head and recalibrate. He could do that, and he could do the same for himself at the same time. He took a deep breath and stood.
Cloud was facing the window while he waited, arms clasped behind his back. Sephiroth did a quick check of the room. Nothing around the chair that could cause injury if Cloud fell or struggled. Lubricant was within arm’s reach. There was a blanket on the back of the couch, and he grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge. That was all he needed. He stripped off his shorts and sat down.
“Across my lap,” he said, keeping the order gentle, but firm. He tugged Cloud into place, making sure he was comfortably supported and that he had a place to rest his head if he wanted. He drew his arms behind his back and let his hair twist around them so he could keep both hands free. His right hand, he placed over the base of Cloud’s spine, feeling the tension that spoke volumes about his mental state. His left hand stroked over the smooth, unmarked skin of Cloud’s ass, soothing it for what was to come.
“Good boy. I want you to count for me.”
He brought his hand down over both cheeks, causing a loud smack to echo off the high ceiling. Cloud trembled slightly, but counted in a steady voice, “One.”
Sephiroth kept his pace and the level of force he used exactly the same as he continued. The only difference was where he struck, ensuring that he made the pale white skin of his ass and thighs blossom with red all over. He didn’t hit anywhere near as hard as he knew Cloud could handle, wanting to be able to continue for as long as Cloud needed him to without it becoming too painful.
Cloud tensed even further after the sixth strike, and he could hear the anger and resentment in Cloud’s voice as he gave the count. That was good. Cloud needed to acknowledge that he was mad at him before he’d be able to accept Sephiroth’s apology. It took until the count hit twenty before there was another sudden shift in the muscles under his right hand. Now Cloud struggled to keep still, and the next number he spoke had a panicked, pleading tone.
“You’re doing so well, love,” he said without slowing his strokes. Despite what his heart said, this was the absolute worst point to stop. "Be brave for me."
Cloud bolstered himself under the encouragement and he breathed steadily and deeply, though tears were running silently down his face. “Twenty-two,” held a quiet sort of gratitude that bolstered Sephiroth as well. After three more strikes the shift Sephiroth always watched for finally came. The sudden, subconscious relaxation of the tense muscles as Cloud submitted himself fully. He let his head drop and his voice took on a calm, almost dreamy quality.
Sephiroth eased off on his strength even further as he continued to spank Cloud now that he was in a state to enjoy it. He murmured praise when he felt Cloud’s penis begin to stiffen against his thigh, and smiled when Cloud spoke the same number three times, then went back to the twenties. It didn’t take much longer before both of them were fully erect and Cloud was thrusting his ass up into each hit, numbers long forgotten in favour of pleading for more.
He stilled his hand over the warm flesh as Cloud squirmed. “Do you want more?”
“Yes,” Cloud hissed.
“What do you want?” Sephiroth rubbed gently, slipping a finger between Cloud’s cheeks.
“You. Fuck me. Use me. Mark me. Make me …”
“Make you mine? My one and only? You want everyone to know that you belong to me and only me?”
Cloud gave a loud sob as his whole body shuddered. “Please.”
Sephiroth fumbled for the lubricant as Cloud slipped to the floor and presented himself, resting his head on his arms with his legs spread wide and ass in the air. It didn’t take much to prep him, and though he was sure it stung as he pushed in, Cloud’s moan was one of relief as he was penetrated. Sephiroth hunched over as he began to pump his hips and sunk his teeth into the flesh of Cloud’s shoulder, sucking hard.
Cloud went wild under him, screaming and bucking his hips as Sephiroth bit him again and again, leaving vicious red marks everywhere he could reach. When his shoulders were littered with them, Sephiroth pulled out roughly and slapped Cloud’s ass hard.
“On your back,” he snarled, shocking himself with the raw need in his voice.
Cloud immediately complied, rolling over and spreading his legs, and he lifted his head to bite at Sephiroth’s neck as well. He was too overwhelmed by his own selfish desire to mark every inch of Cloud’s perfect body to let him do it for long, however, and Sephiroth pinned him down while he kissed, bit, and sucked to the point of bruising. The pained cries Cloud was making turned him on even more as he bit the insides of his thighs.
Cloud’s erection jerked with each bite, and Sephiroth grinned up at Cloud before opening his mouth wide and taking it in. Nails dug into his shoulders as Cloud practically wailed above him. He didn’t care that his hair was getting pulled—the pain only made it better, and he hoped that Cloud was scratching hard enough to make him bleed. When he carefully dragged his teeth up the length of his cock, Cloud gave an ear-piercingly loud scream moments before filling Sephiroth’s mouth with his release.
Sephiroth swallowed every drop and kept sucking, encouraging the last dribbles out until Cloud was soft. “Fuck, I’ve missed doing that,” he gasped when he lifted his head. “You’re so fucking good.”
“More …” Cloud whined, spreading his legs further. “Fuck me.”
Sephiroth pounced, yanking hard on Cloud’s hair to expose his neck to bite into again as he thrust back into him. He fucked Cloud with sharp, snapping thrusts of his hips that slapped their flesh together loudly enough that it sounded like he was spanking him again. When he felt Cloud begin to stiffen once more, he pushed his legs up until he could hook them over his shoulders, then lifted his ass with one hand and began stroking him with the other.
“You’re going to come for me again,” he snarled. “Come and show me how much you like it. How much you love being mine.”
“Yours … always … feels so … so good.”
“Then come,” he ordered. “I want to feel it.” Sephiroth let his hair wrap around to stroke Cloud’s cock, then tugged his balls before giving them a few careful smacks.
Cloud cried out again and tightened his legs around Sephiroth’s neck. “Fuck!”
“You like that? Like getting your balls spanked too? I’m going to keep doing it unless you come.” Cloud clenched tightly around him with each smack, and Sephiroth had to fight to keep from coming first.
Cloud suddenly went limp, then a massive tremor wracked his body. Sephiroth stopped smacking him and stroked his cock again as he came, shooting high up onto his chest.
“That’s it, come for me.” Sephiroth could only hold out for a few more seconds before ecstasy completely overwhelmed him and the world slipped away for a moment. He pushed Cloud’s legs down and bit into his neck again as he pumped his hips frantically. When the intense sensations finally faded, Cloud was clinging tightly to him and shaking violently.
“Yours,” he whispered in his ear. Then louder, “Yours. I’m yours, Cloud.”
Cloud let out a loud sob and Sephiroth felt him nod. He gently eased out of him, then scooped him up and grabbed the blanket.
“I’m yours, and you’re mine, and I love you so much,” he murmured as he wrapped him up and cradled him close. “Good boy. That’s my good boy. Let it all out.”
He found the water from before and held it to Cloud’s lips, encouraging him to take small sips between sobs. It was too hot for him to be able to go much longer without hydrating. It was too hot for him to be wrapped up in a blanket as well, but that couldn’t be helped.
“Thank you,” Cloud whispered long after his tears had dried. “I needed that.”
Sephiroth just shook his head. “I did too. Very much. I don’t think either of us properly realized how much being with someone else would affect us, even though we enjoyed it.”
“Yeah, once he was gone, I just felt so weird.”
“Me too. I’m truly sorry for snapping at you, though. That was unacceptable behaviour at a time like that.”
Cloud gave an almost imperceptible nod. “You really hurt my feelings … I forgive you.”
They sat quietly for several more minutes before Cloud spoke again. “I really did enjoy being with Kain, but I don’t think I want to do something like that again.”
“Okay. Let’s just make it a good memory of something kind of crazy we did on vacation.” That was a relief. Between his apparently jealous nature and the fact that they’d managed to pick up a fucking SOLDIER, he was in full agreement about never doing it again.
“Yeah,” Cloud laughed. “It’s a good memory. And you know, I wouldn’t be opposed to us being sexy ladies out for a night every once in a while.”
“Mmm, you just liked using the vibrator on me, didn’t you?”
Cloud laughed again and kissed his cheek. “It was pretty fun.”
“Well then.” Sephiroth tilted his head down to kiss Cloud gently on the lips. “Maybe I’ll hang onto that dress.”
The blanket slipped from Cloud’s shoulder as they kissed, and when he pulled away, Sephiroth’s eyes went wide. “Odin’s balls, I made a fucking mess of you.”
Cloud looked down at his bruised and bitten chest and ran his fingers over it in a rather awed fashion. “Come anywhere near me with any sort of healing materia or potion before we’re back in Midgar and I’m going to pitch a fit.”
“I’ll consider your request. Stand up and let me see.”
Cloud glared for a moment, then pushed himself out of Sephiroth’s lap and let the blanket fall to the floor, presenting himself for inspection. His grin at having been turned into a walking hickey was ridiculously huge. Sephiroth looked him over carefully, checking for any broken skin that hadn’t already closed over. With a sigh, he went to the bathroom and found the first aid kit.
“I suppose you did ask me to mark you,” he said as he dabbed disinfectant onto the worst of the bites.
“And you did such a good job of it. No ruining it or I’ll make you do it again.”
“At least Mrs. Baxter won’t come until after we leave tomorrow. She’d faint dead away if she saw you and would probably have me arrested once she came to. Now, don’t come crying to me when it stings too much to go in the water.”
“I think I’m a little tougher than that.” When Sephiroth stepped back, Cloud admired himself proudly. “Can I stay a guy for the rest of the day?” he asked.
“Of course. I do need to change you for the trip back, but other than that, if you’re sick of being female—”
“I’m not, I just need a bit more time as male me.”
The way Cloud phrased it made him pause for a moment, then he nodded before Cloud could notice anything odd. “Okay. Grab a pair of my swim trunks if you want. They’ve got ties so you can cinch them up. Or you can, of course, go naked. I don’t mind that in the slightest.”
“Tell you what, I’ll give you something pretty to look at if you make me lunch.”
Sephiroth laughed and kissed Cloud hard. “You are a delightful bargainer. What’s your order?”
Cloud gave him a wicked grin. “Sausages on the barbecue, please. Big juicy ones.”
"How much do you think about your sexuality?"
Cloud blinked and lifted his head from his shoulder where it had been resting. "My sexuality?"
"Yes. Who you're attracted to, who you are, your gender … You don't have to answer, but I couldn't help but feel last night that you seemed a bit surprised when I told Kain that you're bi."
There was a long moment of silence, but by Cloud's frown, Sephiroth could tell that he was thinking hard. Eventually he said, "I guess I am, huh? And I guess that that response tells you that the answer to your first question is not a lot."
Sephiroth smiled and rubbed Cloud's back. "I wonder if it might not be good for you to think a bit about it. Or talk it over with me if you want. I'm not going to judge."
"That'd be pretty rich coming from someone who also said he's bi."
He chuckled and shook his head. "I don't mean just your bisexuality, sweetheart."
Sephiroth took a deep breath, trying to find the best way to word his suspicions. Not calling them suspicions was probably a good place to start. "I'm talking about you. How you see yourself, how you want to be seen, and how you feel about those things."
"You're being really confusing."
"I know, I'm sorry. Just bear with me beating around the bush a bit and I'll try to get to a point eventually. This is something I think you've been struggling with for a while, but not really realizing why you've been struggling. And the most important thing I want you to know, whether you come away from this conversation thinking I'm a crackpot or with something new to consider, is that I love you, exactly the way you are, however that might be. I'm not trying to impose anything or tack a label on you, but if you don't think I'm a crackpot, I think it might be good for you to be aware."
Cloud nodded slowly. "Okay, you're still very confusing, but I think I'm with you so far."
"Thank you." Sephiroth kissed the top of his head and rested his cheek on the soft spikes of hair. "One of the things that I've always appreciated about you is how flexible you are. You go with the flow, whether it's agreeing to try BDSM when you had no initial interest in it, or discovering that my hair consists of poisonous, horny tentacles, or dressing in drag so we can be seen together in public, or magically changing your sex. You just don't mind.
"At the same time, though, I don't think it's always a matter of going with the flow, and I think that that does bother you a bit."
"I really don't mind any of that, though," Cloud protested.
"I know," Sephiroth said quickly. "Gaia, I'm sorry I'm being so fucking vague. Do you remember a while back when you were concerned about whether or not it was okay to enjoy wearing women's clothes as much as you do?"
"Yeah, but we talked about that and I know it's okay."
"Good. This is quite similar to that." Sephiroth took another deep breath. "Cloud, I have to admit, I was surprised at how easily you agreed to be female for this trip. Not many people would have been willing to do so. I, for one, was going absolutely crazy by the time I changed myself back this morning. It was fun, but I'm not comfortable with it. At least not in any meaningful way that would make me even remotely willing to stay that way for over a week. I just don't feel female, and so a female body feels wrong to me."
"But it doesn't to me," Cloud protested again.
"I know that, baby, I know. That's sort of my point: neither gender feels like the wrong one to you. I think that … rather than enjoying being able to present yourself as a woman, either by cross-dressing or changing completely, as a sexual kink or fetish … Rather than seeing yourself as someone who is strictly male, but presents as female sometimes … that you might sometimes prefer to simply be female. That allowing me to change your sex for this trip gave you a way for you to express the fact that sometimes you are a woman."
Cloud was silent, and Sephiroth watched his face closely. He didn't seem upset, or even very shocked. At the moment, he appeared to simply be contemplating what Sephiroth had said.
"What did you mean when you said that you think it bothers me?" Cloud eventually asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
"I think that by not being consciously aware that your gender is perhaps a bit more flexible than others’, you might feel like it's not okay to have it be anything other than sexual. I haven't helped with that. I've treated it as a convenient kink that turns me on and serves a purpose. But Cloud, I don't want to sexualize you just for being you. Who you are isn't a kink."
"Are you saying you don't want to have sex with me if I'm a girl?"
"Gaia, no!" Sephiroth squeezed Cloud tightly. "Please don't cut me off from your glorious breasts or the sight of your cock tucked into your frilly pink panties!"
Cloud laughed and Sephiroth felt some of the tension that had been building leave his frame. "Then what are you saying? I'm giving you a pass on being so confusing because this is clearly the first time you've had to tell someone that they might sometimes think they're a girl, but come on!"
"I'm saying, my love, that if you have days when you feel more female than male … if you want to wear a bra under your regular T-shirt and panties under your jeans and go catch a movie with your friends because you feel more comfortable that way on that day, it's okay. And if you ever want me to change you to female, even if all you want to do is sit at home and read or watch TV, I will happily do that for you. And if you want to have plain old vanilla sex or masturbate in privacy with a body that just happens to be female, that's okay too. And if you feel like you'd rather be a good girl than a good boy, all you have to do is say so and I'll switch, no matter how you're dressed or what genitals you have. Do you understand?"
"I think I do. And … I … shit … I think you might be right. I just … This might take some time to come to terms with."
"You have all the time in the world, sweetheart. And I'll support you for every step of it."
Cloud slid down on the couch and rested his head in Sephiroth's lap. He closed his eyes as Sephiroth carded his fingers through his hair. "Other people would think I'm weird though, wouldn't they?"
"Some people won't understand, it's true," he said gently. "Some people are assholes. But you have very good friends in Zack and Andy, and I think they'll be understanding if you decide to tell them when you're ready. They already know and accept that you cross-dress. And if you get to know Kain when we get back, I bet he won't even be surprised."
A smile crept onto Cloud's lips and Sephiroth couldn't resist the urge to brush his fingertip over them. He was rewarded with a tiny kiss. "He was pretty understanding of the whole thing. I don't think he's as straight as he thinks."
"I'm pretty sure he's having some confused thoughts about his sexuality tonight as well."
"I hope he has someone to talk about it with if he needs to."
"Maybe you can offer him an ear."
Cloud opened his eyes. "You won't be jealous?"
"Not as long as you stick to talking, Miss Cloud."
He smiled and shut his eyes again. "Miss Cloud. I like that better than Claudia. Feels more like me."
Sephiroth smiled fondly as he petted Cloud's hair. "Let's go to bed, love. It's been a long day."
So no, he wasn’t sad. Not exactly. But it felt like he was leaving something behind. Something that couldn’t be packed up and shipped off, nor put on the airship to come with them. Cloud sat down on the porch steps, not minding that he was getting soaked by the warm rain. It hid the tears that were flowing steadily. He stared down at himself as he cried, realizing that he was crying for the loss of a simpler version of himself.
Sephiroth’s bite marks had remained when he changed him back to female. They’d definitely be noticeable in the dress he had chosen to wear for the flight. And they stared back at him like a giant billboard declaring that this was him too, there was no escaping it. Once Sephiroth had pointed it out, something that he knew he had been denying for a long time had seemed to click into place. This body was just as much his as the one he’d been born into.
He swiped at his eyes, trying and failing to fight back the tears that wouldn’t stop. A tiny feeling of resentment towards Sephiroth began to creep into his thoughts. Why did he have to go and say it? He had been perfectly content with the way things were. It would have been fine if he could have just carried on cross-dressing when he wanted to. And Sephiroth probably would have continued to use the materia to change him for dates and stuff. It would have been good enough.
He let out a loud sob that was swallowed by the sounds of the storm. Maybe it would have. Probably it wouldn’t have. He was aware enough to know that he didn’t like it when Sephiroth called him a good boy when he was being Claudia, even though he normally liked being called that. He just hadn’t known why and so hadn’t said anything. And he hadn’t liked it when Sephiroth had said that he’d turn him back to ‘normal’. Things like that … he sobbed again. Things like that would have become more common as time went on, he knew. And they would have begun to bother him more.
By the time he finally stopped crying, he felt like he’d done a belly flop after flying off the inner tube. But he felt lighter as well. He gave a small laugh. It wasn’t like his simpler self was really all that simple. He was already a cross-dressing, gay—okay, bi—man in a mostly secret BDSM-centred relationship with the head of SOLDIER. This was just one more complication.
He heard a soft sound behind him and glanced back to see Sephiroth standing there with an umbrella.
“Doing okay, sweetheart?” he asked gently.
Cloud nodded and wiped his eyes.
“The car will be here soon, but if you’re not ready to go home, we can work something out.”
“I’m okay,” he assured him. “Just trying to come to terms with being a little bit complicated. I’ll go change.”
Sephiroth nodded. “Whatever you need, just let me know.”
Cloud mustered a small smile and bobbed his head. “I’ll take a big hug once I’m dry, if they’re on offer.”
“I think I have a bulk discount on big hugs for the foreseeable future.”
He felt his smile grow a little wider. “Thank you.”