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Red Strings

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Sephiroth can feel his rage, simmering over these past two weeks, boiling higher and higher and higher, until everything just—snaps.

And suddenly, he feels very, very calm.

JENOVA’s eye gleams in triumph, as if she has already won. yes, sephiroth, very good. feel your rage at this cruel, unjust planet build and build. join Me again, My son, and you will regain all you desire. once We succeed, there is nothing the planet could deny her masters.

A vague part of him notes Vincent arriving, a silent shadow as always, darting around him and JENOVA as he retrieves the three fallen SOLDIERs, carefully helping them out of the way, but he’s too busy thinking—

What JENOVA says is true. How easy it would be to set everything aflame, turn the world to ash, devastate the Planet as easily as she had devastated him with a single stroke of a sword. And once he has gained control of the Lifestream, who could stop him from reaching in and plucking Cloud back out? Then they really could live together somewhere quiet, somewhere peaceful. They wouldn’t have to fight. They’d be happy together.

Just a simple tweak in his mind here or there, and he’d be as agreeable as anything. Sephiroth’s own puppet. Cloud loves him, after all. Just the two of them, together forever, Cloud staring up at him with soft, adoring eyes, green and slit just like his own…

Part of him shivers in pleasure at the beautiful image.

“Sephiroth!” a voice calls from behind, breaking him from his thoughts, and he turns in time to see something gold and green and glittering fly from Genesis’s hand, straight at him.

He catches it. It’s Genesis’s materia bracer. A mastered Fire gleams up at him from the only filled slot. He stares at it contemplatively, turning it over and over in his hand as he thinks.

Then he drops it.

JENOVA looks pleased. you are wise to make this decision, My son. now come, come to your Mother, and We shall reign over the heavens and the earth.

Sephiroth takes one step forward, two. When he stands in front of her monstrous form, she spreads her arms welcomingly, but Sephiroth does not step into them.

My son?

“ … When I destroy the Planet,” Sephiroth says to her, “it will be of my own accord. Not yours. But your power, JENOVA… ”

He draws his sword.

“Allow me to partake of it.”

-

Zack watches in horror as Sephiroth plunges his blade into JENOVA’s chest and rips it open, exposing some radioactive-green core inside of her. With a rough jerk, he tears it out, and it drips viscous, translucent fluid all over his hand.

JENOVA shrieks.

To Zack’s shock, Sephiroth brings JENOVA’s—heart?—up to his mouth and takes a large bite out of it, then another, until it is all gone. Slick juice oozes down his chin, and he swipes it away nonchalantly.

For a beat, nothing happens, then JENOVA’s hollow corpse crumbles to dust, and Sephiroth turns to the rest of them, eyes glowing jewel-bright like emerald stars against his dark, terrible expression.

“S… Seph?” Zack says tentatively. “You can… you can stop now. She’s gone now, isn’t she?”

Sephiroth just laughs harshly. “I said,” he says, quiet and deadly, “that I would not destroy the Planet for JENOVA. I never said I would not do it of my own accord.”

“No,” Zack says numbly. “No, you can’t, Cloud—”

“Is not here,” Sephiroth says. “Without him, who could even try to stop me?”

Angeal’s jaw firms. “We will. We will band together, and perhaps we will not succeed, but we will still try.”

Sephiroth’s eyes narrow. “You would defend the Planet, the corrupt entity that is responsible for killing your dear friend? My heart hungers for vengeance. And it will not be sated until the Planet has atoned for her actions. Step aside, Zackary. Angeal. Genesis. You have nothing to do with my dispute with the Planet. For the sake of our friendship, I am willing to let you go.”

Zack feels like he wants to cry as he shakes his head. “Cloud wouldn’t want this. He only wanted you to be happy, Seph. Are you happy like this?”

Sephiroth laughs harshly. “I am not like him, able to mourn in silence while missing my other half. Without him, how could I ever be happy? All I can do is whet my blade on my vengeance, and hope that this jagged, burning, all-consuming anguish might fade to mere emptiness. Step aside.”

Genesis steps forward. “I will not. Cloud may not be here, but that simply means we must knock sense into you in his stead. The duty to protect the Planet and her life falls not only on his shoulders, but the rest of ours as well.”

Angeal steps forward as well, standing at Genesis’s side. “I understand your rage and your grief, Sephiroth. But this is not the honorable way to deal with it.”

“Please,” Zack says. “Seph, please… I can’t stand by and watch you hurt millions of innocent people again. But…”

“But nothing,” Sephiroth says. “I see you have all made your choice. Very well.”

He raises his sword again.

It’s over quickly.

-

When Gaia pits Cloud against Sephiroth, her final resort, the battle destroys what little life is left on the Planet’s desolate surface.

Cloud is uncoordinated, unused to suddenly having his body back after such a long time, heartbroken tears blurring his vision, but Sephiroth—

With JENOVA’s full power finally at his beck and call, he is a veritable god in his own right, able to bend reality to his will. All it takes is a lucky swing that sends Cloud sprawling onto his back, and then Sephiroth is looming over him, pinning all four limbs in place.

Cloud’s fate is sealed with an all-consuming kiss.

-

Cloud stirs awake slowly, feeling like he’s digging his way to awareness from beneath layers of thick mud. He lies on something unbelievably soft and warm, and it almost drags him back to sleep, but something is niggling in the back of his mind—

“Sephiroth!” Cloud gasps, eyes shooting open. He tries to sit up, but something firm wrapped around his torso keeps him from rising.

Tucked behind him, a strong chest rumbles with a familiar chuckle. “You’re awake.”

Cloud squirms, wriggling around in Sephiroth’s grasp to face him. “Sephiroth?”

He smiles, green gaze fond, and tucks a stray piece of Cloud’s hair back behind his ear. “As much as I love the way my name sounds as it falls from your lips, is that truly the only thing you have to say after all this time?”

Cloud frowns. “After all this—what do you mean?”

“You’ve been asleep for a very long time, Cloud,” Sephiroth says. “The Planet kept you hidden from me in her selfishness, but she should have known that I would find you, no matter where you were.”

“I—the Planet?” Cloud frowns harder, trying to remember. Suddenly, everything clicks. “Oh—she kept putting me to sleep, and I—I couldn’t get back to you, no matter how hard I tried. I’m sorry I left you alone for so long, Sephiroth.”

Sephiroth sighs and tugs him closer. “You’re here now. That’s what matters.”

Cloud buries himself closer, relishing in the embrace for just a bit longer. Then he asks, “So—what happened with JENOVA?”

Sephiroth’s arms tighten briefly. “JENOVA is… taken care of. She will bother us no more.”

“That’s good,” Cloud says with no little relief. “What about the others? Are they all safe?”

“JENOVA did not harm them significantly.”

“We should go see them,” Cloud says. “I’m sure they’ll want to know I’m awake—Tifa would definitely punch me through a wall if she knew I didn’t tell her right away—”

Above him, he can feel Sephiroth shake his head. “I told you, you’ve been asleep for a long time. A very long time. Your friends have all already passed.”

“ … What?” Cloud says, suddenly feeling numb. “They’re all…”

“They are no longer among the living,” Sephiroth confirms.

“It’s… it’s really been that long?” Cloud tugs against Sephiroth’s arms. “What about Genesis and Vincent? Let go for a sec, I have to—”

Suddenly, Sephiroth’s grasp feels like steel bars against his back. “You would leave me so soon after our Reunion?”

Cloud freezes. Something about the way he says… “Reunion?”

"Yes," Sephiroth says. "Reunion." He caresses Cloud's cheek, just the barest touch of fingers, and a strange, tingling warmth emanates from where he makes contact.

The beginnings of dread creep up in Cloud's chest, but they're quickly swallowed by the quickly-spreading warmth, and suddenly Cloud feels floaty. Detached. He can't move, but the alarm he should be feeling doesn't well up. Instead, he feels himself sigh and lean into Sephiroth's touch, soaking in his attention like a sunflower attuned to the sun.

Sephiroth makes a pleased humming noise, and Cloud's heart leaps at the sound. "As I thought," Sephiroth says. "It's a beautiful sight." Somehow sensing Cloud's confusion at the statement, he smiles. "Take a look for yourself, love."

He sits up, tugging Cloud's unresisting body along with him, and turns Cloud's chin to face a large mirror that stretches from floor to ceiling. Cloud blinks at their reflection, his fogged mind taking a moment to process it, and then he sees—

Sephiroth, fingers curled possessively around Cloud's face and waist. Cloud himself, curled up contently in his embrace, almost limp and doll-like in his compliance. And staring out of his own face, bright green eyes with eerily slit pupils. Sephiroth's eyes.

Something about that sets alarm bells ringing through Cloud's brain, shattering his warm daze, and the panic barrels into him with such force he feels lightheaded. And yet, he still—can't move—

"W-what… Sephiroth, what have you done?"

Sephiroth strokes his cheek comfortingly, sending more heated shivers wracking throughout Cloud's entire body. “What was deserved. No more, no less.”

"The Planet—”

"You needn't worry about the Planet anymore, Cloud."

“People depend on her, Sephiroth,” Cloud says, desperate and disbelieving all at once. “They need her to live.”

“Fear not, Cloud,” Sephiroth says, “for I am a god, and gods have no need for the Planet. And now that you are truly mine, body and soul, you are not constrained by mortal bounds, either.”

“But—”

“These things are unworthy of your notice, Cloud. You should just put them out of mind.”

“But,” Cloud says again, but the floaty haze is returning, and suddenly, his worries seem very distant. He doesn’t—he doesn’t…

What had he been thinking about, again?

“Good boy,” Sephiroth purrs, and every cell in Cloud’s body hums, rejoicing at his praise. Whatever had been on his mind must not have been important, especially not in the face of Sephiroth. Why would he worry about anything when Sephiroth is here?

(No, some distant part of him screams, but he shakes his head, disoriented, and it quickly fades.)

“Sephiroth,” he breathes, awed that he has somehow caught the attention of this beautiful, magnificent god, and Sephiroth’s eyes glint, pleased.

He tugs Cloud up into a searing kiss, and Cloud shivers in delight as heat burns through his body, mouth falling open with a needy moan. Having Sephiroth’s full attention on him like this is—so good, so right, like Cloud’s entire purpose in life has suddenly been fulfilled—

As Cloud quivers underneath his god’s hands, taken apart and pieced back together by his will, he finally feels complete, skin filled to bursting with happiness.

He could stay like this forever.