Sephiroth had been the general of Shinra’s army for a long time, and a SOLDIER even longer. During his time working on Shinra’s 87th floor, he had seen a fair share of secretaries.
Alright, it was more than a fair share. He rarely saw the same face at the reception desk more than a few weeks at a time. Sephiroth never cared to make small talk so he was uncertain if the high turnover was of the secretaries’ volition or that of the other SOLDIER First Class members.
So when he saw the same face, going into the third straight month, Sephiroth started to take notice of the secretary with the spikey blond hair and sea blue eyes.
The recruit appeared distraught this morning. He was furiously scribbling something on to the top page of – what appeared to be – a veritable mountain of paperwork. To either side of his desk was a tall stack of papers towering above his head. Sephiroth watched with mild interest as the secretary balanced a corded telephone on one shoulder, typed something one-handed into the desktop computer to his left (a very, very old model of computer – one that still had a huge box in the back and only displayed text in green letters on a black background), held on a conversation with whoever was on the other line, and filed paperwork with his remaining free hand.
“Ok – got it. Yeah. 6:30. I’ll pass the message along. Thanks.”
The recruit crossed his left hand to replace the phone on to its intended holder, put down his pen and fluidly swiveled his chair to face Sephiroth without missing a beat. “Good morning, sir. Did you need my assistance with anything?”
His face was cheerful, earnest rather. As if all he wanted to do was be of assistance. Sephiroth struggled to reconcile this face with the distraught look he saw five seconds prior. This secretary appeared to be very good at his job. Evidently, he hadn’t been removed (or asked to be removed) for legitimate reasons.
“At ease, soldier. There is nothing that I require. I will be heading to my office now.” The recruit gave a short nod with a “yes sir” and promptly went back to working through his mountain of papers.
The next time Sephiroth saw the secretary, he was heading out for his lunchtime meal. The way the offices of the First Class Soldiers were laid out ensured that all individuals passed by the secretary’s desk before entering the elevators. Sephiroth’s office was tucked away in the very back corner of the floor and he therefore only saw the blond man when arriving or departing the floor.
As he approached the desk, he heard sounds of a fierce argument. Or rather, a very one-sided conversation wherein Genesis appeared to be admonishing the young recruit.
“…due tomorrow! How the hell am I going to accomplish that? That idiotic Lazard seriously needs to take that stick out of his ass, god.” He pinched his nose with his index finger and thumb. “You get what that means for you right?” He seemed to give Cloud a certain look, before straightening his posture as Sephiroth rounded the table.
“Hey Seph, I was waiting for you!” The conversation appeared to be over and Sephiroth was unsure he had heard enough to make any sense of it.
In any case, he wondered when the secretary took meal breaks. He always seemed to be at his desk when he arrived and was always there when he departed, sometimes late at nights – past 9 or 10. Surely the young man required sustenance and (perhaps it was ironic coming from Sephiroth) – more of a personal life.
For some bizzare reason, once he had planted that thought into his own head, he found himself unable to shake the questions that subsequently surfaced. What were the recruit’s actual hours? What was required of his duties and what were things he voluntarily did? Did that mountain of paperwork consist of a daily, or weekly output? He seemed to have an ever-present stack and it never seemed to shrink.
Sephiroth grimaced. Perhaps that was why past secretaries were never keen on staying too long.
So he did the only thing that made sense to him. He stayed well beyond the hours he normally worked – which usually ended anywhere from seven to ten in the evening, depending on what reports and paperwork he had to prepare. At two in the morning, he passed the secretary’s desk and, to his surprise, the young recruit was still there. He was staring at his paperwork under the harsh fluorescent lights with heavy lidded eyes, pen frozen in place.
He seemed to startle at Sephiroth’s arrival and looked up to address him. Sephiroth could clearly see the dark circles under his eyes. “Sir, I didn’t realize you were still here. Allow me to make you a cup of tea.” He made to stand but Sephiroth stopped him with his hand.
This was the first time they had been alone in the office together, which was not particularly usual as Sephiroth preferred to spend as little time as possible at his desk. Shinra had not created him to sit around and signs forms (although sometimes he almost believed that they did).
He found that even under the bright lights and with circle bags – the secretary was subtly attractive. Thin lips, a sharp jaw and blue eyes. It was a shame he was as overworked as he was.
“At ease. I would like to ask what it is you are working on, tonight.” The recruit seemed sheepish, his eyes darted to the ground and he paused with his mouth open. He closed it, then tried again, “I have a lot of paperwork to complete, sir.”
“I can see that. Why is it something you have to do at this hour?”
“It’s due tomorrow morning, sir. Or, rather, in four hours.”
Now this was interesting. Sephiroth found himself filling in the blanks with the snippets of conversation he had overhead earlier that morning. “Are you completing paperwork intended for Genesis?”
That seemed to nail the situation on the head as the recruit’s eyes widened minutely.
“Sir, how did you-”
“You have my permission to retire for the night-” He flickered his eyes to the name tag on the desk “-Cloud.”
The young man seemed displeased, as if Sephiroth had just delivered him a large amount of work instead of relieving him of it. He tried to argue that it was urgent work and needed to be done in time but Sephiroth had none of that. The recruit –Cloud- was clearly already going above and beyond the job’s basic duties and was being taken advantage of. Sephiroth would have none of that, even if it was from someone he would consider a friend. Friendship was about - what was it that puppy of Angeal’s said? “Keeping it real between bros.”
Swiftly shutting down Cloud’s futile attempts to challenge the decision, Sephiroth personally escorted the blond man out of the office. He watched Cloud intently the entire time. It seemed almost as if he was concerned the young man would stowaway some of the paperwork to complete in his quarters.
Cloud, for his part, packed up the few personal belongings he had which consisted of a small pen and pad, easily tucked into a standard infantry issue leather bag. He seemed nervous. Sephiroth was aware that he tended to emit an intimidating aura, and after a few years of trying and failing to correct it, stopped trying to bother all together.
“Do not concern yourself with the incomplete documents. I will have them delivered to Genesis personally. He is the one that is ultimately responsible for it and he clearly has already had a few good hours of rest as preparation.” His mouth twitched in the direction of a smirk but didn’t quite go all the way.
Cloud seemed to relax a fraction at that.
Sephiroth resisted the urge to make him his personal assistant right then and there. The boy clearly had a strong sense of duty, multitasking abilities, a polite demeanor and – yes, he would admit- pleasing facial features. Sephiroth attributed the last one to late hour hysterics.
The two of them then exited the floor, keeping all lights on as was protocol and entered the elevator in silence. Cloud had his leather bag and Sephiroth carried under his arm the unfinished paperwork.
In the closed space of the elevator, Sephiroth became more acutely aware of Cloud’s breathing. He noticed the heaviness of the young man’s eyes which actually closed for a good thirty seconds while the elevator made its descent. At this distance, he noted that the under-eye circles appeared large and dark. He wondered how often similar overnight requests were made.
Sephiroth’s floor arrived first. He had to drop off Genesis’ paperwork as promised. The living quarters for infantry was much lower down. Upon exiting he took one last glance backwards just in time to see the doors close on a bleary, blinking Cloud. Sephiroth found the sight subtly charming.
Right, and now on to business.
He arrived at the door he knew to be Genesis’ and knocked firmly three times. Shuffling on the other side was heard and two minutes later the door was swung open. Genesis was dressed in his typical nightwear – a simple plain black lounge pants and a navy long sleeved silk robe.
“Seph! I didn’t expect to see you tonight. To what do I owe the pleasure?” He certainly seemed surprised. Genesis was known to be something of a diva among the ranks, mostly owing to his obnoxious tendency to over-quote the Loveless play.
Sephiroth brought forth the papers at which Genesis seemed to blanch. “I believe this is something you are responsible for? I noticed you had the office secretary completing it well into the night. I had to forcibly pull the young man from his desk as he insisted they were due by six thirty. As you are well aware, First Class SOLIDERs are required to fill their own forms and to have another perform this duty is a violation of the code of conduct.” Sephiroth thought of Cloud pouring over the papers night after night, typing, writing, stressing and barely eating. The thought unsettled him.
Genesis’ face shifted into thoughtfulness. He was long used to long, berating lectures from Angeal. This was, however, perhaps the first he received from Sephiroth. “Seph, you know that he’s just an infantryman and a SOLDIER reject right?”
It was true. Cloud’s eyes – while sea-blue and gorgeous- were not mako-laced. He had never received a mako treatment and was likely considered disposable cannon fodder for Shinra’s purposes.
“Is that your defense for having him complete all of your reports?”
Genesis actually laughed at that. “My reports? He’s doing everyone’s reports too. Literally anyone that has a report to file above a lieutenant can call him up, give him a verbal summary of what happened and he’ll do all the work for it. The kid eats it up-trust me. Gives him real purpose. Not to mention it takes his mind off his the complete failure of his combat career.”
That explained why he was so overworked, then. Privately, Sephiroth had great distaste for how Genesis regarded Cloud and the not-insignificant amount of work he did. He would have to approach this with tact.
“Genesis, you will have your men halt this behavior effective immediately. We require a permanent secretary to fill the role of administrative duties for SOLDIER. If you require a personal assistant, you can submit a request for one yourself.”
That got Genesis’ attention. “Woah, Seph, you’re really putting your foot down on this, huh? What, are you feeling sympathy for the blondie?” His eyes turned dark and he leaned in closer “or are you finally interested in someone, hm?”
The implication was strong. “You are inquisitive. And incorrect.” He made sure Genesis had a good grip on the papers.