The Best Memories

BY : sephcounttheways
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 976
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or any of the characters within. I make no money from writing this story, it's purely for entertainment value

Days after Cloud turned nineteen, the path of his charmed life took a sharp curve.

Things were going dandy up until then, though. He didn't make SOLDIER, but was on track to blast through the exams on his second try. He was living in domestic bliss with Sephiroth, the love of his life. His family were all doing well. He was surrounded by great coworkers and close friends, hadn't an enemy in the world.

Cloud was deliriously fucking happy.

Then the love of his life went homicidally insane, leveled his hometown with a fireball, and stabbed him through with a six foot sword. Cloud then pushed the person he loved most into a vat of acidic mako. While bleeding to death, he was kidnapped by a sadistic scientist and then tortured for five long years.

Like any rational person confronted with such an unprecedented monsoon of bullshit, Cloud lost his marbles. Fucking checked out. He was a vegetable, and very satisfied with that lifestyle.

While catatonic, his good buddy Zack Fair had managed to drag his dead ass away from that hellish prison of medical torture. He carried Cloud over a mountain and through desert tundra. He fed him, cleaned him, wiped his ass... then died protecting him.

Then it got worse.

Cloud came back to the land of the living believing that he himself was Zack Fair. He stole his savior's identity because he hated his own life way too much to continue living it.

Cloud realized he wasn't Zack just in time to hunt down and kill his ex-boyfriend, General Sephiroth. Again.

He helped save the world. And everyone was shocked that this didn't turn him back into the ray of sunshine he had been as a teenager.

The world he'd saved was falling apart, and void of every single person that he ever loved. He didn't want to be with people, they only reminded him of everyone he'd rather be with. He couldn't watch movies, because there was nobody to talk about them with. He couldn't listen to music, he couldn't read anything, and he couldn't stomach food. Months went by without his mouth lifting into as much as a smirk. Nothing was funny anymore.

All he could do was train and work out in solitude. Physical activity was the only escape from the torture of his thoughts.

Cloud lusted for death. He didn't have the courage to eat a bullet, so he prayed for eternal mercy from the inky, insidious prank that the universe had played on him.

Two years later, the universe answered his prayers with a fatal flesh eating disease. It was Jenova in plague form, and he welcomed it. He sat alone for weeks impatiently waiting to die.

But that fucking cunt Aerith cured him just in time to kill Sephiroth. Again!

That had been a year ago.

Even though she was a nasty witch, seeing Aerith with his irreplaceable buddy Zack had made his heart a little... lighter.

He had to force himself to realign with reality every single day. This shit happened. This was the truth. This was his life, and it was not over.

With each new day, Cloud felt more and more like himself again. It was bittersweet, because he couldn't be himself without being keenly aware of bleeding, gaping wound Sephiroth had left behind on him figuratively and literally.

Sephiroth had destroyed their dreams, their future, and their life together so thoroughly, so entirely... it would be a lie to say Cloud hadn't enjoyed beating the shit out of him, just a little.

Of course Cloud still loved him madly. These events were not all Sephiroth's fault. Cloud had known that man inside and out, and there wasn't a shred of him left once Jenova took hold of him. He'd been a wonderful person with one deadly glitch, like a timing belt on a great car. Sooner or later, it was bound to break.

Cloud got the best of Sephiroth during their three year long relationship. He was the only person left alive who'd really known Sephiroth.

If there was any kindness in the universe at all, he was resting in peace. Cloud reasoned that the corner of heaven Sephiroth would prefer would be the pub full of dead rock stars. He'd have a big plate of cheese sticks in front of him that never got cold or crusty, with an endless supply of marinara sauce, and beer that never got flat.

Cloud was confident Sephiroth's soul, the most beautiful part of what made him the man that he had been, was intact. He had been taken far away into that safe, noisy, happy pub in the sky. He was there with his best friends, Genesis, Angeal, and Zack. He was there with Cloud's luscious family, the town of Nibelheim, and the whole Shin-Ra tower. Rhonda and Julie, and their little boys. Max, Kunsel, Chuckles. Cloud's school friends Cameron and Skylar. The Dirty Rubbers staff, most of the downtown slums, and the entire cast of Glee.

Everyone who was anyone was dead, and it was definitely a bitchin' party.

Zack had been a psychic. He'd spoken of past lives, which implied future lives. Cloud knew he'd see everyone again, in many incarnations.

Maybe next time, they'd have a simple life. No celebrity military status, no meltdowns, no aliens, no weird science, no tragedy, no premature deaths, no planetary battles. They would just be two normal jerk offs, falling in love and making a family together, then growing old and dying together. And he'd totally make Sephiroth be a girl next time because he wanted babies, tons of them. Cloud was going to insist upon it!

It was probably all Sephiroth's stupid idea to live this insane life anyways. It was just like him to choose to become an insane killer and go out in a blaze of violence and fury. And now Cloud was left all alone to pick up the pieces while the ex-General got to do shots in heaven with Lorna Rust and Jim Morrison.

How dare Sephiroth put him through all this, and then fucking bow out like a badass villain? How stupid! When they met again, Cloud planned on slapping him right in the mouth - after kissing it... Again and again and again.

These thoughts made Cloud grin in the dark of his small room above the bar.

... Even if it was silly, hope in Zack's shoddy psychic powers was all he had left. It gave him comfort, when literally nothing else could. It became Cloud's private religion.

Prayers came at night before he went to sleep. Cloud liked to catch up with Sephiroth, to talk like they used to before bed. His shrink told him he needed to speak more to the people who were still alive, but all of the people who ever actually understood him were gone.

There was no question that Cloud's clusterfuck of friends could fight, drink and party. They were cool, but damned if they weren't horrible conversationalists.

Talking to Sephiroth's spirit every night was better therapy because unlike a shrink or his friends, Cloud knew Sephiroth was actually listening. In life, Sephiroth had let him go on and on, genuinely interested in the stupid details of his days. It was one of the things Cloud missed most; lying in bed with their bare skin touching, just spilling his guts.

So Cloud spilled alone in his bed, a smile pushed against the pillow's surface. "... Tonight, Denzel was complaining about his room, that it was too small. I told him that story you told me about you moving out... about you being so happy with a dirty attic you ate cockroaches so they wouldn't come back. It made him laugh. It still makes me laugh, too."

Cloud could so easily picture Sephiroth with them. He had always been secure enough in himself to do silly things, especially at the suggestion of tiny people. He would have let Marlene braid his long silver hair for a tea party, absolutely. Meanwhile he'd toughen shy Denzel up with rowdy physical play and scary movies, while stuffing him full of greasy food.

The kids hated and pitied Sephiroth for everything Jenova made his body do. They had no clue how wonderful he really was, or how kind he would have been to them. It didn't even make sense to try and tell them, because it was Jenova's evil that brought them all together in the first place.

Cloud was alone in his mourning.

"Seph... I wish Denzel could know you. Sometimes I think... you gave him to me. I'm romanticizing it, I know, his parents died of stigma. But I guess in all technicality... you did give him to me, didn't you?"

'Stop bein' stupid and go to sleep,' Sephiroth might have tsked. Cloud tried to recreate the sound of Sephiroth's voice in his mind, but had trouble. He was starting to forget it.

When Jenova was piloting his body, he didn't sound the same. The rhythm to his voice was wrong. His lazy tongued accent was gone. Sephiroth was gone, as hard and desperate as Cloud had fought to get him back.

Cloud couldn't believe he hadn't heard his lover's voice in nine years. Nine years since they'd kissed. Nine years since he was enveloped in those arms. Damn, nine years sounded like a long ass time.

Cloud did the math in his head. He was now twenty-eight... So Sephiroth would have been turning thirty-five that following May.

Sephiroth had been so young. In Cloud's teenage memories he'd seemed so experienced, so old and wise... but in reality he was just a big kid. He'd hardly even begun to be the man he could have been.

Cloud swallowed a harsh lump in his throat, hating nights like these when he missed Sephiroth so acutely.

Life was okay. He was a great foster dad since the stigma cleared up, and a stable gay husband until Tifa found a real one. He cooked and worked the delivery beat during the day, while she cleaned and made killer cocktails during the night. He played with the kids, she disciplined them. He hadn't had sex in almost a decade, while she dated hot straight studs and shared the kinkier details. They were a match made in platonic heaven.

Cloud was starving for contact, no doubt about that. And he knew that as possessive and selfish as Sephiroth was, he would want Cloud to find a nice, sexy guy to treat him well and take care of him. But Cloud couldn't think about finding a relationship... too much had happened, how would anyone new understand? Not even the people who went through most of it alongside him understood.

The thought of some man running his tongue over scars that Sephiroth had left on his body... it was an outrage to consider, he didn't want anyone's hands or mouth near him. He didn't want some civilian chump trying to understand him, and Cloud was never enchanted by the thought of casual sex. It was too personal, too intimate of an act to do without that emotional connection.

Cloud feared that he was beyond giving or receiving love from anyone else but a memory. Even if he didn't remember his ex-boyfriend's voice quite as sharply as he used to.

He was suddenly struck with a realization: his old cell phone was in a bag in the closet. He was sure that he had brought the charger with him on that last mission to Nibelheim. It would be so nice to reminisce, and hopefully find a little video or a message with Sephiroth speaking. Just to freshen his memories.

Cloud lifted himself up and rummaged through the personal effects he'd stolen back from Hojo's labs. He'd almost thrown the useless duffle bag away a hundred times, but it was Aerith who kept urging him to hold on to it. Tifa took up that mantle when Aerith was gone, always on his back to hold on to his past and embrace who he was and all that bullshit.

It was still an embarrassment that he'd tried to... be Zack. That humiliation was probably the only reason he'd kept the heavy fucking bag.

Cloud unzipped it and was greeted with the rustic scent of decade old laundry. He searched through his ripe fatigues and found his old wallet, which was pleather and zebra striped. It was so bright and out of place... Cloud vowed to do some shopping and build a new wardrobe even better than his old one. There was nobody to dress up for, but it would make him feel good to put some effort into being cute again. Thirty was right around the corner, but Cloud had some damn good mileage left on his ass. He was definitely the hottest foster DILF in Edge.

Inside the wallet were some pieces of identification, a few gil, a reminder card that he'd made an appointment for another hair session with Reno's mother, and a gift card for Home Depot.

Sephiroth's gift card. He'd returned a lamp that seemed to eat up light bulbs like crazy, and had argued with the cashier over getting store credit versus cash. Cloud chuckled at the memory, holding the plastic against his lips as it came flooding back.

"I don't want this fuckin' shit," Sephiroth had complained once they were in the truck. He'd flicked it into the backseat, where Cloud had gone scurrying after it. Hey, it was forty-five gil.

The rest of Cloud's effects were mostly standard military gear. Clothes, starchy socks, long expired bathroom shit... then Cloud paused when he smelled something sweet, masculine and warm waft out of the bag. The scent seduced Cloud, bringing with it tactile memories of smooth skin, silky hair, and endless limbs of tight corded muscle.

Cloud sniffed every item of clothing until he found it... a white extra-large V-neck cotton standard issue t-shirt. It was slightly stretched with wear, streaked with deodorant and reeked of Sephiroth.

Cloud pressed his entire face into it and breathed in memories. After a while he groaned, "... You smelled so good."

Once Cloud was satisfied, he shrugged into the dirty old shirt. It had hugged Sephiroth's muscular form, but it was loose on Cloud even as a grown man. He hadn't ever been fond of the fact that he was smaller, but would have given anything to be picked up and cuddled like a big, fat fucking baby. Cloud closed his eyes and hugged himself, trying to shake off his body's desire to be touched. His skin crawled with longing.

He uncurled from his own embrace and slowly searched through the pockets and compartments of the duffle bag. He found his old cell phone and the charger. The little piece of technology had been a constant companion in those days. It was odd how cold and dead it felt in his hand; when he was a teenager it hardly ever cooled off.

Cloud plugged it in, and nothing immediately happened. He was almost discouraged, but the phone suddenly flared to life as it absorbed electricity. A message came scrolling across the screen:

Merry Christmas Baby!

Cloud felt that same lump rise in his throat, and very nearly turned the thing off. But he reminded himself that this was all just a nice glimpse back into an old life. These memories were fond... of people that he still loved, and who still loved him.

Sadly, the text box read, 'No messages within the last 120 days', and the phone had taken it upon itself to delete all the old ones. It used to be stuffed full of texts from Sephiroth, Zack, Cam, his mom...

Cloud had little hope for his voicemail. He didn't even think AT&T existed anymore. He dialed it with resignation, and felt his breath catch when it informed him that he had saved messages. He dialed the first one, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a deep, intimate, masculine rumble in his ear.

"Baby it's me. You aren't still mad, are ya? I already miss you, and I'm sorry about what I said. I didn't wanna fight before I left, I'm sorry that it happened that way. I dunno when I'll be back exactly, but no more than a week. Call me when you can... I love you. And Zack says hey."

Cloud kept frantically reminding himself that there was context. Context was key. This was a message Sephiroth left after leaving for a meeting out of town.

They'd had a noisy quarrel about God knows what before he left. When he returned they'd greeted each other like long lost lovers. It'd been a night full of crazed passion and enough apologies that the words seemed to lose all meaning.

It was almost as if they sensed that there were only a couple of months left to experience each other. But no amount of kisses or physical love could ever possibly be enough.

Cloud began to cry so hard it made his throat ache. Nearly shouting from the force of his grief, he pressed his palm over his mouth to quiet himself.

He listened to the message again with another fit of muffled sobbing, imagining that Sephiroth was saying these eerily relevant things to him from the lifestream. Cloud could only weep as his entire body curled around the phone.

He had to let Sephiroth go.

The thought struck him hard, and he defiantly shook his head. Cloud couldn't let go. This was his fucking soul mate.

Maybe it would have been better if Cloud had just... surrendered to Jenova. He'd be in bed with Sephiroth's body right now, right this minute. Wild eyed, deranged and would probably more apt to crush his skull than to kiss him...

He'd never be the wonderful, strong man in the cell phone pictures. With trembling lips and eyes leaking tears, Cloud pressed through more evidence of how happy they'd been nine long years ago. There were hundreds of pictures to prove it.

How could Cloud love anyone else? How could any man love Cloud better?

Why did Sephiroth let Jenova take him? Why didn't he fight her harder? If he hated Shin-Ra so much he could have just -

With a grunt he stood up and yanked the used t-shirt off his body, nearly ripping it. He unplugged the phone, turned it off, and stored everything away in the closet.

"Not sane enough to deal with this yet," Cloud said aloud, as if to explain his cold actions to invisible eyes. "I miss you so much. Goddamn it, Seph. I need..."

With a handful of sleeping pills in him and a glass of warm milk, Cloud found peace for a few hours.

Cloud dreamt that he was driving on a hot, sunny day.

Sephiroth was in the passenger seat, head turned as he watched the flat landscape roll by.

It didn't make Cloud's heart ache to see his beloved. It was no surprise at all. Nothing felt more comfortable or natural than being beside Sephiroth.

Sephiroth was not the General anymore. He was just a man. Unnecessary muscle bulk didn't dominate his figure; his limbs were streamlined, lanky and lean.

His silver hair was short. There was barely enough length to gather it into a stumpy little ponytail, which Cloud found charming. The rest swung around his face as the warm wind danced with it.

Cloud knew a secret about that ponytail. Sephiroth couldn't stand his hair so short, but figured if Cloud was having such a shitty life, he could be miserable right along with him. Sephiroth had buzzed it himself, an emotional Britney Spears moment that had shocked everyone.

By the time it was finally grown back out, they'd be together again.

Cloud wasn't sure how he knew this information, but it made him laugh. He was suffering, toiling, and living alone in Hell on Earth, and Sephiroth felt that sacrificing his glorious hair was an even trade.

It was so vain, so selfish and at the same time... so fucking sweet.

Cloud hadn't genuinely laughed in a long time, and it felt too wonderful to try to hold it in.

Sephiroth looked towards the tinkling sound with a curious smile. He was even more handsome without the poisonous taint of flawed science. Clear gray eyes, straight nose, high cheekbones, soft lips... so delicate and beautiful that if he weren't such a tall, broad man, he'd be strikingly androgynous.

Cloud wasn't intimidated by that beauty anymore. He continued to giggle, challenging Sephiroth to speak.

Sephiroth didn't speak, but he reached out to affectionately curl his finger through the longest piece of Cloud's hair. Cloud brushed fingertips over Sephiroth's forearm, feeling the bumps of veins, muscle, bone, and a steady, healthy pulse beneath his warm skin.

"I miss you," Cloud blurted without thinking as he stared at the road ahead. He gripped Sephiroth's hand for fear that he might disappear upon being acknowledged, like a feline who only wanted to be affectionate in its own terms.

Sephiroth didn't disappear. He tugged on that piece of blonde fringe until Cloud looked at him.

He still didn't say anything, but instead gave Cloud a smile that spoke volumes. It spoke louder than memories. It screamed joy, forgiveness, promise, hope, and even a dash of 'stop bein' a drama queen.'

Sephiroth's hand sunk into Cloud's hair, and he finally said something. His lips were moving and the words made him giggle, but before Cloud could commit it to memory the dream receded and Sephiroth was gone.

The next morning, Cloud was woken up by a call from Rufus. It was unexpected, but the President of Neo Shin-Ra was extending a personal invitation to join him that afternoon for a liquid lunch.

"Just us girls," Rufus had promised. His new home in Edge was finished, and he wanted to reminisce, to greet a new era of their lives, and to hopefully convince Cloud to come back home to the company.

Rufus wasn't huddled in a wheelchair, he was tall and healthy, and in a more casual version of his tailored attire. Cloud wasn't battle ready, he'd come to see his old friend in jeans and a t-shirt.

They only drank one bloody mary before they were kissing each other. Cloud wasn't sure who'd made the first move, but it was so sudden, and felt so incredible, and it'd been so long for both of them that stopping wasn't an option.

They made love until nightfall.

Cloud tried to feel guilty... but couldn't. He couldn't even find the coldness to leave after it was done, he held Rufus all night. He didn't know how, but he felt in his heart that this was something they both needed.

When they woke up the next morning, they silenced any deeper conversation with more sex. Much as they were loath to, they had to eventually talk. But to their great surprise, communication was as effortless as telepathy.

Love comes when one least expects it, and in disguise. Cloud became addicted to Rufus, and within a month he had his own toothbrush at his house. Their life quickly became a boozy, giggly slumber party.

Rufus understood everything that Cloud was struggling with, having gone through a very similar loss in Genesis. They could talk about all of it candidly, and both could accept that they would always love their deceased partners. Rufus would never be jealous of Sephiroth, because he understood every last part of what had happened. He knew who Cloud had been and who he was now.

Rufus was cruel enough, blunt enough, and beautiful enough to steal Cloud's heart without damaging the weak spots that would always belong to Sephiroth. Cloud was such a kind, open, nearly innocent man that nothing in his entire catalogue of expressions or actions could ever remind Rufus of Genesis.

They were both slender and blonde, and nothing like the SOLDIER elite, alpha males they used to partner with. Highlighting each other's hair was a perfectly acceptable Saturday night date activity. Both liked to shop, hold hands in public, and feed each other finger food. They both liked to kiss gently for hours, rewatch 'The Notebook' before bedtime, and both could easily forego dinner in favor of cocktails, celery, and prescriptions.

But the biggest thing they had in common was baggage. Suddenly Cloud had to contend with Dark Nation and her babies, overprotective Turks, and Rufus' sudden mood swings and the harshness that came with it. Rufus had to deal with Cloud's foster children, distrustful former AVALANCHE members, and the fact that Cloud could burst into happy or sad drama queen tears at any given moment.

But soon enough, Dark Nation was curling up against Cloud and letting him touch her litter of baby monsters. The Turks backed off. They became fond of each other's friends and family, and the nuances of how each other handled emotions became familiar.

"I'm actually planning to cancel that trip tomorrow. Those investors out in Mideel are jerking me around, and I'm more than a little sick of their shit," Rufus ranted in bed one night, turning the page of his schedule book sharply. "Those bastards want me to kiss their ass for chump change? They should be thankful they're still relevant. My daddy would have had them erased by now."

Cloud was on his side with Ginger, one of Dark Nation's litter tucked under his chin. "So you're coming with me to Marlene's birthday party, then?"

Rufus slowly brought his schedule up to cover his mouth. "... That's tomorrow?"

"Yep!" Cloud couldn't contain a grin as his boyfriend's dark blue eyes narrowed in distaste. He laughed, "Fine, don't come. I don't give a shit."

Rufus threw the schedule book onto the floor next to the bed. He rolled to face Cloud and scratched Ginger behind her ears. "I'll take a Xanax and make an appearance. I normally don't tolerate children's parties though, so don't get used to it."

Something in that statement struck a chord in Cloud, and he would never be certain why. It made him flood with warmth, nostalgia, and a sense of a fiercer, possessive sort of love.

They were Sephiroth's parting words, before he released Cloud to Rufus' care for the remainder of this physical life: 'Don't get used to it.'

Sephiroth hated 'The Notebook'.

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