MadamHydra (madamhydra) wrote,
MadamHydra
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COI - new COI drabble

Here's a small COI drabble for you guys. It started out as comedy, then turned serious as I worked on it, so please forgive me if it sounds a bit disjointed.

Be warned -- it's essentially unbetaed and totally unspell-checked, so expect rampant errors. ^_^;;

Type: Final Fantasy VII - COI fic drabble
Author: madamhydra
Rating: PG
Status: rough draft 11/06/2005
Summary: Cloud and Sephiroth have an interesting conversation amid the birds. ^_^

---------------------------------
Down in the bowels of the Highwind II, Sephiroth found the door he was looking for and pushed it open. Stepping inside, he was immediately confronted by several pairs of bright, inquisitive eyes.

"Wark?" chorused the chocobos.

With their total lack of fear, the flock of riding birds resembled a mob of curious young children. It was just a touch intimidating, but he shook off the feeling and glanced around the cargo hold which had been converted into a small, but comfortable stable for the birds.

"Wark?" Straw rustled as several of the chocobos sidled closer for a better look at the newcomer.

Sephiroth coolly returned their stares. He didn't have much experience with the birds, but even he could tell that every chocobo in this stable was of extraordinary quality. That was evident in the sleek, well-developed muscles, gleaming feathers, and confident body language.

Cloud stepped out from behind a large bird which bear particularly fine golden plumage.

"Were you looking for me?"

Stepping closer, Sephiroth eyed the chocobo and said, "I thought gold chocobos were pure myth."

Cloud grinned and scratched the bird on the breast. It uttered a surprisingly melodious 'kweh' and half-closed its eyes.

"That's not surprising. Everyone hears about them from time to time, but the rumors were usually just that -- rumors. Or if not, someone's usually cooking up some kind of scam."

"But gold chocobos are obviously not a myth, since you appear to have a whole flock of them."

The makeshift stable contained five of the golds, with the rest being black chocobos with glossy, almost opalescent feathers.

Cloud chuckled ruefully as he continued to scratch the large gold chocobo's neck.

"True, but it certainly wasn't easy getting these guys." He reached up and rubbed the underside of the chocobo's head and it hummed happily. "But they were certainly worth every bit of trouble. They got us to the places where we really needed to go. Isn't that right, Nikki?"

The chocobo squawked and bobbed its head enthusiastically.

Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "Nikki?"

Bending down to retrieve a fallen towel, Cloud replied absently, "After a certain overly precocious brat that I know."

Sephiroth's expression did not change, but his mind was racing. He didn't know much about Cloud Strife's family except for the sparse dry details in Cloud's military records. However, he did know for certain that Zack had a young cousin named Nikolas, nicknamed 'Nikki'. Zack had even talked about his "overly precocious brat" of a nephew with that same exact same tone of rueful amusement.

In the meantime, Cloud had located the errant item. Straightening up, he said, "But I'm sure you didn't come down here to chat about chocobos. What's up?"

Sephiroth said, "We've received the preliminary reports from the search teams Reeve sent out."

"They find anything?" Cloud said, his voice turning grim.

"A great deal of environmental damage, the remains of numerous unidentified monsters, but nothing that looks like Hojo or Jenova." Sephiroth gave Cloud a cool, level stare. "But we expected that. While Hojo's fate is uncertain, we both know that Jenova definitely survived that blast."

Of course they both knew. They could still sense its tainted presence, resonating in their flesh, scrabbling at the edges of their minds. The signs were faint and untraceable, but there could be no mistake. Jenova still lived.

"And what about Sapphire WEAPON?"

"According to Reeve, the search teams found what appears to be several large tentacles and possibly part of its tail floating off the coastline. I should say, off the -new- coastline, since a hefty chunk of the old coastline appears to be missing."

Cloud hissed softly. "Damn. I was afraid of that."

"Of what? Not finding the rest of the WEAPON, or the massive crater on the northern edge of the Western continent?"

"The crater. Red said something like this could happen."

"Care to elaborate on the subject?"

"The Planet views JENOVA as a serious threat, and it's prepared to do whatever it takes to get rid of that threat."

"Even if that means destroying large portions of itself in the process?"

Cloud exhaled slowly. "Yeah. The problem is -- for us, anyway -- is that the Planet doesn't care if a few inconsequential species happen to go extinct in the process."

Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "So, you're basically saying that the Planet doesn't care if humanity, as a species, survives or not."

"That's right. As long as the Planet itself survives, as long as its ability to create and support life survives, the fate of individual species is pretty much irrelevent."

"Well, that certainly puts humanity firmly in its proper place."

As Cloud made an irritated noise, Sephiroth continued coolly, "It's a legitimate observation. The Planet, it seems, does not play favorites. To the Planet, humans are just another species of living organism, with no greater merit or right to survive than any other type of organism living upon it."

"Maybe, but humans are different, because we can affect our surroundings in ways that most organisms can't. And we can do it proactively, instead of merely hunkering down and hoping to adapt to whatever happens."

"Your point being that if the Planet doesn't care if humanity survives or not, then it's up to humanity to protect itself."

Cloud gave Sephiroth a level stare, and said quietly, "I'm not just talking about humanity. Humans aren't the only ones in danger if the Planet and Jenova get locked into an extended war. There are a lot of other living creatures at risk." He reached up and gently stroked the chocobo's soft golden neck feathers.

"And the best way to ensure the survival of the world, as we know it, is to find Jenova and destroy it before the Planet resorts to truly drastic measures to protect itself."

"But it's rather understandable why the Planet might feel it necessary, given that Jenova is a devourer of worlds." Sephiroth said softly.

Cloud jerked his head up to give Sephiroth a hard, narrow-eyed stare.

"It seems that your memory isn't quite as spotty as you said."

Sephiroth shrugged noncommitally. "A few things are gradually coming back to me."

"I see." Cloud resumed running his hands over the bird's feathers, checking for any problems underneath.

"You aren't going to ask for more details?"

Cloud shrugged. "What would be the point? You'll tell us when and if you're ready, and not a moment sooner." He added, rather pensively, "You've always been that way."

That had one of the things he had liked the most about Zack -- his ability to accept that there were some things about him that were difficult, if not impossible, to change and not waste energy on futile arguments about them.

"After all, it's not like I can -force- you to do anything," Cloud continued in that same thoughtful, slightly absent tone.

{....but I can certainly force YOU....}

The insidious thought bubbled up from the depths of Sephiroth's mind like a wisp of noxious vapor rising from a swamp.

For an instant he froze, appalled at how easily the idea, the mere concept, popped into his head.

Most people would have missed that briefest hitch in Sephiroth's breathing. But Cloud was not most people... or perhaps it was the odd chill he felt, like a cold finger running down his spine. Regardless of the cause, he immediately peered out from behind Nikki and gave Sephiroth a puzzled look.

"What?"

Sephiroth met Cloud's glowing blue gaze levelly and said, "Nothing."

After a pause, Sephiroth murmured, "That's very understanding of you, but it's likely that your friends won't see it that way."

"Most of them will. But you're right. Some of them won't."

"Meaning Lockheart and Barrett."

This time, Cloud did sigh aloud. "Yeah." A slight nudge from the chocobo reminded Cloud to keep up the back rub and he obliged. "Tifa hates you. She has plenty of reasons."

Sephiroth cocked his head slightly.

"And you don't?"

Cloud gave him another quick sharp look.

"You haven't been told me the specifics of what happened during the six years after the Nibelheim mission. But judging from everyone's reactions, I can make some fairly shrewd guesses. You probably have plenty of reasons to hate me. Do you?"

Cloud said nothing for a moment, then said, almost wearily, "Hate you? Sometimes, I don't know." After a long pause, he added in a much firmer tone, "But I'm not going to let my personal feelings interfere with protecting the people I care about."

Sephiroth tipped his head just a fraction and said, "A sensible point of view. But Lockheart's not so pragmatic, is she?"

"No, she sometimes has problems putting her emotions aside," Cloud said quietly, and left it at that.

After a few minutes of silence, broken only by the rustle of straw and the soft kwehing of contented birds, Cloud said, "We have to stop Hojo and Jenova. No matter what it takes."

"I despise those two just as much as you do, if not more."

"I know that. Which is why I'm prepared to work together with you. Because this time, I have the nasty feeling we're going to need all the help we can get."

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend, is that it?"

"Or temporary ally, at least."

Sephiroth's lips curled up in a faint smirk. "I'm sure Lockhart simply loves that idea."

"Yeah, well we all end up having to do things we don't like, don't we?" Cloud said stoically.

Silence fell again, then Sephiroth quietly said, "Is this present world we live in really worth fighting for? Is the idea of change that abhorrent?"

Cloud said nothing for while, then replied mediatively, "I'm not against change in principle. There's nothing inherently wrong with change. Nothing stays the same forever, right?"

He suddenly shot Sephiroth a fierce stare.

"But the idea of getting wiped out of existance because some fucking space alien crashlands on my home planet and gets an attack of the munchies really, REALLY pisses me off!"

Sephiroth stared at him for a second, then burst into laughter. He couldn't help it. It was the sort of honest, eye-watering full-bodied laugh that he almost never indulged in. And on the very rare occasions he did, Zack was always the culprit.

He suspected that this time was no exception.

His laughter gradually subsided into muffled chuckles as Sephiroth sank down onto an pile of hay bales.

Slightly breathless, he waved his hand at Cloud, who giving him a look of half-annoyance and half-... indulgence?... then hastily said, "No, no. I wasn't laughing at you. It's just that that is one sentiment that I have no problem understanding."

Cloud snorted, and taking Sephiroth's unexpected bout of hilarity amazingly in stride, leaned against Nikki with a look of mild exasperation as he waited for the other man to recover his composure.

But their moods quickly sombered as they returned their attention to the current unsettled situation.

"So you're proposing an alliance of convenience, with Jenova and Hojo as our mutual enemies," Sephiroth said coolly.

"That's right." After a brief pause, Cloud continued, "You're not the sort who can be intimidated into a course of action. And I know you won't tolerate being locked up."

This time it was Sephiroth's turn for a hard, narrow-eyed stare.

"Which basically leaves two options. One, we can kill you. Again." Cloud's expression was stony, his voice flat. "Or two, we can trust you. And of those two options, I really don't think we can afford the first, not with Hojo, Jenova, and the WEAPONS all running around amok."

The first option was no bluff or hollow threat. Together, Cloud and his friends could almost certainly kill him. They were that good. But it would cost them dearly in precious time, energy, and possibly even lives.

Sephiroth said dispassionately, "You're probably right. You surely don't expect me to lie down and allow myself to be conveniently slaughtered."

Cloud's expression somehow managed to harden even more.

"No, I don't. You couldn't do that. Even if you wanted to."

After the briefest pause, Sephiroth spoke, his voice sharper than Masamune's edge.

".... Did Zack tell you that interesting fact?"

Cloud's response was just as sharp, with a definite hint of ice. "You know better than that."

The two men stared at each other, but it was Sephiroth who looked away first, twitching a shoulder in a shrug that might be considered an apology.

Cloud gave him a twisted little smile. "No, I found out about that little biological quirk by myself. During my time in Nibelheim. A SOLDIER's body doesn't die easily, does it? And especially not by its own hand."

No, it didn't. A SOLDIER's mind could break, yielding to madness or suicidal despair, but a SOLDIER's body did not surrender meekly to death. It clung to life with an intensity that few could understand. Something in a SOLDIER's creation, perhaps the infusion of Jenova cells, heightened a human's already well developed survival instinct to the point of near-compulsion. And the more powerful and heavily modified the SOLDIER, the more intense the instincts to live at all costs.

A disciplined mind could override that instinct for self-preservation, allowing the SOLDIER to knowingly confront danger and possible death... unless the body's desire to survive was so strong that it couldn't be entirely controlled, no matter how hard one tried.

For Sephiroth -- and for Cloud, it seemed -- suicide was not a viable option. It was that very reason that he had asked for Zack's promise, and why Zack had been willing to give it.

Sephiroth nodded in brief acknowledgement.

"So that leaves option number two," Cloud said.

"Trust me?" Sephiroth said with scornful amusement. "And how likely is that?"

"In certain ways, more likely than you think."

Sephiroth raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"I think that it's reasonable to trust in your tactical judgment, your analytical abilities, and your fighting skills. And trust in your desire to stop Hojo and Jenova from carrying out their sick schemes, whatever they are. As for the rest...." Cloud shrugged noncommitally.

"Fair enough."

Actually, all things considered, it was more than Sephiroth expected.

"I've already discussed this with the others. Most of them agree with me."

Sephiroth's lip curled slightly. "I can guess who didn't agree."

"Not at first. But since we're rather short on alternatives, Tifa and Barrett are willing to give it a try."

"Fine, as long as they don't actively interfere with me."

After watching Cloud carefully examining the chocobo's wing feathers for a few minutes, Sephiroth said, "Don't chocobos usually groom themselves?"

"Yes, but just because you can do something for yourself...."

"....doesn't always mean you have to do it for yourself. Yes, I know."

The brief exchange stirred Sephiroth's memories of similar conversations with Zack. One would reasonably assume that Zack, one of the most independent, self-sufficient people Sephiroth knew, would be very reluctant to depend or rely upon others. Zack, however, didn't seem to have a problem with it. He wasn't indiscriminate with his trust, of course, but his ability to judge people meant that he was rarely disappointed.

In fact, Zack's worst mistake in judgment was sitting right here on a haybale amid a flock of chocobos.

To Sephiroth, a stable full of birds had seemed like an incongruous place to have such a serious conversation, but when he thought about it, there was something soothing about the chocobos' presence. It just seemed easier to speak candidly. Or perhaps it was simply relief at being able to get away from Lockheart's neverending hostility and suspicion.

Cloud gave Nikki one last pat before stepping out of the stall.

"So we don't have a clue where Jenova or Hojo are now." He made a frustrated noise. "No, of course it wouldn't that easy."

"What did you expect? A pointed arrow and a sign saying 'Hojo, 300 miles that-a-way'?" Sephiroth said drily.

"One can always hope, right?" Cloud retorted with a wry grin.

As they both turned to leave the Highwind II's makeshift chocobo stable, Sephiroth said, "Hojo and Jenova are too cunning to be so easily found. If we had a better idea what they were up to, we might be able to better deduce where.... ack!"

Startled, Cloud quickly turned to see what could possibly make Sephiroth yelp like that.

Cloud's gold chocobo Nikki blinked innocently at them, its beak firmly clamped on a mouthful of Sephiroth's long silver hair.

Sephiroth glared at the bird, then attempted to free the trapped hair with a firm tug, but without success.

"You idiot bird, let go!" Sephiroth muttered between gritted teeth.

Even with its beak full, Nikki somehow managed to utter a chocobo chortle.

No, he wasn't asinine enough to get caught up in a game of Whack-a-Chocobo. That sort of idiocy was a drunken fool's game, even with common birds. Against a gold chocobo of Nikki's obvious quality, Sephiroth -knew- he would lose.

Behind him, Sephiroth could hear stifled noises which told him that Cloud was trying hard not to laugh.

Turning awkwardly, Sephiroth glowered at Cloud and said, "I'm -so- glad you think this is funny. It's YOUR damn bird. Do -something- before I decide to have broiled poultry for lunch."

Nikki snorted audibly at this obvious bluff.

Sephiroth tugged again. Nikki playfully tugged back.

"Well, if you want my damn hair that much...."

Thoroughly exasperated, Sephiroth reached out and yanked the combat knife from Cloud's belt. He lifted the blade, but before he could slice his hair free, Cloud caught his arm and said hastily, "You don't need to do that. All Nikki wants is a little attention from you."

Sephiroth stared balefully at the other man.

"Try petting him," Cloud added, who was trying very hard to remain straight-faced and mostly succeeding. But there was a suspicious twitch at the corner of his mouth....

At that moment, Sephiroth could have done a lot of things, ranging from non-lethal to downright deadly. But the sight of a familiar mischievous gleam in Cloud's eyes and the echo of an equally familiar tone of playful humor in the other man's voice made Sephiroth give in, however ungraciously.

He did put up a token protest.

"Why is it that cats, birds, little children, teenaged girls, and other dumb creatures have this absurd fascination with my hair!?" he snarled.

Nikki the chocobo snorted at the insult to its intelligence, but didn't let go.

So it was that when Yuffie peeked into the cargo hold, she found a mildly disgruntled Sephiroth standing with Cloud's chocobo leaning heavily against him, its neck propped on his shoulder and eyes closed in smug contentment as Sephiroth gave the chocobo a nice, thorough neck and chest scratch. Nearby, perched relaxedly on a pile of crates, Cloud watched the scene with an amused grin while making some comment about the notorious fickleness of female chocobos.

Sephiroth broke off his conversation with Cloud, turned to the bird and muttered, "NOW are you satisfied? You're going to become as spoiled as your namesake."

The chocobo finally released its clamp on Sephiroth's long hair and warbled happily.

Peering around the door frame, Yuffie forgot about her roiling stomach and giggled.

When he heard her, Sephiroth twitched and flushed slightly, obviously embarrassed to be caught doing something as silly as petting and talking to an oversized bird.

He brusquely pushed Nikki's head off his shoulder and stalked out of the cargo hold with as much dignity as he could muster, which wasn't much considering he had chocobo fluff all over his black jacket and bird drool on his hair.


Tags: coi, coi-fic, conflicts of interest, fanfic, ff7
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