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Feral-verse - Contagion 3/? (FF7 AU, Feral-verse) - Convolutions of an Evil Mind
madamhydra
madamhydra
Feral-verse - Contagion 3/? (FF7 AU, Feral-verse)
54 hisses or Hiss in my ear....
Comments
jessara40k From: jessara40k Date: June 13th, 2007 09:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Definitely like Sephiroth, in that both of them (Cloud and Sephiroth) were in some fashion socially alienated.

Yeah, and I'm not sure which of them has had the worse life overall. I mean I think Cloud's childhood was marginally better than Sephiroth's, but then as an adult Cloud went through hell at Hojo's and Sephiroth's hands, and I'm not sure Sephiroth's adulthood was all that much better.

Yes, Sephiroth's main guilt is focused on what he did to Cloud, because so much of Cloud's suffering was personally inflicted with his own hands (and powers), although he surely feels guilt for the Nibelheim tortures as well.

I'd be surprised if he didn't honestly.

That's not to say that Zack escaped unscathed from Nibelheim, either. His naturally protective instincts probably developed into near-obsession from being forced to watch Cloud's pain and Zack's feral Change only accentuates those protective instincts. Fortunately for everyone, Zack's protectiveness isn't the claustrophobic smothering type.

I didn't think he would have escaped without any lasting effects, but Zack's changes are a lot less potentially dangerous to Zack than Cloud's are to him. (That did make sense didn't it?)

However, Sephiroth's guilt regarding Cloud is much more acutely felt because: (1) Cloud suffered profound and long-lasting mental/emotional damage (i.e., his PTSD); and (2) any forgiveness that Cloud offers will be inextricably tainted (at least in Sephiroth's eyes) by the way he manipulated Cloud's emotions. You can see how this might cause problems later on with respect to the OT4's mating bond -- I can see Sephiroth fretting that Cloud is being unduely influenced into accepting and forgiving Sephiroth.

And that's going to be really fun to read. At a guess I'd expect cloud to have to be the one to initiate anything sexual between himself and Sephiroth, and probably anything intimate as well. Not necessarily dominate, but he'd have to be the one to make the first move, at least at first IMO.

Although she's clearly biased, I'm trying my best to stay away from making Tifa too bitchy, at least in the beginning.

I don't really like Tifa that much, and the one time I did use her in a fic myself she was pretty unhinged, but if anything she's being more reasonable than I'd expect about Zack, since his appearance is pretty suspicious.

As events progess and things happen (e.g., Cloud's defection to the ferals, Sephiroth's escape, and especially Marlene's defections), Tifa's attitude will inevitably harden and she becomes much more closed-minded and obstinate.

And I could see that in the future fic you posted. The way you describe it here makes it seem like a logical progression.

To be honest, Cloud trusts Zack almost unreasonably.

Partly I'd think that would be because Cloud knows on some level that Zack could have escaped without him, and it would have been a lot easier for him to avoid capture that way. But yes, that does show in this chapter. He doesn't understand what Zack does to boost the feral-virus, but since it's Zack it has to be a good thing as far as he's concerned.
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: June 15th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, and I'm not sure which of them has had the worse life overall. I mean I think Cloud's childhood was marginally better than Sephiroth's, but then as an adult Cloud went through hell at Hojo's and Sephiroth's hands, and I'm not sure Sephiroth's adulthood was all that much better.

Well, it's always hard to say who had it worse. We don't know much about either Sephiroth's or Cloud's childhood, so they could have endured anything from moderate neglect to horrific abuse.

So determining who was worse off (Sephiroth or Cloud), as least as children, a lot depends on what you consider more damaging:
(1) being deprived and not knowing any better (Sephiroth); or
(2) being deprived and knowing exactly what you're being deprived of (Cloud).

As youngsters, I'm actually inclined to say that Cloud's life was more miserable, because Sephiroth didn't really know what he was missing, while Cloud definitely knew but could never get it (social acceptance).

Post-childhood to pre-Nibelheim, I'd tend to agree that Sephiroth's life was perhaps worse, because he was constantly treated as a tool -- a valuable and possibly unique tool, but a mere object nevertheless. So one can see how Sephiroth might not value himself as a person, and why he finds it hard to believe that Cloud would willingly forgive him. He can believe in Zack's forgiveness much more easily because he didn't manipulate or torture Zack the way he did Cloud, and... well, Zack is Zack (i.e., uniquely loving and more than a little crazy). ^_-

As adults, Cloud almost certainly wins the "miserable life" contest hands down, given all he went through first at Hojo's hands and then Sephiroth's.

I didn't think he would have escaped without any lasting effects, but Zack's changes are a lot less potentially dangerous to Zack than Cloud's are to him. (That did make sense didn't it?)

It makes perfect sense, although I won't necessarily say that it's a "lot less potentially dangerous" to Zack. ^_- Zack's issues could push him into dangerous situations. Even so, Zack is certainly better equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with the situations caused by his (over-)protective instincts. In comparison, Cloud is still quite vulnerable.

(continued below -- damn the character limit! >_> )
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: June 15th, 2007 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
(continued from above)

And that's going to be really fun to read. At a guess I'd expect cloud to have to be the one to initiate anything sexual between himself and Sephiroth, and probably anything intimate as well. Not necessarily dominate, but he'd have to be the one to make the first move, at least at first IMO.

Yes, Cloud probably will have to be the initiator of both physical and sexual intimacy with respect to Sephiroth. In Sephiroth's mind with respect to Cloud (and to a lesser degree, Zack), there's always going to be a lingering concern of undue influence, because of the Jenova cells in their bodies. Naturally, that worry is much greater with Cloud, of course.

Another cause for Sephiroth's sexual reserve with all his mates is his deeply-rooted fear of being somehow 'tainted' and 'unnatural'. He's not so much worried about himself, but rather whether that 'wrongness' might contaminate and harm the people he loves. And although he didn't personally put the Jenova cells into Zack's and Cloud's bodies, he does feel a distinct guilt-by-association about it. Before Nibelheim, Sephiroth was slowly overcoming that reserve, but given everything that happened with Jenova, Sephiroth has decidedly regressed.

If I had to summerize the main outstanding issues in our feral OT4, it would go like this:
(1) Zack has issues with protecting the ones he loves.
(2) Cloud has issues about his self-worth and no tolerance for what he considers his own weakness.
(3) Sephiroth worries about harming the ones that he loves, as well as issues about valuing himself as a person.
(4) Aeris wants to do much more to actively protect the people she loves, instead of always being the one sheltered and protected.

I don't really like Tifa that much, and the one time I did use her in a fic myself she was pretty unhinged, but if anything she's being more reasonable than I'd expect about Zack, since his appearance is pretty suspicious.

While it's suspicious, Tifa also sympathetizes with Zack's expressed goals (e.g., getting rid of Jenova, getting revenge on the people who hurt Cloud, etc.), so she's initially inclined to give him a slight benefit of a doubt. However, as her place as Cloud's "most important and closest friend" is threatened (as she perceives it), she feels more personally insecure and hence quickly because more hostile. It also pushes her into ideas that, while reasonable with respect to other people, is seriously out of the question for Cloud. For example, wanting Cloud to hand himself to a team of doctors for a 'checkup' when he starts behaving oddly. It's a perfectly sensible suggestion... except for someone like Cloud. -_-

But yes, that does show in this chapter. He doesn't understand what Zack does to boost the feral-virus, but since it's Zack it has to be a good thing as far as he's concerned.

Yes, I suppose that's true. Cloud knows that Zack can come up with crazy schemes at times, but in the end, even if those schemes cause Cloud trouble and turmoil in the short term, Cloud has a unshakable confidence that Zack has his (Cloud's) best interests and well-being at heart.

Sephiroth has a similar confidence in Zack's intentions -- his initial concern in Feral-verse is whether something unknown is manipulating Zack for sinister reasons. Once he because convinced that Zack's acting of his own free will, Sephiroth doesn't have any problems hopping on the feral bandwagon. ^_^
jessara40k From: jessara40k Date: June 15th, 2007 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
As youngsters, I'm actually inclined to say that Cloud's life was more miserable, because Sephiroth didn't really know what he was missing, while Cloud definitely knew but could never get it (social acceptance).

Based on the assumptions you're making then I agree with you, but since I tend to assume that Sephiroth was experimented on as a child, not as much as Cloud was post-Nibelheim, or at least not as intensely, in my AUs Sephiroth had a worse childhood.

So one can see how Sephiroth might not value himself as a person, and why he finds it hard to believe that Cloud would willingly forgive him.

Completely. The way Sephiroth's treated as a tool and not a person's a bit of a theme in my writing as well. I mean, you forgive people who are important to you, but you throw away and replace a broken tool.

As adults, Cloud almost certainly wins the "miserable life" contest hands down, given all he went through first at Hojo's hands and then Sephiroth's.

Post-Nibelheim I totally agree. But like I said, the way I personally imagine Cloud's time with Hojo it's all of the experiments and tests Hojo did on Sephiroth over 10-14 years compressed into 4-5 years, and I don't really consider Sephiroth to be entirely 'alive' in the game, at least not as more than a brainwahsed weapon in Jenova's 'hands'

Zack's issues could push him into dangerous situations. Even so, Zack is certainly better equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with the situations caused by his (over-)protective instincts. In comparison, Cloud is still quite vulnerable.

Hadn't thought of that, and you're right.

In Sephiroth's mind with respect to Cloud (and to a lesser degree, Zack), there's always going to be a lingering concern of undue influence, because of the Jenova cells in their bodies. Naturally, that worry is much greater with Cloud, of course.

Of course it's greater with Cloud, because a) Cloud has more Jenova cells than Zack and b) Cloud was mind-fucked a lot more effectively than Zack was.

Another cause for Sephiroth's sexual reserve with all his mates is his deeply-rooted fear of being somehow 'tainted' and 'unnatural'. He's not so much worried about himself, but rather whether that 'wrongness' might contaminate and harm the people he loves. And although he didn't personally put the Jenova cells into Zack's and Cloud's bodies, he does feel a distinct guilt-by-association about it. Before Nibelheim, Sephiroth was slowly overcoming that reserve, but given everything that happened with Jenova, Sephiroth has decidedly regressed.

And I guess that feeds into him not feeling like he's worth much as a person. It's no surprise that he's regressed emotionally after Jenova played around with him.

(1) Zack has issues with protecting the ones he loves.
(2) Cloud has issues about his self-worth and no tolerance for what he considers his own weakness.
(3) Sephiroth worries about harming the ones that he loves, as well as issues about valuing himself as a person.
(4) Aeris wants to do much more to actively protect the people she loves, instead of always being the one sheltered and protected.


So all four of them are 'broken'. and they work together to heal themselves. Is that list from most severe issue to least, or is it too hard to rank them that way?

For example, wanting Cloud to hand himself to a team of doctors for a 'checkup' when he starts behaving oddly. It's a perfectly sensible suggestion... except for someone like Cloud. -_-

She isn't thinking right if she could ever make that suggestion, or she's being as...self-centred/unempathic as she was in-game. She wasn't that empathic in AC either for that matter IMO.

Sephiroth has a similar confidence in Zack's intentions -- his initial concern in Feral-verse is whether something unknown is manipulating Zack for sinister reasons. Once he because convinced that Zack's acting of his own free will, Sephiroth doesn't have any problems hopping on the feral bandwagon. ^_^

Especially since everyone he cares about is already feral; he isn't leaving human friends behind by going feral the way Cloud is.
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: June 15th, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Based on the assumptions you're making then I agree with you, but since I tend to assume that Sephiroth was experimented on as a child, not as much as Cloud was post-Nibelheim, or at least not as intensely, in my AUs Sephiroth had a worse childhood.

The relative misery of Cloud's and Sephiroth's upbringing very much depends on the individual writer's creative decisions. In my other AU (COI), Cloud's childhood and life was pretty darn horrific, with constant abuse from virtually every direction. ^_-

Completely. The way Sephiroth's treated as a tool and not a person's a bit of a theme in my writing as well. I mean, you forgive people who are important to you, but you throw away and replace a broken tool.

Indeed. Sephiroth does have a strong sense of self-value in the professional sense -- he knows that he's talented and very good at what he does, etc. -- and is justifiably proud and confident in that respect, but he doesn't have a strong sense of self-value in the personal sense (i.e., independent of his performance 'on the job').

Thus, when he makes a 'mistake' (and admittedly, the whole Jenova/Meteor episode was one massive oopsie), he doesn't expect forgiveness from others. Which is rather ironic, when you think about it, because if any of the other three were to transgress against him (for anything short of outright betrayal for purely selfish reasons, which just ain't going to happen), I'm reasonably sure that he would certainly forgive them. So Sephiroth is perfectly capable of valuing others, but has a badly skewed sense of his own value.

And I guess that feeds into him not feeling like he's worth much as a person. It's no surprise that he's regressed emotionally after Jenova played around with him.

Yes, and feral-Sephiroth will have an unfortunately habit of keeping his own feelings and needs tightly controlled. Before (pre-Zack), it was to protect himself from others and to avoid making himself vulnerable. After he goes feral, he starts doing the same thing, but this time, to protect his mates. However, just like the last time, they're not about to let him get away with it, of course. ^_- He'll eventually relax and stop suppressing so much, but it will take some time and work from his mates.

(continued below -- gah, how I ramble! ::sheepish grin::)
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: June 15th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
[(1) Zack has issues with protecting the ones he loves.
(2) Cloud has issues about his self-worth and no tolerance for what he considers his own weakness.
(3) Sephiroth worries about harming the ones that he loves, as well as issues about valuing himself as a person.
(4) Aeris wants to do much more to actively protect the people she loves, instead of always being the one sheltered and protected.]


So all four of them are 'broken'. and they work together to heal themselves. Is that list from most severe issue to least, or is it too hard to rank them that way?


Cloud is the only one I would characterize as actually being 'broken'. I found a very interesting article in Wikipedia regarding Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), which really fits with my characterization of Cloud in Feral-verse. Essentially it's a much more severe form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"C-PTSD better describes the pervasive negative impact of chronic trauma than does the diagnosis posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD fails to capture C-PTSD sufferers' loss of a sense of safety, trust, and self-worth, their tendency to be revictimized, and their loss of a coherent sense of self."

In contrast to Cloud, I see Sephiroth not so much as 'broken', but rather as being more on the lines of severely emotionally stunted and damaged, with subsequent guilt-related emotional scarring as a result of his actions while insane.

Both Zack and Aeris have definite emotional scars, but in constrast with both Cloud and Sephiroth, their emotional states are otherwise pretty healthy and 'normal'. Zack's emotional scars are probably greater than Aeris's, because he was forced to witness first-hand Cloud's torture for a period of years.

So as for severity of emotional issues, going from worst to least:

Cloud -> Sephiroth ->->-> Zack -> Aeris

She isn't thinking right if she could ever make that suggestion, or she's being as...self-centred/unempathic as she was in-game. She wasn't that empathic in AC either for that matter IMO.

Tifa irritates me at times because she can occasionally display some very insightful moments (e.g., in AC, when she realized that Cloud had regained his inner strength and needed to fight Kadaj and Sephiroth alone), while on other occasions, she seems more self-absorbed (i.e., primarily focused on how events personally affect her, avoiding unpleasant issues, etc.). So in a way, those moments of insight makes me feel a bit less kindly toward to her because she clearly has the capability to be much more empathic, as you put it, but she doesn't do it as much as she should, considering who she's dealing with.

Cloud is a very strong person -- he has to be in order to have survived what he did and come out even remotely functional -- but at the same time, he's a very high-maintenance person to love. Frankly, I don't think Tifa (even viewed in the most generous light) is up to the job of handling a person with so many emotional issues. That's why I always pair Cloud with Zack and/or Aeris, and not Tifa, because I feel that they are capable of dealing with Cloud with the sensitivity (and firmness, if necessary) that he needs.
jessara40k From: jessara40k Date: June 17th, 2007 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)
The relative misery of Cloud's and Sephiroth's upbringing very much depends on the individual writer's creative decisions. In my other AU (COI), Cloud's childhood and life was pretty darn horrific, with constant abuse from virtually every direction.

Totally agree, and I enjoyed reading about the effects of COI Cloud's childhood as well.

but [Sephiroth] doesn't have a strong sense of self-value in the personal sense

Which comes across really well in your writing and it's something I try to show in my fics too.

Which is rather ironic, when you think about it, because if any of the other three were to transgress against him (for anything short of outright betrayal for purely selfish reasons, which just ain't going to happen), I'm reasonably sure that he would certainly forgive them.

Either because as far as he's concerned they're all that he's got, the only people who care about him as a person not a tool, or because transgressions against him just don't matter as far as he's concerned.

Before (pre-Zack), it was to protect himself from others and to avoid making himself vulnerable. After he goes feral, he starts doing the same thing, but this time, to protect his mates. However, just like the last time, they're not about to let him get away with it, of course. ^_- He'll eventually relax and stop suppressing so much, but it will take some time and work from his mates.

Both reasons make sense; if he doesn't know that people can care about him should he let anyone see his emotions to use as a weapon against him? And then since his mistake hurt Zack and Cloud so much he doesn't want to show his needs or feelings because that would distract from what they need. And he's sort of lucky to have such devoted mates, willing to put the time and effort in to bring him out of his shell.

Cloud is the only one I would characterize as actually being 'broken'.

I sort of used 'broken' as shorthand for severe mental/emotional trauma, but yeah, Cloud's the only one who could be classified as having a mental illness and even he's functional under most circumstances.

So as for severity of emotional issues, going from worst to least:

Cloud -> Sephiroth ->->-> Zack -> Aeris


Makes sense, and that's probably how I'd have classed it as well.

So in a way, those moments of insight makes me feel a bit less kindly toward to her because she clearly has the capability to be much more empathic, as you put it, but she doesn't do it as much as she should, considering who she's dealing with.

Just my opinion, but going strictly by game canon, and ignoring Advent Children she comes across as pretty much incapable of being empathic. I don't think she has any of those moments of insight until she's been living with Cloud for four years and spent that time running a bar and raising Marlene and Denzel.

Cloud is a very strong person -- he has to be in order to have survived what he did and come out even remotely functional -- but at the same time, he's a very high-maintenance person to love. Frankly, I don't think Tifa (even viewed in the most generous light) is up to the job of handling a person with so many emotional issues.

I don't think that Cloud is quite so high-maintenance to love pre-game, so Tifa involved with a pre-game Cloud, or a Cloud who didn't spend four-five years at Hojo's mercy doesn't bother me so much. And Tifa in a poly relationship with post-Nibelhiem Cloud including at least one person who's more empathic than her works for me as well, like sister_coyote's Year-King, although that's an AU where Nibelheim never happened.
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: June 19th, 2007 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Which comes across really well in your writing and it's something I try to show in my fics too.

And I definitely see it. ::twitches guiltily for not commenting more on your fics::

Either because as far as he's concerned they're all that he's got, the only people who care about him as a person not a tool, or because transgressions against him just don't matter as far as he's concerned.

Probably the latter, I tend think. I don't picture him as being 'clingy' (i.e., putting up with wrongs primarily because of fear of loss). He'd probably be more concerned about what -he- did to cause his loved ones to act against him.

Both reasons make sense; if he doesn't know that people can care about him should he let anyone see his emotions to use as a weapon against him? And then since his mistake hurt Zack and Cloud so much he doesn't want to show his needs or feelings because that would distract from what they need.

After what happened to Cloud, Sephiroth's gone a bit obsessive and paranoid about 'imposing' on the others, especially Cloud. What he's forgotten is that in a healthy relationship, there is both give and take. When he was insane, he only took, and now he's over-reacting by doing his utmost to not 'take', even when Cloud and the others are freely offering. Silly boy.

And he's sort of lucky to have such devoted mates, willing to put the time and effort in to bring him out of his shell.

Ain't love grand? ::coos happily:: But seriously, Sephiroth wouldn't care so much about their welfare if he didn't sense that their feelings are similarly intense toward him. He wouldn't make himself so vulnerable for anything less.

I sort of used 'broken' as shorthand for severe mental/emotional trauma, but yeah, Cloud's the only one who could be classified as having a mental illness and even he's functional under most circumstances.

Ah, I see. I tend to think of 'broken' in a dom-sub, mind control sort of context. ^_^;;;

Just my opinion, but going strictly by game canon, and ignoring Advent Children she comes across as pretty much incapable of being empathic.

True. In the game, Tifa does come off as being rather absorbed in her own issues.

I don't think she has any of those moments of insight until she's been living with Cloud for four years and spent that time running a bar and raising Marlene and Denzel.

Four years? I thought AC took place two years after the game, and Feral-verse starts almost immediately after AC. O_o

I don't think that Cloud is quite so high-maintenance to love pre-game, so Tifa involved with a pre-game Cloud, or a Cloud who didn't spend four-five years at Hojo's mercy doesn't bother me so much.

I certainly agree. Although pre-Nibelheim Cloud probably has issues from his difficult childhood, such issues are probably within Tifa's ability to handle.

And Tifa in a poly relationship with post-Nibelhiem Cloud including at least one person who's more empathic than her works for me as well, like sister_coyote's Year-King, although that's an AU where Nibelheim never happened.

Tifa's is reasonably intelligent. With someone more empathic to point the way, so to speak, I can see her in a workable threesome, etc. with Cloud. However, that that sort of necessary psychological insight is not instinctive for her (especially when compared to people like Aeris and Zack) -- it required hard work and without someone to guide her (and perhaps even to compete against, in a sense), I don't see Tifa exerting herself to truly understand such a complex person like Cloud.
jessara40k From: jessara40k Date: June 19th, 2007 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)
::twitches guiltily for not commenting more on your fics::

I'm just glad to know that you read them.

I don't picture him as being 'clingy' (i.e., putting up with wrongs primarily because of fear of loss). He'd probably be more concerned about what -he- did to cause his loved ones to act against him.

Yeah, that fits. He's a bit of a control freak, so of course he'd assume it was a direct result of something he did. And being 'raised' by Hojo would certainly make him pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways.

But seriously, Sephiroth wouldn't care so much about their welfare if he didn't sense that their feelings are similarly intense toward him. He wouldn't make himself so vulnerable for anything less.

And why should he?

Four years? I thought AC took place two years after the game, and Feral-verse starts almost immediately after AC. O_o

My mistake then. I got the timeline wrong there.

However, that that sort of necessary psychological insight is not instinctive for her (especially when compared to people like Aeris and Zack) -- it required hard work and without someone to guide her (and perhaps even to compete against, in a sense), I don't see Tifa exerting herself to truly understand such a complex person like Cloud.

Neither do I. In a lot of ways I think a Cloud-Tifa pairing post game would be a case of Cloud settling, and primarily physical, at least on his side.
54 hisses or Hiss in my ear....