[fic] FF7 Puppyverse: Puppy Chow

Title: Puppy Chow 
Author: joudama 
Fandom: FF7:CC AU 
Rating:
Status: 3/8 
Summary: Puppies have to eat! 
A/N: *buries face in hands* This is all chibirisuchan's fault. Her and her plotcthulhus. *grump* And I've given up on trying to think of a real name for this series.  So it's officially Puppyverse. ^^;; And every title in the series will have some kind of 'dog' reference, because I'm a dork. XD;; 
This is a filler story; it's there more as set-up than anything really happening.  Thus...plot?  Whassat? XD;;; 
  
Also, chibirisuchan made recipes for the food mentioned here!  So if you want to try to cook any of the food from Zack's hometown, hee hee, you can
  
-- 
  
I'll wait. This will take patience. And while patience is not something I'm known for--and I can almost hear Angeal laughing at the very idea of me being patient--I know I have to wait. 
  
Angeal's gone now. That little brat killed him somehow, I don't know the details, but he'll pay for that; Angeal betrayed me and then that brat betrayed him.  Angeal got what he deserved, but that brat...he's not getting away with this.  I'll take everything that matters to him and...wait. Wait. That can wait. It's Sephiroth who matters now. He's all that matters. Always playing the hero, always being such a tragic fucking figure. 
  
But he doesn't know. Oh, not yet, he doesn't know. 
  
But I know. I know. 
  
So just wait, Sephiroth. Just wait. 
  
You will see me. You will. And then I'll take what I need from you, then take your place and cast you down into nothingness where you belong. The gift of the goddess will be mine. History will remember one of us, and it will not be you. 
  
In the end, you'll be in no one's memory but my own.
 
  
-- 
  
Sephiroth strummed his fingers against his desk, not liking what he was reading. 
  
They had at last, blessedly, given up on trying to send him to Nibelheim. It had taken four weeks, three flat-out refusals, two attempts at reimbursement for cleaning bills and finally one "Why are you so insistent that I and Lt. Fair go to Nibelheim?"...and then the requests had dropped off abruptly. Sephiroth knew enough--had seen enough--to know that whatever had been in Nibelheim, it had been meant for them, and meant as a trap. And he'd had no intention of becoming a "combat death" so easily. 
  
What left an uneasy feeling in his stomach now, however, was the report from the SOLDIERs who had finally been sent out to Nibelheim in his stead. 
  
Nothing. 
  
There was absolutely nothing in Nibelheim. 
  
The plant had been deserted--or rather, stripped down. Whatever had been there wasn't any more, and there was proof of things having been removed recently. Large things, and just from the pictures, Sephiroth recognized the shape of where mako tanks had been but weren't anymore quite well. 
  
The cause of the 'new' monsters, which from the SOLDIERs' report sounded like the normal dragons that lived in the Mt. Nibel area, was listed as being a mako leak from the abandoned plant, and a crew was sent to fix the leaks and get the plant running again now that the SOLDIERs had cleared out the monsters. 
  
Whatever had been there wasn't there any more. 
  
Sephiroth didn't like this. He didn't like this one bit. 
  
-- 
  
"SEPHIROOOOOOTH~~!" 
  
That was all the warning Sephiroth had before a black and charcoal blur did its best to jump on his back. 
  
"What are you doing, Lieutenant?" Sephiroth said, looking over his shoulder and finding his face far, far, far too close to Lt. Fair's grinning face. And was the man hugging him? Although perhaps "hanging off of him" was a better description of things. What under the Heavens--? 
  
The only thing that had kept Lt. Fair from having been thrown before he could connect was the vague memory of hearing Lt. Fair once yell "Angeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaal!!!" and then the sound of Angeal grunting and yelling "Get OFF of me, you idiotic puppy!" and the multiple times he had seen Angeal walking around with a grinning Lt. Fair firmly attached to his back. 
  
So this was something that was...while not normal, was in some ways familiar, even if Sephiroth was not entirely sure how this state of things had come to pass, other than, somehow, in the month since the aborted mission to Nibelheim, Angeal's 'idiotic puppy' had apparently decided that Sephiroth would be taking Angeal's place. Something had happened at Urtharbrun, and today, apparently, a tipping point of sorts had been reached. 
  
He could understand now how Angeal had been as muscular as he had been--Lt. Fair and the buster sword together were heavy. 
  
"Oh, wow, I didn't think you'd let me do it!" Zack said with a grin, looking far too pleased with himself.  "I was expecting to end up a smear on the wall!" 
  
"That was, in fact, my first instinct, Lieutenant," Sephiroth said dryly. 
  
"Thanks for not doing it.  I like my spine not broken to bits!" Zack said cheerfully, and Sephiroth wondered how long Zack intended to hang off him like this. 

"If you were expecting me to throw you into a wall, why under the heavens did you jump on me?" Sephiroth finally asked, when Zack didn't say anything else.  The people around were staring at them like they couldn't believe their eyes; Sephiroth thought wryly to himself that they were not the only ones. 

"To see if you'd let me," Zack said, still sounding pleased. 

Sephiroth blinked repeatedly, not sure how to respond.  "Well, yes, now that you've seen--" Sephiroth finally began, when Zack cut him off. 
  
"Holy shit, you're really pale!" Zack said suddenly, his eyes widening in surprise. 
  
Sephiroth just blinked over his shoulder at Zack, and some small part of his brain wondered when that had become his normal reaction to Lt. Fair. "What?" 
  
Zack thankfully slid off his back, but then grabbed his arm and Sephiroth fought the urge to blink again, feeling vaguely shaken. He...wasn't used to being touched. Not when it wasn't followed by some sort of poking or prodding by scientists, or outside of fighting and sparring. Anytime someone touched him, it had been deliberate and planned--not this jarringly carefree touch that Zack seemed to do without a thought; touching the same as he breathed. 
  
It was...jarring, although that felt like the wrong word. It was outside of his experience, and he felt out of sorts, reminded again of how different he was from the others around him, to be jarred by the same kind of touch that seemed to be normal for everyone else. He didn't understand this, or understand how, whenever Zack stopped touching him, he could feel a ghostly reminder of it still on his skin, and he would have the strangest urge to press his own hand against wherever it had been, as some kind of odd attempt to keep the physical memory of it longer. 
  
...Lt. Fair was pushing up his coat sleeve, and the surprise of it kept Sephiroth from doing much of anything save the blinking that was now firmly settling itself in as 'default reaction'. 
  
"Shiva's breath, you must burn red as Ifrit's flame in summer," Zack said, holding his darker arm up against Sephiroth's. "You'd turn into a summons materia if you were ever in Gongaga!" 
  
"That is what sunscreen is for, Lieutenant," Sephiroth said, not exactly sure how this conversation had come to pass. "And I heal quickly." 
  
Zack's face lit up. "So you'll come to Gongaga one day?" 
  
Sephiroth blinked again, and really, this was happening far too much for his own good. He replayed the conversation in his mind, trying to figure out how they had gone from point A to point...something not even in the same writing system; Ψ perhaps, or maybe even 庚. They were definitely not on the same page, and Sephiroth seriously wondered if they were even reading from the same playbook, because it somehow sounded like he had managed to be roped into going to Zack's hometown. 
  
"I--" he began, and that was as far as he got before Zack grinned again. 
  
"Great! There's not much there but my mom makes the best tone tiki that ever got made. ...oh, man, and now I want Gurljian food~!" he whined, clutching his stomach and looking pitiful. 
  
Sephiroth just blinked feeling thoroughly nonplussed. "I'm sure there is a restaurant in Midgar that--" he began, and then the next thing he knew, Lt. Fair was grinning again and had grabbed his arm with both hands and was doing his best to drag Sephiroth somewhere. 
  
And was somehow succeeding. 
  
"I love the way you think! I know a great Gurljian place that's got tone tiki that's almost as good as my mom's and it's lunch time anyway!" 
  
It...sounded like Fair was going to drag him somewhere for food, then. He wondered again when it was that Fair had gone from the nervous and shyly fidgeting man he had been around Sephiroth in Junon when nervously trying to make sure they would see each other again to...to this overexcited puppy babbling at him excitedly and literally dragging him out of the ShinRa building without so much as a 'would you like to go?' 
  
...He blamed Nibelheim for this. 
  
-- 

Hojo was accustomed to surprises. He did not, however, like them. While they sometimes lead to new discoveries, they more often tended to lead to wasted time and pains in the ass.

He was beginning to suspect that the appearance of one of Hollander's failed experiments in his gods-becursed apartment was going to be the latter rather than the former.

"We need to talk," Project G said.

"And why would we need to do that?" Hojo responded, crossing his arms. Project G was notoriously unstable and had been long before he'd begun deteriorating and "deserted" ShinRa. Hojo had long ago thought that both G and the subproject A should have been terminated as soon as their genetic instabilities had been discovered, but Hollander had been insistent they wouldn't be a total wash and should be observed, and Hewley had thrown away her entire career rather than risk termination of her pet project. She was probably the biggest loss of all, but she had chosen to throw her lot in with Hollander. Her theories had made subproject A more stable than G, but he still had been something of a failure, considering a standard SOLDIER had been able to take him down alone. That was, to Hojo's mind, proof of the beginning of the deterioration that they had realized when it was still in utero would one day happen. It should have been terminated then, but Hollander had never been one to admit his mistakes.

Regardless, it was the mentally unstable one here in his apartment, the one known for his short temper and tendency to try to set things on fire. Best to treat this one carefully until it was gone, then alert the Turks about this intrusion.

With any luck, he'd be able to autopsy whatever was left of G afterwards. There were things that Hollander had hinted gloatingly about Genesis being able to do that Sephiroth couldn't, but the fool had been very good at keeping his research places Hojo couldn't access.

"Because you have something I need. And you're going to give it to me," Project G said, narrowing his eyes. 

Hojo looked him straight in the face and laughed. "And what is that?"

G smirked, and did his best to look menacing. Hojo was singularly unimpressed with it. "I know about your experiments. I know what you were planning in Nibelheim, and I know about Jenova. I found all your little files, and I know what those cells can do."

Hojo raised an eyebrow. "So?"

--
  
He found himself wondering how on earth on person managed to say so much and yet never take a breath. He'd known that Lt. Fair was somewhat on the hyperactive side of things, but hadn't realized that it extended to words as well as actions, and something about Gurljian food had set Zack off about his hometown. Something surely aided by Sephiroth admitting, when Lt. Fair shoved the menu at him and asked what he wanted, that he had never had Gurljian food before. Most of his life he had been in a lab, and when he hadn't been, he had been fighting a war. He'd been out with Angeal before, but the truth was that almost everything he had ever eaten, aside from the one restaurant of Mideelian food Angeal had taken him to whenever the man was homesick, had been prepared by the ShinRa kitchens and mess. Zack's jaw had almost dropped off at that, and the next thing Sephiroth knew, Zack had ordered more food than two people could possibly have been expected to eat and was rattling off about the kinds of food and how to eat it, and then he had launched into talking about Gongaga. 
  
He remembered Angeal being the same way, actually, ordering far too much food the first time, but at least Angeal had actually let him eat his food in peace. 

Eventually Sephiroth picked up a piece of Gurljian flatbread, dipped it into the disturbingly green spinach and cheese tari, and shoved it midword into Zack's mouth. 
  
Zack stared at him, wide-eyed, and Sephiroth let out a small chuckle. "You did say you wanted Gurljian food, Lieutenant," he said, raising at eyebrow and fighting down amusement at the wounded look on Lt. Fair's face. "So you should probably eat it rather than wave your arms and talk. It is quite good, after all, and probably better while still hot. It would be a shame to not be able to finish because there is no time for you to eat before we must return to base." 
  
From around the mouthful of bread, Zack let out of laugh and said something that sounded vaguely like "You win," and started chewing. 
  
-- 

Genesis had the distinct impression Hojo had opted for that "So?" rather than laugh in Genesis' face...again. He'd heard stories about Hojo from some of the other SOLDIERs, but Sephiroth never had spoken of the man - not willingly, at any rate.  It had been obvious he'd hated Hojo, which had made Genesis wonder what could get the Ice King himself all but simmering with rage. Genesis had thought there was a chance he and Hojo, for all he was known as "creepy," might get on, since Sephiroth had disliked him so much, but instead, he was beginning to get an idea of just why Sephiroth was a fucked up as he was. "You found my research notes. So what? Why should I waste my time and Jenova cells on a failed experiment? On Hollander's failed experiment?" 
  
That one stung. 
  
"There is absolutely no benefit to myself and my work from me wasting my few precious Jenova cells trying to fix Hollander's failure, and if you think there is," Hojo said, the corner of his lip going up in a "smile" that made Genesis want to start punching it, "then it is very clear that your deterioration has begun to impact your higher neural functions. Funny, I wouldn't have expected this level of mental deterioration for another few years. Hollander's calculations for the start of mental deterioration must have been off. Not that him being off is a surprise." 
  
Genesis jolted. "What?" 
  
"Did you think it was only your body?" Hojo said, sneering slightly with annoyance. "Everything is deteriorating, brain and all. Not that one can expect much from one of Hollander's experiments, but even one of his creations can not be this thick. Especially one that for a time, at least, did well in Wutai. You are deteriorating. Physically and mentally." 
  
"That's why I need those cells!" Genesis said, feeling a cold panic touching at his chest. He'd...he'd known something besides just his body feeling like it was aging and degrading was happening, but his mind?  This could affect his mind?

He needed those cells. He needed them, and he needed them now.
 
Hojo ignored him. "I am not going to risk a single, solitary cell on a sample that isn't even mine. Have you any clue how precious those few cells left are, and how difficult they are to harvest? They are not simply cells, they are regrown stem cells, able to become anything. They are also exceedingly difficult to obtain and my access to Jenova is limited now. Especially now." 
  
Genesis smiled, knowing exactly why Hojo's access to Jenova was 'limited'. "Especially now that Jenova is gone?" he finished. 
  
This time, it was Hojo's turn to startle, and stare at him. 

Genesis' grin widened. "Who, exactly, is it you think made off with what's left of Jenova? What, you think the Turks swept in when they cleaned the town, and just swept her out from under your feet? And you're calling me thick? She was gone long before the Turks got there. And you'll never find her."
 
Take that, a small part of him thought smugly. My brain is still working just fine.

Hojo didn't look completely on board yet, but Genesis could tell he was wavering. Genesis had spent enough time around Hollander to know what made scientists tick...Hollander, and Gillian Hewley, though he hadn't know that little lie of hers until recently, and he still felt that betrayal like a knife in his gut.

Had Angeal known? On some level, had he...

"What would be in it for me if I aided you? The only good you would do me is on a table for autopsy to be studied," Hojo sniffed. "And the Turks are good. They'll find Jenova soon enough. You're not exactly subtle."
  
"Oh, I'm subtle enough - remember, I infiltrated Gwongnaam long before they knew we were coming. I got in and I got out, and they still have no idea who it was.  Let's be honest - the only reason you know it was me is because I just told you.  You'll never find Jenova unless I take you to her. And as for your 'scientific' interests...I can do things your precious Sephiroth can't.  I can clone myself." 

Hojo perked up at that.  "Oh, really?" he said, something floating behind his eyes.  Gotcha, Genesis thought, and smiled. 
 
"Just imagine what you could do with that," Genesis said, and Genesis knew right then that he had him.

--
  
Sephiroth almost hated to admit it, but he'd rather liked the Gurljian he'd been all but dragged out for with Zack. It had been pleasantly spicy, on par with the food he'd had in the north and midlands of Wutai.  The food in the south had been very mild and delicate, but many foods in the Chochung and Gwongnaam regions had been, as Angeal had once put it, "hot enough to melt your face off and probably power a reactor or three."

He found himself wondering if Zack had ever dragged Angeal out for Gurljian food as he had done Sephiroth. He could see Angeal, who had come back from Chochung with a taste for the bombs of hot spice they called food, liking it, but when he imagined Genesis, who had all but declared the Gwongnaam food a biological weapon, and then he slammed down on that line of thought as quickly as he could.

Angeal was dead, and Genesis a deserting traitor. There was no point in thinking about either one of them again.

"Well? What'd you think?" Zack asked after they had paid and were outside the restaurant, walking towards the station. His eyes were bright.

"It was quite spicy."

"...That good or bad?"

Sephiroth waited a beat before answering, feeling amused by Zack's anticipation.

"A good thing," Sephiroth said, and Zack's smile was brighter, somehow, than his eyes.

--

"I'm listening," Hojo finally said.

"Good," Genesis said, tilting his head slightly in what was close to a bow of acknowledgement. "I'll contact you. Next time we meet, I'll have something you'll want to see. Provided you have something for me."

Hojo gave his own slight bow of acknowledgment with a faint smirk so reminiscent of Sephiroth that Genesis wanted to scream on his face. "I eagerly await word from you, then."

"I'll tell you where to come. Jenova will be waiting," Genesis said, and faintly, he could almost hear the goddess sing.

--
  
"SEPHIROOOOOO--!" 
  
Sephiroth whirled and had an admonishing finger out before Zack could connect. "HEEL," he said, and Zack flailed to a stop before he could jump onto Sephiroth, then pouted at him, his eyes wide and wibbly. Sephiroth felt the corners of his lips quirk up, and before Zack could move, he leaned over and patted Zack on the head. "Good Zack," he said, letting amusement touch his voice. It had been a few weeks since Zack had taken it into his head to start replacing Angeal with him, and in that time, Sephiroth had done some research.

Puppies could be trained, after all.
  
Zack didn't have a tail to wag, but the bright, laughing grin he gave was close. "Are you busy?" Zack asked, never losing the grin lighting his face, but now there was something hopeful in it. 
  
"I am currently not under any--" was as far as he got. 
  
"Great, let's go!" Zack's face managed to light up even more and he grabbed Sephiroth's arm and started dragging Sephiroth over to where Zack had come from, over to where he had been talking to a trooper. 
  
A trooper whose eyes got very, very wide, and he just stared at Zack. And blinked several times, and Sephiroth felt an odd kind of kinship with the boy over that reaction--it was not just him who was thoroughly reduced to blinking at Zack, then, and that was oddly reassuring. 
  
And all of a sudden, Sephiroth found himself blinking at the trooper as he placed him. "You--" he began, and felt his eye twitch reflexively. "Nibelheim." 
  
The trooper suddenly turned bright red. "I...that is...motion sick, sir," the boy said, his voice barely a whisper and shoulders slumping as he stared at his feet. 
  
"I suppose I should have sent the cleaning bill to you, since ShinRa still refuses to reimburse me for it," Sephiroth said dryly. The trooper seemed to hunch in on himself more, but Zack burst out laughing. 
  
"Nah, the one who puked all over your shoes was me. Cloud was good about keeping it all in one corner," Zack said with a cheeky grin, and the trooper groaned and buried his face in his hands. 
  
"Then I'll expect reimbursement by the end of the week," Sephiroth said, feeling the corners of his mouth turn up. "Because do you have any idea how much it costs to get the smell of vomit out of leathers?" 
  
Zack wilted. "No, but you're going to tell me, aren't you?" 
  
Sephiroth's smile widened slightly and his eyebrow arched up. "I see there was a reason you became a First so quickly, then." 
  
Even Zack's hair managed to wilt at that and the little blond trooper let out a sound that almost sounded like a muffled laugh, and Sephiroth found this all an oddly satisfying turn of events. 
  
"Now, where was it you said we were going?" he said, allowing another faint smile onto his face now, and the two sudden sets of wildly different smiles--one a sudden, tail-wagging grin and the other of wide-eyed disbelief that morphed into a slow smile that lit up the trooper's face--made him wonder what he had just set himself up for. 
  
He had never been very good with people. He was good at leading them, but nothing past that had ever been anything notable for its success. He could count on one hand how many he would consider a friend, and half of that number was something most people wouldn't really have considered 'friendship' unless they considered trying to slice someone's head off a friendly hello. 
  
Admittedly, he'd taken an odd kind of pleasure in goading Genesis, the same as Genesis seemed to take an odd kind of pleasure in being goaded, something that had routinely caused Angeal to get a pained look on his face as if he had a headache, usually followed by burying his face in his hands or the occasional lecture. 
  
Zack slung his arms over both Sephiroth's and the trooper's shoulders, jarring Sephiroth out of his thoughts. "Right! Cloud was just telling me about this place he found that does the most amazing Costan ever, and I was telling him it can't be as good as La Mesa Negra's, but would he listen, no, so we're hitting that place for lunch. Seph, you're the tiebreaker, 'cause we'll need an impartial opinion, and that's you in a nutshell. And I'm tellin' ya, kid, there is no way your place is better than Mesa Negra--" 
  
"Zack, I have never been to either place, so--" Sephiroth began. 

Zack grinned. "No worries, both places have lunch specials, we can go to Mesa Negra next time! Now c'mon, or we'll miss the lunch special!" 
  
Zack dragged them both out, and Sephiroth found himself wondering how it was that the puppy seemed to be the one to have him on the leash. 
  
And judging by the tonberry-in-the-headlights look on the face of the trooper--Cloud, and a quick glance at his name tag refreshed Sephiroth's memory of the young trooper's family name, Strife--he was not the only one with that kind of feeling. 
  
At least he wasn't the only one, he thought, and let himself be dragged out into Midgar. 
  
And besides, he figured. While the little trooper, Strife, looked as shell-shocked as a tonberry in the headlights, it was the tonberries in the headlights that you had to watch out for. 
  
Tonberries could take a lot of damage, after all, and you never quite knew when they would pull out that knife. 
  
-- 
  
Hojo stared at the tank containing Jenova. Genesis had, somehow, moved everything needed from Nibelheim to Gongaga without having been noticed at all. It was both impressive and worrisome, in that it made it very clear that there were security problems.

But, he thought, I can take advantage of this. I can do my experiments in peace, away from prying eyes.

"Why Gongaga?" Hojo asked. It did seem to be an odd choice - Genesis had no connection at all to Gongaga. He would have guessed Mideel or even Banora, which would have had the equipment needed tucked away there, not Gongaga. Perhaps a sign of his mental deterioration?, he wondered. He had been completely perplexed with Genesis had said to meet him in Gongaga of all places,
and had not been expecting all of this.

Hollander's failure was full of surprises, it would seem.

Genesis smiled a smile that made Hojo decide it wasn't "perhaps" a sign of his mental deterioration; it was a sign of it.

"Oh, I have my reasons," was all he said, and Hojo fought the urge to roll his eyes.
  
Really, he should have expected as much from one of Hollander's experiments.

--
  
  
"Tell me, when you were around Jenova, did you hear anything?" 
  
Genesis stared at him.  "What?" 

Hojo got a bored, dismissive look on his face.  "As I thought." 

"Besides, I've no idea what will happen if you receive the Jenova cells," Hojo said dismissively. "And I see no reason to waste them on an unknown. There is, after all, a reason why neither you nor the other part of Project G ever received Jenova cells during the SOLDIER process. Hollander oversaw his own projects and was careful to keep the cells away from you." 
  
"And you have no idea what would happen if I got the Jenova cells?" Genesis said narrowly. 
  
"No idea. Of course," he said, and got his oily little smile again. "If I had access to all of Hollander's preliminary research, I could probably hazard a guess what might result." 
  
"Then you'll get it," Genesis said sharply, and stomped out. 
  
Hojo watched him go, and then began, quietly at first and then louder, loud enough to echo through the room, to laugh. 
  
-- 

  

Comments

Yup, I'm back! Or, at the very least, determined to finish up all my unfinished fic. Puppyverse is definitely going somewhere!