Nobody in the Windows
Cloud wandered downstairs at around ten in the morning when he saw Genesis in his study book mode. The book looked thin so it must be a high quality book for Genesis to be surrounded by sticky notes and pens that had their ink bled dry. Cloud frowned, Genesis normally preferred thick books, what was he doing with this little thin one?
No response. Cloud crept forward and caught the title of the book. 'Nobody in the Windows'. It was an unfamiliar title to Cloud, but then again he wasn't as avid a reader as Genesis.
Still no response. Cloud frowned and reached out to touch the cover. He was rewarded with a firm swat on his hand.
"Don't touch the cover, you'll break it," Genesis huffed as he took his reading glasses off and lowered the book "What is it, Cloud?"
"I just wanted to know if you were OK, I haven't seen you so absorbed in a book since you reread Loveless for the seventy-fifth time…"
"It was the eighty-second time," Genesis corrected as he sat back in his chair, massaging the bridge of his nose "Well, I'm fine, it's just that the exam board are introducing a new set of books to study and I'm going through them to decide which ones I'm going to use for my classes. This is the first one I'm going through and it's pretty anticlimactic if you ask me."
"Why?" Cloud frowned before suddenly regretting it as Genesis took in a deep breath.
"Well," he said as he put his bookmark in place and Cloud grabbed the nearest armchair to settle into "There is this young girl who gets lost in the forest and finds a ghost town. She meets a woman there who is in a veil and mourning clothes and introduces herself as Nobody. The woman helps the girl find her way and over the course of the next few years, the girl keeps visiting her to talk and try and find out her name. Eventually she sees the woman's face and when she goes back home, she recognizes the face in one of the windows of her church and finds out that she was known as a martyr that helped evacuate a village to a safe haven before soldiers raided, burned and pillaged the place. As it turns out, Nobody doesn't have a name according to the priest of the church and when the girl returns to visit her again, all she finds are ruins and Nobody is nowhere to be seen."
Cloud hummed as he absorbed the summary and sat back to process it.
"And it's anticlimactic?" he said with a confused frown "Seems like a mind-blowing plot twist there."
"Oh, you're so uneducated," Genesis said in a dramatic tone as he reached out for his pen to jot something down "Plot twists are only climatic if written correctly, you would need to read this to understand just how anticlimactic it is."
He propped his feet up on the footstool before him and relaxed more into the armchair.
"Overall, it's nicely written but so predictable," he continued "It's got a lot of angst in the beginning because it sounds like Nobody has just simply given up on existing and I can imagine my students falling asleep so I'd rather not use this for class."
Cloud felt his mood dampen.
"She gave up on existing?" he murmured "But she's a ghost, isn't she?"
"The ending is ambiguous," he said "It could have been a vision, a delusion or a ghost that the girl conjured up, it's really for the reader to decide."
"What have you decided?"
"A lesson," he said "To teach the young girl who develops depression as she grows up that it's worth existing even if you don't feel like it."
"Deep," Cloud snorted as he stretched his arms out with a yawn "Ugh, I better go shopping, we're running out of things. You need anything?"
"Lubricant," Genesis said as he put his reading glasses on and put 'Nobody in the Windows' away to grab the next book "I'm going to be with Angeal tonight."
Cloud smiled wryly before getting up and heading out of the door.
"Giving up on existing," Cloud murmured under his breath as he sped through the streets "Who would do that?"
His father perhaps? Cloud swallowed the lump in his throat. He didn't remember much about his father but apparently he had committed suicide when he was really young. His mother considered it but didn't go through with it, Tifa had nearly thrown herself off the roo of her home when her mother passed away and he himself actually nearly bled to death as he hit his teenage years. What if his mother hadn't found him in time to take him to the hospital? What if he had been admitted into a psychiatric ward if his mother allowed it? Would he be here now? He would have just been nobody in a grave, only loved by few who would then pass away and the only memory of him would be a cold gravestone with no-one visiting him so he would always be lonely and just rotting in the gr-
Cloud jolted out of his reverie as a pair of hands grabbed his and steered him away from a possible collision. The blonde just let the hands guide him to the kerb and Cloud turned to see a very annoyed Sephiroth behind him.
"How long have you been there?" he asked dumbly and Sephiroth's glare intensified.
"How long have I been here?" he said slowly "Don't you remember? I need to get some things too."
Cloud replayed the conversation in his head and nodded.
"Oh yeah," he murmured as Sephiroth reached around to switch the ignition off.
"Cloud, is something wrong?" he asked and Cloud sighed.
"Sorry, it's just that the book Genesis told me about made me think about when I had depression," he murmured.
Sephiroth clicked his tongue before getting off.
"Shift, I'm driving," he said and Cloud frowned.
"My bike," he said pointedly.
"You nearly got us killed, shift," Sephiroth said as he folded his arms.
Cloud reluctantly shifted up the seat and Sephiroth slid in front to start the ignition and speed away.
"So, depression," Sephiroth said as he and Cloud sat in the café with bags of shopping under their table "What got you so out of it?"
Cloud stirred his latte sheepishly, not meeting his eye.
"What if I had died from my suicide attempt?" he said sullenly "Or if I had been admitted into a psychiatric ward? I might have never met you or any of the others."
Sephiroth sipped his black coffee with a tired look on his face.
"Why are you focusing on hypothetical situations?" he asked "You didn't die, you didn't get admitted, there's no need to be so out of it."
Cloud flinched and hunched his shoulders. Sephiroth sighed as he leaned over to squeeze his hand.
"Cloud, a lot of things could or could have not happened in the past," he said "Being gay could have still been illegal, Zack may have died from a lollipop lodged in his throat, Genesis could have never left his abusive father, Angeal could have become a soldier, but all the things that have happened?"
He squeezed tighter.
"They happened and it was the best chain of events that could have happened," he said soothingly, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles "Because it led you to us."
Cloud blushed as Sephiroth kissed his hand.
"Did Genesis say anything in particular to have you nearly have another collision?" he asked in concern and Cloud sighed.
"There's a character in the book he's been studying who calls herself Nobody," he said "As if she's given up on existing."
Something flickered in Sephiroth's eyes as he parted his lips.
"This book…" he said "is it called 'Nobody in the Windows'?"
Cloud blinked in surprise and nodded which made Sephiroth sit back and smile wistfully.
"I see, I can imagine why Genesis would think that," he murmured and Cloud gave a confused look "Only a reader can interpret the story so differently to the writer."
"Did you write it?" Cloud asked with a befuddled look and Sephiroth laughed, shaking his head.
"Cloud, that woman who calls herself Nobody?" he said "She can only call herself that because nobody knows her real name and eventually she forgot over time. And she can't give up on existing because she exists in the windows of the church."
"How do you know that?" Cloud asked incredulously as Sephiroth lifted his cup to his lips.
"Still, it isn't exactly Genesis's type to read, did he say why he was reading it?" he asked and Cloud huffed at how he was avoiding the questions.
"Apparently the exam board put it up as a book to study for literature," he said and Sephiroth's eyes widened.
Cloud watched as Sephiroth's face softened and he leaned back with a wistful smile.
"I see," he murmured then sipped his coffee.
He caught Cloud's look and sighed.
"Not yet," he said to Cloud's pleading look "I haven't told anyone about the first twenty five years of my life. I'm not ready to say yet."
Cloud looked really cross as he sat back and glared out the window moodily. Sephiroth chuckled at how he looked so much like Zack in that moment.
"We should totally visit the countryside!" Zack said as he bounced on his chair during dinner.
"It would be nice," Angeal nodded as Genesis hummed thoughtfully.
"Inspiration would be nice," the teacher shrugged.
"It would be an awesome road trip!" Zack said as he bounced higher, his excitement heightening his ability "We can listen to Caribou, there will be so much space to run around in and we can totally have a campfire!"
"After what happened the last time?" Genesis snorted "No, I'd rather contract a disease than have my hair get set alight."
"Aw," Zack pouted as his last bounce made him fall to the ground "Ow!"
Angeal and Genesis chuckled as Zack pouted.
"We should go next weekend then," Angeal proposed "I got a new model of car to test."
"That would be so awesome!" Zack cheered as he got back up and bouncing "Hey, Cloud, isn't this exciting?!"
Cloud jumped and nodded on cue which had Angeal and Genesis frowned.
"Everything alright?" Genesis asked and Cloud sighed.
"Sephiroth has been distant since we got back, I think I brought some memories up from his past," he said glumly and Genesis frowned.
"Hm, he took my copy of 'Nobody in the Windows'," he said "Did you recommend it to him or something?"
"I mentioned it," Cloud tilted his head and Zack shrugged.
"Maybe he just needs a nice story before he goes to bed," he said with a soft bounce "Seconds please, Angeal!"
Meanwhile upstairs, Sephiroth clutched onto 'Nobody in the Windows' by A.S. Valentine, curled up on his bed as silent tears went down his cheeks.