Author: 7th fire PM
in a world now peacful with the final defeating blow to shinra a stranger will appear that will shake the very foundation of the planet. the only hope for gaia now is cloud and the members of avalanche. what will happen? read and review. rated m. r&rRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Mystery - Cloud S. & Tifa L. - Chapters: 31 - Words: 189,887 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 07-01-10 - Published: 11-18-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5519145
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As promised this is the last chapter… don't say I didn't warn you… now this is gona be a long one so get ready for a very big scenario to come to a screeching halt.
Without further ado I give you the curtain call.
Son of strife. 'Life… or something like it. 'Ends and means."'
"Ah… damn" cloud was now officially blind. He couldn't see anything and it felt as if the light had burned his eyes from their sockets. "Jenova…"
"It's alright cloud… she's gone… she finally moved on… its me…" the familiar girl's voice rang in his ears but the music it made wasn't clear to him.
"Yes… cloud… you have to hurry… if koty realizes the truth… he won't survive it…"
"What is the truth…? I can't make sense of it myself…" he almost whimpered at the thought of not understanding the situation. "How am I supposed to help…?"
"shh its alright… let's see… how do I put this… the paradox… or what we've been calling the paradox is actually not…"
"The paradox… it's… a demon… from my world… it was created to be a monster of great power…"
"Obviously lives up to its reputation."
"It was already alive… before something terrible happened…"
"It… it killed Denzel's parents…"
"That's how you found him… he was orphaned by the demon…"
"I don't understand… why is that relevant now?"
"Don't you get it…? Denzel is the demons counterpart he is the demon in this world…"
"But don't your counterparts… I dunno… don't they like look… like you…"
"No… they reflect the quality of the soul… Denzel was but a child… and when he grew up he developed a hatred for shinra… in my world… everyone did their part to help things become bad… so the demon hated everything…"
"One day… the demon broke through the barrier between worlds… and it killed Denzel's parents…"
"Then what happened…"
"It spawned a chain of events… that would shake both our worlds…"
"It created koty…"
"So koty… he… he really is a paradox…"
"Yes… and all the events leading up to his life at this point were meant to rectify the distortion that the demon caused…"
"So… it didn't… it wasn't just trying to find a host…"
"no… it's a demon… it needs a physical form to continue to really do what it wants… it stays stuck in the dead world otherwise…"
"But if it's dead wouldn't that correct the distortion?"
"not necessarily… if two people from different realms meet as long as they don't interfere with the fate of the other than the distortion is lifted… but in this case the paradox directly interfered with Denzel… it killed his family… and made him who he is… it defied the great will… and now… koty has been sent to eliminate it… being that it's a demon… being dead doesn't mean its gone… koty is the one who can eliminate it."
"What happens when he does…?"
"I don't know… he's… the only physical paradox to ever exist… but… I fear… that."
"That he's gona die…"
"Yeah… however If Denzel can kill the demon before koty does… perhaps maybe koty can swap places with the demon and live… I don't know… cloud you have to help me…"
"How do you know so much…?"
"Didn't Vincent tell you being dead had a few advantages… now please… please cloud… help him… he can't figure out the truth… if he does… he'll… you don't wana know…"
"Don't need to… I'm gona do… whatever I can…" with that his vision returned to normal and he looked down at his feet. "What."
The area where jenova had just stood was blackened and in its center laid a young female. Blonde hair to match his and pale alabaster displayed naked to the world.
"Who… who is she…" he knelt beside her to try and get a better look at her face.
He was almost startled when her eyes opened to reveal one of a pure deep cerulean and one of a bright amber color.
"Je… jenova?" he looked at her with a quizzical expression as she sat up and looked around. "Jenova is that you."
She didn't respond to him calling her name. She only continued to look around. It was several minutes of her looking around and him ogling at her before he noticed she was actually naked and from what appearances conceived completely clueless as to whom jenova was.
He resolved to figure out what had happened before he noticed her pull her arms around herself and shiver.
"You cold?" this time she found his gaze. "Alright… let's see if we can get you warm." He pulled her close to himself in an attempt to warm her and was surprised at her willingness to comply. "I should give someone a call… maybe they know where we are." Pulling at the pockets of his trousers he found his cell phone. "Damn… not much reception out here… gota hurry…" he looked to his phone book and Tifa's name appeared at its top. "damn… teef… how did it come to this?" he stared at the name knowing full well calling it was useless but also feeling the strong tug that the mere mention of her name gave his heart. "Ill fix this… I'll save you… I promise." He sifted through the phone book a few names before coming to Shelke's "damn… her and Jonah are still in modeohiem… that can't be good Tifa's still there… I think…"
He didn't waste time as he dialed the girl's number. It rang, and rang, and rang. But no one answered. He was about to fear the worst when he heard a male voice come over the line, its tone both gruffly muscular and slightly robotic.
"Hello?" the machine like tone carried concern. "Shelke's not available now…"
"Jonah… its me… cloud…" he sounded both slightly relived that Jonah had made it and yet panicked at shelke being indisposed. "Are you guys okay…?"
"I'm fine… but shelke… we need to get her outa here… the colds gona kill her otherwise… if you could get ahol… f… re...ve..." the signal was breaking up.
"Jonah… Jonah… damn" he closed the phone and thought to himself for a moment before deciding to dial reeve. If anyone could get to them in time the WRO could.
"Tuesti…" reeve answered quickly considering that cloud could barely believe he would answer at all.
"Reeve… its cloud." He returned the greeting with urgency.
"Cloud… what's wrong… you seem upset."
"Not even the word for it… I need you to get a chopper to modeohiem and pick up shelke and Jonah. Don't ask why but also I need you to warn everyone that if they see tifa they need to run."
"What… cloud what's gotten into you…?"
"Reeve!" he cut him short. "I haven't got time to explain this just do as I said…" he was the one cut off this time.
"Oh my gods… zack hurry…"
"I'm sorry cloud… tifa just came through the front door… she's not exactly dressed." He coughed. "And she seems to be injured… zack! Tifa… what's the meaning of this…" loud sounds like screaming and a small struggle echoed over the line.
"Reeve… reeve… REEVE!" The signal went dark and clouds stomach churned at the thought of what had happened. "I gota get to kalm…"
He looked to the girl curled up on his chest and then to the horizon. 'I can't leave shelke and Jonah… isn't there a town I can leave you in… wait… cid… he might have left for rocket town early… I think he said that there was something he had to take care of this week… well its worth a shot.'
The phone again took to its task and rang. It was a few rings later but eventually shera picked up the phone. "Hello… highwind residents. Shera speaking."
"Shera… its cloud… I need to talk to cid."
"Honey what's wrong… has something happened to you… what about tifa and Denzel…"
"Shera please… I need someone to get to modeohiem it's a matter of life and death."
"CID!" there was a pause and then the sound of thumping steps. Cloud could hear the pilot cursing at being called out of bed so early in the morning but he was relieved to know he hadn't been in kalm with the others.
"YO…" the loud burly man had apparently expected someone else.
"Cid… oh thank leviathan… cid I need you to do me a favor."
"Cloud… spiky… is that you, ya chocobos ass."
"Yeah… look I haven't got time to…"
"Now damn it you spike headed moron you better not have run off and left tifa again… I swear I'm gona…"
"Cid… I need you to get to modeohiem… and bring some medical supplies… and whatever you do don't go back to kalm."
"This is serious aint it… what happened cloud… is tifa alright… what about little Denzel. What the hell's goin on?"
"Cid I can't explain but you really need to hurry… Shelke's in some pretty deep trouble… I don't know how long she'll last… you gota move."
"Be there in a flash spikes… wait weren't you with shelke…"
"Long story now please hurry… if you wana figure this out come to the woods after you get shelke… I'll be there try to be quick… we haven't got much time."
"Gotcha cloud… I'll be there in jiff wait… does…"
"CID! MOVE!" his voice was commanding as he hung up the phone.
He then pocketed the device and shuffled his weight so that he could lift the girl into his arms.
"So you got a name?" he looked at her momentarily before starting to walk. She only responded with a nod. "Well… I guess not… but you understand what I'm saying at least… we'll just call you Jenna… it'll work until I can think more easily. I'm sorry but I really don't have any cloths for you… here maybe this'll help."
He set the girl on the ground and plucked his vest like apparatus off. Using the sleeve and a few stray pieces of the armor to make an almost makeshift bikini. Looking at the strange get up he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose in disappointment.
"Wont work against the cold… but maybe it'll keep ya from drawing too much attention… I've gota get you somewhere cid's gona notice us." A few moments later his SOLDIER instincts kicked in and he started carving trees out of the way. After a small clearing had been cut he then did his best to strike a fire before a strangely familiar and almost heartbreaking tone touched his ears.
"Strife… strife!" it was koty's voice. "Cloud… Where are you?" he wasn't angry or even his general monotone he simply sounded concerned. A rare trait that he notice koty rarely indulged in.
"Over here!" cloud was both tense and relieved that the man had returned to him.
"DAD?" Denzel accompanied him.
"Denzel?" he looked in question and an extreme sense of personal relief. "How did you?"
The boy immediately ran to the man. A rare awkward but much appreciated hug came from the younger to cloud as if he half expected him to be an illusion.
"Cloud… I've found you brother…" koty now limped into view.
"Denzel…" he seemed preoccupied and koty smiled at the two before ultimately collapsing. The strange girl stared at the prone man before cloud ran to his side to aid him. "Koty? man you look like death warmed over… are you okay?"
"Cloud… I am… so… sorry…" he labored at the vocalization and a small tear fell from the man's eye.
"Its not your fault… its just fate…"
"But… if… I had only listened…"
"Then we might have all died…"
"But tifa… sister is…"
"She's not dead… just sleeping."
"Dad… what's going on… what happened to mom?" Denzel took a cautious air as he narrowed his eyes.
"Denzel you're not gona believe me."
"Denzel… the ends justify the means…" koty voiced as he stood on shaky legs. "For now… we need to find a way to survive the night…"
"Cids gona pick us up… trust me things are gona work out…"
"Dad… who's she…" Denzel switched the subject to the strangely clad woman to his right.
"Oh… that's… Jenna… she was lost…"
"Why is she wearing your amour…?"
"Long story… now… let's see if we can start a fire… we need to get cid's attention."
Koty's hand on that note took an instant luminescence and he fired a shot of energy at one of the trees cloud had downed.
"Guess that works." Cloud voiced noticing the brush immediately starting to smolder.
"Ill keep it going." Cloud was surprised at Denzel's now more survival apt attitude.
"Alright… now koty… you chill… you need to keep your strength… ill see if cid's gotten to modeohiem yet."
Zack crawled forward noting the fire devouring the building he now inhabited. He crawled towards the blue clad man who seemed unconscious as he tried to vainly call to him.
"Reeve… we… gota move… come on man…" his voice was week until suddenly a soft yet very firm hand helped him to his feet "Aerith?"
"Shh… she didn't see me sneak past her… we have to get out of here." The pink clad woman then lifted reeve to a more wobbly extent before they heard a shrill scream and the sounds of someone firing a gun. "Hurry… Vincent and barret have her distracted but not for long… ahh…"
Vincent was suddenly hurled through the wall beside them and yuffie soon fallowed only just stopped by the gunman's quick reflexes.
"RUN!" the crimson clad Turk then rose firing Cerberus a few times before dodging the flying form of barret. "NOW!"
Drawing to a sharp conclusion I think you all know how this is gona end. Now that we have all the pawns and pieces in play all there is to do is make it work. So here goes the water again.
On to the next one.
Son of strife 'between demons… gods… and men.'
"Jenna… can you speak?" cloud seemed frustrated as he tossed a stray piece of wood into the now decent sized fire. He only received a nod in response. "no go huh… well… this is Denzel… and koty…"
Koty now seemed in a trance like state as he sat in front of the fire and made no attempt to converse where as Denzel looked at the ground in an attempt to hide the rosy tint in his cheeks brought on by his looking at her in her state of fashionable malfunction.
"h...hey…" he stared at the ground before a feminine hand raised his head. She almost seemed concerned before she caught that his eyes tried desperately to look away from her.
She almost seemed to giggle when he looked away. She looked like a teenage girl with a crush but her physique told that she was obviously not one. She even went so far as to kiss his cheek which was obviously uncomfortable.
"Jenna… I think maybe you should leave him alone… he's kina taken" cloud let out a small snigger as he patted Denzel's shoulder.
"have you heard from those in kalm…" koty finally spoke when the silence took over.
"I don't think it's a good idea to go back…" remembering his conversation with Kara's spirit he decided too much information was unadvisable and left koty to his own way of finding out the truth. "I think tifa may have gotten there…"
"if that is so… then it is very unfortunate… I'm sorry cloud… but… I've run out… of ideas… my calculations were not careful enough… they… they were wrong… and you all have paid the price for them."
"just cut it out… what's done is done… now we have to find a way to make things work… that's life… it doesn't unhappen… tifa taught me that… no matter what you do… you can't change the past…"
"you can't… fix what was made to be the way It is…"
"cloud… what did you say…"
"I said you can't fix it if it was meant to be that way…"
"no… before that…"
"you can't change the past… why… what's running through that twisted head of yours now…" cloud inwardly sighed at the look of contemplation on his friends face.
"if I can travel through the dementions… what's stopping me from bending time… could I not use this forsaken armament to bend time… could I not perhaps restore things… to before…?"
"no… haven't we already come to the conclusion that shifting time is a bad thing…"
"out of the question… we can fix the problem at hand… but if you mess with the past… that could make some really serious complications… it may make it worse…"
"understood…" the man looked defeated as he slumped his shoulders.
"koty… I didn't… look… right now we have a small shot where we can actually take this thing out… without killing tifa… but… if we bent the time around… we could wind up making it stronger… then… we wouldn't be able to kill it…"
"sublime." The man's face then illuminated as he stood from his position. "cloud… I think I may have found a way to rid tifa of this nightmare… but it is risky… and takes a great deal of concentrated energy…"
"what… koty… how is this risky…"
"if I can somehow pull the paradox out of her body in a reverse fashion… exorcise it from within her… I can then use this thing to devour it… like all of my other victims… however… in Tifa's state of being… not just anyone can handle her… I would need strength…"
"wait… what's the catch…"
"if I'm wrong… and I unleash that amount of power… tifa… wouldn't be harmed… but the creature would only be minutely damaged… and then I would be vulnerable… however… its also the only option we have…"
"so you mean that its pretty much suicide if you fail… I can't let you do that…"
"as I said unless you want me to try and rip it from her body we have no choice… I must devour the paradox to stop it… it's the only way that could possibly end this…"
Cloud could hear Kara's voice in his ears as he heard koty's last words. 'no… cloud… that would mean…' "koty… you can't…."
"and why not…"
"what if you're wrong about the paradox… what if its not just some freak accident trying to correct itself… what if that's what it wants you to do…?"
"then… I guess the joke would be on me… wouldn't it… but cloud… I have to try… I don't know why but I feel that this arm was for some reason made for this… perhaps…"
"no… I wont allow this… its you and tifa…"
"us or the world… which is more important…"
"cloud… if we allow it to inhabit tifa or that child… it could very well become another of myself… I cannot abide that."
"why… you're not that bad a person…"
"cloud… I am a monster… not human… not demon… not even apparently sentient… I haven't even been given a destiny… the creator never meant for me to live… and that's why this thing is now here…"
"no your wrong…" cloud felt himself almost blow his own cover. "its just another fluke… someone messin with your head…"
"you hide something… what bothers you brother…"
"I'm just worried about tifa… don't worry about this… we'll find a way that doesn't involve suicide…"
"don't lie to me cloud… I'm not an infant… I don't have the naïve handle of a child… you cannot pull my strings so easily… what do you hide from me?"
"koty…" 'Kara… I can't hide… he needs to know…' "koty… you are… you should… how do I say this."
"be… blunt… isn't that how tifa put it?" he almost wore a smile.
"koty… that… it... its between gods… demons … and men… you don't need to fight this thing… if you do…"
"cloud… look at me… I'm pathetic… I waste my life searching for answers to questions I don't even know how to ask… I sulk over a woman who has willingly thrown herself into the arms of death to give me a gift I cannot accept… I… I'm pulled by a girl barely old enough in the mind to contemplate the feelings she rips at my heart with… this is… how can you put it… life… fate… destiny… I am doomed to wonder until death cometh and claim me… why then should I forestall the time it is that I would see her again…"
"shelke… she's a good enough reason I think…"
"shelke is young… and doesn't comprehend…"
"she may look like a kid… but trust me… she's just not very experienced… but she's no child either… she loves you…"
"you toss that word so loosely…"
"I'm a happily married man too… I know what I'm talking about… I may not know much about time streaming… or dementions… but death and love are two things I know very well…"
"but… Kara… how…"
"I don't have time for this… look if you love shelke I'm sure Kara understands… but don't lead her on… if you don't then don't act like you care and fake it… take off the damn mask and show it…" his shout had caught Denzel's attention now as well as Jenna's. "I've had enough of the mope for one life time… you and me and Vincent all mope more that we should… I'm tired of being a mope… sins are forgiven I found it out myself… but for someone to find forgiveness they have to earn it… they have to look to find anything… if you're looking for the answer as to why you're here… then family should be a good start… but I'm not gona sit here and listen to this any longer… we have a demon to slay… and I for one have no time for an emotional romp in the circular pattern of your brain… now if your gona sulk… do it on your time… but regardless of your sentiment koty… you dragged tifa into this mess… and now you're gona help me get her out…. Got it… now knock off the omnipotent BS and help me put a stop to this…"
"but what if I can't…"
"isn't a question of can or can't… some things we just do… now get off your high horse and do it." He was agitated and yet slightly relieved as he walked forward to the heat of the fire "we need to act… not plan… if we can't fight it… then at least we know we tried."
"but charging in without a plan is foolish."
"its also stupid to sit back and wait for something to happen… shinra's dead… and I'm hoping reeve and the other's haven't followed… koty… you're the paradox… that thing that's in tifa created you… that's why I don't want you to fight this thing."
"what… cloud… what do you mean?" he chuckled as if cloud had used dry humor.
"it's a demon… and… it broke the rules… now you're here… you are the paradox…"
"no…" his laughter then shifted to tears as he backed away from the man. "don't tell me that… its… it can't bee..."
"sorry… I know its hard to hear… but…"
"so… everything… I've done… everyone I've loved… its all been… a lie…"
"koty…" he didn't turn around, he had no want to see koty break.
"no…" his tone was shaky at first and then angry "no… I will not abide it… this is a lie… I am not a puppet."
"oh yes you are" sephiroths voice was next to air. "didn't you know it takes a puppet to know one… cloud obviously failed to mention that."
"you…" no time was wasted as koty charged him with full fury. "you…" he commenced to throwing the man before sephiorth spoke again.
"as much as it seems… I am not your enemy…"
"lie… you twist your tongue to burn out our hearts… force feed your lies to the weak…"
"you need strength to contend with miss Lockhart… you need me. Paradox."
There was a moment of silence before koty tossed the man into a nearby tree "do not call me that you cur… I have no patience for you… speak again and clouds blade will be the least of your worries."
"sephiroth." Cloud was now on the offensive as his sword swiftly aimed itself at the silver haired mans neck. "how many times do we really have to kill you?"
"I merely want what's rightfully mine. Don't we all." He laughed sadistically as he stared the swordsman down.
"shut up…" cloud was prepared to run him through again before he disobeyed his command.
"but you need me… who else can tend with your woman while koty is busy dealing with the demon. Our little paradox cannot be in two places at once."
"SILENCE!" koty's claws were now bared as an energy blast obliterated a small clearing to his left. "you speak again and it is you I will consume."
"sephiroth…" clouds anger was already boiling. "this isn't worth my time… I should just kill you but I wana know… what do you propose…"
"ah… now you see your place puppet." He grinned. "I will personally contend with miss Lockhart… and you and our… friend…"
"your no friend of mine." Koty interjected sternly.
"as I was saying… he will deal with our little… 'problem'"
"I can't trust you… you…" cloud pressed the blade to the man's neck trying to hold back the impulse to destroy him.
"we may not be allies… but… we have a common enemy cloud… let us deal with it first… and then I will indulge myself in your sorrow… what say you."
"koty…" cloud was hesitant as he looked at the man who now had ripped the left arm from his trench coat and displayed his arm freely.
"do as you please." He tossed the stray strand of leather aside as he cranked his shoulder "but ill have no part of it."
"no… I can't… you… you should… sephiroth…" his eyes turned cold but before he turned back around the man was gone.
"I think we have an agreement then." Sephiroth now stood feet from Denzel and Jenna as he waved his hand dismissively. "it would seem more though that our friend is slightly too angry to listen to reason. Perhaps you should calm him… who knows what the power of a paradox truly is…"
Koty no slower than the words left his lips moved to mere inches from his face and his clawed hand reached back emulating an attack stance. "for the last time stay your tongue you arrogant ghost… or do I need to siphon your knowledge for myself…"
"koty!" cloud gave him a slightly warning tone.
Without concern for the words of his comrade he stared the other man down. "you… you are one of the reasons that demon is so powerful… you shall be cleansed…" with an angry roar koty plunged his hand into the other's torso and sephiroth laughed in both pain and a twisted sense of pleasure.
"mother… it seems… that at least the world will come to its final chapter… and cloud… hahahahaha…. I will see you in hell…" he seemed to grin as koty's arm twisted violently before his entire body disappeared into nothing.
"Koty! What the hell? We could have used him."
"I… I am sorry…" he looked at his hand now stained with blood and then to the scattered remnants of belts a jacket and gloves that lay on the ground where sephiroth had moments ago dangled helplessly. "he will not bother you again though…" the dry humor didn't catch as he looked down defeated. "so… this is the monster I have become…"
"koty…" cloud watched him as the man lifted the coat lying on the ground and replaced his own with it. "looks like cid's here…" he looked up at the sound of roaring engines and the mechanical whipping of blades through the air. "lets just go."
"go on… I will be with you soon…" koty then walked forward as if to walk away from the landing zone.
"KOTY… WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOIN…" he tried to catch his attention before Jenna pulled at him to move. "koty… I'm sorry you had to find out like this."
Now its out… we have only a few more instillations on this story before the last little bit of hell breaks loose and then the storm will subside to reveal the beauty that I have created… man I have a sick mind… just so you know I'm running out of twists so from here forward its pretty straight up. now onward and upward my friends. To infinity and beyond!
Son of strife. 'out of ammo "the rescue squad" that hurts'
The air ship held a sick discomfort to him now. It was like being in an album with all the people that left him behind still lingering as ghosts in the bowls of the ship forever frozen in plastered smiles and photographic images. 'I hope they're alright…' he was worried for the safety of his friends. 'this is bad… even now… after we've saved the world three times… koty… he killed sephiroth without even blinking… how powerful is he now… if he gets power from souls… and he just kina consumed I guess… sephiroths soul… how much power did he get from him…' the thought was drowned out as he watched Denzel trying his best to communicate with Jenna in a sense that would discourage her from flirting with him.
"no… please leave me alone… I already have a girlfriend… come on… don't do that…" he moved listlessly as she ruffled his hair.
"Jenna… leave'em alone… you know he doesn't like that." It wasn't but seconds after cloud had spoken that the girl came to sit by him noticing his somber mood. "don't worry… its fine."
The look of concern and disdain plastered on her features told him she didn't buy it. She may have been mute but she certainly wasn't def.
"I'm fine… I'm just concerned… that's all…"
A few minutes passed in silence as Denzel read from some note that cloud assumed was from Marlene and Jenna quietly played with the cloths she had acquired after boarding the airship. As time seemed to undulate with less speed than cloud had thought even remotely possible cid entered the room?
"alright… Shelke's been hooked up to the med bay I.V's and Jonah… well… he was hooked into the wall outlet… so I guess they're good… what bout you spiky." The pilot sparked a light on the end of his cigarette as he moved to sit by the swordsmen.
"I need to get to kalm…" he responded with a hint of doom in his voice.
"whoa… wait Jonah told me what happened to tifa… he said she kina beat the crap outa the local wild life and then left in the direction of kalm without even blinkin… what's goin on… before I take my bird in anywhere I need to know what's happenin."
"tifa… she's… possessed… literally… and she's being controlled…. I don't know how else to put this but she's dangerous right now… and I don't think we can just leave the others to tend to her… she might hurt them."
"are you kidden… Tifa's tough as nails granted but I'm not sure if she could win a cat fight with aerith and yuffie gangin up on her much less with the rest of the guy's jumpin'er too…"
"yeah… but I have a feeling koty's gona be heading in that direction… and if he gets in on the action…"
"I see… damn…. This is a tough spot… gota do something thought…" suddenly an alarm rang and red lights could be seen in the hallway. "damn it what's goin on out there." cid pressed the button on the enter com "what's happenin…"
"sir.." a voice came over the line in a panicked tone. "we're under attack!"
"by what damn it."
"spit it out…."
"a girl sir… a naked girl…"
"oh shit…" cloud moaned as he grabbed his sword. "how far from kalm are we?"
"should be right over it by now…." cid fumbled a moment before catching his smoke and standing. "why?"
"Its tifa… I'm gona distract her… you check the area for survivors while I have her attention… and cid… if something happens to me… haul ass…"
"gotcha spikes… now… go getcha girl…"
He made hasted as he ran from room to room throwing open doors and airlocks until he was on the deck. There he could see the damage. Kalm had been destroyed. It was in shambles. It looked like a hurricane had swept through it before a great fire had erupted. 'tifa…' without hesitating he leapt to the ground below his eye's again taking their ebony shade.
"cloud…" cid followed by Denzel ran to the deck where they had moments before seen him jump. "that crazy sonofa bitch… if tifa doesn't kill'em I just might… Denzel… see if you can find anyone down there…"
Denzel gave a nod and when the craft had lowered enough he and a few men piled out in search of the other members of avalanche.
"d…Denzel… over here… boy" a shaky voice called out as a giant steel hand protruded from the rubble. "gimme a hand… I only have one."
"Barret…" he wasted no time making it to the man and having the others brush away the rubble. "barret are you okay?"
"I've been better… but… I dunno bout the others… I think coffin creepa's still goin at it with ya mom… but…" Denzel turned from the man when he felt something grab his leg.
He turned to find a feminine hand covered in blood and soot reaching out for him from beneath the piles of rubble. "you guys fan out and see who you can find. You two help me get them uncovered." Denzel hadn't ever issued orders before but it felt natural to him as if he had done it his whole life.
When they managed to free barret he was almost useless to them. He had a broken leg and his good arm had been dislocated at the shoulder. His metallic hand had been damaged and didn't work properly and he was in and out of consciousness due to head trauma. However that's when Denzel noticed what was underneath him. barret had always been the protective father and perhaps that's why Marlene was there. She was unconscious but also unharmed.
Without even concerning himself with the others who worked steadily on digging out the woman from beside barret Denzel knelt down and shook the girl. After a few shakes and a well placed groan she made it apparent she didn't want to wake up. seeing no other option Denzel turned to assist the others uncover their mystery girl only to be met with the sickening sight of yuffies half dead and limp body being pulled from the rubble.
"yuffie…" he gasped in horror at the large wounds on her belly and legs.
"tell me kid… how bad is it… don't lie… I know I'm gorgeous…" she half joked as she continued to cough in pain.
"Get her to the med bay now…" he watched as the men ran for the airship while towing her on a stretcher behind.
"Marlene… Marlene wake up… looks like I have to carry you." He noticed the others returning one carrying what appeared to be reeve and another assisting red 13 "hey… did you find a man with black hair and a big sword" he pulled one of the others aside and received a nod in affirmation of a no. "what about a girl in a pink dress…"
"I thought I saw a Jane doe leaving the city via the old road she seemed to be assisting a man with a large plate on his back… it could have been them…" the soldier then pointed in the direction of the two before looking at the girl lying on the ground. "what about this one? Is she dead?"
"no… get her to the ship… ill go check on the other two." It was for some reason unknown that the scene became almost deadly silent, and Denzel's honed senses picked up on a strange yet so familiar aura. "mom?"
He turned sharply to his left to be met with clouds form. He had jumped in front of Denzel to block an attack that he half expected to be friendly. "Denzel…" cloud's voice was a demonic roar as he chastised the boy for his lack of haste. "get out of here… run…" scooping up Marlene after noticing the other soldier had fallen he quickly bolted for the far edge of the city.
He would have kept running until his legs gave out, but a half hearted groan mixed with the clicking of an emptied handgun caught his attention. He looked around for the noise and then found Vincent lying in a hole that apparently had been a place of his impact.
"mister valentine… are you alright?" he placed Marlene on the ground beside him and reached his hand down into the hole. "here take my hand."
"I'm… out of ammo… this is… unfortunate…" his shock at his lack of ammunition forced a small laugh out of Denzel before he grabbed the man's hand and hauled him out. "Denzel… it's… nice to see you… have you seen yuffie…" he seemed calm given the circumstances.
"she's not doin so good… what about you?"
"He'll live…" another demons growl alerted him that koty had made his way to the scene.
"sempai!" he turned on his heals almost knocking Vincent back into the crater to embrace his teacher.
"you need not call me that any longer. You have no more to learn from me Denzel."
"you are strong enough… you are worthy… my prodigy… you have learned all that I can teach you…"
"If I may interrupt I think it would be best to move… we're as it stands inhibiting cloud… now let's get out of here" Vincent murmured as he led the charge into the outskirts.
"go with him Denzel… there is much to be done." Koty voiced as he walked back into the direction of the battle.
"what about you?" the boy replied as he lifted Marlene again.
"cloud cannot sustain his battle with her in this state for long… I will… retrieve him… all of you radio in cid and tell him to come to the ruins of edge… there is where we will discuss the battle of battles… now go…" he left without another word and charged into the maw of the battle field.
Deciding it best to listen to his former teacher he followed Vincent out of the city.
It wasn't long before they heard a fairly chipper but obviously whiney voice on the path ahead. "damn it aer… that hurts…" they could only assume the next voice to follow was their beloved flower girl.
"oh stop being such a baby… for a soldier you whine way too much… now hold still." She reprimanded him for something he was doing and automatically both Denzel and Vincent spoke.
"zack" … "zack"
They followed the sound of the irritating argument to a spot of rocks located away from the town. When they finally got to the other side of the large bolder they assumed was where the couple were hiding Vincent tensed.
Steel met steel in a powerful clang but before the gunman could say anything the large buster sword was thrown from the hands of his wielder. "damn… aer run…" zacks words were panicked before he noticed Denzel.
"geez zack… are you trying to kill me…" Denzel joked as he holster his sword. "I thought you and cloud were friends… he really wouldn't like you so well if he saw you trying to kill me ya know."
"whatever… ghn… just don't scare me like that again." He flopped to the ground and placed a hand to his right side.
"you're injured too…"
"yeah… tifa took a bitchy moment and decided to play pin the zack to the wall…"
"as much as I love a good chat shouldn't we radio in to cid now that we've found them…" Vincent again reminded Denzel of the task at hand and the boy complied eagerly as he pulled out a handset that from the appearance of things, he'd been dying to use.
"we've found two survivors… three survivors… one injured I need you guys to come to this location now…" Denzel then pressed a button that allowed a small red light to appear on the device. "they should be here any minute now".
Back in the thick of the battle cloud found himself actually tiring out rather than being bludgeoned to death. He noticed that tifa never seemed to weaken even when he placed a good size blow on her. She seemed to simply snap back into action. And it almost unnerved him to see that even though she could have killed him at any moment she simply didn't. 'she's toying with me… damn… I wont be able to keep up like this…'
A loud roar came from behind him and cloud noticed an intense blue beam fly forward and slam his beloved into a nearby structure. "what the…" his eyes searched for the presence before zeroing in on a figure in the distance. "koty? He came back… but wait… KOTY! GET OUT OF HERE… YOU CANT FIGHT HER!"
Within the time it took cloud to utter the words koty was beside him. "I don't intend to at the moment… we must make a plan… didn't I warn you not to be a fool. Now come… to edge with us." The distortion that followed koty's arrival told cloud he was in for another dimensional ride which also meant another moment of intense nausea. 'oh great… not this again.'
It would be hours before his consciousness would return.
Forgive me for that last instillation… it was rather droll… I apologize… maybe this next one will cheer you up.
Son of strife 'I stand alone "bitter." Feels pretty damn good"
He was slowly woken from his slumber by the mumbling of several men and a familiar face watching over him. it was a girl with flames for hair and deep azure eyes. A voice was ringing in his ears as her lips moved. 'its close… cloud… I don't know how to put this… but I feel like we don't have much time… koty… the great will wants something from him but… It doesn't speak in words… I think even the creator is ignorant of his destiny… things wont be easy… but I feel like maybe… it'll be alright… there's something in him… and you… that even the creator doesn't understand… something… is happening… I feel… like I can rest now…'
"but… koty… how… if you… are you gona…" he couldn't word what he wanted to say. "Kara… he…"
'we'll meet again… and maybe next time… things will work out… it'll be okay cloud… you'll see…'
"is he gona die?"
'you'll see… but for now… you have to wake up… I know its hard… but you need to push through this'
"but… what if… koty… if he… what will happen to tifa…"
'she'll be alright… just trust in him… and in yourself… its not over yet… it seems bad now… but it'll come together soon… now wake up' the girls voice echoed into the darkness as he rose.
"ah… cloud… you're up… its good to see that you can still handle yourself… now… Vincent… ill leave you to explaining our plan of action." Koty spoke as he holstered a large scythe that cloud hadn't noticed before.
"alright… as we're aware… tifa isn't just tifa anymore… that power she has… as koty told me… is unnatural… we can't inflict damage at a distance. And she's too strong to take down in hand to hand. We don't want to kill her… but we need a great deal of strength to hold her. Being as we are short several active members of our party it's a safe bet to say that cloud, zack, and myself are the only ones other than koty himself that could possibly handle her in terms of sheer strength… we need someone to distract her so that koty can extricate the entity that is controlling her… koty cant do both… he needs time to build enough power just to extract it… so us three will do what we can in order to distract or hold her in one spot. If we can… detain her… maybe we can defeat her… cloud… I hate to ask this of you… but if push comes to shove… you and koty are the only ones who could possibly deal with her… if this fails…" he lowered his eyes at the man.
"it'll work…" cloud cranked his neck and shuffled his shoulders.
"let us hope." Vincent then turned to koty. "now… if your calculations are correct it'll take possibly twenty minutes to complete the spell… yes?"
"I need to make a binding circle… with that I can hold at least the demon in one place… if I'm correct that should also keep tifa in a confined area… but I need time and space to create it… you would need to get her somewhere where there is a cleared area… if you cannot ill be forced to clear an area… and that would take more time… ill also need perhaps ten minutes to recite the incantation… this will bind the creature to the circles center… from there we can contain her… then ill need to build power to exorcise the creature…" he spoke clinically cold as he fumbled with the black coat he had taken from clouds nemesis after his demise. "once the demon is removed… I'm sorry cloud… but there is a good chance that the child will die…"
"Its okay… I don't want to hinder you… one life is a lot less than thousands… I… I wont get in the way…" cloud hung his head with his realization. "if that's the price… then… I can live with it."
"so be it… in that case… we will need less worry on your part… I assure you… your loss will not be forgotten."
"now… being stated we need to locate her… cids flying machine… should have a tracking device… ill see if I cannot use my power to locate her… assuming she's still in the ruins of kalm… there should be little to no impediments in finding her… but… being that we have wounded and others on board… we cannot risk flying… I will have to use my power to warp us there… so all of you should rest and prepare for the battle ahead… it'll take quite a bit of stamina to endure both the jump and Tifa's assault… cloud… are you sure…"
"ill deal with it…" he growled as he pushed past koty and towards the airship which sat landed in a small clearing behind the man.
"spike… I'm sorry… bout teef… I know… its hard bud…" cid patted him empathetically as he passed.
"how's shelke…" he stopped before boarding.
"she's gona make it… little chilly… but… she's warming up fast… she'll be up shortly… can't say the same for yuffie… or barret… they got it pretty bad… ha… told that bastard he needed to be careful… old age does dat…"
"what happened to them…"
"barret's banged up but nothing a few medics can't handle… but yuffie… she…kina got the brunt of it… she's not doin so well… broken ribs… lotsa cuts… both legs broken… broke arm… they say she has a minor concussion… but from the looks of it there aint nothing minor about that…"
"yup… zack got a pretty good bruisin but I think he'll live… reeve's out like a light… but he aint hurt much… red… well he got his fur ruffled but he's okay… I think Vince here's the only one who didn't get hurt…"
"alright… what bout Jonah…"
"robo boy's charged up again… doin repair work on barrets hand. Good thing too… my mechanics don't know shit about robotics… and that fucking cyborg knows his shit…"
"alright… what about aerith…"
"a lil shaken up but I think she's fine… Marlene's still sleepin… and… well Denzel's pissed off… but he's cool too… he'll make it."
"good… we may need his help… what about Jenna… she's still onboard?"
"yeah she's givin eye candy to the troops right now… I don't really know about that one… don't talk much does she… where'd ya meet her… I bet Tifa's gona be pissed."
"mister highwind sir…" a soldier wearing medical scrubs approached cid with a deep sense of dread hanging on his words.
"calm down son… what the hell's got ya so ruffled." He spoke as he flicked an ash off of his cigarette.
"miss kisaragi… she's losing too much blood."
"damn…" cloud charged through the port hole of the ship and sprinted to the medical wing to catch a glimpse of the dying girl "yuffie…"
Time slowed down even as Vincent and koty pushed past him. muffled cries and then koty again revealed a cure materia. 'wait… if he does that… no… we can't afford this… but yuffie.' He watched as the green glow of the materia covered Vincent koty and yuffie. 'god please let this work…'
Clouds prayers were in vain as the glow subsided. And yuffies vitals continued to drop. He felt a strong but slender hand on his shoulder when he opened his lips to speak. 'huh…' he turned to see a large cloaked figure that apparently no one else knew about.
"there is more too this tale… to your tale… I will not take this child yet… her destiny lies elsewhere…" a voice careened out from the hood that the figure wore as a whisper yet it shook clouds soul.
"who are you…" he looked up as if he were seeing someone he'd known all his life yet was meeting for the first time.
"some would think me cruel… I am existence child…"
"you're the creator… you… why did you do this…"
"oh… the creator… no… perish the thought… I am all… I am death… I am life… I am time… I am parados prime… I am the writer of destiny…"
"your… the great will…"
"as you would so eagerly put it… but this girl… it isn't her time… nor your woman's… strife… listen well… I have a message for you to deliver… some time from now… there will be a stranger… he will come to you… and you will know him… when you meet him give him this…" the figure handed him a small slip of paper. "you will meet him… in midgar… he will not speak… nor will you know his face… but you will know your target. Now go child… death will not follow you this day."
As cloud looked yuffies vitals were stabilizing and koty lay exhausted on the floor as he heaved from the stress of the action. Vincent was unconscious on the ground next to him and yuffies wounds had sealed themselves up. 'oh thank god… but…' he looked at his hand now holding the paper. 'wonder what it is… well… better not worry the others… now better check on them.'
He moved forward to examine yuffie personally. Her wounds barely left a scar and her breathing was now docile and fluid. She seemed to be in a peaceful sleep. 'guess it worked… phew… gota remember to kick her ass when she gets up…' he placed a hand on his friends head and then turned to kneel over Vincent.
"Vincent… Vincent…" he was out cold. Noting Vincent was not hurt but extremely lulled into unconsciousness he felt his attention drawn to koty.
He turned to the man who sat idly on the floor in an exhausted heap. When he put a hand on his shoulder koty immediately looked up.
For a moment time froze. It was like the rest of the world had been blotted out and in his eyes the endless grey. Cold steel told the story of the sad but profound truth that koty finally realized what he was. In that moment cloud saw the images that would have given nightmares to any normal person. Fires and war. Dead and mutilated corpses forever dancing to the tune of agony. Then his mind began to conjure other images. Koty lying listlessly upon the ground rain flooding the terrain. Vincent on his knees Cerberus aimed forward both reverently and sad. Denzel standing upon the edge of what cliff may have been infinity his hand emitting the same cold incandescent aura koty's often took. And then again they changed. Cloud saw fields of green and skies blue as the color of deep cerulean. And again Denzel standing proudly sword held high overhead as if protecting the bustling city below. The sign above the city read "edge". It took a moment before he also saw himself handing the slip of paper to a man drabbed in a vermillion cloak and a red hood. 'what the…' he saw as the man simply stared. The last image he saw was the vermillion stranger and the sign that read seventh heaven.
Cloud gasped. He had seen fate. He was certain it wasn't flash backs or nightmares. It was most definitely a premonition. But to what his mind couldn't conclude.
"cloud… we may need more time…" koty inhaled sharply as he looked back. "cloud… strife!"
"uh… oh… yeah… just… take a breather… cid… get everyone onboard and take us up… we don't stand a chance on the ground." He mentioned to the pilot as he removed his hand from koty's shoulder. "hey…"
"what is it…" koty's breathing returned to a steady and slow pace as he refocused his gaze.
"its…" 'say it… he needs to know… for me please?' Kara's voice circled his mind. "its gona be alright… okay… bright eyes…" he offered him a heartfelt smile and a hand which he took with what seemed to be relief.
"please cloud… of all the undignified names you could muster why must you call me that?" he whined as he hauled himself up on clouds hand.
"its catchy… what can I say… besides it suits you." He then looked at where koty's gaze had redirected itself. He was watching shelke. "you want to tell her something don't you…"
"Kara's not mad…"
"how would you know?"
"I told you… I see dead people." He scoffed at the phrase as he patted the man's shoulder. "its alright… things… will come together soon… you'll see."
"cloud… I have this feeling… like… someone… like my… my story is coming to an end."
"don't talk like that."
"fate is what you make it."
"what I make it…" he spoke quietly to himself as he walked to the girls bedside. "but… I've never made anything…"
"ill give you two a moment. Come on guys… let's get Vincent a bed and get out of his way… he needs a moment… come on." Cloud ushered the remaining members out of the room and closed the door.
Koty didn't bother to even ask why they had left and simply marked it off as they needed to check the others. He thought about his life up to that point. 'its been a lie… a sham… a charade… what has it all been for… I was never meant to see Kara… I was never meant to meet Jonah… or cloud and tifa… yet… in spite it all I did… and I loved them… what has this life been…' the depressive mood consumed him as he sank next to the fire haired maiden that was shelke. 'when I met you… you were just another acquaintance to me… a marker of another person's story. But now… you've become a glitch that I cannot correct… a rose among my many thorns… I could break you yet you follow me… like… like her… but Kara… she was so… innocent… I sense not that innocence in you… only ignorance of love and kindness…'
"innocence and ignorance run hand in hand though" he spoke not realizing his words. "shelke… I cannot stay… I do not wish to break your heart… no matter how frail it may be… but… if I could… if you would let me and time gave me a second chance… I would show you love… I would be your kindness… but alas… even with all of my power… I'm only a paradox… a doomed creation destined to be my own destruction… if I had half the chance I would have told you before now… but I cannot change the past… I would have risked it all… to love you" he kissed her forehead gently before noticing her eyes open.
"you would… or are you simply mourning over your situation again?" she spoke as if expecting the later.
"no… there is no use in mourning fate… what's done is done… but… I haven't a lot of time… if I could I would… but… I cannot stay…"
"then let me have you for tonight…"
"just say it… once… let me know these feelings aren't one sided… please."
"please." Her face was now mere inches from his and her pulse quickened at the words that loosely painted his tongue.
"I love you… shelke…"
Without a moment's hesitation she slammed her lips into his with what force she could muster and they lost themselves in the moment. For a single moment shelke felt the hollow in her heart from all the years of loneliness filled and in that moment koty felt the purpose in his life, in that moment they both found where they belonged.
He didn't push the kiss but he didn't retreat either. He simply reveled in the moment. Shelke on the other hand pressed hard against her jilted lover and rode him to the ground. Now on the floor she gripped at his clothing his armor almost coming undone by itself as she trailed kisses from his neck to his chest in a possessive manner.
She paused and fumbled with the loose cloth material beneath his armor before finally stripping him of his top guards. His chest was bare and she noticed his lack of color. 'wow he doesn't see a lot of sun…' she marveled however at how the pale skin was drawn over his tight frame. He wasn't like cloud. He wasn't the sexy slender god that her friend was rumored to be. And he obviously didn't hold the dark fascinating facial features of the enigmatic Vincent valentine. His clothing portrayed an ardent fighter whose body was solely devoted to the art of war. But outside of his clothing she observed an alabaster Adonis. He was thicker built than either cloud or Vincent. His muscles taut and firm even as she pressed with fever into his skin. Scars riddled his chest and abdomen and at a good placement shelke could make out that he was never good at being gentle due to his powerful physique.
His cold grey eyes under the powerful sobriety of his facial features portrayed a lion. Not the cunning wolf clouds depicted or even the darkness she had seen in yuffies eyes that night she was 'educated'. In him she saw someone who was protective even at the cost of their own life.
"koty…" she quietly ran her fingertips over the scars on his chest noticing how he trembled ever so slightly as she splayed her fingers over the many various marks. "where did you get all of these…"
"battle…" he whispered quietly as he watched her. "I've lived in war too long not to be marked by its hand."
"oh…" she continued to almost gawk at his appearance. She half expected him to be scrawny and untoned but the bulging muscles that displayed hard chiseled war tempered steel told her that her first impression was far from correct. "your… so beautiful." She noticed his face now a deep shade of red at her comment. "what… you don't think so…"
"I've never stopped to think about it… but if you insist…" he turned his face away from her momentarily.
"look at me… I mean it." She tilted his head back into its former direction. "I love you…"
"shh… just watch…" she began undoing her suit. Gently pulling at the various plates and straps until the armor fell from her body and clattered to the floor unceremoniously. "look at me…"
She undid the zipper that ran the length of her spine so that he could gaze upon her back as she turned around. She made him watch knowing full well why he wouldn't touch her. 'she's… oh my…' he fumbled to capture his hands as they subconsciously moved to touch her neck. 'no… stop…' he reprimanded himself pulling the offensive appendages to their respective sides as she pushed the almost Kevlar material off her shoulders. The suit flopped to her sides and she covered her breasts with one arm while pushing her hair to one side with the other.
"you mind?" she whispered as she motioned to a clasp in the front. "I want to show you but this is in the way."
Quietly complying he reached for the article only pausing momentarily to take in the feel of the skin beneath his fingertips. 'soft… she's…' regaining his posture he undid the clasp and the rest of shelke's suit seemed to glide off as if that particular article had been its focal point.
She maneuvered now to face him. he was without a doubt shocked at this point and the shade of pink that adorned his face was proof.
She was pale. Like she had been that night with yuffie. Only now she was more mature. Her body had almost transformed from the ageing young lady into a refined woman. Her shoulders slender and smooth beneath the faint glow of the dim florescence of the lights above and her hair glowing an intrepid fire. She was definitely a work of pure art. 'shelke…' he let his eyes trace the sultry curve of her hips and breasts and then allowed them to scan her details over. she wasn't obviously a body builder but she was defined enough to know she was strong. However to him she was still small and almost precious looking. He almost pictured a set of white feathered wings and a halo of gold above her head.
Her delicate hands sat idly on her lap where her arms stretched to meet her shoulders. From there his eyes wandered to her face. Her eyes were deep. Cerulean beauty in themselves they captivated him. they told him the story of both a woman and a child. The grace and virtue of a woman with the innocence he had failed to acknowledge. As she spoke he almost mistook her voice for a beautiful lullaby.
"do… do you like… like it…" she stuttered. An uncharacteristic thing for her.
"is this bothering you?" he shied his head away trying to avoid gawking at her.
"no… I want you to see… that… you can hurt me… but… only because I let you… I know what I'm getting myself into… and I don't care…"
"I love you shelke."
"then prove it." She coaxed him onto his back and sat atop of him nude and yet very comfortable in his presence.
"shh… just try to stay quiet."
Outside cloud could make out the faint sounds of heavy breathing and shook his head. 'sure took long enough… well there's a case of the pot calling the kettle black… aint it though' he waged a silent war with himself as he paced the floor anticipating a well placed scream to emerge from the room. Several minutes later he thought to himself again. 'man… are they that quiet or maybe they've passed out… shelke's gona scream any minute… id almost lay money on it.' Anticipating the wild siren of love to echo from the room he was both disappointed and shocked as a topless and red faced koty exited the room.
'damn… he's built…' cloud shook his head after noticing the scratches on his back and shoulders.
"she's a wild one huh?" he teased the somber man who merely scratched the back of his head. "so… did you two…"
"that's none of your business mister strife." Shelkes reprimanding voice caught him as she finished wrapping a sheet around herself. "but if you must know I think you have an answer."
Shelke without another word walked closer to koty placing a kiss on his lips before trailing off to find a cabin.
"like I said… wild one…" he turned to find the hulking man now leaned against the doorframe wearing what seemed to be a look of concentration. "hey…"
"hmm…" he was only occupied enough to look concentrated. "what is it?"
"don't take the jokes offensively… its just… shelke isn't like that with anyone… god knows Vincent tried to make it work… even barret had a few rounds of romance but failed… hell even working with reeve didn't soften those walls. But you… you did… and I think she kina tore yours down too…"
"cloud we have more pressing matters at hand…"
"oh right… well… we can't stay in the air forever so how long will it take you to get your strength back."
"oddly… I feel as though I have it already."
"I know sex makes you feel good… but…"
"no… its not that… while I did enjoy my interaction with shelke… its different… its like… when I was around Kara…"
"Kara was part of a genetic experimentation program known as life bringer… it dealt with being able to spontaneously produce spirit energy… it was started to offset my soul harvesting weapon… but each of the test subjects failed… all except…"
"Kara we know… but… how does that apply now…"
"when I was alone I would constantly have to reap souls in order to retain my strength… but with shelke… its like her body is producing more soul energy than that which is necessary… I don't mean to dispel a moment of magic… but what we… it should have killed her…" he thumbed his chin.
"whoa hold up… I know your big but shelke is a deepground tsviet… I don't think it would be that easy…"
"no… my arm… it should have drained her soul dry from that amount of emotional strain… but… she seems unaffected… and I feel… stronger…"
A light suddenly went off in clouds head. 'is this what she meant when she said she didn't have much time…' "koty… I think we'll just chock it up as good sex and throw the rest out the window… now on to more important things…"
"tifa… she's still out there…"
"yeah… but where?"
"heading… for a mansion… a fare distance from midgar… I see… fire." Koty's eyes turned white and a light breeze whipped down the hall.
"here we go again with the freak factor… what else…"
"I see… a large silo structure… and… Vincent… I see… you… and…"
"I think so… but I am unfamiliar with the terrain…"
"ill worry about it. Alright give the eye's a rest will ya… your creepin me out." He shook the man lightly before looking at him with serious eyes.
"sorry… I know… nibelhiem holds… painful memories…"
"don't remind me… but are you ready for this…"
As if he had triggered a time bomb koty's eyes returned to their normal cold grey and focused on him with determination. "I was made for this…"
"okay then… we have to hurry."
It was a few hours at the very least that Vincent was to slumber. In that time cloud felt it important to discuss the situation to Denzel. The boy took it well considering his confusion on the subject. Jenna in the mean time settled on infatuating a few of the crewmen who had stopped working to take a morning break. The time was barely the wee hours of the morning and none of the crew had much to count for sleep. Cloud with an especially high amount of fatigue pushed himself to stay on his feet.
It would have been an unbearable feet to fight on such a week state of awareness had koty not offered him a cup of coffee.
The man handed cloud the cup of obsidian liquid as if giving him a valued present. Cloud hadn't apparently noticed the child like apprehension behind his friend's actions and went to take a sip when cid warned him of its awry nature.
"whoa spiky… you might wana reconsider that." He prompted the man running his thumb in front of his throat as a precaution.
"huh?" cloud shook his head in a jerky manner of double takes.
"ill give'em credit on his iron stomach when booze in involved… but with this… you might wana slack up…"
"whatever." Cloud was too concerned with the fact that tifa's very life was at stake to care much about the pleasantries of such luxuries as good coffee. 'cant be that bad anyway…' his thought was settled as he ingested a small taste of the dark fluid.
The look on his facial features following brought a snort from cid and a laugh from a few of the crew members watching.
"told ya…" cid cackled triumphantly as he slapped his knee. "makes a good'en don't he."
The liquid that was once suppose to be coffee now took a more menacing role in clouds eyes. "damn…" it was far too strong for clouds liking and he wondered for a second if there were such a thing as caffeine poisoning. 'damn that's bitter… has he ever even drank this stuff before… its like tar…'
He observed koty now downing a cup as if the liquid were a cold soda. 'how the hell… koty… you're a freak…'
"something wrong?" koty hadn't apparently gotten the jest that cid had made about the overly strong brew. "you seem sick."
"nah I'm fine… but… man… koty you're a strange one."
"how so?" he seemed genuinely confused.
"lets leave it at that… so how's Vince… is he gona be up soon… we don't have a lot of time to waste…"
"in a hurry aren't we cloud." Vincent's dark growl nearly scared him into dropping his cup as the man rounded the corner.
"oh god Vince… don't do that."
"you're jumpy lately cloud… its not good for you to push yourself… perhaps we should rest first…"
"do as you please but with or without you I will continue with the mission." Koty's voice was dark and bore such finality that it almost frightened cloud.
"koty… you're like the focal point of this and I think we've established the fact that fighting tifa alone is a bad idea… as much as I would like to say that we should just go ahead and…" cloud was cut short.
"save your spirited talk for the troops cloud… I'm not a soldier… I'm a paradox… this creature… it is nothing more than a parasite… no more no less" he placed his cup on the nearby table. "if my life has been built on the soul purpose that I'm meant to defeat this creature… then with or without you ill complete my focus… so do as you please… I'm stopping this."
"koty… if you get hurt out there…"
"it's a demon cloud… not a god… if it bleeds I can kill it…"
His blunt words made sense but cloud also knew that the phrase didn't apply to the demon as much as it did tifa. "koty… I know we shouldn't… but we have to think of ourselves too… if we're too weak to fight it… then it would have been useless to even bother…"
"I wont sit by and let that thing continue to destroy!" koty's rare outburst of anger put cloud on the defensive and Vincent took a wary stance from behind his crimson confines. "it has ransacked kalm… and brought me into this world… it ended edge… ruined Denzel's life… and mine… it made sure that I was stupid enough to trust in a mad man whom posed as a disciple of god… calculated every step of its actions and deliberately put innocent people in harm's way… and your telling me to give it time… I can stop this… I can end it with my own two hands… and your telling me to spare that which has taken so much… well…" it was rare to hear the man so blunt as he was when he was this furious. "well… fuck you cloud… I'm putting a stop to this… we've developed a plan… and we've come too far to spare this thing any quarter…"
"koty if you fight that thing you're gona die" cloud now returned with his own tirade. "your not just a paradox you're its paradox." he then stepped forward and slammed his cup to the table causing cid to flinch at the sound and the rest of the room to turn head and watch. "without it you cant exist… if you do kill it then you'll have corrected your distortion… that means you'll disappear… I cant allow that."
"that is fate!" it was a battle of will power verses anger "if that is what is meant to happen then so be it… it is the great wills plan… that's my destiny… I have no other purpose…"
"AND WHAT ABOUT SHELKE!" cloud now ran the man to the wall and cid moved forward to calm him only to be stopped by Vincent's patient hand. "doesn't she get to say anything in this… doesn't Denzel… what about tifa…" his anger turned gradually into tears as he subconsciously lifted him from the floor. "what about Vincent and yuffie… what about me…"
"it isn't your problem…" he avoided clouds gaze.
"THE HELL IT ISNT!" cloud landed a hard punch to koty's left jaw before continuing. "your shelke's lover… the only one she's ever really had… Denzel's friend… and my brother… how the hell is it not my problem?"
"cloud… what has been written in history cannot be unwritten… it is fate."
"BULL SHIT!" he clocked the stubborn man again "your just sayin that to make it easier… you don't believe it any more than I do… so drop the crap… I wont let you commit suicide… I wont help either… we'll bind tifa… until we can find a way to deal with it that doesn't involve killing either of you… I wont let you do this…"
"cloud… I appreciate your concern… but… I'm not obedient to you…"
He dropped him at this and turned in an attempt to not punch him again. "koty… don't do it… I cant keep you from trying… but I'm beggin you… please… don't…"
"I cant do that." He was stern in his resolve.
"koty…" cloud reached to his back to find the hilt of his sword. "I love you… you're the closest thing other than zack I've ever had to a brother… but… tifa's life is in danger… if you do this… its dangerous for both of you… I cant stop you from taking your own life… but I wont let you hurt her."
"then I see we are at an impasse again… so be it… I stand alone!" koty then vanished from view and cloud fell to his knees.
"cloud… cloud…" aerith had heard the commotion and turned her head around the corner in order to see what the ruckus was "what's… what's wrong…"
"I cant stop him… not physically… not mentally… I only hope that maybe he comes to his senses…" he cried openly as she cradled his head "I want so bad to help… I want to help him… but its like he doesn't want to be here."
"he knows what he feels is right… if he lets the demon continue to inhabit tifa it could cause some serious problems." She whispered and cooed him as his tears stained her dress. "he's doing what he knows you've done… giving up everything so that everyone else… can have their happy ending…"
"I wish there was a way to get through… I don't think he'll hurt tifa… but… if he dies…"
"shh… don't worry about it… it'll be alright." He almost mistook her voice for Kara's and looked up in confusion. "get yourself together cloud… if you're going to catch up with him… you're gona need your strength."
"thanks aerith…" he dried his eyes and stood again the proud leader of avalanche. "alright… cid… take us to nibelhiem… we've got a paradox to catch…"
"cloud… you sure that's a good idea?" he blew out the puff of smoke he'd been holding for a while as he looked into the deep cerulean of clouds eyes. "I mean… he probably wont be friendly next time we run into him…"
"Vincent… you staying or going." He didn't look up as the crimson man moved forward and ignored cid's warning "its dangerous… for everyone… I could use a pair of eyes to watch over the rest of the crew…"
"so you'd rather go alone…" Vincent spoke coyly as if he knew what was coming.
"no… Denzel… I want him to come with me… but… if he doesn't… ill go it alone… the rest of you don't need to get involved… so when we get there I want you guys back in the air and away from the fray…"
"understood… cloud… what are you planning?"
"I don't plan Vince… I just make this up as I go…"
It was settled the final preparations made and the flight to nibelhiem ahead of them the group settled in for the long haul. It would definitely be the fight of a lifetime and everyone knew what to expect. The worst.
He materialized quickly. He still bore the scent of the fire haired maiden on him and his strength though compromised by emotion was never greater. "tifa… sister… it is time to end this… come forward…" he stood at the base of mount nibel as the woman whom he had appeared across from decended from her presence high in the air.
"long have I dreamt of this moment" the voice that came from her mouth was twisted to a disgusting gurgle. "the day when I would finally look upon death and laugh in its defeat… you were foolish to come here… with this new body… even the angel's of the white city cannot harm me…"
"but I can… demon."
"and what does that make you… a paradox… a blight on the face of creation…"
"silence you parasite…"
"now now temper… you wouldn't want to harm this young lady would you… come indulge me in conversation… I wish to know… how does it feel to have no inhibitions… to know that as long as you have a goal you shall live…"
"how does it feel to know that you will cease to exist…"
"ah now don't be so modest… I know you like the power… the ability to do and take and have as you see fit… I'm interested in hearing how it feels to be a paradox…"
Koty gritted his teeth before saying anything else. "after all the lives I've taken… thinking I would have to atone my sins in hell… I'm going to say… that it feels… pretty damn good!" he lunged forward the infernal glowing with an intense ray of anger.
"tifa…. Hold on baby…. I'm comin" cloud could see smoke and fire coming in the mist up ahead. "koty…. Don't do anything rash….. brother"
This is it. The moment of the final battle. What will happen…. Well…. That is yet to come.
Son of strife. 'Don't lose sight of it "salvation" the exorcism of tifa, Lockhart, strife'
The boy paced the floors of the cabin unsure of the events that would happen should he leave the side of the girl that lay unconscious on the bed. He had been immersed in thought so deeply that he didn't even notice the blonde enter his room.
"Denzel?" clouds voice shook him from his trance as he spoke.
"dad… what's up." he tried to play like he thought things were going well.
"Denzel… I know you probably heard that…"
"well… I wanted to ask you something."
"koty… sempai… he's… gona die isn't he…"
"I don't know…"
"you said he wouldn't exist."
"yeah… but… I don't really know… I'm just thinking out loud."
"you weren't just thinking… you knew…" the child's sharp wits startled him. "its okay… I get it… that's what happens…"
"Denzel… have you ever had a dream…"
"you know… something you really want… something you really care about? Something you'd do anything to accomplish… something you want to protect?"
"maybe… dad… what's wrong."
"just answer the question."
"yeah… Marlene… why."
"okay then… what would you do to protect her?"
"Denzel… I want you to do that…"
"okay… but cloud… dad… what's with this… what gives?" he was silenced as he was embraced by the older man.
"there's a light in you Denzel… son… don't lose sight of it."
He then left the room to allow the boy to ponder what the words meant. He knew koty was destined to be undone on the battlefield that lay before them but despite the horror he knew was going to enshroud him from the loss of his teacher cloud couldn't bring himself to ask for Denzel's help in the process of killing the man.
He had to go alone. There was no other alternative. He couldn't allow the rest of the team to suffer for his lack of better judgment any longer. So sword in tow and battle hardened senses peaked he stepped out ready for the fate he knew would follow with him to the war ahead.
His last goodbyes said to his friends he now stood ready to fight against an unstoppable force and an immovable object.
"cloud… ill always remember what you've done for everyone… just promise me something buddy." Zack rested a reassuring hand on clouds shoulder. "follow your dreams… and protect your honor."
"as SOLDIER right?" cloud shot him a sarcastic smirk.
"as a hero… a father… a husband… and the most bad ass friend on Gaia man." he clapped his hand to the man's back just before they looked forward to see the once again burning nibelhiem.
"I'm gona look ahead to see if I can stop them… I know he's here… so things will get rough… you guys look for survivors." Cloud spoke his eyes becoming the night again.
"will do spikes."
Cloud then jumped from the deck and landed on the ground below with a deafening slam. 'this is it… this time… there's no holding back. They'll both be throwing out power like candy on a holiday float… so I've gota play my cards precisely.'
Not long after he stood did he see koty's flying form wiz past him with blinding speed.
"koty…" he followed as if he suspected where he was that tifa would soon be.
"strife…" the man landed on the ground a few feet from cloud and stood. "distract her… the spell is almost complete. I need you to keep her away from me."
"cloud! Stall her" he shouted as he batted back an attack from the now present woman in question. "I cant fight and cast at the same time."
And the fight was on. Cloud thought he had the upper hand when he landed a good blow on her from the confusion of her attack on koty. However when she rebounded he soon lost his confidence and was thrown to the defensive.
"so father… is this what you wish… you wish to destroy mother yourself…" a sick growl fell from tifa's lips as the demon spoke through her.
"shut up!" clouds rage fueled him to use the sharpened edge to strike the demon. "damn…" he thought he had dealt a fatal blow until he noticed the dark tendrils leaking from tifas now gigantic laceration. They pulled at the flesh that hung loosely from the bone and fused it together without even scarring the woman. "what the hell!"
"you cant hurt me with your toys. I am war…"
"cloud… move!" koty's voice shocked cloud into a dodge roll and he narrowly escaped the blinding light that now shot from the ground and encircled the creature.
"what the hell is that!" he shouted as he looked up and noticed a pentagram now etched in light hanging elegantly in the sky.
"that is the spell cloud… now there is only one thing left to do." Koty heaved as he fell to his knees. "we have to get tifa… to force the creature to yield dominance of the body."
"how the hell are we suppose to do that?"
"she can hear you… call to her… I need time cloud… that spell wont hold if the demon has complete dominance… you have to reach her…"
"reach her but…" he looked forward to the woman who was now writhing on the ground.
"stupid puppet man… you think your magic can save you… nothing can save you… I am god…" the demons voice still echoed with rage. "I will boil your blood in your veins… I will feast upon your bones."
Without giving him time to think her head tossed itself backward and tifa's voice rang out in agony. "CLOUD!"
"tifa?" he ran forward to the sound in an attempt to aid his beloved.
"CLOUD! No …. Stay back….uahhh" her voice again changed to the demon. "what are you doing flesh bag… you are mine…"
"tifa… tifa you have to fight it…"
"shut up… SHUT UP!" she screamed in fear and agony as her voice shifted back and forth between her own and the demons. "foolish meat monkey… I own you… do as I say" "no… shut up… leave me alone…" "you are mine to toy with as I please… now obey."
"tifa baby…" he thought for a moment before the words involuntarily fell from his lips. "tifa… I love you… hold on!"
"CLOUD!" she screamed loudly until the demonic roaring undertone faded and she collapsed to the ground below. "cloud…" he voice though barely a whisper was indeed her own.
Hearing her voice in the amount of pain it was in sent cloud into auto pilot and his feet subconsciously ran to her. "tifa…" he lifted her lifeless form into his arms. "tifa… wake up…"
"c… cloud… you… came for me…" she looked exhausted but for all intents and purposes fine. "ugnnn… its not over… its still in my head… cloud please…"
"tifa?" she shushed him with her hands.
"please make it stop… it hurts… so much…" her voice faded as her eyes took an incandescent aura and her hand lunged up to grasp his throat. "you… hahahaha." The demons voice was now present again. "you thought a mere mortal could defeat me… such a fool."
It choked him as he dangled helplessly from its grasp. 'shit… tifa..' as his vision became blurry he heard koty's voice ring out.
"no… but I can… guhaaaaa." A bright light followed koty's roar and cloud felt himself drop to his knees as the creature was thrown away from him. "cl..cloud… help her…"
He lifted his head to notice koty on his knees and tifa's body several feet away from his position.
"cl…cloud" he voice again whispered to him and he reached his hand towards her. The crawling motion reminded him of the day zack had died. And as it did that day the rain began to fall.
"I'm coming tifa…" he crawled for a few feet until his strength returned and he stood to run.
"cloud… its so cold… where am I… cloud" she was crying as he lifted her again to his own body.
"shh… its okay… ill take care of you…" he stroked her head as she whimpered against his chest.
"what have you done!" the demons voice echoed as cloud looked back to see the same dark entity that had attacked him after zacks resurrection now writhing in the circle of light that tifa had once been trapped in. "I will consume your soul for this!"
"no…." koty was next to speak and cloud was horrified at the scene playing out before him. "I don't think you will… you have broken the law of the great will… and so you shall be punished…"
"koty no… you cant… don't!" he struggled between trying to stop koty and protecting tifa.
"cloud… you've all been too kind to me… I couldn't have asked for better friends… I had hoped things would have been better… but fate as it were is cruel… ill remember your kindness in the afterlife… thank you… brother."
"koty! No!" cloud placed tifa down quickly and ran grabbing his sword in hopes of stopping the coming attack.
To clouds dismay the strike was faster than his feet would allow him to run. And the infernal pierced the creature breaking skin bone and ephemeral muscle to penetrate into the demon with a violent scream of anger. 'no… koty!'
"ahhaaagahhh." The creature screamed and cursed the name of the man "you puppet man… you… paradox… this isn't over… I will return… the worlds shall know pain…" it continued to writhe in agony until its body was completely obliterated by the power held within the man's arm where stray shadows continued to dance in its passing.
"and so…" koty fell to his knees and wavered a moment before crashing on his back to the ground below. "it ends…"
"KOTY!" cloud wasted no time reaching his friend. "koty? Koty speak to me."
"cloud?" his voice was softer than it had been previously. "we… did good?"
"yeah" a stray tear fell from his eye as the realization of what was taking place hit him.
Tiny beads of light like fireflies started flowing from the man's body starting at the tips of his fingers on his left hand.
"dad!" Denzel had arrived at this point and now watched in shock and confusion. "dad… koty? Whats goin on?"
"Denzel…" koty labored the word as he looked over to the boy "come here… I have something for you."
"sempai" the lights went off and a tear rolled down the boy's cheek as he stepped forward to kneel by the man.
"this… is thanatos… my old ally… it was a weapon forged for the hands of death… no mere mortal can wield this… and so I leave it in the hands of my best student… my prodigy… you… take it. And remember your honor… when you wield it… wield it in honor… for If you honor it… it will honor you…"
"thank you sempai…" the tears rolled down his face fluidly as he accepted the weapon. "thank you…" he stood and holstered the weapon with pride before the man spoke again.
"now… go check on your mother… she will be worried for you…" he chuckled as his hand dropped from its former position. "go forth and may the winds of peace be at your back."
"yes sempai…" the boy dried his eyes and walked away head hung low.
"koty… you're…" cloud spoke as he looked at the lights still leaving the man's body.
"it is time… cloud…"
"do me a favor…"
"anything… just name it."
"tell her I… well… you know… the words…"
"ill tell her."
"brother…" the man struggled to make words as his body continued fading. By this time the rest of the group including a very weak but stable yuffie and wheelchair ridden barret had made it to the scene. "remember me… as I was… I am not the monster I've become."
"it feels good… this light… I want to stay awake… but…"
"shh… its okay… you just rest now…" cloud brushed the hair out of the man's face as the lights leaving him consumed his body and left upon the wind that blew through the rain. "good night… little brother…"
At this point he didn't hold the tears back. They fell like the rain around the group. Everyone wore somber looks but none cried as openly as the warrior that sat before them. None knew the grief so well as he that bore it thrice. In that moment he felt alone. Even though friendly faces gathered around him and his love had lived through even the trials of death and time he felt the cost was simply too great.
"cloud…" aerith and zack now stood beside him. "cloud its alright… he's returned to the planet…"
"he's not from here though… I don't think he has…" he tried to joke only receiving more tears in response.
"no… he's with the planet now… I can feel it…" she comforted him slowly by hugging him.
"yeah… didn't you see the light show… he's in a better place now man." zack wrapped an arm around him as he pulled the man from the ground. "now go get to the ship… we'll get tifa… she probably doesn't even know what's going on. Go on… aer ill get teef… you stay with him."
She nodded in aggreeance as she followed the blond man who seemed to almost run while still wiping his tears away.
With a motion from Vincent's cape the rest followed suit and zack fell in shortly after carrying tifa. Denzel however stayed to on the scene a little longer as the rest of the crew left.
"sempai… ill miss you…" he spoke into the wind as the rain died down.
"Denzel…" the voice of his mentor echoed on the winds tongue.
"Denzel… this is also for you…" light poured through the clouds to the ground below where it collected and molded around into the shape of a gauntlet. "this is the remnants of the power of the infernal. It shall reap the souls of your enemies. Take it with you and you shall know power. But the price of such power is steep. With it know that comes also the responsibility of a protector… should you use it with evil intent… its wrath be upon you… now take it. My prodigy. And become the new defender of this world. May this generation be yours. As the old one was mine…" the voice no more Denzel reached for the item and put it on.
Power seemed to surge through him and the sadness that once was the tears for his fallen teacher now seemed to transform into resolution and determination. "ill fix this world… everything that guys like shinra and lithium messed up… ill do it… for Marlene… for cloud and tifa… for you sempai… I'm gona fix it."
With that he left.
I know I've said it a thousand times and this time its true. We're almost done.
Son of strife. 'for you "when we get home"'
"here you just relax." Aerith pushed him to the bed. The last place he wanted to be was now the confines in which he was embedded.
"I don't wana relax."
"too bad. As long as tifa's under the weather zack and I are watching out for you. So just chill out."
"he's dead… not just gone… dead… does anyone but me care…"
"we all care!" that was the first time he could actually hear a form of malice in her voice. "but we're not gona let it consume us… because if we do who's gona take care of you… trust me… tifa's weak from crying… Denzel hasn't spoken and Marlene's crying her eyes out… I know how bad it is for you cloud… but we cant all lie down and quit."
"I'm sorry I shouldn't have yelled."
"no… its okay… I get it… no moping… but he's… if I'd just been fast enough he wouldn't have…"
"oh bah… he would have done it eventually you and I both know that."
"but we could have found a different way."
"cloud… for the millionth time… you cant save everyone… if koty couldn't save himself what makes you think you can."
The conversation was abruptly ended as zack helped a slow walking tifa into the room. Her eyes were glossed with tears and sadness.
"tifa…" he reached out for her as she fell into his arms.
"maybe we should leave 'em alone aer… lets go" zack pulled the flower girl out reluctantly as he left.
"so he's gone…" tifa cried softly into clouds shoulder.
"yeah…" he mentally kicked himself for such short words.
"I cant believe… he left me… without saying goodbye." She bawled into him and he felt his heart sink. "please… please don't leave me again… I cant take anymore… please…."
"I'm not gona leave… I promise… I love you tifa."
With all of the world's tragedy behind him for the moment he held her. For some reason even after all that he had done he felt his story just beginning to write itself. Like a book had been opened and someone had begun writing his name.
'who knows… maybe they'll write about this.' He thought to himself as he allowed a faint glimmer of hope to burn into his soul. 'when we get home… or well when we fix home… I'm gona have a drink… for you bright eyes.'
Well now that's the tip of a very tall iceberg. I know it didn't go over well… but hey I was running out of time and patience to write this. So well… anyway here's the post stuff so maybe we'll come full circle.
Aftermath. 'welcome to seventh heaven. "a new day" care for a few shots'
'its been two years since that day… the last time I saw him… the last time I looked into those eyes… shelke's still mourning slightly but I think she's finally moving on. Denzel just popped the question to Marlene and they're taking a trip to new kalm this weekend. I think this is his way of moving on. The rest of the group save for me and tifa… they've kina… well… they've recovered… but we'll always remember him… that damn freak saved my life… my world even… and still for all things I cant help but come here to mope over him. as I lay this jacket on the ground… I have to wonder… can he see me from out there somewhere… wherever you are… we'll always remember you… bright eyes.' Cloud spoke a silent prayer as he lay the heavy one armed trench coat on the ground next to a stone carved into the shape of a cross. 'hope you find her up there. Know you've gota be missin her.'
"are we done here" Jonah and zack yawned comically as they teased cloud.
"cant you guys take anything seriously?"
"nope… reeve didn't install the mope button on this new body… sorry but I'm all jokes and sarcasm." Jonah now spoke with almost a human tone of voice with his recently rebuilt WRO body.
"someone's gota keep you lively spikes." Zack patted his shoulder as he turned to walk back to the town.
'almost forgot to tell you… they've finished new edge… guess you probably knew that… built right on top of the ruins of nibelhiem… not the best place in the world… but it's a helluva lot better than the bad lands…. Yeah… Vince and yuffie are now getting hitched… though for what reason still isn't clear. She doesn't want to admit it but she cant hide that she's getting round around the middle… I think she's kina pissed that you didn't make it to see the baby. Tifa hasn't wanted to have kids since you died… I think she blames herself… though I think… it was my fault honestly… who knows maybe we'll meet somewhere on the other side… then… we can really mope together huh?'
In new 'edge'.
Tifa was washing the dishes as always. The late nights at the bar did little to tire the hostess. Truth be known there was no reason for her to even wash the dishes but it killed time. And killing time was what she needed.
He was coming home and she wanted to be there when he came in. a simple gesture to be certain, but it was the least she could think to do.
He had seemed to be trying to come in more often now than before but still. After all they had been through it was still uncertain why.
Was it love? Family? Or was it just a place for him to lay his head that didn't consist of rocks and steel. It didn't matter. She was going to be the one to greet his arrival.
When the door finally opened she was greeted with the smiling face and blue eyes of her love and the gawking laughing mugs of the company she refused to acknowledge.
"you're late. Mister strife." She smirked as she tapped her foot on the tiles of the floor.
"sorry… just hangin out with some friends."
"well just make sure you make it back in time next time… I left you some supper on the counter in foyer… don't worry I made sure they spared you some dessert too."
"thanks babe.. you're a doll." He leaned down to give her a kiss and was startled when she threw the towel over her shoulder and walked through the foyer door.
"ooohhh…. Rejected." Zack laughed out loud as he high fived Jonah for effect. "looks like spikes is sleepin on the couch tonight."
"man you got it bad." Jonah rubbed it in before they were silenced by tifa's hand reaching around the door frame and motioning slowly and seductively for cloud to come forward.
"scram guys… I've got some things to attend to." He pushed the men out the front door before adhering to his lover's request.
As he rounded the corner looking for her he noticed her to his right. She was oddly holding a spoon in her mouth and her shirt had been undone from the top to the navel area revealing her no nonsense black bra hidden beneath. Her hair had been swiftly but securely tied into a bun at the top of her head and her hands crossed at the wrists and rested on her hips as she propped against the counter with a sly grin on her face.
"what's with this?" he asked before she sauntered over to him and took the spoon she had been chewing on and shoved it in his mouth.
"I told you they saved you some dessert… well here I am…" she leaned over his shoulder to whisper in his ear as she pulled his shirt collar playfully. "dig in."
If it weren't for the incessant banging against the cabinets zack and Jonah would have assumed cloud had actually sat down to eat dinner in peace. But they knew tifa's wild side always came out around cloud and they gathered at the window trying to get a peek at the couple like two frat boys looking for dirty magazines.
"oooh. Damn spikes." Zack shouted in disappointment as clouds hand quickly reached for the blinds and the shade fell over the window. "well… guess there's nothing to see here… I'm goin home man what about you."
"I gota go charge. Ill just stop at the nearest hotel." Jonah replied as he flipped the panel on his arm open. "gota good six hours left in me."
"just plug yourself in at my place. Aeriths been in a bad mood anyway… so privacy isn't necessary. Come on robo boy."
'oh and one more thing while I'm on it man… before tifa decides to get really wild… Denzel kina took up being the guardian of the badlands… so it looks like he's… your living legacy… I hope he makes you proud as much as he has me… really gona miss ya… brother'
Clouds thoughts slipped from his mourning to his wife's insatiable appetite for affection as he delved into her lips first like a true artist of love.
No one noticed the approaching storm headed for midgar. No one but Vincent valentine.
"Hmmm…" his low voice growled as yuffie repositioned herself on his lap where they sat. on the edge of the rooftops of a certain now refurbished church. "a storm is coming… unusual… its… moving quickly."
"its just a thing of nature babe" she mumbled as she pulled his hand to her swollen belly. "see even she thinks its normal."
"yeah… I wana girl… something wrong with that?" she mocked him with a slight scowl. "if so then tough. I yuffie kisaragi declare it a she until nature proves otherwise."
Thunder clapped and the sound of screaming townspeople could be heard as the rain began to poor. The sudden cloud burst did little to detour the duo on the church roofs but the bustling city around them all clamored to reach the indoor shelters.
"great now I'm all wet… and not in the right way either" yuffie huffed as she wrapped herself in Vincent's cloak.
"be careful what you wish for." Vincent's growl made her shiver as he ran a hand through her hair.
"what's that suppose to mean?"
"I think we already have one testament that no way is entirely the right way." He chuckled as he allowed his gloved hand to glide over her stomach.
"couldn't hurt to make another"
"but I think we'd better wait."
On the street below yuffie observed a man that wore a similar apparatus to Vincent's cloak. The color though was a bright almost pinkish vermilion color and he wore what seemed to be a long brimmed fedora. The man walked with little care for the rain that slammed at his hats visor and his slowly soaking clothing as he entered a convenient store to the left side of the street.
"hey vinny I almost forgot to ask… where the hell did you get this raggedy thing at" she tugged at the cloak for some assurance as to what she meant.
"I don't remember… its just been with me that long."
"there's a guy down there with one almost just like it. Though I don't think the color would compliment you haha…" she teased him as she lifted her head to give him a kiss.
Almost as soon as it came the storm passed and yuffie stretched her arms towards the sky in the fresh air. "we're like soaked… should we go dry off." She panted as she lowered her limbs almost as if asking if she didn't have to.
"its only water… I don't see much need." He reassured her as he leaned back on one arm to brace himself.
With a few well placed kisses and a clever sweep Vincent and yuffie both found themselves on the ground several seconds later. They looked at each other with challenging eyes as if daring one another to make a run for it after they landed. The stare was short lived as the sound of a door squeaking quietly open caught yuffies attention.
The man she had noticed earlier now walked out again carrying what appeared to be a guitar case.
"hey vinny lookit… its that guy I was talkin about."
"its not polite to stare you know" Vincent ruffled her hair as he walked ahead of her only pausing momentarily to watch the other man as he sat down to open the case and retrieve an acoustic guitar from its bowls. "wander what he plans to do now…"
Yuffie ran up to his side to intertwine her arm with Vincent's as the man on the sidewalk began to strike a tune. It was slow and melodic making the fresh smell of rain seem more like a part of the music than the post scent of a storm.
"he's good… maybe we should see if he knows anything else." Yuffie giggled as she tightly hugged the brooding Turks arm.
"scratch that thought looks like we have trouble." Vincent pointed to a group of men walking in the direction of the sidewalk.
"hey… you. Yeah … you the freak with the strings…" the man didn't even look up as one of the obviously hostile thuggish men attempted to acquire his attention. "hey I'm talkin to you punk."
The man didn't respond even as the other grabbed the guitar from his hand. He simply sat as if waiting for something his face hidden by the combination of the cloak and hat that he wore.
"this is our turf… no musicians allowed." The group of men sniggered as their leader tossed the guitar aside. "so get lost." With that they began to walk away.
The man on the sidewalk simply stood up and acquired his instrument. Giving it a few awkward thumps before sitting down to resume his music. This in turn made the others return with vengeance.
"hey!" the man was frustrated at the others lack of concern. "I thought I told you to scram!" he reached for the man's guitar again to toss it only to find that the man had moved it from his reach as if warning him of further action.
The leader of the thuggish group was obviously put off by the man's lack of response and reached again for the guitar only to be pushed back by a firm hand that moved him with little to no effort.
"I think you'd best leave me be." The cloaked man finally spoke and his voice was both a surprising tenor and a tired rumble. "ill do as I like… with or without your consent."
"yuffie… stand behind me. This isn't going to end peacefully… but we don't want to be involved." Vincent whispered as he wrapped his cloak around the woman.
"I don't think I like your attitude buddy" the leader then managed to actually retrieve the man's guitar and with one swift motion smashed the instrument upon the ground, splintering the wood and destroying it. "now if I catch you here again we're gona ouf…." The wind escaped the man as a swift fist registered with his stomach.
"I said leave me be… since you wont abide… ill oblige myself by beating your face in." the man was all but joking as he repetitively pummeled the man before throwing him to the ground. "now… if you wana live… I suggest you leave quickly" he warned the down thug by placing a small bladed device that he had seemingly pulled from nowhere at the man's throat. "oh… and as compensation for my loss… I'm taking this." He reached and extracted the man's wallet before letting him up and examining the contents. "I'm keeping this… I know where you live now… speak to or of me… and you will come to regret it." Releasing his hold on the man the vermillion clad stranger sat idly on the sidewalk once again.
"wow vin… he really kicked that guys ass. Look at'em run. Whoo." Yuffie pumped a fist in victory as the stranger finally took notice of them. "uh oh."
"its fine yuffie… ill protect you." Vincent reached protectively for Cerberus before he heard the roar of a familiar yet so rare instrument of transportation. "cloud… he wasn't supposed to be here till next week… hmm…"
As cloud's pitch steed pulled into view the stranger seemed to give off a vibe of dejavu. Yuffie picked up on it and watched with caution as cloud approached the couple.
"Vince…" it was strange for cloud to be so familiar with anyone much less Vincent valentine. The usual grunts between the two that stood as greetings now turned into an awkward but obviously not resented hug. "its been a while man… hows it been."
"well…" Vincent responded in his own antisocial way by grudgingly patting the man. "but with things in midgar the way they are… id say id most likely wind up moving soon."
"aw.. vinvin…. Why… we've got a sweet set up here." Yuffie stamped the ground with her heel before Vincent spoke again.
"city streets are nowhere to raise a child yuffie… it would be better if we move to corel… or perhaps costa del sol."
The girl's eyes illuminated vibrantly at the thought of costa del sol being their planned destination. "really…"
The Turk grunted in response before looking to the man on the sidewalk to find him cradling the broken pieces of his musical companion.
"aw… I feel bad for 'em." Yuffie whined.
"what happened" clouds inquisitive sentence sparked a puppy face and a few mock sobs from yuffie.
"those jerks just smashed his guitar… like he did anything wrong… if I were him id have shoved my conformer up their.." she was silenced by Vincent's hand over her mouth.
"he apparently didn't have much of a respect for vigilante authority." Vincent rumbled as he released yuffie. "but he handled it well… considering."
"considering what" cloud gave a look of disbelieving Sinicism.
"he didn't leave without… compensation."
"well… what did he do to start it in the first place?"
"nothing out of the ordinary… some people just aren't a fan of music I suppose…" they chatted for a moment unaware that yuffie had left Vincent's watchful gaze to bother the now noiseless musician.
"hiya." She spoke holding out a hand for a friendly shake. The man didn't respond he simply turned his head slightly as if noting to yuffie that he acknowledged her presence. "hey that's not polite. Say something."
"what… cat gotcha tongue?" she was trying to be friendly when the man simply turned back to his original position and looked at the broken wood in his hand. "sorry those guys were jerks… but look at it this way… you can buy a new one from that guys money… man you sure did kick his ass. Ha classic."
"… hmph…" the man responded with a slightly amused snort.
"so… I'm yuffie… that tall spiked headed guy over there's cloud… and the sexy one beside hims vinny… you shouldn't callem that though… he only likes it when I call him that."
"you're… talkative…" the man finally spoke.
"yup. So you gota name…"
"they call me orphan I don't remember my name."
"okay… that's kina strange… so where you from…"
"I don't remember…"
"okay… where do you think you're from…"
"nibelhiem… I think… it was the first place I remember."
"how old are you?"
"I don't remember."
"wow… you're like a chalk board without chalk… damn do you remember anything…"
"not much… only that I woke up in niblehiem one day and managed to find my way here…"
"how long ago was that…."
"I lost count… seems like a few years now though… why"
"well… ya see…. Cloud over there's from nibelhiem…. And Vincent sort of lived there for a while… so… I guess I was just curious."
"yuffie… don't bother him." Vincent's voice finally caught her "cloud… ill see you at the reunion… till then I bid you adieu. Come with me yuffie… I have something I wish to show you."
"well nice talkin to ya orphan… ill see ya round."
the man simply waved as the two walked away leaving the blonde and the vermillion stranger behind.
"sorry about that… she's… hyper sometimes." Cloud apologized as he walked forward heading to the door of the storefront. "names cloud… cloud strife…" he held out a hand which the stranger seemed to stare at. "what…"
"why do you do that?"
The man held a hand out in mock of clouds "its so… strange… why?"
As the man rose to his feet cloud realized how tall he really was. He almost towered over the blonde by nearly a foot. "um… right… so why're you out here?" he asked only to receive a turn of the head from the man in the direction of the guitar case on the ground. "oh… so you play?"
The fact that he couldn't see the man's face bothered him. but after hanging around Vincent he had grown accustom to the lacking in conversation and could easily figure out answers without needing words.
"well… if you need some work… I can tell you need a little spare change… my wife runs a bar in new edge… where nibelhiem use to be… if you feel like it… we can let you play there… promise we wont smash your stuff…"
"well… um…" cloud patted himself down for something to write with finding only a folded up slip of paper and a few spare nuts and bolts following his keys. "well lets go inside ill write it down."
He opened the door to step into the shop before noticing the paper. It was blank. It had no writing no symbols it looked simply like a piece of average paper. However when he looked closer he noticed a piece of scripture on it that brought back memories.
'though the morrow is barren of promises nothing shall forestall my return.' The inscription was written with an expert hand and he assumed he had torn it from a book earlier. It was the same quote that koty had often used when he was alive .
'damn… as if I wasn't already havin problembs this week… oh well… this'll work for an address… ill just find the book later.' He snagged a pen from the clerk, who hadn't even been aware of their presence until clouds hand snaked its way into his shirt pocket, and began jotting he address.
"here… if you cant find it try heading to mount nibel. There should be a town close by… if you find the town ask for Tifa Strife… the townspeople should know where to point you." Cloud handed him the paper and the man reached with a hesitant hand to receive. "hey…" cloud finally caught his eyes "do I know you from somewhere?"
The man's vibrant but also very chilling luminescent grey eyes flickered with both surprise and a sense of guilt that could also pass for disappointment. "I don't think so… do I know you?"
"hmmm… must just be my head playing tricks on me…" his voice was barely a whisper as he shook off a vague hope.
"beg your pardon."
"never mind… maybe it's the get up… you remind me a lot of Vincent with that thing on. Anyway ill see ya around… I gota roll… I have to find an inn for the evening before they all get piled." He sighed as he slapped the paper into the man's hand only stopping for a moment to acknowledge the déjà vu.
The feeling was apparently mutual as the stranger looked onward to find clouds distant mind wandering. "something wrong…"
"na… I'm just tired… well… see ya round." He waved the man off with a dismissive hand before walking out.
"hmmm" the man looked down at the strip of paper and read its text aloud but to himself. "seventh heaven… new edge… foster street…hmm?" he noticed below clouds messy writing a neat inscription. "Though the morrow is barren of promises… nothing shall forestall my return…" it was like a light had been turned on and suddenly a name came to him out of the blue. "D…Denzel… is… that my…"
"hey buddy you okay?" the store clerk was getting suspicious and he turned around slowly to acquire something before the man's answer. "cause you sound rather bummed out… if ya don't mind me sayin there's this lovely place downtown and… what the" by the time he turned around the man was gone. "damn… lost another one…"
Two months later.
"den… why don't we go back. Its getting cold out here." Marlene nestled against Denzel's shoulder in an effort to acquire his heat. "and clouds gona get worried if we're out much longer… we don't want him spying on us again do we?"
"he's just cautious. He still likes to feel like good ole dad every now and then… but yeah I guess your right… oh by the way aerith called yesterday… her and zack are comin too… so the only one out of the loop is… red I think… reeve said he wasn't gona be able to make it…"he sighed contentedly as he lifted her bridal style.
"wonder why." She didn't object to the embrace but instead curled up into his arms with a secured look of questioning.
"said something about the WRO doing an operation in the bad lands. They're on bandit duty apparently and now reeve's had enough. He's sending in a small battalion… maybe that'll at least bust up some of the overly zealous raiding they've been up to."
"maybe… oh by the way daddy said for me to tell you to watch your hands so get them out of my skirt mister strife." She teased as she nudged him with her head. "that's for later and you know it."
"oh the anticipation!" he mused to himself with a look of mock longing on his face.
"you know I like to tease."
The walk home was the same as always save for the fact of the coming storm in the distance. It wouldn't be there before he reached home but Denzel knew that rain this time of year for the location was strange. Something about it made him giddy. 'why would it rain now? Maybe all this is some freak natural occurrence… like El Niño or somethin like that… oh well… guess we'll have the reunion inside huh?'
It would be another two days before the reunion and to Denzel's surprise the rain hadn't begun to fall at all. 'maybe its just a cloud'
Two days later.
"alright everybody listen up. that means you two in the back. Yeah cloud I mean you ya sorry chocobo's ass" cids boisterous voice echoed over the crowd to calm the group of chatting adventurers " now I know its been like some… what… few decades almost… and these old bones lost count way back when this was all suppose to end. But we all know there were a lot of lives lost and we all know why… so I'm gona ask yall for a moment of silence for some of the greatest people to ever walk the face of Gaia. We wont forget them and even if we cant bring'em back we can still respect 'em enough to shut yer traps for a moment."
All nodded in agreement at the statement and most bowed their heads. No one seemed too concerned with the rain that poured mercilessly downward outside. They all seemed too caught up in memories and friendly jargon.
However outside more than a storm approached.
"thanks cid." Cloud nodded as he stepped up for his turn to speak. "hey guys good to see you all safe again… cant tell you how much I've missed you all… s'been quiet… specially without zack and yuffie's constant nagging… you know I love you guys… and I'm sorry that this is the only way that we can all manage to gather… but… you know what… it's a party… so tonight against tifa's advice… drinks on me."
They all cheered and carried on as if someone had won a grand competition until a knock came at the door.
"ill get it." Tifa rose to her feet with the air of a diligent hostess. "maybe reeve decided to come after all."
She almost ran to the door expecting to see the world's most successful urban development engineer but when she opened the threshold she found herself disappointed. "sorry we're closed" she spoke to the vermillion clad stranger that stood on the doorstep apparently soaked in the rain that tormented the town. "buy your drinks elsewhere."
"hmm" the man seemed to scoff at her as he held out a small envelope. "here…" his voice was though not deep very gruff as if he hadn't used it a lot.
"what?" she opened the envelope without even closing the door. "so… it's a street address with my…" the inscription on the paper that lay within the envelope caught her eye as cloud walked up behind her "hey… who the hell are you and what are you doing here?"
"tifa relax… I know the guy." Cloud pushed her inside. "go hang with the others for a moment."
"cloud!" she was obviously irritated with the man's intrusion but more so at clouds dismissive behavior.
"ill take care of it… you just go have fun." When she stormed off he returned his attention to the man on the other side. "look man… we're kina busy… I know I told you there would be work here but I don't think now's a good time."
"I see… ill be in town then." He turned without hesitation as he started to leave but clouds guilty conscience was kicking in at his own actions.
"hey wait… you got your stuff? We cant really pay you… but… look if you'll help out with the party tonight… we can give ya a place to stay… I know there isn't an inn for some three miles… and id really hate myself in the morning if I let you go out there and get yourself hurt or worse trying to rough it in the mountain range… so ill give ya a hand but try not to draw too much attention."
"…" the man nodded but then pulled at his cloak an hat for reference "what you see is what you get… sorry… but… I'm sort of short on worldly possessions."
"alright… that just means less to worry about… hmmm. So you got a name… their gona ask if I don't introduce you and trust me some of them… they're… colorful. Trust me yuffie was the least of your problems."
"I… I am orphan…"
"no seriously we're not gona kill you what's your name?"
"I don't… have a name…"
"what?" cloud was alarmed to say the least. He had met orphans before but never one who couldn't remember their name. "how do you not have a name?"
"I… some two and a half years ago… I woke up… in nibelhiem… and… somehow found my way to midgar… I lived in midgar for a time… some three months and then I left and went to junon… in junon they called me orphan… so I'm sorry… but that's all I know…"
"alright… what's your best friends name…"
The man shook his head to alert cloud that friends were something he had a short supply of.
"alright… well I guess you don't have any parents that you know of… so … well orphan it is…"
Nodding in affirmation he followed cloud inside before tifa stopped them.
"oh no… no outsiders please leave." She placed her hand out and began pushing him out the door.
"tifa he's playing bartender tonight… you're takin a load off… so he stays." Cloud pulled her aside.
"no… you work too hard to be like this today… consider it an early birthday present…"
"cloud its months from my birthday… come on he's not one of us its just not right…"
"tifa… he hasn't got anywhere else to go… he doesn't own anything… no family no friends… and from the looks of it no money either… if we let him leave he'll have to travel damn near all the way across the valley to find an inn… its late… its raining and he said he'd help… so what could it hurt?"
"here you go playing hero again… okay okay... I wont make a fuss… but if he brakes something or starts a fight I'm going to kick both of your asses…"
"alright… we can handle that I believe… orphan, tifa… tifa, orphan."
"that's not funny cloud that hurt." She looked insulted.
"no that's… kina his name… weird I know… but that's what they call him."
"hmm…" he grunted in acknowledgment.
"hi…" she shot him a confused look before noticing his dripping form. "look… I don't mean to be a bitch… its just been a long day… just leave your hat and stuff out here to dry and ill see you in the bar… come on cloud .zack said he wanted to talk to you when you get the time and I think we need to get back to the group now anyway… and you" she turned back to the stranger. "you break it you buy it… clear?"
"crystal." He rumbled as he tipped his hat in reverence.
"okay… lets go baby." She pulled cloud from his position and he nodded at the man before following her.
Once they reached the main room they noticed zack sitting in the corner huddled against something massive that had been sitting there unnoticed by the rest of the group for some time. The object had been covered with a white tarp and tifa had assumed it to be some sort of sofa or large couch. However zack had refused to tell them what it was or unveil it until the festivities had commenced.
"alright we're back. Now what's going on?" tifa hummed almost exhaustedly as they all turned to meet their comrades "what? Why are you all starring… I didn't kill anyone… don't look at me like that."
"well we were kina waiting for this for a while. We all took time to pitch in and do something nice for you guys… first off this one's for you teef." Zack pulled out something from behind the tarp. "we thought since you always kina disliked the thought of being stuck here we'd get you a little something. We couldn't bring it in here but we found a place to put it in the garage… lets go take a look." He tossed her a small box that seemed to rattle with its loose content. "don't open it till later… now lets go…"
The group hefted themselves from their positions and followed zack. He was first to make it there and before cloud came in zack spoke to him "now spikes we kina had to move fenrir… no offense but it was too big and we needed to make room."
"zack…" cloud shook his head exasperatedly. "where'd you put it?"
"its dry… don't worry." He then flipped the switch on the wall and pulled tifa inside.
There in the center of the room was something huge covered in a blue tarp similar to the one in the man room.
"zack what the hell is in there?" she shot him a quick glance. "that things huge!"
"go on… me aer and cid kina found it lying around and thought you could use it… yuffie and barret helped throw in a little money… shelke made the plans to have it shipped. Red made sure you didn't see it and Den and marls kept you distracted. So we kina all had our part… Vincent's job you have to see to believe… go on… take a peek."
She shook her head disdainfully and grabbed the cover. Yanking the thick plastic sheet back she was struck first by the blinding red and black barrage that was a new car. "you guys… this is too much…"
The sleek sports car bore a red body with black etchings over the doors and hood. The seats boasted a fine leather and tires sported a chrome that shimmered like a disco ball.
"vinny did the detail work… it didn't originally have all the design stuff on it… I wouldn't have taken him for an artist but damn he's just fulla surprises." Zack chirped. "so you like it?"
She didn't speak only stood and stared for a moment. She would have reprimanded them if she had the words but she knew she couldn't be mad at their kindness. "thank you… but this is too much."
"no its not… you guys are constantly bustin your asses for everyone but yourself teefs… besides you guys needed it and it wasn't like we do." cid barked as he released a vaporous breath from the drag he had taken prior.
"we love ya coconuts!" yuffies death grip hug threatened to strangle her and she welcomed it openly.
"now I know you think we've forgotten about you spikes so now its your turn… come on… there's nothing we can do right now with this so tifa… in the box are the keys and a few extra odds and ends… like I dunno… vacation tickets and that kina stuff…" zack chimed before finding himself in a hug of his own from the fighter "yeah I know… aint I just so cuddly… but seriously… now for spiky… back to the living room" he shouted in the voice of a ring announcer as he bounced back through the door in his trademark hyper puppy style.
Again the room was filled with the groups chattering as zack held a prideful stance over the tarp covered mass that sat in the corner.
"alrighty spikes… I've seen you riding around out there in the muck and the yuck so long I decided I've had enough of looking at fenrirs old post modern body. So I stole it… yeah I know boo. Evil zack. But just take this as an apology for robbing ya of your only claim to manliness after that dress incident." He reached around quickly to grab the tarp but before ripping it off he tossed cloud what appeared to be a set of keys. "that is probably gona look familiar."
Indeed it did look familiar. It was fenrir's old key with a wolf emblem keychain attached to it.
"what the hell?" cloud took a double take at the keys "zack…"
"say no more I know the suspense is killing ya" he didn't speak another word before yanking off the tarp to reveal a revitalized fenrir.
"ghua" cloud gapped his mouth open for a moment as he looked the machine over.
Its paintjob had been altered to look like tifa's car and on its plates was a collective sketch than if looked at from the front resembled his wolf's emblem. It had been polished to a mirror sheen and all of its attachments had been refurbished. Even the small piece that had previously been missing from its front guard had been restored.
"you guys…" a small tear made its way to his cheek. "I don't know what to say…"
"generally one says thank you to gifts" Vincent interrupted. "or am I mistaken."
The group looked on at cloud before they heard a thud that sounded like someone had fallen down.
"tifa!" yuffie shrieked as she knelt by the fighter "coconuts… come on girl speak to me… what's wrong…"
When they heard boots thumping against the floor they all turned to see a sight that baffled them.
In the door way to the hall stood a man. large build. Mid length wild blond spikes coating his head. Powerful muscular features and a feral sense of aggression that stayed plastered to his face even through his obvious concern. But even this didn't shock them as much as the cold steel that was his eyes.
"no way…" cloud almost shook in disbelief.
"how in all the hell's o ifrit?" cid and barret both gawked in fascination.
"oh my god…" aerith gasped as she looked at him. "it cant be… can it?"
"hmmm…" Vincent seemed cautious. "how…"
"s..sem… sempai…" Denzel stuttered as he looked at the man.
"why are you all staring at me… that woman is injured…" he knelt beside tifa even after the rest had ignored his words. "we should have her checked into a hospital… does this happen often?"
Slowly she opened her eyes and he allowed a sigh of relief to fall from his lips as he noticed her returned consciousness.
"are you allright?" he focused himself as he waved a hand in front of her. "are you damaged?"
"k..k…." she failed to speak but she was making an effort.
"what's wrong… is there something you're trying to tell me?... take it slowly."
"koty?" she barely managed a whisper but the word hit the man like a train.
Like someone had turned on the lights in a large room he stood up and looked around scanning faces and scenery. Lingering on concerned eyes and baffled expressions.
"what did you call me…" he looked back at tifa.
"little… little brother?" she began to cry and something struck him.
"koty… that's… my… I remember…" he fell to his knees and cradled tifa lovingly in his arms. "how could I have forgotten… but… how… tifa…"
"koty… is that you?" cloud interrupted as he moved forward.
"I remember you… and I remember you…" he looked from shelke to cloud and then to yuffie "and I remember you… but…" he then looked at Vincent. "you're the first thing I remember… where did I meet you…"
"sometimes knowledge is a painful thing… you're not meant to know somethings… somethings are not questions… we don't need to know why… there is no need to know why when or where… only that things are the way they are." Shelke spoke now completely out of the blue and her voice shocked the rest of the group as its general monotone failed to appear. "you don't need to know… not this time… you've been given a second chance… that's all you need to know." With that she silenced and closed her eyes momentarily. "huh? Why are you all staring at me… koty?"
"shelke… I… I don't know what's going on… I feel like… I need to do something."
"no… not anymore you don't… you've played hero and villain and god long enough…" tifa lurched up to hug him. "now your back… all you need to do is stay."
There was a long moment of pause and a few smiles passed around. But the smiles soon faded into laughter memories and the ideal that maybe for just once that the fighting was over. that the end of the world had come to an end. For that instant even in clouds muddled mind everything was right where it was suppose to be.
Two hours later.
"so why exactly wont you tell me what happened before I met you…" koty drilled Vincent for the thousandth time on the subject.
"cause we don't know… that was just it… you ran away and we found you… what you did we don't know… nor do we care to know." The somber man replied. It was a lie and he knew it. But he swore to tifa he wouldn't tell him what had actually taken place.
"but how would I have survived a bomb attack?" he was different from what they knew. He was blunt. He was still curious to the world but his speaking had improved. He was still undeniably strong unrealistically brutal with his thought process and a child at heart. But now he was truly free of his past. And even Vincent knew what joy that brought. "I mean… that's just not human…"
"you were always different… bright eyes."
"doesn't matter what happened… we're all here and we're all safe… but I do have one question." Tifa interrupted with a hint of doom on her voice. "do you know what a paradox is?"
"well duh… even a fifth grader knows what a paradox is… its where something from the future meets itself or interferes with the past… why" he spoke jovially as he took a bite out of the apple he had acquired earlier.
"do you know what a Grimm paradox is."
"why do you guys call me bright eyes…"
"you don't like it?"
"not particularly… it just makes me itch the wrong way for some reason… like its more of an insult than a nickname."
"its just what everyone use to call you before your amnesia."
"and why all this paradox stuff… I killed a demon I know… and I apparently saved the world… then… I died I guess… before all that happened I don't remember a thing…"
"you ran away to join SOLDIER… and then… we found you… after that… well its hard but you should just try to piece it together." Cloud tossed his bottle into the nearby bin. After a few rounds everyone else had given up the ghost. All except Vincent cloud zack tifa, and koty.
"SOLDIER huh?... well did I make it at least?" koty tossed the core of his apple to follow clouds bottle.
"take a look at your eyes… that's why we call you bright eyes… so why don't you tell me?"
"oh… well.. I never noticed before… just didn't cross my mind I guess… well since all of the shira line is dead and no ones to inherit the power chain… then I guess its over."
"I hope so… I've had enough of being a hero…" zack snorted sarcastically "ya know when I was a kid that was my dream… now… its just… meh…"
"I just hope that we can keep the world safe from the next crisis."
"we will… and when it comes we can pass out tickets to the show." Cloud stood up and for once took a comical approach as he waved his hands around like a circus leader "welcome to the fifth annual end of the world celebration."
"that's kina funny" Vincent snorted amongst the laughs falling from zack and tifa's feminine chuckles.
"but what now…" koty broke the comedy with a somber question "what do we do now that its over?"
"well… now we just sit back and enjoy the ride…" tifa hugged him as she spoke. "I'm so glad you're home…"
'you know… we cant tell him what really happened… don't know why he's here… or how all this mess even got started anymore… and at first I wanted to kill him… and when he died… I wanted to kiss him… hell I think at one time I did… but that's neither here nor there… cause now… all of this is behind us… I've learned from experience that sins are forgiven… and now I know that to be forgiven you have to forgive… I've also learned that no matter who you are… your past isn't relevant… we aren't what we've done in the past… or what we've lost or gained… we are what we want to be here and now… you cant fight fate… but you can create destiny… I once said someone should write a book on this… well… I guess I'd better get a pen and a pad…
Hey… you know what… let me tell you a story… I think you'll like it… its about a man… we'll call him… bright eyes.'