Full list of fandoms:
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy
- Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, especially Advent Children Complete
- Final Fantasy VIII
- Kingdom Hearts I
- Dead Fantasy II (for Rinoa)
This story has been modified from its original AO3 version. Explicit sex scenes have been removed.
So much for omniscience.
Apparently, even Cosmos hadn't expected every single one of her representatives to respond to her summons. Which, in turn, meant that the building she'd prepared to house all of them wasn't quite big enough to hold their actual turnout. Squall wouldn't have minded pitching a tent somewhere, to be honest, and he'd have done so except for one small issue: Cosmos' building was the only thing shielded from the corruption of Chaos' minions, located as it was on a completely separate plane of existence only accessible via their teleport crystals. His desire for solitude didn't quite outweigh his desire to survive the night.
Though if his roommate was anything like Selphie, Squall would rather take his chances with the manikins.
There were two weapons racks next to the door, one of them already occupied by a two-handed sword taller than he was, with a series of strangely-shaped holes down the centre. Squall briefly wondered if they were decorative or served some unknown purpose, then decided that he didn't really care.
Then Number Seven walked out of their shared room, and Squall had to do a double-take. Instead of the tall muscular bodybuilder he'd been expecting to see, the blond was even smaller than him. How in the name of Gaia was he able to handle a sword of that size?
Maybe he was overcompensating for something.
Number Seven nodded at him, casually lifted the sword single-handedly with no visible effort as though it weighed no more than a feather, and wandered out of the door presumably in search of some manikins.
He needn't have worried. Number Seven was clearly ex-military, from the way he rolled out of bed at the crack of dawn and immediately dropped into a series of crunches right there on the floor, to the way he absently made his bed with regulation corners. He wasn't an intolerable roommate either; he returned only to eat and sleep, kept the room clean, and generally kept to himself.
It wasn't so bad, Squall decided. He could have ended up with someone much worse, like that kid down the corridor blasting music at 2 a.m.
After a week of that, Number Seven stormed out of their shared room at 3 a.m., and now Squall could sleep undisturbed through the night. He could have kissed the blond for that.
They were getting close to Chaos' stronghold, Squall could tell. The manikins came in bigger and bigger swarms, now, and some of them even had special abilities. But it was nothing they couldn't handle.
When that eventuality happened, the two of them were sitting in a comfortable silence by the fireplace, each with his own whetstone and repair kit, each tending to his own precious weapon. Squall wasn't sure when this silent camaraderie had occurred, only that it did, and that it was now a nightly ritual before bed.
It therefore caught Squall's attention immediately when Number Seven glanced up sharply from his maintenance, fingers pausing in their disassembly of the fusion blade. His head was cocked towards the door and there was a look of concentration on his face, as though listening to something Squall couldn't hear. Without warning, he jumped up from his chair, yanked the door open, and shot out still holding his half-assembled sword.
Squall stared at the abandoned blades scattered carelessly on the table for a moment longer, and then followed suit with his gunblade in hand.
His foot was on the first stair when he finally heard the screams for help coming from – he frowned and tilted his head to better focus – the front lawn, wasn't it? The two of them weren't the only ones to respond, either. All the representatives were charging out of either their respective rooms or the shared common room, wherever they had been, with whatever weapon they had at hand – including, apparently, one of those little cocktail umbrellas.
The woman on the front lawn, with short brown hair and a long blue-and-white gown – one of the two Number Tens, Squall's brain supplied – didn't even look up as they thundered towards her, and it only took a moment for Squall to see why. Her dress was soaked in blood, and she was busy shoving Potions down her partner's throat as fast as she could uncork them with her shaking hands. Number Seven was already by her side, yanking Potions out from her bag, and ripping Number Ten's shirt apart to reveal a truly nasty gaping wound in his abdomen. He folded up the ruined shirt, and immediately set both hands on it, applying pressure on the injury.
The flow of blood didn't seem to be slowing down.
"We need curatives!"
Nobody else had any. A few of the representatives turned and ran for the house, presumably for their Potion supply, but it would take too long. They wouldn't make it in time.
Squall shoved a couple of the slower representatives out of his way, reaching their side in a matter of seconds. Number Seven glanced up at his shout, and then leaned aside without a word to give him space. Squall let Lionheart dangle from one hand now that there was no immediate danger in sight, closed his eyes, and held his other hand in front of his face.
Cosmos had said that magic from their respective worlds wouldn't work, partly due to interference from Chaos, and partly because they didn't have access to the innate pool of magic on their home worlds.
A good thing, then, that Squall carried around his own magical source.
'Lend me your strength, Griever.'
A deep roar reverberated through his mind as Squall drew his hand down his face slowly, but it was like trying to dredge the spell up through molasses. Faint static-like prickles danced down his arm, but they were far fewer than usual, and for a moment Squall was truly afraid that his Curaga might fail. He gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, yanking on the connection between himself and Griever, refusing to let the tenuous spark of magic die out.
Wind rushed through his ears as his Guardian Force unfolded itself from its usual residence within his pendant. Feeling slightly more settled, Squall opened his eyes, and yes, there were the green sparkles this time, scattering down onto Number Ten like a miniature shower of fireworks.
He forced himself to hold the spell for a moment longer, until Number Seven cautiously lifted up the makeshift pressure pad on Number Ten's abdomen to confirm that the wound was no longer gushing blood like a broken pipe. Only then did Squall gratefully let his thread of connection to Griever break.
Almost immediately, he felt his legs give out underneath him, and he bit back a pained groan as his knee slammed into the grass, seeing but not registering the other representatives crowd around Number Ten with more powerful curative items. Movement in the periphery of his vision told him that Number Seven had stood up, and there was a slight pressure on his shoulder as the blond passed, as if someone had squeezed it for a brief moment.
It took him a few more moments to realise that someone was speaking, and only because she clasped his free hand – the one not clinging onto Lionheart – in both of hers.
"Thank you so much," the female Number Ten gushed.
Squall shrugged uncomfortably, and was glad when she let him go after another tearstained expression of gratitude.
By some unspoken signal, the male Number Ten's unconscious body was laid out on the couch in the shared common room, and the other representatives filed into the room.
"Yuna, what happened?"
"We were ambushed by a large group of manikins on our way back," explained Number Ten, taking a seat on the couch next to her fallen partner and drying her eyes with a handkerchief. "They were the new ones, with enhanced strength and reflexes." Several people around the room nodded at her words. So it wasn't just Squall who'd encountered them then. "But they weren't that difficult to defeat, except one of them – when Tidus struck the killing blow, it exploded on him." She held up a piece of shrapnel, slick with blood and about the size of a fist. Examining the woman more closely, Squall realised that her dress was littered with tiny cuts and that some of the blood on her clothes – which he had assumed was entirely her partner's – was probably hers. "I was further away since I'm a ranged fighter, so I managed to avoid most of it, but he – he was right next to it."
The representatives exchanged grim looks.
"I ran into one the other day that could breathe fire," one of them suddenly piped up, and before long everyone was offering up their own experiences with the special manikins.
"I think we should move in groups from now onwards," Number One proposed. Most didn't look very happy about the prospect and there were a few grumbles, but everyone slowly gravitated into pairs or trios.
From across the room, Squall caught Number Seven's eye. The brunet tilted his head a fraction in question, and after a moment's of hesitation the blond nodded, just once.
Only when they retired to their room did Squall have the time to briefly wonder, how did Number Seven hear Number Ten when they were three stories up and facing the wrong side of the house?
He rolled over on his bed.
"Cloud Strife." Number Seven's grip was dry and sure, calloused from years of sword usage, and Squall finally had a name to go with the face.
Within a few days, Chaos too had upped the ante. The standard crystal-like manikins that shattered after a solid blow or two were nearly non-existent now, being replaced by manikins that stood up to basic attacks and spewed a variety of elements from the standard Fire-Thunder-Ice trio to the more exotic Gravity. From almost the moment they left the sanctuary of Cosmos' domain, they were bombarded from all sides, and it soon turned into a quest to survive the day rather than a quest to seek out Chaos.
Two more met Tidus' fate.
Pairs soon turned into quartets, and the average group size grew and grew as the representatives found themselves increasingly pressed to keep up with the never-ending stream of manikins.
All except Cloud and Squall, who left together early each morning and returned each evening, bruised but alive.
That might change today, mused Squall. He was standing back-to-back with Cloud, completely surrounded by manikins as far as the eye could see. There was no way out.
If he was going to die anyway, well.
"So, what's with the size of your sword?"
For a moment, he thought Cloud wasn't going to answer. "It reminds me of a friend." And then, "Why do you need four belts?"
Squall blinked. "For field tourniquets and securing the occasional prisoner," he answered truthfully, and then felt compelled to add, "but mostly for decoration."
Then there was no more time for talking.
Squall darted forwards and ducked under the first manikin, bringing Lionheart up to block the blow from a second, and followed through with the slash to cut off the head of a third. He spun and wove through the crowd, kicking at one that got too close, and sprayed a hail of icy bullets into the masses that bought him several precious seconds to swallow a Hi-Potion.
He didn't know what Cloud was doing behind him, but his instincts – honed by a year of surviving back attacks – never pinged at him. In return, the brunet repaid the favour, not letting a single manikin get past him.
Squall focused for a moment, his gunblade glowing with white energy. He absently kicked away the manikin that tried to take a swipe at him, and then jumped into the air. At the peak of his jump, he spun in a circle, releasing all his stored energy in a directed outwards blast.
In the distance, something exploded.
Cloud ducked automatically as the shockwave passed harmlessly over his head, ruffling blond spikes, and Squall could see him use the momentary respite to charge up his own attack.
He turned back to his own half of the manikins with renewed vigour. Slash. Stab. Shoot. Repeat.
His sense of danger screamed, and Squall spun around just in time to see one of the manikins vanish –
Cloud twisted smoothly around, but he was too late, the manikin was already upon him.
Lionheart barked out, twice.
The blond leapt back and they waited with bated breath, but it dissolved as per normal instead of exploding.
Squall was running towards him the moment the rest of the manikins died, all traces of exhaustion forgotten. Cloud was still standing, which was a good thing, but even from that distance the brunet could see four long gashes where the manikin had raked its nails down Cloud's arm before Squall had managed to destroy it.
"Teleporter," he gasped the moment he got within earshot. One hand reached into his inventory and withdrew an X-Potion, handing it to the other swordsman.
Cloud inclined his head in acceptance, but pushed away the proffered healing item.
Squall frowned at him, just a slight crease of his brow. He'd never seen anyone who turned down curatives, other than zombies. Cloud didn't sport the greenish tinge that was the hallmark of a Zombie spell, but he probably had his own reasons.
The blond looked surprised when Squall didn't insist, and perhaps that was what prompted him to elaborate, a trace of grief within his eyes. "I'm immune to curatives."
"I heal fast," continued Cloud in a quiet voice, letting his injured arm drop to his side. The ghost of a smile flitted across his face. "But I wouldn't say no to a tourniquet, if you like."
Somehow, Squall found the energy to smirk. "If you wanted me to take off my pants, all you had to do was ask."
The next morning, all the scratches – including the bruises Squall was sure he'd left in the middle of the night – were gone.
"Sephiroth," snarled Cloud, and Squall was momentarily taken aback by the venom in his partner's voice. Then he caught sight of Ultimecia, her eyes alight with insanity, and in that moment he understood. It might not have been their will to fight, but fight they would to protect everyone.
They sprang apart.
Like a hundred nights before, Cloud was sitting pensively on his bed when Squall stumbled home from his Destiny Odyssey. For a moment, Squall just stared at him, at the way blond spikes ruffled lightly in the breeze coming through the open window, the way his hands were folded in his lap, the way blue eyes were dimmed in thought.
Then Cloud sighed, rising with a small shake of his head. As he walked closer, Squall realised there was a fleck of blood on his cheek, where the blond must have missed a spot while washing up.
Woodenly, he let Cloud ease Lionheart from unresisting fingers, and without another word deft slim fingers began dissembling the gunblade for maintenance, a hundred nights of watching the same mechanical ritual evidently having rubbed off.
No, no it wouldn't be over until Chaos was dead.
Squall turned around, slowly, for the first time realising that there was a trail of blood on the once-immaculate floor, ending in a puddle at his feet.
They left for Chaos the next day.
Squall suddenly stopped running. Beside him, Cloud skidded to a halt. Through the mouth of the cave, they could see a vast expanse of molten, dripping magma and a platform of tainted obsidian, at the end of which rose a roughly-hewn throne occupied by what could be none other than Chaos himself. Glancing at each other, they exchanged a nod and stepped forth together.
They were going to shape the future.
As they entered, Chaos glared, his wings flaring to either side of him, and leapt from the throne. His gigantic bulk crashed onto the platform, sending seismic ripples across the cavern. As the duo regained their balance, all senses on alert, Chaos clawed the air and snarled wordlessly.
The battle was on.
Almost immediately, four huge pillars of earth shot up from the ground. Cloud leapt to the left, while Squall went right, ending up at opposing ends of the arena. No sense giving Chaos an easy target. The fireballs that instantly followed them were swiftly deflected, Chaos using the return fire to charge up a huge pillar of flame around him.
Before they could get their bearings, they felt a huge suction force dragging them forward. Cloud dodged sideways, sighing in relief as the force dissipated. A flash of energy, however, caused him to turn his head. A field of energy surrounded Lionheart, extending its range, as Squall slammed it into the ground. "Blasting Zone," he growled, successfully negating the suction effects of what Chaos announced as Condemn.
Taking advantage of their momentary distraction, Chaos inhaled deeply, seemingly charging something. A fiery orb appeared before him, wreathed in flames and growing bigger by the second. Cloud charged forward, stabbing Chaos in the stomach before he could finish charging Soul of Oblivion, and leapt into the air to finish the upwards slash for Climhazzard.
He was unprepared for Chaos to suddenly begin spinning, unleashing waves of energy and flinging him into the wall before he could raise his sword to block. Thrown into the wall, his head met the wall with a loud 'crack' as his sword clattered to the ground. Stunned, Cloud could do nothing but blink slowly, feeling the Mako in his veins get to work on the bump on his head.
Squall could only spare him a single glance as the gunblader dashed forward, firing an ice bullet followed by several streams of lightning. The demon retaliated by charging towards him, slashing at Squall and whipping his tail around. Chaos staggered as Squall successfully blocked the tail whip and the brunet took the chance to slash him at close range four times in quick succession, then stabbing upwards and triggering the gunblade three times to send him flying. Chaos recovered just in time in mid-air to be able to land in a backflip, sending a plume of fire along the ground. Busy dodging, Squall pursed his lips angrily as his follow-up magic projectiles went off target.
Noticing Cloud was beginning to get up, Chaos snarled, "Divine Punishment!" and Cloud froze as walls of fire appeared around him. His eyes widened as Chaos appeared above him, a flaming sword in his claws. "I can see the weakness in your heart," he intoned, staring directly at the blond.
In the fleeting second Chaos took his eyes off Squall, the brunet fired a flurry of ice shards, which turned into lightning strikes as they neared Chaos' bulk, stunning him and flinging him downwards. The walls of fire vanished not a second too soon, allowing Cloud to roll out of the way as Chaos came crashing down, executing a three-hit combo that sent Chaos skidding across the arena. Normally Sonic Break was too slow to be effective in battle; however, with backup against a stunned opponent, the amount of power in each strike was deadly.
Before Chaos even landed, Squall was already there, Lionheart poised in an upward swing to send him flying into the air. He then jumped and struck three more times from above, slamming Chaos back into the ground where Cloud was already waiting, First Tsurugi raised. With a mighty swing, a beam of pure energy blasted from the blade along the ground, engulfing Chaos in a massive explosion.
When the smoke cleared, Chaos' gigantic bulk lay prone on the ground.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the two swordsmen were just about to sheathe their blades when their eyes widened in horror. The corpse had vanished, and another Chaos appeared on the throne.
"Manikin!" yelled Squall, the first to realise what was going on.
Cloud cursed, swinging First Tsurugi down again to prepare for another battle, but they were too late.
Caught off-guard, the duo barely dodged as Chaos cried, "Vanish!" and dove from the throne, slamming one clawed foot into the ground to create a fissure on impact. In the next moment he had disappeared, and both automatically looked up as the first manikin of Chaos had only teleported above them.
It nearly proved to be their undoing, as portals instead appeared on the ground and Chaos leapt up from the one closest to Cloud. Squall leapt into the air, intending to charge a counterattack, but Chaos' next teleport took the demon in a spinning lunge directly next to Squall.
Cloud winced slightly in sympathy as the brunet was caught in a point-blank wave of energy much like the one that had knocked him into a wall earlier. Sending a shower of meteors into the air, Cloud watched in satisfaction as one of them slammed into Chaos on its way up, stunning him and rendering him a hapless target for the Meteorain. Before the debris had cleared Cloud was already on him, swooping down and slashing once to knock Chaos up and away.
Chaos kicked off from the wall for added momentum, dashing forward and slashing rapidly, pressing Cloud into defence. On guard, Cloud blocked his claws with the massive First Tsurugi, causing Chaos to stagger.
Seizing his chance, Squall appeared above the demon to deliver a blow, but Chaos disappeared and instead Lionheart met First Tsurugi in a clang of metal. Leaping apart, the duo spotted the portals on the ground this time, and both took to the air to better prepare for his arrival. Chaos appeared swiftly, always diving back underground before any magical attack they sent in his direction could hit, and the next time he appeared beside them.
Hearing the faintest displacement of air, Squall whirled around, his lithe body increasing his speed, and barely blocked the sharp claws heading his way with a howling screech of metal. Upon contact Chaos vanished again, only to appear erratically around the arena, slashing rapidly at the duo whenever he appeared.
Cloud had enough. The next time Chaos materialised beside him, the demon was greeted with a teleporting Cloud, who slashed at him rapidly five times in succession, then leapt above him and dove down for a final strike that knocked him heavily to the ground.
Even as Chaos fell, he spat a slew of fireballs towards them, and learning from round one both chose to dodge instead of deflect. Those precious seconds Chaos gained allowed him to call upon his summon, a dragon of some sort, whose eyes pierced eerily through Cloud and Squall before dissipating.
Immediately, the two of them crashed to the ground, weakened substantially. Even as they struggled up, Chaos was already upon them, slashing rapidly then using waves of energy to prevent the duo from engaging in close combat. When Cloud staggered, Chaos took the chance to backflip in place, sending consecutive plumes of fire along the ground yet again.
Squall dodged towards Chaos, flipping over the plume of fire in an amazing display of aerial acrobatics, and before his feet had touched the ground he was charging at Chaos at high speeds, Lionheart glowing blue behind him. He then ran circles around Chaos, striking him with three slashes to knock him around, then floated above him and stabbed him repeatedly.
Meanwhile, Cloud had also dashed forward. The moment Squall jumped out of the way, he swung his sword thrice in rapid succession, sending Chaos flying on the last hit. By the time the last kanji symbol from the Cross-Slash dissipated, Chaos was lying still on the ground. Wiping sweat from his forehead, Cloud leant on First Tsurugi – good thing the sword was as tall as he was – and turned to congratulate Squall on a job well done.
The words died in his throat as he took in the dawning horror on Squall's face, and Cloud snapped his neck around just in time to see Chaos' corpse disappearing – again – and a new one arise atop the throne like a demented dark phoenix.
The first thing he noticed was that this Chaos was bigger. Much, much bigger. His colours were also mutedly different from before. Squall gave an audible and readied Lionheart again.
Instead of attacking them outright this time, the duo watched, perplexed, as Chaos leapt into the magma around the arena. Cloud muttered a sharp, vindictive curse as Chaos grew to impossible proportions, uttering the words, "Shiver at the power of a God."
This was the real thing, then.
Taking hold of a massive sword formed from the wildly bubbling magma, Chaos swung it down onto the arena, creating an earthquake. As Cloud and Squall fought to keep their footing, Chaos swung his sword across the arena this time, leaving explosions in its wake.
Coughing and spluttering, Squall brought up a hand to shield his watering eyes from the smoke. Cloud's Mako-enhanced eyes worked much better, and he snagged Squall by the arm, barely dragging the brunet out of the way of a wall of fire in time. Cursing again as the smoke cleared somewhat, enough to see Chaos stabbing the sword into the ground and a plume of fire racing across the arena towards them, Cloud pulled Squall into his arms and jumped.
From his vantage point, Cloud was able to discern that Chaos had summoned three more swords, flinging all four into the sides of the arena. Fields of energy appeared on the ground and exploded almost immediately afterwards, sending more shrapnel flying that Squall weakly raised his gunblade to block.
The next few moments passed by in a series of blurs as Cloud used his Mako enhancements to their advantage, crossing the arena in impossible leaps to avoid the fields of energy. He was beginning to wonder why Chaos was just standing in the magma when he disappeared… and reappeared in the centre of the arena in a wave of magma that streamed along the ground.
Hastily dropping Squall – who was, thankfully, now able to hold his own – Cloud guarded against the large fireballs thrown their way. After a pause, a giant fireball met their eyes, and both intelligently chose to dive to either side of it. This was followed by a stream of much smaller fireballs, similar to those they had encountered in previous rounds. As such, Cloud lifted First Tsurugi to deflect them back – until the impact caused him to stagger backwards.
Seizing his chance, Chaos summoned walls of fire around them again, immobilising them temporarily. As the demon teleported above them, a flaming sword in his hands, Cloud recovered enough to jump out of the way of the flaming sword, but Chaos was already charging forward, slashing and whipping.
Trapped within the walls of fire, Squall could do nothing but listen to the sounds of claws meeting steel, his grip tightening on Lionheart. The moment the fire seemed to die out he jumped into the air, ready to come to Cloud's aid, so the sight of Cloud alone with no Chaos in sight took him aback.
The momentary surprise cost him, as Chaos emerged beside him and delivered a blow that sent Squall flying, rolling across the arena. His gunblade fell to the ground as his momentum forced him over the edge, hands barely scrabbling for purchase and halting his motion at the last moment, dangling over the arena platform.
As he strained to pull himself back up, Chaos snarled. "No lion can crawl out of the abyss," the demon declared as he sent three consecutive plumes of fire his way.
Trusting Squall to take care of himself, Cloud rushed in for the kill, delivering three solid blows to Chaos' bulk followed by a jump into the air, spinning around the airborne demon to strike multiple times, knocking him back to the ground.
Chaos landed feet first, creating a fissure on the ground, and instantly disappeared underground again. Having seen this teleportation technique several times, Cloud was ready as the demon emerged from a portal behind him, whirling around and dashing towards Chaos to stab him, then jumping up and slam Chaos down again.
With Chaos stunned, Cloud swung his sword in mid-air, circling the demon to hit multiple times, then appearing underneath Chaos to send him flying across the entire arena towards where he last saw Squall. Right on cue, the brunet appeared above Chaos, spinning towards him to strike him and slammed Chaos downwards, pulling the gunblade's trigger simultaneously.
Chaos tried to summon more fire, but neither swordsman would give him the chance. Unleashing a torrent of bullets, Lionheart flashed blue as Squall slashed Chaos eight times from the back, finally dashing past the demon with supersonic speed as he struck, creating an explosion.
At the same time Cloud performed a three-hit aerial combo on the airborne Chaos, knocking him upwards. He then slashed the demon five times, leapt above him and dove down for a final strike that sent Chaos flying directly into a horizontal ring of orbs where Squall was waiting.
Chaos did not get back up.
They waited with bated breath, but the carcass did not vanish this time.
"Looks like the real thing this time," Cloud murmured, finally letting his exhaustion show when it became apparent that Chaos was really, truly and irrevocably dead.
Squall snorted quietly, head drooping.
A week later, they were finally going home.
A single white feather floated from the sky, landing in Squall's outstretched palm. For some reason, this made the brunet smile. "Maybe one day, we can all go on another journey together." The gunblader glanced around, his eyes coming to rest on Cloud.
Cloud smiled at Squall, causing the other swordsman to smile tentatively back. "Not interested," the blond drawled, raising a hand in farewell as he strode into the flower field, his own teleport crystal in hand.
He missed the twitch of Squall's lips.