Today was the day - Cloud returned to Shinra HQ to take his test for the 1st Class SOLDIER program. It would be personally administered by the Great Sephiroth. He was nervous. Zack - the General's second-in-command - had told him not to be nervous. Nervousness was the reason so many people failed.

But Zack didn't understand. It was the Sephiroth. Cloud had spent most his childhood admiring Sephiroth. When Cloud was just coming out of high school, Sephiroth was leading men into battle! And the age difference between them wasn't that huge! So what did that say about him? Cloud always been this weak, pathetic kid that always got picked on. So did Sephiroth, Cloud remembered.

That's right… Sephiroth went to the same school as him for a short period of time and all the kids picked on him and Cloud. But Sephiroth became strong! He showed the whole world he was not someone to be treated with disrespect! He did it! And everywhere he went, people stared on with awe and amazement. People lowered their gaze and spoke politely to him. Nobody, nobody ever picked on him anymore.

And Cloud wanted to be just like Sephiroth! He was going to become SOLDIER 1st Class and show his hometown, show Tifa and Aeris…. He was going to show them all that he was strong! He could protect people! His comrades could rely on him!

Boy, where's your resolve?

Cloud was about to enter the computer-simulated training area for the 1st Class SOLDIER test when he stopped. He looked up and down the hall. There was no one there except for him. The test was really freaking him out… he was hearing voices now.

Only now have you heard them?

Well, actually, now that Cloud thought about it - he'd heard that sweet, seductive whisper for a long time. He never thought about it. In fact, he ignored it. He ignored a lot, forgot a lot. It was the only way he knew how to survive. But the thought scared him. What was he afraid of remembering?

"Get it together, Strife!" he yelled at himself. He had to pass this test! He just had too… but then he thought of Tifa, in her room, worrying herself about him. She always worried about him. She knew what happened if Shinra ever knew he was a part of AVALANCHE. But it wasn't like he cared about the Planet, not like Aeris, or even agreed with most of AVALANCHE's missions… he just wanted to help the two most important women in his life.

Cloud backed away from the door completely unsure of himself. Something was wrong with him… seriously wrong. Oh man, Tifa would kill him if she knew that just for a moment, he enjoyed being a part of Shinra. No, not Shinra… a team. He enjoyed being part of a team, being someone that people could depend on.

It became all so startling clear to him.

"I'm so weak…"


Cloud jumped nearly ten feet in the air. There standing beside him was Zack and Sephiroth. Zack stood there, with a hairstyle so similar to his. He had a friendly smile on his face and seemed so confident and at ease with himself. And then there was Sephiroth, looking at him with an impassive gaze. The man seemed to tower over him and those haunting, Mako eyes seemed to bore into his soul, as if he could his every thought.

"Uh…" Cloud said, trying to pull it together. He remembered to salute his commanders and knew he must look a fool, even more so that he couldn't stop the blush that colored his cheeks. His hero was standing there… right before him and Cloud couldn't say a word.

"Come on Cloud!" Zack laughed. He already knew that Cloud practically worshipped the ground Sephiroth walked on. Many people did. "Chill out. You're not weak! What did I tell you? Nervousness will make you fail this test!"

Sephiroth snorted before turning his head in disgusted manner. "Boy, where's your resolve?"

Cloud looked confused and perhaps a tad bit afraid… "My resolve?"

"Yes," Sephiroth answered him coldly, "Your resolve. Don't even bother to take this test if you have none but you will surely fail."

Cloud's mouth dropped open a bit. That sweet, haunting voice was laughing at him. Boy, I ask you again, where's your resolve?

Cloud's lowered his head and turned around. "I don't know understand what it means to have resolve," he whispered, walking away dejectedly.

Zack and Sephiroth watched Cloud's disappearing form. Zack looked upset but he did not call out to Cloud. If the boy didn't think he had what it took to pass this test, then he obviously wasn't going to pass. "Gee, Sephiroth, did you have to be so mean to him? Give the kid a break!"

"Train him, Zack," Sephiroth said, closing his eyes, "Train him well until he finds his resolve. And then one day, we will meet in battle."

That did it… Zack was totally confused. Sephiroth spoke in riddles sometimes but at least he was content with being able to oversee Cloud's training. He knew how much becoming like Sephiroth meant to Cloud and Zack had plenty of faith in the boy. Sephiroth swiped his key card on the pad outside the training door and walked in, his hair swaying behind him. Zack sighed and followed him, feeling a little uneasy about this training test. Sephiroth was not acting normal… well, normal for him anyway.

When they entered, all the candidates were lined up at attention. All of them were ready to prove themselves. But none of them had resolve and this upset Sephiroth greatly.

"General, sir," Zack called, as he watched Sephiroth. There was something akin to anger in those frightening, jade eyes.

"What?" he snapped.

Believe in me and you will become a god.

The sheer malevolence in that one word paralyzed Zack momentarily. "Nothing…"

Sephiroth looked back over at the candidates and took a couple of deep breathes. "Sorry Zack… I haven't been feeling well lately."

Zack released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "It's okay," he replied quickly, and then turned to address the poor bastards who hoped to be SOLDIER 1st Class.

Self-delusion - ain't it wonderful?


A/N: Hmm, well, I decided to focus on Cloud this time around to show what he's up too... comments, reviews, etc... sorry for mistakes. You know how it goes... you never catch all the mistakes when you proofread your own writings. I hope this chapter lives up to everyone expectations. And yes, the topic of resolve is rather important. It plays an important part later...