Author's Note: I don't own Final Fantasy or any of the affiliated characters.....this disclaimer applies to the story in its entirety.



Breathe again

Awareness did not come easy. It was forced inside, a searing, shocking pain. Feeling where there was no feeling; senses where there had been none.


A difficult feat. The painful blast of air into the confused lungs; the spasming coughs that followed.


Alive. That's what it was. Being alive. The heart was beating now; the lungs had accepted the gift of air. Blood was coursing through the system, through the intricacies that were veins and arteries. Sensation, excruciating and slow, was spreading throughout. Something hard beneath, something loud all around.


In one screaming rush everything fell into place. Limbs twitched, eyes opened and then shut again instantly under the harsh onslaught of brightness. A whimper as hard ground and sharp rocks cut into new tender flesh. New scents, strange and alien, registering within. Utter confusion, anxiety and cold, biting fear clouded the mind.


What is this?

Shivering now, body new and unaccustomed to temperatures. Trying to shut out the mass of roiling chaotic thoughts reverberating in the mind; trying desperately to comprehend what was going on. Hesitantly the eyes opened again, degree by degree until the burning brightness became more tolerable. Still lying huddled, curled, against a cutting, abraisive surface. Vision hazy at first, then gaining focus. Rocks. That's what they see. Rocks and rocky ground, grey and more grey.

Where am I....?


Realization of identity danced just beyond the reach of comprehensive thought. I am he ... He knew that now, he was a man. Taking solace in that knowledge he slowly uncurled his body, limbs trembling. Every movement felt awkward, heavy, as if he had somehow been accustomed to fluid movement. But how could that be? The eyes, watering as newly opened eyes were want to do, swept over the surrounding area. More grey, more rocks, rising up and all around. Cradling him. He took a deep breath. So unfamiliar, this breathing, the smell of the air and the movement of it through his lungs. The wind roared through his ears and he winced. For long movements he sat in utter bewilderment, sorting through a turbulent mass of questions.


Who am I....?

He found no answers. Out of the buried knowledge from somewhere long ago he realized that he could no remain here; the cold and the wind would do him harm. Stand, he told his body, and it wobbled and shook as it attempted to obey. When finally he had reached his feet he felt something soft and feathery brush against his back, his shoulders, the feeling intensifed over the naked skin because it was so fresh, so new. He looked down to find something silvery spilling over his shoulder, falling to his mid thigh. Confused he touched it, ran his fingers through it, on an unconcious level enjoying the texture. Hair, the inexplicable knowledge told him, and he understood. It was hair, his hair. He let it fall from his fingers and gazed around, growing more and more uncomfortable as his body increased its tremors. He was in a bowl made of stone ... a crater, he knew, remembering what it was called. His brow furrowed. But why ... ? It did not matter now, get out of here, get someplace warm, his body told him, and he complied.

His first steps were faltering and shaky, but the more he took the steadier they became. The sharp rocks bit into his tender feet and he hissed in pain. He didn't want to continue but it was the only way out of the crater, and so he walked on. His feet grew quickly numb. He had only made it a few metres when something caught his attention. A glint of something silver, half buried in rock. He knelt clumsily to examine it, brushing the pebbles and rocks away. It was the remainder of some sort of blade; the long, black hilt and the shattered pieces of blade. He frowned. Why would a sword be here? Something flapped a few feet away, startling him so that he fell back on his haunches. It was something black, a piece of cloth. He crawled towards it, wincing as the rough ground bruised his hands and feet. He grabbed the loose piece of cloth and pulled; it came loose with some ease from the rocks it had been caught under. He held it up before him and it rippled in the wind. It was some sort of black coat, long and with the remainder of some metal buckles. It was ripped and threadbare, but still serviceable, if barely. He stood and with some difficulty managed to put it on. Where it covered him he ceased to feel the wind, and he was glad. His feet and hands were still exposed, but he felt better than he had. With unsteady hands he buttoned the coat and secured what few clasps were left.

No longer naked, he turned his attention to the crater walls. They sloped steadily upward for a long way, but the incline was not too steep. It was as if some sort of explosion had leveled the area. He began walking again, to the incline and then up. He stopped frequently, his muscles aching and his lungs burning, protesting such use so briefly after his awakening. He ignored them, knowing logically that he could not survive in the crater. He continued on. The passage of time had no meaning for him; there was only steps taken, air breathed. When he finally reached the summit of the crater ledge, the sky had darkened to a dark orange brilliance, the sun a red orb as it sank below the horizon. He stared at the sight, fascinated. When he realized that it was getting darker; that soon all light would be gone, he shook his head. Night he remembered from unknown memories, Night is falling. He looked before him. The descent down the other side of the crater was not as long a distance, and he could barely make out some sort of buildings in the dying light clustered below him. Heartened by the sight, he began his way down.

By the time he had reached the bottom, the sky was dark. There was a moon, almost full and surrounded by the brilliant stars. For long moments he forgot himself and gazed at them in awe. They were beautiful, and mysterious, and they raised in him some sort of emotion ...

He felt something cold run down his face and touched a finger to it. It came away sparkling with moisture. Alarmed, he touched both hands to his face to find his cheeks wet. What was happening to him?

Tears, he remembered suddenly, these are my tears.

He stared entranced at the night sky for some minutes longer before remembering the buildings. They were closer now, and since his vision had adjusted he could see them clearly. There was a light in one of the windows, and it was towards that one he walked. The door was wooden and free of markings, and he hesitated only briefly before raising a hand and knocking. Almost immediately it opened, and a dark haired young man stood there. His eyes widened as he took in his visitor's appearance, and he opened the door wide.

"Come in, my god, come in!" He ushered the other inside and closed the door behind them. "What happened to you?"

The other had no answer, because he did not know. The young man had pulled some things off a small bed to make room for the visitor to sit. "Come, sit here. You must be freezing! And your feet are bleeding! What happened to you?"

The visitor tried to speak and was surprised to find he had no voice. He coughed and tried again, and when the words were formed they were hoarse and strained, sounding harsh to his ears. "I ... don't know ..."

"You don't know? Just who are you?"

The other shook his head in frustration, saying again, " I don't know ..."

"My God, " the young man breathed, "You have no memory ... Do you remember anything?"

His visitor shook his head. His own confusion was evident on his face.

"Well, where did you come from just now?"

"The ... crater ..." he said haltingly, the words he wanted jumbling together in his mind. " I ...woke up ... there."

The young man frowned. "The crater? Are you sure?"

"Yes ..."

The young man was silent, regarding the other intently. Finally he said, "My name is Rad. I'm part of a survey team that's up here to monitor the mako levels in the crater. That's what all these buildings are for, for our equipment. The others went back down for supplies today, and they won't be back until tomorrow. I don't know what to think about you ..." he trailed off, then apparently made a decision. "You can stay here with me tonight. This crater does funny things to people and animals; I've seen it all. You must have wandered up there and had a fall or something ... maybe you were a climber. Maybe you were taken up there for a reason," he said darkly, "and that explains why you don't have or remember anything ..."

He glanced at his vistor's feet, covered now in dried blood. "We had better do something about those. Your feet look to be my size, so I'll give you an old pair of my boots. Are you wearing anything beneath that coat?"

The visitor shook his head. Rad pursed his lips, "Well, you look a little taller than me and broader in the shoulders, but I have some clothes that will suffice until you can get some of your own. I'll be right back."

With that he went through a door on the opposite wall from the bed. The visitor could hear him rummaging around in the next room. He closed his eyes; it was warm in here and it felt so soothing. He was glad he had found someone; he didn't feel quite so alone and afraid. Rad returned with the clothes as well as some gauze bandages. He said, handing them to his visitor, "Take these and go into the other room and change. Then you can use the bathroom in there to fix your feet. I'll make something for you to eat while you're doing that."

The other accepted the bundle and stood. He said gratefully, "Thank you."

Rad smiled, " No problem. I think you were on the recieving end of somebodies ill will, and I don't mind helping you out."

He turned away, and for the first time the visitor noticed a small stove in the corner along with some pots that hung on the walls and shelves with various food items. He went into the other room and shut the door. It was another small bedroom, with a bathroom on one side. He went into the bathroom and turned on the light. What he saw there startled him, until he realized it was a mirror. He studied himself for long minutes, the sharp, defined features, the pale complexion, the high, definitive brows. His eyes were what caught and held his attention; they were large and luminous and seemingly expressive; a glowing emerald color. He set about mending his wounds, perching on the toilet seat to examine the extent of the damage to his feet. They were scraped, with some shallow cuts, which he washed out and then bound with the gauze Rad had given him. He then removed the coat and donned the clothes he had been given. The shirt was stretched tight across his chest and the pants were too short, but they were clothes, and that was all that mattered. He opted to out the coat back on over the clothes before leaving to find Rad. Rad had made soup enough for the two of them, and the visitor gladly accepted. He found the food to be one of the most pleasing things he had discovered thus far; it was warm and it tasted so very interesting. He ate two servings, listening as Rad companionably chatted away. After the meal, the visitor found it hard ot keep his eyes open; a full stomach, the warm comfort of the room and the day's exertions were catching up to him. Seeing this, Rad smiled and told him to sleep in the other bedroom. Mumbling a polite thank you, he made his way there. After closing the door, he pulled back the layers of blankets and crawled beneath them, nestling his head on the pillow. Aware that the lights were still on, but too tired to care, he fell almost instantly into sleep.

He began to dream.