Hello. Duchess of Darkness speaking.

First of all, thank you for stopping by to read this story. I have inserted a giant author's note at the beginning of the story so that I won't have to mention it again.

To start, it should be noted that this story is old. Take a look at the starting date and it's easy to see that it's taken more than a handful of years to build up. Also, if you pay attention to the year, it was before any of the FFVII affiliates were ever born.

I started this fanfic when I was young, and before SquareSoft/Enix took a turn and started to expand the FFVII story. That being said, the knowledge and information that takes place in this story does not include any information found in Advent Children, Crisis Core, Before Crisis, or even Derge of Cerberus. Nothing. This story revolves solely around the original game.

Granted, this doesn't mean there aren't any spoilers from the game in the story, but if you have not played any of the other side games, it's okay. You won't feel loss here. Of course, for some people this fact might be a disappointment, but I'm not going to deviate from my original idea just for the sake of matching up with whatever the company dishes out.

Also, going back to the idea of this being based on the original, since I started this before some vital information was released, you'll notice that some of my information about people's names (i.e. Zack's last name, Aeris vs Aerith, etc.) or anything else will be slightly incorrect at times, especially in the beginning chapters. IGNORE THIS. I'm well aware of the corrections and if it's really essential I have made adjustments in the later chapters. But don't get your knickers in a twist just because I said something wrong in the beginning and then changed my mind later on.

Furhtermore, there is no beta for this story. None whatsoever. I had one once, but it only lasted for a short time. For the most part, all that you see here isn't edited, isn't proofread, et cetera. I've done my best to make as few mistakes as possible, but it's not easy on my own. On that note, though I probably need it, I likely will not be accepting any beta help from anyone for this story.

Why? Because my schedule is whacky. In short, I'm a busy person, and I don't have a lot of leeway to delve into my hobbies when I really want to because I'm generally doing something all the time, be it work or school or family matters or whatever. My writing schedule is sporadic, as is my updating schedule, so most of the time it's a play by ear situation. To put my beta through the torture of dealing with my flakiness is something I don't want to do. In consequence I make my readers suffer through my mistakes in my writing.

However! I have considered it a long time, and still am considering it: I may rewrite this story. I will not write over these existing chapters, but instead create a new file under a better name. Then I will consider having someone proofread the improved chapters. Until then, this story will remain as it is. Please be patient with me until then.

Thank you.

I would like to acknowledge a few people who helped me out here and there while I started making this story. First is Jade Tatsu who betad for me for several chapters. It's unfortunate we had to go separate ways. Please be extra thankful to her for making my work seem less terrible.

Second is Miyanon. The best freakin' Sephiroth I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. One could say I got some inspiration from the RPs we created, from serious to crack to all things in between. Oh how I will always enjoy reading our creations and being reminded that even for a villian, Sephiroth and all other characters are three-dimensional. They have depth, and it would be wrong to forget that.

Third is, well, several people, but I'll group them as fellow FFVII Seph x Cloud writers. I have been a fan of their works, and some have even honored me with liking my own stuff. You prove that no matter how stupid it might feel to yourself as an author, if people like it, if people want you to keep going with it, then don't stop. Just do it. there's always room for improvement down the road. It's a learning process. And you never know who you actually might impress.

Fourth is (are) my readers. Of course, everyone who has stuck with me, and everyone who may find themselves sticking around for a while, I appreciate it. Truly I do. People say it shouldn't be about the fame and fandom. And that's right, it shouldn't be. But it's always nice to hear from people who have had their moods lightened, or their naughty fantasies sated because they happened across my work. I like hearing what people have to say. Every review counts. Thanks for taking the time to favorite me and leave me little comments, even if it is the notoriously annoying "UPDATE NOW!" I might hate hearing it, but it does show how eager you are to read more from me. Thanks guys. Really. (smiles)

I do not own Final Fantasy VII, nor its affiliates. SquareSoft/Enix has full rights to anything associated with the name and original concepts. I am author of merely my thoughts and interpretations of the game and its characters. Anyone wanting to catch me for copyright infringement is an idiot because that is not my intent. This is a hobby which I share with others for free perusal. How they perceive it is their choice and not to be mistaken with the real deal.


That was a really long author's note, but if you read all of it, thank you very much for taking the time to do so. This should be the last time you ever see an author's note so long in this story. From here on out, read and enjoy! (09/20/2010)


The Complete Opposite

By Duchess of Darkness

Chapter I


Heaving a sigh, Cloud Strife wiped off the blood splattered on his sword. He glanced ahead of him, grateful that his destination wasn't too far off. The two-hour walk would be toil on his tired legs, but it was nothing compared to what he already went through just to get here. Stretching, he mounted his sword and leaned on it for a few moments, hoping to get a bit of rest after that battle. It had been many weeks to get here on his own without the use of today's growing technology and his AVALANCHE friends and allies. Now, having gotten here on his own, Cloud was glad the trip was over and proud of himself for his accomplishment.

To him it wasn't something magnificent or eye-popping "wow," but the simple fact that he knew he could make it on his own without relying on others to be his crutch. Of course, he thought as he straightened and started walking again, having friends there to guide you and support you on whatever you're doing is a wonderful feeling as well. Throughout his journey with the members of AVALANCHE across Gaea, he and his friends battled together and overcame all their obstacles almost hand in hand. Everything was practically a group effort then, even though the whole journey was mainly Cloud's ambition to take down the man who destroyed his dream and family.

Being together with his friends and comrades as they showed their support for the journey by following him, was a feeling all on its own. There was nothing like it. The same could be said about being by yourself. Stepping into the town marking the edge of the forest to the shrine beyond, Cloud silently greeted the villagers and miners residing there as he passed by. It had been a while since he had come to visit, and even longer since he had first set foot on this ground. By now, they had come to recognize him on the spot with his small, thin frame and outrageously spiked blond hair that could not be copied, just like his strength.

"Good day, Cloud."


Starting out as a wiry young man with power over that of an average person from the different districts of Midgar, but not nearly as well as it should have been for his proclaimed status in SOLDIER, Cloud slowly worked his way up to where he was today, fighting against people stronger than him, monsters and beasts twice and three times his size and strength. Eventually, all knew of AVALANCHE's leader's strength and very few doubted it. It wasn't that he was terribly strong, not in the way Sephiroth was in his time before his episode of insanity, just that Cloud was very cunning and swift with the sword that rested against his back.

"Will you be going again?"


"Then give her my respects."


The sword that now pressed against his back by the leather straps wound around his chest and torso was also known for its almost ridiculous size. When Cloud first came to AVALANCHE with it on his back, you would have thought he could barely stand up with that thing weighing him down. But, once again, as time went on, Cloud grew stronger, strong enough to hold the sword steadily with one hand for a long time. He could swing it like it was a normal sword, the double edge slicing through an enemy's flesh with a clean and precise cut.

It was almost mesmerizing to watch. When the blade sliced through the air, it barely made a noise. The only indication of it every having moved was the shifting of Cloud's body as he swung it through the air. Very few people, let alone SOLDIERs could match such precision. The only two men anyone ever thought of to rival his strength with was Sephiroth, and the almost long forgotten Zack Knightblade. (1) Many people don't remember Zack Knightblade in his glory, the only person daring enough to challenge Sephiroth openly and laugh after getting beaten. No one had the guts to do that, and it was one of the things memorable about him, if only the only thing memorable about him since he died.

Cloud smiled to himself as he remembered his first few encounters with Zack, long after Zack had entered the SOLDIER program. Ducking under a low branch as he crossed the Forest, he remembered getting to know Zack, how forward he was about everything, always smiling and laughing, never seeming to be sad at all. He missed having Zack around, used to being his shadow and being friends. In a way, Cloud was jealous of Zack, of his nature, of his personality, his charisma, his manner, his everything. Zack was what Cloud wasn't. Even now, Cloud couldn't match Zack. He tried, once. To copy Zack. It didn't work, obviously. All it resulted in was the empty shell that was Cloud, leaving him with half a soul and no idea of where the other half went or if there was one at all.

And so, Cloud vowed to himself to be true, even though it was hard at times. It took him many weeks to reach himself and come to terms with who he was and who he wasn't. There was still a great amount of confusion inside him, but he learned to live as best and true as he could. Lies were so hard on him, he figured as he balanced himself on the uprooted tree that marked the only path from one side of the gap to the other. He hated lying, especially to those close to him, but as before, it was hard not to at all. He had a lot of moral issues that he hadn't come to terms with, and lying was one of them, even though it shot through him whenever he did.

Lying led him around in circles once he was caught up in them, just like his big lie about Zack and himself. It crushed him in the end, but as the saying went, once he started, he didn't know how to stop. It pushed him in one direction, then the other, and the next thing he knew, he was torn apart and it was only with the help of Mother Gaea and a dear childhood friend that pieced him back together again, or at least as best as they could. To put it plainly, the whole thing sucked.

But now, things weren't so bad. Cloud could finally take some time for himself and relax a little, do more of what he wanted to do instead of what he should or had to do. He didn't have to save Gaea again; didn't have to chase after Sephiroth; didn't have to anything. He could do whatever he felt like now. So, what was it? Well...

Cloud squeezed the strap of his travel pack, assuring himself that the object inside was secure and safe.

Now, he was visiting an old friend. Well, you can't really call her "old," thought Cloud. It wasn't like she was elderly or they had been long-standing friends since childhood. It was just... it had been a while since he went to visit, that's all.

Stepping over path stones and edging along the old bones of the dead village, Cloud crossed past several of the many empty houses lining the path and encircling the large one in the middle. It was by far the greatest one out of them all, artistic in its unusual shape and grand in its monstrous size. Inside was as mysterious and confusing as the outside. Following the entrance path, Cloud made his way over to the opening that led to the small lake inside.

It had been a long time since he had last set foot in here. The first time led to the death of a very nice girl that he didn't know too well, but still cared for. The second time was the first year anniversary of her death. Now... it's the second year. It's been that long already? Cloud could hardly believe it. It was so long ago...

He sighed as he stopped at the lip of the lake, watching the surreal waters move and splash lightly against the dirt and the tips of his boots without the help of any wind at all. This place at the heart of the City of Ancients was the most bizarre and confusing place Cloud had ever come across, but it sang of peace and serenity that dragged him into a state of tranquility unlike that of any drug he had ever taken.

Shifting his eyes close, he let the song shift his state of mind and take him wherever need be.


A little girl huddled on the ground. When she sensed his presence behind her, she quickly stood up and turned to face him. He was very surprised to see that her eyes glowed a faint green and her features weren't that of a child, but more like that of a petite woman already past her stage of puberty. Her features graced lines that no child could ever have, and her eyes held a wisdom to them that sang of her intelligence and many years of experience. With a smile, she showed him her kindness and deepest sincerity. He could almost feel himself smiling back in the same manner. She wore small curls in her hair and dawned a green dress that matched her glowing eyes that were half closed in mirth. She stepped closer to him and took his hand. Confused, he let her turn his hand over to expose his palm. In it she placed a small object and wrapped his fingers around it before he could look at it. He stared at his hand for a moment before glancing up at the girl only to find her gone, a wisp of her presence all that was left of her having been there. Turning back to the object in his hand, he uncurled his fingers and stared at what was there.

Holy. What? Why?

He continued to stare, remembering what it could do, what it had done before. It all started a long time ago, hadn't it? All the way back when he was still at home, making plans and following a dream that never really happened.

'You promised...'

Distracted, he slowly lifted his head only to be surprised again at who was speaking to him.

'You promised you would come to my rescue. Remember? Back in Nibelheim? At the well?'

That's right, that helped start it all, making a promise to a childhood friend all those years back when a crush felt more like love and a dream felt more like a reality. But, of course, none of that came true. There was no reality to his dream other than the waking nightmare that met him halfway. There was no love except the fact that it was simply a childhood infatuation that stayed that way, nothing more than a deep friendship between the two of them.

Closing his eyes briefly before opening them again, he wasn't surprised to find her image gone. What did surprise him, though, was his change of surroundings. Still holding the gem in his hand, he strolled through the entrance and circled the streets, slowly making it down pass the well at the center and nearing his house. He recognized the different stores and who lived in what house, relying on what memory could surface to pinpoint his own.

It was a little strange that no one was around, no kids running about, even in this rendition of his hometown, but it didn't bother him too much. Stopping in front of his home he dared to glance in the window before entering. He spotted the familiar scene of something cooking on the kitchen stove and ... was that the back of a woman?

Entering his home, he was wafted with the alluring smell of baking bread and little cinnamon cakes he used to love help make. He found himself entering the kitchen where the smells were the strongest, and spotted the same woman from inside the window. He knew this woman like the back of his hand, or at least, he was pretty sure he did. He knew those lines under her bright blue eyes, those streaks of grey amongst that turf of light blond hair. He also knew the exact twist in which she did every time she fixed her hair into a bun, and knew every wrinkle in her hand as she worked steadily at the dough in front of her, sprinkling flour onto the counter as she molded it into perfection.

The woman suddenly stopped in her work as if she knew he was there, watching her, and turned around with a smile upon her lips, a smile he, again, recognized. She wiped her hands on the front of her cream apron, straightening the pleats of her faded, orchid colored dress that she always wore whenever she cooked.

'Welcome home. How are you?'

He loved her voice. He was a little surprised he still remembered it, but eternally grateful all the same. He never wanted to forget her voice, her smile, her quiet laugh, her cooking; anything. He loved her a lot, and it pained him to see her go.

'You must be tired. Come on, you still have your room just as you left it, so why don't you go and wash up while I finish here? It's so wonderful to have you back. You can tell me what you've been doing lately over a bit of tea and some bread. How does that sound?'

It sounded like the most heavenly thing in the world right now. He really did miss her. He was lucky to have picked up on some of her cooking skills and remembered some of her recipes, but without her there anymore... well, what was the point? It wasn't like he had time to go and bake a loaf of bread every now that then anyway.

There were too many things that were going on in his life after he left home. He was so preoccupied with finishing his studies at the Academy that he almost forgot to write to her every once in a while. He was what one would call the grunt of the litter and struggled to keep his grades at the Academy and pass any, if not all, of the physical and hands-on tests held monthly, and sometimes twice a month. He never didn't do all that well, in his opinion. Perhaps enough to make it into SOLDIER, but not nearly as good as he wanted. It surprised him to even make it to the final exam, getting to go on a mission with the infamous General himself.

Part of him, back then, thought he was just lucky to go on a mission WITH the General because they were going to inspect the reactor in his hometown. Another part, argued to say that he deserved his right to be there, take the test, and graduate and become a real, full-time SOLDIER. But, of course, nothing ever went as planned. It was on that mission that his dream shattered and his life was torn in two. Everything turned into a disaster...

Looking at one of the many victims of that incident back then, he couldn't help but smile at her in apology, knowing he couldn't do anything to stop the train of threats and deaths that occurred all those years ago. Nodding to her request, he turned around to make his way up to his room and do her bidding.

However, just as he turned, the scenery split and greeted him with another familiar and frightening sight. ShinRa Mansion, the one place that he hoped had burned down with the rest of the town, but didn't. Looking from his right to his left, he followed the path to the east wing of the mansion, passing the multiple shut doors until he came to one that was open. Ah, yes, this was the place that helped start the chain of reactions that led to one person's complete mental collapse and another's to shatter and die.

There was no possible way that he could ever forget a place such as this. There were too many memories attached to this creepy mansion, and as much as he would have liked for it to all go away and fly off in the wind like it never existed, there was one good this house showed him. Perhaps the overall view of it was just as horrible as the house, but the memory of a new friend and comrade was better than what it all meant for him to be alive.

Following his memory, he walked up to the secret door in the wall and made way to the secret basement underneath the house, running his hand along the wall as he stepped along the spiral staircase that was bound to break under his feet eventually. This, he remembered, was where he accidentally came across another AVALANCHE member: Vincent Valentine, the supposed biological father of ... Sephiroth.

No one really knew or understood what happened to him before he "retired," and no one really bothered to ask the seemingly immortal man himself. All they knew, all he knew, was that Vincent Valentine was connected to Sephiroth, just as everyone else, and connected to the chain of events that originated in Nibelheim.

Nibelheim: the possible birthplace of his General, the infamous Sephiroth. Nibelheim: the start of everything. Nibelheim: ...the home of Sephiroth's insanity and his own despair.

He crossed the locked and blackened cages lining the first part of the basement, passing by a closed room or two and also the hidden door to where Vincent Valentine laid. He pushed open the door to the laboratory beyond and was immediately greeted with the sound of laughter. It wasn't laughter of joy or glee, but the laughter of insanity, a laughter he recognized instantly.

It was a laughter he could never forget, just like the features of the woman that was his mother back in that imaginary home. This laugh was just like it was the first time, creased with strain and a hint of craziness all of its own. It was quiet, yet loud in his ears, definable and not easily copied. Following it, he was led to the back of the laboratory where a secret library was, full of confidential files and notes that no one was supposed to read, even the man the was now, sitting almost lazily in the old chair behind the desk in the center, crowded and surrounded by books and loose notes.

The man sitting there with long snow and silver-tinted hair could easily be seen as the one and only deceased Sephiroth, garbed and shining in his maniacal glory in the bottom of an old mansion surrounded by absurd leaf notes and impossible handwriting that only a dedicated and truly insane man could decipher, as was this one and the one who made them.

'Ah, Cloud...'

He winced. Sephiroth never said his name before, not when they were stationed together on the same mission. The only time he ever heard his name on the other man's lips was when it was laced with something unnatural and his being was obviously not his own. But even then, the man rarely said his name.

'Mother, she- ...No, never mind, you wouldn't understand. You're nothing but a traitor, after all.'

Mother, JENOVA, that thing that also helped contribute to the end of the world and the fall of mankind. She (if one really needed a gender to assign to such a monstrosity) was the trigger that caused Sephiroth's insanity and led him to believe he was God and fall under the whispers and murmurs of JENOVA's hateful dream. She was the one being that could not be controlled, but destroyed, but only after inflicting her pain and misery upon half the world before going down with a fight. She was the bullet that coursed through his and Sephiroth's bodies as the world turned upside down.

'No, no,' Sephiroth said, waving a hand dismissively as if he had said something to him. 'Never mind all that. ...So, do you enjoy life? It's been a long time, hasn't it?'

It was sentences like this that didn't make sense when put together that hinted at Sephiroth's madness. It was this that made Cloud run into action and almost literally die in order to stop the confusion running through him.

'Hmm? ...Well, yes, that's not a surprise. You HAVE lived through a lot. Maybe even accomplished the impossible?

'But, you see, you never understood. I don't think you really did appreciate the things you were given.'

Sephiroth paused to flip a page in the book sitting in front of him, not really looking at it. 'Still sulking, aren't you? Such a child... Like Henny Penny, thinking the world will come down any minute. Oh, sorry, we already went through that. That was awful, wasn't it? The world, about to end, just like that...'

He snapped the book close and looked at him with blazing jade eyes. 'Yes, you and your pathetic team of "saviors" defied the natural current of life and defiled Mother's plans to make the world better. Why?

'-Oh, but of course, it's your fault as well. They hate you so much, dearest Cloud...'

Never in a million years would Sephiroth ever use his name like that. Ever. He would rather impale himself with his own sword than be called something like that from a man such as him. Never, ever, was it possible.

A scowl was set upon his face as he stared at the silver-haired man that stood up from his seat. He twirled and moved away from behind the desk to stand before him, circling him quickly before quickly covering his eyes with twin gloved hands. Never, ever, would this be done in real life. Never ever, would he let this be done in real life. Never. Ever.

Wrenching himself out of the other mans grip, he spun to find his surroundings changed again, once again awakening his memories of a time long ago when his mind was in utter chaos and the world most certainly felt like it was collapsing around him. It was the time when his sorrow truly started, his eyes reflecting the flames he saw and felt, knowing exactly what happened and was happening again.

Bright red, orange and olden flames ate at the houses around him, burning the dirt at his feet, spreading from one place to the next, eventually building a curtain of fire that looked tempted to swallow him. Just like last time...

Looking around him he spotted a familiar figure far off near one of the burning houses. It was lying there; was it dead? Approaching it, he instantly identified the original uniform the person was wearing, along with the sea of black hair that blanketed his body.

Zack Knightblade.

He was one person that Cloud felt he could be close to when he was still running through the courses in the Academy. Their relationship was awkward at first, but in time, they became friends, noticed by all that they were close. There was a saying that went around with the Third Class SOLDIER: "Wherever there's Zack, Cloud's sure to be close behind in his shadow." And that's exactly what Cloud was. For the longest time, even after Zack's inevitable death, Cloud still lived on in Zack's shadow, a copy of everything he was and did until he too broke.

'Shame, really. You could never be what he was, never shine on your own, never save him from what YOU did.'

He swiftly turned around to face the person who spoke. This time, it was someone that he didn't expect. Clad in a pink rose dress and a dust red jacket was a girl he knew was dead, just like Zack and Sephiroth, but believed to be alive in this... dream? Vision? Whatever it was.

Smiling a sweet and nearly innocent smile was a part of Aeris Gainsburough that he knew yet couldn't see here. Her emerald green eyes were dark and discolored, her features just slightly out of place but still distinctively her. Moreover, her voice was edged with a darkness that wasn't necessarily visible but hinted at enough to be recognized.

'Hmm? What is it? Don't like it? Hehe, sorry, Cloud, but you know it's the truth. He died. YOU killed him.' Her eyes shone and her smile turned crooked for just a second.

'Oh Cloud. Cloud, Cloud, you really are a kid, you know. It's like you're taking your first steps, saying your first words, but you don't know any better, do you? Hehehe... A shame, a real shame indeed.' She paused to smile at him again, raising a hand to cover her mouth just as she always did. It was rather disturbing to watch. 'You know... that should be you down there, not him.'

Letting her eyes widen to an impossible length, she pointed over his shoulder to where he knew lay Zack's prone form. 'YOU should be dead, not him, not me. YOU should have died, then everything would have been all right! YOU, Cloud, YOU!

In an instant, her body changed before him, her hair coming undone and whipping out behind her, her fingers stretching along with the rest of her body, hosting long nails on her fingers. Her skin paled to an ashen and sickly color, abnormalities breaking from parts of her body to form the rest of what was known as JENOVA, the mother of chaos, the Sky of Calamities. Her mouth gaped and her teeth elongated, knitting together as she hissed at him. She screeched at lunged at him, extending her claw-like hands at him, ready to pierce his skin.

He reached for his weapon, unsure if it was still with him or not. Thankfully, he felt its reassuring weight on his back and pulled it free, thrusting forward to the threat before him. This JENOVA screamed in despair as she felt the sword strike through her and protrude out of her back. In a matter of seconds, she slumped against his blade, her extended claws twitching and grabbing for his face, hoping to slice it off in a final attempt, but the sword in her chest blocked her and she disappeared, leaving the thin brunette in her place. Blood spilled from her wound and he couldn't keep back his short cry of surprise in the sudden change of characters, easing the blade out of her as if it would help.

Instead, the girl coughed up red, emerald eyes brimming with tears as she crumpled to the ground. The shock running through him twined with the memory of her real death two years ago, again by a blade. Thought it was not his, it was still the same fate, and now she rested in the deepest part of the Planet, away from everyone and every threat possible, watching over with the Mother Gaea herself as the world turned and the days continued.

Rolling onto the floor was Holy, fallen from his hand in the time he had grasped his sword. The round gem bumped against her hand on the ground and rested beside it, twinkling a misplaced shine with the surrounding flames reflecting off it. He couldn't bear to look at it anymore, choosing instead to turn his sight upwards and tilt his head back. He wanted to gouge his eyes out, but there was nothing to do it with. It was just like that time.

It was inevitable. He couldn't do anything to help her then. In fact, he nearly did slay her that time, so this time was no different. He still felt the tearing in his heart as he realized whose skin he pierced, whose blood he spilt, whose life he ended ... again.

Feeling his own eyes well with tears, he closed them, blinking them out. He stayed there for a long moment until he felt movement in front of him. Before he could react, he felt something wrap around his neck, realizing belatedly they were hands as a pair of thumbs forced his head back, keeping his neck arched.

Blinking the tears from his eyes, he met with twin jade eyes burning with mako. They were so close to his face, he almost wondered if he was off the ground or if he was leaning down. Fingers crossed and pressed into the crease of his windpipe, still forcing against his jaw line and pushing his head back. This had never happened before, so he didn't know how to handle it. Gasping for breath, he dropped his sword and tried to pry the hands off of him with little luck.

As it was, he was still on the ground, but Sephiroth was pushing him into the ground. Cloud blinked back tears as wind increasingly ceased to enter his lungs. Similar to drowning, he figured, being choked left you with little air, little thought, and an assured death. Feeling his body weaken, he let himself be pushed down, feeling cool tile against his back as he hit the floor. He barely had time to glance around him to see himself in the President's office of ShinRa Corp. His vision was becoming blurry with tears and the way his eyes were starting to roll in the back of his head.

Still he gasped for as much air as possible, kicking, pushing, struggling against the man that didn't move. He flailed and nearly screamed as he fought underneath the man who straddle him and pinned him to the floor. There was no hope... no hope. He tried to focus on the man in front of him, on the jade eyes that pierced his soul, on the angular face that was framed with long silver hair that hid their surroundings from view. All he could get his mind to realize was the feel of silk on his skin, the chill of tile on his back, the emptiness of his hands without his sword, the pressure of another body over his, and the dizziness of near death as he lost almost all his air and consciousness.

Blinking several times, once more trying to focus, he hissed, his breath coming out shallow and ragged from the lack of air, and glared as best he could at the visionary man who brought forth his demise.


Snapping his eyes open on the brink of unconsciousness, Cloud found his surroundings strangely blue and fluid. Looking above him, he quickly moved to break free of the grip that was laced over his mind and body, bringing himself to full consciousness. He couldn't believe he was in the middle of the lake, drenched and nearly drowned from that near-death experience in his "dream" or "vision" or whatever it was called.

The first thing that came to his mind after he steadied himself was his journey pack. "The flowers!"

Looking over his person, he found his pack gone. He dared to hope it didn't sink to the bottom, because then he would never get it back, but then spotted it ashore by the house, just were he was before he closed his eyes and ended up here... somehow. Inhaling shakily, he pushed hair out of his eyes and swam toward his thing, pulling himself out of the lake and shaking himself free of water. He was thankful that he didn't get any of his things wet, but more grateful that he wasn't dead. It scared him that a simple image could draw him forth to bringing about his own death, but shook free of that train of thought and focused on what he had to do now.

Perhaps he had been there too long and Gaea was trying to tell him something about how he was going to die if he dawdled any longer. He clenched his fists at the thought of death, how scared he was in his dream to die, even if by the hands of a previously dead person. What would it be like if he died for real? What was it like for his comrades to die?

Shaking his head, he picked up his things and gave one last, long glance at the haunting lake before moving on.


Originally created 04/14/2004

For those of you following me on my Livejournal, I would like to note that I do not go there anymore. All updates, until decides to be stupid again, will be here only. For updates on what I'm doing fanfic-wise, visit my profile for any notes I put.

(1) This is Zack's unofficial last name before Square released his real name: Knightblade.