Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy 7 characters, places and things all belong to Squaresoft and other involved companies

Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy 7 characters, places and things all belong to Squaresoft and other involved companies. I own none of it. This fanfic is purely for the fun and enjoyment of others and myself. I make no money from it.

Author's Note: Thanks for coming back to read the second Saga of my series! ^_^ The story began with Aeris stumbling across two mercenaries, Cloud and Zack. After getting an offer to help a resistance team by the name of Avalanche, the two mercenaries and Aeris all travel to Midgar. However, when they get there, things don't turn out as simple and clean cut as they would have hoped. Apparently the Turks had some connection with Aeris and Zack. After helping Avalanche destroy one of Shinra's reactors, the mercenaries and Aeris find themselves separated. Unfortunately their reunion is behind the bars of a Shinra prison as they were all captured by the Turks. It is there that Zack is revealed to have had past dealings with Shinra but after hearing his side of the tale he is forgiven by his comrades and all seemed to be regaining some semblance of normality. However, things get complicated once more when the people in the Shinra building turn up dead. In the president's office Zack confronts Sephiroth and is killed by his hands. Before Cloud can get revenge the SOLDIER leaves, warning them that the end is near. Cloud and his companions then make their escape from Midgar, leaving their past scars behind and setting out on a new adventure. Will Avalanche find what they're looking for in Nibleheim or will they find something much much worse?:

WHERE ANCIENTS FEAR TO TREAD

CHAPTER 1

Cloud yawned loudly as he awoke from his makeshift, straw bed in the barn southwest of Midgar. A month had passed since the events that had taken place in the city they had all grown to hate. Ever since the Avalanche members had left the city, they had been traveling constantly. Finally, they had recently happened upon a small barn and had stayed there through the night. Ultimately, there were some cheery moments during their travels but at some points they would all fall into an uncomfortable silence. Most of the time, this had happened when mention of their late comrade came up in a conversation. For the most part, Cloud had become more sullen and withdrawn from the rest of the group, focusing more on his training then his interaction with his friends. It had seemed to everyone else, as if all that went through his mind constantly was to defeat Sephiroth. At one point Barret had even wondered about his sanity.

This brought a slight smile to Cloud's face as he finished rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He knew his friends were only concerned about him but he couldn't stop training. He couldn't let his concentration drop. The memory of his inability to do anything the day he tried to fight Sephiroth rang painfully in his mind. He could do nothing to save his friend and he could do nothing to avenge him afterwards. He was weak and the only way he could think of to become stronger was to train. As a result, Cloud's training had paid off greatly. He could now wield his blade with amazing ease and he could even manage to fight on the same level as he had seen Zack fight that one terrible day. He didn't really understand how his abilities could push that far, only that he knew there was more room for improvement and he would exploit that improvement to its utmost limits.

Cloud gave a final stretch then eased down into a more relaxed position.

"Ahh, look who finally decided to wake up!"

Cloud cringed at the nagging voice but trained his eyes on the large form of his comrade as the man made his way through the entrance and towards him.

"Hey Barret. Good morning." He said as the big man walked closer to him.

"Hey Spikes. The girls were talking about staying here for a while to rest up. They figured since we've been traveling all this time anyway, its time for a small break. And don't worry about the barn residents. We've already presented the idea to the old man and he agrees whole heartily. I guess he's been pretty lonely tending to this barn with only his grandson around to keep him company. So what do you say? I think it's a good idea."

Cloud lowered his head in thought. "Well… I don't know. We do need to track down Sephiroth… This isn't just some picnic you know?"

"Yeah I know that but still… We're all still only human Spikes. Not everyone can train constantly nonstop like you."

Barret knew he had said the wrong words as soon as they slipped out of his mouth. The blond man's eyes narrowed slightly then he simply turned away, heading towards the exit of the barn.

"Look, Cloud I know that was a low blow and I apologize. But man what I'm trying to say here is that we all need a break! If we don't get back to realizing we're still human then we won't be any good against Sephiroth. We'll forget what we're fighting for in the first place!"

Cloud stopped in his tracks, thinking for a minute, then turned his head back towards the dark man slowly. "…If you all want a break then fine. I guess it won't matter if we rest for a couple of days. Just don't involve me in any of your leisurely activities. I've still got to train, you know."

Barret frowned a bit but nodded none the less. "Great. I'll go tell the girls the good news. But on a more personal note, you do need to cool down a bit Spikes. You're wound up so tight, you look like you'll explode at any second."

"I appreciate the concern but I'll deal with my problems in my own way and in my own time, thank you." With that, Cloud turned briskly and walked away.

Barret watched after the blond man for a moment, rubbing his head in annoyance. "Sheesh! Somebody's got a major chip on their shoulder."

And with that he exited the barn room right after his leader.

****

Aeris looked up brightly towards the sky as she allowed the gentle spring breeze to caress her soft face. Over the past month things had been extremely troubling and painful for the green-eyed woman yet in the time that had passed she had also come to terms with a lot about herself and about her feelings in general. She had grown to accept the death of her friend Zack. However that didn't mean she would forget all that he had done for her. He had helped her reach a new level of independence she had never found the confidence to shoot for on her own. She was just grateful she had got the chance to meet him before his untimely death.

Aeris also found that she appreciated her other companions as well. Barret was always constantly being arrogant and prideful but deep down she knew he had a sense of comradery stronger and more fortified than anyone.

Tifa was always trying to get things situated and was always so thoughtfully focused. Aeris couldn't help the slight envy she felt for the girl's structured, rational, mindset. At the same time though, Aeris knew Tifa had a well of uncertainty buried hidden inside of her. Over the past month the girls had talked more and more with each other and ultimately in the end, they had become very good friends. Aeris was happy about this. They both seemed to support each other in their own way. They each found they could talk with the other about almost anything. Oddly enough, they were both at a loss for words when their conversation leaned towards their feelings for Cloud. Aeris knew Tifa was in love with Cloud just as she was sure Tifa knew she had the exact same feelings. For whatever reasons though, the two girls could still remain friends not letting their feelings for the young blonde haired man interfere with the new sisterly bond they each shared with each other.

Then there was Red13. Aeris had to admit she was pleasantly surprised about the bright red animal. His real name was Nanaki and she found that he could be very supportive at times. Even though he revealed that he was only 16 in his estimated version of human years, he was very wise and seemed to always know exactly what to say when Aeris or anyone else in the group was depressed. She knew the tiger had a big heart but she also felt that there was some secret, some hidden pain that their furry, red haired friend kept to himself, buried deeply in his past. Again, Aeris mind wondered vaguely back to Zack and how his troubled past had tragically caught up to him. That was one fate she desperately hoped would not befall Red.

Aeris sighed softly. It seemed that now every time she thought about Zack, she would become depressed in a way. She knew she shouldn't feel that way, that Zack would have hated for his friends to remember him with such sadness yet she simply couldn't help it. It was almost as if she had no control over her troubling emotions.

"A gil for your thoughts?"

Aeris chuckled lightly at the comment. "If that were so, I'd be a gillionare." Aeris turned her face towards the new presence and her bright green eyes rested upon Tifa's large sparkling brown ones.

"So what are you doing out here?" The dark haired fighter asked.

"I dunno really. Just admiring the scenery I guess. Couldn't really do much of that back in Midgar you know?"

Tifa arched an eyebrow questioningly. "Is that all? Just admiring scenery? Come on Aeris I know you too well."

Aeris let out a defeated sigh and leaned back slightly against the fence she was sitting on. Tifa propped up next to her and soon both women were admiring the scenery together.

"I dunno… I guess I'm just concerned about Cloud. He's been acting so withdrawn lately. He won't even smile anymore. At least not in the same way he used to when…"

Aeris couldn't find the voice the finish her statement, the memories too painful to be recalled. It was true she may have accepted Zack's death but still the very thought of how he died troubled her to no end. There was so much blood, so much insane desired in the more experienced SOLDIER's eyes when he carefully slide the blade away from Zack's stiffening body. It made her want to cry when she remembered the flash of pain that struck the dark haired man's face before his body fell lifelessly to the ground.

Tifa shifted in her position next to her slightly. "Yeah, I know what you mean. You don't have to say it. I don't know, I guess Cloud is just working through his emotions in his own way. He probably finds that it's easier to vent his frustrations out through training rather then just talking it out."

Aeris nodded slowly. "They were very close. When I first met them they acted like brothers. Their bond of loyalty to one another was beyond anything I'd ever seen before."

Tifa nodded absently. "I never got a chance to get to know Zack that well but from what I've seen, the two of them seemed inseparable."

"Yeah…" Aeris shifted, uncomfortable with their current conversation. "So… Do you think Cloud will let us stay here for a while?"

A wistful smile crept up to Tifa's face. "I don't think he has much of a choice in the matter. If he doesn't we'll just ring his ears until he gives."

Aeris couldn't help the laugh that issued from her throat as the very image of that depiction made its way into her mind.

"Is this a private party or can anyone join?"

Aeris eyes lit up when she saw the slightly ruggish features of their furry red companion as he walked up towards them. "Hey Red!"

Red smiled in his own way as he positioned hisself under one of the low bridges of the fence, between the two. "So what's the topic?" He asked nonchalantly.

Tifa and Aeris traded amused glances with each other before answering in unison.

"Men." They both said then laughed wildly.

Red raised his good eye, not understanding what they were talking about. "Obviously I've missed something."

"Not much." Tifa replied readily. "Just girl talk. I don't think you would have been too interested in it."

Red simply shrugged. "So have you given any thought to what you all want to do while we stay at this barn?"

"I haven't really thought about it all that much. I guess just admire nature." Aeris replied. "Something to take my mind off of the cruel reality that continues to plague us."

"And what about you Tifa?"

"Same thing pretty much. We've all been so stressed out lately, I think we all could use a break."

"Especially Cloud…" She added, mumbling under her breath. Unfortunately she hadn't taken into account Red's acute sense of hearing.

A slight grin formed on the tiger's lips as he continued to stare out into the sky with his one good eye. "Love is a strange thing is it not?" He asked in a reminiscent sort of way. "Just when you realize it's there, the object of your affections has already gone."

Tifa and Aeris both turned their eyes towards Red now. The tiger chuckled and slowly stood up, stretching on all fours.

"What do you mean by that?" Tifa asked and could tell Aeris wanted to know the same thing.

"That is for each of you to figure out on your own." Red said and with that, the young tiger walked off into the distance.

::::::::::To Be Continued::::::::::

Author's note: Thanks for reading and Please stay tuned for chapter 2.