Disclaimer: I don't own Cloud, Zack, Sephiroth, Vincent, Tifa, or anyone else who happens to live on FFVII's Gaea. Or FFVII itself, for that matter. Just to make sure we're all clear on that...Oh, and this story contains Tifa-bashing. I don't hate her as much as this story seems to imply, but there's some serious rage in this fic. If you really like Tifa, don't read this.


I remember.

It's an amazing feeling, to suddenly realize that everything you've ever known is a lie, to know that your entire life is only the result of having your soul tortured and tarnished. To know that the shimmering gold that was once your spirit has been tarnished, weakened to the point of breaking, and that it has been broken at least once. I know it was broken, shattered like glass, and that was when I forgot. The pieces were put back together in the wrong order, and many of them discarded altogether, trying to protect others from being cut by their sharp edges.

But now I remember. There are still gaps and confusion, points in my memory where I remember brushing black hair out of my eyes, or getting positively smashed with people I never knew. I just have to sort those memories out, lock them away somewhere to be admired on a rainy day, to look at when I'm alone again and I want to hear the voice of my greatest friend. My memories are here, though, returned to me at last, the last gift of one I care for so deeply it hurts. It didn't hurt so much before I knew who I was.

I know who I am, I know what I am, I know why I am. I know why I keep my left hand bound, why everything in my mind was once covered by flashes of white light and lancing pain, and why the thought of him makes me shiver. It is not fear, not pain, not anger, as I thought before. It is...excitement. I know myself again, and so I know him.

And I know you.

I know the girl who locked me outside her house the day her mother died, who told her friends to make me go away, who was the first to tell me I was...different. I remember your father, the man who beat me on that day, the man who threw me to the ground and blamed me—me, of all people in the village—for your recklessness. He didn't know you, did he? He didn't know that, on that day so many years ago, you wanted to fall you wanted to die. He also never knew that you saw me reaching for your hand, that you knew I was there, that it wasn't my fault.

I know you remember—the guilt is still eating you up, isn't it? Now that you don't hate me anymore, you wish you had said something before. You wish that you had apologized for what your father did. Back then, you only smiled.

You never told him. You found your joy in my pain, you smiled when you woke from your coma and found me littered with bruises and scrapes. You were happy to see that I had finally paid for my difference. You wished that, when we fell, I had been the one to hit first, the one to fall against the stone and roll, arms and legs flailing, until I reached the softer earth and finally passed out. You wished that if you couldn't die, I would. What did I do to deserve your hate? That is one thing I don't remember, because I never knew in the first place.

Don't try to tell me it isn't true. I remember this, and there's nothing anyone could do or say to convince me of otherwise. After all, you know you only took me in because you pitied me. Because I was going away, and you were afraid that someone would find out. That one of your new friends would meet the boy you wished would die, and that they would end up like those kids you were always hanging out with before.

I remember that your friends teased me for my hair, for my eyes, for being so small...I don't remember clearly which was the first once to hit me, but I remember hitting back. I remember knocking him out hold with one blow. I remember that he didn't wake up for a long time. Did he wake up at all? I don't remember seeing him again, but he might have just been avoiding me. After that, they were all afraid of me; I barely saw any of the other children at all. I would step out into the town square and find that it was empty, when only moments before it had been bustling with children and adults alike. Were their parents afraid of me, too?

How funny.

I hurt people, so many people...children, teenagers, adults...they were all afraid of me by the time I left, weren't they? I want to laugh now, to think of it. I'm not sorry for what I've done, not at all. Each and every blow I struck was a blow they deserved. Every drop of blood I spilt was a drop of a life that they didn't deserve. It's kind of funny—without even meaning to, I had become like him.

Even before I was deemed a failure, even before Hojo took Zack and I, even before I knew his name, I had become Sephiroth. Though where his hair shines silver mine is gold, and where his eyes are green mine are blue, and where his left hand bears a number mine is blank, I am him. I have been him ever since you fell.

Perhaps that is why he meant so much to me—we were two halves of the same whole, two sides of the same coin.

That is why I shiver when I think of him, and why it sickens me to think of what you and the others are making me do to him. I know that he is not the man I knew, he is not Zack's partner, nor is he the embodiment of perfection Shinra made him out to be. He never was that latter, you know. He had his flaws, his annoying habits that made both Zack and I want to hit him over the head, and he had his endearing qualities.

You said he was cold, that you didn't like him at all, that he scared you.

Did I scare you, too? Perhaps you were afraid of him because he was so much like me, but was not me. By then the hate had left your heart and been replaced by something...different. The boy that had fought your friends—all your friends—and won, had gone from being something to be loathed to something you longed to see. Were you in love with me back then, when Nibelheim burned? When I carried you away from the place you fell, you seemed to realize that I had kept my promise, and you smiled. That was the first time I ever saw you really smile at me—a grin not laced with hatred and malice.

If you had smiled at me like that before, back when I was hurting people and watching in grim satisfaction as they bled all over the cobbled stones of the town square, then maybe I wouldn't have left. I might even have loved you.

But not now. That was too little, too late, and there's no point in trying now. No one can change the past, I know that better than anyone—except perhaps Vincent, who you fear for his difference just as you hated me for mine—and I am not going to pretend it's possible to start all over again. I cannot wipe clean the slate you shattered, and I cannot love you with a heart that was stolen by the man I have sworn to kill.

Why, you ask? Why can I not love you back, after everything we've been through? It's simple, so simple it might make you hate me again. It's because I remember, Tifa.

I remember.


Author's Note: This was pretty different from what In usually do, I know, and Cloud's pretty out-of-character for the whole thing. Ever since I got through the part in the game where he got his memories back I've wanted to write something like this, though, where Cloud tells Tifa that he knows exactly what she thought of him. I mean, he came to give his condolences when her mother died and she wouldn't even let open the door! Why would she do that, if they really were 'childhood friends' like she keeps telling everyone? I've had this idea bouncing around in my head for months, and been completely unable to get down a single word on it. The I sat down at my computer, fully prepared to finish off Chapter Ten of Bound, and ended up throwing this unpleasant little one-shot out instead.

I don't really hate her this much, I swear...it just came out this way, I guess. It's not a nice story anyway, though, so it's okay.