Disclaimer: Sadly, they aren't mine. I really wish they were but you know how it is. Please don't sue. Then I can't buy Advent Children!

Prologue

"You look comfortable."

"Hm…" Cloud glanced upwards at the figure looming over him, blocking the afternoon sun. "I'm not moving yet, Seph. I say we eat lunch."

Sephiroth laughed and lay down beside the blond. He leaned over to claim a kiss. "Just lunch?"

"Seph…" Cloud kissed his lover back. "Just lunch. You know we have to move if we're going to catch up."

"True." Sephiroth sighed. He glanced around the calm landscape. "It's hard to believe we're back here."

Cloud nodded in agreement. It was hard to believe they were back on Gaia, their home planet. "It looks a lot better than it used to."

"Several centuries without human influence have helped," Sephiroth concurred. Humanity had left Gaia when the Planet simply could no longer tolerate them. Humans' overuse of the world's resources had left it a dying thing. By then the space program had progressed to where humanity could evacuate. And so they had left. Sephiroth and Cloud had gone with them, though more by choice than necessity. They could survive without most of the niceties that people had depended upon at time, and the Planet would hardly hurt Cloud. By then, they had been together in almost every sense of the word, meaning the Planet was just as inclined to take care of Sephiroth as well. How they had come together was an epic in and of itself.

"It feels good." Cloud had forgotten what it felt like to have the mako so alive in his veins. It had quieted when they had left the Planet, actually sending them into brief comas until they had been able to readjust. After they had recovered they ended up moving from settlement to settlement, supporting themselves by doing various odd jobs. It had been boring at times but restful as well.

Eventually, of course, things went wrong again. Some idiot hadn't remembered the lessons of the past and had set out to create ultimate, living weapons. Luckily he hadn't experimented on humans this time. Instead he had focused on combing the traits of various animals through genetic manipulation and increasing their intelligence. In an extremely predictable accident, the creatures managed to escape, killing their creator in the process. They ravaged the settlement to the ground and took off world-hopping, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

It hadn't taken long for the call to come in, summoning two of the best fighters in existence. It was a shame neither Sephiroth or Cloud had found out about this project earlier. They would have stopped it themselves. Instead they had followed the trail, tracking down the monsters one by one and destroying them. Now, only one remained.

And so here they were, on the planet on which it had all started.

"Tracking this thing will be difficult, considering it can fly. And there isn't anyone around we can ask."

"Actually, there is."

"Cloud, there's been no intelligent life here for years."

"Not 'life,' exactly…" Cloud closed his eyes and dug his hand into the earth beside him, breathing deeply. It had been a long time since he had done this, but he still remembered her name. "Aeris…"

The response was immediate; the world faded to white and Sephiroth vanished. Besides him sat a familiar figure, one he hadn't seen in far too long. "Hello Cloud."

"Hello Aeris."

"It's been a long time." The Cetra smiled, gently embracing her friend. "It'll be a while more, in so many ways…"

Cloud looked at her in confusion. "Aeris?"

"Never mind. You need to go, of course. Still have your head in trouble," Aeris teased. She let go and shifted backwards. "Due north, about sixty miles. It seems to be settling down but if it moves again I'll let you know."

"Thank you, Aeris." Cloud released his mental "hold" on the Lifestream and blinked as the world slid back into existence. He looked into Sephiroth's worried face, inches from his own. "North, sixty miles."

"Don't do that again without warning me," Sephiroth growled. "You nearly stopped breathing." He stood. "Let's get this over with."

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'It just had to be the worst of them,' Cloud thought with a sigh as he finally spotted their prey. The creature had been based on the old gryphons. However, the scientist had doubled its size and added armor scales, a barbed, poisonous tail, poison claws, and several tentacles. (Whatever it was with scientists and tentacles Cloud didn't know, but he really didn't want to find out.) From the information they had been given, the blond recognized it as experiment Twenty-Six. Supposedly the most intelligent, agile and talented of the bunch. And of course, the most deadly.

Typical.

Cloud pulled his sword free from his back, watching Sephiroth do the same out of the corner of his eye. Neither had their original blades; they had not survived the trip. It was a shame, because nothing they had found since their destruction quite measured up….

The warriors moved simultaneously, Sephiroth coming in from the left, Cloud from the right. Sephiroth managed to slice off one of the tentacles and safely summersault over the beast. Cloud hit nothing but air as it managed to dodge. 'Damn, it's fast! He couldn't remember the last time he had completely missed his target. He lunged forward again, driving the creature back towards Sephiroth. At the last moment the beast twisted wildly, evading both of their attacks. It soared high into the air, dove and landed a good distance away from the pair, digging its claws deep into the ground.

Cloud had the sudden feeling it was smirking at him.

JUMP! CLOUD, JUMP!

The blond performed the action before he even realized what had happened, startled by the sudden clamor of voices in his mind. His eyes widened in shock as the creature's form began to glow green, light flickering brightest about its paws. It was shining through a thin layer of dirt, emanating from the crystalline substance just below the surface ' Shit! We forgot about materia!' "Seph! Watch out!" the blond shouted, afraid he was already too late.

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There had been a time when Sephiroth enjoyed fights like this, doubly so when he had someone as competent as Cloud working with him. By now, however, their appeal had worn off and he would rather be home. Still, this was an important job, so they'd best get it done. Things had been going more or less as expected until just after Cloud's warning.

Energy lashed out all over the earth, blasting away the soil to reveal a solid bed of materia at least three feet thick. Sephiroth dropped to one knee, the sheer amount of power released overloading and shutting down his body. He managed to glance upwards to see the horrified look on Cloud's face mere moments before the beast's strong beak found his neck. 'I'm sorry, Cloud.'

The pain didn't last long. Slowly his vision cleared and he found himself standing beside his body, which was quickly decomposing into dust. A bitter smile twisted his lips; apparently Franklin had been right. Their souls had kept their bodies in their current condition rather than the other way around. 'I'm dead.' The thought didn't seem real some how.

"SEPH!" Sephiroth whipped his head around toward the oddly echoing sound. Cloud was staring at the place Sephiroth's body had lain, clearly distraught, but Sephiroth was glad his lover, at least, had managed to survive the attack. "You…" Cloud's eyes blazed brighter than Sephiroth had seen in a very long time. Light flickered about the blond's sword: the power of the Planet. Sephiroth's stomach clenched. Cloud had not done this in a very long time... and the last time had nearly killed him.

"You will not get away!" Boosted by the Planet's immense energy reserves, Cloud matched the monster move for move, slicing off limbs as he went. He didn't come out unscathed, however; the creature got in more than a few hits with its poisoned claws and tail. But there really never was any chance for it. All too soon its carcass lay on the materia bed. Exhausted both outside and within from his wounds and the channeling, Cloud collapsed next to it, an odd smile on his face. "See you soon, Seph."

Sephiroth sighed. He wished Cloud had survived but knew it was selfish to do so. Still, at least they would be together; that was what really mattered.

"Sephiroth."

The warrior stiffened at his name, turning slowly to see a familiar figure standing beside him. "Miss Gainsborough," Sephiroth cautiously greeted. The last Cetra had never spoken to him in all of his sane years, though she had often appeared to Cloud before they had left the Planet. "I believe I owe you an apology."

The spirit shook her head. "Your actions after your resurrection far outweigh the harm you did at Jenova's bidding, and the joy you have given Cloud over the years is far more important than anything else. All other repentance is secondary. I require no recompense for the injury you gave me." She smiled. "Now, I believe there is someone who's been waiting to see you for some time." The Ancient vanished and Sephiroth felt a familiar presence behind him.

"Clou-- Zack." Sephiroth stopped short, shock washing over him. When had he last thought of the SOLDIER who had served under him, and more importantly, had been his first friend?

"Hello, Seph," Zack greeted him softly. An uncomfortable silence fell between the pair. Sephiroth could imagine why. What had Zack thought of his relationship with Cloud? The pair had been close, he knew… and things became even more complicated when one considered what had happened between them. Finally, he could take it no longer, the question slipping out of him before he could stop it.. "Where's Cloud?"

Zack gave his friend a long, deep look. "Don't you know?"

It should be noted that MOST OF THIS CHAPTER DOESN'T MATTER AT ALL. Really, I just needed to kill them so most of this exposition is pointless. There are a few little interesting things in here that will pop up again but they're mentioned in one line. Also, I totally skipped over how Seph and Cloud got together. That's because it REALLY isn't important to this story. Another relationship formation is but that would be telling. ;)

Also: If Seph and Cloud are too happy they've had a long time to adjust and lots of help to do it.

This is my secondary major project at the moment My first is still Butterfly Effect with kiraya, link to which can be found on my favorites page.