Disclaimer: I don't own FF7 or any of the FF7 characters…such a pity.
Reaching his arm out he expected to wrap it around the body beside him, but instead his hand landed on the covers. He wasn't greeted with the warmth he was craving but with the coolness of the linen. Blinking his eyes open tiredly it took him a few moments to adjust to the darkened room.
"Mm," he mumbled sleepily while squinting his eyes a bit. "Zack?"
The only thing that was beside him was a white pillow. A pillow that Zack should've been resting against.
Sitting up slightly the blonde ran a hand over his face before turning to look at the nightstand and the small digital clock that was on top of it. It was a little past ten in the evening now, which meant he had been asleep for a couple of hours or so.
"Zack?" He called again into the seemingly empty room as he glanced around a bit more while sitting up fully now. His eyes landed on the floor beside the bed and he realized that Zack's clothing was gone and only his remained.
Where did he go? At this time?
True it wasn't that late, but the recruit didn't know what reason really Zack would have to leave the room. He thought that they would just sleep through the night and wake up early in the morning and hopefully leave. But maybe Zack was looking for the General, he had mentioned that he was acting a bit strange and knowing Zack he was probably concerned about the man.
Sighing Cloud fell back against the bed while looking up at the ceiling. Again he was alone in this room, and again he didn't feel like being by himself. He was probably being stupid but he couldn't help it, and without Zack there he was sure he wouldn't be able to fall back asleep. Maybe his boyfriend had just left to get a drink…or down to the diner they were at the night before to get something to eat. He would be back soon shortly of course. So really there was no need to worry. Turning onto his side he closed his eyes trying to fall back asleep, for about fifteen minutes he was a bit restless but he finally managed to doze off. However he didn't stay asleep for to long before he was pushing himself back up and glancing back to the small clock. It had only been a little over an hour…but still Zack wasn't back.
Climbing out of bed the recruit quickly dressed. It was hopeless, he wasn't going to sleep without knowing where Zack had disappeared to. He exited out of the room a few minutes later and made his way down to the lobby. He was just about to exit out of the hotel before he stopped and made his way back to the check in counter where a girl who looked no older than eighteen or so was seated with a magazine in her hands, her feet propped up on the counter.
"Uh, excuse me?" Cloud asked softly.
The girl simply shifted her eyes from the magazine to him waiting for him to continue.
"I was just wondering if you saw a man leave out of here not to long ago. He has dark hair and blue eyes," the recruit explained while taking a step closer towards the counter, "about this tall," he continued with a gesture of his hand.
"Oh yeah!" the girl seemed to perk up, "also with Shinra right?" She asked while Cloud nodded. "He left out of here a few hours ago," she continued while looking to the clock that was hanging on the wall, "at around maybe nine."
Where would he be for this long?
"Oh, was he with anybody else?" Cloud continued to question.
"No," she replied with a shake of her head, "when he checked in though he was with General Sephiroth and two others. Though I haven't seen the General since early this morning and the other two…oh wait, you must be one," she concluded while looking at the boys attire.
"Yeah," Cloud began with a quick nod, "thanks for your help," he finished before turning on his heel quickly. He didn't want to get caught up in any unnecessary conversation. Now his curiosity was up. It was definite that the General hadn't been back to the hotel since they went to Mt. Nibel and honestly where could he be at for so long? Surely Zack had to have been thinking the same thing, there was no doubt in the blonde's mind now that Zack had gone searching for the General but…
Stepping out of the hotel he glanced around the area. It was quiet out but that was to be expected. And Nibelheim was a small town so really there wasn't many places that he should have to search at. Besides, he didn't think the General would just be hanging out at any random place.
Running a hand through his hair in frustration as he kept his eyes scanning the area he paused briefly when he caught sight of the Shinra Mansion. The windows were illuminated with a faint light, something that he hadn't ever seen in the place. It was abandoned many years ago, nobody ever went in there. In fact, when he was a kid he remembered hearing the stories and rumors that it was haunted. None of the children ever went near it…actually nobody did, children and adults alike.
But the lights were on in the place now…well at least in the front windows that he could see. Maybe the General had gone there? But for what reason? He wasn't sure, but someone was definitely in there.
It didn't take long to get to the iron gate that lead towards the mansion. Now that he was standing in front of it he realized just how big the place really was. He pushed open the gate and it made a loud creaky, echoing type of sound as if it hadn't been used in ages…in which it probably hadn't. He made his way up the stone pathway before climbing the few steps that lead to the double doors of the mansion. Carefully grasping the handle of one of the doors he pushed open the door. It was a lot heavier than he anticipated and he had to put more strength into it. A cloud of dust seemed to fly at him as soon as he stepped inside and he coughed a few times as he inhaled the thick, stale air.
He stopped at the entrance as he surveyed the area. The place was huge but also really dirty and broken up, but he couldn't help but to wonder how the place looked back at the time when it was new. There was a chandelier hanging in the center of the room that was covered in cobwebs and dust…actually mostly everything in the place was covered in cobwebs and dust.
Cloud frowned a bit while stepping in further into the place. He saw that the light that he noticed from the outside was made by a small oil lamp that was sitting on a small shelf to the right of him.
"Zack?" He called out into the stillness of the mansion as he made his way to the spiral staircase at the center of the place. Stopping at the beginning of the stairs he peered up the stairwell, he couldn't see very much up there and he wasn't sure he wanted to even try to go up there. As old as these stairs were there was no telling if they were stable or not.
"Zack?" He tried again before glancing back over to the small oil lamp. Someone was here for sure…or at least had been.
"Are you in h-"
The sound of a door closing loudly caught his attention and stopped him mid sentence as he spun around.
Moving away from the staircase he made his way to the wall on the left. When he came in he didn't pay that much attention to everything, and he had missed this door off to the side. It was partially open already so he carefully pushed it open further.
Did that sound come from here?
His eyes widened once the door was opened completely. There was another spiral staircase here that lead downwards. It was partially illuminated from some lanterns that were hanging on the wall but that was about it. However the recruit was sure that this is where he had heard the sound…although these steps didn't look any more stable than the others, actually these looked worse and they were made of wood. Wood that was splintered and perhaps even rotting.
"Damn," Cloud mumbled to himself before glancing behind him into the mansion and then back towards the spiral staircase. Where did this lead to anyways? Was this the basement?
Taking in a breath the recruit grabbed one of the lanterns from off the side of the wall and carefully began to descend down the steps, making sure to avoid any areas that looked too weak. Finally reaching the bottom he held up the lantern to light his way. He seemed to be in some sort of long hallway with stone walls. But at the end of the path he saw a lighted room. Whoever was in the mansion was certainly down there.
Cautiously he made his way towards the end of the hall and the closer he got to it he saw the many shelves of books that filled the area.
"A library?" He said quietly to himself while setting the lantern down on the ground beside the entrance. A library all the way down there, it seemed a bit out of place in the blonde's opinion.
He had just taken a step inside when he heard a dull thud of something hitting the ground. Freezing he glanced towards the ground to see it was one of the many books on the desk in the center of the room that had fallen onto the floor.
What is all this?
"I see," a voice spoke quietly catching the boys attention as a figure emerged from one of the aisles of bookshelves. It was the General who was holding a book in his hands, jade eyes fixed on the text inside as strands of silver hair fell into his face.
Cloud's eyes widened briefly before he took another step into the room, "Oh General Sephiroth sir," he began, "we were wondering where you were."
The man didn't speak as he made his way over to the desk, all the while his gaze not leaving the book.
"Did Zack come by here sir?" Cloud continued to ask as he kept wide blue eyes on the man before him. But still the General hadn't even as much as lifted his head to acknowledge him…it was almost as if he couldn't hear the recruit, like he wasn't even in the room.
"General?" Cloud began before dropping his gaze to the floor guiltily, "I…I understand you might still be upset with me for earlier on Mt. Nibel and me speaking out of turn like that. I didn't even properly apologize. I didn't mean to yell like that I just…"
Setting down the textbook on the desk Sephiroth kept his gaze downwards as he rifled through some other papers and books that were there.
"You think my mind is occupied with thoughts of that clumsy fool that fell off the bridge or with your dramatic outburst? Honestly Cloud you are so simple minded," the General began in a calm tone while shifting his gaze upwards to peer into Cloud's eyes.
The blonde's eyes widened as he looked back into the General's. There was something…different, so different about his gaze. True he had always been a bit intimidated and nervous when he looked into Sephiroth's eyes, but now it just seemed to make him feel scared and uneasy.
"W, what do you mean?" Cloud asked, his voice becoming softer than before.
"Just that." The man replied before a small smirk graced his face, "Don't look so surprised."
"I," Cloud began with a shake of his head.
"Zackary isn't here. You should run along to your boyfriend, I honestly don't want to be in the presence of a traitor," Sephiroth spoke, his tone taking on a tone that Cloud wasn't at all familiar with and that he didn't at all like.
"Traitor?" Cloud asked completely confused by this point. "Sir I don't…I don't understand. Why are you…"
"Should I act any other way towards a traitor?" The General asked while moving from around the desk and Cloud automatically took a few steps back to distance himself.
"I, I don't know what you're," Cloud began a bit in shock. He didn't know what it was really. This intimidating aura that seemed to be surrounding the General. It wasn't the same feeling that Cloud usually got around him. No, this wasn't admiration and awe he was feeling in the man's presence, now it seemed to be fear and just all around "strange."
Smirking the General let his eyes lower before speaking. "It was you. You were the one's who did all this."
'What?' What the hell was going on? The recruit was growing more and more confused as each second dragged by. He really didn't know what to say or how to respond to the General's words. He just wanted to tell him to snap out of it and get a grip…but he couldn't bring himself to actually utter the words.
"She's here," Sephiroth ranted on while lifting his gaze to rest on Cloud. "I have to see her. And I won't let anyone get in my way."
'She?' Nothing that came out of the General's mouth was making sense, and Cloud was wondering if he should even bother to further question anything. At the moment he kind of wished he hadn't even came down to the basement.
"Shinra, they've made a fool of me for to long. This is where it ends," Sephiroth continued, a distant look appearing in his eyes briefly before his hand reached up to grab masamune.
Cloud's eyes widened at that gesture and he took another step back absentmindedly as he felt a cold chill run down his spine.
Pulling the massive sword from it's sheath Sephiroth let it rest at his side, his eyes still focused on the blonde.
What was he going to do? Had the man really lost it? There was nothing that Cloud could do but just watch the General and hope and pray to whatever god out there that he hadn't pulled out that sword to use on him.
Sephiroth began to walk forward, almost seeming to float as he neared towards the recruit. Once he was right in front of him he grabbed him by the neck harshly with his free hand while letting green eyes bore into blue.
Cloud barely had time to react to the swift movement as he let out a strangled gasp as his hands instantly went to his throat, trying desperately to loosen the mad man's clutch. He couldn't do anything but stare back into those eyes, the eyes that seemed to take on a deeper shade of green. The smirk that spread across the General's face as he watched Cloud anxiously try to free himself made the recruit feel sick. He was actually enjoying this, seeing Cloud in distress. His vision began to blur after a while as the lack of air started to get to him. He tried to keep his eyes open and before he knew it he had slumped to the ground roughly and he could hear the sound of footsteps walking away and out of the library.
The blonde remained on the floor as he choked and gasped trying to fill his lungs back up with oxygen before turning and vaguely making out the figure of the General disappearing down the hall. He slowly picked himself up resting on his hands and knees as he continued to cough and try to get his bearings.
His heart seemed like it was racing a million times per second and he could still feel the sensation of the man's fingers around his throat. He stood up on wobbly legs as he placed his hand against the stone wall of the library while looking down the hall that the General had just disappeared down. Where did he go? And what was he doing?
A part of the blonde was a little scared to find out, although he knew he couldn't stay down in the library forever. But was the other still in the mansion? Once he got his breathing back under control he slowly made his way down the hall before coming to the wooden spiral staircase once more. He glanced up noting that everything seemed to be clear so he cautiously made his way up. Once at the top of the staircase he placed his hand on the door, turning the doorknob slightly and pushing against it, only to find…that it wouldn't budge.
It was then that he remembered when he came down here that this door was already slightly open. So maybe it was stuck? Or did the General lock him in?
"Hey!" Cloud shouted while trying the door again and banging on it loudly with his fist. But to no avail. He got no response and the old heavy wooden door wouldn't budge.
"Shit," he mumbled under his breath while leaning against the door. How the hell was he supposed to get out of here? He was sure that there wasn't any other exit down in the basement, so this had to be the only one.
Why? Why was this happening? What was going on with Sephiroth, why was he doing this?
He didn't know how long he had been down in the basement, or how long he had been swinging away at this rickety old doorknob with one of the basement lanterns, trying to get it loose so that he could get out. But finally after what seemed like an eternity it gave away and the blonde was able to push open the heavy door. Breathing heavily he stepped out into the mansion, he had tired himself out from trying to break out of that door, that with the combination of the thick air just wasn't helping at all. Not lingering around for a moment longer he crossed the expanse of the mansion towards the doorway. He had enough of this, he needed to find Zack and he needed to find him now. His heart dropped when he started to wonder if Sephiroth had already run into the SOLDIER. And if he did, what would he do?
This thought seemed to fuel him even more and he quickly grasped the handle of the door before swinging it open. But he wanted to close it just as quickly when his eyes took in the sight before him.
Fire…that was all he could see for miles and miles. Just the bright orangey glow of intense flames surrounding the town…his home.
For a moment he couldn't move and he actually thought he stopped breathing as his eyes widened. It was right in front of him, he could almost already feel the intense heat of the flames on his skin. And yet, there was something so…surreal.
A choked sound escaped from his throat, which could only be described as a whimper as he cautiously took a few steps away from the mansion. He could hear screams and see people running about, obviously trying to escape their ablaze homes…
"Mom!" He cried as his legs began to finally work again. In an instant he had dashed away from the mansion and was running into the streets, while trying to avoid the flames that seemed to be getting higher and higher. With all of the commotion he was a bit disoriented and he couldn't even tell where or which way his house was.
Looking about frantically as he heard his name shouted his eyes fell onto Zack who was running over towards him.
"Zack," he started as the SOLDIER practically crashed into him pulling him into a tight embrace.
"I've been looking everywhere for you!" Zack began while pulling away and looking at the blonde worriedly.
"I was looking for you to," Cloud replied while looking around the area, "what's going on? What happened!?"
"Hey! You two!" A man shouted causing Zack and Cloud to glance his way, "you're the other Shinra lackey's who came here right?"
Stepping away from Cloud Zack walked over to the older man who was kneeled down on the ground holding an injured young man in his arms. Zack simply nodded waiting for the man to continue, he knew he had more to say.
"Sephiroth is the one who is behind all this," the man spoke with a shake of his head. "I don't know what Shinra was thinking to send someone so unstable to a small, peaceful town like this."
"Sephiroth," Zack spoke quietly while clenching his fists at his sides before taking a glance into the burning town, "have you seen him?" He asked while turning his focus back onto the man.
Nodding the man continued, "He went through the Nibel Mountains, I assume he's heading to the reactor. A student of mine… Tifa, went up there. She was looking for her father"
"What!" Cloud spoke up in shock while stepping beside Zack.
Closing his eyes the man let out a sigh, "I tried to stop her, but there was so many injured people that I was helping, I couldn't get away."
"Don't worry, I'll find her," Zack replied while looking towards Mt. Nibel.
"Zack," Cloud began before Zack quickly cut in.
"Cloud stay here with him, help him out in any way you can. I'll be back."
"No!" The blonde quickly shouted while shaking his head, "I'm coming with you."
"Cloud," Zack began while looking deep into blue eyes, "please just do this. With the state that Sephiroth is in I don't want to chance anything happening to you. I'm going to get Tifa and I'll be right back."
No, Cloud didn't like this. He didn't like it one bit. But Zack was stern in what he was saying, and he figured this wasn't a time to argue. Even though now that he had found him he really didn't want to be separated from him again. But…
"Ok," Cloud replied with a brief nod gaining a small smile from Zack. Leaning in he kissed the blonde softly while caressing the side of his face briefly.
"See you in a few," Zack spoke while letting his eyes linger on Cloud a moment longer and then he had turned and was making his way towards Mt. Nibel. Cloud wanted nothing more than to run after him, but this wasn't the time to be weak. If he was going to get through this he needed to be strong.
Eyes widening as a thought passed through his mind he turned around getting ready to run off in a different direction before the older man on the ground reached out and grabbed his wrist.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?" He asked while raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"My mom…I'm from this town to. My home isn't too far away," Cloud began as he watched the older man's face drop.
"I'm sorry kid, I've been through all of the buildings and home's here and…the only survivors are the ones you see outside…I'm sorry."
"Sephiroth!!!" The young brunette girl shouted in the confines of the Mako reactor, her angry voice echoing throughout the vicinity.
Turning around ever so slightly the General stayed in his spot on the steps as he looked down towards the girl.
"You, you took everything away!" Tifa shouted while waving her father's sword angrily with her hand. "My home…my, my father!! You killed him! I can never forgive you!!"
Smirking the man simply turned his focus forward and proceeded to head up the steps.
"I'll kill you!" She screamed at the top of her lungs as she quickly ran towards the steps, scaling them quickly and preparing to stab the blade into the other's back. But with a swift turn the General swiped with masamune, stopping the girl in her tracks as the sharp metal sliced across her chest.
Falling backwards Tifa let out a cry of pain before landing on the hard metal steps, her back connecting with the edge of the sharp metal as she slid back down. Her father's sword clanking down beside her.
"No more interruptions," Sephiroth calmly spoke while keeping up the stairs and entering the door at the top.
Lying at the bottom of the steps Tifa took in short breaths as she felt her own blood begin to pool around her. Tears formed in the corner of her eye as she looked up the steps that the man had just walked up. She wanted nothing more than to take up the sword again and go after him, but honestly…this was the end. A sound of footsteps running in the distance kept her slightly aware as they began to get louder. But she couldn't move to see, all she could do was lay there in the reactor and look upwards.
"Tifa!" A voice shouted before the man came into view dropping down to the girls side.
"Z, Zack," the girl started as Zack's worried eyes looked over her.
"Sephiroth," he began in shock, "he did this?"
"Sephiroth…" she began before coughing slightly as the blood began to enter her throat. "Shinra…SOLDIER.I hate it all, I hate you too."
Those words struck the man hard. After all, this girl had every reason to feel this way and there really wasn't anything he could do or say to make things right.
"I'm sorry," he spoke softly while rising up from off the floor, "I won't even ask for your forgiveness. But please, let me finish this," he explained while glancing up the reactor steps.
Letting out a shaky breath Tifa closed her eyes, and at that moment Zack thought that she was gone. This girl was Cloud's childhood friend, he wanted to be able to protect her. To keep the blonde from loosing someone else close. Hadn't he already suffered enough? Had he not experienced loss at it's most highest peak? How did this happen? How did any of this happen?
"I'm sorry Cloud," Zack whispered while taking one last look at Tifa. He didn't look back, he couldn't. The only thing he could focus on now was Sephiroth, and putting an end to this all. He didn't even really remember walking up the steps or opening the door, but here he was and at the other end of the platform was Sephiroth. The man that he had respected and admired for so long at one point and time, but now…
"Sephiroth!" he shouted in a tone that not even he himself was familiar with. A tone that demanded to be answered.
Turning around the General gave a smile, though this smile could only be described as disturbing.
"Zackary, so nice of you to finally show up."
"What are you doing? What's gotten into you?" Zack asked, his questions completely genuine. With everything that this man had done he just had to wonder what was going on in his head.
"Hmm," Sephiroth began while turning back around and facing the tall structure that was before him. It seemed to be made of a metal of some sort and bore the image of a woman, though what it was exactly Zack wasn't sure of. When he and the General had come into this reactor earlier they didn't go this far…and Zack honestly really didn't care to.
"I've come for mother," the man continued while pressing his hands against the structure.
"Mother?" Zack asked while giving the man an odd look, all the while pulling out his buster sword.
"Let's take this planet back together mother," Sephiroth continued on, his back towards the SOLDIER as he inspected the structure. "I've come up with a plan."
"Sephiroth!" Zack yelled while taking a few steps closer on the narrow bridge that connected this platform to the other. Below it was a long drop, and to where it lead was anybody's guess.. "That's enough of this! You aren't making any sense! Do you even realize what you've done!? The innocent lives you've taken!?"
"Let's go to the Promised Land mother," the man continued on, as if he hadn't even heard Zack's voice shouting at him. And maybe he was so far gone that he honestly hadn't.
"Answer me!" Zack shouted while gripping his sword tighter and glaring at the General with bright Mako eyes.
There was a silence for a brief moment before the sound of quiet laughter filled the room. "It seems they have come again mother," Sephiroth began, "She is the one who is the rightful ruler of this planet. It was her who had the superior power and knowledge. But they…those worthless fools. They snatched the planet away, didn't they mother?"
Zack was shocked as he listened to the man talk. He couldn't believe that this was the same Sephiroth that he had come here with. And it was sad to see his sanity crumbling away like this and knowing that there was nothing that could be done to help him.
"But, don't worry anymore mother. Come with me," Sephiroth continued on calmly while reaching up and grabbing the structure. With a few hard tugs the metal casing loosened and he was able to pull it away, revealing a large glass tube that held what looked like some type of a monster inside.
"We finally meet…mother." With a small smile upon his face the man leaned up against the glass, almost as if he were trying to hug the creature from the confines of its glass cage.
Mother? What was with that? That was enough, Zack had seen and heard too much. There was no reaching this man now, and if he didn't do anything to stop him Shiva only knows what he would be capable of doing next. He made his way over to the other side of the platform before stopping when he was just a few feet behind the man.
"Sephiroth…what the hell is wrong with you?" He asked quietly while holding out his buster sword so that it was just inches away from the man's neck.
"You," the man began lowly while lowering his gaze, "traitor!" With a quick move he had his masamune out and had spun around bringing it down to hit the SOLDIER before it was quickly blocked with the other.
"Traitor? What are you talking about!? You're the one whose turned against us!" Zack gritted out while pushing back against the masamune with all of his force, trying to get the sharp blade away from him.
Jumping back to distance himself Sephiroth gave a smirk as his silver hair fell into his face, partially hiding his eyes. "You betrayed me long ago Zackary," he continued while holding out his sword, pointing it directly at the other.
"Seph," Zack began with a shake of his head. His voice taking on a bit of a sad tone, "I don't want to do this, but you're not yourself."
"Oh don't feel sorry for me Zackary," Sephiroth started while raising his sword, "after all I won't have an ounce of regret after I take your life."
Running into the reactor the blonde couldn't help but have a bad feeling wash over him. It was quiet, too quiet in the place. He knew he shouldn't have let Zack go off by himself, he should've went with him! He should've not taken no for an answer. But he wasn't going to wait anymore. He needed to know what was going on, if Zack was alright. He had to be, he couldn't loose anyone else…he just couldn't.
Once he had gotten further into the reactor his eyes widened as he saw Tifa lying at the bottom of the steps not moving. She was just… eerily and quietly still.
"Tifa!" Cloud shouted while skidding to a halt and dropping down to his knees beside her while taking one of her small hands into his, "Tifa, wake up," he began while gently brushing aside some stray strands of hair away from her face. His eyes traveled over her form and he saw the huge cut across her chest and the stain of blood on her once white shirt.
"Cloud," she spoke softly as her eyes fluttered a bit. Though she had spoken so quietly that he had to lean closer to her it.
A smile appeared on his face at that small movement and he gently picked the girl up in his arms. "It's okay," he spoke reassuringly while moving her from the bottom of the steps to across the room where he leaned her up against the wall.
"So you…did. You…you kept your promise…Cloud," she continued quietly as the faintest trace of a smile graced her face.
"Yeah," the recruit began with a slight nod, "sorry I'm a bit late," he finished with a small laugh, trying to lighten this situation as much as possible.
"It's…alright," Tifa replied while squeezing his hand.
Glancing up the reactor steps the blonde frowned when he heard a sound of what sounded like a loud crash come from there. Looking back to Tifa and noticing that her eyes were once again closed he gently pulled his hand away from hers. Rising to his feet he made his way over to the steps before slowly climbing them. A part of him…didn't want to know what laid beyond the door. His heart grew heavy with every step and yet he knew he had to keep going. The door was already open so he cautiously stepped inside. On the other side of the platform he saw a figure and after focusing on it for a moment he realized it was Sephiroth, but what was he doing? It seemed like he was trying to open up some type of a glass tube. But his attention was quickly diverted from the man to the discarded Buster Sword lying a few feet in front of him. If this sword was here, then…
His eyes widened as he stared at the sword before taking a hesitant step forward. But a rustling sound caught his attention and he quickly froze.
"C…Cloud," a voice said from behind him.
Spinning around his gaze fell onto Zack who was just a few feet away from the entrance, resting up against the wall.
"Zack!" Cloud began in surprise while rushing over to the injured SOLDIER and kneeling beside him. "W, what happened? You're hurt," He began worriedly while looking the other over and noticing the different cuts and bruises on him.
"It's nothing," Zack replied while shifting a bit all the while squeezing his eyes closed in pain.
"Don't," Cloud began while stabling his boyfriend with his hands, "don't move."
No…this, this wasn't right. How did this happen? Seeing Zack hurt like this was something that Cloud never wanted to see, never thought he would see. And by the hands of Sephiroth!? This was so messed up, so twisted. Was this even real? Some distorted reality, or was it all a dream…no a nightmare.
"I'm fine," Zack spoke up while opening his eyes and looking towards the blonde. And despite the situation and the pain he was in he still gave him that smile that always melted Cloud's heart. But this time…it was so different. Maybe because in a way, Cloud thought it would be the last time that he saw it.
He couldn't stop it, he didn't want to cry in front of Zack. No, not now. But he couldn't help it. Within seconds tears had welled up in his eyes and he was clutching the others shirt tight in his fists.
"Cloud," Zack began softly while reaching out and touching his lovers face.
"No, this is all wrong! It's all wrong!" Cloud cried while falling against Zack and letting his tears fall freely.
"It's okay babe," Zack replied while wrapping one arm around the boy and holding him closer. He blinked his eyes a few times, he felt out of it and he knew he was loosing consciousness as much as he was trying to fight it. "It's not over."
Pulling away Cloud grabbed onto the other's arm, "come on. I'll get us out of here. And we'll get you help. You'll…you'll be okay." It was then that he realized Zack's eyes were closed, and those brilliant blue eyes that had been on him just moments before were now hidden. "Zack?" He spoke while freezing for a minute and then he was shaking the other in a panic. "Zack! Come on! You'll be okay, just let me get you out of here! Wake up Zack! Wake up!" However Zack didn't open his eyes as his body slumped over, Cloud instantly moving to hold him up against him. Now that he was holding him closely though he could feel the SOLDIER's heartbeat. He wasn't…
Holding his boyfriend tighter he still couldn't seem to stop crying. It wasn't until a sound off in the distance rattled him that he turned his gaze towards the opposite end of the platform. And there Sephiroth still stood, seeming to be completely oblivious to what was going on.
Glaring at him as his tears still ran down his face, Cloud gently let go of Zack, leaning him back against the wall before hopping to his feet. Things seemed to be moving in a blur from there on out. He had quickly picked up the buster sword, with a scary ease as he rapidly moved across the bridge to the other platform where the General stood. And without a moment's hesitation he used all of his force. Taking all of his anger, his frustration and sadness from this day and focusing it all into this one hit. Towards the one person who was responsible for it all. He felt the tip of the sword pierce through the man's back as he followed through, pushing with all of his might, wanting to inflict the same pain that this man had bestowed upon him. With every inch that it went in a memory flashed through his mind.
My dream…no, my idol.
The General stiffened as he looked down a the blade that was now protruding from the front of his body as he let out a sharp hiss of pain.
"I trusted you!" Cloud shouted while gripping the handle of the sword tightly. "I admired you! I wanted to be like you! And you…you took so much away from me!"
"You…fool!" Sephiroth growled out while Cloud slowly slid out the blade.
"I can never forgive you!" Cloud shouted while backing away and shaking his head. His tears clouding his vision. "Never!"
Clutching at his wound the General slumped forward while falling on his knees and gasping for air.
At this Cloud turned around and ran back over to the other end of the platform where Zack was. He didn't care about too much of anything else aside from getting Zack out of here and making sure that he was okay. But it seemed fate had other things in store. Once he had made it to the other side the sound of glass shattering caught his attention and he quickly turned around to see that Sephiroth had broken the glass tube and had pulled something from inside and was clutching it in his hand.
Keeping his guard up Cloud watched him closely as the man turned around, stumbling a bit as he looked directly at Cloud.
"Impressive Cloud," he began while slowly making his way across the bridge, "but do not think that someone like you can stop me."
Not saying a word the blonde just concentrated on the other. The man was already injured so it shouldn't be too hard to finish him off.
Once Sephiroth had gotten close enough Cloud decided to go in for the kill. He charged at him quickly, hoping to take him by surprise. But that idea fell short and the man hastily grabbed the boys wrist, squeezing it tightly while caused him to drop the sword.
"Don't get carried away," Sephiroth spoke before reaching back and then plunging masamune right through the blonde.
Cloud's scream of pain seemed to echo throughout the reactor, and that alone made a smile appear on the General's features. "Not so heroic anymore now are we?"
With a swift move Sephiroth had thrown the recruit back, watching him painfully slide across the floor.
Trying to pick himself up Cloud gritted his teeth in pain. He could hear Sephiroth's footsteps getting closer and he knew once he reached him he would finish him off. But he…he couldn't let it end like this. No, not without at least taking Sephiroth down with him.
"Give up Cloud," Sephiroth began as he neared the other, watching him struggling to pick himself up. "It was fun while it lasted, but it's time to bow out gracefully."
Pulling the sword back the General was readying to plunge it into the other once more, but before it could pierce into the recruit he had grabbed the blade between his hands struggling to keep it away from stabbing into him.
Jade eyes widened as Sephiroth tightened the grip on the hilt of his sword. "Impossible," he mumbled while putting more of his strength against the blade.
There was no question that this wasn't an easy task, and the blood that was seeping from Cloud's hands were proof of that. But, he wouldn't give up so easily. He couldn't. He wasn't doing this for just himself, but for everyone that was in someway a victim of Sephiroth's tirade.
The blonde didn't even really know where this strength was coming from. After all, he was just the small town boy who had went to Midgar to become a SOLDIER…and failed at that. And this was the Great Sephiroth, or former. But despite all of that, something stirred within him and whatever it was was giving him the strength to fight back, to keep going. Only if it was just for a little while.
Finally the boy was able to get to his feet as he kept pushing back, the blade still tightly gripped into his hands. But with every inch that he stepped forward pushing back against the General, the man stepped back, nearing the edge.
In all honesty the silver haired man actually seemed a bit panicked and that made Cloud feel better. And maybe it was that, that look that gave him the last bit of energy he needed to complete this. Shutting his eyes and letting out a yell mixed between frustration and adrenaline he had finally pushed the man to the limit. His footing slipped and he had fallen backwards over the edge, but not before sending the blonde a look that was a cross between pure hatred and surprise.
And just as quick as that, it was over. Letting out a sigh Cloud instantly fell to the ground, fatigue finally starting to take over his body and the amount of blood loss weighing on him. He was praying that if this was the end, if it had to be so…that he could at least hold out until Sephiroth was finished. And he had gotten that, so now…
His body was already feeling heavy, and his vision was beginning to waver. But he had to use a little more energy to move. Glancing up tired eyes rested on Zack who wasn't too far away from him. He was close…and yet so far. But Cloud needed to be next to him, if this was really the end, he needed to be, he wanted to touch him. To feel that warmth once more.
Just once more…
Slowly he started to crawl over, though it seemed to be an almost impossible task. He was shaking now from loosing so much blood, and his limbs felt like lead. But he couldn't stop now, he wouldn't stop.
However his mind and his body were in a conflict, and it seemed as if his body had enough. He was so close to Zack though, it was almost painful. The only thing he could do was reach out his hand as far as he possibly could, hoping that he could grab his lovers hand. But he still fell short, maybe with just a few more inches he could've…but in this nightmare, what did he expect?
"Zack," he whispered as his eyes stayed on his boyfriend who still remained unconscious. He kept his gaze on him before his eyes closed of their own free will. It looks like this was where it all ended. Or was it…where it all began?
"This is perfect,"
"Yeah…I could stay like this forever,"
"I could stay with you forever,"
"Then you should,"
"I'll never leave you Cloud. I promise."
Authors Notes: Ok this is going to be long, lol bare with me? And I give you all chapter 27 of Crystal Clear! The FINAL chapter! Wow, I cannot believe it, but alas here I am! I don't think I will do the epilogue now so yea. This chapter of course wasn't fluffy and lovey dovey, lol. But I wanted to put a spin on their love. Everyone knows what happens after this, and everyone knows how Zack sacrifices his life for Cloud, and I just wanted to focus on the end part here in my chapter. As a way of showing Cloud "did" put his life on the line for Zack to. He lives through this of course but still you know what I mean.
Also credit to Last Order, because the scene towards the end with Tifa, and the confrontation between Sephiroth and Zack, I pretty much kept alot of that dialogue the same if you hadn't noticed.
And the man in Nibelheim that was talking to Cloud and Zack, that was Zangan for those that didn't know. I just thought that neither Cloud or Zack knew who he was, so that's why I didn't apply the name to him...and given the scenario it wasn't appropriate for "formal" introductions, lol.
Anyways, I believe that is about it. Oh wait yea that very end part there, that was a conversation between Zack and Cloud back in chapter 19 if you don't remember. I like to do the foreshadowing thing you guys know that, hehe. So with that promise that Zack makes, its very angsty right? Cause we all know he can't keep it. Well...he'll always be with Cloud in his heart, so if you count that, lol. Also the dream in chapter 20 that Cloud has, hopefully it makes sense to you guys now. It more so pertains to after this though, with Zack's death. If anyone has questions about it just let me know and I will fully explain it all, cause I linked it together to fit . But I'm sorry all, I can't actually write Zack's death, I believe I would cry all over the keyboard. So I just take it as far as this.
And lastly hopefully you guys put the connection between Hojo and Cloud. In last order we all know Cloud is messed up after all the experiments done on him. So in the story I wanted to give Cloud a history with Hojo already, so in that sense you can see why Hojo is already like...infatuated with him. I believe I touched on all the bases and tied up any loose ends!
So finally, THANK YOU! To all my reviewers and readers, thank you so much for sticking with this story! You guys are seriously the best motivation for a writer and I enjoyed writing this so much! You guys are awesome and I cannot thank you enough for your feedback and reviews! I know I couldn't personally respond to each and every reviewer before, though I tried, so I want to take this time here to say thanks! Honestly I mean it. And with that I officially bring this story to a close!