This story is based upon Quela's Bound and written with the author's permission and encouragement. If you haven't read Bound I suggest you go read that first and then come back. It'll still be here.

Pairing(s): Same as Bound, at the moment.

Disclaimer: None of the characters who appear in this fiction belong to me. Some belong to Quela. The others belong to their respective owners. Please don't sue, as then there will be much unhappiness and no buying more Square-Enix products.
Part 1

Considering what had happened yesterday, one would expect Cloud to wake up in a good mood.

To Sephiroth's surprise, it was the exact opposite. He frowned, able to sense the anxiety just under Cloud's mask of cheerfulness. What's wrong?

Cloud somehow managed to mentally stumble. "I'm not sure, Seph. But…I don't think I'm up to dealing with the others today if I don't have to."


"Please, Seph. I really can't figure out what's bothering me." The blond shook his head, though no one could see it. "I feel like I've forgotten something important. But I can't figure out what."

"Maybe you should – "

"Seph?" Zack poked his head into the hotel room from the hallway. "You coming?"

"In a moment."

Zack might not be as acutely observant as Vincent, but he was smart enough to pick up when his friend and former lover was unsettled. "What's wrong?"

"Something's bothering Cloud, but he won't tell me what it is," Sephiroth replied as he swung Masamune onto his back.

"Only because I don't know what it is." Cloud mentally rejoined. "I'll let you know if I figure it out."

There was nothing more Sephiroth could say to that. With a purely mental sigh he followed Zack out of the room.

O o O

Aeris frowned, as she became aware of a missing member of their party. Nanaki had been doing his best to stay out from underfoot yesterday, but he had not appeared for breakfast this morning. She hoped he was alright, though chances of the great cat encountering anything he couldn't handle in Kalm of all places were pretty small. The flower girl sighed and tried to calm herself. The endless surprises lately had unsettled her: finding out about what happened to Zack, the entire debacle with the Shinra company, Sephiroth, Cloud, Vincent (and Chaos)… most especially the shock of Marlene's apparent heritage. For someone who had know her entire life that she was the last of her kind, to have been truly alone all of her existence since her blood mother died, the concept that there just might be more like her was an incredible one.

Ironic that Sephiroth had discovered the same revelation not too long ago in Nibelheim and had reacted with anger and despair rather than the joy and hope Aeris felt.

More than anything, Aeris needed a chance to settle herself. She was away from the place she had spent years of work making the earth alive again and that had shaken her more than she had expected. Absentmindedly the brunette wondered when she could start a garden here as well. There was nothing that settled her being like working in Gaea's soil.

A knock on the door startled Aeris from her thoughts. She walked over to the entrance quickly and opened it. "Hello, can I help you?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for a friend. Maybe you can help?"

The minute the figure spoke Aeris felt knowledge well upside of her, whether from the Lifestream, Gaea or some other source she could not say. This person was like her; not a Cetra but something very similar. That similarity had brought them together. The ancient smiled. "Perhaps I can. Please come in. Would you like some tea?"

O o O

By the end of the day both Zack and Sephiroth were ready to hit Cloud over the head. The youth had become increasingly snappish, resembling a typical moody adolescent teenager – perhaps with the addition of the famous "PMS" – in contrast to his usual controlled self. Whatever was bothering Cloud had grown enough that Sephiroth was getting glimpses of what his lover was feeling. There were touches of helplessness, of being trapped, of a great despair somehow kept distant by a force neither could understand, but most of all there was an overwhelming sense of something looming over head, an event that would change everything. Sephiroth supposed he could understand why Cloud had gotten out of sorts if he was feeling that all day; a few moments had nearly driven him to distraction.

They were still in Kalm's inn, even though they had made contact with Nanaki earlier that day. The great cat had informed them that Aeris, Tifa and the others had safely made it to Kalm as well. After a bit of discussion the group had asked Nanaki not to reveal their presence to the others just yet. The last goodbye had been painful enough; if they decided on a course to follow tomorrow and left, the last thing anyone wanted to do was to go though another one.

Plus they would have to reveal what had happened to Liam and Jessie.

It was enough to make anyone's head hurt. Sephiroth tried to tell himself it would be better in the morning. He wasn't quite sure if he was lying or not. Goodnight, Cloud.

"Goodnight, Seph," Cloud replied. By the time Sephiroth withdrew into their conjoined mind, safely asleep in their bed, the youth had already fallen into dreams.

O o O

Cloud wasn't being fair to anyone today and he knew it. For now he would try to get some sleep; maybe Sephiroth was right and it would be better in the morning. He fell asleep easily enough, but shortly after he found himself in a very vivid dream. It started out simply enough. He'd been walking on the road that ran through Nibelheim, passing the Shinra Mansion – there are no clones here - on his way up to the reactor. He had barely stepped outside of the town's boundaries when the ground shuddered and thick silver chains broke free from the ground, clasping onto his arms, legs and waist. The more he struggled, the tighter the chains became, dragging him further down to the earth until he was flat against it.

No! Let me go! Someone, HELP! Sephiroth, Vincent, Zack!

"You've let yourself forget, haven't you? Forget who you are, what you are. Forget me, forget everything you've gone through…. But just because you don't remember me, remember us does not make us go away young fool…."

"Who are you?" Cloud shouted, confused by the sudden voice that had spoken, yet no figure appeared.

"Now, why would I tell you that?" The voice chuckled, the sound dark and bitter. "You'll find out soon enough, though I suspect you'll have some difficulties with those chains. No matter. I suspect the others will make up for her actions, though whether you survive the process or not is unknown. Have fun, child. I look forward to beating you on the battle field."

"What are you talking about?" Cloud demanded, pulling fruitlessly at his chains. "GET BACK HERE!" The voice did not reply, though suddenly more chains appeared, though not from the earth but from the sky. Nor were these silver but gold, grey, bronze, tin…in every color one could imagine the metal links came down, latching onto any part of Cloud they could find: fingers, hair, neck, knees….the list went on and on. Not content with merely further burdening him, the chains began to pull on him, dragging him upward, away from the earth. But not only in one direction but in a multitude.

Cloud Strife screamed as the metal tore him apart.

O o O

Zack awoke with a jerk as a loud scream filled the air. He jumped out of his bed and hurried over to the one in which Cloud currently thrashed. "Hey, Spike! Wake up!" The ex-SOLDIER held his friend close with one arm, carefully untangling the blankets twisted about Cloud's arm with the other. When he had successfully freed the youth, Zack held Cloud tightly, gently running his hands through the messy silver hair. "Shush, its okay kiddo." Cloud wept freely while clutching Zack's shirt tightly, his shoulders shaking with the sobs wrenching free. A very tiny part of Zack wondered at that. Sephiroth had never cried in his presence; no one even knew if it was possible for him to cry. But Cloud was currently sharing a merged body with him and seemed able to manage it easily enough….

If there was ever a time when it would have been good for the pair to be separate though, it was now. Sephiroth always had an easier time at calming Cloud than he did.

Slowly, Cloud's form stilled and his tears ceased. He laid his head against Zack's chest for a long moment. "Thanks, Zack."

"Anytime," Zack replied with a smile. He gave Cloud a hug. "Think you can go back to sleep now?"

Fear crept into Cloud's eyes but he nodded. "Stay?"

"Right here," Zack promised, though he was surprised by the request. He tucked the youth back in and pulled up a chair so he sat besides the bed.


The ex-SOLDIER didn't have to look to know Cloud's eyes had changed from blue to green. "Seph. Any idea what just happened?"

"None. He had a nightmare, but more than that…" The elite trailed off, a frown fixed on his face. The man had basically been mimicking Zack's actions from within their conjoined mind, but it hadn't been as effective as Zack's attempts. Some things truly required real human touch. Sephiroth stayed silent for a long moment and then spoke. "I couldn't follow his thoughts, Zack. I couldn't see what he saw."

And that, Zack knew, bothered Sephiroth more than anything else. After all that had happened lately, Sephiroth couldn't comprehend Cloud venturing someplace he could not go. "We'll ask him in the morning, Sephiroth. For now we better all get some sleep."

"Get in bed, Zack." The black haired man froze. "You'll only get stiff in that chair. I can't take both of you being crabby tomorrow."

Zack had to laugh at Sephiroth saying the word "crabby." It seemed far more natural in Cloud's vocabulary than in the former General's. "All right, sir." He mock saluted slipped under the covers, wrapping his hands around Sephiroth's waist, attempting to be merely a friendly, comforting presence and nothing more. It was painful because it was so familiar from a time that now seemed so long ago, but at the same time it was very different. He'd never been taller than Sephiroth when they were together. "Night, Seph."

O o O

The pair would have confronted Cloud as soon as he had woken up, if it hadn't been for another mystery. It was not something very extraordinary in and of itself, though the circumstances surrounding it caused everyone to be a bit nervous.

Sephiroth peered at the piece of paper in Vincent's hand. The ex-Turk had found it early this morning when he had returned from his nightly stroll. It looked ordinary enough to the elite's eyes, made of ordinary paper that looked like it could have been flinched from the inn's lobby. The strange thing about it was that it had managed to appear within their hotel room without anyone noticing how it had gotten there. Not easy to do, considering the number of clones in the vicinity.

"What does it say?" Zack asked, attempting to peer over Vincent's shoulder and failing miserably.

"How much longer are you going to deny who you really are?" Vincent read aloud.

A hush fell over the company. "I don't like the sound of that."

"Neither do I," Cloud put in, pushing Sephiroth aside as he took control. The youth seemed steadier today in comparison to yesterday, Sephiroth noticed with relief. The sleep must have helped. Hopefully everything would go back to normal now. Cloud reached out and took the note from Vincent's hands, looking at it carefully. It can't be. Riku?

Sephiroth gave Cloud a sharp glance. "Who?"

"I thought I recognized the handwriting, but that's not possible." Cloud answered aloud. He continued to clarify for the others in the room. "This looks like something a friend of mine would write, but there's no way for him to be here. It's impossible."

"I hate to point this out, Spike, but the impossible has been happening quite a bit lately," Zack replied. "When was the last time you saw this friend?"

"Shortly before I left for Midgar," Cloud replied.

"Well before Nibelheim then," Vincent observed. Cloud nodded. "Perhaps if we can discern whom the note refers to we can correctly determine its sender."

"Sounds like it applies to just about anyone here except me and Cloud," Reno put in from the side. All eyes turned to him. "Considering your…alterations."

"He has a point," Cloud agreed.

"Except you know who wrote this, which means it's directed towards you," Sephiroth interjected.

"But what could Cloud be denying?" Zack asked.

Cloud frowned, the words from his dream from last night returning to him. He said I forgot…but what have I forgotten? His memories felt disjoint, as if he was missing several pieces of his mind. Riku…I know the name but from where? For a second he heard a young voice call his name, challenging him to a race over the sand and then he lost it. No good. I can't remember.

"Cloud? Sephiroth frowned when Cloud didn't answer his query. He was able to follow Cloud's thoughts this time and they chilled him. Exactly why his lover would be missing so many memories, he didn't know but he could imagine someone who could make him lose them.

After all, Cloud had grown up in Nibelheim, Hojo's favorite place to work.

"Hey, where did Reno go?"

Everyone glanced around, unable to answer Zack's question. Abruptly the door to their room burst open and a figure cloaked in black tumbled through it, Reno's gun at his back. "I think I found our mysterious messenger."

O o O

While everyone had wandered off into their own thoughts, Reno slipped out the door, a hunch nagging at him. He walked a little ways into the hall and immediately spotted a figure cloaked in black. A shiver ran down the Turk's back, well aware how much this person looked like one of those clones –

But who else was likely to have planted that note?

The odd thing was other individuals in the hall were passing the figure without giving him a second glance. It was like he wasn't even there. Taking a hint Reno set off down the hall, whistling cheerfully as if he didn't have a care in the world. Once he stood besides the figure, he whirled, Vincent's gun sliding easily into his hand. "Don't move or you're dead." The figure flinched in shock. "Now, step forward nice and easy. No tricky stuff." The figure bowed his head but did as Reno asked, moving carefully towards the room Reno had exited mere seconds ago. Reno kicked the door open and shoved the figure in front of him through it. "I think I found our mysterious messenger."

The top of the cloak had fallen back when the man had stumbled to reveal white-silver hair, possibly the closest match to Sephiroth's Cloud had ever seen. The figure stood slowly, raising his face to bring emerald eyes – also a very close match for the elite's – into view. But despite his looks, Vincent, Katal and Sephiroth couldn't detect the distinct resonance of Jenova in his soul.

Sephiroth stepped forward, hand on Masamune's hilt while shoving Cloud back. With the teen's mental state disturbed he couldn't take the chance of letting him fight. "Who are you?"

The figure didn't answer, only stared at him intently. Sephiroth found himself abruptly shoved so far back into his mind that he couldn't even see and could barely hear. How in the world had Cloud found the strength to do that? Sephiroth had always seemed to be able to dominate who was in control of their shared body.

"RIKU!" Cloud dashed forward and wrapped the intruder in a tight hug, burying his head in the taller youth's shoulder. "How did you get here? What happened? Are you okay?"

Riku – if that was the figure's name in truth – wrapped his arms about Cloud, returning the embrace. "It's good to see you too, Sora."

O o O

O o O

Yay, part one done! It would be helpful to be familiar with Kingdom Hearts as well as bound for this fic, though it really isn't necessary. Only a handful of the characters in the actual fic know the KH events, so we'll be covering them at least slightly. No knowledge of KH sequels is required – this think is more of a fusion than anything else, so it doesn't even follow KHI much less KH:COM or KHII!

I know this doesn't measure up to Bound standards. I apologize to readers at large. I can't capture some of the character's voices the way Quela does. ;;; I'm trying to stay with her world and her set up as much as possible but there will be differences, as with any story written before the canon is complete. The parts may be later revised to fit in better with the new chapters as they come out, as I certainly have no idea what she's going to do next!