Author's Note: Disclaimer found below.

This is an Advent Children AU which, quite frankly,

scares me occasionally.

In this AU, time passes at what I find to be a more believable rate than it does in the movie (according to the translated timelines from the

Reunion Files book). This is purely because I prefer it that way, and I reserve the right to laugh at anybody who yells at me for it. ;-)

WARNINGS: There is rape in this fanfic

(offscreen between chapters 1 & 2, vague in chapters 10 & 11;

I don't know that chapter 6 counts).

This is NOT the fluffy not-really-rape found in a lot of fanfic.

It is cruel and unhappy and selfish and not going to change.

(There is a spoiler-ific note at the end of the final chapter, chapter sixteen, to go into this more.)

Anyway. If that bothers you, DON'T read this.

If you're just looking for smut, you're in the wrong place, too;

Very little but plot and vague and fade-to-black here.

Additionally, by the end of the story, major characters will die.

(But, hey, you probably already watched Advent Children anyway, so it's not exactly unheard of...)


Wanna play?

The world was moving, air rushing by her face.

I guess that's a no... Where's Mother?

She felt the world shift; her head bumped against something metal. She... hurt. She tried to lift her head. Her lips struggled to form words. "There's no one here..."

Fine. Play with me.

She forced her voice from her. "Marlene..." She tried to open her eyes. She was... sitting... in some vehicle... a truck? That couldn't be right...

Near her face, a gloved hand, a slight glow... "Sleep."

The world was dark and warm and soft, the air at her face humid but cool, carrying the musty scent of decaying leaves and water. Tifa slowly came to, her body vaguely sore and stiff as from having slept too long. Her brown eyes opened, and she frowned, trying to make sense of what she was seeing.

A glimmering net of light fluttered above her. Gradually, she focused; it was the reflection of water on a curved ceiling.

At first, she wondered what water was outside her window that the light could be reflecting from. Then she simultaneously realized that the window was in the wrong place, and that the ceiling of her room was not curved. Adding to that the familiar scent...

Her eyes widened, body tensing. She knew this place. The Forgotten Capital. The sadness etched into her mind, the air burdened with memory - crying into Cloud's shoulder the last time she'd been here...

But what was she doing here? She didn't remember coming here. The last thing she remembered was...

Oh... Oh, no...

She'd been fighting, trying to protect Marlene from that guy that had come at them in the Church. It had been going well - exhilarating, in fact - and they'd thought that it was over. But then he'd gotten back up, moving unreasonably fast - he had to have been using a Haste spell. Cheating bastard.

But she didn't remember anything beyond, which meant, quite possibly, that... she'd lost. But if she'd been beaten that badly, shouldn't she be feeling it more? Unless someone had used Cure spells on her... And that still didn't explain how she'd gotten here...

Slowly and warily, Tifa pulled herself into a sitting position, the warm blankets falling away. She seemed to be wearing only her undergarments, and she scowled. What had happened to her clothes?

The room was dim and quiet, the only light the reflection on the ceiling, the slight sound of the water echoing through. This was a chamber of one of the seashell-like buildings. Judging by the wide pallet that she occupied, this room had been in use for a while. Someone was living here...

Her gaze swept over the room. Much of it was shadowed, but it seemed... den-like, in the way things were strewn about. She glanced over her shoulder -

Tifa realized that she was not alone.

It was the man who'd attacked her. He was sitting on a crate next to the pallet, one leg bent and the other straight, arms folded, with shoulders resting against the wall behind him. He seemed to be sound asleep, chin on his chest.

She sat still for a long moment, holding her breath, but he didn't move. If she listened carefully, she could just make out his deep, regular breathing over the sound of the water outside. He was asleep. He had to be asleep.

She carefully moved the blankets aside as silently as possible, skin prickling in the cool air. At least she'd been left her underwear; that said something. Maybe her clothes were lying here somewhere...

She shook her head with an inaudible sigh. She'd no time to look. A prisoner's first duty was to escape, and if she was going to do that, it would have to be now. She planted her bare feet on the floor and stood, trying not to shiver too much, and maneuvered around the sleeping man's outstretched leg.

Crossing the room to the door was an agonizingly slow task. She could barely see, and she tentatively prodded the area in front of her with her toes at each step, praying that the floor would not creak. After what seemed like hours, she was able to lay her hand on the wall next to the door, relaxing slightly. Step one was completed; so far, so good.

The door was ill-fitted to the archway - definitely a more recent addition to the ancient building. She peered through a gap in the wooden planks. The curving hall on the other side of the door had windows, showing the strange forest beyond, illuminated as in moonlight. The hallway was the only way out; the windows were too small.

Tifa felt along the edge of the door until she found leverage, then pushed lightly. The door moved at her touch; the makeshift hinges gave one small squeak of protest. She froze, holding her breath, waiting for some sort of noise behind her to indicate that she'd been heard... but there was nothing, only the sounds of water and the man's untroubled breathing. After a few long minutes, she risked pushing the door again, this time enough to let her slip out.

Beyond the row of windows, the corridor was a lightless void. She waited for her eyes to adjust for as long as she dared, finally moving again when she could make out the shapes of debris along the walls. She began to walk, a bit faster than she had across the first room, less worried about making noise the further she got from that place. All she had to do was follow this spiral hall down to the way out...

Just as she passed through an archway, a gleam of blue-green light caught the corner of her eye. She turned her head to see what it was...

Two points of soft light. Glowing, slit-pupiled... eyes...

She barely had time to gasp, her mind struggling to make the connection, when a hand shot out of the shadow of the arch and caught her by the neck, slamming her back against the wall. She cried out, grabbing the arm with one hand and lashing out with the other - which was blocked, then caught and likewise held against the wall.

"Ungrateful," her assailant stated, voice cold enough to still her struggles. These eyes, this tone of voice; Tifa knew them. Seven years ago, in the Mako reactor in Nibelheim -

"After Loz tired himself out casting Cure on every damn bruise he gave you," the voice went on, the tone warming slightly. Unable to break his hold, Tifa relaxed a little, gulping for air. He wasn't strangling her, simply holding her tightly, immobilizing her. She glanced about, trying to see some means of escape, but there was nothing visible in this shadow but those eyes.

"Let me go," she whispered. It couldn't hurt to ask.

The voice seemed to be amused now. "You're not mine to release." And then raised, calling out: "Loz!"

From the way she'd come, there was sound - rustling, soft for a moment, then rushed. Then the creak of the door, and quick footsteps. A different voice. "Yazoo! What are you -"

Tifa was suddenly wrenched to one side, flung to the floor by her neck. She fell, quickly curling her knees beneath her, ready to stand even as she rubbed at her neck. If she kicked back, perhaps she could land a blow and slip past -

"If you're going to keep her, get a leash," the cold voice snapped. She heard and felt this Yazoo turn and proceed down the passage without another word.

The other man, Loz, gave a slight snort - perhaps he was annoyed? She couldn't tell. She felt him take her upper arm, using the same firm grip that Yazoo had on her neck, hauling her to her feet. "You can't run," his gruff voice addressed her as he pulled her back toward the room they'd come from.

She stumbled along, giving up on struggling. Even if she could break free, Yazoo was down the hallway, and these two seemed to be able to see in this darkness far better than she could. She looked toward his face - he had those same eyes, too. She hadn't noticed in the Church's bright daylight.

They were Sephiroth clones. They had to be. She'd thought that they'd all been killed, but there could be no other explanation, could there?

"Let me go," she tried again, doing her best to calm her voice despite how strongly her heart thumped in her chest.

They reached the door, the scene cast in moonlight from outside; he paused, looking at her for a moment. His back was to the light, his face in shadow, only those blue-green eyes visible. And then he opened the door and dragged her through. "Hnh. Not likely."

He was willing to talk. Maybe she could exploit that... "Why? What do you want with me? What happened -"

He released her arm, propelling her further into the room as he did so, and pulled the door shut behind him. The angle of the light coming through the window here was different; she could see his strong-featured face, the slight smile that twisted his lips. "Your name is Tifa?"

She clamped her mouth shut, taking a step backward as he approached.

"That's what Marlene said, anyway -"

"Marlene!" Tifa's eyes widened in shock. She stepped further back, falling into a fighting stance, fists raised. "What have you done to her!"

Loz stopped, tilting his head to the side, still staring at Tifa as his smile dropped away. "She ran away," he said, sounding a little... regretful. "I'd thought that she might stay. She's probably with our older brother."

Tifa eyed him even more warily. "Your... older brother?"

"Cloud," the man responded, smiling and advancing again. "You belong to him, don't you?"

Cloud... Of course. If they were clones, they could call him that; he'd been one of the first that process had been applied to. Cloud, who had fought so hard to kill Sephiroth. Cloud, who had told her that he would be there for her, and yet had still grown more distant with each passing day. Cloud, who had hidden from her that he'd been suffering from Geostigma. Cloud, who had left.

Cloud, who she belonged to. "You could say that," she admitted, sliding backward a little further.

He finally came to a halt quite close to her - barely inches from her raised and ready fists. He looked down into her face, and lower, eyes narrowing. Tifa scowled, gritting her teeth; she thought she could guess, now, what he might want with her.

"You fight beautifully," he murmured, eyes meeting hers again. "It was..." he cast about for a word, finally settling on the simplest one. "It was good. I don't want you to be left behind. My brothers wanted you left as a message for Older Brother, but they didn't see you fight. I left your gloves instead. I've never seen my brothers so angry with me - they'd only wanted Marlene to come. She came anyway. But I couldn't take the chance..."

That didn't sound promising, except for the part that she might be able to drive Loz and his brothers - there must be more than just Yazoo - apart. If she could set them against each other, she might still be able to escape. "I don't know what you mean," she hedged, resisting the urge to either back up further or throw a punch. He was only talking. There was time.

He moved like lightning, his hands catching hers at the wrist. She jerked back, but it was too late; she cursed herself for not expecting the move.

"You'll be our sister," he breathed, drawing her closer even as she tried to pull free. "When the Reunion takes place, you won't be left behind with this planet of traitors. You'll be with us. I waited for you to wake-"

His face was so close to hers... Tifa gritted her teeth, trying to break her hands free, to no avail. "Get the hell away from me!"

She tried to knee him in the groin, but she was too close to him for it to be effective. He swiftly forced her arms behind her back, bringing her body up against his, catching both of her wrists in one hand. His free hand swept along her side, briefly and carelessly brushing her undershirt upward, before reaching for her face. She jerked her head away, but he tangled his fingers in her hair, pulling her head back. She cried out -

And then his lips were covering hers, keeping hers apart, his tongue at her teeth too briefly for her to bite. She couldn't breathe. She wrenched her head to the side as hard as she could, breaking the invasive kiss.

"Don't do this," she gasped as quickly as she could.

He moved his head closer again, this time nuzzling her ear. She stiffened, unable to twist any further away, locked in his embrace. She gritted her teeth in frustration, eyes burning. His name. She'd been given his name. Names had power.

"Loz, don't do this!"

"You'll be lost if I don't," he murmured, lips closing around her earlobe. "You taste... different..." He stopped suddenly, pulling back, frowning.

"Don't cry," he whispered, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead to her cheek, where a tear coursed downward. "Don't cry, Tifa. It'll be good. I promise."

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its story, and characters are the property, copyright and trademark of Square Electronic Arts L.L.C., and no ownership or claim on said property, copyright or trademark is made or implied by their use in the work(s) of fan fiction presented here. This fan fiction constitutes a personal comment on the aforesaid properties pursuant to doctrines of fair use and fair comment. This fan fiction is non-commercial, not for sale or profit, and may not be sold or reproduced for commercial purposes.