Title: Silver Lining
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Warnings: Possible spoilers. Slight angst for some, humour for others.
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy 7 or any of their characters, as much as I would like to.
Summary: Done for LJ's omni-challenge. Covering his life from his trooper days to the events of Advent Children, 19 drabbles, 11 icons. All done in tribute of Cloud Strife.
Cloud remembered hating his hometown that never had accepted him.
He remembered hating the people there who either ignored him or loathed his very existence.
He also remembered hating the small town traditions that made it almost impossible for his single mother and himself to assimilate into, and also the ways the gossipmongers would spread rumours about them being the devil's spawn.
But when Cloud saw his hometown that had never accepted him engulfed in flames like hell's inferno, when he saw the people who ignored and loathed him drowning in pools of their blood, and when he saw the man who walked away so carelessly with his sword dyed red without remorse…
…Cloud regretted ever leaving his home.
It was the worst kept secret in the whole platoon.
Everyone knew Cloud Strife was totally in love with the huge, standard SOLDIER buster sword, even if the blond didn't seem like he could lift the sword off the ground for more than a minute. Or if he could lift it up in the first place. That was one sword that looked bigger and maybe weighed heavier than the kid did.
Cloud's platoon mates were all there when they first saw that sword, swung so nonchalantly off the hand of a SOLDIER first class. They had passed by the first class' private training area on their way to drills, and everyone saw how Cloud's eyes positively lit up, much like a child who had been guided into a world of toys. In fact, they wagered that if Cloud was a puppy, he'd be wagging his tail and barking happily at the sight of that huge sword.
Love at first sight, they all said.
So on Cloud's fifteenth birthday, it was no surprise that they presented him with a guidebook on mastering the buster sword.
And it was even less of a surprise that upon unwrapping his present, Cloud showed them his first smile since entering Shinra.
The daily workings of the Shinra military resembled schools in many ways, and one of the most obvious ways were the use of report cards.
Thank goodness those damn things didn't require their parents' or guardian's signature, because Cloud wasn't sure how his mother would react to seeing his slightly below average results.
After all that money and time spent sending you here for training, this is all I get? He imagined she would say, even though Cloud knew his mother didn't really care about such things, just as long as her only son was safe and sound.
"Really? And how are you doing? Are you eating well?" That was something he knew she would say, and it was something he had heard her say many times over whenever he scrounged up enough money for that long-distance phone call.
But while his safety was all she wanted, Cloud wanted more. That report card was like a rain, no wait… it was a frigging torrent over his parade. His dreams of acing his tests and joining the ranks of SOLDIER on his first try were probably somewhere drowning in all that water.
So when Zack, the ever-optimist and concerned friend, bounced over, Cloud quickly shoved his card away.
"Good morning, Sir."
"Good morning, Sir!"
"Good morning, Sir!"
"Good morning, Sir!"
Cloud bit his bottom lip as he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. Something still wasn't right with the way he said it…
"Good morning, Sir."
"Good morning, Sir!"
As Cloud continued to practice by himself, his bunkmates were all quietly perched outside the bathroom because they didn't want to disturb the blond in his daily practices even though some of them really needed to visit the loo. And they didn't have the heart to tell him that no matter how much he practiced, he was probably still going to be stammering in front of the general, because seriously, if Cloud was still stammering after their tenth meeting (courtesy of Zack, who was their mutual friend), then he was going to continue stammering for a long time.
Seriously, whoever came up with the standard-issued buster sword for SOLDIER should try swinging this monster himself. Did that crazy guy even understand the stress its weight exerted on the recruits?
…Then again, recruits weren't supposed to be playing around with those monsters. Recruits were mostly given much smaller swords to practice with, and those were probably only one-tenth the weight of a buster sword, which made it much easier and feasible for the newbies to use.
That was the difference between SOLDIERs and recruits.
And it was the difference that Cloud sought to narrow, by hook or by crook.
Even if the damn sword was too huge for him to swing properly. Right now, it was like, the sword was too attached to the ground to leave it, and that was giving Cloud some problems with regards to lifting the sword. And whenever he managed to lift and swing it, it resembled a hurling a discus rather than swinging a sword, so Cloud was sort of getting pulled along by the weapon.
"Spike, you'd better stop it. Your body can't take the weight of a buster sword yet," Zack said, hovering around his friend like a nervous mother hen, always ready to dodge an accidental swing of the sword. "C'mon! You can do this again when you're in SOLDIER. Not right now." He suppressed a yelp when the sword seemed to be heading for him again, and he quickly ducked.
Like a boulder, the buster sword fell to the ground with a loud crash and Cloud slumped down beside it. Irked, he gave it a kick, to which Zack cried indignantly at the mistreatment of his beloved weapon.
Zack was so caught up with checking his sword for any scratches that he didn't notice the way Cloud was peering at him.
"Do you love your buster sword?"
"Well, of course I do. It's my baby!"
"You're obsessed with it…" Cloud uttered under his breath. "Anyway, you have heard the rumour about why SOLDIERs are so attached to their buster swords, have you?"
The tone got Zack glancing up at his friend suspiciously, eyes narrowed. "Rumour."
Cloud nodded. "Rumour."
"What… rumour?" Zack had a feeling he didn't really want to know, but he wasn't about to let Cloud leave him dangling in midair like that. It was almost cruel to not sate his curiosity.
Realization dawned on the blond, his eyes twinkling mischievously and his lips curled up in a lopsided grin.
"Everyone's been saying… that SOLDIERS have buster swords for, well… compensation."
Zack's jaw dropped. A few minutes later, when his mind finally came back to him, he chuckled nervously and mumbled, "Wonder what Sephiroth would say to that…"
The first time Zack tried dragging him to a bar on the weekends, Cloud had shook his head skeptically and politely refused.
The second time Zack tried, Cloud had given him a disbelieving look, rolled his eyes and turned to walk away.
The third time, Cloud just slapped his forehead and went back to his room.
So when it came to the fourth time, Cloud thought he had had quite enough.
"Zack, I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm underage. I can't drink."
Zack, who finally understood why his friend kept refusing to go down to his favourite bar with him, stared at him wide-eyed before guffawing.
"Spike, I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm underage too. But in Midgar, if you can see over the counter to order your drinks, you're old enough to drink it. And if you're wearing a Shinra uniform, you can have any drinks you want even if you can't see over the counter."
When Cloud blushed, Zack gave him a good once-over.
"With your height, I don't think we'll need to bring books for you to stand on, do we?"
Cloud threw a shoe at him.
After five whole years of experiments, drugs and mako, escape felt like a gift from the gods. The happiness lasted only until when Cloud remembered that he had long been abandoned by those of higher powers; he wouldn't have lost his everything and became a lab rat if there had been a god looking after him in the first place.
As Zack drags him across the continents, dodging Shinra troops here and there, sleeping on the muddy ground, eating barely cooked animals unfortunate enough to cross their paths and the occasional wild fruits, Cloud wonders, vaguely, if there is a point to his life anymore.
How many times has he tried to tell Zack to leave him and just escape alone? How many times has he wanted to tell his best friend that he's dragging them both down? That he's going to get them both caught?
But it's so difficult to think, much less talk coherently through the haze of mako that's always enshrouding his mind.
Whenever he tries to talk, only barely audible gurgles flow out of his lips, and Zack would look at him sadly before promising to find a way to help him.
And whenever Cloud sees that look, hear those words, he knows he would willingly follow his friend to the ends of the world.
Even if it means dodging Shinra troops here and there, sleeping on the muddy ground, eating barely cooked animals unfortunate enough to cross their paths and the occasional wild fruits.
Even if that's all his future will be.
A/N: After spending 7 years away from writing FF7 fics, I'm finally back... with drabbles. XD 2 more time periods to go: In-game and Post-game.