Standard disclaimers apply
Warnings: spoilers for FF7: Advent Children.
AN: Some LotR aspects may be inaccurate due to a degree of LotR fan-girl-ish-ness that is far less extreme than the norm for this fandom.
"I will never be a memory." Said Sephiroth before the defeated General dissolved into nothingness and Kadaj's broken body collapsed to the ground. The youngest Remnant struggled to find his feet, glaring hotly at his 'brother', and charged one final time, Souba scraping along the unforgiving concrete as he went.
Cloud tensed but dropped his own blade and stretched his arms out to catch the falling warrior when he saw the young man falter. He knelt, cradling the boy's dying body gently and staring down at his unfocused eyes.
Pity and sorrow and a soft sense of loss tugged at his heart as he gazed at what was left of his greatest enemy. Kadaj gasped, his eyes wide but unseeing. He never once looked at Cloud, as if the other man were not there.
"'Kasan?" he asked and Cloud frowned. Was he still looking for her?
The wounded boy slowly raised a hand, reaching far above him as if to catch the trailing fingers of the mother he searched for so desperately. Cloud watched him, keeping his silence as indecision warred in him. Should he try to save him?
Kadaj smiled then, and it was a smile without malice or pain, and it smoothed his face into something beautiful. Cloud stared down at that face and felt regret for all the things that could have been. This stranger had called him 'big brother' and for the first time, Cloud thought about what it would have been like to have had these misbegotten children for his family.
Kadaj's fingers, reaching towards his heart's desire, began to unravel. The peaceful green of the Lifestream filled him up and burst outward from his skin and the Remnant of Sephiroth had never felt so free.
Cloud's head bowed as he accepted the death and said a silent prayer that Aerith would guide him. He slowly climbed to his feet, one hand loosely wrapped around the hilt of his sword. He gazed out at the world before him and it seemed no more fresh or new than it had before he'd begun this quest to stop Reunion. He made to start forward when a shot rang out and searing pain lanced through his chest. He looked down and saw the blood leaking out of him and staining his shirt black.
With a cry of pain, the ex-SOLDIER whirled and charged, sinking his blade into the unresisting duo that stood before him, materia glowing from inside their skin.
Cloud awoke floating in darkness, or perhaps he simply could not open his eyes. He could not move and hardly felt like trying. He was so tired.
The sweet sound of a woman's laughter touched his ears and filled him with a sense of peace and home.
'Mother?' he asked.
'Why is it that everyone is calling me that today?'
Oh, it's Aerith, his mind supplied. Why had he called her mother? Oh yes, that's who the Remnants were searching for. What would happen to them anyway?
'Cloud.' Began Aerith, her voice hesitant.
'Cloud…would you like to help them?' she asked.
'Aerith, what are you doing? I thought we were just going to send him back.' Interrupted another voice.
That's Zack, Cloud's mind informed him. He missed Zack.
'Would you, Cloud?' asked Aerith, ignoring Zack. Maybe she couldn't hear him? Help the Remnants. How could he do that? They were dead. He was dead too, wasn't he?
'If you could teach them to be their own people, to be more than Remnants of Sephiroth. If you could do that, and make them content to live in harmony with the people of the Planet, then they could come back. You could all come back and be the family that you all so desperately need. Would you be willing to do that Cloud?' pleaded Aerith.
He didn't know. Maybe. Could they be saved? He remembered that unguarded, happy smile on Kadaj's face and thought, yeah. Maybe they could be saved.
'Hey Spike, you can just forget about them and go home ya know.' Offered Zack. Good old Zack, giving him a way out, if he wanted it.
But no. He couldn't do that. He couldn't just give up on them. They had called him 'big brother', so he would help them. He'd show them that they didn't need Jenova to be a family.
'Thank you Cloud. More than you know, thank you so much.' Said Aerith.
'Man, that's just like you Spike. Whatever, you take care of yourself ya hear?'
Cloud smiled and thought about teasing Zack, was the mighty SOLDIER getting soft?
'You wish brat. Now get outta here.'
Cloud awoke on his back, his shirt now stuck to his chest where the blood had dried and caked. He could feel dirt under his fingers and smell grass and flowers. The sweet clean air of an untouched mountain filled him up as he drew a ragged breath. He opened his eyes and found himself staring at an arrowhead and the suspicious face of an impossibly beautiful man with sunshine blonde hair and gently pointed ears.
End Part 1