Anamnesis – (n) 1. a recalling to memory; recollection. 2. the complete history recalled and recounted by a patient.
December 19 – Six years ago
There was fire all around them, eating away at the wooden walls and the tapestries, and sometime even eating away at the people, some screaming, some not. Silver hair swayed in front of him, guiding them through the flames. Silver hair meant safety, meant away, meant no more. The scientists wouldn't hurt him anymore. Silver hair had promised.
The other man, the black-haired man, the one carrying him, that one that had been with him down in the basement... he was talking, saying something to the silver hair that he couldn't really hear. It had something to do with the drugs, the other captive had told him. The drugs that affected him but not the other. The drugs made his head hurt and the world spin. Worse, they made him fall apart.
He was slowly falling apart.
Silver hair was his focus. That was what black hair had said. If he ever got lost, he was supposed to follow the hair. But he hadn't gotten lost yet. He leaned heavily on the black-haired man as they stumbled out into the snow and away from the mansion. The snow looked so cool, so welcoming. He wanted to lie down in it. He was burning up. It felt like the fire was inside him, eating away at what little he had left of himself.
He pushed away from the black-haired man. His legs couldn't hold him and he fell, face landing in a pile of snow. It eased the fire, but only for seconds before silver hair and black hair were picking him up, propping him up between them and dragging him away from the mansion.
They moved past quiet buildings, quiet as the night Sephiroth had disappeared without a word. Just... gone. Hojo had said that Sephiroth had received orders, that he'd been sent away. But Cloud didn't believe that. He'd never believe anything Hojo said, not after what Hojo had done to them, done to him. Sephiroth would never have left without telling him. He wouldn't have.
But Sephiroth had gone. Sephiroth had left him there. Zack had left him too, somewhere in the basement.
Everyone had left him, including himself.
July 15 – One year ago
"We can't keep doing this forever, Seph," Zack argued, his arms stubbornly crossed over his usual ribbed wool shirt.
"What do you expect to do? Just waltz in and give our names out to every shop from here to Midgar looking for work? We can't just go walking around. Even the lowliest trooper would know who we were if he saw the three of us together." Sephiroth was angry. He could only tell because he'd known Sephiroth for seven years. Anyone else would just think he was slightly perturbed from the way Sephiroth's face barely showed emotion.
"It's not going to be that bad." Zack paused to brush his hair out of his face, the spiky locks falling right back into place the second Zack moved his hand. "It's been five years almost. They're not looking for us anymore, and even if they do we can take care of ourselves."
"Not against all of Shinra. They'll send an entire unit after us if they have to." Cloud knew Sephiroth's real concern, the one he wouldn't voice.
"One unit's nothing." Zack at least understood. Zack trusted him. Not that Sephiroth didn't trust him but he worried too much, and he was away whenever Zack would spar with him.
"One unit could kill us if they planned right." One unit could kill Cloud. That was what Sephiroth meant. They'd already almost lost him once, five years ago, and Sephiroth still blamed himself for what happened.
"We can't keep living like this. We're barely getting by."
"We've been fine."
Cloud coughed, smiling slightly as the two men finally noticed him leaning against the edge of the doorframe. Zack and Sephiroth both gave him guilty looks, embarrassed to have been caught fighting over their future without him. Cloud was used to them deciding things without him. He didn't really mind, as long as the three of them stayed together.
Brushing back his hair in a move almost identical to the one Zack's had used seconds before, Cloud slowly walked up to the two ex-Soldiers.
"I beat Zack today," he announced quietly, looking straight into Sephiroth's eyes as he spoke.
The silver-haired man's surprise was obvious in the way his eyes widened slightly, and the way the corner of his lips twitched.
"You don't have to worry about me," Cloud said patiently. "I'm all better now. And I'm stronger. I can take care of myself if I have to." He didn't want to fight, but after the past three years with Zack slowly teaching him, he knew he could be formidable in a fight.
"What do you want?" In the seven years he'd known Sephiroth, this was the first time he'd actually been asked for his opinion on something that mattered.
"I want to go to Midgar."
November 1 – Five years ago
Cloud clung to Zack, tears staining his friend's shoulder but he couldn't help himself. It hurt. It hurt so bad and there was nothing he could do to make it go away. The pain was inside him, inside his head and it was tearing him apart. Or maybe it was putting him together. He didn't understand. He couldn't remember. There was so much he'd forgotten, so much left to remember.
Zack and Sephiroth had told him everything he knew. Slowly at first, just their names and his name, then more. They told him about his childhood and Soldier and why they were running. And each time they said something about his past, their past, a piece of him came back. And each memory brought with it that head splitting pain that made him curl up and cry while Zack or Sephiroth or sometimes both of them held him until he passed out or the hurting stopped.
What they'd just told him, about a place called Nibelheim and a dungeon that had taken away his memories, it made his head hurt worse than every before and he thought he was dying, there in the basement with Zack holding on to him.
But he wasn't dying. He was remembering.
October 27 – Seven years ago
Cloud peaked through the window into the training room, watching in awe as the two most famous members of Soldier sparred inside. They were using real metal, sparks flying every time their blades met and moving so fast it was hard for Cloud to follow their moves. He'd met Zack, once in the dinning hall, and the older man had been really nice to him. He liked Zack, maybe more than he should, but there were few people in the barracks who would actually sit and talk to him like what he said mattered.
Sephiroth... Sephiroth was different. So cold and distant and yet so beautiful at the same time. He reminded Cloud of the dolls that his mother used to keep, their skin made of white painted porcelain so fragile it would shatter at the slightest collision. But Sephiroth wouldn't shatter, not that many people got close enough to test that. Zack could. Zack was holding his own in the fight, but it was obvious that any hits he landed were pure luck.
This was the kind of fighter he wanted to be. He wanted their strength, wanted their confidence, their speed, their power, their magnetism.
He wanted their attention.
December 3 – Nine months ago
It was raining when they got to Midgar, but Zack said that was a good thing because then there'd be less troops patrolling the street and they could sneak in easier. It also meant that Sephiroth didn't complain as much when he went out to get the few groceries Zack had forgotten. He was glad to be away, on his own for at least a short while. He'd be glad to be back, and he knew Zack would nag him when he did return until Cloud was dried off and warm and safe in their arms.
A pink dress caught his eye and he slowed to a halt. The flower girl smiled at him and he couldn't help but smile back. She asked him if he wanted to buy a flower and he handed her a coin without thinking, knowing he had no need for a flower and that Zack would just tease him about it when he got back. But there was something strangely familiar about the girl.
The memory of her stuck in the back of his head for the rest of the night.
December 20 – Nine months ago
"What?! What the hell were you thinking bringing Soldiers in here, Tifa?" The large black man was waving his arms about, and Cloud took a step behind Sephiroth to avoid getting accidentally hit.
"Calm down, Barret. They're friends. From Nibelheim." Tifa smiled over at him, missing the way he shuddered at the mention of his home town.
Sephiroth shifted in front of him and Cloud knew he wanted to say something, to deny their friendship or maybe storm off. Sephiroth had opposed coming here, was still in opposition to being here, but both Cloud and Zack wanted to join Avalanche, at least for the time being, and he wasn't left with much choice. That didn't mean he was going to go easy on the rag-tag group of freedom-fighters. He also wouldn't work with them unless Zack or Cloud was there too.
"Don't worry," Zack had turned on all of his charm tonight. Half of Avalanche already adored him, and the rest were soon on their way. "With the three of us on your side Shinra doesn't stand a chance."
That was their entire reason for coming here. Sephiroth wanted Shinra gone. He wanted the planet saved, and there was something about his mother that Cloud couldn't quite remember. Zack just wanted to kick ass, and Cloud... he just wanted to find Hojo.
The only problem was that when he did find Hojo, he'd have to think of a way to keep Zack and Sephiroth from killing him first. He could content himself to just watching if he had to.
November 30 – Six years ago
He gasped, shivering, so cold, so very cold. Zack was holding him tight, rubbing his arms but that didn't help. The cold was inside his veins. Hojo had put it there, put it there with one of his syringes that made him scream, scream until his voice ran away. Everything was running away. First Sephiroth, and now his mind. His mind was going away, slowly breaking apart into little tiny pieces as fragile as a butterfly. Hojo was the scientist, pinning him up and pulling off his wings, tearing him apart so he could find out what was inside.
But there wasn't anything left inside. The butterflies kept flying out, out of his mouth and his ears and his eyes, flying away and leaving him cold inside. They were all running away from him.
Soon he'd run away too.
June 7 – Three months ago
Cloud ran, his sword cutting down every obstacle that got in his path. He'd lost count of how many men they'd killed. More would die soon, as soon as they were free of the reactor and gave Tifa the signal.
Zack signaled from up ahead and Cloud took the turn at a run, following Zack and Sephiroth through the halls of the reactor. This would be the third one down. Shinra had sent a lot of troops this time, but not nearly enough. They'd have to send every last one of their fighters, from the lowliest troops to the strongest Soldier and every last Turk, if they wanted even the slightest chance at beating Cloud, Zack, and Sephiroth.
Fighting together, they were unstoppable.
August 11 – Three years ago
He'd never had a birthday as good as this, and he hadn't even gotten any presents. Well, nothing material. Their money was saved for food, and affording a place to stay but Cloud didn't mind. He didn't need anything else, not when he had the two strongest, greatest, best men in the world wrapped on either side of him.
Zack kissed him. Not the fiery, urgent kissed they'd shared earlier, but a lingering caress, reminding Cloud how much he was loved. Sephiroth's hand traced his side, rubbing down low over his hips before trailing softly up to Cloud's shoulder. From the pressure lightly poking into the back of his thigh, Cloud knew Sephiroth was ready to go again.
Rolling over with a laugh, Cloud launched himself at his quiet lover.
March 1 – Six years ago
Cloud froze, the rest of his sentence dying on his lips as a warm tongue pressed between them. He wasn't sure quite what he was supposed to do from here so he just held still and hoped it never ended. Zack pulled back with a laugh, chiding him for being so still and then made Cloud's cheek's turn bright red by instructing him on what to do.
The second time went a lot better and Cloud could have died from sheer happiness knowing that his crush liked him back.
May 23 – Six years ago
Kissing Sephiroth was pain and pleasure rolled into one. He'd wanted this ever since he first saw the beautiful silver-haired man, only now that he had Sephiroth's attention he could only think of how he was betraying Zack. He pulled away, looking apologetically up at Sephiroth, and he was about to say something very polite but also very clearly a declination of Sephiroth's offer, when he noticed Zack.
Zack was smiling, strangely smiling even though he'd just walked in on his boyfriend kissing his superior officer. He didn't look at all upset, and part of Cloud hurt deep inside. Irrationally, he thought that maybe Zack kissed other guys too, which is why he wasn't mad to find Cloud kissing Sephiroth.
He opened his mouth to protest, to yell at Zack, to say something, but Zack spoke before he could.
"You like Sephiroth, don't you?"
He nodded immediately, catching himself only after the fact. "But I like you too," he blurted, blushing as he realized how ridiculous that sounded.
Why was it good? This shouldn't be good. Zack should be mad at him. Zack should be yelling at him that he could only like one person at a time. But that wasn't the way Cloud's heart worked, much to his dismay, and somehow he'd found himself in love with both of the men he respected most in the world.
"You don't mind sharing?" It took Cloud a second to realize that Zack was talking to Sephiroth and not him. It took him longer to figure out what Zack meant.
"Of course not."
Just like that their relationship was redefined, and Cloud hadn't even had a say in the matter.
"But..." He didn't know what his complaint was, but he knew he should have one. Both of the men he liked were both going to date him. There had to be something wrong. There had to be a reason why it couldn't work.
"Don't worry." Zack stopped his complaint with a kiss, silencing him then turning him around so that another pair of lips could latch on.
He didn't feel bad the second time he kissed Sephiroth, not with Zack's arms around his waist and Sephiroth's hands holding tightly onto his hips.
September 29 – Now
They stood on a rooftop not far away, swords yet to be sheathed as they watched the Shinra tower crumple to the ground in smoke. The mighty corporation had fallen beneath their blades, as surely as snow falls in winter. People were still panicking, running around the streets below as if their god had abandoned them.
The people would be fine, and so would the planet. No more Mako reactors. No more harvesting the Lifestream. Slowly, the planet would heal, as would Midgar.
It had taken six years since they'd burned their way out of the basement of the Shinra mansion in Nibelheim. Six years to the day, six years slowly executing their revenge. It was fitting that they marked the event with fire. Five years ago, he would have been afraid of the fire and the memories it triggered. Not anymore.
Six years and Cloud was finally whole.