Final Fantasy VII

Twilight and Dawn

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine (except Alexander), and the story is! This is something I have been planning for a while, and I'm excited about it. I hope there are not any other stories with this premise, but in my ventures I have not found any. And if the readers are confused at the beginning, then good. It's meant to be confusing at first! Please note that while I do not intend for this to be a crossover story, I could not resist a few passing references to another favorite series of mine, and while my OC is also based in this other fandom, he has a definite purpose here.

Chapter One

There are many forces in life which are best left untampered. The planet Gaia's Lifestream is one of them, but some people throughout the ages have not and still do not agree. Nor do they agree on what constitutes "tampering." The Shinra Company used the Lifestream for years as an energy source, and did not think that they were doing something treacherous. The misguided Kadaj had believed that the planet was evil and that it needed to be stopped for the good of the people. And those such as Sephiroth had become so wretchedly twisted and insane as to try to justify their hatred of the planet and their desires to harness the Lifestream to destroy it. Even after seemingly meeting their ends and being absorbed back into the Lifestream, they continue to work at gaining their goals, by whatever means necessary. Still, sometimes it backfires.

He frowned, shielding himself as the winds gathered momentum. His hair whipped around him, blowing into his face and completely obscuring his vision. With his other hand he tried desperately to grab onto something, anything, to keep him from being pulled into the growing cyclone he had accidentally brought to life with the Lifestream. He knew what this meant. He had taken his experimentation too far, and now had unleashed a certain calamity. Whoever it selected would have their lives immeasureably altered, for good or for ill. That was why it was forbidden to revive it. Not that he cared.

Perhaps, he thought to himself with a smirk, perhaps he should accept it, leap into it. Perhaps it would work out for his best good. His powers surely exceeded a simple wind storm. He could control it, bend it to his will. Instead of falling prey to its designs, he would use them to assist him. If he planned this right, manipulating everyone's fates, he could put himself right at their head and they would not interfere with him. On the contrary, they would assist him, serve him.

He let go, allowing the tornado to pull him into it.

At once, many forces swept over him, chilling him as they wound their way up his body. He had endured physical pain many times and had been able to handle it well, but this was something he had never before experienced. Mysterious talons ripped into his flesh, as if they were trying to pull him apart from the inside out. Others gripped at his limbs and torso, their icy fingers binding him in place. Still more crept up his body, moving around his chest and face in a dark, almost seductive way. Then one took hold of his throat and started to squeeze. He gasped, his eyes beginning to water from the pressure. He struggled, trying to pull himself free, to reach up and snatch the intangible object away, but he could not move. And he could not push back the wave of panic, even though another part of him still said it was ridiculous and that he would be able to get free. Had he underestimated this force?

None of it was as horrific as the emotional pain. The claws tore painfully into his very mind, raking through his memories. The tornado swept around him, but he was no longer certain if he was moving with it. There were whispers on the wind, calling his name, accusing him, telling him things from his past---things that were beginning to fade from his knowledge. No . . . what were they talking about? That had not happened. He had not done that. What were they calling him? Was that his name? He was not even certain.

The darkness swept over him.

The raucous laughter and drunken singing was a sudden start to his senses, immediately bringing him back to the world of the sentient. His aqua eyes flew open, focusing on the scene around him.

He was slumped in the back of an orange, leather booth, his arm across the top of it. Overhead, a tired creaking indicated an old ceiling fan, taking its last spins around the dimly lit room. In spite of the lack of light, the place seemed to be fairly active. Various rough men were gathered around tables, talking and laughing as they guzzled mugs of beer. Others stayed alone at corner booths like this one, drinking hard liquor and seeming furious by one problem or another. More still were at the counter itself, some talking to the bartender and others remaining silent. None of them were people he knew.

The locale itself was not a familiar one. Obviously it was a bar of some description, but it was not Seventh Heaven, or any other that he had been in before. But what was an even worse grievance was, he did not remember how he had got here. He felt perfectly alert, so he could not blame it on drunkenness. It was as if someone had simply carried him there as a joke when he had fallen asleep. But no one he knew would be doing that. And anyway, he had been standing up, the last he recalled. But how long ago had that been?

A commotion near the door suddenly drew his attention, and he turned in surprise to see the bouncer shoving a yelling troublemaker out with force. Apparently he was unwilling to accept nonsense of any sort. In spite of himself, the confused man found himself smirking. That was how a bouncer should be. There had been many times when his desire to have a quiet drink had been interrupted by some moron or another, and the enforcement had either been too afraid to do much, or else they had been overpowered by the ones causing the trouble. But this man was unafraid, and it seemed unlikely that someone would easily get the better of him.

The large, well-muscled man shut the door firmly and turned back, seeming to sense that he was being watched. And the other felt relief wash over him, as well as more confusion, as he took in the serious expression, the many piercings, and the dark sunglasses. He knew this man. Immediately he leaped up in the booth, bumping the table as he hurried to get out. He ignored the centerpiece as it wobbled and crashed on its side.

"Hey Rude!" he cried, manuevering his way around the tables to reach the door. "Rude, what's going on?"

The man called Rude frowned, studying the person running towards him. The redhead's clothes were even more rumpled than when he had arrived, indicating that he had probably been relaxing somewhere instead of doing his job. And that did not make Rude pleased at all. "We're supposed to be taking care of idiots like that," he grunted. "What have you been doing instead? Sneaking a drink? No wonder I was told to watch out for you."

The other frowned as well as he came to stand in front of his partner. It was not like Rude to be so cold, not to him. And his words did not even make sense. "Hey, Rude, what's up with you?" he cried. "Have you been tossing back a few drinks yourself? We were supposed to be on a mission for Rufus. And then, just like that, we pop up in some bar and you're throwing some guy out the door. You know, they actually have people here to do that."

"We're those people," Rude retorted. "But frankly, I don't even know how you got the job. And who's Rufus?"

The turquoise-eyed man gawked, his mouth dropping open. "This isn't funny!" he gasped. "Come on, Rude, you have to remember Rufus! And the Turks, and . . . and me! I'm your partner, Reno!" He pointed at himself desperately, but the other's expression never changed. It was obvious that he did not remember, and did not even care. And it did not make the slightest bit of sense! He remembered that one minute they had been walking down the street, and then he had seemed to black out. This was not what he had ever thought he would regain consciousness to find.

"Then why don't you act like my partner and stop talking nonsense? Or maybe I should kick you out too." Rude gave him a look of ice. He was not happy with his job to begin with, and being assigned to work with this character was not helping his mood to improve. Was he supposed to learn patience from it? If so, it was not working.

Reno fell back, stunned. For once he found himself speechless, and he could only watch numbly as Rude turned and walked away from him. Rude had not even been this cold when they had first met. What had happened to him just in the short moment that Reno had not been aware? How had he forgotten everything, and everyone, so quickly? And why did Reno still remember? What had been different for him?

The sudden sound of shattering porcelain, accompanied by an angry yell, jerked him back to the present. He frowned in confusion, looking over at the door leading into the kitchen. Something about that scream had sounded familiar, though he could not quite place it. But now he was desperate, and he turned to quickly make his way over there. If he could find someone else he knew, maybe they could piece together what had taken place. Maybe they would even know. And then again, on the other hand, maybe they would not remember him either.

He pushed that thought out of his mind as he casually opened the kitchen door and walked inside. It was a nice enough, brightly lit place, and looked fairly clean, except for the assorted bits of what had probably once been plates that were decorating the counter and the floor around it. He raised an eyebrow, coming over closer. The dishwasher was a large man, built not unlike Rude, and as he bent over the sink, he gripped another plate in his hands. It almost looked like he wanted to crush it then and there, and he suddenly straightened up, raising the dish over his head.

Immediately Reno walked over, leaning against the counter. "Unless I missed my guess, you're supposed to wash them, not break them," he said in a cheeky tone, and smirked. He would never give any indication of how much Rude's behavior had hurt him, whether or not this was someone he knew. He would be the same old Reno.

The other man whirled around, his deep green eyes narrowed furiously and his expression twisted in a way that showed he clearly had been crying. Reno swallowed hard, taking a step back. It was not often that he was actually, visibly shaken, and now twice in the last ten minutes, he had been. It was a new record. But he had a perfect right to be bewildered. After all, this guy was supposed to be dead!

"O . . . kay," he said slowly. His thoughts raced wildly as he tried to arrive at some conclusion that would make sense, but he could find none. He ran his tongue over his lips. "So . . . do you want to tell me how come you've been resurrected to wash dishes, and why Rude out there doesn't remember me at all?" He tried to speak as calmly as his voice would allow. He had seen one welcome feature in the other's expression---he had been recognized. He supposed it was the first time he could actually say he was grateful to see Loz.

The silver-haired man glowered at the Turk. "I don't know!" he cried, setting the dish on the counter and shoving it aside. "Someone came and told me I had to wash dishes, and when I asked about Kadaj and Yazoo, he said he'd tell me if I did my job!" He felt quite helpless, and he had wanted to simply leave, but instead he had decided to try to gain information by doing as he had been told. However, he had been too upset to do a good job, and first one plate and then another had slipped from his grasp. Then in his frustration, he had thrown two more to the floor.

Reno raised an eyebrow. It was more than likely that whoever had said that did not actually know anything and was simply taking advantage of Loz's childlike trust and naivete. After all, why would anyone hold back information for the price of dishes? It did not make sense. Then again, neither did anything else. He almost felt as if he had been thrown into a world as strange as Alice's Wonderland. Or stranger. Alice had not dealt with people she knew turning against her.

"Who was this guy? The manager?" he queried now.

"I don't know," Loz pouted. "Just some guy." He eyed Reno up and down. "You say your partner doesn't remember you?"

"Nope," Reno replied, shaking his head. "He seems to think we're supposed to kick out the riffraff here or something." He shrugged. "We were just heading down some street, going to do a job for Rufus---you remember Rufus---and then we just suddenly popped up here!" He gestured wildly, nearly knocking a stack of pans to the floor.

Loz grabbed his wrist before he could succeed. "Kadaj and Yazoo and I were just walking around with Mother when they all disappeared and I was here!" he declared, and a helpless look suddenly came over him. "Now I don't know where they are at all!" he wailed.

Reno decided to temporarily ignore the strange "Mother" comment. He could not know, of course, that the brothers had adopted Aerith as their mother after they had been absorbed into the Lifestream. "Okay, okay!" he exclaimed. "Don't cry! Don't cry. Look, we'll find them! If you're here, they're probably also here, somewhere." He trailed off, his gaze darting around the kitchen. The truth was, he felt about as helpless as Loz---though he would never cry about it. Why did he and Loz remember, while Rude did not? And there was still the mystery of why Loz was alive again at all. Was everyone here? How many of them would remember? And . . . where was here?

He walked over to the nearest window and pulled up the tattered and food-stained blind. Outside, he could see the outlines of other buildings, as well as a streetlamp. "Wow, what a great view," he muttered, letting the blind drop again.

He looked back to Loz. "Why don't we get out of here and look around a bit?" he suggested. "Maybe we'll find someone else and they'll know what's going on." And then again, maybe no one knew. Maybe the ones who did have their memories were clueless, and the rest were simply going to blindly accept their new fates. Had there been some kind of brainwashing? Maybe they had all somehow ended up as part of an experiment. It sounded absurd, but not any more so than the situation in general.

"What about your partner?" Loz asked, still looking suspicious.

"It's not like he's gonna come anywhere with me," Reno answered. "Besides, he's so dedicated, he'll probably stay until this place closes." With that he turned and started walking out of the kitchen, not waiting for the other to follow. But after a moment he could hear Loz's heavy footsteps fall into place behind his.

I must be desperate, he thought to himself as they went back into the main room. I never thought I'd be forming an alliance with this guy. But oh well . . . what can I do? He remembers me, and Rude doesn't. And he seems pretty harmless right now. But if he says anything about finding "Mother" and holding a Reunion, boy, I'll . . .

"Where are you going?"

He started, looking up at the foreboding presence standing before him. Even though he could not see Rude's eyes, he did not need to in order to know that the other was angry. Now he knew how their enemies must feel when confronted by the strong man. But he grinned, not wanting to look affected by it.

"Nice going, Rude. You really know how to scare a guy," he said, clapping him on the shoulder.

The other looked annoyed. He reached up, pushing Reno's hand away as if it was nothing more than a fly or a speck of dirt. "Don't touch me," he snapped. "Where are you going with this dishwasher? Both of you are still supposed to be on duty."

Reno shoved his hand into his pocket. "Oh, you know, we're just gonna go out and cruise around the streets, see if anybody looks familiar. Maybe we can figure out why you don't remember me anymore. I mean, seriously, don't you find it the least bit weird that you're suddenly a bouncer in a bar? You're a Turk, Rude! One of the great Shinra Company's Turks!" He could hear that some of his inner desperation had slipped into his voice, but he ignored it. Maybe it would even help Rude realize that he was sincere. Still, somehow, he doubted it.

"I've been working here for five years," Rude said flatly. "But you were just hired tonight. I have a mind to tell the manager it's not going to work out."

Reno bit back the shocked retorts he wanted to fling out. Five years? That was impossible! Brainwashing was sounding more and more like a reasonable option. But who was behind it, and why? "You know the manager?" he exclaimed instead. "Who is he, anyway? He told Loz here that if he did all the dishes, he'd tell him where his brothers are. Isn't that kinda weird?"

Rude grunted, simply looking at Reno in silence.

Reno glowered back. He had had enough. He did not have to take this from Rude. Now his confusion and hurt feelings were spilling out in frustration. "Hey, I can take a hint!" he muttered, starting to walk around his former partner.

Rude grabbed his shoulder. "If you walk out that door, you won't be coming back," he threatened.

Reno shrugged him off. "Fine!" he snapped, storming past him and to the door. He could hear Loz hurrying after him, but he did not want to stop to wait for the other. Now he just wanted to get out of here and away from this nightmare. Yet he knew that the nightmare would be all around him. There would be no escape. They were not in Edge any more. Were they even still on Gaia?

"You're just gonna leave him?"

The redhead frowned, keeping one hand on the edge of the door as he looked back at the puzzled Loz. "Hey, he wants me to leave, I'll leave," he retorted. "It's not like I'll do any good staying here." He knew that he was not helping matters by losing his own temper, but since he had, he needed to go away until he calmed down. And maybe he would be able to get some answers if he found some of the others. He walked through the door, not bothering to hold it open. If Loz still wanted to come, he could follow easily enough.

And follow, Loz did. He dashed after the Turk whom he had once fought, desperate to catch up. He did not hold any ill feelings towards Reno personally, and right now the important thing was to find his brothers. But after seeing the way Rude had acted toward Reno, the silver-haired man was growing worried. He could not help the fears that were building within his heart.

"What if . . . what if my brothers act like that?" he could not help exclaiming. "What if they don't know me?" Reno and Rude had been best friends when Loz and the others had fought against them. Now Rude seemed to despise the redhead. And if it could happen to them, could it happen to Kadaj and Yazoo? He did not want them to hate him, and each other! He did not know that he could bear that happening.

Reno was about to say, somewhat sarcastically, that they would know Loz, that they would not be able to forget Loz, but then he stopped, shutting his mouth. This whole mess was disgusting. How did he know what Kadaj and Yazoo would be like here? For all he would know, maybe they had formed a singing duo and would be annoyed by Loz. Maybe they would kick him out if he found them. After his experience, Reno did not feel that he could reassure Loz, even in a sardonic way. He was furious.

He sighed. "Well . . . who knows," he muttered. "We've ended up in some strange world, working in a bar, and my best friend pretty much just kicked me out. So . . . I guess it's possible that Kadaj and Yazoo won't remember you." He paused, hearing a pronounced sniffle and a choked sob. "Don't cry, Loz," he said with another sigh as he turned the corner.

He wandered down the deserted streets, clutching a gloved hand to the side of his head. His ears were ringing, and the blow he had somehow taken to his temple was sending such splitting pain behind his eyes that he could barely stand to keep them open. He did not remember being struck; he did not even have any idea where he was right now. Everything had been warm and soft and gentle, and now suddenly it was cold and rough and cruel. And he was alone.

Where was everyone? Why was it so dark, even when he could stand to force his eyes open? He could only barely make out the outlines of buildings, and the rumbling of the thunderclouds in the sky signaled an oncoming rain. This sent panic ripping into his heart that he did not even understand. He was afraid of the rain. Why? Was it because of the noise, or the lightning, or because it was cold and wet? None of that sounded right. All he knew was that he had to get away from it. He had to get inside one of those buildings. But they looked so dark, too---dark and lonely.

He turned in the opposite direction, running with all his might. "Mother!" he screamed desperately, his short silver hair hitting against his face and into his eyes. All the buildings were empty! No one was around at all. Why? There should be people somewhere! This was such an eerie place. Was he the only one who existed here?

"Yazoo! Loz!" His desperate voice echoed off the unwelcoming edifaces as he fled around a corner. He remembered his brothers, he knew that they should be there, but they were not. And . . . and Mother, she was gone too. He had been left by himself, with his scattered and fragmented memories. He recalled very little about his life other than those people, and someone else. . . . Someone dark and cunning, someone who had the love that he wanted so badly from Mother. . . .

Suddenly lights were shining directly at him---lights that were much too bright. He screamed in pain, his hands flying over his eyes as he tried to blindly run past. Vaguely he was aware of a furious horn blaring at him. It was a car, and it was too close to him. He would not make it past in time. It clipped his leg and he started to go down.

But he never did.

After a moment he opened his eyes, stunned that he was still alive. Now he was hovering far above the car, and he could feel strong arms around his waist. A gentle flapping indicated the presence of wings, and a large white feather floated into his line of vision. What had caught him? Some kind of an angel? He looked up, trying to see.

Worried blue eyes looked back down at him from amid a mess of bright red hair. "Are you okay?" the creature gasped in a soft, male voice. "The car would have run you over if I hadn't found you. I heard you screaming!" It was obvious that, whatever it was, it was completely harmless. He could tell that from its tone of voice and the eyes, shining with pure innocence.

Now that he knew he was safe, the silver-haired man's defenses took over. Whatever this was, it was a stranger, and he would not let it see how insecure he was in this new world. He frowned. "I'm fine," he answered. "But who or what are you?" He watched as the ground came closer again. The being was slowly coming back down, and now it landed them on their feet on the sidewalk. He raised a hand again, rubbing at the offending part of his head. The sudden trip had only increased the headache and the dizziness.

Quickly it released the other and walked around to face him. It was definitely a humanoid creature, and actually looked completely human, save for the two wings sprouting from its back---a white angel wing on its right, and a leathery demon wing on its left. But he was not terribly stunned by the discovery. After all, that someone he vaguely remembered had a black angel wing, so it was not unheard of.

It spoke again, smiling brightly. "I'm Alexander!" it exclaimed. "I'm a doppelganger." He tilted his head to the side. "Who are you?" he asked curiously.

The other thought this over for a moment before giving it a quiet half-smile that also looked like his trademark smirks. "Well, Alexander," he said smoothly, "I should thank you for saving my life. I'm Kadaj."

Cloud's fingers flew over the keyboard as he typed up the letters that needed to go out to their prospective business associates. It did not take him long, which was one of the reasons why he had been able to rise up in the company's ranks to become the assistant to the president. The older man had been impressed with not only his swift typing skills, but with his serious intelligence, and the way he had of analyzing a situation. Cloud still remembered how the other had given a quiet smirk, saying that Cloud would be an asset to the corporation. And Cloud had felt honored.

For years he had looked up to and admired the sharp, calculating CEO of this corporation. He had gotten a job here five years ago as a lowly copy boy, determined to make his way up the ladder until he could work directly with the other. And that had impressed the president too, after seeing how the younger man had done just that. He had told Cloud that he had the makings of a good businessman, and had decided to take the blonde under his figurative wing as a sort of apprentice. From there, he had been teaching Cloud everything he knew. And the former copy boy had accepted it all eagerly. He was no longer a nothing, a nobody. He was becoming somebody, and he was learning from the best.

He looked up as the office door opened and the president walked in, shutting it behind him. He was just coming from a long conference, and he was slumping forward, rubbing his forehead. He was too worn-out to bother standing up straight, and that could only mean one thing. Cloud frowned, leaning on the desk.

"Bad day?" he asked.

The other grunted, brushing a long strand of hair out of his face as he went over to his own desk. "Turk Enterprises still doesn't want to do business with us," he answered, sinking down into the plush chair. He closed his eyes in pleasure and relief, feeling the familiar softness against his back. In this position, he continued to speak. "It was Rufus Shinra whom they sent to speak with us, and you know what a hard bargain he drives. I still say that if we could get an interview with President Tseng, we'd have a chance."

Cloud narrowed his eyes, nodding slowly. Only after he had done so did he realize what an absurd action it was, since his boss was not facing him and his eyes were closed anyway. He looked down at his clipboard and the paperwork. "I'm almost done typing these letters," he announced. It would not take away the president's frustration over the situation with Turk Enterprises, but he hoped that it would please him at least a little. "I think some of these companies really are possibilities."

"Yes, I imagine they are." It would be Turk Enterprises that would be the real feather in their cap, but the tycoon knew not to ignore the other choices. After all, who knew but what they could be surprised. He had learned that only through a lifetime of carefully planned business ventures, and it was a valuable lesson, one that he had passed on to his protégé.

He could hear the shuffle of paper, but did not bother to look up. "One of these newest offers is from Industrial Illusions," Cloud reported now.

This got the older man's attention. "Aren't they a children's gaming company?" he said, unable to hide the derision that crept into his voice. He sat up straight, swiveling his chair to face his assistant's desk.

Cloud shrugged. "They're a gaming company, yeah, but even a lot of adults seem to like the stuff they make. Most of the people who are really serious about the games, and who enter the tournaments, are teenagers to adults. And I2 is one of the most widely recognized and successful international corporations," he added, knowing that this would interest the president. And sure enough, when he sneaked a glance in that direction, he could see his boss perking up. He smirked slightly to himself. "Do you want me to type a reply to them?"

"Why are they interested in us?" the other returned, not answering the question.

Cloud glanced over the letter again. "They like the technology we offer," he answered. "And the CEO says that he thinks we'd find theirs useful."

"It's possible." He crossed one leg over the other. "Tell them we'll set up a meeting."

Cloud nodded, placing the letter to the side of the computer as he opened a new document in the word processor. Out of habit, he read some of the response aloud as he typed.

"'Thank you for your generous proposal of business to the Jenova Corporation. The company president, Mr. Sephiroth Jenova, would like to arrange a meeting to further discuss the possibilities with you. . . ."