((As it would turn out, the fic everyone seemed to love the most was "Christmas Day in the Morning". I loved writing it, too, and especially with the pairing. CloudxZack has effectively become my favorite couple in all of gaming. .'' Pretty bad for someone with the name "CloTi4ever", right? It has made me make up my mind when it comes to the direction I'll be taking "Alpha" in.
About this story: This started out as being entirely AU. HOWEVER, I decided I'd rather try and do a revival fic. Don't shoot me, please. DX Here's the make-up: 10 buttsecks, 10 Angst, 75 fluff, 5 cheese. All likely to change…but I promise there will be makings of the love. I promise.))
"Impossible." Was the word that escaped Reeve Tuesti's lips as he surveyed the room into which he was just lead. How had this gone unnoticed for so long? A laboratory of sorts, lined with the mako chambers once characteristic of Shinra's work. Such use of mako was no strictly prohibited, but it made little difference to whoever had been working this lab.
The WRO squad who stumbled upon this particular previously undiscovered niche in the Deepground facilities took out the scientists working it without a second thought. Reeve found himself torn. Would the same have happened to him had he not turned on Shinra years ago? He shook the idea from his head. There were far more important matters at hand than his own possible fate.
For the most part, the chambers were dimmed and empty. One in a corner held an orb of material, which would be removed and analyzed later. This wasn't the important part either. The important part about this lab was the fourth of seven containment units lined on the left-hand wall. His jaw nearly dropped when he recognized the form floating in the green ooze- a single human, left preserved perfectly for god knows how long in the chamber.
As he approached, the form took a more defined shape. This particular man, he knew. Not personally, but well enough to recognize the name scribbled on the chart next to the tank: 'Fair, Zackary'
"Jesus Christ." Reeve muttered, eyes widening as he looked at the man again. His nude form was perfectly chiseled and fit; this much was obvious even through the thick, noxious liquid. The Soldier's raven hair filled much of the area surrounding him, having grown long since he was first placed within the chamber. This was the only remarkable change Reeve could discern between the man before him, trapped in the mako-induced coma, and the one who'd picture he recognized from files concerning the Jenova and Genesis projects.
"Holy shit…" one of the soldier's who'd helped clear the lab approached behind him now, "…is he alive?" He asked, looking him over. Reeve ignored the question, his mind racing with a million thoughts.
"Get me Strife." He commanded, his voice low, "Tell him it's urgent. Tell him he better get his ass here now…" Reeve's tone was distant but firm and the soldier saluted him before dashing off in search of a phone.
It was now that the young warrior's question reached his mind. Was this man even alive? He looked over the chamber again, noting now a sliding silver panel on the left side. Two unlabeled screens provided what he assumed were record of the man's vital signs. The enigmatic numbers and constantly spiking lines meant nothing to him.
"Hey, Private!" he called, summoning over another young man. His subordinate responded with a loud 'sir' and salute.
"Get a doctor down here, ASAP." Reeve commanded, examining the panel further. There were a number of dials and buttons, none of which made any sense to the WRO leader. He recognized almost immediately, though, what would be of the utmost importance soon- a keyhole with a bright red label to the side reading 'Emergency Release'. If only he knew where to find the key.
"Where are the bodies?" he asked the room's last remaining guard.
"Out in the hall, sir. Someone should be on their way to get them soon." Reeve bolted out the door to find what appeared to be two piles of bloodied sheets. He knew all too well the destruction his men could wreak, especially when caught off-guard. It took him everything he had to fight waves of nausea as he ripped the coverings from the first body.
He ravaged through the pockets, eyes watering badly.
"Sir, what are you looking for?" the guard asked, joining him in the hall.
"A key. There's a key on one of them, I'm sure. Check the other body, would ya?" Reeve asked, groping through each of the dead scientist's coat pockets. Pens, flashlights, pencils, erasers, and medical utensils…everything but a key seemed to be hidden within.
"Sir!" Reeve looked up quickly to find two sets of good news- a key of rings dangling from the MP's finger and Cloud Strife hurdling down the hall.
"Yes!" he grinned, catching the ring as the boy tossed them over, "Cloud! You're here!" he must have been working nearby, thankfully enough, and made it in record time.
"Care telling me what the hell's going on that's so urgent?" The ex-Soldier demanded, crossing his arms. 'Impatient as always' Reeve thought to himself.
"We've found something that I believe might be of interest to you." He said carefully, a smile twisting at his lips.
"So out with it." It was obvious Cloud wasn't in the mood for his games today.
"Follow me." Reeve instructed, leading him through the nearby door to the newly discovered laboratory. Cloud couldn't stop from shuddering when he entered the room. Mako chambers lined the place, bringing back any number of half-forgotten hellish nightmares.
"If your plan was to make me relive my worst moments, you've succeeded. Can I go now?" he growled, eyes narrowing on Reeve. For obvious reasons, this was his least trustworthy of companions.
"Not just yet. I haven't shown you what I really think you'll be interested in. Follow me." He said, leading to the far wall on the left. He stopped in front of the occupied chamber, then stepped aside, "Take a look." He urged.
Cloud was hesitant, looking at Reeve again. He realized at once that there was a man in this tank. What interest was this to him? Other than sending a chill down his spine, it had little to do with him. At least this was his line of thinking until he stood inches away from the cold plastic and steel. His heart froze, eyes going wide. This was impossible. Utterly impossible!
"….Zack!?" he croaked upon finding his voice. He hardly bothered trying to fight the tears on his eyes as he pressed his hands to the glass. "ZACK!" he repeated, but to no avail. The man floated all the same, lifeless, without notice of his friend's desperate pleas.
"We have to get him out!" Cloud yelled, turning to Reeve and grabbing his arm.
"There's a release switch…we just need to find which key." The older man explained, holding out the keys. Cloud snatched them without another word, trying the force them into the whole one after another.
"Reeve? The doc you ordered is here…" the meek man who had found the keys called out to his boss. Reeve headed out, leaving Cloud to work on the keys.
Cloud's vision was becoming blurred with tears as he tried key after key, each wrong fit taking another toll on his newfound hope.
"Hang in there, bro…" Cloud begged, urgency in his voice. His fingers trembled as he grabbed the second to last key. He pushed the key in and, to his surprise, it fit perfectly. "Yes…YES." He laughed a little, twisting the key. The buzzing light flashed red now and Cloud watched as, slowly, the liquid draining through the bottom of the tube. As the last bits of liquid swirled downward, the light turned green and the door to the chamber slid open.
"Zack!" Cloud repeated again, taking his unconscious friend into his arms and helping lay his naked body down across the cold tile floor, "Reeve!" he cried, "Reeve he's out…we need help!"
Reeve was quick to his side, as was the doctor he'd brought along with him.
"Get him on the table." The young female doctor commanded, gesturing to a steel countertop-like protrusion on the opposite wall. Cloud obeyed instantly, hoisting his former best friend into his arms and struggling with the dead weight to get him to the surface.
"Now give me some room." She commanded, forcing Cloud and Reeve to back off towards the middle of the room. Reeve headed for the hallway, quick on his phone. Cloud on the other hand paced about, watching as the doctor began her thorough examination of his friend.
"What's wrong? Is he…is he gonna? Will he be?" Cloud's words spilled from his mouth the moment the doctor turned away from his friend's body. The color had drained from his face and fear ruled his system.
"You were in Soldier, am I correct?" the woman asked, her voice relatively emotionless. Cloud simply nodded in response, "then you should know the effects of prolonged mako exposure. Interestingly enough, his body seems well-preserved and relatively unharmed physically…" her words blurred together in his mind, the fear still searching for the bad news, ignoring this if it was in fact good, "…heart is in remarkable condition, steady breathing, regular pulse…" her voice went on until Cloud finally interrupted,
"Will you just tell me if he's gonna be okay!?" he demanded, fire in his blue eyes. The woman laughed slightly, a more kind tone in her voice as she spoke now.
"If you're asking, will he survive, the answer is yes. Even consciousness is probably not far off, assuming Reeve's notation of his ranking in Soldier was correct." Cloud nodded quickly, searching for more information, "However…" she paused, letting him brace himself. There was always a 'but'. It could never be that simple, "…mako does have some pretty strong side effects. Possible loss of short-term memory, dizziness, disorientation, weakness in muscles…" the list went on, though none of the effects sounded terrible enough to break the smile forming at Cloud's lips, "with rest and a little rehabilitation, though, all you really need to worry about is getting him up to date with everything he's missed."
Cloud stopped smiling now. Zack must have been in the chamber for at least three years, probably closer to four. How much had the world changed since he'd been 'dead'? How the hell would he ever be able to explain just what everyone had gone through in those past years? He shook his head clear of the thoughts as Reeve approached his side.
"I've made arrangements for him to be transported to Edge's hospital." He explained, looking over at the man who lay, apparently lifeless, on the table across from them, "They'll be able to take care of him well. They have a lot of experience with this type… many of them came from Mideel." Cloud just nodded, not speaking. A thought had entered his mind and, as often would happen, rooted itself so deeply that he was now sure of its truth.
What if Zack didn't remember him at all? What if the parts of his past in which Cloud played a role had disappeared? Or, worse yet, what if the parts Cloud remembered most fondly never existed at all?
These thoughts were all it took to tear the man away from the room and out of the building.