Kingdom Hearts II

Into the Ocean

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and the ficlit is! It's random inspiration that hit me one day. Thanks to Lisa for the title suggestion!

Falling is a strange feeling.

Especially when one is not expecting it at all and it should not be happening.

Cloud is finding himself in that position.

It seems as though he is suspended in time, yet he knows he is moving. Down, down, perhaps falling forever. The wind kisses his face at first, but then slaps it, as if suddenly disappointed in him. He stares up blankly, seeing the point of safety grow smaller and more impossible to reach. Like when I was falling into my own darkness, he decides.

The comparison fits too well. He still recollects with perfect clarity how it felt to be sinking within himself, to know that he was drowning in the depths of his angry and hateful feelings with no one to throw him a rope of light and hope. Or maybe more accurately, no one whom he would let in enough. Certainly people tried, but he pushed so many of them away. He did not think they really understood him.

And then, accepting the deal to work for Hades . . . the crowning "achievement" on that path. He believed for so long that Sephiroth was responsible for what he did then. But now . . . now that sounds so ridiculous. The other is right, it was Cloud's own decision. And he regrets it completely.

Though that does not change the fact that Sephiroth did not help his problems. Whether it was intended or not, he made Cloud's fury all the worse. Of course . . . there were those cryptic statements made that Sephiroth wanted to appear to be Cloud's foe, that he could not test Cloud accurately unless the blond believed that the other was a true threat. Sephiroth never makes sense. . . .

The pain jolts him back to his present state of falling. His head is throbbing, but he cannot recall why. Did he strike it on something hard after the explosion, when he tumbled off the roof of the building during the fight? That would make sense. And it would explain why he cannot gather the strength to spread his one wing. His mind cannot even seem to comprehend the command, and he is feeling too sluggish to try to force it.

The splash sounds like another explosion. The water is rushing over him, covering him, as he goes under. He gasps, his lips parting as he desperately and vainly seeks for air. He has to get out of this, somehow he has to rise! Weakly he raises first one arm, then the other, clawing for the surface. His fingers only rake through liquid. Already he is too far down to be able to reach up to the top.

The substance, which usually gives life, is now flowing into his mouth, his nose, his ears, his eyes. . . . But he cannot close his eyes. If he does, it will be an acceptance of death. And he will not give in to it! He has to rise, to try to swim to the surface. He knows how to swim, is quite good at it actually, but in his semi-conscious condition he cannot register what to do. No matter how he struggles, it is not good enough. There is an invisible, yet firm and strong chain around his waist, dragging him further into the aqueous depths.

Is he going to die here, whether he wants it or not? Zack would be devastated. So would Tifa and Aerith. He wanted the chance to be a better friend to them, especially to Zack---to make up for the past. He still wants it. He wants to live!

He thrashes, the iciness of the water and his own determination reviving him further. Again he claws for the surface, trying to spread his wing as well. If he can use it to push himself upward, maybe he can still break free!

But . . . something is wrong. Why won't his wing move? It will only come out halfway. Is he too exhausted and stunned to bring it entirely out?

No . . . he's entangled somehow. It's not only in his mind. No matter how he pulls and struggles, reaching frantically for the pinprick of light high above his head, he cannot gain it. Why? What's holding him back?! Quickly he looks down, narrowing his eyes. The old seaweed has twisted together with a lot of wire that some careless person left, forming cruel and rusty talons. They've wrapped around his legs, his waist---even his wing is caught. He winces, feeling for the first time the pain as the leathery limb is dug into by the harsh bonds. No wonder he could not unfurl it completely.

A curse leaks into his thoughts. How is he going to get out of this?! It must have happened when he was too dazed to really know anything that was going on around him. He takes hold of the wire, pulling it, trying to find how to make it let go. The wing has to be freed first. If he tries to bend over with it still tangled up, it might even tear.

His fingers are swiftly going raw as he struggles with the stubborn metal thread. It won't come loose! Why can't he get it loose? It's so tight. . . . It almost feels like its grip is becoming more taut the more he fumbles with it! And he's running out of air. Dizziness starts to sweep over him, both from the head injury and from the lack of oxygen. No . . . he has to force his eyes to stay open, he has to make himself keep working. He has to get free. . . . Whatever else he does, he has to get free!

Again he tugs at the wire. Is part of it coming away now? Yes! His wing is free! But there's so much still left. . . . He grabs at the newly discovered end, following it down to his waist. If he can just unwind it . . . !

But it isn't as easy as that. The seaweed has almost seemed to weave itself in and out of the coils. Desperately he tears at the foliage. Some of it rips away, but the rest insists on remaining, twisted tightly with itself as well as with the metal thread. He has to get it away. Somehow he has to! It's acting so stubborn. . . .

Spots are swirling in front of his eyes now. He blinks, trying to push them back. Instead they come with more force. His throat is on fire. He can't breathe, he can't breathe . . . ! He can't last any longer. His hands slip from their position, his body going limp.

Somewhere in his nearly oblivious state, he feels something there, an arm coming under his own arms and around his chest. The wire seems to be being cut away, but maybe it's only in his fantasy. Maybe this is death. Maybe his spirit is leaving his body, being pulled out by the Grim Reaper---or by whatever equivalent actually exists. Or maybe that's part of the fantasy too. Maybe nothing exists now.

The pressure on his chest is what he feels first. It's rough, demanding, and insistent. He might think that something has fallen on top of him, save for the fact that it always eases and then is applied again. Something, or someone, is pushing on his chest. Why? What do they want to accom- . . .

The water suddenly rushes into his throat. He gasps, choking on it, and turns his head to the side. The liquid spills out as he coughs, but it feels like there's still more. Almost out of instinct, he rolls onto his side, gagging as the next round begins. He'd had no idea that he had gulped in that much!

"Trying to swallow the ocean is never going to work."

He freezes. That voice . . . cold . . . sarcastic . . . it can't be. . . .

As the last of the water drains from his mouth, he falls weakly back into a prone position, staring up at the owner of the voice. Sharp eyes, the color of the green sea, are staring down at him. They're framed by silver bangs, plastered to the skin. His nemesis is completely drenched. His long locks fall down his shirtless chest and over his back, and the three wings are hanging low, each feather ruffled and wet.

"You . . . !" Cloud gasps. Why? Why would Sephiroth save his life? Would it just be because he wanted more of a chance to torture him? No . . . he might have thought that once, but not now. There are even more mysteries now that he knows Sephiroth is not wicked.

Sephiroth leans back, seeming satisfied. "I don't know how you actually managed to entangle yourself the way you did," he grunts, the sardonic tones still obvious. "I don't think I could have done that to myself even if I'd tried."

"Yeah, yeah, rub it in . . ." Cloud mutters. "I don't know how you got me out of it." He sits up slowly, coughing again as he runs a hand through his completely wet, yet still spiky, hair.

"I wonder myself." Sephiroth looks him over closely. "Will you be alright now?"

Cloud looks away, uncomfortable with the other's scrutiny. "Fine . . . I'm fine," he retorts. What should he even feel about this? It's hard to know, when he doesn't know the reason for the rescue. Some part of him is humiliated at being saved by his enemy. Another is mortified at needing to be saved at all. Yet another part is grateful to be alive. And a fourth is simply, hopelessly, confused.

Sephiroth stands up, gathering his hair with his hands before wringing it out. Then he walks forward, past Cloud, until he is several yards away. He stretches his wings, flapping them quickly as a bird does when it is provoked. Water immediately flies in all directions.

Cloud mutters, watching the sudden rainfall. The other always likes to be flashy in some way. And he is so even when he isn't trying. "Sephiroth!" he yells. "Why? Why did you save me?"

Sephiroth glances back over his shoulder, his expression impassive. "Consider it recompense for helping to restore me to health," he answers, and then hesitates. Instead of speaking again, he walks over to the rock where he tossed his coat before jumping in after Cloud. Picking it up, he drapes it over his arm. There is not any sense putting it on again until his feathers are dry. On a warm day such as this, it won't take long.

"And," he adds, "because Zack would be upset if I had let you die."

Cloud averts his gaze. Zack. . . . The one positive thing he has in common with his nemesis is the devotion to their mutual friend. No matter what Sephiroth thinks of Cloud personally, he does not want to cause Zack grief.

Slowly the blond nods, raising his eyes once more. ". . . Sephiroth!"

The other looks over again, questioningly.

"Thanks." Something he had never thought he would say to the silver-haired man. It feels strange in one way. But he does not regret it. In spite of his continuing feelings of perplexity and embarrassment, he means what he speaks.

Sephiroth regards him for a long moment, as if surprised. But then finally, he nods in acknowledgement.