Lost At Sea
Disclaimer: Thomas is mine, Zack and the Lifestream are property of Square-Enix.
Summary: "The Lifestream is life and death, and I am the Lifestream and the Lifestream is me." Zack comes to terms with his death.
A/N: My Chemical Romance + Zack + angst + three hour car ride + Eisley's song "Lost At Sea" + talking with Daisy about Sephiroth being an existentialist + American government summer homework equals this.
He seemed to be lying flat on his back. He could hear strange sounds around him; it sounded like soft, sad sighs.
Zack opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by brilliant green lights that danced and swirled around him. Stiffly, he began to get up.
Zack fell over again. He'd been completely caught off-guard by the strange man who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
"Didn't mean to startle you," the man said sheepishly. "It's nice to meet you, Zack."
Zack just nodded vaguely, not bothering to question how the man knew his name. He got to his feet. "This is the Lifestream, right?" Zack sighed. "So I really am dead, then."
The man nodded once. Zack looked him over. The worn pair of khaki pants and the well-groomed blond hair (a sharp contrast to Zack's own crazy hairdo) were...unexpected, to say the least.
"Are you...Death?" Zack asked quietly.
"No, at least not in the way you're thinking. I am death and life all in one."
Zack nodded slowly, gazing at the endless expanse of green light around him. "The Lifestream."
"Indeed," said the man. "The Lifestream is life and death, and I am the Lifestream and the Lifestream is me. Same with you."
"But I thought the Lifestream was just people's spirits." Zack looked down at his hands, which appeared very solid. "Why do I have a body?"
"You and I are different, Zack. We are still too attached to the Planet." He smiled a little then. "One foot in the grave and one foot out, I guess."
Zack smiled too, if only at the man's sudden joke. He'd been starting to worry that the Lifestream was full of people going around saying things like "the Lifestream is life and death, the Lifestream is me" all the time.
"So what's your name?"
"Sorry if this is forward, but how did you, uh..."
Thomas didn't seem to think the question was forward at all. "I was in Wutai for business during the war. I got caught in the crossfire. I think it was a SOLDIER that killed me, but I can't be sure."
In alarm, Zack glanced down at the uniform he'd been wearing for the past six years.
"Don't worry about it," Thomas shrugged. "They killed you in the end too, didn't they?"
The words stung like that first bullet in his chest.
"I didn't want to die like that," Zack lamented, after a moment's silence. "But I decided that if one of us wasn't going to make it out of there it would be me. I really...didn't want to leave Cloud."
"He did make it to Midgar, he's safe now," Thomas said matter-of-factly. "You know, he buried you before he left, he-"
When he trusted himself enough to speak Zack looked up. "Can I see him?"
"It wouldn't do either of you any good."
"Well, I know I can't talk with him or anything, but-"
"He doesn't remember you now, Zack."
Thomas shrugged. Though his voice was nonchalant, his eyes were sympathetic. "To him, there never was a First Class SOLDIER named Zack. Right now, Cloud believes he is the First Class SOLDIER who was assigned to that mission with Sephiroth."
Zack couldn't speak. He was beginning to wish he hadn't brought up Cloud.
"I think..." Thomas hesitated, obviously trying to figure out the best way to word his thoughts. "I think, for Cloud, it's easier if you just never existed at all, instead of being the one who died to save him."
Zack sighed and sat down heavily on the strange ground beneath him. "I didn't really have a choice..."
Thomas nodded, sitting down as well. "He'll understand that eventually."
"It's just...I let Sephiroth die. I couldn't lose Cloud too..."
"Oh, Sephiroth isn't dead."
Zack was silent a moment, unsure how to respond. "But...I overheard Hojo, he said Sephiroth fell something like seventy-five feet directly into the Lifestream..."
Thomas nodded. "It didn't kill him. There are natural cracks in the earth where the Lifestream swells out. The Lifestream carried Sephiroth all the way to the Northern Cave. He's there now."
Zack leapt to his feet, hardly daring to believe it. But Thomas didn't have any reason to lie to him, right? Sephiroth's death was the one thing Zack had never been able to forgive himself for. Shouldn't he have been able to stop it, after all? They had trusted in one another, even confided in one another...So why hadn't Zack been able to tell something was seriously wrong from the moment Sephiroth set foot in that basement?
"Can I go...see him?"
Thomas smiled sadly. "You can't reach him, Zack. He's too far gone."
He'd been afraid of that. Zack sank to the ground once more. He leaned forward, placing his chin in his hands.
"Anything else?" Thomas asked cautiously, after a long pause.
"Yeah; how's Aerith?" Zack mumbled.
"She's fine." Thomas smiled slightly. "She knows you're here now, though."
"She does?" Zack frowned. "Let me guess, I can't see her, either." There was a hint of bitterness in his tone.
"You could probably reach her in a dream," Thomas said thoughtfully. "But you know, Zack, you'll be together again soon enough."
Zack stared. "You don't mean she'll-!?"
Thomas nodded once.
Once again Zack jumped to his feet. "No! You can't, I won't let it happen!"
"Zack, there's nothing you can do. There's nothing anyone can – it has to happen."
Zack began to pace. "No, it doesn't! There's no such thing as fate, or destiny!" Aerith would not die. Aerith could not die.
"You're right," Thomas said slowly. "It's not really fate or destiny. But in the Lifestream, the past, present, and future are all one circle, like the circle of life and death."
"So you're saying the Planet's entire future is laid out here, is that what you're telling me?!"
"You know very little about the Lifestream." It was Thomas's nonchalant attitude that really got Zack going then.
"Don't talk down to me like that!" he shouted. "The Planet-"
"The Planet is dying, Zack! Sure you can feel it, now that you're a part of the Lifestream yourself?"
Zack paused. "I-Is that why...everything here feels so hopeless?"
"First it was greed," Thomas said, sadness in his voice. "Then greed led to hatred, and hatred led to sadness. It's a vicious cycle destroying the Planet. After all, wasn't it Shinra's greed that killed you?"
All the fight left Zack then; the horrible truth was too much. He collapsed to his knees and sobbed in frustration. Why had they killed him, why? Not when he still had so much to fight for. Not when he had people that cared about him. And Sephiroth... Sephiroth wasn't even really dead?
"Shouldn't I have been able to stop him?" he sobbed. "Why couldn't I see that something was really wrong?"
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "It's hard to understand, I know," said Thomas, kneeling beside Zack. "But every story the Planet has ever told came together that night in Nibelheim. From here on out, things are gonna be really tough. The Lifestream is a collection of the thoughts of everyone who has died, right? Well, the Lifestream has put all hope of the Planet's survival in the hands of the Ancients, or what's left of them, anyway."
So, that was it then. Aerith was gonna have to die for the Planet.
Thomas sighed. "But the Lifestream doesn't think one person will be enough to save the Planet. The Lifestream believes the Planet is doomed, no matter what anybody does."
"Then what's the point?" Zack choked out.
"It's just what the Lifestream thinks," Thomas whispered, and there was a conspiratorial tone in his voice. "It's not necessarily true. There's the other reason you and I aren't fully merged with the Lifestream. We both believe in the good of the world."
Zack looked up at him, rubbing his eyes. "Good in the world? How do you figure?" he asked dully. Shinra's betrayal blocked out all other thoughts now. What good was there in a world that let things like that happen unchecked?
Thomas paused. "If there really was nothing but hatred and greed in the world... then Cloud would be here instead of you, right?"
"The Planet has a fighting chance; what you did for Cloud seals it for me. That's why I wanted to be the one to meet you here."
Thomas just smiled. "Yeah."
Zack wrapped his arms around his knees. If there was hope for the Planet, then that meant he didn't have to just sit around and let things take their course. That encouraged him more than anything. "I just want to be able to do something, even though I'm stuck here now..."
"Oh, you've done a lot, Zack. Believe me."
In a few months' time, Meteor was upon the Planet, and there was hope; hope in the Lifestream and hope on the Planet itself, and there was just enough to stop Meteor before it was too late. And then came time to try again.
A/N: The end was a little shaky, I think, but I liked this one otherwise. Parts of it nearly had me in tears, lol.
Oh, and Thomas is named Thomas because it's the first name I thought of that sounds remotely similar to Thanatos, who was the personification of death in ancient Greek mythology.
And this is the first thing I've written that was solely posted here in...something like eight months. So I'm a bit nervous about that.