Kingdom Hearts II

To Create

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters aren't mine and the story is! The 20 Heartbeats prompt Create (anyone can destroy, but this is far harder) was a huge inspiration in how this got put together, and Lisa and Kaze were both huge inspirations in keeping me from shoving it aside in despair! It is heavily immersed in my timeline, taking place at some point after Bleed At My Feet, so those who are not familiar with this series of stories will probably be confused. In the near future, I plan to write a companion piece from Sephiroth's point of view.

Of all the things to be thinking of during a battle, the last thing I'd imagine would be on my mind is a conversation between me and you, Sephiroth.

It must be like how one thing leads to another. Right now we're fighting some stupid things that invaded our world a few days ago. So that made me think of some of the other problems we've had---like those dragons, and the Heartless, of course. The Heartless destroyed this place, so when the people finally started coming back, they were determined to fight against any threats. They went up against the dragons, and now these "friends" that showed up.

These things are some kind of creepy fire imps, only they don't always stay small. They can get so big that you, the great Sephiroth, are only as tall as their ankles. Merlin thinks they came up through some crack in the earth, one that goes really far down, almost to the center. Who knows. I don't really care where they come from. All I care about is sending them back there!

Merlin even said that maybe they were actually created from the heat and the fires in the center of the earth. And he wondered if you'd have to fight fire with fire. But if you have more fire than them, and send it at them, will it burn them up or make them stronger? I guess it could go either way. It'd be weird, though, if the element that created them could kill them, too.

The trick is to get rid of them before they can get big. They hate water, but when they're huge, it doesn't even faze them. And you can kill them with a sword, but you have to be really quick. They're quick too. It's like a bunch of red blurs running circles around your legs. You can get dizzy watching them, but if you take your eyes off them for one minute, they'll try to set you on fire or bite you. You have to slash and stab at them almost nonstop. And when they're as numerous as the Heartless were, it's really a problem.

Anyway, so the conversation I was thinking of happened a few days ago, when we were walking through town to get to Zack's place. You probably remember it. People were all around, and there were new sidewalks and streets being paved. And it was noisy.

"Hollow Bastion's getting more built up again all the time," I said, going onto the grass to avoid the hole in the road.

You followed me. "It's almost a rebirth or a re-creation," you said.

I looked back at you. "I never thought of it like that." But it sounds like you. You often look deeply into things, putting philosophical spins where I wouldn't think of it. Not that I'm ever philosophical.

You shrugged. "For years, Hollow Bastion was dead because of the Heartless. But when the Heartless were defeated and it began again to be populated, it was as if it was brought back to life." You looked out at the twilight sky, even more thoughtful. "And not only the land, but many of the people."

I thought about that for a while. A lot of the former residents settled into new lives and jobs in other places, like Traverse Town. I wasn't there, but I heard that life went on pretty much as usual. They missed their old home, but they were able to adjust again anyway.

But some of the others felt like bumps on logs, I guess. They felt like their purpose had been taken away, and they didn't know how to adjust to new lives. And still others, like me, were so angry that they hadn't been able to do anything to stop the attack, that they took up other jobs---ones that brought out the dark feelings in their hearts as they tried to find some meaning in it all.

When Hollow Bastion started being built up again, there was something for everyone to do. They found their purposes again, and some of them found meaning in life. Maybe you're right, about how it is for them.

Listen to me, psychoanalyzing everything. You must have rubbed off on me. That's a scary thought.

"Yeah," I said finally. "I can see that."

We turned a corner, getting away from the crowds. Now we were alone again. And that was just as well with me. I don't do well around a lot of people. Not that you do, either.

"Why did you move back, Cloud?"

I blinked. That was not what I was expecting to be asked. "You were following me around by then," I said, annoyed at the memories. "Don't you know?"

"It's not as if you said anything aloud, and I can't read your mind." You spoke in a flat, matter-of-fact tone. "Though I assumed you were trying to conquer your inner darkness and you believed going home would help."

I shrugged noncommittally, even though you pretty much hit on it. A few months ago, I would have gotten defensive and screamed at you if you'd said something like that. I would have said that you didn't know me at all. Problem is, it's always felt like you know me too well.

"I was just running," I mumbled. "I still had to live with myself, wherever I went."

"That's what I tried to teach you."

"Guess I finally got the picture."

You nodded a bit. "You've gotten better at living in the present," you said.

". . . What about you?"


Heh. I found some kind of satisfaction in startling you for once. You've done it to me so many times. "Yeah. Have you gotten better at living in the present? That must have been one of your problems, too, since you told me that I couldn't stand the light of the present, and that you knew because you were me."

You're quiet for a while. "Yes . . . I believe I have," you answered at last. "Particularly since you don't need my guidance as a mentor so much now. Then I don't have to think so much about . . ." And you stopped there, not wanting to say anything more.

I guess I'll never know some of your secrets. Not that I want to . . . except to know why you're bound to me. But that, along with where you went when you disappeared from the military, seem to be what you want most of all to keep from me. And it still drives me crazy. Especially when Zack knows.

"So . . . are you saying both of our lives got some kind of re-creation too?" I asked, figuring I needed to change the subject.

"They have, haven't they?" You looked at me sideways. "You finally figured out how to start overcoming your darkness. And I . . ." Another pause. You just don't want to talk to me about yourself at all, do you?

"I wonder if to create something always requires that something else be destroyed or altered."

Okay, that seemed random. I frowned, looking at you questioningly. "What are you talking about?" I demanded.

You shrugged. "In order to create clay sculptures, the substance has to be taken and molded into whatever shape the maker wants. It can't keep its original form in order to be something.

"When a new town is being constructed, whatever has been there before---wasteland, plants, trees---must be removed.

"When people are changing their lives, certain things have to be taken away. They work at overcoming bad habits and replacing them with better ones. Their darkness must be accepted, but not given in to. It, also, must be controlled." And you smirked grimly. "A task very difficult for some to master."

Ordinarily I would have thought you were taking a jab at me. But right then, it was pretty clear that you weren't. You were talking about yourself.

"Yeah, tell me about it," I grumbled, only half-sarcastic.

You just shook your head. "Heh." You weren't going to say anything more about it.

I glowered at you for a minute, knowing it would be pointless to keep on about it. "What about your magic?" I asked then. "I mean, your fire powers. You can create them without destroying anything."

You just smirked more. "But what do I use them for, once I've created them?" you said.

Then I knew you'd caught me. "To destroy stuff," I mumbled.

To create without destroying anything . . . what a weird topic. Pretty appropriate for right now, I guess, considering the battle we're in.

Though . . . you didn't actually say it was always a bad thing. Some of the stuff you mentioned, like fighting bad habits and building towns, is usually good. And to create something at all, even if you have to get rid of something else . . . that's a lot different than mindless destruction, isn't it? I mean . . . you're getting rid of something to make something better. Or something like that.

Great. Now I sound like Zack.

I can hear you bringing your sword through the legs of one of these things that's trying to grow big. It's shrieking at you. Guess it's not ready to die yet. But you'll have to handle it by yourself. I've got a small army to take care of right now.

When you kill them, they sort of crumble down into ashes. Good thing they're not like the phoenix. Though maybe they might as well be, because two or three always seem to take the place of one.

I'm collecting a pile of ashes at my feet, and it's growing pretty fast. One thing's flying at my head. I make quick work of it, and oh wait---there's one coming from the side. A slice through the middle takes care of it. But while I'm busy with them, several more hop down on my shoulders, almost from thin air. They must have fallen from the blue cliff above me or something.

They're all over me! Clawing, grabbing, ugh, one of them's even biting! Somewhere in my mind, I know that I just dropped my sword to reach up and grab at them. But right now, who cares? A sword won't do me much good now.

My hand closes over one of the stupid things. It squeals, but I tear it free and throw it. The second one comes pretty easy, too, but there's another going down the back of my shirt! There's no way I don't look like a complete idiot as I dance around trying to get my hands under my shirt. And another one's biting into my wing!

There, I've got the one from my shirt. Pulling it out, I throw it against the wall. Then I go after the one on my wing. What's the matter with it, anyway? What do these things eat when they can't get Cloud Strife?! Dumb teeth are sinking way down too. It's going to break the skin if I can't pry its jaws loose.

You'd think something so small wouldn't be so strong, but it won't let go! It's like its mouth is a vise. I have to get my fingers on either side of its upper lip and pull, while getting my other hand's fingers on the other side of my wing and grab its jaw. One of its teeth is starting to break. Well, right now I don't care much, as long as it doesn't get lodged in my wing. With my luck, it's possible. I get it free, tossing it.

A long blade stabs into it before it gets very far. The dust crumbles near the black boots.

"I wanted to thank you for throwing those creatures at me," you say, your voice really dry. "As if I didn't have plenty of my own to contend with."

I roll my eyes. Okay, so I wasn't really watching where they were going. You were able to handle them fine.

You half-turn, then pause, like you're thinking of something else. "Oh, and Cloud? You looked like an idiot."

"Thanks," I retort, walking forward to grab my sword. "I'm sure if one was going down your coat, you'd be able to handle it with dignity."

"I wouldn't let one go down my coat," you reply, still in that same, dry tone.

Oh, who cares. More of the imps are still coming at us. They're swarming to the edge of every cliff and leaping down in droves. And I guess they're deciding they want to be smarter than those we just killed. These ones are starting to get big before they even hit the bottom.

"This is going to get a lot harder," I mutter, backing up against you. I can feel the tips of some of your feathers brushing over my shoulder.

"Obviously now it's a time to be serious," you answer. "And stay calm. Losing your temper isn't going to help anything."

"I don't think just using our swords is going to work now," I grumble.

A fireball goes soaring past, scorching the rock nearest to us. Oh great. It's like it did it in answer to what I said.

I run forward, dashing between the thing's legs and slicing with the buster sword at the same time. It screeches, stumbling, and I stab the blade into its foot. Another fireball comes at me, just barely missing me as I duck. I think it singed my cape, though. I don't have time to look, but I can smell the burned cloth.

A dark blue feather floats into my line of vision, and at the same time I hear strong wings flapping. Your shadow goes over me, and you bring your sword down through another one of these things. It doesn't even have time to react.

At the same time it's dissolving, there's another screech, and a huge paw comes down on you from behind. Dumb thing's about as long as your body, only heavier. You cry out in pain as you go crashing out of the sky and land on the ground in an undignified heap. Then it's moving to come down on you and shred you to pieces, or torch you, whichever it decides first.

I can't get to you. The one I was trying to slice and dice keeps getting in my way! I cut at it again, and instead of blood, ashes come out. But it doesn't look anywhere near death yet.

I'm trying to look around it to you. You're still laying there. I can feel my hands going tighter around the sword, for some reason. "Sephiroth! Get up!" That was me yelling. I know . . . that's a stupid thing to say, that it was me. Who else would be here to say anything? But I didn't realize it was me until after I'd called to you.

At the last minute, you roll onto your back and blast up at it. Finally, it's disintegrating. But its dying shriek is taking a lot of my hearing with it.

The ground shakes near me. I almost forgot about my own problem. And when I turn around it's bearing down on me. All it needs is two other heads and a big roar, and it will remind me way too much of Cerberus. Yeah, it doesn't look like a dog, but it still looks like it wants to eat me.

I spread my own wing, flapping it harshly to lift me up. Then I'm coming at the creature with my sword. If I could just get rid of it . . . ! A hand with claws swipes at me, and I just barely manage to dodge it. Then it comes at me with another. I try to bring the sword down on its wrist. It grabs for it, then tries to torch me.

The heat's against my back as I'm trying to jump out of the way. I don't think it's scorching me, but it's close. Throws me off-balance too, especially since I hardly ever use the wing. Then I'm doing a really disgraceful somersault to the ground, sprawling on my back. Looks like we're even.

It's coming at me again, its feet going down on either side of me. It's leaning forward, making sure I can smell the fire on its breath. I guess that's what it wants me to think about right before I die.

But I'm not going to die! Gripping the hilt with both hands, I force the blade up, getting it in the chest. It screeches, wanting to resist . . . or to drag me down with it. It looks at me again, its eyes wild. It's starting to open its mouth. . . .

I push the sword in deeper. Ashes fly everywhere and it falls back, close to being dead. I'm able to scramble back up, breathing hard, staring at it. Why doesn't it die? I gave it everything I had. The one you were fighting died.

. . . You had to use your magic on it before that happened. Is that it? Won't swords kill them when they're big? No . . . that first big one you sliced died, too. But you're not the only one who can get rid of them.

I come at it again, spreading my wing. I'm half-gliding now, and I bring my sword down in a diagonal slash. Now it dies, ashes going every which way. I have to shield my eyes so the stuff won't go in them.

"There's too many of them."

How did you get back over here? I look up at you---your hair windblown, your clothes torn, blood seeping from some minor wounds. I probably don't look much better.

You also look really grim. "It's bad enough when they're small. Now that they've reached their full height, there's no way we can cut all of them down before they get at us." You reach up, wiping some blood away that's over your eye.

That makes me realize that I've got some of the stuff slipping down my neck. My cheek got cut. I brush at it with the back of my hand. "So what are we supposed to do?" I grumble. "Just let them take us down?"

You ignore that. ". . . I have a way to destroy all of them at once, for a price," you say.

"A price?!" I can't believe I'm hearing this. You've known all along how to get rid of them, but you haven't done it? What kind of a price would there be that would be keeping you from taking care of this problem?!

"I can use Send Heartless Angel on all of them, while enclosing you within a protective shield." You keep looking at me like there's something else---something that either you don't want to say or that you want me to guess on my own. "The attack is powerful, but it isn't meant for such an extensive number of opponents---nor for any so physically huge."

"So?" I frown. "Are you saying you don't think it will work?"

"It should." You turn away, looking at the things. They're starting to surround us now. And they all look ready to open fire.

"Well, put the shield up, already!" What is it with you today? I don't get why you're procrastinating. And what about the price? Wait . . . you don't mean that . . .

Your wings are unfurling again, ready to lift you into the sky. They push against the wind current, sending you upward. You've stretched out your hands, concentrating, and some kind of bubble-looking thing is going up around me. You're going to be out in the open, exposed to whatever's going on.

"Hey!" I run over to the side, banging on the stupid thing. "Sephiroth, get in here! What do you think you're doing?!"

You look down at me, your expression frozen. "The attack can only be effective if I am unprotected while I cast it," you say. "If I were in the shield, it would only bounce off the walls, killing us both at such close range."

I hate this! I don't want to be in here, like some helpless kid who has to be protected! I bang on the wall again. "Let me out of here, Sephiroth!"

"You're right in the middle of them. If I let you out, you'll be hit with the attack too." Already you're preparing to unleash it. And you'll have to be quick, or one of them will grab you first. . . . Unless you fly out of their range, which is what you're doing. But they'll probably try to attack you with fireballs.

"Fine!" I scream at you. "Cast it and then teleport in here!"

You don't answer.

You do mean that, don't you?

"You're the price, aren't you?! You're going to sacrifice yourself to stop this!"

You're quiet for a long time. "We'll see. Once the attack is enacted, I can't move until it's done." You look away, facing the monsters. Now a light is starting to glow around you.

I'm still banging. "You can't do that, Sephiroth! What about Zack?! What am I supposed to tell Zack?!" I swear at you. "Sephiroth!"

The light's too bright, and getting brighter. I have to look away, to shut my eyes, or I'll go blind.

What's the matter with me, anyway? It's just you. I know I hate feeling like I'm useless, and that's part of why I'm so frustrated, even though I know I can't help you with your magic attack. And I also know how crushed Zack is going to be, if anything happens to you. You're doing this because you know Zack could get hurt if these things get to the city, right?

The explosion rips through the area as the things are all killed at once. And I thought I was supposed to be safe in here! I'm being knocked off my feet and thrown against the opposite wall. I'm hitting something hard . . . the wall, I guess. Maybe if I just . . . ugh.

I'm laying on the ground, on my back. Everything's quiet . . . too quiet. No screeches, no earthquakes, not even anyone walking around. What happened, anyway? My head's throbbing. Oh . . . that's right. Your shield knocked me out. So much for protection.

My eyes open slowly. It's twilight now; the sky's all kinds of different colors. And there's big piles of ash still around everywhere. Looks like your attack worked. And the shield's gone. Good thing you killed every one of those things, or I'd probably be dead now, too.

I start to sit up. And ow. I wish I hadn't. This headache's probably going to last for hours. And where are you? I've got a few complaints about your kind of "protection."

A dark blue feather blows past, turning over itself on the ground. I look in the direction it came from. You're laying on the ground a few yards away, mostly on your right side. Your wings are all around you, so limp. . . . And you're so still. . . . That's what I was afraid of . . . but I didn't really think it would happen.

You knew this would happen, didn't you?! You knew you would die! Do you think I can go back and tell Zack about this? I can't even get your body back there. You're too heavy! I'll have to bury you here. . . .

. . . I was so numb when that thing happened with the dragon, several months ago. I had thought I wanted you dead, until it really happened and you were laying on the ground, bleeding all over the blue canyons. And now . . . I know I don't want it.

Weird . . . that in order to destroy something, you had to create something, and then it destroyed you too. That's a vicious cycle, especially when both you and those things relied on fire for your powers. And why am I getting philosophical? That's more your thing. Or even Zack's.

Forget the headache. I force myself up, running over to you and dropping to my knees. "Sephiroth!" I grip your arm, but you don't move. "You are not going to die! Do you hear me?!" I swear at you again. "Wake up!"

I push you onto your back. You fall like a ragdoll, your wings thumping to the ground. Your skin's pale, and your chest looks still. But then you give a weak groan. You're still alive. The attack didn't finish you off after all.

I lean down, pulling back your coat and laying my ear right against where your heart is. Nothing . . . no . . . it's beating. You're breathing, too. I can feel it now. I move back, just staring at you.

So now what? Do I wait for you to wake up, or should I try to wake you? We shouldn't keep staying out here, especially when it gets dark. Who knows what else might come out of the woodwork.

Your upper wing twitches, then the lower ones. Your eyes crack open, blinking up at me. I look down at you, hoping I look expressionless.

"So . . . you made it through, after all." My voice comes out flat and cold.

You grunt. "Apparently."

And I'm suddenly letting my feelings explode. "Don't do that again!" I scream at you. Ouch. My hand flies up to my head. Bad idea.

And you still look dazed. "Why not?"

"I told you why not!" I snap. "I don't want to have to tell Zack that you died!"

You smirk a bit. "That's a switch," you mumble.

I just glare. "From what?"

"From how you were when the dragon nearly killed me." You start to sit up slowly, holding a hand to your forehead. Your wings are spread out limply around you. I'll have to be careful not to step on them.

"Yeah, whatever." I cross my arms, watching you. "Why did you do that?" I keep glaring. "I mean . . . I know Zack says you have some spark of duty to the people, but would you take it this far? You could have died!"

"For all of them? Honestly, no."

That's not really a surprise. "For Zack, then."

"For Zack, yes." You pause. "And because it would just be irritating for me if those creatures got loose in the city."

And that's not really surprising, either. "That wouldn't even be a problem for you if you were dead," I say.

You shrug. "I didn't die."

"That's not the point."

"Then what is the point?" You lean forward, breathing a bit heavier as you put your arms on your legs. You're probably in pain, aren't you? You'll never tell me so, but it's pretty obvious.

I'm so sick of you always being like this! You're impossible to deal with! You know what I mean. You just want me to say it, for some reason.

"The point is that what you were doing could have killed you!"

You look up at me tiredly. "And that matters so much to you because you don't want to tell Zack that I perished?"

"Yes! How many times do I have to say it?!"

You look away, your upper wing starting to twitch. "For Zack, you would have done the same thing."

I glower. "So?"

"So, why are you getting so up in arms?"

"I'm not!"

You give me a look that's even more bored than usual. "Yes, that's certainly obvious, judging by the increasing volume of your voice. And from your grimacing expression, you're learning that it was unwise to yell." Your wing twitches again, like it's bothering you. It probably is. It wasn't the one that was hurt the most by the dragon, but it was pretty bad off for a while, too.

I look away. Okay, time to calm down. I don't even really know what's wrong with me. I didn't have much time to process that you're alive before you woke up. I guess it's all suddenly hitting me now. Zack will be overjoyed and relieved. And me . . . I'll be glad I don't have to see him grieving. You're only important to me because you're important to Zack.

"I was thinking about stuff." My voice comes out in a mumble.

"Oh?" I can feel your eyes on me.

"Like that conversation we had the other day." I bring my knees up to my chest and cross my arms on them. "I saw you laying there on the ground, and I was remembering what you said about creating and destroying. I figured you'd created something to destroy something else, and then you got destroyed too." And I'm not about to tell you my earlier thoughts that sounded like Zack. Probably.

"Those kinds of things happen in life," you grunt, not surprised. "That's the irony of it. And yet in some dark way, it makes sense."

"It makes sense that it doesn't make sense?" I frown, finally looking back at you.

You look amused. "Why should life ever make sense? It would almost seem strange if it did."

I roll my eyes. "Thanks for that ray of sunshine in my life."

"You're welcome."

I lean forward, looking at the ground again. "Do you think it's a bad thing? To create stuff to destroy, I mean."

"That would depend on what you were destroying, and why."

I glance over at you. "That's what I was thinking. It's not like we could just let those things roam free."

"As I see it, they were wreaking havoc and turmoil because it was their instinct. They were driven to only destroy, because of their simple-minded nature." You look out at the fading colors in the sky. "But to have the intelligence and the presence of mind to instead create is much more difficult. How many humans also wreak havoc for no reason at all except that they can?"

I snort. "A lot of them."

"My point exactly. But we don't destroy except when we have to, in order to bring about some better purpose. That's very different."

"Yeah, I guess so."

You start to get up, or to try to. All of your wings spread out for balance and you sway, nearly stumbling into a pile of dust before catching yourself.

I glare at you, starting to get up myself. And terrific---the whole area goes up and down like it thinks it's a teeter-totter. Then it levels out again, I'm grabbing at my forehead, and you're probably looking at me without being impressed.

"I guess you can't teleport, after all the energy you used up." How are we going to make it all the way back if you can't? Neither of us are up for any hiking. And somehow you don't look like you can fly, either. I know I can't. My wing feels like lead.

"That actually might kill me," you say, but your voice is dry and sarcastic.

"What do we do then?" I grumble, glaring at you. "This isn't any kind of an ideal camping spot."

You look towards the lights of the city in the distance. "We start walking."

I look at you suspiciously as I walk over. "You'd better be able to make it," I growl. "I wouldn't carry you even if I could!" And I hate to say it, but I probably would anyway. Just to get you home so Zack wouldn't have to worry.

"Heh. Likewise." You half-turn, nearly hitting me with your upper wing as you move forward over the blue ground. Yeah . . . we'd better get started. No telling how long this might take. Though I guess it's a good thing that those monsters weren't any closer to the city than this. Your attack could have even done damage to the town if they'd been by the borders.

I move to follow you. "Okay. Let's mosey." . . . Where did that come from?!

You glance back at me, amused. "'Mosey'?" you repeat. "You've been picking things up from Zack again."

I glare. "Just don't tell him about it."

You shrug.

We're both quiet now, concentrating on walking and saving our strength. Gives me more time to think. Like I need it.

Hopefully we won't be seeing any more of those things, but we probably will. It better not be soon, though. If you have to use Send Heartless Angel again right away, it'll probably cause more damage to you, or at least make it harder for you to heal. And that's all you need, and all Zack needs. He's just finally getting better from that shooting, too!

I wonder what Zack would say about that creating thing . . . other than stuff like what I was thinking sounded like him. You can get me thinking about the weirdest things. But a few months ago I don't think you would've said anything on this idea, at least not so plainly.

Looks like we're coming up on the city limits now. That wasn't so bad. Or maybe it really took a long time, but I wasn't paying attention. You look pretty lost in thought yourself. But you probably won't tell me about it. You might share ideas more, but you still don't like to tell me what else is going through your mind. Not that I want to spill my mind to you, either.

You look over at me when you sense I'm watching. It's too dark to really see your expression, but I can imagine. You probably look really tired and worn out. Then you turn away, passing into the city.

It isn't too hard to keep up with you. You're moving really slowly. I guess you're still in pain. Zack's still going to be worried, when we show up like this. We're both cut from the fight, too, and of course I've got this stupid bump.

We're able to get to Zack's place without any incidents. Lights are on, and he's probably either fixing dinner or moving around with that cane and worrying. And trying to tell himself there's no need to and that we're fine.

I get on the porch first, and I knock on the door while looking back to you. You're coming up, still slowly, but you make it. You look like you want to lean against something, but you don't because you don't want me to see how hurt you are. Like I can't see it anyway.

The door flies open. Zack's standing there, leaning on the cane as he stares at us. I can see relief, worry, and disbelief in his eyes. He's definitely taking in all our battle wounds.

"What the heck happened to you guys?!" he bursts out.

"Had a problem," I answer.

"We were fighting some of those troublesome creatures," you add. "They grew large." You don't act like you're willing to tell Zack the rest, about the Send Heartless Angel attack. But then this is you. Why would you be willing? Maybe you'll tell Zack later on, when I'm not around. I'd say it isn't my business at all---only if you don't tell him, and you're hurt worse than you even think, Zack deserves to know.

Zack shakes his head. "You're lucky you're not hurt more than this!" he exclaims. "Come on, get inside and I'll get you fixed up." Typical Zack. He's still recovering himself, but he's only thinking about us. He moves out of the way to let us pass.

I come in first, glancing back as you stumble in. Zack shuts the door behind you, then looks us over again in the bright light.

"Gotta say," he grins weakly, "when I saw you guys, I kinda wondered if you'd been fighting each other. You both left here pretty mad."

I shrug. "Once we got mixed up with those stupid fire things, we pretty much forgot about that." Or I did, anyway. I haven't thought about it much since then, and from your expression, I don't think you have, either. The only thing I really thought of was how it would probably add to Zack's worry.

You give a slow nod. "There were other matters that needed our attention."

Zack leans back, grinning again. "You know . . . I really hoped you two weren't fighting each other," he says. Not that he wouldn't always hope that. "I mean, you've acted different since this happened to me, like you're not always just tolerating each other anymore." He gestures at his chest and the cane. "So maybe this was really a good thing in the end."

You give him a stern look. "You being hurt would never be a good thing."

"That's right," I agree.

Zack holds up his hands in surrender. "I'd better go get that first aid kit," he says. "And sit down somewhere! Quit acting like you're so macho and tough. What's the point?" He turns, starting to limp down the hall. "You know I can see right through it!"

You and I look at him, then at each other. I roll my eyes. I guess he's got a point, but it's not like we'll be changing those parts of our personalities any time soon. And he knows it.

Sitting down sounds like a good idea, anyway. You sink onto the couch, letting your wings spread out on it. I just take a chair.

. . . Creating without destroying, huh? Basically today, you and I argued here and we left because we were ticked off. Then we ended up fighting a swarm of things and you nearly got yourself killed while I stupidly freaked out about it. And now we're back here with Zack going to fix our wounds.

The only thing that got created here was a weird day. And it nearly broke my brain.

It figures that Zack would realize you've been hurt the worst, even though neither of us have mentioned the details of what happened yet. He sent you to his bed to rest, and you didn't protest, either. Now he's out in the kitchen making hot chocolate, and I'm sitting at the table watching him.

"So," he says, still facing the stove as he stirs in the powdered cocoa, "what's the rest of the story? Seph's obviously hurt pretty bad, especially since he just willingly went to bed. He just doesn't want to say anything." I can hear the worried frown in his voice. "I asked him about it, and he said it was nothing, he just used up a lot of his powers."

I snort. "Yeah, that sounds like what he'd tell you. I guess he figured he couldn't hide that much." I lean on the table. "He wiped out the army with Send Heartless Angel . . . and nearly took himself out with them."

Zack stiffens, then sighs, shaking his head as he looks into the kettle. "I was afraid it was something like that." He looks over at me with a weak, rueful smile. "Sometimes I wonder if Seph knows his own strength."

"Oh, he knows. I could tell he realized that it might kill him. He said he did it to try to keep you safe."

Zack grins, turning down the heat. "Loyal buddy," he says, in a way that shows he doesn't want to talk about it.

I frown at him. I'm sick of being kept in the dark. And if what Zack says is true, and you and I are getting along better, that's all the more reason why I'd like to know! Why should things be kept from me like I'm not being trusted?

"Sometimes he seems pretty desperate. I can see it in his eyes, his face, the whole way he acts at times like these."

Zack watches me, unruffled. "And you aren't?" he returns in a friendly way.

I glower at the table. He's just deliberately avoiding things now.

"I just wonder what happened to him," I grumble. Then I feel like slapping myself on the forehead. Why would I say that?! That makes it sound like I'm curious or something. Well, I am, but that's not why I've always been so interested! I've wanted to know ever since I learned that you're a real person and not my darkness.

Zack turns off the burner. "I'm not the one you should be asking, Cloud."

"Sephiroth isn't going to say anything. And you said yourself that he isn't supposed to tell anyone."

"Well, maybe that should end things then," Zack says lightly, opening the cupboard to get some mugs.

I know he's right. I'm just being a pain now. But it's so frustrating!

"I'm not asking to be a pest." More glaring at the table.

Zack smiles a bit, ladeling out the hot chocolate into the mugs. "Yeah, I know. You want to know because you care about him, right?"

My head shoots up and I stare at him. Where does Zack come up with this garbage?! "What?! Of course not!" I snap.

Zack grins now. "You can't fool ol' Zack!" he says cheerfully.

"I don't even like him!" I retort. "I never have."

Zack looks at me in amusement. "I meant what I said, about you two acting differently the last while," he says. "I think maybe now you two are warming up to each other, and neither of you really know it yet!" He hands me a mug.

"I think you're nuts." I take it, sipping slowly. I don't want to burn my mouth.

Zack sits down by me, sipping at his own mug. "Maybe," he chirps.

"Look, he's your friend. I don't want anything to happen to him, because of how it would hurt you." I look at him over the top of the mug. "Can't you just accept that, and stop thinking that some stupid thing is going on like us becoming friends?"

"Fair enough," Zack smiles. "Though . . ." It turns into a smirk. "I was expecting you and Seph to deny things."

I roll my eyes. "Ha ha."

Zack insists that I stay over tonight. I think he's worried about me being home alone because he wonders if I have a concussion. I don't really think I do, but staying here for the night doesn't bother me. He has me take the couch, while he just uses the recliner. Zack can sleep just about anywhere when he wants to, so that isn't a problem for him.

I must've slept pretty well. Suddenly it's morning, and I'm waking up staring at the back of the couch. It takes a minute for me to remember why the couch is black leather instead of orange velvet, and why stuffing and springs aren't poking up everywhere. I got way too used to sleeping on my ratty couch after that dragon thing.

I roll over, sitting up. Zack's still asleep in the recliner, sprawled on his side. He looks comfortable.

What's going on with you? Are you awake yet? You went to sleep almost instantly last night. I know Zack checked on you a couple times and you were out cold. I guess it would take a long time to regenerate all the energy you used.

I get up slowly, going past Zack and heading for the bedroom. What am I doing, anyway? If you are awake, you probably don't want to be bothered. But if you aren't conscious, then you probably need to be checked again, make sure everything's normal---at least, normal for you.

I push the door open, trying to be quiet. You're facing away from me, the quilt pulled off your bare back. Your wings are all spread out limp on the mattress, hanging over the edge.

Zack felt bad that he only had the couch to offer me, but he knew that if you and I tried to share the bed, it would have been a disaster. I would have been buried under wings. If I even managed to stay on the bed in the first place. I can imagine us shoving each other off in frustration, trying to make more room.

I come in more. Your right arm is supporting the pillow, and you look like you're still asleep. And the other side of the bed is against the wall. I can't get over there to check on you. But you're probably fine. I can see your body's slow movements as you breathe. Then a wing twitches, like you're dreaming or something. I'll just leave now. . . .

"I'm awake."

I jump a mile. You startled me out of my mind!

I glare at you. "I just . . . Zack wanted me to come check on you." Okay, so that's not exactly true, but he would've wanted me to, if he'd realized.

"He probably would have come himself, if he was awake." You turn onto your stomach, then your other side, looking up at me. You still look really worn out, but some of the color's coming back to your skin.

"What's the point?!" I snap.

"Just that it was likely your own idea." You look bored. "You don't have to get defensive."

"I'm not defensive!"

"Have it your own way."

"I will." I roll my eyes and half-turn away. "You seem to be just fine, so I'm going to leave now."

"You seem to be fine as well." You say this in a dry tone, probably taking a jab at me flying off the handle again.

"Yeah, I am. Were you hoping I wouldn't be?" I stop at the door, looking back.

You still look bored, but now you're weary too. "No, actually."

I wasn't expecting that frank of an answer. ". . . Oh." I think I'll just leave it like that. I go back into the hall, shutting the door behind me.

I go into the living room. Zack's awake now, yawning and stretching as he looks over to me. "Feeling better?" he asks.

I nod. "Fine."

"Seph, too?"

"He's his usual annoying self. So he must be getting better." I go over to the couch and sit down. "I'm sure he wants to see you."

Zack grins. "Then I'll have to go in and talk to him." He hops up, stretching again as the chair snaps upright. "You and Seph have the weirdest adventures, Cloud!" he exclaims in a mock-scolding tone.

I just roll my eyes. "Yeah, I know."

He heads off down the hall, leaving me with my thoughts.