Kingdom Hearts II

The Beginning

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and this ficlit is. This is something I've been wanting to write for a while, and the prompts "Beginning" from Kingdom100, and "Mirror" and "Color" from KH is Love, brought it together. It takes place sometime before KH1, probably a year or two prior to it. In my timeline, Cloud does not yet have his wing.

"Hello, Cloud."

The deep and unfamiliar voice caused the young swordsman to pause, his blue eyes narrowed in both confusion and suspicion as they searched for the source. No one should be around now. He had been walking back to his motel---alone, of course---and he was not known at all in this world. Tomorrow he would be registering for the tournament, and would introduce himself then, but for tonight he was content to remain unknown. Except it obviously had not worked.

He gripped the heavy weapon tighter. "Who's there?" he demanded. Maybe an old enemy he had picked up on another world? He had collected quite a large number of them during his travels. It could be a family member or friend of someone who had crossed paths with him.

A long blade extended from the shadows, unconcerned of the other sword as it reached for and touched Cloud's throat. He stiffened, staring down at it. What kind of weapon was this? He had never seen anything of this make before. It resembled a katana, and yet was too long to possibly be called one. There was that legendary Masamune thing, but he had never really believed it existed. . . .

"Tell me something. Are you happy?" The tip tickled his flesh before being drawn back.

This was unbelievable. "Am I happy?!" he cried, stepping closer to the disembodied voice. "What business is it of yours?!"

The moon peered out from behind its curtain of clouds, shining a beam of light on the area in question. A strange man stepped out of the shadows, a quiet smirk gracing his features. Cloud could only stare. He had never before seen this person.

If it was a person. The hair was an unnatural silver, brushed neatly to reach his knees. The eyes were a bright green, which also seemed unnatural---but maybe it was just the way the light hit them.

Sprouting from the strong back were three wings of different sizes. The highest was folded, and the longest of the primary feathers hung a good deal down the right leg. The other two wings were carried just high enough that they did not drag on the ground. All were a familiar deep blue color. They reminded Cloud of the canyons back home---the home that he would likely never get back to. . . .

"I asked if you're happy," the being said in a calm, deliberate tone, "because you came here to join a tournament for swordsmanship. It's a very brutal competition. There's always a high probability of someone getting hurt. Maybe even you. Or maybe you'll be responsible for someone else's injuries."

Blue eyes stared with ice into the emerald green orbs. "They entered the tournament. They know the risks. If it's spilled, their blood isn't on my hands."

A vague nod, as if the answer had been expected. "But will you really accomplish anything worthwhile? Why don't you just go home, Cloud?"

Now the eyes flamed. "You don't know me!" he screamed. "You don't know anything about me!" He could never return home. It had been destroyed by the Heartless because he and others had not been strong enough to stop the creatures. And he could never face his old friends until he was capable of fighting for them.

"Oh, I know. I know everything about you." The being continued to regard him with that frustrating and exasperating calmness. "You ran away because you're weak and you can't stand it. You're pushing aside everyone who loves you in your quest for greatness. And it's going to be your downfall."

"Shut up!" Cloud swore, clutching harder at his weapon. In the shiny surface underneath the wrappings, he could see his eyes reflected---the anger, the disbelief, the astonishment . . . the pain. He had not run away! He had left to become stronger in order to help his friends! He was not pushing them away. He was not . . .

A brief memory flashed into his mind, of when Zack had found him and visited with him at the Olympus Coliseum.

"Are you doing okay, Cloud? You seem so angry all the time. You didn't used to be like this."

"I'm fine!" The lavender eyes had only looked at him with concern. The harsh response was not needed.

"Cloud, why don't you come back?" The voice was pleading. "We all miss you. Aerith asks about you all the time, if I've seen you, how you're doing. . . ."

"I'll come back when I'm ready." He turned away, crossing his arms as he faced the window.

"Oh yeah? And when will that be?" Zack's tone was gaining an edge, which was not usual for him. He was so easy-going and cheerful most of the time. But Cloud was too furious to even think much about the reason for the change.

"I don't know!" he screamed. "When I'm strong enough."

"Strong enough? Are you still blaming yourself for the Heartless attack? Cloud, none of us could stop it. I couldn't stop it. But I didn't go leaving everyone cold and making them worry!"

Cloud whirled around, his expression twisted in fury. "Then don't worry!" he yelled. "I'm fine. Can't you see that I'm fine? I left because I'm sick of people breathing down my neck all the time, telling me what to do with my life! If that's all you came here to do, then you can just leave now!"

The look Zack gave him still haunted him. It was a look filled with indescribable agony and sorrow, accentuated by a horror and pain that said this was not the first time someone had behaved like that with him. All of his resolve seemed to crumble. "Okay, Cloud," he said at last, subdued and disheartened. "You're fine. Don't worry, I won't bother you again." And he turned, heading for the door.

Cloud wanted to call him back, to tell him that he didn't mean it. But his voice would not come out. And so he let Zack leave.

In the present, his hands were shaking. He had hurt Zack. Zack had only been worried about Cloud, and Cloud had indeed pushed him away. But how would this . . . whatever it was know? How could it . . . he . . . possibly know about what Cloud had done and was doing? Had he been spying on Cloud for some reason? No . . . he would have realized it! This man had never been around before now.

He swore again. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"My name is Sephiroth," the other smiled, "and I am you." And in a burst of light, he was gone. As the blaze faded, a single blue feather floated to the ground, glistening under the glow from the moon.