Kingdom Hearts II
On New Terrain
Notes: The characters are not mine,
and this story is! It's a direct follow-up to As I, Not as
We, showing Cloud's point of view concerning the events of
said fic. Thanks to Lisa and Kaze for plot help, and Kaze again for
title help! The title is from Not as We by Alanis Morissette, just as
the first fic's title is.
I've just been laying here thinking for the last while. I've probably memorized the whole wallpaper pattern by now.
What can really be said, when I died last night?
It was just weird. One minute I was tumbling off that cliff, still fighting that clone, and the next . . .
I remember the impact . . . kind of, anyway. I remembering gasping in pain when the air left my lungs. And I remember hitting my head on something. I wonder if that's what killed me? Those judges did say that my worst injuries would be fixed up, and I don't have any brain damage or anything like that. I still have a stupid headache, though.
I didn't realize I was dead at first. I woke up laying on this tiled floor, and this guy was there. It went something like this:
Guy: Get up. You're dead.
Me: That's not funny.
Guy: It's true. This is the hall of judgement.
Me: So I'll be sent to Hell or something like that?
Guy: I don't know what will be done with you. But before the judges will see you, they must finish judging someone else.
Me: Oh great. Do I take a number and sit and wait?
Guy: You will watch, through this glass.
Me: Why would I care about some random guy's judgement . . . Sephiroth?!
Needless to say, I wasn't expecting that. At all. I didn't even know you'd been killed in the battle. I just stared at you for a while, my mind refusing to work right. You were so resigned to what you figured was your fate. I could just see how upset and sad you were, but you acted like you thought that there was no hope, and that you didn't even deserve anything different. It really bothered me. It still does, when I'm thinking about it now. It's not how I think of you at all.
Not that you ever were anything like what I thought of you.
A couple of other people showed up then, guards or something, and brought me over closer to watch what was going on.
I wanted to call out to you, but I couldn't. Well, I tried, but you didn't hear me. And the glass wall couldn't have been soundproof, because I could hear everything out there just fine. I was told I couldn't get in the way, or say anything, I just had to watch.
But they were going to send you to Hell. I thought they were, anyway. And I don't know . . . it just really upset me. I didn't even know why at first, and I'm still trying to figure out some of it. When that lady was about to pass judgement on you, I couldn't stand it any longer. I panicked, I guess. I elbowed the guards and kicked and shoved them until I got free, and then I just ran in there, yelling for it to stop. I didn't care what they'd do to me for it.
I just . . . I didn't want that to happen to you. I meant everything I said, about Zack suffering, and you deserving to live, and you being a good person.
You did help me. You have. I just . . . I never wanted to see it. I was stubborn, I wanted to hate you . . . at least I wanted to think you weren't doing anything worthwhile. But it was because of you that I've gotten stronger. I'm a better fighter. I've learned how to control my anger when I'm battling. You taught me things I didn't want to accept, like that I was just running away from my problems instead of fixing them.
You've been my mentor. And you said that even though you started helping me because you had to, and because I'm Zack's friend, you ended up also wanting to see that I'd change for my own sake. You've actually come to respect me. And that's something I never expected. In the past, I wouldn't have thought I'd want your respect, either.
Those judges were weird. The one in charge said something about your friends loving you and that you should remember it. What'd she mean, anyway? Yeah, Zack's your friend, but who . . .
No way. She couldn't have meant me. I'm not your friend! And you aren't mine, either.
. . . Well, what are we, then? We can't just keep saying we're Zack's friends and that he's the only reason we try to get along.
And then you went and told me that you came to check on me because you wanted to make sure I was okay. You didn't try to use Zack as your excuse, like I did when I went to see how you were doing in the past. And like you've done before, too. I guess you're not going to do that anymore. I shouldn't, either. I mean . . . yeah, we both know we don't want Zack to suffer, but we've had to admit that he isn't the only reason we care.
As usual, Zack managed to get me to talk about what happened to us, even though I wasn't going to tell him right away. He always knows when something isn't right. When we got home last night, he took me into his room to take care of my injuries. You stayed in the living room, I guess to sleep or something. Or maybe so Zack and I could talk. And we talked, alright.
"Oh man!" Zack exclaimed when he was looking me over. He'd just found the bump on my head. "What the heck happened, Cloud?! This feels like a baseball!"
I rolled my eyes. "Maybe a golf ball. I just . . . fell and hit my head."
"Yeah, I got that part!" Zack retorted.
I stayed quiet as he checked out my arm. It'd just upset him, I figured, to know what happened. But if I waited and let you tell him, you'd leave out the stuff about you being condemned to Hell. Not that I didn't want to leave out the stuff about me. But I knew he would worry until he was told. And the more we'd refuse to say anything, the more he'd know it was serious.
"Zack . . . I . . . I died. . . ."
I could feel him freezing. "You . . . you what?!" he gasped.
I looked at him. "I died," I repeated. It was easier to get out the second time. "I went up to the hall of judgement . . . and they were trying Sephiroth."
Zack stared at me. "S-seph? How . . . ?"
"I don't know.
They pulled his spirit out of his body and had him up there." I
clenched a fist. "I thought they were going to send him to Hell,
Zack." Zack's hands shook
as he cleaned my wounds. "But they didn't," he said then.
Zack's hands shook as he cleaned my wounds. "But they didn't," he said then. "He's here."
"Yeah, it was some weird test or something." I frowned. "The judges were trying to find out, or to get us to find out, just how much we'd do for each other. They had us talking about letting each other go back, if somebody had to stay dead."
Zack got out the gauze, wrapping it around my arm. "Yeah?" he said. Now he had that funny smile, like he does when he thinks he knows something, and it usually has something to do with you and me caring about each other.
I nodded. "And I mean, they didn't bring it up. We brought it up ourselves. Sephiroth wanted me to live because of how it'd hurt you if we were both dead . . . and because he said I deserved to live." I looked away, my voice dropping to a mumble. "And I said the same thing about him."
I could just feel Zack was grinning. "That's great!" he declared. "I mean . . . I'm touched that you guys were thinking of me and all, but I'd know you would. For you and Seph to say that other stuff too, you guys are making progress."
I looked back, rolling my eyes. "We each said the other deserved to live. That doesn't mean we're all buddy-buddy."
"Nope!" Zack agreed, but he didn't look any less cheerful. He's convinced that you and I are friends who don't know it yet. I think that's stupid. Yeah, you've been my teacher, and I respect and like you now, but that's a lot different from being friends with you. Even though Zack says the first building block for any deep relationship is respect.
I decided to change the subject. "I think Sephiroth's still shaken up about the Hell thing," I said. "Not that anyone wouldn't be."
"I'm sure he is," Zack agreed. "I'll talk to him."
I wished him luck. And I wondered how he could really find a good way to get into the subject. Something like "Oh yeah, Cloud said you were going to be sent to Hell tonight. Do you want to talk about it?" just sounds wrong. That's why Zack is good at comforting people, and I'm not.
And I looked away again. There was something else Zack needed to know, even though it'd be hard to talk about. He deserved to know it. Especially after everything I put him through. And you, too.
". . . I figured out I'm an idiot again," I mumbled.
Zack frowned. "How so?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I should've just trusted you, when you said that you couldn't talk about stuff. But I was stubborn and thought it was my right to know, when Sephiroth was always hanging around bothering me." I glared off at the wall. "Now I know it all. When I died, they showed me my life on a screen . . . and they also showed me why Sephiroth is bound to me. I saw some of what he did that made them punish him like that, and I saw when he was brought back to life and no one knew him or even saw him. . . . It looked awful."
That's an understatement. It looked like Hell right there. I saw how badly you were hurting when it happened to you, but somehow you got through it. I'm not sure I could've done that, honestly. I think I might have just lost my mind instead.
"It was," Zack said, his voice quiet. "Both of you guys have been through so much." But he put on a small smile. "Hey . . . I'm glad you know about it now. I hated having to keep anything from you. There were so many times I wanted to tell you so bad . . . but I couldn't break the confidence Seph'd put in me."
I nodded. "I know. I just wish I'd respected that more." I was still talking to the wall. I guess I figured I couldn't face Zack. Maybe I even thought that I didn't want to see the total forgiveness in Zack's eyes, when I felt like I didn't deserve it.
Zack's hand came down on my shoulder. I started and looked up at him. "Hey, you had a right to be upset," he said. "It was a lot to digest all at once---your hated enemy is suddenly not out to do you in, he's the other best friend of your best friend, he's bound to you and your friend knows why but can't say. . . ." He smirked. "I would've been pretty confused too."
I relaxed, trying to smirk too. That's Zack.
"So! Now I've got another question for you." Zack leaned around me to better see my face. "Knowing all this about Seph, what do you think of him?"
I should've expected that one. I leaned back, studying him more. ". . . I guess I think he's been through a lot," I said finally. "I can understand him a lot better in some ways . . . but it also feels like I've already known him, and that . . ." I frowned, looking for the right words. "It's like . . . what I found out just makes it clear that what I've known is true."
I didn't think Zack could've ever looked any happier than he had when I mentioned about how you and I stood up for each other. But I was wrong. He looked so joyful now that it was like he wanted to yell "Hallelujah!" or something. I think I know why. He didn't want it to be that I'd only decide I had a different opinion of you if I knew your past. He wanted me to come to accept and even like you just from knowing you in the here and now.
And it's crazy to realize that I have.
There's a question that's been going through my mind for the last while. If I thought of you as a friend, would that mean I'd have to treat you different, more like I treat Zack? That's just weird to think about. Maybe even creepy. You're nothing like Zack.
. . . But do I even treat you much different now? I mean . . . well, I open up to Zack, but I've done that with you, too. I feel relaxed around both of you. I don't want to choke you any more. And I don't want to get away from you as soon as you show up.
Forget it. I don't know what I mean. I'm just being stupid.
The door's pushed open a bit. "Hello."
I recognize your voice even before I look over. I should, after all this time. "Hey."
You cross your arms, leaning against the wall. "Zack is cooking," you report. "He wonders if you want something to eat."
I shrug. "What's he cooking?" It smells good, whatever it is.
"Eggs of some description." I've heard from Zack that you're not a bad cook yourself, but you usually let him handle it. But whatever. I can't cook at all. Once I nearly burned down the house trying.
You nod. "I take it you're feeling much better."
"Pretty much." I pause. "You?"
I knew you were going to say that.
"Sephiroth . . ."
You look back from where you were turning to go.
You look surprised for a minute, but then you give a slow nod. You get that I mean it for more than asking if I want to eat. Just like you had more than one meaning in mind when you said it to me after I rebandaged your wounds.
. . . It's weird, what I just realized. We're already friends, and we were before this whole experience happened. Nothing really has to change from what it's like now. The only thing different is that we finally know the truth and aren't trying to deny it. Maybe that kind of makes some change almost automatic---like our attitudes. But it's bizarre how natural it feels.
Zack was right again.