First fanfic so be gentle :)

A little info to go with the summary: It's mostly about what Cloud and Zack went through at the hands of Hojo though I'm not sure I won't throw in some side stories as I go. Also, if you're a big Reno and Rude fan you may or may not enjoy the fact that I'm most likely going to make them evil sons of bitches ha!

Also, there will be gory scenes, probably a fair bit of profanity, and who knows what else so if the 'M' rating didn't clue you in and this is shocking you…I apologize. You may turn back now. For the rest of y'all I do not own anything final fantasy-ish. Though I wish I did.

Read on and review!

Chapter I

"How could this have happened? Goddammit!" Hojo gazed around at the destruction.

"Sir, Sephiroth is dead," one of his assistants called to him from a few metres away.

"DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT?" he shouted "Get me the security tapes, I want to know what happened!" He paced angrily a moment then headed for the exit.

"Professor?" another of his assistants stopped him.

"What is it?"

"Survivors, sir, two of them."

Hojo followed him to where the supposed survivors lay. The first one he set eyes on was a member of the Shinra militia. He lay at the top of a staircase, his upper body slumped over the first few steps. A stream of blood had run from his torso down a few of the stairs, pooling on the fourth step. The wound went through from his chest to his back. It was highly suggestive of a sword wound. The second survivor was a SOLDIER. He lay on the stairs near the bottom, also bleeding from what appeared to be a sword wound.

Hojo thought for a moment. "We'll take them back to the Shinra mansion and get them fixed up while we find out what happened here. They should not have survived and I want to know why they have."

Zack had been slipping in and out of light consciousness. Each time he came back to awareness he found himself in too much pain and too tired to even open his eyes. His limbs felt heavy and his head ached. This time he heard voices. They seemed muffled and far away. He couldn't make out what they were saying. He felt something then. It felt like vibrations. Though they were light they still sent shockwaves of pain through him. He felt hands on him, grabbing his arms and hauling him up forcefully. He wanted to cry out but the sound came as only a shallow, barely audible gurgling sound in his throat caused by the blood that had collected there. He was taken outside and laid down on the floor of what he could only assume was a truck. He somehow managed to pry his eyes open a tiny bit, just enough to see Cloud lying unconscious next to him.

Cloud, he said silently in his mind. Hold on, we'll be okay. It was his last thought before he fell back into darkness.

Warmth. That's what he felt first. It was a comfortable warmth that enveloped his whole body. He felt weightless and while had been expecting pain, he felt none. Slowly, Zack opened his eyes. They tingled as he did so and he realized then he was submerged in liquid. He looked down first, seeing his feet hanging below him but not touching bottom. He reached to his face, feeling the mask that was covering his mouth and nose, allowing him to breathe.

Where am I? His mind was clouded in confusion. The last thing I remember…Sephiroth…being carried…

He shook his thoughts away and squinted ahead of him. He was in some sort of tube. It was about 4 feet in diameter but was small enough to make him feel trapped. He reached out and touched the clear, curved walls around him. They were smooth and cold, indicating the temperature outside his tank was a lot cooler than inside. Past the walls he could see several things. There was a desk on the opposite wall, covered in papers, folders, and binders. There were at least ten file cabinets nearby on the right wall and many shelves of books above both the desk and cabinets. In the centre of the room was a metal operating table. To the left…

His visual tour was halted when he set eyes on what was next to him about a meter away. There was another vertical tube the same as his, and submerged in the same clear liquid as him was Cloud, floating unconsciously, his head down at his chest.

"Cloud," he spoke out loud only to realize the sound was suppressed by the air mask over his face. He contemplated removing it but knew that wouldn't be a good idea. Instead he knocked on the thick glass of his tube, hoping to rouse him. Nothing. Cloud made no movement. He was about to knock again when movement caught his eye. The door to the room opened with a creak and a man walked in, followed by two others. Zack's eyes widened as he recognized the man. It was Professor Hojo, that crazy-ass scientist who had been responsible for delivering Mako treatments to SOLDIERS. He had always creeped Zack out. Now he was more confused as ever as to why he and Cloud were there in Hojo's lab.

"Well, good to see that one of our specimens has finally woken up from his beauty sleep," he said with a smug grim.

Specimens? What the fuck is he talking about?

"How are you feeling, Specimen Z1?" he asked, looking directly at Zack.

Zack frowned, he clenched his fist. Something was wrong, he knew it. Hojo was planning something and though he hated to admit it, he was sure he knew at least part of that plan. He and Cloud had been appointed his new subjects for whatever nutso experiment he had come up with now.

"Well there's no sense in keeping you in there now that you're all fixed up, is there?" he said happily as he strolled over to a control panel next to his tube. He punched in some buttons and a second later the air mask detached from Zack's face. He wasn't expecting it and was unlucky enough to be taking a breath at that moment, catching the liquid in his airway. He gagged and panicked momentarily, needing air to catch his breath and rid himself of what he'd inhaled. He thrashed for a moment until he felt the liquid being suctioned out through the bottom of the tube and before he knew it he was standing in an empty tube. Not for long however as he fell to his knees coughing and choking on the liquid in his throat. He struggled to pull himself back to a stand, gripping one of the glass sides of the tube. He glared at Hojo.

"Hojo," he said his name with contempt. "What the hell are we doing here?"

"Please try to calm down Z1," he said casually, his arms behind his back.

"My name is Zack Fair, SOLDIER, first class, you know that, Hojo!"

Hojo only smirked and turned his back on Zack, heading over to his desk. "Denial will not help you, Z1," he commented as he sifted through the things on his desk.

"You owe me an explanation!" he spoke forcefully, trying to keep the nervous shaking he felt from his voice

"No, not really," Hojo scoffed, turning back to Zack with a folder in his hand. "But I'll humour you," he added. "Seems you and Specimen C4 have survived what no one would ever have expected you to, facing up to the mighty Sephiroth. And that has earned you both a special place here. You will both receive plentiful gifts for your strength and perseverance. You'll thank me later."

"You're off your rocker, old man. Now you let Cloud and I out of here right now!"

Zack felt the rage bubbling inside him. He knew where it was coming from. Fear. He hated being afraid and right now he was terrified. He and Cloud were alone as far as he knew. Know one knew where they were. Most people probably assumed they were dead. Hojo had control. He knew that.

"Enough talking for now, Z1. I think it's time you rest some more. There shall be plenty of time to exercise your vocal cords in the near future."

With that said, Hojo strolled over to the control panel next to his tube and punched in a code. Zack looked down as he felt something coming up through the grated floor. He could barely make out a thin mist seeping upwards. As it reached his head and he took a breath he gasped as he felt his chest tighten and his muscles tense up. His limbs started going numb. He tried holding his breath but it made no difference. The vapor was seeping into his pores, dulling all his nerves. After a few moments he collapsed to his knees and shortly after that he found himself crumpled against the glass helplessly. He couldn't move. He could barely breathe. He fought the urge to let his eye lids fall as he began to feel the mist being sucked out of the tank once again through the floor.

There was the sound of a suction being released and the front of the tube slid open with a hiss. Hojo's lab assistants were there in a flash to drag his limp form out and across the lab. The cold air hit his still wet body and sent chills down to his core. He wanted nothing more than to rip himself free of the grimy hands of the lab-asses and throw a good right hook at Hojo's face but he couldn't. He couldn't fight back, he couldn't even speak.

He tried to hold onto consciousness as he was dragged to the door but the sedative was too overwhelming. His last vision was of Cloud, still floating quietly in his tube.

It seemed like days had passed when Zack finally woke up again, though he doubted that much time had really passed. A couple hours maybe. He opened his eyes slowly and glanced around. He was lying in one very uncomfortable position on a cot with his left arm underneath him and his right leg hanging over the edge. As he dragged himself up to a sitting position he could feel a few of his joints cracking which despite the awful sound made him feel a little better. He was groggy but without much pain. He was however quite cold. It felt almost like being in a refrigerator. That was his first indication that the room was far below surface level. He looked to his left and found a set of clothes folded neatly. Plain black pants and a black t-shirt. He became aware then that he was in his boxers.

Once dressed, he paced the room a bit, which was almost like walking in a circle. It wasn't a very big room. Two cots, one blanket and pillow on each. One set of clothes. No socks or shoes. A small nook of a bathroom which consisted of a toilet and sink, one bar of soap, one roll of toilet paper, one hand towel. There was pretty much nothing in there that he could use as a weapon. There were no apparent weakness in the room. The cell was tight. Zack sighed, falling back on the cot, his back against the wall. Inevitably she was going to enter into his mind. He started to think of Aerith. Somehow, he had to get to her. Had to let her know he was okay. He would figure out something. He had to…

Those eyes. Those fierce eyes pierced him almost just as fiercely as his sword, bringing forth a cry that stunned him into an abrupt awakening. A dream, Cloud thought. Just a dream. His eyes shot open and he found himself staring into a blur of liquid. He thrashed instinctively trying to get to the surface of whatever body of water he had fallen into. His mind was fast to remind him that there was no body of water. The last thing he remembered was collapsing at the top of the stairs in the reactor. Then that means…it really happened. I killed Sephiroth.

Confusion and awe was ringing in his head as he tried to clear the bubbles from around him so he could see where he was. Unexpectedly, he found himself staring into the face of an older man with black hair and dark-rimmed glasses who was glaring in at him with deep interest. He was startled, pushing himself back with his hands and hitting his back against the glass wall of the tube. It has to be a nightmare…

Zack lay on his back with his hands behind his head. He was deep in thought, going through all the events of the past few days. His mind returned over and over to dwell on everything Hojo had said. He seemed to believe he was going to be rewarding Cloud and him with something, though knowing Hojo, there was nothing rewarding about it. He had to keep his cool. Though inside he knew he could freak out at any moment, he had to remain collected. It was the only way he was gonna get out of there.

There was the sound of beeps coming from a keypad outside the room and second later the door clicked open. Hojo's lab assistants appeared, dragging in Cloud's paralyzed body. They dropped him to the floor carelessly and left as quick as they came barely giving Zack enough time to shout some profanities at them.

Slowly, Zack grasped Cloud's body and pulled him up onto the cot to his left. He dried him off and dressed him before pulling the blanket over him. It's bloody freezing in this hell hole Zack thought as he stared down at his friend. He felt something rise up inside him as he stared at the unconscious kid—well not a kid…He was a teenager, but Zack couldn't help thinking of him like a kid. Like the kid brother he never had. It only made what he felt stronger. Guilt.

"Don't worry, Spike," he said as he pushed some of his blond hair out of his face and stepped back to his own cot, sitting down. "I got us into this and I'll get us out." He was almost convinced.

Zack had been watching Cloud for over an hour, watching his chest slowly rising and falling. He sat on the side of his cot, jiggling his one knee nervously as he gazed at the spikey-haired kid. He had been going over and over again in his head what he would say to him when he woke up but when the time came he was struck with a big blank. Slowly, Cloud moved his arm over his chest to the spot where Sephiroth had impaled him. Zack wondered if he was feeling the same phantom pain he had felt himself a few times. His eyes fluttered open then and he turned his head Zack's way, before starting sitting up slowly.

"Zack…" he began groggily. "I had the weirdest dream…" He moved his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his face with his hands. Zack was silent. He really didn't know what to say for once in his life. He watched as Cloud lowered his arms and glanced around at the room they were in. Confusion flashed across his face. "It was a dream…right?" he said in a low tone before looked Zack in his dark blue-violet eyes. "Zack, where are we?"

His voice was tentative then. Meek, like a child's. It was painstaking for Zack to hear. He cleared is throat before answering.

"I think…we're in the Shinra Mansion. Somewhere in one of its lower levels…" he answered slowly.

Cloud looked down at the floor. He shook his head.

"I don't understand. That man. There was a man with dark hair and glasses—"

"Hojo," Zack cut him off. Cloud's eyes darted up. He recognized the name and instantly he was flooded with memories of the stories he'd heard.

"What…what does he want with us?"

Zack could hear a small hint of fear in Cloud's voice though he knew he was trying hard to hide it. It was time for him to take charge of the messed up situation and put on the brave face.

"It doesn't matter. We won't be staying," he declared confidently. "I'll get us out of here faster than you know it, Spike! Just got to wait for the right moment. As soon as that door opens," he said, pointing to the only exit to the small room. Cloud looked at the door almost expectantly, like it should have opened right that minute. A moment later he was looking down again. Zack exhaled slowly, sighing softly. "Don't worry, okay? Everything will be fine."

"It's not that. It's just…" Cloud began softly, but trailed off.

"Are you thinking about what happened at the reactor?" Zack hazarded a guess. Cloud was silent but over the time he had known him he had come to be able to interpret the many 'silences of Cloud.'

"Aren't you?" Cloud looked up at him. Zack scoffed. Cloud knew him too. "I don't know how you couldn't be…I don't even know what happened, Zack. One minute, things were fine…the Sephiroth…it wasn't him anymore."

Zack thought back to the last image of Sephiroth he had in his memory. His general. His mentor. His friend. If only it hadn't been him. Yet it was…and that's what made the memory painful.

"Hojo healed us?" Cloud spoke, breaking into Zack's thoughts. He had lifted his shirt to look at his chest that was smooth and nearly scarless. Only a thin, barely visible line showed when Sephiroth's sword had entered his body. Zack nodded. "Why would he do that?"

"Who knows why Hojo does anything he does?"

Just then, there was the sound of the keypad outside the door. Cloud looked at Zack, who was readying himself to strike.