Final Fantasy VII

The Gravity of Love

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine (except for the mentions of Dalton and Gunju, who are mine) and the story is! It's something I was thinking of that takes place immediately following chapter ten of my A Simple Mission in Triplicate story, though it doesn't need to be read to understand this, as Cloud explains here what was going on. This is all part of my Twilight and Dawn verse, where they're on Earth and Sephiroth is sane again. This is mostly a character study of Cloud and Tifa than anything else, and how they react to this situation, as well as an attempt to clear up a few little plotholes in Triplicate. Many thanks to Kaze for the title!

Cloud had been quiet since returning from South America the previous day. As far as Tifa knew, he had barely spoken about what had happened, even to Zack. She certainly did not know what had taken place. The extent of her knowledge was that they had gone to stop an old enemy from using a dangerous artifact and to rescue a girl he had been holding captive. They had returned with a badly injured Sephiroth, stranded in his modified Safer form with the seven wings sprouting from his back. He had been able to walk, but only with assistance.

Sephiroth had been burrowed into his bed for the most part since then. He was far too exhausted to eat, or to get up at all unless it was absolutely necessary. Mostly he had slept. Cloud looked in on him now and then, as did Zack and Angeal. Slowly and surely, he was recovering. It would be several days before he could undo the Safer form, or so Zack thought, but he was just immeasurably thankful that Seph was here. Whatever had occurred, it had nearly killed him. Tifa understood that much.

Cloud looked exhausted. She knew he had slept, but the dark circles under his eyes and the red lines running through the whites said it had not been much. Now, as he was turning away from Sephiroth's room, he looked ready to fall.

She hurried to him from where she had been observing on the stairs. "Cloud, what's happening to you?" she demanded, reaching to steady him.

He caught himself on the wall. "I'm fine," he mumbled.

"You aren't fine," she objected. "Don't you think by now I can tell when something's wrong?" Her eyes turned pleading. "You haven't been the same since you came back from South America. What happened there, Cloud? Can't you tell me?" She could not ignore the fear in her heart that he was going to close himself off again from everyone. If that happened, would he even stay? Or would he go wandering, hoping to sort out the confusing feelings in his mind? She did not want him to leave. She was not sure she could bear it if he left another time.

He walked away from Sephiroth's door, moving down the hall to where his own room was located. "I just . . . I hate that I almost messed everything up," he said, pushing open his door. He was facing away from her, the blond bangs falling over his right eye. But she recognized his weary and sad stance.

"What are you talking about?" She frowned. "I thought that Dalton person was stopped."

"Yeah." Cloud gripped the doorknob. "No thanks to me. I was helping him." His voice turned bitter. "His old buddy possessed me or something. I kept trying to get the amethyst for myself."

She stared at him. This was something else she had not been told at all. It was no wonder that Cloud would feel horrible over something like that. He was actually very sensitive, even if he tried to appear stoic--though when he grew depressed it was hard for anyone who knew him to not realize it. And what hurt him more than anything else was when he felt like it was his fault that something had gone wrong. Being possessed would make him feel like a puppet again, his fate manipulated by whoever was controlling the strings.

Now she was at a loss for what to say. "Cloud . . ."

"That's not all. . . . He'd been influencing me for several days before he actually leaped into my body." Cloud was still standing there, refusing to face her. "I ended up saying stuff I wouldn't have said on my own . . . not now, not when things were finally getting better. . . . Oh God, I treated Sephiroth like dirt. . . ."

She had never heard him become this stricken over anything he had said to Sephiroth. She shifted, trying to move closer to him. "But it wasn't really you," she tried to say.

He shook his head. "It was me," he said. "It was stuff I'd thought about before . . . things I'd wanted to say when I was really mad at him. Gunju influenced me so I'd remember that stuff and decide to say it. I was blind. I didn't know . . . I never even thought . . ."

"Thought what?" By now she was thoroughly worried. Was he sinking into another state of depression? He was so agonized. . . . She never really did know how to help him when he got this way. When pushed to her limit she would speak bluntly and raise her voice, but before arriving at that point it always felt like she was standing by in helplessness while Cloud's world divided in pieces.

"He took control of me after the others left to go to South America," Cloud went on, as if he had not heard her. "From that point on, I could only watch him using my body, saying stuff I'd never even dream of. I hurt Zack, too." And at last he looked up, the anguish in his eyes.

"The reason why Sephiroth is in this mess is because I wasn't strong enough to stop Gunju," he said. "We fell down in this place and Gunju tried to make me take the amethyst. I was trying to fight him, but I couldn't. And the amethyst . . . well, it was alive or something. It started making everything shake. The whole building would've come down if Sephiroth hadn't taken on his Safer form and tried to calm the stupid thing. . . ."

"But he's alive," she said. "Zack thinks he's going to be just fine. . . ."

"You don't get it, Tifa." Cloud let go of the doorknob. "I don't know why he's alive. He died! I saw it--the amethyst drained all of his strength. He just collapsed. When I went over to him, he wasn't breathing. I couldn't get him to start again. It was my fault."

So this was the main reason for his distress. Not only had people gotten hurt, but someone had died. Of course; he had been so distraught when he had believed that Sephiroth was dead after Jenova had encased him in stone. But he had not been able to face those feelings then and had instead reacted in anger and rage. Why was it so different now? Why did he seem so haunted?

Cloud walked past her now, sinking onto his bed. He leaned forward, running his hands through his hair.

". . . It was only right after that when I had to stop running," he said. "I'd been denying it for so long . . . but it was right in front of me. . . . I'd thought of him as my friend. And he . . . he'd thought the same about me. He never told me because he thought I wouldn't care and it'd just make everything awkward." He looked up at her, his blue eyes tortured. "If he hadn't been able to come back, then all I'd have to think about would be how it could have been . . . and how he died thinking I hated him. . . ."

She was still trying to process everything she was being told. She had known Cloud cared about Sephiroth, but to actually consider him a friend? And Sephiroth felt the same? Not to mention that he had died sacrificing himself for Cloud. . . .

He was not the same monster who had killed her father. She had known that for months. Yet . . . had she always held it over his head anyway? Or did she just dislike him in general because of his reserved, cold personality? He had never endeared himself to her, even though she had tried to tolerate him more after he had returned a sane man.

". . . How do you know he feels the same?" she asked.

". . . He told me," Cloud mumbled. "His spirit was hanging around. I couldn't talk with him, but . . . I could feel what he was trying to say. I was just being stupid, talking aloud to his dead body, and when he realized how I felt, he finally let me know the truth about him."

Tifa was silent for a long moment. "He was just as responsible as you," she said at last. "He could have told you before."

"I wasn't making it easy for him," Cloud broke in. "He felt like he wasn't wanted. And I made him feel that way because I was too scared to admit I was really starting to care about him. He probably thought he wasn't even worthy to care about me, after everything he'd done."

Tifa sighed, sinking down on the bed next to him. "Have you talked with him about this at all after he . . . came back?" It was hard to know exactly how to finish such a sentence.

"A little bit. . . . Well . . . not really any of this, because he was so worn out and needed to rest. I just asked him what we were going to do now." Cloud straightened up, looking to her again. "He said there wasn't anything to do because we'd already been friends before this happened. Now that we know it's mutual, I guess we'll be acting different towards each other."

"It doesn't sound like he blames you, Cloud," she observed.

"I blame me," Cloud grumbled.

"I know," she acknowledged. "You always do." But she did not want to get into that right now. It was not likely that that part of Cloud's personality would ever fully change. And that was something she had to accept.

". . . How did he come back?" she wondered, switching the subject.

"I don't know," Cloud said. ". . . I heard my mom. She said it wasn't time for him to go to the Promised Land."

She stared at him. "Your mom?!" she repeated, unsure of whether to be shocked or amazed. Maybe it was a certain justice or irony, that someone whom Sephiroth had killed could decide whether he lived or died.

He nodded. "I don't know if she made the decision or if she was just the messenger," he said, as if reading her thoughts. "But she said he'd given his life for me and he should come back to me and his other friends. Then he woke up."

". . . And he remembered . . . ?" Tifa watched her childhood friend.

"That he'd died?" Cloud supplied. "Or that Mom talked to him? Yeah, he remembered it all."

He shifted. "What do you think?" he asked finally. "I mean . . . I know you haven't been that crazy about living here, because of him. . . ."

She looked down at the carpeted floor. "I haven't," she agreed. "But I know it isn't fair to him for me to feel that way, now that he's different. And after this . . . after he's shown he would give his life to save you . . . I think I've still been misjudging him."

"Yeah. . . ." Cloud stared at the floor too. "I don't know how to make up for everything I said. I can't take it back."

She was silent for a moment. ". . . Just treat him like you would any of your friends," she said. "You said that you and he would be acting different towards each other now. No, you can't take back what was said in the past. But you can show that you're willing to move beyond that. I think . . . that would mean the most to Sephiroth."

Cloud straightened, looking at her. "You're right," he said. "I'm going to show Sephiroth that I meant what I said about him being a friend. He deserves that." But he trailed off, his gaze moving to the open door. How long would it be before Sephiroth would recover? When would he be up again and be able to talk and banter with Cloud and Zack? There was no danger of him dying; Cloud was positive Sephiroth would get better. But the waiting was still agonizing.

Tifa laid her hand over his. "It's going to be okay," she said, her voice soft.

Cloud gave a slow nod. "Yeah," he said.

Tifa's hand felt good. He started to relax. For now he would just enjoy sitting with her.