It had been a hard battle. Sephiroth watched as the fires died on the swamp fields, the smell of pitch and hair thick in his nose. Soot streaked his face, wiped there as he cast his fireballs. All artillery fire had ceased for now, leaving him with only his thoughts and the moans of dying men.

Was it just yesterday that he and Zack had been playing over the camp, cheered on by a sweet little blonde?

He didn't see so much as feel Zack settle beside him, leaning back into the sword he'd stuck into the earth. He didn't need to see to know the look Zack had on his face, the one that made him look so old. Older than Sephiroth, sometimes. He watched another First class drop to his knees across the battlefield, face grief stricken.

"Why do you fight, Zack?" he asked softly, watching Harper hold the severed head of some trooper. His hands were shaking as he pushed bright hair back from dead eyes.

"You." he said softly, with no hesitation. Sephiroth stiffened, eyes going wide as he moved to turn. Zack was looking at Harper too. He wasn't smiling now. "You, and Cloud, and Kunsel, and anyone else I call friend." with those words, he stood, dusting off his fatigues. "I fight so that at the end of the battle, I can look at all of you and know that the lives I took will keep you safe another day. Because the Company is ruthless, and mindless, and has no conscience. Because what the Company wants us to fight for doesn't really matter."

That puzzled Sephiroth, who looked up at his friend, lit from the east with a fiery glow that had come from one of the other sides masters of materia. He looked…beautiful. Strong. It made Sephiroth want to catch his breath and loose it at the same time.

It was the look of a warrior.

"What maters, Seph…is that we have a family to go home to at the end of the day. Week. Month. Year. And…I fight for you so that I can be your family." he said, holding out a hand. There was a flash of white and gold approaching, and Zack smiled then, slow and sad and knowing. It made Sephiroth almost shed the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.

"That…" Sephiroth didn't get to say anymore because Zack had covered his lips with his own, kissing him soft and gentle. Something then uncoiled in his spine and he relaxed, maybe for the first time ever as Zack slowly pulled back, lavender eyes shining in the growing gloom as someone Iced the fire.

He could…maybe live with that.

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Cloud grit her teeth as she stitched another shrapnel wound on the field. The man wasn't Shinra, but she didn't care. The white armband on her uniform authorized her to give medical aid to those that needed it. She saved her materia though for those that needed it.

"There." she said, dousing it in peroxide. "Go home. No fight more." she said in broken wutaian, that made the man ghost out a chuckle. He tried to sit up but hissed as his bandaged ribs protested.

"Why you heal me?" he asked in broken common, and Cloud smiled softly at him, capping her bottle of disinfectant.

"We both People." she said, pressing a pair of dog tags into his hand. "All people deserve life yes?" she asked and he laughed more, rolling upright. "No fight. Go home, watch family." she said and he nodded, using a ruined rifle as a crutch. Then he said something strange.

"Shinra not deserve you." he said, tapping her chest over her heart. "Gold. Make old man see dawn." he said with a smile and she nodded, standing up to move on. He reached over to her, placing a small jade coin in her hand. "Clan of Serpent will welcome Heart of Gold always to come." he said with a soft smile and he bowed deeply, to which Cloud squawked, setting him upright once he got stuck.

"GO!" she said, smiling anyways, hands in the air. "Go happy. Have life." she said at last and he turned, moving off. The next living man she came across was a grunt, his gut sliced open on a bayonet. He was looking at Cloud like she was an alien.

"Why'd you help that man? He's only going to kill more Shinra troops next time." he said, and she frowned, cutting away his jacket. This kid had only been in the field for six months now. And couldn't possibly understand the complex honor system the Wutaian people had.

"I gave him his life." she said in a soft voice as she wiped away blood. "He owes every Shinra trooper their own life now. He won't fight again. He'll go back to his rice crop, and raise his kids. He'll laugh and smile and remember that when I held his life in my hands, that I gave it to him." she said as she worked.

"Stupid." he said, glaring a little. "he'd sooner slit your throat than offer one of us our life." he said, looking at her smoothly working hands, removing debris. He yelped as disinfectant flooded the wound, hissing and bubbling. Cloud smiled, soft and knowing.

"You're still young." she said, getting out her needle. "You don't yet understand why they fight. Next time you're facing off with one of these farmers, ask him." he cried out as the needle pierced his skin, pulling the gaping hole closed. Nothing vital had been punctured, she thanked god. "You might find their answers make a little more sense."

He was finished in half an hour, and she doused the wound in Potion, wrapping it. "A team will be by in a little while to take you back to base." she said as she stood, shouldering her battered medipack. "Keep the wound clean, and maybe if you're lucky they'll send you home."

As she turned to walk away, the boy reached out, grabbing the hem of her pants.

"What's your name?" he asked, and she laughed at that, a soft sound.

"The Wutaian call me the Heart of Gold." she said, nodding to where a wutaian man was bowing to her in respect as he followed his commander. "But my officer calls me Strife." she said, and walked away. Over her shoulder she smiled. "My friends all call me Cloud!"

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Where in the hell did that come from? 'looks at page' wow.

So I KNOW im an idjit for not updating sooner but….my writers block was more like writers Broadway. And I've been working on FB for a while but…yeah. It's just not going where I want it right now. Once I wrestle it into shape we'll be good.

Thank all of you for you kind words and critique! ^^ they make me all warm and fuzzeh inside so…yeah.

Lovels for alla joos.