Summary: Time travel. Sounds like fun, right? No. No it's not. Cloud was determined to get back home, the past be damned, but with Aerith haunting his every step it didn't look like that'd be happening any time soon. No pairings.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. This work has not been endorsed by Square Enix or any of the others holding copyright or license to the Final Fantasy games, movies, and products. No connection is implied or should be inferred. Other names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author receives no financial gain from its production or distribution.


Remnant of the Vacant
Chapter 1: Road to Paradise


"No way in hell!"

"Yes, Cloud. This is the only way that you can be happy!"

"No it's not! I'm very happy the way I am right now, thank you very much!"

This was not how Cloud's day was supposed to go. He was supposed to a having a relaxing day filled with slaughtering monsters. It was going to be fun. But then, all of a sudden, he found himself standing in the Promised Land, surrounded by fields of flowers.

Naturally, the first thing he'd done was to freak out, thinking that he'd somehow crashed his bike and killed himself. It'd taken Aerith a few minutes to calm him and convince him that no, wasn't dead and yes, he could get back out of the Lifestream just fine. Then she'd explained why she'd brought him there and everything had gone to hell.

"I'm telling you, Aerith, I'm not going to go back to the past!"

"But you've never forgiven yourself, Cloud! Please, you need this so that you can finally have peace," Aerith pleaded.

Cloud shook his head violently, denying this. "I'm fine, really! I'm happy with my life now. I don't want it to change!"

He was starting to get desperate. He recognized that dangerous glint in her eyes; it was the stubborn glint that said that she was going to do what she thought was best, regardless of whether or not he agreed. Which was not a good thing.

"What about the Planet?" the blond haired man said, casting around for any sort of an excuse. "Wouldn't sending me into the past undo everything that we've done and put the Planet in danger again?"

"The Planet will be creating a pocket dimension just for this," Aerith replied, waving off his concerns. "Your world, the real world, will be completely unaffected by anything you change or do. This means that you'll be able to fix things to your hearts content and eventually forgive yourself!"

Oh Gaia, this was not going well. "I don't want to fix things!" Cloud protested for what felt like the hundredth time. "I'm sick and tired of chasing Sephiroth to the ends of the Planet and being the fucking world savior. And—and— How would I fix things anyway? I was weak and scrawny when I was fourteen!"

"Then we'll send you in your current body," Aerith retorted calmly.

"I can't do much without First Tsurugi—"

"Then we'll send it too."

Shit. "My friends will freak out if I'm gone—"

"No time will pass here while you're in the past."

Cloud's mouth opened and closed several times, but nothing came out. He was quickly running out of excuses to use.


"That too."

Dammit. "...I don't want to go," Cloud repeated. "Can't you just leave well enough alone, Aerith? I'd rather let the past lie."

For a moment Aerith's expression softened. But the moment passed as quickly as it'd come and she squared her shoulders, once again determined. Cloud's own shoulders slumped. He knew that there was no way that he was going to get out of this now.

But that didn't mean that he was going to along with it without a fight.

"I'm sorry, Cloud," Aerith said softly. "But I feel that this is what's best for you. That this will help you to heal."

"No, wait! Aerith—!"

Too late. The world around him exploded into white as the Promised Land melted away before his very eyes. Cloud tensed, an angry snarl on his face—

—And then found himself riding his motorcycle through the wasteland around Edge, just like he'd been before Aerith had pulled him into the Lifestream to talk to him. He relaxed imperceptibly, but had to admit that he was confused. Had something gone wrong? Had Aerith screwed up? Or had that whole thing just been a hallucination?

A small, nearly hysterical smile tugged at the corners of Cloud's mouth. Thank Gaia that hadn't worked. He couldn't even begin to imagine what would have happened had he actually gone into the past, back when Midgar was still standing, Shinra was all-powerful, and Sephiroth and Hojo were alive. The very thought made him shudder.

Cloud relaxed into Fenrir's seat and felt the familiar roar of the motorcycle reverberate in his bones. Here was exactly where he wanted to be. Driving Fenrir and using First Tsurugi to kill any monsters that came along. He was content.

The swordsman drove along like this for several hours. He was on a direct path towards Edge, now eager to get back to Seventh Heaven, where—hopefully—Aerith wouldn't be able to get to him. The sun was high in the sky by the time the Midgar ruins came into view. He should have been almost uncomfortably hot, but instead he felt a cold tendril of fear tightening around his chest. It took him a moment to figure out why.

Those weren't the Midgar ruins. That was the city of Midgar itself, untouched.


Almost instantly Cloud tried to do and about-face and drive away, but to his confusion he found that Fenrir wasn't responding. Shocked, he instead attempted to brake, but there was still no change. He even tried completely letting go of the handlebars and found that Fenrir didn't change its course at all.

As desperation began to leak into him—this was not happening to him!—Cloud turned towards his last resort: Jumping off his bike. Dangerous, perhaps, but in his mind it was a better option then going into Midgar. It didn't work out, of course, because at that moment all of his muscles seized up, effectively leaving him paralyzed.

"I'm sorry Cloud."

Cloud's eyes widened in shock. Aerith was sitting on the front of Fenrir, staring at him with sad eyes. She was controlling Fenrir, the blond quickly realized. She was making sure he went into Midgar!

"Let me go," Cloud demanded angrily.


Aerith looked more stubborn and determined than he'd ever seen her. Suddenly Cloud had a sinking feeling that getting out of this wasn't going to be so easy. Aerith certainly didn't look as though she'd be giving up on her "quest" any time soon.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Cloud looked at his old friend with weary eyes. "What're you doing here, Aeris?"

"I'm going to make sure that you go through with this and don't try to leave Shinra," she said.

Cloud wondered what horrible atrocities he must have committed in a past life in order to deserve this. Aerith just smiled.


Aerith directed Cloud's bike into Midgar and up onto the upper plate. It was a rather interesting experience to be back in the city, Cloud had to admit. It brought back all sorts of memories of his time with Shinra and AVALANCHE. He'd forgotten the horrible squalor the people under the plate lived in and just how many people lived in the whole city. How many of them had died in the Meteor Event?

It also made him cough like nothing else. Gaia, he'd forgotten just how polluted Midgar had been.

Eventually Fenrir pulled to a stop in front of a building that Cloud clearly recognized as the Shinra Military Headquarters. It was built right next to Shinra Tower and while only a few floors tall, it was sprawling and spread over several city blocks. As its name suggested, it was Shinra's military building and housed all military members, from cadets to generals.


General Sephiroth.

Cloud groaned. Great; that was exactly what he wanted to be reminded of. Dealing with an insane Sephiroth was odd enough of an experience, but dealing with a perfectly sane and rational one was going to be downright bizarre.

"Come on, Cloud," Aerith said cheerfully. "Let's go inside! You need to register for Shinra's military program."

"Like hell I do," Cloud snapped, but despite his words he got off Fenrir. He had little doubt that if he didn't Aerith would make him go and it would hurt. "Speaking of which," he said suddenly, "How is it that you could control Fenrir?"

"This is a pocket dimension, remember?" Aerith replied with a smile. "Gaia controls everything here."

"Wonderful," Cloud grumbled.

The lobby of the Military Headquarters was a simple, if rather large, room. Receptionist counters lined the back walls and the rest of the space was filled with various waiting chairs. Today however, the room was also packed with people—mostly young boys. It was registration day, Cloud realized dejectedly.

"Get in line, kid," a nearby soldier growled.

Cloud shot him a glare even as he followed the instructions. Did he look like a kid? He was twenty five for Gaia's sake!

After waiting for nearly an hour, Cloud finally reached the front of the registration line. He'd been given his registration forms while waiting and had long since filled them out—and had quite a bit of fun doing so too. Aerith may have been making him do this, but that didn't mean that he couldn't put his age down as -213 and his fighting history as "world savior". In fact, everything on the forms was an odd mixture of fact and fiction that amused him quite a bit.

Aerith, Cloud had noticed while waiting, was invisible to everyone but him. She was also able to move through people and objects, like a spirit. The blond had spent a good twenty minutes amusing himself by passing his hand back and forth through her insubstantial shoulder and watching the annoyed faces she made. It also made everyone else around Cloud stare at him like he was insane, which only gave him further entertainment.

"Sir," the woman behind the desk said, pulling Cloud's attention away from Aerith. The woman looked two parts annoyed and concerned. "Are you alright?"

Cloud resisted the urge to smile brightly while saying, "Oh yes, I've been draw into the past, where I don't want to be, by an overprotective ghost, who won't leave me alone, to join a company that I helped to destroy four years ago! I'm just fucking peachy!" Despite how much fun terrorizing receptionists could be, he wasn't in the mood to cause a scene.

Instead he gave her a tight smile. "Fine, ma'am. Here are the papers."

The woman nodded slowly as she accepted the papers. Cloud tried to widen his smile, to appear friendlier, but she only looked warier, so instead he dropped the smile and glared at her.

She "eeped" fearfully and quickly handed him a pass. "Here you go, sir!" she said, her words rushed. "Please report to the third floor, where your registration process will be completed."

Cloud nodded and stalked over to the elevator, ignoring Aerith as she giggled quietly and bounced after him.


That night Cloud lay on the top of a bunk bed, staring up at the ceiling. After registration he'd been given his uniform, schedule, rooming assignment, and then told to settle in. The next morning they'd have orientation and then classes would begin.

In other words, it'd been boring. Cloud could have been out having fun, riding through the countryside, and killing monsters. You know, normal stuff. Instead, he was stuck here, inside of a building that should have been destroyed years ago.

But not for long.

Gleefully, Cloud glanced around the room to make sure that all of his squad mates were asleep. Aerith had gone back to the Lifestream a few hours ago, apparently even more bored than Cloud was. Now, without her hovering around, he had a chance to sneak out of Shinra.

Cloud leapt off his bed and landed silently in a crouch on the floor. After a second quick check that everyone was asleep, he eased open the door and slipped outside. Once the door had closed behind him, Cloud ran for it. He sped full tilt down the hallway, skidding around corners at high speed. It was only thanks to his experience—and, he grudgingly admitted, Hojo's experimentation—that his feet made no sound as he ran.

Finally, several halls and stairwells later, Cloud saw it: The front door. He was so close he could almost taste it. Grinning widely, he leapt towards the doors—

—And smacked right into an invisible wall.

Cloud lay on the floor for several long moments, wondering what had happened. The moment he saw Aerith's smiling face lean over him however, it became perfectly clear. With a groan, the blond pushed himself up.

"...What the hell?"

That wasn't Aerith's voice. Surprised, Cloud's head jerked up. There was a brown haired man wearing a red trench coat standing in the middle of the lobby, staring at Cloud. The swordsman winced and pulled himself to his feet.

"Uh, sorry about that," he muttered. Aerith giggled, so he shot her a glare. "Shut up!"

"Excuse me?"

Now the man looked even more taken aback. "Not you," Cloud snapped.

"I told you that you couldn't leave," Aerith said. Her already large smiled had widened. She was enjoying this far too much.

"I don't want to be here!" Cloud growled. It felt like that was becoming his motto.

When Aerith just laughed, Cloud threw up his hands in annoyance and stalked back towards the stairwell. The brown haired man was left standing in the middle of the room, thoroughly confused.


Genesis Rhapsodos was a rather orderly person, if he did say so himself. He was used to patterns and schedules; things that he could easily predict. One would think that this would mean that he'd hated surprises, but this was far from the truth. Puzzles fascinated Genesis. He loved to figure things out, to find patterns where none seemed to exist. The world was orderly, he thought. One simply had to find the order.

And so it was that whenever Genesis was surprised by something out of the ordinary, he was inexplicably drawn to it. An itching urge to figure out whatever was puzzling him would rise up and he wouldn't be able to rest until he'd done so.

This blond cadet was one such puzzle, Genesis thought. He'd been leaving the Military Headquarters one night when he'd come across the strangest sight: a man running at full speed towards the doors. At first Genesis had thought that he was some sort of an insurgent, there to cause trouble, but then the man had run smack into the doors and collapsed onto the floor.

And that wasn't even the worst of it. After the blond had gotten up, he'd proceeded to yell at the air, saying things such as, "I don't want to be here", before walking off without another word.

At first Genesis had been almost positive that the man was insane. After all, he'd obviously been hallucinating.

However, as Genesis stood in a dark corner of the room that was being used for cadet orientation, he suddenly found himself intrigued. The moment the blond man had walked into the room, Genesis had noticed him. The blond walked with the grace of a warrior—or a SOLDIER. But he was only a cadet, and a mentally unbalanced one at that.

Now Genesis had to wonder if there was something more to this odd blond haired man. With narrowed eyes, he decided that he was going to find out.



It was amazing how a single word could bring dead silence upon an entire room. Or rather, how it could cause such shock that everyone was left gaping at him, lost for words.

Cloud supposed it wasn't everyday that that a brand new cadet said "no" to a superior officer's face—which had grown beet red in a surprisingly short amount of time, he noticed with no small amount of amusement—but that was the entire point. The blond figured that if Aerith wouldn't let him leave, then his best choice was to get kicked out instead.

"Strife!" the officer roared. All around them the other cadets flinched and shrunk back. Cloud just smirked.

It was their first class of the day: A simple gym class that would be used for basic training. They'd been told to start out with some stretches, but Cloud had only stood there, silently refusing to do anything. Their SOLDIER instructor had noticed almost instantly and came stalking over, demanding that Cloud get to work.

And now he was blowing a gasket over Cloud's blatant refusal to do so.

"We don't accept fucking insubordination!" the 2nd-class SOLDIER snapped. "Drop and give me 50 right now!"

Cloud gave the man a flat stare. "No," he repeated calmly.

The man's nostrils flared. He clearly wasn't used to such disrespect, especially from a "cadet" like Cloud. Enraged, his hand snapped out to grab Cloud by the back of his collar, but the blond's instincts reacted faster than him and in an instant the SOLDIER was sent flying into a wall.

Cloud blinked twice. "...Oops." Out in the wild such reactions where a good thing. Here...Not so much. He shrugged. Oh well; all the better to get himself kicked out.

Aerith smacked him over the head.

"What was that for?" Cloud growled lowly while glaring at the girl.

Aerith scowled at him. "You're trying to not attract attention, remember?" she said. "That means no attacking your trainers!"

Cloud opened his mouth, a retort on the tip of his tongue, when he noticed that the rest of the cadets were giving him wide-eyed, terrified looks. He supposed knocking out a SOLIDER—was the man unconscious? Yep, definitely. Hopefully he didn't get a concussion...—and talking to oneself was enough to warrant that. He leveled an angry glare on all of them and they quickly looked away.

Still scowling viciously, Cloud turned on his heel and stalked from the room.


A/N: I've been a fanfic author for a number of years now, but I'm writing this story under a different penname because I'd like to see how it stands on its own. I suppose that it's possible for someone to recognize me, because I've been told that I have a very distinctive writing style, but, frankly, I don't care.

This story is actually relatively rushed because I'm writing it more for fun and humor than anything else. That isn't to say that it won't have a plot however, or that I don't take the time to iron out as many little mistakes as I can. More so, it just doesn't...flow as well as the rest of my writing. Or at least I feel so.

Cloud will be OOC, because he'll be partially insane/crazy/loopy/cracked/cuckoo/ nutty/not all there in the head/however the hell you'd like to say it. He might grow a bit more serious as time goes on. He might not. We'll have to see where the story takes him. Also, don't think that I'm picking on Aerith or time travel stories, because that's not how this is meant at all. I'm just interested in seeing how a time travel story would turn out if Cloud didn't want to be there at all.

Let me know what you think!