This story takes place directly after Cloud's loss to Hercules/Cerberus. In KH1, Cloud's motives aren't explained very well. In CoM, however, Cloud says he is searching for his lost memories. This story combines both perspectives, explaining Cloud's journey to find the light he can't remember. Enjoy.
- - dream.
Sometimes there were little glimpses for Cloud. He'd be walking along or fighting or doing some other normal activity and for a split-second something would flash in front of his eyes. Sometimes a shape but mostly a color. It was usually green, green like freshly cut grass, bright clear green. Sometimes he got flashes of light rosy pinks, too.
It got worse when he was tired. Sometimes after a battle it would happen every few steps. Currently Cloud could barely see past a haze of formless, misty pinks and greens. Laughter seemed to float on the breeze, light as chocobo down, so quiet that Cloud was fairly sure he was imagining things.
The laughter mixed with his surroundings. Hot sand worked its way into his boots and his clothing, scratching at his skin like an abrasive. Cloud could smell olive oil and wine, freshly cut wood and the searing hot smell of the forger's hammer smashing down on a gladiator's blade.
He felt like he'd been chewed up and spit out into the sand. Since when was Cloud Strife beat by a ridiculous muscleman in a skirt? And more importantly, since when did a three-headed dog send him sprawling like a sad little rag doll? Clearly, he had fallen a long way. But where did the fall start? Did somebody push him?
A name echoed in his head and Cloud saw a black feather drift past his nose. He waved a hand in front of his face impatiently, only to touch air. Just a flash. The girl had stopped laughing now. He kind of missed it.
Cloud pushed matted blonde hair out of his eyes and slumped down next to a column. The Buster Sword jabbed his side awkwardly, but he simply couldn't summon the willpower to move it. The hot was like a blanket. It probably didn't help that he was wearing a huge cape. Get a grip, Spike! Big huge velvet cape, you know that the vamp will be mad! Flash. Brown and black and lots of skin. Then it was gone.
He let his head roll back and his eyes shut, turning his face up to the sky. He was getting baked into the column, soon to be part of the architecture of the Coliseum. A sleeping has-been, however, was probably going to be less intimidating that the various statues of gladiators peppered about the arena.
Gradually, coolness crept into the air. It was so subtle that Cloud barely noticed in his hazy, half-conscious state. His shirt no longer stuck to him like a second skin, and the air didn't scorch his throat as he breathed. Cloud opened an eye lazily. They didn't have air conditioning here, did they? Honestly, he had been expecting a trip to see Hades after botching the Hercules job. It would be considerably hotter there—
Cloud sat up abruptly, willing himself to focus. There it was again. The laugh. Stronger this time, too clear to be a flash. He gathered his feet underneath him and stood slowly. It seemed that every vertebra in his back had been glued into place and now the glue was creaking and flaking off onto the grass.
His boots were heavy, crushing the delicate blades under bulky military treads. Cloud self-consciously brushed sand off his clothing. It dissipated into silvery shimmers before it hit the ground. He raised his head. Whiteness stretched as a far as he could see, meshing with the grass and blurring at the edges.
Cloud's eyes fluttered shut and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. There was someone—something—behind him. He remained stock-still.
It was the laughing voice. He could hear her moving behind him, and a strand of phantom hair brushed his neck. Cloud shivered.
"Who are you?"
A sigh whispered through the air. You have forgotten, haven't you?
"I didn't mean to!" Cloud blurted. Somehow it was very important to please this voice. This girl. "I'm trying," he continued, more subdued now. "To remember."
I know that.
Cloud shut his eyes, feeling shame creep up into his cheeks. "…you do?"
"I…" Cloud struggled to explain himself, running through his list of reasons. Hercules would find a way to get out of it. Nothing bad could actually happen. He was desperate. He could throw the match if something came up.
They were all horribly inadequate excuses. He knew it.
She said nothing for awhile, neither accepting nor rejecting the apology. So… why did you come?
"I miss you," he answered without a beat of hesitation. "I want to remember you. Everyone."
He sensed her smiling, and the knot of tension in the pit of Cloud's stomach loosened a bit. You're searching.
Cloud, she said, laughing. His eyes widened a bit—it was the first time she'd said his name, and her green eyes would be sparkling like they always did—green eyes, pink dress…
It's harder to find something in the dark. Shouldn't you turn on a light?
He turned quickly. "Aeri--"
His mouth was full of sand. He spit it out hastily, rubbing grit out of his eyes as he stood up. Olive oil again. No pink or green. He stood up hastily and grabbed the Buster Sword, taking a few steps forward. "Aerith?"
Of course there was no sign of her. He kicked the column in frustration, then stuck his hands in his pockets and headed for the Coliseum gates.
Aerith. Pink dress. Green eyes. Gentle laugh. He felt like he should be writing this down somewhere. And her hair, soft brown hair pulled back with a ribbon, she always wore these big heavy boots for gardening…
He sat on the steps, closing his eyes and willing more to come back to him. She loved to garden. Aerith had this special place, it was old but charming in a rustic kind of way… where? He thought hard.
"Hey, are you all right?"
Cloud looked up and saw the kid again. Sora. His blue eyes were curious and amazingly, the boy didn't seem at all fazed that they had nearly killed each other earlier in the day. "Yeah," Cloud mumbled.
Sora paused, and his eyes flickered to the ground. "So… why'd you go along with him anyway?"
'Him' being Hades, of course. Cloud rested his chin on his hands and closed his eyes. This kid had never been torn between light and dark. It was like… Cloud struggled to understand. It was that Sora found darkness to be such an abstract, foreign concept that he simply couldn't comprehend how anyone could be tempted.
Again, most of his excuses fell short. Standing before Sora was much like standing before Aerith. His light was so strong that he practically glowed. Maybe that's why Cloud was remembering things. "I'm looking for someone," Cloud offered lamely. "Hades promised to help." Suddenly annoyed with himself, he stood. "I tried to exploit the power of darkness," he admitted, more to himself than to Sora. "But it backfired."
Sora was watching him patiently. His head was cocked to one side just like that girl Cloud knew, the one who always stole his stuff—
Yuffie. Dark hair in a bob, big brown eyes. He etched the name into his memory. Why was he remembering all of this?
The light. It must be it. Cloud looked up into the sky. "I fell into darkness, and I couldn't find the light." Aerith, right? Yes.
Like he could keep this up. Cloud may have been horribly disillusioned about some things, but his own heart wasn't one of them. He wasn't one of the light, he was one of the darkness. And that was always how it would be. How exactly was he supposed to find his light? Easy for Sora to watch him, all safe and secure in his Keyblade world with two friends flanking him on both sides.
Sora grinned confidently, as if the two have been best friends for life. "You'll find it," he declared. He met Cloud's eyes. "I'm searching too."
Darkness… it wasn't the only side that searched? Light, it searched too.
A flame of hope sparked inside of him.
"For your light?" Cloud asked quietly. Sora gave a short nod. Everything fell into place, and for once Cloud felt like maybe he could actually find them. "Don't lose sight of it."
Cloud walked toward the ornate double doors, his mind whirling. Who was the other one, the chain-smoking cursing one? Cid, Cid Highwind. He and Yuffie fought all the time. Behind him, Sora turned. "Hey! How about a rematch sometime? Fair and square, no dark powers involved!"
A smile pricked at his lips, and he turned to look over his shoulder. Sora stood hopefully, blue eyes mischievous. He was naïve and childish and too trusting and his savior. Strange, that Cloud owed so much to this short little kid whose voice hadn't even changed yet. The Keyblade glinted at his hip, seeming to wink playfully at Cloud in a challenge.
He brushed hair out of his eyes. "I think I'll pass."
Aerith's laughter echoed in the air once more, light as a feather. And Cloud saw a pink flash.
This was originally written for my drabble collection, Espy. Espy focuses on the lives on the Hollow Bastion group, and it functions mainly on reader requests. If you liked what you read here, go over to Espy and check it out! Thanks for reading. Reviews are more valuable than gold to me, and I reply to each one.