Life Moves On

"Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over… Death is not anything… death is not… It's the absence of presence, nothing more… the endless time of never coming back… a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes not a sound…" ~Tom Stoppard

Cissnei arrived in Gongaga by helicopter, stepping out of the aircraft and onto solid ground. Treading the crooked dirt paths with a mechanical step in her walk, she soon arrived in the salvaged outskirts of the village. It didn't take long for her to reach Zack's house. Picturing his parents' pleasant surprise and warm welcome to her sudden visit eased the trepidation in her mind. But how could she possibly tell them their only son was dead?

Instead of heading back to head quarters to report to Tseng of her findings, Cissnei felt Zack's parents deserved to know before anyone else.

Mrs. Fair lounged in the kitchen drinking tea while Mr. Fair sharpened the butcher knife in preparation for dinner. Both looked up at the sound of the front door creaking open and grinned when Cissnei entered their humble abode.

"Mr. and Mrs. Fair, it's nice to see you," Cissnei greeted amiably with a polite smile, her resolve to share the dire news swaying. The middle-aged woman stood immediately to grasp her hands, warmly squeezing them in kind greeting. Mr. Fair was too busy to greet her properly, but Cissnei knew he was happy to see her, too. Idle, cordial words were exchanged, and soon Cissnei mentioned the main reason of her visit with much reluctance. "We were finally able to find Zack. He is dead." It came unexpectedly easy off her tongue, so painfully heavy on her heart to say the truth. Despite being used to losing comrades in her line of work, she never experienced the loss of a dear friend, someone whom she harbored deep feelings for.

Her hands did not shake, her eyes did not tear, her heart did not throb. No, her senses simply went numb. With a smile devoid of warmth, Cissnei desperately tried to reassure Zack's parents and herself that "What's done has been done." Turks were instructed not to let their emotions get in the way of their job; to refrain from allowing personal feelings to blind their judgment.

A mission, just like any other. Either you succeed or fail. Simple as that. But, Zack was her mission, and that made all the difference to her. 'Is this how I repay Zack's friendship and trust? By failing to save his life?' Words couldn't even describe her guilt.

Cissnei had let Zack down, she had let Tseng down, but more importantly, she had let Zack's parents down. She never felt so cold-hearted.

Like she expected to see, the waterworks exploded in Mrs. Fair's tear ducts. She miserably buried her face into her hands and leaned onto her husband who comfortingly wrapped his arms around her, his face set in a permanent grim frown.

Cissnei felt it best to express her grief with the family. "I'm sorry," she said sadly, the absence of tears disturbing her conscience. 'Why can't I cry? Am I really that heartless?' Perhaps Mrs. Fair's tears were doing the job for her, because the woman's incessant crying wouldn't relent.

"Oh, Cissnei, dear," Mrs. Fair bemoaned, feeling utter sympathy for the young Turk who believed she could've done better, who could've averted the tragedy if only she had reached Zack sooner. Shuffling toward Cissnei, Mrs. Fair pulled her into a motherly embrace and sobbed. "Y-you've done the best you could!" At this, Cissnei hung her head in shame and awkwardly returned the hug, an affectionate gesture she was unfamiliar to, having been raised in Shinra since her younger years.

"It's not in my right to ask for forgiveness."

"What is there for you to forgive?" Mr. Fair snapped. He couldn't believe this young lady was convinced she committed the crime of murdering Zack, when she had nothing to do with it.

"Cissnei, you know it is not your fault. We will not blame you for something you haven't done. You tried to save Zack, and we are grateful for that, and that is all that matters." Now Cissnei realized where Zack got his kindness and honesty from. To be considered and accepted as part of his family was an honor. Mr. and Mrs. Fair were equally benevolent, if not more so than their own son.

Zack lived on in his parents, and in her heart. He would not be forgotten. Not in this lifetime.

Cissnei strode through the sliding doors and into the air-conditioned building of Shinra Company.

Men and women, all decorously dressed in their expensively tailored business suits, showed no remorse or grief for a single human being's death. She doubted they were even aware of what occurred outside Midgar walls, of Zack's final stand ending in tragedy. The true tragedy being his heroism ultimately overshadowed by Sephiroth and Angeal, to the point children do not know his name, and the population of earth sparing no second glance to Zack's existence. The world had fallen so low in interpersonal values that Cissnei wondered if these people harbored hearts at all.

Some merely gave the passing Turk member an acknowledgeable nod, then returned to negotiating about financial deals, their sophisticated vernacular intermingling with an air of discordance.

How could she face Tseng now? Not only did she fail the mission Tseng assigned especially to her, but she had failed to retrieve Zack alive, someone who meant a lot to Cissnei, to Tseng, to Aerith, to everybody who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Cissnei hadn't even gotten the chance to tell him her real name. A secret she wanted to entrust Zack in turn. 'And now he's gone, never to come back…'

Riding the elevator to the Briefing Room where Cissnei knew Tseng would be waiting to hear her report, she heaved a melancholic sigh and stepped out only to come face-to-face with Reno and Rude, the Turk members who had accompanied her to find Zack. Indifference and pity shown on their faces. For them to be here, this must mean…


…they had reported to Tseng in her place.

His earth brown eyes bored into her maroon orbs, and she detected the remorse and disappointment lingering in his silent gaze.

There was nothing to discuss. Reno, Rude, and Cissnei had failed in their mission, and now they were to meet with their boss to be given new assignments. Since Zack's body could not be found, protocol demanded them to clean up the mess. The truth happened to be confidential, however, for they were able to find him, stranded dead in the middle of the dessert, along with at least a thousand other dead bodies littering the bloody wasteland. Apparently Zack fought to the bitter end, one lone man standing proud and dauntless against an entire army of Shinra infantrymen, a recklessly bold and futile feat. The three had witnessed the SOLDIER's body disintegrating into incandescent green energy, which could only mean he became one with the Lifestream. A phenomenon that could not be explained, nor questioned. Only accepted.

As insensitive as it may seem, the world will move on without him. Life will continue its course, though he will sorely be missed by those who have had the pleasure of meeting him.

Zack Fair, 1st Class Soldier.

(A/N): Like so many Crisis Core fans, I cried in the ending. Zack was my favorite character ever, and he died the most gruesome and bloody death. It was literally hard looking at him, clinging on to life. You know, Zack and Cissnei really grows on you as a couple. It sure has for me. Too bad it never was explored. Hey, not like I dislike Aerith or anything, but I prefered Cissnei. She's so cute. =D

Instead of focusing on Cissnei's emotions, I wanted to delve more into a philosophical point of view, about something we witness and have come to accept in life everyday. Death happens a lot, everywhere, even to the kindest of people. And I had the aching urge to portray this fact in literary work.

Review, please. :)