Theme: Dawn - Poets of the Fall

Summary: While I Breathe, I Hope

Tseng immediately shut down all power, and for Cloud and the others waiting on the bluff the entire wasteland went dark. Cloud's eyes adjusted immediately, and he absently stroked the frying pan charm attached to his sword hilt. Behind him were 100 odd SOLDIER's and Turks, all dressed in black and grey with gliders attached to their backs. Each winged apparatus was equipped with a small, but powerful fan that would aid them in catching the drafts from the cliff.

The most silent and unexpected way to get there was to fly.

Vincent stood by his side, and switched to Chaos in a flicker of red energy. The hooded yellow eyes turned to him, and the men behind him took on an air of charged readiness. He rested a hand on Jaz's furred side, and with his own flash of power, he and the wolf took on their Jenova forms. Lazard and Luk climbed onto her back, and Cloud took a running leap off the edge. His wings snapped open, and everyone else followed.

It was a silent 20 minutes later when they closed in on the tallest building, five SOLDIER's and five Turks dropping down into each section. Just like below, they would divide and conquer, using the very populous of Midgar against them. So many people, so much electricity. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence for the power to flicker, or even go out completely for a half-hour or so. Even if it went longer, it wouldn't surprise most people. It had been out for almost two hours one early morning, but that was rare.

If everything went with them, they could have Midgar wiped off the map within two hours.

Cloud, Vincent, Lazard, Luk, and Jaz dropped from the winds onto the edge of Sector One, the most densely populated. Without speaking, Cloud, Vincent, and Jaz returned to their normal forms, and then they all melted into the darkness.

House after house, Cloud snuck into people's homes and killed them while they slept. He showed no mercy, no hesitation, even when facing children sleeping soundly in their beds. He couldn't bring himself to feel anything, and didn't even try. He knew that eventually he would be having nightmares of what he was doing this night, but he would deal with those later.

It only took an hour for him to finish his section, and he reached the base of the Tower first, the short sword from the whole blade dripping with blood as he waited. A flash of white in the corner of his eye, and a bloody Jaz appeared, the entire front part of her body covered. She had been in charge of killing those that were out in the streets. Vincent was next, and then all but three of the men he had flown in with melted from the darkness. He exchanged a look with one of the men, and they nodded shortly, eyes grim. There was a stab of pain to his heart, quickly pushed aside.

Cloud stood there for a moment, staring at the front doors and envisioning what was about to take place. He could only find a grim satisfaction for the events.

But…this particular fight was one they were going to do alone. He turned to the captain of the other SOLDIER's and grunts. "Captain, take your men under the Plate and assist Tseng in finishing up."

The man glanced at the Tower as he nodded, his soft commands making the other men melt back into the darkness surrounding them. It left only the five of them.

Lazard turned to him. "Shall we?"

He moved forward with a tired smirk, and the others followed silently.

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Aerith briefly connected with the Planet, drawing on her energy to fuel the battle she was in. ShinRa had picked up on the attack immediately below the Plate since the sectors always had some activity going on in them. When the SOLDIER's and Army positioned there were immediately confronted by children and a few adults wielding magic against them, they knew everything had gone to shit. Especially when none of their communications were going through. Cloud and his group were extremely thorough, she would give them that. Most ran, but some began to fight on their own, even as she and her army cut them down with well placed spells.

She herself was running on pure adrenaline and energy from the Planet, which was surprisingly being given without complaint. She had thought that she would need to wrest it away, but the earth herself was giving it to her. It hated the loss of so much life, but believed that the good of the battle outweighed the bad. Much was at stake with this attack, and they had needed to make it count. They had attacked hard, swift, and without remorse.

This was how she found herself in her current predicament. She had been so intent on making sure the children were safe that she had ignored her own plight as she ran from group to group. A mixed group of SOLDIER's and Army surrounded her, and she spread her feet as her hands tightened on her staff. Her mind whirled as she came up with plans and discarded them, even as they inched closer. Eight of them, and one of her. Her heart was beating with panic and adrenaline, until she finally decided that she had enough. She was the last Cetra, and she would remind them why her race was the ultimate one.

Spell after spell she cast, twirling around in circles as her skin glowed from within. When one of the grunts got past the broken pavement and iced ground, she planted her staff and lifted her body, kicking him with a sickening crack in the side of his face. He went down, and didn't move again.

Her mind went strangely calm after that. She cast and fought with mechanical skill, relying on her instincts and those of the Planet. One by one the men went down, until one SOLDIER was left. They circled each other, and he had a wild look in his eyes that she didn't like.

"Why are you doing this?!" he screamed.

She scoffed. "Because ShinRa is fucking up the Planet."

"But why are you attacking us?! We just follow orders! I have a wife! A son! I…"

He stopped then, and she felt a wave of pity go through her at the dejected, desperate look on his face. Making a swift decision, she lowered her staff. "Then go. Leave Midgar. Take your family and go somewhere else, or me and mine are going to keep trying to kill you."

He stared at her as though she had grown a second head, then threw his weapon down with a loud bang and took off into the night.

She blinked at the abruptness of his departure, before taking a deep breath to calm herself down. The Planet was rejoicing at the few lives she had just saved, and she couldn't stop the small smile from curling her lips. Then she steeled herself, turned, and continued on her way to the next group in Sector Nine.

Her night wasn't finished yet, and not everyone was going to take the offers she gave them.

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Zack saw Cloud and his group enter the Tower as he jogged towards it, and was quick to follow. He had given command of his men over to Tseng, and it seemed like he had the right feeling. Zack bounded up the stairs, an almost manic grin on his face from battle adrenaline.

He finally caught up to the diminutive blond as they loped up the stairs. Cloud only gave him a brief, questioning glance before facing forward once again.

"Aerith and Tseng are finishing below the Plate. When we left they had cleaned out most of the sectors. Nine and ten are the only ones they had left. Here?"

Cloud smiled grimly. "Sephiroth has gotten through all of the SOLDIER apartments, and is currently working on the Turks. Tseng was right. The ones left behind are jackasses."

That succeeded in making Zack snort. They fell silent as floors gave way before their rushed ascent, anticipation a palpable feeling amongst them. It wasn't hard to miss the deadly silence that echoed through the building floor after floor, and it gave Zack unpleasant shivers. Tonight will be worth it, he thought fiercely. Tonight ShinRa will fall, and we can finally start making a difference for everyone, and not just a few. Angeal… He frowned, trying to push the thought away, but it refused. …I wish you were here to see this.

Thankfully he could focus on other things as they rounded a corner and heard others coming down the stairs. They all froze as one, staring intently upwards as they strained their eyes. The people coming down the steps were doing it quietly, and the measured footfalls told them they were military trained. They all flattened to the walls, and then relaxed as a soft tune was whistled. It echoed oddly off the walls, and made Zack shiver with anticipation.

They remained silent as the troops that had gone with Sephiroth filed past, turning completely silent as they rounded the corner and disappeared.

"They're done with the Turks." Vincent's voice was grimly amused.

Cloud turned and looked upwards. "Then let's finish this."

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Sephiroth stared at the door that led to the Presidents suite, slowly relaxing as he felt Cloud getting closer. His mind was empty of thought, and he was glad for that. He had done things tonight that would give him nightmares in the days to come, he was sure.

Strong arms wrapped around his waist, and he released a heavy breath as he sagged against the deceptively strong form behind him.

A soft chuckle brushed the hair over his ear. "We're going to need sleeping potions after this is done."

"Yes. But at least it will be done."

A beat of heavy, knowing silence. It resounded with all the things that had been done, everything that the group of them had started, echoing without making a sound.

Cloud fell back without prompting, and Sephiroth simply leaned forward and opened the door. With two Turks guarding him at all times, he felt arrogant enough to never lock it. With the hard part done, they just walked into the President's suite. Then immediately dodged as a bullet whizzed where his head had been, the others taking cover. He changed his dodge into a graceful sweep, bringing Masamune out as he did. The length of the blade and his arm was sufficient enough to slice clean through the gun. Also, it swept right through the President's fingers.

He could not stop the cruel smile when the big man himself starting cursing and yelling, holding the stumps of his fingers to his chest. "You fucking fool! Do you know what you've done! You've killed yourselves!"

Sephiroth stood straight, putting a hand on his face as a manic grin spread across his lips. His eyes glowed with absolute glee as he stared at the President through his fingers."Is that so. And who is left that's going to kill us, hmm?"

The muddy blue eyes spit complete fury. "I have troops all over this continent! They will-"

"Do. Nothing."

The words echoed in the sudden silence, as Cloud stepped to Sephiroth's side. His stance was lazy and arrogant; his eyes, face, and words anything but.

"They will do nothing. What do you think we've really been up to? What you always seem to forget is that it's not the people who should be afraid of the government." A small smirk twisted Cloud's lips, and even the President blinked, realization dawning in his eyes, swiftly followed by rising fear. Cloud's smirk only grew wider.

"It's the government that should be afraid of her people."

Cloud chuckled darkly as the last nail hit home in the man's eyes, and fear turned to despair. Connecting all the dots over the past few months. "You got their loyalty."

Now Zack came through the door, a cocky grin on his face. "Damn right. That was the hope from the beginning, trying to do all this without, well…" He waved a hand around. "This."

"You and your precious 'free energy'," the President spat bitterly, glaring at them with absolute hate. "It's there, it works, so why can't I use it? I've used it to make everyone's lives better! None of you would be where you are if it WASN'T FOR ME!"

Sephiroth's blade slide through flesh and bone, and his entire body jarred with the force when it sank into the wall. The others did nothing, as was agreed. He'd been the one to play nice and be at this man's constant beck and call. To have to listen to the vile, degrading things he said about him and his men. To follow his every command as though he was a whipped dog. Tseng would be the only other one to truly know what he had gone through at the hands of the President of Shin-Ra, but had decided that Sephiroth could have this moment.

The moment when his world refocused, and he had the man himself pinned to the wall, a sense of relief made his bones shake. Masamune was hilt deep through his chest. It was probably protruding into the next room.

His lifeblood began to pour out with every dying thump, staining his sleep shirt with an ever increasing color. A shaking hand tried to reach up, but he was quicker. With a short, sharp downward slash he pulled the sword free, cutting through the diaphragm and spine. He straightened from his slight crouch, lowering Masamune and watching dispassionately as death began to glaze the muddy green eyes.

"I hate you," the President wheezed, coughing and holding his gaping chest. "Fucking…hate…you…"

His head hit the floor, and the body was still.

And Sephiroth's mind broke, and reformed in a single heartbeat that echoed deep through his body.

Sephiroth wanted to let Masamune hit the floor, but he held desperately on and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and letting it out. It did nothing but heighten the ominous buzzing in his mind, and he turned calmly, sheathing the sword and walking past those standing there. His heart was beginning to thump increasingly into a panicky rhythm. He needed desperately to be alone. It had been awhile since he had felt it, but the need to be alone to think things through drove him.

He made it through the door before Cloud's confusion hit him, and a furry bulk pushed him roughly into the wall. He didn't even manage to get out more than a grunt and a glare before teeth grabbed his clothing, and he was hanging on for dear life as Jaz jumped down a flight of stairs. She then twined around the corner quick as a cat and went down another flight. He couldn't even think with the wind making his hair flare back, having to balance himself constantly on her moving body.

Finally they stopped at the landing before the door leading out, and he slid, shakily, from her back. She stayed right behind him as he walked out, keeping her nose pressed against his shoulder. As the still, chilly, night air hit him, he was suddenly grateful for her solid bulk at his side. He leaned into her, basking in the utter silence around them, and simply breathed.

A weight lifted from his shoulders even as an equally heavy burden settled onto his heart. This chance to be free from Shin-Ra had come at a heavy cost. The men that both sides had lost, and the family, and the friends…

Jaz whined, and he started at the sound. He relaxed his hands as she turned her head and licked his neck, nuzzling her head along his chest. He smiled slightly and began to pet and scratch at the fur of her neck and shoulder that wasn't encrusted with blood. Her eyes drooped in sheer pleasure and he smiled truly. Even though she was as intelligent as a human, she was still a canine.

By the time he had moved onto her chest and she was almost asleep, loosing himself to the simple pleasure of bringing joy to someone, Cloud and the others walked quietly through the door. He paused and smiled slightly at them, nodding at his lover's questioning look.

"I'm fine for now," he assured. "Have you spoken to Tseng?"

"Yes. Anyone who is going to leave has left. He said to give him an hour."

Sephiroth nodded, and shook his head with a smile as Jaz sighed. They would all be busy setting up the bombs in the Tower and on the Plate, and she wasn't able to do anything.

They each had five bombs apiece, and it would be more than enough for what they needed to accomplish. As a way to include Jaz, Sephiroth took enough bombs for each pillar that held up the Plate, and climbed back on. She took him from place to place without him telling her, and when each bomb blinked red, signifying that it was ready, his heart sped just a bit more. When Midgar fell, it would be a symbol to everyone around the world that Shin-Ra was finally gone. A new era would begin, and though it would be a rocky start, it would happen.

It was happening.

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Tseng placed the last bomb, and checked the time. He still had fifteen minutes to leave Midgar and the surrounding area.

With a satisfied nod he stole a motorcycle, and dialed Aerith as he started it. His earpiece was snug in his ear as she answered, and he threw the bike into drive.

"What's your status?"

"We're all out. You've got thirteen minutes Tseng." She hung up.

He dodged through cars and some dead bodies as the bike roared, but he could admit that the now dead city sent a shiver up his spine. This would be the last time he saw the place that he had called his backyard. It was a desolate landscape he drove past, but all he could do was smile sadly. Empires rose and fell, some lasting longer than others. It was a testament to the sheer brutality of the reign that the revolution happened so quickly.

He briefly checked his watch when he emerged out into the wilderness, and cursed when he only had five minutes left. He gunned it, and pushing the bike as fast as it would go. He glanced up when a shadow went across the moon, satisfied to see the flying figures above him. They were going even faster than he was, so he knew they'd be far enough away. He could feel the seconds ticking away in his mind, and the counting of the miles beneath the tires.

Twenty…then ten, and finally one. He was prepared for the concussive blast, but it still hit him like a brick wall. His back tire threatened to give out on him but he got it under control, hearing the creaks and groans as the city began to collapse. He knew he was far enough away to escape the falling buildings, but not to escape the shockwave the sheer mass was going to produce when it hit the earth. He ducked down as far as he could, trying to get some extra speed. He was getting nearer, then the boom that he had been dreading to hear echoed in his ears, swiftly followed by a burst of wind. It was enough to knock him over, push him farther then he normally would have gone. He slammed into rocks, stunted trees, finally rolling to a stop against the cliff face to the left of the tunnel.

He didn't move from where he was face down in the dirt, body screaming from pain as dust swirled thickly around him. He breathed some of it in and coughed, only to groan at the feel of a few broken ribs. He forced his breathing to be slow and shallow as he began to move his body. Slowly but surely he got onto his hands and knees, and moved to sit against the rock. He was sweating by the time he was done, and very aware of the broken right ankle he had. And the dislocated fingers, smashed kneecap, and one hell of a migraine.

As he sat there, the dust began to settle enough that he was beginning to see some of the destruction. Slowly the picture grew, and he suddenly had to swallow a heavy dose of nausea. The tower extended out into the desert, debris spread out in a large circle. He had done his fair share of destruction, but it was his hands – literally, he had built every single bomb – that had brought down an entire city. He could only stare, the horror receding enough for something else to join it.

ShinRa was gone, Midgar was gone, they had won


They were free.

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Reno blinked open his eyes to white, and saw a very familiar heart shaped face smiling at him.

"Aerith? What the hell woman?"

She blinked once, and then burst into laughter. She started walking up to him, and then slapped him on the shoulder, now snickering as he rubbed the spot. They always did have a relationship closer to brother and sister.

"Still the smartass, even after you die."

That sobered him, and he dropped his hand. "So this is the afterlife then? The Lifestream?"

She shook her head, grinning. "Nope, you're too stubborn to stay dead apparently. This is an in-between while your body heals."

Hope flickered through him. "So I'm not actually dead?"

She shook her head again, grin spreading.

"So…is anything wrong with my body?"

"From what I can tell, you'll have issues walking, but you'll be able to walk at least."

Reno just nodded and looked around the white space. "Do you know what happened?"

"Yes. As of two days ago, Midgar was destroyed."

He looked back at her, frowning in question.

"They put bombs on all the pillars and brought the entire city down," she elaborated with a smirk.

He grinned wolfishly and slung an arm around her shoulder, not missing how she winced. "Tseng was probably the one who built them."

"Yep, he was. Reno…"

His arm only tightened. "I can tell what happened Aerith. Who better to get you over the touching thing then someone who has been in your shoes, and bats firmly for the other team?"

He grinned brightly at her as she glared at him, laughing when she shook her head in exasperated amusement. She pushed him away, then leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

"You're in a vat of mako, so don't freak out too badly."


His first thought was blue. It was everywhere, and he remembered what Aerith had said. His eyes focused a bit more, and he smiled at what he was seeing. Aerith was cross-legged on the floor, and Tseng – his beautiful, deadly love – was staring at him with wide eyes. Slowly the man stood, and walked over to the tube that he was encased in, splaying a hand over the glass. With a small wince, Reno got his body to move how he wanted it to, and echoed the movement. Then tears coated Tseng's eyes, and he wanted nothing more than to reach through and pull the man into a hug.

"We did it Reno. ShinRa is destroyed, Midgar is gone, you're alive, Genesis is awake…we did it."

He traced out a question on the glass, and Tseng gave him a brilliant smile when he finished.

"Yes…we won."

A/N: Right. So It's officially done. A year overdue, but damn did my life get hectic. No excuse, I know. Thanks to all the readers who have stuck with this story thus far, and if you want to yell at me for taking so damn long, feel free.

Once again, thank you for reading, and for everyone who has helped me get this series as far as I did.