Title: As Equals
Rating: M (for violence, language and sexual references)
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of the pertaining characters, themes or settings. The rights to the before mentioned belong to Square Enix.
Author's Note: Okay, this chapter finally answers a few of the clues I've left you guys along the way - little scenes that I know annoyed and confused the heck out of you, and now I can finally round them off! For some reason, I am extremely hyper. Over the past week, I've also managed to figure out the entire plot for the next ten chapters. And it's in-depth too, so there should be little to nothing keeping me from updating over the next few weeks! Yay!
And in case you guys wanted to know ... someone happens to be turning seventeen on Wednesday! :D (wipes away happy tears) I'm so old...
Warning: There are a large number of unnamed OC's in this chapter. If they are named, they are important/recurring, and it would be wise to remember them. That is all.
Music Listened to While Writing: 'Just a Little Bit' by Kids of '88 (NZ Music FTW) and a wide variety of 80's and 90's Techno music I found in my Dad's old CDs.
Lyrics: You've got pressure dripping off your shoulders; let me be the one to relieve it -Kids of '88
There is no such thing as Mako, the Lifestream, or Materia in this fanfiction.
Part Five: SOLDIER
Chapter Three: Just a Little Bit
The door was open for only a flash before a slim figure slipped through and hastily shut the door firmly behind them, shaking a fold of her long shirt from where the latch had caught it. The Human turned to face them, revealing a woman in her mid-twenties with long mousy brown hair and slightly blood-shot eyes wide behind wire-rimmed glasses - an oddity for Cloud, having never seen the likes of them before with no means of accessing glasses in Nibelheim, and ShinRa heritage more than making up for poor vision in the Tower.
"Sephiroth! You have no idea how great it is to finally meet you agai-" the woman paused, finally spotting Cloud who had, until then, managed to evade notice by shrinking behind his older, larger half brother and lowering his telling flowing eyes. Now, however, he was forced to step forward and attempt a charming smile, hoping his "boy-scout looks" (as Zack had once referred to them - once only, however, having never made that mistake again) would do all the work for him.
"Hello, miss," Cloud somehow managed to twist a grimace at the sickly-sweetness of his voice into a passable smile. "I'm Cloud, Sephiroth's little brother." Cloud tried to ignore Sephiroth's hitch in breathing and tiny snicker. Tell a soul about this and you are so dead. "Can we please come in?"
"Oh-! Sephiroth, you never told me he was so ... so ..."
"Perhaps if we took this inside?" Sephiroth offered, remembering suddenly that the woman - Miriath's - home was surrounded on all sides, literally, by homes, families, at least one of them no doubt a paid scout for ShinRa, one of the only ways a street rat, slum-dwelling Human could make money in a city like Midgar. He realized Cloud must had noticed this sooner than he had; thus the sudden turn around from the blonde's usual shy, cynical nature.
"Of course, of course, come in - it's not much but-" she paused upon sighting the shocked, almost scandalized faces of her friends. "Oh. I forgot about you guys-"
"Miriath!" the nearest Human yelled hoarsely, his eyes almost bulging as they took in the two glowing ShinRa. He leapt from his sagging couch, flying over the arm, snagging an umbrella and jumping forward until the tip of the metal-wire umbrella was only a few scant inches from Sephiroth's nose, and Miriath was shielded by his protectively-curled arm. "Get away! Run! They're here to-"
"They're here on my invitation, Johna," Miriath paused, resting a too-thin hand on her trembling boyfriend's shoulder. "They mean us no harm."
"But - Miriath-" Johna lowered the umbrella unconscious - it was now level with Sephiroth's heart - as he turned his head to the pale woman. "-they're ShinRa!" he hissed, as if the low tone made any difference as to whether or not the two genetically-enhanced beings could hear them.
"So?" Miriath asked indignantly. "They came here to discuss something important with me-" Johna scoffed, and Miriath tightened her grip, her eyes pleadingly boring into what she could see of his own, "-something that could change our lives and theirs for good. This is real, Johna, it isn't a game anymore."
And with that, she uncurled her fingers from Johna's ruffled shirt and smiled at Sephiroth, beckoning with her now free hand as she stepped around her boyfriend's protective stance. "Come in! Come in, we can - talk."
Sephiroth nodded in thanks and stepped into the dark room - only one wall light illuminating the otherwise empty foyer. A half-open door revealed another room where couches and chairs and pitted tables groaned under the weight of seven curious students Neither of the rooms had windows, something Cloud noticed immediately as he followed the tall, imposing SOLDIER, and it set his heart racing. Hearing this, Sephiroth glanced back at him, but before he could comment Miriath had shut the door soundly and slipped a rusted metal chain-lock into it's hold.
"Come on into here, you can meet the rest of the crew," Miriath offered in a forcibly light voice, pushing the half-open door and revealing the rest of the half-stunned, half-furious looks directed towards the two imposers. "I assume this is about the offer you extended to me-"
"What offer?" Jonah demanded suddenly, alarming neither Sephiroth nor Cloud for they had heard the tightening of his hold on the handle of the umbrella; Miriath, on the other hand, was so highly strung that she jumping several inches at her boyfriend's rough and unexpected question.
"Offer? Heh, well - um-"
"Why don't we tell you about it when we're all calm and sitting down?" Sephiroth offered in his deep, silky tone that somehow seemed soothing, yet threatening at the same time. Johna paled, dropped the umbrella, and stepped rather quickly past Sephiroth and into the lounge, though he paused momentarily beside Cloud to glance down at him in confusion.
After him went Miriath, then Sephiroth, who was directed to a crooked wooden stool between the two lumpy couches. He looked almost comical, sitting with his knees up around his shoulders and his huge sword, Masamune, sticking out both left and right; in this position, his silver hair actually touched the floor, even pooling a little with it's length.
Cloud was the last to enter the room, and he paused a moment to catch his bearings before almost-smiling at what he saw.
There was one, long fluorescent light hanging from the ceiling, dark navy wallpaper with cuts and peeling corners revealing plaster underneath, one waist-high bookcase filled with photographs rather than actual books, a variety of posters cello-taped to the walls, and a handful of glow-in-the-dark stars and planets stuck to the ceiling, among them an upside-down promotional sticker of the latest design in space-craft.
Cloud lowered his eyes when he caught a loud a squeal and had just enough time to see a great mound of pink flying towards him before a voice screeched, "Oh-oh-oh he's so cuute!"
Cloud would forever claim against what happened next; it was instinct that made him do it, he would swear, he saw an enemy and he just - just. In any case, his tensely strung body and well-trained mind accessed the situation and intrusion on his personal space, and was swift to react; ducking under the hold, striking a few key nerves Tseng had taught him about and finally dealing a solid kick in the abdomen, sending his assailant flying into a centralized coffee table. It had only taken a few split seconds, but when the crash finally died down, Cloud blinked and avoided the incredulous looks of all in the room, focusing solely on the rumpled figure digging herself out from the small pile of cracked wood.
"Uhm ... sorry," Cloud said in a low voice, almost a whisper. "I'm a little tense. You shouldn't've rushed at me like that."
"About a decade Western Continent ... rural, not city dwelling, coupl'o years in ShinRa-Midgar, two-year interlude in Eastern Continent ... somewhere," a man in the corner immediately piped up, his clothes dark yet not quite gothic, his mouth apparently moving with a mind of it's own. "Lower Midgar influences in childhood, decreasing rapidly as time passes." He blinked. "Some life you've had, kid. But aren't all baby Shin-Ree's raised in the Tower?"
Cloud blinked at him, a little startled, when another voice picked up the commentary from his right.
"Don't mind him, he's doing a Masters in linguistics - he can't help it." The speaker was a woman with short, choppy blonde hair that revealed a inky tattoo of a blackbird in flight on the back and sides of her neck.
"Pard'n?" Cloud mumbled, blushing when he realized he had the undivided attention of all in the room, including the blazingly pink woman he had knocked down.
"Your accent," the bird-lady explained patiently. "He was analyzing the influences on speech, based on the company you keep. Western Rural, huh? How the hell were you out there for a whole decade? You don't look a day over five."
"This is Cloud," Sephiroth announced belatedly, somehow managing to stretch his legs out enough to prop his elbows on them. "My brother."
"You do realize he looks nothing like you?" a large (and not in the tall, muscly way) man commented rudely. "Or is him being your 'brother' a weird ShinRa thing, what with you all having the same bitch of a mum?"
"My mother was not a bitch!" Cloud growled, glaring at the man who spoke, his eyes lighting up as if somehow had flicked a switch within him. The man shrank back a little, yet even still managed to spit out,
"Well, she's a ShinRa 'aint she?"
"My Ma was just as Human as you are," Cloud retorted in a deadly-soft voice.
"Was?" Miriath asked softly. She was kneeling beside the small pile of broken wood and table, alongside the pink-woman, gathering the pieces and stacking them against one wall.
"Was," Cloud echoed in confirmation, crossing his arms and moving until he stood beside Sephiroth, leaning against his shoulder casually. Sephiroth acknowledged the movement by gently touching his shoulder briefly - not even having to stretch to reach it, something neither of them moved to comment on.
"What happened to her?" Miriath asked, trying to break the tangible tension in the small room.
"She ... ShinRa-" Cloud tried not to glance at Sephiroth, who had averted his face to the shoulder Cloud wasn't leaning against. "We lived in ..."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't've pried, it's not my business," Miriath cut into the silence.
"No, it's alright," Cloud disagreed. "If this is going to work, we need to trust one another. And it'd prefer it if your friends trusted us as well." He took a deep breath, and kept his eyes fixed on a the corner of an environmental poster that was in danger of falling off. "About twenty five years ago, Ma enrolled to be a Parent, or a Carrier as we sometimes call them. Someone who was going to give ... birth to a ShinRa. She was chosen by Kadaj; the result is Sephiroth," he waved absently to his silent brother, who didn't acknowledge the movement. "She was sixteen." He paused for effect, then continued, knowing he had the full attention of everyone in the room, from Sephiroth - who already knew the story from beginning to end, yet still needed to hear it again - to Johna - who was listening with a faint look of disgust, hatred, and fear. "Then, about ten years later, she met Vincent Valentine, a high ranking Turk who was fifth in command at the time. He ended up drinking the bar dry, and next morning, she woke up next to him." Cloud glossed over his parents' lone night together, trying to force images from his prepubescent mind; it was the last thing he needed right now, not including the fact it was completely unnerving to imagine your parents having sex. "She hid the pills that would have killed me, spat them back out, then ran to Nibelheim. The only-"
"-place in the world where the Satellite doesn't work," the linguistics-man finished for him, looking fascinated as he leant forward in his chair. "That's brilliant!"
"It is, isn't it?" Cloud smiled fondly for a brief moment, lost in his past. "We lived there for nine years. I grew up surrounded by Humans - I didn't even know I was ShinRa until I was six. But ... it couldn't last forever ... something happened. Me and one of my friends - a Human, just like you - got into trouble. My Presence flared up too brightly for the mountain to hide. ShinRa found us." Cloud closed his eyes against the room, and memories flashed before him. "Sephiroth came, along with his partners Angeal and Genesis. But the mountain hadn't had so many ShinRa on her slopes for so long ... she couldn't handle it."
"The eruption of '24 - you were there?" bird-lady's eyes widened in horror. "And you survived?"
"As far as I know, I was the only one who did," Cloud replied softly. "Ma died that day, same as Tif', and Johnny, and Gareth and-" Cloud's throat choked him, and he had to swallow hard before he could continue. "Anyway, Sephiroth brought me back here in his helicopter. They had to knock me out, I was fighting so hard. I didn't want to go."
Miriath stared at him from where she was kneeling, the pile of chipped and hanging ex-table forgotten. Bird-lady's mouth was hanging open, linguistics-man had his head tilted to one side in fascination, pink-woman had a tearful look about her, large-guy hummed thoughtfully as he resisted the urge to hack loudly, and Johna simply watched with a sense of detachment, as if what was being revealed didn't really apply to him.
"So ... I ended up here. And here I've been ever since." For some reason, Cloud left Reconditioning out; he didn't know why, just that he wasn't ready for a group of strangers, only two he actually knew the name of, to know his past so ... intimately. Sephiroth shifted beneath him knowingly, but Cloud didn't say anything; he couldn't.
"Yeah, well that's all nice and well, but that really doesn't explain what the fuck you're doing here," Johna announced rudely, earning himself a disapproving look from Miriath and a quick comment from the pink-woman of "shush, Johna, he's just a baby, you can't use words like that around him, you'll influence him!"
Cloud and Sephiroth both laughed shortly at this, Cloud adding,
"I'm older than I look."
"How old are you?"
"Fourteen!" Miriath stared. "But ..." Gear whirred in Miriath's head; she wasn't the leader and accidental founder of a liberation movement club for nothing. "Sephiroth said you were the leader of the Cause!"
"The Cause?" bird-lady frowned. "Isn't that that ShinRa-run webpage shooting for Human-ShinRa equality?"
"That's the one," Sephiroth nodded. "Cloud's one of the administrators there."
"Woah," pink-woman stared at the tiny blonde in clear amazement. "But the Cause is, like, serious! And you're ..."
"Just because I'm a kid, doesn't mean I fool around like one. I learnt early on, if you want to get things done, you have to be taken seriously," Cloud told them in a soft voice. "I'm taking my graduation tests in a week and a half's time. Just because I'm small, don't underestimate me." He gave the pink-woman a pointed look, glancing at the ruins of he coffee table and then back up at her. She blushed, still aching from the force of his aggressive defense, and remained silent.
"I still don't get it. Why're you here?" Johna demanded from where he was sitting on the arm of the couch furthest from Sephiroth and Cloud, the one shared by pink-woman, large-guy and bird-lady. On the other couch sat Miriath, another man about her age with similar looks to the pink-woman (save the pink) and a pair of twins, male, with matching woolen pull-on jumpers and plastic watches. The linguistics-man was still lurking in the corner, watching the proceedings curiously.
Miriath glanced at Johna lingeringly and began to speak when Sephiroth seemed disinclined to explain.
"Sephiroth ... has recently extended to me an invitation to appear on the Cause's website as a guest speaker to try and ... convince more ShinRa that Humans are actually worth something," she paused at the light movements her friends made, muttering and humming and shaking their heads. "I told him I would." This earned her even more mutterings and hummings and shakings of heads, until she was just about ready to throttle them; the half-crazed ShinRa Hater inside her still needed an outlet for it's frustrations, and they were looking more and more desirable as her next target. "But Cloud here wanted to make sure I was the right kinda person to be let onto the site, so he came to check me out before I logged in."
"Johna! Little, impressionable ears over there!" pink-lady scolded him again, ignoring the furious look Cloud shot her.
"They're lying, they're ShinRas! What the fuck could they get out of ShinRa-Human equality? They're already living the high life, they don't need to lower themselves to our level," his voice was bitter, spitting at them, and Miriath jumped up from her seat, her eyes flaring angrily.
"Johna! What is with you? I've never seen you so-"
"Miriath, stay out of this babe, I don't want you to get-"
"Guys! This isn't the time to-"
"For fucks sake, would you three shut up!" Sephiroth growled at Miriath, Johna and large-man, all three having stood from their respective seats to speak loudly, rudely, in each other's faces, their conversation bordering on an argument. "We didn't come here to start fights, we came here to negotiate a possible truce between our two races! We came here to extend a hand of peace, not hate. For the first time in your lives, could you ... trust us?" Sephiroth's voice grew quieter and softer as he drew on, until he was speaking slowly and peacefully, with a hint of threat and danger hidden in his deep tones. As his voice lowered and calmed, so did the Humans around him, the SOLDIER somehow manipulating their emotions with his own, a skill Cloud envied deeply. Sephiroth was a born leader; for all he was abruptly cold and often lacking in social situations, he sure knew how to manage people best, far better than Cloud could in any case.
"Why should we trust you?" Johna demanded rudely, glaring at the elder ShinRa. "What reason could you possibly have for this?"
"Because I've seen first hand what ShinRa has done to your people," Cloud replied quietly, still leaning against his brother's shoulder comfortably. "I was raised as a Human for nine years, I was friends with Humans, and I ... on the inside, I might as well be a Human. This - person you see, it's only a mask. I had to learn real quick how to at least pretend to be a ShinRa, but it's not who I really am. The person I really am, walks, talks, thinks, acts like a Human. Loves like a Human. And thats something the other ShinRa's just can't understand." Cloud paused. "I loved Ma, I still do ... and it really hurts me to see and live in a world where people like my mother have to live in fear from people like her own son. I want the rest of them to see that, too. But ... it could never happen unless you guys want it to." He looked up at them hopefully. "So - please? Just let it happen. Go with it. Don't fight us, please - we're only trying to help all of us in the end."
Johna looked first at Miriath, then pink-woman, then bird-lady, then in progression across the whole room, meeting the eyes of each and every single Human and ShinRa sitting there, before he sighed and muttered half-heartedly,
"Do I really have a choice when the ShinRa poster boy looks like a fucking boy scout?"
Cloud resisted the urge to kick him; as satisfying as it would be, such an action would be directly counterproductive to his purpose in Lower Midgar, and he wasn't about to ruin everything over something Zack had already claimed as a given fact.
The walk back to the Tower was slower, leisurely as opposed to purposeful, and when they hit Upper Midgar and the open sky above them, Cloud sighed, and slowed his pace even further.
"That was ... interesting," he admitted as they walked along the footpath, watching cars and buses and taxis whirl past.
"Chaotic, perhaps," Sephiroth contradicted him. "Are all Humans like that, or is Midgar just ... different?"
"No, I'm pretty sure the guys back in Nibelheim were the same," Cloud laughed shortly. "We had some pretty interesting conversations there, too." He kicked at a stone of concrete chipped off the curb and watched as it scattered down the path. There was no grass in Midgar, no trees, no wildlife or nature or any kind; just concrete and metal and neon lights that burned his eyes as they switched on, dusk fast approaching. "We should be heading back."
"We will," Sephiroth told him, "but there's somewhere I want to take you first."
"This is ... the edge of the Plate?" Cloud stared at the sudden drop at the end of the abandoned road, a small line of orange plastic cones decorating the otherwise unprotected, lethal fall. "I thought there would at least be ... a fence or - something."
"ShinRa rarely come out to these parts of Midgar," Sephiroth explained as they approached the cones, stepping between them with ridiculous ease; they weren't even bolted down. "And if they did, they would likely have the bone structure and healing abilities to survive such a fall."
"That would explain it ..." Cloud commented without thinking. "I've always wondered why I didn't die."
"Die?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow.
"Oh," Cloud looked up at him and back away quickly, hiding his face even though he wasn't blushing. "It's - well, the day you found me was because we kinda fell off a cliff on the edge of a ravine and-"
"How tall was it?"
Cloud paused to think.
"Well, probably about ten, maybe fifteen stories of the Tower? A bit more?"
Sephiroth was silent for a long moment, his face impassive, before suddenly bursting out,
"Cloud, you were nine years old when that happened!"
" ... but you just said ShinRa had the bone structure and healing abilities to survive falls like that?"
"I meant a full grown ShinRa. A nine-year old with no training whatsoever, and in a region where Presence is naturally suppressed ... should never have lived a fall like that."
Cloud gave a tired, short chuckle.
"I'm just Mr Impossible, aren't I?"
"As always, you exceed everyone's expectations, Cloud," Sephiroth agreed in his own, round-about way. Cloud smiled at him briefly, though it soon faded when he looked down, past the empty space his toes were perched on. He could see the shadow cast by the Plate, long and endless in the dusk; he could see houses, buildings, gardens and shops below, a whole other world. Humans walking to and fro, he could even hear them if he strained. These Humans lived on the fringe of Midgar, and in Lower Midgar, this was one of the best places to live; you were granted even just a few hours sunlight, more than anyone else in Lower Midgar saw in their lives. At sunrise, and sun set, on certain days of the year - it was even rumored the sun could be seen from the heart of Lower Midgar, and that Humans would gather in hundreds, thousands, just to see it. Yes, Cloud's smile was well gone by now.
"Everything's changed so much," Cloud sighed. "Five years ago seems so far away ... but I can still remember it like it was just last week."
"Five years ago, I didn't even know you existed. I didn't know my mother, I was as loyal to ShinRa superiority as any other high-ranking Council member, I was well on the way to greatness ... in our people's eyes, that is." Sephiroth folded his arms with a sigh.
"It didn't used to be this easy to talk to you. It feels like we've been ... brothers, forever," Cloud said in his smallest voice yet. "Though we only started talking again this morning."
"It was the same for Nanaki, wasn't it? As I recall, you barely knew him an hour before you were following him around like you were attached at the ... hip ..." Sephiroth looked down at Cloud, saw the brief sorrow that flooded the young blonde, and immediately regretting bringing up the absent brother, though he had no blood relation to Sephiroth himself.
"We spent barely any time together," Cloud whispered. "I mean, we talked a lot, and I felt better around him than anyone else ... but it just wasn't ... he calmed me down, in those first few weeks I was ... acting strange, but he kept me grounded! He kept me sane. And then - I woke up one night, and I looked for him, only to be told that he was ... de ..."
Sephiroth looked down at him in surprise.
"Dead? But Cloud, Nanaki isn't dead!"
Cloud's eyes snapped from their haze and locked onto Sephiroth's own green, feline pair. "What."
"Nanaki isn't dead. When someone is removed from the Tower, they aren't killed; if word got out, our reputation would be ruined even more than it already is, Gaia would have an excuse to cut off the contract with us, everything would be lost. No, people that are expelled from the Tower are-" Sephiroth halted mid sentence.
"Yes?" Cloud asked eagerly, or as eagerly as he could with a face as dangerously still as it was.
Sephiroth took a deep, calming breath.
"I believe you are ... familiar with the effect Beacon has on Humans?"
"Leo! Wait up!"
A dark-haired man with burning golden eyes stilled from where he had been slowly pacing the low wooden corridor that ran alongside a central building, and had broad, glassless windows opening into a beautiful courtyard of grass and blossoms and a shallow, gently rippling pond.
"Yes, Tifa?" Leo turned, tilting his head politely at the newly-teenaged girl who had appointed herself his keeper sometime in the last three years he had known her.
"I wanted to ... talk," Tifa said in her native tongue, her mother's tongue, tucking a strand of long, thick black hair behind her ear as she moved in beside Leo, her steps slowing to match his.
Tifa opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come. Finally, she looked up at Leo, her eyes taking in the carefully neutral expression he bore, and blurted,
"Are you okay?"
Leo stopped walking, and Tifa followed suit almost simultaneously.
"Why are you asking?" Leo's voice was soft, but deadly; a contradiction to the raging anger within all who knew him had seen, and experienced the brunt of at some time or another.
"It's today isn't it?"
"The ... the anniversary."
Leo was silent, staring at Tifa with those unnervingly golden eyes, with no sign of acceptance or dismissal of her statement.
"Of the day the Princess found you-"
"I am aware of ... of what today is, Tifa," Leo finally spoke over her, looking away as if in shame. "I am perfectly aware of what it should mean to me."
Tifa sighed and looked briefly at the wooden paneled floor, before raising her head and meeting his eyes squarely.
"Leo ... I know you don't remember any of your past life-" Leo huffed in dry amusement, and Tifa had to force herself to continue, "-but I just want you to know ... we're here for you, we all are. We don't care that you don't know who you were, we don't care that we don't know who you were. We're family. And family looks after one another." Tifa sighed, and continued, even though every nerve and cell in her body was screaming for her to stop. "I know you wonder what it was that you did to deserve what ShinRa have done to you ... but somehow, I know it was nothing wrong. I know you fear constantly that you have committed sins in your past that you can't even remember, but I know that isn't true! You're a good, kind person Leo, not even what ShinRa did to you could change that."
"How can you be certain, that I did not deserve what they did to me?" Leo asked in a low voice, almost a growl in quality. Harsh; filled with pain, pain he had refused to acknowledge since learning what those bright-eyed bastards had done to him.
"Because I can see who you are, and not a thousand years of Beacon could change that."
Leo's breath quickened, until he was fighting to keep himself still and unmoving.
"But then, if I was faultless and I did nothing wrong-" his voice cracked slightly as he began to tremble and shudder, "-they have ruined me for nothing! They - they did this to me for no reason. This is the dilemma I am constantly faced with, don't you see, Tifa? I have to have done something wrong, I have to have sinned or killed or - or done something unforgivable, because-" a tear rolled down his cheek, "-because why else would they do something so unforgivable in return?"
"Because they're monsters!"
"No!" Leo roared, turning and cracking his clenched fist against a wooden rail that separated the corridor from the tranquil garden on the other side. His voice fell to a pained whisper as he drew his now bloody fist from the splinters and cracks in the wood. "I cannot believe that." He drew in a trembling breath. "I won't."
Against his will, a vision came to him, a vision he had held close to his heart ever since the first day he could remember, the day he had been found - a grown man - on the shores of Wutia. This vision he knew was of this past life, the life he had never known, the life ShinRa had ripped from him forever. And of this vision, he could remember only one thing; blue eyes, piercing and bright and innocent and ... ShinRa.
Tifa blinked back her own tears, but did not move, refused to face the man who was on the brink of self-destruction.
" ... I know."
And then blue, piercing, bright, innocent, ShinRa eyes, filled her broken mind too.
Next: Part Five, Chapter Four: Savior. With exams and graduation growing ever closer, tension between Zack and Cloud rises.