Okay, this is a special fic for fairheartstrife, who asked for: 'Kingdom Hearts, Cloud/Tifa: Sacrifice. Giving him her light meant she lost a little of herself'. I'm not done. I've still got at least another chapter to go so this is a rare 'work in progress' for me. But - it fit the halloween mood and demonegg is a bad influence and so I'm posting it today and will get the next chapter up when that's ready. Fairheart - here's half of your fic. More to come shortly. Be aware, gentle readers, this is a bit darker and rawer than I usually go.


by TamLin

They were coming.

She fled into the desert, into the dull, into the shadows, and they came behind her.

She'd been human, once. She'd been real. She'd been… she'd had a name. She knew it, just as she knew what her own face looked like or how the muscles in her hands felt when she curled her fingers into fists. She just… she just couldn't remember.

She couldn't remember… so much. And each time she woke from nightmares she forgot as she opened her eyes… she suspected she'd lost a little bit more of what she had used to remember.

Her breath was rasping into her throat, abrading the raw tissue that it already found there. She'd started to scream. At first, she remembered this much – at first she hadn't screamed. Time and the constant ribboning of her skin though had finally drawn it out of her. First in grunts and then later in yelps until finally she had screamed. Just once – but that once had opened the gate and the screams had come easier and easier after that.

She'd forgotten a great deal. She apparently hadn't forgotten how to scream.

The thin air carried sound well here and she paused, slumping a shoulder against one of the rough sand pillars that covered this part of the desert like a dead forest. Panting, she listened… and heard nothing. Safe then. For the moment. For the second. For now.

The leather she wore, now torn in too many places to count, sounded loud as it rasped against the stone as she sank down. The bone had been laid open on one of her knees and she whimpered without awareness of the sound as it tapped against the cracked ground. It was cold in the desert. A dry brittle cold that matched the darkness. Shadows moved, like clouds over an already clouded sky, whispering hollows of black randomly over the twilight gray. She hunched into the shelter of the rock and wrapped her arms around herself. Warmth was just a word though. She didn't remember what it felt like or know the sensation now.

Her gloves were torn and coated in sticky blood and black powder. The powder belonged to them. The blood was hers. Wary, she turned her head and parted her fingers to examine the gash on her arm. It was bad. Worse than the rest. On that side, from that point down, her arm tingled and had frightening numb spots that felt nothing anymore. It was almost enough to panic her – except she suspected she'd already panicked some time in the forgotten past and she had nothing left to offer it now.

Drawing her knees up to her chest, she tucked her chin. Her dark hair fell around her shoulder and cheeks and she thought, vaguely, that somewhere far away inside of her she remembered when it had weighed more, when it had covered more of her. Something that had made her feel soft and feminine. She remembered… she remembered that she hadn't often felt soft or feminine. The memory fluttered away on butterfly wings and she forgot what she had been thinking of, only remembering the feeling.

They were taking pieces of her. Each time they came at her, they took more of her away when they left.

She didn't mind the physical parts. It was the parts of her soul and heart that she hated them for stealing.

Curling into a smaller ball, she swallowed and forced herself to recite the litany.

"Denzel. Marlene. Cloud."

It had been longer once. She could feel that. It had been a much longer list. She couldn't remember any other words anymore though and so she stubbornly repeated what she could remember.

"Denzel. Marlene. Cloud."

She knew they were names. She knew they were important. She just –

couldn't remember why…

"Denzel. Marlene. …"

Her breathing pattern stumbled and the panic griped her chest as she tried to control the hyperventilating. Third word. Third word. There was a third word.

What was it - ?

"Denzel. Marlene…. Denzel. Marlene…. Denzel. Marlene…."

She didn't have the liquid to spare but her eyes filmed over with tears anyway and her cracked lips continued to move. Important. She'd just lost something important. Something desperately important and her body shook.

What had she just lost? Where was the third word? Even if she couldn't remember what the words meant – there should be three words –

"Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene."

The hole opened up in her chest.

Where was her third word!?

Where was the third part of herself?

They came then. Ghosts of black ink and powder smoke that seeped upward through the cracks in the ground. She scrambled to her feet with a cry of denial. Each time – they found her faster. Each time…

She heard the chatter of their sharp teeth, the grind of the metal gears with their sharp edges, the clatter of their over long claws as they solidified around her. She heard the high-pitched giggles and the liquid deep bubbles of their satisfaction. Fisting her hands, she fell into a fighting stance. Her ruined voice muttered her sacred words.

"Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene."

It was broken though. Her chain of golden words. The space where the third one should have been lay blackened and burned out. She wasn't whole with only two thirds of herself.

They knew that. They fell on her like rabid wolves.

There was no plan to their attack, no grace, no overriding control. They were wild animals without a thought or a soul and they threw themselves at her without consideration of the monster right next to them. She spun and dove and dodged and rolled and her fists seeped light as they tore through the disjointed shapes. Each hit brought a shower of oily powder and the death of an attacker. They took pieces of her with them though as they went, with their long glistening black teeth and their bone white claws and their chittering sounds in her brain.

"Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene. Cloud!"

The tears threatened again and her chest heaved in sobs as she remembered her third word. As the light that coated her knuckles briefly illuminated her skin, flickering weakly like a candle left in front of an open window. Cloud. Cloud. Cloud.

"Denzel. Marlene. Cloud. Denzel. Marlene. Cloud. Denzel. Marlene. Cloud."

The scythe-like sweep to her side brought her down and her eyes dimmed as it ripped away flesh and blood and light and memory. The scream it pulled out of her was weak and she lashed out instinctively as her knees buckled, sending the fading, flickering light outward. As weak as it was, like a candle sputtering out, it was still enough to dissipate her attackers. Powder rained down around her and she choked on it.

"Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene. Denzel. Marlene…"

The sounds were syllables without sense. Nonsense noises that her mouth continued to murmur even though her mind saw no pattern behind them. Under her skin, pale light fluttered once – twice…

The bubbles dried up in the wine color of her eyes and they closed.

She woke screaming but her abused throat cracked the sounds. Weak, her fists pounded the hard packed earth under her. Words… she'd had words once…

What had they been?

The sobs came then but there were no tears and her abraded throat wore the sounds raw. She felt as if she'd just lost her heart, except when she put her hand to her chest, she could still feel it, slow and sluggish. Croaking sounds still in her throat as her chest heaved, she dragged herself to her knees. The world was twilight shadows and pits of blackest night. She tried to rise and missed her footing. Her arms screamed protest as she caught herself.

She tried again.

Fell again.



Finally, she stayed down, gasping in the black dust and the cracked grain from the ground her face was pressed against. Her hair was a curtain. Her hair… something niggled at her in the back of her mind but she couldn't remember. Something about her hair…?

Bracing an arm under her, she pushed herself up. She got her knees under her and bone ground against dirt. She forced herself forward. She would crawl. On her knees. On her elbows alone if need be. But she would not stay down.

Mutters came from her lips as she moved, inch by inch, across the deathless cold ground. They weren't sounds that made sense. They weren't even sounds that repeated themselves. They were nothing but murmurs of broken noises punctuated by raw sobs and the whimpers each time her knee was forced to bear weight.

It was better than the silence.

This was the land of the dying.

And everyone died alone.

Her knees gave out and she rested, panting. How had she gotten here? Where had she been before coming to this place? She didn't remember but surely there must have been a place before this place?

In her mind, there was an echo, too faint to hear. It had grown too weak, given too much of itself, in its journey from her heart to her head. But it still whispered soundlessly of a place that had been before this one. Of a word that was sacred and strong and sweet and confusing. She forced herself to her knees and moved on.

She couldn't hear the word but she listened to the sound of its absence and her cracked lips curled.

Her knees gave out again and she pulled herself forward with nails and fingers and elbows and pushing feet. She wasn't going anywhere. That wasn't the point. The point was that she wouldn't lay still and wait for them to come for her. Who she was – was long gone. But what she was remained and she would not wait for them to come and get her.

She heard the hissing, whispered sound that their smoke made as they seeped upward through the cracks in the barren ground.

This would hurt.

The whimper escaped her.

It would hurt when they killed her.

They would take a very long time as they killed her.

She was afraid of their blades, the ones they wore in their mouths and on the ends of their bony fingers.

Snicker-snack… and reptile green eyes laughed at her…

She rolled over, unwilling to not see them when they came. Her chest burned like fire as she tried to breathe and all her words had abandoned her. She raised a hand weakly but no light flickered under her skin or collected in the hollows of her knuckles anymore. It made her smile, bitter and resigned. The sparks had long ago faded from her eyes and their dun color lifted now.

There were ever so many more of her monsters than she'd ever seen before. She knew they were her monsters. They existed for her and her alone. Now they massed around her, over-jointed limbs and elongated jaws that didn't seal into their mouths properly. Thin fingers like barren tree twigs that gleamed where bone and claw were exposed. Worse of all, even worse than the blades of tooth and claw, were the hollows where their eyes should have been. There was no glint of light there, no reflected liquid. Just… holes that went backward and downward forever with nothing to stop their fall or fill the emptiness.

Her eyes would look like that.


She forced herself to her knees again and they let her. They stood silent while she struggled and gasped and cried out. What was the hurry? They all knew it was over.

Finally, she was on her hands and knees. Her head was down as she panted. There would be no caught breath though. With a nod, she braced herself. For the last time, words came to her and with those sounds, a meaning.

"Well – " she didn't recognize the voice anymore. "Come on then."

Whether they understood her or not – they came.

Her world became a blur of pain and darkness and the sick, sick sound of tearing flesh and grinding bone. She didn't remember her first scream but whenever it had started, she couldn't stop now. Fingers flailed and gripped, tore and tossed. Her feet kicked and her body rolled. Dark powder fell around her.

There were too many.

There had always been too many and they were done waiting for her to die.

She felt skin part too close to her eye and the rush and flood sealed her sight shut on that side of her face. They didn't try to pin her down and she rolled through their ranks as their teeth fastened on her, while their claws laid her open. One of them had a shoulder and the other caught her calf and they were pulling her two different ways, dogs worrying a piece of meat, while the rest stabbed and bit and pulled and died. In silence.

She'd lost the ability to scream.

Though her good eye she saw the gleam of pale silver sword turned into lashing claws and, mind dulling, she was given three last words.

Make it quick.

The twilight left the land and the pools of darkness rose to swallow everything. Her hand clawed helplessly at the creature fastened to her shoulder even as the world went to black and silver glints around her. A sound escaped her, words she didn't know but that had been trapped in her heart all her life and tore free now as death opened her chest wide.

"Loved you…"

Above her in the black a single dark wing unfolded and she found she still had the power to whimper when she wanted to scream. Liquid rained down around her, choking her, clotting her throat with blood and bile. She felt herself wrenched upward and her consciousness flickered at the flood of new pain. You weren't allowed to pass through this ending so easily though and she remained aware. Something horrible had her and it was huge and terrifying compared to the monsters that had been eating her before. It flashed claws of gold and when it screamed the roar broke the air itself, shattering it into slicing glass and splintered ice.

Terror took her monsters then but she didn't notice. It had taken her too. Because she'd felt its claws sink into her skin and, for once, instead of taking, the penetration forced something into her. Something dark and feverish and boiling, something that twisted like snakes and moved as fast as an incoming storm. It hurt - !

It hurt, it hurt, it hurt –

She'd thought the pain in her flesh was horrible but it was nothing compared to the pulsing dark. Because the dark swept into the empty heart in the very center of her and even if she had been able to scream –

No scream could ever encompass the pain of her heart being eaten alive by black fire.

It fueled desperation where even being torn apart before couldn't and she fought in panic. The poison boiled in her blood though, gnawed its way through her chest, and the claw that pinned her against the monster's stone form was relentless.

The tears finally came then.

Because she hadn't minded dying. It was being defeated that she hadn't wanted.

She heard the slap of a wing, sharp and snapping in the ice cold and her hair shifted around her as she was pulled upward. Angels didn't come to places like this though. Or rather – only the dark kind did.

Her heart burned as it was consumed in her chest and she left a trail of blood over the barren landscape below and soaked through the form of the creature that carried her.

Her mind passed into dark fire and shadows and the rest of the world fell away.