Exit

Chapter 1: Playing with Materia

Summary: While fiddling with an Exit materia, Cloud thinks back onto the events of Meteor. Something unthinkable happens. Time-travel.

Authors notes: Yay I'm starting a fanfiction! *crickets chirp* But I really have no idea where this is going. Genesis will be in it. Somehow. *shifty eyes*

Genesis: I had better be, you keep fangirling over me.

Scarlet Rhapsody: *hits him upside the head* I don't own anything. Not even the figurine of Cloud that I accidentally broke the leg off and can't fix. D:

Genesis: *whispers* Please don't fl6me, it's really a waste of time. She likes comments that boost her incredibly low confidence level.

Scarlet Rhapsody: Oi! No puns with the nickname! And critique would be nice too! ^^

~*~

Cloud leaned against one of the remaining pillars in Aeris' church. Even after the ordeal with Kadaj and the other clones, he still slept in the church. Many times, Tifa had offered him lodgings at 7th heaven, but he had always declined, preferring solitude to company. Even when they were AVALANCHE, Cloud had felt stifled, going out for walks alone when they made camp at night. After Meteor, the group broke up, no longer having a purpose or any sort of an excuse to stay together.

Vincent had been the first to leave, a curt goodbye before vanishing.

Yuffie went back to Wutai as a hero, though all she did was complain and swipe materia the whole way.

Reeve was desperately trying to make a decent government that actually worked to deal with the Midgar survivors.

Cid went back to Shera, mumbling something about trying to rebuild the rocket.

Barret was called to North Coral as Mayor. That had shocked everyone. Even Vincent raised an eyebrow.

Nanaki was protecting Cosmo Canyon, and had taken over the teachings of the planet from Budahagen.

Tifa and Marlene went to Edge, Tifa re-establishing 7th heaven and getting Marlene a decent education. She had also adopted Denzal, a kid whose parents died with Midgar.

Cloud, having nowhere else to go, joined Tifa to Edge but chose to stay in the abandoned church.

The blond sighed, head tilting back until spiky hair was pressed flat against the pillar. So much had happened in such a small amount of time. Aeris, Zack, Biggs, Wedge… He went through the names of the fallen who had not made it to the end of the journey. Tifa's father, his own mother, the entire town of Nibelheim, all destroyed by Sephiroth.

"Why." Cloud thought the singular word over in his head, repeating it like it would change the past. "Why, why, why…" He clutched the Exit materia in his hand before tossing it gently at the wall. It made a soft 'clink' as it hit the wall, then landing on the wooden floor of the church and rolling back to him. He looked at it through cerulean eyes that were shrouded by memories, and thought of picking it up and throwing it at the wall again. It shimmered green, catching the light just right, as if taunting him to throw it again.

Against his better judgment, he did. He knew Tifa would kill him for breaking a mastered materia, so he was gentle with it. After all, it was one of the materia that they had found during their search for Sephiroth, and it was the only mastered Exit they had. It was somehow satisfying, to hear it hit the wall and then watch it roll back, unfailing.

Clink, thunk, roll.

He rhythmically tossed the green orb at the wall, losing his mind in thought once more. Thinking back, he tried to recall when everything had started.

Clink, thunk, roll.

His first thought was the Nibelheim mission, but soon remembering that it was before that. Zack's memories were still with him, a bit fuzzy but they were still there.

Clink, thunk, roll.

Cloud delved into the Zack part of his mind, desperately trying to recall when it had started. Snippets of scenes came to mind.

Clink, thunk, roll.

A man with chestnut hair, a red coat, and a single black deformed wing jutting out of his left shoulder, yelling with a voice of pure hatred, 'ShinRa lapdogs!'

Clink, thunk, roll.

A single white wing fully spread, a few feathers dropping lazily to the ground.

Clink, thunk, roll.

The materia hit the wall again, calming the blond. He shook his head to clear it, materia in hand. Taking the time to examine it, Cloud found a small hairline crack flawing the perfect sphere. He doubted that anyone without mako-enhancements would be able to see it, but if Tifa found out then she would kill him. Source of relative entertainment lost, he resorted to tossing it between his hands. It was less effective in keeping him calm than tossing it against the wall, but he didn't want it to break. Cloud Strife had never broken a single materia, and he didn't intend to start now.

Again, he thought back on the Jenova-Sephiroth issue, but couldn't pinpoint an exact time. It was sometime before Nibelheim, but after he had enrolled in the SOLDIER training program. Maybe even after he had failed SOLDIER and had become cannon-fodder.

Overcome by frustration, his grip on the Exit materia tightened considerably. He had long stopped passing it back and forth between his hands.

'Why,' he asked himself, 'why can't I just let go of the past?'

He was gripping the powerful orb with such force that his knuckles were turning white, though Cloud didn't notice. Cloud was so deep in self-blame and frustration that there was no way that he could dig himself out. He blamed himself for letting the events leading up to Meteor and for his friends' deaths. Asking for forgiveness from Aeris when she had appeared didn't help, as she wouldn't let him.

The mastered Exit in his clenched hand couldn't take the amount of force that Cloud was putting on it, not with that hairline crack. While he had been brooding, Cloud had been putting MP into the stone, powering it up without knowing it.

Now it flashed green, an excessive amount of energy being put into it. Splinters appeared, starting from the small crack in the stone, spreading outwards, the result of too much pressure both within it and physical force. White light bust from the cracks in the stone, merging with the green it was already emitting. The stone couldn't take it anymore; even at the mastered level, it still had a limit. It unleashed the power stored within it, and with a mighty 'CRACK', it shattered with a flash of the brightest white Cloud had ever seen, sending materia dust everywhere.

Cloud's vision was filled with white, and he felt like he was being pulled backward through some sort of viscous liquid. He thought he heard sounds wiz by, like in a large city like Midgar had been. Suddenly, he was jolted to a halt, and actually fell over from his sitting position. Standing up, he leaned on the pillar behind him for much-needed support. Forcing his eyes for focus, Cloud realized two things.

The good thing was that he was in a church.

The bad thing was that it didn't look like the one he just left.