AN: The final chapter! I don't think I missed anyone major out, sorry if I have. I hope you all have enjoyed reading, and Sophie, I hope this makes it make more sense! (Note to anyone reading – only Cloud's memories of Reno are canonish, Reno's past is never stated. But this isn't entirely true to the series, just a rough outline of who's who for a friend.)
Warnings: Bad language, gay lesbian and straight pairings, mentions of abuse, sadism and prostitution.
I guess now I'm back from ice cream I'll have to face it. I've cleared my mind enough to remember, though I wish I couldn't. I'm lucky, I spent a lot of time under his "care" unconscious from pain. Zack wasn't so fortunate. He felt everything, suffered everything. I couldn't help. I couldn't even move. I just listened, hearing the screams of the best friend I had. It drove me to madness and I only just escaped.
Him. Hojo. He was the true monster behind all of this – behind Aerith and Nanaki's kidnap, Sephiroth's madness, Vincent's grief and eternal torture, Zack's death. Even my shattered mind. It's all down to him, and he did it all in the name of science, a smile on his face and a scalpel in his hand. I can remember being tied down, the blade running over then piercing my skin... I try not to remember. I don't want to be back there again. Not ever. That's another reason for me to never truly trust ShinRa. They sent me to him. No sane person would send another into Hojo's care. He robbed me of my youth. I went into those labs as a frightened, naive and distressed sixteen year old, and came out five years later catatonic, world weary, knowing far too much.
But then, President ShinRa wasn't a sane man. He was the one that had allowed the planet to be abused for our benefit. That wasn't all he violated and destroyed, the man took whatever he wanted, operating the harshest policies for the captured countries. Soon almost the entire world was enslaved by the company, bent to his will. He loved it, having everyone under his power, being able to control them. I only glimpsed him in my first parades as a ShinRa cadet, and he disgusted me. Zack was disgusted too, but it was a far deeper disgust. The President was fat from overeating, and still surrounded by the world's most beautiful women, all willing to do whatever he told them to for his money and their survival. He wouldn't stop, not until Sephiroth murdered him and ended it for good.
No wonder Rufus started out so fucked up. He was President ShinRa's son, and after the President's death took control. He demanded that he was called "President Rufus", trying to distance himself from his father's attitude. He had his own sins, captivated by his own idea of a better world, and so we fought against him. Now though, we've reached a stalemate, and he funds the WRO, but is still as cold and calm and collected as always. I had thought he was like his father, but due to Zack's memories and more recent experiences, I've begun to understand. He does want to make the world better, he just didn't know how. He was a very lonely boy, frightened by his father. He didn't know how to start a normal relationship, how to make friends or win people's respect. He's frightened. Deep down, sometimes I can see a child, and they're scared. They don't know what to do. They're still waiting for their mother, just like Sephiroth was. I think that there's a lot about Rufus that I don't know. That I don't want to know. When he came to power he removed many of his father's business friends from power, many of them killed by the Turks. Those he couldn't remove he avoids. He doesn't shake hands, doesn't touch. He's an island.
Yet Rufus's existence as an island has a single drawbridge, with just enough space to allow one person access. A Wutaian man that he trusts, that has got through a tiny chink in his otherwise impenetrable armour. Tseng. He's a Turk, a cold blooded killer like the rest, but with Rufus he's gentle. He's nearly died so many times, and when he was tortured by the Remnants, Rufus was so desperate to get him back he even asked me for help. Tseng returned, and Rufus recovered from the illness that was crippling him. I know that everyone recovered, but I think that for him, Tseng helped. It isn't that Tseng's his lover – though the way I have seen them look at each other such thoughts could be excused, and for all I know, t may be the case. Tseng is his everything. Tseng is his bodyguard, his teacher, his mentor, his friend. I don't think that Rufus could exist without him. Rufus is strong, but it is Tseng that gives him that strength. Without it, he'd be nothing.
I don't really know much about Elena, but she works as Tseng's partner. She was also captured by the Remnants, and like him rescued by Vincent's. She's the only one of the four main Turks that's female, and she makes mistakes. But she tries to fix them, and she's confident and friendly and happy. She's the most human of the lot. With Tseng spending more time with Rufus, Elena often visits, taking Yuffie out on shopping trips. I pity the poor shop owner who finds himself faced with them. I'm relatively sure they take without paying, and equally sure that the shop owner feels it's a fair price to see the back of them. The two of them have a lot in common, both with feelings for a dark haired man who's distant and ignores them. I'm sure they'll find the happiness they deserve, and it will be a relief for Tseng and Vincent when they're no longer being stalked. I'll see her occasionally in the bar, but only a couple of times a month.
Reno however is a permanent fixture in the Seventh Heaven. That's not really surprising, he likes to drink, and flirt, and wait for Rude to turn up and lead him home. Reno is possibly the most confusing set of memories – I have my own and Zack's, and often they contradict so much it doesn't feel like we're thinking about the same person. To me he is a loudmouth drunk, a skilled torturer and always confident, messing around with other men but always returning to Rude at the end of the night. To Zack he was something else. Zack's first memory of him is him as little more than a child, fifteen, standing there in bare feet and torn clothes, saying he wanted to be a Turk. A boy from the slums, from the worst sector. He'd had a bad start to life, that much was obvious just by looking at him, by seeing the scars on his face, carefully carved beneath his eyes. Flirting came naturally to him, but then, he'd had to survive somehow. Zack had taken him in, cared for him, helped him fill in the necessary forms to apply, and turned down Reno's offers of favours in return. They'd been together once, and Reno had been shocked when Zack had held him afterwards. He'd expected to be turfed out of bed once his use had been completed. He's more confident now, and I think his flirtations now are his way of ensuring Rude still cares.
Rude does care. To look at him, you'd think he was a monster, not a lover. He's tall, dark, bald. Eyes always hidden beneath sunglasses, face severe. He rarely talks, and the mere presence of him in an interrogation room is known to sometimes make a victim crack faster than anything Reno can do with his EMR. When I...it might have been Zack... yes, it was Zack who found out. When Zack found out that Rude and Reno were together, he was frightened for his friend. But despite his harsh appearance and aloof nature, Rude has been a devoted and kind boyfriend for Reno, protecting him. Reno's grown with his help into someone successful, someone who can look Platers in the eye and not feel that he belongs both physically and figuratively beneath them. This change in attitude has led to cockiness, but he deserves it more than most. Rude helped him recover after Reno was ordered to drop part of the plate, killing those beneath it so that we, AVALANCHE, would be blamed. Reno hated it but he did it, and now he's second in command of the Turks, and technically Rude's boss. Reno informed me when he was drunk that that made the bedroom interesting, but I think he was joking. Rude might tolerate Reno's games with others, but I doubt they're allowed when they're together.
Well I think that's everyone. Looking back on it, I can remember my own memories clearer, but I still have Zack's. They're a part of me, and I'm proud of them. I won't let them be taken away. I don't think I will burn this. I'll seal into a letter, and make sure I can return to it if I ever feel lost again. If I get to the point where I no longer need it, I will bury it, and then one day someone else can read this and try and see the world through my eyes. I hope that they understand how lucky I have been with my friends, and that they can see why I'm so proud to have had Zack as a guide, to have provided his memories with a vessel. I am honoured to have known him.
Well, I guess this is it. If you're reading this, you're either my future self, or someone who's found the letter. Don't let these memories die.