Author's Note:This is a completely Alternate Universe. As usual, I'm starting out with what's basically a prologue. Other chapters will be much longer (6,000-10,000 words long). Friends and foes alike: Welcome! *Opens large, dramatic doors to reveal a blinding light.*

Disclaimer: Holy Guacamole! It's mine! …Oh, wait, no. I read wrong. Final Fanatics VII is mine…

Warning: Language. Violence. Slash. Non-slash.

(***Cloud Strife***)

March Nineteenth, 2003:

"It's your birthday, correct?" Large blue eyes looked up to meet cruel grey. A nod was all Cloud offered in response. "And how old are you today, Little Monster?" Cloud didn't give a verbal response to that, or any response really. The professor knew that he turned twelve today. "Not feeling very talkative today, are you?" Again, Cloud kept his mouth shut, this time earning a chuckle from Hojo. "You never are… Either way, I came here to give you something: a birthday present." Blue eyes narrowed, not liking the smile on Hojo's face. Whatever he was offering, Cloud didn't want it. "I want to give you an opportunity, a deal, really." Cloud wasted no energy in pretending that he didn't care what Hojo had to say. They both knew that Cloud's interests were peaked. "I've noticed that you've been more distant lately, dreaming of the outside world most likely. You want to be a part of it again, no?" Another nod on Cloud's behalf was the answer. "Well, I propose that you become a part of it for the next seven years." Cloud's eyes widened at the prospect of living out there, with other people, just like everybody else. "Don't get ahead of yourself, Mr. Strife. There's a catch. If you can find love, true love, within that seven years then you can be free of this life. You can stay out there, with the one you love, forever." The hope that Cloud was feeling vanished abruptly.

Cloud "worked" in a military research facility known as the Turks. It was military because the people not researching were trained for assassination; research because it's where scientists experimented on the abnormal people of the world. Cloud was one of those abnormal people. He could see into a person's past with a single touch. The only problem? It happens every time he touches a person, no matter what. That and the fact that the first memory to come up will be the most traumatic, and usually the most painful one. Also, when Cloud sees a memory, he doesn't just see the memory. No, Cloud feels your emotions, hears your thoughts, and experiences what happened to you through your eyes. He hates it. It prevents him from ever really getting close to a person, for as soon as they find out, they shy away. They don't want someone knowing their ever thought. It made him a monster, and while a monster can love a person, a person can never love a monster.

"And if you can't find someone who you love that loves you in that seven years, you'll come back here. You'll do what I want, everything I want, forever. Do we have a deal?" Hojo's pale hand reached out for Cloud to shake, offering him a chance at both freedom and damnation. Cloud only hesitated for a moment before latching his hand onto Hojo's.

Hojo stood over a sickly man, grinning like a maniac. He had wondered when the poor excuse for an experiment would die…

As quickly as humanly possible, Cloud yanked his hand away. He was free! Even if only for a little while, he was free… Cloud ignored the crazed grin lighting Hojo's sunken in face, ignored how the greasy brown hair fell over the man's bony shoulders, and ignored how the cold eyes followed his every move. Instead, he focused on his bright blonde hair falling in near gravity-defying locks around his face. He focused on the path in front of him, the way to his room. He would collect his things and leave. He would be okay in the outside world, he had all the documents he needed. After all, he had graduate from high school at age eight and then college at ten. He was a prodigy by all means. Then again, every moment not spent in school were moments of torture. He had been experimented on, tortured, and used for investigations. All in all, Cloud wasn't sure what was worse. It all hurt, hurt so much. But now wasn't the time to think about that. Now was the time to get out, and get out he would.

February Eighth, 2010:

Cloud leaned back in his chair at the ShinRa police department in the city of Midgar. While he loved his job, his life, he knew that time was running out. In little more than a month, he would be forced to go back to the Turks, and that would destroy him. It would completely destroy him to know that he would never be able to do anything of his own free will again. Bright blue eyes snapped open as Cloud decided not to think about it, instead focusing on the blood spatter analysis report in front of him; the one he wrote. Cloud knew everything there was to know about blood, and used that knowledge. Of course, he could be anything else. All he had to do is touch someone who knew how to do something. That's exactly why he chose to be a blood spatter analyzer. It was something which he learned on his own. Cloud hadn't touched any experts, he hadn't touched anyone. After only a few days in the real world Cloud had leaned back into his guise of being an aphenphosmphobic, also known as a haphephobic, haptephobic, and chiraptophobic, which meant to be afraid of touching or being touched. He wasn't truly afraid, but he certainly didn't want them to activate his "gift." It always felt like he was invading their personal space.

As his eyes went over the papers, his mind wandered. It was ironic, really, that Cloud was working in that particular police department when one considered who ran the place. Yes, the head of the ShinRa police was none other than retired, twenty-seven year-old General Sephiroth, who was also the Headmaster of the ShinRa Military Academy. It was the same General that more than one person had begged Cloud to assassinate. Cloud, of course, didn't. It wasn't that he cared for the General, admired or respected the man, no, the reason that Cloud refused to kill Sephiroth was Zack. He had went to college with Zackary Fair, the current Second-in-Command in the ShinRa Military, right under General Hewley, more commonly known as Angeal. Zack was currently dating the man. That didn't really have anything to do with Cloud's reasoning though. Zack had been Cloud's first friend, only friend, and Cloud would never do anything to hurt him. Back in the Second Wutai War, which happened when Cloud was nearly eleven, Zack, Angeal, Sephiroth, Genesis Rhapsodos, and Vincent Valentine were captured by the Wutais and tortured, experimented on, a lot like Cloud. The difference was that Cloud stayed in his own personal Hell, alone, from the day he was born to the day he turned twelve while they had each other, were only there for a little over eight months, and spent it with Professor Gast Faremis, not Professor Hojo, a much lesser of two evils. Of course, as soon as Cloud had heard about it he had snuck out and set them free. They didn't see him do it, no one did, but he had. He had freed them from their prison and made sure that escape was possible. ShinRa had won the war the very next day.

A sigh escaped his lips. That was the past, he had to move on. Sparkling blue eyes squeezed shut suddenly. How could he move on when that horrible past was his future as well? His nails clenched around the paper, crinkling it slightly. Sometimes he convinced himself that someone else should have to go through it all, not him. Sometimes he convinced himself that someone else should have to suffer 24/7, that he hadn't done anything to deserve such a fate, but he would feel guilty immediately afterwards. No one deserved such a fate, and it was better him than someone who really mattered, who could make a difference. Cloud would rather have it be him than Zack. So, with a deep, calming breath, Cloud opened his eyes. He could handle whatever life threw at him. He had to. Slowly, this time actually paying attention, Cloud began to look over his report. It was time to live in the now because the way things were going, now wouldn't last too much longer.