All disclaimers applicable.


Xehorista Tora


Chapter Ten


They had left, frantic words and a frantic hug and kiss goodbye from Zack, and she and Reeve were the only ones in the room. The president was frantically calling officers and workers, trying to prepare Midgar for the worst crisis it had seen since Meteor.

All that reconstruction; rebuilding houses and shops and /lives, and now it might all get swept away by the oncoming rush of Jenova's troops, as inevitable and strong as the sea.

It wasn't fair; that they all work so hard to have it be destroyed time and time again. And how tiring.

She would do something that nothing could take away. Something permanent.

And the voices of the Cetra in her head rose to a fever pitch, a chorus of screams and cries as they felt the onrushing force, felt Jenova in all the monsters, felt /him/.

/Him. He's here, already. Oh Cloud, Cloud, you must be so /tired/. /

But that didn't matter to the blond; that had never mattered to the blond. In the face of that courage, and that strength, how could she do less?


Reeve's voice startled her; she snapped her head up to stare at him as he put the phone down and addressed her again.

"Aeris, I've called Tabitha; she's already begun assembling medical backup and is coming up to meet you and take you to them."

She smiled at him, soft and sure. "Thank you, Reeve. I'll go out and meet her up."

He nodded, already turning away, picking up the phone and dialing again, speaking in hurried, harsh tones.

"Be careful."

She nodded, but he wasn't even looking at her, concentration bent elsewhere. He didn't lift up his head as she moved to the door and left. The hallway was dark and empty, the only light the flickering lightning from the turbulent sky, and maybe she could just slip off now, and avoid Tabitha entirely?


Too late. The woman had come up silently behind her, and you really wouldn't think someone could sneak around in a lab coat that brightly colored, but somehow she had managed.

"Tabitha, I..." The Ancient stopped, unsure of what to say, of what she could say. The doctor held up a slim hand, forestalling her, and spoke.

"I'm hardly stupid, Aeris, and I've gotten to where I am in life by...well, by several methods, most of which you don't need to hear about. But among the intimidation and the ruthless studying and all of that – I have no delusions about what I can and /cannot/ do."

She dropped her hand and stared at it, as if remembering the things she would not speak of.

"Maybe Hojo could clone and bring back the lifestream essence of a person. Maybe I can't, and maybe I won't go that far. I reconstructed Zack and Sephiroth's bodies, but you brought them back, really."

"The planet brought them back."

"Did the planet bring you back?" Aeris stepped back, physically taken aback, and the other woman laughed.

"I like you, Aeris. But when you first came back I had no particular attachment to you. That helped. Being a doctor; a scientist; that also helped. It was easier for me to see what the others overlooked because of joy or just not enough scientific and medical training."

She took off her glasses and tucked them into a pocket in her coat, fingers rubbing at her eyes. Without the glasses, it was much easier to see the dark circles that ringed them.

"I've watched many people die. I've been unable to keep many people from dying. The dead do not come back to life without a great deal of effort, Aeris. Perhaps they shouldn't come back at all. You walked out of the grave and into Midgar in the clothes you died in. And I did nothing to make that happen. You did everything."

There was a slight shiver to the doctor's hands as she spoke, and it echoed in her voice, a soft shudder rippling through the precise speech.

"It can't be.../It's not that easy./ I knew you were hiding something, Aeris. I think everyone did. The only credit I give myself is that I figured out what you were hiding. Going home?"

Home. Sunlight streaming through windows, and the soft scent of flowers lingering like the promise of a forgotten god in the air of the church. The tang of metal and smoke and underneath it, when the wind was right, the salty smell of the sea.

Her mother's voice – both her mothers – and by the planet, how could she deal with losing her daughter twice. How much could someone take before they broke?

Following a dream and failing, gaining love and losing - /killing/ - it, torture and death and pain and war and so many nightmares...Cloud lived through all this, and kept living, kept surviving.

How could she do anything less? She couldn't be weak now, wouldn't be weak now, not when there were so many people losing so much more, and still fighting despite it all.

The flower girl from the Midgar slums clenched her fists at her sides and looked at Tabitha, speaking what she knew to be true.

"I've always been home. But I can't stay. I want to, and I'm scared to leave. I...I don't want to leave again." Her voice broke there, for all that she tried to stay firm, but she couldn't stop now.

"But there are people I love here, and they're worth everything. Please understand that."

The doctor's eyes closed once, as if in pain or grief, but they were clear when she looked at the Ancient.

"I do. And I won't stop you. I will radio Zack though, because he deserves to say goodbye."

"But – "

"Goodbye, Aeris. I hope where you're going will make up for what you'll miss."

And the doctor was gone, walking away down the hall, until the shadows swallowed her bright colors. In her wake, Aeris felt a chill sweep through her, although the night was warm. It felt as though her bones were freezing, the blood crystallizing in her veins.

It felt like dying, and she knew well what dying felt like.


Stop. Pause. Breathe. Breathe through the darkness in the hall and the sound of fighting and dying outside and a wound in her heart that had never bled or had maybe just never stopped. She swallowed, fighting past the knot that had lodged in her throat and reached up behind her to the ribbon that held her braid tied. Faded cloth, so worn the color was beginning to dull, but it was one of the best gifts she'd ever received.

Meant so much, because it had come from him.

Already dead but still alive, and she missed him. Unwinding the ribbon from her hair, Aeris wrapped it tight around a her hand, threading the color through her fingers. She clenched her fist around it, and prayed for a strength like his, one that she'd never seen fail. One she didn't think could fail.

Stop. Pause. Breathe. And walk down the hall, one step at a time.


The space bitch really had pulled out all the stops. This battle was the equal, if not greater, to any he'd seen yet in the war. Well planned, and the storm wasn't helping – the certainly could have used the support of Cid's troops and planes in this fight. He hoped there was some way for them to get here, even if only a fraction of them.

Even outnumbered, their forces were just as good, and their soldiers fought with the frantic devotion of those trying to protect things other than their lives.

He couldn't see Cloud though, had lost his visual of the blond. That worried him, but then Zack sometimes felt that he was forever worried about the blond, concerned for the scrappy spiky-haired kid that he could sometimes see in the hardened fighter Cloud had become; peeking through the edges of the other when he thought no one was watching.

Worried about Cloud. Worried about Aeris. Worries about Tifa and Yuffie, Vincent and his Turks – Cloud's friends, but he'd come to think of them as his own.

Worried about Sephiroth – he would always worry about Sephiroth, no matter what the man had become, what the man had been forced to become.

And now, with so many of the people he cared about, worried about, in danger; fighting for their lives and possibly fighting each other –

/By the planet, if anyone cares to listen, let Sephiroth not be here. Let me fight him, instead of Cloud. Let anyone fight him but Cloud./

He wasn't sure that Cloud could live through that, could come out of that as anything but a shell, blue eyes dull and empty. Like in the lab, when the kid was numb and horribly, terrifyingly /not there/...he remembered that time far too well, and it was something he never wanted to see again. Cloud had come close to it, after facing Sephiroth once since Jenova took him, and Zack didn't want the blond to go through that again.

He'd never faced Sephiroth, never managed to meet up with the man in battle outside of his one, disastrous attempt at stopping the man in Nibelheim.

/But Spike stopped him, and you didn't ask how, just tried not to think about the scar by his heart, the sort of scar you get after being run through by a very fine sword held by an very fine swordsman-/

There were some things that they simply didn't speak of. It was easier that way, he thought as he ripped the Buster sword from a monster's still twitching body, to face off against the next enemy.

It was a Vessel. He hated Vessels, the poor souls that had managed to be captured, and that Jenova had killed and then kept, infiltrating the body and then killing it, giving the corpse a life of its own.

"This battle is as good as mine, you realize." It spoke in a voice like the grinding of stones. Trust Jenova to be suitably dramatic.

"That's an interesting viewpoint to have," Zack replied as he shifted stance, the buster sword held resolutely between him and the beast.

"Hojo will be so happy to have you back. He's interested in seeing how you've progressed." Now, the thing's voice sounded like another; a voice that was oil slick and cruel. Like the harsh lights of a lab and the razor of pain that a scalpel made when it cut into flesh.

But Zack forced the memory down and cocked his head, a careless grin plastered across his face. "He really ought to get a new hobby."

The Vessel grinned at him; its gums were black and teeth razor sharp. Then it attacked, a whirlwind movement far faster than anything a normal human would have been capable of. Luckily, Zack was far from a normal human, and he met the strike easily. The thing didn't have hands but claws, ridges of jointed sharpness that wouldn't have looked out of place on some insect. It pressed against his sword with inhuman strength, and sneered at him across the metal.

"You think you can stop me, all of you. Even your little Cetra thinks that anything she does will make a difference, that she can stand up to my might."

Flash of lightning and blood that had turned to ice water in his veins. Aeris.

/We need you back at the tower, they said, but there couldn't have been too much of a threat there, and you didn't even think about it, didn't think why they'd need your there when clearly you do better work out here, didn't even think and she's there./

"I'm sorry. Did I say something that upset you, my dear child?"

/She's there and you're wasting time with this filth./

He didn't reply, not to the Vessel or the voice in his head, just ripped the power from upside of him, igniting the fire materia in his armor and forcing the flames to flow down his sword blade, dancing over the metal. The Vessel shrieked and tried to retreat, but the buster sword had dug into the bony armor of its claws, and it could not remove them. This close, the heat from the fire hurt him as well, but the pain was easily drowned out by the satisfaction of watching the Vessel's skin blacken and burn. It ripped itself free, but the fire had already taken root, burning up the dead flesh despite the soft rain that had begun.

It was a twitching carcass when Zack sheathed his sword, and the smell of burning flesh remained with him as he moved toward Shinra Tower.


There were /everywhere, and he could barely see, could barely think, could barely /breathe/ through the crush of bodies cloaked in scale and claw.

Zackery had been through life as a SOLDIER and years of war, against humans and monsters, and he could say with certainty that it had never been as bad as this. This constant rush of enemies, like waves breaking upon the rocks of the shore. But he was surviving, was adapting to a type of combat that moved faster and harsher than anything he'd seen.

If this was what the war was like, Zack thought as he speared his sword through the middle of a monstrous wolf, then it was amazing they had an army left at all.

The wolf-creature on his sword snapped its jaws feebly at him, howls of rage growing fainter as it died. It was horrible to listen to, and became even worse as they turned into screams of pain, as another monster – something with scales and beady eyes and far, far too many claws - tore through the upper half of the wolf's carcass, front two legs, pincer-like claws red with blood.

/Ah, hell. And I was doing so well./

He could try to pull his sword free, but he already knew that there wasn't enough time. The best option would be to let go of the hilt, avoid the initial strike and then take it down without his sword. Not an enjoyable task, surely, as all he had were a few knives and his materia, and the armor-like scales on that thing looked as tough as dragonhide.

Or, he could stand there like an idiot while the monster's head very nearly exploded, the force of the blow knocking it out of its lunge, to land in a twitching mess by his feet.

/What was that, and who do I thank/

A glare caught the corner of his gaze, and he turned to see the leader of the Turks – Valentine, his name was – lift his gun to line up another shot.

/Holy Fucking Sniper./ The man was good, perched on a railway and nearly invisible in the shadows, better than anyone he'd ever seen or heard of, and he's seen some /damned/ good gunmen at Shinra.

/What do you have to live though, to get that good/ Endless fighting, day in and day out, not stopping to breathe or to think – that would make you that good. It would also make you insane.

He'd seen it happen, often enough, during the Wutain war. Soldiers and SOLDIERS simply stopped, broke apart and broke down, like machines that just couldn't work anymore.

Broken down. Machines you couldn't fix. People could break like that, fall apart into so many pieces you couldn't hope to piece them back together again.

It was one of the more peculiar aspects of /this/ war/this/ army. From all accounts – the file they'd given Seph and him, and the personal descriptions from the other commanders and other soldiers – these people had been fighting this war for one hell of a long time. Long enough to watch their cities burn and their loved ones die. War that long, that crazed would kill you, even if you managed to survive it. Despite that, the morale among the troops was by far the highest he'd ever seen.

Peculiar. Hardened fighters, the lot of them, but they fought with the ready invincibility of those who had never seen others die, and the eager glint in their eyes was like what he'd seen, often enough, in the eyes of green recruits, fresh from whatever backwater town they'd "escaped" from, ready to fight, ready to die.

It didn't make much sense, but at the same time, it made all the sense in the world, when viewed in the proper perspective.

/And what perspective is that, Zack? The perspective of one who's been dragged forward in time to discover that his best friend and commanding officer goes fucking nuts, and burns down an entire town? Nearly kills you, to be 'killed' by your /other/ best friend, a trooper who happens to be in love with him for as long as you've known the kid? Enter in five /years/ of "fun" with Hojo, getting killed, getting resurrected, having Seph get possessed – again – by an evil space whore masquerading as his mom and by the Planet, I'm amazed anyone in this damn army is sane./

Because he was a striking example of sanity. Right. Someday, Zackery was going to start /winning/ the arguments he had with himself. Someday.

Still, at least Seph was taking it well. As well as the man took anything, and Zackery had long ago learned how to interpret Sephiroth's varying degrees of 'stick-up-ass' expressions.

/Monster. Hello. Could we pay attention here, please? Because I'd like to live a little while longer, if that is okay with you./

He could have hit himself, but it appeared that the monsters before him were itching for the opportunity, and Zackery didn't see why he should deprive them of the chance, when they clearly wanted it so badly. Tightening his grip on the Buster sword, he charged into the throng once more, using the weight and heft of the sword to cleave his way through the masses around him. It was like trying to walk through water, and he wondered how many of the troops were still alive. Around him were the screams of the dying and the silence of the dead and the constant roar of the monsters echoing the thundering rumbles in the clouds.

The storm was only lighting and thunder right now, fires in the sky, but it couldn't be long before the rain followed, dousing them all and making this fight only more difficult to navigate. The rains would turn places already coated with blood and gore into slick surfaces, just waiting for the unwary soldier to slip. In a fight like this, that would mean death.

In a fight like this, so many things could mean death.

"Sir! General Zack, Sir!" A trooper on chocobo raced up to him, clad in a uniform that was several sizes to large and looking ridiculously small next to the semi-automatic he was carrying. The black bird warked nervously, shifting its feet.

By the Planet, they were all so young. Despite himself, Zack found himself thinking of Cloud, of the too-small, scrappy blond kid that he knew, the one that was so desperate to please, to prove himself.

Sometimes, he wondered just where his friend was in this new Cloud, where the hardened warrior was hiding the sweet kid he knew so well. In some ways, the fact that he couldn't find him, could barely see him in the man at all, was far more frightening than the thought of what Hojo had done and all the terrible skill the blond had.

"Report, trooper!" He barked out, pulling power from within himself to cast at the same time, the Bolt 3 ripping outwards, tearing across the concrete and neatly electrocuting several enemies that were attempting to break through the fragile line they'd been forming.

"It's a message from Shinra Tower, sir! General Strife's other commander has been called back to the tower and you're requested to head to there position as backup, sir! The storm's messing with some of the personal radios, and you'll travel faster with the chocobo." The kid dismounted, swinging out of the saddle and rushing forward, running up to help fortify the line without being told.

Young, but they were all certainly well trained. From the corner of his eye he saw Valentine signal him over, a flash of crimson as the gunman moved out of the shadows, still firing furiously. The bird was just as well-trained as the soldiers, and despite its fear it moved swiftly forward on his signal as he guided it toward the sniper, the chocobo jumping through the rubble with skill.

"Valentine!" The gunman's only response was to reload his firearm, a large black gun that looked damned difficult to wield, particularly one-handed.

"Turk! What's wrong?"

"I need you to get me to a higher vantage point – I can only do so much from down here. A better position is required to cover the troops holding the line."

The other man nodded. "Understood. Get on, we can take you further up some of this rubble. I've got to get to Cloud's section; they've called back the other Zack to Shinra Tower." Vincent jumped up behind him in response, and the bird shifted under the added weight but was otherwise calm.

The bird leaped forward, jumping from stone to stone as the gunman replied.

"That is not good news, if Jenova's army has already reached the center of the plate in such force as to require Zack's help."

"I was given only so much information," the SOLDIER replied, "but yeah, it's probably not good."

"It's not going to get any better, you realize. I'm worried about my Turks, true, but unless the flow of enemy stops the army as a whole won't be able to hold out forever. We are vastly outnumbered and the situation is only worsening with time."

Zackery tried not to gape at the man riding behind him. "What the hell are you saying? All this is pointless, then?" He reined in the chocobo; they'd reached the highest vantage point possible and from here the view answered his question for him. Stretched before them was a fierce battle, the soldiers using the rubble of the slums to fortify there own defenses and hold a tenuous line, preventing the enemy from approaching any closer to the central areas of Midgar and up the plate.

From what he understood, this wasn't the first battle that Midgar had seen, although it was probably the largest (he hoped so; the thought that battles like this were a common experience made him ill) and the destruction from the prior skirmishes had never been completely cleared away.

But the flow of monsters seemed endless and they had only so many men. The soldiers were so brave, suicidal almost, and they dashed forward to support and hold the line, preventing Jenova's army from rushing around and flanking them. He hold pick out spots of yellow: chocobo riders dashing from place to place, often plowing through the enemy, allowing the other troops enough distraction to gain back precious ground.

Brave and well-fought and eventually doomed; Valentine was right. They couldn't keep this up forever and with enough time they'd have to retreat back to the plate, defending the points of access.

"Not pointless, no. Nothing in this war has ever been pointless." The man took aim and fired: in the mayhem below, a monster's chest neatly exploded from the impact, saving the lives of at least two men.

"We fight because it is all we can do. It will be enough because it will have to be enough. You should move; Cloud will be needing your support."

The man turned away from him then, the storm's strong winds blowing his cape outward; the bright crimson held disturbing similarity to fresh blood.

Zack shrugged away the image and turned his chocobo, spurring the bird toward Cloud's position. As he headed away from the front lines the sounds of battle receded, although troops still rushed frantically toward the front lines. Surreal, how the sounds of fighting and dying receded, drowned out by the rush of the storm above and the rain that had begun to fall; softly now, but it couldn't be long until it became a downpour.

Thunder cracked overhead, and lighting lit up the night, illuminating the rubble and the second front of battle that he was fast approaching.

/They're holding this one as doesn't look like the enemy would have been able to get through at all, save through the pipes...but Reno and Cloud's friend took forces to prevent why would the other Zack be called back to Shinra tower/

Lightning again, and any questions he might have had were cut off as he caught sight of the two men before him. He recognized Cloud – he'd know the kid anywhere, no matter how he changed or what weapon he wielded – but the other man he only saw from behind, and the lighting in the slums was terrible, a combination of the few street lights that were working and the lightning overhead. If he wasn't a SOLDIER, with all that entailed, he likely wouldn't have found the two at all.

But Zackery was a SOLDIER, and a good one, and he knew how to read a battle, especially one between the two of the people he knew best in the world.

/Are either of them really yours anymore/

And there he was: silver hair like the tattered remnants of a once-proud banner, back held straight and strong, hands sure about his sword. His garments were ripped and torn and his armor dented and tarnished, but they were still as unmistakable as the nicked and weathered belt he himself wore.


And then he stepped forward, moving closer to Cloud, and the illusion fell apart, disintegrating. This Sephiroth moved with an odd sort of grace, but it was wrong, as disjointed as a mannequin being forced to dance. Zackery was used to watching the man move, could count time by the beat of his footsteps before a sword strike or shiver of magic rent the air, but that remembrance was akin to a flow of steps as smooth as running water and this was horribly wrong in comparison.

At the sight, it was all he could do not to throw up. He hadn't even seen the man's face, and already he knew this thing for a monster.


Sometimes it was amazing what Cloud Strife had survived.

He'd survived things he didn't think anyone could, didn't think anyone deserved to, because sometimes the hardest thing to do was keep going, keep /living/ even though everything was blasted and dead and the ground shook where he stood under the pressure of the presence of the life of him.

This was living, this was surviving, this was /existing, when all the others failed, day and day out, as hard as breathing and as difficult as drowning.

The sky and the smoke blew into his lungs, until all he could smell was the storm and the faint scent that accompanied a materia casting, like ozone now, although not always. Sometimes it was sky and salt and sea, and he'd never felt further than home. The sky was dark, but the dirty leather of the other man's coat was darker, and the flashes of lightning paled in comparison of the matted but still glorious strands of silver hair.

Cloud Strife had survived many things, and he knew, with all the certainty of despair, that he could not survive this.

He couldn't do this, couldn't fight him, not again/not again/. Jenova or not, monster or not, murderer or not, though his eyes were as dead and dull as chips of broken glass, someone within there was someone he loved.

It was amazing, to stand here, to stare into /those/ eyes, to look at /that/ face and raise his sword, shouldering the weight with a burden too heavy to carry.

He'd never wanted this. He'd never asked for any of it, and no one seemed to listen or care.

/Suck it up, Strife. Suck it up and do what you have to do./

But really, he should have known from the last time they'd met that he'd never been able to do this, not really. The last confrontation with the man who had used to be Sephiroth – he had thought that would kill him. When he came to himself, in the tent, he'd been honestly surprised to watch the steady rise and fall of his chest, to hear the soft strum of his heartbeat. Surprised to still be alive.

/He's not there anymore! It's not him, it's only her and she won't care/

"You know, love, we have a tendency to keep meeting on battlefields." A voice he remembered, soft tones that only one man had and that he dearly loved.

It wasn't fair, he thought. No one had told about this; about how you could drown with your head still far above water, and his lungs burned and ached. The scar on his chest ached, and unexpectedly, he thought of Tifa, of the scar that would its way down her chest and of the proud way she carried her memories, like her scars, on the outside, where everyone could see.

"But perhaps it's fitting, love-"

"Don't you dare call me that, Jenova." He spat out, the words an instinct, automatic defenses built up carefully in his mind, fit to whether any storm.

Jenova –

/Sephiroth, it's him it's him it's him/

- stepped closer, and Cloud felt all those battlements begin to crumble as if they were only made of sand, and look, it was raining.

He told himself, going into this battle, that he would live through this; would keep walking, keep fighting, even if that was the only part of him that survived. That he'd make his defenses hold, no matter how much it hurt.

But then Sephiroth smiled, and Cloud knew that it wouldn't be nearly enough.

Smiled, and moved, so quickly that Cloud's numbed senses couldn't even begin to react. Moved forward and Masamune wound about his own sword, the Ultima Weapon ripped out of his grip. He could only gather his senses enough to twist his grip before he lost it, wresting the Masamune out of Sephiroth's grip as well.

But Sephiroth was still smiling as he grabbed the blond's wrists and shoved him against a wall of rubble. He'd forgotten how the other man could, overshadow him, how the other man always seemed stronger, even though he'd beaten him in battle. Sephiroth was making him remember it now, and he doubted he'd be able to move, even assuming he'd be able to gather the wits to.

"Welcome home, love."

The silver-haired man's words were a whisper of heat in his ear, barely registered before the other man pressed his mouth to his. It was a gross parody of a kiss, nothing in it but an alien malice, but the memory of what it had once been was enough to burn his own heart.

/Sad, isn't it? You never really let go of what you love./

He couldn't move, didn't even think he could try, for all it would matter with the strength in Sephiroth's grip, solid as the rock and steel he was pressed against.

/Loved you once.../

And then there was the /other, the presence that made this all the stuff of his nightmares.

/ you still. I /am/ the worst of fools./

He heard, distantly, the drumbeat rattle of thunder overhead, nearly drowned out by the roar of blood in his ears, the burning in his veins as the mako fought against Jenova's presence, an infection that was welcomed by his own Jenova cells. It was sickeningly sad, how acutely his own body was betraying him.

And then, nothing.


Under a sky dark with clouds and the fleeting impressions of flying bodies, and upon a damnable rocking airship, Yuffie stood, as tall and strong as she could manage. She'd asked the men to give her as much time as they could, and they'd thrown their skills and their lives into the task with the wild abandon of the near-dead or the suicidal.

Lightning lit the sky, and the ensuing thunder blared a counterpoint to one man scream – high and sharp and terrified and abruptly cut off. The heir of Wutai turned ninja turned materia-hunter turned General of the combined armies of Wutai and Shinra (so many changes, sometimes, it was hard to think where one part of her had stopped and the other began) tried to block it out and concentrate on the two red spheres she held in her hands.

In truth, they looked ridiculously tiny and delicate, baubles that glittered prettily when the light struck them. So small and yet so strong and they held the future of everyone she cared about.

And to think, Cloud had complained when she'd insisted on first pick of the summons. Clearly he was blind to her innate tactical brilliance.

Closing her eyes shut against the storm and closing her fingers tight against the materia, Yuffie reached inside herself and pulled, dragging the power out, making the magic work. It ripped at her like a wild thing, as much a beast as any of Hojo's monsters, and she fell to her knees from the force of it.

/By the Planet...gods above and /hurts/./

It hurt more than she thought anything could. The summons were old and tired, but they knew her. They remembered her and they remembered this enemy, and they held all the anger and fear of the planet within them. The pain grew and built, a crescendo of feeling so intense that when it finally left her, the cessation of sensation made her feel blind and deaf, and for one startling, terrible moment she'd thought she'd failed.

But Leviathan's scales shone like quicksilver, and the swords of the thirteen knights were as bright as blades of lightning. The water serpent opened his mouth and roared, and the seas and the skies answered in turn. Even though there was darkness swarming in front of her vision, and her muscles felt dead and her bones as weak as water-

The tide was coming in, and Yuffie had never seen anything so beautiful in all the world.


Author's notes:

- Alright, so it may be time to rev up the Deus ex Machina count.

- "Bastard! You gave me Jenova!" should not make nearly as much sense as it does. I am ashamed of and for myself.

- Yes, let's all play spot the zombie. Someday, I think I'll write something without zombies in it, but probably not.