I'm sorry it's been so long, guys! :3 But I finally got the darker version of White Sacrifice up and it inspired me to get this one finished. This isn't the last chapter, but I get the feeling it'll be rushed…I hope not, but let's see. Thank you all for being so patient with me.
"Who are we waiting for?" Barret muttered as he sat at the bar, watching the rest of the group. "Fuckers are gettin' late, ain't got all day."
Vincent answered from where he was against the wall; the man didn't believe in chairs. "Rufus Shinra said that there's been a revelation. He's on his way here now."
"Great." Yuffie sniped, playing cards with Marlene. "Barret, your kid's a cheater."
"Marlene ain't no such thing!"
They all paused at the knock on the door, Tifa answering it. Rufus Shinra walked past her without so much as a sideway glance, Reno and Rude following after him. What surprised them, though, was the boy that came in as well.
"Who's the kid?" Cid asked, chewing on a toothpick since he was allowed to smoke around Marlene.
"This, is Denzel." Rufus said, looking only at Tifa. "Apparently, he ran into Cloud and was told to come here."
"What?" Tifa glanced down at the boy, covered in dirt and rags and bruises. "Cloud sent you?"
He nodded shyly. "Yeah…Seventh Heaven, right? Owned by Tifa?"
"But you guys…" Marlene frowned, leaving her game to come over to them. "You guys said that…Cloud died against Sephiroth. And so did Aeris."
Silence. Rufus rubbed the bridge of his nose; they hadn't told the girl? Were they just waiting for something like this to happen? Either not sensing the tenseness or ignoring it, Denzel just smiled at her.
"He's alive, he helped me! And he has got this giant white wing, he could fly through the air! It was awesome!"
She looked at him in awe. "Cloud's…an angel?"
"He must be, he saved me from Midgar."
"Marlene," Tifa cut in before the two could start forming some sort of cult around said blond. "Why don't you show Denzel around upstairs while we all talk?"
They ran up, though Denzel hesitated about going into a place he'd never been to before. It killed each of them to see the boy…none of them more so than Reno, though he'd never say anything. He knew from talking to the kid he was from the plate…his parents had died when it fell.
"One crisis adverted." Rufus muttered, sighing. "Now, back to business. Sephiroth visited me at my office."
"What the fuck did he want?"
Rufus sighed again. "He has asked for my help in destroying Jenova."
It was Vincent that broke the silence. "He no longer has control over Cloud."
"It seems that Jenova is using Cloud in his stead." Rude said. "He shows all the signs."
"The problem being that Cloud was the only person strong enough to kill Sephiroth, not the other way around." Reno added, shrugging. "Doesn't look too good, does it?"
Tifa shook her head, frowning. "She hasn't gotten through to him, not completely. Remember what happened when we mentioned Aeris?"
"S'not gonna help us." Cid threw in, spitting out the toothpick. "We can't stand there yellin' her name at him."
"But it does help us." Vincent whispered. "What if we brought Cloud to Aeris's church?"
Tifa looked surprised. "That's an idea….we could try it, the only problem is getting him there."
"Surely Aeris could help him then!" Yuffie added. "She was a Cetra, right? Maybe there's a reason that the flowers are still there when she's…she's not around."
"I'm going to help Sephiroth kill Jenova." Rufus said, getting ready to leave. "You take care of Cloud." He paused, suddenly sneering. "Actually, maybe we should reverse that. Think AVALANCHE can handle that?"
Without waiting for a reply, he left them. Reno did his usual mock salute and Rude gave a nod of the head. Tifa and Barret fumed, mostly because it was Rufus and partially because it was true.
"At least we have a plan." Yuffie murmured, glancing at Cid.
The blond pilot glared at her. "Nothin' wrong with my plans."
"Whatever, old man."
Cloud paused, seeing that he was inside his dream again and rolled his eyes. He was wondering if that weird girl would try to talk to him again. He hadn't seen her in a while, and he always had a nagging feeling about her in the back of his head.
"It's been a while, Spike."
His heart stopped.
Whirling around, Cloud stopped breathing when Zack smiled at him, his blue eyes shining brightly. He was wearing his uniform still, and he was still taller than Cloud, but he never expected to reach Zack's height. Some guys were just lucky.
"You've gotten taller…and I've seen how you use that sword. I knew you could be a SOLDIER, if you had been given the chance…"
He couldn't get his throat working. So many things he wished he could say, or ask, or beg of him. Without noticing, his eyes watered. He gave a sob, and once he felt arms around him, couldn't stop.
"Shhhh, it's okay, Spike. I'm here."
"I missed you." He managed. "I'm sorry, I should've helped you. I know I could've, I could've made sure that none of this happened. I couldn't save you, and I couldn't save Aeris."
"That's not how Aeris told it." Zack whispered, gently pulling away. "Cloud, none of this is your fault. Really. I never thought about it that way, and I knew going in that that would be the end of the line for me. I didn't care though, Cloud, I dragged you into that mess so I was going to get you out."
Cloud frowned, wincing. Suddenly, his head hurt…he couldn't explain it, but he had trouble remembering what Zack had said to him when he…he was dying.
"It's Jenova." Zack said, face serious. "Your so-called Mother. She's warping your memories, Cloud, so that you can destroy the planet like she wanted. Sephiroth no longer wants that, but she does."
"NO!" Cloud yelled, pulling away from him. "You don't understand, you don't have her in your head! I need to do this to make her happy!"
"Then you die too!" Zack argued. "Dammit, Cloud, think! You need to live on this planet too, she doesn't care about you! She never even cared about Sephiroth. She's using you. She's no better than Shinra."
Cloud opened his mouth to argue again, but Zack put a hand up to stop him. "Think. Don't listen to her this once and think for yourself. Why are you so angry if she's brought up? Why do you defend her? Because she made you that way."
Cloud sighed, seeing a point to what he was saying. He vaguely remembered thinking the same thing when Sephiroth had gone crazy that night in Nibelheim. But hadn't Mother helped him? Hadn't she been there to stop the pain, to help him with the betrayal that his friends had put him through?
"What they did was horrible." Zack whispered, and it was one of the very few times that Cloud had seen him really angry. "I'm not saying that I understand them, or that it's okay, but there is good in the world, Cloud. That's what makes being a Hero worth it. To finally see that good, to see the hope in people's eyes when they realize that you haven't given up on them."
Cloud sighed. "How do I get her out of my head?"
"Aeris's church." Zack said. "It'll keep her from your head until Sephiroth kills her. With Jenova gone, you might be able to snap Sephiroth out of it too, but there's no promises on that."
"Help him?" Cloud snarled. "After all the things he's done?"
Zack grabbed his arm. "I forgave him, and I forgave you. If I can do that, then you can."
The blond scowled before he rolled his eyes. "How is it that you always make me feel better?"
Zack grinned, hugging him and ruffling his hair. "It'll be harder when you wake up. I can kinda block her here but you're on your own until you get to the church."
He nodded. "Alright, thanks."
Just before he was pulled awake, he hugged Zack tightly, hands trembling. "I miss you, Zack."
The dark haired man chuckled. "I miss you too, Spike. Don't worry, though. I'm keeping an eye on you."
He felt like he was falling asleep, but he knew he was being forced back to reality. He cringed, hearing Jenova's constant shriek in his head. He needed…needed to think, to remember. He wouldn't allow her to stop him from remembering Zack. He was too much a part of him.
He was going to beat her. And then, he would kill Sephiroth and his once companions for betraying him.
Finally, huh? :3 Sorry, it's short again but I'm wrapping it all up in the next chapter I believe. And, is it just me, or does Cloud seem really…off? Like, I made this whole thing about him but since chapter 3 on, he's a minor character. O.o Oops.
NOTE: The new, darker version of this is up on my account! Go read and let me know what you think! :D