Trip the Light
Status: One-shot, complete
Summary: Tidus and Cloud get separated from the rest of their group, and must stick together through thick and thin to make it back to them alive.
Notes: Another round at the dreamwidth community Are You Game? has come and gone, and the retiring prompts list was posted for the free-for-all. There are so many that I wanted to do, but ultimately – due to college and other constraints – I was only able to complete two. The second one will be around as soon as it's finished getting edited. For now, the one for "Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Tidus/Cloud: blush - he loved to make him do that!" is up thanks to Keppiehed beta reading it into submission.
Disclaimer: I dun own Dissidia; wish I did like everyone else. They should put Dissidia in stock, then I'd buy it all!
Among the group of four Light Warriors, Tidus had tentatively come to consider Cloud, Cecil and Firion as his: his to defend, comfort and support. He cared for all of Cosmos' soldiers, but those particular three meant more to him than brothers-in-arms – they held faster than the blood ties of family. The closest individuals to his heart often had nothing to do with being related.
His actions ensured that they would be taken care of by whatever means necessary, regardless of the consequences. This might entail assisting them in battle or it might mean cheering them up when their chances at winning appeared impossible. That was okay, though; if there was one talent of Tidus', it was smiling when situations got tough. Someone had taught him once how to grin and bear the world, and it was a lesson he tried to practice for the sake of his friends.
"Come on, you guys, hup-two, hup-two!" he called, ushering the other men along.
The group was making reasonable time through the Lunar Subterrane, but Tidus was anxious to travel. Their journey had only just begun and he was eager for everyone to get their crystals. After the harsh confrontations of the past, finding them would be a morale booster of immense proportions.
"Don't get too far ahead," Firion warned, following right behind him. "No need to invite an ambush."
Tidus waved off his warning, though he did stop on top of a pillar made of stone and dirt to survey their position while the three men caught up. Cloud, who was keeping up the rear, was at the edges of his sight, and nothing but brown, brown and more brown for miles.
"Man, what a drag…" Tidus said to himself, plopping down with his chin in his hand. None of them knew where to begin searching, and he had his doubts that there was anything worthwhile here.
Cecil appeared and jumped down to join him, kneeling to take in the same sight.
"Rather barren and lifeless, is it not?"
"I'll say. So, you didn't find anything?"
The knight shook his head, and his black armor gave a morose impression as opposed to the frightening spectacle it was probably intended to make. Tidus had been in his presence long enough to read the body language that managed to seep past the protective wear, and didn't hesitate to give Cecil a comforting fist-bump in the arm for reassurance.
"It's cool. There's still time."
"Always so eager," Cecil said, chuckling, his shoulders easing at last. "At times, I envy your energy."
"And I'm jealous of your armor, I ever tell you that? You think after this is done, you'll be able to help me get some? I'm thinking blue and gold. Oh, and maybe some red!"
"We shall have to wait and see."
Firion joined them next, and finally Cloud, who remained standing and watching the scenery to their backs. Always looking backwards, Tidus noticed, not for the first time, and wondered what was so interesting there.
"Okay, so this place is a bust. Where to now?" Tidus asked.
"Perhaps we should rest before continuing on. We don't know what threats we'll face later and we should be well prepared," Cloud suggested, earning him a whine from Tidus.
"Didn't we just take a load off?"
"Cloud has a point," Firion said, though he was quick to soothe with, "We'll formulate a full plan during our stay and then continue on."
Tidus relented without ever putting up a real fight, seeing the logic in that. Since they definitely weren't wandering anymore, he allowed himself to flop back entirely, kicking up small clouds of dust and staring up at the three men.
"So if this place isn't it, and we already checked Cosmos' realm, I suggest Panorama."
"Pandaemonium," Cecil, Cloud and Firion corrected him in unison.
"Yeah, that place. I think we should get it out of the way – it's super creepy and tight quarters suck, so if we don't find anything there we can leave right away."
Whatever Cecil had been about to say never left his lips; instead, he tensed and inclined his head to the side to listen. Firion and Cloud did the same, while Tidus straightened. They all had sensed-
A Phantasmal Girl floated up from below, screeching and unleashing a tornado spell that lifted them all into the air, as they were unprepared for the assault. Tidus managed to land on his feet and summon his weapon at the same moment, jumping away from an ice spell aimed at his head. The other warriors recovered and assembled to do battle. Against their combined might, the Imitation was sure to fall.
Not without a fight. The enemy cast lightning on Firion; his collection of weapons acted as unintended conductors. Cloud and Tidus both moved in to strike, but the Manikin floated out of the SOLDIER's range and met with another tornado. Tidus was positioned in such a way as to be defended from the attack and continued the charge. He caught the Phantasmal Girl by the front, sword cutting into her stomach as his momentum propelled them into a rock face so hard that the two of them broke through.
The Imitation went completely through, but Tidus got stuck halfway, his waist wedged in the makeshift hole he'd made. Grunting, he planted both hands flat on the stone and pushed, never budging. The Phantasmal Girl howled again, signaling its resurgence, and Tidus scrambled twice as hard to get free – he was a sitting target.
When he thought he was going to be burnt into a fishstick by another ill-placed magic attack, Cecil – now decked in his white clothes – surprised the Manikin by falling from above and attacked with such force as to be mistaken for an avenging spirit. Firion stepped in to assist, and while she was distracted, Cloud came to get him out.
"Brace yourself, I'm going to knock you loose," he cautioned, causing Tidus to strain and see what he had planned. There was nothing to be done, however; he wasn't at the right angle to see.
"Wait, wait, wait! How?" Tidus asked, frantic. He imagined Cloud cleaving the rock in two and him with it, or using his enormous buster-sword as a paddle to bat him out. Either way, he was going to be sore.
Neither of those outcomes came to be as instead Cloud rammed his shoulder – the one not adorned with the pauldron – into his behind with enough force to pop him out the other side. Tidus' rump protested, but he didn't pay it any more mind than to give it a discomfited rub.
"T-thanks, man, I owe you- Heads up!"
As Cloud was coming around the corner he was in the wrong position to spot the incoming Imitation, and Tidus had to leap and tackle him out of harm's way. They landed hard together – armor colliding with muscle and elbows jabbing – but there was no serious damage done.
That is, until the ground beneath them crumbled and a new hole opened up.
Tidus stirred until his subconscious informed him of a touch well past his beltline. He was startled awake with a gasp and knocked heads with the assailant.
"Ouch! Hey," Tidus protested, hands clamping down over his forehead where it connected solidly with what he assumed was a person's skull.
Wherever he was, it was too dark to see. The pure blackness made it impossible to even identify his arms directly in front of his face.
"Tidus…?" Cloud's familiar voice asked him, and he must have been the one touching Tidus before, because a gloved hand grabbed his shirt right after.
"O-oh, it's you, Cloud. Sorry about…you know. You surprised me."
"You surprised me, too. Are you hurt?"
"I can feel a few areas where I'll have bruises later, but nothing feels broken. How about you?" he asked in return.
"I'll make it."
Dropping his arms, Tidus held in a yelp as two glowing orbs penetrated the gloom close to his face. When they blipped in and out of existence, he figured out that they were Cloud's eyes shining like that, and he had only been blinking.
"Oh wow, your eyes are like night lights!" Tidus proclaimed, unthinkingly reaching to cup his face and examine them. Cloud ducked away at the barest touch of his fingers.
"Seriously, that's so rad! I noticed the glow before, but in the sun it's not as obvious. Are you doing it on purpose? Does it make you see better or do they always do that?"
"I have no control over it," Cloud said, not going into details. "We need to formulate a way out of here and return to the others."
"Where is here?"
"Some room, I think. Maybe a passageway – we fell from the surface of the Lunar Subterrane and that's all I remember."
Leaving Firion and Cecil to deal with that crazy and powerful Phantasmal Girl. He hoped…no, they were alright, but they should reassemble quickly; there was power in numbers, as he'd been told. Tidus felt carefully along the ground and walls, searching for some sense of direction.
"Do we have anything we can use to see?"
"I can cast fire magic, but I need material to burn for it to be of any use."
Tidus tore his clothes without thinking – the fabric was already shredded at the hems, so it didn't matter. He shoved the wad of material in Cloud's direction and they fumbled with it; Tidus connected with the other man's middle by accident.
"If you ignite those as you…I don't know, toss it ahead, we might be able to travel a short while."
"Assuming there is anywhere to go," Cloud said, casting magic on a couple strips and letting them drop to the ground. The initial burst of flame and the glow afterward permitted them a view of their surroundings. Above was a pile of boulders, and they were in a small pocket that was connected to three rough exits.
"Well, great," Tidus said.
Cloud was quiet as he examined each doorway with critical attention, then at the scene over their heads.
"I vote forward," he offered, sharing Cloud's uncertainty about digging their way out.
"But there are three choices…"
"No problem!" he said, and pointed to each one in turn as he recited, "Eenie, meanie, minie…moe! That one."
He'd stopped on the right exit that was half buried by fallen rubble. Cloud gave him an incredulous look.
"What, you got a better idea?" Tidus asked.
The man was unforthcoming with a different suggestion. Cloud continued to stare unhappily at him for the idea, so he wordlessly volunteered to start digging a wider path for them to go. The floor was loose gravel, and Tidus was capable of relying on his hands alone. Once he could slide his whole body through, he waited for Cloud to trail him and continue to light their way.
The tunnel wasn't manufactured, as indicated by the misshapen lines along the walls. When Cloud ran low on fuel, he would offer more of his clothes. Tidus worried that by the time they escaped, either one of them would be naked.
As they made progress, their journey was almost brought to a halt. They had reached a chasm that extended too far out in front for their fire to penetrate the gloom. Even when Cloud threw a fireball into the distance, it fell short and then burned out long before it reached the bottom. They had no indication of whether or not it was conceivable to jump and were readying to go back the way they'd come to try another one of the two paths when Cloud noted that there was an opening directly above the cliff. He noticed a faint blue and greenish radiance originating from the outcropping.
"I think I can just make the jump," Tidus said, estimating his acrobatic ability and the likelihood of it getting him to the top. If he rebounded off the wall, it could boost him there.
With a grunt, he just made it to the edge and pulled himself the rest of the way up. He released an awed whistle as he beheld a crystal den, the minerals emitting their own eerie, soft light. It sort of reminded Tidus of a forest he saw once, but was more like the Crystal World. The walls and ceilings were coated in the stones, some so large they created whole platforms to stand on.
"Hey, it's safe!" Tidus called, turning to address Cloud, who looked like he was about to fidget himself into a coma. He helped the other man by grabbing for his hands when he jumped and pulling him up.
"This should definitely lead us outside!"
"Yes, but out where?"
"Won't know until we find it," Tidus said and started to leap and scale his way upwards, followed closely by his traveling companion. The crystals were smooth, so sometimes they would slip, but the worst was still manageable. At what they estimated to be the halfway point, Cloud returned his earlier help by catching Tidus at the last minute, his hand having slipped right off the slick surface. He'd thanked him and the two of them fell into a sort of groove, making progress to…somewhere, at least.
"Something's up," Cloud warned at one point, a sense of wrongness settling into their guts, though Tidus was slower in picking up on it.
"Yeah… I'm getting that creepy-crawly feeling that we're being watched."
They both whirled around.
"There!" they both yelled, calling forth their weapons – Tidus' blitzball and Cloud's sword – and attacked in the same direction. Cloud's swing was powerful enough to send a burst of power through the air, but it was retaliated with an even stronger slash, which was actually a series of rapid cuts. Tidus' blitzball was knocked right back at him by one of those slashes and connected with his chest, knocking the air out of him despite his training. He knew how to catch an incoming ball, but the force behind this particular return was brutal.
"Careless," Sephiroth mocked, floating down from the spot they'd sensed his presence.
"Jerk," Tidus wheezed, but he was ignored.
Neither bothered to ask how Sephiroth had found them. Tidus had never met him until the Endless Conflict business, but he was already aware of his spying tendencies. The enemy was sometimes a little too good at being bad.
"We don't want any trouble," Cloud said, and kept his sword in front of him for protection.
"But why waste the opportunity?" Sephiroth asked, tightening his grip on his own blade and heading straight for them.
Cloud lifted his broadsword to attack, but Tidus was faster and summoned his own as soon as he picked his feet up off the floor to run.
"Wait, Tidus, don't be so brash!"
He ignored Cloud's counsel and managed to bypass the seven-foot-long katana their opponent was brandishing. For a split second, he felt excited at reaching the man's personal space, except Sephiroth easily dodged him by sidestepping out of the way. Tidus' sword didn't even reach the end of their enemy's leather jacket as he went flying past. He tried to catch some friction on his landing, but he lost his footing and slid along on his clothed hip; the fabric did nothing to stop his locomotion. Tidus fell right over the rim and tumbled to an outcropping below.
Wincing, he collided with the jagged ends of crystal points, some leaving scrapes and a few shallow, bloody cuts. He recoiled as a tiny burst of energy sparked and hurt his eyes. Tidus glanced in the direction of the flash and found two broken-off pieces that had reacted on contact.
That gave him an idea.
Jumping to his feet, Tidus moved to a position over the battlefield and surveyed their current predicament. Cloud sported some new wounds from a possible failed offensive and the two assailants were locked in combat. Tidus angled himself as close to their position as possible and readied his sword.
"Hey, old guy – yeah, you!" Tidus called, earning a minor head-tilt for his efforts. As soon as Sephiroth saw the size of the crystal he'd knocked free, then he earned his full attention – he and Cloud separated to dodge the dropped object.
The stone exploded in a blaze of pure white as it struck the platform, blinding anyone who looked directly at it for the five seconds it took for the flash to disappear. Tidus jumped down, minding the large crack that threatened to split the battlefield in half as well as the remaining pieces of the fallen crystal and grabbed Cloud by the arm to haul him to his feet. Thankfully, he had hidden behind one of the many minerals lining the place and had not been too affected by the bang. He'd stopped putting up a fight when he sensed that it was Tidus guiding him.
"Time to live and let live!" he said, pulling Cloud in a random direction that was away from the Chaos minion. He only spared a glance behind them to be sure they weren't being followed, spotting Sephiroth holding his arm across his face. The meager safety provided by the effort must have come too late, because his emerald-green eyes were unfocused. He was trying to come after them via sound, but their footsteps echoed off the crystals, making it difficult and permitting them to escape.
After taking several twists and turns, his legs were threatening to give out and he stumbled. Cloud crashed into him and they collapsed on the floor.
"Do you think we lost him?" Tidus asked between pants.
"No way of knowing," Cloud said, sounding tired. "We have to keep moving. It's not safe here."
"Nrgh…I'm not sure I can."
"Then come on, I'll help," Cloud offered, looping an arm around his back and side to heft him. In the end it benefited them both, since they were able to support one another along the passage they'd found themselves in.
Eventually, it did become too much for Tidus, who had to rely more and more on Cloud for support, his head lolling to rest on the other man's shoulder as he limped along. He didn't want to complain and worry his friend, so he tried resorting to conversation as a distraction.
"Hey," Tidus said, voice barely above a murmur. "Your eyes kind of match the décor, ya know?"
Cloud gave him a sidelong glance, not losing stride, but he did shift his grip a little.
"Why are you so fascinated with them?"
"I think they're pretty."
"Pretty," he parroted, tone disbelieving.
Tidus laughed and said, "Sure, why not? Not every day that people have peepers like yours. Well, maybe from where you come from, but not… Hasn't anyone complimented them before?"
"I think you need to rest," Cloud said. The way he spoke was strained, and that worried him. He lifted his head from under the other's chin and saw-
"Are you blushing?"
Cloud set him down as gently as possible, but Tidus didn't relent his own hold, dragging the other man down with him. They sat side-by-side, and though Cloud tried to keep his face turned away, Tidus could still spot the tinge of pink that crept from his cheeks to his shirt collar.
"You totally are!"
"Knock it off," Cloud said, and shoved a Potion at him, still without looking directly at him. "Drink that, and then we can mosey along."
He did as instructed, though he refrained from consuming the entire bottle. Tidus claimed the flavor was terrible, and it was, but it was just an acquired taste that he'd learned to tolerate early on. The real reason was that he wanted to make sure there was some liquid left for Cloud to use and for emergencies, since creeps like Sephiroth and the rest were prone to constantly springing out of nowhere. Provisions like healing items were becoming too rare to waste.
"Ugh, you finish it. Anymore and I won't keep it down," he insisted, handing the Potion back, and thankfully, Cloud didn't put up a protest. He swallowed two gulps worth before pocketing it.
"Think you can continue on?"
"Yeah… Wait, do you hear that?" Tidus asked, and pressed one ear against the rock wall they were pressed against. Cloud glanced around to be sure it wasn't coming from their side before doing the same, the soft murmurs of voices and shuffles of movement dull, but distinct. "That sounds like Cecil and Firion!"
"How can you be so sure?"
"Firion's weapons make a racket when he walks, ya know? And Cecil's armor, too. I'd recognize them anywhere," he said, positive that he was right, and began shouting. "Hey, guys, we're in here!"
The noise on the opposite side stopped, and then picked up in fervor as the allies they'd been separated from called back.
"Tidus? Where are you? We can't see…"
"Is Cloud with you?"
"We're through here, and yeah!" Tidus yelled, tugging the other man to him, though it didn't make it any easier for Firion and Cecil to actually tell where they were.
"Do you see a way to here?" Cloud asked.
"We cannot, but…stand back," Cecil advised, a light tapping preceding his voice. Cloud and Tidus did as instructed, pushing themselves as far against the opposite wall as possible, just in time to avoid a massive hole being made to their left. Cecil had used his magic and lance to cut out a circle big enough for any one of them to walk through, and the edges of the rock still glowed from the extreme heat, now cooling to a jet black.
"Oh man, Cecil, that was wicked!" Tidus said, admiring his work before leaving the confines of the tunnel. He and Cloud found themselves still in the Lunar Subterrane, the night sky and brown surroundings just as they remembered. "And you guys won't believe what Cloud and I went through! There was exploring and exploding crystals and then Sephiroth-"
"Sephiroth?" Cecil asked, face splitting in concern. "The Chaos Warrior?"
Cloud nodded. "Yes. He surprised us, but…I was able to hold him off for Tidus to provide us an escape."
"Yeah, we had each other's back," Tidus said, grinning.
"And neither of you are wounded?" Firion asked, looking them over for injuries.
"Nah, we're cool. What about you guys and that Manikin?"
Cecil waved it off and said, "During the confusion created by your disappearance, Firion and I were able to weaken and ultimately destroy it. But if a Chaos Warrior was following you both, it would be wise to move on."
Everyone agreed and quickly made tracks northward, intending to heed their original plan of leaving the region altogether. This time, Firion took the lead, with Cecil somewhere in the middle and Cloud, as per usual, at the rear. Tidus was sandwiched in with Cecil for a few moments, until he slowed and fell in step with Cloud. Without asking, he understood that Cloud wouldn't surrender his post, so he'd continue to keep him company instead. Maybe he'd even get another blush out of the deal.