A/N: Hello! And welcome back...I have returned with another FF7 fic! Huzzah! I am doing this due to the overwhelming response to my previous (and unfinished) fic! So, I hope you enjoy this one just as much. XD This chapter is more of a prologue I suppose...so keep an eye out for the rest! I'd love to know what you think of this one, I have written it differently but it is a kind of carry on from Eien, Clouds past is what happened in Eien, so keep that in mind as I write!

Ningyō

(Doll)

A high cliff, surrounded by rocks and brown dirt, the sun rode high in the deep blue sky and the light bathed everything in its warm glow. A dark shadow stretched out along the ground indicating the time of day by moving with the sun. The object that cast the shadow reflected the light, as it glinted from the slightly rusted edge of a huge sword that had been plunged deep into the arid earth. A lonely cloud floated overhead as the sword looked out over a barren wasteland, beyond which rose a massive city; Midgar. The most advanced City on the planet and the centre of everything. Thousands upon thousands of people called it home including one man, a blond, spiky haired twenty two year old delivery boy...

"Such fast service! Thanks so much!"

"It's all part of the service, Ma'am." Cloud said with a complimentary smile, he knew how to make little old ladies swoon.

"My, such a kind young man...I'll recommend you to all my bridge club friends!"

"You're too kind. I'll be off then..." Cloud turned away as the woman closed the door; he walked slowly over to his beautiful black motorbike. His heavy boots crunched across the dusty ground as he walked and his leather clothing creaked. He stood still a moment and listened to the sounds of the bustling city around him, it had been exactly a year since the last battle. Cloud tipped his head back and stared up at the sky a moment, he remembered when no one could see the sky from the slums. There had been a huge plate of metal where the people from the richer classes could buy houses and have gardens, he shook his head and mounted his bike. As he leaned forward to clasp the handle bars he felt a vibration in his pocket, sighing heavily he ignored his phone and kicked the bike into action.

Tifa sighed heavily as she replaced the phone back in its cradle. She turned to see Marlene looking up at her questioningly; she bent down and smiled at the small girl. "He'll come home soon, he always does."

"But today is..." Marlene began but Tifa smiled and patted her on the head.

"I know, I'm sure he won't forget either. Now, you go play, everyone should be arriving soon." She watched the girl run back out of the office as she straightened. Her eyes darkened as her mind went back to how strange Cloud had been acting recently; he was growing distant from their little family. He was spending more and more time in the old church and he was drinking much more than he usually did. She sighed again and turned to the desk, it was littered with paper and old photographs. Her fingers shifted through them idly as she smiled. Her hand paused on one picture in particular and she lifted it up to look at it more closely; it showed a woman wearing a pink dress with long brown hair and a pink ribbon tying it back. She was sat on a rock next to Cloud and she was grinning and waving at the camera, Cloud was watching her from the corner of his eyes with a tiny, but happy, smile on his lips. Tifa put the picture back on the desk and turned away, it had always been her. His heart had always belonged to Aeris. She felt a sharp stab of jealousy and pushed it away, would she really become bitter about a dead woman? No, she had loved Aeris as much as anyone of them, the girl had been bright and bubbly always supporting them and binding the whole group together. Her death had devastated them all but Cloud had never been the same. He was more withdrawn, more insular than he ever had been even after he had struggled to accept the fact that he had been experimented on. Tifa left the room and took one last glance back, the picture stood propped against the phone. She smiled sadly and turned away.

Cloud entered the church and stood before the flowers. Their scent made him relax and he fell into one of the old, broken pews. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes remembering the woman who had tended the lonely flower bed in the middle of the mechanical city. Her smile, her sparkling eyes...her laughter. She had been ripped from him brutally by a man with silver hair and demonic eyes, a man who he hated and yet...he could never forget. He slowly opened his eyes afraid of the images he saw behind his closed lids. The nightmare that always played over and over again, slowly becoming more vivid each night. Even now, in the bright sunshine, he could still feel those hands on his body.

Lately there had been reports of a strange disease springing up throughout the slums; so far no one had any clue as to what it was or how to cure it. Those who contracted it died awful, painful deaths. The doctors were confused and no one could work out how it was spread. Cloud had seen the news reports on the television, the symptoms began with numbness of the limbs, then, as the disease spread, the skin would start to darken in one particular area which differed from person to person. It ended up black and wept black fluid. The victims would slowly become weaker and confused, their minds would eventually break due to the agony until they died by vomiting the same black liquid that leaked from their wounds. It was a horrible sickness but so far only a few had contracted it.

Cloud lifted his left arm and stared at his hand, the fingers had been tingling lately and he was losing the ability to move it properly. His whole arm had been flushing from hot to freezing at night and every now and again he suffered from brief waves of intense agony. He smiled bitterly as he squeezed his hand into a fist making the black leather glove creak slightly. He knew what it meant. He was dying. Slowly but surely he was going to be eaten away by the disease. He let his arm drop back to his side and stared blankly at the flowers.

"He told me he would give me a gift..." he whispered. He giggled quietly and covered his eyes with his right hand. "He gave me this...whatever it is..."

I will bind you to me forever, Cloud. We will meet again...I will make sure that we do. I will give you a gift...

He gasped and leaned forward gripping his arm tightly and squeezing his eyes shut. The pain was intense, unbearable. He clenched his teeth tightly as it increased, with the pain came the visions...

Bright green demonic cat eyes...flashes of long, silver hair...pale skin...black leather...

You belong to me. You will forever be my puppet, do not think that just because you have destroyed my body that I will not find another one...Perhaps...i may even use yours?

The pain increases making him cry out and fall onto the floor with a bang.

But no...your body is too beautiful for that, I will take you back. I will make you mine once again.

"No..." Cloud moaned quietly. It was too much. His head was going to burst! He gasped desperately and clenched his hand into a fist. Finally the pain receded. He sighed and released the grip on his arm; slowly he sat back on his heels and lifted the leather sleeve on his left arm. It was there. Like a black bruise slowly spreading outward. He sighed and climbed to his feet. He would need some bandages.

He stepped out of the doctors and took a deep breath. That had been awkward. Cloud had asked for bandages but the man had kept asking why and finally Cloud had been forced to show him the darkening patch of skin on his arm, the doctor had then tried to get him to stay. Cloud had been forced to threaten the poor man before he was allowed to leave; having the glowing eyes of a Mako enhanced SOLDIER had its advantages.

He returned to the old church and sat down in amongst the flowers. He removed the leather sleeve on his left arm and began tying on the bandages with quick, practised movements. Finally he took the end in his teeth and tightened them. Once done he lay back in the flowers and let their perfume surround him. The blue sky was easily visible from the hole in the roof and he watched the shadows of clouds drift lazily overhead.

His phone buzzed in his pocket indicating a message, he dug it out and flipped it open. He had three messages from Tifa, one from Barrett and several from an unknown number. He replayed the messages one by one.

Cloud, where are you? You know that today is the year anniversary of the last battle! Everyone is hoping to see you again...please, come home soon.

He closed his eyes and rubbed at them with his other hand. Tifa was always needlessly worrying about him. Her other messages were much the same.

Yo! Spikey! Where the hell are you? We're waitin' at the bar! Hurry up...i wanna start celebrating!

Barrett, as usual, was loud and blunt.

The next messages confused him. They were crackly, as if the person phoning him had bad reception. The voice was low, barely recognisable...

Cloud...need...wake...soon...reunion...need...Jen...he will return.

Cloud felt a sharp pain in his chest. His fingers went limp on the phone and he stared up at the sky with wide eyes. The phone slipped from his fingers as black feathers began falling softly from the sky brushing his face. Then, the pain came. In his head. In his arm. He curled in a ball in the flowers crying out so his voice echoed through the empty church.