Cloud was dreaming. He knew he was, and yet he found that waking was impossible no matter how much he wanted to turn away from the scene before him. It was peaceful, and it could have been any number of the days that he had found a semblance of happiness in after Sephiroth's second coming. But he recognised the day; recognised the moment when his world was once again upturned and his peace shattered.
It was the day that the Darkness began its attack.
Cloud was sitting in the garage, doing a tune-up on Fenrir, with Denzel leaning over the seat of the large bike watching with wide, adoring eyes. Cloud knew that Marlene was with Tifa in the kitchen, preparing lunch.
The soft noises from the near empty bar floated through to Cloud's enhanced ears, something that he always preferred to be able to hear, especially since Tifa had decided to hire a young girl for the quiet days so that the battle-hardened warrior would be able to have some time to herself and their adopted children. It was rare for people to start trouble in the bar; especially since its owners were well known, but there was the occasional alcohol-fuelled incident.
Today was looking like it would be a particularly quiet one,with only the few regulars nursing their drinks. Cloud hadn't been able to relax for the past few days though; a soft anxiety had been growing within him for reasons that he couldn't understand. So today he had asked Denzel if he wanted to help and then proceeded to begin working on his beloved bike; a past-time that often relaxed him.
It was an odd sensation; to know what was going to happen and yet have no influence over your own actions, if was like watching a movie through your own eyes, and yet being so detached from what was happening that it felt as though it couldn't possibly be your eyes.
Working with the soft chatter and occasion question from Denzel, Cloud nearly missed the sound of the door to the bar slamming open with more force than was necessary, and a moment later concerned and nervous voices were being raised. Cloud listened for a moment before deciding that perhaps he should just go out and check. The girl that Tifa had hired was quite shy and hesitant when things began to get rowdy.
Placing the bolt he had picked up into its correct place, he looked to Denzel and held up the correct tool for him.
"Would you like to tighten this one for me?" He asked softly, still listening to the noises from the bar. The boys eyes lit up like suns and he was over the seat and next to Cloud in seconds flat.
Cloud gave him a small smile and and ruffled his hair before standing up. He admired how much Denzel had grown for a moment; he was no longer the shy kid he was when he had Geostigma, he was now quite confident with himself and he had grown out quite a bit. Cloud figured that the boy would eventually be taller than him.
"I'll be back soon." Cloud said before leaving the room. He met Tifa in the hallway and sharing a quick look that said they had both heard the commotion, they proceeded to enter the bar.
Their eyes were quickly drawn to a small group of people that had gathered at the table closest to the door. The few regulars that had come in were standing around a man that was bent over panting and sweaty as he tried to desperately catch his breath. When the man looked up, he was pale and obviously terrified.
"Mo...Monsters... Coming from the... Ruins." The man panted, his voice to low for anyone but Cloud to hear. The blond frowned as he watched the man trying to repeat himself , it was not odd for there to be monsters in the Midgar ruins, especially down in the slums, but none of them that Cloud had seen over the years had seemed like the sort to try and attack the general populace; most of them being scavengers before predators.
Looking over to Tifa, who seemed to have just understood what the man had been trying to say, Cloud gave her a nod before checking that he had First Sword strapped to his back and then heading out the front door to the bar.
Seventh Heaven was located not to far away from the ruins; close enough that Cloud wouldn't be to bothered travelling the distance at a run, but far enough away that it would still take a little while to get close enough.
Moving at a steady pace and silently wishing that he hadn't decided to tune up Fenrir today, Cloud made his way through the nearly silent streets. It wasn't until he got quite a bit closer that Cloud began to come across people that were moving with a strong and fear-induced purpose. They were all moving away from the slums.
The anxious feeling that Cloud had been feeling recently intensifies the closer he got to the slums, and the number of people he passed was increasing as well. Some of them looked at his with hope in their eyes, while others simply kept their heads down and moved faster. Eventually, scattered screams could be heard, and there were some people coming past with ripped clothing, wounds and gashes.
Cloud stopped in the middle of the street and watched some of the people as they passed by, and listening to the scattered screams, trying to get a rough idea how wide-spread the attack was; by now there was no doubt that something was wrong, and he was quite prepared to listen to the story about monsters with the wounds that he was seeing on people. They were far to jagged and varied to have been made by weapons.
The sounds of helicopter engines cut through Cloud's musing, and looking up he watched several of the flying vehicles go past, each either painted with a Neo-Shinra, or WRO logo. Apparently, news had spread quickly.
One of the last helicopters slowed down and turned down; coming to a landing in the middle of the wide street. Once the engine had been cut, it didn't take long for the wild read hair of Reno to appear, followed closely by Rude, the bald man scanning the area closely while his more reckless partner just jogged towards Cloud.
"Yo, Cloud! Am I glad to see you!" Reno said once he was close enough. "Some real shit is going down."
Cloud's frown intensified when he got a look at the serious expression on the Turk's face. If Reno was serious than it was bound to be worse than he was already expecting.
"What's happening?" Cloud asked, for once not interested in making life difficult for the Shinra employees.
"Honestly? We don't know man." Reno answered as Rude made his way over. "One of the patrols that we always have going through the slums was cut off during an emergency transmission about an hour ago. Since then, its been nothing but screams and panic over the lines. What ever it is, is messed up, yo."
"How did you hear about it?" Rude asked, eyes still scanning the area around them behind his dark shades.
"A man came to the bar." Cloud answered.
"Well, I for one am glad to see you, yo." Reno said, "We could sure use a hand with this one, it looks like a hell hole, and-"
Whatever Reno had been about to say was interrupted by the sound of a mobile ringing. With a small sigh, the red-head pulled his phone from his suit and answered it.
"Yeah boss?" Reno answered, falling silent for a moment as the faint voice of Tseng could be heard over the line. It was to faint for Cloud to hear the words though.
"Yeah, we saw 'im from the air, thought we would-" Cloud figured that the Turk's were being grilled on their whereabouts.
"What?! Come on! Even we can see that we need help... Oh, you've gotta be kidding me boss!... Fine..." The look of confusion that soon morphed into frustration surprised Cloud a bit; even he knew that the red-head wasn't one to talk back to Tseng often, but apparently this time was different.
Cloud blinked when he suddenly found Reno's mobile in front of his face.
"Boss man wants to talk." Reno said, his eyes looking anywhere but at Cloud and his free hand curled into a while-knuckled fist.
Cloud took the phone hesitantly and held it up to his ear.
"Strife?" The monotone voice of Tseng was muffled slightly by the sound of gun fire and shouts of orders and pain in the background.
"Here." Cloud said, more focused on what he could currently get from the sounds around the lead Turk.
"As you can no-doubt hear, things are rather... interesting here at he moment. However, as we will be initiating a full evacuation of Edge, I would like you to return to your little family and get them out."
Cloud frowned, and had to resist the urge to pull the phone away from his ear and look at it just in case this was a joke of sorts. A full evacuation of Edge would also mean that there was no way of stopping whatever was attack at the moment, and that seemed hard to comprehend at the moment as Cloud stood with the two Turks in the middle of a near silent street.
"If it is that bad, then you need my help." Cloud replied curtly. Understanding why Reno seemed annoyed. If there was a threat to Edge that he could help prevent, or at least hinder, then he would do so.
"We will need your help Strife, but not now. At the moment we are doing all that can be done. And that is slowing the threat down while the evacuation happens. Yes your skills would be helpful, but it would help only a small amount in the end. Get your family to safety, and we will be in contact soon to organise a counter attack." Tseng said, his tone giving way to no argument.
If what Tseng was saying was true, then there were far to many enemies to be contained at the moment, something that disturbed Cloud to no end. He had been in the slums only recently at the Church, and had seen nothing odd or unusual about the area or its normal inhabitants. For a force this large to appear so suddenly... The consequences were vast and not at all comforting.
With a sigh, Cloud gave a quick affirmative to the Turk on the other end of the line before closing the phone and ending the call. Handing the device back to the still steaming red-head, Cloud made the effort to look apologetic.
"It's not your fault." Reno said with a sigh, instantly feeling bad that Cloud Strife of all people was trying to look sorry about something that he ultimately had no control over. He knew that as soon as he had handed the phone over that the blond would be convinced to do as Tseng wanted.
Reno just couldn't understand why Tseng was so set on keeping the one person that would be able to wipe the floor with the enemies away from the battle. He decided that he was going to grill the older Turk for his reasons later on.
Turning away from the blond, Reno looked over to his partner and gave a nod towards the helicopter. No words were needed between the two any more; they had been partners for too long to need words. And the words that came across to the bald man were more than Reno just wanting to leave; he wanted to escape the glowing eyes of the one man that they all owed so much to, and yet had come running to for help once more. Reno felt ashamed despite knowing that he had no real reason to feel that way.
Cloud took a deep breath and turned to begin the trek back to Seventh Heaven, already trying to think of a way to describe everything that he had discovered, while still having no clue as to what was actually happening.
A low growl came from behind and to the left, the sound more of a vibration in the air than physical noise. Turning around, Cloud quickly located a dark shape slinking at the edge of a building, mostly hidden by a shadow, and nearly invisible in the darkness aside from blazing red eyes.
It took Cloud only seconds to analyse the situation; those blazing eyes were locked firmly on the back of the currently unaware Turks, and the creature was ready to strike at any second.
And it did attack.
Cloud moved with all the speed that his enhancements gave him; closing the distance between himself and the two men that had become allies in the past, and were perhaps getting close to loose friends. Drawing First Sword as he moved, Cloud was able to knock both Reno and Rude aside and block the vicious attack from a creature that looked like a wolf gone wrong.
The beast was far bigger than any wolf Cloud had ever seen, and that was saying something when Nibel wolfs were no small creatures. Its skin was pitch black and rippled with matted fur that looked as though the points could cut, the muzzle of the beast was twisted in its attack and more than three rows of razor sharp, pin-like fangs could be seen as the creature lunged with the intent to kill.
The force of the blow knocked Cloud backwards off his feet, making him land painfully on his back with the weight of the beast bearing down on him. It was only First Sword lodged firmly through the mouth of the creature that kept Cloud safe.
Despite the fact that Cloud's sword skewered through the beasts mouth and emerged out the back of the massive head, the creature still thrashed and tried to push its mouth further down the blade to get to its prey.
Two sets of claws ripped into Cloud's right thigh and left side, drawing a gasp of pain from the blond and leaving hot blood to quickly soak clothing. With a grunt of exertion, Cloud twisted the blade sharply and managed to take off the beast's head. It was only then that it stopped thrashing and fell forward in a heap. Cloud braced himself for the weight of the massive beast to fall, but before it could happen the beast dissolved into nothing; leaving Cloud laying on the road with his sword held up and ready, covered in a black substance, and blood flowing from his wounds.
Everything had happened in a matter of seconds; with neither Turk having the chance to do anything but turn in time to see the blond save their lives. Reno was up in a flash and quickly moving over to Cloud, Rude following close behind. They both knew that at least one of them would have been killed if not for the swordsman.
"You ok man?" Reno asked as he helped the blond sit up. Quickly moving to assess the man's injuries.
"I'll be fine." Cloud said, brushing Reno's hands away from the still hurting gashes as he sat up, suppressing a wince at the movement. He knew the gashes were deep, but if that was just one of the creatures, then he would need to get back and get Tifa, Marlene and Denzel to safety, and the Turks would be needed elsewhere as well.
Reno nodded and sat back, watching with hidden concern as Cloud stood up, limping slightly as he took a step. It looked like the beast had cut through some muscle as well. The red-head knew from experience that Cloud wouldn't be swayed when he was set on something, and the look in the blonds eyes in the moment was determined. He had made up his mind.
Standing and brushing his suit down, Reno fixed Cloud with a level headed look.
"Go and get them kids to safety. We will see you soon enough, and get these assholes,yo!"
Getting a nod in return, the two Turks made their way to the helicopter and boarded uninterrupted this time, they were soon in the air and heading off to meet Tseng and the rest of their comrades.
Cloud stood and watched the helicopter until it was out of sight.
He would never again see many of the Turks, and the ones that he did see later on in the war against the Darkness fell like many others. But that day was the last day that he would ever see the bald headed Rude.
The dream took on a more surreal feeling after that; seeming to fast forward through the evacuation until the entire scene dissolved around him and left him standing in complete darkness. Eventually movement around him caught his attention and the feel of several things lightly tugging at this pants and legs had him frozen to the spot.
The darkness was gone all at once and Cloud found himself looking down into the mutilated faced of people he knew to be dead. The first and foremost was Zack, his chest and back riddled with bullet holes and blood splattered all over his face as he looked up to Cloud with his mouth open in a silent scream.
Cloud wanted to throw up.
But he couldn't even move, even as the figures around him swarmed up and pulled him down, all of them familiar faces that he hadn't been able to save. Or even just those that he had never really known well, but had come to call allies during the war. Cloud saw so many faces that he wanted to forget, both from the war and from before it; his mother... Aerith... Rude... Tifa... Marlene... Zack... So many faces...
Even as half rotted hands clawed at his clothes and skin; pulling; tugging; stealing, Cloud was unable to do anything.
It was with a soft cry of pain and shock that Cloud finally woke up.
Here is a bit of back story for everyone :) I hope you all enjoyed, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!