I honestly am having a hard time finding the right words to express how I feel. It's overwhelming to know how many of you stuck with me this long. That you still remember this story, that you're still here after all this time excited to see the end.. It made me cry. I got one of the most heart felt reviews I've ever gotten in my life after the last chapter and I just… I love you all. You mean so much to me, and made me so glad I came back to finish it. I honestly thought it had been so long it would be ignored.
You are all the best and I can't thank you enough.
A week had passed, and Genesis had managed to make an almost full recovery. He wasn't combat ready but that wasn't a concern for now. They had decided to take Rufus up on his "offer" and leave Shinra for good. Even if he was telling the truth, and they hoped he was, none of them could stomach the idea of returning to work for them. They'd find a way to live their life, but it wouldn't be inservice to Shirna.
Angeal had taken to staying in his mother's house, hoping she'd returned. Now that most of his other concerns had been dealt with, the weight that she was still missing sat heavily on him. At the moment, Genesis, Sephiroth and Angeal were sitting around his mother's table, the childhood pair sharing stories of their youth in Banora with the other man
Genesis wiped a tear from his eye, he'd laughed so hard his side had begun to hurt. "Angeal looked like a soaking wet dog. It was the best. Of course then he had to pull me down in the creek with him."
"And you looked like a wet cat." Angeal laughed over his cup of tea.
"I'm glad to see you boys all together." A soft voice from the door.
Angeal was up and out of his seat, across the room in an instant. He pulled his mother into a tight hug. "You're alright."
Gillian returned the hug, holding him tight. "I'm glad to see you are too."
"What happened?" he asked still holding her close. "I was so scared when they said you'd disappeared."
Gillian pulled back to look at her soon. "It's a long story. But Hojo kidnapped me because of my involvement in the Jenova project and took me back to his old lab in Nibelheim. . I don't know what he was planning. Someone rescued me before he got very far."
"Who?" Angeal asked wanting to thank his mother's savior.
"I'm rather curious too, I had left Hojo for dead." Sephiroth said crossing his arms. He wasn't sure how the scientist survived.
"He brought me back here, we were going to try and contact you, but I'm glad to see you all here." GIllian smiled as she moved away from her son to motion someone through the door.
Vincent's form filled her entryway and the three former SOLDIER"s took a moment to taken in who they were looking at.
"This is Vincent Valentine." Gillian introduced. "He killed Hojo once he'd drug me down to the labs, and asked me about you Sephiroth." she said looking towards the man.
Sephiroth stood too come greet the man. "DId I know you from back in Nibelhiem? I don't remember much from my time there." He asked sticking out his hand. Though he had thought Genesis's mother had been the only one left in the town.
Vincent looked down at Sephiroth's outstretched he raised his non-claw hand and took it into his. "I never met you, I-" Vincent paused to consider his words. "I left before you were born, but I knew your mother."
Sephiroth's eyes went wide, as he started into Vincent's red eyes.
"So you really have to go huh?" Cloud asked as he sat next to Aerith They were waiting for Tseng and Gun to finish unloading the supplies Rufus had given them. It was a nice gesture from a man who they had turned down, or so Cloud thought. His father had went on a rant about the man's motives but for now it would be a good way to ….restart.
He'd just forgotten one little thing, the girl he'd become fast friends with would be leaving to go back to her family soon.
"I'll miss you Cloud, Zack and Tifa as well, but I really miss my mother. I know she's worried." she looked down, her hands folded on top of the yellow sun dress she was wearing. "Tseng says its safe for me to return to Midgar since the new President expelled all of the members of the Science department."
Cloud just leaned back and nodded a bit. "I understand. And its not like we can't keep in touch right? Send each other letters." he smiled.
"OH!" she giggled. "I almost forgot, Tseng gave me a PHS, and one for you and one for Tifa so we can all keep in touch. He already programmed our numbers in it along with Zack's and Angeal, Sephiroth and your Brother." she explained handing over the device. "Now we can talk whenever we want."
Cloud's face lit up as she spoke, taking it from her.
"Whatcha grinning about Spikey." Zack said, he'd walked in, in time to see Cloud smile , walking over to ruffle his hair. Tifa right behind him.
"Aerith gave me a PHS from Tseng, she has one for Tifa too. Now we can keep in touch better." He replied showing his friend the device.
"Awesome man." Zack grinned before looking at Aerith. He wasn't sure what to think about things right now. Aerith would be going home…and he would be going with 'Geal and the others. They hadn't decided exactly where they were going yet, just that it wouldn't be Banora or Midgar.
"Can...Can you give us a minute?" Zack asked Cloud and Tifa.
Tifa nodded, and grabbed Cloud by the arm. "Come on."
"Alright." the now silver haired boy shrugged. "Don't leave without say goodbye though." Cloud insisted, before giving Aerith a hug, she returned it before Tifa finished dragging him off.
When they were alone Aerith looked up at Zack , he knew the truth now, it was kind of hard not to after what had happened with Cloud. He hadn't ran like the girl had feared. "What did you want to talk about?"
"I-" he paused words dying in his throat. They were about to part ways. It wasn't the best time to confess his feelings. It seemed for Zachary Fair time had run out.
Aerith however looked up at him, searching his eyes. "You?" she questioned.
Zack sighed and put a hand in his har. "I guess...I'm just going to really miss you." he said finally.
"Oh" Aerith replied still looking at him. "I'm going to really miss you too."
"Goodbye Aerith." Zack said softly, turning to leave, he had chickened out after all.
Aerith hopped off her perk. "Zack wait" she said grabbing his hand. Zack turned to look at her , only to be met with her lips on his. It took a minute as his mind went blank , but then he returned the kiss whole heartedly , wrapping his arms around her.
"So what will you do? Go home?" Cloud asked Tifa as they headed down the hall.
Tifa shook her head. "I was planning on leaving anyway. I'll write my dad a letter, let him know I'm ok. But I've been thinking and as much as I liked the idea of studying under Angeal, I don't really think I can ask that of him now. " she paused. For a moment and sighed. "I've learned a lot from your mom. I knew she had to be tough to survive in Nibelheim on her own for so long, but it was honestly pretty amazing. I think I still want to go to Midgar." she looked at Cloud a bit nervously.
Cloud smiled and nodded. He'd miss her but…"Thats great, then you can help keep and eye on Aerith and keep her company."
Tifa let out a sigh of relief. "I thought you'd be mad at me. But I was going to see if I could catch a ride with Aerith."
Cloud just gave Tifa a hug. "Why would I be mad? I didn't fit in so well in Midgar, but I think you'll do great. Shinra doesn't seem to be a threat any more so we can still come visit each other.
"You were always one of the best people I know." Tifa declared returning Cloud's hug.
Ellen held a disc in her hand containing all the files pertaining to Project . Gun had handed her several and it had sent her off on a mission to find everything she could. Hollander was lucky he was dead or she'd have killed the man herself.
She hadn't shown it to Genesis, and she wasn't sure she ever would. He did have a right to know, but at the same time…..it would likely only cause him pain. All the physical copies had been destroyed. They didn't need someone else discovering the man's work.
WIth a smooth motion she pocketed the disc. As she arrived upon the doorstep of the largest home in the town...she steeled herself as she raised her hand and knocked on the door. As a mother there was one last thing she had to do. The Rhapsodos family had made Genesis's life unnecessarily cruel. They could have chosen to show a young boy kindness and love...and the didn't. She wanted answers if nothing else, and she wasn't leaving until she got them.
Legend crossed his arms looking at Tseng and shook his head. "Shoulda known." he chuckled. "But a paycheck's a paycheck right?"
Tseng stood stern as ever as he spoke. "They are the three most powerful men on the planet, you don't think we'd really let them go without some contingency. Report to us once a month, and we'll leave you and your family at peace. You know as well as I do we can't just cut you loose either. 'Once a Turk always a Turk.'
"Yah, I know. At least this time you're blackmail'n me to stay with my family." Legend shook his head. "I'll keep tabs on the boys as long as you stay outta our hair. You cross the line, and I'll let the boys know whats going on and you'll never find any of us ever again."
Tseng just rose an eyebrow. "I'd be careful, wouldn't want your wife to know the real reason you left."
Legend growled and clenched his fists. He wanted to punch the other Turk so hard but he wasn't going to mess up his rebuilt relationship with Ellen. It was on shaky ground already if she found out he'd been lying again she'd kill him. She'd believe he hadn't known who Genesis was...but the truth was he'd taken one look at the boy and known the truth, how could he not?
Nor that he'd left her because of his old organization, not Shirna, and not because they'd forced him , but because the idea of raise'n a kid had been terrifying. The part about watching over Cloud though had been true…..Genesis too.
"I already told you I'd do whatcha want. Same old Shinra after all. Now get outta here." he kept his voice low but it was full of anger.
Tseng gave a slight nod. "The president will be happy to know we've come to an agreement." and with that he turned and left.
It was getting late when Genesis made it back to the lab, he had left to let Angeal catch up with his mother, and to let Sephiroth talk with this Vincent fellow. He was happy for Sephiroth as the man started to fill in the blanks and paint him a picture of the woman who had given birth to him. Genesis was certain with how he talked that Vincent had been in love with this woman...and a part of him had to wonder 'Is he…?'
Genesis cut that line of speculation off, it was good to do so right now. But he had placed a hand on Sephiroth's should and smiled at him before heading to the orchard.
He'd nearly fallen asleep under his favorite tree, the finality of it hit him though. It was likely he'd never be back here. The apples weren't in bloom but , he reached up and took a cutting from the tree. No matter where they settled he was determined to help it grow and flourish
Now he was walking down the hall, when he found Cloud sitting alone in a room, reading the copy of Loveless that he'd handed him in the VR room what seemed like forever ago.
"You still have it." Genesis said in surprise. .
Cloud was slightly startled as he looked up, having been deeply engrossed in the story. But then he smiled. "Yah, I packed it in with my things back at mom's house, I just found it going through stuff before we leave here."
Genesis walked over and sat down next to his brother as Cloud closed the book and tried to hand it over. Genesis simply pushed it back at him. "No go ahead and finish it, I know it by heart now anyway." he told his brother.
Cloud nodded but still put the book away for now. "Do you really think everything will be alright now?" he asked looking up at Genesis.
Genesis crossed his arms and gazed thoughtfully down at the boy. " No one can ever say for certain what the morrow might bring," he finally out to the building proper. "But I can promise you whether it bring joy or sorrow, I will still be your brother and I will still be there for you. "
The boy looked pensive for a moment gazing up at Genesis before nodding, "Do you think you can still train me? I mean I know most of that is behind us….but I would like to be able to be there for you if you need me. I want to be strong like you."
The former SOLDIER just left out a laugh at Cloud's words and for a moment he was hurt, taking his brother's laughter the wrong way. Genesis simply put a hand on Cloud's shoulder. "You're already so strong, where it counts. You did protect me, and you continue to do so , but yes. If you would still like to I would love to train you."
Cloud grinned and hugged Genesis, who couldn't do anything but wrap his arms around his brother.
Black boots made their way across the rubble of the ruins of Midgar. Cloud Strife had gotten a report from Reno of suspicious activity in the area…..and man meeting the description of Genesis Rhapsodos had been seen.
As he approached the Old Shinra building he caught sight of a wing peeking out over the edge of the building. Realizing he was probably being an idiot, and if this was this world's Genesis he'd likely attack him on sight, he lept into the air and landed gracefully on the rough top.
In one fluid movement the wing was gone as the person turn around, and a long red Rapier was pointed at Cloud's chest. "Who are you." a bitter battle hardened voice landed on Cloud's ears, as his heart banged in his chest. It was Genesis and he was alive.
"Easy I'm not here to fight. " Cloud said holding his hands in the air. "My name is Cloud Strife. "
Genesis's eyes narrowed. "The boy who was with Fair? The one who Killed Sephiroth? "
Cloud was a bit startled that Genesis had recognized him, he had to remember, this man had been friends with Sephiroth. This whole thing was entirely foolish, but Cloud had to know. After his brief visit to the other world, to save it from Jenova's claws. The information that he had a brother had ate away at him. Something else Shirna had taken away from him. When he found out the man was possibly still alive he'd held no delusions that this Genesis would want to have anything to do with him, but he had to try, even if it was just out of spite at the former Shinra Company for taking everything from him. He wanted something back damnit.
The way Genesis's was looking at him though made him realize he really had made a mistake. This Genesis wouldn't be interested in finding his long lost brother. "That me." he acknowledged, though his hand twitched to grab his sword, to be ready to defend himself.
"What do you want then." Genesis demanded, he had a lot of work to do.
Cloud sighed before shaking his head. "I have good reason to believe you're my brother."
OK that it I think that ties up most of the loose ends I had for this story. Ultimately the only pairing I decided to go with was Zack and Aerith, I should never have felt so tortured over it in the first place, and I think thats why I never finished it all those years ago is I couldn't bring myself to settle on the romantic bits, forgetting at the core of the story its about Cloud and Genesis's relationship. It doesn't need romance. Maybe I just had to mature a bit more to realize that. Thank you for coming along with me on this ride. I'll say it again, I was just floored at all the support I got. The fact people remembered it at all put tears in my eyes thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all.