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The Fifth Act, Chapter 28

Title: The Fifth Act

Rating:
T for violence.

Summary: FFVII Time-travel. Gen. Cloud has an accident with a Time Materia.

Author's Note:  This chapter is quite long!  Probably the longest yet.  This is offset by the fact that next chapter is shorter than average.  The last section was originally in the next chapter, but I moved it to this one because it flowed better.  So enjoy!

Previous Chapter  

  

 

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The Fifth Act
Chapter 28


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The short brunette Turk stood in front of the door, arms crossed and expression unusually stern.
 

"Hey Cissnei!" Zack greeted, scratching the back of his head nervously.  "I thought you were still debriefing the rebel."


"I have enough for now.  We'll bring him back to Midgar with us and do a full interrogation there."  Then she gave him that Turk look - that 'I already know what you're doing but I'm a scary Turk so I'm going to make you admit it' look.  "The mission's over, Zack.  Where are you going?"


"I'm just going out to do a bit of scouting for monsters before we leave, clear the path and all that."  He kept his tone light, but it probably didn't do much good.  He wasn't a bad liar, but it took better acting skills than he possessed to fools the Turks.


"Without backup?  There might still be rebels around.  They're not going to stop just because we have their leader."


"I'll be able move faster without having to worry about you guys.  It's secure here, and I'm just going for a look around.  I'll be right back."  Cissnei probably knew he didn't intend to just run a patrol - she was too smart for that – but he couldn’t back down, not on this.

"...Zack, this isn't about the monsters again, is it?"

He clenched his fists.  "This mission went too smoothly, Cissnei, and you know it too."


"But the monsters explained that," she pointed out.

"Then why did the monsters only attack the Wutai rebels, huh?" he challenged, dropping the light-hearted attitude.


"I don’t know - maybe we’re just lucky."


"It wasn't luck.  Those monsters were-" He cut himself off.  He liked Cissnei, he really did, but he also couldn't forget that she was a Turk, and a damn good one, no matter how sweet and soft she looked on the outside. Genesis and Sephiroth wanted to keep everything with Cloud and Angeal as quiet as possible.  Kunsel thought it was smart, too.  That meant no trusting the Turks.  "I just need to check it out for peace of mind, okay?”

 

“Please Zack,” she said, “Just… stay here. Let it go.”

 

“Let it-” Wait. “Do you know something?” Why had he forgotten that? It was the Turks – they probably had some idea of what was going on already!

"Officially, I don't know anything," she said.

"And unofficially?"

She didn't answer - instead placing a hand on his arm.  Her voice turned soft and urgent. "I don't want you to get mixed up in any of this Zack.  The Turks can't interfere with the Science Department.  I can't help you."


That’s right. The Science Department. ShinRa was the reason Angeal was sick and running away and Cloud was who-knows-where, probably in trouble because Shiva knew the blond was a magnet for it. Zack still didn’t know how he felt about all that – ShinRa were supposed to be the good guys, but did the good guys treat their employees like that?

 

He didn’t know. Didn’t really want to know. But at the same time, had to know. “Don’t get in my way, Cissnei. This is important to me.”

 

A standoff. Should he force his way past? He didn’t really want to hurt her, but if she pulled out that shuriken, he might not have a choice.

 

Her face pinched, and she dropped her eyes to stare the floor. In one slow, deliberate movement, she stepped away from the door.

 

Was she…? “Cissnei?”


"Go,” she whispered. “Go do what you have to do. Just… be ready."

 

Zack didn’t stick around long enough for either of them to get the chance to change their minds.

 

He ran through the rain-soaked marshes in the late afternoon light, foliage blurring around him, hand on his broadsword and senses sharpened for the slightest hint of abnormal movement. If he could just find another monster, find some proof

 

Everything was falling apart around him, ever since Cloud and Angeal went missing. It had been weeks, now, and what had he been able to do? Nothing. Hadn’t been able to find either his mentor or his friend. Not exactly a great start to either becoming First Class or a hero.

 

He still didn’t feel like he understood everything, but considering Cloud was involved, that wasn’t so surprising. How many people went from being a nobody in the slums to a First Class SOLDIER in a matter of months? There was a story there, one the blond had refused to share no matter how much Zack wheedled him, and it looked like it had caught up with him. 

 

All the while, Zack stood on the sidelines, unable to do anything. It frustrated the hell out of him. So what if he was only Second Class? He was still a SOLDIER. 

 

Why hadn’t Angeal or Cloud trusted him? Weren’t they friends? Okay, in Cloud’s case, he could maybe understand – he had some unresolved issues, and he was the sort of guy who would try and handle it all alone. But how many times had Angeal pulled him out of a pinch? Shouldn’t he get the chance to return the favour?

 

“Dammit, Angeal,” he muttered under his breath. 

 

His train of thought was abruptly derailed by the sound of crunching leaves. Zack stilled, ears strained. The heavy thud of footsteps, and cracking twigs underfoot. Definitely not Wutai warriors. 

 

Was it the monster? “Hey, wait up!” He hollered, drawing his broadsword and storming off the path into the undergrowth, mud squelching under his feet as he followed the crash of branches. It sounded big. The tree cover was thick around here – probably the reason the rebels had picked it. A flash of movement. There!

 

Zack charged into the clearing, sword brandished. “You’re not getting away!”

 

Only SOLDIER reflexes saved him from certain death – he ducked the instant he saw that great big blur heading for his eyes. An enormous axe crashed through three trees, severing the trunks and filling the air with splinters and leaves. Zack felt the top of his head. Yup, he was pretty sure his hair was a little shorter.

 

“You don’t look like the monster I’m after,” he declared, pointing the tip of his broadsword at the beast.

 

It was vaguely humanoid – an enormous, hulking ogre, with skin the colour of bruises, plastered with foreign-looking charms. Lank, grimy hair hung limply over its shoulders, and globs of saliva dripped from its bared gums. Its beady eyes, dwarfed by the rest of its enormous body, were ringed with a faint glow, not unlike a SOLDIER’s. 

 

The most striking feature was, of course, the massive tomahawk it wielded. It made Angeal’s Buster Sword look like a kitchen knife. 

 

Zack had heard about these things in the reports from Wutai. The SOLDIER-killers.

 

This was probably why Tseng always lectured him about looking before leaping.

 

It must have gone wild with the loss of its keepers. No problem, though. He could handle this. “Hey, ugly!” he taunted.

 

It probably didn’t understand words, but it reacted to his voice quick enough. Zack darted to the side as the tomahawk came crashing down. Sure enough, it planted itself in the muddy ground. The monster grunted with effort, tugged it free of the soft clay with a thick squelch, then roared at the bite of a broadsword in its side. Zack slid back, barely evading the wild swing that followed. Dangerous. The rain-slick terrain made it tough to keep his footing.

 

He needed to be careful. It might have been a slow brute, but just one hit and he’d be done for. He circled around slowly, and the monster turned with him, breath heavy and rasping from exertion. Maybe he could tire it out?

 

Probably not. Materia? 

 

Zack slipped his left hand into his pocket. He’d just brought Fire and Cure with him, since his bracer could only equip two materia. Quickly, he jammed them into the slots, dodged another blow, and concentrated on a fire spell. Right for the eyes!

 

Fireballs burst from his hands and curved towards the big brute’s face. It roared, swatting at the flames, while Zack slipped and slid across the ground to get behind the monster. A dash forward, and the roar became a guttural snarl of pain as he plunged his broadsword deep into its spine. 

 

The ogre groaned, stumbled, and at last crashed to the muddy ground. Zack didn’t take any chances – as soon as it was down, he leapt onto its shoulders and jammed his sword hilt-deep into its neck. 

 

Finally, the big brute fell silent. Zack flicked the worst of the blood off his blade and spun it over his head in a victory pose. “Yeah! You might look tough, but you’re no match for a SOLDIER!”

 

Then he heard more crashing through the undergrowth behind him. Zack whirled, just in time to see an enormous tomahawk bearing down upon him.

 

There was another one? “Shit!” He raised his broadsword reflexively to block.

 

His sword never stood a chance. It knocked the strike askew, but lost most of the blade in the process. His feet slipped out from under him, his back thudded against the ground, and Zack was left holding less than a third of his weapon. 

 

Not good.

 

He fumbled frantically for the materia. He needed to be fast, quicker than Cloud on the draw, he only had seconds-

 

Then the ogre stopped dead in its tracks, head cut clean from its neck.

 

Zack watched in abject astonishment as the body fell to its knees, and collapsed into the muck along with its fellow.

 

A familiar figure stood on the monster’s back. Black, regulation SOLDIER First Class uniform. Thick, heavy boots. Buster Sword, painted with blood. Plus a new addition – a single white, outstretched wing.

 

“Angeal?!” Zack gasped.

 

He hadn’t really understood why Genesis and Sephiroth had been so rattled over the wing at first. Seeing it with his own eyes, though, Zack started to comprehend the enormity of what had happened to his mentor. It wasn’t natural. Humans couldn’t just sprout wings. Especially not just one of them!

 

It was a nice wing, though. Bright white feathers. Like an angel’s. 

 

He had a hundred things to say right at that moment, but for some reason he blurted, "I thought you never used that thing."


Angeal gave him a wan grin.  "You're a little more important than my sword."

 

Zack rubbed the back of his neck, even as his thoughts raced ahead. “I-”, he began, halted, then tried again, “You’re-” No, not the right place to start either. “Was it you?”

 

Angeal didn’t answer – simply raised Buster sword, examining the blade in a fashion Zack had seen him do a hundred times before. A quick flick removed most of the blood clinging to the metal. “Still working on making First Class, Zack?”

 

“Hell yeah!” The reply came on reflex, now. 

 

“And you remember the most important qualities of a SOLDIER?”

 

“To always keep your honour, your pride, and your dreams,” he responded solemnly.

 

Angeal seemed to consider his words, before nodding decisively. "Good.” He gave him another grin – and Zack realised for the first time that it looked so sad, so tired, nothing like the usual confident and easy-going smile his mentor usually shared with him – then flapped his wing, sending gusts of air over the clearing as he rose into the sky.   “My dreams - I'm entrusting them to you."


He was leaving already? But he’d just found him! He had so many things he needed to say! "Hey, wait!"  Frantic, Zack scrambled after him.  "Angeal!  Come back! You have to listen!  Listen to me!  You've gotta come back to ShinRa!  There's a cure!  Cloud's got a-"

 

Nothing.  He’d already flown away. Too slow. He'd lost him.


Zack slowed to a walk, lips pressed in a thin line as he searched the twilight expanse for any sign of his missing mentor. He swore under his breath. He had him, Angeal was right there! He should have said something about the cure first, to make sure he stayed!

 

How was he going to explain this to Genesis and Sephiroth?

 

Then he spied a glint of silver through the trees. His breath caught in his throat, and Zack went crashing through the undergrowth again, heedless of the wet leaves whipping at his face and the mud sucking at his boots. He broke through the tree line to a new clearing, and stared, unable to comprehend the sight facing him.

 

There, in the centre of the clearing, stabbed into the soft ground... Buster Sword.

 

 

……………………..

 

 

When Cloud next woke, he wasn’t strapped to a table anymore. He was splayed out on a cold metal floor in a dark room, with the only source of light provided by the faint glow of mako from his own eyes.

 

Pushing himself into a sitting position, he felt around in the darkness as his sight adjusted – as much as it could adjust in the oppressive black. It was a cage, the sides slightly longer than he was tall, with bars so thick it took both hands to wrap around them.  He tried his strength against them anyway, but they didn't budge. Going by feel, he found a bucket in the corner, presumably to relieve himself with.  Next to it, he discovered a half-full plastic jug of water, but no food. Hojo never had been very good at remembering to feed his projects. 

 

Maybe on purpose. Specimens weak from hunger would have a more difficult time escaping.

 

Flexing his hand, there was no pain, so he guessed he’d been out at least long enough for the latest scalpel wounds to fully heal. His fingers trembled, and he frowned at them, trying to quell the quivering. During his periods of consciousness, Hojo had interrogated him about the future endlessly, pumping more volts into his body than a mastered Bolt spell. Cloud hadn’t talked, but couldn’t shake the suspicion that the scientist had been able to glean something from his reactions to some of the questions.

 

He should have been panicking, but apparently he’d already worked the worst of it out of his system during his initial imprisonment by Hollander. He was still scared – he’d be stupid not to be – but for now, could think clearly and rationally and not lose his train of thought to hopeless, unspoken entreaties. He intended to make the most of it – this was the first time in what must have been weeks where he wasn’t either drug-addled or in the throes of panic. 

 

So he’d finally found Hojo. Not that he could do anything about it. Cloud grimaced. All of that planning, endless waiting, being so careful, and he’d wound up in the worst-case scenario anyway. Hojo, Jenova and Sephiroth, all still alive, while he was trapped in the mad scientist’s clutches.

 

He’d discovered answers to some things that had been bothering him about his accident with the Time materia, but wished he didn’t. Gaia, he’d really left behind his world, and couldn’t get back? What would Tifa and his friends think?

 

No, that didn’t matter. He couldn’t do anything about that, and it didn’t change what he needed to do here. He still had a chance to save Zack, Aeris, his mother… and so many others. 

 

He studiously avoided thinking about his parentage. He’d heard some of the words his mother had been called around town behind her back – had occasionally got into fights with kids far bigger than him because of it - but to think of her with Rupert ShinRa

 

It didn’t matter, either. He hadn’t known before, and knowing didn’t make any difference now. All it did was affirm everything he thought about that wretched company and its morally corrupt President. His fists clenched. All those times Rufus had looked down on him… had Rufus known? And Lazard, did Lazard know? 

 

Probably not. Hojo had never mentioned it in his original timeline, probably satisfied by his personnel file and not bothering to look further. And if Rufus had known back in his world, he would have almost certainly tried to use it as leverage to get Cloud to work for him. And the Director… Lazard would have said something. Cloud hadn’t spoken to the man often, but his opinions on matters of family were well known. He probably would have sympathised, for all the lack of good it did him. Hojo had already laid it bare. Such flimsy familial relations wouldn’t help him at all.

 

Cloud sat there in the dark for what must have been hours, spending more time not thinking about things than making any real progress on a plan of escape. He still couldn’t clearly recall how they’d done it last time. Something about feeding time? Zack got them out, he knew that much. When it had been quiet, and no one noticed they were gone until they left the mansion.

 

The silence shattered under the heavy thunk of a turning lock. Cloud winced at the sudden burst of brightness as the lights flickered to life.

 

Hojo entered the room along with two assistants, wheeling four contraptions with him. Without even a glance towards the captured blond, he began setting them up, each one an arm’s length away from the corners of the cage. “Careful! The readings must be accurate, or we’ll have wasted our time!” he scolded one of the younger scientists.

 

Cloud took the opportunity while they were setting up to inspect his new prison in better light. It was remarkably plain – grey walls, white floor, locked off by a solid iron door. The cage rested in the centre. He could see through a viewing window into another room, not unlike how the Training Room at ShinRa was set up. Neither his nor Zack’s memories held a place like this in the mansion, but then, Vincent had told him that the basement was much larger than it first appeared, with no end of hidden rooms or interlinking tunnels. Hojo did like to burrow underground, hiding the true extent of his operations from the surface. 

 

He turned his attention to the structure Hojo was setting up next. On closer inspection, each one held a mastered Time Materia, hooked up to a variety of devices he didn’t recognise. 

 

Dread began to curl in his stomach. This couldn’t possibly be good for him. 

 

Hojo inspected several gauges, before finally appearing satisfied. The scientists filed out of the room without a word, and soon appeared in the adjacent viewing area, lined up and monitoring hidden machines with rapt attention.

 

Cloud couldn’t do anything more than stand in the centre of the cage, uneasily eyeing the network of Time materia.

 

An intercom crackled to life, and the dull, calculating tones of one of the assistants burst from the speaker. “Begin recording. Initiating test. Power levels rising – forty percent… sixty percent…

 

A sharp whine rose in his ears. The lights flickered. Colours smeared before his eyes.

 

Then Cloud stumbled, gasping. It felt like he’d been punched in the stomach and head simultaneously. By Barrett. With his gun arm.

 

Thirty-three seconds. An error of ten percent. Subject appears disoriented but otherwise normal.

 

What?

 

Adjusting the calibrations. Next test to begin in five, four, three-” 

 

Already?

 

Cloud braced. The second time, it felt less like being punched and more like belly flopping into the ocean. His skin stung for a brief moment and his insides lurched. He blinked rapidly and steadied himself with a hand on the bars. What was Hojo doing

 

Thirty-two seconds. Subject appears normal.

 

Better.” Hojo’s thin tones barely picked up in the background. “Recalibrate again. Once we’ve reached an error margin of less than two percent, we can move to the next level.

 

He was gifted with a brief pause to regain his balance and breath. “Adjusting the calibrations. Next test to begin in five, four, three-

 

This time, he felt marginally winded, but not nearly as off-kilter as the previous times. Cloud glared at the scientists though the window. They jolted, and returned their attention to the monitoring equipment.

 

Error of half a percent. Subject appears normal.

 

Very good. Move on to the next stage.

 

There was a longer wait this time, as the scientists moved about the viewing room, tweaking dials and double-checking their notes. Hojo peered over their shoulders and adjusted one gauge with a dirty look. Cloud flexed his arms, chasing away the ache from the first two jolts. 

 

Had Hojo done it already? Could he really…?

 

Calibrations complete. Next test to begin in five, four, three-

 

The whine rose to a wail. 

 

It was as though a light bulb exploded. Everything turned white, then black, Ribbon burned, and then suddenly Cloud slammed into the ground, entire body numb. His head pounded, his joints throbbed, and it felt like all of his energy had been drained. 

 

The intercom screeched in his ears. “One minute and twelve seconds! Error of twenty percent! Subject has collapsed!

 

Distantly, he heard a slam, then the slap of leather shoes approaching the cage. He forced his eyes open, struggling to make anything out from the smear of white and grey. 

 

A thunk, and suddenly, a familiar silhouette leaned over him. Cold, clammy hands grasped his jaw, turning his head from side to side. A bright torch shone into his eyes, burning to the back of skull.

 

"Interesting.  The jump appears to exert great strain on the body."  Hojo made several notes, even as he pressed an icy stethoscope to Cloud's chest.  "Heart rate irregular, but quickly steadying.  May induce cardiac arrest in non-Soldiers.  Potential cause of death for test subjects M through R."

 

Cloud groaned, willing his hand to reach up and grasp the scientist by the throat.

 

“Above average body temperature, also returning to normal. Specimen is cognizant of its surroundings, but motor functions are temporarily impaired. It could be the field stability, or the length of jump.”

 

He’d barely managed to raise his arm off the ground when Hojo retreated, and the cage door slammed shut behind him again. 

 

“Further testing will be required.”

 

For a moment, there was quiet, as the scientists returned to the viewing room. Cloud’s vision began to clear, and the throbbing in his head receded to nothing more than an annoyance. Mako enhancements made for quick recoveries, but it still left him tired and achy.

 

Then the intercom crackled to life again.

 

Adjusting the calibrations. Next test to begin in five, four-

 

A chill of fear ran down his spine.

 

 

………………

 

 

Sephiroth awoke with a jolt.

 

At once he pushed back the sheets and headed for the bathroom, bare feet ghosting over the tiles without a whisper of noise. A sheen of sweat prickled his forehead, plastering the silver strands of hair to his skin. A drop rolled down his neck, and continued the journey down his bare back as he viciously twisted the water on.

 

The nightmares had returned, though different now. Incoherent flashes, laced with pain. Threatening, vaguely familiar silhouettes, looming over him. Trapped. Caged. Helpless to escape. And yet unable to clearly identify the assailant that left him gasping for breath on the floor.

 

He remembered similar nightmares from his teenage years, when he first entered the SOLDIER program. Back then he had dismissed them – dreams were meaningless distractions from his goals. Why return now, though? And so visceral, so much more vivid than those blurry shadows of a decade prior.

 

He felt more exhausted now than before he’d gone to sleep.

 

A splash of cold water over his face refreshed him sufficiently to begin dressing for the day, though once more he’d awoken with the sun scarcely peeking over the horizon. He dressed leisurely before leaving his quarters and heading to the elevator.

 

No Angeal would be there to greet him at the coffee machine, he recalled moodily as the doors opened with a soft ding. No chance of running across a surly blond SOLDIER in the halls, either. 

 

As he waited for the elevator to arrive, he considered what to try next. Genesis and Zack were focusing on looking for their dying friend – though there was little point until they acquired the cure – leaving Sephiroth to attempt to leverage the mysterious connection that Angeal and the rest of SOLDIER seemed to think he and Cloud shared.

 

It had not been particularly productive. To begin with, he’d stared at maps for hours, to see if any particular location would jump out at him, hoping for a similar flash of inspiration as that time he’d known Strife was in the gym. When that failed, he’d then created a walking route to cover all of Midgar, based on the radius of ShinRa’s headquarters. Possibly the range of his mysterious sense extended further, but anecdotal evidence from Zack had only covered that distance. Unfortunately, that too had not yet been fruitful.

 

He'd even tried traditional meditation from Wutai, with mixed results.  Some sessions he'd been left with the impression that Cloud was definitely alive, but very far away.  Others, he didn't pick up a hint of the blond's presence at all.  As though for hours at a time, Cloud Strife ceased to exist on the planet.

 

With such insubstantial and wildly varying results, he couldn't be sure how much of it might be that extrasensory perception he supposedly possessed - the logic behind which still baffled him - and how much might be wishful thinking. 

 

In short, it had now been weeks without progress. He was no closer to divining the meaning behind his apparent sixth Cloud-sense, and in the meantime, his old reliable friend was dying from a disease that the missing blond may have hidden the cure for. 

 

The silence was broken by the soft ding of the elevator bell and whoosh of the opening doors. It was empty, the hour still too early for even the over-achievers to be up and at the office. Sephiroth stepped inside, the sound of the doors hissing shut behind him uncomfortably loud in the morning stillness.

 

Things couldn’t, in his opinion, get much worse. Even Genesis had become subdued of late, gloomily staring into the distance when once he would have quoted Loveless as though the poem contained all the answers they would ever need.

 

Perhaps for the best. Sephiroth still hadn’t entirely forgiven him for hiding such a monumental matter. But differences of opinion and trust aside, Genesis was the last one left out of those who mattered to him – so long as his mood didn’t interfere with his work, he would endure it.

 

The elevator carried him swiftly to his floor. The lights in the hallway were not yet lit when he disembarked – he flicked them on with a careful gesture, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness before proceeding.

 

As he approached his office, his gait slowed. Beyond the door, the low murmur of voices became audible. When he concentrated, he realised he recognised them, but that couldn’t be right. It was far too early in the day for either Zack or Genesis to be awake.

 

He hesitated briefly at the threshold, but realistically, it was his office, and they would not be in there at this ridiculously early hour if they did not wish to speak to him.

 

The door opened with a soft click, and at once the voices inside stopped. He pushed it inward and observed, “It’s rather early for you two to be-”

 

The words died in his throat.

 

Zack had been facing the window. As Sephiroth entered, he turned, and the golden light of the early morning sun glinted off the edge of a familiar sword resting on his back.

 

“About time you got here,” Genesis greeted snippily, as though he were expected to be in his office at the crack of dawn.

 

“What’s happened?” He kept his voice soft and even, for Zack had a ragged look about him, his normally bright and open eyes dull and tired. Thinking on it, he hadn’t seen the black-haired Second for a number of days. There had been no news, no reason for them to meet.

 

“Sorry, sir,” Zack said, and he sounded even more weary than Sephiroth felt. “I tried to tell him, to catch him, but-”

 

“Start at the beginning,” he interrupted, and carefully closed the door behind him. He suspected this would be a conversation best kept clear of prying ears.

 

“Right.” Zack ruffled the spikes on the back of his head. “I’ve been out routing Wutai rebels in the marshes all week, to stop them hooking up with some terrorist group that’s supposed to be stationed out there.” He closed his eyes, as though to better recall the details. “Things were going well to begin with. Suspiciously well.”

 

“How so?” Sephiroth prodded. Genesis busied himself picking scraps of lint from his uniform. No doubt he’d already heard the tale.

 

“Just – it was too easy. Wutai ninja are tough, and I didn’t have much in the way of backup – only Cissnei and some troopers. They’re meant to be master strategists, but they never managed to get organised enough to mob us, or even separate me from the others to make it an easier fight. Then we found tracks. There were monsters in the area.”

 

“The monsters were responsible, then?” Sephiroth could not yet see how this could lead up to Zack coming into possession of Angeal’s sword.

 

“That’s what we thought to begin with. But then I found one of them, and…” His voice faltered. “They weren’t ordinary monsters. They…” He gestured vaguely. “The colouring was different. And in the feathers… I could have sworn it was Angeal’s face.”

 

Absurd. “Are you certain you weren’t just seeing things?”

 

“I know it sounds crazy, but I know what I saw, sir.” Zack shuddered. “It threw me off. I got Cissnei and the troopers to a secure location, then ran off on my own, looking for clues.” At Sephiroth’s stern look, he shrugged helplessly. “I know, sir. But Cissnei told me to ‘do what I had to do’, and I was-”

 

Genesis cut him off. “Get to the point.”

 

“Right. Um… I guess that part’s not important anyway.” Sephiroth felt a twinge of pity for the flustered Second, clearly still reeling from recent events. “Anyhow, it was stupid. I went chasing after what I thought was the monster, but it turned out it was one of those ‘anti-SOLDIER weapons’ from the War. It was running free without a keeper. I did okay to begin with, but then a second one ambushed me.” He grimaced. “It caught me by surprise. I tried to block it, but my sword broke.”

 

“I fought some of those beasts in Wutai,” Genesis informed him. “Never make the mistake of trying to block – only dodge. We lost four First Class SOLDIERs to them, and at least a dozen Seconds.”

 

It was to Zack’s credit that he’d only lost a sword, then. “How did you escape?”

 

“That’s it, you see. Angeal came in right then, and took it out before it could kill me.”

 

The only sound in the office was the quiet rumble of the air conditioner.

 

“Are you saying,” Sephiroth began in a low voice, “that Angeal was watching over your mission?”

 

“…Yeah.”

 

“And you didn’t confront him?”

 

“I tried!” Zack’s hand reached up to clutch the hilt of the Buster Sword. “But as soon as he’d done it, all he said was that he was entrusting his dreams to me. And then he just… took off.” His eyes took on a haunted look. “He flew away, and-”

 

One flies away,” Genesis murmured.

 

“-and I chased after him, but he was flying – how was I supposed to keep up? And then, ahead in the path… was the Buster.” Zack’s shoulders drooped. “I shouted after him, about the cure, asked him to come back, but…”

 

“You did well, Zack,” Sephiroth said. “Angeal can be… stubborn, in his own way.”

 

Zack nodded. “I know, sir. I finished the mission, and got back this morning. And Genesis was-” He gestured at the First.

 

That was a good point. “Zack has told his story – care to share why you’re up at this hour of morning, Genesis?”

 

Genesis scowled. “Second Class Zack Fair isn’t the only one to have received a visitor in the night.” And with none of his usual flair for the dramatic, placed a single, white dumapple on the desk.

 

The fruit rested there, innocently unaware of the gravity of its meaning. 

 

“You spoke with him?”

 

“Of course not. You think I would have let him escape, too?” Though his words were acerbic, his tone lacked venom. “I awoke to an open window and this on my bedside table.”

 

Sephiroth picked up the dumapple, and held it delicately between his fingers. Such a distinct, pleasant fragrance… “The meaning?”

 

Genesis folded his arms. “Angeal came from a poor family. I, on the other hand, was the mayor’s son.” He gazed off into the distance, as he normally did when reciting poetry or stories. Always with the love of the dramatic. “The children would make sport out of stealing the fruit from the trees. Yet, even though the best dumapples grew on a tree on our property, Angeal never once stole from it.”

 

Silence. Then Zack scratched his head. “I don’t get it.”

 

Genesis scoffed. “You wouldn’t.”

 

“But… isn’t it more like he’s… saying goodbye?”

 

Carefully, Sephiroth replaced the dumapple on the table. “No… I think there is still hope for Angeal. While we must remain open to the possibility, I don’t truly believe he killed Hollander. And if he continues to look out for you, Zack, and cares enough to leave you a message, Genesis… then he has not yet become a monster.”

 

The sword for Zack. A dumapple for Genesis. 

 

Nothing for him?

 

Sephiroth strode to the windows, to stare down at the plaza, as was his recent habit. Still mostly deserted, with only a few sleepy souls dragging their feet to the entrance.

 

Except…

 

On the tiny ledge outside his office, at the foot of his wall-to-ceiling windows, rested a white feather.

 

Sephiroth dropped to a knee, to more closely examine it. It had become stuck in a groove, clinging on in the morning dew even as the breeze tugged at it, trying to blow it away.

 

So that was it. Of course he didn’t receive anything. Sephiroth needed no symbol to value what he’d been given. The true inheritance was intangible. Trusting his dreams to Zack. Trusting his pride to Genesis. And to Sephiroth…

 

“It’s a mark of trust,” Sephiroth said. “He’s relying on us to find Cloud, and to fix things, because he doesn’t think he’s able to anymore.”

 

The room fell silent. Zack adjusted the weight of the Buster Sword on his back – no doubt unused to the additional weight. It was a heavy burden he’d been given indeed.

 

Genesis folded his arms. “And the one that is left becomes a hero.”




Next chapter


Comments

( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
mickeytheblue
Feb. 21st, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
This chapter left me breathless with its awesomeness.

Oh, and thanks for making this chapter extra long :D (Although you did say it compensates for the shortness of the next chapter...)

And I think it was a good idea to add in the last part to this chapter instead of the next. It makes this chapter more satisfying instead of ending it with poor Cloud being tested on :-(

Can't wait for next Sunday!
sinnatious
Feb. 21st, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
Yup, that's right, next chapter suffers from having the last part moved to this one. Ahaha, there goes chapter length consistency! :D

True, nicer to end on hope for a change.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 23rd, 2010 07:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Feb. 21st, 2010 12:15 pm (UTC)
I've just been introduced to your series, and have just finished reading two of your Christmas drabbles for this verse.

Yours is the first FF7 time-travel fic I've genuinely, completely liked. Everything fits so well, and pretty much everyone's in character, and you made Cloud tolerate Sephiroth in such a believable way that does not involve anything outside of both their persons.

The people in this fic are exactly that - people, beings who have their own lives and particular connections to things not strictly plot-related, instead of tools that exist merely to react to and acknowledge Cloud crashing into their timeline.

Also, I can't believe you made me sympathize, if not like, Genesis. He's this hammy, diva-like dude in the game whom I should not feel for, and yet you've given him such dimension. You've made him a character, and not just some prop in the story. And let me tell you how much I adore the connections you've made between him and Cloud, and how logical it actually is for the both of them to understand each other that much.

Keep up the awesome work.
sinnatious
Feb. 21st, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you anon! I'm especially happy if I could add some depth to Genesis for you, he really is a lot of fun to write, and I don't think the game did him justice, as we only ever got to see him at his worst. Hope you stick around!
daemoninwhite
Feb. 21st, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
ASDFGHJKL <-- the sound I made when I realised that it was Sunday night.
This - this chapter, is the one that I have been waiting for. I get such a feeling of serenity and 'it's going to be okay' from it ... I don't know why the lack of Hojo maybe? but I do. It's so sweet, not quite wistful, but certainly edging into that territory. I agree with mickeytheblue when she (I assume that everyone on the internet is a girl, no offence meant if it turns out that you are, in fact, a boy) that the chapter left me breathless with it's awesomeness. Cloud, as always, provides an amusing background of agony and suffering while Gensis waxes lyrical about Loveless, Angeal is cryptic, Sephiroth practices his hair flips when no one's looking an Zack does squats.

In the corner.

Where no one can see him.

Because that's the way Angeal likes it. :D

But seriously. Reading Act V, particularly when you're doing a rereading and therefore reading it all at once, is like going under water. Extended metaphor time, yay~. Sometimes, it's like going for a swim, particularly in the first chapters. But, then, it turns out that we're at Bondai Beach, and we're being sucked into a rip. We thrash and drown IN UNADULTERATED AWESOMENESS as we're caught up in the amazing plotline, but then, miraculously, we're allowed up for air.

That is what this chapter is. A quick breather/break from our regularly scheduled angst, and then back to frantically trying to swim parallel to the rip.

In summery: you are amazing and I want to have your babies.
daemoninwhite
Feb. 21st, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
And I'm an idiot
I've lost track of the days, and maybe kinda, sorta, forgot to write bride fic? :ducks: DON'T HURT ME, I HAVE FAMILY IN .... the city that you live in. DDD:

Will write tomorrow. Promise.

Also,

OH MY GOD SEPHIROTH'S CLOUD SENSES ARE TINGLING THIS MEANS THAT RESCUE IS COMING, AM I RIGHT, AM I RIGHT? IT ALSO MEANS THAT CLOUD IS, WITHOUT ANY EXERGERATION, THE MAN OF SEPHIROTH'S DREAMS. DEAR GOD, THE SHIPPING IS WRITING ITSELF. Brb, laughing forever.
Re: And I'm an idiot - sinnatious - Feb. 21st, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 21st, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ixtey - Feb. 21st, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - demon_vampirate - Feb. 21st, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daemoninwhite - Feb. 22nd, 2010 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ixtey - Feb. 22nd, 2010 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:50 am (UTC) - Expand
reighost
Feb. 21st, 2010 01:32 pm (UTC)
>_< as long as the chapter was why did it feel so short? *rhetoricalquestiondontanswer*

I love this story, truly this is one i look forward to reading every week!
ixtey
Feb. 21st, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
DAMMIT, A WEEK AWAY FROM THE INTERNETZ AND YOUR FIC HAD ME FORGETTING YOUR AWESOMESAUCE POWERS OF WRITING. Good thing my amnesia's been remedied by this chapter. 8D

jkashkasd I'll not go further into me trying to get access to a computer during practice and failing every single time, because it hurts my pride so much. XD But, but. You cannot possibly fathom my elation upon realizing that it was actually Sunday. I had my OwO-face on and all that shizz as I was logging on.

Much thanks for the very long chapter, it absolutely made my day. Ahh, I'm starting to develop a liking to ZackCissnei, albeit one-sided on Cissnei to make way for ZackAerith.

Darn, I love Genesis' drama. <33 And I second mickeytheblue, your descision about the last part was definitely a good idea.

I don't understand what Hojo's trying to do with his experiments on Cloud,though. Heck, I don't even know what the experiment was about. :))

Off to sleep now. Thanks for the awesome update! 8D
sinnatious
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
ZackCissnei, really? XD Thinking on it, this chapter is the first time she's made an appearance in the flesh, much less had any Zack interaction. Although one-sided CissneiZack is TOTALLY CANON. :|

Lunarfirefox had a good explanation of the experiments furthere down in the comments which I shall reference rather than write myself: http://sinnatious.livejournal.com/82142.html?thread=1449438#t1449438

Regardless, that would have all be pretty obvious next chapter.

Thank you for the awesome comments. ^_^

lunarfirefox
Feb. 21st, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Cloud has FLASHLIGHT EYES *____*
-found that too amusing for some reason-

I hope the strain of time travel is not from the machinery and is caused by the time-travel itself so Hojo won't be able to do it. Actually, it'd be kinda funny if Hojo is doing all this research and the only one who can really travel back are people with insanely high mako levels or something. But Hojo could alter himself...bah, he just needs to die and let Cloud go so he can go kill Jenova and have a happy ending D:
sinnatious
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
Ahaha, only they never turn off. He would suck at playing hide-and-seek in the dark. XD
ashoakandthorn
Feb. 21st, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
*Happy sigh, snuggling down to read*

And I second that comment on this chapter not feeling like it was that long, but that I blame it on the pacing.

Will be going over this chapter a couple of times when I've got time during the next week.

shadowartemis
Feb. 21st, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Ahhh this chapter hurts so good. We get to see how everyone is progressing with the absence of Angeal and Cloud, and what Hojo is doing to poor Cloud. For some reason, the fact that Hojo never stopped with his researched and just did test after test without a break for Cloud is so painful and fitting. I don't know why, but I also keep expecting Vincent to show up and help Cloud out much as I want Sephiroth, Genesis, and Zack to save him. Is he going to appear again?

And Angeal! Oh poor Angeal. I think I'm one of the few who still liked him even after he kidnapped Cloud. I keep hoping Aerith manages to recreate the cure...
sinnatious
Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Hojo has the benefit of the time while Cloud is away to do things like sleep and eat. Cloud has no such advantage. :(

\o/ Hooray, not everyone is on the Angeal hate-wagon!
demon_vampirate
Feb. 21st, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
This hurts, as usual... but it's kind of an uplifting hurt. (Because of Angeal. It's that angel thing, I tell ya.)

Cloud-- waaah he needs a hug and a Sephiroth plushie saviour.

Seph-- NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT HIS DREAMS. YESTERDAY. (And squeeeeeee at "So that was it. Of course he didn’t receive anything. Sephiroth needed no symbol to value what he’d been given. The true inheritance was intangible. Trusting his dreams to Zack. Trusting his pride to Genesis. And to Sephiroth..." Ohmygod I squee'd so hard.)

Angeal-- A-ha-hangeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaalll... *cry*

Genesis-- needs to stop being PMSy. (Though I completely empathise.)

Zack-- ohpoorPuppy. Hug tiem nao.
AND THE SWOOOOOOOOOOORD!

OhmyShivaIcannotwaitfornextSunday.
sinnatious
Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
XD How much sugar did you consume before writing this comment? You've become progressively more excitable with each chapter. <3

\o/ Someone liked the bit with the dreams and the honour and the pride! So happy. I rewrote that paragraph about fifteen times, seriously.

alksfjslakjfsaf *imagines Cloud hugging a Sephiroth plushie... but then the image gets a bit creepy with the dungeon/lab setting....
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 22nd, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 23rd, 2010 10:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - demon_vampirate - Feb. 23rd, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - demon_vampirate - Feb. 23rd, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
swyrel
Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
First, I loved this chapter completely. Second, I'm starting to like Angeal again. But, I still think he's being a stupid coward.

I loved the beginning of the chapter with Zack and his hair. It's just so fun to see things from his perspective.

I'm not really understanding the whole experimentation thing. When Hojo is talking about 'jumps', and then Sephiroth seems like Cloud doesn't even exist for brief periods of times, is Hojo somehow sending Cloud to another time line, but then bringing him back? I really need to read over this chapter again so that I will understand it better...

What's Kunsel been up to this whole time?

Also, Cloud is so going to kick Hojo's ass when he gets out of that cage.
lunarfirefox
Feb. 22nd, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
How I interpreted is that Hojo sent Cloud to the future for a few seconds, then minutes, then later hours probably. Cloud would disappear and then reappear in a point in the future. When he disappears he won't "exist" but when he reappears Sephiroth can vaguely sense him again?

I doubt he would try to send Cloud back to the past from the future because then the future Hojo would never see time traveling Cloud again...although that would be a great way to get rid of any interfering forces xD
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
searisme
Feb. 22nd, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
Hojo, you bastard, let me maim youuuuu!
Aah! I'm still not over the Hojo thing! It's like every worst nightmare realised. Plus points to Cloudy for being somewhat level-headed, though.

And I still don't now what to think of degradation!(desperate?!)Angeal... Hm.

And the whole Cloud-ShinRa issue. Does everyone in N. know? Is that why the Strifes hade the problems they had? It makes me rethink a lot of things - it's such a valid explanation for Cloud's colouring and absent father...
sinnatious
Feb. 22nd, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Hojo, you bastard, let me maim youuuuu!
It's just one possible explanation of many... Surprisingly, there are few fics that dare touch the topic.

tir_synni even had an absolutely awesome scenario that Vincent was Cloud's dad! I like that scenario mostly because it then they really are kind of brothers!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 22nd, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - searisme - Feb. 23rd, 2010 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 23rd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hojo, you bastard, let me maim youuuuu! - searisme - Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hojo, you bastard, let me maim youuuuu! - searisme - Feb. 24th, 2010 02:24 am (UTC) - Expand
teekoness
Feb. 23rd, 2010 08:29 am (UTC)
You're evil. You know that? I've gone and wasted three hours on your bloody fic and I'd happily waste another three provided there were more chapters.

There's a zillion things that I love about your story but I do in fact have to sleep so I'll keep it to a couple:

1. Your pacing. One of my major pet peeves in any form of literature is that the story stays more or less in the exact same place. With your writing, there's always something interesting happening as well as a general feeling of movement.

2. Characterization. Everyone is very much in character and you keep them interesting. You've also expanded nicely on Genesis who we've never seen truly sane. Meanwhile Kunsei who might as well be your original character given what we seen of him is definitely engaging.

3. Avoiding cliches. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy occasionally throwing history out the window. Even if Cloud and Sephiroth had been married prior to FF7, I can't see Cloud after all he's witnessed to automatically jump forgive past!Sephiroth. This being said given how you've written them and had them change, I could buy it eventually.

Seeing one of the previous comments on fanfic recs, I thought I might add a few of my own. I adore reccing good fics (quite possibly because I'm not that good a writer).

sister-coyote.livejournal.com does excellent FF7 fics. She does a number of NC-17 featuring the Turks, but also gives a good insight into her characters as well as throwing in the occasional bit of humour.

"Noir de la Lune" by Starherd is also an excellent fic (www.fanfiction.net/s/2894256/1/Noir_de_la_Lune) which deals with an AU where Cloud died prior to giving Sephiroth the black materia and everything went downhill from there. The main characters are Tifa and Loz and Starherd makes them utterly gripping.
sinnatious
Feb. 23rd, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
\o/ New face! Hello. Thank you for such a long comment!

1. You liked the pacing? *_* I'm normally far too slow with the pace, so hooray for improvement~!

2. Kunsel didn't have nearly enough screentime in Crisis Core. He is my Boba Fett of FFVII. :|

3. I'm happy you think so, even though the whole time travel thing is a bit of a cliche in itself. That said, it forced me to take a bit more effort to side-step those popular story mechanisms. It made the story better for it, in the end.

Thanks for the recs as well! Always love a good rec. Hope you stick around. ^_^
(no subject) - teekoness - Feb. 23rd, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Feb. 24th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
laleira_granite
Feb. 24th, 2010 03:00 am (UTC)
And the three that are left become heroes?

I HATE Hojo. A lot. Graargh.
illori
Feb. 24th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Hi! I am a seekret lurker, don't mind me
Today I was looking through the rec list of one of my favourite authors when I came across a FF7 fic a haven't seen there before. The description intrigued me, and so I followed the link and spent a few hours reading your fic (instead of doing a lot of homework. meh.) And I can say, it was absolutely worth it!

I must admit, I love time-travel fics, no matter how cliche they could be, and would probably read (almost) any fic I can find. But yours s certainly one of the best I have seen (and not only in FF7 fandom) There are so many things I like about it, I'm not sure where to begin :)

I like your, well, writing style. It just, works for me, I guess. (Because sometimes, I would follow a glowing recommendation, and then be left wondering what was so great about it)
I like the pace. It is not too slow so it becomes boring and not too fast to become incomprehensible.

I like how everything is, well, logical is probably not the best word, but everything, just, makes sense. Motives, actions, consequences, they fit with the story and characters themselves.

I like how Cloud doesn't instantly forgive Sephiroth just because all those tragic events haven't happened yet (because for Cloud, they did). I like Cloud's uncertainty, his doubts, his anger and depression, and I love his smile. I like your Sephiroth and Genesis and Angeal, and such obvious friendship and caring between them, and how they draw Cloud in (because he needs it, yes.) I like your Zack, he is so young and so Zack. And Aerith, and Vincent, and Tseng, and Mama Strife, and Cid and everybody else. ) You make them so human, they become alive (if it makes sense) and even minor characters have actual personality.

And I think I will stop rambling now before it becomes totally incomprehensible :)

Also, if you don't mind me joining the reccing, have you read Revenant by mirroredsakura? It is the only other FF7 fic I have seen where Cloud is physically sent back in the past, and it is awesome, too.

Thank you for posting this :)
(very (im)patiently waiting to read more)
sinnatious
Feb. 25th, 2010 01:40 pm (UTC)
*waves* Hello! Wow, secret lurkers popping out the woodwork, awesome. Thanks very much for de-lurking and commenting! *__* Glad you're liking it, especially the characterisation, it's a tricky beast to handle, so hopefully I can keep it up until the end.

And thanks for the rec, I stumbled across that fic on ff.net recently, didn't realise there was an LJ version too! It's very cool, wish there was more. :( Why do most time travel fics never get finished?

(Next update will be on Sunday)
caterfree10
Jan. 10th, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC)
Angeeeeeeeaaaaaaalllll you need to learn to stay and listen dammit. ;; At least there are more tragic ways for Zack to inherit the Buster Sword? askfhsdlkjfhs

*insert own chime in the "DIE HOJO DIE" chorus*

Also asjfhdslfjkhdslkjfa dat symbolism in the gifts. ;A; Though inbetween with Sephiroth casually observing Genesis' flair for the dramatic, hee. <3
( 49 comments — Leave a comment )

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