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The Fifth Act, Chapter 34

Title: The Fifth Act

Rating:
T for violence.

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

Author's Note:  Big long talky chapter, this one.  I have bashed my head into my keyboard over it many times.  In other news, convention next weekend, not yet sure if this will impact next chapter update.  If it winds up eating the whole weekend, that might push it back a fair bit, since that's the majority of my editing/writing time at the moment.  -__-;  Just a heads up in case.


Previous Chapter  

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The Fifth Act
Chapter 34


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Zack rubbed his eyes. No dream, no mistake. It was definitely Kunsel. Still dressed in his purple Second Class uniform and damn standard-issue helmet. 

“Kunsel. Kunsel! Hey, wake up man!” The Second didn’t respond, head lolling on the pillow as he shook him. He was pale as a ghost, the visible part of his face drawn and haggard, even in sleep. 

Cloud’s nephew shifted awkwardly off to the side, and quietly explained, "He’s sick. I was going to bring him to a hospital, but he said something about hiding from ShinRa.  And so I thought, since it seemed like he knew my uncle-"

“Whoa whoa whoa – what? Start at the beginning.” Zack’s head spun. He’d spent the past two weeks seesawing between anger, impatience, and grief. He hadn’t expected to see Kunsel ever again. Yet here he was, laid out on a threadbare hotel bed in the slums. Unresponsive, maybe, but alive. He was having a hard time processing much beyond that right at the moment.

“I- I found him on the mountain trail,” the blond stuttered. “He said my name, then passed out. I was confused at first, but then I thought maybe he knew my uncle.” He fidgeted. “Mr Ferrey says we look alike.”

Zack stared. “Just a bit.” The resemblance was uncanny, aside from the age difference and the lack of mako glow in his eyes. “So then what?”

“I dragged him back to my house.” Cloud’s voice barely clambered above a whisper, as though he were imparting a deadly secret. “Ma didn’t want to deal with ShinRa, so I said I’d take him to the next town myself.  Nibelheim doesn’t have a doctor.”

“Right. So why did you wind up all the way here then? He said something?”

“Y-yeah.” He swallowed. “He woke up a couple of times, but hardly anything he said made any sense before he drifted out of it again. One time, though, he grabbed my arm, and he said, ‘Don’t let ShinRa find me’." He shuffled in place, staring at the ground as though it were the most fascinating sight in the world. “It sounded really serious. I didn’t know what to do. Then I remembered my uncle in Midgar. I thought maybe - if they were friends - that maybe he could help him.”

“So then you brought him all the way to Midgar. Without getting seen by ShinRa,” Zack repeated in disbelief.

Looking confused, the blond nodded. “Mr Ferrey drove us from Nibelheim and bought us a coach ticket to the nearest port.” He worried his lower lip between his teeth.  "I would have made it sooner, but I used up most of my savings on the boat trip.  We had to hitch hike the rest of the way. I, um, kind of told people he was my sick brother, and he thought he was a SOLDIER so we let him dress up like one." He looked embarrassed. “You don’t think he’ll be mad? That I told people he was crazy? I didn’t have any clothes big enough to change him in to.”

Zack would have laughed, if it weren’t so deadly serious. “It’s not a bad story. I’m sure he’ll forgive you. You did good.” He scratched his head. A truck rumbled past outside, and the stink of exhaust wafted in through the open window. “But, um, you know I’m part of ShinRa, right?”

The blond began to look agitated. “You said I could trust you!”

“Whoa! You can! I promised, remember? And this guy’s a friend of mine too. I was just pointing it out!”

The kid looked away, blushing slightly. “I know it wasn’t smart. Especially since he-” He nodded at Kunsel’s sleeping form. “-wanted to hide from ShinRa. But I didn’t know what else to do. I made it to Midgar, but I didn’t even know where to start looking for my uncle, and then you turned up and-”

“Cloud. Stop. Breathe.” Zack ordered.

The blond stopped sort, heaving in gulps of air, on the brink of hyperventilation. “Sorry, I just-”

Zack laughed, and grabbed him in a headlock. “Don’t be so harsh on yourself! You’re amazing, you know that? You must be absolutely insane to pull that off!”

The blond stumbled, squawking out a muffled and indignant, “Hey!”

Zack ruffled his spikes. “Seriously, you did good, I owe you one. No, wait, I owe you way more than that. You’re entitled to free lunches from me for the rest of your life. This is huge!”

The kid eventually managed to duck out of his hold. “What-”

He didn’t even get the chance to give voice to his confusion, as Zack guffawed and pointed. “Look at your hair! I made it even worse! I’m definitely calling you Spike from now on!”

The blond raised a hand to graze the tips of his hair, looking lost and swept away by it all. Zack was on a roll now, though – the shock was wearing off now he had more of the story, and his thoughts were racing ahead at top speed. By the sounds of it, the kid must have found Kunsel just after ShinRa posted news of his ‘death’. The Second Class had booked a substantial amount of leave, but considering he was found in Nibelheim, his starting point, he’d probably been taken out either during or immediately after his mission. ShinRa must have wanted any trails to go cold before posting the news, so hadn’t announced anything until Kunsel was overdue back – at which point SOLDIER had requested a meeting with the Turks on the situation. Lazard and Sephiroth might have had different reasons for being concerned, but it amounted to the same result – after some dallying, the company reported him as dead so no one would look for him. 

They obviously didn’t count on Cloud having resourceful family members in the area. “Okay, Spike, you’ve got him this far, but we still need to get him some medical assistance, and then once he wakes up- Wait! I gotta call Genesis! He needs to hear about this!” He already had his PHS out, tapping away at the keypad. “Probably shouldn’t mention this to the General, though, I guess. Not yet, anyway. You don’t mind if I tell him to come here?”

Rendered wide-eyed and mute, Cloud only shook his head.

“Great!” He snapped the PHS shut, practically bubbling with excitement. Kunsel was alive. Not in great shape by the looks of it, but alive, and he probably knew what was happening with Cloud, too! ShinRa had really dropped the ball on this one, reporting him as dead!

Cloud timidly interrupted, “When you said Genesis… did you mean Commander Rhapsodos?”

“Well, yeah. Do you know anyone else by that name running around?” He grinned. “Ahh, I get it. Are you a fan?”

The kid turned bright red. Jackpot. 

“Hey, don’t be embarrassed! I joined his fan club, see? Angeal’s and Sephiroth’s too, actually.” Zack flipped open his PHS, scrolling through his mail. “Though it was originally kind of to tease Angeal – that’s my mentor – about it.” He held the screen up to show him, casting a faint blue glow across the dim room.

Cloud went slightly bug-eyed at the long list of messages. “They have fan clubs?”

“Yeah! Oh, I guess you wouldn’t have heard, coming from the country. It’s a big thing here! I’ll help you join up later if you want.” Zack snapped the PHS shut and slipped it back into his pocket again. “So what’s your angle, then?”

The blond ducked his head. "I wanted to join SOLDIER," he admitted.

Past tense? "You don't want to anymore?" He looked about the same age Zack had been when he first signed up.

"I'm not sure. My uncle…” He glanced out the window, avoiding his eyes.

It made sense then. When their mystery swordsman first turned up in the slums, he’d been dead-set against ShinRa, and if the kid were looking for approval, joining up wouldn’t have earned him any points. “I get it. You really look up to your uncle, huh? I can understand, he’s a pretty amazing guy! Not many people can fight Sephiroth to a draw.” Zack scratched his head. More like nobody, if he were going to be honest about it.

The kid’s shoulder slumped. “I actually… don’t know him very well.”

Zack tilted his head. “How’s that?” In small towns, it was almost impossible not to know people, especially if they were family.

“I’ve only met him once,” he mumbled.

Zack blinked. “What?”

No response.

“You’ve only met him once?” he repeated. 

A tiny nod.

“When was this?”

“Just after the end of the Wutai War.” He managed a small smile and added, a trifle proudly, "He took out three Nibel dragons when he came to visit."

Zack scratched his head in thought.  "I guess that explains why that other mission was cancelled." Wait. Something didn’t add up. “So he didn’t grow up in Nibelheim?”

“No. That was the first time he came. He said he didn’t know about me and Ma before.” He shifted in place, turning his gaze to look nervously out the window. He did that a lot. “As soon as Ma saw him, she tried to shoot him. She doesn’t like my father’s family, or something. I don’t really know what it’s all about.”

This was all getting very, very weird.

Cloud – the adult one – might have lied about his hometown, but Zack couldn’t figure out why. It had seemed like an automatic response at the time – one he’d been embarrassed about. And according to Angeal, he also said he didn’t have any family left, yet here was a nephew. “So how does this relate to you no longer being sure if you want to apply for SOLDIER?” If they’d only met once, would that really be enough to put the kid off his dreams? It would be a shame.  He was a bit of a runt, and if he took his uncle as an example he’d never be particularly tall, but Zack thought he had the guts for it. Dreams, honour, pride – those were the parts that made a true SOLDIER.

“He told me I shouldn’t. Because…” Cloud’s voice trailed off into a featureless mumble.

“What was that? C’mon, stop whispering, no one’s going to hear,” he prompted.

Cloud hesitated, took a deep breath, and then finished in a rush, “Because SOLDIER is a den of a monsters.”

Zack flinched.

Genesis’s words came back to haunt him. Monsters making monsters.

“Sorry,” the blond hastily corrected. “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s cool, it’s cool.” The First Class waved it off. “Your uncle said it, not you. But do you really believe that?”

“I don’t know.  He seemed pretty serious.”

"He’s always serious. Don’t pay that much attention to it.” Zack thrust a thumb at his chest.  “I'm not a monster, and neither is Genesis, right?" His thoughts wandered to Angeal and his wing again, but he ruthlessly pushed his doubts aside.  That was just a technicality.  Genetic makeup shouldn't decide what does and doesn't make a monster.

“I guess…”

“Right. And you know, he probably changed his mind! He wasn’t really keen on SOLDIER when I first met him, but then he joined up. And he’s not a monster either,” Zack declared.

A light entered those sky blue eyes at that. “He joined SOLDIER?”

“And made it straight to the top! Fastest rise through the ranks since Sephiroth,” the First bragged on his behalf.

The blond didn’t reply, but gained a considering look, so Zack didn’t push it further. He didn’t like people thinking of SOLDIER as monsters, and knowing that Cloud had thought that about them at any point, especially considering everything that had happened since, really hurt. Aeris had been like that too, when she first heard he was SOLDIER. Even if Spike here didn’t wind up deciding to follow through on his dream to join ShinRa, he didn’t want to see those eyes look at him with fear.

Without anything further to say on the topic, they fell into an awkward silence – Zack too busy trying to sort everything through in his head to figure out what to ask next. Cloud kept glancing outside, even though the view only led to the street, and there wasn’t enough natural light in the slums to really justify having a window in the first place. The room itself was rather dark, despite it still being afternoon, and the SOLDIER was about to set himself to tracking down the light switch when the blond suddenly spoke up again.

“Someone’s here.” His voice wavered.

The words had barely left his mouth when they heard footsteps coming down the hall. The sudden knock on the door echoed through the room like a gunshot.

The kid immediately tensed, backing away from the door to hover by the bed. “Don’t worry, I got this,” Zack assured him. He drew Angeal’s Buster Sword – he still had problems thinking of it as ‘his’ – and approached the door. It didn’t look like there was a peephole, so he set his foot back far enough to catch it if it swung open, and opened it a crack.

A rather impatient-looking First Class SOLDIER dressed in a red leather coat stood in the hallway.

“Oh. Don’t worry, it’s Genesis!” Zack called over his shoulder, then opened the door fully, giving it a tug when it caught on the loose carpet. “That was fast!"

Genesis breezed past him into the room as though he owned the place.  "What, did you think I was going to take the train?" His nose wrinkled as he took in the décor.

Zack craned his neck to see out the window. Sure enough, one of ShinRa’s black vans was parked outside. Must have been what had the kid worried. Looked kind of shady, now that he thought about it.

Genesis’s inspection came to an abrupt stop. “Cloud?”

The poor guy looked about ready to faint. 

“Gee, Commander, I kind of thought you might have noticed the SOLDIER on the bed who’s supposed to be dead first,” Zack commented.

“While that is a surprise in itself, you did ask me to bring a SOLDIER first aid kit. You mentioned nothing of blond doppelgangers. Or did someone cast Mini?”

“He’s Cloud Strife. Nephew of our Cloud,” Zack introduced. “He brought Kunsel here from Nibelheim.”

Genesis hummed at that, then sent him a sharp look. “And Sephiroth?”

“I haven’t told him about this yet.” He felt uneasy at leaving the General out, but when he’d heard that Kunsel was hiding from ShinRa, didn’t want to take the chance.

The Commander nodded his approval, and declared, “First things first!” He strode over to the bed and picked up Kunsel’s limp wrist, spending a moment checking his pulse. He then pushed back the helmet and lifted one of his eyelids with brusque efficiency.

Cloud hovered nervously by the bedside, and finally found his voice. “Do you know what’s wrong with him?”

Genesis spared him a glance, and let the helmet fall back in place. "Mako addiction.  He's been overdosed.  Zack, look in the first aid kit I brought. There should be some booster shots in there."

Zack fished through the kit and eventually found half a dozen syringes filled with glowing green mako. The Commander took only one, and began rubbing the crook of the unconscious SOLDIER’s elbow, searching for a vein.

"If he's been overdosed, doesn't that, um, make him worse?" Cloud asked.

"He's not suffering poisoning.  His system has likely shut down from the shock of abruptly cutting off the supply.  The quickest way to recover is by controlled administering of smaller doses to help his body adjust."  Genesis grimaced.  “It comes with a risk, though.  Too much, and it can push a SOLDIER from addicted - from which there is hope of recovery - to poisoned, from which there is none.”

The blond looked down worriedly at Kunsel. Zack felt for him. He’d clearly put a lot of effort into keeping the SOLDIER alive. “Isn’t there another way?”

Genesis inserted the needle and depressed the plunger, frowning as he watched the glowing green drain away.  “The alternative is waiting it out, but that could leave him effectively comatose for weeks. Some extreme cases can take months.  We don’t have that kind of time. He has information we need.”

The Commander never had been known for his empathy. Zack rested a hand on the kid’s shoulder and reassured him, “He’ll be okay. You said he woke up and managed to speak a couple of times – that means he only has a mild case.” To Genesis, he asked, “How long do you think it’ll take?”

The auburn-haired man shrugged, carelessly tossing aside the used syringe once he was done. “I’m a SOLDIER, not a medic. We’ll probably start getting some improvement in a few hours, but it could be a week or more before he’s back at full capacity.”

“Can we hide him that long?”

Genesis didn’t get the chance to answer, as Cloud suddenly asked, “Isn’t that the General?” He was staring out of the window again.

The two SOLDIERs followed his gaze, but all Zack caught was a flash of silver before Genesis suddenly grabbed him by the neck of his uniform and dragged him to the floor. “Get down!”

Cloud crouched with them, and the three of them huddled next to the bed. Zack tried to peer over the edge of the windowsill, but Genesis tugged him back to the ground. “What’s he doing here?” he hissed.

“You weren’t followed, were you?” Zack whispered.

“He wasn’t even in the building when I left! He’s supposed to be on a mission right now!”

“Do you think he saw us?” Cloud murmured. His hands were shaking, though he was doing his best to cover it.

He was scared, Zack suddenly realised. Probably had been the entire time he’d been in Midgar. That was why he kept fidgeting and glancing out of the window, and why he’d bolted when he first saw him. He’d been hiding it well, but seeing Kunsel like this and hearing everything that had happened, the First found it amazing he could still put up a brave face.  The kid had come halfway across the world by himself, lugging an unconscious SOLDIER, uncomfortably aware that he couldn't trust ShinRa, and chasing an uncle he'd only met once.  He must have had nerves made of Damascus steel.

“Don’t worry,” Zack assured him. “We can handle it.”

Why was the General in the slums, though? He couldn’t be here for Kunsel, surely?

But what else could he be here for?

Genesis half-rose, stealing another glance out of the window. “He’s gone,” he murmured.

The words had barely left his mouth when there were two polite knocks on the door.

The three of them exchanged a worried glance. Genesis jerked his head towards the door, but Zack refused to budge. “Why don’t you get it? Scared?” he whispered.

The taunt worked. Genesis bristled at the implication. “Nonsense. I can handle the great General Sephiroth.” Sarcasm dripping from his words, he stood and strode to answer, running a finger along his rapier until it glowed red.

He threw the door open. Sephiroth stood in the hallway, Masamune drawn. “Genesis,” he greeted. “I wasn’t mistaken.” The green glow of his eyes stood out starkly in the dim hallway – Zack felt himself tense when they zeroed in on him next. “And Zack, as well. What is the meaning-”

Sephiroth faltered when he caught sight of small blond. “Cloud?” 

“Before you ask, no, nobody cast Mini,” Zack interrupted.

“Of course not. Cloud is immune to status materia,” he said. His gaze slid to Kunsel next, and his expression flickered.

Zack gripped the Buster Sword and stepped in front of the bed. The room was too small to swing it around, but the same was true for Masamune.

Sephiroth. What are you doing here?” Genesis demanded.

“I might ask the same of you,” came the smooth reply, the General apparently having recollected himself from his initial surprise. “As for me, I received a mission from Lazard to track down a dangerous specimen seen in the area.”

Zack tensed, glancing at Kunsel’s prone form out the corner of his eyes. It couldn’t be. He wanted to believe in the General, but Luxiere was always reminding him that Sephiroth didn’t care about his subordinates. Would he really-?

Genesis narrowed his eyes. “I see. So that’s how it is.”

Sephiroth frowned. “It appears so.”

The tension mounted. Zack’s palms felt sweaty around Buster’s grip. If it came to it, could they really hold off Sephiroth? Cloud had done it. And if the General’s heart really wasn’t in it…

Who was he kidding? They might all be First Class, but Cloud and Sephiroth were on a whole other level. He and Genesis wouldn’t be able to win – and certainly not while protecting Kunsel and Cloud’s nephew. 

Wait. Cloud’s nephew… who had come to Midgar with…

There was only one course of action left open to him. He wanted to believe in the General, so he would. Simple as that. 

Zack lowered his sword. “Hold on a minute! Before anybody starts thinking about killing anyone else – Spike, do you think you can call your guard dog in here?”

The blond jerked at the sudden shift of attention on to him. “I can try, but like I said, it’s not really mine…”

“Then do it,” Zack requested, keeping Buster lowered but his gaze firmly fixed on the room’s two other occupants. Cloud nodded and nervously stepped over to the window.

Sephiroth fixed him with a scrutinising stare. “What are you planning, Zack?”

“Just trust me on this one.” Zack turned half an eye on Cloud, who was practically hanging out of the window, neck craned to look up at the Plate. He waved frantically, as though trying to flag down a taxi three streets away.

“Watch out-!” Genesis turned into a blur as he raced across the room and dragged the blond from the window, mere moments before a bundle of black fur and white feathers dove into the hotel room.

“Wait!” he cried, as Sephiroth raised Masamune to strike the monster down. “It’s not dangerous!”

The chimera fluffed its wings and settled onto its haunches, head held high and chest puffed out proudly like the most noble of griffons. Sephiroth raised an eyebrow as the beast stared down the length of his sword, completely nonchalant in the face of danger. Zack could barely contain the laughter threatening to escape at the sight. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Genesis stared at the creature, visibly perturbed. “It looks as though-”

“You remember those monsters I told you about on my mission where I got this sword?” Zack jerked a thumb at the Buster resting on his back. “This is what they looked like.” He felt vindicated. It hadn’t been his imagination – here was the proof! “So, Sephiroth, any chance this was the ‘dangerous specimen’ you were ordered to track down?”

At last the General lowered Masamune. His expression didn’t outwardly change, but Zack was sure he could see a hint of relief in those glowing green eyes. “I have no reason to think otherwise."

Genesis still hadn’t put away his sword. At Zack’s glare, he scoffed, and finally the red glow faded from his rapier. “I’m surprised you had the mental acuity to make the connection, Zack Fair,” he grumbled. If Zack didn’t know better, he’d think the Commander had been itching for a fight.

Actually, knowing Genesis, that was probably exactly the case. “You said yourself – ShinRa wouldn’t risk doing something that upsetting. And besides, how could they know Kunsel is here? I only found out a few minutes before I called you,” Zack reasoned.

“And you didn’t think to inform me?” Sephiroth asked coolly.

The black-haired SOLDIER winced. He was in for it now. “Sorry. But you know what this means, right, General? Spike here found Kunsel in Nibelheim. Hiding from ShinRa,” he stressed. An abbreviated version of what happened, but they didn’t have time to go into the particulars. “We’re harbouring a fugitive, now. You know how ShinRa will react!”

"Don't mistake me for a fool.” Sephiroth gave him a glare hard enough to cut diamonds. “I understand perfectly. You believed that I would report this to ShinRa like a loyal dog, no better than the Turks. Do you think me a monster?”

No!” Zack cut in. “Nobody’s a monster. We just didn’t want to put you in that kind of position, okay? That’s all!”

“Hmph. I suppose you expect me to thank you for your consideration.”

“You should,” Genesis drawled. “You say you understand, Sephiroth, but do you really? There’s no going back, now that you know about this. We can’t tiptoe through holes in ShinRa’s code of conduct any longer. What secrets do you suppose this SOLDIER knows? How far will the company be willing to go to protect them?”

“Genesis-” Zack tried to interrupt, but the Commander cut him off, holding up a gloved hand for silence.

“He needs to be certain, SOLDIER First Class Zack Fair. For my Friend, the fates are cruel. There are no dreams, no honour remains. The arrow has left the bow of the goddess.

“This is hardly an appropriate time to be quoting Loveless,” Sephiroth remarked. “As for your concern, I was willing to remain loyal until I had solid proof of ShinRa’s hand in this. There are a great many things in this room yet to be explained-” He sent a brief glance at Cloud. “-but the fact that SOLDIER Second Class Sergeant Kunsel is here alive, despite being declared dead, is all that I need.”

Zack tactfully didn’t point out that Sephiroth hadn’t lowered his sword until he’d been presented with the Angeal-like chimera. He was glad that he hadn’t been wrong about the General, but didn’t like acknowledging the fact that Sephiroth had hesitated. “Then-?”

The General frowned, measuring each of them in turn, as though gauging their individual worth. Probably figuring everything out in his head without having to ask a thing. 

Finally, he seemed to reach a decision. “…We’re going to Nibelheim.”

It was what Zack wanted to hear, but not what he expected. “Hey, what happened to ‘we have to stay put and avoid fighting with the Turks?’”

“That is no longer an option.”

"Oh, I get it, when I want to go it's too risky, but when you want to go it's perfectly okay."

The chimera ruffled its wings as though in agreement.

Sephiroth crossed his arms. “Would you prefer to stay behind?”

“No, sir! Sounds great, sir!” Zack blurted.

"We can requisition a plane – if we leave Midgar by dark, we can make it to the West Continent by the end of tomorrow.  Then we'll simply need to get to Nibelheim.  If we can find ground transport, that should only be another few hours," Genesis mused. “However…”

“Normally we'd have two weeks before we'd be listed as deserters," Sephiroth agreed. “But in our case ShinRa’s reaction would be much more immediate. Our problem changes.  We need to get the Turks to hold off on notifying the company long enough for us to get to Nibelheim."

“Did you say ‘Nibelheim’?” A fourth voice intruded on the conversation.

Cloud let out a squeak of surprise, and the three SOLDIERs whirled as one to the source. 

Crouched in the window frame the kid had opened to call for the chimera, perched a man swathed in a flowing, crimson cloak. 

“Who are you?” Zack demanded, subtly shifting in front of bed to guard Kunsel. Genesis had taken position in front of Cloud’s nephew, leaving Sephiroth free to deal with the intruder. He catalogued everything in the space of a heartbeat. Long, flowing black hair hung over his shoulders, held back from his face by a strip of fabric the same colour as his cloak and eyes. He couldn’t see any weapons, but one of his arms was encased in a golden gauntlet, tipped with razor-sharp claws.

Not SOLDIER, but not quite human, either.

“My apologies if I startled you.” The stranger didn’t hop so much as float to the ground. "I've been waiting for you to leave ShinRa headquarters.  Incidentally, the vehicle outside has a tracker on it, so I won't be staying long."

He was talking to Genesis, Zack realised. The Commander lowered his sword, recognition dawning on his face. “That voice… You’re Vincent, aren’t you?”

“Correct.”

“That mystery guy who called Cloud’s PHS?” Zack recalled. “Well, damn. Who else is going to turn up?” The tiny, dingy hotel room was getting more than a little crowded with four SOLDIERs, a chimera, a civilian and a… whatever Vincent was.

Vincent didn’t acknowledge his words beyond a slight tilt of the head. He stared at the SOLDIER stretched out on the bed. “Something happened.”

“Yeah. He went to look for Cloud in Nibelhiem. Spike here found him like this in the area, and brought him to Midgar,” Zack summarised. He was starting to get tired of repeating himself. It might have been easier if he’d just called everyone at once after all.

“Nibelheim…” Vincent murmured. “Then it is Hojo’s doing.”

What?” Zack spluttered. “How do you-”

“Hojo has a secret lab in the area,” came the serene reply. “It cannot be a coincidence.”

“And you know this how?” Genesis cut in.

“I spent a lot of time there.” Zack shivered at the implication. It didn’t appear to be lost on the others either, if their disturbed expressions were anything to go by.

He’d bandied the thought about plenty of times in the dead of the night, even before he learned about what had happened to Genesis and Angeal. The Science Department. There were plenty of rumours. Kunsel had informed him on some of the particularly morbid ones when Cloud first went missing. He’d thought they were urban legends, but now, a sick sense of worry churned in his gut.

Shiva, and Cloud hated doctors.

Vincent’s eerie red gaze fixed on each of them in turn, resting longest on the General. "…You are Lucrecia's son."

Sephiroth frowned.  "My mother's name is Jenova."

"Is that what Hojo told you?" Vincent glided past him into the room, stopping to stare down at the blond boy.

"How would you know?"  Though outwardly the General appeared disinterested, those in the room who knew him could see the thirst in his eyes.

"I was the Turk assigned to guard your mother."

Genesis frowned.  "But that would make you... almost certainly over fifty."

"Wait, you were a Turk?" Zack exclaimed.

"Valentine," Sephiroth suddenly declared.  "You're Vincent Valentine, aren't you?"

“Vincent Valentine?” Genesis echoed.

Vincent didn’t deny it. “You’ve heard of me?”

“Only read of you. All reports mentioning your existence are highly classified.”

Zack couldn’t follow, but it sounded big. Something was flying right over his head. And Cloud’s nephew, standing forgotten in the corner, looked even more lost. “So, what does that mean?”

Sephiroth’s smile turned positively feral.

“It means the Turks will no longer be a problem.”





Next chapter


Comments

( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Anonymous)
Apr. 4th, 2010 09:24 am (UTC)
So I've been refreshing your journal every 30 minutes or so since about 1 AM in the morning for me (It's 5 AM now) *___*

Sadly I am too lazy to make any coherent comments besides the fact that I'm really nervous/excited to see what happened to Cloud and he wasn't in the chapter ;__;
-hugs mini-Cloud as a replacement-
sinnatious
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:14 am (UTC)
At least there was some Cloud, right? ;)

Wow, 5am, seriously? D: That was pretty optimistic. Since this is only about an hour or so later than the usual updating time. You need to sleep more! Sleep is important!
croix_souillees
Apr. 4th, 2010 09:37 am (UTC)
Oh my god. You dump this on us and you're not sure if you can update on the weekend? I... I think I might start crying.

Hi! I'm a first-time reviewer and I've been following this story for a while now. Great work, with a lot of appropriate gut-wrenching parts. Things are speeding up now, and Vincent as a liaison to the Turks is something I haven't seen before. Looking forward to this a lot! <3
sinnatious
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
Hi! Thanks for delurking~ And look on the bright side! Next two cliffhangers would be far, far worse to be left in uncertainty for. :D I guess that's not much comfort right now, though. Fingers crossed I get a chance next Sunday then, because the weekdays on either side are pretty thoroughly booked.
(no subject) - croix_souillees - Apr. 4th, 2010 11:15 am (UTC) - Expand
ixtey
Apr. 4th, 2010 10:26 am (UTC)
AHH CLOUD'S A FAN OF GENNY DEAR INSTEAD OF SEPHY! What do they call the fanclub, Maroon Elite? jkasgdkjalsd Cloud is absolutely adorbs here. I can just imagine itty bittle widdle Cloud dragging Kunsel along and telling everybody his made-up story while puppy dog-eying them. Kyaaaa~ *3*

My slash goggles. I cannot remove them. kashdklasd Gen/shota!Cloud is infecting my brain. I'd add Seph/shota!Cloud, but I've been enjoying that poison long ago so it prolly doesn't count. Cloud, the fandom bicycle indeed. You make the fangirling part of my brain so happy. XD

OH YES YES YES VINCENT YES! Everybody's getting along now~ ashlaaskfhlk somehow I expected the almost-father and son reunion to be, well... a bit more normal. Although I can't imagine those two being sentimental and shizz.

AND NOW THEY'LL GO TO NIBELHEIM AND KICK ASS AND FIND CLOUD AND EVERYTHING~! Really excited, I can hardly wait for the next chapter. *A*

Oh, and I hope you have fun at the con! :)
sinnatious
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Genesis actually has two fanclubs! 'Study Group' (which focuses on Loveless) and 'Red Leather' (which... yeah XD). I think Angeal's was called 'Keepers of Honour' and you already know Sephiroth's obviously. :P

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO REMOVE THE SLASH GOGGLES? We wear them when consuming canon, I guess it makes sense we can't help but wear them in gen fic too. :D Though seriously, you guys surprise me with where you find it, it was honestly not intentional on my part!

I'm not sure if that was much of a reunion... oh god just the word 'reunion' in relation to FFVII has so many connotations now.

Thanks! :D
fateofshadow
Apr. 4th, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC)
I do not have an icon that properly expresses my fangirlish joy. O_O *Throws cross dressing Cloud at you instead*

This chapter makes me think strange things, like what is Cloud's fanclub name? And is Vincent Sephy's father in this universe? Also, is Mini!Cloud going with everyone to Nebelheim? If he is I have a sneaky suspicion Kunsel's going to be left with Aeris.

This chapter is awesome, but you already knew that. ^_^
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:28 am (UTC)
I will happily accept cross-dressing Cloud for any occasion. XD

There was some good ideas being thrown about over what Cloud's fanclub name would be in earlier comment threads. From memory, 'Golden Elite' and 'Chocobo Lovers' were the favourites. :P

As for the 'is Vincent the father' question, since Cloud doesn't know, and Vincent doesn't know (as per game verse), the matter is not likely to come up. So you can pretend either way.

You suspicion is sound and logical. ^_^
ashoakandthorn
Apr. 4th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Your Spooks Turks, I love the way you write them. Especially the "Hello, just joining in now." way Vincent showed up.

And it may be a little early, but I wanted to shout 'endgame' at the end of this.
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:29 am (UTC)
Thanks. They're fun.

Not that early! We are seriously in endgame now. So it would be entirely appropriate. XD
mickeytheblue
Apr. 4th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
You're right, this was a looong talky chapter! XD Not that it's a bad thing, I enjoyed every bit of it with everyone coming together :D

Cloud jr. is soooo adorable!!! Love the fact that they think that someone casted mini. I really love how you make a lot of in-game citations (especially with materia and ribbon) since most of the FFVII fanfics I read seem to disregard the existence of such items TT___TT

Not updating this weekend? aaww... Since its my summer vacation now, weeks seem longer for me.

Oh well, patience is golden! (And its better that you update in your own time so that you can edit and make the chapters awesome XD)
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
Happy you like the game elements. I enjoy finding way to include them, personally, but I know some people think it breaks the fourth wall.

Summer vacation? Already? SERIOUSLY?

Thanks for your patience~
(no subject) - mickeytheblue - Apr. 5th, 2010 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
darkicedragon
Apr. 4th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
*claps hands with joy* Vincent's back! :DD I squeed when he appeared. And *laughs* poor Zack for people coming in one at a time so he has to go keep on repeating himself. XD

I love how everything is starting to fit/fall together but I'm worried about them all going to Nibelheim, but if Sephiroth knows that his mother isn't actually Jenova, maybe that'll make it harder for her to get into his head. *hopes*

>D Can't wait to see what Vincent gets to do.

Thanks for brightening up a day where I'm on the verge of ill. :D Been reading since... uh, a little after Lizeth rec'ed this, but I'm a bad reviewer. ^ ^

I don't mind if the next chapter is late/ages - so long as it comes. :)
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:36 am (UTC)
Don't apologise for being a bad reviewer, you left a comment just now! I'm terrible when it comes to lurking as well, so I understand. (And thus I'm also extra-excited when the fic can lure the lurkers out).

D: Hope you get better soon! And thanks for your patience.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 4th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Obi-
Please excuse me while I cheer...weveral times...and pump the air...and freak out. *sigh* Dang, I've really gotten into this story.

You know, I absolutly love a good Sephiroth! Good as in he's still Sephiroth, but GOOD...yeah, you probably got that. ^^;

The best part about the chapter was Vincent telling Sephiroth that Lucrecia was his mother, not Jenova. I've SO wanted Sephiroth to hear that for FOREVER! *squee* I'm such a fan girl. ^^;

AAA! Can't WAIT until next week now!

sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
Yes, I like good Sephiroth too, ever since playing Crisis Core. It was so interesting seeing him before he went crazy. Actually made him more believable as a villain!

The reveals are always a fun moment. Glad you liked it. And it's ok, we're mostly fangirls here. ;)
Obi- - (Anonymous) - Apr. 5th, 2010 06:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Apr. 5th, 2010 08:21 am (UTC) - Expand
silvershadowkit
Apr. 4th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
Okay, this was the perfect thing to return to college with. I spent Easter with my parents, and spent a day in the sun at a garden, and then I get back to my dorm and unpack, and rewarded myself with this.

ChibiCloud is so cute!! I knew everyone would freak out as soon as they saw him! And Zack saying, "No, nobody cast Mini" was perfect.

And then you added Vincent, in an almost creepy way, which was echoed by Sephiroth's creepy smile at the end. But they need to go rescue Cloud now! And poor Kunsel, he's so beat up.

Please manage to update next weekend, I'll need to reward myself for presenting my history project!
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
You make it sound like a day in the sun at a garden was a gruelling punishment you needed to reward for. XD (Was it?)

I'll do my best, but no promises!
(no subject) - silvershadowkit - Apr. 5th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
reighost
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
hmmm glad that older!cloud didn't see seph's smirk just then, he'd have reached for First Tsurugi faster than you can say Knee-jerk-reaction... lol
phamalama
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
I was so glad you updated on Easter! It finally got the trouble off my mind... I got a good deal on FFVII Advent Children DVD at Blockbusters too... how about introducing other characters like Tifa too? And what will you do about Kadaj and Co. (I don't even understand how they came into play in the movie version other than being Sephiroth clones).

I love the sane Sephiroth and perhaps a caring Vincent! I wonder if Sephiroth has an Oedipus complex??? That would be kinda funny and weird. Are you planning on sticking to canon pairings by the end of the story or switch them up? You made my Easter so much better... keep up the good work!!!
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Kadaj and Co wouldn't exist, because Hojo hasn't made any Sephiroth clones yet in this timeline - with Sephiroth still alive, he's had no reason to.

There will be no more introducing new characters. If they've not been mentioned yet, they're not important to the plot.

The fic has been labelled gen from the very beginning - I'm sticking to no pairings (unless you count Zack/Aeris). This isn't a romance fic, however much we may enjoy wearing our goggles. ;)

Thanks, glad you liked it.
kurokazephoenix
Apr. 4th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
De-lurking to fangirl at you~ I've been reading this since Lizeth recc'd it and I'm loving it so much. You've got the characterisations so well.

sdjbfsbj This chapter <3 I love how the nobody-cast-mini thing kept having to be explained XD And then Sephiroth being all well-duh. Andandandand window-Vincent is watching yoooouuuuu *flails*

Would I be mistaken if I assumed the con you referred to is Supanova?
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
Another de-lurker! :O Hello!

You would be correct. It kind of snuck up this year!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 5th, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
I've been lurking for a few chapters now. But this fic has reached a level of awesomeness that the lurking felt illegal XDDD I had to say that I seriously love everything about it, especially the characterizations.
And also that you update so much. It's hard to explain how much I hate it when I find a fic I really love and the author doesn't update for a long time.
Lovein' the fact Vincent finally appeared. And little Cloud. And that it's finally getting rolling. I can't wait to read more <3
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Thanks, anon~ And thank you for delurking, too.

You don't need to explain the frustration with long waits between updates, as I understand it intimately. -__- I've been there done that and now won't start posting a fic unless I'm sure I can keep the update times between chapters reasonable.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
Everybody thinks Cloud's been Mini-ed. That is so cute and funny.

Go Mini-Cloud, getting past the Turks and sneaking into Midgar all by yourself plus a sick and currently helpless SOLDIER! (Unless the Turks just let him through, the implications of which would worry me) And him being all blushy and in awe when Genesis comes in. And the "two polite knocks" from Sephiroth, despite having a near-enough grasp of the shenanigans his fellow Firsts are up to were quietly amusing.

VINCENT! Vincent finally joins in! Awesome! Ooh, and he even tells Sephiroth who his real mom is, yes yes yes! But damnit, the mistrust among Zack and Genesis vs. Sephiroth :( You GUYS! You need to work together on this!

And yay for more parallels and callbacks! Mini-Cloud's excuse for Kunsel's condition and getup reminds me of Original Game Tifa and Cloud, respectively. Also: Zack's "Nobody's a monster!" which is a direct opposite of his "You mean you're different?" in Crisis Core! FINALLY someone tells Sephiroth that genes don't make the man/monster. YAY. Also also: the mako poisoning (says the Japanese version) vs. mako addiction (says the English version). Little things like that amuse me easily :D

Fist pumps and fist bumps all around! Selfishly hoping you get more writing time this weekend, but also wishing you a good time at your convention!
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
Oh ho! Somebody noticed the parallel with mini-Cloud's story about Kunsel! *____*

Urgh, the mako addiction versus mako poisoning thing was so confusing (it's poisoning in the original game, but addiction in Crisis Core - I wasn't aware that it was different in the Japanese version!), so I've kind of made up my own little medical primer to try and explain that. :| Hope it's working for you.

Thanks! *hi-fives*
firedraygon97
Apr. 5th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC)
*cackles* I'm BACK. This is the first fic I've read now that Lent's over -- do you feel honoured, or am I just full of myself? XP

Oh this is just glorious. I got to read 7 chapters straight, no frustrating cliffhangers in between!! Sometimes it's good to bulk up chapters. ♥

For this chapter: Eeeeee, I was waiting for chibi!Cloud and Vincent to reappear! When Kunsel first got rescued from the wolves, I thought it'd be Chaos who saved him (though that'd be a little extreme of Vincent to transform for one wolf...), but when Cloud showed up, I flailed like a mad person. XDD Haha, Cloud's absolutely crazy (seriously!), lugging around a half-comatose person halfway across the world. I love it. I hope Zack and Kunsel befriend him after this whole mess, especially if future!Cloud has to leave...

For previous chapters: Ugh, Kunsel and Cloud. Cloud having to take on the 'Zack' position and keep Kunsel going -- I love this twist so much...!! Haha, and then you carry it on further with chibi!Cloud carrying Kunsel the rest of the way to Midgar. The story about the 'sick brother' is hilarious. Just awesome.

Also: Genesis is jealous of Sephiroth's 'special connection' with Cloud! *__*

VINCENT. I just...I don't know. The whole phone call and then showing up out of no where and acting all nonchalant like a badass (very IC, by the way) -- this is the reason why he's the background for so many of my 'screens' (computer, cellphone, etc.). Wonderful.

Aeris!! She has the water ready? And Angeal, wtf, he's so flighty these days...I hope they can get the cure to him before degradation kills him. D:

Am definitely looking forward to when Kunsel wakes up to explain things further. He better not have any amnesia!! *shakes fist*

On the note of FFXIII: I have probably 45+ hours now. @__@ Don't want to inadvertently spoil anyone reading this, so let's just say I'm past the part where there's a pretty kickass cut-scene with all the eidolons...
sinnatious
Apr. 5th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
Heeeeey, welcome back! :D I am totally honoured.

Ha ha, Chaos overkill, I love it. 'Slime appears, Vincent transforms. Slime: D8' Kunsel's so lucky, always having a Cloud to look after him. XD

FFXIII~ You could use chapters? I'm right at the end of Chapter 11 (just walked through Oerba) but but but, I keep going on sidequests! There are chocobos to ride and treasure to hunt and cieth missions to fill! @__@ I am also extremely determined to eventually kill an adamantoise. I look forward to the cutscene, however.
(no subject) - firedraygon97 - Apr. 5th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Apr. 5th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firedraygon97 - Apr. 5th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Apr. 6th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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