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The Fifth Act, Chapter 11

Title: The Fifth Act

T for violence.

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

Author's Note: So, I should have mentioned last chapter that Aeris won the poll against Aerith 7 to 6, so we're sticking with Aeris.

In this chapter, the universe (mostly Zack), continues to try and convince a stubborn Cloud to join SOLDIER.

Previous Chapter


The Fifth Act

Chapter 11


“Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”

Cloud frowned, shifting slightly. “…Ma?” he slurred. He hadn’t slept so soundly in a long time. Not since…

“Silly! I’m much too young to be your mother.”

Not since waking up in the past. Cloud’s eyes shot open, and his fingers groped for First Tsurugi. His disorientation ceased once he recognised Aeris, but his stomach started performing feats of SOLDIER-level acrobatics instead.

She waited patiently for him to gather his wits, tucking her skirt underneath her legs as she settled on the pew behind him. “You stayed here last night?”

Cloud didn’t answer, but from the tone of her voice, he probably didn’t need to. He could have gone to stay at an inn – he had enough gil - but the Church remained unchanged, a small sliver of comfort from the future. The chance to sleep somewhere familiar far outweighed the benefits of actual bedding. The Church was soothing. It had been his sanctuary as Geostigma marched him towards death.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind,” she assured him. “And it gives me a chance to talk to you properly.”

Properly? He stared blankly at her, waiting for an explanation.

Shifting to make herself comfortable, she continued, “There are just some things a girl can’t talk about when her boyfriend is around, you know?”

Cloud couldn’t think of a good response to that, and silently hoped this wasn’t going to be another one of those sorts of relationship talks Tifa would occasionally dump on him whenever he’d done something particularly reckless. Except he only met Aeris the day before, she surely wasn’t about to start on that when they were still mostly strangers? At least, as far as she was concerned.

Not meeting his eyes, she asked, just a little wistfully, “Do you believe people can talk to the Planet?”

“Of course.”

The certainty of his reply had her blinking. “It doesn’t sound weird to you?”

“Why would it? You’re a Cetra, aren’t you?”

At those words, she shuffled away from him, looking nervous in his presence for the first time. It suddenly struck Cloud that he faced not the strong, mature Aeris who died for the Planet, but an unsure teenage girl who’d never seen the sky and lived every day under ShinRa’s threat. “Nobody’s supposed to know that.” The words barely registered as a whisper.

Cloud tried to backtrack. “Sorry. I won’t tell anyone.”

That earned him a tentative - though still unsure - smile, and he found himself overwhelmed all over again at how freely she gave them out. No wonder she and Zack became so close so quickly. No matter how terrible the situation, they somehow always found a way to smile.

Except… Zack met Aeris when he crashed through the roof of her church during Genesis’s attack on ShinRa. He cured Genesis in Wutai. How did they meet when the attack never happened?

Maybe they were just meant to be together. Or Zack was a clumsy oaf. The Church was remarkably well situated for falls. If Cloud once managed to fall through the exact same hole Zack did, how hard was it to believe Zack could replicate his own stunt under different circumstances?

“Helloooooo?” Aeris waved a hand in front of his face, and he snapped back to attention. “Are you listening?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking away. Aeris, eyes closed, smiling even as the Masamune pierced her chest. “Just… lost in thought.”

“Make sure you don’t forget the way back,” she quipped. Cloud struggled to hide his grimace at that – after all, how could she know he’d forgotten the way before?

He tried to change the course of the conversation. “What did you want to ask?”

“Well, since you already know about what I am… this is going to sound a bit strange… but the Planet doesn't know what to make of you," she confided. "It wants to know if you're Calamity or Weapon."

Cloud blinked. "...Weapon?" He reached to his side, fingers trailing across the hilt of First Tsurugi. Oh. No wonder the Planet was confused. It could sense both the Jenova cells and the essence of the Weapons around him. "...I'm just a nobody. The Planet doesn't need to worry."

“You’re here, aren’t you? So you’re definitely somebody.” Her tone brokered no argument.

His turn to feel uncomfortable. “I’m still figuring everything out myself.”

She turned sombre. “And how’s that working out for you?”

He turned his gaze away, unable to look into those searching green eyes any longer. “Not so well. Everything I’ve tried has been a failure so far.” All these months in the past, and what had he managed to do? By all accounts, the Wutai War had been just as vicious as the previous. And he hadn’t yet killed Sephiroth, Hojo, or Jenova. In that respect, he’d only gathered more obstacles to his goals.

“But you haven’t really failed yet, right? If you’re still trying.”

Still so optimistic. The Aeris he remembered existed even this far back. Dirty Midgar didn’t deserve such purity. He didn’t deserve such purity. This time, he’d protect it. “Yeah. I’ll keep trying.”

A gentle hand found its way to his shoulder. “You should be careful, too.”

He turned to look at her, and nearly recoiled at how close she’d come, peering at him with those bright, guileless green eyes. “When I look at you,” she continued, as though she were addressing a peer instead of a man nine years her senior, “all I see is sadness, and hurt. Like you’re about to break.”

Cloud’s breath caught in his throat. The fingers on his shoulder tightened.

He very nearly spilled everything to her, then and there. Aeris always seemed to know everything, had a solution for every problem – he thought maybe she could tell him how to get back to his own time, how to make everything right.

Except that would be unfair to a teenage girl who still didn’t understand everything about her own abilities. Too much to expect. And besides, he’d already set to work on changing the future. Cloud needed to stay and monitor it, to make sure the little changes he made didn’t ruin everything.

He always ruined everything.

“You’re not alone,” she stated.

Except he was alone. His friends, his allies, his hard-won comrades, they were all in a future which might not exist anymore. Even Vincent couldn’t be relied on here. He didn’t have Zack and Aeris either – they were still strangers, no matter how easily they’d spoken the day before, no matter how candidly they spoke now. Gaia… it had been so easy to slip into old habits when talking to Zack, letting a familiar conversation play out in a different setting. But he’d never bought flowers from this Aeris, never had her help him rescue Tifa from Don Corneo, never spent four years in hell with Zack, never had him give his life to protect their freedom.

Things that wouldn’t happen, if he could help it. But their absence made him all the more alone.

None of which he could say to Aeris. “Thank you,” tumbled out of his mouth instead. Maybe she could sense the lack of sincerity in his words, because her expression tightened for a moment, and the hand slid from his shoulder, light as a feather.

Then all at once, the sunny smile returned, and she asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be meeting Zack soon, Mr Nobody?”

With a jerk, Cloud glanced towards the church windows. The light outside…

“You’ve got about ten minutes to get to Wall Market,” Aeris informed him. “You don’t want him to think you’ve forgotten, do you?”

Right, better to get going before Zack came looking and discovered he’d been sleeping at his girlfriend’s church. He didn’t want to jeopardise the little trust they’d established the day before. He rose to his feet, paused, and nodded once to Aeris. She smiled encouragingly. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.” This time, he meant it.

So strange, striding down the aisle, knowing the church would be busy in his absence. For so long, it had been empty, silent, lifeless but for the persevering flora. A furtive glance over his shoulder revealed Aeris already kneeling to tend to her flowers, fingers gently brushing across the delicate petals.

He paused at the door, but the words stuck in his throat.

In the end, he left without saying anything more.

Cloud made his way through the junkyard surrounding the church, taking in his surroundings with bright eyes. The day before he’d been so eager to visit the Church – and stupid of him to forget to check first whether or not Aeris was there, never mind his shock at seeing Zack too – that he failed to properly notice his surroundings.

In Cloud’s memories, Midgar had become a desolate, twisted place, miserable even in the height of its glory. The slums he walked through now painted a contrasting picture. A lot of these people looked down on their luck, sure, but children scampered about, playing, while their parents chatted by the roadside. As he got closer to Wall Market, food stalls popped up, with proprietors belting out their sales pitches, trying to sell their wares. Wall Market itself bustled with activity, full of traders setting up for the day. Some ShinRa recruitment posters had been defaced, but there was no pervading aura of fear, no sense of gloom.

The downtrodden slums were happier than Edge. ShinRa’s iron fist might have been present, but it remained invisible. Hope had not yet been stamped out.

Did so much change in Midgar, in those four years he’d been trapped in Hojo’s lab? Or was Cloud the one who changed?

He shrugged off the introspection, searching the crowd, reminding himself to look for a purple jumpsuit instead of a black one. He still wasn’t sure about this. Zack’s suggestion about working for ShinRa rolled around in his head. He hadn’t been able to explain his reluctance to his old friend – how could he tell a Zack who still believed in ShinRa that he feared being spirited away by their Science Department? Sure, it would lead him to Hojo, but little good he’d be able to do, trapped inside a mako tank. He shivered involuntarily at the thought.

There was no getting out of the mission, though. That part he didn't mind - he'd been overjoyed to see his friend again - but Cloud didn't know what to do afterwards. It could be dangerous for Zack to associate with him. When he killed Hojo and Sephiroth, ShinRa would be out for his blood. The last thing he wanted was for Zack and Aeris to get caught up in that.

Maybe he could go on the mission, and then use it as an excuse not to follow through on Zack’s suggestion.

Working for ShinRa, though…

He frowned, stepping back automatically to avoid the grasping fingers of a pickpocket. The child, spooked, scampered away, appearing relieved that Cloud didn’t give pursuit. The blond’s thoughts remained elsewhere. If he could get around the Science Department problem, working for ShinRa would be an ideal method of infiltration – far less risky than sneaking in through some back door on stolen cards, trying to find a lone scientist in a skyscraper.

Except he’d already attacked Sephiroth in Wutai. So much for that idea. He really sucked at thinking things through in advance.

“Cloud! Hey!”

A heavy hand landed on his shoulder, and Cloud wondered how on earth he’d managed to get so lost in his thoughts as to completely miss the SOLDIER’s approach. “Zack.” The word came out in a little gush of air. Seeing his face again, so bright, so carefree, so innocent and happy and healthy-

“You came! Great! I wasn’t sure if you actually would.”

Cloud shrugged, looking away. He couldn’t afford to get sentimental and lose his head simply because a friend he thought he’d lost forever now stood before him.

Although he’d never lost Zack, not really. Not with the memories and personality he’d absorbed, thanks to Project G.

“-So the hounds are supposed to be in the warehouse, but we should probably clear out the mandrakes in the area first, just in case we get swamped.”

Cloud dragged his attention back to Zack’s briefing as they headed away from Wall Market into the industrial part of the slums. The crowds thinned considerably, and the atmosphere turned gloomy as they moved through the narrow alleyways of corrugated iron. The SOLDIER filled the silence with chatter, mostly related to ShinRa. Cloud tuned most of it out – he knew the ins and outs of ShinRa twice as well as Zack did, having experienced it as a trooper, a SOLDIER, an experiment, and a terrorist. It gave you a unique perspective on company policies.

They started coming across mandrakes long before they reached their destination – tiny little razor weed-like creatures that were always darting underfoot. Cloud stomped on a few of them by accident, and they wriggled pitifully beneath his boots until he put an end to them. Tragically weak little critters, here in Midgar – the mandrakes he remembered came up to his knees, not his ankles. These ones, struggling for sustenance in a deteriorating environment, couldn’t do anything more than fire off some low-level spells. If it weren’t for the possibility of a child stumbling across a group of them, he’d have been tempted to let them run free.

“Lots of monsters sneaking in, lately,” Zack commented, dispatching one trying to scamper away with a quick jab of his broadsword. So strange to see him wield something other than the Buster. “Lots of monsters breaking out, too.” The SOLDIER pointed towards a rickety warehouse – a patchwork mixture of rotting wood and rusted steel. Acid rain corroded non-treated surfaces faster, Cloud recalled. A piece of trivia from his Avalanche days. “There’s our target. Ready? I’ll take point.”

The blond made a small sound of agreement in the back of his throat. They approached main entrance – it stood open, a great, dark mouth into the warehouse beyond. Zack shuffled along the side, peering into the black depths, but stacks of empty cargo crates blocked the view of the interior. A perfect nest for monsters.

Zack took a deep breath, and then slipped inside. Cloud waited, counting in his head, then followed suit. No monsters, yet, but the skitter of claws echoed eerily in the cavernous space. The presence of intruders had not gone unnoticed.

“Hey,” the SOLDIER said in a low voice, turning serious for a moment. “Don’t take this as disrespect or anything, but if you find yourself getting in too deep, just let me know and we’ll retreat, okay? This isn’t a high-priority mission. I can always come back and finish it later.”

“I might not be SOLDIER, but I can handle hounds easily,” Cloud assured him.

“Good to know. Okay, then let’s get this show on the road!” Zack bounded into the darkness.

Cloud drew First Tsurugi, stepping lightly through the dusty corridors between the empty crates, always a careful ten paces behind Zack. The SOLDIER didn’t exercise the same sort of caution, stopping frequently to poke at the damaged containers, looking for abandoned goodies. His efforts didn’t go entirely unrewarded – he found a couple of forgotten potions, and some odd trinkets that didn’t look like much of anything.

“Raw material,” he explained off-hand when he noticed the blond’s curious expression. “You never know what might be useful in materia fusion. And I can sell whatever I don’t use. SOLDIERs get paid pretty well, but ShinRa can be a bit stingy on the provisions sometimes, you know? So they let us keep anything extra we find on our missions. If you’re lucky, sometimes you can even score materia out in the sticks. How I got my Barrier materia.” He held aloft a faintly glowing ball with pride. “This baby’s almost mastered.”

His monologue got cut short by a growl. Falling silent, both fighters dropped into stance – and not a moment too soon. A monster leapt from the shadows, eyes wild, tongue lolling, teeth snapping. They’d found their first blood hound.

Zack sidestepped neatly, swinging his broadsword down. The monster twisted away, but the blade opened a nasty gash on its front calf. It limped towards him, but Cloud didn’t pay attention to what happened next, as another flash of red came running, snarling, at them. One strike with First Tsurugi felled the creature. The body left behind a crimson smear as it slid along the concrete. Another bark, from behind this time. Zack had his hands full, so Cloud turned to take care of this one, moving to protect the SOLDIER’s flank.

Working with Zack came easily. Almost too easily. Cloud could only guess that all the time spent wandering around in an unwittingly stolen identity helped there. Zack's memories never wore off, not completely - he had just learned how to push his own personality to the foreground.

Not everyone in Avalanche liked the change, but they learnt to deal.

The blood hounds came faster. Zack killed the second one, but another took its place. Cloud fended off two at once. A swift kick pushed back one set of snapping jaws, dripping with saliva, just long enough to take care of the larger beast. A grunt, a snarl, a whoosh of steel, a yelp, and another carcass hit the floor.

“On your left,” Cloud warned.

“Already got it!” A whirling strike slit the monster’s throat, then Zack turned back around to fend off another heading for Cloud’s back. “Ha, you weren’t kidding when you said you can fight! Maybe I should leave them all to you!”

“It’s your mission,” Cloud retorted good-naturedly. “They’re regrouping.”

The nearest ones were shying away, circling. In the opening leading to the next clearing among the crates, feral eyes caught the light, shining in the shadows. At least another four.

“Let’s not give them the chance. Go for it!” Zack yelled, tearing into the fray with the confidence only a SOLDIER could muster. He rolled aside to avoid a charging hound, leaving it to Cloud while he waded into the gathering pack.

“Zack!” Cloud groaned, and ran after him. Did he want to get mobbed?

“You know, my mentor has a sword a bit like yours,” Zack commented. “A little less complicated, but one mean slab of metal, except-” He paused, grunting as he struck the top of a hound’s head with the flat of his blade, then spearing its neck while it was stunned. “-except he never uses it, you know? Some line about use damaging the blade. Fights with his fists or broadsword instead. I don’t get it. Why lug that huge thing around if he’s never going to use it? Just slows him down.”

“Maybe it has a sentimental value,” Cloud replied, picking up the pace a little, diving and striking before the monsters could react. Two more yelps, and two more bodies hit the concrete.

“In that case, he shouldn’t bring it along! Leave at home on display or something! The thing’s heavy! I mean, yeah, not for a SOLDIER, but don’t you get tired? Even taking off a broadsword like this one is a relief at the end of the day!” Completely negating his own point, he spun the sword in a victory pose with one hand before splitting the skull of another blood hound. Cloud rolled his eyes.

Between the two of them, the assault didn’t last long. One last strike, one last thud, and the warehouse fell silent again. “Man, that was a good run! There must be…” The SOLDIER counted quickly. “At least two dozen! Nice work!”

Cloud looked away, awkward at the compliment. Why was it that even when he was older than Zack, he still felt like the kid?

“They fight in packs, so that should have been most of them, but we better check around to be sure.” Bouncing on the balls of his feet, Zack took off again. Cloud followed at a more sedate pace, quietly amused at his old friend’s boundless energy. He used to put it down to SOLDIER enhancements, but now suspected it lay entirely in his personality.

Gaia, he’d missed him. It took seeing him again to realise how much.

“So what do you think?” he called back. “You handle yourself pretty well against monsters! Think you’d want to do it full time? That’s most of what SOLDIER does these days, you know. Unless there’s something like the Wutai War, but it’s not like there’s much chance of anything like that again anytime soon.”

Cloud didn’t reply. His voice couldn’t be trusted right then.

“Heck, you’re as good as any of the Thirds, easy. As for me, I’m gonna make First for sure any day now. I would have already if it weren’t for the Turks blowing me clear off the highway! I mean, sure, air support is great, but look out for the guy on the ground! Tseng apologised later and all, but sometimes with that guy, I dunno- wait, did you hear that?”

Listening carefully, Cloud nodded. A soft, low grunting. They weren’t done yet.

“I think it’s over there,” Zack whispered, pointing towards the eastern end of the warehouse. He swung up on top of one of the crates, nearly put his foot through it, and sheepishly climbed back down. “Guess we’ll have to head there the slow way.”

Cloud was content to follow along, ears strained for movement. The breathing echoed in the cavernous space, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact location. It was starting to get difficult to see, too. They probably should have tracked down a light switch, even if it risked spooking the monsters. Enhanced eyesight could only compensate so much, and the little natural light filtering through the cracks and holes in the roof wasn’t strong enough to pierce the shadows.

When he caught up, Zack stood in the middle of a clearing of crates, scratching the back of his head. “Huh, I could have sworn-”

“Watch out!” Cloud warned. Not a second later, the crate behind Zack exploded into splinters, the air filled with dust, and the ground shook with an angry roar. From the darkness, a lumbering silhouette charged towards them.

“A grand horn?” Zack yelped, barely throwing himself aside in time to avoid being crushed. “What’s something like that doing in the slums?!”

The monster – easily ten times their size – barely paused, completely unbothered by its first miss. It turned, scuffed a hoof as thick as a tree trunk, and lowered its massive horn. Zack dove for the ground, but he misjudged the creature’s reach. The side of the horn slammed into his back, throwing him forward.

The SOLDIER gasped, broadsword dropping from his hand. He scrabbled for materia, but already the monster was bearing down on him again. “Crap!”

Steel rang against bone, and the grand horn chuffed angrily, stopped mid-charge by the flat of a sword.

“What are you doing?” Cloud demanded angrily, bracing himself against the beast. His feet slid back an inch as the monster tried to push forward, but he strained his arms and First Tsurugi held.

Zack stared at him, eyes wide. “How the hell-?”

The dots finally connected.

“As for me, I’m gonna make First for sure any day now.”

Purple jumpsuit instead of black. Broadsword instead of Buster.

This Zack wasn't yet a First Class.

Cloud cursed under his breath. “Get out of the way!” he ordered. “I can’t hold it back forever!”

“Right!” Zack scrambled along the ground, one hand cradling his ribs. Seeing its original target escaping, the grand horn let out a rumble of dissatisfaction. To both fighters’ alarm, it found new strength, swinging its head and pushing forward.

The crate crumpled under Cloud’s body as he slammed into it, adding to the dust and splinters already flying through the air. Something shattered on his hip, but his fingers curled persistently around the hilt of First Tsurugi. Wooden crates were nothing. Sephiroth threw buildings at him.

“Cloud? Cloud! Answer me, buddy!” Panic and worry laced Zack’s cries.

The grand horn backed away, shaking the wood chips from its head. Cloud dropped to the floor with a wince. Bruises and grazes that would heal in minutes.

Unimportant. Zack was worried.

He hefted First Tsurugi, and attacked.

The monster let out a bleat of surprise to see the puny human it thought crushed on his feet again so quickly. Then surprise quickly turned to a squeal of pain as a sword cleaved neatly through the massive horn that was its namesake. The deadly bone flew into another crate. It shuddered under the weight of the impact.

Cloud let out a heavy breath, sword extended. He was faintly aware of a trickle of blood running down his forehead, and a wetness soaking into the leg of his pants. The grand horn shook its head from side to side, backing away, annoyed at the flashes of light as Zack tried to distract it with an array of spells.

Nothing less than a mastered materia could hope to do any damage, but the distraction paid off, gave him a few seconds of needed space. Cloud braced, bent his knees, and leapt. His feet thudded onto the monster’s back, but before it could buck him off, he plunged First Tsurugi in to its hilt, right between the shoulder blades.

The next groan sounded painfully wet. With some effort, Cloud wrenched his sword free, and jumped to the ground. The grand horn followed, its bulk crashing to the side with a reverberant thump. Its piteous grumble was cut short by the blade in its throat.

The dust settled, the adrenaline rush wore off, and Zack stared at him as though he’d sprouted wings.

Uneasily, Cloud checked. Hojo had spent a lot of time on him – spontaneous sprouting of wings remained an uncomfortable possibility.

“Cloud, that was so awesome!”

No wings. He could walk safely among humanity another day.

“You took out that grand horn like it was nothing! I’ve only ever fought those in simulation, and it takes me hours! You were holding back on me earlier – I had no idea you were that strong! Shoo-in for SOLDIER for sure. Heck, I bet you could win a fight against a First Class with moves like that!”

Cloud shrugged it off. The Zack in his memories had always been generous with compliments, but they only served to make him more self-conscious these days. He didn’t deserve such praise, not from the person he’d failed so terribly. “You okay?” he asked instead, tone brusque to cover his nervousness.

“What, this?” Zack patted his side. “Just a bruise, what I get for not paying attention. Angeal would chew me out if he’d seen that. I owe you one. I might have wound up in the infirmary if I’d come here on my own.” He slapped him on the shoulder. “I should be asking about you! That was some hit you took. I was worried I had a Cloud pancake on my hands.”

“I’m fine,” he dismissed, wiping the thin trail of blood from his forehead. Mako-enhanced healing had already taken care of it. Stupid of him to get caught off-balance like that. A grand horn was no big deal, not after dragons or Bahamut or Sephiroth.

Zack grinned like all of his holidays had come at once. “Great! So you’re going to come work for ShinRa, right? You have to after a display like that! We’ll be work buddies! Us country kids have to stick together. It’ll be fun!”

Cloud had forgotten what it was like to trust in ShinRa’s promises. It hurt, to see how strongly Zack had believed in the company before Nibelheim. How much worse did the betrayal feel for someone who thought he’d been doing good?

“…Cloud? You’ve got a kind of weird look on your face.” Zack poked at a cheek.

He shrugged the gesture aside. He couldn’t. He couldn’t be tempted to try – it would lead to his ruin. There had to be another way. Old dreams of making it into SOLDIER were trash now. Too risky. For both him and Zack.

“You’re better off forgetting about me,” he said, voice as cold as he could make it. “I tried to tell you yesterday – but ShinRa and I… it wouldn’t work out. I’ll find some other work in Midgar. It’ll be better for everyone.”

“What? But-”

Cloud hefted First Tsurugi over his shoulder. “Thanks for inviting me along today. It was fun.”

“Wait, Cloud!”

He didn’t turn back.

For the first time, he thought he maybe understood a bit of what Zack was thinking, when he left him behind on the Midgar cliffs.

Next chapter


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
LOL at the SOLDIER-level acrobatics of Cloud's stomach, beats butterflies every time.

Maybe they were just meant to be together. Or Zack was a clumsy oaf.
> I'm pretty sure it's the second option. *snickers*

Even if Aeris said at the start that she was too old to be Cloud's mother, she still sounds like one. No offense, Oishi, but I think Aeris is much better at it than you, too. XD

The pickpocket kid must be a newbie at that stuff. Here in our country, especially in the busiest cities, those little thieves wouldn't be deterred by a step away. Persistent things, they are.

Haha, Cloud was so serious about the wings that it was funny. A great follow-up after a bloody encounter. Too bad Cloud didn't take the bait and join ShinRa. Even though he would've eventually be spotted, at least he would still have some moments with Zack. Although I've got a feeling that the universe (mainly Zack) isn't done with the convincing, is it?

Dec. 5th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Not by a long shot. :D

*__* I'm having hilarious mental crossover scenarios with Oishi encountering Aeris and they try and out-mother each other. Except Oishi would be frantic and Aeris would be calm. :P
Dec. 3rd, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
Yayes for Aeris. It just sounds better.
Oh, poor Cloud, still can't trust your memories. His musings about old friends, and his impressions of Midgar for that matter, are very touching.

...and Zack stared at him as though he’d sprouted wings.

Uneasily, Cloud checked. Hojo had spent a lot of time on him – spontaneous sprouting of wings remained an uncomfortable possibility.
---Those were such awesome lines.

This comparison was also good: ...dragons or Bahamut or Sephiroth. Both putting Seph in the same category as quite lethal and mindless creatures, and, just --- Cloud, you've gotten so blase!
Dec. 5th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
I guess you can only fight Sephiroth so many times before everything starts feeling a bit ordinary. :P
Dec. 3rd, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
Maybe they were just meant to be together. Or Zack was a clumsy oaf.

Hahaha, love how Cloud can be snarky, but in a nice way. XP I love this little reunion, how Cloud still holds Zack on a pedestal even though he's older and stronger. Just gotta wait till Zack reports back to Angeal about this little mission. >D Can't wait for the Firsts to start hunting Cloud down. Or will the Turks find him first? This is so exciting!!

Uh oh about the broken something when he crashed into the crate. D: I hope the water's okay so Angeal can be saved, too!!

Aeris is just awesome in this. When you had her going, "You're so sad," or whatever, I was worried that it was going to turn into a super sappy moment, but I think you wrote that scene very well. Sentimental and painful for Cloud, but nothing too emo. XDD; Fantastic work. Looking forward to the next update!! AND GENESIS. :O
Dec. 4th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Reread: CLOUD, WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT THE VIALS IN A SAFETY BOX? That's what I would've done if I'd seen how well it worked on Genesis. D: I'm still hoping I'm wrong about that though. *crosses fingers* Angeal, be okay!

Also wanted to say that I like having shorter chapters that are updated more often. :D Once every 2-3 days?
Dec. 5th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
Glad you liked the scene with Aeris - it's always tricky to write those scenes without getting too emo. There's angst, and then there's wallowing, and it's a fine line between the two. ^_^

Most of the chapters are roughly ten pages long (this one was 11, but the previous only 6), and not easily cut down, so I'm not likely to change the regular schedule. :) But twice a week is still every 3-4 days, yeah? Knowing that, however, I might look into halving some of the longer ones where possible to get them out quicker.
Dec. 3rd, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Oh no! What shattered at his hips??

And I think it's really interesting comparing the 'future' Cloud with 2nd Class Zack. It's so disorientating yet wonderful to see Zack not being in the 'savior' and big brother role.

And I sorely miss the 1st Classes... Hah. There's really not enough interaction amongst them in the game... There's only one scene where all 3 are together.

Dec. 5th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
Cloud needed his day in the sun! That kind of role reversal is fun - wish there was some more of it in FF fandom.

Don't worry, more of the 1st classes in... well, not so much the next chapter, but they should start turning up more regularly after that. ^_^ I suppose their lack of interaction in the game is made up for by the fact that that one scene is the most awesome scene ever.
Dec. 3rd, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
And Cloud really is bad at this time-traveling deal. It's just so endearing to see him figure his way. And I'm reminded of what Genesis said about him traveling on foot and his desire to kill off Sephiroth. Great dialogue. =D
Dec. 5th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Dec. 3rd, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
'Uneasily, Cloud checked. Hojo had spent a lot of time on him – spontaneous sprouting of wings remained an uncomfortable possibility.'

I lol'd so hard here, but then I felt so bad for laughing. It's sad that Cloud would even think there was a possibility, and it's even more sad that there could be a possibility because of that bastard Hojo.

OMG I love your Zack and Cloud together. Especially when Zack is just rushing in, and Cloud is the one who has to go behind him to make sure he doesn't get himself killed, but you can tell that Cloud is loving it up for that brief time that they got to fight together again. And Cloud, you should know you're an idiot for telling Zack to just forget about you.

And thank you for not making Aeris into the all-knowing person that I see in all the stories like this. It's refreshing to have the young Aeris who doesn't already know who Cloud is and why he's there. It makes everyone more real to have Cloud completely cut off from the future.
Dec. 4th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
Seconded on the Aeris thing! Considering it wasn't Aeris and some crazy Ancients who decided on sending Cloud back, it makes sense that the past Aeris and the planet have no idea what's up. Also, it makes things all the more angsty for Cloud, haha. Poor guy, there's no one to spill his sorrows to. XP Still, it's interesting to see how he'll adapt without that little safety net.
Dec. 5th, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
That does make a lot of sense. Poor Cloud doesn't need anymore angst though. T_T
Dec. 20th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
Seconded-- no, thirded at this point-- SO HARD.
Dec. 5th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
As firedraygon said, Aeris had absolutely no connection to sending Cloud back, so it wouldn't have made much sense for her or the planet to know what's going on. So I guess that's the difference there, but I'll happily claim credit anyway. :D Glad you liked it.

Cloud is an idiot, but we love and despair over him anyway. ♥
Dec. 5th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
Well, even if she has no connection, some authors would still make her all-knowing. You're just above all the rest. 8D

It seems like the despairing part happens so often. Poor Cloud. T_T
Jan. 5th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
There is a fine line to be walked where time-travel and foreknowledge is concerned (both in-universe and in a more meta way), and it's so refreshing to see characters that don't magically know or guess everything right away or without the right clues and/or knowledge/intelligence.
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Dec. 5th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
*flails over the icon* I do it every time I see it.

As cliche as the story may be in every other aspect, I am determined to avoid that particular trap of, as you so eloquently put it, 'mother know-it-all who sent Cloud back in time so that he can repent'. XD Pleased to have your approval in this matter!

Zack is taller! There was a height chart floating around somewhere... even Second Class Zack is taller than adult Cloud I think (though not by a lot). *___*

That's quite a turnaround from your previous indifference to Genesis. >:D Personally, I'm in shock though pleased that Genesis/Cloud shippers are emerging from a non-romance fic. This may be an appropriate time to say: Mwa ha ha ha.

Thank you for commenting! *__*
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Dec. 20th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)

Also, just throwing this out there, but Zack is 6'3", Cloud's 5'8". For a grown man (only a year Zack's junior), Cloud is a freaking midget.
Dec. 20th, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)
Oh ho, thank you for the actual numbers! All I had was a height chart. *__*
Jan. 2nd, 2010 05:20 am (UTC)
You're so welcome ^_^♥
Jan. 3rd, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh, Cloud's conversation with Aerith here. ;; I know that there are a lot of hints towards how she really doesn't know the extent of her powers, but I really love the call backs (forwards? idk) towards the conversations from Cloud's original timeline. Tugs at my heartstrings so very much.

I love the sudden realization of just how much of a role reversal Cloud has in his relationship with Zack in this timeline. The conversation from the day before probably lulled Cloud into a false sense of things being different yet the same, but then reality comes crashing down.

Also, giggling forever at Cloud checking for a wing. x3
Jan. 5th, 2013 02:17 am (UTC)
Aw, come on, Cloud! Of course that you changed something:

By all accounts, the Wutai War had been just as vicious as the previous.

Not true! They might have had the same or more casualties, but their surrender conditions were much better this time around, and their pride likely hasn't been as heart-breakingly stomped on as in canon.

But then, it is in-character for Cloud to be so hard on himself.

He always ruined everything.


“You’re not alone,” she stated.

Except he
was alone.

This inter-play is so... the contrast and... oh...

Also, not everyone uses italics to such great effect as you do!

Zack's memories never wore off, not completely - he had just learned how to push his own personality to the foreground.

Not everyone in Avalanche liked the change, but they learnt to deal.

I wonder about this. I mean, it's besides the scope of this story, but now I wonder. I can't remember if this was addressed in the game or not; it's been a while since I played that part.

You spoil me with your great fighting scenes. :3 And your great writing in general.

Wooden crates were nothing. Sephiroth threw buildings at him.

Uneasily, Cloud checked. Hojo had spent a lot of time on him – spontaneous sprouting of wings remained an uncomfortable possibility.


...Zack, how can you be so selfless and not mind other people's triumphs and be so encouraging and such a good person ahhhh

How much worse did the betrayal feel for someone who thought he’d been doing good?

It's a laugh-a-minute aboard the Cloud's Inner Thoughts Express. :| XD

For the first time, he thought he maybe understood a bit of what Zack was thinking, when he left him behind on the Midgar cliffs.

I'm not sure I got this line, but it still made me go :(
Jan. 5th, 2013 06:11 am (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to leave such a lengthy comment.

As for the Midgar cliffs line, my intention was to compare to the sort of self-sacrificing mindset. Zack, leaving Cloud all alone in order to protect him. Cloud, rejecting Zack's overtures of friendship for the same reason. A small cruelty for a greater and more noble kindness. But you can interpret how you like.
Jan. 7th, 2013 03:57 am (UTC)
No problem! Commenting for your fics is fun, when I can find what to say. Most of the time I'm just sitting back, all being on awe and stuff. XD

That's more or less what I got out of it, but I wasn't sure. Thanks!
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