jdee_gurl: (Durarara!!!SxI)

Title: Return of the Departed
Author: J’dee
Series: Final Fantasy VII
Chapter Rating: PG (due to graphic violence)
Pairs: None

AN: Cloud will be okay I promise! I'm not THAT heartless cause I luff the chocobo head!


Chapter Four


Cloud carried Angel who had fallen asleep in the car, towards the entrance of the WRO. He saw Denzel wave to him before his adoptive son headed into the staff entrance.

Shifting the child in his arms. Cloud moved towards the entrance. It had been a long drive, but they were here, once Angel was okay Cloud would bring Freedom here to be with her brother. The young infant had reminded Cloud why he didn't want a second child. The middle of the night wake up calls and the crib bouncing.

A crash sounded behind him. Cloud stopped and looked over his shoulder.
The second Calamity landed in the middle of the road.
The long golden blonde hair whipped about him wildly and Cloud let out a curse looking to Angel in his arms.
The boy was stirring slowly waking up from his nap.
“Yield the childe to me and you shall survive the epitaph.”
Cloud shook his head. “Not happening.” He stated.
“Then decease.”
Angel's voice was quiet as he spoke tiredly. “C-cloud?”
Cloud looked down to the amber eyed child in his arms and he set Angel down. His hand ruffling up Angel's hair and smiling. “Run inside okay get them to hide you.”
Angel nodded and he took off inside through the revolving doors and vanished from sight.

Cloud stood up and he turned round looking to the alien.
“Who are you?”
“Hloskova.” The visor snapped up and Cloud saw those familiar purple eyes.
“What do you want with Jenova?” Cloud demanded.
The smile was cold, heartless. “To persevere our domination of the stars. Initiating with this one.” His hand flicked up skyward.
Cloud saw the sky begin to darken, clouds swirling around above them. Cloud's hand moved to his sword at his side and he drew the blade out.
“Find another planet.” He snapped.

Cloud saw Hloskova phase out of sight and he spun the blade behind himself, he felt the force of the blow. Cloud glanced over his shoulder seeing the taller blonde look down at him, the pupiless purple eyes flashed, before narrowing and the visor snapped down.
Cloud saw the spikes coming out from the alien's arm. The same arm that he had used to crush Cissnei's spine.

Cloud could feel his heart clench. The woman who had given Zack a reason to smile after all the torment Sephiroth and Jenova put him through. This creature took that from him.
The alien's arm blocked the blade like it was a sword itself. The hair moved on it's own accord and Cloud lept out of the way as the ends stretched out and they spiked the ground where he had just been.
Several holes and cracks remained in the concrete where he had stood mere seconds ago.
The hair moved like some weird mechanical tentacle creature. He had not fought anything like this man ever before. Even with the Weapons none of them... were like this.

Not a single emotion flashed across the alien's face as he phased out again in a puff of smoke. Cloud jumped up the ground beneath him cracking and he unclipped the second blade from his sword and blocked the several tentacle spikes flying up at him.
His blades moved about him preventing any direct hits, the sound of metal against metal reverberating in the air.

'Metal hair... If Jenova lived... would she have this kind of power?' He felt himself wonder worried.
This alien believed she was indeed out there.
'Stay hidden Angel. Please stay hidden.'
Cloud saw Hloskova vanish from sight again. He turned himself round and landed on a ledge outside the WRO and he looked behind himself and smirked. Reeve's office.
The luck of the draw.
Reeve was asleep on the couch underneath the window. Cloud pressed his back to the glass and watched as Hloskova appeared on the ledge on the building opposite the WRO.
Cloud tapped on the window.

It slid open and he saw Reeve half asleep look at him in confusion sitting up on his couch.
“Cloud... what in Gaia's name?” He sighed. “You could use the door you know.” The half asleep director commented.
“Angel is in the foyer. Get him to safety.”
Reeve blinked. “Cloud...”
Cloud just let out a breath. “This could take some time. He's not like anything we've ever faced before.”
Cloud heard the gasp of Reeve as the director stared beyond him. “That's him. Isn't it?”
“Yes, get everyone away from the windows and make sure Angel is safe.” Cloud jumped off the window ledge.

Reeve watched as the blades spun around the fighter but none of them seemed to pass the barrier of spikes on the alien's arms. Hair shooting out like a million needles Cloud deflected them.
The two spinning round in battle in mid air outside the WRO.
Reeve picked up his phone and dialed down to reception.
“Pania. Is there a young boy there with you?” He waited for the receptionist to give him an affirmative answer, she sounded confused but confirmed that the boy was there hiding under her desk. “Okay please inform all workers on any and all the levels that are near the windows to stay away. I will explain later. Also let Vincent know his assistance is required as soon as possible.”

Reeve moved to the window and he watched as the hair shot out. Cloud deflected the spikes again before the alien seemed to get frustrated and his leg swung round and kicking Cloud in the side of the ribs sending the blonde back into the building across the road.

Cloud didn't have the chance to move when the hair struck him in the shoulder pinning him to the building before it lifted him up. Pain coursed through his shoulder. Cloud felt the hair break though the other side of his body before it curled round his arm and looping back through the hole in his shoulder.

They were both lowered to the ground. Well almost. Cloud left hoovering a few feet in the air. Trapped by the hair.
“You are essential to his sanity.” Hloskova commented.
Cloud glared at the golden blonde alien. “So?” He snapped.
“To remove you... from existence, will cause his deterioration.”
More hair shot out and Cloud felt his skin punctured over and over again by a thousand needles.
He gripped his sword in his right hand then brought it slicing through all the hair.

Cloud hit the ground and he saw the blood dripping from his body. He glared up at the alien.
“I'm not that easy to kill.”
Hloskova merely smirked at him. “I bid your endeavor. Jenova's childe was defeated by your hand, however I conclude times of tranquility have dulled your skills. You are not my concern.”
“I won't let you hurt Zack.” Cloud pushed himself up picking up a blade in each hand before snapping them back into place together. He could feel the blood dripping down his arms as he pulled the blade back and spun it round dropping it in front of himself as he fell into a stance.

“You can not control the inevitable. He will discover your degrading corpse and I will terminate whatever sanity he has left.” Hloskova merely commented.
“Not happening.” Cloud growled.
Hloskova just seemed to smirk at him and before Cloud knew it the alien had vanished from his line of sight again.
Cloud moved to the side and he barely avoided the fist that appeared out of nowhere the smoke forming after Hloskova's body.
Cloud jumped back a couple of feet. He glanced up seeing Reeve looking down on him. The concern on the director's face visible even from this far away.
Cloud looked to the alien again and then he noticed the alien was holding out his left hand.

Purple energy seemed to formed around Hloskova's hand. A soft sound of unseen gears moved, the noise seemed to resonate in the air.
Cloud's eye twitched as the Alien's hand began to separate, bands of data forming a circle in a straight line from his forearm to several inches down encasing something that seemed invisible.
Metal of some description began to become visible, between the bands data forming from nothing.
Cloud blinked and when he looked at the Alien again. Hloskova held a sword, it was a cross between Sephiroth's Masamune and a gunblade, gold plated like his mechanical wings.
Cloud frowned. “What are you?”
This was not something he was aware Jenova's race could do. It just wasn't possible. She was organic like a virus last he heard, not mechanical based.
Hloskova's visor flicked up and the purple eyes flickered over Cloud. The smirk that tainted the alien's lips was enough to make Cloud's skin crawl.
“Reconstructed by cataclysmal design. I am their synthetic intention.”
Cloud frowned the way this alien spoke was like he had been programmed.

~*~*~*~

Zack could hear his phone ringing as he flew along side Seph. It wasn't a willing truce, he just had to reach Cloud and Angel before Hloskova did. For some reason Sephiroth decided to follow him.
Cursing Zack pulled out his phone and answered as he flew. “Vincent what's going on?”
Zack listened to the former Turk and he saw Sephiroth watching his expression he must have seen the look.
“Obviously we need to hurry.” Sephiroth commented.
“On my way I'll meet you there, Vincent distract him, make sure Cloud and Angel are alright.” Zack snapped the phone shut, he glanced to Sephiroth who flew beside him.
“Why...” Zack looked at former General beside him.
Sephiroth looked at Zack. “Because I will not let him drive you insane.”

Zack looked down at the ground beneath them. “It takes a lot to drive me insane Seph.” He stopped realizing he had reverted back to using his nick for Sephiroth's name.
Sephiroth did not seem to notice that or he ignored it. “He is my mother's life partner, I can feel that much.”
“So that would make him what your step-dad?” Zack scoffed. “Doesn't mean you have to help me.”
“I betrayed you, therefor I owe you this, perhaps more.”
Zack felt his face flush he looked away nodding. “You don't just owe me Seph. There are others out there that you hurt as well.”
Sephiroth sighed. “I hurt you the most. Mentally the damage I caused will take time to atone for.”

Zack nodded understanding. “Okay... but you don't have to start now.”
“Do you think you can fight him alone in your grief? If you recall after Angeal died.” Sephiroth stated.
Zack let out a breath. “Okay you made your point, but I'm not helping you if Cloud runs you through with a sword.”
“Fair enough.” Sephiroth replied.

~*~*~*~

Words became pointless now, all he had was the will to live to protect Angel like he had promised Zack. Another promise to keep, there was more at stake in this promise to Zack than the last one.
Cloud followed Hloskova's movements with his eyes and he blocked the sword blows, but he could feel the vibration rock through the blade pushing him back a few feet. Almost but not quite knocking him off his feet.
Drawing the second blade from his sword, the metallic hair shot out from around the alien and using the blade he sliced through the hair.

Each swing of the sword blocked more and more of the hair as it flew at him in a constant flow.
Hloskova's pointed the blade at Cloud and several bullets fired from the sword. Cloud flicked his wrist deflecting the bullets.
Hloskova flew at him and Cloud blocked the blade of the sword with his own. The fist struck the other blade the impact sending Cloud backwards several feet.
The alien phased behind him and Cloud felt it as the sword burst through his stomach.
The hair wrapping around his neck. Cloud gasped as he felt the blade twist round before. The mechanical gears began to turn and the sword was digitized to have several mini spikes on the edge of the blade each point directed back towards Cloud's stomach.
Cloud's hand gripped the blade and he growled fighting Hloskova's motion to pull the blade free and probably rip half of Cloud's stomach contents out through his back.
Lifting the taller alien up he spun round bringing the blonde alien's body slamming into a post not once but twice.

Holding one hand firmly on the blade Cloud sucked in a breath and he swung his sword down behind him and he could feel it pass through the metal.
Hloskova fell back and looked at the stump that had been his left arm.
Cloud jumped forward a few feet and he pulled the blade out through the front before tossing it at the alien's feet.
His hand moving to the hole and he looked at the blood that came gushing out of the wound.
He activated the materia on his bracelet letting the mastered Cura heal his wound.
Cloud watched as the alien picked up his blooded weapon that had once been his left arm and he held it to the stump.
Cloud watched as the digitized lights formed round the joint and the gears began clicking, the alien let go of his arm.
Just like that, his severed limb was reattached with not even a trace that it had ever been severed.
The left hand pointed at him and Cloud dropped back into a stance one sword in front the other resting by his leg. He could feel his body wasn't going to last much longer, not without proper medical attention.
'Cloud... hang on...'
He heard the soft familiar female voice on the wind.
'Good luck...'
The gentle breeze drifted around him, the light scent of flowers filled the air around him.
He smirked. “Thanks...”
'Zack's on his way...'

It was the news he needed to hear. He only had to hold this alien off until Zack arrived. He just hoped Zack wasn't too far away.

~*~*~*~

Reeve had been just watching the scene below, he had been ready to send some of his men out there to help when Cloud got impaled. But once again the blonde had proved harder to kill.
Reeve opened the drawer to his desk and he rummaged through it. He had a spare one lying around somewhere. He just had to find it.
He made a mental note to really organize his notes better before the day was out.

The door to his office opened. The red cape billowing behind his old friend.
“Vincent. Thank Gaia.” Reeve exclaimed. It was as if that was the moment the missing item decided to peek it's head out and say 'here I am'.
Reeve picked up the yellow feather. Walking up to Vincent he placed the golden feather in the gunman's hand.
“Take this to Cloud outside. He will need it.”
Vincent looked at Reeve. “What is going on?”
“Take a look for yourself.” Reeve opened the window up again.

The gunman stepped up to the window looking at the spectacle below. Red eyes followed the battle raging below. The frown on the gunman's face was obvious, he knew this. Cloud did not look like he was fearing too well against the alien.
“He returned...”
Reeve looked to him. “To take Angel I'm afraid. Cloud is doing his best. Do you think-?”
Vincent placed a golden boot onto the ledge stepping up onto it.
“You do not need to ask.” He stated. The breeze blew the cape back into the office as the gunman lept from the ledge free falling towards the ground.

Reeve ran up to the window and watched as Vincent landed on a balcony on one of the lower levels. Stepping onto the railing Death Penalty was loaded and pointed in the direction of the alien and the shots rang out.
The visor of the alien flicked down as the head tilted to look in Vincent's direction.
“Vincent be careful!” Reeve shouted out to his friend.

~*~*~*~

Cloud was glad for the distraction Vincent gave. It would ease the battle a bit on his body. He knew his energy was running on low.
The gunman landed next to him the cape flapping out behind him as he stepped in front of Cloud.
Cloud was aware of the feather thrown at him.
It landed on his shoulder and activated.
“From Reeve.” He stated.
“Thanks. I just got a boost from Aerith too.”
Vincent's red eyes narrowed at the alien. “Then she obviously knows the outcome of this battle.”
“Zack's on his way.” Cloud stated.
“Can you hold out till then?” Vincent asked.
Cloud just smirked grateful for his friend's company. “I can now.”
Vincent nodded.

A purple stream of light flashed across the middle of the alien's visor, it flickered like a loading screen. Vincent quirked a dark eyebrow.
“He's completely mechanical.” Cloud stated.
“Unusual.” Vincent stated.
Cloud nodded. “I don't think bullets will work on him.”
“Then we have to just get in close.” Vincent lept off the ground and flipped over Hloskova Cloud charging the alien from the front.
The golden claw struck through the golden alloy breast plate and the claw ripped at the plate, drawing it from the alien's body. Cloud moving in stabbing Hloskova through the chest and lifting the alien up on the sword he flung him to the side and down the street.

The alien's right hand grabbed the ground, the claws on the edge of his fingers tearing long scratches down and breaking through the concrete.
The head looked up at them as the visor flipped up and purple eyes glared at them. The wires exposed in the alien's chest seemed to 'bleed' red. But the smell was like that of an oil leak.
The echo of gears turning, then the purple digitized lights appeared over the chest of the alien as he digitally repaired himself on the spot.
“His abilities would intrigue Reeve.” Vincent stated.
“Well if we can kill him, we can give him the parts to study later.” Cloud huffed, he was getting more than annoyed with this alien.

The more Cloud fought him and saw his abilities, he understood. If this golden alien had originally been of Jenova's race and they had parted ways to meet up later. It was quite possible like Jenova Hloskova's abilities came from another planet that 'tested' on him like Hojo had on Jenova.
“You look like you figured something out.” Vincent commented.
Cloud nodded. “He said something to me before you arrived. 'Reconstructed by cataclysmal design. I am their synthetic intention.' I believe he meant he was experimented on like Jenova, but not here, somewhere else.”
“That world probably doesn't exist now either.” Vincent added.
“Probably not. They could have given him an expiry button though.” Cloud looked to Vincent. “When we get out of this I need you to see if Shelke can net dive for us.”
“I will ask her.” Vincent glanced to the alien in time to see the visor snap down and the alien phased out of their sight.

~*~*~*~

Zack could see the WRO in the distance and he could hear the sound of a metal based battle and he frowned.
“Not a good sign.” Zack growled, trying to kick up the speed of his flight.
Sephiroth seemed to hang back and Zack looked back understanding. Sephiroth would not show himself to Cloud, not yet.
Zack did not mind.

Flying over the area Zack saw Hlsokova vanish from sight and he growled. He knew what was going to happen next.
“CLOUD WATCH OUT!” Zack shouted.
The blonde looked up at him, before he spun round and blocked the sword of the alien.
Zack saw the flash of digitized light.
And the sword passed through Cloud's sword through his chest bursting out the back the hair shot out like blades one through Cloud's leg, the other through his stomach and the last through his neck. All of it in one single motion.
“CLOUD!” Zack swooped in landing.
Hlsokova looked at him.
The sword and hair retracting from the blonde's body, Cloud falling over backwards.
Zack dashed in catching Cloud and he saw the flash of yellow and let out a breath of relief as the phoenix down brought a moan from Cloud's lips.
Blue eyes looked up at him, tired, weak.
Zack growled glaring up at the alien.
The metal clinked as the alien walked up to him.
Metal and blood glistened together along the blade of the alien and he brought it up to his lips licking the edge of the blade, tasting Cloud's blood.
“Human blood taints her essence.” He seemed to purr.
Zack saw Vincent, the gunman suddenly behind the alien, death penalty pressed against the back of Hlsokova's head.
There was a flash as the gun went off. Metal, blood, oil, brain, sparks flew as the body dropped to the ground.

Zack pulled Cloud up to him. “Hey buddy... you did good, you can hear me right?”
Cloud nodded. “Y-yeah... but...” The gloved hand moved to his own chest as he sucked in air. “Something... else is inside... me.”
Zack's eyes went wide. “Something else? What something else?” He asked worriedly.
“Don't know.” Cloud's eyes closed.
Zack pulled out his materia activating trying his best to use the cura to heal whatever it was inside his friend.
'It's the infection Zack, it's touched his soul...'
Zack could hear Angeal's voice behind him and he pulled Cloud even closer shaking his head.
“Is he-?”
“No.” Vincent stated. “The Phoenix down worked fine. But something else is preventing him from returning to consciousness.”
Zack heard the revolving doors turn and he saw Denzel stepping outside walking up to them slowly, his expression one of shock.
“C-Cloud.” The teenager spoke his voice shaking.
“DAD!” Zack saw Angel race past Denzel and up to him, clinging to his side.
A woman was close behind. “Please Angel the director said to stay indoors!”
“Is Cloud sleeping?” Angel asked hanging onto Zack's arm.
Zack nodded. “Yes.”
Angel looked up at him. “Like mommy?”
“No... luckily.” Zack was relieved at that.

Zack smiled as Angel ran his hand through the feathers in one of his wings. “You look good with wings daddy.” He smiled. “Like an angel.”
Zack rested his forehead on his son's head. He looked to the woman standing over them.
“I can take him back inside sir.” She looked to the wings blinking.
Angel shook his head. “I wanna stay with you.”
“Angel it's just for a few moments we have to get Cloud looked at okay.” Zack looked to the wings. He reached into them and pulled out a loose feather before placing it in Angel's hands. “Since I can't come inside with you just yet. Take a part of me instead. Is that okay?”
Angel looked at the feather and grinned. “Okay!”
Zack smiled at the woman. “Thank you- uh.”
“Pania. I don't expect you to remember. It's okay.” She took Angel's hand and walked back to the door with the child.
Vincent moved to Zack side and crouched down picking up Cloud and draping him over his shoulder. “I'll take him to the medic.”
Denzel moved up to Vincent, his hand moving to touch Cloud on the back of the head.
“They'll make sure he's okay right?”
“They will do their best.” Vincent stated to the youth.
“Okay... thanks Vincent.” Zack stood up and he walked past Hlsokova's body.

The sound of gears shifting and changing made Zack stop before he saw the hand of the body twitch, the gears in the back of the skull moved and Zack saw it. Hlsokova's body was reconstructing itself.
“Shit! EVERYONE MOVE!” He shouted.

The alien stood up suddenly then phased out.
“No! GET AWAY!” Zack shouted.
Pania pulled Angel away and Zack saw the blade pass through the left side of her chest. Her body falling limp on the blade. It was obvious Hlsokova had pierced her heart making her death instant. He flung her body to the side before grabbing Angel by the arm.
“NO! LET GO OF HIM!” Zack growled drawing his sword and charging at the alien.
The sword arm digitized and returned to an arm with a hand and it caught the buster sword like it was nothing. Zack pushed against the blade driving it through mixture of bone, metal and tissue.
The left arm was sliced vertically up the arm in half.
Angel looked up at him and Zack froze seeing those amber eyes looking at him.
“Angel.”

That noise formed again and Zack heard the gears turning. He saw the two halves of the arm move independently of each other.
“Zack get away!”
Zack could hear Sephiroth's shout and then one half of the arm twirled round his body locking him in place, crushing him like a snake to prey.
The other half of the arm twirled round by his neck and Zack saw the needles forming.
“Program initiating.”
Zack felt the needles pierce the side of his neck, it wasn't just one needle. It felt like at least twenty.
Hlsokova's visor flashed, the line flashed across the middle before jumping up like a pulse. Then the lines started moving faster, the pulse falling into a steady beat matching with Zack's racing heart.
“Instillation in progress.”
Zack could feel something passing through the needles into his skin and he let out a cry trying to break free.
“Stop it!” Angel screamed. “You're hurting him!”
Zack's body felt stiff, like whatever this infection was froze him to the spot, his eyes moved to look at Angel's tear stricken face.
“Due to complete system update in three minutes.” Hlsokova's needles retracted and Zack was let go. He felt his body dropped to the ground before the two halves of the alien's arm began to digitize back together.

Zack saw the metal wings activate and the alien pulled Angel to him before jumping up and shooting off into the sky.
Zack felt his body pulled up and he gasped for air.

Sephiroth.

The former general held him like how Zack had held Cloud only moments ago.
“S-Seph...”
The hand touched the side of his face. “I know a doctor, let me take you and Cloud to her.” Sephiroth's voice sounded calmer than his own frantic heart jumping a million miles a minute.
“Zack...” Vincent moved up to him, glancing to Sephiroth.
“Trust him Vin...cent. If he- wanted us, dead, we- would be... already.” Zack spoke through gasping breaths.
“Zack are you sure?” Vincent asked.
“Y-yeah...” Eyes closed.
He didn't want to think what was going to happen when this 'program' had fully been 'installed' into his body.

Sephiroth looked to Cloud over Vincent's shoulder.
“This doctor is a friend of Ezekiel's, currently she is located in Mideel. You can get the address from the Turk, but they both need to be tended to.”

Vincent frowned glancing to Zack, Sephiroth was about to sling Zack over his shoulder, when Zack let out an agonized cry, pulling free from Seph, his hands going to his ears.
The raven haired fighter falling to his knees doubling over.
“It's begun.” Sephiroth looked to Vincent. “I do not trust the WRO, for they are funded by ShinRa, I do not trust ShinRa. Not with his life.” He shot Vincent a challenging look. “What do you think Cloud's first question will be when he wakes up?”
“Zack.” Vincent stated and sighed.
He did not want to do this, he did not trust Sephiroth, but what Zack said held truth. If this was the Sephiroth of old then they would all be close to death, all of them.
Vincent reluctantly handed Cloud over, the scowl never leaving his face.
“Forgive me Cloud.” Vincent whispered.
Sephiroth flung the blonde over his shoulder before walking up to Zack.
“Zack.”
Vincent saw the flash of the blade. Sephiroth did too obviously and dodged with ease. Zack lunged at him in some weird possessed rage. The buster sword flying past Sephiroth as he dodged the next swing and the third. Each movement fluid like water, he didn't even quirk a brow at the crazed Zack.

Sephiroth frowned he dodged and phased behind Zack.
“Your movements are slow in comparison to how you normally fight.” His hand striking out to clip the raven haired fighter across the back of the neck.
Zack slumped forward instantly unconscious and Sephiroth caught him over his arm before he flung Zack over his shoulder.
He looked over his shoulder to Vincent.
“Remember Ezekiel knows the location. If you do not believe me I will get her to call Reeve when we arrive.” Sephiroth lept up into the air, his wing shooting out and using the wind to glide away from where Vincent stood.

Vincent looked up at Reeve, who had just witnessed the entire thing. He let out a breath before looking to Denzel who was looking at him.
“Go find Ezekiel. We need to have a talk with him.” Vincent stated.
Denzel nodded before running inside the WRO building.



~*~*~To Be Continued...~*~*~
jdee_gurl: (fangurls)

Title: Return of the Departed
Author: J’dee
Series: Final Fantasy VII
Chapter Rating: M
Pairs: None

AN:
The OC's that feature are merely for plot purposes nothing further. Ellie, Ezekiel, Hloskova are all © of Purgatorium, Clover and Walker are my creations (but I try to limit their interactions to the bare minimum).
Just note: Italics are for the dead addressing the living that can see and hear them, but when the POV is them talking amongst each other it won't be there...


Chapter Three


Reno stood in the doorway of the room, he was just looking at Zack, the former SOLDIER's back facing the door. Half curled up in the spot where Cissnei earlier that day had lain.
The red head's fist clenched at his side, this... thing took one of their own. It took a friend of his. He was not going to let that go lightly. He didn't blame Zack for her death he knew if he could have, he would have saved her, he had that power, the strength. But one minute to late, that's all it was.
“Zack we're all downstairs yo. Reeve's even here.” Reno spoke.
He saw the head nod. “Fill me in later Reno.” Zack stated.

Reno nodded. “Will do.” He let out a breath and walked down the hall descending the stairs.
He stopped seeing the flashing lights and media buzzing round outside. Rude was by the door preventing anyone from entering the bar.
The alien had attracted the media. The arrival of Rufus and Reeve had made everyone three times more curious than they needed to be.
Reno looked to where Rufus and Tseng sat in a booth with Reeve. He moved across the bar and crouched down. Elena sitting on the ground leaning against the base of the bar just staring at a dried up pool of blood.
“Hey... she wouldn't want you cryin' over her too long you know that right?” He set a hand on her shoulder.
Elena looked up at him and he caught her as she flung herself in his arms. He felt the petite blond's body rack with sobs. Reno glanced to Tseng and he saw Tseng look to her for the moment. Reno knew tonight was going to be a night where Elena would probably be staying with Tseng or the other way round.
Grief did weird things to people.
It had been a good two years since Elena and Tseng had separated on the guise that work and relations were probably not the best.
Reno saw Cloud walk up to the table he seemed to set the drinks down for Rufus, Reeve, and Tseng automatically. He was in autopilot mode. Reno wondered how close Cloud had actually gotten to Cissnei since she left the Turks and got hitched with Zack. That or the blonde didn't care and it was Zack he was grieving for.
Rubbing Elena's back Reno sat with her on the ground. He just watched the five year old boy bouncing on one of the seats in the booth behind the corporate trio.

The three men in suits ignored the media at the window snapping photos and making reports. The police moved them back from the window before any lip readers could interpret the conversation.
“The media won't leave this place alone.” Reeve spoke. “We have to report something to tide them over.” His fingers tapped the side of the cup softly.
“Someone's grief is anothers entertainment. Seems to be a theme with them.” Rufus stated before taking a sip of the coffee.
“Reeve.” Tseng looked at him. “You would be the better choice. It would be unwise to bring to their attention that she was an ex-ShinRa employee.
Reeve nodded. “I understand. I just don't know... what to say.”
“Zack is under a contract with you, is he not?” Vincent questioned from the corner staying away from any spots where the media could get any photos of him.
“Tell them...” Zack's voice drifted down the stairs. “Everyone needs to stay away from me. Anyone who means anything to me, they have to stay away.”

Cloud looked to Zack staring at the skintight black top, the black pants one shoulder plate strapped to his left shoulder there was an elbow band strapped round his right elbow and belts criss crossed at his waist, the buster sword strapped to his back.
“Z-Zack?”
He felt the hand touch him on the shoulder. Cloud looked to the black leather fingerless gloves, his gaze moving to Zack's face.
“Please watch over my kids for me.”
Cloud spun round. “Zack... where are-?”
“I'm going to find him Cloud. I'm going to kill him.”
Reeve stood up. “Zack... I must urge you not to go off in your current state.”
Zack looked at Reeve. “I'll always be SOLDIER... I can't deny that. The only thing I could do to quell my grief after Angeal was throw myself into mission after mission.” He looked to Rufus. “Say what you will to the media. I don't care. Just keep my kids out of the spotlight.” He walked to the door.
Cloud looked to Tifa and he saw her nod in understanding.
“We'll be here Zack, for when your ready to come home.”
Cloud watched as Zack looked over his shoulder. “Stay alive while I'm gone.” he walked out the door.
“Daaad!” Cloud watched Rude catch Angel before he ran out the door. “Dad!”
Zack smiled at him. “Be good for Cloud and Tifa okay I'll be back soon.”
“Dad...” Angel stretched for him.

Zack saw the flashing of lights, the media buzzing around him, he could feel where he needed to go.
'Northern Crater. He's there I don't know how I know, but I know.' Zack thought and he looked up to the sky letting the wings shoot from his back he lept skyward flying away from the stunned onlookers.

Angel knelt in the booth and he looked up seeing the feathers float to the ground.
“That was cool.” He pointed. “Did you see?”
Tifa smiled walking up to him. “We saw, it was neat huh?”
“Yeah I want them too one day!” He exclaimed. “Mommy was right they are angel's wings.”
Tifa placed a hand on his shoulder. “They are aren't they? But shouldn't you be in bed mister.”
“I couldn't sleep, I kept feeling her all around me and hugging me. Mommy she's really sad.” Angel slipped from the seat as Tifa took his hand.
“What's she sad about?”
“That she had to leave.”
Tifa nodded. “I imagine she wants to make sure your okay before she starts her new life.”

Reeve watched Tifa lead the boy up the stairs. “He's after that child.” He looked to Cloud. “He will probably return for him. I have a place we can keep him safe.”
Cloud let out a breath. “We'll think on it.”
“Don't think to long yo.” Reno stated. “He killed Zack's parent's yesterday and came after Cissnei today, tomorrow... you could be dead.” The red head stated from where he sat next to Elena, his arm still around her. The female Turk's head resting on his shoulder, brown eyes not really focusing on anything.
“Reno has a point Cloud.” Tseng stated.
“Tomorrow. We'll move them tomorrow.” Cloud sighed.
Reeve stood up. “I'll send a car. For now let me try to ease the media outside your door.”
“I can take Angel there, the less chance of innocent people getting hurt. Just in case.” Cloud stated.

~*~*~*~

Sephiroth sat in the room the television was going in the background. Ellie the woman's name was, was letting him stay in her home. So for the first night in the longest time he'd slept in a bed, used her shower.
It only unnerved him slightly to see she used his old brand of shampoo and that she had a replica masumune on the wall, along with the blown up photo of himself and Zack from before he went mad.
The binder on the table had clip outs, research probing into his sudden 'demise' at Nibelheim. Sephiroth had forgotten that normal people had always been kept in the dark. He saw she had researched into the likes of Zack's first fake 'death' at the hands of ShinRa also at Nibelheim. He wondered how much this woman had figured out about the events in Nibelheim.
Sephiroth closed the folder.

El as she preferred to be called had said she needed to check his bloods since this body was not his original it was a host body. There were a million things that could go wrong and she didn't want a single one of them to happen. He did not complain only complied with the woman. She was obsessive over him, but the attraction was only one sided- her side.
Sephiroth let out a breath leaning into the back of the couch, this woman's decor even matched his own from his days back in ShinRa. It made him feel comfortable, but he didn't feel safe, fangirls could be very obsessive.
Sephiroth had not felt safe in a long time, but he felt safer than he had in the past. His eyes drifted closed, the television going softly in the background.

“An then he just sprouted wings an flew off inta the sky!” The voice made Sephiroth's eyes open.
He looked to the screen at the hysterical woman.
Sephiroth watched the footage played and he saw Zack stepping out from Seventh heaven. He looked different. The tell tale scar, his solitary bang gone replaced with several loose ones that hung round his face, like the man didn't care to style it anymore. The back of his hair pulled into a long pony tail that stopped at his waist. Angeal's sword, the single shoulder plate.
The wings sprouted out before Zack jumped and was gone.

Sephiroth stood up he walked up to the screen. He saw the news report cut to Reeve onscreen the director of WRO looked nervous as reporters were quizzing him.
Questions flew at the leader of the WRO.
“That man what was he?”
“Is he even human?”
“Was he responsible for the Gongaga slaughter?”

Reeve held his hand up. “He is an old friend. I assure you he is human. He's-” The director of WRO was stopped mid sentence as Rufus stepped up covering the mic.
“Reeve I will take care of this.”
“Sir!” Tseng seemed to protest behind.
Rufus looked out. “I take full responsibility for the tests my father's company ran on that man. We have been making sure he could live his life as comfortably as possible. But he insists that you keep your distance if you see him. Do not approach him, do not try to initiate any form of contact. He is not dangerous but what he's about to do and where he's heading is.” Rufus stepped away from the podium and was flanked by Reno, Rude, and Tseng before he was ushered into the limo, before the reporters could even question Rufus anymore.

Reeve cleared his throat as the bombardment of questions hit him, the director of the WRO ignored all questions. Lights flashing about him for the newspaper articles for the morning.
“That man is one of the WRO's best operatives. He is on a mission for us. So please do stay clear.” Reeve stated.
“Is it true he's ex-SOLDIER?”
“We heard he worked along side Sephiroth!”
“What is ShinRa really hiding from the public?!”

Sephiroth heard the door open and he looked to El as she stepped out of her room.
The purple eyed woman looked at him.
“I just saw. Your friend...”
Sephiroth nodded. “He's not my friend. Not anymore.”
He raised a brow as she stalked up to him and the angry red head jabbed him in the chest.
“I know that look on his face. I've seen it before. He's lost someone dear to him. As a friend you should help.”
Sephiroth quirked a silver brow. “Your tests?”
“It takes longer than this to wait for the results. Just go.” She pointed to the door.
Sephiroth let out a breath. “It's not that easy. I did things to him. Unforgivable things.”
El looked at him. “Unforgivable things?”
Sephiroth looked at her. He moved to the couch and sat down.
El moved to sit on the seat near him. But gave him his space. “What sort of unforgivable things?” She asked.
Sephiroth tapped her folder on the table in front of them, fingers drummed with irritation at the questioning.
“Things that caused me to hurt the one who called me friend and forever fought to return my sanity to me.”
“You're avoiding the question.” El raised a brow.
Sephiroth gave her a look. “It's best you do not know what I put that man through. Things that a man shouldn't do to another man.”
She blinked and shook her head. “You didn't-?” She then got this weird look in her eyes. “That's so hot!”
Sephiroth's glanced at the woman.
“I mean bad... that's really bad.” She nodded her head her cheeks heating up.
Sephiroth raised a silver brow. 'So she's one of THOSE fangirls. No wonder she hasn't made a move.' He let out a breath. At least now he knew there would be no bedroom advances from this woman.
She was the only one who could remove this chip from his brain. So he had no choice.
“The chip...”
“It seems to suppress your influential part of the brain that prevents others from controlling your thought and actions.” El remarked.
Sephiroth stopped. “Controlling my thoughts.” He understood now. If that chip was removed, there was a likelihood he could hear Jenova again... If she was still alive.

The sanity he had when waking in Quinn's body was an odd one, then that other Turk, that dark skinned one was there just waiting for him. The need and thirst to destroy the planet was gone, instead he had felt remorse and guilt for the pain he had put Zack through.
Now he understood why he had not heard her. This chip had prevented him from hearing her. Jenova's eye long gone from Quinn's body when he took control. It had been discarded like nothing. Jenova had no means to contact this body anymore. He had been left alone and in peace to realize the truth of his actions and wallow in the pain he had caused those he cared about.

~*~*~*~

It was nightfall by the time Zack landed on the ground he had hoped to reach the northern crater before nightfall, but the change in wind direction pushing against his flight pattern slowed his travel down.

Landing in Icicle, Zack just wandered the area and he stopped seeing the door and windows shut as he walked past. He raised a curious brow and guessed Reeve or Rufus had told the media the public to stay away from him.
“Good call. Keep them safe.” Zack let out a breath.
The only thing it hindered him in was a place to stay for the night.
The breeze brushed his cheek in a familiar touch one he hadn't felt in years. His gaze looked up as if the touch urged him too.

It was then Zack stopped at the edge of the village and he blinked. The glowing green light of the lifestream, standing amongst it in humanoid form on the outskirt of town.
The back of a familiar pink dress, the pink ribbon. He watched the honey brown braid sway against her back.
Zack walked up to where her figure was manifesting.
He stopped behind her and he could smell on the wind the scent of flowers.
“I haven't seen you in a while.” He whispered. “Thought you abandoned me.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. That smile, it always warmed his heart.
You need to rest.” She stated.
He saw her smile it had a lair of concern underneath it. She always had trouble hiding her true concerns for him. He always saw through them.
“Aerith.” His hand moved to her shoulder.
Her hand moved over his. “Cissnei is worried about you. Please go back Zack, if you don't I'm afraid Cloud will-.” She stopped.
Zack raised a brow. “Cloud will what?” Zack pressed.
He's next Zack.” Aerith's voice sounded worried. “First thing tomorrow morning. He's going after Cloud.” She whispered. “If he keeps up this rate. Then the lifestream won't be able to adjust or take the souls of the departed in.” She turned round to look at him. “Return to Cloud Zack. He needs you.” Her hand moved to touch the side of his face. “You can't win this alone. You will need help. Cloud's help.

Zack frowned. This second Calamity was going after Cloud next. Zack should have figured. He would just get to the alien first that was it.
“He's at the northern crater now isn't he?” Zack asked.
She looked to the side he saw the frown. “Thought so.” He walked past.
If you go down this path you'll end up like Sephiroth!” She shouted after him. “That's what he wants!
“Yeah maybe but I'm different from Sephiroth. I won't let him consume me.”
Zack looked over his shoulder and he saw the figure manifesting behind Aerith.
He was thrown for six, at the sight.

Angeal was stalking up to him that long stride, that annoyed expression he always got when Zack had done something impulsive. Each step Angeal took with purpose in his stride and then Zack felt it. The hard slap over the back of the head.
Zack! Concentrate!
Zack rubbed the spot, he was sure he felt a bump forming.
“Owww... for a dead guy you hit pretty hard.”
Snap out of it!” Angeal sounded mad.
Zack was still rubbing the back of his head looking at Angeal blinking.
“Oh so NOW you show up. How many times have I asked for you to guide me and you choose now!” Zack growled. He could feel his eye twitching in annoyance.
“I always knew you were going to be fine. But this time. Even I can see you're falling apart.” Angeal placed his hands on Zack's shoulders. “Your wife if she had the strength would be here too, but her spirit needs to heal from the damage he caused.
Zack looked down instantly. “He damaged her spirit?” He couldn't believe it, that asshole had not only killed her in front of his eyes but he had damaged her soul.
Aerith walked up to him and Zack felt her arms wrap around him. “He infected her spirit, your parent's too.
It's like Geostigma for the dead. If he keeps this up on everyone he kills...” Angeal let out a breath.
Zack looked to Aerith his eyes widening. “It'll destroy the lifestream and in turn the entire planet.” Zack finished. “He really meant it didn't he? When he said it would be me and him for eternity if I didn't... give him my son.”
Cloud is next. Turn around you could still get to him in time.” Aerith urged him.
Zack shook his head. “I'll take him down tonight.” With that he shook Aerith's arms off him before he tore off to the sky.

Aerith let out a breath. She looked at Angeal.
He crossed his arms. “Guess I have no choice but to ask him to step in.”
Aerith bit her bottom lip. “Let him know I don't blame him,” she began. “I know it wasn't him, I know it was Jenova using his form.”
Angeal looked to where Zack took off and he sighed.
“I will if he doesn't think he's going crazy... again.”

~*~*~*~

Sephiroth moved to the spare room. He hadn't realized she had been one of those kind of fans. That read in to appearances together in the past as something more.
In those days there had been nothing but friendship between Zack and himself. But he was noticing it now. Round her apartment the photos of him, or Zack with him. Sephiroth never realized there were that many images out there of them together. It was mostly after missions they attended together where the 1st Class strength was needed after Angeal's death and Genesis's desertion from ShinRa.

The pictures didn't seem to offend him, but they were completely inaccurate. It wasn't until after he possessed his friends body, that he realized he had mentally broken Zack into a victim of Stockholm syndrome. Taken advantage of him in his mental breakdown.

Letting out a breath Sephiroth sat on the edge of the bed. His head falling into his hands. El was long gone to bed, thankfully. He could not tell the strange woman everything. In fact after her little outburst he had fallen silent. Fearful she would probably misunderstand the possession of Zack's body to mean something else. They had touched on the chip briefly and he knew now if it was removed he could return to his former easily influenced self. If it stayed, he would die and his redemption and his promise to Quinn would not reach full fruition.

Something bugging you old friend?
Sephiroth stopped, he looked up and he had not expected to see Angeal there leaning against the wall casually, still in that accursed uniform.
He blinked a couple of times before realizing, the lifestream had released Angeal from it's grasp to talk to him. It must have meant something bad was about to happen and he was required to continue down this weird path of attempted redemption.
“You know what.” Sephiroth let out a breath.
Guilt. You can help him you know. The way he's going he's going to be the next you. No one will be able to snap him out of it.
“Get Cloud to.”
That's going to be a bit hard when it involves Cloud getting hurt. You will know what he's going through, only you will be able to reach him.

Sephiroth frowned. “Why are you sticking your nose in this now?”
He's grieving badly Sephiroth.” Angeal stated. The concern in Zack's deceased mentor's voice was obvious. “His hometown was destroyed. His parent's and his wife killed, tomorrow if something doesn't change Cloud will die. Zack's son will be captured. That second coming... he will tear everything from Zack and force him to live through all of his past torments in a single moment. He'll go insane. One you was enough. He does not need to become like that.
Sephiroth let out a dry laugh. “What makes you think I can prevent it?”
I don't but I think you could reach him while he's in that state. You're the only one whose been through it and eventually returned to sanity.” Angeal spoke with certainty.
Sephiroth ran a hand through his hair. “I killed him.”
Because you were still insane.” Angeal pointed out.
Sephiroth shot his old friend a glare. “How do you know I'm not now?”
Six years and you've managed to hide from ShinRa and the WRO without detection, you could have just taken them down. Why hide?
Sephiroth looked to the side and let out a breath. “I owe this world redemption of some sort...”
That doesn't sound like a crazy man talking to me.
Sephiroth let out a breath. “Where is he?”
Heading towards the Northern Crater.” Angeal replied.
Sephiroth stood up he looked down at the clothes El had lent him. They weren't exactly combat ready. But he didn't have his old uniform available at that moment. El had take the coat and pants to be dry cleaned and she had hand cleaned the shoulder plates, which were sitting outside to dry over night.
“If I can't reach him.” Sephiroth began.
He reached for you, he kept trying, you owe him the same.” Angeal gave him that look. The one Sephiroth hated, the one that normally came before the pride and honor lecture. Sephiroth decided he had no choice but to go before he was forced to listen to it... again, from beyond the grave.

~*~*~*~

Cloud moved through Seventh heaven, he was up early making breakfast. He saw Angel sitting in the booth looking out the window up at the sky.
The kid was obsessed with the sky.
“Eggs okay?” Cloud asked.
The blonde glanced at the clock reading 4:15am. They had to be at WRO by six am.
“Yup!”
“Scrambled, poached, fried... how do you have them?” Cloud asked.
Angel thought for a moment. “Mom used to do me scrambled she didn't like using oil for frying them. I've never had poached before.”
“Really you don't know what you're missing. I'll throw some cheese on top for you just in case plain is too bland.” Cloud smiled as he continued cooking.

It was early morning. He had got Angel up to take him to Reeve's hiding point early. He had no idea what woke him this morning.
He was still waking up himself.

When the food was cooked he brought over the poached eggs on toast with some cheese on top he placed it in front of Angel and set the mug of hot chocolate down for the boy.
He sat opposite him with his own breakfast.
“You're having cereal... why?”
“I need to leave enough eggs for Denzel to have breakfast.”
“He sleeps a lot.” Angel mused.
Cloud laughed. “He's at that age.”
“So he's not grumpy anymore?” The five year old asked.
“The teenage angst is over.” Cloud chuckled.

It had been a messy six years of Denzel complaining that he wanted to join the WRO but they weren't letting him become stronger to protect Marlene and everyone else.
Finally Tifa had cracked first. She taught him some moves that Zangan had taught her and then Cloud had been double teamed into teaching Denzel how to use a sword. Not that Cloud thought he would ever need to. But he realized Denzel had gone behind his back and sought out Zack in the holiday times to get training from. Zack had assumed Cloud had sent him and so became the beginning of trying to control that teenage anger.

Angel continued to ask Cloud all kinds of questions as they had their breakfast. Cloud looked up as he saw a half asleep Denzel descend the stairs.
“Morning.”
The eighteen year old just moaned something incoherent before walking into the kitchen.
Angel looked at Cloud. “Will I get that big one day?”
Cloud nodded. “I'm sure of it.”

Denzel walked out of the kitchen and he then he felt it attach to his waist and he looked down before he shook his head.
“Morning!” The chirpy five year old commented.
“Uh yeah.” He looked to Cloud sitting there.
Cloud looked confused. “School isn't for another five hours.”
“Before school job.” Denzel let out a breath.
“So you got the job then. Congratulations.” Cloud smiled.
Denzel shrugged. “Just mail room stuff at WRO. It's a start.” He walked to the booth and sat down. Angel crawled over him to sit by the window and look out it.
“Do you think dad is there yet?” The dark haired kid asked.
Denzel looked at Cloud. He had been filled in briefly when he got home from Barrett and Marlene's, but they had all seen it on the news.
Cloud shrugged. “Probably, if he kept going all night. But I don't know where he was headed so who knows.”

~*~*~*~

Zack landed on the bottom of the Northern Crater. He landed in the middle of the crater before looking up and letting his wings retract.
He could feel that thing's essence everywhere. Like it was corrupting the very atmosphere of the place.
Zack felt the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach he could feel the essence, but he could not sense the person behind the essence. That meant this thing had been hiding in this very crater not long after it impacted with Gaia.
“Hey get out here!” Zack shouted.
He was rewarded with just the echo of his voice.
Zack frowned it was silent. Too silent. That meant this thing wasn't here.
If he wasn't here... then that meant one thing.

Cloud!

Zack pulled out his phone and he hit the number 1 on his speed dial for Cloud's cellphone.
He heard it ringing and the phone was answered pretty quickly.
“Hey Zack, Cloud can't talk he's dropping me off to work and we're taking Angel to Reeve's hiding place.” Denzel's voice on the other end.
Zack let out a breath of relief. “Oh that's good. Tell Cloud he's not here. I must have missed him. He needs to becareful okay. This guy is dangerous.”
He heard Denzel swallow. “Um yeah sure... look Zack I'm sorry. I heard about... Cissnei. I want to help okay. I'll do what I can.”
Zack smiled. “Just keep my kids safe I'll be back as soon as I can.”
“Okay! Cloud says he will text you once we have Angel in the safe location.”
Zack nodded. “Thanks Denzel. I'll call later to check.”
“Right take care.” Denzel added.
Zack flipped the phone closed and he looked up, something he found he did a lot when he was thinking, like the sky held all the answers for him.

There was a figure perched on the edge of the crater. Zack blinked. That figure had not been there when he got here, so it was a recent arrival. He frowned who knew where he was going apart from Angeal and Aerith and it wasn't either of them.
Zack felt the wind whip about him, his bangs brushed his cheek and then he saw the long flowing silver hair the black wing move in the breeze. Even from this far away Zack knew those Mako green eyes were watching him.
His breath caught in his throat.
“Another dream...” He whispered.

It had to be.

Sephiroth was dead. He died, when he killed Zack, Sephiroth had died inside him. Zack was sure of it. So this had to be a dream.

The figure lept off the edge of the crater and landed in front of him. The long silver hair floated around him and Zack's breath caught. He was frozen in shock.

“Zack.” Sephiroth's smooth voice spoke.
“Sephiroth.” Zack replied and he felt the wind blow his hair over his shoulder. The bangs brushing his face.

The silence that fell between them was awkward, like that of two lovers meeting again after a long period of absence after a nasty break up.

“What do you think you're doing here?” Sephiroth asked.
“I think I should be asking you that...” Zack blinked still stunned by his presence.

Sephiroth smirked at Zack. He waited to see if the dark haired fighter would draw his sword. But he didn't so Sephiroth didn't bother to summon the masumune.

“Angeal sent me.” Sephiroth stated.
Zack's expression was so readable and the younger man pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I get it. So you're dead too and telling me to turn round go back.”
“I didn't die. Quinn took me and Jenova into his body. But he expelled Jenova and kept me inside.” Sephiroth stated.

“Quinn...” Zack swallowed. The brunette Turk actually did as he asked after all. “Are you... ya know?” he made a small circle motion next to his head with his finger to symbolize the crazy motion.
Sephiroth's brow quirked at him. “The chip I believe prevents me from doing anything of that sort.”
Zack nodded his head. “I don't believe you. You know that?”
“I know. I will eventually die again if it is not removed.”
“Who knows?” Zack asked. “You know, about the you not being dead thing?”
“Ezekiel only and now you.”
Zack looked up to the sky. “So what now?”
“That I don't know. Angeal made me believe you would go insane.”
Zack scoffed. “Yeah I'm not insane. I'm pissed off, but I'm not insane.”


~*~*~To Be Continued...~*~*~

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