Disclaimer: Why did you have to remind me? (weeps bitterly in corner)

Author Notes: Thank you Dina and Sofia! (throws out ecstatic kisses) They were so kind as to help me with the math concerning Cosmo Canyon’s time. Thank you!

Warning: Um...hasn’t changed since prologue.

Rating: Eventually NC-17

Beta: Malfoy-hima, who is getting a nice, if slightly twisted, ff7 education out of this. :)


Chapter II

By tir-synni


Reeve shuddered as Cid stomped out of his office. Two obsessive, energetic, hot-tempered fighters in one night. Not even his secretary’s coffee would be able to keep him awake after those two ran him through the wringer.

His right eye twitching, Reeve kneeled down and began scooping up the documents Tifa had knocked down earlier. For the past three hours, the papers gathered from Hojo’s old labs had laid on his floor. With Cid Highwind in one’s office, a wise person did not willingly distract themselves. As deadly as a red dragon and twice as fierce. Reeve winced again as he thought of all his poor employees that were unlucky enough to be in Cid’s path. They would be meeting him in therapy before the end of the year.

Sighing tiredly, Reeve gathered the papers and plopped back in his chair. ‘Mental note:’ he thought drolly, noting the color-coded post-it notes on the corner of each of the Hojo’s papers, ‘give Ms. Hamilton raise.’ He thought again on his poor secretary and cringed. She would probably be joining them in therapy.

With a glare at the shuffled papers, Reeve slowly sorted through Hojo’s odd notes and writings. Several technical, typed papers contrasted with the yellowed, hastily scribbled informal papers that made up the rest of the mess. For the past year and a half, one of Reeve’s first acts as presidency, Hojo’s papers had been collected and carried either to Reeve personally or, in the case of more technical papers, handed to a team of trusted, highly ranked Neo-ShinRa scientists. Some were found in the remains of Hojo's Midgar lab, but many more were discovered in Nibelhelm. Using these methods, Reeve hoped to finally uncover and clean up any remaining experiments of the cold-hearted, ambitious scientist.

As Reeve began reading the front sheet-- "Maximus?! Hojo's middle name was Maximus?!" --a distant ringing trilled in the otherwise silent room. Reeve growled, and a deep rumble and an icy flash of lightning outside his window answered. Reeve froze.

"Well, damn, that was ominous," Reeve murmured, eyes skimming over his desk for the phone.

Ignorant of Reeve's disturbed thoughts, the phone trilled on. With a shake of his head, Reeve banished thoughts of menacing lightning, Hojo, and Maximus, and started searching for the phone in earnest. He followed the annoying screeching under a pile of papers marked SOLDIER, discovering the gold laden phone. After the required nose-wrinkling--"Why the hell does ShinRa find it necessary to put gold on a phone?--Reeve picked it up.

"Reeve," he greeted wearily, not bothering with formalities. Neither did the person on the other side. Within the first two sentences, Reeve was wide-awake. "What?! . . . What else did you find in Hojo's things? . . . Oh, by Holy, do you know who? . . . Of course that bastard wouldn't name his 'experiments,' just calling them labels . . . . You found what?! . . . Shit! I thought it was . . . . You thought so, too . . . And what? . . . How can she? . . . All right, all right, I believe you . . . I have to make some calls, please keep me updated . . . Yes, thank you. Good-bye."

Reeve did not notice his hands were shaking until he dialed his secretary. "Ms. Hamilton," he barked, "get me AVALANCHE! Tell them it's an emergency!"

He slammed the phone down on any of Ms. Hamilton's questions and leaned back in his chair. "Well, Tifa, you got your wish," Reeve breathed. "I guess I'll be using all of my resources to find Cloud Strife after all."

His heart racing, Reeve barely noticed the cheesy clock Yuffie had given him for a birthday gift last year, clicking in time with the hour. 2:00.


The memory of beloved emerald eyes lulled Cloud Strife into a reluctant, restless sleep. The cresting thunder provided a deep bass for his husky moans. As the glowing clock on his tiny night stand clicked from 10:30 to eleven to midnight, his distressed writhing on his cot slowed. By 12:30, only his vivid blue eyes moved, flickering wildly under closed lids. One tattooed hand lay lifelessly off his mattress. A slender finger brushed the hilt of the Buster Sword.

// Cloud stood on a tall cliff overlooking the former city of Midgar. His pale face carefully placid, Cloud glanced down at his clothes. As he suspected, a bloodied uniform hung loosely from his slender body. A SOLDIER uniform. By the size and cut, the uniform was clearly meant for a larger man. Cloud’s eyes flickered.

“It’s not going to work,” Cloud said aloud. “Been here, done that. You need more material.”

Focusing on the horizon, Cloud ignored the ominous silence coming from the forest behind him. He crossed his arms resolutely. They felt heavy, and he knew that if he looked blood would drip from the needle marks covering his forearms. Same old, same old. It would *not* affect him.

“Heh. It looks like we finally made it, buddy!”

It would not. . . .

“Midgar! Never thought I would be so happy to see the place. I know someone who would be able to help us. Just hang in there a little long, okay?”

It would . . . not. . . .

“Let’s just rest here for a moment. Ah, I feel better already! Now-Hey, what’s that noise?”

Would . . . not. . . .

“Stay down, Cloud!”

. . . .

Cloud closed his eyes tightly, hearing Zack move in the brush behind him. It was just a damn dream! A dream! So why did it feel like his heart was breaking?

“Stop, you bitch,” he rasped. “Enough!”

“Okay, I think we’re clear now-No.”

“Stop!” Cloud shrieked, slamming his hands to his ears. Yet the sound remained clear. Everything was in his head. How could one muffle that?

“By Shiva . . . be safe, love.”

Cloud keened as gunshots tore through the air. He whirled around, tears streaming down his face as he watched Zachary Stoker fall. Bullets pummeled his unresisting form. Cloud moaned, falling to his knees as the soldiers ran up to finish the job. Even as he closed his eyes, he could see Zack’s blank gaze.

“Za-ack,” Cloud moaned. “Why?”

{You know why, my child. You were there, just as I was. I tried to comfort you, child. My youngest, my love. Together, we saw your protector fall. You failed him, did you not, my child?}

Cloud gritted his teeth. He could feel Zack’s blood spreading, staining his legs. He refused to look. He could feel it cooling.

‘Too fast,’ Cloud thought wildly. ‘It’s getting too cold too fast. He shouldn’t fade like this. He shouldn’t get cold so soon!’

{So cold, child. You’re so cold. Do you want me to warm you?}

“Go away!” Cloud howled. “It’s just a fucking dream!”

{A memory, child. Or can you not remember? I should show you again, refresh your memory. It would be a shame to forget.}

“No!” Cloud snarled, leaping to his feet. He no longer felt Zack’s blood on his legs. Horrified, his eyes snapped open. “Stop this!”


“Why don’t you die?” Cloud hissed. “You’re dead, why don’t you get that? Just accept it already!”


"Cloud, this world can still be ours. We can still find a way. Come, Cloud. We can be together forever . . . just join our side."

“Because you’re dead,” the blond gritted out. “Just fucking rot in hell with the rest of the monsters.”

{Ah, but I’m not dead. Not quite yet, my child.}

“Sephiroth . . . Seph . . . please, forgive me. *Omnislash!*”

Cloud convulsed involuntarily at the sound of the Ultima Sword ripping through Sephiroth’s flesh. The older man . . . had never fought back. . . .

“I won’t give in, bitch,” Cloud snarled. “So you might as well give up now. Stop with these damned dreams and let us both have peace.”

{You sinned, my child. He sinned, as did he. My oldest love was the most faithful, but he turned away, too. Your sin damned you all. Come back to me, child, and I can give you the peace you desire.}

Cloud sucked in a shaky breath, wondering absently if one breathed in dreams. ‘So cold you both were so cold you never should have been cold I was the youngest I was the weakest I should have died first why you why you come back to me. . . .’ He shook his head sharply. Now was not the time for hysterics.

“Go back to your hell,” Cloud whispered. “And leave me to mine.”

The sibilant voice remained silent. He heard an odd sobbing in the distance. It took Cloud a long moment to open his eyes again. It took him an even longer moment to realize the tears came from him.

Shaking like a leaf, Cloud swung his legs off the bed. “1:43,” he whispered, a trembling hand reaching for the nightstand. Opening the top drawer, he pulled out a cheap package of cigarettes. A small fire spell and a deep breath later and soothing smoke filled his lungs. He couldn’t get a buzz worth a shit, but it did keep his hands busy and away from his sword. ‘Besides,’ he thought ironically, taking another drag on the cigarette, ‘at least I don’t have to worry about cancer.’

One hand clutching the cigarette viciously, the other clawing his bare thigh, Cloud glared moodily into the darkness of his room. Occasional lightning, finally fading away, lit the room. Silver lit the room, and Cloud snarled at the storm. “Fuck you!” He slammed the burning cylinder onto the back of his hand. The scent of burning flesh mingled with smoke in the small room, and Cloud shuddered at the sharp pain. Finally, he pulled away the cigarette, smiling with satisfaction at the mar in the otherwise perfect number three. The smile faded as lightning lit the room again, and he saw the burn visibly fade from his flesh. Cloud glared at the traitorous flesh. He could not get cancer, but in the same instance, it took much to permanently, or even temporarily, scar him. Furious with himself and Hojo, Cloud crushed the cigarette in his hand. He barely felt the pain before he dropped the smashed remains to the floor.

Lightning blazed behind his eyes even as the whispers taunted him. The whispers were so damned clear! Why? Even as he led AVALANCHE against Sephiroth, the voice slid feebly along his consciousness, only having the power to transfix him when joined with Sephiroth’s will. He shuddered and reached for another cigarette.

She wanted him again.

The fading thunder rumbled, and Cloud stared wearily out his balcony into the night. The cigarette dangled between his fingers. He almost dropped it when he noticed its chill, hastily lighting it. He saw his bare hand and the unblemished three on the back and shuddered. When he took the first drag of the new cigarette, he had his gloves again.

“Yeah, yeah,” he murmured, turning his head away from his balcony. “You’re calling me, too, aren’t you?” Faint lightning flashed, and Cloud stared temperamentally at the burning cigarette. Absently, he wondered if he could burn his mattress with it. “You . . . called me then, when Sephiroth arose from his grave.”

Cloud shuddered again, and the cigarette trembled in his fingers. Noticing it, Cloud took another hard drag. Something called him, like it had two years ago. Whether it was Aeris’ beloved Planet or a result of the chemical cocktail Hojo had shoved in his veins, Cloud didn’t know. He wondered if he should care.

Sighing, Cloud glanced at his clock again. 1:57. Barret probably slept right then, perhaps with Elmyra in the same bed, with Marlene sleeping contently down the hall. Halfway across the world, Yuffie probably slept as well, her fingers grasping in her sleep for others’ treasures. Nanaki would be peaceful in repose, wise thoughts flowing soothingly through his crimson head. Tifa. . . . Cloud shuddered and continued on. Vincent and Cid. . . . Cloud smiled fondly, absently kicking his bare feet. ‘Those two are probably fucking like rabbits right now,’ Cloud decided. Reeve . . . having a nervous breakdown trying to run ShinRa. Smashing his cigarette in the same fashion as the other one, Cloud plopped back down on the bed. Were they thinking of him? Did they care? And should it bother him that he worried more about what his friends thought than the sake of the Planet? Staring at his stained ceiling for a moment, Cloud decided it didn’t matter. In the end, nothing truly mattered.

Before he closed his eyes again, Cloud saw the clock. 2:00 a.m.


Vincent heard Cid’s famous shouting long before he saw his blond. He nodded his head at Cid, looking away from the oddly disturbing lightning. 1:32, Vincent noted on a clock on the wall as Cid stalked over to him. ‘How much of that time was spent on paperwork?’ he mused idly.

“Little twerp,” Cid huffed, sliding an arm around Vincent’s waist. The beast within the beauty roared protectively, and Vincent blinked. Cid never noticed. “Trying to tell me what to do. I’ve been in this business a hell of a lot longer than that fuckin’ punk.”

Vincent hummed in agreement, barely noticing as Cid led them out of the building. Chaos’ snarls rose and fell with the rumbling thunder. As they stepped out into the rain, Vincent stepped closer to Cid in pretense of sharing his warmth, his hand automatically running over Death Penalty. He had not expected to need it tonight. Chaos growled, and Vincent rested his dark head on Cid’s shoulder. The soft rain weighed down his long black hair, and his bangs fell in his eyes. ‘Would not impede my shot,’ Vincent decided, glancing around the empty streets.

Vincent shivered, feeling a cold not associated with the rain, and an electricity disassociated with the lightning faintly lighting the sky. Could this be . . . a warning from the Planet?

Chaos roared.

For the first time, Cid seemed to notice something was wrong with the other man, pausing in his rant about “kids these days.” He pulled Vincent closer, and automatically, the brunet checked to see if he still had plenty of room to draw Death Penalty. “What’s the matter, darlin’? Somethin’ wrong?”

Cid, dear Cid. Every instinct within Vincent’s body braced him for danger, as sharp as pre-emptive materia. Chaos growled, the once dormant beast’s struggle for control more telling than a 300 square feet billboard. Yet Vincent only leaned closer, touched his gun, and said simply, “Wait.”

Cid scowled and protectively tightened his grip on Vincent’s waist. Due to Hojo’s experimentations, Vincent’s speed, strength, and agility had increased far more than that of a regular human, not to mention Chaos’ horrific power. Yet Cid still felt the need to protect him. ‘Perhaps due to how hard he fought to have me?’ Vincent mused, distantly amused. Whatever Cid’s need, Barret snickered and choked whenever he saw it.

Cid’s silence roared louder in Vincent’s ears than his enraged speech. For the rest of the walk through Neo-Midgar’s empty streets, Vincent felt his mate’s anxious twitches, felt his muscular arms reaching for his absent spear. Cid knew a threat existed, acknowledged the threat, and his proud heart demanded he fight it. Sometimes, the love Vincent felt for the other man almost overwhelmed him.

The hatch slid behind them as they reached the Highwind, yet Cid kept his silence. Crimson eyes slid in the oddly silent man’s direction but understood his disquieted mood. Only two years of peace. . . . Disturbed himself, Vincent moved smoothly along the Highwind's passages, shaking off his long cape as he walked. Cid matched him step-for-step. Roughly, Cid shook himself, sending water droplets flying over the walls. The dark-haired beauty smiled slightly at the predictable movement, but a crack of thunder above their heads wiped away his momentary mirth.

Vincent spoke the moment they reached the sanctity of their room. “I feel the Planet crying,” the black-haired sniper said simply. “Something is wrong.” With his clawed hand, Vincent gestured above them, the fading thunder orchestrating his movements. "This storm…it is not a natural occurrence. I believe this is the Planet's way of giving warning."

Three years ago, Cid might have mocked Vincent for his words. Three years ago, he had not seen Meteor, nor the awesome power of Sephiroth. "What do you mean, darlin'?" he questioned, even as his hands roamed along Vincent's sleek torso. Vincent raised a slim, ebony eyebrow in silent admonishment, but Cid had long ago learned to ignore such looks. It was only when Vincent bared his fangs that Cid backed off. "Sephiroth is dead. The kid killed him himself. What else could threaten the Planet?"

Vincent sighed; the rising ardor in his blood chilled. Even after two years had passed, Cloud's anguished words still rang clearly in his mind. A mark on the boy's heart Cloud had never meant to burden him with, but Vincent would gladly accept more weight if only to banish the pain from those intense blue eyes.

// “Then who is he, Cloud? Who are we fighting?” //

“I’m-“ Calloused fingers tweaked a cold nipple. Vincent gasped. “I don’t think it was Sephiroth we were truly fighting.” One nimble hand distracted him from his sober mood, and Vincent moaned and arched gratefully. Cid’s amorous murmurs drowned out the chilling thunder, and Vincent surrendered himself to Cid’s knowing fingers. . . .

And the PHS rang.

“Mother-fuckin piece of chocobo shit!” Cid roared, pulling his hand out of Vincent’s pants.

‘When had Cid removed my shirt?’ Vincent wondered, looking around. ‘And how did it get all the way over there?’

Left tense from conflicting sources and hard from just one, Vincent glanced at the clock. ‘2:00,’ he noted, grabbing his shirt from the overhead light.

For some reason, he wasn’t hard anymore.


Nanaki did not flinch when the PHS began to ring. He barely noticed it above the thrum in his veins, the thunder in his chest. The energy in the room made his fur stand on end.

‘So,’ he mused, ‘you have finally noticed something is amiss.’

The fiery lion slowly arose from the carpet and stretched his legs. The PHS shrilled on the stand. Nanaki loped over to it.

‘The Planet . . . I hear the Planet screaming. What is happening that distressed the Planet so? Grandfather, please tell me.’

Nothing answered in the night besides the PHS, still ringing. Nanaki sat down calmly and stared at it. ‘5:00. 2:00 in Midgar,’ he noted absently, his internal clock far more accurate than a mechanical one. ‘Poor Reeve. The man never sleeps.’

The annoying rings continued, and Nanaki stared contemplatively at the PHS. ‘I suppose I should not be too surprised at the length of time needed for them to notice the disturbance in the Planet. My friends are the bravest people I know, daring everything in an attempt to save the Planet from Meteor. However, they lack foresight and intuition.’ Nanaki looked at the ringing PHS, then his paws. The PHS, then his paws. ‘And their kindness. I cannot forget their kindness. But I wish they could have given me an easier way to answer their calls.’

Sighing, Nanaki raised himself on his back legs and lightly struck at the PHS, knocking it off the stand. Several swipes of his claw later, and he successfully answered. “Good evening,” he answered politely.

"Nanaki, thank goodness I was able to get a hold of you." The relief in Reeve's voice was clear even over the miles that separated them. Nanaki nodded to himself. Fate's tendrils were tightening around the players. "I'm trying to get AVALANCHE gathered together. My secretary is calling Vincent and Cid now."

Nanaki growled thoughtfully. "I hear the voice of the Planet, Reeve," he said softly. "I believe the Planet is warning its warriors."

The answering sigh echoed Nanaki's emotions. "I fear you're right. I realize I don't have to explain the urgency of the situation. You probably know this better than I do. So please, hurry to Midgar. My door will be open for you."

Nanaki almost nodded before he realized the human couldn't see him. "I'm on my way."

"Thank you, Nanaki. My secretary knows to allow entrance to all AVALANCHE members."

It wasn't until Nanaki had started calling the elders together that he had a startling thought: if all the members of AVALANCHE would be needed, how would they contact Cloud?

‘And why do I have the feeling that Cloud is at the heart of it?’ Nanaki wondered grimly.

Many miles away, a blond ex-SOLDIER dozed off, unaware of the PHSs ringing and his name on his comrades’ lips.

Return to Archive | next | previous