Title: Brightest Blue Eyes
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Cloud, Sephiroth, OFC, others mentioned
Rating: MA overall
Summary: Tifa is angry. Everyone gets to Mideel.
Notes: This was written in January 2003 and basically is one of the cornerstones of this site. It has been edited, re/coded and everything else since, but is still very... 'back then'. Before all the new canon. This chapter contains gratuitous swearing.
"So what did you remember?" Cloud asked quietly. They were sitting on crates of cargo in the back of the airship.
Pretty looked at her hands. "I was talking to Shera when she was washing my hair and she asked me if I had a boyfriend in Mideel. I told her no, I hadn't found anyone interesting yet. And then I remembered one time I asked Angel, er, Sephiroth... No, I'll call him Angel...
"Anyway, I asked him why he never went out with anyone. And he told me he knew exactly what he wanted in a lover but no one there had it. I asked him what that was, and do you know what he said?"
Cloud looked puzzled.
"The brightest blue eyes in the world."
Pretty looked nervously at the blond next to her. He was studying the steel the floor was made from. "That's why it hurts so bad, isn't it? That's what the letter is about. You're the one with the brightest blue eyes, aren't you?."
Cloud didn't say anything.
Pretty moved a hand to her mouth, but instead of biting her nails, she bit down on her fingers for a moment.
"I... I didn't... uhh..." Pretty couldn't think of anything to say.
"No one else knows," Cloud said softly. "Ten years and I never once told any of them."
Pretty continued to chew on her hand. She was still half expecting to wake up in the alley with Kooja beside her. A moment later she realized Cloud probably felt about the same way.
"Not even your wife?" Pretty asked cautiously. "You've been carrying this alone for..."
Pretty smacked a hand over her mouth. "I thought Tifa was..."
"She wants to be, but we're just friends. I can't see her like that. I've tried," Cloud said, hands between his knees. His voice had barely broken a whisper and he was still studying the floor for all it was worth. "Every time I think I've found myself, I get lost again."
Pretty sighed. She was terrible with situations like these.
"I don't even know why I'm going to Mideel. Probably to keep Tifa from doing something stupid. If it really is the Sephiroth I knew ten years ago, Tifa wouldn't be able to lay a finger on him. He's..." Cloud trailed off, lost momentarily in the past.
Pretty smiled. "Will you tell me about what he was like when you knew him?"
"Huh? Why?" Cloud shrugged, pulling himself back to the present.
"Because you're going to have to tell everyone eventually. I already know the basics. Call it practice."
Cloud sighed. "What am I supposed to say? It was ten years ago. More like a lifetime ago. So much has happened. I don't even feel like it was really me back then."
"Then why the big spectacle of going to Mideel? You could have asked me if Angel was still a homicidal maniac bent on destroying the world. I would have told you he's a model citizen and gone on my way. I may only have two years of practical social skills, but I think there's more going on." Pretty looked at the blond, who was digging in a pocket.
"Through everything that happened - Nibelheim, Jenova, Meteor... I knew it wasn't really Sephiroth. Not my Sephiroth. I was angry, and everyone knew my anger, my sadness," Cloud said, pulling out a folded envelope. "Part of it was losing him too. I looked up to him, needed him, and loved him. And I didn't think there was any way to save him."
"So you resigned yourself to destroy him?" Pretty asked, taking the envelope when it was pushed into her hands.
"Like shooting an chocobo with a broken leg," Cloud said. "But I think deep down he knew... He could have killed me so many times, but he let me destroy him. It doesn't make sense any other way."
"Cloud?" Pretty said, taking the two-page letter out of the envelope.
Pretty smiled. "Nothing makes sense today."
Cloud did the unexpected. He smiled. "Go ahead and read it. He talks about you."
"You sure it's alright?" Pretty asked, still slightly confused.
Cloud nodded, and leaned back onto another crate, swinging his legs freely for a moment.
Pretty's hands were shaking slightly as she began to read.
I hope this letter finds you well. I have to admit that I have very few memories of anything that happened after we arrived in Nibelheim ten years ago. I know there were five years of complete hell. Some of it has come to me in dreams. Some in waking nightmares. I don't quite understand all of it myself. But I do know I should be thanking you for many things. Raised by ShinRa, I always thought I was protecting the planet. I never would have guessed I was being raised to destroy it.
That said, I suppose I should explain why I continue to exist. Or offer a theory, as proposed the by the natives of the area. They say that the lifestream won't accept those the planet isn't ready to take yet. Instead, they'll be thrown out of the lifestream to try again.
Four years ago, I was pulled from the lifestream in Mideel. I was in a coma for several weeks, and when I awoke, I had no memory of my past or who I was. The natives called me Angel, and I worked hard alongside them to turn Mideel back into a resort town.
Pretty flipped the page, following the neat script as it flowed onto the back of the paper.
It wasn't until a year or so later, when a neighbor gifted me with a sword he'd found, that I even remembered my name. I was, and still am, one of the villagers who go out to hunt the monsters that still exist in the nearby forest. However, I tended to destroy weapons as well as the beasts. A great sword had washed from the lifestream - Masamune. When it was given back, I started remembering. It's taken until just recently, however, to lay straight the memories of you. I'm sure a hatred still burns within you towards me, and from what I can decipher, it's justified.
I've been given a second chance I don't deserve in order to help the planet and the people I hurt. With Mideel in good shape, and reports of ShinRa helping to create hydroelectric plants across the continents, there's only one last person to take care of. You.
I know it was only a couple months a decade ago, but there's something I remember I was going to tell you while we were in Nibelheim. I wanted to tell you, and the world - I was sick of hiding it, that I loved you.'
"Cloud?" Pretty said, shifting the top page so she could read the second.
"Do you think he still loves you?"
"I don't know," Cloud said, not moving from where he lay. "It's a long time ago that feels like yesterday."
Pretty, at another loss for words, started reading the second page of the letter.
I was devising a plan to get both of us away from ShinRa, away from the horrible testing that was being done on all of us. One last mission, to your hometown - it should have been perfect...
I just feel the need to tell you as much of the truth as I can accurately recall. Parts are still missing. None of the townspeople besides the woman I find myself thinking of as family are even aware I have any of my memory back. I want to live peacefully now, and hopefully see past the blinders I was forced to wear (by some horror or another) for more than thirty years.
I run a small hot springs resort named Heaven's Cloud. It must have been something in my subconscious when I named it. But still, it's perfect. About two years ago I pulled a young woman from the lifestream. She didn't have luck while inside, and lost most of herself to the planet. We call her Pretty - she has no memories before Mideel. She's stayed with me since, but she also has a longing to see the world to see if any of it is where she came from. When she goes, I'm sending this letter with her in hopes it will arrive in its destination. Don't wish any ill upon her. She knows little of my past and I would like for it to stay that way.
"Oops," Pretty said, flipping to the last page.
She also knows nothing of what's in this letter, just that delivering it would be a nice favor if she found you. I hope she finds what she's looking for out there. I know you always seemed to be searching as well. Whatever it was for - love, acceptance, ability, whatever - I hope you found it too.
"Cloud?" Pretty asked again, refolding the letter. She didn't get a response. "Cloud?"
Pretty looked at the man laying across the crate beside her. He looked about as green as human possibly could. "You don't look well."
"Wanna go lay down? Shera showed me a place where you could take a nap," Pretty said, hopping off her crate and offering Cloud a hand. She helped him up and let him redeposit the letter into his pocket before leading him quickly down the hallway to a dark quiet room with soft bunks.
"Thanks," Cloud mumbled, flopping down.
Pretty smiled. She never knew it had been Angel himself who'd rescued her. Just the thought of it was overwhelming. As soon as she thought Cloud was asleep, she tiptoed off to tell the others that their friend was fine - other than the motion sickness.
"Can I go find them now?"
"Can I please go find them now?"
"Can I please go save Cloud from the clutches of that madman's siren hellbringer?"
"Didn't know you thought that highly of her. And no."
"Vincent! If anything happens - anything - I'm blaming you!" Tifa yelled. "And you, Cid, didn't have to tie me to the front of the ship!"
"Actually, Ma'am, I think he did," one of the crew said. "None of us wanted to hurt you."
"Shut the fuck up already Tifa," Cid said, walking over to where the woman was tied, hands behind her back, to a piece of the airship's frame. "I don't know if this is just the wrong fucking time of the month for you or what, but none of us know why the fuck you're so bent out of shape."
"I think Cloud wanted to be with Sephiroth all along," Tifa said, finally giving up on fighting against her bondage.
"Care to explain your theory," Vincent replied, wondering if some of his previous thoughts on the subject hadn't been too far off their mark.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Cid asked, procuring and lighting another cigarette. "And why has today turned into fucking storytime hour?"
Vincent was very tempted to laugh, but he didn't. Things weren't making much sense already, and that could have thrown the universe into a state of pure chaos.
"Are you two blind?" Tifa asked. "Look at everything that's happened - you were both there for most of it. Cloud has always had a thing about Sephiroth - he practically became the focus of the kid's life once Cloud heard about him. All he wanted was to go off and be like Sephiroth. Idol worship barely begins it. Even after he thought Sephiroth was dead, his only passion was to see him. And then Meteor! 'Hi, I'm your puppet, Cloud. Here - have the black materia. Here - kill the woman I've been protecting. Here - have the black materia again. Here - let me jump into the lifestream to see you one last time.'" Tifa finished using a high-pitched voice and was attempting to gesture with her feet.
Cid started laughing hysterically.
"So I think," Tifa continued dryly, trying to ignore Cid. "That Cloud really wants to be another Sephiroth. I mean, maybe what Hojo said about Cloud being a failed Sephiroth clone isn't too inaccurate. You don't want to fight against two maniacs, do you? Cloud never fought very hard when he was being manipulated before - what if Sephiroth can still do it? We're all in serious trouble, and you're laughing!"
Cid kept laughing. Vincent was very tempted to join in, but figured he already had enough of Tifa's undying wrath. That, and the universe imploding thing.
"Tifa?" Vincent asked after a moment to regain his composure. "Don't you think that if Sephiroth did want to enslave Cloud and destroy the world, he would have done something a little more obvious? While letter writing -is- a lost art, it's not highly lethal by any means."
Cid stopped laughing long enough to right himself and take a long drag off his cigarette. "You're all fucking crazy," he stated, then started laughing again.
Vincent sighed and wandered towards the door. He was contemplating somewhere to get away from the entire insane bunch when one of the crew crashed into him.
On second inspection, while looking down at said crewmember who'd been knocked to the floor, he realized it was Pretty. While watching over Cloud, she'd attempted to tame her hair and now had it into a loose ponytail.
"I'm going to start charging you for this," Vincent said, offering the woman a hand which she eagerly accepted.
"Where's Cloud?!" Tifa yelled from the front of the ship.
"He didn't feel good so he went to lay down," Pretty replied, walking up to Tifa, Vincent following closely. He wasn't sure why he felt so protective of the woman. He shrugged off the thought, realizing he'd always tried to protect people... Lucretia, Sephiroth, Aerith, Cloud, Cid... Not that the last two needed much protecting, of course.
"Why did they tie you up?" Pretty asked, kneeling down beside Tifa. "It's not my fault, is it? I won't do anything to Cloud, ever! Just because I know Angel doesn't make me a bad person, does it?"
Tifa tossed her head aside, pretending to ignore the other woman.
"Tifa, from what I've heard, if I were truly sent to do evil, wouldn't I be a little more competent? Would I have even let you catch me? Or be leading you straight to Angel? Shouldn't I have tried something by now?"
Pretty stopped rambling. "I would make a really miserable bad guy!" she wailed, falling back onto her bottom, arms out.
Tifa was gaping. Vincent looked embarrassed. Cid just stared and lit another cigarette. A couple crew members snickered.
"Fine. Just stay in my sight and I won't hurt you," Tifa said, accepting that she had the upper hand in all that would transpire.
Pretty smiled and moved to untie Tifa. "You're tied so tight!" she exclaimed, working the knots free quickly. Once free, Tifa shook out her hands and arms. "Does it hurt anywhere?"
"Huh?" Tifa absently rubbed her left wrist which was red with rope marks.
"Does anything hurt? Like here?" Pretty reached for Tifa's left shoulder and rubbed it gently. Tifa involuntarily gasped.
"What did you do?" Tifa snarled, pulling away from Pretty.
"It's from having your arms back like that. You need to relax. We've determined I'm not the enemy, so stop acting on hatred and start thinking like a rational person." A second later Pretty realized that may not have been the right way to say it. But thankfully Tifa relented.
"Fine. What are you, a master of the healing arts too?"
"Nope," Pretty said, shifting herself behind Tifa. "But I work at a hot springs resort. I know a whole lot about how to relax. And I give darned good massages too."
This was probably not the smartest thing to say with a decent sized and overworked crew facing eleven more hours of vast open sky.
Not long before the group reached Mideel, Cloud staggered up to where everyone else was. Pretty was doing her best to behave according to Tifa's guidelines. At the moment, she was idly trying to identify the materia slotted in Cid's spear. Tifa was pacing nervously and looking out the front of the ship. Vincent was hiding in the shadows.
"Everyone, I have something to tell you," Cloud said quickly. He looked less green than he had earlier, but perhaps more upset. Pretty stopped poking a green orb she had almost positively identified as a Fire materia and turned.
"Before we land in Mideel, there's something you all really need to know," Cloud began, walking to the front of the ship to look out.
"What the fuck is it already? If this is a fucking story, get it over with," Cid said, looking up from where he'd been pointing out something particularly vital to one of the crew.
"I..." And Cloud faltered. "I just wanted to say that I think we should go into this with an open mind. Sephiroth doesn't seem like a madman any more, just someone like us, putting the pieces back together."
Tifa looked ready to launch into another tirade, but a calm voice interrupted her.
"I agree with Cloud," It was Vincent, leaning back against a railing below some of the control panels. Cloud hadn't even noticed him there. "We all deserve second chances, right?"
Tifa didn't get past opening her mouth before giving up. Pretty grinned and picked out another piece of materia to identify. This one was yellow and quite confusing. The truth would out itself, she hoped.
Not a minute later, one of the crew yelled about the landing point being visible. No one said anything until the Highwind was safely down and secured. The crew stayed onboard while a lightly armed Tifa, Cloud, Vincent, and Cid followed Pretty into town.
"Where is everybody?" Tifa asked, looking around the near empty village square.
"Tifa, it's 6am. They're just waking up," Vincent said.
"We flew all fucking night to get here!" Cid exclaimed. "Did you miss that tiny bit of information?"
"It's also not tourist season," Pretty said. "Sometimes there are people out already when there are more tourists."
"Which way are we going?" Cloud asked, looking as Mideel spread out in many directions. The town certainly had done a good job rebuilding after the lifestream broke through five years ago. "The lifestream..."
"We're going that way," Pretty replied, pointing down a dirt road. "And if you're talking about where the lifestream pond is - it's to that side of town." Another gesture.
The dirt path led by several houses, only a few of which had lights on this early. The sun had risen, but in a resort town, nothing much was expected to happen before nine, at the earliest.
After the row of houses the road narrowed slightly and went into a thick copse of trees.
"We're going in there?" Tifa asked. "That can't be safe."
Vincent pulled out his gun. "Just. Go."
Cid was tempted to laugh at the scene. He wasn't sure if the gun was for potential monsters or Tifa. "How much further? I want to get this the fuck over with so I can sleep. I didn't fucking get much last night either."
"It's only a little ways," Pretty explained. "And you're all welcome to stay with me for as long as you'd like. You can get some rest and visit the hot springs."
Cloud was being extremely silent as they walked. The path curved a bit, but suddenly the group broke into a vast clearing.
Directly in front of them was a brightly painted sign informing them they'd come across 'Heaven's Cloud Hot Spring Resort'. Several small white cottages dotted the clearing and a couple had small vehicles parked outside them. To the far left was a larger white house. 'Office', it proclaimed itself.
"We're here," Pretty said. "Let me go find Angel. He should be up. He gets up way too early."
"I'll come with you," Cloud said. Everyone turned to look at him. "What?"
"If you're going, I'm going," Tifa stated defiantly.
"I will go as well," Vincent said. He was still clutching his gun.
"You ain't leaving me out in the middle of fucking nowhere!" Cid exclaimed, running a couple steps to catch up to the group as they started up to the house.
Pretty turned the doorknob quietly, but the door creaked as at opened anyway.
"So much for stealth," Tifa whispered. "We'll just have to hope he's unprepared."
"Angel!" Pretty exclaimed, pointing at a light from down the hallway.
"I knew he'd be up. I'll go get him. Please," she emphasized, "Stay here until I get you!"
Before anyone could say otherwise, Pretty was off down the hallway. Cloud followed anyway, waving at the others to stay back, and quiet. Vincent grabbed Tifa and effectively muffled her.
"Angel? You up? I'm home!" Pretty called, running into the kitchen in the back of the house.
She stopped short in the doorway. He was sitting in a corner of the large kitchen, hair bound back at the shoulder, nothing on but pajama bottoms, pouring over unending pages of re-order forms and reservations. But hearing a familiar voice he stood and turned, just in time to see Pretty bounding into the doorway.
"Angel!" she yelled and ran at him. He scooped her up into a tight hug that lifted her an inch off the ground. Once she was back on her own two feet, the questions began.
"Pretty, what are you doing back already? I wasn't expecting you for another couple weeks. What are you wearing? You didn't get into trouble, did you? You didn't come back because..."
"Angel, it's all fine," Pretty said, excited. "I didn't really get into any trouble. I saw so many places too! Oh, the outfit isn't mine, but my clothes were all dirty so... Wait! That's not important. See..."
She paused. Green Mako eyes were practically dissecting her as she searched for the right way to explain everything.
Luckily, she didn't have to.
They both turned to look at the doorway. Cloud was standing there, eyes wide.
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