Fandom: Kingdom Hearts, etc.
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Full Cast
Summary: The end is just the beginning. Allegiances need to change. What are you fighting for?
I can see it, I can feel it
Cloud had been to the point of madness when he picked up on an odd radio signal coming from nearby space.
He couldn't quite piece together all that had happened, but there were things he remembered that made him smile even as he was on his last few bits of rations. He'd found Aerith, finally. And he'd left her in the arms of a man named Squall Leonhart who had promised to watch over her. But that was after he'd woken up, of course.
At first, there had been a perfect calm.
And then the world had fallen apart again. That was almost a year ago, as best as he'd been able to keep track of time. They'd had peace for five days, and then the world had turned to chaos. It wasn't just heartless, either, it was something more. And Cloud could feel it burning within him.
Aerith had apparently watched over him for seven months while he lay unconcious in some sort of hospital on some world he'd never even heard of before. They'd lost everything, but almost every day, new reports of lost worlds were reaching the motley group's ears. And not long after came streams of refugees, seeking out whomever could fight such a powerful force of destruction.
No one had found Sora yet. They didn't even know if he could do anything anymore. If even he was alive.
Once Cloud had woken up and Aerith had explained what had been happening, he'd asked for a ship. Whatever had been burning inside of him was still there, and he needed to find out what it was. But he was too weak. The seven months had taken their toll on his body and he was forced to rebuild himself.
It may have been the only time in his life he was truly happy for what had been done to him. The mako that had almost killed him so many times before truly powered his body as he spent days without sleep working his muscles back into shape.
In two months, he thought he had actually become stronger than ever.
Squall had become the rather unwilling leader of the survivors, but flanked by leaders from a variety of lost worlds, he had a balanced counsel and so far had managed to keep the world they were hiding on safe from attack.
Cloud had taken a ship and one month's rations and left, in the middle of the night. By all rights, he was supposed to have taken along two support party members and a proper navigator, but the burning within his body was pulling him.
After fifteen days in space he left what had been charted and was plotting his course based solely on his instinct.
After twenty-one days in space, he knew what he was heading toward.
After twenty-five days alone and sick in a tiny space-craft, he had the controls on autopilot and was laying on the floor in a fetal position, scared he was going to die.
After twenty-seven days, he still couldn't remember what Zack's last name had been.
After thirty-five days, his rations wouldn't last him much longer. But the burning was stronger, almost engulfing him with its sheer power. He wondered if he would just spontaneously combust from the heat. He almost hoped he would, so he wouldn't starve to death in space.
On the thirty-sixth day, the ship's radio picked up a stray signal. It had been set weeks ago to scan for anything it could pick up. And for weeks there had just been open air. For a couple days, Cloud had sent off his own messages, hoping someone would answer. No one did.
The crackling of voices and code on the radio woke Cloud from his slumber. He'd pulled a matress out to the cockpit so he could sleep near the radio, though truly he'd already given up hope.
He'd sent out a distress call to the same frequency and less than an hour later, his ship had been picked up by a grand vessel. Two men and a woman, all dressed in similar uniforms, had their weapons aimed at him when he staggered from the ship and into a mammoth hanger.
The woman had looked distressed upon seeing him and lowered her weapon in order to pull a small scrap of paper from her pocket.
"State your name and business," she had said, passing the scrap of paper to the man on her left before raising her weapon again.
Cloud had wanted to refuse, but he hoped that even if he were to be a prisoner, that he'd be fed and taken care of.
"Cloud Strife," he'd replied, finally raising his hands in the air.
"I'll show you to your room then, Mr. Strife," the woman had said before lowering her weapon again and offering him her hand. "Please follow me and forgive our rudeness. We were not expecting you so soon."
Cloud had been confused and had wanted to ask hundreds of questions, but instead he just followed the woman through the maze of the ship until they came to the end of a corridor.
"Your room," she had explained, opening an almost invisible door to reveal a grand suite. Cloud's jaw had dropped open as he gazed at the room. They'd been expecting him? He stepped inside and started to look around, not noticing the woman activating some sort of intercom on the opposite wall.
"Go ahead and take a shower, Cloud. You have about twenty minutes before a meal will be brought up," the woman had said, walking up behind Cloud as he stared at the exquisite details of the room. It was the fanciest thing he'd ever seen, and it was only a sitting room.
What world had it come from?
"I apologize again for the wait, but it's very late at night," the woman had continued. "I'll be keeping watch outside your room. My name is Cione."
"Cione," Cloud had repeated.
An hour later Cloud was crawling beneath a down comforter to sleep between silk sheets. He'd washed away the last month in space and his stomach was full.
He was now a bit curious about what the next day would bring, but sleep was beckoning to him and he quickly gave over to that impulse. It felt wonderful to stretch out on such a large and nice bed. Perhaps he had died and this was heaven, he thought as he felt conciousness slipping from him.
He fell into a deep, exhausted sleep without dreams and did not awaken until Cione rapped at the suite's door some ten hours later.
choke me in the shallow water
"Mr. Strife? Mr. Strife? Are you awake?" Cione knocked harder and after a moment, a half-naked Cloud staggered through the suite to open the main door.
"What is it?" he asked, leaning on the doorframe. Ten hours of sleep looked to have done him little good.
"We're about to dock at the main base, Mr. Strife," Cione replied.
"Oh!" She knelt down, picked up a box from the floor, and held it out to Cloud.
Cloud took it curiously. Upon opening it, it revealed an outfit similar to Cione's. It was grey in color with green accents. Not the best color combination, but better than the maroon he'd seen other crew members wearing.
"Your uniform for now, sir," Cione explained before she was asked. "Though it is perhaps improper for you."
"Improper?" Cloud held up the uniform shirt curiously.
"Yes, sir. However, this ship's commanding officer decided this would be appropriate for now." Cione nodded. She seemed almost like a doll, chirping out whatever was the proper thing to say.
A doll, or a puppet.
"Come in," Cloud said, gesturing for Cione to follow him back into the suite.
"Yes, sir," Cione replied, following him and closing the door. She stood just inside the entrance, not saying a thing as Cloud pulled on the uniform shirt.
"Where are we?"
"I don't know how to answer that," Cione said, eyes not moving from Cloud's body as he moved to pull down his pants.
"Well, what is this ship? And where is it docking?" Cloud really had no problem changing in front of other people. Between Hojo's experimentation and the last two years worth of events, his modesty had vanished. He switched pants quickly though. The deep grey material clung to his body.
"This ship is called Midga'ard, and the we usually refer to the base as TPL."
Cloud had one hand in his hair, knocking spikes into place, but he stopped as she spoke. Midgar. And...
"TPL?" he asked, looking around for his boots and not actually wanting to know what the abbreviation stood for.
"Yes, sir. The Promised Land." Cione smiled then in an almost wistful way. "And I'm very happy to be bringing you home to it."
Cloud just kept shaking his head. Surely he was still in the damned little ship, hallucinating as the oxygen ran out or something equally unthinkable.
"Bringing me home?"
"Why yes, sir. When we picked up your ship, I matched you to the photograph that anyone travelling into space is given. You are to be brought straight to TPL when found. That is the law of the General."
"Why are you telling me this?" Surely she was breaking some sort of protocall by divulging so much information to a stranger. General?
"Because you asked," Cione replied. "I will not keep information from a superior officer."
"I'm not a superior officer," Cloud said quickly. He wanted to scream. This was too much, too quickly. "I'm wearing the same uniform as you. So I'm a..."
Actually, he didn't know.
"Leuitenant. But that is irrelevant."
"Why?" Things were making less sense by the second.
"You are just to wear this uniform until you depart the ship. We have nothing appropriate for you to wear, and the commanding officer felt it better not to cause a commotion by announcing your presense," Cione explained.
Just then, something hanging from Cione's belt beeped. It took her a minute to read over what must have been a text message.
"We will dock in five minutes, sir."
Cloud had been wandering around the suite while Cione had been attending to her device. He found his boots under a table and sat down to pull them on.
"Wait a second. You mentioned the General. Surely, you don't mean..." Cloud trailed off. It suddenly made perfect sense. The burning in his body and the desire to find its source. Only one man could do that to him.
They'd traded blows less than a year ago, with Sephiroth vanishing and Cloud falling unconcious at the exact same moment. Leon had run forward then, and scooped him up, carrying him to their awaiting ship.
"I don't understand, sir," Cione said as she finally looked away, focusing instead on the red velvet-covered sofa. "While many of us suffer from types of memory loss, I don't see how you could forget your own lover."
Cloud said nothing as he was lead from the vast space vessel and through corridor after vacant corridor. Behind him, he occasionally heard whispering, but he just kept looking forward as he walked beside Cione.
She had her weapon ready and looked quite capable and willing to kill anyone who threatened either of them.
Just as Cloud was wondering if they'd ever stop walking through the vast base, Cione held out an arm across Cloud's chest to stop him.
"The room you are to report to is just ahead. The General is waiting," Cione explained, before lowering her weapon and saluting him.
"You aren't coming with me?" Cloud asked.
"I am not fit to be in the same room as the General or..."
Cloud looked at Cione as she trailed off. She seemed to be shaking a bit.
"Are you sure you won't at least walk to the door with me?" Cloud questioned, turning to look at the officer.
"You would permit it, sir?"
"Yes. Besides, there's more than one door up there. Despite the fact that none of this seems real, I don't want to make an ass of myself by walking into a closet."
Cione didn't crack a smile as she raised her weapon again and guided Cloud to a double-door that opened as they approached.
Cloud stepped through first, his eyes quickly adjusting to the dim lighting. A few people seemed to be milling about and on the other side of the room, three figures sat in a semi-circle. One of them stood and moved into enough light that Cloud could see who it was.
"Sephiroth," he gasped, not hearing the swoosh of the door closing behind him after Cione stepped into the room and to his side.
There was a flash and the smell of slightly burnt air as Sephiroth vanished and re-appeared a split-second later directly in front of Cloud.
Cloud's mouth dropped open. Somehow he'd forgotten about the teleportation ability Sephiroth had picked up somewhere.
"Cloud," Sephiroth said, holding out both arms as though he expected Cloud to rush into a hug. All the blond did was step forward, letting himself be embraced for a moment before raising his arms slowly to wrap them around Sephiroth's waist.
He closed his eyes, breathing deeply before relaxing against Sephiroth. For a split second, it felt right.
But before the feeling could manifest itself fully, the doors swooshed open again and Sephiroth pulled Cloud aside as four soldiers marched in. They had a man between them, in chains.
"Failure," a voice hissed once the chained man looked up.
Cloud turned to see a woman standing nearby. She quickly handed the glass she'd been holding to Cione, who was watching the proceedings wide-eyed.
"You don't understand," the man said quickly as the four soldiers dropped the chains they held and marched perfectly to stand near the door.
Sephiroth let go of Cloud and left his standing beside Cione. Cloud looked at the officer beside him one more time, but the almost-stunned look on her face kept him from asking who'd just been brought in.
In a swift motion, Sephiroth knocked the man to his knees and kicked him in the stomach, causing him to double over. Then he nodded to the woman who was standing behind him.
Whatever she was, she didn't look quite human, even in the dim light of the large room.
"Ansem," she hissed, shoving one of her own high-heeled boots into his midsection once he looked up again.
"Don't dirty yourself," Sephiroth said quickly, holding out an arm to block the woman. "Leave the physical... punishment... to me."
"Fine," the woman replied, snatching her glass back from Cione and stalking across the room. She had Cloud baffled, but she quickly exited his thoughts as he watched Sephiroth pull Ansem up by his jacket. Despite his size being similar to Sephiroth's, Sephiroth tossed Ansem as though he were a doll.
Stronger... he couldn't believe how much stronger Sephiroth was than he remembered Sephiroth being.
But he was stronger too, Cloud reminded himself, trying to divert his eyes towards Cione, not wanting to see Ansem's blood spill on the sterile-looking white tile beneath his feet.
Ansem didn't raise an arm in defense, instead taking each blow from Sephiroth's fists as though it was required for survival. Something seemed wrong about it all, but Cloud didn't know where to begin to figure it out.
Instead he looked at Cione, whose face didn't change expression. Obviously something like this was nothing new.
Finally, somehow, something happened, and Ansem broke free from Sephiroth's grasp. He stumbled as he ran towards the door, falling hard on the floor.
"There was a boy... He could destroy us all!" Ansem yelled before being beaten down by two of the soldier who'd brought him in.
"Weakling," Sephiroth said softly as he gave Ansem one final kick in the side. "You two, take him to a cell on the lowest level. I'll finish dealing with him later."
With that, Sephiroth walked across the room to sit back where he'd been. The person who'd been in the third chair had vanished during the beating, Cloud noticed, and the mystery woman had reclaimed her seat flanking Sephiroth's chair.
Sephiroth sat down and looked over Cloud.
The blond's eyes were wide... He was lost trying to figure everything out. Surely... Who was... The man in chains... Ansem... The woman... Sephiroth...
Though Cloud wasn't watching, the woman rose from her seat.
I'll be your dark angel
"I'm sorry you had to see that, Cloud," Sephiroth said, gesturing for the blond to come closer. Cloud pulled his eyes away from the two men who were leading Ansem away in chains. Finally, once they vanished through a door, Cloud looked over at Sephiroth.
"He won't bite, much," the woman beside Sephiroth said. She'd been rather quiet during the entire scene with Ansem, but now she stretched and circled Sephiroth's chair before perching on the far arm. Cloud frowned as Sephiroth put his arm around her.
Something about her made Cloud very uneasy. It felt like she was looking right through him. Still, he stepped closer. And the second he got close enough to see the woman's eyes, he knew he should have figured it out sooner.
She was far from an average woman. Her black hair was long, shimmering in the light, a sharp contrast to her pale blue skin and red eyes. The red eyes he wouldn't have triggered anything in his mind, except for the fact that the woman sitting at Sephiroth's side, wearing only a black vinyl bodysuit had red cat's eyes.
It was then he realized why she made him so uneasy. She could see through him. She could control him.
"I'm glad you remember me, Cloud Strife. It took me a minute to recall you," Jenova replied as she slipped from Sephiroth's embrace and slinked across the room to wrap herself around Cloud, one hand coming up to hold his chin high and head straight as her other hand pushed down into his pants, cupping his genitals carefully.
"Oh yes," she said after a moment. "I see why he likes you."
It was a new voice, and a moment later Cloud heard a door click but he feared moving until Jenova released him.
"I was just checking over Mr. Strife to make sure he's worthy of our son," Jenova explained as she let Cloud go, kissing him quickly on the cheek.
Our son? The voice was definitely female. Cloud caught a glimpse of a smiling Sephiroth as he turned to see who else was involved in the insanity.
At first Jenova was blocking his view, but a moment later he saw the other woman. She was dressed simply, in a much-too revealing dress with just white lab coat over it. Her long brown hair was tied back in a loose ponytail.
Cloud bit back a groan. He'd also missed a bit of the conversation between the women, catching only the last thing Jenova was saying.
"Would you like to check him over, Lucrecia?"
"I'll trust you," Lucrecia replied before Jenova pulled her into a deep kiss.
If Cloud was starting to think he was in over his head before, this cemented it.
You can take me away from my sorrow
At that exact moment Cloud felt overly queasy, not just sick but exhausted, half-starved, and moving much too quickly for a man who'd nearly died insane in space.
So really, he wasn't too surprised when darkness spum around him and he knew his body was hitting the floor.
Everything was a dream, yes, he was insane, dying in space, this was it...
The voice was familiar but Cloud couldn't place it. He'd also forgotten how to open his eyes, apparently, for as long as it took to crack his eyeslids and realize it was his lost comrade Vincent Valentine speaking to him, sitting beside his bed and tending to him through his fever.
"Vin?" he asked in return, throat dry, voice weak.
"Let me get you a drink," Vincent said, leaping up. He wore the same tight outfit of the others he'd seen, but Vincent's was all black. "Can you sit up?"
Once Cloud tried while Vincent was gone, but his body failed. He could not make it listen to him.
"All I know is that you were alone in space," Vincent said, reappearing in the room with water. "I wish you hadn't found this madness."
"I can't sit," Cloud whispered in return, not wanting to try to comprehend Vincent's cryptic comment. "My body won't work."
"Yes," Vincent said, setting the glass of water he he held down onto a bedtable. "That doesn't surprise me. You're probably lucky to be alive at all."
Cloud tried to grasp on as Vincent wrapped his arms around him, pulling him up, but he was too weak.
Time to start again, he thought, from ZERO.
I wouldn't think of stopping now
Drugged. He was drugged. Inwardly, he winced as one of his nipples was pinched, thankful that his body was currently in no state to respond to the aggrivatingly erotic motions that those hands kept making.
Jenova... Jenova had touched him like that, had thrust her cool, strong hand right down to touch him and weigh him as though he were a beast. Revulsion pulsed through his body and he just wanted to scream.
Whoever was calling his name, he didn't recognize the voice, not at first at least. Not...
"Can you hear me?"
Cloud struggled against the haze, against being unable to open his eyes or move his body or do anything to let his captors know that he was indeed somehow awake.
"He's healthy," another voice chimed in, female, light. Was that Lucrecia? Her voice escaped him. What did she sound like? "I can formulate something that will have him on his feet by tomorrow."
"He won't stay on his feet for long." Cold. That had to be Jenova. No one else would have a voice that bitter and emotionless. No one else... They were all laughing, all of those hands, laughing because they knew how pathetic and willing he truly was.
What had time done, anyway? It was like he was sixteen again, trapped like an animal and treated the same, caged, bound...
Cold, latex hands pushed his thighs apart and Cloud wanted to scream.
He did not want to admit the feeling of one curious finger pressing gently inside of him was in any way good. He did not want this. He did not want to be touched.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!