What would you do if the peace and quiet you struggled so hard for was taken away in a brutal replay of the past? Would you fight back? What would you discover along the way? (Cloud/Zack,YAOI/HET)
This is an AU fic which means I did not take AC or DoC into consideration--they never happened. However, with the release of Crisis Core, I am using major events from that, so spoilers will come eventually. It takes place five years after the events of FFVII and contains a few original characters. I tried my best to make them believable, so I'm sorry if they aren't. I don't have a beta for this one! Anyway, I welcome any and all comments (good or bad). Hope to see what you guys think about it.
5 Long Years
Located deep within the bowels of the newly constructed building, men and women in scrubs and white lab coats stood in their designated positions. One on either side of the hospital bed, another--their superior--lingered near the foot, arms crossed over his chest; observing. He stood six feet tall, sporting dark brown hair with shades of salt and pepper growing modestly from his temples, and peered through sharp green eyes. He was schooled in the finest medicines and sciences that such a company could provide- very well educated and respected; this particular man had brought another back to life.
Through his protective mask, he spoke.
A nurse to the patient's right stood near the machine that had been keeping the patient alive. As of now, his body had been declared stable enough to do achieve that on its own. She flipped the switch in the off position and watched, waited as the light ceased to glow. The machine settled moments later from a dull hum to silence. It was simply a matter of time before they knew for sure whether or not their efforts proved successful.
"Vitals are good," the nurse pointed out. She glanced over her shoulder and waited for a reply.
"Alright," the man said after a moment, arms at his sides now, "Let's bring him out."
Success - after such along time, enduring so much adversity, trying and failing - No more. No more.
"Congratulations." His eyes narrowed, creasing; the only visible expression behind the mask. "This one is a keeper." To his right, an associate of his higher up stood patiently out of the way. "Contact the president. He'll want to know."
Out of the midst of the darkness, from the depths of a pleasant dream; a telephone chimed noisily and incessantly in the dark-haired man's ear. Though half asleep, he batted aimlessly around the nightstand in search of the racket, somehow managing to answer without knocking it over. "Yes?" Reeve grumbled, not trying to sound the least bit awake.
"Mr. Reiben has requested for your presence, Mr. Tuesti," the other voice spoke. It was probably a secretary working after hours. "He says he would like to meet you at headquarters right away."
"Can't it wait?" the dark haired man griped. He was finding it hard to stay awake having caught a glimpse at the time--3:14 AM.
"N-no, sir. He says it's urgent."
Of course. It's always urgent...
After a brief moment of silence passed and most likely some tension on the other end of the line, Reeve let out a heavy sigh and sat upright against the headboard. "Alright." With an index finger and a thumb, he rubbed his weary eyes. "Tell him I'll be there as soon as I can."
They rendezvoused in the lobby on the first floor instead of his office, where Reiben led them to a more private area so they could speak without being interrupted.
"What is so important that I had to be awakened at three in the morning?" a still rather drowsy, noticeably irritated, Reeve asked.
Reiben was just as tall as Reeve but with shorter, blonder hair combed back neatly; a few years younger and somewhat lankier. He shut the door behind them and turned to face his partner; the look on his face was enough to tell the dark-haired man that this might not be such a good meeting.
It took Reiben a moment to begin as he searched for the right words. "There've been talks lately, as you're already aware of, about Rufus' role here at ShinRa and where he fits among the restoration of this company. And it just so happens to be that the board is...leaning in favor of dismissing him from his current position."
Reeve frowned in reply, "What!?"
"They're afraid of what the citizens might do. All anyone has to go on is what came of his father's reign, and the struggle he's been dealing with to restore his good name since. No one trusts Rufus anymore. They want him out before there's anymore of a chance to screw things up. If the people turn on the company then the board will go down with him. It was unanimous - there's no doubt that they want him gone."
For a moment, the only thing Reeve could do was stand there, slack-jawed and wide-eyed; desperately trying to process the information he'd just been given. It was a shock, to say the least, and a blessing rolled into one. It seemed impossible in the beginning, to oust the owner of his own company. But with the help of, basically, the entire world, it seemed as though the job was handling itself.
"So," the dark-haired man began slowly; reiterating for his own sake. "Let's say, whenever they meet again to take the vote, Rufus is ousted and the company no longer has a president. Who exactly do they have in mind to take his place?"
"Well..." The concern on Reiben's face soon turned to a smirk. There had been other news, of course. "After reviewing a significant number of qualified candidates, they've narrowed it down to only a handful of people - you, being among the few."
Before he had a chance to finish, Sao interjected. "Isn't that great!? All your hard work has finally paid off! They're really considering you!"
Reeve stumbled to an open chair and plopped himself down as it felt like his knees would give out. He was absolutely stunned, speechless, yet thrilled to have been awakened to hear the good news. Their eyes met; a sparkle of excitement glimmered brightly, promising good news to come. There was nothing more to say.
It was simply a matter of time.
One Year Later
Cold. Everything was cold. He'd woken up so fast this time that it was hard to tell whether or not he was still asleep. But after a few moments passed, the jaded blond found his breath again and sat trying to find a steady rhythm. The one thing he absolutely did not want was to wake the brunette sleeping peacefully beside him. Though the General found it hard to keep his composure after such nightmares, he managed to calm down enough to silently slip out of bed.
On the balcony in the back of the bar--having been rebuilt two years after the destruction of Midgar--Cloud leaned against the railing and closed his eyes as the wind blew softly against his clammy skin. He was burning up. A thin film of sweat covered his entire body while his heart continued to slow to its regular pace. Everything else around him was tranquil it seemed. The only noises he could make out were a car or two passing by out front. At three in the morning, the city was pretty quiet.
There were still goose bumps along his arms and a tingling in his fingers. Somehow, he couldn't shake the feeling that the nightmare had left. A long lost ache in his heart suddenly pulsed and stirred; it came to life, though bleary and unfocused. For some reason, he thought of Zack...
Without warning, from behind, the General felt a pair of slender hands wrap around his waist. When she pressed her body against his back, he realized it was Tifa; no doubt having roused her as well. "Again?" she murmured, face pressed against his skin.
"...Sorry," Cloud mumbled. He stood upright and turned around to take her into his arms.
"It's okay." Tifa closed her eyes and reveled in the warmth of the General's arms. They'd been together for three years now, after some rough patches and a lot of thinking on Cloud's part. There were even talks of marriage, but the notion was still under heavy discussion. He usually dodged the issue when it popped up, or fell into a sullen silence. She had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with Aeris... "Care to talk?"
"Just the usual," he replied with a sigh, and pressed his cheek against the top of her head.
"Are you sure? They seem to be getting worse lately..."
Cloud was silent for a moment. He didn't know exactly what to say. It was true; they had been getting worse, but why? That was a question he couldn't quite answer just yet. "I'll be fine."
"Well, maybe you should try and get some sleep. You /are/leaving in a few hours..."
Back to work yet again; away from the bar, from Marlene, Denzel and Tifa.
"...Yeah," the blond agreed.
Located fifteen minutes [by land] north east outside of the city of Edge, ShinRa's military headquarters sat in avast panorama of sand and sky. The building was quite large considering how many purposes it fulfilled. One of them was to house the office of General Strife.
He made his way into the front entrance, and through the lobby at a quick pace. Inside, Cloud was greeted warmly by a young woman sitting behind the front desk, as well as given a note which had come just minutes prior to his arrival. As he began to walk away, he thanked the secretary with a nod and headed towards his office, but he wouldn't get too far.
From around the corner, a young man about the age of the blond, though brunet, nearly collided with him. "Good to see you back, General!" he beamed and saluted. Cloud just rolled his eyes.
"Don't call me that."
"Right," Hughes smirked. "I forgot. You're much too humble to accept the title you've earned." The slightly taller man threw an arm around Cloud's shoulder and began to walk them towards the way he was headed. Not a lot of people were close enough to the General that they would even dare so much as to touch him. But Hughes had the advantage of becoming close to his higher up during the last few years. It also helped quite a bit that he reminded him so much of Zack... "So, how are things on your first day back?"
Wiggling from Hughes' embrace Cloud replied with, "I just got here. What about you?"
"Very well, thanks for asking. The wife and kids were sad to see me go, as always. But I don't anticipate anything unexpected to pop up this time."
It wasn't long before they reached the General's office where Cloud mindlessly unlocked the door and strode in. Hughes followed hot on his trail but remained lingering near the entrance as he had work of his own to attend to. "If you behave yourself, maybe I'll let you go home early," the blond joked. This particular soldier, though high in rank, was still his subordinate.
"I do appreciate your bigheartedness, General, but I'm afraid I can't stay." He then turned but stopped in the doorway, adding one last thing before taking off. "Oh, and you've got a bit of work to do yourself. Catch' ya later."
Cloud watched indignantly as the door slammed shut in his wake and eventually let out a heavy sigh. Unsurprisingly, stacked neatly on the top of his desk, were two piles of folders just waiting to be completed.
Three hours of nothing but skimming and signatures, and the General thought his hand would nearly fall off. Having had enough for the time being, Cloud tossed the pen on top of the desk and leaned back into his chair. It felt good to take a break, but the fact that he wasn't done just yet still managed to ruin his relaxation.
Never before did the ex-SOLDIER think that he would end up sitting behind a desk, sifting through papers. Although that was merely one aspect of the job, it did take up quite a bit of time. Cloud didn't mind it much though, scribbling his name on a dotted line, or even spending any time in an office, but the overall notion of obtaining such a high status - General /- /a rank he gazed upon with admiration and awe, seemed more important than this.
Hankering to throw his legs up on the desk, the spiky blond was about ready to when a set of knocks sounded at the door. He groaned out of annoyance and sat up straight instead. "Come in..."
When the door opened, a sergeant by the name of Dax appeared and raised his hand in a salute. "You have a visitor, sir."
/Who could it be?/Cloud thought as he rose from the chair. "Send him in."
Dax nodded, stepped back into the hall and authorized the company permission to enter. Whoever it was, was better than those files. Any distractions Cloud could get, he would take. Fortunately for him, it was someone he knew and not just another order of business. As Cid strolled in through the doorway, he looked rather upset, but it was the soldier's job to be firm with visitors. Not just anyone could get inside the General's office without reason--even close, personal friends.
"You really gotta do somethin' about this," Cid griped and stepped in further as Dax shut the door.
"Cid," Cloud said with a smile.
The pilot smiled as well. "Long time no see, eh?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Well I had a delivery and decided to drop by. They're unloading right now, s'matter of fact."
Cloud nodded and extended his hand towards the couch to offer his company a seat. Cid was already on his way, as he made himself comfortable on the black leather couch that rested in between two bookshelves. In front of the couch sat a mahogany coffee table, as well as a desk and other random pieces of furniture scattered about the room. In fact, the pilot noticed that Cloud's office was rather luxurious--/much/ nicer than anything he'd ever had the pleasure of seeing, or sitting on.
"This place," Cid began, "is really nice. They're treating you pretty good here, huh?"
Having not become accustom to it himself just yet either, Cloud shrugged and sat in the seat adjacent to the pilot. "It's alright, but I have to be honest. I miss lounging around the bar."
With a smirk, Cid leaned forward to say, "I'll tell you what you're missin-" but he barely finished his sentence before the spiky blond stopped him in his tracks. Cloud knew very well what Cid had in mind, and of course he missed Tifa, but he was used to being alone.
"Anyway, I don't think it's going to be very busy this time around. Maybe I can head home within a couple of weeks."
"Looks like you're already bein' put to work," Cid gestured towards the pile of folders.
"Yeah," Cloud sighed,"first hour back and they've got me signing papers."
In response, a hearty laugh escaped the pilot. "First hour back and it looks like you could use a drink." The General merely rolled his eyes in agreement, and stood as the pilot began to rise from the couch. "Anyway, I should get going before they screw somethin' up. But I'm gonna be in town for the next day or two. We should meet up again if you've got the time. Get a drink or somethin'?"
"Alright, don't work yourself too hard," Cid replied and showed himself out. For now, it was back to work.
/ ..."These files...there are so many.../My life's work.../his work...They've been answered. My prayers have been answered!".../
From behind, a set of gentle raps sounded against the door. "Professor Holt?" a voice called out. The older man, in his fifties, sat behind a desk. He was tall, built thin with sharp, distinct features. He had a warm semblance to his face. Those eyes were very welcoming and kind. Nicholas was his name. Professor Nicholas Holt - one of ShinRa's finest scientists.
"Yes, come in," Holt answered, still seated in his chair. He rushed to finish writing something and then joined his lab assistant at the counter.
"I have the files you requested."
Joshua, who preferred to be addressed by his first name, handed the folders to Professor Holt. "I completely forgot about these," the professor smiled.
"There are a few more left in the military's database, but I'm having trouble getting them," Joshua explained.
"No, no it's alright,"Holt said and waved a dismissive hand. "You've done enough. I'll try and get the rest myself. But you are still working on the samples, correct?"
"Oh yes! I've managed to turn the Mako you've given me to a concentrated form."
"Wonderful! Then your job will be much easier," the professor said with a smile. He then returned to his desk to sit down, looking rather disheartened at the paperwork stacked randomly around and on his desk. "I don't suppose, Joshua, that you would mind staying a bit late to help finish up some of these reports?"
"Of course not, sir. It'd be a pleasure."
I can get back to reading his work, then.
Everything was done. At least for now, Cloud could relax - or so he thought. Work never failed to fall into his lap; it seemed, after having just completed yet another task. But the blond was pulled out of his thoughts, when someone knocked frantically on the door just a few moments later. "Yes, come in," Cloud sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
When the door swung open, the sergeant took a step back, seeing how irritated he looked. "Yes, what is it?"
"Uhh...Lieutenant General Hughes needs to see you in his office right away. He says it's important."
In the pit of his stomach, the blond knew something was off. He had no other choice but to see what it may be.
When the door opened and Cloud stepped in, he spotted Hughes sitting behind the desk with a small radio. "I got a report from the ruins of Midgar. There's been a monster sighting."
The General frowned and stepped forward. "What do you mean?"
"Apparently a man passing by the Midgar ruins was chased down and nearly killed by a pack of stray monsters. He said it's the first time that's ever happened to him out of the two years he's been doing it."
Cloud took a seat. "Did he say what type?"
"No, but I've sent a team of men to check it out. They should be setting up their equipment right now. I'm just waiting for some word on the situation."
A brief moment of silence passed before either of them said anything. But before they could, the radio crackled to life.
"...Lieutenant General, sir...?"
"Go ahead, soldier."
"We've set up a station located in the north east section of the city. So far, we've only spotted a handful of them."
"What are they doing?"
"...Well, it appears as if they're...looking for something."
Hughes frowned at Cloud in response to the soldier's reply. "Looking for something?" he echoed.
"How many have you counted?"
"About seven as of now."
"Hmm," the Lieutenant General grumbled and glanced down at his desk. There was not much communication for the next few minutes. The only thing either of them could do was wait anxiously at the edge of their seats for a reply. Since, from the office, their options were limited.
"The monsters, there are more of them now."
"Yes and they've all began to shift for ShinRa HQ. It appears as if they're...trying to get inside."
Hughes glared skeptically at Cloud and asked, "What could they be looking for?"
"They can't get in there," the General said. "It's impossible."
The sound of static echoed from the radio, but the signal cleared once the soldier continued. "They're burrowing through the wreckage."
"Alright then. Keep an eye out on their behavior and report back to me when you've got more information."
When the Lieutenant General turned his attention back to Cloud, the blond was already standing from his chair and heading towards the door. "Where are you going?" Hughes asked.
"To check it out myself."
"Wait, what? Why? I sent them out there already so you wouldn't have to!" But Cloud was already halfway down the hall, too far to stop.