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100 Steps Chapter 74 - DecemberSins
Whatever lies beyond this morning...
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december_sins
100 Steps Chapter 74
Title: Rejected
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Claim: Cloud/Riku
Theme: [074.] Angry
Word Count: 3,967
Rating: R
Summary: Cloud’s fate is denied in more ways than one.


Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing related to the Kingdom Hearts (or Final Fantasy) franchise. I’m sure it shows.

Author’s Note: For painfully obvious reasons I had to take all Aerith appearances out of this but decided that even without her, the Lifestream would take care of things on its own. The Lifestream is useful for things like this.



It was after midnight. The sky over Edge was calm, but the city itself was in ruins. The bedroom door on the second floor of Tifa’s Seventh Heaven kicked open and Vincent and Zack walked in, Cloud’s body carried between them. Together they shuffled across the room, communicating with grunts and head nods as if they’d been doing this for a while. They made it to the bed Cloud currently called his, positioned on either side, and then set him on the mattress. Zack moved to make him more comfortable as Tifa and Reeve walked in.

“We should get him changed into something more comfortable,” said Tifa.

On the bed Cloud moaned and rolled his head to the side. Tifa watched him for a moment, face twisted, and then began rifling through Cloud’s bag strewn on the floor.

“I wish he’d at least let me know his laundry needs done or something,” she muttered to herself, sniffed a shirt, and then threw it to the side. She pulled out a pair of pajama pants, sniffed the crotch, and nodded. “This ought to do.”

“Ew, Tifa, what if that had been dirty,” Zack whined. “Vincent, are you just going to let your girl do something like that?”

Vincent stared at Zack. “Better her than me.”

“I have to agree with Vincent,” Reeve added.

“Shut up, Zack, and help me undress him,” Tifa snapped, crossing back to the bed. “If you just lift him so we can get this off...Gentle, Zack! He’s wounded!”

“I’m trying to be gentle! If you don’t like the way I do it, then ask Vincent!”

“Shhh...” said Cloud, half-giggling. “I hurt.” He punctuated the statement with a whine, and then whined again as Tifa gently tugged his shirt over his head. “Dinnit you jus’ dress me?”

“That was for travel reasons,” Tifa calmly told him again.

“Yeah,” said Zack. “Tifa thought you might not want to be carried around Edge in a dressing gown.”

“My chest really hurts,” Cloud replied.

“I know it does, honey,” Tifa said. “Can you help me get your pants changed? Then you can go right back to sleep.”

Cloud snorted. “No.”

“He is on a lot of medication right now,” said Reeve.

“Can I go back, Tifa? I don’t wanna be here.”

“We’re home now, honey. Remember?”

Cloud considered and shook his head. “No. We are?”

“Yeah. That’s why you needed to get dressed, remember?”

“No...My chest hurts.”

“I know, honey.”

Tifa and Zack managed to change Cloud into his pajama pants and then they stood and stared down at him.

“I suppose we should change the bandages,” said Tifa.

“I’ll go get the first aid kit,” Vincent said and slipped from the room.

Zack looked at Cloud a second longer; he turned his attention to Reeve. “So...What now?”

Reeve sighed.

-0-

Marlene held tight to his chest as he rode into Edge; her face buried into his back.

“Cloud, what’s going to happen?” she asked. Her voice was raised so Cloud could hear her over the hum of Fenrir, but her voice still sounded small and scared. Cloud swallowed.

“I don’t know. I’m going to take you back to Tifa’s and then I’m going to try and find everyone. Hopefully we can get this all sorted out.”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

“I know, but I have to go fight, and if Tifa’s already out there...You’ll be safe at home, okay? Just stay inside and don’t go anywhere.”

“This is like the last time, isn’t it? When Sephiroth was here and the planet used the Lifestream to make him go away?”

Cloud didn’t answer. He directed Fenrir through the fastest path he could think of and allowed the engine to idle when they reached Tifa’s. Cloud turned and helped Marlene off the bike. She walked to the door and with one hand on the knob turned to look back. Her eyes were wide, pleading. Cloud nodded.

“Go on. I’ll let Tifa know you’re safe. That’s the most important thing right now.”

“But I want to see her,” Marlene said.

“You will. Soon. Okay? I just...have some stuff I have to take care of.”

Marlene looked toward the sky. She nodded once and disappeared inside. Cloud took a breath and then got back on Fenrir. He rode back toward the city’s center.

His mind couldn’t even wander as he kept his focus directed toward finding Tifa. He found her near the monument, Denzel at her side and looking decidedly less creepy than he had those few hours ago in the Forgotten City. He stopped the bike next to them and shut it off.

“Marlene will be safe. I took her home,” Cloud said. He assumed she knew the rest thanks to the state of Edge and Denzel at her side.

Tifa just smiled. “Mm.”

Cloud glanced down, hesitated, and then looked at her again. “I feel lighter.”

Tifa frowned. “Hm?”

Cloud lightly shrugged and looked off toward Bahamut. “Maybe I lost some weight. All that dilly-dallying.”

Tifa smiled and nodded. She looked down at Denzel.

“I’m gonna go back to see Marlene, okay, Cloud?” said Denzel. “We’ll wait for you!” Denzel turned and started to run, but then looked back. “We’ll see you there, won’t we, Cloud?”

These kids were going to be the death of him. If Tifa’s smile was any indication, she knew it, too. He just couldn’t say no to them. Cloud nodded. Denzel hesitated a moment longer, smiled, and then ran off back toward Seventh Heaven. Cloud huffed, climbed from Fenrir, and pulled two parts of First Tsurugi from their compartments. His eyes met Tifa’s only briefly and then they were off together in the direction of Bahamut.

Thanks to riding with Marlene, Cloud discovered he was last to arrive at the party. Vincent was already there as was Zack and it seemed sometime while he was gone Barret, Red XIII, and Cait Sith had shown up. He was almost ashamed; he hadn’t seen the last three in ages and here he was last to arrive (except for Yuffie and Cid, of course, but they were back in Hollow Bastion with their own dictator to attend to).

Cloud dashed between the volleys of bullets Barret unleashed from his position on the ground. As Cloud assessed the situation, Bahamut flew around low to the ground and up to the scaffolding far over head. Vincent was already up there, running or flying or whatever he did along the roof. Zack, too, was up there with him. Bahamut and those beasts he’d seen when he first met up with Kadaj were running around, and Cloud intercept just as Barret was about to be attacked.

“The hell you been?” Barret barked.

“Around,” Cloud answered.

Now this was where he felt comfortable, and in the heat of the moment, all the fear of darkness and musings of his pathetic heart were lost. He was amongst friends, working as a team, and nothing was going to touch him now.

The battle raged. He was fighting in a lower position than Barret, keeping the dog beasts at bay as Bahamut flew and Barret reached for his hand. Cloud jumped. It wasn’t an unusual position to be in, flinging through the sky like a fucking bullet to slash at the monster overhead. He used the momentum to propel himself further into the air. He passed from level to level, whether on his own or with assistance from the team, slashing at Bahamut every chance he got. With another gash in Bahamut he flew higher and higher, but then Bahamut lurched, connecting hard to his body. For all of a terrifying second he was sure he was going to fall, probably flatten on the macadam below and liquefy from the inertia, but then a hand caught his and he briefly caught sight of Tifa before she shouted, “No giving up!” and hurled him upward again. Later he would think she was not someone to get in a fist fight with, but the thought escaped him at the moment as Bahamut unleashed a Mega Flare. He had just enough time to react; he cut through the blast, fused the two parts of First Tsurugi together, and landed the blow. Bahamut fell and just as Cloud landed safely and took a breath he saw it. Out in the distance on the roof of a building in construction were Rufus Shinra and Kadaj. The roof was aglow and Cloud almost swore he heard Kadaj unleash an agonizing roar and the sound of gunshots. He took off in their direction.

There was no time to think in these battles—not like ones against Sephiroth where everything was so calculated down to every little move. All he could do right now was react, go on gut instinct, and move. Now he was racing toward where he’d seen Kadaj and Rufus on Fenrir. The sound an explosion sounded from the roof of the building and Cloud picked up speed. All he managed to see as he approached was Rufus Shinra, his wheelchair, and Kadaj tumbling from the roof and then Kadaj, capsule in hand, mounting his own bike and taking off. Cloud tore after him.

There could only be one thing Rufus Shinra and Kadaj could have such a brutal face-off over and that was Jenova’s head. That stupid head—the bane of his entire being—was now in Kadaj’s hands, and by extension, Sephiroth’s. Cloud pushed Fenrir on harder. He was riding just behind Kadaj now as they weaved through crowds of panicked people, flocking around, desperate not to get hit in the chase.

Kadaj led him to the Midgar Highway. Cloud was vaguely aware of Loz and Yazoo tailing them as they rode and smashed through a blockade marked ‘DANGER.’ Cloud dodged the bullets first, and then Loz and Yazoo were on him. Yazoo was laughing, firing, and Loz came up on the other side, rammed into Fenrir, and then attacked. Cloud reached for a piece of First Tsurugi, avoided another volley of attacks from Yazoo.

These two were a pain and once again Cloud was outnumbered. He tried to focus on dodging and staying on the bike, defending himself when he needed to. They weren’t playing around either. If it wasn’t sword attacks it was bullets and then Loz brought the bikes into it and the whole thing moved just so fast Cloud didn’t even know what was going on. People were jumping between bikes, swords clashed, and all Cloud could do was just keep moving. It was after a series of locking weapons and reacting on pure instinct that Cloud managed to shake them both. He lost some distance with Kadaj in the battle, but he managed to catch up, and then, out of nowhere, Kadaj took off in a burst of speed. Cloud raced behind him, barely noticing a too familiar flash of red hair, and then just behind him there was a massive explosion, sending both Cloud and Fenrir flying.

Reflexes at the ready, they crossed swords before they even touched the ground. Cloud felt a tug as Kadaj’s blade caught his left sleep and ripped it straight off, exposing the black-stained Geostigma wound on his arm. He winced for a moment but didn’t even have time to care; Cloud charged Kadaj and then rebounded, lost balance, and hit the pavement, Fenrir flying out from under him for the second time in under twenty-four hours. The repairs were going to be ridiculous.

Cloud got to feet and looked around. From what he could tell, Kadaj should have landed either very near or right into the Sector Six Church. Clouded head in that direction.

The entire city seemed to be blowing itself up as Cloud rode into the building. Upon entrance, he managed to slide under a falling pillar and then he saw Kadaj racing upon the rafters above. He fired several magic attacks down and Cloud managed to dodge them, longing for the days of his own materia. Every shot missed left a crater in the floor of the church and then water started to bubble up from underneath. Kadaj stopped firing and they both stared at the pool forming on the church floor. On its own, the water reached out to the church walls and up to the rafters, then came pouring down in a rainfall. He almost cursed for a moment, now soaked, and then the numbing pain in his left arm started to subside, a pale light engulfed his arm, and the black, oozing mark of Geostigma began to shrink. Cloud stared, but wasn’t able to linger on what unusual thing had just happened to his Geostigma because a loud crash sounded above. Cloud looked up just in time to see Kadaj escape through a hole in the wall near the rafters. With one glance at the flowerbed, Cloud took off, racing after Kadaj.

And now here he was. It was the moment he’d been waiting for ever since he first got that stupid call from Reno to come to this forsaken world. Cloud was just here, facing Kadaj, at the goddamn Shinra building of all places, and Kadaj was clutching Jenova’s head.

“Brother,” said Kadaj. “I’m with her at last.”

Cloud regarded him. “So what’s gonna happen now?”

Kadaj looked at Jenova’s head and laughed. “Mother’s going to tell me.”

Cloud stared. “I guess a Remnant wouldn’t really know.”

Kadaj’s face twisted. “So what if I’m a puppet...Once upon a time...” he said, voice trailing off, and then he flew forward, screaming, “you were too!”

And then the battle started. The battle that was only going to end after Sephiroth showed his arrogant face and Cloud was ready for it. He met all of Kadaj’s attacks, blow by blow, brought his sword down on the offense and took the defense at all the right times and then it started to happen. Something...changed...in Kadaj’s expression. Cloud had him cornered and he took the opportunity to attack, but Kadaj blocked the blow with Jenova’s head and Kadaj gave him a chilling smile.

“My Reunion...” he said. “Bet you’re dying to watch.”

And this was it. Cloud moved to strike but Kadaj thrust Jenova’s head against his chest and the next time he crossed swords...

“Good to see you...Cloud.”

He was staring right back at Sephiroth. And though he was ready for it, he was thrown back by Sephiroth’s attack. It didn’t matter, though. None of it mattered. This was it. The final time they were going to meet. Cloud could feel it in his heart—the strength and light growing there even as Sephiroth opened his mouth for another one of his infamous pre-battle chats.

“Your Geostigma is gone,” Sephiroth noted. Cloud stared. “That’s too bad.”

“Sephiroth, what do you want?”

“The last thoughts of Geostigma’s dead. Those Remnants will join the Lifestream and girdle the planet...choking it, corroding it...What I want, Cloud...is to sail the darkness of the cosmos with this planet as my vessel...Just as my mother did long ago.”

And Sephiroth had clearly lost his mind even more than the last time Cloud had killed him. Cloud readied First Tsurugi as Sephiroth held a hand up and the sky turned dark like it had so many years ago when the Heartless took over Hollow Bastion.

“Then one day we’ll find a new planet, and on its soil we’ll create a shining future,” Sephiroth finished at last.

Cloud considered offering him a gummi ship and decided that probably wouldn’t go over well.

“What about this planet?” he went with instead.

“Well...that’s up to you, Cloud.”

Sephiroth sneered and brought down his hand. The sky changed again, signaling a catastrophe to come from above. Somewhere Cloud hoped everyone he had fought alongside today was safe and that they knew well enough to keep out of this. Today was the day and Cloud was going to do it on his own. He charged.

It was as if every time they crossed blades Sephiroth was more and more powerful and more and more demented. But despite all this, Cloud’s strength was returning, and this time they were fighting on far more personal ground than the last. Sephiroth continued the chatter, but Cloud didn’t miss a beat. His entire body felt on fire with every clash of their swords, with every jump, every dodge, but then Sephiroth started talking crazy again and an enormous pain pierced into his arm.

“Tell me what you cherish most,” said Sephiroth. “Give me the pleasure of taking it away?”

Cloud gripped Masamune, jumped back, and managed to wrench it from his arm. He charged.

“I pity you...You just don’t get it at all. There’s not a thing I don’t cherish!” He could feel it. The power rising in him as Omnislash unleashed. “Stay where you belong. In my memories.”

Sephiroth regarded Cloud. “I will never be a memory.”

And just as Cloud felt it might be over, he vanished up in smoke, right into thin fucking air and Cloud’s heart just knew. The son of a bitch had fled off before he could die. He knew he was going to die...that Cloud had focused, held onto the light, wasn’t backing down, and he just fucking knew that it was over, too, so he fled off so Cloud could hunt him down and finish the job. Again. And more than ever he wanted to kill Sephiroth at this moment if only for pissing him off so fucking much that he could just combust.

And Sephiroth had left Kadaj behind, too. His body fell toward ground, dying from the attack, taking the brunt of the injuries Cloud had meant for Sephiroth while the real thing was scampering off across the worlds again before Cloud found him. Cloud, in a mixture of sympathy and anger, caught Kadaj before he hit the ground and lowered his body.

“Brother...” Kadaj said.

If Cloud were a bigger asshole, he might have said something like, “I’m not your fucking brother,” but instead simply watched him as the Lifestream began to rain down on them and then he just faded away. Strangely, Cloud was sad to see him go. He couldn’t do anything but just sit there, watching the spot where Kadaj had been.

Out of the silence that had overtaken Edge a gunshot fired out and then there was nothing.

-0-

He woke to Zack’s face peering down at him against a backdrop of white walls. Cloud blinked. He tried to sit up but unbearable pain shot through his entire body. He winced and cried out.

“Whoa,” said Zack. “Take it easy.”

“Am I dead?”

Zack laughed. “No more than I am.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Lifestream chucked you out, too, now. Guess that makes us the Lifestream Reject Twins or something.”

“What? What happened?”

“Oh my...Is he awake!?” an alarmed voice that sounded like Tifa cut Zack off and then she came into view. “Cloud! I’m so glad you’re okay! I...”

“What’s going on?” Cloud asked. “What happened? Where am I? Why do I hurt so much?”

“You were pretty banged up from...well...everything,” said Zack. “And Sephiroth did stick Masamune through your shoulder.”

“My chest hurts. The last thing I remember is Sephiroth...” At the memory, Cloud tried to sit up, but his body shrieked in pain again and Cloud cried out.

“Don’t try to move,” said Tifa. “You’ll only make it worse.”

“He got away!” Cloud cried. “I was about to finish it! I had him and the son of a bitch ran off and left Kadaj to die in his place!”

“We know,” said Tifa, “and I’m very proud of you.”

“He got away!”

“You’ll get him next time. Don’t worry about that just now. You need rest.”

“I don’t understand what’s going on.”

“Look, after Sephiroth took off and Kadaj disappeared...” said Zack. “We were watching the whole thing. You were just sitting there, staring at where Kadaj had been and...there was nothing we could do. Yazoo fired and you got hit.”

“I got shot?”

“Right in the chest. Killed you instantly.”

“Killed...?”

“But the Lifestream chucked you back out into the Sector Six Church, which is where we found you, so I guess you’re not supposed to die just yet.”

“The Lifestream healed most of your wounds, but you’re still probably going to be in pain for a few days,” said Tifa.

“I was dead?”

“I told you you don’t remember anything that happens in the Lifestream,” said Zack. “But did you believe me? No.”

“That doesn’t matter. You’re back now. And there’s even more good news,” said Tifa, sitting. “That rain the Lifestream started when Kadaj died...it healed the Geostigma, Cloud. And there’s this pool in the Sector Six Church that heals the Geostigma, too. Denzel’s healed and everything’s going to be okay. And it’s all thanks to you.”

“Your Geostigma’s gone, too, if you haven’t noticed,” said Zack.

“I know,” said Cloud. “I was there...In the church before I fought Sephiroth. Kadaj was attacking me and he blew a hole in the floor and all this water started coming up and it just...healed.”

“See,” said Zack. “And you were all hiding the Geostigma like it was some big deal. It’s just not your time, Spike. Deal with it.”

“So where am I now?”

“Shinra hospital,” said Tifa. “Since the Lifestream threw you out, there was no bullet to remove or anything but you were still bleeding so we wanted to get you medical attention. We have a bunch of instructions on taking care of the two wounds—the bullet wound and the one from Sephiroth—and some potions for the pain.”

“Shinra hospital?” said Cloud. “No. I...I don’t want to be here. I want to go back to Seventh Heaven. I told Denzel...I promised him. And I don’t...Shinra...”

“Okay,” said Zack. “It’s okay. Calm down. The doctors said you’d be able to go home tonight so let me go see what I can work out.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” said Tifa. “He’s in a lot of pain still and maybe it’d be better if he was here overnight to be monitored or something.”

“But he doesn’t want to be here,” said Zack.

“Yeah,” said Cloud. “I don’t want to be here.”

“Let’s just take him back. You and I can take turns watching over him or something, okay? Besides, I bet Marlene and Denzel are waiting for you back at home. You, Vincent, and Reeve can get a cab or something while I take Fenrir back...”

“Fenrir,” said Cloud. “My poor Fenrir...”

“He doesn’t want to be anywhere with the name Shinra in it,” Zack continued as if he were never interrupted. “He’ll probably get better rest, too, if he’s in familiar surroundings. Bring him some comfort, ya know?”

Tifa sighed and looked at Cloud. He tried to pout but his head was starting to feel fuzzy again.

“Okay. I’ll stay here with him. You go find out what needs to be done to get him out of here.”

Zack nodded and disappeared from sight as Tifa took his hand.

-0-

Everything in Cloud’s world was spinning and hazy, but he was no longer in pain as Tifa finished changing a bandage on his arm.

“Do you want to go first or should I?” said Tifa.

“I’ll watch him,” said Zack. “You get some rest.”

“Cloud’s going to be okay, right?” said Marlene.

“He’ll be fine,” said Denzel. “Don’t worry. He’s Cloud, right?”

“Hmm,” said Marlene.

“Let’s clear out now and let Cloud sleep,” said Vincent.

The second-floor bedroom of Tifa’s Seventh Heaven cleared out save for Cloud already asleep in bed and Zack who left the door cracked and switched from the bright overhead light to a soft table lamp.



(Prompt Table) for previous installments. 74/100 Complete.

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