Cloud had said the name, the very name of the person he knew that he shouldn't have been seeing. Yet even after rubbing his eyes and looking again, he still stood there. A very familiar man with distinctive black hair that spiked out in various directions. Though the clothes that he wore were completely different from what Cloud remembered. Now his outfit consisted of a black t-shirt and blue jeans.
He still was smiling widely. "Cloud!"
Before Cloud could do anything else Zack ran up to him and gave him a huge hug. Even though Cloud had gained some muscles since his last time with Zack, the man was still the stronger between the two. He always would be in Cloud's eyes.
"Z-Zack…" it was still the only word that Cloud could manage. From a quick glance to the side he could see that the other four were giving him strange looks. He figured they couldn't make heads or tails of the situation.
Zack finally stepped away, and Cloud could see how wide his grin was. He hadn't seen Zack's smile… well in a very long time. It was still almost too crazy to believe but he really had been hugged by him just now and there was no way anyone could ever replicate a genuine Zack Fair hug.
"Okay, can someone please explain what is going on here cause I'm reeeeelly confused," Prompto said.
"I don't even know… I thought," Cloud sighed as he placed a hand to his hand. "I thought at first I was going crazy, but if you guys can see him… then…"
"Hey buddy you are not going crazy. I really am here."
"And by here do you mean-" Ignis started to say, but he was quickly cut off by Zack.
"Yup! I am also from Cloud's world!"
"So they're just sending in more of you now?" Gladio asked, half joking from his tone.
"Well sort of?" Zack answered. "It was more like I wanted to come to help out and stuff! I haven't been on an adventure with Cloud, let alone just an adventure in general, in a long time!"
"So we should be expecting more of you guys to just show up everywhere?" Noctis asked.
Zack shook his head. "Nah I'll be the last guy to show up. I just really wanted to join in on all the action."
"Well you should know that this isn't all action, we have important business to attend to here," Ignis stated. "We should head to the Leville as soon as possible. We can assist the rest of the situation with uh," Ignis paused for a moment and looked Zack over again.
"Zack. Zack Fair," Zack answered.
"Well let's get a move on then so we can get to discussion. No point in standing out here in this heat for too long. Zack can explain his event once we are settled."
"Sounds like a plan!" Zack agreed before he gave a friendly shove to Cloud's shoulder. "Just wait until you guys see the town."
"Uh shouldn't we like, do introductions though?" Prompto asked.
"No need, I already know who you guys are," Zack replied and right away he chuckled a little nervously when he saw the concern on the other's faces. "Nothing big to worry about. The person who sent me here, who also sent Cloud here, she had been giving me the details of everything that you guys had been doing since Cloud arrived."
"Well… okay then…still a bit weird," Noctis replied before he turned to face the city. "Let's get to the Leville already."
They made their way through the buildings, passing by many different stalls that had snacks and other good looking items. Zack was just walking along Cloud's side, staring at everything that they passed with hunger in his eyes. Cloud could only assume he was really hungry, but he didn't ask. He didn't even know what he wanted to ask in the first place. Part of him still wanted to think that this was all a dream. All of this had just been his crazy imagination and nothing had actually happened.
Zack was alive. He was really real and right besides him now. He still thought back to the hug he was given, it was such a Zack thing and he had nearly forgotten about it. It had been that long, aside from the PTSD, and he had been so caught off guard from it. The last time he had seen Zack it was only briefly, all for that one moment against Sephiroth. On top of that he never really even saw Zack, just sensed his presence and heard his voice.
He had overcome so much since then. The guilt was no more, but there was something else wriggling in his mind. It was all about Zack and just why he was here. There had to be some reason, right? He couldn't just show up cause he wanted to. That made no sense at all… at least from what Cloud believed.
"When I get the chance to be alone with him I'll ask," Cloud thought to himself.
Suddenly the ground shook for a brief moment, pulling Cloud away from his thoughts. Turning his attention to the others he saw that everyone else was looking over at Noctis. Ignis had just asked him if anything was wrong but the raven haired young man shook his head.
"My head just started throbbing."
"You alright?" Prompto asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Let's just get into the Leville."
The six of them, six… Cloud had to remember that now, headed into the Leville. It was a rather quant looking from the lobby and the other four moved out to sit down as they waited. Gladio pulled out his phone and texted Iris right away after that.
"All right, Iris says she will be right down. Now we just need to wait."
"While we wait, I'm going to chat with Cloud for a bit if that's okay," Zack stated. "Nothing to worry about, just needing to catch up with my buddy!"
The other men nodded as Zack walked towards the entrance and Cloud followed behind. Once they stepped outside Zack moved a little to the left to be out of the way of the door. "So…" he started slowly. "Where do we begin?"
"How about, how the hell are you even here?" Cloud stated far too bluntly than he should have.
"Yeah I guess that is probably where we should start…" Zack replied as he rubbed the back of his neck. "How do I put this… I wanted to join you."
"On this adventure!" Zack replied. "Like I know you're not here just for fun and stuff, and we do need to be serious about everything, but I just really wanted to be a part of it. We never got a lot of chances before to really team up. Sure we had a few good times, but something like this? Man this is just really great."
"But how did you ever get here?" Cloud asked as he felt his throat go dry. He knew what he needed to ask, even if it wasn't going to be pleasant. "Zack your-"
"I know what I am," Zack finished quickly. "But that's back home in Gaia. This is Eos. I never was born nor died here. I don't exist here at all so if I am alive here no one's going to know. No one but you and me of course. And for the 'how' part something with Aerith and the Cetra and gods and stuff. I wasn't fully understanding it but Aerith seemed to get it. She says 'hello' by the way."
"Oh uh…" Cloud looked around as if he expected Aerith to show up next. "Hi?"
"She's the one who has been able to watch over you during the journey so far. I don't know if she sees it like a movie or something else, but she was keeping me up to date before I came. Anyways I think that about covers it? Anything else on your mind?"
Cloud tried to think about it, trying to see what else he could say. But overall his mind was still trying to comprehend that Zack was currently alive. He was standing right in front of him, breathing and rambling like he always did. For a moment the world felt like it was spinning, everything blurred out around him.
"Whoa Cloud, hold on there buddy! Can't have you passing out!," Zack grabbed on to Cloud and held him securely. "You feeling okay, Spike?"
Spike. Now that was a name he had not heard in many years. It was the nickname that Zack had made up for him after all, so it made sense that he wouldn't have heard it anywhere else in the past several years. But it felt nice to hear it again.
"I'm fine," Cloud replied. "You know this is a lot to take in. Give me some time, okay?"
"Sure thing, but we can handle this right? I can't wait to actually get to fight alongside you… I kind of wished I could have with, well you know who, but you had it handled."
Cloud smiled a little. "You sure you won't be too rusty?"
"Rusty? You kidding me?" Zack laughed. "I've just been storing up all my energy and I'm more ready than ever! Just wait and see once we head out there you'll see what I got!"
"Do you even have a weapon?" Cloud asked as he raised an eyebrow.
"Ah, well I thought about taking the old buster sword, but you did such a nice job with the restoration I didn't want to ruin it. So since apparently this currency is the same here I was planning to buy myself a weapon as soon as I could, but I kind of got distracted looking around the other shops."
"Well I'm sure we can talk to the guys about that, there's probably a place here anyways."
"Yeah, I gotcha. Speaking of, let's head back in."
The two of them were ready to head back in when Zack grabbed Cloud by the shoulder. "Oh! I got something to show you tomorrow! Don't let me forget!"
Cloud blinked slowly, trying to readjust to having Zack around who always seemed to be full of such a great energy. "What is it though?"
"Can't tell you that yet! It's a surprise!"
Cloud rolled his eyes. "Well I guess I will try to remember something I know nothing about."
Zack gave him a nudge as they started walking again. "That's the spirit!"
Now back inside they saw that there was a younger girl talking to the other four. Cloud could only assume that this was Iris, Gladio's younger sister. She turned to face Cloud and Zack a moment later and her eyes seemed to be lit up with wonder. Running right up to Cloud she smiled. "So you must be Cloud! It's nice to meet you!"
"Yeah," Cloud nodded. "Iris, right?"
Iris nodded. "That's right! I haven't heard the whole story yet, but I think that it's totally cool that you're from another world!" A few seconds later, she turned to face Zack. "And you are?"
"I'm Zack," Zack replied as he placed a hand over his chest. "Just kind of met up with everyone, but I'm also from Cloud's world."
Iris clapped her hands together. "Amazing! I can't wait to get to know you guys some more! BUt for now…" she turned around to look back at the others. "How about we get up to the room and wait for Jared and Talcott?"
The other four nodded and made their way towards the stairs. Cloud and Zack moved to catch up as Iris walked alongside them. "So how did you guys even get here? Noct never really explained that yet… He just left it really vague! But I'm really curious!"
"Uh… well for me I kind of fell out of the sky into a lake," Cloud answered. "Probably not the most pleasant way of coming to a new world."
Iris laughed. "Wow, that's really something. Was Noct fishing at the time? Of course he probably was, I wouldn't expect any less from him. But what about you Zack?"
"Me? Well I think I had it a little bit easier than Cloud here, I was just dropped outside of Lestallum. Been exploring all the shops since then until everyone arrived."
"Lucky you," Cloud grumbled as they made it to the top of the stairs.
Zack reached over and ruffled Cloud's hair. "Hey come on loud, falling into a lake isn't the worst thing that you've gone through."
Playfully, Cloud batted his hand away. "Yeah whatever."
Soon the seven of them were in the room waiting for whomever else had to meet up with them. An older man and a young boy came within a short amount of time and Cloud couldn't help but stare, even if he was standing off in the corner to give some room for the others to talk. He wasn't sure who this boy was exactly, but out of natural habit he was reminded of Denzel. A small ache persisted in his chest and he tried to shove it off.
"I'll be home eventually… I'm not abandoning you again. I really hope that you don't think that… Denzel, please stay strong for me."
The man and the young boy, Jared and Talcott, didn't stay for long. Mainly they were just there to greet Noctis and then head off for the night. Once they were gone the talk between the group became a bit more serious. Zack and Cloud listened in as Iris talked about what happened during the attack in Insomnia and then went on to mention that Lady Lunafreya, the girl Noctis was to marry, was actually still alive and had just recently been in Lestallum.
Cloud still didn't know all too much about her, but he could see how the word that she was safe brought a smile to Noctis's face. Whomever she was, she really did mean something to Noctis and the relief that she lived was more than enough to brighten his mood from before.
When the talking was done Iris left to go stay in her own room, wishing everyone a good night before she did. After she left Ignis turned to face Cloud and Zack. "Now since we do have once again another member to our entourage, I did make sure to book a second room for the two of you. That should work out accordingly, yes?"
"Yeah that's fine! Sorry that you had to spend a little extra though on it," Zack replied as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"No worries, it's nothing that we can't make back with taking on a few hunts while we are here. Do you have a weapon?"
"Not yet, but I was planning on buying one tomorrow! I made sure to come with a little money, so I got it covered."
"Well we still have some hours left in the night, why don't we head out into the town for some dinner and on the way pick up a weapon," Ignis suggested.
"Hell yeah!" Prompto exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. "Some food sounds great right about now! Some of those stalls earlier, oh boy, that stuff looked tasty!"
"Sounds like a plan," Gladio agreed.
"I also agree!" Zack added. "I am huuuungry! I haven't eaten in… well uh… a while ha ha!" he started to laugh a bit nervously, going to rub the back of his neck again. The other four seemed to just think of it being an awkward moment for him, but Cloud knew better than that. He knew what the true meaning of those words were.
But putting that aside, Cloud knew that he too was also hungry. The day had been long, and with Zack showing up it just added to the already craziness that was everything else. It still almost was hard to believe Zack was here with him now. He was talking and laughing, just like back in the old days. Though he knew for a fact it would not be able to last forever, Cloud was going to take in every moment that he could.
Hey so I finally got back to the update. I hope it was good and all with how I went about it. I had to go through a lot of thoughts how I wanted Zack to go about everything here. See you next time!