The portal had brought me back to Midgar. I was exactly where I didn't want to be, I had just left this ShinRa forsaken place. Ok I was in Edge, but they are connected so to me they are the same. Bad memories all the way around, but hey at least this time I was plate side. That was good it could give me a head start on the ritual. I could at least look at it and see what I need to do. It would give me something to do as I tried not to think about the fight I just had with Cloud.
It was hard though as my body was itching wanting to complete the bond again. Having been that close to him, kissing him, being held by him was wonderful and didn't last. I felt a shiver go through my body as the bond was lightly pulling. I was glad we didn't go further, or the bond would be full blown agony. A low-grade ache, that was something I have lived with for years and I knew I could continue.
Already rain clouds gathered overhead. I could hear thunder starting to rumble as they clouds made their way here. Where I was must have been further away for the storm to not reach here yet. That was good, it would make it harder to track me. A rolling storm was a normal thing on Gaia and not because of an Ancient's feelings.
Who was I fooling? Cloud been it for me since we were children, and our mothers had a playdate. A shiver ran through my body. I should have realized then that he didn't want me. As we got older his eyes had followed Tifa. I don't know if it was because she was popular or a girl but all I knew that she wasn't me. I hated jealousy and I hated to feel it. I was so happy when our marks came in and they were a match. Maybe I was being unfair and wanted more from our relationship then he could give me. I just hurt that he still would give it to someone else and not me. Could our soul bond be a platonic one and not a romantic one?
If so, that would be bad. We had married and consummated the marriage a long time ago, and Cloud didn't believe in casual sex. At least he didn't before. Now in our years apart who knew what he was interested in.
Rain started to fall softly at first before picking up speed. The drops tapping on the pavement. I knew it would at first be a soft drizzle but would soon sound like hail falling. Hopefully no one would notice the strange weather pattern.
Still, I should be used to it, even when he hated the other kids, he loved going out to play with them. It's just why was he my soul marked if it wasn't meant to be. I crossed Loveless Ave before turning on Rodeo Dr. I should have stopped to put my boots on, my feet were starting to hurt and were soaked from the rapidly forming mud puddles, but I continued walking. I was almost there. Two streets over and I ended up on Claymont Ave. I wasn't kidding the rain was falling harder now. The pinging sounds as it bounced off the roofs of nearby houses. I was glad the house was in Sector 1. If it was in sector 7 then I wouldn't have a house anymore. I didn't stop until I finally reached number 6.
It was a small house with only two bedrooms, 2 baths but it had fit our needs. The house was still protected by runic wards and mana locked. After all this time our mana signature never changed, and it never could. This was my mother's legacy.
We had gotten the house as a wedding gift when we came to Midgar. Cloud had plans on being SOLDIER and I was finishing my Business Degree. My family has always had a way with potions and elixirs but to sell them further than Wutai or Nibelheim I was working on my business degree to sell everywhere.
The house was still the same exactly as I left it, empty. Thanks to the runes, the house remained dust free. Dropping my boots by the door I made my way to the shower, leaving a trail of water behind me. I leaned against it activating the locking runes. Now no one could get in here without being keyed in. I wasn't worried though. No one came here, it's like they forgot the house was here and I was glad.
I stopped at the hall table long enough to drop my item bag on it and plugged in my phone. I wasn't having more of my mana depleted then needed, and I wasn't having anyone call me. I already talked to Jesse So I should be good for a while.
'I'll clean up the floor later'. I vowed to myself knowing I was leaving puddles behind me. I gave a silent prayer to my mother to forgive me for leaving a mess. She had raised me better than that.
I was thoroughly soaked again and needed a hot bath, but first I had to stop at the water heater and heater unit. While the runes kept the house safe it didn't do anything for temperature control. Finding the hot water heater and water tank I threw a quick firaga into the broiler, confident that it would heat the house and the water. Ancient technology at its best. House ran on materia. Already the pumps were churning, and I knew hot water was on its way. How they worked on the same system I had no idea, but I wasn't complaining.
I started to take the pins out of my hair as I waited for the heaters to kick on. When it started to blow hot air in the house I wanted to groan as my feet were cold and in my numbness I didn't notice. With my hair free and smelling like rainwater I knew I had to wash it. Starting the tub, I threw in a bath bomb.
Bath bombs were a wonderful thing that an old friend Andrea made while we were in school. Last I knew he was still selling them but as I was in hiding for years, I have no idea. It didn't take much to wash my hair and lift it behind me. Long hair was always a pain to clean, but I was not having it float in my bath water, once done the jacuzzi tub had filled steam floating above the water. It was my one indulgence. While Cloud liked showers I lived for baths.
Stifling a groan, I entered the hot tub and leaned back, allowing my hair to fall over the edge of the tub. I was tired again, but my brain just wouldn't shut up. I thought about calling Jessie back but remembered I had left my phone on the counter. There was no way I was leaving this hot luxurious bath for anything less than bed.
The bath started to ease my physical pains but could do nothing for the mental. I steadfastly ignored the itching of my mark. I was stronger than this, I had a planet to save. I didn't have time to worry about Cloud and my inadequate issues. Closing my eyes, I began the process to try and clear my mind. I was in control of my emotions. My emotions didn't control me.
It was a mantra my mom had me reciting wince I was young. When your emotions can change the weather, control was the first thing to learn. The fact that it's been so out of whack is like peeing the bed at my age. Not something to brag about.
I leaned back and allowed the water to gently sway around my body breathing in the lavender scent of my bath bomb. I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath allowing the negative energy to leave my body.
I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up my hair was dry and my water cold. It didn't take much to dry off and grab a robe from behind the door. I wasn't sure who it had belonged to, I was just so tired. My nap in the tub was relaxing but I couldn't wait to sleep in my own bed again.
The house was warm and the floors dry as I left the bathroom to the main bedroom. A queen size bed awaited. It was a welcome feeling sliding into the silk sheets, even wearing my robe. I had forgotten how much I liked the feel of them. I didn't have them in Wutai, the memories were painful as my bed was always empty. A thick comforter pulled up from the foot of the bed and I was going back to sleep. I was just so tired.
Cloud was sitting between his two best friends in the promised land. After his many times landing in Mako he found he could travel there at will, almost. He had been telling his friends about finding Harry again and what was said when a portal opened in front of them.
"Ifalna. Get your butt out here right now" A furious redhead came through the portal. Cloud recognized the woman but what followed shocked him.
"Mom?" Cloud exclaimed as his mother came following through the portal. It was true Claudia Strife in all her 20-year-old blonde hair glory.
"Hi Cloud" Claudia pulled her shocked son into a hug. She was pleased to see he finally had a growth spurt and was taller than her. It was good to be able to hug him again
"What? How?" Cloud started to say not sure how to say it?
"How am I here and not in the Life Stream?" Claudia placed her hands on her son's cheeks and smashed his face between them as she did when he was a child. As much as Cloud hated it, he loved it also.
"Things that used to make sense, stop when your friends with a Himura, and Lily has been mine for ages."
"But" Cloud started to say before his mom pulled him into another hug. This one he returned easily.
"Now Cloud why do I not have grandbabies yet?" Claudia pulled back to give her son a stern look. She wanted grandbabies, and Cloud was already 25. "Harry should have been knocked up 3 times already."
"IFALNA" Lily yelled again this time even louder. "Show yourself before I take measures."
"Oh dear" Claudia turned to look at her oldest friend. "This isn't going to be pretty."
"Um, ma'am" Aerith watched the redhead in fascination. She had never seen anyone portal in the promised land before. She only talked to the flowers and got answers. This was the first time she seen anyone outside of her and Zack, and occasionally Cloud. "She joined the life stream very long ago."
Lily snorted "No she didn't" In her fury Lily opened another portal, reached in and pulled.
"Auuuuugh" a woman screamed as Lily began to pull backwards her hands wrapped in hair. Familiar colored thick brown hair. The woman the hair was connected to was also slightly familiar as Cloud had seen her in videos in Icicle Inn.
"What have you done" Lily growled as her cousin came the rest of the way through the portal.
"What I had to" Ifalna stood up, straightening out her dress and pulling back her hair.
"What you had to" Lily looked like she was about to hit her. "You sent your untrained daughter out into the world with only a little bit of information along with my mako-induced amnesic son in law out to beat Jenova. The least she could have done was cure the amnesia."
"What sorry your little bastard son wasn't the one saving the world?" Ifalna sneered at her. She had never liked Lily.
"No sorry, my little bastard son is the one having to save it now." Lily was ready to strangle her cousin. "I know you hated me, you always have, but to sacrifice our children to stop Jenova that's low."
"Ha, at least the world knows that it was My daughter that saved it and not perfect little Lilys" the sneer Ifalna had showed years of hatred for her cousin.
"You didn't have to sacrifice your daughter" Lily clenched her fists in anger. "You know as well as I do that there were other ways but to make her unable to move, to be skewered by Jenova. You sacrificed your own child."
"And she's more powerful for it." Ifalna released a secret that Aerith had never told anyone. The reason she was able to be killed was because she couldn't move.
"You sacrificed me?" Aerith couldn't stop the small voice from coming out of her mouth. Everything she remembered about her mother; she was seeing from a different angle. With portal travel her mom could have had them out of the labs in the beginning.
"And now because of your actions, you're trying to sacrifice my son" Lily was ready to claw Ifalna's eyes out. She was ready to skewer her.
"That is enough" The woman that came through was breathtaking and Aerith knew without a doubt this was her grandmother.
"Cloud introduced me" Claudia grabbed her son by the arm and turned to the two people with her son. The fight behind them was a personal family matter.
Cloud seemed to get on the same page as his mother and turned to look at his two friends. "Mom, this is Zack Fair." Cloud pointed to the tall spiky haired man next to him. "He's" Cloud started to say but what really could he say. Zack was a lot to him. A brother, a warrior, a hero then only thing he could say was friend.
"Zack, you look just like your father" Claudia pulled the taller man into a big hug. "When you see them next tell them I said hello will you."
You know Zack?" Cloud was confused. He didn't remember ever introducing them.
"Sure, he's, my godson." Claudia pointed out. "Granted I haven't seen him since he was about 6 but yeah. His father is a cousin of mine. Nikolas Fair. We grew up together with him, Lily, Reeve and I. Oh the trouble we got into."
"What about my mom" Zack pulled the surprised blonde into a hug. He loved hugs. He didn't know he had a godmother. That made Cloud his godbrother. It made him his brother.
"Lucille hated my guts." Claudia answered honestly. "It wasn't until your parents' bond solidified that she began to tolerate me at best. Always thought I was after your father, which gross. He's family."
"And you must be Aerith" Claudia put her hands on the girl's shoulders. "You look just as Lily described you. I didn't get to meet you while growing up but as you can see your mom hates Lily so" Claudia shrugged. "What can you do?"
"You know my mother" Aerith was taken back. She didn't know anyone who remembered her mother.
"Of course, she's Lilys cousin. We knew each other. Granted we didn't grow up together as Ifalna wanted nothing to do with Lily, but I do know your mother." Claudia pulled the surprised girl into a hug. She was very huggy today, but it wasn't often she got to meet people.
"That makes you Harry's second cousin. You know Harry my son's bonded" At this Claudia had a glint in her eye. "I'm not too happy about your help in the deception, or the fact you kissed him, but I am glad he's alive."
Aerith's face turned a little pink as she looked away. "Tifa said it was for the best after I found out she wasn't his bonded."
Claudia sighed and looked upwards as if asking for patience. "I really hate that girl."
"Mom" Cloud sounded scandalized. "I thought you liked her."
"I despise her" Claudia pulled Cloud back into a hug. "I know you can't remember, and that will be taken care of before you leave here, but I have always disliked Tifa. She blamed you and then Harry for everything. The lies she spread. The reason Nibelheim didn't like you, Tifa. The troubles with school bullies, Tifa and now with her telling you Harry died that is the last of it. If this ritual works, I want you to promise me Cloud, promise me to stay away from her."
"Claudia" Lily Himura came up to her friend. Looked like the fight was over. Lily reached over and placed her hand on Clouds spikes, much like his moms. Cloud felt a cooling sensation flow through his body as his mind felt clear for the first time in ages. He could remember everything as if he had never had issues with mako.
"There you are" Lily removed her hand before pulling the taller blonde into a hug. Cloud could smell strawberries, the scent he always associated with warmth and safety. He could now remember why.
"You need to go" Lily pulled on the longest spike by his head. "You can't stay here much longer. The taint is getting bigger. Soon it will take over everything."
"What do I do?" Cloud pulled back from the hug. These women were the strongest that he knew.
"Same thing I told Harry" Lily had sparkling green eyes that her son had. "Be happy, you know what to do. I just want you to be happy and if it isn't with my son then so be it. Just please make sure he lives through this."
"What do you mean?" Cloud had the wrinkle again between his eyes. Claudia wanted to coo.
"Harry's dying of Mako poisoning. He doesn't know it." Lily had slight tears in her eyes. "He's been living with SOLDIERS, and they have excess mako in their systems. Since Harry is with someone at all times the mako has bonded enough that he's going through withdrawals, and he doesn't even know it."
"Harry" Cloud said softly before he felt himself forcibly shoved from the promised land. He woke up with a gasp, his heart beating rapidly. He had to talk to Harry.