Cloud swore in his head, turning to face the intruder. This wasn't fair. -none of this is- He had been careful, he had checked to make sure they weren't being followed, he had scouted out the town to make sure there wasn't anyone who could recognize him before entering, and maybe he didn't have enhanced sentences anymore -he never had- but that shouldn't mean he's suddenly incompetent.
"What do you want, Genesis," he demanded, not willing to play games at the moment.
Genesis snorted, turning to look back over his shoulder at his friend. "Are you hearing this Angeal? Here he is in my family's orchard talking about possession and he wants to know what I want?" Turning back to Cloud he smirked, raising his arms dramatically. "Your morrow is barren of promises, my friend. This journey ends in your eternal slumber."
The man's wrist glowed red and Cloud jumped back, turning to Vincent. Or rather, to where Vincent had been not seconds before. He needed to get away -stop running- but without Chaos's flight escape was useless. Cloud turned back, ready to roll away from a materia strike but stopped to stare instead. Where previously Genesis had stood, poised to rain fiery terror upon Cloud's head was now a writhing mass of SOLDIER and ex-Turk. It was two on one, but, not in the way he expected.
"Cloud," Vincent grunted, his voice beginning to sound a bit demonic. "Left arm, upper pocket. Leg is safest."
Cloud hurried to respond, approaching the wrestling trio cautiously and ignoring how wrong this was because Angeal was helping Vincent hold down Genesis and it didn't make any sense -none of this has- but he could worry about that later because he wasn't going to be useless, damn it.
Carefully taking the syringe out of the concealed pocket on his friend's arm he knelt, hyper aware of the struggling SOLDIER's attempts to escape, which could be fatal to the unenhanced. When he saw an opening he struck, arm steady as it drove into Genesis's leg. Injecting the liquid with an unyielding force, he winced as it drove an ear piercing shriek out of the crimson clad man.
"What is this?" Angeal gasped as his friend flailed with renewed vigor. "You said it would help!"
"It is helping," Cloud growled as he scrambled away from the scene, frustrated as ever with his heightened mortality. He didn't make it this far to die in some stupid accident at the cusp of victory. "I don't know exactly what Vincent cooked up, but it probably has to tear all of the Jenova and degradation out of him, cell by cell. I can't imagine it would let me talk be pleasant."
The two of them stiffened, but he had no idea why. Genesis was calming down, and it seemed like "It's working?" everything was going the way it was supposed. Genesis gave two more spasms before falling still, but Angeal remained holding him down while Vincent rose to his feet.
"Cloud?" he called out, approaching slowly.
Cloud stared at him, puzzled. "What is it? I'm you can hear me, this is great right here."
"Listen to yourself, Cloud."
Cloud paused, checking his heart beat and breath. Everything seemed normal, why- "Don't you dare put me back."
No. No no no nonono he hadn't signed up to go through this again. He opened his mouth to scream but it didn't work and his hand moved up to clutch at his head but he hadn't done it and-
"Please stop. It hurts."
Cloud snarled, but his body didn't move in response. He hoped it hurt. Some bastard was using Cloud's body as his own again and there was no way, no way he was going to allow it. No one else was going to die because he couldn't control himself.
"Cloud, stop it."
That was Vincent. Why was Vincent telling him to stop fighting?
"We might be able to help you, but you have to cooperate. Both of you."
His body nodded, but Cloud was shaking. He couldn't do this. Wouldn't bargain for his own body. Apparently, though, he was incapable of voicing this.
Angeal's voice broke in from the background, interrupting the attempted negotiations. "I think he's waking up. I don't know what your issues are, the both of you, but Vincent, you promised you would help him. Is there anything we should be doing right now, or is it finished?"
Vincent shook his head, eyes remaining locked on Cloud's. "It is done."
Now that his panic was receding, Cloud was starting to remember how frustrating all of this was. He couldn't say anything. He couldn't do anything. He saw out of his body's eyes, heard the things it heard, yes was unable to react to his surrounding. A kid was controlling his body, someone who hadn't even lived, twenty years, whereas Cloud had lived hundreds. Knowing it was a younger version of him did nothing to abate his fears. It was this boy's decisions that had gotten them into this mess in the first place, all those years ago.
Vincent strode forwards and grabbed the boy, pulling him onto his back as he changed into his winged form. Cloud saw Angeal holding a hand to the bridge of his nose for an instant before they were in the air, leaving the SOLDIERS behind them.
"Where are we going?" his voice squeaked, and he winced at the sound. It sounded like him, certainly, but much more nervous than his own detached tones had ever been. Hearing himself speak, feeling his mouth move without deciding it was strange enough, but feeling his face form expressions he can never remember it making was starting to creep him out.
"Aerith," Vincent replied, and Cloud wanted to sigh in relief. Aerith could fix this. He wasn't sure how, but there had to be something she could do.
They flew for ages, and Cloud fell asleep on the way there. It seemed his own consciousness shut down when his body's did, as he would never have fallen asleep while high in the air on the back of his friend, no matter how exhausted. Apparently the boy controlling his body did not feel the same way.
Cloud woke up and immediately was able to tell there was a number of people around him. His first instinct was to feign sleep until he could identify the situation, but his body disagreed. He mad a little noise and sat up, rubbing an eye with one hand while the other blinked open.
His body was thrown backwards and he struggled for control, itching to leap to his feet and fight back. Cloud was under attack, but his body just laid there, squirming, laughing?
Cloud's eyes opened and Zack's grinning visage met his gaze. "It's nice to see you too, Zack," he responded.
Zack's grin faded and he stood up, holding out a hand to help Cloud up. "I'm sorry, Cloud. I'm not entirely sure I understand what's going on, but I'm here to help, okay?"
Cloud nodded, smiling, but inside he was doing anything but. Zack was his friend, not his younger self's. Yet here the SOLDIER was, offering support. That in itself was fantastic, but Cloud was getting the desperate feeling that he wasn't the one Zack wanted to help.
"I'm not sure what's so hard to understand, yo,"
Cloud turned to look at Reno, a pair of goggles on his forehead and hair longer than Cloud remembered. "Well," Cloud murmured, glancing down looking up only occasionally as he spoke. "I don't entirely get it my self, to be honest."
Reno snorted, turning his head to look towards the back of the church. Cloud followed his gaze to see Aerith and Vincent discussing something intensely. "Little blondie was liven his life, goin' about his business being all meek and crap, then suddenly, bam. Badass future Cloudy gets sucked into his head somehow, and bein the awesome, crazy guy he is takes over without even noticin', yo. Then after a while, Cloudy gets whatever he needs to done, so then the powers that be decide they don't really need him anymore. Cloudy ain't up for that, yo, so instead he doesn't let go. Then we're hear, with the little guy in charge and Cloudy locked up behind that sweet little face."
Zack looked aghast. "So, you mean Spiky got possessed?"
Reno laughed and shook his head. "I don't know if you got chocobo feathers in your head or what, yo. This isn't your Spiky."
They both turned to look at the boy, and Cloud cursed his body's inclination to avoid eye contact.
"I know I'm not who you're used to, but I consider you two to be my friends regardless. I've lived through everything he's done since taking over. I did know both of you before this happened. Remember Zack?" At this he turned to face the SOLDIER, eyes wide with hope. "That first day in the cafeteria? And there were a few weeks of training with you, Reno, before he took over. I don't think we ever really talked, but-"
"That's 'cause you weren't worth talkin' to!" Reno snarled. He lunged forward, fists flying, but Zack held him back.
"Stop it, Reno. He's just a kid. None of this is his fault, he was just along for the ride." Zack looked back into Cloud's eyes. "I'm sorry this happened to you. I like you, really, but I also like Spiky, ya know? I want to be friends with both of you, if that's possible."
Cloud wasn't sure how to take this. Reno clearly wanted him to retake control of his body, but Zack was being unnervingly sympathetic to his younger self. That was Zack of course, sympathetic to a fault. That was probably why they ended up friends in the first place, the SOLDIER feeling bad for him.
"Cloud," a sweet voice chimed, drawing everyone's gaze. Aerith had stood up and approached them, Vincent looming behind her. "I'm afraid I can't give you back control of the body, and even if I could I wouldn't. I barely know what I'm doing at all, and I'm not about to harm an innocent when you are the invading force. I'm sorry, truly, but I can't do anything. Maybe I could find a living body that was somehow devoid of a person, but I'm afraid that's just not possible. Vincent was able to merge his selves, are you sure you can't do the same?"
She looked so lost and hopeful, and Cloud remembered she was still young, as young as Zack. Aerith didn't deserve to worry herself over this mess, but there was no one else who had the ability to help.
"I- I'm sorry ma'am." the boy stuttered. "I think we're far too different to do anything like that."
It was odd, but he was starting to feel sorry for his younger self. He sounded so vulnerable. Regardless, he wasn't willing to give up his own life for the boy's.
"I think this is where I come in, yo." Everyone turned to look at Reno, and the red haired Turk responded with a smirk. "You can put him in me, can't ya? I wouldn't mind havin' Cloudy floatin' around in my head. We can switch off days or somethin', yo, it'll be chill."
Everyone was silent for a long moment and Cloud just stared wide eyed, his body matching with his feelings for the first time since this had started. Since when had Reno been so devoted? It wasn't a secret the Turk was reckless with his life, but this was, this was-
"I can't do that," Aerith responded, face and voice the hardest he had ever heard it. "I understand you want to help your friend, but you have your own life to lead."
Vincent stepped forward and shook his head at the girl, causing her to step back, obviously intimidated by the man. "Having others with you isn't... bad. As long as you can... get along, you should be able to communicate and switch control at will. If you both are willing?"
Reno nodded eagerly, but Cloud wasn't so sure. Anything was better than this, whatever this was, but having the same body as Reno? That was a strange idea to say the least. The Turk seemed more than open to it, though, so if it was okay...
"I can't ask him. I know you want me to let him respond, b-but I can't. I'm sorry really, I j-just never want to be like that again, and what if he never lets me back out?"
Zack leaned over and embraced the boy. "Shh, Spiky, it's okay. No ones going to make you do anything. I promise. I think it's pretty safe to say Cloud would rather live with Reno than stay helpless with you terrified. You don't need to go back."
Cloud nodded, rubbing away his tears, but Aerith didn't look convinced. "I really can't go through with this if he doesn't want to. If he struggles during transfer I don't know what could happen. I don't even know if I can do this at all."
Reno laughed and slung his arm around Cloud, prying him out of Zack's grasp. "Let's just get this over with, yo. So what, do we hold each other's heads or whatever?"
Aerith shook her head, flustered. "Oh, no, nothing like that. You might want to lay down though, just in case you fall. I'm sorry in advance, I don't even know if this is possible." With a last look at the determination on Reno's face she knelt, clasped her hands together, and began praying.
Cloud felt like he was being torn away from his body and panicked, sending out tendrils of will to hold himself together before forcing himself to relax. As soon as he was separated from his old body he was washed in a sea of green, feeling with all or his senses just how green everything was. It sounded green, tasted green, even smelled green. It was over soon enough however, and he fell into Reno's body, settling easily into his senses. His mouth smiled almost as soon as he finished the transfer, and Reno was on his feet in no time. "Well Cloudy, how do you like it?"
With every word he spoke orange tinged the outskirts of his vision, startling him. He jumped backwards and Reno yelped in surprise, not used to his body moving without his volition. "Wha-what is that?" he asked with Reno's voice, surprised when his body answered to his demands and orange danced across the top of his vision again.
"Forgot about my synesthesia, did ya, Cloudy? Better get used to it. Boy have I got a lot to show you." Reno grinned, and Cloud grinned with him. This wasn't so bad.
"This is sooo cool!" Zack yelped, jumping while holding onto the younger Cloud's shoulder. His voice sparked dark blue in the direction he was standing. "I gotta tell Angeal! Oh, Kunsel's gonna love this too!" With that he sprinted for the exit, slamming the doors with a brown splash that somehow managed not to obstruct Cloud's vision.
"Don't trample the flowers, Zack!" Aerith called after him, her voice misting lilac.
No, this wasn't going to be bad at all.
Dreams of the Morrow, Chapter 24: Reno. 2,562 words. Updated July 3, 2014.
This is it, I hope you liked it.
I honestly have no idea what happened to this chapter. Cloud was supposed to be captured by Angeal and Genesis then Zack was supposed to try and fail to save him then he was going to be executed for treason or something and minutes before his death he was going to revert to young clueless Cloud who truly had no idea why he dying and people were going to see that and it was going to be really sad. Either that or Vincent was going to rescue him and they would go live off in the woods as hermits or whatever until Cloud died of old age. Regardless, I'm kind of glad it got a happy ending, though I might write an alternative one later.
Please comment if you liked it, which I'm assuming you did if you've made it this far. Feedback is much appreciated. If you didn't like it but still read it through for some reason, criticism of any sort is also appreciated. Also, if you don't remember what synesthesia is, look it up. It's fascinating.
Have a nice life, everyone!