By Lena ban Obsidian
This place is weird.
It doesn't rain right.
Those are the first coherent thoughts that Cloud has after several months of fighting like a mindless drone in a place he's never been on a world he doesn't know wearing clothes that aren't his. Whose clothes are they? Anyone's guess on that, but they've got a vague familiarity to them that makes his head hurt when he thinks too hard about it.
Cloud arrived at the Coliseum locked in a very small place in his head. He is surprised that he remembers his own name, though it's not a surprise to think back and realize that the people here have simply taken care of him without question, and gave up asking his name some time ago. He hasn't spoken to anyone here in the time he's spent being so lost. He comes to himself as he sags against a great, smooth, cool stone column, staring wide-eyed out over the rocky darkness of an almost desert landscape, with stars glittering futile overhead and a moon shining low on the horizon, a sliver of waning crescent.
He flexes his hand, the one with the clawed glove on it, and gazes out over the night, noting the sparse clouds in the sky and the driblets of mist-haze rain.
No, it doesn't rain right here. Rain is supposed to be kind of final. If it rains on any given day, it will rain all day long, and the sun's light doesn't break through to the ground until the clouds have goen.
Here, it can still be raining, and the sun shines through. Here, it can be completely clouded over, but there will be no wind, and no rain, and an eerie sort of shadowed calm comes over everything. Here, the weather can change every five minutes-- sunny rain to windy hail to lightning storms with no wind at all and no rain to back it up, like someone flipping switches back and forth and watching the results with a stupid grin on his face.
He doesn't know where he came from, he decides, but he figures it must have been someplace. Like home, maybe. And he doesn't know if he ever knew anybody, or had any friends.
Shifting his weight causes a brief spark of pain and he frowns, looking over at the spot on his body where nothing should be.
And there is a wing there. A black as sin, leathery demon's wing. And he doesn't know why seeing it gives him the impulse to hold himself as tightly as he can and try to get small, but it does, and he's suddenly having trouble breathing, but he doesn't know why, and he can't stop looking at that ugly, ugly thing on his shoulder.
When he comes out of it, it's raining again, with no wind, and it's night time so there's no sunlight to break through and confuse him. More or less Cloud figures that he must have been sitting like that for a long time, because some of his muscles ache from the weird position, and he's cold, even with the protection of the cloak and the gloves on his hands and the boots on his feet.
He rubs his hands together and presses his lips together and keep it, keep it together, so you've apparently got a wing, it's okay, just keep thinking, figure it out, it's all there in your head somewhere. Right?
Only, he has a fuzzy feeling of nausea when he thinks that, as if he's pushing his luck on this remembering things thing. It's unsettling; it's nerve-wracking, to think that he might hurt himself, might make himself sick if he tries to push at that warning-sensation too hard. Because he does want to know; he does. The qualifier is that now he's afraid that wanting to know won't do a damned thing to help him in the learning.
He knew, though not why, that the sword he wielded was called the buster sword. It seemed a bit off from his memory, but he couldn't have said why.
There were vague images of things; scents that burned him with familiarity, but none of those prompts led to a complete enough memory to make sense of what he was remembering. It was as though someone had plucked all those sensory details and reflex associations from his head, one by one, with pliers, giving a twist and a yank when a particularly stubborn memory was encountered. There were stress points and runs in the fabric of his head; there were thin spots, a lot of them, and worse, rips all over, nasty holes that he had no way (to his knowledge) of fixing.
He remembered a grand total of two names. Sephiroth, and Aerith.
He remembered that somehow, these two were incredibly important to him, one way or another, but certainly not how, and for Aerith he got the vague impression of flowers, nothing more. Sephiroth's name evoked an image, and emotion; hatred, though not the sort that is blind.
Hatred for betrayal; a thirst for revenge, for justice, that was what it was. He said the name to himself hesitantly, softly, as if afraid to see what it would evoke, and the sounds were almost lost to the hiss-roar of the rain coming down. His head hurt. But why? Why the hatred? Why the anger?
Why the headache? He considered heading back inside the building where he had the impression he'd been living in for the last several months, all unaware. Folding his wing to his back, he bit his lip, standing taller, straighter. Focusing.
I will remember, he told himself firmly. I will remember where I come from.
And that was where Cloud went unconscious.
For the second time that year, Phil and Hercules were the first on the scene, the first to find Cloud in a heap of unconscious blond at the edge of the Coliseum's safety field. Herc joked weakly that at least Cloud wasn't physically hurt this time.
"That kid's batty enough to fill two belfries, Herc." Phil snorted, rubbed his nose, looked as though he might spit on something. "And goin' to sleep out in the rain's just dumb."
Hercules said nothing, and wondered what everyone wondered when they saw Cloud, these days; what the hell happened to you?
...what the hell happened?
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