[04.01.00] » by Kathryn


Mideel was a town rebuilding. After the lifestream settled, the citizens were now beginning to put their lives back together. But all was not as well as they would like to believe. Under cover of darkness, the moon hidden behind black clouds, a man slipped out of one of the remaining lifestream pools. He clawed his way into the forest, not wishing to see another human yet. As he lay on his back, simply reveling in life, his long hair streaming behind him he had but one thought.

I must atone.

Cloud grinned across the dinner table at Tifa. He had a mouth full of delicious roast chocobo, his new bride’s specialty. "Thish is good," he tried to say, stuffing another bite into his mouth. Tifa smiled.

"I’m glad you like it," she ate more daintily. Since saving the planet, she’d enjoyed getting to know the real Cloud, and liked what she saw. Cloud had finally given in to his long-repressed feelings for her, too.

Many bets had been settled the day Cloud handed Tifa a ring and asked her the big question. Now the bets were on Cid and Shera.

After dinner, Cloud went outside for a little practice. There were still many monsters about, eradicating all of Hojo’s mistakes would take a long time, and Cloud and his friends were often called to service. Nibelheim was especially vulnerable, with so many creatures hiding in the mountains.

Swinging his sword, Cloud started with some easy blocks and thrusts, getting warmed up for more complex maneuvers. As he relaxed into a particularly complex set of moves, he faltered, dropping the Buster Sword to the ground, and felt sick to his stomach. He hadn’t felt like this since... Sephiroth had exerted control over him.


He’s dead. I killed him myself.

Tifa saw him falter and ran out of the house to make sure he was all right, "Cloud, what’s wrong?" She asked, supporting him as he began to shake violently.

"He’s back, Tifa ... I don’t know how, but he is."

Tifa didn’t have to ask who Cloud was talking about. It’s not fair. Poor Cloud.

"Are you sure?" She asked, as Cloud got to his feet.

Cloud nodded miserable. The last thing he anted was to face Sephiroth again. Why won’t you just stay dead?

"Let’s call Cid and get him to take us ... " Cloud wasn’t sure where to go.

"I have an idea," Tifa said, going into the little house to call the gruff pilot.


Cid was in rare form as they sped toward the Ancient City. "DAMN Cloud, you mean to tell me that #*&$^@# Sephiroth’s goddamn back!" He waved the Venus Gospel around menacingly, causing all assembled on the bridge to fear for their neck.

"Calm down old coot, you’re gonna kill us all .... urp." Yuffie tried to calm him down but only succeeded in throwing up all over the deck.

"DAMN Yuffie, you’re gonna clean that up!"

Eventually, Vincent and Barret managed to get Cid’s blood pressure back down to nominal levels. He managed to land the ship in the ravine and they entered the city, not sure of what to look for.

Cloud was saddened as he saw the pool where Aerith had laid, her final resting place. The water was as clear and blue as it had been that day when Sephiroth....


No. If you are back, you will pay again and again for what you have done.

Night was falling, and Vincent suggested that they get some sleep. As everyone slept, though, Cloud tossed and turned, watching the moon reach its zenith. As it did, he heard something ... like crystal music.

He stood up, deciding not to wake everyone this time. He grabbed the Ultima Weapon and crept across the city, the shells casting strange shadows everywhere. He followed the source of the sound, definitely music of some sort, and he found himself drawn the to the spiral room and the crystal stair, now fully visible in the moonlight.

Cloud descended the stair as in a trance. He saw everything as it had been ... the rock pillars, the altar ... the blood stained rock where she had – he shook his head, not wanting to remember that. He knelt down, his hand touching the red-brown patch of stone, his fingers tracing the dent where Masamune has pieced her, heart, body and soul. A noise of footsteps on the stone made him look up, turn around, prepared to be embarrassed.

Embarrassment was quickly replaced by shock. There, before him, whole and perfect, stood Aerith.


"And so you see, she has found a way back to the planet." Aerith seemed much more sure of herself, much less the giggly flower girl everyone remembered. But there was no mistaking it, she was back.

"So why are you here?" Vincent asked.

"The balance must be maintained. I am here to help you rid the planet of him once again, but it may not be easy. He ... has changed."

"That bastard? Sure, whatever," Cid took a drag on his cigarette. "So where do we find him?"

Aerith smiled. "Where does the lifestream connect wit the Planet?"

The Highwind coursed towards Mideel. Cloud stood on the high deck thinking, not wanting to believe it was true – Could she really be back? And would Aerith stay alive even after the true defeat of Sephiroth?

Hi sighed standing, They had nearly reached Mideel, and he wanted to find the source of all this and get back to his life with Tifa.

As they disembarked, Red XIII sniffed the air. "A strange smell, but one I recognize." The great panther arched his back, finally placing the scent.

"Hojo’s lab ... It is Jenova." Red XIII took off into the forest; his friends hot on his heels. As they ran, branches slapping at them they came to the thickest part of the woods, and a patch of sticky, wet mud. The rest of the ground was dry, as high summer in Mideel had reached even the deep woods.

"Hello, puppet," A sinister voice greeted them. The ground rumbled, split, and the immense, hideous form of Jenova emerged, dirt clods sticking to the slime coating her sides. "You have come back to serve me, as I had expected. Truly you are the Chosen One, and I will use you to fulfill my ultimate goal ... I will take over this Planet!" The being laughed, a hideous laugh that sent chills down everyone’s spines. Suddenly it shrieked, in pain.

Cloud looked around, realized all of his friends were still standing, ready to attack. Jenova turned to see who was behind her, and a black cloaked figure vaulted over the hideous form. Sephiroth glared up at his "mother" with a cold, Mako stare. "You are not my mother, I know that now." He sliced again with the Masamune, and the being shrieked in agony.

Cloud blinked, almost dropped the Ultima Weapon. This is SO not happening!

But he didn’t have time to ponder as the ex-Shinra General turned to him. "Fight boy! Use that damn combo you used on me!"

Cloud shook his head... confusion, not anger filled his soul, and without anger, he could not unleash Omnislash.

Aerith stepped in front of him. "I am the last of the Cetra. I will not let you take this Planet, I will finish what my ancestors have started."

She held her hands together, and slowly pulled them apart, a white light suspended between them Sephiroth nodded, his knowledge of the Ancients told him what the Cetra girl was about to do, and he laid a hand on her shoulder, offering his own strength to augment hers. The white light grew stronger.

Slowly realizing what was going on, Cloud, Tifa, Cid, Red XIII, Vincent, Yuffie, each laid a hand on Sephiroth or Aerith. The white light was blinding now, and Aerith released it, and it flared, surrounding Jenova, encasing it.

Everyone shielded their eyes from the blast, falling to the ground in exhaustion. Aerith watched as the crystal solidified, sealing Jenova in a clear block of solid, diamond-hard material, a hideous expression frozen forever on the deformed face.

Sephiroth rested a hand on her shoulder. "I have made up for my crimes. She controlled me as she did Cloud, but I have finally beaten her, and her influence."

Aerith smiled. She looked up at the man, towering above her. Sephiroth reached down to kiss her lightly. "I have admired you for so long – killing you was the hardest moment of my life. Aerith, I ... hope..." He faltered, not sure what to say.

She smiled that serene, peaceful smile that put everyone at ease and took his hand. "I understand. And I would like to understand you, Sephiroth. You have exorcised your demon, but there is much work to be done. Be my high priest, and help me rebuild the Cetra, teach their ways. Help me care for the Planet."

"I will," he took her in his arms. "We will save the Planet, you and I."

Cloud and his friends came to, to find Aerith and Sephiroth in a tight embrace. Their reactions ranged from shock, to amazement, to acceptance. Tifa laid a hand on Cloud’s back. ‘She's happy now. Let them be," she whispered, a woman understanding a sister.



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