Cloud leaned himself against the tree that he and Tifa had taken a rest under, his muscles twitching a bit from the activity that they had been doing. His sword was leaned against the tree beside where he sat, feeling so good to be outside in the warm sun. He did notice that he was getting slightly red and would probably need a shirt if they kept sparring. While Tifa had defeated him almost every time, he could feel himself getting better and all the skills involved in sword fighting was quickly coming back to him. It took them longer and longer now to find a winner to their spars. It was a nice feeling to have his muscles feel tired and worked. He leaned his head back against the tree and brushed his rather long hair back over his shoulders, closing his eyes for a moment as he relaxed next to his friend.
Tifa sighed, a waterbottle in hand, as she leaned against the tree. Her legs stretched out and her gloves on her lap. The day was perfect, a slight breeze and a warm sun. It almost felt like old times. She offered the water bottlebottle. "Thirsty?" She smiled, feeling much like her old self after her emotional outburst earlier.
Cloud opened his eyes and looked at the offered bottle of water, nodding his head a bit as he took it from Tifa. He took a small drink from the bottle and handed it back again, his gaze moving around the clearing. While his vision was sharp as it had always been, the glow did distort colours a bit which was different from what he was normally used to when fighting. He sat forward from leaning on the tree and rested his chin on his knees, closing his eyes again as the sun filtered through the canopy to dance over his face. He was feeling much more healthy with the massive amount of sleep and food he had had the day before.
Tifa smiled and leaned back against the tree, her eyes closing as she let the sun warm her face and dry the sweat on her brow. They had had a good sparring session and Cloud had even seemed to show something in his eyes that said it had been good. This pleased Tifa more than the day, more than the perfect weather.
Cloud let out a sigh as he allowed his arms to dangle down over his own legs, resting his cheek there for awhile as he didn't think about anything at all save for the fact that it was good to be free. He was making progress quickly, as was to be expected really now that he would eat and sleep the days away. He opened his eyes and looked over at his Ultima Weapon, studying the massive blade as it leaned almost harmlessly against the tree, pulling his hair back out of his eyes a bit and tossing the long locks back over his naked shoulders.
Tifa sighed and could feel the warmth of the sun overtaking her, feeling her body relax as sleep began to overcome her. She reached out and took Cloud's hand, giving it a squeeze, before she fell into a light nap.
Cloud looked over at Tifa when his hand was squeezed, nodding his head a bit as she seemed to be about as ready for a nap as he was. He pulled himself up from his seated position and lay down on his back, folding his hands on his chest as he stared up at the canopy, staring at the for long moments. He tugged his pants back up on his hips and shifted closer to Tifa next to him, keep close as he allowed his eyes to shut. Much like his sleeping habits often did, he simply dropped like a rock into sleep. He liked naps nonetheless.
Sephiroth had had a troubling evening, so troubling that he had not slept since the time of the trouble. He was not a man much to sleep, especially now, but even he appeared to have dark circles under his eyes. He had been gazing at the files on the desk again, continually returning to Cloud Strife's...he had waited long enough. He reached down the connection between him and the blond, finding it easily open for him. Cloud Strife?
Cloud jerked in his sleep a bit before flipping on his side and curling up against Tifa, slipping deeper into his gray dismal dreamscape where nothing really happened and he was alone in his own thoughts. He pulled from the connection that seemed to awaken in his mind, opening a passage to his unchanging gray landscape of dreams, though he kept himself away from that connection. He instead lay on his back on the ground and stared at the unchanging sky, eyes unblinking.
Strife. There was an edge to Sephiroth's normally smooth baritone. He could not have the man slipping away. The previous times they had touched minds was a trifle to the news that he had to tell Strife this time.
Cloud found himself pulled from not really dreaming but asleep no less to a voice in his mind. He did not particularly like that voice, but he knew it so well that he drew Sephiroth to him as he sat up and looked at the man, forcing Sephiroth to show himself in front of him. He stared at the silver-haired man in front of him while he himself remained seated on the ground. So, their bond was finally opened for communication. What did he have to say to the man that shattered him and nearly took the world down? Not much really.
Sephiroth stood before Strife, his eyes carefully guarded, trying to rein in the urgency in his voice. The slight...fear? Yes, Sephiroth did not fear anything but what had happened last night. "You must listen to me."
Cloud cocked his head to the side, his expression as unreadable as ever as he faced down an old enemy. He set a hand on the ground and slowly pushed himself up to standing in front of Sephiroth, noting that even in his dreams he didn't have his shirt. It didn't matter to him. He slowly crossed his arms over his chest to hide some of his thinness from the older man's gaze. "Is Valentine alive?"
"He is alive. We talk often...when we chance to meet." He met the blond's eyes, knowing what would get his attention, and yet not wanting to assault him with the information in Strife's precarious mental state.
Cloud merely nodded his head, his medication keeping him nice and calm, completely blank of anything but the logical thought that Sephiroth was here for a reason. It was obvious that the older man would not have contacted him to talk about the weather or talk about old times. "Good," was all he said neutrally. Vincent was still alive, which was a good thing.
“I am not here to talk about Valentine." His green eyes flashed for a moment as he thought about what had happened in his sleep last night. "I have news."
Cloud watched Sephiroth, though his expression failed to change at the fact that Sephiroth had news for him. If the ex-General was not here to kill him - as it seemed - then there had to be a reason to actually talk to him. "I assumed as much," he replied neutrally. What would Sephiroth possibly have to tell him? He still took apart random objects to see how they worked.
Sephiroth decided that withholding the inevitable had happened long enough. "Jenova is alive." His voice was steady, and yet his eyes flashed bright for a moment as his only visible emotion.
Cloud remained motionless in the face of Sephiroth's information, the glow in his eyes brightening a little before going back to its original unhealthy glow. Jenova was alive? It was as he had suspected, yet when he had been making most of his claims of such things, he had been stark-raving mad and screaming his claims. Now, he could remain perfectly logical. "Will you go back to her?"
Sephiroth's lips curled into a bitter smirk. "No. I have told you that I am changed." He turned his head and gazed out over the landscape. "And...she does not want me."
Cloud nodded his head a bit, noting that Sephiroth was not really impressed with his question about Sephiroth returning to Jenova. Obviously there was no going back to that faze of madness. "What does she want?" he asked neutrally, brushing some hair back over his shoulders and also looking around the landscape. It was so welcomingly empty, nothing moving, no colour just.... nothing.
"She indicated that she wanted you...and Valentine." His gaze shifted back to Cloud. He studied the severe lack of emotion, the lack of fire in his eyes, that he had always seen on the man's face, even when Sephiroth had been lost under the madness and control of Jenova. The blankness of his once-rival's face matched the strange smooth grayness of the landscape.
Cloud once again remained unchanged by Sephiroth's words, though he found them odd and had trouble understanding why Jenova would be alive... and after him and Vincent Valentine. Perhaps she was out for revenge of the two that had some of her cells that had defyed and defeated her? While that story fit, he would need to think about the others as well, those without Jenova cells who had been just as important in her downfall. "Why does she want us? Revenge?"
"She did not say." His gaze seemed to suddenly move far off, as if he was trying to see something far, far away, and yet could not. "It was brief, her touch with my mind."
Cloud nodded his head and followed Sephiroth's gaze out over the nothingness of his dreamscape. The clouds looked vaguely threatening, but they were not moving. The flat gray landscape allowed them both to see quite a distance, though he did not know what Sephiroth was looking for. "I will kill her, then," he said simply, dropping his arms to his sides again. He was not afraid; the medication fixed any chance of feeling that.
Sephiroth nodded. "As will I." He glanced up and noted the cloud's appearance, the vaguely threatening landscape. "I did not wish to break you."
Despite himself, Cloud looked sharply at Sephiroth and stared at the older man. His expression betrayed nothing and neither did the landscape that he stood in, something he was not sure if it should please or disappoint him. He looked away around the gray nothingness and shrugged his shoulders a bit. "What is done is done, and nothing will change that. I am shattered."
Sephiroth turned his eyes on the man as if he would see something new there, some emotion. "I have told you that I will help you find the pieces. I will give your mind back to you."
Cloud's eyes shifted back to Sephiroth, and he found himself shaking his head in responce to the older man's words. "You have done enough," he said neutrally and took a step away from Sephiroth, not sure if there was anywhere to go in his own dreamscape. He had never actually explored it. "My medication is good enough now."
"Your medication..." His voice held a slight edge of disgust. "Why do you not think you can find yourself without such a tool? I have seen you come back from worse, Strife. You returned from the Lifestream..."
Cloud looked back at Sephiroth. "So did you apparently," was his neutral reply. If he and Sephiroth could come back, then it was no big deal right? He watched Sephiroth silently for a moment before sighing a bit and closing his eyes. "Affirmative, I have come back from worse because you were the one that put me through it all." Why couldn't he hate this man? Here Sephiroth stood before him, and he could feel nothing for the man in the manner of hate and resentment.
Sephiroth's brow furrowed slightly. "You continue to blame me, and yet you have done nothing to heal yourself. I would think you were comfortable in this emotionless haze. Even I have learned to feel....and yet you cannot?"
Cloud stared at Sephiroth and one of his eyebrows slowly rose on his forehead at the older man's words. So Sephiroth had learned to feel? Had their positions really switched completely with the defeat and saving of the world? He thought that it was possibly ironic, but he did not voice such to Sephiroth. "Congradulations on feeling things, and this haze is better than the alternative."
"What is the alternative?" He was growing tired of the landscape, of the nothingness around him in Strife's mind. He had been told Jenova was returned and yet, still nothing had changed.
Cloud watched Sephiroth replied with a simple, "madness." He could remember only parts of his ranting madness, the horrible nightmares, the paranoia and voices that he could here. He had been uncontrollable, and he might have even made Sephiroth look sane. "Are you waiting for something?"
"No." Sephiroth turned on his heel and began to slowly stalk away. "I think that we are done. I will contact you again. I must talk to Valentine. And I will not kill him, do not worry." A hint of a smile touched his lips.
Cloud watched Sephiroth walk away. "Do not bother to contact me again," he said simply and turned away himself, walking from Sephiroth. There was no point in them being in contact with each other it seemed to him. They did not appear to need to get along at all, and understanding of each other fell quite short it would seem. Obviously, him not feeling frustrated Sephiroth a bit.
"I will contact you again when She contacts me." Sephiroth paused for one moment. "She will seek you, Strife. And these moments when I am connected to you will seem a pleasure instead of a torment."
Cloud stopped and looked over his shoulder at Sephiroth. He cocked his head to the side and turned to fully face the older man again, folding his hands behind his back, his expression a haze of neutrality. "I do not fear her. I cannot feel such things, but for all that I have been through, there is nothing that she could do to me that would frighten me. You have toughened me up enough."
"Do not mention me again, Strife. I have come to warm you, not to hear your complaints. If you wish to kill me...then kill me." He kept his green gaze forward and his fingers twitched slightly as if he was holding his blade, and yet nothing was there.
"I was not complaining," Cloud replied and looked around his landscape. Were there any mountains in this place or was it just all flat and endlessly blank? He normally just stared at the sky, but Sephiroth was here at the moment and there was no point wandering off to explore at this point in time. His gaze returned to the silver-haired man. "Why warn me? What do you care what she does to me?"
"I wish to make things right." His voice was flat, and yet emotion bubbled beneath the surface of his statement. "Why would I not warn you, when your enemy was once Her as much as it was me?"
Cloud crossed his arms again, looking down at himself. It was odd to be in SOLDIER navy blue pants again, and it appeared that his subconscious still was attached to the material that he had worn for years of his life. "Why would you not wish to see her have revenge on me for stopping you and her?"
Sephiroth's eyes flashed a bright green, enough to highlight the landscape for a moment and he spun around on his heel, his silver hair flying behind him. "I am glad you stopped me. I was merely a tool for Her. Do you not understand this? Or have you lost all intelligence too, Strife. I will kill Her. I will purge her from this earth so that I may know that I will sleep tonight and not have Her in my head again."
Cloud took note of Sephiroth's reaction and stored it away that obviously Jenova had become a very serious sore point for Sephiroth now that the older man was free of her reign. He stared at Sephiroth for a long time in silence before he nodded his head a bit, reaching up to brush some blonde hair from his eyes again. "I knew you were her tool all along. She made you what you were not, and I promised that I would stop you. To see you so controlled drove me back then, no matter what you did to me or the others... I had to set you free." He never thought he would sound so coherant when speaking about why he had done what he had done.
"You did set me free. It was not until the last moment, when I felt that last slice of your sword did I know, did She leave me." His voice was steady, and yet his eyes continued to blaze with rage, the rage that had been bubbling below the surface ever since he had awoken and known what he had allowed himself to become. "I will never serve Her again."
"If I could feel, I would probably be glad that you are free," Cloud replied and stuffed his hands into his pockets, turning his eyes up towards the unmoving sky, studying the gray clouds that just remained fixed in space above his head. Sephiroth would probably kill Jenova, and the older man deserved to do so. "Good luck killing her then, if that is what you want. Do you know where she is?"
"No. But I will find this information out. Perhaps She will tell you." Sephiroth turned again and began to walk away. "Until then..."
Cloud looked over at Sephiroth again. So, Jenova would come in contact with him? He had not heard her voice at all since that day long ago in the Nibel Reactor when Sephiroth first went insane. He had been controlled by Sephiroth and never actually encountered Jenova's voice at all. "Send her my way then. I have nothing more to lose at the moment."
Sephiroth chuckled, a low sound deep in his throat. "I will not send Her. She will find you." And he continued to walk along the connection, hoping to find it's end soon and leave.
Cloud nodded his head, certain that Sephiroth was actually right about that. He supposed if Jenova wanted him for some purpose - perhaps a little torture and killing - she would come and lead him to where she wanted him. He watched Sephiroth go and sat down on the ground again, giving Sephiroth a hard mental shove right out of his mind. It was the only way he had figured out how to remove someone.
Sephiroth allowed the shove, his eyes snapping open to gaze upon the darkened labratory library that surrounded him. He could hear the familiar sound of Valentine in the hall, and Sephiroth stood. It was time to talk again.
Tifa suddenly jolted away, aware that she had been asleep having some vague dream about Midgar. She felt the weight of Cloud's grip on her hand, his body against her's and she turned her face, smiling at his still face.
Cloud remained silent as Tifa moved, though his mind ordered him awake on principle at her shifting. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking them several times before he sat up slowly, rubbing his face with a hand. Was Jenova really coming for him? She wouldn't find much of him left. He shook his hair out a bit and looked at Tifa, as neutral as ever. "Jenova is coming."
"What?" Tifa's eyes widened, suddenly jolting awake from her hazy post-nap sluggishness. "That's not funny Cloud." He laughed a little and nudged his shoulder.
Cloud shook his head a bit, completely serious even under Tifa's shove to his shoulder. He reached up and grasped her hand lightly. "Sephiroth contacted me to tell me Jenova was alive. She is coming for me and Valentine, apparently."
Tifa sat up straighter, shifting onto her knees so that she could better look into Cloud's eyes. "He did? What...what did he say?"
Cloud watched Tifa and did the same, sitting up and stretching out his shoulders which had stiffened a bit with the exercise before the nap and then sleeping on his back. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed a bit. "He is sane, and he is talking with Valentine apparently. He is free of Jenova's hold and hates her. He only came to warn me that Jenova was alive and coming for me and Valentine. He did not know why she was coming, just that she was." He sat and recalled all of the conversation perfectly in his mind, reciting their exchange word for word and even some of their actions to one another.
Tifa snorted. "He's sane? How do you know it's not a trick, Cloud. He could be working for her again!"
Cloud shrugged his shoulders a bit. "It might have been, but I have doubts about that. He was resentful of Jenova." He knew there was no real way to convince Tifa of that, but Sephiroth had no attacked him nor caused him harm in their encounter. "We go to Nibelheim?"
"You can't trust him, Cloud. You can't." She frowned and jumped to her feet, reaching down to grab her gloves and toss them over her shoulder. "Yes, we'll go to Nibelheim and kill him."
Cloud nodded his head a bit and also rose to his feet, dusting his pants off of grass. He grabbed the hilt of his sword and set the blade over his shoulder. "When?"
"When do you think we should go?" She picked up the waterbottle and began to walk towards the house.
Cloud walked after Tifa towards the house, his gaze shifting around the clearing one final time. His instincts told him that staying in one place too long would make it much too easy for Jenova to find him and that he should be on the move or at least move to a larger group. He wondered why Jenova hadn't come for him in the Institute either, since he had been vulnerable most of the time. "We should leave in five days." He would have gained weight by then and gotten his sword skills back in order again.
Tifa nodded. "Okay, that'll give us more time to prepare. And for me to stuff you full of food." She laughed suddenly.
Cloud nodded his head in agreement. He merely needed to gain back weight, get plenty of sleep, and practice with his sword and materia. After that was done, he could probably do all of the things before he shattered. "Sephiroth may contact me again, or Jenova. He said she would come for me."