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111. dream meme v2


D R E A M S ☁ M E M E




Dreams are difficult enough to understand. They range from embarrassing, to frightening, to thought-provoking, to just plain nonsensical. You may find yourself wondering what that was all about, or trying to forget about it as quickly as you can. It may be close enough to reality to confuse you, or dream logic may prevail. Whatever the case, the world of dreams is a way to delve into your psyche and deal with what happened to you that day, your fears, and whatever's on your mind.

Except... what's that person doing their? This isn't their dream.

How It Works:
☁ Post with your character, name and fandom in the subject.
☁ Others respond to your character.
☁ Roll the RNG 1-8 for your situation, from the list below. That's the type of dream your character is having. Or, just pick the one you like the best.
☁ The replier has found themselves in your character's dream, able to interact freely.
☁ Have fun!

1. sweet dreams
Something like this might not happen too often in your waking life, if ever. You've found the world's largest supply of grape ice cream, you've won the lottery... or, perhaps, you're just having a really good day. Will this person share in your joy or ruin it for you?

2. nightmares
Your worst fears are being visited upon you tonight. Whether it's falling, losing those closest to you, insects, or something particular to you, there's no doubt you'd wake up in a cold sweat if everything went normally. Having this person there isn't 'normal', though. Maybe they can make things better.

3. sexy dreams
Isn't it so awkward when the person you're in bed with suddenly asks why you're dreaming about them in a schoolgirl costume?

4. bizarre dreams
It's hard to categorize this, but it probably seems perfectly natural to you that you need to find the smallest grain of sand in the world to stop an alien invasion up until someone points out how weird that is. And maybe it still seems normal to you even after that. They might be the ones being silly!

5. memories
The mind often revisits important events in one's life. For good or bad, you're back in time, reliving something that stuck in your head. But... that guy wasn't here before, was he? Or maybe he was, but hasn't seen it from your point of view yet.

6. prophetic dreams
A dream of your future. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it something you would even want another person to witness?

7. violent dreams
Whether you want to or not, you're hurting the person you're in bed with. Isn't that going to be a little hard to explain?

8. combination/other
Dreams are many and varied. Mix up the flavors, or try something completely different. Wherever your mind will take you is game.

got an 8, so... making it up as we go?

It's a mountain path, not recognizable for itself but recognizable because it's the personification of every mountain path that's ever existed. Narrow and winding, twisting up past a sheer drop off on one side and through a narrow crevice to a flat, windswept opening, barely more than a shelf of rock before the drop off. And of course it has a fork in it, the way that every path somehow must have one. Appropriately one of the narrow ways that leads from it curves off around the side of the mountain, headed back down. It's soft dirt that way and there are already little clumps of flowers, small and stubbornly clinging in the cracks of the mountains near it, promising more of their kind further downward.

The other branch however leads straight on, right up to the bottomless drop in the path where a bridge made of time washed wooden planking and weathered, frayed rope leads onward. On toward a distant, inhospitable looking mountain and even from here there's the flare of green fire in its crevices from time to time and the moaning wind from it brings both a harsh chill and the indistinct sounds of someone crying. The sun shifts its way behind gray clouds, chasing beams down the dirt path back toward the valley floor, avoiding the bridge and its chill.

And there's a little girl who looks all of possibly seven or eight years old standing at the crossroads. She's in a light blue dress and sandals with her dark hair pulled back in a matching ribbon that's threatening to come loose. There's a cowboy hat on her head, incongruously large and it takes a moment longer to turn than her head does as she scrutinizes first one path and then the other. Her face has dried tears on it and pink spots on her cheeks either from the climb up here or the bite of the wind but her wine colored eyes are narrowed and determined now. Small fists clench at her sides and they're in oversized gloves, red and torn leather. The movement of small fingers shakes loose drops of red blood the same color as the leather and they fall to spot the scoured stone and the side of one small, pale leg. A few more scatter down the side of the flimsy dress as she lifts her hands to pull the hat down more securely over her head. The ribbon in her hair comes loose and flutters free.

And then, as if she's been aware and waiting the whole time, her little voice whispers:

"let's go..." and little sandaled feet take the first determined steps toward the wooden bridge and the whispered sounds of gunfire and screams from the distant mountain.

I approve of this plan.

The old rope bridge sways and creaks and threatens to break as it surely does every moment of every day, frail with disuse as it's become, underfoot, and as she comes to the crest of the rocky, unfriendly cliff where the wooden stakes keep their precarious hold, dug deep into the edge, there is a figure visible at the deepest valley of that rickety path over nothingness. A boy, surely no older than her, with a wild shock of bright blond hair atop his head and a surprisingly serious face to frame a pair of sharp blue eyes stands there, as if awaiting her arrival. His knees are skinned below the hem of his shorts, and an ugly bruise stands out stark against the pale skin of a cheek.

(The scrapes are fresh, the brilliant red of fresh blood shed, while the bruise has already begun to turn yellow at the edges, gradually healing. He wears his injuries unselfconsciously, like any boy his age.)

But he isn't alone, either. As he stands there, staring up the slope of the unsteady rope bridge as if challenging her silently to come forward, a man rises up out of his shadow, a grown version of the boy standing from the cautious crouch he'd fallen into, inspecting something there on the rough wooden planks beneath them, or perhaps peering down into the foreboding darkness below -- out of which only sharp, rocky spires rose to the light.

Where the boy not only sees her but looks directly at her (through her, with those eyes), however, the man does not seem to notice either of them. He has his sights set on the other end of this fork in the path, the other side of the crevasse and the sounds of battle raging in the distance. The ropes and the boards of the ancient aching structure supporting him above a fall to certain, grisly death groan again as he sets out for that faraway place at the top of the mountain.

And the little boy motions to her, then, first pressing a finger to his lips in silent warning before motioning for her to follow -- his expression never softening, unchanging. With his simple message conveyed, he turns and tries to follow the older iteration of himself, chasing to accommodate for his shorter stride, but ultimately fading, thinning out of existence as the errant phantom he is.

It isn't time to catch up, yet. At least not for him.

a plan so cunning we could pin a tail on it and call it as weasel

Oh! She knows that boy and the little girl's mouth opens to say his name, looking happy until he silently hushes her. Understanding the importance of Secrets, her lips close tight and tuck together. He has Secrets, not just secrets. But she has the biggest Secret of them all. Because he's not really him - and she can't tell anybody. But especially she can't tell him. She sees the older man but he doesn't register because so much of her attention is on the boy her age. He's hurt -

so hurt...

and she wishes mama was here because mama can make anyone better. Anyone but herself. Mama's not here though. She went across the bridge ever so long ago. Everyone Tifa loves goes across that bridge and so it doesn't surprise her when the boy and his blond shadow start across it either. This time she's going too though - because they're the last of the people she loves and she isn't going to be Left Behind this time. Being Alone is so much scarier than any loud noises or angry sounds. Being Alone is when the What Ifs and Never Wills catch you and chew on your bones with their black little needle teeth.

So she starts across the bridge too, sandals making little slap, slap, slap sounds. When the blond boy fades, Tifa takes his place because someone has to watch after the golden shadow in front of her and she knows whether she's four or forty or four hundred that that's Her Job. He's not Real...

but he's hers.

slap, slap, slap. And the wind caries the sounds of screaming and a Plate of immense size crashing down now as it moans through the cracks in the wooden planks. slap, slap, slap. The rope creaks and the bridge sways.

slap. slap. slap.

And there's a little hand dripping absent blood from oversized gloves reaching up to hook tiny fingers in the thick leather of a SOLDIER belt.

"Huh?"

The sound is quiet enough almost to be completely inaudible, surely would have been had it not come in the deep well of silence between rattling bursts of far off gunfire. But that soft curiosity evaporates in the face of the fearsome look he casts back over his shoulder to see what's caught onto him -- his eyes are bright as embers, even in the cold, dim light that washes a plain, graveyard grey over the grim landscape that surrounds and threatens to swallow them both. And for one instant it seems he still doesn't see her at all, even though his slow ascent has ceased entirely for the child's hopeful tug at his belt.

Because a part of him may be here, still, waiting for the rest to return, but this him is not, is one whole half in another plane of this reality completely. His conscious mind lives in the world of make-believe and fights yet to stay, not ready to give up the illusion for truth.

He looks on ahead once more, with some dark resignation in his gaze, and holds out a hand at his side, not looking back. He doesn't expect her to take it so much as he trusts that she will -- because what he sees when he looks up again is that they've already reached the crest of the mountain, and the metal grated steps up to the reactor lie not an arm's length from the toes of his boots. And there's no going back. He doesn't have to look to know, can already feel like a persistent itch between his shoulder blades the eyes of so many starving, twisted things crowding in over their only path out of here. The monsters that have come from this place returning, promising silently that they will be devoured if they wait too long to move.

It's not safe, here, either. But they'll go on ahead, anyway.

He takes the first step, grabbing the brittle railing to pull himself up. Here the sounds of fighting are deafening, near, though it isn't from around them that they emanate, yet. At the top of the rusted, hulking building that rises from the blasted, poisoned rock of the mountainside, there is another staircase, seemingly free from any form of support, spiraling upward into the sky. To the darkness beyond roiling, polluted clouds, the shadow cast by a massive plate dangling wires and pipes down from so high above that surely the promise of heaven above must be honest.

From here, the strobe flash of automatic fire and the empty screams of faceless strangers filter down to them. But the dark, abandoned reactor is first, and there is no hesitation in the rough way Cloud shoulders open the broken, deteriorating door.

The little hand fits into his much larger one without hesitation, leather smearing blood against leather. In the gray landscape with its rolling follow of darkness, he's darkness too of an entirely different, sharp kind. But what's wearing the little girl's body isn't afraid of darkness and as much as it might eventually remember it fears for him, it's never afraid of him. Whether he's here or not, whether he's Real or not, there's no fear of whatever he is. So tiny fingers curl to hold him tighter and little legs hurry to keep up with his stride. Following him forward because there's no staying behind this time. It's not about being Left Behind anymore. Now it's about being Where She Belongs. At his side.

Wherever that ends up leading to. Even the child knows she's with him until the end.

There's a ghost inside the ancient reactor though. Past the strange curving bridge that takes the place of thick pipes and ladders, past the strangely empty foyer before an arch that leads onward, at the bottom of a set of stairs that seem to go up forever and lead nowhere, it's waiting. She's young, this ghost, just turning into the woman she'll be some day and the cowgirl outfit trails impractical lace and beads, what's left of what might once have been a princess' dress before it turned into practical leather and cotton. She's sitting at the bottom of the stairs in a puddle of blood and fire and she's waiting. There are bends in her arms and legs where there shouldn't be and something so ugly and foul across her chest that it blurs and refuses to focus but none of it's on that teenage face. Instead the face is turned toward the door they've just come in and it's patient. Endlessly, forever patient in the way that someone waits for something they know is never going to come. She's waiting and the shadow warrior of gold and the little girl at his side aren't who she's waiting for.

"don't look." the little girl tugs on her companion's hand, trying to lead for the first time but only because she wants to not be Here. "she's ugly."

He nods, one single, succinct, silent response, and tears his gaze away from the broken girl and her endless wait. He's seen more horrible sights by far, bodies beaten and busted further out of recognition than hers, but that impossibly long stare, the quiet fervency behind that mask of calm strikes a chord in him so hard it nearly breaks and he can't look at her, not a moment longer. As he's pulled farther into the dark inner room at the reactor's core, into the shallow pools of thin red light that illuminate this eerie, clandestine place, he steps ahead of her again easily, taking the weight of their next decision so that she won't have to. Should things go wrong...

His grip tightens on her hand as he approaches the round, egg-shaped front of one of the enormous capsules that line the tiers of the room that follow that staircase up and up... At least until everything disappears into darkness. There's a light on, up there, somewhere -- another shade of red, a glimmer, a flash, that he only catches out of the corner of his eye and that beckons, promising, always. The staircase that he had seen rising above the reactor's roof, the mountain's highest peak, might connect to this one, somehow, and freedom and light could be within their reach, from there.

Come this way.

The voice that only he hears slithers up his spine and coils into sharp, hot agony just behind his temple.

(Get lost.)

Join us.

(Leave me alone.)

He's forgotten his purpose, one hand buried in his hair, clutching at his head helplessly, and the other wrapped around a hand far smaller than his, gripping much too tightly--

And it's that that brings him back, the sudden, fierce rebirth of concern, the worry that he might've hurt her. He loosens his grip -- enough that she can pull away, if she wants, but not so that she might think he has decided to go on alone. If he lets go, now, he has a sinking certainty that she'll simply disappear. Or perhaps she'll become that thing sitting still in its hideous patience, there by the foot of the stairs. He won't have it.

Reaching out to the odd capsule in front of them, he feels for the edge with hasty precision. There is a layer of dust an inch thick covering over everything, making lettering indistinct, obscuring the details, and even as it collects in the grooves of his glove, between his fingers, the wording on the metal shell seems only to blur further into unreadability. His hand stills, arm tensing. Metal groans.

"If there's no way forward from here... Then we'll make our own way out." The latch pops. A rush of harmless, lukewarm steam floods out to greet them. And the whole reactor seems to shudder as he throws wide open their new doorway to escape.

High above, so far up over their insignificant heads, something has only just begun to come crashing down. There's no time to wait; he ducks down to scoop the small girl up into the crook of an arm, slamming the door shut behind them with his other as they dive headlong into infinite darkness, the emptiness of space bound only to take shape once the ill light behind them has died.

The darkness swallows the world as the last dim trace of dull red fades behind them, but it's not long before movement flickers in the distance, sliding toward them in the night. An amusement street whirls by on one side, dark and lit by shoddy neon that hides more than it reveals, its buildings only an inch thick and too short and softly rounded at their edges, mere flat props to confuse from a distance, accompanied by the dying sound of saccharine music and the hollow screams of revelers on an endless rollar coaster. Next, to the other side, fading in and out of the dark as it slinks past is a cluster of broken trailers and empty eyed buildings, where sickly green glowing fog lies close and thick on the ground and small children fight each other in caged enclosures and try to silently hustle a quick gil from strangers for the right to sleep in their abandoned beds. Men cheer somewhere buried deep in those buildings and there's the startlingly clear sound of a pinball machine before it too passes into the darkness. A basement lit in red, details too sharp on the torture devices stained and set neatly in a row on a nearby shelf, the dull polish on the table in the center of it and heavily enforced leather straps on its surface looks as if it will find them, slowly growing to take up the whole dark world - before it too fades off, disappearing under them into darkness, eerily silent except for the pop of the glowing embers from the fireplace in its corner. People digging like ants through ancient junk look up with indistinguishable faces as they slowly scroll past on either side in silence and there's the smell of rust and sweat and baked trash in the hot sun before the darkness goes complete again. Small arms cling just a bit tighter around the neck they've been thrown around and a small body presses closer into safety, hair tickling against an exposed shoulder.

"promise not to disappear..."

Somewhere, far away and lonely, a train whistle sounds.

In the empty, drifting black, the only illumination comes from the cold, unwholesome glow of his eyes, that unwavering gaze. He does not look too closely at any of the aimless, fleeting scenes that pass them by as they fall so slowly downward; the danger in doing so is perfectly clear. They can't afford to be drawn into any of these distractions, to risk becoming trapped forever in the twisted shadows of the past, the hateful premonitions of the future. In this, at least, his innate ability to blind himself willingly to all other paths lends them something. Safety in ignorance.

"I'm not going anywhere," he says, his hold on her still reassuringly firm where his arm is wrapped around her back. She's tiny, insignificant weight, no burden at all, but a comfort in that she remains solid, real still, unlike all the worlds that have drifted away, dissolving back into their shadows.

When his toes at last touch down on solid ground again, he thinks, at first, that they have finally reached the bottom of this place, the end of their endless fall. But as the brilliant, pure, blue-white light begins to spread from somewhere still far below them, he can see that this is a mistake. The staircase that they have landed at the very top of is a far cry from the others they've passed up above, those rickety, metal man-made things unfit to hold the weight of the world, let alone one mismatched pair of lost children.

The steps, flat, flawless slabs of shining crystal, appear to float independently of one another, spiraling downward in close formation to the sprawling city below. They are wide enough to walk nearly two abreast, and he's careful as he kneels to let down the little girl clinging to his side before her arms can strain or give out. Here there is only the scent of flowers and fresh rain, the peaceful silence of an otherwise empty, untouched world. There is only one path ahead of them, and nothing but darkness behind.

"...Guess we don't have a choice, from here." He scrubs a hand through his hair as he stands, peering down over the edge toward the tops of buildings, the roofs of houses, the twisting, foreign spires of temples down below.

Tiny sandaled feet touch down on the crystal and large eyes peer downward as a little hand clutches at his pants' leg as an anchor. Something stirs in those searching eyes, too old and shadowed to be that young but for the moment, despite a ripple, the body holds its small form. Her voice is soft, hushed.

"It's where a princess should be. The hero too. Princesses always get the hero - at the end." It's said with child sure logic, and a flat, sad echo that's older than the body. Little fingers still creep up to find his hand again though and in the light, her eyes are liquid garnet and shadow. Strangely, as if reassuring, her fingers squeeze his briefly. "I'm still here though. I'll go with you anyway. I'll help you find your princess."

And, determined, small jaw set, she's the one that starts down the stairs first this time. Tiny spots of fallen blood mark the ancient crystal where she's passed.

"The story's not over, yet. Maybe I'm not the hero." His fingers curl around her tiny hand in a swift, confident squeeze in return, and he shakes his head as he looks down not at the wondrous alien city beneath the soles of his boots but the grave little girl leading him. He knows her (but he doesn't know her), trusts her with that too sincere expression, those too big gloves. "I don't really feel like one, anyway..."

There is no sense of urgency hounding them, chasing at their heels, here, and so he doesn't press forward any faster than she deigns it necessary, to make their way downward. Though it might have seemed eerie, in reality, stepping into the silent, ancient city feels almost like a reassurance, in itself. There are no overt signs of devastation or tragedy; the deserted homes and overgrown gardens have simply been abandoned. There are children's toys forgotten in open doorways, plates set on tables, beds made, all visible through glassless windows carved in strange shapes. The sky above is faraway and starry, and the light below emanates from everywhere at once, turning shadows soft and stealing from them whatever menace they might once have once held. The people may have long since gone, but their hearts have not.

"Maybe... We can stay here?" But even as the words leave his mouth, let go into the overwhelming peace of this place, he knows the answer is no. To stay here a while might be all right, yet, but to stay forever would be the surest path to never moving one step forward again. And maybe that's why he follows her, still -- even as he sees in passing the shimmering, bright surface of a lake, the enormous crystal altar that rises in its center, and thinks that there is something to it, something to see, there. Because she knows where they're headed, now. It's his turn to shut his eyes and turn away from the things that wait, just over the horizon of this present.

The light softens her too, the same way it softens the darkness and the little girl flickers as they move from gentle shadow to soft light, a shifting image as if someone is flipping the switch on an old television screen. He needs a guide now, not just a presence, and at some indeterminate point, the hand in his is still small... but it's larger than it once was. The hat's still there but now it rests across her back, hiding hair and the flimsy dress is a more durable leather skirt that swishes almost silently against bare legs as they move ahead. She's fifteen and still a little round faced, chest scarless where it shows over the neckline of her shirt, eyes still young and curious and unguarded. Her hand stays in his and the gloves are still just a little too big.

They're still red leather and they still spill whispers of blood.

The city of warmth and fluid lines soothes her but it doesn't stop her. There's a peace here, deep and welcoming but - it's not home. She doesn't know where home is... but it's not this silent place of memory and solitude. Here is a haven, a respite, a healing word... but if they stop, they'll become just like it. Silent and eternal and far from the world beyond this place. He is here... but he needs more than just her. He needs what's beyond this place. He needs to move beyond this place. And that's her job. To be his guide. So she doesn't answer his question - but her fingers wind between his and gently squeeze again, encouraging and reassuring. She's here. He can do this.

Whatever this is. It leads to the lake though. Even if she didn't know instinctively where she was going - every road here leads to that pristine, soothing body of water that takes up the rest of this world. This place was built because of the lake, not the other way around and every turn and every window faces a view of it.

The lake - and the crystal alter in the middle of that quietly breathing water.

She doesn't know what is there - but she knows their path - his path - lies beyond it.

She falters at the stepping stones though. Like the stairs, those flat topped pillars guide their way, across the water this time and to the platform in the middle of it all. They lead away on the other side of that platform as well though she can't see where they end or any mark of a shore. Just - this is where they have to go.

Except... except something's waiting there, near that alter. She can't see anything and the peace of this place isn't disturbed. If anything it lays thicker here, a mother's soothing cradling, a father's warm presence at the door. But she knows - deep down in her gut, with every instinct she'd ever had that guided her loved ones through dangers - she knows there's something waiting at that alter. And she thinks... she thinks it's waiting for him.

They have to go through. It's the only way out. But she's suddenly afraid of losing him to this quiet lake of crystal. Whatever's there...

not yet.

The lake's not for swimming. It's the pillars or nothing. Turning back to him, her eyes meet his and the little girl is still there. Next to the teen and the barmaid - and who she might one day be. Shadows... and light. Once upon a time, before she traded away being a princess to learn to use her fists, he promised he'd come back for her. What he never realized was that it was her promise too. That she would always be there for him to come back to. Hand firm in his she turned back to the pillars.

Come with me. Stay with me

Because I will always stay with you.


She took her first step forward.

The first step is easy, surprisingly so, and though the perfectly flat, unmarred surface of the crystal pillar feels slick underfoot, some inexplicable traction holds him in place. The same force that draws him forward, perhaps, inextricably toward whatever it is that awaits them above. A part of him knows that there is undoubtedly still some darkness in this place, just like the shadow that looms well below the clear, blue surface waters of the lake. An ice cold undercurrent that hopes to sweep them away -- it is not malevolent, not spiteful, but it simply is. But just like the shadow of the little boy he can't remember having been, he ignores the imminent danger and pushes onward beside her.

The last step is a jump. He's careful as he lets go of her hand, passing her a measured, sidelong glance that hopes she understands it's impractical for both of them to go together. It will only be brief, this separation, and then they can continue on their way.

He leaps into the bright, shimmering light that surrounds the altar, awe in his expression for one fleeting moment as he turns his head up, bathed in all of the warmth and life left in this place. He looks back and holds out his hand, not seeing the way the light begins to flicker and fade. Not noticing the darkness in the depths of the water bleeding up into the clear, into the pillars that mark their path and the altar, itself.

"Come on!"

Alters, however clean and beautiful, however pure, are places of sacrifice and while there's no malevolence here, there is the grinding onward turn of a law that goes so much deeper than human law or even living law. Infinitely precious things are left on alters... and they are often beautifully broken things.

Wine colored eyes meet his - but the shadows have already slipped up crystal to lap at her boots and, for the first time, her hand simply melts through his when she reaches. Everything - the peaceful town, the surrounding lake, the pillar bridge - the teenage girl with her hesitant eyes - all whisper away at their edges. He's still light, golden in the glow... and she knows she's gone dark and shadowed. Tarnished... and not what she once was. What she'd hoped to be when he finally came back. The alter grows, if anything, more solid, more real, an insistent, determined presence. Something precious is always left at alters - and it's already taken what it wants.

His fingers close tight on thin air, and the shock written across his face is dumb and instant; he makes another hasty grab at nothing, and another, toeing the sharp drop at the edge of the highest pillar, not thinking of the frigid waters that run directly beneath. Or that did, before the dark stole over everything, washing away the bright, pure cleanness of this place and taking her with it.

"Wait!" It's just a desperate, meaningless cry -- she can't help disappearing, and he can't help her from it, but that doesn't mean he has to want to be alone. He's never wanted to be alone

(Just notice me.)

and the fear of loss is a very real thing, as much as the thinning platform beneath his feet, as much as the darkness still closing in on him. He staggers back, losing his balance at last, and finds himself surrounded only by shadow. The flat black of empty, infinite space rises on all sides once more, though the dimming light from above shelters him from it, for now. It may last awhile, longer in the strange flow of time in this place, but it won't last forever. Someday he'll be swallowed by the dark, too, just like everything else. Just like everyone else.

"...No." His hands snap into fists inside his gloves, thin, dried blood that isn't his cracking in his palm, and he glowers out into the blank wall of nothingness that continues to stare him down, relentless in its utter neutrality. This wasn't right. This wasn't how it was supposed to end.

The story isn't over, yet.

He takes one step back, the sole of his boot scraping across dirt he's tracked into this sacred place from a mountain very far from here-- And then lunges into a run, leaps from the edge of the altar and into the emptiness, no willing sacrifice. He won't let her fall to the darkness just like that, not after how far they've come. The sound of so many voices rushes up to meet him, unintelligible cacophony, all talking, whispering, screaming at once, and just as he feels the air shift, impact imminent whether with icy water or the stepping stone he'd aimed for

Cloud woke with a start, sunlight blinding him as he curled reflexively in on himself in an ungraceful flailing of limbs. There was ground underneath him (soft, springy earth, tall, green grass), and real sky above (clear, blue, touched only by distantly drifting clouds).

(What... was that?)

He jumped again when something bumped into his shoulder -- and then felt a sudden wave of self-consciousness as he looked back to see that one big, bright green bird was the only thing staring him down, now, wearing a look that was just about as harmlessly dumb as he felt, right about then. Pushing the chocobo out of his personal space with an uncertain pat on the head, he took a slightly less disorientated look around. The open field ran on for miles in every direction, only the distant shadow of a mountain range there to disrupt the gently rolling slope of the landscape.

That must've been some kind of Sleepel.

(But where is everybody else...?)

She's curled into one of her impossibly small balls in the grass where she'd fallen not that far from him. There's no cowboy hat, not pale blue dress, no tiny legs. Just her. As she is now, scuffed knees and bruised knuckles. Face pinched together, hands tucked up against her chest, almost hidden by her curled legs, the grass is tall enough to hide her, almost forming a protective circle around the small space she's taken up. The world around her may be green and alive but behind her closed eyes it's all darkness. Darkness and she's watching that single falling star as it arches downward toward her and how will she ever catch it before it hits the frigid water and goes out forever -

promise me...?

what?

promise me!


She jerks up, half on her knees, unbalanced, gloved hands reaching and the cry is loss and desperation, ripped out of her, eyes half blinded by dark hair and darker places. Her falling star. Her hope and her promise. It's one word in that cry but it's every word.

"Cloud!"

His head whips around in the middle of a stretch (the ground may be soft, but it's no match for the bed he's sure he recollects falling asleep in) and he's stalled briefly in a wince as a muscle sharply protests, but it doesn't slow him up for a second as he jumps to his feet.

"Tifa!" He still has one hand to the side of his neck as he pivots in place, searching the field for any sign of her while the solid lump of his heart does its best to lodge firmly in his throat. There's one terrible, long moment when he doesn't see anything but the empty prairie land in every direction, his only company the idly milling chocobo that's long since lost interest in him. But then--

(There!)

Just over the swaying fringe of tall grass, a dark head of hair, a glimpse of pale skin. Were she any farther away, he might have broken into a run -- but he's there before he can, dropping to a knee beside her, reaching out a hand. "Tifa? Are you okay?"

She's a fighter, and has been for years. Sometimes - she forgets to tamp down on her reactions. So the way she launches at him is immediate instead of carefully measured and the strength in her arms isn't held back as she ignores his hand almost instinctively to wrap them tightly around his shoulders, long fingers digging in to the fabric at the back of his shirt to cling. It's only sheer luck that she ends up with her face against his unprotected shoulder and doesn't split her lip on the metal of his shoulder plate.

She'd lost him. She'd let her attention slip for one moment and he'd been taken away and there hadn't even been anything she could do about it. She wasn't even sure she should have done anything about it because at least he'd been safe in the light.

Except he hadn't.

He'd lost the light, because of her, and she'd watched him falling...

"You were safe," it's choked and muffled against him. She doesn't expect him to understand because it was a dream, just a dream... but it pours out of her anyway. "Why didn't you stay safe? How do I keep you safe?"

Against his shirt her fingers flex and tighten - and lone drops of blood slip from her gloves to trail downward over fabric.

The suddenness of that embrace knocks the wind right out of him -- or maybe it's just that grip (you'd think he'd almost died) -- and when he replies it's with a kind of breathy, uncertain good humor. She'd stun him better than whatever had attacked them must have, if she really put her mind to it.

"What d'you mean? I'm right here. I'm fine." A few shallow scrapes and bruises are nothing he won't survive, and by all accounts she doesn't seem any worse for the wear. He's already putting behind him the fear in that passing nightmare, the details from the start already lost and the rest rapidly slipping away -- it was only a dream. A stupid dream.

And it's over, now.

(Right?)

Cloud shakes his head, patting her gingerly on the back, wary of any unseen injury. The blood drips down his back unseen, unfelt, and that co-opted confidence of his slips naturally back into place. "Relax. I think you're gonna break me in half."

"Sorry."

The reaction's immediate as her arms loosen almost completely. She's stronger than most people and usually she hides it pretty well when she's not fighting. She just -

forgot.

She still shivers when she pulls back, knowing it's silly to be so upset over something as unreal as a dream, but the feeling of loss, of watching him fall while she was helpless - it still has cold dark fingers wrapped around her heart and she thinks it's going to be a while before she can shake them off entirely. Cloud must think she's an absolute wimp though to be as over dramatic as her desperate hug must have seemed and so she turns her head a little to the side so her hair can hide the embarrassment while she pulls herself back together. A hand disappears into that hair to smear an absent glove over a cheek.

"You're right. Sorry. Bad dream."

Determined to prove she's fine, she pushes herself to her feet, turning her face to give him a weak smile. Unaware of the streak of new blood across one cheek or the fact that, for the long space of a heart beat, another face overlays hers like a glass mask... and its eyes are hopelessly forever patient in its expressionlessly calm face.

She offers a hand to help him up.

"We should probably get going, right?"

(Bad dream...)

There's a long moment wherein he simply stares at that hand, struck dumb by some strange sense of worlds overlapping, and the whole of this reality blurring momentarily into something else. He shakes his head and thinks

(Bad déjà vu...)

even though that's not quite the right word for it, what he feels in that weird instant when her cautious façade becomes a real mask, something fiercely neutral and hopelessly empty at once.

"You're bleeding," he says, snapping out of his helpless, unpleasant fascination as he looks again to see that streak of dark red smudged across a pale cheek. Taking her wrist instead of her hand (there's no cut that he can see, on her face), Cloud stands on his own, her apology and hopeful suggestion to keep moving completely forgotten.

"Where are you hurt?" Foggy memories of shining steps spattered with dark, crimson blood, a trail of perfect droplets following in their footsteps, filter back to him -- but he's never been anyplace like that. Never seen any city from so high above, never ignored a wound deep enough to leave a trail of blood that thick. He turns her hand carefully over, a questioning look under drawn-down brows as he struggles to maintain precious normalcy. But there are distant clouds rolling in from over the mountains, and the wind is picking up, now more than just a pleasant puff of breeze, carrying on it something new and chilling.

There's a second, almost, when she tries to jerk her wrist away from him, the need so instinctive that it's only the single, impossible fact that it's Cloud... and she'd never deny Cloud anything that was hers stopping her. But the desire to not have him touch those gloves is suddenly strong and her fingers curl as more blood drips from her knuckles and paints the quickly wind flattened grass.

"I'm not hurt," she denies it, shaking her head even as her still free hand disappears as she hides it behind her back. Nearby their chocobo mills closer, confused and worried about the inrushing storm. "That's normal. Don't worry about it."

And she looks away at the oncoming storm and it's discolored boil of clouds because she can't bear to look at him and see his face when he looks at those gloves.

"We should keep moving."

He doesn't want to make it worse, as much as it bothers him the way she's trying to hide something so vehemently, so clearly, that could only be a small wound, completely inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. So he lets go of her hand, her wrist when she turns away from him, and looks with her toward the roiling, rapidly darkening stormfront on the horizon. Maybe it's not so important

(That's normal.)

and he seems to remember it having happened before, having been just as easy to dismiss as she hopes it will be, now. Escaping the dangerous new shift in the weather should be their main priority, and as the distressed chocobo scratches nervously at the ground nearby, he reaches out to grab the reigns hanging loose below its beak. He pats the bird gently on the side of its neck, a few green feathers molted as it bristles -- but at least stops clawing at the dirt.

"Let's go, then," he agrees reluctantly, nodding to her as he leads the chocobo around, glancing back over his shoulder one last time to that flattened spot in the grass where he'd woken up. If he'd had any materia, or even just a potion, he would've insisted she do something about that injury -- but he doesn't, everything is missing, even his sword, and it's clear they're on their own, for now.

And he suddenly feels impossibly small in the center of this great expanse of open field, and all he wants is to be out of it, gone from here. Their only options seem to be toward the storm rolling on down out of the mountains or to the vague, shadowy promise of a familiar city rising just above the far horizon. He knows which he'd prefer, even if it means running from something dark and terrible that he'll only have to face later, once it's become much worse.

She catches his face as he lets go of her and - she wants to tell him. It's not as if he doesn't already know it's just - she shakes her hands and the blood drops spatter, small and scattered across the flattening grass. Ugly. So ugly. And so familiar she wonders why she notices anymore. Ugly or not, she won't leave him and she steps close to him, waiting for him to mount the chocobo first so she can pull herself up behind him, suddenly reluctant to put her arms around him the way she always does though because now that they've acknowledged the blood... she doesn't want it touching him.

Except she can't take off the gloves and she doesn't dare not hold on to him.

Wind gusts, biting and full of cold and wet. It catches her hair like a battle banner, whipping it out to the side so hard the the ribbon at the end of it almost comes loose. There's a city on the far horizon but, for just a moment, she turns her head into the oncoming storm wind and narrows her eyes. It bites at her cheeks and slips down her throat when she inhales. It doesn't make sense but -

"Cloud...

...why can't we go into the storm instead of running from it?"

"I can't go there."

His response is fierce and immediate and brooks no argument, but the look he casts back over his shoulder is full of a terror he seems only distantly aware of, showing on a face that isn't quite his any longer. There's no trace of his stoic, self-assured persona in those eyes; he's just a kid, he can't go back to that place (to him that damp, frigid gust of wind reeks of musty air and rotting books, of all the dark and all the cold and all the stupid things that used to scare him as a child and still sort of do, now, for reasons he can't quite discern), he can barely move--

Except to shake his head once, the movement sharp and decisive, the phantom trace of blood smeared heavily down the side of his own face visible for only an instant, dripping down his throat, staining his hair. It's all right, though. It isn't his.

"Let's get out of here." And he tugs at the reins in his hands and he digs in his heels and the chocobo squawks and takes off underneath them, almost apparently relieved to stop pacing indecisively awaiting the order to move. It's toward the city that they're headed, and between the racing pace of the chocobo and the renewed determination in him, there isn't a chance of turning back. Even as the ruined silhouette of what once was Midgar rises on the horizon, it's better than going back there.

The second he answers her - she knows. They need to face the storm. They need to. She knows it with every instinct in her body.

And yet... she can't. She can't force him to. She can't even bring herself to tell him so. She should. She's still his guide. She's his friend. She treasures him more than her heart knows how to handle it. It's her job to say something.

She can't.

She can't.

She just... she can't.

She's supposed to be fearless but she hears that tone in his voice... she sees that face, those eyes... and her throat entirely closes over. Because it will hurt him. If they face the storm it will hurt him terribly and she's so very, very afraid that it will hurt him so badly that she'll lose him entirely. That, even worse, he'll be lost for good.

Her arms wrap tightly around him and she presses in close against his back as her fingers spread over his heart. The chocobo takes off at a run and the storm wind behind them is pushing and - she presses her face into the back of his neck and shuts her eyes.

She has to tell him.

She can't.

Maybe... maybe there's a way to slowly work him around to facing the storm? Maybe - if she just has enough time, she'll figure out a way to show him the storm without risking hurting him? Maybe the storm will go away?

She doesn't believe the last part but - she just needs more time. She has to figure out how to tell him about the storm in a way that's not going to hurt him. She's not sure how... but there's got to be a way.

And in the meantime she can do her best to protect him from the storm. And she can stay with him, no matter what. So she wraps herself just a little bit closer around him and she worries about that moment of bloody reveal across his young face and she tells herself that it will all be okay. They'll be okay.

Somehow.

Determined, her head comes up. The city is a ruin and she can feel it sawing at her heart even before they reach it - but the storm is right on their heels and she can only think of one safe place to hide him from it.

"There," she says it against his ear to be heard over the way the wind sounds blowing through empty streets and hollow eyed buildings. "Take us to Seventh Heaven. It'll be there. It will."

(no subject) - whysocirrus, 2011-09-07 07:10 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - morethanwords, 2011-09-07 02:37 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - whysocirrus, 2011-09-10 08:59 am (UTC)(Expand)
oh, the innuendo!! - morethanwords, 2011-09-10 01:31 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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