|miko_no_da (miko_no_da) wrote,|
@ 2009-06-24 21:09:00
|Entry tags:||'long road to destiny', cloud, ffvii, ffx, fic, sephiroth, zack|
[Fic] A Long Road To Destiny - FFVII/FFX - Zack, Cloud & Sephiroth - 4/25?
Title: A Long Road to Destiny
Series: FFVII/FFX fusion
Pairing: Cloud, Zack & Sephiroth
Warnings: violence, angst, swearing, the usual
Chapter length: 5632
Total length: 22,445
The summoner's journey is a long, hard path to walk. Having guardians you trust makes all the difference in the world.
Zack was hanging over the railing, standing at the prow like an odd second figurehead, the wind of their passage ruffling his spiky hair and the spray off the bow leaving glittering drops of water on his skin. If Cloud hadn't already seen repeated examples of how agile his guardian was over the past two days, he'd have been worried about how far out the man was leaning. Zack could scramble over the ropes and masts as easily as any of the sailors. He strolled across the decks as if they were solid ground, though the seas had been fairly choppy on the two day trip between Besaid and Kilika.
If Cloud hadn't been so busy being sick the whole time, he might have hated his guardian for that easy competence. Any of the stunts Zack made look so easy would have landed Cloud in the water before he could say 'let's blitz'. As it was he could only cling to the rail with a death grip every time he had to lean over to throw up.
"Please tell me we're almost there," he begged miserably.
"I can see the peak from here," Zack assured him. "In a minute or two you'll be able to see the whole island. Look."
He pointed, and Cloud glanced forward. Sure enough the familiar conical shape of a volcano rose up out of the ocean's blue waters. Seeing it made Cloud feel a little better, and a little homesick. He was used to being surrounded by shapes like that, jagged peaks and smooth cones creating a skyline that was as unique as a snowflake. The endless flatness of the ocean disturbed him.
Unfortunately moving his eyes away from the steady line of the horizon made his nausea worse again. There was nothing left to bring up, but the bile burned in his throat until tears came to his eyes.
Zack patted his back. "You really weren't kidding about the seasickness, were you? We'd better spend a few days in Kilika resting up and getting you fed, or you're gonna waste away to nothing by the time we get to Luca."
When he was able to stop gagging, Cloud looked up at Zack and shook his head. "We can't afford it," he croaked.
"I've got some gil saved up, and there're fiends in the woods outside the temple. We should be able to make some gil hunting them," Zack assured him. "But that'll be just for supplies. Kilika is my hometown, and I've still got family here. Haven't spoken to them in a while, but I'm sure my mom and dad will let us crash there."
"Why haven't you spoken to them?" Cloud asked, studying his guardian curiously.
"Ran away from home to join the Crusaders," Zack said, shrugging. "Never quite had the courage to go home again and find out if I was forgiven. Not like they abused me or anything. Just, I never did take orders well. Always had to do things my own way, if you know what I mean."
"Which is why the Crusaders politely asked you leave after you'd been with them less than a year," Sephiroth said dryly as he joined them. "It was that or put you in charge, and the mere thought of you in a command position terrifies me. If nothing else, you'll want to make your peace with your family before we leave the island. A summoner's pilgrimage is dangerous, and not just for the summoner. Many guardians do not survive."
"Yeah, I know. That's why I'm gonna do it," Zack said. "What about you, Cloud? Got any loose ends you need to tie up before you go off to Zanarkand?"
"Yeah." Cloud fixed his eyes on the rapidly approaching shore. "Nibelheim is only a day off the path near the Calm Lands. I need to say goodbye to my mother." And show everyone that he was capable of making something of himself, but that felt like too petty a reason for a summoner to admit to. Wasn't he supposed to be some kind of shining light to the rest of Spira, now? Just being near Sephiroth made him feel like he had to live up to the image a summoner was supposed to project.
"Then we should certainly do that," Sephiroth agreed. "The purpose of the pilgrimage is not only for the summoner to pray at each temple, Cloud. It is to allow the summoner to put his mind at rest, deal with any issues that might cause him to feel regret. Do not be afraid to let yourself linger over things if you need to, or be momentarily distracted by them. So long as you always continue in the end, anything is permitted."
"Sounds good to me," Zack said, nodding. "C'mon, they're just about done docking. Let's get you back on solid ground."
"Is there any solid ground in Kilika?" Cloud asked wryly. What he remembered of the town from his brief stopover on the way to Besaid seemed to indicate otherwise. From the deck of the ship all he could see was an endless series of docks and huts built right over the water. There were nearly as many people swimming from one place to another as there were walking over the docks.
"Well, relatively solid," Zack acknowledged with a grin.
"There is land beyond the village," Sephiroth said as they headed down the gangway. "The mountain itself is surrounded by lush forest and the temple is built into the side of the volcano."
"Why build over the water, then?" Cloud wanted to know. The idea of spending more time than he absolutely had to anywhere near the water, let alone over it, was horrifying to him. The docks were easier to handle than the ship's deck, but Cloud was fairly certain he could still feel them swaying slightly beneath his feet.
"Mostly because in order to build on land we'd have had to cut half the forest down," Zack told him, leading the way further into the town. "Plus this way it's easier to keep the fiends out. It makes us a little more vulnerable to Sin, but..." He shrugged. "As we saw in Besaid, being on the island proper wouldn't save us, either."
People were starting to pay more attention to them as they moved away from the area frequented by tourists and summoners. Cloud automatically ducked his head to hide his eyes, trying not to draw anyone's notice, but then he realized he wasn't the one people were staring at. It was Zack they were pointing to and whispering about.
"Do they recognize you?" Cloud asked, puzzled. Zack's sleeveless shirt showed off the shoulder and upper arm tattoos that clearly marked him as an islander, though his clothes were Lucan in style. Surely that wasn't enough of a contrast to make people stare? Not with an Al Bhed dressed like a Calm Lander walking right next to him.
"Oh, probably." Zack shrugged. For some reason that made Sephiroth sigh and roll his eyes, and Zack grinned at him. "What?"
"I'm simply marvelling at the notion of you displaying modesty," Sephiroth said dryly. "An occasion to mark on the calendar, certainly."
"Hey, there's a difference between bragging to show off, and basking in well-deserved attention," Zack protested with a laugh.
Cloud felt like he was missing an important part of the conversation. He opened his mouth to ask, but before he could get the words out Zack lit up and pointed in excitement. "Hey, there it is!"
The hut he pointed to looked much like all the others around it, made of wood and decorated with bright woven banners. A woman was tending to the flowers that grew in boxes in front of the windows. She looked up, her attention drawn by Zack's shout, and did a double-take. "Zack? Is that you?" she gasped.
Zack rubbed the back of his neck and gave her a sheepish smile, coming to a stop. "Hey, mom."
"Zack!" she cried, and threw herself at him. He caught her in a hug and spun her around. She was laughing and crying at the same time.
Cloud was a little envious. His mother had never hugged him like that. Somehow he rather doubted his own homecoming would make his mother any more likely to be affectionate. He glanced at Sephiroth, and was surprised to see a wistful expression on the summoner's face as well. He tried to remember if he'd ever heard anything about Sephiroth's family, and couldn't. All he knew was that the man had been from Bevelle, though from the sounds of it he was living in Luca, now. Cloud didn't even know if his guardians were still alive.
"Where's dad?" Zack asked when his mother had finally calmed down.
"He's up working at the docks," Zack's mother replied. "With the summoners coming through again, the town elders wanted to make sure everything was in good repair." She looked troubled. "I don't think he's forgiven you just yet, honey. When we heard you'd left the Crusaders... he didn't take it well. As long as you were training to fight Sin I suppose he could console himself by telling people you'd left for good reasons, but..."
"Well, if that's all it takes, it's no problem," Zack said, laughing. "I may not be the next commander of the Crusaders, but I think being a guardian to the next High Summoner ought to rank right up there."
"Guardian?" Zack's mother looked shocked and delighted. "Sweetheart, that's wonderful! I'm so proud of you!" Predictably she turned and bowed to Sephiroth. Cloud decided there was no point in feeling hurt about it. Sephiroth just had the air of a summoner about him. Maybe in time Cloud would have it too, but he suspected people would always look to Sephiroth first.
"Uh, wrong summoner, ma." Zack sounded amused, but he was obviously trying hard to keep a straight face. "Seph's just along for the ride, to help us out. Cloud, stop trying to hide behind him and come say hi to my mom." When Cloud reluctantly stepped forward and mumbled a greeting, Zack slung an arm around his shoulder and ruffled his hair. "Mom, meet Lord Cloud, next High Summoner."
"Zack, that's not funny," she said, frowning. "It's not funny at all."
Startled by the unexpected change in her attitude, Cloud made the mistake of looking right at her. Her lips tightened into a white line when she got a good look at his eyes. His stomach sank, and he fought down a groan. Zack was so incredibly open-minded that he'd been expecting the man's parents to be the same way, but it seemed it was a trait Zack had picked up elsewhere.
"Huh?" Zack sounded bewildered. "Of course it's not funny, it's the truth."
"Zack..." Cloud bit his lip on his next words. He wanted to beg his guardian to leave well enough alone and just get the hell out of there before they caused a scene, but this was Zack's family. Cloud had no right to ask the man to just walk away from them.
"To think that my own son would pull such a prank," Zack's mother said, shaking her head and planting her hands on her hips. "It's disgraceful. Bad enough that you're consorting with an Al Bhed at all, but to try to pass him off as a summoner! What would your father say?"
Cloud ducked his head, though the damage was already done. He tried to back away, to leave Zack to argue with his mother in relative privacy, but Zack's hand tightened on his shoulder and held him in place. When Cloud glanced at him, he saw Zack's jaw was set in a determined expression that Cloud was rapidly becoming familiar with.
"It's not a prank, and it's certainly not disgraceful," Zack said. His voice was very tight and controlled. "He's a summoner. End of story. The fayth accepted him, and that's all that matters."
"Lies!" she gasped. "Al Bhed are not permitted to even set foot in the temples, everyone knows that. They're heretics, damning us all to an endless life of Sin because of their forbidden machina."
Cloud scrunched himself down a little more with every word, trying to get out of sight despite Zack's hand holding him in place. She was actually shaking with outrage now, pointing at him as her voice rose, drawing the attention of everyone nearby. Fervently he wished that becoming invisible was one of the powers granted to a summoner.
Another hand steadied his other shoulder, bracing him. "Perhaps we should leave you to discuss this with your mother alone, Zack," Sephiroth said. His voice was so low it practically rumbled. "Family matters are best dealt with in private."
Cloud shot the man a grateful look. He wasn't sure if Sephiroth had read his desire to sink into the ground, or if the former summoner found the confrontation distasteful for personal reasons. At this point Cloud was just about willing to kiss anyone who would get him out of this mess.
Zack snorted. "Is that supposed to be some kind of test? I did learn my lesson in Besaid, thank you. You're not his guardian, I am. Cloud doesn't go anywhere without me."
Sephiroth gave him a little approving smile, but Cloud wished Zack would let it go just this once. He would rather be just about anywhere but in the middle of this.
"We raised you to be a good, Yevon-fearing boy," Zack's mother proclaimed. "You were always too strong-willed for your own good, but no son of mine will ever participate in such heresy!"
Zack smiled grimly at her. "Then I guess I'm no son of yours, am I? C'mon, Cloud, Seph. Let's go. We've still got a temple to take by storm."
With that Zack turned and marched away, leaving his mother sputtering in shocked disbelief behind him. Cloud hesitated, trying to find some way to make it better, but there was nothing he could do.
"Come," Sephiroth repeated Zack's command, and pushed at Cloud's shoulder. Cloud stumbled for the first few steps, then got his feet under him and hurried to catch up with Zack. Behind them he could already hear the neighbours closing in, surrounding Zack's mother and demanding to know what was going on.
"Zack..." Cloud trailed off, not knowing what to say. How did you apologize for being the cause of someone getting disowned?
"Don't." Zack smiled at Cloud over his shoulder. His voice was firm but his smile wasn't, wobbling just slightly at the edges. It was obvious that he was trying to hide how much he was hurt, and that just made Cloud feel even worse. "This isn't your fault. I'd forgotten how devout my parents are. Though I don't remember them being this intolerant. I ran away from home because they wanted me to be a priest, did I tell you that? I suppose that should have warned me."
"But if you weren't..." Cloud started, still trying to make amends.
Zack stopped and turned, putting his hand over Cloud's mouth. "Don't even think about suggesting I find someone else to guard. I told you: stupidly prejudiced Spirans are not going to drive me off. Not even if they're my own family." He looked at Sephiroth. "Little help here, Seph? He's in awe of you. Maybe you can get it through his head."
Cloud blushed, and Sephiroth chuckled. "Zack is correct. If you do not wish to have him as your guardian any longer, that is one thing. But in all the time I have known Zack, I have never yet seen him give up on something he was determined to do. No matter the obstacles."
"Geez, Seph. You're gonna embarrass me, here." Zack's cheeks were lightly flushed under his tan, and he scratched his head. "Aren't you the one who's always insisting I don't need anyone else swelling my ego?" He turned to Cloud, one eyebrow lifted. "You do still want me as a guardian, right? This isn't some subtle way of telling me you don't want me anymore?"
"No! Of course I still want you," Cloud exclaimed. It had never even occurred to him that Zack would think he was attempting to get rid of him.
"Then quit trying to convince me to leave," Zack said with a touch of amused exasperation. "Now c'mon, we're wasting daylight and there're a lot of fiends between here and the temple."