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I spent a lot of time in a fugue after waking up. I would lose whole hours, sometimes even days, and it wasn't all because of the monsters I became. I grew used to saying something and seeing one of the others glancing sideways uncomfortably. They stopped telling me when I'd contradicted myself or forgotten something, and I stopped asking. There wasn't any point.

I eventually stopped worrying about it. There was too much to do. I had a hand that was both not mine and also metal to get used to, a handful of demons in my head that tended to come out at both the best and worst of times, memories that were who knew how many decades out of date, and a score to settle that burned in my brain like a reactor.

I also had, from what I was later able to piece together from Hojo's notes, possibly the world's worst case of mako poisoning (this was before Strife took his skinny dip in the Lifestream, of course). Being in suspended animation for years with a 0.03% solution of high-grade mako run through your IV was, believe it or not, bad for your mental health. And that was on top of the artificial limb and summon materia infusion experiments and a few others that were failures and left no outward signs. Apparently Hojo would pull me out every few years as his own personal guinea pig. It was a wonder that I was still alive.

I couldn't remember any of the experiments, at least while awake. I didn't sleep much, but when I did, I often dreamt of being drowned in green light, or of bright lights and pain. I would often nod off wherever we were resting for a few moments, not letting myself truly dream. Barrett and Red XIII often took first watch at night, and they alternated between silently offering me coffee and hitting me with the dreamless oblivion of Sleep when I wasn't looking.

The claw hand worked well except when it didn't, often leaving bloody furrows in its wake whether I willed it or not. Cid could only stand watching it fail me for a week before he dropped his tool bag at his feet and told me to bring the damn thing over. We spent an extra day in the Gold Saucer, my arm on the table in front of him and slowly becoming lighter as he dismantled the claw and smoked and cursed and filed and tweaked and had a beer and smoked some more and then carefully put everything back together again.

I'm convinced that Aeris did something similar with my demons, though without the cursing. I started having dreams of white light filled with wind and green growing things. Aeris would be the one to wake me from them, smiling, telling me that breakfast was ready, and from then on the demons would be a little easier to control. The rage banked. The bloodlust cooled.

Tifa was straightforward and unafraid, which was refreshing in its own way. She reminded me of several women I'd known in the Turks. She also had a rather shallow but wide knowledge of political gossip and history. She was mostly responsible for filling me in on the time I'd been sleeping. I could have guessed most of it, but hearing the specifics helped.

Strife...well, Strife and I recognized perhaps a little too much of ourselves in each other. I think that we used each other as cracked mirrors, alternating between "at least I'm not the only one" and "at least I'm not that bad". It was comforting in a mostly-twisted way.

I was healing. Sometimes, it seemed, against my will and my better judgment. But I was healing, around the metal hand and the demons in my head, both my own and the ones that Hojo had put there.

All of this, I was sure, had something to do with why I poured my last potion down the Turk's throat before following the others into the Temple of the Ancients, though I'm not sure that I could explain why.