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The mighty have fallen

Chapter Text

"The mighty have fallen"

"The mighty have fallen"

Part 1

Summary: When Sephiroth is discovered in stasis in a hidden lab constructed by Hojo, Cloud is forced to take on the role of his jailer or allow the government to execute him.

Author's Note: I thought it would be interesting to put Sephiroth in a "middle" role for a change, instead of being absolutely dominant or absolutely submissive.

Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy characters are the property of Squaresoft. I don't make any money from this and it is strictly for harmless entertainment. This is an exercise of imagination and entertainment, and should never be interpreted as anything more.

He thought he must be dreaming.

It couldn't be Sephiroth he saw on the television. It was some other man being filmed by the nightly news, lying there on a hospital bed. Cloud shook his head, feeling insanity biting at his mind. "No…fuck, no," he murmured. His hand clenched on the longneck bottle sitting in front of him as he stared up at the screen.

"Tifa, get out here!"

Hurried footsteps came from the kitchen area behind the bar. "What is it?" Tifa inquired as she came out. In one hand she held a glass, and in the other, a soapy sponge. Seventh Heaven was her pride and joy, rebuilt in Kalm town a year after the Meteor incident. Midgar was still being rebuilt, but the only person in the circle of friends who seemed to have any interest in returning to the ravaged city was Barret. He was away, helping with the reconstruction as usual. Neither Cloud nor Tifa could bring themselves to return to Midgar or their childhood home, Nibelheim. There were too many painful memories in both places. Kalm was the ideal town to live in and recover from the trauma of their ordeals.

Cloud pointed up at the television wordlessly, his ice-blue eyes stunned. Tifa looked up, saw the man on the television, and dropped the glass she was holding. It shattered as it hit the hardwood floor, but she paid it no mind. Her wet hand went to her mouth, and her eyes went wide and stunned. "Oh, Cloud…that isn't…it can't be!"

"Who else can it be?" Cloud said angrily.

"It could be a clone," Tifa argued in a trembling voice.

He considered this. Yes, it could be a clone. They had made the mistake of thinking they had killed Sephiroth more than once before, only to learn they were copies. Still, Cloud stared at the flickering picture and felt something that he couldn't describe. The man's fine-boned features were achingly beautiful…too perfect for a mere human to possess.

Clones could be made to resemble Sephiroth, sound like him and even move like him…but something about the man on the screen was different. Cloud felt a familiar but nearly forgotten rush that he hadn't truly felt in any of his battles with Sephiroth since the fateful day in Nibelheim. He didn't understand it, but his instincts were shouting at him that the man on the news was really Sephiroth.

Under the slim hope that he might be wrong, Cloud said, "Turn the volume up, Tifa. We've got to hear what's going on."

Her hand shook as she stretched on her tiptoes and reached up to comply.

They listened intently as the news broadcaster's voice came in through the speaker. "…an unidentified male approximately between the age of twenty-five and thirty. Shinra inc. denies trying to cover up possible dangers that the old Mako reactors might pose to surrounding communities."

The screen changed to show Reeve, who had helped found the World Restoration Organization and was still working with Rufus Shinra to repair domestic and environmental damages. Cameras were flashing, and microphones with various news station numbers were being pushed in his face. "Mr. Tuesti, what do you have to say about the rumors that Shinra has been trying to hide the discovery of the young man in professor Hojo's laboratory?"

Reeve's mildly handsome face was carefully neutral as he responded. "We only recently found the hidden laboratory. We had no idea that it was there until we began to clear out the late Professor's labs."

"Sir, is it true that the old Mako reactors pose a health risk to the surrounding communities? People are suggesting that John Doe's condition is proof of that."

"We've tested the inactive reactors for any pollution threats. The man who was found in the lab has been there for over five years. The records we found in Hojo's lab suggested that the young man was retrieved from somewhere in the Northern continent. We don't know what sort of research Professor Hojo was doing on this young man."

Another reporter said, "Mr. Tuesti, there are rumors that the man found in the lab is Sephiroth. Can you confirm this?"

Reeve went still for a moment. There were few people in the world that hadn't heard of Sephiroth, but very few knew of his involvement with the Meteor incident. Most people didn't even know what he looked like, in fact. His name was whispered with admiration when people spoke of the greatest Soldiers. Reeve spoke in a controlled tone. "We don't know for certain. We have reason to believe that this man is dangerous…or at least, he could be when and if he wakes from his catatonic state. I'm going to send for an expert to help assess the situation."

"What do you intend to do if this man is as dangerous as you're hinting at, sir?"

Reeve took a moment to answer, carefully considering his words first. "The science department believes they have a way to control the criminally insane. They've found favorable results upon testing it. If this person proves to be a threat, we'll try the device created by our scientists. We just need the right person to be the keeper." His brown eyes looked straight at the screen, almost seeming to stare at Cloud.

Reeve declared that the interview was over, and the reporters tried to follow him. The screen cut back to the main news, where they went on to the weather forecast.

There was a message there. Cloud looked at Tifa, who was staring at him with a confused frown. "What?"

"Cloud, he said that the man on the screen was in there for more than five years…weren't you listening?"

"Yeah…" he shook his head. "How is that possible?"

"Cloud, you said that you threw Sephiroth into the reactor, that day that Nibelheim burned. Hojo found you and Zack afterwards and kept you in his lab. If the person they showed in that hospital bed is the real Sephiroth, then that means that we never really fought him at all! Hojo must have found him when he found you and Zack, and he's been laying in a coma for all these years." She took a deep breath. "I think the only time you've ever fought the real Sephiroth was in Nibelheim, Cloud."

Cloud felt sick. "The day that the Weapons woke up, when we found Sephiroth frozen in the crater…Hojo was there, too. He said something about Sephiroth drifting in the Lifestream and ending up there." Cloud cast his mind back to that day, struggling to remember. He'd been under Sephiroth's influence at the time, compelled to bring the Black Materia to him. At least, he'd always told himself it was Sephiroth manipulating him. Now it seemed more logical that it had been Jenova all along, controlling him through her cells that had been injected into his body, just like the clones.

He had never gotten over having to kill Sephiroth, even as he had never forgiven him for all that he did. Some part of Cloud always had and always would be in love with the man that he had admired so much as a cadet. He'd never used the word "love" to describe his feelings to his friends before, always falling back on hero worship as an excuse. He couldn't understand it himself and he knew they wouldn't.

Tifa followed his line of thought. "Hojo could have taken Sephiroth with him when he left the crater. We know Jenova can make convincing copies of him. I think it adds up, Cloud."

Cloud pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and pushed the power switch. It was out of juice. No wonder Reeve hadn't contacted him about this. There WAS a silent message from him in that news broadcast. He wouldn't be surprised if Shinra representatives came into town at any moment.

"Shit…we've got to get to Junon."

-To be continued