wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
 Ao3 || FFN

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CH3: A Second Chance
Summary: Call him sentimental, but Genesis thought it was time three boys had a happy ending.

Genesis was at a point in his life that he would admit there were some things he wasn’t an expert in. Magic, however, was something he would still go toe-to-toe with anyone who dared to use it against him.

So when Sephiroth’s remaining remnants came up onto the ruins loaded with active materia, he rounded on the pair with his wing spread and his sword glowing ready once more. “Little brothers, you do not want to start this fight.”

Loz squinted at him, panting under the strain of injury and the constant rain. “You’re not… our brother…”

“I’m more your brother than the boy you’ve been harassing.” Genesis’ wing flicked back towards one very baffled Cloud Strife, a quick glance showing he was glaring at him. It wasn’t his current concern, however, so he looked back to the two silver haired boys. “I grew up with Sephiroth, friend, foe and more. So believe me, I’m the closest thing walking this planet to kin these days that you’ll get to talk to.”

“Who are you?” Cloud was apparently not content to be ignored, boots heavy on the wreckage behind him. “And who was that other man? What did he do with Sephiroth?”

“My name is Genesis Rhapsodos, former SOLDIER First Class, the first of three children from the Jenova Project. The man with the white wings was Angeal Hewley, my best friend and mentor to Zack Fair.” Genesis turned to keep an eye on the blond, not missing the way his eyes narrowed at Zack’s name. “The three of us were friends, as best how we knew to be.”

“He wasn’t happy to see you.”

“He doesn’t know more than his own name anymore, Strife, let alone who I am beyond an interference.” Genesis shrugged, waving his sword towards Sephiroth’s remnants. “Let those spells go, boys, you don’t want to play this game. You will lose, and you won’t like the outcome.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Yazoo said. “We’ll all be together again.”

“You can be together again without having to die.” Angeal returned, Kadaj’s body laying limp in his arms. “Here.”

Kadaj!” The glow of their materia faded, attacks abandoned as they hurried forward.

“He’ll need to rest a while, but he should be okay.” Angeal coaxed them to kneel, giving over the unconscious remnant before rejoining Genesis. “I’ll take care of Sephiroth. You be careful, alright?”

“Oh I think I’m going to be quite busy minding those three.” Genesis rolled his eyes. “Consider it my penance, I suppose. The Planet may not like it, but they probably should have thought about that before repurposing me. Sentient weapons never do exactly what you want.”

Angeal laughed quietly, resting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “If anyone can manage them, it’s you. I have to go, but if you need me, just call.”

Genesis nodded, smiling fondly and watching as Angeal turned, going back to Cloud and handing over the restored Buster Sword. Whatever he said was quiet enough that it stayed between them, but Genesis didn’t miss the way Cloud’s shoulders relaxed, a tentative smile on his face. It blossomed into genuine warmth as the shimmering figure of Zack Fair returned to give him a hug, clapping him on the shoulder before he vanished with Angeal.

After a moment of silence, Cloud looked up and met his eyes, staring a long moment before coming over. He stopped when Yazoo and Loz shifted protectively over Kadaj, but was still less surprised than they were when Genesis opened his wing in a protective gesture. “You’re gonna take care of them, huh?”

“I plan to.” Genesis shrugged. “If they’re a problem, they’ll be my problem. But they deserve a chance.”

Cloud nodded slowly. “People saw them, you won’t be able to stay here. They’d be hunted down. If Rufus and the Turks find out, they still will.”

“We’ll manage.”

Cloud nodded again, sheathing his sword. “Alright. I’m holding you to it.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Genesis assured him. “Quite the protector you’ve become, even if you didn’t choose the path. Perhaps the blade suits you more than I’d thought.”

Cloud glanced at the Buster Sword, frowning slightly. “You knew all of them, before? Zack and Sephiroth?”

“I did.” Genesis considered his expression. “Perhaps one day I’ll tell you stories.”

Cloud smiled faintly. “I’d like that. Later.”

“Later,” he agreed. For now, there were three boys who needed him, a mirror of three young men who had desperately needed guidance years ago. This time, Genesis would make sure everything turned out alright.

wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
A03 || FFN

CH2: Déjà Vu
Summary: At long last, things come full circle and the cycle of pain is over.

It had been the better part of a decade since the three of them had battled like this. It was in Midgar back then, too, though they’d chosen Junon as their virtual playground. Even now, Genesis wasn’t certain if that was really where things started to fall apart, or if it was just the first unhealing wound between them.

Pain blazed through him and he was forced to refocus, smiling wryly as he regarded the neat tear in his coat, feeling blood dampen the fabric beneath. Their fights had always been intense, but Sephiroth wasn’t checking his blows this time. The fondness he’d once taken for granted was replaced by an unsettling hollowness, everything about Sephiroth seeming washed out; the man he’d been seemed long gone. “I suppose you really have forgotten, haven’t you? Never let it be said I shied from the chance to beat some sense into you, old friend.”

Sephiroth sneered, but the real emotion wasn’t there. “I am a god. Stand against me and I will destroy you.”

Even if the morrow is barren of promises, nothing will forestall my return.” The words still came easily, but were bitter on Genesis’ lips. “You left me to rot once, my friend, yet here we are once again. The world may have forgotten who we once were, but I remember.

Sephiroth didn’t deign to reply, bringing his blade down hard, sparks flying as Masamune and Rapier met at full force - Genesis would give him no quarter, he never had. “You are a fool. It’s useless to resist, I will win.”

“Overconfidence will destroy you first,” Angeal said, spinning into Genesis’ place, the two falling into sync as if nothing had changed. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Sephiroth.”

There is no other way, you are only ensuring your death!”

There. There was real emotion at last, frustration flicking in those washed out eyes, and Angeal smiled wryly. “I’m already dead, Sephiroth. Just like you.”

“You’re nothing like me,” he hissed furiously.

“We’re the only ones like you,” Genesis retorted, black wing stretching to full glory, mirroring Sephiroth’s own. “Therein lies your only immortality, Sephiroth, that you will never be truly forgotten.”

“I will never be a memory.” Sephiroth’s eyes narrowed and he flicked his blade to the side in challenge. “No more distractions. I will not be delayed any further!”

“So be it.” Genesis ran a hand along the length of his blade, new runes lighting along it. “My soul, corrupted by vengeance, hath endured torment to find the end of the journey.”

Sephiroth lunged, blade set to kill.

Enough!” Angeal met him blow for blow, wings straining to keep himself aloft under the force of it. “That’s enough, Sephiroth.”

Get out of my way,” Sephiroth snarled, too far gone to understand the bitter irony of his words. With a flurry of blows, he wrenched free of Angeal, wing beating hard to send him towards Genesis. “I’ll show you torment!”

In my own salvation,” Genesis continued, two great flaps of his wing bringing him up to meet Sephiroth, spinning in the air to gain momentum. He gasped softly when Sephiroth’s blade cut deep in his shoulder, managing a faint, bitter smile as he finished the verse. “And your eternal slumber.”

It was almost anticlimactic, somehow, to watch Sephiroth clutch at his chest where Rapier had impaled, shock written openly across his face. “But I…”

“Goodnight, my friend,” Genesis whispered, pulling his blade back and watching as Angeal caught Sephiroth, easing him back to the ground.

Angeal brushed Sephiroth’s bangs out of his face, smile soft and sad at the hurt and confusion that passed through washed out green eyes before they finally closed. “I’ll make sure he’s alright this time.”

Genesis huffed a laugh, nodding. “Take care, then. And if you ever put him back together, you keep that bastard in place. I’ll join you when the Planet is done with me.”

Angeal laughed, shaking his head. “Alright. Be careful, Genesis.”

“Mm.” He inclined his head slightly, watching Angeal curl his great white wings around them. In a moment, they were gone, a swirl of white and black feathers whirling away as a gentle rain began to fall.

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wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
This fic was based off of this headcanon, regarding why Zack was only seen at the end of Advent Children. Also on Ao3 & FFN.

Ch1: The Three Friends Reunited Once Again
Summary: It was never supposed to be Cloud's fight

Zack wasn’t sure where on the human-to-monster scale he fit these days - did it count when you were dead? he was pretty sure it shouldn’t count - but he was positive he wasn’t an Ancient. The only reason he was still able to keep a presence in the Lifestream was because Aerith was. Then again, she’d said more than once that his willpower was pretty impressive too. Apparently that was what let him leave her side at all.

Which was exactly what he was doing while she was helping Cloud deal with Geostigma and the three boys Sephiroth had crafted in his image. Cloud was his friend, but he had more than Zack. Right now, someone else needed him.

“Sephiroth!”

The former SOLDIER didn’t acknowledge him, a much more solid presence in the Lifestream just by sheer power, washed out gray-green eyes watching the living with obsessive attention. Cloud was easy to see, and Zack winced at the flashes of the silver haired boys that Sephiroth had thrown out into the world.

Zack stopped close by, on almost stable footing in the bubble of power the older man held around him. “Sephiroth, listen to me. You can’t keep doing this. Let it go, man, we’re dead.”

You’re dead,” Sephiroth corrected absently. “Fragile human that you are.”

“Oh god, can you not do this now?” Zack grit his teeth, trying to find any sign of the man he’d once called friend. “Sephiroth, you have to stop this.”

“It will end soon enough.” A small smile curved his lips, watching the littlest one baiting Cloud. “Good puppets, aren’t they? A pity your friend didn’t want to play along… no matter.”

“Don’t do this.” Zack wasn’t afraid to beg, he was afraid it wasn’t working. “Let it go. Please, just let it go, Sephiroth. Our time’s up, there’s nothing out there for us now.”

“I don’t expect you to understand.” Sephiroth’s tone was suddenly softer, more familiar, and he turned his head to offer that same little smile. “You never really understood, but that’s alright. You’re only human, after all.”

“So are you,” Zack insisted.

Sephiroth chuckled softly, looking back at Kadaj and Cloud’s battle. “I am beyond humanity. And my time is only beginning.”

Sephiroth -” Too late, Zack saw Kadaj falling, curling in on himself and taking in the remaining concentration of Jenova cells. He spent a breathless moment cursing ShinRa as Sephiroth vanished from his side, taking over the body of his little remnant. The smile he gave Cloud as their swords clashed was chilling.

“Zack?” Aerith came to his side, bringing the illusion of flowers in her wake and filling the cold space Sephiroth had left behind. She touched his arm lightly, green eyes full of concern. “It’s up to Cloud now.”

“It should never have been his fight.” Zack crossed his arms, tracking the fight with his eyes and feeling a terrible certainty settle like ice in his gut. “He’s not going to make it.”

“His Geostigma is gone, and he has the strength,” Aerith said. “Cloud has what it takes, and his friends are there just in case.”

“Sephiroth was fighting in a war when Cloud was still a kid, Aerith, the man could have beat him on muscle memory, that’s not even talking about sheer power.” Zack ran a hand back through his hair. “He’s toying with him, and Cloud doesn’t have enough faith in himself to take advantage of it and end the fight.”

Aerith sighed quietly. “What are you going to do about it?”

That was the question, wasn’t it?

“Tell me what you cherish most.”

Zack arched a brow slowly, a grim smile on his lips. “I have an idea.”

“Be careful!” Aerith watched him go, clasping her hands loosely. Be safe, Zack. I don’t want to lose you again.


Zack hefted the Buster Sword, grimacing at the rust and wear on the blade. It would do its job, though; the Buster was far too well made to be ruined so easily. And maybe it was a little fitting, bringing it with him in that state to have Cloud’s back. It was taking a lot of energy to pull it off, but if he could just end this, if he could just make sure it never happened again, that this nightmare that had been going on since he was a teenager would finally end… maybe things would finally be alright. 

He could see the look on Cloud’s face coming in, all the pain and loss and that same self doubt that had haunted him for as long as Zack had known him. It wasn’t an expression he could look at long, standing at Cloud’s back to get his composure together. “Hey. You need a hand?”

The blond shook his head, using his sword as a crutch to get upright. “Zack…”

God, that voice. He sounded so lost, like Zack was somebody who could make a difference. Who had made a difference, instead of a load of very painful and costly mistakes. Blinking back tears, he tried to keep up a positive tone; if that lie helped Cloud, right now wasn’t the time to argue it. “You already beat him once, right? Should be a cinch. Just… remember what I told you.”

That is ironic.”

Zack froze, breath catching at a voice he honestly hadn’t expected to ever hear again. “Angeal?

His mentor shimmered into view a few paces away, eyeing the Buster Sword ruefully. “I think it’s time I take that burden back.”

“But…” Zack could hear Cloud murmur his name in confusion, but he could only stare as Angeal held a hand out, the Buster appearing there like it had been called. “Angeal, wait!”

“This shouldn’t have been your fight.” Angeal offered a small, sad smile. “I’m sorry. This time, we’ll set things right.”

“… we?

The Lifestream construct broke around them, Zack left behind in limbo as Angeal took a fighting stance in front of Cloud. “That’s enough, Sephiroth.”

For a moment, Sephiroth stared blankly at him, eyes trailing along the two white wings as Angeal took to the air. “I knew you, once.”

Angeal nodded slowly. “There’s a lot you’ve forgotten, my friend.”

“I have no friends, nor do I need them.” His expression closed off once more as he flicked his blade in challenge. “Stand aside, or your fate will go with the rest of the traitors.”

“I can’t do that.” Angeal readied himself, broad shoulders set. “This has to end, Sephiroth.”

“And so I shall end it.” Sephiroth launched himself down, gravity lending him speed and force behind his blow, driving Angeal back. “Is this the best you can do? You should have let Cloud try before he bled out. At least he stood a chance. You are nothing-

A streak of fire roared across the building, cutting off Sephiroth’s advance. “I don’t remember you being this chatty.”

Boots clicked quietly along the ruined metal, a long crimson blade deflecting a streak of blue energy thrown by the force of Sephiroth’s blade as the redhead joined Angeal’s side. “And so the three friends are reunited once again.”

Sephiroth looked between the pair a moment, frowning. “… you should not be here…”

“He doesn’t remember,” Angeal explained.

“Well.” Genesis chuckled softly, a gloved hand running down his blade until its runes gleamed. “I guess I’ll have to beat it into his head, then.”

Next
wordmage: FF7 comet logo with FFVII written in black in the corner on a white background. (FF7)
[Original post on Tumblr]

First, some screen caps from ACC to set the canonical scene.

Picture of Cloud in ACC with Zack behind him.
Pay attention to two main things in this series - Zack's eyes and the Buster Sword.

Close up of Zack's face, tears in his eyes.
Zack keeps a really light tone when he's talking to Cloud, but there are tears in his eyes during the entire conversation.

Take note that the Buster Sword is shown in the same rusted condition that Cloud left it in.
Notice that the Buster Sword is in the same rusted condition that Cloud had it in on the cliff, not how Zack left it.

Now, on to discuss ACC, namely the way people kinda ignore the whole “dead stay dead” idea. Sephiroth is the most obvious example, but Aerith and Zack are clearly more than figments of Cloud’s imagination - they both actively take part in events.

With the healing rain/holy water, it’s pretty obvious how Aerith takes a physical effect on things. She also takes Cloud’s hand during the fight with Bahamut Zero, joining in with everyone else in giving a literal and figurative boost to his strength. Notably, though, Zack isn’t there. Zack doesn’t show up at all, in fact, until Cloud has taken quite a beating from Sephiroth.
So seriously, where was Zack?

It’s at this point that we need to remember that, while Zack was never as close to Sephiroth as Angeal and Genesis once were, they were friends. And Zack Fair does not give up on people, you have to literally take the decision out of his hands. Looking at you Angeal.

Obviously, Sephiroth has been around as a spirit entity - which is also the position Zack and Aerith have been in. Sephiroth, who is just a shadow of himself made of malice and anger, twisted from the man Zack once knew. But that doesn’t mean Zack wants to write him off.

I absolutely believe that in ACC, Zack spent his time trying to talk Sephiroth down. That may even be what compromised Kadaj’s ability to sense that Rufus had Jenova’s remains in a box under a blanket all that time. Cloud, he knew, had plenty of support. But Sephiroth? Sephiroth was the Nightmare, son of the Calamity, Jenova’s favorite son, and he had no one but Zack left.

Sephiroth toys with Cloud. Is it malice or distraction? Likely both. Sephiroth has years of experience over Cloud - many of which were on the warfront, but also fighting the likes of Genesis and Angeal - in addition to formal training in combat and strategy. There is no reason Cloud should win if Sephiroth had his mind together. Blame Jenova, blame his breakdown, blame the fact that he has no frame of reference of how to handle all that emotion - here, even, blame Zack.

For most of the fight, Zack isn’t there. Then, when Sephiroth is going for the kill, Zack pulls Cloud into the realm of “other” that Aerith had done before. And with tears in his eyes where Cloud can’t see them, he asks if he needs help to take him down.

If you’ve forgotten, go take a look at the screencaps above to see the sword Zack has.

Yes, it’s the Buster Sword. But this isn’t something he conjured from his mind, in the condition he last held it. This isn’t even something one would picture Cloud imagining - not that he’s facing Zack to see him, anyway. This is the same sword that Cloud left on the cliff. The same sword that is mysteriously polished and placed in Aerith’s church at the end of the movie.

Zack, as much as the thought pained him, was ready to fight Sephiroth one more time. He was ready to step out of his place in the Lifestream, having gone to get the blade his mentor had given him, that he had given Cloud, and take up the fight.

Like the last fight of his life, there are tears in his eyes because for all his efforts, Zack wasn’t able to save Sephiroth. Cloud may never know the kindness he did his friend to spare him the pain of having to help put him down again, but at the end of the pep talk Zack gives him, there’s a smile on his face.

Relief.

This doesn’t have to be his fight, and Cloud is strong enough to make it on his own. Zack has lost one more friend for good, it’s a bittersweet victory. But he does meet him one last time in the church. He doesn’t say anything, his wave is slow, a little uncoordinated - I imagine it was one hell of an effort to get the strength to be ready to do what he did, Zack doesn’t have the heritage to give him any advantage there, it’s pure will driving him then. But that’s not really a new thing for Zack.

... so yeah, THAT is what I headcanon as happening regarding Zack during ACC.

 

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