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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)
[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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