Raised by Wolves @morrigan
In Which Cloud Has a Bad Feeling

Raised by Wolves— Chapter VIII: In Which Cloud Has a Bad Feeling About This (Or A New Fighter Enters the Arena)

Disclaimer: I still own nothing but my meager story-line and any hapless OCs I throw into these pages.

Sephiroth was dreaming. He knew that. He'd had enough lucid dreams to recognize the feeling, although this particular dream wasn't making much sense. For one, he recognized the place, despite having never been there.

The Forgotten City.

He'd seen it frequently in his text books and in the photographs Professor Gast used to show him, excitedly talking about the Ancients and the mystery surrounding their existence.

While undoubtedly beautiful, Sephiroth always felt disturbed by the place. The instinctual gut feelings Hojo encouraged him to ignore were particularly strong any time he saw the Forgotten City, even when he wasn't seeing it in person.

A city of the dead...

Perhaps it was simply the effect of the dead, crystalized trees, ever luminescent despite the lack of life. Green eyes gazed incuriously, warily, at his surroundings.

"Dread," Sephiroth realized abruptly, "I feel dread here."

The fifteen year old clenched his fist, a vague sense of anger surging at the thought. He shouldn't be intimidated by the long dead city of a long dead people. He was a Soldier, the best in Shinra, as his father so often reminded him. In no way would he allow himself to fear something so insignificant.

He took a breath, calming himself and regaining control. Again, he looked around, his silver hair swaying with the movement. He wondered why his mind had placed him there.

"I suppose it's peaceful," he thought, lips tugging downward.

Another few moments crawled slowly by and Sephiroth decided he should wake up. If he was going to dream in this manner, he might as well be fully awake and go do some training in the simulator.

Sephiroth closed his eyes and willed himself to wake, as he usually did when he found himself lucid dreaming.

Nothing happened.

Sephiroth frowned and tried again. Still nothing.

"That will not work."

Sephiroth startled badly, automatically jerking around to face where the voice emanated from. Masamune appeared in his hand and the teen settled into a defensive stance, heart thudding though his face remained calm.

The deep voice chuckled, echoing slightly as a tall figure emerged from the trees. Shadows clung to the humanoid figure, like wisps of smoke and feathers. The deep black shifted and slowly solidified, rippling and iridescent as clothing and man took shape.

"What are you?" demanded Sephiroth, hands tensing on Masamune before the teen forced himself to relax.

The thing's face was still shadowed, but Sephiroth could tell it was smiling.

It wasn't a nice smile.

"I wonder..." the voice mused, a mockingly playful lilt evident in its voice as it stepped closer, "It seems the Planet is not through with me yet. Or perhaps, I'm just along for the ride," it continued, slowly but steadily pacing its way to the increasingly wary teen.

"That doesn't answer my question. Who are you, and why are you so sure I can't wake up as I normally do?" the silver-haired Soldier stated coolly, struggling to remain impassive even as the creature came closer.

He could feel the raw power rolling off the figure in waves, like incandescent heat shivering the air above hot pavement.

"I suppose I can answer one question," the voice intoned lazily, the steady pacing halting for the moment.

Sephiroth's eyes narrowed in irritation at the power play. As much as he wanted to retaliate, he knew he'd die if he attempted it (though he was unsure how his sleeping body would react. Perhaps it would remain comatose?). Unfortunately, Sephiroth did not hold the power in this instance.

"Vexing..." the teen silently seethed.

Powerless was not a situation Sephiroth was accustomed to, at least not when outside his father's lab. He was all too used to it there...

"So who are you? Or what are you?" Sephiroth asked again, subtly shifting his feet in order to re-center his balance.

"That is not the question I've chosen to answer."

Sephiroth almost growled. The thing was smirking, damnit! He could tell.

"To your earlier question, you won't wake because I haven't allowed it," the creature stated.

At Sephiroth's stunned silence, a chuckle resounded in the air around him and the figure once more began stalking forward. A shadow swelled behind it and swept outward.

Unable to stand it any further, Sephiroth reacted defensively. Masamune flicked out in a diagonal slash, aimed at what should have been the figure's throat.

Just as the blade touched the creature, Masamune vanished from Sephiroth's grasp. The Soldier stumbled at the sudden loss, overbalancing and nearly falling at the figure's feet.

Reeling at Masamune's disappearance, the teen leapt back and into the air, trying to put more distance between himself and the encroaching darkness that swirled over the ground and devoured the crystallized trees as though it were oil spreading through water.

The blackness rose from the ground like a living thing and rushed through the air, following Sephiroth's leap and grasping at his booted feet. Vivid green eyes widened in fear when the shadows connected, all thoughts of the missing Masamune now gone.

Sephiroth abruptly found himself thrown to the ground, into the waiting embrace of the creature's shadows. The darkness swelled and wrapped around the teen's limbs, immobilizing him as surely as Hojo's restraints often did. Green eyes glared coldly up at the figure, silent questions in the set of his mouth.

"As for who I am... Well, it's as you can see," the figure spoke, a sharp smile becoming clear as the last of the shadows shrouding its face vanished.

Sephiroth's eyes widened, terror and shock warring in his young face.

He couldn't breathe. The figure was close now, so close. And the shadows were slowly swallowing him, but he couldn't struggle, his control lost. His edges were blurring, bleeding out and being absorbed. It was the most painful thing the boy had ever felt, but also terribly, horrifyingly, muted, as though he was losing his senses one part, one inch, at a time.

"Don't worry," the figure murmured, "It will be over soon."

Sephiroth gave a shuddering gasp before falling limp, eyes drifting shut unwillingly. The shadows cradled the teen for a brief moment before slowly creeping over his chest, up his neck, and over his face.

And Sephiroth was gone.

Meanwhile, in Nibelheim...

Cloud looked up, a frown marring his face as he distractedly lowered the makeshift wooden sword he was using to practice with.

"What's wrong?" asked Zack, head lifting in curiosity from where he'd been dozing beneath a tree, lazily supervising Cloud's sword training.

"Do you ever get the sudden sense that something you're really going to hate is happening? And it's going to come back and bite you later?" the blond grimaced, repositioning his hands and feet in order to resume practicing.

"Not particularly. Can you be more specific?" asked the Soldier-turned-wolf, sitting up and ears at attention.

Zack had found Cloud's intuition to be eerily accurate in their time in the village, perhaps due to his rather forced connection with the Planet. Cloud couldn't hear Her like Aerith could, but, much like an empath, he was sensitive to the "emotions" of the Planet and the flow of the Lifestream.

The not-child paused for a moment, thinking, blue gaze distant.

"It feels like the Planet has arranged a... back-up plan? Or more like something unexpected happened, so it's compensating and will use it to Her advantage..." Cloud mused, frowning.

"That's more detail than I was expecting..." paused Zack, vaguely surprised. "My arriving here was a last ditch effort by Aerith and the other Cetra in the Lifestream," he continued, "Sending you back and reversing the flow of time took a colossal amount of energy, I doubt the Planet had enough power to do anything else."

"That was before the Planet rewound, the damage it sustained and the energy it would have expended hasn't happened in the current timeline," explained Cloud, reasoning it out as he spoke, "The current Planet has the energy to fiddle with things. Like tumbling me into mako," he continued grimly, moving his practice sword through the air in a slow, but complicated maneuver.

"What do you suppose could have gone wrong enough for the Planet to get involved, rather than sending her handy human WEAPON to go sort it out?" queried the puppy.

"The better question is how She was able to turn it into another advantage, and why I've got the sinking feeling it will be bad for me personally," Cloud replied, pausing to take a drink of water from the battered canteen Vincent had found and commandeered from the Shinra Mansion, "And don't think I'm not gonna get back at you for that human WEAPON comment," the blond groused, glaring at the wolf puppy (who wasn't looking so puppy-ish anymore).

Zack just laughed and stood, silently amazed at how he didn't feel nearly as cold in the Nibelheim climes anymore. Between his now sturdy paws and the mako, he could probably run for hours through the snow and ice without any ill effects.

"Guess we'll find out later. It's getting dark. Let's mosey!" Zack said, lifting his nose and scenting the air, "A storm's coming," he added, a frown in his voice as he began the walk back to their home.

"A storm is definitely coming, but I don't think it's just the weather," Cloud thought to himself, following after Zack's loping form.

AN: This chapter is much shorter than I'd prefer, but it seemed to wind into an end on its own. I tried to force it with the rest I have planned, but it just doesn't flow right no matter how I write it. So I guess this is it for now, lol.

Sorry if I sounded like a thesaurus, I was having way too much fun with my descriptive words while writing the imagery for Sephiroth's scene lol.

As a personal update, my family and I have moved! My two toddlers, my two cats, my husband, and I have officially left our 900 squarefoot rental place and have our own home! And my laptop didn't die or get lost in the move! At least, not for long lol... Both my husband's and my own laptop disappeared for a while and we couldn't find them *sweatdrop* We had a lot of help for the move, so certain things ended up in strange places lol...

And holy hell! Every one of you is so encouraging I want to cry ^_^ Thank you for your infinite patience and interest in this meandering story!

1. In Which Things Begin Again 1984 0 0 2. In Which Cloud Sees Ghosts 1323 0 0 3. In Which Old Memories Stir 7789 0 0 4. In Which The Past Reappears 5901 0 0 5. In Which Cloud's a Clutz (ButNotReally) 2826 0 0 6. In Which Vincent is a Mother-Hen 7268 0 0 7. In Which Cloud Has A Realization 4770 0 0 8. In Which Cloud Has a Bad Feeling 1488 0 0 9. In Which Cloud Has a Great Fall 8149 0 0