Title: Take a Look at Me Now Author: Tarsier Fandom: Final Fantasy VII Genre: Introspection Timeframe: Shortly after Advent Children Characters: Cloud Strife; mentions of Aeris Gainsborough and Zack Fair Summary: Cloud reflects while cleaning-up the Buster Sword in the Sector 5 church. Notes: Written for the Tunes to Inspire! 1980s Roulette Challenge (which did not have a deadline, so technically this is not late! ). My song is "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. Cloud pulled open the heavy wooden doors and entered the Sector 5 church. Empty, broken down, with a huge hole in the ceiling, the church was a perfect representation of Sector 5. He walked slowly down the center aisle, a massive sword strapped to his back. Some of the pews still stood, the solid wood defying erosion by the elements. But many more were broken, rotted, falling apart. As he neared the front of the church, the pews were not just worn away but splintered, having met a sudden and violent demise. But then, at the center of the violence, where the pews were non-existent—as was the ceiling above—was the most perfect and beautiful spot in all of Midgar. The only place in the city where flowers still grew. Some said it was the radiation. The same thing that ruined the building and countless human lives somehow fed the precious blooms. Cloud knew better though. Radiation could not create such beauty. Only something equally beautiful could be responsible. A spirit pure and perfect, ancient and divine. Her name was Aeris. She returned to the Lifestream two years ago. Once Cloud had reached the edge of the flowers, he unstrapped the sword from his back. The sword was in bad shape, crusted with dirt and rust, not a hint of shine to be found. It did not belong in a place of such beauty in its current state. He sat down on the wooden planks that formed the floor near the flowers. He placed the sword across his lap, not sure where to even start. Why had he let such a precious object degrade in such a way? It had seemed important, at one time, that the weapon remain at the site of its previous owner’s last stand. But now it was clear to Cloud that the last remnant of Zack belonged here, in the place most beloved to Aeris. With a deep breath, he poured polish onto the blade and went to work. He hoped it wasn’t too late. He made a little progress, there was a spot about the size of his palm that actually looked like metal. It even caught a reflection. Cloud’s breath caught in his throat. The reflection—he’d only seen it for a second, but he could swear it was Zack. He shifted the blade to see it again. This time he saw only his own face staring back. Of course Zack wasn’t here. Cloud was alone. Or was he? Cloud had seen Zack, just a week ago. And Aeris too. It must have been their spirits, or whatever remained of them in the Lifestream. But he'd seen both of them, clear as day. More than once. He wished he could see them again, just once more. See them here, as he sat, calm and pensive. Not burning with fever and adrenaline. Not sick or bleeding. Not fighting for his life, halfway to joining the Lifestream himself. Once again, he looked down at his reflection. The sword needed a lot more polishing. It had taken days, and more polish than he could really afford, but finally the buster sword was restored to its former glory. It shone in the light streaming through the hole in the ceiling as Cloud carried it reverently to the front of the church, where the altar should have been. He hefted the blade into the air, aware that it was likely the last time he would do so, and dropped it, the sharp tip sinking into the ground. He knelt before the blade. At this angle, the massive blade captured his entire reflection and threw it back at him. Cloud closed his eyes. What do you think, Zack? Take a look at me now. I’m your living legacy. Have I done you justice? Have I made you proud? With a deep sigh, Cloud turned away, his eyes fluttering open as he did so. For a moment, he glimpsed a reflection caught in the blade. A reflection with a smile.