Fandom: FF7 AU (Mercverse)
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and all related prequels and sequels belong to Square-Enix.
Summary: Some old acquaintances drop in for a visit, looking for stolen... Pokemon!?
Cloud took a deep breath, let it out, then took another one before gritting his teeth and speaking in a voice that started out low, but rapidly grew louder until it reached a near-roar.
"Let me make sure that I've got this straight, Zidane. You're trying to tell me that someone in Midgar is currently in possession of over SEVEN HUNDRED magical orbs, each of which can be used by any -idiot- off the street to summon a uncontrolled POKEMON!?!?"
Zidane flung up his hands defensively. "Hey, it's NOT my fault! I'm not the one who went graverobbing in someone else's tomb!"
"I need a drink," Cloud snarled, turning on his heel and stalking off toward the parlor. He headed straight for the most potent stuff in the house and prepared to pour himself a glassful.
Clustered around the doorway, Zack and Sephiroth watched in shocked amazement as Cloud abruptly froze just as he was about to pour and frowned at the glass. Then, obviously thinking that the glass wasn't big enough, he put the glass down, then went straight to the bottle, knocking back its contents in a few impressive glugs.
"I told you that he wouldn't take it well," Kuja said in his cool, smooth voice.
"I know, I know, but it's not like I planned for this to happen, okay? If you think he's upset now, can you imagine how spazzed out Cloud would get if I -hadn't- told him?"
Somehow, Zack never would have associated the word 'spazzed out' with Cloud, who seemed to take so many things with a jaded, world-weary sort of calm, even nonchalance. But this time, to call him 'spazzed' was a pretty darn accurate way to put it.
Zack felt a slight tug on his pant leg. Glancing down, he saw the small yellow summoned creature -- a pokemon, Cloud called it? -- looking up at him, its brow furrowed in obvious concern. Unable to resist the worried look on the cute little beast's face, Zack bent down and picked it up. As soon as he did, he felt the hairs on his body tingle. It wasn't a painful sensation, but a bit unnerving, as if he was a mass of static electricity just waiting for an excuse to discharge.
"Hey, cool! I think he likes you!" Zidane said cheerfully. "Pikachu usually doesn't take to strangers."
Sephiroth, who was eyeing the yellow creature with a mage's academic interest, snorted and said, "Zack has a way with all sorts of creatures. Small children and animals follow him around at the slightest excuse."
"That thing with the ghost kitten wasn't my fault, okay?" Zack immediately protested.
"Yes, it was," Sephiroth retorted. "You just had to go and pick up its body."
"Well, I couldn't just leave that poor little scrap of bones and fur rotting in the gutter, could I?"
"Yes, you could, the same way that 99.9% of the people in this city would have. But you didn't. You had to pick up, then carefully bury its corpse. No surprise then that its ghost decided to haunt you and this house," said Sephiroth, sounding mildly exasperated. "And now you won't let me banish it!"
Zack hunched his shoulders defensively and muttered that Cloud didn't seem to mind the new addition to the household.
Practically on cue, a soft, eerie meow echoed in the entrance hall.
"Pika?" the Pokemon said, looking around curiously.
"I think the kitten wants to play," Zack told Pikachu with a cheerful grin.
"And how do you get that from a simple meow?" Sephiroth said acerbically.
Zack gave him a 'well, duh, ain't it obvious?' expression and put Pikachu back on the ground. The pokemon scampered up the stairs, following a playful feline trill.
"So you understand cat?" Zidane said, bouncing on his toes.
Zack looked a little surprised, then shrugged. "I never thought about it that way."
Zidane glanced at Sephiroth and said, "I see what you mean about him having a way with creatures." He reached into his jacket and pulled out another of the red and white balls. "Want to give it a shot?"
As Zack hesitated -- probably thinking about the huge monstrous creatures he had seen earlier -- Sephiroth said, "I would be interested in getting a look at another of these pokemon. From what you said, these summons are supposed to be very powerful, but that one called Pikachu doesn't exactly seem to fit that description."
Zidane shrugged and held out the ball to the mage, but before Sephiroth could take it, Cloud grabbed both Sephiroth and Zack by the arm and pulled them away. Shooting Zidane a baleful look, he dragged the two of them into the parlor and sat them firmly down on the sofa.
Looming over Zack and Sephiroth, his hands planted on his hips, Cloud sternly said, "No, you do -NOT- want to get interested in pokemon. They're like an addictive drug. Yes, you start out with only one, but the next thing you know, you've got to get them all. They ultimately caused their keepers' destruction because the mages became so totally obsessed with capturing, training, breeding, and fighting pokemon, they allowed the rest of their civilization to fall to pieces!"
Zack stared wide-eyed at Cloud. He could count the times that his adoptive father had outright lectured him on one hand. And Cloud had never, EVER done the cliche 'father knows best' rant.
Zidane sauntered up behind Cloud, peered around him at Zack and Sephiroth who were scrunched together on the sofa like a pair of schoolboys in the principal's office, and said, "I guess you better listen to him because he knows all about the dire effects of Pokemon." He winked slyly. "From first-hand experience, no less."
Cloud turned and glowered at Zidane. "I was young and incredibly stupid back then."
Kuja entered the parlor and said, "Don't be fooled by their cute appearance. They only look that harmless when they're properly handled. And Zidane here has a particular talent for befriending all sorts of entities." He made an odd, self-deprecating shrug that was quite at odds with his earlier aloof arrogance. "What Zack saw in the alleyway was their battle forms, which appears in serious combat or when they go feral."
"Feral?" Sephiroth asked curiously.
"When they revert back to their wild, untamed state, typically by escaping or rejecting the summoner's control. The term 'pokemon' actually refers to a 'mon' -- a wild monster or spirit beast -- which was captured and tamed by an ancient race of wizards who then used these pokemon as familiars, pets, and eventually combatants."
Zidane added, "You see, there are two main problems when pokemon fall into the wrong hands. First, they're powerful tools for ruthless and/or evil individuals. Second, without a proper handler, there's a good chance that they'll go feral and start a rampage. Oh, and one more thing -- under the right conditions, pokemon can breed."
"Breed! You mean that we could end up with more of them?" Zack said, jumping up from the sofa.
Zidane quickly waved him back down. "Hopefully we can round up all the pokemon before breeding becomes an issue."
There was a loud crash from upstairs, followed by a startled "PIKA PIKA!". That was immediately followed by a loud crackling sound, which sounded almost exactly like a bolt spell going off.
In the parlor, Cloud massaged his forehead and muttered, "Zidane, why is it that whenever you show up, my life becomes really, really crazy?"
"It's a gift," Kuja said with a long-suffering sigh. "Chaotic change with two legs and a tail."
Zidane opened his mouth to retort, then froze for a second before saying, "Uh, guys. I think I smell smoke."
Zack immediately dashed out of the parlor, followed by Sephiroth. Kuja also followed at a considerably more leisurely pace, probably out of curiosity.
Alone in the parlor, Cloud quietly said, "Thanks."
"For not telling them what happens when pokemon fall into the right hands?" Zidane replied, cocking his head slightly.
"Yes." Cloud closed his eyes briefly. Even after centuries, the loss of those he had raised, nurtured, and loved, both pokemon and mortals, still ached.
"They would all tell you that saving not just a city, but a whole country, was well worth the price they paid."
"I know that."
But sacrifices, no matter how willing, still hurt, especially for those left behind. Being immortals, being the ones always left behind, Zidane and Cloud both knew that inescapable fact all too well.
"So how's it working out with you and Kuja?"
"Great, even though he still sometimes acts like he's got a stick up his ass," Zidane said with a quick grin.
Pairing up with another immortal was always an iffy proposition. Interpersonal dynamics between mortals were tricky enough, but removing the natural constraints of time and death on a relationship had unexpected and sometimes nasty results.
Despite his vocal complaints, Cloud considered Zidane one of his most trusted friends. However, spending extended time with each other usually turned out to be a bloody disaster -- not so much for themselves, but rather for the hapless mortals around them. For unknown reasons, there was a dark synergy between them that always led to an ever-escalating reckless disregard for not only their own safety, but the safety of others.
Fortunately, the relationship between Zidane and Kuja, Zidane's long lost brother and once deadly nemesis, was working out much better. Kuja, with his cool, critical, analytical personality, seemed to provide a much needed balance to Zidane's passionate and impulsive nature
While Cloud was very glad for his old friend, he also couldn't suppress a twinge of envy. This pack, like so many others he had gathered around him, would eventually crumble with the relentless passage of time. It was inevitable, given both their chosen profession and their inescapable mortality. Even the twins, with their half-demon nature, wouldn't live forever.
But almost as he'd read Cloud's mind, Zidane murmured in an eerily dreamy voice, "Don't write them off just yet."
Cloud turned sharply to stare at the other immortal. Although Zidane's blue eyes didn't glow like his own, they were brighter than mere orbs of organic tissue had any right to be. And every so often, those brilliant eyes -saw- things.
No. He wouldn't hope. He wouldn't dream. There was no reason for this time, for this particular pack, to be special, different. No reason at all.
And yet, with Zidane standing there, smiling serenely as he gazed at/through Cloud and saw... what? Cloud couldn't help but wonder at the possibilities....
.... even as mundane reality reasserted itself with a crash.
But the loudest and most outraged voice of all was Sephiroth's.
"WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO MY WORKROOM!!!"