IV.

Should I...try?

Cerulean eyes examined a white limp forearm, bony fingers tracing a single weary muscle, a faint trace of red coloring the skin tightly wrapped around it. The youth blinked, the blues in his eyes shifting to a darker, nearly gray hue. He quickly turned away, staring blankly at the brown floor gold with sunlight. Gold was such a bright, happy hue, or perhaps even blinding. He failed to grasp onto any rays of that pure, heated gold, but at least he knew it existed, or at least he hoped that it did.

The boy's eyes wandered once more, and saw a blackened figure shifting beneath his feet. It was him, the sickly, feeble boy broken in fear that his parched lips wouldn't have the strength to taste the sun, no matter how close it seemed to be beaming across the horizon. The youth winced, clenching a pale fist and pounding it against the shadow. The black figure pushed its hand in the same fashion. The boy felt a heated anger seize his gut, and he lunged again...and again until the white in his hands was replaced by a flushing red hue.

The gold light of the room shifted, and at the moment it seemed that the black figure beneath his feet was swallowing him to a broken emptiness. Empty and alone. Perhaps it was his fate to be so. Or was there such a thing as destiny? A desperate lull within him hoped that perhaps life's thread spilt towards a bold joyous door, and if he clasped the metal knob, he'd be happy. There'd be gleaming smiles behind the door, and he'd be embraced in warmth. He'd be loved. Her dark, brown eyes would search for his, and he'd hold hands with her gently into a starry night.

He recalled his mother whispering that twilight was far more beautiful than starry nights and that she could see her eyes pounding with that vast sea of the sky, that she could feel a happy humility surging within her just by staring into the red and purple swirls in the horizon. The blond boy didn't like twilight at all, for it didn't belong anywhere. Day and night, good and evil, that's how the world turned, didn't it? It wasn't right for the sky to lay in bloody patches beneath bursts of gold and purple because there was only the weak and the strong...There was nothing carrying both, for otherwise, nothing would seem right because then there'd be no right and wrong. Wasn't that it?

The boy walked away towards a gray wall by his side, and a heavy sigh pushed from his lips. All he knew was that starry nights were always wondrous to behold; she was wondrous to behold gazing at white diamonds in the sky. Yes, he preferred starry nights; he preferred for the sky to be a black haze with winking white eyes to tell him that they'd always be there, and that the dark wasn't as cold as it seemed, because there was no cold. Because if she was happy, then there was nothing to cry about.

But that wouldn't show her that he cared, that he wished for her to watch him with eyes of admiration, with sweet eyes like the stars. The boy clutched his arm once more, imagining that perhaps they'd bulge in strength, enough strength to win her over, enough strength to touch the sun when it came. Yes, the brown-eyed girl would smile in that beautiful happy way, her mind reeling for him, for the muscles protruding from his rough skin, for the powerful man he would become. The shy, hopeless blond runt would die, and with that fear would bury itself forever. For if he were strong, there would be no weakness, no fear within him. His eyes would forever remain a calm pure blue, and at that glorious moment, Cloud Strife would be stronger than his brother.

The boy grinned slightly, his mouth parting in a dreamy expression as he boldly opened the wooden door to the morning sun. A scrap of paper lay laughing on the floor, shadows playing at its bent edges:

New recruits for SOLDIER wanted. Join and earn prestige and strength.....

A cool wind sang in the room, and in its final moan it whispered, "Courageous coward."

***

Cloud?...brother?

Emerald eyes basked in the gold morning light. It was for smiles; light was for the flickering white in her deep brown eyes as she emerged from the cottage in that pale blue dress, like a white rose blue with the mysterious glow of twilight.

The boy smiled slowly, recalling his day on the swings with her. She smiled more often now, perhaps because she realized that her mother was never truly dead and that perhaps that brown-eyed girl would like to be the happy proud woman of her mother. She would be strong, for her mother's sake, for her own sake. Sephiroth's grin widened in pride as she told him about her dreams, about her star gazing, about how she could feel the leaves of the oak trees brush against her skin on the swing at that moment.

But...

Her father had yelled for her to come inside and to attend to her piano lessons, to try to cook the way her mother did, to cry for her mother. He never left the house but continued to only finger a gold band circling his ring finger and to stare at dusted black and white photos stacked messily in boxes. Her father reasoned that it was not right for his daughter to smile, to laugh in delight, to have fun after she had died, after she had slipped from their grasp like a rope of dust. Tifa had nodded her head ever so slowly, a tiny, sad smile hugging her face, as she walked inside, her lips quickly mouthing, "I'll see you soon."

And now as Sephiroth embraced the light of the sun, he wondered why he let her father lead her into the dark once more, for the sun was hers, it was for everyone. But he'd see her again, and somehow he'd make sure she'd stay happy, because of roses--

Rooooosssseeess

What...what the hell are you-

Pretty poem.

The poem? I-I don't know what it means.

Hehehe pretty smelllinnnggg rooosseess

Shut up.

Roses the lost small boy cackled wildly, clinging to some invisible bond, a choking bond that Sephiroth knew would one day drown him if he wasn't careful.

"Push it away..."he breathed softly, a certain hot tingle scraping his throat.

Then you'll push Tifaawayyyy....fly, fly, flyyy

"What...?"

No, IT's calling soon. You can't let go.

Who?...Tifa

No...the voice softened.

Then, who dammit! Who?Sephiroth bit his lips furiously; his eyes widened in terror, anger, sadness.

IT calls. You'll come to IT and see...not pretty things. We're going bye-bye soon. Roses are pretty things, right??

"The invisible bond...?Is that what...but I can't feel it anymore. I haven't felt it in a long time. It's gone, isn't it?"

"I'll be stronger than the world, right?"

"H-hojo?" The boy's eyes grew dazed as he clutched to the metal knob of the cottage, as he felt the wind flow a haunting red. The image died a moment later, and Sephiroth sighed heavily, not taking notice to the sticky layers of sweat matting his forehead. The small, feeble child gnawed beneath his mind, but he poured the image of Cloud's happy smile, Tifa's joyous laughter, Anna's lullaby. The voice moaned to a dying echo, but loneliness would harbor it once more, or the faint fear of it at the very least. He'd have to be careful now, careful to hold onto this sunshine for as long as he could, whether they may be lies or truth, he would grasp them with a firm hand because it was all that mattered to him. Forever.

The door to the Strife's residence opened cautiously by the wind's soft rush, and the youth of silver hair entered with heavy drooping steps. A yellow blade of light weakly traced a white sheet of paper, wet with black ink on the floor. Sephiroth felt the red organ in his chest pulsate to his throat, and all he could see were those solid ebony letters playing with a dying trace of pale morning light.

SOLDIER?...Shin-Ra

"Shin-Ra,"Sephiroth felt his head weigh down and his eyes shifted, disillusioned. For a moment he felt that this boy staring sadly at those blackened letter was not him, but he, Sephiroth lay far away from this breaking soul. It was a comfortable emotion; lies always seemed to be more beautiful than truth, at least to him.

A second later the sensation withered away, and Sephiroth regretfully accepted its entry, his body shivering as he read the paper over and over again.

"Strong...?"

No. It can't be.

Cloud had whispered of being strong in his dreams; he dreamt of a physical sort of strength it seemed, a strength with bulging muscles, strength from a steel sword. That was all he knew strength to be. This tainted sheet of paper did belong to Cloud; he was the only one who dared anything so bold as to sacrifice his very soul for this...this blinded dream.

You're a fool, brother, but I won't let you go blindly into this. I can't.

"I have to talk to him," he mumbled quickly, rushing past the door as if it never had existed.

***

E...E flat....E...E flat...E...no, something's missing

"Futility, that's how this piece was meant to be played. "The brown-eyed girl clenched her fist loosely, lightly banging it upon the cedar upright piano. Her mother had told her of the man who had composed the song. He loved a woman by the name of Elise, but his lineage wasn't suitable to her, and so with an aching hopeless love in his ears he pressed the ivory keys, marking his desolate trail in notes. Her mother didn't play it often, but when she did her eyes gazed upon her hands as if they were detached from the rest of her body, as if they were composed of something sown deep within her that they needed to be set free somehow, and they did. It was beautiful to hear her play. There'd always be a wet shine in her eyes after her hands finished the melancholy trail, but the little brown-eyed girl didn't take notice to the rain soaking her own cheeks.

Tifa wondered why her father had bid her to play this specific song of hopeless love, for it only iced his skin, darkened his features. He would grow warm soon; he'd lift his sagging head to the clouds. Her mother would have wanted him to do that.

Tifa traced her fingers through the simple but elegant carvings of the piano. There was a blooming flower, bursting in fresh petals. A shadow cast it breath upon the image, but strangely it seemed more fulfilled in that light. She wondered why.

There was a light rapping at the door. Someone hushed her name, so quietly that it seemed that the visitor half hoped that she wasn't there at all. The girl cocked her head curiously, her soft brown hair cascading to her side. But her hands possessed a morose hint of gray, perhaps even shy bursts of a pale blue as she clasped the knob. She felt colder that day, colder in the confines of her home, a place which once rivaled even the fresh blossoming of spring flowers. Her father had did that unknowingly, or perhaps he did know there was a thick bloody line between reminiscing and drowning in that nostalgia. Still, she was just a girl, just a small girl without the vitality of her mother, without the art of speech, without the daring to try, wasn't she? Tifa paused for a moment but opened the door, softly providing a brief "hello" to the visitor, her eyes open perhaps with a trace of fear as she stared at the stone cobblestone road.

"Tifa?..."the voice asked hesitantly.

"Yea..?"The girl slowly raised her head, her eyes just short of meeting the visitor's wide blue eyes.

"Cloud?"she whispered, surprised.

"Yea. Um I was wondering if you could meet me at the well tonight... I need to tell you something important," Cloud rubbed the back of his neck nervously, a strange new boldness surging within him as he saw her smile. He loved seeing her smile. He'd see her happy like that more when he was strong, when he wasn't afraid of anything anymore.

But the boy failed to see the sad stones weighing her eyes. He didn't want to, and unlike dreams, a moment never is filled with sugar; there is always a hint of bitterness in everything sweet, because the smile of a human is never pure.

"Sure Cloud,"she grinned slightly and patted him on the shoulder. Cloud closed his eyes at her touch and opened them, finding that she had just shortly closed the door and started playing the piano again.

***

The light was beginning to fail, and gray shrouds began collecting in the sky. The boy of silver hair walked slowly and saw a tuft of gold not far away, and in a harsh desperate cry he called out, "Cloud!"

The boy turned around, a sort of dreamy expression dizzying his face as he replied, "...Sephiroth?"

Sephiroth walked briskly towards the blue-eyed boy, a deep-rooted fear aching his chest as he stepped forward. "I saw a piece of paper on the floor. It was about SOLDIER, a military service of Shin-Ra..."

Hojo...

"Oh, that's just something I'm going to join, brother," the younger boy replied, trying quiet hard to be casual.

"No...no you're not. You can't. You don't know what you're dealing with, Cloud." Sephiroth sighed, his throat feeling heavier with every thorn he spit, every cold, lonely memory of never reaching the full, silver radiance of the moon in that cold laboratory cell.

Cloud didn't say anything for sometime, but instead, he simply glared at his hands. They curled slowly, slowly into a red fist, the blue in his eyes hardening to a cold dying gem.

"Dammit Sephiroth, you could never understand. You have everything, so don't tell me what or what not to do, because you've lived with every dream I'd die to have," Cloud trembled violently, angry streams of water swallowing his eyes as he spoke.

"What..Cloud..no, that's not true. I'm a freak. You'd be a fool if you'd want to be me," Sephiroth nodded his head furiously, disbelief flickering in his eyes.

"You have strength....you have her, Sephiroth. You have Tifa," Cloud laughed, a hint of darkness weighing his voice.

"No...I didn't know, brother," the youth's green eyes widened in wonder, a fear he had seen, a fear he had seen so many times that he wished to cover it...so he could be happy. But that wasn't happiness, this black heat slashing within him didn't possess anything near a smile, a genuine laugh.

Guilt.

...awaaayy........

"You knew. I've lived fifteen years wishing...that. Don't you see. I have to, because I was never strong enough to try," Cloud spoke slowly, his blue eyes staring at the ground.

"No. You could die there. You'll die twice there. And I can't see you do that to yourself,"Sephiroth turned around, shaking his head violently, his face carving an empty plea.

"What is it to you?" the younger youth whispered coldly.

"Because you're my brother. And I care for you."

"Ha, nice touch of sap there, Sephiroth, but that's not gonna cut it," Cloud laughed slightly, an unnoticeable tear rolling against his cheek.

"I was born again the day Anna gave birth to you. You see, somehow I felt that I could start everything over again in you. Because I'd make sure that you'd never be lonely, like I was,"Sephiroth faced Cloud, his eyes hopelessly filled with sadness, desperation, an aching beyond a mere expression of the face, beyond anything he could show.

"You failed brother," Cloud cried in rage and surprise. He gulped hard once, and then walked coldly inside, softly replying ,"I'll never change my mind."

"T-then I'll j-join you," Sephiroth whispered along to the wind. A tiny boy within him cried to stop before he was too cold, but he swallowed the dry tear in bitterness, a soft,sad smile curving his lips.

***

The sky was gray, but a faint trace of twilight breathed beneath it all. Sephiroth liked twilight, though there were times where he failed to grasp the eccentric mixing of colliding hues in the sky. But it looked prettier to him, and although the night was merging to devour everything, the sun was still alive, although it's breath was frail and dying. The sun was strongest in that moment though its rays were withering away, and strangely that made him happy. It was fighting, and it would try to live.

He would have to live like the sun tomorrow. For when the dawn arose, this bitter warm town would die, and the patch of thorns growing silently within him would thrust painfully, like how a dream fades into a nightmare. But he wouldn't be lonely. He'd have his brother.

But Tifa...

He had written a note. For if he did speak to her, catch a whiff of her hair, he wouldn't be able to run away. Sephiroth scanned the wrinkled piece of paper quickly.

Tifa, I'm leaving tomorrow to recruit for SOLDIER with Cloud. I can't say anything now, because...I'm not good with words, but I've read something that...reminds me of you.

Deeper than the bloom of a rose

Crooning against a solemn shadow.

There is you.

Good bye, Tifa. I hope to return. -Sephiroth

The youth wrinkled the paper wildly; why couldn't he show her that he cared. How could he show her this warmth, this sadness? He didn't know, but this mere scribble had to do, for he had nothing else at the moment. He approached Tifa's home slowly, shoving the tangled piece of the white and black farewell through a crevice at the door's edge. He walked away.

***

The sky was gray with a morose cluster of clouds suffocating the chill night air. There were no stars to wink and say that hope was there, shining the earth in white lights. One had to possess the heart to know that the stars were still there. Blue eyes glared at the heavens in a sad shattering manner, as if a certain dream he had prepared in his mind was fading before him.

"It's not supposed to be like this. Not tonight. Where are the stars?..."

Cloud held the breaking stones of the well hard, his skin suddenly aching in the brisk cold. She wouldn't come. She had no reason to meet some quiet weak runt on a cloudy day. But he'd prove himself, somewhere to someone in this life or the next that Cloud Strife would be stronger than the rest of them. He'd show her--

Her touch was a gentle wisp of warmth against his shoulder.

"Cloud?"She spoke silently, her tired eyes glancing at well.

"Tifa, I'm not going to be here tomorrow," he replied firmly.

"W-what? This suddenly?" her eyes widened in surprise, perhaps with a faint trace of sadness. She was sorry for him to leave; she had treated him so coldly over the years, and perhaps a part of her wished to refill that void in some way.

"I've thought about it for sometime, really. I'm going to join SOLDIER,"he grinned slightly, hoping to see pride in Tifa's eyes.

"...Why?"

"Because...,"he turned his head away from her and paused.

"Well?"

"I want to be famous," he lied, nodding his head slowly.

"You'll be in the newspapers then?" she asked a bit child-like.

"I'll try," his grin widened immensely.

I'll try to be stronger than my brother...brother who never gets hurt...

"Then...promise me you'll come back and see me," Tifa spoke a bit hesitantly, a strange emotion possessing her at the moment, a strange cold heat.

"What?" Cloud shifted his head curiously. She wanted him to come back? She wanted to see him?

"Y-You're a good person Cloud...and I'm sorry I was mean when you tried to help w-when..."her voice trailed away.

Mother...

She couldn't talk about her now, not when the sky was so gray and thin. Not now, not in front of Cloud. She didn't want to cry.

Cloud said nothing, but instead nodded his head whispering, "I promise. I'll come back." His eyes shifted to a strange sort of happiness; it was a surprising sort of joy that one grasped in an unexpected time, for that was what made memorable moments. He walked away.

***

The sky was gray with a golden hint of dawn's arrival in the horizon. Most wouldn't take notice to the sun's yawn, and the brown-eyed girl was no different. Her eyes were already far away in wonder; why did she speak those words to Cloud? What had possessed her at that moment?

Tifa continued walking slowly towards the door, and her eyes momentarily absorbed a scrapped white sheet of paper on the ground. Her fingers curled around the note, and she could feel a dripping heat overwhelming her chest. She whispered the green-eyed youth's name slowly into wind, knowing full well that she wouldn't have the heart to face him one last time. A burning drop of water slipped carelessly onto a crease within the paper, and the words melted in a black pool. She walked inside.