Author: creepy_crawly/Bastard Uchiha/Dorku no Renkinjutsushi/whatever I'm currently known as
Rating: urm...I'd say PG-PG13, merely for angstiness
Length: 1985 words. Fear me.
Pairings: None, really, though lots of hinted at Sephi/Cloud *is fangirl*
Genre: angst, reflective
Warnings: ANGSTY LIKE EMO. Also, very introspective.
Summary: There's a fine line between pride and death...and Cloud has crossed it.
This was written for the challenge, more details inside. Enjoy!
*this was written for the challenge over at acfiction, about the sven deadly sins. I'n being weird (because I can be, so there!) and using Pride. Um, as a heads up, the required line ("*character name* had never been one to drink early, but this morning s/he had to make an exception.") is used as "She’s not one to drink early, but this morning, she thinks she’ll make an exception.". Thanks and enjoy!*
There’s a fine line in this world. Most people can never see this line. Most will never know it even exists. But there exist people who know that it is there. There exist people who can see it. People who have learned the hard way not to cross the line, or who have come so close to actually doing so, that they have learned well—very well—not to even approach it.
They have learned, above all, not to step on the line between heaven and hell.
Because when you do, when you cross the fine line, when your foot first approaches the edge, your entire world changes. Like when you used to jump from the edge of the pavement onto that little thing that told you where to stop the car in carparks. On the one side, on the side where you are, there is a shore of concrete. It stretches out behind you, to your left, and to your right. On the other, a short way away, there is a thin strip of concrete, about a metre long and maybe a few centimetres wide. And between them, there is nothing.
And when you jump, there is nothing. For a few seconds of your life, there is nothing but you, and the air, and you in the air. There is absolutely nothing else. There is no heaven, there is no hell. There is no sky above your head. There is no ground beneath your feet. You’re are like the clouds in the sky, trusting to absolutely nothing to keep you in this place of nothingness, but believing that you will be there all the same.
And then you land. Your feet hit solid concrete once more. Only, now you’re not standing on a shore of concrete, but an island of it. And all around you stretches the sea of the carpark, looking huge and looming to your childish smallness. But you feel safe.
Well, safer than you did in the air.
Sure, you’re wobbling. Sure, you almost fell. Sure, your entire world is now a small island of concrete. But your feet are on solid ground, and even if that connection is tenuous at best, it’s there, and you can feel, and there is something there.
Sure, you felt like you flew. Sure, it’s kinda fun to feel like you’re the only thing that exists in the world. But still, it’s comforting to know that that’s not true, that there really is something else in the world, and that it is there.
It’s like the difference between black and white. Not black and white like evil and good, but black and white like there and not-there. If black is there, if black is having everything—your life, your love, your reason to exists—then white is not-there, is having nothing—not life, not love, and not a reason to exist.
And that line, that fine line that only a few can see?
It’s grey. It’s being there and not-there at once. It’s having everything and having absolutely nothing at all. It’s being happy and glad and smiling and being sad and upset and crying, all in one second.
It’s hell, plain and simple.
There’s only one way to approach the line, only one way to experience it. It’s the most forgotten and the worst of the seven deadly sins.
And deadly it truly is.
There’s only one way that you’ll ever see the line. Only one single way, but it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. So easy, in fact, that most people never realise what they’re doing until it’s too late.
Soldiers have stories about not crossing the line. Not ones they tell their grandchildren, but ones they tell each other, in the dark of the night, when it seems that they won’t survive to see tomorrow, when it seems that all their hopes are pinned on a single person. There’s nothing like the promise of no future to get people to talk. And talk they do. They tell their stories to one another, as if sharing their memories and lives with the equally-condemned will somehow save them. It never has, and probably never will, but this will never stop them.
They’re looking for comfort, looking for the promise that they’ve done something in this world of theirs. Something has to tell them that they’ve existed, right? Something will always remain of them, right? Someone will remember them, right?
Somehow, they never realise that this fear is what saves them.
The secret to never approaching the line is pride. Or, rather, the lack thereof. If you’re not proud, if you’re eternally a little worried, you will survive. Old soldier wisdom says this, and old soldiers are almost always right. Something about having seen their fate staring them in the face gives them a brand of wisdom that can’t be refuted. They hate it almost as much as they hate themselves, but no one can deny that they learned a lot from war. Much as they want to—and they do, with all their torn and battered and bloody souls—they can’t.
But sometimes, young soldiers, fresh and cocky, ignore the wisdom of age. And for this, they suffer greatly. The old soldiers wish they could do something, do anything, to ease the pain, never realising that they’ve already done everything they can do. And someday, these young soldiers will be the old soldiers, warning the young ones against pride, and being ignored as thoroughly as they have ignored those who told them.
Cloud was one of those young soldiers.
He never entirely listened to those who warned him about pride. Already, he was too proud of himself, of his talents, of who he worked for and with.
And so, Cloud approached the line.
Approached it, and stepped on it.
Stepped on it, and stepped over it.
The line is jealous and possessing. Once it has you, it will never let you go. From the first time your feet and heart and soul pass over it, from the first time they hover in the grey for a second before falling into white, you will see it again and again and again. You will see it in the dark of night, played against the canvas of your eyelids as you try to sleep. You will see it in the depth of sleep, played again and again while you are hopeless to respond. You will see it in the sunlight, in the memories of the one you loved and lived for.
And then the line will draw you back again. And you will cross over it again, but this time, it will be a hundred times worse. This time, you will know about the darkness you are leaving, you will anticipate the hovering grey, anticipate the falling whiteness.
And the anticipation makes it that much worse.
Cloud saw the line more times than he cared to remember. Of course, when it comes to the line, your opinion and preferences don’t matter. So he was stuck remembering each and every time he had seen the line, had crossed it, had hovered and fallen.
And the remembering makes it that much worse.
The first time he saw it, he was barely old enough to understand his sin. Unlike most soldiers, Cloud wasn’t christened into the sin of pride by death of body, but by death of soul. And so he watched as the General died slowly, until only Sephiroth was left in his place.
The first death. The first crossing.
The second time he saw it, he still remembered the first. It didn’t really help that it was the First who brought about the Second. It didn’t really help that the others all had their own crossings to struggle with. It didn’t really help that it seemed he hadn’t truly learned his first lesson. And so he watched, from the outside this time, as his own arms lowered Aeris into the water, until nothing was left of her.
The second death. The second crossing.
The third time he saw, it was infinitely worse than the worst of all of his mind’s torturous concoctions, played in the depths of his dreams, at night, when darkness falls around him and reminds him of the darkness he’s left behind. His Third, brought about by the First, brought about by him. This time, it seemed heaven truly wanted to punish him for his sins.
This time, it was he who pushed him toward the line.
This time, it was he who put him on that path.
This time, it was he with who blame lay.
The third death. The third crossing.
He fell forward into the grey, into the there-and-not-there, into the being-and-not-being, hovering for a few seconds. In the agony of replaying the Third, everything else disappeared. He hovered and he remembered and he shivered.
Normally, heaven doesn’t make you the weapon of your own destruction.
He fell forward into the white, into the emptiness, into the nothing, falling and falling and falling. Suddenly, everything was gone. No life. No love. No reason to exist.
Heaven had made him the weapon of his own destruction.
And it was that, that, that was ultimately worse.
In a war-torn world, there is a thin line between pride and death.
As the old soldiers’ adage comes rushing back to mind and memory, Cloud screws up his face in an effort not to cry. He doesn’t succeed, and his face crumples as the full brunt of the emotions hit him. Tears began to fall, like the Lifestream to which he’s surrendered so many people, so many friends, his mother, his lover. They flow over his hands, over his arms, reminding him awfully of the blood that has poured over those same appendages and limbs.
The line is jealous and possessing.
Cloud cries, giving up on the struggle to restrain any sign of emotion. Thick, heavy sobs tear themselves from his throat, wrenching over tired vocal cords and a sore throat on their escape. Tears run from his eyes, blurring everything around him. Air leaves and re-enters his lungs in heaving gulps, the force of which causes his shoulders to shake and waver.
The line is jealous and possessing.
From the doorway, Tifa watches, a hand to her mouth as she presses back sobs. She’s not one to drink early, but this morning, she thinks she’ll make an exception. Anything to burn Him, and His face, and His agony and His pain and His memories from her mind. He’s so young, so innocent still. He shouldn’t be crying like this, alone in an empty, cold bar at four in the morning. He should have a lover easing the pain, not being the cause of it.
It should be a lover’s hand on his back and shoulder, not hers.
Cloud buries his face in Tifa’s shoulder, agony and pain making itself known. Misery loves company, and she has approached the line just as surely as has he. But there is one vital difference.
She never truly crossed it.
Tifa can’t shake the feeling that someone else should be there with Cloud, that someone else should be holding him and crying with him and rubbing his back and whispering comforting nothings into his ear. She thinks this, and realises suddenly who should be there, but who isn’t there. Who fostered the pride in the man-boy Cloud, who took the heart, who trampled it, who handed it back to its owner, battered and bruised, before taking a flying leap over the line and dragging his young student down with him. And then, of course, he went and killed Her and then led the still young man-boy to kill him to save the world.
It should be a lover’s hand on his back and shoulder, not hers.
But it never will be.
*ok, please comment if you liked it! If there's anything wrong, please tell me so I can fix it! Mwah!*
</lj-cut text="Fine Lines> *crossposted like WOAH*