Summary: What would you do If you found out nothing you knew was real?
Cloud woke alone, in a white-painted room with too-harsh lights and an unpleasantly sanitized odor. He blinked twice, trying to see, before realizing just where he was.
A hospital bed. In a lab.
Launching himself upright, he nearly fell off the wheeled bed in his efforts to see if he was tied down. There was nothing, although an IV in his arm did pull- not exactly painfully, but uncomfortable, and an electrode was taped to his chest. Cloud panted slightly, trying to remember how he'd gotten there when the last thing he remembered was the Highwind's deck swaying in the shockwave of Holy and Meteor.
Running his free hand through blond spikes that were somewhat longer than Cloud remembered, he considered for a moment, then pulled the thin IV needle from his arm and the electrode patch from bare flesh. He only had to wait a moment for the panicked beep of machinery and running footsteps.
White-coated men burst into the room, staring at Cloud as if they'd seen a ghost. Reminded very much of the good doctor Hojo, Cloud regarded them all with caution, but the labcoated men stepped forward with amazement on their faces, suddenly babbling to each other about "Oh, isn't it a miracle, he's sitting up" and "fascinating! Partial consciousness!". Cloud, finally giving up on someone speaking to him, decided to take matters into his own hands.
"Where am I?"
The room went dead silent.
"Could you tell me who you are, then?"
"Er..." said Cloud, looking from one man to the next to the next and getting no response, "...Is this a Shinra-owned facility?"
One of the men, pushing glasses up his wide nose and tapping a clipboard, made a shooing gesture at the others, obviously lower in rank. They dispersed to opposite sides of the man, a bit behind.
"So," he said, glancing down at something on the board, "you've finally managed to rejoin the world of the living, have you?"
"I... I suppose," Cloud frowned, "but where am I? Midgar? Junon? Mideel? Nibelheim?"
"No," said the man, shaking his head, "you made those places up. They don't exist. That's why you're here, you disappeared into them."
"I'm- where? What?" questioned Cloud, "what do you mean they don't exist? And where am I?"
"Your world doesn't exist, young man. you're in a mental hospital."
"Wh- what?" Cloud whispered, "But... Nibelheim- I grew up there! And Midgar is the biggest city on the planet! Or-" he paused, remembering meteor, "was, anyway..."
"This fantasy world of yours-" the doctor came closer, waving the ever-present clipboard, "It's quite fascinating, but that's all it is. It isn't real."
"No, no," he shook his head, "that's not right. That's not me. I'm a soldier, or I was, and I don't belong here. I'm not crazy and not making things up."
"Ah, you see?" said the doctor, raising his eyebrows and peering over his glasses at the interns, "It's worse than we thought."
"Now Cloud," the doctor stepped toward him, "you have to remember the real world and let go of this fantasy of yours."
Unpleasantly reminded of Hojo, Cloud flinched away from the man's touch. This was insane- It couldn't be real. These men must have been working for Shinra, trying some bizarre interrogation method. Except... Now, with Rufus dead, who would be left to head the company? why would they have any interest in him anyway?
x-posted in multiple places