BY : Rina76
Category: Final Fantasy Anime > Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Dragon prints: 1511
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII Advent Children or any of the characters from the film. I am not making money from the writing of this story.

Chapter 29. Emptiness.

Loz sleeps a lot. I guess it's his coping mechanism for grief. When he's not sleeping, he ventures up to the garage to work on the one bike he has left, which got damaged during the battle with Cloud and the Turks. I believe it's Kadaj's bike so that's why it means so much to him, Loz spending hours fixing every scrape and scratch, bringing it back to near-new condition. At least it gives him something to do and something to focus on, instead of withdrawing from the world completely, like Yazoo does.

I don't see the long-haired clone for days, Yazoo staying holed up in his room with the door shut. Loz has visited him, and assures me that Yazoo's injuries have healed, but he just doesn't feel like seeing anybody else right now. I understand. Yazoo hasn't just lost a sibling, but his lover, his partner, the person he shared his whole life with. He's going to need a lot of time to deal with this heartbreak.

Not knowing what else to do, I keep trying to make the lair feel like home, filling it with the scents of food cooking, coffee brewing, bread baking, hoping maybe it will draw Yazoo out. My home-making efforts seem to comfort Loz in his time of sadness but not the grieving middle Remnant. He stays in his room. I know he's not in the mood for visitors but I feel compelled to check on him one night. When I tentatively knock, open the door and ask if he wants dinner, Yazoo doesn't answer, just stays curled up on his side on the bed, back towards me.

Through the material of his top, I notice that his once broad and muscled shoulders seem thinner, as do his arms. With the way he's lying, I can see part of his face and there's silver stubble growing on his jaw. His once glorious hair is unkempt and beginning to tangle. The fact that he has stopped caring for his appearance is alarming. I start to leave meals on a small table near the bed every evening but when I come back to collect the plate it's never empty. The food always remains untouched. I just take the plate away without saying anything, hoping that he will eat again in time.

When he doesn't, I broach the topic with his older brother.

"Loz, I'm worried about Yazoo. He hasn't eaten anything for over a week," I say with concern. "I keep leaving him food but he never touches it. I don't even know if he's had any water. I realise you're super-creatures and can survive for a long time without food but he could still get dehydrated. Can you please take him this and make him drink it?"

On the kitchen bench, I slide over a tall plastic tumbler full of frothy brown liquid. It's a chocolate-flavoured protein shake, mixed from a large tin in the cupboard. At least if he drinks it he'll be getting some fluids and nutrients.

Loz glances at the shake uncertainly. "What if he doesn't want it?"

"Well, you'll have to persuade him. You don't want Yazoo to waste away, do you?"

"How am I supposed to make him drink it if he doesn't want to?" Loz objects. "I can't hold him down and pour it down his throat!"

"Just tell him to do it."

"He won't listen to me."

"Yeah, he will. You're the alpha now, so he HAS to listen," I insist, knowing that the silver-haired siblings' relationship greatly mirrors that of a pack, like wolves. One is always dominant and the rest follow. If the alpha dies, the second in command replaces them. Yazoo is the most passive of them all so naturally, Loz is the one who has to step up.

However, Loz looks unconvinced. "I ain't no alpha. I ain't leadership material."

"Well, fake it, then. Talk to him like Kadaj would," I suggest. "Be firm. Give Yazoo a direct order. Be mean if you have to or make some threats but do whatever it takes to get that into his stomach, or he's gonna end up turning into a living skeleton."

"Well…okay," Loz says doubtfully, picking up the shake. "I'll try but I can't guarantee nothin'."

He takes the full tumbler into Yazoo's room and comes out with it empty.

"It worked," he says, sounding surprised. "I ordered him to drink it and he did."

"Told you." Taking the empty tumbler and putting it in the sink, I smile proudly at Loz. "And you said you weren't leadership material."

He shakes his head. "I'm not."

"Yes, you are, Loz. You're the leader now. You're the oldest so that duty falls on your shoulders."

"But I don't know what to do." For such a tough guy, Loz seems scared of his unwanted promotion. "I can't be in charge of us!"

"You have to be. You have to be strong and give Yazoo direction because that's what he needs from you right now." I take Loz's hands in mine, gazing up at him with seriousness. "You can do it. Just take care of your brother, all right? Take care of him the way Kadaj took care of you."

Drawing in a deep breath, Loz slowly nods, beginning to accept that things have changed around the lair with Kadaj's permanent absence, and that someone does in fact need to assume responsibility for what's left of their family. I know it will be hard for him to get used to his new role but I also know that he will be good at it and that Kadaj's death, while tragic, will also make Loz into a better man.

Proving that he's already changing, Loz helps me wash and dry the dinner dishes.

The next day, Loz announces suddenly, "I need to go out," and fetches his leather jacket, quickly pulling it on. It's a different jacket to the one he was wearing in the explosion; that one is destroyed beyond repair. This jacket is plainer, without straps and buckles, nothing fancy, and it zips all the way up to his chin. He teams it with black jeans and boots. It's not his hit man outfit but he still cuts an impressive figure in all black.

"Where are you going?" I enquire.

He pulls on a new pair of motorcycle gloves. "For a ride."

His ambiguous answer has me a little concerned. I know there are parts of recent events that he hasn't properly dealt with yet, parts of Kadaj's death, and I'm concerned that Loz may attempt to deal with them in the best way he knows how – with violence.

"You're not going to hunt down Cloud, are you?" I ask worriedly. "I know you want revenge for Kadaj but you can't risk your life over it. You only just survived last time."

"It's not Cloud's fault," he grudgingly admits. "He wasn't trying to kill Daj. Only Sephiroth. If anyone is to blame it's HIM."

"Your father?"

"Sephiroth is NOT my father," Loz replies angrily. "I used to think he was, once, and I used to think he was a great man but I don't any longer. He used Kadaj like a damn puppet and then just left him there to die. A real father would have cared, would have done something to help him. And he didn't. Sephiroth must have known me and Yazoo were there too but he never acknowledged our presence. I was so looking forward to meeting him and he didn't even look at us. We're his Remnants but we mean nothing to him. So, he's nothing to me now."

Hearing the animosity in his voice I surmise, "You hate him."

"Oh, hate is not a strong enough word," Loz growls. "I'd love to make that smug bastard pay for what he did to Kadaj but he's just a ghost. A memory. You can't kill something that's already dead."

"What about Jenova?" I question next. "Is she still alive?"

He shrugs dismissively. "I don't know and I don't care. She lied to us so I ain't wasting any more of my time looking for her. Even if I found her body, or what's left of it, she wouldn't be able to bring Kadaj back. She couldn't even bring herself back so that proves she has no power anymore."

Loz's voice thickens with disgust when he thinks about how this ancient creature deceived them all, giving the world nothing but sickness and death. "Jenova is just black pus oozing out of people's open sores. She's the slime that's vomited onto the sidewalk from everyone she's infected. She's not my mother – she's just a filthy fucking disease!"

It's a shock to hear Loz talk about Jenova like that and I realise that he doesn't love her like he used to. Maybe he never did. When you think about it, Jenova hasn't done a damn thing for any of them. Kadaj is the one who got them out of the underground compound when they were teenagers. Kadaj is the one who gave them their freedom. He is the one who found them jobs, got them money, gave them a home. He is the one who took care of them and protected them and kept them safe. Not her. She hasn't done jack shit except hiss sinisterly in Kadaj's ear and make him do bad things in her name. The youngest clone was so clearly besotted by her perceived greatness but I didn't see that same level of devotion in Loz's eyes. Or even in Yazoo's. They never knew her and they didn't really worship her, not in the way Kadaj did. Maybe they were saying what Kadaj wanted to hear, to please him and make him happy because he was their parent and not Jenova. In truth, I think the other two loved Kadaj more than they ever did Mother or ever will again.

Because it's her fault Kadaj is dead.

Sephiroth may have taken over Kadaj's body but Jenova is the one who instrumented it all. She must have known what would happen when the Reunion took place. She wanted Sephiroth to return and fooled Kadaj with whispering words of fake love to achieve her own selfish desires. Kadaj was expecting them all to live happily ever after, one family reunited with Jenova as their queen, and so he did whatever she told him to without question, like a good son should. She expected Kadaj to give up his life for her and he did.

Mother is the one who got him killed.

And looking at the expression on Loz's face right now, I know she will never be forgiven for that.

"Jenova can rot in hell," he grinds out. "I don't care about her anymore. I don't care about revenge and I'm not going to kill anyone. I just need to get out of here, out of the lair. Everywhere I look I see Kadaj and it's…"

His voice starts to break and Loz halts, swallowing back tears.

"It's just too hard, okay?"

Nodding, I reply, "It's all right. Go. Ride. The fresh air will do you good."

"You'll still be here, right? When I come back?" Eyes anxious, he caresses my arm, below the Geostigma. I have it covered with my sleeve. It will be a while before I get sick from the mark but for now it's just another thing to cause Loz grief and I don't want him thinking about it.

"Cate, I totally understand if you want to leave after everything that's happened. I can give you money and you can rent a room somewhere in the city. If that's what you want…" Loz falters. "Just don't leave without telling me."

"I'm not going anywhere." Wrapping my arms around his solid figure, I hug him reassuringly, murmuring into his jacket. "I'll be right here. I will always be here for you, Loz. No matter what."

When Loz has roared out of the garage on their one remaining bike, I head over to Kadaj's room, intending to put everything back the way it was. Nobody has been in here since he died. Nobody has even opened the door which is a good thing because it's a mess inside. I feel immensely guilty for wrecking a dead boy's room, even though I did it before I knew that was going to happen. It still smells like him in here and I try to ignore the mixed emotions that scent brings me. Armed with cloths, cleaning spray, garbage bags and a dustpan and brush, I do my best to tidy the space and straighten up whatever I can, or throw out anything that is broken. I scrape dried shampoo and body lotion off the wall. I sweep up bits of ceramic from the vases and candle holders that I smashed. I set his stereo system up where it used to be and stack his music discs in a neat row, making sure they're all placed into the right covers. I put books and pencils back on his desk. His laptop computer is ruined thanks to me stomping on it but I suppose nobody needs the information on it any longer. The Reunion has been and gone. Despite all their planning, it didn't turn out the way any of the Remnants expected, least of all Kadaj.

I remake his bed, tucking in the sheets neatly and fluffing the pillows. Perhaps Yazoo might want to come sleep in here sometime, since Kadaj's scent lingers on everything. It might comfort the middle Remnant to a certain degree. Or it might be too much for Yazoo to bear, being in his little brother's bed alone, but at least the place will look presentable if he ever ventures out of his own room. As I'm scooping strewn clothes off the floor and hanging them back in the closet, a single ball of coloured materia falls out of one of the pockets, rolling across the carpet. I pick it up, holding it in my hand and studying the luminescent light contained within the clear outer casing. I wouldn't even know what to do with this thing or how to use the magic inside but it sure is pretty. It's green, almost the same green as Kadaj's eyes.

All of a sudden, the bedroom disappears and I'm in the hallway leading down from the garage. But it's not now; it's the day I found the children locked in the cage. I'm having a vision, or a flashback of sorts. The baby shows me what happened in the hallway with Kadaj, filling in the missing gaps of my memory. First, there's me gushing stupidly about his suit and trying to unzip it. And there's Kadaj being surprisingly patient with me, explaining why we can't do this right now. Oh boy. I actually DID put his hand up my top. So, he wasn't lying about that. Then there's me brazenly kissing him. There's Kadaj kissing me back, very nicely too. And there I go again with the embarrassing gushing. Okay, please skip that part, thanks. Ah. Here we go. Now, Kadaj is holding his hand up to mine, returning the energy he took from me. I'm leaning against his chest and he's stroking my hair.

"I wish things could be this way all the time." That's what I say to him, enjoying the closeness we're sharing.

"Yeah," he answers quietly. "Me too."

Then the vision/flashback ends and I'm staring at the ball of materia in my hand again. Slowly, I sink down on the bed, processing what I just saw.

Kadaj told the truth before he left me locked in this room. We really did have a moment together. A truly special moment. We connected in a way we hadn't done before. If I had known he was going to die later that day, I would have tried harder to stop him from leaving. But no matter how much I had begged him, it wouldn't have made a difference. He would not have been stopped. He still would have gone out and caused all that havoc in the city. He still would have instigated the Reunion. He still would have ended up dead.

Without Kadaj, it's so quiet around the lair. So empty. When he was here the boys would always be messing around, talking, making jokes and teasing each other and I miss it. I miss the noise of them training – the thuds, grunts and cries of exertion as they fought each other and honed their skills. I even miss the sound of them bickering and arguing because at least when you heard that you knew they were all together, triple trouble, the way it should be. Now there's no laughter, no yelling, no swearing, no sounds in the gym room, just nothing. Just silence and emptiness. I realise with an aching heart that I'm keenly feeling Kadaj's absence. I'm grieving for him. Not just for Loz or for Yazoo and what they've had taken away from them but I'm grieving for Kadaj himself. Gods help me, I know I spent most of my time arguing with him too but right now I'd give anything just to hear his voice, even if he was only being a smart-ass and saying vulgar, arrogant things because to hear that would mean the gang was whole again.

But it's not. He's gone.

And I miss him.

It's no secret that Kadaj and I didn't get along but I never truly hated him. I couldn't, not really, despite the awful things he had done and said to me. I only wanted him to accept me and was sure that he would have in time. Sure, he could be cruel and callous but under that icy exterior there was a layer of goodness and gentleness. He was very capable of caring and he was capable of loving. I saw that side of him on a few occasions but his brothers saw it their whole lives. Kadaj was the youngest out of the three of them but he took care of Loz and Yazoo as though he was their father, providing for them, guiding them, teaching them and defending them. Though he may not have spoken it out loud he cared for his two siblings deeply and would have done anything to keep them safe. That's why he was so reluctant to let me into the brotherhood, because he was afraid I'd hurt Loz, that one day I'd leave, breaking Loz's heart and making him suffer when he's already suffered so much in his past. Kadaj was only trying to protect him, like he's always done. He may not have gone about it the right way and made a lot of mistakes, the last one costing him his life, but Kadaj was young, reckless and above all, passionate. Everything he did, right or wrong, was for love, for the sake of his family.

That was all that mattered to him. That's why he needed to find Jenova so badly, not to rule the world or destroy it but to reunite them all, three sons with the woman whose image they were created in and whose blood runs through their veins, her cells in their cells, bonding them forevermore. Though she's a horrifying, loathsome being from another solar system Kadaj didn't see that when he looked at her. He didn't see the complete non-existence of compassion or human emotion. He didn't see the rotten, repugnant darkness that swirled thickly inside her like black tar. He was oblivious to it. All he saw was his Mother. His gleaming Goddess who knew everything and whose every wish he would fulfil. He adored Jenova with all of his soul and would have kept looking for her until the end of the universe if he could. When you dig beneath the layers that made up Kadaj – all the controlling and brutality, the plotting and planning, the obsession and the psychosis, the leather and the steel – when you strip all that away he was simply a child who missed his mother. He didn't deserve to die.

A tear rolls down my cheek. It's joined by another one, and soon I'm crying.

"Fuck you, Jenova," I whisper furiously to the overwhelming silence around me. "He loved you and you killed him, you heartless bitch."

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