Word count: 1,713 (not including A/N)
Summary: Rejoice, for you shall be the ruler of this world.
A/N: This is the prequel, of sorts, to Malkhut.
*puts on new Joudama Explains It All hat* Now we have to look at Lurianic Kabbalah and things start getting all "…bwuh?" Under Lurianic Kabbalah, God filled all, leaving no room for creation. In order to create the universe, God had to pull back and create a space where He wasn't there. This pulling-away is known as tzimtzum. God pulled back in stages, and those "stages" became the sephirot, which were to be vessels to emanate the divine back into the space He had pulled away from. Only, there was a wee little problem. God had these vessels all lined up in a nice, tidy little row, and He let His light shine...but the sephirot were kind of not unified as set aspects yet and thus were unstable, so when the energy of God went through them, the first three sephirot were displaced so they were no longer in a line, and the other seven? *points to fic title*
"Shevirat ha-kelim" means "the breaking of the vessels" and refers to the moment when the lower seven of the first set of vessels, the kelim, that were to house the sephirot shattered into 288 "sparks," which scattered and fell from their position. The shattered vessels were replaced, but the shattered fragments, animated by a residue of god's creative power, remained and conflicted with the aspects of the sephirot they replaced. *takes off Joudama Explains It All hat and wanders off in search of aspirin*
Oh, and a shout-out has to go to chibirisuchan, because she gave me an interesting way of looking at the whys of the shattering that I can't say here because that would be spoiler! Hee!
And there were voices.
There were voices, thousands upon millions of them, all pressed in against him, pulling to him let go and join with them. And it was hard, so hard, not to, not to give up his sense of self, of who he was, what he was.
He had to remind himself, tell himself. I'm Cloud Strife. I'm a trooper in ShinRa's army. I'm from Nibelheim. Cloud. My name is Cloud.
But the voices, there were always so many, the voices of all creation, of all that had ever lived, voices of all things souled, and they called to him, called so much, pressed in, expansive and expanding, filling all.
There were the voices, the voices of all, and a few he could pick out--a nudge of something, someone, connected like he was, and he knew that it was Zack. It was different from the others, whole and distinct and assuredly so--it would not fade into the chorus, and because of that, because he could sense that, somehow, Cloud knew it was alright to keep himself, better to keep himself, and he tried. He fought and he told himself, over and over, that he was Cloud. Zack was whole and that was OK, so he would stay whole and that would be OK. If he kept sight-earshot-sense of Zack, he had an anchor and things were...well, not easy, but doable.
In the abyss, there was Zack...and there was another. Another who was separate and whole and different, and Cloud felt that other reach for him and he reached for it as well, seeking another anchor, and suddenly he felt him, the General, Sephiroth, and felt him watch Cloud's struggle to remain himself, and laugh.
And then, suddenly, there was void.
The void, a white space devoid of all, devoid of everything, cleared of the voices, cleared of all, shocking in both contrast and the suddenness of its creation. All of the voices were gone, all of them, even Zack and Zack's completeness. In the void, there was nothing.
Sephiroth's materia-green eyes, glowing and burning, raked over him, an arrogant, dismissive smirk on his face.
"You know that you have Mother's cells within you now," Sephiroth said, voice low and smooth, and Cloud shivered at that voice, not knowing why he did. Or what was going on.
"Wait...but...you're dead!" Cloud said, hands moving before thought for a weapon. He could remember, now, all of it almost horrifyingly clear. Sephiroth locking himself away. The flames of Nibelheim. And the pain of Sephiroth's sword stabbing through his abdomen, and the pain of forcing himself, inch by inch, until he was close enough. "This isn't pos...none of this! None of this...what's going on, I killed--" Cloud said, the words tangling in his mouth as his eyes narrowed sharply. He didn't understand what was going on, didn't know who "mother" was, didn't have the first clue why he was all but naked in this blindingly white void with a man who by all rights he had helped kill.
"Would you like me to congratulate you, then?" Sephiroth said, and there was something about the way he said that that made Cloud's blood run cold, made him aware of how dangerous Sephiroth was, and he shivered, and was aware of the thin medical gown clothing him. He wished more than anything, anything, for a uniform--at least then, he could have faced Sephiroth with the strength of that, of who and what he was behind him, backing him up--but now, like this, he felt weak and exposed, and from the dark smile twisting Sephiroth's lips, he knew the other man saw him the same.
There was a time, he remembered, when he had dreamed of being like Sephiroth. But this...this man, this thing bearing only the shape of a man in front of him now was twisted, insane, and altogether too powerful for Cloud to stand against. But, he thought, eyes narrowing, he had stood against Sephiroth once before and won. The cost had been his very freedom and perhaps his very sanity, but he had won, and whatever the cost would be this time, he would pay it as well.
And then Sephiroth had him, before Cloud could register that the man had moved, Cloud's wrists trapped in a grip of one hand that would snap his wrists at the barest extra pressure, the other gripping his chin, bruising, pulling Cloud's face so close to Sephiroth's that all he could see were the dark, slit-pupils in the man's green eyes.
"You did manage to kill me, in a manner of speaking," Sephiroth said, and the voice was frightening in its sanity. "What you took from me, I intend to take back. Of all of his feeble attempts, you are my best bet. Because you are weak," Sephiroth said, and Cloud could see the horrible intelligence burning behind the insanity, and there was a buzzing in his ears, a voice that almost seemed like a woman's.
"You will take me in," Sephiroth said, his voice low and toying, lips against Cloud's ear, "And I will take you over. You will give me back what you took from me. And then, I will take over this world. Rejoice," he said, voice low and full of something dark and twisted and promising, "for in some way, you shall be the ruler of this world."
And once again, Sephiroth's eyes were boring into his, coming closer, and before Cloud could register more than the dissociated realization that he was probably going to die here in this null space, Sephiroth's lips were on his.
And he could hear her now, he realized, before he could react to Sephiroth's mouth on his, forcing his mouth to open. He could hear the woman, her voice louder and more strident, through the connection of he and Sephiroth. Sephiroth was cold and she was fire; she was rage, she was hate, she was destruction, and she was screaming in his head. And as she screamed in his head, he could feel Sephiroth, attacking his sense of self, forcing his own mind into Cloud's, the two of them pushing in and then the voices, the thousands of millions of voices, all directed at his mind and being forced in at once, and Sephiroth and the woman destructive in at all, trying to turn him, twist him, to unstop his mouth and let remake him, reform him, he would be a vessel, their vessel, they would come in through him, their word through him, them through him, Sephiroth was, taking over and pushing into his body and in this space his mind in a two fold attack, fitting into a space both physical and mental, forcing Cloud to reshape, to take, to change into the vessel, forcing pressure reshaping erasing obliterating changing screaming she was laughing he could hear her feel her feel her feel them and he fought, struggled to hold on to himself, to push her out and Sephiroth and he couldn't lose, couldn't let go had to stay himself, he was Cloud, he was not the vessel, would not he was NOT Sephiroth he was Cloud Cloud he was Cloud and Sephiroth snarled and forced again and suddenly the connection was twofold, more than simply his mouth forced open and he was opened, and it wasn't just Sephiroth Mother it was all of them, all the voices in the Lifestream, all of them pushing into him, rushing into him when he was opened, forcing him to expand, apart, to accept, to lose self to disintegrate and join and merge be obliterated, wiping away all that he was to leave an empty space a vessel to hold and laughing she was laughing they were he was split displaced breaking he was Sephi--no no NO he was Clo--!
And that moment he shattered, the white world of nothing exploding into reality.
And shattered and floated and was not he because there were many, there were fragments, pieces missing, all over, scattered, falling, gone, gone, lost, fading lost lost nothing self where was self was no self nothing fading voices voices voices voi-
~The price of freedom sure is high~
And then again, the void.
And some part, some fragment with a bare hint of vague memory of shattering, twitched away, terrified, naked and exposed and raw and
voice a voice a voice something knew that voice somehow familiar something something somewhere
~I knew things were kinda...but this...what did they do to you?~
bitter there not here but here there was pained joking joking always joking kind something someone some no no no too much too much stay away no no no
~C'mon, now, let me help you~
help help scattered shattered shattered shattered scattered empty vessel too many too many too much too few too few too too gone lost faded shattered
~Because I'm not going to abandon you~
too quiet too alone only one voice and shattered shattered missing fractured fractured fractured empty empty empty
~I can't just leave you like this~
touch touch no touch bad but but soft trust this was trust was light was was no anchor don't no leaving no
~Us country boys have to stick together, y'know, and this is all I can do for you now. So c'mere~
Lips, soft against his and
First first soldier SOLIDER SOLDIER Class 1st yes filling knowing remembering remember remember you remember Nibelheim you you you I I I who I who I who I what I you're no no no where am I who am what am what am who am yes that's that's Nibelheim that's who I am I'm I'm yes that's know know know filling reforming forming forming filling the vessel I am the vessel no no I'm who I am who I am who am I who am I I'm Z-
~You've got my sword now and no way we can lose. Show 'em what a SOLDIER Class 1st is made of, Clo~
-ud. I'm Cloud....Cloud Strife, SOLDIER, Class 1st.
The voices were silent, at last silent, the broken vessel filled with no memory of breaking or being reformed by who or by what, all of it falling away until there was only memory of light until he knew who he was and who he had been. And what he had to do.