kittenfair: FF7 Meteor with VII written in black. (FF7)
 [Original Tumblr post]


Looking at the scene in Crisis Core, at the very end when Cloud manages to army crawl up to the dying Zack, and Zack hands over his sword with his brief, heartbreaking "living legacy"
 speech:

This is not the first time that the Buster has been passed on, especially in this fashion. When Angeal dies - at Zack’s hand, and let’s not get into that mess beyond the painful parallel of how Cloud also feels he’s responsible for Zack’s death even though he had even less choice than Zack did - he passes on the Buster to Zack.

 

Now, in the English dub (which was the version I played through) Angeal says “Zack, you have my thanks. This is for you. *hands over the sword* Protect your honor, always.” And then Zack has an audio memory of Angeal’s comment at the beginning of the game - Embrace your dreams. If you want to be a hero, you need to have dreams and honor.

 

Now, let’s compare the English sub (which I’ve watched and found very interesting because it carries a different vibe most of the time):

 

“You did well Zack. I’m counting on you for the rest. *hands over sword* Never forget your pride.” This is then followed by the same audio memory, but again, with a slightly different vibe - Hold onto your dreams. If you want to be a hero you have to hold onto your dreams and also your pride.


I’m not going to pretend I understand the full significance of the changes between pride/dreams to fit the better cultural perception of the words, but I know enough to say that I do think that moment absolutely influenced how Zack handled that moment with Cloud. Another scene I would say had an effect was the time in Nibelheim (before everything goes wrong) when Zack thanks Cloud for reminding him what the Buster Sword means to him.

 

I think Zack took the burden of Angeal’s words very seriously (and I say “burden” absolutely referencing when Angeal says that honor can be quite the burden early on plus Gillian’s words on the sword representing the honor of the family.) And I think, as much as he loved Angeal (take that at whatever angle you like, but he did love him in some way,) he probably resented that. I think that was absolutely one of the things he meant when he asked “why is everyone always pushing things on me?” before the last fight with Genesis.

 

In light of that feeling, I think the last thing Zack intended was to give Cloud the same burden. Looking at Crisis Core only, I would say that I think it was definitely part of what vorpalgirl said: you’re gonna live/you’ll be my living legacy (alternatively, the proof that I existed) is a statement of fact, of the significance of the fact that Cloud is going to live on even though Zack died, that Zack managed to save at least one person he cares about when the others died well before this and even forced him to have a hand in it.

 

But it’s also motivation for Cloud, because he’s been with Cloud this whole time. He knows that Cloud is struggling (he hasn’t even been conscious until right before Zack left to make his last stand), he knows that Cloud struggled with his self-esteem anyway before all this, and he probably knows that a standard thing that keeps people out of SOLDIER is if they don’t have the willpower/sense of self to make it through the process. That’s a really big thing to ask of a teenager, I remember that much of those years personally. A teenager is still figuring out who the hell they are in that weird not a kid/not an adult half state, this is a big deal and it’s no shock that Cloud “fell short” there - most people probably did.

 

But Zack is giving Cloud something here, he’s giving him something to focus on because he won’t be able to talk to Cloud all the time or carry him on anymore. All he has left to give are his sword to protect himself, his words to remember and his life so Cloud has a chance at all, and the last one is running out fast.

 

He never wanted to pass on the burden that Angeal did. He never wanted to push things on Cloud the way they were always pushed on him. But he knew Cloud needed an anchor still, and he couldn’t physically be there to hold his hand anymore, he could barely lift his own blade.

 

I don’t think he ever imagined it would have ended up that way, that Cloud could even do that, but he did succeed in one thing at least - he gave Cloud a way to hide behind him, until he was ready to stand on his own. And in Advent Children, even though there’s tears in his eyes to have to choose between Sephiroth and Cloud (and he’s lost Sephiroth, don’t get me started on my theories about what Zack was up to in AC) he manages a smile in his voice as he offers Cloud that same bit of strength, that quiet vote of confidence when he’s nearly destroyed again, and helps him back up before he goes.

kittenfair: FF7 Meteor with VII written in black. (FF7)
[Original Tumblr Post]

Let’s discuss ACC, and the way people kinda ignore the whole “dead stay dead” idea. Sephiroth is the most obvious example, but Aerith and Zack are clearly more than figments of Cloud’s imagination - they both actively take part in events.

With the healing rain/holy water, it’s pretty obvious how Aerith takes a physical effect on things. She also takes Cloud’s hand during the fight with Bahamut Zero, joining in with everyone else in giving a literal and figurative boost to his strength. Notably, though, Zack isn’t there. Zack doesn’t show up at all, in fact, until Cloud has taken quite a beating from Sephiroth.

So seriously, where was Zack?

It’s at this point that we need to remember that, while Zack was never as close to Sephiroth as Angeal and Genesis once were, they were friends. And Zack Fair does not give up on people, you have to literally take the decision out of his hands. Looking at you Angeal.

Obviously, Sephiroth has been around as a spirit entity - which is also the position Zack and Aerith have been in. Sephiroth, who is just a shadow of himself made of malice and anger, twisted from the man Zack once knew. But that doesn’t mean Zack wants to write him off.

I absolutely believe that in ACC, Zack spent his time trying to talk Sephiroth down. That may even be what compromised Kadaj’s ability to sense that Rufus had Jenova’s remains in a box under a blanket all that time. Cloud, he knew, had plenty of support. But Sephiroth? Sephiroth was the Nightmare, son of the Calamity, Jenova’s favorite son, and he had no one but Zack left.

Sephiroth toys with Cloud. Is it malice or distraction? Likely both. Sephiroth has years of experience over Cloud - many of which were on the warfront, but also fighting the likes of Genesis and Angeal - in addition to formal training in combat and strategy. There is no reason Cloud should win if Sephiroth had his mind together. Blame Jenova, blame his breakdown, blame the fact that he has no frame of reference of how to handle all that emotion - here, even, blame Zack.

For most of the fight, Zack isn’t there. Then, when Sephiroth is going for the kill, Zack pulls Cloud into the realm of “other” that Aerith had done before. And with tears in his eyes where Cloud can’t see them, he asks if he needs help to take him down.

At the time, he has the Buster Sword resting on his shoulder. But this isn’t something he conjured from his mind, in the condition he last held it. This isn’t even something one would picture Cloud imagining - not that he’s facing Zack to see him, anyway. This is the same sword that Cloud left on the cliff. The same sword that is mysteriously polished and placed in Aerith’s church at the end of the movie.

Zack, as much as the thought pained him, was ready to fight Sephiroth one more time. He was ready to step out of his place in the Lifestream, having gone to get the blade his mentor had given him, that he had given Cloud, and take up the fight.

Like the last fight of his life, there are tears in his eyes because for all his efforts, Zack wasn’t able to save Sephiroth. Cloud may never know the kindness he did his friend to spare him the pain of having to help put him down again, but at the end of the pep talk Zack gives him, there’s a smile on his face.

Relief.

This doesn’t have to be his fight, and Cloud is strong enough to make it on his own. Zack has lost one more friend for good, it’s a bittersweet victory. But he does meet him one last time in the church. He doesn’t say anything, his wave is slow, a little uncoordinated - I imagine it was one hell of an effort to get the strength to be ready to do what he did, Zack doesn’t have the heritage to give him any advantage there, it’s pure will driving him then. But that’s not really a new thing for Zack.

... so yeah, THAT is what I headcanon as happening regarding Zack during ACC.

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August 2016

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