[Shattered] Refrain 11

Track Eleven – Zack Loire – I Can Go the Distance

On a bitterly cold January day, the snow still thick on the ground and children outside making snowmen and having snowball fights, Zack was born to Raine and Pacino Harris. He was a happy boy, always smiling, never crying. He gurgled and cooed, and his parents couldn’t be happier. With shining blue eyes and a head already full of dark hair, he was destined to be a looker, and he charmed every female he came across with that cheery grin. They could see in his gaze that he was meant for something great. They were certain of it.

I have often dreamed of a far off place,
Where a hero’s welcome would be waiting for me.

At the age of six, one year after the man that Zack knew he would hate for the rest of his days left, his mother met Lexas Loire, a kind man with a big smile and a gentle heart. He married Raine and adopted Zack as his own, never treating the young boy as anything but his son in every way. Zack quickly forgot about the suffering under the man he called “sperm donor.” And he smiled every day to make sure his mother forgot the beatings and the abuse as well. They were more than content.

Best of all was that Lexas was in the ShinRa army, and the stories he told fascinated little Zack, who loved to play battle games and attack bushes with his wooden sword. Lexas tried to instill in him the love of rifles, but Zack was stubborn, always claiming that a sword was far cooler. Nevertheless, he proved to be quite adept, enough so that Lexas was proud. And everytime his father ruffled his hair, Zack beamed with pride.

Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face,
And a voice keeps saying this is where I’m meant to be.

At the age of sixteen, Zack followed through with his dream of joining ShinRa. He had high hopes of being a hero and wanted desperately to be able to protect people he considered weaker than himself. A guy who smiled often and laughed even more, he was well-liked by his friends and showed great promise. And even those who didn’t know him were drawn to his presence so much so that he didn’t have any enemies.

It was in joining the military and working his way up the ladder that he truly felt like he had a place in life. He was physically powerful and agile, dedicated to those who mattered to him, and he had a strong sense of justice.

I’ll be there some day; I can go the distance.
I will find my way, if I can be strong.

When he was seventeen, Zack met the man who would become his mentor, Angeal. He was introduced to the Buster Sword, the weapon that quickly became his first choice. He grew stronger under Angeal’s tutelage, learning to master the Buster sword better than most around him.

Though Angeal preferred other weapons, Zack truly excelled at what he formerly considered a waste, and from then on, the Buster Sword was Zack’s alone. The legacy of this simple blade seemed destined for more, but neither man knew it. A wide, flat blade, almost impossible to lift for those with average strength, but Zack swung it with ease. Soon, it became a symbol for him, one that everyone recognized.

I know every mile will be worth my while.
When I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong.

At the age of sixteen, two months after meeting Angeal, Zack found himself acquainted with General Sephiroth. Or more like, he forced the older man into his presence, determined to make friends with the otherwise cold and impersonable male. Once learning that he couldn’t be rid of the persistent pest, Sephiroth relented to his company, and they became fast friends, nearly inseparable.

Zack was a good influence on the impassive General. He helped to draw him out and never blinked twice when Sephiroth sought moments of solitude. He considered it a privilige to be the one person who saw Sephiroth’s rare smiles and even rarer laughter.

Down an unknown road to embrace my fate.
Though that road may wander, it will lead me to you.

When he was seventeen, it was a chance encounter in Midgar that led him into meeting Aeris Gainsborough, a flower-girl from the slums, who was just trying to make a living. He was attracted to her smile and kindness, and soon, they were dating. She was beautiful with her reddish-brown hair and jade eyes, her personality complimenting his perfectly. Aeris was special to Zack, even if he couldn’t find the right words to describe it. And when he kissed her, he was certain it might have even been love.

And a thousand years would be worth the wait.
It might take a lifetime, but somehow, I’ll see it through.

At eighteen, Zack came across a young recruit by the name of Cloud Strife, definitely a boy in need of a friend like him. The scraggly blond was desperate to be in SOLDIER, looking up to Sephiroth much like an idol. And while he had the strength and stamina, his mind didn’t hold up to the mako as well as Hojo would have hoped. But Cloud kept trying, determined to prove himself.

Zack took the younger boy under his wing and quickly became one of Cloud’s best friends. He encouraged Cloud and had, on occasion, even protected the smaller boy from the bullying of the larger cadets. But he couldn’t deny Cloud’s skill, even taking it upon himself to teach the blond some of how own specially designed moves.

Pretty soon, Cloud looked up to him, too. Going so far as to confess his deepest secrets, how he was completely in love with Sephiroth.

And I won’t look back; I can go the distance.
And I’ll stay on track. No, I won’t accept defeat.

When he was eighteen, just a few months after becoming friends with Cloud, Zack’s best friend kissed him. It was a little unskilled, and he could definitely tell it was Sephiroth’s first, but that didn’t stop him from returning the gesture and giving Sephiroth a proper kiss in return. He felt nothing but brotherly love for the General, and it almost broke his heart to tell him that he was heterosexual.

He knew by the confusion swirling in mako green eyes that the other man was just baffled by the emotions inside of him, things Hojo had either tried to torture out of him or never bothered to explain in the first place. It was quite an interesting conversation, having to enlighten his commanding officer about homosexuality and sexuality in general. The blush in Sephiroth’s face was bright enough for the both of them.

It’s an uphill slope, but I won’t lose hope.
Till I go the distance, and my journey is complete.

A few weeks after his nineteenth birthday, Zack and Sephiroth along with a few ShinRa grunts, including Cloud, were sent on a mission to Nibelheim. At first, Zack was excited, eager to try out his new skills and having gone a little stir crazy trapped in Midgar. He was with his two best friends; how could it have gotten any better? His fingers itched to use his blade, and best of all, he was able to see Sephiroth in action, which always awed him.

Only a few days later, he was forced to watch as Sephiroth burned down the town in a fit of madness, all sanity gone from his eyes. No matter what Zack said or screamed, the General could no longer hear him. It was as if he had deafened himself to Zack’s voice. He couldn’t stop him as hard as he tried. He even went so far as to pull out his own weapon.

But he should have known that he couldn’t win against Sephiroth.

It hurt, a raw rending pain inside of him, and no matter how much he pleaded, his best friend wouldn’t listen. He was defeated and thrown across the room, knocked into unconsciousness. But something in Sephiroth’s eyes, some lack of sparkle, and Zack knew that it wasn’t the same person that he had grown to cherish like a brother.

He wasn’t Sephiroth any longer, but someone else entirely. He didn’t understand it, but he was certain that the man he knew wouldn’t have killed all those people. Sephiroth would not have attacked him or burned down a town. The General that he knew wanted to be something better than what Hojo tried to make of him.

He wasn’t the same at all.

But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part.
For a hero’s strength is measured by his heart.

At the age of twenty-three, Zack escaped from Hojo’s clutches, dragging a practically unconscious Cloud with him. They had been trapped with the man for four years, surviving Sephiroth’s madness, only to be subjected to the worst experiments that the mad scientist could create. Zack retained his sanity by sheer will power alone, but Cloud had not fared so well.

Still, when the time came, he broke them both out, promising that he would protect and take care of his friend like he could not for Sephiroth. He planned to return to Midgar, find Aeris, and get them jobs, maybe even be mercenaries. He desired to live, to continue his dream, to find his place as the hero he always wanted to be. Even if Cloud’s weight dragged him down, he wouldn’t leave him behind. They were in it together.

He never expected that he would be the one to die.

Like a shooting star, I will go the distance.
I will search the world; I will face its harms.

Nearly two years after his death, Zack found a way to return to life, to begin again what had been taken from him. He couldn’t say how old he was, only guessing that he was twenty-three, just like when he had died on a bluff overlooking Midgar, so close to his destination.

He had been given a second chance and a purpose as well. The planet had given him a gift of hearing her thoughts, asking for him to be their voice, their hero in other words. He was quick to accept the offer, knowing there were things he still had yet to do above.

It was finally his chance to live.

I don’t care how far; I can go the distance.
Till I find my hero’s welcome, waiting in your arms.

He had never been happier to see Sephiroth’s face than on the day he returned to Midgar. The irrevocable madness was gone, replaced by complete clarity and remorse. The first thing he did was hug his best friend, tremendously pleased to finally have the real Sephiroth back again. It was just like old times.

For that reason and meeting Elena as well, Zack was glad for all that he had suffered. Even for his death. Now, it seemed there was a chance for so much more. Aeris was happily married. Sephiroth was finding his own way. And in Elena, Zack had found his own satisfaction.

Truly, he had found his place.


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