- Final Fantasy VII - Xehorista Tora by asprosdrakos - You know, in a lot of ways, I wonder who the hell I am to be disbelieving of characterization of a series that I'm not as familiar with as I would like to be, but... there are moments in this story where the characterization sort of falls flat for me, where it's just too easy or too flippant/sarcastic in situations where I didn't think the characters necessarily would be, especially Sephiroth. (To be fair, however, there are equally as many moments where I really, really liked the way Sephiroth's character was written, that the whole is very strong, that it's only little details along the edges that I quibble with. Which are not the hard parts, so my criticism is less harsh than it sounds, honest! The whole thing smooths out the further you get into the story, I think.) The writing of the early chapters also is a little rough around the edges, there's a lot of telling over showing, and there's generally a lot of confusion that went above and beyond what was supposed to be there, especially with the way you're dropped into the story without any explanation of where Cloud is or how he got there or what's going on. Now. I mention these things because I want to give a clear picture of what I thought of this story (and because, god knows, I have trouble staying quiet about these things), but I also want to point out that I felt this story should be read and that there's more here that I thought was done well than I quibbled over.
For one thing, there's actual plot and it's important and not just a flimsy excuse to get the characters together and, as the story progresses, there are actual battle scenes and they're important and actually a focus of the fic. One of the things I'm enjoying most about the story is what's going on, how the time-displaced characters deal with the situations they're unknowingly getting themselves into, of seeing just how this is going to affect the timestream as a whole. The other thing is that I'm really quite impressed with the way the relationship between Sephiroth and Cloud is being handled, the way the current!Cloud doesn't just reverted to the way he was in the days of ShinRa, doesn't forget all the pieces of Zack's personality/exploits he used as a shield for so many years. The way there's enough tension between them that you could cut it with a knife, the way there's something very important and weighted hanging there without the author having to comment directly on it too much.
I mean, it's over 200k into the story and they're not even close to sharing so much as a kiss, for all the story gives off hints, it may never happen, instead staying as just an undercurrent running beneath the rest of the story. It's going slow and taking its time and actually making something more believable out of the relationship for it. ♥ One of the other things that I really liked is the way Cloud's residual horror at what Hojo did to him, the way it still haunts him, the way it crops up now and again, it was very... effective, I guess. I hurt for the character in the way I was supposed to. Oh! Oh! And towards the beginning! Zack and Aerith interaction is SO CUTE, totally OTP'ing them lately, yes, I am.
One more thing is that the story unfolds much like the game itself, you get dropped into the middle of it, you learn bits and pieces completely out of order, you have to struggle to piece everything together and, even then, you don't know if what you've learned is true. That's something I really appreciate, that the fic has the same sense of the game. Now, granted, the story kind of leaves off in a horrible place, it's not yet finished (but it was updated recently!), but it's such a strong story so far that I recommend reading it anyway. Plus, man, Yuffie totally rules in this fic. And Reno amuses the hell out of me. And the Zack/Aerith is so cute. And I mentioned the wibble-inducing Sephiroth/Cloud, right? Okay, good. (Some Sephiroth/Cloud, some Zack/Aerith, neither are the entire point of the fic, really.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Never Fade by Yuncyn - So, I tried not to squee and twirl about the room at seeing a Zack/Aerith fic, but I probably didn't succeed too well at that, not when this was a lovely, soft, gentle fic just after Aerith's death, when she's floating back into the Lifestream. One of the nicest things about the fic is the sense of something like peace that she has, the way she feels so right to me in this fic, the way she's so... light and... full of light, I guess. And then she meets Zack again and it's somehow just right and I could see this for them and my fangirl heart melted into goo and I just felt... warm and somehow lighter after this fic. I dissolve into OTP blissed-out fluff now. (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Miren by ChibiRisu-chan - ....ow. *breathy sigh* Admittedly, this fic falls more on the side of Sephiroth/Cloud than it does a threesome fic, but I'm really, really not complaining because it was beautifully written. The hurt and pain, so much of it wrapped up with everything these characters touch, the effect of JENOVA on their lives, the way they're twined together, but it's not a pretty thing and yet there's a certain beauty in all the awfulness. It makes my fangirl heart hurt, but it's still lovely all the same. I loved Cloud's characterization, the determination that just gets stronger over time, the resolution even among the hurting, the complicated, complex feelings he has for Sephiroth, the little turns of phrase about his life... lovely, lovely fic. (Implications of Sephiroth/Cloud, with Zack and Aerith thrown in the background.)
- Final Fantasy VII - If I Should Wake Before I Die #2 by Branch - It's hard for me to be coherent about Zack/Aerith fic. Because I love them with such delight, especially when they're being fun with each other, teasing and light even at a tough time, when they're being the best parents Cloud could ever have had. There's such love here, between the two of them even as they tease, such love for Cloud, such... there's hurt hovering around the edges because just about anything to do with FFVII has hurt hovering around the edges, but this is a story that reminds me why I love these characters and makes me feel happy and warm. Just.... ♥ (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Leave a Light On by Laylah - What an achingly bittersweet Zack and Aerith fic, probably one of the best I've seen that deals with his disappearance, her reactions, and the way Cloud seems to remind her so much of the person she used to know. The way they talk to each other here just makes me ache for the characters and what happened to them and what's going to happen to them and everything in their lives and yet... it's still so incredibly sweet somehow. The writing is gorgeous, the deft touch needed to pull off a story like this, I love the author's voice for both characters, and, oh, the ending just knocks the breath out of my lungs every time. (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Hearts and Flowers by Branch - I continue to have the biggest, gooshiest soft spot for Zack and Aerith, so fic where they first meet, a really rather clever reason for Zack to stop and buy flowers... yeah, I'm a big pile of fluffy goo after this. I especially like the beginning, the hint of seriousness of their places in life, the rotting city that surrounds them, but... well, really, Zack and Aerith each being able to give as good as they get? For him to be so gentle and respectful with her, for her to tease him and have such spunk? More with the happy, fluffy, gooey love, yes. I'm so glad Branch is writing for this fandom, I just sort of... glee every time I see new fic by her. ♥ (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - This Is Your Life, One Day, and Partners by Tammaiya - So, how much do I love that Tammaiya was doing shortfic requests and that she did a few FFVII ones? The first one is a sweet, cute Cloud fic where he's talking to a Moogle and it's the most adorable thing in the world. A little kooky in the head, but adorable. And the ending makes me all gooshy happy. And the third one is a beautiful Rude - and - Reno fic that captures what's so fantastic about them, how they're partners and what that means, even when it's something as simple as reporting back and getting chewed out by Rufus. But it's the second one that just... it's quite possibly the best Zack/Aerith fic I've ever read. It's exactly the right length for all that it's short, takes the prompt of "hopes and dreams" and spins something beautiful out of it. The sweetness of the pairing, how hot it can be at times, how much those two crazy kids were made up of pure love, but also fitting with the FFVII themes, the warring green and life of Aerith, the decay and dirty metal of the rest of the series, everything that fascinates me about it. And that last line? It's a killer. (Sephiroth/Cloud, Zack/Aerith, and not-Rude/Reno, respectively.)
- Final Fantasy VII - untitled by Luc Court - Blah, blah, blah, really short little fic, blah, blah, blah, my favorite pairings get preferential treatment, blah, blah, blah. It's Zack and Aerith and they have a situation and when I get what the author was getting at, I think I may have almost but not quite made one of those embarassing squeaking noises. Shut up, the writing is lovely and has that sort of grace I associate with the characters and just good writing in general and I just adore the concept of this little fic. Perfect. And, really, it probably would happen with Zack at least once. ♥ (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - untitled by voodoobob - headiscavingin recommended this fic and.... *squeaks* Oh, oh, oh! Zack makes it to Midgar fic! It's one of those ideas where I had a vague idea that it was something I would really, really have liked to seen, even aside from that Zack would live, I wanted to see how it could affect the storyline, but I had no idea just how badly I wanted it, how badly I wanted to read Zack seeing Aerith again until I read this fic. Because the author does a brilliant job with her character, just the right mixture of a gentle spirit and stubbornness that will keep Zack from doing something stupid. The writing is gorgeous, the emotion of it just lovely and the descriptions beautiful. Right from the beginning, with the rain in Midgar and how it can make things harder in some ways, but Aerith enjoys it all the same... right from that moment on, this fic is just lovely and, oh, I pine all the harder for more in this timeline. Especially since, omg, Zack/Aerith, eeeeee~~ ♥ (Some Zack/Aerith referenced, maybe a little other if you're squinting.)
- Final Fantasy VII - untitled by Laylah - Zack/Aerith fic is difficult to come by, much less Zack/Aerith porn. Much less when it's written really well like this. It edges sweet and a hint of bittersweet and hot and wonderful and a little bit sad, all in turns. The way they interact with each other, so sweet and cutely falling in love and warm together, it hits that dynamic that sends me into squeeing fits. I love the different uses of themes, some of them are really powerful, some of them are just really sweet, the way they all were little moments in time, but came together well, too. And, um, yes, it was very much with the hot without being too graphic. Still not safe for work, though. (Zack/Aerith, probably at least R-rated.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Hero Worship and Facsimilie by ardwynna_m - Again with the great big, mushy weakness for Zack/Aerith fics so I try to seek out as much of it as I can. And these were... just really sort of cute. Part of my fondness for them was the way the author vaguely referenced both Zack/Aerith and Sephiroth/Zack (except probably only if you're squinting in the latter's case) and hinted at the parallel between certain similar features Aerith and Sephiroth have, but mostly I just liked the fics because I love these characters and these relationships and this was just... it made me feel all warm and happy, you know? (Zack/Aerith mostly.)
- Final Fantasy VII - untitled by laylah - Part of what I love about these sets of fics is more than just that it's Zack and Aerith, it's that it's a real, functioning relationship with a healthy sexual side to it. It's not just a prelude to something else or to heartbreak for the audience, it's a wonderful, lovely relationship in full effect. Plus, yes, porn. Zack hiking her skirt up so she can wrap her legs around him, the way they move together, the way he's so strong and she's so strong in her own way, they way they both know what they want and they come together like this, it's lovely. And as much as I'd like full-tilt smut with every theme, it's actually nice when they're doing tamer things, like just kissing or sitting together/on each other, it's so many little moments pulled together and I really like that. (Zack/Aerith, strong R-rated content in places.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Peace of the Garden by Miko no da - [ part 01 - part 02 ] - Even after all the months I've been in the FFVII fandom now, I still get a sparkle in my eye and a gleeful thrill when there's new, good Zack/Aerith to read. This isn't going to be quite epic length, instead it's going to be a semi-long, satisfying read, I think. Already it's two parts out of five and just a little under 10,000 words and that's perfect, the pacing of it leaves me feeling sated and almost sort of glowing, if I may confess to being so dippy a fangirl. The characterizations are lovely, the author takes her time building up the relationship even when Zack is more than a bit smitten right from the beginning, she takes care to show how wonderful both of them are, how spunky Aerith is (without making her too awesome or too over the top about it) and how much of a charmer Zack is (which still works on her even when she's aware of it), how they're sparkling and full of life when they're together. Which is one of the best things about this fic--how full of life it is, right down to the flowers they work on growing together and the vibrancy that seems to surround Aerith. It's not a happy, perfect fic, this is still the FFVII world and it still contains details that show what a messy, dirty world they live in, but there's still happiness to be found between these two, there's still light here (again, sorry about the dippy fangirling) and I really wish I could explain this better. I suspect most of my brain power is being used to squee and flail at the moment, so. It's... it's Zack and Aerith and they're so young and they like each other already and they spend the day growing flowers in Aerith's church and it's absolutely everything I could want from that kind of scene. I'm happily awaiting more of this one. ♥ (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Peace of the Garden by miko_no_da - [ part 03 - part 04 - part 05 ] - I've been waiting for the rest of this fic to be posted before recommending it again, because I think it'll work better that way. Having just finished reading part five as I sit down to write this rec, it's difficult to concentrate on much beyond the smut. Because it's good hetsmut and that's such an incredibly rare thing to find. Much less with Zack and Aerith, who deserve all the good hetsmut in the world, considering the end to their story. It's not just that it's hot, but it's not dancing around the issue, it's direct, but without being crude. It's not too flowery, but it encompasses the romantic side of this pairing, how much they've fallen for each other, how much they care about each other even so early in the relationship. It's not just the sex that reflects this, though, it's their entire relationship, the way they're both bright, sparkling, and full of life. The way Aerith could have been such a Mary Sue, given how perfect and wonderful and sparklie-poo Square made her in the first place, but she comes off with genuine cleverness and written with a deft hand in this fic. Zack is much the same, he's wonderful and supportive and gorgeous and I wonder why don't I find him to be a Mary Sue as well? but then get distracted with how much I love him.
The author brings all of what I love about these two and their crazy young love out in this fic, so that I actually felt happy and sated by the ending. It's not pure fluff, there are so many aspects in the background that show what a dark world FFVII is--the Turks, the mako in Zack's system, ShinRa, the dying Planet, the Wutai war, etc. But it's not an unhappy fic, either. By the end, I was a little sad because I know how their story ultimately ends, but I was also happy because, yeah, they were wonderful while they had the chance. Plus, the writing of this fic is just plain good, the prose is clean and full of charm without being too pretentious, the characterization is lovely, and the whole thing was very nicely paced so that it wrapped up on just the right note at just the right time. My Zack/Aerith shipper at heart is a little less manic now. ♥ (Zack/Aerith, NC-17 in chapter 5.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Summoning Ghosts by kasoku - So, I was just complaining about there not being any post-FFVII fics that brought Sephiroth back in a way that made me all happy and gooshy, right? Then this fic falls into my lap that I started reading because it promised Sephiroth/Cloud and maybe Zack/Aerith and turns out that it's one of those fics that I've been pining away for. It was a really solid, good fic that covered all the bases it needed to--the creative way in which Sephiroth was brought back, the way the psuedo-science didn't overwhelm the emotional side of the story but wasn't entirely glossed over either, the way Cloud wasn't sure that he wanted Sephiroth back, the way JENOVA being cleaned away didn't undo everything Sephiroth had done or even absolve him of everything. The story didn't linger on any of the downsides for too long, which is exactly what I wanted, really. I didn't want a long, drawn out story where everyone was depressed for weeks on end because of their crappy circumstances. I wanted something that was more positive, more hopeful, but without being hideously OOC about it. This fic pretty much nailed what I was looking to get out of it, something that I could fangirl yet take seriously. Cloud's reactions, the way he always pulls himself together to fight Sephiroth when he needs to, always does what needs doing, even when it hurts him, is never forgotten. And Sephiroth had that air of deadly grace about him. And Zack and Aerith were so cute in the Lifestream. It was just... so what I wanted tonight, it scratched just the right itch. There's also a cute omake to go with it. (Sephiroth/Cloud, maybe some implications of Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Here Today by Icor - This fic was a lovely look at the very beginning of FFVII, as Cloud falls through the rafters of Aerith's church and what must have been going through her head at the time. I loved the fic because it dealt with the parallels between Cloud and Zack that she felt through the early parts of the game, what kind of effect that must have had on her, how hard it must have been for her, with the life she led and Zack having been gone for so long. A lot of details are really nicely done here, it's very interesting characterization-wise for Aerith, and has very pretty writing. And there's not nearly enough Zack/Aerith fic in the world. *sulk* (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Aftereffects by Lassarina - This is a really cute, sweet little fic set pre-game, where Zack shows up to a date obviously looking ill and out of it. It's a very adorable little Zack/Aerith piece and I love it for that, but what's really sort of special about the fic is Aerith's characterization, she just calmly accepts the situation and does what she can to help, she's supportive and caring until things turn towards the better. She's just so Aerith that I really enjoyed reading this, especially the bittersweet tone with Zack here. (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Not Then, Only Now by snarky_kat - This is just a very short piece on Aerith as Zack is missing, the author putting in a gentle sort of tone that fits with her character so well. I love that she doesn't believe he's dead, even when SOLDIER tells her that he is, that somehow she knows otherwise and continues to wait for him. The ending has a lovely punch to it as well. ;__; (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Sky Waiting by knightlineninja - What makes this fic's style work for me is that it's Aerith's POV, so the descriptive, almost flowery language works for a character like her. There's a sense of patience and yet longing here that's very nicely done, for the time while she was waiting for Zack to come back to her, and I'm weak to fics like that. I love this pairing so much and this fic just... gets at me and that fondness I have for them. (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - Love and Kisses, Aerith by Scribbler - This is a really lovely Aerith POV, I love how sweet and gentle she is here, how cheerful and bright and teasing she is, but there's still that unshakable determination and stubborness, and all the things that make her up. And I've also read a fair amount of fic set after Zack disappears for those years, where Aerith still thinks about him (or writes to him, as with this fic) and I love a lot of them, but I think this is one of the best I've read, the language of it is so pretty and feels so attuned to her character and their relationship and... well, even more than that, the determined cheerfulness despite what we all know is coming, the way she finally just knows (which we also all knew was coming) was beautifully done. My heart ached for Aerith in this fic in exactly the way the author wanted. ;__; It's such a beautiful fic--lovely writing and full of little details of her life and it feels so right for the characters. Definitely one of my favorites for that time period. ....even if I need happyfic to make up for it now. (Zack/Aerith.)
- Final Fantasy VII - untitled by Meia - This is a very short little fic, but after the previous one, I needed something a bit more cheerful and Zack being so very Zack cracked me the hell up. It's so adorable, especially the way he treats Cloud even while he's trying to get advice out of Cloud. Just. It's pure dialogue and so great. ♥ (Zack/Aerith, but Zack/Cloud fans may enjoy it as well.)
Final Fantasy VII: Paramour Perfection by Rendom - You know, for all that I crave fix it fic with Zack and Aerith, I find myself reading a surprising amount of fic about Zack's death and the bittersweet happiness (for the reader, at least) they have for a little while before he disappears. It's just. It's fic like this that captures how adorable and sweet they are together, then the painful longing while he's gone so long and she's waiting and waiting, and finally he's really gone and... it could have been over the top, but the author went for something with a lighter touch and it was all the more poignant for that. ;__; A very pretty, if sad little oneshot. (Zack/Aerith.)