For those who don't remember, my Great Nibelheim Plotbunnny (aka the COI version of the Nibelheim incident) basically goes as follows:
1 - At Nibelheim, insane!Sephiroth, far from turning on Zack, turns possessive and wants to keep Zack with him.
2 - Under insane!Sephiroth's control, Zack unknowingly destroys most of Nibelheim and kills most of its inhabitants.
3 - After insane!Sephiroth's departure for the Nibel Reactor, Zack wakes up from his trance. Unaware of what he's done, he goes chasing after insane!Sephiroth.
4 - In the Nibel Reactor, Sephiroth isn't angry or trying to kill Zack, but is merely attempting to subdue Zack so he can 'fix' Zack's mind.
Now, this works just fine if there were no witnesses to Zack's unwitting participation in the Nibelheim massacre (and if the few survivors only see insane!Sephiroth)....
....however, it seems that the Great Nibelheim Plotbunny has mutated! ::evil cackle::
There WAS one person, who sees what happens between insane!Sephiroth and Zack, but more importantly understands it (i.e., Zack unwittingly acting under insane!Sephiroth's control).
And who is this lone witness, may you ask? ::long drumroll::
Poor Cloud, of course!
One of the niggling issues I had with the "possessive insane!Seph" scenerio was why did insane!Seph did not immediately recognize Zack floating around in Cloud's psyche after their escape from the Shinra Mansion and during the game events. My previous theory was that Cloud's mind was just too fragmented and chaotic to allow recognition.
But what about this? What if Cloud, despite his mind being in near total ruins, was hiding Zack from insane!Seph's mental probing?
Let's do some slight (or maybe not so slight ::sweatdrop::) retconning to the COI plot and say that trooper Cloud did know Zack prior to Nibelheim. They were not close, but casual friends/acquaintances. And while trooper Cloud was too emotionally damaged to be saved by this friendship, this relationship meant a lot to him. Trooper Cloud is almost painfully grateful for Zack's little kindnesses, which naturally makes Strife even more embittered and envious.
After the Nibelheim incident, while stuck in the labs in the Shinra Mansion, Cloud becomes locked in a vicious war with Strife over control of his own body, due in no small part to all the various experiments he's subjected to. Unfortunately, Cloud is losing this fight and he knows it, so he clings even tighter to Zack because Zack is his only emotional anchor or mental refuge.
After their escape from Nibelheim, Strife takes control of Cloud's body and brutally kills an already severely wounded Zack. Cloud, utterly distraught and griefstricken over this horrific act, basically destroys what's left of his own mind in an attempt to eradicate Strife.
The shock of Zack's death awakens the slumbering insane!Sephiroth. Mentally scanning the Planet, he finds Cloud whose personality is now irreparably shattered. Insane!Seph senses something ususual about Cloud's broken mind and starts poking around.
Despite his fragmented mental state, there was enough left of Cloud to want to protect the one person whom Cloud had not only deeply cared about, but whom he also so terribly failed/betrayed, from Sephiroth's mental probings, especially because Cloud -knows- what insane!Sephiroth did to Zack (i.e., turning him into a puppet) back in Nibelheim.
So partially out of love, partially out of guilt, and perhaps partially out of an abnormal possessiveness of his own, Cloud hides/cloaks the traces of Zack's persona the best he can from Sephiroth's probing.
Unfortunately, this backfires horribly for Cloud because insane!Seph becomes intrigued and obsessed with the broken mind of this particular puppet (Cloud). And so insane!Seph keeps digging deeper into and playing around with Cloud's broken psyche (insert gratuitious mental rape/torture/bondage scenes) while Cloud frantically struggles to keep Zack's presence hidden from insane!Seph.
Naturally, all this absolutely infuriates Strife beyond belief, who blames Cloud, but more importantly Zack, for all this additional pain and suffering.
So in the process of Cloud's desperate mental struggle to shield Zack from insane!Sephiroth, the tattered remnants of Cloud's psyche and Zack's psyche begin to fuse. Also, this explains why Cloud's present day persona is much more Cloud-ish, while Zack's persona (while strongly influencing Cloud's behavior, especially his subconscious behavior) remains buried/hidden in the background.
After insane!Sephiroth's defeat (as in the game), there was no longer a need to hide Zack's persona, so Cloud slowly starts exhibiting more Zack-traits. And now with sane!Seph on the scene, the Zack-aspect in Cloud becomes more and more obvious.
::lone cricket chirps::
Ummm... so what do you guys think? Make sense? Or have I created a monster? ^_^;;;;