Disclaimer - I don't own any of the FFVII characters. If I did, I would be rich and making a movie of it or something : ) However, that doesn't stop me from wishing that I own'd Sephiroth.





AN - This would be my first FFVII fiction, so bear with me. I have a few InuYasha fics up, however, so if you like my writing and you're interested in InuYasha, go read em : ) Other than that, enjoy my fic, read and review . . . yadda yadda yadda : )



This Fic takes place sometime before the Nibelheim incident, at the high point of Sephiroth's career, just after Cloud has joined Soldier. Some events may be a little twisted, and some facts a little warped, but bear with me. It is, after all, a fan fic.





Beyond the Mask

An FFVII Fan Fic

by DracOnyx



Chapter 1 - Thoughts



Sephiroth stared down at the desolate plains surrounding Midgar, his eyes speculative, lost in his own thoughts. His silver hair shifted gently in the light breeze, swirling behind him like a living banner as he lounged on the roof of an old abandoned house, one knee drawn up to his chest, his other leg dangling from the edge of the roof. He came here often to think, to get away from the groupies and the constant burden of being the famous General he was. He sighed, shifting his weight slightly to get more comfortable.

"Why does it always have to be this way?" he muttered to himself, frowning slightly at the horizon. "Always a war somewhere, always killing and death that needs to be accomplished in some damn hell hole. And it's always my fault . . . always me that has to make the life and death decisions. Not that damn fat bastard sitting in his high and mighty office, not all those lazy saps who do nothing but push paperwork around all day . . . just me." He growled softly to himself. "Why is it that I'm the one with countless deaths on my hands, the one who has to suffer the guilt of every needless casualty?"

'Because it's what you were born to do . . . what you were created to do. You are an angel of death . . . that's what Hojo made you to be,' a voice in him answered. 'Deep inside, you love every minute of it, admit it.'

"No," he murmured. "I do it because someone has to . . . Hojo be damned. If I didn't do it, someone else would . . . someone who cared less about the men . . .someone who wouldn't be so careful to try and preserve as much life as possible."

'You mean someone who wasn't as good at it.'

"That too."

'When are you going to accept what you are, my son? Why let these feeble humans push you around? You are so much more than they are . . . and could be even greater then you are now, if only you would . . .'

"If only I would what? Accept that you're not just a voice in my head? Bullshit. You're just another part of me . . . I may be an experiment, but I'm still human." He frowned as the voice in his head laughed, a hideous, inhuman sound.

'You persist in believing in that? You continue to delude yourself, my son. You are no more human then I am.' He growled, standing slowly to be sure of his footing before he leaped to the ground below, landing cat-like before striding off towards the train station, pulling his hood over his head to hide his face and hair. It was time to return to his duties . . . as much as he hated them, he couldn't escape them for long. Besides, if he immersed himself in them, eventually that annoying voice would go away.

It had been there since his childhood . . . whispering words of comfort and revenge in his head as he endured Hojo's painful tampering, singing songs of love and devotion to him in the dead of night, as he lay in his bare room sweating out whatever treatment Hojo had subjected him to that day. At first he had thought it was just his imagination, but it was still with him even now, and he had begun to wonder. He was free of Hojo now, and still it spoke to him . . . he wondered if perhaps his childhood had caused him to develop a second personality. He didn't dare discuss it with the Shin-Ra psychologists though . . . eventually, it would make it's way to Hojo and he'd be submitted to more tests and torments. The only time it was truly silent was when he stood bathed in the blood of his enemies on the battlefield, his sword dripping with the crimson fluid of countless bodies.

Carefully he rebuilt his emotionless shell, his mask to the world that allowed him to continue to do his job. It was so hard, sometimes . . . but then, he'd been hiding his emotions since he'd become old enough to understand what his place in life was. He'd never been what the world called 'normal' . . . far from it in fact. He often wondered what he'd done to deserve his lot in life . . . had he committed some horrendous deed in a past life that he was paying for now? Surely no deed deserved to be punished in such a way . . . but then again, maybe there was some deed that did. It was the only way he could make sense of what had been done to him since the day he was born.

He snorted at the direction of his own thoughts. Utter nonsense. There was no rebirth, there was no God . . . there was just birth, the horrible comedy they called life, and then sweet and peaceful death. At times he thought longingly of that peace and determined to end his life then and there. But his will to survive and carry on was so much stronger . . . and his healing capabilities made it down right impossible anyway. As he'd heard it said once "The universe isn't really cruel . . . it just doesn't give a damn one way or the other."

"No kidding," he grumbled, boarding the train silently. Life was just one great big hell, and if there were any Gods up there, they'd long since abandoned humanity to whatever fate they had been dealt by the cosmos. He sighed, shifting in his seat as the train began to make it's way towards the upper plate, and stared out the window, waiting to arrive back at his self made prison.



*----------*-----------*-----------*---------*



"The batch of new recruits looks promising . . ." Zack murmured to the silent ghost-like figure at his side. They stood behind a one-way window above the training floor, watching silently as the newest batch of recruits were put through a vigorous training routine. He ran a hand through his unruly black hair, watching as one particular recruit, a boy with spiky blonde hair and an infectious grin, helped one of his neighbors up off the floor from where he'd been thrown, laughing at the sheepish grin on his partner's face at being thrown so easily.

"If we are lucky, all of them will survive the Mako infusion," was the only reply he received. Zack shuddered at the emptiness in the voice. Sephiroth had been vague and distant all day since he'd returned to the building after disappearing for hours, and Zack was unsure of how to handle this slightly off-centered version of his boss. Admittedly, the man was no fountain of warmth, but with his background, who would be? Zack had managed to crack through some of that icy exterior, but even he walked on shaky ground sometimes with the enigmatic man. On occasion, it was like trying to walk through a fully loaded mine field while blind. But he pressed on, knowing that he was one of the rare people the General trusted to know the real man, not the cold face he presented to a world that had already shown him how cruel it could be.

"Seph . . ." he murmured carefully, "is there something wrong? You've been . . . well, to put it bluntly, you've been one cold bastard today, even to me. Is there anything I can do to help?" He glanced up to find a wry smile on the usually proud and emotionless face.

"I've just . . . got a lot on my mind lately, Zack," Sephiroth murmured. How in the world did you begin to tell a man you considered your only friend that you thought you might be losing your mind? He sighed, shifting his gaze back to the spike haired recruit. There was something about the boy . . . some half-sensed feeling of destiny that had him on edge.

"Maybe you should get out for a bit? You know . . . have a night life or something?" Zack grinned. "Perhaps it's time to find you a woman!" Caught off guard, Sephiroth stared down at his lieutenant, one eyebrow raised in graceful self mockery.

"Me? Find a woman? What makes you think I lack female companionship?" he said, his mako green eyes shifting more blue as he grinned sardonically. Zack snorted.

"Oh, I don't know . . . maybe the fact that you stay holed up in that damn office of yours till all hours, and then go straight to your suite to do some more work?" he murmured sarcastically. Sephiroth shook his head and turned back to studying the new recruits. "Oh, come off it Seph . . . you really do need to get out some."

"And how would you suggest I do that, oh know- it- all?" Sephiroth murmured back. "Everywhere I go, I'm recognized . . . and as for finding a woman . . . well, when I find one that doesn't worship the damn ground I walk on and is interested in me and not my looks or my fame, I'll let you know." He snorted. "Which, as I'm sure you can realize, is not fucking likely to happen."

"Come on, Seph. Don't be such a damn pessimistic bastard. There's got to be a woman out there somewhere for you . . . and as for going out, we can disguise you easily enough." He poked the taller man in the ribs, knowing he was pushing his luck, but unwilling to let it rest. Sephiroth really did need to get out . . . it was unhealthy for a person to be so self-contained. He was rewarded with a grunt and a long-suffering sigh.

"Oh, all right Zack. Just lay off. If you can come up with a plan, I'll go out tonight. It's Friday, we've got a whole weekend . . ." Zack pumped a fist in the air before he got control of himself. "But . . . you're going with me. If I have to suffer, so do you." Zack grinned.

"And what made you think I was gonna let a socially inept bastard like you out of my sight in the first place?" He accepted the cuff to the back of his head with good grace, but it didn't wipe the grin off his face at all as Sephiroth turned to descend the stairs to the training floor, his face once again set in it's emotionless mask. It was time to greet the new recruits . . . the new sacrifices to Shin-Ra's consuming greed.





To Be Continued



AN - Like it? Hate it? Let me know. I'll even deal with flames, I guess.