Sephiroth, upon waking, knew instinctively that something was wrong. There was a tangible tension in the air, thick enough to choke on, and as he went about preparing for the day he fought the apprehension rising within him. Once dressed, his long hair coiled tightly, he left his cabin and prepared to make his way to the bridge. The moment he opened the door his eyes were assailed by the searing light of the morning sun; he squinted and raised a hand to shadow them before making his way down the hall and to the stairs. The airship was, he noticed with some concern, noticeably devoid of people; normally he would have encountered one of the crewmen or the companions. The reason for this was revealed as soon as he set foot on the bridge, the door sliding shut behind him with an audible screeching noise. He froze as his eyes took in the scene before him: there was the young ninja, slumped on her knees, sobbing. There was Tifa, crouched protectively by Yuffie's side, her own tears falling unheeded down her cheeks. There was Cloud, face pale and jaw set as he gazed at the weeping girl. Sound was what caught his attention next; a voice from the radio transmitters giving a newscast. And as Sephiroth listened in growing horror of the massacre at Wutai, of a creature that made humans inhuman, he understood. Though those giving the news reports had no idea what monstrosity was capable of committing such an act, every person in this room was completely aware.

Jenova.

Sephiroth felt sorrow, so familiar to him now, flood his mind. His attention went again to Yuffie; a broken, shattered form lamenting the loss of everything she had known and loved. And though his sympathy, his apathy would mean nothing to her, he longed to give it to her all the same. From across the room his eyes raised to meet the cold, anguished gaze of Cloud; as if reading the other's thoughts, Cloud shook his head slightly. Sephiroth understood the silent message: Yuffie would not accept his condolence, and it was better if he said nothing at all. Wanting to escape the horrific accounts given by the man on the radio Sephiroth stepped through the screeching door and headed to his place of clarity and calm. He went numbly, unfeeling, knowing that the time he so dreaded was nigh. When he was within the confines of the small room that housed Holy, he sank down in his usual spot and rested his head in his hands. He remained that way for long hours, deep in complex thought.

"I don't think I can do this," he whispered finally to Aeris, knowing now she could hear him and expecting no reply in return. "I can't face Jenova, and survive ..."

Silence answered him. He sighed and raised his head, propping his chin in his hand. Almost immediately he recognized the difference in the crystallized body before him. His discerning gaze was able to see the movement below the gleaming, iridescent surface; to see the signs of life. He caught his breath in awe, realizing what she had told him would indeed come to pass. There was no way for him to see what lay within the materia completely, but he knew what it was with aching certainty. The knowledge both elated him and saddened him; it was as she had said.

They must follow the path they were given.

There was no use in raging against his own utter lack of control against fate, although the righteous indignation of who he had been before was battling to emerge from where he had buried it. How easy would it be, he wondered suddenly, irrationally, to become who I was? He's there within me, always furious, always spiteful. Would this be any easier if I embraced that again?

He did not receive the answer he had expected. The entire airship juddered violently, sending him sprawling to the floor. Screams, distant and terrifying, clamoured all around. The ship jolted again, and this time Sephiroth braced himself against the wall but watched helplessly as the materia - Holy - was knocked to the ground with a clear ringing sound.

An unearthly howl rose around him; the shrill, harsh cadence made him clap his hands over his ears in pain. He closed his eyes and delved deep within himself for the iron will and strength he knew was there. The howling began again, and he opened his eyes to see Holy glowing, pulsing, and the light grew steadily brighter. He took a step towards it and was thrown backwards as the world around him tilted violently.

A roaring sound. It felt as though his stomach was rising into his throat. As he grasped desperately at the walls surrounding him, he realized they were falling.

-----

It had been three hours since they had received the news of Wutai's demise. Yuffie, under the care of Tifa, had been taken to her room. Yuffie's eyes, so devoid of any feeling, chilled Cloud, and his heart ached for the young girl whose homeland had been desecrated. After she had left, the remaining members of Avalanche had held a grim, terse meeting. They knew Jenova had destroyed Wutai, and they knew that it would not be content to leave well enough alone. That meant it would be heading for civilization, and the nearest form of that was ...

"Rocket Town." Cid said darkly.

His mood was shared by each and every one of the others. They all looked to Cloud for the final decision; he gave a slow nod, and the pilot of the airship, looking on nervously, adjusted their course.

They dispersed then, knowing that the final confrontation was at hand and needing their own space to privately prepare. Cloud returned to the front of the bridge, staring with unseeing eyes at the land speeding by so far below. He wondered where Sephiroth was, and what he was doing. Probably with what had once been Aeris, praying for guidance. The thought twisted his mouth in a snarl. He could not treat this Sephiroth any different than the other, could not bring himself to forget what had transpired. The fact that Aeris had chosen to speak with her murderer infuriated him. Why not speak to him, to Cloud? Why not speak to the one who loved her so very much? She hadn't, he reminded himself harshly. She had remained silent, and spoken with the one man he hated more than anything in this world. And while he wanted to be angry with her spirit, he couldn't. She was forever pure, forever innocent in his mind.

She was forever loved.

He was shaken from his reverie by a cry from one of the crewmen. His eyes shot into focus, and what he said made him weak with terror.

Looming before the airship, wingspan shadowing the entire sky, was Jenova.

Hideous, Cloud thought. Hideous, monstrous, horrifying. Even those words fell short of describing the huge mass of flesh, muscle and bone that flew before them. It's misshapened mouth opened, revealing rows of uneven, protruding teeth. The sound that came forth dropped Cloud to his knees. Screams erupted from behind him; cries of absolute torment and fear. Struggling to his feet he turned to see the pilot's body fold in on itself, reshape itself, muscles and bone turned to liquid.

Jenova shreiked again. More crewman fell. Cloud staggered backwards as the airship shuddered violently. He made a desperate leap for the flight controls ...

Agony. Terror. Sorrow.

They began to fall.