In Black And White

Chapter 6

When Past Becomes Present

Note: This chapter has been written by Your Worshipfulness, who was kind enough to do so when I said I needed some help with getting over writer's block. Thank you, and I hope everyone enjoys this chapter as much as I did.

Sephiroth's suspicions proved entirely correct an hour later as he stood before the accusing eyes of Avalanche. Emotions varied, but hatred, distrust, and malevolence prevailed. Cloud was the spokesperson of course, and his feelings were made perfectly clear with every threatening look he sent the general's way.

"Let me begin by saying that none of us are going to let you have free reign here. We want to know exactly what your plan is and we want to watch over your work every step of the way," Cloud said flatly.

"That hardly seems conductive to a friendly and productive atmosphere," Sephiroth objected mildly. As one, their expression hardened into glares. Mildly impressed with their synchronism, Sephiroth sighed. "I expected nothing else, continue."

"When we leave, you will be given your sword, but you'll be disarmed before bed each night. Furthermore, you will share a tent with Vincent so that we can be sure you won't sneak off in the middle of the night. You may not have any materia and if you make one wrong move, we'll kill you."

There was a long silence, as if they expected him to object. In the back of his mind, Jenova stirred. He ignored her as best he could, meeting each unashamed stare in turn. Finally he stood, taking note of who flinched at the sudden movement, and addressed them. "The plan is surprisingly straightforward. There will be no epic global quests nor grandiose puzzles to solve. We will go to the City of the Ancients, retrieve the white materia, call the black materia forth, and use them to call Aeris's soul back from the lifestream."

"It can't be that simple," Tifa objected when he had finished.

Sephiroth lifted an eyebrow. "I don't recall saying it was easy, merely that it was obvious. It will require a great deal of effort on my part and a great deal of concentration. There will be sacrifices involved that you cannot possibly comprehend."

"And why is that?" Barret blustered. "We're not smart enough to understand the great Sephiroth's plans? Is that it?"

A nonplussed expression cut off the rant. "No, it's because you're not a Cetra."

"Neither are you," Vincent stated simply, yet his voice echoed more profoundly than Barret's vociferous tones. "I knew your parents. They were very human." His voice was filled with a quiet and ageless pain.

"Two of them were," Sephiroth agreed, "but a great deal of my DNA is infused with cells from Jenova, a contemporary, perhaps even a progenitor of the Cetra. I'm not a Cetra, but I am an Ancient. Either way, I am the only one who understands exactly what will need to be done to use these materia to their fullest effect. I could not begin to explain it to someone who did not instinctually know."

"There are those who would say that they could not begin to explain how to bring a person back from the dead," Cloud challenged.

"A person may do the impossible only once in their lives," Sephiroth rejoined, growing tired of their animosity, well deserved though it was.

"And bringing Meteor down on us wasn't impossible enough?" Yuffie asked. In the midst of the very adult conversation her voice was ridiculously child-like.

A chill smile graced Sephiroth's lips and Red XIII growled low in his throat. "That, my dear, was another impossibility in another lifetime." With that, he quietly removed himself from the room.

His room was more than a little disorderly, and Sephiroth smiled at how unmilitary he had become. His days in SOLDIER seemed almost as if they belonged to another person rather than another lifetime. He couldn't remember the last time he had made a bed and for a moment he was tempted to try his hand at it. His studies beckoned though, and he reluctantly picked up the worn book and flipped it open. Jenova was being strangely quiet, which was a relief and at the same time worrisome. He did not want to think about what could be distracting Jenova from her primary mission, making his life hell, but it was unlikely that it boded well for his future. For now he enjoyed his privacy and dreamed of a day in which his dear, slimy mother would be permanently exorcised from his head.

Less than a half an hour later, just long enough for him to wonder why he hadn't been checked up on yet, his door creaked open. "We leave tomorrow, at dawn," Vincent said without preamble. Sephiroth looked up from his book, which detailed the relationship between the two ultimate materia. "Are you ready?"

"I'm always ready," Sephiroth replied easily, studying the pale man intently. His comment earlier sprang to mind, and Sephiroth seized it as a good opening. "You knew my parents, you said?"

The shrouded man hesitated, as though not sure whether to confirm or deny. Finally he seemed to come to a decision, for he met Sephiroth's eyes above the scarf. "Yes." Nothing else seemed forthcoming.

"You worked with them?" he prodded, unsure why precisely he was curious.

"At times."

The man was incredibly frustrating, no doubt part of his charm. "What did you think of them?" Inwardly Sephiroth winced, though he did not betray any discomfort on his face. Now was not the time to be displaying personal weaknesses to his enemies and to show that he had not meant to say it would only draw attention to his slip. Besides, Vincent's answer could be extremely enlightening.

For the first time Vincent seemed to show some kind of emotion on his face. Though his expression shifted only by the smallest margin, somehow it was enough to convey unspeakable sorrow and regret. "I hated them both, but I only loved her." With that cryptic remark he left, seemingly melting into the dark, windowless corridor behind him. Sephiroth, finding himself unusually pensive after the ex-Turk's remark, quietly returned to his studies.