Nighttime. The shine of stars, the quiet, the sense of calm and peace...Such was not synonymous with Midgar. Here in the City of Mako the setting of the sun signified the hurrying to home, the locking of doors and turning a blind eye to the routine "activities" one came accustomed to. Pre-teen girls hung around mako-fueled lamplights while faceless men in cloaks exchanged pills the color of chocobo's feathers for gil.

The hallmark of humanity...

A frown tugged at Sephiroth's lips. His pace was fast but not frantic, exuding a confidence he did feel. Fear did not fuel his feet, for that there was none—not of the riffraff of the streets, anyways. But any delay might jeopardize his mission. Sephiroth's thirteen years of life was one long string of horrific experiments, many of which he had no name for.

His silver hair tinted mako-green as Sephiroth shook his head and approached an apartment building. His eyes flew up to the second-highest residence. 1702. The number on the torn paper that the Turk had wordlessly handed him. Sephiroth snorted. It had to be that high. Again, the fear was not of harm, for even if he should fall, which was doubtful considering his agility, his body would recover.

But his mission...Sephiroth feared it.

Whether that fear was for its failure or success he knew not.

Sighing, the youth stepped onto the fire escape. A device that was designed to save life was more apt to end it Sephiroth noted as he ascended the rickety planks. Lyrics from the song Junon Whore blared from a broken window. Before the sound would have grated his heightened hearing but this night it only added to his cover so hurried to make the most of it.

Naturally, being so close to his goal, Sephiroth was forced to forestall his steps when he heard the shouting of some old hag. The woman (was it even a woman?) poked her head out a window about five feet from Sephiroth, her phlegm-filled cough drawing a frown on his porcelain face. As he flattened against the brick wall, his navy suit catching on the harsh surface, the youth restrained his impatience.

Shit, shit, shit...don't make me wait...don't make me stand here and think...

Thinking. About Shinra. About his life. About the deal he'd made with the Devil. His fingernails dug into his palms, leaving little imprints in the gloves. Junon Whore played out leading into the bubble-gum lyrics of Materia Girl by pop singer Sally Sugar. Mercifully that song interested the woman and she ducked back into her apartment. Sephiroth let out a sigh of annoyance and relief and resumed his march upwards.

Upwards until he finally stood on the landing to a window of 1702. The pearly white gloves soiled when Sephiroth laid his hand upon the sill, bracing himself for the task. Then slowly his left hand lowered to a side pocket, feeling for the weapon there. Feeling for the gun, another gift bestowed by the Turk, as instructed by the President. He steeled his spine.

Shit...let this be over quick...Like he said, point and shoot, that's all there is to it...

It was a non-issue to pry the window open. Slipping inside the room was similarly unchallenging. The moment he stood within, however, Sephiroth winced. It was the bathroom and it stank. Accustomed to meticulously-sterilized labs and well-cleaned training facilities, this smell offended his senses. There was little light but his glowing green eyes cut through the gloom, outlining the toilet, the sink and the shower.

Sephiroth opted to hide behind the torn shower curtain. What a novel idea. Then...There it was. A voice. His stomach shrank. Again, all the doubts came creeping back, slithering into his confidence and eating it away. He had no training for this...but how did one get training for this, anyway? The man spoke again, shushing a young girl who'd squealed. His hand silently drew the gun. The voice was near and coming even nearer.

The door creaked open. The man entered.

Oddly enough that sound had a pacifying affect on Sephiroth. A deadly calm fell over his doubt, smothering it. He could pretend he wasn't here. He could pretend this wasn't him. He could pretend what he was about to do was being done by someone else. And after he walked away, Sephiroth could clean his mind of this terrible task like brushing lint off the suit. At least that's what the Turk told him...

Such was the filth of the shower curtain that Sephiroth had to peel it aside to view the man. While he kept his dwelling a mess (if the bathroom was any indication) the man was clean-shaven and well-groomed, his clothing of poor quality but kept in good repair. He turned his back to Sephiroth, so the youth took the opportunity to abandon the shower and step behind him, his feet making less sound than the makolight on the tiled floor.

Fighting to remain in the "not here, not here, not here" frame of mind, the youth leveled the gun at the back of the man's head. One tug on the trigger, one quick click and it would be over. Yet the simplicity of the task did not hurry along his finger; rather because of that the residue of doubt clung to him. His hand shook slightly. How do they do it? How do they convince themselves that they are not even there? That they're not...killing...?

Then the man began to pee.

Startled, the youth inched the gun away momentarily. The man was blissfully ignorant of the assailant behind him, taking his time to finish his business. Before Sephiroth could say or do anything, the man turned around. The instant he took in the silver hair, the penetrating eyes and, most especially, the gun, he let out a hiss of shock. His mouth remained agape as if the muscles themselves were so stunned they forgot to retract his lower lip.

"...Ugh...The hell!"

"Pull your pants up," Sephiroth gestured with the gun, voice bone-cold.

His eyes fixated on the youth, the man hauled up his trousers. After the brief spasm of surprise, he settled into an eerie calm. That lack of fear incited Sephiroth's own. Had the man been tipped off to his coming? Sephiroth's teeth gritted together. If this was a trap, he should act immediately. Shoot, run down the fire escape and claim his reward...

Yet, Sephiroth stood there. Doubt had trickled back into the cavity of his fear. It was unreasonable he knew. Death was no novelty to him, even if the killing blow was. With eyes too young for the violence unfolding before him, Sephiroth had witnessed victims at their lowest point—their death. To the reactions of fear, outrage, sobs and the begging for mercy he'd been acclimatized...

...or so he thought. This...apathy...was beyond the scope of his young life.

The man chuckled. "Well, if you plan to kill me at least tell me why."

"What!" Sephiroth flinched. "Shut up."

Fuck...fire the damn thing, you bastard...Just point and shoot, point and shoot...

"What's the harm in humoring me?" After making a pointed gesture of looking around, the man added. "That is why you have a gun to my head...To kill me...Right?"

Drowning in the pit of his dilemma, the youth barely heard him. Committing this act—his first cold-blooded killing—would not come easily, he knew. Yet, Sephiroth did not anticipate this paralyzing doubt, the rolling of his stomach, the sweating of his hands...You'd think he was the one with the gun poised to blast a hole through his skull.

This is fucking insane. I should already be half-way to the Headquarters...Maybe if he provided the man with an answer his own questions would be similarly dismissed. Eyes glowing hotly, Sephiroth uttered the first thing that came to him. "This is your execution. You are a criminal and that is your sentence. I am charged with carrying it out." Taking a deep breath, Sephiroth's hand steadied, finger teasing the trigger.

"Wait!" The man's hands flew up; quick but not frantic. "Do you believe that?"

"What does it matter? My believing or not believing won't make you any less dead."

The man's arms crossed. "Won't it?" The question was academic—not a delaying tactic as Sephiroth figured it would be. One glance into those placid eyes confirmed that. This reaction baffled an already confused Sephiroth. The man rode on the wave. "You plan to put a bullet in my head even though you don't know my name..."

Despite having a near photographic memory, the youth found to his dismay that he could not remember the man's name. Both the Turk and the President had mentioned it, but the words taunted the outreaches of his mind. Sephiroth's grip on the gun weakened as did his faith in his mission. Had he been so eager for the reward of a task well done that he'd forgone any contemplation of the task itself?

The man tipped his head. "James. James Waterite."

Now that did bring a flash of memory...Sephiroth struggled to clutch the image tight but it slipped through the cracks of his gaping mind. Sucking in air through his perfectly white teeth, Sephiroth focused and brought the gun to bear. "I'll have that name carved on your gravestone."

Fuck. Point and shoot. Point and shoot...

"You, I remember..." James whispered, still unperturbed that he was a hair's breath from having a hole in the head. "...the strange kid from the labs...Sephiroth..." His lips drew a hard line. More words seemed forthcoming but the man held them back, his blue eyes as bright as the materia of that color.

An involuntary gasp escaped the youth's lips. This, too, did not feel like stalling. The look in the man's eyes was unmistakable. Caged like a prized bird, Sephiroth was denied any knowledge of whom or what he was. Nights he spent awake, staring at the white-wash walls pondering his origins, his legacy. Days he spent either as Hojo's little rat or in the training arena pitted against horrific beasts.

Whatever scraps of information of his life the man held, Sephiroth would have it.

"How do you know my name!"

"Whoa!" Again, the hands came up. "Take it easy..." When that only prompted the youth's hand to tighten on the gun, James added smoothly, "I use to...work for Shin-ra." Sephiroth snorted. James shrugged. "Well, you don't know how it is...you either work for them or don't work at all."

No, that was something of which Sephiroth could relate. A situation he hoped to remedy—a situation that this current dialogue was only delaying. Sephiroth chewed the inside of his mouth. A bullet to the man's temple would slay the doubts haunting his mind. The Turk had made it crystal clear. "Don't think. Don't worry. It's just a job, do your job."

But what harm is there in gleaning a bit of information before taking care of this...business? Information that I may never uncover elsewhere...

"Talk."

"Your name came up during a...mission."

"Mission?" The youth didn't lower the gun, but his grip on it lessened.

"Just doing my job."

Sephiroth smiled an ugly smile. "You're a Turk."

"Was." James appraised the youth. "Looks like they're trying to replace me."

That stung Sephiroth and he growled as the man boldly washed his hands. Sephiroth imagined his own hands beneath the gloves, stained with blood...James's blood. He swallowed, running his free hand through his shoulder-length hair. He was no Turk. The word conjured up a number of titles—kidnapper, killer...Titles he had no longing to bear.

But was this so far off the mark?

His eyes squeezed shut briefly, pained, but flew open at the sound of the water shutting off. James scanned the room for a towel and resigned himself to snatching one off the floor. The effort had the unrushed placidness of a Turk he'd undoubtedly cultivated over the years. The void of silence bothered the youth so he snapped, "Get on with it."

The towel fell to the floor and James sighed. "A Turk had been assigned with the execution of an individual deemed dangerous by the company.

"I was that Turk."

Hardly unexpected. Sephiroth could hardly see where that involved him. "Nice story. I'm sure the Midgar Telegram would be amused." Placing his other hand on the gun, the youth aligned the shot. "But unless you got something more...relevant, this shit is over." Don't fucking wait...Shoot, shoot, shoot...!

Because his next move was so blatantly daring, the youth couldn't react in time to stop James. The former Turk lifted one hand to grip the barrel of the gun, his other hand sliding over Sephiroth's. His gaze was intense on the youth and Sephiroth growled but did not fire. "Are you a killer, kid? Have you ever killed someone before? Are you a Turk?"

Kill...Turk...Shoot...Kill...It's your job...Just do your job...

Sweat shined in the mako-moonlight on the youth's forehead. "Shut the fuck up! You don't know me."

The man's voice was deceptively soft, with an undercurrent of a threat. "And you don't know me but you're ready to put a bullet in my head, aren't ya?"

"President Shin-ra said you are a criminal..." Fire raged in the youth's head. These mind games infuriated him. Vines of confusion weaved inside him, strangling his sense of thought. Perhaps the man realized he couldn't overpower Sephiroth physically so he thought to do so mentally. Sephiroth snarled. "You confessed to being a Turk—and Turks are killers, kidnappers—!"

"Don't give me that crap!" James' voice was soft, venomous. Such was his nearness that the youth could almost feel his breath. "What makes you think you're above all this shit? That you can deal death and judgment...Who made you fucking god!"

There was no answer. Sephiroth seethed in silence.

James snorted. "You don't know shit...So, what did they offer you? What's a man's head worth these days anyways?"

Sephiroth blinked, his hand shaking beneath the other man's. This lack of self-control, which the ex-Turk had plenty in reserve, infuriated him. What's it worth? What isn't my freedom worth? Your miserable existence for my miserable existence...It's a fucking zolom eat zolom world we have here.

James' words slithered into the youth's head, just like that zolom. "If you're a Turk...if you're a killer...then shoot me."

You kill, I kill, we all kill...

You stupid bastard, just shoot the damn thing...He's fucking with your mind!

Like the edge of a blade his eyes narrowed and the youth ripped the gun free. Before the man could react, Sephiroth lifted the gun to James' right temple. And with a delicious delight Sephiroth drank in the flow of the man's fear. James was the one who trembled now; his' were the eyes that danced, furious.

"Your stupid little bitch games are over. Finish your story."

"And then what?"

The smile that Sephiroth adorned was not becoming of thirteen years. "And then I finish my job...like a Turk."

"You are a bastard."

Somehow the implied double meaning didn't slip past the youth and he growled, prodding James with the gun. The man flinched. Sephiroth knew that the glee bubbling inside him at that was wrong on some level but he couldn't help but relish it. At last it was not him on the receiving end of some cruelty. At last he was inflicting fear, pain and anger on someone else...

Sephiroth drew a hiss of breath. What was happening to him that he should take pleasure in another's pain? All his life, through all the innumerable insults, suffering and doubt Sephiroth had taken the high road. Whereas everyone around him had inflicted torture for either scientific advancement or sadistic amusement, the youth conducted himself with dignity.

When did this change from 'just a job' to being something sadistic...?

His index finger, the finger that caressed the trigger, itched. "So, did you kill him?"

James didn't even blink before uttering, "No."

"No?" With a delicious cruelty Sephiroth added, "You were a Turk, right?"

"Yes, but then you wouldn't be here right now, would you?"

That wiped the smile off Sephiroth. The gun lowered a fraction of an inch. "What!" The bottom dropped out his stomach. Wouldn't be here...The meant that he was the target. What was Shinra trying to prove? What was his purpose in sending Sephiroth after his own would-be killer? The conflict between the vicious glee and the worry over his morality was fading beneath a delirium of confusion.

What sick shit is this? Like an invisible cord he feared to sever, Sephiroth's gaze locked on James'. In palpable waves the man exuded that confidence that came with being a Turk. Was the man lying? The youth peered suspiciously at James. It didn't appear so. There was no deception lurking in those dark eyes. Still...

The sound of the dropping water in the sink grated on Sephiroth's ears but only because in the silence it was so very loud. Sweat collected in his gloves, his mind a storm of chaos. James seemed content to wait him out. Somewhere a toilet flushed and the youth flinched. Before it had been easy—relatively, anyways—to kill this man. Shoot. Run. Clean the blood of his hands and out of his mind.

Now everything's so goddamn twisted...

"I spared your life." The arrogance and confidence was back in James' voice, even though the gun had not wavered. His eyes shined green with makolight. His next few words were void the ring of significance they should have carried, "Will you spare mine?"

Spare...my life...spare...his life...Shoot...my job...a Turk's job...

James took a tentative step. "There's no need for this." Another step. Sephiroth made no move to stop him, chained by his own indecision. "Come now, give it up..." Another step. Still, the youth could not find the strength to act. The ex-Turk was almost upon him now. "You don't want to be a killer, kid." He snorted. "You're not a Turk.

"Give me the gun."

Every cell in Sephiroth screamed at him to pass over the weapon. Right from the start he'd cringed at the thought of this mission, as if slaying someone was the same as slaying a part of his soul. James' eyes were bleeding with kindness, his arms outstretched, imploring...trying to smother the sadistic hunger in the youth.

What made him think Shinra would ever relinquish him anyways? Even when the President had dangled that before Sephiroth there was laughter in his voice that bespoke of treachery. And James himself...what made Sephiroth think that the gun wouldn't be pressed against his head once he'd passed it over?

"...you're not a killer...not a Turk...give up the gun..."

He's fucking with your mind again...

...Job...

The hand lifted.

...Shoot...

The finger pressed.

...Kill...

The gun blasted.

Bang.

Light from a truck passing far below flashed over Sephiroth's face. The smile there could only be described as inhuman. The expression on James' could only be described as horrified. Somewhere the old hag shrieked. The body hit the wood floor, blood soaking into the towel, the color of summon materia.

That's it. That's fucking all? One bullet and this shit is over?

For a long, long moment there was no movement. Sephiroth stood there, like a statue carved in the annuals of time. Then his gaze trailed to the gun in his hand. It was still like the body on the floor. It had been so simple. He'd done his job. Bang. And down he went. Why had he worried about it? Why hadn't he taken more pleasure out of it while he could?

The youth clamped down his lips to contain the laughter. His green eyes glittered with the fading makolight. No regret, no remorse. Maybe a little regret...regret he could not prolong the suffering and prolong the exhilaration coursing his veins. That feeling he'd experienced upon pulling the trigger was more potent than anything he'd felt before—even the strongest mako drugs didn't compare.

And he craved for more of it. Sephiroth licked his lips, releasing the gun. It landed a foot from James' head. No, guns were not for him. They were too quick, too efficient. They lacked the means to extend his victim's pain and his pleasure. He glanced outside. The night surrendered almost entirely to the dawn, sending those who'd composed their business darkness back into the shadows.

Where he must go. With greater ease than his arrival, the youth left, darting down the fire escape with no delays. This far down in the plates of Midgar, no true sunlight would ever see the streets. Still, those men in long cloaks and the girls by the lamps melted into the shadows, giving way to the more accepted forms of business. Sephiroth faded along with them, returning to the Headquarters to give his report.

Hopefully, if the President considered his report sufficient he would release Sephiroth—to kill again.

Just a job? No, not just a job.

A life. His life. And their deaths.

James Waterite would become a number on a long list.