Gast Faremis has work to do and he must do it quickly. Nothing's served by burning a bridge you're still trying to cross. Sitting in a lab on the sixty-eighth floor of the ShinRa building, Gast hasn't even taken his first step. He knows which files he'll take with him, which ones he'll destroy. He knows he'll take the elevator at the back of the lab at six o'clock when security will be more concerned with shift changes than with why the kind professor they see day in and day out is carrying more work home with him than usual. He knows he'll take the train not to his home in a high-rise above the plate but to the slums in Sector Six. He knows those slums will be the last of Midgar he ever sees.
But it's only noon and thought still hasn't transformed into deed.
He'll leave nothing behind him. He can never erase his name from the harm he has helped ShinRa create, but he can keep his work from being used for even worse. He will not give them another word on the Cetra. He thinks of warning them of his mistake made eight years ago, but knows no one will listen. The results of the Project are not what they expected but more than they hoped for. The truth is irrelevant to them.
He tries not to look over to the round container at the center of the lab. He doesn't let himself call it a cage because he doesn't want to admit what that makes the boy who is currently inside of it for observation. It's a lie he doesn't believe but one Gast needs to tell regardless. This wasn't his intention. He never meant for the boy to be in there. Yet there is where the boy is and all of Gast's intentions mean less than nothing as the Project is out of hands even as its taint can never be washed from them.
Another lie he tells himself is that there's nothing he can do to change this. There's a kernel of truth in it that makes this lie more persuasive. It'll be risky enough for him to leave ShinRa. Taking the boy with him would be impossible. Gast's absence won't be noticed until the next morning when he fails to come to work. The boy's absence would be noticed immediately. Time is Gast's only weapon in his escape. Without it, he can't fight the troopers and Turks that will be in pursuit and they will be only too well-armed.
Ifalna is waiting for him. He couldn't do that to her. But he can do this to a child? He is a coward who won't even try. He is a coward who can't even look at the boy he is going to leave behind.
In the beginning, when there was still a chance to turn back, Gast plunged ahead with promises to the boy's mother that everything would be all right. Their cause was important, noble. They would revive a dead race and bring the Promised Land to a world that desperately needed the hope.
I've been lying all along, he thinks. He wants it to stop. He needs it to stop.
Gast leaves his papers behind and summons the courage to face what he has wrought. The boy notices his approach and brightens to an almost smile. If Gast were still lying, he would pretend that he isn't the only person, the only thing that provokes such a reaction, but he is through with the deceit. He will be the person who earns that smile instead.
He surveys the laboratory around him. Aside from the boy, no one is watching him. Busy with projects, away for lunch, they've given him a sliver of time to act. He has minutes, not the hours he was counting on, but used correctly, a small dagger can have the same effect as a sword.
His fingers slide over the keypad controlling the lock on the door. Ifalna will understand. He loves her for her compassion, her warmth. If anyone can erase glass cages from the boy's life, she can. His dreams of having a family with her will just start sooner than he expected.
Something's wrong. He's miskeyed the numbers. He breathes slowly, determined to do this right. He types again but again the light above the keypad remains red and the door locked. The boy is no longer smiling. He watches him with a hopeful apprehension that makes it harder for Gast to remember the combination.
He whispers the numbers this time before he types them. He knows his mistake now. He transposed the fourth and fifth number. The seventh number goes in and the light turns green. This time, he will be the one to smile at the boy but he never gets that far as he sees the look of horrified disgust the boy is giving not him, but the person who must be standing behind him.
"What are you doing?" asks Hojo and Gast falls back on lies and tells his one-time subordinate that he only wanted to talk to the boy.
He walks back to his office, aware that Hojo's eyes follow every step.
At six o'clock, Gast Faremis leaves the ShinRa building for the final time. He boards the elevator alone and as it descends, he tells himself that he'll see Ifalna soon. She will understand.
Author's Note: Gast has always been a problematic character for me. Yeah, he's Aeris' daddy, he seems all sweet and nice on those videotapes with Ifalna and Sephiroth thinks he's, like, the greatest person ever, but still…this is the guy who started the Jenova Project. And he obviously stuck around enough for Seph to know him, but never bothered to tell Seph anything. I don't think he's a bad person by any means. He was probably doing what he thought was right or the best that he could under the circumstances, which means if he was a person a conscious, there had to be some guilt issues there. So, me plus love of angst plus love of low screen time characters equals fic.