Kingdom Hearts II

Everything is Relative

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and this story is! Once again, a plot bunny bit me that deviates from my main timeline. This one could fit in with both The Darkness Will Rise From the Deep and Heartless Angel. In any case, it is an alternate musing on how Sephiroth acquired those wings of his.

He seemed easy-going, but he was a serious fighter. And when he had a mission to complete, he never gave up until it was accomplished. It did not matter how many enemies he had to face, or how many worlds he had to cross, or how many weeks and months it took. He would do whatever he had to.

That was how he had wound up where he currently was, wandering the twisted labyrinth of an underground fortress. The villagers all believed that the mountain was haunted, as they had often heard blood-chilling screams when they went past. He had not believed it. He had instead decided to investigate, to see what sort of human or beast could have made such a tortured cry. He had possessed a bad feeling about the place from the moment of his arrival on this world, and ever since he had rendered the guards unconscious and slipped inside, that sensation had only built within his heart.

He had moved along silently, stealthily, down the cracked and algae-coated stone steps and through the door, with the help of the passkey he had conveniently borrowed from one of the sentries. The structure he had found was not what he had expected at all---an extensive, sprawling series of hallways and rooms that had obviously been crafted by a skilled architect. There had not been any screams, and there still were not, but the silence did nothing to ease his concerns. If anything, it only made them swell all the more.

He opened the sixth door along his path, cautiously, and then shut it again, barely able to restrain himself from banging it. The room beyond was a laboratory, and tables adorned with chemical vials were spread over the marble floor. There were also manacles on the walls, and blood, both recent and old. Whoever the scientist was, he was not merely researching chemistry---at least, not the way it was supposed to be done. Now the source of the screams seemed obvious.

He passed to the end of the corridor, coming to a fork in his path. To the right was one large room, mostly devoid of any furnishings. The ceiling was high, and there was a simulated sky and sun. He frowned. What would anyone want with such a chamber? It almost looked as if it was meant for birds to fly around, if they were not allowed to leave this Hell and soar through the real sky. But that did not make sense. There were no birds here. There was not any indication of anyone currently being around, though it did not seem likely that the guards would patrol an abandoned building. Someone, or something, must still be here that they felt was worth protecting.

To the left was another long hallway of doors. He swallowed hard, keeping one hand ready to draw his weapon as he began to advance. There was no telling who or what might suddenly appear before him.

The following two doors both housed laboratories, with the approximate same layout as the first. The third room was bare, and as he stood in the doorway, a cold chill suddenly went up his spine. Death was very near, and seemed to be right in the room. He leaned in further, and then dearly wished that he had not.

On the floor, pressed against the wall next to the door, was a lifeless form on its stomach. It was a male, sporting short black hair and only a ragged pair of jeans for clothes. The body had once been well-built, but now was weakened and starved; he could see the ribs showing through the stretched and raw skin.

He was not certain which was the most alarming factor of this scene---that the man had obviously been brutally tortured to his death, or that from his back sprouted four large, black wings, two on each side. What would have caused such a phenomena? Humans did not have wings. But then there was the laboratory. Could it be that . . . ? He turned away, nausea rising in his throat. Quickly he shut the door of the tomb and briskly continued up the corridor.

The last door along the aisle opened into another combination laboratory and torture chamber, but one that was more spacious than the others. In addition to the tables and manacled walls, there were two cells built into another wall, plus a desk nearby, with a computer on top. It was on, the bright screen a contrast to the darkness in the rest of the room.

By now the righteous indignation within his heart had swelled immensely. What was this Hell created by the living? How could anyone be as monstrous as those who had performed these shameless experiments? Did the computer hold the answers? Purposely he stormed inside, past the tables with chemicals on them, past the blood-splattered wall, and to the electronic device. On the screen was a half-finished document, as if the writer had left in a hurry and could return at any time to finish. He leaned forward, placing his hands on the edge of the desk as he read.

We lost two more test subjects today. It's a pity. They were doing the best out of all those whom we tried this experiment on, to receive four wings. But when I tried to add a fifth wing, their bodies overcompensated. But it's alright. I can still take apart their corpses to see how the extra appendages worked and grew in the first place. They will yet lend themselves to this glorious project!

It's marvelous, the things that can be done by combining the strength of hearts with my avian research! I've been able to move science ahead fifty years in just five. Truly, hearts are the source of all power! I don't care what my colleagues say, that I'm dealing with things that should be left alone. They do not have the backbone to be true scientists!

Since the beginning of time, men have desired abilities that they do not possess: teleportation, telepathy, flight. . . . And all are possible by adding hearts to the previously failed scientific formulas! Now I'm developing a new breed of human, a human that can fly as a bird, or even an angel, if one believes in such things. Also in the testing stages are my plans to grant the other powers that humans do not have, but should. I've only tried these on one subject, and he seems to be handling it well.

The next step will be to finish adding wings to the above-mentioned party, actually the last man we have left for the project. He is the strongest out of all of the subjects, and I daresay that it may be possible to give him all six wings without him expiring from the immense pressure and agony that it will cause his body. He has nerves of steel, to have been able to handle the first three as well as he has. Most of the others went insane after the very first installation. But he is yet of sound mind, though extremely ill physically. But that will be taken care of.

Madness! The person composing the record had to be absolutely out of his mind. No decent person would ever inflict such atrocities on guiltless human beings! It did not even sound as though the crazed professor considered the "subjects" to be people, but only experiments. It was not cared about whether they lived or died, except for how it affected the outcome of the barbaric project. It was not a concern that they would feel pain and suffering. Maybe, even, this demon would be delighted to see that they did.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something move in one of the cells. Immediately he whirled to look, his heart racing. Not able to see clearly from his current angle, he slowly walked over to the bars, gripping them as he looked inside.

On the floor, in the shadows, lay another limp form, this one mostly on its stomach, but slightly on its left side as well. This one was also a man, stripped to his waist, but this poor soul was still alive. The movement the explorer had seen had come from the large, royal blue wing sprouting from the captive's pale shoulder. The unusual appendage was half on the floor and half on the cot next to the ill man, and it twitched now and then as he remained sprawled on the floor, too weakened to even move in order to rest on the bed.

Farther down on his back, on either side of his waist area, were two more dark blue wings. Both of these were more slender than the main wing, and both were motionless on the floor. Between and around them were long, tangled locks of hair, the color light against the deep sapphire feathers.

Horror filled the observer's heart. Immediately he pulled on the metal door, and was only partially surprised when it actually opened. Apparently, with this prisoner in the state he was in, the so-called scientist had decided that it was unnecessary to lock him in. He would not be able to escape. And probably the unlocked door was also there to taunt and mock him, to tell him that he could get out if only he could force himself to move!

The other ran in, quickly kneeling on the floor beside the captive. "Hey!" he exclaimed, laying a hand firmly on the bare left shoulder. "Can you hear me?" The skin was frighteningly cold to the touch, and several locks of the unkempt hair slipped onto his hand. Now that he was beside the victim, he could see that the hair color was a unique silverish hue. And his blood froze in his veins.

"No," he murmured, drawing back as his hand visibly trembled. "No . . . it can't be . . . it can't be!"

All he could do was observe the prisoner's stricken body, desperately gripping at the knees of his pants as he knelt on the cold floor. This man had the same build as the friend he had been looking for during the last months. He looked to be about the same height, as well, and the hair. . . . How many people had that color of hair, not to mention the length? It was clearly down to the captive's knees. He shook his head slowly, dazedly. He had often joked that his friend should either cut his hair or keep it in a ponytail or a braid, to which the other had always flatly refused. . . .

"Seph . . . no, it can't be you. . . . Not like this! Never like this . . . !" He could hear his tones rising in panic. He reached out again, gently touching the left shoulder. This time he felt the muscles tense weakly under his grip.

"No . . ." the older man pleaded, his voice rasping, his body barely conscious. "No more. . . . No more. . . ." And the first felt his heart sink. He recognized those tones, only too well---in spite of how broken they were now.

"It's me, Seph. . . ." He swallowed hard, but the sudden parched feeling continued to remain in his throat. Carefully he brought his right arm around the silver-haired man's waist, easing the other toward him. He had to get Seph out of here, before anyone came back. Somehow, he just had to! He could not let them hurt him any further than they had already done.

In spite of himself, he audibly gasped when he had the other turned enough that he could see the face. Seph's skin was pale, his long bangs brushing weakly against his cheeks. A bit of blood had dried near his mouth, perhaps from when he had taken an unfortunate spill . . . or had been pushed. But it was the eyes that haunted his friend. Those green eyes, which had always been so full of determination, and pride, as well as kindness and warmth, now were dead. They focused on the other, but the empty look did not change.

Still, he was not going to give up. "Seph . . . you know me, right?" The newcomer held onto the ill man's upper body, while trying to make certain that he did not crush the two right wings. The form was completely slack in his grasp, and he honestly had to wonder how much longer Seph would survive. But then he forced the thought away. No! No, he would live. He had made it for this long! He would not let the perpetrators have their way. Seph would want to be stubborn, to prove to them that he would recover. And this man would be there every step of the way.

"Seph . . . I'm your old pal . . . Zack. . . . I've been looking for you ever since you went missing on that mission!" He could hear the desperation leaking into his voice. Seph had to remember! He had to! "I never forgot about you. Oh man . . . if I'd only been able to find you here sooner. . . ." He knew that it would tear at his soul for years to come, that he had not been able to locate his friend before . . . before this had happened. All he could do now was to try to pick up the pieces as best as he could, and encourage Seph all along the way.

The silver-haired man blinked, a bit of the fog finally clearing from his sea green eyes. It was a welcome sight. "Zack," he repeated, and looked up at the other with an awe that swiftly changed to self-loathing. "I . . . I didn't want you to see me . . . like this. . . ."

Zack tried to weakly smile, but he knew it looked forced. "Hey, we all have our bad days. . . . Look, I'm getting you out of here, right now."

Seph shook his head, just as weakly. "I'm . . . I'm a monster," he murmured, in response to Zack's first comment. The wing on his left side raised slightly before it dropped back to the floor once again.

Now Zack shook his head, firmly, as he took hold of Seph's right wrist. With precision he draped it over his shoulders, and then brought his left arm around the weak man's waist, between his wings. Slowly he began to get to his feet, half-pulling, half-dragging Seph with him.

"So, now you've got wings," he replied, stopping to wait as the other struggled to get his balance. With Zack's assistance, he managed to do so, and the raven-haired man began to move as fast as he dared toward the door. He knew that Seph would not be able to go very quickly, but on the other hand, they had to escape before they were discovered. His friend was not in any condition to be discovered by those mad scientists again.

"What's so bad about wings?" Zack continued, casting a glance at the other as they reached the doorway. "They could be useful, practical . . . they're a nice color. . . ." Seph was silent, either too weary or too upset to reply, or both. He let Zack lead him first into the laboratory, and then to the door.

Zack could tell that the other was still feeling quite numb, that it had not fully dawned on him yet that he was actually being freed. But that was perfectly understandable, after what he had been through. He must have been captured and tortured ever since he had vanished in that explosion. Most of the rest of the military had believed him to be dead, but Zack never had, and on his own he had been traveling since then in order to find him.

"Hey, if you want to talk about monsters," he said now, "the only monsters are the ones who did this to you. You're still Seph." He guided the silver-haired man down the corridor, to where they would need to turn right. Mentally he ran through the part of the floorplan that he had knowledge of, wanting to make sure that it was correct.

"You're still my friend. You know I'd never abandon you, right?"

He felt the other stiffen slightly at these words. When he glanced over this time, he saw that a bit of light had come back into those sea green eyes.

Abruptly Seph's expression turned entirely serious again. "Most people won't be as accepting as you are," he said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Not that I care." He was not a self-conscious, insecure person, and it would only matter to him when it came to people he was close to---and other than Zack, there actually was not anyone in that category. His own, personal acceptance of these new additions to his form, however, might take some time. It was obvious that right now, he loathed the wings.

Again Zack gave a vague smile, but this time it was genuine. "Well, I don't care, either," he replied. "If they won't still accept you, then there's something wrong with them."

Seph grunted. "People are like that."

"I know."

Zack could not help but feel an immense sense of relief at their conversation. This man was not completely broken, after all the horrors he had suffered. The Seph he knew was still in there. There was hope.