Final Fantasy VII

The Scream

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and the story is. I've always been rather on the fence concerning which origin story of Kadaj and his brothers I officially accept, but unofficially, I've always preferred the idea that they are clones, and that they represent the various parts of Sephiroth's spirit because of that. And it's with that concept that this story has been written.

The scream, when he heard it, was chilling.

For the last, indeterminable while, he had been forced to stay where he was, trapped within a force field as he listened to the sounds from the room next door. He heard angry yells from others, and curses, but never a word from the one they had been interrogating. That was why they were so furious, and probably why they had resorted to physical torture in an attempt to extract the information they desired.

But still the captive would tell them nothing. He was fighting the men viciously, and sometimes they would cry out in pain. Then they would retaliate, and hit, punch, and kick the other's body as much as they could. And they enjoyed using various weapons to assist them---clubs and chains, possibly electropoles or tasers . . . whatever they could get their hands on. Several times the weakening form was heard slamming into the walls of the room from the force of the assaults. But he had never made an audible sound until just now. What on Gaia had they done?!

The boy who was listening sank to his knees, clapping his hands over his ears as he shut his eyes tightly. But that did little to block out the sounds. It was unbearable, to listen to this! Especially when there was nothing that could be done about it. He just wanted it to end, for them to leave his brother alone. Why would they not stop?! Were they never going to cease, until he was hurt too seriously to . . . to even survive? Of course not. He could not die! That was not possible. . . .

Yazoo had always been quiet. Even when they had all been small children, there had been a certain distance between him and his two brothers. He had tried to look after them, feeling that the responsibility was on his shoulders. Loz remembered so many nights when Yazoo had silently held Kadaj's small and often frightened form until he had fallen asleep, gazing off into space the way he tended to do. He had often wondered what Yazoo had thought about during those times, but he had never asked.

The necessities such as food and sleeping quarters were taken care of by the men and their aides, but none of the boys had received genuine kindness, or anything to make their status as experiments easier to bear. Yazoo had taken it upon himself to try to lessen the burdens for the other two, teaching them games that they could play throughout the building and making up stories to tell them. Kadaj always liked scary tales, ones that made Loz jump at every little sound, especially when it was dark and no one else was awake. Sometimes Loz had wondered if Yazoo had complied mainly to tease Loz.

What Loz recalled most from those years past was the weary look in his brother's eyes. Even at the age of eight, Yazoo had looked like someone several times his age, when one had looked into his green orbs. But then he had tried to hide it, for the others. He rarely looked tired any more, though. Instead his eyes were chilled, not bespeaking any of what he felt any more. Did he feel at all? Loz honestly wondered.

Usually Yazoo had seemed to want to work alone in trying to look after the others. Loz was two years older, physically, but mentally he seemed to be around Kadaj's age, or so Yazoo would tell him. Most of the time, when Yazoo would speak to him, it was to tease or mock. It was a bit of an odd contrast to his sobered personality, and it was a side of which Loz was not fond, when it was directed at him. But still, it was part of what made the other who he was.

Kadaj was five years younger than Yazoo, and though he was a sweet child, he was also a terror, and his tantrums always irritated the scientists. Since he had been about four, he had started to experience increasingly frequent periods of unstable behavior. Though there certainly were plenty of reasons for it. Yazoo and Loz had both tried to keep him from learning all the dark secrets of the laboratory they called home, but it had not worked for long.

Loz remembered one night, only several years ago, when he had been dragged back into their quarters after an especially intense physical battle against one of the scientists' aides. It had been a closer fight than some, but Loz had still won in the end and he had felt quite pleased with himself. But upon entering the room, he had found Yazoo kneeling on the floor, clutching Kadaj's three-year-old body in his arms. He had not looked up, and Loz had found that disturbing.

"Yazoo?" he remembered asking as he slowly advanced into the room. Behind him, the door was being locked, but he barely paid attention. "Yazoo, what happened?"

The other was silent for a time, gripping Kadaj as if he did not want to ever let go. "They've . . . started with him," he replied at last. "Kadaj is their experiment now as well. Tonight they hurt him for the first time, to see how strong his endurance is." And slowly he looked up to meet Loz's confused and then shocked gaze.

Loz drew back in horror. Yazoo's eyes were dead.

Something had changed in the middle brother that night. Despite always having been serious and aloof, he became much more withdrawn, even more determined to protect the other two, and all the more defiant of their captors. And Loz had started to sense ice emanating from him. That realization unsettled and downright worried the oldest brother.

Yazoo was never afraid to say exactly what he thought about something or someone, and he also did not want to bend his will to someone else's. That was one of the problems he was having now, Loz supposed. The scientists wanted him to tell them, among other things, how he felt about the experiments, and how they were affecting him and his brothers. And he did not like those men, so he would instead shoot insults at them in reply, when he would say anything at all to them.

Loz did not understand why Yazoo could not simply tell them what they wanted to know. Yazoo would have to know of what they would do if he did not, after he, Loz, and Kadaj had spent all their lives there. Sometimes he was just too stubborn for his own good. Not that Loz blamed him for not wanting to comply, but if that refusal was what was causing the younger boy to be hurt, then Loz wanted him to stop!

Of course, there was another possibility too. Maybe right now it was the same as it often was with Kadaj, and with Loz himself, and they wanted to see how much Yazoo could handle, how strong his body and his fighting abilities were---and to do so, they would harm him. If that was the case, then nothing Yazoo could say to them would make them stop, not until they were ready to cease.

Usually Loz did not know when it was happening to Yazoo, though he was certain that this was not the first time. The quiet boy would never say when he had actually been experimentally tortured, and he had gotten into the habit of wearing clothes that entirely covered his body, all the way to his wrists, ankles, and neck. Yazoo did not like to be fussed over, and whether he would say so or not, he did not want anyone to worry about him, either. He spent most of his time in seclusion, staring out a window or just off into the space of the room. But that was a worry.

Sometimes Loz was able to tell when he was not feeling well. Yazoo would double over, his long hair falling over his face, and gaze at the floor. At times he would shudder, gripping some location that was apparently paining him. But when Loz would ask, he would be told that it was nothing and that Yazoo was fine. He rarely believed it.

If he could just get past this barrier and into the other room, he would fight those men. He would make sure that all of them were hurt for what they were doing to Yazoo. He had tried repeatedly to leave, but the force field always threw him back. He clenched his fists tightly, struggling to choke back the wail of despair that was threatening to tear loose. He was helpless. They were killing his brother, and he could not do anything about it! Maybe that was even why they had put him here, because they did not want his interference . . . and because they wanted him to suffer, listening to what they were doing.

Surely even the three of them had breaking points, despite their advanced endurance that the scientists found so fascinating. He did not want Yazoo's breaking point to be discovered now, though he wondered if it was too late and it already had been. The scream . . . he had never heard Yazoo scream. . . .

The haunting cry ceased, dying as if Yazoo simply did not have the strength to continue it. Complete silence reigned then, but it was not a comfort. Why was it so quiet? How badly was Yazoo hurt? Could they . . . could they have even . . . no! No, that was not true!

The door opened at the same moment the force field was turned off. Immediately Loz stood up and ran out, desperate and yet reluctant to see what had been done to the other. He could hear the men laughing cruelly, and it only made him more upset. That was his brother! They were injuring his brother and enjoying it! He had fun with his own battles, when he fought, but this was different. He could never be pleased watching Yazoo be harmed, or Kadaj either.

When he saw the men, it was surprising and also strangely satisfying to discover that they had been beaten up as well. One of them sported a dark bruise over his eye, while another had a split lip, and another, a bloody nose. All of their clothes were torn, and other wounds were visible through the rips and holes. The second man was limping, and the third looked dizzy. Yazoo had fought them fiercely, as only Yazoo could do.

And Yazoo had paid for it, as well. The first man sneered at Loz, and the other two stepped out of the way to reveal that he was tightly clutching the boy's wrists in one mighty hand as he dragged the other across the floor. Yazoo hung limply, his head falling back and his hair flying out around him. His own clothes were torn asunder, nearly rendered entirely to rags. Blood and bruises were everywhere, and there were also marks that looked like burns. Every now and then, sparks would rise from his form, crackling in the air. Why, they . . . they had been electrocuting him!

Loz ran forward in a mixture of rage and panic. "Yazoo!" he screamed. "Yazoo!" His younger brother did not stir, and he had an eerie, ragdoll appearance as he was thrust from the wicked man to hit the floor. Desperately Loz grabbed for him, but he was not quick enough. He swallowed hard as Yazoo's form slammed onto the cold tiles and still did not make any sound. He was too quiet, even for Yazoo. . . . And he did not move, even now. . . .

The older brother cast a hateful glare at the three men as he dropped to his knees. Gently and almost hesitantly, he began to lift the other's body onto his lap. All the while, he was screaming, barely aware of what he was saying. "You killed him!" he wailed, the tears rising in his eyes. "You killed him!" And he wanted, more than anything, for Yazoo to open his eyes, to smirk at Loz, to tell him not to cry. He wanted his brother to live. Yazoo had to live!

One of the men chuckled darkly again. "He's alive. He nearly killed us," he retorted. "He's a vicious one, alright. Only twelve years old and already he fights better than most grown men. I think we have something here."

Loz gnashed his teeth, looking at all of them with sheer contempt as he cradled Yazoo's upper body in his arms. Sometimes he wondered why it had been their lot to grow up in such a place. In the past, Yazoo had told stories of people who lived in peaceful homes, people who could play without fear, people who had wonderful beings called "mothers" who loved and looked after them. Why was it that they could have none of those things? Why was it that every day they had to be tested by the men, forced to fight and to be beaten up until they were exhausted and nearly at the point of collapse, and never treated with true kindness? Why was Yazoo laying in his arms, so still and pale?

"Just go away!" he screamed. "Go away. . . ." His voice trailed off hopelessly. "Meanies. . . ."

They laughed harder. "Oh, we're 'meanies', are we?" exclaimed the first.

"What a fearsome tongue he has!" taunted the second.

"Honestly, if it wasn't for his brute strength, he would be of no use to us," smirked the third.

It was the wrong thing to say. Loz's green eyes flashed, and he gently laid Yazoo's body on the floor before straightening up to attack. The men seemed to realize then that they had made a mistake, but it was too late. Loz lunged at them, his speed and his fists all the more dangerous and deadly because of the pain that was driving them. He gave a furious cry, punching the first and sending him crashing back with a broken nose. Then he delivered similar treatment to the other two, until they were all sprawled in a sorry heap and he was kneeling in the midst of them, still attacking wildly and mindlessly.

He was useless. He knew it was true. He was not able to look after the other two, and protect them, as he should be able to do. Not even his strength had enabled him to save Yazoo from the brutal torture, and if it had been Kadaj---who was, at the tender age of seven, the scientists' pet project---it would have been the same thing. He could not do anything, anything at all. . . .

"Stop. . . . It's . . . it isn't helping."

Loz froze, his fist clenched in mid-air. Slowly he turned around, staring at the source of the weak voice. Yazoo was laying on his side, as Loz had left him, and his eyes were half-open as he gazed wearily at his older brother. With his left hand he reached out, trying to grab hold of the other, but Loz was too far away and Yazoo could not make the effort to get up.

He did not have to. His words, as was often the case when he made a rare show of speaking, pierced Loz sharply.

Shakily the muscular teenager got to his feet, hastening back to his brother's side. The three men, now even more seriously hurt after being beaten up by two of their three projects, struggled up as well and slunk out of the room---but Loz barely noticed them now. He only cared about Yazoo's fate.

He fell to his knees again, his hands trembling as he began to work with Yazoo's wounds in an attempt to stop the bleeding. All the while, the other watched him blearily, the pain obvious in his eyes. He was weakened and helpless, a sight so wrong to see from him. He was supposed to be strong, smirking quietly or else being deadpan as he delivered his sarcastic remarks. But even now, Loz could see that the fight had not gone out of him. He was in agony, he was miserable, but he was not broken.

Through the torn material of his clothing, various scars were visible over the damaged body. Some looked old, but painful, while others appeared to be recent. And Loz swallowed hard when he found bandages over other injuries, even more currently gained. So much . . . Yazoo had been hiding so much. . . . Would he have tried to hide this beating, too, if he had been able to do so?

"How . . . how old are these?" he gasped. He was trying to bring his attention back to anything presently bleeding, but he could not help returning his gaze to the scars. One of them was across Yazoo's chest, and looked as though it had been deep when it had first been delivered. He did not know how the aloof boy had managed to conceal it.

Yazoo looked up at him, his green eyes glazed over and still filled with agony. "Some are from years ago," he replied, his voice rasping. "When I was the age Kadaj is now. . . . A few are even earlier. . . ."

Loz stared at him. "And you never told us," he gasped. "Why?!"

Yazoo did not answer. Instead he averted his gaze, looking off into the distance. But his brother was certain that he already had the explanation.

"Why do you feel like you've gotta do everything all by yourself, Yazoo?!" he demanded, still struggling with the bleeding wounds. The crimson was almost entirely coating his hands by now, but he did not care, other than the fact that it made his grip sticky and slippery. And by now he was at such a loss for what to do to help. If he just had some water, and disinfectant, and gauze. . . .

Now the younger brother gave an almost imperceptible shrug.

Loz felt the tears pricking at his eyes again. Angrily he tried to blink them back. "We wanna help you!" he pressed. "But you always just keep everything inside and we never even know when anything's wrong!"

"Good." Yazoo shuddered, choking on a bit of blood that was rising in his throat. "Kadaj is still only a child. Why would I want to bother him with my problems?"

Loz glowered. "There's me!" he retorted.

Yazoo gave a weak smirk. "You too," he said.

Loz's glare deepened, and he looked away. Yazoo thought of him as a child, too. He had always made that obvious. Yazoo struggled so hard to be an adult, and in many ways, Loz supposed, he succeeded. But even Yazoo had moments where he showed glimpses of the childhood none of them had ever had. He longed for serenity, for Mother, as much as Loz and Kadaj did. And no matter how hard he tried, Yazoo could never be Mother for the other two. Loz wondered if Yazoo ever felt at a loss, if he ever felt like he was about to break under the pressure, as Loz felt.

"Yazoo . . . you're still a kid too," he said finally, his voice barely above a whisper.

Now the other chuckled low. "I don't feel like it," he answered, still in that same, distant tone.

Loz wondered if he had always felt that way, even when he had been Kadaj's age, and earlier. It made him sad.

Abruptly his brother started to rise. He hissed in pain as he gripped at his injured side, but then tried to ignore it. "I'm alright, Loz," he vainly attempted to reassure the other, as he made it into a sitting position. "I . . . I'll go get cleaned up and then we'll find Kadaj. He's probably wondering about us. . . ."

Loz was not sure what it was about Yazoo's sudden struggle to stand that caused his emotions to spill over. "No!" he screamed, grabbing Yazoo's upper arms harshly. "No! You're not alright! You're not alright at all!" He gave the other a violent shake, but then ceased the practice and simply continued to hold onto him. He could tell that this time, the tears were not going to stay back. "You're not alright," he said again, almost wailing. "You . . . you've got all these things going on, and maybe I wouldn't understand, but that doesn't mean I don't want to try! You can't keep it all inside all the time!"

By now his voice was strained and choked, his helplessness and despair obvious.

Yazoo stared at him for a long moment, stunned by his outburst. He did not try to pull away from Loz's strong grasp, but that was only because he suddenly did not feel as though he could manage it. He was not fond of physical contact with other people, no matter who they happened to be.

Slowly he began to smirk in a self-depreciating way. "I'm not like you, Loz, or Kadaj," he said. "Both of you are good at showing your emotions. But I wouldn't know how to begin any more . . . even if I wanted to."

The words chilled Loz, especially with the smirk to accompany them. He released Yazoo, slowly, his heart sinking. The other's eyes were saying so many things right now. Sometimes he did feel despair, as Loz did. Sometimes he wondered how he was going to keep enduring it, and how he would remain strong for his brothers. But even when he got to that point, even when he longed so badly for someone to comfort him, to take the responsibility from his shoulders, he would never show it. And Loz had the feeling that Yazoo was right, that he honestly would not know how. Yazoo probably truly did not want to try, either. He was too aloof, too private, and he had too much pride.

"I don't like it that way," he mumbled finally. "I worry about you, Yazoo, and I know Kadaj does, too. Sometimes he asks what's wrong with you, and I don't even know what to tell him!"

Yazoo looked away, his hair falling across his face and hiding his eyes. "Knowing Kadaj," he mused, "he probably has some idea about it anyway." They both knew that their younger brother was extremely perceptive at times. That, along with his already sharpened, cunning personality, was what made him the scientists' favorite. Yazoo also suspected that they were intrigued by Kadaj's unstableness, and that annoyed him but would not surprise him in the least.

Loz stared at the floor as if it could give him an answer. "Yeah," he mumbled. "He says you just wanna fight alone." And Loz did not doubt the truth of it. But that was one of the very reasons why he felt so concerned. He did not understand how Yazoo could keep pushing on all by himself. It seemed that eventually he would reach a point where he could not continue doing it. Loz could not stand to keep his emotions bottled inside. He did not know how Yazoo managed to do so.

"He's right." Yazoo leaned back, shuddering a bit in pain. "If I say I'm fine, can't you accept that?"

"It's hard. . . ." Loz continued to address the floor as he spoke. "I just . . . I don't know how you do it."

"It comes naturally for me." Yazoo looked down at the wounds over his arms and legs, but was not actually seeing them. Slowly he opened and closed his right fist, as if testing to see if his hand still worked properly.

"Yeah, I know . . . but it's gotten worse in the last couple of years. . . ." Loz gave his brother a sideways glance. "Sometimes you used to talk, Yazoo. . . . When Kadaj was really little, you'd tell those stories and those kinda things. Now you just . . . you don't really say anything!"

Yazoo shrugged slightly. "Things change, people change."

Loz sighed sadly. He knew that, all too well. But that did not mean he liked it. "I wanna know you're really able to handle it. . . ."

"I can." But Yazoo could sense the unasked questions hanging in the air. He could tell some of what Loz was trying to say. And maybe, he supposed, it would not hurt to try to put the other's mind further at ease.

"You like your physical battles," he said at last. "It's how you vent your own frustrations." He paused. "I prefer the target room."

Loz blinked, looking over at the other. Yazoo was staring off into the distance, as usual, and when he spoke, Loz still had the feeling that his younger brother was somewhere else. Even when he knew Yazoo was focused on something currently happening, his voice made him sound as though he was in another realm or on another plane. It added an almost eerily ethereal quality to him, one with which Loz had alternately been fascinated and disturbed.

"I go there, load a gun, and fire at the targets on the walls until I'm satisfied." Yazoo painstakingly drew his knees up to his chest, placing his hands on them. "I like the feel of the gun in my hand. Its fate is something I can control."

Loz swallowed hard. He heard what Yazoo was not saying. "Unlike what happens to us." Yazoo hated that there was nothing he could do about their own futures. All three of them were prisoners, and might be for a long while yet. Still, Loz sensed something else in the other's words. He could tell that Yazoo wanted to become stronger, to hone his fighting and shooting skills, because maybe someday, they would be powerful enough to overcome their captors and break free.

And silently, he found himself vowing to do the same. They would discover a way to escape, and maybe then they could find somewhere peaceful to go. Maybe they would even find Mother. Then they would be happy.

Again Yazoo started to stand, seeming to sense that the conversation was completed, and that at least for now, Loz was satisfied. He swayed dizzily, but caught himself on the wall as he grabbed it. "Let's go," he said quietly. His eyes were masked again, with that same icy layer, and once again Loz could sense the chill in the air.

The older brother pulled himself upright as well. Yazoo never could change, it seemed, no matter what happened. And it would still bother Loz, to always see him so vague, so detached. It was flustering him right now, to know that the other was frozen again. Whatever glimpse Loz had seen into his brother's spirit was now covered, as if it had never existed. But a seed of silent understanding had been planted, and he would not forget it.

He wondered if it was too much to hope for, that Yazoo would start to know him better too.

He reached up, brushing away any remaining evidence of the tears that had almost fallen.

"Don't cry, Loz." He could tell that Yazoo was smirking, even though now they were not facing each other.

He glowered. "I'm not crying!" he retorted, his voice echoing down the hall.

Yazoo only chuckled quietly as he began to limp ahead.