Final Fantasy VII
Loneliness of a God
Notes: The characters are not mine,
and the story is! It was directly inspired by the prompt "Regrets"
at the Mako Reactor community on Livejournal. It is a story AU from
Twilight and Dawn, taking place after Dirge of Cerberus.
I honestly don't know if I will be continuing this at all, as I prefer my T&D universe, but the idea for this first chapter refused to go away until I wrote it down. And no, I don't think Sephiroth is a god, but that is what he wanted
to achieve after he lost his mind, hence the title.
It was lonely, being a god.
Not that he would have ever admitted it aloud, or even consciously thought it. Most of the time, his thought process was not even sane or stable. All he could usually concentrate on was collecting more power, restoring Gaia to its rightful hands---his, of course---and getting his revenge on the boy foolish enough to have been able to defeat him several times now. But the more he attempted these things, the emptier he felt. And the more knowledge he accumulated, deep down, he felt as though he knew less and less.
And there were still times, even now, when he felt as if he was awakening from a long daze or sleep, when he felt the veil being pulled back from his eyes and revealing all of what he had been doing while he had been in a trancelike state. At those times, he recoiled in horror and revulsion. No! he would silently exclaim. No, he could not have been responsible for all of that! What was the matter with him? He was not that sort of person. He knew then that his actions had been abominable, the exact opposite of what he usually believed them to be.
He was ill, he was downright mad! He could never have done all of those things while being sane. He could never have burned Nibelheim to the ground, or killed someone as kind and good as Aerith, or attempted to unleash a calamity as treacherous as Meteor. But he had done it all. And he could never forgive himself. He would never use the excuse that he had been insane. That did not change what had happened.
It had been his own, dark feelings and fears that Jenova had taken and twisted at Nibelheim. And once he had lost his mind, it had been his hatred driving his actions. He had believed that everything was as his warped brain had processed it---that he was not human, that Jenova was the true ruler of the planet, and that he was also the true ruler, since she was his mother. He had believed that Gaia was in the sorry state it was in because of taking the planet away from him and her, the Ancients, and that all of the people were responsible and deserved to perish.
He had wanted to become a god, but now he was not even certain why. Had he wanted to make Gaia a better place to live, or had he just wanted the immense power? Maybe it had started as one and ended up as the other. But he was not a god. And he was not human any longer, either. He had become the monster that he had always feared, and he despised himself for all of that. So many lives had been damaged because he had been weak!
He should have been able to resist Jenova's pull, to realize that her whisperings were not his own thoughts. Why had he allowed himself to be so deceived? His mind had become increasingly frenzied during his stay in the Nibelheim library, but he should have had more control of himself! He had been trained in SOLDIER, and had trained himself, to have immense willpower. Had he abandoned all of that?
Whenever he had a part of his mind free again, he would always struggle, trying so desperately to break away entirely from the vise that his madness had over him. But he was always overwhelmed by not only his darker self, but by Jenova as well. She was still there, always wanting to again regain her control over his heart and soul. Even when out of his mind, he had managed to triumph over her power---but his own, so insuppressible, had then managed to drag him down once more. It was Hell. He had suffered with it for so many years now, so many that he had not bothered to count. And he did not know how much longer he could bear it.
Right now he was kneeling on the floor of the cold marble palace that he had taken over as his throne room, clutching at the sides of his head as he shuddered from the pain and agony of all the voices he was hearing. He abhorred those voices. Sometimes he heard Jenova's quiet, falsely sweet tones. Other times it was his own voice being sent back to him, dark and dripping with insanity. It felt sometimes as if it was another person who had taken over his body. But it was not, not really. He heard his own voice because that was him speaking. It was his own thoughts and feelings, deep within the recesses of his mind. And that was a knowledge more shameful and treacherous to bear than if he had been simply possessed.
What was he thinking? What was this foolishness? He knew that he was in the right, that he was above feeling sorry for his actions, that whatever he unleashed was divine punishment, and just. It was because of that knowledge that he had been betrayed by everyone whom he had thought truly cared about him! Even Zack had turned against him in the end. . . .
Zack. . . .
He shut his eyes tightly, struggling against the influences that were insistent on pulling him back. No, it was not true. He had betrayed Zack, not the other way around. Zack had been forced to fight him in the mako reactor room, and while Zack had known that he had to win, it had been not only to protect himself and the rest of Nibelheim's people. Zack had known that if his friend knew what he had become in his unrestrainable rage, he would have wanted Zack to end things in the only way possible.
Though later, when Sephiroth had instead been killed by Cloud, it had not ended things. It had not saved him from his madness. It continued even now. It would go on for eternity.
He was losing the battle again. He could not break free from this anguish. He would argue that it was only what he deserved, but as long as he could not rein in his dark side, then other people would suffer, too. He would rather cease to exist entirely then to face this battle every day and every night.
His shoulders slumped. "Zack . . . I know you'll never hear me, but I can't stand what I've done! I've destroyed so many lives, directly or indirectly---including yours. I nearly brought Armageddon to Gaia. I know I can never be forgiven. . . . I can never forgive myself. I can't even stop myself. . . . I'm sorry. . . ."
He faded back into the darkness.
Aerith rarely saw Zack depressed---definitely worried, and concerned, but not depressed or sad. Every now and then, however, he would turn solemn and go off into the woods to brood. This time he did not leave, but instead sat on a rock and stared down into the pool near the home they shared with Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz. And she was determined to learn what was amiss.
He looked up with a start as she approached. He never would have heard her, had she not spoken. She had moved soundlessly over the grass. He weakly tried to smile. "Hey. . . ."
She sat down next to him, gently brushing a long and unruly lock of hair away from his face. "Don't 'hey' me," she said softly, her own smile soft and sad. "What's wrong, Zack?"
His smile turned slightly more genuine. "Never could fool you," he said fondly, reaching up for her hand. He held it against his cheek, savoring the softness of her skin. Her presence was such a comfort, but not even she could change his mistakes from the past. What was done, was done. And he hated what was done.
Still holding onto her hand, he stared down at the water again. "I lost my best friend on this day," he said at last. She would know who he meant.
And she did. "Oh Zack. . . ." She brought her free arm around his shoulders, her green eyes shining with concern. She could feel that his heart was breaking again, as it had so many times. He rarely spoke of the man whom he had lost to madness all those years ago, but his pain and grief were obvious in so many ways. Most did not notice, as they either did not know what to look for or else found that Zack was too good at concealing it. But Aerith was aware of it every time.
He could rarely look Kadaj or his brothers in the eyes. When he did, she would always see a flicker of agony go through his own orbs. Their eyes, bright with mako, were too much like Sephiroth's. And their hair, especially Yazoo's, was exactly the same shade. The three of them were a constant reminder of the friend he had lost. Sometimes Aerith wondered if she had done the right thing by having them live with her and Zack, but she had not known what else to do. They had already thought of her as Mother, and when she had discussed things with Zack, he had agreed to let them stay. But of course he would have. He would never have denied them happiness with Aerith because of his own tormented feelings.
He swallowed hard, watching the water ripple slightly. "I . . . I was so confused . . . when Nibelheim caught fire. . . . But then I knew . . . I knew . . . and I didn't know what to do. . . ." His voice shook. "I thought I could still save him, Aerith! I thought I could get through to him. . . . But when I saw him there, in the mako reactor room, I . . . I knew the Sephiroth I remembered was dead." In the smooth surface, he fancied he could see the entire battle being played out again. He was holding his blade by Seph's throat . . . Seph called him a traitor and whirled . . . their swords crashed. He could feel Sephiroth's rage, his hatred and insanity, and his own heartache, his helplessness, and his anger.
She held him closer to her. "Zack, there was nothing you could have done," she said softly.
"That's what I tell myself. . . ." He clenched his fist tightly, while with his other hand he held hers as if it was a lifeline. When he spoke again, his voice was far away.
"Once . . . we were on this mission with another respected SOLDIER. . . . But as things went on, we realized he'd lost it somewhere along the way. He was reckless, he was endangering us and others, needlessly. . . . Finally, it came down to where Seph and I had to fight him to the death, or a lot of innocent people would die." He shook his head slowly. "When Seph got in the killing blow, and he watched this other guy fall down dead, he just stood there looking, emotionless. And I was just frozen in shock. I couldn't think of what to say.
"Then Seph turned around, really abruptly, and stuck his sword in the ground to clean it. And all he said was, 'If that ever happens to me, you'll have to kill me, Zack.'" He shut his eyes tightly.
"I didn't want to ever have to think about it. That would never happen to Seph! He was too smart, too quick. . . . He'd never let it all get to him. I . . . I just wasn't prepared for it, Aerith. . . .
"What if I gave up too fast? What if I still could've saved him, if I'd tried harder?" At Nibelheim, Zack had been forced to recall the words that he had tried to block out in the past. They had haunted him ever since, even moreso because of knowing that Seph was still bound by his madness after death. What if Zack had made the wrong choice?
"I always thought I was optimistic . . . but with Seph, I . . . I gave up hope. . . . Why?"
She bit her lip, sorrowed by his turmoil. He had always blamed himself. Every day since Nibelheim, he had blamed himself. And that had been the one thing of which she had never been able to help him.
"Zack, you tried everything you could," she said softly. "He just wasn't ready or willing to listen." And she pitied Sephiroth. She did not hate him, even after everything he had done in his insanity. More than anything, she wished that Zack could be given back his comrade, his friend. But that seemed an impossibility. In the face of what Sephiroth had become, anyone could lose hope, no matter how optimistic he or she happened to be.
Something cold and wet splashed onto her fingertips. Swallowing hard, she leaned down and laid her head against Zack's trembling shoulder. She did not know that there were any words she could say to give him peace. Logically, he knew that all the "what ifs" would not help anything. But at times like this, he still thought of them anyway. And though he always blamed himself, it would become so much worse at such times.
"I loved him, Aerith," he choked out. "I thought of him like my brother. . . ."
"I know," she said softly. "I know, Zack. . . ."
A gentle breeze picked up, tousling their hair as they continued to sit by the water. And as it remained, it almost seemed to Zack that he heard words being formed on the wind. At first he did not pay attention. It was a phenomena that often happened, he had long ago discovered, and both the words of others in the Lifestream and those still on Gaia were often able to be overheard. But as this vocalization became clearer, he abruptly raised his head, his eyes narrowing in disbelief.
"Zack . . . I know you'll never hear me, but I can't stand what I've done! I've destroyed so many lives, directly or indirectly---including yours. I nearly brought Armageddon to Gaia. I know I can never be forgiven. . . . I can never forgive myself. I can't even stop myself. . . . I'm sorry. . . ."
Aerith looked up at him, feeling how he had tensed. "What is it?" she asked.
Not answering at first, he got to his feet, his heart racing. He had not been imagining things. He had heard! He knew he had heard! And suddenly he was overwhelmed, awed, and determined all at once.
"Seph," he exclaimed. "I know it was Seph!" He looked back to her, seeing her surprise as she also stood. "It was the Seph I know!" he said with certainty. "He . . . he's still in there! I can still save him!" He hugged her, the excitement obvious from his gesture and his voice, and his expression. The light was back in his eyes as he told her of what he had heard carried by the breeze. It was the first indication he had ever had that Sephiroth was not entirely lost, and he did not know that he had even fully comprehended it yet. All he knew for certain that his hope was back.
She did not doubt that he had heard something. After all, the man Zack cared about so much surely would still be a part of Sephiroth's soul, no matter what he had done since he had been that person. But they both knew that the kind and good Sephiroth was deeply buried under all the insanity and hatred. It would not be easy to rescue him. And she was certain that Zack was not thinking of any of the details such an undertaking would require. His ecstasy and joy were canceling out all reasoning.
"Zack . . . how?" she said finally. "And where is he? How will you find him?"
Zack shook his head. "I don't know, but I will!" He raised his gaze resolutely, a haunted look flickering through his orbs as he clenched a fist. "When I heard him, I . . . I also sensed him, Aerith. He's in pain right now. He's trying to fight against his hatred and his crazy side, but . . ." He clenched a fist. "That side's winning." And he had to find the other and help him with his battle. This time, he vowed, he would not leave Seph's side until they had their victory. He would not give up on his friend again.
Aerith studied him, unable to conceal her worry. It was going to be dangerous. Since they had left their mortal bodies behind, there would not be any death---but there would still be pain and there would still be torture. It would probably take Zack a long time to locate Sephiroth, and the path would be filled with obstacles and dangers. And once Sephiroth was found, there was not a guarantee that his sane side would be in control at all. If not, he would most likely try to torment Zack in any way possible. She wanted to go with him, to assist him and protect him whenever and however she could, but in her heart she knew that this was Zack's mission alone. He had to find and help Sephiroth by himself. She would be in the way.
He turned back to her, as if he had sensed her feelings. "Hey, I'll be okay," he smiled, wrapping his arms around her waist as he drew her close to him. "You need to stay here with Kadaj and his brothers. You know how restless they get."
She did indeed. And she knew that was another reason why she would have to remain behind. Standing on tiptoe, she placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed his cheek. "Just be careful," she instructed.
He looked into her eyes, his smile softening as he saw the emotions shining in her emerald eyes. He wished he did not have to leave her here, where he knew she would worry. And he could see that she did not like that he was going to leave so suddenly. But what else could he do? He knew he had heard Seph. His friend would never ask for help, not only from pride but because he likely believed that he did not deserve it. And he needed help. Zack had to go, to show Seph that he still cared, that he was still willing to be a friend. And Aerith recognized that, too. She would let him go, in spite of her fears.
He leaned down, kissing her softly on the lips. It was a kiss that said many things, things that he was not certain how to put into words. Thank you, for understanding why I have to go. I know you're worrying already, and I'm sorry for that. I can't promise nothing bad will happen, but I am gonna make it back! And I'm gonna save Seph.
I love you, Aerith. . . .
He pulled back, gently brushing the auburn hair away from her face. Then he turned, hurrying off through the meadow and in the direction from which the wind had blown. It was his only lead. And he would follow it until he had results, no matter how long it took.
Aerith stood watching him, her bangs gently blowing across her face, until he was out of sight.