Final Fantasy VII

Redemption of Broken Wings

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and the story is! This was directly inspired by the prompts "Redemption" and "Broken Wings" at the FF Love community on Livejournal. I've used a line or two that I previously used in my AU Kingdom Hearts fic Everything is Relative, but that's because I think it just works so perfectly. And I think this fic is sufficiently different that a similar line won't really be noticed.

Zack sighed, yawning as he shuffled through the documents in his hands. They were all things that Seph was supposed to sign, according to the Third Class SOLDIER who had been carrying them. Zack had taken them from the other, saying that he was going to see the silver-haired man anyway and he could deliver them.

He smirked slightly to himself. The military could be tedious at times, when there were not any missions in which to take part. Sometimes he enjoyed the quiet, but mostly he liked being in on the thick of the action. That was why he had joined the organization in the first place. He loved being able to travel all over Gaia to right the wrongs that were committed, to help people's lives become better.

Seph's bravery had been one of the major deciding factors in Zack's decision to join SOLDIER. He had desperately hoped that some day he would be able to meet the other, to tell him how much of an inspiration he had been, but he never imagined that something such as this would ever be reality. Not only had he met Shinra's favored warrior, but they were now working side by side and were sent out together on assignments much of the time.

And they were more than just fellow SOLDIERs. Zack had always made friends easily, but not where the older man was concerned. For a long time, Seph had only been coolly polite, as he was with everyone else. He had not wanted to let Zack in---not at all. Perhaps it was partially the fact that Zack had needed to work so hard to earn Seph's trust that had caused their bond to deepen as much as it had done.

Reaching Seph's private quarters, the brunet knocked on the door slightly, leaning on it as he waited for a response. "Seph?" he called, then grabbed the knob and slowly turned it. He often went in unannounced, and the other had grown used to it by now. He accepted it from Zack, though none of the other SOLDIERs would dare to be so bold.

Somehow, Zack got the feeling that Seph had not planned on being interrupted this time.

The older man had obviously just come from the shower, as his long hair was dripping wet and he was wearing only a towel around his waist. He was standing over his desk, looking irritated as he spoke into the phone. It had probably started to ring and had not ceased, forcing Seph to come answer it when he would have rather left it for the time being.

It was the mark on his right shoulder that caught Zack's attention the most. The skin there was darker, as if scarred, and almost looked somewhat raised up. He blinked, staring in shock as he stepped a bit closer. What had happened to him? Was that a deformity he had gained during a battle, or was it something he had always possessed?

It was not surprising that Seph had never mentioned it at all. He rarely spoke concerning himself, and Zack had come to accept that the other would probably always remain a very private, aloof person---despite the fact that he definitely had opened up a lot more since he and Zack had become close. The brunet sometimes wished that his friend would tell more about himself, and especially to talk about something that looked as painful as that scar, but such an injury would be what he would want to speak of the least. Some of it was pride, Zack imagined, as well as not wanting to dredge up unpleasant memories. And he probably did not want Zack to worry, though it was a little late for that now.

Now Seph hung up the phone, brushing a wet lock out of his face as he turned to look at Zack. "What is it?" he asked.

The brunet snapped back to the present. "Oh! I brought these things for you to sign," he announced. As he walked over, he reached around the other and deposited the small stack on the desk.

Seph nodded slowly, giving the documents a cursory glance before turning and picking up another towel draped on the back of the chair. This he now began to run through his hair, while not facing the younger man.

Zack simply stood by and watched as Seph moved the cloth vigorously over his long tresses. He still wondered how the other could stand having his hair clear down to his knees, especially when he never tied it back. He had asked Seph about it once, and had received mostly a shrug in response. Seph found it easy to deal with, he had said, and he doubted that he would enjoy having his hair short.

"You saw it."

Zack did not have to ask what he meant. "Yeah, I did. . . ." He sat down in Seph's chair, arranging his position so that his arms were crossed on the top of it. "What happened to you, Seph?" he exclaimed.

The silver-haired man did not seem visibly bothered. "It was a long time ago," he answered. "If you were anyone else, I would probably tell you that it's none of your business." He glanced over, a green eye peering out from among the damp locks. "Not that it is." This he said calmly, in a tone not meant to offend.

Zack smirked. "I'm just a busybody SOLDIER who wants to know why his best friend's back is so scarred up." As Seph had brought his hair in front of him in order to apply the towel still more firmly, Zack had caught glimpses of other marks that definitely did not belong in his flesh. The confused mess was almost like the backing of a cross-stitch pattern such as the ones his mother had used to make. And now he was certain that those scars were not from any battle. They looked too meticulous, too planned . . . as if someone had been deliberately cutting into Seph's skin. Zack shuddered at the thought.

"Heh." Seph looked away again, silent. He did not appear angry, or annoyed, but resigned, as if he had been expecting this to come up sooner or later.

"You know I was raised in a laboratory," he said at last.

Zack nodded slowly. "Yeah. . . ." A sinking feeling began to form in the pit of his stomach. He was not going to like whatever Seph was going to tell him. He was certain of it.

Seph gave a noncommittal shrug. "I was experimented on," he announced in a flat tone, as if it meant very little to him. Maybe he even believed that was true. But it was likely a facade. The emotional scars from something such as that would go very deep, much moreso than even the physical wounds.

Zack swallowed hard. Suddenly he felt sick. To think of anyone being willing and able to take a strong man such as Seph, and restrain him on some slab, where they could dig into his back with their instruments. . . . It was too horrifying to even think about! He gripped his arms, his fingers pressing furiously against his skin. He wanted to make certain that anyone so wicked would be locked away forever, where they could never harm another human being again! And especially, to never harm Seph.

He ran his tongue over his lips, trying to find his voice again in his dry throat. "So . . . you mean . . . all of that . . ." He nodded in the other's general direction. "All of those scars are from mad scientists' experiments?" he gasped.

Seph gave a short nod. "Yes."

Zack stared at him. "Why?" he cried. "Why would they do that to you?"

Seph smirked in a self-depreciating way. "I've always been notorious for my endurance," he answered. "They wanted to have it tested, repeatedly. And they wanted to see if certain things could be added to my body that would make me a better and stronger warrior, when the time came." He looked over his shoulder at the long incision Zack had first noticed. "This was their pet project."

Slowly the brunet stood up, walking over to the other. "What is it?" he breathed. Did he dare to know? But how could he not? Now that he was closer, it almost looked like the skin was somewhat folded over, as if it was concealing something. . . .

Seph did not respond. But without warning there came the sound of something being unfurled. And before Zack could quite process what had occured, he realized that he was staring at a large, black wing. In one way it seemed out of place, but in another, it seemed to fit very well. It was majestic, almost, as it spanned a good deal of the office length.

A stray feather floated down from it, landing softly in Zack's outstretched palm. He gazed at it for a long moment, before reaching up with a finger to gently turn it over. A wing . . . on a human? How?

He looked back up at Seph, who was watching him quietly. Slowly the other began to bring the extra appendage back down, closer to his body. It was long enough that it could easily wrap around him, and many of the feathers were quite lengthened---some being nearly a foot long, or even fifteen inches or more. They were beautiful.

Zack frowned slightly. Somehow, it did not seem right at all, that an act borne of cruel and inhumane feelings could result in creating something such as this.

Hesitantly he extended his hand, making contact with the wing and running his fingers over the feathers and the bone. It felt warm, welcoming, and soft to the touch. "Is . . . is this something they only did to you?" he asked finally, his voice hushed.

"As far as I know." Sephiroth continued to observe Zack, allowing him to touch the wing that he himself despised. He could see that the brunet seemed to like it, which was not a surprise. Zack was probably fascinated, in spite of his alarm and disgust over how it had come to be. He seemed to find something positive about almost everything.

"I never use it," Sephiroth said now. "I want to rely on my own strength, not on what they want me to do."

Zack nodded, lowering his hand. That was Seph, alright---always defiant and stubborn. "And no one knows you have it?" he guessed.

"Only the ones who did this to me . . . and you." Sephiroth had allowed Zack to see the truth of this deep secret not because he wanted to know, but because of why. Zack was not merely curious; he cared about Sephiroth and was interested in and concerned about what happened to him. And Sephiroth trusted him, as he trusted no one else.

Zack watched as the other withdrew the wing into his body once more. He knew that Seph would not have revealed it to just anyone, even if they had seen the scar and wondered about its origins. The fact that he had been confided in was a great honor. He would always keep the secret perfectly safe, unless he was told otherwise by Seph at some later time.

Seph sighed now, looking weary as he sank into another chair. His hair, still damp, swooped around and in front of him. In that moment, he looked as though the rigors of what he had been through were catching up to him. He was much older than his early twenties---that was obvious from his slumped shoulders and his disfigured back, but mostly from the look in his eyes. It was the gaze of someone who had already seen much more than he would ever desire to, someone who had grown up before his time---or maybe, who had never had a childhood in the first place. It was the look of someone who held very little, if any, hope in anything---deities, life, himself. Especially himself.

It made Zack's heart ache.

He looked at Seph for a moment, then slowly pulled the first chair over to his and sat down. What was going through his mind? Did he hate himself for not being able to prevent the torture? Did he hate what they had done to him? Did he believe that the wing made him inhuman somehow?

"Hey . . ." He leaned down to look into Seph's tired green eyes. "I like your wing," he said with a quiet smile.

Sephiroth grunted. "I know." He could hear the deeper meaning behind Zack's words, could see it reflected in his kind eyes. You're still human, the brunet was telling him. You're still Seph. You're still my best friend. Zack did not think any different of him for the strange addition to his body.

Maybe, that was also why Sephiroth had decided to let Zack see it.

It did not seem that there were any more words fit to say, so now Zack remained there with the other in silence. Sometimes, an absence of words could speak volumes.