Final Fantasy VII
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Various prompts helped bring it together, including "Strong" at FF Love and "Nerves" at Mako Reactor. This may be disturbing and semi-graphic to some. The time period and Sephiroth's age is purposely vague, though of course it's before he lost his mind.
It was odd, to slowly begin to wake up. There was such a sluggish feeling, as his body struggled vainly to hold on to the last threads of the dreamless sleep. It was as though he had been senseless for a long time. Perhaps he had been. At any rate, the memory of actually slipping into slumber was elusive. The last thing he consciously recalled was something about Hojo telling him to rest.
Not that Hojo honestly cared what he did. The only reason he would, would be if it had something to do with his blasted projects. And always being used as a test subject was infuriating.
There was a too-familiar smell in the room, the sterilizing scent associated with the laboratories. Was that where he was now?
He was laying on something, that much was obvious. It felt so cold and hard against his bare chest and arms. If he could just get down. . . . Maybe when he woke up more. Right now, he was still partially asleep. That must be why his arms could not be moved when it was attempted.
Noise could be heard vaguely in the distance, gradually coming closer. It sounded like a garbled mess. No . . . it was people talking. Was it some kind of a radio? It did not seem that the speakers could be right there. The voices were so far away, echoing as if a body of water stood between them and him.
Why was that? He was certainly not below an aqueous surface. But actually, he did feel strange, and very woozy, as if he had eaten something that had disagreed with him. When he opened his eyes, everything was out of focus. Maybe he was ill and they had brought him to be examined.
He had not swooned, had he? That would be mortifying, and unsuitable for one possessing such a high amount of strength and endurance. But there was not any recollection of his sleep being anything out of the ordinary. He had lain down on his bed and had almost instantly dozed.
Now some of the voices' words were becoming more clear.
"You do know what you're doing, don't you?"
"Of course. I can't just slice through the skin and then the muscles as well. It has to be very precise."
"The muscles in that area, including the ones around the scapula, will need to be reshaped."
"I know! We've gone through the steps."
"One wrong slip of the knife could be disastrous. We can't cause any damage. We need him to be in perfect condition."
They were . . . what were they talking about? Were they going to operate on someone? It almost sounded as though something had gone drastically wrong, such as an accident, and that they were going to reconstruct the victim's body. But what did this have to do with him? He was fine. He should try to get up now, actually.
Again he commenced with moving his arm---or more accurately, trying to do so. It would not budge. What was the problem? He was not so weary that he was entirely immobilized. Maybe it was caught on something. If he could see what it was, maybe he could pull it free.
Raising his head slightly, he looked over at his left arm. It was stretched out horizontally on the metal slab, and something silvery and cold was across the wrist. A manacle? Why was it there? It should not be there. He pulled more forcefully. He had to tear his arm free . . . ! But it would not budge. The handcuff was holding him fast. And the edges seemed to be rounded, probably so that he would not end up cutting himself on them. Did they expect that he would be fighting for liberty so much that he would rub the skin away by accident?
This was ridiculous. Was his other arm in the same predicament? Again he turned his head, looking to the right. Yes . . . that limb was sprawled out as well, and there was the device, tightly clamping over the wrist. He was bound down to the table.
Wait. . . . Surely it was not possible . . . it could not be conceivable that . . . he was the one of whom they were speaking. . . . Of course, it would have to be him. Why else would he be restrained in this way? He had just been too groggy to consider the possibility at first. Now it was the only reasonable explanation.
"What are you doing to me?!" he demanded, panic and anger washing over him as he tried vainly to rise. But he could not get his legs under him. Apparently, they were being held down as well. It felt like something was over each of his ankles.
"Nothing yet," came Hojo's smooth, unconcerned voice. "You might as well lay still, Sephiroth. You won't be able to get up."
"I will not lay still!" he retorted. They were talking about him! They were going to perform some kind of outrageous surgery---cutting into his back, reshaping the muscles. . . . Why? What was the purpose of it?!
"Are you sure this will work, Doctor?" came a third voice. This one seemed to be one of the nurses. Her utterance was recognizable, but he did not know her name. It did not matter. Judging from the position and the volume of her tones, she was probably in back of him. He struggled to look over his shoulder to see, but he could not turn his head far enough.
"He should be anesthetized," she continued.
"Nonsense," Hojo retorted. "That would take away from the meaning of the experiment. It's partially being done to see how good his endurance truly is. If he can survive this, then he should be able to accomplish anything we want from him." His footsteps drew closer, and even without being able to view him, it was obvious that he was smirking in twisted pleasure.
"Anyway," he said now, "the drug we gave him, along with the bindings, will keep him from giving us any trouble. Not even he should be able to break through metal." He leaned over Sephiroth's right shoulder, his sickening face so close that his hot breath stung. "And I'm sure that once the procedure starts, you will be smart enough to hold still the rest of the way, won't you?" The smirk stretched over his yellowing teeth, the dark moustache a sharp contrast to both that color and the pale lips. "After all, you wouldn't want to end up crippled or paralyzed."
Sephiroth gave him a smouldering look, moving his head back as far as he was able. He would not learn anything from this madman. The only clue he had was that one of the muscles they wanted to "reshape" was running through his shoulder. So that told him the approximate area in which they were going to operate. But no matter how he racked his mind for answers, there were no ideas as to why they were going to do this . . . other than the reason given that they were testing his endurance. And that could not be the only explanation as to why they would undertake something so potentially risky!
Hojo straightened up again. The surgical gloves were already on his hands, and as he turned, he reached for one of the instruments being proferred to him by an aide who was mostly out of Sephiroth's line of vision. The silver gleamed under the blazing overhead lights, reflecting the glow back into the furious green eyes.
Sephiroth blinked, casting his gaze away from the shine. "Keep your filthy hands off of me!" His voice was low and deadly, an edge slipping into the dark tones. And yet there was nothing he could do. Any threats would sound preposterous in his current position. Hojo and his cronies had the upper hand here, without a doubt. And that was part of what was so infuriating.
How dare they do this to him! . . . How could he have allowed this to happen? When he had fallen asleep, they must have drugged him and brought him here. And the lingering effects were still causing the dizziness and nausea to course through his being. He should have suspected something. He should have been able to prevent this, somehow. Now he was helpless, at the mercy of those who did not know the meaning of the word.
He could feel the cold metal of the scalpel against his bare flesh, poised to slice through it. Subconsciously he gripped the edges of the table with his hands. Once, when he had been a child, he had accidentally cut himself on a sword. The memory of the crimson spilling from his arm was still very fresh, even years later. And even though he had endured it well, managing to temporarily bind it until Gast had seen to it and stitched it up, the pain had been excruciating. It had felt as though his entire arm was aflame, and despite the part of his coat which he had utilized as a bandage, the red had almost immediately soaked through it.
But he was so much older now. It should be all the easier to handle the feelings of the lacerated skin.
The small blade plunged into his back. He gasped, his eyes widening as he clutched the slab's edges with all his might. The instrument was moving slowly and precisely through his flesh, and every centimeter was an eternity. For Heaven's sake, what were they doing?! He could not attempt looking over his shoulder to see. Hojo was right---he could not move at all. He was forced to allow this to happen.
At last the scalpel concluded its adventure. Now hands were placed on either side of the wound, carefully holding it open. From the sudden extra heat, it felt like someone else was shining light onto the inflicted injury, and Hojo was "hmming" to himself, sounding thoughtful. It was such a hateful noise. And it was no doubt his hands prying the incision open, and his hands that had held the scalpel to begin with. It was repulsive.
"I see exactly how it should be done," Hojo spoke at last. "Just as we already planned. We start by . . ." Directions began to be given to the other doctors, as he described exactly how the muscles and nerves should be readjusted for their project. Most of it was complex medical talk, and hardly any of it was understood by the unwilling patient. What was this for? Why did they want to do this to him?! There must be better ways for them to spend their time!
Now they were placing something on the gap to keep it apart. It was clamping down, pinching the skin uncomfortably. But once they set forth moving his insides where they pleased, the current annoyance would almost certainly be forgotten. How could that matter when they would be altering the position of important nerves and muscles?! Would he even be able to stand it? From what Hojo was saying, he was not even going to use a local anesthesia. What was he thinking?! The fool, how would he be able to conduct any sort of a logical operation without doing something of the sort? It was possible that movement would end up occurring out of reflex from the grisly experimentation, even if it was desperately attempted to hold still.
Whatever happened, he must not move. In the next moment, he repeated that to himself countless times. He must not move or stir, or even flinch. He had to keep still, and especially not to arch his back once it started. Ruining Hojo's plans would be high on his list of priorities, if it was not that it would cause harm to himself.
Something---a tool? A hand?---took hold of something else, inside the wound. It grasped the whatever-it-was firmly, yet carefully, and gooseflesh ran up and down his spine and his bare arms. It was . . . it was trying to pull the thing loose, or maybe to unwind it from whatever it entwined. The more the object attempted this, the more the agony rushed over his back and shoulder and down his right arm. What were they doing?! Did they even know themselves?! Maybe they were going to tear it all asunder, whether it was their intention or not. How could it be otherwise?
And if they managed to get it free, what then? Were they going to re-wire everything? It sounded so odd, to think of it like that. It was not a switchboard or a computer console---it was the inside of his back! What kind of insanity were they trying to perform?! Were they going to turn him into some sort of mad scientists' monster, something not even human? That could not be tolerated!
He shut his eyes tightly. His arms were trembling as he clung to the slab. At first, their shaking was still a clear sensation. But then it began to fade, drowned out by the horrific, indescribable pain. He was not aware of how completely white his knuckles had become, nor of how his hands were screaming for him to let go of the metal. He was screaming himself.
At some point, the anguish had become too much. He had struggled so hard to remain silent, vowing that he would not give them the satisfaction of knowing he was in misery. It was a goal that had to be adhered to, both for his pride and his dignity. But he had failed.
It had not been a conscious decision, of course. He had screamed out of natural reflex when he could not do anything else. He was physically suppressed, and in one respect it was a good thing; he most certainly would have unwillingly dealt further damage to himself had he been able to move.
Somewhere, vaguely in the world beyond his cries and the agony, the voices continued.
"Doctor, this has gone too far!"
"Too far? We haven't even started the installation yet!"
"You can't leave him awake while you do that! I'm going to get the anesthesiologist in here!"
A cruel slap.
"You will do nothing of the sort! Your place is to stay here and observe. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?"
". . . Yes, Doctor."
"Good. Now, he will be fine. See? He's stopped screaming."
That was because while the distraction with the nurse had ensued, Hojo and the other surgeon had ceased to tinker with the nerves and the muscles, and whatever else they were tampering with inside his body. And maybe because he had made himself hoarse. His throat felt ungodly sore, in addition to everything else.
Now he had slumped over the slab, limp and breathing heavily. Perspiration trickled down his face, dripping onto the metal beside him. What had they done?! His shoulder and back felt so strange. . . . Could he feel them at all? They were still connected---he knew that much. But some of the sensations were gone. They had not severed anything, had they? It had almost felt as though that was happening, yet it surely could not be. Hojo had said that was the last thing they wanted to do.
"We should get back to this, Doctor. The nerves . . ."
"Yes, yes, I know." The footsteps came back over to the table, and Sephiroth immediately tensed. What about the nerves? What were they going to do now?!
"Are you sure this is going to work?" The other physician sounded doubtful. That was hardly encouraging. "You know how risky this graft is. His body may reject it."
Graft?! What on earth?! What were they going to put in him?!
"It may," Hojo agreed, "but since I've taken certain---ahem---precautions with the cells, for one thing, I'm almost one hundred percent confident that it will be accepted." He was smirking again. "Not to mention, of course, there are also the appropriate drugs to help with the prevention."
Mad! Hojo was completely mad! This was not something that could be allowed to happen! Somehow he had to get up. He had to! He had to get away. And yet . . . that was impossible. He had that open wound, and it was clear by now that the nerves and muscles had definitely been moved around. Were they even fully connected right now? Maybe Hojo was planning to attach them to this graft and they were protruding from the incision. Even if he could stand, he might cause irreparable damage to himself. Not that these scientists were not going to do the same thing.
He struggled to gather the strength to turn his head to the side, to look toward the direction where he knew Hojo was standing. But his neck was not willing to move very far. "Don't . . ." he rasped. His head fell back to the slab. It was useless.
If Hojo had heard, he did not pay the slightest attention. He leaned forward, taking hold of . . . something---maybe a nerve, judging by the sensations traveling through his body. The pain resumed.
It was much worse now, as if during the short interval it had been forgotten just how horrendous and abominable the experience was. It was washing over him again in full force, piercing his back as if it were a sword running him through. The dizziness and the nausea had returned all the more as well. The feeling of being so sick was horrible. And there was not even anything in his stomach that he could get rid of, so the misery would just continue and worsen.
How much longer was this going to go on?! Had they started the implanting yet? Now he could no longer scream. He was much too ill. All he could do was to lay there, letting them do their dirty work. Maybe . . . maybe he was growing sluggish again. Did that mean he might slip back into unconsciousness? Heh . . . that might not even help. What if they would simply force him to revive? He would certainly not put it past them, especially Hojo.
"Bring it over here."
Bring what? The graft? Someone---the other doctor? The nurse?---was walking across the floor, and then there was a squeaking noise, as if some kind of cart was being wheeled over to the slab.
From the almost ballooning sound that came next, it seemed that a cloth or a canvas covering was being flung to the air. Then Hojo gave a delighted cackle. What . . . what was it?! What was he so pleased about?! And why could this thing not be viewed?! Sephiroth was trying to move again, to twist his neck enough to the side so that he could see, but it was hopeless. Either he did not have the energy at all, it was the drug kicking in again, or it had something to do with this operation. But what was it?! They were going to put in his body; he had a right to know its identity!
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
If Hojo considered it beautiful, then it must be grotesque. Blast, why could he not see?! He had to see it! They could not graft it in! This was outrageous! How dare they do this to him! How dare they . . .
Something hard and smooth scraped against a bone. He gasped, his eyes widening as his hands immediately sought and clenched the edges of the table. It was scraping again. . . . Now they were trying to hold it in place, adjusting it accordingly. And suddenly . . . suddenly so many new and unfamiliar sensations were beginning to rush into his form. What . . . were they?! What was going on?! Were they connecting the nerves to this . . . this . . .
Another scream tore from his lips, more chilling than any of the previous cries. It was too much. He could not take it longer. He could not possibly . . . !
Oblivion was sweeping over him now, as a dark blanket that would erase all of the torment, all of the anguish, all of the agonizing pain, and leave him in a blissful nothingness. He welcomed it, sinking under its kind embrace.
It almost looked like a black feather floating to the ground as his eyes closed. . . .
Tick-tick-tick-tick. . . .
What was that? To his foggy mind, it sounded like something clicking . . . or water dripping from a faucet? . . . No . . . of course it was a clock, one of the small analog timepieces that frequented the laboratories. There was usually one in every room, except in the operating rooms, where the incessant sound could be potentially distracting. . . .
Operating room. . . . Hojo. . . . A graft. . . . Something had been implanted in his body. . . . He had finally lost consciousness from the pain. . . .
So now he must be back in one of the recovery rooms. It was over . . . but what was it, exactly? His body felt so heavy . . . so weighed down . . . as if there was something else there. How could there be?! Did the result of the graft show on the outside?!
His muscles contracted, tensing, as he struggled to open his eyes. He was still on his stomach. His back yet felt as if it was on fire. Had they not even given him any kind of a pain killer? At least he was on a soft bed with a pillow. Countless hours of feeling cold, hard steel against his skin was something he never wanted to repeat again. It would remind him of this ghastly experience. Not that the memory would not always stay with him, anyway.
"Oh . . . you're awake?"
He nearly started out of his mind. He was not alone? The voice . . . it was quiet and uncomfortable. It was the nurse, the one who had wanted to have him anesthetized and who had been slapped by Hojo.
"You're . . . you've been recovering well," she continued. "So far, your body seems to have accepted the implant. . . ."
"What . . . did they do to me."
His own voice was still rasping. It sounded terrible. But he put as much commanding force into it as he could muster. Maybe she would not want to tell him. But he was going to know, and right now he could not make himself move enough to try to find the answer on his own.
There was a long hesitation. So . . . he was right and she was not going to tell him? Maybe she was too afraid.
The sound of her shifting was loud in the mostly silent room. "They . . . they said they wanted to make you the best warrior you could be," she stammered. "They thought that if you had other abilities, you could . . ."
"What other abilities?" His patience was wearing thin. For hours he had lain vulnerable as the mad scientists had worked. All that time he had desired most of all to know what was being done to him. They had never told him, had never even given him a hint!
"They . . . they gave you a wing." By now she was speaking barely above a whisper.
A . . . what!? A wing?! . . . The black feather he had seen. . . . It came from . . .
No, this was absurd! He could not have a wing. Humans could never support such acquisitions.
"It's . . . actually not that bad. . . ." Her high heeled shoes clicked on the floor as she drew closer. "It really looks nice. . . ."
Now there was a sensation again. She was touching something, petting something, but it was not an arm or a leg. It was not any part of him that he recognized. But it was something attached to him. He could feel it acutely. Involuntarily it twitched, presumably in response to her actions.
It really was there. . . .
A burst of adrenaline pushed its way through his exhausted form. Placing his hands on the mattress, he forced himself to partially rise. The protest in his back was ignored as he looked to his right. Then all he could do was to stare.
The other bed in the room had been pushed over, in order to help support this . . . thing. It was stretched across the second mattress, and it looked incredibly long and powerful---possibly the length of a full-grown man. The feathers were all black, and they had a certain sheen from the dim light overhead. The nurse had bent down, gently stroking the plumage. He could feel it. He could sense every movement of her fingers.
This was . . . this was revolting! They had attached this abomination to his perfectly healthy and strong body! They were trying to turn him into a complete monster! How dare they! How dare they!
"I want it removed." The darkness and the warning in his tone should be apparent.
The woman straightened up, her eyes widening in alarm. "That . . . that isn't possible," she gasped. "The operation to . . . to graft it in was very long and meticulous. Now that it's in place, there isn't any way to remove it without doing terrible damage to you. . . ."
"This isn't terrible damage?!" He rarely raised his voice, but now he could hear that he had slightly done so. This was the worst possible damage! He was an inhuman creature!
The nurse simply looked at him dumbly. Did she not understand an obvious command?!
He did not yell. His voice was mostly low. But the fury and the danger in it were enough to send the woman turning and fleeing out the door.
Instead of watching her, he looked back down at the wing. It lay where it was, in all its treachery. Then it twitched again, apparently a sign that his body was still getting used to it.
Maybe his body was coming to accept it. But he himself never would.
He would never stand for not being human.