Final Fantasy VII

So Long and Goodnight

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Many thanks to Lisa for plot help and the story's title! It was directly inspired by the prompts "Church" and "Virus/Poison" at Mako Reactor. And now I will finally get around to making this a bit longer and hopefully less rushed. I still love the original version of this story I was trying to tell, but I decided I can do even better. I haven't, however, fixed the little conflict with canon later in the story, as the whole point of that meeting was that they had never previously met, nor knew anything of each other.

Percentage of New Content in Chapter: 75

Chapter One

Zack Fair hissed as his opponent's sword sliced into his upper right arm, not deeply, but enough to draw blood. Immediately he retaliated, bringing his blade to crash against the other's and forcing the older man back.

He and Sephiroth had been sent to take care of a hostage situation in one of Shinra's buildings at Pulheim—a town not far from Midgar. They had managed without incident to enter the building through a back entrance and then to find the room where the people had been trapped. But upon realizing that their plan had been interrupted, the two men responsible had begun battling the SOLDIERs. Seph was across the room, locked in his fight, and Zack had to handle this one. But his opponent was almost worn down by now. Zack was going to win.

The sword flew out of the dangerous man's hands as Zack attacked again without warning. He swallowed hard, backing up against the wall. But then, as he looked up into Zack's lavender eyes, a wicked sneer began to spread over his face.

"Our demands were not met," he said, "and there is nothing left." He closed his mouth, and it almost sounded as though he was biting on something.

Zack frowned, not liking either the look or the sound. "Hey, what are you doing?" he demanded. What he wanted was to be able to take this guy in, to have him questioned by Shinra's military. But somehow, it sounded like that was not going to happen. Or at least, that the other believed it would not.

"I am sealing my fate," the man smiled. "Shinra will not win this time." His eyes rolled back into his head as his body began to tremble. Zack stared, only able to move his blade out of the way before his enemy crashed to the floor, violently convulsing. Then, as soon as it had started, it stopped, and the form was still.

Zack's frown only deepened. He had been hiding something in his mouth, probably under his tongue, and it looked like it had been some sort of a poison capsule. Leaning the sword against the wall, and pulling off a glove, Zack bent down and placed his fingers to the other's neck. Nothing. He had killed himself.

Slowly the brunet straightened up again. It was still hard to understand why some people became so desperate that they would do such things. If they felt that they did not want to go on living, that was one thing, and that was bad enough, but why involve so many innocent people? At least twenty-five or thirty had been held hostage tonight. It was not right! Were the creeps trying to scar their victims for life? They were never going to forget what had happened here. And neither would the SOLDIERs.

He looked up abruptly when he heard a cry of pain from the man Seph was fighting. The sword had pierced him, and now he was falling shakily to his knees as he stared up at Seph. Then he gave a weak smirk, slumping forward as the Masamune was withdrawn from his chest.

Sephiroth glowered at the body. Such a smug fool. He had deliberately ran into the sword, apparently wanting death. Well, he had gotten it. It was not on Sephiroth's conscience.

He looked over at Zack as he took a cloth to clean his blade. "Are we done here?" he grunted.

Zack nodded. "Looks like it," he confirmed. "But Seph, this guy killed himself with some kind of poison in his mouth. . . ."

Sephiroth frowned, walking over to the scene. "It can't be helped," he said. "We'll take the bodies back with us to headquarters and have the substance analyzed. It's possible that the other one had it with him, as well." At least one of the troublemakers had been involved with illegal drugs. That sort of thing was not SOLDIER's department, at least not usually, but from what he had learned, one of the man's suppliers was rumored to be connected with an equally illegal scientist. Maybe that person had invented the poison. And new poisons being discovered by opposing scientists was not something Shinra wanted to see happen.

"Okay." Zack glanced back to the frightened hostages, who had all clustered together and were still staring with wide eyes. "Hey, there's no problem now!" he called to them. "You can all relax."

Some of them slowly did, obviously relieved. Others remained on edge, shifting in worry.

Zack sheathed his sword, then came over to the corpse and reached to pull it up under the arms. It seemed so strange, that a few minutes ago that had been a living, breathing person. And then, just like that, the guy had decided to take his own life instead of being arrested by Shinra. Well, it should not really be a surprise. A lot of the people who hated the company, and SOLDIER, were like that. Heck, sometimes they were even worse, like the nutcases in Dismal who had tried to blow up the whole village so that they would not be captured. It was sick.

He winced as his arm abruptly stung in warning. "Ow," he muttered, releasing the limp form as he glanced over at the wound. In all the commotion, it had been forgotten almost as soon as it had been sustained.

Sephiroth narrowed his eyes, coming over to him. "It doesn't look serious," he mused as he examined it. "The bleeding's already stopped. But maybe we should have it checked for poison anyway. I don't trust men who hold people hostage before purposely killing themselves." Pulling out a clean cloth, he wrapped and tied it around Zack's arm as a makeshift bandage.

"Poison?" Zack shivered. "Hey, if the blade'd been messed up like that, I'd be dead now," he said, trying to lighten his tone.

Sephiroth nodded in thoughtfulness as he stepped back. "You're probably right. But it's a precaution we should take anyway."

"Fine with me!" Zack replied, returning to his task.

"Well, doc? What do you think?"

Zack blinked at the physician, who was frowning as he adjusted his glasses and studied the wound. Raising the arm by the elbow, he squinted as the injury was brought more fully into the light. He was an older man who had worked for Shinra for many years, and he was supposed to be one of the best.

But Sephiroth, standing near the door with crossed arms, did not know that he found the continual checking of the slash to be very encouraging. It was as if the man could not decide what he thought of it.

At last the doctor looked up. "All looks in order," he reported. "I'd say it's just an ordinary flesh wound. It will hurt for a while, but it should heal just fine. Though I could take a blood sample, if you'd like . . . ?"

It was really tempting to say No. He was starting to get really exhausted. More than anything, he just wanted to get out of there, and fast.

But Sephiroth spoke up before the matter could be dismissed. "Do it," he said. When they were dealing with treacherous people such as they had encountered tonight, it was better to be safe than sorry. Some poisons were untraceable, but others could be found in the blood and halted before they could bring devastation on the unwilling host.

A nod was his answer. "Yes, let's," he murmured, ignoring Zack's look of woe. "And then we'll stitch and wrap this up. Don't do any strenuous activities for at least a couple of days, young man," he added in a scolding tone.

Zack blinked innocently. "What kinds of things would be strenuous? Besides the obvious, I mean."

The physician reached for a needle, which Zack's gaze immediately fixed upon. "Just go back to your base and do whatever they have you do there," he said. "Paperwork, computer work . . ."

"Aww, but that's strenuous!" Zack protested. He continued to stare down the needle as his arm was cleaned once more. The sharp prick was inserted, withdrawing a small amount of the lifegiving substance. He winced.

"How is that strenuous?" Sephiroth grunted.

"Because it's stressful!" Zack said. "Ow!" He glowered at the pointy thing as it was taken away at last.

The doctor shook his head. "A strong boy like you can take serious wounds without a whimper, but you can't stand a tiny little needle?"

Zack shrugged. "Hey, it's the straw that breaks the camel's back, you know?"

The elderly man sealed the instrument into a plastic bag. "I'll have this sent to the lab right away," he said. "The results should be back in the morning."

Sephiroth nodded. "We'll call then," he said.

Soon Zack's arm was successfully stitched and bandaged. He hopped down from the examination table, grinning as he leaped over to Seph. "There!" he said, displaying the gauze for his friend to see. "All better. Can we go now?"

Sephiroth turned, pushing the door open. Zack moved to follow. "Thanks!" he called over his shoulder, waving to the white-coated man.

The doctor was amused, in spite of himself. Such a cheerful boy. But then he looked away, melancholia darkening his thoughts. How someone such as Commander Fair had made it into SOLDIER was still a mystery to him. Either it would destroy him in the end, or he would be the one to change it for good.

Zack yawned as he and Seph walked back down the hall of Shinra's clinic. "So," he said, "back to the hotel now?" He placed his arms behind his head, lacing his fingers at the back. Already his arm had stopped bothering him. He would be back in commission before they knew it—helping Seph put down rebellions, rescuing people, and all that good stuff.

Sephiroth nodded. "Are you up to eating, or would you rather go right to bed?"

Zack yawned again. "Maybe I'll grab something from a vending machine and munch it on the way back," he said. "Oh, here's one now." He wandered over to the windowed box, looking the selections up and down. Chips . . . more chips . . . cookies . . . crackers . . . man, picking just one sounded impossible. His stomach began to growl.

Sephiroth was amused. "You'll be here all night if you don't choose," he said. "Why not pick two or three of the choices you like best?"

"But I like them all!" Zack exclaimed. Rooting in his pocket, he pulled out some gil coins and began to count. "You want something too, Seph? My treat."

Sephiroth grunted. "Anything from this vending machine is junk food," he said. And he tried to avoid it where possible. Though he did have a weakness for some kinds of chips, he preferred the less salty crackers during the rare times he allowed himself a snack.

"Aww, it won't kill you one time," Zack said. "How about this big oatmeal creme sandwich cookie?" He tapped the glass.

. . . That did sound good. Of all the kinds of cookies Zack had introduced him to, oatmeal was his favorite. It was a sensible cookie, and not overly sweet. But his pride kept him from outright agreeing to Zack's suggestion. He gave a half-shrug, which Zack would interpret as the closest to Yes he would get.

Zack grinned, inserting the coins and pressing the buttons. Two of the wrapped cookies descended into the tray below, as well as two packets of crackers. Scooping it all out, Zack handed Seph one of each before fishing for his change.

Sephiroth looked the package of crackers up and down. Butter crackers with a hint of cheese. Placing the cookie in his coat pocket, he pulled open the cracker bag and removed one of the items inside. He studied it before taking a bite.

Zack was terribly amused. "You've gotta make sure it's edible first?" he commented, ripping open his own package and popping an entire cracker into his mouth.

Sephiroth fixed him with a deadpan stare. "How do you even enjoy the taste if you devour it like a wild animal?"

Zack blinked at him as he chewed. When he swallowed, he spoke again. "I enjoy it!" he chirped. "What about you, Seph? Do you like it?"

Sephiroth took another bite. "It's not bad."

Zack grinned. "You like it!"

Sephiroth did not respond. It was odd, how no one else could have gotten him to a vending machine . . . and then to even sample its offerings. No one else would have dared ask him in the first place.

But Zack always proved that he was different from everyone else. And that was not a bad thing.

Not at all.