Kingdom Hearts II
Notes: The characters are not mine and this calm, reflective story is! The song Tonight and the Rest of My Life by Nina Gordon was a huge inspiration in where this came from, though pretty much only the first verse inspired the finished product. The possibilities of the contents and the time period changed several times. At last it was determined that this is a loose follow-up to To Create. Conversations with Kaze and Lisa netted Sephiroth's ponderings on his supposed parents. The method of drying the wings is based on an RP with Aubrie.
This is ridiculous.
Most people, after a debilitating accident, need to reacquaint themselves with the usage of their legs or their arms. They might need to become familiar again with walking, or with grabbing things, even with writing. And though in the past I have needed to use a cane to walk for a while, my legs haven't forgotten all that they knew. Instead, my problem is something of which probably no other human being has to cope.
I have to teach myself to fly again, to spread my wings and defy gravity.
It seems that using such a violent and harsh burst of Send Heartless Angel on that army of fire monsters did more damage to my wings than to my other limbs. Maybe because I was in flight when I cast it. It certainly isn't as serious as it was after the dragon mutilated two of my wings, but now they all feel stiff whenever I attempt using them. And returning them to some semblance of normalcy is taking longer than I believed it would.
It's made more difficult by the fact that my lower right wing is partially bent. When I am on the ground, it's almost always curled over itself. And when in flight, it will not stay unfurled for very long before it begins throbbing---the signal that I need to find a safe landing place. Usually it will not even flap at all, and only glide as I clip my way through the skies. But I am able to use the other two wings for flapping purposes, and usually that works well enough until I can descend.
For the last few minutes, the lower right wing has been keeping up an increasing throb. I've been trying to ignore it, but that's impossible. I've had to lessen the amount of flapping, and now to abolish it entirely in favor of gliding. And with my luck, this isn't likely to last long, either.
I look below, taking in the scene with distaste. There isn't anywhere to even land. The only clearing is a small pool, framed by rocks on one side. Other than that, there are trees and forest all around. If I were to plunge out of the sky now, I would probably get caught in ones of the trees.
Why did I choose this location? When I first learned to fly, it was out at the Dark Depths, over a small patch of grass I found. Did I think this area would be more secluded? It certainly is. Probably too much so for my own good. Not that crashing into a building or someone's house would be a better experience.
The throbbing is growing stronger again. Suddenly it's a sharp pain shooting into my lower right wing as an arrow. And it has the same affect. Immediately the feathery appendage goes limp, the abrupt action sending me plummeting downward. There's a tree right in front of me, its branches waving as if to entice me inside. I don't have a choice.
A moment later I make contact. I crash through the foliage and the limbs as they groan and crack under my weight. My upper wing is caught, but instead of dangling from it, I pull free in the next moment. A twig reaches for me as a clawed finger, and I only barely manage to turn my head to the side to avoid being blinded. It runs the length of my cheek, scratching the flesh.
Now the bottom is gained, but it does not stop my descent. Blue ripples rush to meet me, covering me completely as I hit the surface and continue downward. This has all taken a matter of seconds, and I almost feel disembodied and detached from the scene even as I am experiencing it.
It's as if I am awakening from a pronounced daze. I'm still falling, sinking further into the aqueous depths. Now I come alive, spreading and pushing my arms against the current. My wings are dead weight, dragging me in the direction opposite to where I want to go. I try to spread them as well, but the lower right will not cooperate.
I keep pressing upward, kicking my legs as well. Then I burst free of my immersion, coughing and gasping for air. My bangs are clinging to my face, and my damaged cheek is suddenly stinging. Water is dripping into my face, and I reach up to brush it away. I am floating in the water just to the edge of the tree's branches, which are stretched out far over the bank.
There is little point in remaining here. I swim slowly to the shore, reaching up for the grass at the edge. As I pull myself up, my wings inform me that they have grown many times heavier. The shock at first nearly sends me back into the pool, but I force my body to cooperate, hauling myself further into the green blades.
I rise to my hands and knees, coughing up the remaining liquid. Why are my wings so impossible to deal with right now? They feel much more weighty than is even usual when they are bogged down with water. Trying to lift them in order to shake it out sounds daunting, and the thought makes me exhausted before I have even tried.
Something is obviously wrong. I shouldn't have this overwhelming feeling of being drained. And now that my wings have given out on me, I don't know when I will be able to move. Teleporting is not a good idea. At this rate, it could send me into total unconsciousness, after depositing me someplace where I do not want to go.
I suppose I will have to stay here for now, as frustrating as it is.
The colors of the setting sun are suddenly in my eyes, stinging them without mercy. I squint upward, gazing at the various hues. Orange, pink, lavender . . . of course, red. Tonight the red and the orange seem to be blending, forming an appearance of fire in the sky. I smirk to myself. If it was an actual burst of flames, it might set ablaze the axis of the earth. Zack would poke me and tell me that my thought process is rarely pleasant.
Images of fires remind me of what got me into this predicament in the first place---the vicious assault I used against the creatures. You were upset when you believed that using it would kill me, though of course you said it was because of Zack. I don't doubt the truth of that statement, but it seemed almost as if you were partially using Zack as your excuse.
I told you that I would not have utilized an attack that would be a potential danger to myself, except to protect Zack. I have grown bitter against the townspeople; the way many of them treat you and I for our wings angers me. And I despise how ungrateful they are for all that I tried to do to protect them in the past. Of course, they believe that I am not General Sephiroth, that I am an imposter and a monster---but I haven't ever seen them remember their general, or any of those who gave their lives in battle. Do they even care that Zack and the other soldiers are still risking their lives to keep the peace? Or do they sit back and take the military for granted?
Even so . . . the duty of one who was once a powerful army leader is not easily eliminated. The blood of another before me runs through my veins. I suppose, despite telling myself and others that I would not sacrifice my life for anyone but Zack, I might do it anyway, if the situation presented itself. Not that I would go into it knowing that I would perish. I would do my best to stay alive. But one's best is not always good enough.
A cough rises in my throat again, and a shiver goes down my back. The sky's flames are almost all faded by now, and the evening chill is fast falling. My clothes are soaked through. I will likely catch a cold if I remain like this until they are dry. Or maybe pneumonia is a more accurate possibility.
I kneel up, reaching to undo the straps of my armor. It slips off into the grass, and I begin peeling off my coat. I hold it out, twisting it in my hands to wring out the worst of the pool's offerings. Now I will somehow have to stand and hang it on the tree beside me.
My legs wobble as I attempt it. I reach in vain for balance, struggling to spread my wings as well. They go out at last, but feel stiff and heavy with their burdens, water dripping constantly into the grass. I stumble forward, making it to the tree and adorning one of the lowest branches with my coat. Then I remove my gloves as well.
Reaching behind me, I gather my hair and wring it sharply. Water spills over my hands and to the ground.
This is highly irritating. And with the temperatures dropping so fast, it makes it all but impractical to remove all of my clothes to allow them to dry. Though, even if it wasn't for the nipping wind, ending up entirely exposed and vulnerable when I am already in a weakened condition is a far from pleasant thought. And I doubt my captivity at the hands of that creature Hojo helps to make me any more willing. Not that I expect his minions to be roaming through here.
Maybe I will be able to teleport soon.
In the meantime, I'm going to create a fire to keep myself warm. There's a clearing right here by the tree, and a large rock where I can sit down. It looks as though I've felled several small branches during the course of my descent, and they have landed in various locations around the roots. I can take and use them as fuel.
Bending down to reach them, however, is not enjoyable. It seems my back is now aching as well, and each time I lean forward, I wonder if I will be able to raise back up again. But I push my body to comply, and soon I have a small pile of firewood gathered near the boulder.
I hold my hand out near the twigs, willing the fire to leap from my palm. It's possible that it won't work when I am so drained. Or it may only come out as a burst of smoke that swiftly vanishes into the night chill.
The flame roars to life, rolling harmlessly off my hand and onto the tree's fallen limbs. I sink wearily onto the rock, spreading my wings to take in the welcome heat.
A smirk graces my features in the heavy shadows. What would my father think of me, if he saw me now---lighting the fire due to some power that I can cast from my hands, and hunching forward into the flames with three blue wings protruding from my back? Would he drop the stern exterior in favor of utter astonishment? Would I be disowned? I suppose I will never know.
My father was also a fierce and proud general in Hollow Bastion's army. He perished many years ago in battle, when I was barely thirteen. From him I gained a good portion of my serious nature as well as a no-nonsense, logical approach to life. He also instilled in me the idea that it was my duty to serve in the military once I was old enough---and in this country, that meant once I turned fifteen.
When the time came, I also saw it as a way I could support my mother with her decreasing health. The doctor's bills were always expensive. And at that time, the soldiers only were required to spend a small amount of time at the base. Otherwise they were permitted to live at their homes. It was a good arrangement during times of relative peace.
We were alone then, with no relatives to call upon for help---not that I ever would have wanted to beg. There were neighbors who would check on my mother while I was at the base, and she always said how grateful she was to them. Mostly she wanted someone to talk to then, being lonely when I was not around.
She did die within the next couple of years, from a combination of her long-standing illness and a broken heart which she had been nursing since my father's death. And though I had expected it for some time, it was still a harsh blow to me. She had been all I had left. Still, when the Heartless attacked the city three years later, I counted it a blessing that she had not lived to witness such destruction. She would have been devastated by it, and that shock would have killed her, if the Heartless had not.
Zack came into my life about a year and a half after my mother's demise. I had gone on since then with my usual warmth towards the soldiers, though at the same time I kept my distance, refusing to reveal any of my inner feelings and turmoil. Zack, though a new recruit, had been steadily rising in the ranks, and this caught my attention. I had caught his as well, being his favorite instructor, and he set about determined to become my friend.
He was so different from anyone I had ever before encountered. His endless enthusiasm and cheerfulness, no matter what went wrong, bewildered me. It angered me after a while, as well. How could someone have so much love for life and the people, while also recognizing the immense evil that exists? And how could he expect to get very far in the army when he detested killing as much as he did? Not that I was fond of it, but it was often the only way to stop the madness our enemies unleashed. In a war, there are not many peaceful solutions to be found, especially if the enemy is the Heartless.
I closed myself off to him for some time, even treating him coolly and with callousness. He was an excellent pupil, but I never spoke to him outside of training. I thought he would come to see that I did not want his friendship and he would leave me alone after a while.
As you know, Zack is extremely persistent in whatever he sets his mind to do. We bonded little by little on the missions we shared, as we fought together and as he opened up to me, revealing his beliefs, his hopes, his dreams. . . . Somehow he won me over, in spite of myself. And I have never since been the same. Though my pessimism endures, Zack counters it with boundless optimism. I did eventually open up to him, and to date he is still the one with whom I have done so the most---and with you to a far lesser extent. He has even succeeded in getting me to go along with his jokes, and we can banter for some time.
I asked him once why he kept trying to get through to me despite the borderline unkind way I acted around him. He said, in typical Zack fashion, that he knew I was a good person and he thought I needed a friend. And he thought I put up such a harsh defense partially because I did not want to become close to anyone else. Which, I suppose, was true.
He is the most important person in my life, and the only one whom I call my friend.
And what are you to me? Not a burden any longer, nor someone whom I despise. You are not a foolish boy, though you still fly off the handle when you are angry or distraught. I have seen you grow up. You proved it when you nursed me back to health after the dragon's attack, and even moreso when you stopped me from slipping back into my darkness and again killing in cold blood. You have learned how to live in the light.
After I performed my Send Heartless Angel assault, you mentioned the conversation we shared concerning creation. During that discussion, you asked me if I believed our lives had undergone re-creations, and I said Yes. But I did not share my thoughts with you concerning why I felt that way about myself. The truth has several explanations.
When I was drowning in my darkness and then killed, I was not brought back without a price. My life was changed entirely---I was removed from the military, cursed to wander, doomed to bear these wings. I emerged a sobered, weary person, more like the man I was when Zack and I shared missions together, and yet not actually like him at all. How could I be, after all I had done and what I endured as the consequences? I bore, and still bear, the weight of my crimes.
But though I never have regained my position in the army nor the prestige I once enjoyed, all of it pales in the background when I consider that I was allowed to reunite with Zack. The anniversary of my death was another rebirth and re-creation.
The other time I perished, my life underwent a serious re-creation once again. That was when things began to change with you. Despite abhorring me, you took care of me from the start, without even knowing of my friendship with Zack. Over time, I began to develop a firm respect for you. You are Zack's friend, yet I see you as your own person as well.
Even if I wanted to, I could not tell you many of these thoughts. I am bound from revealing the truth of my fate. But I am still content for you to not have any inkling of what is going on with me. You don't need to know.
A cough forcing its way out of my throat startles me back to the present. The flames are still burning, though they are flickering somewhat dangerously. The breeze that's picking up is threatening to extinguish them altogether.
My clothes and hair are not much drier than before, nor do I feel particularly strong at the moment. Teleporting still does not sound like a good idea, but what choice do I have? I'll just have to hope that something inane won't happen, such as landing in Agrabah or the Destiny Islands. I'll just put out this fire and try to leave. . . .
The footsteps coming through the brush put me on guard. Who else would be at this isolated area? I start to stand, calling my powers to me. I don't have my sword at the moment. I didn't think I would need it when simply trying to fly. And maybe I half-wondered if I would tumble out of the sky and end up stabbing myself on the blade.
Zack bursts into the clearing, clutching a lantern and his cane. Upon seeing me, he smiles broadly in relief. "Seph!" he greets.
I relax. "What are you doing here?" As if I don't know.
Zack comes closer, looking me over. "Looking for you, of course!" he declares. "You said you'd be out around here, and when you didn't come back, well, I wondered if your wings gave out on you." He shakes his head. "Looks like you took an unexpected swim."
I grunt. "You can tell that easily?" I say in a dry tone.
He grabs a lock of very damp hair and shakes it. "Yep! Plus, you wouldn't be sitting by a fire with your coat hanging up behind you for the fun of it!" He studies me again, concerned. "Can you walk? I've got the Jeep on the trail, past these bushes and trees."
I regard them with displeasure. I will have to keep my wings close to me to try to prevent them from being snagged. But I give a firm nod. "I can."
Zack gives me a mock-stern look. "And you'd better not just be saying that!" he exclaims. "Here, I'll put out the fire. You get your coat."
I don't bother to protest. I move slowly to the tree, reaching to take down my coat, gloves, and armor. Zack sets the lantern and the cane on the rock and bends down, scooping up dirt in his hands and pouring it over the flames until they choke and diminish to nothing.
"How long have you been here?" he asks, straightening and looking back to me.
"I don't know. Since before it was dark." I regard the coat in distaste, contemplating putting it back on. It's surely not as damp as before, though now that I have removed it, I don't know that I want anything wet against my upper body again. But at least it would help to protect my lower wings from the sharp branches and the thorns, and whatever else is lurking along the path Zack took. I start to slip it on.
Zack picks up his belongings and comes over to me. "Are your wings badly hurt?" he asks in concern.
I'm tempted to just say No. But the truth is that I don't know. No, they were not damaged from the fall, at least not much. But something is obviously wrong or they would not be so hard to control in the first place. And the lower right one is still paining me.
"They should be fine, once they have dried out," I answer.
"Hope so." Zack starts to walk and I move to keep up with him. His strides are short enough that it isn't difficult. That's probably on purpose, knowing him.
"Maybe you just didn't give them enough time to rest before trying to fly."
I look over at him. "Maybe. But they should not have been bothered in the first place. Usually my attacks don't render them near useless." We're approaching the bushes now, and they are fairly close together. Both Zack and I have to pull them aside to step through.
"You don't usually use Send Heartless Angel on a whole group of giant fire creatures!" he replies.
This is true.
". . . You shouldn't have come out," I say, eyeing the cane. "Where's Cloud?" You would try to stop him, wouldn't you? Not that you would succeed.
"He's here too, somewhere," Zack says. "And aww, come on, did you really think I wouldn't come looking for my buddy?" He gives me a mock-wounded look.
I grunt. "No."
Zack smirks. "Good!"
You meet up with us as we arrive at the other side of the foliage. I notice you are concealing your wing under your tattered cape. You have been doing that much more of late, largely due to the growing prejudice in the city. Though I don't know what good it does, when the majority of the residents are familiar with you and your wing.
"Oh, so you found the guy," you say, crossing your arms and looking bored.
Zack grins, draping an arm around my shoulders. "Alive, but wet and cold. Let's get him home."
You nod, heading for the Jeep and sounding put-out. "Yeah, sure." I imagine you didn't like being uprooted from whatever you were doing in order to search for me. Or maybe you're somewhat annoyed at discovering me "wet and cold", and likely unable to teleport. Maybe you find me an idiot for having gotten into this mess.
"You're not going to ask what happened?" I ask dryly.
You shrug. "What's the point? You won't tell me anyway." You glance back, observing my bedraggled form. "And it's pretty obvious that you fell in the water." With that you open the driver's door and ease yourself inside.
Zack climbs in next, going to the middle position. He knows that I have a hard enough time managing my wings in a car, without being in between two people.
I get in last, pulling the door shut behind me. For now I hang my upper wing over the back of the seat and pull down the seatbelt.
You reach up, switching on the heat. The warm air blows at my feathers, causing them to gently move back and forth against the layer of growths underneath. I watch them idly for a moment.
The scar on my upper wing has been covered altogether, and is only visible if the feathers are parted enough to reveal the fine down over the skin. Without already knowing it was damaged, most would not be able to tell. But my lower right wing's injuries are always very apparent.
Zack has said that my wings are beautiful, and that he's sure they do not exist for any negative reason. I am not sure of that at all. What reason could there be, other than something ill? It only seems logical for them to be a reminder of my dark deeds. Though I have wondered why they do not resemble your own wing. Instead, they almost look like angels' wings, as Zack commented upon first seeing them.
But I am certainly not an angel. And on that, at least, you and I both agree.
I somehow have enough strength to get in the shower upon arriving back. It's refreshing, after my experience, though now my wings are drenched once again. And I don't particularly want to go to sleep with them like this. It's very uncomfortable. Not to mention they would soak all the covers and probably the mattress as well. I have a mind to stand over one of the heat vents, but Zack insists that there's a faster solution.
"We'll just use this," he announces, holding up the blow dryer.
I regard it with suspicion. "This invention is meant for hair," I inform with sarcasm, "and if it's responsible for the way yours tends to go, I doubt I want to see its influence on my wings." Zack's bad hair days always were legendary at the military base, and I would honestly be surprised if that status has changed. Though Zack's hair most certainly has not.
Zack plugs it in. "Aww, what's the worst that could happen?" he smirks.
You're observing from a chair, sitting so your arms are crossed on the top of it. "I'm sure Sephiroth could give you a whole list," you say.
I'm certain I could. The sound of the machine is too loud to be talked over, but I'm coming up with the list in my mind as Zack passes the device over my wings. If the feathers don't end up trying to imitate Zack's spikes, there's always the chance that some of them could end up caught inside the blow dryer. And the possibility of electrocution can't be ignored. A pessimist should never be asked "What's the worst that could happen".
The noise stops. Zack frowns thoughtfully, slowly lifting up a wing to better examine it. "All dry," he says. "And it doesn't look too bad."
I follow his gaze. All of the feathers have fluffed out, as if my wing is a giant pillow. The other two wings are in a similar state. I give Zack a withering look. He shrugs, grinning sheepishly.
A muffled snicker brings my attention back to the chair. The lower half of your face is concealed by your crossed arms, but I don't need to see it in order to know that you are laughing at me. Your mirth-filled eyes and shaking shoulders are enough proof. Have I ever seen you laugh before at all? I'm not pleased to be the object of your amusement.
I turn my withering gaze to you for a brief moment, before running my hands over my wings as I start to brush the feathers back to the way they should be.