Love Me Like I'm Human

Disclaimer: I own naught of FFVII, for it is owned by the one and only Square Enix.

A/N: Sorry for the long gap between the two. I just found the intro to be a pain in the butt to write, so I kind of held off for a while until my conscience was starting to grate on my nerves. The reason why I chose "Seph" for Sephiroth wasn't because it's in popular usage with the fans, but because it was just a convenient option, plus most readers would find it easier to associate it with Sephiroth's name. Either way I'm not going to change it now. Me too lazy. :p

Anyway, without further ado – chapter two. :)


Chapter Two

Please, don't cry.

That was more than a typical nightmare – what have you done to him?

I'm sorry. But it is not of our doing. He is recollecting flashes of his previous life that were too deeply ingrained into his memory for us to remove. He will forget it by morning.

Will he go through this every night?

We don't know.

xLxMxLxIxHx

When Lucrecia came around, she was in her bed, the covers drawn over her prone form. She had no recollection of making the trip from Seph's bedroom. Feeling her eyelids glued together by last night's tears, Lucrecia wearily rubbed away at them. Her vision was a distorted blur of green and gray. As the colours settled back into their rightful places, two large unblinking eyes came into focus. Startled, Lucrecia emitted a loud gasp and rolled back, almost falling off the bed in a tangle of limbs and sheets.

"Seph! Wha–what are you doing standing there?"

Seph offered her a small shrug.

"You weren't waiting for me to wake up, were you?"

Again, she received another shrug. Aside from his disheveled hair and his extremely pale complexion, Seph appeared to be much the same as the day before. It seemed that the woman's words from Lucrecia's dream held truth; Seph didn't remember the events from last night. Relief coursed throughout her. Gently Lucrecia reached out a hand to place on Seph's shoulder.

"Oh hun, you could have just – oh my God!"

Lucrecia's gaze had moved down onto the floor where Seph's feet were standing in a small pool of blood. A connected trail of red footprints led into the room from beyond the doorway. She balked. Subconscious fears spawned by the infamous tales of the One They Feared were coming to light for the first time, fears she wasn't aware of before unveiling around her, sending all logical reasoning in scattered directions. No. No. Impossible. No one else was around, how could this be – the sword, where was the sword? The body? It was happening all over again. Had she really been wrong all along as to believe she could've changed his ways – no, this was too much, too soon.

Lucrecia clambered out of bed, commanded the boy to stay put (Don't. Move), and went to follow the footprints, tightly fastening the robe around her. The place was so damn cold. Cautiously she stepped into Seph's room, eyes narrowing in bafflement. All the contents of the room had virtually been torn asunder, but one quick glance revealed nothing of immediate importance to her.

She took another step forward and gasped in pain.

Half of the floor was sprinkled with glass.

Of course.

How careless of her to have forgotten all about the shattered mirror. Gingerly Lucrecia turned and made her way back to her own room. She strode past Seph to pull up a chair and sat down. Reaching forward she patted the bed, gesturing for him to sit on it. Seph complied. His legs dangled over the edge, the steady sound of blood dripping onto the floor ringing in her ears.

"Lift your feet up onto my lap for me, Seph."

She didn't take notice of the thorough soaking of her clothes, nor the feeling of something warm and wet coming into contact with her thighs. There were roughly a dozen glittering fragments of glass embedded in each foot he'd presented her with. Guilt, disgust and horror all burned away at her, leaving behind the heavily scorched resolve of a mother who thought she knew what she was doing. To think, for one inglorious moment, while staring at her son with images of him butchering faceless figures consuming her mind, he was staring back as his own life source was seeping through the floorboards.

What next, Lucrecia? Going to be resorting to violence when he disobeys your orders now?

What a monster she was. Who else in all planes of existence could a son depend on to be given an unbiased judgment of him, if not his own mother?

Lucrecia was yet to hear Seph make a sound of anguish. Standing on glass couldn't have been an easy feat… just how high exactly was his threshold of pain? She found out when she tried to pull one of the fragments from the sole of his foot.

Seph snarled and yanked his feet back, what little trust shown in his eyes gone. Lucrecia regretted not explaining earlier to him of what she had to do. She wasn't sure on how the laws of this world worked, if dying was even possible, but she couldn't stand to see him in such a state, bleeding profusely. She liked to imagine that no mother would. "Please Seph, I need to look at your feet. They're bleeding."

The first tentative tendrils of whatever relationship she had progressed with her son the day before had disintegrated. When she reached for his foot he pulled it further out of her reach, rewarding her with the baring of small incisors.

"Now now, don't be like that. Miss Lucy only wants to help –" As soon as she stood up Seph hopped off the bed and dashed past the door.

Despite his obvious impediment, Lucrecia definitely had one thing ascertained: the boy was a fast runner. It certainly wasn't passed on from her genes, she thought as she vainly tried to catch up with him. Through the hallway, around the corner, and out the front door she ran, spotting him vanishing into the woods that flanked the cottage.

"Seph!" she called out. "Seph, come back!"

No reply. Sighing in exasperation, Lucrecia pressed onward. From first glance one wouldn't have expected entering the woods to be such a difficult task to undertake, but, strangely enough, she discovered otherwise. Gnarled shrubs snaked around her ankles. Thick tree boughs barred access, their supports densely packed together. Hidden tree roots tripped her many times over, while small twigs and stems got caught in her hair. Lucrecia allowed a crazy thought to pass through her head; it was almost as if the woods were trying to keep her out.

You're right.

"Huh?" Lucrecia ceased her efforts in trying to advance past the border, gazing around to find the source of the voice.

If your little one wills it, the woods will oblige.

It was Her. The woman from her dreams.

"I thought you only appeared to me in my dreams."

What makes you so sure that this isn't a dream?

Lucrecia fell silent. She didn't know the answer to that question.

Remember last night's storm?

She did.

And your little one? Do you remember how he acted?

With all the clarity of the present. A memory she wasn't going to easily forget anytime soon.

"What is your point?"

Think. Would I ask such questions if there was no relevance behind it?

And so Lucrecia pondered. A storm unlike any other she had been through raged over the little cottage that past night, its wild, driving gales very nearly blowing the roof off. The walls quaked and the shutters shrieked for mercy, but Lucrecia would never forget the ear-splitting screams of her son as she quite literally walked into a miniature vortex of icy wind and rain with him at the centre. Everything else was left in chunks and shards, fragments and pieces. The remarkable occurrence of both Seph's nightmare and the storm reaching their pinnacle at the same time hadn't even struck her as bizarre until now. They had even ended in sync, and she had been so concerned with her son only that she failed to notice. Just what kind of strange world was this?

You already know the answer to that.

Maybe, but it appeared to be that some of the finer details had been left out. Lucrecia could still – barely she would admit – recall the events that followed after her plea. She honestly hadn't expected it to be answered, or even heard. Hope had dwindled through the years, and her crystalline confinement made for cold comfort when thoughts wandered through blurred visions of a life that could have been, visions of one she could have shared with her son. Then They came. They came, hearing her plea, and finally took her away. Her plea was granted, and for that she was forever in Their debt. The first time Lucrecia laid eyes on her son, not as the baby she briefly saw before passing out in post-childbirth exhaustion, or as the frightening man she had foreseen during her pregnancy, but as a young boy, slumbering peacefully under the gentle undertones of light trickling through the window – she cried. Never had she experienced such joy, such elation. She wanted to rush up to him, to hold him, hug him, kiss him fiercely on the forehead and tell him she was never going to let anyone take him away from her again. She wanted him to have woken up at that exact moment and see the love for him in her eyes, to realise that someone really did care for him, someone who had cared for him all along.

A lucky boy, your little one is.

Lucrecia gave a hollow laugh. "No, I'm the lucky one – the lucky enough one to be given this chance to make things right, the way they should have been. Thank you, again."

You are welcome.

"But… I still don't quite gather your meaning from your previous questions. Would it have something to do with these woods? How am I to find my son if I cannot pass through?" Lucrecia was starting to become anxious.

Do not worry. He is in good care, and will return when he is ready.

"And if he doesn't? How can you be so sure?"

Do you not trust us, Lucrecia?

Lucrecia bit her lip, hoping she hadn't pushed the line somewhere.

"I do, but he's injured! I just need to make sure he's okay!" If something were to happen to him…

Your little one will be fine. You have my word.

xLxMxLxIxHx

Muffled footsteps tore across the forest floor, small huffs of laboured breathing disturbing the tranquil silence. Turning back to see the view of the cottage rapidly disappearing behind wizened trunks and a thick mist floating down from above the canopy, Seph paused and allowed himself to catch his breath. The pain in his feet was brought to his attention upon slowing down, realising how much more it hurt when he wasn't running. He decided to sit down where he was, nestling himself into a comfortable position amid dead foliage and moss. He ran his fingertips lightly across the bloodied and torn skin of his feet, biting back cries of anguish as they rounded the jagged bits of glass stuck in them.

Seph knew how they got in there. The first thing he noticed when he awoke that morning was that his room had all but been razed to the ground. Nothing had been left whole save for him and his bed. He didn't remember it being that way or understood how it came to be, so he left his bed in search of Miss Lucy. He didn't expect the brief stab of pain shooting up through his feet as he realised he was walking over pieces of the full-length mirror he had gazed into only the day before, scattered over most of the floor. Sharp at first, the pain had quickly receded to numbness, which Seph had soon forgotten about entirely. Making his way into Miss Lucy's room, he had stood patiently by her bedside until she had awoken. When she had asked him to lift his feet onto her lap, he thought nothing of it…

That was, until she tried to pull on one of the bits of glass stuck in his feet. How could she do that? Didn't she know how much that had hurt him? Confused and angry by her actions, Seph ran out of the room, the cottage, and through the tall trees outside that stretched on as far as the eye could see. He didn't want her trying to pull that stunt again. No no no, he wasn't about to be fooled a second time – definitely not. Ignoring her cries for him to come back, Seph wandered further into the woods. Miss Lucy hadn't chased after him, however, and for some reason that kind of stung. Curiously enough, it was different to the hurting in his feet. More like, a kind of inside-hurt. He didn't like it.

A slight breeze stirred through the trees, fallen leaves swept up in its embrace. As it passed Seph, faint, tinkling laughter echoed all around him.

"Who's there?" he called out.

He didn't get a response, but the breeze returned, tousling his hair and pulling lightly at his clothes. Seph stood up, careful to keep the pressure even on both feet. The breeze turned and headed into the deeper part of the woods, the laughter fading away. Intrigued, Seph followed, bearing the sharp twinges of pain shooting up his legs and keeping his eyes trained on the swirling leaves. The path of the breeze he kept to was erratic, zigzagging over places where the ground was most densely covered. Seph found it to be easier on his feet. After several minutes, just when Seph didn't think he was able to follow any longer, the breeze led him to a glade, where the trees parted to reveal a small brook. The breeze wasn't anywhere to be found, but Seph no longer cared; seeing all that sparkling water reminded him of the long trek he had made and how thirsty he was. Hurryingly he rushed forward and sunk his arms into the crystal clear water, bringing his face down to drink from cupped hands.

The water tasted just as clear and as fresh as it looked. Feeling rejuvenated from the very first mouthful, Seph gulped down a few more, splashing water all over himself in his haste. Afterwards he leant back, clumsily rolling his pants back to his knees so he could dip his legs into the stream. Seph sighed in content, revelling in the feel of his feet swaying in the cool undercurrent. The pain from the glass splinters slowly ebbed away.

He wondered if he should find his way back to the cottage, and if Miss Lucy was still looking for him. He still felt surprised that she hadn't come after him – she sounded very worried when she had called out. Oh well. Miss Lucy probably wasn't worried anymore.

Picking up a nearby pebble, Seph hurled it across the brook, watching it bounce back against the embankment on the other side and hit the water with an abrupt plop.

Maybe, maybe he was wrong and she didn't actually mean to have hurt him. Maybe she didn't know that she did. She did look sort of sorry after she had tried to pull out the glass from his foot.

Seph kicked his feet idly in the water, his solemn reflection dissolving away in the ripples. He should probably go back before Miss Lucy forgot about him. She might have already forgotten what he looked like. Even though he had only known her for a day (he still couldn't remember anything beyond yesterday morning), Miss Lucy was the only person he had encountered so far, the only person he had seen as of so far. If he was to leave her and the cottage for good, he'd have no where else to go. No cold porridge. No bed. No…

Seph squirmed. He could feel that inside-hurt again.

What if Miss Lucy didn't want him back, though? What if she was angry with him for running off like that? A sudden, alarming thought passed through Seph's mind. What if… she had found herself another boy to live with her in the cottage? Another boy who would sleep in his bed, eat the food that was meant for him?

Light, feminine laughter filled Seph's ears again. Scrambling to get up, Seph spied the very same breeze leaving the glade, rustling the branches of nearby trees as it moved through them. He ran after it, knowing, just knowing that it would take him back to the cottage.

Miraculously, his feet didn't hurt at all.

xLxMxLxIxHx

Shifting the small bedside table upright again, Lucrecia gazed around the room, checking to see if there was anything else left to be done; all the drawers and their contents were back in their rightful places, the shutters fixed and the hinges oiled, and most important of all, the shattered pieces of mirror swept away and disposed of. Satisfied with her effort, Lucrecia left Seph's room and went to check on the pot of soup she had left boiling away in the kitchenette. She had long given up hope of passing through the woods, and instead made use of the time waiting for Seph to return by cleaning up the cottage and preparing lunch. Two bowls were ready on the table.

But Lucrecia was still worried. The voice, the woman from her dreams, left her with information that warranted some serious thinking over. This was her and Seph's combined version of the Promised Land, from their minds' point of view. That she knew. What she didn't know, however, was that it was apparently subject to change according to their mental state. The landscape, the elements, the climate – all acted according to how they felt.

Be wise to keep this in mind, She had told her. Life here is a double-edged condition, where only those who are free of emotional burden will live out their time in true happiness.

Lucrecia wasn't sure what to make of the woman's words, but it explained last night's storm, in any case.

Hearing the front door creak open, she turned around.

"You haven't found another boy to live here yet, have you?"

Caught between wanting to pull her son into a tight hug and asking him what he had eaten in the woods, Lucrecia chose to instead follow Seph as he stormed towards his room without waiting for an answer. After a quick inspection, he spun around and headed back. It was only then Lucrecia remembered the reason for him deserting the cottage in the first place.

"Seph, your feet – let me look at –"

"Who's this bowl for?" he interrupted her, pointing at one of the two bowls she had set on the table. Lucrecia paused in the face of such a peculiar question.

"Why, it's for you of course, unless you want the other bowl." She tried again with her request. "Seph, please, please just let me have a quick look at your feet. It won't hurt this time."

Seph looked doubtful. "Promise?"

"I promise."

He took a seat at the table and faced her, allowing Lucrecia to examine his soles. What she discovered shocked her. Where did all the glass splinters go? Seph's feet were clean and completely bereft of cuts or scratches.

Recalling the woman's words, Lucrecia asked him, "Who healed your feet, Seph?"

Seph blinked down at her. "No one."

"Then what happened to all of the glass in them?"

He shrugged, shifting in his chair to face the table. Deciding to let it go at that, Lucrecia went into the kitchenette to bring out the pot of soup.

By the time she came back out with it, he was already holding his bowl out to her expectantly.