Final Fantasy VII
Forgive Us Our Transgressions
Notes: The characters are not mine,
and this ficlit is! The idea came to me when I was watching
Sephiroth's entrance scene in Crisis Core, and Zack got upset when he
was told that Angeal had betrayed them. So I wondered if they ever
might have gotten into a full-blown argument over it. I had been
looking for something for the prompt Argument at
30gens, and this certainly fit. I hope I've managed to keep Chapter
Six spoilers out of this, or at least, to keep them sufficiently
vague. This takes place shortly after I Don't Know How to Say Goodbye, so it's still when their friendship is new. Thanks to Kaze and Lisa for plot help!
Green eyes glowered at the bright monitor. The light reflected off of the glasses' lens, but the words being typed into the word processor were not being recognized. Concentration would not come. And the reason why was obvious. The brunet's stunned, hurt face continued to flash in front of everything else. And there were words, angry words exchanged on both sides, echoing as it were, through the loudspeakers. . . .
General Sephiroth slumped back, removing his glasses as he reached to rub at his eyes.
What in Heaven's name had happened?
He and Zack had been discussing Genesis's disappearance and what it might mean. The topic had swiftly shifted to Angeal and his betrayal. Zack had kept insisting that Angeal had betrayed SOLDIER, not them. And Sephiroth had lost control of himself.
"To betray SOLDIER is to betray us!" he said, his voice raising. "Have you forgotten how he treated you? Have you forgotten that he could have killed you?"
Zack had never heard Sephiroth speak in such a tone. He took a step back, staring at the older man. Then his eyes narrowed and a fist clenched.
"He was mixed up!" he cried. "It was Genesis, Seph. Genesis influenced him to act like that. . . ."
"Don't use Genesis as an excuse!" The cut-off was harsh. Sephiroth's eyes flashed. "It was Angeal's decision to make."
"I know Angeal, Seph!" Zack protested. "He isn't like that. Something . . . somebody must've done something to him! His mind must've been slipping, or . . . or something!" He swallowed hard. "Especially if he was deteriorating, I mean. . . ."
Sephiroth should have let it end there. But he could not stop himself. The feelings he had concealed for ages were spilling out. Zack was beating himself up over what had taken place, and he should not be. How could he have stopped it? No one could have.
Sephiroth had wanted to. He had tried as well. He had known Angeal much longer, and he had thought Angeal would listen to him. But he had been rejected. Angeal had insisted that the road he needed to follow was the same path Genesis had taken. And then Sephiroth had comprehended what must be the truth.
"Angeal didn't care. Don't you realize that by now? He didn't care about either of us! He was willing to throw away our friendships to help Genesis with his revenge!" He paused. "No, of course you wouldn't understand. Your naive idealism prevents you from seeing anything as it really is. You think you can fix everyone's problems. But you can't. Don't you see? Hasn't this experience taught you anything? You CAN'T!"
The look in Zack's eyes was more pained than if he had been physically slapped. Yes, he knew. Of course he knew, and that was what was tearing him up inside! He had not been able to save Angeal. He had lost one of his best friends. And did Sephiroth even care? He had gone right back to work, as if nothing had happened. It had been bothering Zack for a long time. And it had to come out.
"What does it even matter?!" he screamed now. "What kind of guy are you?! I looked up to you. I thought you were someone worth being like. But you don't even care about what happened! I thought Angeal was your friend, too, but you just turned against him! You didn't even do anything when I came back and . . . and told you . . ." He trailed off, shaking his head. "You just started working even harder! You said that Genesis must still be out there somewhere and that we had to work on catching him. And I know we do, but . . ."
"Zack . . ."
"Don't 'Zack' me!" Zack interrupted. "It's no wonder you don't have any friends. If I'm too naive, then you don't have any faith in anyone. And you don't care about anything except your work!"
Now Sephiroth's eyes registered shock. It almost looked like he had been wounded. But as quickly as the emotion was there, it vanished again. The orbs frosted over with emerald ice. When he spoke, his voice had become cold and taut.
"I'm very busy tonight. Will that be all, Commander Fair?"
Zack barely noticed the formal switch. "Yeah!" he retorted. "It's all I can think of, General Sephiroth." He turned, storming to the office door. He hauled it open, disappearing into the hall. As he slammed it behind him, the walls and floor vibrated.
In the present, Sephiroth narrowed his eyes. Zack had called him by his full name. It actually felt strange now, even wrong. Zack had called him "Seph" for so long, and Sephiroth had been irritated by it from the beginning. But for some reason, he had allowed it. Maybe because Zack had wanted to be close to him. He had wanted to think of Sephiroth as someone with whom he could shorten the name out of affection. And secretly, Sephiroth had longed for . . . well, not that, but what it represented. He had wanted to feel like there was someone who cared about him unconditionally and who would never betray him.
He had wanted a friend.
Zack was the last person he would have ever imagined himself growing close to, but he had. Zack's anguish had pained him in a way he had not even thought was possible. He had wanted to find a way to make it stop, to give Zack some kind of comfort. But he was not that sort of person. And how could he comfort anyone when his own heart was in pieces? Obviously he could not. All of his agony over his own feelings, as well as Zack's, had spilled out. He had made everything much worse.
And Zack had been very vocal on what he had thought of it. What he had said had been uncalled for, too. Maybe Sephiroth had deserved it, and yet in another way, he felt that he did not.
Yes, he had thrown himself into his work after the catastrophe. He had not wanted to think about it. He had not even wanted to let it be known how badly he had been affected. He had wanted to focus on something else, anything else, instead of the pain. Had he pushed Zack away because of it? He had struggled to be there when Zack needed to talk, even if it was just to listen. Sometimes he had not known how to refrain from saying something. But this had been the first time he had snapped.
He had accused Zack of being too naive. Sometimes in his vexation, he had thought it of the other. Yet he knew it was not true. Zack had seen many things, horrible things, that had awakened him to what was going in on the world. He could still be cheerful in spite of it all. That was a gift.
And of course he would not want to think badly of a dear friend. Sephiroth did not, either---but he felt increasingly sure that it was true that Angeal had not cared. He did not want Zack to be hurt further by a wayward traitor.
Now he had done the same thing.
He had let Zack down.
Maybe he needed to apologize.
His pride resisted. It was not something he liked to say. Would it even come out right to begin with? In some ways, "Sorry" sounded so trite. And it was not as if saying it would take away the pain he had brought. How would it ever be enough? If he saw Zack again, he should probably just act as though nothing had happened.
But that was Zack's whole complaint, wasn't it? No . . . something had to be done.
Zack was probably not even at the base. When he was upset, he tended to go walking, no matter how late. And would he even want to hear from Sephiroth, anyway? He was usually so cheerful, or long-suffering, but Sephiroth had hurt him. That was the last thing he had ever wanted to do.
"You think you can fix everyone's problems. But you can't."
No, he could not. But for a while Zack had made Sephiroth's life brighter. He had filled a void that had been left by Angeal and Genesis. And Zack had been happy about it, just as Sephiroth had been.
He looked to the phone by the side of the computer. He could pick it up, call Zack, and tell him to come back. He would not apologize over the phone. But he could imagine how it would go if Zack returned. Sephiroth would try to make amends, and find it very awkward, and Zack would not be impressed at all. He would let Sephiroth know that it was not good enough. Which he already knew.
Yet he was not one to give up. He picked up the receiver, dialing the number as he leaned back in the chair. There was not an answer. Sometimes Zack ran into trouble and could not pick up immediately. But after eight rings, Sephiroth set the receiver back in its cradle.
He shook his head, looking back to the computer screen. Replacing his glasses, he slowly resumed his typing.
He would try again later.
Zack had been trudging through the dark streets of Midgar for an indeterminable amount of time. No one else was out, but that was just fine with him. For once, he did not want to talk to anyone.
He had been so stupid! What had he been thinking, trying to get close to Seph . . . excuse himself, Sephiroth. He had been warned that Sephiroth would not open up to anybody, that even though he treated the men with warmth, he was distant and far removed. But still Zack had been determined to try. For a while, he had actually thought it had worked. They had slipped into a friendship that had comfortably fit them both.
But Angeal had always been a sore point between them. Zack had remained convinced that Angeal could be saved, that he had betrayed SOLDIER and not his friends . . . or who had been supposed to be his friends.
"Even now, my feelings about SOLDIER have not changed."
The words echoed around him. He swallowed hard, tilting his neck to look up at the sky. A lot of stars were out tonight. One of them winked at him. He looked away again.
Angeal . . . why?
There were still so many things he did not understand about Angeal's desertion---why it had happened, why he had gone along with Genesis's ideals . . . why he had fought Zack. . . . Zack had told Sephiroth that Genesis had influenced Angeal, or that Angeal had been losing his mind. . . . That was it, wasn't it? It had to be it.
And yet he did not know. There was not really a way to know for sure.
Sephiroth was convinced that Angeal had abandoned them, that he did not care, that he had never cared. How could Sephiroth believe such a thing? Zack knew Angeal had cared! And Sephiroth must have known at one time. But he had been so vehement against Zack's former mentor.
Zack had been so upset. . . .
"It's no wonder you don't have any friends. If I'm too naive, then you don't have any faith in anyone. You don't care about anything except your work!"
Had he really said that? His heart began to twist. That was not like him at all. It was a horrible thing to say to anyone, and especially someone who had been supposed to have been his friend. . . .
He had been hurting. And he was still upset that Sephiroth had never really said anything positive about Angeal and the situation, when Zack had come to the other wanting to talk. He had wanted reassurance that all would be well now, that Angeal would be alright, and Sephiroth had not been able to give him any of that. He had listened, for which Zack was grateful, but when he had spoken he had said that it was out of Zack's hands. Maybe someday Zack would know the full truth, but not for a long time. And it was not comforting.
Can you expect him to say anything he doesn't really feel? Do you want him to lie to you to make you feel better?
Zack's eyes widened. No one was there, and yet that had almost sounded like . . .
He looked around wildly, his heart racing. The streets were empty, just as he had known. But he had heard those words.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. No, he did not want that. Seph was always honest with him. That was one of the things Zack had liked about him. He could go to Seph about anything, and if he did not know the answer, or did not agree with Zack's view, he would say so. He never made things up or treated Zack like a kid.
And Seph had looked so hurt when Zack had insinuated that it was his fault that he did not have anyone to be close to. How had Zack ignored that? How had he said such an awful thing in the first place? Had he been that caught up in his angry and pained feelings? He had never heard Seph use such a frozen tone, either. Was that a front to hide his own wounds?
Was everything a front? Had he been so foolishly naive that he thought Seph would completely open up to him after they had not known each other for very long? Seph had told him certain things that had happened in the past with him, Angeal, and Genesis, which was a lot more than anyone else heard. But he had not said what he felt about those events.
His actions themselves said it all. He wanted to work harder than ever so he would not have to think about how much he cared, not because he did not care. And he was worried about Zack torturing himself over not being able to help Angeal.
Seph had mentioned that he felt personally betrayed by both Angeal and Genesis. And now Zack had betrayed him too.
Regretful tears pricked Zack's eyes. How could he have hurt Seph like that? No . . . Sephiroth. He was not worthy to even call him Seph. Sephiroth had never liked it, anyway.
He turned, looking towards the direction from which he had come. Even if Sephiroth rejected his sincere attempt to say he was conscience-stricken, even if Sephiroth never wanted to see him again, Zack had to try.
He broke into a run, his spikes bouncing up and down as he all but flew towards the base.
Sephiroth leaned back in the chair again. It was no use. He could not finish the report he was supposed to be working on. He took off his glasses, holding them by one side as he leaned his elbow on the desk. With his other hand he massaged the bridge of his nose.
He had tried several more times to call Zack, but the phone had only continued to ring. Apparently he was so angry he had turned off his cell phone. Or he was simply not answering after seeing who it was.
Unless he was laying hurt somewhere. He might have not even been watching where he was going. He could have been going over a busy highway and . . .
His eyes narrowed. No, Zack would not be that careless, no matter how upset he happened to be.
But he should go look for Zack, anyway. It had been much too long. Even if Zack wanted nothing to do with him, Sephiroth was still his commander. Zack needed to return to the base. If he wanted to transfer out after this, Sephiroth would not stop him.
He placed his hands on the desk as he began to ease himself upright.
At the same moment, a knock came at the door.
He froze, glaring in the direction of the slab of wood. What was this now? Some news that he would not like? Even something about Zack?
He straightened the rest of the way. "Come in." His voice was guarded, businesslike. That was the way to handle things in the military. Emotions had no place there. Not that they had a place in his life at all. They only brought more misery. Hojo had taught him that, long ago.
Not that he wanted to believe that anything Hojo said was correct.
The doorknob turned. A distraught, spiky-haired brunet ran in, gripping the other side of the knob in his hand. He looked up into Sephiroth's startled eyes, his own filled with penitence and agitation. When he spoke, it was in a rushed blur.
"I didn't mean what I said!" he cried. "I really didn't! It was so awful. . . . I was upset and hurt, but it's not an excuse. I know you really do care." His shoulders slumped as his voice finally slowed. "I . . . I know it's not good enough, and I won't ask for forgiveness or anything like that, but I . . . I'm really, really sorry. I betrayed you." His gaze averted to the floor. "You're hurting too. And you were just worried about me. I don't know why I couldn't see it. . . . I guess you were right, about me just being naive." Another pause. "That's too good a word for it, anyway. I was just blind."
Sephiroth could only stare at the spectacle. Zack had come back. And he had apologized wholeheartedly. This was not what Sephiroth had expected at all. He had felt that he did not have any right to think Zack might be sorry. But he had underestimated the younger man.
"I'll leave now." Zack's voice drew him back to the present. "I know you probably don't want me here, Seph . . . Sephiroth. . . ."
Sephiroth came to life. Walking from around his desk, he crossed the room to stop in front of the younger man.
Slowly Zack looked up, his eyes filled with turmoil.
"You are forgiven," he said firmly. "I wasn't the friend you hoped I would be." He looked into the lavender eyes with steadiness. "Yes, I'm concerned for you, Zack. But what I said was unkind. I'm sorry as well." He hesitated. This was more difficult than he had imagined it would be. And from Zack's expression, he could scarcely believe what he was hearing.
"I never wanted you to experience the cruelty of this world . . . but I also don't want you to ever lose your hope. That hope is what makes you who you are."
Zack's eyes widened. "Sephiroth . . ." What could he say? Sephiroth had surprised him again. Zack had already realized that Sephiroth was the way Zack had always believed him to be. But now he had extended his forgiveness.
Then the rest of his words registered.
"Sephiroth, of course you're forgiven!" Zack shook his head emphatically. "And it's not true!" he exclaimed. "About you not being a good friend, I mean. Seph-Sephiroth, you've been a great friend. You've always put everything you could into whatever you did. But I . . . I'm the one who wasn't understanding. I shouldn't have been throwing my feelings at you when you were still trying to deal with your own. I was thoughtless."
"You couldn't help showing your pain. I preferred to hide it. You couldn't have known."
"I should have!" Zack cried. "I thought you and I were getting close, but I couldn't even recognize that you were aching."
"I didn't want you to realize it." Sephiroth's answer was flat and matter-of-fact. And maybe it was true, to an extent. He had not wanted to be asked about it. But . . . had he really wanted Zack to not know the pain existed altogether? Or had he foolishly thought that Zack would just know?
Bah. He did not know what he had thought. It did not matter, anyway.
". . . I was just getting up to look for you when you came," he said at last. "I couldn't reach you on your phone."
Zack looked guilty. Then he reached up, rubbing the back of his neck. "I left my phone in my quarters," he admitted. "I think I kinda . . . forgot it on purpose."
Sephiroth had to be amused. At least it was only that.
Zack looked towards the hallway. "Well . . . this night was sure a mess," he said, managing a weak grin. But as quickly as it had come, it faded. He shrugged, half-turning to the door. "I'd better let you get some sleep or something. . . ."
Sephiroth fixed him with a stern look. "You can't leave yet."
Zack blinked. "Why's that?" he asked.
"You should make up your mind on what you're going to call me," Sephiroth said.
Zack stared. Did he mean what it sounded like? Or was he just fooling himself again? "But . . . I thought you didn't like . . ."
Sephiroth paused. And what would he say to that? He had not liked it at first, not at all. But to hear Zack using his full name, saying it out of anger, or struggling to remember not to shorten it, was not right. It was uncomfortable, to be honest. He had gotten much too accustomed to that silly nickname, when it was Zack speaking.
"No one else would be allowed to call me by that name at all," he said. Would Zack discover the hidden meaning in his words? That he was inviting Zack to remain his friend, if he still desired it? That . . . Sephiroth wanted it himself?
Zack's expression changed to awe. "Seph . . ." He whooped for joy, springing forward to envelope his buddy in an enthusiastic hug. "You're seriously the best!"
Sephiroth started. He had not expected that at all. Still, he found himself relaxing. As Zack pulled back to grin up at him, he attempted to look deadpan.
"Don't overdo it," he said.
But he was smiling.
Abruptly Zack's expression faltered again.
Sephiroth frowned. "What is it now?" he asked.
Zack shook his head. "How can you even still want me as your friend, Seph?" The anguish flickered in his eyes again. "After the awful things I said. . . . I don't even feel worthy to be your friend."
Sephiroth laid a firm hand on the other's shoulder. "We both said things we shouldn't have," he said. "We have to put the past behind us and move on."
Zack nodded, a tired grin slipping over his features. "Well . . . I have heard that you aren't really close friends with someone until you've argued. Sooo . . ."
Sephiroth looked at him. Zack always had to try to find something good about every situation. But even he seemed to be making a huge effort to be cheerful at the moment. This experience had drained him.
It was ironic, when he thought about it. Angeal may have inadvertently caused their argument, but in some way, him being their mutual friend had brought them together in the first place.
"Seph?" Zack blinked at him.
"What're you thinking about?"
Now Sephiroth did give him a stern look. "That you need to get to bed yourself," he said. "Do you have any idea how late it is?"
"Way too late!" Zack chimed. He stretched his arms ceilingward as his muscles popped and cracked. "At least we don't have to get up early!"
"We still have to set an example to the men," Sephiroth said, his tone flat.
Zack looked at him with woebegone eyes. "I can't sleep in?" he moaned.
"You should have thought of that before you joined SOLDIER."
Zack crossed his arms. "Fine!" he said. "But I'm not going to bed unless you're going to get some sleep too."
"I have to finish this report." Sephiroth gestured to the computer.
"Then I'll keep you company," Zack volunteered. Without waiting for Seph to protest, he waltzed across the room to the black leather couch and flopped upon it.
Sephiroth watched in amusement. "You act like you own the office," he commented, walking back to the desk.
Zack removed his arm from his eyes. "You don't mind if I stay here, do you, Seph?" he asked.
"No," Sephiroth answered. "Only you'll fall asleep there and may end up on the floor." He had witnessed Zack rolling off a couch once. Or more accurately, he had overheard it, followed by a startled yelp at the rude awakening.
"I'll stay awake!" Zack insisted.
"We'll see." Sephiroth applied his glasses and began to type for the umpteenth time.
Zack yawned, snuggling further into the cushions. The sound of the typing was rhythmic. Usually it would keep him wide awake, but right now he was so worn out from the long day. And he finally felt at peace.
Some time later, Sephiroth glanced up as he completed and emailed the report. Zack was sound asleep.
Shaking his head, the silver-haired man eased himself up from the desk and reached for a nearby quilt. Either he or Zack had brought it there at some other time when Zack had been on the couch.
He spread the comforter as he got to the makeshift bed, pulling the covers securely over his friend's form. Zack mumbled, but did not awaken.
Straightening again, Sephiroth dimmed the light.