Author: SkyFire (LJ: rabidplotbunny)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Characters: Hojo, Sephiroth, Zack
Rating: PG13 (Hojo)
Summary: Pre-Nibelheim AU. Hojo's filling in a form has certain... unexpected consequences for Sephiroth.
Warnings: AU. Totally. Probably a bit OOC as well; this is the first FFVII fic I've written that wasn't set in someone else's AU.
1) If you come across a section that seems a bit vague (like in regards to lab equipment or exact army lingo), that's because either I don't have a clue, or I'm making stuff up because I can't quite remember. I've tried to keep it to a minimum, but figured it wasn't exactly crucial because this is primarily a humor fic. If it was a serious fic, you can trust that the details would be as accurate as I could possibly get them.
2) Title suggestions are welcome. I'm not entirely happy with this one.
Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII or any of the characters therein, and whoo, boy! are they glad! XP
If there was one thing that Hojo – self-styled greatest scientist in the world – hated above most everything else, it was paperwork.
Why should he waste precious time writing progress reports for some corporate idiot who probably couldn't understand one tenth of the magnitude of his brilliance? Or requisition forms for the things he should have been provided with without having to ask? How could the Shinra corporation possibly expect timely results when he constantly had to request the necessary equipment and supplies? Honestly, was it so difficult to understand that every modern laboratory should be equipped with at least a handful of Mako conversion units, coupled with a full series of cross-conversion tubes? He had at least a dozen in his apartment's kitchen! How other people somehow managed to get through the day without them, even his brilliant mind shied away from contemplating.
He ground his teeth in annoyance as he moved another completed form to the 'done' pile, pulling another form over from the 'to do' pile that had taken over his office insomuch as he couldn't find the jar of nanite-supplemented Mako he had left there. Considering that the jar was about the size of his head and glowing, he decided that perhaps he should work through at least enough papers to let him find the damned jar. Sephiroth was due in the lab in a few hours and the enhanced Mako treatment was on the schedule.
He cast a quick glance over the new forms, frowning a bit in confusion. Dependent registration form? What nonsense was this? Ah – attached was a company memo.
Due to the passing of a new law and subsequent changes in benefit policy, Shinra Inc. requests that all personnel fill out the following form. Please print clearly, in uppercase letters. Included with the form is a glossary explaining each question. Please have the forms filled out and returned to the Main Office no later than Thursday-
Hojo cast a brief look at the newly-uncovered desk calendar. It was Thursday, if the one a week later than requested.
He snorted, moved his pen to the first question. They should be grateful he was filling it in at all. It wasn't as if he actually had a dependent, after all.
That wasn't quite right, was it?
He did, after all, have some claim to Sephiroth.
Wasn't he the one who raised him? That made him a guardian, if not a parent.
A sinister smile on his face – he might be eligible for these 'benefits' after all – he filled in the form with a tad more enthusiasm and a lot more greed. His eager chuckles sent more than one lab assistant backing soundlessly out of the office, putting off until later whatever errand they'd had that brought them there.
Section 2: About the Dependent
2.1: First name:
Hojo rolled his eyes, then filled it in with a flourish, his cursive scrawl bound to give headaches to whoever was unfortunate to have to decipher it: Sephiroth
2.2: Last name:
A pause, then: n/a
Age? A quick turn to the glossary defined 'age' as 'the length of time since a person was brought into the world'.
Hmmm. Did that mean since that naive git Lucrecia birthed him, since he was released from the tube that had held him afterwards, or the time since he had left the lab?
"Brought into the world..."
They must mean since he'd left the lab and was exposed to the outside world for the first time. Yes, that must be it.
His pen moved to the appropriate blank and filled it in: 8 yrs.
2.4: Relationship to guardian:
Barely a pause: Science experiment.
Hojo made his way through the rest of the form, filling it out to his satisfaction before giving it over to one of his assistants to take to the main office.
Typically, he'd have simply added it to the 'done' pile, but in this case he decided to make an exception.
After all, the sooner the form was processed, the sooner he could start receiving the new benefits...
One of the secretaries at the Shinra Inc. main office looked up as the door opened and a young man in a lab coat walked in, an all too familiar-looking form clutched in one hand.
"Those were supposed to be here last week," she said as the man came over and handed her the form. A quick glance told her all she needed to know. She sighed. "Can you please tell professor Hojo that completing ans submitting his paperwork on time would do a lot for his-" She trailed off, seeing the door close again, the lobby empty before her. Hmph. Were all scientist-types so antisocial? Really, now.
She sighed, stood. Might as well bring it down to the sorting room where the forms were slowly being processed.
As she walked, she couldn't help but give the form a quick look over, wondering what Hojo of all people could have had to write about.
Stopped, stared wide-eyed at some of the answers.
She changed direction, heading instead for her superior's office. This... this horror could not be allowed to continue! Using an eight-year-old as a guinea pig? Hojo had gone too far!
Her boss glanced at the form at her request. The bored mask quickly vanished as he saw what she had seen, his expression darkening the further down the page he read. He was on the phone before he had even finished the first page.
It was only afterward that they noticed the name of the child in question and realized that they might have acted a bit hastily.
But by then, the wheels were already in motion and it was much too late.
Sephiroth and Zack walked around the assembled transports in the courtyard, giving the convoy a last inspection before they were due to leave.
Some tiny mountain town had been having unusually high numbers of monsters, and with the Mako reactor just up the mountain from there, the company was a bit concerned. Anything that had the potential to disrupt the operation of the reactor – and thus cut into their profits – was something that had to be eliminated. Now, or sooner.
He tried not to wonder what the fate of the little town – Nibelheim, that was it – would have been if it hadn't been so close to the Mt. Nibel reactor.
Sephiroth glanced over the assembled men as Zack wandered off to speak with one of the anonymous grunts.
Satisfied that everything was in order, he was about to give the order for them to get into the trucks when his attention was seized by a group of people entering the courtyard from the direction of the main Shinra building.
Blue-green eyes quickly scanned the group, quickly concluding 'non-military' as he saw the suits, then ruling out 'Turks' as he saw one man's harried face as he spoke to a determined-looking woman who was striding across the courtyard dressed in slacks and a sensibly-colored blouse, armed with a clipboard in one hand and – he blinked - a teddy bear in the other. Turks were too ruthless to ever appear harried in any but the most extreme situations, and last he had heard, none of them carried weapons modified to look like a child's plaything. The four burly men who accompanied her he dumped into the category of 'possible ex-military' (though not SOLDIER), even as he placed the harried man into 'Shinra office worker' and the woman into 'unclassified, but possibly dangerous'. There was just something about the look in her eyes that gave him the chills, though he would deny it to the grave.
What could he – SOLDIER-General Sephiroth, born and bred to be the best living weapon on the planet – possibly have to fear from one small woman?
Still, it took him more effort than he would readily admit for him to turn his back to them and give his delayed order, watching as the soldiers climbed up into the trucks in an orderly procession.
He looked back at the meek query just as he was pulling himself into the truck to find that the group had come to a halt not far away, all attention focused on him. He let himself back down to the ground, peripherally aware of Zack coming to stand at his back in a show of support. "Yes?" he asked in reply. "Make it quick. I don't have time for this."
The man paled at the obvious irritation, stammered.
The woman gave the office worker a scathing glance, then stepped forward slightly even as she consulted the papers attached to the clipboard. "I'm looking for a 'Sephiroth'," she said, looking at him expectantly.
The white-haired man crossed his arms over his chest. "I am Sephiroth."
She frowned, looking over her papers. "I'm looking for the Sephiroth who is the charge of one professor Hojo."
"I am he."
The frown deepened. "I see," she said at last. "I'm looking for-"
"I am the only Sephiroth in Hojo's care," he ground out, anticipating her next question, the sharp edge of irritated annoyance in his voice. "There are no others. Whatever business you have is with me. Now, if you could get on with it? You're wasting my time."
Her lips tightened in confusion eve as the frown deepened more. She cast an inquisitive glance in Zack's direction.
The spiky-haired brunet held up his gloved hands in warding. "He's telling the truth. There's only one Seph in Shinra, and he's it."
Faced with the double assertion, she shrugged, frown melting away. "I see. This is a bit unexpected." Another shrug, then she held out the bear to the tall General. "Then this is for you."
Reluctantly, leather-clad arms uncrossed and gloved hands took the offered toy. "Why-?"
"Oh! I never introduced-?" she exclaimed. "I'm sorry! I'm Kate, head of one of the retrieval teams for the Midgar branch of Child Protection Services. You're coming with me."
Sephiroth frowned, toy bear hanging forgotten by one arm from a tense hand. "I think not. If this is what you came for, you can leave. As I've already said, our departure is overdue."
"I'm sorry, but you are. According to the new laws passed last month, it is our duty to rescue minors who are suspected victims of abuse, and not even Shinra has the power to stop us if our proof is sure."
Sephiroth stared. "I am the highest-ranked SOLDIER in the program and as you can see, certainly no minor."
"I'm sorry, Sephiroth, but your guardian listed your official age as eight years. That is definitely a minor."
"You must be kidding." He could hear Zack's muffled laughter behind him. Sure; it must be amusing for him!
"Ah, General?" It was the nervous man again. "With all due respect, President Shinra orders that for simplicity's sake you accompany these people until we are able to get this sorted out."
"You expect me to-"
"He did make it an order. Are you refusing?"
"...No," came the reply, growled from behind gritted teeth. He looked to the woman. "Where-?"
"You will be taken to one of the orphanages run by us here on the Plate and properly cared for until such time as you leave our care either through the resolution of this little issue, you legally become an... er... adult, or someone adopts you."
Blue-green eyes glared daggers. And swords. And high-powered, Mako-enhanced artillery. "This could take years."
"It's possible," the woman acknowledged, "since it was your guardian's sworn statement that you are eight. That won't be easy to refute, especially considering his livelihood." A tentative smile. "Think of it like a vacation."
"Hey, now!" Zack butted in, staring incredulously at the group, all laughter fled once he realized that these people were serious, that they fully intended to take Seph away. "You can't be serious! You can't just come in here and expect us to just hand him ove-"
"I've never had a vacation." Was that the barest trace of wistfulness in the tone?
Silence greeted the statement, then:
"Seph? You're not actually thinking of going with them, are you?"
A small shrug. "I don't see how I could avoid it. It is an order now, straight from the President."
A snort. "And you've never bent orders until they squealed before. Right. I must be thinking of the other Seph – oh, right, you're the only one!"
"Argh! Fine! Do what you want!" A look, curiosity shining clearly amidst the frustration. "Why do you want to do this?"
A small, vicious smile. "The look on Hojo's face when he sees I'm out of his reach."
"Ummm?" It was Kate. "He said that your relation to him was 'science experiment'...?"
A snort. "So he did put down some truth, after all."
Curious now as to what else the scientist had written, he took the clipboard from the woman, giving the bear over to a startled Zack.
She promptly grabbed for the board. "There are just somethings a minor is not supposed to know!"
A growling glare, as ineffective as the previous ones had been, then he lifted it, holding it up above his head as he quickly read, ignoring the way she was jumping up and down in her efforts to reach. Once he was done, he handed it over. The information he'd read was sinking into his memory; he'd go over it later. He had a feeling that it might prove useful.
Regaining her composure, she motioned behind her to the courtyard exit, doors already opened in anticipation of the convoy's departure. "Shall we, then?"
Despite what he'd told Zack, a muscle in his cheek twitched as he grit his teeth. Then he moved, stepping around her in the direction of the doors.
He paused at her noise, one eye looking at her over an armored shoulder.
"Please leave any weapons behind. We can't guarantee their safety if you bring them, and there are children around. We wouldn't want one of them to think anything was a toy and get injured."
A short hesitation, then he walked back over to Zack, glaring at the suited group even as he handed over the Masamune, a surprising number of smaller blades, and an armful of Materia in various stages of mastery.
"Geez, Seph, how did you move?" Zack asked as Sephiroth filled his arms with weaponry. A quick glance around then he spoke, low enough that only the white-haired General could hear. "Maybe it won't be so bad. You can relax, have some fun. Besides, I've been having bad feelings about you going to Nibelheim."
Now Sephiroth frowned in concern. Zack's premonitions were usually uncannily accurate. If he said that Sephiroth should think twice before going to Nibelheim, the General would give it second, third, and fourth thoughts. "Any particular reason?"
A helpless shrug, then awkward scramble to hang on to the equipment he'd been burdened with even while hanging on to the teddy with one hand. "Not really anything specific; that's why I didn't bring it up before. Just... Fire, pain..."
Kate's voice again. "The coat, too. You won't need armor."
Annoying. His hands itched for the Masamune. Squashing down the feeling, he undid the coat and passed it to a grunt that came over at Zack's urging, the coat followed quickly by the shoulder armor and plated belt.
Feeling distinctly uncomfortable out in the open, unarmed and unarmored, despite knowing that he was still perfectly capable of taking care of any attacks even so, Sephiroth turned to the doors once again, the CPS personnel falling in around him.
They were about halfway across the courtyard when Kate paused, turned, and dashed back to where Zack stood watching. She grabbed the bear with a defiant look, then ran back to the others, giving the bear back to the General.
Zack's last sight of his friend before the door of the CPS van closed behind him was of long white hair flowing over bare back and shoulders, a stuffed bear hanging forlornly by the arm from one gloved hand.