Author: SkyFire (IJ/LJ link on profile)
Note: I'm sorry about the delay! I honestly forgot that I hadn't posted this here yet! :o(
Note 2: This fic also has two side-stories: Flower Power and Nibelheim. They're posted on my IJ (just hop over and check my fic index), along with quite a few other fic that haven't made it over here.
Note 3: # FFnet ATE MY QUOTES!! Hopefully I caught them all. I am NOT amused. :o(
Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII or any of the characters therein, and whoo, boy! are they glad! XP
It was well into November when Sephiroth finally returned to the Shinra complex.
He'd spent the last few weeks in Gongaga in the home of his new family. Zack had been there on leave for the first week, helping him to get settled in. It had been easier than he'd feared; he could guess that his previous experience at the orphanage had let him grow enough 'people skills' to manage. But still, Gongaga was definitely a... rather unique... town.
He liked it.
It was strange at first, having a mother, but with Zack's constant nagging he'd stopped calling her 'Ms. Fair' by the end of the week, though he couldn't bring himself to be so informal as to call her 'Mom' like Zack did. He could still remember the look on her face the first time he'd hesitantly called her 'Mother'. Zack explained to him later that the tears in her eyes had been happy ones, though it took her assurance before he could quite believe it.
How could tears be happy, after all?
It was only when a large, thick letter arrived for him at the end of the week a collection of drawings and tactical plans, most featuring a certain redhead, as well as well-wishes from the children at the orphanage and his own eyes teared up did he truly believe it, and begin to realize just how much he himself had been changed by the whole experience.
Now back in Midgar, walking the familiar route up to his office and the paperwork monster he was sure had accumulated in his absence, he allowed a small smile to surface. It was good to be back.
He could have lived without the giant 'Welcome Back, General!' sign that hung festively in the main courtyard of the SOLDIER building, as well as the full turnout of every SOLDIER on-premises to witness his early-morning return, but shrugged it off. Zack was Zack, after all.
As he entered the building, he was forced to admit that he might have picked up more habits than he knew from the children. Why else was he valiantly trying to resist the urge to chuckle not giggle. Definitely not giggle as the doors closed behind him and his men, struck momentarily speechless as he gave them a genuine smile at their boisterous welcoming calls, erupted into echoing cheers sure to spark more than a few calls from irritated, self-important Shinra execs.
The double-takes as personnel caught sight of him were amusing, helping to buoy his mood even further.
Having gotten used to the loose, comfortable clothing provided him first by the orphanage and then by Mother, he found himself unable to go back to his old, confining leathers. So instead, he was wearing what every other SOLDIER was wearing, and he had to admit that there might actually have been someone with sense behind the design of the uniform, as there clearly had not for his old attire. Until he'd practiced in it in Gongaga before his departure, he'd never known that the tight leather was holding him back, was hindering his movements. Now that he could actually move, he was so much better at fighting it might have scared him if he wasn't so busy delighting in the fact.
His hair was also different. Still the same impossibly long fall of silver it had always been, but now bound in a thick, heavy braid. It was strange at first - going through the warm-ups with that odd thumping against his back - but once he added a bit of speed he had to admit it was nice being able to see all the time without having his view obstructed by a silver veil, not getting it tangled around his arms and pulled when he swung.
His good mood lasted the trip to his office, faded slightly as he opened the door only to be greeted by the sight of the paperwork monster he'd been dreading. For longer than he'd willingly admit, he stood on the threshold, hand gripping the doorknob so tightly it squealed. Then he entered, going over to the spot he was almost certain his desk had once been, barely fighting back the urge to simply torch the whole thing.
Clearly none of this was essential if it had been left here to pile up when everyone knew he was gone. He'd long wondered just why other departments' paperwork ended up in his inbox, and now he knew.
Like a good soldier he'd been stupid enough to actually do it, to let them get away with it. That was why his hours were eaten up trying to solve other peoples' problems, why he was the one that arranged the laundry pick-up on more than one occasion, or had to decide how many cans of unidentifiable green glop the cafeteria had to order.
He moved an unsteady stack out of the way so he might actually be able to sit in his chair, and a slip of paper fell to the floor. He set the stack on top another equally unstable stack on his desk, then retrieved it. It was a ticket for the pick-up of Heidegger's suit from one of the local dry-cleaners.
Enough. Was. Enough.
He took a deep, calming breath and thought.
What would Speckle do?
Blue-green eyes glinted wickedly, even as an evil smirk made its way across his face.
Well, he knew what Speckle's evil twin would do, if he'd had one...
Zack reported to Sephiroth's office not too long after the General's arrival, accompanied by a dozen other SOLDIERs, all of them carrying standard Shinra-stamped file boxes.
The spiky-haired brunet paused in the office doorway, the mangled doorknob-and-keypad showing why it was open; until it was fixed, it was anyone's guess whether or not the thing would work, and he knew he wouldn't want to be locked in his office with the amount of paper that had piled up in Seph's.
"Seph?" he called, knocking lightly on the doorframe.
There was a rustling from the spot he thought the desk might be hiding, then the General came into view. A little. They could see part of his head around the heap of papers, anyway. "Oh, Zack, good, you're here, the silver-haired man said. And you brought the others...?"
"We're thirteen," Zack confirmed. "What do you need us to do?"
Sephiroth came out from behind the heap and walked over to them, one paper in hand. He showed it to them; it was a map of the room, complete with paperwork monster. "Here we are, he said," pointing to an X marked at the door. The finger tracked across the paper. "We start here, and work our way toward the far wall in a classic flanking maneuver - Team One on the left, Team Two on the right, Zack and I taking the front - followed by a concentrated assault on the central mass by both groups. Everyone have their boxes?"
"Uh?" Zack said intelligently, staring, even as the others brandished their boxes in puzzled compliance.
"Once the boxes are full, we retreat down to the lounge and dump them out there, then return here for the next assault until we can see not only the desk but the floor as well. As I recall, there is one under there. Zack. You called the men to assemble in the lounge?"
"Good. Once the office is cleared, we will proceed to the lounge and I will explain what the hell we're doing. Any questions?"
Blue-green eyes scanned the men, grinned when they remained silent. "Good. Divide yourselves into teams and let's get to it!"
He turned and walked back into the room, accepting a box from Zack as he went. He saw the others spreading out, cautiously beginning their assault. They sped up quite a bit when they saw him just grabbing up handfuls and showing them haphazardly into his box with no effort at organization at all.
Between the fourteen of them, they made quick work of the paperwork monster, then made their way back to the lounge where other SOLDIERs had gathered. The others were busily sorting the regurgitated monster into piles based on department of origin.
Sephiroth stood a little to one side and cleared his throat. Everyone stopped what they were doing to pay attention. He grinned. "You're probably wondering what we're doing. Let me show you." He brandished a scrap of paper. "This," he said, casting it a disparaging glance, "is Heidegger's dry-cleaning ticket." He reached down, picked up a paper at random. "The cafeteria in the main Shinra building request for more forks." Another. "Palmer wants a-" a grimace, then the paper met a particularly gruesome shredded demise "-let's not go there. I'm going to have nightmares." He paused as a few of the men chuckled, then continued. "The point is, this paper is all like this. All of it piled up while I was away, so clearly it is non-essential. And clearly misplaced. We, as dutiful SOLDIERs, must do our utmost to help organize this mess, and make sure they don't misplace their paperwork in the future. How shall we do this?" The evil grin made a reappearance, sparking similar grins from the men. "I'm glad you asked."
Late that afternoon, precisely fifteen minutes before the end of office hours, SOLDIERs began delivering boxes to various departments in the Shinra complex, dropping off their burdens at the office of the head of the department and leaving, wearing evil grins all the while. Many left whistling.
Each box was accompanied by a note, short and to the point.
You must have misplaced this.
Inside the boxes was the paperwork they'd sent to the SOLDIER-General's office, each and every single page folded into carefully-pressed origami.
Back in his Shinra-assigned quarters, Sephiroth turned the ringer of his phone off and grinned.
He had a mother and brother, he was closer to his men than ever, and his workload was sure to diminish as the unnecessary was returned to sender in pretty shapes.
He settled into his couch, flicked on his huge TV for the very first time he'd checked to make sure it was actually plugged in and settled in for the evening.
Life, he decided, was good.
Sephiroth looked up from his desk to see President Shinra standing in his doorway, Hojo a creepy shadow behind him. He stood. "Sir?"
"Hojo tells me you've missed every appointment he's set up for you since your return."
An unrepentant nod. "Yes, sir."
"Care to tell me why?"
Sephiroth reached down, opened a drawer in his desk, pulled out a letter and handed it to the President. "Here, sir."
Shinra tore open the letter, read it. His face turned purple and he glared at the General. "What is this?" he almost screeched, waving the letter.
"A note from my mother saying I don't have to go with Hojo, sir."
"I know what it is!" The red-faced man took the letter and tore it into tiny bits. "That's what I think of it! Pah! Now you will go with Hojo down to the lab and you will go now!"
Sephiroth pulled out another pair of letters, one much thicker and bearing the crest of the Midgar Social Services, the other with the insignia of the Midgar Police, and handed them over. "This is a copy of the findings of the Social Services hearing, as well as a copy of a restraining order against the Professor. He is to have no contact with me. Ever."
If President Shinra's face was red, Hojo's was an enraged mix of pure purples, reds, and blues, and he was so angry he couldn't speak, emitting a garbled mix of grunts and whines. Then he pulled himself together a little and stalked forward. "Listen to me, you ungrateful little-"
From seemingly out of nowhere which turned out to be a couch in Sephiroth's office out of sight of the door came a couple of Midgar Police officers, who had just dropped off the paperwork in question and lingered to answer a few of the General's questions about it.
The next thing Hojo knew, he was slammed face-first into the wall and his hands were cuffed behind him, then he was hauled off to jail.
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