Final Fantasy VII

Another Year Has Gone By

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine, and this fic is! It was directly inspired by the prompt Gifts at 30 Friends on Livejournal. The title is from the Celine Dion song, and hopefully there will not be too much confusion between it and my Kingdom Hearts ficlit As the Years Pass By. Thanks to Kaze for the plot help! And the idea for one of the gifts came because of our amusement over a piece of cute fanart.

It was just another day for General Sephiroth.

It would proceed as every other day always did for him---a shower, the morning meal, and work, until it was evening and he was off-duty. Technically there should be lunch somewhere in between, but he may or may not go to it. It depended on how heavy the workload was. And by evening, who knew what would happen. Zack might want to go out somewhere and try food that was not made by Shinra. Of course, he would keep up his incessant and yet endearing chatter all along the way. And Sephiroth would listen, deadpanning, yet feeling amused in his heart.

Though, for some reason, as he awakened that morning, he felt a pang in his soul. Indescribable sadness? Regret? What was it? His eyes narrowed as he climbed out of bed, brushing the stray locks of silver hair over his shoulders. It seemed that he should realize the answer, and yet it was so far from his reach that he could not grasp it.

The feeling remained with him throughout the morning, leaving him in a dark mood. Instead of dining with the other officers, Sephiroth opted to eat back at his quarters. There was not a great deal of food in his small refridgerator, but it was good enough for him. He did not feel like dealing with other people right now. And perhaps the most maddening thing of all was that he could not determine why he felt the way he currently did.

When he went to his office, he finally had the answer. He frowned, his green-eyed gaze falling on the day-to-day calender that was next to his computer. So today was the day. He should have realized. He had come into the world twenty-four years ago on this date. His mother had perished giving birth to him, and his father . . .

Had his father blamed him for that? Was that why he had abandoned him to the scientists? Or, if the man actually was one of them, did that explain why he had allowed his son to be tortured for years on end? Some people went completely mad after a tragedy.

As a child, Sephiroth had only known the date was his birthday because Hojo had taunted him about it.

"You were born on this day, Sephiroth," he had smiled one year, his teeth sickeningly yellow. "I remember it very well---your mother's desperate gasps for breath, your father's terse anticipation for his son, and you, of course. You entered the world with a full head of feathery, silver hair, sharp green eyes, and very strong lungs. You probably deafened your mother before she died. I suppose your will was too much for her frail life to handle."

And Sephiroth, newly five years old, had frowned as he sat cross-legged on the floor. Even with the boy being such a tender age, Hojo had had no qualms about making him feel bad.

Most of his birthdays had continued in such an unpleasant vein. He had certainly never received any gifts from the scientists. Oh, unless he wanted to count his first test of endurance a gift. Or the time he had been forced to drink poison to see what would happen. And he could not forget the wing. Such wonderful, thoughtful gifts.

Well . . . to be fair, there was one year when Gast had pitied him and had made sure that he was able to spend the day in quiet solitude, without fear of experimentation. Gast never had approved of Hojo's barbaric tests. Maybe that was one reason why he had vanished one day and had never returned. Sephiroth had long suspected Hojo of having something to do with that.

He had never even really known that a birthday could be happy until he had become friends with Angeal and Genesis. They had accepted him as one of their own and had shown him a good time for as many years as their friendship had lasted. He had felt loved and wanted, for the first time in his life.

Last year he had been alone again. Genesis had abandoned SOLDIER, and Angeal had started to drift apart from Sephiroth. He had remembered to call and wish him a good day, which Sephiroth had appreciated, but it had been such an awkward conversation. And once they had hung up, Sephiroth had returned to his work. It had been a very ordinary day.

That was what he expected this year, as well.

He worked in silence for some time, the sound of the keyboard filling his mind. He ignored the calender, but even with his best efforts, he could still see it out of the corner of his eye. And the day's date was printed at the bottom of his word processor, too. Not to mention on every email. It was impossible to get away from it.

He sighed, slumping back in his chair as he removed his glasses.

The door flew open. He started, looking up as Zack marched in, shutting the door behind him. The brunet walked over to the desk, placing his hands on his hips.

"Hey, Seph! What gives?" he demanded.

Sephiroth could only raise an eyebrow at him. "What are you talking about?"

"You've been keepin' stuff from me again!" Zack pouted. "You never said today's your birthday!"

Sephiroth set his glasses on the desk. "I didn't even remember myself until recently," he grunted. "It's not as if it's a big deal or something important."

"Of course it is!" Zack gestured wildly. "Without a birthday, you wouldn't even be here! That's what a birthday is---a celebration of life!"

Such idealism. Sephiroth shook his head. "I certainly experienced that," he said, his voice dripping sarcasm. "Hojo was very fond of celebrating my life, by nearly ending it several times."

Zack looked horrified. "Didn't you ever have a good birthday, Seph?" he exclaimed.

Sephiroth sighed. "One, while in the care of the scientists'," he consented. "And several others, when I had people to celebrate with." He shrugged. "That stopped last year."

"What about me?" Zack cried.

"You weren't around last year," Sephiroth said.

"Well, I am this year!" Zack gave a firm nod. "And I'm gonna see to it that you have a great day!"

"Oh really." In spite of himself, Sephiroth was amused---and largely touched. Zack was always thoughtful.

Zack nodded. "So! What would you like to do, Seph? You name it and we'll do it, once we're off-duty!"

"I really wouldn't know where to begin," Sephiroth objected. He had certainly never gone out for entertainment on his own. He had no idea what he would like, though he did have a very long list of what he would not like.

"Well, what did you do before, with Angeal and Genesis?" Zack asked, lacing his fingers behind his head.

"We usually went out for dinner," Sephiroth said. "Once we went to a bookstore afterwards." That part had been Genesis's idea, of course. Sephiroth, being a casual reader, had agreed. He had browsed through some titles in between Genesis sharing with him some of his favorites. Angeal had wandered about, used to Genesis's desire to frequent bookstores.

"Did you like that?" Zack persisted.

Sephiroth shrugged. "It was pleasant."

"Then that's what we'll do!" Zack resolved. "I'll come for you when we're off-duty!" He leaned down, glomping Seph with cheer. "Happy birthday, old pal!"

Sephiroth smiled. Maybe this would be a good day after all.

The rest of the workday proceeded in a brighter manner. Sephiroth found himself looking forward to the evening. Spending the time with Zack would prove interesting. It always was. He would do his best to make sure that Seph had a good time. Maybe he would actually enjoy a birthday again for once. If anyone could make it happen, Zack could.

Zack was exactly what Sephiroth had needed in his life---kind and understanding, cheerful and exuberant. Even though Sephiroth had not believed at the time that it would work out at all, Zack had proved him wrong in every way. In such a case, being wrong was not a bad thing.

He bounced into Seph's office before they had been off-duty for even five minutes. "Hey buddy!" he chirped. "Ready to go?"

Sephiroth was amused, a vague smile creeping over his features. "You must have been watching the clock," he said, "running here the moment you were free to leave."

"Yep!" Zack grinned. With that he produced two small packages and set them on the desk. "Here!"

Sephiroth blinked in surprise. "You didn't need to get me anything," he said.

"I know," Zack shrugged. "Wouldn't be any fun if it was all about 'needing' to get it."

Sephiroth picked up the top box and began to undo the wrappings. What would Zack get him? Something sensible? A gag gift? Should he be afraid? With Zack it was hard to know.

He lifted the lid. And raised an eyebrow. Reaching inside, he pulled out a two-inch plush chocobo hanging from a thin strap. He turned it around, studying it. What on earth was it for?

Zack noticed his confusion. "It's a cellphone charm!" he explained. "Thought you needed something to make your phone more interesting. And it can remind you of Pala!"

Sephiroth shook his head. He had rarely received presents, and never anything like this. Of course, Zack knew that.

"Do I dare open the other?" he remarked in a mild tone.

"You'll like it!" Zack assured.

Sephiroth paused, then took up his phone from where it was sitting on the desk. Finding the right spot at the top, he clipped on the charm. Zack beamed.

As he opened the second box, he was again surprised. Nestled inside was a silver wristwatch, very masculine and sensible in appearance. He drew it out, examining the analog dials.

"You said you needed to get a new one, after the last one broke on our mission!" Zack said. "And I knew you hadn't done it yet!"

Sephiroth adjusted it to the correct time before affixing it on his right wrist. "Thank you," he said in sincerity. And he meant it for both gifts.

Zack realized it. "Aww, it was nothing," he said, sticking his thumbs through his suspenders. But he was obviously happy that Seph was pleased. "Okay, let's go!"

Sephiroth saved and closed his document, then shut down the computer. He stood, placing his cellphone in his pocket.

"Where do you wanna go to eat?" Zack asked.

Sephiroth shrugged. "Anywhere is fine."

"Let's try the all-you-can-eat buffet!" Zack announced.

Sephiroth had to smirk in amusement. That should be interesting. The hungry look in Zack's eyes could not be concealed. Nor could the sounds of his ravenous stomach.

When he thought about it, when would Zack have had the chance to go shopping, if he had not realized it was Sephiroth's birthday before today? The only real time would have been during lunch. Technically Zack was supposed to stay on base, but being a SOLDIER First Class, he could get out of that at lunchtime, if he wanted to badly enough.

No wonder he would want an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The evening was quite enjoyable. Zack took in more food than Sephiroth had thought was even possible at one meal. He himself ate at a normal pace, and with sense, while being gently amused at Zack. Zack chattered away, as Sephiroth had known he would, but it was enjoyable to listen to and comment on. Sephiroth was completely relaxed.

Afterwards they took a casual stroll through the business district. The bookstore that Sephiroth had visited in the past with Angeal and Genesis was still open, and out of idle curiosity more than anything else, he wandered inside with Zack. Perhaps he wondered if nostalgia would sweep over him, as it had done several times during dinner. But even as it had, the new memories he had been making had been taking their place alongside the old. It was not a sad or a bittersweet occasion at all.

Zack made everything cheerful.

"There's one more thing!" Zack announced as they left the store a short while later. Neither had bought anything, but it had been nice to simply browse through the titles for a bit. Most of what was newly released was not of interest to Sephiroth, as far as fiction was concerned, but he had searched with a casual eye through some of Gaia's classics that had been reprinted, as well as at some non-fiction titles, both old and new. Zack had looked through a little bit of everything.

"Really." Sephiroth studied his friend, attempting to determine what he was thinking. He could not.

"Yep! But we havta drive out to the wastelands."

"What could possibly be of worth out there?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow.

"You'll see!" Zack said.

And so, when they got back to the Jeep, Sephiroth sat back as Zack drove them where he wanted. The lights of Midgar were soon behind them. When they parked, the only thing that could be seen ahead were plateaus and lonely rock formations. And a tumbleweed that suddenly rolled past.

"A wonderful view," Sephiroth commented in a dry tone.

"Just wait!" Zack responded. "It should be any time now."

Sephiroth leaned back in the seat, crossing his arms.

A golden light soared past his vision. He blinked, following it with his gaze until it vanished. Another chased after it, and a third. Soon the entire sky was aflame.

"A meteor shower?" Sephiroth looked at Zack out of the corner of his eye.

Zack grinned. "It's the perfect way to finish the evening with a bang!" he declared. "I was gonna drag you out to see it anyway, before I knew it was your birthday today."

Sephiroth allowed a slight smile. So like Zack.

They watched the falling lights for a while, Zack pointing out the especially impressive ones. To Sephiroth, they looked mostly the same. Or at least at first. As Zack continued to talk about the ones he liked best and why, Sephiroth began to see them through his eyes. Zack possessed a childlike wonder for this act of the cosmos, whereas to Sephiroth it was all scientific.

Sometimes he envied Zack's wide-eyed amazement. It would be nice, to not be so cynical. He really doubted that he ever would, or could, be---but there were times such as now when he caught a glimpse of what it would be like.


He glanced over at Zack. The brunet was looking at him more seriously now, a trace of worry flickering in his eyes.

"Has it been a good day for you?"

He let himself smile more. "Yes," he said in honesty, "it has."

Zack grinned. "Good deal."

Sephiroth relaxed as the last of the meteors traveled across the sky. It had been an enjoyable time. Zack had been so thoughtful in every way, from wanting to bring Sephiroth here to picking out those gifts. The watch was a comfortable weight against his wrist.

A wry smirk graced his features. He could only imagine what the other SOLDIERs would think, if they ever saw him using a phone with a chocobo charm on it. But he would use it, because of why he had such a charm in the first place.

The best gift was something that he had had before this day even started.

Zack's friendship.