Final Fantasy VII
We'll Carry On
Notes: The characters are not mine and this fic is. It takes place between chapters 2 and 3 of Crisis Core, and I don't think there's really any spoilers. I'm just filling in some blanks. I was talking with Kaze about the events in those chapters and the idea of this fic came to me. I decided to combine it with another old idea that was previously unsuccessful. I've noticed how conflicted and confused Angeal behaves through the game, once he leaves with Genesis, and I have attempted to portray that here.
Sephiroth frowned, staring down at the sheet of paper on the desk in front of him. Ever since it had come he had sat there, regarding it in abhorrence and loathing as he had tried to determine what to do about it. No decision fully satisfied him, and that in itself was a testament to how different this assignment was. Normally he would never refuse a mission. But now he was actually considering it.
It was an order to accompany Tseng to Banora, in search of Angeal and Genesis. The intention was to find them and attempt to convince them to return to SOLDIER, but if it failed there would not be any course of action except either to capture or kill them.
And it would fail. They would not be coming back.
Sephiroth did not make such a prediction blindly; he knew it was the truth.
He had not had the chance to tell Zack, but he had encountered Angeal during their stay in Wutai, almost immediately following the war's end. Unable to sleep, he had been patrolling the perimeter of their camp when he had heard a movement in the nearby brush. Then he had drawn his sword, pointing it at the foliage as he had demanded to know who was there. But he had never expected the answer.
"Sephiroth. It's me."
The silver-haired man froze, his eyes narrowing. "After the way you abandoned your protégé, you have the gall to come here?" he said, his tone filled with ice.
Angeal was silent for a moment. He was still half-hidden by the brush, but now that Sephiroth knew he was there, he could faintly see the other's outline. The mako eyes gleamed in the night, and a flicker of regret passed through the turquoise orbs.
". . . Genesis had been trying to convince me to come with him for a long time," he said at last. "Before he even left SOLDIER, he told me he was planning to do it. And after he left . . . he contacted me more than once." He met Sephiroth's eyes. "I know I shouldn't have left Zack that night. I didn't know he would have to fight Ifrit all by himself. He was just lucky that you came through for him."
"His mentor should have been the one to save him." Sephiroth's tone had not lightened. Yes, he was hurt and angry that they had left, but what bothered him the most was the timing of Angeal's departure. Of course it would have let Zack down to find Angeal gone at any point, but for it to have been right in the middle of battle was much worse. They had not found Sephiroth then, so Zack had been all alone. Sephiroth had only stumbled across Zack's predicament by chance.
"You always spoke of pride and honor," Sephiroth continued. "Wasn't it you who was upset when Genesis and I were reckless? And yet you disregarded Zack when he needed you, an act not in keeping with pride or honor. That isn't like you."
Angeal sighed. "You're right. It isn't." He paused. "I don't know why I did it. I was undecided on whether to leave SOLDIER, torn between my duty and my heart."
"And Genesis won."
"That isn't how it was," Angeal frowned.
"Then maybe you would like to explain to me how it was," Sephiroth said. The way it seemed to him, Genesis had called and Angeal had answered, unable to refuse someone who had been his best friend since childhood.
Angeal opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head. "You know what Shinra's done to us, to all of us," he said. "You, also, are burdened with their scars. Genesis couldn't stand it any longer. And I . . ." He sighed. "I don't know what I think. I'm still trying to find myself, and my dreams."
"There are no dreams." Sephiroth's voice was still frosty, but now a bit of weariness had seeped into it.
"Sephiroth . . ." Now Angeal looked honestly concerned for him. There was a bitterness in Sephiroth's voice that Angeal had not heard for some time.
Sephiroth shook his head. "The entire Shinra army, and SOLDIER, are looking for you and Genesis," he said. "If they find you and can't convince you to return, you know what's going to happen." He gripped the hilt of the Masamune.
Yes, Angeal knew. "Then we will die with our pride intact."
"And what will you have accomplished?" Sephiroth asked.
"What will you?" Angeal returned, quietly and simply.
Sephiroth looked away. The problem was not that he could not understand why they had deserted SOLDIER. The main problem went far deeper. If they had truly left because of what Angeal had said, then on some level he understood. But he was not so certain that it was the explanation, at least for Angeal. He had gathered that his own suspicions were closer to the truth. It seemed to him that Angeal's confusion stemmed from whether to continue following in Genesis's path or whether his own mindset differed from Genesis. He could not decide. And that concerned Sephiroth. Angeal needed to be certain of his own convictions, not to blindly repeat Genesis's motives and allow his will to be bent by his old friend. Angeal did not hold anything against Sephiroth personally, and maybe not against the SOLDIER organization at all. But he was helping Genesis with his plans.
And Sephiroth could not stand to see what Genesis had become--so bitter and angry. He did not only despise Shinra and SOLDIER, but Sephiroth himself, for reasons completely unrelated to the fact of him working for SOLDIER. He had become so jealous of Sephiroth that it had twisted his reasoning. Maybe it was illogical, but Sephiroth had to wonder if that was also a factor in what he was doing. He did not believe Genesis would do all of this just to spite him, but it could be that in a part of that tortured and twisted mind Genesis had wanted to rebel against Sephiroth because Sephiroth was recognized as the hero and Genesis felt he did not deserve it. And since Genesis felt that Shinra and all it stood for was evil, maybe he thought that he would become the hero by toppling it.
Sephiroth was afraid for both of them.
". . . Why did you come here?" he asked.
"I don't know." Angeal looked tired. "Maybe I wanted to see how Zack is doing. . . . And you."
"Zack misses you." Sephiroth ignored the last part of Angeal's explanation.
"Yeah . . . I'm sure he does." A brief smirk passed over Angeal's face. "He's a good kid."
"He refuses to believe you've deserted. He wants you to come back."
The smirk faded. "I won't be back."
"I know. But that doesn't stop him from wanting it."
"He's always been persuasive."
"Maybe he could do what I cannot."
Angeal was silent for a long moment. "Maybe."
He looked at his old friend. "Sephiroth. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine." It was an automatic response by now, given with very little, if any, thought before it.
"No. How are you really doing?" Angeal crossed his arms. Sephiroth could fool people with his "I'm fine's", sometimes even Genesis. But it never worked on Angeal.
". . . I'm surviving." Sephiroth was half-facing Angeal. He had learned that he had actually been naive. He had never experienced friendship before Angeal and Genesis had come along, and in some part of his mind he had thought it would last. Instead everything had been falling apart. And he despised himself for ever believing such a fable. He should have known nothing would ever last.
The last time he had ever spoken to Angeal before Angeal's desertion it had been disastrous, and one of the few times they had actually argued. It had cut Sephiroth deeply, even though he had not wanted to admit it. Both he and Angeal, though never actually speaking the words, had said more or less that their friendship could not continue under the circumstances. Sephiroth would not push for its existence against Angeal's will; he had already said to Angeal that they should not let go of anything that had merit or worth, including their friendship. If it had meant anything to either of them, then they needed to keep working at it. And Angeal had said that Sephiroth could not help him any longer. That had been how it was left.
Now Angeal seemed to be indicating that he did not want everything to come apart. He was reaching out to Sephiroth again, and Sephiroth was not certain what to think. He no longer believed that they could retrieve what they had possessed, as long as they were on opposite sides. And yet this felt so natural. In some ways, that fact only made reality hurt all the more.
But in any case, pouring out his heart and soul was not natural, and he did not intend to do it.
"I'm not going to get anything more out of you, am I?" Angeal mused.
"I didn't think so. You haven't changed."
"Everyone changes." At last Sephiroth turned to face him completely.
"But not about everything." Angeal gave Sephiroth a firm look, filled with deeper meanings. He still considered Sephiroth a friend, even after everything that had happened and in spite of his past words. He was still fond of Zack. And he knew Sephiroth was aching inside over all that had transpired over the last few months.
". . . Genesis still cares about you, too, somewhere deep down."
Sephiroth grunted. "He has a strange way of showing it."
"He's lost his way, too."
"And there's nothing I can do to help him, either, is there."
Angeal sighed. "At this point, no, I don't think you could get through to him."
"What about you?"
". . . I'm trying."
Sephiroth crossed his arms. "Do you agree with his methods?"
"I don't know that, either." Angeal shook his head.
"But you don't try to stop him."
"I'm trying to find what I believe in."
"You should find it soon."
Angeal paused. "What do you believe in, Sephiroth?"
"The only thing I could ever believe in--myself." Sephiroth regarded Angeal with an impassive gaze. "If I didn't have that, I wouldn't have anything left."
Angeal nodded. "Still . . . it's a sad existence," he said.
"It's worse to not know what to believe in," Sephiroth answered.
Now Angeal was quiet. "Are you going to tell Zack that I was here?"
"I don't know," Sephiroth said. "Should I?"
"He'd just regret that he wasn't here to see me."
"But he'd know you're alright."
"Do what you think is best. Zack really looks up to you."
Sephiroth shrugged. "He's angry at me for saying that you betrayed us."
Angeal gave a sad smile. "It's true, isn't it?" He nodded in a thoughtful way. "Zack won't stay mad at you forever."
"You sound like you want us to grow close," Sephiroth observed.
"Zack needs a close friend in SOLDIER. So do you."
Sephiroth grunted. "It would never work."
"Oh?" Angeal watched him, not seeming surprised by his declaration. "Why wouldn't it?"
"We're too different." Sephiroth's response was flat and matter-of-fact.
"That's what I thought when Zack was assigned to me," Angeal said. "I didn't think we'd last a day." He smirked. "But the kid's so much like a puppy, he wormed his way in."
Sephiroth smirked too. "And you have that weakness for troublesome puppies and dogs. I, on the other hand, am not a dog person."
"Or a cat person, or a bird person, or any other kind of animal person." Angeal still looked amused. "But Zack isn't a puppy. He just acts like one."
"That's close enough."
Angeal's smirk became a funny sort of smile. "Hasn't he started to grow on you yet?"
Sephiroth looked away. "I'm not going to get attached to any of the SOLDIERs." But Angeal's words were probably true anyway. Zack had such an exasperating way of staying in a person's thoughts and heart, with that cheerful smile and enthusiastic attitude. And his anger had started to disperse as he had begun to idolize Sephiroth once more. Sephiroth did not want to become close to anyone ever again. Yet it was already happening.
"We'll see." Angeal paused. "Will they be noticing you haven't come back yet?"
"Probably." Sephiroth glanced over his shoulder. "Someone may come looking for me soon, even Zack."
Angeal nodded. "I should go." He started to turn, then paused. "You could call for backup if you wanted," he said, "since I'm a renegade now. You could stop me tonight."
"I know." Sephiroth just looked at him. "Get out of here." But then he hesitated. ". . . Take a message to Genesis."
Angeal blinked. "What is it?"
". . . Tell him that he is still cared about." It was fruitless, of course; Sephiroth had said it to Genesis's face without receiving any reaction other than mocking. But if Angeal happened to mention to Genesis that he had seen Sephiroth, somehow Sephiroth wanted Genesis to know that he had been thought of, anyway.
"I will." A vague smile played on Angeal's features, but the emotions it carried were unclear. He turned, disappearing into the brush.
"Take care of yourself," his voice came back.
Sephiroth stood staring after him for a long moment until he turned to return to his tent.
In the present he was still gazing down at the hated sheet of paper.
If he went with Tseng and failed to convince Angeal and Genesis, then he would likely be the one required to fight them. And that could result in them being seriously injured or worse. He clenched a fist. He would not be responsible for their deaths.
Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he opened his email and began to type a reply, one that he had never imagined he would be composing.
Mission refused. Send Second Class Zack Fair.
It was not that he wanted Zack to suffer the same way, being forced to fight his former mentor. It was that Sephiroth had one final shred of hope, and he was placing it in Zack's hands. If Zack went, maybe he would be able to convince Angeal and then Angeal could talk to Genesis and help him. Maybe Zack would not have to fight at all.
Sephiroth had already tried and failed. And a frown came over his features as he realized something.
When it came to this matter, he no longer believed in himself.
He believed in Zack.
He pressed Send. The email would reach Lazard in a matter of moments. And then the executive director would decide what to do. Sephiroth rarely refused an order; in fact, this was probably the first time. He could enforce his rank over Sephiroth and try to make him go, but somehow Sephiroth did not think that he would. Sephiroth had recommended someone else to go in his place, and if he, the General, had that much confidence in the person, then Lazard might agree.
Zack, on the other hand. . . . Zack would be distraught and upset if he received the order to go. And if he knew that Sephiroth had refused the mission, opting to send Zack instead . . . he would not likely understand why. He might never want to see or speak to Sephiroth again.
Sephiroth sighed to himself. He would take that chance.
After all, he had already vowed to not let anyone else get into his heart.