Final Fantasy VII
Those Who Trespass Against Us
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is. The title is meant to bring to mind an earlier fic I did called Forgive Us Our Transgressions. I've wanted to write this for some time, and the prompt Graveyard from 10 Hurt Comfort pushed it into being. It was written all in one sitting. It takes place when Sephiroth and Zack's friendship is still new, shortly after chapter 6 of Crisis Core. And I could not disguise the spoilers. The story would not exist without them. And they are fairly major as far as importance to Crisis Core's plot goes. So for anyone who doesn't know how chapter 6 ends, and who doesn't want to know, please do not read this yet. If you read anyway, do not blame me for the spoilers. Thanks to Lisa for plot help!
The last rays of the sun were fading into the twilight as Zack thrust his sword into the ground. He was scratched and bloodied, his clothes torn, his shoulders still heaving from the battle. He had won, but he still did not feel as though he had. His raven spikes fell into his face as he leaned forward on his weapon--the strong sword that had once been Angeal's. Hot tears were coming to his eyes, but he held them back. He did not want to cry here, now, around Seph.
The General was just closing his cellphone. "Shinra will send someone to get the bodies," he said, his voice quiet, "but it might take a while for them to reach our location."
Zack could only manage a weak nod. He did not dare try to speak.
They had been battling some of Genesis's army. Even after their leader's disappearance and reported suicide, some factions were insistent on carrying out his goals. Some of these rebels included the SOLDIERs he had originally led away with him. Others were SOLDIERs who had followed later. Zack and Sephiroth had personally known the ones defeated tonight. Now their bodies were sprawled on the ground, blood seeping into the dirt. The mood was eerie and quiet, as if it was a cruel graveyard--even though instead it was a field somewhere in Junon.
"Why did this happen?" Zack choked out at last. "Why did they desert SOLDIER and follow Genesis? Why did it have to end up like this . . . that we had to . . ." He drew a deep, shaking breath. ". . . To kill them?!" he burst out then.
"I don't know." Sephiroth did not have the answers. Maybe there were none to be found. Anything he could think to say sounded trite and hollow.
One of the men he had trained himself. He had been very promising as a SOLDIER operative, and he had become quite devoted to his mentor. Likewise, Sephiroth had cared about him as he cared about all of his troops, with an almost paternal instinct. He had been angry when he had heard that the boy had deserted. It meant that he would be on the run, with the Shinra army out to get him. And it had culminated in a way Sephiroth had feared it would--with he himself delivering the fatal blow.
He had not wanted to fight. The other had instigated it. He had no longer been the wide-eyed trainee who had looked up to Sephiroth. He had come to hate Shinra, and he had wanted Sephiroth to leave it too. But when Sephiroth had refused, the former SOLDIER had said sadly that there was not any choice but to fight, as they had become enemies.
Sephiroth had still resisted, going on the defensive while the boy tried to attack him. But when others had joined the battle, he had been forced to take the offensive. The young man had been killed in the fray when he had tried to detonate the bomb his group had prepared.
Sephiroth had only done what he had had to. But that did not ease his mind. And Zack, having been forced to kill his comrades. . . . Sephiroth had never wanted Zack to experience such bitter and cutting agony. It had been something Sephiroth had feared most would happen if he himself had been forced to fight Angeal and Genesis.
". . . I can't stand having their blood on my hands."
Sephiroth came back to the present at the sound of Zack's voice. The brunet was staring down at his gloved hands, as if the invisible blood was very visible to him.
"It's there. It won't ever go away now that I've killed them."
Sephiroth stepped closer to his friend. Now the twilight was dissipating too, giving way to the lonely and cool night. A light breeze tousled Zack's spikes, but he barely noticed.
"You had to do it," Sephiroth said. "So did I."
A brief silence. "Do you know how many times I've told that to myself in the last five minutes?" Zack asked. "Yeah, they were attacking us, we had to defend ourselves. And they were gonna blow stuff up. We had to kill them to save others, people who aren't even involved in this mess to begin with, people whose only crime was being in the way. But it doesn't make me feel better. They were my friends. My friends! We used to hang out together, talking or being silly . . . just kidding around . . ."
His shoulders slumped. ". . . That night at Modeoheim, I realized I wasn't a kid anymore."
Sephiroth frowned deeply. Zack had never brought up Modeoheim, but Sephiroth had seen and known that Zack had changed since then. He was still often happy and cheerful, but there was also a lingering sadness in Zack's eyes, something that spoke volumes about what he had seen and how he had grown up. Zack would not talk about it aloud. His happiness could be used as a facade so as not to worry anyone. They would never know when he was faking it.
"You mean when Angeal died," Sephiroth said, his own voice quiet.
Zack stared off at nothing. ". . . I never told you what happened that night," he said. "Or anyone in Shinra. Aerith's the only one who knows."
Suddenly his voice dropped. "I did it," he whispered. With no other sounds to be heard, it was very loud. He was haunted.
Sephiroth froze. "You . . .?!" There was nothing he could think to say. The words would not come.
". . . He . . . he turned himself into a monster. I couldn't do anything about it. . . . I had to fight him." Zack passed a hand over his eyes, his voice breaking. "I killed him. Oh God, I killed Angeal . . . !"
A sick feeling swept over Sephiroth. Suddenly everything made more sense. The weight Zack carried on his shoulders was not only because Angeal was dead or because he hated that he could not save him. It was because of how Angeal had died. Zack blamed himself not because he had watched someone else kill Angeal; he had done it himself. He could not forgive himself for that.
He stepped forward in silence, laying a hand on Zack's shoulder. The younger man froze now, as if in disbelief that Sephiroth would offer such a gesture. But then his muscles slackened again. He was crying now, just as he had done back at the church when Aerith had tried to comfort him. The pain and grief from that time, as well as from what had just happened, was spilling out. And Sephiroth remained with him, never speaking but trying in the best way he knew how to let Zack know he was there for him.
At last Zack drew a shaking breath. Removing his gloves, he wiped at his eyes with the backs of his hands. He shook his head, forcing himself to straighten up. "I . . . I don't usually lose it like that," he said. He would not turn to look at Seph, because then he would also see the carnage behind them. Even in the near-blackness, he would know it was there. He would be able to see the outlines of the bodies.
Sephiroth made a quiet grunt. ". . . Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.
Zack shrugged. ". . . At first I was angry at you," he said. "I thought you hated Angeal. And then we had that big fight over Angeal deserting and all. . . ." His shoulders slumped. "But I started realizing that you really did still care about Angeal, and you thought he hated you. And . . . I don't know . . ." A lump came into his throat. "I thought maybe you'd hate me if you knew. . . . And I already hated me. . . ."
Sephiroth's eyes narrowed in the dark. He walked around so that he would be facing Zack. "I would never have hated you," he said. "I don't hate you."
Zack gave a weak nod. "I . . . it was selfish not to tell you, I guess," he said. "I . . . I couldn't bear to talk about it anymore after I told Aerith. . . . I just wanted to lock it away and never think about it again."
He looked up at Seph, focusing on the green eyes shining in the velvet night. "But every day I think about it," he said. "Every time I look at my sword, I think about it. I think that I shouldn't be the one carrying it around, or . . . or getting it dirtied up. . . . Angeal never wanted to use it. He said it was his family's pride. . . ." Now he was babbling.
Angeal's death was not something that could be pushed to the back of his mind. And what had happened tonight only made it worse. Sephiroth hated that.
"I'm sorry," he said at last.
Zack stared at him. "For what?" he asked. "It wasn't your fault, Seph. . . ."
"You were all alone to bear the burden. If I had been there . . ." Sephiroth frowned, shaking his head. "I'm the one who sent you on the earlier mission to Banora. If it had ended the way the events in Modeoheim did, I would have been responsible for forcing you into a situation where you had to kill Angeal."
Zack swallowed. "Angeal wasn't that far gone yet," he said. But he could not deny that he had been angry during that mission, wondering why Sephiroth had refused to come and instead had left Zack to deal with it alone. It had been some time before he had forgiven Seph for that. He still wondered why Sephiroth had not come, though Tseng's words about Sephiroth not wanting to face Angeal and Genesis in combat had seemed likely. At that explanation Zack had been furious and hurt inside, since he had also been Angeal's friend and could not stand the thought of fighting him. After Angeal's death in Modeoheim, Zack had felt bitter again, wondering why Sephiroth had not been there. He had not been assigned to that mission, but Zack had wondered if he would have refused it if it had been presented to him.
". . . Tseng said you wouldn't go to Banora because you were afraid of fighting Angeal and Genesis," he spoke at last.
". . . That was only part of it," Sephiroth said. He had wondered if they would ever have this conversation. For some time he had felt that it was the final barrier that stood between their friendship. Now was as good a time as any to discuss it.
"Part of it?" Zack repeated, blinking in confusion.
Sephiroth nodded. "I had already tried to reason with them both," he said. "They would not listen to me and I realized they never would. If I had tried any more, I would have only further alienated them. I was afraid that Genesis in particular would try to fight me, and I could not bear that.
"But you, Zack . . . I thought Angeal might listen to you. And if you could convince him, he might be able to convince Genesis. I refused the mission because I believed there would not be a fight if you went. I refused because I believed in you, not in myself."
Zack's heart was pierced. "Seph . . ." He could only stare up at the General. All that time he had been angry with Seph, believing that he had been abandoned and betrayed during Banora, and though those feelings had faded during the next shared assignment between them, they had returned in full force after Modeoheim. Even on days when they had gotten along well and Zack had enjoyed their time together, the bitter hurt had lingered in the background of his mind. And it had been unfounded. Seph had not abandoned or betrayed him. Seph had entrusted him with the fate of both of their friends.
And Zack had let him down.
Now his eyes were tormented. "Seph . . . you don't have to be sorry for anything!" he cried. "It's me . . . it's my fault. . . . You believed I could save them, and I couldn't . . . !" He looked away. "Genesis killed himself . . . I killed Angeal. . . . I couldn't help them . . . !" He shook his head. This was too much to take in right now.
"Neither of us could save them, Zack." Sephiroth's voice was tired and sad. "Maybe it wasn't meant to be."
"Then this is a pretty crummy world we live in!" Zack shot back without thinking.
It was a blow to Sephiroth's own heart to hear him speak like that. Zack was not supposed to feel as Sephiroth did. He was never supposed to bear that bitterness and sorrow.
"Yes," Sephiroth acknowledged then, "it is."
". . . Are all worlds this unfair?" Zack asked.
"I wouldn't know," Sephiroth said.
But if they did not live in this world, they never would have met.
Zack finally turned back to face him. For a long moment they simply looked at each other, their eyes having long ago adjusted to the night. Then Zack launched himself forward, throwing his arms around Sephiroth.
Stunned, Sephiroth stiffened out of reflex. But then he slowly relaxed. Bringing up his arms, he lowered them around Zack's shoulders and back as he enfolded his friend in an embrace.
Zack was struggling hard to be an adult, but right now he was a vulnerable, lost boy.
Sephiroth had felt that way himself at times. He had not had anyone to comfort him.
He would not let Zack have the same fate.