Disclaimer: I do not own CCFF7 or any of that stuff. You know the drill by now.
Warning: Darkness. Dark themes, mental instability, graphic violence, tragedy. Be ready for anything?
Author's Note: Well, sorry for the long wait. School and life and all of that stuff came in to play. This is the last chapter. There will be an epilogue. Don't bug me for it, I have finals and a grad school application to be working on.
Music: the Moon OST, composed by Clint Mansell, and various CCFF7 music.
F A L L E N
Chapter VI: Reunion
Sephiroth did not care who came with them, or if there was anyone with him at all. This was the end of the line. He could feel it in his heart, how taut the string was pulling him onward to Nibelheim, to Genesis. There was no doubt in his mind: Genesis was there.
It was the perfect trap. He could see the long hours of strategy talks they had had with one another played out in tangible form, set down as a taunt. The steadily decreasing monster counts over the past month or so had been Genesis' doing. The sudden spike had been on purpose. If it was just a gradual rise back up, ShinRa would not have cared. If it was a moderate increase, some of ShinRa Army would have been sent, perhaps one SOLDIER Third Class for good measure.
No, this was planned specifically to lure Sephiroth out of Midgar.
His boots clicked lightly as he walked down the sterile halls of the SOLDIER floor. It felt different, lately. Like he was not welcome. In the shadows, there one second and gone the next, was a Turk. His gaze was too keen to miss it. There were less SOLDIERs. Too many had defected with Genesis.
Taking a shaky breath, Sephiroth paused, closing his eyes for a moment. He counted to three.
When he reopened his eyes they were a cold silver, his face devoid of emotion, pale and smooth. He started walking again, this time going to the little lounge SOLDIERs often met in, with its inset table and large, clear windows overlooking Midgar.
Once upon a time, he had enjoyed sitting there. Sephiroth turned his gaze to the table. It was empty now. Three Army grunts were lined up in front of it, one missing his helmet, a breech in protocol. Zack's voice carried enough for Sephiroth to know he had been talking to the young man, no doubt causing the breech in the first place.
Calmly, Sephiroth approached, standing just a stride away from the Army grunts. They all straightened to attention. He could smell the fear on them. The awe.
He was sick of it.
"So, uh, where are we going?" Zack's voice was bouncy, or at least as much as it had been since he lost Angeal. He was starting to gain his joy back. Sephiroth did not think he could recapture his own.
Cringing, just slightly, Sephiroth turned away from the Army grunts, away from Zack, to hide it. In as level of a voice as he could muster, he forced an answer. "Nibelheim."
Unable to stand there, gawked at by the line of grunts, Sephiroth returned from the way he had come, walking in quicker strides than he usually would. He needed fresh air. He needed space. In Nibelheim, hopefully, he would get enough of both, and perhaps even some of the closure he had been longing for.
0 0 0 0 0
Genesis cracked a thin, malicious smile as he stared down into the canyon, faded blue eyes taking in the mountainous terrain. There, in the canyon, was a small group, weaving their way through the hordes of monsters Genesis had nudged into coming out to play.
There, at the head of that group, was Sephiroth. The sunlight played across his shining silver hair, flowing in molten waves behind him. His thick black leather jacket encased his torso, the ends of it hanging long, flapping about his form like a wreath of shadows. He truly was a beautiful creature, as was the gift he bore.
Leaning over the gorge, balanced against a heavy bolder, Genesis watched, his smile only growing by a minute on his sickly face as the group marched closer and closer to Nibelheim, closer and closer to where he would be waiting.
"Infinite in mystery, is the Gift of the Goddess." Genesis moved quickly, booted feet finding easy purchase over the rocks. He had scaled worse in his childhood in Banora, and though the degeneration was taking a heavy toll on him, he still had his raw power about him, keeping him aloft and balanced.
The group rounded a corner, Genesis watching with wide, pleased eyes as the Masamune cracked into the air, the hilt firm in Sephiroth's left hand. With graceful, powerful, controlled movements Sephiroth dispatched the monsters in their path as though they were nothing more than a flock of flies. It was a wonderful sight, seeing him in battle again.
It had been so long. Oh, but it would not be much longer that he had to stay so far away, that he had to stalk through the shadows, scrambling for scraps of information about what was going on. Soon enough, he and Sephiroth would be face to face again. Soon enough, he would understand.
"We seek it thus, and take to the skies." Genesis broke into a short sprint, jumping off the ledge. His one wing, feathers gray now, shot out, catching the wind. With powerful flaps, Genesis carried himself, hurrying not towards the village of Nibelheim, but to the Reactor, where Sephiroth and his little troop were bound to go.
It was almost time.
0 0 0 0 0
The canyon opened up around them, and suddenly a quaint little village came into view. At its middle was a squat water tower, with cottages ringed around it. A faint smile touched Sephiroth's lips, just a tiny upturn at the corner of his lips, almost making him seem feline, if his eyes did not already give him that impression.
This place reminded him of home.
Sephiroth paused, steps faltering as the thought rang through his head. His brows furrowed in, a small crease forming between the silver things. He swallowed, a knot having formed in his throat.
Midgar was supposed to be home. The ShinRa tower was supposed to be home. And yet this, this small village, one he was not sure he had ever seen before, felt like home. Not a house, not a temporary living assignment, but a home.
"It has been some time since you have been to your hometown, yes?" Sephiroth paused, glancing slightly back over his shoulder. One of the Army grunts, the one Zack seemed to show favor towards, was from Nibelheim. Sephiroth had always wondered what it would feel like to return to a home. This was as close as he had ever gotten. "How does it feel? I… do not have a hometown of my own, so I would not know."
The Army grunt gave no response, seeming to have been struck by shock. Sephiroth paid it no notice, staring out into the small town with sad eyes.
"What about your parents?" Zack tilted his head to the side, just barely, like a puppy quirks its head to the side inquisitively. Sephiroth could see why Angeal called Zack that. He could also see why Angeal had left ShinRa.
Pivoting, Sephiroth tried not to look so surprised, so melancholy. He must have looked mad. "My mother's name is Jenova. She died shortly after I was born. My father…" A laugh, higher pitched than his amused chuckle, less balanced than it as well, erupted from his lips. He pressed his gloved fingertips to his forehead, trying to suppress the headache he felt coming on. "Why am I talking about this?"
The words were falling through his lips without a filter, without a care. There had to be something in the air. Sephiroth shook his head, trying to write it off. Everyone, especially Zack, was staring at him. Turning, Sephiroth strode off.
"Come on, let's go."
Arrangements had been made for them in the inn at Nibelheim, so they could rest before the long march up to the Reactor, where the real problem no doubt rested.
0 0 0 0 0
The journey from the town of Nibelheim to the Reactor was uneventful, for the most part, though the Army grunts most likely did not believe that. A local girl from town was their guide, and though she appeared entirely incapable of the kind of strenuous activity it took to make such a hike, she made it in better condition than the grunts did.
When they made it to the Reactor, though, that did not matter. The girl and the grunts had to remain outside. There were some things only those in the upper echelon of ShinRa could see.
Sephiroth paused on the bottom tier of the Reactor. There was a problem in it which they had to investigate. ShinRa did not want another Reactor to explode like the one in Gongaga had. It made for a messy clean up, not to mention a large number of people opposed to the company, and with good reason.
It felt like there was something more to this.
A soft whisper touched his ear, Sephiroth turning his head, looking to that side. No one was there. Zack was already heading up the stairs. The others were still waiting outside. Sephiroth frowned, looking upward.
It started up the stairs, boots clicking on the corrugated metal. His gaze followed the path up, until he was almost at the top. He could hear Zack fiddling with the door ahead, could hear how it would not open. Sephiroth glanced up, his eyes raking over the cold metal door. Above the door was a name.
That was his mother's name.
Sephiroth paused, staring at it for a moment, before he turned, striding down towards the bottom level.
There were containers, so many containers with glass windows on the front of them, all lined up in this Reactor, not the usual layout. Each of those containers had a tube, leading up to the top of the chamber, where that door was. Each container was connected to the chamber beyond that door.
That door bore his mother's name.
Sephiroth approached one container. There was a small red light at it. It was not making the same mechanical siphoning sound as the others.
"This is the cause of the malfunction. This section is broken." Sephiroth's voice sound detached, even in his own mind. He stared at the container, at the little glass window. It was glowing blue green like mako. He could hear Zack coming back down the stairs.
Sephiroth could not move away from the container. Not now, not yet. "Zack, go seal the valve." His gaze traced up the metal door at the front, the seams marking a sort of door into the container. There was no sign of damage on it. "Why did it break?"
As Zack sealed the valve, cutting off the mako flow to the somehow defective container, Sephiroth moved to another, gazing into it.
There was a body suspended inside.
It looked only vaguely human, if only in the face, though that was even a stretch of the imagination. Everything else was so mutated, so malformed, that it was barely recognizable. It looked like… a monster. The containers were full of monsters.
ShinRa was manufacturing monsters.
Sephiroth stepped aside, looking down. It was all starting to make sense.
Zack stepped up to the container, looking inside. He gasped. "What is that…?"
"You average SOLDIER members are mako-infused humans." Sephiroth felt the words coming again, without filter, drawn out of him against his will, though they came with no resistance. He was forgetting how to resist. Even Zack turning to look at him, worried, distraught, did not stop him. "You're enhanced, but you're still human."
Those creatures were not human. ShinRa was making monsters. Like Angeal said, so many times. It had hurt, hearing Angeal call himself a monster in those last fleeting months, but now he could see it.
"But then, what are those things?" Sephiroth spoke the question flatly, staring off beyond Zack. At the same time, he could feel himself asking, But then, what am I? "Their mako energy levels are exponentially higher than yours." Like mine.
"Are they… monsters?"
The words stung.
Though Sephiroth thought them, knew those words to be true, they stung.
Turning, Sephiroth walked away, trying to calm the whirlwind of his reeling thoughts. He had to get himself back in control. He had to concentrate. He had to complete this mission.
There was something watching him. He could feel it. Sephiroth's eyes narrowed. He stopped midstride, before the stairs. There was a thin thread trying to pull him upwards, back towards that door. He resisted it.
"Yes. The ShinRa scientist Hojo was the one who created them." Sephiroth half-turned, watching Zack. It was the only way to reign in his thoughts at this point, though it only reminded him of Angeal's decline and fall. "Abominations spawned by mako energy… That's what monsters are."
"You said 'average' member. What about you?"
A cord snapped.
Sephiroth's eyes widened. He tried to take a breath, but it caught in his lungs. He staggered backwards, raising his hands to his head. It pulsed with pain. The whisper was back, more like a muffled scream, piercing his sensitive ears.
Zack ran for him, putting a hand on his arm. "Hey! Sephiroth!"
He could not do it. The contact, it was too much, jilting his mako enhanced nerves, setting them afire.
Sephiroth threw Zack away. He heard him stumble, jump off the landing. He did not care, stumbling forward, towards the valves controlling the containers.
"Could it be… that I… was created in the same way?" Sephiroth looked down at his hands, and instead he saw the mutated and disfigured monster, floating in the vat of mako. It had grey skin and almost silver hair, if what was on its head could even be considered hair. Its eyes were a bright mako green, glowing like his.
He put his hands on the valve, turning. "Am I the same as these monsters?"
The chamber grew deathly calm, deathly still, as the siphoning all around them silenced.
"I knew, ever since I was a child… I was not like the others. I knew mine was a special existence." He never had peers in the tower. Hojo always kept him separated. Under watch. He was a lab specimen. Until Angeal and Genesis came, he was alone. And now they were gone.
With a hiss, the broken container's door swung open, mako liquid dispersing as superhot vapor. The body of the monster within flopped down on the door, laying prone on that cold metal surface. He stared at it, so different from him, but feeling so utterly alike. "But this… This was not what I meant. Am I… a human being?"
"No such luck." A smooth, clear, rolling voice cut through the tension, Sephiroth's heart skipping a beat. He knew that voice. "You are a monster."
The air rippled, Sephiroth turning, hopeful. He raised his hand, a shield shimmering around him as a fireball plunged into it, dispersing. Zack did not have the same luck, crying out, though Sephiroth did not look to see if he was okay.
He could not move. He could not breathe. He stood still, staring at the empty air where the fireball came from, even as he heard the flutter of a single black wing behind him, and heard Genesis' booted feet set lightly down on the stairs.
"Sephiroth, you were the greatest monster created by the Jenova Project."
"Genesis! So you are alive!" Zack's voice was strained, words grunted out. He sounded like he was in pain. Sephiroth tried to feel something, anything, and could not.
Genesis, the one person he actually cared about, the one person he would ever say he actually loved, was calling him a monster.
"I suppose you am, if you can call this living."
Their banter meant nothing.
"What is the Jenova Project?" Again, the name of his mother. Sephiroth held his breath, waiting for the answer. It could be the one he was searching for, all of those long hours shut in ShinRa's library.
"The Jenova Project was the term used for all experiments relating to the use of Jenova's cells."
Sephiroth looked away from Genesis, unable to stare at him any longer. It was not the Genesis he remembered. His fiery red hair was faded, streaked with grey. His skin was an unhealthy shade of grey and lined with veins. The decay about him was a disturbing sight.
"My mother's… cells?" It did not make sense. It was slow to filter through his mind, the words not taking. ShinRa had done many strange things in its laboratories, but using a woman's cells?
"Poor little Sephiroth." Genesis' voice cooed, purring out each syllable as though it was some delicious morsel to be savored. Sephiroth had missed his voice. "You've never actually met your mother. You've only been told her name, no?"
His eyes would not focus. The containers blurred, becoming streaks of grey against the dark red the other metal took on in the artificial lighting. He tried keeping his face calm, collected, though his eyes were tumultuous, showing the battle raging within.
"I don't know what images you've conjured up in your head, but—"
"Jenova was excavated from a 2000-year-old rock layer." Genesis' tone was sharp, demanding attention, cutting off any further appeal Zack might have had.
He needed to hear this.
"She's a monster."
Sephiroth took a step back, a short gasp escaping from his lips. He looked wildly around, to the creature in the container, to the others lined up like rows, to the door.
"Sephiroth… I need your help." The sharpness was gone. Genesis sounded warm again, almost comforting. It did not touch him this time. "My body's continuing to degrade."
It did not touch him. He could barely hear it.
"SOLDIER First Class Sephiroth!"
He stood at attention, body doing so out of reflex. There was no conviction to it, not anymore.
"Jenova Project G gave birth to Angeal, and monsters like myself. Jenova Project S—"
"—used the remains of countless failed experiments to create a perfect monster."
Sephiroth shook his head, silvery bangs falling over his eyes. He stared at the ground, eyes open to mere slits, though they shined like mercury, bright, predatory. His voice trembled, despite himself. "What do you want of me?"
"Your traits cannot be copied unto others. Your genes cannot be diffused. Therefore, your body cannot degrade." Genesis paused dramatically. He had always been too verbose. "Share your cells with me. My friend, your desire, Is the bringer of life, the Gift of the Goddess."
He was only a bunch of cells to Genesis. He was only another hand in his play. In the end, they were all loveless.
Genesis held out an apple, a blue apple. Sephiroth recognized it. Banora had burned. Somehow, Genesis still had one of those cursed apples. Sephiroth turned, facing him fully.
He looked up to the door. His mother was up there, beyond that door. He could feel her. She was waiting for him to save her.
It was over.
"Whether your words are lies created to deceive me or the truth that I have sought all my life… it makes no difference." Sephiroth knocked the apple from Genesis' hand. His final words were firm. He was certain now. "You will rot."
"I see. Perfect monster, indeed."
There was nothing else to say. Sephiroth strode from the Reactor. He did not know where he was going. It was not back to the inn. He let his feet guide him. The string tugging him along seemed to know what was best, and he followed it.
0 0 0 0 0
He knew Sephiroth would be back at the Reactor.
What he did not know, is that it would not truly be Sephiroth.
Nibelheim was in flames.
It was like watching Banora burn all over again, watching the trees ignite one by one, leaves withering, falling to ash, apples eaten by the tongues of flame rather than people, as was intended. What he knew was gone, destroyed, never to come back.
Out of the flames, the smoke and raining ash, emerged Sephiroth, destroyed and rebuilt from the wreckage, unrecognizable except by appearance.
That was not the man he had lain with under the Banora sky. That was not the man he had fought with in the training room countless times.
That was not the man who had said, "I love you."
It was over.
His body felt tired. It was degrading. It felt like there was nothing he could do to stop that now. Not without Sephiroth.
It was too hard to watch as Sephiroth stalked into that inner sanctum of the Reactor and greeted his mother.
He had made this happen.
It was too difficult to watch as Zack ran in, Angeal's sword bared, ready for the combat that Angeal refused to put it through.
Every time Sephiroth was hit, he felt the pain, even as it did not register on Sephiroth's face.
Seeing Angeal's sword run through Sephiroth, that was the end.
Genesis turned away. He could not watch.
He had made this happen.
Sephiroth was gone.
Genesis flew away.