Sephiroth found himself back in his apartment as it had always been, practically bare of decorations and furniture. He'd never given a thought to his interior decoration before, preferring to have only what was necessary but now he saw how lacking it was. How cold. It reminded him suddenly of Hojo's lab. It had the same practical utility.
He vowed that come the dawn of day he would correct this lack. He no longer wanted to live a bare existance. He wanted something more. He would endevor to make his apartment less sterile and more ... homey. He would fill it with furniture, whether he needed them or not, and carpeting because sometimes the floors got cold and maybe he'd get a plant.
Probably he could hire someone to decorate for him. He'd ask his secretary when he saw her the day after Christmas, because if he learned nothing else tonight, he'd learned that Christmas needed to be celebrated and enjoyed. He'd been wrong to ignore it and to treat it and the people in his life so lightly.
What he wouldn't give to be in Aeris's warm kitchen right now instead of alone in his apartment, he thought to himself and then shivered, noticing a drop in the room's temperature. The change was too sudden to have any reasonable explanation. It was like he had stepped into an ice box. It was so cold that he could see his breath pluming from his mouth in a white vapor.
Suddenly he didn't feel alone. Sephiroth turned in place, seeing and hearing nothing at first and then he did. A large dark shape was gathering together before him. Solidifying into something physical even as he watched. The impossibility of something like that happening didn't even enter his mind. After everything that had happened to him so far, he was very well aware that anything was possible. And he knew that he had one more ghost to face. The Ghost of Christmas Future.
It slowly coalesced into a large shape that towered over him, female in form. But not human and not like any monster he'd ever encountered before.
'Alien' the thought raced through his mind. He instinctively knew that nothing like this had any reason to be on the Planet. That it was in fact an enemy of all living things.
He gazed up and up into the void of her black eyes, eyes that sucked everything in and gave nothing back. It sent a chill through him that settled in his bones and he felt that he would never be warm again. He felt her presence pull at him, drawing him out of himself and he took a step back, shaking his head as though to clear it.
This was Christmas Future then, and she was a foe. The other spirits had tried to help him but this one meant him harm. He was acutely aware that he stood before her unarmed and that left him feeling oddly helpless. It was a feeling that he had little experience with, but somehow he knew that there was no weapon that could help him now. Still, he would not fall to her. He would remain strong and determined especially in the face of this adversary.
"Your presence here is not required." He said, his voice as powerful and confident as it had ever been. "I have seen the error of my ways and I will endeavor to right all wrongs. So go now. Leave me."
A low buzzing sound filled his head, growing louder and harsher, making it hard for him to think. He realized that the buzzing was an alien language, and that he understood it.
"Mother?" He said, shaking his head again to try and clear his mind. "No. You're one of the spirits. You're Christmas Future." He told her and took another step back as she approached, her form a swirling darkness. He tried to think of some way to fight her, but the noise in his head was so loud and all consuming that he couldn't think. She he was pulling at him drawing him toward her like a magnet. He felt hypnotised, helpless as she swarmed up over and around him, swallowing him in moving darkness.
The village was in flames and death surrounded him. Sephiroth stood before a broken mako tank that held a headless body. He held the head was in his hand, tendrils of Mako slimed hair was twisted in his fingers and he felt her power fill him. Thrumming though him. Her power was erotic and made him feel invincible. Godlike.
Mother had taken over his mind and body and informed him that he was responsible for the carnage in the village but he didn't know why he would do such a thing. He was made to understand that he had freed Mother and as he felt the seduction of her power he knew that this was the moment that changed everything. Mother was free. Her laughter surrounded him on all sides and maddened him. Sephiroth felt like he had become insane.
"No. This is all wrong." He told himself before her voice grew louder, oblitering his thoughts and will. He felt like a prisoner in his body, witnessing his actions but unable to stop himself.
He was moving through the reactor, heading toward the exit with Mother and the larger world that waited outside. He passed Zack' s mortally wounded body without a second glance but stopped when he became aware of another presence. He turned to find Cloud Strife standing before him holding Zack's sword. He was screaming something at him that Sephiroth could not hear over Mother's voice. Cloud's face was a riot of anger and betrayal. His eyes were lethal with hatred.
When Cloud attacked, Sephiroth didn't hesitate in cutting him down. With lightning fast reflexes he gutted him, Masamune sliding completely through him. Sephiroth raised him aloft over the Mako pool, glorying in this, his first sacrifice to Mother. His first of many.
Cloud stared at him across the length of the blade, his blue eyes wide and filled with pain but also something else that let Sephiroth know that the boy was far from beaten. Sephiroth saw rage, but underneath that and quickly overtaking it was iron willed determination. Sephiroth marveled at that, even Mother's voice faded a bit then Cloud grasped the blade and pulled himself along it, forcing it further through his body until his feet found purchase on the floor.
It was not possible.
The next thing Sephiroth knew he was falling into the Mako pool. He felt his death come to him and it was an easy one. A moment of pain as the Mako covered him and then then a slow ebbing of consciousness. It was like falling asleep.
But it wasn't over yet. Impossible that he should die, feel himself enter the Lifestream and know that he could come back.
A monster, he was a monster as he'd always secretly known.
Sephiroth found himself crouched in a high hidden place, a dark clothed fiend in a city made of glass and light. He held Mesamune in his hand, it's blade shining like quicksilver in the light. Far below him, directly beneath him was Aeris.
Horror overtook him as he understood what he was there to do. Before he could begin to stop himself he'd launched out into empty air. Sephiroth felt the air softly skim his skin like silk as he fell, the updraft lifting his hair around him like a curtain before he landed soundlessly at her back. He felt like he was trapped in a nightmare as he drew his blade back. Every ounce of his being revolted at what he was about to do. Everything he had thought he was, everything that he had hoped to become was obliterated as Mesamune sliced smoothly through her tender flesh. He watched, as though from a million miles away as her blood blossomed wetly on her pink dress and her spirit fled her body.
He saw Cloud, looking older now, coming to her too late. The look of desolation in his eyes as he caught her dying body in his arms was one that Sephiroth would never forget. No, not even after this terrible night was over, he would remember that look forever. That look clutched at his heart like a fist and stopped it cold.
"Why would I do this?! Sephiroth screamed in his head. "I would never! This vision is a lie. This is a nightmare!"
Again the scene changed and he stood watching events unfold with great rapidity. Meteor covered the sky and the destruction it caused the Planet was apocalyptic. Buildings collapsed, fires raged punctuated by explosions that shook the Planet. Everywhere people were screaming, running and dying. Worse than anything he had witnessed in Wutai the destruction was worse then anything the Planet had ever seen. Sephiroth was appalled, struck dumb with the horrible understanding that he was the cause of this calamity.
The future flashed before his eyes, the clones, his resurrection, Mother's plan to annihilate the Planet and his inability to disobey her. The vision stuttered on Cloud Strife, no longer the boy he had watched train but someone whose own humanity was destroyed. The man was an empty shell. All joy and laughter had been taken from him leaving nothing behind except a body. He stared up at him with no hatred or anger in his eyes, there was no emotion at all. Cloud stared up at him as though he were a form of pestilence that had been successfully wiped out.
Then there was a party in the street celebrateing his final defeat. His death had sparked a world wide celebration. Hatred of him and horror at what he had done had finally unified all the people of the Planet. No nicknames for him this time declaring him the Demon or the Nightmare. The noteriety, fear and respect that the old nicknames had given him, were condensed into one word. Sephiroth. His name had become a curse. His life, a history lesson taught to children so that nothing like him would ever again be allowed to happen.
A monster then. His secret fear of his own identity was known by everyone now. He shuddered at that, suddenly feeling very small and very alone as the hatred of every living person on the Planet filled him. Mother felt so strong in him now that he knew that he was just tool in her hands. A killing machine and his time had come again.
He came back. One last time. The greatest warrior the Planet had ever known. This time there was no one to stop him. Mother's voice was all there was. Buzzing so constant and loud that it felt like his mind had become a hornets nest of anger and hate urging him on as he systemically destroyed everything.
His last image was of himself walking across a devastated land. The sky was ashes and smoke that the sun hadn't broken through in months. Every living thing was dead. There were no people or animals or plants. The Lifestream was was nearly extinguished. Sephiroth's body was not his own, it was only a casing that held Mother and it was breaking down. He'd been a super human, god like in power but not invincible, Mother had driven him to the very end.
Sephiroth stumbled and fell to his knees his silver hair falling around him, matted and filthy. He felt that all his strength was gone and it took everything he had left to remain upright. Every breathe came harder then the last, the space between them grower longer and longer. His vision started to fade turning grey at the edges before everything turned black and he collapsed to the ground. He was the last one to die.
Mother's voice was the last thing he heard as he felt himself slip away. He felt Her begin to separate from him. She was impossibly strong now that she held all the power of the Planet. As the last bit of his conscience slipped away into oblivion Sephiroth saw Her future.
Mother was insatiable and would go out into the cosmos and gather more power. She would take more planets and their solar systems until her darkness, like a black hole swallowed every bit of light and life in the Universe. In the end, Sephiroth saw that there would be nothing left but Mother. She would become everything.
Sephiroth jerked awake. He wiped the sweat soaked silver hair from his face and blinked in the early morning light of his bedroom. His heart beating hard in his chest from the nightmare he had endured. He desperately wanted to believe it had been a dream but as he looked around his bedroom his saw that his TV was still smashed and there on the floor was a feather. A single golden chocobo feather that made last nights adventures very real.
And if it had been real then then his reality would very soon become a nightmare if he didn't change his ways. A shock of fear ran though him and he leapt from the bed and raced to the window. Everything outside was as it should be. It had snowed in the night and the city of Midgar looked fresh and clean, sparkling in the morning sun. To Sephiroth it looked like a Christmas miracle. Never had Midgar looked so good to him. Sephiroth smiled at the view then startled at his own reflexion in the glass. Is that what he looked like when he smiled? He didn't look half bad he thought to himself and vowed to smile more often.
He hurried to his phone, a dozen thoughts racing through his head. He would cancel all work for today especially the Nebleheim mission. None of his SOLDIERS and especially not himself would set foot anywhere near that town until he did a thorough investigation. He would never forget Mother. She had felt too real and her visions too cataclysmic for him to take lightly. He knew that she was real and that she was located in Nebelheim. Never mind what she really was or how she'd gotten there, she was a threat and his priority was to eliminate her.
But first he needed to wipe away the horror of that last vision. He needed to surround himself with people and life. He desperately needed to laugh. He wanted a party and he knew just the person to organize it.
The Shinra Mess hall was filled to capacity with every Shinra employee, SOLDIER and Turk that had remained overnight. The mood was overwhelming cheerful as it had been announced that all work was canceled for that day and for the next as well, giving everyone a four day weekend. Plus Sephiroth had approved a generous holiday bonus for everyone.
A late breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits was being served by caterers that had been booked at the absolute last minute. Sephiroth didn't know how Zack had pulled it off but his Second in Command had had the expertise and skill of Sephiroth's no nonsense and highly efficient secretary to help him and since the entire thing was expensed to Shinra, nothing was too good for his people.
Sephiroth walked through the mess hall to Zack's table. He was greeted by everyone and he cheerfully greeted everyone back. He felt like he had a new lease on life. Like he could right all wrongs and he knew exactly where he needed to start.
"Strife!" He said, perhaps too enthusiastically. Cloud was immediately on his feet and saluting.
"At ease Cadet!" Sephiroth told him slapping him soundly on the back and almost knocking him to the ground.
As Sephiroth quickly steadied him, Cloud looked up at him with wide blue eyes that were filled with hero worship. Sephiroth remembered seeing that face filled with rage and hate and the last and worst... absolutely nothing. He remembered seeing how hard Cloud had worked and how determined he was. He also remembered that in the last vision Cloud had been the one to repeatedly defeat him. Anyone who could do that belonged in SOLDIER.
"Cloud." Sephiroth said. "Starting Monday at o-five hundred you will report to training room 3 where I will personally prepare and train you for your upcoming SOLDIER exams."
"Thank you sir!"
"Don't thank me yet, cadet. I'm going to work your ass into the ground. I will stop at nothing less than your blood, sweat and tears. Your going to hate me when I'm done with you but will survive it and you will make it into SOLDIER. I guarantee it."
"Sir thank you." Cloud said with awed sincerity.
"You're welcome. Now sit down and eat. Here have a biscuit." Sephiroth said taking it off of his plate and adding it to the top of Cloud's already full one.
"Seph are you sure you're ok?" Zack asked, squinting his eyes and studying his friend as though checking for mental illness.
"More than ok. Why do you ask?" He said, grinning as he spotted Reno across the room and flashed him the peace symbol. That trick he'd pulled on Hojo was priceless and he planned on getting a copy of the surveillance tape. A copy that he would cherish forever.
"It's just that you're not acting like yourself. Did Hojo do something to you?"
"No but I may have to do something to Hojo." Sephiroth said with quiet sincerity.
"Speaking of which," Zack laughed. "You missed a great party last night. But don't worry about it. I got the best parts on tape!"
Sephiroth grinned. "Thanks Zack. You're a good friend."
"Aww, thanks Seph! I've been telling you that for years now." He beamed.
"Also I'd like to meet Aeris."
Sephiroth stepped into the warm kitchen that looked exactly how it had the night before.
Aeris stood there, a surprised look on her face.
"Aeris." He smiled feeling so moved to see her that he had a sudden urge to turn away before he did something foolish, but he couldn't take his eyes off of her. After all those years apart, he no longer had to wonder how she was because she stood before him alive and healthy.
After a heart beat of a second she was running across the room and into his arms. He hugged her closely cherishing her scent, her weight, her softness. The irrefutable fact that she was alive.
"I thought I'd never see you again" She said, her face buried in his hair.
"I told you I would didn't I?" He said, feeling choked up with emotion.
"Yes, but why did you wait so long?"
"For you to remain safe, I had to remain far away from you." He murmured in her ear.
Aeris pulled back from him, gazed up at him with green eyes brimming with tears and love.
"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard." She said sweetly and Sephiroth couldn't help but smile back at her.
"Ahem, you two know each other?" Zack said moving to Aeris's side.
Sephiroth pulled reluctantly away and watched as Zack wrapped his arm around her waist. Sephiroth looked at them both and felt how right they were for each other. How good they looked together. Aerith belonged to Zack now but he didn't mind too much. He'd only ever wanted her to be happy and safe and with Zack she was. Besides Zack was more then just the best Soldier in his command he was also his best friend. That didn't mean he didn't plan on kicking his ass if he ever did anything to hurt her but he also knew that Zack wouldn't. Zack was too good, too kind hearted. The two of them suited each other perfectly.
"We knew each other long ago." Sephiroth said.
"Sephiroth saved my life when I was young. I haven't seen him since but... I've kept track of you through the news. I was so proud when you became the General. I knew you would."
Sephiroth smiled at her. Then turned to Zack.
"You ever do anything to hurt her you know I'm gonna kick your ass right?"
"Hell, I'll help you." Zack said, tightening his hold on her.
"It's so good that we're all together. This is the best Christmas ever." Aeris said drawing them into a group hug.
Sephiroth felt warm in their embrace, bent down and kissed the top of her head.
"Merry Christmas everyone." He said quietly, and hugged them tightly, knowing that he had truly found the real meaning of Christmas.
HA! I finished it! And it's not even spring yet!
Christmas Present was Lucrecia so if you guessed her you get a great big cookie!
If you read this far you also get a cookie.
If you leave me a review Sephiroth gets a cookie and you can choose the flavor :)