A/N: Been awhile. Hope you guys are still with me. It's been a busy year. :)
Thank you for betaing Tomoyo-chan!
"Yes, Profess...found severely...but alive."
Who are you?
A sliver of blinding light. Vague outlines. Darkness once more. Movement.
Th-thump. Th...ump. Th...ump.
"...urry...imbecile! ...die…get...tank now!"
He could feel himself floating, as if he was a part of the air itself and gravity had no hold on him. The numbness was a welcome relief from...what had he been doing again? He tried to take a breath and panicked when he could not. Air was not going in, but he could feel something leaving his lungs and mouth; something heavy and viscous, like a liquid. He tried to will himself to move only to feel no response from his body at all. It was as if his mind was disconnected from it and had no say. His heart began to race and he strained with all his will to just move.
Hojo watched with interest as his new specimen finally began to show signs of life. He had been a little worried when his Turk had brought in the boy, since he had thought him dead, but he had been informed that he was alive, even if it was barely so. They had mended the boy's wounds to the best of their ability and then submerged his unconscious body into a mako tank in order to accelerate the healing process. Now though, it seemed that his specimen was showing signs of vitality.
The scientist paced before the tank, his sharp eyes catching the minute twitches in the suspended form of Cloud Strife. A curl of the fingers here, a brief twitch of the toes there, and then the heart monitors began to beep at a sudden increase in the subject's psychological activity. Hojo pushed his glasses up and watched with mute apathy as the specimen's mouth opened and bubbles formed in the mako tank as it began trying to intake air-a sure sign of an attempted return to consciousness.
Everything was pain. He could not breathe, he could not see, all he could do was feel. His lungs were burning from the inside, every nerve under his skin was reporting back pain, and all he could do was take it. There was no moving away from it, no relief. Any attempt he made to move his body was met with a searing ache in his joints and more fire racing along his skin.
Where am I? What happened? I want to go home. Mom…
Through the pain, a memory tried to phased in and out. Red, fire, green.
Zack jolted awake in his cell at the sound of his name whispered quietly to him. A sharp glance to his right revealed Sephiroth, whose eyes were still closed. If Zack didn't know any better, he'd say the General was sleeping, but knowing the silver haired man, he was probably closing his eyes to rest but was fully aware of what was going on around himself. Either way, he didn't want to wake Sephiroth if he did happen to be sleeping. Especially not for some stupid half-remembered dream.
As if hearing his inner thoughts, Sephiroth's gleaming green eyes opened. To Zack's relief, the oddly thin slitted shape it had been fluctuating in and out of seemed to have rounded out into a more normal shape, and all he saw was the slightly exhausted gaze of his friend eyeing him with a hint of concern.
"Zack." Sephiroth said, and it was more question than statement.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he immediately responded, not wanting to aggravate his friend any more than possible. "I just woke up, but I think we're in a new holding cell," he commented, finally taking the time to inspect what he had initially only suspected.
The place they were in was a bit more open and looked something like a more traditional jail. The ceiling was high and incomplete like that of a warehouse, its pipes exposed as a single light bulb hung down. The light buzz of the light would be slightly annoying to a normal civilian, but to a SOLDIER is was much more so. Unfortunately, there was no sink or toilet in the room, which would have been extremely useful; while slightly unorthodox, Zack was fairly certain he or Sephiroth still would have had enough strength to be able to rip up the objects and use them to bust down a wall or take out any potential guards in order to escape.
Sephiroth quietly watched Zack assess their surroundings, his mind slightly troubled by their current situation. It didn't really make much sense. Sephiroth had an impeccable inner clock, and from what it was telling him, it had been more than a few days since they had arrived in their current location. And yet they had not been disturbed since being brought here. He distinctly recalled being tranquilized before their captors had tried to move them; Zack in particular had been their main concern, as Sephiroth himself had not been up to the task of resisting.
Sephiroth gave the slightest frown. It wasn't that he didn't want to escape...it was that he couldn't. Zack didn't deserve to share in his fate, and so if he had possessed the strength, he would have tried to escape sooner, just to get his Lieutenant to safety and then return later to accept his punishment if need be.
A light, testing flex of the muscles of his back and arms yielded no pain. Surprised, the silver haired man considered it a small blessing that he was finally beginning to heal. Ever since...that day, it had seemed as if the muscles of his upper back had been straining and protesting against something within...and it had been excruciatingly painful, almost to the point where movement was near impossible. And of course, Sephiroth himself was not one to let others know if he was uncomfortable or wounded unless it was strictly necessary.
Zack finally shook his head, a disgusted sigh gusting from his lips as he leaned back against the wall. "Well, sir, looks like it's just you and me for a good old-fashioned sleepover," he joked.
The sudden upward quirk of Sephiroth's lips was a welcome surprise; it wasn't often Zack got such an obviously favorable response from his friend. No, that sort of thing was reserved more for Cloud.
The First Class SOLDIER bolted upright. "Cloud," he said urgently, looking at Sephiroth with horror. How could he forget?
Sephiroth's fists clenched as the remaining echoes of Cloud's hatred for him began to haunt him.
"Why should I forgive a worthless bastard like you?"
"Tseng will not harm him," Sephiroth said firmly. He wouldn't allow himself or Zack to believe that Cloud was anything but okay. Besides, Sephiroth had to make amends with the blond cadet for the deeds he'd done in his bout of temporary madness. He knew Cloud was stubborn and most likely would never forgive him, but he would at least know how sorry Sephiroth was and that he would do anything he could to atone for his sins.
The sound of loud, slow-paced footsteps began to echo from down the hall and both soldiers looked at one another before silently resettling themselves into their previous positions to feign sleep. Maybe if they could get their captors to lower their guard...
The footsteps drew closer. The person walking their way either had nowhere else to be and was taking their time, or was deliberately trying to rouse the two soldiers in their cells. To any normal person, the two soldiers would appear to be sleeping; the sudden halt of the footsteps made it hard for Zack not to tense and give away their cover. Unfortunately, that proved unnecessary when their visitor suddenly spoke.
"Gentlemen," a cold, surprisingly young voice called, "You can cease the act now."
Immediately both SOLDIER's heads came up; it was no use pretending to be out of commission if the enemy already knew you were awake and aware. And from the sounds of it, this guy had known well before he had entered the cell block that they were active. Sephiroth made a mental note to check for any hidden cameras and microphones once they were alone again.
To their surprise, two people stood before them, one of whom was Tseng of the Turks. The other person was not recognizable to the two of them, as he was covered in a long grey cloak that hid his features in its shadows.
"What do you want, backstabber?" Zack growled as he effortlessly hopped to his feet and crossed his arms. He hadn't quite meant to come off as so aggressive, but he was well aware of the position he and Sephiroth were in and just how easily they could be sent to their deaths. And he was so not in the mood for this.
Tseng's expression was stoic; it was clear he had no intention of working himself up over Zack's words. Instead, the cloaked male that had initially spoken suddenly stepped closer, his mostly hidden face turned in their direction. For a long silent moment he seemed to be studying them as they returned the favor, wondering just who would be bold enough to silently stare down two of ShinRa's top SOLDIERs without pissing their pants.
"It's strange," that young voice suddenly mused out loud. "From the stories my father and sources have told me, it would be much harder to try and contain the great General Sephiroth and his loyal dog. And yet here the two of you are, caged like criminals waiting for the guillotine."
The green of Sephiroth's eyes was suddenly alight with anger; still, the general merely held his tongue even as Zack gave a mirthless laugh and uncrossed his arms.
"Come in here and say that, you little pipsqueak," Zack snarled, his teeth bared as he took a few steps forward to wrap his hands around the bars of their cell. "See if I don't break you in half."
The rapid click of a gun's safety being pulled off drew their attention and they noticed Tseng had drawn his weapon and had it pointed at Zack's knee with near soundless precision. "Back away from the bars, Fair. This won't kill you, but it'll certainly hurt."
Instead of exhibiting caution however, Zack simply smirked at the deadly calm Turk. "What's with the guard dog act? You babysitting the brat of some political guru that ShinRa needs to cozy up to for more control over the world or something?"
"He's more than just a simple brat," Sephiroth suddenly spoke, making Zack turn around and regard him with a little curious frown. The silver haired male gracefully climbed to his feet and stood at his full height, his eyes locked on the small figure at Tseng's side. "Aren't you, Rufus Shinra?"
The cloaked figure gave a small mirthless chuckle before pulling its hood from its face. The small yet oddly composed figure of Rufus Shinra stared back, his blue eyes colder than ice and the smile on his face reminiscent of the one his father wore when he knew he'd gotten his hands on an excellent deal. "Very perceptive, General."
Zack gaped. That kid was Shinra's son? What the heck was the man thinking having that kid out and about with so many of his enemies eager to get his hands on him. They had even recently had to deal with a group of terrorists that had wanted the kid dead. What was going on here?
Now that his identity had been revealed, Rufus had little patience left for pleasantries. His blue eyes glinted as he stared into Sephiroth's own wary green ones.
"Gentlemen, I have a proposition for you."
Pure chaos reigned in the city. The streets were filled with monsters and gunfire as Avalanche members swept through the town like a force of nature, capturing and holding hostage numerous political figures. The main prize however, was left to one man and one man alone.
Fading grey eyes met ice cold blue as father and son stared at one another. The shock on the older man's face was plain to see as his ruddy cheeks slowly began to fade into a greyish pale.
"R-Rufus, you..." the man croaked before his breath caught in his throat. A faint noise of pain came from him an instant before a spray of blood splattered from his half open lips onto the face of his son, who merely smirked and twisted the hilt of the shock pole he held even further into his father's chest.
"How does it feel?" the younger Shinra asked, sounding almost conversational. The smirk on his face made several of his followers uneasy. "Does it hurt? I hope you don't hold it against me, old man." That said, the boy slowly slid the weapon from his father's chest only to disdainfully nudge the larger man's body backwards with his boot.
"It's just business."
Several shocked exclamations came as the president's body slowly toppled backwards to lay sprawled on his back, a neat hole in the place where his heart used to be. The man twitched a few times his grey eyes focused on the sight of his son as his lips worked soundlessly trying to make words.
Rufus Shinra looked on his father's form with pitiless blue eyes, his hands holding the blooded rod to his side loosely. "In order to move this world into the future, the past mistakes must be rectified," the young man said in a low voice. "It was you who taught me that, Father."
'My own son,' the president thought fleetingly, 'death by the hands of my own son...'
The young blond stoically raised a hand, stopping the advance of the soldiers who had come to defend his father. Rufus's eyes were as cold as ice as he said, "No need, gentlemen, you work for me now."
The soldiers looked to one another in confusion before the sight of the Turks fanning out behind Rufus made their decision for them; only a fool would think to get on their bad side.
Rufus smiled as his men saluted him, even as screams of terror continued behind him.
"The first order of business is to calm the citizens down and eradicate any and all Avalanche members you should find straggling through the city, including its leaders, General Sephiroth and Lieutenant Zack Fair."
A/N: Love it? Hate it? Let me know!