A sneer; Sephiroth thrust Masamune upwards, and caught his target in the chest, straight through the heart. Such a wonderful scream, such alluring whimpers, as his prey writhed in pain, gloved hands clutching the metal so tightly that it sliced through leather and skin, and must nearly have severed the blonde's fingers. He threw the gasping boy into the air above him with a jerk, and immediately followed with a leap, the blood from Cloud's wound blotting his silver hair with crimson.
「あのときの痛み 覚えているか クラウド？」
Do you remember that pain, Cloud?
Cloud waited for the stabs from the two-meter-long sword waiting for him below, wielded by the demon that refused to leave him be. Somehow, the sharp, piercing, pain never reached his nerves; instead, he felt arms catch his body, and in a way that was worse, because he could feel the static between the semi-dormant cells that resided in him and the all-too-powerful Jenova that manifested herself in her chosen son. Cloud didn't have much time to think about it – Sephiroth wrapped a black wing around them and the next thing he knew was an abyssal darkness.
I was thinking of a parting gift for you…
The Forgotten City. How ironic, Sephiroth thought, as he unfurled the black feathers that had enclosed him and his prize. Wasn't this where the Cetra rested? His new toy would be pleased at the choice of location, surely. A cruel smirk spread across his lips.
Sephiroth summoned chains, suspended in the air but immovable all the same, and closed the metal around Cloud's wrists. He proceeded to cut away at the other's armor and top, leaving him with a bare back – soft, supple, vulnerable, human skin just asking to be cut and carved. Sephiroth was all too happy to oblige. That is, when Cloud was conscious enough to feel the lacerations he was planning.
Suffer that unforgettable pain again…
Cloud stirred, groaning in pain when his movements agitated the wound through his torso. His brain took a while to come online, but when it did Cloud's situation was immediately obvious to him. Danger. Shackles kept him upright while his weak limbs and the hurt firing from his chest would have him collapse to the floor, and Cloud couldn't even process why he was still alive. He looked up at the sound of footsteps; was met by the familiar glow of bare silver trees, the pool of holy water… The footsteps closed in, and he felt the cold of Masamune against his skin.
What do you want?
Thoughts of Cloud's pain just a few hours earlier had lulled Sephiroth into a content daze, and it was the renewed sound of Cloud struggling against the agony that woke him. Sephiroth decided it was a good way to rest – it allowed for the ceaseless loop of the despair he so wanted to surround him. Almost purring in anticipation, he got up, stepped out of the shadows from behind Cloud, and padded forward, Masamune unsheathed and ready.
Sephiroth stopped – though it seemed only a pause, how fluid his moments – when Masamune's blade just barely touched Cloud's skin. The SOLIDER let out a hiss at the contact. No doubt he was afraid; Sephiroth could taste his fear, hear the violent pounding of his chest, and only the earthy musk that surrounded them – emanating from trees, ground, and water alike – covered the tempting scent of the death sentence that hung over Cloud. Masamune urged him on, desperately wanting to slice through the unguarded flesh, and Sephiroth could just feel the slight resistance of cutting through muscle, the relish of digging his fingers into the wound. The only pity was that he couldn't stand in front of Cloud to see Zack's will vanish from his eyes, see Cloud's blue eyes turn turquoise with Mako in submission.
He licked his lips. "Well, Cloud?"
"Well, what, Sephiroth?" Cloud's voice was still defiant, with only a slight tremble betraying his feverish, futile heartbeat. Boom boom stop.
Oh? What's made you so strong?
After his retort, silence. The first cut didn't come until at least five minutes later. It was like earlier, only now it was silence and tense immobility that replaced the expected wounds, instead of a cold embrace. The pain came at last, familiar and Cloud was almost thankful for it, after being subject to the suspense of wondering exactly what Sephiroth wanted. It hurt, of course, but what SOLDIER couldn't take such a shallow, gentle, wound?
A second cut. Deeper this time, like Sephiroth was handling a precision instrument. Cloud, gritting his teeth, tried to distance himself from the increasing pain that he felt was tracing the same path over and over again, always just a little bit deeper. But it was nothing like being speared through, was nothing like the remaining feeling of having a hole in his chest; Cloud could handle it. He wouldn't give Sephiroth the satisfaction of –
Cloud screamed when he felt nails dig into his raw flesh.
Kneel, and show me your form when you beg for mercy.
Testing the depth of his cuts had always been the most amusing part of marking his prey; Sephiroth had decided that quite some time ago. He gently rested Masamune on the ground, and then raised his fingers to the crimson arc on Cloud's upper back. He didn't hesitate, just pressed his nails straight into the cut, deeper, deeper, feeling for end of the wound, then scratching the bloody flesh. Cloud arched, probably making it worse for himself, and screamed; screamed loud and hard, trying to release all the pain that had built up from the first shallow cut to the now deep – but still neat – laceration that decorated his skin.
Sephiroth smirked. It was only the beginning – was his toy already beginning to break? He withdrew his fingers, now bloody, and inspected the wound visually, making sure it was a perfect arc, for the perfect body-canvas. Yes, it was perfect. Sephiroth couldn't resist lapping up some of the blood that flowed so freely; it was an added bonus that Cloud whimpered in response.
Pleased, Sephiroth retrieved Masamune and resumed carving. He had to work around the wound in the chest, because it would heal to give a different type of scar than the rest of his art – if, that is, Cloud ever got the chance to heal before he died. Sephiroth smiled at the thought. He carefully sliced another shallow line into Cloud's back – middle back, now – careful to avoid the wound that was already there while keeping the line continuous, graceful. He felt Cloud's desperation, could tell that he wanted to break free of the chains, at least be able to move, but Cloud was smart that way – you had to give him credit, he'd realized so early on that struggling would just make it hurt more.
Slice, slice, slice, always tracing the same line. Deeper, just by a little – just by a little. Draw blood, make it flow artfully, prettily, decorate Cloud's back in a masterpiece of blood-work. This line wasn't so much an arc as an incomplete gentle wave-shape, with a mild down-up-down pattern drew soft gasps and cries from Sephiroth's captive.
Shall I give you despair?
Blood painted the porcelain of Cloud's back, draining his life away in streaks of morbid beauty, until, when Sephiroth pressed vengeful claws into the crying flesh again, he didn't even have the energy to cry out or scream. He'd given up praying for hope; now, he just wanted peace – painless, joyless, peace. Gaia didn't matter, living didn't matter, nothing mattered, as long as the bleeding and the agony would just stop, Zack, Aeris, help me…
Cloud winced as Sephiroth took Masamune up again, carved the third arc in his back. He heard his name repeated by the silver-haired man – a poisonous, mocking, chant, seeping into his mind like the metal was sinking into his flesh and skin. Pain – searing, screaming, burning, pain. Cloud would give anything for it to stop. How long had it been, already? What had he done to deserve this punishment? Shouldn't his and Sephiroth's positions be reversed? A spark of fury relieved him of all feeling, numbed his body, filled his exhausted brain with images of slashing through his tormentor. A particularly deep cut stung his nerves – no, worse, only there was no word that would suffice – and put him back in his place. No, he wasn't allowed to entertain such thoughts, the pain reminded him. Sephiroth was stronger, faster, better; Sephiroth was superior… He contemplated just asking him to stop, maybe even beg, if it came to it, but Sephiroth beat him to it with a taunt.
"Breaking already, Cloud?" – the voice attacked him from behind, and was accompanied by the feel of fingers invading his wound and ripping him into even more pieces – "Ready to beg?"
Cloud managed to gather up enough energy to at least shake his head in defiance. A malevolent chuckle, and the soft swish of Sephiroth jumping away from him.
"Not that it matters; I'm done with you, Cloud." Sephiroth flipped over him, and Cloud saw his face for the first time since he woke up – it bore the triumphant smirk of a sated panther.
"You're free to go," – Sephiroth snapped his fingers, and the chains disappeared – "If you can go, that is."
True enough – unshackled, Cloud was too weak to remain standing; he crumpled to the ground, too exhausted to even cry out in pain when the impact jarred his back. Sephiroth watched coldly as the blonde fell at his feet, eyes nearly extinguished of all light. He wouldn't last long. On the other hand, the glaring 'S' that Sephiroth knew was beneath all the blood would remain until a monster came to feast on the corpse.
Ah, but that wasn't good enough. Sephiroth hadn't spent such painstaking effort only to have a common beast mar his work. He picked up the slowly dying boy by his hair, was met with zero resistance, and dragged him to the water's edge. His corpse would be a wonderful gift to the Cetra girl who rested here. Sephiroth dunked Cloud into the water, brought him back up, examined the now clean wound. Yes, a perfect curve. It must have stung, judging from the delicious tears that had finally made themselves known on Cloud's cheeks. The poor thing had given up, and about time. He wouldn't have to suffer much more, anyway. Sephiroth released his grip, sent Cloud sinking gently into the depths of the pool and oblivion.
What will happen to Gaia?
Well. It's depends on you, doesn't it?