Summary: It's a prequel and a glimpse into my current canon project, 'Pride of a General'. Lucrecia's point of view during her pregnancy.
Disclaimer: I own nothing or no one. Everything is purely the product of my sick imagination and is not intended to be used for any kind of profit.
Pairings: implied Hojo/Lucrecia, Sephiroth/Genesis.
A/N: I was in a mood when I wanted to write glimpses of post-Nibelheim Sephiroth. I'm still working on the next chapter of 'Pride', so this is just a short thing. Beta'ed by AlexJ69, so my very special gratitude for doing the boring job goes to her.
Warning: angst, dark imagery, mental torture.
Concerning Japanese transliteration: I officially don't know Japanese and took Sephiroth's phrase from a FF forum. If it is wrong, I, as always, would appreciate being politely corrected.
"…I will scream, but who will hear my groan,
Who will save my soul from a crash?
Only snakes could let their skin be fallen,
People lose the soul - not the flesh."(N. Gumilev, 'Only Serpents').
At first, Lucrecia thought they were simply dreams. Soothing or poignant, they came on wings of night, when a dank pillow grew cold under her cheek and a thin moonlight stream was the only visitor to her desolated prison cell. They were different each time, showing her glimpses of a boy and man she never knew, and – for all that – knew always. He was tall, pale-skinned, with a wave of silver hair, the wind playfully wrapped around his shoulders and slender waist whenever she saw him outside his cell - a cell akin to the one where Hojo had her imprisoned. There was something godlike in his face, where volitional curves vied with feminine softness, godlike and yet strangely childlike. Among the people she knew, not a single person possessed such a strikingly beautiful appearance to be this child's progenitor, leaving her to believe he was not human… or a ghost of her imagination.
Once, Lucrecia saw him in a room, cold as a lab she worked in. Dispassionately, he twiddled a toy in his small hands, a replica of a sword she saw army soldiers fight with at the Shin-Ra training facilities. At first, she thought it was artificial until the boy clumsily cut his small hand on the blade. Nothing changed on the unnaturally calm face; neither was it possible to say he was hurt, nor – that he was not. Thicker than water, blood seeped through the clenched fingers, but the child continued staring at it with a hint of detached curiosity until the shuffling of steps interrupted his contemplation.
Through the haze of the dream, he looked at her and at the same time at that unfamiliar presence behind the curtain of her vision. "Where is my mother, Professor?"
And at times, in utter darkness his deep, silken voice would talk of things no human mind – no matter how vast and developed – could comprehend, of immortality, of godhood, of path between the worlds.
Doctor Lucrecia Crescent, a woman, who strongly believed in the laws of science and nothing but science, would often wake up with the first rays of sun, covered in cold sweat and trembling from pain in her womb. Irrationally so, the dreams – the nightmares – were always followed by excruciating pain there, in her roundish belly, whereat a new life has been growing for the last seven months.
Eight months into her marriage, Lucrecia sat by the monitor, watching two thin, yellow lines of pulse slowly move on the screen from the left corner to the right. Both signals, hers and the child's, were stable and gave no reasons to worry. There were absolutely no reasons to worry at all, she told herself, aside from the strange visions that continuously haunted her for the last two months.
Outside, somewhere, there was a village – small houses and children running in the streets – wrapped in placidity of a warm autumn day, but the air in her lab was cold, tinctured with glowing green mako, and therefore felt even colder. Instead of bathing in the goldish flood of last sunrays, she was sitting by the monitor, feeling like a prisoner that served a sentence in a dank underground cell with her own husband as the jailer. The fetus in her womb was heavy, getting even heavier by leaps and bounds, and in addition the pregnancy gave her back pains. There were days when Lucrecia could barely walk without anyone's assistance.
Hours slipped by in semi-darkness and quiescence, the only sound disturbing perfect silence being a faint beeping of the twofold heartbeat, hers and her son's.
…The rising star of science, Professor Hojo, came to visit her later that day. Everything about her husband always looked pragmatic, the white frock, the black ponytail, the spectacles on his face, and that she loved in him the most. To her, Hojo was the very epitome of science, and it was his fanatical devotion to their mutual goals that attracted her in the first place. They both shared the same opinion on the latest Jenova project that promised a long-awaited breakthrough in the research dedicated to the elevation of human abilities by using their more advanced predecessor's cells. The new being in her womb, part human, part Cetra, would be a long-awaited reward for the success other scientists – like Hollander with his Project G – failed to achieve.
The new being… her son…
Faint sounds swept over her, betraying her husband's presence even before his voice screeched, "How's the specimen?"
Hojo never addressed their child in any other way although Lucrecia herself didn't feel as impersonal towards him; the longer she carried her son, the more she became strangely attached to that little speck of life growing inside her. There were butterflies in her stomach when she felt him move, and even now, while watching his rhythmic heartbeat, the feeling of utter calm descended upon her.
She never said it aloud.
"The specimen's development goes as planned, no aberrant patterns of behavior have been noted. The results are… here if you want them." She attempted a faint smile, extending Hojo the papers. He spared her and them one fleeting, equally condescending glance.
"I trust your professional judgment. When is he due?"
"Approximately, in forty five days."
Expression on his face unchanged, Hojo bent over and brushed her lips with his as if to show some gratitude. Lucrecia closed her eyes tightly. They were always cold, as a touch of death, even when they made love.
…Lips were locked with lips, naked bodies entwined, their craving relentless and ardor seeping through every abrupt rhythmic movement. Hips were crushed into hips, slender lines merging in intricate patterns, one akin to the other as a twin. She recognized one lover; atop a man she has never seen, he moved slowly and with his eyes half-lidded, as if to savor each and every moment of their unity as one would savor a drink with the most exquisite smack. A faint moan, sealed between half-opened lips, a repressed sound of sheer delectation, finally struggled its way through and the stranger arched in ecstasy, nearing his pinnacle. From unbent shoulders to waist, he was the personification of grace and finesse depicted alive, and yet, under those layers, something darker hid, intrinsic.
Glimpses of colors flitted in darkness, red with tinges of molten gold, refulgent silver, and then, suddenly…
Green. Green like the verdure of spring grass…
Lucrecia's eyes snapped open, breath quickened despite her self-control, and hands snatched onto the white lapels of Hojo's smock, diving deeper in search of comfort and pleasure, even if brief. He was her husband, after all, an angry thought flashed through her mind as she remembered being utterly ignored after their child had been conceived, as if… as if that was the only reason Hojo ever took interest in her.
Then there was another one, the one she could not allow herself to remember, not even the faintest details, like lips or…
Silent tears streaked her cheeks, salty droplets wetting her lips that furtively and futilely sought ardor from the iniquitous coldness her husband expressed towards her. The stranger's eyes, green and dark from passion, were still staring at her – not meretricious jewels but pristine emeralds – and she could have sworn he was laughing.
Hojo gently pushed her aside, yet gentleness was, she suspected, a mere formality not to harm the child.
"You look tired, distressed," his voice was void of concern or warmth, "and it may affect the specimen's health. To give birth to a weakling is as unacceptable to our eugenic study as is a possible miscarriage."
"The fetus is doing something to me," Lucrecia suddenly whispered under her breath, "and then those cells… I can't explain, but there is something wrong with all of it."
To no surprise, her pleas were the very quintessence of vanity against Hojo's imperturbable calm and self-reliance.
"Something? You are a scientist, Lucrecia, and something is not a scientific definition."
As if she truly expected to hear more from her science-obsessed husband.
That night the dream was different, shreds of visions united in a motley quilt instead of a solid sequence of pictures.
At first, Lucrecia saw a helicopter with Shin-Ra logo rising above the Junon canon. Huge airscrews were slowly cleaving the air, the engine rumbled as a monster awoken from deep slumber, and the steel sides forcedly creaked. Then suddenly there was a thwart flash – a streak of bluish lightning – and with a deafening screech, the hulk of helicopter tumbled down, the airscrews, the doors, and the pilot's cabin coming apart as if cut with a sharp, precise section of a scalpel.
About seven feet below, the silver-haired stranger was standing quiescent, clenching a long thin sword in his left hand, and around him the waterfall of burning debris was falling.
The vision shattered like a stained-glass window, and he now stood among the pads filled with glowing substance and intently stared at his gloved hands. There was an eerie aura about him – in pallor tinged with bluish-green, in black leather attire that outlined his haughty silhouette like second skin, and in the unearthly calmness of his voice as he inquired.
"Am I… am I even human?"
The stranger was asking her as if she was to be held responsible, and at the same time the question was spoken to the emptiness, for in those jade-green eyes she saw everything – pain, craving, and even confusion - everything but the hope to hear an answer.
The time to give birth to her son neared inexorably. Lucrecia was prepared to expect him any week and it only brought joy, for then she would be free, the imprisonment would end as would Hojo's omnipresent power over her fate. She didn't think of what she would do next, especially with those visions, which grew more persistent and cruel with each passing day. She caught herself thinking of the silver-haired stranger more and more, of who he was and what he was trying to tell her, but with thoughts came only the fear of falling asleep. There were nights she spent sitting on her bed, fighting the overwhelming slumber until her eyes reddened from the lack of moist. However, such measures rarely helped, as after a tiresome day nature eventually overcame pitiful human wishes.
One day, Lucrecia decided to take a walk. She awoke with the unbearable desire to see sunlight – even knowing it was late fall and all she would likely see would be withering leaves rustling on the dusty road. She craved to breathe in fresh air, not the dank moist of the underground lab, and let her eyes rest, watching living nature instead of lifeless stone walls. Slowly, clutching her heavy abdomen with both hands, she staggered through the library and into the corridor that ended with the staircase and her desired freedom. None of the assistants met Lucrecia's eyes, which made her journey to the brief escape only easier.
She never made it to the staircase.
…He was standing by the door into the ancient temple, arms lifted aloft, and a dazzling smile, dripping venom and superiority, set his inhumanly cold countenance. This time the aura around him was that of distinct, malicious triumph, which seeped through each uttered word and each sharp gesture.
"I am becoming one with the Planet," he said, addressing her, but, likely, the interlocutor was just another invisible stranger her dreams never showed.
This time, however, there was a response. "Becoming one with the Planet?"
"You have never thought about it, stupid fools. All the spirit energy of this world, all the infinite wisdom and knowledge it contains… I will meld with it all. I will become one with it, and it will become one with me."
"You can do that?" Frightened surprise. "How?"
The silver-haired stranger dropped his arms and pointed to the entrance door. "The way lies here. Only death awaits you, but do not fear, for it is through death that new spirit energy is born." He uttered a curt chuckle, and at this point Lucrecia – had she felt her arms – would close her ears not to hear that voice again. "Soon, you will live again as a part of me."
The long sword flickered before her eyes, tearing her world atwain, and she screamed as though the pain was hers, as though it was her shattered body crumbling, and it was her wound that shed the crimson liquid of life.
She was found on the cold floor, convulsing with pain in a pool of blood that kept running along her thighs until she was taken away to the emergency room. Through the red haze, Lucrecia saw doctors in white smocks dawdle around her, murmuring and casting anxious glances at her sprawled on the white table body, and yet, all this time, she was still seeing him, and he was smiling.
She would rather tear her eyes out than see his smile one more time.
Hojo didn't bother coming to visit her. Neither did Vincent.
For the next few nights, the dreams spared her only to return in a way that made her wish she was still dreaming. Lucrecia came around to find herself in the dark lab, a twin sister of the one she used for experimentations…
…experimentations on Grimoir Valentine…
… obligingly prompted her fevered brain. Not that the merciful darkness disturbed her. Lucrecia felt her eyes couldn't take the sharpness of neon light and would go blind. Her body was helplessly sprawled on the sterile bed, and the moment she tried to move, it disobeyed, even the fingers. Frightened, Lucrecia tried again with the same result; even sounds refused to come out of her throat as her mind begged to whisper…
Instead, her dry lips moved to form another almost soundless word. "Watashi…"
To say it wasn't her desire, but the worst had only begun. Spasms ran through her body, hands fisted the white sheets, legs fell on both sides of the metal bedding, and instead of the name – the one name her splitting mind could recall – the same word, the same plea continued passing her lips, growing louder and louder... "Watashi… Watashi…"
He, the silver-haired demon, wanted to say something to this world, and she was just an obedient puppet of his unbreakable willpower, a rag doll in the hands of power that exceeded the boundaries of her non-scientific imagination.
"Watashi… Watashi…" Arching, Lucrecia's body was shuddering in throes, eyes wide-opened and lips moving on their own will. "Watashi wa...omoide ni wa naranai sa!"
Someone's worried face appeared through the thick fog of tears and someone's hand steadied hers to inject liquid into her vein.
"She's in shock. Go get professor Hojo. Now!"
Words registered in her mind slowly. Enervation weighed heavily upon her at once; as though swept with a tidal ocean wave, Lucrecia felt weightlessness and bliss of floating in utter darkness.
"Watashi… " She groaned quieter, pain subsiding. "I… I… won't…"
I won't be just a memory…
Who am I?
Whether Hojo came or not, Lucrecia never knew.
A bright star was falling across the night skies, shedding carmine tears from her tail. The red glow scattered the darkness with a few precise touches, like smears of liquid paint that streamed down the upturned chalice of welkin and into the abyss beyond horizon. It was nearing the planet avidly, devouring miles after miles of distance in-between as if driven by someone's inexorable will.
The star was falling across the skies and into the darkness behind her drooping eyelids, heavy from fatigue and injected medicine. It was falling… falling…
She was falling.
She has never seen the star again.
Lucrecia lost count of days or weeks spent lying on the table under surveillance of faceless scientists in white robes. She had time to think and search for answers in solitude, but only one thing was now as clear to her as lucid summer skies.
After the Jenova Project with a code name 'S' would be successfully completed with her son's birth, Doctor Lucrecia Crescent was going to die. The treacherous thought firmly established itself in the back of her head and didn't want to leave its warm place in nauseating darkness. The thought also sapped her undermined strength faster than the alien presence of Jenova's cells and those hauntingly frightening images.
So, instead, she let her thoughts rove around the silver-haired stranger and what she was seeing. The past? The future? The harmless dreams? Who was he? Lucrecia felt like she knew the answer and it was so close to the surface of her mind that it could easily drive her insane, tipping the fragile balance with just a touch of reality.
Her son could be born any day now. Lucrecia was expecting labor pains with stoicism of the doomed, living on one thought that she would at least hold her child for the first and the last time in her life. He wasn't unwanted any longer – on the contrary, Lucrecia desired for him to be born to become the last living legacy of herself and her unaccomplished dreams. All her strength she was saving just to pass her life to the first and only progeny.
Lucrecia closed her eyes and let a small smile in the corner of her lips fade, knowing that the pain would return sooner than she wished, and with it…
Then she thought of the silver-haired monster, and he came back at once as though he was just patiently waiting to be called for.
…As though trapped, he was pacing up and down a narrow room, steps sharp and long silver wave gently swaying against the black leather of his perfectly straight back. His every movement radiated confusion despite that stoic, almost measured veneer; confusion and something deeper, darker, intrinsic. A book was clenched in his gloved hands, and he was avidly reading from it, not a single time shifting his gaze to the gloomy surroundings. Pale lips were moving, whispering, words barely heard in the creaking of leather uniform and rustle of steps.
"…They were called the Ancients, an itinerant, powerful race that once inhabited the Planet. They traveled between lands, settled there, then moved on, and at the end of their hard journey they found a land of supreme happiness…" The stranger looked up, smoldering gaze burning holes through her, so powerful was the inexorable question thrashing about the cage of those eyes. "Am I… am I an Ancient…the last Ancient?"
The world burst in white, splitting pain.
So, this is how it felt to give birth, Lucrecia thought, watching a short dark-haired assistance cradle a child in her arms. Her son whimpered from time to time, a small, pale lump of living flesh barely sixteen inches long. It was a miracle of life with tiny hands and feet that could easily fit onto the palm of an adult.
"Let me…" Lucrecia swallowed a clot in her dry throat and extended her arms, "let me hold him."
"I am sorry," the assistant objected, "I am not allowed to."
She wanted to ask why, but the question was stuck in her throat when Hojo entered the lab. There was something odd about her husband, an aura of delight he was occasionally expressing in cackling noises one could at a stretch call laughter.
"Take him away to the isolated lab," he immediately spoke to the assistant as if she, the mother of his child, didn't exist, "and put him into the experimental program. He doesn't need to feel too much attachment to the human world."
What had she done?
Lucrecia raised herself on the elbow, and at that moment the child in assistant's arms opened his eyes and looked at her. They were green, green like the verdure of spring grass and bright as facets of the pristine gem. They resembled, no, they were the eyes of the silver-haired stranger from her dreams, who was…
… who was slowly walking along a short, winding path above the pit of the mako reactor, greenish abyss avidly sprawled below. The familiar leather-clad silhouette with a regal cascade of silver hair spilled on his shoulders was covered in blood and ash, as though he had just survived a massacre… or was the one to cause it.
Was he… that monster… was he… her… newborn s-son…
Lucrecia screamed. With curiosity, huge innocently-green eyes glanced at herand through them she was seeing…
Cat-like eyes of the same exquisite shape and color were staring at her as well, crimson tongues of flames licking vertical pupils and swirling in the void – the void no human gaze could contain. There was a strange expression etched on his delicate features, a mixture of exquisite awe and no less exquisite cruelty. He was looking at her, but spoke to someone else, the left corner of elegant lips arrogantly curved upwards.