I had a really miserable night last night. In the midst of trying not to cry and crying and trying to eat and all the drama and freaking out, I wound up writing most of this in the journal beside my bed. It helped me calm down and sleep, which was good, and it's more of the emotive present-tense stuff that I like to write but rarely actually do.

It's supposed to be weird. It's supposed to be dark and painful. And if it gets under your skin and irritates you, then I did my job.

You have been warned.

Sephiroth doesn't know what to do what Angeal dies. He has never had anyone or anything to mourn before, and now the most important thing in his life is gone and he doesn't know how to respond. Maybe, if he had ever had something taken from him so abruptly before this, he would know what he should do. All he knows is that there is a great big hole somewhere inside him, one that he doesn't know how to close or fill or really do anything to at all except worry at it, making it ache.

When he is on duty, he acts normally, though he slips sometimes, instructing someone to talk to Angeal or take these papers to him or see how he executes a certain block. Then his breath catches in his chest when he remembers, and his throat tightens. Most of the time, whoever he is speaking with gets a pitying look in their eyes. He doesn't understand why. He sits through meetings with Zack at his side now, instead of Angeal, because someone upstairs thought that Zack would make a decent replacement for the Commander, for all that the kid is young. Angeal had to be mentoring him for a reason, after all. Sometimes, Sephiroth thinks Zack really is Angeal, but only when he isn't paying much attention to him.

Two weeks after Angeal's death, Sephiroth suffers a reaction to his regular Mako shots. There is no one there in the apartment to hold his head as he shudders and jerks and gasps on the floor, no one to pick him up and put him to bed until Zack comes in hours later to find him lying on the floor in a puddle of vomit, crying uncontrollably for reasons he doesn't have words for. He can't speak at all for the first few minutes, too terrified of some nameless thing and his throat too damaged by tears and bile and choking gasps to be of much use, so he gestures feebly, not sure what he's trying to get across. Zack cleans him up and puts him to bed, but there is no great, warm, hairy presence in the bed when Sephiroth wakes up in the early morning, trembling and cold.

Sometimes, Sephiroth thinks he sees Angeal. He will turn his head and a tall shape with dark hair will walk down a hallway, or a blurry figure will cross a mirror. When it's quiet, he hears Angeal laughing somewhere out of sight, or maybe talking to someone in the next room. He'll smell Angeal's familiar scent when he enters a room, or feel the brush of a large, callused hand over the back of his neck. There is never anyone there when he goes looking.

He dreams in a confusion of memories and events that never took place. When he wakes, he is screaming and sweaty, tears soaking his face. He cries in the dark for a long time, sometimes for more than an hour, before he can sleep again. Some nights, he can't sleep at all, so he gets up and sits on the couch, watching the old movies Angeal liked so much until he just can't keep his eyes open and he passes out.

Zack makes him eat. Zack reminds him to go back to his empty apartment and rest. Zack takes his laundry out and does it himself, even folding Sephiroth's socks the way he prefers. Zack offers night out, nights in, gifts, treats, hugs, bribes, sex; anything to make Sephiroth feel better.

Sephiroth takes the sex. It isn't the way he wants it. Zack's body is smooth and supple instead of hairy and heavily muscled, and he has little experience beyond the frantic rutting between two soldiers in an empty locker room. He doesn't whisper foreign words in Sephiroth's ear or squeeze him around the middle or press so close to him that they could be one creature. He comes too soon and has to finish Sephiroth with his mouth, and he wants to snuggle with Sephiroth afterwards. Sephiroth tries, but has to roll away from him and vomit over the side of the bed. There is no more sex after that.

He follows Angeal's shadow into the mansion, down to the hidden places. He reads while Angeal's shade watches him from the top of a bookshelf. He cracks under the strain. He cries when a sickly sweet voice pushes him out of his own mind and anchors itself in his place with filthy claws that sink deep into him and don't let go. Only half aware, he charges back out into the world, and the shadowy man he thinks he might have known once follows him.

Finally, Angeal comes back to him. Sephiroth sees him, clear as day, striding towards him with a broad smile. They embrace. Angeal is warm and smells comfortingly of leather and sweat and cedar and apples. Something sharp lodges itself in his chest. He coughs. Angeal cups his face and kisses away the blood trickling from his mouth. Sephiroth closes his eyes.

He falls.