Final Fantasy VII: Another Side
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII or any of its characters.
A/N: I was playing through Crisis Core again when I got this idea. CC was a fantastic game, but the story was pretty much one huge train wreck where everything gets worse. When I was complaining about this to my friend, he told me "why don't you just write a fanfic where it turns out differently?" So, here you go!
Those of you that are here because I told you to look out for an FF story on my Golden Sun fanfiction A Different Kind of Storm, this is not it. That one should be up eventually. But enjoy this one anyway.
File 001: SOLDIER Honor
"Whether your words are lies created to deceive me or the truth I have searched for all my life, you will rot."
The smell of smoke made him drop the file he was holding. The folder hit the ground, papers scattering across the basement floor. He spared them a cursory glance. The folder he had been holding was the last file he intended to read. The last—and most important file. The one that would explain everything. In the dim light of Shinra Mansion's basement, he could make out some of the words—Sephiroth. Jenova. Project S. Cetra.
He looked away and placed a hand over his face, feeling a shudder run through him. After reading for days on end, the words swam in front of his eyes, blending into one another and making it difficult to focus. But he had to continue reading. He had to know. He could piece together the contents of the file on the ground based on what he already knew. It wasn't too difficult to extrapolate based on existing evidence, but reading the file would give him the answers he wanted. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The smell of smoke intensified, muffled sounds reaching him from where he stood in the basement. They were sounds he knew well. They had become as familiar to him as air during the course of his life. Voices talking over one another in varying degrees of panic and urgency. Screams. The sound of frantic footsteps. He glanced towards the corner of the room where Masamune waited, propped up against the wall. The sword's hilt glinted in the unsteady light, both a request and a reminder. He looked back at the scattered papers on the floor. He had to know…
The screams seemed to him to become louder, the heat more real. In the darkness, he thought he heard the swish of a leather coat, the rustle of black feathers. Angeal's face flashed into his mind for a moment, a single white wing extended. His friend was glaring at him, an unspoken command in his eyes. It was all an illusion, he knew. A trick of his tired mind. His sanity was…fragile at the moment, for lack of a better word. But illusion or not, Angeal's eyes burned into him. His eyes widened and he took a step back from papers on the floor.
The shadow figure of Angeal seemed to step forward, planting his feet firmly over the file.
He turned on his heel quickly, his hand closing around Masamune's hilt. The feeling of the sword in his gloved hand woke him up slightly, giving him some sense of place. He turned his head, but the room was empty. The hallucination—Angeal was gone.
He took a deep breath and ran out the door.
He awoke to darkness.
Sephiroth sat up in bed, his eyes already adjusted to the gloom. He looked around the small room, his left hand already closed around Masamune's hilt. The room was dark, the only lights in the room coming from underneath the heavy curtain that passed for a door and from a digital clock beside his bed. The clock was the only thing that told him it was already eight in the morning. The room had no windows, and no light came in from the outside.
He placed his free hand over his face, taking a deep breath. He hadn't expected to stay asleep for so long. He lowered his hand, throwing the blanket off himself and sliding out of bed. He put down the sword just long enough to pull on his boots, then stood up, walking over to the curtain. He braced himself for the sudden burst of light and pulled the curtain away, stepping through it and into the main room.
The fluorescent lights that lined the ceiling made it look almost like it was daytime. It was empty. It was also cold. Sephiroth was used to dealing with harsh environments, so he ignored the cold for now, focusing on his task. He walked around the larger room, his boots making soft sounds against the metal floor. Like he usually did every morning, he checked the locks on the door, making sure they were all engaged. He checked the security system, making sure that no wires had been cut and no alarms had been tripped. Satisfied that everything was functional, he looked around again, making sure for the second time that he was alone. His eyes drifted over the magnet that was stuck to the fridge. It had been moved from its usual place in the upper right corner to the middle of the door, signifying that his sole companion had left their hideout out of her own volition. He walked over to the second curtain that hid the former storage room she called her own room, pulling it apart slightly to look inside. No monsters lurked in the darkness. No SOLDIER or Turk hid in the corner.
He let the curtain fall again and only then did he put down Masamune, propping the blade up against the table. He turned the dial on the thermostat, turning up the heat slightly. Normally, he wouldn't risk such a luxury, but winter was coming, and this high up in the mountains, it was warranted. He pulled out an old white mug from the supplies cabinet and filled it with the coffee that was still in the machine.
Sephiroth sat down in the chair facing the door and took a sip, feeling the warmth run through his body. He looked up at the corkboard that had been pinned up on the wall across from him, scanning the various pieces of information and pictures on them. There was nothing new. There hardly ever was these days. His eyes drifted over to the first two pictures, a pair of Polaroids that showed two figures being pulled out of the wreckage of the Nibelheim reactor, supervised by a man in a white lab coat.
His fingers curled tightly around his mug as the memories came back to him in full force, accompanied by the wealth of information he had uncovered in the mansion. Hatred coiled inside of him like a venomous serpent, and it was all he could do to not lash out and destroy the photos.
The urge to destroy—to kill—blossomed inside him and he clutched his head with his free hand, resting his elbow on the table and propping it up. It pounded inside him as it had intermittently ever since the incident at the reactor and he took a deep shuddering breath. He would not let it win.
The sound of her voice brought him back to his senses. He opened his eyes, not turning around to look at her. "Have you thought about it?" he asked.
"There isn't a price you can place on freedom."
That pass-phrase, like the magnet, was another precaution. He relaxed slowly, satisfied that it was her. He turned around. She was dressed casually, a thick winter coat draped over her shoulders. Flakes of snow coated her dark coat and her wavy brown hair. There were dark circles under her eyes. He wondered for a moment if she had been out all night. Wordlessly, he stood up, picking up a second mug and filling it with coffee as well as she hung up her coat, sitting down at the table. He set the mug down and she nodded, taking a sip.
"Did you find out anything new?" he asked.
"Shinra has promoted two more 2nd class SOLDIERs," she said. She took a long sip. "I didn't recognize the names."
"Two more?" asked Sephiroth.
"The qualifications for 1st Class have gone down since the incident," she said. "…Apparently they're going for quantity over quality."
He nodded. It was a trend they had been monitoring over the past few years, and it came as no surprise. He took a sip of coffee, glancing at her as he waited for her to continue.
"The Turks, as far as I could tell, are still investigating AVALANCHE. There's rumors that a second group going by the same name has been making an appearance."
He nodded again. It was interesting news, but not the sort that he was waiting for. She knew it as well, because she looked up at him over her cup of coffee. "…You were right about Nibelheim," she said. "There's talk about Shinra scientists being spotted in the area. I could go…"
He shook his head. "Too risky," he said. "If Shinra is controlling the town, you'd be spotted easily."
"I have a better chance of slipping through than you do," she said. It was true, and the reason why she was the one going out in search of information. He was too recognizable, whereas she was still capable of slipping through the cracks. Even so, there was a difference between visiting remote towns and digging up news and walking right into Shinra's clutches. He looked up at her. It was easy to forget what she was capable of, looking at her, and it was easy to forget what she was trained to do. Even in her old uniform, she didn't exactly make an intimidating figure. He could easily beat her in a fight.
But unlike him, Cissnei wasn't just trained to fight.
He stood up, picking up Masamune in his left hand.
"Monitor the situation," he said. "Focus on Nibelheim. If you find anything definite, we'll talk."
She nodded, turning her head to watch him as he headed for the door.