Waking Up Is Never Easy


"The child's face is covered in chemical burns…

"A substantial amount of mako was taken into the lungs and stomach…

"They must have tried to drown him in it…

"There are scratches along his jaw, neck, and chest…

"Blood and skin were under his nails…

"I'm assuming the pain caused him to try to scratch it away when they released him…

"That might have been when I heard him screaming in the alley…

"I'm not sure…

0

"I fear… there is nothing I can do…

"He was on his last breath when I found him…

"He managed to say that he didn't want me to tell his mother…

'Please… don't tell my mother… my mother… please…

0

"His mother…

"Xvan…

"He shut down after that…

"She'll be devastated if she loses the boy…

"He's the only thing that's given her strength and a reason to live since that tragic day…

"The day I lost her…

"I can't allow this to happen…

"There must be a way…

0

"Judging from the DNA taken from the samples, there were at least three boys…

"Disgusting…

"If there were more, they left no proof…

"Other than the fractures and bruises…

"Nonetheless, they'll get what's coming to them in due time…

"All of them…

0

"I am curious to further my research into the affects of waste mako…

"Strange, I was never interested in it before…

"But it's starting to look promising now that I'm able to see its affects firsthand…

"It has similar properties to the tainted Lifestream…

"Though it's quite different at the same time…

"I wasn't expecting it to hold such properties…

0

"First and foremost, I need to figure out how I can rectify this mishap…

"The mako he ingested will make it difficult to clone him properly…

"It fused with his cells on a molecular level and his tissues are decomposing at a faster rate than normal…

"I have no idea what the long-term affect will be…

"It will be challenging to cleanse it from the samples I obtained…

"No matter… I'll find a way… but I must work quickly…

0

"The first attempt to clone the boy failed…

"It was a mess…

"The cells divided and it has a terrible temper toward things it doesn't understand…

"Not only that, it looks like it's missing its upper half

"I'll keep the subject for later studies…

"Nibelheim should be a good place to keep it…

0

"I managed to succeed with the second one by making some adjustments…

"Unfortunately, there isn't much I can do to rectify the other problem and I'm running out of time to try again…

0

"He saw himself… both the clone and the original…

"He awoke before I expected him to and wandered before I realized he was gone…

"I found him standing over the corpse as if he were experiencing an emotion akin to horror…

"I'm not sure…

"I will try to convince him that it was a dream and see what happens…

"There's no way for me to know if he knew he was looking at himself until he awakens…

0

"It's been three days since I found him…

"I've cleaned his clothes and sewn the buttons back on…

"I'm unable to make him forget what happened to him and I managed to find out that there was one other boy…

"He only watched what the others did, he says…

"I fail to see how that makes his actions acceptable…

"He won't tell me the boy's name and I am very disappointed…

0

"Oh well…

"At least I managed to convince him that the corpse and the failed clone were just a nightmare brought on by the mako poisoning …

"I've convinced him that he was lucky I found him when I did…

"Otherwise, he would have been dead…

0

"He never needs to know the truth…

0

"I wish I had more time, but he's retained all his memories and appears perfectly matched to the original in every way…

"Other than the small mako problem…

"No matter…

"I've managed to offset it by enhancing other aspects of his DNA…

"He'll be stronger and faster… better able to defend himself should the need arise…

"If all goes well, I may never need to treat him again…

"Wutai's no friend to mako processing, so his chances of coming in contact with it are insignificant at best…

"I shall order a crew to take care of the contaminated spills to ensure his safety…

0

"It's been four days now…

"He's still shaken up, but I believe he'll be fine…

"He's showing no signs of degradation…

"I am not comfortable letting the subject go this soon…

"There is still much to study…

"But it's been long enough and Xvan must be devastated by now…

0

"She must have her boy back…"

0

Click.

With a tired sigh, Genesis rubs at his temples and brushes his fingers through his bang. He holds his hair from his face for several seconds as if he's deep in thought. Then he shakes his head and slightly turns to look at the locked door behind him.

It's an old cell door that belongs to the laboratory he took Tseng to. It's on the subterranean level in the bowels of Modeoheim. There are no windows, and no sounds escape from the vents above. The place is bustling with the sounds of old machinery and steam vents that still run. They still feed the pools above. Though no one has come to partake in the luxurious baths ever since the mako tragedy left the town abandoned.

The only people that travel through these parts now are scavengers or lost souls.

The building ruins, broken structures, and steam vents make the place a treacherous hazard to those who don't know their way around.

That may be the reason he chose the place.

Genesis knows the area well, as does Tseng. Though it was never a place either of them favoured, and the last time they were in Modeoheim, Genesis nearly left Tseng for dead. His goals are different now. He no longer hungers for the destruction of Shinra, and I doubt that it's not to do with the fact that they're not around anymore.

Instead, his only goal for the past several years has been to keep Tseng alive. Mostly so that he can use him to keep himself alive, despite that I suspect there are other reasons.

"Well…" he quietly says as he taps his fingers on the small wooden desk he's sitting at. It's worn out, splintering, and grey from age. All that's on top of it is an old dusty lamp and a recorder that appears to still work. "I guess that answers those questions.

"I always suspected there was more to that story…" he breathes out as he turns back to the desk and presses the eject button on the recorder. Then he studies the tape he removed and frowns. He found it hidden in one of the cupboards when he was rummaging through them. He was looking for something to drug Tseng with at the time.

Despite that he found what he was looking for, he could barely refrain from listening to it. We all knew what Hojo was like. He left his files scattered and hidden, and finding them was like finding pieces to many of his unknown puzzles. They were small treasures.

This, however, I doubt Genesis was expecting when he inserted it into the recorder and hit the play button.

I think part of him expected to hear something irrelevant—something uninteresting—but the moment he heard Xvan's name, he hit the rewind button and listened to it again. Xvan was Tseng's mother. We all learned that when we lost our minds and started rummaging through what we could find of Hojo's records. He was madly in love with her at one time, and the obsession never ended. She was the only thing in Hojo's life that brought out the small remnants of sanity he possessed.

Though, at times, it seemed like her presence on his mind only fed his insanity more—like cloning her only son to save her from the heartache of losing him, for one…

Among many other incidences that Tseng always seemed to be the unknown victim of—all in the name of his mother…

All for Hojo's skewed vision of his love for her.

"Hmph…" Genesis snorts as he lets out a heavy sigh and stands. Then he tosses the tape into a metal can and uses a fire spell on it to ensure that it's never heard or seen again. "No wonder he has so many issues… For once, Hojo may have been right… Better that he never knows."

He stays and inspects the remains in the can when the fire dies out, mostly to ensure that the tape was properly destroyed. When he's satisfied, he unlocks the cell door and walks over to where Tseng is lying on the blankets he put out for him.

"Poor dog…" Genesis muses as he takes the cap off the needle he pulls from his pocket and plunges it into a vial he grabbed from his other pocket. "The more I learn about you, the more I pity you."

Then he kneels down and gently brushes Tseng's hair from his face while muttering, "You've been a dog all your life, it seems…"

When Tseng stirs after he injects the needle into his arm, Genesis hushes him and smiles as Tseng slurs out, "What're… you… doing… to me…?"

"It's okay," he consoles as he helps him sit up. "You've been under a lot of stress lately… this will help you relax." Then he helps Tseng stand and he supports him by holding his arm around his waist while telling him that, "I have a treat for you… come with me… "

"You don't… know… the meaning… of treat…"

Despite Tseng's weak protest and Genesis' coy smile that goes unseen, he allows Genesis to guide him from the room. From there, Genesis takes him down a short hall and up two flights of crumbling concrete stairs. The place smells of old earth and Tseng manages to partially comment on it before he giggles about it. I assume the latter is from whatever Genesis drugged him with.

In turn, Genesis smiles back and steadies Tseng when he misses the last step and stumbles.

"Careful," Genesis warns. "These steps are old and fragile."

Then he stops at the top and stares at Tseng for a moment like he has a passing thought that he doesn't want to voice, and he quickly nods before he guides Tseng down another old hall that's partially lit by the daylight outside. The windows are too dirty to see through, and Genesis has taken care not to turn any of the lights on.

A few days earlier, he tested them and discovered that the electricity still works in many of the old buildings he's been exploring. Yet, he's made no effort to use it. Instead, he smiles as the sound of swirling water grows louder and Tseng suddenly stops as if he's suddenly realizing where he is.

"Modeoheim?" He asks, sounding like he has a little more control over his voice all the sudden, and Genesis smiles again, very subtly.

"The cabin was cold and we had no electricity," Genesis starts as he guides Tseng into the next room. It's filled with old baths that still run, despite the sludge that floats on the water's surface. There is one, however, that Genesis took the time to clean and test, and he carefully guides Tseng to it and stops at the edge.

"It was difficult to make a good meal, and keeping you warm was often a challenge."

Then he takes a look around at the other pools like he has a plan in mind, and he tells Tseng to kneel by the edge and put his hand in the water so that he can test it.

"Is it to your liking?" he asks as he quietly removes his coat and drops it to the floor he'd cleaned the day before. Then he carefully helps Tseng stand and he starts to undo the buttons on the man's shirt. "It's been a long time for you…"

"What… did you… drug me… with…?" Tseng weakly breathes out as he clumsily brushes Genesis' hand away when he attempts to help him remove his shirt. Genesis only shrugs and decides to remove his own shirt while calmly stating that, "I am not your enemy."

Then he notes through the corner of his eye that Tseng clumsily sits on the floor and continues to remove his own shirt.

"I never… said… that…"

"Perhaps not," Genesis notes while Tseng pulls off his dirty socks and pulls his torn pant legs up so that he can put his feet in the water. Both of them knows it was something that never needed to be said. They'd been mortal enemies ever since the day their relationship ended. As a result, it left them both silent on the matter.

Once Genesis removes his clothes, he carefully steps into the bath. The water is pumped from the hot springs high in the mountains and the temperature is often inconsistent as a result. Though, today, it seems acceptable, and Genesis moves to stand in front of Tseng and he stares at him.

Only a blind stare welcomes him back, and he twists the corner of his mouth before he finally confesses that, "It's a relaxant…

"That's what I injected you with.

After your little outburst in the cave, I'm afraid of what I might do if you grow out of control again…

"This is best for both of us."

Tseng's sarcastic snort is ignored and Genesis dares to place his hands on Tseng's hips to pull him closer to the edge of the water. "You forget," he starts, "that you are not the only one who suffers. I too, can lose control."

Genesis falls silent when Tseng leans forward, cups his face with his palms, and nods. Then he tilts his head and quietly confesses that, "I haven't… forgotten…"

After that, Genesis' eyes darken and he backs away and Tseng carefully removes the rest of his clothes while staying modest. Then he gets into the bath and Genesis moves to the opposite side to give Tseng his space.

For several minutes, they sit in the bath in silence. Tseng subtly sinks farther while keeping his knees slightly bent and his hands over his private parts to keep himself from being exposed. The water is just under his chin and the ends of his hair floats on the surface of the moving water. He remains still and deep in thought as if he's relishing in the memories of what it last felt like to be enveloped in such a comforting warmth.

Genesis stays at the other end and his arms are outstretched. He sits more freely and relaxed than Tseng as the tip of his long earring dances on the swirling surface and catches the light at different angles. He stares at Tseng as if he's staring through him. His green eyes never leave Tseng, and his smile remains coy and subtle as if something is mildly amusing him.


For the longest time, I forgot who I was. I denied who I was. I lost track and began to wonder what it was about Tseng's presence that brought out my sporadic behaviour.

I was focussed in his absence until I lived with him for almost two years. After that, I no longer needed him around to help me lose my head. He made me dizzy and unfocused, and when he wasn't around, it felt like I was withdrawing from a powerful drug and I wasn't able to handle it.

It took me several months to come to that realization.

After my initial outburst and my attempt to kill him, I realized something. Tseng was right. I'd lost my mind. If Genesis hadn't stopped me that night, Tseng would have been dead. I would have been responsible for that death, and I realized that I wasn't prepared for that. It was what Genesis said that finally woke me up.

They were my sins he would have been paying for.

It didn't sink in that night. Instead, Genesis and I had a go at it while Tseng quickly dressed himself and left the apartment. He was mumbling something in distaste before he started grumbling in Wutian about something I suspected was about us. I'm not sure what the neighbours thought, but I'm sure they had a fair idea that something was going on between Genesis and me when they saw Tseng fastening his coat as he left.

Later, I discovered that it wasn't us he was grumbling about. It was himself that he was cursing for allowing us into his life. He even considered that he never should have left Wutai in the first place.


Once things settled down, I finally realized that I had no choice but to accept the choices he made and that I had to let him go. It didn't matter whether I liked it, and I finally realized that he was right. There was something wrong with me and I needed help.

So, I took it upon myself to seek Hojo's advice and he recommended someone he felt was capable of helping me get back on track.

He took me off guard when he agreed that I had a problem. He surprised me even more when he recommended that I speak to someone other than him because as far as he was concerned, I never listened to him in the first place.

At first, I didn't know what to make of it. I wasn't sure if it was because he was on everyone else's side but mine or if it was simply because he admitted that I was flawed. Usually, Hojo's way of dealing with flaws was to point the finger at everyone else while overstating his superiority over them. He often did the same with me as well.

It was always everyone else.

They were the ones with the problems.

In a way, I guess I learned more from him than I realized about how I shouldn't behave. When I thought about it, I realized that I was doing the same thing.

He left me believing that I made a mistake and that I needed to rectify it, and to ensure that he was the type of person he always was and will be, he decided that it was a good thing that Tseng was out of my life again.

"You're better off alone," he told me. "You're not the type of person that needs anyone in your life."

It was strange that he never referred to Tseng as the malevolent menace he used to accuse him of being, and perhaps it was stranger that he suddenly didn't think I was better off with him once I decided to give up on everyone else.

"Alone is better…" he assured me as he nodded to reassure himself and he walked away while mumbling, "You'll see…

"You'll be back to your old self in no time…"


I think he was partially right.

I needed to be alone to straighten myself out and it was working. My focus was coming back and the strange dizzy feeling had almost disappeared all together. I wrote it off as me not being ready for a relationship. Maybe I was emotionally immature or something.

Regardless, I still thought about Tseng. I still burned inside over the thought of Genesis and him together, and sometimes, when I would lie in bed at night, I would place my hand on his side of the bed and imagine him near me.

I was so sure I could free him and protect him at one time.

Instead, all I did was imprison him and hurt him, and there was nothing I could do to undo that.

When that realization would hit me, I would turn onto my back, place my hands behind my head, and I would stare at the ceiling until my eyes grew too heavy to keep open.

That was the path I paved for myself. It was my own doing that brought me to that empty place inside, and all I could do was accept it.


Months later, the Turks came to the Junon base to investigate some missing soldiers and I wound up sitting impatiently on a bench until my name was called. I never questioned which Turks had come and I chose to keep myself busy until they left.

It didn't work out that way though.

It turned out that I was among the Soldiers being questioned. At the time, I had no idea what it was about and I cautiously handed my sword over to a large Turk I'd never seen before. He was dark-skinned and bald. His ears were covered in piercings, and I curiously regarded him when he took my sword and looked at it like he was questioning the necessity of its length.

As an explanation, he told me that, "There are no weapons beyond this point," and I shrugged as I watched him put it down after I told him to, "be careful with that."

Then he told me that I could have it back when I was done.

I didn't doubt that, I just didn't want him mishandling my sword, and when he opened the door and I stepped into the room, I caught myself suddenly snorting as if I were told a bad joke.

In a way, I suppose it was inevitable that we would cross paths again. I guess I just wasn't expecting it to be so soon. So, I stood there and stared at him while he sorted through his papers and then looked up at me with a dead look in those eyes that used to hold so much warmth.

"Have a seat, Sephiroth," he said, and he motioned his hand to the chair in front of the desk. His voice sounded clinical. It was neither cold nor warm and I suddenly felt like we were strangers meeting for the first time.

I supposed that was how it was to be then, and I decided to keep as cool as him when I stepped forward and took the seat. Then I silently stared at him while he finished preparing his papers. He looked washed out and dull. His hair lacked its usual lustre and his skin seemed almost pasty, like he'd worn himself out or something.

In a way, it might have been strange that I chose to focus on the fact that I hadn't seen him for months and chose to say, "You look good."

As a result, he slowly looked up at me like he was a lifeless doll before he moved his eyes to the recorder on his desk and then back at me like he was irritated about something.

"I thought I told you to quit talking to me like that," he said. Then he let out a sigh and I realized what he was saying.

He needed a story regarding the reason we were no longer 'friends', and I slowly nodded at him as if to say, 'I get it.' My best guess was that he said I started harassing him and that he wasn't interested in me that way, and I later found that my guess was fairly accurate.

"Anyway," he suddenly said, "I hear you're seeing a therapist."

"I am," I admitted.

"Good for you," he said as he straightened out his cuffs and tapped on his file. "I'm glad that you've finally come to terms with your… addiction."

"What is this about?" I asked, unable to hide the annoyance in my tone and he cleared his throat while looking at me like he was looking through me.

"First," he said, "I want to make it clear that I did not ask for this assignment.

"Unfortunately, I opened my mouth when I noticed a peculiarity in several of the missing people we've been investigating and it led us here where we noticed a relation between the citizens and the soldiers that went missing in action not too long ago."

"Okay," I said as I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest in a defensive way, "and what is the peculiarity?"

For a moment, he hesitated and his eyes focussed on me like daggers. Then he let out a heavy sigh and opened his folder.

There were several photos of missing citizens and soldiers, and he pushed them toward me while coldly asking, "Do any of these people look familiar?"

"No," I honestly said as I sat forward and looked at them, and for a moment, I thought he was going to lunge at me like I did or said something wrong.

Instead, he snorted and sat back while adjusting his tie as if he were irritated by my response. "None of them do?"

"Should they?"

"Leviathan… Sephiroth," he grumbled as he pushed the photos closer to me as if to suggest I should take a closer look and he moved his chair back from his desk like being near me disgusted him, "these are all people you've slept with…"

Then he shook his head in disbelief and sat back so that he could study my expression while dryly asking, "Not one of them looks familiar?"

Sadly, none of them did. I never really looked at any of them. I understood where his disbelief was coming from since I had plenty of time to go over my mistakes. Yet none of it helped. When I shrugged to confirm that I also had no excuse for my lack of memory, he quickly glanced at his recorder like he wanted to turn it off so he could candidly say whatever was on his mind before he covered his face with his hands and rubbed at his eyes as if to wake himself from a bad dream.

"I'm sorry," I admitted, to much more than my answer to the interrogation, and he quirked his brow as if to say that he heard me and would consider the apology; nothing more.

After a slight pause, I finally asked if I was a suspect and all he said was that they were only investigating it at that point.

He asked some more questions and I answered. Both of us seemed to relax more and when it was done and he turned the recorder off, he walked to the door to open it for me. Then he stopped before he opened it and candidly told me that, "No one suspects you, Sephiroth…

"We simply need to gather as much information as we can about the case."

"And you couldn't say that with the recorder on?" I asked while noting that he wasn't looking at me while he was talking to me.

"I'm not allowed to discuss the case with you."

"So…" I started while taking a step back before I asked, "Why are you telling me then?"

"I just…" he said as his fingers tightened on the door handle, "wanted to set your mind at ease."

Then he quickly nodded and opened the door. Again, he refused to look at me, and he waved his hand to the hall while thanking me for my cooperation.


That night I played the scenario over in my head. He was more civil than I expected him to be. More accurately, he was more civil to me than I deserved, and I knew that. I also couldn't get his appearance out of my mind. I'd never seen him look so haggard and it affected me.

He was never the type to complain or let others know when something was wrong with him. He was stubborn and often refused medical aid when he needed it. As a result, I couldn't help but concern myself with the possibility that he hadn't seen anyone and that something serious might be wrong.

It was Genesis' problem though. I kept telling myself that it wasn't my business. It was Genesis' responsibility to take care of him. Only, after seeing him that day, I couldn't help but feel that Genesis wasn't.


Maybe that was what led me to his hotel room that night. I'm sure there were other reasons, but it was his appearance that ate away at me the most. All I wanted was to make sure that he was okay, and maybe happy. Then I would leave.

That was all.

After I knocked on his door and he opened it. He regarded me with exhausted eyes and mumbled in a tired voice that, "I'm not supposed to be talking to you." He said it like I should have known the investigation forbade it, and I quickly said why I'd come.

"I just wanted to make sure you're all right."

"I'm not sure why you'd care," he said. "Considering that you tried to kill me." Then he was about to close the door and he heard the elevator stop at the end of the hall and quickly pulled me into his room to hide me.

At least he hadn't changed in that regard. He was still sneaky, and he still hid things from the rest of the world. Though I know he did it more because he would have gotten into trouble that time, and I suddenly found myself curious over the sudden strength he exhibited when he pulled me in.

He nearly lifted me from the ground, and that was about all the consideration I gave to that thought.

The next few minutes were more awkward than I anticipated. I wound up asking him how things were going with Genesis and he took me by surprise by scoffing at the notion like he wondered why I'd care. I couldn't help but feel guilty over the question all the sudden, and I tried to set his mind at ease.

It was over. I let him go, and it was okay.

Neither of us needed to hide anything from each other any more.

"Don't waste your breath," he stated as he sat on the edge of his bed. "We both know the only reason you're asking is because you're selfish."

Then he rubbed at his eyes and yawned while saying that, "Besides, I'm not so sure that I can refer to it as a relationship."

After that, he shook his head and mumbled out, "I don't have any feelings for him."

"I'm confused," I admitted, and he snorted while rolling his eyes like he wasn't surprised and explained that, "I didn't sleep with him because I was in love with him."

"Oh," I said. Admittedly, I couldn't think of anything else to say while I stood there and looked down at him and he subtly smiled like he expected no less.

I suppose our reactions shouldn't have been surprising. We'd known each other long enough, and he let out a heavy sigh before reluctantly explaining the rest of his side of the story.

He did it because he was angry. Then he explained the rest of what happened while I quietly listened. He explained what the fight was about and that Genesis had attacked him without any warning.

"Most of it's a blur…" he said. "I didn't really know what we were fighting about, and when he threw me into the kitchen and I landed on the table—that's how it broke, by the way—I couldn't move.

"I don't think he meant to hurt me…

"Well, you know what he's like…" he said as he tiredly waved his hand and got up to fill a glass with water while continuing. "I understood why I was angry… don't get me wrong…"

Then he took a large gulp as if he were parched and continued with his story. "I just didn't understand what I did or said to set him off and I defended myself as best as I could."

After a few more gulps of water to finish what was in his glass, he finally elaborated what his version of the story was.

"Anyway, when he realized I couldn't move, he panicked and used his restore materia. He stayed with me to make sure I was all right and he kept apologizing…

"He said he didn't mean to hurt me but I frustrated him so much…

"He said that he couldn't understand what I saw in you or why I defended you and that I deserved better, or something or other…"

"He was right," I admitted while I watched him wipe the sweat from his upper lip and sarcastically smile like he agreed. All the while, I hid my concern over his sudden thirst. It wasn't hot in the room, and he was moving and acting as if he were overheating. Beads of sweat were running from his temple and he seemed lethargic.

"Yeah," he said as he tiredly sat down and dropped his glass while paying it no mind. Then he mumbled out, "The next thing I knew… he was… kissing me… and I… didn't… fight it…

"I just…" he breathed out before he let out a weak burp and fell backwards onto the bed, "wanted to get back at you…"

"Tseng?" I asked as I stepped forward and looked down at him.

As much as I appreciated his candidness, something was definitely not right and I quickly stepped to the side of the bed and gently tapped his face with my fingers while asking, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"I'm just… tired…" he mumbled. He was barely audible and hot to the touch while I tried to sit him up and asked, "When was the last time you saw a doctor?"

"The night after I slept with Genesis," he answered. His eyes were closed and he fell toward my shoulder, "Something isn't right… He took me to Hollander… I don't… think… that man… knows… what he's doing…"

Unfortunately, Tseng was right. Though neither of us knew it at the time, and I wound up hanging onto him to keep him upright while saying that I recalled Hojo being in Junon and Tseng scoffed at me while tiredly grumbling that Hojo was the last man alive that he'd go to again, and then he added that he didn't think Hojo knew what he was doing either.

Part of me considered it, and part of me shrugged it off while I tried to come up with a plan to get Tseng to Hojo without attracting any attention. At the same time, I wondered why it always seemed like Hojo was in the same area as Tseng most of the time and then I brushed it off as coincidence.


"Come on," I said to him as I pulled him up with me when I stood and he grumbled that he wasn't going anywhere with me. Then he clumsily pushed himself away from me and said that he didn't need my help, or Hojo's for that matter.

Regardless, I managed to get him out of the room and down to the lobby under continuous protest while working out what I'd say if anyone questioned us.

"I ran into him and he needed my help…"

That's what I said to more than one person, and it's what I said when I pushed open Hojo's door and chose to ignore his initial protest to the fact that, "Doesn't anyone in this town know how to knock?

"I can't work with these kinds of rude… interruptions!"

Then he stopped and meekly said, "Oh… It's you…" while he held his clipboard close to his chest as if he were clinging to it and Tseng suddenly bolted past him so he could throw up into the man's garbage pail.

After that, Hojo's look of surprise suddenly turned to one of suspicion. He started asking me what I was doing with Tseng.

Oh great stars… We couldn't be back together again.

No…

But wait… Maybe it was for the better…

That was the basic interpretation of what he was rambling on about when he patted Tseng's back with a look of concern and peered over his shoulder to look at the greenish contents spilling into his garbage. At the same time, he rambled on about how he couldn't understand why in the hell Tseng would take me back after everything I put him through.

"You don't deserve a second chance after what you did!"

Somehow, the man that was going to ruin my life was suddenly too good for me and Genesis had become the new devil.

"How could you let this happen?" he asked Tseng with a look of bewilderment while Tseng pushed him away and grumbled in between hurls that we were 'not' back together.

Then Hojo turned his attention back to me as if Tseng's protest was too much for him to bear. "You drove him into the arms of a man that is no better than you!" He told me. He figured it was something that I needed to hear, but to make sure I was aware of everything that was going on, he simply had to ask, "Did you even know that the two of them were together?"

Of course I did, but the details were none of his business and I motioned toward Tseng who'd finally come up for air while pointing out what I thought was an obvious reason for us to be there.

"Oh yes…" Hojo said while nodding and attempting to walk Tseng away from the garbage while asking me, "What's wrong with him?"

"If I knew that, we wouldn't be here," I responded while Tseng gripped his gut and doubled over. His knees hit the floor with a painful sounding thud and I cringed while Hojo told me to stay where I was and claimed he was fine. He didn't need my useless help.

"This better not have anything to do with Hollander's incompetence!" He said as he scraped a sample of Tseng's vomit from his garbage and sneered while closely studying it. "That man has done nothing but make a mess of my work!"

Then he smeared the vomit onto a small piece of glass while Tseng remained on the floor and looked as if he were in excruciating pain.

The next scenario went by like a blur. To this day, I'm not sure what happened or if I remember it correctly. I recall Hojo leaning over Tseng and checking his forehead. He mentioned something about a fever. It was something about Mako over-multiplying again, or something like that.

Then out of nowhere, his back hit the wall when he went flying into it and Tseng spat something out like, "Get your disgusting hands off of me!"

At that point, I wasn't sure which one of them I should have helped. Hojo was like a father to me and seemed a little helpless all the sudden, and Tseng…

Well, I still loved him, regardless of what I was suddenly witnessing while Tseng insisted that, "I remember you!

"I remember what you did!"

When Tseng grabbed onto the counter to help himself stand, the counter's surface crumbled under his touch as if it were clay and a strange trail of something resembling ice crystals trailed out over the surface where his hand was and from where his feet touched the floor. It had a greenish hue and a subtle crackling sound as it slowly spread outward.

Instinctively, I stepped back and placed my hand on the hilt of my sword while Hojo nervously laughed and adjusted his glasses while steadying himself and digging around in his pocket with the other hand.

"Oh dear…" he mumbled. Then he blew some dream powder toward Tseng and it appeared to hit an invisible shield before it slowly danced to the floor.

After that, he mumbled something about how he hated it when that happened and then he quickly looked around while nervously giggling again.

In the meantime, Tseng started accusing him of things I was unfamiliar with and Hojo started opening and closing the drawers he was standing near as if he were anxious about finding something.

"You're delusional!" he told Tseng while waving his hand in a dismissive way toward him after he was accused of doing something to him when he was younger. "Clearly, you have me confused with a lunatic!"

Then he turned his attention to me and told me not to just stand there and, "Do something!"

I didn't know what though. Tseng didn't seem himself while accusing him that, "You did this to me!" and Hojo was frantically looking for something by this point. All I did was dumbly stand by with my hand still on the hilt of my sword while trying to figure out what in the hell was going on.

Somewhere along the lines I was accused of this being my fault by Hojo and that if I wasn't so obsessed with that damned Turk that none of this would have happened. It was all my doing. Everything was under control until I had to stick my…

Regardless, I put something where it didn't belong, I supposed.

The next thing I knew, Hojo was ripping one of my materia from my sword, and then I could have sworn that he purposefully blew the entire remains of his dream powder into my face. He roughly pushed me backwards after that and I lost my balance while being overwhelmed by a sudden dizziness.

I was so tired, all the sudden…

So tired…

At the time, I had no idea what was going on or why. All I knew was that the man I loved was accusing the man that raised me of making some kind of monster out of him called a ying/yang, or something or other. It was in the basement of the mansion in Nibelheim. Hojo retaliated by pointing out that it was odd for Tseng's 'fictitious' monster to be in Nibelheim if Tseng was in Wutai when all of this supposedly happened.

There was some kind of zombie Turk hiding down there too—One that had been missing for over 20 years. He saw it. It wasn't a dream and he knew the other monster was from Wutai. It was there when he was a child. Hojo used him to make it and he must have moved it to Nibelheim.

Hojo's response was, "That's preposterous! Are you even listening to yourself?"

My response was nothing but a loud thump when I hit the floor when trying to fight off the effects of the dream powder while Hojo yelled out, "Sleepel!" from the materia he took from me. He yelled it several times until Tseng finally hit the floor as well.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think I recalled Tseng attacking Hojo at the time.

I think… something wasn't right.


Sometimes, I wonder if I always knew that everything was a lie. I think I purposefully chose to deny that which I didn't want to face simply because I didn't know how to deal with it.

I could deal with the tangible. I had a reputation and many admirers by that time. The man that the public knew was far from the man that I was. They saw me as perfect and I fed from it when I was in their presence.

The truth was that I was far from perfect.

From the first time I could remember, I felt like I was on a path to enlightenment, but the trials and obstacles I had to face were too difficult at times and I chose to run away from them.

Sometimes, I even felt as though I were meant to experience the things I experienced due to some lesson I was supposed to learn. Even the things I did. They were all part of some grand plan. It was a testament of my strength, maybe.

Tseng had accused me of being too black and white at times. I was narrow-minded, and he was right to a degree. What he didn't know was that I was only what I appeared to be. There were things happening to me that I didn't want to discuss or admit to.

I even hid them from myself.

I wasn't blind. I just chose to close my eyes.

I knew that the changes I went through and was going through weren't normal. I always knew, and I always knew that something was off with Tseng. I just chose to ignore it. It was easier to ignore.

Maybe, it was even less frightening.

I blindly accepted Hojo's unfinished and nonsensical stories and excuses because it was easier to face than the mysteries I dealt with on an everyday basis. The shining image that everyone else saw was shadowed when I saw it in the mirror. I wasn't me.

My personal life was supposed to be normal. It was supposed to be like everyone else's. So, I kept my silence and hid the truth from everyone, including myself. I even went so far as to help Hojo hide it whether I was aware of it or not. At the time, all that mattered was that I believed I could be what I wanted to be.

At least, that was what I wanted.

It was true. When I look back, there were so many times that I could have been more determined at getting the answers I sought. There were so many truths I could have learned. There were so many times that I simply walked away because a part of me didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to know the truth.

I also didn't want to admit to the parts I hid from others. I had my own secrets. For example, maybe, I should have told someone about the voice I kept hearing in my head.

It was a woman's voice. It was often musical and more prominent when I was around Tseng. I knew it was the culprit for my dizziness and I chose to ignore it while lying about it at the same time. What it often told me and demanded of me was something that went against every moral I believed in.

I might have also admitted to the strange urges I had. I wanted to hurt people for no reason. The ones I loved, I wanted to hurt even more.

I wanted everyone around me to suffer.

Yet there was never any reason for it.

Maybe I had too much pride, but a part of me was afraid to admit that I might have been less than perfect, constantly fighting for my own control, or even crazy. That might have also been why I behaved the way I did with Tseng when we were together.

I needed to protect him from me so I drove him away.

I wanted to hurt him too much.

Either way, some of it was coming to surface when I regained consciousness and turned my head to see Tseng lying in what looked like a vessel full of liquid nearby. It was a metal tube with windows and it reminded me of the rejuvenation or stasis chambers used for various reasons. Only, this one was horizontal and different in a way I couldn't explain.

There was some kind of machine attached to it and it seemed like there were tubes everywhere. They ran through holes in the chamber and appeared that they were pulling a strange coloured liquid from Tseng and replacing it with something that resembled blood.

I'd never seen anything like it before and when I dizzily sat up, I noted that Tseng's appearance reminded me of death. He was all I focussed on and I groggily swung my legs to the floor before I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me.

It almost appeared that he weren't breathing, and I failed to notice Hojo sitting in a chair nearby. He never made a sound while he sternly observed us and rested his index and middle fingers against his temple. He looked like he was exhausted and it wasn't until I went to get up that he quietly told me in a reluctant way that, "I suppose there are some things I should probably tell you…"