Threnody

"Wake up."

Vincent opened his dark eyes slowly for the first time in two decades and the flashes of death and chaos were gone. There was only the darkness of his velvet-lined prison. He lay with his eyes open even though he could see nothing in the total darkness darkness of the closed coffin. Immediately he regretted waking. It was not right to stop his penance for even a moment. This is my sin, my torment. I must return to the nightmare. The scarlet eyes closed with calm resignation and Vincent let his body relax before he returned to the terror of his visions of apocalypse.

"Wake up."

Vincent's eyes opened again and this time he knew. It was a voice from his nightmare. The voice of the harbinger of death. The fair-skinned man lay perfectly still, listening expressionlessly to the Reaper's voice.

"I know you can hear me, beast. Wake up!"

Valentine felt his heart stop beating and he pressed his body back into the velvet lining as he felt a quiver of terror pass through him. He had meant to remain silent, but he felt something inside stir and an involuntary groan escaped his lips. Vincent felt the muscles in his back suddenly seize in an agonizing spasm. The low moan grew to a roar as his body writhed wildly in paroxysms. He could hear his own inhuman howl as his lithe body thrashed out against its wooden prison. Fingers stretched into claws and slashed at the velvet-lined coffin. The muscles in his back shrieked in agony as demon wings emerged. Vincent's conscious mind was paralyzed as the living Chaos inside him awoke from its long slumber and shattered his fragile body. Valentine longed to relieve his horror through a scream, but only feral snarls hissed past his fangs.

Suddenly the coffin lid was ripped off from the outside. Vincent stopped struggling and froze in the blinding light, throwing a hand over his sensitive eyes. After being in darkness for twenty years, even the dim torchlight was painful. The metal claw of Vincent's left hand dug into the wooden edge of his coffin as he sat up, trying to calm himself. His slender chest heaved as he tried to calm himself and he could feel the feral claws of the hand over his eyes slowly return to his regular fingers. What had caused him to change? Had it been the voice from his nightmares that had the power to change him into a monster at its command?

He could hear a sinister chuckle coming from next to where he sat sprawled in the open coffin. "So it's true… There really are rats in the basement…" the amused voice commented.

Valentine forced himself to face the reality of his terrifying dreams and slowly uncovered his eyes, squinting past the ungodly light. To his side, still holding the coffin lid, was the man from his nightmare. Silver hair which reached all the way down his back, green eyes which glittered with new madness, a long cloak as black as his soul, and a smile twisted with confidence and contempt. He was the one who would call down the meteor, the one who would bring about the death of everything on the planet, the one whose very existence was Vincent's fault. It was Sephiroth.

Sephiroth tossed the lid to one side and smiled down at Vincent. "I read that you were here from one of Houjo's journals. I just had to see if it was really true," he said, bemused.

Valentine shuddered at the sound of the voice he had heard so often in dreams, yet his ears had never heard before. The voice of an unholy union between the only thing he loved and everything he hated. He struggled to get out of the coffin, but found the muscles of his arms and legs which tried to brace him were painfully weak from years of disuse.

Sephiroth smiled at the sad spectacle. "Pathetic!" he chuckled. The war general's own ample muscles rippled with his laughter.

Vincent dropped back down, sitting with his back propped up against one of the walls of the coffin. One leathery wing, not yet returned from the transformation draped over the edge uselessly and his long raven black hair hung over Vincent's face as he dropped his head in disgrace. Vincent froze at the sight of his own long hair. Have I been asleep so long? He had always kept his hair relatively short during his time as a Turk and now it flowed down his back past his shoulder blades. He raised a hand to brush the long hair away from his face when the sight of his own hand caught his eye. His skin was pale, almost white as parchment from its years hidden from the sun. Useless muscles, hollow, dark-rimmed eyes, pale skin, raven hair grown wild, and nothing inside his heart except for a beast; Vincent had been reduced to nothing over the years.

"Why have you come here?" Vincent asked the silver-haired man darkly. His voice was hoarse from years of disuse.

"I've been spending a lot of time in the library," Sephiroth said casually, tracing his finger along a dusty shelf, then brushing it off. "I read in some of Hojo's journals about an experiment involving turning a man into a beast inside, making his body unaging, immortal so that the torture would not end. I just wanted to see if the results of the experiment really existed."

Vincent covered half his face with his remaining human hand. Was that all he was now? An experiment described in some sick monster's journal? The part about unending torture was right, though. The experiments that had altered Vincent's body had also somehow stopped him from aging, allowing him to live forever. "Leave me in peace" he whispered.

"You know what the difference between you and me is?" Sephiroth asked, ignoring Vincent's request. "Both of us are immortal: a gift you seem to regard as a curse, and I know is a blessing. However, you are not one of the Chosen People." Sephiroth's eyes grew distant as he spoke and the lust for power glittered in his eyes like broken glass. "If I should die some day, I will reign on high in the Promised Land. The blood of the Ancients flows through my veins. You, however, are merely human. No matter how science has altered you, your fate will be the same as the rest of the chaff on this planet. You could never reach the Promised Land."

The ex-Turk narrowed his eyes at Sephiroth's gloating. "If the Promised Land is where you are, then it would be no paradise. Hell is wherever the devil dwells and I'd have no desire to--"

Sephiroth struck him hard across the face with the back of his hand before Vincent could say another word. The force of the blow nearly knocked the coffin off of the altar it rested on. Valentine put a gloved hand to his burning cheek as he heard the grating sound of a sword being drawn. When he looked up again, he saw the tip of Sephiroth's curved longsword at his throat.

"For your insolence," Sephiroth hissed in fury, "You will die."

Vincent stared back at him, unflinching "Go ahead and kill me," the dark- haired man said without emotion as the sword tip pressed at his neck, "I take all your sins upon myself. It is only fair that you take my life as punishment for creating yours."

"What," Sephiroth grated out between clenched teeth, "are you talking about?" He tightened his grip on his sword.

"You are my responsibility," Vincent said quietly. There was no trace of fear on his face and he could tell it enraged Sephiroth further. "It is my fault that you exist and death would be a fair sentence for causing such a tragedy."

Sephiroth gave a short forced-sounding laugh. Madness flickered in his emerald eyes again. "And just how do you think you had anything to do with my existence?"

Vincent lowered his head and his eyes grew distant. "I let Lucrecia go. That is my sin. I loved her more than life and only wanted her to be happy, but I didn't stop her when she ran into the arms of another man. A madman who got her pregnant with demon seed. She was the victim of Hojo's cruel experiment and you were the finished product. I could have stopped her while there was still time, so I am as responsible for your existence as your father."

"You DARE to claim you are responsible for me!" Sephiroth roared. He put his hands under the coffin Vincent was sitting in and threw it off the table, sending both the casket and Vincent sprawling onto the floor. The shougun stood over Vincent who lay on the floor gasping from the pain and shock of impact. "No one is in control of my destiny but me! Your arrogance shows in your desire to call yourself my father! I am the son of Jenova and science, not lowly humans!"

Vincent only held spite in his eyes. "You'd like to remove yourself from all things human, wouldn't you? You don't want to remind yourself that you are born of the mortals you strive to destroy. The truth of the matter is, you may have your father's eyes, but I can still see Lucrecia in your face whenever I look at you."

Sephiroth's hand began to tremble in rage. "Hojo was my creator, not my father and my only mother is Jenova, not some WHORE you loved years ago!"

Vincent eyes suddenly narrowed in fury at the word. Seeing Vincent so outraged put Sephiroth back into his smiling, cocky mood. "Yes, she was a whore," Sephiroth continued, "You aren't responsible for me. Even if you had tried, you wouldn't have been able to stop her. There's no changing a woman like that."

Vincent lunged forward in fury without thinking, nearly cutting his own throat on the sword. Sephiroth laughed. "Careful, there!" he smiled coldly, "I can't have you die now since you seem to want it so badly. But there is no way that you can talk to me how you did earlier and get away with it, so I'll have to figure some other punishment out. I would have been content to just cut you up a little for your insolence, but since you were so arrogant as to think you were responsible for my actions I'll have to think of something much worse."

Vincent set his jaw. "After losing the only woman I love, having my own body and soul ripped apart by her lover, then facing you who represents their union and everything wrong with this world… Do you really think that any sort of physical torture you can think of would be so bad after all that?"

Sephiroth grinned tightly and held the side of his blade along Valentine's neck. "Just because you long for death and you don't fear torture does not mean I am going to let you off so easily. You're going to eat those words and anything else I 'give' you, understand? I don't like men, but you have a pretty face. I don't think it would make that big a difference whether you are a man or woman if you're down on your knees..." Sephiroth's hand brushed the front of his leather pants and he started to unbutton them.

Vincent narrowed his eyes in disgust at the thought. "You said it yourself, Sephiroth," he said darkly, "After what Hojo has done, I'm just a beast, an experiment. Anything you put in my mouth gets bitten off."

Sephiroth's eyes grew wild and his smile widened. "Well, then. How about I do something you dread, but couldn't do anything about."

It took Vincent a moment to realize what the demon was talking about and when he did, the first twinge of fear entered his heart. Still sprawled on the floor, he instantly began to move, to struggle to escape. He didn't even have the time to stand on his weak legs before Sephiroth grabbed his hair from behind.

Sephiroth overpowered the dark-haired man easily and bend him over the edge of the coffin, shoving Vincent's head down against the bottom of the casket and leaving his hips high in the air. Valentine knew that his atrophied muscles would not be able to break free of Sephiroth's iron grip. Peacemaker, his pistol, was out of reach on the other side of the room, so Vincent lashed out with the last weapon he had: the metal claw which Hojo had attached to his arm. He struck out with gold razor talons for a chest, a throat, anything, but Sephiroth caught the arm midair and twisted it behind Vincent's back, rendering him helpless.

Seph came up behind Vincent, pinning his calves to the ground with his own legs, holding Vincent's metal claw immobile in one hand and hold his head to the ground with the other. He released his grip on Vincent's hair for a moment to tear at the man's clothes until he was exposed. Vincent stared at nothingness with a sort of numb resignation and disbelief. He didn't feel the cold air of the basement rush against his soft bare skin. He felt nothing but the searing anguish of the wall of flesh that pressed against him from behind.

Despite the futility of the act, Vincent never stopped struggling. He jerked like a marionnete on strings and Sephiroth laughed with delight at the sight. Vincent refused to cry out when Sephiroth pulled on his long hair until his scalp burned. He stayed silent when his arms were twisted so far back he could feel something twisting in his shoulders. He didn't make a sound when the devil himself pressed into him with a shout of triumph.

The pain of his outsides being battered and torn was tolerable, Vincent reassured himself. But Sephiroth was without mery, without pity. It wasn't long before Valentine found himself gaping wide-eyed with the pain inside which was worse than he could have imagined. He bit his lips and tongue until they bled, but Sephiroth was relentless. The fifth time he was swung forward, Vincent let out a strangled cry. So deep it felt as if his insides were being peirced, the searing heat didn't stop until Vincent's unrestrained cries became a continuous groan.

It seemed like hours before Sephiroth howled his dominance at last and the searing heat was replaced by icy venom which filled his crippled prey. The silver-haired man released his captive who collapsed to the floor as limp as a doll. "How's that for a lesson?" he demanded.

Vincent lay where he had fallen, his eyes wide and staring, his lips silent. He couldn't move, couldn't hear the question being asked of him. He only felt something wet and trickling down his leg that he hoped was blood and wondered if this was fitting punishment for his sin. The silver- haired man from his nightmares was asking him something again, but the voice souned muffled and far away. He struggled to make sense of the words. Finally Sephiroth seemed to have given up for he waved a dismissive hand in Vincent's directiong and began to pack up his sword to leave.

Head swimming and vision blurred, Vincent found his voice long enough to whisper, "Don't burn down Nibelheim."

"What makes you think I would?" Sephiroth sneered.

"I've... seen it in my vision. Don't burn down Nibelheim. He'll kill you for it."

"Who? Zachs? Don't make me laugh! He--"

"Not Zachs. The one you don't even see. With blond hair," Vincent said slowly.

"I don't even know who you're talking about, but there's no way he could kill me."

Vincent forced a smile. "I hope you're right. I want that pleasure for myself. I don't care about this world burning, the end of humanity. I'm just fighting to acheive my dream... that I will be there to watch you dying in agony and hopefully be the one holding a smoking gun at the time."

"Keep dreaming," Sephiroth spat, and strode out of the room back towards the library.

"Oh, I will," Vincent whispered to the silence. Dragging himself back into his coffin, Vincent returned to his nightmare.