A/N:

Man…writers block is killer…

Please review! Feedback is very important to me.

Word Count: 2,595

Disclaimer: I own nothing except the plot.

Aftermath

By Catsitta

Chapter Three: Discord

He never liked blood. He still didn't.

The teenaged blond recalled hazy memories stained with red. Those were bad memories. Memories better forgotten. Yet, they were also the hardest to forget. They were grounding, a tether to reality and life. How he wished it were easier to cut himself free and float away into the void of nothingness.

"Cloud." It was Strife. The man had returned…but who was Cloud? Right, that was their shared name…wasn't it?

"Yeah?"

"Your turn." The older version of himself said, his black clad form hash against the ethereal glow that was their mutual place in the Lifestream.

"My turn…to do what?" Cloud asked, sitting up from where he lay, red-tinted thoughts leaving his mind for the moment. Strife looked none too amused, for he frowned, those eyes of his darkening.

"To speak with Sephiroth," there was no arguing the fact,"You are ready."

"What am I to say?"

"Remind him of his humanity."

"Yes sir." But he knew he sounded unenthused. This was not a task he awaited with bated breath.

000X000

Midgar was in chaos.

With both the President and his proclaimed heir dead, there was no designated leader. The Turks were doing their best to keep things quiet, but the rumor mill was turning too fast to manage. Within three days of the unexpected murders, every man, woman and child had heard some version of the news.

Some believed it to be a conspiracy—that one of the Directors hired an assassin to off the ShinRas.

Others whispered of murder-suicide, claiming that the elder ShinRa killed his son in a fit of drunken rage and upon sobering, took his own life out of grief.

Then there were those who held threads of bare truth. They spoke of Sephiroth's fall from grace and his homicidal insanity. They were the ones who had family in Junon and knew of the slaughter there. They were the ones that trembled with fear, knowing that their greatest hero had become their greatest enemy.

They were also the ones who the Turks were trying to silence. Having word of the General's rampage on the public's lips would lead to mass hysteria. Keeping everyone in a false sense of security was key to maintaining order until a new president could be found and instated.

And Reno, for all his faults, found himself at the head of crowd control. He could talk his way out of the worst situations, but this…this was an entirely different breed of situation. This involved hundreds of thousands of people rather than a hundred, and there was only so much one man could do once panic starts to alight. A single spark could cause an eruption, and it was only a matter of time before he got burned.

"Yo boss man," the redhead said through his headset, wincing slightly as he picked up his pace, navigating through the crowded streets with practiced ease,"There aint much I can do to stop the rumors. Folk are talking and don't trust a word out of my mouth, my being a Turk and all. Heck, some of 'em even accused me of bein' the assassin who took the fat man out!"

Tseng was silent for a while, responding only after he considered every possible action and consequence. "Return to Headquarters. A public announcement needs to be made." He was on desk duty for a while due to his injuries, giving the man a great deal of time to think. Unlike Reno, he had a natural resistance to magic and mako, which made using Cures ineffective and drinking Potions comparative to drinking water. It was a great attribute to have against materia specialists in combat, but when it came to practicality after and out of battle, it was a essentially a handicap.

"Is that a good idea?"

"Have one that is better?"

"Nah…just hoping that this announcement you wanna make is good news."

"It is."

"'Kay. Care to share?"

"The new President of the ShinRa Electric Company shall be appointed."

"Woah…who is it?"

"That is sensitive information, Reno. Once you return, details will be discussed."

"Right'o, boss man."

And with that, their conversation ended with a crackle of static.

Reno scanned his surroundings. A thick crowd was building in the street ahead of him and instinctively, he knew it was best to break it up. If he could keep the citizens of Midgar from rallying up for a little while longer….

"Break it up everybody!"

Men and women turned his way, took in his navy suit and quickly scattered. Business men and women were like rats in a rainstorm, none of them brave enough to face even a single Turk. The redhead shook his head at the scene, realizing how cowardly and weak the upper plate dwellers had become. Their soft, high gil jobs did nothing to prepare them for war…

And that was what coming. Reno could almost taste it on his lips.

He also doubted that what remained of SOLDIER and the regular infantry could stand in the face of the enemy.

"Damn…I need a smoke." He muttered, once again striding down the street. There was only so much he could do, and it would no doubt get nasty if these pampered souls took to heart the truths behind all the lies. After all, if their hero would turn on them…who could they trust?

000X000

Laying abandoned on the dirt was the tattered book Cloud had left behind in their last encounter.

Sephiroth had ignored it for the most part as he tried to put his thoughts in order. For some reason, every time he began to plan, his mind wandered elsewhere, only to be harshly jolted back on target by his mother's voice. Jenova, whom had started out as a caress against his conscious mind, had become irritating. Scathing. She no longer persuaded, she demanded. Her voice so sweet had become like nails on a chalkboard.

How he wanted her to just be quiet!

Tangling his fingers in his hair, the silver General did his best to distract himself from a budding head ache.

Sleep. Maybe he should sleep.

"Sleep would probably do you some good…you look tired."

Sephiroth inhaled sharply, his eyes snapping open. Sitting cross-legged before him was the little liar he killed off in Nibelheim. The boy who claimed to be the same man as his mentor, who pleaded with him that fateful day when the village burned…The boy who was the pathetic progeny of a great, industrious SOLDIER.

"I watched you burn." Sephiroth growled lowly, attempting to stand up, but his legs refused to cooperate. It was as if his back were strapped to the tree behind him and his feet nailed to the soil below. His arms were leaden, refusing to do more than twitch closer towards where Masamune lay. "W-what is this? Why can I not…?"

Cloud tilted his head, a faint smile on his lips. It was one of unconcern, as if he knew that there was nothing the silver warrior could do to harm him should he manage to overcome whatever condition he placed upon him. "You should relax."

"Not until I wipe the stain of human filth from this Planet!"

"Why?"

Sephiroth glared at the offensive blond teen. He was not one to play such games.

"Hm. Guess you don't know, then." Cloud reached out with one hand and gingerly picked up the tattered book beside him. He thumbed through a few pages, reading the words casually as he ignored Sephiroth's presence. Then, after a few minutes of letting his eyes take in the words before him, he nodded and began to read aloud.

"Entry Three,

Day XX, of Month XX, of Year XXXX.

It has been a week of trials. The Professor has yet to find a suitable subject for his tests and is quickly becoming volatile. His genius is something grand to admire, but his temper is positively foul. Like a child, he is, always throwing fits when he does not get his way. But much unlike any toddler, his bouts of anger are more than screaming. As a Scientist myself, an apprentice studying under the Professor's critical eye, I can say that the rumors of his fury are true. I have watched him perform the most inhumane acts, turning men into monsters without qualm…With a smile."

"Entry Eight,

Day XX, of Month XX, of Year XXXX.

I have come to the conclusion that having a Turk as a bodyguard is not as unpleasant as it sounds. Vincent Valentine is quite the gentleman, and of all the men to court my favor, he is perhaps the most…romantic. Ironic, I know, but the man, for all his cloak-and-dagger ways, is impossibly charming. Unlike my fellow Scientists whom have nothing more to offer than their intellect, Vincent brings to the table not only a keen mind, but also high levels of strength, dexterity and charisma. All traits favorable in a potential mate…Any children he sires will no doubt be among the greats of this Planet."

"Entry Fifteen,

Day XX, of Month XX, of Year XXXX.

The Professor approached me today about an experiment he wishes to conduct. He says for it he needs a child utterly untainted by the world. A child still cradled in the womb. I asked him how he was to find said child and he laughed. Then, he took my hand in his own and kissed it, reminding me that he was handsome and charming in his own way. He was the only man who could challenge and appreciate my intellect. Something that not even my Turk bodyguard can claim."

"Entry Twenty-Eight,

Day XX, of Month XX, of Year XXXX

I'm pregnant!"

"Entry Thirty,

Day XX, of Month XX, of Year XXXX

Today I became a bride. It was a rushed affair, true, but the Professor seemed so earnest in his declaration of love. I never knew he could be so quixotic, so passionate. It was as if he sensed the little girl inside me that always wanted a knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet. Although, I do wonder if I was somewhat hasty in accepting the arrangement. Vincent often warned me to be wary of the Professor's kindness, and with him gone on a Turk mission of some sort…No, I shouldn't second guess myself. Today is a good day and the start of a journey. The start of my new life as well as the start of the greatest scientific discovery every made."

"Entry Thirty-Five,

Day XX, of Month, of Year XXX

It's a boy! The Professor is as excited as I am. Although, he does not approve of what I wish to name my unborn son, saying that it was frivolous for a future warrior to have a fanciful moniker. But, he is my son and the Professor will not change the fact with his experiments. No matter what becomes of him, my son, he will be mine. My precious Sephiroth."

Sephiroth shook his head in denial, not believing what he was hearing. The little brat was making things up, it was lies flowing upon treacherous lips not truths. His mother was Jenova. His father…His father could not possibly be Hojo…nor could it be that Turk.

"You're human," Cloud said, as if sensing his thoughts,"and no matter what Jenova tells you, she will never be your mother. She is a part of you, yes. But no more your parent than she is to any other SOLDIER." The book—the journal—slipped from his hands as he stood. Blue eyes were clouded and distant, looking beyond what he could see.

"Lies." He hissed.

"No. I never lied to you. Not once."

The blond soon stood before him, so small and fragile. Just a child in the grand scheme of things. Soon he was kneeling before his General, revealing in those eyes of his how he was still loyal. How he still admired him. Still loved him…

'He's not your lover. Lieutenant Cloud Strife is dead!'

But those eyes. So serious, yet whimsical. Open yet hardened. Like shards of glass reflecting trace beams of light, scattering color in every direction. He saw in him the strong yet broken man who he himself had fallen hopelessly in love with. But, in a blink, that man was gone, replaced by a stranger wearing his face.

"Get away from me…"

"As you wish." Cloud whispered, reaching out and twirling a lock of silver around his fingers, gazing at the strands approvingly. "Just remember that you had a human mother. A human father. A human lover. No matter their sins, they were still human. Imperfect. As are you. No matter how you were raised, and no matter what poisons your blood and mind now—you are not a tool. Not a monster. Just a man. A proud General. A good SOLDIER. Perfect in your imperfection."

The boy nudged closer, soft lips ghosting against Sephiroth's ear.

"Remember. Fight. Your memories of love can overcome Jenova's vile hate."

Sephiroth tried to speak but found his voice stolen away. The world was spinning. Spinning. Faster and faster until it was utterly still. Sparks of color danced away, bursting like fireworks…bleeding into gray.

"Wake up."

And he did.

Gulping down thick mouthfuls of air, the silver General jackknifed up from where he lay prone, taking in his surroundings with wide, dilated pupils. Night had fallen and passed…Dawn peeked over the edge of the horizon, alighting the forest in a soft gold-and-crimson glow. Above, the sky was painted with the richest of hues, so peaceful when combined despite their violent intensity.

It was the first time in over a week he had slept more than a few winks.

So why did he feel as if he had not slept at all?

Uneasy, the silver General stood, his muscles complaining about the awkward sleeping arrangements. But he ignored the minor aches in favor of settling his troubled mind. Sephiroth picked up the journal he had left unopened, if only to prove that his dream was just a dream, that this Lucrecia Crescent and Vincent Valentine were merely people uninvolved in his life.

His eyes flicked from page to page, the texture of the paper and ink rough against his calloused fingertips. There were blots and scratches, watermarks and stains, but the words were scripted and clear. As he read the very last letter on the very last page, Sephiroth realized that in his hands he held damning evidence that Cloud spoke the truth.

However, human, was stretching said truth.

If anything, it proved he was monster…

But if Jenova was not his mother…why was he fighting? Who was he fighting for? Himself?

Confused and conflicted, Sephiroth set the journal alight and watched as every bit of paper burned. Jenova's scream was once again only a buzzing in his ear, no longer dripping suggestions into his mind. But now, without her guidance, he was left feeling hollow. Achingly so.

Who was he?

What was he?

Then he grinned, the expression twisted with malevolence.

"The humans will still burn for their sins. I will turn their cities to smoke and rid this Planet of their corruption. Then from the ashes will arise a new age. One which I rule." Sephiroth began to laugh, aware that neither Jenova nor Cloud wished for him to take over the world. Jenova wanted it destroyed and Cloud wanted it saved. Well, he was done listening to all the liars. He would make the truth. He would become god. "This I swear."