Hello! I'm attempting to get back into the swing of writing. I'm sorry if you were hoping this would be an update on Connected or even Wild Kingdom. Neither of them are forgotten or abandoned just... spectacularly delayed in terms of editing which is my fault. Anyway, enjoy and please review!
As always, the characters are not mine.
On one side it had to do with materia and summons and the fact that for some reason the battle was bounded by Mako seepage on the one side and an ancient river on the other.
On the other side it had to do with the two demon fangs masquerading as swords, a miko, two hanyous, one sociopathic and the other idiotic, and a wind tunnel in the middle of a lecherous monk's hand.
On both sides, as is true everywhere, it was a matter of timing.
Sephiroth didn't so much wake up as he became aware while already walking. It was nice, wherever he was, but it wasn't Wutai. The rebel island was tropical for the most part and while the highlands could be pleasantly cool like this, the flora was all wrong. The grass under his still moving feet seemed thick and healthy but the color reminded Sephiroth more of the area around Nibeilheim during that mountain town's brief summer. The thought that he had been overcome and transported northwest was entertained for less than a second. This was the wrong time of year for Nibelheim's warm season and besides, the fauna that came out in force during the few weeks of pleasant temperature was completely absent. Furthermore, there, the gentle hills and valleys he was traversing would have quickly given way to steep crags and the mountains would have been visible everywhere.
Instead he walked over a rolling land of green grass under a pale sun and a curiously washed out sky. Sephiroth stopped for a moment and checked his gear. Everything was in place. Masamune was still strapped to him, the same way he placed it every morning. "Maybe it's a dream," a laughing voice whispered inside his head. "Have you pinched yourself?"
"No Lt. Fair, that will not be…" Sephiroth paused, eyes widening. "necessary." Where was Zack? They'd been back to back, hard pressed by a pair of Wutaiin regiments that they'd stumbled across. Endless minutes had been spent dodging fireballs and summons as the two men struggled not to be pushed into the treacherous ground above the underground river or the Mako pools. Frowning Sephiroth tried to reconstruct the moment before becoming conscious here. Zack had been wounded and started slowing down and leaving wide gaps in his defenses. The remaining attackers had surged forward, determined to press their advantage. Sephiroth remembered Zack's tired face and his own grim determination before he unleashed his own barrage, desperate to keep them alive. Then… light and sound and a cool breeze and he was, walking.
Sephiroth examined himself again, looking for details he may have missed the first time. Everything was in perfect order, himself included. The blood, sweat and general grime of battle had been removed. He queried himself mentally; he seemed as sound as he ever. Another survey of the surrounding area revealed nothing. Maybe Zack hadn't come with him? No, that was unlikely considering their proximity at the time of the… incident. Zack was most likely here, now it was just a matter of finding him. Another look around gave better results than the last. A humanoid shape was approaching, so far away that it was difficult to discern even with his enhanced eyes. Moving toward it seemed pointless; he didn't want to scare it off and he was confident in his ability to track it should it turn aside.
After a few minutes it became clear tracking was not required. The man, he was fairly sure it was a man, was headed unerringly toward him. As was habit, Sephiroth assessed the newcomer as a threat. The other man was dressed very much like something out of a Wutaiin history book. Even Lord Godo didn't put this much effort into his appearance. Over the obviously luxurious outfit, was armor of rather dubious utility. The two swords were interesting. Neither of them appeared as long as Masamune, whether that was to his advantage or his potential opponent's he wouldn't know until he had a chance to see the man's fighting style. The man had long arms… actually, just one. Interesting and definitely to Sephiroth's advantage. He looked Wutaiin but somehow different, sharper than any human should. The time until the other man had reached him was spent deciding how best to subdue him should the diplomatic route fail.
The other man stopped a judicious distance away and the next few minutes were spent a few moments considering each other. The other man's nostrils flared minutely and he seemed to relax infinitesimally. Other than that, and the hair waving gently in the breeze, the stranger seemed like a particularly well-crafted statue. Sephiroth was somehow pleased that he'd taken the time to put his own hair back in a battle ready braid. After several more minutes spent staring at his new acquaintance and being politely ignored him in turn, Sephiroth decided to open the lines of communication.
"I am SOLDIER First Class Sephiroth. Do you understand me?"
The smaller man stared for a moment and then looked off into the distance as if he was contemplating whether to bother any further with the idiot in front of him. Alright, he didn't speak Standard. No problem there, Sephiroth was fluent in Wutaiin, Old Corellian and, after having spent too many nights dragging an inebriated Zack to his bunk, had a passable knowledge of the vagaries of native Gonagan. He studied his target, took a clue from his clothing and repeated the question in Wutaiin. The man deigned to look back at him. After a pause doubtless designed to let Sephiroth know that he was receiving a mark of favor in getting a response at all, the man replied in archaic but understandable Wutaiin.
"Sesshomaru, Lord of the West. You are from the mainland."
Sesshomaru? His translation skills might be off but Sephiroth was fairly sure that the name meant 'killing perfection'. And he'd thought Hojo made bizarre name choices. Regardless, the question gave him pause. Had he been incorrect? Were they in Wutai? Admittedly, Sephiroth hadn't been able to do much exploring between battles and he'd only read the intelligence reports about the terrain he was likely to be fighting in. A second's speedy thought and he again dismissed the possibility. This place was not on the Planet, he was increasingly sure of it. The question now was whether being from the mainland was a good thing to this Sesshomaru or not.
A wince fought for freedom but was ruthlessly suppressed. Hedging was not in Sephiroth's nature but he also didn't like to lie. Fortunately Sesshomaru just blinked languidly and began walking again in the same direction he'd been headed before. It was, come to think of it, the direction Sephiroth had been headed before he'd stopped to reassess. Seeing no other viable options he elected follow the other man. Somehow he didn't think Sesshomaru was a native of this land but he certainly seemed like a man with a purpose.
Sephiroth's internal clock said they'd been walking for only about fifteen minutes when the other man began taking deeper breaths through his nose and speeding up. Keeping pace, Sephiroth sniffed but smelled nothing but grass. He glanced around but they were cresting a small hill so that counted for nothing. Then he heard it, Zack's distinctive laugh as well as a high pitched giggle. He and his companion crested the hill and took in the view. A field of flowers spread out before them. And romping through it without a care in the world were Zack and a little Wutaiin girl. He turned his attention to Sesshomaru; he was watching the two in the field intently. There didn't seem to be any reason why, the girl was smiling and laughing as Zack chased after her. She turned to see her pursuer and must have placed a foot wrong because she went down with a surprised shriek. Zack, a SOLDIER first class, the man his general would always chose to have at his back, the man known and feared throughout Wutai, failed to stop in time and went arse over elbow trying to avoid crushing the girl. With a small smile, Sephiroth turned to Sesshomaru to gauge his reaction only to be met by a whoosh of displaced air.
He whipped his head back toward Zack and the girl and saw his formerly calm acquaintance hurtling toward an oblivious Zack who had just put his head above the flowers. Before the scene had fully impressed itself on Sephiroth's brain, his body was moving. It was a near thing, managing to place himself in front of Zack and the girl before Sesshomaru could reach them. Sesshomaru reared back, hand curled into a claw, porcelain face twisted with annoyance. It was the work of a moment to unsheathe Masamune and issue an order. "Step back."
"Seph, what the hell?"
Zack's voice and the girl's gasping breaths were distractions. Sesshomaru tried to dart around and once again, matching his speed was difficult. Sephiroth's coat flared as he spun, working to stay between the growling creature in front of him and the people behind him. Contrary to what they said in the enemy camps, Sephiroth neither hunted children nor ate them. The girl might be Wutaiin but he saw no reason for her to see his increasingly angry foe. Zach moved to stand but a head jerk from Sephiroth had him sitting down. Even his soothing voice was a distraction that was shut out when Sesshomaru spoke.
"Return the girl or this Sesshomaru will kill you."
Sephiroth opened his mouth to ask what claim the other man had on the child when a little voice piped up with a happy "Sesshomaru-sama!" Zach gave a startled cry and suddenly the child was headed toward their attacker as fast as her little legs would carry her. Sephiroth prepared to leap forward and rescue her, reasoning his coat would defend him against nails so wickedly sharp they looked like claws. The other man moved first though, his speed even greater now. Sesshomaru placed himself in front of the girl and glared as if he had been born to do nothing else.
"Wait a minute," Zack muttered behind him and then stood up and moved to the side, ignoring Sephiroth's head motion to the contrary. "Hey! Rin-chan!" he called out through cupped hands. "Is this your Sesshomaru?"
A little head popped out from behind her… friend though a low growl from him made it disappear quickly. "Yes, yes! This is Sesshomaru-sama! Is that your Sephy?"
Sephiroth found himself resisting the urge to box his lieutenants' ears, a task made that much more difficult when Zack answered in the affirmative and Sesshomaru immediately relaxed, his hand dropping to his side as if he hadn't been ready to ruin a leather jacket moments ago. Most people would have sworn his face was impassive but Sephiroth just knew the bastard was smirking.
The passage of time saw Zach and Rin sitting making flower crowns while Zack explained that, though there were some similarities, no 'Sephy' was not a dog demon. Sesshomaru and Sephiroth stood some distance away, both attempting to look as if they weren't watching each other and their respective charges like hawks. Zack's gaze alighted on his commanding officer and its meaning was clear. Now was the time to work on what the younger man called 'the fine art of small talk'.
"Are you from Wutai? Do you know how we came to be here?" There, two questions that showed interest in the person he was conversing with, just as Zach had instructed. Now it was Sesshomaru's turn, a fact that he did not seem inclined to acknowledge until the child smiled and waved at him before turning back to her project.
"I know that Wutai is not near my lands. We are here because of my foolish younger brother and a hanyou named Naraku." Just because Sephiroth wasn't good at small talk didn't mean he couldn't read between the lines. Doing so came with being raised in the heart of Shinra. I don't know how we got here though I know who's going to pay for it, he translated, and it should be known that, no matter where you come from; I'm a lord and therefore outrank you.
"You are not a demon." Years of training kept Sephiroth from jumping when the other man spoke again.
"No," he replied, thinking of the things his enemies at home screamed at him. Monster. Murderer. Destroyer. He focused intently on Zach. "I'm not a demon."
"You have something like youkai, but it is unclear. Your follower has it as well but he is…" The girl giggled madly as Zach's flower crown fell apart as soon he held it up. "less tainted than you." Sephiroth inclined his head silently agreeing.
"We were fighting when we seemed to fall into this place." he offered. "I don't think my adversaries created it, I don't think they even know about it or they'd be here, looking for me."
"Neither your enemies nor your army will be able to retrieve you." No one from your side will be coming to help you or harm us right? Sephiroth inclined his head again and the other man looked off again, radiating boredom.
More time passed, though the general found it difficult to gauge from their surroundings. The sun never seemed to move and no one else appeared. Zach and Rin seemed more than content to play flower based games and shoot their silent protectors occasional happy looks. It was suspicious in fact, how tranquil everything was. It had to have been hours but Sephiroth was neither hungry nor tired. He debated asking his counterpart but decided that he was unlikely to get any new information from that quarter.
After what may have been another hour or three, the other man shifted, his attention seeming to hone in on something downwind of them, his apparently superior sense of smell no doubt warning him. It was odd to think he was keeping company with a demon from another world but, considering the circumstances it wasn't as disconcerting as it would normally be. Whatever was coming was likely friendly considering Sesshomaru's comparatively relaxed posture but Sephiroth still looked into the distance, straining his eyes and ears for a hint of what was to come. And sure enough, a minute later he saw two figures approaching. They resolved themselves into two girls, one dressed in pink and one dressed in… he thought it was supposed to be a school uniform but the skirt was scandalously short. They both started waving and trotting forward making the cooing noises that pleased women seemed to. Zack and Rin stood and greeted them with cries of "Aeris babe!" and "Kagome-chan!"
The girls made for Zack and the child first. Much was made of flower crowns and Zach was no less enthusiastic than the child in discussing the intricacies of the manufacturing process. After a few moments the four of them finally approached he and Sesshomaru, both ladies liberally adorned with flowers. The alleged school girl moved toward the demon but remained a respectful distance away. "Sesshomaru-sama." she said, not quite making eye contact. He looked over her head but did manage a 'hn' which seemed to satisfy her. Ms. Gainsborough watched the exchange, eyes sparkling. "Well," she said cheerily, "you were hard to find!"
"Find?" Zack said with a puzzled grin. "We've been right here." Ms. Gainsborough's smile dimmed a fraction. "You have been sweetie, that's true. And for you and the little cutie here, that would have been fine for a long, long time. But Sephiroth and this gentleman knew something was going on and they would have tried to make you move. Then no one would have been happy." Zack tilted his head to the side, thoroughly bemused. Electing not to wait for his lieutenant's obviously comprised faculties; Sephiroth posed the pertinent questions himself.
"Where are we? And how did we get here?"
Ms. Gainsborough looked at the other girl, (Kagome, the child had called her), who fidgeted a bit when everyone else turned to her as well. "As far as we can tell," she said. "You two sort of slipped out of your proper dimensions and ended up here." Seeing the blank looks on every face but Ms. Gainsborough's, Kagome tried again. "Ok, where we come from, Sesshomaru-sama, is a room. And where you come from Sephiroth-san, is a different room. And normally there are no doors to get into, or out of either room. But you two were in the right place, at the right time to make… windows and end up in the hallway where no one is supposed to be unless…" she looked at Ms. Gainsborough who smiled softly and finished the thought.
"Unless they are dead. This is a sort of holding area before a person moves on completely." So that had been it then. He and Zack had fallen in some muddy foreign field. Sephiroth felt no panic and little regret, only a distant sort of surprise and acceptance until Ms. Gainsborough chuckled and clapped her hands. "But that's the great thing! None of you actually died! You fell through the window still alive so you're a little out of it because how things work here but otherwise you should be just fine!"
"You will tell me how you came here." Sesshomaru was staring at Kagome who met his gaze to answer.
"This place, this waiting area, is for the dead. But a focused dreamer can come here sometimes. When you disappeared from our world and they disappeared from theirs, she and I went looking for you without even knowing we were doing it. We met up here and have been looking for you for…" she glanced at Ms. Gainsborough who nodded and took up the tale.
"We've been looking for a couple of weeks in the waking world. We can only search while we dream deeply and not every night is has a lot of that kind of sleep. Also, we had to track you by, let's see, how to put this… Once someone gets totally settled here, they just blend into the landscape so we couldn't feel Zach or Rin-chan at all. Even with the two of you radiating unease it was hard because you kept moving or we kept being awakened. Anyway, the thing is that we did find you and you can go home!"
Sephiroth cocked his head slightly. "I thought there are no doors." Ms. Gainsborough nodded. "There are no doors and we can't recreate the window but where this place and dreams meet up, the walls are fluid. We can get you out if we're quick. Speaking of which, we need to go now, before we're woken up again."
He would never admit it but occasionally one of the benefits of association with Zach was that the younger man wasn't ashamed to ask silly questions.
"You're sure this is safe right?" for instance. Did Sesshomaru just snort? A glance at the demon gave no clue and Sephiroth decided he must have imagined it.
"It'll be as safe as we can make it!" Miss Gainsborough said. She and Kagome looked at each other briefly, nodded as if deciding something and then turn back to their respective charges. "Alright dears, hold hands!" Miss Gainsborough announced. She took Zach's hand and then Sephiroth's, grinning at each man in turn. Looking into her spring green eyes Sephiroth saw… something. If he were a more fanciful man he'd say it was something terribly old and knowing. The feeling lasted for only a moment before it was gone. Present circumstances notwithstanding, Sephiroth had never been particularly prone to flights of whimsy and he wasn't going to start now. For all he knew this entire interlude was the product of some sort of hallucinogen.
A glance over at the other little group revealed that Kagome was having difficulties. She was holding one of Rin's hands and Sesshomaru held the other. Kagome was muttering to herself as her free hand fluttered toward Sesshomaru's empty sleeve, then away. Whatever relationship they had in their own world, the girl obviously didn't feel comfortable grasping whatever lay underneath all that silk and armor. The child was unperturbed by the delay, taking the chance to hum to herself and swing a little.
An uncomfortable minute passed, Sesshomaru staring into the distance, Rin bouncing to her own rhythm and Kagome frowning and strategizing. Zach, in typical Zach fashion, provided a solution that was both useful and tactless.
Kagome turned to regard the lieutenant, her face a mask of bewildered horror. "Wh… what?" , she choked out. Zach shrugged and began swinging his arms back and forth, much like Rin.
"You can't all hold hands right? So put Rin-chan in the middle, and wrap your arms around him. Watch out for the pointy bits and you're good to go!" Kagome's mouth dropped open but, to her credit, she recovered quickly. Determined now, she looked up the man before her.
"Sesshomaru-sama, I request permission to… to wrap my arms around you so that I may take you and Rin-chan home. I need feel connected to both of you in order to make sure you both make it through the transition." No response. "Sesshomaru-sama!" At the sharp tone the man in question finally turned his head and focused on the girl. Zach whistled quietly. Silently his commander agreed. They must never let Rufus know that he had been outdone… Kagome met it unflinchingly. "Please my lord," she said, voice polite and firm, "allow me to ensure Rin-chan's safe return home."
Given Sesshomaru's permission Kagome wasted no time. She positioned the little girl against Sesshomaru's legs, stepped forward and gingerly wrapped her arms around the demon. He stared off into the distance, his face blank. "Bye Zach!" a slightly muffled voice called from between girl and demon, "have fun with Sephy!"
"Bye Rin-chan!" Zach called, but the other group was already gone, as if they'd never been. Zach shrugged and looked at Miss Gainsborough, brow furrowed. "Hey babe," he said slowly. "We were in Wutai. How are you going to get us back to a place you've never been?"
Miss Gainsborough smiled mischievously. "Wouldn't you like to know!"
... Yeah the last sentence isn't gold, but bear with me.