Unnamed Story

BY : Roaming_Firefly
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male > Sephiroth/Vincent
Dragon prints: 2592
Disclaimer: see full disclaimer below

Chapter 17 - Time


The Head Librarian of Central Library was a tall woman with raven black hair and ice-blue eyes who carried herself with an air of quiet sophistication. She sat on the data and records floor, surrounded by a large round desk with rows upon rows of computer screens floating in the air above it, and too many keyboards for one person to ever logically need. Nami warmly greeted her and introduced her as 'Robin'. The librarian then smiled pleasantly at the two men and smoothly went over the procedures for opening up new accounts with them as if her sovereign sends slaves to her asking her for library accounts every day.

Vincent's eyes had narrowed slightly at Robin's slender, long-fingered hands as they danced gracefully over the keyboards. But when the librarian noticed his stare, she simply gave him an amicable smile and handed him his library card. And Vincent too, only thanked her politely and made no further comments.

On the card, a small, neon-green arrow-shaped sticky note pointed to the line where he was supposed to sign.

Along with allowing them to take out books from the library, the cards also acted as keys to the library's elevators and doors. And of course, Vincent and Sephiroth's cards only allowed them access to a few select areas of the library. The most useful areas such as the 6th floor were only accessible to them after they fulfilled their end of the bargain with the Archdaemon in the 'Duel & Screw's.

Although the Head Librarian and the Circle Treasurer weren't the only ones to have such easy attitudes around their Archdaemon's first slaves, the attitude with which most people around the Circle greeted the two men, was one of excitement. In fact, the staff of the Archdaemon's palace seemed to see them as fascinating curiosities, exciting new additions, and a chance to stretch out their wings in their respective professions — some of them quite literally.

Tah'rh had taken the two men around the palace to meet them. First was the housekeeping staff. They were in charge of all household cleaning chores, as well as other things like minor repairs, catering and gardening.

"Very good, madam, we shall be sure to keep their lodgings spotless at all times." said the head of the housekeeping staff — a dignified, monotoned butler who, no matter how one looked at him, was a 4-foot-tall crow wearing a butler suit. Behind him, a flock...er...group of 4-foot-tall pigeons dressed in French maid outfits coo'ed enthusiastically, and immediately set to work, moving as a team as efficiently as cogs in a well-oiled machine, their wings every bit as dexterous as hands and fingers.

"Albert Alain Alkan," Tah'rh introduced the crow to her slaves, "he's head of the housekeeping staff. If you ever get a clogged toilet, or someone gets stuck in a tree or something, go talk to him or one of the maids. Ah, maids, stop your work for a minute, let me introduce you to the humans."

The Archdaemon then proceeded to introduce Vincent and Sephiroth to each identical-looking pigeon-maid by name.

Sephiroth wondered if he and Vincent were expected to remember and identify all of them, if it would be rude as slaves to not to, but then he noticed that the ex-Turk seemed to be having a glaring contest with the crow-butler.

Tah'rh glanced over her shoulder at the two tense men...or...tense man and tense 4-foot-tall crow... "Yes Vincent, Albert is also an assassin. It's just a minor detail, he's targeting me, not you. Don't worry about it."

...

Second was the kitchen staff. They were responsible for supplying the Archdaemon's and her staff's meals, as well as whatever food and drink Tah'rh required when she entertained guests such as other demon lords and Archdaemons. It was headed by two blond young men, Fai and Sanji. Fai was very soft spoken and had the manners and grace worthy of a prince. Sanji was also rather dignified and well-mannered, for the most part, but there were also many times when he reminded Vincent very much of one Cid Highwind. The tall, skinny blond chef, just like the grizzled airship captain, seemed to always have a cigarette between his lips, even when he was shouting. That is, unless Fai had casually reached over and plucked the cigarette away, and stuffed a red lollipop into the blond chef's protesting mouth, chiding him on smoking in the kitchen.

Also like Cid, Sanji could swear like a sailor, and he apparently had something of an explosive temper...but only when he's with other men. When he's with women...or any female of any species...or...Vincent wasn't sure if "male" and "female" really applied to a lot of the population here. But Sanji didn't seem to mind the technicalities.

Right before Vincent and Sephiroth stepped foot in the palace kitchens for the first time, Tah'rh had paused at the elaborate filigree double doors, and turned to her two slaves with a mischievous grin on her face.

"Watch this." she said, then gold and red swirls enveloped her body, and she transformed into a "he".

Appearance-wise, her male form didn't look that different from her female one. A little wider at the shoulders, a little narrower at the hips. But she...he was otherwise, very much recognizable as the same Archdaemon.

She...he then dramatically pushed the double doors of the kitchen open, and shouted that she...he was hungry, and wanted to go rummage through the fridge.

Sanji immediately appeared and blocked her...his path, standing protectively in front of a huge metal door that was all but entirely covered with chains and bolts.

"HELL NO! You shitty brat of an Archdaemon!" the blond chef growled, "Not with what you #&%#% did the last time you..."

Gold and red swirls enveloped the Archdaemon again, and right in front of Sanji, Tah'rh transformed back to her female form.

Sanji's defensive stance immediately slackened, and his scowl instantly turned into a smitten smile.

"Of course~ Miss Tah'rh~~ <3 What would you like to have~~?<3<3" the suddenly love-struck blond chef sing-songed as he undid the chains and bolts on the metal door exactly as Tah'rh requested, and helped her take out all the food items that she named.

Fai sighed as he watched them, then turned to Vincent and Sephiroth and handed them each a small plate of what looked like little round chocolate cakes.

"Sorry we don't have much else prepared. Tah'rh didn't tell us you were coming until we were already busy with lunch preparations. I learned this recipe from a human friend of mine, it should be safe for you to eat. Try it, and tell me if you like the taste."

Vincent and Sephiroth politely took the dainty spoons that were offered to them, and cut into their cakes. A river of molten chocolate flowed out from the cut, the two men each scooped up a piece of cake along with a spoonful of the molten chocolate, brought it to their mouths, and then froze.

"Well?" asked Fai, "Is it bad? We haven't had any humans in the Circle for a very long time. I'm afraid our knowledge and skills are a bit lacking when it comes to food for humans."

"No," Vincent shook his head, "this is delicious!"

Since Vincent had answered Fai, Sephiroth simply left all the talking to the ex-Turk while he himself cut into his cake again and savoured each and every bite.

Seeing that, Fai smiled a gentle, happy smile, "Is that so? I'm glad. Give us a few days to get ourselves acquainted with human foods, and then you'll both be welcome to make requests to the kitchen any time, as long as we're not busy with a banquet. Well, even then we might still be able to get you a little something."

Vincent frowned in puzzlement, "I...was given the impression that we were expected to take care of our meals ourselves." Their little suite came with a fully equipped kitchen, and Fah'yn had brought them a small mountain of food ingredients. Although now that Vincent thought about it, that small mountain of food would make much more sense if most of it were meant to be stored and used here in the palace kitchens.

"Well, most of the suites in the palace have their own kitchens, and everybody can choose whether to cook for themselves or request meals to be made for them here," explained Fai, "Tah'rh hasn't said anything otherwise for the two of you, so I assume that the same goes for you. There's no need to be shy. Tah'rh prefers to take care of her own meals when she's not busy, and there's so few staff here in the palace. What did she say it was? ..."Economically viable"...I think it was. It'll be nice to have more people to cook for again. Sanji took out some books from the library about human diet and nutrition as soon as he heard. He's been studying them all night last night. Don't let his loudmouth and foul manners fool you, he's really a big softie on the inside."

"What was that you overgrown pheasant!" Sanji momentarily dropped out of his smitten state to scowl at the blond patissier. He was quickly distracted again though, when Tah'rh called to him for yet another thing that she wanted him to do.

Fai looked back at the growing mess and chaos behind him and the enthusiastically participating, love-struck Sanji, and sighed again, "And if you two are able to transform into something that looks enough like a woman, then he'll just turn into a big pile of pudding..."

The blond patissier made a small, quick, drawing gesture with his hand, and a stream of ice suddenly sprang towards Sanji, stopping him in his tracks by encasing him in a block of ice. And with that, the chaos in the kitchen that was stirred up by the Archdaemon and her love-struck chef sidekick was instantly stilled.

"...Frozen pudding." smiled Fai.

...

Last was the dressing room staff. They were in charge of designing and custom-making formal-wear for the Archdaemon and her household, as well as anything else custom-made that they might need. They were also responsible for any repairs and alterations that may need to be done on the Archdaemon's elaborately and delicately decorated formal robes. And of course, they were the ones who were going to make the formal clothes for the Archdaemon's new slaves. The two young men who staffed it were also blonds. Their relationship with the Archdaemon however, was much different from that of the men who headed the kitchens. In fact, it may be possible that she had left the dressing room visit to the last minute, on purpose.

Like with the kitchens, Tah'rh had paused in front of the dressing room's simple grey doors. But this time, when she turned to her slaves, her expression was solemn, and a bit troubled as she studied them.

"You'll be alright...yeah...you'll be alright." she muttered, mostly to herself.

"Just remember to not let them get to you. Don't show any weakness, those two can sniff it out like a pair of jackals." and with that warning, she pushed open the door.

The two blond men inside immediately looked up from their work, and greeted the Archdaemon with a smile.

"Good afternoon, Miss Tah'rh"

"Ya-ho~ Tah'rh"

The Archdaemon nodded to each of them, "Afternoon, Virus, Trip."

Vincent blinked. Both of these men had short blond hair, ice-blue eyes and pale complexions. They looked and moved similar enough to each other to be twins. And yet the ex-Turk had never seen adult twins who deliberately dressed like each other the way that those two did: Virus was dressed in a black suit with a plaid tie, and Trip was dressed in a plaid vest with a black tie. They both had the exact same hairstyle, but Virus's bangs were parted on the left, and Trip's were parted on the right. Later on he would find out that these two always dressed like this: if one had a black sweater with a splash of colour on the right shoulder, then the other would have a black sweater with a splash of colour on the left shoulder. If one wore black ankle boots, the other would wear white long boots...etc., etc.

Not even Tah'rh and her twin brother Fah'yn ever went this far, even though one wore mostly white while the other wore mostly black. And the ex-Turk wondered if the fact that Virus wore glasses while Trip did not, was done on purpose too. Eyewear didn't seem to be very common in Hell.

As Vincent and Sephiroth stepped past the threshold of the door, they saw that there were two more occupants in the room — a large, muscular black snake was coiled around the plush chair behind the standing Virus, and a black lion with a thick black mane was dozing by the feet of the sitting Trip.

"You two are looking like twins, as always." remarked Tah'rh as she approached them.

"We're not twins"

"We aren't twins"

The two blonds said in unison, and Tah'rh chuckled.

"How are you today, Miss Tah'rh? Are those two the new slaves of yours that everyone's been talking about?" asked Virus.

"What a pair of beauties! As expected of our Archdaemon!" whistled Trip.

"Yes, just like our Archdaemon, to have such impeccable taste." agreed Virus.

"Pfft!" Tah'rh rolled her eyes, unimpressed, "Flattery will get you nowhere."

"But it's our sincere thoughts, Miss Tah'rh." smiled Virus.

"Because we are your number one fans." grinned Trip.

Vincent studied the not-twins. Though they were speaking passionate words, there were no passion in their tones nor expressions. Though they were smiling, no warmth reached their icy blue eyes. They did not speak in a monotone, but their voices always remained light and cool, as if spoken from a place where nothing ever changed.

There was something very...off...about these men.

"Hey, what are you two standing there for?" Trip called to Vincent and Sephiroth, who had remained by the door, "Come on in!"

"We don't bite." added Virus as he gave the two men a charming smile.

"You better not." the Archdaemon gave both blonds a hard, pointed look.

Virus raised a brow, as if to say he didn't know what she was talking about.

"I mean it." Tah'rh continued, not buying Virus's "innocence" for a second.

"We would never harm something that is important to you, Miss Tah'rh. We would never do anything to make you unhappy." said Virus.

"Yeah," said Trip, "because we-"

"Because you love me, because you're my number one fans," interrupted Tah'rh, "yeah yeah, you've only said it a million times."

"And we will say it a million times more." smiled Virus.

"Because that's our sincerest feelings." grinned Trip.

Still no change of emotion can be heard in their voices, still the same light, cool tones. And yet Vincent felt that the two of them were telling the truth. Or what was true to them. Vincent felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.

After some more banter, and more warnings from the Archdaemon to not damage her slaves ("they're humans, you know, delicate. And Tseng will be on my ass if you damage them"), Tah'rh handed the two blonds the finally-agreed-upon designs for Vincent and Sephiroth's formal slave-wear, and then left her slaves alone with the two clothiers to carry on with her other businesses as Archdaemon.

Virus and Trip looked over the designs and discussed it between themselves, then they instructed Vincent and Sephiroth to stand in an open area of the room.

"I'll need to take off your shirt, is that alright?" asked Virus politely.

Sephiroth inclined his head in answer and allowed the bespectacled blond to undress him.

"Hold your arms out to the side...yep, that's good." said Trip as he fussed over Vincent beside him.

Sephiroth followed the clothiers' instructions easily, he had had this done in ShinRa many times before. As Virus and Trip put him and Vincent in position however, Sephiroth noticed that the black snake had uncoiled itself from the chair, and has now slithered closer.

"This is Hersha," Virus noticed Sephiroth's gaze and smiled as he patted the large snake affectionately on the head, "he's going to help me take your measurements. Do you have a fear of snakes? We don't have to use him, if you don't want to."

"Proceed as you will." answered Sephiroth evenly, and the black snake slithered forward on an unseen signal from Virus, and climbed up the former general's body as if he were a tree.

Both the snake and Virus were gentle as they touched him and prodded him and took his measurements, but Sephiroth kept having a nagging feeling that something was not quite right. Something about the two clothiers reminded him of something, but he couldn't quite say what. His eyes darted over to Vincent. Although the man looked calm and stoic as ever, Sephiroth had seen enough Turks and enough of Vincent to see that underneath that cool exterior, the man was on high alert.

"Don't show any weakness." The Archdaemon had said. Sephiroth put on his cool, uncaring mask with practiced ease, and let the clothiers do what they will around him. But he never stopped watching them, never stopped scanning for the source of whatever was bothering him, whatever was bothering Vincent.

In the end the Virus and Trip never did anything out of the ordinary, they were both professional and mindful in everything they did.

Sephiroth did notice that their ice-blue eyes where constantly watching him and Vincent, and seemed to take note of every little reaction that he and Vincent had. But that could just be because they were the famous new slaves of the maverick Archdaemon. When he looked over at Vincent, however, he decided to trust the Turk's judgement, and his own instincts. They were slaves in a land of demons after all, it was safer to be cautious.

...

When they were not being confined in the Archdaemon's palace, or watched in the Central Library, Vincent and Sephiroth frequented the Circle Stadium, though not always for 'performing' in the 'Duel & Screw's. Between the 'Duel & Screw' shows and the Archdaemon shirking her responsibility and dodging Tseng's classes on etiquette and proper behaviour for Archdaemons and their slaves in formal settings, Tah'rh kept Sephiroth and Vincent busy, or in other (her) words: "economically viable", by sending them to work in the stadium, taking care of the show beasts there under the command and supervision of the Master Beast-Keeper, an elderly demon by the name of Totosai.

Totosai was more than happy to have two more able-bodied men help him with the beasts. Apparently his helpers had a tendency to leave the job only shortly after getting hired to it, and he was frequently short-handed. Sephiroth could easily see why. The old beast-keeper spent most of his time slacking off while he happily and guiltlessly tasked Vincent and Sephiroth with the most dangerous and most back-breaking work.

"I was under the impression that the Archdaemon required her slaves to appear whole and strong before her peers. I hardly think she'd want to find them scorched to charcoal by a pack of overgrown newts." Sephiroth had glowered at the dozing old demon one day, edges of his clothes and hair, and temper, more than a little singed from having to take the Star-back Salamanders on their exercise runs — which basically amounted to him and Vincent costumed as some kind of giant pink chicken running about as bait for the salamanders to chase them around the arena and shoot fire at them.

Totosai had blinked at him for a few seconds before answering unhurriedly, "Ye think so? Methinks Tah'rh's trying teh kill ye." At Sephiroth's questioning stare he elaborated, "Keepin' slaves are expensive, an' keepin' 'em mean Tah'rh'll 'ave ta learn about all the proper pomp n' show Archdaemons are supposed teh do with slaves. An' expensive things an' 'proper' things are teh Tah'rh what water is teh Desert Mao! From what I seen, she's tryin' her hardest teh get rid of ye."

"Must death by fire-amphibians be the only way?" Vincent came up behind Sephiroth, his wild tangle of raven hair seemed even more wild and tangled, and perhaps even a little curled from the heat of the fires, "Might the Archdaemon instead 'accidentally' misplace her slaves or...have them escape?"

Totosai then paused mid-motion from scratching his stomach and stared at the two men unblinkingly with his huge bulbous eyes. Vincent and Sephiroth stared back.

Then the old demon suddenly guffawed and slapped his thigh as if he had heard the funniest joke in the world. "As if an Archdaemon would e'er do that! Escaped slaves! There's not much that'll 'it an Archdaemon's reputation as 'ard as that! Just go tell the other Archdaemons teh walk all o'er yeh face, why don't ye! Eh heh heh heh heh! You!" Totosai jabbed a bony finger at Vincent, "With all ye keepin' to yeself all dark-like an' all ye broodin', I never thought ye be one teh 'ave such wicked sense of 'umour!" It took the old demon a long moment before he could finally calm down from his merriment.

"No," said Totosai, his old, hunched body still shaking with chuckles as he wiped tears from his laughter from his eyes, "she's definitely trying teh kill ye."

Sephiroth frowned at the still-laughing Totosai. What the old demon had said was certainly a possibility, considering how Tah'rh had made it quite clear that she had never wanted slaves in the first place. With the way she kept handing them off to other people, such as Nami or Robin or Totosai, and with the fact that she barely sees them outside of her duties as Archdaemon, one would think that Tah'rh would much rather forget that her slaves existed at all. And yet...she had provided them with food and shelter, not to mention advice of caution against Virus and Trip, plus she had quite clearly instructed the clothiers to treat her slaves with care. When Totosai's chuckling had finally calmed to a reasonable degree, Sephiroth expressed his doubts to the old demon.

"The Trash Twins? She told 'em to tone it down wit' ye eh? That's not surprisin'." Totosai tilted his head as he picked at his nose with his little finger, but after a moment, he stopped, flicked a booger away, and scrutinized the two men, suddenly serious, "They've not done anythin' to ye, 'ave they?"

Sephiroth's brows furrowed in puzzlement at the question, "They took our measurements as per their profession. Otherwise no, they have not done anything of note."

"Ah," Totosai nodded sagely, "that means ye can 'andle 'em. Well then, if ye can 'andle Virus an' Trip, then the Star-back Salamanders should be nothin' to ye. They're just fire-breathin' amphibians, is all. Now quit loitering! Back teh work wit' ye!"

...

The beasts that were kept in the stadium complex frequently served as entertainment for the inhabitants of the city and visitors alike. Some of the beasts were trained and performed series of tricks or acrobatic displays. Some of the beasts were simply released into the arena to battle for supremacy.

The stadium also hosted many types of shows, the 'Duel & Screw' show being one of them, music concerts and live theatre being others. There were always some beasts kept in the ready just behind the arena doors though, in case something happens or the performers needed more time to prepare, and the audience needed to be entertained. There was always one person watching over all that goes on in the arena from the tall tower beside the Archdaemon's box seat. He or she would put up a large dome-shaped shield separating the arena and the audience when the beasts were released, and put it down again for less threatening entertainers...such as the Archdaemon's slaves. Sephiroth drove the shovel hard into the ground as he scooped up the dirty straw in the chimera's cage.

"Careful wit' that floor there," Totosai opened one eye from his hammock behind the former general, "them floor-tiles are made wit' high-grade clay imported from 1st Circle; they're much more expensive than ye lot are."

Aside from the shamelessly lazy beast-keeper and the sometimes ridiculous exercises, Sephiroth actually quite enjoyed working with the chimeras, harpies, basilisks, krakens, griffins, and other beasts of all shapes and sizes. Even in his days in SOLDIER, he had enjoyed working with the genetically enhanced guard hounds that ShinRa kept. Animals were much less...puzzling than people. They did not tell jokes that the Silver General didn't understand, and they never misinterpreted his words, for they needed none. Your rank or reputation, or the colour of your hair or eyes, none of it mattered to them. They only waited patiently for Sephiroth to show them whether he was worthy of trust and respect, like they did with any other handler. The beasts of Hell's 7th Circle's stadium were not nearly as tame as ShinRa guard hounds of course, and it took some time to learn their language and quirks. But just like the guard hounds, they were at ease with Sephiroth, and Sephiroth was at ease with them.

Sephiroth noticed that Vincent also enjoyed working with the beasts. Two of his demons, the same two that the gunman had been using in the "Duel & Screws", were especially good with them. He could tell when the gunman stepped back in his mind and let those two out to communicate with the beasts. His crimson eyes would be flecked with gold and his posture would change subtly. The purple fire-breathing beast would lean slightly forward as if compensating for the weight of a tail, and the hulking humanoid one would move with a bounce in his step, with more exaggerated swaying in the shoulders. If Sephiroth remembered correctly from what he had seen of the ex-Turk and his AVALANCHE comrades in the past, Vincent should have two more demons, though the ex-Turk had yet to use them in the Duel & Screws. They came out rarely, subtly, but they too each had distinct personalities and characteristics that Sephiroth was careful to observe and learn.

The beasts too liked Vincent and his demons very much. ...Sometimes perhaps a bit too much. Sephiroth frowned at a group of harpies who had sidled up to the ex-Turk as he refilled their food and water trays and expressed their gratitude a bit too affectionately. But the ex-Turk gently but firmly pushed away a wingtip that had strayed too far down his lower back and clicked his tongue in gentle reprimand at a sneaking talon, and the harpies fell back respectfully.

Sephiroth hadn't even realized that he was staring, but then Vincent looked back at him, and once again those red eyes flinched away, and the ex-Turk went on working, pretending that nothing happened.

Sephiroth's jaw tightened. This was what amounted to the entirety of their interactions, outside of what they had to do in the Duel & Screws. The ex-Turk would do his best to ignore the former general, but Sephiroth could feel those red eyes watching him, always. Yet whenever Sephiroth looked back at them, they would dart away. In fact, Vincent had never once properly looked at Sephiroth nor had any eye contact with him, unless he absolutely had to.

The gunman had also made himself as scarce as possible during what little free time they had in their sleeping quarters. The guest suite that the Archdaemon and her brother gave them had only one bedroom and only one bed, though the bed itself was large enough to comfortably accommodate two people, and maybe more. There was a couch in the living room, and though it was sturdy and soft, it was much too short for 6-foot-tall men like Vincent and Sephiroth to sleep on comfortably. Sephiroth wondered if it was normal for demon adults to share beds, or if that was just expected of slaves. None of the demons, not even the ever-observant and thoughtful Fah'yn, seemed to take any note of the single piece of furniture capable of being slept on.

Even so, Valentine didn't need to disappear into the thick forests that surrounded their little suite all night, every night. The demons had left them a mountain of bedding, more than enough to make sleeping on the floors a completely viable option. And Sephiroth had never made any move to commandeer their only bed. In fact the former general wouldn't have minded sleeping out in the forest himself. He had had to make do with much less inviting sleeping arrangements before. The weather so far had been consistently warm, and so far since their arrival in Hell, they hadn't seen any rainfall. Sephiroth wasn't even sure if it ever rains in Hell. But if it does, he hoped that it'll really be fire and brimstones as told in stories. Maybe that'll finally knock some sense into that ex-Turk's thick, stubborn skull.

Sephiroth bit back a sigh and turned back to his current task: brushing the luxurious white fur of the nekomata. This was the first time he'd seen such a creature — much like most of the other creatures kept here. It looked like a white cat with blood red eyes, black markings, and two fluffy tails, but it was much larger than a cat, or even a tiger. Standing on all fours as it was now, Sephiroth was only just tall enough to properly brush out the fur on its back without having to stand on a stool.

It turned its head and gave its silver caretaker a gentle nuzzle, as if sensing Sephiroth's troubled thoughts. Sephiroth patted the large head reassuringly in answer.

It wasn't new, people have always acted with some degree of unease around him, if not open hostility. And after the whole thing with Jenova and Meteor, his very presence inspires panic and terror in the populace of Gaia. Vincent had good reasons to see Sephiroth as a threat, he couldn't deny that. Just earlier today, on another trip with Nami, the subject of the Cetra's extinction, and the fate of the girl that was the last Cetra, inevitably came up.

So far, Vincent had only told of the Cetra as what they were and what they did, what happened during the Calamity, and that they were now extinct. He had not yet mentioned the discovery of Jenova or any of the more recent events involving her and the last Cetra.

He had also excluded details in his telling such Sephiroth's role in the murder of the last Cetra.

In truth, it wasn't Sephiroth who had ran Masamune through the unarmed body of the Cetra girl. It was Jenova, who had shaped her headless body in the image of Sephiroth. Or perhaps it was Sephiroth's will to have Jenova shape her body to his image, to achieve the desired reaction from the planet's populace, and from Cloud. He couldn't tell anymore, so entwined he and Jenova were at the time.

He didn't deny responsibility for the Cetra girl's death, however. If he had truly not wanted to kill the girl, he could have done...something. If not overcoming Jenova's will, then at least slow her down. Cloud was right there, if Sephiroth had hesitated but for a moment, then perhaps the blond swordsman could have repelled him and saved his friend.

He hadn't wanted to kill Zack, even though Jenova had insisted that the First-class SOLDIER was a threat and a traitor, just like all the other humans. And he didn't kill Zack, not even when Zack was forced to attack him.

Zack had fallen into the hands of Hojo as a direct result of the Nibelheim incident, however. Sephiroth knew what was done to young man, through the Jenova cells that Hojo had injected himself and his test subjects with. And he knew about Zack's eventual end at the hands of Shinra.

He had felt Zack's presence in the Lifestream. The SOLDIER First had somehow avoided dissipating into the Lifestream, as all other souls should, and had. Perhaps it was the Jenova cells, even though they had not affected Zack's body and mind in life, perhaps their true effects lingered in death. A lot of the other people injected with Jenova cells also had trouble going back to the Lifestream after they died. Even now they remained, suspended in the green glow as stagnant blotches, unable to re-join the cycle of life. Sephiroth had seen them when he too floated with the ever-moving streams. He had also felt the girl's presence. She too had remained herself in the Lifestream, though she had no Jenova in her. Perhaps it was due to her Cetra heritage.

Aerith, her name was. The one whom Zack had talked about non-stop, his eyes lit with a happiness that Sephiroth had not seen since Angeal defected. He had not drawn the connection between Zack's "angel flower girl" and the girl in pink kneeling in the temple, had not remembered, until Vincent mentioned her name in their conversations with Nami.

If she was an Ancient, then her mother...would be Ifalna. Vincent had not yet mentioned anything relating to Aerith, her family or origins, other than the fact that she was the last Cetra. But Sephiroth knew. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. Just like he knew Ifalna was 'different' as soon as he saw her in the lab. She was different from everybody else, just like Sephiroth was. And she had treated the silver-haired boy with kindness and warmth. Sephiroth often wondered if Ifalna was what a mother would feel like. And when she grew closer to Professor Gast — the only other person in the labs who had ever treated Sephiroth with kindness — Sephiroth had wondered if that was what a family felt like. He had even, childishly, fantasized that one day, Professor Gast and Ifalna would take him away out of the labs, and they would all live together outside, doing whatever everybody else did outside of the labs.

Then one day, Gast and Ifalna did leave the labs, but they did not take Sephiroth with them.

Was it jealousy that had stopped Sephiroth from questioning Jenova when she insisted that the frail-looking girl was a threat that needed to be eliminated? Jealousy that the Cetra girl had had a family that Sephiroth could only wish for? Had Gast and Ifalna taken Sephiroth with them when they escaped, would he and Aerith have become friends? Siblings?

He would never know. Both Aerith and Zack had ventured close to him, once or twice, in the Lifestream. But both of them had kept their distance, and soon disappeared back into the endless green. Were they afraid of Jenova, who was always there with him? Or were they afraid of him?

Sephiroth looked back up at Vincent, who was now bringing feed to the small herd of sheep with golden fleece, his back turned, carefully distanced from the former general.

The nekomata gave a soft chirp as she gently nudged the brooding general.

Sephiroth let out a sigh and scratched behind the giant cat's ears, and the nekomata purred.

This wasn't new. He reminded himself. People have always kept their distance from him for one reason or another. And he understood the ex-Turk's reasons. The Turks had always been fiercely protective of each other, AVALANCHE had had a camaraderie between its members that was obvious even to his insane self, and SOLDIER was no less than either of them. Even when they couldn't exactly be called "friends", they've fought wars beside each other, protected each other, and Sephiroth had always valued his comrades, very much. The death of a comrade affected everyone deeply, whether they be Turk, AVALANCHE, or SOLDIER. And Sephiroth was the killer of one of Vincent's comrades.

The ex-Turk will likely never forgive him. The entire planet will never forgive him for the things he had done, for that matter. He knew that. That was fine. He wasn't sure if he wanted forgiveness, if he even cared. But this distance from the ex-Turk was different. It wasn't new, and yet it was affecting Sephiroth more than he wanted to admit.

But it didn't matter. Sephiroth's hands stilled on the nekomata's soft white fur. He was running out of time, and Vincent was the best and probably the only chance he has of finding the answers he's been looking for all his life. He wanted to talk to him, he needed to talk to him. Somehow.

The ex-general took a deep breath.

"Vincent..."

The ex-Turk's slender back subtly stiffened, but he did not turn towards Sephiroth.

Sephiroth bit his lower lip, but opened his mouth again and continued.

"The girl... ...Aerith..."

Vincent's movements stilled.

"...I'm...sorry..."

The apology rang hollow, even to Sephiroth's own ears.

Vincent paused for a long moment, but then he continued in his tasks as if nothing had happened, never turning to face the ex-general.

Sephiroth closed his eyes and leaned his forehead into the warmth of the nekomata's fur. He should have known. Outside of battle commands, he had always been useless with words. Zack, Angeal, Genesis, they were all better with it. When they were in SOLDIER, they've always been quick to salvage the situation whenever Sephiroth was once again misunderstood. But...even if they were here, even if he were a master of words, neither them nor words can ever undo what had been done.

A soft whisper brushed past him, so soft that he almost missed it. But the nekomata's reaction was stronger. She jerked slightly, and let out a quiet growl.

Sephiroth lifted his head and looked at the usually calm and friendly beast. Her blood red eyes were focused on him, her ears turned backwards defensively, and she was sniffing at him as if trying to find the source of her alarm on him. She didn't stay that way for long though, for the nekomata soon relaxed, and then started licking the former general with her rough, feline tongue.

Sephiroth tangled his fingers in the nekomata's thick mane and allowed the giant cat to try to comfort him, willing his heart rate and breathing to calm, and willing the dread that had pooled in his stomach to uncoil.

He doesn't have much time.


Additional Disclaimers: Robin and Sanji of the anime and manga series "One Piece" belong to Eiichiro Oda; Totosai and Kirara of the anime and manga series "Inuyasha" belong to Rumiko Takahashi; Fai of the anime and manga series "Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle" belong to CLAMP; Virus and Trip of the visual novel game "Dramatical Murder" belong to Nitro+CHiRAL; Albert Alain Alkan from the visual novel game "Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star" belong to Hato Moa. I own none of them and am only borrowing them for a bit of profit-less fun. And yes, I've played the pigeon-dating game xD and it's actually one of the best of the visual novel genre I've played. Highly recommended ;) Also, was anybody else on Sakuya's household staff ever mentioned anywhere? besides Albert and the Gull Guards? I don't remember. Well, I'd imagine that he'd have pigeon maids in French maid outfits.

Additional Warnings: Do NOT google image search Dramatical Murder or anything related to it at school or at work or in public. Beware NSFW content ^^;



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