Smile for the Camera
The door was open, and Sephiroth was unpacking items from a box placed on the couch, his back turned to her as he worked.
Considering that they were moving their entire residence, there was really surprisingly little. She had never appreciated how few belongings he really had until she saw his whole apartment packed away into so few boxes.
Except for the books. With a smile, she noted that those had already been unpacked and methodically organized on the shelf. Box after box had been thrown in the corner, emptied of their heavy contents long ago. Moving his library had probably made up the bulk of the job.
The furniture had already been moved, and the apartment looked both haphazard, because nothing was arranged, and sparse, because their new place was indeed much bigger than their last apartment. It would take a lot to fill, as Zack had said.
The TV was set up on the coffee table, turned on to the news. The voice of the female reporter filled the staleness of the new home with sound.
“…And it has been confirmed that it was indeed General Sephiroth’s personal residence that was attacked. ShinRa has officially announced that Sephiroth was not in his apartment at the time, and that the Wutai troops were specifically targeting his wife instead, who has been reported as missing since the incident. The official announcement also confirmed that all of the Wutai assailants have been eliminated, and there is no evidence of any lingering Wutai forces within the borders of Midgar. Heightened security will be maintained as a precaution only. No further details have been released, and the General has refused to comment on the situation.”
Sephiroth tossed an empty box into the corner with the others, hefting another onto the couch, slicing the tape with a zip and starting to unload office supplies from it. His desk lamp came out, followed by black desk organizer and a small handful of expensive pens. He put the pens in a compartment, and then filled the organizer item by item as he pulled it out of the box. A stapler, paper clips, sticky notes, scissors, whiteout, highlighters, tape, and a letter-opener were all precisely placed before he took the entire organizer into a back room – presumably his new office.
Hana stepped behind the door to avoid his gaze as he made his way back from the office, not ready to face him yet. As she waited, she listened to the newscaster continue.
“Despite pressure, even from the executives of ShinRa, Sephiroth is also refusing to release so much as a physical description of his new bride to the public sector, instead enlisting a small team of Turks to bring her back in secrecy. Even though ShinRa claims that Sephiroth is acting only out of concern for her privacy, the whole world is wondering exactly what it is that the SOLDIER General is trying to hide. If all her attackers are taken care of, but she’s not back yet, what exactly is going on? I’m Niva with Channel 6 News, back to you, Craig.”
Hana peeked in the door. Sephiroth had returned to his original position, back to her, and resumed his work. She stayed where she was, watching him in silence.
“Thank you for the update, Niva. Indeed there has been no shortage of theories as to what’s really happening behind the scenes. It’s so strange, though. Even considering his iconic distance from the general public, you’d think that Sephiroth would release something in the hopes that she would be sighted. And this came in such a short time after their mysterious marriage. As time goes on there’s going to be an even greater demand for answers, and let me tell you, I’m not sure even Sephiroth can hold out for much longer—“
Sephiroth raised the remote and turned off the TV. The room returned to silence. Sephiroth was looking into the open box, shoulders dropping in a silent sigh.
“We could just tell them that I was killed,” Hana suggested quietly.
Sephiroth turned to her, realizing that she was present for the first time.
“It would simplify things,” she said.
He looked at her inquisitively for a moment, and she was sure that she would soon be explaining herself. But before she could even steel herself to take a breath to do so, his posture changed. She might not have even seen it if she had not known what to look for, but his shoulders relaxed, the lines in his pale forehead smoothed, and his eyes lost their focused bite.
“No such luck,” Sephiroth said. “There would only be more conspiracies.”
“Hm,” Hana said. “I’ve never been in a problem so bad that even death wouldn’t solve it.”
Sephiroth smirked and chuckled deeply at the wry humor. “I don’t believe I have either.”
Hana let herself in, taking in the new apartment. “It’s huge,” she said.
“In comparison with the old one, yes. It still does not stand up to Genesis’s standards.”
She took a few small steps in place on the carpet. It was lush, deep, and slightly springy. The cabinets in the kitchen were a dark mahogany, with countertops of marble. There were sconces encasing the lightbulbs on the ceiling, as opposed to the fluorescent lighting panels of his old apartment. A modest chandelier even hung above where he had placed the dining table.
“…And nicer,” she said.
“Hm. It was the only one available that most closely matched the specifications I provided. It is a bit more than I would have personally chosen.”
“…No windows,” she said, disappointed. “And no balcony.”
Sephiroth waited a moment to respond. “Those were the conditions I requested,” he said. “I do not make the same mistakes twice.”
“Oh,” she said. Then the move had been all about her safety. The thought of living out of the sunlight was strange and sad. “But you said this place was only a close match…?” she asked, almost daring to hope.
“There is a window in my bedroom, and it will be equipped with proper security and…deterrents for when I am not present. And there is a second in my bathroom, which I will also take care of.”
So all the sunlight was on his end of the house, out of her reach. Besides the disappointment, she found morbid humor in the situation. The only ways for an attacker to break in would be through his personal bathroom or his private bedroom. She would have almost liked to have seen that. The possible encounters playing through her mind made her smile despite herself.
Sephiroth saw her mischievous grin and raised an eyebrow. “You are in good spirits,” he said, speaking gently, knowing he was extending onto treacherous ground.
“I’m—“ Hana grimaced, searching for the right word. She eventually settled with “…Fine.” She lowered her head to avoid Sephiroth’s gaze.
“And I don’t want to talk about it. Ever,” she added in a rush.
“Understandable,” Sephiroth said. “Do you need to rest?”
“No, please, I want to work. If I’m doing something, it’ll be much better.”
“Then, if you are up for it, we have errands to run in town together. We can leave as soon as you’re ready.”
“Errands?” she asked. If she was being honest with herself, it was the together part that had truly been the surprise, but she wasn’t about to say it. “Where are we going?”
Sephiroth scoffed. “To mend our public image.”
Genesis and Angeal sat on the couch, staring at the TV in a terrible blend of paralyzing disbelief and abject horror.
Sephiroth was on TV.
They made a charming (“unbelievably adorable!”) couple, as the show’s host cooed repeatedly. Hana was dressed in Wutaian clothes, pretty as a picture in a flowery yukata and wide obi, dark hair pulled up and pinned back with two tama kanzashi. Sephiroth was dressed in full SOLDIER uniform, armor, sword, and all – a vigilant guardian beside a delicate princess.
Hana shouldered a pretty paper parasol, walking with refined grace, but was excellently playing the part of a blushing bride. She averted her face from the cameras, at times retreating behind the edges of the parasol behind her or looking to the street below. The other arm that was not holding the parasol was wound around Sephiroth’s upper arm, clinging abashedly, and drawing near to him from time to time. Her timidity coupled with the small but sweet ways Sephiroth responded to her – a thoughtful glance, a quiet word in her ear - had the female TV hosts positively raving.
“This. Is. Revolting.” Genesis said. “What are they doing? Sephiroth hates paparazzi! Why aren’t heads rolling? And Hana’s not that shy! Come on! This is the most staged, phony, disgusting piece of—“
“It’s a tactical maneuver,” Angeal said somberly, eyes still glued to the screen. “It’s intentional. He’s planning…something.”
Hana and Sephiroth had just entered a shopping mall, and everyone was squealing at the wonder on her face and how thoughtful Sephiroth was to stop and let her take in the sights. She smiled brilliantly, tugged on Sephiroth’s sleeve and pointed at something that had caught her eye. Sephiroth, in turn, nodded and smiled softly down upon her. It was a move that sent everyone into a fit of shrieking as pink, heart-shaped, pulsing bubbles appeared on the screen around their faces.
“Did you see how tenderly he just caressed her? I’ve never seen anything like it! The love in his eyes is burning so bright, and the way she looked at him! I repeat, this is exclusive live footage of the General and his beautiful new bride. Isn’t she ravishing? Young love…there isn’t anything more beautiful!”
Genesis outright snorted. “Exclusive?” Angeal sighed. The same footage was on no less than five channels, one of which was the official ShinRa News, though at least they had had the decency not to scream and babble nonsense through the short segment that officially introduced Hana as Sephiroth’s wife.
“Love?” Angeal repeated softly, trying out the word while looking at his friend and his wife together. To anyone who didn’t know Sephiroth or Hana, it probably would appear that way.
They watched more of the drivel, trying to tune out the voices of the women and watch the proceedings.
“They are really, really good actors,” Genesis grumbled. “I’ll give them that much. Wonder how long Sephiroth had to practice to finally be able to put his arm around her.”
“Come on, Genesis, don’t be cynical.”
“Pfft. 500 gil that this is the first time he’s held her.”
Angeal frowned, dark suspicions creeping back into his mind. “We don’t know that,” he said, as much to himself as to Genesis.
It had to happen, sooner or later. The moneybags were jingling, and the TV staff could hear all too well.
The first channel to get an interview would hit the jackpot.
They had been on the move from the beginning, slowly closing in like predators surrounding their prey. Hana looked innocuous enough, but Sephiroth was fully armed, and regularly scanned the surroundings. Everyone knew that nothing was escaping his careful watch – he was merely tolerating them as he doted on his wife. Cameramen scurried around, keeping a wide berth, but looking for a path to close in.
One of the interviewers was inching in—closer, and closer, and ever closer. Sephiroth looked her way, and slightly raised an eyebrow.
She did not back down.
“That’s the girl from channel 15. She’s gonna go for it!” Genesis laughed out loud. “Change it, quick! I must see this.”
Angeal picked up the remote and complied.
“We’re live from the Golden Chocobo Shopping Center and we’re about to meet General Sephiroth’s wife for the very first time, only on Channel 15.”
“Oh you are, are you?” Genesis purred sadistically.
“This will be interesting,” Angeal conceded.
The woman was at a point where she was close enough to be overheard by the silver general. She finally turned her back to the camera man, held out her microphone, and made a dash for it. “Excuse me!” she called. “A word, please?”
Genesis let out a dark chuckle that was enough to even make Angeal’s hair stand on end.
Hana drew into her husband, both arms clutching his forearm. Sephiroth watched closely as the interviewer approached, but made no move to deter her.
“General, let me congratulate you on your marriage! We are so happy to meet your beautiful wife. Is there anything you’d like to say to introduce her?”
“A bold move,” Angeal said. “Going straight for him.” But to ignore him and go for her would have been a worse mistake.
Sephiroth did not answer the question, turning to his wife instead. “Hana, is there something you would like to say?”
Hana flushed red, but slowly unwound her arms from her husband’s and clasped her hands, bowing deeply from the waist. “Konichiwa,” she said softly. “I am most honored to be among you, citizens of Midgar.”
The interviewer bowed in return, her relieved exhale escaping no one’s notice. “Hana, we warmly welcome you to our city. I’m sure all the happiness in the world awaits you both here.”
“Thank you,” Hana said, turning to Sephiroth uncomfortably.
“That will be enough,” Sephiroth said, threading his arm around her waist. “We have nothing more to say.”
You didn’t argue with that. “Thank you for your time, General.”
“That was it?” Genesis said. “…No blood? Not even a swipe at the camera?”
“It’s a publicity stunt,” Angeal reminded him. “That would have ruined the point.”
“Pride is lost, wings stripped away,” Genesis quoted. “Oh, the shame he must endure to continue this great façade. His pride must be writhing in anguish.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little melodramatic?” Angeal said, turning off the TV. “All he really did was take Hana shopping.”
“And break his solemn oath that he would never entangle himself with the press,” Genesis added.
“I don’t think he ever made an oath about that—“
“Regardless. He’s never going to live this down,” Genesis said. Then added with a smirk, “At the very least, I’m not going to let him forget this miserable performance.”
Angeal sighed, knowing only one thing. Behind all the hype and glamour, something big had to be going on for Sephiroth to go to such lengths.