Into the Night
Hana let the words wash over her as she took in the wild, soothing scent of her vagabond brother. Home. She could leave it all, forget it ever happened. She could hide in some secluded corner of the world, living off the land as her brother did with him at her side: her protector, her only family.
She let herself believe it for only a few seconds, sighing as the truth of the matter returned to replace the blissful dream.
“Niichan,” she said. “I can’t go.”
“Of course you can,” he said with a scoff, patting her head. “I’ve got a place ready for us. It’s a small little shack right now, but with the blessing of the planet, we can build on to it. I’ll build whatever you want – it will be our dream home.”
Hana smiled. Her brother had always been tinkering and building, but she had no idea that his skills had been such that he could build an actual home. She actually kind of doubted it, but in a kind, knowing way.
“We can leave the past behind us,” her brother said, reverently whispering. “Wutai, the Continent, the wars, Father…none of it has to follow us. It will be just you, me, and the planet. Isn’t that what we’ve always dreamed of?”
Hana groaned from deep within her heart. Yes…she thought as unshed tears burned her eyes. “Those were our dreams as kids,” she said. “We’re older now. We both know I can’t escape.” She squeezed him tighter. “But you have a chance, brother. You should go.”
Stunned silence, and his grip on her went slack. His voice was tender, and hurt. “Hana, you don’t believe me?”
“Look, it’s not like that—“
“What are your doubts?” he asked, resolved once again. “I’ve thought it all out! What are you afraid of? Don’t you think I can protect you, or provide for you? The planet is gracious, and I am strong.”
“Can you protect me from Father’s armies?”
“Don’t be silly, sis, Father doesn’t have an army—“
“He does,” she said. “A few nights ago, he sent men skilled enough to break through security in the ShinRa building to capture me. I don’t know how many more he has, but men like that never serve anyone without a lot of money or power…or both!”
Her brother let out a string of low curses powerful enough to turn the air green. “…Fine. So he’s clawed his way up the ranks again. It doesn’t matter. He can’t find us there.”
“Niichan,” Hana pled. “I can’t run anymore. I’m tired of it. I’ve taken my stand.”
“You’re not a fighter Hana, never were. Not a chance. You said it yourself.”
Hana choked, the memory of the bursts of lifeblood and cries of pain from her countrymen vivid in her memory. “I’ve changed.”
“What do you mean?” he said with a chuckle. “That’s ridiculous! I know you too well to ever think you could—“
“I killed them!” Hana screamed, pushing her brother away. The memories burst from behind whatever fragile wall she’d managed to contain them in with enough force to rattle her entire body. “I shot them. I shot them so many times I don’t even know—even after they were dead it was like I couldn’t stop! They wouldn’t have killed me but I still—I—it was all so red, red…red! I couldn’t think or breathe I just shot and shot and shot and shot and one even tried to reason with me and I just shot and the blood and the pain—“
Her brother grabbed her again, grappling against her flailing until he had her wrists locked into his grip. “That wasn’t you, Hana,” he said urgently. “It was that monster husband—“
“It wasn’t Sephiroth!” she screamed, locking her wild eyes with his, jerking her hands free, and punching her brother back with every word. “It. Wasn’t Him. It. Was. Me. Me! Me! I pulled the trigger. I killed them. It was all…my…fault…I…killed….”
She slowed, out of breath and out of energy. Slowly, shuddering with remnants of fear too strong to be let out by her exhausted soul anymore, she sank to her knees on the street. Now her shield of anger was gone, and the hurt behind it was exposed. She no longer had the reserves to fight it.
Her brother watched her, breathing hard himself from defending himself from her blows. “Hana,” he said, wiping a rivulet of blood trickling from his nose across his sleeve. “Look at all he’s done to you.”
“It wasn’t him,” she insisted weakly. “It was all me….”
He knelt down in the street and embraced her. “Hey,” he said. “You’re strong. It kept you safe. Right?”
Hana didn’t respond.
“But…you don’t have to be anymore. Come with me. We’ll forget all this.”
“I can’t forget—“
“Sister, the planet is so much stronger than you know! It can heal anything, I swear it. It will take away everything as we live a simple, peaceful life in harmony with nature.”
His fingertips were pressing firmly into a small spot on her back, and she was starting to feel strange. She tried to tell him so but could hardly move her lips to talk.
“Hey, don’t struggle, ok? You’re upset now, but everything will be better soon.”
“It’s going to be okay, promise.”
He pressed a cloth to her face, and she didn’t even have time to smell the chemical before she fell unconscious.
Only one pair of eyes witnessed the abduction, but thankfully, it was the right pair.
Sephiroth’s purchases arrived well before he did. Angeal and Genesis stood outside his door and watched two delivery men haul in enough tools and gadgets for an entire kitchen.
“Seph’s quality of food is about to skyrocket,” Angeal said. “No more cafeteria for him.”
“Lucky,” Genesis said, a wistful pout on his face.
Angeal chuckled, knowing that Sephiroth would have to guard that food well as soon as Genesis got desperate enough to attempt thievery. It would not be long at all, he knew.
“Let’s unpack these things,” Angeal said, letting himself into Sephiroth’s apartment. The place was still not arranged, and still well under-furnished, but all of his old things had been put in some sort of order. “It will help Hana, so she can just worry about arranging them.” He didn’t wait for Genesis to follow, but immediately took a box of dishes from one of the men and began to carefully unpack and unwrap them.
Genesis followed his friend to the table, but hardly helped. He took the unpackaged plates from Angeal and inspected each before placing it back down on the table. “She has good tastes,” he said, spinning a plate while balancing it on one fingertip. “Sturdy, sensible, and stylish.”
Angeal sent his friend a look but let him do as he pleased as he gathered the packing material and pushed it aside into a corner. He hoisted up a microwave next and began his work again.
Angeal had all of the dishes and many of the appliances unpacked and arranged in neat categories on the kitchen table when Sephiroth arrived. “Back from your publicity stunt?” Genesis asked, poking the buttons on the blender in boredom. “Quite a show, really. If you truly were on stage, I would insist on an encore performance. As it is, I still might.”
Sephiroth came to the table and snatched a large, gift-wrapped box up from the pile and took it to his room, firmly shutting the door behind him. His snappy, concise movements and stony silence left no room for discussion.
“O...kay…” Angeal said, staring at the shut door.
“Where’s Hana?” Genesis asked. He might as well have been addressing the door.
Angeal rubbed his temples with his fingertips. “Dear Gaia….”
“Don’t tell me you guys got in another fight,” Genesis said. “Come on, you just bought her all this stuff! How hard could it be to keep her happy after that?”
“He’s probably just overwhelmed from all that attention,” Angeal said, though that hardly explained Hana’s absence.
Genesis picked up the TV from where it had been set on the floor, moved it in front of the couch, and turned it on to the news. “Well, my friend, we’re in for another long wait.”
“Well he has to come out eventually,” Genesis said, pulling the coffee table in front of the couch. He did a bit of rummaging around for the remote and then, content, made himself at home on the couch in front of the TV, feet propped up on the coffee table. “Until then, we might as well get comfortable. You can make yourself useful and order takeout. It might be a while.”
Angeal stared at his red-headed friend, already draped limply over the couch and phasing out as he stared blankly at the news – still replaying footage from Sephiroth’s shopping adventures that day. Was this a good idea?
“And get a movie while you’re at it. He doesn’t get anything worth watching on his TV.”
Angeal opened his wallet. “Are you going to contribute?”
Genesis scowled but fished out his own, tossing several bills and a small handful of coins in Angeal’s general direction without looking away from the screen. Angeal lowered his eyebrows at the gil scattered all over the floor, but Genesis didn’t see his glare. “You better get lots of popcorn. And some chocobo puffs too.”
Angeal picked up the money. “Fine,” he said. As he tucked the money away, he peeked back at Sephiroth’s door, which hadn’t changed. “Any requests, Sephiroth?” he asked for good measure, though he was not surprised when no answer was given.
“Speak now or live with whatever junk Angeal’s in the mood for,” Genesis added. “…Have it your way.” He waved a hand at Angeal in a gesture to get on it.
Angeal couldn’t help a smile as he left. Maybe Genesis was right. Something about the situation did make him think that Sephiroth needed their help. It seemed that for once, Genesis had picked up on it before he had.
This time, Angeal decided, they weren’t going to leave.
When Angeal returned, Sephiroth was on the couch. There was a very defined distance between the pair, one on either end of the couch, but the fact that he had come out was reassuring. He, like Genesis, was staring at the screen, though he was less slouched than the redhead.
“What are you watching?” Angeal asked with a grimace. Colorful blobs were dancing across an equally vivid backdrop, singing in high-pitched voices.
“Magic Moogle Mary,” Genesis said with a sneer.
“And Friends,” Sephiroth added, deadpan.
“Is there a rising rate of psychosis among the rising generation?” Angeal asked. Strangely, as much as the animation repulsed him, he was also strangely hooked. “And why are you watching children’s television anyway?”
“It was the only channel not driveling on about Sephiroth’s shopping spree.” Genesis said. “I told you he didn’t get anything good.”
“Ah, well, let’s turn it off right now and start something with some sanity.”
“It’s about time,” Genesis said as he turned the TV off with the remote. “I’m going to have nightmares tonight. In pink.”
Angeal set three shopping bags and three pizza boxes down on the table. Genesis made a dive for the bags while Angeal revealed the pizzas. “Basic triple meat, my personal choice.” He lifted the lid on the second box. “White sauce, toasted garlic pesto chicken and spinach, with extra finely diced tomatoes very evenly spread across the surface and the Romano cheese blend all on thin crust – for those picky eaters too high-strung to eat anything less….”
“I am not high-strung I am refined,” Genesis insisted, helping himself.
“The pizzeria hates you,” Angeal said. “And for those looking for a healthier option, there is the vegetable delight.”
“I do not think the simple presence of vegetables makes it much healthier,” Sephiroth commented, observing the sheen of butter and garlic across the entire surface.
“So eat some of Angeal’s triple meat,” Genesis said. “More protein that way, and double your satisfaction guaranteed. You know vegetables grown in Midgar are a joke anyway.”
Sephiroth looked at the slightly withered, barely colorful array spread across his pizza and nodded in agreement, though he did take a piece. “I do appreciate the sentiment, anyway.”
“You didn’t speak up when asked. You’ll have to OD on the company’s nutritionally engineered vegetable surprise tomorrow to compensate.”
“The point isn’t nutrition right now,” Angeal said. “And as Genesis has probably discovered, there are sodas and snacks for the movies in the bags.” He had considered getting stronger beverages, but mako-enhanced metabolisms did strange things when mixed with alcohol, and he didn’t want to compound any more problems on Sephiroth’s shoulders.
“Nobody touch my chocobo puffs,” Genesis said.
“No one wants to,” Sephiroth assured him.
“So we have three movies,” Angeal said, pulling out their options with one hand while holding a slice of triple meat pizza in the other. “Murder in Mideel, which is a highly ranked, award winning murder mystery.” He showed them the cover for several seconds. Clearly that was his favorite, but neither of his friends looked anything but indifferent toward that choice.
He continued, slightly daunted. “Abominable Haven, which is some kind of thriller survival story up in the Northern Crater…and Inferno, which I have no clue as to the plot, but it has lots of fire, apparently.”
“I vote for number three,” was Genesis’s immediate response.
With a sigh, Angeal lowered the other two. “Is that all right with you, Sephiroth?”
Sephiroth shrugged. Angeal was pleased to see that he was on his second piece of pizza and had even popped open a can of soda.
Angeal popped the movie in, then invited himself to sit between Genesis and Sephiroth.
For the entire length of the movie, no one said a word, only ate and drank and stared at the screen. True to the movie’s name, almost everything was almost always on fire, and Angeal, for one, couldn’t follow the plot enough to really even be able to tell why. Some people were running around screaming about something—probably escape—but it made no sense, especially because the roar of the flames made it very hard to hear what they were saying anyway. When all the fires were put out, the characters woke up in the hospital and that was that.
None of the three cared enough to turn off the TV, even after all the credits had run.
“I feel like we could have had the same cinematic experience by staring into a fireplace for two hours,” Sephiroth commented. Angeal was stunned at first that he had spoken, but laughed his initial shock away. Though probably meant more as a genuine expression of intense displeasure than a true joke, Angeal took the humor for what it was worth.
“We could have strung up a cadet for the screaming too,” Genesis added. “That would have been more fun.”
“Well, it was a distraction,” Angeal said. “And from the looks of things, it worked.”
“So I know Mr. Stony Silence probably doesn’t want to talk about it, but honestly, should we be worried about Hana? Last time she disappeared was quite the fiasco.” Genesis held his box of Chocobo Puffs upside down and shook. Sephiroth winced, not wanting to know what was in those things that made them cement themselves to the box.
“No, she’s with her brother.”
“Brother?” Angeal asked. “You didn’t say anything about a brother.”
“He didn’t say anything at all,” Genesis said, popping one of the chocolate clusters into his mouth. “Surprise.”
“Well that’s a good thing, right? She probably misses her family.” Angeal didn’t miss Sephiroth’s scoff before he hid it by downing more of the soda. He was drinking quite a bit of it tonight – he must be in a very bad mood, Angeal thought. He was grateful he hadn’t gone with the spirits. There was no way he would be taking this as well as he was if he had been sloshed.
“Her mother is dead,” Sephiroth said, crushing the can flat in his palms. “And her father is the one sending the troops after her.”
Genesis looked at Sephiroth. “Really?” he asked, teeth gummed up with caramel.
“And…the brother?” For once, Angeal had hope that he’d actually get answers. After all, he’d told them that much of his own violation.
Sephiroth sighed and leaned back on the couch, eyes closed. “He doesn’t approve of our marriage. He will likely try to convince her to leave with him.”
Silence. Seconds passed.
“And you’re going to let her go? Just like that?” Angeal threw at him.
“All your talk of honor,” he said, “and you’d have me force her to stay against her will? We knew he would come and this would happen. We prepared as if she was going to stay…but from the beginning, I’ve always known that it would come down to whatever she chose. It just came sooner than we planned.”
“But you’re married!” Genesis said.
“That does mean that she already chose you,” Angeal offered.
“Under duress. Honestly, can you see us as true husband and wife?”
Neither friend could honestly answer “yes”.
“I’m not a fool,” Sephiroth said. “Even I have known it from the start.”
“But—“ Genesis tried all the same. He turned Angeal for help, but the man only hung his head.
“If I make her stay,” Sephiroth said, “I’d be keeping her prisoner.”
“Perhaps,” Angeal said slowly, “it’s best to know now. Early on. Before…anything more can happen.”
“I don’t believe this,” Genesis said, angrily ramming his whole fist into the box of Chocobo Puffs in a desperate effort to pry out the last candy. “Even if she couldn’t put up with you anymore, which I can really understand, she could have at least had the decency to say goodbye to us!”
Angeal raised his head from where he had laid it on his palm. “Sephiroth,” he said, “you’ve changed.”
“Angeal, leave it alone.” Sephiroth said. He looked drained, exhausted, too tired to even maintain his regal posture anymore. He was just sort of draped limply across the couch, staring up at the ceiling.
“I mean, you’ve talked so much about her choosing you, but you know, it takes two to agree to make a marriage work.”
“And you haven’t said anything about your choice in the matter.”
Genesis suddenly became intensely interested, sensing where this was going.
“If you had the opportunity she had, if you could just walk away and never look back, would you take it?”
Sephiroth waited, blinking several times, face unreadable.
“I have thought about it,” he said. “And I don’t know. I really, truly have no idea.”
“But you’re upset!” Genesis added. “Doesn’t that mean you want her back?”
“It’s not that simple.” Sephiroth got up from the couch and stared at the blank wall, back to his friends. “It’s far too complicated to explain. Whether she stays or goes, far too much has been done. Neither of us could ever go back to the way things were.”
Angeal rose from the couch strongly, as if to dispel the dreary aura that had settled around them. “Look, we’re being pessimists. It’s been only three hours since you got back. That’s a fine amount of time for her to chat with her brother, maybe get some dinner and catch up. There’s no proof that she’s actually left yet.”
“Why wouldn’t she?” Genesis said. “I wouldn’t blame her.”
“You don’t mean that, Genesis,” he said, but pointed the comment at Sephiroth. “That’s your anger talking, so be quiet before you say something much harder to take back later.” The redhead snorted and continued raiding the candy box. “So, we are going to act rationally, sit down, eat more junk and watch another movie.
“We’re out of pizza,” Genesis said. “And soda.”
“I’ll order delivery. So sit back down. We don’t know anything yet.” Sephiroth didn’t move, and Angeal’s face softened in sympathy, even though he knew that it was the last thing that the General would admit to wanting. “And we’re not leaving, no matter what happens tonight. So don’t even think about it.”
After the title screen had run, Sephiroth finally took back his seat on the couch. Genesis didn’t look at him, but reached across Angeal to wordlessly offer him his last, half-melted Chocobo Puff. Sephiroth pushed the hand away, but silently acknowledged the grudgingly given apology.
It was going to be a long night, but Sephiroth wouldn’t have to face it alone.