They all knew each other. They stood out – all seven of them – anomalies in the world they lived in. Though they didn’t always get along and some outright hated each other, they were each other’s worlds, every one of them, because all they had was each other.
She’d been brought into what was formally called the ShinRa Company Orphanage only two weeks prior, and already, this truth was branded into her heart.
It had been hard at first to live as a child in this world of adults, especially given how she had come there. They were all small, inferior, physically and intellectually. They were powerless in every way, herded like sheep from morning to night in everything they did.
But they had each other. And it was enough.
Except, of course, for him.
He was kept far away from the rest of them, and why was more a matter of myth than anything else. He should have been with them, sharing a room with the other three boys, eating and playing with them and sharing their dreary state of existence. But for whatever reason, he was kept separate. He was special, somehow, they whispered to her, their tones always soft and reverent as they spoke of him. He was really different, even from them, the unwanted outcasts of society.
They only ever saw him as he was marched to unknown places, surrounded by Turks. None of them had ever heard him speak, and so rumor had it that he couldn’t at all. He was a solemn, strange figure – whose porcelain face betrayed nothing, ever.
She hadn’t seen him yet, but she heard of him every night.
They called him “The Silver One”, for that was supposedly the color of his hair, though she could hardly believe such a thing was real. He was both a legend and a scapegoat in their bleak world. He was how they explained the many unexplainable things in their lives. “He’s not human, and he’s probably not even really a kid,” they told her. “You can’t be tricked by the way he looks! He’s some kind of god…or demon…and he can make things happen.”
Though she didn’t believe in such things, she liked hearing the stories. They added excitement to their lives that they desperately needed, an unsolvable mystery to keep them on their toes and delight them with impossible tales.
“You know that time he fought off the Turks guarding him? They say they had to call in ten SOLDIERS to stop him from escaping! Apparently he almost made it too…”
“That’s nothing! I hear he killed a whole pack of monsters with his bare hands!”
“I hear he did it blindfolded.”
Soon, she found herself adding to the tales just as all the other children did. Each rumor stretched and grew until it had a life of its own, never the same, always delightful. Rumors turned to blatant lies, perhaps, but ones that made them laugh and shriek or sit in stunned awe. And for that, she was truly grateful. Even if she insisted to herself that she knew they weren’t real, this Silver Child was the spice in her bland life.
But though the other children insisted that they’d seen him with their own eyes, she knew that he was just a figment of their imaginations, a fairytale to bring life to the living dead.
She just knew that he wasn’t real.
Until the day that she’d been thrown into that cell with him.
Of the two options, perhaps irrationally, she feared Sephiroth less. And so her feet carried her forward, towards him.
It took all her willpower to approach and then wrap her arms around Sephiroth’s waist. His body was unyielding, hard as stone, his eyes never moving from where they were fixed with lethal intensity on President ShinRa, not even to look at her as she drew nearer. When her embrace did nothing, she slid a hand up his chest and onto his jaw, where she cupped his face in her gloved hand. “Sephiroth,” she said, stroking his cheek lightly with her thumb. “I’m so glad that you could make it.”
She feared that it wouldn’t be enough. She had tried to swing it so it would seem as natural as possible, but he was lost in a rage for blood, sword eager to drink and drink deeply. She didn’t know what else she could do without breaking the delicately balanced situation.
She waited, praying. Praying he had even heard her voice, that he could see her through the foreign presence that had invaded his eyes.
The tense silence ended at last as his eyes closed and he exhaled his wrath.
The world resumed its motion. People began to talk and mingle once more, though everyone stayed well away from the couple by the veranda. At least they were no longer the center of attention.
Sephiroth folded his hand over hers and pulled it from his cheek. “Hana,” he said.
“Are you okay?” she whispered to him.
“I am fine,” he said, though she knew it was a lie. Too much had happened for even one as stoic as him to be unaffected, and embers of a conflict she wasn’t sure that she understood still seethed under a markedly thin façade of normalcy and control. “We have work to do.”
She heard it still, that hateful cane tapping a leisurely beat as the man stepped closer and closer.
Genesis and Zack were at her side. “Is that him?” the redhead asked.
“…Yes.” Sephiroth responded, but something passed between the two SOLDIERS that was far more than the meager words exchanged. Sephiroth’s dark wing twitched.
She sucked in a breath and turned to face the same direction as her husband. Sephiroth’s hand slid across her back and rested on her opposite hip as she instinctively drew closer to him.
They were in a bad state to face her father, but the time to do it had come, whether they were ready or not.
“Blackwell Reuben,” Sephiroth said, regarding her father with narrowed eyes. Hana couldn’t decide whether her hate or fear of the man was stronger. “What are you doing here?”
The man was dressed in the dated clothes of years past, and he stood out from the crowd for it, but he wore them well all the same. His suitcoat was large and thick, well embroidered with gold cords and carved buttons, with coat tails past his knees and boots just as tall. A dark cape billowed behind him, and there was lace at his wrists and his throat, secured with pendants of onyx, and the silver chain of a pocket watch draped over his breast. He wore a modestly sized top hat with a white feather tucked into the brim, its large plumage toeing the line between majestic and ridiculous.
The man’s thin, bloodless lips curled into a smile, and his eyes, too small for his face and infinitely dark, were glimmering with mako and malice. “Sephiroth,” the man greeted, resting both hands on the head of his ebony cane. “This is the first time we meet, son, and already you regard me so coldly?”
Sephiroth’s wing swept in a great, outward arc before adjusting itself to rest at his side, the wind it created rushing audibly through her hair, billowing her skirt, and playing with Reuben’s coattails. Though the action may very well have been involuntary, it was beautiful, and Hana allowed herself a moment of awe at its strength and grandeur.
“And you…you’re that little Gongaggan boy,” Blackwell continued. His smile faded, and he looked bored. “How droll.”
“That’s right, I am!” Zack said, more heatedly than was prudent and they all knew it. “And I haven’t forgotten what you’ve done!”
Blackwell hummed his disinterest. “I see the years have not tamed your spite, boy. No matter. I have no time to waste on you anyway.” Zack geared himself to charge but was held back by Genesis’s outstretched arm.
“And Commander Rhapsodos, too. You are behaving more calmly than I would have expected, given the rumors of your…theatrics.”
Genesis smirked. “Don’t be fooled by my demeanor,” he said. “I am only acting a part.”
“I see.” The man frowned but ultimately disregarded the both of them. “And my little girl…”
“Don’t call me that,” Hana hissed. “You are a monster and I hate the fact that I carry your filthy blood.”
“What is a father to do?” Blackwell lamented, sighing deeply. “My only daughter was whisked away in the dark of night, and I learn that she has married a stranger behind my back. And now that we are reunited at last I am still greeted so coldly, though I bring nothing but blessings for your union despite being so spurned.”
“I don’t want your blessing!” Hana cried. “You can take it and go!” Sephiroth pulled her tighter into him. It might have appeared to be a comforting gesture, but she felt the warning in his snappy movement. He was telling her to reign in her emotions. Hana grit her teeth and swallowed a snarl, taking a deep breath instead as she tried to comply.
“Your words are bitter as always, Yuki,” Blackwell said, and Hana’s eyes narrowed at that use of her name.
“I’ll give you more than words---!“ Zack started, but was silenced by a glare from both of his superior officers. His face was grim and determined, but he seethed in silent inaction for the moment.
“Why are you here?” Sephiroth asked.
“I’m offended that you even need to ask!” Blackwell said, one gloved hand sweeping his cape behind his shoulders. “I came to see my precious daughter, and to ensure that she was being well cared for.”
“I’m fine,” Hana said. “So leave.”
“Come now, child! Much has happened since last we saw each other. Even President ShinRa himself agreed that there is much to be discussed. So much so, in fact, that he has invited me to stay as an honored guest.”
The conversation stopped cold. He had already gone to the President. And he would be here in the building, perhaps even staying on the same floor that they lived on.
Blackwell took noticeable pleasure by their silence, flashing a wide grin. “I trust we will be good neighbors. After all, we are already family.”
“You--!” Genesis grabbed Zack by the shoulders and held him tight.
But the man touched the brim of his hat and gave a curt bow. “The honor has been mine, gentlemen, and my fair little princess, but the President and I have much to discuss before the night is done.” And with a second tip of his hat, he curtly dismissed himself, cane rapping harshly with every step.
“A final word, then, if you please,” Genesis said, a coy smile of all things tugging at the corner of his lips. “Humor me a moment. I do so hate to not have the last lines.”
Blackwell stopped and hummed his interest, but did not look back at them.
“If it is a battle of words you wish to wage,” Genesis said, “you may very well beat Sephiroth, but you cannot best me.”
Blackwell laughed. “Is that a threat, Commander?”
“Perhaps,” Genesis said. “It has been some time since I have had such a contest, and I can’t say I’m not intrigued.”
Blackwell turned so all they could see under the shadow of the brim of his hat was a brilliant, white smirk. “Then let us wage glorious war, Commander, and see which of us can capture the hearts of the planet.”
And with that, he took his leave.
“A most intriguing opponent,” Genesis said quietly. “And, doubtlessly, quite the dilemma.”
“It’s a disaster!” Zack said. “He’ll be so close all the time! And what are you doing, Genesis? You wouldn’t let me at him but you just up and---”
“We will adapt accordingly,” Sephiroth said. For all that he was dressed only in pants and bandages and sported a wing of all things, he carried himself with more dignity than anyone else in the room. He did, however, noticeably look away from Professor Hojo, who loomed in the distance like a shadowy fiend. His wing gave a twitch under the evil doctor’s leer.
“You need to rest,” Hana said softly.
“I have rested enough.” And the way he said it left no room for argument. “There is work to be done.”
“Then let’s get out of here,” Hana said. “I’m done with this.”
And for the first time that evening, he looked at her. She froze as his eyes traveled slowly up and down her body, electricity sparking in her veins in the wake of his gaze. He hummed softly. She didn’t have the slightest clue what the noise meant.
“Very well,” he said. “We will withdraw for the night.”
But President ShinRa was walking their way, Hojo lurking suspiciously behind. Hana groaned as she steeled herself to face them but Sephiroth turned her away. “Come, we will go,” he said.
But she planted her feet. She remembered what had happened last time he had refused the President. He looked down at her, searched her eyes, and then closed his own as he understood.
“There is nothing more they can do to me,” Sephiroth said, voice low and deadpan.
Hana swallowed her retort and let him lead her into the night, knowing that they were turning their backs on a nest of angry vipers.
Sephiroth’s silver hair flowed in the wind, strands dancing lithely around his body, while his wing remained strong and impassive to its caress. She was transfixed by the scene – his resolute stance and ever guarded expression, and yet there was movement still in the things he could not control: the flowing of his hair, a flicker in his eyes, and even a shudder of the mighty wing at his shoulder.
Living, liberating silver writhing across the stoic, inky blackness.
The movement thrilled her.
Her fingers ached to stroke his glossy plumage, but she knew the gesture would not be welcomed. Still, she was fascinated by the way his wing moved and its foreign beauty and strength, even though she knew full well the terrible truth about how it had been acquired.
Could something so tragic ever be truly beautiful, she wondered? The great wing shifted, curling into itself before relaxing again.
She smiled softly despite herself, the uncertain action not daunting her in the slightest. For the first time in a long time, she had hope that it could.
Angeal watched Hana and Sephiroth as they exited the gala. He had been late to arrive because he had been at another place that he had been sure Sephiroth would dart to in his anger, but from the looks of things, the crisis had been averted, with or without Zack’s help.
They didn’t see him, or at least, they gave no indication that they did.
The ordeal had changed Sephiroth, of that he was certain. When the man had first awakened Angeal had been terrified that ShinRa had broken him at last. He now clung to the evidence he had that this was not the case. It seemed more accurate to say that something inside him had snapped. Something was being let loose – something kept sealed in the furthest reaches of his soul until ShinRa went too far and freed it.
Angeal feared it. Whatever was being unleashed, it was not the friend he knew. It didn’t belong inside him.
Too much had happened too fast, and Sephiroth was now gravely wounded in far more than just his flesh. Angeal had a sinking feeling that the worst was yet to come, and Sephiroth’s condition would only worsen.
The only hope he could garner was in Hana’s hands, now resting gently on his friend’s back.
She was changing too, in ways that he almost didn’t dare to hope.
Whether or not it would be enough was more than he could say.
As soon as she saw it she knew it was over.
She had failed.
She had failed him.
Her camera dropped to the floor as she fled.
She wasn’t there long enough to see it break, or how the cloak of her pursuer passed over the pieces.
When the cane struck her, she welcomed the blackness.
I did this to him…