Faith... and Remorse

Amber Michelle K.

He descended upon the unwary Ancient, cutting through the air above her. His eyes were not on her, but on Strife, standing before her with his weapon bared. Sephiroth raised Masamune ever so slightly. Laughter, insane laughter, bubbled up in him. The fool --

His sword met flesh, sliding cleanly through the Cetra to brush Strife's leg, and Sephiroth landed gracefully, without a sound. The girl slumped over his blade, the light in her eyes dying, and he glanced at Cloud, a small, taunting smile on his lips. Then he slid Masamune out of the Cetra, careful not to twist it in the wound, whatever Mother said, and let her fall.

Strife, released from Sephiroth's control, leapt forward to catch her in his arms, eyes disbelieving. "Aerith?...... Aerith......" Her small body slumped against him, eyes falling shut.

"No!! NOOOOO!!!" Sephiroth laughed --

-- And snapped back to reality, gazing around him in confusion until he remembered where he was. The Lifestream cascaded around him, and he watched it from his island at the center of the Planet. What had made him remember that, of all things?

Could it be that my son still has a heart.....? Such an inconvenience could cost us victory, my Sephiroth......

He pushed Jenova's voice away with difficulty. She was getting stronger, and he could not always keep her away when he wanted to. Would she try to seize control?

Control? Control.... hahahaha...... Soft, crimson laughter caressed him. Who is really in control, my Sephiroth...... I am your creator... your Mother.... Hahahaha...... Kiss me my son.... All will be better.......

His eyes narrowed, shedding inhuman light. Would she try to control him, who had freed her? A hand twined around his hair, running slender fingers through it. It reminded him of his children, and their mother......

Come to me my Sephiroth...... Hahaha.... My Sephiroth.....

Sephiroth jerked away with a snarl, prepared to throw a spell at his Mother if she persisted, when his eyes fell upon a slim, shadowy form illuminated by the light of Holy. He stared. Green mist obscured the island, and the steps leading out of the crater until it seemed he was floating on nothingness, alone with a ghost.

At first he thought it might be the one he loved, come to join him at last. But the illusion

faded. She stepped forward on thin air, and he saw the face from his dream: wide green eyes shining with innocence, pale skin...... so like her...... his only love...... Her intricate braid swayed as she walked, and her pink dress drifted on the unseen currants of the Lifestream.

Mother would be furious. The Cetra weren't supposed to be able to cross his barriers --

"You let me in, Sephiroth," she said in her soft sweet voice, so like...... his love. "Why did you call me?"

Call her?

Did you call her?

Did I call her? She would know......

"She still loves you, you know." The shade seemed to hear his thoughts right away. "She even forgave you for what you did to her. To me......"

She still loves me? Did his love even exist anymore? He quashed the thought in annoyance. He was above emotion. He couldn't afford it, if he wanted to keep control away from his dear mother. He could feel her waiting, coiled in the shadows of his mind. "What do you want?" he asked harshly.

She seemed unfazed. "The question is, what do you want?"

"You're Professor Gast's daughter..." She nodded. "Aerith.....?" He could feel her power. She gazed at him with emerald eyes, waiting patiently. She had asked what he wanted. "I want to restore this Planet to its history..."

"By violence and death?"

"What does it matter? I'm doing this for you, and your kind. For the planet. Why do you oppose me?"

His mother's derisive chuckling was growing very faint, and he felt weaker... But stronger. This Planet? Hahaha...... the Planet......

Aerith advanced slowly toward him. "Did you know that Jenova is the being that destroyed the Planet and made it necessary to sacrifice the Cetra? This crater," she waved her hand, encompassing the entire formation, "Was created by her. She walked among us as a friend, spreading her disease. We died, and the Planet failed. The last of us were sacrificed to save it. Why do we oppose you?" She tilted her head to one side, expression very serious. "Because you are advancing our destruction."

Sephiroth shook his head. She was wrong. Oh, he believed Mother was capable of such things, but he did not believe he was in the wrong. There were no Cetra left to destroy but one, and she couldn't be counted now. Dreams...... he had had strange dreams, of the past...... his Mother's past, he thought. "I will be there when death approaches......" he trailed off, unable to speak to those shining eyes.

"Are you sorry for what you did?" Aerith asked suddenly.

"What?" Sorry? What did he have to be sorry for? He was destined for greatness! Nothing she said would change that.

"You don't know, do you? You're lost...... Didn't anyone ever teach you......" She reached out, and he backed away hastily, but he wasn't fast enough. Her fingertips touched his cheek, and he felt himself being drawn into the vortex of the Lifestream.

* * *

"Sephiroth......" Lucresia stroked his forehead with her soft fingers, exhausted after giving birth to her child. She smiled down on him with all the warmth of the sun, infinite love behind her eyes.

"Some father he is,"a female voice muttered beside them, and a tall, blonde woman came into view. She straightened the sheet covering Lucresia's legs and sat down beside them on the bed, shaking her head. "Hojo hasn't shown his face in here since his son was born,

and --"

What? Impossible!!

" -- he refused to take any part even in naming him! The man just muttered something about the project and refused to have anything to do with it. I know I've said it before, Lucresia, but I don't know why you put up with him......" She trailed off. "What is his name?"

Lucresia smiled down again at the small bundle in her arms and whispered, "Sephiroth. My Sephiroth."

A familiar voice broke into their conversation, and Sephiroth shivered. Hojo. "Name him? Whatever for? The child is an experiment, woman. Don't grow too attached!"

* * *

NO!! He can't be...... Mother? Mother, where are you? Sephiroth was no longer sure who he was calling to. Instead of the Lifestream, endless darkness surrounded him. Not Jenova. Lucresia? No... no...... not Hojo! He laughed hysterically, his whole body shaking. Not him! Can't be him! He's no father of mine...... I have no father! No father! Ha ha ha ha ha...... He couldn't stop laughing. But tears streamed down his cheeks as well. He knew. The truth could not be denied......

Why are you doing this? He asked Aerith, knowing instinctively she was near, watching.

You wanted to know. I'm giving you your last chance to turn back......

Turn back? To what? He had nothing. Nothing......

He could no longer hear Jenova's voice, but he felt her pulling, dragging him back to the voices...... The chants...... The hatred...... Her will was overpowering his own. "Where are you Cetra? Answer me! If you want to show me --" The darkness ended abruptly in a flash of green light and the surface of the Lifestream rippled, coalescing as another dreamy scene.

* * *

"Hojo is not my father! No!" His memories took form before him.

Sephiroth turned the pages carefully, but his hands shook. Hometown? Nibelheim was his town. No... no... he didn't have a home.... Or a mother, or a father...... He laughed suddenly, breaking the silence that shrouded the room. "My mother...... mother... is ...." He couldn't suppress it. The book fell to the floor and he slumped over the table, laughing and crying at the same time.

"It's their fault! All their fault!" A strange grin plastered on his face, Sephiroth reached for the next manuscript. "All of them.... They were worthless.... Hahaha... Mother!" He thought he could feel her. No? Perhaps not...... Jenova was locked away... "By those worthless cretins... I can.... no.... Bring them back? Hahahaha....." He knew he was getting closer to the edge, but he did not care.

Why should he care, when he was not even human? He was above them. Above them all...... The world.... He needed to....

Yes. Why not remake the world, in your own image?

Sephiroth's head lifted in surprise, the manuscript forgotten.

We are Ancients. That is our right. To protect the Planet.

"Mother?" She was there. Or was it her? Was it another trick...? He detected a cynical edge to the words. He laughed again. It didn't matter.... Nothing did.... anymore..... But what was that grasping at his mind?

Not Mother, said a voice full of contempt. Sephiroth.

"Sephiroth?! Myself....Ha ha ha ha ha... ha ha ha...." He really was going over the edge. Talking to himself...... He laughed harder, feeling hot tears streaming down his cheeks. Mother....... "You're such a manipulative......." He saw his double sitting across from him. He grasped the object closest to his hand -- a book -- and threw it at the apparition. It wavered and faded. "Not me. Not..... not me.... Ha ha ha..... I would never...... Ha ha ha....."

"Sephiroth!" Footsteps pounded down the hall, toward him.

What fool would dare? He went back to the manuscript, the voice already out of his mind. The answer had to be here! It was there ... somewhere! It had to be! The voice couldn't be right.... The feeling he felt... couldn't be right!

Why fight me? This is a losing battle. We are -- We will be -- one, once again.

"What are you talking about?" He shivered suddenly.

The Reunion. You are a part of it, same as the rest.... and Mother. Won't the Cetra be happy to have their own back?

"Others? What others?" He shook his head wildly. The consciousness was creeping up on him again. He fought it, but it was stronger... somehow.

Pathetic creature! You've let them control your mind, and your body, and now you cannot even fight yourself! The contempt in that statement startled Sephiroth. He dropped the manuscript. Time seemed to slow. Embrace me! Kill those pathetic nuisances plaguing our Planet! They don't deserve this life!

"W-what......?" Sephiroth tried to push back from the table and rise to his feet, but his limbs would not obey his commands. Time stopped.

One way or another, I will free myself. Will you embrace me? The voice became quiet, insidious. Your rightful place Sephiroth, ruling over their souls...... Merging with me will give you all that you've wanted. Don't you want a loving mother?

"Shut up!" He managed to squeeze his eyes shut, pouring all of his will into the action. "I don't have a mother! I don't want one! Leave me --"

Never! Never! I created you! Do you think Gast and Hojo could possibly bring to life such a magnificent creature on their own?! They're human! What do you think is behind Shinra? Who do you think inspired you to mate with that.... Cetra? I own you!

"What? No! NO! Not --" Why did he believe her? Her words had the ring of truth. Her, not himself. Or was there any difference anymore? Who controlled events now? A weight hung over him.

A misty chuckle drifted up in the silence of his thoughts. I'll show you, son......

A floorboard creaked. "Who is it?! ..... Oh, it's you. Hmph. Traitor."

Zack started back in surprise. "Traitor? What do you mean?"

Sephiroth looked on, horrified. His mouth said the words, but he did not control them. How could this be? His body rose, walked around the table to his fellow soldier. Another presence. Him, but not...... Sephiroth. Mother's Sephiroth. He couldn't understand...... With his best effort, he tried to regain control. His vision blacked out for a moment.


"Out of my way. I'm going to see my Mother."

Anger bubbled up inside of him. Wasn't it enough that he knew what he knew? He was already on the brink of madness! Did Fate have no mercy at all? His anger gave him strength, and he pushed the other part of him back, regaining control. He continued to run up the stairs.

Another Sephiroth. Like his consciousness was divided in two, one familiar, the other.... something he didn't understand. But it wasn't him. Not the real Sephiroth. A puppet. A puppet who heeds Mother's call......

What do you have to lose, my son? Have you fooled yourself into thinking people care about your miserable life? I am all you have left. Why do you fight me?

"No! Someone cares! She cares.....!" He burst out of the mansion, charging into the cold mountain air of Nibelheim.

Mocking laughter followed him. They hate you! They use you, abuse you, and throw you away to the dogs when they're done with you! Are they even worth your contempt? How many times have you wanted to lash out at them?

"Right... She's right...." He fought the idea harder than he'd fought anything in his entire life. He had no love for the human race, but he respected their right to live on the Planet. But his thankless, loveless life with Shinra......

Just like that pathetic Cetra! She's known all along! She knows the Jenova project! Hahaha.... she lied to you. All this time. All this time..... that worthless --

"Stop! Liar!" He barely realized that he was yelling aloud. A large group of villagers, gathered around the well, turned to stare at him. She wouldn't lie to him...... not her!

Oh yes..... yes she would. The insidious voice hammered at him, and he clutched his head, fingernails scoring his cheeks and scalp. She doesn't care either...... She worked with Hojo, worked against you! Remember? Remember how different she was after the birth of your daughter? Hahaha..... haha...

"NO!!" Tears built up in his eyes. Power surged through his body. "Starfire, punish the weak with your Fury! Flare!" He threw the spell at the group of gawking villagers, gritting his teeth against the heat when it struck. Flames reached for the sky in an instant, consuming the entire town.

A tall, pudgy form, silhouetted against the flames engulfing Nibelheim, dashed into his path. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Sephiroth brought Masamune around and decapitated the annoying villager with a sweeping cut. Tears of frustration ran down his cheeks. He was losing himself. Forever. He couldn't even believe in the one thing that mattered to him.

Merge with me!

Another villager tried to block his path and went down with a gaping wound in his chest.

The blood never reached Sephiroth, who raced through the town in his madness, killing any he could find who had escaped his spell. But he was one again.

No longer two spirits fighting for dominance. One.

And Jenova's satisfied laughter echoed wildly......

* * * *

"You are....... a puppet...."

He shivered at the coldness of that statement. How could it apply to him? Strife was the puppet, and Sephiroth was...... he was......

"The same......" came the Cetra's thin whisper.

* * * *

She was finally stirring, tossing in her sleep as if caught in a nightmare. A bloodstain marred her plain blue dress, but underneath, where his knife had pierced her flesh, the skin was smooth and healed. Her face, twisted in pain, was the only sign that Jenova's cells were doing their work.

She resists.......

"What did you expect?" His anger still boiled, for he knew her chances of surviving were rather slim. He couldn't understand his worry -- she was supposed to be another tool to be used for his goal. If she did not manage to survive, he felt that a part of him -- the part of him that still called itself human -- would die.

Don't you dare speak of that to me! His mother shouted in his head, once again invading his thoughts. Her hate toward the diminutive woman before him shocked Sephiroth, as it always did when she spoke of the Cetra. You have no place in determining her fate, my son. She is to serve my cause, and no more.

"And if I intervene?" He thought silently.

You won't have that chance.

Indeed he wouldn't. A heavy but familiar weight settled over him, and he knew his next movements and words would be Jenova's. His Cetra stirred again on the cold lab table in the basement of the Shinra mansion and her eyelids began to flutter. "Let me go, Mother!"

He yelled in vain. Jenova didn't even acknowledge his plea; her focus centered on her experiment, the Cetra that had survived fusion with her cells. She was strong, or Jenova's being would have killed her, as it had killed her people millennia ago, when his mother had first walked the Planet. But if his fears proved true, she wouldn't be able to resist Jenova's will.

She rambled incoherently in a hoarse, whispery voice, speaking a language he did not know. Still writhing about, she gradually faded away, and he watched her lids slowly open, revealing her vivid, jade green eyes. "Sephiroth.....?" Her lips mouthed the hopeful word, but no sound escaped her lips.

His body moved at his mother's command, moving to stand next to the lab table silently, gazing coldly into her eyes. She looked away. "Welcome back, Ancient."

She flinched as if his icy tone had truly pierced her heart. "Ilya'nui..." The word for betrayer in her ancient language, he realized curiously, amazed that she would remember. But the thought was shattered when Jenova, still in control, swiftly slapped her across the face. She cried out and nearly rolled off the table from the force of the blow, tears immediately beginning to roll down her cheeks. A dark bruise stood out on her cheek, in sharp contrast to her pale skin.

No! Kielle! Jenova's will smothered his cries.

"You'll learn your place soon enough, Ancient. Be silent." He could hardly believe that sibilant voice was his own. He knew how to be cold and cruel, but not to her. Never to her.

This isn't me! Kielle! He managed to clench his fist, but Jenova's will still drove his body. Mother!

She looked at him again, her cheek still bright red, and sat up slowly. "Why, soldier?" She bit her lip and more tears spilled from her eyes.

No! No! He shouted helplessly in his mind, knowing she would not hear him. She had called him 'soldier' when they first met, and it had become habit for her during their time together, more like an endearment than a curse. He hadn't known that it meant anything to him until now. And he couldn't protect her from himself now.

He reached out and seized her wrists, yanking her to her feet. She stumbled and almost fell, and Jenova caught her by the hair and dragged her up, ignoring her screams. Sephiroth tried once again to regain control, and though his mother's concentration wavered, she still held on. But her little slip gave him hope; her anger truly seemed to be getting the better of her.

"Stand up Cetra! You won't have any pity from me!"

"Pity? I don't want your pity, soldier...... I thought I had... Had..."

"Love, dear?" A cruel smile twisted his lips. Her lips were beginning to tremble, and she was shaking, trying to writhe out of his grasp. He shoved her into a bookcase.

Leave her alone Mother! He knew she wouldn't listen. She was too busy indulging in her malicious amusement, and above all he felt her hatred.

Kielle saw something in his eyes. She must have, because her eyes were suddenly brimming with hope instead of tears, and she straightened. Jenova's fury escalated. He struck her again and she crumbled against the bookcase, curling into a ball. Her sobs wrenched his heart and Jenova's laughter mocked him.

No! He reached down and seized her hair again --

No! Don't show me anymore! Where are you, Ancient? Stop it!

I don't want to see --

* * * *

The Lifestream drifted around him. The horrible memory was no longer playing before his mind's eye, but he still felt himself shaking, half in rage, half in pain. Oh, he had finally managed to drive Jenova away, but not before Kielle had been hurt again. Would she ever forgive him?

"I told you, she already has. You should go back to her." Aerith materialized in front of him, pity in her eyes.

"I don't need your pity --"

"Nobody is stopping you but yourself, Sephiroth."

He stared at her incredulously. What did she know of Jenova, and her willpower? And what did it matter? He was saving the Planet. He would save them in spite of themselves.

"Send Meteor away."

"No." She smiled, and he felt like an impetuous child. The thought infuriated him. "You don't understand, Ancient."

Aerith tilted her head to the side, eyes distant. "They're almost here. This is your last chance, Sephiroth. If you go through with this, if you get past me, there will be no turning back for you. You will be... trapped."

"Damned, you mean? So be it. I won't fail. I can't fail!" Can I? If Jenova decided to interfere...... Did he really want this? All he was after was Strife. Becoming a god would be a long, slow process. The only thing speeding his ascension was Meteor. He had... plenty of time.

"She misses you."

Guilt surged through him before he could stop it. Why did the conversation keep going back to Kielle? He knew she missed him; he missed her. But her presence would only anger Jenova and put Kielle in further danger. She was safe at Nibelheim, taking care of their children. Away from his...... mother.

"She loves you."

"Shut up!" he shouted in a fury, clenching his teeth. "It doesn't matter. I -- She's better off this way. It -- it doesn't... matter." He turned his back on her and began to walk away.

"You would give up your last chance for something that will never happen? Why?"

A distant voice called him -- a voice filled with hate. His mother's life force slowly faded from his senses. Something was drawing him out, past the Ancient's barriers.

"Your last chance, fallen angel."

He paused.

"I told you, you are better than you think you are, soldier. An angel. Break free of your bindings, Sephiroth......"

...... And join her.

No...... I can't.

His eyes flared green, brighter than the Lifestream. Mother was calling him. Strife was calling him.

Aerith sighed. "I'm sorry."

Her voice waned and faded as Jenova's life force had, and when he looked back she was gone. The blackness gave way to the light of Holy.

Come, my son. It is time.

Her fist closed around his soul. He was trapped, well and surely.

Trapped...... With no way out.

Author's note: Hi! Hope you liked the story. For those of you who haven't read my other fic "Rebirth", Kielle is the character I created for that story. Obviously she's grown much more than I expected, so you may see her in other fics as well. Just as another note, this story is meant to take place right before the last battle with Sephiroth.

*** All FFVII characters, terms, and other story elements are copyrighted by Squaresoft of Japan. All original characters and story elements are the copyrighted material of Amber Michelle.

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