All day long it was throbbing, throbbing, heartbeats and pumping, and then one day, dark became light, the blind now had sight.
And Sephiroth opened his eyes.
Wide green eyes blinked at this blurry, bright-colored world, and two pairs of dark eyes, one pair sad, one pair angry stared back down at him.
"This is my assignment?"
Lying perfect tiny body still in his incubation chamber, Sephiroth blinked into florescent lights, watching the tank across the room. The creature inside had closed eyes, but her blued, marred lips curved up in a sadistic smile.
"Yes. And as a Turk, you will accept it."
"I'm a goddamn Turk, Vincent. Not a babysitter. What is this? Some sort of joke about my age? You think I haven't gone through enough hazing?"
"It's not a joke."
The baby's eyes looked up again and the two pairs of eyes focused elsewhere, and dubbed them uninteresting. They turned back to the creature in the tank.
For a moment, he almost thought he saw her eyes open.
The nurse came in. Her eyes were tired, guilty, even.
"I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to leave. We're taking out the baby for some tests."
The angry eyes narrowed, changed.
"Wait...right now? Hasn't he just been bor-"
"Yes, sir, that's why we're doing the tests. Would you like to take a seat outside?"
"Yah, yah... But Vincent, what about the woman? The mother? What abo- Vincent? Vincent!"
For a second, the eyes that looked down into the green eyes were bleak, pained.
But a swirl of black cape flew over Sephiroth's vision, somewhere else in the room, a door slammed shut.
Sephiroth closed his eyes.
For the first 3 years of his life, Sephiroth never spoke a single word, never made a single sound, never once cried, or laughed, or smiled, just stayed motionless and unnatural.
Then, one day, he spoke.
"Who am I?"
No baby's gurgling, no dada, mama, just one, complete, crisp, articulate question.
He was precisely three years old.
Tseng nearly fell out of his chair, so startled was he.
"I am Sephiroth." A moment of thought. "And why am I here?"
"I don't know."
Sephiroth nodded, slowly, surely, soaking in all with large blinking green eyes.
"And who are you?"
"And why are you here?"
"To watch you."
"Ah. I see."
The boy's eyes swung up to eyeball one of the mansion's many security surveillance cameras.
"To watch me...All of you...just watch me."
Tseng blinked. "...yes."
And that was all.
Some days little Sephiroth was quiet, silent, staring off into who knew where. Some days he was a tiny ball of silver and white rage, screaming, howling in fury. Some days he was distant, would speak slowly to his 'mother', while Tseng always sat by his side, merely watching, never interfering, never truly interacting, always a bit unnerved.
"I'm never going to die," Sephiroth suddenly said to Tseng, one of the random thoughts he brought up after hours of silence.
"I'm not everybody." Sephiroth had said, mako green optics still huge.
"That so?" Tseng said half-heartedly.
Sephiroth looked down at his bizarre assortment of old Turk gun parts as toys, then looked at Tseng for a long time.
"My father's expecting me."
Tseng sighed. Did he really want to go back to Hojo and his lab? Was this place even close to as horrible as that...that over santized dungeon? Each day he watched Sephiroth get placed on rough carpet of the Turk's quarters, with nothing on but a diaper and a flimsy green medical gown. Each day he noticed the harsh abrasions, the gut-wrenching rickrack of stitches traced up a toddler boy's side, arm, neck, forehead. Half the time the child still had tubes stuck in him when he got pushed coarsely in. And he could do nothing about it. Only, after all, a Turk. Tseng looked up at the security camera. Oh, how he wanted to shoot a hole, send a bullet speeding through it's disgusting eye, its constant watching Shinra pupil. Finally, he spoke. "It's not on my schedule," Never did he stop his work, feigning disinterest for the watching, watching eyes. "So you're not moving an inch, buster."
Sephiroth casually unstuck Tseng's dagger from his boot, run a finger down it admiringly, looked at his reflection in the blade.
"My mother's expecting me."
Revulsion, pain, fear flooded Tseng. "That's sick. Your mother's dead and you know it." His heavy booted foot kicked the heavy wooden door, and its shadow trailed after it despairingly, ending in a puddle of darkness only as the door slammed shut mournfully.
Sephiroth's eyes narrowed. His voice rang out like a bell. "You know what? You're going to die, Tseng. I'll be alive, my mother will be alive, but you'll be dead. Dead, dead, dead. And as you crawl to your deathbed, you know what you'll do, Tseng? You'll wish you were me. Because I'm not going to die."
Tseng's unnerved eyes followed the small silhouette as the boy rose up on the tips of his feet, twisted the doorknob, walked out, and closed the shadow-dragging door behind him. Tseng glanced up at the security camera in the corner. The Shinra spies never stopped watching.
Sephiroth grew up quickly, well. He was a good looking, cherubic child to start out with, but after toddlerhood, he began to get bonier, to thin out, elongate, grow angles. It was on his sixth birthday that Tseng did something even he did not understand. It seemed as fate had lugged the Turk into that weapons shop that day. It was the day that he broke the rules...and he bought Sephiroth a present.
It was one of those outrage days for Sephiroth. Hojo had given him a hard time, and the child was very, very irritated. "Who does he think he is? Does he think he owns me? That I am somehow his? I am not!!! I am my mother's and my mother's only! He thinks me one of his guinea pigs....to prick me and make me squeal...well I'm sick of it! I swear he cares more for that rat than he does me. I'll show him....I am the experiment! I am a God! "
Tseng ignored the rantings, gave Sephiroth a small, thin smile: the kind that he was used to giving after all these years. "Does his Lordship know what day it is?"
"Tuesday," the named proclaimed coldly.
"Your birthday. Your sixth birthday."
"What's a birthday?"
He was still a child, after all. A sheltered, neglected child.
"It's a day that celebrates the day you were born."
"I wasn't born. I was created."
Tseng raised an eyebrow. He knew how to handle this. With a quick involuntary glance to the security camera, he leaned in to peer at the boy. "Don't want your present then?"
Tseng smiled quickly. "A gift. For your birthday." From Tseng's coat pocket, he slid out a small knife, a miniscule dagger and sheath, plain steel in a leather case.
Sephiroth snatched from his guardian's grasp greedily, pulling the weapon from it's scabbard. "It's tiny," he spit out in disgust, jabbing it at the air, sneering at its impotency.
"You're six. It'll do." Tseng was not offended: he had predicted Sephiroth's reaction a long time ago.
Sephiroth stared at his reflection in the clean steel. "It's a start, at least." Something strange wavered across Sephiroth's lips, a bit like a smile. "Thank you Tseng. I'll make good use of it."
Hojo burst into the small corner room, eyes bulging. "You!" he screamed at Tseng, who sat back in his seat and stared at Hojo with much interest.
"Yes Sir, Tseng, Second Order Turk, Sir, how can I help you, Sir?"
"I know your name you gun-toting cretin. What the hell do you think you were doing interfering with our experiment?"
"Do you know how much this will cost us? The funding goes way beyond your puny imagination, I'm sure. President Shinra will have your head."
Tseng blinked, tried to dodge the spittle flying out from beneath the man's mousy moustache. "Sir, I'm afraid I'm sure not clear on what you're talking about."
"The knife, the knife, you gave that miserable boy a knife. The orders were explicit. Do not interact, interfere, or intrude in any way into the Jenova Project. That means you do not talk to the boy, you do not get near the boy, you do NOT give the boy presents. Do you hear me?!?!"
"Yes sir. May I ask, Professor, what it is exactly that happened?"
"The hamster! The primary specimen after Sephiroth!"
"And what about this uh...hamster, was it?"
"What happened? I found him pinned to my bloody laboratory wall! Dead, damn you, dead! Millions of dollars flushed down the drain, thanks to you. That hamster probably cost more than you do. And with what is he pinned? The knife that YOU gave to the boy. Oh, don't try and deny it, we've got the security tapes to prove it. I saw it alll happen. You're lucky I'm so lenient, Mr. Tseng, or I'd make sure you'd get kicked out of Shinra for good."
But the young Turk wasn't listening...he was grinning broadly at a little silver haired boy who was being forcefully carried by two nurses by the door. Sephiroth kicked one nurse hard, waving the tiny knife lustily at Tseng in greeting, eyes locked on Tseng until the very last second when he was dragged away.
When Sephiroth returned from Hojo's electroshock 'therapy', he did not speak for weeks. Even with a thick camelhair blanket wrapped about him, he could not stop shaking. Those green eyes that kept getting brighter burned into the wall as he sat unmoving on the floor of the room. The nurses, even Hojo would pop their heads in from time to time, staring at him with some sort of professional concern. It seemed like he was reverting back to his speechless ways. But Tseng took something from the fact that in his tiny fists he still clenched tightly the little knife. Tseng looked into the camera. Take that, Shinra.
The day Sephiroth started speaking again was the day that Hojo decided that he would be allowed outside contact. Tutors, teachers, sensei and the like. He wanted to see if the boy's mind still worked, Hojo had said. He wanted to see what he could make of this little experiment of his. Slowly, with enough human interaction, Sephiroth might even be put back into society....in yet another experiment.
The same day, Tseng was notified that Vincent was now legally considered by Shinra to be dead. Missing for 5 years was enough to be certified dead...for a Turk, 7 was the bottom line... Now all that was left was to pick the new Turk leader, pick his main supporting group. Tseng waited patiently, knowing his time in Nibelheim was almost over.
"I hate Hojo," hissed Sephiroth.
"I know you do," said Tseng dryly. "I heard you the first couple hundred times."
"I hate him."
"Yup." Tseng continued polishing his shoes.
"I'm glad I killed his stupid hamster." Sephiroth turned his head to the side, studied Tseng's movements. "Where are you going, tonight? While I'm at my lessons? Out to the town again?"
"Going to see a girl again?"
"It's none of your business," said Tseng primly, continuing to shine his shoes.
"I hate Hojo," pouted Sephiroth, returning to his original train of thought.
"I'm going to be soldier, someday, you know, Tseng? A great soldier. I'm going to be a legend. You're all going to admire me. I know it. Sensei says I'm the best he's seen in a while." He leaned in, whispering, as if he had a great secret. "Mother helps me, you know."
"Good for her."
"Hojo's going to do another operation."
Tseng looked up sharply. "Another one?"
Sephiroth nodded. "Yes. Another one."
The boy's frail little body still showed humongous pink scars lining the length of his body from the last operation. How, Tseng thought, could a boy grow, if large quantities of flesh, skin, organ, brain tissues were being taken from him for testing, constantly? How could a boy grow while always under the light of the operating room?
Tseng shook his head in disgust. He was a Turk. And he would keep his mouth shut. But still....
"How's this. It's your birthday in your week."
"Oh, yes. This...birthday."
"I'll take you out and get you a sword. A real one, this time."
"I'm not allowed out."
"I'll sneak you out."
Really, what was the harm? Hojo wouldn't be able to do a thing to either of them. Sephiroth was going to leave the day after his 7th birthday for some Shinra child military school of some sort, and Tseng would have a new assignment.
"A sword. I like that." Sephiroth's eyes glinted. "You promise?"
The phone call came too soon. Tseng was the Turk leader. At the age of 20, he had to be one of the youngest of his ranking ever. He was put in charge of Vincent's old Turks, but he was informed that due to their rapidly rising age, he could dispose of them and recruit new Turks as he wished.
He was leaving Nibelheim for Midgar, the following morning. A coach would be waiting, and there would be no questions asked.
Except by Sephiroth.
Tseng picked up his bag, walked briskly out the door. His face was dark. "I already told you that," he said roughly.
Sephiroth followed him out of the room, nearly 7 year old footsteps triple-timing to keep up with Tseng's long strides. The security camera turned, straining to keep up. "Why?"
"Sephiroth, I'm 20 years old. I'm not a teenager anymore. I'm going to a real job with real missions. This part of my life is over."
"You mean my part of your life is over."
They were at the gate now; Sephiroth had never ventured past this point in his entire life. His whole existence was encompassed within these steely gates of the mansion. Never once had he been out of sight of his constant watchers.
"Tseng, stop. Stop. Stop now! I order you to stop!"
Tseng slowly, slowly eased to a stop. The shrill voice was shrieking wildly.
"You promised you'd take me to get a sword, Tseng, you promised. What's going to happen now?"
"I break my promise."
Sephiroth snorted in scorn. "So you just leave? Everyone's left me in my life. My mother, my nurses, my governesses, my father was never there to begin with. You're just going to leave like the rest of them?"
Tseng sighed, picked up his bag again, and started towards the coach.
The Turk winced, but didn't look back.
It was raining now, pouring. The sky wasn't even visible.
"Tseng, I'm warning you, DON'T!"
He was at the door to the coach. He put his bag in. He could feel Sephiroth's eyes boring into his back. Shinra eyes... Slowly, he turned around to see if the boy was crying.
But he wasn't.
Sephiroth was furious, livid with anger, screaming, howling with unconstrained fury. The emerald eyes were not teary, but rather aflame. "You are NOT allowed to do this!!!" The boy was jumping up and down, sopped in rain. His skimpy clothes were soaked through, translucent with their wetness. "I said it once, and I'll say it again, Tseng. I'll kill you!" yelled the boy. "I'm warning you, if you get in that coach, I will hunt you down and kill you! I'll kill you! I'll KILL YOU!!!!!"
Tseng straightened his shoulders. And entered the coach.
Bit by bit, the vehicle pulled away; the Turk closed his eyes. And Tseng left Nibelheim that night, with nothing but a suitcase, a gun, and one very wet, very cold, very hurt little boy left behind, screaming at the top of his lungs that one day he'd take Tseng's life, screaming, screaming in the rain.