Prologue

He was memory.

There was no present, no senses to rely upon, no world around him but the darkness.

Only memory.

There were two memories, and they both belonged to one who had called himself Sephiroth. A part of him knew that they were his memories. One was real. The other, false.

The first was life. He was powerful, respected, even admired. No one could match his prowess, and there were only a handful of men whose positions were higher than his. He was a living myth, Sephiroth the perfect soldier, the hero.

And like all myths, he was a lie.

The second was death. He was a monster, a destroyer, hated and feared. No one could match his prowess, and all who stood in his path died. The whole world trembled, for he could, and would, destroy it. Sephiroth the killer, the bringer of doom.

Here was his truth.

He could not be untrue to himself. He was a monster. Those who had made him what he was, those who did not know, those who were like him - all of them had to be destroyed. Then, he would be reborn, no longer a monster, but a being of light.

A god.

But here, too, memory lied. He had not become a god. He had simply...

What?

Died?

Was this death?

It was not an eternity he cared to remain in.

Unbidden, another memory came into his mind. The face of a girl, still smiling even in death, as she fell. What did that smile mean? Peace? Oblivion? Perhaps it was nothing more than mere foolishness.

He had the strangest feeling that she was smiling at him.

Her name, he recalled, was Aeris.

His eyes flew open.

Light flooded his vision. His eyes adjusted almost before he could register the light, and he could see its source. He was staring up at a dim blue-white light panel, set into a matte white ceiling.

He could not turn his head, nor move. He could not even look down at his body.

Where was he?

He could hear, as well. There was a sound to his left. An automatic door, and footsteps. But he couldn’t muster the energy to turn and-

The face from his memories, that of the girl who had smiled at him as she died, stared down at him.

She gasped and stepped back, out of his vision.

A moment later, she was back. She met his eyes, and smiled, just as she had then.

He marshaled all of his strength, enough to whisper a single word. “Why?”

Before she could answer, he lapsed into unconsciousness.

The next time he awakened, he was stronger. Strong enough that he could will himself to turn his head.

She was there, again. Though she was seated in an austere metal chair, she had managed to fall asleep. Everything was silent, except for her breathing, and his.

He looked around the room. There was not much to see. Aside from the table he lay on, and the girl in her chair, there was, in fact, nothing to see. The walls and what he could see of the floor had the same design as the ceiling - plain, blank, sterile.

No clue as to where he was, how he had gotten there, or why she was there with him.

He had killed her.

That smile she had worn at her death, that she had seemed to smile at him, was smiled at her killer.

Then how could she be here?

And where was here?

This was no better a death than the prison of memories he had inhabited before.

He turned his head to face the girl.

She looked back.

“You’re awake,” she said quietly.

He didn’t answer.

“Are you feeling better?” she asked.

He closed his eyes. “No,” he said. His voice was dry, scratchy.

“May I get you something?”

He didn’t respond. He wanted no dealings with her. She was a fool, or perhaps insane, to even be in the same room with him.

This time, he welcomed the darkness which took him.

“Why?” he asked.

She was standing at the far end of the room, looking at something on the wall which he could not see. She turned at the sound of his voice. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Why help me?”

She walked over to where he lay. “Because you needed help.”

“But I am monster. I killed you,” he said.

She looked down at herself, then met his eyes. A smile, not the peaceful one she’d worn at her death but a simpler, more comprehensible one, appeared on her face. “It doesn’t seem like it,” she said.

“Quite.” He frowned. Perhaps not so much more comprehensible.

She lowered her eyes. “When I first saw you here, I was afraid of you. All I could think of was to run away and hide.”

A wiser course than the one she had chosen, he thought.

“But you were hurt. I think you were dying. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t let you die. And, I...” Her voice faltered. “... I didn’t want to be alone any more.”

So that was it. Perhaps, in that light, it made some sense. She had helped him because he was the only one else in... whatever this place was. Loneliness was something he could understand.

He raised his hand, and it closed around her neck. “I could kill you now,” he said.

He could feel her trembling as his fingers tightened. But she took a deep breath and said, “You could.”

He would be well enough to walk, soon. His strength would hold even if he couldn’t get food or water for longer than that. She clearly knew next to nothing about this place - she would have left it if she could. And she was a fool.

There was absolutely no reason to allow her to live.

Just as she had had no reason to allow him to live.

His hand dropped back to the table.

“Thank you,” she said.

He chuckled. “I am simply not strong enough yet. Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll kill you.” He met her eyes. “Or will you see to it that I cannot?”

She shook her head.

Madness, pure and simple. “Why not?”

When she didn’t say anything, he searched for the answer in her expression. But there was no answer to be found. She looked away.

As he fell asleep again, he wondered if she would reconsider helping him - and if he wanted her to.

.

He was well. Either his own regenerative abilities, or her caring for him, or both, had restored him all but completely.

He rose from the metal table and looked around.

She was gone.

Had she fled? Hidden?

If she was such a coward as that, he would certainly make good his threats. But something told him otherwise. She had not wavered for a moment when he had been ready to snap her neck. That took courage, and of a sort few indeed possessed.

The room looked just as empty as when he’d first seen it. But what had she been looking at, over in that corner?

He strode over. But even on closer inspection, there was simply nothing to see. Perhaps she’d taken it with her?

He rested his hand on the wall.

It began to glow.

He pulled his hand back.

Where there had been a blank wall, there was now a glowing touchscreen panel. His fingers brushed across it, and it turned black, displaying line after line of what appeared to be some sort of script, though it was unlike any he’d ever seen. It rolled past faster than his eyes could track it.

The door opened behind him.

He spun around. His hand, held flat and stiff, halted a centimeter away from the girl’s face. His arm dropped to his side when he saw who it was, instinct sated.

She turned to him, her already unhealthily pale face white as a sheet. “I... see you’re feeling better,” she said.

He nodded.

“Are you going to kill me now?” she asked, standing ramrod straight. Though her nerve was admirable, she hardly looked impressive - the top of her head was barely level with his chin.

“No,” he said, turning back to the touchscreen.

“May I thank you, then?”

Rather than answer her, he asked, “Can you read this?”

She looked at the writing on the screen. “A little bit. My mother taught me some while she was alive, and I’ve been doing my best to learn more since I got here.” “Then you are still useful,” he said.

“I hope so, Sephiroth.”

He paused. She had not spoken his name since he’d awakened. He had not thought of it himself. It reminded him of who, what, he was.

“Why did you save me?” he asked, whirling around and grabbing her by the shoulders.

She tried to pull back, but his grip was too strong.

“Why?” he demanded.

“Because you were in pain,” she said quickly.

“I was unconscious,” he snapped, his grasp tightening. “Do not lie to me! What is it that you want?”

“You were in pain.” Her wince told him that she certainly was. He did not relinquish his hold. “Your heart was crying out.”

“My heart,” he said coldly, “like your own, is a simple muscle. It regulates the flow of my blood efficiently and consistently. It does not ‘cry out’.”

“Yes,” she said, her eyes shining, “it does.”

He released her, and she slumped to the floor, still looking up at him. “Answer my question.”

“I sensed a great pain in you,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears. “All I wanted to do was make it better. Why can’t you accept that?”

“No one, not my employers, not my now-dead ‘mother’, and certainly not you, cares about my pain.” He fixed her with an icy stare. “I nearly destroyed this world. Once I leave this place, I will most likely succeed in doing so. I am, and always will be, a destroyer. It is my nature. What you call pain, you cannot even begin to comprehend.”

He turned away.

She put her hand on his shoulder. “Then help me comprehend it,” she said.

“It will drive you mad,” he whispered.

“It might,” she admitted. “But it might not, too.”

He shrugged off her hand and placed his own on the touchscreen.

Until he learned more of this place, and found a way to leave it, she would be useful. So long as that remained true, what did her nonsense matter to him?

After that?

He would decide that when the time came.