Title: Infinite Possibilities
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth, (Sephiroth/Cloud eventually)
Rating: T Overall
Summary: Aerith took all the crazy homicidal darkness out of Sephiroth and hugged it to death. And then she didn't really know what to do with him, so she shoved him back to life and told him to do better this time.
In this chapter: Waking up is hard to do.
Notes: Mostly original game canon, using a few snippets from later details.
There was darkness and light, a world of silence and a world of noise. Heat, cold... He felt a little like he was experiencing them all for the first time, though obviously that wasn't the case. He knew what they were, for starters. They were things, not abstract ideas. And he was...
Well, he was someone, somewhere, and he was going to do...
He needed a moment, and took it, until he found himself a name and in a better frame of mind. However, in finding his name, he realized that anything would be a better frame of mind than where he'd been.
He could recall some of his friends waking up with strange and amusing tattoos or with women they'd never otherwise have paid a second glance. However, this wasn't really anything like that.
No, he'd woken up to realize that he'd nearly annihilated the planet. He'd... been a real mess. That's the best he could manage, at first. A real mess. It just seemed completely separate from himself. Like he was remembering a movie more than remembering his own actions. But no movie could be so terrifying--
He really thought he needed another moment, but he wasn't exactly going to get one. Unfortunately.
With a sigh, he knew what he had to do -- he had to open his eyes, get up, and... see about fixing things. Not that he really could. But he could do something, maybe, to slightly reduce the awfulness of his madness.
It ached to consider it 'madness', of course. That was just putting it over there and saying it wasn't really his fault. Because it was. Really... there had to have been something more he could have done.
He opened his eyes and found himself.... wet. And sort of cold. He sat up, expecting to shake the water from his hair and see where he was, but...
It was sunrise, or possibly sunset. Sephiroth had no idea where he was, so there was no way to know if the sun was rising or setting on him. Probably the latter, with his current luck. And his hair...
He reached up, looking for familiar long silver, but found only the barest scrubbly inch of fuzz. He hoped it had at least kept the color. This... had to be his body, at least. It took a couple of tries to focus properly, but the rest of him looked okay. Mostly. He had a couple new scars and from what he could tell, the carpet was still the right shade so with luck, the drapes would be.
Still, he was naked and alone. Somewhere, he could only guess that Zack and Zack's wife were laughing at him.
It felt kinda good. It was also tempting to do it again, but he rather thought it might border on someplace he didn't want to go. Besides, he was still naked and on the beach at sunset and... Laughing to himself might not be the best of ideas.
He had sand in places where he really didn't want to have sand, but he supposed it was par for the course. The waves were lapping at his feet, pushing sand and tiny stones around them, and a bit of seaweed that tickled.
Reaching, he grabbed a handful of sand and let it run between his fingers.
Aside from the where, he didn't actually know when he was, either. That might be more important.
It would also take a very long time to grow his hair back.
He flopped back onto the sand. The sun was definitely sinking lower. At least it would be a bit easier to be lost and naked in the dark. He could still see in the dark-- Hopefully.
Well, at least no one would see him. He'd sort out something with clothing somehow and...
Apparently his first act of restitution would be to steal some clothing. He sighed and got to his feet. Felt good to have his entire body in place, at least - minus his hair. But he supposed it was better than being dead again. Dead and crazy. Being dead hadn't really helped the crazy, either. Not at first. It had actually made it a little bit worse.
That wasn't really fair at all.
Wandering along the beach, watching as the sunset turned to twilight and stars began to appear in the sky, Sephiroth wondered just where he could even start to... start. He had no money, no identification, no clothing. No ID might be a blessing, but the other two were complicated. He had no shelter, though he could handle that easy enough. Someone would surely allow him to do some yard work or something for a few coins. And food. He'd nearly forgotten food. Not eating for... well, a long time... He'd nearly forgotten it was even a thing.
Not knowing when it was made figuring out the details of his last meal kind of confusing. He also couldn't remember what it was, aside from breakfast. He'd had a good breakfast of something-or-other.
And then gone off -- the deep end.
He was a bit chilled, hungry, and still naked when he found a cottage of some sort a few paces up the beach. It was dark and there were no vehicles around, so Sephiroth guessed that it wasn't the season for someone to be living there. Lucky for him.
Of course, it was also locked up even tighter than he'd anticipated. It was the middle of nowhere! Who was going to break into a place in the middle of nowhere? Well, he was, of course. Instead of rescuing kittens and feeding puppies and various other good things, he was going to start his second chance with breaking, entering, stealing, and squatting.
But he wouldn't need to spend much on conditioner.
For some reason, the situation with his hair was really irking him. And it was only when he got to the right angle for him to see his reflection in a window - the one he was going to shortly be breaking - did he find out what his new appearance truly was.
He seemed to be wholly the same, aside from his hair. Of course, it was his most distinguishable feature, so perhaps it had been removed for a reason. What he had was very much inch-long new growth that had a darkish hue to it.
He thought his eyes looked the same, though. And he felt the proper height and everything else, which was pleasant.
There was a rock garden out around the back of the cottage and before he could talk himself out of it, Sephiroth picked up a rock the size of a potato and heaved it at the glass of the back door.
In the silence of the night, the sound of glass breaking was infinitely loud and Sephiroth had to resist the urge to run off into the scrubbly patch of trees that sort of flanked the cottage. Law enforcement would be en route. There had to be an alarm. But... no. And while he thought he should wait just a little longer, after five minutes of staring at the door with the broken glass, Sephiroth picked up another rock, used it to knock out the jagged shards remaining in the frame of the square the first rock had gone through... and then reached in to unlock the door.
He paused, remembering that he was barefoot, and then once the door was open, half-heaved the doormat inside so he could step in.
Unsure if there would be electricity, Sephiroth flicked the switch with low expectations. But a dim light did flicker on, and then another, illuminating a small but open kitchen. Somehow a foot-square panel of glass had sprayed shards across the kitchen. Sephiroth winced, but there were sandals there. Men's sandals. Perfect. He slipped them on - they were a hair small but they'd keep his feet out of the glass. Surely there'd be a broom. He'd clean up and patch the door as best as possible. It was the least he could do, after all - he wasn't going to be a total disaster this time around.
Then, as he shuffled through the kitchen to see what other rooms the cottage even had, he realized something. He'd needed to turn the kitchen light on. Because he couldn't really see, otherwise.
No, it had been a force-of-habit moment. Really, he could...
He walked into a dark room and promptly tripped over a chair.
Sephiroth swore, which he was fairly sure was the first time he'd made a sound other than laughing. He then did that as he picked himself up. His voice sounded good, he thought. Didn't help that he couldn't see in the dark any longer, though. Maybe he... wasn't a super-soldier any more. Maybe he was... normal.
He wasn't sure he could handle being normal.
He found the light switch and was pleased to have found the cottage's lone bedroom. The chair hadn't been so much in front of the door as sort of in the space between the dresser and door. Sephiroth imagined the owner had left it there after packing a suitcase to go home for the season or something similar. He put it back against the wall and then looked around. There was a closet, door cracked, and a dresser. There was the chair, wooden and red with paint chipping off of it and showing that it had once been a sky blue. And there was a bed, which at least had blankets on it.
Opening the closet, Sephiroth was pleased. The owner of the cottage seemed to be of a similar enough size that he could make the few pieces of clothing that had been left behind into something wearable. He grabbed a grey t-shirt and pulled it over his head. It was big, suggesting someone of a larger girth, and was soft from repeated washing. A pair of shorts followed, needing the drawstring tightly cinched. But at least he wasn't naked any longer.
With a smile, Sephiroth set to exploring the rest of the cottage. It wasn't terribly exciting - there wasn't really anything particular about the place to suggest anything about its owner. There was a bit of fishing paraphernalia, however, which was good for multiple reasons. Mostly so that Sephiroth could feed himself. He was a little afraid to look in the fridge.
But before any of that, he had a kitchen to clean. Luckily, finding a broom wasn't terribly difficult, and the floor needed to be swept anyway, aside from the broken glass.
After dumping the glass into the garbage and wondering just where the garbage would eventually go, Sephiroth looked around again. There was a phone, which had no service, and a few phone numbers and names beside it, but they were all vague and meant nothing. The calendar beside it, however, was disconcerting. It was dated for three years before he'd been born. Either... he'd somehow gone back in time or...
No... some of the things he'd seen in other rooms were newer. It was just an old calendar. It had to be. There also had to be a town of some sort nearby. There were continents not as populated as others, Sephiroth knew, and while he had no idea where he was, he also thought he'd have to be close to somewhere.
Just because it would be really anticlimactic to be dead again right away, and from something stupid like an infected wound from broken glass or starvation or falling over a chair or anything, well, not Cloud.
Sephiroth paused. He wanted to tear down the old calendar and then do some other cleaning and make the place into a proper home, but... well, that was easier said than done. It wasn't his space, to begin with, and he also had nothing to really start with. Most of the shelves in every cabinet were empty.
And the canned goods that remained had expiration dates which didn't tell him anything except that he really no idea when he was.
He risked a can of chili that seemed okay, sitting alone at a kitchen table of unknown color. Or perhaps all the colors. Stains, paint, burns...
He considered going back to the living room to see if he could tune in anything on the tiny radio he'd seen.
But instead, he found himself feeling exceptionally groggy and wandered off to see if the bed was as comfortable as it looked.
The problem with waking up in a strange place was, of course, that it involved waking up in a strange place. Somehow, waking up naked in the sand had been far less confusing than waking up under a multi-colored quilt in a strange bedroom.
For the first few seconds, Sephiroth blinked and wondered who he'd gone home with. And then he was a little embarrassed that his first thought had been that one. But it had been, and he couldn't take it back. At least that wasn't the case. No, he'd broken into a cottage, made a mess, stolen some clothing, and then cleaned the mess up. Of course, technically he hadn't taken the clothing anywhere, he'd just put it on his body. So maybe it wasn't wholly stolen yet.
The sun had long since risen, Sephiroth noted as he got to his feet and glanced outside. He still wasn't sure where or when he was, but he knew he which side of a continent he was on, at least. It was a start.
There was, unfortunately, no coffee on reserve anywhere in the cottage. But the well seemed to work and there was soap, so before he did anything else, he stumbled through the shower and washed, finally rinsing away the sand that had indeed stayed everywhere he hadn't wanted it to stay. It hadn't been such a concern overnight, but now that it looked like he was indeed going to stay alive...
Unless Cloud found him.
As much as he wanted to see Cloud and say things, he also really didn't want to see Cloud because he wasn't sure Cloud would listen to him at all. He wasn't sure he'd listen to himself.
Clean, relatively dried off and dressed in a different-but-still-ill-fitting outfit, Sephiroth headed outside to survey what he hadn't been able to see in the dark.
The cottage wasn't far from the water - though it wasn't quite on the shore. The roof looked good, and also looked to be fitted with some sort of solar panel set-up which would explain the power. However... there were lines running to the house and Sephiroth could only guess they were for the disconnected phone. But they had to run somewhere, he thought, and there was an overgrown road that ran along with the lines. That would be his first clue as to where a town might be. It would also give him an idea of how long it had been since anyone had been out to the cottage.
He didn't lock up.
The road was wide enough for a single truck and while there were a few thicker bits of vegetation sprouting up, there wasn't anything too awful. If anything, it had only been a couple of years since the cottage was last visited. At least by anything requiring the whole of the road.
It took the better part of an hour, but Sephiroth kept following the road and the phone line until a small village came into view. It was, he realized, also along the shore but a different part. Apparently the geography didn't allow for a straight route. It didn't bother him any - he just wished he could think of where he might be.
Hopefully he could also figure out the when without too much embarrassment.
There were only about as many houses as he had fingers, Sephiroth noted. And a General Store. Not the best sign. It would be hard to stay anonymous if...
"Hey there!" an older man called. "You come in from ol' Willie's place?"
Sephiroth froze for a moment and then nodded. Hopefully it was the correct response.
"Eh, I'm glad someone's gettin' some use out of it," the man continued. "You a relative?"
"Friend of the family," Sephiroth said quickly.
"Didn't know he had any of those," the man said with a chuckle. "You must've just gotten out here. A little early for the season, but that shouldn't stop you. Didn't stop me and then look, I just stayed..."
"Name's Darius," the man kept right on going, but he held out his hand for Sephiroth to shake.
"Fin," Sephiroth replied without really thinking. There were only a finite amount of correct answers. Or answers at all. He could get away with this...
"Nice to meet you, Fin." Darius had a good, firm handshake that matched his leathery, sea-worn appearance. Suddenly, Sephiroth wondered if Darius wasn't really anywhere near as old as he looked.
"It's nice to meet you, too. And nice to be here," Sephiroth replied. Mostly the latter. In a strangely literal sense. He was happy to be there. Being alive was... pretty darned nice, even if it was also complicated at the moment. "However..."
He figured he'd just lay it all out. Well, a nicely sanitized version of things.
"There was an accident with my luggage," Sephiroth explained. Like never having it. "So I pretty much have nothing except for what's in the cabin. If you can recommend somewhere to earn a good meal..."
"Sounds like you got Ol' Willie's luck," he said with a headshake. "Man was always breaking or losing things. Always surprised he got here and home without catastrophe, especially on that motorcycle of his. Should still be there -- probably out of fuel, though."
Motorcycle. That would solve a lot of problems.
"When he died, what, two years back, we got word to keep an eye on the place and that the family would be out to check it out, but... No one ever showed up, far as I know," Darius said. "But you know all of that, I'm sure. Don't suppose you're doing the checking?"
"Not entirely. I just need a little time and space to... get my head together, I guess," Sephiroth replied. That was an understatement if ever he'd made one, but it was close enough.
"Well, if you're needing food and money, go see if there are any jobs up in the General Store," Darius suggested, pointing across to where the town's only two-story building proudly proclaimed just what it was.
"Thank you," Sephiroth said, giving Darius a little nod before ambling over to the General Store. He wasn't sure quite what he was expecting, but certainly not quite what he saw. Honestly, the place was from another time entirely. If he hadn't seen a fairly new radio in the cottage, -- Ol' Willie's cottage -- Sephiroth would have been sure he'd been thrown back in time.
There was a younger woman behind the counter, one who was obviously surprised to see someone unfamiliar.
"Hello," Sephiroth said, trying to smile and be as friendly as possible. "I'm... looking for some work."
"Oh?" the woman questioned. She frowned, but it seemed to be more in thought than anything else.
Sephiroth nodded. "My name is Fin - I'm staying in Ol' Willie's cottage down the shore," he explained. "And unfortunately my luggage was misplaced while traveling. I was hoping it'd catch up to me, but so far no luck."
"Now you're far enough out in the middle of nowhere that it never will," the woman added. "Well, once the summer folk start coming around, there are more deliveries, but unless you were really specific on your tags, it's still a lost cause.
Chuckling, Sephiroth shook his head. "It's okay. I'm out here to sort of start over anyway, so I might as well really start over."
"You could have picked somewhere a little more exciting," the woman told him. "But... I can help you now that you're here."
"Thank you," Sephiroth said, "Miss... ah...."
"Ms.," the woman corrected. "'Tori' is fine." She paused. "Is there anything you're good at, Fin?"
"A little bit of everything," Sephiroth admitted. "I... was in the military..."
"Feh..." Tori shook her head. "So was my husband. Fucking terrorists. Once they gave me his medals and tiny payoff, I came back here and took over the store from my parents."
Tori blinked a couple of times and then looked straight at him. "Wasn't your fault. Damned terrorists and everything else."
"I should find you a job." Tori stepped out from behind the counter and crossed the room. There, where Sephiroth hadn't noticed it, was a corkboard with cards stuck on it.
"You know," she said, reaching for one of them, "you're about the youngest person in town other than my daughter. You'll probably get every single job on here if you want them."
She handed him the card she'd pulled and he took it, studying it carefully.
'Please come fix my gutter. You can use my tools and ladder. Lexei.'
"Alexei's arthritis has gotten bad this last year," Tori explained. "He lives in the last house off in the other direction - blue, sagging gutter. I think it just needs a cleaning and a nail popped back in. I'd do it, but... no ladders."
She winced, and Sephiroth nodded. Heights didn't bother him and he figured it wouldn't be bad work. Probably wouldn't pay more than a meal, but it'd be a start. Wouldn't take too long, either.
"I'll go do it," Sephiroth said quickly, moving to leave.
"Come back when you're done and I'll go through the rest to see what else will be quick." Tori was smiling and reaching for another handful of cards.
It was a start, Sephiroth thought as he clutched the card and headed back out into the sunshine. He was going to fix a gutter. As a normal human, not as a super-soldier, not as a god... It was quite possibly going to suck.
Alexei's house was very much at the end of the street and blue. And the gutter was definitely coming down, though part of the problem was that a branch was hanging against it. Fixable, Sephiroth thought, as long as Alexei had tools.
Luckily, Alexei was out on his porch, a bottle of beer in one hand and a book in the other. Three white cats, all of which seemed to have odd-colored eyes, were perched around him. As Sephiroth got closer, he realized the man was reading to the cats.
"Hello," he called, waving. He was fairly sure he looked ridiculous in his too-small sandals and too-large clothing, but he couldn't do any better.
Alexei looked up, surprised.
"Who're you?" he asked as Sephiroth stepped up onto the porch. One of the cats instantly abandoned Alexei and slinked over to twist around Sephiroth's feet.
"Fin," Sephiroth said quickly. He held out the card. "I'm new to town and need to find work, so Tori sent me over to give you a hand."
"Tori sent you?" Alexei smiled and set down both bottle and book. "Well that was sweet of her. Good girl. Sad what happened, but what can you do? Things are better now, but she's out of place here."
Alexei looked him over once and Sephiroth was instantly afraid of what would come out of the old man's mouth next.
"She's already broken in, but if that ain't a problem, you could marry her and make her happy," Alexei continued, pushing aside the remaining two white cats to stand. "I'd do it, seeing as my wife passed on last year, but she promised if I ever remarried, she'd haunt us both."
Sephiroth was fairly sure that Alexei had the better part of fifty years on Tori, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Well, other than the important one.
"I'm not quite up to marrying anyone just yet," he said with a tiny headshake. "Right now, I'm just here to see about a gutter."
"And that branch," Alexei said. "Maybe you can check the shingles too. It'll get rainy right before the Summer Folk come, so I want to make sure there aren't any leaks."
"Of course," Sephiroth replied. "Your card says you have tools for me to use?"
"Garage is yours to borrow," Alexei said. "Knees are pretty much shot these days, and my son ain't ever gonna come home to take the house. So you can just use what you need, even after today. If you're gonna be working off Tori's board, you'll need 'em."
Sephiroth was momentarily stunned. He wasn't sure if this was small-town kindness or general insanity. But it would certainly make things quite a bit easier.
"Thank you, Sir," he said.
"Alexei," Alexei corrected. "No 'Sir'. I'm not that old..."
"Of course not," Sephiroth noted. "Now, let me see about a ladder and some tools..."
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