Final Fantasy - All Series Fan Fiction ❯ Sympathy for the Damned ❯ Part 1 ( Chapter 1 )
"Sympathy for the damned"
He ached. In fact, he ached all over.
"Is this death?" he wondered, "Because, I certainly hurt as though I'm alive! Perhaps…perhaps this is my punishment-to spend eternity feeling as I did in those last moments before I lost consciousness."
He curled his fingers into a weak fist as he struggled to lift his head. He felt so fragile! Where was he, and how did he get here? He remembered the youthful face of his "brother" staring down at him in anguish, as the Iifa tree went mad all around them.
"Get out of here, you simple fool," Kuja had snarled weakly as Zidane tried to lift him, "it's done. You can't save me. Don't make my last memory be of you getting killed trying to protect me!"
"But, you saved us," Zidane said as he angrily scrubbed the tears from his eyes with a fist, "I can't just leave you in here! Fight, dammit! You don't have to die like this!"
A weak, coughing laugh trembled on Kuja's lips. "Of course I do. You'd never get both of us out of here in time, Zidane. I'm dead. Just leave me and go live in a castle with your canary. I'll hate you forever if you make me responsible for your death, after the trouble I went through to get you and your friends out of here!"
There was a ripping, rending sound above them, and gravel showered the two genomes. Zidane covered Kuja's body protectively with his own, and Kuja sighed and closed his eyes. Thankfully, the heavy rocks missed them, but time was running out. When the trembling calmed for a moment, Kuja reached up with his flagging strength and stroked Zidane's straw colored hair in a surprising gesture of affection. "Go, Zidane. Just go." His breath was rattling in his lungs, and his arm shook with the effort of the weak motion.
Zidane straightened up and stared down at the sorcerer for a moment, capturing the hand that fell from his shoulder. He pressed Kuja's slack hand against his cheek and whispered, "Maybe you're going someplace better. I won't forget you."
Kuja smiled at him, feeling his awareness fading as his vision blurred. "I…I doubt it," he murmured, struggling to keep his eyes open, "I don't think…people like me…go to nice places when they die. But, at least I can do…this much good. Get out of here, monkey."
Crying in earnest now, Zidane nodded and stood up. "Goodbye, Kuja. G-go to sleep now. You…you're tired." His shoulders slumped as he grabbed a handhold and began a slow ascent out of the roots of the Iifa tree.
"Go," Kuja whispered, feeling a humming sound in his head. "Go." His vision blurred further as tears filled his eyes. For a moment, he almost called Zidane back. Desperate hope that he might find a way to survive and get out of this grave made him try to reach up for the retreating figure. Common sense dragged him back, however, and he shook his head and sniffed. No. There was no way that Zidane could carry him out of here in time, and even if he could, the only thing he would be saving would be Kuja's corpse. The sorcerer knew that he would cease to draw breath before his counterpart could climb out of the bowels of the tree with him. "Live," he said softly as Zidane climbed out of sight.
The roots of the Iifa tree were still growing and curling around him, but none of them moved in to crush him, yet. It was as if they were avoiding him on purpose, just to draw it out and tease him with what might have been. By now, he might have made it to the surface with Zidane, and perhaps someone could have found a way to extend his life…cleanse whatever malady it was that caused his strength to desert him. It was all Garland's fault. "Sick old spook," Kuja said deliriously, "I should have killed you more slowly." He drifted in and out of consciousness after that, and he became irritated that death couldn't seem to decide whether or not to come for him. Each time he woke up from his doze, he swore. "Get on with it, damn you."
As if answering him, the ledge that he was lying helplessly on began to give way. It trembled and cracked beneath him, and Kuja closed his eyes and prepared himself for the end. He felt it give way, felt himself falling-and he kept on falling, into darkness…
…And he woke up here. Wherever "here" was. He could feel cool tiles against his skin. He tried again to rise, but he was too weak, and he fell back to the floor with a groan. He experimentally ran his hands over his body, wondering if he was whole. He ached all over, but he didn't feel any cuts, and he was sure he would know it if something was broken. His clothing, which was already scanty enough, was torn in several places. Kuja smirked. Indeed, most of it was hanging by threads to his lithe body. The transformation he had undergone in that last, terrible battle must have ripped most of the material…not to mention the fall from the bowels of the Iifa tree. Finding himself more or less whole, he worked on lifting his head from the tiles that he was laying on. There was a soft, yellow light, but he couldn't see its source because his tangled, silver/violet hair had fallen over his face. He froze for a moment, for he could sense the presence of another person nearby. He heard the sound of hard-soled boots stepping on the floor a few feet away, and a shadow fell over him as the steps halted.
With a gesture that somehow remained graceful despite the frailty of it, Kuja lifted one trembling hand and pushed the hair away from his face. Despite the dimness of the golden light source, he blinked his sapphire blue eyes painfully as he lifted his head. He must have been unconscious for quite a while, for the light to stab him so. He caught sight of a pair of black, round-toed boots first. As he lifted his gaze, he found that the boots were tall, encasing the wearer's legs up to the knees. The owner was wearing baggy, black pants, which were tucked into the boots. Kuja's gaze traveled further, for a stab of fear had pierced his heart. The outfit was similar to Garland's, and for a horrible moment, he feared that he was again in the clutches of his old master, and that he could expect to be strapped to a table and prodded and poked at.
However, as he took in more of the figure, he realized that it couldn't be Garland. Though the light was coming from behind the person and casting their features in shadow, Kuja could see that the stranger was indeed a man, but he wasn't an old man at all. A long, black overcoat fell to the stranger's mid-calf, and it was held closed with a belt around the waist. The coat was parted in a V from the neck down, revealing a toned chest that had leather straps criss-crossing over it. Kuja silently applauded his observer's dress sense, with the exception of the metal shoulder guards that seemed a bit oversized. He couldn't see the man's features at all for the backdrop of light, but he could make out that the stranger had very long hair, and surprisingly, the hair was similar in shade to Kuja's. The silky tresses fell straight and shiny around the stranger's shoulders, and the ends touched his black-gloved wrists. Two glowing, emerald eyes stared down at Kuja from the shadowed face.
"Well, do you want to introduce yourself first, or shall I?" Kuja rasped, unwilling to admit how unnerved he was by the stranger's silence, and that eerie gaze. The bright irises of the stranger's eyes had slit pupils instead of round…much like a cat's. They blinked slowly, and no response was forthcoming. "Fine," Kuja said irritably, "I'll go first, then. My name is Kuja." He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes at the figure. "K-u-j-a. Tell me if I'm going too fast for you, dear. Or, are you a mute? Perhaps that's why you're so quiet?" He was beginning to feel like a chattering schoolgirl, and it was making him none too happy. Kuja hated feeling that he was being made a fool of.
Still, the figure said nothing. Instead, it reached one hand up and behind it's head to grasp what Kuja now realized was the hilt of a sword sticking out from behind his shoulder. "Now, there's no need for that," the sorcerer said hastily as the tall man drew the weapon smoothly and rested the long, slim blade menacingly on his shoulder. Kuja glanced at the bright, sharp metal that was far too close to his throat for his comfort, and he sighed. "Bother. Is this how you greet everyone who falls into your…your…whatever this place is? I take it that I'm here for a reason, after all. Are you dead, too?" He wasn't making any sense, and he told himself it wasn't fear that made his stomach do flips. Despite the growing anxiety he felt, he remained in control of himself and was attempting to gather the strength for an offensive spell. He knew that the stranger would likely slit his throat before he could cast, but he certainly wasn't going to go down without a fight.
The blade moved, sliding beneath his chin, and Kuja swallowed impulsively. The flat side of the cool metal pushed upwards, making him lift his face higher, and he realized that the stranger was getting a better look at him. He started to reach up and attempt to smooth his hair in a vain effort to groom himself, for even in this situation, he was very much aware of what a mess he was. The point of the weapon pressed lightly against his throat, just hard enough to sting and warn him to be still. He obeyed, for the dizziness returned, and he knew he didn't have the strength to do anything against this new foe.
"What are you?"
Kuja blinked again, surprised by the question. The voice was deep and young-and puzzled. Once the initial surprise of hearing the young man speak wore off, Kuja smirked. "I'm a genome. I don't suppose you've heard of us, if you're a Gaian. Or, perhaps you have. You look like you could be one of Garland's creations."
The figure shook his head. "I meant, are you a man or a woman? You've got the body of a boy, but your face is too pretty, and your hips are…disturbingly shapely for a male. What are you?"
Kuja's pale eyebrows shot up. Well, this wasn't the first time he had been asked that question, but under the circumstances, he was a bit offended that this person saw fit to ask him that, of all things. "I should think you'd be more interested in where I came from, and what I'm doing here," he said haughtily.
"I already know what you're doing here," the young man responded, and the cold steel of his sword slid from beneath Kuja's chin like a lover's caress. It daintily sifted into his pale hair, and he winced when it caught a tangle. "You've done things that you have to repent for. You're stuck here, like I am. Where you came from and what you did doesn't matter. I just want to figure you out, before I decide whether I should kill you or not."
"Kill me?" Kuja said with a frown, "Pardon me, friend, but I don't think you can `kill' someone who's already dead."
The stranger sighed. "You aren't dead. This place preserved you and even now, it's healing your wounds."
Kuja lowered his gaze and considered this. Well, this strange man seemed to be telling the truth-at least about his wounds healing. He could feel his strength returning bit by bit, and the ache in his bones was lessening. "So, what is this place?"
The green eyes flared and widened, and Kuja quickly said, "I'm male, all right? Watch where you're pointing that thing!" It was ridiculous…here he was, lying on the floor of some bathhouse of purgatory, and he had a madman with a strange, long sword asking him what gender he was! "I'm dreaming," he muttered, "it's a fevered hallucination. My real body is still laying in the Iifa tree, slowly dying, and I'm imagining all of this."
For a few moments, the other didn't move. Kuja was beginning to feel like he could manage at least a minor shielding on himself, and he started to gather his energy to cast. The blade was abruptly withdrawn, making him stop in surprise. The stranger sheathed the weapon and said; "I guess I can leave you alone, for now. The old man who came before you reminded me too much of someone else, and I disposed of him. Don't try anything. I'm not in the mood."
"Old man? Garland?" questioned Kuja as he slowly pulled himself to his knees.
The stranger shrugged. "He wouldn't tell me his name. He was ranting about a failed experiment. I don't need people like that sharing limbo with me…I had enough of that in my old life. Get some rest." With that said, the young man turned to leave.
"Wait!" Kuja swore as he tried to rise. He had unconsciously allowed his tail to uncoil, and it tripped him up as he attempted to get off of his knees. Angrily, he coiled the troublesome appendage tightly, drawing it back up beneath his torn skirt. "Who are you! Where do we go to eat? Where do we sleep, and for the love of Terra, where the hell do we BATHE?"
The figure stopped and slowly turned back around to face him. "You'll find bedrooms scattered all over the place in this building. Dinner will be served in a couple of hours, in the dining room. There's a lake outside that you can bathe in."
Kuja shook his head in bafflement as he tried to absorb this. It sounded like he was staying at an inn, rather than trapped in purgatory! "This is insane! Bedrooms? Dinner? Who serves this dinner?"
"I don't know. The meals just appear three times a day. Whoever made this prison seems to like keeping us cared for. Well, keeping me cared for. I rarely have company, for long."
Kuja began to feel true fear with those words. He got the feeling that this man was very, very dangerous, and more than a little out of his mind. "Er…may I ask your name? Or would you rather just slit my throat and be done with it?"
The young man tilted his head, and Kuja could finally make out his features, for his eyes had adjusted to the light. The stranger was very handsome, with fine-boned, sculpted features and a strong jaw. His lips were sensitive looking, though clearly not used to smiling, and his nose was straight and slim. "Sephiroth," said the young man with a little smirk. "And I still haven't decided whether to kill you or not. That depends on you, Kuja."
Kuja stood on wobbly legs, and he tried to maintain his dignity with a little flip of his tangled (yet shiny) hair. "Sephiroth. What a positively angelic name," he purred. "I think you'll find it worth your while to keep me around, friend."
One of Sephiroth's sculpted brows lifted. "Are you flirting?"
Realizing how his words had come out, Kuja cleared his throat. "At any other time, that would be a yes. For now, let us just say that I may be able to get both of us out of here…given time, that is."
Sephiroth laughed, then. His laughter was throaty and oddly disturbing. "Ah, I think you're going to prove to be amusing, Kuja. There's no way out. I've tried. You should just concentrate on staying on my good side." He bowed mockingly then, and then he turned and walked through the open, arching doorway.
Kuja stared after him with his lips parted. "Handsome, dangerous, sensual and insane," he whispered. Then he sighed. "I like all of it except for the `insane' part. However, I do think I know a way to stay on his `good side', as he put it…and I may need an ally, if I'm to learn who put me here, and why. He seems to know the place well enough." His shapely mouth curved into a grin. "Oh yes, staying on his good side should prove to be quite…distracting." He was sure that he had seen a spark of interest in those emerald eyes, even though it had been laced with confusion. "I've got him wondering, at least."
-To be continued