Final Fantasy - All Series Fan Fiction ❯ Sympathy for the Damned ❯ part 22 ( Chapter 22 )
"Sympathy for the damned"
"I don't mean to panic, but the sun is setting and the mountain is still fairly far away," Kuja said darkly.
Sephiroth nodded and cast a look around them. There were no signs of the demons yet, but he knew that would change once the light faded. "I know. My calculations were off. How are you feeling?"
Surprised by the question, Kuja shrugged. "I've seen better days. The last break helped me, however. Why do you ask?"
Sephiroth pursed his lips in thought. They had taken a resting break approximately two hours ago, but he wondered if it might be wise to take another before the sun set. There were two choices. They could begin running for the hills now, while they still had the light to their advantage, or they could use this time to rest up for what was likely to be a severe struggle for their lives. Glancing at Kuja-who looked much like a tattered, stray cat-he decided that he would let him make the choice.
"Do you think that you can handle a long run? If we push ourselves, we may reach the foot of the mountains by the time the sun goes down. Otherwise, we should take another break now and be ready to fight our way there."
Kuja bit his lip and looked up at his companion in thought. His feet hurt and his throat was sore, but other than that, he was doing well. If they rested now, he might be too stiff to be of any practical use when the time came to move again. "I'm willing to run for it," he said with a sigh.
"Good call. Don't hesitate to let me know if you have trouble keeping up."
Kuja smirked. "When have I ever hesitated to express a problem, Sephy?"
The swordsman gave him a tight smile. "Point taken. Let's move."
They started to run, but not so fast that they would tire too quickly. Sephiroth kept his greater stride in mind and shortened it so that he wouldn't get too far ahead of the sorcerer. As they hurried on, he wondered again why he cared so much about getting Kuja home. Surely it wasn't just due to the intimacy of their relationship. There was something beneath the surface that the genome had touched-something which nobody else had ever come close to. He glanced at his shorter companion out the corner of his eye as they ran. Acceptance, that was it. Never before had anyone treated Sephiroth so much like a person. Not even Zack had ever been so unrestrained around him. Kuja knew that he was unstable, and he knew that he was capable of great evil. The sorcerer handled the knowledge with a shrug and the attitude of "So? Who isn't all of those things? Some people just aren't willing to admit it."
There was that, and the fact that Kuja had been through similar experiences in his life. He understood Sephiroth on a level that other people simply weren't capable of. Who knew better what it was like to have a father that used them for his own ends? The pain of striving to please this authority figure as a child, to get even one smile of pride from them, no matter what it was you had to do in order to achieve that smile…Kuja was as familiar with this pain as Sephiroth. There was a bond between them that the swordsman had never felt before. He almost felt as if he had known Kuja forever, though it was a ridiculous notion.
"That's why I'm doing this," Sephiroth thought to himself, "if I let anything happen to him, I'm allowing the only thing good in my life to be destroyed." He would never say it aloud, but he admired Kuja for his unfailing determination. He admired him for not allowing his unfortunate life circumstances turn him into something completely evil. Subtle though it may be, the genome had managed to hang onto that elusive thread of child-like innocence that most people lost by the time they reached adulthood.
"Left! Sephiroth, to your left!" Kuja was hollering.
Sephiroth had been so submerged in his own contemplation that he hadn't heard the first warning. He looked to his left to see a demon stumbling towards them at an angle. It was heading from the direction they were running towards, and it was evidently attempting to cut them off. Sephiroth snarled silently and drew his gun, firing a shot into the monster's head and neck without breaking stride. It fell as he and Kuja rushed past, and its hand grazed Sephiroth's boot as it reached out feebly for him. He noted that there were other figures closing in from the distance, but so far there were only a dozen or so. He deduced that if they kept this pace, they would be at the foot of the mountains shortly after sunset. He only hoped that they wouldn't find their way blocked.
"Holding up okay?" He questioned the genome at his side.
"Think so," Kuja said breathlessly, "side hurts a bit, but I'll live."
They ran on, and Sephiroth had to give Kuja credit for his lack of complaints. He could tell that the stitch in the sorcerer's side was getting worse by the way the genome was clutching at it and lurching, but Kuja gamely kept pace with him. Sephiroth fired three more shots, bringing down two more of the creatures that got too close. He slowed his pace slightly as he dug through one of his pockets for a fresh clip. The sky was darkening, and the rumble of thunder echoing off the mountains made it all the more sinister. Sephiroth swore as the angry clouds that had so far stayed their distance moved in and covered the orange light of the sunset. A collective, blood-curdling howl went up all around the valley, and the two desperate prisoners knew that their advantage was gone.
Sephiroth put his arm around Kuja's waist and practically dragged him along as he increased his speed. As if conjured by the darkness itself, mobs of the creatures manifested near them, some within touching distance. Kuja lashed out with his rapier as one of the creatures appeared right in front of them. He almost faltered when it took Zidane's form and smiled at him with false innocence. "Good try," he gasped, and he continued his motion, slashing the doppelganger across the throat and spilling its black blood. Another got too close, and he almost stabbed at it. He changed his mind and slashed again, realizing that if he impaled it, they might have to stop in order for him to wrest the weapon from the wound.
Sephiroth's arm left the genome's waist, and he gave the smaller man a nudge. "Keep running," he said when Kuja gave him a confused look. He reached up and behind to draw his sword, while still holding the gun with his other hand. "Go on! I can take care of this. Get to the foot of the mountain."
"I don't like this, Sephiroth."
"I don't give a damn whether you like it or not! Don't argue with me, I know what I'm doing!"
Kuja huffed and almost disobeyed, but Sephiroth glared at him so fiercely that he wondered if the swordsman might decide he wasn't worth the trouble and just slit his throat. "Fine. If you get into trouble, I'm coming back." Kuja said.
Sephiroth only nodded and gave him another shove, and Kuja ran on. Fortunately by now, they were close enough to the mountain that he didn't have to run far. As he got closer, he could see a winding, narrow trail leading up into the rocky peaks. He started to lash out at another creature that got too close to him, but there was the sound of gunfire, and it fell with a neat hole in it's forehead. Sephiroth was covering his retreat. Two more nearby fiends went down to Sephiroth's gun, and Kuja reached the trail. He stopped and turned to check on his companion, torn over what he should do next.
Sephiroth stood in the middle of a small sea of corpses. He shot manifestations down from a distance, and slashed those that came too close to him with his sword. There were none left within five yards of any direction, but the mobs in the distance were getting closer.
"Come on! Get up here!" Kuja shouted to his companion, wondering why he wasn't moving to join him.
"Climb higher, Kuja. I'll join you in a few minutes!"
"Stubborn creature," Kuja mumbled as he complied. Sephiroth kept motioning for him to go further up the trail, each time the genome looked back to see if he was coming yet. "What are you doing, Sephy?" He murmured as he scurried up another twenty feet or so away from the base of the trail. He looked up to where the trail wound into the rocky terrain, and he could see a faint, pink and blue glow coming from around a bend in the mountain. His heart lifted. Even without his powers, he could sense energy coming from there. It was the portal.
Kuja turned around to face the distant figure of his lover, and he cupped his hands around his mouth so that he could be heard over the wind and thunder. "Sephiroth! The portal is just up ahead! Hurry and get your ass up here, so that we can leave!"
The demons were getting closer, and still, Sephiroth stood there. He had replaced his Masamune in its holder and had dropped his backpack to the ground. Kuja moved closer and glared, trying to see what the warrior was up to. "What ARE you doing, Sephiroth! We don't have time for this!"
Sephiroth ignored the sorcerer's increasingly panicked shouts and pulled out a couple of bunched sticks of dynamite. He then shouldered his pack again and ran towards the mountain, shouting at Kuja to keep moving. He pressed his lips together grimly and kept an eye on the smaller figure of the genome, making sure that he continued to move safely up the trail. Once he was at the base of the mountain and the narrow path leading up into it, Sephiroth stopped and worked quickly. He pushed a bundle of dynamite between cracks on both sides of the path that was cut into the mountain, and he looked up at Kuja, gauging his distance. Satisfied that the genome was far enough away, Sephiroth pulled out a lighter and smiled.
Kuja felt something nagging at him, and he turned around again to check on his lover. He saw Sephiroth crouching at the bottom of the trail, and he squinted to make out what the swordsman was fiddling with. Kuja's eyes widened. It was the sticks that Sephy had told him would explode if they were lit. "NO!" Kuja shouted when he saw the warrior light both of the wicks that would start the reaction. "Sephiroth, come with me!"
Sephiroth straightened up and brushed his hands off on his pants, and then he looked up at Kuja, who was trying to scramble back down…no doubt with the intention of trying to drag him along to safety. "Go home, Kuja." Sephiroth said quietly, and then he turned away and ran in the opposite direction, back towards where the demons were coming to try and stop them.
"Sephiroth, you crazy bastard! Get up here!" Kuja screamed, and he slipped and fell when the first explosion went off and made the ground shake beneath his feet. "No! I won't allow it!" Kuja shouted, trying to get back up. The cliffs around the base of the trail were breaking, and another explosion caused large chunks to break off and begin to pile up. Sephiroth's intentions were clear. He planned to cause an avalanche just strong enough to effectively block off the trail, giving Kuja a better chance to reach the portal without the demons catching him.
"You're coming with me!" Kuja shouted raggedly, tears spilling down his face as two more explosions went off and more rocks filled the entrance to the passageway. Kuja hurried down, slipping and sliding most of the way and unmindful of the danger he might be putting himself in. A cloud of dust and debris filled the air around the base, making the genome cough and sneeze. There were no more explosions, but the way into the mountain was now blocked. Kuja waved a hand in a vain attempt to clear the dust in the air, and he desperately scanned the walls. There was no way that a man could get in here without proper climbing equipment, and there was no way that he could get out.
"Sephiroth!" Kuja roared, pounding a fist ineffectively against the rocks that blocked the way. He could hear the evil shrieks of the manifestations in the distance as the rumbling slowly ceased. He couldn't hear his companion. He shouted his name again in a voice that broke and quivered with grief. He clawed at the rocks until his fingers were bloody, he beat upon them until his hands were bruised, and he continued to shout Sephiroth's name in the hope that his call would be answered. Nothing. There was nothing except the sound of the thunder and wind, and the moans and shrieks of the demons.
The black clouds overhead broke, and a warm, heavy rain began to pour down. Kuja's voice was gone from shouting, and he sank slowly down and leaned against the broken rocks that cut him off from Sephiroth. Crying like a lost child, he curled up against the cracked wall and waited for a while. He had no idea how long he sat there, but eventually the rain stopped falling, and he was sitting in a shallow puddle. He shivered with cold, but he didn't care. He felt dull and lifeless inside, though the way home was now cleared for him.
Kuja ceased his crying when he heard a soft scratching sound, coming from somewhere on the other side of the collapse. "Sephiroth?" he tried to say, but it came out as a croak. There was more scratching, followed by chilling moans and slobbering sounds. Kuja wept again, knowing that it wasn't his lover trying to scale those rocks, but the demons. "You killed him," he choked. He looked back up the trail, where that lovely glow shined with the promise of safety…and home.
For a moment, Kuja almost gave up. He was weary, sick and heartbroken, and just lying there and letting the fiends kill him seemed like a good plan. Then a voice, which sounded suspiciously like Zidane's, spoke in his head.
"So that's it, huh? You're just gonna lay there and die…again? After he sacrificed himself for you? You really are selfish, Kuja."
"Shut up," Kuja rasped, covering his ears with his bloody hands. He couldn't block out the voice that way, because it was in his head and heart.
"You shut up. Quit being such a drama queen and get on your feet. He wanted you to get home. The least you can do is honor him by accomplishing what he died for."
A pebble rolled off of the top of the blockade and bounced near Kuja's worn boots. It wouldn't be long before some of the monsters got over the barrier. They were single-minded and had nothing but his death on their minds. Kuja drew a shuddering breath and slowly pulled himself to his feet. His vision was so blurred with tears that he could barely see where he was going.
"That's it," Zidane's voice encouraged, "one step at a time. Come home, buddy."
Sobbing softly, Kuja made his way up the sloping path on feet that dragged with reluctance. "I'm so sorry, Sephiroth," he whispered through trembling lips. "You must have been hurting really bad, and I didn't see it. I thought you'd prefer coming home with me to death, or eternity in limbo."
Zidane's voice-if it WAS Zidane's voice-kept urging the sorcerer on. He felt numb inside, and the only reason he kept going was because he knew that Zidane was right. He could find some place to die later, but right now, he had to at least get home and make Sephiroth's death mean something.
He wasn't aware that he had rounded the bend until he happened to look up and see the portal right in front of him. It was shaped like a door, and it glimmered and sparkled with swirls of blue and magenta. With a sigh, Kuja closed his eyes and wearily shuffled through it.
-To be continued