WARNING!!! This fic contains rather nasty and kinky scenes involving erotic mind control, an insane sadistic Sephiroth, and psychological Cloud-torture. Readers of my darker fics (especially "Mechanics of Control") will have a good idea what I'm talking about. If this type of story doesn't interest you, DO NOT READ THIS FIC.
::cough:: That being said, this drabble was very helpful in working out a major plot issue I've been having with COI, as in what the hell could make someone like Zack mentally snap (albeit temporary). I think I've come up with something. ::hums happily::
The story is a bit obscure, but hopefully it's not too bad. Since it's still a draft, please forgive the inevitable typos and grammatical errors. Enjoy!
Title: Substitution Reaction
Rating: R (mature themes)
Pairing: Sephiroth/Cloud with the tiniest hint of you-know-who thrown in ^_~
Date: completed draft 10/11/2005; revised draft 10/13/2005
Summary: A COI-related one-shot fic speculating what might have happened between Sephiroth and Cloud in the Northern Crater after Cloud gives Sephiroth the Black Materia (yes, yet another one).
The summoning was complete. Now all that remained was the reconstruction of his body and Meteor's inevitable arrival.
All great things moved at their own pace. Meteor could not be hurried, just as the rebuilding of his new physical body could not be rushed. With its few flaws eliminated, its performance optimized, this reconstructed body would be even stronger and faster than before, much better suited to handle his greatly increased powers. This, like so much, he owed to his Mother's guidance.
But should he do in the interim as he waited for Meteor to descend and for the last remnants of muscle and bone to weave themselves into place?
He glanced over at the limp figure floating nearby. Cloud Strife's eyes were open, yet blank and utterly devoid of intelligence or spirit. Even the mako glow of those blue eyes were dim, just as Cloud's pretense of an independent existence had been utterly extinguished. Now the young man was a puppet in truth. The flesh was already -- had always been -- his to command, but now the breaking was complete.
Yes, he had something to amuse him, a plaything to while away the hours. But how to begin this game when his puppet was behaving so... puppet-like?
So he reached deep into his toy's mind and stirred, waiting for an reaction.
Almost instantly, his new toy twitched. A soft moan escaped those pale lips. Vacant blue eyes spilled tears.
Fascinated, he stirred again, this time probing hard and deep into the depths of his plaything's shattered psyche. And like the foul, glutinous muck lurking at the bottom of a pond, his proddings exposed the dark and ugly memories that his toy had tried so desperately to suppress and brought them roiling into its consciousness.
It sceamed, limbs thrashing uncontrollably, glassy eyes wide and bulging with shock and horror.
Ignoring its shrieks, he continued to stir his plaything's mind vigorously, allowing no memory or trauma to remain hidden. As he did so, he remembered his first contact and exploration of this Clone's mind as it had staggered through the wilds outside Midgar and how much pain it had suffered with its brain filled with the razor-sharp fragments of an utterly shattered mind.
But no matter how painful that earlier mental probe had been for this puppet, that was nothing compared to what it was experiencing now. Back then, overwhelming shock had provided a small buffer from reality. This time, he ensured that there was no such protection standing between his plaything and the full brunt of its memories. He wanted nothing to interfere with its reactions.
Its back arching at a dangerous angle, it keened like a creature slowly being flayed alive. Or perhaps flaying would have been preferable. Blue eyes rolled wildly in all directions, seeking an escape that did not exist.
As he watched with growing interest, he found his plaything's display both amusing and ironic. He had done little more than remove the feeble mental barriers that his toy had erected. All the rest -- the pain, the anguish -- came entirely from within itself as it was ruthlessly victimized by its own memories. It was not merely remembering past events, but rather fully reliving those very moments that it had tried so desperately to pretend did not exist.
He could understand why his toy wanted to forget those events. If one had the opportunity to pick and choose one's memories, who wouldn't try to ignore the most traumatic ones?
It was understandable, but at the same time, pathetic. Unlike his toy, he, Sephiroth, had never had the luxury of forgetting anything. He remembered everything he experienced with pristine and brutal clarity, from the moment of his birth to this very second.
He would ensure that his puppet would possess the same perfect, merciless memory.
Spittle dripped from its gaping, gasping mouth as it twisted and writhed from the unrelenting assault of its own broken mind. For those memories, as if seeking retribution for being ignored and denied, forced themselves on their owner with redoubled intensity.
"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"
He saw his toy react to his voice, twitching to instant attention. Even in the utmost depths of torment, the puppet heard its master's voice and could do nothing but respond... and obey.
Its voice was little more than a hoarse, ragged whisper.
"But you deserve it, don't you? For lying to yourself."
"And for trying to lie to me."
Ah, now that was a much more satisfying and empathic response. His mildly phrased suggestion of disobedience, with the inevitable consequence of punishment and discipline, was infinitely more terrifying than any overt threat.
"And you won't forget ever again?"
His puppet sobbed, gulped air as it strained to answer, even as the horrors of its past clawed and shredded its brain.
"... I... will... never... forget...."
He cocked his head slightly.
"Never forget what?" he prompted.
"...the... the... truth...."
"What truth?" he coaxed his toy in a low purr.
"... the... truth... of... what...."
For an instant, his plaything stiffened, limbs splaying every which way, as being pulled apart by some invisible rack. Blue eyes half-rolled back into their sockets as agonized squeals and gurgles escaped from between tightly clenched teeth.
He couldn't help wondering what particular memory this particular torment came from. Something from his childhood, or perhaps from his teenage years? No, more likely it came from his plaything's years as Hojo's test subject. He watched as his puppet bucked and twisted, but it was a futile struggle. The bondage of memory was absolute, stronger than adamantium, and not even the tremendous physical strength his toy possessed in the present would change what had happened to it in the past.
He was patient, allowing the memory to play itself out to its inevitable wrenching conclusion. Because even though ensnared in the coils of its traumatic past, the puppet was also ever-aware of its master and his desires. No matter what happened to it, no matter what it experienced, felt, or did, this puppet would never be able to ignore him. The toy knew what its master wanted, would strive desperately to give it to him. Because as a puppet, it had no choice but to comply utterly.
That's what puppets existed to do.
Sure enough, its mouth and throat worked as it straining to force out the desired response.
"... i... will... never... forget... the... truth... of... what... i... am...."
That was, he had to admit, a rather cruel and unfair tactic. The very nature of the question forced his toy to plunge even deeper into the hellish tangle of its past, to actively embrace the very memories that hurt it so very much.
And it showed in his puppet's agonized facial expressions and the wild physical contortions that became a macabre dance of unbearable suffering. And as his toy danced, it choked out its answers.
"... your... puppet...."
"... worthless... trash...."
"... complete... failure...."
The last word piqued his attention.
"Oho. Did someone actually call you that? A slut?"
It jerked its blond head affirmatively.
"I didn't hear you," he murmured pleasantly.
If possible, his plaything's writhing became even more intense, until they bordered on outright convulsions. Its eyes glittered with tears of hopeless shame as his toy twisted its hips and the muscles in its spread legs tensed and bunched as it desperately strained to pull them together to protect its most vulnerable parts. But they remained wide apart, as if held by some irresistible external force. There was no such force now, of course, only the overwhelming power of the particular memory or memories dominating his puppet's awareness at the moment. The sight of his puppet floating in mid-air, legs splayed wide open, hips humping, was oddly... enticing.
"Do you believe them?"
It rolled its eyes and gazed helplessly at him. Hardly a surprise, since that question required that his toy make a choice. And since a puppet had no will, it could not choose for itself. It could only look toward its master for guidance.
Either way, all he had to do was say a few simple words -- 'yes, you are a slut' or 'no, you're not a slut'. His puppet would accept his pronouncment as irrefutable truth. He wondered for a moment what would happen if he told his toy to believe the affirmative, and what other parts of its psyche would warp and distort to accomodate that new 'truth'. Would that 'truth', by itself, lessen this puppet's shame and misery, or increase it?
But he felt strangely declined to experiment, and while he hesitated, yet another memory grabbed hold of his plaything. It curled up and rocked, sobbing quietly.
He knew that particular bit of body language all too well -- that futile and pointless attempt to hide, to protect oneself from sexual violations both already done and yet to come. Ironic to think that both master and puppet, so different in power and situation, would share such a sordid experience.
But while he, Sephiroth, had refused to submit tamely to that usage and had soon grown too strong for such humiliating abuse, his plaything had remained pathetically weak, leaving it vulnerable to even more harassment and rape.
It wasn't kindness or sympathy that led him to do what he did next. But he was feeling somewhat indulgent toward his toy at the moment. After all, it had performed quite well for a mere puppet.
"Do you want your suffering to stop?" he said quietly.
Glassy blue eyes stared at him, as his puppet's ravaged mind struggled to cope with the sudden change in topic.
"I can take all the pain and misery away."
For this boon, he asked nothing in return, because his plaything had nothing of value to offer him. Everything it possessed, everything it was, already belonged to its master. Its utter submission, its complete obedience he already had. His dominion was complete and unquestioned by both of them.
No, there would be no pretense of a bargain, for a bargain would imply that his puppet had something that he wanted or needed. Which was ludicrous, of course. No, he was bestowing this gift purely as a whim.
He waited, but his puppet did not reply. Uncurling slightly from its fetal position, it floated before him, trembling, mouth working, but silent.
He was momentarily baffled by that silence, since he had expected his plaything to beg prettily for this merciful release, but then understood. He had inadvertently set up an irresolvable dilemma in his puppet. Should it agree, and attempt to escape the pain of its memories, a pain that its master had explicitly condemned it to endure? But how could it possibly refuse when its master's intent and desire were so clear?
Either response was unacceptable. But dumb silence was not acceptable, either, because its master wanted an answer from it. Failure to answer was clear disobedience, and for this puppet, so utterly broken, disobedience was both impossible and unbearable.
So there it floated, its pathetic puppet-mind totally gridlocked, unable to give an answer, but at the same time unable to withhold an answer. He wondered what would happen if he waited and did nothing. Would the puppet's mind remain forever locked in this state, or would something eventually give way inside it? Was his plaything even capable of breaking further, and what would be the result? Would something even more submissive, more obedient, emerge? Or it become worthless, gibbering junk?
"What do you want?" he said, softly.
So satisfying, to watch his toy's reaction, the compulsive twitch of attention at even his faintest whisper. But even more entertaining was how effortlessly he could turn the screws, pile on the pressure, with four simple words. He could ask his puppet that question again and again, knowing that every time he asked, the more unbearable its inability to answer would become. How much more could it endure?
"What do you want?" he repeated.
Oh, that wildly pleading blue-eyed gaze begging him for guidance, begging him to take away the intolerable burden of choice that was surely destroying it from within. Deceptively slender hands, bearing the callouses of a master swordsman, slowly reached out toward him, groping and trembling uncontrollably.
"What. Do. You. Want?"
He knew what the puppet wanted, of course. It wanted release from pain, a blessed surcease. All living creatures were genetically programmed to avoid things that cause pain. Surely it was one of the most basic and primal of instincts, just as it was an equally powerful instinct to seek out and embrace things that cause pleasure.
He smiled slowly.
His toy shivered, hands still beseechingly outstretched.
His smile widened. This experiment promised to be very interesting, indeed.
It took less effort to rewire the puppet's brain than to flip a series of switches.
Pain = Pleasure
Shame = Satisfaction
Dread = Anticipation
Fear/Hate = Love
And just like that, as he had told his plaything, suffering and misery evaporated. In some ways, very little had changed. The puppet's memories remained wholly intact, untouched and complete, and it continued to relive those memories. However, its reactions to those memories were now fundamentally altered.
It was the puppet's turn to smile, its eyes remained glassy and dazed, not from torment, but from its antithesis. All the unbearable memories that had tortured it -- the relentless emotional and physical abuse of childhood, the sexual abuse under the guise of 'friendly' hazing in Shinra's military, the agonizing experiments in Nibelheim -- now only brought merciless waves of pleasure. It was overwhelming happiness, not anguish, that made it writhe and scream, even as the crotch of its pants stained and darkened.
His toy now relived the most horrific events of its life, but instead of frantically seeking to escape them, it reveled in the torture, the rape, and every other bit of misery inflicted upon it. Because in its rewired mind, to be violated was to be embraced, to be tortured was to be loved. Pain is pleasure, just as pleasure is pleasure.
And as for the perpetrators of those tortures, the instigators of so much of its suffering... it hated=loved them all. Madly, passionately. Even someone as repellent as Hojo, he observed with wry amusement. And the more brutal and malicious they were, the more his plaything hated=loved and feared=adored them for it. But most of all, it hated=loved and feared=adored him, surely the cruelest=kindest and sadistic=compassionate of them all. His existence, which had so recently filled his puppet with so much anger and dread, now filled his puppet with pure, incandescent joy.
"As you see, I'm a person of my word. You no longer suffer," he murmured, watching in amusement as his puppet orgasmed at the mere sound of his voice.
"I wonder. Do you know what pain is, anymore? Or has the very concept of pain vanished from your mind?"
No, not quite. His plaything was still fully capable of feeling pain, misery, fear, and other such emotions. But he, Sephiroth, controlled his puppet's interpretion of those feelings.
He could go deeper, make the changes at the deepest, most fundamental levels of his puppet's psyche. But was it really necessary? If you completely controlled a creature's perceptions of reality, you gained complete control of the creature. That was yet another valuable lesson that his Mother had taught him.
The proof of that hovered before him as his puppet wept and shivered uncontrollably from nearly unbearable anguish=happiness, its glazed blue eyes locked adoringly upon its master. Strangely, the sight both pleased and irritated him.
"What a blissful existence that must be, when feelings like pain, shame, hatred, and fear do not exist. Shall I leave you like this? Or perhaps I will return you to your former pathetic state? Pleasure or pain? Heaven or hell? It's quite an appropriate decision for a god-to-be. So, can you guess your fate, my puppet?"
He couldn't keep the malice he felt out of his voice. But instead of terrifying his toy, the threat wrung a long scream of rapturous ecstasy from it as its body thrashed wildly in the grip of the most powerful orgasm yet. When it was finally over, the puppet hung limp, its head lolling back, utterly exhausted... then slowly it raised its head and smiled at him.
It wasn't the look of blind adoration or love that he expected. No, what he saw was far more unsettling -- a look of deep, profound affection. It unsettled him because he somehow knew that affection and the acceptance it contained meant far more than any expression of blind love or fanatical devotion ever could.
And for the briefest instant, he saw black hair instead of blond gold, and lively dark grey eyes instead of vacant light blue.
In the next second, without thinking, he had exploded out of his crystal chrysalis and wrapped his hand around Cloud's throat.
"WHO ARE YOU?" he demanded fiercely.
The question, although not loud, seemed to echo on forever in the depths of the Northern Crater.
Still with that warm, tender smile on his face, Cloud lifted his hand and reached out to him. His mouth opened to reply.
But before he heard the answer, before Cloud's or whoever's hand could touch his face, his Mother's song swelled inside him, and Jenova's usual soothing whisper briefly transformed into a majestic thunderous chorus that drowned out everything.
When his Mother's voice finally subsided, the moment had passed. The haunting flash of memory was gone, just as the fleeting vision that had triggered it was gone. And as the almost-memory vanished from his awareness, the sense of almost-shock of recognition and almost-horror at what he had done disappeared along with it.
In that brief moment when his Mother's voice had wholly dominated his awareness, he had apparently flung Cloud away from him. He now drifted over to Cloud's floating body and saw that the other's eyes were again vacant and reassuringly blue. But even as he watched, Cloud began to shiver once again in helpless eagerness, his pale face twisting in feverish anticipation for the next wave of once-traumatic memories and the intolerable suffering=joy/pleasure they would bring.
But he no longer felt the slightest desire or inclination to toy with Cloud any more. Indeed, the experiment that had interested and amused him so much just a few minutes ago now left him feeling both dirty and vaguely nauseous.
With an angry mental flick, he undid all the changes he had made in Cloud's mind and watched as the sickening happiness on Cloud's face drained away, to be immediately replaced by an equally sickening expression of anguished misery.
Just as Cloud opened his mouth to start screaming in renewed torment, he spoke sharply, and with uncharacteristic harshness.
"Go. I am done with you."
But before he cast Cloud away into the Lifestream, Sephiroth gathered up Cloud's most unbearable and horrific memories, then reburied them.
He did it without bothering to ask himself why.