This is yet another random COI-snippet which takes place after the first major run-in with Strife. It's really a mood sketch, written more for the 'feel' and dialogue than anything else, so please ignore any continuity issues and just go with the flow. ::sweatdrop::
FYI, understand that Strife's view of the world is rather... em, skewed, so please take his version and interpretation of events with a healthy dose of skepticism.
WARNING: adult language and themes
When the incoming transmission appeared on the large wall monitor in Reeve's office, Cid and the others were treated to the interesting sight of Cloud -- or Strife, as he was now calling himself -- lounging back in a leather-covered, executive-style chair with his booted feet propped up on the console and his hands folded behind his head.
Strife grinned at them, clearly enjoying their obvious stress and worry.
"I see you guys survived the little present I left you. Even the little Wutai bitch. Next time, I'll remember to kill the fucking chocobos first."
There was a feverish, manic glitter to those glowing blue eyes that sent chills down Cid's spine.
(Good friggin' god. They told me what happened but... Shit, Cloud's totally out of his flippin' MIND!)
Those overly brilliant eyes slid over to the black-clad figure leaning against the wall behind the others and the vicious little smirk broadened.
"Nothing to say, General? I'm not surprised, considering how hard I kicked your fancy leather-covered butt." Strife dropped his hands, propping them on the arms of the chair, and leaned forward toward the camera.
"Tell me, how does it feel to no longer be the nastiest badass on the block? Huh?" Strife leaned back, pulled off a glove and examined his fingernails smugly. "Bet that really stings, doesn't it? But it was inevitable, you know. I mean, here I am, super-SOLDIER version 2.0 and you're nothing but an obsolete prototype."
Sephiroth said nothing as Strife lolled back in the chair, and gazed dreamily at the ceiling as if savoring the memory. Then, without warning, Strife jerked his head back down and stared at them.
"And now, I bet you guys are pissing your pants, wondering what I'm going to do next. Especially, with this little bauble." Strife picked up the greenish-black chunk of materia and started to idly toss it into the air. With a sudden snap of the wrist, he snatched up the materia and held it before the camera.
"Well, that's for me to know, and for you to...." He shrugged eloquently ".... sit back and watch, I suppose. Because there's nothing you can do to stop me." Strife rocked back and forth in the leather chair for a moment, then drawled, "You know, you guys really should be grateful to me. I've already taken care of one of your biggest problems. Well, a problem for puny guys like you, but not for someone like me."
A small window opened in the corner of the monitor and in it, they could see something scaled and tentacled writhing slowly against a wall. It was firmly pinned in place by what was unmistakably one of Cloud's swords. After a moment, they all realized what, or rather -who-, was pinned to the wall like some sort of oversized bug specimen.
After a few minutes of silence, a rather peeved looking Strife said, "What, no congratulations, no thanks for the hero who just saved your pathetic necks from this bastard?"
The old saying about jumping out of the frying pan into the fire never felt more true. Reeve heard Yuffie mumble hoarsely, "I know, I think I prefer dealing with psycho-Sephiroth."
From the quick sideways looks Yuffie got from her companions, it was clear that most of of them couldn't have agreed more. If insane Sephiroth was ice, coldly calculating and deliberate, then Strife was fire -- erratic and terrifyingly unpredictable.
Strife obviously heard Yuffie's muttered comment, but instead of being offended, he was clearly pleased.
"Maybe you're not as stupid as you look." Strife said, eyeing Yuffie thoughtfully. "But you're still an annoying, noisy little bitch."
The casual, almost bored way Strife spoke was a lot more unsettling than the actual words themselves. And there was an underlying nastiness in Strife's glowing blue eyes that made Yuffie twitch involuntarily.
Strife noticed that, too. He grinned, blatantly enjoying the girl's uneasiness.
"Don't worry. You're not pretty enough to tempt me into doing more than cutting you up into little chunks."
Her voice still raspy from Cloud's... no, Strife's near-fatal attack, Yuffie said, "Am I supposed to feel relieved or insulted by that?"
"Oh, definitely relieved."
Tifa finally managed to shake free of her horrified trance and uttered an agonized, "Cloud...!"
Strife's glittering blue eyes turned to the brunette, almost skewering her with the sheer intensity of his stare.
"YOU, however, are a different story. Do you know how often I've dreamed about you, Tifa? Dreamed about ramming myself into you and treating you like the filthy slut you are? To say nothing about committing kinky atrocities with your bloody corpse." Strife leaned back, propped his feet back onto the console, folded his arms, and said with obvious glee, "I am going to SO enjoy making you scream."
Sephiroth's voice sliced through the stunned silence.
"Let. Zack. Go."
They all turned to stare at the ex-General. He wasn't looking at the monitor, at Strife. His head was bent, those ice green eyes hooded and hidden from view.
Strife dropped his feet to the floor with a thud and sat up abruptly in the chair.
"Let that son-of-a-bitch go? No fucking way! You think that I'm going to let that greedy bastard go after what he put me through!? If there's one person that I'm going to enjoy hurting more than Hojo or Tifa-bitch here, it's Mr. Hotshot SOLDIER First Class Zack!"
"And what the hell did he ever do to you?" Cid exploded, "Except save your... Cloud's... oh, whoever's life by getting you out of Hojo's lab!?"
"Save my life?" Strife yelled, jumping to his feet. Planting his hands on the console and glaring into the camera, he snarled, "Zack didn't save my life. He fucking STOLE it, you mean!"
Strife uttered a scornful laugh and shook his head. "I was the one who spent years taking care of that shit-assed, pussywuss Cloud. Years of having to listen to his constant whining and moaning about how nobody loved him, or even remotely cared about him. I was the one who had to clean up his screwups, the one with the guts to do something when he got hurt! I was the one who tried to protect him in Nibelheim and keep those damn scientists from ripping his mind apart."
"And you know what? Zack wasn't Cloud's friend. He was the ENEMY. Zack was the one destroying him, only Cloud was too fucking stupid to realize it!" Strife growled, slamming a fist on the console and leaving a sizable dent.
"I tried to warn Cloud, over and over again. I told him what Zack was doing to him, how those scientists were trying to turn him into a mindless puppet -- a puppet controlled by Zack."
"And do you know what thanks I got for all my effort? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Not so much as a 'thank you'. That idiot Cloud wouldn't listen to me. He'd rather let Zack mindrape him into oblivion than face the truth about one of his 'heroes'. I mean, just how pathetic can you get? I guess after what happened with Sephiroth, Cloud wasn't willing to lose another idol."
Strife laughed viciously and raked a his hair from his eyes. "Rather than fight and endure the pain, Cloud let himself be filled with Zack-thoughts, Zack-memories...." He paused, bared his teeth before continuing, "....and Zack-feelings."
"But... but... Zack helped you... Cloud... escape from the lab," whispered Tifa. "Why would he do that if he was... helping the scientists?"
On the monitor, Strife grinned maliciously at her. "Who knows? Maybe he decided to double-cross his scientist buddies. Maybe ole Zack got greedy and decided that he didn't want to share his puppet-boy with anyone. Or maybe he thought that Cloud was becoming too good a copy and was afraid that he, the original, might be considered expendable."
He shrugged carelessly. "But you're right. Zack escaped and took Cloud with him. By that time, there really wasn't much left of stupid little Cloud. And after all I've done for him, I deserved -something- in return."
"A body of your own." It was Reeve that spoke, his voice sharp and precise.
"Yeah. So I took it."
"Then why kill Zack?" Reeve demanded, ignoring Tifa's shocked gasp.
"Because he knew, or at least suspected, I was there. He wanted to get rid of me." Strife smiled smugly. "I just got rid of him first. After all, a preemptive strike is a well-accepted military tactic. Any SOLDIER would tell you that."
"But something went wrong."
Strife laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah. Pathetic little Cloud got all upset that I killed off his 'friend'. After everything we'd been through together, he picks Zack. Cloud tried to get rid of me. For once in his miserable life, he nearly accomplished what he set out to do. But not quite." Strife snorted contemptuously. "How typical of him. It took me a while, but now I'm back. And now I'm going to make Zack pay for taking what was rightfully mine!"
He paused, then continued, "Do you have any idea what's like being forced to endure someone else's memories and emotions, their most intimate dreams and most secret fantasies. What it's like to deal with Zack's fucking memories of... well, you two fucking!" Strife jabbed a finger unmistakably in Sephiroth's direction.
"Do you have any idea how often I had to relive that crap in his dreams, the feel of your cold bony fingers crawling all over his skin, your slimy tongue down his throat, about having your damn cock up his ass!? Just thinking about it makes me want to puke!" Strife choked out, before bursting into loud, nearly hysterical laughter and slumping back down into his chair.
As his laughter faded, Strife said breathlessly, "But you know what the worse part is? Being forced to constantly FEEL all the nauseating love and devotion he has for you, his dearest and closest friend. How's that for diabolical torture, huh? To be forced to feel -love- for your worst enemy!?" There was a wild edge to his laughter, a wildness bordering on outright dementia.
Throughout Strife's rambling outburst, Sephiroth had remained deadly silent. But at Strife's last words, something... changed, a subtle shift in demeanor that went unnoticed by the others, who were much too focused on Strife's behavior.
"Let. Him. Go," Sephiroth repeated, still not looking at Strife, still without any visible or audible emotion.
Strife said with blatant satisfaction, "No." He eyed Sephiroth, his mouth curving up into a gloating smile. "I will do whatever I fucking want to Zack and anyone else who gets in my way. And you know what? I killed him once before, and now I'm going to do it again. But this time, it's going to be much, much slower. And much, much more painful. It makes me hard just thinking about it. And you can't stop me!"
"Zack is mine. Let him go."
It was Sephiroth's third and unmistakably -final- warning. But apparently intoxicated on his newfound powers, drunk on the pleasure of finally having his own body, Strife either didn't hear or simply didn't care.
"Make me. If you can."
"Is that... a dare?" Sephiroth's question was quiet, almost gentle, more like a breath than actual words. But no one, sane or not, could miss the terrifying menace in that near-whisper.
On the monitor, they saw Strife's expression tighten and falter in mid-gloat, but only for an instant. He grinned nastily and said, "Sure. Why not? If you want Zack that badly, you're going to have to come and get him. You don't have a chance, of course -- I'm faster, stronger, and more powerful than you can ever be. But by all means, give it your best shot, Sephi-poo."
And with that last taunting insult, the monitor went blank.
Sephiroth finally lifted his head... and smiled.