WARNING 1 -- this snippet contains major spoilers for future parts of COI
WARNING 2 -- adult language and themes
Snippet Setup: In the process of stealing control of Cloud's body, Strife has done something diabolical to Zack. Strife has even openly taunted Sephiroth about his intentions to make Zack suffer horribly. Needless to say, Sephiroth is unhappy about this. Sephiroth finally tracks Strife down, intent on rescuing Zack no matter what it takes. However, for once, Sephiroth is the underdog in this fight with Strife.... Or is he?
As he felt cold, razor-sharp steel sliding through his guts, Sephiroth had to admit that Zack was quite right -- getting impaled by Masamune did indeed hurt like hell. He ignored the faint disgruntled mutter in the back of his mind from the sword. It liked Zack, as evidenced by the fact that Zack's stab wound had healed without the slightest scar. However, Masamune definitely did not like Strife and was making its displeasure known to its master.
"So, how do you like being on the sharp end of things for once?" said Strife, sadistic pleasure all too evident in his voice as he clutched Masamune's hilt with both hands.
Sephiroth chose to say nothing, allowing his long hair to veil his face as he fought to override his body's instinctive reaction to such a severe assault and remain perfectly still.
His gamble had paid off. The temptation to impale Sephiroth through the guts, just as Sephiroth had impaled Cloud six years ago inside the Nibel Reactor, was simply too strong for Strife to resist.
"Got nothing to say? C'mon, don't tell me you're still trying to pull that stoic mighty warrior bullshit on me! Hasn't anyone told you that screaming is fucking therapeutic?" Strife grinned, and viciously twisted Masamune in the wound.
Sephiroth could feel his body shudder and tremble, not so much from the physical shock and pain of a razor sharp blade ripping open one's innards, as it was from the almost overwhelming urge to move, to strike back and eliminate the perceived threat. It was no easy feat to control one's natural instinct for survival, especially those magnified by Jenova cells.
But he managed it... barely.
He could now feel warm liquid welling up in his throat, tasted hot blood in his mouth, metallic, salty, with the familiar faintly acid aftertaste of mako. But at the same time, it was strangely enticing, that favor of his own blood. His face still hidden from Strife's view, he smiled to himself. The movement of his lips allowed a little blood to escape, oozing from his corners of his mouth to form clearly visible splatters on the ground.
Sephiroth knew that Strife was staring gleefully at those bright red stains, just as he was admiring the way that Sephiroth's blood was running along Masamune's silvery blade.
But Sephiroth knew that a few drops of blood wouldn't be enough for Strife. Strife wanted to see him suffer, to moan or scream or rage in pain. And so Sephiroth remained still and silent.
However, even as Sephiroth strained to hold on and remain physically motionless, his mind was busy tearing down the mental barriers created by Aeris to hold the madness inside him at bay. The demolition was easy, too easy, the walls unexpectedly fragile. And as the last mental barrier crumbled, he braced himself for the storm of chaos and madness....
But when the maelstrom hit, instead smothering and choking his mind, instead of threatening to drown him and drag him into darkness, it did the opposite -- it peeled away the mental and emotional fetters that bound him for so long, that had crippled both mind and abilities. Like a raptor unhooded, he now saw/sensed the world around him with an unholy clarity and finally fully recognized it for what it truly was.
....his personal hunting ground and plaything.
Back in the physical world, Sephiroth sensed that Strife growing impatient at his victim's lack of reaction at being skewered. And as he expected, Strife responded to that frustration with even more violence. With an angry snarl, Strife took two short swift steps into the growing pool of Sephiroth's spilt blood and shoved Masamune even further into his body, right up to its hilt.
With a gloating smirk plastered across his face, Strife grabbed a handful of Sephiroth's hair with his left hand and yanked upward so he could get a good look at his victim's surely agonized expression.
Not fighting Strife's hair-pulling, Sephiroth lifted his head... and smiled.
It was a bloody smile, one utterly devoid of the eagerly anticipated pain, anger, or even fear. It was a cold, deadly confident smile, the one Zack loved calling Sephiroth's 'gotcha' grin, or alternatively, his 'you're so fucking dead' or 'your ass is mine' grin.
He saw Strife's eyes widen, suspicion and perhaps a little fear flaring in those glowing blue eyes. Strife begin to step back, releasing his grip on Sephiroth's hair and on Masamune....
.... or rather, trying to release his grip on Masamune. Futilely, of course.
Sephiroth watched with amusement as Strife blinked in confusion, then stared down at his hand in dawning horror as he watched tendrils of Sephiroth's blood winding their way down Masamune's blade and around his right hand, binding it tightly to the sword's hilt.
His smile widened as he saw the fear grow in Strife's eyes, enjoying the exquisite sight of Strife realizing that he had walked right into Sephiroth's trap, one that had just slammed irrevocably shut.
Almost as if Strife's realization was a trigger, the blood tendrils went into a frenzy, twining around Strife with blinding speed, pulling and binding his arms and legs tight against his body. Strife naturally tried to free himself, but the overwhelming physical superiority he had so recently displayed over Sephiroth was useless against the tendrils of Sephiroth's blood.
With a casual thought, Sephiroth dematerialized Masamune. As his gut wound closed and vanished, he circled once around the helplessly bound Strife, surveying his captive.
"You were right when you said that you had successfully cut your old strings, little puppet. Only with Jenova's help, of course. But yes, those strings are irrevocably gone."
Sephiroth licked the blood on his lips, savoring the taste, then effortlessly pulled Strife into his arms.
"But don't worry. I will give you a present of a new set of strings. A much more complete and infinitely more permanent set, as befits the next generation of superSOLDIER." He cocked his head slightly at the mingled terror and rage distorting Strife's face.
And with Sephiroth's words, the blood tendrils binding Strife began to burrow into his flesh. Sephiroth watched as Strife spasmed in his arms, writhing frantically within the confines of the network of Sephiroth's blood that restrained him.
It certainly wasn't pain that made Strife struggle so desperately. Sephiroth idly reached out and lightly ran a finger between Strife's legs, then smiled as his puppet arched and its eyes rolled back in their sockets....
However, while this was entertaining, he had more important things to do. Sephiroth dug his fingers into Strife's blond hair, jerking his head back. He then kissed Strife, deep and hard, forcing the blood in his own mouth down Strife's throat....
Sephiroth surveyed his surroundings, his lips curling into a contemptuous smile. Why was he not the least bit surprised that Strife's mindscape would resemble Nibelheim in flames? However, at the moment, the only thing he was interested in was finding out where Strife had imprisoned Zack. A quick scan of the mindscape pointed him in the direction of the Nibel Reactor.
Sephiroth glanced behind him at Strife, who stood dazed, trembling, and barely coherent. It took less than a thought to manifest a leashed collar around Strife's throat. Sephiroth gave the leash a sharp tug and quickly set off toward the Reactor, Strife stumbling behind him.
This being Strife's mindscape, it only took a brief walk until they were at the Reactor. Sephiroth paused to get a more accurate fix on Zack's location, then began the descent into the bowels of the Reactor, a still incoherent Strife in tow.
They ended up in the chamber labelled 'Jenova'. But instead of the tank containing Jenova's body, there was a large ominously pulsing black orb, its surface shot through with dark red streaks. Sephiroth knew too well that the black orb represented the repository of Cloud's worst and most horrific memories. He should know. He was the one who created that orb and the one instrumental in creating many of those ugly memories contained within it.
And Strife had trapped Zack somewhere inside it.
Without hesitation, he stepped foward and reached into that pulsing black mass with both arms. Strangely, for something that represented unspeakable pain and torment, Sephiroth felt nothing from the orb. It was like dipping his hands into lukewarm water. For a moment, he had an odd sense of deja vu. Only instead of ripping the casing from the tank containing Jenova's body, he was retrieving something much more important and worthwhile.
Within the black orb, something... soft... brushed his hands. Sephiroth grabbed it firmly, and pulled. The orb resisted briefly, as if unwilling to give up its victim, then yielded.
And into Sephiroth's arms dropped the terribly emaciated, heavily bleeding body of a dark gray wolf.
What an appropriate mental representation. It was Zack, of course.
Sephiroth gently cradled the severely injured wolf-Zack as he lay shivering in his arms. His lips thinned as he examined Zack, knowing that the gaping, oozing wounds were simply the visual representation of extreme psychic trauma and torture -- trauma and torture inflicted, directly or indirectly, by Strife.
Curiously, mingled among Zack's bloody dark fur were badly tattered golden chocobo feathers. Sephiroth ran his finger along one, then tried to brush it off, only to discover that the feathers weren't merely clinging to wolf-Zack's coat -- the feathers were actually part of his coat and therefore an integral part of Zack himself. Sephiroth then realized that just as the wolf represented Zack within this mindscape, those feathers were probably the last fragile remnants of what had once been a boy called Cloud.
Wolf-Zack stirred, uttered a heartwrenching weak yelp, and started to struggle feebly in Sephiroth's grasp.
"Shhh, shhhh," Sephiroth murmured softly, lightly stroking wolf-Zack's between the ears. "You're safe now, Zack. I won't let anyone hurt you anymore."
Wolf-Zack twisted its head and stared at him with glazed, exhausted violet eyes. Sephiroth remained perfectly still, giving Zack as much time as he needed. Finally, after a few tentative sniffs, wolf-Zack reached out a paw and lightly patted Sephiroth's cheek.
But Zack's gaze suddenly sharpened, as if sensing something worrisome. His brow crinkling in a wolf-frown, Zack whined in profound concern.
Sephiroth smiled ruefully. He should've known that Zack would sense the change in him. Some might call it a descent into madness or insanity, but he believed the more accurate term was 'awakening'. Whatever the term, Zack had immediately recognized the difference and was clearly anxious.
"Sometimes you can be too perceptive for your own good, Zack."
While still clearly exhausted and weak, wolf-Zack managed to scowl and uttered a fretful yip.
"Stop worrying about me. You need to rest and heal."
Before Zack could wear himself out arguing, Sephiroth placed his hand on wolf-Zack's head and very gently pushed Zack into unconsciousness.
With Zack deeply asleep and secure in his arms, Sephiroth finally turned and looked at Strife again.
And he again smiled -- a cold, merciless, predator-smile.
Edit: I just added a few lines to this snippet, in response to soloyuymaxwell's question about Cloud. ^_-