Through The Beast's Eyes

[01.09.02] » by SilvyrWing

There was only a small table set, but it was enough. Everyone was there, standing around, talking, joking, laughing. Despite the cold, and the fact that we'd be eating dinner under a makeshift tent instead of warm in our homes, everyone seemed to be in excellent spirits. It was good, I suppose, because in a few days' time we would be plunging head-first into the Northern Crater, and this little pick-me-up would certainly do wonders for everyone's morale.

It warmed my heart, looking around and seeing everyone so happy and carefree. I would have to be the one to bring everyone down, though, because that was my job. I had to keep everyone's feet on the ground. Get too careless, and die. That was my motto, and one worth sticking to.

"Hey, Vincent! You wanna sit down, or what? Tifa went to get the main course outta the fire, and if ya don't sit down, ya ain't gonna have a seat!" Yuffie placed her hand on my shoulder and began leading me over to the table, despite my efforts to shrug her away. I let her seat me, right next to herself, of course, and hugged my crimson cape closer around my arms. Christmas just wasn't a good time of year for me.

Even so, I had to admire the work that everyone had done setting up our dinner. The table was draped with a blue tarp, The edges of which had been painstakingly cut into a lacy pattern by Yuffie. Cid and Barret went out and found a bunch of greens. Even though they were meant for Chocobos, they didn't have a bad flavor. Our plates were old metal disks found aboard the Highwind, but they were polished so much that a passerby could almost mistake them for fine silver. There were a couple other side dishes, as well; wild rice and mashed mandragora shoots, amid an assortment of other things. We'd done well, with such limited resources. The table itself, taken from the Highwind, was a bit wobbly, but after packing snow around the offending legs, it worked just fine. I scowled though, as my chair wobbled on a stray rock that had missed Cloud's inspection. No matter where my chair moved, it always remained in contact with it. What an annoyance.

"Aw, cheer up, Vince," Cid said as he sat down on my other side. "Why the hell're you always so serious, eh? Y'should get yerself a good woman I say, then…"

"Ya, right!" Yuffie interrupted. "Don't listen to him, Vinnie. He jes' has a dirty old man mind."

"I see."

Thankfully, Tifa chose that moment to fold back the flap of the tent, and enter with a steaming plate of roasted Chocobo. The attentions of Cid and Yuffie were drawn away from me and to the more important task of complimenting the chef on her cooking, and I accepted the opportunity to withdraw. The tent folds provided some shadows, and upon stepping within them, I felt much more at ease.

It was much to my dismay when I noticed everyone stand and transfer themselves over to my spot of comfortable seclusion. Yuffie, ever the considerate one, held out an extra plate. When I didn't take it, she set it down in front of me.

"It's there if ya want it. But don't get any ideas, ya know? Cloud told me to make it up for ya."

Questing a look at Cloud didn't provide any information. He had a mouthful of greens, and all he could do was shrug.

"You must have forgotten that we were going to tell stories tonight, huh?" Tifa asked, a slight smile shining in her eyes. She leaned against Cloud, shivering, and he put his arm around her. It was a comfortable sight, a happy one, and for the first time in a while, I betrayed my stoic nature and smiled.

"Ah! Ah! Didja see that?" Yuffie howled in a fit of giggles. "He smiled! I saw it!"

"Ha, guess the old boy's gotta heart after all, eh?" Cid commented around a chunk of Chocobo.

"It is uncommon for humans to smile?" Red XIII pawed at his portion of the roasted bird. "Funny, I have seen them do so on several occasions."

"Naw, S'jes' not normal t'see Vincent smile," Barret explained. "Ya gonna eat that're what? Cuz if ya ain't, I'll…"

"I will partake in my meal as soon as it has cooled," Red responded. "It would be nice if the conditions were not such as they are, but I suppose it cannot be helped. Perhaps some stories of Christmases from our younger days would serve to pass the time, as Tifa suggested?"

"So, stories, huh?" I asked, trailing my claw along the ground. The snow had melted somewhat, and was starting to make the brown earth underneath uncomfortably damp. "I suppose that includes one of mine?"

"Yeah, of course! You're one of the team, you know! I mean… if you don't mind…" Tifa looked quickly away as I scowled.

"No, no, it's okay," I said. "Just that… well… I've been sleeping for so long…"

"Awww!" Yuffie exclaimed, wrapping her arms around my neck. "Vincee-poo is shy! Ha!"

This time, I was successfully able to escape from her, and she collapsed in a fit of giggles next to Tifa. "Lookie! He's blushing! He's so cute when he's shy!"

I must have looked incredibly confused, or at least significantly embarrassed, because a few of my comrades held back their laughter with obvious difficulty. "Excuse me… Miss Yuffie… With all due respect, I… uh…"

"Aw, quiet, Yuf, you're a pain in the ass!" Cid took one last puff of his cigarette and threw it in the snow. "How 'bout if you go first, eh, Vincent? That'll shut 'er up, I bet!" He laughed, and Yuffie threw a snowball at him. It missed, most likely on purpose, since I'd seen her deadly accuracy with throwing stars.

"Perhaps someone else has somethin' to share?" Cloud offered. He was trying to direct the attention away from me again, and though I was grateful, it would only delay the inevitable.

"No, I will tell my story."

There was not an eye there that was not trained on me at that point. My past was just something that was never talked about, but now…

I had to tell them. To let them know that I wasn't just a monster.

"You all know by now that I used to be a Turk… One of Shin-ra's elite…"




"Damn it, Hojo! The boy is three years old! You can't keep doing these experiments on him! He needs a damned life!"

"Shut the hell up, Valentine. You work for Shin-ra, remember? And you're under my jurisdiction. You'll do whatever I say." He filled a syringe with a green fluid - Mako, by the looks of it - and set it aside. "And I don't care what you say, Sephiroth is not a boy. He's a project. And he's going to make me a very rich man one day. You, too, if you keep quiet."

"He's so smart though, just like… Just like" I paused. Lucrecia… She'd been gone now for three years, ever since Sephiroth was born. She never even got to hold her own son… "Just like his parents! He's talking better than half of your lackeys do already! He deserves so much more…"

"Yes, I would have to agree with you. The boy is smart, but…" He filled another syringe, drawing red liquid from a contraption to his side. JENOVA cells… "But he was BORN to be an experiment, don't you see? If I gave up on that now, all that research would be for naught. I would have to start over, with another, and then you would try to stop me again."

"He's your son, Hojo. Please, just listen to reason. For once in your life, just listen to me." I smiled a little bit as he looked at the ground. Was I getting through to him? "Lu loved you so much. She wouldn't want this. She would want…"

"Shut up, Valentine. Lucrecia and I had an agreement, that our first child would be for science." Hojo turned away from me briefly, setting the JENOVA sample on the counter. "He was not born out of love. Besides, he was injected with JENOVA cells before he was even born. They are part of his genome."

The Doctor paused for several moments, setting his hands on the polished countertop and leaning upon it. For some reason, I noticed his reflection in all the tubes and metallic plates, in all the glass and copper wiring. They all stared at me. The dark lab glowed with something, and I wouldn't realize until later that the lab itself was alight with pure and primal hatred. He trembled as he stood there, with feet seeming to try to dig right through the floor. I heard a growl that seemed to encompass the very room in which we were standing, and as the twin Mako pods at the far end of the lab flared with an intense green light, I realized that the noise came from Hojo…

"Hojo? Are you alright?"

They always told me that when my time was up, everything would move in slow motion. All the reflections shattered as one entity, and then, only Hojo and I stood there, in an empty white void that became my life, flashing around me. I saw it all. My birth, my childhood, the moment I'd been promoted to the Turks…

My Death.

The bullet was moving so slowly. I could see its very surface, and Hojo's face laughing within it. All I had to do was dive to one side… but I was moving just as slow as that laughing projectile. Laughing… it laughed at me…

And then it hit.

And then… Hojo's face above me again.

"No, you aren't going to die. I'm not going to let you die. See, I have a little surprise for you…"

I felt the needle in my arm just as everything went black.

The darkness… was not comforting.

I was not dead. Hojo was true to his word.

It was a complete darkness, almost like a sleep, but I knew that something was very, very wrong. I was angry. MUCH angrier than I should have been and as cold hatred wrapped around my mind, consciousness also returned. The green light from the Mako pods caressed my eyelids, and reluctantly, I opened them. Alive…




My knees hit the floor before I realized I had fallen, and waves of panic hit me as my legs went numb and seemed to break, bending backward. My mind swamped with white-hot pain and I know I must have been screaming loud enough to wake the dead, but my ears were filled with static. Hands… feet… everything… on fire. A new feeling emerged in my mind. Revenge.

The pain subsided, and my writhing ceased, but still that feeling remained. "Stand up… just stand…" My voice… it was hoarse. Rough, like…

Claw marks in the wooden floor. Claw marks. Mine. I was…

A new reflection greeted me when I opened my eyes and saw myself in the tubes and plates. The beast there was the beast from my childhood bedtime stories, the one that used to dwell in the caves and destroy those that lived to hurt. He was a good beast, but feared… Those that respected him called him Gallant Beast. I knew what had happened. My memories of the red and purple scaly flesh had manifested, made possible by Hojo's gift of JENOVA cells. Yes, I lived, but now I would live to destroy him and his spawn.

I was the Galian Beast.

"What the…?" The voice, amplified in my ears one-hundredfold, was that of the victim I sought. Ah, yes. He'd come to check on me. "You were supposed to be asleep!"

He turned from the door, and tried to flee, but I was one step ahead of him in this game. An easy leap brought me into the path of his advance, and grinning, I herded him back into the lab. It was fun. It was a game, and the morbid satisfaction I got from having this monster at my mercy scared me. "Heh, not so powerful without your gun, are you, DOCTOR?" Doctor… a laughing mockery of the title that he shouldn't have even held.

"What the hell happened to you, Vincent? Gah-ah!" he cried out as I swiped a taloned hand at his chest. What he didn't know was that I missed on purpose. This was too much fun to kill him so soon.

"I was hoping you could tell me, Hojo." Another feigned attack, and he backed into a table. Several beakers, some filled with liquid and some not, crashed to the floor as the table overturned. The broken glass crunched under my feet as if it were only paper. Nothing that simple could cut through my scaly hide. "I was hoping you could tell me, so that way I can know all the answers. Dead men don't talk, Hojo. Say what you want to say, and say it quickly."

"Damn it! You were supposed to fall asleep! This is a failed experiment, nothing more, I tell you!" He grabbed one of the glass beakers that had not yet shattered, and hurled it at me. Incredible reflexes moved my arm before I knew I was reacting, and batted the beaker away. Not that it would have hurt, anyway.

It was actually surprising, how agile Hojo was. In the split second it took me to dodge out of the way of his pitiful attack, he'd managed to collect himself, and was now staggering across the room in order to attempt an escape. I laughed and took my time chasing after him. He was stuck, and it was amusing watching him so afraid. I still wasn't ready to kill him yet.

"You're only stalling, my good doctor. Let me kill you now. I'll make it quick. It won't hurt at all. I promise."

I was too smug. Should have realized that something always goes wrong. Even the most perfect plan always has a counterplan, and Hojo definitely had his own ideas. I should have just killed him when I had the chance. "Should have" didn't matter now, though, because he was pointing a tranquilizer dart at me. It was anyone's guess as to where he pulled that from, but I should have expected it. Hojo had everything in this laboratory, and this would be no exception.

"Look, Valentine, I don't know what the hell happened, but I might as well make the best of it, aye? I'm just going to knock you out for a bit so I can put you in a cell. That way, I can study you. I suspect you'll change back, eventually…"

And with that, he pulled the trigger.

I should have had a few seconds to counterattack before the toxin worked on my system, but it was almost instantaneous. I was on the floor in a matter of seconds, unable to move.

"This was one of my older experiments," Hojo explained. "I extracted energy from a stop spell and compressed it. Pretty ingenious, huh? Especially because I don't have any materia handy right now. I hope you don't mind, Vincent. I am going to have to drag you to your room, since I'm the only one here. Merry Christmas, my friend. I hope you liked your gift."

He rolled me onto a tarp, still fully aware as the needle from the dart dug further into my shoulder. Everything had sort of a haze over it, though that was most likely due to the fact that my eyes were fixed in an unblinking, blank stare. "Uwwaaahh…" I attempted, as he dragged the tarp through the stone hallways of the Shin-ra basement. I could only produce sounds.

"Heh, I just going to keep you in this little room right here, okay?" Hojo unlocked a door. It didn't seem to be too far away from the actual lab, so I had a general idea of where I was. It was the crypt room. The one with the coffin and the skulls.


He pulled the tarp all the way into the room, careful to leave a very short distance between the door and myself. The last thing he did before he fled like a coward was to pull the dart out of my arm, and as soon as he did so, I felt my strength returning. I was on my feet as soon as I was able, but it was too late. The door had already slammed shut, and I roared my displeasure until in echoed from all walls.

Then I became a frantic, berserk maniac. My goal had not been accomplished, obviously, since Hojo was still very much alive. I thrashed at the walls, the doors, the skeletons that littered the floor, everything, until my energy was completely spent. Rage still simmered within my veins, and refused to be sated. I didn't care. The rage was nice.

As time passed, the crypt became incredibly cold and I could only suppose that night had fallen. One of the skeletons wore an old red cape, so I draped it around my shoulders and wrapped it around my body as best I could. It had not occurred to me up to this point that the Turk uniform I was wearing had been totally ripped to shreds, thus, I had no clothing. Now that I had time to think about it, embarrassment set in. I felt a bit better with the red cape, though, even if it wasn't very warm.

Time passed slowly, and while the minutes ticked by, my hatred only grew. I wanted to kill. I had to kill. That primal instinct separated me from other men; I was no longer one of them. I had become a monster, and would embrace this new status. One day Hojo would slip up, and that would be the end of him.

"Hey, hey Mister Vincent! Can ya see me? Doctor Hojo said y' were in 'ere."

I jumped about a foot as the voice seemed to come from nowhere. There had been no sound of footfalls leading down the hallway to the cell, and yet there was someone standing at my door. A child, about three years of age if I guessed correctly, named Sephiroth. My secondary victim.

There was a sound of something being dragged across the ground just outside the door - hollow, like a box of some sort. Then Sephiroth's little face appeared at the bars. I was about to lunge at it, when he laughed.

"H'lo Mister Vincent! You look like a big puppy!"

"…Hello… Sephiroth…" I said, surprised and disappointed that the rage that reawakened when the boy appeared had vanished.

"Lookit! I stoled the key from Doctor Hojo. He dunno yet so I gots ta be quiet…" He held it up triumphantly, and the meager light from the orange basement lights sparkled off the brass. "I came down 'ere earlier, but you were throwin' a temper tantrum so I went and played wif my toys instead. And then I was goin' t' sleep an' I thought 'bout how you didn't get no present for Christmas, so I brung one for you!"

The face disappeared, and the sound of a struggle with the key ensued. Christmas… I'd almost forgotten. Curious, I waited until Sephi finally figured out how to open the door, and it swung open with a very audible creak.

"Hiya, Big Puppy Vincent! I found you!" He giggled, and before I had the chance to say anything, he made his way across the room and wrapped his arms around my leg. This was my chance. All I had to do was reach down and dispatch him, but I couldn't do it.

"Can I take you for a walk, Uncle Puppy Vincent? Huh? I bet that would be fun! Ohya! I got this for ya! Some of da Turks came over fer dinner an' I stoled some food, but Hojo didn't see me. Aren't ya prouda me, Uncle Vincent?" He stood back a little ways, and produced a metal box from one of the pockets in his over-sized black trench coat.

"I had ta put my blocks somewhere else, 'cuz they were in here, 'n I needed it fer your dinner." Sephiroth sat down on the floor in front of me and worked at the clasp on the box, his silver hair falling into his eyes as he did so. I leaned down a little bit and peered around the hair, getting a good look at his eyes. They glowed bright green, the sign of exposure to a lot of Mako. The poor child didn't even realize he was being tortured.

"Let me help you, Sephi," I said, reaching for the box. He pushed my hand away, wrapping his fingers around one talon. They didn't even reach all the way around.

"Don' worry, I can do it! There, see?" He held the box up for me to see, the clasp successfully undone. "I'll put it down on the floor, 'kay? If ya want it, ya can have it. Wow, Uncle Vincent, did you know your eyes are all red an' stuff? You should get more sleep. I bet yer tired and cranky."

"You certainly do talk a lot, Sephiroth." I opened the lid of the box, and looked inside. There was a bit of meat and a bunch of vegetables. It looked like a Sephiroth-sized portion.

"Ohya! I got ya a present, too! I found it in my room and I had to find some paper so I could wrap it cuz Hojo wouldn't gimme any." He dug into another pocket and came up with a shoddily wrapped, heavily taped package. "Open it!"

I took the offered present, and looked at it for a long time. It felt bad, that I was so willing to kill the little boy just an hour before. Here he was now, thinking of me on Christmas when nobody else had, even bringing me Christmas dinner and a present. "Thanks, Sephi," I said, still unaccustomed to the roughness in my voice. I trailed a claw along the tape, cutting the paper open carefully. Inside, folded as neatly as a little child could muster, was a strip of red cloth.

"Issa bandana!" Sephiroth shouted, hopping up and down with glee. "I sawed your red cape earlier an' I thought mebbe a bandanna would look cool, so I made one for ya. I had ta cut up one o' my old shirts but I don't wear red anyway, so…"

"That's very nice of you, Sephi," I said, holding the bandanna carefully, as if it were made out of the finest spun gold. It was quite long, but if wrapped a couple times, it would be just fine. "You would make Lu very proud."

"Is Lu yer girlfriend?" Sephiroth asked, smiling and dancing back and forth. "I bet she is, ha! Ya love her?"

To this, I could only chuckle a little.

"Aw, I tol' ya you were tired! Lookie! Your eyes r' waterin'!" He came closer and reached toward my face, wiping the tear away. "You should get some sleep."

The vengeful feeling started to drain away. I was left with a feeling of sadness, yet I was hopeful at the same time. Hopeful… One day, everything would work out. Until then, I would stay here and wait.

"Sephi, I want you to leave now, and I want you to lock the door, okay? Don't tell Hojo you were here." I pushed him toward the door a little, and he frowned.

"Whassa matter, Uncle Puppy Vincent? Don't ya like me?"

"Sephi, you're like a son to me. That is why I want you to leave. One day you'll understand." The shadows hid my tears, thankfully. If Sephiroth had seen them, it would have been harder for me to ask him to leave. "Just go."

"Alright, I'll go Uncle Vincent." He stood outside the door for a long time, looking at me, before he pushed it closed. I heard the several attempts he made at locking the door, before it finally clicked.

"Sephiroth?" I called, a couple seconds after the door locked. The footsteps came bounding back.


"Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Uncle Vincent!"

I waited a long time, half hoping that the boy would return. At that point, I vowed that I would do anything for him, because he was just what I had always wanted in a son. Calmed now, I found a way that I could change back to my human self, and having done so, got dressed in what was left of the skeleton's clothing. Overwhelmed with a desire to sleep, I crawled into the only bed that was available to me, the casket, and waited for sleep to come. That was all I could do now… Wait…




"So, if you vowed you'd do anything for him, Why ya gonna kill him?" Cid pushed around the rest of the greens on his plate. "I don't think I understand."

"That's… what's best for him…" I answered, lowering my eyes to the floor. My hand brushed that red bandanna as I remembered. "He doesn't even remember who he is anymore. With his death, will come peace."

"What a sad story," Tifa said, her lower lip pouting. "I never thought of Sephiroth as anything but the bad guy, you know?"

"I need to be alone for a while," I said, rising to my feet. The flap of the tent was slightly open, so I slipped out through it. The cold outside air bit through my clothing like the Fang Wolves outside Kalm town, but I stood my ground. In the distance, I could just make out the silhouette of the Northern Crater, and I smiled for the second time that day.

"Merry Christmas, Sephiroth."

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