The constant buzz from the fluorescent lights above her head was beginning to drive her insane. The brightness burned her eyes, and the chemical smell of the place, strong disinfectants mixed with other noxious fumes, left her nauseous and weak. Her every muscle and bone ached from months of sleeping upon the most uncomfortable cot imaginable in a tiny, nondescript cell that was so dull to look at that it only added to her suffering. The cold gray walls and white tile floors left her mindlessly bored, even when she had spent the night before tossing and turning, unable to escape even through dreams.
The things that went on there in the laboratory were even harder for Ifalna to bear, however. Scientists in long white coats with shoes the squeaked came and went at all hours of the day and night, peering into her transparent cell and taking notes on pads of paper, sometimes forcing her onto cold metal tables for even more testing whether she felt up to it or not. The instruments they used, and even their gloved hands, were cold and uncaring as they poked and prodded her for hours on end. They never spoke to her as a person, only giving commands as one would a dog and quietly mumbling about her to each other, as if she were unable to hear or not intelligent enough to comprehend. She was nothing more than a specimen to them, her feelings and thoughts unimportant.
Ifalna could have taken all of it and more, refusing to give in and break down as they wished her to, her desire to escape and return to her old life never lessening in its resolve. She would have endured every pain and humiliation gladly, if only it meant that her infant daughter would be safe. But she wasn't, which increased the fear gnawing at her heart and the urgency to escape. Across the room in a cell that was a smaller version of her own, containing only a small, cage-like crib, was her daughter Aeris. She was just six months old. At the time of their capture she'd been only weeks of age, her parents helpless to stop Shin-ra from taking her to the labs. Her father had been killed in cold blood for his attempt. Having no other choice in order to prevent them from harming her baby, Ifalna had gone along with them without further resistance, already planning to escape as soon as an opportunity arose.
Her attempts at breaking free had thus far been met with only failure. Each time, a scientist or guard would catch up with her before long and Ifalna was forced to surrender for fear of Aeris' life. It had been that way for more than five months, one failed attempt after another and always being brought back where she started, placed in even tighter security and harsher conditions than before. Ifalna had not been allowed to hold her baby for weeks, her only contact with her during testing when they'd occasionally be placed on adjacent tables. Aeris cried nearly all the time when she was not asleep, a desperate wail of fear and need for her mother than broke Ifalna's heart. She knew that she would have to get away soon, or the damage to her daughter would be irreversible, both mentally and physically. Every time she pictured what the Shin-ra staff was doing to her baby, she wanted to scream in rage and destroy the entire building, not caring what would happen to her if only her child would be safe and free. She knew that she had to live in order to make that wish come true, though, and so she held it all inside, trying desperately to remain in control, if not for herself, but for her daughter.
It was evening in the lab now, Ifalna knew, the lights dimmed a little from their usual blinding brightness, the flow of scientists in and out of the room in which she and her daughter were kept down to a minimum. It was this time of day that made her think most of escaping, when no one was around and there was even less to do than usual. Sighing, she sat up on the cot where she'd rested for most of the day, Aeris' cries ringing in her ears as she closed her eyes and tried to will it all away. Looking around the room, she found it to be completely empty at the moment, only her daughter's sounds of distress echoing in the silence as the staff most likely enjoyed dinner in the cafeteria. Ifalna would be fed later, with some of the most disgusting food she had ever tasted. Various female members of the staff tended to Aeris throughout the day, feeding and changing her but never showing her any affection. She was a mere object to them, her care a task they had to perform simply as part of their job. Even the fact that they, strange women she and Aeris did not know, were allowed that contact when she herself was kept away infuriated Ifalna and left her in tears each time she watched someone else hold her baby. It wasn't fair, any of it. Shin-ra had taken away her husband, her freedom, and her child's chance at a good life all in one day, all because of one man's greed and desire to use their Cetra genes as his ticket to fame and power. Destroying his own family had not been enough for the man, she thought bitterly. It seemed that he could not allow anyone happiness when it stood in the way of his twisted science.
Ifalna had never hated anyone until she met Professor Hojo, the head of Shin-ra Science Department. She could feel the evil that radiated from the man, a slight, pale individual who looked as sick as his mind surely was. It was he who hunted her down, killed the man she loved, and took she and her child away to this torture chamber, all while neglecting his own family. The stories her husband had told her about his wife and son were enough to chill her blood, only adding to her constant fear for Aeris' safety in the hands of he and his staff. Luckily, Hojo hadn't been around for the past week, off on some expedition or other, for which Ifalna was endlessly thankful. The staff may have been cold and cruel, but they did not come close to Hojo's evil and perversions.
Ifalna noticed that Aeris had quieted as the thoughts ran through her head, smiling slightly with thanks that her child was resting peacefully, at least for now. She ran a hand back through the dark brown hair which trailed down past her waist, dearly hoping she'd be allowed the luxury of a shower soon. Even if she was always watched by another woman, it was one of the few pleasures available to her in such a constricting, cruel environment.
Just as she was imagining how refreshing a warm shower would be, she heard a familiar sound at the front of the room, one that always caused her skin to crawl and her heart to race in her chest no matter how many times a day she heard it. It was the sound of the laboratory's main door sliding open with a sharp hiss of air, quiet footsteps approaching her position. Holding her breath, Ifalna quickly laid down and closed her eyes, pretending to sleep, peering through narrow slits as she awaited the arrival of whomever had triggered the door mechanism. She silently prayed that it would not be a scientist coming to run more tests on she or her child, and especially not Hojo.
Ifalna nearly gasped when she saw who it was who came through the doors, allowing them to slide closed behind him and cautiously looking about with alert eyes as if expecting an ambush. Finding no one in the room outside of the two cells, he seemed to relax a little, fully entering the room and walking toward a wide, metallic examining table in the center, surrounded by various instruments Ifalna did not even like to look at.
Ifalna had never seen anyone other than the staff enter the room before now as she stared, open mouthed, at the new arrival, no longer caring to keep up her act. He couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old, a mere child dressed in a white T-shirt, black shorts, and sandals that strapped across his small, delicate feet. He was striking in appearance even at such a young age, with flowing silver hair that fell nearly to his waist, seeming to shimmer like liquid metal under the harsh lights. His most noticeable feature, though, was his eyes. They were slightly slanted and colored a deep emerald green, nearly the same shade as her own child's. But they appeared to glow with a kind of unnatural energy as he looked about, standing a few feet away from the table and crossing his arms over his narrow chest. His expression was nearly comical, a deep frown etched across his delicate, childish features, more serious in his posture than anyone his age should have been. His eyes were cold with a hint of anger, his brow furrowed in annoyance when he found no one in the room. He had obviously been expecting someone, and their absence was a source of great annoyance.
Ifalna smiled, sitting up on the cot to further study the boy. He sighed heavily, his thin lips tightening as his frown grew deeper. He shook his head in annoyance, silver bangs falling across his face as he did so. He held himself with the maturity of an adult, Ifalna thought, watching him check his watch as he began to slowly pace the area around the examining table. He seemed very much unlike a normal child, nearly cold and without the usual enthusiasm of those his age. She wondered where his parents were and why he was here alone, in addition to what had caused him to grow up so quickly while his body remained that of a child.
Turning suddenly, the boy looked in her direction, noticing her for the first time since his entrance. His green eyes widened in surprise and his mouth dropped open a bit as he took a startled step backward. He gasped slightly, though he seemed immediately embarrassed by the slip and quickly returned to frowning, even as Ifalna smiled at him, hoping he would see that she meant him no harm. It wasn't as if she could have gotten free from her cell, after all, even had she wanted to.
"Hello there," Ifalna said in a friendly tone, lifting one hand, palm facing forward, in a sign of peace. "Are you lost?"
The boy quickly recovered from his surprise at finding her there and reset the serious frown on his face, giving his exotic features a distinctly brooding expression. He shook his head slowly, ignoring the bangs that trailed into his face and studying her with suspicious eyes.
"What are you doing in there?" he asked as he studied the cell which held her, his voice as surprising as his appearance itself. He still sounded like a child in pitch, his voice high and soft, but each of his words was perfectly formed and annunciated, and his tone held the same maturity evident on his face. His question was almost demanding, as if he considered himself to be Ifalna's equal, or even her superior, despite his much younger age.
"I was placed in here by the scientists," Ifalna told him, thrilled at the chance at conversation even if the boy was so young and unknown to her. She had never seen him before, and his ability to freely enter the area was disturbing to her. "They captured me," she went on, unsure of why she felt compelled to share such an ugly truth with him.
The boy only nodded, though, as if it were not anything out of the ordinary as far as he was concerned. He glanced back at the door, as if he still expected someone to arrive at any moment, then back at Ifalna. His gaze was piercing and made her shift her weight uneasily, amazed by the effect that this young boy was having on her. What she felt was somewhere between fear and fascination, a mixture she could not understand. What did she have to fear from such a small child, after all?
"Why did you come in here?" she asked him, tilting her head to further study him, trying to explain the nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach. He blinked several times as if considering his answer, his long, silver lashes adding to his delicate appearance. He would grow to be a handsome young man, Ifalna thought, even if he was already mature beyond his years.
"I am here for my weekly examination," he said flatly, as if it were really none of her business. "But the doctor is late again." He sighed with annoyance, glancing back at the door yet again. Ifalna suppressed a chuckle, having never met a youngster with such a sense of punctuality before.
"What's your name?" she couldn't resist asking, trying to relax despite the continuing unease she felt, as if there were an aura of some kind emanating from the child.
"Why do you wish to know?" he asked to her surprise, his gaze hardening into a scowl. She raised an eyebrow, but only shrugged.
"I was just curious. My name is Ifalna."
The boy hesitated, narrowing his eyes for a moment before finally answering, as if he had decided that she could not possibly use that information against him. "I am Sephiroth," he said with no trace of pride, simply nodding his head once as his eyes ran over the cell, and then Ifalna herself.
"That's quite a big name for a young boy," she said with a smile, trying to recall the meaning of it. She knew she had heard it before, but could not remember where. "Don't you have a nickname?"
Sephiroth's frown changed to a look of confusion and he took a few hesitant steps closer to her cell. "A what?" he asked, already annoyed that he did not know.
"A nickname... What people call you for short," she tried to explain to the child, surprised that he had not understood the term. Slowly, he shook his head no, though the look of suspicion remained.
"I am only called Sephiroth," he said, as if the very idea of having another name disturbed him.
"I see," Ifalna said, rising from the cot to stand just on the opposite side of her transparent cell wall, smiling down at the boy as he came a little closer. "Well, I'm going to call you Seph. Is that okay?"
The boy shrugged as if it didn't matter, his eyes still alert and cautious. As he opened his mouth to speak again, Ifalna heard Aeris begin to whimper across the room. Sephiroth jumped in surprise, his head turning sharply toward the sound as his fists clenched at his side. A moment later, the baby began to cry loudly, causing Ifalna to wince as she shared her child's grief at their separation, the tightness that had grown so common returning to her chest.
"What is that?" the young Sephiroth demanded, still glaring in the direction of Aeris' smaller cell. He looked so alarmed that for a moment Ifalna smiled, then fondly looked in her child's direction.
"That's my daughter. She's only a baby, and she doesn't like it here very much."
"She is your child?" Sephiroth asked, suddenly looking back to Ifalna with something like amazement. She nodded, confused by his reaction, watching as he bit down on his lower lip. For the first time, his expression changed from suspicion and annoyance to near sorrow, and his eyes dropped to the floor. Suddenly, Sephiroth was a normal little boy, and not the overly mature child who had been standing before her thus far. She wasn't sure what had caused the change, but she continued to watch him closely, growing more fascinated with the exchange with each passing minute.
"You are her mother," he stated, glancing up at Ifalna with wide eyes that now seemed on the verge of spilling over with tears. Confused, but filled with a sudden pity for him, she nodded again.
"That's right. But we've been kept apart since we were brought here a long time ago," Ifalna told him, her own voice filling with emotion as Aeris continued to cry. "She cries all the time for me, and I can't go to her to make it better." Ifalna sniffled, all the while scolding herself for becoming so emotional in front of the boy. But when she looked back at him, willing herself not to cry, she saw that he, too, was battling his emotions, glancing back and forth between Aeris' cell to her own.
"I am not with my mother, either," Sephiroth said in a very small voice, shuffling his feet and looking at the ground. "I do not have one... She is dead."
Ifalna felt her heart break to hear those words from the boy, who now stared, visibly fighting not to cry, at his sandals. It explained so much, she thought. Without his mother, he must have had to grow up quickly, deprived of the love only one's mother could give. Shaking her head sadly, she vowed never to put Aeris through such hardship, no matter what she would have to endure. "I'm sorry," she managed to say to him, no longer feeling quite so uneasy in his company. In fact, she was beginning to truly enjoy their conversation, as sad as it might have been.
"Her name was Jenova," Sephiroth said, finally showing a hint of a smile. It was as he raised a hand to his forehead to swat away a stray strand of hair that Ifalna finally noticed his hand. There, on the back of his right hand, was a black number one, tattooed directly in the center of his pale skin as if he'd been branded for cataloging. The name Jenova echoing in her mind, she finally understood why it was that she feared this small child. It was him.
During their time together, Professor Ghast, Ifalna's late husband and Aeris' father, had told her of Hojo's twisted experiments using cells from the creature known as Jenova, an evil being that had fallen from the sky and nearly exterminated Ifalna's kind, the Cetra, with a harsh disease. The scientist had taken cells from the creature, along with Mako energy, and injected it into his unborn child, which killed his wife shortly after giving birth. The last Ghast had known, the child was living within Shin-ra Headquarters, being raised by strangers and studied as he grew up for what abilities he would have to offer. Ghast had left the company shortly thereafter and gone into hiding, never learning what became of Hojo's child afterwards.
Ifalna knew with certainty as she watched the unusual boy before her that he was the one. It was the Jenova cells in his body that caused her such fear and unease, even if he might have been unaware of them and had no dark intentions, and the Mako energy that caused his eyes to glow. Still, she feared what he might become as an adult and swallowed nervously, trying to keep in mind that for the moment, he seemed to be only a sad, confused little boy.
"Doesn't your Daddy take care of you?" Ifalna asked, though she suspected she already knew the answer. Still, though she knew it might further upset him, it was information that could be valuable to her. Her first priority would always be rescuing Aeris.
Sephiroth rubbed at his eyes and shook his head, doing his best to cover up his distress with an even angrier frown. "No. I do not know who my father is... I thought he might come for me someday, but he never does. I live here in the building with the Shin-ra employees. But I do not like them very much..."
Aeris continued to whimper in the background, and Sephiroth slowly turned and walked toward her cell as if trying to distract himself from the feelings of loneliness that were so visible in his haunted eyes. Ifalna wanted to shout for him to stop and stay away from her child, her instinctive response to the Jenova cells she could feel radiating from his body like a poison. She controlled herself, though, taking a deep breath and folding her hands nervously before her. He was only a child...
She watched as he peered through the cell wall and down into Aeris' cradle. Ifalna was filled with envy and wished that she could be that close and see her child as she watched Sephiroth's face. He frowned at first, but gradually the expression softened to amazement, and he almost smiled.
"She is pretty," he said quietly, tilting his head to get a better look. "Does she have a name?"
"Of course she does," Ifalna said, smiling with pride. "Her name is Aeris."
"Aeris..." he repeated thoughtfully, still peering down into the cradle. "I like that name."
"Thank you," Ifalna said. "I chose that name for her before she was born."
"I do not know who chose my name," Sephiroth said, looking away from Aeris and back to Ifalna. His mask of maturity broken for the moment, his lower lip trembled as his eyes again filled with tears. "I wish I knew."
"It's all right," Ifalna said comfortingly, wanting badly to be able to hug the boy despite his genetics, something he could not help. "I bet you'll find out someday."
"Really?" The hope in his eyes was undeniable, and Ifalna nodded to him, hoping that she was not lying.
"Really. You just have to wait, and do your best to stay strong no matter what happens to you. And, someday, you'll have all of you answers." Somehow, she believed in her words almost as if they were preordained.
Sephiroth seemed to accept that and nodded his head, walking back across the room to stand before Ifalna's cell again. He looked up to her with wide eyes, one corner of his mouth turned up in an awkward grin, as if he was unused to the expression.
"I like you, Ifalna," he said, "And I do not usually like the people I meet here."
Ifalna chuckled, thinking that he again sounded like an adult, and not a lonely, frightened little boy who only wanted his mother. It was obvious to her now that he did not know the truth about his parentage, and though a part of her wanted badly to tell him, she did not know what the consequences might be on his psyche when he clearly had no support in place to help him deal with the information. With great effort, she kept herself from blurting out the information and only smiled.
"Well, I like you, too, Seph. And I think Aeris likes you as well. Listen... She stopped crying after you looked in on her."
Sephiroth did as he was told and tilted his head in the baby's direction, nodding with satisfaction when he was greeted by silence. "You are right," he agreed. "I never got to see a baby before. Or... talk to a mother..."
He swallowed hard, again fighting to remain in control of his emotions. He dared to come closer, placing the palm of one small hand up against the cool cell wall. Ifalna raised her own hand and placed it flat against his from the other side, looking down at him fondly and wishing that she could really touch him, to offer whatever small comfort she could. She could not bring back his mother, but perhaps she could at least offer him some of the affection he so desperately wanted.
Looking up to her with wide eyes, Sephiroth seemed to think for long moments before speaking again. "Do you love Aeris?" he asked curiously, his emerald gaze fixed on Ifalna's face. She nodded to him, smiling a bit sadly that he would even need to ask.
"Oh yes," she said warmly, looking in her child's direction with painful longing. "I love her more than anything. I'd give up my own life for her. She's my reason for living."
Sephiroth seemed to consider this, frowning thoughtfully, before a desperate, nearly tearful expression crossed his face. "Do you think... that my mother loved me that way?" he nearly whispered, as if afraid of the answer but unable to go on without knowing.
Ifalna had to swallow hard to keep from crying as she looked down at him, seeing the pain the small boy before her lived with each day, most likely with no one to help him through it. He was a beautiful, intelligent child who wanted nothing more than to be loved and learn the truth about himself. How anyone could allow him to go on this way was beyond her comprehension and left her with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was such a shame, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
"I'm sure of it," she told him, doing her best to continue smiling despite the ache in her heart. "All mothers love their children. I'm sure yours loved you very much and didn't want to leave you, Seph. And I bet she watches over you from where she is now. She may have died, but she'll always be with you... In your heart."
The boy nodded slowly, his eyes still filled with tears, trying to understand what Ifalna had told him. He looked away for a moment and composed himself, then turned forward to face Ifalna again. "You do not wish to be here," he said quietly, studying her hand through the glass as if trying to convince himself that she really existed. "And... Aeris wants to be with her mother. I know how she feels, and it is not a good feeling at all... That is why she cries. For her mother..."
When he looked up and met Ifalna's eyes, she could see in them a confession that he, too, had cried for his mother but would never let anyone know. He was young, but already damaged by the way he was being raised. It was so plain to see. He bore the scars of abandonment, loneliness, and lack of love. He had never bonded with a parent, never been cuddled or rocked to sleep at night, never been held during a thunderstorm and promised that everything would be all right. When he fell and scraped his knee, no one was there to kiss it better. When he was sick, no one lovingly nursed him back to health. How lonely a life it must have been, especially for a child. How could so many adults stand by and allow it to happen?
He had responded by growing cold and acting like an adult, hiding his longings and fears beneath a cool exterior. His feelings were still there, just beneath the surface, but Ifalna knew that he could not go on that way and hope to remain sane. Eventually, he would grow so cold that he would snap, and whomever got in his way may not live to regret it. It was a tragedy in the making, one that it might already be too late to prevent.
Shivering slightly at her dark thoughts of the future, Ifalna nodded sadly, looking toward her daughter's cell again. "That's right... I only want to get away from here before anyone hurts Aeris more than she's already been."
Sephiroth nodded in understanding, lowering his hand and moving a few steps to his left. Ifalna watched him with confusion for a moment, then let out a gasp of realization. Eyes widening, she watched as he came to stand before the panel on the wall that operated the cell's locking mechanism, touching it gingerly with long, graceful fingers.
"I can open this," he said in a whisper, squinting at the panel as if trying to remember which buttons to push. "Then you can get out and take Aeris with you, so she will not have to miss her mother any more."
"You... you would do that?" Ifalna whispered back, her hands trembling with nervous anticipation as she watched him. "You would really let me out?"
Sephiroth nodded, still studying the controls. "Yes. A person should not live in a cage. And Aeris needs you... her mother." His words of wisdom were among the most beautiful she had ever heard, but even so she was hesitant to grow too excited.
"Won't you get in trouble if someone finds out?" Ifalna asked in a trembling voice, watching him begin to manipulate the controls with a confident expertise normally unheard of at his age.
Sephiroth looked up briefly and shrugged. "It does not matter what they do to me. You must get away. I will leave and tell them I forgot about my examination. I have done that before, you know, because I do not like them."
"What will they do to you then?"
Sephiroth shrugged again as if it was of no consequence. "They may lock me in my room without meals or hit me a few times. I am used to it, though. Do not worry." Licking his lips, he pressed a final button on the control panel, and Ifalna nearly fainted with relief as the door to her cell slid open. Shocked to near disbelief, she slowly reached out with one hand and watched it stretch passed the place where the barrier had been, laughing with relief.
"Oh, Seph... Thank you so much!" Overcome with joy, Ifalna stepped out of her cell and reached down for the boy, wanting to hug him and thank him for his efforts. To her surprise, he swiftly stepped away, lifting a hand defensively as if she had been about to strike him and frowning harshly. "Do not touch me," he said, his voice cold, yet also frightened. Ifalna slowly backed away, alarmed by the reaction and suddenly a bit afraid of him again.
"I'm sorry... I only wanted to thank you," she said, walking swiftly to Aeris' cell and studying the control panel beside it. From memory, she copied what she had seen Sephiroth do and soon had the door open, rushing inside and lifting her child up into her arms. With tears of joy flowing down her cheeks as Aeris smiled up at her, shrieking in delight, Ifalna kissed her soft, pink cheek and held her close to her heart. She closed her eyes and sighed with relief, vowing never to let go.
"I'll never let you be alone again, Aeris," she whispered to the baby, who fiercely gripped her mother's blouse with tiny hands as if terrified she would vanish again. When Ifalna next looked up, she found Sephiroth watching them, a mixture of intense jealousy and sorrow in his shining eyes. He hastily rubbed at them again to hide his tears, then pointed to the door behind him.
"You should hurry," he said. "The doctor might be back soon, when meal time is over." Even though he did his best to sound in command of the situation, his voice still wobbled with emotion as he watched Ifalna hold Aeris, a longing in his eyes. Ifalna swallowed hard and nodded.
"I know. We're going to leave now. But, Seph," she said, half hopeful and half terrified, "You may come with us if you like, to get away from here. I would take care of you, and Aeris already likes you. You don't have to stay here any more."
As much as she feared what he was, and as damaged as his life thus far had left him, Ifalna was determined to help the boy after what he had done for her. His actions were more than selfless, they were even harmful to him, and she knew he had no ulterior motive. It was proof that he was not beyond help. Maybe with a little attention and love, he would grow into an honorable young man, leaving behind the scars of his youth. And if not, he at least deserved that chance. Ifalna was willing to be the one to give it to him. After what he had done for she and her daughter, she knew that Sephiroth still had a good heart, no matter how cold his exterior might have seemed at times.
Sephiroth blinked rapidly several times, unable to speak as his mind processed the possibility. He looked suddenly hopeful, yet still suspicious, raising his tattooed hand to his chin in a very adult posture as his considered the idea. Finally, he looked up at Ifalna with pleading eyes, as if he feared it was only a dream… perhaps one that visited him each night and left him with only emptiness when he awoke to find that he was still alone.
"Yes! Please, I would li-"
The sound of heavy footsteps just outside the door halted him in mid sentence. Sephiroth instantly snapped his mouth shut as his eyes widened in terror, Ifalna's expression mirroring his own as she realized what was happening.
"Quickly!" he hissed. "Someone is coming! Exit through the rear door over there! It will take you through the back hallways and then to the stairs!" Sephiroth pointed it out to Ifalna, who still held Aeris tightly in the blanket she'd become so attached to during her time in the laboratory as her only source of comfort.
"But what about you?" Ifalna asked urgently, backing toward the front door and ready to run for her life, and that of her infant daughter.
"I will stay and distract them while you get away," Sephiroth said, turning away from them and instantly wiping all traces of emotion from his face, a child ripped from boyhood and thrust into a role he was not prepared to handle. He stood rigidly by the examination bed as if he had been waiting there all along, folding his arms and staring straight ahead at the door.
As it began to slide open to reveal who was on the other side, Ifalna ran to the rear exit, her daughter cradled in her arms for the first time in long months, and made the hardest decision of her life. The life of her daughter meaning more to her than anything, even the brave young boy who had quite possibly saved both of them with his sacrifice, she pressed the button to unlock the door and ran through it. Clutching her child against her chest and praying to whatever gods resided above that they would escape safely, she forced her trembling legs to carry them forward as fast as she could.
Behind her, a man's voice shouted from inside the lab, obviously shocked to find them missing. She winced and willed herself to forward, desperate to get away and trying to block out what was happening just behind her. It was quite possibly the last chance at a good life her baby would have, a gift to her by a boy who deserved the same, but gave it up to help someone else he barely knew. The last thing Ifalna heard as she ran down the deserted hallway was Sephiroth's quiet, yet defiant voice telling someone that he did not know what happened to the people who had resided in the cells. It was followed by the sound of a harsh slap, a rough palm meeting a soft, delicate cheek that had already taken far too many blows. She bit her lip, knowing she would always regret having to leave him, destined to spend many of her nights to come crying for the boy named Sephiroth.
((Author's Notes: Originally written around 2000, I have slightly revised and edited this story because it's one of my favorites and rather important in my main fic, Irony of Fate. I hope you enjoyed this story and would love to know what you think. Thanks for reading and hopefully taking a moment to drop me a review! ~ JenesisX ))