"So. What's your dream, kid?"
Genesis started, and looked up at his older commanding officer, the man's eyes glowing with the mako blue of a SOLDIER. Which was... odd, because SOLDIER was a small faction of the Shinra Company, and they all knew each other.
Then this man had turned up some few months ago, out of the blue, and the next thing any of them knew he was higher in rank than anyone else so far with that glow in their eyes.
That had bothered Genesis, at first. He had wanted to be the one to rise up in the ranks and reach First, and become so renowned that they started to call him the hero as well as Sephiroth. He'd been quickly seeing that what they did wasn't all that difficult, and what Sephiroth did wasn't all that different. In theory, if he did more, pushed himself hard enough, did what was expected of him, then it would soon be his face in the papers.
The Crimson General had felt like it had a nice ring to it. It still did. That, or the Crimson Hero. Either would do.
Currently, however, he was stationed under Commander Strife, and he had just seen the man take out a monster easily three times as big as any Genesis had seen so far in all of his fifteen years with that Buster-like sword, all while ensuring his men were helping in the best ways that would have fewer people injured, and he had even saved the lives of the Wutaian Ninja that had released it as part of a trap in the first place.
"Been hanging out with Angeal much lately, sir?"
The blond blinked, and shook his head with a smile.
"Nah, we haven't met yet. I was just remembering what the Director asked me when he let me in."
There was some sort of nostalgia in that, and the man seemed sad for some reason, but Genesis had the feeling that if he asked about that, then he wouldn't get any answers.
"And what did you say?"
Strife shrugged. "You tell me yours first."
"Fine," Genesis said, rolling his eyes and flipping at (dirty, still unwashed after that fight) hair, to pretend that he wasn't. "I want to be a hero. Like the character in LOVELESS."
He almost missed the way that the Commander's eyes turned sharp at that, sharp and then sad and then, with a sigh, it was all gone, and something about the way it was all aimed at him made a shiver run down his spine in the same way that seeing Strife angry that one time had reminded him almost unnaturally of Sephiroth.
"Just like the character, huh?"
"Then... how's that?"
Strife sighed again, but this time it was one that he was more familiar with, from his teachers and the senior officers he'd had to work with before. It was the one that said I'm trying to teach you a lesson, and Genesis hated it every time he heard it.
"I mean... what makes them a hero? Did they ask for it, even?"
This time it was Genesis' turn to blink, confused.
"What makes- I don't know. They just are. That's their role, isn't it? It's how they were written."
Strife shrugged, and they carried on for a while longer, the sounds of marching becoming white noise yet again, the rhythm of boots hitting dirt paths the steady beat they walked to.
"If they aren't written. What then?" Strife didn't wait for an answer. "People are gonna make heroes out of you for the damnedest things, kid. Sometimes it's PR, and you can't control that, because that's just what the company wants." Something about the way Strife said 'company' like that made Genesis wonder even more about why the man was working for Shinra at all. It sounded more as though they didn't get along well, most of the time. "For the rest... it varies."
When it looked like he was done, Genesis glanced up again, putting those words away to think on later.
For now, though...
"And? You said you'd tell me what your dream was. You owe me that much, after tearing into mine."
"I didn't tear into it," Strife said, sounding like someone picking his words carefully, "I was just... making sure you knew where you were aiming yourself. It's different. As for me... it's simple and not all that interesting, really."
"What? After all this? Now I really want to know."
Their Commander gave an awkward shrug, made all the more awkward by his non-regulation single shoulder guard, which set the motion off balance somewhat, to Genesis' eye. It seemed to work for him though, and he was a First, and Firsts could alter their uniforms, so no one had asked him to change.
"I guess I just want to protect people," Strife said, and there was a weight to his words, a sense of finality, that spoke of - like when Angeal talked about honour and pride - a sense of determination. Unlike Angeal, there was grief there too, and like the sadness and nostalgia from earlier, it set Genesis on edge.
"We're at war, in case you'd forgotten," he reminded the Commander.
The blond closed his eyes for a moment, before continuing to stare ahead with that same determination.
"Yeah," he said. "I know. And war shouldn't make heroes of any of us."
Which was ridiculous, of course. Sephiroth was already being lauded as a hero, and they were the same age - but the conversation seemed to be over.