As he expected, Angeal and Genesis barged into his personal tent shy of his arrival by half an hour.
"Huh. Good to know that Seph does grow up eventually." Genesis murmured.
"Gen..." Angeal warned, the interaction familiar enough to induce a pang in his chest. It was followed, irrationally, by a flare of anger and betrayal, though it had been years—
Sephiroth growled lowly as he stood, driven to his feet by the emotions coursing through him. "Get out."
Genesis's eye twitched and then Angeal calmed him with a gesture. "We can't get out. Mr. Valentine said we had to keep up—"
"A lie. I look enough like my counterpart to pass, if somewhat taller, by more than one account on my way through this Base Camp. I am not your friend but I am not willing to die again, hence this ridiculous," he inhaled and spat out with distain, "charade. I suspect you've been brought in to tell me who I need to treat with respect and who I interact with on a daily or semi-weekly basis."
"Okay, that has got to go." Genesis huffed. "Seph's nice. He's got half of the SOLDIER Corps wrapped around his fingers because he's a little too nice sometimes. He'll make some dry quips and stuff but nothing like what you're doing, for one."
"You're going to have to slouch. I know that Mr. Valentine said that Seph's supposed to be as tall as you but not until he hits sixteen. Do you even remember what it's like to be sixteen?" Angeal pointed out even as Sephiroth paced the length of the tent. "Ms. Ifalna said something-"
He couldn't help the way his scent turned bitter, nor for the quiet way he spoke, "Ifalna? She left me to—" Die. She'd died trying to escape with—little-girl-green-eyes-tiny-pink— "Aeris."
"Seph?" Angeal looked at him and Sephiroth halted mid-stride, his knees giving way as they hadn't since he was twelve. "Seph!"
"I killed her."
"Ooookay, time to get Mr. Valentine..." Genesis muttered as he bolted from the tent, leaving Angeal alone with him.
"I should have killed Hojo."
Angeal cautiously reached forward and Sephiroth felt a hand gently pet him.
"Why did I listen to Mother?"
"She lied to you," came the response from his enemy as he was cradled against a firm chest. "JENOVA's good at that, by the way, practiced it enough on your real Mother."
"My real...?" Sephiroth questioned before he allowed oblivion to embrace him.
He shot up, the drape of crimson unfamiliar for only a moment before the situation reasserted itself fully upon his consciousness. Sephiroth had three epiphanies in succession, each more horrible than the last.
He had a Mother.
One that was not JENOVA.
JENOVA was a liar and a masterful manipulator; if she had lied about the blood they shared, what else was she lying about?
He'd lost himself to Her, had done something to his only friend—
Perhaps Strife and his team of outcasts were the only ones willing to put him down time and again.
ShinRa wouldn't bother, considering the younger was still alive last he saw through the construct JENOVA had called to life.
Kadaj, he thought, had been more blinded by Her than the rest; blinded as he had once been blinded.
He would need to speak to Valentine.
Sephiroth slouched, making his way to the Strife tent before he was cut off by a Commander in a black First Class uniform.
"I heard about your retrograde amnesia, Strife-Valentine." He almost reached for Masamune but the fierce Strife gaze made him keep it hidden. "Lt. Colonel Henderson, kid."
"... I see."
"We spar together for your assessments and for fun normally. Your old man said you could still fight, it's just people you don't recognize." Henderson offered at Sephiroth's wary expression.
"Yes, fighting is something I know well, Lt. Colonel-"
"There you are, son. I see you've re-met Lt. Colonel Henderson."
"Care for a friendly spar, then? See how much you remember."
JENOVA flared then, her shriek of incandescent rage sending Sephiroth to one knee for the second time in so many hours.
"As you can see, still recovering. Those Wutainese soldiers hit him harder than we thought, Henderson. If you'll excuse my son and I?"
The drape of fabric still clutched in his hand was gently removed and tossed over his shoulders, Valentine simply picking him up as though he were a small child.
"JENOVA?" Valentine asked after tapping the tent frame three times, once for Silence, once for Libra and once for a low-level Cura.
"She is... angry and... lashing out. She knows I am here. She knows that I cannot help Her from this distance with the Cetra suppressing her." Sephiroth shoulders eased out of the pained hunch they'd been in, fiddling with the rich, vibrant cloth surrounding him. "It infuriates her so."
"Ifalna... and Aeris... Another presence, though she is also faint."
"Your Mother, Lucrecia."
"My Mother cannot be Cetra. Hojo would have known."
"Lucrecia was mostly human, though the blood ran true in her son."
"Your son." Sephiroth tried to wrap his mind around the fact that one of his enemies might be his own flesh and blood.
"I am not sure if I am your father in your place. I know my son is mine because of a 98% blood match. There is nothing of that sort here and it would be rather tedious to have it done without catching attention." Valentine murmured. "Though, if I know my own past, I was involved with your Mother at some point. There is only a possibility."
"If it keeps me from claiming Hojo and JENOVA, I would take you and my Mother in their place." He stated, the abnormal warmth the cloak gave off most comforting.
"Anika will be here shortly. Henderson would have told her by now of your collapse."
It struck him then, as it had struck him at Nibelheim years before, that everyone around him had had a fairly normal childhood. That others had a support network that never failed them in times of crisis.
That his counterpart here was lucky enough to have more than one parental figure, judging by the concern Henderson's scent had released.
A choice where he had none.
"My counterpart has a choice." He explained bitterly when he wanted to raze everything around him to the ground for the rage he felt anew. "A choice I was not given. I hope he uses it wisely; that he does not lose what I have already lost."
"And what is that?" Strife's Mother softened at that, her hands small in his but still stronger.