He found Zack sitting on a hill, about a mile outside of the city. The other Soldier had been gone for hours. The task fell, as always, upon Sephiroth to find him and bring him back before their next attack.
Sephiroth walked up behind the black-haired Soldier and stood silently at his side. Zack didn't make any overt sign that he'd noticed Sephiroth's presence. He didn't need to. There was some type of confection in the younger man's hand – a strange looking pastry, half-eaten and shaped like a fish. He stared down at the city below them as he ate, lost in thought.
Sephiroth listened to the wind blow through the grass around them and enjoyed the silence. He let himself forget about the war, if only briefly, and relax. It seemed strange to find a moment so calm while they were fighting such a bloody war. Fitting that Zack had led him, if unintentionally, to this moment.
Considering Zack, perhaps it wasn't unintentional.
"Did you ever notice," Zack's voice brought Sephiroth out of his reverie, "how alike we all are?"
He hadn't, but he didn't say that. There would be no point to respond with an answer so simple. Instead he stayed silent and considered it. What was the scope?
"Do you mean the Soldiers, or the Wutai?"
Zack watched him out of the corner of his eye. "All of us. You, me, the Soldiers, and the Wutai. Everyone."
Were they all alike? He hadn't considered it before, but his first answer would have to be a definite no. He wasn't Wutai. That wasn't the answer Zack was looking for. He considered the statement again. He wasn't Wutai, but there were similarities. "We breathe air," he answered slowly. "We eat. We drink. We live and we die." On the basic level there were no differences. It was once he considered beyond that that they separated into distinct types.
"We aren't any different from the Wutai." Zack spoke as if he regretted it. Perhaps it was the war he regretted, not the differences. Maybe it was both.
"We are," Sephiroth argued. He wasn't Wutai, and while he didn't mind that fact, he knew there were some that used their differences as fuel for this war.
"But we aren't. Not really. You said it yourself. We all live and die. Their blood is the same color as mine. They want the same things – to be happy, to be loved, to stay alive."
Sephiroth shrugged. It didn't much matter to him if they were the same or different. Orders were orders. He'd fight and kill whoever Shinra told him to, whether they were Wutai or not.
"We're different, you and I," Zack continued, waving his hand between the two of them. "In our hair, the shape of our face, in our likes and dislikes, our heights and style of dress. We think differently, we fight differently, we look differently." Zack stared at him. "So why don't we kill each other?"
Sephiroth frowned, his eyes narrowing. Zack wasn't going to give up until Sephiroth finally took part in this stupid debate. What they said didn't matter. They could debate differences and similarities for hours but nothing would change. There would still be a war, waiting to be fought. He would still be Soldier, under the command of Shinra. He humored Zack anyways. "We have no reason to."
"Why?" Zack persisted.
"Because we're allies. We're on the same side." There was more to it. They were... friends, in a sense, in the only way Sephiroth could have friends. They were close – compatriots, allies, lovers. They had a bond, invisible, but still tying them closely together.
That didn't mean that Sephiroth wouldn't kill Zack if he had to, perhaps even if he was ordered to. But he wouldn't want to and if it ever came down to it, there was a chance he would disobey orders rather than kill Zack.
Not that Shinra would ever order him to kill Zack. Shinra knew better than to give that kind of order.
"And what about them?" Zack waved his hand toward the village. "Why are we killing them?"
Zack knew the reasons why. He'd been briefed the same time as Sephiroth. He'd done research. But he didn't say that. He didn't think he had to. "We were ordered to," he answered instead.
"Why?" Zack's voice cracked on the word. Sephiroth didn't move.
Zack cut him off. "Don't give me the political garbage answer. What makes it okay? What is it about the Wutai that's so different than us that lets the public accept the fact that we're out here slaughtering them? Women and children are dying down there, and somehow people think it's okay."
"It's not okay," Sephiroth answered, more to placate Zack than from any real conviction. "The differences are all people see. Their language, their dress, their customs. Even the way they go about their day is different."
"It's not." Zack glared. "They love, just like us. They have the same fight to make it through the day. There are no differences."
Sephiroth sighed and shifted on his feet. "There are. We're all different. We always will be. You have to accept that."
Zack looked ready to fight. Sephiroth wasn't in the mood to give him one. He turned and started back down the hill.
He didn't walk alone.
"I will never accept that this kind of killing is right," Zack stated, bitterness clear in his voice.
"Good," Sephiroth commented, obviously not the answer Zack was expecting as the younger man stumbled slightly. "That keeps you human. More human than I."
He knew his failings well. That was part of the reason why he stayed with Zack – Zack was his humanity.
"Different or not, we still have to fight. It'd be best if you remembered that. If you can't justify it to yourself, make something up. That they're holding children hostage or they kick puppies – whatever you need to get through battle." He stopped and turned to face Zack. "You can question it all you want once we're on the field, but don't let those questions get in the way of your duty. We have a job to do here. If we don't, someone else will, so you can at least tell yourself that if we do it, none of the innocents will get hurt."
There was rage in Zack's eyes, flashing green like the Mako in their blood. The rage would fade when he finally understood.
They had no choice.
"Fine," Zack gritted, "but I don't have to like it, you know."
Sephiroth turned and started back towards their temporary base.
"I never said you had to."