Cruel Chapter 4

The Girl With the Green Eyes

By Firey Femme

Two dark, grey eyes stared out of the peaceful green mists of the Lifestream, encircling their owner. Elena felt herself floating in a serene state, her mind at absolute peace. She went to take a step towards the man, but she couldn't. To her disdain, she was frozen in place. The tranquillity she felt was unmatched by anything she'd ever experienced, yet a distant scream had begun to envelope her soul in frustration.

Ceaseless in its grip on her, she felt like a helpless young child, encased in protective love yet not able to make her own decision. A mother nursing her weary daughter and not letting it go.

The man was slowly backing away into the distance. She struggled in a futile attempt to catch him.

No...not again...

Tseng's dark eyes bore through her in a kind of gentle sorrow. He was dead, though her mind couldn't comprehend it at that moment. She stretched out her hands to him in a helpless gesture, tears streaming down her face.

"Let me go. Please," she whimpered to the surrounding mists that had tightened their grip on her.

With bliss there came a price. Tseng looked at her, unspeaking. The light olive wove a calm web around him, embracing him with its amicable mists. He smiled contentedly, and Elena still refused to accept this peace. She fought it, allowing the screaming at the edges of her mind to come up and engulf her. She pushed forward in vain, though not gaining any ground.

She shook her head in frustration, though it barely moved with the hopeless action. She was still frozen in place, unable to move or control her own body. A sudden presence issued itself. She could not see it as much as she could sense it, trying to will her to sanctuary.

A girl with eyes as green as the Lifestream itself, came up and smiled wordlessly at Tseng. He merely took her hand in his and allowed a small grin toward her. It immediately turned to one of concern however as he nodded towards Elena.

Elena could feel the affection for the man that she had loved in life practically radiate from this creature, whoever she was, keeping Tseng company. She could tell from the vast peace in Tseng's eyes that he as well was enamored happily with this girl with the green eyes, and willingly. He moved around freely as did this being, and he seemed to be conversing in a sort of mental telepathic fashion with the young woman that had finally materialized. She had articulate features framed by thick brown hair that cascaded gracefully down her back, falling into slightly stretched spiral curls at her face. Elena looked with the only thing that she could move on her body - her eyes - from Tseng to this mysterious beauty.

Her curiosity suddenly forgotten, she felt anger rise up in her. She didn't care where she was, what this other woman's identity was or how she had gotten to this strange dream world.

"You BITCH..!" she opened her mouth to scream, and the words fell flatly in a slight whisper.

Any calm that was previously there was gone and she didn't really care.

"Bitch...," she thought silently.

The two now barely visible beings looked up, apparently startled. Elena had forgotten that they communicated through their minds. What kind of strange creature had she come upon, and where the hell were she and Tseng?? They had to get out of here.

Then she remembered abruptly.

Tseng's dead.

No life, no love. No miracles to save him. He was never coming back now, ever.

Tseng looked at her with a melancholy stare, as if telling her that there was a piece missing in her silent struggle. The other being merely shook her head hopelessly, though seeming as if the destitute feeling was only for the moment. For some strange reason, Elena knew that the actions were about her, and were both condescending from the two shadowy lovers. There was something she wasn't comprehending. "Tseng, why did you leave me...?," her mind cried out, trying to will her words from her head and into his. Before she could see if he reacted, there was a sudden explosion and everything went black. She could move! Though by now the desire to maul the other woman had vanished. She was utterly alone, and she could hear numerous voices screaming. So many voices...

She fell to a floor that wasn't there and covered her ears. The volume merely increased. They weren't screams, but cries. Pleading ones at that.

"Please...spare me..," one whimpered.

"No...don't...please...," another beseeched.

"Not my child...," the last haunted her, in its frantic tone, begging her. They all melded together, forming one continuous screeching song. She felt wet. It was storming warm rain from the darkness. Rain?

She couldn't see anything. It was as if her eyes and been gouged out of her head and there were two deep pits replacing them now. A light suddenly appeared; a dim, pale blue one. An odd illuminating reflection appeared on Elena. Some other unpleasant things also came into view however; piles of dead bodies. Almost every one had a gunshot in it. The stench of death hung in the air, suffocating in its heat.

Some decaying, others were not yet. Decomposition had claimed human flesh, and as Elena stepped forward trying to escape the gore, her foot met something. She also noticed for some odd reason that she lacked shoes.

A piece of charred human flesh and a bit of bone stuck to her foot as the fat oozed off it in a disgusting, soft squish.

Elena could not hold back the urge to vomit, and yet she did. As her eyes caught her attire, she was clothed in her blue suit. Her gun at her side, she was compelled to pull it out. She didn't know why.

It contained no bullets when she checked, and she had a pretty founded idea of where they were embedded. She slowly looked around catiously at the hundreds of decaying bodies surrounding her in its mass of gore.

She was still damp and growing more so with each solitary second that seemed like an eternity in this hell. The soft glow of the hazy light still was growing brighter, and she caught a look at her hands. Stained crimson; sticky with blood.

The darkness was pouring blood.

It was as though all the gore she'd ever unleashed from the wounds of her victims was flowing down upon her in a steady stream. She could detect the unmistakable metallic taste even in her mouth as it covered her. She gagged again, and finally a scream emitted out of her throat. This time it did not go unheard.

Elena woke up in a cold sweat, the shriek that seemed so ear splitting in her dream dying in her throat. She sat up rapidly in bed, shoved back into the world of the conscious. She lightly touched her face which had so recently been drenched with blood. Her fingers felt nothing but cold, clammy skin and she finally managed to calm herself, though to a very slight degree. She slowly lay back down, still disoriented. Finally she could make out the soft sound of rain falling on the roof of the inn and the dark form of Rude lying next to her.

She stopped breathing so hard, and forced herself to take more shallow breaths. Finally she was fully aware of her surroundings, and the alarmed state she had been in gradually started to subside.

She glanced back over at Rude who seemed to be sleeping.

Must be at least 1 a.m. . . .

"You alright?" came a soft whisper opposite her.

Elena looked up in surprise. Rude had been awake after all.

"Oh...yeah," she replied, following Rude's example and speaking at a low decibel.

She hoped desperately he hadn't heard the beginning of her scream; she despised it when people worried about her. It made her frustrated, even angry at times. Why should anyone worry about her? Not to mention she had to continuously prove to herself that she didn't need anyone's support. She had to reassure herself constantly of her strength. Rude rolled over to face her, and her apprehensive thoughts were confirmed.

"You screamed," he informed her.

As if she didn't know.

"Just a dream. No big deal," she shrugged it off, though she knew she had began to heave for oxygen again once the nightmare was mentioned.

Quite a vivid reminisence of the scene in the darkness entered her mind abruptly, and the urge to vomit with it.

Quickly darting to the sink, she let her body purge itself of food, as well as a few vital organs.

"Ugh," she gagged as she finally stopped and supported herself on the doorframe.

She could see Rude's face meagerly highlighted from the dim streetlights outside, and it was laced with concern as well as complete bewilderment.

Shrugging, she remained leaning on the door of the bathroom, hoping she could avoid thoughts of her horrific nightmare.

She vomited three more times before finally finding the strength to wearily crawl into bed and scrambled back under the sheets to attempt to warm herself. The freezing air had aggravated her weakened condition even more.

She could hear Rude lying back down beside her since he had immediately stood up the second time she had to rush back into the bathroom. She curled up into a tight ball, trying desperately to forget her mental shower of blood and cries.


"Yeah?" she croaked.

He was turned towards her now, wondering what was plaguing her enough to make her vomit. They had both seen some pretty disgusting and gruesome sights as Turks, and it must have really been that horrific if it effected someone like Elena to the point of physical sickness. He noticed with even more concern that her teeth were chattering and her whole body quaked with tension, shaking uncontrollably.


"Elena...what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Just a dream...," though she didn't finish as she tried to avoid that subject.

"Nothing," she finally repeated through her clicking teeth.

He knew better than to pursue something she refused to comment about until she felt like it, for it was a hopeless want of knowledge. He pulled the sheets more tightly around them and gently pulled her to him.

After a few minutes the coldness in her finally subsided and she was warm and free of physical sickness. The repeating gore still pounded her mind however, and she knew it'd be a very long time until she forgot that horrific scene, if at all.

After a period of silence, she finally decided to convey the events to Rude.

"I dreamt of the Lifestream. I couldn't move, utterly helpless," she finished in disgust. She left out the part about Tseng to her better judgement however.

"Then I was falling...I was surrounded in complete darkness," she began, and went on to tell of the things that had occurred.

"They were crying Rude. Millions of voices, claiming I killed them...," she involuntarily shivered.

As Rude held her against him, she felt her uneasiness eventually melt away in his strong grasp. She sighed as her heavy breathing finally started to resume its natural rhythm.

"Blood. Blood absolutely every where. Sticky metallic liquid filling my mouth...," she shuddered and didn't know if she was going to vomit again in disgust at that point.

Before she could Rude pulled her in as close as possible and gently caressed her cheek with two of his fingers.

"There's no one here except you. You're in Junon, at an Inn," he said, attempting to sound reassuring. He hesitated before adding the last part, but he did anyway.

Ah, hell...

"And you're with me," he finished.

Elena, though a little surprised, was soothed by his words. Though not as much as he wanted her to be, it was enough to calm her.

She finally dropped off to sleep again as Rude held her, and he thought about what she had said.

His fears for her had been confirmed.

He had been a Turk for a long time, far, far longer than Elena. At this point he simply lacked a conscience, though for some reason he had managed to retain sanity. The relentless killing took a sort of person to do it, and apparently he was the right kind of frosty bastard to carry out the gruesome deeds. One who did it willingly as well as with deadly efficiency.

He knew he was one cold, merciless son of a bitch, but that was just the kind of man life had taught him to be.

Elena on the other hand, still hadn't lost that very slight innocent touch. She hid it very, very well, and to an average onlooker they would think her a heartless ice queen. Rude however, was not your average on looker. He had been through the same thing when he first became a Turk, though it had worn off with time; with life gnawing slowly, though very steadily, away at his humanity. Death had become a commonality - an every day thing. He had figured that the numerous jobs they carried out would come back to haunt her, as they had him such a long while ago.

He didn't want her to have to suffer. She didn't deserve to suffer. Though she hadn't admitted it, he knew without a doubt that part of her nightmare had involved Tseng. It had struck him straight through the heart when she had uttered his deceased friend's name softly in her sleep, followed up by a horrified shriek minutes later. He finally dropped off into a very weary, depressed sleep, though not before protectively kissing the woman that lay, so peacefully now, next to him.


Sidestory - 7 years ago

Tseng ran up anxiously and knocked on the door of the quaint little house nestled back in the slums with the beautiful flowers that were just starting to bloom around it. A boy of only 23, he had high hopes of making a name for himself once he entered the higher, coveted ranks of Shinra Inc. Having grown up in the slums, his fighting skills had become quite solid and the decision to leave home was not exactly a decision. The poor kid had been kicked out by the time he was 15, and he had finally moved to the sector 5 slums, working as a gaurd for the Honey Bee in Wall Market when he was younger. Not exactly a dream job, though it brought in the gil he needed to continue living. It was not matter of luxury or want where he was from, but survival. Most people in his position didn't live for their dream, or for honor, but rather for just staying alive. Humanity was scarce, and people lived by their instincts like animals. If they were in fear they attacked, and if they needed something they took it from the weaker individual. Thinking and pondering for most was out of the question, it was merely a matter of who would kill who.

Long hair so dark that is could be mistaken for jet black, though in actuality it was very dark brown, framed a strong face. He had grown from a tall, lanky teenager into a tall, extremely attractive man. His gray eyes pierced through anyone they met, though he approached most with a friendly air about him. That's how he had met Aeris when he was only 14 years old. At that point he was still living in the sector 7 slums with his drunkard father above a trashy bar.

He had come across the younger Aeris, only being 7, gazing up at the huge column that held the plate up. After their first encounter, they had rapidly become very, very close friends. After that, she had become a kind of little sister to him. In the past year however, Tseng had felt himself gradually growing to love her in a very different aspect than friendship. They had grown up in the slums together, and Tseng had taught her to physically fight. In return, she had shown him how to use materia to a very efficient degree. For some reason, even from an early age, the pretty little youngster had a gift with the mult-colored orbs.

Little did the two kindred friends know that later they would be mortal enemies.

Tseng knocked on the door again, waiting for Aeris to come out so he could break his spectacular news to her. Finally Elmyra answered it with a smile.

"Calm down. She's coming!" she said with a small grin at Tseng.

Tseng just smiled back at her, having not acquired the brute cold side to him that he was destined to be known for.

"Tseng!" Aeris exclaimed happily as she darted out the door towards him. Dressed in her modest pink attire, it made her look even more charming than she already was.

She smiled up at the handsome man who towered above her, undaunted.

"Is there something you wanted to tell me?"

"I got it," he said simply, letting his rain cloud eyes do the talking of the excitement he felt.

"You did?! That's soo wonderful!" she squealed again in childish glee. Before Tseng could do anything she wrapped him in a huge hug and gave him a peck on the cheek.

Tseng could feel his face turn bright red.

"Uh, yeah, I did," he just smiled at her.

She grinned up impishly at him.

"What, can't handle a kiss from a big monster like me?" she said innocently.

Before he could answer the air was tinkling with her delicate laughter, and he couldn't help but smile.

She was so innocent, so unpoisoned by the impurities of the slums and their dirty surroundings. She had recently taken to going to an abandoned church and growing flowers there. She could convince and nurture anything to grow. She had told him that one day she knew the tiny blossoms would lead her somewhere. Little did she know what disturbing accuracy she would have.

"Aeris, I have to talk to you," Tseng told her in a more serious tone. Her face became one of surprise and wonder.

"About what?" she genuinely hadn't the faintest idea.

"C'mon, I'll tell you," he said, playfully grabbing her by the wrist. She shrugged and just smiled expectantly at him.


Once they had come to the Sector 5 church, their conversation still hadn't revealed what Tseng had been so intent upon telling her. Not that he was all too eager.

"...and over there is where the allysum grow. And here in front of us are my favorites," she said, pointing to a mass of flowers growing precariously up from the floor in the middle of the abandoned church. Tseng nodded, only half listening.

"Somone might step on them," he mumbled absentmindedly.

Little did he know that seven years later a red headed comrade of a very close nature would be doing just that, and pursuing a spiky blond haired man and the very girl that stood in front of him at his own orders.

He was still trying to decide exactly how to go about what he had to say.

Just say it...


"Yes?" she turned around to face him, her aquamarine eyes glowed with happiness when she was in her own element, surrounded by her plants that were so full of life.

"Just like her," he thought fondly.

Before he could finish she had her own little experience to tell him, and it would rip his heart out.

"Guess what?!"

He pretended to think for a moment.

"What?" he asked good naturedly with a playful little grin.

"I met someone very special," she said more softly as her eyes radiated with an inner happiness.

Tseng didn't know if that was good or bad.

"Uh, who?" he asked, still not catching on.

Aeris twirled around dreamily and flopped down on the rickety wooden stairs behind her.

"Tseng, what would you say if you were in love with someone?"

"Huh?" he asked, taken aback.

"I mean, how would go about telling the person?" she asked, her eyes intent on him, waiting for an answer.

She picks now to ask this...

"Well, I guess you just tell them," he said with a shrug.

She couldn't be talking about...

me? "Zack."

"His name is Zack." no...

"Zack?" he croaked.

Who the hell is Zack?

"Yeah, that's his name. I think I'm in love," she said in a kind of soft, sing song voice.

"Oh...that's uh...yeah," he ended lamely.

Aeris finally looked up, aware something was not quite right.

"What did you want to tell me?"

That I love you Aeris!! I want to marry you...I want to take you away from here and let you have a real garden that's full of life. Away from this dirty place where life seems so impossible, it dims even in your glow.

"I'm leaving," he said flatly.

"What? I thought you were working for Shinra as a Turk??" she asked, thinking she hadn't heard right.

"I'm leaving," he repeated, "to go and work for Shinra away from here. Far, far away."

"Away from you . . . and Zack," the word "Zack" spit itself out in a bitter, foul fashion in his mind.

"But...Tseng...I thought," she almost whimpered, "I thought you were staying in Midgar?"

By now her wide, green eyes had filled with tears.

"Will you be coming back?" she finally managed to ask through the silent streams that had involuntarily started running down her fragile face.

You dumb bastard, you made her cry. Tell her! Tell her you'll be back... Tseng abruptly shut his heart out.

"No," he replied simply, though he knew the extensive hurt could be heard reverberating through his hollow voice.

"Please Tseng, don't leave...," she pleaded with him.

"You obviously don't want me here," he said quite icily, though he hadn't meant for it to sound that harsh.

Aeris stared at him in disbelief, completely unknowing of what he was referring to. Without saying another word, she turned and simply fled.

Aeris had been in love with Tseng as long as she could remember - from having a little kiddy crush on him when she was 8 up until now when it was full blown love. He had shown absolutely no interest in her at all. It had hurt, but eventually she had succeeded in forgetting the sting. She could never fall out of love however, and if she even let her mind slip, she would cry for hours in ceaseless sadness.

Then she had met Zack; the dashing, cocky young man from SOLDIER. He had practically taken her in his arms and expressed his undying love for her. She had been blown away, and the horrible sting from Tseng's disinterest had started to fade. She liked Zack. She liked him alot in fact. But she didn't love him, and she knew it. He had taken away the hurt that Tseng had unconciously inflicted however.

As she ran, she could hear Tseng calling her name. She didn't care. She didn't want to see him right now, she couldn't see him right now. Finally she collapsed down somewhere in the sector 5 slums near her house, sputtering with fatigue.

After that, things had progressed in an evilly rapid fashion. She and Tseng had exchanged cold, feelingless farewells, and he had eventually found his way into becoming not only a Turk, but the famous leader.

In the finale, he himself had kidnapped Aeris, even slapped her in front of her friends, then carried her away to Shinra to be experimented on. Only he didn't know the entire story, though one had to wonder if it would have even made a difference at all had he known. The Shinra, with all their diseased lies, had told him that she needed to be protected from the terrorist group Avalanche and that she would lead Shinra to the Promised Land. The Shinra knew everything that had ever happened between him and his childhood friend. They managed to relentlessly delve into every detail and use it to their own sick advantage. He had grown so cold at that point however, he really didn't care anyway. A faint glimmer had arisen when he had taken her, but only a passing star that burned out.

Of course she didn't become angry with him, and she had forgiven him the minute he kidnapped her. She knew it was all Hojo and Shinra's doing, though no matter what was said to her, she would not blame anyone else.

Her final sorrow was watching Tseng die in the very temple that housed her mysterious heritage. Before he passed on to the Lifestream, in his last breath he uttered lovelorn words. That was, after she had expressed a few choice phrases of her own.

"Sounds like something you'd say...," was the nature of his dying lament. Even Aeris could not overcome the boundaries and the hurt that a broken heart inflicted, and forgive. She had even tried to convince herself that they were enemies. She was with Avalanche and he with the Turks. They were all lies. Lies, lies and more lies - feverishly constructed to protect by denial. One love in exchange for another.

Soon after, she herself had become part of the Lifestream. The two belated lovers had perished upon the same blade in a sort of twisted poetic justice. In a world where weapons and vengeance ruled, there wasn't enough room for love. There wasn't enough room for flowers and happiness, and the girl with the green eyes died.


As Yuffie hesitantly approached Cosmo Canyon, she still wasn't sure if she was actually going to enter. She knew Red, or Nanaki as his proper name was, dwelled here and that he was very knowledgeable as to where things came from in areas of the world.

Ever since her experience with the strange monster she had encountered in Midgar, she couldn't stop thinking about it. She had been intrigued. This odd creature did not fit the regular monsters' descriptions that usually dwelled in the abandoned city, nor did it look like a monster at all. It looked human, although a human with a touch of hypothermia. She also hadn't seen any of the team in a very long time, and she didn't know how she would be recieved. Satisfy her curiousity or suffer a confrontation after a long year?

Finally she took a deep breath and stepped up the stairway to Cosmo Canyon. The eternal flame burned brightly as ever, and she could see the late Bugenhagen's observatory upon the roof where they had first witnessed what exactly was going on with the Planet's destruction.

As she slowly walked up the red steps chipped out of rusty canyon walls, she wondered what Red had been up to in the last year.

"Halt!" someone yelled viciously.

On pure instinct, her hand immediately flew to pull out the Conformer.

"Who are you?"

She didn't respond.

"State your business in the Canyon, now!" the angry guard demanded at her apparent hasty entry into his home.

"I'm a friend of Red's," she finally admitted.

"We have no Red here," the gaurd spat.

With the nimble quickness from years of her ninja training and youth at her side, within a second she was standing behind the gaurd and holding her weapon to his throat.

"Still wanna kill me?" she asked him grimly, adding "I meant Nanaki!" on a second explanatory thought.

She had forgotten to use the huge beast's formal name. The guard gaped at her and dropped his weapon in sheer surprise.

"Oh, Miss Kisaragi! I barely recognized you!" he said finally with a hint of a smile.

Yuffie immediatly let him go, feeling a bit guilty. She had changed after all. Her hair was longer and her features had matured.

"Sorry," she said sheepishly, "thought you were going to run me through."

The gaurd shrugged in understanding, retrieved his spear and motioned up the stairs.

"Nanaki is up in the top."

"Thanks," Yuffie replied as she was already on her way up the long, long series of stairs and ladders to reach the observatory. As she went, she tucked her weapon back behind her.

Red had grown as well as she had. In human years, the feiry red beast was even younger than she. Fifteen in fact, so he would be nearly 17 now, though not quite. As she finally emerged from the ladder she was climbing, quite a sight met her eyes. Red had in fact grown, though the word grown was the most drastic understatement ever made. His shoulders had broadened and he even stood a few inches taller. The flaming end of his tail had increased in its intensity, and he definitely bore more battle scars. He had actually grown to look even more menacing and vicious than he was when they first met him in Hojo's lab, if that was possible. The truth to his actual nature was just the opposite however.

He had his back to her, and was trying painfully to mix something with a stir in his jaws, his head tipped to one side in a comical fashion.


Nanaki whirled around, causing whatever he was mixing to fall to the ground. He immediatly leapt back from the mixture as it fell off of the counter. By the time all the liquid was emptied, the place where it had landed was nothing but a neat, fizzing hole in the kitchen floor.

He glared at whoever had interupted him.

"Yes?!" he said, barely able to control his temper. He had worked on that sample for weeks.


"Who are you?" he demanded impatiently.

Not even he recognizes me at first glance? Yuffie decided her appearance must have changed more than she thought.

"You don't know me?"

"No, or I would not have asked who you are," Red snapped back, visibly annoyed.

This is exactly what she had been dreading. Already she had made a fool of herself. The clumsy kid she had been trying to hide had accidentally surfaced again. She regretted she had even come as her feelings of apprehension to what would happen if she did show up were being met.

"Uhh, I' one at all!"

Red stared at her quizzically, trying to decide what she was talking about...or hiding.

"I mean, I'm just passing through and uh..I got lost in this huge place," she finished, lying with her deviously quick mind. Hell, it made enough sense.

Red just looked at her and turned away again, shrugging in an odd sort of beastly fashion.

"Yes...well, be on your way then," he said, though still annoyed, it was in a kinder tone.

Before Yuffie could exit with her pride however, he turned around quite rapidly again.

"Why did you call me Red?" he growled expectantly.

"Uhh...because of your...your fur," she giggled a little nervously. She had forgotten everyone usually called him Nanaki, and it was only Hojo and the team who had referred to him as Red XIII.

He looked at her questioningly once more, and apparently accepted the answer as satisfactory. She finally turned to leave, with her dignity still in tact, when he caught sight of the Confomer on her back. Red visibly tensed up again as if getting ready to charge into battle, and growled on an even more dangerous note, "What is that?"

"Oh...this? It's umm...," she stumbled.

"That's Yuffie Kisaragi's weapon, and hers alone! I happen to have helped her retrieve it. Who are you? Did you do something with her?!" his tone grew even more fierce.

...that's it!

"Alright, alright Red!! I give up!! You've got me," she finally admitted.

He's been playing some kind of weird game with me the whole time...I haven't changed that much!

"What?" he looked extremely confused.

"It's me!"

"Who is me??" he demanded, genuinely baffled now.

Yuffie rolled her eyes.

"Red, it's me, Yuffie!!"

Red looked like he was actually going to believe her for a second, but then backed down.

" are not Yuffie Kisaragi. I don't know what kind of sick person you are, but I will be forced to keep you here until you tell me what you're doing with her weapon," he said in a soft growl.

"Wha..?" She was absolutely flabbergasted. On second thought however, after a year of intense practice, a few more battle scars, a different hair cut and a new outfit along with a new attitude, who would recognize her? Not to mention she was probably the last person Red was expecting.

"I have to prove it to you?" she asked in disbelief.

Red squinted as he took a closer look at her, and for a minute she thought she saw a recogntion flash on his face, but then it vanished.

"True, you do look slightly like she does, but you are not her. You require assistance. Why don't you go lie down and I will have someone attend to you..." he started, feeling pity upon this poor little creature living in her dillusional world.

"Alright, I'll prove it to ya!!" she said defiantly and as loud and obnoxiously as ever.

With that, she made a horribly nasty urking sound. Red's eyes widened as soon as she did.

"I hate that damned airship," she added for good measure, though her voice hardly sounded annoyed.

He gaped at her. Yes, this was indeniably Yuffie.

"Yuffie?!" he gasped in disbelief.

"So you finally recognized me you big lout!" she said, but rather affectionatly of the large animal whose intellect far surpassed her own.

An odd catty grin started to spread across Red's face as he finally caught on.

"Yuffie! You appear...extremely different my friend," he finally explained.

She just rolled her eyes in her old fashion and grinned at him.

"I know," she said, almost proud of the fact she could not be recognized.

"Whad'ya think?" she said and posed in a surreal model postion.

Red was still gaping at her however.

"Hey, you're the one that looks like a damn beefed up lion!" she said defensively.

That eventually broke the ice and the two old friends finally started to talk with eachother, catching up on the past year they had missed.

After chatting for a few minutes, he finally hit her sore spot. She had been expecting him to ask sometime.

"How is Godo, may I enquire?" Red was too polite for his own good.

"Dead," Yuffie said simply, devoid of any emotion or feeling. "Buried at Da Chao. WEAPON decided to have a rampage with Wutai."

And that was the end of that topic. Red could visibly see that Yuffie had indeed changed, in spirit as well as externally.

He nodded sympathetically.

"Actually, the main reason I came was to have you analyze something if you're not too busy," she said timidly.

Red looked at her with interest. Before he could ask, she went on to explain her odd interaction with the strange being.

He thought, and then decided to ponder the mystery later. Yuffie handed him the miniscule piece of fabric from the woman's dress she had retrieved, wondering if it could reveal some odd secret behind the mysterious enigma. Something about the way that odd woman had looked at her chilled her, for the stare was even vaguely familiar.

After a few minutes of silence as Red ran various tests that Yuffie had absolutely no comprehension of, he looked up with a sickened expression.

"Yuffie, be happy you did not fight this creature," he said grimly.

"Why?" she asked curiously.

"This odd red fabric...have you noticed what a good conductor it is of heat or cold?"

"I guess," she shrugged. "Why?"

"Well, the reason is because it's made of some kind of odd metal alloy, reduced to tiny threads and woven into a very fine fabric."

"And...?" she wondered why he was so cautious about the whole thing.

Some woman had a metal dress; a red metal dress.

"Well," he continued, "the thing is, this isn't a normal metal alloy. It can only be found one place in the entire planet, not to mention that place has now vanished."

"Well, where?" she asked with childish impatience.

He hesitated.

"Just spit it out," she finally admonished.

"Well, to put it simply, this metal came from one place and one place only."

Yuffie looked at him expectantly. He gulped and finally conveyed his findings.

"This is from the armor of the Ruby Weapon. Whatever creature you ran into must have killed it, single handedly."


Cloud sat in his apartment once again, still not able to forget his disturbing conversation with the repulsive executive Reeve had become. How could he just take lives to help line the company's pockets with gold? The carelessness disgusted Cloud, along with the fact that he had just lost a loyal friend. Or rather he had discarded of one in sheer anger and disbelief.

He stared uneasily at the PHS which sat dejectedly in a dark corner, unsure if he should call the others about this. It was just too like Shinra all over again. What was next?! A plate over Junon?

He didn't know what he could possibly say to Tifa after his hasty departure and his apparent neglect of her. He just couldn't face her. Considering the way she acted whenever he had heard voices in his head or invoked Sephiroth on their journey, she had displayed an undying awareness of his wellbeing.

He had ceased in having only nightmares of Sephiroth and Hojo, but rather now the visions filled his mind every day as well as every night.




Reunion of the meaningless.

He was a copy - a meaningless failed copy of the very man he despised, with no past and no future.

What he had come to do here was to try to clear his mind. Junon held no memories to haunt him.

He wondered absentmindedly what the others had done. Cid had probably returned to Shera, Barret to Marlene, Red to his canyon, Yuffie to Godo and her family. Then of course, Reeve had his precious disgusting business to keep him company. He had no idea where Vincent had gone, though he knew the man was probably not having the most pleasant time. It was his first time living in this new world, most likely very different from the one he had 30 years ago. In actuality, Vincent Valentine was around 60 years old, though in the body of a man aged 27. Everyone had someone or something to go to except him.


Tifa had nowhere either.

Don't forget Strife, it wasn't only your town burning back then. You weren't the only one who sustained injury or the loss of a family member due to Sephiroth...

How utterly blind he had been. He always thought Tifa would be happier without his presence. Hell, maybe she was. Little did he know that he had caused her almost immediate death with his carelessness and lack of feeling.

A cold blooded killer, that was the personality Cloud knew and despised of himself. Was he really capable of love after all that he had murdered and done?

The eerie young man with the mako blue eyes and the spiked gold threads upon his head didn't know what had become of the world. It pained him to see anything at all that reminded him of the past.

How disoriented they had all grown; how distanced. Once again, it came back to the one thing that seemed to unite people in its own cynical fashion.

Just as a certain female Turk's revelation had been, Cloud realized one of the only reasons he had met his current friends in the first place was to destroy something. They were united - united with a hatred of the Shinra and a vengeance to fulfill. Once that was done, there was nothing left to hold them together. Was the world really that sad?

The only thing that people could find in common was hatred, and sorrow? Hatred of good or evil, it was still hatred. Avalanche's despisal of the Shinra or Shinra's despisal of Avalanche, it all came back to one sick, sadistic common goal. To kill. Everyone thought they knew the truth.


Tifa paced around her room anxiously. She hadn't closed her eyes for the past 3 days. Ever since her arrival in Junon, her mind refused to abate in her constant worry of Cloud. The ache pounded at her head as well as her heart constantly. So many indecisive thoughts crossed her mind it wearied her to an extremely haggard degree. Who wished to punish her this way?


Tifa stopped abruptly where she stood. Had someone said something? Her head jerked around the room apprehensively.

"Hello?" she called out, her voice wavering in its unsure tone.

"Is someone there?" she immediately struck a warrior's pose and waited to see if some unknown stranger was going to reveal their undesired presence.

Nothing came forth.


Tifa jumped out of her skin as she whirled around to see Rude standing in the doorway, looking at her with an odd, though composed, expression.

She realized she had been circling with her fists raised as if a battle was going to present itself. She abruptly dropped her knuckles that had whitened from gripping her fists so hard to her side and looked at Rude.

"Did you say something before?" she demanded in a frenzied, almost frightened voice.

Rude had taken care after their extremely unsettling interaction with eachother to ignore her unless business was called for. But as he looked on now, he could see a very abysmal fear in her eyes and she stared at him like an animal caught in the headlights.

"Uh, no," he replied, shrugging the slightest bit.

Tifa shook her head in a kind of feverish motion, her glassy chestnut eyes now wide with fear.

Rude didn't wish to know what her hinderance was, and he didn't offer any comfort.

An extremely disoriented Tifa came back to reality and finally realized who was standing in front of her with a grimace.

"What do you want anyway?" she snapped at him.

Rude didn't flinch in the least, and replied quite calmly, "I merely came to inform you that we will be gone today, therefore if you require our assistance you should tell me now."

"Since when did I need your assistance?" she mocked him bitterly.

"That's fine," he said, not moving at all.

Tifa just glared at him without speaking, silencing the succession of curses that were about to come forth from her tongue.

"Very well, we will continue our search today," he continued, his voice devoid of any character.

Tifa still glared at him, her eyes glittering dangerously.

"We?" she asked sarcastically.

"Yes, the Turks," he replied. Now he was unsure of exactly what angle she was using to try and provoke him with, and he didn't appreciate it when he could not sense something in order to protect or brace himself for whatever was coming. He doubted this mere Avalanche member could say anything that would make him gape in shock however. Her past attempts had been less than petty. The only time she had ever been able to issue any anger from him was when she had mentioned Tseng, and after it worked once she knew it wouldn't sway him from his cold indifference again, even if she did comment on it.

He wouldn't have even accepted this job if the gil wasn't sufficient, and though he hated to admit it, he did require the money involved. Keeping his cool demeanor up, he looked at her quizzically.

"I didn't think you and Elena got along," she replied smoothly to his questioning stare.

Now he was really lost.

His eyes narrowed as he surveyed what she was trying to do.

"Yes, we do," he said simply, though a hint of reluctance had accentuated his voice at being forced to answer. He didn't like where this was going.

With a light shrug, a grim smile crossed Tifa's face.

"Well, I wouldn't get along well with my business partner if I was in love with them...," and with a smug expression added, "and they were in love with someone else. Someone that maybe goes by the name...,"

Rude didn't flinch. She knew she had reached his weak spot however as she also had the element of surprise in her favor. She had heard many unsure conversations between he and Elena, and she knew exactly where and how to verbally strike him.

"...Tseng," she hissed.

Rude just looked at her. She had gone too far, prying into his personal affairs.

He usually didn't respond to her taunts, though decided to allow himself one hit at her today.

"Or loving someone named...Aeris...," he retorted with a shrug, merely walking out of the room in a very steady fashion.

Tifa on the other hand could feel any confidence she had obtained with her constant thinking and debating about Cloud's love shattered as soon as the words hit her.

Damn him...

"That's why you're weak," said the alien voice again.


As Rude came back into his room he finally let the look of grimace surface that he had been holding back. Unknown to him however, Elena had not left, as he soon found when she issued herself from the darker corners of their dimly lit room. In a flash his face was blank once again. He refused to show anyone, even Elena, his weakness.

"Are you ok?" she asked in an probing voice.

"Of course," he said with another shrug before she could see his face entirely and slipped on his sunglasses.

"Shall we go?"

Elena looked at him quizically, knowing that something had happened with Tifa. The dumb broad had been pounding on him with her taunts for the last 3 days at least.

Stupid bitch...

Elena had a deep loathing of anyone that got in the Turks' way, Rude imparticular.

As the two Turks made their way along the crowded streets to the monsterous building that Reeve worked in for the fifth time that week, Elena wondered if they would finally get a meeting with him. In her opinion it would have been easier to just go in and beat the living hell out of everyone that got in their way to talk with him, but Rude had protested, saying it would be unprofessional as well as unnecesary. She wondered sometimes if the man still had a conscience, though he had claimed once when he was drunk out of his mind that - "He was a monster that deserved nothing more than he got," as he had muttered to her. Reno had also been present, but he was even more intoxicated than Rude.

As they walked along together, Elena wondered where the strange girl had come from in her dream. It had been no one she knew, although the beautiful individual did have a certian familiararity to her.

"Rude?" she said suddenly.

Rude looked over at her.

"Did Tseng ever know a girl with very long brown hair and green eyes?" He chuckled a little before finally answering.

"Tseng knew many women with brown hair and green eyes," he said with a trace of dry humor.

Elena just rolled her eyes.

"I mean a girl imparticular?"

"Why do you ask?" he wondered why she would want to know such an abrupt question.

"No reason," she replied nonchalantly with a shrug.

Rude looked at her quizzically, but as he well knew, she wouldn't reveal what she was thinking unless she wanted to.

When they finally reached the large black skyscraper, they both looked up and involuntarily the Shinra building immediately entered their minds.

As they entered the lobby, the secretary immediately recognized them and rolled her eyes.

"Is Mr. Reeve available?" Rude asked with a hint of annoyance in his usually level voice at her immediate reaction.

"You know what floor," she replied with a smug though vexed look. They had grown to be quite familiar with this secretary, as she had with an irritiating twosome that constantly demanded to see the company's vice president.

Rude nodded, grabbed the two visitor passes that she tossed towards them and started to the elevator. Elena followed, looking very professional as well as more than a little deadly that day. Since Tifa had decided to harrass Rude, their less than pleasant encounters was urking her as she hadn't seen a faint glimmer of happiness in him since the last time they had spoken intimatly with one another. The detail that they had barely been able to turn up anything on Cloud was also quite a hinderance to her already uneasy mind. Now the haunting dream she had was just adding to her irritation, and she had become even more rabid that usual as far as anyone getting in her way went.

Rude was calm and collected, though the little choice phrase Tifa had decided to hit him with rang throughout his mind. Tifa's apparent and utter despisal of him was not something that vexed him, but the fact he suspected what she said was true.

As they entered Reeve's office, it was the first time either of them had even been inside. The mousy little secretary in the lobby may have looked timid, but she was ruthless in not letting anyone see Reeve as far as she was concerned.

Yet another secretary looked up passively from her work, examined who had entered her office that was adjoined to Reeve's private one, and dismissed their presence.

This bothered Elena to an extent, for if they had walked into this same office a year ago, this lowly little pencil pusher would have jumped to her feet as she recognized the Turks. Obviously, it didn't make a difference who they were now.

Without further hesitation however, the office assistant finally buzzed Reeve and alerted him.


"The Turks," Rude said simply.

"I'm sorry, that is not a name," the secretary replied with a sly look slithering across her sharp little face, obviously trying to exercise some kind of odd power over the visitors since she held access to interaction Reeve.

Rude's eyes narrowed, though he remained patient.

"The Turks," he repeated, "is our organization."

"We severely wish to speak with Mr. Reeve, now," he repeated, his voice unveiling its contained venom.

The idiotic woman still just stared at them, waiting for them to admit their names.

Elena finally had had enough.

"Look lady, if you don't want this to get messy, you'll let us in," she said in an extremely menacing tone.

A glimmer of fear finally crossed the small woman's pinched face as she realized they were serious, and she finally decided to comply, but not before Elena had slightly tapped her gun.

"Mr. Reeve," she said hurriedly, "Turks are here to see you.

"The Turks," Elena said with a smug grin as she started into Reeve's office.

Rude couldn't help but roll his hidden eyes beneath his fathoms of black glass.

As Reeve heard his secretary's automated voice on the intercom, he shrank down.

The Turks? What could they want?

If they were there to dispose of him, he knew they'd do it. If they were there to question him however, he knew they'd be extremely professional about the whole process. He just hoped it was the latter.

"Elena, Rude," he greeted them in a monotonous voice as they two entered. He had been expecting Reno as well however.

"Yes? How can I help you?" he said uneasily, his hand slowly reaching for the small pistol he kept in his right hand drawer.

"You can start by handing over the weapon," Rude reproved him in a very cool voice.

Reeve didn't know what to do. Finally he decided to take a chance.

"What do you want?"

"We're here on behalf of a young man's whereabouts," he replied simply. Reeve finally let his hand drop and Rude seemed satisfied with that. To Reeve's disadvantage, the large Turk knew he was less than skilled in weaponry. Rude would have two shots off before Reeve could even get the nerve to cock his own pistol.


"Cloud Strife," Rude replied.

"For what purpose?" he asked hesitantly. He would certainly not convey any information about Cloud to these people.

"We cannot divulge that information," Elena told him forcefully. He obviously wasn't going to get anywhere. Reeve hastily decided he could do the noble thing and tell them that they weren't going to get anywhere, and they could haul themselves right out of his office.

He decided to do the smart thing however - lie his ass off.

"Well, what do you want to know?" he asked, though a little shakily, in as calm a voice as he could muster.

"Have you had contact with him?" Rude questioned point blank.

"No," Reeve wondered to his discomfort if his face betrayed the truth. Rude, though not being extremely perceptive of other people's deeper feelings, had quite an ability to tell if someone was lying to him. He had exercised his gift quite often as it came in handy with his line of work, and he could plainly see that Reeve was now. The spineless executive did quite a poor job of it too.

He pulled his gun out.

"Shall I use this?" he said, quite deliberatly in Reeve's direction.

"N, no...," Reeve stuttered.

"I swear, I haven't seen him," his voice said, frantic now and losing its prior calm.

Rude pointed his gun calmly straight at Reeve's head before fiddling with it for a few seconds in a very casual fashion. One never knew what this cold man was thinking or planning to do.

"I don't think you're being completely honest," he stated.

Suddenly Reeve's secretary buzzed him.

"Someone else here to see you," she said in her nasal voice.

"Answer it," Rude mouthed.

Reeve knew that if he tried to alert his staff that Rude would blow his head off without a second thought.

"Tell whoever it is to wait," he said in a shaky voice.

"Sir, the person says they desperately need to see you," she replied.

"Tell them to wait!" Reeve practically shouted into the intercom in a panic.

Two minutes passed, and by that time Elena had her gun out as well. A deadly confidence flickered in her icy brown eyes that made Reeve's blood freeze.

"I don't want to waste my bullets, nor do I like to be kept waiting," she informed him in a frosty voice.

Unknown to the Turks however, Reeve had intentionally left his intercom on.

Suddenly the door burst open, and before Rude knew what had hit him his gun had been kicked out of his hand. In a wild scramble Reeve ducked under the desk and retrieved his pistol as his unknown savior attempted to apprehend Rude. As Reeve flashed back up, he aimed his pistol swiftly at Elena's head, though with a badly shaking hand. They stood in a draw, waiting to see who would kill who first.

It all happened in a few seconds however, and nearly everyone stopped to quickly glance at who had burst in. Rude just stood staring at Tifa who had knocked him onto the floor and was now proceeding to kick his gun out of his reach.

"Tifa?" Rude was the first to emerge out of the quick shock.




"Tifa?" echoed Reeve to all of their queries.

Finally they all slowly lowered their weapons.

"Am I missing something here?" Reeve inquired hesitantly.

"They're working for me!" Tifa replied angrily.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she demanded torridly, though obviously surprised, of the two Turks.

"Our job, Ms. Lockheart," Rude said coolly.

"Your damned job is not to try and kill my friends you stupid bastard!" she was yelling, infuriated by this time.

"You should have informed us before hand I'm afraid, if there were any specific things to be covered," he replied simply to her shrieks. Tifa stared at him in disbelief.

"You need to be alerted not to kill my friends? Is that all life is to you Rude?! Orders? Orders that judge the way you think and morally act?"

Rude just shrugged.

"That's my job."

"You would have killed Reeve?" she asked.

"If the need arose," he replied simply.

Even Elena was staring a little strangely at him now.

"Well, it appears that you wanted to question him yourself," he informed Tifa.

Tifa just stared at him with an incredulous look on her face. With that he turned and left, neither abruptly nor slowly.

Elena still stood, staring off into space as if comprehending something that she never had. Neither Tifa nor Reeve cared to look at her, for the horror in her eyes was unmistakable. She knew she wouldn't have killed Reeve. Even she had some morality and knew that Reeve and Tifa were obviously friends. Rude was like a machine, programmed to do exactly what he was told and regardless of what the obvious was. Suddenly realizing she was letting her thoughts escape, her face immediately registered nothing more than a blank stare, and she followed after Rude.

Before leaving however, she risked a look back at Tifa.

"Ms. Lockheart, if you desire exact specifications, please convey them to us in advance," Tifa nodded dumbly in agreement, though both of the women knew that something disturbing had just happened that would change the rest of their lives. An unspoken commonality had bonded them.


That night, Elena hadn't caught sight of Rude all day excluding when they had hurriedly met up and he had quickly told her of what he was going off to investigate. He hadn't sounded out of the ordinary however. For some strange reason, Rude's actions had triggered something in Elena she thought was gone.

Humanity...the thing the Turks were taught to forget and if you couldn't forget, to ignore no matter what the cost.

She sat at the Inn's bar, gulping down a drink. Three swift shots later, the alcohol wasn't having any great effect on her. Finally made her way up to their room early. She didn't know what to say to him now. He hadn't seen her reaction, therefore he was oblivious that something was...

...different now. Her mind searched for the right description. Elena despised her feeling of remorse, though at the same time she also despised Rude's lack of it.

Rude, who treated her as if she was some kind of fragile goddess, holding her tenderly in his strong grasp, reassuring her of everything. Truely enough, he had upset her to a very extreme extent in Corel, but she knew that he hadn't meant to. Hell, she would've probably have said the same things he had after being repeatedly desensitized, anything to deny emotion. That's what was to be expected from years and years of cold blooded indifference that had been quite firmly instilled within him. She still didn't know what to say to him when he came in, or whenever he did.

This fateful day had changed her. Seeing the wholly lack of compassion in his icy hazel eyes; the glinty stare he had given Reeve. She could obviously understand his position of being a Turk. However, even Reno had preferences. If Avalanche did them a favor, the Turks would most likely give one in return. That had been proven on Da Chao. She couldn't help but wonder if Rude had been the leader back then after Tseng died, if she'd be standing where she was right now.

The door creaked open, cracking into her thought with an obnoxious shrill sqeak that cut through the silence. The subject of her contemplation entered, throwing off his blue jacket and collapsing into a chair.

"Damn long day," he muttered to himself, setting his sunglasses down on a table.

Though Elena was positive what had happened in Reeve's office that day had changed something between them, and that it had altered her perception of being a Turk, she did not want to discuss it. She had lost the capability to act normally around him however. She was even a little afraid of him. Not that he could harm her, she knew, as did he, that they were equally skilled opponents.

If she was in love, she shouldn't even have to be thinking of this! It wasn't fair, but she accepted it. That's just how life was for a Turk. If he would was another question however. He could so easily kill anyone, why not her? If he could so easily hurt with his careless demeanor devoid of any second thought, what was stopping him from decimating her? She couldn't help but wonder if the tables were turned, if someone assigned him to kill her, if he would.

If, if, if...

She glanced over in his direction and immediately averted her eyes. He looked as he always did. Towering and muscular; strong. He had his own distinct attraction to him. He was not as Reno was "a woman's man," being quite silent and thoughtful, though Elena found something about him particularly appealing. Reno, with his shock of rusty crimson hair and that horrible electromag rod that chose to "fry" its victims rather than neatly dispose of them; Rude, the menacing though attractive giant with deadly aim, and Tseng with his dark flowing hair framing a pale though strong face with two long samarai style swords used to impale their victims. They were a venomous bunch, and Elena always wondered how exactly she fit in with her petite frame, blond head, friendlier demeanor and particular gender. They were all male, all disinterested, and all deadly in combat. Each brought his worth to the group, making it an indestructable unit. And yet it was gone. With all the death, with all the sorrow and all the betrayal, the Turks were gone. Gone, never to return...dead. Dead, dead, dead. Is that where all things ended?

She had never thought of herself as dangerous. In actuality, it had been a surprise to her when she had been accepted. She had always found Reno very physically attractive, but she couldn't stand his arrogance and immaturity half the time. Reguardless, they worked well together on the field. Rude hadn't said one word to her, and somehow seemed to actually be avoiding her half the time. Then there was Tseng...Tseng just being himself - a leader. He had always been the more responsible and calculating of the four.

She had proven herself however, and they soon grew to realize, disreguarding her friendlier demeanor and more open looks than the rest, that she was just as they were - heartless and deadly.

Her whole life had been a strive to not be weak, to be able to defend herself. She had accomplished it too. She had been feared and revered as one of the devils of the world, carrying out Shinra's dirty work. Now she realized that half of it was a lie.

Rude hadn't taken notice of her silence yet as he closed his eyes, willing himself relax. She just stared at the floor, pretending to be doing something as she fiddled with her gun.

Finally he looked over at her, though still not aware of the unsettling aura that had been cast over the room.

"Find anything?"

"No," she replied, still staring downward.

"Did you ever get hold of Tifa to ask her about Reeve?"

At the mention of Reeve a slight grimace crossed Elena's face, though went unnoticed to Rude.

"Not in her room."

"Can you do it tomorrow?"


Rude finally realized something was wrong about the still feeling emitting from Elena.

Without another word, she stood up, trying to act as average as possible, and proceeded to get into bed.

"Going to bed," she informed him simply, hoping she could avoid the worrisome confrontation that was sure to come.

Rude didn't know how to look at her. There was something odd in the way she was acting, though he couldn't quite place it.

Finally the lights were out, Elena laying in the darkness next to Rude as far away as she dared without alerting his suspicion, her back to him.

Rude stared into the blackness, pondering Elena's odd behavior. He knew something was displaced as she had barely said more than two full sentences to him, obviously being as brief as possible. Today had been trying. After Reeve's office he had run around the city, attempting to find a trace of Cloud. He especially just wanted this assignment to end, and take Elena as far away from all the constant killing and bloodshed as possible. He had something else to live for than the Turks now.

He sensed Elena was still awake as she kept shifting around, drawing closer and closer to the opposite side.

"And further away from me...," he thought absentmindedly.

His hand reached around and lightly touched her shoulder, causing her to immediately writhe violently away before he could say anything, as if his touch was a slimy, uncomfortable thing, as if it stung her skin to have him make contact with her. He drew back in rapid surprise.

"Elena?" he asked in a curious tone.


"What's wrong?" he asked in a less surprised voice.

He could detect a faint shrug in the darkness.

"Nothing," she said, though her voice was tight with more than a little unsteadiness.

He reached out again to test her reaction and lightly touched her arm, wondering if she would have the same response.

This time he knew she was expecting it and there was none.

Rude let a sigh escape him. He knew something was wrong, and he also had the feeling it was something he had done. Things like this always seemed to occur between them, especially on the job. First it was him verbally attacking her, then he ignored her, then completely lacked any common courtesey, and now something else was plaguing her. He regarded himself with absolute contempt. He also decided then and there to never have a love affair on the field again. That was the one thing that he had been right about from the beginning.

He had to know what disease had invaded them now, so he could at least attempt to avow whatever it was. Elena was the most important thing to him in the world, and there was nothing that could take her place. Not even his own line of work that had been so demanding all these years could displace that love.

"What is it?" he probed gently, trying to avoid upsetting her. He reached out to rest his hand on her shoulder and absentmindedly played his fingers along her arm. She immediately shrank back at his touch however.

"Nothing," she repeated.

"Elena, I know it's more than "nothing"."

She just didn't know what to say to him. It was as if he wasn't even the same man.

"You're so cold sometimes," she finally said very softly.

Rude swallowed hard and looked down into the darkness, feeling as if that statement had engulfed him whole. He had known it would come to this sometime.

He waited for her to continue, knowing there was no way he could respond to that.

"You're like two different people. Is there nothing sacred?" she asked him in a rhetorical question.

"Would you shoot a child? Would you kill me if you were assigned?" she asked, accidentally letting her disheveled voice break through in its quiet rant of questions and worries that rampaged through her head.

She had a point. In all the time that the Turks had worked, Rude had never displayed any moral limits. That's why he was so cut out for the job. On the other hand, he'd never been asked to kill a child. Anyone they'd ever been assigned to assassinate or such, had been adult. Rude knew that he would kidnap a child however, and that's exactly why he hated himself to such an extent.

"No," he replied. He knew he wouldn't, that he couldn't. No matter how horribly desensitized and careless he was, he still had some regard for an innocent, a child. Kidnap - maybe, kill - no. There was a very narrow line of one being desensitised and sane, and one being so pushed over the edge that they lost sanity and became sadistic. He was not to that point...yet.

"How could you think that I would ever harm you?" he added in a very injured tone.

Elena turned to face him, not knowing what to expect.

"I don't know you anymore Rude, I just don't know."

"Listen to me Elena," he began slowly.

"I will never harm you. Ever. No matter what I may do, or how I may act, I will never harm you," he repeated feverishly. He never wanted her to feel that way, and it hurt that she could even consider such an idea.

He brushed his fingers lightly over her face, which of course she shrank away from.

"I love you," he said quietly.

That was the first time he had ever directly uttered those three words that he thought he never would say to anyone, no matter what the situation was.

Elena had definitely not been expecting this. She had thought he would just try to reassure her and dismiss it. Her words had obviously stung him to great lengths.

"I could never hurt you," he insisted softly, though this time it was in a very hesistant careful tone.

He does love me. My God, he does.

Now she knew. She knew she could never doubt him again, and even if she did, she knew she would never leave him.

"And if there is something sacred, it's you."

She shuddered a little at Rude's tone. It frightened her when he was so disarmed like this. She had never seen the menacing, deadly assassin plead in this strange whimpering voice before.

"Sometimes I'm afraid of you," she admitted in a whisper.

Rude let a shuddery sigh issue from his lungs.

"No...," he said inaudibly, though Elena heard him.

How far will I go? Even the one thing I love is afraid of me.

She could tell that statement had shot him down, and the simple words "afraid" and "you" in the same sentence were like poison to him.

She stopped edging away and finally came in closer to get a better look at his face. To her discontentment it was streaked with angst. She hated seeing him like this. He wasn't meant to be undignified like this, letting his love humiliate him. It had to stop, and she knew she could stop it.

"It's ok Rude," she uttered in a low voice, and some of the worry was released off of his features as he heard the calm, soothing tone in her voice.

She realized one of the most frightening things that chilled her she had ever seen was someone like Rude, an inpentratable soul, becoming so awestricken with grief . . . because of her. She was afraid of that kind of power, since it had involuntarily been bestowed upon her. She was afraid she'd misuse it, worried she would hurt him.

But she couldn't ignore it, for she loved him.

She couldn't leave him and this power he was giving her over him behind, because she loved him.

You love him.

It rang over and over in her mind.

They both were thinking the same basic idea, and they both came to that same startling conclusion.

Alike, they had obtained a strange powerful effect over eachother, and after years of being detached, it was a bit frightening. They had power from fear over civilian life, power from their skill over assailants, but never power over eachother.

And from what an unlikely source, but love.

Rude and Elena both moved foward to embrace eachother. Rude felt elation as he finally came to some understanding with the woman he loved.

"I'd never hurt you Elena," he gushed out, unable to control his own flood of words, stroking her hair.

"I know," she answered quietly. And she did finally.

As they released eachother, Elena grabbed his hand and grasped it tightly, bringing it up to her lips.

She held him there quite some time, letting his touch settle into her. He in return turned on his side and eased his frame next to hers, finally ceasing in his sort of uneasy speech to rest against her, letting eachother's warmth sink in.

Elena moved his hand to her cheek as she began to speak.

"We'll find Cloud Strife, so we can leave here."

Rude nodded into the darkness.

"I want to take you away from his chaos Elena. Would you go with me?" he replied.

"Yes," she said with a hint of happiness in her voice, accompanied with her turning sideways also to face him. She had finally stopped shrinking away from him.

"I'll never leave you," she added.

She replaced his hand at her lips, and they both finally began to drop off to sleep in eachother's embrace.

There was still one detail however. Still one not so minor thing to be covered in all of their hello's and goodbye's, sorrows and happiness, misunderstandings and final comprehensions, new fears and revelations. In all the positive and negative, one thing still rang out as a clear obstacle.

Elena had still not directly said the words, 'I love you.' It had taken her a year after Tseng's death to admit to even herself, her love of him, and she couldn't help but wonder as she dropped off to sleep in Rude's arms if she'd ever be able to say those three simple words to him that held so much meaning.


As morning dawned, many of the now travelling team stared into the new coming dawn, pondering their various dillemas and mysteries. On this particular morning, Tifa stood in her own window, gazing through the muddied glass at the faint impression of the sun that was just beginning to shine through the clouds. She wondered where Cloud was. Was he in Junon somewhere too, steadily staring through a solitary window? Or was he in in the Lifestream...

She let a sigh escape her. Everything always seemed to be a tragedy. Just as things were seeming to look on the bright side, something disasterous occurred. She remembered the horrible feeling she that had been unpenned to ravage her emotions and her heart. Cloud falling into the Lifestream, the sight of Meteor destroying Midgar, just so many horrible, horrible memories. She remembered how optimistic she had always been, constantly reassuring everyone and hoping for the best. She had depended on Cloud and the others for her livlihood eventually, and they depended on her. Her mind began to wander to her own self. The cold hearted person who relentlessly antagonized life and love, and yet still...still she retained the undying hope.

Her hand came to run itself through her cascading hair nervously, and she loosly tied it back. Making herself ready for another grueling day of searching and putting up with the Turks, she wondered.

Who am I?


Vincent awoke to find his eyes being met by the dawning golden sphere that kept life thriving - the sun. He turned his eyes from the light rays to the darkness on the floor. It was still crisp, early morning in Rocket Town where he still stayed.

Days ago, as Cid had started the airship, it had made a very unpleasant sputtering noise and conked out. He tore through every living soul he knew that had been some how connected and had access to it. Finally, it was discovered that some young mechanic had accidentally added a few uneccesary switches, and the Highwind's entire wiring needed re- routing. Cid had finally managed to assure him that it would only take a week at the maximum through all his ranting, that was, after Shera finally managed to calm him down from the consistent string of curses that had managed to escape his lips any time he was asked anything. Vincent had been here for the last five days, and he was getting anxious. He hadn't heard anyone guiding him, and he had hoped day after day to hear Lucrecia's sweet chant. Needless to say, it did not come.

His entire being - body, soul and heart - instructed him to go there; to where Aeris was buried. He didn't understand why yet, though he knew he would soon enough. His dark hair fell in wisps around his face, betraying the pale white skin that seemed to fairly glow in the incoming sunlight that had invaded the room he was staying in. Uncomfortable as he felt, Shera had insisted he stay with them. He couldn't say no to her pleading, so he had silently resigned his refusals and stayed. It felt strange to live a somewhat normal life with people again. He had been wandering the past year like a nomad across the Planet. Visiting the Shinra Mansion, Lucrecia's Waterfall, even Icicle Inn, hoping to find some kind of odd closure, some sort of relief. That was the exact reason he was so eager to travel, for he knew his destiny lay, waiting. He didn't know if it was Lucrecia directing him, though he fancied the suggestion.

He tediously pulled himself out of bed, his metal claw weighing down heavily at his side, the great bronze burden he did not care to look at. He had grown used to people staring at him, unrelentlessly gazing at him as if he was some kind of monster.

"You are," he thought with almost a casual shrug.

Simply the truth.

He sat up and leveled his feet with floor, desperately wanting to avoid the cheerful Shera coming and ushering him to get up and enjoy the sunshine.

It was comical in a sense, for Shera was not intimidated by him at all. Even Aeris had cringed a bit at the first sight of him in a kind of twisted wonder. He didn't blame anyone for their reaction to him. It was exactly what Hojo had intended. Shera's unrelenting friendliness shamed him, for he was not deserving of such kind treatment. Didn't she know who was sleeping in her house?

Before letting himself slip into contemplation once again, Vincent stood up and brushed his hair out of his face. He grabbed the crimson band that he always wore and wrecklessly wrapped it two times around his head, leaving his shoots of hair to fall in careless strands here and there. With a tug he secured it with a knot, checked for his gun and almost timidly entered the kitchen. His deep burgandy eyes casually glanced around. Thankfully Shera had busied herself elsewhere, so he would not be recipient to her kindness. He was almost bashful about it in a way.

Before he could open the door and leave however, Shera had already heard him. She walked quickly into the house before he could even touch the door knob and confronted him. Even with his advanced senses and silent tread, she still managed to sense his presence when he was trying to escape her wrath of pleasance.

She gave him a smile, a single black streak of oil adorning her cheek. She wore a pair of Cid's old overalls, and had her hair tied back, with her glasses falling down her nose in a dishelved fashion. Vincent could see why Cid and Shera were meant to be, deny it as much as Cid may.

"Vincent!" she said as she walked swiftly into the kitchen.

"How about some tea?" she said with a voluptuous smile. Vincent knew he couldn't protest, so he wearily nodded his head in heeding agreement, awkwardly standing near the door.

Shera rushed over to his side and placed her hand lightly on his shoulder, pulling him towards the table.

"Have a seat!"

Vincent again, accordingly sat, not speaking.

She was used to his silence, as she understood that was his dispostion. As for actually understanding Vincent, she did not. He was always kind to her however, and she knew that a good soul lurked underneath his dark, frightening exterior. She could feel his alert burgandy eyes burn into her back, for he involuntarily took in her every move. It didn't bother or startle her any longer.

She shook some light brown hair out of her face and attempted to put them back into place with the pencil that secured her loose bun. Though she was a scientist, she was also fair in mechanics. She had been assisting Cid the past week non-stop, and though she never let on just as he, she enjoyed the time alone with him. Even if all he did was mutter for a wrench or curse, she didn't mind.

Turning back to Vincent, his eyes pierced through her once again. She ignored the look she knew he didn't intend to give her, and handed him a steaming cup of tea.

"We almost have the Highwind fixed. It should be done within the next few days," she informed him curtly. She knew how eager he was to take off, though for what reason, she was unsure.

Vincent gave a small nod, taking a sip of the steaming herbal liquid. He could tell she was dissapointed with his meager response.

"I hope that it won't be too much trouble," he added to make up for the lack of conversation.

Shera seemed satisfied at his sentence-of-the-day and gave him one of her radiant smiles. She seemed so much happier now that the war was over and Cid was home. He couldn't help but wonder what was going on between his two friends now. He would never engage in an actual conversation of course, though he severely wished contentment for them. He could think of no more deserving people of happiness than this strange, though charmingly mis-matched pair. In a way, though individually they were so different, they were also alike in their own unorthodox fashion.

Shera finally exited the room after saying a few more things to him, as he sat nodding and drinking. Finally she scurried out to the back once again to administer help to Cid.

Vincent found himself almost relieved, as he generally avoided human contact, for he found solitude a much more suitable companion. Solitude, silence, didn't expect anything of him as far as conversation was concerned.

Strange, this dark man was. He would go to the ends of the Planet to protect his friends and loves, and yet externally, he seemed not to habor the slightest concern or want for himself. He would hardly call himself 'selfless' however. He set down the empty tea cup and exited the house, and rather quickly too.

He had grown accustomed to sitting in the fields and caves away from Rocket Town, letting the silence hum its beautiful melody to his straining ears. He listened for her voice, her hum. He had not heard it however. He wondered often, what had become of his precious Lucrecia. He had travelled to her waterfall refuge directly after battling Sephiroth. She had vanished. They had all assumed, or those who cared enough to ask, that she had perished when Jenova had. He still managed to wonder...

"Vincent!" he turned sharply at the voice that was interupting his thoughts.

There stood Shera once again, looking flushed and out of breath, as she dashed across the field that he had just walked across. Though not to his knowledge, he had travelled at least a mile. His speed did not waver in its swiftness however, as he was not fatigued easily. Hojo had seen to the fact that he was a mere mechanical murdering machine.

"Where are you going?" she asked as she finally caught up with him, gasping for breath. He had not even noticed how quickly he had been striding along.

Vincent gave a small shrug.

"Away, for now," he replied. He did not intend to leave permanently, only for a few days until the Highwind was back and running again. He'd much rather sleep in a cave than in the warm, almost homely house of Shera and Cid. It was too unsettling for a person of his stature...the ruler of the dark.

She eyed him warily. What was he speaking of?


"Yes. A day or two," he replied easily.


"I don't know," he answered slowly, disliking this need for so many explanations.

"I am settling into another inn," he added to satisfy her worries or whatever was causing her to ask him these hurried questions.

Shera again eyed him suspiciously. Unknown to her, the private "inn" he spoke of was a far off cave that he often found oddly comforting, drifting away into his own silent mind.

"Well, the Highwind will be ready soon. So come back quickly," she replied. She knew he couldn't stay away for that long with his feverish urge to go the Forgotten Capital, and she kenw the only way that was possible was through the Highwind.

Vincent issued a slight nod, and waited as she spoke some last words.

"Good-bye Vincent," she said, "see you in a few days. Remember, don't hesitate to come back as soon as you feel like it!!"

Vincent nodded goodbye, and when she turned, began to trudge off in the other direction he had been heading.


He turned to reassure Shera he would be quite fine again, and as he slowly worked himself to face her, his eyes met something quite different.

Before he could even cock his gun, which he had in fact already drawn, he felt something hit his chest. Everything went black as the tranquilizer took its effect, and his gun dropped with a thunk to the ground.


As Reno entered the bar, he thought of the large frail looking man he had shot. Vincent Valentine. A fierce fighter, he knew, though when he let his guard down and wasn't expectant of danger, he lost his edge. Reno knew he had been lucky to catch him off gaurd however. Valentine was now safely tethered in his room on the ship bound for Junon Habor, where he was still drugged. He had dragged the large man all the way from Rocket Town back to Costa del Sol, which had taken him a good 4 hours. The tranquilizer was guaranteed to work for at least 10 hours, enough time to return the Avalanche vampire to Strife.

He sat down in his seat, a hollowness needed to be filled, and that was what he was here for. His flaming hair fell haphazardly in strands around his face. He shook it back and brushed it carelessly aside. His appearance, though disheveled, gave a very attractive air about him. He sat by himself, a cute blond in the corner eyeing him as she sipped her drink. He gave her a little wink of an experienced man, and continued to stare into space.

Maybe this night wouldn't turn out so horrible. He ordered his drink, and sat in a dark corner drinking himself to numbness.


"That's the fifth!"

"I'll bet 100 gil he finishes a tenth!"

A loud crowd had gathered at a certain well lit area of the bar as 15 or more huge men gathered to watch some sort of spectacle.

Reno wondered what all the damned commotion was. He hated it when things got too rowdy for his liking, especially when he didn't know the source of the excitement. Glancing casually over as if he wasn't interested, he could make out a row of shot glasses filled with what appeared to be straight vodka, a line of about 8 or 9, through the soft haze of cigarette smoke and people. He could not see their consumer however.

He finally got up and walked slowly over, wondering what was going on. Amongst the tans and sun bleached hair, he caught a glimpse of a pale blue waterfall that hung down in long wispy strands around some unfamiliar individual's head.

He grabbed an open spot at the side and watched. Within 30 seconds, the man had downed all the shots. Cheering arose again, and bet gil was exchanged as people grumbled or congratulated the guy.

Reno almost had to laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book. Make a wad of gil by bribing the bartender to fill half the glasses with water and then impress the hell out of everyone by downing them.

This man was what one could call some kind of betting shark, taking advantage of ameteuars. His blue hair overshadowed his face, though Reno caught a glimpse of a pair of full lips.

"I'll bet anyone here 1000 gil that I can down 15 shots in 30 seconds." Everyone stopped talking abruptly and stared. No one volunteered.

Reno suddenly stepped forward. He could play this pathetic game.

"I will," he said, laying down 1000 gil immediatley on the bar.

Everyone stared in disbelief at him. Even the blue haired man was surprised.

"But I'll pour the vodka," he added with a grin.

A few minutes later the bar tender had lined up 15 small shot glasses on the bar with everyone watching, wondering who would win. There wasn't a doubt this guy was in over his head though, especially since everyone knew Reno to be an ex-Turk.

Reno took a long swig from the bottle to make sure it wasn't watered down. Not a bit. He grinned evilly at the man. This poor bastard was either going to get mortally sick from his own pride or back down, letting Reno walk away with 1000 gil either way.

Finally, he was done filling the glasses up.

"I'll time you," he said, his eyes glinting with knowledge.

The man hesitated, and finally slapped 1000 gil down on the bar. He was actually going to go through with it. Reno readied his watch, and laid his own 1000 gil down on the counter, neatly clipped.

"Go," Reno said through his feiry locks that had started to fall into his face again.

The crowd began to chant.


"20 seconds, 10 shots left to go," Reno laughed.

Suddenly the man doubled his efforts.


"Eight seconds," Reno was no longer smiling.


"Three seconds..."


The man looked at him with a smirk on his lips.

"Thank you for your time, Flame," the blue haired man grinned at him. He snatched the gil off of the counter. Reno didn't like this.

"I don't think so," he replied, grabbing his wrist before he could walk away.

Not even he could drink that fast, much less this scrawny, particularly short man. In fact, the man was even shorter than Reno had first thought. He was only about 5'5''. Himself being 5'11'', he towered over the lesser man.

"I won, fair and square," the man admonished him, grabbing his wrist away from Reno's grip, along with Reno's gil.

"Who do you think you're fooling?" he asked annoyedly.



"You tasted it yourself you big lout! It wasn't watered down." Reno, didn't like this man's attitude.

"I don't think I like your tone of voice," Reno replied coolly.

"Shove it up your ass you fucking Shinra cronie," the blue haired man shouted at him.

That was it. No one had the guts, much less the death wish, to speak to him like that. He drew his nightstick, knowing it would surely intimidate the man if he knew what was good for him; either that or he was severly lacking some brain cells.

He only took a step forward to come nose to nose with Reno, his hair still overshadowing his face however.

"Look man, there's no way you can beat me, so why don't you just give me my money back and everything will be nice and tidy."


"Fine," Reno replied.

Before they could fight however, they were both ushered outside. Once out in the humid night air at Costa del Sol, the blue haired man didn't move, only stood, watching Reno's every move. They could both hear the bar's lively music and voices inside, but the silence was abundant on the beach with only the waves crashing.

He brandished his electro-mag rod even more, but to his disdain the man grinned at his show of weaponry.

"Is all you're going to do wave that pitiful stick at me?"

"This 'stick' will fry your scrawny ass," Reno replied a matter of factly.

"It's not even on you pathetic sack of shit," the man taunted him. He was right. Reno didn't think he would have the need to power up his weapon however.


Before Reno could retort to the man had caught him off guard and kicked his weapon out of his grasp in a martial arts style offense.

Within a matter of seconds Reno punched him back, though the man was more agile than he first calculated.

"It sounds like you got kicked in the balls! You sure you're a man you spineless wuss?" Reno taunted him between swings.

In response, the man didn't let his concentration falter and landed a punch followed by a kick delivered and recieved squarely upon Reno's nose and stomach.

The red haired ex-Turk stumbled backward as the wind was immediately knocked out of him. In desperation he let his fist fly into the night air, and surpringly he hit his mark - the stranger's chin.

The blue haired aggressor flew back and into the sand. By then Reno had regained his composure and was on top of the man, attempting to beat him senseless with his tightly balled fists. Before he could however, the man rolled out of the way, still lying on the sandy beach.

Reno was faster though, and landed a sound kick directly into the ribs. There was a disgusting crack and the strange man shuddered as his ribs broke. He coughed up blood, and Reno proceded kicked him again, only harder.

This time the man caught his foot and with all his strength, threw Reno over him. Finally able to get up, the man limped over to where Reno lay winded, and suddenly drew a dagger which glinted eerily in the moonlight. Poised to strike, he brought his arm back.

"Don't move or else I'll stick this right through your heart you sorry excuse for a human being," the man half laughed half gasped at him.

Reno looked up. He was at a severe disadvantage, and he knew the man wouldn't hesitate to strike. He had also underestimated this stranger's strength as well as stamina. He may have been small, but he was strong and fast. And yet...there was something familiar about the way he fought.


Suddenly the poised knife dropped harmlessly to the sand and the man reeled in pain as he doubled over. His ribs had finally started to bear the pain to whatever nerve cells his brain still contained. His blue hair flew in all directions as he toppled to the ground, paralyzed from the sharp jabs consuming his chest.

Reno jumped up, though still slightly winded and very fatigued, mostly since he had been drinking prior to arriving at the bar. He didn't know where his weapon had been kicked to and couldn't retrieve it yet, so he settled to use his weight and size again this smaller assailant and collapsed on top of him. Pinning his hands above his head, the man refused to look at him as Reno held him to the ground. He was finally stopped from moving however.

Before trying to discontinue the raging fight however, Reno had to add something.

"This is for that Shinra remark," he stated curtly, and with that landed a very hard, square blow directly onto the man's nose. He could finally see the stranger's brillaint sea green eyes through his veil of hair, but they didn't flinch as his fist made contact. To his disbelief, they merely narrowed.

As thick, dark blood began to creep from the man's nose, he squirmed to get away from Reno.

"Who the hell are you anyway?" Reno knew he couldn't be from Costa del Sol with his pale complexion and unusual sky blue hair color. Using his hand to continue pinning the struggling stranger down, he ruthlessly ripped the hair away from the man's face to expose his true features. To his absolute shock, he saw something very, very unexpected.


He stumbled over his words.

The blue haired individual used this to his advantage and rushed a sharp upper cut directly into Reno's jaw as his grip on the man's hands loosened at his shock and surprise.

Reno, though knocked violently away, fairly jumped back instead.


The newly exposed man brushed his blue hair back, revealing his true identity.

"Bastard! I'll rip you apart!"

"I give up!" Reno said, raising his hands skyward.


"'re a...?"


"I'm not gonna fight you!"

"You already broke my friggin' nose!"

"Well, I didn't know!!"

"Oh, just shut-up!"

Both of the assailants had dropped their fists and started a new arguement.


"Do you really think they would've taken me seriously in there if they knew?"

"'ve got a point.'re...well, you're what you are...but you're also... Wow."

"Stop mumbling you stupid bastard!"

"You're...a woman!!" He finally managed to spit out.

"No shit genius!"

"But, you're gorgeous!"

Did I say that out loud?

The woman, whose features were absolutely stunning, framed by pale blue hair which gave a eerie though beautiful halo in the moonlight, blowing slightly in the wind, gave him a very nasty look.

"And you're a sexist pig!"

With that she stamped off, her blue mane flying behind her in her annoyed motion.

"And I'm keeping the gil!!" she shouted back for good measure.

"Damn," was all Reno could say, still stunned.

No woman had ever done that to him before. He had fought female members of Avalanche, but that was a job. The only other contact he had with women was, well, the night activities that he particpated in. That was, aside from when he had worked with Elena. He respected Elena a great deal despite her gender; the fact of the matter was it didn't matter to Reno what gender someone was on the field as long as they could prove themselves.

The quiet beautiful blond in the corner sensually sipping a martini, with her slim enticing figure, yes. The blue haired vixen pretending to be a man that could outdrink him, no.

He couldn't help but smirk a little however. No one, male or female, had ever delivered an uppercut to him like that.

His hand immediately went up to his bleeding split lip and sore jaw. She hadn't broken or fractured it, but was impressive after downing a considerable amount of alcohol and having endured two cracked ribs. Damn impressive.

Had he said she was gorgeous outloud?! His stupid mouth could never stop moving.

He could see her, still walking in the distance away towards the inn. At first she had been taking quite broad, even powerful, strides, but soon he could clearly see that she was quite labored once she thought she was out of his view. In fact, she had begun to stumble.

Without a second thought, Reno ran up behind her again.

As she turned around to face whoever was coming to annoy her now, her eyes slightly widened.

"You want to fight still?!" she asked in disbelief.

Before he could say anything, she was in battle stance once again. Any sign of discomfort or pain had completely and utterly vanished.

"No," he replied simply,"and you can stop with the act. I saw you limping."

Her face grew livid with rage.

"I could rip you in half with all of my ribs broken as well as my legs!"

Reno just stood, calmly staring at her. He knew she was injured and more harmless than before. He knew she could also see it.

"Don't underestimate me," she growled, replacing her formerly livid voice with an eerie calm.

Reno took a step back.

"I was going to apologize."

"Why?" she spat viciously.


"..a woman?"


"I thought as much. You're just like every other loser who comes my way. Get out of my sight you despicable worm."

As she shoved her way past him, it was quite powerful for someone that was coughing up blood as well as his junior a good few inches.

Reno approached her again.

"Look, I said I'm sorry!"

"And I said get the hell out of my way."

Suddenly she doubled over again. Any malice written across her face was gone. A look of pure pain had replaced it.

Reno was suddenly concerned, though he was the one who had inflicted the damage in the first place.

"Are you going to be alright?"

"Get out of my way!" she snapped, adding coyly, "is your lip still bleeding?"

She wasn't growling however, as it was more a whisper. She knew her stength supply was being depleted very quickly.

"You need a doctor."

"Shut-up!" she coughed.

"Where's your room?"

"Like I'd tell you!" she retorted in a fierce whisper.

"If you don't, I'll take you to my room. I'm not leaving you here like this. We both know that I could pick you up and carry you off right now if I wanted to."

"Don't bet on it."

But she knew he was right.

"Fine. It's room 2, up there," she said, pointing at the second floor.

"Now go away and leave me alone!"

"I said I wouldn't!"

"It's not your" but she had fainted before she could finish the insult. Reno caught her as she fell, her ribs making a very unpleasant sound with the impact.

"Room two, huh?" he said aloud.

He knew not to mess with this girl or else she'd kill him without a second thought.

As he carried her upstairs, he couldn't help but notice that she was in fact, a portrait of perfection. Being female accounted for the high voice, shorter frame and full lips.

Entering her room, he could see clothing was strewn recklessly around. It was reminiscent of his own room. Surprisingly, the door was unlocked.

Reno hesitantly entered, planning to put her on the bed and leave. He didn't need any more shit from this girl.

Suddenly a man jumped from the shadows.

"Give her to me," he hissed.

Reno quickly switched the blue haired female to one of his arms, and swift as lighting, picked up the nearest lamp and smashed it with his full strength over the man's head.

The impact knocked him out cold as he fell. The smash awakened the girl who was still in Reno's arms.

"Let go of me you rapist!" she shrieked and began to weakly struggle.

"I'm not a rapist," he replied calmly, "you passed out and I was putting you in here."

He let her go and she teetered against the wall. Reaching to steady her again she slapped his hand venomously away.

"Don't touch me!"

"Fine," he said, raising his hands up above his head.

"But I just saved your life."

"What in the hell are you babbling about?"

"Him," he said, pointing to the floor.

The girl's cocky glance turned to one of absolute fear. Cowering away, she looked at the man passed out on the floor.

"No," she said, almost inaudibly, mouthing the word in silenced terror.

"Hey, calm down," he said more gently. He couldn't help but be surprised at her sudden change of personality.

"I knocked him out," he added.

The girl pointed, shaking her head in a frenzied action.

"No, not him again," she began to utter the word "no" in a repetitious fashion. Reno dashed over to steady her before she fell again.

"Decided to be a gentlemen?" she muttered.

Without replying Reno helped her stumble over to the bed, and she sat down, relieved to not be standing any longer.

"You are lucky I apologized."

"Oh, I feel so prevelieged," she said sarcastically.

"What's your name?"

The question caught her completely off guard.


"Your name," he said again.

"My name? My name is . . . Osea." ***(*note-Osea is pronounced "O-see-ah")***

"Your Osea," he repeated, a mocking smirk coming across his face.

"Yeah, you gotta' problem with it?"

"No," he said, attempting to keep a solemn face.

"Where did you get your name?"

"Why?" she asked, suddenly suspicious.

Reno gave a shrug. After a brief hesitation, she finally conceded to tell him.

"Osea...short for Oceanus, but they pronounce the "c" like an "s", " she replied, undaunted by his sarcasm.

"And you're Reno..."

Reno's eyes widened.

"Wha...! How'd you know that?"

"...the ex-Turk, once gainfully employed by Shinra and commanded by Tseng."

Reno just gaped at her.

"Who the hell are you lady?"

She gave him a cocky grin, much alike to the one he'd given Cloud.

"Who do you think I am?"

Reno just stared at her, his eyes narrowing. She may think this was a game, but he didn't enjoy people knowing information to that extent about him. It was especially the fact that he had met her only 5 minutes ago; not to mention, after beating the hell out of eachother.

She could see the look of distrust on his face, and she knew he'd be just as defensive as ever if she didn't reveal her identity. She'd only ever seen Reno once, though she had heard quite a bit about him.

"I'm..., well I met you once."

That much was true, she had "met" him once...though it was long, long ago.

"Believe me, I would remember you," he informed her. And he would. If he had ever met this woman before, he would surely remember that flawless face and unearthly blue hair.

"No, you wouldn't recognize me."

"I don't know what you're trying to pull...but you can cut this shit out and stop these games right now---"

But before he could finish she cut him off in mid-sentence.

"I'm Tseng's sister."

Reno's jaw tumbled open, not allowing him to continue his ceaseless ramble of trying to make sense of this strange girl.

"What?!" he practically shouted.

"Yes, I'm Tseng's sister. I met you, er...saw you once when I was much younger, when you had first joined the Turks. Tseng, he showed me around Shinra one day."

"You're...Tseng's sister?"

"Yeah. I've been up in the Northern Continent for quite some time...("That accounts for the ice pale complexion," Reno noted absentmindedly.")...and I emerged just recently. As soon as I turned 17 I took off."

A sudden idea popped into Reno's head.

"Were you anywhere near Sephiroth?"


Reno gaped at her. She stared straight back at him, a look of disbelief on his face.

"Oh. You mean him...and Meteor?"

"Yeah," the look disappeared somewhat.

"I only learned about it after I left the continent. I did see that nasty looking comet in the sky, but I just ignored it."

"How long were you up there?"

"3 years."

"Three years?!"

"Yes...? So? Do people shock you really easily or something?"

"Uh,'s just...," Reno shut himself up before he could ramble any more.

"Why are you here?"

"I came down to find Tseng. I haven't seen him in so long...our umm, parents are ... dead. Died a long time ago, and he practically raised me in the..uh, slums."

"You came to find Tseng? You mean...uh, visit his, er...?"

"What are you talking about? Yes, I came to see him. I need to talk to him."

"You don't know...."

Oh God.

"Know what?" curiousity creeped onto her face.

She doesn't know her own brother is dead.

"Why don't you come back to my room on the ship. It's headed for Junon, we can talk some more."

The girl stared at him like he was insane.

"Since when did you decide to be sincere? And why would I possibly go with you?" she was mocking him again, but Reno's face stayed very somber.


He didn't say anything. He merely held out his hand for her to take. She stared at him and his outstretched arm with an annoyed look.

"Cut it out."

"C'mon, we have to go. Besides, do you want to be here when he wakes up?" Reno asked her, jabbing his finger at the man laying passed out who had started to groan.

Osea's eyes filled with fear again and she backed away a few feet.


"Well, c'mon!"

She gave him a look, and then gave the man on the floor a second look.

"Do you know where Tseng is?"

Reno's face grew even more solemn, if not even a little saddened.

"You could say something to that extent."

He motioned for her to follow him out of the inn to his room on the ship scheduled to leave for Junon in an hour.

Finally she nodded, unsure of what he was getting at. He claimed to know where Tseng was however, and she had no doubt in her mind that she could take care of herself in the need arose.

"Follow me."

She decided to comply and began to follow him down the hall.

"Damn!" she muttered under her breath in a raspy voice.


"None of your damned business!"

Reno was a little taken aback.

"Are you always this much of a bitch?"

"Just to people like you."

He rolled his brilliant eyes skyward. Then he saw what was bothering her - her ribs were still cracked and bleeding internally, he'd guess.

"Here," he said, tossing her a restore materia.

"Thanks," she said inaudibly.



"I can't hear you."

"Thanks, you - stupid - SCUM!" she shouted at her full volume.

"You're welcome," he said with a sly smirk in her direction.

She stuck her tongue out at him and continued down the hall. He couldn't be too harsh to her now however, for two reasons. One, she was related to Tseng, his late best friend. Two, she could, and would, kick his ass. He hated to admit number two, but it was true.


As they entered the ship, she followed him down narrow hallways until they reached quite a large, comfortable room.

"I see you can spare more than 1000 gil, Shinra."

"Why do you hate the Shinra if your brother was a Turk?" he asked in curiosity.

Her sarcastic look darkened to one of pure malice.

"They messed with someone. Someone I admired, as well as someone else that my brother loved dearly. If you were still employed by them I'd kill you right now," her voice was strangely level, but Reno could tell that she quite obviously had a very, very deep abhorrance of the Shinra.

"They're gone though, so I don't care," she said, the sarcastic, cocky look returning.

Reno gave her a slight shrug.

"Go on in. I'm ordering a drink and then I'll have that talk with you." On a second thought, he added, "Do you mind going to Junon? Since we're leaving in about five minutes."

She gave him an indifferent shrug and walked in. Before he walked away however, he heard a gasp.

"Valentine!" his mind shouted at him.

He rushed back within a split second and flung open the door. The dark vampirish man still lay motionless on the bed, but Osea's face was one of pure horror.

"Vincent?" she whispered.

"You know this man?" Reno asked in a cold suspicious voice.

"Vincent..., she repeated, ignoring him.

Reno sat down in the chair opposite her.

"Sit down," he commanded, expecting her to lash out at him. To his amazement she sat down in a daze on the edge of the bed opposite to where Valentine was tied, still staring at him.

"Do you know him??" Reno asked, more forcefully this time.

Osea nodded her head numbly, sleek strands falling away from her face.

"How could you possibly?"

She suddenly looked up as if awakening from a dream.

"I'm not Tseng's sister."


"I mean, I'm not his blood relative. It's kind of obvious from the appearance," she added.

"Who are you then?"

"Tseng an older brother, in a sense. I lied to you about one thing."

"....," he simply looked at her, waiting for an explanation.

"Tseng was my brother...kind of...only I didn't grow up in the slums. And I wasn't on the Northern Continent for my personal pleasure."

"What do you mean?"

She let her sea green eyes pierce through him, and Reno finally noticed their bright hue. Not even a colour, but a light. They glowed...with...

"Mako. You're mako infused...," he said in almost a whisper.

"Yes. I'm not...well...I'm not what you'd call human."

"What are you saying?" he asked, raising one eye brow at her odd response.

She looked at him again, a deep sadness in her eyes.

"I'm an experiment. Tseng was assigned to keep an eye on me, but as I grew up, he became more of a subservient brother."

"You're an experiment?" Reno repeated in disbelief.

"Yes. Professor Hojo created me...a few years after Sephiroth, at Nibelheim...I think that's the name of the town. Anyway, I wasn't like the other experiments. Sephiroth...he grew from a baby."


"I was created the way you see me now, a full grown adult, but with the mind of a child."

"Oh man..."

Not this weird shit again.

"Yes. Hojo created me...but I never had any idea who my father and mother were. I always knew more about the experiments because I wasn't disoriented like the other poor souls. Since I was allowed to roam the mansion, I read files, and the books in the library. I learned how I was created, but unlike Sephiroth, I remained sane."


"Soon after I was created, they transferred me to the Shinra building. That's where I met Tseng. He was assigned to teach me how to fight, to be a kind of professional friend. But we became more...he was like a brother to me."

Reno stood, shaking his head in disbelief. He motioned to Vincent.

"And him?"

"I knew this Turk as a child. I hated Hojo, with all my heart. I never let on though; pretending to adore his genius. Back then he didn't suspect anything."

"How old were you?"

"I was a 2 year old in a 20 year old's body. I met Vincent because Hojo kept him alive after Sephiroth's mother died, he kept him not only alive but concious as he preformed experiments on him. The last time I saw him, I was 10 or 11 and I was told he had died."

"Holy shit. You were only a child...and you saw...?"

"Yes. I saw Vincent's bodily well as mental...year after horrid year," her eyes, stared blankly into space as she remembered the events, her voice becoming cracked and dry; devoid of personality.

"Hojo even made me help in an experiment once because I had disobeyed him and he knew Vincent had become my only friend."

Reno shook his head in disgust.

"That's one sick bastard..."

"Yeah," she said, finally shuddering.

Her face brightened a bit.

"I remember another man....someone named...Cloud."

Reno's eyes bulged as he heard that name.


"Yeah. I only saw him once though. He and a dark haired man with spiky hair were being experimented on years later, and when I went back to the mansion to do something for Shinra, I saw them and Hojo there. I couldn't do anything for them though," she said guiltily.


Her head bowed in painful memories.

"Do you know that man, Cloud...or Vincent?"


Reno looked down, and if he wasn't mistaken, he thought he detected a little shame.

"Yeah, you could say that..."

"Well, why is Vincent here tied anyway...."

Finally she caught on to what was going on.

"Oh bastard!" she shrieked the last word and dashed at him. Before he knew what was happening he was flat on the ground and out cold.


When Reno finally awoke he was dazed and the world was nothing more than a blurry mass of swirling colours. He tried to move, but found it impossible. Then he realized his legs and arms were tied quite securely to the chair he sat in.

"Shit...," he mumbled.

Then he noticed the girl sitting across from him, and not just sitting; she had a long knife pointed directly at his head, her eyes unblinking and her perfectly straight, outstretched arm unflinching. He looked down her arm into her face, his eyes focusing woozily.

"Awake sunshine?"

Reno mumbled a curse at her.

"How do you so much about weapons?"

"You forget...I knew Tseng..."

He glared at her, the fuzzy feeling finally fading.

"When is Vincent supposed to wake up?"

He looked at her, his lips sealed.

"I'll kill you," she said calmly.

"So do it."

She hesitated, but proceeded to bring the knife a little too swiftly, and a little too experienced for his liking an inch from his throat.

"Don't think I will...?"

A familiar glint came into her eyes, though the familiarity was not because he had seen that look so many times on her. She looked very much like Tseng did just before he slashed and killed. She wasn't bluffing.

"No," he risked it. He knew she'd kill him, but it's not like he had alot to lose.

She looked at him for another second, the tension in the room growing considerably.

"You're brave...but damn stupid."

Reno gave a curt smile.

"The only reason I won't kill you however, is because Tseng thinks very highly of you."

She finally lowered the knife, but he could see her hand was still very agile with it the way she withdrew with a soft swish past his face.



"You are clueless, bitch."

"What are you talking about?"

He didn't say anything, but without thinking, he just wanted to shock her into shutting the hell up.

"Tseng's dead!"

Her eyes widened, and Reno immediately regretted the words the moment he said them. She stood shock still for a moment, digesting the information. Finally, she looked back at him, a coldness in her eyes that was frosty to even look at.

"Liar!" her tone had decreased to a whisper.

He stared at her for a good minute, and shook his head sadly, lowering his eyes finally.

"I'm sorry...I...I didn't mean to..."


"I'm sorry," he repeated, hanging his head in shame, more for dishonoring his friend than for upsetting her however.

He looked back at her, and to his anxiety her eyes had filled with tears.

"You're not lying, are you?" she asked in dread.

Reno shook his head slowly.

"I'm sorry," he repeated. And he was.


"Last year."

"Who? I'll kill them..."

"Sephiroth. Someone already beat you to it anyhow."

She took a shuddery, sorrowful breath in.

Ignoring him for the moment, he realized the engines weren't running.

"Why haven't we left yet?"

"The ship was delayed...," she replied quietly; absentmindedly.

"Oh shit..."


"How many hours has it been?"

"Maybe six. Damn bastards can't get the ship to go for some reason...," she sighed again as she mumbled, her mind obviously still comprehending Tseng was in fact, gone.


"What?" she replied as her eyes finally met his apprehensive look.

"Vampire boy is going to wake up damn soon. The tranquilizer I used only works for 10 hours."

Her face immediately brightened, and she even smiled. Reno stared at her as if she had completely lost her mind.

"He'll kill you!"

"No he won't."

"What would you think if one moment you're hit with a dart and made to pass out, and the next, you're lying strapped to a bed, and see some blue haired bitch with a knife?"

"Cut the shit with the bitch remarks!"

"Whatever. Anyway, I know I'd get up and shoot at anything that moves."

"And pointedly, that is exactly why I know Vincent won't kill me."


"Because you're too stupid to know any better."

Reno gaped at her.

"Stupid bitch," he muttered.

Osea took a second thought however, and realized he was probably right.

"Well, he's tied anyway. I'll just explain," she reasoned more to herself that to the red haired man strapped soundly to the chair.

"Suit yourself," Reno said with an amused shrug at her confusion. She's a bitch, but damn...she is beautiful.

She turned her back to him for she knew he wouldn't get loose unless he chewed his own hand off.

Ever since he had come in contact with this woman she had been nothing but trouble. First she split his lip, outdrank him and took his gil, insulted him relentlessly, and now she had managed to charge him and tie him to a chair; he couldn't even escape! The only thing that could be said, is that Tseng had taught her well.

He supposed she could be beautiful if she cared to be, but she didn't seem to be the soothing type. In fact, she was one of the most cold hearted bitches he'd ever encountered. He hated to admit it, but he had begun to become attracted to this beautiful engima.

"You're attracted to anything with legs like that!" his mind reassured him. Or was it something else?

He was about to be proved wrong again about his judgement of her capacity for love however.

"Vincent?" a soft, light voice whispered.

Reno's eyes flew at sound of the voice. Who the hell was that? Could it be her?!

"Vincent.." she said again in a very gentle tone. In fact, it was the most soothing voice he had ever heard.

"Hey...why don't you talk to me like that?"

Her angry look turned to meet his face.

"Shut-up! You wouldn't care anyway."

Yes I would...

What the hell was with him today? He had been with enough different women to know that one was the same as the next, and his heart had been shattered enough so that the shards were impossible to put back together. He had grown quite hard about the whole thing, and love was non-existent to him. He didn't believe in it.

"She's a hot broad who I want to take to bed...that's it!"

Was it though?

He found a heated attraction to her. That was normal. For some unknown reason, the first time he had ever seen her his heart had swelled. It was almost as if she was...some how...familiar.

His thoughts were interupted with a moan from Vincent's direction. He could see from his position as her hand gently smoothed some raven black hair away from the frightening man's expressionless face.

"Osea, do you love the vampire?" he asked in a mocking voice.

Expecting her to retort, he waited for her to.

Instead she looked up in surprise.

"You called me Osea."

"I meant bitch, bitch."

Her eyes still didn't narrow, and she turned away to ignore him again.

Finally Vincent's eyes fluttered open.

"Lucrecia?" he whispered.

Reno's eyes slightly widened.

Suddenly his eyes opened all the way, spotting the blue haired girl sitting over him. His hand darted out for his gun, which he couldn't manage to get off the table next to the bed.

As he struggled, one of his arms, the robotic one, tore away the entire bed post along with his restraints.

"Nice tie job, Reno," she muttered.

He didn't say anything.


Valentine ignored her as he clawed his way out of his bindings.


He finally looked in her direction, and his eyes flickered with recognition.

He stopped dead in his struggle and gaped. In all the time Avalanche and the Turks had encountered eachother, Vincent had never even shown emotion. Now he stared in shock at Osea.

"Vincent," she said for the fifth time, smiling.


He looked as if he was trying to remember something in a distant memory.

She slowly brought her hand up and put it on his shoulder, and then she caught sight of the claw under his cape finally.

She stared in horror.

"Oh my God...what did he do..."

Vincent still didn't speak, completely bewildered. It was not often he looked this way.

"Vincent, say something."

"Osea?" he finally whispered.

"Yes," she said, slightly smiling again, but her eyes were brimming brightly with tears.

"They told me you were dead."

"No...I was in slumber...for a very long time."

A tear finally ran over her cheek.

"What did he do to you?"

Finally managing to work himself into a sitting postion, Vincent was reminded of his claw and frightening appearance.

She stealthily reached out and lightly let her finger touch the cold metal claw.

"I'll kill him with my own bare hands," she growled maliciously.

"He's gone," Vincent replied quietly.

She looked up in surprise, the malice fading.

"I killed him...with some.....companions."

She looked as if she pitied the late professor for a second, disapointment clearly written on her face.

"I wish I could've helped."

Vincent smiled internally.

"You did. You're one of the reasons that caused me to."

She smiled at his expressionless face, and finally collapsed into him in a hug.

"I missed you!"

Vincent sat stiffly, not knowing what to do.

"I'd do it if I were you," Reno piped up, "cause that's the closest that any man's ever gonna get."

Osea's voice was muffled from Vincent's body.

"Shut-up Reno."


She ignored him.

Vincent looked blankly at Reno, and finally put his arms akwardly around Osea.

When she finally released him, Vincent looked her over.

"You look very much as you once did."

She gazed at him, her eyes still bright with tears.

"I don't really, ...uh, age."

"Nor I."

Vincent turned towards Reno, picking his gun up off the table.

Aiming it swiftly at his head, he cocked it.

"No!" Osea cried out as Reno cringed at the hollow metallic sound.

"...?" Vincent gazed at Osea.

"He' friend," she offered.

A surprised look crossed Reno's face at her unexpected words.

"Osea, please leave."



"Promise you won't kill him."

Vincent hesitated.

"Promise!" she pleaded.

"Very well. I promise...not to kill him."

She nodded her head in mild satisfaction and walked out the door, shutting it soundly behind her.

"Why do you desire my capture?" Vincent asked Reno casually.

Reno just stared at him.

"Shall I repeat myself?"

"No. I heard you."

A cold look flickered in Reno's blue eyes, very unlike the one used to look at Osea with his teasing, cocky sarcasm.

"Go to hell."

"I've been there, and I don't feel like going back. So if you'll kindly inform me of what I want to know..."

Reno didn't respond. Without another word, Vincent swiftly wrapped his claw around Reno's wrist, crushing it within seconds. Blood spurted in an ugly fashion out of his crushed hand and onto Vincent's claw, as well as all over Reno.

He screamed in pain. It had been completely unexpected.

A second later the door flew open and Osea rushed in.

"What was," her voice faded as she saw the blood and Reno's disproportioned hand, spurting mercilessly.

"Stop it!"

Both Vincent and Reno ignored her, locked in a deadly, unflinching gaze.

"Remember now?"

"Not especially."

Vincent crushed his other wrist, but Reno just stared defiantly up as every bone in his hand was reduced to a mere bloody powder.

Suddenly, unexpected to seemingly both stubborn men, Osea's voice burst forth.

"S-T-O-P I-T!"

They both glanced over, but only in quick surprise at her angry cries. Vincent proceeded to attempt to inflict more injuries on him, when there was a sudden burst of light.

The entire room was engulfed in a misty blue aura, hazy in its tint. Osea's face remained completely motionless and calm.

With one hand, she slowly raised it upwards in the direction to where Vincent stood. Before he knew what was happening, he was dangling helplessly in the air. With a very uncharacterstic look, Vincent's jaw hung open.

Osea dropped her hand and motioned slightly towards Reno. His bonds did not fall or break, but decayed into dust as if from old age; as if she could control time itself. Freeing him, he jumped up glaring at Vincent, but mostly staring in amazement at Osea.

Osea closed her eyes and muttered some words, and suddenly an olive green mist wove its way around him. Healing his split lip, broken wrists and any other bruise he may have had, he looked on at this point, dumbfounded.

She opened her eyes back up in time to see Vincent and Reno both gaping at her. Slowly she lowered her hand and Vincent came down from his suspension. With a violent wave of her arms the room cleared and the normal lighting was restored. Without another word, she stared reproachfully at both of them.

"I told you," she informed each of them simply, "to stop."

"Osea...?" Vincent began.

"Shit...," Reno muttered along with Vincent's amazement.

"Where did you obtain that power?"


"That power?" Reno repeated Vincent's question.

"The Planet wills it, so it is so."

Her eyes glowed a deep aquamarine colour as the cryptic words were issued from her mouth.

"Are you an Ancient?" Reno offered.


"Are you Jenova's spawn?" he asked again, though teasing her a little this time as the tension died a bit.

"No!" she said more heatedly.

"I am...a strange assortment of things."

Vincent looked on at her.

"What is it Osea?" he asked gently.

"I am well as Jenova."


"Professor Hojo...he created me with Jenova cells and infused me with mako....," her voice trailed off.

"Continue," Vincent urged her on, interested in what she was getting at.

Osea suddenly shook her head.


Vincent slowly raised his hand, and she gratefully stopped speaking.

"I promise, I'll tell you sometime," she said rather guiltily. Vincent ignored her tone as a thoughtful look came over his face.

"Did you used to hear Jenova?"

She nodded in acknowledgement.

"I still do."

"We killed Jenova...," Vincent began.

Osea slowly shook her head.

"No you didn't."

Vincent's apprehensive look turned to one of pure horror. Reno didn't quite catch on.

"So? Jenova's still around. What's the big deal? Sephiroth is dead." For the first time Vincent addressed the Turk as the human being.

"Jenova...the one who destroys...Sephiroth's "Mother"."

Reno finally comprehended.

"Oh, shit," he said for the millionth time that day.

"I suggest we all get some sleep, and head to Junon," Vincent stated as he thought the situation over.

"I must reach Cloud."

He looked around the ship warily.

"Where are we?"

"We're on our way to Junon anyway," Reno replied.

Vincent propped himself down into a chair with a shrug.

"Very well."

Osea looked between Vincent and Reno, who though were addressing eachother civilly enough, still gave eachother suspicious looks.

"If you don't cut it out I'll restrain both of you," she said a matter of factly.

Reno looked at her in amusement.

"I'd like to see you try."

The serious look on her face and the lack of speech told him she could however. She gave him a shrug.

"Would you like to try me?"

"Forget it, bitch," he grumbled.

Vincent turned sharply at Reno's title for Osea. Before he could do or say anything however, Osea shook her head at him. He looked back at her, his eyes studying her. She looked exactly the same, as did he.

"She must be at least 20 by now," he thought to himself.

Vincent had become friends with the young girl as an experiment, his only true window to innocence. Though she had grown up among horrific things, and had seen him being tortured by Hojo, she had never once been insane or vengeful. She had even helped him as much as possible. If there was one person in the world Vincent could say he knew, it was Osea. She was only a little girl back then however. She always had a pure nature though.


He looked over at her quickly, quite aware of her presence but not expecting her to say anything to him.


"Are you okay?"

What a question to ask. 'Okay.' That word didn't even have any meaning to him anymore.

"Yes," he replied. No use in her agonizing over a pain in him that would never heal, could never heal.

"Vincent, I missed you."

He didn't know what to say. It frusterated him to an extent to see her relentless love of him, her unceasing attempts to be his friend. He didn't deserve her compassion! Why couldn't she just stop? How could she miss a monster; a monstrosity with no soul?

A pure heart of kindness, and she picked him, the ultimate evil, to be a friend.

He finally looked back at her, shaking his head.

"No need."

She looked a little hurt.

"Oh...," she replied. Then she turned abruptly away.

Yes Osea, you know me. I'm cold, decietful and evil. Get used to it, for you never understood.


Reno could see Osea attempting to have a conversation with Valentine, and failing miserably. How could she be so compassionate of that careless bastard and not even find the kindness to mutter a friendly word his way?

"You don't care anyway, remember?" his mind reminded him rapidly. A little too rapidly. Where had he known her?! She was so familiar...

He could see her turn abruptly away and Valentine go back to gazing out the small window at the open sea. She came over to sit near him; a solitary tear running down her cheek. She brushed it away angrily. Noticing Reno was staring at her, she gave him a bitter look and turned away.

Reno felt a small stab in the heart. What was going on? Before he could think, he had walked over to her, and...what was he doing...?

Osea sat, crying in a miniscule way so that Vincent wouldn't notice, and felt an arm come to rest on her shoulder. Quickly brushing her tears away, she turned to face him. Had Vincent decided something else?

"Reno. What the hell do you want?" she asked him pointedly as she shrugged his hand off of her shoulder. Reno stared at her through those brilliant blue eyes which fairly seemed to sparkle. He was attractive, that much she'd admit. With his feiry red hair that contrasted very nicely with the glassy blue eyes... But that was all she could find about him that she liked.

"I uh...I just came to say I'm sorry about Tseng."

Her hard gaze softened a tiny bit.

"Oh, er...thanks. I think."

"Um, he never mentioned you..."

That's great! Make her feel neglected you dumbass.

She gave him an incredulous look.

"Oh, fuck off," she replied irritably.

"I didn't mean it like that...ah, nevermind."

He turned and quickly walked away, collapsing on the bed. Within a few minutes he was asleep, and Osea couldn't help but glance at him sourly. Her gaze turned to Vincent however. His long black hair streamed out from under a red band; and that horrible claw. It glinted evilly at her in the dim of the room.

Quietly she walked up behind him where he still stood, completely unmoving, staring out stoically into the darkness of the black night. She knew he could hear her with his enhanced senses, but she crept none the less.

"Vincent," she whispered quietly so as not to disturb Reno. She didn't want him to wake up and bother them.



She didn't know what to say. He didn't offer up much of a conversation the way he used to speak with her quite often as a child, and he was chilled. Finally she just stood next to him.

"What are you looking at?"

"The darkness."

She glanced over at him, his frightening red eyes glaring out of the blackness of the cold corner they stood in.

"And the stars."

"The stars?"


She looked at him again. He had always had the most beautiful face, but now it just looked depressed and lonely.

"Why are you like this?"

He looked over at her suddenly, surprised. No one had ever had the guts to ask him that simple question.

"What do you mean?"

"Why..?...nevermind," she said with a tearful sigh. She knew her eyes had started to glisten again.

His eyes followed her back to where she lay down on the bed, though very, very far away from Reno who was curled into a tight ball at one corner.

He knew she had been crying before, as he could hear the tears falling, one after the other in rapid succession down her face. He had felt guilt, something he hadn't felt in a long time.

Osea lay with her glistening aquamarine eyes at the ceiling, seemingly edging further and further away from the feiry ball in the corner.

Her eyes lay fixed at a point in the ceiling, and finally a tear dropped. Vincent couldn't stand it any longer.

In a mad rush, he flew over to the bed.



"Why are you crying?"

"I'm not...," she replied quietly.

Vincent sighed, as it was only her in front of him.

"Because. Just because," she said quickly.

Suddenly she sat and up and tugged on his cape, gently yanking him down to sit next to her.

"Talk to me," she pleaded.

"There's nothing to discuss."

She looked quickly away.

"I thought we were friends."

Shera had accepted it, Cid, Cloud, Tifa, Red, Barret, Reeve, Yuffie and even Aeris had been able to accept his silence and cheerless demeanor. Why couldn't she?

"This is my true disposition," he replied.

"No Vincent, I know you...or, at least, I knew you once. You were quiet, but you weren't this," she said, gesturing to him. Vincent could feel shame well up inside of him, but he wouldn't let it emerge.

"I'm sorry, Osea."

"So am I," she said quietly in an unexpected reply.

With that she lay back down, leaving Vincent to sit near her and stare into the darkness.

"Sleep well, sweet Osea, my sweet angel."


Nanaki sat on his haunches in front of Midgar. The forthcoming dawn had newly emerged, and he watched its splendour rise up over the flat plains that surrounded the broken city.

"What are you staring at?"

Nanaki's observations and thoughts were interrupted as Yuffie had obviously awoke.

"The sky?"

He glanced over in her direction.

"No. I am gazing at the beauty of the dawn."

Yuffie gave him a strange look, but ignored the thought.

"Oh," she replied with a disinterested shrug.

She ran around, efficiently clearing up the camp that they had used the night before, skillfully folding the tent up and collecting her possessions.

"Why are we going to Midgar again?"

"To investigate," Red replied patiently.

"Investigate what?" Yuffie replied, rather whining.

"The creature that you encountered recently."

"I know...but...but why??"

Nanaki let a beastly shrug her way and shook his head.

"Call it intrigue."

As Nanaki's patience began to wear thin, Yuffie finally nodded after some hesitation, seemingly accepting his less than satisfying response. She slipped her weapon onto her back, and a few minutes later the actions of packing up were completed.

"Let's move out!"

Nanaki cast another long look at the arising sun and painted sky, turning to head to the doom and darkness of the plated city that loomed ahead of them.

"Very well," he said, half-willingly tearing his gaze away from the beautiful sky.

Yuffie was already 20 feet ahead of him, which he easily covered in a few bounds to walk beside her. After a few minutes of truding on in silence, Nanaki finally grew restless.

"So...when did you last return to Wutai?"

She gave him a startled look.

"Seven months ago. Why?"

"Well, last year you seemed very eager to return. I just wondered..."

"No. Not anymore," she replied, with a look of pain of someone beyond her years.

Red immediately decided to change the subject to a less disturbing one.

"Where exactly did you see this...this monster?" he asked, trying to choose the correct description.

"Sector 2."

It was strange. When they had been on their journey, Yuffie couldn't shut her mouth. Now, as she walked along with nary a word, her eyes constantly searched the surrounding area for monsters. Nanaki had been debating whether to share a very important personal discovery with his old team if he should ever encounter them again within a decent span of time. Now he was re-thinking his earlier decision to.

The world seemed to have taken its toll on Yuffie's youthful rantings and energy. Obviously she was strong, but not nearly as lively as she formerly had been. It was very odd to see Yuffie Kisaragi subdued. Excited, whining, annoying, complaining, impatient...that was what came to mind when one thought of the youngest female member of Avalanche. This, this woman...that stood in front of him, was a different person. Her appearance had been altered, her fighting style had improved, and among other things, she was mature. However, it had obviously come along with a price; a loss of enthusiasm. No, enthusiasm wasn't a broad enough description.

A loss of . . . life.

To Nanaki, it was depressing. However, he knew the loss of livliness was unavoidable with age in a Planet such as theirs. That was, unless one was constantly in denial or had something like love to occupy them from sorrow. He himself understood her situation, for he was in one of his own. They both had sustained the vacancy of a loved one. Her father was dead. His Grandfather, his mentor and only personal friend, had also died. The Elders of the village consulted him and discussed interesting topics with the young leader, true enough. However, he longed for - not philosophy or intellectual stimulus - but merely a loving hand. A silly thing he told himself; there was no need for extreme comforts and luxuries such as friendship for what was supposed to be the strongest warrior in all of Cosmo Canyon.

As for Yuffie, though the young ninja had acted as if she despised her late father in the past, it was always obvious she tried to look out for him and for Wutai. He guessed that was one of the only softspots that could be detected in her.

As she plodded along now, her small footprints were left in the soft earth. Before Red knew what was happening, Yuffie had drawn her Conformer. As she was facing him, poised to strike, Nanaki turned his head to the side in a questioning look. In flashed fury, she sliced through something to his direct left.

In his flurry of thoughts he had not noticed the loathsome Custom Sweeper which had come up beside him and attempted to attack. With one swipe, she had "disembowled" the strange thing, relieving it of all its life. With the kill, the monster crashed to the ground, lifeless. As it dropped mercilessly, a part was disengaged from its arm. Advancing a little, she kicked it with the tip of her boot. When it did not move, she went to stand next to it, her eyes averted to the ground.

"What the hell is that?" Yuffie asked aloud as she went to pick up the dropped part.

Nanaki still stood, frozen in shock at the unexpected attack. Usually he was even more alert than the rest of the party, and now he had been so absorbed in his own contemplation he had failed to protect himself. He doubted the Sweeper would have had the ability to kill him much less seriously wound him, though the initial pain it would have inflicted would have definitely hindered his process.

"Thank-you, Yuffie."

Yuffie nodded an absentminded acknowledgement along with a surprising, cocky grin in his general direction. Frowning again, she picked up the part and examined it.

"Atomic Scissors?! What am I supposed to do with these?"

She threw the strange weapon they had obtained from the battle to the side.

"Looks like something Barret would wear. Ugh..."

Nanaki gave an odd grin at her revulsion. She and Barret had been less than lifetime friends on their journey, however, he also knew that each would give their life for the other if the need arose.

"Have you seen Barret lately, Yuffie?" he enquired suddenly.

Yuffie gave him a very odd sidelong look which registered that what he had asked was extremely unexpected.

With a shrug, she replied, "No. Why?"

Red recoiled in his investigation of her contact with the others at her apparent curiosity into why he had asked, but disinterest in the actual context.

"No reason."

Yuffie stopped walking suddenly, turning to face him.

"I haven't seen anyone," she replied with a hint of sadness in her voice.

Red had a look of understanding in his eyes that she had not seen in a very long amount of time.

"Nor I," he replied slowly, a few moments of silence later.

Without another word, she scratched him on the head quickly and fondly stated, "It's good to be back."

With a little grin, she started off on their journey towards Midgar again. Red could feel his lips curl up in agreement, and they walked on in silence.

However, this peaceful silence was soon to come to an end. Suddenly, a ear splitting shriek issued to Red's sensitive ears causing him to cringe and wrench his neck around to look at Yuffie. Yuffie however, was not the source of the scream, for she too was looking straight back at him.

For a moment, both of them just stared at eachother in surprise, and then slowly they both looked upwards in a simultaneous motion. A dark WEAPON circled the clear sky ominously above themm, blemishing its serenity.

Yuffie quickly looked back at Red, who was already preparing himself for a battle. She too, began to equip various powerful materia and brandish her weapon. Before she could complete the process however, the WEAPON disappeared off onto the horizon.

A look of horror registered on Nanaki's face as it did however, as one of relief was beginning to show itself on Yuffie's. She followed his gaze, and hers turned soon also.

The WEAPON had positioned itself menacingly over Midgar.


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