Catching Glimpses Chapter 12

To Each His Own, Part 2

By Kiyara

"Harry Potter, here I come!"-Elena Sader


Later that night, Cloud had been given a shower, and some of Rude's clothes to replace his dirty and tattered ones. Even though the shirt and pants hung off his emaciated body, making him look like a scarecrow, Cloud still managed to look dangerous and threatening.

Rude and Faye glanced at each other uneasily in the light provided by the dim bulb swaying above their heads. Rude, Faye, and Cloud sat around a small round table in the dingy hotel room, watching each other warily.

They all jumped when Elena, carrying several paper shopping bags, walked in the door, slamming it open in the process. "Food's here!" the blonde chirped cheerfully, setting the bags down on the table. "I got it from the Wutaiin restaurant down the street," she announced, setting out cartons of Wutaiin food and pulling paper plates and plastic utensils out of one of the bags.

Cloud grabbed a carton and a plastic fork, and began shoveling food into his mouth, blue eyes darting back and forth as if daring someone to challenge him.

No one did. The others scooped food onto their plates from the cartons and began eating, doing their best to ignore the slurping noises coming from Cloud's end of the table.

Rude, Faye, and Elena finished quickly, but Cloud went on eating ravenously for some time.

"Umm, hungry, huh?" Elena remarked idly.

Cloud glanced up from his food for a moment to lock gazes with her. "You tend to be when you haven't eaten in two days."

"Oh," Elena retorted feebly. The table lapsed into silence again as Cloud went on eating.

After a few moments, he looked up again. "Why don't you guys tell me why you're all frantic over the red headed devil while I'm eating," he suggested.

Elena frowned at the moniker, while Rude answered simply, "He's been missing since Friday."

Cloud sat there for a moment, clearly expecting more, then asked, "That it?"

Rude thought for a minute, then opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off by his wife.

"That's the Rude version," she said wryly. "Ultra condensed and ultra simple. Basically, Reno's been missing since Friday, as Rude said, and we've managed to track him this far. We don't know where he is, what he's doing, or who the woman he's traveling with is. All we know is that he's gone to Junon, he's in some kind of trouble, and we're going to help him!"

"Couldn't have said it better myself," Rude said with a slight grin.

"You mean you wouldn't have said it better yourself," Faye retorted.

To stop the small argument, Elena told Cloud, "All right. We've fulfilled out part of the bargain. Now what about yours?"

Rude and Faye immediately shut up and turned to Cloud.

The blonde man scraped the last bit of Wutaiin food out of the carton, then set it down on the table, chewing the last bite slowly. "Why do you want to know what happened to me?"

"I'm still curious about what brought the savior of the Planet down this low," Faye broke in.

Cloud nodded. "Good enough. You all know who Aeris Gainsborough was, and how she died, correct?"

Elena and Faye nodded as Rude asked, "The flower girl?"

Cloud spitted him with a glare. "She has a name, you know."

"The same way Reno has a name besides 'the red headed devil?" Elena interrupted, smiling mock sweetly.

Cloud growled to himself, and said, "All right, all right. No more flower girl, no more red headed devil. Agreed?"

The other three nodded. Elena motioned to him with her hand. "Please, continue."

"Her name was Aeris, but yes, she was a flower girl," Cloud continued acerbically.

"That maniac, what'shisface, Sephiroth, killed her, right?" Faye asked, looking genuinely interested.

"Yeah." Cloud's expressive eyes snapped out of their dead-looking stupor for a moment to grow hard and angry. "That jerk. But anyway, one thing you probably haven't heard was how close we were. I don't think I realized it then, but I know now that I was in love with Aeris. Just after her death, we were so busy chasing Sephiroth that I didn't really have enough time to dwell on her. But after Sephiroth was defeated, I had plenty of time.

Rude grimaced. I know where this is headed.

"I went to pieces. After two weeks at Tifa's new place with her and several of the others who hadn't wanted to go home quite yet, I left. But when I left, I had some really harsh words with everyone, and they're just about the only people I know on the Planet. I didn't take enough gil with me for two years, and I had no one else to ask for money from. I was far too proud to even approach the old gang. I didn't want them to see how far I've fallen. I haven't been able to find much employment, and that's how I ended up on the streets, where you found me."

Cloud smiled at the silence after the end of his narrative. "Don't know what to say?" he asked.

Faye began, "Not…"

"Really," Rude finished.

"They're almost telepathic sometimes," Elena confided to Cloud with a smile. Anything to keep the subject off the dark story we just heard… Elena thought to herself, shuddering at the thoughts that had to be running through this man's dark mind.

"No," Rude protested.

"We're not," Faye said. Then she clapped a hand to her mouth and laughed, as did Rude and Elena.

Cloud didn't even have a reaction. "Whatever. I'm going to bed now." He stood, the chair scraping the floor.

Rude didn't even bat an eyelash. (Well, not that he would…) "Room 10," he said, tossing Cloud a key. Cloud caught it easily, and strode out of the room.

"Man, that guy has some serious personality problems," Elena said, tipping her chair back to watch his progress down the hall.

"Mmmm hmmm," Faye agreed.

Rude shrugged. "Why does it matter? Anyway, since we're finished satisfying our curiosity about Cloud Strife, we can just forget about him, right?"

Elena nodded. "We certainly couldn't just drag him around with us, especially since we don't know if he's trustworthy."

Faye started to open her mouth to protest, then closed it as Rude and Elena shot her a joint look. She sat back in her seat. "Y'know, I really hate it when you guys gang up on me," she complained with a smile.

Elena yawned noisily just then. "Whoops, sorry. Didn't mean to cut you off, Faye. Just tired. I think I'm going to follow Strife's lead and go to bed."

"Wait a sec, Elena," Faye said. "Hey Rude, you've got the ferry schedule, right?"

Rude rooted around in the pockets of the windbreaker slung across the back of his chair, and held up the light blue pamphlet. "Yep."

"When's the next ferry to Junon?"

Rude consulted the schedule. "There's one at 2:30 A.M, but from the way that Elena looks like she's ready to fall asleep on her feet, I'd say that's not a good idea."

"How many people can need a ferry ride at 2:30 in the morning?" Faye wondered aloud.

"It's probably a supply run," Elena answered sleepily. "When's the next one, Rude?"

"8:30 A.M."

Faye nodded. "Sounds good."

Elena shrugged. "Works for me."

"You've got to be up by eight, then." Rude grinned as Elena groaned noisily.

"All right, all right. I will be."

"Oh, and Elena!" Rude tossed her the key to her room as she turned and caught it at the last minute. "Room nine."

"Great, I'm next to Spike the Psycho Boy!" Elena said mock cheerily. "And good night, you mean people who don't believe in sleep!" She muttered the last bit mostly to herself as she went out the door.

"G'night, 'Lena," Faye called after her.

"Good night," Rude's voice joined in. Elena heard the door close behind her as she walked across the dark hallway. As the door shut, she lost the slouching and the tired look.

"Man, I ought to become an actress one day!" she murmured to herself, laughing quietly. She continued trying to open the hotel room door as she talked to herself. "Harry Potter, here I come! I can't wait to see what happens in the next chapter…" She wrenched the door open, went into her room, and closed the door. She went to the duffel bag beside her bed and rooted around, emerging with the popular children's book clutched in her hand. With a contented sigh, Elena happily flopped down on the bed and began reading.

Several hours later…

Elena shut the book with a sigh and lay back for a moment, thinking about what she had just read. She began to get up to fetch her nightclothes, then she suddenly froze like a chocobo in the headlights of a car and listened carefully. No, it wasn't a figment of her imagination, and it was getting closer. She rushed to the window and raised the blinds a fraction of an inch. Elena found that she had been right.

There were a bunch of sleek, black motorcycles parked in front of the inn, and she saw some very big guys getting off of them. Elena had always had excellent far sight, and she gulped as she hoped she wasn't seeing what she thought she was seeing. She rubbed her eyes, then looked again. All of the men were carrying grenades, enough explosives to blow the town to kingdom come, and some very heavy guns and weaponry. Then she blinked, and looked once more. Just a she had thought. Right in the middle of all of the burly thugs was one slender, fragile looking woman. All Elena could really make out about her was her long, flowing white hair and the long, dangerous looking sword she carried.

"Oh…shit," Elena breathed. She slowly dropped the blind, then quietly crept back out into the hallway, where she sat on the stairs and listened as the many men and one woman banged on the door until the hotel manager rushed to open it.

"May I help y-" The manager was cut off, and his voice turned into a frightened gurgle.

"You may help us by telling my friends here and I where three of your guests' rooms are," the woman said, her voice dangerously calm and smooth. "Two women, one man. The man is tall and completely bald, while both women are short. One is blonde, the other brunette. Their names are Rude Texiera, Faye Texiera, and Elena Sader. Tell me where their rooms are. Tell me right now."

The man let out a choked gurgle. "Th…they're in rooms eight, nine, and ten."

The woman's voice was edgy and sharp. "Why three rooms?"

"Th…there are four of them. The bald guy, the little br…brunette, the blonde girl, and some guy with really sp…spi…spiky hair and bright b…b…blue eyes," he stuttered. Elan then heard a thud, then a low moan, as if he had been thrown.

"You heard the man!" the woman snapped. "You'd better not botch it, like you did when you were trying to grab Shinra and her little pal Reddie!"

Reddie's gotta be Reno, but Shinra?!

"We're not the only one who botched it up with them…" someone muttered loudly.

Another man was braver, and spoke aloud. "Yeah. You didn't get them in Junon either, Amaani, did you? No, they got away to Rocket Town."

Rocket Town?!

The woman, apparently Amaani, growled dangerously. "If there wasn't a need for silence, I'd take you out right now." Frightened silence reigned.

"Now get up there! All of you! But go quietly. It'd be easier if they weren't awake enough to fight. Remember, two of them were Turks."

"Amaani," one man said, his voice a deep, bass growl. "What about Mr. Blue Eyed Blonde? We weren't sent after him."

"Liquidate him. We don't need him. Now go!"

Elena heard the men grunt, then quiet footsteps began creaking along the floorboards toward the stairs. She scooted back away from the stairs and knocked quietly and incessantly on the closest door, which happened to be Cloud's.

An angry Cloud came to the door, still fully dressed with the lights on behind him. Apparently, Elena wasn't the only one who had lied about being tired. He opened his mouth to speak. That was when Elena hurled herself at him, clapping one hand over his mouth and placing a finger of the other hand to her lips.

He nodded his understanding, and Elena pulled her hand back.

"What's going on?" he asked in a barely audible whisper.

"Those guys who were after Reno are coming to get us," Elena hissed back.

Cloud's face became expressionless. "That's none of my concern." Cloud began to shut the door, but Elena stuck her foot in it.

"Hope you enjoy being 'liquidated,'" she murmured mock sweetly.

Cloud stopped. "Damn."

Elena nodded. "Exactly."

Cloud signed. "All right. What're we gonna do?"

"Get Rude and Faye, then get the hell outta here."

"Good plan. I like it." Cloud smirked slightly.

Elena crept out and poked her head around the stairs. "I can't see them yet," she whispered over her shoulder.

"Good," Cloud replied. "Now what can I do?"

"Go into my room," Elena directed, nodding to her still open doorway. "My duffel bag is on the floor by the bed. There should be a gun and sheathed Katana-style sword on top in it. You can use the sword, and bring me the Glock."

Cloud disappeared inside the darkness of her room wordlessly.

Elena scrambled across the hall and knocked on the door to Rude and Faye's room, watching the stairs cautiously. Rude came to the door, naked from the waist up and blinking. Elena waved her arms frantically as he began to speak, and shushed him with a finger to her lips. Rude lowered his voice. "Elena? What the hell?"

"There's a 2:30 ferry to Junon, right?" Elena hissed.

Rude nodded slowly, looking confused. Faye appeared behind him, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"Good. We've gotta be on it. C'mon!"

Rude blinked again, and didn't move. Faye looked from Elena to Rude, the question evident in her eyes.

Elena spoke in short, fractured sentences, as if she were speaking to a small child. "Big guys with guns that are after Reno. Want us. Want to 'liquidate' Strife."

"Shit," Rude hissed.

Cloud appeared behind her and handed Elena her Glock. She made sure it was fully loaded, and held it loosely in one hand.

"How many are there?" Rude asked.

"I didn't take the time to count, but there's about twenty or thirty of them, I guess. They're not taking any chances. And there's also one woman, with a big dangerous looking sword. All I know is that her name's Amaani, that Reno's somehow involved with someone named Shinra, and he and this 'Shinra' were chased by this Amaani girl from Junon to Rocket Town."

Rude stood for a moment, and Elena could almost see the wheels turning behind his brown eyes. Abruptly, he sprang into action. "Elena, get in your room, close the door, and be ready to ambush them. Strife, I know I can't speak for you, but it would be greatly to your benefit to join forces with us."

Cloud's sword scythed through the air. "Count me in."

"All right. You and Elena attack them from your room; we'll attack them from this room. Fight your way to the stairs. From there, we can pull a Reno and catch the 2:30 ferry to Junon. From there, we head to Rocket Town. Strife, you can either split off from us once we get to Junon or travel on. Your choice."

Elena nodded. "C'mon!" She grabbed Cloud by the arm and pulled him across the hall into her room.

Rude shut the door behind them. As he turned, Faye had already thrown on her day clothes, and was beginning to fish through his duffel bag for the weapons she knew he carried.

"What are you doing?" he asked, putting on the shirt that she threw at him. As Faye rummaged, he piled up pillows and other items to make it look like there were two bodies in the bed.

"What does it look like? I'm getting us weapons." She produced a gun and tossed it to him. Rude fumbled with it until he noticed that the safety was on.

He loaded it, flicking back the safety. "You mean you're getting me a weapon. There's no way I'm letting you get involved in this."

Faye looked up at that, eyes blazing. "There's no way I'm missing out on this and letting the three of you fight alone."

"We're all experienced fighters, Faye," Rude argued.

"I know I'm not, but what am I gonna do if I sit out, Rude? There's no way out but the stairs and the window. I'm not jumping out the window, and there's no way I can climb down that wall. Monkey-Man Reno's probably the only one who possibly could… And if I went out the stairs, I'd have to fight. Face it, Rude. I'm fighting."

Rude sighed, and was about to open his mouth when he caught the sounds of someone picking at the lock. Knowing he didn't have time to argue this any more, he swiftly turned the light off and stood on one side of the door; swapping his gun for the sword that Faye had been looking at uncertainly. She took the gun and stood on the opposite side of the door, holding her breath. The door cracked open, and several men stepped through; maybe ten or fifteen. They immediately caught site of Rude's two dummy figures, and motioned for each other to be quiet. They slowly made their way toward the bed, Faye keeping very still as the final man went past her.

Rude held a finger to his lips to her, then slipped out the door. Faye followed. So far, none of the men had realized they weren't in the room. Peeking across the hall as they crept toward the stairs, Elena saw the shadowy figures of Cloud and Elena following their lead. So far, no one had noticed a thing.

That was when a shout came up from Rude and Faye's room. "Hey! There's no one here!"

"Same here!" hollered someone from Elena's room.

"And here!" was the yell from Cloud's.

"There they are!" a man shouted, poking his head out of Elena's room.

The four fugitives' only response was to dash down the stairs, no longer caring about silence.

"After them!" came a feminine roar.

Rude, Faye, Elena, and Cloud sprinted down the stairs, in that order. Faye felt her heartbeat racing as she half ran, half jumped down the remaining stairs to the lobby and followed Rude out the door, Elena at her heels. Cloud paused for a moment when he hit the lobby floor. He spun back to face the staircase and jumped up, grabbing hold of the top of the doorframe. He swung himself backward, then forward. As the first man came around the corner of the spiral staircase, Cloud's booted feet connected solidly with his chin.

"Ugh!" The man fell backwards, also catching the next couple of men and bringing them down with him. Cloud dropped and ran out the door.

"That wasted a whole good argument, too," Faye was muttering to Rude up ahead.

Cloud poured on the speed, legs pumping to catch up. The coolness of the night froze the sweat collecting on his body, making him a bit chilly. He followed them through the town, across the bridge, and down the dock. First Rude, then Faye, then Elena, and finally Cloud hopped over the gap between the dock and the boat.

Faye dashed up to the bridge of the ship, where there was only an old man who seemed to be the captain of the ship. His feet were up on the instrument panel as he snored loudly.

With a malicious grin reminiscent of Reno, Faye stood behind him, then poked him in the back, just behind the shoulder blades.

The old man jumped into the air. "YEEEOOOWW!" After coming down again to land hard on the chair, he spun to find her looking at him.

Faye willed the laughter in her eyes and smile on her face to go away, and a serious expression replaced it. "You have to get going to Junon now."

The man looked bewildered. "But the ferry doesn't leave for another hour or so."

Faye nodded. "True, but…well, see for yourself." She pointed out the window, back at the dock. The twenty dangerous looking men were racing down the dock, lead by Amaani, waving guns. As the old man watched in stupefied amazement, one of the men let off a shot.

The old man ducked instinctively and winced. "All right then. I see your point. Let's get outta here!" He leapt forward to the controls, pulling a lever here and there. Suddenly, he looked back to Faye. "We're still tied-"

Faye had been looking out the window, but she turned back to him on this. "My friends handled it."

The old man looked ready to protest, then nodded. "It'll take a coupla minutes for the engines to warm up, though. This old girl ain't exactly built for speed."

Faye left him to his controls and ran back down to the others, ducking and rolling to get to where the others were crouched behind some crates. Shots from Amaani and her force went singing through the air, sending splinters flying.

Rude and Elena were firing off shots at the men and woman on the dock while Cloud sat around with his back leaning against the crates, looking impatient. Faye saw the coil of rope that had been used to tie the ship to the dock sitting beside Cloud, and she had an idea.

She called Elena away from her shooting duties for a moment to explain her plan. Elena giggled, then nodded.

"Hey Cloud," the blonde said. Cloud looked up. "You know how to use one of these?" Elena asked, holding out her gun.

"That's an insult," Cloud said, reaching for it and taking it. "I was once a Shinra soldier, remember?" He began firing alongside of Rude.

Faye peeked out of a hole in the barrier. "There's a guy right…there," she illustrated with her finger, "that we can aim for."

Then she and Elena went to the big, heavy rope that had been used to tie the old ferry to the dock. Staying behind the barrier on their knees, they both grabbed hold of it.

"Man, this is heavy," Elena grunted.

"Start swinging, Elena!" Faye said in reply. The two women, using their combined strength, lifted the rope into the air and swung it above their heads. Faster and faster it swung, until it was just a brown blur.

"Let go!" Faye commanded. The rope was out of their hands with a whistling noise. Elena and Faye stuck only the tops of their heads over the barrier for a half a second to find that the rope had settled neatly over the arms and torso of one of the men, who was looking down at it in bewilderment.

"Rope that dogie in!" Elena yelled with a huge grin. She and Faye backed up, grabbed the rope, and gave a tremendous pull, sending the man on the other end flying into the water with a shouted exclamation.

The two women pulled the rope back up, leaving the man floundering in the water. Grinning, Faye and Elena exchanged a high five before looking for their next target.

Looking over the side, Cloud saw white, foamy backwash begin to come out of the back of the boat. "Looks like we're finally moving," he observed coolly before hanging over the barrier for a moment to take a shot at one of the men. He missed. By a lot. The blond grimaced. "I'm out of practice."

Rude just nodded, whipping off a shot with frightening speed. There was a gurgling scream from the other side.

Suddenly, there was a jolt that threw the half-standing Faye and Elena off their feet, and they began moving away from the dock at a fast clip. "What'd he do, throw in super fuel or something?" Elena asked, half irately and half in relief.

They left the dock, littered with bodies, behind. Amaani began to stand from where she had thrown herself to the dock to escape being shot. Immediately, hands were extended to her.

"Milady, let me help you up."

"Up you go, milady."

"So very sorry about having to act so insubordinate, ma'am."

She waved them off. "I can get up on my own. And it's fine." She finished standing and brushed herself off. "Keller!"

Keller appeared in front of her. He was her right hand man, and was short and rail-thin, with a mop of thick black hair and dull brown eyes. He had a nervous manner, and was always shaking. That, coupled with a perpetual stutter, made him somewhat of a pain in the ass. But a useful pain in the ass, Amaani reflected. He's at least completely loyal. "Y…yes, m…milady?"

"What were our losses?" Amaani began to walk down the dock with long, easy strides, shaking her long, white hair out of her face.

Keller was hard pressed to keep up, and was nearly trotting at her heels. "We l…l…lost thr…ee out of the t…twenty, m…m…m…milady."

Amaani grimaced. "Father isn't going to be happy about this. But do you think it was convincing enough?"

Keller smiled, a rare occurrence. "V…very c…convincing, m…milady. T…the 'p…package' was d…d…deli…v…v…vered w…w…without a hitch."

Amaani laughed delightedly. "I agree, Keller. I agree."

And as her men picked themselves up behind her, the four adventurers sailed on, not knowing what was to occur.


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