Catching Glimpses Chapter 9

The Humor of the Situation

By Kiyara

"The bitch is back."-Reno Lynley


Dinah came to slowly, her eyes staying closed for several long seconds while she tried to assess where she was. She was lying on something long and soft, and could hear engines rumbling in the distance. Dinah opened her eyes to find that she was spread out on a couch, and seemed to be in the cargo bay of a plane. Airplane parts, furniture, and other unrecognizable items were set out in a broad tableau.

Dinah sat up swiftly, then winced, placing a hand to the back of her head and resisting the urge to lie back down again. Instead, she stood up and nearly ended up on the cold metal floor. She held still and blinked for several seconds, and the dizzy feeling passed.

She padded forward quietly, but still somewhat unsteadily. Ahead she could see the door to the cockpit. Dinah peered through the door to the cockpit, and recognized a familiar tousled red head. Reno was seated in the co pilot’s seat, with a headset over his ears and appeared to be laughing and joking with the pilot.

Her eyes narrowed and she flung the door open with a slam. Reno didn’t even bother to turn around.

"The bitch is back," he said wryly.

"Shove it, Reno! Why the hell did you ditch me back there?! For once I could have used your help!"

Reno turned and found himself face to face with an irate Dinah.

"Whoa, whoa. Behave there, kids," drawled the other person in the cockpit.

Dinah’s attention swung to the man in the pilot’s seat. He was facing forward out the window, watching his instruments and the rapidly moving sky, but he turned for several seconds and Dinah got a good view of him. He was tall and thin, with a craggy, expressive face and leathery skin. He had a wild shock of chocolate brown hair sticking out in all directions from beneath his headset, and liquid brown eyes. Dinah guessed he was probably in his late 20’s to early 30’s. He was chewing on an unlit cigar, and was handsome in a rugged sort of way.

"Who the hell are you?" Dinah asked bluntly.

He laughed jovially. "I like her, Reno. The name’s Azrael Maiden, little lady. And you are?"

"Dinah Selby. How’d you get roped into this whole mess?" Dinah offered her hand to shake, but Azrael took it and kissed the back of it gently.

Dinah smiled at the old fashioned and courtly gesture, but also at something else. Something about this man was just so familiar…

"I got ‘roped into this,’ as you so quaintly put it, when Reno showed up at my hotel room door early this morning to ask if he and a friend could bum a ride with me. Me and Reno go way back. I just couldn’t say no." He grinned at Dinah, who smiled back. "And now I am most certainly glad I didn’t."

Reno snorted and rolled his eyes, which brought Dinah back to the original conversation they had been having.

"I still cannot believe you just left me there to fight her alone, you bastard!" she said angrily.

"Y’know, if you’d freakin’ shut up for three tenths of a second, I could explain what happened, bitch!" Reno replied heatedly.

"QUIET!" Azrael roared. They both closed their mouths and turned to look at the pilot.

"That’s better. Jesus. You two are worse than my little niece and nephew. First of all, Reno, that’s no way to treat a lady, damn it! And as for you, Miss Selby, Reno saved your ass! If it hadn’t been for him, old Whitey back there would still have ya!"

"And how did he save my ass?" she asked dryly, crossing her arms over her chest.

"He came running up to me yelling, ‘Take off, take off!’ Very agitated, was our Reno. Much arm wavin’ and pointin’ and yelling and the like was going on. So he finally managed to convey his plan to me and we moved down the runway toward you. By the time we got there, ole Whitey had knocked you out and was carrying you off." He paused for a moment to grin. "You should’ve seen Reno. It was the neatest trick I’ve seen in a while. He just hung out the back hatch of the plane and plucked you right out of Whitey’s arms, and we took off. So Reno did the right thing."

Reno grinned with the unexpected praise.

Azrael swiftly brought him back to reality with a bump. "Of course, he’s still a bastard."

Dinah laughed as Reno held an outraged look on his face. "Hey!" he protested.

"You are my kinda guy, Mr. Maiden," Dinah chuckled.

"Please, just Azrael," he corrected her.

She nodded. "Azrael."

"Az, you are still the ladies man," Reno said, shaking his head with a rueful grin.

"If Azrael’s the ladies man, then what are you?" Dinah asked.

"The whore’s man?" Azrael suggested.

Dinah burst out laughing.

Reno didn’t take it as an insult at all. "Yeah, that’d be me."

Dinah asked, "Now that we’ve got that settled, where are we?" Azrael consulted his instruments, then glanced out the window. "You’ve been out cold for quite a long time. Almost five hours. We were starting to get worried. Anyway, we’re almost there. Rocket Town is just over these mountains." He pointed down, and Dinah caught a glimpse of snow capped peaks.

"You mean we went from the eastern continent to the western continent and then right back to the eastern again?" Dinah asked in dismay.

Reno nodded. "That about sums it up.

"By the way, how is your head?" Azrael asked with concern.

Dinah smiled at him. "I’m feeling much better, thank you."

"How come you’re never that nice to me?" Reno muttered.

Dinah had sharp ears. "Because you are never that nice to me… Plus you’re a bastard," she added.

"Will you ever get past the fact that I am a bastard?!"

"No," Azrael and Dinah answered simultaneously.

Reno threw his hands up in defeat. "That’s it! Double teaming! I give up, damn it!" He threw down his headset and stormed out.

Dinah glanced nervously at Azrael. "I am seriously hoping that you don’t need his help to fly this thing."

Azrael chortled. "Reno? No matter what he may have told you, the man doesn’t know a propeller from a clutch!"

Dinah gave a small smile, sitting in the seat that Reno had just vacated and placing his headset over her ears. She curled her legs up under herself and watched the snow covered fields roll by for several minutes. Finally, in the distance, she saw something silver and shiny sticking straight up into the sky.

"What’s that?" she asked, pointing.

"That’s the rocket that the town’s building. I think the launch date’s in two months; sometime in March. Most of the supplies in the back are for it."

"Oh." Dinah nodded, then returned to watching the small town grow closer and closer. After a few moments, the silence in the cockpit grew oppressive, and she stood, removing her headset. "I’m gonna go find Reno," she announced, and beat a hasty retreat.

Walking back into the cargo hold, Dinah found Reno sitting on the sofa that she had woken up on. He was staring into space and appeared to be lost in thought. Dinah dropped down beside him.

"Mind telling me what we’re doing in Rocket Town?" she asked.

Reno jumped. "What the-Oh. It’s just you."

"Need I ask again?"

Reno shook his head. "Naw. I’ll tell you. Az actually lives here, even though he isn’t home very often, so I was gonna see if we could stay at his place for a bit while I figured out where to go from there. But now Whitey back there knows that we came to Rocket Town, or she can just find out by checking with the plane’s flight path, so this’ll just hafta be a stopover. One thing that works for and against us is that planes come here only once every two weeks, so it’ll delay the guys that’re after you from getting here quickly. But if they do somehow manage to get here fast, then the first place they’ll look is Azrael’s house-" He abruptly stopped. "That’s it! I know where they’d never look for us!" Reno sprang up and dashed to the cockpit, where Dinah could hear him excitedly conversing with Azrael.

Dinah shrugged and stretched out, figuring that she’d find out their destination soon enough. She felt the engines shudder and slow as they began their descent into Rocket Town.

* * * * * *

Reno blinked at the sudden onslaught of sunlight as he disembarked from the small cargo plane. Dinah and Azrael hopped out behind him. A crowd of townspeople was already gathering, and Reno heard Azrael giving out instructions for the unloading of the plane.

Dinah appeared beside Reno, hopping up and down to stay warm in the frigid air. "Brr! You gonna tell me where we’re going?"

Reno grinned. "It’ll be a surprise."

Dinah eyed him warily. "I don’t like that look on your face…"

Azrael joined them. "We ready to get goin’, then?"

The other two nodded.

"Right then. This way." Azrael lead them away from the crude, shoveled runway and into the snow covered town. The small village looked like scenes from an old fashioned Christmas card, with smoky tendrils climbing from the chimneys and snow everywhere. A light snow was falling as they made their way through the town.

"You do understand, Reno, that I’m doin’ this against my better judgement," Azrael said gravely.

Reno waved him off. "Yeah, yeah."

"So you’d better stay quiet and polite in the background and let me do the talkin’. We’re old friends."

Reno nodded. "Will do."

"’Cause you know they’re not gonna be happy to see you."

They turned in at the gate of a comfortably sized nondescript home at the center of the village. Azrael marched up and rang the doorbell, Reno and Dinah following.

A woman’s voice was heard from inside. "Katania! Could you get that please?"

The pitter patter of small running feet could be heard. The front door was flung open, and a little girl stood there. She looked to be about five or six, and wore a pink shirt with a stained pair of overalls. He long black ponytail was tied with a pink bow. She looked up at them with her almond shaped, Wutaiin eyes for a moment, but then her slightly chubby face creased into a smile. "Mista Az!"

"Why, if it isn’t Miss Katania!" Azrael said, laughing and scooping her up. He spun her around and around, the little girl shrieking with laughter.

"Kat? Who is it?" The woman appeared on the doorway with a baby on her hip. She was short, with long brown hair and wide brown eyes. She wore a pair of cats-eye glasses and a long white lab coat. She smiled when she caught she caught sight of Azrael, who was setting Katania back on the ground.

"Azrael Maiden! Where have you been?"

Azrael hugged her gently, being careful of the little one. "You know me, Shera. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere."

Shera began to say something when she realized that Azrael wasn’t alone. She began to smile at Dinah, but then she noticed Reno. The smile faded from her face, and she took a step back. "Azrael? What is this?"

"I must admit, Shera, that this isn’t just a social call. May I present Dinah Selby and Reno Lynley. Reno, Miss Selby; Shera Highwind."

Dinah smiled and murmured, "Hello," while Reno nodded to the rocket engineer.

"What is he doing here?" Shera asked, making it clear who she was talking about.

Another voice called out from inside the house. "Hey Sheer! Did I hear someone at the door?" A man appeared behind Shera. He was of medium height, with blonde hair held back by a pair of flight goggles and icy blue eyes. He wore a navy blue flight jacket, and a pair of forest green pants with dark brown hiking boots. His eyes lit up at the sight of Azrael.

"You’ve been gone for a while, Az! How’ve ya been?"

"I’ve been good, Cid. And you?"

"We’ve-" Cid abruptly stopped. "What the f-" Shera’s hand went over his mouth as she nodded to the wide-eyed Kat. Shera took her hand away, and Cid grinned sheepishly for a second. "Whoops."

"Kat, why don’t you go inside and play with your brother?" Shera suggested.

"Okay, Mommy!" The little girl ran into the house happily. The adults all stared at each other for several long seconds.

"Az, what the hell is this?" Cid finally asked.

"Cid, this is Dinah Selby and Reno Lynley. Miss Selby, Reno; Cid Highwind."

"Ma’am," Cid said distractedly, tipping his head slightly to Dinah. Then he turned back to Azrael. "Why is there a Turk on my doorstep, Az?" His voice was calm and level. Azrael winced, knowing well the signs of his friend’s dangerous temper.

I knew you weren’t going to make this easy for me, Cid… "Reno’s here because he and Miss Selby need your help."

"No way in hell I’m helping a Turk, Az!" Cid exploded. "He killed so many innocent people! How did you get involved with him anyway?"

"We’re old friends, Cid, from the days that we worked for Shinra. Would you please, for my sake, give these two a ride to Midgar on the Highwind? I’d do it myself, but I’d lose my job and subsequently my house if I did."

Dinah started. Midgar, huh? And he told me that was the one place we wouldn’t be going…

Cid smiled grimly. "’Fraid you’re outta luck. The Highwind’s under repairs at the moment."

"How long will it take?" Azrael asked in desperation.

Cid studied him closely. "You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?"

Azrael nodded, meeting Cid’s gaze. "He’s my friend, Cid."

Cid sighed. "The repairs won’t be finished for about three days. I guess I could give ‘em a right to Midgar once they’re done." He shook his head slowly. "I wouldn’t do his for anyone but you, Az."

Three days stuck in this dinky little place?! Reno thought in dismay. I’m gonna go crazy before this is over…

"Thanks, Cid," Azrael said in obvious relief. "You can just get them at the hotel when you’re ready, right?" He looked to Dinah and Reno, who nodded.

"The inn’s being renovated and is closed for six months," Shera said quietly.

That stopped Azrael. He turned for a moment to speak to Reno and Dinah. "I’d say that you could stay at my place, but that’d be the first place that Whitey and the others would look for you…" he mused.

"I guess we could stay in tents outside of town," Dinah said hesitantly. When Reno opened his mouth to speak, she fixed his with a glare. "Note the emphasis on tents. As in plural."

Shera broke in, shaking her head. "Not for three days, and certainly not in this weather. You can stay here."

"But Sher-" Cid started to protest, but Shera cut him off.

"They can stay here, Cid," she repeated firmly.

Cid sighed, then nodded. "Alright. But I’ll be watching you, Turk." He stomped back into the house.

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Highwind," Dinah said earnestly.

Shera waved it off. "It’s no trouble at all. And please, just Shera."

"Thanks Shera," Azrael said. Then he glanced back down toward the crude runway. "I’ve really gotta get goin’."

"Thanks for everything, man," Reno said in response.

Azrael grinned at him. "No problem, Reno, though you owe me one big time. Behave yourself now. I’ll see you later."

"Thank you, Azrael." Dinah smiled at him.

He kissed the back of her hand. "You’re very welcome. I hope to see you again soon, Miss Selby." Cool blue-gray eyes met warm brown for a moment, and Dinah was again struck by the familiarity of that gaze.

Then he turned away to look to Shera, who smiled at him sadly. "Are you sure you have to go now?" she asked.

Azrael nodded. "I’ve got a shipment to Wutai that just can’t wait."

"Bye Azrael," she said.

"Tell Cid, Kat, and Josh that I said bye." Azrael replied. He hugged her again, and patted the child in her arms on the head. "Bye Sheer." He strode down the snow-dusted path and was lost to sight.

Shera watched after him for a moment, then held the door open. "Won’t you come in?" Reno and Dinah went inside, shaking the snow from their boots. Dinah hung her jacket on the coat rack, then took a moment to look around. The house was good-sized, and they were apparently in the living room. The walls were a pale green color, with white trim, and there were several overstuffed armchairs and a couch around the room. Cid sat on the couch, reading a newspaper. There was a fire roaring in the fireplace, and Kat sat in front of it, playing with a boy that could only be her twin. Children’s toys were scattered on the floor, and a playpen was set up in a corner of the room. A large cabinet that Dinah figured hid the TV and stereo was directly across from the couch. Dinah could see the kitchen, the dining room, and a hallway that lead to a set of stairs from where she stood.

Reno caught a glimpse of Cid glaring at him before his newspaper hid his face. This is going to be an interesting three days…

Shera walked over and set the baby down in the playpen. She and Dinah apparently hit it off quickly, because they sat down almost immediately and began talking. Reno sank down in a chair, and Kat and her twin brother, who Reno assumed was the Josh that Azrael had mentioned, were immediately all over him; asking questions and pulling his hair.

"What’s your name?"

"Why’s your head on fire?"

"Why wasn’t Daddy happy to see you?"

"Why do you have sung’asses on your head?"

With Cid watching closely, all Reno could do was groan inwardly and start to answer their questions. I hate small children, I hate small children, I hate small children…


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