Through the Looking Glass Chapter 12
Longing for Life
By Lucrecia Marionette
Yuffie rested her head on her folded arms; heavy eyelids drooping over tired eyes as her ears heard although didn't comprehend Cloud's spoken words. Cid had already fallen asleep leant up against a wall huddled into his bomber jacket as a chilly breeze blew through the large room. He snored softly perhaps in the unconscious knowledge of the important information being exchanged by the waking members of AVALANCHE and Sephiroth. The silver-haired general sat outside of the triangle created by Cloud, Tifa and Cait whose quiet conversation added a warming atmosphere to the otherwise cold and uninviting room.
She teetered on the edge of dreams and reality as her weary body longed for sleep and her mind attempted to focus on the words spoken. However she was too numbed by the day's activities to remain in her limbo state and the warm oblivion of sleep started to weave its spell on her mind.
Letting out a contented sigh she shuffled to slip into her final resting position and sank into her idle fantasies and dreams; the soft, comforting murmur of her companions' chatter acting as a pleasant lullaby. However, despite the utter aura of peace, there was a nagging sensation at the back of her mind. She grunted irritatedly and attempted to thrust it back but it persisted to grow in intensity until she opened her eyes angrily and glanced around the kitchen.
Since she had first laid her head down on her arms, the black sheeting had once more been hung up over the gaping holes in the partition wall between the kitchen and barroom. They had been pinned down securely; the only thing disturbing them was the occasional light breeze which had died down dramatically since the previous evening and now only feebly rustled the black division. She shifted her curious gaze over to the gathering of friends and Sephiroth that sat in the corner of the room previously occupied by Vincent talking about the very same demon.
How had her thoughts wandered back to him? She hated not understanding almost as much as she hated not being able to take action and this was seriously starting to get on her nerves.
I must just miss him she reasoned with a shrug. He's only been here a few weeks and has been forced to go again. I should stop getting so attached to things, I guess. If there's one thing I should know in this world; nothing lasts forever.
An almost silent, melancholy sigh escaped the young woman's lips. A sound which would have been more than out of place on her person six years ago before she'd encountered the people whom she now regarded higher than her own family. That was sad, she thought to herself with a grim smile. My dad's the ruler of a tourist trap and the only ones I can turn to for attention are a bunch of weird people who were somehow dragged together to save the world. Her dour smile changed to one of happiness. There was something oddly reassuring about that fact.
The expression of contentment still upon her young lips, she started to settle back down but as soon as her head touched her fleshy pillow, the nagging sensation she had felt before returned with a vengeance. Realising that it was not about to fade away, she gave an irritated sigh and sat up straight, her eyes bleary and her body numb. The others who were talking didn't seem to experience the strange feeling that she sensed and with a grudging moan, she pushed herself up off the table and stood.
Noticing the young woman's movement from the corner of her eye, Tifa turned to face the ninja from her position across the room. 'You okay?' she mouthed and Yuffie nodded in return. The older woman turned back to the quiet conversation and Yuffie took the time to glance around the battered room a final time before making her way through the shattered doorway into the bar.
Once there, she stopped and glanced around. There was nothing but blackness in a room which had once been full of happy chatter and cheerful people. She almost smiled to herself as she thought of the days she had come her in her brief stay in Midgar. She loved all the hustle and bustle of the big city where it was so easy to get lost but you were never without a friend. She felt up the inside of the doorway until her fingers met a small box with a switch. She clicked it on and the light-bulbs dotted around the room in the fake chandeliers flickered weakly and buzzed out their last glimmer of illuminance before dying for the last time.
She pulled a face and took a step into the once cosy room, looking down as the floor went crunch beneath her feet. Bending down, she noticed multicoloured shards of glasses and bottles paving the polished wood floor like gems. Sniffing from the strong scent of alcohol and past lives she felt suddenly reluctant to walk out into the room where it seemed like the ghosts of the patrons haunted. Vincent's victim which he'd slayed when emerging from the kitchen had been removed and taken out to the street where it had been dragged away by the Midgar Police although the gruesome stain remained. No charges had been pressed; they couldn't exactly hold AVALANCHE responsible for the actions of a raging monster. Unfortunately that didn't stop the accusing people of Midgar.
That thought on her mind, she stepped lightly across the grinding glass underfoot and moved slowly over to the gaping hole in the brickwork. Like the hole in the kitchen wall, it too had been covered tightly with plastic sheeting which rustled and shimmered in the slight breeze from outside. Feeling the need to get some air other than the alcohol laced atmosphere in the bar, she moved over to the sheet and pulled up a stool, brushing the thin layer of white plaster and glass from it. She positioned it beside a small but noticeable hole in the cover; an inconspicuous wind gushed from it like clean water into a septic pool. Like the metaphor, it was poisoned the second it entered the confined space although it served to marginally to dilute the strong, dizzying fumes floating up from the shattered spirit bottles.
She leant her head up against the crumbling brickwork and stared out of the gap and up to the sky. It was once again perfect. It had been so for the past few weeks aside from the occasional grey and overcast day. The stars flickered like silver torches whirling silently around the heavens and framing the masterpiece on the canvas; the pearly moon. She smiled to herself. She loved such perfect sights; a strong contrast to herself which was often full of muddled thoughts, opinions and was generally contradictory in every possible way. However, as wonderful as the night-sky was, the very fact that it was an image of how the sky had been for the past few weeks made it seem less brilliant. She found herself wishing for a wild storm or even a fresh showering of snow.
Sinking into her thoughts and allowing the cool air to wash over her, she started to close her eyes once more with the imprint of the silvery orb on the inside of her eyelids. Her worries slipping away with every light whisp of fresh air that tickled her skin, she was suddenly startled to hear voices approaching from down the street.
Her small body tensed and her gaze shifted its admiring stare of the heavens to dart suspiciously around the seemingly deserted cobbled street. Eventually, deep brown eyes focused upon a group of men walking towards the bar from Sector Five. Her breath caught in her throat and she stifled a cry of horror as she watched them get nearer and nearer. Even in the pure light from the moon, their faces were stained with malicious deeds and thoughts; around their shoulders and waists they carried weapons and threats.
She stayed frozen and not breathing in fear of detection as they finally stopped outside the front of the bar and started conversing quietly which each other. There were about ten men in the group all with obvious motives. She strained to hear their words without avail and eventually slid off her stool and tiptoed painstakingly across the glass and back to the kitchen. Once there, she exhaled the breath she'd been holding in loudly and all heads in the room turned to face her; even Cid stirred wearily and focused his attention on the young woman.
"What's goin' on?" he asked with an exhausted frown.
"People... outside," she answered breathlessly and a wave of alarm surged through the room. "They have weapons and they were looking at the bar." she added when her breathing had returned to normal although her pulse was racing.
The simple announcement had an immediate reaction on her friends as chairs were hurled back and they leapt to their feet.
"People??" Cloud exclaimed. "How many??"
"I, I don't know. Ten, maybe fifteen. All men from what I could tell," Yuffie reported uncertainly.
"Shit," swore Cid grabbing the Venus Gospel from nearby. "Let's get it on!!"
"Wait, Cid!" cried Tifa to prevent the pilot from bursting out the kitchen door. "That's not a good idea!"
"I have to agree," nodded Sephiroth. "If we go out there and fight them, then there'll be no way of turning around and denying our part in this."
"The guy's right, Cid." added Cait shuffling over to him. "Reeve's tryin' his hardest to keep you safe, but if you go and screw it all up; there won't be anythin' he can do. Just sit back and maybe I should go and talk to them."
Cloud shook his head. "You're Reeve's confidante; if they see you out there then we're all up to our necks in it."
"Then what the hell do you suggest we do??" Cid exploded.
"Just sit back an' wait for now," Cait answered soothingly. "If we just call Reeve then-"
"Phone line's dead." interrupted Tifa grimly as she put the phone back down on the bench.
"The bastard's must've cut it," swore Cid as he sat down angrily. He looked up from his sulking position at the others. "Now d'ya think we can do something??"
Cloud said nothing and simply turned to look through the open kitchen door towards the bar. "Reeve might hear about this and try to help." he said eventually.
"Yeah, might," Cid retorted with a sigh. "So do we just wait this out?"
"It'll probably be the best thing to do," replied Cait. "They might not even do anything. They could just be tryin' to scare y'all. Some of these people are gonna be all talk and no action."
"Is it worth the risk?" asked Sephiroth quietly.
Cloud shrugged. "There's no use thinking about it. We're already starting to scare ourselves and panicking is the worst thing we can do right now. Let's just get some sleep and hope that they've gone by the morning."
"We'll need someone to keep watch." piped up Yuffie and Cloud nodded thoughtfully.
"I'll do it." volunteered Cait as he glanced up at the AVALANCHE leader. "Y'all look exhausted. I don't need the sleep."
Cloud felt visible exhaustion touch his usually stern visage. "Very well, Cait. You can be our lookout."
"The spyin' cat, turned watch-dog, huh?" Cid laughed and Cait raised his eyebrows.
"I object to that!" he answered half-heartedly which only made Cid laugh further.
"C'mon then." Tifa sighed wearily. "Let's go to bed; we can talk again in the morning."
Cait Sith sat silently with his eyes trained to the sky and his ears half on the hushed conversation of the city people that had placed the occupiers of Tifas Seventh Heaven under siege. He had volunteered to keep watch; his friends needed the rest more than anyone else on the planet at that point. The overwhelming shock of a new threat to them and every other living thing was tiring terrible enough without the days hellish activities.
They had spent much of the afternoon moving like zombies around the building since Vincents departure; that much was clear. From the second he had shuffled in through the back door with his cheery demeanour and happy-go-lucky front it wasnt overly hard to detect no matter how hard they tried to act as normal. He only wished that there was something he could do. Agreeing to keep watch was the very least.
He expelled a weary sigh and shuffled his paws on his post. Mog remained sentient but stationary as always; oval, shiny black and unseeing eyes focused ahead on nothing but air. Cait patted the white robotic steed on the head and it held a huge hand above its head. Cait nimbly stepped onto it and was lowered gently to the ground where he took a few steps away and then turned back to the dumb object.
"Im putting you in charge," he stated with an air of authority. "That means that you have to keep a lookout. If those fellas out there start doing anything suspicious then you make some noise. Got it?"
Mog gave a feasible impression of a nod and returned to its original position. Cait gave it a final glance before turning away and walking towards the kitchen door idly kicking shards of glass out of his way and watching them with mild interest as they skittered across the floor with a light tinkling. Who would have thought that watch would be so boring?
Like the others he too missed the way things had once been. As soon as Tifa had contacted him all those weeks ago about Cloud and Vincents failed expedition to the HQ he had felt more like his old self than he had done for the three years he had been blessed with AI.
Reeve had seen it fit to program him with his memories of the entire Meteor Crisis. In effect he was the Cait that they had travelled the world with regardless of the fact that it had truly been Reeve controlling the most technologically advanced puppet of the time. He had never thought of himself has being like that. Although he knew his origins and limitations, he was in his mind, an equal to the rest of AVALANCHE with Reeve as like a father to him. Who knows? He had often thought to himself, Maybe theres a place for me in the lifestream seeing how I helped saved the world an all?
He walked with his front paws clasped behind his back through to the abandoned kitchen. Cids loud and obnoxious snores rattled out from the lounge door and the small black and white cat smiled to himself. How many times had he played tricks on the old pilot? How many times had they sat and played cards late into the night? He grinned. How many times had he forced the Captain into bankruptcy?
He took the time to glance around the room. The lights were off; it appeared as thought he generator in the basement had finally cut out. Dribbly candles sat inert on the worktops, half-melted having extinguished in their own wax. The slight breeze continued to drift steadily through the holes in the black sheeting and it ruffled his synthetic fur without causing him to shiver to complain. As realistic as he had been designed to be, temperatures could be gauged but never taken heed of. He almost sighed to himself; to some that was probably an advantage but to him it was a reminder of his own lifelessness.
The others didnt know much of what went through his mind. He was at the best of times cheerful, happy and there to lift the most downtrodden spirits; he didnt mind that. There was nothing he loved more than putting a smile on a tear streaked face and watching the corners of the most dour lips turn upwards. There was more to him than that though. The part of him which loved his friends in a way that would make any human proud and the way that he longed for so much more. Inwardly he longed to be just like them; not in body but in soul. He didnt have a spirit; just cold metal and wires controlling him and it saddened him more than anything else. Despite his deep sorrow he pushed it back. It wasnt in his nature to be miserable, it wasnt a part of his programming to wish beyond his state.
It didnt stop him though.
A small, inconspicuous tear rolled down his furry face and he brushed it to one side. What am I? He thought to himself seriously, a member of AVALANCHE or Palmer? He made himself smile and with that walked over towards the door to the living area.
He pushed it open lightly and clambered up the stairs like a cat on all fours, pausing at the top to sniff the air. He glanced to the doorway on his left and heard stifled, barely audible coughs.
"Sephiroths room," he announced quietly to himself.
Walking along the landing for a few metres he stopped outside another door and placed a gloved paw against it to push it open. His cattish eyes fell upon a figure wrapped up tightly in a quilt on sheets that had been laid across a series of crates as a crude bed.
"No dont go. Not now youve only . only just got here . Vincent wait ." the figure murmured in her sleep deliriously.
Cait padded into the room and up to Yuffies bed. He placed his front paws on the top of the crates and looked into her face. It was contorted in malady and bad dreams. He frowned and tilted his head until it was at the same angle as hers.
Out of all the members of AVALANCHE he had a unique bond with the young ninja. Both classified as the young members of the group, they had naturally been drawn together. They never talked of serious things like the adults would; they preferred to "plan who they would attack with a bucket of water next" or "who they would jump out on to scare witless". They were both alike in their innocence despite their travels and while she loved his fortune skills and terrible jokes, he loved her vivacious personality and ability to get away with murder.
"Yuffie?" he whispered softly and immediately her expression broke to a peaceful mask. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah Im just great." She mumbled in return although her eyes never opened. He suspected that she was still deeply asleep. "Has Vincent come back yet?" she asked slurringly. " That man with the big knife keeps on keeps on trying to find me ."
"Dont worry," Cait soothed. "Everythingll be fine. Vincent will be back soon; Im sure of it and until he gets back Ill keep that guy away, huh?"
"Thanks Cait ." she breathed finally before snuggling deeper into her covers and turning away.
Once her breathing was even he smiled to himself and left the room, walking left to patrol the remaining rooms. Most of them were empty; the house was large but many of the rooms were still occupied by boxes and crates which had never been unpacked. Tifa and Cloud had made many friends on their journey and when they moved to Midgar together they had received truckloads of gifts. Out of politeness Tifa had refrained from throwing half of them away and had instead opted to keep them boxed up to save them the agony. He smirked to himself as he recalled the many nights he had spent with the couple in the bar and they had confided such information to him knowing that he would find delight in their humorous tales.
Cait finally stopped at the last door at the very end of the landing which faced him. He pushed it open as he had done Yuffies and padded in.
Cloud and Tifa lay in a large bed which took up half of the floor space in the room. When the small cat stood on his hind legs he smiled happily to himself as he saw the couple together. Tifa lay with her back to Cloud facing the window whilst he lay pressed up against her, his left arm encircling her waist. As he watched, Tifa let out a deep sigh and Cloud shuffled slightly, drawing her even closer.
Theirs was a strange relationship, there was no denying that. They had grown up together like brother and sister and throughout the Meteor Crisis they had grown increasingly close; from the moment he had first met them to when he had saved her from a grave in the bubbling lake of Mako which had risen after Sephiroths death.
His first death Cait reminded himself.
It was obvious that they were made for each other. Although Aeris and Cloud had originally seemed perfect, their love had been a spiritual one whereas the one between Tifa and the ex-SOLDIER had been based on memories and emotions. Nothing lies deeper than memories; nothing can affect the future as much as the past.
For many years they had shared the same bed; it was a mutual decision although it meant nothing. It just seemed like the right thing to do. They had always been too shy to express their emotions; always too scared of the consequences. Sleeping in the same bed had been a testy way of exploring each others emotions but of course it had come to nothing. Cait had only just heard of Clouds hasty expression of his love to Tifa and even now it made him smile. It was just like the blonde haired warrior. Unplanned, awkward and overly cautious
Cait shook his head. He was a robot and even he knew that they would be perfect. He stayed like that for a while longer simply silently observing them; mapping their faces and content expressions in his mind like a photograph remembering them just how they were. He would have stayed all night if he could have; but an almost silent thudding caused him to prick his ears and turn sharply towards the doorway. He focused his senses upon the noise and listened more carefully.
It was rhythmic and soft; too regular to be footfall and too close to be coming from outside.
After a brief seconds thought, his eyes widened in alarm and he scampered quickly from the room and down the stairs into the kitchen. The thumping was closer and with a sudden rush of speed he darted into the shattered bar where Mog was thumping its heavy fists against the floor in a way that was probably inaudible to a human. He rushed over to the white, furry mount and it ceased its beat.
"What is it, Mog?" he asked urgently but in a low tone.
The robotic beast turned slightly to the tiny gap in the sheeting and then back.
Mog nodded and Cait leapt onto its head. Supporting himself on the raw, crumbling brickwork Cait stared out onto the street. The number of men milling around on the street had increased dramatically until now their murmured conversation sounded like the subdued hum of a reactor with the same hidden dark secrets.
The crowd stood with their backs to the bar and as Cait watched with horrid anticipation a figure who seemed to be the head of the group started moving around on the opposite side of the street. He began to talk and the others fell silent but his speech was too hushed even for Caits ears.
A sense of drama started to build with the restrained expectancy of their move and Cait started to move around irritatedly. What were they saying? By the way that they were continuously casting backward glances at the bar it was obvious their motives were not positive. As one particular man turned, Cait was forced to duck down to avoid detection. If he had a heart he knew that it would have been pounding in his ears, however he swallowed through fear regardless and dared to peep over his barrier once more.
The entire crowd had turned back to face the gutted building once more and he watched curiously as a match was lit further back in the group. His head tilted to one side curiously he pondered the sudden action. However his thoughts were immediately shattered as the delicate radiance of the match exploded into a wide malicious flame. His eyes came to focus on a tattered piece of cloth which had been set alight in one of the mens hands. The cloth burned vividly, almost unnaturally and Cait was certain that the mans hand was about to get burnt. As he narrowed his eyes in thought however he noticed that the cloth was not being held nakedly; it was hanging out of a large bottle clasped in the hands of its holder.
Horror overwhelmed his senses with the shock of realisation and with movements that seemed unbearably slow, he turned and leapt just as the bottle was drawn back behind the mans head.
The cat turned back to Mog his eyes wide and his voice laced with urgency. "Mog! RUN!!" he cried.
The arm was moved forward and the grip released. The bottle left his grip and began to move at an incredible speed towards the black sheet.
Cait scrambled panicking up the half-broken stools which lay battered in the broken glass. Mog slowly realised the importance of Caits order and started to bound after him.
The speed and heat of the flaming missile tore open and melted the feeble black sheet as it made impact.
Cait jumped onto the bar whilst Mog bounced around it. Mogs momentum and lack of grip on the gravelly glass made it slip and the momentum slammed it into the wall. It rebounded and lay stunned on the floor. Cait leapt.
The bottle shattered on the softly polished wooden floor and the flames burst out in a circle from their origin like ripples on a twisted lake. They spread out onto the alcohol soaked carpet of glass and the resultant explosion tore through the room; glass was sprayed out like gunfire and the black sheets were ripped from their secure fastenings.
The shockwave hit Cait and he was hurled through the gaping hole to the kitchen like a bullet, slamming against the far wall and landing painfully on his head where he lay and moaned from the agony. When he finally opened his eyes, they were misted with tears as he looked upon the flames licking through the hole in the brickwork staining the white, white kitchen terrible black.
"Im sorry," he whispered choking on his voice. "I failed ."
Go To Chapter 13
Return To FF7 Fanfic