Through the Looking Glass Chapter 16
"We Hear Their Heartbeat"
By Lucrecia Marionette
Those who had seen the famous 'Midgar Offices' which had taken over from the Shinra HQ in the day to day running of the city, couldn't help but be amazed. It was true that they didn't reach up over 200 metres above the horizon like mans' threat to the gods. Nor did it display the most modern and efficient hi-tech systems and gadgets. No, the Midgar Offices were overwhelming in their old fashioned beauty in the heart of a thriving city. Their simplicity and elementary technological style gave them an approachable whilst unapproachable aura.
Cid couldn't recall ever seeing it before. He was certain he would have remembered. Now he stood on the deserted main street of Sector Three before the enormous flight of stairs which lead up to the building. There were possibly a hundred tiny marble steps acting as an altar for the prize at the top.
The Offices themselves were contained in a building which was the total opposite to the HQ which had run with an iron, computerised fist. The outside itself was marbled like the steps before it with massive, elegant columns keeping up an ornate roof.
The building was spread out across a large area of land rather than being built up and up. Because of this, it was only six stories high compared to the seventy which had been expected of it before. Ivy grew up the outside in well-trimmed and cultivated patterns; spiralling around windows and doorframes, outlining where the white marble ended.
If the Shinra HQ had been an accusing threat to the Powers That Be, the new Midgar Offices were a shrine.
Only he stopped and stared in wonder at the massive 'temple'. The rest who had seen it before were marginally less impressed, and although they paused and looked in breath-taking wonder at the place, quickly hurried on. He knew that neither Yuffie nor Sephiroth had laid eyes upon it before, but Yuffie's lamentation and Sephiroth's general coldness prevented them from staring for too long (not that he cared about the murdering warrior anyway).
Realising that in the time he had taken to stop and observe every minute detail and every delicate awning, they had already made it up the set of stairs, he awoke from his trance and sprinted up after them.
Despite the imposingly heavenly surroundings, he somehow felt embraced as they walked through the massive double doors into the main hall. He predicted that the building's defence didn't come in the form of modern card systems or guards with laser guns. You knew if you were welcome or not, and at that moment in time, Cid felt as though he was right at home.
"Hey!" called a voice. It was not a pleasant hail by any means and Cid's dreamy thoughts were jolted out of existence at the harsh sound. "Are you gonna stand around all morning or do I have to make you move?"
Cid looked up angrily and saw Reno standing with Rude beside a pair of elevators. He muttered to himself irritably and followed after the others as they walked over to the two Turks noiselessly. Thick, soft red carpet sprang beneath his feet and Cid knew he should really be thankful for the luxurious ground. Unfortunately, treading across mile upon mile of frosty earth had numbed his feet so badly, he was no longer sure that they were even there unless he looked directly at them.
With a light 'ping!' the elevator doors opened with a soft hiss and the Turks walked in. At the same time, the doors adjacent opened also. With an unspoken decision which was unanimous, AVALANCHE and Sephiroth walked away from the Turk's shaft and stepped into the other. Both of the lifts went up and after less than a minute opened out onto a new floor they predicted was at the top of the building.
Still playing their morbid game of 'follow the leader' (Cid thought that 'Following the back-stabbing, murderous Turk' was a more appropriate title) they made their way through mazes of plush hallways and corridors until they finally came to an end. There was a large waiting room with two doorways opposite them and spongy, rich seating ringing the room. A secretary's desk stood to one side of a massive window that was almost the size of a wall. It was covered with slitted blinds that were closed allowing diagonal shafts of early morning dawn to filter through.
Cloud knew that if he took the time to look through the gaps he would be able to witness the first signs of the city awakening to the hell which had taken place in Sector Six whilst they slept safely in their homes. He wondered if the blaze had even been put out yet.
Reno led them across the vast room to the left-hand door which had 'Vice Mayor Reeve R. Jameson' embossed onto a brass plate screwed into it. The twin entrance adjacent to it had a similar brass sign only with 'Mayor Bret Redford' upon it and slightly more detailed carvings on the wood.
Reno knocked twice, waited for a sign and then pushed open the large door. The small group entered and their eyes were immediately drawn to a large desk at the head of the room which stood before yet another large window. The room itself seemed to be taken from the old Shinra HQ. It was a contrast to the over ornate styling of the rest of the building with filing cabinets pressed up against the walls, black leather seating as opposed to red velvet couches. The only thing which had remained a constant was the thick, crimson carpet.
Cloud's head lifted at movement behind the desk. The high-backed, black leather chair swivelled around and Reeve leapt up. He ran from behind the desk and to Cloud's initial surprise ran over and embraced him.
"I thought you'd all died!" he exclaimed tearfully. "I heard reports from the journalists and mobs in the area that said the bar had been burnt to the ground."
He stopped as though realising how overly emotional he was being and took a few steps back to look at the group. He had a weary, but grateful smile on his face at the sight of his old friends. However it darkened as his searching eyes frantically attempted to locate something without avail.
"Cait." he murmured softly. His eyes widened and tears began to brim. "C, Cait?? Where is he??"
Tifa walked forward and Cloud didn't attempt to stop her. When it came to things like this, he inwardly wished that he wasn't even in the same room. The young woman moved over and held Reeve without the same vigour as he had shown with Cloud when they had first met. Reeve held her back and buried his face in her hair. She stroked his back.
"Shh. shh. ." She soothed gently as he wept quietly. "It's alright. . There was no way we could save him. He sacrificed himself for Yuffie. He wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way. . "
"He gave himself away?" Reeve asked quietly and Tifa nodded.
"You should be. so proud of him, Reeve." Tifa said and she felt her own cheeks wet with tears as she recalled her last view of the AVALANCHE member as he sat outside Yuffie's room, flames swirling around him. His little cape fluttering behind his back and that ever cheerful smile on his cattish features. Although she too now cried, a smile clung to her lips at the single memory. "He was so brave. so brave. I almost think that he knew something that we didn't. . But you should be so, so proud of him." her voice died out in a whisper and she felt Reeve sigh in her arms.
They broke away from each other and Reeve hastily wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He was not wearing his dark blue suit jacket, only his trousers and crumpled shirt which had the sleeves rolled messily up. Just by looking at him, it was more than obvious he had been living a nightmare. The Vice Mayor normally cared a lot for his appearance but now seemed to be in a worse state than they had seen him after his week's capture at the hands of Rufus.
He wiped his forehead with a handkerchief he pulled from a pocket and leant on the desk, looking out of the window over his chair. "It couldn't be helped, I suppose," he said softly. "You all meant the world to him. He couldn't have chosen a better way to-" he stopped and choked as though saying the word 'die' would inflict physical pain. Even the thought of it made him flinch. "He couldn't have chosen a better way to show how much he cared," he ended softly.
There was a long period of awkward silence before he finally stood up and turned back to them. "As long as you all got away safely." He stopped and glanced over the ensemble. "It looks like you could all do with some new clothes and somewhere to stay. There are bedrooms in the Offices for travelling executives. If I put you away in some of the less used ones, people needn't even know you are here. I'll get one of the medical staff to check you all over."
"That won't be necessary," Cloud responded. "Sephiroth and I know basic first aid from our training. Yuffie's the only one who was injured so it shouldn't be a problem." He looked at his friends. "The only things we need are rest and something to eat."
"What are you intending to do with yourselves?" Reeve asked. "It wouldn't be the most intelligent thing in the world to alert any of the public of your presence."
"Can you sneak us out or something'?" Cid questioned as he slumped down onto one of the leather chairs and started to rub some feeling into his feet. "I can take you all back to Rocket Town. The Highwind is there so we'll have to travel on foot and by boat but at least we'll be safe."
Cloud thought for a while. "We certainly can't stay here but we can't just crawl away and hide in some corner of the Planet. We still have a mission, remember?"
"The Vigilante." Sephiroth said grimly and for the first time, Reeve looked up and seemed to notice the silver-haired warrior.
"Bloody hell." he choked. "S, Sephiroth.??"
Sephiroth said nothing and seemed more than a little embarrassed by the unwanted attention. Sensing the sudden uncomfortable atmosphere, Tifa glanced between the two men.
"It's alright Reeve," she said eventually. "You know what happened in the Reactor. He's on our side now."
"Ye, yes. I don't doubt that. It just came as a bit of a surprise, that's all." The executive stumbled and Cid knew that if this were in any other situation he'd be on the floor laughing so hard his sides would feel like splitting.
But this was no joke. This was no moment for laughing although if Cait had been there, he probably would have thought differently. At that minor thought, Cid found a smile playing on his lips despite his best efforts. It looked like Cait could still fulfil his aim in life even though he wasn't there. A smile on every unhappy face was all he wanted. Was it too much to deny him that?
The slight smile turned into a grin and he shook his head. The entire situation was so dire he felt like just collapsing into hysterics for no reason at all. It's about time I went insane; he mused with a tinge of humour. The easy way out, huh?
"But Sephiroth's right," Cloud continued, ignoring the maniacal expression which appeared unprompted on Cid's weary face. "Whatever this Vigilante is, it's not friendly. Everything which has happened before now. something deep inside is telling me that it's all connected somehow. . "
Cloud's voice died out as he seemed to think, but before he could open his mouth to proceed, Reno stepped forward.
"I know that you're all fucking screwed in the head, but for God's sake," he exclaimed in disgust. "Don't seriously tell me that all the shit that's been going on has got something to do with some weird dream that your new best friend here had??"
He jerked his head towards Sephiroth but didn't so much as glance at the ex-General. Cloud's face darkened in response but he bit back his retorts and a warning glare at Cid warned the pilot to do likewise.
"Reno, you weren't even on our side during the Meteor Crisis. You have no idea what kind of eerie crap we had to put up with. Sure a dream may seem a stupid thing to base a quest onto you. But when two people share the same experiences and slip into comas for two days, then wake up with injuries which can't be explained, I think questions need answering."
"How do you know he didn't just hurt himself when you all left the room??" Reno yelled back, his fury fuelled by an anger which burned deep inside. "You haven't got a clue have you?? This mad bastard shows up after trying to destroy the planet and you welcome him with open arms. Then you go and jump at the first fucked up story he makes up and turn it into a holy crusade! If you ask me, you're all so depressed at settling down and starting normal lives, that the first chance to get out of here made you desperate." He stopped and stared maliciously at the room's occupants. "Even if it means that a few innocent people get sacrificed along the way."
"Reno that's enough!!" roared a furious voice and the entire planet seemed to fall deathly silent at the exclamation.
Slowly, their heads turned to Reeve, the unlikely source of the rage. His face was blotched an ugly red, and with his unkempt appearance and scruffy hair hanging over his eyes, he truly looked like a man possessed.
"I have. had enough of fighting. Enough of arguments; and I've had enough of everyone screaming and shouting at each other like five year olds!!" His voice began calm in an unsettling way, but it rose with every syllable until he was screaming at the end. "I have been up all night trying to write a damned speech which will keep the population of Midgar off our backs for the time being. None of us are safe because of our involvement in all of the catastrophes which have been going on. No one must know that AVALANCHE escaped the fire just as no one must know that the Turks were present at both the Reactor bombing and the HQ incident. Witnesses saw AVALANCHE at both with three unidentified strangers. Let's keep them unidentified shall we?"
Reno opened his mouth, but Reeve held up a firm hand and the fiery Turk shut it quickly.
"Because of that, we all have to look after each other and keep everything swept under the political carpet. In other words; AVALANCHE stay hidden and Turks, stay silent. You are all to lay low for now, that means putting up with each other. No arguments, no petty disputes no matter what has happened in the past. The past is the past no matter what anyone says, and as painful as it may be we have to put it behind us."
Although he made no direct mention, it was obvious to all in the room that the executive was consciously thinking of his creation, Cait Sith as he spoke his final words.
"For the time being, you will all be residents of the Offices until we can find away to sort this out. Rude, you will escort AVALANCHE and Sephiroth to the less used rooms. Make sure that you put up a sign of some sort to keep people away.
"Reno, find Elena and ask her where the hell my coffee is."
He marched around behind his desk and sat down on the chair, immediately turning it to face the window. It was more than obvious he was not eager to continue the conversation, although it had in truth been more of a monologue. With the quietness of school children who had been reprimanded and dismissed from a teacher's presence, they shuffled from the office and out into the waiting room.
Reno gave a final angry glance at the group and stormed away and through a dark corridor Cloud had not noticed on his entry to the vast chamber. Rude gave a subtle motion of his hand before leading AVALANCHE away from the closed door of Reeve's office and to their new residence until their dire situation changed.
They were taken hastily through corridors and rooms which all seemed exactly the same as the last. It was as though they were simply being moved through the same stretches of carpet over and over again to emphasise and exaggerate the enormity of the building. They would have believed that if it weren't for the occasional plant that happened to be in a slightly different place than its predecessor in a previous room. Or even the steadily increasingly numbers on the doors in the corridors. Cloud felt, in his weariness, that he was a hamster in a treadmill; travelling forever but always seeing the same scenery.
They eventually stopped. Rude stood to one side and pointed towards a line of four doors shrouded in shadow. Yuffie found a chill creep up her spine as she was reminded vividly of Vincent's room in his old apartment.
"You'll stay here for the time being," Rude announced.
Tifa noticed immediately that he lacked much of the anger or hatred that Reno had in his voice as he spoke to them. She even fancied that maybe there was a hint of sorrow in his quiet words as though he was apologising for his fiery friend's behaviour.
No, he was a Turk. An apology was far too much to ask. wasn't it?
"Elena or I will come and check up on you throughout the day in case you need anything. The rooms are all en-suite so there's water if you get thirsty. Food and medical equipment will be brought along shortly. Until then, and during the day you have to remain completely silent. If people even suspect that you are staying here, all hell will break loose," he finished.
Although the speech had been long for the stoic Turk, his manner and sentences had been clipped and unemotional as though he was simply repeating something he had been saying all his life. A phrase which had lost all meaning and sense but had remained as something which was nonetheless important.
To their tired ears however it was exactly that. They were aware that he was speaking and knew that his words were of importance. But the prospect of slipping into a warm bed with or without food and en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold water, showers, bidets or any other mod-cons was appealing enough on its own. Anything else was just too much to take in.
And so as he finished his sparse low-down on their residence and situation they simply nodded and turned to their rooms. Cloud and Tifa were the only pair to couple in a room whilst the others chose to remain separate. The thought of Sephiroth and Cid becoming roommates was almost enough to break Yuffie's solemn silence in a bout of giggles.
But without so much as a 'good-night!' or 'see you tomorrow!' they entered into their private sanctuaries and fell unconscious the second their heads hit the pillows.
Reeve's gaze looked out over the sector before him but focused on nothing. His eyes were numb, his body was numb and so the rest of the world was dead. Non-existent and utterly irrelevant.
It meant nothing any more. None of it did. Not exploding reactors, not ravaging fires nor even as Reno had so pleasantly phrased it, 'fucked up stories' which seemed meaningless anyway.
Cait was gone. Cait Sith, the member of AVALANCHE which had always brought so much happiness in his impish way had been eliminated, sucked in by the impartial fate that he had placed so much faith in. They said he had sacrificed himself so that the others could escape. Good Cait. good, brave, courageous Cait Sith whose friends had meant so much. Defiant, cheerful and somehow innocent despite everything that had happened.
Did he know? Did he understand everything that had happened? Or was the world around him taken in with the same childish innocence he seemed to give the impression of?
"He knew all right." Reeve breathed in a voice which was little more than his lips forming the motions around the sounds. "Aeris' death. the destruction of Midgar. He understood it all. He was good at hiding it all, better than any of the rest of us. He may have been viewed as little more than a happy commodity, but he knew and longed for more than we could ever understand. Maybe. Maybe in his own way, he comprehended more than we ever could.
"Did he know something we don't?" he questioned himself verbally, already forming an answer in his mind. "Poor Cait. . So childish in his manner but so much more underneath. Did you know something, my Cait? Did someone tell you something that you never passed on? Some important piece of information that we could never grasp? Did you get it, my Cait? Did you really?
"I wish I had your courage... I wish I had everything you had. Friends that loved, and still do love you. Respect, adoration and a firm belief in what is so hidden and secreted from the rest of the world.
". Or maybe not. . This Fate. this Fate that you praised so much. Was it little more than you desire to grasp something that was somehow all-powerful and knowing without falling into question? Or was there, and still is a greater plan and purpose for us?"
Reeve paused and a weak smile touched his lips. He reached up to wipe his face free of sweat, but was surprised to find tears streaming from his eyes. Surprise made way for dreadful sorrow as he elapsed into a sob and wept quietly into his hands, cradling his face in his handkerchief.
His ears closed to all sounds except the wracking sobs that tore through his ragged frame, he didn't hear the sound of soft footfall until it was too late. A shadow fell across the floor before him and his head jerked up to face the source.
Elena stood to once side of him, a mug of coffee in her hand. At the sight of the broken man before her, she put it down on the desk and knelt by his side awkwardly. She had spent most of the past few years with Reno and Rude, two men who would rather die than be caught in such a 'weak' position. She had almost forgotten than men could cry.
Acting instinctively however, she embraced him gently and allowed him to cry into her shoulder as Tifa had done barely an hour before. She found her hand stroking his back reassuringly and her mind filled with thoughts of pity and sorrow for his suffering. Had being a Turk for so long robbed her of so many more experiences like this?
The broken man continued to pour his grief out onto her for many minutes before his tears finally ceased running although his sorrow remained and continue to fester inside his soul like a wicked tumour.
"I'm all right now," he said quietly as she stood and took a few steps back. "I'm. just really tired. That's all. I need sleep. but I can't"
In truth he wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to sleep again. Images of the cat that had effectively become his son sitting amidst flames that charred and destroyed everything in their reach were too strong to push back. Whenever he closed his eyes he knew that for an eternity he'd see that before him. He suppressed another sob and choked it back, coughing into his white hankie as he physically gagged on the emotion.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Reno told me. . "
He nodded and held up his hand weakly. "You don't have to say anything," he responded. "I don't want any pity. I'm not the one who is gone for God's Sake."
He almost gave a bark of laughter at his curse. God? What God could exist that stole the life of the innocent and pure in such a cruel fashion??
She nodded solemnly. "Even so. if you want anything, you just have to call."
He gave her a forced smile in return. "Sure. Thanks, Elena."
He shrugged. "I don't know." He glanced at his desk. "For the coffee."
She smiled in return but there remained a look of motherly concern on her face which Turk or not could never be removed. "You need to rest and I won't hear any excuses. Even if it's just for a few hours, you need some shut-eye."
He gave a reluctant confirmation. "Yeah. I guess so."
He stood slowly and moved over to one of the black, leather couches. He slumped down on it and immediately teetered over onto his side. His eyes closed quickly and a few minutes later he gave out soft snores.
Elena shook her head and draped his dark blue jacket over his shoulders before turning off the lights and finally leaving the office.
Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat.
We hear their heartbeat
In the wind
We hear their laughter
In the rain
We see their tears
Hear their heartbeat.
We hear their heartbeat
Night hangs like a prisoner
Stretched over black and blue
Hear their heartbeat.
We hear their heartbeat
In the trees
Mothers of the Disappeared,
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