Redemption Chapter 25
By Janet Monstwillo
"Is she still in her room?"
"Yes," said Yuffie softly. "But things are a little better. I think I got her to eat a piece of bread."
"Are you going to hop up and down, then spin in a circle?" Vincent smiled sadly.
"Right now, it is enough to make me do that old victory dance of mine." She sighed. "I wish we could find out what exactly happened with Patrick. The three that saw him last aren't exactly being talkative, though."
"Did you ask Zuri if I could see her today?"
"Yeah. She still says no."
His eyes closed in pain. "I just want to tell her I forgive her."
Wrapping her arms around him, Yuffie held him tight. "I know Vince, I know."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Is this sand taken?"
Cloud looked up into a pair of soulful green eyes. "Of course not, there's always room for one more to watch the canyon at dusk."
"Sane people stay around the Cosmo Candle. I didn't expect you to be sitting right in my favorite spot of the desert." Aeris sat down next to him on the blanket.
"Well...I do kinda hope you're the only other one out to find this spot."
"One of those moods?"
"I don't think anyone's broken out of `one of these moods' yet."
She smiled weakly. "I guess not. We freed those people at Alcor, but the company isn't safe...and I've lost my brother. I wish I could've told him that I didn't think he was an outcast."
Cloud carefully wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure he knows it somewhere deep inside. We just have to find a way to get down to him, and reach his inside." He lowered his eyes. "I know that from experience."
"Then there's hope for Patrick." Aeris touched his chest, right over his heart. "If you came out of it, so can he. We just have to be strong, those of us that love him."
"It wasn't easy, Rissy. I was plagued for years."
"I can see...that if we can win him back...we'll be able to make sure no one is ever troubled like you again."
He met her eyes. "I was told that before...in a dream."
"Rather convincing, wasn't it? If it managed to get you out of hiding and into store-bought clothes." Aeris grinned. "You know, for Pat's sake, this mood has to break sooner or later."
"Zuri's little name has grown on me."
"He's worth saving, even if he weren't my son."
"We can only save him by being our old selves. Daring, sarcastic, and everything." Suddenly, Aeris hugged him tight. "I'm depressed too, but I'm getting sick of all the doom and gloom down there."
He stroked her hair thoughtfully. "Yeah...I'm action guy...starting to get antsy after two weeks of this."
"I'll talk to Zuri later. She'll be important."
"Yeah." Cloud sighed. "I think we missed sunset."
"Oh, I'm sorry. And now it's dark...gloomy time?" She smiled.
"Nah, Riss. I was still looking at something beautiful."
Cloud had been expecting a blush or some words of denial, but was very surprised. There was a barely audible "thanks," and then a set of soft, full lips pressed against his own...then the world ceased to spin.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Tifa had probably exhausted Cosmo Canyon's supply of black clothing, all of which was now residing in the closet where Azura had been staying. She had been there in Raieyana's old private room, ever since she stepped off the Airship from Junon.
Not that it really mattered what she wore. Azura hadn't left the room, except to bathe. She barely touched the trays of food Yuffie carried in to her.
From day one, she had made it clear. She wasn't coming out, and only Yuffie and Tifa could enter.
She didn't cry, shout, write, or sleep. Mostly, she sat on the bed, which hadn't been unmade since she'd arrived.
No one had any idea what she had been doing.
Yuffie knocked softly on the closed door. "Honey?" After a minute or so without an answer, she cautiously opened it.
The room was empty.
Gasping, she glanced around the room to confirm her fears. Turning to the hallway, she called out. "Zuri?!"
Yuffie whirled back around. Much to her disbelief, Azura was right there, sitting on the still-made bed. "Umm..." She paused, confused. "Someone asked to speak with you."
"I don't want to see him. Still."
"It's not your father. It's Raieyana. She'd like to--"
"All right. But tell her I couldn't bear for it to be very long."
"Sweetie, she'll know." Yuffie walked away to get her.
Azura laid down against the pillows. (That was a close one. She almost thought I was gone.) She wasn't quite sure when exactly she realized that her magic could be cast without materia, but she had been practicing ever since. She'd invented spells never seen before on the books.
It had been a simple progression, that day. Float had become a complete levitation, which had turned into a mist transformation. She was getting very close to a teleportation spell, better than a simple Exit.
If she could target another person as well, she could abduct Patrick and force him back, she thought. (Even if it does work...and he can be made like he was again, would he even recognize me anymore?)
A soft voice broke the silence. "Azura?"
"No need for the formalities. Raieyana actually has less syllables." She nodded to the door. "May I?"
She closed it. "I think everyone else is afraid to say something, so I'll be the sensible one. You can't lock yourself in here forever. Patrick won't be saved like this."
"Oh no?" Azura dared Raieyana to challenge her, with her eyes.
"Of course not. Even if you can manage to magick yourself in there, wherever he is, you wouldn't take him by force. One of you would die."
"I don't care if I do."
Raieyana shrugged. "Too bad. You'd care if he died, others care about you, and if he's saved, he will care a whole damn lot."
"So what," Azura said, rolling her eyes, "do you have a way to get him?"
"I would never suggest that. This is a delicate situation. I think it's better to work together than alone. Even if Reeve and your father are wary of him and this whole mess, there are others here who really want the same thing you do."
"That's nice." She turned her head.
"If you cared, you'd get your ass outside so everyone could help you."
Azura stood up and ran over, enraged. "How dare you tell me what I feel!"
"I'm daring enough to try for results." Raieyana smiled sadly. "I got you off the bed, didn't I?"
Ashamed of herself, she looked down at her feet. "I'm afraid we won't ever get him back."
Hugging her, Raieyana attempted words of comfort. "If you let the fear lock you up inside, you never will."
"I have to find him" The tears began slowly. Hanging on for dear life, sobs wrenched her body, Azura finally let out the emotions that she had been hiding inside.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Reeve was sitting next to Vincent at the tavern. "I'm torn. I can't just ignore what instinct has been telling me for years...but Zuri's face...and his eyes...it wasn't Patrick. It's something that I helped build."
Vincent simply stared at his drink. Scotch on the rocks. Hard times called for hard drinks.
"I hope that the real Patrick hasn't...died."
"If he has, so will my daughter."
"She's stronger than that Vince--"
He held up his hand, to quiet Reeve. "Tifa and Red found that prophecy. Without Patrick...it may turn out that we all can just sign our death certificates."
"Reeve." Tifa quickly walked over to join them. "Raieyana wanted to know if you could find Rissy."
"I think she has this spot out in the desert..."
"You should probably get her. Ray and Zuri want to talk about a plan for finding Patrick."
Tifa ran out of the bar with Reeve. After a couple blinks, Vincent raised his drink to his mouth and downed the entire glass.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Cold eyes gazed down at the man from atop a gold chocobo. "What is your report?"
"All the caves here are empty of any Mako, let alone a large piece of red materia...just like the civilians said."
(A wild goose chase...my time wouldn't have been wasted if those damn simpletons hadn't looked like liars. They must pay...
But this is Zuri's home.
...the better to show that Patrick has finally embraced his true self.
I won't let this happen!
Just close these eyes and feel the rage. There's a reason why you always embraced it before...)
Patrick pointed his mount east, toward the Nibel mountains. "You can call the other men off. Tell Earlham the next target is Nibel."
"Yes, sir." The man turned to leave.
"Oh, one more thing." Patrick grinned. "Burn Wutai. Burn it to the ground and scatter the ashes."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Aeris lay down on the blanket, pulling Cloud down on top of her.
He kissed her gently, then raised an eyebrow. "You're gonna have so much sand in your hair."
"Wanna help wash it out later?"
"How'd you get ideas like that? You keep telling me you're like a little school girl."
"I can't help it." She reached up, stroking his face. "They come every time I look at you."
"I keep wondering about that, about us. It's not worth it to go on if this is merely physical."
"Can any people under these life and death circumstances come together and leave without a connection?"
Her answer came as he ran his hand along the length of her body, as he kissed her with a hunger known only to those who have been denied love.
Reeve saw this tender exchange as he reached the top of the plateau. If this had happened a couple weeks earlier, before Patrick had turned his back, Reeve would have killed Cloud. Or, at the very least, have wanted to.
But he had seen the pain in Cloud's eyes, and the gentleness in his touch as he led Azura away from Junon, even as she cried. There was no more room inside for the anger.
Reeve turned around and slowly walked back the same way he came.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic