Redemption Chapter 30

By Janet Monstwillo

"I thought we were running."

Cloud turned to his green-eyed companion. "Where can we run?"

Aeris was silent for a moment, contemplating the question.

He stared down the dusky bluffs. Down, down...the bottom of the gorge beneath him was Cosmo Canyon. Behind him lay the gnarled mass that was the Forest of the Ancients. Beside him sat the sister of the person they flew from. "I cannot think of a safe place for us to go, except to watch for him, then fly in the opposite direction–fly." He emphasized the word.

"You really think that he could overtake the two of us?"

"Do you think either one of us could bear to lay a hand on him?"

Clutching the satchel close to her body, Aeris shook her head a bit. "I would do whatever it took to save him from himself."

"He has to want to be saved, Rissy." Cloud sighed and ran his hand through the sand, letting it sift through his fingers. "He has to have something to fight about, something to fight for, and something to fight with."

"I have faith in him."

"I want to," he said softly, "I want to. But it took a tragedy staring me in the face to begin to snap me out of it. I hope it won't come to that point for Patrick."

She bit her lip and gazed down into the canyon. "I...I see something!"

Cloud snapped to attention and peered down past where Aeris was pointing. "That's a Gold Chocobo and..." He squinted, trying to make out the indefinite shadows in the distance.

"Two people," she murmured. "He's got's too small to be my dad." There was a hint of strain in her light intonations, and Cloud squeezed her arm. "My gut tells me we have to hop on our bird now and go whichever way they're not..."

He read the tone of her voice. "You're conflicted, though."

"My heart tells me we have to go protect Zuri. She has her magic skills, but they're not totally developed, and Patrick could have overpowered her."

"What if he's luring us in? This could all be just a trap."

"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do all in my power to protect her and try to save him also. This may be the best opportunity we ever have," Aeris said thoughtfully. "After all, we only ran because we wanted to make sure no one got hurt."

"And we shouldn't keep running just to save ourselves, is that what you're saying?"

"Absolutely." A weak smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

Cloud half-smiled in return before softly planting a kiss on her cheek. Making a step from his hands, he stood in front of his chocobo. "When it comes to saving the world, ladies first."

Aeris climbed up onto the bird, holding it steady as he hoisted himself up behind her. Once his arms were tightly around her waist, she guided their mount and quickly rode after the golden streak that was disappearing over the eastern horizon.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Raieyana paced the deck of the Highwind II, wondering if she could possibly have done the right thing. She couldn't have gotten the PHS call from Reeve more than half an hour ago, and she was rushing back to Cosmo Canyon.

(I should have said something to Vincent or Yuffie.) Truth was, she simply didn't have the strength in her to be the bearer of still grimmer news to people who had already had so much loss in one night.

The ship flew steadily to the southeast, the horizon line softly lightening. The blacks gave way to grays giving way to a purple-pink shade. Sunrise wasn't far off. (It's been quite some time since I've stayed up this long without sleep.)

Kati and Ishmael huddled together near the railing. Raieyana watched them, a pained expression on her face. (Should I have even told them?) She had been talking to them when the call came, and the pain in her eyes was something that would not be hidden.

She turned and faced the rock formations that steadily approached nearer, sighing as she thought about the look on her son's face as he boarded the Highwind. It was a look she knew well. Vengeance, a loss of compassion, burning... She'd seen those eyes before and known the vows that were silently recited in Ishmael's mind, for she'd lived to see them executed.

(He really does look like Reeve.) Raieyana's thought came quietly as one tear managed to slip past her reserve, tracing a line down the curve of her face. After a small lurch, she recognized the dusky cliffs surrounding them and made her way to the ladder.

She threw it over the railing and descended into Cosmo Canyon. It was time to greet emptiness once more.

He'd seen the look of hollow sadness once before, and that time it was his fault. Reeve watched the love of his life climbing down before him, wondering if she could forgive him for this time, too. (Ah, but she doesn't even know I am to blame for Reno. Would she even forgive that?)

"How are you?"

(She asked the same thing over the PHS after she heard the news, how can about me when her son, her daughter, are all in danger?) He shook his head. "I am no one to be concerned about."

"Of course you are." Raieyana wrapped her arms around his waist the very same way she'd always done, for years. "Your children are out there in danger."

He turned his head away.

"Reeve." Her voice was firm. "You raised Patrick from birth. You've had just as much influence on him as on Riss and Ishmael, if not more."

"It makes what I have done the more wrong."

Kati and Ishmael quietly disappeared inside Tifa's home, avoiding the emotional discussion in front of them.

"No one's perfect, Reeve."

"I just regret that I have fallen so far from it. Mistake after mistake has fallen through my hands..."

Raieyana buried her head in his chest. "Don't go guilt-trip on me now. You've done better than many others could have in a similar situation."

"That's bullshit, Ray."

She looked up at him in a shocked silence.

"I turned him out in Undor-Hai after you got sick, though he saved your life. I have done things that I never could bear to tell you, lest you think me worthless."

"If my approval was so fickle, it would be meaningless anyway."

"I watched so many people die in Midgar, I betrayed Cloud first before he ever–"

"And my father was a Turk. He killed in cold blood and delivered good people over, but I still always loved him. Because he knew in the end, what he had done and felt remorse. That's all that matters." She warmly took his hand. "You wouldn't say these things to me if you didn't feel remorse. It's all that can matter to me. I can't lose you now, too...not when I feel I've lost all my children."

Reeve broke away, seemingly oblivious to her statements. "I went to Midgar tonight." (So afraid to lose her, I once did horrible things, but she has to know, or this will all mean nothing.) "In all these years, I never paid respects to Jack once."

"You were always welcome to join me," she said softly.

"I didn't do it before because there was always some part of me that wasn't sad. He did what he did voluntarily...and I know he had cheated death many times before. He told me on the flight over there, on that day...that he wished he'd been a hero, just once. Told the guy he already was one, but it wasn't enough for him I guess."

"Honey, nothing else could have been done that day. I'm just thankful that everyone was spared, considering they were there to save my son, unselfishly."

Raieyana bit her lip, hoping she could ease his conscience. The little things had always seemed to burn Reeve to the core. (Has he ever had peace?)

"Well..." He choked back the urge to just meekly say that he knew that and accept a loving embrace. "I can't hold it back any longer."

A weird look came into her eye. "Hold what back?"

"I knew the override code for the plate drop, too."

She smiled wanly. "But Reno volunteered so quickly, I'm sure you would've if he hadn–"

"That's not what I meant," he said somberly. "Mine was a simple cancel." The last few words were barely above a whisper.

"Oh." Raieyana looked like she'd just been stabbed. "" She slowly slipped to her knees, half in shock.

"I know this doesn't make it any better, but I didn't mean for him to die."

"How could you have no remorse?" A stray tear dropped from her cheek to the sand.

"I locked it away a bit, but part of me died that day. Many times since, I have wished that I'd just sacrificed the rest of myself instead of my integrity and my friend." His eyes glanced at the ground. "I found this, tonight. There's no doubt in my mind that you were the one meant to have it."

Something cool and metallic was slipped in to her palm right before he walked out onto the sand dunes. Raieyana glanced down and saw the gold plating glinting in the early morning light. "Combat tag," she whispered. Inside her, Reno died a second time.

Chapter 31

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic