Reunion Chapter 5
By Janet Monstwillo
Everyone had arrived at last. No one had actually expected everyone to come. Reeve was probably the most likely candidate anyone would have picked to blow off the meeting. But he was the first one there. And they all had a stake in this, whether through a grudge to the Shinra, or through the knowledge that they themselves or someone they cared about may soon be afflicted by the Soldiers' ailment. And Shinra's uprisal could affect them all; Reeve had money riding on it.
A lot can happen in seven years. Everyone looked older. Some showed the effects of time more than others. Some came with their children. Even Tifa. That was a mystery to everyone. Barret, and Cloud to an extent, had kept in touch with her, and neither one had known she'd had a child. Or been in any relationship, for that matter. But there was sweet little Marta, with her brown curls, only two. Tifa didn't speak a word about Marta's father, and no one pried. That's not what they were there for. And Ruther wasn't even really there. His wife Elsie had come. To say Ruther had fallen ill. That the problem wasn't only affecting the old Soldiers anymore.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"We were in Mideel," Elsie said, "and all of a sudden, he just got really sick. He's had a high fever, and he's been delirious. The doctor said...he said that he had recently been seeing a lot of this, with men who had been in Soldier. So I told him, that's what it probably was. And he suggested that I take Ruther to a Shinra hospital in Edinborough..."
"Edinborough?" asked Legolas.
"The city Shinra built on the island of the Temple of the Ancients," said Cid.
Elsie continued. "So I told them no, because I knew that the Shinra had no idea what caused this, and I couldn't trust them for a second. The doctor called me a fool. I told him it would be better for Ruther to be sick in Mideel than be sick and under the control of the people who made him sick."
"So," said Legolas, "why Ruther? We've been best friends since childhood. We joined at the same time. Why him first? Why not us both at the same time?"
"Why not me?" said Vincent quietly. "I was a Turk before any of you joined Soldier or were in the clutches of Hojo."
"Maybe he was weaker than you all," said Red XIII, "the Jenova and/or the Mako enhanced his abilities, made him stronger. Perhaps, perhaps, could this be the ultimate price for the knowledge of strength?"
"Come again?" said Yuffie.
"It's just a theory I've had," he said, "and it has been reinforced somehow...by a dream."
"'But those born of strong body, will, and mind will pass through the fire, but not unscathed, and pay their debt to power...' I think it's a question of who would have been strong enough beforehand," said Raieyana, "and the price we have to pay for trying to evolve into something beyond a simple human being. I have excelled past everyone I've known in the areas of strength and intelligence. Maybe Hojo's experiment succeeded. But maybe it has yet to fail. There was something he didn't know. You just don't play God. You don't play around with things you don't know, beings who fell from the sky--without any consequences. I mean, I seriously don't think he meant this to happen on purpose."
"I fell into the Lifestream," said Tifa, "what about me? I've grown noticeably stronger since I took my dip in the Mako pond."
"She's had no Jenova in her. I guess it has to be the Mako," said Legolas.
"There's something with the Jenova," said Raieyana, "I can sense it." (I remember some sort of bond between everyone in this group who had Jenova. And...and...the flash...of something...of It... But what can we have in common? Cloud, Vincent, Legolas, Ruther, Red XIII, and I? And Hojo, Sephiroth, Blane, Aysta, Ishmael? What links us? The similarity the Jenova accounts for? I can almost see it...)
Tonia came into the room. "It's pretty late, Lia." She had been watching the kids, with a little help from twelve-year old Marlene.
Cid checked his watch. "We've been talking for hours, and we've gotten nowhere. We just have these cute little 'theories.' Wake me up tomorrow when you talk about what Shinra's been up to. This Jenova shit does not affect me whatsoever." He walked off to his room.
Yuffie and Vincent got up. "Have to put the kids to bed," he said.
"Yeah," muttered Yuffie, "and we're really tired."
Lia got up and followed them. "I'll handle Danny and Aeris and Ishmael, but Reeve, if you'll help me... Everyone else sit tight and I'll get the rooming situation figured out. Oh and Tifa, I'll put Marta to bed, too."
"Thanks Lia," said Tifa.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Lia and Reeve passed Yuffie and Vincent in the hallway. They were each carrying a sleepy child.
"I'll come back for Kati in a sec," said Yuffie.
Reeve swallowed. (She takes it for granted. Holding her child. I wonder if I'll ever get to hug one of mine. Since Raieyana hasn't warmed up to the idea of starting over. But I'm to blame for that.) He was about to walk into the room where the kids were playing, but Lia stopped him.
"Just for a minute," she said, "they're talking, so let's listen. They say the cutest things when they're little."
"Did you see my Daddy? He's tall an' big an' strong," said Daniel, "and 'sides, he doesn't look funny, like Kati's Daddy."
Kati smacked Daniel on the arm. "My Daddy might look weird, but at least I have a daddy," she said, smirking at Aeris. This almost enraged the sensitive girl to tears, but Ishmael held out.
"I think our Daddy's in heaven," he said, with the appropriate gesture upward, "that's why we don't have one. Same with our grandmas and grandpas. But they're all happy an' playin' together. So don't get Aeris upset. She really wishes she could see our Daddy."
Lia blinked back tears. (It's so sad.) She glanced at Reeve. (And he didn't know about them. He really doesn't deserve to hear this.) She put her hand on his shoulder.
"It's not your fault," she whispered, "but you can solve the problem. But now, they need to go to bed." So Reeve followed Lia into the playroom to put the children who didn't know he was their father to bed.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana stood up, with a noticeable effort. The action of standing up, however, gave her a dizzy spell.
"Whoa," said Cloud, standing up, "here, I'll help you get to your room." He placed her arm around his shoulders and held her at the waist.
"Thanks," she said. Halfway down the hall, she started to detach herself.
"I'm feeling okay now. I guess the blood just rushed to my head a little." She felt a little embarrassed. (I can walk by myself, you know!)
"You don't look like you've been feeling too well lately," Cloud said softly, "but you're still as beautiful as ever..." A slight brush of her cheek with his hand, a slight lean closer on his part, and suddenly Raieyana felt very uncomfortable.
She stepped back. "I have to give you Brownie points for perseverance, but I still feel the same. Although I'm flattered..."
"What," he said, "because of what happened seven years ago?"
"No, I told you before, even if what had happened, hadn't, I still wouldn't..."
Cloud looked at her in wonderment. "Reeve and you have not seen each other in years. He's probably slept with twenty or thirty other women since you. Forgot about you long ago. But still, you tell me I never get a chance because of Reeve. Why is he so desirable? He left you."
Raieyana looked down. "I let him leave," she said softly. She glanced at Cloud. "Thank you for helping me to my room. Good night."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Cloud had just entered his room when a soft knock came at the door. "Who is it?" A pause.
He opened the door and invited her in. "Boy," he said, running his hand through his hair, "it's been a long time since we've talked."
"A year and a half. And since then, I've done some thinking. We never know when something might happen to one of us, and I just want to tell you something... before...before it's too late."
Cloud looked at her. "Tifa...don't..."
"What," she said, "don't say something you'll regret you heard? Cloud, it's been so long. I can't deny what I feel anymore, I can't just sit back and be silent. I love you."
He shook his head. "Tifa, you don't know what you're saying."
Tifa stood up and looked at him mournfully. "What, you don't think I have enough of a clue to understand my own feelings? I know I've done things and made a fool out myself. Because of you. And you, look at you. You're a pretty damn big fool. Aeris is dead. Raieyana doesn't want you. And you blow off the one person in this world who truly loves you. You know what? I'm glad I didn't wait for you. Damn glad I didn't save myself for you. That I didn't stop living because of the jackass who I thought maybe cared about me--just a little."
Cloud looked away. "I can't love you, Tifa."
"Why? Because I'm attainable? Sometimes I wished that Aeris hadn't died. Sometimes I wish that I had died. Because then I would have been the one you pine for. And she would be the one going through this hell that you've made for me! But...you will start to realize how bad it's going to be to be alone. Because my love will fade, and when it's gone, it's gone. But at least I still have a reason to live for. And it's not you anymore." Tifa turned and started to leave. "Oh," she said as she left, "don't worry. I won't bother you with this again. I'm not stupid. You said 'no.' And no means no."
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