Tarnished Side Chapter 13

By Janet Monstwillo

The cool, damp night air brushed against her face the instant she threw open the door. Tifa paused, reflecting in the faint glow of the moonlight. Suddenly, a terse voice startled her out of her reverie.

"Early riser or too perky to sleep?" it remarked dryly.

"Neither. I had a–" She had finally gotten a good look at the figure speaking to her from the shadows. "N–nightmare," she stuttered in conclusion.

A flash of silver hair was flipped over his shoulder. "A dream sends you fleeing from a safe, warm bed into the depths of the night?" The tone of his voice contained nothing but mocking condescension.

The girl merely shook her head. "You..."

"Yes?" Sephiroth prompted.

She searched to come up with a viable comment. "Are more talkative than I thought you would be. You're the soldier type. Like a stoic."

"Yes." The word was definitive.

With a dissatisfied sigh, Tifa plopped down onto the stoop gingerly. Although next to the man she regarded as the paramount of all evil, she thoughtfully placed as much distance as possible between the two of them.

The two sat calmly for quite some time; comfortable, it seemed, in the silence and in the darkness.

Then it broke.

"I can smell your fear." Sephiroth's words were precise.

"No, not at all." A denial. Her right eyebrow twitched nervously. "Maybe apprehensive." The words then began to roll out as quickly as a runaway train barreling down the tracks. "Maybe I might possibly be a little bit apprehensive of you, what with your reputation and not knowing you and all, but–"

"Peace, woman." He held a hand up, quieting her. "You have all reason to be afraid. Miss Gainsborough told me about the accusations Shinra Inc. has made against me. I am innocent, but no smart person would trust me."

"An even smarter one would pretend to, though," Tifa said softly before she could stop herself.


She widened her eyes in amazement. (Did that asshole just chuckle?)

"You are pretty wise for such a young lamb."

Peering at him with curiosity, and a burst of courage, she weighed her next statement cautiously before letting it fall free. "I'm not as innocent as you must think I am. Many terrible things happened to me when I was quite young."

"Your memory is that good to where you remember enough of such things to trouble yourself?"

(He...he actually sounds surprised.) Tifa blinked. "Of course."

"I'm lucky if I remember five years ago, let alone twenty." Sephiroth's voice was flat, emotionless. The simple stating of a fact.

She looked away from him, to the light pink streaks subtly signaling the impending dawn.

"The girl also says her slum boy is a friend of you all. I expect we will be journeying to Junon together, since I intend to go to the west."

"Oh." Tifa continued to be fixated on the eastern horizon.

"I shall wake them now."

The very instant he disappeared into the inn, she took a single shuddering breath. And nearly collapsed from the wrenching sobs that followed.

* * * * * *

I am the night.

I am the empty, the hungry.

Fill my void to the brim and still I thirst for more. Give unto me all that you are, and still I cut you. Bleed into me and even then I will suck your dryness.

I am the wet and the parched. More than you will ever know and less than you can ever see.

The first paradox was me. I will be your lord and master. Kiss the ground, spread your legs, open your mouth, lay naked before me. Revel in corruption and drink the tears of your mothers, but I am still the thing most depraved.

For I am your master; I am the one most enslaved.

I am a vessel. Broken-bodied, leaking, and decayed.

My rotting flesh is fed unto your masses, while you huddle around stoves of death radiating the scorching cold of the farthest reaches of our galaxy.

You touch your skin to absolute zero and wonder from whence comes the chill.

You lick the devastating, putrid scum of disease and think you are not ill.

So when the truth finally reaches you sniveling idiots, and your minds' redemption is passed, you won't be better off than I. Nor better off than you are now. Ignorance is bliss.

I may be a puppet, but I'm clutching your strings.

* * * * * *

The calm of the morning was broken by the muffled sounds of a heated argument above the heads of the three people eating breakfast in the lobby.

"I wonder who that is," Zack thought aloud, grabbing a roll from his bag.

"I don't," said Jessie with a laugh. "Someone and that angry girl."

"You'd probably be angry if you'd been left in the rain by the `sore loser general,'" he retorted.

"She's just another girl you couldn't get," she teased in return.

Sephiroth stalked into the door, silver hair flying behind him, a bundle in his hands. It had begun to unfold, and its contents had partially come free of the brown paper wrapper. Pink fabric, streaming over his arms.

Rude shook his head a bit, then lifted his shades to make sure his eyes were seeing properly.

A glare. "Ms. Gainsborough needed a replacement for the one I ruined last night." Without another word, he charged up the stairs.

Zack managed to hold in his laughter until the solemn man had disappeared back inside his room. "Holy shit," he gasped, "that's gotta be the best line I've ever heard. Knowing how prim and holy the girl looks, and how antisocial he is...it's just..." He convulsed with a few more giggles.

Jessie and Rude, meeting each other's eyes, just shook their heads at the ridiculous state of their companion.

* * * * * *

Reno was running for his life. From, of all things, a petite teenage girl holding the sash of a bathrobe. "Chill, chill, it was just a bit of fun!" he protested.

"Fun?!" Her outraged voice was almost at a growl. "Luckily for you, I had clothes on under this thing, so I don't have to cut off your balls!"

"Well, since you were fully clothed, what's the harm in untying the robe you had on?"

"It's the principle of the thing!"

"You should be flattered–ow!" Raieyana had kicked him in the shin.

"You shouldn't be such a damn pervert. Geez, I should have left you in the Shinra building and went home." Sitting down, she crossed her arms and met his gaze with a harsh glare.

"This isn't a partnership or anything. Don't worry, I'll be just as happy to set your ass down in Junon as you will be to get there. Then you can sit at home with Daddy and be perfectly safe from the male half of the human race." There was a slight sneer to his voice.

"I like men, not childish little boys," she replied primly.

"It's not like I have a taste for kids like you, either, honey." Reno tilted his head back and gave her the full effect of an eye roll.

(Why does he always have to get the last word?! Why can't he just accept that no one in their right mind would have anything to do with him? Why does he insist that my lack of interest means I'm a child?) She fumed to herself. (I'm not a child!)

"You certainly act like one."

Her curious glance back at him slowly turned to reserved horror. (Did I say that last part out loud?)

He laughed a little. "You can't even keep track of what you say and what you don't," was the response to her verbal faux pas.

Raieyana sighed, leaning back into her chair. "There's a lot more to me than you think you see."

Slowly, cautiously, Reno leaned in over her. "Well, you won't let me see anything, remember?" He pointedly took a long look over the length of her body before meeting her look of surprise, a devilish gleam in his eye.

The first thought that came to mind was not one of incensed outrage. (He eyes can't even decide what color to be...light blue, flecks of green, or light green, flecks of blue?) She snapped back to reality and realized she was still quietly staring at the biggest jerk she'd ever met.

He chuckled, recognizing the embarrassed look on her face. "The others are probably all down there waiting for us," he said in a low voice, letting out an expression of bemused disappointment. Standing up straight, he grabbed her bag before she could give an argument. "See ya downstairs."

(Finally alone.)

Raieyana took a deep breath, trying to will the flush to leave her cheeks. But, aggravatingly enough, it refused to. Never mind that, there were more important things to tend to anyway.

Like how to clear her mind of the Reno eye color debate. Or the feeling of his breath tickling her ear. Or his smell, fresh from the shower. Shivering, she took one more deep breath before she strode out to the stairs.

Chapter 14

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic