JIHAD Chapter 1
The Resurrection of Hatred
By Winter Weil
First Written: Thursday, November 18, 1999
Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2002
Comments and constructive criticism welcomed and appreciated.
Flames get deleted. =(^.^)=
All rights to Final Fantasy VII and its characters belong to Square Soft. The characters of this series are used without permission only for the purpose of entertainment. This fanfiction is not meant for sale or profit.
All original characters are copyright to the author. Don't use these characters without contacting the author first.
/ / are character thoughts
Several weeks later, the sun was still shining on its descent over the crystalline sea, the people of Junon still bustled about on their ways to and from their respective jobs and homes, and as always Tifa's Seventh Heaven catered to its large dinner-time crowd. The patrons laughed, ate, and were generally merry, buoied up by alcohol and Tifa's good home cooking. They had no worries; the streets were safe, the generators were far more predictable, and their jobs were secure. What was there to be afraid of? Rainclouds hovered dark over the western horizon, the departing sun casting red and orange light across the sky, but what was a little rain in a hot, dry week?
From among a group of newly-arrived party-goers, intent on spending their Friday night on the town, one person broke away, heading for the expansive cherry-wood bar. It was none other than Mayor Reeve, once again in dusty jeans and a T-shirt, and apparently this was enough camaflauge for the greater part of the bar. However, he was immediately recognizable to the barmistress stepping out of the kitchen, a platter of food on each hand.
She blinked in surprise as she caught sight of him seating himself on one of the many barstools, grinning widely at her, but quickly caught a hold of herself, setting the platters on the counter and distributing the various items of food to their purchasers. Raising her voice over the chatter of the room, she glanced over at him as she worked, her hands working unsupervised.
"Back again already?" she asked dubiously. "Are you trying to shirk your duties?"
He rested his elbows on the counter and grinned over at her, chuckling softly. "Not in the least," he replied over the bustle. "But by the way you're so adamant that I must be, I also must be wearing out my welcome."
The woman dusted off her hands on the apron she wore over her loose black slacks, heading back over to where the mayor sat. "You know THAT could never happen," she chided softly. "Not either of them, I'm sure. But what ARE you doing here?"
He smiled slightly at her. /Always count on Tifa to make sure no one's offended,/ he thought to himself. He knew she was just joking, but the fact that she went to efforts to make sure that was clear was often reassuring to him. Especially after all the people he had to work with up in the higher section of Junon.
In reply, he lifted one shoulder in an idle shrug. "Another meeting with Karri, actually."
The barmistress raised one brow slowly, her hands moving to rest on her hips. "Oh....?" she said meaningly. "Is it... a date?"
A blush spread like wild fire over the man's cheeks. "Heaven's no!" he replied quickly, half-dropping his gaze to hide his embarassment. "It's just a scheduled meeting that has to do with the JEC fund, that's all!"
Tifa's dubious look immediately turned mischevious, and she nodded knowingly. "Oh, of course. I'm sure that's why she 'scheduled' it." Then adding, with a wink: "She's probably got a crush on you."
To the mayor's complete dismay, the tips of his ears went a bright pink. To any who knew him at the workplace, it was a sight no one thought they would ever see: Mayor Reeve Allens, reduced to lack of words.
It was probably a good thing that neither Cloud nor any of his other companions happened to see this conversation.
Struggling to bring his words back together, he couldn't help but cover his face a moment before shaking his head violently. "No, no, no," Reeve replied, keeping his voice flat. /I can't belive this.../ he berated himself internally. /I'm going on like a high-school drip!/
"For one thing," he continued aloud, "I'm nearly twelve years older than her. For *another*, I am by *no* means her type." He though furiously for another reason to name, but all he could think of at the moment was how stupid he must appear.
The barmistress only shook her head, grinning widely, and retrieved a bottle of beer from her never-ending supply, popping of the cap and thumping it before him. "Reeve," the woman said with a laugh, "you take things *entirely* too seriously."
He grabbed the bottle with an injured sniff, mentally demanding his blush to disappear, and took a long swallow before glaring at her under his brows. "Wasn't very funny..."
Thankfully, to him, Tifa just laughed more and move down the bar, pulling out the little pad she kept in her apron pocket to take more orders. It was when the fire of his embarassment finally began to fade, the half-beer he had drunken helping it along, that Cloud emerged from the kitchen entrance between the two blaring televisions, his faintly glowing eyes weary and his stance more than a little irritated. He sighed and tugged a spare stool out from his side of the counter, sitting upon it and settling his forehead on the cool wood.
Reeve took another swallow of his beer and tilted his head at his old friend. "What's the matter?"
"What's the matter, he asks." The blond man sighed again without bothering to lift his head. "It's always the same thing that's the matter."
His wife showed up then, absently pushing her orders back into her pocket. "Is it Celia again?" she asked, moving to her husband and lightly rubbing his back.
"Yes. It's the second fit she's thrown today. Or is it the third? I've lost count..."
The burgundy-eyed woman chuckled softly. "Actually, I think it's the forth." She gave him a soft pat on the back before moving to the doorway. "I'll take care of it. You just stay in here and keep everyone from going on strike." She disappeared between the shelves.
The voice of the news anchor on the twin televisions struggled to rise over the bustle of the dinner time crowd, but only managed to fade somehow into the background. Reeve took a moment to touch a hand to his cheek, silently verifying that his blush was indeed gone, before addressing Cloud once more. "Should I take it she's being a terror?" he asked.
The spiky-haird warrior finally straighted, resting his elbows on the counter and his chin in one palm. "Terror my lily white ass," he said plainly. "I don't think there's a word that describes her when she's having a temper tantrum. Horror, nightmare, some other words that I can't think of right now... those are much better descriptions..."
The mayor nodded slightly, empathizing slightly with his friend. /I can think of some people I supervise who are worse..../
Cloud's eyes shifted then, focusing past the mayor. "And what're you so sour about?" he asked abruptly.
The stool beside him squeaked slightly, and Reeve turned slightly to see Karri, her cloudy gray eyes swirling with anger, sitting beside him. He silently raised a brow, and she shot him a glare.
"Don't even ask," she said sharply, her normally soft voice hardened with anger. "It's that damned Derricks again. Is it that hard to guess?" She tossed her head slightly in an irritated gesture, her braid thumping lightly on her back. "I don't know why I bother. I just don't know." She pursed her lips in a tight line and looked back to them. "So. How was your day?"
Cloud and Reeve shot each other a silent look. "Lovely," the warrior said in reply. "Though not like yours, I'm sure."
"I would hope not. I would feel very sorry for you if that was the case." Her eyes shifted to Reeve. "What about you? Feel up for another debate about the funding for that pathetically-managed school?"
He grinned slightly at her. "Why stop at funding? We could debate about firing Derricks as well."
A slight grin came over her features as well, pushing away the anger that had previously had domain there. "Why not indeed."
The hours passed. People came and went, the channel on the twin televisions changed from news to football to more news, and Cloud helped pick up the slack of Tifa's brief absence. Even so, she was forced to go back upstairs several times, their daughter taking it upon herself to become the nuscience of the tavern. Many of the customers were used to that by now, though, and several of them were very sympathetic. So with Cloud managing the kitchen and orders as best he could, and Tifa managing (or trying to manage) her daughter as best she could, not even Reeve and Karri, deep in discussion, really noticed the sudden lull in customers long before the Friday night crush was over.
It was closing in on ten o'clock when Tifa came back downstairs, brushing some strangling hairs away from her face, to pause for a moment in the kitchen to check on her husband. She found him leaning against the sink, throwing back a small glass of water.
"You alright, love?" she asked, resting one hand on the doorjam.
The spiky-haired warrior glanced over at her and nodded, putting the glass down in the drainer by the steel sink. "Yeah," he said softly. "Just taking some aspirin to cut back on this headache that Celia was kind enough to give me. Thank goodness the crowd out there hasn't been too demanding on me."
She looked toward the doorway that led behind the bar, barely able to see Reeve where he sat, deep in conversation with Karri. "Now that you speak of it, it does sound awfully quiet out there." Her burgundy eyes turned back to him. "What time is it?"
"I dunno... eight-thirty, maybe? I haven't got my watch on." He shoved his hand in his pockets and gave his wife a small frown. "I hope you aren't going to say something dramatic like 'It's quiet out there.... *too* quiet...' "
Tifa grinned at him. "It's quiet out there... ," she intoned in a deep voice. "*Too* quiet...."
She ducked out the door laughing before he could throw the dishrag at her.
Outside it was, indeed, too silent; other than the soft murmur of Karri and Reeve (whom she was already thinking made a cute couple), there was only the blaring of the twin televisions mounted on the shelf. Other than the two at the bar, there were now only four others within the building; an old drunk, asleep at a table, and three men seated in a corner.
Her heart abruptly fell into her stomach.
Seeing Tifa from the corner of his eye, Reeve looked up from his conversation in mid-sentance. Her face had gone white.
"Tifa..?" he said softly. Karri likewise looked over at the barmistress, a small frown coming over her features.
She said nothing; glancing to the mayor with her now wide, startled burgundy eyes, she reached out with one hand to flick the switch that controlled the televisions. The room went deafeningly silent. Cloud poked his head out the doorway at the sudden silence; his face likewise turned to surprise, then hardened.
/Oh no.../ Reese closed his eyes a moment before reopening them. /I hope I don't have a gun to the back of my head before this night is through..../ With a silent prayer in his mind, he turned to the room behind him.
Three men were striding casually to the counter, in that familiar triangle formation; as they passed, one casually reached over and shoved the sleeping drunk off his precarious perch. He hit the floor with a strangled curse, and struggled to his feet; only to gain sight of the three blue-clad men himself. His seamed and veined face went white, and without another word he stumbled awkwardly to the door.
Reeve almost felt the blood drain from his own face. Those three men were far too familiar to his liking... even though they were different people, with different postures, the clothing and the look in their eyes was far too painful a memory to forget.
The one in the lead paused about a yard away from Reeve and Karri, a twisted smile on his thin lips that didn't reach his icy blue eyes. "Hello, hello," he said casually. His blonde hair was neatly combed back, his blue jacket perfectly pressed and the white undershirt pristine. The mayor would have given anything to see Reno's mocking face there instead.
Cloud took a few steps into the room, his hands kept loosely at his sides, to stand beside his wife. "What do you want?" he asked softly.
The man raised his hands slightly, palm-up, as if to show he bore nothing against them. The two behind him, one short with long black hair of obvious Wutai descent, the other a mild-faced brunette, remained impassive behind him.
"Why would I want anything?" he asked. "Well... you'd be right either way. I *do* want something. Good guess! But lucky for you, I'll be right along on my way after I get it. So we're all in luck tonight."
"Whatever it is, you won't be getting it," the barmistress said sharply. The sudden streak of fear and surprise that had obviously gone through her was gone now; her wide eyes were now narrowed with determination, and her fists clenched at her sides.
Reeve remained silent, his eyes on the Turks. He knew instinctively where they came from. /No one bothers with that particular uniform anymore. It's too "symbolic" of the past. So only the past would choose to use it.../
"Oh, please. Spare me the hero act, would you? It makes my job that much more tedious..." The blonde took a few more steps forward, casually drawing a silver pistol from inside his jacket. "Besides, my gun moves faster than either of you. So just stand back and let me do my work, huh?" The two men behind him also drew guns, and advanced.
Cloud and Tifa exchanged a look. The blonde was correct; with the bar, Reeve, and Karri between them and his men, it would take them far too long to react to any attack.
"What is it you want, then?" Cloud said finally, his blue eyes shifting back to the Turks. His fingers twitched at his sides as though he longed to have his sword just then.
The Turk just rolled his eyes and tsked. "What do *you* think?" he asked archly. "That we're here to get smashed? Please." The man extended his arm, the silver gun gleaming in the tavern's lights within his left hand, the muzzle pressing lightly against Reeve's temple. The mayor closed his eyes silently. "Just let us pass with the big-wig here. We promise to leave nicely if you do." The gun clicked softly as he cocked the trigger.
The room was silent a moment, the Turks standing off against the former Avalanche. No one really looked at Karri, who was staring at the blonde holding a gun to the mayor's head, silent. Cloud and Tifa said nothing.
"Fine," Reeve said after a tense moment, reopening his eyes and looking up to the Turk. He struggled to ignore the yammering in his brain, that little voice praying /Oh god oh god do NOT pull that trigger./ He was a coward, but he wouldn't have his brains splattered over the inside of his friends bar. He could do that much. "Just answer me a question, for the sake of stupidity."
He could hear the tremor in his voice. He hoped it didn't make him sound stupid.
"Oh, what is it?" The blonde Turk shifted his grip on the gun and motioned slightly with his free hand. The other two behind him stepped forward, raising their own pistols to cover their leader.
Reeve swallowed. His throat felt dry and restricted. "Would it be too much to ask who sent you?" His eyes shifted to Karri for just a moment, but her expression had not changed; her gray eyes were locked on the Turk with an unreadable look.
The Turk burst out in laughter, and looked to the two others. "You hear that?" he asked. "He wants to know who sent us!" More laughter escaped him; the others didn't respond.
"Ah, that's hilarious," he said after a moment. "What makes you think anyone sent us? But that's okay -- you'd be right in either event. Who do you think, old man?" The gun moved from the mayor's temple, tapping him lightly on the jaw. "Who else? Heideggar. Even though I'm sure there's a thousand others that wouldn't mind seeing your sorry ass laid out on a street corner these days."
"Heideggar?!" The Turk looked up at Tifa's outburst. "But-!"
"-you thought he was dead?" He laughed. "That's what you get for thinking, woman. Leave that to the smart ones, huh?" His gaze turned back to Reeve. "Alright, man, enough play. Get up on your fancy Dockers and let's leave." The Turk grabbed him by the upper arm and roughly dragged him out of the stool. "Come on. I haven't got all day."
Reeve made no move to resist him, stumbling and regaining his balance as he nearly fell out of the stool. He said nothing at this point; his thoughts screamed around his head like wild monkeys, gibbering at him and each other with no real sense.
/Heideggar, alive?/ was the only one that really stood out.
Pulling the mayor along, the gun now firmly pressed to the man's shoulder, the Turk gave the three at the bar and polite nod. "Great doing business with you," he said amiably. "Maybe we can come back again some day, share a drink. On me, right? Looking forward to it." He gave the other Turks a sharp nod, and as one they holstered their weapons and followed without looking back.
Quick as a snake, Karri lunged out of her stool at the closest man, whipping a gun of her own from out of no where and all but tackled the brunette. He didn't really have a chance to react; within less than a second he had the muzzle of her gun pressing against his throat, the woman using him as a shield against the other men.
"Drop him," she snapped; though the Turk stood over her almost a foot, she forced him to stoop, her strong fingers entangled in the hair at the nape of his neck. "I have no issue with painting the walls tonight."
The blonde looked casually back at them, and sighed. "For crying out loud, woman. Is it because I talk to much? And I even offered to pay." He snapped his fingers; the Wutai man drew his gun and aimed it at Karri. "Just kill her, would you? I haven't the time or the patience to spare tonight."
It was about this point that Reeve's recollection of the night's events became blurred: it seemed as though everything suddenly happened at once. He vaguely heard the door to Tifa's bar creak open, even though his eyes were focused on Karri and the two Turks by her. The black haired one advanced, as ordered; something clacked loudly on the floor behind him. He heard the blonde Turk curse, loudly, and suddenly the room was enveloped in smoke.
Tears sprung unbidden to his eyes, and one breath of the smoke brought a clawing pain to his chest, like some demon had sprouted in his lungs and was scratching through his flesh to escape. Reguardless of the Turk by his side, he coiled up, coughing harshly.
Noises surged around him. The scraping of footsteps echoed off the floorboards; shouting and coughing filled the air. The pressure of the Turks grasp lessened, and he jerked away, struggling to stand and cough up the demon at the same time. Tears filled his sight, blurring his vision. Smoke swirled around him, and the clattering of another smoke-bomb rattled somewhere nearby.
Ripping away from the Turk, he fell awkwardly to his knees, one hand reaching out to brace his fall, the other pressing at his chest. Someone ran into his legs, tripping and cursing. One gunshot screamed through the air, and suddenly the blasts ricocheted around him like buzzing hornets; his ears stung with the sound of them. Struggling to keep his eyes open, he peered through the smog to the bar, barely able to see it through his tears, and began to crawl towards it, holding his breath as well as he could. The air was a little better, this close to the floor; the red hot bands let up and let him breath better, but only barely.
A shrill scream filtered through the room, and suddenly he felt himself jerked roughly to his feet. He resisted, but his limbs wouldn't respond; as though he were just a sack of potatoes, he was thrown over a shoulder. Still coughing harshly, he could do nothing but hold on.
He wasn't sure what happened then. He thought he heard Tifa's voice shout out over the gun-shots, but he wasn't sure what she said; he thought he heard a reply from the man carrying him, and wondered if it was Cloud. Again, he couldn't understand what was said. There was a jostling, as though he was being carried up stairs, and footsteps echoed around him. The sound of gunshots faded, and the air grew clearer; he was placed back on the ground, and he curled up about himself, struggling to clear his lungs and his thoughts. Words were exchanged out him; his mind grew clearer, and he could hear the cries of fear of a young child.
A hand was put on his shoulder.
"Are you alright?" Karri whispered.
He looked up, blinking through the tears, and scrubbed ruffly at his face. The woman knelt beside him, her own face streaked with tears, her breathing harsh. Her blonde hair straggled around her face as though her braid had come loose.
He took a breath, feeling the last clawings of the demon disappear. "Yeah," he said finally. His voice was harsh. "I'll live. What happened?"
She leaned back from him, wrapping an arm around her stomach. "Some people came in, threw a tear gas bomb," she whispered. Her gray eyes looked to the side, to the door that must have lead back down to the bar. "Cloud went after you when the first bomb went off." She looked back to him. "He caught you up and we ran up here."
Reeve looked around. They had gone up into the apartments that resided over the, where Tifa, Cloud, and their daughter lived. It was sparse and homey, much like the tavern downstairs, the carpet simple with a few stains that heralded the child of the house. There was the soft pressure of a couch at his shoulder, where he leaned against it; he took a few more cleansing breaths and shook his head, listening to the gun-shots that still echoed down below.
"It must be a slaughter down there," he muttered softly.
Karri dropped her eyes, as though hoping she could see though the floor boards and see what was happening. "I hope it is," was her soft response.
It was then that Cloud and Tifa re-entered the room, laden with child and packs; little Celia rested on Tifa's hip, her short brown hair mussed with sleep, and cheeks wet with tears, clinging tight to her mother's neck. They both had weapons that perhaps they hoped they would never end up using again; Cloud with the Ultimate Weapon across his back, its faint purple glow lighting the area about him, and Tifa with her gloves and striking plate back in their old places.
The spikey-haired warrior took a moment to kneel by Reeve, resting a hand on his shoulder. "You ready to move?" he asked. His blue eyes shone with the old fire that the mayor had seen all those adventures ago.
He nodded slowly. "I'll keep up," was his reply.
Cloud nodded, and looked to Karri. "You can come with us," he said, "or you can head back to where you live. But I would suggest running; after harassing that Turk, they'll be for you blood."
"I know." The woman slowly got to her feet, using the couch as a crutch. Reeve couldn't help but notice how white her knuckles were when they clutched the cushions. "I'll keep up, too."
"Fine." With another nod, the warrior rose to his feet, movements smooth with cat-like grace. "There's a fire exit in the back. Let's make for that, then to the woods."
With another deep breath, Reeve could feel the effects of the smoke fade away; rising to his feet, he followed quickly after the others, moving swiftly for the back rooms of the apartments. The gun-shots below were becoming more staggered and drawn out - it seemed the fight was coming to a close. He only prayed they would have enough time to get out of there.
Tifa led the way, her young daughter now too frightened to make any noise, slipping through the window and onto the old metal fire escape with hardly any noise. Cloud followed, as noiseless as his wife, out into the darkness. Reeve and Karri followed, the mayor cursing himself for the clusmy rattle only he seemed to be making, hurrying down the stairs and platforms as fast as they safely could. They weren't even all the way down when the sounds of the apartment door crashing open could be heard; shouts filtered through the window they had closed behind them, the sounds of anger and of splintering glass following after them as they took to the darkened streets of Junon.
They took their time racing through the alley-ways and cut-throughs, wary of the sirens that were beginning to make their way to the tavern, not wanting to get themselves caught for seeming suspicious. They hid in the shadows, pausing at every doorway and every corner, lurking through the night as their pursuers surely must have done in their own time.
They haulted at the last building on the outskirts of the town, Tifa shushing the young girl who was beginning to sniffle again. It was all Reeve could do to stay on his feet; exhaustion was overcoming him, the adreneline that had exploded through him during the fight drainging away and leaving him weak. He struggled to keep his gasps for breath soft. Glancing over, he saw Karri sagging against the wall behind him, her own breathing soft. She had kept her arms wrapped around her stomach during most of the flight, no doubt because of a similiar painful crick *he* had from all of the running.
Cloud peered around the edge of the house to the woods that lay not 20 meters away from them, their thick mass a darker shadow in the moon-less night. He turned back to his companions. "We're almost there," he whispered. "But we need to run to get to the forest. There's no point in being exposed for longer than necessary."
They nodded in silence. There was nothing else they could do.
Slipping from the last shadow that could protect them, they sprinted for the woods; Cloud in the lead, his movements quick and smooth, his wife following just a step behind. Reeve struggled to keep up with them, feeling that demon beginning to rise up in his lungs again; he swiftly fell behind, his steps staggering. Karri lagged even farther behind than him, her pace more of a jog than a run. That much, at least, made him feel not so bad about being out of shape.
They crashed through the underbrush a few meters, before they were forced to wait for the woman, Reeve taking silent solace in the brief pause. She stumbled through the roots and leaves, before all but falling against the tree the mayor leaned against.
"Are you okay?" Cloud asked. Celia sniffled softly in the wooded silence.
"...fine..." she gasped. Her breathing was labored, and her shoulders shook with each breath. "I can.... keep up..."
Reeve frowned; something in his gut felt wrong. "Karri?" he asked softly.
There was no response. She went limp, breath caught, and sagged toward the ground without a noise. Instinctively he grabbed for her, catching her by the arm and slowing her descent to the littered ground; kneeling, he cradled her gently in his arms, staring down at her pale, unconscious face. His two companions immediately came to his side.
"Guys...." He pulled away one hand from her, holding it before him, spread-fingered. It was slick with blood. "I think we have a problem....."
First Written: Monday, November 18, 1999 (6:18:53 PM)
Revised: Monday, February 18, 2002 (4:12:02 PM)
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic