Angst, the question of true motives, and the ol' nature vs. nurture debate.
"Can you believe it? And we were really considering letting him in on the secret of Undor-Hai. I thought he was my friend. The way he talked about Ray. Like she would have slept with him or something if he hadn't gotten control of himself. Like she would have...when she can't even..." Reeve sighed and took a drag of his cigarette.
Vincent was silent for a moment, then spoke. "And if she seriously cared for Reno..."
Reeve laughed. "I will buy admission to hell just to be there precisely when it freezes over and I can buy a sno-cone from ol' Beelzebub himself."
Vincent shook his head. "He wouldn't have left you at Edinborough without good reason. Either something you said...or something Raieyana said...led him to believe that you would be better off without him. He wouldn't have said anything to you if he didn't feel really guilty about it. Maybe he fell for Raieyana hook, line, and sinker. He wouldn't be the first."
"Ishmael was the first," said Reeve.
"I was thinking more along the lines of Cloud. But he doesn't bother you. But then again...he's been nowhere to be seen."
Reeve pulled out another cigarette and lit it off the old one. "That's because maybe he finally realized that the next time I see him, I could kill him and be happy."
"Okay," said Vincent, "but he never used to bother you to that extent."
"That's because he hadn't... Well, he..." He angrily took a drag. "He raped her, Vincent. And I was in the next room. And I couldn't do a damn thing."
Vincent was quiet. "Look, Reeve..."
Reeve cut him off. "And now...she's pregnant again. By him. And she could get real sick. And die. But she's having the baby anyway...because she thinks the big man in the stars--who makes her life a living nightmare--decided that it was supposed to happen. And you know, Reno's suggestions made me so mad...because...this has affected her. She shrinks away to my touch...anyone's touch. And he said that..."
"He said what?" Waving away clouds of cigarette smoke, Yuffie entered the room. "Vince, you're gonna get lung cancer if you talk to Reeve much longer. I...I want to know about Raieyana."
"How much have you heard?" asked Reeve.
"Just the whole thing. And I thought maybe you'd like a feminine point of view to give your conversation new depth and perspective. Besides, the two little ones are taking naps and Kati's learning how to juggle or somethin'--Raieyana's watching her--and I... I guess I'm curious."
"I've just been going off about Reno."
Yuffie laughed. "Reno...he electrocuted me once. Vincey cured me."
Vincent visibly blushed at the pet name.
"But, I think that Raieyana," said Yuffie, "possibly...could have been attracted to Reno. You know the whole...wrong side of the tracks thing. But he worked with her dad, and just thinking of the people who work with my dad...ick." She shuddered.
"Hey," Reeve protested, "I worked with her father. I wasn't a Turk, but I knew the guy. He had a framed picture on the desk, and he would take out his little bottle of glass cleaner and clean it at least twice a day. He adored her, even though he hardly saw her. And me...I worship the ground she walks on. But Reno...I could easily kill him. Put his body in the refrigerator behind my old apartment building."
"Well," said Vincent, "I guess it's a good thing for him that he left." And Vincent made a mental note to tell Raieyana that he knew a place where she could go if her baby was really predestined like she thought it was. Because, if it was some special thing that the stars had aligned for, there would be someone--something, looking for that baby. And when push came to shove, he knew there was only one person who could sympathize with Raieyana's situation. Lucrecia.
It had been six weeks since Junon burned. Raieyana looked at the beautiful blue sky. It was a perfect spring day. She could smell the lilacs as she watched the children play. Playing in the backyard of their new house. Reeve had bought the house outside of Junon. They had only stopped in Undor-Hai to pick up Raieyana's things and the children.
She still felt guilty about just taking off that way. Lia had been with her through so much...but Lia said she understood. The need to try and forget everything, to build a life with Reeve, for the children to get to know their father. And Reeve was a wonderful father. (That's why the whole thing with Reno was just foolish. Maybe if I had no one to worry about except myself... But I have a responsibility to my kids. Reno would have been no father. But that doesn't stop me for blaming myself for his departure. Ruining his friendship with Reeve.)
Reeve's closest friend in the world was now Vincent. He and Yuffie had come over to visit a couple of days ago. Raieyana still felt guilty. Reno had been his business partner. (And now he's back with the Turks...I know he is. He tried the good side of the road and got flattened by a delivery truck. I think he cared about me...in his own strange way...but that's not the way things happened. I'm with Reeve. And I'm damn well gonna make the most of it.)
The Alcor building had been nearly totaled by the fire. All of the business of the company was being done from the little associate office across town. Reeve went to work every day, and came home to his kids and their mother. But that didn't quite satisfy him.
"Vincent, Yuffie, I want Ray to marry me."
Neither one of them were surprised by Reeve's statement. Actually, they both had wondered why Raieyana and Reeve never had gotten married. In fact, when the entire group found out that Raieyana and Reeve had been apart for the greater part of the last seven years, they marveled at it. This was the greatest love story since the play "Loveless." But here they were, listening to Reeve's serious voice, telling them how he wanted her to marry him, and they cracked up.
"Well," said Yuffie between giggles, "I don't think she'll ask you. She's too old school for that."
"I don't know if you're ready for marriage Reeve," said Vincent, "you're not even thirty-five yet. Maybe you're too young."
"Sure, you two sit there and laugh, but I'm serious."
"So are we," said Yuffie, "we just have spent some time in disbelief that maybe you'll finally...pop the question? Nah...he's bluffing."
Vincent chuckled. "The only reason they're not already married is the fact that her father couldn't come after him with a shotgun and demand the kids be born in wedlock."
Yuffie sighed. "Our wedding day. Such happy memories."
This time Reeve joined them in the convulsive giggling. "But, seriously, Vincent. How did you ask Yuffie?"
"I didn't ask Yuffie. I asked Godo--to spare my life. When Yuffie told him she was pregnant, he threatened to castrate me! I told him that would be a good idea--unless he actually wanted more than one grandkid."
Yuffie had to get her remark in. "If Vincent had gotten down on his knee in front of me..." Vincent looked at her, expectantly. She gasped, trying to hold in her laughter. "...I'd still be laughing! It would've been a new world record. The longest a person has laughed after receiving a marriage proposal."
"Well now that I know how not to do it, do you, Vincent, have any suggestions?"
"When you said, 'do you, Vincent,' I had a major wedding-day flashback. Not happy times."
Yuffie glared at him, and then Reeve. "Why don't you think I would be of any help? I am the only girl here. I think I would know how a girl would want to be asked more than either of you."
"Ummm, Yuffster," said Reeve, "you're in a relationship where you're happy whenever your husband stops being Chaos long enough to get you pregnant again. You wouldn't be the expert on normal rela--"
Yuffie slapped him playfully. "My suggestion," she announced, "is that you just ask her, but wait for the right time. Make sure you two are alone--so no one else's presence would sway her decision either way."
"If she loves me, she would say yes in front of everyone else in the world."
Vincent smiled. "She loves you, and I truly think you have very little to worry about."
"You think I have a little something, though?"
Vincent grinned. "Who knows? She might not be the marryin' type."
Reeve shook his head. "Next time I want to propose, remind me not to ask advice--from either of you, at least."
Raieyana glanced through the kitchen window. (Reeve and Yuffie are out there, playing with the kids.) It was a nice thing to watch, kids playing in the dusk. (I remember when I was kid...on a day like this. One of those days you never want to end.)
She remembered the long night seven years ago she had never wanted to end. (The eve of my death. I dreaded it with every fiber of my body. But the night itself was so perfect...every moment so beautiful...but I had no hope. Couldn't have imagined anything like this.) She checked on the chicken she had baking in the oven. This would be the first time her kids would ever eat meat.
"Looks nice," said Vincent, walking in from the living room.
"Thanks," she said.
"You know who is a goddess," Vincent said, "when it comes to chicken? Shera. I sure hope Cid tells her once now and then that he at least appreciates her. It's more than that, though Cid's one of those people who can't reveal their emotions."
He looked at her. "What?"
"I've thought about it a long time, tossed the statements around in my head... But your story about Sephiroth just doesn't add up."
"Do you think," he said angrily, "that I would lie about that? About...about Lucrecia?"
Raieyana looked him straight in the eye. "If you really are thirty-four...that makes my existence at my current age not only improbable; in fact, it makes it totally impossible. If you were only eighteen when you were a Turk--wait, if you were even sixteen, that makes Sephiroth eleven when he died. But I was sixteen! And I am his daughter, although sometimes I wish it weren't so, I am. There's a gap somewhere."
Vincent sighed. "You're correct. Sephiroth was exactly twenty when he died. He had acute acceleration of growth, otherwise he couldn't have become a hero in the war with Wutai. Hojo was able to keep Sephiroth's body from prematurely aging, but he couldn't stop his hair from turning white. I was twenty-three when Sephiroth was born. After Hojo's...experiment on me...I slept, for a long time. When I joined Cloud and the others, I estimated my body had aged around four or five years. So I said I was twenty-seven. I found out later that it had really been around twenty years. But no one has noticed the hole in my story...until you."
"Well, that's because I've had good reason to roll it around over and over and over in my head. Sephiroth was--biologically--my father. It's actually kind of funny he only had four years on me."
"Yes," said Vincent, "Sephiroth was younger than Cloud; yet, ironically, Cloud idolized him."
"Tragically, many idolized him. Some still do." Raieyana snapped out of the awkward mood and smiled. "Would you mind making us a salad?" she asked.
Vincent gasped. "A salad? Me? You know I only eat raw meat dripping with blood." He wrapped his cape over his arm and ran towards Raieyana. "I'd like to try a taste of your sweet blood," he said, with a horrible Transylvanian accent.
She shrieked and he chased her around the kitchen. "If you don't make the salad," she threatened, "I'll have to do something I never wanted to do...I'll make garlic bread to go with dinner."
"Ack! Anything but...garlic bread." Vincent smiled and calmly went to the fridge and hauled out a head of lettuce and some other veggies.
Professor Shelding looked calmly at the five blue-suited Turks in front of him. Laida was sitting in a chair, smiling at how uncomfortable they looked.
"Look, Professor," said Elena, "the only reason we took the Junon job was because of our lag in work recently. We had no idea it was going to be so...unorganized. We have no desire to do another job for the Shinra."
Lucas pulled of his glasses and set them on his desk. "Look, this is an easy job. Get me this girl--no questions asked--in good condition, and there's a sum of money in it for you."
"How much?" asked Rude.
Lucas shrugged. "Give me a minute and I'll tell you my offer. But first, I want to make this clear. Tseng Amine spent the good part of fifteen years trying to find this one Ancient. I know he had some feelings involved and that's what took him so long. If you accept, I'll pay you a hundred thousand up front. You're guaranteed at least another hundred thousand if you eventually deliver her to me. The amount will decrease the longer it takes you. One month, I'll pay you the million; after that, it'll be less. If you get the girl within a month, I'll pay you a million gil. That doesn't sound bad to me. Or too difficult."
"The girl must be a peach if she's worth a mill," said Dorn.
Isabel giggled, "gee, Dorn, I had no idea the pay would be so good when we joined the Turks."
Reno looked at the new members with disgust. (It takes two to replace me, I know, but they had to find a couple of tittering idiots, didn't they?) "Look, I want facts on this girl you want us to find," he said, "most recent pic, full name, any aliases, complete physical description, last known whereabouts, last known companions. The more info you give me, the faster you get her. No picture, no description, no full name, you'll be lucky if we ever find her. I want two hundred thousand up front, I want a million guaranteed if we find her within the year and a five hundred thousand gil bonus if we get her in your hands within the month. I drive a hard bargain but I do my job. What'll it be?"
Lucas walked to the computer and punched some keys. "You can look at my information file on her. This is my final offer. Two hundred thousand straight up, one million if you find her in six months, two hundred and fifty thousand as a bonus if you get her within a month. Deal?"
Reno nodded, "Sure thing." He watched in amazement as the picture came into focus.
/Raieyana Amine. Current Age: 23. Last known whereabouts: Shinra building, Junon, seven years ago. Companions: Cloud Strife, Yuffie Kisaragi, Reeve Jordan, Ruther Randolph, Legolas Masterson. Physical Description: 5'4'', about 115 lbs., brown hair, green eyes. Comments: created in a Shinra lab by Prof. Hojo. Mother: the Ancient, Aeris Gainsborough(deceased); father: /XXXclassifiedXXX/; sister: /XXXclassifiedXXX.
"So," said Elena, "it's that pesky daughter of Tseng's."
"Shelding," said Reno, "what the hell do you mean by this 'classified' shit?"
Lucas shrugged. "You're not Shinra, anymore. Some things you just don't need to know."
"Give it up, Reno," said Rude, "we know it's Tseng's kid. Probably some more of the stupid 'Promised Land' nonsense."
"I hesitate at accepting this now that we know it's the child of our former colleague," said Reno.
"He turned Aeris in himself, all in the name of his work," said Elena, "this is our work. I would kidnap you, Reno, for my share of one and a quarter million."
"Any comments from the rookies?" asked Rude. Isabel and Dorn shook their heads adamantly, by virtue of both the amount of money involved and never having met Tseng.
"We accept," said Reno, "and we'll find her well within our month."
Rude passed at Elena's invitation to the bar. He finally had everything set where he wanted it. A call and he would have things all fall into place. He took out his cell phone. "Hey, hon. In a few days...by helicopter...we will have our hands on a major bargaining tool. Something the Science Department at Shinra wants...the president of Alcor must want... Baby, we'll be rich."
"Rude, what if I want out?"
"Too late now. I'd have to kill you and take the kid. How is she, anyway?"
"Look, when we talked a couple years ago...I was angry. I wasn't ever serious about us...being anything. I never loved you."
"Somehow I think you will. After I'm in the money. I'll call you when the day comes and you'll be waiting at...our place."
"Better not wait up for me."
"If you're not there, I'll come and find you. You won't deny me what I want."
Laida was at her desk when the phone rang. "Yes?"
"Laida. Some police from Junon are here with warrants for Heidegger and Scarlet."
She chuckled. (I know. I gave the officers the anonymous tip myself. And the evidence that implicates them in the fire.) "Look, let them go get them. It would be bad for our P.R. if we were harboring the culprits responsible for the 'Fire of Junon.'"
She hung up on that line and pushed the button for line three--Communications Department. "Martin? After Scarlet and Heidegger get hauled off, give a press conference announcing our embarrassment at the criminals we have found in our midst...oh, and give a sugary-sweet message directed to Alcor offering to help them out in any way possible during their time of need. Bye." She sighed. (I'm so busy today.) She dialed a Junon number.
"Alcor of Junon, may I help you?"
"Hey, Lavana. They just came for Scarlet and Heidegger."
"That's great. So, it's not going to be too much longer, is it? I mean, with the co-presidents in jail, can't you just ascend to their position?"
"It's not that easy. Lucas is ahead of me in line."
"There's co-presidents. You'll get the other position. Besides, you like him. He's developing the fountain of youth for us."
"I still don't want him to be president instead of me."
"Of course not, but maybe he'll give it to you so he can pursue his sciencey stuff."
"I will soon move to Edinborough...after getting all the inside information I can here. Did you know Reno quit here?"
"Actually, I do. He's back with the Turks, running a job for Lucas."
"That's very interesting..."
Lavana hung up the phone. (Very interesting, indeed.) She decided she needed some coffee, even though it was well into the afternoon, and left her temporary office. She ran straight into Raieyana and Aeris and Ishmael. "You shouldn't bring kids into a place of business," she said, matter-of-factly.
Raieyana shook her head. "I just need to talk to Reeve really quick."
"He may be busy. After all, he's working. Although someone like you doesn't understand things like that. It's funny that after a few days with you, Reno ran straight back to the Turks, perhaps...choosing the lesser of two evils?"
"Ray." Reeve stopped and kissed her on the cheek. "What're you doing here?"
"I was going to the store to pick a few things up and wondered if you needed anything."
"I need some more cigarettes. Can you get me a carton?"
Raieyana laughed. "You've been trying to quit for seven years! I doubt you ever will."
He shrugged. "I've been trying. Well, see you later, bye." He walked away.
She gave a pointed look to Lavana. "I told you I would only be a minute. I know he has to work. But I don't think you ever do."
Avoiding the comment, she gave Raieyana a half-smile. "Unless you're pregnant again, I'd cut down on the sweets," she said. Raieyana turned and left. Lavana smirked. (That has to be my greatest comeback ever.)
It had been two days, and still the remark rang in her ears.
"Unless you're pregnant again, I'd cut down on the sweets."
Raieyana looked in the mirror. Her abdomen had begun to swell slightly, but she had thought the bulge was only noticeable to her. (I never showed anything so soon the last time.) She had hoped that the baby would develop at a normal rate, but it was starting to fly out of control.
(At this rate, I'll have the baby in...about four months.) Six months gestation? Unheard of. This was no normal baby. She placed her hand over her abdomen, as if she expected some detectable motion so early. (It wouldn't surprise me totally if I went into labor tomorrow.)
Raieyana looked towards the birth with dread. The baby could not be normal. The morning sickness had come and gone too quickly...and what Lavana had said... It was nasty, to be sure, but it had a foundation, no matter how petty and small. (At least I'm not getting fat. Hey, Lavs! I am pregnant again. And I doubt my hips are going to expand to enormous proportions.)
There was a knock on the door. "Come in," she said.
"We're leaving tomorrow for Wutai," said Vincent, "and even though I wanted to spend the last night talking to you and Reeve... I have to tell you something. I saw Reno today. He wants to meet you...tonight...alone. I didn't tell him anything. I just said I'd deliver the message. But...he was wearing the Turk uniform."
Raieyana sighed. "I don't doubt he was. I'm sure you could recognize it a mile away in the dark. Vincent, I have to go. I have to apologize. I made it seem like he...was, like, constantly hitting on me...and I caved into pressure or something. I know some of it I initiated myself. I'll go and apologize and move on. Maybe he'll come back to Alcor. It would make me a little less uneasy. He's a very good shot with a gun...I'd rather have him on my side."
Vincent nodded. "I'll cover for you. He wanted to meet you at around eight o'clock. Outside some deli thing... I don't know what that is."
"Well," she said, "it used to be a 'Shinra-only' bar, but Weapon destroyed the patronage. Now it's a deli."
Raieyana felt little guilt as she stepped out into the clear night. (I don't want to lie...but Reeve would die if he knew about this. I just have to say my thing to Reno. I don't want to leave this unresolved, because you never know when the day will come and a person will be gone forever. No one alive on this Planet knows that better than I.) She really didn't mind walking into the city. The only thing she disliked was going through the deteriorated Under Junon. The pollution and everything depressed her. She didn't have to pay the elevator guard any money anymore; all the police and civil servants had full faith in Alcor. One thing was for certain: the Shinra didn't control Junon anymore.
She glanced around Sondra's Deli. Perplexed, Raieyana checked her watch. (Eight o'clock... Maybe he meant the back of the deli.) She walked around the building into the dark alley. She heard a crash and a yowl. An alley-cat ran out of a dumpster, pursued by a large dog that looked at least half St. Bernard and part Golden Retriever. But no one else was there. She shivered in the shadows.
Raieyana was suddenly grabbed by a Turk on each side. She noticed she was being approached by Elena on the right, and Rude on the left. She only had two thoughts. (Where's Reno? Could this have been...a trap?)
Elena looked her over. "Tseng's daughter...you don't do his DNA justice. So, we meet again. This time, however, I have a few words for you."
"I'm sure you do, Elena," said Rude, "but we don't want to hear them."
A tall figure emerged from the shadows.
(Reno.) He had changed--greatly--since Raieyana had seen him last...he was different compared to when she had ever seen him. His hair had been cut and it left him with the red mess tamed into shorter spikes. His suit had never been in order like this. Perfect...there were even creases in the pant legs. He had...shined his boots...
He removed his sunglasses and looked directly into her eyes. Even with all the changes, his eyes were no different...the same light, glowing, piercing combination between blue and green. His face betrayed not one emotion. Not anger, love, hatred, nor pity. He just sized up the situation, noting Raieyana's reactions.
Lest he eventually betray any of his feelings, he quickly spoke. "Take her to the helicopter. This is the easiest money we'll ever make."
(He lied. He lied! And I even hoped...albeit for only a split second...that he wasn't part of this. That he would save me. No, he's in charge of the Turks again... And I'm being... kidnapped for some reason. Somebody's paying them. Reno, I had contemplated, wondered, or maybe I just had imagined you cared for me. Was it something else? Did you only want sex from me? Did Reeve know you better than I thought I did?)
There was a crash as Dorn and Isabel went down under Cloud Strife's attack. Raieyana flinched. (A mixed blessing.)
Elena drew her gun. "Reno, Rude get the girl. We can handle this."
With little concern for comfort, Rude grabbed Raieyana by the wrist and pulled her to the helicopter. With one last straining look, she saw Cloud knock the gun out of Elena's hand. She felt oddly relieved. (But remember when Reno asked me why I didn't attack him? I don't want to see anyone die, not even a criminal. But what if Cloud kills the Turks? As long as I don't see it.)
Rude threw her to the floor of the helicopter. "Get us the hell outta here, Reno." Reno steered the helicopter away from Junon, but not towards Edinborough.
He stole a shy glance at Raieyana. She was staring straight ahead out the windshield. She was silent; he didn't know how hard she was trying to keep from crying. (I'll just take her somewhere. Apologize for trying...even considering the Shinra job. Rude'll understand. He still wants Tifa, and I never said we had to kidnap her or anything. I don't want to do this anymore. There isn't enough money available in the world to compensate for...her...) Then he felt the cold metal of a gun pressed to the back of his neck.
"Funny," said Rude, "I didn't want to go to Edinborough, anyway." He smiled. "Land it. In the grass. Now. Don't pull any fast moves. This girl here is my retirement money."
When the helicopter was safely on the ground, Reno turned to Rude. "What the hell are you going to do?" asked Reno.
"What were you going to do?" he replied.
Raieyana shook her head. "The only friend that you have in the world, Rude, and you have him at gunpoint. What a man! Let me tell you, a man has a couple of things you don't--loyalty and integrity! You can't even be good to the Turks? Where do you go when you have nothing left?"
Angered by her words, Rude hit her on the face. The blow knocked her out of her chair.
She looked up from where she was kneeling on the ground. "That all you got? I've had much worse," she taunted.
He moved towards her, but was attacked by Reno before he was anywhere near her. With a groan, Reno fell to the ground. Blood started soaking through his shirt. Rude wiped off his knife with a handkerchief and put it back into its hiding place.
"Reno," Raieyana gasped. She kneeled next to him.
"If you try any fast moves, I'll kill him," said Rude, then addressing Reno, "I didn't know you had a thing for Ancients. You said this kid was Reeve's chick. Or maybe you had a thing for Tseng and you want some of his."
Reno made another attempt at Rude.
Rude laughed. "I would stay right there unless I enjoyed being slashed with knives." He turned to the controls. "We're going to Gongaga. Rude's gonna make a fortune, let me tell you." Rude glanced behind him. Reno was bleeding steadily right onto the floor. (He could die from that. Oh, well. You gotta expect some casualties in a war.)
Rude led them to a house in Gongaga. It was the middle of the night, so no one was up and about to see them. Rude unlocked the door. "Not the best of places, but it was the best I could get on my Turk salary. But you, my little lady, you're going to bring in some heavy dough. I'm auctioning you off to the highest bidder. And if it's Reeve, then you'll go back to him. If it's Shinra, there you go. If Reno has some secret fortune stashed away...he better spend it on some good curative materia. I have a cell in the basement for you. There's only one cot. I wasn't expecting to have to drag Reno here. But he probably doesn't mind sharing."
Rude locked the door after Raieyana and Reno made it inside. "Wait," she cried, banging on the door, "what am I supposed to do about Reno? He'll die if I don't do something! Give me some materia, anything!"
Rude opened the door again and handed her a bottle of iodine. "At least he won't die from infection," he said with a smile. Reno was leaning against the wall, with labored breathing.
"Lie down on the cot. I can't do much...but I can't let you die on me." Raieyana blushed. "You're going to have to take off your shirt for me. It's been slashed...and I can use it for bandages." He handed it to her. She tore it into long, thin strips. She winced. "This is going to hurt like hell, Reno. It's iodine. For the love of God, he had to give me iodine."
Reno just smiled weakly. "Like 'hell?' That's the closest I think I've ever heard you some to swearing. I'm a bad influence on you." He looked at her. "And you didn't bring your weapons? No materia?"
She shook her head, refusing to meet his eyes. (I...trusted you. It's not my fault...) "This will hurt. But it will prevent you from dying by way of germs. The cut isn't very deep; it's just really long." She poured the iodine over the cut, which reached from the lower part of his abdomen to across and up his right side. Reno gasped at the sting, but he didn't cry out. She wrapped the strips around him. Finally, it was all covered and the bleeding had stopped for the most part.
Raieyana wanted to make conversation, but she only had one topic in mind. "I really thought you were going to take me to the Shinra," she said softly.
Reno laughed bitterly. "Yeah, so did I. And I kept thinking that way, so set in my mission, until I saw you again. The way you were looking at me. After you realized I was running the deal, you looked so hurt, so...so... That hurt me more than this." He gestured to his wound.
"But," she said, "even though it may seem conceited, I can't help but think that I'm to blame for some...all of this. I shouldn't have let Reeve place all the blame on you..."
"Raieyana, he wanted to."
"...and I'm an adult and I am responsible for my own actions! Just because you had your lips and hands on me didn't mean I had to give up! I let you do it. And I...I..." Her face crumpled. "...and I liked it," she whispered.
Raieyana couldn't tell Reno all the things she had been wondering, asking herself. (Do I still love Reeve, now? I can't think of anything when I'm with Reno but Reno. How much I want to touch him...how much I want him to hold me...and...and...) She smiled weakly at him when she noticed he was looking at her with an amused expression. "What?"
He grinned. "I've never seen someone have an argument in their head before. Your eyes would look green, and then they would glow, and then they would be green, and then they would glow... Tell me, what can't you decide?"
(I can't tell him the truth...) "Oh," she said lightly, "I was just wondering if the myth about pregnant women craving pickles and ice cream was true just because I have the occasional craving for a bagel with cream cheese."
He gave her an incredulous look.
"What? Cream cheese is dairy and so is ice cream, and... Oh, never mind. How are you feeling?" she asked, changing the subject.
"I want an aspirin. I want some fucking morphine. I'm in pain. But..." (Nothing hurts me like this craving for you... What the hell was that? Some kind of thing a love-sick puppy would say in a country and western song after whining for four minutes about how his doggy ran away! I'm gonna have to keep my wits about me and not act like an idiot and look for a chance for escape and get her back to Reeve.)
"It's not fair," she said, "you don't deserve this. You only attacked him because he was going to hit me again. I could have handled it. I've been hit before."
"Raieyana. I've been a bad man. I think...I just think that maybe, just maybe--this is some sort of punishment for me. Retribution on my part. Because you see, a death would be so quick, no pain. But this, my stomach is throbbing, so is my head... This is some sick, twisted punishment." (And the other part of that punishment is you.)
"You're not a bad man, Reno..."
"Yes, I am. I watched Sector 7 fall. Hell, I set the fucking bomb that made the goddamn thing collapse."
She looked him straight in the eyes. "No! My father just sat and watched, too. He was not a bad man and neither are you. Because if you were, I couldn't...I couldn't..."
"Couldn't what?" he prompted her.
"I couldn't give a damn. I couldn't care about you. If you were just greedy and just mean and just a womanizer, I could let myself hate you."
"So what am I besides greedy?" Reno asked.
Raieyana sat, silent. (I've already said more than I wanted to say. But I care about him... There's nothing wrong with that! I've said I cared about Cloud before. But I didn't mean it like this.)
"What? What good is there in me? Christ, Raieyana, I want you to tell me what good you see. I've never wanted anyone's acceptance before, never needed anyone's approval. But if I didn't meet up to your standards for a good person...I would..."
(Tell me, Reno. You would what?)
"I never cared," he said, "about what someone thought about me before. There is nothing, nothing which would make me happier than for you to tell me why you have hope in my eternal soul. The reason why you think there's even a chance I might see the Promised Land."
Raieyana looked into his earnest face. The same eyes as before, yet he didn't--or he couldn't--restrain any emotions this time. She saw a little desperation, some warmth, and mostly hope. "A person who was truly evil couldn't care whether or not I thought he was evil. By virtue, that one thing makes you good. But you want a real reason. I don't have one. All I know is when I look in your eyes, and you're not making an effort to cover your feelings in that 'professional Turk' face, I see the real you. And the real you..."
She paused. What she truly thought was that the "real Reno" cared about her. But she wouldn't say that. (I can't! Reno, look at me and...just know. Please.) He closed his eyes with a sad sigh.
(Raieyana doesn't have a reason because I'm not a good person. And however friendly she is to me, she can't change that! She can't accept it, but she can't change it! And...) He felt her hand close over his. She was kneeling on the ground beside the cot. She rested her head on his arm.
"Please don't take me the wrong way. I just can't explain it...how I know. But I do know."
He opened his eyes and found himself drawn to her hopeful ones. She had a piece of hair right in between them. Reno reached up and gently brushed it from her face. He felt her hand on his tighten as he touched her. "Don't make excuses," he said, "I know how I am. Don't feel bad that it's the way I am. I...I... Thanks for trying, though."
Raieyana had been paying attention to the entire conversation, really. Reno was of the belief that he was evil and doomed to hell. (And I'll be damned that I can't take my eyes off his body when he's in distress.) Reno had a nice body, though. Washboard abs, large muscles on his arms. She had only seen him fully clothed before. She was getting her eyes' worth now.
She glanced at his face. He was looking at her sadly now. She tried to speak reassuringly, but the words refused to come out. So she did the thing that came natural.
Nothing physical between them had ever been initiated by Raieyana. But Reno felt her lips on his and enjoyed it, for the moment. Then he pulled away.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I... I..." (I want more than this. I want to be able to freely say what I feel.)
"You want something more," she said, with a half-smile.
(She read my mind.)
She leaned back and kissed him with a greater passion. After debating with himself, Reno separated himself from her yet again. "No, Raieyana. That's not what I want. I mean I want it, but..." (If I told her I loved her that would end everything. We can pretend it's just hormones or shit, but if I admit how I feel, I will lose her. I won't get to see her. And I've never been in love before.)
"Reno, I don't want to hurt you any more than I already have..."
"I treasure the pain." Judging by Raieyana's shocked expression, he really had said his last thought out loud that time. He paused, knowing the implications of confessing his feelings. He also realized the implications of remaining silent. (Tseng loved that Ancient, Aeris. He never told her before he died. She never knew... Do I want her to know, or do I want her to go?) "I love you, Raieyana."
There was silence. A tear slowly rolled down her cheek. "I think I knew that somehow, deep inside." She turned to him. "What do I say to Reeve? One time he said he owed his very sanity to me. What do I tell him?"
Reno shrugged. "You don't have to tell him what I just told you. Don't let it bother you, either. In this world, there are always some one-sided relationships. Now I have one."
She shook her head. "Reno. How can I say I don't want to be with him now that I've finally gotten him back? He told me he never thought of me as a child. So how do I explain to him that it feels now that a little child was the one waiting for him with undying love? It's been seven years, and I was alone for an awfully long time. And I was the one with the first words. I was the first one out of the two of us to say 'I still love you!' Was it because I had convinced myself that I really did? Was it because I thought my life had no worth if the reason I used to live for was now something that I hardly considered anymore? This is going to traumatize my kids..." She gave in to the tears and sobbed into her hands.
Reno watched her. He felt now that he was just a turning point in her life. A turning point in a life that had just begun to blossom. (After all, I'm nearly fifteen years older than her. I worked with her father. If he was still alive, I would have gotten a nice Turk gunshot from him by now for even considering a relationship with her. But at least she realized in time that she wasn't the sixteen year old kid who loved Reeve. She's right, though; this will hurt him too deeply.) "...Raieyana?"
His voice cracked on the second syllable of her name. She looked up.
"Oh, Reno, I'm sorry. I didn't even remember you were there, I was so upset... Reno, you okay?"
He had closed his eyes, mentally willing the pain away. He knew she didn't love him. He had always known. He had been a fool to hope.
"Reno? Are you in pain?"
(Just a little agony, and some anguish.) "No," he said, "I can handle it. My cut doesn't hurt that much...I had just nearly forgotten it. It was just because I moved, and then, boy, did I remember!"
Raieyana was at a loss for words. (Every time I've ever said "love" before in my life to someone, it seems as though it were too hasty. But now, I think that I have to tell him. I do love him. Why else would I go into a dangerous city after dark to meet him, alone, without weapons? I wanted to just go away and forget about my troubles for a little while. But I can't ignore this trouble. I can't make it go away. I've tried, God knows I have, but I can't pretend that I don't have feelings for him. That I don't...just want to make love to him right now, no matter if Rude sees or hears or not.)
She had truly shocked herself with her thoughts. The first time she had slept with Reeve was a comfort for her. She was in agony over Ishmael's death, and wanted to forget. But Reno, she just wanted him. She refused Reeve but had now twice handed herself over to Reno. And he refused. Raieyana was Reeve's. "Not anymore," she whispered.
Reno was half asleep. "What's 'not anymore?'" he asked.
"I'm not going to deny the parts of me that scare me just because I don't want to hear what they have to say. I'm not going to lie to myself anymore."
He closed his eyes. "Good, Raieyana," he said. He was ready to fall asleep. She softly kissed his hand, which was the oddest thing she could have done at the moment. It really caught his attention.
"What are you doing? Raieyana?" he whispered.
"I love you," she said softly. Then she got up and walked to the other side of the cell. He sat up and squinted at her in the darkness. She wasn't crying, as he had thought she would.
"What did you say?"
"You, you," she stammered, "you heard me."
"I don't believe it."
"Then don't. It won't make me love you any less."
He struggled to get off the cot.
"Reno, what are you doing? You can't get up!"
"I can't...reach you over there. I can barely see you." Before he finished his last sentence, she was climbing into the cot beside him. He stopped her. "Just one last thing. Before... No regrets. About now, before, or later. Tell me now. Do you have any regrets?"
"The only regret I'll have is if you refuse me a third time."
A combination moan and gasp. "But Raieyana, we hardly have any privacy..."
"I don't care," she said stubbornly, "what if we don't get out of here for a long time? I can't wait any longer. You didn't believe it when I said it before... I love you, Reno. I want to be with you. I want it to be like that day in the helicopter again."
He kissed her softly. "No," he whispered, "we were angry that time. Not now..." He kissed her again, more deeply. His entire body stiffened as a great pain went through him.
Raieyana was startled. "Reno? You okay?"
He tried to smile. "Just a throb." But he was sweating and his breathing was raspy. He lay his head down and a convulsion went through him. "I'm just fine, Raieyana... Just fine." He closed his eyes and she did not know whether he was asleep or comatose. Raieyana checked his watch for the time. 1 A.M. The night was far from being over.
(She went to meet Reno. And she never came back.) Reeve held back the urge to go put a bullet in Vincent's head. Vincent had let her go meet him alone...hell, Vincent was the one that told her Reno wanted to meet her. Reeve had tried and tried to remain calm in the two days that had passed since Raieyana had disappeared on the pretense of running errands, but he was close to desperation. There had been no news about the whereabouts of either Raieyana or Reno.
"Reeve...I mean, Daddy?"
He looked up into the eyes of a certain little girl named Aeris. "What is it, honey?"
Her lower lip trembled and her eyes filled with tears. "Where's Mommy? Was she killed by a Cactuar?"
Reeve shook his head, amazed at the imagination involved with her selection of a Cactuar as her mother's murderer. "No... Your Mommy's just fine. She most certainly was not killed by a Cactuar. She's nowhere near a Cactuar. There aren't any that live around here."
She looked at him in wonder, then ran out of the room. He could hear her voice. "Ishmael, Daddy said there ain't any Cactuars around here!! You lied to me and I'm going to tell on you!" Someone knocked on the front door.
"Cloud. Get the hell out of here." Reeve was in the process of slamming the door in his face when Cloud spoke.
"I just want to know if Raieyana's okay. She got into some trouble the other night."
"Ray never came home. What do you know about it?" Reeve demanded.
"She was with a whole bunch of Turks. It looked like they were going to kidnap her. I attacked three of them: Elena and two rookies. I thought she got away from the other two."
Reeve sighed. "Raieyana left unarmed. I guess the other two were Rude and Reno, so she's probably in a lab in Edinborough by now."
Cloud shook his head. "No. I killed the rookies, but Elena escaped. I guess she reported it in Edinborough. Rude and Reno have been missing since that night. Shinra has no idea where they are, either. My best guess is that one of them has Raieyana and the other as hostage. Or they've made a pact between them for money. I heard that the Science Head at Shinra offered the Turks one and a half million gil if they got her within the month. Sure it's a lot of money split five ways, but even more split two. And if this leak gets to you--and it was obviously intended to--someone's figuring you'll up the ante."
"Well, whoever 'they' is, 'they' are an idiot if they think I would bid for Ray! We'll just go into wherever they're hiding out and get her back. We'll kick 'their' asses while we're at it."
Cloud smiled. "I noticed you said 'we,'" he said sadly.
"I guess I did," said Reeve, "because I'll need all the help I can get. I suppose I could get Yuffie and Vincent to help us. I won't bother the others."
"Why not? They probably want to know," said Cloud, "that Shinra wants Raieyana. You know they have to want her for experimental reasons. She's the only thing--besides me--left that's even remotely like a clone. And to their knowledge, she's the only living Ancient."
"To their knowledge," repeated Reeve slowly.
"Your kids are in danger. If there is an informant at Alcor--and I highly doubt there isn't--somebody at Shinra's gonna find out Raieyana's had children."
Just thinking of his children being experimented on enraged Reeve. He clenched his fists. "That Shelding will not get his hands on Ray--or our kids!"
"This is the worst possible time that they could possibly get her. I have something to do with that. I'm sorry." Reeve's eyes blazed. "But," Cloud continued, "even though I can't excuse my actions...perhaps I can help you understand the causes. I can only liken it to the experience you had in the crater seven years ago and tell you that it took seven years for the Jenova to wear me down on that point. But I let it wear me down... And I've secured my passage into hell."
Reeve could not say anything. (I can kind of understand. But I can never forgive him. Maybe it's hypocritical, maybe it's selfish, but I just can't. Because what he did distanced Ray from me at the time when we where just beginning to be close again. If Cloud had kept control, there wouldn't have been that gap in our relationship for Reno to hop into and widen. But Cloud is my key to rescuing Raieyana, I must trust him. And even if his motives were--are--warped, he still wants to rescue her as much as I do. Maybe even more...because he wants redemption.)
The cell door opened for a moment, as Rude deposited the bread and water which Raieyana understood would be a daily ritual.
"Raieyana," he had said the day before, "I don't want you to starve. You have to be in good condition or you won't draw much money."
He failed to mention Reno. The portions, as a matter of fact, were adequate enough...but only for one person. A person in good health. Not anything near adequate for a person recovering from major loss of blood or a pregnant woman. Especially not both of them. But Raieyana nursed Reno through the second day of his fever. He barely woke from his delirium to take the pieces of the bread she had softened in the water for him. When he sweated from hot flashes, she wiped his face with a wet rag, courtesy of his torn shirt. When he shivered with chills, she drew the thin blanket from the cot tightly around him. A couple of times when he was really bad, she lay there beside him, holding his shaking body in her arms.
Sick as he was, Reno consumed most of the food. Raieyana saved a meager bit for herself. She spent most of the time worrying about his health. When she tired of that, she worried about her own health. Although she was hardly comparable to the last time she was pregnant, she knew last time she was sick when she was this far along. If she got sick now, both she and Reno would die. Yet this time, she had barely even noticed any side effects to the pregnancy. On an average person, the change in appearance would have been barely noticeable; on Raieyana, who had been a little too thin in the beginning, it was rather obvious now that she had gained a little weight. She was still thinner than the average person...but there was a little bulge in her abdomen and a little worry line on her face every time she remembered it. Reno suddenly stirred.
Raieyana got up and carried over some bread. He looked tired, but he was aware again of his surroundings--at last.
"I'm not hungry," he said, his throat dry. She handed him a glass of water. He drank it slowly. She placed her hand on his forehead.
"Your fever must have broken," she said, with a smile of relief.
Reno closed his eyes. "I had a lot of hallucinations when I had that fever...but I had this really nice one. About a little nymph who sang to me about the Promised Land."
Raieyana reddened. The night before, when Reno was thrashing about, she had sang to him. It was a poem written by the Ancients that she had translated. She was enchanted by it, and set it to music. She sang it to her children sometimes before bedtime. It was the only thing she could think of to do to soothe Reno is his sickness.
"I sang to you last night," she said, a little embarrassed.
"Beyond the horizon, across the farthest sea..." Reno quoted.
"...I know there is a place where I belong, and it always beckons me. Past and present, now and forever, I shall reach for this special space, the home of my dreams and pray it is my resting place," Raieyana finished.
"It's even better now that I know it wasn't a dream. You don't look well. Are you okay?"
"Oh," Raieyana said lightly, "I've just been worried about you. Maybe I stayed up with you more than I ought to...but then, if I hadn't, you might still be sick."
"You should be worried about yourself, Raieyana."
She smiled. "Why? You're worse off than I am at the moment."
Reno shook his head. "No," he said, "you are in more danger than you think. Let's say this deal works out in Rude's favor and the Shinra pay him the money he wants for you. Even if Shelding wanted you because you were an Ancient, he'll want to have your baby more. He'll want to examine it and he'll want your other kids and he'll probably clone you all. You're in danger."
"Reno," Raieyana said, "don't you think I know that? Don't you understand that I do worry about that? I worry about more than you know. I even know more reasons why Shelding...if that's the name of the guy at Shinra who's head of Science...would want me. Sure, the whole Ancient thing is enticing to any madman, but chances are he wants to play Dr. Frankenstein. I don't doubt he knows who my father was. That probably intrigues him."
"Why would a Turk be intriguing?" asked Reno.
"He wouldn't be. My father wasn't a Turk."
"What the hell do you mean? Of course he was. Tseng was the commander..."
Raieyana interrupted. "Tseng wasn't my father--biologically."
"You lied!" said Reno angrily.
"I didn't lie...Hojo did! Tseng always believed he was my father. You know how I found out the truth? I read it in a report in the basement of an abandoned house in Nibelheim."
"Now really, Raieyana. How could you have known it was about you?"
Her eyes blazed. "You don't believe me? The dates involved were too perfect. And the descriptions worked out as well. One of the babies had a blue tattoo of the Roman numeral 'I.' So do I. And there was a postscript mentioning how Hojo had told Tseng we were his children."
Reno touched her hand. "We?"
"Yeah. My own sister put out a warrant for my arrest. My own sister calmly forced one of our childhood friends to kill himself. She drove another one mad. My own sister used Shinra to install her plans for resurrection...the resurrection of Sephiroth."
Reno saw the image of Aysta Laurince in his mind. (She had been kind of crazy.) "We just took the jobs," he said, "and never asked questions. She must have been really messed up. Resurrect Sephiroth! You would have to be demented to want to do that."
Raieyana shrugged. "She was. But she is partly justified in her actions. She just wanted to raise her own father."
(Father? Her... Sephiroth...Raieyana's father? No!) He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her so she faced him. "You are wrong to even suggest you are the offspring of that monster! Ugly, vile, loathe, evil...you are none of those things. There was a mistake somewhere..."
"Reno, you don't know how many times I've tried not to believe it. But it's true. And if it makes me a monster, then I am a monster."
Reno stood up--stiffly--and held her in his arms. "I don't care...even if you mutate into Jenova-LIFE in the next minute. You're still Raieyana. And if you're a monster, then I wish I could be a monster."
She smiled. "That's very sweet."
"But this is sweeter." He kissed her.
"How are we going to get out of here?" she whispered.
"Leave it to me," said Reno.