Categories > Games > Kingdom Hearts > But That Was In Another Country

swallowing sundown

by spiderflower 6 reviews

Sometimes the good guys don't win against unstoppable odds. Yuffie Kisaragi and the last stand: before Traverse Town, there was the Planet, and before Sora, there was AVALANCHE. Chapter four; the r...

Category: Kingdom Hearts - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Cloud, Yuffie - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006-05-29 - Updated: 2006-05-29 - 6217 words

But That Was In Another Country

once, as my heart remembers:
all the stars were fallen embers

- enya, "fallen embers"

iv. - swallowing sundown

So I guess we'll skip that bit.

- Ha! You sucker. That's like thumbing over Biff and Shirilla's bad sex scenes. As if.

"So you're in your coffin in your dumb mansion and you obviously haven't gone to the toilet for days - Barret, look, stop it, Vincent and me are having a conversation, gawd - I bet you are more bored than anyone else in the entire universe. I also bet you smell like Grandpa's couch. Man, I guess I better entertain you from here on in. Okay, how's this; I'll read to you from an improving moral tale of high literary value I found, about One Woman and her Motherhood and Love for a Turk. I bet you are excited now because you were a Turk." ("Yuffie, give us the phone, I mean it," said Tifa.) "Geez, is it loud in here or what. Anyway, keep trying not to pee, I'll skip us over to the good bits. 'Shirilla removed her gossamer nightrobe, and in the darkness Biff could see the slightest hint of lace panties - '"

It was at this moment in time that Barret removed me from the chair and held me upside down, shaking diligently, while Tifa sat in my seat and picked up the PHS. She shook her ponytail out of the way and thoughtfully stuck one finger in the opposite ear. "Vincent? Vincent! - "

The long and short of it is this: is that when they came to Nibelheim, he stood at the window and saw them - saw the wizards moving among the buildings, hunting for the stragglers who sometimes stayed in the rotting eaves of the empty town, the dogs, the birds, the cats - saw the Red Nocturnes and Yellow Operas knocking like bells and darting over rooftops, he lay on the roof and reloaded Death Penalty over and over and sniped what he could. When he realized what they were they were already coming for him up the street - so he went inside, and went down the steps, back to his crypt and his coffin and to slow his heart so that he was dead to them. And he lay there without moving, hardly breathing, hardly alive in the way only he knew how.


(I mean, for one thing, he should have hid in the safe where we found the Odin materia and the Lost Number, because let's face it, with the size of Lost Number I bet there's a hidden kitchenette and bathroom unit and spa pool back there.)

" - but you didn't get through to Cid?" Tifa looked totally crestfallen; she was chewing on the end of a pen, a nervous habit that probably enthralled many, turning around and giving the assembled throng megaglares as she listened. "What? Oh, I see - I - I don't understand, I just don't. That's something, I suppose. We'll get Yuffie to try her again. Don't move one inch, okay? Not one inch. We'll come to get you."

"No, we won't," said Reeve. (He had been learning cues from Cloud.)

"What? No, Vincent, we're not leaving you there - no, I - we're not going to leave you behind - They're what?"

The phone was very gently taken from her by Barret, out of the way of her grasp as he turned around and handed Marlene to me by way of some kind of threeway trade. To this Tifa stared at him with huge, betrayed eyes, furious and white-fisted, but he turned away from her and held the handset to his ear.

"It's Barret on now, bro; damn, but you're gonna have yerself a real shitstorm up there, I hell of don't know what - no, we ain't in no position from here - " ("I fucking hate you, Barret Wallace," said Tifa, which made Marlene bury her face in my chest and make my t-shirt damp with little girl. She smelled like wet puppy.) " - get the shit outta there, jackass, I'll be goddamned if we're all sittin' like motherfuckin' rats! I don't care! - I'm not dyin' underground here; I been a coal man all my life, and lemme tell it straight, man was meant to be underground he'd have a goddamn drill on his goddamn dick! This is one train we're gettin' off of, you hear me?!"

It was at this point that Marlene began to cry, very innocently and wholly, like the four-year-old she was; me being the only one with any sense and Reeve making panic-stricken eyebrow motions in his horrible sweatstained pinstripe shirt, I hustled her out of there before she could reach full-bore wail and alert her father. She had a tantrum in the kitchen, so I picked the lockbox and gave her some sugar candy from it. She cried as she sucked, cheeks bright red and me wiping her nose lest she choke of mucus cloggage (I am never breeding) and sitting her on my lap, which she refused to leave.

"That was boring," I said presently to her. "I thought it was going to be somebody cool on the phone, like a magical moon man."

She hiccupped scornfully and sucked on the candy. She sounded like an industrial cleaner.

"Look, kid, don't mind them, also don't choke."

"I wanna go home," she said, and her big brown eyes welled up with tears. She also welled up with mucus, and this time I was totally not prepared to touch that without a towel and a stick. "I wanna go home."

"Leenie, you know we - "

"I want. To. Go. HOME!"

Marls put the candy between her teeth and pummelled me, being her father's daughter; took her little fists and punched me as hard as she could in my ribcage, as I leant against the steel cabinet and held her, hit me and hit me and hit me. (She actually had a pretty mean right hook.) Eventually, exhausted of Kisaragi abuse, she put her head on my shoulder and sucked on the candy and simply cried.

"I can't have a pony here," she said eventually.

"Nope. No room."

"I was gonna get a pony when I turned seven. That's only three years."

"They were probably lying. I was going to get a pony when I turned eight. Do you see any pony now?"

"If I was - was good all the time - d'ya think they'd stop fightin'?"

"I don't think if I was good all the time they'd stop fighting," sez me, but at Marlene's full bottom lip starting to tremble furiously - "Look, this has nothing to do with you, okay? At all. Zip. Zap. Nothing you do is making them sad. They just want to go home, too, with crazy Uncle Cloud and everyone. Just like the last time." Man, there had been a /last time/. "Only instead of being with nice Mrs. Aerith's Mom, you're here, okay? Also, you haven't been kidnapped by Turks, so that's total icecream on the cake, because kidnap by Turks means you grow up stunted. Possibly also a fag hag. - Everyone's just grouchy at the moment, so we'll leave them alone to be grouchy. Tell you what, let's arrange those alphabet magnets on the bulletin board to spell rude words. It's educational."

By the time Marlene had learnt how to spell 'urethra', the long and lame conversation was over. Reeve and Barret and Tifa looked gloomier than ever; Cloud, who hadn't been present, was obviously checking out his girlfriend, the wall. Reeve disappeared to the Reevecave or wherever he went in times of distress; I hadn't been able to find out despite long ninja searches. (Possibly out of boredom. Who wanted to find the Reevecave?) Tifa picked up the little girl and hugged her tight to her ample chest, nearly suffocating her, and thankfully not noticing the word 'flange' on the b-board.

"Do you mind going back to man the comm room, Yuffie? I wouldn't ask, only Vincent said he got through to Shera, only she put the phone down after mumbling a lot, I don't really understand." She looked tired; she looked tireder than ever, these days, sort of grim and worn down to a nub. We'd already gone through about three punching-bags in the gym due to Tifa Lockhart's Insane Crazed Rocket Punches, and I think she had been trying the steel walls in lieu, because her knuckles were bandaged. "I know it must be one awful bore - "

"Don't worry about me, Shirilla is going to be having her mystery baby the next chapter."

"I'll make you something special for dinner," she nearly begged at my acquiesce. "I found some canned ham. I know you like ham. I'll hash it with - with - potatoes - "

For some reason, the terrible fate of canned ham and mash made her burst into tears, and that got me going, which is all you can get from canned ham and potatoes. She took the Marlene-free arm and put her arm around me and we cried like total sissies, hugging each other as hard as we could, me with my arms around her waist and Marlene and pressing myself into her. She smelled like soap and sweat and powder, of Tifa, my terrible and secret excuse for a mother-cum-sister, of shampoo and of heavy-duty bra cups.

"Don't cry," Marlene begged us. "I can spell /urethra/."

After this we broke down hooting, Tifa's cheek next to my cheek as she bent a little, wet and hot with tears. "I feel so useless," she whispered to me.

"Don't," I said, Comfort Of The Year. "Don't."

She straightened up and wiped her face with the back of her hand. I had already surreptitiously wiped my face on the back of Marlene, because, you know, she was right there and everything. "Ham for supper," she said determinedly, in the same way she might say /bandage for your wound/, or /ass-kicking for mako beasts/.

"Fried ham and grits," said Marlene.

"Baked ham and /vegetables/." (Boy, someone had Mom Syndrome. I bet everything gave Cloud gas or sadness or something.)

"Broiled ham and ham-beasts," I said. "I, on the other hand, will be in the comm room with Biff and Shirilla. I may be some time."

"I can't believe you can read that thing," said Tifa, and I loved her, and she left.

I put my legs up and did what they asked me to: I called Shera. Nothing. I called Junon Pizza for luck - "This branch of Junon Pizza cannot take your order right now, if we're not here in ten minutes your order is free!" - and then Shera again. Nothing. Nothing except that Junon Pizza owed me another free pizza, and they owed me about seventy thousand nine hundred and fifty three, which may alert to you that I would not be getting any pizza any time soon.

And then I called Vincent.

"I'm having ham for supper," I said.


"I bet you haven't eaten in ages. I would send you ham, only possibly there would be terrible shadowy ham-monsters running around. Delicious and terrible, they would haunt the roads and be badass."

"... was there a reason you called me, Yuffie?"

"No," I said.


"I bet you're really bored, though."


"Unless you have a pin-up in the coffin. I bet you do have a pin-up. Man, am I interrupting your private time? I could talk in a sexy voice. Is this a sexy voice? Wait, this is totally gross. Gawd. I feel kind of dirty and molested."

"... this coffin is completely dark."

"Vincent, it is called the power of imagination. I'll help you. Okay, there's a hot blonde, standing on the beach, wearing this tiny pink polka-dotted bikini, and you get a smile at you all, 'Vincent, I am really, really hot for guys who wear black and totally heterosexual red velvet,' and - "


" - and did I mention that it's Cloud - "

"Yuffie. I'd prefer to spend this time alone, considering our situation. Thank you for any misguided thought you may have had as to my entertainment." He hung up.

I waited twenty-five seconds before I called him again, drumming my fingers on the worn desk and drawing a happy man-eating flower on the blotting pad. "That was about sixty words more than you usually give me. I think you're really bored."

"Have you considered that they could be hearing our voices?"

"No, because the flea in Kalm? No ears. It had antennae. I mean, it can totally hear a hobo from sixty paces, but my sexy voice? Not likely."

"... there were other darknesses, Yuffie - "

"Did they have ears?"

"... no discernable ones. But - "

"What'd they look like? Also, /darknesses/? Haven't we cured you of this stuff yet? Because, dude, you sound a lot like Cloud, and he's busy making love to a concrete pylon."

"It's what they are." I could hear his voice; slightly shallow, a bit scratchy, slow and ponderous as he fired on only about one cylinder. "What they are... what they mean. Darknesses. Heartlessness... The mako has been calling. The Planet does not think... No. I don't hear the voice of the Planet."

"Regretting asking already, but what do you hear?"

"Nothing," he said, "nothing at all."


"The Junon Pizza answering machine is kind of less creepy to listen to than you are," I said. "Also, it gives me free pizza. You know, why don't you stop listening? Why don't you listen to yourself once in a while? You and Cloud always have someone else's hand up your ass! Why are you down there anyway? Do you like being in there? Do you like waiting to die? Do you have any idea how totally shitty it is being in here, barring ham?"

"Yuffie," he said. "Do you know... can you comprehend... what it would be like if they received Chaos?"

"Um. Pretty lame?"


Another silence. I drew the man-flower eating a canned ham, and listened to the slow rasp of his breath. I timed; he only drew it in to talk, just a whisper, only taking in a lungful about each forty seconds. I imagined the blood slowly going to his heart, the aorta pushing it out just as slow, like they were on a broken tape. Then I stopped because it was putting me off my dinner.

"It's pretty lame here, too," I confessed. "Everyone's bitching at each other and Tifa cried on me and Cloud's crazy and being underground is not ninja territory. You do not get underground ninjas. And Reeve is weird and nobody calls and I'm running out of romance novels and I want to go beat something up and I'm really afraid I'm going to be in here until I'm sixty-two."

"You won't be in there for fifty-nine years."

"You actually managed to make that sound not comforting."

"... I am not here as a shoulder."

"Even less comforting."


"You know, they said there was going to be this kickass meteor shower from the sky. On the news. I was going to sit up on the roof and watch it."

"I cannot trust anything that comes from the sky," said Mr. Sadness.

"Vincent, are there ants in your coffin?"

"... what?"

"I'm just wondering if there are ants. They could crawl up you and eat your eyes while you're asleep."

"... there are no ants in my crypt."

"If there were you could eat them."

"I have never acted without my own hand," he said, rather suddenly. "I was never... a puppet. But my sins have always been my own. Nobody else's. I hear the voices. I do not listen."

"I know," I said. And: "Sorry."


"At least you're not telling us we're going to die every five minutes."

"There isn't much hope for us, Yuffie."

"You were doing so well. Strike one."

"It's naive to think otherwise. I never said that we should lie down without any struggle."

"Do you - do you think Cid's dead? And Red?"

"... if they aren't alive, I can only hope they are dead."

I drew exclamation marks next to manflower. "Wow, that was pretty garbled."

"... yes."

"You know, it is so cute you actually had your cellphone when you locked yourself in here. Are you using it with your tongue?"

"... I can move my hands, Yuffie."

"Oh. Ohhh. I guess that's something. If you want any private time just say so."


"Sorry, sorry." I drew a couple of criss-crosses on the paper, and came up with a bright idea. "Heh heh heh. I just thought of something /awesome/. I have a pen with me. Let's play tic-tac-toe. Okay, I am the noughts, and you are the crosses because you are all gothic and sad. I go first because I am noughts." I drew a big O in the middle of the grid. "I got center. Okay, where do you go?"

There was the /longest silence I ever heard from him/, possibly because I hadn't been around to hear him be silent those twenty-seven years he was having naptime, because he was probably pretty quiet then. "... cross on row one, square three."

He won tic-tac-toe. He also won Hangman until I started doing it in Wutaianese, when he also won Hangman once he caught on/, until I started doing Hangman for obscure sexual terms, which he refused to do because he is no fun. It actually started to get a low /ding on the fun-o-meter, considering everything, and in comparison to the answerphone of Junon Pizza.

All I can say is this: he must have been so bored.

He was winning Hangman again (so I decided to cheat wildly change the word midway to /necrophilia/) when the horrible buzzer rang through from the kitchen to indicate it was dinner. "Well, that's the ham bell. I wish you were here with us having ham. Tifa's ham? It is awesome. Also, I win. G'night, Vincent."

"Goodnight, Yuffie."

"D'you want to play What Colour Is Barret's Underwear next time? If I discover he goes commando everyone loses. It is an adventure game."

"... goodnight, Yuffie."

You know what? You know what and it's so lame - it's so stupid - I still have this little scrap of blotting paper with that stupid tic-tac-toe game on it; isn't that lame? This torn gross piece of foolscap all covered in old ink. Like, it's all falling apart and icky; I'm touching it right now, I put it in my wallet - okay, Cloud's wallet, I never bought a wallet in my life - and I can touch it right now, if I open it up and unzip the coin purse. It has lint and dust and some marbles I won off the triplets and some creepy foreign gil Leon gave me and the paper. I don't know why I kept it. Maybe I wanted to discern his amazing tic-tac-toe skills. Because I didn't even win that one.

Isn't that just so stupid? I should throw it in the trash.

Tomorrow, anyway. Yeah.

But it's weird, though - at the end of every day and sometimes the middles (because like hell you could tell day and night there) I called him. Junon Pizza had lost the obvious gloss. Goodbye, Junon Pizza. After about a million tic-tac-toe games I actually started getting him to talk. Probably it was because he had spent like a week in that coffin already.

"Row two, square one."

"You can't make that move. It's illegal."

"... no, it's not. There are no illegal moves in this game except for marking on a used square. That is not a used square."

"whatever, I'll let you have it because I'm so nice. Anyway, that's lame Midgar rules; this is Wutai rules. - Row one, square two. - You know, I have been meaning to ask you. How come you can speak Wutaianese?"

"... Turks learn a great deal of the language - "

"Vincent, you knew the words for /your uncle is a scabby vagina/. You did not learn it at /blah blah blah Turk school/."

"My mother," he said, and - "Row three, square one. I win."

"I hate you. I'm never playing tic-tac-toe again. What do you mean, your mother?"

"I mean my mother." I fiddled with the cord; it was always better to embarrass him into trying to say something, before I used my magical power of many words to get the same result. "... My mother was second-generation. Wutaian."

"That means we are obviously of the same ancestral blood and you are cooler through this result. Vinnie Valentine, I adopt you, I adopt you, I adopt you. There, you can now wear our colours and shit. I can do this because I am Wutaian royalty. Also, you're pretty much now indebted to me and have to fight my wars and till my grain and that kind of thing. I think you also have to make offering to me each year. That means two types of command materia and one support."

"... do I have to be your peasant?"

"Yes. Hey, I have a peasant. In a box! This is so novel. I will think up all kinds of cool stuff for you to do later. Okay, wanna play Hangman? I thought up a bunch of new words you'll never get. This is because I made them up."

"... why don't we play chess?"

"You want to play chess?"

"I want to play chess."

"You don't think I'll cheat every move and manage to get the pieces on squares that reality never intended them to go?"

"Without a single doubt."

"Okay, let's play chess. On one condition. We play for money."

"Knowing my impending poverty, Yuffie, let's play chess."

I dug a horrible beaten-up board out from the games room, and set them up on the comm desk permanently. Our first game lasted ten minutes, where he checked me in nine, patiently listened to me argue for one, and repeated that I did not actually have a bishop still left in play, because he was a big jerk. Our second game lasted two days, which was to be the indicator of all future phone-chess games. I was pretty badass at chess, except for owing Vinnie forty million gil. I was wonderful once I realized that it was a bitchin' ninja game of tactics and despair. Also, he had a sense of humour - him, not the game - him! Humour! He knew the funny! He would say things that were amusing!

He must have been so bored.

I left the phone on all the time after that, with him on a seperate line, on a speaker, so that if he wanted to wake up or talk or anything while I was in there reading the sequel to But You're A Turk! (We're Getting Married... But You're A Turk!) and eating horrible gluten snacks he could just clear his throat in a meaningful way. I also discovered that we had a lot of terrible discs of hot music from thirty years ago, when terrible music was in vogue, because Vincent actually recognised it and requested popular hits as we played death chess.

"You cannot dance to this stuff/," I shrieked, during Livin' With A Heartache (In Sector Four). "You can't. This is /grandpa music."

"Actually, this is kind of swingy," said Tifa, popping her head in the door. (She had just come from the gym, cheeks bright red, sweat running down her in a downpour: and she was /still glamorously gorgeous/. Bitch.) "I like it. My grandparents used to dance to this."

"See? Proven," I hooted. "Vincent Valentine, terminal square."

"You have no taste."

"Oh! Oh! He is ice burning me now with his wild zingers. This is abuse."

"I like this," said Tifa, merrily clicking her fingers and sashaying her shoulders. "It's classy. It reminds me of my first dance," she said wistfully. "I was twelve. Cloud wouldn't dance. He just stood in the corner. He only danced with me after everyone left, behind the doctor's house. I was wearing the best dress."

"Okay, hold on, this is sounding chronically awful," I said. "You have a J cup and have been danced with how any times?"

"Five," she said, and sighed so deeply her bra nearly popped. "I'm on the shelf now."

"That's okay, Vincent's like ninety and on the shelf, we can marry you two off."

"I don't think he'd have me."

"... my apologies, Tifa. I'm a bachelor."

"Hey, this is Livin' Wit' A Heartache," said Barret, taking up most of the doorway. "I think my mama danced to this damn shit. At her goddamn weddin'."

That made Tifa laugh, leaning back in the other side of the doorway, what 2% there was. "What, were you there?"

"Are you dirtyin' the name of Morina Wallace?" he growled. "Jes' you take that back, 'cos I was born in wedlock with a preacher an' all the trimmin's."

"Barret, Tifa has only been danced with five times in her life," sez me. "Please fix this, she is a square."

She laughed - Gawd, her laugh was beautiful - and he bowed to her, all gross denim shorts and vest and ten million chocolate-covered muscles and suddenly he was lovely, he was beautiful, they were both so so pretty in those stupid cracky tunnel-lights - he put his gun-arm very gently at her hip as she laughed so hard her knees shook, he pulled her out to the corridor and nearly hit a passing accountant and she put one hand on his shoulder and the other dwarfed in his and all the dumb remnants of their fight were over. They swayed down the corridor in the stupidest dance, the worst quickstep ever, dancing all the way down to the arms center. Livin' With A Heartache moved to Mako Morning, and I turned it off, and then there was nothing but Vincent's forty-second breath.

"For your edification, that was them failing to dance," I announced. "Also I think they may be Doing It."

"They're lonely," he said, surprising me with his vast knowledge that humans had more than one emotion and that emotion might be 'poker face', and then - "Young love."

"Thanks, Grandpa."

"Knight on a-five to c-six, capture your pawn," he said after a pregnant pause, and that was that.

I eventually found the Reevecave, because I followed him out of boredom and he forgot to close the door; it was a slider and whispered a breath of an inch before closing, whereupon I slid in my little finger and peeked in the crack. I don't know why I did it that day. He'd been acting weird; pushed around his breakfast, not done much with his lunch, and generally fiddled with his tie in a manner suspicious. The Reevecave was just an office with a difference; it had a computer, but that was it. Every surface was strewn with tools and bits of wire and greasy nuts (hee hee, greasy nuts) and screws (hee - oh, you get it) and those plastic things that look like candy but tragically aren't with wires sticking out, and transistors, and resistors, and every kind of ist-or, and what looked like the most retarded gimp cage I have ever seen. It was a weird skeleton thing, all metal and wires; after examining it closely I realised it was more of an AI machine. There was a headpiece and handpieces and footpieces and buttpieces, and everything - I'm sorry, the stupid pen's a little shaky, it's just my hand - and something that looked like you might put your teeth in it. He turned on the computer: and he moved to the tiny bar-fridge and took out a packet of needles. I had not actually known that Reeve was a blossoming druggie, so this got my attention.

He shoved mess out the way and put the needles down; he took a greasy belt from a drawer and wrapped it around his arm, tightening it professionally with
his teeth as he examined it for a vein. Then he took the needle - and as if he'd done it a million times before - jabbed it into one of the failing veins at his elbow. The mixture looked bright yellow, and was either poison or Kool-Aid.

When he put down the needle, he knew I was there: he was jerking, shivering spastically, unperturbed by the tic in his eye as he slipped his arms into his metal skeleton-thing. "Come in, Yuffie. It - it doesn't matter."

"Gross," I said, sliding the door open. "Gross."

"I - can you - a favour - I shoulda known you were there, you nosy brat," he said, and it was Cait Sith's tone, and not Cait Sith's voice, and you could have driven a car through his pupils. It modulated as he slipped his hands into the holders, as the computer began to monitor something and beep warningly, as he slipped his head in. "If you could just - make yourself useful for once, okay? Geez!"

"I will never be naked again," I said.

"Who wants to see YOU naked? Big stuff going down tonight, Kisaragi! Big stuff!" He was gone now. He was giving me a carnival grin, all teeth, and Reeve was no longer there; he had disappeared to another sector of his brain, and I think he only used drugs to help him get it out. "This is the badass portion of this rollercoaster ride. This is Operation Alpha! Operation Omega! Let's see how those turkeys handle this one - get your chubby butt to the comm room and give us all vid, why don'tcha? Get the others! This is prime-time television! Wait, wait, let me give you your fortune first."

"If you do I may have nightmares forever."

Reeve's feet twitched. "Okay, here we go! ... Elena, hand it over, okay. It's for the good of the people. - Yuffie's star is hideously unlucky! Her mother's also so fat that her pictures gotta be taken by satellite!"

"Dead," I shrieked, as I ran down the corridor. "He is dead! So dead! Tifa! Barret! Tiiiii-fa! Tiiii-faaaa!"

Cloud was already there, in the communications room, as I flicked on switches and rang the buzzers; as Tifa came in her bathrobe with the little Shinra logo on the breast, brunette hair hanging long and stringy down her back, as Barret came with Marls scampering after - as I carefully pushed the chess board to the back desk, and slammed down the vid button.

" - yeah, and then I said, 'your mother's also so fat that her pictures gotta be taken by satellite' - "

"Aww, that's HILARIOUS! Ha ha ha!"

There was the low, grinding grunt of helicopter blades as the screen kicked in, right after the sound, of Reno laughing in the front seat as Rude had the controls and Elena pissed around with a machine at the middle of the craft floor. Cait's mog straightened the camera - whatever it was - at the back and waved to us, as Reno made V-signs over his head and Elena waved jerkily from behind Cait.

"Hey! Hey! Can you guys see out?" It was dusk through the windows. There were far-off streaks like fairy lights - "Meteor shower, still going after last night! Woohoo! Make a wish!"

"That Rude would put out," said Reno. (He looked like he had not changed his clothes in a week. None of them. They were bloodied and dirty and Elena had her arm in bandages. Reno's sleek metrosexual hairstyle was coming apart, red hair everywhere. Only Rude's hair was still awesome because he was bald, but he was starting to look kind of stubbly.) This caused him one terrible punch from the pilot seat. "I meant 'Lena. I meant 'Lena. I am not gay. No gay. I am thinking of her breasts, right now." The camera rocked mildly as Elena punched the back of his seat. "Geez, can everyone just lay off."

"Can you tell where we are? Ten gil for the guesser!"

"The temple," said Cloud, in the back. "Her temple."

"Ding ding ding! I owe you ten gil, remind me."

"What the hell you doin' there?"

"This, my friends, is the mission! The bugs all started here at this point!"

"Came right out the damn temple," said Rude, for once in his life.

"Correct! They haven't been coming from anywhere else. So we're doing this the old-fashioned way. Fire. It's taken us a while to get here - these fleas can fly! Big ones! Small ones! Winged ones! Magic ones! Ain't no end to this! It was worse than we thought!"

"You're dead," said Cloud. "The stars are falling."

"We can't," said Elena. "Reno can't die a virgin." The cockpit was immediately filled with hooting and jeering, and a front-seat "- shut your bitchy, trampy whore mouth."

"The stars are falling," said Cloud.

"Not tonight, Strife," murmured Barret, eyes glued to the screen. "Not jes' now."

"Four o'clock, bogey squadron." Pilot.

Elena clambered over the contraption on the floor and pulled herself to the gunner's pit, popping the speakers with squeaky gunfire as she shot the hell out of whatever was getting in their way.

"We've done a couple poison sprays," Reno said proudly, leaning over to the camera. "It stuns 'em for a while. We need clear skies for this, AVALANCHE!"

"It's just about ready, Elena! Timed and going!"

"Yes, Mr. President!"

"I like it when you call me Mr. President," said Cait coyly. "If you called me Mr. Cat we could date."

"Target lock," said Rude.

"The stars are falling." It was so soft, just barely a whisper, dead and cold. "So close, and nearly open."

Elena pulled herself back from the gun-pit, one arm hanging gaily loose, and pulled herself down near a little keypad in the metal. "Ready to go."

The last red-headed Turk pumped his fist in the air. "Fire in the hole, bitches!"

Elena slammed her fist down on something - knowing Reeve, probably a big red button. There was a terrible metal grinding sound from underneath the helicopter. Cait, crown askew, danced off the Mog momentarily to fiddle with the camera; a new and very blurry window opened, the under-hatch, as we watched the helicopter give birth to something large and metal and ungraceful. It was a bomb; with a little propeller; it started whirring, pushing the thing towards the shadowy forest and the remnants of the temple below. Elena pulled herself back into the gunpit, crackling the sound with gunfire once more.

"Cover it, but just don't /hit it/, for God's sake," said Reno, offscreen.

The helicopter moved back and around, circling the island from a distance - we saw the nauseating spin of it and my mouth was dry - and suddenly I was cheering, Barret was cheering, all of the Turks with Rude included were yelling its descent on as it went down, down, down.

There was just one second - I saw two black things dart across the front of the helicopter, buffeted by the slipstream - and there was fire, slow fire, fire blooming everywhere as it rocked the helicopter and ostensibly destroyed the Temple of the Ancients and Aerith's lake for ever -

"The door is open," said Cloud. "The way is clear."

It all went dark.

It went dark through the fire - the mushroom cloud of smoke and steam was flickering through darkness, something eternally dark, lifting the fire up as it clung. It was dark. It was so dark/. The mog shrieked - the first sound I had ever heard it make - in that terrible, greasy, obscene dark, as something hideous rose from the island - towered up, holding that blooming fire, eating it as it ate at it, all smoke and steam and darkness. "Mother of /fuck," Reno was saying, "mother of fuck," and the tips of the forest was on fire but that was it. The temple was broken and it rose, rose unimaginably, fed on that terrible darkness until it as level with the helicopter and

there was a man

"Get outta there," Barret hollered. "Get the hell - "

He wore a black coat. The huge shadow-creature was a medusa of tendrils, faceless in comparison, an empty angle in his center where the fire still burnt - ungainly hands, huge long hands, long ugly tendrils crushing the forest beneath him. His eyes were yellow lamplights in the dark - and there was the man, just a man, blurring the cameras, Elena shrieking in incoherent rage as she pumped bullets into the both of them as hard as she could. It hit neither, or had no effect, both and nothing.

"Don't try to attack it! Get out of there! Turn around!" Tifa.

"Aerith," said Cloud, "why didn't you tell me?"

Darkside reached out with his gargantuan hand, and took the helicopter in the arch of his palm as if it were a live thing to be held; and the screen flickered, the camera buzzed, and all we could see were lines of static as the blades cut uselessly into the hand and the steel frame gurgled as it was crushed away, the sudden intimation of live wires and stopped blades and goo. I remember how Rude dipped that joystick just before - how you could see Reno's ponytail fall apart from that disintergrating rubber band he wore, all bright auburn shivering down his shoulders as he moved to half-stand out of his seat, just it all caved in - the blackness of everything except the tiny pinpoints of the control lights, and

The silence was the worst. They never screamed.
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