The Morning After the Life Before - Pt. I
Author: The Magic Rat
Pairings: Numerous. Some even make sense.
Warnings:None I can think of. Sorry about that.
Website – Ex Libris: www.winter-wood.net/ex-libris/…
Live Journal: delaese.livejournal.com/profil…
If you are new to the Rabid Tiger story arc, you can find the entire thing either on my website here:
Or the Rabid Tiger Gallery on Deviant Art here:
Just start at ‘Porcupine Love’ and go from there.
Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy Seven characters, places and situations are the property of Square Soft/Square Enix and are used without permission and without intent of plagiarism or profit. Metalocalypse, the members of Dethklok, and lyrics to Dethklok songs belong to Brendon Small, Cartoon Network and Turner Music. Copyright for all stories and original characters such as Badger the Roadie is with the author, and may not be published, copied, distributed or archived without the author's prior written consent.
Summary: Yuffie grows into her role as a Turk, Rufus passes on something dear, Reeve introduces his parents to his husband, and Aeris proves she’s been hanging around Turks far too much.
Author’s notes: A small tip of the hat to our own dear Mama Otter. You’ll know it when you see it.
“This sucks!” announced Loz. “Crazy Vegetable Lady found a way out, why can’t we?”
Tseng sighed heavily, wishing his wife had acquired a different nickname. “I’m not sure why, she seems to have found something we didn’t.”
“This road must go both ways!” declared Loz.
“Well we all know you
do,” said Yazoo snidely.
“You’re just mad because your boyfriend is ugly.”
Before Yazoo could point out that Loz’s girlfriend Randi was no prize pig either, Yuffie stepped forward.
“Look she must have squeezed behind that pillar and found something. The only thing we can do is find a way around that pillar too. I’m small, let me do it.”
“Just be careful,” said Tseng. “We don’t know what
Yuffie nodded, and walked over to the tipped pillar. It was enormous, and seemed to still be supporting a large part of the roof even if it was leaning. Small threads of pink fabric told Yuffie that Aeris had managed to squeeze by it, and if Aeris could do it, then Yuffie definitely could. She wiggled and pushed, and, without too much trouble, managed to get into the tiny alcove beyond.
“There’s another well back here! She must have fallen into it. Want me to go look?”
“No!” said Elena, clearly upset by the idea. “I’m not raising our bearded dragon alone!”
“Bearded dragon?” inquired Rude. “You couldn’t get something cute?”
“HEY!” exclaimed Yuffie indignantly. “Fuzzi-Nums is PLENTY cute!”
“Yuffie check out the well,” said Tseng wearily. “If you don’t come back I’ll see that Fuzzi-Nums gets your pension and a college education.”
“Fine. But if I die horribly I’m gonna haunt you. Sir.”
Yuffie stepped into the well… and found herself in the ruined lab surrounded by the sleeping ghouls. Fortunately her training took over and she stayed silent, managing to not wake the little horrors. She was abruptly distracted by the sound of a gunshot. She ran out of the room and down the hall, through the reactor, heading toward daylight. She emerged just in time to see a helicopter raising from the ground, and departing, then a second one, further away, near where Sephiroth had lain. She suddenly realized someone was stealing their helicopter, and Yuffie was not about to let that happen. Nobody did any stealing but her
Yuffie reached over her shoulder and closed her hand around her largest and deadliest weapon - Fugutaiten
. It was a huge circular shuriken with five points, painted in the colours of the rising sun, and capable of enormous amounts of damage. Normally she used her smaller shurikens in battle, but they were not going to bring down a stolen helicopter. Fugutaiten
She flung it with all her might, watching it slash through the air like a spinning wheel of light. It cut through the tail of the helicopter effortlessly, then arced back towards its owner. Yuffie caught it, and watched as the helicopter folded, then slowly fell, the propeller still turning, slashing itself into small pieces as again and again the rotor chewed into the craft. She watched with grim satisfaction as it hit the ground, screaming out its song of death before finally becoming torn smoking wreckage on the hillside. Fire and smoke rose from the dead craft, and she reached into the pocket of her black suit to pull out her mirrored sunglasses. She put them on, turning her expression cold and emotionless.
“Nobody screws with Yuffie the Turk.” Then her jaw dropped and her eyes became wide with horror as something occurred to her.
“I just blew up our helicopter! With our radio! Now we’re stuck! Aw Tseng’s gonna kick my ass.”
“It was a pretty good explosion, though,” said Veld.
Yuffie glanced up, surprised to see him beside her. “How did you get out?”
“Loz and Yazoo pulled the pillar aside and let us out. Where are Aeris and Sephiroth?”
“I don’t know, they should be here. Sephiroth wouldn’t wander off, he knows better. Assuming he could even get up. And Aeris wouldn’t leave him, she’s too scared of you
The old Turk began walking to where Aeris and Sephiroth had been, gesturing for Yuffie to follow. She did, thinking it odd that she would just meekly comply when a similar gesture from someone else would have her in fits. But Veld respected her abilities as a Turk. This was about chain of command and nothing more. Funny how that made the difference.
They reached the place where Sephiroth should be laying, and found Cloud instead, lying on his side with blood matting his blonde hair. Veld looked to the departing helicopter. Someone had Sephiroth, and likely Aeris as well. He pulled out his cellphone and checked to see if it was working. He had not been able to get a signal in the stone room. Seeing that it was functioning, he called a number.
“Vincent. Cloud’s been shot and Sephiroth has been taken. Possibly Aeris as well. Call Kymira. And send a flying ambulance.”
Veld ended the call as Yuffie knelt beside Cloud, reaching out to touch his shoulder. She’d known he was small, they’d teased him about it often enough. But lying on his side with blood in his hair….he looked so tiny…
She fought back the tears as well as she was able, not looking up as Tseng and the others arrived.
“What happened?” asked Tseng.
“It would seem our princesses are in another castle,” said Veld. “The first thing we have to do is see if there is anything we can salvage from the crashed helicopter and find out who was flying it.”
“Isn’t that one of the helicopters the old president used to have?” asked Tseng. “Weren’t they all destroyed?”
“Perhaps not,” said Veld. “Perhaps they were simply sold off.”
“Well there’s one person we know isn’t
flying it,” said Elena. “The old president. But why take Sephiroth? He’s going to get better and then he’s going to pull apart his captors.”
“This is all sounding way too familiar,” said Rude. “Sephiroth heading north with Aeris and us following. All we need is Weapon on a rampage.”
“Well no one ever did succeed in defeating Emerald or Ruby…” said Elena.
All eyes shifted to a little grey rat wearing a cape and a pointed hat seated on a rock, cigar clenched in her teeth, furiously working the controllers of the old video game console which was connected to the 15 year old tube-style TV.
“Dammit I’m working on it!” said the rodent.
Someone was stroking his back. Cloud wasn’t sure who. The hand was large and strong, which meant it wasn’t Reno. He raised his head, bleary and shaken, and found himself looking at Cid. The pilot was clearly upset, and that was a very strange look for him. Slowly Cloud looked around, and realized he was at Healin.
“What happened?” he asked weakly.
“That’s what we were hoping to ask you,” said Cid. “Damn Cloud don’t scare me like that! Your skull was in pieces!”
“Well it wasn’t my
idea. How long have I been here?”
“Not long. Veld called Vincent and Vincent sent me to pick you up. Bloody hell I thought you were dead. I actually cried!”
Cloud managed a weak smile. “Glad I was gone?”
“No! Because I would have no place to fry bacon in the morning! What happened?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see the shooter. Is Sephiroth okay?”
“He’s gone, Veld thinks maybe he was kidnapped. Good bloody luck to whoever has him. No one has any idea who did it, though. Aeris is gone as well. Half the bloody hospital is going crazy trying to prevent Zack from finding out. He is way too weak to handle this. I finally lied my ass off to Andy, saying Baby found Aeris and they were checking out an old reactor. That’s the story Andy gave Zack. The problem with Zack being an empath is if we try lying to him
, he’ll know.”
“Yeah,” said Cloud. “You did the right thing. Hey… Cid? Is Kin okay?”
“Kin is fine. Veld called Rufus and said you’d been hurt but you were going to be fine, so Rufus took Kin to his place. Next time you see her she’ll be wearing the latest in Baby Couture. Oh – and Rufus wants to know why you air-mailed him five kittens.”
Cloud grinned. “They’re Sephiroth’s kittens. I guess once I was shot then Charlene just did what she’s supposed to and went home. Am I gonna be okay?”
“Well you’re talking and lucid despite the fact that they spent four hours putting your head back together. It was almost six in the morning when I got you here, you were in surgery until just after ten, now it’s one in the afternoon and you’re asking me questions. So… yeah. I think you’ll be okay. You and Reno can compare injuries.”
Cid lowered his head so his nose touched Cloud’s. It was odd for Cid to be so demonstrative; he usually reserved the gentle touches for Vincent and the kids. Cloud could only assume Cid had been genuinely upset that he had been so badly hurt.
“You get better,” said Cid quietly. “We have to go find Seph and Aeris.”
Cloud gazed at him, still bleary from his injury and the anaesthesia. “Wow. Did you know that when you’re this close it looks like you have one huge eye in the middle of your face?”
Cid just smiled and kissed his nose. “Glad to have you back, Spiky.”
Reeve was seated in his den in an overstuffed easy chair, feet up on a brocade ottoman, trying to read a book on creating a machine with a self-renewing energy source, but found he was having very little luck. The problem was Rufus. Or rather – Rufus and his baby purple chocobo. He could not see them, as both were in the hall. But he could damned well hear them. And Rufus had discovered that every time he took a step, the baby would make a noise. How fast the noises came depended on how fast Rufus moved.
Step. Step. Step.
“Week! Week! Week!”
Step step step.
“Week week week!”
Silence. Then…. run like hell!
Reeve set his book aside and rose to his feet, sighing loudly. It seemed he was going to get nothing done today. He crossed the room, opened the door to the den, and looked into the hall.
“Oh darling…” he lilted.
Rufus came running toward him, accompanied by something that looked like a purple turkey dinner that had escaped. The little purple waif had a runner’s conformation; it was easy to see he was from racing stock. But it was a little hard to take him seriously at this point, still mostly bald with random feathers. Rufus pressed close to Reeve, draping his arms around his neck, blue eyes alive with mischief.
“Yes my darling?”
“I felt I should mention that your chocobo needs oiling. Preferably with a good olive oil and then a nice rubdown with sage and rosemary.”
“Oh how can you say that about our child?” Rufus bent to pick the little bristling squeaker up. Reeve found himself nose to beak with something with little blue beady eyes that held not so much as even a glint of the most rudimentary intelligence. It opened its beak to tentatively taste the end of his nose.
“Must take after your side of the family,” said Reeve. “What are you going to do with it?”
The baby chocobo decided to keep Reeve’s nose and held on as Rufus spoke, each as oblivious as the other.
“Well I can’t show him, and I can’t breed him. The DNA tests show his daddy is actually his grandfather, which I suspect is where that fabulous purple colouration comes from since Grampy has already proven to carry a mutant colour gene. So I shall simply race him. And if he can’t race, well then he can just live in the house and be purple.”
“So the seven hundred pound purple male chocobo can live in the house with the two hundred pound guard hound and the eighteen kids.”
Rufus blinked at him. “And your point is…?”
Reeve glanced at the thing that held his nose, then looked to Rufus. Funny. He was sure the blue eyes in the baby ‘bo held the same expression as the blue eyes of the corporate tiger. Blank and not terribly bright. The only difference was Rufus had never tried to eat his nose. Reeve crossed his arms and tried to look as dignified as he could manage with a bird on his face.
“You don’t see a problem with this?”
“No. Should I?”
Reeve gazed at him. “You really do have too damned much money.”
“Just doing my best to keep it out of enemy hands, darling.”
“I think your chocobo is hungry.”
“Huh? Oh! Bad birdie, let go of Daddy’s nose.”
Rufus managed to convince the baby bird to let go, and carried it off to its private nursery, where its personal nurse would see it was fed and cleaned and bedded down for a nap. There was no arguing Rufus had too much money – all one could really do was marvel at the things he did with it.
The doorbell rang, and Reeve felt his gut clench. Well, this was it. Time to fish or cut bait…
What the hell did that expression mean, exactly, anyway?
He paused to look himself over in a great hall mirror; a massive thing created of silvered glass and set into a frame of solid sterling. He pretended not to notice Dark bounding for the door, probably hoping it was her One True Love, aka the butcher. Alas, no, it would simply be an elderly couple, probably scared out of their wits. With practiced ease, the butler got a grip on Dark’s collar with one hand as he opened the door with the other.
“I think we may have the wrong house…” said a worried voice. Reeve sighed and walked down the stairs in a swirl of dark blue silk robes.
“Mom! Dad! I’m so happy to see you!”
His father looked like he was being threatened with an axe. His mother was a little braver, and once she saw Reeve she smiled and stepped forward to hug him.
“Oh Reeve you didn’t have to put on your best outfit just for us!”
“This is my uniform!”
“Uniform? Oh… you work here?”
“No, Mom, this is my house.”
“All of it?”
“Yes, Mom, all of it.”
Dark rose onto her back legs, nostrils working, tentacle waving, hoping the newcomers had snacks. Funny how she always seemed to know who was welcome and who wasn’t. Reeve’s petite and elderly mother eyed the beast nervously.
“She’s friendly,” Reeve assured her, “she’s just hoping you happen to have meat in your pockets.”
Dark huffed, snuffling. Reeve managed to convince her to go down onto all fours, and held her collar as his parents looked at him with worry and trepidation. He began to feel that frantic sensation from when he was a kid, wanting his parents to be pleased with him.
“So… you live in a hotel?” his mother asked.
“No,” he said quietly, and firmly. “This is my house. It is a very big house, but it is a house, not a hotel.”
“What’s the big… black thing?”
“This is Dark. She’s a pet.”
Reeve watched his parents slowly creep further into the house, and began dreading the questions he knew were coming. His mother asked the first one.
“Reeve are you sure this is your house?”
Reeve became indignant. “Yes of course I’m sure, why would I lie?”
“Well isn’t it awfully expensive to live here?”
He crossed his arms. “You can’t be happy for me? You haven’t seen me in years.”
“Oh we are
happy for you, Reeve! We’re just… well…”
His mother looked around, clearly wondering what sort of criminal activity Reeve was involved in. Then Rufus showed up, baby chocobo at his heels. Apparently the little bird had decided that a nap was not on the agenda. It was now wearing a little royal purple collar with a tiny gold bell, so it jingled as well as made its usual ‘week!’ noise. Dark gave it a jealous swat, causing the baby bird to burst into hysterics. Reeve, despite himself, scooped it up and cuddled it.
“There, there, Dark didn’t mean it.”
The bird ignored him and wiggled free to leap into Rufus’ arms. Dark then rose up to her back legs to shove her nose into Rufus’ face, baby chocobo and guard hound both vying for his attention. Reeve sighed quietly and hid behind his hand as Rufus was knocked onto his back by wiggling, distraught pets.
“Look I love BOTH of you, all right? You are NOT in competition! Look… Dark… see? He’s just a baby, he needs extra attention. Now you be nice, okay?”
Dark looked at the baby bird with the Universal Pet Expression of Disdain. Rufus tapped her nose with his finger.
“No. NOT acceptable!”
Dark sulked, but grudgingly bowed to her master’s wishes. She sniffed the silly purple bird, and was rewarded with a treat for sniffing. Deciding she could be nice to the thing if there was food involved, she gave the baby a gentle head bonk. The chocobo seemed uncertain about this, but Rufus gave Dark praise and more treats, which seemed to convince Dark that it would be better to be nice to the silly fat thing.
“How goes the parenting?” asked Reeve dryly.
Rufus slowly got himself sorted and on his feet, accepting Reeve’s offered hand. “Better than expected. At least Dark will act in her own best interests.”
The baby chocobo squeaked until Rufus picked it up. Then Rufus nuzzled closer to Reeve, looking for a kiss. Reeve wasn’t quite ready to get friendly with his husband in front of his parents just yet.
“Rufus, I would like you to meet my mother and father.”
Rufus paused, blinking in surprise. Then he turned his head to look at the elderly couple. He could not imagine how they managed to make Reeve; for one thing he was a foot taller than his father and had a full head of hair. He shifted the baby chocobo to his left arm so he could extend his right hand to Reeve’s parents.
“Mr. and Mrs. Tuesti. I’m honoured to meet you. Please forgive the… ah… incident with the pets. The cat is a bit jealous.”
“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!” announced the chocobo.
Rufus tried to look straight-faced and dignified as the baby chocobo informed the entire household that Dark had been mean to him. The loud, long noise drew the attention of Týr, who fluttered down from the upper landing to land on Rufus’ head and overlook the situation. Reeve felt an urge to sink into the marble floor and die. Rufus remained the picture of control.
“Pardon me,” he said, and departed; a flapbeat on his head, a wailing baby ‘bo under his arm, and Dark parading after him.
“I swear I have never been so embarrassed in my life,” Rufus muttered as he marched up the stairs. “I ought to turn the lot of you into… and just where do you
think you are going?”
Dark made her way straight for Ruskin’s nursery. She used a paw to bat the door open, and went inside. Rufus went in after her, and sighed loudly as he saw that somehow magically Ruskin had been levitated to the pet bed, and Dark was hopping into the crib. Rufus could not for a moment imagine that it had been Vincent’s or the nanny’s idea to put Ruskin in the pet bed. That meant there was only one possible way he could have got there. The big black hairy thing in the crib that had just managed to get Ruskin’s pacifier into her mouth was responsible.
Rufus may not have been able to work a coffee pot, but there was one thing he understood very well, and that was guard hounds. Dark was telling him loudly and clearly that she didn’t know her place in the family unit anymore, and she needed her alpha to tell her. Rufus set down the chocobo, picked up Ruskin, and left the room, holding his baby close, accompanied by a constant soft “Week! Week! Week! Week!” at his heels.
He went to his office, walking to a small set of shelves near his desk, containing a collar, a photo of an enormous, glossy black guard hound, and a solid silver urn.
Rufus had been devastated when Cloud had killed Dark Nation. Her loss had been one of the hardest things he ever had to deal with, and he had hoped that acquiring her blood sister Dark Creation would fill the hole in his heart. She had, for the most part. But she wasn’t Dark Nation. She was another animal entirely, and though she was very similar to her dead sister, she wasn’t the same. But maybe that was his fault. Maybe he had to give her what a guard hound needed most – a position in the pack. A well-defined pack position would nip the jealous behaviour in the bud before it got out of hand. But it would mean giving her away…
Rufus picked up the collar of his deceased pet and looked at it, swallowing hard, ignoring the tears that welled up unbidden. Time to pass this on.
He returned to the nursery and paused briefly to look at the two hundred pound beast in a crib with a pacifier in its mouth.
“Dork,” he said.
He walked over to her and pointedly put Ruskin beside her. She looked at the sleeping baby, then at him, pacifier still in place. Rufus sighed quietly, then put the baby chocobo into the crib as well, hearing a few sleepy peeps of protest. He soothed the little animal.
“No no, no complaints, wee birdie. Time for all baby things to have a nap.”
The chocobo made one last half-hearted peep, then fluffed its few feathers and put its head down. Rufus covered both Ruskin and the bird, then took the old plain collar from around Dark Creation’s neck, and replaced it with the black shining one set with materia and the little heart shaped tag that read simply “Dark.”
“Watch,” he said quietly to her.
She looked at the baby, and the bird, then Rufus. She sighed quietly and put her head down, pacifier still in place. Rufus reached into the crib and patted her, a little saddened that she was now Ruskin’s and no longer his, but Ruskin would need her more. He was a Shinra, and a very small one at that. Rufus knew all too well what a dangerous combination that was.
“Watch,” he said again softly, then quietly left the room.
Dark closed her eyes, tentacle slowly waving, content with her position in the pack and far calmer now that she knew what her position was. Which apparently was guardian of the baby human and the baby beak-face.
Ruskin made a fussing noise in his sleep. The baby chocobo uttered a tiny “Week!” in response. Dark dozed quietly, feeling a little hand make its way to the heavy leather collar around her neck and take hold of it.
Rufus located his husband in one of the sitting rooms; this one located in one of the older sections of the house, and had a much more rustic feel. The enormous windows with their numerous small panes of hand-crafted glass overlooked a garden brimming with wildflowers and small fountains, still beautiful and alive with butterflies despite the lateness of the year. He arrived, hair and his best charming smile both in place, the flapbeat no longer perched on his head.
“Let’s try this again. I’m Rufus Shinra. Welcome to my home.”
Reeve stood up, looking nervous, and made the introductions. “Rufus this is my mother Ruevi and my father Rupert.”
“Charmed to meet both of you.”
Reeve’s parents stared at him nervously, probably wondering where the panther was. Finally Ruevi smiled.
“It’s a lovely home. So… do you rent a room?”
Rufus and Reeve exchanged glances. Rufus remained charming and gracious as he and Reeve seated themselves on a black leather settee facing the elderly couple. Reeve just smiled as he felt Rufus’ arm casually settle along the back of settee behind him.
“No. We share the house. We live together,” said Rufus.
“But it… it’s so big!” she said. “I just can’t imagine how anyone could afford a house so big!”
“Mother please don’t worry,” Reeve gently pleaded. “We haven’t seen each other in years.”
“I just want you to be okay! This house is so big! With all the money you must be paying in rent surely you could buy your own house and you two wouldn’t have to live together.”
Rufus managed to keep a straight face. How
, exactly, Reeve had no idea because he was just staring at his mother as if he had only just now realized she was a monkey.
“Mother we own the house,” he finally managed to say. “And we happen to like living together.”
“Well I’m sure it’s nice to live with a friend but why put so much money into a big house? You could have a smaller house and…”
Reeve fought the urge to get down on his hands and knees and beat his head against the floor. “Mother, this is our house, we own it together, and believe me, affording it is not an issue.”
“And you two don’t mind living together?”
“No,” said Reeve. “And in fact I think you should know that Rufus and I are married.”
Ruevi looked at her son, then the handsome redhead seated next to him. “So does that make the rent cheaper?”
Reeve slapped his hand over his face. Rufus leaned forward and said softly; “My dear young lady. I own the house. I own the land it sits on. I own the stables, the orchards, the drive-in theatre out back, the seventy-two antique cars, the three helicopters, the swimming pools, the racing chocobos, and the eighteen children upstairs. I am Rufus Shinra, owner and president of Shinra Industries. Reeve and I do not worry about rent. We worry about whether to drink the champagne or pour it into a big marble tub and fu… swim in it.”
“Oh,” Ruevi said quietly. She and her husband looked around at the elegant and tastefully decorated room, then back at Reeve.
“So… it’s not going to run up your water bill if we have a bath once in a while.”
“Mom we have eighteen children,” said Reeve. “You could take a five hour bath three times a day and it wouldn’t show up.”
“How long are those children staying here? We could wait until after they leave before…”
Rufus put an arm around Reeve and drew him close, kissing him deeply with obvious affection. Then he broke off the kiss, and gently nipped Reeve’s nose.
“What are you doing?” asked Reeve.
“Changing the subject. I thought kissing you might get your mother’s mind off the finances. Did it work?”
Reeve chanced a glance at his parents. They stared back at him. Then his father leaned forward and asked “Reeve is your friend okay? I think he’s a bit confused.”
“Dad he’s not confused. He’s my husband. Your son is gay.”
“Oh. Well… I’m glad you’re happy
. But… does he know you’re a man?”
“Yes Dad. He knows. But we love each other very much and we’re happy together.”
“Oh. Well that’s… sorta cute. But we were hoping for grandchildren.”
Reeve looked at Rufus, and smiled. They would tackle that subject a little later in the day. After Ruevi had finally stopped worrying about using up all the hot water. He looked up as he saw Nadine appear in the doorway.
“What is it?” Rufus asked his secretary.
“Sir there are fifteen winged baby otters in the reflecting pool and a large otter holding a basket of almond cakes with them.”
Rufus sighed. “Never a dull moment around here.”
Aeris sat in her prison cell, arms crossed, doing a slow burn as she remained ignored in her sterile little cage. Across the hall, she could see into Sephiroth’s cell, and watched a veritable herd of scientists, most young females, cooing and giggling over the God of Death. Sephiroth himself was drugged and woozy. He was in terrible shape physically, and the powers controlling this little horror show would not want him to have his wits about him. They would keep him loaded on Halcinol, just enough to keep him confused and sleepy, and start with whatever hideous experiments they had in mind. Aeris felt her heart break a little for the young scientists. They were like so many others she had seen before – innocent of the true horror they would be used to create. Some would quit, some would stay to try to avert the horror, and some would embrace it and become another Hojo or Crescent. Or worse, another James Sovereign.
The Mighty Sephiroth sneezed; a violent motion accompanied by a brief flight of white hair. This apparently was adorable, and the Scourge of Nibelheim was treated to much squeeing and cooing. He was petted and fussed, and was clearly too fogged to do much about it. Aeris felt both jealousy and fear. There was no way she was getting out of here on her own. And if Sephiroth was too gooned to handle a roomful of science geeks, then she was in real trouble.
One of the girls kissed him, and that apparently was the line for the General and war hero. He was not a puppy. He was not something to be cuddled and petted. He was The Nightmare. The wings shot out, pounding furiously to compensate for his current lack of balance. Students were blown aside like troublesome leaves, and one or two may have been genuinely hurt. The wings sounded like a freight train, and when one student tried to placate him, the young man was flung like a sack into the hallway. The students wisely fled, closing the door after themselves, then looked each other over. There were a few cuts and bruises, and the boy who had been thrown had sprained his wrist, but it could have been far worse.
“Well,” said one young woman, putting her hair back in place. “That was exciting.”
“What’s he doing now?” asked another woman.
A tall skinny young man peered in through the window. “He…ah… appears to be washing himself with his tongue…”
Aeris slapped a hand over her face and shook her head as there was a stampede of students for the small window in the locked door.
“Ohmigawds that man is hot!” declared the woman with the long hair.
“I wonder what his last name is?” asked the woman who had kissed him.
“Why?” asked the woman with the long hair. “So you know what your name will be when he marries you?”
“Well some men like an intelligent, challenging woman.”
Aeris rolled her eyes, “Brother,” she muttered, and began hunting through her pockets in the chance she had some of her embroidery things with her. She had a feeling she was in for a long dull wait.
“How do you know he even likes girls?” asked someone.
“Well I’m not a girl, I’m a woman.”
“Well how do you know the chick he came in with isn’t his girlfriend?”
“Too bad we can’t ask her,” said the woman with the long hair. “Her chart says her illness makes her delusional. We have no idea if anything she says is true.”
“Oh very, very clever, bravo,” Aeris whispered to herself as she found a hankie she had been working on and resumed stitching. “So if I tell them what’s really going on they’ll just assume I’m off my nut.”
“Well she doesn’t look too
crazy…” said the young man with the sprained wrist.
“I also have very good hearing,” Aeris said.
They approached, albeit a little cautiously. She could only imagine what sort of disease they had been told she had.
“Hi,” said the woman with the long hair. “I’m Engle.”
“I’m Aeris. I see you already met The Nightmare.”
“He seems so sweet!” said Engle.
“He’s high,” said Aeris. “Wait until he comes down.”
“Is he married?” asked the woman who had tried to kiss him.
There was no way Aeris was answering that question. Not only because Zack would never forgive her, but because she was not putting the Silver Tiger’s cubs in danger. Or her own either for that matter.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know him that well. He’s the friend of a friend you might say. All I really know about him is he likes haute-cuisine and rain storms.”
“What sort of haute-cuisine?”
Aeris looked up at the woman. Her name tag read Cindi Trophy. Well she couldn’t be much of a trophy; Aeris doubted it would be really hard to win her.
“Oh gross icky stuff,” said Aeris. “His latest fascination is with this horrid dish made with live sand worms in lemon water and a touch of wasabi on the side. AUGH! Worse than that thing with live baby octopus. Honestly the things people consider food never fail to sicken me.”
Miss Trophy left abruptly, no doubt off to prepare the worms and see if she could rig up a nice romantic rain storm. Aeris could only imagine what the ensuing fallout would be when some bimbo showed up to serve Sephiroth worms on a plate in the rain.
“Does he really like worms?” asked Engle suspiciously.
Aeris shrugged. “Who knows. I just can’t wait for her to find out he’s gay.”
“She won’t care,” said Engle. “She’s convinced every man on the planet worships her and in time the natural fascination she has for all men will win them.”
“Wow,” said Aeris, “and they have me
locked up and are calling me delusional? I think I’d like a second opinion.”
“Well you are contagious, hon,” said Engle, checking her chart. “I’m afraid you’ll be here a while.”
Yeah, like until the end of her life.
“Anything we can get you?” asked a girl with black hair and glasses.
“Embroidery stuff?” said Aeris. “I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands.”
Funny how they didn’t ask if there was anyone they could call for her.
All heads turned as Miss Trophy strutted by. She had either changed or done something to make her skirt almost short enough to qualify as a belt, and she was holding a covered tray. Aeris almost felt sorry for her as she entered the room.
“And the explosion will happen in three… two… one…”
The building shuddered as if in an earthquake. Cindi screamed her insipid little head off and fled the room as worms and a tray flew after her. There was another boom, and the wall buckled visibly. Cindi tried to shut the door, and was slammed across the hallway when something black and baying wrought of pinions and smoke came out. Walls were ripped like old newspapers. Soundproofed glass windows were shattered like thin ice. Reaching out of the smoke was something that looked like the head of a prehistoric dragon, which spewed a brief but devastating flare of fire. Then, slowly, it all melted away. Sephiroth was too weak and too heavily drugged to sustain his anger for long. He returned to his bed and collapsed onto it. As the students gazed around at the fire and broken glass and torn walls, Aeris began to speak softly to Engle.
“They don’t call him The Nightmare because it’s a hot sexy nickname worthy of some teen-scream idol,” she said. “They call him The Nightmare because he is. He’s sick right now. So he didn’t do much. But the sooner you learn to respect the power he holds, the better.”
Cindi stood up, bloodied and in tears, and directed her wrath and humiliation at Aeris.
“You psycho fucking bitch you could have got me killed!”
Aeris was about to say it could have been worse when the sprinkler system became activated by the fire. There was a sound like all the demons of hell awakening at once, and the better part of the back wall of Sephiroth’s cell exploded and he was gone. He was too groggy to think to get Aeris. All he knew was he wanted to be away from this place where people were serving him worms and making it rain. He would set a course, lock his wings into position and doze all the way home. And if they wanted to chase him to Zack’s Hill and fight with not one but three
First Classes, then good luck with that.
Alarms were ringing, water was shooting down from the ceiling, smoke was filling the hall from the dying fires, and all around was chaos. Then the tall man with the messy blonde ponytail ran into view. He looked at the room where Sephiroth had been, then at Aeris. She set down her embroidery and daintily displayed her middle finger, smiling sweetly all the while.