Title: Brightest Blue Eyes
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Cloud, Sephiroth, OFC, others mentioned
Rating: MA overall
Summary: Shooting the messenger sounds like a good idea when the messenger is working for the enemy. If the enemy is really the enemy. If things haven't changed completely...
Notes: This was written in January 2003 and basically is one of the cornerstones of this site. It has been edited, re/coded and everything else since, but is still very... 'back then'. Before all the new canon.
"Give me another."
Tifa sighed, leaning over the bar as she spoke. "You're supposed to be clearing out the drunks, not becoming one of them."
"It's not like it has any effect."
A minute later a colorful concoction was thrown in front of the blonde man. "Stupid Mako. You think five years... ten years... and it'd..."
"It never goes away - look at Vincent. It's been decades and he's still the same." Cloud said, giving his drink the once over before downing it. "We're hopeless freaks. You're lucky you made it through the lifestream without any... problems."
"They say that sometimes those who haven't made it back to the planet can protect anyone who falls into the lifestream. But only one person. And only once. Like a guardian angel."
Cloud and Tifa turned quickly. Two barstools down sat an rather exotic woman nursing a mildly potent drink. Tifa hadn't paid her much attention earlier.
"Sorry," she apologized. Her accent was thick, but still understandable. "I overheard. I fell through the lifestream too, but didn't come out so well. Afterwards, I heard stories about people going through the lifestream and being protected by those who hadn't returned to the planet."
The woman took slow sip of her drink, looking at it instead of Cloud.
Cloud looked the woman over. She was smaller, and wore an oddly familiar style of clothing. Something he'd seen before... somewhere. Her dark hair hung in tight braids. She smiled though, once she realized she was being watched. And then she caught Cloud's eyes for just a second before...
The woman sprung across the gap between them and grabbed Cloud's head. "You have bright Mako eyes too!"
A pause. "The brightest I've seen since I left home. I have them too - but not so bright."
Tifa looked at the woman, and sure enough, her eyes shone a bit in the dark bar. But nothing like Cloud's. His still frightened people sometimes.
"Where are you from?" Tifa asked, hoping the woman would get her hands off Cloud.
"I'm traveling. From Mideel to see the world!" She flung her hands out. "I'm looking for my memories, but I don't think they can be found."
"Memories?" Cloud asked quietly.
"Barkeep!" a burly man yelled.
"Excuse me," Tifa said, and dashed to the other end of the bar.
"Ever hear how the lifestream destroyed Mideel?" The woman asked. When Cloud feebly nodded she continued talking. "Well it still comes up in a pool near where the town was rebuilt. One day, I was pulled out of it. And after getting over my Mako poisoning, I remembered nothing. It's been two years and now I'm seeing the world to see if anything looks familiar."
"Does it?" Cloud asked.
"No. But I'm having fun anyway. I've seen so many wonderful places. I write down all the details so I can tell them to my boss when I get home. He let me take two months off to travel." The woman reached down to her backpack on the floor and pulled out a beaten notebook. "I should write about you!"
"Want another drink?" Tifa asked, walking back to the pair at the far end of the bar.
"No. But I do want your name."
"She's writing down everything to share when she gets back to Mideel," Cloud explained.
"Oh. My name's Tifa. Spiky here is named Cloud."
"The doctor and nurse who found me called me 'Pretty'. Not my choice - I was stuck with it before I regained consciousness." The woman smiled.
"Pretty," Cloud echoed.
"Yep. That's me." Her braids shook as she laughed. "Pretty from Mideel with no past. Wandering. Looking for..."
Pretty paused. "Hey - this is Nibelheim, right? Do you two know alot of people in town?"
"Most everyone," Tifa said. Cloud nodded.
"Would you help me find someone tomorrow? If that person is here? I was given a letter or something to try and deliver if I made it to Nibelheim." Pretty closed her eyes a second and sighed. "That sounds so dumb. But Angel, my boss, he asked me to try and find someone. Didn't tell me anything else. Just handed me a sealed envelope with a sealed envelope. Guess I have some instructions too."
Tifa giggled. "Sounds like you're working for a crime lord or something."
"I know! It's crazy!" Pretty exclaimed. "But will you help?"
"Why should we?" Cloud asked. "Can you pay?"
"Cloud!" Tifa exclaimed, before turning to take care of customers.
"Um..." Pretty paused. "Come to Mideel and you can stay free with me and enjoy the hot springs all you want. Really. I want to make Angel happy. He does so much for me. He's like family."
Cloud sighed. "Okay. Come back by here around noon tomorrow. The bar'll be closed, but the door should be unlocked."
"Thank you!" Pretty squealed, quickly jotting something in her notebook.
"Cloud!" Tifa yelled, pointing across the room where a brawl was brewing.
"Duty calls," Could said dryly, and slid off the stool.
Neither saw Pretty leave. But she left enough to pay for her drink twice over.
And two minutes after noon the next day, she was standing in the dark bar, peering effortlessly through the darkness. In one hand was a sealed envelope.
Cloud pushed through the backroom door after hearing Pretty arrive. "So what do you have?"
"I haven't opened it," Pretty said. "I feel like a secret agent or something."
"Tifa is making lunch. She'll be out in a minute with something," Cloud said, motioning for Pretty to have a seat at one of the nearby tables. "You vanished last night."
"I figured since I was staying in town, I should see if there were any rooms at the inn," Pretty said, nonchalantly.
"Were there?" Cloud asked, knowing the answer based solely on the layer of dirt the woman had added to her attire.
"No. I just slept in an alley with KooKoo."
"My chocobo. I caught him myself near Kalm two weeks ago. He's neat - jet black. Never seen one like him. But I figure he was bred to look like that. He has ring marks on one leg - musta been set free." Pretty grinned. "He's outside. You can see him in a bit."
Just then, Tifa pushed through the backroom door with a tray of food. "I hope you're hungry, Pretty. I wasn't sure what you'd like, so I made some of everything."
Pretty looked like she was going to cry.
After thoroughly filling themselves, Tifa pointed at the half-forgotten envelope.
"Here goes," Pretty said, slitting the top of the outer envelope. She reached in and pulled out a smaller sealed envelope, and a short note.
"What do they say?" Tifa asked, trying to peer at the paper the other woman was holding.
"Pretty. Thanks for trying to deliver this. If you do find the recipient, hand over the envelope and run. Answer any questions asked if you are caught, and tell them you are in no way involved..." Pretty trailed off.
"What the hell?" Cloud asked. "This doesn't sound good."
"If Angel wants me to do it, I'll do it. I owe him," Pretty said.
"Are you sure?" Tifa asked. "This sounds really dangerous. We have friends who..."
"Be careful. And thank you again. Angel." Pretty sighed. "Well. Moment of truth, I guess..."
Both Cloud and Tifa hovered over her as she flipped over the sealed envelope and read the name written neatly on the front.
Quietly, very quietly, the syllables rolled off her tongue. "Cloud Strife."
Bright eyes filled with horror as Pretty stared at the envelope in her hand. Tifa gasped. Cloud grabbed the letter and looked at it. His name. And a sudden jolt of recognition.
"Grab her!" Cloud yelled. And Pretty ran. Ran out into the street, leaving all her things and KooKoo behind. She ran as fast as she could, Tifa close on her heels. And then she tripped and fell, hard, to the paving stones below.
"Tifa, what are you doing?"
Pretty wondered if she had stars circling her head. She was well aware of the weight on her back as Tifa held her down, wind knocked out of her.
"Waiting for Cloud," Tifa replied to the calm voice who'd asked the question. "He told me to grab her, but I don't want to knock her out."
"And where is Cloud?"
"The bar, probably. I don't exactly know, except this woman came with instructions to deliver a letter to him and then run." Tifa shifted slightly and Pretty let out a groan.
"Why don't the two of us take her back then? I don't think she's in any shape to run away again." Pretty was starting to really like the calm voice.
"So what are you doing here any way?" Tifa asked, as she stood up. Pretty took a deep breath, and tried to stand, unsuccessfully. Gold gleamed in the sunlight as she was caught and then thrown over the calm voice's shoulder.
"Delivering cargo. Cid will be along later. The Highwind is on the other side of town. Now who is the barely conscious woman on my shoulder?"
Tifa tried to explain as they headed back.
Just outside the bar, Pretty felt herself flipped back to the ground. Her legs held her weight, albeit a little unsteadily.
"Can you walk?"
Pretty looked up and gave the calm voice a body. Dark hair, with red Mako eyes... She nodded, but didn't let go of his claw arm.
"Cloud?" Tifa called, opening the door.
"Tifa said your name is Pretty. I'm Vincent. I hope we can clear up whatever is going on."
"Hello Vincent." Pretty spoke slowly, still clinging onto his arm as they went inside. "I hope we can too. I don't know what's going on any more than you do. But I should go..."
Cloud was sitting at the bar, drinking straight from a dark bottle. He turned when Tifa came in, but only stood up when Pretty appeared.
"Tifa? Pretty? Vincent?" The blonde looked confused.
"I ran into Tifa sitting on this woman as I was coming to visit," Vincent explained, pulling a chair for Pretty, who slumped into it thankfully. "I'm still a little confused as to the details, but this woman seems to have done nothing other than deliver a letter. Is it really that bad?"
Cloud closed the short distance, and ignoring both Tifa and Vincent, he knelt down beside Pretty.
"Can you tell me a little about your boss? Angel?"
Pretty nodded. "Sure. He runs the Heaven's Cloud Hot Springs resort. Great guy. Took me in and treats me like a sister. He's been there about four years, I think. Just long enough to get a good business going. Everyone in town adores him, but he's a little cold sometimes..."
"What does he look like?" Cloud asked. He silently wondered how hard Tifa had hit Pretty, since she was slurring a bit as she spoke.
"Oh. Well, he washed up from the lifestream like I did - with Mako poisoning and all. Doc named him Angel because that's what he looks like." Pretty paused. Tifa and Vincent shot each other a quick unbelieving glance.
"He's tall, and strong. Um... He has long silvery hair and green Mako eyes. The brightest I've ever seen. But yours are close, Cloud." Pretty looked at the man beside her. Silent tears streamed down his cheeks.
"He's... a good man?" Cloud asked. Neither Tifa nor Vincent could even think of words.
"Like a brother to me. He helps out everyone in town. And he hunts the monsters in the woods, to keep the town safe. Um..."
"Your Angel, does he ever talk about his past?" Vincent asked calmly.
Pretty shook her head. "I asked him once, but he said he lost about six years... and nothing before that really mattered. He once said he was a bad person, but I never believed him. I think he must have been in the military or something. Gets up at the same time... is neat and orderly even when he's not trying..."
Tifa found her voice at that moment. "Sephiroth! We have to destroy him! We have to!" She raised a defiant fist in the air.
Cloud slumped to the floor and sat, cross-legged, head in his hands.
"This is a shock," Vincent said. "Sephiroth's inexplicable survival should be looked into."
"We need to go--" Tifa started.
Cloud ran off at that moment, audibly sobbing. Tifa followed.
"Excuse me, Vincent? Could you fill me in on what's going on? I mean, the world made sense until about fifteen minutes ago." Pretty tried to pick some dirt from one of her braids. "I'd like to pretend I'm not involved with this, but..."
Vincent walked around the table and sat down on an opposing chair.
"Your Angel was once someone that we fought against. Do you remember the Meteor Crisis from five years ago?"
Pretty shook her head. "I don't remember that far back. I know a little that people have told me."
"In that case," Vincent said, brushing the hair from his face, "I think this'll be quite a long story."
About half an hour later Tifa came stomping back into the bar as Vincent was wrapping up a very quick retelling of the events five years ago. Pretty was transfixed. She wished she'd taken notes. Angel...
"He won't show me that damned letter," Tifa said, exasperated.
"He's not required to," Vincent replied.
"Do you know what the letter said?" Tifa asked, ignoring Vincent and grabbing Pretty by her shirt and lifting her partially off the chair.
"No," Pretty squeaked. "You were there - remember?"
"Put her down," Vincent said, rising. "Now."
Tifa suddenly remembered what Vincent was capable of when angered. She let the smaller woman go. "He's fucked up Cloud's head again. I can't let him. We can't let him. Please, we have to go after him." Tifa had Vincent's good arm and was trying to pull him from the building. "We can take the Highwind again."
"If we're going, I'm going too."
Everyone turned. Cloud stood in the doorway, eyes glowing in the dimness of the room.
"Very well. Pack what you will. I'll let Cid know that we're going on an unexpected side trip." Vincent freed himself from Tifa's clutches and walked back to Pretty and offered a hand. "It may be safer if you come with me now."
Pretty nodded. She was rather numb from the last few minutes worth of revelations. She grabbed her bag from the floor and turned to where Cloud stood, Tifa now clutching onto him.
Once outside the bar, Pretty heard a familiar 'Wark'.
"KooKoo!" she exclaimed, running to the side of the building with Vincent following her.
"My chocobo - KooKoo!" Pretty explained as she untied the bird from a post. "We can bring him, right?"
Vincent nodded. "Black ones are very rare."
"I think he was a racing bird or something. But I caught him in the wild. His leg bands are gone," Pretty said, leading the chocobo from the alley and following Vincent.
"He looks like one Cloud used to own," Vincent said. "There's a chocobo stable on the Highwind, so he'll be well taken care of."
"Wark!" KooKoo said, seeming pleased.
Neither Mako-enhanced human nor chocobo said another word until the Highwind came into view.
"Wow!" Pretty exclaimed. "This is yours?"
"Cid's," Vincent replied. "I work for him."
"Oh. But you get to fly around in it..." Pretty didn't get to finish her sentence as she was dragged off by an overexcited chocobo. "KooooKooo! Stop!"
But KooKoo didn't stop. KooKoo dragged Pretty clear across the field. Pretty found herself looking at a set of boots and listening to the exact opposite of the calm voice.
"What the fuck are you doing here you fucking bird? And what have you brought me?"
Hands roughly pulled Pretty up to standing. Eyes wide, the woman couldn't think of anything to say. "I..."
"Cid!" Vincent came rushing to the rescue.
"Vincent, look what Kooja brought me. What the fuck is this damned bird doing here?" Cid held out Pretty, much like an oversized doll.
"Kooja? So it is one of Cloud's chocobos," Vincent said slowly. "He must have recognized the Highwind."
"So who's the damned girl?"
"My name's Pretty," Pretty said softly. All she really wanted at that point was a hot bath and a thirty six hour nap.
"Long story short," Vincent said. "She works for Sephiroth. She'll take us to him."
Cid chose that moment to drop Pretty. "Sephiroth? What the fuck are you talking about?"
Vincent again grabbed Pretty from the ground. "I'll take Pretty onboard so she can rest."
"Fuck," Cid replied after Vincent and Pretty were onboard, absently scratching Kooja's head.
Three hours later, three new passengers and one black chocobo, who was, in fact, formerly owned by Cloud, were onboard and headed towards Mideel.
Cloud hadn't said a word to anyone since getting on the airship, leaving a very upset Tifa to try and explain to Cid what was happening. Vincent stood across the room and watched everything unfold. He didn't figure he needed to say anything at this point. He had another twelve hours in the air to correct all of the factual errors Tifa was making.
Pretty had been sent away with the only female crew member, a woman named Shera, to be washed and patched up from her earlier adventures.
"And that's what's going on. It's crazy! He's alive." Tifa yelled, much as she had for the entire explanation.
"So what does the fucking letter say?" Cid asked, walking up to Cloud, who was staring out the front of the ship.
Cloud didn't say anything. He just kept staring.
Cid sighed, and lit another cigarette. "Shit."
Everyone turned, including Cloud. It was Pretty, dressed in an oversized crewmember's uniform. Her hair had been unbraided and washed, making her look like a completely different person. She walked quickly to Cloud and whispered something to him. His face registered shock, and he quickly followed her towards the back of the airship.
Tifa looked ready to chase the pair down, but Vincent stepped in front of her. "Cloud'll be fine without you for a couple minutes," he said.
Tifa almost growled in anger. "Fine. But she's under Sephiroth's control. I can't see how you can just let her take Cloud off..."
Tifa found herself talking straight into Vincent's claw. "Sit. And. Be. Quiet," he said, letting her go.
Cid laughed. A couple crewmembers backed away as Tifa stormed to the front of the ship and sat down.
"Cid?" It was Shera.
"What is it now? We're having a fine fucking time up here already without whatever you need," Cid replied.
"Did you see Pretty? She rushed off to find Cloud and tell him something she remembered," Shera said, looking down.
"It's all been taken care of," Vincent said softly. "Thank you for taking care of Pretty."
"So what did you remember?" Cloud asked quietly. They were sitting on crates of cargo in the back of the airship.
Pretty looked at her hands. "I was talking to Shera when she was washing my hair and she asked me if I had a boyfriend in Mideel. I told her no, I hadn't found anyone interesting yet. And then I remembered one time I asked Angel, er, Sephiroth... No, I'll call him Angel...
"Anyway, I asked him why he never went out with anyone. And he told me he knew exactly what he wanted in a lover but no one there had it. I asked him what that was, and do you know what he said?"
Cloud looked puzzled.
"The brightest blue eyes in the world."
Pretty looked nervously at the blonde next to her. He was studying the steel the floor was made from. "That's why it hurts so bad, isn't it? That's what the letter is about. You're the one with the brightest blue eyes, aren't you?."
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!