Living Without Worry
Title: Living Without Worry (Brightest Blue Eyes Arc 3)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth/Cloud, multiple OCs, Full Cast
Rating: MA overall
Summary: Mideel becomes small. Pretty seeks help.
Notes: Let's begin... Originally this arc was supposed to be a lot grander with an impossible villain, etc. and that idea got shunted off for a future unrelated FFVII story. This one is fun, too, though...
Rae looked up, a little confused at the sudden exhale of breath and the soft murmur of her old name. Despite not hearing it for such a long time, she was surprised at how quickly she responded.
And besides, she hadn't opened for the day yet - the door was just unlocked so that her delivery men could come and go as they pleased without letting in half as many flies as opening the back doors would.
"I'm not open yet," Rae responded, trying not to let the pair of men know how shaken she truly was. Immediately she recognized them - not by name but by uniform. The dark suits, tasteful and completely out of place in the morning haze of Mideel, still made her shake from her days in the dark parts of Midgar. Turks. Turks that knew her name.
"Always did wonder what happened to your pretty little ass," the smaller, seedier looking of the pair said, sliding up to the bar. "Never thought you'd have run all the way to Mideel."
"I said that I'm not open," Rae reiterated, this time in a much harsher tone. "Whomever you are looking for, I am not that person."
"Chill," the other man said, glancing at his partner. "We were told that some of the people here are amnesiacs. Who says this isn't one of 'em?"
"Gimme something with a dirty name," the first man continued, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it.
Rae sighed and started grabbing ingredients. When she turned back with the finished drink, both men were sitting at the bar, sunglasses finally off, watching her as closely as they could.
"Here," Rae said, slamming the drink down on the bar.
"What's it called?" the first man asked, poking at the gaudy dill pickle springing from the top of the glass.
"A Little Fucking Twink Who Needs His Ass Fucked," Rae replied, turning to reach back into her card box and hold out the mixing instructions to the suddenly speechless men. "I used cream instead of milk since I'm out and I'm not open yet, but you won't notice."
"She got you, Reno," the second man said. "I think I should just order a beer."
"It's ten in the morning," Rae reminded them both. "But since you're here, I'll offer a trade - I give you these drinks if you tell me why you're here."
"We're the ones who ask for information," Reno said, making sure Rae was watching as he plucked the pickle free and ran his tongue obscenely over it.
"How about we share," Rae proposed, getting the still-unnamed man his drink before grabbing a glass of water for herself.
"Fair enough," the second man said. "You can call me Rude. This is Reno, and you're..."
"Rae," Rae said. "No last name, to speak of. And I know you're Turks, but I don't know why I know you're Turks, save that Turks come from ShinRa and ShinRa comes from Midgar, which I apparently am from."
"We're here because we heard about something a little stranger than Mako beasts and Lifestream ruptures," Reno said, giving the tip of his pickle a nibble before thrusting it back into his drink.
"You're in the wrong town," Rae replied. "Unless you think Old Man Forthingham's back hair may be of use to the hydro-electrization of the planet."
Rude winced. Reno seemed bored. Rae feared that she was losing the upper hand.
"We had a couple of strange phone calls about a man with wings," Rude said bluntly. "And unless you can give me a quick explanation for that..."
Rae paused and thought, pretending to look perplexed even after she realized a quick solution was at hand.
"Vincent Valentine," she finally said, thankful that her brain had so quickly recalled that Vincent might possibly still have connections with ShinRa and also that Vincent was quite capable of sprouting wings at inopportune moments.
But she knew these men were here after Angel and she didn't know why. Turks were never good news to anyone, and for someone without any past, Rae was fairly sure that they weren't here to whisk him back away to the good life.
"Vin..." Reno began. "Dammit! We were stuck for fourteen hours in that tiny airplane because Valentine..."
"Mr. Valentine is one of our associates," Rude said quickly. "And why no one immediately thought of him... He does file plenty of plans to stay in this area."
"I'm gonna kill Reeve," Reno said. "Kill him..."
His drink was downed a moment later, and forgetting about foreplay with the garnish, he stalked off across the restaurant, cigarette still in hand.
"Reno..." Rude slid off his stool, waving to the bartender. "C'mon, let's just find Elena..."
Rae slumped to the floor once the men had vanished out the door. She knew she had to call Angel and tell him what had just transpired, but she wasn't sure how to handle the news that one of her favorite visitors was one of the bad guys. Surely that was a mistake... There was no way that the soft-spoken and kind Vincent Valentine was a Turk. And certainly she hadn't sent her best friend off with him with her blessing.
From the floor, she hooked the phone cord with a glass and pulled the entire thing down to her. She would be able to hear the door if it opened, at least, while her legs refused to listen to her.
She knew the number for the resort by heart. But the fact that no one was answering what she knew were painfully shrill cries had her worried.
"'Ello? Heaven's Cloud Resort," a thick voice finally answered.
"Yuki," Rae said, finally exhaling. "This is Miss Rae in town. Is either Angel or Cloud around?"
"Angel is out with the chocobos and Cloud went into town for a few things," Yuki said. "Is something wrong?"
Rae paused. "No, nothing's wrong. Just wanted to ask if either had the address for where Pretty will be staying. I was going to send a package."
A decent lie, she thought, and not a half bad idea.
"So please just have one of them call me as soon as you can..."
"Can do, Miss Rae," Yuki said. Rae hung up the receiver and tried to get off the floor. Hopefully the phone would ring. Hopefully...
Things were beginning to get deep, she knew, but how deep she could only fathom. Tiny bits of information were beginning to gel in her mind. Cloud had been a SOLDIER, Vincent was a Turk, Pretty was in Midgar, Angel was...
Yes, what was Angel?
Rae was thankful that she hadn't yet started to clean the bar, else she knew she would have dropped at least one glass down to shatter on the cold tile floor.
Cloud stretched his arms above his head, thankful for a one-morning reprieve from Chocobo-duty. It wasn't that he didn't like the beasts, but taking care of them every single day for the last six years had really started to wear at him. The rare times when he had Pretty as an assistant were a blessing - usually in the mornings she was too busy trying to get laundry going for the day, especially since Hikari had gotten too big to feel comfortable going up and down the basement stairs.
He had his list in hand and thankfully it was fairly simple. But if there was one thing Cloud knew that Sephiroth hated, it was shopping.
Cloud chuckled at the last item on the list. But he knew well enough that even with Yuki managing most of the resort's repairs, tools had a habit of wandering away when unattended and a pound of screws would be no good without a screwdriver.
He couldn't even think what would possibly need to be put back together, other than one of the hinges on Cottage #3's screen door and maybe the toilet paper holder in #5 if the guests were being rough on it.
The pair of exclamation points about the towels amused Cloud as well. Sephiroth was overly anal-retentive about making things match, at least when it came to linens within the cottages. Not everything had to match each other in the grand scheme, but colors had to stay together. Cloud knew that if Pretty ran the resort, every cottage would have a rainbow of linens and no one would likely pay it any attention.
But detail, always attention to detail.
The hardware store was first, actually, since Cloud didn't want to lug two gallons of milk all over town. He glanced over at the Ray of Light, making a mental note to stop and say a quick hello to its proprietress later, as he walked by, wondering if he still had the glow to his face that Rae would always tease him about if she caught him.
He couldn't help it, really... He couldn't help that Sephiroth had snuck up behind him on the porch before the last of the morning mist had faded from the clearing between house and barn and made an offer with his body that couldn't be refused.
As he turned onto the side-street that would lead him to the hardware store, he stretched again, closing his eyes and quite accidentally bumping into whomever had been turning the corner in the other direction.
Cloud blinked, trying to figure out why anyone, especially an attractive thirty-something woman, would be wearing a full suit in Mideel. Then it hit him and he froze.
"Is this where you live now?" she asked, reaching to grab at the blond hair that spilled over his shoulders. "You look like one of the crazy islanders now."
"Why are you here?" Cloud asked, shoving his list into one of his pockets. It could wait, for now.
"Got sent down here to... wait! You were always good at this, tricking me into telling you things that I'm not supposed to. No way, Cloud, even though I like you well enough." Elena crossed her arms over her chest and stood still.
"But I live here," Cloud said. "If you're looking for someone, I might be able to help."
Cloud turned at the sound of another familiar-yet-not-familiar voice. Two more dark-suited Turks were heading in their direction. Cloud tried not to groan.
And then his voice escaped him completely -- he had something to hide, something the ShinRa would not take away from him.
"There you are, Elena," Reno said, distaste obvious in his voice. "We looked everywhere for you. This whole job's a bust - turns out that our mysterious flying in man is likely just Valentine on vacation."
"All that time stuck on that plane..." Elena's face fell and she sighed. "I really wish Reeve would put a little more thought into our missions."
"But we did hear that our pal Mr. Strife here works at a resort," Rude interjected. "And since we're here, we may as well take a little extra time writing up a proper report. From a nice luxury cottage with breakfast in bed."
Cloud wondered if passing out would keep the Turks away from the resort. He wondered if anything would keep them from finding Sephiroth, because for all he knew at any second Sephiroth would come wandering into town to get Chocobo Chow which really should have been on the list because they were running low and it was a wonderful new supplement developed to replace some of the greens that were too terribly expensive for an amateur racer to buy...
Passing out, yes, that was better than thinking too much. But Cloud held his ground, weakly nodding.
"Actually, we're doing repairs right now," Cloud said quickly. "I'm on my way to the hardware store, actually. You'd all be better off staying somewhere else in town."
"I'm fairly handy with a few things," Reno replied, circling Cloud and reaching to finger the same long strands that Elena had finally let from her grasp. "I think you're going to let us stay."
Too much protesting and they would know something was up. Cloud finally nodded, wondering just how he was ever going to keep three nosy Turks away from one formerly dead godling.
"But," he said quickly, "it'll take a couple of hours for me to get the place ready. A--My--We're missing a maid right now because she's sick. Please just stay in town a little longer and then come out the far west path."
And as soon as he was out of sight, he ran.
"Close your mouth," Vincent said, reaching to tilt Pretty's lower jaw back to its normal position. "You'll catch flies and get sick again."
"I am sick," Pretty said, continuing to take slow steps through the city. "Can't we take, um, a train or something?"
"We're on the sidewalk to the hospital," Vincent replied. "Trains do not run here. We are lucky that a taxi brought us here. And I've been listening to you whine for longer than I've ever wanted to. I know the headstrong fighter I met six years ago is in there somewhere and she's the only one I want to hear a peep from."
"Yes, sir," Pretty answered, trying to pick up her pace a bit. "I'm sorry."
Pretty thought she heard Vincent sigh, but she couldn't be sure. The building in front of them was huge - part of an original ShinRa hospital complex that hadn't been destroyed, Vincent had explained earlier. While only the one building was left, it was well enough equipped to treat patients and was a center of ongoing Mako poisoning research led by a pair of specialists. Vincent had apparently automatically thought of them once he realized how sick Pretty truly was.
"And remember, if anyone asks who you live with, just tell them about Cloud. We don't want any trouble."
Pretty looked up to see who was calling Vincent's name. Vincent seemed to miss a step at the sight of a dark-haired man in a suit.
"Hello, still here," Pretty interjected, a little lost as the men went through a particularly terse handshake.
"I heard you were coming from Mideel," the man named Reeve said, glancing at Pretty and raising an eyebrow.
"That's correct. This is Cloud Strife's adopted younger sister. As you can likely tell, she's suffering from acute Mako poisoning," Vincent explained coolly.
"Miss Strife." Reeve extended a hand to a fairly confused Pretty who was not expecting a firm grip. She lost her balance and nearly tumbled into Reeve's arms.
"I'm sick," she mumbled, a little embarrassed to be held by someone she had just met.
"Then you're in the right place," Reeve replied, scooping her up and carrying her to the door. "Vincent, something strange has been going on down in Mideel, but if you've been there, I can only assume that you're part of the cause."
"Huh?" Pretty asked, trying to pull her sweater tighter around her body. Despite her new friend not wearing a jacket, she was absolutely freezing.
"If you're talking about repeated creature sightings, that would likely be me, yes," Vincent said, red eyes flashing in Pretty's direction. She closed her mouth and resolved to keep it that way before she did get either herself or anyone in Mideel into actual trouble.
"I figured as much," Reeve said. "But I figured too late -- I already sent Rude, Reno and Elena down there. They'll probably want to kill me once they figure out they're chasing one of their own, but let 'em have the vacation, right?"
"You sent Turks to Mideel," Vincent repeated, just to make sure he'd heard it right the first time. "And you expect them to stay for a vacation?"
"Cloud does work at a resort," Reeve replied, pausing at the door since he couldn't very well open it with his arms full of a suddenly stiff woman.
"Well, yes," Vincent said. And he couldn't think of a single other thing to add -- certainly not anything that could be said in mixed company. Cloud was a lucky man - despite his past, he was a damned lucky man in the end. Hopefully that luck would hold out. Hopefully some miracle would appear to keep Mideel's biggest secret safe.
Vincent opened the door and held it while Reeve carried Pretty inside.
"Is this your first time?" Reeve asked suddenly. "With Mako poisoning?"
"At least my second," Pretty replied, trying to smile. Reeve had white hairs mixed in with the black on his face and she was fighting the urge to reach and try to pull them out. "But you aren't a doctor, are you?"
"I'm not," Reeve said. "But I consider Cloud a good friend. So I'd like to get to know you."
"Oh," Pretty wondered if she was blushing. "Right."
"You two should be able to manage," Vincent said suddenly from behind them. "I do have places to go."
But he was gone.
"He's a hard one to know," Reeve said, turning to bump the up button of the elevator with his elbow. "But you probably know that."
"Yeah," Pretty said. "I guess. But you said that Cloud is a friend of yours? Please tell me embarrassing stories!"
Reeve's laughter filled the elevator as he set Pretty down on the floor. "If you're well enough for dinner, I'd like that. Maybe not tonight, but..."
"I'm not going to die," Pretty said suddenly. "So don't worry. I'm tough. I have to get better and go home so I can train chocobos with Cloud and see Hikari's baby and... It's not that I gave up. But when I felt good I did too much so then I didn't feel good and..."
"Shh..." Reeve crouched down by her and patted her head. "You'll get a new start here. There are things that the doctors here can do that no other doctors can."
"Do you think they can find my name, too?" Pretty asked suddenly, a little surprised that she hadn't thought of it before. "And my birthday. Just in case someone made a record..."
"They named me Pretty when they pulled me from the Lifestream, but I don't remember anything before. A--I was told I was good with a sword. I never asked Vincent or Cloud but... Could I have been in the military? Do... do you think someone knows who I am?" Pretty didn't realize she was crying until tears hit her cheeks.
The elevator dinged, and again Reeve scooped Pretty into his arms.
"Most of the records were lost," Reeve admitted. "So even if you were, without even basic details to search with, like a name or birth date..."
"But let's get you better, first. Then we can see about finding you a past."
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!