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: Time is passing and Pretty fears she's been trapped. There are forces at work and maybe a few working forces... Decisions are made and the next step is taken.
Notes: Yes, Vincent is in too many corners at once. He realizes that since Pretty knows about the clones, he has to let her meet them all and is willing to do that to make her happy. But he has to keep Reeve in the dark about Sephiroth and Cloud. And (since Reno is keeping his end of the bargain) think he's keeping Cloud in the dark about the clones. Poor guy. He should know that he just can't win.
"One phone call," Pretty demanded from the carpeted floor of the hospital ward's waiting room as she paused midway through a sit-up.
"C'mon," Twenty replied as he put a bit more pressure on Pretty's feet. "Two more. Then you can make unreasonable demands."
"This is only ninety-eight?" Pretty asked as her elbows touched her knees. "Fine..."
"Besides, we need to keep quiet until there's an actual plan," Twenty warned her. "Right now, there's no actual plan."
"There's kinda a plan or seven, but nothing really solid because not everyone will talk to me," Pretty lamented as she looked up into Twenty's mako blue eyes. "Why won't they talk to me? Vincent said he'd take me to meet them but he hasn't been around. And was that really only ninety-eight?"
"Two more," Twenty repeated. "Besides, wouldn't you be a little wary of you if, um, you weren't you? We've... kinda gotten used to our imprisonment. Do you think we've never tried to escape before? It's just not that easy!"
Pretty finished her sit-ups in silence. She hadn't thought about it. She really hadn't thought about it. Mostly she'd thought about herself over the last few weeks, about her own recovery and also about getting everyone to Mideel. Of course they'd have to tried to escape before - she should have realized that. But...
But it was a conversation for another time - one when their privacy was a little more guaranteed.
"I feel like goo," she said as she smiled at the security camera and shakily stood. Twenty tried to offer her a hand, but she refused.
"A week ago, fifty sit-ups were doing you in before I had a chance to thrash you around downstairs," Twenty commented as he stretched.
"I didn't work out this much before I got sick," Pretty said. She stretched. "I was mostly a housekeeper... I feel good, though. And like goo."
"Does that mean you don't want to spar?" Twenty asked in a light tone. "We can skip..."
"No!" Pretty exclaimed as she headed for the door. "Let's go! We have time before dinner."
Twenty got to the door before she did and held it open. They both smiled and waved to the nurses at their station by the elevator as they passed.
Pretty had spent a bit of time observing the various nurses who came and went and she had gotten the idea that not a one of them actually seemed to have any idea of exactly what was going on. The likely weren't told anything and probably just thought they were watching a handful of slightly more troublesome mako-poisoned patients than the ones on other, less-bulletproof floors. That made possible escape a little easier. If only the two doctors, Reeve and Vincent knew the truth, then that was only four people to outsmart - not dozens. Though outsmarting four really smart people would be difficult. Pretty knew that all too well from sneaking around back in Mideel. A strategist she was not.
Finally, too, she felt good and like she'd keep feeling good. More than a week had passed and she hadn't had a bad day, yet there had been no talk of releasing her. And no one would listen when she said she may well be cured. Doc Lothaire simply told her it was too early to tell and Ysole kept mentioning the potential for setbacks and needing to tweak pills. All of that could be taken care of in Mideel - Pretty was sure of that.
That was why she knew, once and for all, that she would have to escape. The only thing she didn't want to leave was a chance at her identity - it felt so close... A name, a birthday, maybe even a background. Reeve kept bringing her files and sitting to talk with her, telling her that there was still hope and that he was still finding more and more now-declassified documents.
Pretty wasn't sure, in the end, what she'd do with a name, though. She liked being 'Pretty' just fine and it was what everybody called her. Twenty didn't need a name. Sixteen didn't. A name would just be baggage, in a way.
So she felt selfish about wanting one... And there was no guarantee that a name would bring back any other memories. It might be worse, she feared, to be presented with an entire history she absolutely could not recall. If she had a husband, children... the thought chilled her more and more every time she'd thought of it and had kept her up for more than one night in the darkness, hugging her pillow and staring into the black.
A past was potentially the scariest thing she could think to ever face.
Still, she found herself obsessively looking, file after file, until she had an entire box emptied at her feet at the end of the day.
As she and Twenty stepped into the elevator, Pretty slumped against the wall. Twenty wouldn't let her jump up and down anyway and pretend she was flying.
"We should definitely go with Plan B," Pretty said. The elevators, to the best of their knowledge, were not monitored.
"Which one was Plan B?" Twenty asked. "The one with the fake food poisoning or the one with the lost dog?"
Pretty frowned. "The lost dog was Plan F and that one was silly. Plan D has the food poisoning and it's still a thought."
"I'm going to have to get Twentynine to explain all of the various ways we've not been able to leave before. Including laundry carts, various deliveries, all out violence, cutting the power and many, many others," Twenty said with a sigh.
"Plan B is the one where we're rescued. The one I've been talking about," Pretty stated. "No escaping necessary. All I need is a phone that can dial ouside so that I can make a phone call... I only want one phone call."
"Rescued," Twenty echoed as the elevator stopped at the basement level. "I'll run that by Twentyfour. But first, you need to make sure that everyone wants to leave. No rescuing anyone who is happier here."
Pretty wanted to respond, but the moment she and Twenty stepped out fo the elevator, they were standing directly in front of Vincent and Seventeen.
"Evening," Vincent said. He frowned.
"What were you doing down here?" Pretty asked, trying to lighten the sudden solemn mood. She hadn't seen Vincent in over a week. She guessed that outside machinations were in place but didn't dare ask. And he didn't seem to be there to visit her. Perhaps he was trying to arrange for her to meet the rest of the clones. She could hope.
"Visiting," Vincent replied cryptically. He wasn't going to elaborate.
"Me?" Pretty asked, trying not to frown. "Good timing. Usually I am down here about now."
"Of course," Vincent said smoothly. "A spar before dinner, correct?"
"We are," Twenty said, putting an arm around Pretty as if to challenge Vincent. "Would you like to join us?"
Vincent opened his mouth but didn't speak right away. "Yes," he said finally. "Okay."
Even Seventeen seemed surprised. "Really?"
"You too," Vincent said as he reached up to rest his good hand on Seventeen's shoulder.
"Me?" Seventeen questioned. "I..."
"It'll be good for you," Vincent replied. "You can fight."
"You have weapons training?" Pretty asked innocently. "What do you use?"
"Spear," Seventeen replied. "But I'm..."
"Awesome!" Pretty exclaimed. She rushed away from Twenty and past Vincent to grab Seventeen's arm and drag him to the gymnasium.
"But..." Seventeen tried. Twenty started laughing. And Vincent followed silently.
"Are there any spears here?" Pretty asked as she stepped into the gym. She surveyed the practice weapons. There were a few wooden staffs, which, she supposed, would do. "I think I know how to defend against a spear. Maybe..."
Pretty had a couple of new bruises by the time she arrived at the cafeteria, not that she was complaining. Seventeen was not entirely proficient, but she certainly didn't have enough specific experience to defend against him. And she couldn't help wondeirng if Sephiroth had ever been a spear-user or if he just had a lot of general training. Twentyfour was better with firearms and she'd definitely only seen Sephiroth with a gun a handful of times and mostly, well, he looked silly.
Twenty and Vincent had just practiced a bit of hand-to-hand combat before stepping aside to watch what they'd affectionately dubbed the 'main event'.
Holding her tray and scanning the room, Pretty was thrilled to see Sixteen sitting at a far table with a mostly unfamiliar face. She believed the young blond man to be Twentynine. Though with Vincent at her side, quite literally, her personal agenda needed to wait. But perhaps, she decdied as she took a few steps toward their table, she could lead the conversation a bit and see what would be revealed.
"Sixteen!" she called, waving as she bounded over to him. She set her tray down and motioned for Vincent, Twenty and Seventeen to follow.
"Evening," Sixteen said softly. "You seem to come with a group."
"I do," Pretty admitted. "Is that bad?"
"Well..." Sixteen glanced over at Twentynine.
"I'll stay," Twentynine said quickly. "It's okay."
"Evening," Twenty said as he set his own tray down. "Haven't seen you in awhile, Twentynine."
"Haven't wanted to be seen," Twentynine replied. He poked at his dinner with a fork. "I have been busy."
"Busy?" Pretty questioned. "What do you do?"
"I exist," Twentynine replied. Both Vincent and Seventeen sat. "I cause existence. I am existance."
Frowning, Pretty didn't reply. She didn't want to admit that she really didn't get it. Unless, of course, Twentynine didn't really get it himself.
"I managed to almost defeat Pretty," Seventeen said to Sixteen a moment later.
"You fought?" Sixteen asked.
"Quite well," Vincent commented. "I was impressed."
"Do you use a weapon?" Pretty asked, looking at Twentynine.
"Yes," Twentynine replied. "I am a weapon, but one unable to be used or fired. I am a tool not to be wielded by annyone, most of all myself."
"Oh," Pretty said. With luck, someone would paraphrase his response into common speech. No one did. "Well, I use a sword and sai and a bit of magic, though not here..."
"Yes, Sixteen has spoken of you," Twentynine said. "As I assume I have been spoken of."
Pretty nodded. "If you'd ever like to spar..."
"I would not," Twentynine said quickly. "There is no point to honing skills that can never be properly utilized."
"Twentynine has a bit of a point," Vincent said. "You fight only for exercise."
"Well, with Pretty, we can finally have two full basketball teams," Sixteen said. "Not that I'm thrilled about hearing that you were admitted permanently..."
Pretty froze. She knew that everyone around her knew more than she did. But this was the first she had been assured of her predicament.
"Well..." Vincent trailed off and watched Pretty's reaction. "It may be for the best. You weren't doing well in Mideel."
"Yes, I know," Pretty said, hoping to hide her emotion. "It may be for the best."
Her decision was made because decisions were being made for her - she would give up on her quest for self and devote everything to freeing everyone who wanted to be free. Because she was quite sure that life was not meant to be lived within the walls of a hospital ward.
But until she'd made a bit more progress in her other secret tasks, she couldn't do anything but wait.
Twenty changed the topic. Pretty couldn't help but think that Twentynine's face reminded her of Cloud, but with green eyes and soft, pale blond hair that didn't look it could ever be made into familiar spikes. She wondered if Twenty's black hair came from somewhere in particular. By the time she'd finished her meal, she was so far inside her own thoughts that Vincent's hand on her arm startled her.
"You feeling okay?" he asked. "You're not normally this quiet."
"I'm fine," Pretty lied. "Just really hungry, I guess. Kinda thinking too much about eating, not enough about being friendly."
"As long as Seventeen didn't rough you up more than you thought," Sixteen said almost too-flatly. Twentynine remained silent and expressionless.
"Fine," Pretty said. Physically, she was. The rest was another story.
"I can walk you back to you room," Vincent said as he stood. "It looks like they're closing the cafeteria for the evening."
Pretty noded and pushed back her chair. She offered a feeble wave to the group of clones and then let herself be led away by Vincent.
"You aren't going back to Mideel," Vincent said firmly once they were in the hallway, heading towards the elevator, alone.
"So I've gathered," Pretty said. "Because you want to keep everyone safe, right? It doesn't work that way. I've been here for weeks. Angel is going to worry about me. He'll..."
"I'll pass along a message that you've decided to stay in Midgar for awhile," Vincent interrupted. "That should ease his mind."
"It won't," Pretty said flatly.
"But you've traveled extensively before..."
"I kept in touch," Pretty snapped, pulling away from him just as the elevator stopped at their floor. "He'll know."
"Pretty, you have to realize just how dangerous the situation could become if Angel was to find out what's been going on here," Vincent said as he stepped into the elevator. "Now come on."
"You need to realize that you're making a mistake," Pretty replied as she stepped on beside him. "You're not protecting anyone."
Vincent was silent until they reached the ward.
"And I'll talk to everyone on my own," Pretty snapped as she stormed off the elevator, past the nurses' station and to her room, not bothering to see if Vincent was following her.
A pile of folders was still scattered on the floor and she kicked at them.
"I just need to make one phone call."
Twentynine, Twentyseven, Twentyfive, Twentytwo and Thirty gathered in Twentyseven's room long after the lights had gone out in the ward for the night, something that did not happen often but was deemed immediately necessary.
"Pretty," Thirty said, almost spitting her name out.
"I'm worried," Twentynine replied. "She knows more than she's letting on. Sixteen says that she knows Sephiroth."
Twentyfive frowned as she reached to brush her silver hair away from her face. "Could she?" she asked.
"She has Twenty on her side," Twentynine said. "Likely Twentyfour and Seventeen as well. Sixteen is trying to be friendly with everyone, but..."
"But does Pretty know Sephiroth?" Twentyfive questioned. "This is important!"
"I don't read minds," Twentynine snapped. He glared at Twentyfive.
"Don't you?" Twentytwo asked. "I've always thought..."
"She wants to leave, doesn't she?" Thirty questioned.
"Yes," Twentynine said. "But I doubt she has a way to go about it that wasn't already tried."
"If she does, can we go?" Twentyseven asked. "I want to see trees."
"Trees," Twentyfive echoed with a laugh. "You want to see trees..."
"Shut up," Twentytwo commanded. "We're getting nowhere."
"We always go nowhere," Twentyfive complained. "So... do we go somewhere?"
"To him?" Thirty asked. "To Sephiroth?"
"Yes," Twentynine said. "I am willing to believe her. She is a talented fighter capable of defeating even Twenty. She knows and understands his techniques. She had no other way of learning..."
"Why are we here?" Twentyseven interrupted with a cry. "Why?"
"Shh..." Twentytwo hushed. "We need to be quiet."
"We're not needed," Twentyfive noted. She smirked.
"Be quiet," Twentytwo repeated. "Just shut up. Let Twentynine and Thirty speak."
"How do we verify this?" Thirty questioned. "I do not suggest making a move without being one hundred percent sure."
"Does Sephiroth want us?" Twentyfive asked. She looked down at her lap. "We're..."
"Look inside yourself," Twentynine said. "That's what Sixteen said to do, but I..."
"We'll do it together," Thirty said. He reached for Twentynine's hand. "We'll ask."
"This sounds stupid," Twentyfive commented.
"What's wrong with trying?" Twentytwo questioned as he took Twentyseven's hand.
"We can try," Twentyseven said as he reached for Twentyfive.
"Oh fine," Twentyfive relented. "But I don't think it'll..."
"Just close your eyes," Thirty snapped. The rest of the group grabbed hands and obeyed. "And... ask. Just... concentrate as hard as you can..."
Twentyfive sighed. And then there was silence.
Far, far to the south and for the first time in a very long time, Sephiroth woke from a dead sleep, screaming.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!