Living Without Worry
Title: Living Without Worry (Brightest Blue Eyes Arc 3)
Part: 12/12 & Epilogue
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: It's hard to have a dramatic rescue when there are taxicabs involved. Nonetheless, a dramatic rescue is had.
Vincent Valentine read the transmission from Cid for a second and then third time. While the terms were vague, the message was clear.
Things were being put right and needed to stay right. And he needed to own up to the mistakes that he just kept on making.
There was only one way to do that.
He reached for his gun.
"This isn't quite the grand entrance I had imagined," Sephiroth noted with a soft chuckle as Cloud paid the taxi driver.
"Well, Cid is working on making our exit a little more dramatic," Cloud noted. "I hope. If he can find a van to rent."
He over-tipped on purpose and then sucked in his breath as the taxi sped off. Now there was nothing between him and the hospital and he couldn't look away.
"That's not much better," Sephiroth replied before stepping forward. Cloud hoped that Sephiroth had a plan. Because he really hadn't thought about much past getting to Midgar. He definitely hadn't thought about how to get into the hospital and get Pretty and the others out, even though everything looked... rather normal. There weren't guards, and the building looked fairly normal. It was even marked as a hospital, and the taxi driver had known exactly where it was.
"Ready?" Sephiroth questioned.
Cloud nodded. "Are you?"
"No," Sephiroth admitted. "But we're going anyway."
The hospital doors opened automatically on their approach, which caused both men to exchange glances. Everything seemed a little too normal for comfort.
"May I help you?" a middle-aged receptionist called from their right side.
"We're here to see a patient," Sephiroth explained calmly, stepping over to her desk. "It's our first time visiting her, though, so we're not sure exactly where her room is."
"No problem," the receptionist replied with a little smile. "What's her name?"
"Pretty," Cloud supplied. "No last name, though she might be using mine - 'Strife'."
The receptionist nodded and turned to her computer terminal. She typed quickly, her expression neutral as she glanced over whatever screen appeared. However, after a long moment, she frowned at let out an unamused noise.
"I'm not sure you'll be able to see her," she said flatly. "She's on the secure floor and visitors are only with the doctor's permission."
"Could you contact her doctor?" Sephiroth asked. "We'll gladly wait. It's very important for us to see Pretty."
"I..." The receptionist looked at him for a long, strange moment before nodding and reaching for her phone. "Sure. Give me just a moment."
"Thank you." Sephiroth reached to guide Cloud over to pretend to examine a small bubbling fountain halfway across the lobby. It would give the woman some quiet in which to call, and while he was sure he'd still be able to hear her, they wouldn't seem like they were hovering.
"Ah, Doctor Lothaire? One of your patients has visitors," Sephiroth heard her say.
There was a pause.
"Yes, Miss Pretty. No, I didn't get their names, but I don't believe they're company employees..."
There was another long pause, during which Sephiroth wandered over to the near wall to pretend to care about previous employees of the month.
"What? Oh... Okay..." She hung up the phone.
"Excuse me," she called. "I'll unlock the elevator for you. You'll have ten minutes as long as you don't agitate her. She's apparently quite ill."
Sephiroth and Cloud exchanged glances again before nodding.
"Thank you," Cloud said. "That sounds reasonable, given her condition."
They followed the receptionist to the elevator where she slipped in a keycard before sending them to one of the highest floors.
They rode in unsettled silence.
"They're here." Seventeen darted into Pretty's room and behind the door, quickly gesturing for her to be silent.
She got halfway through a nod before Doctor Lothaire gave a quick knock on the half-open door and then stepped in. He seemed wholly unaware of Seventeen, which was apparently what Seventeen wanted.
"Vitamin shot," Doctor Lothaire noted, holding up a syringe that didn't look a thing like anything Pretty had ever been given. Pretty's eyes went wide when Seventeen reached to grab Doctor Lothaire's shoulder and then knock the syringe out of his hand.
"I honestly doubt that was anything healthy," Seventeen noted. "That looked more like the sedatives you keep pumping into Twentyseven."
"What are you doing here?" the doctor demanded, scrambling for the syringe. Pretty scooted off the bed and then kicked it underneath, looking to Seventeen for instructions.
"Not being here for much longer," Seventeen noted. When Doctor Lothaire turned towards him, he easily caught the doctor's hands and quickly brought his knee up to crash into the doctor's chest.
"Come on," Seventeen ordered as Doctor Lothaire slumped to the floor. Pretty nodded, following quickly out of the room and pulling the door shut. One it had closed tightly, Pretty reached to lock the door from the outside.
"What's going on?" Pretty questioned. "Was that...?"
"They're here," Seventeen reiterated, taking her hand and tugging her towards the elevators.
"They're here?" Pretty stumbled half a step before speeding past Seventeen and tugging his hand in turn.
The light on the elevator showed that it had two more floors to go, and immediately Seventeen turned to see if anyone had heard or seen their miniature battle. The nurse at the station seemed undisturbed - she was one Pretty had seen before when she'd gone to dinner or to spar.
"Wait up!" Twenty jogged up a moment later, wearing hospital scrubs and grinning. "You're not going anywhere without me."
The elevator let out a soft ding and Pretty swiveled as the doors opened. She was half-afraid of being disappointed, but there was none to be had. Cloud and Sephiroth were both there, seemingly suffering from the same anticipation.
"Pretty!" Cloud cried, stepping forward. Then he froze, looking past Pretty at Seventeen and Twenty.
Sephiroth had seen Pretty, yes, but his gaze had immediately gone elsewhere. His eyes locked with Seventeen's in an endless moment.
"It really is you," Seventeen whispered.
Sephiroth nodded and stepped off the elevator, making sure Cloud was clear before the doors closed.
"Where are the others?" Sephiroth questioned.
"On their way, Sir," Twenty replied.
"We're going home, right?" Pretty questioned.
Sephiroth nodded and pulled her into a quick hug. "Yes. And you look good, Pretty. I'm glad."
"Almost didn't happen," Seventeen said. "They're trying to keep us all here."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Twentyfive came running around the corner. Her eyes went wide as she looked at the group, but she quickly caught herself.
"They got Twentyfour," she said quickly, barely taking her eyes off Sephiroth.
"What's going on?" the nurse demanded from her station. "You all know there's a noise rule and..." She blinked, apparently just realizing that Sephiroth and Cloud weren't from the normal group of patients. "Wait..."
"It's best if you just pretend not to see anything," Cloud told her before looking at Twentyfive. "You - take us to the others."
"Pretty, you stay here with..." Sephiroth paused for just a moment. "Seventeen and Twenty. We'll be right back."
Pretty nodded, not asking how Sephiroth knew their names. She was afraid and for once, didn't really know what to do. This wasn't one of those times where just charging in would do any good.
"Come on," Twentyfive said, gesturing for Sephiroth and Cloud to follow her. A moment later, they were back down the hall and gone.
"Give me one good reason not to lock down the entire unit," the nurse said, shaking her head. "I don't know what's going on, but..."
Apparently, she wasn't going to wait for a reason. A second later, the hall lights flared and there was the distinct sound of doors locking.
"You can't!" Pretty cried, even though she knew it would hopefully keep Doctor Lothaire at bay for just a bit longer. But the others...
The nurse shook her head. "You three can just stay right there til everything has calmed down."
"Sure..." Twenty reached to guide Pretty off to the side. "It's okay..."
Seventeen frowned. There was only silence for a long moment, and then voices from the far end of the unit.
The elevator dinged and a pair of burly orderlies stepped off.
"You're all they sent?" the nurse questioned, shaking her head before pointing down the hall. "I don't know what's going on, but if you find anyone out of their rooms..."
Pretty was a little surprised by the sound of her own voice as she stepped forward.
"What was that?" one of the orderlies questioned. "I think you'll be safer if you sit back down."
"I will not," Pretty said. She winced as Twenty and Seventeen dutifully stepped behind her. She hadn't really meant to drag them in, even if there wasn't much chance of her winning in a fistfight.
Sephiroth rounded another corner, close on Twentyfive's heels, only to come face to face with four more of the clones. It took him a second to feel them all out, but then he knew it was Twentytwo and Twentyseven holding Twentyfour up, and Thirty at their side.
"Seph..." Twentyfour managed, trying to reach out.
"Doctor Ysole hit him with something," Twentytwo explained. "I don't know why, other than..."
"Because we're here, probably," Cloud said.
Sephiroth nodded. "Seventeen saved Pretty from the same thing."
"How do you...?" Cloud turned quickly, questioning.
Sephiroth gave him a tiny half-smile. "They're loud," he noted. "But... we need to get out of here."
"Twentynine went to get Sixteen," Thirty said flatly, looking Sephiroth over and then meeting Sephiroth's gaze with his own.
The lights flared around them and there was a strange sound.
"Lockdown," Twentyseven mumbled with a shudder.
"We've got to get going," Twentyfive said. "Sixteen and Twentynine should be that way."
She pointed further down the hall. "Doors can't be opened from the inside at all now and they'll be sending orderlies..."
"We'll go," Sephiroth said, nodding. "You get Twentyfour to the elevator. The others are waiting. Take them and get out of the building and away."
"But..." Thirty started, only to close his mouth and nod. "Okay."
The nurse made a run for it after Seventeen knocked the second orderly out cold. The first still seemed to be conscious, but was choosing the safer option and staying on the floor. No sooner had Pretty glanced up than the group came running half-dragging Twentyfour.
"What happened?" Pretty questioned.
"Doc Ysole shot him up with something," Twentytwo said with a little headshake. "He probably just needs to sleep it off. But..."
"Yeah, we need to get out of here," Thirty directed, pushing past and reaching for the elevator. But before he could, it dinged and stopped.
Pretty braced, expecting another wave of orderlies. Instead, it was Vincent.
He looked at Pretty, looked at the six others, and then gestured for them to all to join him in the elevator.
"There's no going down at this point," he said firmly. "We're going to have to go up."
"Oh," Sixteen said from where he had an arm around Twentynine, huddled inside of a locked-from-the-outside room, when he looked up to see Sephiroth standing there. "No wonder..."
"Come on," Twentyfive ordered, stepping and reaching for them both. "We gotta go."
"Of course." Sixteen got to his feet, bringing Twentynine with him. "Where are the others?"
"Hopefully on their way out," Sephiroth replied. "Like we should be. Hopefully our ride is here."
Cloud nodded, watching Sixteen and Twentynine with a bit of surprise. He had thought he had been ready, but seeing them all brought so many strange emotions to the surface. He swallowed hard.
"Stay behind me," Sephiroth said, gesturing that they needed to head back to the elevator. The floor, however, was silent, aside from the pounding against one of the room doors.
Cloud blinked once at the hastily scrawled arrow beside the elevator. "I guess we're going up?"
Twentynine reached for the button, but it did nothing.
"They must have cut its power," Sixteen surmised. "We'll take the stairs. There are only two other floors before the maintenance access to the roof."
"Lead the way," Sephiroth said, slipping to the back of the group. It took Cloud a moment to realize that he was trying to keep himself as the most vulnerable of the group. Likely because he was the least vulnerable.
The noise was almost deafening by the time the five of them got to the roof access level. It sounded like the entire building was going to come down.
"What--?" Twentyfive froze and Sephiroth nearly crashed into her.
"Come on," he said, reaching to put an arm around her. "You're safe."
Their eyes met for a quick second and without words, she pulled away, shaking her head and then heading for the open access door.
Only once Sephiroth was outside did he realize what the noise was - it was the Highwind, hovering low, with a rope ladder dangling down. Cid was hanging at the bottom, helping everyone up. And Vincent...
...lowered his gun to gesture for them to get to the airship, he'd stand guard.
"This isn't a van!" Cloud yelled once they were close enough.
"Weren't any big enough," Cid replied. "Figured you might need something a little more impressive anyway."
Sephiroth chuckled, shaking his head before stepping aside to make sure Twentyfive, Twentynine and Sixteen all got up the ladder first. And then Cloud. And Cid...
Then it was just Vincent and Sephiroth standing, watching one another.
Vincent said something that Sephiroth couldn't hear at all. But he saw the way Vincent's mouth moved. Sephiroth nodded and grabbed the ladder, getting one foot on before a wave of orderlies appeared from the roof access door. The Highwind lurched and began to ascend.
And Vincent transformed.
"Best Plan J ever," Pretty said, running over to Sephiroth once a pair of the Highwind's crew had hauled him aboard and secured the ladder. "Couldn't have done it without..."
She trailed off and looked around.
"Making amends the only way he knows how," Sephiroth replied.
Pretty winced but nodded. She knew he'd be okay. She knew... Because he'd saved them all.
And then an awkward silence descended on them all. Cid had retreated to the bridge, and the lingering crew was busy securing the ladder hatch.
Sephiroth glanced around at the nine clones, then to Cloud and to Pretty.
But it was Thirty who finally spoke. "Thank you," he said softly. "Thank you."
"I don't really know what else there is to say," Twentyfive commented before staking out a spot on a crate near where Seventeen and Twenty were sitting with a groggy-looking Twentyfour.
"We're... not terribly adept at having lives of our own, you know," Twenty said before laughing. "I want to apologize in advance."
"I feel like I should be apologizing to all of you," Sephiroth finally managed.
Thirty waved it off. "Let's just take care of Twentyfour for now. And we could all stand to hear a little bit more about where we're headed."
Everyone nodded, even Twentyfour who tried to insist that he didn't feel anywhere near as bad as he looked.
"Home," Pretty said. "We're going home."
The phone had been ringing off the hook for four days when Sephiroth had finally handed off booking duty to Seventeen and headed into town to pick up groceries and milk. Twentynine tagged along, curious about everything even after months of living in Mideel.
"Hey, Angel!" Kei greeted Sephiroth when he stepped into the post office. "Got a whole pile of letters from you, and a few faxes, and hey, you brought one of your new helpers."
Sephiroth was surprised. That was about the shortest burst of conversation that Kei had ever managed.
"You know, I had a feeling you were going to come in today," Kei continued and Sephiroth flinched. Apparently, she'd just paused to breathe in.
She talked all the way through handing him his mail, which he handed to Twentynine in order to flip through pages of faxes. One was surprising - a four page spread on the resort from a magazine whose name Sephiroth recognized. How had--?
There'd been so much fuss getting everyone settled that a journalist probably had slipped through without a blink.
He skimmed the article, which was glowing and praised everything, from food to activities to the host of beautiful young men employed. It took him a couple of seconds, but finally, he started to laugh.
"What's funny?" Twentynine questioned. "Aside from life, of course. Living is the ultimate comedy."
"Oh, it's going to be a busy season," Sephiroth commented before setting the pages on top of Twentynine's armload of mail. "Probably a lot of single women."
He waved to Kei and was nearly out of the post office before he realized there was one last page, handwritten, from Vincent.
'Hope I can still make a reservation. Almost done with everything here. Ready for some peace and quiet... Or, at least, life without worry.'
"Go on ahead," Sephiroth told Twentynine. "I'll catch up in a moment. I just need to send a quick fax."
Twentynine nodded and headed off.
Strangely, Kei was quiet as Sephiroth flipped over the page and used one of her pens to scrawl a quick response.
"Once Reeve found out that Se-Angel was alive and, well, the whole truth, he discontinued all of the Lothaires' funding," Vincent said. He'd made it all the way to the back porch before getting swarmed by clones, Pretty, Cloud and Sephiroth.
Twentytwo had, at least, offered to take his bags.
Sephiroth nodded before reaching for his coffee mug, one of a line that now sat on the railing, to take a couple of swallows.
"And he had most of the data on the program destroyed, aside for what might be useful for the clinic here, should anyone ever get hurt," he continued, gesturing for one of his bags. Twentytwo handed it over, and Vincent quickly unzipped it and pulled out a thick bundle of files.
"I'll take it," Twentyfive offered. "I'll put it in the office until someone goes into town and can drop it off."
Vincent handed it to her, then dropped his voice a bit. "The Lothaires vanished."
"Then..." Thirty started, just to have Cloud shake his head at the youngest of the bunch. Thirty's eyes went wide for a second before nodding. 'Vanished' likely meant at the hands of the Turks.
"How long are you planning to stay?" Sephiroth asked. Vincent had two bags this time, which was more than he ever tended to travel with.
Vincent was quiet for a moment, mulling over his answer before speaking. "I don't know. Until I can find a place of my own down here, I suppose."
"Really?" Pretty questioned. She tipped Sixteen to lean against Twenty so that she could edge closer. "You're staying?"
"I am. Not because of anything before, just..." He glanced around at the group.
"We understand," Twentyfour interjected. "Don't worry."
"And you'll still come to eat, right?" Pretty asked.
"I will." Vincent almost stopped short before reaching down for his bag again. "I also almost forgot - Reeve sent something for you."
"For me?" Pretty questioned, leaning closer. A moment later, she was handed a sealed oversized envelope.
In careful script on the front was her name, and on the back, much smaller above the seal, were two words: 'Found you'.
"What is it?" Cloud asked, standing and walking over to her. "Pretty?"
"Something Reeve and I were discussing," Pretty managed. She traced her fingers over the seal before quickly glancing back at Sixteen. His eyes went wide.
"It's kinda personal," she continued. "I... I'm going to put it in my room and look at it after breakfast."
Before anyone could question her, she got to her feet and sprinted into the house, pausing only as she passed the office to glance in at the paper shredder. So many years looking... And Reeve still looked. It didn't seem right to waste the knowledge.
She bounded up the stairs a moment later, into her room and after a quick glance around, pulled out the bottom drawer of her dresser, slipped it underneath and then put the drawer back.
Instead of joining the others, though, Pretty paused in the kitchen and took a deep breath. She knew once she started, Thirty would be in to help. But even between the two of them, they had a lot of pancakes to make.
And more coffee to make, too.
Before she could reach for anything, there was the distinct tolling of the town bell.
Breakfast could wait.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!