"Do you ever notice how the generals are so easy to beat?"

I sat on the bridge to the cockpit of the Highwind. Mitsu was dangling upside down from a few pipes, trying to fix an oil leak. He had been working on the Highwind all morning, swearing he was going to get it back to running properly. I had never realized he was so good with machinery till he pulled the Highwind apart and slowly put it back together.

"Well," I said, watching Mitsu fight with a bolt.

"I don't think they are easy," Mitsu replied, pulling himself up into a sitting position.

"But they are suppose to be blood thirsty and dangerous," I pointed out. "Yet we have beaten them all."

Mitsu wiped his forehead, leaving a streak of oil behind. Reaching up, he lifted himself up onto the walkway, sitting next to me.

"We lost Diallo to them," Mitsu reminded me. "They are dangerous."

"Of course they are dangerous, I'm not saying that they aren't. I'm simply wondering why it is we were able to beat all of them," I said, hoping to make more sense. "Even General Tifa was rather easy to beat."

Mitsu shook his head, wiping the oil off his forehead with a rag.

"I know you don't agree with me."

"Of course I don't agree with you," Mitsu stormed. "You sit here saying that they are easy when they have already killed Diallo, Reno, Rude, and Elena. Or maybe you forgot that."

"Of course I haven't forgotten," I snapped quickly in my defense. "I was just stating a question. I'm sorry if I got you so upset, that wasn't my intention."

Silence hung heavily between the two of us. I had made my apology, there was really nothing more I could say. Mitsu opened his mouth to say something but quickly closed it and turned away. The sound of people walking on the deck above us drew my attention momentarily.

"Sorry I got angry with you," Mitsu said suddenly, drawing my attention back down. Glancing back over at me, he gave the briefest glimpse of a smile. "I know you weren't trying to be mean."

"It's not your fault. I should have thought about your feelings before opening my big mouth," I laughed, trying to brush the whole situation off.

"So how is Trista doing," Mitsu asked, changing the topic.

"She caught that flu everybody had. You'd think somebody as active as her wouldn't catch it," I told him, lifting my arms over my head, trying to stretch my back. "She's nausea's and vomiting. Sometimes she's so exhausted she doesn't want to get out of bed."

"Everybody is getting it," Mitsu said. "I had it for awhile, but not that bad. She going to the infirmary?"

I nodded and with a slight smile remembered the protest she had put up. She had screamed and thrown every object she could get her hands on at me, before having to run to the bathroom to be sick.

"I had to force her to go though," I explained. "She threw a fit and everything she could get her hands on. But she was miserable and I was miserable because she took her misery out on me."

"Anything for the one you love," Mitsu said, a wistful tone entering his voice.

Out of the corner of my eye, I glanced at him. He was looking up at the ceiling, a strange look on his face. Did Mitsu have somebody special? Sometimes I was so preoccupied with myself, I never really bothered to ask him. I looked down, suddenly feeling very selfish.

"Yeah, seeing her happy it's very important to me," I said softly.

"I know how you feel about that. I feel the same way about..."

Mitsu trailed off, leaving the sentence up in the air. He turned away quickly, but not fast enough for me not to see the blush creeping up his cheeks. So he does have somebody, but seems rather ashamed. It couldn't be Shanna, or could it?

"Oh really," I teased, pressing the subject. "Tell me everything. Is it Shanna?"

"Shanna!"

The surprised tone in his voice sent me into fits of laughter.

"Okay, so it's not Shanna," I finally said, laughter dying away. "What is their name."

"Addison," Mitsu said his gaze focused on a few pipes down below.

"Addison. That's a really nice name," I thought out loud. "So what's she like? Where did you meet her."

"Uh... It's not a girl," Mitsu said swiftly. "It's a guy."

For a moment I was taken aback by his words. Mitsu had never struck me as the homosexual type. The look on my face was most likely one of shock. I shook my head swiftly, hoping I wasn't giving off the impression that I was disgusted.

"Sorry to put you in an awkward position like that," Mitsu said. "I shouldn't have said anything. My fault."

"Listen man, it really took me by surprise. But if your cool with it, I'm okay with it," I told him. "Does anybody else know?"

Mitsu nodded, a relieved smile on his face. "Both Trista and Shanna know. I let them know from the beginning. And Diallo knew, but I never told him. I think he just guessed one day. Thanks for understand."

"No problem. I'm just glad that you felt comfortable enough telling me," I said, punching him lightly on the shoulder. "So, tell me all about Addison."

~*~*~*~*~*~

The ride back to Neo-Midgar was long and boring. Mitsu had spent nearly an hour talking about Addison, before we realized how much time had passed. We could have stayed the night in Junon but it simply wasn't as safe as Neo-Midgar. So we decided to drive back, flanked by two other vehicles. They told us that we shouldn't be traveling by ourselves.

Climbing up the stairs, I waved goodbye to Mitsu who was heading for the cafeteria. Right now, all I wanted was a warm shower and to roll into bed. Hopefully I wouldn't wake up for the next, oh lets say hundred years. I was really not looking forward to these next two battles. Our backs were already against the wall and the fights hadn't even started.

I shook my head sadly as I reached my room. Pushing the door open I stopped as a sound drifted slowly into my ears. The soft sounds of someone crying filled the air. Glancing quietly around the door, I saw Trista sitting on my bed. A single slip of paper was clutched in her hands.

With jerky motions, she folded the paper and shoved it deep into her pocket. Tilting her head slightly, she glanced at me out of the corner of her eyes.

"Don't you know how to knock," she asked.

"This is my room," I reminded her. "Last time I checked, I didn't need to knock to get into my own room. What did the doctor say?"

Her features contorted into an angry scowl at the mention of doctors. Apparently it hadn't gone very well. Or at least it didn't go as she had wanted it to go.

"They don't want me to go with you guys," she explained. "They said this flu has made me weak and that I shouldn't fight."

Closing the door behind me, I walked over to her. The bed creaked under the pressure of the added weight. Trista leaned against me, arms tightly wrapping around my waist.

"Maybe you shouldn't go," I whispered, laying a kiss in her hair.

The solid floor connected with my backside as Trista shoved me off the bed. Her voice was harsh when she spoke next.


"I refuse to be left behind. We worked too hard to get here and I won't let something like this hold me back."

"I know you want to come. But what happens if you get seriously sick while we are there," I tried to reason with her. "You could end up getting hurt."

The only response I received was a scowl and a solid foot connecting with my shin. Giving a angry howl, I launched myself to my feet.

"Damn-it Trista! For once will you try to listen to some good advice!"

"I have to go," she said quickly.

"Why?"

Looking away, she refused to meet my eyes. Dropping to one knee in front of her, I softly took her hand.

"Please Trista," I said. "You have to tell me."

"If I don't go and something happens to you, I will never be able to forgive myself," she whispered, turning a tear stained face to look at me. "I will always wonder if there was something I could have done. But because I was not there, I never had the change."

I opened my mouth to say something, but stopped short. Her thumbs ran circles over the back of my hands and I sighed, enjoying her soft touch.

"If you went and go hurt, I would blame myself," I explained to her.

"But at least you would know that you would have had the chance to do something," she whispered. "Because you would have been there. If I stay, I won't be there to help if anything goes wrong. Besides, we can't afford to loose another number in our ranks."

It was there that I knew I had lost. Nodding my head, I finally accepted the fact that she was going to come. Whether I liked it or not. But sometimes, I wished that she would see things from my point of view.

"So is the Highwind ready to go," she asked, finally changing the subject.

Nodding, I rose to my feet and headed for the bathroom. Turning the water on, I cupped my hands under the flow. Splashing the cold water on my face felt good.

"Mitsu did a lot of repairs to it," I explained, toweling the water off my face. "He said that it should be ready to go. The mechanics were going to look over it one more time."

"We should check it again before we go," Trista called.

The bed squeaked as she changed positions. Looping the towel over the rack, I headed back into my bedroom. Trista was sprawled out on the bed, finger laced under her head.

"Why? I'm sure the mechanics will be able to find anything," I said, searching through my drawers for a sweater.

"I'm sure they will," Trista said. "But I would like to check it again, just to make sure they didn't leave any surprises behind. Like a bomb or tamper with the controls somehow."

"Come on Trista, we can trust these people," I reassured her, pulling the sweater over my head.

"We still have yet to find the spy," she pointed out, making me cringe at the memory.

Okay, so there was still a spy somewhere in out faction. With all the events that had been transpiring, we really had no time to look for our infamous traitor.

Throwing myself onto the bed, I yelped as the springs nearly catapulted me back off the bed. Trista laughed lightly as I latched onto her leg to keep from going airborne again.

"You must be feeling slightly better," I said, using her legs to pull myself up to her. "That's the first time I've heard you laugh in days."

"The expression on your face was priceless."

She smiled and raised herself up slightly, touching our lips together softly. Her hands pressed against my shoulder and she quickly shoved me off.

"Not feeling to well," I asked, watching as she ran for the bathroom.

Nodding, she slammed the door behind her. Burying my face into my pillow, I sighed. In a few days we would be leaving, I hoped she was better by then.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Highwind soared over the streets of Neo-Midgar. People gathered in the streets, watching it fly overhead. The Highwind slowly lowered, a ladder unraveling from the massive airship. Watching all this, I realized it was finally here. Turning from the window, I began to head for the lobby. Reaching the lobby I was surprised to see the huge crowd.

People gathered around, ready to watch us depart. This was the big moment. In a matter of hours we would face off against General Cloud. With probably no way out of the Northern Cave, we would have to go against Sephiroth. Perhaps the people thought it was going to be the last time that they saw us. Shanna was discussing something with the head of the guards. Most likely informing them to keep a close eye on the generals in the coming hours. We still had no idea what would happen to them when and if we were able to defeat Sephiroth.

A few feet from Shanna, Trista was talking swiftly with the head doctor. The woman looked very unhappy as she whispered something heatedly to Trista. My love crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. Whatever it was they were talking about, they were at a disagreement. Glancing over, Trista caught my eye and nodded. I nodded back and looked away, scanning the crowd for Mitsu.

I caught sight of him near the back of the crowd. He was leaning up against the wall, speaking to someone. A woman in the crowd who was blocking my view finally stepped aside. Mitsu was talking to a man and from the long black ponytail I recognized it as Addison. My mind was telling me to look away, that it was bad to be spying on them. But curiosity kept my gaze intently on them.

Addison reached out a shaking hand and touched Mitsu's right arm gently. Mitsu said something slowly and I was glad I wasn't a lip reader. Addison nodded quickly, leaning down slightly. Raising up on tiptoes, Mitsu met the taller man's lips with his own. Lifting his arms slowly, Mitsu draped them across Addison's broad shoulders.

"You know, it's impolite to spy on people," Trista said coming to stand next to me.

"Trista," I yelped, surprised to see her.

Slipping her right arm around my waist, she leaned against me. Pulling her close, I lay a kiss on the top of her head.

"What did the doctor want," I asked.

"Just worried because I'm still getting over that flu. Oh Mitsu, your rather good at public displays of affection," Trista teased as he came to join us.

We both looked at her oddly. Trista rarely ever teased somebody, especially somebody that wasn't me. Mitsu began to turn an interesting shade of red.

"You saw," he asked.

"I think we were the only ones," I told him.

Shanna had a broad grin on her face as she finally joined us. She elbowed Mitsu playfully in the gut and wrapped her arm around his neck.

"Never knew you had it in you," she teased. "I was afraid I would have to get the hose and spray you two down."

"You three are really horrible," Mitsu said, still very red in the face. "You don't see me teasing you guys."

"You know we only do it because we love," I laughed.

"Yeah, love to tease me," Mitsu said, finishing the sentence I was sure I had already finished.

Silence filled the lobby as the main doors slowly swung open. Glancing over my shoulder, I swallowed loudly, knowing it was time. With out weapons already safely stored on the Highwind, it was now or never. Stepping out into the harsh Neo-Midgar air, we headed for the Highwind. Streets were lined with people, watching us depart.

"Good luck," a voice yelled from the back.

It started small, but quickly grew in strength. People cheered loudly, screaming words of encouragement to us. The roar of the Highwind's engine drowned out the people as we reached it. Mitsu climbed up the rope ladder swiftly, followed by Shanna and Trista.

Turning, I gave Neo-Midgar one last look from the ground. Glad that if I didn't make it back, I would at least had the chance to see the people of Neo-Midgar happy. Finally, I grabbed the robe and climbed up.

Trista and Mitsu rolled the rope up and we headed for the bridge. The air was tense in the bridge, the crew was nervously doing their jobs.

"Don't be too worried," I said to the pilot, hoping to cheer him up. "Everything is going to be fine."

"Sorry, sir," the pilot said, staring straight ahead. "I'm just nervous."

"So am I."

The pilot glanced at me, giving me a smile. Patting him reassuringly on the back, I headed to join Shanna at the giant window.

"You ready," I asked.

"Not really," Shanna laughed. "But I feel if I don't go now, I will lose my courage and not go at all."

I nodded, "That's exactly how I feel. Exactly."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Icy wind tugged at our clothes as we climbed the snow covered mountain. Reeve explained to us that Sephiroth's base had been completely redone since Meteor. Instead of having to climb down into the cave like before, there was now an entrance. A large entrance that at the current moment, we were trying to figure out how to get in.

"Should we knock," Mitsu asked, rubbing his gloved hands together to keep warm.

"Why don't we just try and push it open," Shanna suggested, brushing snow off her gun.

Trista stepped up to the door and leaned her shoulder into it. Her feet dug holes in the ground as she tried to shove the door open.

"It's too heavy," she gasped, collapsing against it. "Everybody try pushing it at the same time."

We lined up against the door, shifting occasionally to make more room.

"Ready," I asked.

Everybody nodded and we shoved against the door. The door gave a moan of protest, yet finally yielded to us and began to move.

"Stop," Shanna ordered. "There is enough room for us to slip in now."

The air inside the cave was surprisingly warm and felt very good. Peeling off our extra layers of clothing, we dropped them by the door and headed in.

It seemed like hours that we walked around. The tunnels were like a maze, cutting off in different directions, some leading straight to dead ends. While others led you back to the beginning. Finally, I was greatly excited to see another door looming in front of us.

"Well that was fun," Mitsu said, sarcasm lacing his voice. "A good way to waste a few hours."

"Oh yes, that's the real reason we came, to wander the cave," I added.

"Shove it you two," Shanna snapped.

We both gave her a mock salute. I don't know about Mitsu, but humor helped me get through situation that scared me shitless. And right now, this was one of those occasions. Trista pushed the door open and we took up guard.

"So you finally show up," a voice said. "I was beginning to think I would have to go look for you."


General Cloud was standing in the middle of a huge room. The room was almost completely circular and on the other side was another door. The only thing blocking our way was General Cloud.

"Didn't know we were on a schedule," I said as the door swung shut behind us.

"Well then, shall we being?" General Cloud asked, switching his massive sword from one hand to the next.

Without giving us a chance to respond, he attacked us. Bringing my sword up at the last second, I save my body from losing it's head. General Cloud was a lot faster than he was previously. His foot lashed out, catching me in the stomach and throwing me into a wall. And a lot stronger I realized as my back connected soundly with the wall.

The sound of gunshots filled the air, followed by a sharp scream of anger. Shanna's gun landed a few feet in front of me and I groaned. This was definitely not going good. Climbing back to my feet, I ran to rejoin the fight.

Trista was circling General Cloud, occasionally moving in then quickly stepping back. Shanna had found a strange look staff from somewhere and was also circling. Mitsu was leaning up against a wall, holding his bleed left arm. I didn't even notice that he had been hurt.

Trista and General Cloud locked weapons, inches apart. Shanna gripped her staff and moved in swiftly. What happened next left me in awe. General Cloud shoved Trista away, she stumbled backwards completely unprepared and hit the wall. Shanna swung her staff at General Cloud back or at least were his back would have been three seconds earlier. He spun away, grabbing the end of Shanna's staff in the process. Holding it in his right hand, he swung it viciously at Shanna's unprotected back.

Shanna hit the ground hard, she tried to catch herself, but the fall put her at a strange angle. Her left arm gave a sickening crack as she landed on it. She howled, rolling onto her back holding her arm to her chest.

I was so preoccupied with watch Shanna that I completely forgot about General Cloud.

"Conlan," Mitsu yelled a warning.

I dodged at the very last second as General Cloud swung his sword at me. But my movements were not fast enough compared to the blonde General. The very end of his blade caught the front of my ear. Yelling angrily, I rolled away from him, clutching my bleeding left ear. Well, at least what was left of my ear. Lying at General Cloud's feet was the top half of my ear.

Over General Cloud's shoulder I could see Trista's spear raised for an attack. He must have also sensed it coming. Spinning out of the way, General Cloud ended up behind her. Kicking her ankle viciously drove her to one knee. His boot pushed on her back, sending her all the way to the ground.

I pushed off the wall, hoping to reach him before he did anything to Trista. His right fist caught me across the check and once again I hit a wall.

"Now this isn't very fun," General Cloud said, eyeing the scene.

Mitsu was leaning over Shanna, who was still clutching her broken left arm. Trista was unable to get out from under General Cloud's boot and I was sprawled in a heap against a wall. General Cloud unhooked something from his belt, something I had been to stupid to notice earlier.

"Let's see if we can make this even a little more lively," he sneered, raising the whip high.

He stepped off Trista back and brought the whip down. Trista screamed as the leather bit into her back. General Cloud had a wild smile on his face as he continued to use the whip.

"Trista," I yelled to her, seeing the pained look on her face.

Insane laughter filled the air and I realized it was General Cloud laughing. Beads of blood began to cling to the leather, which only brought more laughter from General Cloud. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mitsu holding a blade, trying to judge the distance. Swinging his arm back, Mitsu let the blade fly. General Cloud didn't notice until the blade had buried itself deep into his side.

The blonde General stumbled back and Mitsu sprung forward, grabbing Trista and pulling her away. Trista cried out as she was moved.

General Cloud's next move took us by surprise. He dropped his sword and grabbed a knife from sheath on his left calf. The blade was as long as his calf and I can't figure out how we didn't notice it earlier. General Cloud sprang forward, blade poised for Shanna's chest.


I threw myself in Shanna's direction, but Mitsu was closer and faster.

The blade pierced his chest and time stopped for a moment. All we could do was stare at Mitsu on the end of General Cloud's knife. Mitsu grinned and shoved his remaining blade deep into General Cloud's abdomen.

Mitsu collapsed as General Cloud released his grip on the knife, grabbing the blade buried in his stomach. The forgotten staff struck General Cloud solidly on the back of the head and he fell. Trista dropped the staff and collapsed into my waiting arms.

"Mitsu," Shanna screamed, dropping to his side.

"See," Mitsu gasped. "I told you long ago I would end up saving you and I was right."

"That's not important now," Shanna gasped, cradling his head in her lap. "The important thing is that you don't die."

"Now that, I don't think I can do," he gasped.

"Come on Mitsu," I said, helping Trista lower herself to a sitting position by Mitsu. "You have to get back to Addison, I know you promised him you would return."

Mitsu smiled, blood running down his chin.

"He knew I might not..." Mitsu gasped, fighting for air. "Take my knife's Shanna."

Shanna shook her head, tears flying. "I can't."

"Use them."


Mitsu looked at all of us and smiled his chest falling still. Trista softly reached out and closed his eyes. I wiped my eyes fiercely, brushing away the tears.

"We have to keep going," Shanna said suddenly, gently resting Mitsu's head against the ground.

Standing up, Shanna retrieved all of Mitsu's blades and the staff she had found. Trista handed me a small bandage.

"For your ear," Trista explained as I took the bandage. "It's the only one I have."

"Thanks," I whispered, putting it over my ear.

"We really should get going," Shanna said, opening the other door.

With one last look at Mitsu, we headed towards our appointed fate.

Ready or not Sephiroth, here we come.