Beams of light peeked through the trees, resting finally in a speckle pattern on the floor of the forest. The crash of the ocean waves against the rocky cliffs below could barely be heard on the top of Mt. Crist. Raieyana knelt at the last small monument in a row of others that were perfectly tended. She placed a few frail blossoms in front of it: lily of the valley, the first bloom of the new spring.
"I found them on the way up. They were the first I've seen since autumn, so I had to bring them here to show them to you. The trees are too thick for you to get flowers here anyway." She brushed a hand over the name carved in the stone. Jack Reno.
"If I had know this forest would grow over you...I would have cut the trees away. I hate to think you can't see light from here. Not that you are here all the time, but I like to think you can know that I'm here sometimes, remembering you. Remembering the times we shared, even though we were together for such a short time." Her voice fell to a whisper. "Reno, my love..." She did not notice the figure hiding amongst the trees, watching her. Standing, she brushed the grass from her dress, and walked back towards her house.
She slid in, silently, and snuck up behind her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Ray!" The tall, dark-haired man pulled her close for a quick kiss.
"It's beautiful outside, Reeve," she said softly, "it's finally seasonal weather for this time of year."
"I can't believe it took close to twenty years for the Planet to recover from the effects of Meteor."
"Well, honey, Meteor was a small planet, you know. More than just some big rock."
"Oh, I know that all too well." Reeve winked at her and smiled. "I was just glad to actually have winter again. This year was the first time in ages I've seen snow anywhere but Icicle Inn. We'd get frosts before, but they were always way too short. They killed the flowers for a couple months. Now, we might be able to have winter festivals."
Raieyana sighed. "It's hard to believe that remembering winter used to exist in this part of the world marks you as an 'old person.' We're still young." She looked at Reeve, and tried not to notice the places where time had left a mark on his still-handsome face. (There are a few smile lines, and he has a little gray at the temples, but...he looks well for his age.) She still found it hard to believe that her dashing, adventurous lover had not only passed forty, but had been past it for a few years. (He can't be forty-seven...)
"No," Reeve laughed. "We're not old. I'm old. You're still young, vibrant, beautiful..." He let his voice trail off and slowly whispered in her ear. "...incredibly sexy." He let his gaze slide up and down her lithe, trim figure. Raieyana was thirty-eight, but looked about ten years younger, with a youthful face and a body with curves that had stayed in all the right places.
She giggled and showered him with kisses. "Good thing the kids aren't around, or they'd be rolling their eyes. Besides," she continued, "I'm aging too."
"You barely show it. I'm not being flattering without cause. You look like you spent the past ten years in an airtight container."
"I think I would be a rotting corpse if I were in an airtight container. I need air to breathe."
He grinned. "Nah, you wouldn't rot, microbes need air too..."
"Reeve!" she groaned. "You are impossible."
She kissed him one last time. "I see you started dinner."
"Good...I love you! Today has been a long day." (I wonder if he remembered... What today is.)
"Take a nap, then, Ray. This will cook for awhile. Sweet dreams." Reeve smiled as Raieyana walked to their bedroom. (She looks so pretty today. I wonder what she did with those flowers I saw earlier...)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana lay back on the queen-sized bed she shared with Reeve. Nestling her head on a soft pillow, she drew the covers over herself and began to reflect on the strong emotions that had overtaken her at the memorial. (I have never felt so upset before at...the anniversary.) Her sadness was understandable, for that day had been the fourteenth anniversary of Jack Reno's death.
Fourteen years had passed since the mako explosion had obliterated the land within a two-mile radius of Midgar. Any talk of rebuilding ended that day; the charred remains of the city looked like the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. Few people in the world knew the events leading up to the destruction that took place that day. Avalanche kept quiet, and the only thing the public knew for sure was that Shinra had been defeated, once and for all. Its old city, Midgar, was uninhabitable, while its new glory, Edinborough, had been reduced to a charred shell by the attack of a mysterious army in transports from Junon.
(That's the way we wanted the news to stay. We wanted the mystery to last. But because of that, Reno's sacrifice for us was forgotten. His sacrifice for maybe the entire Planet. After all, he destroyed any piece of Hojo's work left in Midgar. And except for a few people in Junon who remember how he and Reeve let themselves be taken hostage to save their city...no one has an inkling what happened to Jack...only that he disappeared and left his share of the company to his partner's wife. Sure, that doesn't look suspicious.)
After a few years in Junon, Reeve and Raieyana decided to move out of the city and back to Undor-Hai. Leaving the company in the trusty hands of Yorlain, they retained only stock in the company; that was, after all, the way the kids were going to have funding for any schooling they wanted. (Calling them kids is really stretching it these days) Raieyana mused, (and they would probably resent me doing so.)
The twins, Aeris and Ishmael, had reached twenty-one, and on their way to it, set the community on fire quite a few times. Aeris loved to wear her golden blond hair waist length, and she enjoyed flaunting her slender figure by wearing tight, short clothing, usually pink. She claimed it helped her fight more easily, and all she had to do was bat eyelashes over her pretty green eyes to convince her daddy that was the truth. Reeve always said that he could "never say no to Ray's eyes...even if they happen to be in the face of my strong-willed daughter."
Ishmael had grown to be as tall as his father and also looked quite a bit like him. Luckily for anyone trying to tell the difference between father and son, his dark hair contained some of his mother's fiery highlights, and his facial features were a delicate reminiscence of Professor Gast, his great-grandfather.
Brother and sister were strong as steel and rather devoted to one another, as well as their parents. In fact, they still hadn't moved out of the house, which Raieyana wasn't minding too much...yet. (I missed a bit of their childhood, and now I'm older, and I appreciate having them around while it lasts. I don't expect them to stay forever...I hope they get lives of their own in the future. But it's good that they're here. Patrick would miss them so much.)
Patrick had grown up quite a bit in his fourteen years, but that was only normal. What wasn't normal was the rate of his development. He stood five feet, eleven inches tall, weighed about 180lbs., which happened to be almost all muscle, and had the look of someone who had reached, at the very least, eighteen. Raieyana knew his development wasn't totally complete, because her younger son still retained a bit of immaturity. Most of the time, Patrick only acted like the fourteen-year-old that he was.
His looks were striking. Pale, silvery-blond hair framed bright blue eyes, which glowed not only because of the mako in his veins, but also because of the fierceness contained beneath them. Even though the actual idea was rather absurd, Raieyana often thought to herself that her son looked like a hypothetical love-child of Cloud and Sephiroth. Patrick did not question that Reeve was his father, however; luckily for Raieyana's story, his sister also was a blonde, and that helped Patrick look a little less out of place.
His actions sometimes, however, were out of place with those of his family. Even as a small child, he had been an aggressor; also, while the antics of the twins were small bits of mischief that usually brought the community amusement, the things that Patrick had done sometimes ended up in the creation of outrage. Once, after falling off a chocobo, a nine-year-old Patrick killed half the settlement's livestock in a fit of rage. Reeve paid for replacement animals and duly punished the boy, but every single time Patrick was punished for something, even by Raieyana, it raised his level of resentment for Reeve. It was almost as if he could sense the lies about his origins.
(For all his faults, he's still a good boy, smart and strong...) Patrick also had a fierce dedication to his mother, one that seemed almost Oedipal in nature. (I know he'd protect me, and he is definitely not what I had expected fourteen years ago. I wish Reno could see him and see that all we fought for, just for the fruits of a crime... Perhaps that was all we thought it was, but Jack...it was worth it. Although I wish the price of his life hadn't cost us all so much.) Raieyana's last thought was so secret, that she whispered it even inside her own mind. (Sometimes, Reno, I wish he was your son. And that there was some way I could have proof that what we shared was real... It's getting fuzzier day by day... Can I even remember your smile? Your eyes? Other people leave behind paper trails...nearly all proof of your existence has been destroyed. All I have are a few newspaper clippings. No pictures of us, together. Sometimes I wonder if it was a dream...and if it was...am I better off having woken up...? Or would I be better off lost in slumber-if, while I was there, I was in your arms?)
Raieyana nestled her head back against the soft pillows, sighing quietly. She slowly drifted off to sleep, willing herself all the while to dream of flaming red hair, a tousled blue suit, a cocky grin, and eyes. Blue-green mako eyes.
"Da Valentines are in da house!" yelled Ishmael, as he walked in with Kati and Sean Valentine.
Reeve turned to his son. "Keep it down, your mother is sleeping."
"Not anymore," called Raieyana from the hallway.
He shook his head and grinned in spite of himself. "Kati, Sean, where are your parents?"
"They're carrying our luggage. Zuri too." Kati exploded into giggles that seemed quite juvenile for her twenty-one years.
"Oh it's not that bad," she continued, rolling her eyes, "they asked us to come and get Rissy and Ishmael to help."
"Oh... Aeris isn't here; she went to Kalm for the day to visit Elmyra, Barret, and Marlene. She'll be back by tomorrow, though." Reeve turned to Ishmael. "Patrick's in his room though, he can help out."
Ishmael was wary. "Are you sure about that Dad?"
"Of course he's sure!" said Raieyana. "I'll go get Patrick." She turned back towards the bedrooms.
Sean was none the happier for the arrangement. "Great," he muttered. "We'd be better off doing it without any help at all."
A very loud conversation came streaming in from the hallway. "Why should I help them haul their crap? No one should bring on trip more than they can carry. It's not my job to be their slave!"
"You are fourteen years old, Patrick. A little responsibility isn't too much to ask of you. These are our guests and it would be polite to go and help them. It's not like you will be by yourself; Ishmael is going, too!"
"Ishmael? HA! I can carry twice what he can."
"Then I guess you would really be of service to them, huh?"
Patrick sulkily emerged into the living room. Raieyana, having won the argument, followed close behind him. "Which trail are they on?" he asked scornfully.
"The back one," said Kati quietly.
Patrick stalked out the door without another word.
Ishmael motioned to Kati and Sean. "C'mon, let's get back to your folks before 'the Welcome Wagon' arrives." The three walked quietly out the door.
Reeve and Raieyana just looked at each other. "He's a teenager, that's always a difficult time," she said softly.
"The twins weren't too trying on my patience. He always seems to find a way to do it, though. The worst is when he looks at me with total disrespect."
Raieyana looked shocked. "He does?!"
"All the time." Reeve gave her a wry smile. "At least he respects you. There's still hope if he listens to one of us." He pulled her closer. "Most of the time, I think we're not doing half bad."
She let her finger trace a path over his lips before bringing her own up to meet them. "We never do anything bad together," she whispered, her words heavy with innuendo. She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head back towards the bedroom. "Do you think they'll get up the trail before we'd finish?"
He slid his hand up her back and undid the catch to the neck of her dress. "Only one way to find out," he said, grinning as he led her down the hallway.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Azura Valentine set down the three suitcases she was holding and pouted. "Daddy, we should wait until they come back. I'm exhausted. Mom's exhausted. You look like you're about to turn into Chaos."
Vincent looked at his daughter and cracked one of his not-so-rare-anymore smiles. "Honey, I'm not going to turn into Chaos. If my back aches anymore, I could see the Gallian Beast coming out. Maybe."
Yuffie came around the bend in the trail, in the rear, as she tended to be. She set down the trunk she was lugging and proceeded to trip over it and land on her head. "Owww!"
Hiding a smile, Azura walked back to help her mother up. "I'm sure glad I didn't inherit your coordination, Mom."
"Eh, you're just sixteen honey, you've got some growing left to do."
"Yeah right. When you were my age, you were running around saving the world, and you met Daddy. Then you had Kati. If that's growing, I'd rather wait a bit before I pop out the kids."
Yuffie flipped her hair, which was still short-styled and held back with a ninja headband. "But none of your friends ever had such a young, stylish mother. Just think, your children's grandma will be younger than some of their friends' mothers."
"I'd take the traditional cookie baker any day," teased Azura.
"What about me?" asked Vincent with a wry smile, waving his claw in the air.
"You're too interesting to complain about," she said as she hugged him.
"Hey!" Yuffie pouted.
Vincent stuck his tongue out at her.
"Boy, I'm sure sorry I loosened you up!"
"Yeah, too bad I lost maturity instead of you gaining it." He chuckled. "Dammit though, I wonder if Kati forgot we needed help."
"Well, Kati might take after me, but that's why we sent Sean."
Patrick was slightly disgusted when he had gotten halfway down the trail and still hadn't seen any trace of the Valentines. (How the heck did these people ever save the Planet? Talk about losing your touch as you age.)
Azura glanced up the mountain and she saw someone coming down towards them. (Someone tall and handsome...)
"Patrick," Vincent said quietly. Then he raised his voice in a greeting. "Hello there!"
"Hi," muttered Patrick. "Mother said you needed assistance?" He raised an eyebrow.
Yuffie and Vincent felt almost ashamed under his gaze. Maybe they had been a little too demanding of their hosts.
"Hi," said Azura shyly.
His eyes met hers. The closest in age of all the children, the two had often been playmates. Though Patrick had a tendency to bully, he always protected Azura. But it had been three years since they had seen each other. The last three summers Reeve took his family to Wutai, and Patrick had remained home as punishment for some wrong deed or another.
In those three years, he had grown from her equal to her superior. Gray eyes held blue in awe. But...Patrick actually saw them and smiled.
"Zuri!" he said, in a pleasant tone.
"Do you still go by Pat?" she asked uncertainly.
"I will if that's what you're going to call me." His smile reached his eyes for once. He turned back to her parents. "Ishmael is right behind me with Kati and Sean." His tone was cool as ice as he picked up all of the bags Azura had been handling. "Will they be enough or should I take the trunk, too?" he asked sarcastically.
"You've done more than enough," said Yuffie carefully.
"I can go with Pat, right?" Azura's eyes were sparkling like stars.
Vincent's brow furrowed, but he nodded. "Of course. I think five people can handle what's left here. Tell Ray and Reeve we'll be there as soon as humanly possible."
He could hear her voice, chatting away happily to her companion. Vincent sighed. "Tell me I shouldn't have this odd feeling about that child."
Yuffie was quiet. "I can't tell you not to feel how I feel myself. You know Zuri's a big girl though. And we keep forgetting Patrick's only...why he just turned fourteen."
"And he looks older than her. He could easily overpower her."
"Hush. He always could, but never did. Until we get a hint that that has changed, leave them be or Zuri'll be pissed."
"The slightest inkling of a hint, Vince. Her spending time with him worries me too."
Their conversation was cut short by the arrival of Ishmael, Sean, and Kati. The luggage was divided up and worries were set aside for the time being. The two families were going to visit together like they always did.
"Dinner was nice," said Azura, in her quiet way.
"You're serious?" Patrick pushed with his foot, rocking the porch swing they were sitting on.
"Yes, Pat. I usually end up fending for myself. Mom is always at the pagoda, Sean and Daddy hunt monsters, and Kati spends half her time here with your brother."
"Poor baby Zuri," Patrick teased.
She sighed. "Sometimes I feel like that's the only thing I'll ever be to anyone. When our mothers were my age, they were doing something. I feel so useless."
"Times of peace breed useless people. Every year, more people up here try to stop us from training warriors. In a few years, the day will come when my mother will have nothing left to do except make us go spar with her."
A small smile crept into Azura's face, making her pretty features sparkle. "Well, I hope our parents are arranging my training in there." She gestured to the glowing living room window. "Kati and Sean came here when they were fourteen and stayed for two years. I hope it's not too late to shape me up."
"You're the youngest. If you leave, your parents will have an empty nest. I'm sure that's why they're reluctant." Patrick put a friendly arm around her. "I'd like to see you stay here, too. I've missed you."
The bright smile grew even wider, and a touch of pink spread across her cheeks. "Really?"
He nodded and met her eyes. "I'd like to see more of that, too."
Puzzled, she tilted her head a bit. "More of what?"
"That beautiful smile."
"Oh." The blush deepened and she shyly closed her eyes.
Startled, she turned towards the front door. "What is it?"
Sean smiled. "Don't look so scared. Mom and Dad just want you to come inside so they can talk to you."
Azura giggled nervously. "Okay." She turned to Patrick. "Looks like I'm going to get an answer right now," she said, taking his hand and giving it a little squeeze. "Hope I'm lucky."
"Me too," he murmured as he watched the small girl. (She's practically skipping to the door. So excited.) He suddenly noticed Sean's eyes were on him.
Sean was studying Patrick. He couldn't help but come to the conclusion that his sister ought not to stay anywhere that kid was. (I know she wants to train, but if my opinion is asked for... I will be strongly against her staying here.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Don't you ever get tired of not having to do anything, Kati?"
"I'm doing something right now. Watching a beautiful sunset over an ocean shoreline, with the person I'm completely in love with."
Ishmael leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "That's not what I meant. All our lives, our friends have been in awe of us because of our parents. And we've been in awe of our parents. I can't help but be bitter that this generation will be without heroes."
"Don't you want to have a safe, peaceful life?"
"Of course, but-"
"No 'buts', Ish." Kati was the only person in the world who called Ishmael "Ish," being ignorant of the unspoken rule between Raieyana and Reeve. Ishmael himself despised nicknames from anyone but her.
"Why not? I'm going to work a quiet job, have kids, and die. It just seems so anticlimactic."
"I'd rather be bored with you than have excitement without...and then you end up on your mother's mountain memorial."
"I'm too strong for that. I'm the mixture of two people who saved the Planet."
"Yeah right." Kati arched an eyebrow. "What if you inherited all the weak points? That would suck."
"Yes it would. But I would never have to fight for my life unless I was mugged, so I guess I have nothing to worry about." He lay back on the blanket he had spread out across the sand.
She leaned over him and brushed a stray bit of hair off his forehead. "If anyone mugged you, I'd kick their ass."
"Tough girl." He pulled her down to him and their lips met.
A starry sky rose to look down upon the happy couple on the beach. The two of them were too young to remember the turmoil that had existed in their lives when they were children; still too optimistic to think that good times would ever come to an end. They planned to announce their engagement the next day.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"So, your mother and I have talked with Raieyana and Reeve. If you wish to train here in Undor-Hai like your sister and brother have, you may."
"Really, Daddy?" Azura hugged him. "I was wondering if I ever would get to. Then after, maybe you'll actually let me leave town by myself."
Vincent smiled. "I'm actually quite sorry about this. It took me two years to convince your mother to let you go."
"Shh, honey. It's just hard for me to accept my last baby's all grown up almost. I was in denial more about my age than yours." Yuffie hugged her daughter. "But that's not all your father and I want to tell you."
"Yes." Vincent avoided eye contact with Azura; he didn't know how he could bear to start the discussion any other way. "It's about Patrick."
"I've missed him so much," Azura sighed. "He's the only other person who ever understood me."
Yuffie breathed deeply. "He's the other reason why we hesitated to let you stay here. You know he didn't visit us with the rest of his family. It's because he was punished for being violent."
"Violent?" She looked startled.
"Yes, sweetie. Not to people, as far as we know, but he's only just turned fourteen. He's nowhere near grown up yet."
"You think he'd hurt me?" Tears formed in Azura's eyes.
"I would hope that he wouldn't," said Vincent quietly.
"Don't you know he protected me when all the older kids picked on me? Kati and Sean were mean to me...they got meaner with Aeris and Ishmael...but he made them leave me alone."
"I know that," he said gently, "and that's one reason why we decided to let you train if you wished. But I'm also worried because he's been training for awhile, and you've barely started."
Yuffie patted her daughter's hand. "Don't think we're being too hard on him. You can stay, you can even be friends with him. We're just telling you to be careful."
"We'd rather you didn't spend much time alone with him. Not until you've been training a little while, at least."
"Did you tell Raieyana and Reeve about your 'concerns'?" asked Azura sarcastically.
"We discussed a few issues with them. Everything is all right. We're just being cautious parents, I promise." Vincent looked at her warmly. "So what's your decision?"
"I want to stay here, of course. But...I'd rather just start now and stay here after our vacation."
"What about your things?" Yuffie shook her head. "I know you're rather attached to them."
"They're mostly packed up. I was going to get a new room back home anyway, remember." She smiled. "I used a system. I can tell you the names of the boxes I would need here. I have a list."
"Well, that can wait. It's probably time you headed to bed."
"But Kati and Sean aren't in bed. Neither is Pat."
"That's none of your business. Besides, you're the one who wanted to start training now. You need your sleep." Yuffie kissed her on the cheek. "You can stay in the third room on the right."
Azura rolled her eyes. "Fine, Mom." She picked up her bag and started down the hallway. There was a problem, though. She accidentally went into the third room on the left.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana stepped out onto the porch and was surprised by what she saw. "Patrick, you're still out here? You've been on the swing for hours."
He calmly continued the gentle rocking motion. "Is there now something wrong with me swinging too, Mother?"
"Of course not," she said, as she sat down next to him. "I just thought you never liked it."
"Well, Zuri likes it."
"Is that what this is about? You know, she's going to stay with us to learn some battle techniques."
"Good, a girl like her needs to be able to protect herself."
Raieyana talked to Patrick as much as she could, but she was often taken completely aback by the things he said. "A girl like her, honey?"
"Yes." He finally got up off the swing and walked to the railing. "Small, sweet, pretty, with a nice figure. She looks weak. If she ever means to go anywhere on her own, she better know what parts hurt the worst after you hit them. Or she'll learn the hard way...that in the real world, it's hurt or be hurt."
"Where'd you pick up a depressing thought like that, Patrick?" Raieyana asked warily.
"Simple observation, Mother." He met her worried eyes. "The strong always take advantage of the weak. You should know that as well as anyone."
Startled into anger, she blurted out a defensive question. "Why do you say that?"
"You train the warriors in this place," he said, "but your response makes me wonder if there is some other way you would come to that understanding."
"No." Her voice was now firm. "It's just surprising to hear you speak in such a way sometimes. You remind me of my father."
"Grandfather Tseng, I assume."
She nodded. "Sometimes you seem much older than you are, and I don't like it. You'll be an adult soon enough Patrick. Enjoy what things you can now, for once you leave childhood, you don't return. And you and I both know that I have the utmost authority on that subject."
"I'm sorry that you had to be, Mother." His tone was a flat and unemotional contrast to his words, however. "I can't help if I get contemplative in the dead of night, though."
"You can if you go to bed when you should," said Raieyana with a smile.
"True. But I don't sleep that well."
"Neither do I, honey." She stood up and dared to give him a hug, which he allowed in a rare moment of acceptance. "Can you try for me now, though?"
"I'd try anything you asked, Mother." His voice was unusually warm. "If you try the same thing yourself, that is."
They stepped inside the house. "Sure thing," she said as she entered the master bedroom. "Goodnight Patrick."
He acknowledged her with a nod before heading to his own bedroom. He opened the third door on the left and walked inside.
Patrick liked the dark. He always had; as a child, he loved to lurk in the shadows of the sunset. Now, he loved to walk in the untamed forest around the village and meet whatever mutants came to attack him. The number of monsters in the world were dwindling, but there were a few left over, who had become even more grotesque when exposed to the aftermath of the Midgar explosion.
Perhaps his bravery came from the steadfast gleam in his eye, similar to a cat's. However, his luminescence lasted even in the dead of night. Patrick saw remarkably well, but that was the only unusual strength that he had made known to his family. Raieyana was still uncertain just what her son was capable of, and the thought itself was quite unsettling. The question always remained, whether Patrick embraced the darkness because he could tame it or because he was part of it.
Whatever the reasoning behind it, Patrick felt at home in a dark room. He slipped into his bedroom and didn't bother with the lamp. The only reason he even had a lamp was at Raieyana's insistance. He slid off his T-shirt and stepped out of his pants, leaving only a pair of boxers. Hearing a noise outside, he stepped to the window. Suddenly, he was aware of a bit of startled movement in his bed.
"Wh-who's there?" whispered a sweet, but frightened, voice.
"It's just me, Zuri," he said softly. "What are you doing in my room?"
"Hang on, I'll turn on the lamp." Patrick walked across the room and turned on the oil lamp.
Azura looked around and noticed the posters of various battle techiniques, along with weapon racks. "I don't get it. Mom and Daddy told me to sleep here."
"Didn't you notice before you went to sleep?"
"I didn't turn on the lamp." She looked embarrassed. "I don't know how to work oil lamps, only electric."
He walked back over to her and sat down next to her. "Well, at least that's cleared up. Your parents probably just mixed up which room was the guest room." Inching closer to her, he placed an arm around her shoulders and mustered up the most encouraging smile he could ever make. He realized that his hand was on a bare shoulder and couldn't help but glance to see what Azura was wearing.
(A strappy silk nightgown.) Patrick could tell by the fading in the flower print that it was kind of old. (Also, it's a little obvious to me that she got this thing before she got a figure. I hope she has a robe to wear over this thing if she ever intends to leave her room.)
Azura was a little too innocent and oblivious to notice she was sitting in a bed with someone, and that they both were half-naked. "This is nice," she said cheerfully.
"What is?" Patrick was cautious.
"Well, we're sitting here and have time to ourselves, and no one would interrupt us until morning. We could talk and not have to bother with our parents wanting us to stay on the porch."
"Bother with who wanting us to stay on the porch? I thought we were there because you liked the swing."
"Oh." Azura looked down. "I love the swing, but my dad told me to stay on the porch."
"You would be safe with me, even if I took you to Midgar."
"Really, Pat?" Her eyes were wide with admiration.
"Of course." He meant to ask her why her father wanted her to remain within five feet of the house, but was lured by the sparkle in Azura's eye...into another. "Has anyone ever kissed you, Zuri?"
"Kissed me?" She looked at him like he had suggested she go do the very thing to a chocobo. She shook her head vehemently. "No one would ever dare to do such a thing. Not to the daughter of the Lady of the Pagoda. Not to the daughter of a guy who becomes a Chaos monster when provoked."
Patrick looked deep into her eyes. "Would you like someone to, though?"
"Of course. Just because my parents aren't normal doesn't mean that I'm not."
He laughed. "Well guess what, Zuri?"
"What?" she asked, actually wondering what he was going to say next.
"Even though you're the daughter of the Lady of the Pagoda and the Chaos Monster, I dare," he said, leaning in closer. "Because I'm the son of a woman who returned from the dead and the man who founded the most important company on the Planet."
Two pairs of lips touched sweetly. Azura looked at him with wide eyes. "Why do you dare?"
"Because I have to do that before I do this," Patrick said mischieviously. The next meeting of lips did not end quite as quickly as the first.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Perhaps it's time we told him the truth."
"Are you crazy, Reeve?" asked Raieyana.
"No. I've been thinking about it for a long time. You know how having Jenova and Mako inside you gives you a connection to other people like that. I can't connect with Patrick."
"You connect to our children just fine!"
"Ray, that's because they are mine, too!" He sighed. "Look. I'm just tired of dealing with him day in and day out. He has no respect for me. He must sense somehow that I have no right to tell him what to do."
"He was just fine today. Besides, you have every right. You provided for him. You put your life on the line for him."
"I can tell him that, but he'll just roll his eyes like he always does when we tell him about the past."
"You think he's unstable and out of control."
Reeve tried to take her into his arms, but Raieyana wouldn't even meet his eye. "I just don't know if he will be able to stay under this roof after he gets much older."
"So your answer to my unstable son is to tell him that all he knows about his life is a lie?"
"Ray, don't make it sound like that-"
"It's what we'd be doing. And the way things run in my family, the truth doesn't always yield the best results."
"If I had it my way, he'd have known the truth all along!" His eyes flashed in anger. "Raieyana. We can't keep it from him forever. Besides, he won't have to read the truth at least."
"What if he then goes to find Cloud?"
"I haven't seen the man in fourteen years. If he's made himself that scarce, I doubt Patrick will ever find him."
"Well, perhaps the day will come when I have to tell him. But let's wait."
She cuddled up close to him. "He's awful found of Azura, and with her here to train..."
"You think he's magically going to become tolerant or something?"
"He let me hug him tonight."
Reeve was quiet. "When was the last time before now?"
"The day before he killed off half the chocobo farm five years ago. Before that day, I swear, he was someone different from who he was now."
He lightly stroked her hair. "Kids grow up, Ray."
"I know. But not overnight." She kissed him softly. "So you agree, we wait?"
"I'll see if Zuri has an extended effect on him. Tomorrow I'll start looking for it. Right now, I'm going to sleep. Still angry?"
Raieyana shook her head and smiled, allowing Reeve's arms to finally wrap around her. Drawing her head to his chest, she snuggled close and allowed herself to drift away to the land of dreams.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
What did you call me?
"Child. That's what you are, aren't you? Fourteen is a long way from adult."
That's where most make their mistake. I'm not like other fourteen-year-olds.
"Oh, I know that. That's why I speak to you. You're special. Not like the others."
I know that well enough. Being so close to the Mako explosion when I was an infant accelerated my growth.
"So your mother says."
You dare call Mother a liar? Come out of this cowardly unconsciousness and dare to meet me face to face. I will cut your venomous head from your body, then rip you limb from limb.
"I do not call her anything. I am not here to slander anyone, just show you the truth."
The truth about what?
"The truth about you, Patrick...")
Patrick peered through the white haze. (A hall of doors.) He knew he was dreaming and was angry over losing control of his mind. He had no choice but to go along. "Open each door," the voice had said.
He turned the handle of the first door. The top of it was painted white, but faded into a blood-red at the bottom. Opening the door, he stepped inside.
(This is a bedroom at Lia's house.) His eyes adjusted quickly to the dark, and he saw two figures on the bed. One on top of the other. (A blond-haired man and...Mother?) Raieyana screamed and the man slammed her head against the wall. Patrick was enraged. (Damn you.) He walked up to the man and looked into his eyes. Blue mako eyes. Looking at the age of his mother, Patrick tried to figure out who the man could be. (Could that be...Cloud Strife?)
Suddenly, the two figures faded, and the room was empty, save for Patrick. (What does this have to do with me?) He walked back through the doorway and found himself back in darkness with the voice.
"Several doors for several dreams,
Soon you learn what they all mean.
Through passing all these scenes in time,
All truth will be placed in your mind.
After all these things you shall behold,
The future will have been foretold...
The future will have been..."
("...foretold.") Patrick awakened with a jerk. Azura stirred next to him but settled back down to sleep. He looked down at her pretty face. (I know what it's like to be teased by a girl in that certain way. The way that brings you almost to the edge. But I would never, ever become possessed to do such a thing like that...that beast did to my mother.) Brushing a hand over her cheek, he leaned down to kiss her softly. (Because of two people. My most beautiful mother, and my only friend in the world.)
After some time, he finally relaxed, but sleep would not come again that night. Patrick didn't mind, for he just watched Azura, wondering if she had been told not to leave the house...just because she was with him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana felt herself being called from sleep, but she was fighting every step of the way. (I'm tired) her mind mumbled to itself. Finally though, she was torn back into reality and happened to hear a knocking at the door before she had managed to do a nice toss or turn.
"Stupid salesmen," she muttered half-consciously as she pulled a robe over herself and proceeded to the front door. "I'll never figure out how they get vacuum cleaners up the rope ladders." She paused, thinking over what she had just mumbled. (This is Undor-Hai...no salesmen.) Stifling a giggle, she opened the door.
"This is the residence of Reeve Jordan, I assume." The visitor was a tall man with a business-like voice.
"Uh, I guess," said Raieyana. Since he was quite a bit taller than her, the checking out was done from the feet upwards. (Suit...yeah...ironed...I hope this isn't about Alcor.) "What are you doing here at such a time...?" she asked as her eyes continued their achingly slow scrutiny. As she got to his face, he closed his eyes.
"Took me this long to get up the damn trail. Didn't muster up the balls to go over that gorge on the rope until about sunset."
"Most of us use the other trail." (Red hair, kinda unkempt.)
He opened his eyes wide. "There's another one?"
She looked up to meet them. "Yeah..." her voice trailed off in shock. Standing before her was a man in a blue suit with red hair and eyes. Blue-green mako eyes.