Reunion Part 1
*The Sequel to Final Fantasy VII--Resurrection*
Part 1- Trail of Tears
Prologue: Seven years pass, not unmarked.
Time can flash away
Time may flourish and last forever
Not measured in or by itself
Only how it is perceived
From the outside or farthest reaches
And as time begins and ends
With children, parents, lovers, and friends
Some come as others go
And all that remains is time
Seven years in seven minutes
Or the eternity that never ceases
Many things can be seen, begin to be seen,
But tell me--can you still see me?
Time is only what is made of it
So tell me--what is time?
(After all this, to come full circle. All the trouble we have gone through, and the one problem still remains. To protect ourselves from the greed and power of money. From the insatiable greed. Shinra.) Raieyana put down the PHS. After seven years of basically no communication, she had been startled to hear it ringing. And after seven years of inactivity, Shinra was at it again. Ironically, they were at again, as simultaneously, severe side effects were popping up in the original members of Soldier. Whether from the Mako or the Jenova remained to be seen. (But they both are in me. By the metric ton. No wonder they called me. But then again, they're calling everyone.)
Raieyana also remembered Barret's words: "I gotta go to work. You gotta get ahold of the people I haven't yet. Yuffie, Vincent, and Reeve."
Yuffie and Vincent, Mr. and Mrs. Valentine, were easy. They were in Wutai, as they had been since they were married almost seven years ago. But Reeve... (Just use the PHS. He still has one, probably. At last resort, I could go to Junon. Well, not really...)
"Mommy?" A small boy tugged at Raieyana's skirt.
"What is it, honey?" she asked.
"Aeris is looking at me funny again!" he looked close to tears.
"Aeris," she called.
His sister peeked from around a doorway.
"Stop bothering Ishmael."
"I wasn't, Mommy," she said.
Raieyana sighed. "Don't you two ever play nice?"
"We played nice for approximately five minutes yesterday," said Ishmael.
She shook her head. "That's because I was in the room with you..."
"Ray." Lia walked into the room. "Funny thing, I thought I heard a phone ring. You wouldn't happen to know anything about it, would you?" There were no telephones in Undor-Hai.
"PHS," said Raieyana, "there's trouble a-brewing, with the stench of Shinra. And some Soldiers have been afflicted with some odd side effects to their treatments. Reaction to either Jenova or an excess of Mako."
Lia grimaced. "Sounds serious. Legolas was a Soldier...he's okay."
"But," said Raieyana, "it is, like, the very first set of Soldiers. Treated before I was born. It may eventually affect me, and all the Soldiers from after these few. Barret called. Everyone's coming up here in a couple of days. And I need to call Yuffie and Vincent. And he needs me to call Reeve."
"Are you?" asked Lia.
"I have to try," she said.
"Mommy," whined Aeris.
"Aeris, Ishmael," said Lia, "let's go play with Danny, okay? Your mommy has some things to take care of."
The two kids ran out. "Are you going to tell him?" asked Lia.
"I will when it's time," said Raieyana.
"I think the time has passed..."
"I know what you think," said Raieyana, "and now I have to get in touch with Yuffie and Vincent. ...and Reeve."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
(You just stay in Undor-Hai until Alcor gets established. You don't need to be involved in the messy beginnings of a business... The last words he wrote to me.) The postscript of the reply he sent to her letter asking for either him to come back home or to let her go to Junon. (I couldn't tell him I was pregnant in a letter, or even over the phone. Too impersonal. And then later, I was in no shape... And afterwards, I didn't want him to come for me because of the kids...only if he loved me.)
Raieyana knew Lia's opinion of the whole situation. She had, several times over the last six-and-a-half years, threatened to go to Junon and "drag Reeve's ass back here with the children where he belongs." (But I swore I would never use my kids as a bargaining tool to get my lover back. And I won't. He will finally know, when he comes.) And Raieyana had firmly believed that if Reeve was meant to know, somehow he would know, eventually. (I promised myself never to initiate anything that would make him pity me. I don't want pity, I don't need help, I already have plenty of support. But now, I have to call him and give him the news. He will come if he wants to.) Raieyana picked up the PHS.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Because of the new Shinra Macroreactor, our profits are down approximately 15.6 percent. We can't ignore this Mako thing anymore. We have to stop pretending it went out of existence when we went into business. It's more reliable, cheaper to extract, and more abundant."
Reeve tossed aside Yorlain's pie chart. "I don't want figures," he said, "I don't need pie graphs, and I have plenty of knowledge of the abundance of Mako energy to be extracted. There isn't an abundance."
"Then, explain why Shinra has more reactors than we have power plants," Yorlain said.
"Yorlain, some of these reactors are almost as old as I am, are plagued by mechanical defects, and use more power to function than they extract. The majority of them operate just to make it seem like Shinra has got the Mako thing under control. But they're running out of Mako and getting desperate. I see this 'Macroreactor' thing as a last-ditch effort to put us out of business so they can buy the land our thermal power plants are on. They know we have Mako, because the heat comes from the Lifestream, and they know we haven't actually extracted the Mako itself. And the figures Shinra gives to its shareholders are incorrect, altered to their favor, probably to scare our shareholders into selling. And if most of them are like you, we're doomed."
"Reeve," said Yorlain, "the share holders want a press-conference or the equivalent. They want to hear you give them hope that we're gonna stay in this thing for the long haul."
"Fine, get me Reno, on the phone, now."
"Not Reno. You remember what happened last time he held one..."
Reeve shook his head. "I'm sick and tired of you telling me how to run this business. Reno is my partner. I'm going to confer with him on what I'm going to say at the press conference."
"Fine," Yorlain said, "I'll page him."
Reeve watched him leave, and lit up a cigarette. He took a drag, then opened the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet, reached in the back, and brought out a worn piece of paper. He gazed at the neat, curved script.
"God, Reeve, you don't understand. I need to be with you. It is really important, not just because I miss you, I swear. Not just because I'm lonely without you here. I have a valid reason. So valid, I would even go to Junon. I would leave. Please, tell me you'll come home. Or you want me to come to you..."
(She loved me so much. And I said no, just a little longer... Lost her, for this. A business full of problems and money losses. Finally turn a profit, and it's a Shinra revival. Oh well, I always knew that Raieyana would be better off without me. But I don't know if I'm better off without her.) Reeve tried to imagine her face, the way her voice sounded, the exact way she would tilt her head when he said something totally idiotic. But he drew a blank, just as he had that day five years ago when he realized he couldn't even remember her in his dreams. He replaced the letter back into its hidden spot, luckily, just in time. He knew Lavana would laugh at him if she saw him moping over a letter that was almost seven years old.
Lavana smiled, and sauntered over to his desk and sat down on the chair in front of him, pitching slightly forward so he could get the full effect of her low cut dress. "Shit, Reeve, I heard you were giving a press conference," she said.
His mind being completely off someplace, he gave the eloquent reply of, "Huh?"
"You. Speaking. At. Press conference. Totally surprised me. Not that it doesn't turn me on, a surprising thing..."
Reeve sighed. "Lavana, I won't date you. End of story. Two years ago." She looked at him in disbelief.
"I could, you know," she said, "have any man here in the company, on my desk, in my office, now. Except for you. I'm starting to believe you may walk a little on the fruity side, if you catch my drift. After all, Reno and you have a lot of long nights together. Here. Alone."
Reeve stood up. "If you don't have anything useful to say to me, then go. Just because I'm not attracted to you throwing you breasts in my face every opportunity you get, does not mean that I'm gay. Maybe it just means I'm a little more picky in who I want to date. Number one on my 'don't date' list: whores. With number two on the list being employees, you're definitely a 'don't.'"
Lavana started to leave. "Yeah, but you haven't had a date in all the time I've worked here. Look, you're thirty-three years old, Reeve. You're a workaholic. Look at me. I want you. If you're that picky, then I guess you'll be alone."
Reeve grabbed his cigarette out of the ashtray. (But I decided that when I decided Raieyana didn't want me anymore. She is the only woman I want.) The phone rang. Reeve picked up the one on his desk. (Nope.) He reached for the cellular in his briefcase. (Nope.) The phone continued to ring. He grabbed the cellular from the desk drawer. (What the--) He held his pager to his ear. (No?!) He paused, and listened carefully.
(The closet? But that's just...the PHS!) He fumbled with his keys, finally finding the one that unlocked his office closet. He fumbled around, finally finding it in and old duffel bag he had used when he went around with Cloud and the others...and Raieyana. He pulled it out, shakily putting it up to his ear. "Hello?" he said. "Hello, who's there?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana heard his voice.
"...Hello, who's there?"
She could barely speak. "Reeve," she finally managed to get out.
"Raieyana. So, ummm, why...what's going on?"
Raieyana blanked. "Uhhh, Barret," she said, "asked me to call you because there's been...some trouble with Shinra in Corel...and some of the first men who were in Soldier are having reactions to either the Mako or the Jenova in them. And he wanted everyone to meet in Undor-Hai in three days, but..."
Reeve cut in. "I'll be there," he said.
"Hey, it's allright. I have a ton of vacation days piled up. I'll be there. God, I wish I could talk more, but I've got a press conference...we'll catch up when we see each other again, right?"
"Right," Raieyana murmured.
"Goodbye," said Reeve.
"Bye." Raieyana put the PHS down. (Reeve, you didn't let me finish. No one else can come until the next day. I didn't want you here...just you...with me. I didn't want it to be awkward. But now I can tell him about the kids before everyone else gets here...I guess...)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Reeve looked at the PHS sitting on his desk. (It all came back to me...when I heard her voice... Her face...her eyes...her love.)
"Awfully quiet, man, for someone who has to go out and reassure the stockholders we aren't going belly up in the business world." Reno stood in the doorway, pulling off his sunglasses.
Reeve grimaced. "Thanks for reminding me, Reno. What do you want me to say to them? Any specific requests? I can do a decent rendition of 'Come Sail Away' by Styx."
"Somehow," said Reno, "I don't think that would make them any more confident. Just tell them Shinra's sucking up all the Mako and they can't go on forever."
"That's what we always tell them!"
Reno shook his head. "Is there anything we should do besides stick to the original story? I don't think we should lie."
"I don't know," said Reeve, "Shinra always lies and right now, it looks to me like they're going to come out ahead in all this."
"Of course, monsieur pessimist," said Reno.
"Parles-vouz français?" asked Reeve.
"No," said Reno, "I took French for a semester in high school."
Reeve shook his head, and grabbed the paper on which he had scrawled a few, very few, statements regarding the latest Shinra profit report and the effect of it on Alcor. "Guess it's now or never," said Reeve, "by the way, I'm taking a few days off."
"Great timing, partner."
Reeve smiled. "I haven't taken hardly any time off in nearly seven years. Besides, it isn't going to be a vacation. I'm going to see Ray--, I mean Cloud Strife and the others."
"Dude," said Reno, "you trust those bozos?"
Reeve shrugged. "Those bozos saved my ass quite a few times..."
"Yeah, but they kicked mine just as much, if not more."
"You were still Shinra then," said Reeve, "you were the enemy."
"So were you," said Reno.
"I quit," said Reeve, "because of them. And it was the best decision I have ever made in my life."
"See," said Reno, "I quit because I was sick of getting my ass kicked while Elena sat and watched."
Raieyana was trying to fit into her old dress. There were a few slight problems, however. (Damn it. Okay, got the thing over my hips, over my chest, finally, and what does it do? Hangs like a loose sack because I'm the only reject in the world that loses 20 pounds after her pregnancy. Except for my hips and my chest, where it's about to explode. Damn it.) She ripped out the side seam trying to get the dress back over her hips. She crumpled it up and threw it into the corner of her room.
Shaking her head, she walked back to her closet. (I know! I'll wear all my dresses that fit me like loose potato sacks. Except for the fact that those too, make me feel like I'm going to pop out of the top.) She sighed, and pulled out the one Lia had sewn for her. Custom-fit to her precise measurements. One drawback: it was lavender. (God, I hate this color.) She slowly put it on. It actually came near to the small size of her waist while still fitting over her "problem areas." Looking in the mirror, she was greatly disappointed. (Unless I'm going to wear a muumuu, it has to be the "Tifa Lockhart, enormous chest" look for me.) She pulled a large, baggy cardigan from her closet to cover herself up and walked out into the living room.
"So he's coming today?"
Raieyana felt like ignoring Lia's question. "Yes," she said, "just like I told you before breakfast, and after I finished breakfast."
"I'll try to keep the kids out of your hair," said Lia.
"Oh, I'd appreciate that," Raieyana said, "but Aeris, Ishmael, and Danny?"
Lia shrugged. "I'll be fine. Legolas' and my child is perfectly well-behaved."
"I was referring to how they all get when they happen to be within a few yards of each other," said Raieyana.
"I'll do my best," Lia said.
A small girl of about thirteen, definitely in training doing her page duty, came into Lia's house. "There's a man here," she said, "and Lia, he says that he's here to see you and Raieyana. His name is Reeve. I didn't know what to do, so I brought him here. He's waiting right outside..."
"Well, Tonia," said Lia, "for the future, I'd like to remind you that isn't the way we deal with strangers. But this is someone we've been expecting, so it's okay. You can go now."
Tonia left. Lia looked at Raieyana. "Well, aren't you going to say hello and invite him in?"
"Oh, you. You're going to make me do it alone, aren't you?" Raieyana asked. She left to go greet Reeve.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Reeve watched the young messenger leave, and wondered if he was supposed to go up. But then he saw Raieyana emerge from the house onto the front deck. (She looks exactly the same. I know I don't. But suddenly, seven years have all slipped away. Those years are gone. And I am back in paradise with my Ray. Ray.)
She looked down at him. "Are you going to come up, or is a ladder too hard for you to climb?"
Wordlessly and swiftly, he climbed the ladder and stood on the deck. (Face to face. Seven years ago, this small moment would have been nothing. Now it is everything. She is everything and everything is her.) He stepped a little closer. "It's great to see you again," he said.
"Yeah, you, too."
There was an uncomfortable pause. "What are we doing? It's been seven years...come 'ere." He hugged her, like an old friend would at a reunion. (We are old friends...yet so much more.) Something about the way Raieyana looked bugged him, though. And she felt...different...in his arms. (This is what I've wanted for so long. But she has changed. I see it now. How could anyone not? To change is to be human. She is human, although I swear sometimes she must be an angel...)
"How've you been?" Raieyana asked.
"Don't let me start..." he began. But he stopped when he saw a small little girl of about six peer out the front door and step out towards Raieyana. (God, that kid's a cute little blond thing. I wonder if that's Lia's kid...)
The girl tugged at Raieyana's skirt. Glancing at Reeve with huge blue eyes, she softly whispered, "Mommy? Ishmael's lookin' at me funny again."
Raieyana gave him a little "you know how kids are" look, and, raising her voice, told Ishmael to "play nice."
"But Mommy," a little boy called back, "Aeris started it!"
Turning to Aeris, Raieyana said, "Go talk to Aunt Lia. I bet she'll take care of this, okay?"
Aeris nodded, and with one last shy look at Reeve, went back inside.
"They always fight," Raieyana said softly.
(She found someone else. Ray has someone. Good, she wasn't...alone all this time. Raieyana's a mother. And her children are beautiful, just like her...) But Reeve couldn't stop the sinking feeling that slowly landed at his feet and that had seemed to grab his manhood on the way down.
"So who's the lucky man?" he asked.
Raieyana gave him a puzzled look.
"I'm glad you found someone. Beautiful kids, Ray, I...I mean Raieyana. That guy must be good looking to have such nice kids. He's good to you, right?"
She looked at him, painfully. "Reeve...I..."
He shook his head. "You don't need to say anything about being sorry. It would have been foolish of me to even think for a second that you would stay here, just waiting for me."
"Reeve," she said softly, "no one's lucky enough to have me. Did you get a good look at my...my daughter? How old do you think she is? What do you think I did? Got some new guy a week after you left? No. Reeve, you should see Ishmael. He resembles his father so closely. I...I almost named him after you."
The gravity of the words she had just spoken nearly brought him to his knees. "His father...almost named him after...me? Ray, am I...why didn't you say anything?"
"I know I should have. But there's something in me that refuses to say something like that in a letter...over the telephone. Something that wanted to look you in the eyes and know, be able to see, your true feelings. You could have written you were happy in the letters and not meant it. Lied over the phone. But I wanted to be there, see your reaction."
"Why didn't you tell me to come?" he asked.
She looked down. "I tried. But I couldn't beg. And I kind of had hoped that you might come just because I asked you to."
"Where does that leave us, then?" he asked. "You don't have to do anything, Reeve, if you don't want to. I have it all under control. You don't have to be their father."
"That was my little girl," he said, "and something in me just wants to go and hold her. Make up for..." (Anna.)
"Lost time?" said Raieyana.
He nodded. "...and other things."
Raieyana turned towards the door. "Let's go inside," she said.
"Has it been hard?" he asked.
Raieyana laughed. "Not really," she said, "I just had to get used to it."
"How...old are they?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Almost six and a half. They were premature by about a month and a half. Part of it was, of course, twins come early. Another thing may be...Jenova, Mako."
Reeve looked surprised. "What? What could any of those things do?"
Raieyana paused, then started to explain.
"Vincent says he is thirty-four. If that was true, then Sephiroth cannot be traced far back at all. If we assume Vincent was, say, eighteen when he was a Turk, that only dates Sephiroth at nine years old...when he died. But you and I both know that if that was true, my existence at my age is impossible. So either Vincent is lying or... But even with the whole Sephiroth thing aside, there is something involving the Jenova or the Mako that causes accelerated growth and development. Just think. Aysta and I skipped two grades in an exclusive private school. We went to Undor-Hai, and were doing serious training in weaponry at age eleven. Our kids were born early. Lia and Legolas' son was born slightly early, and he was just in Soldier. All of Vincent and Yuffie's kids were born early."
"Your theory," said Reeve, "makes a lot of sense out of some things I haven't been able to explain myself."
"I guess, but do you think I know this thing, inside out? I don't understand why it happens. Look at me. When I was a little girl I was what, two years ahead of everyone? How come now, everything has come to a standstill? I'm not aging rapidly, I developed somewhat rapidly. How is it that the rapid growth and everything stopped and left me here? I can't look at this objectively...but I know I'm not that different from when I was sixteen. I haven't changed like Yuffie has. She's gotten more mature and grown up a little more. Not much has happen to me, though. I guess I had reached this peak point, comparable to a person in their early twenties, and just stopped... I came to a standstill? What did Hojo know?"
Reeve shook his head. "Hojo didn't know jack," he said.
"Normally, I would agree with you," Raieyana said, "in this case, though... I mean, he made me... He knew enough to be able to stop this process. But maybe, we might find out, he never understood how to stop it permanently."
Raieyana paused, to breathe.
"Hey, Reeve," said Legolas.
"Long time, no see, man," said Reeve. They shook hands.
"Ray, where's that lovely wife and the beautiful child of mine about whom I love to brag?" Legolas asked.
Lia emerged from on of the hallways, carrying a pudgy four-year old. Aeris and another boy followed behind her. "Hello, Reeve," Lia said.
Legolas gestured to the sleeping child. "That's our son, Daniel--we call him Danny."
"You've already met Aeris, Reeve, so that's Ishmael," said Raieyana.
He gave her a questioning look. (Sure he looks like me...but you named him after your Ish.)
"Ishmael," she said again, almost sensing how he felt about his son's name. (Not Ish,) she thought as she looked back at him (Ishmael. He's your son, Reeve. Because I wanted you. Not Ish. And I will never call your son Ish. But I didn't want him to be forgotten, Ish was such a quiet soul...)
Reeve knelt down and looked into warm brown eyes that mirrored his own. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," said Ishmael shyly.
"I gave them dinner," said Lia, "but I thought you might want to say goodnight."
"Of course," said Raieyana, and took her son by one hand and her daughter with the other and started to lead them to their room.
Aeris paused, and turned around. "'Night, Mister Reeve," she said, overcoming bashfulness to wish the guest a good night.
Reeve smiled. (She looks like Anna. Talks like Anna. But she called me mister. I want to hear her say, "father.")
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Raieyana left to go for a walk, and Reeve, in typical Reeve fashion, left and followed her. "Raieyana," he said, "I want to be part of this. Their lives. I want them to call me 'Daddy.' My kids, Raieyana. She called me 'mister.' Right now they're only yours. I want to raise them together. I want them to have a family. The family you couldn't have--the one you need now."
"Reeve, don't say things you don't mean to me. You can be a father to them. Of course you can help. But I'm not going to trap you in a life you don't want with me on account of something that we had almost seven years ago. You don't have to live in the past to have a future with the kids, waste your life with me. I don't care if you don't want a relationship with me except through the children." She lowered her voice. "It won't bother me if you don't want to be with me."
"Then say it," said Reeve, "without any emotion. Say it indifferently. If you swear it doesn't bother you, then don't say it with your voice so full of feeling."
"Tell me you don't love me, but do it like it was nothing. Say it like I was just some old thing from your past that you found in the attic and dusted off before you remembered the reason why it was put away in the first place. Don't lie to me. If you care, then tell me. How else am I going to know?"
She shook her head. "I'd rather you go then stay and not be sure. We've both changed. We're both older, things have happened...we've both had time to consider mistakes and other actions in the past that maybe we don't want to repeat again. I don't want to tie you down."
Reeve looked at her funny. "Raieyana," he said, "I wish you would let me consider my own needs and turn a little more attention to your own. What do you want? What do you need? Don't worry about me. I promise no matter my reason for deciding whatever I decide, I'll be good to you. I'll be good to you."
She wrapped her arms around herself for warmth, and turned towards the sea breeze. "I don't want to tie you down," she said again, repeating the words.
Reeve watched her for a moment. Then he headed back to Lia's house.
Reeve quietly let himself back in the front door.
Lia was sitting there, waiting to speak with him. Waiting to tell him something she had held in for years.
"Where's Legolas?" asked Reeve.
"In bed," she said.
He gave her an odd look and headed towards his room.
"Wait," she said, "I have something to tell you. But first, did Raieyana tell you how she's been?"
He shrugged. "She's been fine, I guess. At least that's what I've gathered from what she's been saying..."
Lia shook her head. "Not a word, not a word. Ray... Well, I figured it would be up to me to tell you, but I had hoped she would have enough figurative balls to tell you herself..."
"You really," she said, "really have no idea, do you? Why Raieyana never made that much of an effort to contact you while she was pregnant? No word afterwards? I'll tell you why. From about the third month on, she was deathly ill. She nearly died giving birth. Bedridden for three months after the twins were born. Look at her. The person that I would have said had the healthiest constitution seven years ago...she's weak. She's thin. Sometimes she shivers in the night with the chills...sometimes she burns with fever. And if it's the Mako, or the Jenova, then what will be, will be. Like it's supposed to be. Like it has to be. But part of me just won't let go of the fact that she was the strongest person I know. Before she was pregnant. She was stronger seven minutes after she came back from the dead then she is seven years after her babies were born. Why? Somehow, something...inside me...puts part of the blame on you...because you weren't there. And Ray wouldn't let me quote-unquote 'disturb you' after she had recovered enough to argue with me. But I should have, I should have..."
Her words trailed off as Reeve rushed to his room. He turned to face her. "Maybe you should have, Lia," he said sharply, "or maybe you shouldn't take it upon yourself to let me know things that Raieyana would rather have kept quiet."
Lia looked him straight in the eye and shrugged. (Now he knows what he should know. And no matter how much she wants to push him away to avoid getting hurt again, this boy's here for good. If I know Reeve. And I think I know Reeve.)
Reeve sat on his bed. An involuntary shudder went through him as he considered the suffering of the woman he loved. (I love? Of course. I still love her, because I never stopped.) He seriously contemplated the thought of just leaving. (Without me, she would never have gotten pregnant. This is the second time I've almost killed her. She may not believe it, but naming our son "Ishmael" was unconscious wishful thinking on her part. Because if she hadn't of been with me, Ishmael Deline might still be alive. And he would never have left her for any reason, no matter how short the time. He would have come back even if he thought she didn't love him anymore. He would have come to her if she even hinted at it, instead of passing over her queries as loneliness for him. Like he would ever have been so smug to think she asked him back because she was longing for him, only because of longing for him. He would have been around to raise his children, not wasting his time in a business in Junon founded with former Turk Jack Reno. And his family wouldn't have slipped through his hands. Raieyana, the kids. Mom. Anna...) He got out a pen and paper. And began to write...
Austin was a buddy from ol' Junon Academy. We were roommates at Midgar Business School. He wasn't a bad guy, really. The kind of pal you take home and show your mother and she's glad because he gets good grades and doesn't use drugs and only drinks when it's wine at communion. We were sixteen, so there was nothing odd about how he was horny 24-7. When you're that age, looking at linoleum makes you wanna have sex. So the girlie mags and pictures off the 'Net didn't bother me that much either. And I thought it was kind of cool how he had a new girl every week, and every once and a while he got a piece. At that age, that sort of thing raises you in the eyes of your peers. I never really suspected he had a problem.
Austin didn't have a real family, so on holidays he would come home with me and visit with my mom and my eight-year-old sister Anna. (My dad died when Anna was one and I was nine.) Anna was the sweetest, shyest little girl you could imagine. She thought Austin was "cute," and Austin would always play along, calling her his "girlfriend." It was the sweetest little thing. He started at the business school when he was around fourteen, so this thing went on for about two years. Around the major holiday in my household, it had become tradition for Austin to babysit my sister while my mother and I went out shopping for gifts for Anna. (And a couple for Austin as well.) But this time, when I came home...
"Hey man," said Austin, "when's your mom coming in?" He looked worried.
"I don't know. She's leaving Anna's gifts at my uncle's house so Anna can't find them," I said.
His eyes grew wide. "I don't know what came over me," he said, "and she screamed so I held my hand over her face and I guess she suffocated."
"What?" I asked.
"Look, it wasn't my fault. There was something wrong with her. She would always try to touch me and she was always getting me up and I finally gave in. And then she didn't like what she asked for." His eyes glowed. He had gone to a Soldier military-type school for a year before joining the class at the business school. He had already had some Mako/Jenova treatments done. There was a half-mad rage in his eyes.
"Are you talking about Anna?" I asked.
He shrugged. "The little bitch can't take what she needs," he said.
Sometimes he had spoken about ex-girlfriends like that. I had never thought much of it. But this was...
"My sister?" I asked, shoving him against the wall, "my eight-year old, little, innocent, sister!"
I never heard my mom come in. I would have stopped her. But she slipped in, and went to my sister's room. And she found the bruised, beaten, torn body of my sister. Anna. I might not have heard her come in, but I heard the scream... I don't clearly remember what happened next, but I remember... Getting the gun. Loading the gun. And the fear in Austin's eyes. I remember the bang of the gunshot, and the silence afterwards.
For some reason, Soldier (the acting police of Junon) believed my story of Austin's suicide. He had already been labeled "volatile" and "unstable." They also knew by looking at my rage and sadness that he really had killed and molested my sister. And my mother...she died...after she put a bullet through her head. She didn't wait to see if I had been charged with Austin's death. She just assumed, as most do, that the authorities go on the truth. Not on the story of an angry, young aspiring businessman who had good reason to avenge his sister. But I had never picked up a weapon since that day until the time I was in Undor-Hai. And Lia handed me the knives. And that opened the gateway to me holding the sword and killing my...the only woman I really loved. Raieyana.
And I blame myself for Anna's death. My mother's, as well. Even if my expensive psychiatrist told me my mother shot herself because she was a manic depressive. He didn't seem to see that if I had seen how warped Austin was, my sister would be alive, I would not have killed Austin, and my mother would have had no reason to kill herself. I should have seen there was something wrong with Austin. Testosterone, Mako, Jenova? I don't know. But I do know Aeris, my daughter, looks like Anna. And I will watch over Aeris and keep her safe. Safer than the woman she was named after--and safer than the girl she takes after. And her mother--Raieyana, I love her. And I will give her no more pain. Not physically, nor emotionally. And if I have to leave to do that, I will. But I want to hold her again, touch her again. I miss my Ray, the ray of light in my darkness, who kept watch over me when I slept, who loved me unyieldingly, to whom I owe everything...maybe even my sanity.
Reeve finally slipped into a troubled sleep, haunted by the faces of Austin, Anna, his mother, and of Ishmael Deline.