A/N: No, amazingly, I am not dead. Though the length of time it takes me to update chapters is appalling, I do realize. But I'm getting my life in order and everything is finally getting to be regulated now, I work a normal job, 9-5, and I'm currently not going to school. And my husband is in Iraq, (yes, I got married ;D) and I have a lot of spare time. So stuff should get updated a lot more now. I hope you guys enjoy, I'm almost done with this one!
Rufus stepped out onto the stage, the feeling inside of him one that he hadn't felt in a long time. He had a mixture of worry, stress, and fear welling up inside, not because he was afraid for his life, but because of all days, he wished that this would be the one that nothing would go wrong, when he knew the inevitability of such an idea was a mountain against him. And he also knew that once the rebels saw that Tifa was on his side, their anger would turn to her. His biggest concern was Casey. She would be standing in prime position if she so decided that this was the perfect time to assassinate him.
The crowd had gone silent. Most of the city's people knew that Rufus was the benefactor that had funded the local construction, but they probably hadn't expected him to make a speech. Luckily for Rufus, as he scanned the crowd's sea of faces, he didn't see anyone who looked angered or annoyed by his presence. He managed to find one or two of the former members of AVALANCHE, and it calmed him to know that they had shown up.
Tifa walked out onto the stage, and there were some gasps and some clapping, Rufus chuckled, yet another thing that calmed him, knowing that the people received her warmly. She was to make the first speech, and warm up the crowd for Rufus.
She stepped up to the podium and adjusted the microphone to her lips, and then smiled. "Hello, people of Midgar. My name is Tifa Lockhart, former member of AVALANCHE. Today is a wonderful day for Midgar. This town has seen its share of tragedies. We've been through a great deal, and seen much despair. But now, we're on the verge of a new beginning, a new age."
Tifa continued on in her speech, the people's faces brightening with every word. "ShinRa as a company has caused grief in the past. But like our city, they are undergoing massive change at the capable hands of Rufus ShinRa. Many of you have seen him lending his own hand in the construction of various homes and buildings. Without his help and funding, Midgar would still be a near barren wasteland of debris and falling buildings. And now, I invite him to come up and address you all himself." She stepped to the side and clapped along with everyone else.
As Rufus smiled and walked over to the podium, Casey shifted uncomfortably. Tifa's words tore at her heart. She could really see no wrong in what Rufus was doing with his company now. She couldn't recall any information that Garner had that indicated that Rufus had recently done anything wrong. It was all in the past. And had he really done anything himself? What if he was different than his father? Where they attempting to assassinate him just because of his name? There were so many questions she couldn't answer. She couldn't think of anything that told her than this man should die immediately.
Rufus started his speech, surprised at how quiet the crowd was. They really were interested in what he had to say. "People of Midgar, I know that in the past, my company under my father has made a bad name for itself. I don't plan on making excuses. I fully accept the responsibility. I seek to right those sins myself. That is why I have donated my time and money to rebuilding Midgar. I know that it is a very small step, but know that there are more good things to come. In memory of Midgar, we dub the new city New Midgar, to commemorate a new beginning, a fresh start."
As Rufus continued his speech, Casey shook her head. If she was going to do it, she should have done it already. She was running out of time. Rufus was coming to the end of his speech. She shook her head. She'd heard way too much in favor of the president to think about possibly ruining a city full of people's lives for wrong information. If she was to kill Rufus and he'd done nothing wrong, the city wouldn't get finished. And it would be her fault. She didn't want to risk that. And if Garner had a problem with it, she'd have her own talk with him. She let Rufus finish his speech and clapped when he was done, biting her lip in nervousness. She knew that there was going to be an attack very soon, and Garner would be seriously angry that she hadn't taken her chance.
Rufus glanced at Casey, quickly erasing the small look of surprise off of his face. He was slightly amazed that she hadn't attacked. Maybe Tifa's and his words had made an impression. He moved back to stand next to Tifa, eyes darting around the crowd for the impending attack.
There was a glint of light from the back of the crowd. Rufus' eyes immediately shifted to it, as well as Reno and Rude. Not two seconds later, the Rufus realized that it was a distraction. He pulled out his shotgun from his coat as a shot rang out and he dove, pushing Tifa out of the way as well, the bullet bit through his shoulder and pain shot through his body. His wounded arm dropped the shotgun as he slumped over in agonizing pain. The crowd immediately went into hysterics and chaos ensued. People were screaming and running in every direction.
Tifa screamed, "Rufus!" and dropped to his side, tending his wound quickly, while Reno and Rude and Elena formed a defensive wall in front of them.
Out in the crowd, Cloud and the others scanned the commotion for the offending gun.
Garner jumped out from his hiding spot and onto the stage. "Rufus ShinRa, prepare to die. Your reign of terror of the people of Midgar is over."
Casey jumped forward. "Garner NO! He hasn't done anything wrong!"
Garner's eyes widened. "Casey, get out of the way, we went over this. Did they get to you?" He said through gritted teeth. He looked around. His team was supposed to be on stage with him now. What was keeping them? He spotted each of them, engaged in battles across the gathering. His mouth fell open.
His men were all fighting members of AVALANCHE. Their heroes.
Casey stood in front of Garner. "Look, even AVALANCHE knows this is wrong. Don't you think you're chasing this blindly?"
Rufus winced as he struggled to stand, Tifa holding him at his good arm, the blood from his wounded arm dripping down to the floor. He stared at Garner. "What exactly is it that you stand to gain by my death?"
Garner glowered at Rufus. "The death of ShinRa as a whole. You are the last heir. I seek to finish what AVALANCHE didn't."
Cloud suddenly jumped onstage. The other former members of AVALANCHE were finishing off the rest of the members of the terrorist group. Cloud stared hard at Garner. "You guys are idiots. Do you think that if ShinRa was doing anything wrong, we'd continue to let him do it? Look around you. This whole city has him to thank for new homes, new businesses. And you want to kill him simply because the company has a bad past? I think you're just looking for glory. And this is the saddest attempt I've ever seen to achieve it."
Garner's eyes lowered for a moment. It almost seemed like he was sorry, thinking about his actions.
Cloud nodded, assuming that his words had gotten through. He turned to look at Rufus. "Is everyone all right? We didn't see the guy with the sniper till the last second."
Rufus nodded. "Everyone up here is fine. I'll get my arm taken care of as soon as the fighting dies down."
Reno and Rude went to help the others that were still fighting, and Elena stood at Rufus' other arm to steady him as Cloud asked him questions.
Garner's muscles tensed. How dare Cloud speak to him as if he were a child. They'd done their research, they had a purpose. They were not subordinate, they had good reasons. He grimaced and gripped his hand to the dagger at his belt, launching himself at Rufus; once he was dead, the spell over everyone would be broken, and they would see what he saw in Rufus: a monster.
Rufus' eyes widened as he saw Garner flying at him. He pushed both Tifa and Elena away from the danger, readying himself for the blow. There was a loud clanging noise, and Rufus looked up to see Cloud standing in front of him, warding off the attack with his sword.
Tifa charged forward and stomp kicked Garner in the chest with her heel, sending him flying backward. Casey knocked him from the air downward, planting him on his back hard on the ground. To everyone's surprise, hands grabbed Garner at the shoulders and dragged him off the stage, and a crowd of construction workers and other men held him captive. He fought unsuccessfully against the men, screaming at them. "Don't you know that you're protecting a monster?! Don't you remember what ShinRa did?!?!" The crowd ignored his screams, and one man tore a strip of fabric from his shirt to tie around Garner's mouth.
Rufus stared, a little unbelieving at what he was seeing. The men from the crowd had returned and had grabbed all of the members of the terrorist group and were holding them all down. It wasn't something that Rufus was used to, seeing normal people fighting for him. The city's inhabitants were actually fighting to keep him safe. He was completely amazed.
And almost as quickly as it had begun, it was over.
New Midgar had a proper police force now; Rufus had relinquished power over the legal system a long time ago, so the police force took the offending terrorist group in. One by one, they were loaded into a squad van in handcuffs.
An officer walked over to where Casey was standing with Tifa and the others. "Casey, as a part of the terrorist group Tidal Wave, I'm placing you under arrest-"
Rufus cut in, "Officer, what are you doing? Casey is one of my bodyguards. She helped take down the leader of the terrorist group. She did nothing wrong."
Casey's eyes popped wide open with surprise. She had been fully ready to go to jail for her association with Garner and the others.
The officer, equally as surprised, blinked. "Are you sure you don't want to press charges against her?"
Rufus shook his head. "Of course not. She is employed by ShinRa Inc. She's not going to jail."
Casey walked forward and grabbed Rufus' good hand. "I.. I don't know how to repay you…"
Rufus shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, I wouldn't mind you sticking around as a body guard, if you need a job." His gamble with hiring her on was a risk that proved to be a wise decision, though the circumstances that followed were something that he had far from expected.
"I would love to. Thank you so much, Rufus." Casey said, grinning wide, happy that she hadn't followed Garner's orders. Rufus was nothing like Garner had described.
Tifa grinned at Rufus' kind action and kissed him on the cheek. "That was very sweet of you. I'm giving you 150 points for that." She said, chuckling in his ear as the grin played across his face. "Now let's get you some medical attention for that arm."
Rufus stopped as they started to walk by Cloud. "I want to thank you and your team formally. This would have been an even bigger mess had you not been here. I'd like you all to join me at dinner tonight, and we have rooms ready for you at the HQ." He smirked. "I know how hard it must have been defending my life against that overzealous brat instead of letting him plunge that knife into me."
Cloud gave an expressionless look at Rufus. "I may not like you as a person, but what you're doing for the city, and for Tifa, that was something that needed to be protected. Besides, I don't think our mother would be very happy with me if I just let you die. I can learn to live with your less than pleasant personality, I suppose." He grinned.
Rufus returned the grin as Tifa pulled at him to return to the headquarters. She turned her head to mouth "Thank you," at Cloud as they went inside.
Once the bullet had been extracted from his shoulder, Rufus' arm had already started to feel much better. Tifa had resolved to play nurse that night and rewrap his arm before dinner. She helped him strip off his shirt carefully.
"I can't believe they actually got a shot off on me. I'm going to fire every last one of the Turks." Rufus mumbled as Tifa cut away the old bandaging.
She sat on the bed next to him. "Oh, hush. They set up a distraction, and you nearly fell for it as well. Don't start. They did a good job of protecting you. Everyone did." She threw away the old bandage at the bedside trashcan.
Rufus winced as she cleaned the wound with antiseptic. "I know, I must admit, I was quite surprised when the city people came back. OW woman, easy, it's a bullet wound, not a scratch!" He clenched his jaw.
She chuckled. "Quit being a baby. I have to clean it. You don't want it getting infected and then you lose an arm! And don't call me woman, that's 15 points!"
His eyebrows knitted into a frown. "That shouldn't count, you're mauling my arm! And I still don't even know what these points are adding up to!" He said clenching his fist to dispel the pain.
Tifa grinned. "You'll find out soon enough." She took a fresh roll of bandaging and gently wound it around his bare arm and shoulder. "There." She leaned forward and kissed it tenderly. "How does it feel now?"
Rufus had to admit, now that she was done, it was almost as if it didn't hurt at all. "It feels much better, thank you. So, Dr. Lockhart, am I well enough to go to dinner? Or do you think I'll be too rude to your friends?" He asked, chuckling.
"I think you'll be just fine. I trust you." She stood up and smiled down at him.
He grabbed her waist and pulled her to him, and rested his head against her stomach, closing his eyes. "Thank you. You have no idea how much those words can mean to a person."
Tifa smiled as her heart fluttered in her chest. She'd never seen him so candid before. She ran her fingers through his hair, lightly raking his scalp with her fingertips.
Rufus shivered. He looked up at her with a smirk. "Do you think they'll mind if we're a few minutes late?" He asked, leaning backward to lie on the bed, pulling her down on top of him and wrapping his arms around her.
Tifa couldn't deny that just lying there with him, her head on his bare chest felt amazingly good, especially after the stressful day they'd just had. She chuckled. "Maybe just a few, but if I break down and let you have your way, we'll be here all night. And I'm just too hungry." She kissed his chest and pushed herself up and off the bed. She extended her hand out to him to help him up.
Rufus sighed and sat up and grabbed her hand. "Either you have extremely good self control, or my amazing charm is slipping." He said with a grin as he stood and wrapped his arms around her again.
She shrugged and looked up into his sky blue eyes. "I'm used to wanting things and having to work to get them, unlike you, who merely have to buy it. So work first, play later." She said, tiptoeing to plant a kiss on his lips.
Rufus smiled and nodded. "Fair enough." He buried his face in the crook of her neck and kissed the soft skin there. He turned to grab a fresh button up shirt and gingerly put it on. Grasping Tifa's hand, he led her from the room to join the others for dinner.
In the dining hall, the other former members of AVALANCHE gathered, sitting at the table and talking about the day. They quieted when Rufus and Tifa entered the room. Rufus pulled a chair out for Tifa and then seated himself.
"I want to thank you all for what you did today. Protecting this city is going to be my first priority and you helped me do that today. I know that in the past we were enemies, but I hope that we can get past that, and together we can build a better Midgar and a better life for all those who live here. You all are heroes to the people, and now are even more so. I've prepared rooms for you if you'd like to stay, for as long as you'd like, if you would like to further help me with the city." Rufus said as he looked at the faces of the people who once hated him. There were still a few of them who peered warily at him, Barret and Yuffie and Cid were among those, but the others looked at him like they understood his words, and his reason for changing.
Once the dinner was brought out, Barret had to look around at everyone else before he ate, as if he thought the food might be poisoned, but once no one dropped dead, he dug into his plate as well as Rufus chuckled to himself.
Tifa suddenly realized something. Both Rufus and Cloud were very similar, they both had sins in the past that they were faced to deal with. But they dealt with it in very different ways. Cloud chose to run from people. He chose to deal with the problems himself. But Rufus made changes to himself, to his company. He chose to right the sins with self made miracles to the people he'd hurt.
Though Rufus was far from being an altruistic person, he did keep other's needs in mind, even if they weren't necessarily first. She watched him speak with her friends almost as a completely different person, not the Rufus ShinRa that had been in control of the company when Sephiroth was alive. She wondered if she played a big role in the persona change.
Almost everyone decided to stay after dinner, Vincent was the only one who'd left. Tifa assumed that there were just too many bad memories for him in a ShinRa office building, so she understood.
When everyone had left to check out their rooms, Rufus walked over to Tifa. "So, do I get any points for that?" he asked with a grin.
She smiled at him and threw her arms around his neck. "Rufus, you blew the lid off of your points program. I am more than impressed."
He kissed her forehead. "Well, I must say, I did have a very good teacher. Thank you for all you've done for me, Tifa."
She beamed back up at him. "Rufus, you know you could have pulled this off without me…"
He shook his head. "No, I was still very full of myself when we started all this. You made me realize that making up for my past wasn't about me. It was what I could do for others. I hate to say this, but I think you've made me… pleasant." He grinned at her.
She chuckled at him. "We still have a long way to go to make you close to 'pleasant'." She said, tapping his nose.
Casey stood in the doorway, mouth agape. The sight before her was something she could hardly fathom. Tifa Lockhart was in the arms of Rufus ShinRa. Thinks made a little more sense now, why Tifa was helping Rufus out, why Rufus had done such a good job at making a 180 from the person he'd been before. But she had to admit, they were a cute couple. "Uh.. S..sir?" She stammered out, hating to ruin the moment between them.
Rufus and Tifa looked over at Casey. "Yes?" Rufus answered.
"All the AVALANCHE members have been escorted to their rooms. And they were quite happy with them. What else should I do tonight, sir?" She was a bit unsure of what to do as a new recruit, but she was very happy that Rufus had given her a second chance.
Rufus shook his head. "I think you've done quite enough for the day. Thank you again for your good work. I'm glad we hired you on. You can retire to your quarters, if you like."
Casey smiled wide. "Thank you, for saving me from jail…"
Tifa smiled back at her. "You saved yourself from jail, you have a good head on your shoulders, and you know the difference between right and wrong. Which is why Rufus decided to make you a permanent employee. We knew who you were and what you were sent for before he hired you." She said, grinning.
Casey's eyes widened. And they still let her stand on stage with him? She was amazed.
Rufus chuckled. "Tifa has a tendency of taking the words right out of my mouth, but yes, we did know. But we hoped that we could show and tell you enough to change your mind before hand. And luckily, we played our cards right, and you made your own decisions. I'm just sorry we couldn't do the same for your friends."
Casey shrugged. "Like you said, we made our own decisions. I'm just glad I made mine in time." She said smiling before excusing herself to her room.
Tifa smiled as she watched Casey go. "I think she'll make a good Turk someday."
Rufus nodded. "Yes, she shows some great potential. But she's just yet another example of you as a role model." He said, grinning.
Tifa rolled her eyes. "Flattery will get you nowhere with me."
Rufus smirked. "Ah, but those points I earned will, will they not?"
Tifa grinned back. "I'll show you exactly what those points got you."
A/N: OMG… Is it true..? An update a week from the last?!?! And.. its … its finished?! Well, that really all depends on you, loyal readers. I actually have an alternated ending to this. However: It is a little darker, and not everyone walks away as happy as they did. I'm also thinking of a sequel, but I want to hear from you. That's right, reader poll time!! Question 1. Do you want me to show you the alternate ending? Question 2. Do you want a sequel? I have a lot more time now, peeps, and I find myself writing more and more. So this is prime time for a sequel if you wanna see it. Lemme know in your reviews!!