AN: This is it, folks! Thank you for reading this crazy story!


Epilogue – Operetta


She was nibbling on her pencil again, a habit she'd never be able to be rid of. At least no one noticed her nasty habits in the corner, where she watched them all. Audrey always watched, writing her little observations in her faded green notebook, something Tifa had picked up for her one day.

Things had settled down, as much as they ever would. Kale still ran around the house like a hoodlum, spending more time in trouble than out of it. She figured he preferred it that way. Samiel had finally come to join them again, as Miss Shera finally allowed him to return. He was half polite and half boisterous, she supposed that was as good as most boys would ever get.

Some things had certainly changed, though. For the better for the worse; probably a little of both. Vincent had officially moved into the Home, occasionally taking trips to Rocket Town and Cosmo Canyon, when his natural restlessness took over. They didn't see Cloud or Yuffie after that day, but Yuffie called often checking up on Tifa and asking about Rinna. They were somewhere warm, she'd remembered, where Cloud apparently had a villa of some sort. Tifa had told her that they needed a rest, that they weren't lost... but they weren't quite ready to begin a real life. Audrey was glad that Cloud didn't come by anymore, the few times she had seen him, she had been frightened by him. Her senses tingled with a feeling that all was not right with him. Though, she supposed, he probably wouldn't give her that feeling anymore.

She'd almost forgotten about her premonitions. She didn't have nearly as many anymore, and she could convince herself that she was normal. But Vincent always told her that it was alright that she wasn't normal. Maybe she should follow his advice.

I've only had it get out of hand twice in my life. When Meteor happened, and when Jenova tried to destroy my new family.

She shook her head. Now she was supposed to go back to observing other people, not herself. She gave a quick glare to her chewed up pencil before placing its lead delicately against the paper.

"We always bounce back. No matter what life seems to throw at us, we still manage to get along just fine. Miss Tifa still tells stories, but they don't seem so far-fetched anymore. And Mr. Vincent doesn't always hide in the corner. Usually you can find him reading to her, explaining that worn old book she found a while ago. I don't write then, usually, because the words are so beautiful. Poetry, I think they call it. Maybe that's what I'll write someday, to thank them."

She looked up, and smiled, for they were just sitting down on the couch, faded blue book in Tifa's hand. She was grinning at him now, dangling the book in front of his red eyes, taunting him in a silly childish way. He pretended not to notice for a moment and snatched the book from her, without blinking.

"I suppose you want me to read to you again?" his mock exasperated voice permeated through the main room. Audrey closed her notebook, and sat with her head propped on her elbows.

Now it's time to listen.

"What do you think I keep you here for?" Tifa replied, and he feigned shock. She giggled at his expression snuggled in a little closer. He gave her a dramatic sigh and opened the book.

"If you insist..." he breathed out, trying hard to keep back the smile that was threatening to take over his face, "Where should I start?" She flipped through a couple of pages and pointed.

"There," she said, and settled in a little more comfortably. He cleared his throat.

"...'After the fall, when all seemed lost'" he recited with more eloquence each time he read it, for Tifa asked often, "'The survivors stilled, bearing the heavy cost.'"

Audrey closed her eyes. The rumble of his voice calmed her, and she felt content knowing that Tifa had found someone to take care of her. Being young enough, she believed no one person should be alone.

"'They bear evil in mind and winch in the light'," he paused, to give a quick glance at Tifa's glee, "'Will they be ghosts that fade in the night?'"

"Will they?" Tifa whispered, even though she knew the answer. He shook his head, completing the pantomime of innocent theatrics.

"'But they are more than beings of blood or bone,'" he continued, peering across the book for a moment while he took a breath, "'Soul or wisp, found or unknown."

Tifa mouthed along with the last line, she'd always savored the sound.

"'There is beauty in the breakdown; flower in the spoil,'" he spoke this part with a more hushed tone, "'A chance before you, amongst the toil.'"

"Of course," she whispered, and he arched an eyebrow in response.

"'No fact is unbroken save the end of the tale,'" he recited from memory, a quirk in his mouth as he watched her, "'Though the evil is in us; good will prevail.'" She smiled at him; a flirtatious and teasing thing.

"A little idealistic, isn't it?" she asked with the tone of someone who already knows what the other is going to say. He smiled.

"Only if you forget the most important part," he replied, and she arched both eyebrows up expectantly.

Audrey opened her eyes, objectively watching to the two of them. She, perhaps foolishly, thought that was how most adults were supposed to act. Whispering secrets and the like. It was a sacred rite, an initiation of sorts. They were so... connected.

"And what would that be, hmm?" she asked, brushing aside a stray hair of his, like second nature. He smirked at her ease.

"Where the beauty lies," he replied, and stroked her cheek with his thumb.

In the breakdown. I wonder what that means? I'm not old enough yet, not for secrets like that.

As Audrey thought, she slowly tuned out the world around her. She was brought back into the present by a firm, but not aggressive, knock on the door.

"I'll get it," Tifa said, removing herself from the couch. Rinna had come out of wherever she was hiding, and was looking around with a ferret-like curiosity. If there was a guest, Rinna absolutely had to scope them out.

"Oh," Tifa said, covering her mouth right after. She was surprised, but about what, Audrey couldn't be certain. Her vantage point didn't give her a good look at the door.

"I didn't mean to interrupt anything," a male voice spoke, jarring Audrey's memory.

Where have I heard that voice...?

"It's ok," Tifa replied, soft but friendly, "It's a Saturday, mostly we just laze around." A small chuckle emanated from the man.

She looked over a Vincent, and there was a slight tension in his jaw.

"...Look, I just wanted to stop by," he said, hesitantly, but not without a certain strength in his voice, "...To let you know. That I forgive you, and I hope that you can forgive me." A small cry crept out of Tifa's throat, and Audrey moved a little so she could see.

She was hugging the man tightly, unable to speak. She stayed that way for a minute, and pulled away slowly.

"Yes," she whispered, eyes dry and mouth smiling, "I accept. I'm sorry." He looked around awkwardly for a moment, and then made a small movement with his hand behind him.

"Tifa!" Yuffie burst in, nearly knocking the other woman over with a flying hug. Tifa managed to pry her off, and gave her a beaming smile.

"Oh, you have to meet the family!" Tifa exclaimed, eyes wide, gesturing to the man to follow. When he moved closer into view, it was then that Audrey noticed that it was Cloud.

I don't that strange feeling with him anymore, must have changed. That's good.

"This is Rinna," Tifa said and the girl bowed, "And that boy coloring like mad at the table is Caleb." The boy didn't look up, uninterested in the goings on of other people.

Maybe my curse, or gift, or whatever you call that strange ability I have is gone.

"These two knuckleheads are Jeremy and Kale," she said, pointing under the table where they carried out their secret plans, "And the two girls that just ran past where Lily and Chloe."

It can't be. Probably just wishful thinking.

"The littlest ones are Gwen, Cecil, and Freddy," she recited, counting them off on her fingers, "They're taking a nap. Tarin and Tau are probably outside." She looked over at Vincent for confirmation, and he gave her a nod. The tightening of his jaw had stopped, but he still didn't look entirely relaxed.

I wonder if Vincent will let me look at some of those old books. I'd like to know if there were any others like me.

"Don't forget Audrey," he said, pointing straight at her, "She'd probably like to meet Cloud too." She gave a startled look, but Vincent smiled at her, and she relaxed. Carefully she got up from sitting, and timidly made her way across the room.

There are enough strange people out there. Maybe I'm not entirely odd. I'm not alone, that's for sure.

Cloud bent down, extending his hand. "Nice to meet you," he said, with a warm smile and calm blue eyes. She gave him as firm a shake as she could, to steady the nervousness she was feeling.

You're not so bad after all, Cloud. Maybe almost as nice as Mr. Vincent.

"C'mon Tiff! I have sooo much to talk about," Yuffie said, unable to stay quiet any longer. She dragged Tifa towards the kitchen, and Tifa gave a quick wave before disappearing inside.

I'll go to Cosmo Canyon, where all the books are. I'll learn things. I'll become an expert.

"So, Vincent," Cloud began, with a formality he was obviously uncomfortable with, "How are things for you?" Audrey slinked back off to her corner, where she could better observe the two men.

Magic. Maybe that's what it is. But I'll learn all the names, all the reasons. I have to. And I'll write it all down.

"Well," he replied, staring off towards the kitchen, "Probably better than either of us deserve." Cloud blinked, and then smiled a small smile.

"Ya, you've got that right," he said, scratching the back of his neck, "But we're still young, right?" Vincent smirked.

"Right," he replied, shifting his weight, "Had to help Yuffie get rid of some materia she'd held onto. Makes sense she'd been hoarding some, huh?" Vincent nodded.

"I wonder what the planet will do now that mako and all that are gone?" Cloud continued, getting a feel for the conversation. Vincent gave a quick glance at Audrey.

"There are many ways," he answered, looking intensely, but without malice, "Many ways that magic and power can go in this world." Cloud looked at him thoughtfully and then chuckled.

"I think I just heard a crash," he said, pointing to the kitchen, "Want to check on them?" Vincent nodded, and rose off the couch. They strode leisurely towards the kitchen; Cloud leading.

I'll figure out your secrets, when I'm older. And I'll have some of my own. I'll be grown-up and come and tell you stories.

"No boys allowed!" Yuffie's voice floated out of the kitchen, "Girls only!" Tifa giggled, and soon so was Yuffie.

"Did I miss something?" Cloud's voice emanated, with full out laughter following.

"You probably don't want to know," Vincent's voice finished, with more laughter.

What a great beginning to a story. I'll write it down so you don't forget.

And with that, she opened her notebook and began hastily scribbling things down...

"It all began with a book. A man reading words from a book, to a woman..."


Ending Themes: Jenova for Classical Piano Noir (yes, I've already used this, it's just so lovely!), Everloving Moby, Pretty The Cranberries, and Mercy Street Peter Gabriel

AN: "There's beauty is the breakdown" is the name of a VincentxSephiroth fanlisting that a writer friend (doc) of mine maintains and I thought it was such a lovely line. So I credit that line to that.

Some thanks:

avalon-chan: I enjoyed the emails and your reviews. You read so closely and fully. I hope this didn't dissappoint! I also hope that you write more. Idealistic dreams are never to be scoffed, but savored. Let that sense guide you in your storytelling and life as well.

T. Pirate: 'Lo. Even though I've prolly driven you nuts with theories and musings, you've been quite helpful. You are a testament to open-minded thinking, and I can't wait for you to get the muse again! I'll prolly see ya around lj, but I just wanted to make sure ya know I appreciate your kindness.

ikleeshumo: Nice to see ya drop by every now and then. You've seen the crazed evolution of my writing... insane, ne? I need to visit your website again, it's most lovely. Happy writing!

HypernatedRikku: First of all, your username is a hoot. Very fitting. Your manic and crazy reviews always made me appreciate the simpler parts of story telling: the reactions. I thank you for your loyalty. My only advice to you is to look outside your comfort zone. Be daring. You never know what you'll find.

thehighwaywoman: I believe you've glomped Vin to death. But he's so huggable, ne? Haha. I always looked forward to your reviews, they made me smile. Short and sweet and to the point. You appreciated my Vincent/Tifa leanings, and I am glad. You'll find that Yuffie is a character that grows on you after a long time (and is better portrayed outside of her teenage years...) So, when can I expect some from you? I think you would write something interesting.

seventhe: First of all, you're drawing me into reading more FF8 fanfiction (I love love Mirrorfeather), and if I play FF4, I'd be reading more of that too. Your reviews were lovely scattered here and there, and you always made me feel positive. And thank you for appreciating confusion.... for I find people pretty confusing. Good luck with your writing, and I'll be looking in on that supposed webcomic one of these days.

T. C. Linden: You simply rock. You wrote me poetry--that rhymed no less! I know how hard it is, so to get it as a review was a big deal to me. I look forward to more of your story (you've got a knack for intrigue, my dear). If you ever have any need to discuss fanfiction, you know my email. I'm also open for a good chat! And I've yet to try some Lucia cats... going to have to search those out.

DarkKnightSephiroth: Haven't seen many guys of (well, that read my stories, that is) and I'm glad to see that you've been entertained at least. Your theorizing was cool, I like to make people think. Thanks for an open mind and letting me know you were listening. I noticed.

Everyone Else: Sorry if I didn't mention you directly. This story had generated a few more reviews than I thought it would, and this AN is really getting looong. If you would like a thank you, I'll happily send you an email, just email me with something like "Hey, I read your crazy story" and I'll reply. It's if you don't feel like going to my userpage (which you should, as I have a TON of links to great sites!). Happy writing, and thanks sooo much! You've made a little wannabe writer happy. Even if you hated this story, cause at least you're watching!