Tears of a Clown
He sat in his office crunching numbers and pushing paper as he always did for the past five years. Working amidst the hard-edged corporate world and acid-smell of coffee poured into styrofoam was the life that Reeve has subjected himself to. It was work and it was passion.
Even his spare time was filled with more work and more smells of acidic odors tempting to burn holes into his stomach from ulcers due to stress. But then again, he ate stress for breakfast so it was a wonder that he hadn't had a complete nervous breakdown yet.
It was probably because he was passionate about work and passionate about his hobbies, which he happened to call work. Building: that was what his hands and mind could do. He designed and built most of the major structures in the city, his city. Midgar was his wife, child and soul. Reeve didn't think that anything could replace his love and devotion. He swore to do everything to keep it beautiful and anything to protect it.
Then came the birth of his second child and avatar, Cait Sith. Cait Sith represented every creative innovations he had as a child. The toy was everything Reeve sacrificed to get to where he was. It was a machine, it was an extension of what he would never be, but the toy could never breathe fresh air or be hurt by monsters, so Reeve was safe in his coffee-drenched office life style. His routine was protected . . . or so he thought.
Simplicity is easy to preserve as long as you haven't had the taste of complexity. Reeve didn't even know that things were going to change for him, but they did as soon as he agreed to infiltrate AVALANCHE as Cait Sith. The first taste was exhilarating, almost like adding flavored cream into your coffee. He did his job and reported what he discovered. He was not just Reeve the Head of Urban Development: builder of Midgar; now he was Reeve the ShinRa spy: sleuth extraordinaire.
But what was there to build as a spy? Reeve knew that the only way AVALANCHE would allow him to travel with him was either through blind ignorance or trust. So Reeve the spy began to build trust between himself and the AVALANCHE members. The practically minded Reeve thought that anything that was built could be easily destroyed when the time was necessarily without any consequences. But then he had never gotten over the destruction of Sector 7 and he didn't even build it. The minds are much more susceptible to pain when they don't even know they're hurting.
Quickly taking a sip of the soothing, hot coffee, Reeve switched on his computer screen and watched the scene unfold as he put on the mask of Cait Sith. There he watched through mechanical eyes as Aeris dragged Cloud out of his room in the Ghost Hotel and gleefully whisked him away to the fun and excitement that awaited them in Gold Saucer. Gold Saucer, where they first met as allies and where Reeve would commit his first act of treachery as their enemy.
Moving the over-stuffed moggle with the controls on his computer, getting inside Cloud's room was child's play. It took a little more effort to finally find where Cloud had put the keystone. The large lump underneath the pillow was probably a dead giveaway, but one must always be careful when searching through the room of a supposed ex-SOLIDER First-Class.
Reeve had finally found his prize and now he had to report to Tseng so they could meet at the rendezvous point. Like a child reaching for candy, Reeve dialed the numbers on his PHS to contact the Turk and waited excitedly as the phone rang. Their conversation was brief and to the point. Exactly the way Reeve wanted and not the way Cait Sith would have done it because Cait Sith was a machine; Cait Sith wasn't real and concrete.
He put the phone away next to the steaming cup of coffee, making sure to grab a sip before returning to his computer screen. It was all like a game as he maneuvered Cait Sith around the Gold Saucer. Reeve had the keystone and now all he needed to do was get it to Tseng before anyone from AVALANCHE suspected. It was all too easy.
At least, easy for a machine that is detached from all human emotions, but what Reeve forgot is that he isn't a machine and though he wasn't there to see the shock on Cloud and Aeris's faces, he could feel the look of betrayal through the eyes of Cait Sith and felt it jab his heart. If it was only Cloud, he probably would have been able to handle it, but it wasn't. The Cetra's soulful green eyes pleaded, begged and searched for some explanation, but she wouldn't get it from Cait Sith because Cait Sith wasn't Reeve and Reeve wasn't the one who stole the keystone, it was Cait Sith.
So the man reasoned and deduced that though he controlled the robot, he wasn't accountable for the actions the robot made and logically, everything was sound. But emotionally, things were unstable as the coffee left a bitter aftertaste and the green eyes of the Cetra still flashed through his mind as they searched for the human soul underneath the layers of paper, numbers and stress.
Reeve played the fool and ignored the fact that he regretted giving the members of AVALANCHE a reason to distrust him, but they were the enemy, so it was only natural. When they all stared at him with eyes of distrust and regret, he didn't let their glares get to him because those emotions were only directed at Cait Sith. But deep burgundy eyes reflected emotions of sadness that he wasn't expecting as the man looked away from the screen for an instant as if he was trying to avert his eyes from those dispirited ruby eyes.
Daring to look again, the sad burgundy eyes of the martial artist weren't directed at him and a wave of relief unexpectedly washed over him. He noted briefly that Tifa had been watching Cloud and Aeris as they discussed what to do next while they hand their hands interlaced with one another. A sight only the robotic eyes of Cait Sith had detected and the anguished eyes of Tifa Lockheart.
But those small details were long forgotten as Reeve spoke to AVALANCHE and convinced them to keep him in his party. He knew he would have to regain their trust if ShinRa needed his services once more as a spy. They ambivalently agreed and Reeve returned to his dim workspace and coffee filled evenings behind the desk working two full time jobs at the same time. Stress became leftovers for dinner.
Then slowly with time as the bags under his eyes grew darker and the atmosphere through Cait Sith's eyes grew brighter. Reeve found himself always watching the smile of the green-eyed Cetra that easily captured everyone's hearts, especially Cloud Strife. Reeve loved to see the emerald sparkles of Aeris's genuine smile. Those sparkles made his heart dance. For an instant, he wished that he could become Cait Sith for a day and see those joyful green eyes for himself and for an instant he noticed the sad burgundy eyes watching from a distance as they were quickly replaced by a smile that was anything but black and white.
Reeve would see that invisible smile time and time again as he told Cloud and Aeris their fortune in the Temple of the Ancients. He would see her eyes crying for release as her smile reflected feelings of joy and laughter. But bitter reality was able to grant her a day where a smile wasn't needed as everyone mourned the loss of the green-eyed Cetra who captured everyone's hearts and died for the sake of the planet.
The hot cup of coffee contrasted greatly with the cool water where Cloud lay Aeris to rest. The soft sniffles of tears could be heard through the microphone and the screen blurred slightly as if Cait Sith had somehow developed tear ducts. But it wasn't Cait Sith who was crying, it was Reeve who was Cait Sith. But logic had never been able to deduce human emotions and whether it be Reeve the man or Cait Sith the machine, sadness could never be more painful for either.
Reeve realized that this all wasn't a game anymore. He couldn't start over or start another game. This was reality. The AVALANCHE members were real and his emotions weren't something that he could ignore. But he was lucky that no one could see how he really felt because a machine doesn't convey emotions. But then again, how unfortunate it was that no one could really see how he felt, because even though Cait Sith never cried and never felt anything, Reeve did.
So to quell his feelings of remorse and sadness, Reeve attempted to drown himself in coffee and work. Stress became an all you can eat buffet and nothing was going to stop him from overworking himself except death. But then death had already come to the kind-hearted, green-eyed woman who should have lived. Death was already knocking on his doorstep as ShinRa's suspicions of him grew despite all his hard work and dedication and despite all the stress and coffee he swallowed. Nothing was enough when human emotions came into play since loyalty was never logical.
Reality blurred for Reeve as he forgot that Cait Sith was his invention, his second child. The father began to merge with the son as he watched as his AVALANCHE friends slowly accept him again. He could see the change in their eyes. Change that didn't reach the burgundy-eyed woman who still smiled with laughter as her eyes cried deep inside. They were crying now for their leader who lost more than just a friend when Aeris died and gained even more conviction to kill Sephiroth and stop Meteor. Reasons that Reeve deduced had more to do with emotions than logic.
Then it was time for the second betrayal, but this time from the sanctity that gave him his first child. ShinRa wanted to take Midgar away from him and so they locked him away in a cell deep within the city that he loved so dearly. Stress became stale bread and water that didn't have the same appeal anymore. Reeve began to wish he could become Cait Sith and walk freely with his AVALANCHE friends as they fought for the planet. But Cait Sith was a machine and he was a man, though Cait Sith lived more like a man and he like a machine.
Luckily, the man who blurred the boundaries between man and machine had created a subset of his second child. The handheld computer was sufficient enough to control the extension of himself as he continued to live as Cait Sith while Reeve sat in the Midgar prison; flesh locked beneath the confines of steel and concrete.
Reeve the prisoner resigned to working the only job he had left, though he forfeited the title of a spy long ago and became a double agent. Reeve was now a terrorist. He was now Cait Sith. He was everything he fought against and realized he was everything he should have fought against. Reeve became a person and weaned himself off of the coffee and long hard nights. He was now going to find some dignity left in his once mechanical lifestyle and finally have relief and satisfaction rather than stress. Reeve was finding himself.
Just as Reeve found himself, AVALANCHE found the answers to finally find a way to defeat Sephiroth and what may be the last day for them on this planet, they decided to rejoice one last day of life. Reeve watched through the eyes of Cait Sith as one by one each AVALANCHE member made their way to find that special reason for fighting or to kiss their loved ones before laying their life on the line.
Reeve only had to look out his prison cell and see what he needed to do. It was fortunate that Reeve the man was respected enough to be allowed to lead the people to safety underground after all of Midgar's chosen leaders had fallen to their own misfortune. He had a purpose and he found a life. Reeve was now acting as himself and not through his avatar Cait Sith. Reeve was not a robot and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, he cried tears of joy.
But he couldn't lose Cait Sith yet. Reeve had a chance to be more than just a man; he had a chance to become a hero. And his fatherly instinct still drove him to protect his first love: his wife, his child and his soul. Meteor threatened Midgar and Sephiroth was the key to stop it.
He had his reason for fighting as well as everyone else. Cloud wanted his revenge for Aeris; Barret wanted the safety of the planet; Nanaki had his tribe and honor to preserve; Cid had his dream and Shera; Yuffie had Wutai and fame ahead of her; Vincent had an unspoken promise to Lucrecia; and Tifa had Cloud. At least on the surface it seemed logical that Tifa had Cloud. But Reeve had learned the hard way that logic and emotions never shared the same bed with each other.
And so the fight ensued for the sake of the planet as the future of mankind was held in the balance. Reeve as Cait Sith decided to take responsibilities for his action and fought alongside AVALANCHE to the best of his ability, even though he couldn't be hurt by any of the monsters or breathe the same air his friends could. He felt like he was there alongside them all and they accepted him as they faced the incarnation of evil.
Fear is one word that could describe the feelings he felt as he watched Sephiroth through the mechanical eyes of Cait Sith. Evil didn't need to be seen head-on in order to emit its full effects. He could feel his knees quiver as Sephiroth's towering form came into view. Only two members of AVALANCHE seemed to quell their fears as the ocean-blue eyes of Cloud and the blood-red eyes of Vincent only echoed their resound to destroy the man who threatened their existence. They embodied bravery.
The fight against Sephiroth was like the final dance for all of mankind. It was beautiful and terrifying. It had all the elements that signaled failure, but in the end all those elements were beaten by victory. Nothing smelled sweeter as the feeling of joy and excitement surged through the AVALANCHE members. Even Reeve felt the sensation of victory hundreds of miles away underground as he watched the scene through his hand-held computer.
Even with the scare of Tifa and Cloud nearly falling into the depths of the Northern Crater, the taste of victory was going to linger on their lips for years to come. No one seemed to have any regrets as Cait Sith's eyes lingered on each AVALANCE member; no one at least except for the martial artist whose eyes were always sad. Her ruby-colored eyes were mixed with elation and the deepest depths of despair: two emotions that were illogical bedmates.
Then the man who controlled Cait Sith wished for an instant that he was there on the Highwind to witness first hand how Meteor was destroyed, saving his beloved city. The man also wished that he was there to see first hand the sad eyes that always betrayed the smile of the woman named Tifa Lockheart. He wondered if her eyes were ever happy or if it was merely a trick of the camera that her red eyes were always dark voids.
As curiosity stirred in his caffeine-awakened mind, a memorial was planned to honor all the fallen who couldn't see the planet's victory. It would be the first time he could meet his AVALANCHE friends as Reeve, and the first time in a while they could all fully mourn the death of Aeris Gainsborough. So to an open field of flowers they all gathered in a group as eulogy after eulogy echoed across the grassy plains.
He saw them all through his own eyes as they all acknowledged the man standing next to his invention and avatar. Cait Sith served as his contribution to the group and they all acknowledged Reeve as if he were Cait Sith, and to them Reeve was Cait Sith and Cait Sith was Reeve because no distinction was necessary. And for the first time in a long time, the saviors of the planet shed their tears of grief for the fallen flower girl and for the first ever, the group saw the unshed tears of Cait Sith the man.
Slowly but surely and one by one, each member left the memorial. Reeve was able to see in person each and every member of AVALANCHE whom he only saw through mechanical eyes. He was surprised that there was no difference and Reeve wondered if for a moment, it was actually him fighting alongside AVALANCHE the entire time or Cait Sith. As he pondered and mused, the last member of AVALANCHE finally approached, and Reeve was able to be granted his last wish:
"You must be Reeve."
"And you're Tifa."
"I'm glad I finally got to meet the man behind the machine."
"I'm glad I could finally meet you as well. I feel embarrassed that the first time you see me in person is with tears in my eyes."
"No, you shouldn't feel that way. The tears make you more human," Tifa said softly.
And there it was. That smile that he had only seen through the mechanical eyes of Cait Sith and the smile that only reflected Tifa Lockheart. Now he was there, only a few feet away from her smile and the woman that hid her pain so well that she didn't need an avatar to hide it. She was the living embodiment of a machine and Reeve found that frightfully beautiful.
"Your eyes have always looked so sad to me, even when you smile," Reeve found himself saying out loud.
Reeve watched as Tifa looked at him slightly shocked at what he confessed. He suddenly wished he was Cait Sith now instead of Reeve, but Cait Sith stood silently beside him waiting for his command.
"I'm sorry, that was very rude of me. I didn't mean—"
"No, it's alright," Tifa raised her hand to stop him. "I just have a lot of pain inside, that's all."
Reeve gazed at the younger woman with curiosity. The same curiosity that perked his interest in seeing the woman's mournfully beautiful smile.
"It's a long story, one that I'm not sure is really very exciting . . . just sad really."
"I don't mind listening if you let me. I mean, what I meant to say is that I'm a good listener and like stories," Reeve stumbled.
Now it was Tifa's turn to watch Reeve curiously as she gazed at him with eyes full of wonder rather than sadness. Reeve grew nervous and suddenly the sensation of almost missing a deadline or forgetting where the finished report was placed fluttered through his stomach like a fierce whirlwind. He was at a loss at what to say to the ruby-red eyes that gazed at him in wonderment as if he had asked her an important question, but had he asked her a question yet? He realized he hadn't, and he should:
"Would you like to go get a cup of coffee with me?"
Tifa's gaze of wonderment was replaced with sincerity as she brightened her eyes for the first time Reeve has ever witnessed and smiled a genuine smile that emitted a beauty that was tranquil and blessed.
"I'd like that."
Reeve only smiled at the response as he was fixated at the now soulful eyes of the woman in front of him. She wasn't mechanical, she was human. The realization was so overwhelming, that tears of joy threatened to fall from his eyes. So Reeve and Tifa both walked off away from the past and walked towards the nearest coffee shop to ponder their beautiful existence.
A/N: I wrote this in two days as I was finishing up the last part of Chapter 17 to "Who's John ShinRa?" I have no idea what possessed me to write that. It's really different from anything else I've ever written in terms of the style, but I hope you like it nonetheless. This is pretty much a one-shot so don't expect any more chapters for this story.