Epilogue: Three months after the explosion

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"Many years, many theories, but at that moment, everything just seemed to click. Why I was the way I was, and why history had decided to repeat itself. All the skills attributed to 'Jenova' were manipulations of DNA that Hojo had created when he started his clone project. He injected Jenova cells into himself and received some of the alien's innate powers, such as telepathy and telekinesis. Unbeknownst to almost everyone in the entire world, Hojo's first project was not Soldier, or the creation of Sephiroth. His first project was the creation of Lucas Shelding.

"Lucas Shelding was the perfect clone. He was 'his own person,' but Hojo implanted messages into his mind so that on the event of Hojo's death, Lucas would awaken the memories of Hojo inside of himself and Hojo could continue his life. Unfortunately for Hojo, there was something awry in his plan, and Lucas did nothing for over seven years following his death.

"Red XIII was correct when he said that Mako energy (or the Lifestream itself) speeds up the growth of cells, and that has something to do with the increased strength and endurance of Sephiroth, members of Soldier, and other experiments, including myself. When Laida mentioned that Sephiroth was really a 'clone' of Hojo, it reinforced the ideas that had begun to form in my own head. Hojo and Sephiroth were oddly similar, odd even for a father and son. The truth was, they had the same personality. Sephiroth was just raised to be a killer, raised without love.

"I had realized a long time ago that Lucrecia had been damaged by some form of mind control in the past. I eventually reasoned that she only allowed Hojo's experimenting because she was under the power of his mind manipulation. It explains why she would leave Vincent for Hojo and subject herself to such torture. So essentially, Hojo raped Lucrecia. It has been stated before that Cloud was the only thing left in the world that was anything like Sephiroth or a clone; I, the last Ancient, had returned from the dead. If Hojo would manipulate any new offspring to use for his newest experiment, Cloud and I were the best pick for parents.

"My reasoning gets a little blurred at this point. I think I may agree when Red XIII states the first Reunion was summoned by Sephiroth, who, as is explained above, was essentially Hojo. The second Reunion was also summoned by Hojo, in order to cause Lucas Shelding to want to experiment with the 'legacy' Hojo left behind, that is, his DNA. I have two explanations for the existence of Hojo's spirit in the Lifestream for such a long period of time. First, the more powerful a person's spirit, whether for good or evil, the longer the spirit stays in the Lifestream. The second reason comes from Cloud. If someone still living obsesses over you and won't let you go, won't accept your death, it usually hinders a soul's progress to the great beyond. Shelding was obsessed with Hojo...

"And so, Hojo's rage and basically, his 'bad aura' account for the rage and violent sexual tendencies exhibited by members of Soldier and participants in his experiments, although I do not believe that these characteristics could not be brought out in people who did not personally have those characteristics to begin with. Basically, Hojo's weaknesses were brought out in people who already had the weaknesses, and his strengths were exaggerated to the same extent. Thus is the explanation for the demise of Sephiroth, the 'perfect' Soldier. And the explanation for the survivors of the so-called 'Jenova project.'

"And as a side note, all the ex-Soldiers who became ill as a effect of the impending Reunion have now made full recoveries. Shinra has been completely obliterated along with any pure DNA samples of Hojo, Sephiroth, or Lucas Shelding. All Mako reactors have been shut down, and essentially, all power is supplied in the form of thermal energy and provided by the Alcor company."

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"Raieyana."

She looked up. "Yeah, Reeve?"

"I...put Aeris and Ishmael to bed." He squinted at the screen. "How's the book coming?"

"I just finished the rough draft. Wanna read it?"

Reeve smiled. "I don't need to read it. I lived it. So, am I the dashing, handsome hero?"

"I don't think I mention you. This book is entitled 'The Truth about Shinra's Jenova Project.' You're not involved in that aspect of it."

"Cloud sent a letter to you." Reeve reached in his pocket and withdrew an envelope. "Here."

"Thank you," said Raieyana.

"If you need me, I'll be in my room."

"Okay." Raieyana sighed. Life still hadn't returned to any bit of normalcy. They had all basically returned to their homes. Reeve and Raieyana had actually returned to their ransacked home outside of Junon, with the children. Cloud had vanished after the Mako explosion, without a word regarding Patrick. (That's probably what the letter's about...)

For Raieyana, life was odd. Reeve asked no questions when they returned, just moved his stuff into the one of the spare bedrooms and quickly went about turning the other into a nursery. There was no more talk about marriage, love; there was very little talk at all. (I suppose he thinks that every last bit of my heart exploded with...with Reno. But I'm not living with him because Reno's dead. I decided...after the Amber Weapon, that I had to be with Reeve because he needed me and the kids needed him. And I loved him.) Raieyana tried to talk to him every night, but found herself speechless for the first time in her life. She opened up Cloud's letter.

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"Dear Raieyana,

I truly hope that you do not think I am deserting Patrick. I just realize, as you must realize, that life is hard enough for a child without bringing someone like me into the picture as his father. Not only am I not the best role model, it will make him feel odd if your two children have Reeve for a father, and if there are any future children. I still will come and visit you all, but only as a friend, or maybe even an 'uncle' to your children. Nothing more, Raieyana. Try to make sure that he doesn't find out about his conception until he is ready to handle it. And then tell him I love him.

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--Cloud Strife"

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(We have to make the right choice. We have to. I agree with you, Cloud, the truth will make him feel left out. I don't really want to lie to him, but few people know that Reeve is not Patrick's father. And I will keep it that way, Cloud, for your sake.) Raieyana folded up the letter and put it aside. She stared at the computer screen. (The truth...a warning to the future...but it could hurt my son...) She removed the back-up disk and deleted all the hard drive files. She opened her drawer and took out a locked box. She placed the disk inside next to Reno's watch, which he gave to her before she fled Midgar. And she took out a small ring box.

The plain gold band was still inside. She took it out and for the first time saw the engraving on the inside:

"You will always be my Ray of light...forever. --Reeve"

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Raieyana walked to Reeve's door. She took a deep breath, and knocked.

"Come in."

"I...umm... Cloud's letter, it was about Patrick."

"I thought that's what it was."

Raieyana smiled weakly. "Yeah. Well, he thinks that we should tell Patrick that you're his father."

"What?"

"I agree with him. He's going to have such a hard time. I don't want him to feel like an outcast...from his own family. I want him to be happy, happier than I was. I want his life to be stable."

Reeve shook his head. "Being stable doesn't have to include lying to him!"

"How could you tell a little child that the reason he exists is because an evil man made Cloud rape me? Reeve...I...it was better for me to think Tseng was my father than to have thought my father some crazed madman."

"Tell me this first, Raieyana. Why are we living like this? You don't love me, you're not happy. Why don't you just go back to Undor-Hai?"

"If you want me to leave, Reeve, you should just say so," said Raieyana softly.

"You know what I want."

"And I've been trying as hard as I can to give it to you, but you won't take it."

"I'm not going to be your leftovers."

"Is that what you think? That the only reason I'm here right now is because Reno's dead?"

"Raieyana, what the hell am I supposed to think?"

"You know what," she said, "the only thing you have ever thought about anything is what you wanted to think. Believe whatever the hell you want to believe, because nothing I say is going to change your mind."

"What can I think? You cried when he died."

"I cried when Ish died, too, but you had no qualms about fucking me that very night."

Reeve stood up and faced her. "What are you trying to say?"

"That I won't live like this if you can't believe that I love you."

"You loved him."

"Yes, I did."

He shook his head and sat back down on his bed. "I knew it."

"Is there something wrong with loving someone?"

"You could have told me!"

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"Yes, well," she said, "he knew I loved you and he still handled things very well."

"He had nothing to lose."

"At one point he lost everything. I'm sorry that you're too afraid you'll get hurt." She grabbed the ring box out of her pocket. "Here. I thought I could wear it someday. I guess I was wrong. Maybe you can pawn it and get your money back. Don't worry, I'll leave and get out of your life. Have fun playing with your money." She turned to leave.

"Ray?"

"What?"

"You...you kept this all this time?"

"Did you think I would throw it away?" She headed for the door. "I wonder how badly you think I treated you. I don't understand how you could have such a low opinion of me."

"Ray, don't go." He fingered the box nervously. "I...ah..." he started. He sighed heavily. "I can't answer your questions. Because I don't know why I always have to apologize. Because I don't know why I always treat you like shit. I love you and I would do anything you asked."

"Anything?" A coy smile tugged at her lips.

Reeve looked at her warily.

She walked over and lightly sat down in his lap. She grabbed the ring box. "I want a small ceremony."

"I haven't even asked you!"

"I never gave you an answer the first time. The hesitation had nothing to do with Reno. Honestly, I probably would have said 'no' anyway. You pick the most inopportune time to propose, right before I'm going into seclusion for a few months... I kind of would like to have a honeymoon and stuff."

"Honeymoon, eh? I think that could be arranged, right now."

She placed her hand on his shoulder. His hand closed over hers, and their lips met. "Love is a wonderful thing," she whispered, "you can give away as much as you want, and it never runs out. In a pinch, you can always make more."

Reeve pulled Raieyana close and held her. "I don't care if we just stay like this. We have all the time in the world."

She gave him an amused look. "You lie. For crying out loud, Reeve, you're acting like I've never had sex before. It's very odd, considering the first time you weren't cautiously holding back."

"Well, then," he said mechanically, "remove your garments and prepare for consummation."

She slapped him playfully and kissed him.

Reeve looked up into her eyes. (I see it. Love. Not the same as it used to be, because it will never be the same as it used to be. She didn't live in a vacuum, the Planet hit her again with its hardest blows. And she pulled through. But not without battle scars.) His finger traced the small scar left on her cheek from her fight with the Amber Weapon.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing. I'm just glad that everything's over. And...this'll end better than the last story. This'll be the true last chapter. I'll never leave your side."

Raieyana nestled her cheek on his chest. "Yeah, like I've never heard that line before..."

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THE END