Put Your Lights On
22 May 2014
This is a FFVII fic by klepto_maniac0. I own no concepts and no characters except the ones you've never heard of, which means they're ones I've made. I freely admit I will take liberties with the FFVII canon because this is an alternate universe fic (in case you haven't figured that out already.) That's why some details are different, some events are ignored, and some people don't exist or act in a different capacity. Ain't fanfic fun?
There's a darkness living deep in my soul
It's still got a purpose to serve
So let your light shine deep into my home
God, don't let me lose my nerve
Don't let me lose my nerve
Four weeks without Sephiroth and Toriko felt that things were finally starting to feel a bit better. It was nice to know that there were people in her life who cared about her, even if she wasn't entirely honest with them. Spending time with Meryl at school and staying with Rufus was nice. She went over to the Tuesti house once for "board game night", which was delightfully ordinary. It was turning into the late end of spring now, which in Toriko's opinion was the best time of year. By the time Sephiroth returned, there would be flowers for sale in Midgar, imported from Kalm and beyond (a privilege of being rich was that Toriko could order real flowers and lots of them. Most Midgarians made do with convincing, perfumed fakes). Sephiroth never admitted it aloud, but he loved greenery and flowers. Every spring since they'd started living together, Toriko would come back from school and find gorgeous blooms of every shape, size, and color in different parts of the apartment. The funniest thing was that Sephiroth simply pretended they weren't there even though Toriko knew she wasn't the one cleaning up the dropped petals, replacing the water, and making sure they got enough sunlight.
School proceeded as normal. There were reports to give, exams to take, and people to turn down, though the invitation from the Debate Team seemed interesting. Toriko still went to the Garrison and sparred, and though she missed Zack, Captain Dulles and Papo (small, very agile) fought with her too, while Zenri the medic stood alongside and patched up the inevitable injuries. It was all very nice, considering Sephiroth was gone. And Toriko could admit to herself that it was nice to be able to eat and cook whatever she wanted, and say whatever she wanted without worrying about upsetting her mercurial dad. She didn't want him to stay away, but having some time apart was...restful.
Nevertheless, the silent record in her head noted that it had been twenty-three days since she'd last seen her father when Tseng and Rude appeared in her classroom.
It was History. As the only person of Wutaiese lineage in the school, Toriko always found herself in the position of having to defend and explain all things Wutai, though the worst of the prejudicial comments were heavily tempered by her patrilineage. She was in the middle of pointing out a logical fallacy ("Are you truly suggesting that adopting war orphans in any way makes up for committing war crimes against their parents?") when Tseng and Rude came in. One Turk wasn't unusual, not to Toriko. But two...
The dread started curling up like a leech through the intestines, but they didn't seem to be in a hurry. Toriko finished her debate, smiling as her opponent sputtered in the ashes of her faulty logic. Tseng and Rude seemed to tense up, but neither of them faltered.
"Miss Shin-Ra," said Tseng. "The President wants to see you."
Toriko looked at him searchingly. She'd gotten better at reading non-Father minds, but it wasn't something she did very often. Right now all she could pick up from Tseng was that he was uneasy and he didn't like being the harbinger of unpleasant happenings in her life again. Rude was along for emotional support.
Now worried, Toriko nevertheless put a pleasant smile on her face and packed up her things. Her classmates tittered in envy as she left early, flanked by two tall and handsome men. Once they were in the car, however, Toriko leaned up to put her head between the front seats.
"What's wrong?" She asked sharply.
Tseng sighed heavily, his hand halfway to the ignition. He looked at Rude, who looked at Toriko and then turned away.
"There's been an accident," Tseng said to Toriko. Lowering his head, he said, "I'm sorry, Miss Shin-Ra. Your father is dead."
"Like hell he is," thought Toriko. The only reason she could think of for such an obvious lie was that Hojo had made his move. He'd finally gotten the courage to trank and yank Sephiroth back to the lab permanently, though perhaps only President Shin-Ra would know that for sure. If anyone would. If that was the case, where would Sephiroth be? He wasn't in Midgar, otherwise she would have sensed him already. Unless he was drugged. Like in Wutai, when there'd been nothing but silence. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Toriko wondered if the storage elevator up to Hojo's floor was still working; she'd used that way to escape once, she could use it to break back in.
Tseng and Rude were looking at her like she was going to rip their heads off or start screaming. Toriko opted for a middle ground.
"What?" She exclaimed, concentrating the exact right amount of shock and tearful disbelief in her voice. Let them think she was ever so briefly in denial. "No... No. That's impossible."
"I assure you, it is," said Tseng. "There was an accident in a Reactor. He... Got the worst of it."
"What do you mean, he got the worst of it?"
"We're taking you to the Building," said Tseng, turning the car on. "The news hasn't broken yet and you need to decide what to do with the President."
"And Rufus," said Rude. "Technically, you're all family."
Toriko nearly smirked imagining the look on Sephiroth's face if he'd heard Rude calling Rufus her family. It was a serious effort to concentrate on her acting.
"The only family I need is my father!" She said passionately. "What happened? Tell me!"
"It's classified," said Tseng. "I wish I could."
"I'm classified!" She said, making the Turks flinch. "Tell me!"
"I'll be surprised if that works," Toriko thought. Meanwhile she scanned the two men, noting their standard issue weaponry and more importantly, the materia and non-regulation equipment they hid under their suits. With enough lead time, she could mug them both, but did they have anything she could use? Sephiroth would need the use of a high-level Cure materia at the very least and neither of them seemed so equipped.
"I need to get back to my house," she realized. "I need to get to Father's supplies."
Not just the materia, either. His specialized weapon rack and drug cabinet were also very valuable in what she was about to plan. If Sephiroth was armed and able to recover, the escape would be easier than breaking in.
She ran though the possibilities even as she begged and pleaded Rude and Tseng for any information. They were so uncomfortable that Toriko nearly laughed, especially when she started crying silently in the backseat, drawing her knees to her chest and shading her face with her hair. Maybe it was a bit much. She swallowed the sob and forced her breathing into a shaky fake calmness.
"I wonder if I can get the Seventh to help me, but that's asking a lot of them... They have families that need them, families supported by the Company. I wonder if I could ask Mother to borrow Sensei, she would be great... But on the other hand, Mother would be more than happy to let Father rot."
Toriko composed herself very carefully when they got to the Building. Outwardly she was calm, but she made her muscles taut with a bit of crafted fragility. She didn't do anything as obvious as stumble or walk in the wrong direction, but she could tell that her performance was affecting Tseng and Rude. They stood solicitously close but far enough for privacy. Even though they took the executive elevator from the garage to the President's floor, they checked to make sure no one was around to see her less than perfect. Toriko pretended to ignore them. It was essential that they think she was incapable of any action.
"The problem is that they've seen me fight before... So how do I convince them I'm not a threat?"
Toriko was honestly more worried about the Turks than any of Hojo's team. Not just because they were better-trained in every way, but because she had also come to care about them. Even Tseng the liar. She didn't want to have to hurt any of them and knew that none of them would want to hurt her either. Imagining the look in Reno's eyes if he had to beat her and take her to the lab made Toriko wince, though she didn't doubt for a second that he'd do it.
The best thing to do would be to put up token resistance. Something short-sighted but convincing. And lose on purpose. Toriko was far better than she'd been two years ago, but she doubted the Turks knew that. Even if they were spying on her sparring matches with the Seventh, they had no idea that she was holding back. Sephiroth won fights with brute strength and speed; Toriko prized technique.
Nevertheless, if she wanted to, Toriko was sure she could kick a steel door off its hinges. A skill she might be using sooner rather than later.
"Father," she broadcasted. "Father, answer me."
Nothing at all. Not surprising, but Toriko wondered how best to get into Hojo's laboratory. Well, technically getting into there wasn't a problem... But getting in and retaining her autonomy was another. She wouldn't do Sephiroth any good if she got captured too.
"I could go in for my exam... Yes, tell Hojo that I've been having menstrual cramps. I know he's interested in my eggs. Probably even more so now that Father's under his thumb. I'll go in and tell him I need an exam. Then when he's not looking, I'll run instead. It's been years since I've done that. He won't expect it at all. And I'm sure I can evade a capture team long enough to find Father.
"If nothing else, I can let some of the other specimens out too. That will definitely buy me time."
She nearly laughed at the parallelism. If it were a few months later, it would be four years to the day that Sephiroth had orchestrated her escape from the lab in a very similar fashion.
All things considered, Toriko was in a much better mood than she appeared to be when she reached the President's floor. All the Executives were already gathered, including Rufus. They all turned to look at her as she came in.
"What sort of face to put on here..." she pondered. "Nothing that confuses the Turks too much; they'll suspect my act in the car if I act too differently here. I suppose I should stay the same. Maybe even a bit more trusting. They probably all think I'm young enough to forget the past, especially considering all the privileges I have now."
There were only a few chairs before the President's desk, but both Palmer and Reeve got up to offer her theirs. There was a bushy-bearded man there too, familiar despite having put on weight. So they'd picked a successor already for her father already, had they?
"We're so sorry, Toriko," said Scarlet, resting her hand on Toriko's shoulder. Toriko met her gaze with troubled eyes and coolly scanned her intent. Scarlet was actually sorry for her, but the majority of her thought processes were figuring out how to control Heidegger. In any case, Toriko wasn't much worried about Scarlet.
"If you need anything, please let us know," said Reeve, grasping her hands. Toriko wasn't worried about Reeve either and while she didn't think he knew about her father being captured, she didn't put it past him to keep his mouth shut if he did know. Unfortunately, she couldn't count on him as an ally.
Palmer just looked sad. He didn't feel anything other than a distant pity, having very little to do with her or Sephiroth. Interestingly, Heidegger put on a sad face too, but spinning behind his concerned eyes were a whole bunch of thoughts about how to use her to further his public image. He seemed to think it would make sense somehow, but he had failed to factor in two things.
Rufus Shin-Ra, who came up to her and put his arm silently around his shoulders.
And President Shin-Ra, who chewed contemplatively on a cigar and looked at her with unreadable eyes.
Toriko looked around and nearly jumped out of her skin. Hojo was there, lurking by the windows. All she saw of him was his back and his mind was the usual welter of incomprehensble thoughts. For the first time Toriko felt worried.
"Calm down. Hojo isn't young. He has subordinates. Some of whom he might even trust to keep an eye over an unconscious Father. Father even said that he consulted with someone else, which means Hojo trusts them. I'll have to find out who that is."
"First, let me say that we're all very sorry for your loss," said President Shin-Ra through his cigar. He wasn't precisely glaring down at her, but his eyes were less than enthused. Same with his voice as he said, "I knew your father a long time. He'll be missed."
Toriko slouched just a little, letting her eyes drop to the floor. Rufus's hand tightened imperceptibly on her shoulder.
"The official story is that AVALANCHE killed him," said the President. "A dirty rotten ambush. The entire squad died too, we'll release names in the biography."
"Biography?" Toriko asked, genuinely confused.
"You don't seem to understand how important Sephiroth is to these people," said the President, jerking his head sharply toward the city and beyond. "He's a hero. He'll be buried accordingly. Hell, maybe even a statue."
"Father would hate that," said Toriko. He really would. For as often as he had his picture taken, he always hated the sight of his own face in any sort of media. A statue would give him fits.
"Something abstract, then," said the President. "Representing loyalty. And courage."
He pointed at her with his cigar, saying, "Are you going to be in any shape to film this week?"
"It's the first day," Rufus said to his father. She saw the other Executives' eyebrows raise; apparently they didn't expect sensivity of him. President Shin-Ra even cocked a brow. Rufus gripped her shoulder tighter and said, "Give her at least twenty-four hours."
"Fine," said President Shin-Ra. "But she's not to break this. We have to control how this plays out."
"I just want to sit down," said Toriko softly.
Rufus steered her over to an empty chair, his eyes still locked on his father's. Toriko put her head in her hands.
"What really happened?" She asked, putting a certain amount of hopelessness in her voice. "Tseng and Rude said it was an accident."
"It was," said President Shin-Ra grimly. "Reactor containment failure. There's not even a body."
Toriko could feel the heat from Rufus's glare, but she had more important things to think about.
"No body recovered, hmm? How very UNlikely. Hojo would want any scrap of Father he could get his hand on, especially if Father was badly off. This only confirms what I know. There was an accident. Father was hurt. He's in recovery and most likely drugged, which is why I'm having so much trouble finding him."
"Why are we saying that AVALANCHE did it?" She asked aloud.
Toriko's use of 'we' was very deliberate. By apparently allying herself with their interests, President Shin-Ra and the other Executives would not suspect her if she moved against them in a big way. Rufus and Reeve would be dismayed, but that was acceptable collateral damage.
"They've been lying low," said President Shin-Ra with a scowl. "People are starting to talk about how maybe they weren't so bad after all. Asking questions about our operations. Idiots. This will make them remember who the enemy really is."
"Hunting down AVALANCHE was one of your father's top priorities," said Heidegger. "He would want this."
"I think he'd want to be alive," said Reeve, his voice flat.
They kept talking over her and around her, even Rufus. Toriko kept an ear out but otherwise kept scanning. Father wasn't answering, so she picked the brains of other people in the building. Had anyone seen anything today? She gave them mental flashes of what her father looked like, but nothing recent lit up in any of their minds. She pushed their memories for unusual activity on Hojo's floor, but nothing out of the ordinary appeared. Hojo had chosen his accomplices very well.
A nasty thought occurred. What if Hojo had chosen someone to help him and that person was out of her range? That would mean that Father wasn't in Midgar.
"That's stupid. He doesn't know about our abilities, so he has no reason to keep Father anywhere but right here."
Sephiroth had to be in the Building someplace. Nothing else made sense.
Eventually the President told her what he'd summoned her for; she was not to speak to the press, she was not to appear in public unescorted, and she was not to go to school or the Garrison until after the public funeral. The producers would meet with her tomorrow to discuss her role in the biography. She was to have proper funeral attire to attend the ceremony.
"What a ridiculous production," Toriko grumbled to herself. "When Father actually dies decades from now, I'll be sure to tell no one and cremate him quietly, as is proper."
Rufus had Tseng and Rude take her back to his apartment. Toriko rested her head against the window, ostensibly stunned senseless, and scanned their heads again. Touchingly, they were both very concerned about her but nothing in her demeanor made them think she was suspicious. Toriko cheered even as she understood that this was just the first day and that she'd have to carry this deception out for weeks. Maybe even months, depending on how hurt Sephiroth was. Consciously she rubbed the Touph Ring, which she still wore after all these years. In all that time, she still thought of it as her father's.
"Hold on, Father," thought Toriko, sending her mind as wide and far and deep as she could. She chanted it, spinning the Touph Ring like she was counting her prayers. "I swear, I will find you...
"No matter how long it takes."
a/n: And that, ladies and gents, is one of the things I've been looking forward to writing this entire story. This is the end.
I was really surprised. I thought I'd be writing this for longer, but PYLO is not PYLO without Toriko AND Sephiroth. And since he's gone, well...
Thank you so much everyone who has read all the way through, especially the people who've been here since the beginning...eight years ago. Holy hell. Your support is deeply appreciated and utterly amazing.
However, Toriko's story is not yet over. I will be starting a new fic in the same universe titled "My Vietnam" and by the time you read this, the Prologue and Chapter One will already be live. I'm splitting them up because it's a different story and a different time. I also want to try something...experimental. Ideally, one should be able to read and make sense of "My Vietnam" without having read PYLO, though knowing PYLO will help the reader connect various clues and make them laugh with certain in-jokes (coughgreatnakedsephirothcough).
So far we've been running close-ish to game canon. Next is where things get...interesting.
Once again, thank you to everyone to who has read this fic and gotten this far. I hope you'll hang around for the next leg of the journey.
("Put Your Lights On", by Santana ft. Everclear)