14. The beginning of the end.
AN: This chapter is all talk, really. And it is also the last chapter of Lost and Found. I hope you will still enjoy it and forgive my late update. Again!
Thanks to everyone who supported me through these chapters with their wonderfully kind words! I could not have done this without you!
The final lines in this chapter are dedicated to all of you who took the time to let me know that you enjoy my fic, as I loved writing it!
Tifa stared with disbelief at the glowing figures. "Are they… dead?" Numbly walking over to stand in front of Rufus, she reached out to touch him.
It was like sliding her hand through warm water when it broke the glowing barrier, but the human inside was real enough.
"Not all of them." The Sage gazed at Rufus as well. "Your husband is alive."
Frowning confused, Tifa withdrew her hand and turned to face the Sage. "You said we were in the Lifestream. How is that possible? Who are you?"
Chuckling, the Sage waved his cane in her direction. "You always were the sharp one." He hovered over to Yuffie. "It's a complicated tale, Lockhart."
Tifa gave an antsy shrug. "Looks like I'm not going anywhere."
The Sage chuckled again. "A sharp mind as well as a sharp tongue." He glanced up at Hawk by Yuffie's side. "I think everyone had better be awake for this tale."
Staring from one to the other of the glowing figures, Tifa wrung her hands anxiously. "You can do that? I mean, you can make everything alright again?"
"Things that have happened cannot be undone." The Sage sounded strangely solemn. He waved his cane once and the air was soon filled with groggy and confused mutterings.
Whimpering, Tifa automatically threw her arms around Rufus's neck and hugged him with all her might. She firmly ignored his gasps for air until she saw the puzzled Cloud. The brat prince had barely time to complain about how she'd probably broken his neck before Cloud was in the same grip.
"I know you're all very confused right now, but if you listen to me a moment; I hope I might be able to answer some of your questions." The Sage hovered up in to the air and gazed at each person in turn.
Sephiroth automatically clutched Aeris close in a protective gesture. "YOU!"
Hojo merely glanced around with a tired sigh. Was destiny ever going to leave him alone?
"Where are we?" Aeris chimed in, strangely grateful for the firm arm around her.
"This place has many names…" The Sage pushed his hat a little further back on his head. "The Lifestream. Limbo. Purgatory. Nowhere. Death."
Everyone stopped talking now and was staring at the small man.
Finally Reno cleared his throat and scratched his neck awkwardly. "So… we're dead?"
"No." The Sage looked over at Cid standing next to the red head. "But some of you are."
"Why are we here?" Cloud demanded, breaking free from Tifa and stepping forward.
"Give the man a chance," Cid replied silently but without breaking eye-contact with the Sage. "He said he would explain. Let him."
Nodding gratefully, the Sage then gathered his courage. "It all started long ago. Long, long ago. When the Cetra was new to this world and humanity was still in possession of the four elemental materia." A flicker of long forgotten memories. "When Jenova began infecting humans, the Cetra decided to use the elemental materia to battle the Crisis and to use the materia; they needed to use the humans."
"The Planet objected. Its children were not pawns in the battle between Cetra and Jenova." A sad smile was hidden behind the huge beard. "However, the objection was ignored and the result was devastating." The Sage fell silent for a few seconds, appearing to search for words and strength. "Jenova was captured in the Planet's core. The humans were scattered. Three of the four elemental materias were destroyed. And the Cetra became near extinct."
Sephiroth and Aeris exchanged glances.
"After that, humans lost contact with the Planet, blaming it for the war and the droughts." Lowering his head, the Sage's face was shielded by his hat. "Abandoned by its children, painful injuries from the war, the poison of Jenova still in its veins and filled with the avenging spirits of the deceased Cetra, the soul of the Planet broke free."
Moving over to stand in front of the Sage, Tifa felt a shiver run down her spine. "You."
The Sage gave a mournful smile. "As much as the children hated the Planet, the Planet never stopped loving them. So where else would it hide its soul than among the brood it set higher than its own life?"
Nervous mumbling broke out again until Cloud spoke up. "You still haven't told us why we're here."
"You're here because everything that has happened has been a part of their plan."
"What plan? Who are they? "Cloud was losing his patience.
"Shut up!" Cid snapped angrily, glaring over at the other blonde. "Let him talk!"
"The Cetra has been planning their final attack on Jenova for thousands of years. Building their army and biding their time." The old man stuck his chin out slightly. "But this time they went too far…"
Sephiroth fought to find his voice. "Everything has happened according to their plan...? Even…"
"They've watched your life carefully, Sephiroth. You're the general of Jenova's army so they sent their best soldier to battle you; Aeris."
Sephiroth and Aeris exchanged looks again, but stayed pale and silent.
The Sage moved his gaze back to everyone else. "Both sides have scouted for strong souls. They need powerful beings to make sure this war ends once and for all. And both sides will use any means necessary."
"That's being a bit harsh, isn't it?" A voice suddenly asked merrily and caused everyone to turn and stare.
Hojo let out a furious hiss. "Gast."
Gast and Ifalna's ghostly figures stepped out of the light and became solid shapes. The Cetra woman gazed longingly at the daughter that refused to meet her eyes while Gast refused to look at anyone except the Sage. "So the prodigal son has returned…"
The Sage gave a little tip of his hat. "Gast. Ifalna. I was waiting for you to show up."
"Is that so?" Gast gave a little smile and crossed his arms.
Gazing over at Sephiroth, the Sage poked the cane in his direction. "I suspected you'd show up to demand he'd fulfill your deal."
The silver haired man paled even more.
Gast's smile widened a fraction. "You always did know everything, Deiqao."
"Deal?" Aeris tensed anxiously as she could taste the danger in that word. "There was a deal? A deal about what?"
Ifalna fidgeted uneasily. "Sephiroth made a deal with the Cetra to bring Hojo back."
Upon hearing his name, Hojo finally managed to tear his eyes away from his former rival and stared with disbelief at his son. "You… You IDIOT! You made a deal with THEM? Are you really that STUPID?" His rant was cut short when a calming hand landed on his upper arm and Lucrecia gave him a tiny shake of her head.
"I didn't have a choice!" Sephiroth bit back, hoping the anger would suppress the fear.
Aeris took a hard hold of Sephiroth's arm, asking in a low and frightened voice. "What did you agree to?"
Closing his eyes, Sephiroth exhaled. "A life… for a life." He looked over at Gast and forced himself to straighten. "So you've come to collect, huh? Fair enough." The silver haired man gave a faint shrug. "So you get my life in exchange for his life."
Gast shook his head.
Sephiroth flinched, as if the other man had just hit him. "What…?"
The Sage removed his sunglasses to reveal deep green eyes. "Who do you want, Gast?"
Sephiroth automatically took a step in front of Aeris and placed his hand on the Masamune. Wait, he still had the Masamune?
Starting, Rufus gazed confused from one to the other. "What? What about me?"
"ShinRa was supposed to die back then, but you interfered, Deiqao." Gast's eyes narrowed slightly. "A life for a life, that was the deal. We want Rufus ShinRa."
"Has everyone lost their bleeding minds?" Rufus pulled his hands through his hair. "This is crazy! The Cetra is after me now? First Cid and now me? What's going on here?" He barely noticed Tifa grasping his arm.
The Sage shook his head with a sad sigh. "They want you because of your gift, Rufus."
Rufus clenched his jaw hard, battling between confusion and fear. "I don't understand…"
"Your dreams. Your visions." The Sage hovered closer to the brat prince. "You've had them all your life, but you always knew better than to speak of them to anyone. Because you knew… You knew what they meant."
Taking a step back, Rufus swallowed hard. "It's not… I can't…"
Not taking his eyes off Rufus, the Sage turned his question to Gast and Ifalna. "A life for a life. And you wish for Rufus ShinRa to die."
"Yes." Gast reached out to take Ifalna's hand, needing her strength to say the one word that would doom the young man.
"So if Sephiroth takes the life of Rufus ShinRa, the deal is fulfilled?"
Sephiroth shivered. "No. Never!" He had Cid's blood on his hands, wasn't that punishment enough?
Rufus saw the Sage give a flick of his wrist, saw the glow around Sephiroth's hand, and he managed to shove Tifa away before the Masamune cut through his chest. Stunned, he gazed quizzically at Sephiroth as if he couldn't really understand what had just happened.
Sephiroth stared horrified at Rufus. Seeing his own hands wrapped around the hilt of the Masamune and the blood dripping to the shining surface they were standing on, still he was unable to explain what had just happened.
Rufus reached out and grasped a hold of the silver haired man's arm, fighting in vain against what had just happened, but his knees were slowly giving in.
Rude had to use all his strength to keep Reno from using his fists on the Sage.
Releasing the sword, Sephiroth grasped both of Rufus' arms as if he could keep him alive by pure willpower. Reptile eyes were filled with pain and guilt. "I thought they were after ME. I didn't think…" He tightened his grip as blue eyes were turning distant. "Rufus!" Turning a furious stare at the Sage, Sephiroth felt anger like he had not felt in many years. "Why? WHY did you do this? It was ME! I was the one who was supposed to die!"
The Sage gave a slight shake of his head. "The Cetra has no desire for your soul, son of Jenova. You're tainted. Untrustworthy."
Sephiroth trembled hard as he kneeled down and gently lowered Rufus into Tifa's lap. "It was supposed to be my death…"
The shape of the brat prince was turning blurry and sparks of green light were seeping into the ground.
Ignoring the panicking cries from Tifa, the Sage made himself look over at Gast and Ifalna again. "The promise is kept. You have no business here anymore."
The Masamune clattered to the ground, Rufus' fading body too weak to restrain it anymore.
Gast seemed to hesitate, but Ifalna gave his hand a light tug. "He's right. We have what we came for. Let's not make matters worse." She couldn't face the blaming eyes of her daughter or the burning hatred from Hojo. It was all for a greater cause, right?
"I trusted you!" Tifa screamed at the hovering Sage.
Keeping his eyes on Gast and Ifalna until they were gone, the Sage finally turned his gaze to the rapidly disappearing Rufus. "Sephiroth made a deal with the Cetra. Until that deal was fulfilled, there was nothing I could do." He waved his cane with a deep frown. "Now let's see if it's not too late…"
Sephiroth got up on shaky legs. "What do you mean…?"
"The deal was 'a life for a life'. Rufus ShinRa had to die and you had to kill him." The ground began to swirl with green color. "His life force had to be returned to the Lifestream and the deal is now fulfilled." Staring intently at the green swirls, the Sage suddenly rammed his cane into the ground. "Ah! There!"
A wisp of green smoke seeped out of the hole and slithered its way towards the barely visible Rufus.
Cloud frowned as he saw the liquid smoke seep into Rufus. "You're bringing him back?"
"But ain't this just gonna bring 'them' back as well?" Cid asked, equally unable to take his eyes off what was happening.
The Sage grinned. "The deal was fulfilled. They have no claim on Sephiroth now."
The tears that had dripped to the ground was now shattering against skin and Tifa's hands that had groped the air in vain was growing heavy with the burden of Rufus' body. The brunette sobbed with relief, bending over to clutch him tight and shut her eyes tightly when he gasped down his first breath of air.
Fighting to get control over his trembling limbs, Rufus managed to place a heavy arm around Tifa before gazing wide-eyed over at the Sage. "Don't you… EVER do that again!"
The Sage chuckled.
"How…" Reno asked quietly. "How did you do that?"
"The Lifestream used to be my blood." The Sage allowed the green colors in the ground to fade with a wave of the cane. "All souls that return to the Lifestream have their memories. It's what gives life new energy. When a soul merges with the Lifestream again, it brings with it memories of love, grief and hope, a much richer soul than when it left. As the souls grow, so does the Lifestream. I merely re-gathered the essence of our brat prince."
"And us," Jessie realized in a distant voice.
"Yes." The Sage gazed from her to Yuffie. "Like I've done with several of you."
"Excuse me, but…" Shera finally dared to step forward from her place behind Cid. "I still don't know 'why' we're here…"
"What she said," Barret mumbled as he tried to avoid looking at anything for more than two seconds.
And it was time to explain everything…
When the Cetra arrived on the Planet, there grew a strong bond between two; different beings with the same love for all living things.
A bond so strong they believed it could not be broken…
The Cetra lived in harmony with nature and her children, with mutual respect and affection.
It took a crisis to shatter that connection; a Crisis from the sky.
Nobody saw the danger before it was too late.
Before everyone started dying.
At first, it was a hopeless battle with the Cetra and the Planet trying to fight off the virus they named the Crisis, but as time passed, it came to a point where the battle became more important than what they were actually fighting for.
The Cetra was a peaceful race, but each soul infected by Jenova was not the only creature destroyed. It did something to the Cetra, having to watch their own turn on them; driven by some alien force that twisted them insane with the desire for blood and destruction.
The Crisis could not be forgiven
And the battle raged on, causing the Planet to cry in despair and agony, while the two forces kept colliding and making the end of this madness seemed further away than ever. The Cetra would not listen to the pleas of the Planet or the pain of humanity. Finally, it forced the unthinkable to happen: the very soul of the Planet tore free and returned to live among its children.
The Cetra considered this the ultimate betrayal. They were now more certain than ever about their cause.
The Crisis had to be destroyed, completely, and the Cetra would not rest until that was achieved.
So the battle continued to rage on.
Until the time came when it was clear how both sides were losing and something had to be done in order to prevent all life to be extinct. The Jenova virus kept spreading and the Cetra lost more and more of their kind.
Friends, families, lovers; everyone turned on each other.
Finally, a small group of Cetra gave their lives to bind Jenova in her lair and the fighting stopped.
The war, however, was far from over.
Jenova was trapped, but her evil heart was still beating and the Crisis was not defeated until every part of her was destroyed. She was merely abiding her time in the confinement, waiting for when the moment would come where she was once again unleashed on the world.
After all, she had all the time in the world.
Jenova could wait forever.
And the Cetra knew this. As long as a mere cell of Jenova survived, she would return.
Every infected being had to die for the fallen Cetra to be avenged.
Still, they had bought themselves much needed time when the Crisis had been sealed, and there was much discussion what to do with that time.
If they were to defeat Jenova completely, they needed more power.
When the Plan was presented, only a few Cetra objected while most agreed that they had no other choice. It was decided that they would fuse with the Lifestream and use the Planet's power against Jenova.
As the WEAPONS were created, the handful Cetra that still believed in the old ways departed to live among the Planet's children, like its soul had chosen to do before them.
Years passed and the Cetra started believing that the power of the Planet would not be enough to ensure victory, so they turned their eyes away from the core and towards the surface of the Planet.
Humans were an unpredictable race at best, but there were a few souls worth noticing. Some of them had kind hearts and strong spirits; exactly what the Cetra needed for the final battle.
The Cetra decided to break the ultimate rule and interfered with the lives of humans. Testing and training the ones who caught their eye, they recruited the strongest souls to fight in the name of the Planet.
While they eliminated the ones who might be persuaded by Jenova's voice.
Even if it meant their own kind.
The Cetra that lived among the humans built the Cetra Capital in honor of the fallen ones and to communicate with the ones in the Lifestream, but more and more of them became tainted by humanity.
Half breeds appeared as a result and these would become the pawns in the battle to come.
Years came and went. Decades, centuries, even a millennium, while the Cetra hunted, trained and strengthened their unknowing soldiers. They could not afford to lose this time. Everything was planned.
"Everything?" Sephiroth shook his head as he tried to piece together everything the Sage had just told them. "They've planned everything? Even me?"
The Sage sighed. "The uncovering of Jenova was not a part of the Cetra plan, nor was your arrival, and it drove them to use their one weapon left on the planet." He gazed at the flower girl. "The one they had whispered and spun dreams for; a lone Cetra half breed. She would destroy the child of Jenova and Cloud Strife would be their tool for Hojo's downfall."
Cloud tensed and ignored Jessie's comforting touch on his arm.
"What about us?" Rufus asked tonelessly, not sure he really wanted to know the answer.
"They've been watching you for a long, long time, ShinRa." The Sage let his gaze slide over the pale faces watching him. "All of you."Cid stepped forward, almost angrily, and waves his arms confused. "That doesn't make any sense! If they got their eye on us, why put us through all that crap? That Jinrei creep wanted me dead!"
"You don't understand, Highwind. Who do you think sent Jinrei after you?" A short silence to allow the words to sink in. "The battle against Meteor. The battle against Jinrei. It has all been a part of their plan. You've all been finely tuned to reach your fullest potential."
Aeris didn't want to know, but she had to ask. "The children?"
"Now a part of their plan, yes."
Hawk stared at the ground and had to struggle to find his voice. "Wutai?"
"One of their finest achievements. By sacrificing the people, they obtained the strong warrior souls and the strengthening of yours and Kisaragi's." The Sage pretended he didn't hear the pained sob from the young ninja girl. "During all this time, they've only made two mistakes. They thought they could manipulate Aeris into abandoning Sephiroth. This cost them their only earth-bound daughter."
Nanaki glanced warily up at the small man "And their second mistake?"
The Sage chuckled heartily. "They forgot about me!" Seeing how the rest failed to see the genius of that statement, he cleared his throat and gathered himself again. "All these years on the planet have left me a little diminished, but I still have powers here. Power enough to fight."
"Fight who?" Cloud gesticulated from Aeris to Sephiroth. "The Cetra or Jenova?"
The beard hid most of it, but the wide grin was more felt than seen on the Sage's face. "Both!"
Rufus blinked. "Excuse me?"
"When I left the Planet in the Cetra hands, I still believed them capable of leading the children to a path of balance and peace." A defeated exhale of air. "I stopped believing that many life times ago. I've seen and known their downfall but cowardice has prevented me from doing what needs to be done." The ground flickered and images of spots of green grass among the pure white snow emerged. "I've grown to like my life. Become quite attached to my little house and my birdies, actually."
Reno turned his back to the old man to face Rufus, making small loops with his index finger by his temple to underline how insane he thought the Sage was and got promptly rewarded by Rufus' elbow in his ribs.
"But you've all shown me true strength," the Sage continued. "It is time I stopped hiding and returned to my true place. The Cetra will not welcome me home, I'm afraid, and Jenova will try to exploit the confusion."
Cloud let out a low growl as he shivered with impatience. "You still haven't explained why you've brought us here!"
"I did tell you." The Sage shrugged at all the confused looks. "It's time to fight."
"Fight," Cid echoed tonelessly as if the word was completely foreign to him.
"You were meant to become Cetra generals in the final battle and pawns in Jenova's game. I offer you a third option." The Sage tapped his cane lightly against the ground, showing more images from the towns and places they'd all been and loved. "Fight for yourselves."
"In other words, fight for you?" Cloud drawled suspiciously.
Cid frowned annoyed. "Can it, Strife. Let the man talk."
"He's no better than the others," Cloud declared. "He's just trying to manipulate us as well."
Sephiroth let his gaze linger on the Masamune. "No." His voice was barely heard over the murmuring. "He's the one soul who won't lie to us."
Allowing a faint smile, Aeris nodded. "We can trust him."
Cloud crossed his arms and stuck out his chin. "So what is the grand plan then?"
The Sage leaned heavily on his cane, as if his shoulders were suddenly carrying a burden far too heavy for the frail frame. "We bring the fight to them. To the Promised Land."
Hojo's eyes finally flickered with interest. "The Promised Land, eh?"
"Wait…" Rufus closed his eyes briefly and held up a hand. "There 'is' an actual Promise Land? I thought…"
The Sage chuckled. "An amassment of mako is considered the Promised Land if you're searching for power and fortune, but I'm talking about the higher plane of existence. The very heart of this planet."
More confused looks were exchanged.
"It will become the battlefield between the Cetra and Jenova. I want to make it the final battlefield between them," said the Sage.
Cloud fought against an uneasy feeling. "How?"
A slight hesitation before the Sage continued his explaining. "When your life force leaves you on the planet, it returns to the Planet's Lifestream. It keeps living. If you should perish in the Promised Land, a place within the Lifestream itself, your soul is lost forever. All memories of that soul are gone, from the Planet and its children's hearts."
"Gone?" Aeris felt a cold shiver run through her. "You mean nobody would remember you at all? Ever?"
Hojo cleared his throat to gain their attention. "So… Basically you want the people here to become your private little army, which you intend to ship off to the Promised Land and fight your enemies. Correct?"
Cringing, the old man managed something reminding of a shrug. "Correct."
"Then why am I here?" Hojo gesticulated towards the others. "I get the Happy Meal Crew, but you honestly think I'm foolish enough to hold hands and march off to fight your war?"
"It would remove Jenova from the world."
Hojo scoffed. "I'm dead. Or, was and will be again. What do I care?" He pretended not to see the glare from both Aeris and Lucrecia.
Smiling, the Sage hovered closed to the dark haired scientist. "Because I can give you what you want."
This time, Hojo flinched before he clenched his jaw hard. "I seriously doubt that."
"Ho ho, really? What is it you want then?"
Hojo felt everyone's eyes on him and tensed like a cornered animal. "No one ever cares what I want, why should this be anything different?"
"Try me," the Sage challenged.
After trying to glare the old man into spontaneous combustion and failing, Hojo avoided his gaze. "I want… I just want to be left alone. Me and Lu." He violently despised how tiny his voice sounded and shied away from Lucrecia touching his elbow. "And possibly take over the world to make everyone my mindless slaves."
"Three years." The Sage glanced from one to the other, pausing on Cloud. "Accept this task and I can send you all back. Everyone. For three years."
Aeris wrung her hands nervously. "What about the children?"
"Should you fail…" The Sage bent his head enough to hide his face underneath the hat. "…your children will follow your path."
Shaking his head, Cloud turned away. "Forget it."
Cid and Shera exchanged a look and the pilot drew a deep breath. "So… we just gotta go and kick some Jenova and Cetra ass, right?"
Cloud started. "Cid! You can't be serious! This is not just about us, but you're dragging your child into it as well!"
"Yeah, a child I wanna meet, Strife." Cid tried a faint smile. "You don't miss Raito?"
"Besides," Sephiroth mused thoughtfully, "we just have to make sure we defeat them and it won't be an issue, right?"
"Right!" Barret exhaled relieved and actually grinned for the first time since his arrival. "And we've fought some pretty dang tough guys! Them Cetra can't be much worse!"
Aeris shook her head. "Don't underestimate them…"
"Or the ones on their team," Lucrecia mumbled. "I'm safe to assume the Cetra has recruited their fair share of souls too?"The Sage nodded.
"Kadaj and his crew…" Sephiroth shifted uneasily. "What about them?"
"I will break the hold of Jenova on them, but they need to find their own path." The Sage declared quietly.
"So, we fight?" Rufus asked and glanced at each face in turn before pausing on Cloud.
Meeting Jessie's pleading look and then Aeris' worried eyes, Cloud exhaled heavily. "We fight."
The Sage gave an excited bounce. "Excellent! I knew I was doing a clever thing by placing my faith in you all!"
Gazing through the window, Rufus watched as a small crowd were digging out pieces from one of the many homes destroyed in Midgar by Chaos. A resigned and distant look in his blue eyes, the brat prince didn't even notice Tifa appearing by his side.
"It wasn't your fault." She gingerly touched his arm in a consoling gesture.
Three days. It was now three days since they'd returned and agreed to the odd little man's deal.
"When Meteor shattered Midgar, I began rebuilding the city with dreams of making it a metropolis worthy of legends. And when Jinrei tore it all down again, I simply decided to make it even grander." Rufus then let out a heavy sigh. "It's over, Tifa…"
Moving closer, Tifa gave a little shake of her head. "No, Rufus. We can rebuild."
Rufus finally turned to face her. "Maybe Midgar is cursed. Maybe it was never meant to survive Meteor?" He shut his eyes tightly, fighting against dreams of the Lifestream, burning buildings and people calling his name without him being able to reply. "It's really over this time, Tifa…"
Turning back to look out the window again, the brat prince saw the three silver haired man gathered by the entrance to the ShinRa Tower. "You're not saying goodbye?"
Tifa cleared her throat with a faint smile. "No, we said our goodbyes last night…"
Sephiroth tried to appear unfazed as he watched the other two make final checks on their motorcycles. "So, you're sure about this?"
Patting the bag with supplies, Kadaj straightened with a sigh. "He's our brother."
"True, but…" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "How are you going to find him?" There had been no trace of Yazoo since he'd vanished three days ago. "He's long gone by now and could be anywhere!"
"Then we search everywhere," Kadaj replied simply.
Sephiroth failed to hide a faint smile. "Stubborn too. Family weakness, I suppose."
Kadaj gave a faint smile in return. "So it would seem."
Aeris stepped outside as well, carrying with her a small bundle containing her homemade cookies. "You're really leaving?"
Loz got on the bike and nodded. "Yeah. Our brother got a good head-start so we got no time to lose."
Nodding, she handed the bundle to him before she was pulled into a great hug. The flower girl returned the act with a soft laugh.
She'd grown fond of the two during the short days she'd known them. In fact, she had grown so fond of them that she'd endured it with a brave smile when Loz had yanked up huge fists with flowers from the church to offer Tifa. It was actually cute to see the big man struggling with his first crush.
"You take care, ok?" Aeris lightly patted Loz' cheek and smiled at the affable nod she got, before turning to Kadaj. "And you…" She sauntered over to him. "You find Yazoo and tell him…" Sephiroth raised his eyebrow again and Aeris hesitated; "…tell him that he needs to come home."
Kadaj got on the bike. "I will." He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Thanks. Both of you."
"They gone?" Cid asked as Sephiroth and Aeris entered the meeting room.
"Yeah, they're determined to go looking for him," Aeris sighed.
It was still strange entering the room and finding everyone there, the ones they'd lost and now regained.
Yuffie, Hawk, Nanaki… even Lucrecia!
Cid tapped an empty cigarette box on the table. "You sound like you don't think they got a chance."
"It is a big world, with lots of places for someone to hide when they don't want people to find them," Sephiroth mumbled and sat down in his usual chair.
"If you want to find someone bad enough, you don't stop until you do." Vincent tried not to flinch when everyone turned to look at him. "Did we gather here to discuss the fate of Jenova's children?"
Rufus shook his head. "No. No, I think you all know why we're here."
An uneasy silence spread through the room. Yuffie took a silent hold of Hawk's hand, Reeve tried not to hyperventilate, Lucrecia just looked awkward as always, but everyone had traces of fear in their eyes.
"Three years, people," Rufus began. "We got three years to live our lives. After that, no one knows what will happen. With that in mind, I wanted to have this final meeting. We'll go our separate ways once we leave this room and meet again in three years."
Cloud frowned. "What are you saying, ShinRa?"
"I'm saying that we got three years and we got to press an entire life time into them." Rufus tilted his head. "I want to spend them with my family. What about you?"
"I think we're all on the same page there," Cid declared, glancing over at Shera, before facing the others again. "It's been fun, you guys."
Barret got up. "See ya in three years…!"
Sephiroth suddenly frowned. "Where is Hojo, by the way?"
Lucrecia shrugged. "I left him to baby sit the children."
"You did WHAT?"
"He didn't want to go to this meeting anyways," Lucrecia defended herself lazily. "Besides, it'll do him good to get out of his lab for once!"
"Nonono! Don't!" Hojo tightened his grip around the Raito's waist and reached out to grab a hold of Dawn's arm as she tried to make a mad dash for the door. "Get back here, you Valentine spawn!"
His eyes widened at the sight that met him over at his work desk. "Zefiris! You get down from those drapes!"
Hojo actually cursed violently as Raito finally managed to squirm free and Dawn used his confusion to make her own escape. "This is not fair, you cretins! All you had to do was eating the damn chocolate and watch the TV! Will you STOP that, you evil demons!"
The scientist came to a scudding halt after chasing Zefiris and heaved for air, unable to prevent Raito from knocking over a tower of files and Dawn from drawing on the wall.
Looking helplessly at the mayhem, Hojo swallowed hard. "Oh, this just not fair, Lu. I wasn't the one who decided that I got to return to the Planet these times and not you…" He flinched as Raito sent a microscope crashing to the floor. "Things cannot possibly get any worse than this…"
You will regret doing this, Deiqao.
You gave me no choice…
Your little soldiers won't save you. You're being foolish.
You wish Jenova gone too. Join us.
Then it is war.
You give 'us' no choice.
Please… Don't do this…
Either you are with us or against us, Deiqao. You've chosen your side, and now you will die with your little pets. We shall not speak again.
Forgive me, everyone…
AN; The end of Lost and Found. And I hope to have the first chapter of Paradise Lost up soon. The final and last addition to what has turned out to become one long story!
Yes, I'm foolish enough that I want to write the final battle too, with all our heroes and them meeting their children again.
I hope you might want to read it too!