Surrounded. It had been an ambush.
Jessie tensed up, and got ready to fight. Not that she had much of a chance with her knee refusing to heal. It was just torn up past using. No chance to use her TaeKwonDo skills to take down her opponants and let her escape.
She glowered at the gathered forces against her, feeling trapped and scared. And angry. Oh, yes. Angry. How dare they think to take her by force like this. HER.
"Oh, come on Jess. You've got to get that knee taken care of. And it IS free." Tifa slid her foot closer, and stopped as Jessie looked ready to bolt. Even if it meant darting between that scary Vincent character and that loud Cid. Well, maybe not darting. But she would definately use her wooden crutch against anyone who thought they were getting her in that truck.
Tifa sighed and rolled her eyes. This had been an ongoing argument for the past week. Ever since she'd found out about ShinRa Corps offer to replace Jessie's knee free of charge, for treating her so badly durring the recent crisis. As an Avalanche member, Jessie had been thrown in a jail infirmiry after being rescued from the rubble of the collapsed plate. It had been a dank, dirty place, with poor excuses for medical staff. That treatment was the main reason why Jessie's crushed leg and knee had never healed right. Had someone used a Restore spell on her fresh from the rescue, she might have gotten by with simply a slight limp for the rest of her life. But badly bound, it had half healed incorrectly, bone shards solidifying in bad places, and weak to new damage.
But Jessie naturally held a grudge against ShinRa. Not only were they despoilers of the Planet, and ruthless murderers... They'd personally seen to her discomfort durring the early stages of the Meteor thread. Oh, they'd tried to 'make it up to her' once the rest of Avalanche became the world's Hero's. But that just made her even more angry. She wasn't about to be bought off.
Cloud shuffled, uncomfortable about this whole thing. But he'd agreed with Tifa that this needed to be done and over with. Jessie couldn't go on with a leg that didn't work.
"Hey Jessie - you know Tifa's right. We all want to see you patched up and on both your feet again..." He stumbled to a stop as she leveled a potent glare his way.
A perky voice overrode the bass grumbles coming from Barret, who was also rather uncomfortable with this situation. He knew exactly how Jessie felt about ShinRa. He didn't blame her... But... Not ALL of ShinRa was bad. And most of the old executive staff in charge of the old deprivations were dead now anyway. Things were chainging. Time to move on.
"Yeah-yeah! And you can beat us all up when this is all over, promise! Start with Tifa and Cloud there, k?" Yuffie bounced in place, waving her arms enthusiastically to punctuate her statement.
Right, start with someone else so YOU have time to sneak off. Sure.
She eyed the circle of 'friends' warily, looking for anyone who might be slightly sympathetic.
Cloud... No. He was unhappy to be doing this, but the
determination shone behind his glowing eyes. Tifa - hell no. She was
the one to start this. Barret... Not this time - and his betrayal of
the cause stung. He'd deliberately left Marlene behind so she wasn't
going to get any help there. That Cid person? Jessie eyed him
speculatively and he eyed her back, a burning cig hanging from his
lips limply. He suddenly grinned and swung his big spear up over his
shoulder, at the ready. Nope, no help there. She had a feeling this
guy thought this was one big lark. The little 'ninja' then?
Yuffie was almost dancing in place, mischief oozing from her. Hm. If she could convince the girl that it would be more 'fun' to ruin Tifa's plan...
Just then, Tifa leaned over and whispered into Yuffie's ear. Who promptly put her hands her her mouth and tried badly to muffle her giggles. Wait - was Yuffie bblushing/b Yuffie's eyes slid from Jessie to the man in red and back again. What on earth were they planning?
Jessie looked at the last member of her ambush party. The silent and spooky man in red, Vincen. He gave her the creeps. She'd been told he was once a Turk, and she believed it. Definately not to be trusted, no matter WHAT Tifa and Cloud said. He just stood there, unnaturaly still save for the gentle movement of his cloak in the breeze. There was no telling what was going on behind those shadowed eyes.
The group had cornered her just outside of Tifa's bar this morning. Hell bent on getting her to an appointment to get her knee replaced. Just what she needed. Some peice of ShinRa machinery permenantly attached to her body.
Tifa looked up, triumph on her face. Jessie narrowed her eyes at her freind. It was a little early for triumph, wasn't it?
She tensed up even further, and grasped the handhold on her crutch just a little more, shifting her weight further to her good leg. All the better to take that first step toward freedom, or If she needed to bash someone with her crutch.
Yuffie broke down and started giggling loudly, wild snorts of laughter interspersed. Whatever Tifa had in mind was obviously going to be humiliating. Fine. She'd be sorry.
Jessie saw Tifa move out of the corner of her eye, and decided that was it. Time to make her break for freedom. Not that she could outrun them like this, but dammit - she wasn't going down without a fight. They just didn't understand her feelings on this.
She swung her crutch and bad leg at the hip forward as far as she could, and immideately shoved off to land on her good leg. She'd decided to avoid Cid, and go for the slight gap between Cloud and Vincent.
Behind her, Tifa yelled "NOW!"
Ha, it was too late. Jessie was already between the two fighters, and making her way beyond.
Cloud stared at her in consternation, but made no move to stop her. He seemed unsure as to what he was supposed to do. Good, the longer he dithered, the farther away she'd be.
Jessie had totally dismissed the statue of a man in red from her mind. So it came as a surprise when a mere breath after Tifa yelled, a flash of red obscured Jessie's vision. She yelped in shock as she was lifted entirely off the ground. Her crutch clattered to the pavement.
It was a brilliant move. In one swish of cloak, Jessie's arms had been pinned to her sides as she was swooped down upon and held captive. It effectively prevented her from fighting back, with her arms wrapped in cloak, and her good leg held close to the human statue by one golden claw. She glared up at her captor, glaring harder when she saw he wasn't even paying attention. Vincent was starting at Tifa, wating for his next instruction.
From nearby, a weak - "H-hey!" escaped Cloud, as he tried to figure out whether to protest this action or help out.
Cid smirked and ground out the end of his cig, lighting a new one
as he clambered into the back of the truck after Vincent and his
Cloud shrugged and climbed in as well.
Barret and Tifa immediately made for the cab of the truck, and Yuffie pouted, torn between the indignity of riding along and being sick - or missing out on the fun. She brightened up, and patted Tifa' arm through the open passenger window.
"Hey, Tif! I'll see you there, k? You guys go on ahead." The young 'ninja' smiled smugly and turned on her heel, to trot off. She was lost to sight in moments, darting between buildings and hugging the available shadows.
Tifa shook her head at Yuffie's back, smiling fondly. She turned in her seat to look out the back window at the truckbed.
"Everything all right back there?" She called out to the assorted fighters holding down Jessie. They all looked up and nodded, various states of determination on their faces.
"All right, Barret! Let's get this show on the road!" With a small regretful sigh, Tifa settled back into her seat as the beat up truck rumbled to life and pulled away from the curb outside her bar.
Seven blocks and three turns later, they were at the small and modest looking clinic. There was nothing about the place that suggested "ShinRa" on the outside. In fact, most of the staff here wasn't even associated with the shattered wreck of a company. But that didn't change the fact that the knee surgury scheduled for today was being PAID for by ShinRa. A fact that left a bad taste in Jessie's mouth.
She considered attempting another run for freedom as she was handed out of the back of the truck from Vincent's care to Cloud's. But the immediate flanking on all sides from her entire 'escort' made her give in sullenly.
They had all agreed that it was best if she was just carried into the clinic. It avoided escape attempts, and overrode the need for the crutch that had been left behind. It was obvious Jess wasn't going to walk in there under her own power, anyway.
Barret leaned over and spoke to her, as she pouted in Cloud's
"Hey, girl. You'll be ok. I turned out all right, and I had to pay for mine!"
He waved his gun arm in emphasis, and cleared his throat. It looked like he was trying in his own way to convince Jessie that this was the right thing to do.
"Besides, even if it ain't helpin' the Planet, ShinRa still OWES us. Might as well take advantage of their money to get the best work done. No one says you gotta feel GRATEFUL after all... We're still AVALANCHE, after all..."
Jessie was impressed. That time he'd been spending with that Elmyra character had calmed him down some. He'd made a small speech with absolutely no curse words. Either it was a miracle, or the end of the world after all. Well, that tore it. Might as well give in as gracefully as possible.
"Yeah, whatever. Let's just get this over with already." Her sullen words were spit out between clenched teeth, and she folded her arms defiantly as Cloud took his cue and moved forward. He carried her carefully, like she was going to break (or explode) any moment. It might have made her smile, or even blush, at another time. Right now it was just one more thing to irritate her.
"Cloud, step it up. Jeez. I'm not going to break." She frowned at him, and for a moment time seemed to stop as she met his eyes. They were so... Blue.
Cid stalked past, snickering to himself. He paused by the front door, and opened it with an overly dramatic flourish for Cloud, including a 'courtly' bow as they passed him. Vincent shook his head and followed them in.
Once inside, Tifa ran up to the receptionist's window, and let the Nurses know that their reluctant patient was finally here.
Cloud looked around the room, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do next. Cid, Vincent, and Barret all chose spots around the waiting room to sit and... Wait.
Barret reached over to the little table beside his chair and rummaged through the pile of magazines there. He grunted in disgust at the titles.
"Damn girly mags. Where the hell do they keep the... HA. 'Weapons Digest'. That'll do."
With that, Barret plopped the magazine in his lap and started thumbing through it slowly. He seemed to find many of the articles amusing. A shadow fell over his shoulder, and Barret turned his head to glare at the intruder... But-
"Oh. Vincent, wouldja quit looming. Here sit yo scrawny butt down and I'll share."
Soon the gun bunnies were shaking their heads together over the contents of this magazine.
Meanwhile, Tifa had found some magazine on wedding dresses and was slouched over in a seat near the front door. Just in case Jessie made it that far.
Cloud sighed, and carefully carried his fidgeting armful over to the connected seats.
"If I set you down, will you promise not to run off?" He looked down at the grumpy gimp In his arms with some trepidation. It was a valid question, even if most women wouldn't try escaping from a doctors office when they couldn't walk on their own. Jessie wasn't most women.
She looked up and met his eyes briefly, scowl slipping slightly as
she shifted her eyes to the side. She bit her lip and looked
"Nah, I won't run now. I don't like this. And I won't like it. But... I don't want to end up getting both knees replaced, so I'd better just let Tifa have her way."
Jessie smiled crookedly, and sighed.
It's not like I don't WANT my knee better. I just... Don't want it at the expense of my integrity. But Barret is right. I don't have to owe ShinRa anything for this. If they want to spend their money on me as an 'apology'... Well fine.
Cloud settled Jessie down into a chair, and perched in the seat next to her. It wasn't that he didn't take her at her word... It was just... Well. He didn't know what it was.
Minutes of boredom later, the side door opened and a woman in a
labcoat came out with her clipboard.
"This way please. The doctor is ready."
Everyone stood, and Cloud helped Jessie to her good foot. He thought she might want to at least appear to be walking in there on her own.
The nurse frowned. She looked down at the clipboard, and back up
to the waiting crowd.
"I'm afraid I'll have all people not involved in the surgury to wait out here."
Jessie's eyes widened as her group of friends shuffled their feet, looked at each other, and sat back down. Except Cloud, who was still keeping her standing. Fear struck her. It was irrational, and she knew it... But... There was no telling what would REALLY go on in there if no one was there to stop them while she was under anesthetic. Jessie clutched Cloud's arm tightly, and looked around the room at her friends. Tifa smiled encouragingly and made little shooing motions. Barret just frowned and nodded, tapping his gun arm. Yuffie hadn't shown up. And, where did Vincent go? Oh.
There was a looming presense next to her, and even Cloud jumped when Vincent spoke.
"One of us will be accompanying her, and stay with her throughout the procedure." Vincent's implacible stare and tone made it obvious that there would be no arguments. This was simply the way things were going to be.
The nurse lowered her eyes and glared at her clipboard. Sighed
"Fine. But only one companion. This way please."
With that, the nurse turned and went through the door behind her, and hovered in the hallway beyond. She was obviously impatient and irritated at this group of random people messing up her perfectly ordered day.
Vincent glanced down at Jessie, she could swear he almost smiled. He nodded and looked down sligtly, moving his metal encased arm just enough to draw her attention to it. Her eyes widened and he nodded slightly again. He understood her fear.
From the hallway, the nurse cleared her throat loudly. Jessie jumped guiltily. Cloud sighed and rolled his eyes.
Time to go.