A/N: FF7 fan here, even though I never beat the game... or never played the game. I got sucked in by Advent Childrenand now am simutaniously trying to understand and write about the game I like so much yet have never played.

A matter of time:

Chapter 1

Worth

When you're dying, every motion must have worth. Whether the fast dying, the fast death where every second you try to stem the flow of blood from the mortal wound, or to lift a trembling hand, to bring a gun in line to take him down with you... That is the value of motion, for those suffering a fast dying. You spend each moment either trying to complete retribution or to somehow defy the death that has fallen upon you.

If only fast dying was the only way to go, then all final moments could be wasted moments. Spans of black and white, action and inaction, vengeance... or something more.

But that's not the way the world is, sad to say.

There's slow death, slow rot. Disease, indiscriminate in its victims, the Planet's final laugh at us all. It breaks down all the petty stigmas, our social ladder, our caste heavy society, or it damn well motivates us too do so. Because if we hold to illusion, hold to the lie that the elite are sacred, the rich impervious, that it's only the "poor's" problem... well such attitudes will damn us all.

Perhaps it already has. Those unable to pay admittance fees to the hospital suffered for weeks in silence. They rotted, decayed, in the silence of their homes. There were some reports out of the usual, more disturbances then the norm, screams, but in the slums it pays not to investigate such sounds. Sometimes it keeps a SOLDIER their life, others it gives them a few more Gil. Either way, it paid then, as it pays now.

Already reports from SOLDIER med wings are trickling in, ninety in the final stages, Midgar won't have much of a militia in a few weeks time. Medicines, pain killers, there are requests but the Mako baths and Jenova Cells infusions make those of SOLDIER all but immune to most pain killers. Only the strongest, and most illegal and narcotic drugs might work.

And so, like all decisions in this slow glorious rot that takes us all it must be weighted out, measured. A small army's worth of muddle headed, addicted, super human, and heavily armed beings, or the black rot, the slow insanity by agony...

Insignificant now, not enough data, that decision must wait, wait for RandD's jurisdiction on if there is enough of any type of drug suitable as a painkiller for this illness. The needs of SOLDIER must wait until the needs of the populace are met. Unless somehow there is a way to interconnect the fates of the two, to somehow use the remains of SOLDIER -the living and the dying- to breath life back into Midgar, to guarantee it...

Not until then will any actions be taken, at least not until R and D's next report...
It is in the failing of serving the people -the true remains of Midgar- and not the buildings Shinra spent fortunes into rebuilding, in the city Shinra spent restoring, that has possible brought this upon us all.

Humility comes at the most vile time, humility earned in the final hour of a fast death has no value, but in the final stretch of a long death it serves. Amidst the endless span of rot and dying there is still time and strength enough to fix...

To fix the world, to save it? Hardly, not even the most foolish idealist would buy that! Time... life in sufferance offers us -if nothing else- final moments… final moments in which to stall the tide, to mend the break. Offered... is a final fantasy, that those stronger may come and finish... to climb the path of the dead and dying to find some hope in the future...

At last, delirious in their pain they staggered from the darkness... and their touch was enough to spread it to those who tried to help them and those who tried to flee them.

A line -from a report- from one of the first reports. The paparazzi, press, it's their newest moto, and it snags the healthy readers by the throat giving them all they want. "Shinra's newest failure, they never knew the world was dying until the dying came out and spread their death among the innocent". Shinra, once the most powerful, now a scape goat. Even as it's being dragged to the altar it scrambles to save those who'd damn it.

To be horrible cliche, both anti-Shinra sentiment and the disease have spread like wildfire.

Who'd have ever though, years after WEAPON, after the Sephiroth... incident the Turks would again have to be employed, coaxed out of the shadows, to discreetly save the shattered remains of the world.

"Sir?"

No one was safe, disease was only supposed to attack the old, the weak... First to die irony of ironies, are the children, the hale, the hearty. Statistics state that if the death rate continues as it is there won't be a child of Midgar left in four months.
Death rate being one hundred percent... I doubt now of all times that the statistics are wrong...

"Sir?" Gentler now, the accented voice is but a whisper. "Rufus-sama?"

White fabric stirs. A hand, bandaged, seeping black, stretches out of its confines to rest on the desk. A paper that was signed is lifted, offered to the speaker behind. He'll have to come around of course, leave his place from Rufus' shadow to go to the front of the desk and take the paper. Try the other way and the black seepage might fall on the page, contamination that was always a risk... would become a certainty. Death would be all but guaranteed.

Still... he doesn't come around, the hand holding the paper shakes.

"Anything from R and D for me?"

"No sir." The speaker is louder now, the tone a little colder, the man's manner distant. Perhaps he is angry, perhaps he hurt at the distance of the cool professional tone. "Not yet."

Closing the eye that burns, the eye which is broken beyond tears and burning, Rufus lifted his head from the desk and it's morass of paperwork

"Tseng... Come out from my shadow and take the damned paper already." The gruffness, the strength, are leached out of the tone, along with his pride. The next he spoke it was little more than a whisper. "I can't hold it up much longer."

At last, boot falls, crisp, precise, militant, welcome relief, the paper and it's decision are taken from his hands.

"Sir." Eyes so dark they were black, so black pupil and iris looked like they were the same, they were watching him. Rufus could feel the concern, was not put off by the faint accent to the voice or the forward worry that the man was letting slip into his tone. "You need to rest."

A grim smile, cynicism better suited to a man ten... twenty years older then he was.

"Not yet, I promise I will sleep though, once I'm caught up."

He waved a hand over the desk, a shaking hand, indicating the endless decisions. So few lives, all his scrambling might save -or at least hold the illness away from them for a few more precious days- only a few.

It was better than none, a bitter comfort to those slowly dying.

He manages a smile, opens his eyes, and promises in a slightly brighter tone to rest. Yes, it is unreasonable to think that all this can be tackled in one night, yes sleep will help clear his head... He can manage the walk to his bed alone, Tseng doesn't have to worry it's not that long a walk... He nods and agrees, and watches Tseng clear off the desk then leave. Rude comes in seconds after Tseng leaves, and Rufus allowed his legs to buckle,allows himself fall back into the embrace of the chair.

"He put it in the usual place."

Rude nods. A silent 'Yes Sir.', there's the rustle of paperwork, a small "thump" as the younger Turk set out that which Tseng had put away.

"Anything for me from R and D?"

"No, Sir."

Rufus nodded, understanding how R and D could be so slow, with half it's members dead or dying it was little wonder that anything got done down there. Silent as death Rude walked before his Boss, before the final Shinra and set down the last of the papers andlaid the pen on top of that. Silently the man spread the papers, waited as Rufus dredged up the strength to reach out, drag the most valuable paper with the most pressing decision. Quiet, without judgment, such traits had endeared Rude to Rufus over the years, even as they'd frustrated the young president. Once, once when he'd had the resources to question, to wonder he would have pressed Rude, broken the man's customary silence with a barrage of questions. And Rude, tactful, silent, Rude would avoid answering, drag out his quiet and then finally submit.

The exchange had been something of a game between them, a running joke.

Now Rufus had no time, and Rude, understanding –as he always understood- would stand besides him. Keeping all judgment and worry to himself and occasionally stepping on Tseng's neck when the older more paternal Turk could not understand.

"Thank you, Rude."

Rude's only response was silence, and Rufus, not having the time to spare to see the man's expression only looked down at the paperwork before him. Trying to spend what little moments of coherence he had left to him to give time to those who remained. To give hope to those who were alive.

If there were any, any who weren't slowly dying like him, like the rest of this brokenworld.