By: Miroir du Symphonie

Fandom: Kingdom Hearts

Chapter Rating: PG

Chapter Warnings: None

Pairings: Roxas x Sora, Xemnas x Saïx, Kadaj x Yazoo x Loz, Marluxia x Larxene, Leon x Riku

A/N: Okay. All of you can feel free to shoot me. Go ahead - it's open season. This chapter is utter fail, firstly - it surpasses filler. It's canon fodder. And I had to force myself to write it. Fortunately, the next chapter is much more interesting - there's a Kairi update. (Bet you all think I forgot about her, didn't you?) Sora's father puts in a violent appearance, Larxene does some snooping, and there's some LeonCloud romance-like stuff for all of you LC fans. (Like myself. I love them. So much.)

Second order of business - I know I promised you guys a fic. It's coming, I promise, I'm writing it now, and it's shaping up to be a very long oneshot. And yes, it is LeonCloud. So watch out for it, okay?

Thirdly, there was something I wanted to address. I know that this story is drifting in the FFVII direction (towards Cloud, mostly) and straying from its main RoxasSora plot. Once more, I am going to say that the drifting is intentional. All of this stuff is going to matter when it comes down to the actiony parts and what happens to the twins in the end. So bear with me, okay? And ooh, Valentine's Day will come in a few chapters. Wonder what happens then...

Try to enjoy this, for my sake. And please review. It cheers me up and lets my fingers fly.

XXV: Bodies

Wednesday—January 28th

The parlor was dimly lit, flickering chandeliers casting eerie shadows on the walls that added to the weighty atmosphere. A glance outside the window revealed a monsoon in progress, sheets of rain falling so thickly that the objects behind them were mere silhouettes. Inside the walls, however, there was no appreciation for a rainy day, no desire to curl up between blankets with tea and a good book. The people were a black parade instead, memories falling into soggy tissue and irises awash with red.

Within the sanctum of the large building, however, a large casket made a macabre centerpiece. As coffins went, it was nothing elaborate, simply a black metal box with white lining. However, the body inside it was the reason all were assembled, and from it wafted the heavy scent of the orient—a mere condolence to cover the perfume of death.

Amid the rows of mourners and Shinra employees sat a man, surrounded by a group of four with ramrod posture. His expression was its usual blank, but internally he was smirking at the elaborate proceedings and the masked devastation that radiated from the President a few seats away. Devastation was close by as well, manifested with three boys dressed in expensive suits with neatly combed hair.

Yazoo's expression was calm and his desolation buried deep, but he had practically raised the boy and knew where to look for it. Loz was also composed but the perpetual twitching of his broad palms spoke wonders to Sephiroth. Poor Kadaj didn't even bother to hide it—his eyes brimmed with tears and he was leaning, ever-so-slightly, on Loz.

The General gave an inward smirk. They were all too amusing.

His fourth companion was one a little less breakable, a man of honor and underestimated strength. Zack Fair was one of the few people Sephiroth respected, though the man was a little too bubbly for his own good—and clueless as to certain undercurrents at Shinra. With plans moving at the pace they were, he wasn't quite sure where the lieutenant would fall in the final scheme of things.

That was a matter for another day, however.

He came out of his thoughts in time to note the standing people and catch the announcement of the upcoming interment, which he had no intention of attending. Rising gracefully, he walked down the crowded aisle. Zack's heavy footsteps sounded beside him, and violet eyes were filled with sadness as the man spoke. "Man, I can't believe it's over. Always thought of Tseng as infallible, you know? Wonder why he kicked the bucket."

"Perhaps he was unhappy," Sephiroth replied smoothly.

"Maybe. Don't really see a reason, though. Maybe he had a girl somewhere and it went wrong, or something." Zack's raven spikes shifted as he shook his head. "Any clue who's going to replace him?"

"I have not been informed of any change in staffing as of yet."

"It'll take some time, then." The lieutenant sighed. "Going to be a hassle finding someone as good as Tseng was though."

For once, Sephiroth had trouble hiding his smile.

Reno stood in the front, hands in his pockets as the sanctuary slowly emptied. The coffin had been opened for the few stragglers who wanted a last look, but the pews were bare—save one. A blonde sat in the front row, dressed in an outfit identical to Tseng's, head bent and tissue obscuring her face. Elena Tenshi. Eighteen years old. A Turk in training. And his fiancée.

Who he didn't know at all.

Well, sure, he knew her history. Her mother had also been a Turk and had raised Elena for the job, home-schooling her and training her in combat and weaponry from a young age. Elena's father had chosen to stay out of Shinra, and was a college professor who happened to be on excellent terms with Reno's parents. In the higher echelons of society, adults being friends wasn't that far a jump from betrothal arrangements. Arrangements that were optional for the sake of fairness, but present and encouraged.

He eliminated the freedom of choice with Cloud's stunt.

Elena wanted to make her father—now a single parent—happy.

While it was true that the redhead didn't know the girl very well, she was going to be his wife the second she turned 21. And there was nothing he could do to change it. While it was true that he didn't have feelings for her at all, she seemed like an agreeable person and a hard worker. Not someone who deserved the crap he had put Cloud through.

If you're going to do something, now would be the time to do it, dumbass.

So, Reno had made a New Year's resolution. Yes, it was late. Yes, it was difficult, because he was still hurting and every time he closed his eyes he saw blue and pain. But it was one he was determined to follow through with. He had ruined one life already. There was no need to screw up another.

His dress shoes made whispering sounds on the carpeting. The bench creaked as he sat down next to her. The stragglers had gone. Tseng was immobile. She offered a watery smile.

No, he wasn't in love with her. But he was going to try.

His mind was made up.

If one was to glance skyward that afternoon, they would have been blessed with the sight of a figure—hair streaming out like a reflective banner, moving like a skipping child or some fallen angel who had sneaked to the planet for frolic. And indeed, the figure had a seraphic air that made one wonder if it was truly not of this world. Said silhouette's intentions, however, were anything but godly as he made his way from rooftop to rooftop.

Finally, he reached his destination. Climbing onto the branches of a nearby tree was a simple enough task, and it wasn't long before he alighted gently on the ground before a comfortable-looking house. Breaking in was relatively easy, and a skill he had utilized too many times to be apprehensive about. He'd done enough research to know that no one would be home—but that someone was fast approaching. Exactly what he wanted.

Sitting on the comfy-looking couch, he settled in to wait until the roar of a motorcycle was heard in the distance. Louder and louder came the noise until it dimmed to only the humming of an engine and then stuttered to a complete stop. The doorknob jiggled and the key fit to the lock with a muted clicking sound.

Yazoo smiled.

The teenager looked windblown as he stepped over the threshold, cheeks rosy from the cold and lips an attractive claret. Yazoo had seen him several times on his numerous surveillance trips, but never had he taken the time to appreciate the boy's beauty. A beauty that was somehow preserved in anger—it was in the midst of the boy removing his jacket that Yazoo was noticed.

He was expecting to be attacked the moment the blonde registered the strange presence, but was greeted to only a defensive stance and narrowed blue eyes. So Strife wasn't of the shoot-first-ask-later variety. Lovely.

"Who the hell are you?"

He took a deep breath, silver head bent and metallic strands sweeping low to cover his face. When he looked up, Cloud was visibly shocked. Those large emerald eyes were sparkling with tears—and to Yazoo, they were much easier to summon then they should have been. In that moment, he felt all of his despair, hurt, pain, fear and love rush to crash over him like a bloodthirsty tsunami.

"I need you, Strife."

Help me.