There was two things Cloud Strife knew when Rufus Shinra called you to his office; it was either a very good thing, or a very bad thing, and nine times out of ten, it was a very bad thing; he sighed, waiting at the elevator in the base of Shinra Tower. The iron grate that stretched across the elevator shaft remained empty, and that only gave Cloud more time to contemplate what the reason for his summons could be.

As far as he knew, he had done nothing detrimental to his SOLDIER career; so far he had proved himself worthy, and if there was any blemish on his record it had probably been done by his brother, Zack. Zack was also a SOLDIER but he was a bit more liberal and loose with his authority than Cloud was, but Zack was also more seasoned and skilled, and had been in the service longer.

The elevator was clinking now, descending, and the noise continued, echoing into the marble hall. The secretary threw him a furtive glance, and a small smile, but Cloud ignored it. Zack had warned him off of her months ago; apparently she had a thing for anything in uniform, whether that be SOLDIER, Wutain…milk man, even.

The elevator came into appearance, and Cloud watched as his brother appeared through the iron grate.

He swallowed; that didn't bode well for him.

Zack grinned as he met Cloud's eyes; Cloud recognized the smile. It said 'I know something you don't know.'

The elevator grate slid open, and the feeling in Cloud's gut got worse; it was possible that Zack was coming from one of the other five levels in Shinra Tower, either from one of the SOLDIER floors or from the administration offices to flirt with one of the secretaries, but Cloud somehow knew that wasn't the case.

Zack sauntered off the elevator, and Cloud grimaced at him, nodding to the elevator operator to wait a moment.

"Where are you going, little cub?" Zack flashed his teeth at him.

Cloud grunted, "Shinra's office."

Zack's smile grew, "It's a small world then; I was just there."

"Hopefully you weren't being reprimanded for anything I'll have to hear about."

Zack frowned at him. "Is that all you think I'm good for? And no, I think you'll be quite pleased with what you'll hear."

Cloud grimaced; "Why do I find that hard to believe?"

Zack burst into laughter, "I have no idea, honestly."

Cloud glanced to the side, looking at the empty hall. "I need to get up there."

Zack clapped his shoulder, "Don't worry, little cub. It's not bad."

Cloud briskly nodded his head and stepped onto the elevator. The operator slid the grate shut and then turned to him.

"What level, sir?"

"Sixth," Cloud said, and the elevator jerked into motion.

Since Cloud could remember, his mother had always pressed him and his brother into being SOLDIERs; his father had been a SOLDIER before them, and his father before him. The war with Wutai had been raging on and off for decades and his father and grandfather had both fought in it. Cloud could still remember some of the stories about the atrocities his father had committed against Wutai people; he wasn't proud of it, and as he had become older he still couldn't understand some of the things he had done.

Yet, somehow, his father had been executed, convicted of treason, but his mother had never had the heart to tell them the story, and his father's name had been erased from the history and record books. Every battle he had fought and won for Shinra, gone; every drop of blood he had shed, every bead of sweat, all for nothing.

Zack hadn't questioned it, but he had always been destined for the military; strong, smart and brave, Zack had excelled in the military boarding school both of them had been sent to at an early age. But Cloud, second in birth, and in skill, had always lagged behind his brother, struggling to succeed at the levels his brother easily attained. Zack had always been more sociable as well, but possibly that was because of the insecurity Cloud felt because of him. Cloud couldn't blame Zack for being as successful as he had been, but Cloud knew that one of the reasons he was so shy was because of his success.

Cloud stepped off the elevator hesitantly, staring at the door before him. Rufus lay beyond that door, and whatever he needed to say. Cloud grasped the bronze doorknob, and turned it slowly.

Beyond the door lay a luscious office, lined with thick carpets, and heavy, embroidered drapes. Rufus sat behind a mahogany desk, in his customary white suit. His eyes were on the desk before him, a stack of papers and black and white photos spread out on the surface. He glanced up at the sound of Cloud's entrance, a grim look on his face.

"Strife, come in, please." Rufus gestured quickly. Cloud moved into the room glancing about him; it was odd. Rufus had no guards within the office or outside; it wasn't normal for him. Usually he walked about with a retainer of guards and assistants, even within his own office and tower.

"Sir," Cloud said bleakly, snapping into attention.

"Please, please sit," Rufus said, gesturing quickly to the chair before his desk.

Cloud moved stiffly forward, reluctant to sit; that only felt to him that it would be a longer talk, which could be good or bad, but Cloud could only think that it would be bad.

"Strife," Rufus began slowly. "You and your family's position with Shinra over the years has been extremely complicated." Cloud frowned; he was right. It would only be bad. "Your grandfather was a highly esteemed general, and your father had a decorated record as a veteran throughout the various Wutai Wars."

Cloud nodded stiffly, reluctant to admit anything; he wasn't sure where this was going, but he felt more nervous. Bringing up the family history never seemed to end well for anyone.

"And because of that complicated nature you've been granted a mission, an honor of sorts," Rufus said slowly. Cloud raised his eyes meeting them; Rufus eyed him carefully, almost warily. "I've already spoken to your brother in some length about this. Wutai is sending an emissary, and we would like you to house and entertain them," Rufus said simply.

Cloud blinked; at least it was easy to hide his disbelief. He had gotten used to that in school when a teacher would say he was doing as good as Zack had done, or better. "That would be an honor, sir."

Rufus shifted the papers on his desk, fishing out one of the photos. "The emissary is the adopted child of the emperor; half Wutai, the actual child of one of the emperor's praised generals." Rufus looked up at him, with a hard gaze. "General Lockhart."

Cloud felt himself draw up, and he narrowed his eyes. "Sir—

"I know," Rufus said, raising his hands. "I know that you have a…" Rufus paused, tilting his head to the side. "Complicated history with the Lockharts, and with Wutai—

"To say the least," Cloud interjected.

Rufus nodded his head, swallowing hard. "But you were the only family the Emperor would agree to Emissary Kisaragi staying with. I know your mother is in poor health, but I spoke with your brother and he has consented."

Cloud sucked in sharply, feeling his chest contract with pain; he knew his face was turning red but he kept from saying anything. How dare Zack make this decision, and look so happy about it?

"But I didn't tell your brother everything," Rufus continued.

Cloud felt all the air rush from his lungs. Zack didn't have all the details of the mission?

"I know that things are complicated. After the incident between your father and General Lockhart…well, your father was never the same…but…General Lockhart trusted your father, and Emperor Kisaragi trusted General Lockhart, thus, Emperor Kisaragi only feels comfortable having his emissary with your family. Your brother realizes the honor that this mission comes with, and I know, with your mother's health, you are wondering how he could possibly accept it, but think to yourself, how he could possibly not…not only for your country, but for your leader." Rufus stared at him, harshly. "What your brother doesn't know, but probably suspects is that I am giving you a mission."

"A mission?"

"Outside of your family's mission. Outside of what even the company, and your country, even your leader would say to you. This is not to be spoken of from here on out, do you understand?"

Cloud nodded his head briskly, feeling his fingers tingle.

"I need you to kill Emissary Kisaragi," Rufus stated simply.

Cloud blinked.

"Did you hear me, Strife? I need you to kill Emissary Kisaragi."

Cloud nodded his head once, still struck by the way Rufus had stated the mission…as if he were saying he needed his dog fed, or his bed made. It was a simple request, one that struck Cloud as if Rufus made these requests every day, and for a sickening second, Cloud realized that he probably did give these instructions often.

Rufus steepled his fingers, staring at Cloud over the desk. "You've killed before, Cloud. I've seen your records."

Cloud tried to keep his breathing even as Rufus kept talking, but it was getting more difficult.

"I know that you have been in battle, and I know after the incident three summers ago that you have personally killed, in your own home." Cloud felt his neck muscles tighten, sweat beginning to dot his brow, but he kept his face calm. "And I know those situations are very different from what I am asking you to do."

Ordering was more like it, Cloud thought, but kept quiet.

"However," Rufus continued, "I think, no, I know you are the best candidate for this. Zack will be under constant scrutiny. He is already busy with other Wutai affairs, and will have less time to interact with our guest. You, however, have no previous missions or commitments. We think it is best that you execute this mission."

Cloud stared at Rufus blankly, considering the path that had led him to this moment. He wanted to comment on it, but instead replied, "And how would you like this mission executed?"

Rufus sighed, stretching his arms out, and placing his hands behind his head, gazing at the ceiling.

"Since this type of mission is new to you, your company, and your country feel that the best course of action is the one you are most comfortable with. However, your company, and your country ask that you make this assassination a stealth one. If the Wutains discover that the assassination was ordered by your company and country, full out war will once again recommence. However, if you make it look as if the people, that is, the civilians were the ones to authorize this assassination, than the war will likely be prevented through diplomats."

Cloud narrowed his eyes slightly. "I will perform this mission, but may I ask a question, sir?"

Rufus bowed his head in acquiescence.

"Why must this emissary die?" Why not continue the peace we have worked so hard for was what Cloud really yearned to know.

"This emissary is an icon among the Wutais. If they die in straight out assassination by the country and company, then a war is to be sparked; they will be a martyr. However, if the emissary dies by the people's hands, or by an accident, what is Wutai to do? We can control our population to a certain extent, but we cannot account for every person, or every bit of the underbelly that our city contains. The thieves, and vagabonds; they could gain much from the emissary dying. Just imagine the blackmarket they would have on weapons and exotic goods. We will do our best to prevent that from happening; ultimately, the emissary will feel safe, and welcome, and it will be their own fault that they ventured out of the safety of our guards, and walls, and into the seedy, rank neighborhoods that line the city's limits." Rufus turned his steady gaze on Cloud again. "As I said, Strife. This emissary is an icon, one that wishes for peace but Wutai will never give us peace. They are better if they are conquered, and while this emissary may wish for peace, they also wish for the Wutains to not lose their culture, and their heritage…to not lose what simply, in essence, makes them Wutain. We cannot have that. Wutai sits on a pile of untapped resources, and we need control of that, and we need them to let go of their superstitious ways in order to harvest these resources, but we cannot risk an outright war. We have to be able to play a card that says we had no hand in this, but we must silence this icon, before they speak too far…before they drive the people too far to react against us." Rufus sighed. "It is a delicate move we play, but it is a move we must make none the less."

Cloud nodded his head, slowly.

"Speak with Raven. I have a contact with the underworld; the bird should be able to set you up with a viable plan. Do not mention this to anyone, not even your brother." Rufus said plainly.

Cloud nodded again, and stood.

"The contact will be in touch with you. He feels more comfortable coming to you."

"Sir." Cloud turned swiftly, sensing his dismissal, as well as wishing for it. He slipped back out the door, leaving Rufus to contemplate the mission he had just assigned him, and its consequences, and its rewards.

Xxx

Yuffie stood at the bottom of the temple steps, staring up at their steep incline.

It never gets any shorter, she thought to herself as she took the first step. For once in her life though, she wished it was longer. At the top of the steps waited her father, the emperor, and her adopted sibling. Life for Yuffie had never been simple or straight forward; her mother had died at an early age, a raid by Shinra on one of the summer villas kept by the Kisaragi family during the seven year war. Yuffie had been three when her mother passed, leaving a hole in her heart, and her life; she had never seen much of her father during those early years, but her mother had always been a constant presence, shoving aside the nursemaids and toys, and welcoming her only child into her arms at all hours.

It had been a lonely life between then and until Yuffie turned nine; that was when her sibling arrived. That was when Godo took on another child, and not just any child, but a Halfling.

One of Wutai, and of Shinra, Yuffie knew it had been hard on the old man at first, but for her, it had been as easy as pie slipping into the role of younger sister. She had the feeling she had been waiting for something like that since her mother had died.

The first time Yuffie had laid eyes on her she couldn't tell the difference between her and a true blood Wutain. She had black, thick, long hair, and brown eyes, and her face was soft and delicate, just like Yuffie's. Now, as time had passed, and faces changed, as well as the eyes that observed them, Yuffie could tell that her own eyes were different, and her own face not as rounded as her sister's, as well as other body parts. Yuffie had always been slim, built like a young boy more than a young woman, while her sister had filled out in parts that Yuffie didn't even know you could fill out in.

There were things about them that shook her even now that they were so similar in; neither fancying pretty clothes, or dresses, and both rather spending time in the training ground than in the tea parlor. But where Yuffie was loud and insistent, her sister was soft and reasonable; and where Yuffie was belligerent and forceful, her sister was considerate and thoughtful. Yuffie always barked out of turn, and her sister never spoke unless spoken to.

Yuffie could see her now, waiting halfway up the temple steps for her. She raised a hand in greeting, and Yuffie hopped up the last few steps between them eagerly.

"I knew you'd be late," Tifa grinned, her eyes bright.

Yuffie shrugged, looking over a shoulder. "Have you counted the stairs lately? I think they dig the bottom a little deeper each year and add a few more."

Tifa shrugged, "It's possible. It certainly doesn't get any easier."

"He's at the top, isn't he?" Yuffie asked, flatly.

Tifa tilted her head, pressing her lips together tightly. "He wouldn't have asked us here if it weren't important."

Yuffie shrugged, and continued up the stairs, her sister falling into step beside of her.

"Do you know what he wants?"

Tifa hesitated a moment before replying, "I think it has something to do with Shinra."

Yuffie scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Duh. When does it not?"

Tifa hummed quietly to herself, keeping her eyes on the steps beneath them. Yuffie tilted her head up, looking to catch sight of their father.

"What is it?" she asked, quietly.

Tifa sighed, still staring at their feet. "I think it has something to do with me," she said quietly.

Yuffie nodded her head; that seemed logical.

"They like you, ya know?" Yuffie said suddenly.

Tifa glanced at her, folding her hands together before her. "Who?"

"The people," Yuffie glanced over her shoulder, stopping on the stairs a moment. Tifa stopped with her.

Below them spread out their Capital city, the clay, curved roof tiles burning red in the summer's sun. The city streets were lost within those roofs, shoved so tightly in on top of one another, and rising above it all was the palace, trees separating the city from its walls. It was always like a mini vacation in there, escaping the city; you could never hear the ruckus of the city within those walls, but you couldn't feel the wind, either.

"You're their daughter," Tifa stated simply. "They like you."

"But you're different," Yuffie replied, turning to climb the steps again. "You're a mix; you see both worlds, and understand them."

"I would hardly say I understand Shinra—

"But you're from there, and they know that and see that. They miss your father; they think you will save them."

Tifa swallowed, turning her head away from Yuffie quickly. "And…" she said softly, nearly whispering. "What do you think I will do?"

Yuffie looked ahead up the stairs, spotting their father waiting for him. She had seen how much he had aged over the past ten years, and worse, Yuffie had also seen how much Tifa had aged over the past seven, when she began to understand her burden and responsibility. Those three years before that, when Yuffie had been nine to twelve, and Tifa twelve to fifteen, they had been free to be sisters in the truest sense, without worry or cares, and Yuffie yearned for those days.

"I think you will do what is asked of you," Yuffie swallowed the last part. Like you always do.

Tifa nodded her head, looking up, and spotting Godo. "What will he ask of me, then?"

"The impossible," Yuffie said, and Tifa glanced at her sharply. Yuffie grinned though, "And you'll deliver, as always."

Tifa smiled, and reached for her hand as they took the last step to lead them to their father.

Xxx

Cloud hadn't expected Zack to be waiting for him outside of the Tower; in fact, he rather wished Zack hadn't been.

"So, did he tell you the news?" Zack's face was more serious than when Cloud had first seen him. Maybe it had been the shock of the news, or honor as Rufus would put it, that had made Zack smile and laugh, and brush it off. That had always been Zack's way of dealing with things.

Cloud nodded his head briskly.

"It's a great honor Cloud, and we had to accept it, you know that." Zack fell into step beside of him; for once Cloud was walking faster than Zack, and Zack was struggling to keep up. "I wish I had time to warn you, and I wanted to say something earlier, but those…servants…you know he has them in his command. You know they would've told him anything, in fact that elevator man is probably in his office now, telling him I cracked jokes while you sweated."

Cloud grunted, and Zack frowned.

"Cloud, please, say something."

"Did you tell mother?"

"No, not yet, I thought we could tell her together."

Cloud jerked his head in acceptance. "Then we best do that."

"Cloud," Zack's hand clamped on Cloud's elbow, and Cloud jerked it roughly away.

"Don't," Cloud hissed. "I can't…not right now. I understand, but…I can't."

Cloud jerked his arm free, but it did not deter Zack from following him once again.

"Things are different now; it isn't an insult and I know you're worried mother might think it is—

"We come from the family of a traitor," Cloud found himself barking out. He clamped his mouth shut, glancing up and down the empty street. He said more quietly, "Our loyalty will always be questioned. This is the perfect test for us."

Zack grabbed Cloud's arm again, but this time more forcibly. "What did he say to you, Cloud?" Zack asked, deathly serious.

Cloud averted his eyes, trying to move forward. "We take on the emissary, but I don't like it. Mother doesn't need the stress."

"We don't need the stress, Cloud." Zack skipped beside of him, trying to meet Cloud's eyes again. "If we mess this up…if we don't do as Rufus asks, we're as good as done for. Genesis is just looking for an excuse to get us turned on. We can't afford any failures, and I'd say we can't afford any risks, but we both know this mission is one." Zack licked his lips, darting his eyes around the alleyways leading off the street. "Most likely there will be assassination attempts."

Cloud nodded his head briskly, his stomach churning. "Most likely."

"And if we fail at that…at protecting him, our heads will be on a platter….but if we stop one? One he wants done but can't tell us? We'll be done for. We'll be against our company and with a father as a traitor—

Zack cut off suddenly.

"It isn't an honor," Cloud said.

Zack nodded. "It's a death sentence."

Xxx

Godo motioned to the two girls as they reached the top of the stairs to follow him. The girls fell in step behind him silently, following him to the prayer bell. Godo placed his offertory into the well, and his daughters followed suit. Godo motioned to Tifa, and she took in her hands the thick, worn rope of the prayer bell, and rang it three times, so the gods could hear their prayers.

Yuffie glanced at her sister, and father, wondering if the gods would hear them, and wondering what exactly they were to be praying for.

After a moment Godo straightened and beckoned them to follow. Yuffie glanced at Tifa but she was steadily avoiding her eye, so they followed Godo to the edge of the temple's grounds. There was a break in the trees, and Godo stood by the railing, looking down on his city.

"Father…" Yuffie said softly. She was afraid to break his musings, but she was more afraid of what he had planned for her sister. "What is going on?

Godo sighed, keeping his eyes on the horizon. "Your sister is going home."

Yuffie felt Tifa stiffen beside of her, but as usual, Tifa was silent; sometimes Yuffie thought Tifa felt obligated to do whatever Godo said because he had taken her in after her father's death.

"Home? This is her home," Yuffie spat.

Godo sighed heavily again, "You know what I meant. She is going back to her people—

"We are her people! Stop talking like she isn't part of this family! Of this country!" Yuffie said vehemently.

"Yuffie," Godo said tiredly. "I am not trying to say that. The only reason I am sending your sister is because she is the only person I trust with this."

Yuffie swallowed, and Tifa took a step forward, towards Godo. "What would you have me do?" She asked him, softly.

"I would have you be our emissary; we cannot afford another decade of war. Our treasury is already in disarray, our politics are in a shamble…we cannot afford this anymore, and fighting SOLDIERs," Godo shook his head sadly. "Our men are tough, stronger, and fast…trained from birth, they are a formidable force…but SOLDIERs are unnatural, and for every one of them we have to send ten men at least. We need peace, and no one is more level headed than you, Tifa. If either of you can think of someone else I will send them in a heartbeat."

Tifa remained silent and Yuffie bowed her head, "You're right. She is perfect for it."

Godo looked at his two daughters, as different in appearance as they were in personalities. Tifa stood a good head taller than Yuffie, and carried herself in a different way; she carried herself strongly, but Yuffie always seemed to carry herself defiantly.

"I have always tried to do my best by you, both of you," he said slowly. "And in some ways, that might not have been fair. What was best for one of you was not always best for both of you." Yuffie swallowed thickly, both fearing and yearning for what Godo had to say. "I have always denied you a mother, Yuffie, since her passing, and unfortunately I believe I stacked that burden on you, Tifa. I thought maybe with your age, and own lack of mother before you arrived here that you could impart some wisdom, or clarity to my own flesh and blood. I think you did, but I also understand that was too great a task to ask a child, at least, now I do. I find myself at a crossroads. I would give neither of you up, and yet, I must; I have always tried to teach you that as royalty, our country is more important than our own personal feelings, and that is why I must send you, Tifa…and you are the only person I trust with this. I wish it were different," he stated simply, gazing out upon the city. "I wish I had someone else to send, but truthfully, I do not. I do not trust as I should, and I believe that perhaps that is the one thing I have taught you girls. I know you trust me, but even that, to only an extent, and my current behavior only supports that. I am separating you, and sending Tifa into the belly of the beast."

"Father," Tifa said softly. Yuffie glanced at her sister, again struck by curiousity. She had always wondered how easy, or difficult it had been for Tifa to call Godo father. "Everything I do is because you allow me so, that you have given me the chance to do so. My father's people easily rejected me, and murdered my brother, when he was yet a boy. Yours, and my mother's people would've easily done the same had you not stepped forward. I face what I face because you have had the good grace to allow me opportunities that were beyond my grasp. I hope you understand that though this is a frightening thing, it is such an honor that fears cannot penetrate me. All you teachings will be remembered, and as for trust? I am glad I do not trust everyone, because it would surely mean my death traveling to that forsaken place."

Godo stared at Tifa for a moment before looking at Yuffie. "Have you anything to say, daughter?"

Yuffie swallowed; she did not want to lose her sister, the one person who understood every aspect of her, and had been a mother to her, despite Tifa's own youth. She glanced furtively between the both, seeing Godo's desperation, and Tifa's yearning for this course to be easily accepted.

Yuffie faced her father. "All I know is that I am stubborn, as you are, as my mother was, and that we have taught Tifa well." Tifa smirked and Godo chuckled softly. "I do not wish my sister to go, but if it must be so, and if you both want it, I know you are both too stubborn to sway." Tifa bowed her head, and Yuffie watched as her father relaxed. She knew this was the way to lure them into what she wanted. "However," Yuffie said simply. "I am stubborn, and I refuse to be separated from my sister, so I insist to travel with her as a body guard."

Xxx

Rufus pulled the cloak tighter around his face, bowing his head into the shadow of the hood. It was all he had within the slums of Midgar. He faced the bar before him, looking at the depilated sign; Seventh Heaven. More like Seventh Hell, he thought grimly to himself.

Rufus leaned against the door, feeling it drag in protest as he pushed it open; inside was filthy surroundings, but the bar was packed with people. They were dressed as he expected, in dirty, tattered clothes, and Rufus knew as soon as he saw them that the cloak was as much of a give away as his face.

Rufus clung to the back wall, trying avoid most of the stares of the patrons of the bar; he glanced about for the wench that ran the main floor and finally spotted her a few tables down, talking to some guests.

Rufus slowly moved towards her, reaching out and grasping her elbow lightly.

"Miss Jessie."

The woman turned, and smiled knowingly. "He's upstairs. Go on, he's expecting you," she said simply, gesturing toward the steps in the back corner.

Rufus nodded and ducked his way towards the stairs, slinking up them as quietly as he could. At the top was a narrow hallway dripping with mildew. A burly, dark man stood before the door at the end of it, glowering at him. Rufus contemplated turning back but pushed onward.

"I'm here to see the Raven."

The man nodded, and grunted.

"Shinra business," he replied simply.

"He's expecting you," the man said, and pushed the door open for Rufus.

Rufus slipped through, eyeing his surroundings warily.

Beyond the door was an interesting scene; Rufus could tell that most of the items within the room had once been of high quality, but age, or disuse had brought them to ruin. The woven carpet beneath his feat was worn, and the floor peeked through the holes. The chair that sat before a roaring fire was threadbare, and one leg had been replaced with a stack of blocks.

Rufus cleared his throat, seeing an arm resting on the chair beyond him.

"Raven," he said softly.

The hand lifted in a gesture of welcome, but Rufus felt no desire to move forward; to move forward and see the face of the Raven could mean death. Rufus didn't wish to be one who knew his identity.

"The prince makes his appearance at last," the voice that replied from the chair was soft, spoken almost melodically.

Rufus tried to clear his throat before speaking again, fearing that his voice would crack.

"I have spoken to Strife. He will do as he is told. He is an obedient one."

The Raven hummed softly. "One more so than his brother."

Rufus nodded hastily before remember that the Raven could not see him. "Yes, yes…your contact, I told Strife that your contact would meet with him soon."

The Raven chuckled darkly. "And you came out all this way to tell me? In that fancy cloak of yours? How foolish."

Rufus shuddered involuntarily. "Yes, well…the job must be done."

"Have you so little faith?"

"Not in you. It is best to cover your bases."

The Raven chuckled again. "Yes. I always respected you more than your father." The Raven raised his hand in dismissal. "Leave. Before you are recognized. My people cannot know I deal with your kind, and you are in far more danger for it being so, than I. I will send my contact to the Strife house before the emissary arrives. That is all you need to know. Do not visit me again, unless it is under dire circumstances. Do I make myself clear?"

"Of course," Rufus said before darting out the door quickly. The Raven was the only man he feared, other than his father.

Xxx

Cloud stood with Zack and their mother just a few steps behind Rufus. Rufus's father was still in his room, hooked up to the machines that kept him alive; Rufus was effectively the company's president, and by de facto the country's president, and Cloud felt himself nervous by that for some reason. From the stories he had heard from his mother and Zack, Rufus' father had always been a formidable force, but was pliable. He could influenced by certain things, but as far as Cloud knew Rufus was practically a rock. He was immovable, and unflappable.

The airship was still a ways off, but easily identifiable in the sky. There was a larger crowd than Cloud expected attending the ceremony; maybe it wasn't the fact that it was larger as much as it wasn't as hostile as Cloud expected.

Zack was holding his mother's arm, supporting her easily while glancing over his shoulder at Cloud. Cloud supposed he maybe should've been in front of him, but since Zack didn't know about Cloud's assassin mission, Cloud figured it was probably okay, and perhaps for the best. Rufus's contact with the Raven still hadn't made himself known but Cloud knew the Raven was prompt, and would expose himself when felt it necessary.

The aircraft slowly descended and Cloud felt himself drawing up, his back tensing and the skin over his cheeks stretching tight in stress. Zack held his face calm, but Cloud was sure that was for their mother's sake more than anything else.

The aircraft slowly puttered down, roaring loudly over the crowd, flowing with streamers and balloons. Fireworks sounded in the distance; this was a time of celebration. The emissary was here to make peace, but Cloud felt sickening knowing that he wouldn't survive this trip, and that the peace wouldn't come.

Cloud watched as the propellers whirred to a slow stop, the sound deafening. Cloud watched as his mother leaned backwards from the ship, Zack supporting her with his arm. Cloud placed a hand on her shoulder, bracing them both. He felt her relax slightly under her touch, and in turn, Cloud relaxed. The thing he had been asked to do was dirty, beneath him; men should be killed on the field of battle, not in closed off rooms or secretly by poison. Men deserved a clean, clear cut death; that was something he asked for, but sitting here, looking at the airship, he wondered if he would be gifted with such a thing after what he intended to do.

The airship settled into the dock, and Cloud felt himself draw up, even with his mother near him. The gate opened and out poured several guards, followed by two women, and then several more guards.

Cloud watched, staring intently, waiting for more people to exit but none did; he did not see the emissary.

Cloud watched as Rufus moved forward, with only two guards flanking him; Turks, mostly likely, Cloud thought. Rufus reached the two women, and grasped the taller one's hand in his own. Cloud studied her from a distance; all he knew was that she had pale skin, and dark hair, which was typical of Wutain…but Cloud still couldn't believe her to be the emissary.

Rufus grasped her hand tightly within his own, and began leading the two women through the guards and towards Cloud's family. Cloud felt his heart quickening, and placed his other hand on Zack's shoulder, squeezing it gently. Cloud watched as Zack bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement, and Cloud removed his hand. Rufus led the two women forward and as they approached Cloud only felt more apprehensive.

Cloud realized with a sickening feeling that the emissary was a woman, it had to be; Rufus would not have greeted them so warmly unless the emissary was delayed, and this was his wife, or his daughters. But just looking at the woman Cloud knew she held a purpose; they both did. The smaller looked guarded and ready for a fight, and the taller was most certainly wary, but something about her face was open. Cloud felt as if he could vomit seeing her eyes, full of hope and the want of change. He knew there would be none; he also knew there would be nothing but pain in her future.

The worst part was Cloud knew he would kill her.

A/N: SOOOoooo I don't know whether or not to make this a separate story. Someone requested this story line, of Cloud originally assassinating Tifa and what not, and I will eventually look up who that was but not currently, so instead of making this into a reaaaally long drabble with still not enough content (i.e. Strife and Hate me) I'm gonna make this into a little mini series within the soft spot mostly cause I'm drunk and starting a new story sounds lame sauce right now when I still need to work on the sequel to Swan Song and finish Blood Wars (DONT HATE ME!) I don't know. Horky's been in a bad place for a while, and it makes for sad writing but I don't think this will be a tragedy so all is well! So if you see any major errors please forgive me and understand that I wrote this whilst intoxicated, and honestly I find that quite impressive. I thank it was Zaa-Z00 or something like that who requested this story line so I will try to update this soon! I actually had this plot line in mind for its own story quite a while ago but it never got off the ground and the only time I seem to find inspiration is when I've had a couple of drinky drinks. The words just flow so nicely. Anyways! I hope you like where this is going and will bear with the fact that I haven't updated in a while for a like 5,000 word chapter! with more to come! I love you all so much! You are awesomely awesome and should have hugs! If you'd like to visit me I will totally give you hugs.

Also, I'd like to put in a plug for a couple of youtube channels I watch. The radbrad and phreakindee. radbrad gives a ton of great walkthroughs with comedy; I feel as if his reactions are similar to my own whilst playing and phreakindee is AMAZING if you are a Sims fan. Check em out!

One final note: I have a lot of older stories I wish people would check out; not saying that they don't get read but I enjoy reviews and criticism in the best way possible. I know Painted Lady jumps in and out of perspectives like a mofo, and that My Cloud and the oldest story, I can't remember are really quite sad...or at least I think so...but I would love to hear some feed back on Painted Lady, Deliverance, To The man that Died, My Decaying Star, Two Steps, Before They were Heroes, Mad Man, Lost Lullaby, Images of a hero and any others. Obviously my older ones are going to be pretty rough, but I really appreciate criticism on the actual story. Tell me what you do and don't like. I will say I read one on Swan Song I didn't appreciate, mostly because I didn't find all the points completely valid...talk about how Tifa was like Bella in Twilight and all the guys were into her and she couldn't fight for herself. I found that utter bullshit. Tifa, I thought, in that story, was a very independent and strong character. Yes, she depended on Cloud, but not every guy I mentioned that story was fawning over her. I digress. I apologize, I appreciate constructive critiscism but I feel sometimes people just like to antagonize.

Later loves!