Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy used Characters are copyrighted to Tetsuya Nomura. Minor/Filler Characters...Copyright to me.
AN: Um...^^; Where do I start. About a week or so ago, I MEANT to get this finished and posted up before my Anti Virus ran out on my old Laptop. BUT, I phailed to do so. *hangs head in shame* SO. Now I finished this Chapter. We have ONE MORE chapter to go and its going to just jump ahead of a gazillion mini things such as Therapy, angst, drama, possible splitting because of emotional turmoil...and all the other crap that can be squeezed into a side Story much like some of the other stuff in this. Like Tifa's relationship with Aerith and all that...and why she's an invisible spirit who molested a drunk Tifa in one Chapter and then was her Conscious when Nicholas nearly took Tifa home w/him. Among other things. ANYWAY.
HEAVY WARNING: Be warned. I don't go into detail what happens to Cloud, BUT...and its a big one (joke at Church)...nonetheless...if you read between the lines...you can find that I kinda NON DESCRIPTIVE WISE...hinted at the men doing a dirty thing to Cloud...such as Rape. I NEVER right Rape fanfiction. Never will, and don't plan to ever start. Its "hinted" in this chapter. Just a fair warning to those who dare read on.
Either way...Enjoy. Look for Chapter 30 which is the Epilogue and ties up loose ends ...eventually. My Mind is off and running on doodles and wanting to get on to AMV Projects again now that I have a WORKING laptop...*huggles Asus laptop*
As was with any calm before the storm, when a storm hits; it hits hard, and fast. Tornados are forces of nature that no man can even fathom the massive strength it carries as it tears through homes, yards, and city streets. Earthquakes, a force of nature that arises from the very Earth beneath us; causing destruction of homes, lives other known forms of life as we know it. But a hurricane, that is a form of destruction that comes in waves; forewarning us what is to come.
Nicholas had been such a hurricane.
He had sent wave after wave of attack after Sephiroth and those closest to him.
A little splash here.
A crashing wave here to someone close to his heart.
A slam of rolling waves upon a dear friend.
But a full front assault; no one was ready for such an attack as the one that had fallen upon the small trio. There had been only a scramble of noises, voices, arms, limbs, men's voices cackling, Cloud's screams as Sephiroth attempted to pry the very men off of him and attack Nicholas. Sounds of running feet and guns being drawn as the hurricane had been brought to its knees, but not without a fight. Sephiroth had managed to get a few punches in here and there, until the Police were prying him off of Nicholas. Ambulance sirens began to ring out throughout the night as police cars swarmed around to round up the offenders.
The simplest word that could define all of this in one singular term.
It hadn't taken long for word to reach the eager ears of the media; especially the local news reporters; they had come in droves like mice fleeing from the rising flood waters. Reporters could've have been labeled as such as a flood of them had come racing to the front doors of the County General Hospital; hoping to catch a glimpse of what had happened, or at least, of the one's effected by the near tragedy. One reporter all but got his just desserts story when his face was met by a heavy hand of Sephiroth's as the police continued to usher him into the Hospital while Raechel stayed at his side. No one was to speak to the Media.
Damage control was going to be hers alone to deal with; she had done it too many times before to not be the one to go for controlling the throngs of story hunger vultures at the doors. She could barely hear them shouting out questions, some more personal than others for the moment. It was numbing to her, she seemed to be walking in a daze, a numb, hazy haze as she was moved, in almost slow motion through the doors. One of the officers caught her gently by the arm.
"Someone is going to have to deter them or else this is going to get out of hand…"
Deter them, he says…heh, better said than done, my man…
With the man at her side, Raechel peered out into the glowing bulbs of Camera Lights as microphones from many local and private News Stations were shoved into her face, "What can you tell us about what happened tonight?"
"Was this is a stunt to get publicity for the new books release?"
"The young man in Mr. Maximus' company, will he be alright?"
Several other questions followed in a mini tornado of their own as she held up a hand as to silence them, like Jesus reaching out to the stormy waters and whispering, 'Peace, be still…' it wasn't until the Officer at her side raised his voice. He sounded like a parent reprimanding his kids as mild hush start to fall on the crowd of Reporters as they locked their gazes on her.
"At this time, I don't think I can give an answer for what happened tonight…investigations are being done to uncover what has happened and why it happened. As for this being a stunt," her gaze became hard as she glared at them through her weary gaze, one eye was starting to turn black and a soft tint of purple about it, "I think it sick that you would assume such a thing. There ever was to be a stunt to promote the book; we wouldn't stoop to such levels to get word out. And as for the young man…"
She could hear the clicking of camera's and the shuffling of feet, trying to get more comfortable from being perched out in front of the Hospitals hours before their arrival, "…Just pray. That is all…"
Turning her back on the throngs of voices, cameras, clicks of cameras going off, reporters and on lookers; her mind went numb as she barely felt the officer's hand on her back. Maneuvering her back into the Hospital where she could re-gather her thoughts.
I could've prevented this…why didn't I realize it…
Raechel looked less for wear, compared to Sephiroth and Cloud who had taken the brunt of the attack, seeing as how it had been meant for them; especially Cloud. She was baring only a few minor cuts and bruises; nothing too serious, aside from a black eye that was forming about her left eye. It seemed trying to take on a guy twice your size and a hundred times your weight doesn't equal out for someone that weighs less than 200 pounds soaking wet. When she had been ushered through the doors earlier when they had begun to wheel in Cloud, while keeping a zombie like Sephiroth at bay from taking out the Doctors. The Police had surrounded her should there be other assailants in the crowd of story hungry reporters. It had seemed as if someone had alerted the mass ahead of time that there was going to be a nasty take down.
The Police had sworn up and down they had comment or answer.
Raechel was too shaken to even get out a humanly possible response.
Carlton and Matthews had stayed at her sides as cameras and microphones were shoved into her face, lights blaring into her already worn eyes; illuminating the mere tears that had been there moments ago. She had begun to shed tears as the momentary numbness at the beginning at begun to wear off; she had shed as she watched in stark horror as the men assaulted someone so innocent that shouldn't have been the target for attack, just to get at Sephiroth.
"There is no word on whether or not formal charges will be brought upon the man in question, as well as his accomplices, but we can assure you that as much as we know, you know," Matthew spoke up as he heard the clicking of cameras going off, the shuffle of feet to wear off the ache of standing around for a morsel of a story, "We can not, at this time, give out the condition of Sephiroth Maximus or his companion. The Doctors tell us that only immediate family will be allowed to speak to the young man or know anything further. That is all…"
The call was screamed out as Carlton and Matthew started to turn Raechel back towards the Hospital amongst the sound of shuffling feet, camera crews, snapping of cameras and voices. Raechel was utterly shell shocked as it seemed, but something, something was telling her to turn back around and face the hounds at their backs.
"…The only story that should you be telling…is about the upcoming release of Mr. Maximus' book, leave the man some shred of dignity tonight," Raechel managed through a sob in her throat as she slowly dragged her feet through the sliding doors of the Hospital.
Cloud was a buzz with joy over the fact that a dream that he had only dreamt of ever coming true was finally coming true; he had dreamed of finding someone to love, but, getting to work alongside such a decorated writer such as Sephiroth. It was as if he had died and gone to Heaven a dozen times over; his joy could not be wiped from his face as he had all but jumped into Sephiroth's waiting arms. Twirling about in his arms out of sheer childlike glee. Raechel could only watch on as the seemingly young adult male acted as if he was merely a young boy in the long arms of a man the height of a tree. But what she saw next, made her heart cry; an actual laughing smile had broken out on Sephiroth's face. Never once, had she ever seen it before, but, the magic of Cloud's laughter and smiling expression seemed to had broken down a cold door to the man's heart. Turning him into a laughing fool like the young man in his arms; it was truly a sight to behold.
"I don't know whether to be happy or just…over the moon happy for you?" catching his breath, Cloud began to rearrange himself and reached up to help Sephiroth with his attire as well, but the man's hands stopped him, "Come on, let me fix your tie, I should at least be granted that much after making it askew…"
Sephiroth never appreciated being touched in a way to fix his attire, but as he let go of Cloud's wrists; he brought his arms around Cloud's waist as he picked him up by the waist. Leaning his ear down against the boy's ear; his face turning a shade of red that would later probe Raechel to ask what it was that he had said to the boy, but maybe it best to leave it alone.
"I think I can handle it Cloud…I'm a big boy or have you forgotten that?" the man chuckled, playfully poking Cloud in the forehead as he turned for the car.
"You're just as much a kid as I am, Sephiroth, don't deny it; you about pounced all over me when I brought you home those Peppermint Sticks the other day…"
Raechel saw a look of remembrance cross Cloud's face as Sephiroth finished fixing his tie, "It had been a long day and the sugary candy was a welcomed surprise…"
"Come on, you know you liked the idea of me bringing you your favorite childhood treat to you…"
Sephiroth sighed, "That I did enjoy it…but now, I want to enjoy something else; the company of my good friend and my boyfriend, at dinner to celebrate the release of the book in a week."
"Now we're talking!" Raechel crowed as she punched a fist into the air, heading for the car, "This can't get any better!"
If only I had know what was waiting for us as we got to the car…
Raechel had forever thought she would be blaming herself for not seeing it sooner what was looming about her car as they had come upon it. When the Police had come to make their report, after cuffing Nicholas and Company, they had come to take photos of the vehicle, the surrounding area and of her. Forensics claimed it was so that the Police had proof to put the scumbag away; she thought it way for them to get up close and see what a battered woman looked like. Her car had taken hits here and there, compared to Sephiroth and Cloud, especially Cloud. A few dings, a broken window. Nothing her insurance couldn't pay for, but what they couldn't pay for was the amount therapy it was going to take to cure Cloud.
Carlton and Matthew stood nearby, sipping on their own cups of coffee; keeping a close eye on Raechel, "I don't get it, Carlton, why would he go after these guys? It's not like they anything to offer him and he had no record of violence as far as it went tonight…"
"Who knows, there is always someone that has a bone to pick with someone, but I guess…" he glanced over to Raechel as she looked up to see a slightly limping Sephiroth coming towards her, "…there is only one way to find out and that's by asking the one responsible for the attack."
Matthew scoffed, "Good luck, the DA won't even let me near the scum bag because the little bastard has a lawyer lined up for this; he's going to make bail soon…"
"Shit, and here I thought I was doing you guys a favor…"
"You were until the Target jumped the gun a few steps too soon ahead of us…"
Raechel watched in stark horror as Sephiroth limped to her; he looked like a man who had seen a ghost, numb from head to toe. A bandage was still wrapped around his head where the men had clobbered him in and then slammed his head into a corner of the brick alley way. What was it about those places that seemed to interest Nicholas? There was a wild eye stare about Sephiroth's face as he seemed to walk like the undead to sit beside Raechel; coffee cup still clutched in her hands as she reached out a timid hand to place it on his arm.
"Any news yet?" she was trying, with all her will to not sound scared as she spoke to him, "They going to release Cloud soon?"
As if the man hadn't even heard, as if her words had gone in one ear and out there, there was no singular movement from the man, "Seph, please…just tell me something."
But he couldn't; he had been paralyzed in a way that couldn't be seen on the outside. He had watched on in brutal horror as the men, one by one, took what was his, over and over in front of his eyes. Listening on in sheer disgust as he heard Cloud screaming out his name, begging for him to make it stop; he could still hear the sickening laughter from the men who held him at bay. As well as the ones that took their turns with Cloud, over and over they did it, it was like a rerun that couldn't be pulled off the air; it wasn't until the sound of sirens, running feet and voices of Police Officers stopped the men. Sephiroth had only enough strength to crawl to Cloud and even as he got to him; he couldn't bring himself to taken in the stark horror he saw of the broken body on the floor of the alley. Not a cry or scream could be ripped from his throat as he seemed, in slow motion, to gather the form into his chest; wordlessly crying out and sobbing over the young body in his arms. Police had all but been forced to pry the man off Cloud to the point Paramedics had had to sedate him from the rage he had flown into once removed from Cloud. To any normal person, he looked like a man possessed on a drug that seemed to give him super human strength; all he saw in the faces of those men then were the faces of the attackers.
And on the on looking, smirking faced Nicholas watching on as he saw the horror dance onto Sephiroth's face.
"Well, well, if it isn't the happy little family out for a little family outing I see?" Raechel couldn't stop herself from turning around to face that voice; oh how she wanted to ignore it, "I wasn't aware that little boys were allowed to be out so late on a School Night…"
Cloud hated being referred to as a child; he may still maintain that Baby Face appearance, but he was a grown man. Sephiroth had proven that fact truth, but there were some that still considered Cloud a younger brother, even a little brother. Nicholas was just rubbing that further into his face as he clutched tighter to Sephiroth's arm; he could feel the rage building under Sephiroth's form as a couple of chuckling voices started to be heard from behind him. Too many times he had sat through some stupid special on the National Geographic Channel with Zack, on days that he was bored and wanted to see wild animals tear into a helpless animal. He had watched as the Lioness' surrounded the beast they were going to take down, one would be on the creature's flank to the right and left of it, one at its front and then another at his back. While the lead would be in the animal's blind spot.
One such animal had caught Cloud off guard in a blind spot that was well hidden by Sephiroth's protective frame. All that ripped from his lips was the sounds of his own screams as the two men struggled to get Cloud away from Sephiroth. Sephiroth had attempted to take a step forward but another man, unknown from the group, caught Sephiroth in the back of his knees while Nicholas took slamming the man's head, sideways into the brick wall of the alley.
That was all Sephiroth registered as he faded in and out of consciousness while he blindly watched Raechel fending off the other intruders while scrambling to dial 9-1-1; unaware that there were officers in the nearby vicinity.
"So tell us, what was it that prompted you to go after one, Mr. Maximus?" Matthew began as he flipped open the chart of the charges against Nicholas, but it was more or less just a blank folder with scraps of paper from the discard shelf at his desk, "Did he owe you some money? Sleep with an old girlfriend of yours? Or…"
Matthew slammed down the actual folder of the man's former charges, "Just a little petty revenge for something stupid that you yourself; would have gotten caught for. Plagiarism, it was a serious case in Colleges, and is a serious case either way…You felt threatened by him, didn't you?"
Not a single blink of the man's eye.
Not a dash of eyelashes.
"My partner," Carlton was now being eyed by Matthew, "and I, we've got all night to sit here and get you to spill your guts all over this table. In fact, our agents are talking with your guys now. And from what I've heard, they've all but sold you out for some simple plea agreements that they won't get the max sentence for the crime of assault and battery, let alone, attempted sexual assault."
There it was.
A look of disgust crossed Nicholas' face, "I don't care. Those men were sick. I only told them to rough them up a little…not go so far as to nearly rape that boy…"
Carlton glanced to Matthew, "So, you're admitting you knew these guys had ill intentions meant for Mr. Maximus and his companion, Mr. Strife?"
"Yes, but I have nothing to do with what they tried to do with him…I just wanted to scare off Sephiroth, make him realize, I'm not a force to be reckoned with…and if someone gets hu-…" Nicholas instantly clammed up, "…I want a lawyer."
From behind Matthew's back, he gave Carlton a thumbs up which became the signal to one of the agents to come in and retrieve Nicholas, "Get our guest here his Lawyer…"
Within the mind, an individual can escape from trauma, drama, the horrors of reality; little kids know all to well how to do this, especially when Mommy and Daddy are screaming at one another. Creating an alternate universe of reality in their subconscious to escape the absolute reality blaring outside their peripheral view. Every slap that was heard, were the sound of a couple of kids to their right playing a child like game with their hands like Patty Cake. Rhymes that are child like in nature. A cursing scream; to a child, it was the sound of a child calling out to another, 'I'm going to get you! Tag! You're it!' But the sounds of someone crying out of pain to make it all stop; they became soft petal like rain drops falling on this sublime subconscious like world. Cloud's mind had slipped away into what we would all our, "Happy Place". A place to escape the sounds of machines beeping, people talking around him, just, everything that was going on around him.
"…Sweetie…Sweetie…come back, sweetie…"
I don't want to…it hurts…
"I know, honey…but, please, for me…even Sephiroth, just please come back…"
Silence met his mind.
"GET OFF ME! GET OFF! GET OFF! GET OFF! SEPH-!"
"SHUT HIM UP! DO YOU WANT THE ENTIRE AREA TO HEAR HIM?"
"Hehehe…let's see what makes little Mr. Maximus such a fruit…shall we?"
"NO! NO! NO! NO! STOP IT!"
"JUST TELL THEM TO GET HERE NOW! I DON'T CARE IF THEY'RE ON A BREAK, THERE IS AN ASSAULT IN PROCESS! JUST PLEASE SEND HELP BEFORE THEY HURT HIM!"
"FREEZE! HANDS UP WHERE WE CAN SEE 'EM! HANDS UP!"
"In local news tonight, reports are flooding in off an assault that was attempted against Mr. Sephiroth Maximus and those in his party this evening; this is not the first time he and the others with him have found themselves being assaulted. But tonight's events, could've turned deadly had it not been for the efforts of a group of Police Officers who had hoped to plan a sting operation against the individual in question for the assault," the reports kept pouring in and pouring in; it was on every channel.
Glued to the television, in three different homes, were the gazes of those who knew of the ones involved. Zack had become inconsolable as he clung to Angeal's chest; begging for the T.V. to just be turned off as Angeal had looked for another channel to watch. Rude had all but had to sit on Reno as he turned off the T.V.; Reno had become a tornado of curse words and threats of violent acts against the ones responsible for the attacks. Tifa was shocked into utter terror as all she could do, was sit and watch through her tears, her tears then turned to screams at the television as the picture of the man accused of the assaults flashed on the screen. No one was safe from the horror of what they saw that night; for the next few weeks, it would be the top story on the news.
Raechel wanted to worry about how this would affect the start of sales next week, but that didn't matter right now; all that mattered was getting Sephiroth's shattered mind returned to a state of sane. Then his career could be worried about, his personal life was in pieces at the moment and she could see as the man seemed to succumb to every held back emotion in his heart as he sobbed into his hands. Cradled against his knees as Raechel wrapped her arms around his shoulders to console him; it only made the shaking man's shoulders shake harder and the sobs came out harder.
Genesis could only watch from a distance as his old friend cried his heart out; he had never seen Sephiroth such a broke man ever before in his life. When an old friend of theirs had been killed in a drunk driving accident; Sephiroth had played the stone called statue while Angeal had done his best to console their friend's family, Genesis had played it off as best he could, as he usually did. But even then, as it was now; he could tell Sephiroth had been crying on the inside for their departed friend. Cloud was not a departed friend, just a lover hurt by a man with a bone to pick with Sephiroth that meant destroying something precious to him in the process.
"Rhapados?" Genesis turned his gaze over his shoulder to see Carlton coming up behind him, "Matthew said that you're on Security Detail for Strife…myself or someone else will be to relieve you later…"
Genesis nodded, "Understood…"
As the man began his steps towards the room, Carlton's voice called out to him, "Why did you decide to snap up and fly straight? You were a man destined to remain in jail for a long time for you did to Hewley, so…why change all of a sudden?"
"You see the broken man over there," Genesis pointed out at Sephiroth as he tried to keep back all emotions, "He is the reason why. My cell mate told me about a rumor that had been going around about a man who had been Nicholas' employer at one time; it seemed that someone had been listening in on the Boss' talks with the bastard…knew something was going down. And when I got more out of him about who was the target for the conversation…"
He turned his gaze away as his steps carried him to Cloud's room; peering into that solitary room was heartbreaking. Such a young man, torn down by the likes of sick men out to do what another sick man couldn't do. People could be so cruel when the right kind of incentive was there to do harm. Especially to someone so innocent. As he looked on at the young man sleeping in the hospital bed; all vitals, physical and mental, being monitored. He couldn't help but remember staring into the open casket of the lost to them forever young friend back in High School; angelic was the peace of his face. It was enough to make you cry as he bit the inside of his cheek to avoid breaking down; as long as he stood there, no one would touch or harm him.
"Come on, come on, come on…" Tifa chanted over and over as she waited and listened to the phone go through the motions of the dial tone ring and ring, only to, once again, receive the Voice Mail box of his phone, "CLOUD! YOU SON OF A BITCH! PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE! PICK IT UP, DAMN IT! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR IT, NOW ANSWER IT!"
When glass breaks, it makes a distinct sound as each part of it breaks apart under the force and weight of an object colliding with it. There is one sound difference, the sounds strangled cries ripping from the throat of a young woman as she screams out of anguish. Trying to not cave into the reality that Cloud wasn't going to answer his phone; he truly was laid up in a hospital, mentally closed off from the World. Escaping the harsh reality of being attacked in the way that he had. As it has been said, 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned', a woman scorned was more then what she was even now; she was a woman desperately seeking answers that Cloud was not lost to them all.
"…You son of a bitch…that son of a bitch at the bar…I KILL HIM!"
"I KILL HIM!"
Tifa's screams had grown in volume as her Mother rushed in, gathering her into her arms as another object was about to find its way into a million pieces upon the girl's floor like many other bobbles and trinkets had, "Tifa! Tifa! Tifa stop! Stop it!"
"I'LL KILL THE BASTARD THAT HURT HIM! I SWEAR IT!"
"Hey, you've reached, Cloud, Angeal and don't forget the awesome Zack the Great…Really, Zack? He's just putting that on because he's got nothing else. HEY! *beep*"
Angeal had seen to it that Zack needed to lie down; after Zack had seen the horrific news about the assault, the young man had all but cried himself into a stupor. Falling asleep through his tears on the sofa; Angeal had neither the heart, or strength, to move the boy to the bedroom as he sat on the sofa, erasing the old Answering Machine Message. For the next few weeks, or however long it would take, no one was going to be interested in talking to anyone. It would be nothing more than half hearted apologizes and condolences for what had happened; neither one Cloud was going to want or need once he came home…if he ever did.
When you are ready, please record the Message…
"You've reached, Angeal, Zack and Cloud; we aren't in right now. Taking a Personal Few Weeks to ourselves. If it's truly urgent, just come over. If it can wait, leave a message and we'll get in touch…when we feel like it."
The machine made its usual sound as to say it had recorded the new message, but it wasn't long before a message was delivered. Not to the answering machine, but the sound of a message being received on Zack's cell phone came through as he opened up the phone to find a text message.
"Zack. It's Reno. When you hear anything from Cloud, or even Sephiroth…let me know. Stay strong man…Cloud is going to need friends like you and Angeal to make it through…-Reno."
His Puppy truly acquired the most interesting characters as friends; he left a faint smile cross his face as he closed the phone, tucking a blanket over the boy's body as Angeal settled into the Easy Chair. It would be a hard night for everyone; everyone would be sleeping with worry on their hearts, but all anyone could hope for was that in the end, Cloud would pull out of this.