FF7 fanfic; Ghosts

Intro: "Hope"

A/n: Set right before AC, but after the start of phoenix, I've had this idea rattling around in my mind for a while and thought I'd let it out. I'm experimenting a little with style, a little with forum... but this is a tale I wants to tell since I saw Advent Children, I just never felt comfortable with the FF7 storyline until after I finished "The Shinra Files"

The invitation had come word of mouth and with such a dubious source taken into consideration she had taken a spoonful of salt to balance the blend. Holding fast to her skepticism, she held harder to hope and waited for the illness to pass. Yet everyday she came to work more drawn, everyday the rings under her eyes deepened and grew darker. Bit a child's cry in the night couldn't e ignored. Patiently, as stamina waned, she bathed his brow smoothed back his hair, and held his hand to hold the nightmares at bay.

Ironic then, the first bruise had appeared where her hand had so gently closed over his. In a panic she'd taken him to the doctor. The medic was a long faced man who was short and portly. He had a placid manner that would have been comforting had the diagnosis not been so grim. With a grim air he'd wordlessly read the results of the tests to himself, then had ushered her out of the room. Denzel' dark eyes had followed them every step of the way, something like fear touching his face. He hadn't been scared, not while braving the aches and pains that never went away, not even when the bruises had appeared. Now, with her leaving, he seemed scared.

"Don't worry sweetie, we'll be right back." She had promised, her smile as gentle and light as she could manage. With a quiet sigh he settled into the examination table, dropping his gaze to study the linoleum floor.

With her promise pending she put more speed into her exit so she could hurry her return.

It was there, in the dubious privacy that she'd uttered the expected question and he'd given a one word answer. At word's conclusion he'd gone to smoothing the front of his white coat.


She'd tasted the alien word. And he'd looked at her, not bothering to repeat the nominative. His confirming nod was short, quick, and he raised a shaking hand to run it through the grey-blond hair that topped his head.

That was when she'd felt a tug, of something from her past. Shaking her head she resolutely ignored the past, focused on the present. Her long black hair flowing behind her with the motion that declared her ignorant, no longer framing her pale face but setting black threads stroking it. To that the doctor's stoic face tuned grim as he enunciated each word, described each symptom, and killed all her hope with her words.

And even as he rattled off the lists of adjectives that spelled out one word –never speak it, never think it!- he did so with a distant distaste that the academically inclined hold for the ignorant.

"I'm sorry." He concluded lamely, rubbing his hands over the front of his coat, as if desperately trying to clean them of some invisible taint

It was the fear of the disease's man unknowns that became the center piece of her life after that talk. Resolutely refusing to re-enter the room with her, she was left to pick Denzel up and take him home. She did so, never mind one nurse's fearful look, gently cradling the child to her she left. He looked confused, but comforted, and was patently tolerant of the soft "hush" she'd used to answer his question of "what's wrong?"

It was fear that shackled her to isolation. Distance became a must, the changing of bandages to stanch the increasing streams of black puss soon ceased to be a horror and in turn turned into a chilling commonplace. He lost weight and grew paler, and her nights grew linger and longer. Plastic gloves replaced her fighting mitts, sanitizer became her perfume of the moment, and through it all she held her smile until it felt stiff and brittle.

Ghosts, she was once told, were phantoms of the mind, the wind catching the stones just right… She felt surrounded by them, bound by all sides. Even as she patiently dabbed at his hurts and regaled stories from the past she remembered. It was only the lighthearted ones she divulged, not even hinting at the dark tales for he was far too young for those… They all were, even the villains and heroes of the tale she had partaken in had been far too young by half… And she smiled while she spoke, her touch soothing his pain with the gentle promise that it would pass. Alone she labored, dabbed his sores as the scent brought back dark memories.

She recalled long black hair, a mad man's cackle and smile.

And the tale that had preceded the nightmare of disease, the one that was told word of mouth fell into the grey of forgotten memory. But as she was learning with the regaling of the old tales... ghosts were uneasy things. Especially those that still lived.

The reminder came into the mail, it smelled of the almost burning paper scent that mechanical sorting machine at the post office leaves behind on every envelope it touches. The address was penned in a writing that had no pen behind it. A fine blocky print left by a computer set on obscenely small character size filled the upper left corner with script. Annoyed, she' tossed it on the counter, not bothering to open it until three days later. It was in the futile mid-month hunt for the electric bill that her gaze fell upon it again. Too bulky to be junk mail, too svelte to be the bill statement she had idly opened it, wanting to hold off the inevitable trip upstairs to nurse the newest symptom of Denzel's for a few moments longer. The envelope's top was stubborn, but gave with a firm tug, inside was a letter... and a business card. The insignia on the upper right corner had been dabbed out with white out, leaving a lumpish, squarish mass on the top. Only a telephone number and the word "hope" remained unscathed.

All bemused she pocketed the card and had headed upstairs to her labor that was at times tedious, torturous, but wrought always of love.