Part 14

A/N – This chapter has three parts. One of them is a flashback. I hate putting *flashback* so I hope the transition is smooth enough for you to notice it as a flashback without it being too obvious. One of my readers asked for Genesis so this is it. I know it isn't much but I try to do fit in everyone. Realistically, there are far too many characters running around so I will have to eventually have to push some of them to the background.

Thank you for the feedback and reviews, especially to Calvi-sama who pointed out all the blunders I made in the previous chapter and to everyone who read and answered my questions.

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Rufus looked over the shipping manifest, ensuring the supplies they had received were the ones he had ordered, making small notations on the margins of the receipts to remind himself to look over certain items from storage to verify they matched the specifications. He flicked over another order form and scowled as the familiar smell of cheap cologne made him flinch internally.

Rufus fought the urge to turn around to see just how close to him Reno was standing, and instead held himself steady pretending to be absorbed in his papers. It was not as if he did wanted to but lately he had been extremely aware of Reno. No, Rufus amended, being brutally honest with his weaknesses as he had always been. It was not a recent occurrence, but it had been only after the attempts on his life that Reno had taken to waiting in Rufus' office while he worked late.

"Don't you think your time is better spent on something else other than watching me," Rufus said to Reno without lifting his head. "Go visit your partner in the hospital wing if it makes you happy. After all, this might be the last chance you get in a while." Tseng was already away, finalizing everything.

"Why boss." Reno sounded far too close for Rufus' comfort. "I didn't know you cared."

"I just don't like to see manpower wasted," Rufus replied fighting the urge to look over his shoulder. Was it his imagination or could he really feel the heat of his Turk against his shoulder.

"It is hardly a waste," Reno said softly and for a moment Rufus strained his ears trying to figure out where exactly Reno was, wishing it was Tseng in the office with him. Strong, dependable Tseng who did not make Rufus' feel conflicted, who did not make Rufus question his feelings.

Rufus sighed, straightened his back and pushed out his legs, feeling his toes tingle. His doctors had advised him against sitting in one place for a long time, citing that it was bad for the circulation of his legs and after been wheelchair bound for a while, he did not wish to repeat the experience. With a bitten-back grunt, he pushed himself to his feet, knowing without looking that Reno was following his movements closely, standing right behind him waiting to catch him should he fall. Or probably take a photo of it and laugh his head off.

Rufus cursed his body as he shifted his feet carefully to make sure his footing was steady before walking towards the bar on the side of the room. "A drink, Reno?" he asked carefully, still not looking at the Turk. At his Turk – all the Turks were his, paid for with his money and technically belonged to him body and soul. So what made Reno special – Rufus wondered silently; when had Reno become distinctive compared to the rest?

Even as he asked the question, Rufus acknowledged he knew the answer. It had been when he had been wracked with pain, wanting to die, stuck to his wheelchair or his pristine white hospital bed, while the geostigma ate into his body; his muscles, his eye, his dignity.

He had been in Calm, which was not exactly the sort of place people stopped by to for a visit and a cup of tea and Rufus preferred it that way. He had hated atmosphere of Midgar, the people who 'dropped in' to see how he was doing, mostly to see if he was any closer to dying. It had been a particularly hard day when the foggy air had made it difficult for him to catch his breath and he had been unable to finish the mild soup the chef had prepared specially for him. The doctor, his doctor, a specialist flown all the way from Mideel had been there, looking over Rufus' charts, nodding to himself as if all the secrets of the world were just there. Rufus had pushed away his tepid soup, leaned back against the pillows piled behind him and turned his head carefully.

"This food is terrible," he had commented carefully.

"Hmm," the doctor had said vaguely before reaching to his well-stocked bag and looking at his stock of pills and injections. "I seem to have found the main cause for cell decay," he looked at his notes before nodding. The doctor made no move to neither remove the tray containing the soup bowl from Rufus' lap nor actually look into his patient in the eye. "How is your back?"

Not wanting to admit that he was in pain, Rufus had picked up the trap, his hands cramping at the movement. His fingers had felt stiff and unresponsive as had he lifted it from the edges and his forearms protested as he moved to it to the low stool next to the bed

"Do you feel your legs?" The doctor asked as Rufus twisted his upper body slightly and he could feel the skin on his chest rupture beneath the bandages. He steeled himself for the pain as the bandages became soaked with the blackish seepage from his decaying body. The tray had made a rather shaky decent to the destination and Rufus had fallen back to his previous position panting slightly.

Rufus had looked up carefully, his back aching, his face burning, tears of pain making his vision swim, to see Reno leaning against the doorframe of his sick-room, watching him with a hooded graze. By rights, the only person allowed into the room had been his personal physician (the fool who didn't know what to do), the chef/ cleaner and Tseng whom Rufus trusted with his life.

"My legs," Rufus had said absentmindedly. "Yes, I can feel them," and they were in pain most of the time like the rest of him.

Rufus has let his head tilt back and gazed back at Reno and the red head had continued to look at Rufus, lying in his bed against the stained sheets, straining for his breath. The look on Reno's face had been a mixture of pity and something else – something that had made Rufus uneasy enough to clear his throat and speak to the doctor. "My bandages need to be changed."

"I changed them when I arrived," the doctor had told Rufus coldly making a point since Tseng had restricted access to Rufus. Only the doctor was allowed to examine the President of ShinRa and the doctor, without his ever helpful assistant had been forced to do menial work such as changing bandages. "Here, take these pills. I'll give you an injection that will help cell regeneration and this …"

Rufus had sunk into his mind then, wordlessly taking the pills and swallowing them dry as the doctor had droned on. He really did not believe in the medicine he was swallowing; the pain receded and sometimes his thoughts got away from him and he wondered if the pills were nothing more than hyped up 'happy-drugs'. Still it helped pass the time; he was not aware of the doctor going away or the arrival of Tseng until his second in command appeared by his bedside to brief him on the daily updates.

"…our scientists think the geostigma is a result of the remains of genova in the lifestream and the people's bodies. Years of breeding has build up enough of the alien entity in our body for the planet to treat it as a threat and the …

"Reno wants to kill me," Rufus told Tseng interrupting him. He really did not want to hear more about the thing that was eating him inside out.

"Why do you say that?" Tseng had asked, even as he had reached for Rufus' forehead as if feeling for fever. He did not sound ruffled or agitated which should have annoyed Rufus but did not.

"He's been watching me," Rufus had replied, high on the pills he had taken earlier, before Tseng had arrived.

"And this is reason for you to suspect he will assassinate you?" Tseng had asked calmly as he had placed some more the pills in Rufus' open palm and handing him the glass of water to the other.

Rufus' wasted muscles refused to cooperate, spilling the glass of water on to his lap. In his drug induced daze, Rufus watched the liquid seep into his bedspread and managed a sound between a cough and a laugh. "Assassinate me," he said with suppressed mirth. Suddenly the whole world was funny to him. "Hardly," Rufus snorted. "Tell me Tseng, if you came across a dog with a broken back on the side of the road, what would you do?"

"Sir." Tseng sounded startled, pausing in his act of removing the saturated bed sheets, hampered by Rufus' inert body. "You are hardly an injured stray dog," he had added as if placating a child.

"Would you run over it or shoot it in the head?" Rufus had rumbled, oblivious to his head of Turk who was wrestling with the sheets. "Call it a mercy killing. Put it out of its misery. "

Tseng had left shortly afterwards, looking worried, and probably intent on talking to his doctor who had taken the afternoon off. After Tseng had gone Rufus had lain back on his now clean sheets enjoying the feeling of dry bandages for however long it lasted when he had been shaken from his reviver by the appearance of a another person on his bed. Thinking back, he was sure Reno had leapt onto the bed, landing on his knees straddling Rufus' prone body but back then it had been as if between one blink on the eye and the next, the red head had appeared out of thin air, hovering over him.

"Wha…"

Reno had leaned forward, supporting his weight on arms placed on either side of Rufus' head. Rufus wonder if Reno could smell the stink of decay; even he could smell it from time to time. He could see it in Tseng's eyes, the twitch in his doctor's mouth and the wrinkling of the nose of his room server who came to take his trays away.

"Get this straight," Reno hissed as he leaned so close to Rufus that he could smell Reno's breath, a mixture of mint and cinnamon, the chewing gum he had taken to in the absence of cigarettes. The doctor had forbidden anyone from smoking in Rufus' presence and though he had heard Reno fuss about everything from the crappy food to Rude's dress sense Rufus had never heard the Turk grumble even once about the enforced smoking ban. "I never want to kill you," Reno continued.

"You were eavesdropping on …"

"I do not pity you nor do I want to 'put you out of your misery' as you say…" Reno continued.

"Get off my bed or I will call the guards," Rufus ground out.

"I am the guards, yo," Reno said cockily. "And you …I would never, ever dream of you dying – you're too stubborn for that. I hate your guts and Gaia knows the number of times when I've wanted to pound you to the ground, well, in more than one way … and you …" Rufus thought firmly that Reno referred to different methods of beating up people and not - anything lewd. "… just get better," Reno finished as he rolled off the bed lightly.

"I'll have your head for this," Rufus has snarled at last. How dare Reno infringe on his personal space and … warm, chaffed lips had closed over his lightly, almost caressing his before the redhead had hot footed out of the room as if his tail was on fire.

Rufus had looked at his bedside phone and decide he would discuss the incident with Tseng the next day, personally. It was not worth calling his second in command like a little virgin who'd been preyed upon by a wicked man. Not that the analogy was exactly right … Rufus was not some virgin and the pills were really starting to kick in.

The next day Tseng had appeared with the news of the remains of genova in the Northern Crater and Rufus had been focused elsewhere as all hell had broken lose. He had also, surprisingly seemed to have found his second wind, able to face down the remnants and the chaos they brought with them, sit in his wheel chair and try to reason with Strife. The same muscle bound idiot who was going to be in charge of the expedition Rufus was setting off on soon.

"So," said Reno approaching Rufus casually with his hands in his pockets. "What are we drinking to?"

Rufus snapped out of his reminiscence and poured himself a drink, bringing himself back to the present, handing over the glass he was holding to Reno. "To our success," he said briefly. "May we find what we're looking for?"

"For our sake, I hope not," Reno retorted snapping his head back and downing the glass in one gulp. He chocked and coughed as the alcohol burned down his throat. "The good stuff, yo," he said in his usual tone. "Gimme some more."

"Not while you're on duty," Rufus snapped in annoyance. "I have more work to do, you should go back to your post."

"Whatever, yo," Reno said cockily and as he moved past Rufus, brushed against him almost imperceptibly. Rufus stiffened wondering in the fingers he had felt against him was imaginary or not. Suddenly, he had a headache and felt the urge to just go back to his room and shut himself in for the rest of the night. He was not lucky enough, he still had an account sheet to look over. The entire stint with Strife and the group was leaching company funds – more than he could afford since ShinRa was hardly financial stable since it was no longer an electric company. He suppose those muscle bound idiots were getting drunk and doing whatever they did while he did all the work.

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Vincent did not like the underground secret room at Seventh Heaven very much. Actually, he did not like it at all. The feeling of being trapped in an underground room where the only exit opened up into a bar area, not matter how deserted, made him uneasy.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, pressed closer the wall and pulled up his cloak until his face was almost covered. His main aim was to become as inconspicuous as possible so no one would even look at him until the argument was over, which was the best he could hope for. Perhaps if he could blend into the walls, Tifa would not notice him once her argument with Barrett was over. He discreetly directed his attention to the rest of the group to see how things were going.

Cloud and Barrett were both being foolhardy in thinking they could persuade Tifa into changing her mind about acting as a bodyguard to Rufus Shinra. The rest of the group were scattered around the room, proving they were more intelligent than those two. Nanaki was under the centre table, crouched on his forelegs, backlegs tucked under him, pretending to be a real house cat. Cid, chewing on an unlit cigar was leaning against the wall next to Vincent.

"You do not wish to take part in the conversation?" Vincent asked dryly.

"If you call that a conversation," Cid snorted. "I'm a married man, I know when women get their way." Vincent looked to his left, the reminder that Cid was married not quiet bothering him but not making him feel pleased either. Yuffie tugged at his cloak before ducking behind it.

"When did you last wash this thing?" she asked wrinkling her nose.

Vincent wisely kept his mouth shut as he focused his attention to the drama taking place in the middle.

"Why do you need the extra money anyway?" Barrett was saying, probably because his male-pride had taken a hit from being told he could not support his woman.

"Because we need the money," Tifa said in a tone which meant she was about to explode any second not that the two males seem to notice.

"I thought the bar was bringing in enough," Cloud said stupidly.

"Really," Tifa said in a dangerous voice.

"And the money I send you last time for …" Barrett started

"Was two months ago and I spent it on Marlene's shoes," Tifa said through gritted teeth. "

"But …"

"What about …"

"Shut up both of you," Tifa bellowed out. "If you think you know anything about the money issues I have, then you are sadly mistaken."

"Hmmm," said another voice adding its contribution. "I love a strong woman. They are supposed to be festy in bed as well." Vincent was glad no one could hear Chaos.

"Neither of you have any right to tell me what to do here. It's not as if either of you are around to know what is going on."

"An observant female who noticed you were unwell," Chaos purred. "Would it have killed you my host, to tell me your body was failing?"

Vincent looked up startled and then ducked his head down in reflex. Everyone else, captivated by the drama unfolding before them, did not notice the sudden movement. "What do you mean, you did not know I was unwell," Vincent thought back furiously. "You live in my body, it should have been obvious."

"My dear host, please do not delude yourself into thinking you are not human just because you differ from the standard version," Chaos said making Vincent's eyes opening surprise. "You do need to sleep more often than I ever do and you eat and when you eat, you need to ex…"

"I get the idea," Vincent said hastily.

"…pell the remains of the food from your body," Chaos continued.

"I know your oil-rig needs money and I know you can't send money everyday but do you have any idea as to how much two children eat," Tifa ranted. "The bills need to be paid, the suppliers expect cash when they deliver and we all need to wear clothes. You have no right to tell me what I can't do and can do, unless you want to stay here and take care of all of it."

"So you mean, I'm not sick," Vincent asked.

"I mean, I don't know," Chaos replied. "You are sick, you admitted to it, I mean, I did not notice. The failings of the human body are beyond my understanding. You have not been awake long enough since we have been fused for me to understand how everything works."

"And you," Tifa turned her attention to Cloud. "You aren't even here half the time and I can't even reach you because you cellphone is off and …"

"And I have far too many things to do rather than monitor your thoughts every moment you are awake," Chaos continued.

"That is not very helpful," Vincent said finally.

"Quite frankly, I wouldn't know the difference from when you suffering from sleep depravation to been poisoned by something," Chaos offered helpfully. "Now, if you had a gaping hole in your chest that was bleeding …"

"Vincent."

Vincent opened his eyes; he had not even noticed he had closed them during the internal conversation. "Cloud," he said straightening.

"I'm going to the church to collect the materia," Cloud said looking slightly nervous. "I need to equip everyone before we go, and – uh – you want to come."

Vincent looked around the room and weighed his options. He did not think he could avoid Cloud during their time together on an airship and he appreciated Cloud for making the effort. "Sure," he replied.

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At first he had thought the reason they were naked was sexual. After all, why would anyone be naked if not to fuck but then he realised that both of them of were too stupid for it. Their understanding of sex was nothing like what he had expected, which a waste was considering what they looked like.

There had been three of them; he had names them Almost_Sephiroth, Not_Sephiroth and Dumb_one, Almost, Not and Dumb_one for short. Then Almost had tried to become the real one and had died. It surprised the scientists in the lab as to why they couldn't make another Almost. He could have told them it was the soul – they could make the body but as long as the soul was in the lifestream there was no way the body would come alive. Which was why Hojo always tried to make Soldiers out of living people – it was easier to modify a body with a soul rather than stuff one into it.

He extended his wing and dropped down from the roof, after making sure the lab was empty. The Scientists always slept at night and they did not seem to think installing a camera was worth it when they had all the readings they needed. As he reached the floor, his wing gave a couple of powerful beats to slow down his decent.

Not_Sephiroth stirred at the sound and looked up from the tangle of limbs. He could see that the two had gone through a tough day; the scientists must have run some tests on them. They were groggy, naked and looked confused, probably still coming out of their drug induced haze. He watched as a couple of feathers came lose and tumbled into their containment cell in the centre of the room. The energy field fizzled but the feathers were too small to be affected and they tumbled into the cage, shimmering oddly.

Though he knew the feathers looked black, they were infact the deepest red, like his hair, which had finally returned to the original colour. Dumb_one picked up one of the feathers and stuffed it into his mouth and chewed on it energetically. Not was more alert, getting to his feet, and walking to the perimeter of the cage. Not stopped just short of the energy field and looked at him. He had always wondered if his Goddess looked like this, perhaps a little more endowed at the chest, longer hair, well the skin was fair enough since lab specimens never saw the sun if they could help it but maybe the eye color ….

"Are you going to get us out," Not spoke carefully and he made a note. His goddess was going to have a soft feminine voice, nothing like this.

He did not bother replying. There was no way he could carry either of them through the narrow exhaust passage he had entered, nor could he open the cage door without altering the scientists of his presence. While he did not fear the white coats he had a healthy respect for them; especially since the lab had countermeasures to take down a Solider if necessary. He would wait for the right time and let of these two; not before. He did not want to waste his time on a pointless issue. His curiosity sated, knowing they were alive, he decided that it was time for him to leave.

He flapped his wing, getting the lift he needed to leave the place. As he did, he looked down at the two, Not who was busy collecting feathers inside their cage and Dumb_one who was discovering feathers did not make good meals. He would be back and he would use these two as pawns if it meant taking down this damned lab and reaching his goal.

A/N – I'm home for the holidays, yay but so busy running around. The next update will probably be next year. So Merry Chirstmas and Happy New Year everyone.