Black Blood

chapter two ; movement

"So, have you heard from him today? Has anyone?"

Cloud didn't look at her with any kind of a useful expression, so Tifa took that as a no and sighed. He frowned back at her and stopped what he was doing to face her. "Maybe you should just let it go Tifa." He threw his hands up protectively when she glared at him. "I'm just saying... it's been long enough that I think he's made it pretty clear what he wants. I think if he wanted to stay or even be in contact with us, then he would have called by now."

He didn't his thought that maybe it was in their better interests to keep a healthy distance from him.

She set her mouth into a firm, angry line. "I will not give up on him. He doesn't deserve that, not after the first life he had to live on this planet and not after this." Upset, she started to put the dishes she'd just cleaned away loudly, nearly breaking one in the process. "How could you even say that?"

Cloud shrugged and moved towards her to grasp her arms in his strong hands when she stopped what she was doing. She let her eyes fall to the floor and her anger left her immediately. "I'm sorry, that's not fair. I'm just so frustrated and... well, hormones." She laughed weakly and moved into his arms, letting him hold her.

"Yeah." He smiled down at the top of her head. "The doctor said the little one was going to give you a hard time, so you need to relax."

Tifa smiled. Despite Sephiroth, she had everything she'd ever wanted and a little more besides. Cloud had proposed and a month ago they'd been given the news that she was pregnant. She'd never seen Cloud so ecstatic in his life. Marlene and Denzel had been equally as happy, which she'd been glad to see – the news of a baby had been the one thing in the last year to really bring Marlene out of her gloom over Barrett and Elmyra's deaths.

After Elmyra had passed away, Marlene was adamant about returning to Tifa and she'd gladly taken her in, but it was hard. Something had changed in the little girl after losing her dad and one of the women she looked up to as a mother, but she'd pushed through it bravely. Denzel was good for her too. They were incredibly close and they did everything they possibly could together; he kept her spirits up, even on the worst of her days.

Losing Barrett had been a huge blow for Tifa as well. He'd been there for her for longer than she could remember and every day she woke up, expecting to get a phone call to ask how his daughter was and how she was, and was Cloud being a fool again? But he wasn't there anymore.

And now Sephiroth was gone too. She hadn't had a phone call from him in months now.

"You are doing alright today, right?" Cloud asked, worried. She always seemed to have a faraway look in her eyes these days and it was really starting to bother him.

"Yes," she replied, pulling away and smiling up at him. "I'm not made of glass."

"Yeah, well..." he said, scratching the back of his head nervously. He sometimes still wasn't sure what to do around her or what to ask her ever since they'd found out she was pregnant - after the doctor's appointments, even more so. The doctor in Mideel they had gone to see had explained that the Jenova cells Cloud likely passed on could complicate the pregnancy – to what extent he was unsure, but the warning was clear enough and it made Cloud a little overbearing sometimes.

He had reason to be though, she guessed – her positive attitude had diminished somewhat after the deaths of several of their close friends. And she was incredibly nervous about the baby. She had always wanted a family and suddenly she was looking at three children and a fiance that she adored and she wondered if they would really be okay after everything that had happened.

Everything that was still happening.

"I love you Cloud." She whispered, standing on her toes to kiss him.

Smiling down at her, he returned the sentiment and then his expression went hard. "I'll find him Tifa. You're right, he deserves more than whatever he's doing to himself. He needs people to care about him."

"Really?" She grinned, immediately on board.

"Yeah. I'll phone up Cid and Vincent and we'll track him down, one way or the other."

Sometimes he heard voices.

They creeped into his thoughts during the day and invaded his dreams in the night. More often than not, the words were jumbled and meant nothing to him, but sometimes he could swear that he understood the things that were being said to him.

Maybe he was finally going crazy again. It could only have been a matter of time before it happened. Although...

When Aerith had been alive, Sephiroth could admit to hearing the Planet speak to him. Not very often, but when he needed to be warned or he supposed when the Planet felt like he needed to hear something, it did speak to him or reach out to him in some way. He couldn't remember it speaking so unintelligibly before however and so he dismissed the idea.

A sound broke him from his thoughts and he glanced down at his pockets, not surprised to feel the phone Tifa had given him vibrating and making the annoying sounds it always made. Fishing it out, he was tempted once again to get rid of it. The last thing he needed was to have contact with the people Aerith had loved more than anything, the people Sephiroth had let down when he'd allowed Aerith to die.

It's not your fault.

But everything was his fault, ever since he had been born - genetically created were probably the better words to use there. Shinra, Nibelheim, Aerith, Meteor...


"Cloud Strife?" He muttered, watching the name repeatedly flash on his phone's very small screen. Of all the names to ever pop up on his phone, that had never been one nor had he ever expected to see it. He felt the tiniest curious impulse to answer, if only to hear his longtime rival's exasperated voice when he finally answered the phone to the one person everyone would expect him not to.

He had acquired an interesting sense of humour in the last year of his meaningless travels. He'd battled with thoughts of suicide, of locking himself away in that godforsaken mansion in Nibelheim so as never to see the world again, of allowing the fiends he came across to tear him to shreds instead of taking them all down, one by one, to save the towns he visited some stress. Mostly he'd battled the impulse to return to them, the people who allowed themselves to call him friends. They always phoned him and he still could not understand why. It was foolish to think that he really wanted anything to do with them because, he assured himself, he had no desire to deal with any of them... but why were they so persistent towards him? If anything, they should be the ones avoiding him.

Had he not taken enough away from them?

"Fools." He dropped the phone to the ground, a dark look on his face. "How easy it would be..." To crush it? To answer it? He sighed and turned away from the phone, his last connection to anything worthwhile in the world.

He walked away.

"Cid, could you please get the baby?" Shera called from the kitchen, sounding not nearly as worn out and tired as she looked. Yuffie was pretty flippin' proud of her, actually. Watching the poor woman deal with Cid and Myrna was pretty painful on a good day! Good thing the greatest ninja in the world was around to help her out!

"Yeah Cid, could you please get the BABY!" Yuffie echoed, louder though, because he seemed to have selective hearing these days when it came to Shera. He scowled at the young ninja, throwing the paper he was attempting to read onto the seat of the couch beside him, muttering what she was sure were beautiful and creative new curse words.

"Ya know, considerin' you practically live around here now, you could always help out a little!" Cid fired at her, stomping off into the direction of Myrna's room. Yuffie curbed the impulse to tell him that, uh, she did help out more than he did, but whatever! Myrna had been down for a nap for a couple of hours now, so his temper was a little off base... But exceptions had to be made for the ex-smoker, Yuffie supposed. He'd been doing pretty well lately, actually, and Yuffie was growing increasingly proud, but if she felt like she could lose her temper at any moment she knew Cid was feeling about ten times worse.

"I'm sorry Yuffie." His wife apologized, appearing in the doorway to the kitchen. The prominent lines of stress creasing Shera's face made Yuffie frown – how many times did she have to say it!

"Stop apologizing Shera! If you think that old man can really get to me, you've got some things to learn still! I've been around that old person for so long now, everything goes in one ear and out the other!" She proclaimed, wild hand gestures accompanying her words.

"I'm really glad you're here to help, Yuffie. It really means a lot."

Yuffie nodded as Shera walked away. She was glad she was here too – much better than Wutai! She actually felt like she'd had a family the past year and helping out with the baby and the house had made her grow up a little bit... She liked to think, anyways. Deep down she knew she was the same loudmouthed ninja, but she'd learned to keep it under control a little bit.

"Oh, uh... Hang on one second." Yuffie heard and a second later Shera reappeared in the doorway with phone in hand."Yuffie? It's really for Cid, but, well... It's Cloud."

"CHOCOBO!" Yuffie cried, jumping up off the couch to grab the phone. "Well hello there you slimy little-"

"Not now Yuffie." Cloud sighed, interrupting her. "I'm sorry I haven't returned your calls-"

"No, you're not, but you're gonna be mister! How's Tifa?"

"She's fine. Look, is Cid there?" He evaded and Yuffie could already hear the frustration in his voice. Mission accomplished!

"Noooooo, but I sure am." She wished he could have seen her smile.

"Okay well, since you're not going to help me today Yuffie, could you at least pass on a message? I need Cid to come over here. I want to try to track Sephiroth down."

Yuffie frowned. Sephiroth? Tracking him down had never been voiced or seemed important to talk about by any of Avalanche or the Turks, so why now? "Is something wrong Spiky? I thought we were still giving him his bajillion years of time."

Cloud went silent and Yuffie bit her lip; she never really thought before she called him 'Spiky' and he usually never reacted very cheerfully. It was the name Barrett had used for him after all. "I don't know, I just think it might be time." He finally said, sounding resigned. "If you want, you can come with us or you can just hitch a ride with Cid and stay with Tifa while I'm not here."

"Ooookay. I'll pass the message along Cloudy! I'll make him call you by the end of the day!"

"Thanks Yuffie. Oh, and I'm phoning Vincent as well." And with a click, Cloud was gone.

"WOW, way to ruin my day!" Yuffie yelled at the phone, slamming it down on the table beside her. Vincent! Why bring up that annoying coffin-sleeping prick! She hadn't seen or spoken to Vincent in months and she was looking to keep it that way for as long as humanly possible!

"Stop your yellin' brat, we don't need you wailing too!" Cid commanded, walking back into the room with Myrna in his arms. She was happily drooling all over his shoulder and Yuffie grinned at the sight. Cid didn't look very pleased.

"Phone Cloud Cid, we're goin' on an adventure!"

"I don't fucking want to, I've got enough fucking adventures goin' on here." Cid responded, but she could see the look that came into his eyes, like freedom was his to grasp and she inwardly cheered.

"I think you should go honey." Shera said, walking back into the room, although this time with a little jump to her step. "It might do you some good. Maybe I'll come along and stay with Tifa if that's alright with Cloud. The experience might be good for her." Yuffie saw the same hungry look in Shera's eyes, to get away from the house and go somewhere where it might be easier to relax, where there were other children for Myrna to play with and be around, where there were other adults to help out. Where their friends were.

"God dammit Shera, you're always pushing me into shit!" Cid yelled, but he was out the door faster than anyone a couple of hours later, a content and relaxed smile on his face as he stepped behind the controls of his airship, the new Sierra.

"Off to Midgar we go!"

"We need to find Mother."

"How? We don't even know where to look for her."

"Yes we do."

Three silver-haired men sat on the rocks in the City of Ancients, overlooking an expanse of shimmering water. "It's very... pure here." The thinner, sleeker one said, his longer than usual hair falling around to surround his face as he stared at the water.

The bulkier one sighed and scowled, looking at the other two with frustration. "Who cares, we should be out looking for Mother!"

"Loz, stop your whining," the third one said. "We will find her, but we have things we need to do first."

Pouting, Loz stood and walked away from his brothers. "There's no need to get nasty, Kadaj."

"Yazoo, was I being nasty?" Kadaj asked, sounding sinfully innocent.

"No. But if we have things to do...?" he drawled, raising his eyebrows in question, "perhaps we should get to it?" He allowed his fingertips to skim the water, where a looming shadow seemed to grow on the surface of the water, swirling and filling until it had consumed the entirety of the lake. "We do after all have quite a few people to deal with."

"Right as always, Yazoo." Kadaj allowed. He stood and, after taking a long look at what had moments ago been a clean and untouched place, lead the way into the frozen forest and away from the capital.

Somewhere nearby, a vibrating sound filled the air. As quickly as it started, however, it was gone. "Hello?"

"Vincent? It's Cloud. Do you need Cid to pick you up or can you get over here quickly on your own? We need you."

Vincent watched the three silver-haired men finally disappear into the maze of white trees and moved out from his hiding place. "I'm sure I can make it to Midgar myself."

"Okay. Oh, and Vincent? Yuffie will be here as well."

Vincent allowed a moment of silence before replying, "lovely." Snapping the phone shut, he set off, wondering at the scene he'd just witnessed.