A/N: What's this!? An update!? So it is. I've not done very well on working on this...*fails* But here is an update none the less. I hope everyone likes it. Huge shout out to all the new readers! Virtual cookies for you guys. Reviews would be nice, lol.

Anywho, we'll see if I do better at updating sooner. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Yeah I don't own it. Wish I did. But I don't.

Chapter 15

After what seemed like an hour, Tifa heard the door open a bit and a monotone voice telling the lackey he was needed in another part of the lab. The young man yawned and pushed away from the desk and sauntered out, leaving Tifa to let out a long breath and scoot out carefully, groaning as her stiff joints protested. She paused for a moment and listened, then moved to the lab door and locked it. Hojo couldn't suddenly burst into the room now anyways and with her mind more at ease, she stretched, letting her back pop and joints crack. Feeling slightly refreshed, Tifa headed for the outer door, pushing it open cautiously and holding her breath as she peeked around the corner.

The outer room looked something like a reception area, with a desk for a secretary and two chairs, one of which had a large box sitting in it. Seeing no one in the room, Tifa crept out and dashed for the door, then froze as it swung open.

Tseng didn't really expect Tifa to be in the labs since it was a hard place to just wander in to but he felt he should check anyways. Better him to check than Strife; Strife wouldn't hesitate in beheading Hojo. Not that Tseng could blame him...no one really liked the creepy scientist.

As he approached the door leading into the anteroom of the labs, his Turk senses tingled and he put his hand on the butt of his gun before pushing the door open. His eyes widened a fraction as Tifa froze in front of him with that 'doe in the headlights' expression on her face. It only lasted a moment though before it turned into something slightly more threatening and he found himself fending off the angry female martial artist. He was willing to step aside and let her go but she seemed bent on giving him a piece of her mind...or fist.

Rufus' Office

"What do you want with Angeal?" Cloud was getting annoyed with Rufus's ability to sidestep any questions he asked and Reno's constant putting his two gil's worth in.

Rufus chuckled, enjoying watching the play of emotions in Cloud's eyes.

"I just want to talk to him."

"I doubt that."

"Actually, I'd rather talk to both of you but..." he trailed off as the door slammed open a second time and Angeal walked in, carrying Marlene.


"Marlene." Relief flooded Cloud's voice and he gave Angeal a nod of gratitude.

"What's this all about, Shin-ra?"

Angeal wasted no time in getting straight to the point, his face a sea of calm and eyes betraying no emotion whatsoever. Rufus took him in before answering...he didn't remember the First Classes very well, only pictures or glimpses when he was with his father. It was easy to see however, why Angeal had been a First. He towered over Cloud like a giant; massive biceps twitching as he shifted, one hand resting on the sword over his shoulder. Marlene had since gotten down to hold Cloud's hand and Rufus figured the man had to have been like taking down a monster when he had presumably died.

"Our files indicated that you were killed in action, however, it appears that our files were mistaken."

"You kidnapped two innocents for the sake of correcting your files?" Angeal asked, his voice rumbling throughout the room.

"Of course not yo." Reno butted in, "See we're just having some problems and since -"

"Reno." Rufus said coolly. "There has been a unusually large uprising of monsters outside of Junon."

"Not interested." Cloud snapped.

Angeal folded his arms across his chest, "Go on."

Cloud looked up at him, "What? You're not seriously considering listening to this."

Angeal just gave him a calm, unruffled look and said nothing.

Rufus arched an eyebrow, "We are not asking anyone to return to Shin-Ra, however, as we do not have any capable troops anymore...you can see our predicament."

"What is at risk that you're wanting to protect?" Angeal asked.

"The monsters have been attacking the outskirts of the city." Rude said.

Cloud narrowed his eyes, "You have Mako reactors and the Sister Ray there."

Rufus smiled, "That is true, however monsters are not considered a threat to either of those.. We're merely trying to protect the citizens of Junon from further attacks."

"What's in it for us if we were to hypothetically accept?" Angeal asked, aware of Cloud's glare at him.

"We will reward you both handsomely."

"How handsomely." Cloud asked out of curiosity, turning his glare off Angeal for a moment.

"A thousand gil per monster." Rufus replied, resting his chin on his steepled fingers.

"What about compensation should one of us get injured."

"We will take care of any medical expenses should that happen."

Angeal gave a nod and turned, "We will consider your offer." he said, shoving Cloud out the door before he could protest, Marlene in tow.

"We still need to find Tifa." Angeal said as the door closed behind them and he started down the hallway.

"What the hell Angeal!? You can't just tell Rufus that we will consider working for him." Cloud exploded, storming after him.

Marlene ran after Cloud, still clinging to his hand and frowned, "Tifa wouldn't like you saying that Cloud." she chirped.

Angeal chuckled, "In any sort of negotiation, it's best to be polite and to never reveal your true intentions. While you may not wish to kill monsters for President Shin-Ra, it is something I used to do quite often for his Father. Besides which, I cannot allow monsters to kill innocent people, for pay or otherwise. The gil would simply be a perk of the job."

Cloud found he had no words for that statement and picked Marlene up to let her ride on his shoulders as they started down the many stairs. He remembered the things Zack had told him about Angeal and found that they were all correct.

"We can't all fit on your motorcycle, I will find another mode of transportation for myself and the ninja."

"I want to go with Angeal!" Marlene chirped and Angeal smiled to himself.

"And Marlene."


Tseng blocked punch after kick after combo over and over in hopes that the martial artist would wear down a bit and realize that he wasn't attacking back, however she seemed intent on beating him into a pulp and it was all rather counter-productive. Ducking as she took another swing at his head, he went into the offensive and landed a firm blow to her stomach and rammed her against the wall, his forearm pressing across her shoulders.

"Miss Lockhart, I am content to let you go if you will desist with this aggressive behavior."

Tifa socked him in the jaw for good measure and Tseng bore it patiently before stepping back and releasing her, "When you exit this room, turn left and follow the corridor to the end. It will lead you outside. Strife and Hewley are searching for you." he said, turning and walking away without another word or another look at her.

Tifa doubled over and clutched her stomach for a moment, before straightening and watching him go, mind whirling with questions that she couldn't make herself ask before he was out of sight. Cloud was looking for her. The realization hit her and she ran out the door, following Tseng's blunt instructions. The corridor seemed to stretch on for miles and her lungs were starting to burn as she hit the exit door and burst into the blinding sunlit desert; Edge shimmering like a mirage in the distance.


Squinting and looking around, Tifa saw Fenrir and perched on the back of it, Yuffie.

"I found you!" Yuffie yelled, shoving a candy bar back into the pocket of her short shorts and grinning like an imp.

Tifa was in no mood to argue with the ninja and made her way over to slump against the hot bike tiredly.

"Where's Cloud?" she asked.

"Inside looking for you I guess." Yuffie replied, swinging her legs and bouncing them off the back tire. "Did you know Cloud keeps materia in this thing?"

"Put it back Yuffie." Tifa said dryly, sitting up as the building gave a shudder and a transport truck rumbled out through a closed vehicle access door, Angeal at the wheel.

"Tifa!" Marlene poked her head out the window and waved as they pulled to a stop next to the bike.

Tifa's eyes went wide, "Marlene!"

Angeal got out and Marlene ran to Tifa, "Are you unharmed?"

"I'm fine, where's Cloud?" Tifa hugged Marlene close and looked up at Angeal worriedly.

Angeal grabbed a two way radio from the truck, "He's coming. Cloud, we have her." he spoke into it and a moment later, a window shattered and Cloud plummeted to the ground, landing in a crouch.

"Tifa. Are you alright?" Cloud asked, running up and stopping, looking over Tifa with worried eyes.

"Yes, I'm fine, let's get home." she said with a soft smile that Angeal noted and Cloud did not.

"Agreed." Angeal said, getting back in the truck and shutting the door, "Yuffie, Marlene, you're with me.'

Yuffie whooped and dove into the front seat and sat next to Angeal, only to be displaced by Marlene who squeezed between them both and Angeal laughed,

"We'll see you back at the bar." he said to Cloud as they pulled away and Yuffie started messing with the radio.

"Right." Cloud nodded, hopping on Fenrir and waiting to feel Tifa behind him before starting it.

She wrapped her arms around his middle as they pulled away and rested her head on his back, protected from the wind. The feeling of the rumbling bike and Cloud's muscles moving in his back as he navigated it was almost soothing in a way; a sense of security that was almost good as being in his arms, if he should ever think to hug her.

"Highly unlikely." She told herself.

She closed her eyes and let the tiredness wash over her and Cloud noted when her body went lax against his back and asked more speed from Fenrir, anxious to get Tifa home to rest where she would be safe. A creeping doubt took hold in his mind, wondering just how safe she was there.

He hadn't been there to keep her safe, it was his fault. He shook his head firmly to dispel the thoughts, remembering things Aerith had told him to help with the doubts as they raced on towards Edge, passing the truck finally and giving Angeal a nod.

"Let's race them!" Yuffie loudly suggested and Angeal gave her a look.

"There is no reason to do so, besides which, this truck doesn't have enough power to catch his motorcycle."

"Yeah but you could try!"

"No, I couldn't."

Yuffie folded her arms, "You're no fun."

"Perhaps not, but fun doesn't always mean doing something dangerous." he said with a chuckle.

"You'd make a bad ninja. We thrive on danger!"

Angeal glanced down as Marlene's head settled on his thigh, sound asleep. "Yes, I would." he admitted. "I've been in my fair share of dangerous situations though and I can't say any of them have been particularly enjoyable."

Yuffie gave a snort and dropped the subject, feeling that she would get no where trying to argue with him.

He was almost as bad as Vincent! Although he was more talkative, she would concede to that.