I've re-written this 3 times because I wasn't happy with it at all. So If you have read this chapter before I'd suggest rejigging your memory before starting it again.
10. Cait Sith's Return
She'd never been to his apartment before, yet she knew that his building was located in the more affluent part of Edge, nearby to the WRO HQ. He wasn't in the office for once she had realised; staring up at the face of the WRO building revealed the top floor to be plunged in darkness. She'd pressed the buzzer somewhat hesitantly- he was probably sleeping, and she should have called first… But she couldn't help but feel that this was something he would want to hear personally. Plus, she had honestly been working with excuses to try and come see him for days now. God bless Shelke, as creepy as she was.
"If that's you Reno, and if you're drunk, I'm not in the best of fucking moods." Came Reeve's rather rude greeting over the intercom, bringing a giggle bubbling past her lips.
"Reeve, it's Tifa. So sorry, I know it's late but… Could I come up?"
"Oh Jesus, sorry Tifa. Uh, right, just one moment ah-" She could hear him fumbling around for something, laughing behind her hand as he releases a tirade of muttered curses from the background. "Right, just wait for the lift."
Reeve's apartment was the penthouse suite of the block, and to access it she must ride the elevator right to the 7th floor. She stepped into the carriage after it had juddered to a stop in the politely-lit foyer, waiting patiently with barely contained excitement as the doors closed and she began her ascent. She watched the floors pass in and out of her field of view through the grille as the car crept upwards, eventually juddering to a halt at the top. It looked dark on the other side. Frowning, she tugged the grille open and stepped into a small hallway with shiny hardwood floors.
"Uh- Reeve?" She called into the apartment, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Did he always walk around in the dark?
"S-sorry about that." He appeared in the doorway, looking rather flustered, wearing- as per usual- his uniform, though his shirt was open, and he wore no shoes. "I thought it was Reno again. He likes to bug me in the early hours."
"No problem," She glanced about somewhat reticently, trying her best not to perve on the man. Underneath that uniform there was some serious muscle going on… "So… this is your apartment?"
"Yes, well.. um come in! I'll show you around."
She followed him through the doorway, rounding a corner and passing out into a large open room. At the rear of the apartment she could distinguish the shadow of his kitchen, and the tell-tale outline of furniture in what appeared to be his living room. Still, he neglected to turn on any lights, relying on the permeating glow of the full moon for guidance.
"You have a thing for big windows," She remarked, passing over to them and peering out over Edge. The windows in question stretched from floor to ceiling, and offered a wonderful view of the City square, and also of WRO HQ.
"It would certainly seem that way, yes." He came to a stop beside her, hands in his pockets. She shot a glance at him through her hair; he looked tired, the shadows under his eyes emphasised by the silvery light of the moon, and from his state of dress she suspected that he had perhaps not been to bed yet. At least she hadn't woken him.
She took the moment of silence to appraise the room with a little more scrutiny, her eyes having adjusted somewhat to the gloom. Her attention was grabbed suddenly by something that sat innocently on his kitchen counter.
When he had been at her house just two weeks before, he had caught sight of her sorry looking orchid plant. Cloud had given it to her as a gift, but she had always been terrible with houseplants, and sure enough the beautiful flowers had fallen from the stem, and the leaves were browning and withering at the tips. It was on its way out, though Reeve had shown some interest in it. He was good with plants, he said. He would take it from her and try and work his magic.
It appeared that magic was exactly what he had worked on it—it was in full bloom again, leaves lustrous and strong. Could it truly be the same plant? She frowned, about to pass comment, when Reeve turned to her to speak.
"I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but is there a reason you came here at this ungodly hour?" Her mind was taken from the plant for the moment, remembering her good news.
"Well yes, actually. I had some new information that I wanted to deliver personally."
"Oh?" He frowned a little, dragging a hand through his thick black hair before letting it run over his face.
"Shelke called." Her lips twitched, resisting her attempts to not smile. "Vincent is coming back!"
His mouth broke into a wide grin as he reached out to grasp her by the shoulders. "Really? Oh thank god."
"They should be with us in a day or so."
"That is…. excellent news." He laughed somewhat feebly, letting his hands drop to his sides. "For days now I had been trying not to face the horrible eventuality that he might not be coming back."
"I know. I've been feeling pretty low for a while too, worrying that… that there might be one less of us. But… Well, everything is better now. Apart from…." She lowers her gaze, picking at her fingernails. "I've been wondering about Cait Sith. Did you… did you fix him?"
He chuckled, not quite meeting her eyes. "Well actually I was just ah…taking him apart when you called," He jerked his head vaguely in the direction behind him where a door stood ajar, allowing a thin bar of weak amber light to leak into the gloom. "I can… show you- if you like?"
She nodded, following him across the living space towards the door. It opened into a small room which was devoid of any furniture whatsoever apart from a small desk, shoved into the corner. As he hastily tried to clear some floor space for her to stand, she examined the array of tools and gizmos laid out across the floor; what any of them actually did, she couldn't say. The soft amber glow she had noticed before came from a small lamp, set up beside the work space. Cait Sith's tiny form was currently lying face down on the carpet, the back panel removed.
"What is all this stuff?" She enquires, moving aside a set of screwdrivers so she could kneel next to the lifeless Cait Sith.
"Electrical circuitry, fuses, wires… Tonnes of crap." He laughs, seating himself cross-legged before his motionless creation. "He doesn't seem to want to work properly anymore. It seems Azul gave him a good beating."
She grimaced, feeling somewhat responsible; after all, he had saved her life. "So it is all robotics then?" She turned over a small metal device in her hand,. "How does it work?"
He paused before answering. "The robotics are really for the camera and for sound, as well as to help him move around with fluidity."
"I never really understood how you controlled him," She admitted, watching with fascination as Reeve began to fit several components together and slot them into place inside of Cait's cavity.
"Well, it's a bit strange, really. You'll probably think I'm a freak."
She gave him a disapproving look. "Well, I can… I can control him, as if he… as if he is part of me. Kind of like telekinesis if you will but… It's like… I give Cait Sith life- I give him a mind of his own." As he speaks, fitting the back panel into place once more, the furry cat judders to life in his hands, peering around the room with yellow eyes. "ShinRa wanted me to use this invention of mine to spy on you guys back in the day. I never thought I would end up helping you, in the end."
"What made you decide to help us?" She is fascinated, enjoying being able to learn more about him.
"Well I… I realised I was making a mistake… I realised just whose side I was on, deep down inside. To be totally honest with you, I felt like I had real friends, I felt like… Like I could really make a difference." The robotic cat started to purr in his hands, though it seemed that his movements were still severely limited. As he set the cat down, it fell limp, the light vanishing from his eyes. "I felt like I belonged."
She gazed upon Reeve openly, her chin resting in her hand, legs crossed before her. His eyes were pools of near-black in the dim light, his skin almost amber. Upon an impulse she reached out to take one of his hands, smoothing the pads of her fingers over the slightly-roughened skin of his palms, tracing his strong fingers. He watched her with open curiosity and a restrained longing, dark hair casting interesting shadows across his face. He turned his palm upwards, allowing her exploration of the lines that criss-crossed them. They were maker's hands, strong and capable.
Then just as their eyes met, and something flipped in her stomach, her exhaustion got the better of her—she gave a yawn, eyes watering with the effort to try and keep it at bay.
"Gosh! Sorry about that, I guess I must be more tired than I thought," She glances at the wall behind her, where a clock ticked innocently—it was well into the second hour of the morning, and she should have been in bed hours ago.
His hands almost jerk away from her hold. "I can sympathise with that. I should probably turn in myself—I have a lot to do tomorrow."
"Reeve, It's Saturday tomorrow…"
"No rest for the wicked, they say!" He chuckled, though the warmth didn't quite reach his eyes. "I should walk you home."
At this, she smiled. "Worried I can't take care of myself?"
"Not at all—but still, I should walk you home. Let me get my coat."
It felt so strange to be out so late. Above them, the canopy of stars gaped, uninterrupted by structure or pollution of light. It was beautiful, and liberating to see. She remembered the days of darkness in the Midgar slums, living under the filth of the plate. Life could never go back to that. Reeve was making sure of that. She drew a little closer to him then, arm threaded through his giving a gentle squeeze. She was so proud of how far he had come. His brow was furrowed, curious, though he did not break the silence he shared with his companion.
The walk to her apartment building didn't seem to take long at all. She discovered she was disappointed, though her tiredness had abated somewhat since leaving his apartment. She attributed it to the cool night air.
At the door to her apartment they come to a stop. "Reeve…" His gaze is weary as it settles on her, and she bites her lip to catch herself. She does not wish to burden him now. "Are you alright? I mean really alright?"
She almost laughed at the effort he took in creating a smile for her. "I am… exhausted. I think… I think I had better go back." She had to admit, she didn't feel too good herself.
"I will call you tomorrow—make sure you aren't working too hard." She veiled her threat in affection, before placing a chaste kiss on his cheek and letting herself into her apartment. His footsteps were heavy as they receded down the hall.
She bit down on her lip, shoulder blades pressed against her door as she battled with herself. Something wasn't right, that was for sure, though she struggled to articulate why she felt that way. She frowned at her reflection as se brushed her teeth.
She received a message from him shortly after on her PHS to let her know he was home safe and after that she fell asleep, almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
Her consciousness was carried off to a dreamless place, dark and without stars, borne on the unseen current that had battered against her this night. She dwelt in this void until the mid-morning.
Outside in the still of the pre-dawn hour, a grey cat stalks through the shadows, searching for a way to reach her. It sits by the door and patiently waits.
She woke with a start that morning, staring with wonder at the golden-yellow light filtering in through her window. She had neglected to closer her curtains before she had fallen into bed, such had been the extent of her exhaustion. Squinting, she slipped her legs out of bed and stood on refreshed limbs. As great as she felt, she could not help but dwell on the night before; she had felt so strange all of a sudden, sat near to Reeve in his workshop. After that, it had been a genuine battle to keep from passing out.
Frowning, she made her way into the kitchen, clicking on the kettle and contemplating whether or not she was hungry enough for bacon and pancakes. A mewling at her kitchen window caught her attention; she glanced up to see a grey cat sat at her window, wide green eyes imploring her to allow it to enter her kitchen. It began to paw at the glass now that it had her attention. She drew closer, hand extended to open her window. Was that…?
She was only on the second floor, and cats were resourceful creatures, so it did not surprise her it had gotten to her windowsill. Upon her opening the window it slinked inside, rubbing its cheek against her arm.
"Cait! So he fixed you!" The Grey cat with his white markings was hard to mistake, though he did not answer her save to rub himself against her face as she lowered it towards him. She'd always loved cats. Strange though… she'd not really known Cait to behave this way before, let alone… purr?
Laughing softly through her nose, she buried her fingers in the fur behind his ears, grinning as he leaned heavily against her, eyes closed, clearly enjoying the attention. "Well, not sure what Reeve is getting out of this…" She muttered to herself.
Perhaps now was as good a time as any to call him. She returned to her bedroom to retrieve her PHS, the cat at her heels, dialing his number and pressing the device to her ear.
It took a few rings til he answered. "Tifa, don't tell me that's really the time—"
She glanced at the clock, and confirmed to him that it was indeed almost eleven. "You didn't stay up too late trying to fix him did you?"
"Who?—ah, Cait you mean? Well I stayed up for a while when I got back, but I couldn't fix him."
"I couldn't fix him—I couldn't ah… get through to him like I usually do. Something wasn't quite right. So I decided to let it alone for now."
"That's doesn't explain why he is here now, in my kitchen then, does it?" She bit down on her lower lip as she sank to sit on the edge of her bed, reflexively petting the cat as it now settled itself in her available lap.
There was a palpable silence on the other end of the line. "He… he is? Is he talking?"
Of course, Cait Sith had been able to communicate with them verbally in that funny little accent of his. Then again, this cat was… well, a cat. She had almost not spotted that it was in fact a robotic image of a cat, for the fact that the strange little outfit he usually sported was gone. She communicated this to Reeve who responded again with a loaded silence.
"Reeve? What's going on?"
"I… I don't know. But I plan on finding out. Give me a couple of hours, I'll stop by and see him for myself."
Reeve hung up his PHS, worrying his lower lip. What was he going to tell her?
Upon further inspection, his workshop was devoid of the broken little cat robot that he had tried so desperately to fix last night.
He glanced up at the orchid plant that stood innocently on his kitchen counter; it was in full bloom, leaves thick and lustrous. When he had taken it from Tifa, it had been, for all intents and purposes, dead.
He would have to tell her. Everything.