First of all thanks to Kisdota for the wonderful support ^^. Even when my muse is being unresponsive your reviews make me wanna keep writing.

And second of all thanks to Square (Enix) for having created such a wonderful game, without which my fic would never exist.

Oh, and P.S. Cover your eyes if Barrett's potty mouthed daughter offends you, otherwise, by all means read on.


Don't Shoot the Messenger

Marlene was fidgeting with Tifa's leather gloves. She was itching to hit the cocky redhead before her in the face. Hard. And repeatedly. One look at Denzel said that the eighteen year old was thinking along the same lines.

It was all Reno's fault.

For the last five years Shinra had been investigating reports of the survival of another Jenova cell experiment, Genesis. Apparently after Sephiroth, Shinra wasn't ready to take any chances with Jenova remnants.

Their investigation had led them to the crater that was once the Temple of the Ancients. The very thought of the place sent a shiver of dread through Marlene's body. Something about it felt….discordant, thought the sixteen year old.

"Well he wasn't there," grumbled Reno, rubbing the back of his neck.

"But something was. It…was like a WEAPON, but…wrong somehow. It attacked us and it won. I don't know where it took Tseng, Elena or Rude so I called Cloud," shrugged Reno. "Now I don't know where they are, either." Silenced dragged seconds into minutes.

"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU USELESS ASSHOLE!" screamed Marlene as she punched the Turk square in the jaw. Before Reno could recover Marlene had slammed him against a far wall, fire in her eyes.

"First you bring the wrath of Sephiroth on us all. Then his 'remnants' attack us because you find Jenova's head. Now you've put my family in danger again! Why can't your company solve its own problems without trying to kill EVERYONE I LOVE!" She punched Reno again, this time to the nose with a sickening crunch before Denzel grabbed her by the arms, effectively restraining the enraged Marlene.

"Holy shit!" swore Reno as he covered his bloodied nose with his hand. He glared at the struggling girl. "You got a mean right hook, little girl."

"I'll…show you…little," struggled Marlene against Denzel's greater strength. Her legs were flailing and she elbowed Denzel several times, but he merely grunted, taking the pain without complaint. Instead he lifted her off the ground and dragged her up the stairs.

"DENZEL LET ME FUCKING GO! I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!" screamed Marlene. Malin was white faced with shock as he looked at Reno's broken nose. Helena chewed on her bottom lip, unsure what to do. It was Kiri moved with a heavy sigh.

"Here, sit still," ordered the exasperated fourteen year old. With a crack she snapped the nose back into place with much cursing on Reno's part.


"DENZEL STRIFE IF YOU DON'T PUT ME DOWN THIS SECOND –"

They're alive, Marlene. Trust me. Aerith's voice and her message broke through the red haze clouding Marlene's vision. As quickly as her presence had appeared it receded again. She didn't doubt the Cetran's words. Aerith was in the Lifestream. If anyone would know she would. Marlene sighed in relief.

"Please let me down." Marlene's suddenly calm voice caught Denzel off-guard, and as such he was suspicious.

"You won't kill Reno?" He felt her shake her head against his chest, but he still wasn't convinced. "Promise?"

"I promise," sighed Marlene. She took in a deep breath as the pressure around her ribs was lessened and Denzel placed her feet back on the ground. She turned to face Denzel, face apologetic.

"Sorry about the elbowing." Denzel smiled and shrugged.

"I think I'm used to you fighting dirty by now," retorted Denzel. She smiled a little at him before his face turned serious. "Marlene, what are we going to do?"

She looked away from him then and that's when she realised they were Tifa and Cloud's room. There were photographs of them all on the walls, as well as some of her and Denzel's artwork from when they were much younger.

She remembered climbing into their bed when she was little and her dad had been away, scared from one nightmare or another. That was before Denzel came along. After that she always relied on Denzel when she was scared. It felt strange to be the one relied upon for once.

"I guess we need to go to this crater. We need to know what happened to them." Marlene looked up at Denzel for confirmation and the older boy just nodded, a determined scowl on his face. He looked so much like Cloud just then that it was easy to forget he was adopted.

"And maybe find out all we can on this Genesis fellow, too," added Denzel. "Even if Reno said it wasn't him, he might have something to do with it. Can't hurt to be sure." Marlene nodded.

"Okay, then; Genesis first, crater second. Sound like a plan?"

"Why do I get the feeling this shit's only going to get worse?" sighed Denzel, running a hand through his hair.

"Might have something to do with a Jenova remnant running around, an evil WEAPON and the disappearance of the strongest group of people we know," offered Marlene in a small voice.

"We'll just have to be stronger," declared Denzel, hoping to distract Marlene from her morose thoughts. She set her mouth into a determined scowl and nodded curtly.

Marlene went to move pass Denzel before she suddenly felt her senses overwhelmed by Aerith's presence. Flowers. A drop of water. A giggle. Soft singing.

Before you go, come to the church. I have a gift for you. Reeling from the contact Marlene steadied herself against the door frame. She turned to Denzel who was watching her with a worried expression.

"I want to visit the church first."