Straddling Perception

Chapter 1

A beautiful woman laid in her bed, in a restless slumber. Her dark brown hair spilled over the pillow, before she began tossing and turning in the silk sheets. Groaning, the restless woman sat up in bed, rubbing her tired eyes. Looking to the window, she observed the pale moonlight pouring into her lavish bedroom. The young woman tilted her head, noticing that the window was ajar. Frowning, she slipped from beneath the covers, padding over to the cracked window. Once she finished her inspection, the young woman closed and locked it. As she stood there, a chill ran up her spine.

"I don't remember leaving that window open," she whispered, rubbing her hands along the gooseflesh that pimpled over her chilled arms. Snorting, "Perhaps I did. You're losing it girl," she chastised herself with a shrug. "Yeah, I'm much too tense. I'll schedule a massage in the morning," she determined, turning from the window and climbing underneath the warm covers.

Still, the sensation of another person watching, weighed heavily on her. The young woman scanned the room, from where she sat in the bed, pulling her covers and knees to her chest. She stared into the shadows, narrowing her focus on a single corner of the room. Tilting her head, she continued to stare into the darkness of that isolated corner. The moon was the only source of light, spilling in through the window.

"What in the hell?" she murmured, when she began to make out a shape. Suddenly, a figure sprang from the corner, grabbing for her. The young woman screamed, jumping out of the bed. The large figure was clothed in black, standing across from her, on the opposite side of the bed, watching her closely. Clutching her chest, she took a step back.

"Who are you?!" she yelled at the figure, taking cautious steps to her left. The blackness followed her, materializing into a large human figure. Glancing at the door across the room, she gasped, snatching the lamp from the night stand. "Stay back!" she warned, pointing the weapon at the intruder. Her eyes darted toward the door once more, as desperation kicked in, she eased toward the source of freedom.

The intruder suddenly lunged at her, causing her to squeal in terror. The young woman slammed the lamp against the assailant's head, and glass shattered all over the floor and bed. A groan was wrenched from the assailant, and the young woman took advantage of the opportunity, fleeing from the room in the spirit of haste.

Frighten eyes darted about the dark apartment, looking for any other possible intruders. She stuck to the shadows, reaching out to the wall for guidance. The pattering of her bare feet against the hardwood floors, echoed throughout the hollow hallway, as she neared the stairs. Looking over her shoulder, the young woman noticed the assailant had shaken the haze from their skull, now chasing after her.

She squealed, quickly descending the stairs, taking them two at a time. Brown eyes widen, upon entering the darkness of the den area. The heavy thumping of the intruders booted feet resounded behind her, forcing her to escape into the shadows once more.

With a shuddering breath, she quietly slipped underneath the table, holding a hand over mouth. Tears trailed her cheeks, as she prayed to whatever god was listening to spare her life. The heavy foot falls drummed down the stairs, passing by her hiding place. The booted feet moved out of view, leaving her safe for the moment.

Silence fell over the apartment, while she waited for the intruder to reveal his/her intent. The frighten woman held her breath, trembling beyond control. Fresh tears streamed down her face, forming small puddles below her chin. Her heart pounded fiercely within her chest. The young woman's foot brushed against a solid object, and she nearly screamed in terror, before realizing that it was the leg of the table.

Brown eyes slid back and forth, searching frantically for the intruder. After waiting for what felt like hours, she peeked from underneath the table cloth, easing out from under it. The shivering woman looked left then right, finding the area secure enough, to sneak to the front door.

Quietly tip-toeing, she made her way to the only source of freedom. She looked over her shoulder and all around, before stepping into the lit hallway. As the terrified young woman approached the door, she noticed that the floor, leading to her escape, was blocked by a mat of metal spikes. Clutching her mouth in her hand, she choked back a sob.

Shaking her head in dismay at the situation, the petrified woman began backing up, bumping into the chest of the large intruder. Slowly she turned, looking into the blank face of the masked intruder. The assailant peered down at her, before suddenly grabbing her around the neck. The young woman screamed, when the masked intruder slammed her head into the wall to the left of them, before hurling her backward on the metal spikes. She howled in pain, as every move she made pushed the metal spikes farther into her body.

"WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! She whined at him, trying to pull herself from the torture mat. He kneeled over her, removing a dagger from his back pocket. The masked assailant breath brushed against her cheek, and the dark eye holes of the mask bore into her, stilling her very soul. Shaking her head no, the young woman attempted to push the attacker off, digging the heels of her palms into his chest in vain. The metal of the dagger glinted in the cascading light above, and again she shook her head no.

"Please! Don't?!" she whimpered, pleading with the masked assailant. The intruder paused, caressing her cheek with a gloved hand. "You don't have to do this," she urged, hoping that maybe she would be spared. The masked assailant viciously rammed the dagger straight through her heart, the tip connecting with the metal spikes of the mat below her with a clink.

Wide eyes questioned the assailant, as she clung to the attacker's shoulder. Bloody gurgles seeped out of her lips, while her nails dug into the assailant's shirt, tearing at the fabric. The young woman attempted to cover her wound, but the masked assailant jerked her hands away, allowing the blood to spill out around the dagger.

"Why?" she asked, her brown eyes pleading with him, before they rolled to the back of her head never to open again. Her blood continued to spill from her lifeless body, coating the floor in red.

The masked assailant yanked her from the mat, placing her against the wall as he collected the torturous device. The metal mat was rolled and placed to the side, while he laid her into the pool of blood. Taking a gloved hand, the masked assailant dipped a finger in the blood, drawing a heart on the floor beside her head, before placing a key beside the bloody heart. He admired his work for a moment before leaving out of the apartment the way he came.

Nanaki and Shalua maneuvered through the crowd, in the busy hallway of the upscale apartment complex. His golden eyes swept over the police officers performing their delegated tasks, before looking at his partner. Shalua's face was blank as he watched her taking in the sight. A police officer walked up to them, with a pensive look on his age worn face. He offered his hand to them, shaking each one of theirs in turn.

"Detective Reddo, Detective Rui, I'm Officer Quinn," he shook his head, "there is quite a mess for you tonight."

"What were you able to discern?" Shalua asked, walking around him, entering the penthouse apartment. She pulled on a pair of latex gloves, touching the cold body of the victim. Looking over her shoulder, she asked, "Officer Quinn has the forensic team arrived yet?"

"No, they been called, but~"

"Thank you," Shalua nodded, turning back to the victim. "Nanaki, it looks like she was moved."

Nanaki noticed the blood smears leading from the wall to the body. "You think it's our killer?" He asked, pointing to the heart with a key lying in the center of it.

"Maybe, I'm going to inspect the body a little more before Forensics gets here," she muttered.

"Well," The officer began, locking eyes with Nanaki, "She's a twenty-two year old up and coming superstar. Poor girl," he shook his head. "There are no signs of forced entry, at least not through the front door. My guess is that she invited him in. There was an attack upstairs in her bedroom. There's shattered glass on the bed and floor."

"Show me," Nanaki ordered calmly. The officer nodded, leading him up the stairs of the large apartment. They entered the room finding it in disarray. Nanaki's gold eyes flowed over the room, finding some officers chatting in the corner. "Excuse me gentlemen but I need this area clear." They nodded in his direction, before filing out of the room. Nanaki inspected the surroundings, walking over to the window. He narrowed his eyes in concentration, tilting his head. His red hair fell into his face. "Here," he announced.


"The intruder entered through the window."

"With all due respect detective, but we're thirty stories up, sir," Officer Quinn rolled his eyes, "not to mention there are twenty more floor above us."

Nanaki opened the window, leaning out and turning his head to the sky, inspecting the side of the roof.

"That's just impossible, sir," Quinn continued.

"Not with the proper equipment," Nanaki smirked. The officer frowned. "He came in through the window," the redhead nodded, walking to the bed, inspecting it. "The bed . . . only one side was slept in. Look at the pillow it's still sitting upright. He came in through the window," he walked over to the door, touching the doorframe. "He entered while she was sleeping and set up his trap for her."

"What trap?"

"Did you not see how her blood was edged by something obstructing it from free flowing? She was a fit young woman but she's stopped at the door, in the opposite direction than the exit. Why would she stop?"

"She wouldn't if she didn't have to."

"Exactly," Nanaki said, walking over to the bed. "She was in bed when he attacked her but she obviously hit him with the lamp, with enough force to stun him long enough to run. She made it to the door and just stopped, giving the killer just enough time to get to her."

"Nanaki," Shalua said, popping her head into the room. "I got something."

"Excuse me," Nanaki followed Shalua out of the room as she led him back to the body.

"This," she pointed to the stab wound through the heart. "It's the same M.O. This is our killer." She replied, looking at Nanaki. "He stabbed the victim through the heart and leaves his signature heart and key on the ground beside the body. We aren't dealing with a copy cat. It's him. See. The wound goes all the way through."

Nanaki pinched the bridge of his nose, "So we're dealing with the Locksmith Killer," he whispered locking eyes with Shalua, who nodded.

Tifa sat in a chair as her hair dresser styled her chocolate locks. She frowned, reading Mr. Biggs's harsh review of her for the third time. Sighing in frustration, she tossed the magazine on the vanity in front of her. Her wine eyes sought her best friend and personal assistant, who sat on one of the couches in the trailer.

"He hates me doesn't he?"

Aerith looked up from the planner she was reading, to meet Tifa's eyes. The woman gave her a warm smile, "Tifa you can't worry about the opinion of one man. Focus on all the good reviews you've gotten from the other critics."

Tifa shrugged, "If you want to make in this town, you have to stay on this guy's good side. Everybody knows that what this jerk says can make you or break you."

Aerith shook her head, placing the planner beside her on the couch, "That isn't true. Other people have made it just fine without his favor. You have to remain optimistic. This guy doesn't control all the producers and directors. He's just one critic. Besides," she shrugged, "he's only writing this crap about you because you wouldn't go to dinner with him. What you need to concentrate on," she raised a brown, "are your fans. They love you and that's all that matters."

Tifa did not look convinced, reaching for the magazine to read it again.

Aerith stood from her seat, snatching the magazine from Tifa, throwing it into the wastebasket underneath the vanity. "There. Problem solved."

Tifa watched Aerith sitting back down, placing the planner back on her lap. She smiled at the temperamental woman.

"She does have a point sugar," the stylist said, running the flat iron through her long hair.

"Not you too, Alex," she stared at him through the mirror, "You've been around this business longer than me. You know the score."

"Everybody also knows he's an asshole," he snapped, jerking his head toward her. His dark brown eyes locked with Tifa's as he placed a hand on his hip. "You can't let that dumb bastard get you down. What did we talk about last time miss thang?"

Tifa nodded her head with a small smile on her face, "Alright, alright you guys win. I won't worry about Mr. Biggs and his bad reviews about me. You're right. I don't need him."

"That's right girlfriend," he snapped. "You already a star or else I wouldn't be doing your hair. You hear me?" Alex turned his attention back to her long locks. "I don't do just anybody's hair." He flicked at his curly afro for emphasis.

"See that's settled," Aerith said in a distracted manner, scribbling some notes in the planner. "You have an appointment right after you get off set," Aerith snapped her fingers at Tifa, "so don't tarry around when you're finished with today's scene. Oh I almost forgot you have to get ready for that charity benefit. It's in two weeks," she wrote some more notes, "so we need to start looking for gowns for that ordeal and a date."

"What would do without you Aerith?"

"Probably fall apart," she dead panned, "but we never have to find out, will we?" Aerith's green eyes smiled at her, watching Tifa through the mirror. The movie star stuck out her tongue at the assistant. Aerith chuckled, looking back at the planner, scanning through the rest of today's schedule.

"Guess who's coming home tonight?" Tifa said in a singsong manner.

Aerith visibly stiffened, "Who," she asked.

"Don't be coy. You know who I'm talking about."

"It must be Cloud," Alex said, chuckling at Aerith's stiffened posture. "Cause lookin' at Miss Thang over there," he smirked at Tifa, "lookin' like she got gas or something." They laughed heartily. "Miss Aerith gonna get laid fo' sho!"

Aerith became red as a cherry as she glared at Tifa and Alex, who were looking at her with smiles on their faces, "That is not . . ."

"Appropriate," Alex and Tifa finished for her as they laughed, slapping each other high fives.

"Whatever," she growled, returning to the planner. They all looked up as Scarlet and Reeve burst into the room.

"Have you heard?!" Scarlet said, walking right past Aerith, dropping the morning's paper into Tifa's lap. "Jessie was killed last night."

Tifa gasped as her wine colored eyes scanned the paper, "This is horrible," she gasped, holding a hand to her chest as she continued reading.

"Not really," Scarlet shrugged, primping in the mirror, making a few adjustments to her blonde hair. "With her out of the way, that means you will automatically get the part in the new Loveless film."

"No, that's horrible," Aerith said, glaring at Scarlet.

"What?" She shrugged again, whirling around on Aerith. "This is show business, doll. Kill or be killed. Quite literally," she chuckled at her own joke, taking a seat on the couch opposite Aerith.

"That's cold," Alex commented as he put the final touches to Tifa's hair. Reeve sighed wearily, sitting beside Scarlet on the couch.

"Scarlet, please restrain yourself," he growled at his wife. "I don't want you upsetting Tifa or Aerith for that matter."

"How did she die?" Aerith asked, looking at Reeve. He sighed as he stretched an arm behind Scarlet's shoulders, unbuttoning his suit jacket.

"Well she was killed in her penthouse apartment last night."

"Doesn't she live on the thirtieth floor?" Tifa asked with a frown.

"Apparently, the killer doesn't care about gravity, my dear Tifa," Scarlet answered, pulling out a cigarette.

"Don't light that in here," Aerith fussed at her, her green eyes held reprimand.

Scarlet clicked her tongue, rolling her blue eyes away, "Yes, mother, but there is good news."

"Good news?" Tifa asked hesitantly.

Scarlet nodded her had a full grin on her face, "Yes, the producers want to meet with you right after you're off set, and guess what?"

"I know she's going to tell us," Alex whispered into Tifa's ear.

"I heard that Alex," Scarlet rolled her eyes, "Anyway, the director is going to be there. You're going to get that part. I'm willing to bet my prized Chocobo on it."

"I don't know. Getting the part because the girl they chose was killed. It feels kind of wrong."

"You'll get over it," she said, answering her phone when it rang. "Lenny, darling talk to me," she stood from her seat, walking out of the trailer.

"The Piranha strikes again," Alex joked as he took in his work on Tifa's hair.

"Reeve," Aerith sighed.

"I know heaven knows that I know, but she's the best at what she does." He turned his brown eyes to Tifa, "Will you at least go to the meeting?"

Tifa chewed on her bottom lip.

"Even though the Piranha is a borderline personality," Alex began, whirling Tifa around in the chair. "She's right, though you can be moral outside of this business, sugar. Go get that part and just do the best you can for both you and Jessie. You're all done."

There was a knock on the door, before it opened wide allowing an intern to walked in, carrying a cup of coffee, a single yellow tulip, and an envelope. "Your coffee, Miss Lockhart and this came for you."

"Who is it from?" Tifa asked as she smelled the Tulip. Her eyes closed, enjoying the sweet fragrance of the flower.

"I don't know, ma'am."

"Thank you."

The intern nodded her head, making a quick exit from the trailer. Tifa placed the coffee on the vanity to open the letter. A warm smile peeled her lips as she read the message.

"It's from the secret admirer again?" Aerith said, watching Tifa, who nodded her head. "What's it say?"

Tifa smiled, "It's a secret," she replied, getting up from the salon chair. "I have to get to set," she smelled the Tulip once again, handing the letter to Aerith, who began reading it. Tifa waved bye to her friends as she left out of the trailer with her flower.

"You have to stick and move, Gen!" Angeal shouted from outside of the boxing ring located in the basement of their building. The RHC was a business that the young Generals; Genesis, Angeal, and Sephiroth started after becoming disgusted with the government and leaving the military. It was the most sought after security and investigative business in all of Midgar, and all over Gaia.

"Come on Gen!" Angeal complained, "He's going to kick your ass! You can't just stand there. He'll turn you into a punching bag!" the brunette bounced around the outside of the ring, trying to coach Genesis. He watched the other two Generals with intense focus.

Sephiroth smirked, punching Genesis with a left hook. His right jaw jiggled and the redhead growled, swinging wildly on the silver haired man, who hopped away gracefully.

"Hustle, Gen!"

"Giving him pointers, Angeal? That isn't very fair." Sephiroth joked, ducking under Genesis's jab.

"I can handle it, Angeal! I got him right where I want him!" Genesis barked as he landed a body shot to Sephiroth, but paid for the blow with an uppercut to the chin. The Crimson General fell backward into the ropes, where Sephiroth unleashed a flurry of blows to his huddled form. Genesis swayed, blocking as many blows as he could.

"Block, block! Move, get out of the corner!" Angeal shouted from where he stood on the edge of the ring, leaning on the ropes.

"SHUT-UP Angeal!"

"I'm just trying to help you. You're getting slaughtered in there."

Genesis growled, pushing Sephiroth away, "I'm fine thank you. Boxing is not my forte." He grumbled, landing another body shot to Sephiroth, who chuckled, dancing away from the next wild right hook.

"You always say things aren't your forte when you're losing." Sephiroth smirked, noticing an opening. He punched Genesis across the ring. The redhead fell backwards on the mat, looking up at the blinding lights overhead. Angeal and Sephiroth walked over to the fallen man, looking down at him.

"Not a word." Genesis growled as he looked into the smiling faces of Angeal and Sephiroth.

"How about a number?" Angeal offered, "Fifteen," the brunette smiled at the raised brow of Genesis. "In fifteen minutes, Sephiroth kicked your ass. You should have listened to me. You never listen." He offered Genesis his hand, who grudgingly took it. Angeal hauled the angry man to his feet.

"I slipped." Genesis said, turning away from his partners and best-friends.

"Of course, you slipped right on the left hook you received." Sephiroth chuckled as he stepped out of the ring, walking to the shower area.

Genesis growled again looking at the back of the retreating man, "I was distracted!" He yelled after him. Sephiroth's silver hair trailed behind him as he chuckled again. "I could have had you!"

"Yeah, if you listened to me," Angeal shrugged with a snicker, resting his large arms against his chest.

Sephiroth turned to view Genesis, who hung over the ropes with a sour expression on his face. Shrugging, Sephiroth hung his boxing gloves on the hook. "Maybe next time Crimson General," He replied, disappearing from the room.

"So, smug," Genesis said, glowering after Sephiroth's long gone figure.

The ride back to the set was a mixed one. Tifa leaned against the window, watching the passing scenery. Reeve and Scarlet talked on their phones, unconsciously battling each other for dominance.

Cid looked at Tifa through the rearview mirror, "Why ya lookin' like somebody killed Cait Sith? I thought ya wanted the damn part?" He blurted. . Barret, who was sitting in the passenger seat, swatted him with his burly hand. "What?" Cid shrugged, glaring at Barret before turning back to Tifa.

"Do ya hav' to be so damn blunt?!" Barret growled at the man.

"I kno' ya ain't talkin'" Cid fired back. He met Tifa's wine eyes. She smiled at him, shaking her head at her friends.

"I did, Cid. I just didn't want someone to die to get."

Scarlet scuffed, rolling her eyes as she continued talking on her PHS.

Aerith took Tifa's hand into her own, "You got the part because you were good, and that is what matters, sweetie."


"Did you kill, Jessie?" Aerith raised her brow and Tifa smiled, shaking her head. "Then be grateful that you were next in line for the most sought after part in Midgar. You got the part because they saw something in you that fit the role."

"But Jessie~"

It is unfortunate that Jessie was murdered but if you don't take a part because of someone else's misfortune, then you'll never have work. I know that sounds cruel but this is Midgar, honey."

"Wow. The Nun has a bit of nasty in her."

"And you have too much, Scarlet." Aerith said coolly, turning back to Tifa, who smiled at her friend.

"You're right, Aerith, you too, Cid." She nodded her head, "I am happy that they gave me the part."

"That's my girl!" Cid said, turning back to the road.

"Ya still ain't got tah be so damn blunt." Barret grumbled, rolling his eyes.

Cid looked at him hard, "Like I said, ya ain't one to talk."

Disclaimer: I do not own the final fantasy 7 characters. I'm borrowing them.

After going through the story, I felt that Straddling Perception needed a serious overhaul. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask me. I am certainly willing to answer your concerns. Adios!