Blanket Warning: This is a fanfic that is rated M for Mature. It may, or may not, contain one or more of the things for which stories are given the rating M for in the course of this story. Thus, this is your one and only warning to read this fanfic at your own risk.


Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I even think I own, FF-7 and its compilations, or any characters within them, in any way, shape, or form. I'm simply doing this or fun, and the practice.


AN: Both story and title inspired by Star Ocean 3's, Bitter Dance.

Not wanting to give the impression that I only do Complete AUs- I give you this... well, whatever this mess is.

Also, there will be character deaths, lots of it. I'll only say this much, though- Turks and Shinra fans; you're going to hate my guts by the time this thing is done. :)

Pairings, implied or otherwise, are just going to have to be a surprise...


Bitter Dance: Chapter 1- Palmer Retires… Permanently.

The light from the moon cascaded in through the wreckage of the Midgar Ruins, as the blond-haired man walked on through with purpose in his stride.

Fear was absent in the man's bearing and thoughts, despite the lingering copious amounts of blood, guts, and entrails staining the floors, walls, and cracks of the ceiling amongst the shredded remains of the bodies they came from.

Rufus Shinra was many things- pompous, callous, intelligent, cruel, all business and no pleasure, a man who wouldn't take a beat of an eyelash to bloody his white pristine clothes, and, as most would say, he was ruthless.

Yet, he was no coward. He showed no fear, even when his death had seemed highly likely in the face of the Sapphire WEAPON attack on Midgar. Nor had he in the face of the Remnants. No, he showed no fear at all. Felt no fear.

The carnage that was discovered here at this place was nothing to him.

The two men walking behind him looked around, eyes critical to their surroundings, one silent, the other whistling at the scattered remains of the Turks that had been stationed here, regarding them with only an ounce of pity.

"Seems like we're going to have our hands full with this one, eh Rude?" the man named Reno said to the other.

"Most likely," was the only response the red head got from the silent Turk.

Walking on, ignoring the two Turks that trailed behind him, Rufus headed toward the vault that had been kept away from prying eyes, even after the destruction of Midgar, when Meteor and Holy came.

Until now it seemed...

With more bodies eviscerated every which way, their blood and guts slopping the floor and walls, Rufus calmly surveyed the area, before he headed forward through the door that had only days ago, been gated shut with metal- the safe door off its hinges and its many pieces strewn amongst the mangled bodies.

Nothing.

Nothing could be found in the room.

No old paper files from Shinra, ashes that clouded the room an obvious answer to where they were now. No hard drives in lone computers filled with data from everything that went on in Shinra, who worked there, etc, their chips now melted lumps of useless metal.

Nor were there any shelves filled with the various plans and blue prints, weapons, armor, etc, that had been left unfinished, deemed a failure, or deemed indestructible, and highly dangerous; selves halfway disintegrated, broken remnants of things that were left behind.

None of the things that Shinra had meant to stay hidden from the world of Gaia till the end of days. Or until he, Rufus Shinra, the only remaining heir to Shinra's legacy, had need to place himself back onto the pedestal of old.

It seemed someone else had other plans, though.

Rufus would see about that.

Turning around, Rufus ordered Reno and Rude, "See to it that Reeve gets notice that someone has gotten access to highly dangerous materials, weapons, and information from old Shinra data bases and storage. Tell him I will give him my undivided attention in this, if he is to have any questions…"

He continued on, as he left the scene, already contemplating ways to remove this new threat that had hit him a personal blow.

Rufus Shinra would see who would dare to challenge him now, and he would make them pay tenfold.

-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-

Shelke busied herself in her new task in front of the WRO's central computer, helping in information and data gathering, using her skills with SND.

It had come to everyone's attention that people, left and right, were being pulled from their homes, off the streets, wherever they happened to be, and were found dead hours, days, even weeks later, butchered beyond recognition, bodies strewn, in parts, across walkways, roofs, even a local diner somewhere within Edge... blood. So much blood.

Not that it bothered her in the least. People died, often rather viciously, every day there was life. Death didn't bother her. The blood didn't.

What bothered her, and so many others, was the why.

Black Death, the name so freely given by the citizens of Gaia to the enigma that seeped its way into the deepest crevices of their darkest imaginations- it came in the night like a plague, sweeping the earth, reaping the souls of its victims without remorse, and leaving a bloodbath in its wake.

Fear- it staked its way into the hearts of Gaia's citizens again, even after so long since Deepground and Omega had shaken the very foundation of the Gaia the worn out citizens had tried to build after the Meteor Crisis.

Everything seemed so random, so out of place, that more and more people stuck to their homes, refusing to venture out for long, the very fear of Black Death haunting their every waking moment.

They were afraid.

Afraid of what was happening to the planet now.

Everywhere Shelke went; she could see and hear people and their reasoning for this new found threat to their lives.

"The Planet! Surely it is punishing us! What did we do now? Will we ever satisfy its demands?"

"Will Omega return? All those people dying… were we simply doomed from the start? It all seems so pointless! Why do we even bother!"

"I bet this is just another case of the Shinra legacy rearing its ugly head! They ruined our lives before, why not do so again!"

While she had very little reason to believe most of what she heard, Shelke feared what this new threat could mean, as well.

Of which, she was trying to figure out right now.

Shelke noticed that while random to the normal citizen, she saw a pattern in the deaths. Although, she couldn't quite place her finger on just what it was yet.

After all, it wasn't just anybody getting slaughtered.

They were grown men and women- with their children, if they had any, often killed, but not always, as if in afterthought.

As if the parents were the only thing important.

The children that were killed, though, were wholly intact, as if they simply fell into a peaceful sleep, as their parents were slaughtered. But she couldn't quite place what the importance in these deaths meant. Which is what she was working out; sifting through the data space of WRO's central computer, looking for clues on just what could connect the deaths together.

A form materialized in the darkness of the room behind her, red and gold flashing.

Shelke smiled softly, as she sensed the form close by.

"Vincent," she greeted, continuing the sifting with the data in front of her eyes.

Coming to stand behind her, the red clad warrior place a hand gently on her shoulder, "how is the search?"

Shifting through another strain of data, Shelke said, "it goes as well as the last time you asked. I still cannot pinpoint the similarities between the deaths. It keeps slipping through my fingers, no matter how hard I try."

Vincent didn't say a word at that, only continued to keep his hand on her shoulder gently. After a moment of silence and data shifting, he said three words that made her pause in her data-shifting, "Iron and Mako."

Only letting shock settle in her for a few seconds, she continued to shift through the data, "is it now?"

Nodding, the red-clad warrior continued, "the recent scene of death reeked highly of both elements that had nothing to do with the victim, much like the others, though they were, unfortunately, too faint to tell by the time I got there. Nanaki has confirmed it."

Stopping what she was doing, Shelke took in the new information with cogs working at full speed.

What could this all mean?

She was afraid she would be unable to find the answer before it was too late.

-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-

Across the sea that separated the western and eastern continent, Costa De Sol was bathed in the light of the full moon, the waves of an outcrop beach crashing gently against the shores.

Drunken laughter could be heard from the outskirts of the city, as a group of people moved towards a condo far from the city limits. A man walked between several women, both his hands draped over the two nearest ones. Normally bald, the man had worn a full wig that seemed on its tethers of falling right off, but the women, as drunk as the man was, barely noticed such a minor detail as the man lead them to his beach condo, drunken jokes flying off his lips as the women all giggled just as drunkenly.

Palmer had been through the ringer since his supposed demise at the hands of AVALANCHE back before Meteor Crisis, but he, in his sober self, would say that it had been worth it in the end. No longer was he the fat, disgusting man, he used to be, having gone through extensive exercise, diets, and eventual surgeries. The events could be said to have changed him in ways he never thought would be possible. He never thought he'd be where he was at, at this point in his life.

He was glad that Shinra had fallen, and that he had the chance to live life for himself now, and he wasn't about to let any moments get away from him. After all, he had always had the money to be able to do as many things as he wished. If only he had had the courage earlier in his life to take it elsewhere, for himself. He could say that he still felt like the Palmer of old from time to time, but that got rarer and rarer as the years went by, and today was no different.

The new Palmer was about to have him a fun night, and he wouldn't let anything stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, no one could escape the past so easily, and Palmer was no exception.

As the group was half way across the moonlit beach towards the condo, a slow steady clapping started in the darkness that shadowed in front of the house, as a black clad figure stepped out slowly into the moonlight.

In his drunken stupor, the man who was Palme blinked stupidly at the shrouded figure that dared get in his way. "Hey you, yeah you, what the hellz your deal, get the fuck off my.. my.. hic!.. property!"

The black clad figure just continued its slow and steady walk towards them clapping still just as slowly. The moonlight cast the figure in an unearthly glow that mixed in the shadows of the night and the light of the moon. The figure was covered in black from head to toe, with only an opening at the lower jaw, a smirk planted firmly on its lips.

It may have been his fucked up senses due to the alcohol, but Palmer could have sworn, if anyone had cared to ask him at the time, that he had smelled the distinct smell of copper, or was it iron? Whatever it was, it tinged with the stench of death, and Palmer had enough sense to cower as the figure stopped in its trek, several yards still from them. The women were already cowering the minute the black clad figure entered the scene, some having run already, with the few that stood behind Palmer, as if the newly reformed man would be all the protection they needed from this threat.

The smirk on the figure's half concealed face grew broader as the last clap fell, and a ringing silence filled the area, the only sound the soft crashing of the waves.

"Wh.. what do you want?" Palmer stammered his old self coming back full circle under the eye-less gaze of the figure, the women behind him shaking in fear.

A small fit of laughter exited the figures lips, sounding at once both slightly mad and on the verge of insanity as well coming across calm as a bee in the summer breeze.

"Why Palmer," the figure, which could only be a man, said in a deep baritone voice, dripping with condescension, "do you not remember me?"

He paused for a bit, looking Palmer up and down, the smirk on his lips growing ever larger, "I almost didn't recognize you, myself- but I remember. Oh do I remember."

In the haze that clouded his eyes, Palmer squinted as he looked the newcomer up and down as well, the danger in the air sobering him up pretty quick. "C-can't say that I -hic- do."

A small laugh, smirk never dropping, the man said, "a great pity, then. It would have made the experience far more enjoyable. No matter."

The man stepped forward, each slow and easy step bringing him from the shadows into the light, but the man was still as black as the night he walked from as the women behind Palmer screamed and ran the other way.

Sweat running down his face, Palmer took hasty steps backwards to meet the man's own, "W-what d-do you want?"

The man ignored him, the smirk on his lips disappearing into a thoughtful frown, as he continued his calm and steady advance. "the darkness- it taints the soul like no other. Pain- it drowns the mind from thought. Misery and suffocation- will release never come?"

Unnerved by the man's dark ramblings, the haze in Palmer's mind lifted little by little, memories of rumors of recent news thundering their way into the forefront of his mind- the man's seemingly unfocused gaze, as if he was somewhere else and not currently advancing towards him.

Palmer had ignored them, these rumors of 'Black Death,' in his new found sense of self, thinking that nothing could touch him anymore. But the man before him, the one who was only a few yards away now, brought reality crashing down upon him.

Trembling, sweat rolling off his face in waves, Palmer stammered, "w-wait, I h-have G-gil! L-lots o-of it! I-I can, I c-can give you a-anything you-"

The figure's focus brought back to the man before him, the smirk quickly graced his lips yet again, "Oh, I have no need for your meaningless Gil. No… what I desire…"

Smirk growing larger, a simple sword came from within the man's robes into his hand quicker then Palmer could blink, "… is your Lifestream- as weak and pitiful as it is."

Eyes widening in horror as the man began to leap from where he stood, Palmer yelled, "No wait! Please! Have mercy! PLE-"

Blood flew into the night sky as the man was silenced, the full moon bathing the gentle crashing waves that lapped the shore. A scarlet stream wound its way down, the gentle waves colored red as they pulled back into the sea- a brilliant green flash illuminating the scene.

-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-B-D-

Within the Midgar Ruins, a church, broken and abandoned, sat in the calm silence of the night.

The pews, wreaked beyond repair, lay before a crystal clear pond, where a field of flowers once grew. Where once a great sword had been stuck within the earth in honor of a hero, it now laid scattered within the pond, broken pieces of a heroic legacy a testament to what was to come.

TBC


Well- please tell me whether its good, bad, confusing as heck, ugly, or just plain awesome... err yeah. :)

Also- in before 'But is there really more Turks than Reno, Rude, Tseng, and Elena?"

Yes, yes I do think there were more Turks then the ones we got to know, etc. So that's why I had no-name Turks dead in the beginning.

If all else fails- you can assume that they were some of the BC Turks. Whatever works, right? :]