Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for anyone who suffers shock when they find out I've updated this.
If you've been wondering: No I haven't given up on this, and yes I will eventually finish it. I have the ending in mind; I just have to get the words to match the imagery. Though I did not respond to each comment individually, they are all appreciated and very encouraging. I wish they would give my muse a good kick in the butt.
And, NO, this is not the last chapter.
When asked for help with a title for this chapter, rageofloki, on Tifa's behalf, suggested "I'm With Stupid". LOL. Poor Reno! But really, Tifa, you should have just sent him packing. Or at least slapped him.
Tifa couldn't have found words to describe the panic that had seized her and was setting all her nerves on edge. Reno was walking away, and all Tifa could do was stare after him, though she saw nothing but the blinding white of growing hysteria.
"You comin' or not, yo. I ain't got all day." Reno's words worked well enough to break the surface of her tension, and the brief respite let her regain some focus.
She quickly thought back on the conversation they had, if it could be called that, scrambling to piece together the bits of what he had said into a bigger picture of what he might actually know. Had he seen Genesis? Reno hadn't mentioned him by name, and that was a good thing, right? There certainly had to be more than one or two red-heads around, didn't there? Sadly, off the top of her head, she couldn't think of any that she knew, or that she might have been seen and associated with. But the worst of it was that he had mentioned this in combination with the Shinra facility. Had Reno been watching her? Following her? How much had he seen? How much did he know?
She had started walking, following him numbly, automatically. Whatever Reno knew, and he would never tell her the whole of it, she was not going to let him trap her into telling him any more. After all, she rationalized, maybe, just maybe, he was running his mouth on nothing but a few rumors he had picked up on, and was doing nothing more than fishing for more information. Keeping that in mind, Tifa decided to follow for now, neither admitting or denying anything that Reno had said.
She hesitated only briefly when they reached a car, obviously a Shinra vehicle, noticeable even without the Shinra plates that declared it so, and Reno nodded at the passenger side door for her as he slipped into the driver seat. Did she really want to get in a car with Reno? Could this be a ruse of some sort? No, she decided. Reno was more direct than that.
She sat in silence next to him as he drove, trying not to express in any way her annoyance at the smug grin that was plastered on his face. God, how she hated that grin. Thankfully, he didn't seem to have anymore taunts to make, and it was at least a quiet ride, even if the silence was uncomfortable.
Reno didn't take the same route out of town Tifa had the night she had met Genesis at the outpost, and she found some relief in that. It was short-lived when he finally stopped on the side of the road, and Tifa recognized the foothills she had traversed. She hadn't recognized the route they took to get there, but the final location was unmistakeable. The relief she had felt sank even further away as Reno led her unerringly along the same path she had followed. He turned to face her when they reached the hidden entrance.
"Looks familiar, doesn't it, Lockhart."
Not wanting to admit anything, Tifa gave him her best humoring expression.
"This is your adventure, Reno. I was just wondering if there was going to be popcorn." She found the momentary scowl that crossed his face deliciously satisfying, but it did nothing to abate the sinking feeling she had in her gut as she followed him into the tunnel.
Without hesitation, he led into the interior, the eery glow of the blue lights illuminating the way. One door to another, he checked each one, testing the handle, then opening it to check inside, taunting her as he went.
"Will it be this one, Lockhart? No? Well, let's check the next." And on he went, never disappointed when he didn't find anything, cocky and sure he was going to find something, acting as if every door was a present he was opening, and the next was going to be just what he wanted.
There was no comfort in the fact that he had a master key, and with each door, Tifa's heart beat a bit faster and rose a bit higher in her chest. She didn't know the extent to which Genesis was occupying the building, how many rooms he had been in or might have left a trace in. She didn't think they would catch Genesis off guard, but she was convinced that the proverbial game was up and the truth was about to be discovered. Would they round a corner to find Genesis ready to defend himself? Did Genesis have some kind of alarm set up, some way of knowing when someone was coming? Hard as she tried, Tifa couldn't think of a way to warn him without admitting anything to Reno, and she wasn't going to do that unless she absolutely had to.
And finally, there was no hiding it anymore. They had reached one of the rooms which Tifa knew Genesis was using. What now? If he wasn't there, what excuse could she use? Should she act surprised? Or as if a trace of inhabitance was perfectly normal, and why would she be surprised?
The tension mounted within her until she thought she might scream with frustration, and she hoped that Reno couldn't hear her heart beating as loudly as it sounded to her, and that he didn't notice her holding her breath at every turn. Or how she closed her eyes as he swung the door open and waited for the worst.
But nothing happened.
After checking the room as he had all the others, he backed out, pulling the door closed behind him. What? Bewildered, Tifa had to restrain herself from re-opening the door and looking for herself, but wouldn't that be a dead giveaway? No, she simply had to follow, determining that she would take a peek into the rest of the rooms he opened.
In the quick glances she took, there was nothing to be seen, no evidence that anyone had been within the building in the recent past, no papers, nothing disturbed. Everything was as it should have been in a deserted building.
At long last, they reached the door of the room Genesis was using to sleep in. Sure of Reno's victory, Tifa braced herself as he opened the door and walked into the room.
There were no exclamations of "A-HA!", no satisfied chuckle, no scuffle of two men fighting it out. Acting merely curious, Tifa followed Reno into the room.
Nothing. Nothing, and more nothing.
There wasn't a hint of Genesis in the room. Not a piece of clothing, not a book. Even the scent of him had faded. The bed at the far side of the room, the same one she had coalesced on, that they had made love on, was nothing but a frame covered with an old mattress. There were no sheets, no blankets, no pillows.
Of Genesis or any other occupant, there was no trace.
Instead of relief, Tifa's fear of what Reno was going to find and being outted before she was prepared to deal with it turned to an entirely different kind of fear which swirled around with confusion and left her feeling rather sick.
Maybe they weren't in the same Shinra facility. They all looked alike, right? And she could have gotten turned around on the way here and gotten confused about the trails looking the same. Right?
No. She knew that wasn't true. She knew they were in the same facility Genesis had brought her to. She hadn't been mistaken about that. But maybe she had mistaken how much presence Genesis had here. Could she have remembered wrong? Maybe there had been no coverings on the bed. Maybe he had just covered her with his jacket. Perhaps she had been hallucinating the whole thing.
Frustration was beginning to show on Reno's behalf. He wasn't finding what he thought he was going to find, and he was running out of places to look. As they came full circle to the entrance of the hidden tunnel, he wheeled on her, confronting her.
"Where is he, yo? I know you met someone here. Where is he?"
Shaking off the numbness she was feeling, Tifa blinked at Reno. He knew she had met someone here, but not who she had met.
"We just walked through the entire building and there was nothing there. What do you want me to say?"
She had always found a certain amusement when Reno got angry or frustrated. Now she was just tired.
"Just get in the car, yo. I'll take you home."
"Thanks a lot, but I think I'd rather walk." Seventh Heaven wasn't right around the corner, but it wasn't an impossible walk either, and there was no way she was getting in that car with Reno again.
His eyes narrowed, and she sensed the suspicion in them.
"You can follow me if you want to. It's your time your wasting. You've already wasted enough of mine." She started down the trail, leaving him standing at the doorway. Turning back after about twenty paces, she quipped, "And to think, you didn't even bring popcorn. Really Reno, you're a horrible host." She didn't want Reno to know how rattled she was, how tired she was. How confused she was.
The walk home did nothing to make her feel better. Questions raced through her mind, from how Reno knew she had met someone there, to what had happened to Genesis. All of it sloshed around in her head, until she got to a point where she doubted her own memories and sanity. Could she have imagined her rendezvous with Genesis? Or his rescuing her and bringing her to the Shinra facility to heal? Or maybe her timeline was screwed up. Maybe the monster had poisoned her and the poison had caused hallucinations and that's what she was remembering now.
Or maybe she was just losing her mind.
As it turned out, Reno did follow her home, creeping along behind her and taking off with a screech of tires as she reached Seventh Heaven. Oh, how she hated that man!
The bar was silent and dim, and she headed upstairs, which was nearly as silent, but a bit brighter. Denzel flew past her has she climbed the stairs, headphones stuck in his ears, and saluting her with the skateboard that was tucked under his arm.
"Be careful," she called after him, but wasn't sure he heard her over the music blasting. She listened for other sounds in the house, and not hearing anything, checked further to see who else was around. The office was empty and there was a note by the phone that indicated Cloud had taken a job that might keep him on the road for a couple of days. She walked past his room, contemplated knocking to make sure no one was there but thought better of it. If he was there by chance, she didn't really have it in her to deal with whatever mood he might be in. She approached Marlene's door as well, this time tapping gently before opening the door when there was no answer. Cloud could take care of himself, but Marlene was her responsibility, and she felt compelled to check on her. Marlene was nowhere in sight, but her diary lay on her bed.
Tifa had nearly retreated, pulling the door shut behind her, but the lure was too great. Maybe Marlene had left a note or something about where she had gone. Looking around the room for that note, trying to justify what she was about to do, Tifa finally gave into her curiosity and opened the diary to the last few entries. One about how angry Marlene was because Tifa interfered with Reno.
And one about how she was glad Tifa had never found out about her following her. And seeing her meet the "mystery man". And how she couldn't be sure but she thought the man had red hair.
The pieces started to click together and her encounter with Reno began to make a bit more sense, as did some of the things Marlene had said. Reno hadn't seen Tifa meeting Genesis after all. It had been Marlene the entire time. This was good and bad. On the good side, Marlene didn't know who Genesis was, obviously, or if she had ever heard of him, she didn't recognize him. On the bad, apparently Marlene and Reno were still talking to each other despite whatever messages Marlene had shown Tifa and her claims that Reno wasn't talking to her anymore. And now Marlene was working against Tifa, though Tifa doubted that Marlene was knowingly doing anything in favor of Shinra.
Squelching the anger that threatened to rise, Tifa made sure to leave the room exactly as it had been before going back to her own room and sinking down tiredly on the bed in the blissful peace of an empty house. Letting her brain wind down, logic and reason reasserted itself, and Tifa was finally able to think straight.
Something had most likely tipped Genesis off that he needed to get out of town. He had known he was taking a risk being this close to Edge, and probably had an escape plan in place. And though he had to bale quickly, he would find a way to let her know.
Tifa checked her phone. No message. She kept checking her phone, obsessively over the next few days. Still nothing. No message, no notes, no mail. No indication that Genesis was trying to get in touch with her. On the fourth day, she called Minna in the hopes her friend had heard something. After all, Genesis had contacted her since Tifa had returned from vacation. Minna would be the perfect person to leave a message with. Alas, Minna hadn't seen or heard from Genesis for quite some time. Sensing Tifa's distress, she promised to send Asa out to the Shinra facility nearby and the surrounding area to see if he could find Genesis. During their entire conversation, Tifa was very careful to identify Genesis as only "my friend" or "the friend I met when I was there". Minna, bless her heart, picked up on this, and followed suit, even during her follow-up phone calls.
Unfortunately, after two days searching, Asa found nothing. Genesis did not contact her.
And just like that, just as quickly and mysteriously as he had entered Tifa's life, Genesis was gone.
a/n: I have been working on (and worrying over) this for a very long time. So long so that ff.net has completely changed their formating and I had forgotten my password. What a nightmare! I'm sorry for the delay, but it has been a very long time since I have been able to write fluently. On anything! I only hope there is still someone left out there to read and enjoy it.
Weathering the Storm
How's the writing going? It's not, because I'm swamped with work stuff. Not fun. I'm hoping things will lighten up by midweek.
And I have a cat who loves pound cake. Yes, pound cake. He waited for the lights to go out last night, snuck into the cabinet, pulled out the box with the pound cake in it, managed to open it, and nibbled all around the edges. So strange! This is not the first time it's happened, but I forgot about the last time he did it, so didn't think to put the pound cake in a cat-proof location. But, seriously, who ever thought I'd have to LOCK up a pound cake? I feel like setting up a video camera to catch him in the act!
And that pretty much sums up how most of my day went. Weekends just aren't long enough.
My moment of writing impetus (what a contradiction!) was pathetic, but I have 500 words which I'm happy with. Better than nothing, yes?
My thoughts are with those dealing with the devastation in Japan, and to those who might be further affected in the aftermath. The images are horrifying. I am in awe, and cannot even imagine what you are dealing with.
Warnings for yaoi/explicit erotic content.
Word Count: 5,811
I played with the timeline, I'm sure, in order to make it all fit at the end of Gluhen, as well as to be able to consider Nagi legal age (because even though they are anime/manga characters, even I'm not that perverted!). I also may have completely messed up the whole Eszett/Rosenkreuz/Schwarz thing, but that's the way I perceived it, so that's the way I wrote it. If it offends, sorry. I also know nothing of the dramas. Kapitel and Gluhen are it for me, so all my WK is based off of them. I've also never written these two as anything but incidental characters, so I'm hoping I did them justice in some way.
Oh, and rageofloki thought I should call this "Stop This or you'll go Blind". What? There's only one spot that really refers to.
*1/21/11 - fixed formatting. I lost the page-breaks somewhere in the process. I think they're all marked now.