Chapter 1: Watch what you wish for.
"Aaawwww... you've got to be kidding me!" Naomi wailed, cell phone pressed to her ear. "No, really." She listened for a while and pulled a face. "I should hate you, did I ever tell you that?" she complained. "Honestly... duh. You're such a big meanie!"
A delighted laugh escaped her. "Yeah, right. I get it." She nodded, then rolled her eyes. Of course, the person she was talking to couldn't see that. This didn't make her care about it at all.
She was too preoccupied with her phone call to notice someone stepping up to her from behind. A pair of thin but well muscled arms slid around her waist. This made her take a look over her shoulder. Upon seeing her boyfriend her face broke into a wistful smile.
"Nah..." she said. "If you want to be like that... go ahead. See if I care." She listened again. "Forget it. I'm not likely to fall for your act, you know." Suppressing a sigh she ran a hand through her hair. "Kôji," she muttered threateningly. "Don't you dare start with me!"
The arms around her waist twitched and loosened a little. Naomi raised her eyes to the ceiling, barely stopping herself from sighing. She laid a hand on one wrist to keep it from disappearing. "Sorry, but I've gotta go," she said. "No, it's fine. I don't need your help, thanks. Tell Yû I said hi." She closed the connection and turned around, a slightly annoyed expression apparent on her features.
Deep brown eyes raked over her face, narrowed in disapproval.
She disengaged from his arms and stepped back. "Please, don't start that again," she said with a sigh.
"Start what?" he wanted to know. He hadn't even said anything yet.
"You know what I'm talking about."
"I didn't even say anything!"
"No, but I know what you're thinking," she retorted tiredly. "Look. I know you don't like Kôji. Or Yûichi. And I know they're not too fond of you either. But I really don't care about that anymore," she said matter-of-factly. Before he could reply she held up a hand to stop him. She could guess what he was about to say anyway. "They're my friends and we work together. Even if we weren't such good friends, we'd still be in the same band. So there's no way I'm not going to see them at all. Live with it or don't. Your choice. I just can't put up with this any longer. And don't expect me to quit the band because of your unjustified jealousy."
Shinya snorted. "I'm not jealous. I just don't like them."
Naomi barked out a laugh. "No, of course not." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. "Damn it! We're friends, I won't do anything with either of them. Why don't you just get it?"
He gave her an indefinable look. "I get it," he said quietly. "I may not like them but I never tried to keep you away from them. But that doesn't mean I have to like it, you know? I know you can do whatever you want."
"Great we sorted that out already," Naomi grumbled. "Took you long enough." With a deep sigh she sat down. "I just can't stand this, honestly. I don't like it that you're always at each other's throats as soon as you lay eyes on each other. And I simply hate to always end up in between, trying to establish some kind of truce." Her face was set. This was too much for her to take. It had been like this for a few months now. And she was really growing tired of this. As much as she liked Shinya, she just couldn't do this anymore.
His expression softened a little. "I know. I'm sorry."
She heaved another deep sigh. "I know it's not just your fault but theirs too." Actually, she didn't look forward to her talk with them. As much as she disliked this conversation now. But it had to be done.
"So, what are you going to do now?" he asked but didn't sound really curious, rather weary.
"Dunno," she replied with a shrug. "First, I'll talk to them. We really need to find a suitable solution to this."
He nodded but didn't say anything anymore. After giving her a thoughtful look he simply left.
She didn't follow him. Not this time. She'd done that often enough. Grimacing she hid her face in her hands. Why couldn't things be easier? Was she just too stubborn to give in? Actually, she didn't think so. She had every right to choose her friends by herself. If he didn't like them - it was his problem. If it came to friends or lovers there just couldn't be a 'first come first serve' in her book. It just couldn't work that way. But all this bitching since Kôji, Yûichi and Shinya had first met was way too much to take. It would drive anyone insane.
"I just wish things were different..." she whispered to no one in particular. Then she shrugged. "Well, sucks to be me, I guess." Sometimes she really wanted to just get away from this bullshit. But she liked her friends too much to just leave them. And she had way too much fun with them playing in their band. About Shinya... well, if she'd had to leave him that would be pretty hard too. But given the circumstances it was possible that she'd have to.
Oh she'd be so looking forward to this conversation with him...
"I just can't believe it!" Kôji exclaimed as he entered the studio where his best friend was waiting for him just like he always did when they were off work.
"What is it this time?" Yûichi asked lazily, though he could easily guess what his guitarist was talking about. There was only one topic - or rather one person - who would upset him like this.
"What do you think?" Kôji demanded, throwing his hands into the air. "Of course that dick who wants to make her choose between us and him!"
The vocalist rolled his eyes. "So you had another run in with Mr Jealous?"
His friend shook his head. "Nah... I was on the phone with Nee-chan and after a while she was suddenly like 'I have to go, sorry' and hung up on me." Running a hand through his messy red hair he heaved a deep sigh. "So there's only one guess on why that was."
The other man was silent for a while, contemplating the subject. "Maybe we should have a serious talk with her," he suggested. "One that doesn't make her think we'd want her to choose or tell her what she's supposed to do." He indicated the door and both of them left. "But she has to realize that this can't go on like this forever."
The guitarist agreed wholeheartedly. He just didn't get how she could put up with this. It was one thing that she was with that guy - though he still couldn't see why - and another that they were friends and colleagues. Yet another that her boyfriend loathed Kôji and Yûichi about as much as they disliked him. But it was her choice who she wanted to be with or make friends with. As long as she didn't neglect her work.
Of course they knew she'd never do that. They were close enough to hang out privately, too. And that was where Shinya was a nuisance. Every time they went out with his girlfriend he was giving her a hard time, being overly jealous and possessive. And they were barely getting any attention from her besides at work when he was in the vicinity or likely to show up.
It was only a matter of time before things went completely out of hand.
And as her friends they were worried about her well-being. They guessed that she wasn't happy about this situation either. So she should try to handle this one way or another sooner or later.
Maybe it would be best if they could get her away for a while, maybe go on a vacation or something like that. They'd take her best friend Luca with them, so no one would think it was all guys with one girl or whatever. Or maybe it was better if they didn't tell anyone who didn't need to know anyway. The only people concerned were Naomi, probably Luca, and of course Yûichi and Kôji. If they wanted even Hideo and Tatsuya.
Damn, I wish it were just as simple as that, Kôji thought. Just taking her on a vacation wouldn't help at all. It wouldn't solve the problem at hand. It would more likely complicate matters if Shinya learned about it. And he most probably would.
If she wanted to change anything it was solely up to her. But if she asked for help they'd be happy to give it.
A few days later found (R)Evolution's lead guitarist in front of the studio, unsure if she should just enter the building or not. Today they were off work but she knew that her friends would be here anyway. A shiver went down her spine. Maybe it was better to just turn around and leave. Come back later to talk to them properly. When she was feeling better. When it wasn't obvious she'd been crying.
She hated to be like this. She didn't cry easily. Her friends knew that. If they saw her now they'd definitely ask what happened. But she'd have to tell them eventually. They'd probably find out even if she didn't.
Rubbing her hands together she finally made up her mind and entered. Her feet automatically carried her to the studio which her friends usually occupied during their free time. Even though she had barely accompanied them for the past few months she could still find the way in her sleep. As she opened the door, though, the room was empty. She blinked in surprise. She had been so sure to find them there that she'd never even given it a thought that they could be somewhere else.
Naomi sighed and went to the cafeteria. That was the second place in this building where they usually spent a lot of time. But she couldn't find them there either.
Now she was at a loss for options. Where could they be if not here? Had they switched to some other favourite place she didn't know about? Maybe she'd been too busy keeping Shinya away from them and try to occupy his mind with other stuff for too long to notice. It was possible.
The most simple thing to do would be to call them and ask where they were. But this thought didn't even cross her mind. She never was someone who'd just go for the easy way at all.
Groaning in frustration she turned around and immediately ran into someone who just entered the cafeteria. "Ouf..." was all she could say right now.
"Now now... where to in a hurry?" an amused voice spoke up in front of her. One she knew all too well.
She rolled her eyes and all she wanted to do now was get away from here. "I'm busy," she muttered without so much as looking at him and was about to leave as he blocked her way.
"Don't be like that, sweetheart," the tall guy chuckled.
Finally looking up she could see the glint of amusement in his dark eyes. The black hair that framed his face was still carefully 'un'tamed as always. "Don't call me that," she hissed at him. "How often do I have to tell you?"
A grin spread on his face. "Looking for your friends?" he asked casually, completely ignoring her objection. "Or someone else?"
"None of your business," she replied decidedly nonchalantly, but feeling a slight pang nonetheless. She knew who he was referring to.
"Something wrong?" Markus now wanted to know, no longer grinning but rather serious.
She shook her head unwillingly. "I'm fine." He was the last person she wanted to talk to right now. And he should know it. He knew her too well for her sake and for her to be comfortable. That could happen if you knew someone for about nine years. After being friends first and then dating for almost two years. And currently he was the director for their next music video.
He sighed. If she didn't want to talk about it she just wouldn't. No one knew that better than him. There was no way to change her mind once it was set. Sometimes he thought she was too stubborn for her own good. But it was just the way she was. And he actually liked her determination. Usually. "Come on, I happen to know where you can find Kôji and Yûichi. I guess you're looking for them, so I'll just show you the way."
For a second she closed her eyes and again she wished that things were different. Then she followed him.
As they waited for the elevator he risked a glance at her profile. She didn't look too happy about something. If he dared make a guess he'd say that she'd just broken up with her boyfriend. He could even understand this decision. He wasn't around her or her friends too often since he really just directed most of their music videos but the topic about the discrepancies between her friends and that guy came up often enough to know that things haven't been looking good for a while. It was only natural that she'd have enough of all that bickering and bitching after some time.
Actually, he would have thought that this would happen sooner rather than later. He knew that patience wasn't her best trait. And always negotiating between her friends and her boyfriend so that they wouldn't rip each other apart was likely to wear her out at some point. She'd never confided in him but if she'd let him he'd help. He still liked her even though they'd broken up years ago. And he knew she still liked him too. Though she'd never admit it and usually didn't show it. Especially not when people were around.
Maybe she just needed to get away from all this for a while. Just like she went to Japan after her family had that car accident. Of course, she wouldn't take such extreme measures now. But a vacation would do her good. A change of scenery for some time could help pretty much.
He didn't think she'd do that though. If she left - even for a short while - she would probably feel like running away. She'd rather drown in her work and try to take her mind off things that way.
In his opinion that was about as good as running away too but she didn't see it that way. He groaned inwardly and raised his eyes to the ceiling. He should probably kidnap her for a while - of course with the consent of her manager and her friends - and then let her things work out. Even if she definitely would hate him for that. At least for about a few days. She'd get over it. She always did.
Reno was bored. Like Hell. He blamed the peaceful state the world was now in. Actually, he had been pretty glad about Sephiroth being gone (for the second time already). That shit with those Deepground idiots he heard about was also taken care of. At least Reeve said so. He assumed it was true. And that Omega was gone - well, everyone in the vicinity had been able to see that.
But it was all too quiet right now. Sometimes Rufus had a meeting and the once so glorious Turks acted as his bodyguards. If people went missing they checked it out. Most of the time they found them relatively unharmed, killed by monsters or hiding from someone. All too simple for his liking.
Of course there were still monsters roaming some places. Everyone knew that. But during the past few months a lot of self-proclaimed monster hunters popped out of seemingly nowhere. A few of them actually survived their new profession. But of course, if they killed the monsters that left even less to do for the Turks.
With a deep sigh he stood up from his sofa and dragged his feet to the door. Why couldn't life get more interesting again? He knew his carefree and laid back behaviour gave people the impression that he was some lazy git. But very few knew that he took his job seriously and even cared for his comrades. He looked out for them as well as they looked out for him. It was just like this. Outsiders just weren't supposed to know that a Turk was actually as human as everyone else beneath their Turk shell. They had worked hard for their reputation after all.
Since life had become this peaceful and quiet, though, some of them (mainly Elena) weren't too sure about keeping up their reputations. Elena seemed quite desperate to make friends. But of course this wasn't easy. Not as a Turk. Most people still feared them.
Sometimes, Reno preferred it that way. The only people who mattered knew him well enough. The person behind the Turk. And even to them he rarely showed him everything of his personality. The one who understood him best was still Rude.
But there were also times when he wished it was different. No one beside his comrades to open up to could get quite frustrating after a while. But barely any other person would want to spend time with him. Not unless he paid for their company anyway.
He kind of missed the old days, with Shinra being still in charge. When he was only a Turk who didn't need anyone other than his fellow Turks. And the only thing he had to think about was getting his job done. But since those times wouldn't come back at all...
The only thing he actually didn't miss about being a Turk was the assassination part. Sure thing, he was a professional. And if he had to take care of someone he did. But he'd never do that if it weren't necessary. Or if his own life wasn't on line for completing the job. And definitely he wouldn't do it with a personal motivation. It was a job after all.
It would be nice if there was someone who didn't flinch in his proximity. Someone else he could talk to. Not a prostitute or someone who hoped for some price (like a better reputation for themselves). But that would most probably only be possible with someone who didn't know him as a Turk. And the only people who didn't know anything about the Turks were still babies. He was more thinking about the lines of meeting some actual woman. And it was pretty unlikely that someone like this actually existed.
Gosh! He was glad he was alone now. If Rude or Tseng knew he was having a moment like this they would surely laugh at him. Or Elena... he could already imagine her either making fun of him until he wanted to kill her or annoying him with a best-friend and understanding attitude. He just couldn't have this. He was a Turk for Gaia's sake! So he should behave like one.
With another sigh he finally stepped out of his apartment and wandered the streets in search of something to pass time with, hoping that something exciting would happen soon so he wouldn't be bored anymore.
It was nearly closing time and barely anyone was at the bar. Not long and Tifa could finally call it a day. Though it would be lonely to go to sleep alone - again. And no one here to talk to. Of course, Cloud was away on business. And since his second defeat of Sephiroth he had opened up to her and other people considerably. She guessed she had Aerith to thank for this. Again.
Now she had been a good friend to talk to. Even though she'd stolen Cloud's heart from Tifa she had liked the Ancient pretty much. And they had gotten along perfectly fine.
Tifa should be content about how things had turned out until now and she knew it. But somehow she had the nagging feeling that something was missing. She couldn't put her finger on it, though.
Finally the last few people left the 7th Heaven, leaving her by herself and she was able to close up and clean the place.
It was a comfortable routine, one where she was able to think about stuff and wouldn't be disturbed by anyone. Though sometimes she would prefer to be able to share her thoughts with someone.
The children were asleep already.
After she was finished cleaning she felt kind of restless. Though she was glad that the customers had left she was still not satisfied with being all alone here. She really missed having a friend to talk to. Someone who wasn't prejudiced or felt obliged to spend time with her but did it out of their own accord. Of course she had her friends from Avalanche. But this wasn't what she wanted right now. What she needed.
As she put the last glass on a shelf it hit her. What she wanted right now was a friend who was just that. Someone she could talk to about anything and who would hold back about their opinion on stuff. Who was not either a guy or a fighting comrade. A simple friend. Who wasn't as scarred as her. Someone she could comfort with. But she knew that there was no such person. The definition of the person she wanted ruled everyone she knew out.
It was quite a sad thought, actually.
Pull yourself together, she thought fiercely. You're not alone. You have friends. The best you could wish for. And you saved the planet. With them. Plenty.
Sighing wistfully she turned off the lights and went upstairs.
Vincent / Lucrecia
It was never completely dark in the cave near Nibelheim. There was always this faint glow that never died, only changed its identity. Always following the mood of its source even though no one new this fact. Barely anyone knew about this cave, for that matter. At the far end was a crystal. It contained a person with flowing long auburn hair, tied into a loose ponytail. She wore a white lab coat and her hands were folded like she was praying.
Vincent was kneeling a few steps away, like he had done so often during the past years after learning about the crystal's and its content's existence. He looked at it, his torn cape spread out behind him.
"Lucrecia," he said quietly as if she could hear his every syllable. "Everything's all right now."
A few moments passed. Then he continued, "Omega and Chaos have returned to the planet." His claw tightened as he looked at her, who was frozen in that crystal, has been for more than thirty years already. His Lucrecia. The love of his life. The one he'd failed.
Then he got up, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Thank you," he told her wholeheartedly. "It was you. You were the reason I... survived." Finally having said this he turned around and made his way to the exit. Since he now had his back turned on her and only looked forward for once he didn't notice a tear rolling down her face.
If only he knew! If only she could move or at least speak to him. Anything but only listen. But the crystal was a most effective prison for her. She was so sorry. And she was actually happy to hear his words. But in a way, they also made her sad. They sounded too much like a final good bye. He would probably never come here again.
Please, she thought desperately. I want him to be happy. He needs someone he can depend on and someone he can protect.
She knew there would never be someone who could replace herself for him. But if someone was able to break through his barriers it would be a good start.
The other option was somehow getting out of this crystal. But that was something she had stopped to believe in a long time ago.