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The sea crashed against the shore silently. Rufus didn't pay much attention to the scenery, as he never did prefer to just sit and watch the world go buy. Where he was walking along now was the beach of Costa De Sol. The others had run out of ice, and in an attempt to get away from the Turks he offered to go pick some up himself.

They had learned shortly after their docking that the great Sephiroth was aboard, and AVALANCHE was as well, but of course Rufus was not suprised. It appeared to him that everything is taking the exact same route as it had last time.

Suddenly a great amount of pain knocked him to the ground. His temples throbbed and he held his head in pain, the cool sand doing nothing to soothe his sudden migraine.

<<Rufus ShinRa, are you aware of the pain the Planet is in?>>

"I gan take a guess," muttered Rufus through clenched teeth as he tried to conentrate on the Lifestream instead of the pain.

<<That's good, deary.>>

"Why am I in so much pain? I cannot change fate's so-called destiny if I'm lying in the sand with a piercing headache!"

<<Very well,>> the melodic voice sang to him. The pain in his head ceased quickly, and Rufus rolled onto his back breathing heavily, looking up into the night sky. <<Do you know why your headache had increased?>>

"Maybe because YOU gave it to me?"

<<True, but there's a cause for that. Are you aware that the reactors in Midgar are rebuilt and functioning once more?>>

Rufus groaned. "I knew I shouldn't have let Scarlet stay at home where I couldn't keep an eye on her..."

<<Scarlet's destiny has nothing to do with this, it was fate that she stays at your company. But that is not the issue. The Planet is DYING, young ShinRa, very quickly.>>

"Like it wasn't dying before?"

<<It's a quicker process now, meaning your time has been shortened. Something needs to be done right away. Clear?>>

"Crystal." muttered Rufus, and he felt the Lifestream's presense leave him. His gaze returned to the night sky while his breathing finally returned to normal. "Screw the ice." he groaned, and made to get up, but something held him down. He looked up in time to see a fist.
* * * * *
It was dark, that much was obvious. But not too dark so that Reno couldn't sneak into the bedroom without making any noise. He knew he shouldn't be doing this, but what would life be like if you followed the rules? You'd turn out like boring old Reeve.

There she was. It had been decided earlier that the girls would take the only bedroom, Rufus and Tseng would take the couchs, and him and Rude were to find their own beds. Rufus assigned Reno to the tub in the washroom which he accepted, but only because he didn't want to end up in the basement. Rude would be on lookout all night.

On his face grew a smile that you'd only see on a child guilty of something. Elana was the only one in the room, Aeris and Tifa must have gone somewhere. So with a shrug of his shoulders, (and maybe a death threat) he layed down beside Elana and placed his head on the pillow, just inches from her.

"Mmmm, is that you, Tseng?" Elana murmmured. Reno's eyes widened. Maybe this night would turn out more interesting than the planned.

"Yes, Elana." he said with his Tseng impression that he had perfected long ago after imitating Tseng constantly. "I'm here."

"Good," said a soft voice as a fist hit Reno in the nose.

"Ow!" said Reno as he held his nose and glared at her. "That hurt!"

Elana raised her head to return the glare. "That was the point, Reno! What are you doing in here?"

Reno's smirk returned. "I just wanted to tell someone something funny, and Rude's back in his serious mood so he won't like to hear this."

The blonde Turk buried her head into her pillow. "Can't it wait until morning?"

"No! Come on, it's really funny......"

She sighed, and looked up at him. "Fine, please tell me what horrible thing you did to some poor innocent person."

Reno frowned. "How'd you know it was a prank?" Her glaring gave him the answer. "Oh, well I thought you'd like to hear it. It's about Tseng. You know how his nice hair is just SO long, and he has complained one time or another that it's really hard to take care of....?"


"Good news! He doesn't have to worry about his long hair, for a very long time!" laughed Reno. Elana's eyes widened as he fell over laughing and she sat up.

"You CHOPPED off his hair?"

By now Reno could barely breathe. "Yeah," -giggle- "he looks just" -giggle- "like a GUY for once!" He fell off the bed onto the floor in a fit of giggles.
* * * * *
Hands reached down and held Rufus by the collar. "Alright, President Rufus," growled Tifa "Why don't you and I have a little chat?"

Rufus calmly looked up at her. "Somehow I don't believe that 'chatting' is on your mind. If there's something you'd like to say, why don't you release your grip and say what you want? Fighting's only going to anger me." It was true. Midgar had always bragged of Rufus being rebellious, but well mannered. And it was also well known that when he gets mad, there's not many people left around to tell the tale.

"Alright." she said and let go of him. She stood up and stared at him while he remained on the ground, still exhasted from his conversation with the Lifestream. "What the heck do you think you're doing?"

"I'm resting in the sand." He brought his hands behind his back and took on a relaxed pose. "Calm down," he smirked as her fist rolled up into a ball. "What do you want?"

"I want to know exactly why we're out here chasing after Sephiroth. He's your guy, what is wrong with him?"

"Old grey-haired guy with a questionable sanity level and a nice long sword so he can cut up anything he wants?" Rufus shrugged. "Nothing. Why do you ask?"

Her foot swung to kick him, but he countered by dodging from it's path, and pulling her to the ground. He pinned her easily. She looked up into his face, his blue eyes daring her to make another move. "Now," he said slowly "I don't know what's happening, I'm not Sephiroth. There, that's all I know. Is there going to be anymore trouble, Ms. Lockheart?"

She was breathing rapidly with fear, and he knew that was all the trouble she was going to give him. Rufus sat off to the side and watched as she sat up, angry, but not as anxious to start another fight. Then his features softened. "I'm sorry, I can imagine Cloud's quite nervous over your dissapearance as well."

Her eyes shifted to the sand. "I can take care of myself."

Rufus laughed. "That's two times I could have killed you, easily. But that's not what I'm talking about here. Can you picture Cloud's feelings right now? I have taken away both his girlfriends."

"We're not his girlfriends." said Tifa. Rufus leaned in closer, resting his hands on his knees.

"But you wish you were."

"What!?" Her face reddened. He gave her a knowing look, then stood up.

"You shouldn't let others see your emotions so easily. It makes you predictable, weak." He sighed. "I've still got to retrieve that ice. See you in the morning hours, Ms. Lockheart." As he began to walk off, Tifa thought about what he said, then imediately threw a good-sized rock at him without warning. He suddenly turned out of it's way, and looked back at her. "See what I mean?" he asked, before flicking his hair and walking off.
* * * * *
"Frickin' ShinRa," muttered Barret as he took another sip of his beer. "Takin' Tifa away like that. I'm gonna kick that scrawny ShinRa kid's butt!"

Cloud didn't say anything, as he hadn't said anything since they entered Costa Del Sol's bar. Rufus had both Aeris and Tifa, and he didn't know if they were okay. Barret had suggested coming after them right away, but they were tired after their last battle, and they needed time to plan out their attack.

"Not to mention takin' Aeris like that..." Barret's words were slurring, but Cloud wasn't really listening anymore. His mind was elsewhere, but another voice snapped him back to reality.

"Excuse me, barkeep. I need a large bag of ice, right away."

The young ex-SOLDIER turned his head to look at the owner of that voice. There, at the front counter stood Rufus ShinRa himself. He didn't look himself, slightly tired, and for some reason he was covered in sand. He waited until the blonde had received his stupid ice, then stood up and followed him out the door. Barret was too drunk to even notice that Cloud wasn't listening, let alone that fact that he wasn't in the bar anymore.
* * * * *
"Yo, Rufie!"

Rufus turned slightly. It appeared that Cloud had found him. He stopped and turned to him. "Oh, it's you. What do you want?"

"Where's Aeris and Tifa?" demanded Cloud, fist ready to fly.

"They're alright, I thought Aeris told you not to follow her. How could you not do as she asks?" On the inside, Rufus smirked. It's been a while since he'd annoyed the heck out of someone.

"Where are they?"

Rufus flicked his hair. "You're not very good with conversations, are you? I tell you, they ought to have speaking lessons in SOLDIER training." Cloud glared at Rufus, though he didn't get any reaction. Rufus had been trained as a Turk, and one of the first things they teach you is to never let your opponent know what you're thinking. When Cloud didn't reply, Rufus sighed. "Now don't go starting a fight. You ought to remember that I am the President of the strongest city of the world, and I can send armies after you if you even lay a finger on me. And as entertaining as this is, I need to get this chuck of ice out of my hands. We'll continue this later."

"We sure will." muttered Cloud as the President walked off. As much as he hated to admit it, Rufus was right. You can't pick a fight with someone with that much power and expect to get away with it, even if everyone hates his guts. He needed to calm down, before he exploded and really did punch Rufus' lights out. He shrugged and decided to head down to the beach. He just hoped that Hojo wouldn't be there this time. Though he gave Cloud enough information about ShinRa, he wasn't too eager to see someone like that surrounded by women.
* * * * *
"GET OUT!" shouted Tifa as she kicked Reno out of the bedroom and closed the door behind her. Reno laughed and sat down at the table beside Aeris. "Hey babe."

"What do you want, Reno?"

Reno shrugged. "Just to spend some quality time with you. You know I never really got to apologise for the whole trying to capture you deal."

Aeris looked up from arranging the flowers. Reno apologising? He gave her a I-can't-believe-it-either shrug.

"I was just following orders."

"'Just following orders?' I'm not mad about you trying to capture me, but you didn't have to drop that plate!" Reno rolled his eyes in a here-we-go-again fashion. "You killed many innocent people! And it was just following orders?"

"Hey I was just trying to apologise here! No need to get feisty!" His face grew a bit more serious. "I'm not proud of it, but I still did it. I don't even know why, I was drunk at the time. I'm sorry for all the lives I've destroyed. I grew up there, so I know what it's like-"

Aeris looked up as Rufus stepped in the villa and put the ice in the kitchen. He came back and sat across from her at the table. She smiled in greeting, and went back to arranging the flowers in the vase. "Where is everyone?" asked Rufus.

"Elana and Tifa are sleeping in the bedroom after kicking me out, Rude's wandering around outside, here we are in this lovely get-to-gether, and Tseng? Well he might be feeling a little.....lightheaded in the morning." Reno started laughing.

"Well I'm glad you had fun doing whatever it is" Reno opened his mouth to talk "Don't-don't tell me, I don't want to know what goes on in that sick mind of yours. But you should know that Tseng has my permission to do with you as he wishes, I-AHHHHHHHH!"

Rufus fell over clutching his head in pain. "Rufus!" cried Aeris but Reno, trained for emergencies, was already picking the blonde up off the floor. Rufus weakly leaned on Reno, using his strength to try and ignore the pain. It didn't work.

"Open the door. We'll get him onto the couch for the night." Aeris nodded and opened the door. As she stepped into the room, she could see the two couches that he and Tseng had claimed earlier that evening. Reno unmercifully dropped Rufus onto the couch, and snickered when he spotted Tseng stil asleep, unaware of his now extremely short hair. He swallowed a laugh and gently helped Aeris out the door, who nevervously kept looking at Rufus.

Rufus waved with his hand slightly to let her know he'd be alright, and finally passed out from the pain of his migraine.

The Planet was getting weaker and weaker.....


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