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The sun was shining brightly and cheerfully. You'd never notice that a young woman was about to meet her fate.

Hurry, hurry.

He was running. Past the trees, he ran, sweat drifting down his face. Please don't let him be late, please don't let him be late. He knew the way through the Sleeping Forest extremely well, he had dreamt of taking this route many times. Finally he made it out of the cursed woods and through the City Of The Ancients.

There she was, kneeling on the alter, praying innocently. "Aeris!" he cried as he slowly got closer. "Get off there!"

She opened her eyes and smiled warmly, just like she did in his dreams, never following his orders. As he ran up the pillars, he slipped and lost his balance. As he fell onto his back he could see the sky and the shadow that he feared the most.

He shot down from the sky, sword ready to pierce his angel. Rufus cried out, and it was too late. Aeris fell to the stone ground, and Sephiroth turned his cold glare to him, mocking him with his eyes.

"You're too late." Was all he said, then he rose into the air and dissapeared as quickly as he came. Rufus remembered running up to her right before everything went black...

"Morning, sleepyhead!" she chirped as his eyes widened suddenly. He looked around, and finally remembered to breathe as he realized he had awoken from a dream and the memory of the previous night returned to him. He was lying in his bed under the covers with Aeris standing beside him, and everyone surrounding the bed. He could feel a slight pain and a bandage around his shoulder.

"What happened?"

"You're a lucky one." said Reno. "With that bad of acting I thought he would've killed ya for sure!"

"You barely survived through the night, sir." said Tseng uncomfortably. Aeris nodded, and Rufus reached and found her hand.

"Are you alright, my dear? He didn't hurt you after I passed out?"

Aeris shook her head and squeesed his hand. "I'm fine. I'm just glad you're alright."

"We searched the area looking for the suspect, but we found no one." said Rude. "I'm afraid none of us caught a glimse of the shooter."

Rufus tried to sit up, but his shoulder protested and he fell back with a groan. He closed his eyes. "It was Reeve, but don't worry about him."

"Reeve?" asked Tseng skeptically.

"Yeah, I ordered him to send that robot of his to spy on AVALANCHE," the blonde said, ignoring the glare from Tifa. "It's obvious Scarlet isn't happy with me at all."

"You mean Aeris," smirked Reno. "She's the one Reeve tried to kill."

"But how could Reeve try to kill anyone?" asked Elana. "He's afraid of even hurting someone's feelings."

"Scarlet appealed to him." said Rufus. "It's not hard. Just tell him it's for the good of the company, and that wuss will do anything. What Scarlet fails to see is the serious of the situation."

"She isn't the only one," said Tseng. "I apologise, sir, but I don't even know what is going on."

"Yeah, hot stuff, why don't you let us in on it if we're to follow you around the globe." said Reno. Rufus sighed.

"I suppose I would have had to tell you sooner or later. Sephiroth's not the same hero he used to be. He's.....changed, a bit."

"You think?" snapped Tifa, vividly remembering the pain he's caused her.

"Let me finish, Ms. Lockheart. I'm going to start from the beginning. Thousands of years ago, an alien crashed into the earth and wiped out a consideralble amount of the Cetra, the main inhabitants of this planet. It was eventually restrained, but recently a few scientists from this company discovered it. Wanting to be able to harness it's power and be the strongest company of the Planet, Prof. Ghast and Prof. Hojo started the Jenova project."

"Prof. Ghast?" asked Aeris. "That's my father!"

"Hey," said Reno, pointing an accusing finger. "No interrupting!"

Rufus continued as if nothing had happened. "They began injecting the members of ShinRa with these cells. ShinRa was the strongest company, and wanted to have a "Jenova" of it's own. So with the child of two volunteers, Lucrecia and Hojo, the boy, Sephiroth, was run through a series of tests and experiments and was given powerful Jenova cells. Sephiroth grew up working for ShinRa, not remembering any of his past. One day while on an away mission to Nibleheim, he discovered the truth about his past by reading Prof. Ghast's writings, and went off the deep end." Tifa looked away, tears growing in her eyes.

"So he IS insane." said Reno.

"He believes that Jenova was destined to rule the Planet. So as her 'son', he feels it's his right to follow in her footsteps. He's now travelling the Planet searching for the Promised Land. Any questions?"

"Why are we sitting here waiting for some dumb AVALANCHE group-ow hey!" Reno held his head and glared at Tifa. "When Sephy is running loose?" he continued.

"Because Sephiroth is headed to the Temple Of The Ancients, and the key to that temple is in Dio's -the owner of the Gold Saucer- hands. The plan is for AVALANCHE to get it, and then our spy will give it to us. Unfortunately, our 'spy' is the little brat who shot me in the back." Visions of Reeve's demise pleasantly danced around in Rufus' head, but he shook the thoughts from his mind."

"And what are your plans for Scarlet and Reeve?" asked Tseng.

"Well, I'm firing Scarlet for one, and I'll need someone to throw her out, seeing how she can bend anyone to her will." he nodded to Reno and Rude. Reno's eyes widened at the lovely thought of finally getting rid of The Monster Of Death, as he nicknamed her long ago. "And while you two are down there, slap Reeve for me and tell him to follow just my orders."

"Wow that's pretty generous of you." said Reno, packing a punch into his other fist. "If I were in your spot, that yes-man would be dead by now, trying to pick off my girl. You sure you don't want him to have a broken leg...or two? He can still play on his little computer!"

Rufus smirked and waved dismissively. "Take the helicopter and get out of here. Go, have fun."

Reno grinned and walked off. As he walked by Tifa, she felt a hand and jumped. Rude nodded to Rufus and left the room. "So what are our orders?" asked Tseng when they left.

"You and Elana will be going to the Temple Of The Ancients in a few days. Until then, you're to watch out for any of Scarlet's other spies, though I doubt she'll have anymore. You're just on simple bodyguard duty. That's all for now. Don't let me get in the way of your fun."

"Thank you sir." said Elana, "And may I add, you did a very nice job of acting last night!" And with that she and Tseng left the room, holding hands.

Tifa was about to leave, when Rufus called her back. "Ms. Lockheart, I have a very special job for you." She cursed under her breath and turned back to him. With her luck she'd probably end up cleaning toilets or something. "You're going back to AVALANCHE. I assume Cloud is very angry with me, and I'll need him to understand I'm after Sephiroth as well. I've gained enough enemies already. Tell him everything about the Jenova project, understood?"

"What if I don't want to help you?"

"Ms. Lockheart, I thought that you'd understand by now I'm willing to help. Last night ought to have been enough proof." He squeezed Aeris' hand and then sighed. "I understand how much you hate Shinra, but-"

"Understand? You don't understand nothing! Because of your company, my hometown was *burnt* to the ground, and my father slain by your so-called-great hero! I lost everything! You don't even know what loss is!"

"Come on, Tifa." said Aeris as she left Rufus to stand by Tifa. She put her hands on Tifa's shoulders and led her from the room, leaving Rufus to his thoughts.

He would've grinned at her misery if her words hadn't cut through him. He knew very well what loss was. He lost his mother to an abusive father, he lost whatever shred of respect he had for his own father. His mother was the only one who had kept him alive when he was younger, giving him the courage he needed, right before she was killed. He even lost his younger sister to his father. Being the smart one, she ran away from home at a young age, but she had stronger reasons to run. She had something her father had wanted.

His ever so present headache reminded him of what he could lose very soon, Aeris. He had never seen her die in person, but he had seen it on Reeve's computer screen last time, and has been reliving it every night for the past week.

How dare she assume he doesn't understand the pain of loss.
* * * * *
Aeris sat next to the crying brunette in the living room of the suite, trying to calm her down. "It's okay, honey, it's okay."

Tifa wiped a tear away. "No it's not. Because of his stupid company I lost everything that had ever meant anything to me!" She looked at Aeris. "Why are you so trusting of him?"

Aeris froze. "I don't really know, I just feel safe around him. You saw what he did last night. But I do know that you can't get anywhere if you keep dwelling on the past. Everything happens for a reason, whether we see the reason or not.

"You're right, I'll never be able to love him, but maybe I can stop the hating. It's actually his father I hate more. I better go apologise." she said, getting up "I yelled at him and he's never done anything to me." Aeris sighed in relief.

Rufus looked up as the door opened. His eyes turned ice cold when he saw Tifa. "You want something?" he muttered.

Her hand still lay on the doornob, trembling. This obviously is going to be harder than she thought.
* * * * *
A few minutes later, in the halls of ShinRa Inc.....

"Let me go, you wretched Turk rats!" screeched Scarlet as she was being led down the hallway, Rude having a firm grip on her arms.

"Oh, we're 'rats' now, Rude. You hear that?" smirked Reno, then he looked over at the blonde. "If you care, we've been ordered to throw you out by Rufus himself. I'm sure you've received notice of your firing. We'll miss you very, very much."

"Oh you're in for it now." scowled Scarlet. She tried to fight back to Rude, but couldn't even get him to loosed his grip. She screamed as they led our outside into the rain and she was dropped in the mud. Reno bent down and pulled her keycard from her pocket, shuddering. He then turned to the guards of the front entrance.

"If she tries to break in, shoot her."

The guards nodded and moved aside for the two Turks to enter. Reno smirked and looked at his partner. "One down, one more to go. Oh I love this job!"

"We're not here to remove Reeve." said Rude as they entered the elevator.

"No, but something like that! Rufus wants us to teach him a lesson. He shot an innocent and not to mention hot looking citizen."

"She's also the last of the Ancients."

"Exactly! I get first punch!" Rude rolled his eyes and the elevator door open. Reeve looked up from his computer as they entered the room.

"Hey guys," he said nervously. "Heard Scarlet got fired."

Reno nodded, then punched Reeve with all the energy he could muster, knocking the man clear out of his chair and across the room. Reno walked over and picked him up from the collar. "So you tried to take out an innocent woman just because Scarlet didn't like her, huh?" His fist raised high, poised to strike once more.

Reeve held up his hands in protest. "But she told me that this woman is after President Rufus! I thought I was doing what was only right!"

"What's only right," growled right "Is following your original orders! You could have KILLED her, and what a waste of beauty that would have been!"

"Look, I'm sorry! It'll never happen again!"

"I hope so, because our President is now laying in bed with a big bandaid on his shoulder. He nearly died last night because you took the wrong orders!" He punched Reeve again.

"Hey hey," said Palmer as he walked in. "What's going on here?"

Reno smirked. "Fe, fi, fo, fum, Reeve did something really dumb!"

"Cute," said Palmer, whistling with his hands behind his back, taking on that annoying little kid look. "Heard you got rid of Scarlet."

Rude nodded. How did everyone find out so soon?

Palmer finally brought his hands into view, one of them holding a small gun. "You see, Scarlet and I had plans. And I can't let you interfere." He pulled the hammer part back and grinned. "LARD!"
* * * * *
His eyes looked into hers, looking straight into her, and she suddenly felt as if she didn't belong there. "I-I just wanted to say I was sorry."

No reply. Just an icy cold glare.

This was one person you obviously didn't want to get on the wrong side of. "I didn't mean to say those things, I know none of it was your fault. I just needed to get my anger out, and I shouldn't have said those things to you, and you've never insulted me."

He still didn't speak, he just glared. Those eyes were beginning to frighten her.

"You know, you can at least say something! Here I am apologising for acting like such an idiot and you won't even accpet my apology? And if it weren't for Aeris, I-"

A flicker in his eyes, and his expression softened slightly. A grin came to her face. "I knew it........." She said slowly, more to herself than to him.

"Knew what?" he finally asked, keeping his calm expression, but in her eyes, she could see fear.

"I knew it! You DO love her!"


She came to the foot of the bed and leaned on the railing. "It all makes sense now. No wonder you've done so much for her. It's so painfully obvious!"

He swallowed. "I have no idea what you're talking about!"

An idea came to her. "Aeris." she said slowly, and he blushed.

He actually blushed! Then he must have felt the heat on his cheeks for he covered his face with his hand, pretending to rub his temples. This isn't happening, he thought. Then he looked at her again. "So what if I did? What would you do, remembering that I still know who your heart yearns for."

She looked down at her feet uncomfortably. His expression softened. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be playing around with your feelings, you're Aeris' friend. Listen, you cannot tell Aeris anything. You're not even supposed to be here."

"What do you mean?"

"You weren't supposed to join us. The plan was for you to stay with AVALANCHE."

"Excuse me, what 'plan' are you talking about? If this is another one of your games, I swear I'll..."

He shook his head. "I've worded it wrong." No he hadn't. The Lifestream had specifically demanded that Tifa should stay with Cloud, as he needed her to keep him grounded. He looked at her. "Cloud has been involved with the Jenova Project."


"You're not supposed to know that yet. Because of what's been done with him, Sephiroth can control his thoughts with little trouble. Now I need you to listen very carefully. Cloud should be here by tomorrow, and you are to join him again. Now AVALANCHE will be following us to the Temple Of The Ancients. He will aquire a certain materia that's labeled as the Black Materia. Get Cloud to give it to you. If he doesn't, Sephiroth will be able to get if from him. Understood?"

Tifa nodded slowly. "What does this do?"

"You'll see that for yourself when you enter the Temple. But you MUST follow my orders, and do not let anyone else hear of them, understood?"

She picked up a pillow, and fiddled with the tassel. All of this was so much for her. Then she looked at him "Do you accept my apology?"

"Nahh." he said, and she threw the pillow at him.


Oooooo....the plot thickens. I have no idea how many more chapters this will take, but I'll get it done soon, I hope. I hate leaving a project unfinished. It seems that these series are converting a few people onto my side! There's not enough Rufus fans out there! *grins* Join the ShinRa side, resistence is futile! *lol*

Oh, about the part of Rufus' sister, these series *kind of* follow another story I've posted on, called "The Key To Freedom." But there's nothing (else) in this story that refers to that, so you won't miss anything. I dunno. If you want to read it, click my name. The only one who's ever reviewed it is my cousin Princess Kari (hiya Kari!)

That's all for today, and please review! I enjoy getting feedback!


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