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Come Back: A Lover's Prayer

By LadySieben

Romance / Action

The Bringer of Hope

Cloud had fallen asleep at the Cosmo Canyon library while reading a very antique Cetra book. Red XIII had thought him the Ancient’s language so he could realize this investigation. Ever since Sephiroth’s defeat almost two years ago, Cloud had been looking for a way to get Aerith back all by himself, but this time he was forced to ask for his friend’s help.

Since he started, he ate little and slept only when his body couldn’t and wouldn’t take another minute’s work. Today had been one of those days. The book he had been reading was the last one in the whole canyon. But besides being quite boring and confusing, it held little hope.

When Cloud woke up, he was famished. His last meal, not a decent one, by the way, had been at least two nights ago. Even though he wanted to finish the book as soon as possible, his stomach wouldn’t leave him alone, so he made his way towards the kitchen. On the way, he heard Red asking the weapon seller for him.

“No, I haven’t seen him in almost three days. That kid sure is determined.”

“Yes,” answered Red, “and that’s the reason I am looking for him. I have some encouraging news.”

“I’m here, Red,” Cloud said, walking down the stairs. “What news are you talking about?”

“It has to do with your investigation.”

Cloud’s eyes opened wide. “Have– Have you found a way to get her back?”

Red looked at him carefully. “Maybe, but I would like to talk with you in private about the source of this information.”

“Sure,” said Cloud, “let’s go right now. I was going to grab something to eat but, I guess I can wait.”

“No,” said Red. “You’re eating before I tell you. Follow me into the kitchen, please.” Cloud was about to protest, but Red said, “If you want the information that I have, then you’ll better come with me. You’re as thin as a toothpick and pale as a sheet of paper. Besides, what I’ll tell you might set you on another journey. So, you’re gonna have a decent meal want it or not.”

“Alright, you win… as usual.”

Cloud followed his furry friend to the kitchen, where Red asked the cook to prepare Cloud a big meal, which disappeared in less than half an hour. Once his friend had finished, Red led him into his apartment. It was the same little hut that once belonged to Bugenhagen, and the same place where Cloud, Aerith and Tifa had learned about the Lifestream. It now belonged to Red XIII, and most of its furniture remained untouched.

“Wait here, I’ll be back in a minute.”

The blonde man sat at the table while the red beast went to the second floor. It seemed as if he wasn’t alone, because Cloud could hear whispers, silence and, finally, Red’s footsteps followed by somebody else’s. When they emerged from the stairs, Cloud saw that behind Red was a young girl. She seemed in her twenties; she was tall, with dark hair. Her eyes were dark bottomless pools that reflected some kind of grief, and she possessed a sad aura around her that matched her eyes.

She spotted him and the grief upon her eyes grew. At least, that was the impression Cloud got. Her hair was shoulder length, and once Cloud paid more attention to it, he could see it had two different shades: it was black with blue strands scattered all over it. He couldn’t tell what she was wearing, for she wore a far too long coat. She had black boots and seemed to be carrying some kind of weapon, for the coat had a small bulge on the right.

Cloud quickly got up and offered her a seat, which she accepted after a short nod. Then, Cloud sat across the table and offered her his hand while introducing himself.

“I’m Cloud Strife; it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The girl doubted for a second then shook his hand. “My name’s Shimmer Oroke and it’s a pleasure to meet you too, Mr. Strife.”

“Please, call me Cloud.”

“You may call me Shim if you like. Has Red told you the reason I came here for?” Cloud shook his head. “I see. Should I tell him?”

“No,” said Red, “I think it would be better if you could tell us a little about yourself first. If you don’t mind, of course.”

“I don’t. As I told you, my name is Shimmer Oroke. I’m 26 and I live in Junon, although that’s not the place I was born in. I come from a place you have never been to, and I don’t think you will ever travel there. My people’s rather shy, we rarely leave our country. We like to watch the outsiders from our home and it’s forbidden for us to interact with them. We are known as the Observers.”

“If it’s forbidden to see us personally,” asked Red, “why are you here?”

“I’ve never lived by the rules. I’ve always thought that self-exile will only lead to our extinction as a civilization. That’s why I left my home along with my brother Daemon. He chose a path different to mine, so we parted ways almost five years ago. I haven’t seen him since. But, that is not the point.

“When I was eighteen and my brother was sixteen, we left our home planet—”

“Planet?” asked Red and Cloud in unison.

“Yes,” Shimmer answered. “I told you that you would never travel there. My people uses a special device called Shifter that allows us to jump from one dimension to another. It was created soon after our ancestors confirmed the Alternate Worlds theory almost ten thousand years ago. Since then, every Observer gets one at age fifteen. We are allowed to travel to any dimension we want to, but we cannot get involved with anyone there. We can’t make friends, much less enemies.”

“You said Alternate Worlds,” Cloud said thoughtfully, “what do you mean by that?”

Shimmer gave him a puzzled look, “You mean to tell me that you have never heard of it before?” Cloud shook his head. Shimmer turned to Red, “what about you?”

“Very little. I think that my knowledge about it is minimal compared to your ancestors’ research. However, my grandfather seemed to know a great deal about it, though he never told me much. He said it was just a theory that could not be proven. But it seems like he was wrong.”

“Indeed he was,” Shimmer answered. “The Alternate Worlds theory establishes that there are several different dimensions scattered all around the Universe. In each dimension exists a given number of systems and planets, and each planet has a duplicate, and sometimes triplicates. What I mean is that several equal planets with the same landscape and the same people exist in our Universe. The difference resides in the way things turn out in each planet.

“For example, here you defeated Sephiroth, but in some alternate reality or dimension, Sephiroth was a normal person, and in some other, you never met each other. There are an infinite number of alternate realities, one for each world that exists out there.”

“Then, if there are so many planets, which is the real one? Which is the original?” Cloud asked.

“All of them are real; none is the ‘original’ one. That’s why all of them are called alternate realities: each one holds the truth of what might have been in the others.”

“How many dimensions have you been to?” Red asked.

“When we left, the first dimension we arrived to was this one. That was nine years ago.”

“It was the time when I was in Nibelheim with Zack and Sephiroth… when he went mad.” Cloud stated

“That’s right. It was no coincidence, let me tell you. The place we arrived to was Midgar. We knew little about your way of living and even less about ShinRa, so our first mistake resided on our ignorance. When we entered the city, we found ourselves wandering into Sector Two. We had no money, so we had to find a job. My brother tried in a couple of bars, and I went to some inns, but we had no luck. Finally, we went to the last bar in that sector, and we had the… umm… luck of finding Reeve and the Turks there. Although I don’t know if it was good or bad.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it right there!” Cloud said. Shim frowned at him, wondering what was wrong with him. “You met Reeve and the Turks?” Shim nodded. “And they never found about this… ability of yours?”

“Of course not! The fact that I’m an Observer is not superficial. It’s not like when you’re a shape shifter or doppelganger, in which case you have blue and red marks all over your body, besides the fact that your skin’s completely white and your eyes are extremely big.”

“A… doppel-what?” Cloud asked.

“A doppelganger or shape shifter,” Red began to explain, “is a creature that can change its shape into that of anyone or anything it touches. This it does by absorbing its victim’s thoughts and life force. For example, Cloud, if a shape shifter touched you, it would transform into you, adopting your physical form and your memories and you’d remain unconscious until the shape shifter decided to wake you up and give your memories back. But just as the Alternate Worlds theory, the doppelgangers were just a myth…at least in our world.”

“That’s right,” added Shimmer, “but there’s something else: you could also die if someone killed the doppelganger before he turned you back to normal.”

“Ouch…” was all Cloud managed to say, “But, why would it do that?”

“To take your place, and don’t ask me why would it do that, because I don’t know.” Shimmer smiled. “And ouch doesn’t quite cover it all Cloud. But, anyway, that is not the point. What I meant by it is that what people see in me it’s just another human being. The only way for them to suspect that I’m different would be if they saw me shift. That’s the reason ShinRa never found about our ‘abilities’, as you call them.”

“I get it now… but, what do Reeve and the Turks have to do with this?”

“As I told you, we found Reeve and the Turks there. My brother broke into a fight with Reno, because Daemon is, or at least was, very impulsive, and Reno, well, you’ve met him. After that, Reeve arrived and convinced Tseng to take my brother into the Turks program.”

“And what about you?” asked Red, “Did you enter the Turks as well?”

“Oh, no.” Shimmer answered. “I’d never do such thing. I mean, I do like weapons and martial arts, and if the Turks had stood up to their original principles, I would’ve entered the association. But I’m not fond of unnecessary violence, much less murder and kidnapping. And the Turks’ work had derived on that. In fact, Tseng had offered me a job, but I declined it because Reeve hired me in the Urban Development Department as his assistant. He’s a very kind man; at least he was towards me and my brother. I stayed there for five years, but Daemon left two years after Reeve took us in.”

“Why?” Cloud asked.

“Because he found out about ShinRa’s doing, although I don’t know how much information he got. I mean, he told me that he had found the truth and that he couldn’t stay any longer. I tried to stop him, but he was furious like I had never seen him before. Reeve tried to help too, of course. He told Daemon that if he tried to escape, ShinRa would go after him, and the secret of the Shifter might be discovered.”

“Didn’t you tell us ShinRa hadn’t found out about the Shifter?” Red asked.

“Well, I did say so. But Reeve is not ShinRa. He is, or was, part of it, but he wasn’t the company, and the fact that he knew didn’t mean he would give us away.”

“Did you tell him or did he find out on his own?” Cloud asked.

“I told him, but I did so because I had to. It was a mistake, really. Each Shifter has a different shape. Mine’s an S-Pad.” Shimmer reached out to her backpack which Cloud hadn’t noticed until then and took out a small writing pad with two silver ‘S’ carved on the cover. “The double S stands for ‘Shimmer’s Shifter’. But that’s not the point. This pad’s special, even for a Shifter, because I can write the characteristics of the place I want to be in and the pad will transport me there. Some months before my brother left, I was trying to find an alternate power source to Mako energy, and to do so I used my pad.

“It takes a while to transport from one place to another,” Shimmer went on, “so I tried to do so a day when Reeve was supposed to go on a business trip to Junon. But, unfortunately, the trip was cancelled at the last minute, and Reeve came back to the office when I was about to Shift.”

“What did he see?” Cloud asked. “I mean, what happens when you shift?”

“You begin to fade,” Shimmer explained. “It feels strange, as if you were floating or something. Once you get used to it, it can be a very pleasant experience. But, it is not so fun to watch. It’s like you were watching a ghost or something. It’s spooky. So, what he saw was a weird semi-transparent image of me. Of course I noticed and reverted the process.”

“And you had to explain everything to him,” Red said. “But, why didn’t he turn you in?”

“Because he knew ShinRa would use the Shifter for its own gain. I already told you Reeve’s a very kind man, in spite of the spy thing and all. He really wanted to make a difference, but he couldn’t confront ShinRa alone. That’s why I offered him my help, but he declined it. He said that this wasn’t my world, and that I had no reason to risk my life for it. So, I accepted that, at least for the time being.”

“But your brother was determined to get away from them as soon as possible, right?” Cloud said.

“Yeah. He got mad at me because I told him what Reeve told me. You know, the fact that this isn’t our planet and that we shouldn’t interfere. He told me that the reason we had run away from home was that we didn’t buy the non-interference thing. So, he accused me of double-crossing him, took his Shifter out and disappeared. Reeve covered him and told Tseng he had escaped to Icicle Inn. Luckily for us, Tseng wanted to get rid of him and didn’t pursue him.”

“Where did he go?” asked Red.

“I don’t know. I left too, but not then. I left the same day you left Midgar chasing Sephiroth. I knew what was going to happen to Aerith, and I knew about the vow you would make, Cloud.”

Cloud froze. Yes, he had made a vow a couple of months ago in the City of the Ancients. It was awful, but he felt it was the only thing left to do. But, he hadn’t told anyone about it, so… how did she know?

“What’s she talking about, Cloud?”

Now he was in for it. He couldn’t hide it from Red anymore; he had to tell him, but…

“It’s tough, Cloud, I know. But he’s your friend, and you better tell him.”

Cloud hesitated for a moment. He didn’t feel too good. “How do you know about that?”

“I told you. I’m an Observer; I know everything about you. So, if you don’t want to tell Red, that’s okay. But I’ll have to tell him, because that was a selfish decision.”

“What is she talking about, Cloud?” Red asked once more.

“Remember when I went away two months ago, Red?” Cloud said; Red nodded. “Well, I went to the City of the Ancients. I was desperate; I thought I would never find a way to get her back. I thought I had failed her for the second time, and that made me very mad. When I got there, I went to the lake where Aerith’s body rests, and I vowed to her and to myself that if I didn’t find a way to get her back after reading Cosmo Canyon’s books, I would attempt to do so in Nibelheim. But, if that didn’t work either, then I’d… I would kill myself to be with her.”

Red just stood there, awestruck. He didn’t know what to say, or how to react. Finally, he shook his head. “I can’t believe you did that! Do you really think Aerith would be pleased with it? By doing that, you would be throwing her sacrifice away! She gave her life so all of us could live, and you were willing to kill yourself? How could you even think about it?”

“Red, try to understand. He saw the love of his life die in front of his very eyes, and he couldn’t find a way to bring her back. I… I know what it feels like to lose your significant other. Believe me; it hurts like hell… especially when you feel there was something you could’ve done to prevent it, even if that’s not right.”

Cloud had been staring at the floor when Red scolded him. When Shimmer stood up for him, he looked at her. Again, he focused on her eyes, and they seemed to carry even a deeper grief. “What happened to you?” He asked. Shimmer started and stared deeply at him. She seemed to be pondering his question.

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Your eyes… they carry too much grief.” Cloud explained.

“Your eyes carry grief, too.” She answered.

Cloud shook his head dismissively. “I know. But your eyes are deep because of that grief. There’s no glow in them, as if you never had fun or joy.”

“That’s… because I met someone along the way, and when I left him, my happiness stayed with him, as well.” Shimmer answered grimly.

“What happened?” Cloud asked. He noticed that the look on Shimmer had changed when she told them that last phrase, and he wanted to know why.

“Well,” Shimmer said, “that story takes us to the reason I’m here for. When I left this planet, I used my pad to find a place where Aerith was still alive and where she had the Ancient’s Heritage, as well. So, I arrived to a planet very much like this one. There were only minor differences between you and the people on that planet.

“For instance,” Shimmer continued, “Tifa has a bar in Nibelheim and is married to a man named Frank. Cid married Shera and they have two kids. But, Cid hates heights, so he has a Car Shop in Rocket Town instead of his planes. Barret’s wife is alive and they have a girl of their own named Julia, while Dyne and Eleanor, his wife, are taking care of their daughter Marlene; all of them live in Corel. Red lives with his parents and his race in Cosmo Canyon. Yuffie’s parents are a very important family in Wutai, she has a pretty good relationship with them, and she doesn’t like Materia at all. ShinRa isn’t just an electrical power company, but an agency that takes care of various needs of the country, like water, food, houses, work and all that stuff. Rufus is the president, while Reeve’s vice-president. They’re both very kind to everybody. And the Turks are like the city’s bodyguards: they take care of everyone who lives there. It’s a nice place thanks to them and the people that lives in the city.

“Cloud’s married to Aerith and they have twin kids, Zack and Sashia. Zack was named after Cloud’s brother, who in this world was your best friend, Cloud.” Cloud gave her a puzzled look. “I told you there are several differences between each world,” Shimmer went on, “and this is one of them. Zack also died in that world; he had some kind of heart disease, I’m not really sure. And, since he helped Cloud and Aerith so much, they decided to name their first kid after him.”

“What about Sephiroth?” Cloud asked. “Is he different, too?”

Shimmer hesitated for a moment. “Well, yeah… I’ll tell you, but you have to promise me you will remain calm. Remember this is a different world.”

“I will behave,” Cloud said. “So, tell me.”

Shimmer gave a deep sigh, and said, “He is Cloud’s father.”

Cloud and Red stood there, petrified. Cloud’s eyes were open like saucers, and his jaw dropped.

“Guys, I told you that it is an alternate reality, that doesn’t mean Cloud’s connected with this world’s Sephiroth in any way. Besides, in that other world Sephiroth is a very caring person, he’s extremely nice and a perfect gentleman, just like he would’ve been here if Hojo hadn’t screwed him up…”

Finally, Cloud recovered from his shock, and a question popped to his mind. “Who was he married to?”

Shimmer blinked a couple of times, as if the question surprised her. “Well… to tell you the truth… I never asked about that. In fact, Sephiroth never mentioned it… Although, I suspect he adopted both of his kids… why do you ask?”

“Nothing in particular,” Cloud answered. “I was just curious about it.”

“What about Vincent?” Red asked. “You didn’t mention him before. What is he up to there?”

At the sound of the name, Shimmer’s eyes grew even deeper. She looked away from them, trying to conceal her tears, but Cloud saw one running down her face and couldn’t help but ask her about it again.

“Do you know him?” Shimmer didn’t look at him, nor did she answer. “Shimmer, is that it? That’s who you left? Is that why you’re crying?”

Shimmer remained silent for a moment. Then, she wiped her eyes and faced them. “The answer to all your questions, Cloud, is yes. I do know him, it’s him whom I left and that’s the reason I’m crying for. But, I’d rather not tell you that story just now… it happened only five months ago and I’m not over it yet… Instead, I’ll tell you why I travelled there…

“As I already told you, I knew Aerith would die, and I knew Cloud would try to kill himself if he didn’t find a way to bring her back. So, I travelled to that world in order to ask the Ancients for their help. Because, you must know that Ancients and Humans live in perfect harmony in that planet. So, I visited Aerith, and she somehow knew about me. She knew that I’m an Observer and that I wanted to revive her in this planet, so, she helped me willingly. Cloud knew about me, as well, and he asked me to give a message to you, Cloud. He asked me to tell you that once you get Aerith back, you marry her as soon as possible, because he couldn’t live a single day without her, and he thought it would be the same thing with you.”

“So, I said that… Well, it certainly sounds like something I would say, given the chance…” A glow of happiness appeared on his eyes. “So, what do I have to do to bring her back?”

Shimmer chuckled. “I’m glad you’re so eager and excited. It makes your eyes glow even more…” Cloud blushed a little. “Hey, don’t get me wrong. You’re cute and all, but I’m not flirting with you, although it may seem the other way around…”

“T-That’s okay…” Cloud stammered. “Please, tell me what I have to do… to bring her back.”

“Pray,” She answered simply. “You have to pray with all your might. And, of course, you need the Cetra’s Heritage… Holy or White Materia, as you call it.”

“But, Holy was lost after Aerith died…” Red said. “We don’t know where it is.”

Shimmer didn’t reply. Instead, she reached into her backpack once more, produced a wooden box from it, and gave it to Cloud. “Open it slowly, look at it briefly and close the box as soon as you can.”

“Why?” He asked.

“Because Aerith might leave, and I don’t fancy going looking for her again.” Cloud looked even more confused than before. “In order to revive an Ancient,” Shimmer explained, “you need to combine Holy with their soul and introduce it in the Cetra’s body. I already combined both Holy and Aerith’s soul, because when I asked Aerith if Cloud or one of you could do it, she said that it was better that someone who had not been born in this world did it.”

“I don’t understand why,” Red said.

“Normally, in order to extract a soul from the Lifestream, you have to leave one behind. If Cloud or any of you entered the Lifestream and asked for Aerith’s soul, whoever did so would have to leave their soul in there to get Aerith’s back. But, if someone that doesn’t belong to this planet enters the Lifestream, their soul would be a stranger to the planet, and because of that, the planet will not claim it and the stranger can get away both alive and with the Cetra’s soul in his or her possession.” Shimmer explained to them. “What you have in that box, Cloud, is Aerith’s soul trapped inside the White Materia.”

Cloud looked intently at the box, and after a while, he opened it and stared at the little orb inside. The light that emanated from it was warm and cheerful, like…

“Aerith…” The name came out from Cloud’s lips almost in a whisper, like he was saying it to himself. He felt his heart jump with sudden happiness, and the light inside the orb seemed to shine brighter than before, as if Aerith’s soul had recognized Cloud’s voice. He kept on looking at the orb, as if hypnotized.

“Cloud… close it,” Shimmer said softly, leaning over and putting her hand over his shoulder. Cloud jumped in his chair, and then he closed the box. He had an almost sad look on his face, which Shimmer understood at once. “Hey, don’t be sad… you’re gonna see her again real soon, I promise.”

“What else do I have to do…? Besides praying, that is,” Cloud said, an eager look on his face.

“First of all, you have to go back to the City of the Ancients and retrieve Aerith’s body from the lake. Of course, in order to do that you will need the Underwater Materia, which I believe is in Yuffie’s hands…”

“That might prove to be a real problem,” Red said, “because Yuffie’s really fond of our Materia.”

“We’ll just have to borrow it for a little while,” Cloud answered. “Besides, I don’t really think she has some use for it, do you?”

“No, not really,” Red said, “but if we’re gonna ask her for it, we’ll have to explain everything to her. And that includes Shimmer…”

“Then, I think that you should call everybody here.” Shimmer said.

“To what purpose?” Red asked.

“If Cloud prays alone, it might take him a very long time to get Aerith back, but if everyone who travelled with you prays with him, then the process would take less time, and the rate of success would be higher.”

“Then, let’s do it as soon as possible,” Cloud said, standing up. “Because, the sooner they know about this, the sooner we can go to the City of the Ancients and the sooner Aerith will be back with me… I mean, us.”

Shimmer chuckled a bit, and then said, “You sure are desperate, huh?”

Cloud scratched the back of his head. “Hey, can you blame me for being in love?”

Shimmer then became serious, “No, I guess I can’t…” A shadow of sadness fell over her face, but it soon passed. “Anyway, you’re right. You had better call them. And, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go rest a while. Good night.” She took her backpack and the box with the White Materia and went back upstairs.

Cloud and Red remain silent for a while, until Red said, “Do you trust her?”

“Huh?” Cloud said. “What do you mean by that?”

“Just that, do you trust her?”

“Red, why are you asking me that?”

“Just think about it. She comes here, out of the blue, and brings us a solution for this situation. Don’t you find it a little suspicious?”


“No? Just like that?”

“Yeah. I mean, she can’t possibly be working for any of our former enemies. ShinRa’s a completely new company now that Reeve’s handling it. Sephiroth’s gone for sure, as well as Rufus and Hojo. So, what other possibility do you see?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she has her own agenda.”

“No, Red. She’s been honest to us, at least in the matter concerning Aerith’s resurrection. She hasn’t told us about that other world’s Vincent, but she has her reasons. She doesn’t have any agenda of her own, at least not to harm us.”

“Why are you so sure, Cloud?”

“Her eyes. Her eyes are truthful. That… and the fact that she indeed has Aerith’s soul in that box. And if my word’s not enough for you, then we’ll have to wait until Reeve comes. I’m sure he’ll be able to backup her story, or, if you’re right, he’ll let us know the truth about her, if there’s something dark about her.”

“But, what will we do if he doesn’t back her up?”

“Then, my friend… then we’ll see.”

Shimmer was walking down a barley field. The east wind blew gently against her body, pushing her forward. The sky above her was blue and clear, not a single cloud could be seen. The sun shined warmly on her, and she let herself fall on the soft soil. Suddenly, a voice called her… it was Vincent. 

She stood up and began to search for him. But he wasn’t there. As a matter of fact, neither was the field, or the sky. She was nowhere. She felt as if she were standing in a completely white room, where no walls or doors could be made out. Then, Vincent’s voice came again, and he appeared in front of her.

Her heart sank, for it was not the Vincent she had fallen in love with, but Cloud’s companion. He stared coldly at her, a stare that sent chills down her spine. He then spoke again, but it was not her name.

“So, you came after all… Observer.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Your life.” Shimmer was about to ask him what he meant, but a sudden change came upon him. His skin went completely white, and blue and red marks began to appear all over his body. His eyes grew extremely big, and turned yellow. Realization came upon her, as well as a sudden heartache.

“You’re a doppelganger…” She whispered.

“A keen observation, Shimmer Oroke.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Oh, I’ve been observing you. And, thanks to that, I know all about you. I know where you are, and I’ll be there in no time. Trust me…” And with that, he vanished.

Shimmer woke with a start. The dream… no, not a dream. It had been some sort of communication between the doppelganger and her. And, he doppelganger knew where she was… that meant 

“I gotta tell Cloud.” With that, she stood up, grabbed all her stuff and went downstairs to look for Cloud and Red.

She found them in the library, searching for the PHS numbers of their friends.

“Cloud, I gotta go.” She said bluntly.

“What?” He asked. “Why? Aren’t you gonna wait for the others?”

“Yes, but if I stay, I’ll be endangering the whole canyon.”

“Why is that?” Red asked.

“Because, a doppelganger’s after me, trying to kill me.”

“A doppelganger?” Cloud asked. “But, how do you know?”

“Doppelgangers and Observers come from the same planet, that’s why we can establish communication bonds. I just had a vision, where one of them told me he knows my location and is coming this way to kill me. That’s why I have to get out of here as soon as possible.”

“But… Aerith…” Cloud said.

“I know,” Shimmer replied. “Umm… I have an idea. I’ll try to lose him, and then I’ll head towards the Temple of the Ancients. Meet me there with everybody else. How does that sound to you?”

“It’s fine with me. What do you say, Cloud?”

“Okay. We’ll do that. Anything we can do to help you? We’ll do anything we can.”

Shimmer thought about it for a second, and then said, “Actually, yes. Can you lend me a Golden Chocobo?”

“What for? I thought you could shift to any place you wanted,” Red said.

“Yes, but if I do, the doppelganger won’t notice and he’ll think I’m still here. If that happened, he would come here looking for me, and would tear the canyon down until he made sure I’m gone.”

Red seemed to ponder this for a moment. “Alright, follow me.” He left the library without looking back to make sure she was after him.

“Uh… sorry about him,” Cloud said. “It’s just that he’s not sure about you. He’s having a kinda hard time trying to decide if he should trust you or not.”

“Well, I’ll just have to win that trust the hard way, won’t I?” Cloud shrugged. “Thanks for trusting me, Cloud. It really means a lot to me.”

“Thanks for helping me out with this… by the way, are you taking the White Materia with you?”

Shimmer nodded. “It’ll be safer if I have it. You don’t mind, do you?”

Cloud shook his head vigorously. “No, not at all. In fact, I feel better knowing that you have it. I guess you have to leave now, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I’ll see you in a couple of days, ‘k?”

“Yup. Good luck.” With that, Shimmer left.

“Okay, spikes. What’d you call us ‘ere for?” Cid was sitting at the table, smoking a cigarette, as always 

“Yeah, it don’t make me happy ta leave Marlene all alone, ya know?” Barret was leaning against the door, a not too happy look on his face.

“We have to wait for Reeve and Mrs. Elmyra to arrive. Be patient, you two.” Cloud answered. He really hated their hastiness, considering he had waited almost two years to find a way to get Aerith back, and they had arrived only fifteen minutes ago.

Tifa and Yuffie were already there. Vincent hadn’t arrived yet, but knowing him, he was likely to show up at the very least expected moment. All of them were sitting at the table, waiting for Reeve and Elmyra to arrive. After all, they had to travel all the way from Kalm, where Reeve picked Elmyra up.

Cloud sat with his head bowed, arms crossed and eyes closed. Shimmer had left two days before and they had no news from her, even though Red had given her his PHS. After a while, his thought shifted from Shimmer to Aerith. Boy, was he anxious to see her again! He felt as if his head were about to explode with anxiety… Just then, a knock came to the door. Barret opened it, and Elmyra, Reeve, Vincent and the Turks came in.

Everybody was shocked to see the Turks there, except Red and Cloud. Shimmer had told them that if many people prayed, Aerith would come back faster. So, they asked Reeve to bring them along. He forgot to mention that little detail to the others, though.

“What the <beep> is this scum doin’ here?” Cid demanded.

“Well, well, well… if it’s not Captain Smokey and Mr. Teddy Bear!” Reno cheerfully announced. “What a… marvellous surprise, if I may say.”

“Reno, I told you to behave,” Reeve scolded the red head.

“Yes, dad,” Reno answered sarcastically. “Well, let’s get on with this nonsense. I don’t have much time to spare, I’m a very busy person, ya know?”

“Yeah, you probably have to visit some bar, or maybe a hooker,” Tifa said, her voice had a hint of anger.

“No… I don’t have any dates with you until next month, do I?” Reno answered. Tifa and Barret lunged at him, but Cloud stood in their way.

“Hey! I didn’t call you all so you could fight, okay? I need your help! If you can’t be around each other without fighting, then go away!”

“The leader has spoken,” Yuffie said. “We shall all hear what the Spiky Head has to say!” Everyone stared at her. “What? I’m just trying to cut the tension!”

“Thanks, Yuffie.” Cloud said, he then turned to Elmyra. “I’m sorry about that, ma’am. Hopefully, this won’t happen again.” He gave a sharp look to Tifa, Reno and Barret. The three of them sat down, as well as everybody else.

“It’s okay, Cloud.” Elmyra said. “I know this is difficult for everybody, since it’s the first time we’re all together since Meteor was destroyed.”

“That’s right, ma’am. Before I tell you the reason I called you all, there’s something I need to ask you Reeve. And you too, Reno and Rude.”

“What is it?” Reeve asked.

“Do you remember a couple of siblings called Shimmer Oroke and Daemon Falastur?”

Reeve frowned, Reno gasped slightly and Rude remained expressionless. After a while, Reeve said, “Yes, I do remember them. Quite a nice girl, a very hasty guy, both of them rather peculiar, in their own way.”

“Of course I remember that <beep> Daemon! How could I forget?”

“Oh, Reno sounds rather scared,” Yuffie said, “so Daemon is either a really nice person, or a bastard like Reno.”

“For Reno, there might be another one: absolute demon.” Reeve said.

“Figures,” Elena said. “What did you expect, with that kinda name? So, do you remember them Rude?”

“Yeah. Daemon was always picking on Reno, so I usually had a good time around them. As for Shimmer… well, I didn’t get to know her well. She spent most of her time with Reeve at headquarters.”

“Why do you ask, Cloud?” Reeve said. “More importantly, how do you know about them? They’re not exactly easy to track.”

“Shimmer’s here. Or was.” Red cut in.

Reeve frowned again. “What was she doing here again? I thought she was going to... did she find a way to…” Cloud nodded. “That’s… that’s just great!”

Cid began to look back and forth between Cloud and Reeve. “Cut this <beep> code and explain yourselves!”

“Yeah” Tifa said. “All of us would like to know what’s going on.”

“I… well, Shimmer found a way to bring Aerith back.” Cloud said bluntly.

“What?” Everybody asked.

“You… you sure?” Elmyra asked. “How, what do we have to do?”

“First of all, we have to go the Temple of the Ancients to meet up with Shimmer. Then, we’ll need to get to the City of the Ancients to retrieve Aerith’s body from the lake. That’s why I asked the Underwater Materia from you, Yuffie.” Cloud said.

“You idiot! You should’ve told me what you needed it for! I would’ve been here yesterday!” Yuffie blurted out.

“Yeah, we all would’ve been here yesterday, spiky head,” Barret said. “You’re not the only one who’s been missing her, ya know?”

“So-rry!” Cloud said. “It’s just that we needed to give Shimmer some time to… solve a couple of situations. She said she’d meet us at the temple ruins.”

“Then, what are we waiting for?” Cid asked, standing up. “Let’s get to the Highwind at once!”

“That’s great.” Cloud said. “You go ahead; Red and I have to talk with Reeve for a sec, if that’s okay with you Reeve.”

“No problem, Cloud.” Everybody else left the room, while the three of them stayed there. “So, what is it?”

“Do you trust Shimmer?” Cloud asked.

“Why do you ask me that for? Of course I do. She’d never do anything to hurt anyone.” Reeve answered.

“Is she really an Observer?” Red asked.

At first, Reeve seemed surprised at the question, and then he realized Shimmer had told them in order for them to believe her. “Yes, she is, as well as her brother. That’s all?”

“Told ya, Red,” Cloud said. Reeve gave them a puzzled look. “It’s just that Red had doubts about her, but that’s settled now, is it not, Red?”

“Yes. I’ll have to apologize to her for my past rudeness.”

“But, to do that, we’ll better be going,” Cloud said. “Let’s follow the others, before they decide to leave us behind.”

All of them were in the Highwind. Cid had remodelled the entire thing, so it had levers again, as well as some new additions. Even so, all of them remained on their original travel spots. Reeve and the Turks were in the outside railing, while Mrs. Elmyra decided to rest on the bedrooms Cid had built on the ship 

Reeve went downstairs to get something to eat, for Cid had added a kitchen instead of the Chocobo barn, which now was in the cargo area and had room for three Chocobos. Soon after Reno followed him. Yuffie walked towards them, suddenly forgetting her motion sickness.

“Reeve, I wanted to ask you if you have any pictures of those fellows Cloud mentioned.” She said.

“Oh, I think I have… let me see.” He took his wallet out and began to rummage around the pile of pictures he carried there. “Here ya go.” He handed her a worn out picture, where he, Daemon and Shimmer stood in front of the ShinRa building. “It is quite old, Daemon left almost eight years ago, and Shimmer did so almost two years ago. Mmm... here, there’s one of Daemon alone.” He handed Yuffie another one.

“Gee, he looks so innocent. I can’t imagine him picking on Reno,” Yuffie said.

“He looks innocent because it was taken eight years ago,” Reeve said. “Even so, he fought with Reno at a bar, and that’s why Reno doesn’t like him.”

“He only looked innocent. That guy’s a killing machine,” Reno said.

“Well… he’s definitely a cute guy…” Yuffie said.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold your horses, kid!” Reno said. “Don’t tell me you’re falling in love with him just because of a really old picture?”

“That and the fact that he seems to scare you very much,” Yuffie said. “Thanks, Reeve. I think I’ll take care of this from now on. Bye!” And with that, Yuffie went back to her spot, taking the pictures with her.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Reeve called after her, but she ignored him. “Oh, well. Guess I’d have to get rid of them sooner or later…”

“Stupid ninja wanna be,” Reno said. “Well! Let’s get something to eat, eh boss?” He slapped Reeve on the back, almost sending him to the ground.

“Watch it, Reno!”

“So, how have you been, Cid?” Cloud asked to his friend. “Busy, as far as I can see… Gee, this thing looks even better than it did at the beginning. Congratulations, you’ve done one hell of a job.”

“Nah… I had a very good crew who did most of the job… and Shera,” He admitted. “I really didn’t do much, except the planning and shouting, hehe. But, I accept your congratulations. So, what’s going on inside your spiky head? Besides Aerith, of course,” Cid said grinning.

Cloud scratched the back of his head. “Uh, nothing in particular, really. I was just worried about Shimmer. She left three days ago, and we haven’t heard anything from her yet.”

“So… who’s this girl, anyway? We’re following her advice, but we know nothing about her. Do you?”

“Actually, I do. But I’d rather tell you once we finish with this matter.”

Cid shrugged. “You’re the leader…” He turned his gaze to the ground ahead of him, and saw a glint of gold running in the same direction as they were. “Cloud… you said this Shimmer had taken a golden Chocobo and was heading to the Temple of the Ancients, right?”

Cloud frowned and walked towards him. “Yeah, I said so. Why do you ask?”

“Because, I think we’re above her,” he said, pointing towards her.

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