He climbed from his little next of blankets, pillows, and a teddy bear that he never would have admitted to, even under threat of death for more reasons than are obvious to those who are familiar with exactly who and what Auron is, and dressed for the day, all the while trying to fight off the niggling feeling that something was missing. Something important. Something that had been a part of him for as long as he could remember.
Still, being a busy curmudgeonly, badass ronin, Auron didn’t have time to dwell on such issues. Affixing his shoulder guard and slinging his sword over his shoulder, he left the room, still unable to shake the feeling that he was forgetting something that would later come back to haunt him.
“Hi!” Tidus called to the guy behind the counter with a friendly wave as the two entered the Emporium.
“Hey there, sonny,” the ancient fellow behind the counter smiled toothlessly at them. “In the market for some new sharp, hurty things, are ye?”
Auron didn’t react at all, in a manner that suggested surprise.
“Uh…yeah. Sharp…hurty things. I would have said pokey, myself…”
“Ooh, fresh out of pokey things,” the clerk told them sadly. “Just have hurty.”
“Well, I guess hurty will have to do,” Tidus agreed reluctantly.
“No, it won’t,” Auron said firmly. “I need sharp, hurty, AND pokey, dammit! With piercing plus two! We’re going to another weapon emporium! Come on.”
“I…don’t know…if the….world is ready…for…this,” Yuna said.
“Looks good to me, honey!” Sin commented, flying past.
“Your dad is a pervert!” Yuna told Tidus angrily.
“Do we really have time for all these side quests, ya?” Wakka asked impatiently. “Sin is probably gobbling up villages left and right!”
“Hmph!” Auron hmphed. “All he’ll have to do is find one village with a good extensive wine cellar, and he won’t leave. I imagine he’ll be quite incapacitated by the time we get to him.”
“I hate unions,” Lulu said darkly.
“Kimahri hate unions, too. Get in way of capitalist bourgeois pigs’ oppression of working class, of which Kimahri approve,” the Ronso said, lighting a pipe carved from adamantine, and adjusting his monocle.
“Wow! You sure know these side quests, Auron!” Rikku said.
“What do you think I did for ten years?” he grumbled.
“I thought you mostly got drunk and reminisced about the good ol’ days,” Tidus chimed in.
“I suggest we go to the Omega Ruins,” she continued. “They were an abundant source of gil.”
“What about Sin?” Wakka demanded.
“Yes…I must insist that…we deal with…Sin at…some point,” Yuna agreed.
“Sin’s been around for a thousand years,” Auron said inexorably. “A couple more hours won’t hurt. To the Omega Ruins!”
“I’ll show you! I’ll summon the most powerful of all Aeons! Anima!”
The skies grew dark, and the clouds rolled back. From the heavens, a voice proclaimed,
“I’m still mad at you for turning me into an Aeon, young man! You’re grounded!”
“Aw, ma!” Seymour whimpered. “Not again!”
Sin chuckled nastily.
“Hey…didn’t you say something about an ocean of liquor?”
“That’d be great,” Sin sighed with the Sin-equivalent of shiny eyes.
“So…what you’re trying to say is, there’s no ocean of liquor.”
“Yeah,” Sin shrugged. “Be nice, wouldn’t it?”
“Bahamut is going home!” Bahamut proclaimed, pouting.
“Fine,” Auron grumbled. “I won’t kill him. Perhaps…a song. C’mere, boy. Here’s a number, just for you. Row, row, row your boat-”
“Stop it, Auron!” Tidus pleaded.
“-gently down the stream-”
“I mean it!”
“-merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily-”
“Noooo!” he whimpered. “Don’t finish that!”
“What’s he so upset about, ya?” Wakka asked.
“For once, Wakka, we’re all as in the dark as you are,” Lulu said, somewhat mystified.
“Ahem,” Auron said, slinging his arm about Tidus’ shoulders. “-life is but a dream,” he concluded with a wink.
“I hate you!” Tidus cried. “Not as much as Dad, but I hate you!”
"And when will that be, hmmm?" he asks, sounding far too amused.
"You aren't helping, Advisor."
"Hey, just wait a minute here. Why do I always have to get jobs that are glorified titles for being your lackey?"
"So I can keep an eye on you. Obviously."
"Today is a holiday."
"... ..." There are at least three things wrong with the statement, foremost being the fact Garden classes don't get off for holidays, but since he most likely has a detailed excuse all lined up for my torment, I decide to let it pass. I really don't want to hear about national chocolate covered cherry day and its deep history, or whatever else he would manage to come up with.
When the door closed, Rufus sank back in his chair and sighed, rubbing his temples. "Gods, I don't suppose you could dig my father up and kill him again for me, could you?"
Tseng, who had been silent and invisible in an alcove behind Rufus's chair, emerged into the afternoon light. "I'm afraid not. Although he does still seem to be able to cause you problems."
"Idiots. All of them. Fear I can do. Awe. Respect. That might get you somewhere. Open terrorism, no. Burning Corel to the ground, dropping plates on half the city, my god, what a Moron." Rufus rummaged in his desk drawer, opened a bottle, tossed three painkillers into his hand, and downed them with the glass of water Tseng offered him. "Thanks."
"I'm sure he had no idea it would cause you difficulty." Tseng sat down in the chair Barret had just abandoned. "Or he would have burned Corel sooner, and for less reason."
"Are we still needing people?"
Rufus smoothed back his hair, but he still looked ruffled. "Always. Trying to start up a corporation with two strings and an elastic band, this is madness."
"A whole quintet of Renos, Rufus. You sure you can handle that?"
Rufus grinned. "If they'd work for cheap, Tseng, I'd hire gargoyles."
Tseng quirked an eyebrow. "Gargoyles talk less."
At six-thirty the next morning, Gargoyles were the furthest thing from Rufus's mind. What was on his mind was the god awful noise coming from outside his window, like someone was trying to stuff a chocobo through an expresso machine.
"What in the name of the Ancients is THAT?" Rufus lifted his head from Tseng's arm, blinking in the early morning greyness of their room. "And can you shoot it for me?"
Rufus's first thought was that Reno must have contracted some form of insanity, to be up this early and hard at work. But the redheaded young man with Reno's easy grin was thicker of build than the lanky Turk, and his face was younger and marked only by smear of motor grease. "Excuse me for not being fond of strangers on my property, but who are you?"
"Oh, and just so you know? Start up helicopters before dawn again, and I'll blow your head off."
Phoenix got the impression that Rufus wasn't kidding. "Yes, sir."
Three minutes later Cloud burst into Rufus's office unannounced, still dusty from the road and with his saddlebags slung over one shoulder, spurs clanging on the parquet floor.
"Cloud's here," Reno said, strolling in after him.
"Thank you, Reno," Rufus said. "I figured that out."
Not that Angelo wasn't grateful, it would have just been a bit better if Reno had said something other than "He's leaving in two minutes, move it, kiddo."
"Reno said he needed me for a research partner, but he only just told me three seconds ago, gods I don't know why Reno has a job and I don't, irresponsible..."
Rufus had to admit he had missed the company of canines, especially big, intelligent, protective ones. It was not unlike having two extra Turks in the house. They were both black, and had registered names of Fallen Metropolis and Demons Be Gone, but they answered regularly to Metro and Demon, respectively. They were still slightly puppies, not grown all the way into their feet, and Elena said that Metro was fine as a name for a dog but Demon was a bit much, as he mostly laid around and hoped for bits of discarded chocolate frosted doughnuts. With sprinkles. He wouldn't eat them without.
The brief silence that followed was broken by Cloud, who after looking from the Turk to Vincent and back again, grumbled that nobody told him anything.
"Well, yes, sir. Ma'am. Elena." Angelo stumbled over the titles, and plunged ahead. "You're related to Rufus-sama?"
Elena nodded, unzipping her jacket. "I'm his half sister. His father was rather active as a young man. It's not entirely a secret, but I guess most people don't know."
Cloud, who was on his way out and nursing his own arm, pulled a face. "What is it with you people?"
"I realize," Reeve said, ignoring the comment, "That everyone in this mansion and possibly this town is certifiable, but I had hoped that you at least were not completely off the deep end."
"Don't have moogles, Reeve."
Angelo, whose frayed nerves had brought out both his no-nonsense streak and his temper, finally had to order Tseng to get six hours of uninterrupted sleep at the inn, or, Turk or no, he was going to personally bean Tseng on the head with a frying pan.
Rufus stood up. "Really, Angelo, loosen up. We don't pitch people out of windows."
Angelo sighed relief. "No, no of course you don't, sir."
"...Anymore," Rufus demurred. Angelo went the color of oatmeal, and Rufus laughed.
Tseng smiled. "It's good to see you feeling better, Rufus."
"Better?" Rufus made a face. "Nothing of the sort. What have you been doing to my files? I haven't been able to find a thing all morning. And you've adjusted my chair, I feel like a little kid with my feet dangling. And when was the last time this place got a dust run?"
And then there were days when one catastrophic decimal misplacement slammed into another, and companies didn't ship, and phone calls were returned too late, and none of the ShinRa brass would deign to speak to him, and fax machines became excuses for justifiable homicide and-- and-- he couldn't win a game of solitaire if the planet depended on it.
He made a vague noise in her direction, trying not to drown in the envy. Leaving... already? He frowned at the clock, looked despairingly at the oceans of confounded paperwork on his desk. Nothing more depressing than being alone with the laptop afterhours, he mused, digging in at random.
The first inane thing that came to mind was how grateful he was that he'd taken down the dartboard with the pictures of the other ShinRa execs on it. As gratifying as it was to hit a bull's-eye right in the center of President ShinRa's fat head. Ahem.
He couldn't think of many things worse than this. There had been the time he'd had to explain to the President that "www.shinra.org" was already in use by The Society for Herpetologists In Need of Reptilian Augmentation--
--No, this was worse. Definitely worse. There were no Gods of Urban Engineering, or if there were, they were sitting on his generators and laughing their divine asses off.
Reno feigned hurt at the sudden insult. "And what’s with your secret loathing towards soap operas?"
Tifa raised an eyebrow at the word ‘secret’, but the redhead just grinned goofily, obviously back to his obnoxious self.
"They’re just... so stupid." She shrugged. "I mean, for one, they’re overly mushy, not to mention extremely cheesy and makes me want to gag, and they’re full of bullshit clichés. How many times have you confessed your feelings to someone like that?"
Reno, being Reno, answered, "Well..." and started counting his fingers.
"No, wait, I momentarily forgot I was talking to you. Don’t answer that," she warned.
"You just killed thousands of my precious brain cells!"
"Yeah, they’re only precious because you don’t have much of them in the first place."
But Reno was Reno. In his dense little mind (or maybe not…), he just couldn’t figure out why a girl-, no, woman like her would be moping about an emotionally stunted jerk like him who also had a major personality disorder. There are, after all, millions of other men out there better than that airhead (such as his charming self, he nominated shamelessly).
What now…? She was annoyed and angry, but not quite sure why. Inside, her soul was once again raging with frustration, so she did the only thing she could do at the moment…
But from outside, Reno could only hear a muffled noise, as well as the gears in his mind working away slowly.
Brilliant, Reno. You’re a genius.
He was skipping. He couldn’t believe it himself. But he was. Skipping along his merry way, and humming a tune to himself. Ooh, what would Elena, Rude and Tseng think of him now...? He grinned. His life was currently full of sunshine and butterflies and rainbows.
“DON’T STARE AT ME LIKE THAT!”
She didn’t listen to him. “Why,” she said slowly, “are you so obsessed with Tweety?”