03-23-2017, 11:38 PM
Couldn't think of anything else for a title, because of the triplets. I didn't wanna write anymore about them, but I started getting attached to the idea of Ivy as half Reno's daughter and half Anne of Green Gables...and yes, I used the end of Aftermath and expanded it.

Chapter 1 Playing Around

Alicia patiently brushed Ivy�s red hair. It was hard to control sometimes, and it was easiest to just put it in braids in the morning so it wouldn�t get so tangled. Alicia smiled, thinking back over the last four years. Jonathan may have been suspicious, but the babies soon won him over, especially when they couldn�t find any reports of lost or stolen triplets.

�Are you done yet, Gamma?� Ivy asked.

�Not yet, dear.� Alicia finished brushing Ivy�s hair and started braiding it. �You�re in a hurry this morning, aren�t you?�

�The lady in black said we could play at her house today.� Ivy explained.

Alicia was startled. The �lady in black� was a mysterious woman who lived up on a hill behind them. She had shown up a few years ago, no one was sure of the exact date she had first appeared, but they definitely know it was after the reactor blew. Some say she wore the black dress and veil because her husband and son died in the explosion, some say it was because she had been horribly disfigured then. Whatever the reason, no one had seen her face, and she never spoke. She would go into stores with a typewritten list of what she wanted and pay for it to be delivered to her house. Alicia had never of the woman being friendly to anyone. Not necessarily unfriendly either, but the only ones who ever came to her house were deliverymen.

�She actually talked to you?� Alicia questioned her.

�Well, I�m not supposed to tell. She had a note that she gave to Ian, but we had to tell her we can�t read good enough yet, so she told us. She makes good cookies.� Ivy explained.

�Better than my cookies?� Alicia asked.

�Oh, nobody makes better cookies than you, Gamma!� Ivy exclaimed.

�Alright, and your braids are done, you go eat your breakfast before you go play, okay sweetie?�

�Yes, Gamma.� Ivy said as she got down off the chair and gave Alicia a hug before heading off to the kitchen.

Alicia put the hairbrush back on Ivy�s dressing table. The two girls shared a room, with two of everything for them. Half of it was paid for by the money that was left with them. Alicia looked around the room to see if there were any toys to pick up. Lily was usually very good about keeping her side of the room nice and tidy, but Ivy had a short attention span and tended to forget neatness. Except when it came to her hair. She was content to sit at her dressing table and let Alicia brush and braid her hair, like a little princess, while she would ramble on about anything that caught her fancy. Lily usually brushed her own hair, but on special occasions Lily would let Alicia fix it up. The older Lily got, the more she resembled her mother. Ivy had some of her mother�s features, but not as much as Lily. Ian had the same brown hair Lily did, and he and Ivy both had aquamarine eyes. They were all different in appearance overall, but there was a common thread amongst them, even if neither Jonathan nor Alicia could figure it out.

Alicia walked downstairs to the kitchen and stood in the doorway, watching Little Miss Chatterbox talk to Jonathan about butterflies, kittens, climbing trees, and trying to keep from spilling breakfast on her new dress. When Ivy was done with her breakfast, she wiped her mouth off with her hand and kissed Jonathan on the cheek before starting to head out the door.

�Ivy�is that where your empty plate goes?� Alicia walked into the room and gestured at Ivy�s place at the table.

�Oops�sorry, Gamma.� Ivy walked back over to the table and picked up her plate and silverware and took them to the sink, using the stepstool put there for them.

�And wash your hands too.� Alicia reminded her.

�Yes, Gamma.� Ivy complied, drying her hands on the dish towel before hurrying out the door.

Alicia shook her head as she sat down next to Jonathan. �Why didn�t you tell her to put her dishes away?�

�She never gave me a chance to say anything. You know how she is.� Jonathan replied.

Alicia sighed. �Yes.� Then she smiled. �But I wouldn�t have it any other way. It was too�quiet�before they got here.�

Jonathan nodded. It was good to have life in the house again. And they were growing so fast, it seemed like just yesterday they were all in diapers. Once they got big enough to have their own beds, they put Ian in Zack�s old room, which was hard for them both to do. Lily and Ivy got the biggest of the spare bedrooms. When they had started talking, Ivy quickly became the most vocal. Lily and Ian talked only when they had something to say, but Ivy seemed to either be enamored by the sound of her own voice or unable to tolerate silence.

Occasionally there would be an envelope with some gil in it in their mailbox, but they never found who was behind it. It was always typewritten For the children on the envelope. It made Jonathan and Alicia both afraid that maybe one of the parents was still alive and would try and take them away one day.

Ivy ran up to the path leading to the house of the lady in the black. Lily and Ian were already there, waiting for her.

�You�re late.� Ian chided her.

�Gamma had to fix my hair so it�s prettier than yours.� Ivy retorted.

�Can we go now? We promised Gamma we�d be back by lunch.� Lily said.

�Okay, let�s go.� Ivy started to run up the path, leaving Ian and Lily to follow her.

When they reached the house, the lady in black opened the door and gestured for them to come in. There was a plate of cookies on the table, and three glasses of milk. The triplets attacked it all, remembering to thank her. After they were seated, the lady in black spoke in a raspy voice.

�You said when you were here last that you had two mommies. What did you mean by that? You live with your grandparents, don�t you?� she asked them.

�You won�t tell anyone, will you?� The triplets were suddenly nervous.

�I promise not to.� The lady in black agreed.

�When we held hands to play a game, one of our mommies started talking to us. Well, she said she wasn�t really our mommy, but it�s okay to call her that, she said a lot of people do. Our real mommy, we can�t hear her so well, so the other mommy talks to her for us, and tells us what she says. And they both said that if anyone found out, we�d get taken away from Gamma and Granpa, and that would hurt them. The other mommy is glad we�re with them and wants us to stay there.� Ian explained.

�I see. Well, I won�t let anyone take you away from them, so you don�t have to worry about that.� The lady in black reassured them. �Who is your real mommy?�

�We don�t know. Gamma and Granpa have a picture of her, but they say they don�t know who she is.� Lily answered.

�A picture? Could you bring it to me?� The lady in black asked.

�It�s framed in the living room. They�d notice it was gone.� Ivy stated.

�Oh, I�d take a picture of it myself and then you could bring it right back.�

�I�ll go do it.� Lily said, and got up. Ian went with her to play lookout, while Ivy stayed behind to finish off her milk.

�What kinds of things does your other mommy tell you? Does she ever tell you about your daddy?� The lady in black asked Ivy.

Ivy frowned. �She said she can�t talk to him, and our real mommy told her that�s because we don�t have a daddy.�

�Everyone has a daddy, Ivy.�

�That�s what she told us. And our other mommy said that if we did have a daddy, he�d take us away from Gamma and Granpa too.� Ivy pouted.

�I see. Well, I don�t want you taken away from them either, so I won�t tell anyone.� The lady in black looked out the window. �Here comes your brother and sister with the picture.� The lady in black grabbed her cellphone and met them on the porch. She took a picture of their mother with it, then gestured for them to take it back home with them.

As the triplets left, she went back inside to clean off the table. Once that was done, she looked at the picture of their mother. It was hard to say, but looking at the background, it was a tropical place. She almost had all the pieces of the puzzle, and she wasn�t surprised at the picture forming. Shin-Ra was still meddling. She had hoped she was interpreting Ivy�s remarks correctly, and that Reno was still alive. Of course, if he was, why wasn�t he taking care of them? Despite his obvious character flaws, she really couldn�t see him abandoning his own children. Something must have happened, and she needed to know what it was. Zack�s parents were so happy with the triplets, she didn�t want anything to spoil that for them. Tomorrow she�d start searching for any trace of their mother.


Rude sat down next to Reno at the bar, where Reno had saved him a seat. �Hey partner, you could have waited for me, you know.� Rude nodded towards Reno�s half-empty glass.

�Well, get a drink and chug it down so we�ll be even.� Reno replied.

�What�s good here?� Rude asked.

�I�m thinking that blonde in the corner�oh you mean to drink?� Reno lifted his glass up to get the bartender�s attention. �Bartender, I need a refill, and my partner here needs two glasses of the same to catch up with me.�

Rude managed a smile as he noticed Reno�s hand trembling slightly as he lifted the glass. The last four years hadn�t been easy. He was worried how Reno would react to the doctors� verdict that he could never pilot a helicopter again, due to the resulting nerve damage and vision problems leftover from that day in Mideel.

Rude had recognized the dead girl, but he was surprised by Reno�s reaction. He never thought Reno would be serious about any of his �conquests�, but he never forgot the expression of Reno�s face when Rude found him holding her body. Nor did he forget the rage that Reno exhibited afterwards, going after the squad leader like that, ranting about avenging his honor.

When Rude first saw Reno after he was released from the hospital two months later, he was shocked that Reno had cut off his ponytail. And he never let it grow back either. Rude had figured out over the ensuing years that Reno was trying to pretend a chunk of his life never happened, from the time he grew the ponytail until Mideel. He still acted like the old playboy Reno, unless someone mentioned scotch, orchids, or honor to him, then he would fly into a rage and end up drinking himself into unconsciousness. Rude knew him well enough to recognize that horribly aged/haggard look when he woke up after one of those episodes was not totally hangover-related. He wondered, not for the first time, how long Reno could keep up the fa�ade of everything being �business as usual�.

Alicia was setting the table for lunch when she heard the triplets come back inside. She heard them doing something in the living room, then they came into the kitchen.

�Wash your hands before you sit down.� Alicia told them.

They all complied and took their seats at the table, waiting for Alicia to serve up the food. Once she had, she sat down at her place, and looked at them. �What were you doing in the living room?�

Lily and Ian were uncomfortably silent, but Ivy piped up with the answer. �We were looking at Mommy�s picture.�

�That�s all?� Alicia prodded.

�Yes, Gamma.� Ivy replied.

�Alright then. Did you have fun playing at the lady in black�s house?�

�Yes, Gamma. She had really good cookies!� Ian stated.

�Don�t talk with your mouth full, Ian.� Alicia reminded him. �At least I can tell you didn�t ruin your appetites.�

�Where�s Granpa?� Lily asked.

�He went to check the mail.� Alicia replied.


Jonathan was at the mailbox when the mailman arrived with a couple bills and some catalogs for school supplies.

�Guess you�re gonna have some peace and quiet again real soon.� The mailman remarked.

�What do you mean?� Jonathan inquired.

�That lady behind you, the request just came in, she wants all her mail held for a month starting tomorrow.� The mailman pointed to the lady in black�s house.

�Oh. Well, we won�t have any peace and quiet from that, we�ve got three kids. Have a good day.� Jonathan said as he walked back up to the house, putting the mail on his desk before going into the kitchen where everyone was just finishing up their lunch.

�Is there any left for me?� Jonathan asked.

Alicia waved at a plate on the counter. �Anything interesting in the mail?�

�Just people wanting money from us. Oh and the mailman said our neighbor is going away for a month starting tomorrow.� Jonathan answered, pointing in the direction of the lady in black�s house.

The children paused and looked at him. �She�s going away?� They asked simultaneously.

�Well, it looks like you�ll only have to have my cookies for a while.� Alicia said.

�Oh, we like your cookies best, Gamma, it�s just that she said�� Lily stopped mid-sentence and looked down at her plate.

�What did she say?� Jonathan asked.

�She said that she won�t let anyone take us from you.� Ivy answered.

�I asked your sister, not you, Ivy. Is that what she said, Lily?� Jonathan asked again.

�Yes, Granpa.� Lily responded.

�Okay, you may all go play after you put your dishes in the sink and wash your hands.� Alicia said tightly.

After they had run out the door, she turned to Jonathan. �Why would that woman say she wouldn�t let anyone take the children from us? What does she know? Are we going to lose them?� Alicia�s voice trembled slightly with panic.

�I don�t know. But if she does know something, we�ll find out in a month. We are their legal guardians now, no one contested the adoption.� Jonathan reminded her, patting her hand in reassurance, ignoring the chill he felt himself at the thought of losing them. �In the meantime, we have to pick out their supplies for when they start school in the fall. Two catalogs came in the mail today.�

03-24-2017, 09:00 PM
Chapter 2 Buried Secrets

Elena listened with growing unease to Rufus� order. When he paused and looked at her, she found her voice.

�Is�is that wise, sir?� Elena asked.

�Are you refusing to follow an order, Elena?� Rufus responded.

�Oh, no sir!� Elena exclaimed. �I just think��

�Then you can leave at once.� Rufus waved his hand, dismissing her.

Elena stood there for a moment, then pivoted on her heel and left his office, looking for Reno. She found him staring out the window in the employee lounge. �Come on, Reno, we�ve got a new assignment.�

�We?� Reno asked in surprise.

�Yeah, just you and me this time. Orders came down from the very top. Let�s go.�


Rufus turned to Tseng. �Do you think this will get through to him?�

�The WRO says that Reno keeps refusing their offers of using their technology to repair him. I think it�s because he wants to punish himself for not saving her. And his avoidance of the past needs to be dealt with. He�ll need to face it head on, and he�ll either properly bury it and move on, or bury himself with it. Either way, we�ll know where he stands.� Tseng answered.


She packed her suitcase again. Costa del Sol had been a dead end, as had all the other spots she had visited, looking for the identity of the triplets� mother. The only place left for her to try was Mideel. The plane was leaving in two hours, and she had to hurry up and get there in time.


Reno looked briefly at the pilot�s seat before getting in the passenger section of the helicopter with Elena.

�Where are we going this time?� Reno asked.

�You�ll find out when we get there.� Elena appeared uncomfortable as she answered, but Reno assumed she was just embarrassed remembering that the last time they were in a helicopter together, she had kissed him.

Reno looked out the window then, clamping down on any thoughts that might remind him of her. It had become automatic during the last four years. He knew the pilot was competent, but it was still hard for him not to be the one in the pilot�s seat. He looked down at his arm. It was fine right now, but the nerves could act up at any time, usually at the worst moment possible. He was surprised Rufus and Tseng hadn�t fired him yet.

Eventually he recognized the landscape and wasn�t happy about it. �Why are we going back here?� Reno demanded of Elena.

�There�s something you need to see, we just found out about it.� Elena replied, not looking at him.


The helicopter landed while she was waiting for a taxi after getting her luggage, and she was surprised. The Turks were here too? Could they be after her? She hurriedly went back inside the airport and put her luggage in a locker. Then she went back outside and watched them get into a waiting vehicle. It was the blonde and Reno. She was stunned by the change in him. If not for the hair, she wouldn�t have recognized him. Even that wasn�t so easy, since his ponytail was gone. That might explain why he gave the triplets up, something had happened to him. She followed them, keeping a safe distance.


The car stopped in front of a wooded path. Elena prodded Reno. �We get out here, we have to walk the rest of the way on foot.�

Reno sat in the car for a few moments then got out and reluctantly followed Elena. The path winded around until they came to a hill overlooking the ocean. There was a small marker at the end of the path, and Elena stopped there. As Reno approached, he noticed that the marker looked like a tombstone.

�Why are we here? Is this a grave?� Reno asked.

Elena cleared her throat, looking down at the ground. �Yes. The WRO, doing cleanup in Mideel, got information on all the victims to have an accurate record of what happened. The reason Kunnia was in the hospital is that after she moved here, she found out she was pregnant. It was going well until she went into premature labor and lost the babies. This is their grave. Kunnia had a mental breakdown and had to be institutionalized. So it wasn�t your fault, Reno, she was half-dead already. I�ll be in the car.� Elena hurried away.


She listened with a mixture of sadness and anger. Reno was the father, but he never knew about them. And now she knew the name of the triplets� mother. But Reno�he was being lied to in such a cruel fashion. At least that blonde didn�t seem to like doing it. If Reno really cared about the mother, didn�t he deserve to know the babies survived? But she couldn�t let them be taken from Zack�s parents�and why was it so important for the triplets to remain hidden? There were still unanswered questions, and she couldn�t make a decision until she knew more about their mother. At least getting answers should be easier, now that she had a name to go on.

03-26-2017, 06:55 AM
Chapter 3 Consolation Prize
<p>The sunlight shining in her eyes woke Elena up. She went to turn over and get away from the sun for a few more minutes, and froze when she touched an arm. Last night�s events flooded back to her and she shot out of bed. Reno! She had sex with Reno! She noticed he was still asleep, so she quietly gathered her clothes and went back to her hotel room. After putting her clothes stretched out over the back of a chair to try and get the wrinkles out, she hopped in the shower.</p>
<p>Elena cleaned herself as good as she could with the hotel soap and shampoo, and then crawled into her own bed. She hated going to bed with wet hair, but sometimes it couldn�t be helped, just like last night couldn�t have been helped. She didn�t mean for it to happen, after she got him back to his hotel room, she was going to leave him there. But he was in such a state that her trying to offer comfort as a friend got out of hand. She did feel better for having done some penance, since she was partly responsible for his downward spiral. Elena fell back asleep on that thought.</p>

<p>Reno woke up to housekeeping knocking on the door. He remembered to get half-dressed before he answered the door and told them to come back later. Then he opened the adjoining door to Elena�s room and upon seeing she was still asleep, he closed the door.</p>
<p>He wondered if he should even bring up last night to her when she woke up. That reminded him of her revelations yesterday afternoon. Kunnia had been pregnant! Would she have told him if he hadn�t screwed things up? Would she have ever forgiven him? Of course he had never given her any way to contact him, so she never could have gotten in touch with him even if she wanted to. That was just one of the many mistakes he had committed towards her. Despite what Elena said, it was still his fault. If she hadn�t been pregnant, she wouldn�t have been institutionalized when she miscarried. Then she wouldn�t have been a sitting duck for Deepground and they could have rescued her with the other Mideel villagers. He knew he had blood on his hands, but he never thought hers would be included, as well as their babies. Maybe he should let the WRO give him prosthetics after all. At least he�d have clean hands.</p>
<p>Elena got up and fixed her tangled hair before getting dressed and knocking on the adjoining door. There was no answer, so she opened the door cautiously, and found Reno�s room empty. She headed downstairs and spotted Reno eating breakfast in the hotel lounge/diner. She took a deep breath, composed herself, and grabbed a croissant and a bagel before sitting down at his table. She wasn�t going to mention last night unless he did. </p>
<p>Reno looked up from his Denver omelet and bacon as Elena sat down. He noticed she was concentrating intently on buttering her croissant and spreading cream cheese on her bagel. He was trying to think of something to say to her that didn�t sound stupid.</p>
<p>�Elena�� he started to say.</p>
<p>�Are you ready to leave after breakfast?� Elena interrupted him.</p>
<p>�Uh, yeah.� Reno replied. �About last night��</p>
<p>�Sometimes people just do things only because it seemed right at the time. It won�t happen again.� Elena said between bites of her croissant and bagel, still not looking at him. She knew why he did it, he needed consolation. She fervently hoped he never found out why she did it. At least not all his skills were job-related. Elena wondered if he remembered that he had called her Kunnia throughout the night. </p>
<p>Reno looked at her strangely before continuing his breakfast. Once they were done, they paid with the company card before heading to the airport. Reno offered Elena a hand into the helicopter, but she refused it, using the handholds instead. This not being the typical mission, they were using the executive helicopter, which had the passenger compartment designed like a hotel suite, the seating section giving the only hint of its mobile nature.</p>
<p>The flight was smooth at first, but they had to pass through a storm, and things got a little bumpy. Elena hadn�t bothered to strap herself in, and one moment she was in her seat, the next she was in Reno�s lap. He almost didn�t stop himself in time about making a comment about her constantly throwing herself at him. The more she tried to extricate herself, the more she got tangled up with him, despite his attempts to help. </p>
<p>�Elena, stop for a minute. Lemme undo the harness, that should help.� Reno did just that, only they hit more turbulence as soon as he did, and they both ended up on the carpeted floor.</p>
<p>Elena looked up at him, and when she started to move to get him off her, something went through both of them. The next thing she knew, his mouth was on hers, his hands inside her suit, and she was responding just as fervently. </p>
<p>The pilot�s announcement that the storm was over and they would be landing in a few minutes went ignored by the passengers, until Reno felt the helicopter land.</p>
<p>�Elena, it�s time to go.� he told her.</p>
<p>�Huh?� she replied sleepily.</p>
<p>�We�ve landed. Unless you want them to find us like this, we better get outta here.�</p>
<p>�Oh!� Elena let go of him and hurriedly made herself presentable, while Reno did the same.</p>
<p>Reno got off first, then offered a hand to Elena to help her down. She paused for a moment before accepting his help.</p>
<p> ***</p>
<p>Tseng and Rufus were watching them land on the security monitors, both noticing their clothes being slightly disheveled, which was typical of Reno, but not of Elena. They also noticed her blush when she took his hand, and the way Reno watched after her when she walked ahead of him towards the building.</p>
<p>�Well it looks like the trip did Reno some good as we had planned.� Rufus said.</p>
<p>�Yes, sir.� Tseng said through clenched teeth. His Elena with Reno? How could they?</p>
<p> ***</p>
<p>Elena took a deep breath before knocking on Rufus� door.</p>
<p>�Enter.� came the command.</p>
<p>She opened the door and walked in, standing before his desk.</p>
<p>�Did Reno accept what you told him?� Rufus asked.</p>
<p>�I believe he did. His behavior indicated severe grief and stress when I told him.� Elena responded.</p>
<p>�Do you have anything else to report about his behavior?� Tseng interrupted.</p>
<p>�Sir?� Elena asked.</p>
<p>Rufus looked sharply at Tseng before turning back to Elena. �I believe what he means is do you think the trip helped him move on?�</p>
<p>�I don�t know if he will ever totally recover from it, but I think he is willing to not let it control his life so much.� she answered.</p>
<p>�You didn�t give him any false hope, did you, Elena?� Tseng interrupted again.</p>
<p>Elena stiffened at the undertones to his question. �I did what was necessary to atone for past misdeeds. That�s what we�re supposed to be about now, isn�t it?� She stared hard at Tseng before turning and leaving.</p>
<p>Rufus swiveled his chair to face Tseng. �Do I need to remind you what sitting in this chair means?�</p>
<p>�My apologies, sir.� Tseng bowed his head, acknowledging the rebuke.</p>



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