I am a hater. This fic earned me my only flames. I was so proud of myself. It still sucks, though.


She had been in the city for an hour before she found the place, set in the center of everything and raised above it, a veritable altar to the gods -- if there were any. Rays of light filtering down through the seashell ceiling to give it an aura of sorts, a gesture of heavenliness she had little care or understanding for. Before her half-unwilling steps had drawn her toward the place -- a hop, skip, jump, leap to the top and the center of the light -- she had wandered through the glow-lit city, touching, seeing, wondering ... These things that she was supposed to know -- to understand; this place that should be familiar to her -- a home.

It meant nothing to her. Her meandering thoughts reflected on that, and she paced in the center of the "altar" for a moment, trying to recall why she had come. She knelt, the fabric of her dress constricting miserably around her legs, uncomfortably tight and completely restricting her movement. She decided in that moment to ignore the discomfort -- and the possibility that she'd lose all circulation and fall over -- and folding her hands before her, closing her eyes, she pretended to pray.

- Well, so you're finally here. -

Her eyes snapped open, hands falling limp and trembling to her lap. Her frightened, darting glanced flickered wildly about the room, searching for the source of the voice. She saw nothing.

"Who's there?" she faltered, drawing her hands up to her face again, close enough to feel her hot, worried breath against them.

- Nobody's there, dear. -

She jumped to her feet, heart hammering. Her braid tossed froms ide to side with the frantic jerking of her head as she looked out over the empty city, the source of the voice still invisible to her.

"Who are you?" she breathed, bringing one fist up to press against her heart.

- You know who I am, you silly chit. - Then, before that could sink in, - Sit down again. You were doing nicely before. -

Almost unaware that she was doing so, she sank back to her knees, hearing a slight, sharp sound at the impact of her knees against the marble-ish floor. Her hands folded and drew to her face almost of their own volition, and she closed her eyes once more.

- That's better. -

"What?" This time she remained still, waiting for an answer.

- Idiot, don't talk out loud. -

"Why not?"

- In your head! Talk in your head! If you can even grasp how it's done ... -

- Like this ...? -

- Yes. So you can think. Clumsily, but it's better than nothing. -

- Who are you? -

- You have a terribly one-track mind, you know that? -

- Please answer me. -

A silence echoed in her mind for a long moment. She was on the verge of opening her eyes again when the voice answered her. - Later. -

- But -- -

- Later! - the voice grew harsh. - Before that ... I want to ask you something. -

- What? -

- Why are you here? -

- I don't know. - Her reply was prompt, almost mechanical.

- Who told you to come here? -

- I -- I don't know! - She seemed frustrated, and her folded hands clenched with suppressed energry. For the flash of an instant, she saw a boy's face: the blond boy with the strange eyes. Perhaps he had told her to come.

- No, it wasn't him, - the voice informed her blandly. - But it doesn't matter who right now. - The voice sounded oddly pleased.

- Do you know? -

- Of course I do. -

- Then why won't you tell me? - the girl demanded unhappily.

- You don't need to know. -

- Why!? -

- My, my, my, all full of questions today. -

- Won't you tell me why I'm here? -

- Later. - The voice fell silent and didn't speak again, leaving her alone to consider her life. Odd, though, how little of it she could remember, especially before her association with this motley group of people she'd fallen in with -- all on a mission she couldn't remember.

Even her memories of this short association were blurry. Only a few stuck in her mind, mostly involving the blond boy and his dark-haired companion. Oddly, she felt something hard and angry in her chest when she thought of her, that other, with him, alone. Her folded hands clenched slightly, and her face formed a small grimace.

- You were really angry when he took her out instead of you. -

- Yes. - The strange, mechanical quality had returned to her manner.

- Do you know why? -

- No. Should I? -

- I wouldn't worry about it. - The voice sounded oddly pleased.

The girl fell silent again, unable to think of a response that would properly frame her anger. They remained that way for some time, until the girl shifted uncomfortably, listening to the water flowing silently around her. A small frown worked at her mouth, and she began to wish she hadn't had so much to drink before coming here, but she still knelt silently, unwilling to speak to the voice again. Besides this discomfort, there was nothing between her knees and the cold, stone floor but the thin fabric of her pink dress, and they were beginning to ache.

- How long will I have to be here? - This time is was she who broke the silence in her mind, amusing the voice to no end. It seemed to pause a moment before answering, as if savoring the unkindest way of answering her.

- Oh, not long, I should think, - was the final, bland response.

- What does that mean? -

- That you won't have to be here much longer. -

- Answer me! -

- Don't worry about it, - the other responded shortly. - He's coming for you, even as you babble witlessly. -

- He --? - The girl stopped, sounding confused. - He is coming for me? -

- Of course he is. He's been at it for days now. -

The blond boy's face rose into her mind, and with it a vague and formless hope that she did, in fact, have a chance against that other girl -- that perhaps her charms had won out over his lust.

- Oh -- you mean him? - The voice broke into her thoughts, amusement rising again. - He won't come for you, silly. He's too busy -- -

- Shut up! - she said harshly, and silence fell.

It was not, however, to last.


She almost didn't hear him call her name -- it barely registered in her conscious mind. She tilted her head up slightly, staring at him through her bangs. - He did come. - Her voice was at once tremulous and triumphant. - He did come for me -- to save me. - The voice didn't answer her, and before her incredulous gaze, the blond boy swung his sword in a vicious arc directly at her throat. Choking on a slight shriek, she began to move out of his way, clasped hands clenching feverishly.

- Don't move. -

- Wh-what!? -

- It's meant to be. -

- What do you mean!? -

The voice refused to answer her, and with a terrible, clenching fear, she cringed beneath the coming blow. It never came. She looked up again, through her bangs, and he was standing before her, struggling as if with an unseen enemy. The sword rose again, and she cringed back down.

- What's happening!? Why -- ?! -

- Silly girl. It's the whole reason you came here in the first place. -

- WHAT!? - She watched his struggles with a growing horror, as he seemed to be losing the battle to save her life.

- If I'd told you earlier, you would have run away, you stupid girl. - The voice grew patient. - You're here to die. -

- Wh -- N-NO! -

- I didn't expect him to come first, - the voice continued in an almost musing tone. - It's just as well. Either way does the job. -

- No ... no ... nonono -- -

- Do stop that blathering. -

The boy still struggled before her, the sword drawing closer and closer to her exposed throat.

- M-mother -- help me! - She threw out the thought in desperation, remembering suddenly her dead mother, returned to the Planet -- hadn't she? The voice fell silent, then uttered a ghastly chuckle.

- Stupid girl. -

- What -- -

- I'm the one who brought you here! -

The girl's face grew blank, uncomprehending. - You ... -

- Yes, more's the pity. -

She fell silent, hands trembling before her. - You won't succeed ... you can't ... he cares for me ... he has to care ... he -- -

- Abandoned you for a slut in a mini-skirt. -

- NO! -

The boy had ceased his struggles and was standing before her, half-slumped with exhaustion. The sword with which he had nearly slashed out her life hung loosely in one hand, and the other reached out toward her.

"Aerith --"

- He stopped! - the girl exulted. - I told you he wouldn't kill me! -

The voice offered no reply, and the girl lifted her head, eyes aglow with adoration. A smile touched her lips, and they parted slightly as if she was about to speak. But he drew back away from her, eyes turning upward with a look of horror.

- But he will, - the voice informed her with a certain amount of satisfaction.

- Wh-what -- ? - Terrified, she almost looked back, but she remained still, as if the voice's remonstration to remain rigid had frozen her to the spot. - But -- he'll save me -- he will -- - She broke off abruptly, feeling a rush of air above her, and her eyes closed once, then opened again in shock as she felt the brief touch of pain and cold that came with the sword that slid neatly into her back.

- I don't think so. -

- I don't want to die! - she half-shrieked in her mind, unable to comprehend it. Her vision swam, and she looked down blankly, staring at the foot or so of blade that protruded from her abdomen.

- He ... didn't ... save me ... - Her face blanched, and she toppled forward without a sound, the quavering smile of misunderstanding frozen forever on her pale and lifeless face.