BY : Rina76
Category: Final Fantasy Anime > Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Dragon prints: 1486
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII Advent Children or any of the characters from the film. I am not making money from the writing of this story.

Chapter 19. The Lake

As my pregnancy progresses, a bunch of stretch marks appear on me literally overnight. I just wake up and there they are. They're on the sides, bottom and top of my largely-rounded stomach. Some are very thick and deep, from where the tissue has stretched irreparably beneath the surface of my skin. One mark runs down into my pubes. I even have a few small ones radiating up from the top of my belly button piercing and have to take the ring out before it tears free. Loz is surprised by all these sudden marks and asks me if they hurt. They might look painful being dark purple in colour, but they aren't, just a bit itchy. Moisturising cream helps the itch, but it won't make them go away. I know they will fade in time but I'll be wearing these marks for the rest of my life. Oh, well. I better get used to the fact that my body's going to be ruined. After giving birth, my lady-bits are never gonna be the same and I'll be left with a wobbly jelly-belly and tits like two golf balls in a pair of socks. Loz says I'll still be beautiful to him but it's hard to believe that when I'm the size of a planet, covered in jagged purple stripes.

I'll be damned if I'm gonna buy ugly, tent-like maternity clothes so I just keep wearing my pants with the buttons undone and Loz's giant t-shirts. While shopping for baby clothes one day, I find a useful thing called a Belly Band which is a wide stretchy tube of material that goes around your stomach. It's great because I can still wear all my old jeans while the band around my middle holds them up and hides the gaping gap at the front.

The bigger I get, the more Kadaj stares at me. It kind of creeps me out. I don't know what he's thinking, whether finds my growing girth fascinating, or Gods forbid, attractive. Either that or he's just waiting for my belly to explode and an alien to burst out like in those horror movies. I'm pretty sure my baby isn't going to come out that way, but Kadaj is probably hoping for it.

One morning, Loz is in the garage working on the bikes, Yazoo is cleaning and polishing his gun and I'm in the kitchen making something for lunch. Unfortunately, Kadaj is also in the kitchen, except he's only there to watch what I'm doing and make unwanted commentary about how gross tofu is and ask why I don't eat meat like normal people.

"You're probably depriving the baby of iron and protein, eating that fake rubbery white stuff all the time," he says, sitting on the kitchen counter. "Why don't you have a nice, juicy steak?"

"As a matter of fact, tofu has plenty of iron and protein in it," I return knowledgeably. "As do certain vegetables and legumes."

His pupils narrow in perplexity. "What's a legume?"

"Beans and peanuts, for example." From where I'm standing in front of the stainless steel stove, I throw him an irritated glance, wishing he'd go bother someone else. "Until you inform yourself about human nutrition, you have no right to remark on my cooking, you animal-eating, alien freak."

My insults don't affect him. Instead he seems more affected by the food I'm frying up, wrinkling his nose at it. "But your cooking smells like rotting plants!"

"Well, you don't have to be in here, smelling it. Who invited you to lunch, anyway?"

"Excuse me - it's MY lair and you're stinking up the place with your tasteless vegetarian food. I have every right to remark about it."

"Whatever, Kadaj," I reply dismissively, stirring the sizzling tofu so it doesn't stick to the wok. "You're such a massive dick."

"How would you know?" I can hear the smirk in his voice. "Have you seen it lately?"

I do not turn around. "No, and I don't want to."

"Sure about that? After getting up close and personal with Loz's, you must be curious about mine and if it matches up. Which it does, by the way," he adds boastingly.

"Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that, LITTLE brother," I retort, reminding him that he's the shortest and the youngest out of him, Yazoo and Loz.

After wiping my hands on a tea towel and slinging it over my shoulder, I start to walk across to the pantry, intending to fetch some sesame sauce but he suddenly calls out, "Cate, stop! Don't move!"

Normally, I'd tell him to go jam his own sword up his ass but there's something in Kadaj's voice that makes me freeze on the spot. He sounds genuinely alarmed – panicked, even - and I glance down at my feet, just in case I'm about to step on Loz's lizard or something. But there's nothing there.

"Kadaj, what the hell…"

I begin to complain but he slides silently off the counter and repeats again in a slow, serious tone, "Don't. Fucking. Move."

I stand there in mounting confusion as he quietly comes up behind me. I'm half wondering if this is some kind of trap where he'll suddenly sling an arm around my neck and choke me to death but the warning in his words instinctively makes me stay where I am, stiffly staring straight ahead, waiting for Gods knows what. Instead of getting strangled, I feel him brushing the back of my shirt and then there's a crunching sound.

"Okay, you can look now."

I turn in bewilderment to see a huge hairy spider the size of my hand impaled on the wall with a roasting fork, its eight legs still flailing, yellow goo oozing from its punctured midsection, which is incidentally as big as a mouse and just as furry. It's absolutely hideous.

"Holy fuck," I whisper, shuddering and backing away. "What is THAT?"

"Cave spider," Kadaj replies nonchalantly. "We got rid of all of them when we first moved in but sometimes they come in from outside."

"Oh, Gods," I mumble in utter revulsion, wanting to throw up. "Please don't tell me that thing was crawling on my back."

Kadaj nods, confirming it, reaching out and giving the fork another twist, resulting in another stomach-churning crunch, more pus-like sludge dripping out of the still-twitching arachnid. I shudder again, almost dry-retching from the grossness of it all.

"It came out of the tea towel. They're lethal," Kadaj explains, watching in satisfaction as the spider's legs curl in towards itself, a sure sign that the thing is finally dead. "If you get bitten you can go into toxic shock and die. Or at least humans can."

"Oh, Gods," I mutter again, swallowing hard. I don't feel like lunch anymore.

"You wanna sit down or something? You've gone really pale," he comments.

I nod shakily. "Yeah. Yeah, sitting down would be good."

Moving fast, Kadaj shoves a kitchen chair behind me and I dizzily collapse into it, clutching my stomach. I stop looking at the dead spider and gaze down between my knees, taking a few deep breaths and trying not to puke.

When the full gravity of what just happened hit me, I look up at Kadaj in amazement. "Dude. You just saved my life."

"No, I didn't." He instantly dismisses that idea. "I just don't like pests in the lair."

"You killed a venomous spider. You brushed it off my back and stuck a fork in it, therefore preventing me from being bitten. That's called saving my life." I slowly smile at him, injecting some tease into my tone. "Why, Kadaj. I didn't know you cared so MUCH about me."

The normally snappy young leader can't think of anything to say for a few moments and then he retaliates with, "I didn't do it for you. I was protecting the baby. That's all." He doesn't sound terribly convincing, though.

"Well, whoever you did it for, thank you," I say gratefully.

He scowls at me. "I have things to do," he says in a tone of great importance. Then he leaves me alone in the kitchen with a dead spider on the wall.

Still nauseated, I end up feeding most of my lunch to Freddie.

That evening after dinner, my back is aching and I decide to go for a late night swim in the lake. Loz is still working on those damn bikes; he's such a perfectionist when it comes to mechanical tasks and he won't finish until he knows everything is running smoothly. I take a phone with me in case I need to call him but I don't believe I'll have to. Even at night, I feel completely safe walking through these woods and have grown used to the frozen trees, finding them peaceful and beautiful. Most of all it's the silent solitude I love. Loz and his brothers have claimed this forest as their own and since they are greatly feared, their reputation keeps everyone else away from it. If anyone was stupid enough to brave its labyrinth-like depths, the motion sensor cameras installed in the surrounding tree-branches would detect them and an alarm would go off in the lair. The three assassins I live with would be here in seconds, ready to slice, shoot and crush the intruder to a very messy and sudden death. It's reassuring, almost like having a trio of bodyguards at my disposal.

When I follow the path and arrive at the lake clad in my bikini and a lightweight bathrobe, I see in the light of the trees that somebody is already down here. Make that two somebodies. Kadaj is here with Yazoo and they're in the water together. Naked. I know they're naked because there's a pile of clothing on the shore. Not only that but they are embracing, Yazoo's arms around Kadaj's neck and Kadaj's hands around Yazoo's slender waist. They're chest deep in the lake, the bottom half of Yazoo's long hair underwater, the two brothers hugging in a way I've never seen brothers hug before. Yazoo's eyes are closed in sensuous rapture as Kadaj's hands stroke tenderly up and down his sleek, white back, Kadaj breathing in the scent of his sibling's silken hair and pressing reverent kisses to the side of Yazoo's throat. Lifting his head, Kadaj moves his lips to cover Yazoo's waiting ones, their mouths melding together passionately yet lovingly and sweetly.

I've heard these two in bed before, in the lair, but tonight is the first time I've actually seen it, actually seen them touching and kissing. And it's clearly not just about sex. It's much more than that. Their cells are calling to each other, to reunite, to join back together. When I initially heard about their unique connection I didn't know how I would react if I saw them like this, if I'd be embarrassed or find it weird and disturbing but it's really not. Looking at Yazoo and Kadaj sharing their emotions and expressing the depth of their need for each other is unbelievably beautiful. I'm not sure if they have already made love or are just about to but what I'm seeing is something sacred and special and I should leave before I disrupt them.

Clutching my towel, I turn away.

"You don't have to go, Cate."

At the sound of Kadaj's voice echoing over the surface of the water, I spin back around to find them both looking at me.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt," I say guiltily. "I didn't know anyone was down here."

"Your back is aching," Yazoo comments in concern.

I frown at him. "How did you know?"

"Why else would you want to go swimming at this time of night? Come in. The water will help."

Uncertainly, I answer, "I really don't want to intrude…"

"You're not," Kadaj smoothly assures me. "This lake is big enough for all of us. And you're practically family now."

I hesitate.

"Come on, little mother," he silkily cajoles me. "Join us."

"Swim with us," Yazoo entices in the same seducing tone of voice.

The combined scent of their Allure drifts across the water and swirls around me in an invisible mist. Sin and night-lilies, sweet, dark and seductive. Their power is irresistible, the silver-haired brothers like two water nymphs, calling to me, luring me. And I can't say no. They gaze at me as I slip my robe off, revealing my purple bikini and the ripened curves of my body. My new stretch marks are clearly visible but neither of the guys mention them so I assume they understand what the marks are and how they are a natural part of pregnancy. As if in a dream, I begin wading into the lake, the warmth of the water enveloping my feet and calves. Kadaj and Yazoo are looking at me fixatedly, almost worshipping me with their eyes as if I'm a divine deity, a goddess or something.

Suddenly, I know why they're staring at me like this. To them I am the very symbol of what they have been searching for and have needed and missed their whole lives, my swollen belly and breasts evidence of my fertility and femaleness. Mother. With my pregnant, motherly figure I must remind them of her, the woman who in essence gave them life even if she didn't give birth to them physically. Yazoo has always been nice to me but to see Kadaj gazing at me with newfound respect in his face…it makes a welcome change.

They separate as I wade in deeper, the warm water lapping at my belly. Yazoo holds out his hand, beckoning to me. Eyeing Kadaj warily, I take it, Yazoo's fingers curling around mine. He draws me closer and turns me around, pulling me against his bare chest. His skin may be pale and cool-looking but I can feel the heat of his flesh against my upper back and shoulders.

"Lean on me," he murmurs in my ear. "I'll hold you up."

I let my feet drift off the bottom of the lakebed and begin to float, all the weight compressing my spine disappearing. My stomach is sticking out of the water like a bobbing beach ball. Yazoo is supporting me, one hand on my lower back, the tall Remnant slowly rubbing the cramped muscles there and making them soften and relax.

"Oh, Yazoo. That feels so good," I moan, almost embarrassed at how sexual that sounded.

He chuckles. "Don't let Loz hear you say that. He's got a jealous streak a mile wide."

"Yeah, I know," I reply, recalling how Loz nearly throttled to death that cowboy in the club who grabbed my ass when I walked past. "He's just being protective."

"We're ALL protective when it comes to family," Kadaj states. He glides through the water towards me with one hand outstretched and I flinch, not sure what he's up to or what he's gonna do. I mean, I know he saved me from that spider earlier but it's like he has two different, unpredictable personalities and I can't be sure from one moment to the next if he intends to be nice or not.

"It's okay. He won't hurt you," Yazoo coaxes, his lips grazing the rim of my ear. "He just wants to feel the baby. Let him, please."

I trust Yazoo and stay floating there as Kadaj reaches out and puts his hand on my bulging belly. "Hello," he greets my bump in a friendly tone. "Do you know who I am?"

The baby responds immediately, shifting to push into his palm. Kadaj laughs delightedly and moves his palm a few inches to the right. The baby follows his touch, nudging his hand like a cat wanting to be petted. The baby normally only does that for Loz.

"Are you seeing this?" I exclaim to Yazoo, hardly able to believe it.

"I see it. Your baby seems to like Kadaj."

The silver-haired leader puts his head on my tummy, listening raptly, like the unborn infant within is speaking to him. It's the first time Kadaj has really connected with the little person growing inside me, really acknowledged it as a living being with a soul instead of a clump of divided cells submerged in a sac of amniotic fluid. Kadaj glances up at me with those aqua-green eyes and smiles, as if thanking me for sharing this precious moment with him. Focusing back on his nephew or niece, Kadaj lowers his lashes and as he does a single teardrop spills free, joining with the beads of water already on my stomach. The unexpected sight of him crying gets to me profoundly; hitting me right in the centre of the chest and making it constrict with emotion. I gaze at Kadaj in astonishment, seeing the youngest clone in a way I've never seen him before.

With his hand resting upon me and his cheek pressed closely to my rounded stomach it's as though Kadaj is finally beginning to accept me as one of his own, as another member of this peculiar but fiercely devoted flock and I didn't realise until now how much I needed his acceptance, how much I need to fit in here with not just Loz and Yazoo but all of them. Kadaj is the head of this clan, the one who leads it and makes the rules and I want him to embrace my presence here as completely as the other two have done. Since I lost my own dad as a little girl I've always keenly felt that absence, the lack of a strong, shielding figure of masculinity in my life. Loz gives me that but I want it from Kadaj as well, especially since he has the most power out of all of them. I know that if Kadaj chose to look out for me, like he does his brothers, I'd never need to fear a thing so long as I lived. I want him to take care of me and keep me under his powerful protection yet at the same time I strangely feel like he's the one who needs taking care of.

Because he's so confident and commanding I sometimes forget he's not even twenty years old yet. Here's this kid - and that's all he is really, just a kid still in his teens – adopting the daunting role of guardian and protector for his older brothers, choosing to shoulder the heavy burden of their wellbeing and safety. While other teenagers have nothing more to be concerned about than when their next pizza is being delivered, Kadaj is hard at work supporting his siblings, giving them a secure home, food, clothes and belongings; working to ensure that all their basic needs are met, just like a parent. So he might be a professional assassin but it's his job and he evidently does it well. On top of all that he's relentlessly searching for their mother while simultaneously trying not to let their enemies capture or kill them. The task this eighteen year old boy has assigned himself is a hard, demanding one and I admire him for it.

Somehow, despite the trauma of their tortured past, Kadaj has managed to ensure he and his brothers have all stuck together after their escape and stayed a closely bonded unit. Things could have easily gone the other way and they could have ended up split apart, living in the sewers or dead. Considering what they have all been through in the labs, it's astounding that they function as well and as reasonably normally as they do. If you ignore the alien aspect and the beating-each-other-bloody-in-the-training-room aspect, they get along better than a lot of families and brothers I've come across. They might act like they hate each other sometimes but the bond they all share is visibly deep and I suspect a lot of it has to do with Kadaj and what he's done for Loz and Yazoo, how he's kept them all under the same roof and taken care of them, been the father they never had.

In order to survive he's had to mature fast and turn himself into a cold, hard killer, which is the face he presents to the outside world but here, in his own private space away from everyone else, Kadaj can take that mask off and show his true nature. And I'm honoured that he's finally trusting me enough to do that. He's never let me see this vulnerable aspect of him before, resting here so relaxed and contented, letting his barriers down and proving that under all that white ice and steel, he does have a heart and does actually care, sincerely and intensely.

After all the horrors of his past, after all the pain that was inflicted upon him as a boy by unsympathetic scientists in lab coats, after all the normal childhood experiences he missed out on, I believe Kadaj needs to belong to a loving family as much as I do. Possibly even more so. I may have grown up in five different foster homes and never really bonded with any of people in there except for Jaren, but at least I never had anybody break my bones just so they could watch them heal.

Drawn to Kadaj like never before, I extend my hand, wanting to offer this motherless young man my compassion. I sweep my fingers over his cheek, carefully and lightly, not wanting to startle him or do anything I'm not allowed to. But he lets me touch him; his skin velvety and smooth like the teenager he is. A layered piece of hair is falling across the middle of his face and I move it aside so I can see him properly, so I can gaze upon the flawless structure of his features. Jenova must be one stunning lady if Kadaj takes after her, which I'm positive he does. With his eyes closed and a small smile upon his exquisite lips he looks so perfect; so full of calm, quiet joy.

He's absolutely beautiful.

I must have whispered it out loud because Yazoo answers quietly, "Isn't he? That was my very thought the first time he was brought into our cell. I still think that every single day."

Surely Kadaj can hear us talking about him but he doesn't answer, perhaps having his own conversation with the child in my womb, the child who shares his legacy and is therefore linked to him in a way I will never be able to comprehend. It doesn't matter that I don't understand it, this special, unbreakable bond that they all have, because it's a wonderful thing and I'm glad that my baby is going to be a part of it. He or she is already loved unconditionally, even before they are born. It means they will never have to grow up alone, like I did. As if knowing this, the baby shifts and pushes upward under my skin, as though trying to get nearer to Kadaj, who turns and kisses the moving bump in my belly, lovingly and reverentially, the sweet gesture causing my new fondness for him to deepen.

Yazoo starts to say something else but all of a sudden he pauses, turning and glancing towards the shore. Kadaj also lifts his head up from my belly, his eyes following the same direction across the water. I twist around in Yazoo's arms to see what they're looking at.

Standing on the edge of the lake is a person.

It's Loz.

And judging by the thunderous scowl on his face, he is not happy with any of us.

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