Final Fantasy VII; Life Ever After Chapter 3, Fear


Inspirations: Scientist at Play

Eugh... Cid's accent is a pain of epic proportions! And does anyone know if the Sierra actually has an open deck? Neh...

I'd link chapter 2 and 3, but you should be able to find them through the labels easily enough... *lazy*


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Bright electric light bored into his eyes, he tried to turn his head away but found something was holding it in place. Where was he? He remembered facing Hojo - there was a shot, burning acid pain jolted through his lower body, he hit the ground. Hojo's voice floated around him.

"Can use... specimen."

Was he... Hojo's experiment? Fear furied Vincent's limbs to fight against their restraints. A sharp pain touched his arm, his mind clouded over, body calming.

"Now, now," Hojo's voice again. "We can't have you damaging yourself. I need you in good condition."

"You... shot me!"

"Yes, yes. Nothing permanent though," a jagged pain in his abdomen. "See, it has already almost healed, with a little help from me."

The light moved downwards, now shining directly on his body. As his vision cleared, Vincent saw the stone ceiling of the basement laboratory above him. Hojo chuckled mumbling to himself as though Vincent were not in the room.

"Perfect, he will make an excellent host."

****************

Above him, a light blue sky with rolling, fluffy clouds melted into a warm sea scape; bright fish swam serenely amongst multicoloured coral. Vincent sat up slowly, pain dancing through his upper body. He found his arms had been tied behind his back with heavy, cold chains.

"Where... am I?" memories seeped into his thoughts; Lucrecia, Hojo, Chaos, pain... "Cid?!" Vincent launched himself to his feet, gathering his strength he found the door and kicked it.

"Sir?" a wavering voice came through, a young man. "M- Mr. Valentine?"

"Where am I? No, Cloud, Cloud Strife, I need to talk to him."

"I, I'll go get Mr. Strife."

Another voice butted in; "But he told us not to move from here until we were relieved. We both have to be here."

Vincent shuddered; they were that afraid of him? To lock him in a room, chained up and with two guards. He leaned against the wall, arms aching in the heavy bonds. "Please, nothing will happen."

Uncertain noises and muffled voices came through the door, then the sound of fading footsteps. Vincent waited, seconds passing like hours. If he had killed Cid... he could not live with that. Chaos coiled and swirled inside him like a black serpent, reminding Vincent that he would be given no choice in whether he lived or died.

"Vincent?" Cloud's voice. The metal door slid open. Vincent moved away from it, conscious of his friend's fears. "You want to see me?"

Vincent looked past Cloud, they were all there; Tifa, Barret, Yuffie, Nanaki, Reeve - all but one. Vincent turned his head away from them.

"Cid?"

"He'll live."

Chaos growled; no death. It could not have the pleasure of feeling new anguish within its host.

"He's strong," Vincent said. "What now?"

"Now?"

Tifa pushed Cloud aside, walking into the room with Vincent. He moved away from her.

"Vincent, what happened?" she asked tenderly. "In all the battles we've fought, all the times we've seen... Chaos, you never turned on us."

"I could control it."

"And now?" her hand touched his shoulder.

"I'm losing control..." he whispered.

"Losing control?!" Yuffie squealed, crashing past Cloud. "What do you mean; losing control!?"

"Yuffie," Tifa turned to the young ninja. "Not now."

"Not now? What does he mean?"

"That he doesn't know if he can hold back Chaos anymore."

"That's why you tied him up? But it's ended now. He's okay now. Right, Vincent, you'll be fine."

Vincent shook his head; "You were right to chain me..."

"What the hell you yackin' about?" Vincent's heart leapt as he heard the Captain's voice. "Cloud, get outta mah way."

"Don't," Vincent called, his back to the door. "Don't come in here, all of you get out."

"Idiot," he heard Cid stomp into the room.

"Get out," he growled.

"Or yah'll what? Try to kill me 'gain? Pah, you didn't make much of a job of it last time round." Cid pushed Vincent around. The ex-Turk looked at his friend; his flight jacket rested on his shoulders, his right arm was held in a sling against his chest, his rib cage bandaged, with more gauze sitting just above the belt of his trousers. "What yah lookin' so shocked at? Least it was mah right arm - can still use mah lance." Cid grinned, a glowing cigarette between his lips. "Hey, Cloud, git these chains off."

"Cid," Cloud began.

"This is my airship, ah'm Captain! Git rid o' these chains."

Vincent echoed Cloud, but the Captain cut him short; "Don't yah start too. Yah ain't a prisoner, yer a guest. Quite botherin' me with yer whinin'."

Cloud surrendered, tossing Tifa the keys to unlock the chains. Carefully she stepped behind Vincent, the lock clicked, the chains tumbled to the floor with a heavy metallic clang.

"What now?" Vincent asked again, eyes on the floor.

"Right now?" Cid chimed. "We FINALLY celebrate!" He clapped Vincent on the back with his left hand. "And then," suddenly the gruff, crazed pilot became serious; his fingers squeezing Vincent's shoulder. "We try to find out what's happenin' to yah and fix it."

Fix it? Could a broken soul and a weakness of will be fixed? What choice did he have but to go along with Cid? Unable to look anyone in the eyes he followed the Captain out of the room and into a corridor.

He did not recognise the area; the ship seemed clean, new, not like the Highwind's well worn character.

"Cid, this is not the Highwind is it?"

Cid chuckled, giving a strong puff on his cigarette. "Ah've called her the Sierra. The Highwind - she's passed away. Sierra's an ancient ship. Found her while ah was searchin' for yah. She don't run on mako. Got mah crew to fix her up, get her runnin'... with a little 'elp from Reeve an' his benefactor."

"Benefactor?"

"Sommat to do with ShinRa. Reeve won't admit as much but we're pretty sure. Someone who could get into the ShinRa money, we just haven't worked out exactly who yet."

They walked for only seconds in silence before Cid had to break it; "So, you bin hidin' in that cave all these weeks?"

Vincent nodded, silence again. He glanced behind him, no one was following them.

"Cid," Vincent stopped, his fists clenched.

The Captain halted a few paces away, turning to face his friend. He watched as Vincent tried to summon up the courage to speak; he knew what was coming and did not like it.

"Don't you dare" Cid said. "If yer thinkin' o' apologisin'; don't. Tha's like sayin' it was your fault. An' ah don't believe that, ah don't wanna believe that. It was that thing inside yah that 'urt me, not you. So if yah apologise ah'm gonna take it that you did it. An' if tha's the truth... well ah'll 'ave to kick yer ass six ways from Sunday an' dump yah in the ocean. Got that?"

Cid did not understand; how could he? He did not know the feeling of his own hands tearing through the flesh of a friend. It did not matter that it was not his own actions; he had not been able to prevent it, to keep control.

"Cid."

The Captain covered the few paces between them before Vincent could begin another word. He slammed his fist into the wall, metal ringing.

"Did yah not hear a single word ah said?! No, shut up. Ah don't want yer stinkin' apology. What ah want is fer you an' me an' the rest of 'em to celebrate not bein' dead. And give Aerith a proper send off."

"He wouldn't let us party till we found you."

Vincent turned to Yuffie; the young ninja had actually managed to creep up behind him in silence.

"Said it wasn't right, you know, if you weren't there."

"Wouldn't let us split up neither," Barret's baritone came around the corner before he did. He stood behind Yuffie, his mechanical arm resting on her shoulder. He attempted a poor impression of the Captain; "We're a team, an' on this ship that means yer crew - an' ah'm Captain. Yah don't do squat 'less I tells yah! That includes jumpin' ship!"

Yuffie laughed as Cid pulled a face at the horrible impression.

"So, whad'ya say?" the girl asked. "Party?"

"Cloud? Tifa?" Vincent threw back.

"They went to find Marlene with Reeve."

"Where is this... party being held?"

"Where d'ya think?" Cid knocked his shoulder with a playful fist. "The mess hall, where ah was takin' yah! So, yah comin'?"

Vincent nodded; whatever would make the Captain happy.

"Alright! Yeah!" Yuffie bounced on the spot, thumping the air. "Race yah!" she yelled, running past them in a blur. Barret followed in a slower jog.

"Catch you there!"

"Yuffie seems... healthier," Vincent commented. "What happened to her motion sickness?" He began walking again, beside Cid.

"We ain't movin," Cid chuckled. "Can't yah tell? No sound, no thrummin' o' the engines. Whole crew's in the mess hall."

"Oh..." Vincent had not thought about it before, but now he could sense the lack of sound, of vibration running through the ship's body.

The mess hall was a large, rectangular room in the heart of the Sierra. Long tables ran from end to end, chairs lined up along them. At the far end was the open kitchen, hot plates and bains-marie dividing it from the eating area.

As Cid and Vincent entered a cheer from the crew erupted and beer instantly began to flow. Music, fanfare, drums and fiddles, was piped through the Tannoy. Men and women began dancing anywhere there was floor space. The AVALANCHE members were pulled up, willing or
not, even Cloud seemed happy. Vincent stood by the door, eyes cast downwards, mumbled replies given to crew members who tried to thank him.

This was not his world. He could not share in its revelry. Chaos silently reminded him of its presence, whispers of death and sins floating in his mind. These people would all die - and he could not. Death, Chaos, would take them all to the Lifestream. Only Vincent would remain, nothing but cold memories to comfort him.

A frothy cup was thrust into his hand. "Cheer up," Cid's playful tone, as he leaned against the wall beside Vincent. "At least look a little livelier."

"Why?"

"What?" Cid's foot collided with Vincent's calf. "Yer alive, you got friends, Sephiroth's defeated, Hojo's dead..." At the mention of the ShinRa scientist’s name Vincent turned away, a shudder flooding his whole body. Cid caught his words and backtracked. "And, well... yah got me!" He gave the dark-clad man a clap on the shoulder.

Vincent put his cup on a table corner and walked out the door, followed rapidly by a bewildered Cid.

"What the hell is wrong with you?! So Lucrecia is dead. A lot of people died. Get over it. Celebrate the fact that you ain't gone, that we saved the whole damn world!"

"I cannot celebrate!" Vincent snarled at Cid, anger raising his pulse. "What have I left? I betrayed the woman I loved and now she's dead. The man responsible for her misery is dead. I have nothing left to keep me alive except... except the beast that dwells inside me. And Chaos won't let me join them, join her!"

Both men stood in silence, looking away from one another, both as angry as the other and unable to put the emotions into words. Cid began to walk towards Vincent, then past him. Vincent turned and followed him. They had so much to say but neither was willing to begin just yet.

"Where are you going?"

"To the bridge; wanna get her in the air. Things make more sense to me up there, in the sky. Once she's up I'll jus' leave her in auto-pilot, let her float, go up on deck."

"I'll meet you there then." Cid nodded, pointing down a different turning. Vincent took it as Cid continued walking.

Vincent reached the large, open deck before Cid had managed to start the Sierra's engines. They had not travelled far; he could see the mountains that held Lucrecia's Cave. He turned away from it, looking out towards the sea.

The huge propellers began to turn, at first inching their way around the axes, gradually picking up speed until they were a white blur. Vincent felt the floor rumble and the Sierra suddenly lifted.  For a moment he felt heavier, felt pressure on his limbs until his body had picked up the same momentum as the ship.

Vincent looked over the railing, saw the rocky green land falling away from him until the ship slowed its ascent, floating gracefully in one spot. He had an idea - and he had to act on it before Chaos prevented it. He leapt up onto the polished wooden rail, gave one quick glance back as he heard Cid's voice... and tumbled off the Sierra.

Cid's panicked, obscenity ridden cry reached him as he plumetted towards the ground.

Chaos roared, he felt its deep desire to live rumble through his body, the WEAPON's strong will breaking through his flesh. As he tumbled through the air, Vincent curled up, determined to prevent Chaos from emerging, from saving his life with its powerful wings.

"Please," he whispered, praying to an unknown deity, or was he pleading with Chaos? "Let me die... let me have my rest."

The WEAPON was too strong, its desire to live greater than Vincent's pitiable desire for death. The man screamed as the beast's wings burst from his back - pain, anger, fear and self pity expressed in one strangled cry. He felt his wings rip through the air only a moment before his body impacted the ground.
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