Final Fantasy VII, Life Ever After; Chapter 6 Broken

In case you've hit this page from some random link out there on the internet: Chapter 1

Again, no pictures.

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Vincent opened his eyes, blinking in the patch of bright sunlight coming through the half closed, cream curtains. He was in a small room, white walls, white ceiling, white sheets on his bed.

"Where..?" The WRO head quarters. He gasped, sitting up rapidly to find himself again bound to a bed. This time, however, his body was partly exposed; his torso was bandaged, his arms also. There was thick padding around his wrists, beneath heavy chains. "No, not again," he coughed, his throat dry. "No! Let me go!!"

"Valentine?" Cid leapt out of a comfy chair near the foot of the bed. "Hey, calm down. It's over now."

"Then let me..." his words fell away as he felt his body shift, the odd sensation of his organs realigning themselves, his limbs changing shape, losing shape. His body was morphing, becoming fluid, amorphous, the bandages falling through his liquid form. In panic he screamed, but there came no sound. In an instant he could see all around him; above, behind, below, to the left and right, and straight ahead. His body twisted and rolled around him, his mind in the centre.

His panic fell away as he realised he was in control; no demon to fight back, no beast raging to kill. He moved, his whole form sliding through the air. He saw the wall drawing closer, now he was on the ground, Cid falling away. The Captain looked frightened, yet fascinated.

Could he change back? Yes! He felt himself changing, as though simply thinking it had made it occur. His body reformed, folding back into limbs, a torso, a head. He was on his knees, arms wrapped around his body as he gasped short, sharp breaths. His eyes danced across the ground in front of him, unseeing, as he tried to understand what had happened.

He wanted to scream, to cry, to beat the ground with his fists, crawl into a corner and sleep without the nightmares of his past colliding with his present.

"What did they do?" he muttered, fingers clawing at his own flesh. "What did they do to me!?"

He held back a scream, it scratched at his throat, thumped at his eyes, forcing tears to tumble onto his knees. The scream rose into his mouth, holding back his breath till the pain pushed it out of his body in a violent burst of sound. He screamed and howled till he had to draw in a deep, juddering breath. A blanket fell over his shoulders. His hands fled to it, pulling it tight around his violated body.

"What did they do to me?" he mumbled again, leaning forward till his head touched his knees.

"Vincent?" Cid's quiet, questioning tone came to him. The Captain was in front of him, crouching. His trembling hands touched Vincent's shoulders lightly then gripped them, raising him up. Vincent opened his eyes and looked at the man's craggy face; he had never seen him so afraid.

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

Cid lifted the ex-Turk's upper body slowly, terrified of another horrific outburst. The bandages had fallen from him in the chaos. Cid avoided Vincent's scars, focusing instead on his face.

The Captain had been woken by the other man's screams then confronted with the vision of his friend's body literally unravelling itself as if he were made of a living ribbon. The writhing mass had moved off the bed, rolling on the floor. It settled for a moment, dancing around itself before returning to the form of a human man, shaking, kneeling on the ground.

Cid had been unable to move as he witnessed this cursed miracle of science, followed by Vincent's horrifying outburst, but his friend needed him to do something, anything. He had pulled the blanket off the bed and draped it over the quivering figure.

Now he looked at Vincent, sure he was hallucinating; he no longer saw the man he knew - quiet, aloof, a man who was worldly and wise. He saw instead a frightened boy, tortured and terrorised beyond what he could bare. Tears streaked the ex-Turk's face, his long dark hair clinging to his damp cheeks. Crimson eyes pleaded with Cid - make it stop, make it end, make it all go away.

Broken, thought Cid. They had destroyed what was left of Vincent's mind and soul. His only friends had turned on him out of fear.

"I'm sorry," the Captain said, pulling Vincent into a fraternal embrace.

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

Vincent let the sobs burst from his body again as Cid held him; a father comforting a distraught child. The Captain did nothing but hold him, waiting patiently as Vincent pulled himself back together.

A clamouring at the door broke through his muffled, diminishing cries. He pushed Cid away; someone should answer them. Cid said nothing as he walked past him to the door. Vincent listened, hunched on the floor, as the Captain spoke to a woman outside.

"What happened?" the voice asked, calm and polite.

"He's fine," was Cid's gruff reply.

"Captain," a little annoyed. "The sensors are showing Mr. Valentine as dead. As I can hear him, and he sounds quite distraught, I know this is not true. I can only conclude that something is wrong with the scanning machinery on the bed."

"He's fine," Cid repeated.

"Captain," angry now. "I have nothing but Mr. Valentine's interests at heart. You know this. Please, just let me in to examine him. I might be able to detect problems you cannot."

"Vincent?" Cid's voice came to him. He could not reply without another sob breaking through; he simply nodded.

"Alright, doc," Cid let the door swing open. "Come in."

Vincent tugged at the blanket again - fearing the doctor's approach. He stared blankly as a pair of black trousered legs came into his view. Knees bent and the trousers were followed by an open white overcoat, then a green blouse and finally a petit, pale face framed by short, jet black hair. Dark rimmed yet bright blue eyes looked at him through small round glasses.

"Well," said the frowning face. "I see why the sensors were not picking up your vital signs; you're out of their range. Would someone like to tell me how that happened?" She turned and stared accusingly at Cid.

"Nothin' to do with me," Vincent heard Cid say from behind him.

"Mr. Valentine?" the doctor asked again, returning a softer gaze to Vincent.

Vincent screwed his eyes shut.

"Yah gonna tell 'er?" Cid asked.

"You..." Vincent managed to mumble. If he tried to speak he would begin screaming again.

Cid sighed and Vincent heard the sharp click of a lighter.

"Vincent's got this... ability. He can transform into powerful creatures."

"Yes," the doctor interrupted. "I know of the phenomenon. It must have been very beneficial in your battles against J-E-N-O-V-A."

"Yeah, well somethin' happened ah ain't ever seen before."

"A new transformation?"

"Yeah."

"We expected this kind of result."

"Well, none of yah told us!" Cid voiced the anger Vincent felt.

"I'm sorry, that was something that should not have been overlooked.

"Mr. Valentine?"

"He ain't gonna answer yah."

"Mr. Valentine," there was no impatience in her voice as there had been when talking to Cid. "Please, I only want to help you."

"Vincent," Cid caught him under his right arm. "She means it. While you were asleep she came in every few hours. The times ah couldn't be here she sat with yah."

Was that true? He opened his eyes and gazed at her tired, pallid face. Was she exhausted because of her shared vigil with Cid?

"Please, Mr. Valentine," she said again. "I want to help you."

He nodded. With Cid's aid he rose to his feet, still clutching the blanket tight around his body. He perched on the edge of the bed and stared at the ground.

After a few moments of playing with the readouts the doctor said; "Well, all these readings are fine. You may as well have not been in surgery for nearly seventy two hours." She stood in front of Vincent, her coat brushing his toes. "I just need to listen for myself. Would you mind?"

Listen? He looked up at her; she held a stethoscope, the ear-pieces in her hands hovering either side of her head. She wanted to listen to his chest? She would see... but if she had been part of the team of people who carried out the surgery she had seen already, she would be prepared for the lattice of scars that covered his flesh.

He looked at Cid who nodded his understanding and turned away. Vincent took a breath and let the blanket fall away.

"What?!" the doctor's shocked response caused Vincent to pull the blanket back up.

"No," she said, catching his hands. He saw no disgust or fear in her face, just amazement. "You were in surgery for hours. Major, complicated surgery..."

Was that all?

"I... heal quickly," he said.

The doctor shook her head, almost smiling; "No wonder they had trouble keeping you open."

Vincent shook violently at her words. Thoughts of his body being torn apart flooded his mind. He saw it with his mind's eye, heard his screams. Memories bit at his sanity, pulling at old emotional wounds.

"Open?!" he cried, one arm flying from the blanket and sending the doctor to the ground.

"What am I?" he cried. "A toy to be played with?! A machine to be tinkered with?"

Cid caught his arm as he raised it again, standing away from the bed.

"Going to do it to me again?!"

"Stop it!" the Captain pushed him back against the wall, restraining his free arm as his cover fell away. "Pull yerself together!"

"So they can take me apart again!?" Fear strangled his words, making them strained and broken.

"It's over now."

"It'll never be over," he stopped struggling. His body went limp and he tumbled into Cid's arms. "Cid, please, help me. I can't stand it anymore." Vincent shuddered, but he had no tears left to cry.

"Ah told yah - it's over."

"He's right," the doctor had pulled herself up and now stood far from Vincent. "Your genetic structure is stable. You should be in control of it.

"Mr. Valentine, your safety is one of the most important things in this world to me. You and your friends saved our lives, saved this planet. Every life in this world owes its continued existence to you. I will do everything in my power to ensure you suffer no more.

"I am sorry that my ill-spoken words have hurt you."

"Thank you," he whispered, still clutching Cid, his head on the shorter man's shoulder.

"You're free to leave," the doctor told him. "I can see no reason to keep you here any longer. I wish your future to be happier than your past." With those as her final words she left the room.

Moments passed as Vincent listened to his own breathing, feeling his racing heart slow down again.

"Yah gonna let go," Cid finally asked. "We'll look damn strange if anyone comes in here."

Vincent pushed him away and again pulled the blanket about his body. He made no response to Cid's jibe.

"Oh come on! Give me some sort of smile!"

"Cid," Vincent murmured wearily. He pushed passed the Captain and dropped onto the armchair.

"What yah gonna do now?" Cid asked, sitting on the bed.

"What now?" Vincent echoed. The question of his own death entered Vincent's mind once again, but he shook it away. His second chance at life was a sentence, atoning for his sin. "I live," he muttered.

"Ah mean aside from that," Cid lit another cigarette. Vincent watched him - the Captain's hands were trembling.

"Are you afraid of me?"

"Of you?" he shook the match out, flicking it at the pile beside the armchair. "No. Just tired." Cid grinned at Vincent, the latter was not convinced, but it was no good trying to pry anything out of Cid. "So, what yah gonna do?"

"Leave," Vincent sighed. "I don't know."

He looked up at Cid. He had no idea what he would do now, where to go, where to live. He closed his eyes, leaning back in the armchair. Sleep called to him, the deep unending sleep he had experienced in the crypt beneath the ShinRa Mansion. He sighed softly - would his friends allow it?

"Cid?"

"Hmm?"

"Will you take me back to her cave?"

"Why?"

Vincent shook his head again; "Don't ask me that."

"Yer gonna just mope in that hole in the rock again, ain't yah?"

"Yes."

"Valentine!"

"I need time... alone."

"With yer misery?"

"Yes."

"No!"

"If you will not then I will find other passage."

"No!" Cid stood up. "Last time yah were there yah tried to... end it all."

Vincent looked at the Captain again, at his friend.

"All right," he said. "Take me to Kalm."

"What'll yah do there?"

"Live."

"That it?"

"I don't know! I just... I promise, you'll see me again."

Why was it that Cid, of all the people on the Planet, could pull such emotions from him, such promises? Why did the Captain care so much about one lost soul?

Cid smiled; "I'll accept that. Even if it is the word of a Turk."

"Ex," Vincent sighed. He watched Cid walk around the bed and take a pile of black and red cloth from the cabinet beside it. Golden boots and a gauntlet sat on top of the bundle.

"Yuffie fixed 'em up for yah, after they cut yah out of 'em."

The spoilt little princess could sew then.

"What's say yah shower and dress while ah gather the others. Yah do... want to see 'em, right?"

Vincent stood and took the clothes. Did he want to see the people that had put him through another nightmare? They did it to save him... to save the Planet. The lesser of two horrific evils had been forced upon him, but he had to accept that it was the lesser.

"Yes."

"Alright. I'll gather 'em in the entrance hall. We can see 'em before we leave."

So, Cid would take him to Kalm.

"Thank you."

Cid left him. He put the clothes on the bed and stumbled into the bathroom. It was small - a shower cubicle, sink and toilet. Everything was medical white and chrome. Two large soft towels were hung on the back of the door. He closed it and leaned against the smooth wood, letting the blanket fall to the ground.

"What am I going to do?" he spoke aloud, wrapping his arms about his body. "Lucrecia..." he sobbed.

He was sinking, his mind falling into a black quagmire of self pity. He had lost so much, endured suffering no human should go through. Cid expected him to go on this way? In this misery?

How? Why? What point was there to him continuing on - a punishment? Had he not suffered enough!?

Chaos whispered in his soul - his pain would never end. Not until its time came, when all life would join the Lifestream.

"No!" Vincent closed his eyes and covered his ears as if that would block its silent voice. "I won't let you do that!"

Chaos fell quiet - it could wait.

Calm, Vincent thought; he had to keep calm, keep control. "I'll find a way," he whispered. "To end this, to stop Chaos."

Yes! He knew what he would do, he could answer Cid's questions. He would search out a way to rid himself of Chaos for good. That was his purpose now, that would be the driving force to keep him moving.

He climbed into the shower, avoiding the sight of his own mangled body. The warm water danced over his skin; he watched it spin down the plug hole, breathing softly in the humid air.

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Washed, dressed, his Death Penalty re-holstered, Vincent left the confines of his hospital room in the WRO headquarters. He was impressed that Reeve had managed to organise such an outfit in only a few weeks. The building was not brand new, but it had been refurbished well enough. He met many people as he looked for the entrance - scientists, doctors, military officers, administrators. He was very impressed.

He found the large, open entrance hall with guidance from the people he had met. It sat in the centre of a tower, surrounded by staircases and mezzanines. People were waiting for him - Cid was pacing.

No one spoke as he approached them and he did not know where to start. Finally, Cid piped up and broke the chilled silence ; "Still to Kalm then, is it?"

"Yes."

"Kalm?" Yuffie asked. "Why Kalm?"

"It was my father's home," he suddenly realised. Yes, that made it the perfect place to start. He began to walk past them.

"Vincent," Cloud's voice.

He turned to the young man, waiting for his words. Cloud averted his eyes for a moment. Vincent let him find what he wanted to say.

"It wasn't easy," Cloud said, slowly. "Making that decision, holding to it. But..."

"What Cloud is trying to tell you," Nanaki sat at Cloud's feet. "Is that he cannot say sorry for choosing a path that saved your life."

Vincent closed his eyes, clenching his fists to stop his hands from shaking. He did not want this conversation. All he wanted was to forget it had ever happened.

"We heard you," Tifa said. Vincent looked up at her - she had been crying. Had he ever seen her cry before? Perhaps when Aerith had died. "And Cid told us what happened."

Vincent glared at Cid, but the Captain refused to shrink from him; Cid had done what he thought was right and he did not care that it would have been against Vincent's wishes.

"Can you forgive us?" Tifa asked.

"There is nothing to forgive. Cloud is right; you took the only option available."

"Then we're still friends, right?" Yuffie asked, hands clasped behind her back.

He looked at them, each one in turn. Cid knew what the answer would be, he knew Vincent still counted him as a friend. Nanaki, regal in his young years, simply awaited Vincent's judgement - whatever the ex-Turk decided the noble beast would accept it.

Yuffie looked up at him hopefully, fearful of his rejection. Tifa too needed for them to still be friends, for there to still be that bond. Reeve had no delusions. He knew Vincent would never fully trust him. He simply shook his head - he needed no forgiveness for his part in it.

Barret stared back at him. Of all the group, the big dark-skinned man was the hardest for Vincent to fathom. He did not need Vincent's acceptance, whatever he said would make no difference to Barret - he would simply move on.

Finally his eyes came back to rest on Cloud. The boy, the man, had been the one to have the final word, to really make the decision. It was he that the blame truly fell on. Vincent realised that Cloud had orchestrated it that way; he would let no other carry that burden.

"Friends," Vincent said, closing his eyes for a moment. He began walking again, Cid following. "Yes, I would like that."
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