Final Fantasy VII, Life Ever After; Chapter 8; Reunited

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

Wyna's pic for this one: Intercepted... which I can't find on the interwebs or in my own collection any more so... damnit. That was a nice picture too!

Copyright: Characters not mine... blah, blah... you know the drill.

I dread to think how many times this has been done before... but I couldn't help myself.



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

Vincent stood on the bridge of the Sierra, watching the waves dash by beneath her hull. It had been too long since he had simply watched the world pass by, dreaming silently of a future that was not, a past that should have been.

"Stop ruminatin'," a rough voice called from behind him. Captain Cid Highwind stood in the doorway grinning. "It's bad for yah health."

"My health is fine," Vincent replied, turning to face him. It was better than fine; six months ago he had rid his body of Chaos. Its curse had been lifted from his soul.

"Come on, yah can help me shift this crap."

Vincent sighed and followed the Captain off the bridge. The 'crap' Cid spoke of was supplies for the survivors of Midgar; people who had fled the city during or just after the war with Sephiroth had been taken in all over the Planet. Now, a year after the World Regenesis Organisation battled Omega WEAPON, those survivors were thriving in the new city, built on the outskirts of Midgar.

The true founder of the WRO was unknown to the masses, but anyone with a little knowledge of its affairs would quickly come to the conclusion that it was Rufus Shinra, ex-president of the ShinRa Electric Power Company. He had survived the destruction of the ShinRa Tower, the Turks had not disbanded, the only person on the Planet with the capital to begin a venture like the WRO was Rufus Shinra.

With his money people were rebuilding their lives in Edge, a town on the outskirts of a city that had been cleansed by Chaos. Its one-time host, Vincent Valentine, was now helping with the long process of building a new life for the people of a twice cursed city. He strode after Cid who was hefting a large open box, cigarette perched on his lower lip.

The Captain called himself a freelance pilot, but he was virtually employed by the WRO. He claimed the Sierra as his own, but it was WRO money that kept her in the sky. He had been enlisted to help move construction materials, people and personal belongings to Edge, and had dragged Vincent along for the ride.

"I thought you had crew to take care of this," Vincent drawled - he had not come along to do manual labour, his intention had been to protect the building crew from any monsters that might have found their way into the construction grounds from the wastes.

"Yeah," Cid replied. "But standin’ around idle fer hours ain't good fer yer health either."

"And who said I wanted you to safeguard my health?"

"Call it a favour," Cid grinned back at him.

Vincent realised an opportunity to rile his friend. Rather than stroll behind Cid he strode in front of him. With his hands busy holding the large box, Cid could not defend himself. Vincent stopped in front of Cid, halting the man in the middle of the corridor.

"Perhaps I should repay the favour," Vincent said and plucked the smoking white stick from the Captain's mouth. "You know, one day, these things will kill you."

Cid spluttered at him; incredulous. Vincent could barely hold back his smile, he stepped back with a swift bow to allow the Captain to proceed. Cid, lost for words, could only growl as he passed by and entered the cargo bay.

For hours the two men worked to sort the mass of boxes that appeared to have just been dumped at random in the cargo hold. All the while Cid complained about the state his crew had left it in. Vincent knew he was only blowing off steam; if he were truly angry he would have let his crew know. It seemed at the same time he was trying to keep them both occupied; Vincent had been distant of late, he realised, more so than usual. Things had looked bright after the battle with Omega WEAPON, but for a while now something had been playing on his mind.

"So, what is it?" Cid finally asked as they headed to the mess.

"Hmmm?"

"You. You've been workin' somethin' round in that shabby head of yers fer days."

Vincent only looked at him, wanting more to go on. Cid huffed - getting Vincent to talk was like drawing Mako from the sky.

"Ah know this may sound odd, but yah've been more quiet 'an usual."

"Yes," Vincent replied.

"And?"

"And I don't know," Vincent sighed softly; he really did not. Something simply felt wrong, as though he had something to do and could not quite remember what it was.

"Yah jus' missin' sommat to mope about," Cid grinned at the scowl he received. "No, ah'm right. Yah've sorted out Hojo, saved the world, put Chaos to rest. Yah've run out of things to brood over."

Vincent shook his head. They entered the mess hall, it was almost empty. The few solitary crew members waved their informal, off-duty hellos to the Captain and Vincent. He sat down while Cid got food. The ex-Turk had no need of food, really. He ate at times, but it was not a necessity to his living.

Was Cid right? Was he simply looking for something to be miserable about, so used was he to it? What need had he to search? His sins of the past were unforgivable. Yet Lucrecia had cleared him of those crimes; they were both at fault. He still felt that his was the greater sin though; he had been her bodyguard. Honour, duty and even his payroll demanded he protect her.

He had failed.

"Ruminatin' again?" Cid cut into his thoughts, thrusting a cup of tea into his hands. "If yah ain't gonna eat with me yah could at least drink somethin'." Cid sat down and began digging into a large pile of potatoes. He continued talking, mouth full; "One day, yah gonna find yerself a pretty girl and move on from yer lost love."

"Her name was Lucrecia."

"And she's dead, Vincent."

Vincent glared at him, seething at the very idea that Lucrecia could be deceased. Cid held up his hands in placation.

"Ah'm just..." Vincent stood up, interrupting him.

"Take me to her cave."

"What?"

"Take me!"

That was what had been plaguing his thoughts; Lucrecia was not dead. No one, not ever, had been able to say she had passed away. There was no body, only an image cast in the Mako Crystals. An image? It seemed solid, whole; was it her body? Was she truly dead?

"Are you insane?" Cid remained in his seat. "Sit yer ass down and drink yer damn tea."

"Take me there, Cid."

"Why the hell would I do that?"

"Because she's not dead!" Vincent had to restrain himself from slamming his palms on the table.

"Now yer scarin' me, Valentine, and yer scrain' mah crew."

Vincent glanced around the silent room; all eyes were turned their way.

"Sit down and we'll talk about this, quiet like."

Vincent acquiesced, taking his seat again.

"Now think about what yer sayin'; how can she be alive?"

"J-E-N-O-V-A," Vincent replied, his eyes burning into Cid's; he knew he was right. "Hojo did not age, not a day, after his experiments with J-E-N-O-V-A, after he injected himself. Lucrecia... he did the same to her.

"She... please Cid; I have to know for sure. If she's alive, if I can wake her."

He was trembling, his heart thumping, stomach twisting. If she was alive, if he could see her again; could he redeem himself? What did it matter? He would be able to see her again, make her smile again, hear her laugh; but Cid was shaking his head.

"Ah can't do that... just let me finish! Ah can't do that till we've dropped the supplies and passengers off in Edge. Can yah wait that long?"

"Yes, thank you."

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

Time passed like the shifting of continents. Vincent's mind ran wild with the possibilities of Lucrecia's awakening. At times he thought it a terrible idea - what if she rejected him? What if the burdens of her past were too much for her to bare? But no, whatever her feelings, he had to try, show her a new world - one without Hojo or Sephiroth.

He did not want to leave the ship when it landed, but he had come to protect the people. He left alone, searching through the construction sites. He roamed into the nearby ruins, removing any beasts that he discovered with fluid efficiency. That would be all though. He would not stay any longer than he had to.

He returned to the ship, marching straight to the bridge; Cid was not there.

"Where is the Captain?" he demanded of the young man stood at the helm.

"Sir? He's directing the unloading. Should I call him for you?"

Vincent almost said 'yes,' but Cid would only shout at him, tell him to be patient. The Captain would be ready when he was ready, and not before. He trusted Cid enough to know he was desperate to set off, to not keep him waiting longer than needs be. He would just have to bide his time.

Vincent soon found himself pacing, angry at the hours it seemed to be taking Cid.

"Sir, maybe you should get some rest or... something."

The young man blanched as Vincent turned to him, a grim stare conveying enough to silence the room until Cid arrived. When the Captain finally entered the bridge, Vincent almost leapt at him.

"Are we leaving?"

Cid grinned; "Ah've never seen yah so agitated."

Vincent glared, waiting for an answer.

"Yes, we'll take yah to the cave. Even got it cleared by Reeve."

The crew on the bridge collectively sighed. The presence of a tightly wound Vincent Valentine had run fear through them all. Cid relieved the young man at the helm. He skirted around Vincent, giving him a wide berth.

"Why don't yah go get some sleep," Cid said. Unperturbed by Vincent's glare, he called on another crewman to relieve him. "You really know how to ruin an atmosphere. Lets 'av you up on deck."

"On deck?" Vincent followed behind him regardless.

"Yeah, no one up there for yah to bother."

"Sorry, I just..."

"Ah understand," Cid clapped him on the back, a grin framing his cigarette.

The air and clouds rushed by on the small deck of the Sierra. The gusts caught Vincent's cloak and hair, tugging them behind him.

"Yah really think she might be alive?" Cid asked, leaning over the railing to watch the world pass by below.

"Maybe," Vincent joined him. "I can only hope."

"So, what's the plan? How yah gonna go about waking her up?"

Vincent closed his eyes; "I don't know."

"See what happens when yah get there, eh?"

Vincent nodded solemnly. His actions were completely irrational, yet something pulled him to the cave. Something called to him, urged him to see Lucrecia again. He watched as the mountain range that held Lucrecia's Cave drew nearer. Agitated, frightened, he could only stare at the magnificent purple stone that rose out of the land like a giant maw.

The Sierra coasted up and over the peaks with ease. She began to descend slowly, too slowly. Vincent could not wait as long as it was going to take them to land; he leapt up onto the railing, ready to leap to the mountains below.

Cid caught his cloak; "Hey! What the hell yah doin' now?"

"This is taking too long," he replied and threw himself towards the scree covered slopes.

"You idiot!!" Cid's voice called after him.

He was in no danger though, his intentions were not to die. He flipped his body over in the air, landing on the angled ground with sure footing. He slid down the scree, leaping now and then when he found secure rocks till he reached the ground, the Sierra still soaring above him.

Vincent took one quick glance at the grand ship before tearing into the cavern. It had not changed; Lucrecia still stood, peaceful and serene, in the Mako crystals, her hands pressed together as though in prayer to the Planet.

He drew close to the shimmering crystals, one hand outstretched to touch the cold stones.

"Lucrecia," he whispered. "Tell me what I need to do."

A chill wind blew through the cave, lifting his cloak and throwing dust at the crystals. They vibrated with the pummelling of thousands of tiny motes, flashes of rainbows dancing over their surface and through every facet and flaw. Lucrecia's image, no Lucrecia's body, remained the same.

Closer still, he rested his head on the crystals. He could feel the pulse in his temples and the air felt thick in his lungs. What should he do? Was she to be encased in there forever? Could he shatter the crystals without hurting her?

"Please," he prayed. "Let this work, let me see her smile again."

Vincent stepped away from the crystals, pace after pace till he stood five or six metres away. With a trembling hand he raised the Death Penalty and took aim at the tip of the crystal. He gripped his wrist with the gauntlet, trying to steady his hand; he had to make the shot perfect.

Count, breathe, count, breathe. Fire!

The Mako crystals erupted with a scream that seemed to hurl itself up from the depths of the Planet. A thousand minute rainbows flew through the air, reflecting tiny images of a woman falling, hands clutched in prayer.

Vincent ran forward, catching Lucrecia's body as she tumbled through the crystal rain. He held her against him, clutching her so tight he could have broken her small frame. She did not move, did not breathe, her body was rigid and cold.

"Please," he cried. "Wake up, breathe. Breathe!"

He raised her chin with a gentle hand, the other wrapped around her waist. Gloved fingers caressed her pale cheeks, ran across her lips. Her eyes fluttered open, her mouth forming a small 'o' as she took a deep breath. For a fraction of a second he saw her deep brown eyes before they closed again. She was unconscious, but breathing easily; he had done it. He had her back.

"Vincent?" Cid's voice echoed through the cavern.

The ex-Turk lifted Lucrecia in his arms, her body seemed frail, too light. Turning he saw the Captain standing in the entrance, his face dropped when he saw Lucrecia.

"Is she..."

"She's breathing, but unconscious. Cid, call your people, get her to the infirmary."

"Way ahead of yah," Cid grinned as three medics ran into the cave, two of them carrying a stretcher, the third with a medical kit. Reluctantly, Vincent gave up his beloved to them. "Don't worry," Cid caught his arm, holding him back as the medics ran out of the cave. "She's in good... hey, hey."

Vincent had turned away from him and was leaning, arms outstretched, against a wall. His whole body was shaking. He felt as though he was going to be sick, his head was light and his heart would not stop bursting in his ears.

"Maybe yah should get some rest," Cid said, standing beside him now. "When was the last time yah kipped?"

"I don't... I don't know." Try as he might, Vincent could not suppress a smile. He felt like death was crawling across his body as shock and fatigue finally took hold, but his mind was elated. "I've got her back, Cid. She's alive."

"Yah cry at me and ah'm gonna have to hit yah," Cid grumped.

"Sorry," Vincent pushed himself away from the wall, closed his eyes as a wave of nausea passed then started to walk. He was unsteady but stable enough to move on his own. "Think I'll... take that offer of... rest."
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