[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 06

Chapter Six – Who’d Volunteer For That

Ten people sat around a wide rectangular table, eyeballing each other. They were in the following order, Cloud at one head, followed by Nanaki to his right, then Elena and Reeve. Cid sat at the other head, with Reno to his right followed by Rude, Barret, and Tifa.
The dark-haired girl sported a lovely purple-eye, while the other female smirked proud of herself. Apparently Elena wasn’t too fond of love potions and their side effects. Cloud was biting his lip nervously, cutting his eyes at Elena, hoping she wouldn’t take out her vengeance on him as well.
“How are we going to do this?” asked Reeve, leaning back in his chair.
“We could just wait until the day of and storm the place!” Barret exclaimed, happily picturing explosions and fighting.
“Right,” Reno said with a snort. “Why don’t we start a war while we are at it?”
“Ah.” Barret sighed dreamily, clasping his hand to his gunarm and stroking the barrel lovingly. “To be fighting again.”
“Dumb ass,” barked Tifa, smacking him across the back of the head. “Don’t make me tell Marlene for that matter.”
The dark-skinned man immediately ceased his war-like ideas and shut his mouth, waiting for other ideas.
“Wutaians are big on respect and such. The only way to come out of this without any problems is to have someone else marry her,” Reeve commented.
“Who the hell would volunteer for that?” demanded Cid.
“I would,” Rude muttered quietly. All eyes turned in his direction.
He shrugged and looked away. (I’m sure he would be blushing if anyone could actually see it.)
“R… Rude?” his red-headed friend stammered, eyes wide. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Twin flicks of a lighter indicated that his and Cid’s had been lit at once.
“She’s got spirit,” Rude responded as if that cleared up everything.
“B-But, I thought you liked Tifa?”
“She’s hung up on Cloud,” the bald man responded with another shrug as if said female was not in the same room. “Besides, Yuffie’s a lot more… independent.”
“Crush?” Tifa repeated looking extremely surprised. “You had a crush on me?” She clapped her hands together and wiggled excitedly, her eyes shining.
Cloud rolled his eyes at her and waved a hand in dismissal. “All that is beside the point. We have a wedding to stop!”
“How come you haven’t asked me to marry you, yet?” Elena questioned, turning a small frown onto her lover.
Reeve flushed from the tips of his ears to all over his face, resembling a very ripe tomato. An embarrassed grin settled over his features and he looked sheepishly at her. “Umm… uh…”
“Great!” Reno exclaimed to save his friend. “You ruined the big secret!”
“She… she did?” the executive questioned, completely oblivious. He had a dumbfounded look on his face.
“Secret?” the blonde Turk questioned, a small smile beginning to break out on her features. She let go of the strangle hold she had on Reeve’s arm.
“Yeah,” Rude chimed, picking up on what was going on. “And after all the trouble he went through, too.”
“Trouble?” Reeve questioned, still completely oblivious. He had no idea what any of them were talking about. What secret? He frowned.
“Remember?” the red-head nudged – actually, he kicked Reeve under the table but no one noticed… expect poor Reeve’s shins. “The ring?”
Reeve looked at the other man with confusion, surreptitiously rubbing his shin. “Ring?” He caught the knowing look in the Turk’s eyes and suddenly started nodding vigorously. “Oh right!! That ring!! Damn! I was going to surprise you at Christmas! You ruined it now!”
Reno kicked him again, whispering vigorously under his breath. “Don’t overdo it!!”
Elena smiled, throwing her arms around her lover and encasing him in a death grip. “Really?” she squealed happily.
The man nodded slowly, a trapped look to his face. He tried to hide it by plastering on the biggest smile anyone had ever seen.
The room fell silent then… seconds ticked by… then minutes. Cloud cleared his throat noisily. Cid began to tap a rhythm on the table. Tifa started swaying back and forth to some internal melody only she could hear. Rude started fiddling with his sunglasses. Elena was hurriedly writing out wedding plans – though she technically hadn’t been asked yet, but no one was in the mood to point that out. Nanaki’s tail swished back and forth on the floor. Reno began to jingle his keys to a certain rhythm. Barret began to click his gun in specific intervals. And in the distance… the cooks in the kitchen began to bang their pots together for no reason at all.
Before they broke into song like in the musicals… someone finally spoke.
“I have the perfect plan,” Nanaki blurted out suddenly, causing eight pairs of eyes to look in his direction. He smiled sneakily, an interesting grin on his feral face.
The slowly developing musical tune ceased, and the room was silent as the lion wolf began to slowly explain his plan.
* * *
The typical wedding music sounded throughout the Great Temple, first announced by many trumpets noisily. It began slowly building to a crescendo with only the slightest bit of country twang, just as the bride had wanted it.
Everyone who lived in Wutai, and a few honored guests, was gathered there, watching their princess finally get married. Some women couldn’t help the tears that sprang to their eyes.
The huge double doors at the end of the Temple, wood gilded in gold, swung open and the audience rose, a giant wave, swiveling their necks in unison towards the door. It was like a synchronized swim.
Yuffie stood there breathtakingly beautiful and serene in her pink carnation traditional wedding kimono. Flowers were woven about her hair and her facial veil was of the purest silk, almost completely translucent. Her two bridesmaids were dressed in various tones of colors, wearing puffed pants and thin long-sleeved stomach-bearing silk shirts (think Arabian and you got it). Their faces were heavily veiled and their hair was hidden by thick silken scarves. One had stunning aquamarine eyes and the other soothing amber honey. They danced gently behind the bride, celebrating her wedding day.
Yuffie held her head high and pranced down the aisle, music loud and obnoxious as the country banjo got far too loud for its place. Her groom shifted nervously up at the podium, unable to turn around and look at her. He was also dressed traditionally in black silken form fitting robes and heavily hooded. He stared at the wall above the temple master’s head, seeing without really seeing.
The audience ooh’ed and aah’ed as Yuffie passed, some even murmuring at the fluidity of the bridesmaids movements. Finally, she stood at her groom’s side. He took her hand, though he did not look at her. He shivered visibly, from what I cannot say, and they both knelt on their knees before the Temple Master. Heads were bowed reverently. The two bridesmaids took their proper position on either side of the couple, kneeling and bowing as well.
The music ceased, the audience sat, and the Temple Master gathered all attention to himself. He began to speak in a deep, monotone voice that almost sent the gathered audience into slumber.
Suddenly, all the lights went out at once, throwing the room in complete darkness. Strangely enough, no one was frightened by this. In fact, most considered it a part of the wedding that was new this particular year.
Music began to play; loud, demanding and possessive. Colored lights snapped on, turning to point directly at the two bridesmaids. The entire Temple fell silent, the wondering murmurings quieted.
The bridesmaids stood to their feet fluidly and began to dance slowly, seductive and hypnotic. The beat to the music was easy to follow… a traditional eastern melody. Most held their breath at the erotic display as the two bridesmaids swiveled their hips bathed in blue and purple lights. They danced unnecessarily close to each other, reached into the other’s skimpy top, and pulled out two metal balls about the size of cantaloupes. An eyebrow raise later, the caps were popped off emitting a thick and cloying smoke.
The grey smoke quickly began to fill the Temple, some of the audience members coughed… and a few clapped, mostly the men. They enjoyed the dance! They all believed it was part of the show… that Princess Yuffie had gone to great lengths to make her wedding the most spectacular in Wutaian history.
All of the lights flickered on but not much could be seen due to the rapidly dispersing smoke. Someone gasped and pointed upwards even as the bridesmaids did an elaborate jingle, ringing tambourines that had suddenly appeared in their hands and gestured towards the ceiling. All eyes looked in curiosity.
There, standing on one of the rafters with a lit cigarette bouncing jauntily between his lips. He grinned as he gestured towards the long rope in his hands.
It was Cid.
The music, which was still playing, gained in volume as the pilot gave a great bow. He gripped onto the rope and dived, swinging. A series of gasps resonated throughout the crowd.
The Captain executed an aerobatic flip before landing smoothly on his feet between the two bridesmaids. He bowed as the audience clapped. The smoke was still thick in the room.
“What the hell are you doing?” Yuffie snapped, getting to her feet angrily.
Cid didn’t answer her, instead shouldering past her to grab onto the heavily hooded groom.
“You’re coming with me!” ordered the pilot, leaving no room for argument.
“Uh…” the groom didn’t say anything as Cid proceeded to drag him towards the back exit.
“Hey!” Yuffie protested. “That’s my husband!” That was wall she could get out before the main doors slammed open and two tomboyishly dressed females stormed in.
“Down with weddings! Down with men! Our friend Yuffie won’t submit again!” They were chanting this at the top of their lungs, brandishing their weapons proudly.
It was Elena and Tifa…
As the audience watched with gaped mouths, the two women stormed up to the podium and grabbed hold of the pink-clothed bride.
“We won’t let you degrade yourself by submitting to the man’s idea of womanly duties,” the Turk claimed, practically yelling the younger ninja’s face.
“Yeah,” Tifa chimed in. “Tell those dirty old men that you’re not going to cook and clean for them any longer. Women’s liberty, wahoo!”
Someone in the audience whooped and hollered. “Alright, lesbians!”
Elena and Tifa bowed extravagantly, waving their weapons high in the air and giving a significant whoop in return.
“What do you two think you’re doing?” Yuffie screeched, her face a blotchy red, feeling near ready to tear her hair out. She burst into tears. “You’re ruining my wedding,” wailed the ninja.
As if on cue, the throne doors burst open yet again. All eyes and heads swiveled towards the double doors. Cloud Strife stood there, sword balanced on his shoulder, despite its immense size. At his side, another man was dressed as a groom and was shifting between his two feet nervously. The groom-like man was very much taller than the short blond.
“Never fear, Yuffie, dear! You’re wayward knights are here!” Cloud claimed loudly, boasting a huge grin.
The audience began to clap and cheer. They all felt as if they were experiencing a soap opera up close and personal. Perhaps they were extras on the set of ABC?
Cloud and the hooded, unnamed man strode proudly up the aisle. Before they managed to get to the altar, a large dark-skinned man burst out of nowhere in the crowd and tackled the sword-wielding blond.
“No, my sweet blond angel, you belong to me,” blubbered the gun-armed man.
Cloud shoved the man off of him – this wasn’t in the plan – but it was to no use. The dark-skinned man latched onto his left leg and refused to release him.
“Barret! Dammit! Let me go!” the leader cursed on a serious, feral growl. He wasn’t surprised that it had no effect.
“No, no, no, no, no!” the dark-skinned man repeated, over and over blubbering needlessly.
The spiky-headed blond sighed, shoulders heaving, and gave up. He continued to move forward, the new groom at his side. The silent man’s shoulders shook in repressed laughter, but he didn’t offer a helping hand. The blond was forced to drag the leech by the name of Barret with him as they continued their mission to save the world from…. ninja’s with a serious case of marriage-itis.
“I’ve come to defend your besmirched honor!” Cloud claimed exuberantly. He pretended as if he could not hear the other man crying at his feet and noisily kissing his black boots. The hooded man next to the blond nodded but did not speak.
“Where are the guards?” Yuffie wailed exasperatedly, ignoring the chaos around her. She nearly tore out her hair in frustration.
“Hey! He’s trying to take your groom,” tattled a nameless, faceless man in the audience.
The ninja turned and looked through tear-streaked lashes. Sure enough, Cid and her groom were almost to the exit, sneaking on tippy-toes.
Cid blanched visibly and grabbed onto the groom’s arm. “Run!”
But the chance to escape was gone.
Wutaian soldiers burst into the Temple from every door, some even crashing through a few stained glass windows.
Within seconds, the entire altar and area was surrounded. The friends were trapped, their rescue mission thwarted.
Godo stormed into the temple, shouldering his way through the soldiers. He seemed highly irritated and very mad. It was against custom for the father to see the daughter given away and now he had to come discover the commotion in the temple. And he was busy, too!
“What the hell is going on here?” snarled the angry father.
“They ruined my wedding!” Yuffie whined, gesturing to all of her one-time friends gathered around her.
Someone in the audience began to giggle, but it was unclear why.
“You!” Godo roared, storming up to a random prisoner. “Explain yourself!” he grabbed up Tifa and shook her.
The dark-haired girl stared at him for a moment before she began to snicker. She tried not to look at him after that but the damage was already done, the image plastered in her mind. She couldn’t help it and began to laugh harder.
It was still unclear why.
The giggling in the audience got louder. Elena joined in with Tifa.
“Daaaaaady,” whined Yuffie. “Do some~thing!”
“Except Cloud… don’t touch my precious snuggly-wuggly-puff,” glowered Barret, still attached to their one-time illustrious leader. Cloud couldn’t help the embarrassment that spread across his cheeks as he tried to shake off the man. The gun-armed man refused to budge.
“Vince doesn’t want to marry her!” Cid declared loudly, still struggling to break free. They had grabbed him tightly, as he was providing the most resistance.
“But I do,” intoned the groom that had come in with Cloud.
Godo threw up his hands.
The audience began to snicker louder.
It was still unclear why.
“I don’t care. But someone’s getting married today!” Godo declared. He turned an angry eye on Cloud, recognizing him as the leader. “Even if it’s you,” he threatened.
Cloud gulped nervously, the flight instinct kicked in. Oh God… Yuffie or worse Tifa… or…. God help him… Barret. He began to struggle violently, the only thing on his mind escape.
“I don’t wan~na marry, Clo~ud,” Yuffie whined, beginning to cry again.
Godo began to pace fiercely, feeling a migraine beginning to settle.
It suddenly occurred to the two ignored bridesmaids that the music was still playing. Exchanging glances and desiring freedom, they began to dance seductively. The audience continued to laugh, some beginning to roll on the floor in tears…
It was still unclear as to why.
The guards holding the two dancing bridesmaids gulped nervously, shifting in their stances to alleviate the sudden pressure in their overly tight pants. It was getting harder to concentrate on their duties.
Cloud suddenly gave a great heave, using his super-ex-SOLDIER strength -which isn’t really existent because he never was in SOLDIER but that is a moot point – to kick Barret off of him. The dark-skinned man went flying right into Elena, who tried to catch him despite the fact that he was nearly three times her size.
Thus began a domino effect never to be seen for ages.
Elena crashed to the ground, Barret landing on top of her. The dark-skinned man lost control and accidentally shot a chandelier. Said item hung for all of three seconds before it came crashing down on the head of the Temple Master.
The balding middle-aged guy (stereotypes are so blasé) passed out and was caught by Yuffie who tripped on the edges of her dress and tumbled off of the altar right into the dancing bridesmaids.
They were in turn caught by their respective guards, who forgot all about the guns in their hands.
For the second time that day, a gun went off accidentally, zooming right over Tifa’s head. Almost immediately, due to overuse of hairspray and other cosmetics, her hair caught fire. (I don’t even know if that’s possible but let’s go with it!)
Tifa started screaming, running around in circles with her hair on fire. The guard had let her go, he was terrified of fire.
Godo started shouting, his face turning purple for someone to catch the idiotic brunette. His arms began to flap up and down like a chicken. It was actually quite amusing.
She ran into Cid, who pushed her away, straight into Yuffie’s groom. He shoved her to the ground to smother out the flames but not before he caught his hood on fire.
Tifa was smoldering as her savior threw off his lit hood and tossed it to the ground, stomping on it angrily to prevent anymore fires.
The entire hall went silent…. except for the occasional giggle…
It was still unclear as to why.
Cid’s mouth gaped open.
All eyes turned towards the groom who looked at them all sheepishly and ran his hands through his raven hair.
“Eh… surprise?”



[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 05

Chapter Five – Some Things Never Change

It was a strangely subdued and odd acting group of saviors of the world that gathered in the cockpit of the airship Highwind. Once the emergency alarms went off all over the ship everyone was forced to come there to understand what the hell was going on. Unfortunately they also realized upon arriving that NO ONE knew anything.
Cid stormed into the cockpit, ready to tear the head off the first person who looked at him wrong.
“What the hell is the emergency??” he roared aloud, fixing a glare on all those present. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t even conscious enough to realize it.
Reeve was leaning tiredly against a wall, heavy dark circles underneath his eyes. He yawned largely, not even bothering to cover his mouth. Poor man looked as if he had been running around all night despite the fact that Cid knew the ex-executive had slept in the pilot’s room.
Nanaki had curled up on the floor and was snoring softly, fire on his tail flickering as he breathed out through his nose on the end of his tail as he curled around him.
Tifa was looking around blearily, hair wild as she rubbed into it, apparently not completely awake yet. It was obvious she had a hangover as she repeatedly licked her dry lips, cotton mouth being an unpleasant feeling. Her green chocobo cotton pajama’s almost… (ALMOST I SAID)… made Cid want to burst out laughing.
But he was still furious from being interrupted when he was about to get it on with the vampire of his dreams… With angry and still-glaring blue eyes, Cid continued his sweep of the room as he moved to the control panel.
Barret was standing in front of the window, arms crossed over his burly chest. He had an almost pained look on his face, as he displayed both feelings of anger and sadness. He kept surreptitiously glancing over at Cloud before shaking his head and sighing loudly. Then he would glance out the window for a moment, only to return to staring at their blonde leader, repeating the process all over again.
Cloud, who was standing near the control panel, seemed jittery more than normal. He was chewing on his fingernails nervously, a nasty habit for sure, and kept glancing between Tifa and Barret as if he had spent the night running from both of them.
The Captain knew that Vincent had come in behind him, so there were no worries there. So… that was everyone except-
“Where the hell is Yuffie?” Cid demanded as his eyes swept over the control panel, eyeing the many displays and screens. To him, all appeared normal. The engine seemed to be running fine, they were not under any sort of attack, and he could not fathom a reason for the emergency alarms to go off. Unless, someone pulled the emergency cord or pushed the switch…
“I haven’t seen her since last night…” Tifa yawned, still trying to pat her frizzled out locks into some semblance of normal.
“Tch! Figures!” the pilot cursed. “So what the hell happened?”
Everyone gave him a blank stare.
Suddenly the ship gave a violent rocking as a sound that was drastically similar to that of an explosion resonated through the air. All of the passengers fought to keep their feet. Unfortunately for Tifa, she failed miserably. She tripped over her own feet and slammed down on her ass rather hard.
“Captain, sir! The right engine just gave out! We have to make an emergency landing!” called out one of the crewmen.
“Fuck! Everyone hold on to your shorts and don’t piss in `em!” called out the pilot as he quickly reached for some type of handhold. Seeing the alarmed look on his face, the members of AVALANCHE followed his example and settled down for the ride.
The airship rocked violently as it quickly sunk in the air heading in for a landing. It skidded, bounced a few times, then hit the ground, throwing most of the passengers against the floor not gently at all. The lights went to emergency and the cockpit was bathed in a reddish-orange glow.
“Ugh!! Slalwart! Stat!” the Captain ordered, putting himself in full pilot mode.
“We landed, sir!” came the quick response.
“Well if that wasn’t obvious,” Nanaki remarked dryly.
“Roll call!” Cloud yelled, easily recalling his days as leader.
“I’ve got a splitting headache,” Tifa’s muttered with a groan.
“Did you not cover landin’ in yer pilot class, you dumbass?” Barret questioned.
“Reeve, here.”
“And I.”
“Who’s `I’?” questioned Cloud.
“Don’t be an idiot. Who else is left,” came the dry reply.
“Oh, Vincent,” the leader responded recognizing the deep voice and annoyed tone.
“Where is that fuckin’ ninja?” Cid cursed. “And where the hell are we?”
“Wutai, sir. On the far southern shore,” a crewman responded checking their position on the map.
All members present struggled to their feet, some brushing dust off of their clothes and in the gunman’s case, pulling dust bunnies out of his hair. The unfortunate side effect of having long hair, it tended to attract everything.
“Well, we are going to need repairs.” Cid sighed loudly. “And Wutai is the closest place. Who’s with me?”
There was a distinct and empty silence that spread throughout the room. A pin dropping would have been deafening.
“Oh? No one wants to come?” the Captain questioned aloud. “Fine then. Walk home. Good luck to ya.”
Almost immediately everyone spoke at once.
“Fine!” Cloud shouted, over the clamor. “We will all go!”
* * *
Two hours later, after everyone had showered, changed and retrieved their weapons by the beautiful light of bright orangish-red. The group of heroes set off towards Wutai, a good days journey to the north. It was then that they remembered the events of a few years ago after the time they had first met Yuffie.
The crafty little ninja had stolen their materia, raced across the continent, hid from them, tricked them, got captured by Don Corneo, and then had to be rescued. She was more trouble than she was worth.
“Um… is anyone else worried by Yuffie’s disappearance,” the lone female of the group asked.
Cid snorted. “Should I be? We were above Wutai when the explosion occurred. For all I know, the sneaky girl caused it. She IS after our materia after all.”
“But we still have all of it,” Nanaki commented, rubbing his chin with his foreleg.
The pilot scratched his head. “True… but still… I know she had something to do with this.”
The group continued on in silence, all pondering the events. Cid was still dealing with the erotic thoughts that were racing through his brain and snuck looks at the dark-haired gunman whenever he had a chance. And if he wasn’t mistaken, the ex-Turk was sneaking a peek at him as well.
When he finally caught one crimson eye turned his way, Cid inclined his head only slightly, gesturing that he wanted to speak to the gunman. Vincent obliged, speeding up his step to sidle up next to the pilot.

“You wanted to speak to me?” Vincent’s low voice was quiet, sending shivers up Cid’s spine at the thought.

”I plan on continuing what was interrupted…” spoke Cid in a hushed voice. He leaned in closer, whispering in the gunman’s ear. “I want to feel you from the inside.”

Vincent blushed furiously without intending to, visions unbidden coming to his mind at the pilot’s words. Gods! Now he felt so hot he didn’t know if he could stand the rest of the trip.
“Is… is that a promise?” asked the gunman, nearly stuttering his words.
Cid laughed. “Oh, yes it is.” He returned his attentions to the path ahead of them more than pleased to find that they had already arrived at the town of Wutai. Apparently it had expanded in the past few years, occupying more space.
“Wow!” Tifa exclaimed wide-eyed. “Wutai sure has grown. Hasn’t it Cloud?” She smiled sweetly at the spiky-headed blond and threaded her arm through his.
“Yeah… sure has,” he answered her slowly, gently pulling his arm from her grasp. Tifa was like a leech – or maybe a tick described her better – sometimes it took fire to make her let go.
“Ah, the royal guests have arrived,” came a nasal and annoying voice. All those present looked ahead of them to see a Wutaiian official and several guards standing in their path.
“Royal guests?” the leader asked confused.
“And the royal suitor is here as well,” continued the wutaiian, completely ignoring Cloud’s question. He centered his gaze on Vincent, dark eyes locking onto crimson ones. “Hmph. At least he looks Wutaiian.”
“R… royal suitor?” stammered Vincent, face paling if that was at all possible for someone of his complexion.
The guards surrounding the official moved to surround the friends. Two, however, separated from the group and headed straight for Vincent.
“Lord Godo would like to speak to you alone,” said one of the soldiers.
“But… but…” spluttered Vincent, unable to come up with anything more intelligent. He didn’t want to fight back. That would be a bad thing. But there was no way in hell he was going to marry Yuffie either. He still hadn’t got to screw Cid!!
As the soldiers led the dark-haired stammering gunman away, the distinct sound of Tifa’s giggling could be heard as the Wutaian official led them through the streets towards the inn.
“That little thief!” Cid spluttered outrageously, “Taking my man like that!!”
Nanaki chuckled and swished his tail, almost setting Tifa on fire. “Some things never change.”
“And why the hell are you laughing?” demanded Cid.
“I never thought my plan would work so well,” Tifa said, giggling again. She felt like hugging herself.
“Your plan?” asked Barret confused.
“Aw, come on,” the martial artist said, waving her hand at them. “You guys are such stiff-necked creatures. We all thought Vin needed to loosen up right? I just gave them an extra push.” She tapped her chin. “Then again… it should have worn off twenty-four hours ago, about three hours after the party.”
“What should have worn off?” Cid growled dangerously.
Tifa gulped and blanched at the murderous glance in Cid’s eyes, all giggles erased from her mind. “Um… the love potion…” Her eyes darted around wildly. “But… but Cloud gave it to me in the first place!!” she declared, pointing a finger at their illustrious leader.
“For use on Cid… not Yuffie!!” exclaimed Cloud aghast. Then his eyes widened as he realized the implications of what he had just said. A pair of hands clapped over his mouth, they belonged to Tifa.
“On… Cid?” Barret questioned looking strangely aghast.
“Love potion?” Reeve repeated as if shocked by what he heard. “Thank the gods! I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain that to Elena?”
“Explain what, Reeve?” came a female voice sounding very angry. All eyes stopped in their tracks and turned to the side.
All of the Turks: Rude, Reno, and Elena – were standing outside of the Turtle’s Paradise and staring down at the group of heroes. Elena had her hands on her hips and was frowning particularly at Reeve.
“Um. We’ll catch up later, we know our way to the temple,” Cloud said to the officials. They looked as if they might protest but one glare from the spiky-headed blond, and a tap to a rather large sword, and they thought better of it.
“Oh… El-Bear… I thought you were all on vacation…” Reeve said, stammering a bit as he moved to speak to his girlfriend, who instantly latched on to him.
“You as well as anyone should know that the Turks prefer to spend their vacations at Wutai,” Elena answered, glaring at him. She hadn’t forgotten what she had overheard but was waiting for the moment to bring it back up.
“Besides,” Reno piped up. “We were invited to Yuffie’s wedding. Rufus said we had to come since Tseng couldn’t.”
“Y… Yuffie’s wedding?” the Captain questioned, turning his glare onto Tifa. She shrunk backwards and hid behind Cloud.
Aha! Finally, the Cid-famous glare was working!!
“Yeah.” Reno shrugged, lighting up a cigarette. “It’s supposed to be tomorrow night or something like that… pity the poor sap though.” He actually winced at the thought of anyone liking the psychotic ninja, much less wanting to marry her.
“There’s no way…” Tifa stammered. “I only gave it to her two days or so ago. They couldn’t have planned a wedding like that this far in advance.”
“Then… it wasn’t just the love potion…” Nanaki mused aloud. “She really DID want Vincent.” He fought the urge to shudder as an image of the two in very compromising position appeared in his poor, irreparably damaged mind
“Vincent?” questioned all three of the Turks looking completely surprised.
“Poor, poor man.” Reno sighed, shaking his head. He took a deep drag of the cigarette.
“We have to stop this wedding!” Rude exclaimed vehemently, speaking for the first time. It was the first time Barret ever actually heard him speak, so the dark-skinned man looked at him strangely.
All eyes turned to him in confusion. He paled as much as he was able and stammered out his next sentence, “Well… we can’t leave Valentine to his fate… he was one of us wasn’t he?”
“Damn right!” Cid exclaimed, startling them all with his vehemence. “I’ve got a score to settle and a settle to score!! Who’s with me?”
There was a series of cheers and hollers. Apparently AVALANCHE, the terrorist group, was back in action.
Everyone began murmuring to each other, forming plans of action.
Elena moved to stand next to her boyfriend, clasping his hands in hers and smiling sweetly at him. “Now what weren’t you going to explain?”


[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 04

Chapter Four – I Only Want to Play

Cid stumbled along the empty corridor, still half inebriated himself. In his arms he carried a very unconscious but still very beautiful dark-haired gunman.

“Damn, Vince, for all your thinness you sure are a heavy motherfucker,” the pilot grunted as he hefted him up again.

The drunken gunman did not answer. He had passed out from one too many shots of scotch, an attempt to put up with the presence of one Yuffie Kisaragi. Cid grimaced; he wasn’t sure if there was enough alcohol in the world for that…

He was never happier to see his room than tonight. Vincent was getting heavier and heavier. He had promised Tifa he would watch over the ex-Turk and had so thoughtfully brought the unconscious man to his own rather spacious quarters. He tried to balance Vincent on his own two feet, but hearing a mumbled groan and a few other intelligible words come forth from the gunman’s mouth as he weaved forward and back, Cid ended up just throwing him over one shoulder.

On any other day, he would have laughed at the events up to this moment. But for right now… his bed was calling him.

As he unlocked the door to his room, recent events had caused him to change his routine of leaving it open, and wandered inside. His mind recalled what had just transpired not but ten minutes ago.

~* Flashback *~

Eyes closed as lips locked, and Vincent melted into the blond’s arms, relishing in the feel of Cid’s lips on his own. The pilot tasted like alcohol, and chocolate and cigarettes, and a taste that was quintessentially all Cid, a taste that was indescribable.

The gunman moaned slightly and parted his lips, inviting the pilot inside. Cid was more than happy to oblige. They probed into each other’s wet caverns, tongues warring to get the most of it, tasting, testing, feeling.

Finally, the two men broke apart, gasping for breath, the need for air having been the factor that separated them. There were startled looks of amusement and amazement on the faces of the friends gathered around the party. And Yuffie… she looked absolutely crestfallen, as if someone had just broken her heart all to pieces, the result of her love affections being dispelled.

Cid spoke softly, ignoring the looks around him, “Oh shit, Vince, I been wantin’ ta do that for a long time.”

Vincent smiled softly at the pilot who held him and opened his mouth to speak.

Instead, he hiccupped… and passed out, becoming dead weight in the pilot’s arms. Apparently, he had had too much to drink…

Cid scrambled to get a hold of the unconscious gunman, opting to just pick him up rather than let him fall. As he held Vincent, he looked around the room to a sea of startled and surprised faces, one of them even looked as if it may cry… Yuffie.

“So… that is why he ran away…” she said softly, eyes and face screwing up into a tearful expression.

“Ah, come on, Yuffie,” consoled Cid, scared that he might actually see tears. He absolutely hated to see women cry… it turned him to jelly inside. “He tried ta tell ya…”

She pinched her face even more together, eyes glassing over. Cid held his breath, any moment the tears would flow.

“Now…” she began slowly, seemingly looking for words that she could not find, “But now, I can move on…” she continued, voice taking on the sound of someone who has figured something out. She leapt up in the air, shouting for joy as her tearful expression turned to one of happiness.

It was frightening for all those present.

“And I know just where to look, too,” she added mischievously, turning around and placing her gaze directly on one Cloud Strife who was standing next to Barret.

Her eyes flashed with a predatory gleam as she began walking slowly towards him. Cloud recognized the look as the one she had on her face when Vincent stormed into his room all in a fright. His eyes widened and instantly began to know fear…. fear more powerful than when Tifa was trying to coax him into her room, wearing nothing more than a sheer robe.

“Um… Yuffie… flattered really… you’re a great fighter and all but…” Cloud stuttered looking around wildly for an escape. What to do…. what to do….

He saw it.

She was getting closer.

“Cloudy, so how’s the party?” the ninja chimed in a sing song voice.

It was a last resort… but by god he was going to take it.

“Um… really… but… you see…” he stuttered some more, inching uncomfortably close to Barret. Yuffie sidled up right in front of them and moved her face dangerously close.

“You look pretty good tonight,” she responded, as if she took no notice of his words.

“I’m with Barret!!” Cloud blurted out, threading an arm through that of Barret’s. It was an outright lie and he knew it but he hoped the ninja would believe him.

She blinked once, twice, and drew back only slightly. She didn’t seem to be understanding it…

Cloud’s eyes widened in fear. He looked for something to distract her, “But Reeve is single,” he added, throwing in a famous Cloud charming smile. He reached forward and pushed her in the direction of the slightly intoxicated man.

The moment she saw the bright red of Reeve’s shirt, Yuffie was hooked. Almost as if she had no control of herself, Yuffie began making a beeline straight for the ex-executive.

Cloud breathed a sigh of relief. He looked up towards Barret who had a weird expression on his face. “Thanks, that was a close one,” he mumbled, slowly disentangling his rather skinny arm from Barret’s beefy one.

There was a starry-eyed expression on the man’s mustached face that unnerved Cloud. He took a step backwards, and spoke tentively, “Uh, Barret?”

“Ya really, want ta be with me, Cloud?” asked Barret, a goofy grin beginning to spread over his features.

For the second time that night, Cloud’s eyes widened in fear and he looked around wildly for an escape, “Ya know… I think I hear Tifa calling me!” he blurted out before he took off, not wanting to stick around and see what else Barret wanted to say.

Had the world gone mad!?!

“Poor Vince, I don’t think he will be partying anymore tonight,” Tifa clucked in her best mother hen voice. But her eyes were on free falling raven tresses.

“I will just take him to his room so he can sleep it off,” Cid responded gruffly, heaving the unconscious gunman up in his arms more comfortably.

“Oh God!” Reeve yelled. “Yuffie, please no… but I’m not single. I’m with Elena… you know, the Turk… don’t put your hand there! Please GO AWAY!!” he screamed, darting past them into the hallway. He was running at full speed.

“Aw come on, Kitty, I only want to play!” Yuffie called out, arms outstretched as she nimbly chased after him, tripping over Nanaki’s tail in the process.

Red raised a reddish-orange eyebrow. “Interesting… I did not know that Reeve could run that quickly. Perhaps he should have accompanied us instead of Cait during our journey.”

Cid shook his head at the spectacle, only glad that she wasn’t after Vincent anymore. Had the girl gone completely off her head? He returned his attentions to Tifa in enough time to see her grabbing a small chunk of the ex-Turk’s hair and running it through her fingers.

“What the hell do ya think yer doin’?” he demanded.

She jumped only slightly, looking up at him with her sweetest expression. “Aw let’s have some fun. Let me braid his hair.”

“Hell no! Vince would fucking kill me!” swore Cid, freeing up a hand so he could slap her’s away.

“Tifa, let’s go! I’ve had enough of this party,” Cloud exclaimed, running up to them. He grabbed her arm and started dragging her towards the door. Tifa looked back just once, longingly at hair that would always be prettier than hers.

Cid heaved a sigh of relief, and again shifted Vincent’s weight in his arms. He glanced over and saw that Barret was standing near the speakers, looking lost, and Nanaki had passed out on the floor.

He shrugged, at least it had been a success.

~* End Flashback *~

Cid finished his remembrances as he gently laid the unconscious gunman across his bed and got him ready to go to sleep. He carefully removed the thick black boots that the dark-haired man insisted on wearing, and the high collared cloak that always served to hide most of his features. Cid shook his head in amazement, two years after the Great Sephiroth Fiasco and the man still couldn’t change his wardrobe.

It was taking nearly all his energy just to help Vincent. Cid had had quite a few drinks himself and was beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol, though he doubted he would just pass out like poor Vince.

Giving a great heave, the blond moved Vincent further up into the bed. He began to remove his own clothes so that he could rest comfortably too.

Turning his head to smile down at the unconscious gunman, Cid reached around to removed the head band threaded through his raven hair. He found his fingers filled with silky soft tresses and smiled at the feeling.

Vincent groaned softly and fought to open his eyes, crimson meeting ice blue. “Highwind…” he muttered quietly, blinking several times. It was hard for him to keep his eyes open, he felt so tired. “What… happened?”

“Ya passed out, Vince. Apparently ya can’t handle yer alcohol.” Cid grinned, ruffling his friends hair as he turned back around to remove his jacket and throw it on the floor with his boots, scarf, and Vincent’s clothing.

“Shut up…” responded Vincent, his voice already thickening with sleep again.

The Captain grinned despite himself as he stripped off his shirt but left his pants on. He didn’t want Vincent to freak out or anything in the morning before he got a chance to have his way with him.

“Cid,” Vincent began, but halted before he continued, waiting for the pilot to acknowledge him.

“Yeah?” answered Cid as he lay down next to the gunman, turning his head to face him. Vincent’s eyes were closed and his breathing was evening out. Cid cursed mentally, thinking that the gunman had already passed back out.

“I been wanting to do that, too…” the dark-haired man muttered softly, his words trailing off as he drifted off into slumber.

Cid smiled to himself as he settled deeper into his bed, getting comfortable. It had been a good day overall. He closed his eyes and felt himself getting drowsy.

“Damn!” he suddenly cursed, eyes flying open. “Happens every fucking time!!”

He growled more to himself than anyone else, as he thrust his body off the bed and stormed into the bathroom.

* * *
Crimson eyes opened blearily as the dark-haired man awoke from his alcohol induced slumber. He vaguely realized that he wasn’t in his own room as he managed to look up at the ceiling and around the room. He felt a cool breeze ghost over his body and shivered a bit. It was then that he realized he wore nothing but his black boxers. He thought his surroundings looked familiar; however.

Sighing heavily, his head pounding, Vincent tried to sit up. He groaned when he realized there was a heavy weight settled on his right side. He unconsciously gave a great heave to dislodge whatever was restraining him, mind still fuzzy on the circumstances.

There was a heavy thump followed by a series of muttered curses. Startled, Vincent’s mind cleared. He recognized the voice.

“Cid?” he questioned as he rolled over slightly and peered over the side of the bed.

“What the %$#@!?!” the pilot muttered, holding his head angrily. He had landed not gently on the floor, head first. He shivered slightly, finding it rather cold to be lying on the wooden floor in just his boxers.

Vincent’s eyes widened. (Oh, hell! Had they done something, and he couldn’t remember? The night was such a blur!!)

“Sorry,” Vincent mumbled sheepishly.

Cid struggles to sit up. “S’okay,” he said groggily. “How ya feelin’?”

“My head hurts,” the dark-haired man answered, blinking.

Cid laughed, slowly clearing the fog of sleep from his mind. Of course, waking up to find yourself pushed out of your own bed can wake a man up rather quickly as well. “You did drink a hell of a lot, Vince.”


Cid cocked his head to the side as if in confusion. “You sound disappointed,” he said suggestively.

Vincent smiled endearingly though Cid could not see it behind his own hand. “I just wanted to make sure that I would remember the first time.”

The blond stood to his feet and made his way back to the bed. The ex-Turk stretched out lazily, finding himself a comfortable position. Cid clambered up next to him and laid down in the space that Vincent had provided.

“Is that so?” Cid questioned.

Vincent nodded. “My mind’s really fuzzy but didn’t you kiss me in front of everyone last night?”

The Captain grinned lecherously. “If ya hadn’t been so drunk, I woulda done more.” He leaned in and planted a strong kiss on Vincent’s soft lips.

The ex-Turk moaned with the touch and reached out with his right arm, wrapping his hand around the back of Cid’s head, deepening the kiss. He parted his lips and allowed the blond access to his mouth. He loved the taste of the pilot, something akin to cigarettes and tea, two flavors Cid was most fond of. The dark-haired man felt a shiver of arousal shoot down his spine heading straight for his awakening length.

Cid moves over to straddle the gunman, hands beginning to roam unmercilessly as he continues to kiss the hell out of the raven-haired beauty. Calloused mechanic fingers tweaked an already peaked nipple. Vincent moaned beneath his touch.

“Eeew! I so did not want to see that!” came a low voice from beside them on the bed. Vincent jumped with surprise. Cid pulled back and away from Vincent, more or less sitting on his hips.

“Reeve?” The gunman had easily recognized the voice.

The pile of sheets and blankets next to the making out couple began to shift as a dark-headed man poked his head out.

“Oops,” Cid said sheepishly. “I forgot about him.”

Vincent furrowed his brow in confusion. “Why are you in here?”

“Hiding from Yuffie,” came the muffled response.

“And I thought only males were that horny,” Cid joked.

Vincent rolled his eyes. “I was that out of it?”

Cid grimaced. “You drank a lot trying to avoid the ninja.”

Reeve huffed and rolled out the bed. Unlike the others, he was thankfully completely dressed. “Well, I’ll… er… just leave now. I am interrupting after all.”

Cid smirked as he watched the ex-executive hurry from the room, face bright red with embarrassment.

The pilot returned his attentions to the prize in his arms. “Now where were we?” He grinned at the man he intended to take as his lover.

“I think right about here,” Vincent purred. He reached up with one hand and trailed a soft caress from the nape of the pilot’s chest and down the front of his body, delighting in the feel of the muscle. Even though most fighting had ceased since the Fiasco, Cid still managed to keep in great shape.

The ex-Turk didn’t stop as he traced the line further down, wrapping one long elegant finger around the waistband of the pilot’s boxers, tugging on them slightly.

“Fuckin’ tease,” Cid grunted as he leaned forward to claim a kiss from the gunman.

Vincent’s hand dove into the pilot’s pants, seeking that rapidly hardening length. He wrapped his hand around it and began to stroke slowly, eliciting a lust-filled moan from the blond.

Not that the pilot himself had been completely unbusy. Even as Vincent worked to put Cid into a lustful frenzy, the pilot had roving hands that constantly tweaked at sensitive nipples on a pale chest. The dark-haired man had to bite his lip to keep from crying out too loudly. It wouldn’t do for everyone else to be hearing.

Drops of precum leaked out from Cid’s erection, a testament to how ready he was for the gunman. Eager to get the same reaction from Vincent, Cid reached down and dove into the black boxers, finding his own prize.

They stroked each other in time, the only sound was their satisfied moans.

“Damn,” Cid breathed. “I can’t take it anymore. I been waiting too long.”

“Then just fuck me,” Vincent moaned in response, yanking the pilot down for another kiss.

Cid grinned. “Don’t have to ask me twice.” He reached down to pull off the black boxers covering Vincent.

A piercing shrill alarm suddenly went off as flashing red lights in the room started to blind the two intended lovers.

“What the ^%$#?” the Captain questioned looking up angrily.

It was the emergency system for the Highwind. Either something was up with the ship or they had been attacked.

Vincent sighed and groaned all in the same breath.

The pilot cursed angrily as he slowly rolled off Vincent.

Damn it all to hell. Fucking Vincent until he screamed was just going to have to wait!!

[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 03

Chapter Three – *Hiccup*

Vincent stood behind the door, eyes widening when he realized that Cid was getting ready to come into the bathroom. He made to move from behind the door when it was suddenly and violently shoved backwards, knocking him in the head. Apparently he had misjudged how far the bed was from the bathroom. He let out a low cry of pain and grabbed his head.

“What the-? Vin?” Cid questioned startled as he flipped on the bathroom light and peered around. “How the hell did you get in here?”

“Uhn… window…” Vincent answered, groaning as he held his head. He almost swore that he had seen stars when the door slammed into him. He opened his eyes and glanced at Cid, seeing two of him. As if one wasn’t enough to handle… sheesh…

“Damn ninja was here looking for you again!” Cid huffed angrily. He reached to light a cigarette and swore again when he realized he did not have one.

Vincent groaned and blinked at him rapidly, trying to clear his vision. “I did not know this was your room. I just… ran.”

“Ya know, Vince, ya can’t run from the damn brat forever.” Cid sighed, reaching out and grabbing the slightly delusional man by the arm. He pulled Vincent out of his bathroom and made him sit on the bed so he could take a piss as originally planned. Not that it stopped him from talking.

“Yer gonna have to tell her that you ain’t got no interest in her ass, ya know?”

Vincent rolled his eyes and fell back onto the bed, delighting in the comfort it offered. He was so tired. He tried to ignore Cid’s lecture and go to sleep. At least here he wouldn’t worry about being molested as he slept… not unless he himself was the one doing it.

“She can’t be all that strong. Stop running and fight her damn ass. You’re a six foot tall vampire wannabe with a demon livin’ in ya! Just kick her ass or sumthin’!” Cid stated incredulously.

He came out of the bathroom and headed immediately for the table near his bed, rifling in the small drawer for a pack of cigs and a lighter. He found both and lit up all too happily. He sat down on the bed and took a much needed drag.

“Sit up lazy ass, ye ain’t sleeping here!” Cid yelled.

Vincent groaned but did not move. His hand came up and he held it out to Cid. “Let me have a drag.”

“You don’t smoke, Vince.”

“I did, a long time ago, when I was a Turk. But right now, I could really use one.”

“I will if you tell me what caused you to run this time.”

“It will give you nightmares for a week, Highwind, or longer if I’m lucky.”

Cid muttered something under his breath before he spoke again. “Just tell me dammit! Don’t think I won’t go find, Yuffie. This day jes keeps getting more and more interesting.”

Vincent sighed and sat up. “Fine. If you insist.”

“Wait, where is your cloak, and your boots? And that damned headband you always wear wrapped around your head?” Cid asked, suddenly noticing the absence of those always present articles of clothing.

Vincent glared at him, a small shudder running through his body. “If you will let me tell you, you will find out!”

Cid waved a hand at him, taking another drag of his cigarette.

Vincent took a deep breath. “When I got back to my room, she was waiting for me. I had already taken off my boots on my own, but when I sat on my bed, that was when I noticed her. After she had already pressed her naked body to mine.” Cid nearly choked at his words. Naked? Yuffie? Oh, god the images! He motioned for Vincent to continue but stared off scared into space.

“In my struggle to escape, she got to keep the cloak and the headband. The scrawny teen is stronger than she looks. I ran out the room, dashed into Cloud’s and crawled out the window. I climbed into the next window I found and ended up here.”

Cid wordlessly reached for the pack of cigarettes he had stashed back in the drawer and handed one to Vincent. He even went so far as to light up the thing for him. The two men sat and smoked their cigarettes in silence for a moment, minds replaying the images, real and imagined, that Vincent’s tale relayed.

“Don’t know what the hell has gotten into her all of a sudden…” remarked Vincent quietly. He shuddered and sought to erase the images from his mind.

Cid was quiet for a moment longer, before finishing the last of his smoke and crushing the butt against the table, effectively putting it out. “You can stay here tonight, Vince, but tomorrow you are going to corner that crazy ninja and put her in her place.”

Vincent stared thoughtfully at Cid, and then nodded in assent. He finished his cigarette and climbed into the far side of the bed. He lay there stiffly, staring off into the dark. He felt the bed shift as Cid lay down as well, on the other side.

The bed was quite comfortable, probably more so than his own. Vincent closed his eyes tiredly and tried to go to sleep. Oh god, and that damned party was tomorrow too…

Cid awoke and found that he was sleeping in his big bed alone, again. Vincent must have slipped out early that morning. Man was as quiet as a shadow when he wanted to be. He was always an early riser as much as Cid himself was a late sleeper.

He wondered on the statement that the gunman had made the night before. He had claimed that Cid would find out soon enough. He always had to be mysterious, deliberately not answering anything, though he was quite talkative last night. He was damn near friendly and that thought almost scared him more than Yuffie acting all sex crazed.

When had everyone started going nuts!?! Fuck, he needed a cigarette. Dragging himself out of bed, Cid glared blearily at the clock then blinked surprised. For a moment there he thought it said three in the afternoon.

Rubbing his wrists over his eyes, Cid looked again. Damn, it really was three. Tifa’s damn party would be starting in a couple of hours, and he still had tons of work to do. Never was he one to turn down free food and booze.

Cid rifled a cigarette out of the drawer next to his bed even as he scratched his stomach heading for the bathroom to take a much needed shower. He wondered briefly if Vincent had used his shower that morning. Suddenly, images came to his mind unbidden, of the beautiful raven-haired man naked, water coursing over his pale skin.

Whoa buddy! Beautiful? Naked? Vince? He felt his cock jump in response to the thoughts. When had he started thinking of the crazy quiet man in that way?

Shaking his head in disgust to himself, Cid tried to banish the erotic thoughts from his mind as he climbed into the shower, turning it more to the cold side than to the hot. But the images would not fade and he found himself grower harder as he imagined joining Vincent in the shower and running his tongue up his chest, catching the water. He imagined it would taste sweet and spicy, like the strange cologne that Vincent wore. He hadn’t even noticed it before until last night… when the two had shared a bed.

Groaning at his predicament as he now looked down at a full erection, Cid wondered when exactly his imaginings had turned on him. Granted he had always felt a certain friendly affection for the dark-haired gunman. Why then was he so eager to have the man squirming beneath him, making soft little moans of encouragement?

Cid cracked a smile, just a small one, as he wondered, how much it would take to make the silent man scream his name? Now that would be a quest worth partaking. Soaping himself, Cid began to whistle a happy tune as he plotted his seduction of his crimson-eyed friend.

* * *

Tifa’s party went off without a hitch. She was real proud of her efforts. The decorations were tasteful and celebratory, the food was well planned and absolutely yummy, and the alcohol flowed freely enough for everyone to enjoy. It was her idea for this get together. After the battle with Sephiroth two years previous, everyone had just kind of drifted off in their own directions. Fearing that she would never see her friends again, she called up everyone on their PHS and planned the party. Even Reeve came, in person, rather than piloting Cait Sith. He was quite a handsome man, she noticed.

Tifa looked around the room, noticing that everyone seemed to be having a good time. Cloud and Barrett were laughing over some obscure memory near the small stereo system she had set up. They had a beer in each hand and were downing them rather quickly.

Reeve was sitting by his lonesome, half-drunk already, rocking to the beat in the song, but she would fix that soon enough. He was dressed rather handsomely in a pair of black dress pants and a red dress shirt, making his honey brown eyes literally shine. Nanaki was watching him, laughing occasionally when he made some odd move. Yuffie hadn’t come yet, she was probably still sleeping and had forgotten about the time, no surprise there.

Cid was standing next to the food table, as close to both food and alcohol as he could get. She was even surprised to find that Vincent, normally the loner and quiet one, seemed to be enjoying himself. Of course, that might have had something to do with the liquor that she occasionally saw Cid surreptitiously slipping into his drink.

She giggled, thinking that maybe her plan had worked. The brown-haired lass thought back to her actions of yesterday, remarking on how they had gone off without a hitch.

Tifa was in her matchmaking mode yet again, determined to help Yuffie find a husband and bring Vincent out of his quiet shell. Like others, she thought all he needed was a good night in the sack. So she concocted the perfect plan. Asking the high-spirited girl to help her, Tifa spiked the girl’s drink with a sex potion triggered by the color red. She then made it so Vincent was the next in sight and voila! Yuffie goes chasing after Vincent. Tifa giggled. She figured eventually the ninja would catch him and have her way and then everyone would be happy. The potion would probably wear off within the next twenty-four hours or maybe less, she wasn’t sure, but either way… her plan was flawless.

Picking up her drink, Tifa strode over to Cloud and Barret, joining in their conversation easily as she kept an eye out for Yuffie. The girl would show up sooner or later, after all, the party had only started an hour ago. But for now, it was time for her to enjoy her own party… and see what she could scrounge up for Reeve. Giggling despite herself, Tifa tried to pay attention to Cloud’s narration.

“Have a drink, Vince,” said Cid, striding up to the crimson-eyed man and holding out a plastic cup filled with the orange punch.

Vincent narrowed his eyes at the cup and glared at Cid all in the same movement. “I do not wish to consume alcohol tonight.”

“It’s just the punch, something Tifa made for Yuffie and Nanaki,” Cid insisted, pushing the cup towards him once again.

“If it will make you happy,” Vincent answered, as he took the cup from Cid. He crossed his arms as he leaned further against the wall, eyes scanning the room again for Yuffie. The little ninja had yet to show up and that much Vincent was grateful for. He hoped that being around everyone she wouldn’t make a scene and he wouldn’t have to run. He would hate to look like an idiot…

“You are supposed to be having fun, too.”

“I do not have fun.”

“Then why’d you bother coming?”

Vincent opened his mouth to speak, and then abruptly closed it again. He did not have an answer that would not reveal his secret. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to reveal that quite yet.

“That’s what I thought,” Cid commented before he grabbed Vincent and pulled him by the arm towards the table that was laden with food and drink. He pushed him towards it and gestured at all the goodies. “Eat, drink, do something!” he ordered.

Shrugging his shoulders, Vincent selected a single chocolate cookie even as he took a sip of the punch that Cid had given him. “Happy?” he asked, one eyebrow crooked.

“Sure,” answered Cid, emitting a small smile as he drank some of his beer. It was a smile that Vincent did not see. Little did the gunman know but Cid had already spiked Vincent’s drink, and had planned on doing it as much as possible the rest of the night.

“Tastes kind of bitter,” commented Vincent after sipping from the cup.

Cid waved his hand in dismissal. “It’s the pineapple. Makes it kinda tangy.”

Shrugging, Vincent drank more of the strange concoction, suddenly finding himself very thirsty.

Cid tried to keep up a conversation, occasionally slipping in sexual hints when he could, as he continuously refilled Vincent’s cup and his own.

Thirty minutes later, Vincent was beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol, and was confused because he knew he hadn’t had any. But he knew where to point the finger.

“Cid, this isn’t tangy because of alcohol, is it?” he questioned, with a raised eyebrow. He noticed that his voice was slurring just a little.

”Aw, don’t be mad, Vince, you just need to lighten up.”

Vincent narrowed his eyes, preparing to rebuke the pilot, when the door to the common room opened and the object of his fear came strolling in. Yuffie wore a large grin on her face as she greeted everyone.

His flee instinct wanted to kick in though he felt rooted to the spot. Damn alcohol made his thought processes slower. Her gaze fell on the gunman and instantly her brown eyes lit up.

“Oh, god, Cid, help,” breathed Vincent softly, keeping an eye on Yuffie. He felt cornered as he slugged down his punch and felt around behind him for something much stronger.

Cid saw his distress and quickly slipped him the shot of scotch he had already poured himself. “Now’s the time, Vince, tell her who’s the boss.”

Vincent took the scotch and quickly tossed it back, gesturing for Cid to keep them coming. Cid was more than happy to oblige.

The gunman watched Yuffie carefully, crimson eyes wide. She made her way to Tifa, saying something first before she left, making sure to speak to everyone first. For a moment, Vincent entertained the belief that Yuffie had finally come to her senses and was going to leave him alone.

Three shots of scotch later, Vincent knew that he was wrong as the little ninja made her way to where Cid and he were standing, that predatory look back in her eyes.

“Heya, Cid, Vinny, how’s it going?” she asked as she jauntily reached around them for a cup of punch and a few cookies. Vincent watched where her hands went carefully, eyeing her every move.

“The party’s great,” Cid answered. “You finally made it, I see.”

“I had a long night,” she shrugged. “Needed to sleep in. So Vince, where’d you go last night?” She sidled up close to him, not exactly touching but looking as if she might.

Vincent opened his mouth to speak but Cid beat him to it.

“He was with me, of course,” the pilot answered broadly, smile bright on his face.

Yuffie narrowed her eyes. “Is that so?”

“Listen, Yuffie, I need to tell you something,” cut in Vincent, eager to dispel the angry look that was taking over her genial features.

Instantly her growl was replaced by a smile, she threaded one arm through his and looked up at him expectantly. “What is it, Vinny-poo?”

He grimaced at the sound of her calling him that as he looked down at her. There was a look of rapt adoration on her face. He could see Cid moving around next to him out of the corner of his eye. Hurriedly downing what had to be his seventh shot of scotch in the past twenty minutes, Vincent cleared his throat.

“I am sorry but I am not attracted to you in any way shape or form other than as a sister and friend,” he stated as simply and slowly as he could so that she would understand what he said. Carefully, he removed his arm from her grasp and took a small step away, hoping that she would get the picture.

She looked up at him, a blank expression on her face. She blinked once then twice, not responding at all. Vincent saw Cid move closer to him, standing at his right arm as the two men held their breaths waiting for her reaction.

She stared at them again, blinked, and then a big smile broke out on her face. She launched herself at Vincent, wrapping her arms around his neck. He oomphed and was forced off balance nearly falling over as she exclaimed, “Don’t lie to me Vinny! I know how you really feel!”

“Yuffie, get off me!” he demanded trying to disentangle her limbs from his own as he fought to maintain his balance. “I don’t want you.”

“Why are you lying to yourself, Vinny?” whined the little ninja.

By now, every attendee at the party had turned their eyes to the comical sight before them. Yuffie was attached to Vincent at the neck, trying to kiss him as he moved his face far away from her. Cid had a hold of Yuffie, attempting to pull her off of the scared gunman.

With a great heave, Vincent grabbed onto the ninja’s arms and pulled them off. She fell backwards, crashing on top of Cid who had been pulling her. They collapsed into a jumbled heap. Vincent took several steps back, swaying lightly on his feet, finally feeling the effects of the scotch. He was breathing heavily with the exertion.

“Get off me, dammit!” Cid cursed, pushing the ninja off of him as he sprang to his feet.

“Stay… stay away from me, Yuffie. I don’t wanna hafta… hafta hurt y… you,” Vincent stated, stuttering. It seemed like his tongue felt so heavy and thick. Cid moved to stand beside him, blue eyes concerned.

“But, Vinny-poo…” Yuffie frowned as she got to her feet, advancing towards the frightened inebriated gunman and the enraged pilot. It seemed being thrown on the floor hadn’t stopped her any.

“No…” said Vincent slowly, before he gripped his head with his right hand, swaying unsteadily on his feet. It seemed like the ground wanted to say hello… before he felt a pair of strong arms grab him around the middle. It was Cid.

“Whoa there… had a bit too much to drink, didn’t ya?” asked Cid, looking at Vincent worriedly.

For a moment it seemed as if time had stopped as crimson eyes met sky blue ones, faces hovered so close to one another. Vincent blinked slowly, looking at Cid. He could smell the alcohol on the pilot’s breath and the pout of his lips looked so enticing. He forgot about Yuffie… he forgot about the people around him… he wanted to kiss him but something held him back… what was it…

Cid was no less affected. Without thought, without provocation, ignoring everything around him, he followed his instincts.

Eyes closed as lips locked, and Vincent melted into Cid’s arms, relishing in the feel of Cid’s lips on his own. The pilot tasted like alcohol and chocolate and cigarettes and a taste that was quintessentially all Cid, a taste that was indescribable.

The gunman moaned slightly and parted his lips, inviting the pilot inside. Cid was more than happy to oblige. They probed into each other’s wet caverns, tongues warring to get the most of it, tasting, testing, feeling.

Finally, the two men broke apart, gasping for breath, the need for air having been the factor that separated them.

There were startled looks of amusement and amazement on the faces of the friends gathered around the party. And Yuffie, she looked absolutely crestfallen, as if someone had just broken her heart all to pieces, the result of her love affections being dispelled.

Cid spoke softly, ignoring the looks around him, “Oh shit, Vince, I been wantin’ ta do that for a long time.”

Vincent smiled softly at the pilot who held him and opened his mouth to speak. “…*hiccup*…” His crimson eyes rolled up into the back of his head as the gunman passed out, becoming dead weight in the pilot’s arms. Apparently, he had had too much to drink…

[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 02

Chapter Two – So Who Are You Interested In?

Vincent walked away from the door and sank back into his chair, taking in a deep, calming breath. Letting it out slowly, he appeared to think hard, as if he were choosing his words carefully.

“It all started when she asked me to help her with `something’. She was rather vague about the `something’ at the time and I suppose I should have realized the situation wasn’t sitting right. But what was I to think? I mean, it seemed logical at the time…”

“Vin-” cut in Cid impatiently, “Yer stalling.”

Vincent looked up startled. “Yes, I suppose I am.”

“Get on with the damn story then!”

“O… okay,” sighed Vincent. He closed his eyes, recalling the events of not so long ago, before opening his mouth to continue his tale.

“Yuffie asked me to help her retrieve a box of decorations for Tifa and the party out of the cargo room. She claimed that she wasn’t tall enough to reach them. I assented and went with her to the cargo bay. But when we got there, it was pretty obvious that she had alternate intentions. She pointed out some sad looking box on the top shelf of a rickety set of metal shelves. When I reached up for it, Yuffie tackled me. Caught unawares, I had a delayed reaction. If that wasn’t enough, she tried to…to…” He trailed off then as if unable to continue.

Fighting to contain his grin because Cid knew where this was heading, he gestured that Vincent continue. “Well, what did she `try’ to do?”

“She… tried to kiss me!” exclaimed Vincent aghast. He got to his feet and started pacing the floor clearly agitated. “It was the most frightening thing in the world.”

That did it. Cid could not contain his humor anymore. He burst into heavy gales of laughter, slapping his knee with the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

Vincent drew up short, glaring at him, crimson eyes flaring. “It is not funny Highwind,” he muttered.

Cid had to wipe tears of laughter from his eyes, struggling to catch a breath. “You act as if you’ve never kissed a girl before,” he gasped through his loud laughter.

“I have so!” Vincent argued defensively. “I just don’t want to kiss her!”

Cid tried to stop laughing, trying to give him a serious look. “Do you even like women?”

Vincent sidestepped the question, countering with one of his own, “Would you kiss her?”

“Hell no! That little brat! Be like kissing my annoying younger cousin/sister or sumthin’!”

“I rest my case.” Vincent frowned, stopped his pacing and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at Cid.

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

Vincent ignored him and moved over to the door. He peered out the peephole, confirming that Yuffie was nowhere in sight. “It is safe to leave now. I think I will go lock myself in my room.”

Cid growled. “Well, who are you interested in if not Yuffie?” He was getting irritated with Vincent avoiding answering any of his direct questions.

Vincent opened the door, pretending as if he hadn’t heard Cid, barely sticking his head out enough to look up and down the hallway. No Yuffie. Heaving a sigh of relief, Vincent pulled the door open and prepared to leave, standing in the doorway, body angled slightly away from Cid.

“Don’t you leave without answering my question Valentine,” insisted Cid.

“Don’t worry Highwind, you will find out soon enough,” answered Vincent, his face almost blank. He cast a look back at Cid before striding out the door, closing the door gently behind him.

Cid could only stare at the closed door, his mouth open in astonishment. He was rooted to his seat, surprised by the almost teasing look that he had caught in the ex-Turk’s crimson eyes.
– – – –
Vincent walked swiftly to his room, biting his lip to suppress the urge to laugh. For a moment, he was not sure if he could find his way back. He had run so randomly that he did not know exactly which way to turn. However, following the age old trick of keeping to the right wall, he managed to find the main hallway.

He slowly made his way to his room, occasionally stopping to listen for sounds of Yuffie anywhere. He shuddered to think what would happen if she got her hands on him again. Not that he thought the little ninja was disgusting, he actually admired her steadfast tenacity in battle, but he just wasn’t attracted to her in that way. Not to mention she was still young (though legal now that a few years had passed since she was sixteen), and he, well technically, he was pushing sixty though he looked no older than twenty-five. He knew that at her age in Wutai she would be looking for a suitable husband. Oh god, that scared him even more than the kiss. Be tied down for the girl for the rest of his miserable life? No thank you! He certainly had no desires for her whatsoever.

Now a surly pilot having just stepped out of a shower and still slightly damp, that was a different story. Vincent gave a little half-smile at the thought.

Rounding one last corner, Vincent finally found himself on the hall that housed the guest rooms. Fishing into his pockets for the small silver key to his door, he walked quickly to his room. He unlocked the door, depositing the key back in his pockets.

Inside his room was dark, just the way he liked it. He really did not need lights anyways, thanks to damn Hojo. He turned around and relocked the door, making sure to slide the deadbolt. He wanted to sleep peacefully tonight, without having to worry about getting molested whilst he dreamed. There was a predatory gleam in Yuffie’s eyes that he just did not trust.

Moving easily through the room, avoiding the furniture with practiced ease, he made his way to the chair in his room, located on the opposite side of the room. He sat down and started to remove his boots, dropping them unceremoniously to the floor. He sighed when he thought back to the events of today. He couldn’t run forever. Eventually he would have to set the little ninja straight. But talking to her before she jumped him and tried to kiss him again, he shuddered at the thought, would be a challenge in itself.

He got up from the chair and began making his way to the bed. Vincent started working at the clasps of the cloak around his shoulders, body already beginning to feel the exertion of today. He was tired.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, mind in another world as he absentmindedly worked to finish the last of the clasps. He reached up to move it off his shoulders, when a pair of arms appeared out of nowhere grabbing him from behind. His eyes widened in surprise even as his arms were pinned to his sides.

He heard a distinctly feminine chuckle. “I knew you would come back eventually Vinnie.” Yuffie’s voice purred in his ear as he felt her body press against him.

He began to struggle violently, anything to get away from her. The sheer strength in her arms surprised him. She was stronger than any of them had given her credit for.

“Let me go Yuffie,” he said firmly.

“Oh come on,” she pleaded, harrumphing softly. “Just one little kiss?” Her breath was on his ear, unnaturally close to him. He jumped at the feeling and leaned all his weight backwards on top of her, succeeding in breaking her hold.

“No!” he shouted, rising off the bed. He could feel her moving behind him even as he ran forwards. She blindly grabbed for him, managing to catch only the edges of his cloaks. This stopped his forward motion. Frantically, he reached up and unbuttoned the cloak.

With a set of twin oomphs! Vincent fell slightly forwards and Yuffie backwards onto the bed, still clutching the cloak tightly. He gave it up as a lost cause and scrambled to his feet, running for the door.

“Ah Vinnie, come back. Don’t you like me?” she whined. He heard the bed creak and knew that she trying to get off of it. She was still slightly entangled in the cloak and it hampered her movements. He had precious few seconds to flee for his life.

“Leave me alone,” he exclaimed, exasperated. He hoped that she didn’t try to tackle him or anything. He really did not want to hurt her and didn’t want to be forced to either. What in the world had gotten into her?

He hurried unbolted the door and unlocked the handle. He dared a look over his shoulder as he twisted the knob violently. His eyes widened in horror when he saw that Yuffie had managed to free herself from the cloak and was starting to approach him, the look of a lion stalking prey in her eyes. He pulled the door open and dashed out, slamming it shut behind him hoping to stall her even further.

Vincent frantically searched for an escape. He just barely acknowledged that Cloud’s room was diagonal to his across the hall. Knowing the time, he figured Cloud would still be up. The poor kid was a perpetual insomniac.

Vincent sprinted over to the door, pounding on it, shooting occasional glances over his shoulder. He briefly wondered why Yuffie hadn’t caught up to him yet, when a distant recollection surfaced.

She had been naked!!!

He could remember her skin feeling so bare now and how she felt pressed against him. Shuddering in disbelief and abject horror, he pounded on Cloud’s door again.

“What the hell?” growled Cloud as he yanked the door open. His eyes widened in shock when he saw a harried Vincent push past him, coming into the room. Vincent moved Cloud away from the door with one hand as he shut the door with the other and threw the lock.

“Vincent! What the hell is going on?” demanded Cloud, crossing his arms in anger.

Vincent opened his mouth to speak but it was then that Yuffie chose to make her presence known. There was a continuous pounding on the door accompanied by a voice.

“Come on Vinnie! There is no need to hide. I know you are in there,” she called to him through the door.

Cloud moved towards the door as if to open it but Vincent grabbed him by the arm.

“Are you insane?” Vincent demanded hoarsely.

Cloud shook his head, giving Vincent a confused look. Which wasn’t hard, he usually looked confused. “You have some explaining to do.”

Vincent shook his head, looking at the door again. The pounding did not cease.

“Cloud! If you don’t open this door I am just going to open it for you!” called Yuffie through the door.

Damn! What the hell had gotten into her? This was so unnatural that it was even scarier than Vincent had originally thought. Every bone and muscle in his body strained for him to run. He looked for another exit in the room, Cloud trailing his steps, asking him what was going on. He ignored the spiky headed blonde when his eyes settled on the half open window.

He could do it. The Highwind was more or less parked right now. If he fell there would not be too much damage. There was a small ledge about one foot wide that ran around the outside of the windows. He had enough balance and certainly enough stealth. If he made it to another window and another room, he could run and hide until Yuffie came to her senses.

The pounding on the door abruptly ceased and a small scratching could be heard. Vincent recognized the sounds for what they were, someone picking at the lock. He had no other choice. He ran for the window, hopping up onto the sill before stepping out onto the ledge.

The gunman moved as quickly as he could, back against the side of the Highwind. The wind threatened to tear him away but he used his claw to grip tight. He moved to the left, hoping that by choosing that way, he would be saved.

He heard the door to Cloud’s room burst open and Yuffie’s cheerful voice, still managing to sound not deranged. “Okay, where is he?”

“Where is who?” asked Cloud. Vincent guessed that he probably scratched his head in confusion. Sad thing was, most of it wasn’t an act.

Shaking his head in disgust, Vincent put up speed, not sure which was worse, getting caught by Yuffie in her crazed state, or slipping and falling to a fate that was sure to cause him intense discomfort for a while.

Thinking of the feel of her body pressed up against his, Vincent knew his answer.

He would take his chances with the fall.

He vaguely listened as he heard Yuffie storm around Cloud’s room, peering into every hiding place. Finally, he made it to the next window. He uttered a small prayer to whatever it was one prayed to when he found that is open albeit only a little. He bent down as far as he could without falling off and used his claw to push it open all of the way.

Vincent climbed inside and felt more than happy to have his feet on solid ground. He briefly heard Yuffie declare that Cloud wasn’t hiding anything and storm out of his room. He heaved a sigh of relief as he quietly returned the window pane to its original position. He turned around and looked at his surroundings.

He was in a bathroom and a nice one at that. There was something about this bathroom that seemed familiar. That was impossible though. He had to walk a long ways to get back to his room from earlier. There was no way that this was…

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! He recognized the sound of that now familiar pounding on the door. Not of the bathroom he was in, but of the bedroom adjoined to it. He froze listening intently. No one knew he was in the bathroom and judging from the lack of light from the outer room the occupant was asleep. He moved swiftly to stand behind the door just in case.

He heard gruff cursing as a bed creaked. Then the sound of feet padding across the floor. A light was turned on, flooding the outer room with light. A section of light shone into the bathroom, illuminating some of the tiles and the sink. Vincent swallowed down his nerves. In fact, this looked exactly like…

“Why the hell did you wake me up brat?” demanded the occupant of the room. Vincent recognized the gruff voice that could only belong to Cid. So he was in Cid’s room. Now he was even more confused.

“Have you seen Vincent?” she questioned nonplussed by his rudeness.

“No for the final time! Now get the hell out of my doorway so I can go back to sleep!” Vincent heard Cid start to close the door, evident by the creaking of the hinges. Yuffie protested as she was pushed outside.

The door to the outside slammed shut and Vincent heard several muttered curses as the sound of several locks being thrown could be heard.

“Damn child just won’t let things be…” Cid muttered. Vincent could hear him shuffle away from the door then the lights went out. The bed creaked and Vincent could only assume that Cid had climbed back into it.

He heaved a small sigh of relief. Now, all he had to do was wait until Cid fell back asleep and… oh no.

The bed squeaked again as he heard a loud disgruntled sigh. The sound of feet walking across the floor could be heard again.

“Every time… every damn time. I just get comfortable and I have to take a piss!” cursed the unhappy pilot.

Damn! What was Cid going to say when he found Vincent in his room again?

And what was it the gunman had said when he left last time?

[FF7] A Fate Worse Than Death 01

Chapter One – A Fate Worse Than Death

Vincent Valentine was a man that was not afraid of anything. Ex-Turk and member of AVALANCHE, hero of the planet, he feared nothing. Standing at an imposing six feet plus, dressed in all black except for his red cloak and headband, with silky onyx hair and piercing crimson eyes against a back drop of ivory skin, he was force to be reckoned with. When he pulled out any one of his deadly firearms, enemies were known to run in terror for his aim was deadly. As if the gun itself wasn’t frightening enough, he also had a golden claw, seemingly razor sharp, which covered his left arm to just beyond his elbow. He had a commanding presence on the battlefield, and rightly so. Yet, despite the fact that he was afraid of no man, he found himself running for dear life through the passageways of the airship Highwind from a most fearsome foe…

Yuffie Kisaragi.

He rounded a corner, skidding to a brief stop, looking frantically for a place to hide, his red cloak billowing all around him. For just a moment he hated the damn thing, its bright color like a signal to everyone his location. His eyes quickly scanned from side to side. Anything would do, he was desperate.

“Vinnie? Why are you running? Vinnie?” He could hear Yuffie calling out for him, her voice getting closer and closer. God, how he hated that ridiculous nickname!

This particular hall had many doors on it. He had no clue where any of them led, but at this point, it did not matter to him. He just needed to hide.

Moving as swiftly as he could he frantically rushed from door to door, trying to find one that was unlocked. On his fourth try, he found one knob that turned easily under his grip. Without a second thought, hearing another cry of `Vinnie’ on the air, Vincent pushed open the door and shut it, locking it behind him. He held his breath, holding as still as possible, trying to keep quiet.

He leaned against the door and listened intently, one eye looking out through the tiny peephole. He heard her before he saw her, as she came rounding the same corner he had come from just moments before.

“Vinnie? Don’t think I won’t find you,” she called, a big smile on her face. Looking through the peephole distorted his vision, but he could still see the predatory gleam in her eye. He gulped soundlessly, uttering prayers in his mind to whatever would listen and make them come true. (Please don’t let her start knocking down doors.)

But no, she just ran down the hall, not bothering to check any of the doors. Either she knew where they led, or thought that he would not be behind any of them.

Heaving a quiet sigh of relief, Vincent turned around and leaned exhaustively against the door, sliding down it until he sat on the ground, panting with the exertion of his mad dash for safety. Finally he got a look around at the room in which he had taken refuge.

It was someone’s living quarters, and a quite large one at that. Vincent’s own room was only half the size of this one. An enormous bed took up one wall, covered in a black and blue thick blanket that looked all too inviting. A simple but elegant desk sat in one corner, matched with a plain wooden desk chair. There was another door off to the side, obviously leading to a private bathroom.

Having never really explored the airship, Vincent had no clue where he was. During the fight against Sephiroth, when Cloud hadn’t taken him with his group, Vincent spent most of his time either in his room or standing on the deck. He hadn’t made it a habit to go wandering off into the confusing hallways and different living spaces. There were the captain’s quarters somewhere, the crew’s barracks, and even the guest rooms that the members of AVALANCHE had divided amongst themselves. There were no words to describe how happy Vincent was when he got his own room. He was shuddering to think he would have to share with Cait Sith or even the fire wolf Nanaki. He enjoyed his privacy far too much. Still, he had no idea where he was.

Suddenly the door to the bathroom opened and Vincent got his answer. Cid Highwind stepped out, rubbing a towel through his shower soaked hair, his ever present cigarette already between his lips. He wore no shirt, only low slung jeans, and no socks or shoes. A silver chain hung around his neck with a decoration that Vincent could not identify as it was concealed by the thick towel that Cid had wrapped around his shoulders and was still running over his hair. For a man of his age, Highwind was in surprisingly good shape. Yet, another reason Vincent found himself having an inexplicable infatuation with the pilot.

Cid stopped in surprise, nearly midstep, when he realized that Vincent was sitting on the floor in front of his door, looking at him with something he didn’t quite understand behind his crimson eyes.

“Vince?” he questioned, “What are you doing here?” His hands halted in mid rub, water trickling down his back.

“Hiding,” answered Vincent simply, getting to his feet.

Quickly regaining his composure, Cid continued on into his room, sitting on the corner of his bed to rub the rest of the water out of his hair. He gave Vincent a surprised look before a huge smile crept onto his face, “From who? Tifa trying to put your hair in braids again?”

Vincent snorted, crossing his arms, “No, this creature is far more terrifying… a fate worse than death.” Cid was probably his closest friend on the ship, which really wasn’t saying much.

Cid furrowed his brow in thought as he stopped, considering his hair sufficiently dry. He let the towel fall back across his shoulders as he started searching for a match for his cigarette, “Who?” he repeated.

Vincent opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by a series of vicious knocks on Cid’s door, a yelling voice accompanying them.

“Cid! Ya old fart, ya in there? Cid!” It was Yuffie.

Eyes widening in terror, Vincent sprang away from the door, heading straight for the bathroom. Cid watched him in amusement as he dashed into the bathroom, and made to close the door.

“You haven’t seen me,” he hissed softly, popping his head back out, hoping that Yuffie could not hear him over her own yelling.

Cid could hardly contain the amusement on his face when he realized that it was Yuffie whom Vincent was hiding from.

“But you are standing right there in my bathroom,” Cid pointed out. He could not help himself.

“Cid! If you don’t open up, I’m breaking down the door, whether you are in there or not!” called out Yuffie threateningly.

“Come on Cid,” pleaded Vincent, “I’ve never asked for anything or won’t ever again…”

Cid shook his head with suppressed laughter and waved his hand at Vincent, “Hurry up and shut the door,” He ordered. Vincent gave him the slightest smile of gratitude before gently closing the bathroom door.

Stomping over to the door, Cid threw the bolt on the door and flung it open, Yuffie nearly falling in on top of him as she was leaning forward to bang on it some more for good measure.

“Whaddya want brat?” he growled, giving her his best `I’m the captain and I’m dangerous’ glare. It didn’t work.

“What took ya so long?” she complained, inviting herself in.

“I was in the shower,” he responded, gesturing to the towel around his neck. He turned to face her as she had come into his room and started looking around.

“Oh,” she responded, craning her neck to see all around the room, as if she were trying to find something.

“Was there a reason you came a pounding on my door acting like a damn idiot?” asked Cid tersely.

“Have you seen Vincent?” she asked, using his true name for once and not that ridiculous nickname. She squinted her brown eyes at the pilot, as if checking him for lies.

Cid scratched his head and stared up at the ceiling, looking for all intents and purposes as if he was trying to recall quite hard, “Last I saw him was last night when Tifa was teasing the hell out of him,” he answered with only the slightest of shrugs. “Why you looking for him anyway?”

“He ran out on me, the creep,” she answered in her typical Yuffie fashion, balling up her fist and shaking it at an unknown perpetrator. She returned her attentions to Cid, narrowing her eyes suspiciously, “So you haven’t seen him in the past ten minutes or so? I coulda swore he went down this way…”

“Shower remember? So no. Look somewhere else,” answered Cid. He walked over to his door and opened it, gesturing towards the hallway with an open palm. “Scram brat!”

Yuffie shrugged and started moving ever-so-slowly towards the door, literally dragging her feet as she walked. Cid stared at her impatiently, trying again to give her his infamous Highwind glare. It still had no effect. He was beginning to think the little ninja wasn’t afraid of him at all.

Yuffie stopped in the doorway, just outside the frame, turning to give Cid one last questioning look. Her mouth opened, another series of reiterated questions threatening to spill out.

“Goodnight Yuffie,” said Cid with finality as he slammed the door in her face. The distinct sound of a lock being thrown could be heard and Yuffie was officially out of his room. Cid watched through the peephole as she appeared to throw a silent fit before huffing angrily and heading off in the direction of the guest rooms.
He waited a minute or so more to be sure that she had gone before he sighed and turned back around.

“Okay Vince, it’s safe now,” he called out, hoping the ex-Turk would overcome his fear and just come straight out.

The door opened just slightly and Cid had to bite back his laughter when he saw one lone crimson eye peering out carefully, making sure that Cid had not lied to him. Apparently satisfied with his observation, Vincent opened the door completely and stepped out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

“Thanks Cid,” said Vincent, plopping down in the desk chair. He heaved a sigh of relief before he began to fiddle with the clasps on his cloak. After having fought with Vincent in the Great Sephiroth Fiasco (as Cid liked to refer to it as), the pilot had come to recognize this as a sign of agitation. “I will wait a minute or two more, and then I will be out of your way.”

“Oh no!” disagreed Cid, “You aren’t going anywhere until you tell me why you were running in the first place.” He strode over to the bed and sat on the edge. He crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at him with his don’t-make-me-hurt-you glare. It didn’t appear to be working as Vincent just turned his head away and pretended to be staring at a very interesting water stain on the ceiling. Maybe he was losing his touch…

“It was nothing important,” mumbled Vincent, in a voice barely loud enough to be heard.

“Is that so?” spouted Cid. He got up from the bed and went over to the door, “Then I will just call Yuffie back here. I am sure she is not too far away…” he trailed off, reaching for the knob.

“No!” yelled Vincent, jumping up from the chair and pushing Cid away from the door. He blocked it forcefully with his own body, putting himself directly in front of the handle. He held out his right hand to ward Cid away even as his metal claw hovered near the handle. He was prepared to fight for his life. “Sit down Highwind! I…I will tell you.”

“Good,” said Cid nodding his head. He reclaimed his comfortable seat on the bed and waited patiently for Vincent to begin. He had a feeling it was going to be quite amusing.

[Bleach] Then Comes the Carriage

Contrary to popular belief, life after marriage was not all roses and happy times. There were also arguments, nights spent sleeping on the couch, and days spent baffled at the inexplicable actions of his partner. Or so Ichigo had come to learn. Not that it meant he wanted to end this marriage anytime soon or that he no longer loved Jyuushiro. Just that sometimes, marriage took work.

Like now for instance.

Jyuushiro sighed. He stared moodily into the distance. He fiddled with his brush and ink but didn’t write anything down. He planted his chin on the heel of his palm and sighed again. His shoulders slumped.

Something was wrong with him, but Ichigo was damned if he could figure out what and why. He’d asked, of course, but Jyuushiro had claimed it to be nothing. Smiling in his gentle and loving way, pulling him in for a warm kiss that chased away questions and sighs. But only briefly because that forlorn look later returned.

At first, Ichigo chalked it up to separation anxiety. They’d both been thrilled when Shunsui stopped living underfoot and in their hair. But Jyuushiro and Shunsui were also very close friends and had been for centuries. Perhaps his husband missed Shunsui being so near to him at all times. Sure, that was a little weird, but Ichigo could live with that it if it made his partner happy. In fact, he kinda wished he had a friend he was close to like that. Closer than family.

But then, he realized that Shunsui visited far too often for that to be case. Along with the sheer volume of mail that they exchanged and the fact that Shunsui called every day at seven in the evening on the dot. Ichigo simply couldn’t believe they were given the chance to miss each other, much less suffer from separation anxiety. And were he any other man, he might be jealous. But as it were, he understood that’s just how Jyuushiro and Shunsui were, and it didn’t bother him one bit.

Jyuushiro’s sudden and worrisome unhappiness, however, bothered Ichigo quite a lot. And since his husband refused to elaborate on what was making him sigh like that, Ichigo had to go to another source. Though with much, much reluctance.


Seconds after he walked in the door, Ichigo was pulled into an embrace that smelled of sake and an herb garden. Practically swallowed by the volumes of a cheap, pink haori.

“Good to see you, too,” Ichigo said once he was able to breathe again. “Is Urahara-san around?” he added, glancing about warily.

Urahara still wasn’t overly impressed with Ichigo’s escape tactics concerning Shunsui’s constant presence even two years later. His master could carry a grudge like no one Ichigo had ever met and still sniffed sulkily in his presence. Though there were rumors of an interesting relationship between the residents of the Urahara shouten.

“Nope. Ki-kun’s out on the shop’s business,” Shunsui replied cheerily and stepped back, looking Ichigo over as though he were the prodigal son come home. “And how is Jyuu-chan?”

Despite the fact that they had probably just spoken three hours before and Shunsui likely knew even better than Ichigo did.

Ichigo sighed and let the worry show through on his face. “Something’s making him unhappy, and he won’t tell me what it is.”

Seriousness instantly made an appearance on Shunsui’s face. He dropped an arm over Ichigo’s shoulder, guiding him into the sitting room.

“I think I have an idea,” the older man said and all but pushed Ichigo down into a seat.

This was precisely the reason Ichigo had come. He sat and waited as Shunsui bustled out of the room to get tea and snacks because apparently they couldn’t talk seriously without either. And in his absence, Ichigo took the opportunity to snoop with his eyes, wondering if the rumors had basis in fact. Not that it would bother him if it were true, but it would be nice to know. He’d hate to accidentally insult someone.

The sitting room revealed nothing. It was neat and clean, almost scarily so. Which had to be Tessai’s doing since he couldn’t see Urahara-san, Yoruichi-san or Shunsui cleaning up after themselves.

“So! Jyuu-chan’s been hiding something, eh?” Shunsui asked, bustling back into view with a plate of steaming tea and lacy-looking cookies. “And he won’t let you know either.”

“He tells you everything. So I figure you can tell me.” Ichigo was unable to conceal his worry.

Shunsui chuckled and sat down. “It’s really a simple problem, and I think the only reason Jyuu-chan hasn’t told you is because he’s embarrassed.”

Nibbling on one of the delicate cookies, Ichigo raised a brow. “What could be so embarrassing that he can’t tell me? It’s not like I don’t know everything else.”

“Even someone like Jyuu-chan has his pride,” Shunsui informed him and sipped at his tea, smacking his lips with satisfaction. “But the truth of the matter is… dear Jyuu-chan’s clock’s a ticking, and he doesn’t quite know how to bring it up.”

Ichigo’s forehead wrinkled as he tried to interpret just what he meant. Clock ticking? What the hell kind of drunken nonsense was Shunsui talking about?

Clock. Ticking. Ticking clock.

Understanding dawned.

Ticking clock. As in biological clock. As in Jyuushiro was ready to have a kid, and neither he nor Ichigo were female. Thereby creating a bit of an issue. Ichigo and Jyuushiro had already discussed children and agreed that they’d look forward to having some in the future.

Apparently, that future was now. Which made sense, all things considered. Ichigo had finished his schooling and made his mostly-permanent home in Soul Society with frequent trips to the living world. He was firmly entrenched in his role as captain of the fifth division, and both he and Jyuushiro had settled quite nicely into their quiet life as husband and husband.

Children seemed the next logical step.

“Huh,” Ichigo said and crunched on a cookie. “Kids, huh?”

“Kids,” Shunsui confirmed and reached for a treat of his own. “That’s the gist of it. Seems pretty silly, doesn’t it?”

“Just a bit,” Ichigo agreed but was glad Shunsui had told him. Glad he now had something to chew on, to consider.

Children. Was it really that simple?

– – –

Ichigo pondered on the matter for several days. It was obviously something that Jyuushiro desired greatly, and Ichigo had to admit that he wouldn’t mind having a little boy or girl of his own either. He certainly hoped to be a better father than Goat-Face at any rate.

Logically, without the ability to have children of their own, adoption was the next step. Ichigo knew there were a few orphanages spread out here and there in Rukongai. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be like shopping for a kid. And besides, how could he pick – for lack of a better word – without Jyuushiro’s input?

Still, all things considered, Ichigo supposed it wouldn’t hurt to at least visit. Get some idea of what he and Jyuushiro should expect, what paperwork they might need –if any – and possible monetary expenses.

The roar of a Hollow and subsequent screams of panicked citizens, however, derailed initial plans. And his curious walk through Rukongai turned into a need to draw Zangetsu and leap to the nearest rooftop. A Hollow, something with teeth and claws and obvious hunger, was prowling around nearby and obviously seeking a target with tasty reaitsu. No other Shinigami had noticed yet, and Ichigo wasn’t the sort to walk away because it wasn’t technically his assignment.

He leapt into action, knowing it wouldn’t take but a moment of his time. The Hollow was a weak thing. Something Ichigo easily purified with a well-placed kidoh and a quick swipe of Zangetsu. As the thing dissolved away, Ichigo turned to reassure the nearest victim. Who turned out to be a child. It was always hard to tell age in Soul Society. But she was such a little thing. Looked like she was barely old enough for elementary school with her big dark eyes and shaggy black hair. A certain set to her chin that reminded him strongly of Karin.

Ichigo crouched, coming face to face with the little girl. “Hello,” he said as pleasantly as he could manage and without his trademark scowl. “I’m Ichigo. What’s your name?”

Her eyes flickered from his sword to his face and beyond him to where the Hollow had vanished. Her clothes were ragged and filthy, and there was a certain angle to her cheeks that implied she hadn’t eaten in quite some time. Which in Rukongai meant that there was a reason she needed to eat. A reason that buzzed softly on the edge of Ichigo’s senses.

“What’s your name?” he repeated after she’d had a chance to study him.


“Fuyumi, huh? That’s a pretty name.” Ichigo smiled gently and was relieved when she gave him a shy one in return. “Do you have somewhere safe I can take you? It’s dangerous to stick around here.”

She shook her head, black hair giving off a small cloud of dust. “No. I… It’s just me.”

Ichigo rose to his feet, looking pointedly around. “That’s not good. It’s really not safe here.”

Not in this part of Rukongai. Not at all.

Ichigo wasn’t about to leave her here. That would be like saving her from one danger only to throw her into a different one. Ichigo couldn’t do that.

The idea hit him then, and he wondered it hadn’t occurred to him from the moment he laid his eyes on Fuyumi. Coincidence or fate, he couldn’t let this opportunity slide.

Ichigo smiled, softer this time, and offered his hand. “Would you like to come with me then?” he offered. “I can take you some place safe. Give you a soft bed. A warm bath. Food.”

Her eyes practically sparkled at the idea of the last. “Candy?”

Ichigo laughed. “If you want,” he said and was warmed when her small hand slid into his, fingers locking with his own.

– – –

When Jyuushiro came home that night, it was to the startling sight of Ichigo and a young girl playing some type of game in the main room. Jyuushiro stared. Blinked. Stared as his husband looked up at him with a beaming grin and the girl won the game with a happy cheer.

“Welcome home,” Ichigo said, rising to his feet and meeting Jyuushiro with a peck on the cheek. “Have a long day?”

A strangled sound echoed in the older man’s throat. “Ichigo,” he murmured, eyes flicking from the young lady to his husband. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

“Of course.” Ichigo stepped back and stood behind the dark-haired child, placing his hands on her small shoulders. “Jyuushiro, this is Fuyumi. Fuyumi, this is my husband, Jyuushiro.”

“Pleased to meet you,” the little one said as she bowed in greeting. “You have pretty hair.”

Jyuushiro was instantly charmed. “Likewise,” he said, finding her big dark eyes and her flushed cheeks absolutely adorable. “Are you from Rukongai?”

She nodded. “Uh huh. The sixty-fifth district.”

Jyuushiro’s breath caught in his throat. The sixty-fifth? How had she survived for so long? Such a small and delicate thing?

“I rescued her from a Hollow today,” Ichigo commented, and his voice betrayed some of his amusement. “I offered her a bath, a bed, and food. And perhaps more, if we all agree.”

Jyuushiro’s gaze snapped towards his husband hopefully. An intense feeling of happiness rose up inside of him.

“You mean…?”

Ichigo, one hand remaining on Fuyumi’s shoulder, shifted to his husband’s side. Curling an arm around Jyuushiro’s waist.

“I talked to Shunsui. Why didn’t you just tell me you were ready for the next stage in our relationship?”

Despite his greatest efforts, Jyuushiro felt his cheeks heat. “I wasn’t sure how to bring it up without sounding like I wasn’t happy,” he admitted. “But if you’re serious…”

“I am,” Ichigo confirmed and gently squeezed Fuyumi’s shoulder. “That is, if you are.”

“Of course I am,” Jyuushiro exclaimed, perhaps a bit too quickly. He looked at Fuyumi with hopeful eyes, the little girl glancing between the two men with intelligence and curiosity. “But it’s her decision first. What do you say? Would you like to join our family, Fuyumi?”

“Yep!” she chirped without any hesitation on her part, and Jyuushiro felt warmth crashing over him from all directions. “Can we have dinner now? Ichi-tou-san said we had to wait ‘til you got home.”

“Of course we can,” Jyuushiro said with the sudden urge to kiss “Ichi-tou-san” senseless and grope his husband all over, something he couldn’t do in front of Fuyumi.

His new daughter cheered and ducked out from under Ichigo’s hand, making a beeline for the dining room. Already so comfortable here and at home with herself. How wonderful.

“So?” Ichigo turned towards his husband. “What do you–”

Jyuushiro cut him off with his lips, slanting his mouth over Ichigo’s and kissing for all that he was worth. He couldn’t imagine himself being any happier.

Ichigo groaned into his mouth, gripping onto Jyuushiro’s shihakushou as though contemplating crawling inside and making himself at home. Their bodies pressed together, limbs intertwining, as their tongues dueled sloppily. Heat sparked between them without any effort at all.

“Come on, Ichi-tou-san!” Fuyumi called from the next room, voice causing them to separate hastily and with guilty expressions.

Jyuushiro felt a little disappointed, but Ichigo laughed and squeezed his hand briefly. “Don’t look like that. We wanted kids, remember?”

For his part, Jyuushiro could only chuckle, steal another kiss, and slip past Ichigo to head into the dining room.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better gift,” he called over his shoulder, practically skipping.

He had a new daughter to greet and come to love.