[Shattered] Dreams 28

Chapter Twenty-Eight : Right Here Waiting

Forty minutes after Shera and Rude first ran into Vincent at the inn, the three were sitting around the table, devouring the last of the meal that the dark-skinned man had cooked, and idly chatting. It seemed none of them were really ready to go to sleep, and after tea was served – Shera had grown inclined to drinking it after preparing it so often for the Captain – conversation quickly took place.

It was comfortable in Shera’s kitchen/dining room. Mildly warm because of the oven and smelling of freshly baked cookies – who knew the dark-skinned man could be so domestic – Vincent found he was surprisingly at ease as he sat at the table, conversing with the couple.

Although subdued, Rude was very intelligent. It was easy for the grey-eyed man to carry on a conversation with him. Shera had a quick wit and an even quicker tongue, but the couple was more than willing to listen to his story, albeit the abbreviated version of the events that had happened to him. He still wasn’t ready to discuss everything, including the fault behind Gongaga. The two had seemed generally surprised when he told them of the attack on Cosmo Canyon. Most communication had been down or sporadic, so he supposed no one they knew had the chance to tell them quite yet.

Surprisingly enough, however, he found it easy to open up to these strangers and speak to them. He didn’t feel at all awkward in their presence, as if he somehow already knew them. He kept experiencing vague feelings of recognition, but he couldn’t recall any distinct memories.

And so it was that he found himself, forty-five minutes after his disappointment at the inn, eating cookies and feeling completely at home.

“This brother of yours… are you sure he wouldn’t mind helping me on my way?” Vincent questioned, biting into another of the chocolate confections, resisting the urge to moan out loud. He wasn’t much for such things, but there was something about the cookie that was immensely satisfying.

Shera and Rude exchanged glances, the brunette wrapping her fingers around her tea mug. She smiled at him, taking a sip before responding, “We are certain. He is always willing to help out a man in need…”

“Even a stranger?” Vincent quirked an eyebrow, still somewhat surprised by the kindness he had found in those that knew nothing of him. He had thought the world was long past that age of diligence, but then again, Granny and Gramps were two of the kindest people he had known.

The brunette nodded a strange look in her chocolate eyes. “Yes.”

He regarded her thoughtfully before returning to his drink, his mind contemplating that look that he had seen in her eyes. He wasn’t quite sure how to classify it: sorrow? regret? concern? He really wasn’t sure. Vincent wondered what the story behind her friend was, and if he truly would be willing to take him to the next continent.

“Rude, honey? It’s very warm in here, would you turn down the thermostat?” asked Shera after a moment.

The bald man glanced at his wife in surprise. “Really? I thought it was rather chilly.” He turned to Vincent. “What about you?”

“I also thought it was getting warm,” commented the grey-eyed man.

Shera laughed softly, shaking her head at her husband. “You are always cold, Rude. I would swear you have ice in your veins…”

He shrugged in response before shivering slightly. The brunette bit back a laugh and took a sip of her tea, but not before a distant, but a recognizable sound met her ears. She lifted her head slightly as if to listen, exchanging glances with Rude. She would know that sound anywhere, the Highwind was preparing to land just outside of Rocket Town (A/N: Or should it just be called ‘Town’?… Beta’s Note: Or ‘The Place Formerly Known As Rocket Town’).

Her husband nodded in understanding as they confirmed what she had heard and they continued to talk, pretending as if they hadn’t heard it. “So, Vincent, once you figure out who you are, what are you planning to do?” questioned Shera pleasantly, eyeing the dark-haired man.

He turned contemplative, eyes slightly downcast. “I had not really thought about it. It’s almost like I am two different people now. The person I was before, and the person I am now. Will all I’ve done, albeit it’s not much, disappear when I regain my old memories?” he questioned. It was one of the thoughts that had been plaguing him every since he began his quest.

If he remembered, did that mean it would all come back to him? Would what occurred over the past six months be someone entirely different than who he was, or would it be like greeting an old friend? This time of uncertainty, guessing what was within him, would his present self hate what he was?

Perhaps he was getting too deep into it.

Rude hmm’ed at his question. “I don’t suppose any of us really thought about that sort of thing. However, I should like to think that when your memories return it won’t be any different than how you are living now, except that you will remember what came before; perhaps like if you woke up today forgetting what you did yesterday, that doesn’t affect your future, even if you remember it later. You are still the same person,” he replied thoughtfully.

Shera laughed softly. “Sometimes, I swear you are not the same man I married. That was a surprisingly deep analogy.”

Rude shrugged as Vincent found it in him to smile lightly. “I have my moments. You’d have been more surprised if it had been Reno.” A small smile tugged at his normally emotionless face.

The brunette shook her head at the thought of her husband’s best friend. “I would have been shocked if Cid had said such a thing as well.”

No one had a chance to respond, however, because at that moment, a loud knocking resounded at the front door. Vincent glanced at the clock, wondering who would be coming this late in the evening. Rude moved from the table to answer, but the sound of keys jingling in the lock, and the door opening on its own stopped him just beside the table. Three pairs of curious eyes flickered to the door, though two knew who the visitor was – only one man had a key to their gifted home.

Booted feet clomped noisily across the wooden floors before a man appeared in the doorway, tall with unruly, blond hair and a cigarette dangling from his lips. He stopped in the doorway, staring in almost shocked surprise at the raven-haired man sitting at Shera’s table looking up at him with curiosity.

“Vince!” exclaimed the blond upon registering in his mind that without a doubt, the dark-haired man before him was Vincent Valentine. Bugenhagen had been right. He no longer wore red, and his claw Cid already knew was missing. And his eyes were a stormy grey rather than that peculiar crimson. However, Cid would be able to recognize the man that he loved anywhere, and he was sure this was no hoax.

Grey eyes widened as the dark-haired man stood to his feet. “Y… You!” he exclaimed in utter surprise. That voice! He recognized it, or so he thought. This was the man that haunted his dreams!

“I always knew you were alive,” uttered the pilot before moving quickly into the room, towards the direction of the dark-haired man.

Unconsciously, Vincent took a step backwards. He had been searching for his past diligently, wondering about it for six months, but now faced with the reality, he wasn’t sure if he was ready for it. He wasn’t prepared to face it all so soon, not before understanding what would become of him when his memory returned. The possibilities were dizzying, and he abruptly felt confused, more so than he had when he awoke in Gongaga that first time.

This was what he wanted… wasn’t it?

Cid froze in place, looking with confusion at the dark-haired man. Shera glanced between the two men before rising to her feet. She sought to lower some of the tension that was beginning to build.

“Do you know him?” she asked Vincent, surprised by his initial reaction to Cid’s arrival. He had claimed he had no memory, but obviously somewhere, he remembered something to react in such a way to the pilot.

The grey-eyed man shook his head. “I’m sorry… I just… I don’t know… I think I am tired…” he stuttered, unable to form a coherent sentence. If Erebus were there, he would have laughed at his predicament.

The pilot paused, hand lowering from where they had been outstretched to take his lover in his arms. His blue eyes filled with sadness. “Then… Bugenhagen was right? You have lost your memory?”

“Cid…” murmured Shera quietly, her face filling with sympathy.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Alexander,” responded Vincent quietly. He didn’t catch the slight wince to her face at his use of the formal name. “I think I shall retire now, if you don’t mind.” He moved to head towards the doorway.

Rude was the one who answered, “The guest room is the second on the right. Sleep well.”

Vincent nodded in response before moving past the blond, grey meeting blue almost fatedly. Something passed between them, a spark, a memory, a flash… whatever it was, the dark-haired man couldn’t be sure. But those scents, the one that haunted his sleep at night… cigarettes and tea, they washed over him in a flood and his eyes widened in surprise. Without saying another word, he made his way quickly to the stairs.

When the sound of his footsteps faded into the foreground, the shocked pilot finally moved, startling both Alexanders with his vehemence. “Dammit!” He struck the wall angrily with a fist he hadn’t even realized he had clenched.

Shera moved quickly, to comfort the man she now considered her brother, placing one of her hands on his shoulder, finding him trembling. “What did you expect to happen?” she attempted to soothe.

The pilot shook his head, jaw clenched in anger as he looked up at her, eyes swimming with unshed tears. He couldn’t find any words to say.

* * *

It was a battle, one of fierce and life-threatening proportions. He could smell the blood on the air… hear the death throes of the fallen and sense that there was more to come. There were more enemies than he’d ever care to see, surrounding him, pushing him back, and trying to take his life… trying to stop his friends and he from saving the world.

‘It is time…’ a voice whispered in his head, low and mocking, whispering of its deceit and blood lust. Without question, he knew of what the voice spoke as if he long knew what to expect. Around him, his friends were fighting relentlessly but slowing being pushed back and losing strength against the barrage of the powerful one and his minions.

A burning sting came across his arm; a monster had snuck up from behind in his idle musings. He cursed to himself for his inattention before quickly turning and shooting the monster, directly through the eyes, a direct hit as usual. He turned back to the fray, crimson (crimson?) eyes widening at the sight. He was protected… Sephiroth was aiming for Highwind’s back.

‘Make your choice’ came the same throaty whisper as before, resounding through his mind and sending tremors of power racing through his body, small beckons of calling. Would he heed or push them down?

Yet, somehow he knew before the voice even cajoled him, what he was going to choose. He had made his decision long before this day, long before this place and this battle. He ignored the pain his back, a Gargoyle lashing at him with its claws. The pain was non-substantial; the pain was a nuisance, but it would be nothing compared to what was coming next. He cast an Ice3 behind him, not caring if it actually struck as he turned, almost running to prevent a tragedy from occurring.


Time seemed to slow as sound faded to nothing. He could no longer hear the screams or smell the blood; he couldn’t feel the dirt beneath his feet, though it felt like he was running through mud… as if his movement were hampered by something.

‘You have no time’” the same voice mocked, as if daring him to give up. He internally snarled.

“If this would be my fate, he will not suffer the same!” he hissed aloud, putting on another burst of speed. He had little time but he would not waste it.

Vincent leapt, the only thing in his vision, the only thing he could see, sky blue eyes and short blond hair. Only one thought pervaded his mind… with his blood, he would come. His body jerked, fiery pain ripping through him, nothing piercing his senses but the agony… not sound or scent.

He opened his eyes, not even realizing he had closed them, as his legs dangled uselessly in the air. Crimson gaze settled on the man below him, peppered with his blood and returning his look with wide blue eyes filled with shock and despair. Fear and relief, he knew must have been reflected within his own eyes, for those feelings were cycling within his heart even as the pain of the tentacles piercing his body grew to excruciating proportions.

Something else was stirring.

Time seemed to stop for just a moment, locking the two of them in a moment, staring eye to eye as if to convey every last word, every lost chance. He coughed softly, breathe rattling in his throat as a dribble of blood leaked from the corner of his mouth to trail down his chin in a scarlet river… blood… so much, always so much… Four tentacles, he could feel them now, writhing in place almost, twisting and turning where they pierced his body in the abdomen, chest and shoulder. He didn’t fear for his life, having long before resigned himself to death… but he had managed to save the man he loved, and that was more than enough.

“Cid…” He astounded himself by how weak he sounded, how completely done in. He opened his mouth to say more, but his voice cracked, more blood bubbling up, so thick he nearly choked on it. He could feel the scarlet liquid in his lungs, sloshing around and making him feel like he was trying to catch air through a thin straw. His body felt weak, but the pain that was so fresh was already beginning to be replaced by something more… something that was stirring…

The man in front of him reached out a hand as if to touch him, his name falling from his lips on a choked sigh. “Vince…”

But it was far too late. Vincent jerked back from the comforting hand at the same moment that the tentacles removed themselves violently from his body with the same if not more pain than they had going in. He barely registered two of them sliding by him to attack the blond as he slumped to the ground, his mind fading… dimming to grey and the sound of rasping laughter and crimson, lost eyes…

Footsteps, vague footsteps echoed across the edge of his conscious, and he lifted his head and blood-stained hand with the last of his strength, to ward him off. Not any closer… he was no longer Vincent Valentine. His body began to pulsate and shake in a familiar way, and he knew, he would not be in his human form for long. He locked eyes with the man he had saved, mouth managing to form two simple commands… the last words he would speak…

“No…” he choked, coughing as his eyes fluttered and barely managed to stay open. Scarlet met sky blue for a moment, and a lifetime passed, something he didn’t expect to see… the name ‘Valenwind’ [1] passing through him within.

“Run…” Vincent whispered, his body jerking violently as his eyes lolled back into his head. He no longer knew what happened, consciousness quickly slipping beneath the surface of the dark waters.

Searing pain, even worse than the tentacles ripped across his back in vertical stripes, stretching from the top of his shoulder blade nearly to his hips. He fell forward unconsciously, hands coming out to catch himself. His mouth opened to emit an unearthly, guttural scream as his canines elongated to form fangs he never had. Chaos… all was destruction and death within him…

A pair of wings, black and webbed burst from his shoulders in a shower of blood, and he felt lighter somewhat as his body convulsed violently, skin darkening far more than his usual pale shade, and Vincent Valentine as he knew himself disappeared… locked away behind a shield and barrier made of pure hate and chaos…

He burst from his dream with all the force of a hurricane, body jerking in the bed as he sat up quickly, chest heaving. His throat hurt, as if he still screamed, and his pulse raced. Pain shot up and down his back in waves, skittering, as if wings really were prepared to burst from his flesh. He threw back the covers of the bed, wincing as the agony continued to reverberate within him.
His mouth was dry, and he desperately needed some water. The images… kept flashing in his mind of his dream… or was it a memory? He wasn’t sure. Vincent rose unsteadily to his feet, swaying momentarily as another flash of pain raced down his spine.

## ‘It is time…’## The words raced across his mind as he stumbled through the door, intent on heading for the kitchen to find some water, perhaps an aspirin or something for his pain. Maybe Shera and Rude had a potion to lend him, he having used all of his in his journey across the Nibel Mountains.

Could his dream/memory be what had happened to him to make him lose his memory? As he moved out his door, pain whispering across his head and clinging to the wall, he wished that Erebus were still present for him to talk to. Then again, the demi-god liked to be mysterious and would probably respond with a “you’ll find out on your own.”

His mind recalled how he had reacted earlier in the day. The first sign of finding out who he was, the first real true connection, and he had run like some scared child, all because of feelings he didn’t understand. The man was only glad to see someone he obviously cared about, and instead, he had turned tail with a bullshit excuse of being tired.

He made his way down the hallway, wincing as each step caused stabs of pain in his back. He walked bowed over, one hand on the wall to steady himself. Flashes of memories and dreams had begun to circulate within his mind in an endlessly continuous barrage of images and emotion and sound.

He made it to the top of the stairs before the first real stab of agony struck him at the same moment he was distracted by the sound of footsteps behind him. Something flashed in his mind, he wasn’t sure as quickly as it passed, in the very same second that he turned to look and fire raced through his spine. He was caught off guard, foot slipping on the wood.

He didn’t have any time to think… even when he was tumbling down the steps. ##’If this should be my fate, he will not suffer the same!’## Those words echoed in him, even as his head violently struck the railing at the bottom and his world went black.

* * *

Soft, grey eyes fluttered open as a small twinge of pain echoed throughout his back. Vincent bit back a groan as he gazed around the room trying to discern exactly where he was. His memory had returned to him fully from his tumble down the stairs, the violent knock to the head enough to addle his brains into their proper position.

He blinked; finally catching sight of the blond man standing at the window, one hand perched on his hip as the other clutched a cigarette, easily recognized by the small tip of orange fire. Vincent knew without thinking who stood there, his heart telling him instantly.

He didn’t say anything for a moment, merely drinking in the sight of his lover. He hadn’t expected to live after the encounter with Sephiroth; in fact, he had resigned himself to the fate. He figured that the pilot would get over him, maybe go on to find another he could love someone much better. However, he had not expected to see the weary and nearly broken man that stood at the window. Cid had become thin, almost painfully so, and judging by the way he nearly inhaled his cigarette before reaching for another, his habits had gotten only worse with Vincent’s actions.

The gunman shifted restlessly on the bed before he spoke, a small bout of insecurity hitting him as he did so. “You have gotten thin,” he said simply, low voice carrying easily in the quiet, darkened room.

Cid’s hand paused halfway to his pocket where he was reaching for another cancer stick. Vincent struggled to sit up, throwing aside the blankets and sheets that had been tucked around his frame when the pilot didn’t make another movement. He appeared to be in a motion of indecision. The gunman pushed himself up from the bed, wobbling a little on unsteady feet as his head throbbed before moving to stand beside and a little behind the unmoving blond.

“Why?” came the whispered response not but a moment later. Cid paused and Vincent waited patiently for him to clarify. “Why didn’t you tell me what you had to do?”

“Would you have let me go through with it?”

The pilot was quiet but he really didn’t need to respond, Vincent automatically knew what his answer was. “What was I supposed to do?” questioned the blond after a slight pause. “All alone…”

Vincent shifted uncomfortably; slightly ashamed of himself for leaving the way he had, though he understood how necessary it was. The safety of the Planet, Sephiroth’s redemption at his hands, that was how it had to have been, for his own peace of mind as well… but he had added another sin on to the ones he had been redeemed for… the sorrows of one blond pilot. It was one of the hardest decisions he had had to make but he knew there was no other way.

He knew of nothing else to say. “I am sorry.”

Cid’s shoulders shook for just a moment before the pilot abruptly turned around, nearly startling the former Turk with his quick movement. His hand shot out, wrapping around ebony tresses as he pulled his lover towards him and pressing his lips to that of the gunman’s.

Their bodies meshed together in a distinctly familiar way and both men sighed at the contact, the feeling much like coming home. The pilot kissed him solidly, tongue snaking out to taste that familiar flavor that had been haunting him for half a year. Vincent obliged, parting his lips and wrapping his arms around the blond, pulling him as close as he was able.

It was only the necessity for air that separated the two. Cid panted slightly as he looked up into Vincent’s eyes, though grey now, were still as beautiful to him as before. “I love you,” he said simply, not wasting any more time in getting out the words that had been on the edge of his lips since before the battle with Sephiroth. He knew his eyes were probably watering pathetically, and his hold on the ex-Turk that he hadn’t touched in so long was most likely a death grip.

Vincent closed his eyes, the words echoing within his head and sending a tremor through his body before it reverberated through his heart. Before, that proclamation might have sent him running in terror for fear of broken heart… or for fear of failing again but now, it made him feel warm inside… and desiring to return the words.

He tightened his hold on the pilot before leaning down; putting his lips very near to one ear, speaking softly. “I have always loved you.”

The only response he received was an increase in the hold on him as Cid tangled his fingers thoroughly in his hair, and angling his head so they could kiss once more.

“You always found a way,” murmured the pilot, nuzzling into the ex-Turk’s neck as he gently nipped at the lightly tanned skin, “to keep me right there waiting.”

Vincent ran his hands over the pilot’s body in response, internally grimacing at the thinness he felt beneath the clothing. Cid had always been solid, strong, and he still was… but he still felt much slimmer than he should have. The gunman made a mental note to feed him… and get him to stop smoking.

Slim, gun-calloused fingers slipped beneath the edge of plain cotton T-shirt before grabbing onto the hem and pulling it quickly over a blond head. The clothing dropped to the floor. Cid pressed up against him, free hand unbuckling and unbuttoning his black pants. At every brush of those fingers over his clothed groin, Vincent could feel tremors of arousal shooting through his body. His skin grew heated, and he could think of nothing but being with his lover once again.

He wasted not another movement, grabbing the pilot by the shoulders and directing him to the bed. He gently pushed him down to the soft surface, pressing a kiss to slightly startled lips as his pants easily slid down his hips. He shook them off until he was only clothed in his shirt, and the blond in only his pants. Hmph. That would have to be remedied.

“You always had the words,” murmured Vincent against a jaw bone as he worked on unbuttoning the pilot’s blond jeans. Cid’s hands were no less busy, having already made short work of his shirt and running over his back and chest, lightly pinching a nipple in their wanderings. “I needed fulfillment… but I found what I’ve needed in you.”

The blond moaned slightly at the words, them doing almost as much for his libido as seeing the body of his lover after so long. “I love you, Vincent Valentine.”

“And I love you, Cid Highwind,” responded the dark-haired man, leaning down to press his lips once more to the blond’s.

Within moments both had shed themselves of their clothes until there was nothing between them and they could touch skin to skin. For minutes, they just reacquainted each other with their bodies, touching, feeling, caressing. Tongues ran up and down hard flesh, curling around erect nipples even as hands rubbed and teased into full stimulation. The heady scent of arousal pervaded the room.

Soon however, the long separation was too much for either to bear. Vincent ground his hips into Cid’s, rubbing their lengths together causing both men to groan with arousal. He leaned down and nibbled on a dusky peaked nipple as calloused fingers traced lines down his back, falling over the upraised flesh that was his many scars.

“I hope that you have something…” murmured the dark-haired man against the tanned flesh. He nipped gently, teeth grazing over the skin and causing the pilot to yelp lightly before throwing out an arm to the side, fumbling for the drawer before pulling it open and delving inside.

As he searched, Vincent moved his way downward, loving every inch that he encountered until he found himself face to face with proudly jutting flesh. Without preamble, he took the pilot into his mouth, running his tongue across the head and lapping up the small pool of precum that had already gathered there. Cid nearly arched off the bed with the feeling as his fingers finally grasped a small bottle of lotion. He silently offered a big thanks to Shera and her habit of keeping the stuff everywhere.

Fingers trailed over the skin of his thighs, constantly touching him and sending of stabs of arousal shooting everywhere through his body. The pilot groaned, toes wanting to curl with the amount of pleasure that was being given. It had been far too long for him…

With a slight pop, the gunman released his aching shaft, giving it a final lick before crawling back up the pilot’s body to kiss him again. They swapped spit and tongues for another moment, Cid moving to hand the dark-haired man the bottle of lotion. Yet, before he could make another movement, Vincent pressed it back into his own grip.

“I want to feel you…” murmured the grey-eyed man in between their sweet and tender kisses.

Those words went straight to the blond’s groin. He moaned aloud and wrapped his arms around his lover, sitting up so that Vincent sat in his lap, legs to either side of his hips. The former Turk’s automatically rested on his shoulders, pressing their heated bodies and firm flesh together, sparking new sensations of lust and arousal.

Cid uncapped the bottle of lotion, pouring some into his fingers before throwing it down onto the bed beside him. He reached between their bodies, running a lubed hand over Vincent’s erect shaft. The paler man arched between them, biting his lip in a decidedly erotic fashion as those fingers first wrapped around him and stroked. Precum oozed from the crown, a testament to the blond’s skill.

Once he had the former Turk gasping, he let go of his shaft to reach further down, lubed finger aiming for his entrance. He traced the tip of his forefinger around the puckered muscle, spreading the lotion before slowly pressing inside. Vincent was unbelievably tight, evidence of how long it had been. Cid carefully and gently stretched him, curling his finger to stroke his prostrate at timed intervals as he added a second and then a third.

Soon, he had the dark-haired man writhing on his fingers, crying out in wordless syllables. Satisfied that he wouldn’t hurt the ex-Turk, Cid withdrew his fingers and reached for the bottle of lotion, generously covering his own straining erection.

The gunman braced himself by placing his hands on Cid’s shoulders as the pilot held onto his hips. The dark-haired man lowered himself down as the blond pressed up into him, slowly being engulfed by tight warmth. The pilot moaned out loud at the familiar feeling, barely able to restrain himself from thrusting in completely and hurting the ex-Turk.

Soon, however, he was fully ensheathed. and there was no better feeling in the world. His arousal throbbed within the tight channel, and he thrusted shallowly, causing his lover to gasp out loud, as hands tightened in their hold on his shoulder. They shared a kiss, slow and tasting, before he began to move.

He kept their lovemaking slow and sweet, thrusting into this grey-eyed lover with careful strokes, sliding over his pleasure nub with each movement. One hand snaked between their bodies, grasping his leaking shaft and stroking him casually. The dark-haired man moaned and clutched at his shoulders, leaning forward to absorb him in a passionate kiss as rough stubble rasped across his jaw.

Fire raced through his veins as calloused fingers brought him to a peak, and Cid hit his prostate with each thrust. He clenched down on him, increasing the pilot’s pleasure as he reached between them to pinch at a hardened nub.

They came nearly in tandem, Cid moaning only seconds after the grey-eyed man, cumming inside him with a force borne of being alone for far too long. Vincent clutched at him; the pilot’s name a whisper across his lips.

He collapsed against Cid’s chest, falling forward as the blond fell backwards. They gasped tiredly as the pilot’s arms automatically wrapped his lover, and they shifted positions until they were both comfortable, lined up nearly limb to limb with subtle height differences. Vincent relaxed against him, glad to be there, with his memories returned.

“Hey, Vince,” spoke up Cid after a moment. “The next time you decide to go on a suicide mission, how about letting a guy know?” He paused before tracing a hand over the twin scars on Vincent’s back, as if reminding himself of their presence or to prove that they didn’t matter to him. “I might decide to go with you.”

The dark-haired man shifted so that he could look his lover in the eye. There was some uncertainty within those blue orbs, as if the pilot expected him to disappear again. Vincent couldn’t blame him. The last six months had to have been hell for the blond, while he only had to suffer through memory loss.

A look of serious intent crossed his features. “Don’t worry, chief,” he murmured, trailing a few fingers through the light dusting of blond hair on Cid’s chest. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Relief spread quickly across the pilot’s face as he grinned. “I’m glad to hear you say it.”

Vincent bit back the smile threatening to tug at the corners of his mouth as he mildly shook his head before laying it back down on the pilot’s chest. He felt warm and surrounded by that scent that no matter what had been lost, he could never forget. It was right… and good…

It was like he had come home.

And with that realization, a measure of serenity washed through his body. He had granted Sephiroth peace, destroyed the man who had ruined his body, and long ago said his goodbyes to the woman he had once loved. Other than the new threat of what could only have been the demons that once infested his body, there was nothing left for him to do but move on… and be free to love.

His atonement was complete.

The blond shifted, reaching over to switch off the lamp with one hand as he tugged a blanket over their nude forms with the other before returning his arms to their original position. Darkness washed over the room, the only light visible was the moon streaming in from the window.

They didn’t speak anymore; for the moment, nothing else needing to be said. As the lovers drifted off into sleep, content within each other’s arms, one thought was prevalent and shared.

“I am home…”

* * *

In the kitchen, the Alexanders were still awake, discussing the current events, neither of them really ready to go to sleep. Vincent’s retreat into his room and Cid’s downcast response were first and foremost on their minds. Shera was standing in the kitchen sink, quietly washing the dishes from their meal earlier as Rude wiped down the counter. They two always seemed to work in tandem, splitting the chores rather than deigning them for one over the other.

The sound of a body tumbling down the stairs was the only thing that disturbed their peaceful movements. Shera was the first to rush to the doorway, Rude close on her heels. They both moved to stand in the hall but quickly drew back into the shadows when their eyes fell on the events.

The dark-haired man had fallen down the stairs, they weren’t sure how that had happened, but that didn’t matter because there was the pilot, gently picking up his unconscious form and carrying him back to the room. They knew that Cid would take care of him and exchanging glances, disappeared back into the solitude of their kitchen.

“I hope Vincent is alright,” Shera mused idly, wiping cookie crumbs off her serving plate. The remaining extra baked items had been put in its respective airplane-shaped cookie jar. They wouldn’t last long. Rude’s baking rarely did, between them and the occasional visits of the local children that Shera sometimes enlisted or watched over.

Rude looked up from wiping down the counter, brushing some trash into the garbage can. “I’ve seen him recover from worse.”

The brunette reached forward and turned off the water, idly wiping her hands on a dish towel as she pursed her lips in thought. “True,” she commented softly. “If their story of what happened in the crater is any indication.” She threw the dish towel over the rack before grabbing a cup from the cupboard and pouring herself some more tea. “I’m not sure I believed the Captain when he said he knew Vincent was alive.”
Rude sighed as he put away his wash rag and also grabbed himself a cup. He couldn’t find it in himself to be tired, and it was again getting chilly in the kitchen… perhaps he would need to look at the central air system. He followed his wife to the table before responding.

“I suppose none of us can really understand anything about that particular situation, faith or not,” he commented, idly tapping a finger on the table. Warmth covered his hand, and he looked up to see Shera placing her own over his. She smiled at him softly.

“Perhaps… but they’ve found each other again, haven’t they?” she mused aloud. “I wonder if he will regain his full and complete memory… will Vincent ever know what Cid was to him and how the Captain felt?”

“Death cannot stop true love,” intoned the dark-skinned man softly, his eyes trailing to the room above. “It can only delay it for a while.” [2]

Shera’s lips parted slightly as she looked at her husband in awe, surprised at the words that came from his mouth. “Aye,” she responded slowly. “That is most definitely true.”

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