[Shattered] Dreams 54

Chapter Fifty-Four: Brother, Dear Brother

They hadn’t spoken since their argument, a fact that Vincent was finding hard to accept. He was used to Cid constantly badgering him, goading him into speaking and not letting him brood on his own. So this silence… it hurt. Almost like something tangible. While they flew to their destination, he had hidden in their shared quarters. The blond piloted himself, having dismissed the rest of the crew, giving them a few days off.

After an hour or so, Vincent had ventured out into the bridge with a vague idea of perhaps apologizing. Yet, once he was actually standing there, he lost all nerve and only stood in the background, silently observing the still tense pilot as he steered his baby towards Costa del Sol. It was strange for him to think of Cid as being from the beach town. He kept thinking in his mind that the blond belonged in Rocket Town, even though he was aware that it was a particularly new settlement.

The gunman concluded after much solo brooding contemplation that he still did not understand what had come over the pilot: all the words that had been thrown out, the accusations, Cid’s obvious pain… as well as the own aching inside of him. There was a problem, something serious, and he didn’t know how to fix it.

The slight bump of the airship and its decrease in speed was Vincent’s first warning that they were about to land, instantly pulling him from his thoughts. He braced himself for it, although he knew it was unlikely to be as rocky as the rookie’s attempts, but still, he released a relieved breath of relief when the landing went smoothly. Silence was still between them as Cid powered down the airship, pushing some final buttons and prepping it to stay off line until they returned.

Therefore, Vincent was mildly surprised when Cid was the first to speak, albeit quietly and without turning around.

“I’m giving you a choice, Vin,” the Captain softly declared. “It’s up to you from this point. You can stay here on the Highwind, wallowing in your broodiness with your precious secrets until there is nothing for us but grief… or you can come with me.”

Vincent stared down at the floor, inwardly contemplating what exactly Cid had meant. If anything, he would not stay behind in the hope to delve more into the mystery of their argument. It was obvious that the pilot was hurting, perhaps from more than their lover’s spat, and he was determined to be there, despite the confusion in his heart.

“I’m coming, Cid,” he responded, finally. He left his response at that, feeling no need to justify his choice.

After a quiet moment, Cid nodded and turned to face him, some emotion swirling in his blue eyes that Vincent wasn’t sure he had ever seen there before. “Then, I’m going to tell you this now so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. The rest… well, you can see for yourself. But I’m giving you another choice, because this…” He paused, shaking his head as he moved towards Vincent. “I’ve been estranged from my father – my family – for a long time for many reasons, but the main one is because of my choice in sexuality.” He centered his gaze on the ex-Turk, making no apologies for a truth that he would not change. “They won’t take too kindly to my lover appearing with me. I can’t promise that they will be civil.”

Even after all that had occurred, Cid’s number one priority was still ensuring that Vincent would not be hurt in any fashion. It was odd how in a roundabout fashion he struggled to protect the ex-Turk. The Captain very well knew the reactions of his family, and he knew the cruel words that they easily spouted. He always knew how very delicate Vincent’s opinion of himself could be. In a way, he was giving the dark-haired man an escape, an exit if he didn’t want the difficulties that came with being “in love.”

In a way, this was Vincent’s apology, his unwavering determination to understand a part of Cid’s life he had not been privy to before. “I’m still coming,” he responded, meeting the blond gaze for gaze.

Cid nodded in response. “Then we should get going,” he responded almost gruffly, moving past the dark-haired man and heading towards the exit through the cargo bay. Vincent followed after him, returning to his initial quiet and broody thoughts.

Cid was estranged from his family? From the pilot’s personality, he had assumed that he was close to his family. He had an encouraging charisma, despite his coarse language and temper, as well as being an honest character. Most would have never guessed, and certainly, Vincent wouldn’t have.

Then again, as he had expressed before, neither of them knew anything about each other. Cid was aware of his sordid past: Lucrecia, Hojo, and all that ilk. But in terms of times before that: his family, his home, where he was born… even the name of his Turk partner, the pilot knew didn’t know any of it simply because Vincent had not shared. Nor had the gunman ever thought to offer up the information or ask Cid about his past life, not that they had had much time for such things considering the battle with Sephiroth and his subsequent fall into the Lifestream and disappearance.

His thoughts were interrupted when he noted out of the corner of his eye that Cid had paused by the exit of the cargo room, seemingly waiting for him. Vincent looked up, a question on his face, but before anything could be said, the pilot reached out and grabbed him, bringing their lips together for a kiss that seemed to be meant for reassurance. Although tensing at what his body perceived to be an attack, the gunman quickly relaxed into the pleasing touch and accepted the gentle kiss.

A slightly calloused hand came up, brushing against the side of his face before the embrace was gently broken. Sky blue eyes that were rimmed with fatigue stared at him beseechingly.

“I love you, Vince,” said Cid softly. “Don’t forget that… no matter what happens today.”

In many ways, Vincent perceived those words as both reassurance and a sign that the blond was insecure. Only he knew the true depth of his family’s cruelty, and perhaps he was afraid they would frighten his lover away, if their own relationship problems didn’t do it first. Or maybe Cid was afraid that Vincent’s feelings had faded, even though his had grown in strength.

The gunman nodded imperceptibly, words failing him for the moment. The hand dropped from his face, and Cid turned towards the door, keying open the lock with the passcode that Vincent had finally learned as well. Still, before the pilot took more than three steps out the now open aperture, the lost words returned to the gunman.

He responded quietly, “You still have my heart, Cid. That hasn’t changed.” His words were honest, spoken straight from the heart. Truly, no one had ever made him feel this way, not even Lucrecia. It was like Vincent had experienced two different types of love in his life, both equally fierce and consuming. Yet, they had a different vigor, a different course.

A half-smile curled onto the pilot’s lips, a far more welcome sight than the almost broody expression that had taken over his features, but Cid did not respond. He turned back towards the door, and together the two of them exited the Highwind and headed into the tourist coastal town of Costa del Sol.

Stepping through the front gates, it certainly didn’t appear like a town that was attacked by a small troupe of demons. It seemed that the locals had protected their home perfectly. The sun shone brightly. The air smelled fresh, and other than a few barely noticeable burn marks, Costa del Sol seemed untouched. The two walked in silence as Cid led them away from the main portion of town and into the more residential section. This path was lined with huge homes, obviously belonging to the rich and aristocratic, and the gunman was unable to rein in his surprise. There were large, sprawling estates with mansions built of extravagant stone and fountains on the frontal lawn; these were more like the homes of the famous than the typical fare of people living on Gaia. Vincent had never considered his family poor, but faced with the massive wealth in front of him, they would have been considered unfortunate.

Each house was surrounded by a tall fence, gleaming in the midday sun and standing fierce against all trespassers. There was a gate for admittance, some with guards, and some with just a simple locking mechanism. For each residence, the family name was displayed in broad, sweeping, aristocratic lettering above the gate: Buxton… Rawlins… Webster… Tuesti… most names he had never heard before…

Wait, Tuesti?

Vincent frowned in thought, turning his head to look again at the gate when a loud squeal of surprise and glee had him returning his gaze to the front. Cid paused in his walk, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as a young child came running towards them, a bright grin on her face. She had her arms outstretched, pale hair streaming out behind her as she did so.

“Uncle Cid!” the little girl exclaimed loudly seconds before she slammed directly into him and wrapping her arms tightly around his frame. Vincent caught sight of laughing blue eyes, very reminiscent of her relative, and Cid chuckled and bent down, picking up the girl and holding her tightly.

“I missed you,” the child continued, giggling as she squeezed the pilot tightly. Vincent could only gape in surprise, though he should have expected it considering that they were going to visit Cid’s family. He stood a few feet behind the other man, not willing to intrude on an obviously happy moment of reuniting.

Cid’s voice came out muffled as he responded to her, but Vincent easily detected the slight hitch in his voice. “I missed you, too, sweetheart,” he replied, returning her youthful squeeze with equal vigor.

The little girl wriggled happily in his arms, pulling back so she could see her uncle’s face. One hand came up and rubbed at his scruffy beard playfully, even as she frowned, the slight mar wrinkling her otherwise pretty features.

“Why don’t you come see me anymore?” she questioned, the pout evident in her tone.

The Captain froze, evidently unsure how to respond to that question without sounding contrary or hurting his niece. He searched for the right words, while feeling a sorrow clenched inside of him at her innocent query. The little ones always suffered with the confusion, especially when the adults couldn’t find it in themselves to clarify. Yet, even when he fell silent, the inquisitive girl did not remain still. Questioning eyes looked beyond her uncle, immediately locking on the dark-haired man directly behind him. Vincent returned her inquisitive look with a steady gaze, hoping that he did not frighten her.

“Who’s that?” she asked, changing the subject.

A faint smile crossed the pilot’s face… and a bit of relief as well. “That’s-” However, his words were cut off before he could even speak them.

A voice rang out clear and angry through the air, garnering the attention of all three of them, the child twisting about in Cid’s arms to look behind her. “Namine Highwind! You know better than to run off!”

Vincent caught sight of what appeared to be a very angry young woman heading in their direction, dressed in what had to be designer and assuredly expensive clothing. She had the same hair as the young child, though her eyes were an annoyed green shade, emitting her ire as she stormed towards the trio. The little girl frowned, sighed, and pouted, all in the same moment as she reluctantly slid down from Cid’s arms, the pilot aiding her movements.

Namine didn’t even have a chance to take a step backwards before the woman grabbed her arm, rather viciously, and the child was abruptly yanked backwards. The unnamed female laid a protective hand on what had to be her daughter’s shoulder as she took a step backwards, putting more distance between them and the two males.

Her gaze swept over the both of them, appraising them before a sneer took over her features, and she humphed loudly. “I see you decided to show up,” she commented, a thin note of irritation and disgust evident in her tone.

Cid’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but his words managed to remain somewhat civil, in spite of the suddenly icy tone. “Always nice to see you, Carmine.”

Furious green eyes flickered to Vincent, closing to slits when she gauged the distance between he and the pilot. Without thought, she drew Namine closer to her, putting both arms on the young girl’s shoulders.

“I see you brought your faggot lover,” the woman hissed.

Vincent sensed Cid’s ire building before the Captain could even say anything, bristling immediately. His mouth opened to retort sharply, but Namine, who had turned to look up at her mother in confusion, stopped him with her naive words.

“What’s a faggot?” she inquired innocently, and Cid had to restrain himself from smirking at Carmine’s faux pas.

Carmine breathed, horrified at the word coming from her daughter’s mouths. “Namine!” she chastised, accompanying the action with a warning tap to her daughter’s lips with two fingers. “Never say that word!” Then, the woman turned her anger onto Cid, glaring heatedly. “I’ve told you once, and I shall say it again… Stay away. I won’t have you filling her head with unnatural things.”

Vincent was finding it difficult to remain silent, but before he could voice his irritation, Cid spoke, returning her glare with equal force even as he began to growl deep in his throat. “It’s not unnatural!”

Carmine stuck her nose in the air and grabbed her daughter’s hand firmly, almost painfully, distinctly ignoring Namine’s cries of pain and protest. “I won’t even dignify you with an argument,” she huffed. “It’s beneath me.”

With that, she stormed past the two men in the direction they had come, dragging her unfortunate daughter along. The little girl cast a look of farewell back to her uncle, pouting sadly before having to return her attention forward, nearly tripping on her own feet due to her mother’s haste.

Cid sighed, shoulder’s visibly drooping as depression settled into his eyes. “And so it begins,” he muttered under his breath before half turning to face Vincent. “I hate coming here,” he went on, pausing and making a gesture towards the retreating woman. “That was the wife of my eldest brother, Percival.” He shook his head. “It’s amazing. I haven’t seen Namine in five years. Yet, she still recognizes me… and misses me as that.

The sorrow in his voice was thick, enough to make Vincent’s chest tighten. The usually exuberant and crass pilot was felled by love for his family; it didn’t seem right.

“Cid-”

The Captain shook his head, cutting Vincent off before he could offer a word of comfort. “Not yet,” he responded, already turning back towards the path, continuing on his way. “You haven’t seen the worst of it.”

If Carmine was that much of a bitch, Vincent wasn’t sure he wanted to know how the rest of Cid’s family treated him. One of his hands clenched at his side. He had the feeling that he would be spending much of the day trying to restrain himself from hitting someone. He wasn’t saddened by their words as much as furious at them. Cid had nothing to worry about in him fleeing. It was more like he would have to restrain his lover from attacking his family.

Ironically, it was the very next house that seemed to be Cid’s childhood home. The wide sweeping gates were lying open, probably because of the influx of family that was arriving due to the funeral, so the two easily stepped into the property. As they walked, Vincent could see a distinct tightening of the blond’s jaw and his shoulders, as if he was preparing himself for something he already knew was to come.

A ridiculous ten-minute hike later finally found them standing at the front door of the extravagant and elegant mansion, which had to have been at least four storeys high. It was built of scarlet brick with ancient Gothic style architecture, so the broad, sweeping home had the look of something that was both ageless and brand new (1). Even more interesting was that instead of walking right in, Cid lifted the huge brass knocker, a low and dull thud echoing around them.

He exchanged a glance with the ex-Turk. “This is it,” he uttered before turning his attention back to the door.

Seconds later, it was opened by a wizened man, who getting on in his years and who was dressed in a black suit with accompanied tie. His clothes were properly pressed with nary a wrinkle, but his eyes were kind, belying his almost military appearance. He bowed at the couple, opening the door enough so that they could enter at the same time.

“Master Cambridge,” the elder man intoned. “It is good to see you home.”

The gunman blinked.

Cambridge? Vincent could only assume that was Cid’s true name. He could see why the pilot would adopt something different.

Cid inclined his head. “Thank you, Geoffrey. You have been well?” The pilot easily walked across the threshold into his childhood home, Vincent following closely behind and, for the moment, feeling just a bit like luggage.

They stepped into a large foyer that was so open that they could have easily thrown multiple parties and had room for everyone to stand and dance about. Above them hung a huge chandelier that was made of gold, casting a soft glow down on the rest. In front of them, an extravagant staircase, easily wide enough for ten people to walk abreast, led straight upwards, branching off into two curving sides and leading to the left and right. And descending these huge and carpeted stairs was a man who looked remarkably like Cid Highwind… should the pilot ever choose to grow out his hair, shave his beard, and dress far more pompously than his typical fare.

One tanned hand held onto the railing as he descended, a distinctly unpleasant look on his face. “Cambridge, I am displeased that you disgraced us with your presence,” he commented, gaze flickering from the Captain to Vincent with an intent murmur of disgust.

Cid sneered, a hand unconsciously fisting at his side. “Then what the fuck d’you call me for, Percival,” he demanded, “if you didn’t want me here?”

But the man ignored his younger sibling’s statement, instead shifting his entire gaze to appraise the ex-Turk. “And you brought your lover.” He sniffed disdainfully as he returned his cold stare to Cid. “Father would not be pleased, and I ask you, please do restrain your vulgarities in this home; you are, after all, a Highwind.”

“Well, that doesn’t matter now that dad’s dead,” retorted the pilot crossly.

“Father is not dead,” Percival responded coldly, coming to a stop at the base of the stairs. “He is dying. I deliberately had Mrs. Alexander misinform you.”

Cid furrowed his brow. “Why? What’s the fucking point? Dad doesn’t care.”

“I do not understand it myself. For some reason, Father wished to speak with you before he passed.” The man seemed distinctly unhappy about this prospect. “Even now, he lies on his deathbed awaiting you.”

Vincent could see it, though he was certain it was unintentional. A brief hope flickered in Cid’s eyes. Perhaps it was a desire for some sort of retribution between his father and him. Maybe the elder Highwind wanted to make amends.

“He asked you to call me?” The incredulity in Cid’s voice could not be mistaken, nor the unconscious way he lowered his tone in surprise.

Percival sniffed. “He requested that the moment you arrived that you speak with him…” He narrowed his gaze, looking directly beyond Cid. “Without your homosexual tagalong.”

“He’s coming whether you like it or not, Percy,” the pilot retorted. “I don’t have to have your damn permission. This isn’t your house yet!”

His lips became a thin line. “I told you not to call me that,” he stated shortly. “Still, do as you wish. Father will be the one to reprimand you, not I.”

“Tch. Are the others here yet?”

Percival lowered his head. “Yes, they were here days ago… as you should have been, but as it were, we did not have any way to contact you.” He sniffed disapprovingly. “Father is in his room. Frederick and Millicent are on the death watch. Of course, Madame Cordelia has not left her husband’s side.” He narrowed his gaze on Cid, as if about to issue an order. “Do not upset her. She is going through a great sorrow.” He moved to pass them, eyes flickering to Vincent as Cid barely controlled his anger.

“At least, you look somewhat like a woman,” the older Highwind commented. “Perhaps Father will be fooled.” With that statement, Percival nodded his head towards Geoffrey, and the two of them headed into a different part of the home.

Vincent was forced to bite back a vicious retort, unwilling to make the situation degenerate any further and having much more pride in himself than that. He did not want to sink to their level. On the other hand, Cid gritted his teeth and promptly attempted to ignore his brother, already heading for the stairs and causing Vincent to follow him.

“My brother is charming, don’t you think?” he commented with a shake of the head. He didn’t wait for the gunman to answer. “Frederick is my older step-brother. Millicent is my younger half-sister. I had another brother, Reginald… but he’s gone.”

“Gone?” Vincent queried, furrowing his brow.

The pilot waved off the question. “Cordelia, my dad’s replacement wife, is just a money-hungry whore. She used to be best friends with my mom, but the moment my mom was gone, she strolled in and latched with her claws, and I’ll be damned if everyone didn’t fall for her. Except me. I saw through that phony act in an instant.”

At the divide, Cid took the stairs to the right wing, seemingly easily remembering his way, though he had conceded it had been some time since he had been home. It seemed some things were rarely forgotten. The opulence around him drew much of Vincent’s attention, even as he listened to the story of Cid’s childhood as told by the man himself, and it was took a great deal of control for the gunman to simply calm the righteous anger building inside of him. Family was not supposed to act that way. Family was supposed to be the only people someone could trust, the ones to turn to in hours of need with an acceptance that defied everything. That Cid should be denied was inexcusable… as was the behavior that Vincent had witnessed. He idly wondered if there was anyone of the Highwind ilk that was even remotely decent.

They continued to climb the surprisingly long staircase, the Captain having lapsed into a silence, finally reaching another extensive hallway that jutted out far to the right. Vincent could only assume that the same structure was mirrored on the other side. To his right, above what would be the foyer area on the previous floor, was another staircase. Cid ignored this staircase, however, turning directly into the hall, Vincent quietly trailing after him. They passed several closed doors, as well as a number of painting and other artworks. Taking this in, Vincent came to the conclusion that Cid would have never been allowed to run around and play as a child for fear that he would break something and the wrath of his father would fall down on him.

Five minutes later had them standing outside a slightly ajar door, the low murmur of voices clearly audible within. Cid paused, appearing to take a deep breath before slowly pushing open the thick wooden door and stepping inside, Vincent close behind. It was slightly dim inside, the curtains pulled tightly over the windows and the lights above on their lowest settings. The huge, ornate bed in the center of the room had a sole occupant, though others were scattered about the room.

A woman, with the Highwind sky blue eyes and bright Reno-esque hair sat in a chair near the window, watching the bed with a mournful gaze. There was another male sitting primly in a chair at the foot of the bed, grim-faced with his brown eyes also locked on the bed. Another woman was draped across the side of the bed, her fingers firmly clasped about the weak and thin hand of what had to have been Cid’s father. There was a third female that was younger than all the others present, wearing a lab coat, currently checking the pulse rate of her patient.

Everyone save the sorrowfully kneeling woman looked up at Cid’s appearance, their reactions varied. The man Vincent took to be Frederick glared and returned his gaze stonily to the bed. He assumed Millicent to be the one by the window, who sniffed, her hand beginning to twist and turn in her lap. The female doctor, however, smiled wearily, her amber eyes lighting up.

“Cid,” she uttered softly by way of greeting. She laid down her instruments and moved away from the bed, immediately grabbing up the pilot in a fierce hug. “I was worried you weren’t going to make it.” By her friendliness, Vincent assumed that she was not a member of the Highwind family.

He returned the familiar gesture. “Hey, Reis; how have you been?” he asked in response.

She sighed as she pulled back from the embrace. “About the same. Mother and Father have not been making things easy.” She caught sight of Vincent, giving another weary smile. “You brought someone?” she inquired. There was no hint of reproach or disgust in her voice, and for that, Vincent was grateful. He would have to think ill of such a seemingly kind female.

Cid nodded. “Hai. This is Vincent.”

The gunman reached forward, shaking hands with her. “To meet under better circumstances would have probably been better,” he commented softly.

“Assuredly so,” Reis responded, clasping hands with him. “Though I am glad you could be here for Cid.” Her voice lowered so that the others could not hear, her eyes flickering about. “They will not make things easy for him.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Vincent returned.

“If you are going to barge in here unwanted,” Frederick spoke up icily, inviting their attention. “Then, it would be respectful of you to speak to Father first, Cambridge,” he chided, brown gaze shifting to them for only a fraction of a second as his hands tightened on the arms of the chair.

Reis exhaled and pulled back from the two of them, shaking her head as she mouthed “I am sorry” to Cid and returning to her vigil at the eldest Highwind’s side.

“My dad requested my presence,” Cid retorted sharply. “As far as I see it, you are the intruder.” With that, he moved forward, to the side of the bed where Reis sat as opposed to where the older woman, Cordelia he assumed, clutched at his father’s hand. From his stance, Vincent could see that the older man’s eyes were open and were a shade of green very different from Cid’s. In fact, the pilot did not much look like his father at all, beneath the scruff anyways. Perhaps he took after his mother.

He waited in silence, while Cid knelt at the side of the bed since there were no more chairs available. The ex-Turk didn’t even try to eavesdrop on the pilot’s conversation with his father, though by the expressions on both of their faces, it wasn’t a renewal as Cid had hoped… or even an apology. Sorrow and anger both darkened the younger Highwind’s face even as the elder seemed to be giving a stern rebuke. He could see the Captain’s hands curling into fists, even against the white of the sheets beneath him.

A slight clicking noise had Vincent’s attention momentarily diverted, eyes shifting to the doorway where Percival and another unknown female entered the room. Vincent racked his brain for another name, but Cid had not mentioned another woman, unless this one was Millicent and the other by the window was someone else entirely. Regardless, he mutely watched their entrance, noting that Percival refused to look at him, while the young lady seemed to make it a point to glare.

The Highwinds were such a lovely and respectful family.

After a moment of everyone silently watching Cid carry on a quiet conversation with his father, the pilot finally stood, some fury evident in his movements as he turned his back on the bed and headed back towards Vincent. The look on his face was one the gunman never expected to see… almost one of defeat. He was just about to question Cid on this when “the bastard”, aka Percival, decided to say a few choice words.

“His last wish was to see all of his children, even you. Yet, you did not have the courtesy to grant him the one thing he wanted,” Percival snarled.

“Shut up, Percy!” the pilot snapped, glaring heatedly at his elder brother. “Dad’s dying, and the best you can do is attack me?”

Frederick angrily stood. “No, you be quiet, Cambridge. Percival is right! After all that Father has done for us-”

“He’s done nothing for me!” the Captain roared before Frederick could even finish speaking. “All my accomplishments, all this, I’ve done on my own… without the money and without any of your support!” His arguments were punctuated with fierce waves of his hands.

To the side, Vincent noticed the young woman, the one he had assumed to be Millicent slowly rise to her feet, eyes locked on the bed in sorrow as one hand came up to her mouth, but he was quickly distracted when another voice added to the argument.

“How can you say that!” the unnamed female demanded. She stepped further into the room. “Cidrick has always been supportive! To everyone!”

Cid shook his head. “He’s not even your father, Adelheid! I don’t see how you’ve a right to be here!”

She clenched her fists at her side, though she was raised too “prim” to ever do anything overtly physical. “I have been more of a child to him, more of a son to him than you ever have! At least, I have not broken his heart.”

“If he even had one to begin with!”

“He is your father!” Percival angrily argued. “It is wrong for you to say such things!”

Cid narrowed his eyes at that, taking one step further as he voice dropped dangerously low. “No father would treat his son like I was treated. No father would disown him for following his heart. Nor would a real family either!”

Inwardly, Vincent cheered, although his own anger was rising as well. These people just yelled, screamed, said such cruel things to each other and to his lover, while a man laid on his deathbed… fading away second by second.

“You’re the one who betrayed us! By choosing to follow that unnatural path!” Frederick shouted, losing all semblance of a coolly detached aristocrat. “It’s wrong! It’s sick! It’s-”

“What the hell is wrong with you people!” Reis shrieked, her voice rising above all the others as she violently pushed herself to her feet. She glared at everyone around her. “Your Father just died, and none of you even noticed! Not one of you!”

A silence fell, the sound of weeping the only thing that could be heard. Cordelia clutched onto her husband’s hand, crying with her face buried into his chest as Millicent sat beside her. She was rubbing a soothing circle into her mother’s back, even as tears dribbled down her cheeks from her closed eyes. It was only the two of them who had been paying attention when Cidrick died, not even his firstborn son.

“You bastard!” Percival hissed angrily, directing his ire at Cid before storming out of the room on his own, the door slamming behind him. It was unclear as to why he had resorted to “vulgarities”, as he had put it earlier, and why he was so angry when he should have been mourning over his father’s death. The silence grew even louder as Adelheid took slow, steps towards the bed, gasping softly when she confirmed the diagnosis of the doctor, falling to her knees at the end of the bed. Although Cidrick was not her true father, only her uncle, he had always taken care of her as one of his own. She loved him like her own deceased father, just as she cared for his sons and daughter as siblings.

Frederick’s eyes darted from his father to his younger step-brother before he snapped angrily, “This is your fault, Cambridge.”

Before Cid could respond, Vincent found he could no longer hold his tongue. He stood up straight and narrowed his gaze, directing it much the same way Reis had, at all those present.

“I’m finding it difficult to believe that you would all resort to being so petty when your flesh and blood lies there deceased,” he uttered coldly.

“Shut up!” Adelheid yelled from where she knelt on the ground, twisting her body so that she could scowl at Vincent. “No one asked for the opinion of an unwelcome queer!”

Cid growled. “Don’t talk to him like that! You have no right to-”

“No!” Frederick interrupted, waving his hand in a slashing moment. “You are the one that has no right. Coming here out of nowhere – I don’t care if Father called you – and then bringing that thing along! The least you could have done was pretend to do as he asked, even if it was a lie!”

“I didn’t come here to please you!” the pilot shouted in return. “I thought he was already gone!”

Silence fell at his declaration, as horrible as it sounded. Vincent knew that Cid didn’t mean it the way it came out, but either way, the damage was done. Adelheid gasped, but it was Millicent who responded, looking up with a fierce glower.

“Then why bother gracing us with your ill presence!” she snapped. “You could have saved Father the grief. He could have lasted longer!” Her eyes were red-rimmed, face slick with her tears. She obviously cared for their father very deeply as she was also one of the few to even notice when he passed.

“Because mom would have wanted me to,” Cid vented in return. “That’s the only reason I came.” One hand came up, gesturing wildly towards them. “Not for you! Not for him! And not for the damn money either!” He pointed to each of them before waving his hand to definitively encompass the wealth of the Highwind family. His breath heaved, coming out in ragged gasps and obvious pain. Although he claimed Cidrick had hurt him in many ways, the pilot still considered the man his father, and the passing of the man was still painful. The Captain hadn’t even been given the time to grieve before the accusations started.

The expression on Cid’s face was one that Vincent wished he had never seen as it did not suit the Cid Highwind that he knew at all. Familiar blue eyes dropped to the floor, an attempt at hiding the evident pain within them.

“I’ve only ever wanted one thing from Dad… and his money is not it!” The last came out harsh and haggard, like it was torn from his throat as his fists clenched so tightly at his sides that Vincent feared his nails would draw blood.

Again, silence fell… sharp, bitter and acrid.

It was the doctor’s voice who broke it this time. “Get out,” came the order, quiet and cold.

“Who do you think-” began Frederick, but he was quickly cut off.

“I’m the doctor here,” she continued. “And as such, everyone is to vacate this room immediately. I’ll not have you arguing over this man! Fight elsewhere and leave those who are grieving to their tears!” Reis pointed to the door as she did so, the firm look in her eye stating that she was not going to be denied.

Strangely enough, no one else thought to protest. Cid was the first to head to the door, spinning on his heels and yanking it open violently. Vincent trailed quickly after him with the others following behind. The pilot paused for a moment in the hall, giving the gunman time to move past him, but at that moment, the rest of his family members piled out as well. Making a decision, Cid began to move down the hall, attempting to put distance between them.

Predictably, it was Frederick who opened his mouth. “Cambridge-” he started.

Cid paused, turning to look over his shoulder. But instead of a fierce glare of hatred, there was a deep sadness, as if he had wished for something better but ended up with the bitter fruit.

“I’ve come to say what I had to say. I’m not staying to hear you squabble over his money or degrade me either. I don’t care what you do with my inheritance, if I have any. I don’t fucking want it.” He left no room for argument with his words as he twisted back around and continued forward, the gunman walking right beside him. The couple left behind the blond’s siblings in shock.

And it wasn’t until they got to the staircase that Vincent found his words. “Are you sure that is alright?” he asked quietly. “Leaving now?”

The pilot shrugged, idly reaching into his pocket and shaking out a cigarette. He lit up as he stared up at the ceiling, a strange gleam to his eye. “I wasn’t lying. I don’t give a shit about the money,” he responded equally softly. “I’ll still come to the funeral tomorrow… though probably from afar. I’ve had about enough of the Highwind brand of love for today.”

Vincent couldn’t blame him, nor did he have a verbal response to that. Instead, he reached forward, grasping onto the pilot’s free hand and twining their fingers together. It was something he probably should have done a lot sooner. He squeezed comfortingly but didn’t let go, wanting to show the other man that despite his family, he still cared… he still wanted to be with him.

He remembered Cid’s words about it not being easy for him to love, and now, Vincent understood why. The pilot had probably never had a good example from his family, and it was almost a miracle that he could recognize the emotion. There was so much Vincent had not known, enough that he felt guilty for pushing Cid to reveal the things he wanted to know. And yet, they still hadn’t made up from their fight. The ex-Turk vowed to rectify that as soon as possible, probably the moment they got to the villa that Cloud had said they could use. He was going to corner the pilot and demand an explanation.

Even if it took him all night.

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