Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Title: Unfading.
Rating: PG
Description: Vincent keeps his promise to listen to Nanaki's stories. Only this year, it isn't quite as boring…

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and its novels belongs to Square Enix.

Unfading.
By Miyamoto Yui

"So, I've kept my promise."
"You've been keeping it for the past 58 years." A low growl of laughter came through the mouth of Nanaki, whose body had grown more robust. But if his grandfather were alive, he'd have said he was still a child, laughing while patting his head.

There were times he wished he'd call him that now.

"That's the last of them…" they both thought, gazing at the freshly plotted grave before them.

It will be me the next time. Nanaki gave a thoughtful glance over at Vincent. Will you be okay?

Vincent touched the ground with his metallic claw making ridges on the dirt while Nanaki patted it with his paws. He eyed the mound solemnly, thinking about how many times Yuffie made it a point to hug him despite his protests.

There was no need to mark Yuffie Valentine on any marker. After all, in the church, they were all lined next to one another. First was Barret, then Cid. Shera after a few years. Tifa, then Cloud, who couldn't handle it, soon followed her three months later. Denzel and even Marlene had passed away. Their daughters were best friends still living in Edge. The last was Yuffie, claiming she'd keep the materia until her last breath.

But Vincent knew that she was holding on so that he wouldn't be lonely.

It was a joke, but at night, Vincent would see her hugging the glowing orbs, talking to them with each of their friends in mind. He'd leave her alone when those times came, but then when she fell asleep, without missing a day, she'd hug him from behind.
"Now, you're not too old," she teased before closing her eyes. Intertwining her hands with his, on that particular night, Yuffie whispered, "Vincent, good night."

She never called him by his full name anymore. Alarmed, he turned around to watch her face. She was smiling while blinking her eyes drowsily. He reached out to embrace her and as he did so, her skin grew colder. He didn't let go even when the dawn touched her feet. He didn't know how long he'd held her in their room…

Getting up, they went to sit by the side and lean their backs against the columns.
Holding up a bottle Tifa labelled "Avalanche Special", Vincent asked, "Mind if I drink?"
"No, not at all." Nanaki settled in, looking around the serene church through the darkness, droplets of light coming through the windows and the holes in the roof. "Don't mind pouring some for me?"
"Mm." Vincent placed eight shot glasses between them, thinking of how Tifa and Cloud had hid a glass for everyone when they got together there. He poured the alcohol into each one.
Tink! Clinking their glasses together, he took a shot while Nanaki dipped his tongue to the hardness of the substance.

After a few minutes and two shots in, Vincent broke the silence. "Do you have any stories?"
"Yes," Nanaki answered despondently, already halfway through his glass.
Over the glass rim, Vincent glimpsed at Nanaki. The seriousness of his companion's reply didn't go unnoticed. "I thought so. There was something different when you walked in today."
"I…"
"What?" Vincent held up his glass for another round.
"There are times I wonder why I was born like this. I am neither a human nor beast, yet I am both..."

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

The coral tint of the sky marked that it was time to come home.

These days, since he was the leader of Cosmo Canyon, Nanaki couldn't wander the world as much as he'd liked to. He was the official head so he gave lectures to those who wanted to learn about Gaia and space or other life mysteries. Still, he would ask the clan for permission to go roaming around, but it took a lot of preparation to do so if he left for days at a time.
First off, everyone in the village knew what he was, but not everyone outside of it did. Unlike the days of his grandfather, he couldn't immediately reveal his identity. So he could only accept few visitors or if he gave a talk, he'd wear a long cloak to cover his body. All the more, there were still those who continued searching for him for one reason or another. He didn't want another relapse of the Hojo days, so they had to screen who would come. They could gain knowledge, especially within the planetarium, but it was under the condition of trustful concealment.

But he never let those reasons stop him from helping someone in need, whether or not they would accept it.

On this day, he was going to the surf's edge to check on the sea life as well as the changes of land formation. Ever since the Lifestream changed the planet's entire topography, no one was quite sure about the indulgence of green that seemed to embrace the world among its own ruins. Everyday, when he'd return, he would ask the official scribe to type in his journal of that day's findings.

Today he'd note that he was able to watch a family of dolphins swimming, hearing them speak with one another.

Tifa would have enjoyed watching that.

Touching the soothing blue-green with his paw, he smiled at the sea's calmness, playfully touching the coast in its freedom. The creatures around weren't as aggressive to him as they were before. Well, just where he lived at least.

"Aah!" he heard from a distance.

"A woman's scream?"

At the canyon's edge, he saw a Skeeskee attack a tall woman. As he lunged quickly at her legs, she lost grip of her dagger and fell backwards, hitting the ground. Rushing to stand in front of the unconscious woman, the Skeeskee stepped back. Nanaki lowered his head and positioned his lower legs to push off the ground at a moment's notice, ready to pounce if it decided to hit again. It decided to run away when he showed his fangs.

When he turned around, Nanaki checked to see if she was injured. To his relief, there were only scratches on her right leg, but she was still out.
He was immediately awestruck when he had a good look at her. Long flowing brown hair in a ponytail. Naturally long eyelashes and pink lips revealing white teeth. She was wearing a black and white newspaper blouse with red cargo shorts and steel toe boots. Her whole demeanor appeared gentle.
He'd met many females before, so he didn't quite know what to make of it.

Why would I feel any different with this one?

Luckily, the Skeeskee wasn't able to steal the medium-sized backpack she'd carried with her, or what he assumed was hers. He took it into his mouth as he tried to take her on his back too, at least to get her to the coast and into a "safer" spot with some water next to it.
He settled next to a rocky wall of the canyon which overlooked the coast. It wouldn't have been too far for her to walk to the ocean.

Watching the changing sky, he knew he had to get home, but he waited for her to gain consciousness. Strangely though, when she started to open her eyes, he darted behind some trees that were close by.

The woman blinked and slowly sat up to find her thermos within reach. She took a drink and searched from side to side while holding her head, dizzy and disoriented.
From the thrush of trees, a deep voice asked, "Are you hurt?"
Surprised, the woman looked into the direction where she thought the voice came from, but only saw moving shadows.

This is ridiculous. Why am I hiding from her?

Unsteadily, she started to stand up, wanting to come towards him.
"Please don't come any further."
She stopped and remained seated, peering curiously. "Are you the one who helped me? Why won't you show yourself?"
There was no other reply, but the branches and leaves rustling against each other in the wind.

"Thank you."

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

Ever since that woman appeared, Nanaki couldn't sleep.
And he didn't understand why she was still there where he'd left her. The most mysterious thing was that she was fine, but he wouldn't leave well enough alone, saying he'd check that she was all right with all the monsters around even though they knew his smell was lingering around there. They wouldn't have approached her anyway.

He snuck out at dawn and came each day to give her something.

Today, he'd brought meat for her to cook that morning.

The woman woke up to the smell of something at her feet. Then she got out of her tent, trying to make out the figure in the forest. "Why are you concealing yourself?"
"Why are you so determined? Go on your way because it's dangerous here."
"I will not leave this spot until I see you. I need to thank you properly."
"Do you really need to see?"
"I want to talk to you."
"You are talking to me already-"
"I know it sounds stupid, but I can't stop thinking about you."

Nanaki took a deep breath. "Don't misinterpret my intentions. I just helped you because you were being attacked."

"You come to watch me even if nothing's happening. You leave me things to keep me safe."
He didn't know how to counter that comment.
"I've come to warn you for the last time. You will not find whatever you're looking for."
"How do you know?"

He started to quietly avert his body away from her direction when she stood in front of him with wide eyes. Startled, he stared upwards, unable to leave or cover himself.

There. Now you know I am a beast and-

She knelt down to see him eye-to-eye. Holding out her hand, she tilted her head. He took an immediate step back and she retracted her hand. "Sorry."

You look sadder at not being able to touch me. Why aren't you shocked?

"I just wanted to say thank you."
He shook his head and he gave a sideways glance. Then he met her eyes once more. "You are welcome."

She smiled at him and he stopped breathing for a moment. Up close, her eyes shimmered brighter than the amethyst-colored materia sold at home, especially under the sun's rays.

"Well, I must get going."
Disappointed, her gaze pointed towards the ground. She sighed before watching him again, pointing at his tattoo. "At least tell me your real name. Red XIII isn't it, right?"
Cringing inwardly at the cruel brand, he gulped but said nothing.
"My name is Amara."

Again, she reached out to touch his chin and this time, he didn't retreat. Rather he closed his eyes as her fingertips brushed his fur, completely immersed in the sensation. The tingling reached all the way from his ears to his feet. It felt like something close to heaven.
When she'd stopped, he found her hugging his neck. Her breath tickled his skin, right down to his bones.

Unbelievable…this woman…

Vainly, he tried to wrench himself away, protesting against her affection, but she embraced him even more fiercely, rubbing her cheek against his. He closed his eyes again at the tranquility. He just couldn't fight against the soft glow washing over his whole being.

What is this feeling?

"Why do you keep running away from me?" she questioned, stroking his head with her fingernails.
"Do you not see what's in front of you?"

An invisible ice pick jabbed into his heart when he said those words.

"Yes, but I don't see what's that got to do with anything."
"Don't you have questions?"
She reluctantly released her arms, but held onto his cheeks so that he'd look straight in to her eyes. "About your voice, yes. About your form, no. You are as you are."

He'd said that all these years to countless people, but having someone accept it unconditionally was overwhelming. It scared him. He wasn't prepared for this kind of reaction.

You live by instinct just like all the creatures here. Your eyes are unlike anyone else's…

"I really have to go now."
She put her hands down to her lap as she sat on her knees. "Will you come again?"
"I…" Flustered at everything, he was at a loss for words while staring into her pleading eyes. "…cannot guarantee anything."
He turned around and after a few steps, without looking back he said, "I am called Nanaki."

This was the first time she saw him run against the scene of the dawn fully awakening.

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

After several days, as he was returning at dawn, the guard at the entrance announced that there was a group who had traveled far to meet him. These travelers wanted to consult with him about different questions.
"What kinds of answers are they seeking?"
He sat dignified and tall. With the passage of time, people's questions also evolved, or rather the foci varied from decade to decade. This particular group wanted to have a meditation with him at the top of the canyon.
"How many are there?"
"Seven. They are being screened now."
"What do you think, Kelvin?" Rubbing his chin, the young man balanced from side to side. "I think they are trustworthy."
"Based on…?"
"They said they spent their whole lives trying to get here and meet you. And they want to return to their grandchildren with your knowledge." Kelvin made his hand into a fist and bumped the area over his heart. "Reminds me of Bugenhagen, only they did the reverse."
Nanaki chuckled, the light sparkling from within at the mention of his grandfather. He couldn't actually hear the "Voices" yet for he was too young, but it certainly was a sign to him.
"All right. I will be back at sunset. Let them settle in before then."
"Yes."

He wincing at sun blinking back at him.

Thank you. You always show up whenever I need you.

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

After the meditation, he again ventured out. It wasn't easy trying to gather information to teach about Gaia's gradual transformation. Eclipses in the sky, life on the land, formations inside the water and such appeared differently in every part of the world. He also relayed information to Yuffie's apprentices in this generation's WRO whenever they visited.

But when it was nearly one in the morning, he'd come to sleep near Amara's tent.

On that night, at seeing his shadow, she unzipped her makeshift tent and called out to him.

"Nanaki, are you there?" Halfway out, she grinned in relief and gestured for him to come closer, but he cautiously walked towards her.
"Come," she patted the bedding next to her.
"What?"

If he was exhausted, he certainly was alert now.

She is crazy.

"I know you've been sleeping out there, so you might as well come in here."
Blinking at her in disbelief, he shrugged off the offer and turned around, planting himself at the entrance of her tent.
"Fine." She left the zipper open so that she could peek at him. She laid her head on the makeshift pillow and watched his back.

Unable to sleep, his heart beating itself against his ribs, he asked, "Why do you continue to stay here?"
"My grandmother passed away so I no longer have a home."
"Where do you come from?"
"My family was originally from Midgar, but like almost everyone from there, we migrated to Edge. That's where I was born."
"From so far away?"
"With Rocket Town's airship travel service, I got as far as Golden Saucer with the money I saved."
"But why here?"
"It was my grandmother's dream to come to Cosmo Canyon." Amara said nothing more.

He lifted his head to look at her. She'd fallen asleep, but a tear slipped from her eye.

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

Two weeks passed in this fashion and Nanaki begrudgingly became comfortable with it.

There were nights he wanted to ask Barret what to do or his grandfather on what to say. If only he could have asked Tifa at a time like this, how had she lived with all the uncertainty with Cloud until he finally opened up? He would have consulted Vincent or Yuffie, but their courtship took many years due to Vincent's attachment to Lucrecia and Yuffie's persistence, never giving up even when he ran away from his own feelings towards her, once he realized they were there.

Wait…courtship? Was this what this was?

The problem wasn't that she wasn't leaving, but that he didn't want her to. That's why he was checking up on her?
He could almost hear Bugenhagen's "Ho ho hooo~!" chuckling right into his ear.

The idea implanted into his head once Kelvin gave him a devious smile, poking him in the shoulder. "Leader Nanaki, if I may be frank with you…"
"Yes?"
"You have a woman, don't you?"
"No," Nanaki answered innocently. "Why would you say that?"
"Your overall manner has been changing."
"How so?"
"You are smiling more these days. I think Mr. Barret would've commented on it if he were here."
Shaking his head, he humphed. "Please do not misunderstand. Have you read the new findings in our journal? I have discovered the exact life stages of a chocobo. That took years to find out. And then there was a new species of "Touch Me" Frogs that are no longer harmful. They can be kept as pets to help you with sleeping problems."
"Okay okay…sorry to tease you about it."

Thinking about it, Kelvin was exactly right, but he didn't know it until that moment when he saw her waiting for him. The guilt weighed on his conscience, but it didn't stop him from going to Amara. By now, she was able to touch his head, running her fingers through his scalp freely.
This time though, she didn't ask him to come and he worried over it as he saw her fluff her pillow and lay down.

As always, she stared at his back.

Silently, he came through the entrance and laid a foot away from her, his head positioned to watch her face. The ends of her mouth curved as she scooted a bit closer, her hand reaching out to his neck. She patted it tenderly. Her hair fell, intertwining with the tips of his fur.

"Nanaki?"
"Yes?"
"I love you." Smiling widely, she fell asleep with her hand still holding onto him. "Good night."

Unable to touch her face or say anything, he watched her sleep peacefully beside him.

I shouldn't get used to this…

It was the first time in his life he truly understood what he was. What he could and could not do.

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

A month later, he saw her writing by the sea instead of sleeping at the tent. It wasn't quite dawn yet.

He'd only noticed she was gone because the warmth went along with her. He was used to her sleeping with her head on his back. Somehow, he didn't mind replacing the pillow.

"You've gotten up before me," he said as he walked towards her.
The cold water touched her feet, but she didn't mind it. Amara closed her notebook.
"I couldn't sleep."
"Why?"
"It's time I leave, Nanaki." Her voice cracked as she wiped away tears from her eyes.
He gasped, his heart dropping down to the sandy ground as he stammered, "What?"
"I can't stay here."
"But you said you have nowhere to go."
"I don't, but if I stay with you…"
"…we cannot live together as we'd like."

The ocean lapped in response as he stood beside her, his eyes staring at the islands before them.

"Then why did you come in the first place?" he questioned, his voice almost inaudible.
"I've always wanted to meet you." She turned her head to finally watch his profile. Sighing, she stood up, her hair waving along with the breeze. "A long time ago, my grandmother told me about a striking creature which caught her eye. Its skin was dyed with the color of sunset and had a strong back. The scar on its right eye and the fire on the tip of its tail made him more beautiful. His spirit couldn't ever be broken."
At the marvelous description, he laughed. "Sounds like a child's picture book."
Amara nodded her head. "I thought so too, so I begged her to tell me about this creature. She made me promise never to tell anyone what she told me though."

Nanaki began feeling uneasy as she walked into the water, ankle deep.

"You see…she…"

This time, Nanaki watched her profile, afraid of the words that were about to tumble from her mouth.

"She was one of the scientists observing you in Dr. Hojo's lab."
Stunned, he continued to listen to her words as they tussled along with the waves.
"She thought you were the most gorgeous being she'd ever seen. And she was glad to hear you were able to make it out safely." She gulped. "But she always wanted to apologize to you."

That's why she knew the tattoo…

"Don't tell me you work for Shinra-"
Shaking her head, she squatted down with her hand reaching beneath to slide over the sand. "No I don't. And I didn't mean to deceive you."

Even when you're telling me this…
I love you. I love you…that's what all the hairs on my body standing on end keep on saying.

The confusion of his feelings, her words, and even his own thoughts made no sense to him.

Her grandmother was one of those scientists. She loves me. I don't want to let go of her. We cannot ever have children. I will outlive her.

Even if we tried, we can't-no, we shouldn't be together.

"Are you mad?" Angrily, he took a step back. "Do you have some kind of strange fetish like that sick doctor that you came all the way here on your grandmother's story?"
Then he finally confronted what he never wanted to say aloud. "I speak like a human but I am not one. I am a beast, but I don't always think like one. I can't do anything for you with this form, Amara!"

Whatever strings that had kept them together, snapped. His chest never felt so numb.

"You are an honorable man. What else am I supposed to see?"

Ah, that's what her atmosphere reminds me of… She's like them.

Tears came to his eyes as he imagined each of the faces of his friends.

"Nanaki…" Reaching out towards him, her lips touched his eyes. "To me, when I asked my grandmother to sketch your form, she'd laugh because I kept saying, 'He is a beautiful man with a red mane!'"

As she brushed her knuckles on the sides of his face, he kept looking into her face, etching her features and this moment into his memories.

That day, he brought her along his observations, teaching her what he already knew. And before they slept, he licked her cheek before they went to bed. This time, he let her hug him, his head on her chest. He felt her tears drip onto his skin.

And like always, he was ready to leave before the dawn. But this time, she had gathered her things and they stood before one another with an indescribable heaviness.

"Take one of my earrings." He lowered his head.
She loosened one of them, and cuffed it onto her ear. Smiling, she hugged him one more time. "Thank you."

"See you again in the Lifestream."
When she was a few feet away, he blurted out, "Why me?"
"From all her sketches, what struck me were the depths of your eyes."

It was as if she just turned around and grabbed his heart. The fur around it never felt so tender, her fingers giving electrical sparks right into his brain, tickling him inside out with the comfort of its passion.

"Amara, I'll always think the same about yours."

+/+/+/+/+/+/+/

"She truly loved me as I am."

Vincent knew the feeling all too well. In response, he poured more alcohol for both of them to drink.
"And you?"
"People create books, songs, machines…many things out of this thing called love. You hear about it from multiple people, it has many facets, both painful and wonderful. But none of that applied to her."
"Why?"
"I feel like my soul has a puncture in it."

And it will never want to repair itself.

Patting his back, Vincent nodded his head and sighed. But then, he brought something out from his pocket.

"What's this?"
Putting a book in front of his paws, it was titled "Gorgeous Sights of Gaia."
"A woman came to Strife Delivery Services and told Marlene's daughter Monica to send this to the leader of Cosmo Canyon. I was thinking she meant you."

Flipping to the dedication page, Vincent's finger lingered so that he'd read, "To my other half, N."
Underneath it was a detailed sketch of his earring with a lipstick mark.

The day she'd left, when he returned to Cosmo Canyon, he looked up the meaning of her name.
"How fitting." His paw touched the text.

Unfading.

Owari. / The End.

Author's note: This idea has been rolling in my head for about a month. I just felt this urge to make a story for Nanaki because there's so much depth but he doesn't get to speak a lot, especially in the movie. In the novels, he is roaming and helps people even when they don't treat him well. I think that was what grabbed my heart about him.
In the fashion of the other FF7 women's names, I decided to pick a Greek girl's name and when I came across "Amara", it glowed.

I hope you enjoyed this! I really enjoyed writing this one. It was very refreshing.

Love,
Yui

6/27/2020 10:54:44 PM – Los Angeles
6/28/2020 2:54:44 PM – Tokyo