Sorry It's been so long guys - thanks fer all the reviews! ^_~ On with the show!
By now, you are all probably wondering - in the end, when I pulled the trigger on the poor soul that had once been Lucrecia's baby, did I regret? Did I hesitate? Did I feel I was sinning against her once more?
I can tell you in a single word.
It was mercy. He was no longer human, and weighing his life against the lives of every soul on, and indeed the very planet itself, the right decision was more than obvious to me. Sephiroth's time had come, and it was up to us to deliver his sentence.
It was Cloud's score to settle, and I was not responsible in the end for Sephiroth's death. My hands remained clean.
The final three, as always, were Cloud, Cid and I. Cid and Cloud both fought so bravely, so earnestly... for we were all of us fighting for what we believed in, for what we wanted to protect.
And... for the settling of everything, as Cloud himself put it. I thought those words were entirely fitting.
Cid and I had each other now. We couldn't afford to lose something like what we had.
That would be a sin.
So now, everything had been laid to rest and all debts had been repaid.
I hoped that Aeris, wherever her soul was in the Lifestream of our planet, felt the same sense of accomplishment and peace that flowed through us all as we watched the damned Meteor crumble to dust under the combined powers of Holy and the Lifestream.
I looked at the other members of the team. The relief that was slowly dawning on their tired, dusty and dirtied faces. They all looked so tired, so weary and worn... but calm. It was over now.
It was over.
Tifa gripped on tight to Cloud's hand as they surveyed the last of Meteor's dust swallowed up in the winds. Midgar was horribly scarred, but it was never a beautiful city to begin with. It could be healed.
Barret's eyes were glistening. I couldn't tell if it was because of tears or just sparkling with emotion at this; the end of all this trouble... but I knew that inside he was thinking of Marlene.
Yuffie was crying openly with relief, laughing at the same time as the tears rolling down her face. "It's over! It's over! Everyone's safe!" She kept saying to everybody that would listen. Red XIII and Cait Sith were similarly affected, restless and moving about the deck with a mix of disbelief and glee.
Finally I looked at Cid. He smiled at me so warmly his face almost seemed to glow. He came forward and put his arms around me, right there in front of everyone.
"Now's about as good a time as any, right Vin?" He murmured to me. He smiled.
I smiled too. "Yes."
Half of our team were already watching with softly inquisitive expressions, and I saw that Yuffie was smiling broadly.
"Guys..." Cid said, clearing his throat. I began to feel my cheeks burn.
"Me and Vin, we uh... we got something we gotta tell y'all."
"What's that then, Cid?" Yuffie asked innocently.
Cid shook his head at her, but he was smiling faintly.
I think everyone had already guessed by now, judging by the smiles that were dawning on their faces. But they wanted to hear it anyway.
"Well, Vin and me have been close friends ever since... since Aeris went missin'..." Cid lowered his tone as he mentioned the flower girl. "A whole lotta the stuff we've gone through in this team, we've gone through together." He softly clapped his hand against my shoulder for emphasis. I looked at my feet as he went on, feeling a lot of eyes focus on me.
"We just kept gettin' closer, 'cause believe it or not we got a lot in common. ..."
I froze. Cid had become stuck. I looked at him and saw him looking at the floor too, scratching the back of his head and his cheeks blushing bright red.
"Um.... uh... %^@$*&^%......" He muttered.
Cloud broke off his incoherent and frankly offensive mumbling after a while of nothing else coming from the stuttering pilot.
"Cid..." The spiky haired young man broke in. "If this is about you and Vincent ... being together... then we uh, already know..." He smiled.
Both Cid and I snapped our gaze up from the floor first to stare at Cloud, then after a moments thought our collective gaze snapped to Yuffie. We gave her daggers.
She immediately grinned at us fearfully, with a nervous laugh. "Ehehehe... umm, I just couldn't hold it in any longer, okay..? I knew everyone would be totally fine about it, and you guys planned on tellin' everyone in the end anyway, right? So I don't really see a problem! Hehe..."
"Don't be angry at Yuffie, guys..." Tifa said with a smile. "We sort of forced it out of her. We knew she was hiding something, so we made her tell us. She made us promise not to tell you two that she told us, but..."
Cloud spoke again. "It looked like you needed a bit of help." He laughed.
Cid was very red. "So... um, I guess that's that..."
Yuffie ran over to us and put her arms around us both. "Hey, everybody's really happy for you, right guys?"
Cid struggled to get out of her grip as everyone else murmured various notions of agreement to what the small ninja had said. Which was heartening, I have to admit. Even Barret seemed almost pleased.
Cid was quick to defend his masculinity, as no one seemed very surprised that his partner was male.
"Don't get me wrong, though, guys -" He started. "I'm not a fag. No way. I'm not into guys, it's just that Vin's the exception, see? I wasn't attracted to him or anything," He turned to me. "No offence there, Vin - I think you're hot and all, but -" He turned to everyone else again, as I blinked, unable to work out whether I should be offended or not. "I only think he's hot 'cause I got emotionally attached to him, see - it's kinda like I got used to him and I only found him attractive after the feelings set in, y'know?"
Everyone had started to filter back into the Highwind, leaving Cid to ramble on, until even Yuffie let her grip on us go slack and she too slinked off into the ship, looking a little green with the familiar air sickness.
"So, like I said in the first place, --" Cid blinked. "Hey! Where'd they all go?"
I smiled at him, as we were at last alone on the deck, underneath the twinkling stars. "They got tired of you defending your manliness, Cid. I think they understand well enough."
He smiled and came close to me, and for the first time we kissed on the Highwind without fear of being discovered.
For the first time, my heart felt whole again.
Cid was, and always will be, my breath of life.
Ahh, ain't it luvverly?
Well, that's the end for you happy chaps, but for the angst lovers in you, please move on to Breath of Life part II. But be warned, it's not for angst-haters... ^~^;;;
I am treating Part I as a separate story, however - reading Part II is not compulsory, but it was compulsory for me to write it.
As an end-note, I want to thank everybody who gave me such positive feedback and inspired me to finish such a long story (that's including Part II!) because I usually can't manage something this long, and it's because of you guys that I felt encouraged to make it right to the end!
My thanks go to Jessi, Beautifully-Twisted, Goldenfur, RikuNghts, and thank you to Kirie Himuro for so many wonderful reviews! Thanks also to anyone who read, enjoyed and reviewed it - you made me so happy with every review I got.
I know, I'm being really OTT and mushy, but this story (and the reviews it got) mean a lot to me.
Well, if you're brave enough to read Part II after such a happy ending, I'll see you at the other side of it! ^^;;