Disclaimer – I don't own FF7
By Crimson Skies
Chapter Sixteen – Wutai
Wutai was like a second home for Cloud. After their introduction in Nibelheim, he and Vincent had taken to traveling all over the continent. By far they had spent the most time in Wutai. It was the best place to hide from Shinra. The Wutaians were more than willing to assist in hiding them in case Shinra came looking. The chances of that happening were slim to none. Cloud had inherited Vincent's paranoia however. Now it might very well rival that of any Turk's.
The Wutaians had supplemented Vincent's teachings with lessons in swordsmanship and ninja techniques. Of course, Cloud had only had time to master the basics of the ninja's stealth abilities since he'd focused mainly on his sword work. He'd already had basic training in the use of blades from when they'd visited before being separated and from what Vincent had been able to teach him. In addition, Vincent had tutored him in the use of his more…unique…abilities. There were a surprising amount of similarities between the two of them. Vincent had a theory that the experiments preformed on Cloud were a variation of the Chaos Project.
It had been a little over two years since they'd departed from Midgar. Cloud was over seventeen years old now. For all the time he'd spent learning and preparing, it never seemed as though he was ready. He was beginning to wonder what, exactly, Vincent was waiting for. It was becoming frustrating. Lately Vincent had been watching him especially closely. He'd feel a pair of eyes on him and when he turned to look, Vincent would be stalking away. The gunner had been extremely closed mouthed lately.
He found himself suddenly wondering what Reno was up to. No doubt he was training to be a Turk. Cloud had to wonder if Reno would actually choose to stay with the Turks. After all, by now he would have been with the Turks for two years, the same amount of time he and Cloud had known each other. And his bonds with the Turks would be more recent. There was no telling which relationships would be stronger, and Cloud would not force him to choose. Vincent had explained more about it to Cloud sometime after they'd arrived in Wutai. The gunner had even shared a few less incriminating stories of his time as a Turk. It had given the teen a fresh outlook on the corporate monster known as Shinra.
"Cloooooooooooooooooooooud!" a girl squealed, running up to the tree he was reclining in. She stared up at him with wide eyes. "Come on Cloud! You promised you'd train me today!" She hopped in place excitedly.
"Yuffie, I told you I'd help you later this afternoon," Cloud reminded her in an exasperated tone.
"But Cloud! The earlier we start the more we can stea…er…train!" She pouted, and sent a devastatingly cute pair of puppy eyes his way.
"Sorry, I'm immune. And I'm not moving from this tree," he assured her, feigning relaxation. The teen had learned long ago to never truly lower his guard in this particular girl's presence however. It had been a hard learned lesson in the innocence of overly cute things. So, when a rock flew at his head, he was able to dodge it without falling from his perch.
"You won't even come down to speak with me?" Vincent inquired, his voice laced with hidden amusement, not that anyone but Cloud would be able to tell. Cloud and he both found it particularly funny when Yuffie squeaked, visibly jumping. She stared at Vincent in amazement.
"Would you please stop doing that to me? I thought I was gonna die!" she spluttered loudly. Ever since one of her friends had told her a vampire story a while back she had been rather nervous around Vincent, who found it extremely entertaining. When Cloud landed softly behind her, she jumped again. Seeing that both were ignoring her, she stalked away indignantly. "You'd better find me later," she huffed at Cloud, before breaking into a run.
"She won't let you off the hook," the gunner observed, watching her back. "She's strong and determined - or perhaps simply stubborn. She's got all the makings of an excellent ninja."
"And a good thief," he answered. "Ever since I taught her how to pick pockets, she's been on my case to learn more." He sighed and dropped to the grass with boneless grace, crossing his legs as he did so. Sighing, he leaned back against the tree. "You wanted to talk about something?" he inquired stiffly. Vincent examined his face through narrow eyes before pacing a few feet away. Though he could only see his back, Cloud sensed when the gunner was preparing to speak and interrupted.
"This is about going to Midgar isn't it? I think I'm ready, and you know I do. I also know, from the hints you've been giving, that you agree with me. I want to go. However, I know you must have your reasons for waiting, so I'm going to trust you, like I always do. I don't like sitting around here, but I'll do it," Cloud explained, blue eyes flashing with squashed impatience.
When Vincent turned back, the corners of his mouth were quirked up in a small smile. "Congratulations on passing your final test, Cloud."
Cloud gaped openly. "Huh?"
"I had to see if you would do something stupid," Vincent explained slowly. "There won't be room for rash actions where we're going. I know you're not the type, but considering the circumstances I had to be sure."
"So you dropped subtle hints to deliberately bait me," Cloud finished. Sometimes Vincent really astounded him. It was true that he was a bit hurt by the trial, but he also understood perfectly. After being raised by Vincent, their thought processes were very much alike. "Are we going then?" he asked hopefully.
"In two weeks. We'll need the time to formulate a plan and prepare." In a rare, unguarded moment, Vincent took a seat against another side of the large trunk.
After several moments of companionable silence, Vincent spoke again. "There was something else I wanted to talk to you about." The inflection in his voice was awkward, and caused Cloud to wonder at what it could possibly be. "You've caught the eye of several youths of the village. Yuffie, for one, thinks you're the best thing since materia."
The cause of the discomfort was immediately apparent. The only time it had been worse was when Vincent had seen fit fill in the gaps concerning Cloud's knowledge of the mechanics of sex. That was an experience that was something neither wanted to repeat and completely taboo to mention. It was the only time Cloud had ever seen Vincent blush. He'd been rather thorough in his explanation too. Sometimes Cloud thought Vincent took his semi-parental role too seriously. "I know. But she's like a little sister. Besides, I don't think it's even a crush," he explained with a chuckle.
"She's going to grow up very soon, and very fast," Vincent said sharply. "You may look at her someday and realize that she's not so little anymore."
"You're not dense Vincent Valentine. I think you know that it's not going to happen."
"You're right. With all the attention you've been receiving, I was curious to know why you haven't seemed interested in anyone," he explained. "I find it rather extraordinary how you're completely immune to advances from both sexes. I know your maturity level is high, but you're still seventeen."
"It's true," Cloud began, picking his words carefully, "that it's rather abnormal. I can't say that I haven't found everyone completely unattractive. That's hardly it." Cloud paused here, considering his explanation. Vincent waited patiently as Cloud plucked a blade of grass and twisted it around his fingers until it snapped.
"It has to do with what I am. I don't want to risk getting emotionally attached to someone that way. Everyone here is a normal human being, relatively speaking. The kind of emotion I might invest in a romantic relationship would be dangerous. There's always a chance that the beast would take control and kill someone who's less capable of defending themselves. Besides, how many people do you think would be able to fully comprehend what I am? I would think you'd understand," Cloud finished.
And Vincent did. Gaia help him, he did. Vincent had avoided relationships for a few primary reasons, and that was one of them. There was no knowing how the beast would react. Neither had been in a situation to test it. Vincent had never been involved with anyone after his transformation. As it was, the beast manifested itself often in the form of baser instincts and strong emotion. For the most part he was able to ignore it when he wished by utilizing strong self-discipline. For something like lust and love, however, Vincent couldn't be sure. Every day was a delicate balancing act between his two conflicting natures, one he was adept at. And Cloud was in a similar fix. Lazily, he stood and brushed himself off. He turned to face Cloud with an air of disappointment.
"I understand. I'll have to go and inform Godo that your engagement to Yuffie will have to be postponed indefinitely," Vincent declared solemnly. Cloud stared up at him in horror.
"Vincent, you know I love Yuffie to death, but I just told you! Not like that!" he yelped, scrambling to his feet. When amusement crept into the gunner's red eyes he knew he'd been duped. "Oooooh, that wasn't funny at all!" Cloud exclaimed dashing down the path Vincent had taken on his quick retreat.
It was good to be able to relax so freely. Later, they would not be able to do so.
Well, that was an interesting chapter to write. I actually rearranged this chapter several times until it fit correctly. It isn't my favorite chapter by far, but I don't think it's the worst. In any case, I hope you all enjoyed it. I'm glad I was able to finish it before I left on vacation, or it probably never would have gotten done. It's a little on the short side, I know, but it'll do.
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