They were wrong about me, all along, but sometimes, right and wrong don't matter at all.

Maybe I proved my point, I don't know. It doesn't matter now, and I know I can't let it get to me. There are better things waiting for me where I'm headed now, and at last, I'll be free. There won't be another day where I won't be able to walk under the free, wild blue ever again…

Chapter 9

Cid's eyes snapped open as he heard a disturbingly close crash, pulling him from his dreams. He had a moment, before reality snapped fully back, where he was able to reflect in disappointment that he had been quite happy the way he was, not to be disturbed. He didn't really know how long he'd been lying there, daydreaming, but he couldn't think about that any longer. There was another loud bang and a crash at the front of the house, and Cid sat up abruptly, the dream now long lost.

He held his breath, body tense, muscles coiled, as he listened. A thump, and footsteps, coming in, echoing against hardwood floors in an empty, dark house. Cid let out a slow breath, closing his eyes and steeling himself for a moment. He was suddenly glad that Shera had long since left. He could take care of himself however he needed to, now. Opening his eyes, Cid crept quietly from his bed, across the room, grabbing his spear, boots falling silently on the carpeted floor. He ignored his jacket, though he still wore his goggles, as always. As he moved in stealth, the twin pairs of dog tags at his chest clinked softly under his shirt. Cid unconsciously reached up and touched them briefly before moving towards his bedroom door. It was closed, but he could hear the footsteps of several people growing nearer with each step. Cid was glad the lights were out, it would take them longer to find him in the dark house.

Holding his homemade spear close, Cid held back a small growl in his throat. They'd never had the nerve to actually try and invade his home before. He could hear some of them talking softly to each other.

"Damn…what the hell is this guy…?"

"Living in the dark like this? Must be nuts…"

"Shaddup, both of you." Cid smirked as he recognized the third voice as Davis.

"…Somebody lives here?" Cid looked down as he caught the fourth voice as Michael McNeilian's.

"Quit gawking Mike, yer actin' like that kid of yers." Cid heard a soft, angry snort, and wondered briefly if perhaps he should just tear away some of the boards at the back window, and sneak out.

"HIGHWIND!" Maybe it was too late. "We know yer in there hiding!" Davis' ultimatum echoed in the empty hallway. Cid grit his teeth.

"Whaddya want, Davis?" He called back, voice rough, edgy.

A laugh.

"We want this all to end, Highwind. Come on out." Davis' voice was too sugary sweet, full of disdain and hatred for Cid to fall for one word of the seemingly benevolent sounding line. He let out a harsh growl, frustrated.

"Then come and find me!"

There was a pause, a series of soft curses, and then thundering footsteps as they hurried through the hallway, doors slamming against their frames as each room was checked in procession. Cid held his breath, heart fluttering, then seeming to stop, then flutter to life again with each room closer to his own his hunters came. The door next to his cracked sharply as it was kicked, smacking against the inside wall. There was a pause, a lasting silence, and a sharp chuckle into the silence, and Cid backed away, gripping his spear, white knuckled.

"Highwind…" Came the call. Cid grit his teeth, not answering, but stepping to one side, clear of the path of the door. Another passage of silence, and then a resounding bang as the door exploded into splinters, as did one of the picture frames on Cid's desk, directly opposite of it. Cid could see through the gaping hole in his door the double barrels of a shotgun still smoking lightly. A swift movement, and the door was kicked clean off its hinges, falling to the push carpet with a soft thump and a clank.

Davis stepped into the dark room, blinking and peering as he tried to get his eyes to focus on the shadows inside. He sidled closer to Sands, at his side, whispering to his crony.

"Ya see anythin'?" Sands shook his head, eyes wide as he glanced around.

Cid felt sweat slide down his forehead into his eyes as he struggled with getting the bathroom window uncovered. He climbed up onto the toilet, careful not to make a sound, and turning his face away, slammed his shoulder and the tip of his spear through the glass, breaking it away from its frame with a crash.

The men in his bedroom, adjacent to where Cid was hiding, all turned in unison at the sound of the window shattering.

"Shit!" Reloading his gun, Davis strode through the darkness, rattling the doorknob to the bathroom with his free hand. It was locked, and with a snarl, the man stepped back, taking aim with his rifle.

Cid heard the rattle of the door and knew he only had seconds, as he tossed his spear through the window, and attempted to squeeze past all the glass shards through the tiny opening. He winced as his arms and shoulders were sliced, jagged lines of red rolling freely down his bare arms.

The resounding bang of gunfire behind him helped Cid's momentum, and he dived through the window as the lock behind him shattered.

Cid stumbled into the daylight, gasping. He'd landed roughly, and nearly on his face. He stood, shaking, kicking his spear up to his hand with a practiced movement. He spared a glance up at the window, now over his head, before darting off around the side of the house, ignoring the pain in one ankle, and the thin streaks of stinging heat crisscrossing his arms.

The gunmen in Cid's bathroom stood a moment in irritated awe as the signs of Cid's escape told volumes to them.

"Damn… he's slippery…" Sands looked around, noting lines of red dripping from some of the still-intact pieces of glass in the window.

"Shut the hell up and get moving." The four men turned and hurried out, hot on Cid's trail.

Cid took the time to tuck his spear under one arm as he ran, and pick out a few errant shards of glass from his arm.

He ignored the looks he received as he charged through town, straight down the central streets. People stood and watched in morbid wonder, as from behind, Davis and his crew came out the front of Cid's house, shouting. Several gunshots rang, but Cid kept running, and the rest of the town only stood and stared, not doing a thing. Cid gasped as one bullet struck the ground at his heels in a shower of dust, and took a flying leap into the air, clean up to a housetop, which he hopped down behind, using it as a shield.

Cid had no intention of ever returning to his home. He made his way through Rocket Town, headed for the chocobo stables, now out behind where the old ShinRa No. 26 Rocket had once stood. If he could get a bird, he could run, and run for good.

Cid's breathing came ragged as he chanced a glance up at the sky. It was clear and blue as heaven, and just begging him to fly. Cid wanted to fly more than ever now, not just for escape. It had been so long since he had truly seen the sky, opening freely in its expanse above him.

Another bang and a sharp crack of wood shattering near his head snapped Cid out of his daydream, and, pushing his aching legs to move faster, Cid piled on the speed. He coughed, vision swimming. Cid could jump to the moon and land like a cat, but he wasn't built for dead out sprints, and was even worse at prolonged running. His lungs ached in his chest, threatening to explode inside of him at any moment.

His breathing was so rough, and loud in his own ears, that Cid didn't initially hear the sound of the truck that pulled across his path ahead of him. Cid looked up, sky-colored eyes widening in shock as Michael and Sands leaped out, guns drawn.

Cid skidded to a halt, nearly falling over backwards, and darted toward the closest building as the gunfire began to rain down on him. He turned, crouched behind a large planter box, and intended to run back the way he came, maybe circle the town, or if not, just head for the hills, when another gunshot made the daises above him explode into a shower of white pedals, fluttering down around Cid.

Rolling back into a crouching position behind the large box, Cid chanced a glance around the other side of the planter, and spotted Davis and his handy little buddy, Jake, blocking his escape back through town. Cid closed his eyes, trying to calm his breathing, chase away the pain from his body, and think clearly. All he could focus on was the sound of his heart hammering in his ears, and how he couldn't get his eyes to work quite right. His vision was spotted with sparks, from too much or too little oxygen, he didn't know.

The air around him suddenly roared into solid, booming sound, as the four men took turns firing at him in careful succession. Bits of the wooden box Cid was hiding behind began to chip off, and Cid knew that sooner or later, it would simply fall apart, and his cover would be gone.

Shaking, Cid steeled himself for another mad dash. It was nuts, but it was all he had, and it was a chance. Maybe if he could run into the store behind him, he could find some way out the back…

"DADDY!" Cid's eyes widened in alarm as he somehow heard the small, joyous voice call over the roar of the guns. To his right, Cid heard one of the guns stop.

"Dessie, no!" Cid swallowed as Michael cried out to his daughter, alarmed. Cid could just see around the side of the box the little girl he'd been watching earlier that day, running straight through the street in a deadline towards her father. "GUYS! WAIT--My daughter!" Michael waved, eyes wide with panic, but the others ignored him, the guns still going. "Desdemona, NO!"

Desdemona giggled, toddling towards her father, eyes brilliant blue and shining with excitement. She didn't see or understand the guns, and walked right into the line of fire, only feet from where Cid was hiding. Cid bit his lip and swallowed, his stomach feeling cold as he realized he'd come out from behind his hiding place to watch, and saw Davis level his gun right at him. Cid's eyes widened, as did, a hundred feet away, Michael's. Desdemona was directly in the line of fire, and Cid could see from here, that Davis would not hesitate to shoot both the girl and Cid, if it meant getting his target. Cid leapt just as the first bang sounded sharply in his ears. He dove, moving his body in front of the girl, a small, hopeless cry escaping his lips in a half sound, pushing her back.

Time slowed as the bullets flew, and Cid heard three distinct bangs as the guns continued to fire. It was only a half heartbeat later that he felt two of the three bullets strike him, one in the chest, the other just below the windpipe.

He staggered, gasping, and collapsed over the girl behind him, doing his best to hold himself up from flattening her, even as he watched blood ooze down his wrists as he braced himself.

The gunshots had ended, and silence rang louder than ever. Cid glanced down at the child crouching under him, then further to where blood was starting to soak through his shirt, and gave a strained, bemused laugh. It sounded distant and tinny to him.

Well, shit.Cid felt the spreading cold as he began to loose blood in earnest, a cold sweat beading his face.

The girl jumped up, oblivious to what had happened, and ran to her father. Only Cid's pain-laced gasps could be heard.

All around, people stood and stared, awed. After three years, the infamous Cid Highwind had finally gone down. Had it been appropriate, many may have cheered or clapped. As it was, nobody moved as he crouched, frozen in time, slowly bleeding to death. Michael knelt with his daughter in his arms, eyes wide, watching in silence.

Cid shivered, rolling slowly down to the ground to lie on his back. He didn't need to put a hand to his chest or collar to know he was bleeding badly. He could feel it soaking his shirt, his skin, his vision. He had the moment to appreciate the strange breathy feeling that came over him as his breathing slowed, his heartbeat laboring. Not daring to close his eyes just yet, Cid turned them upwards to the sky. It was blue and shining and in so many ways perfect. He closed his eyes tiredly and gasped as he saw the stars in the sky, twinkling and turning behind his eyelids.

He smiled. He loved the stars, oh so very much. As they turned, he could hear them sing to him, a high, siren song. Cloud had said once he could hear the stars sing to him, and Cid had never believed it, until now.

Huh.. Cloud…Tifa… Cid hoped that they would be alright. Probably. They were tough kids. Cid smiled, keeping his eyes locked on the stars overhead, even as his mind drifted. The toy airplanes he used to play with when he was little, watching birds on summer days and running after them, flapping his arms like wings, hoping that one day he would soar as easily as they. His graduation out of the flight academy, his first bar fight with his friends. Zeek and Ted, and his first girlfriend… The birth of the Highwind, and later the Tiny Bronco, and their maiden flights…Managing to get Vincent drunk off his ass…Barret, Aeris… Ric… The Rocket… Outer Space… Cid smiled as he sank back further, even the stars fading from his vision. He sighed, closing his eyes to the world, but turning as a deep, warm tingling soothed his sore and cold body. Warm wisps of glowing green light were rising out of the darkness of the universe to greet him, curling around his body like soft kisses, green sparks flying up in slow motion around him wherever they touched him.

Cid reached out, touching one of the sparks and a fresh curl of green wove around his hand, pulling gently and curling up his arm to caress his chest, neck and face. The pain he'd felt earlier melted away with each emerald kiss, and Cid sat back, slowly sinking into the brilliant green, breathing it into his body as he faded to black with the rest of existence. Oblivion.

OoOoOoOoOoO

AN: yes. its over. I don't think I've ever worked with so much negative emotions....but don't despair! (completely) I have an epilogue in mind for this that'll be /nice/... I'll post that as a seperate story all together though. watch for it. )

Ree: Still hopeless? (ducks)

Tess: You might want to rethink that tombstone thing.

This will probably be re-posted in a few days under a milder rating and a slightly different title (One-Thousand Deeds instead of the number) so that hopefully I'll get more hits on it. :) I'm down to like, 3 people reading it, lol. :) (dun blame the others, though)

Happiness to come, though. I promise. I'm going to write something, goofy, yaoish, and wet after this, lol.