Final Disclaimer: If I owned them, I'd marry Vincent and oogle over him all day. xp

The Twisted Road – Whether the planet wished to punish Vincent Valentine or offer him a way to salvation, it certainly chose a twisted way to do so. Now Vincent must adjust to a new life with the help of his comrades and a newly given set of feminine wiles. A semi-serious gender bending fic, Cid x Vincent.

I can't remember where I came up with this. It's a toss-up between the doujinshi where Vincent gets stuck dressing up as a nurse (with a very short skirt) and just the idea of putting him in a dress. So I thought I would just go out on a limb and go all the way, scarring the rest of humanity in the process.

But as I said before, this is a semi-serious fic. It's a cross, I guess, between humor, drama, and romance, but it's really an opportunity to give Vincent another shot at being a normal person – although considering the circumstances, I think he might have taken a pass if given the choice. It's actually a replacement fic for something I was working on earlier, but I got stuck on that one during the outlining process so I decided to combine it with this one (he probably would have preferred the other one since he gets to keep his gender, if not the reality…).

I'll be fiddling with the timeline a little bit… this takes place during the group's stay at Gold Saucer (the date one), but it's going to be an extended stay. So, say… as long as it takes (aka several days, several weeks, a month, whatever) between reaching the Gold Saucer and then getting the Keystone and Cloud's date.

Couplings for this story will be Cid x Vincent, as well as a Tifa x Cloud x Aerith triangle, mainly because I haven't decided which coupling I like more. I'm leaning more towards Cloud x Tifa, mainly 'cause that just seems like the norm post-Temple of the Ancients. But we'll see.

I'm sure there is more I could say, but I think I'll refrain. Because Vincent's probably going to start pointing a gun at me and I want to have a nice head start before he tries blowing my brains out. :)

Rated M for shounen-ai, language, blatant sexual innuendos, and cruelty to wannabe vampires.

1 -

Rude Awakenings

Cid Highwind was the type of person who enjoyed predictability. Some people might have regarded that as a character flaw on the part of the pilot, but when one got down to it, who wanted a life where everything was unexpected? For someone who was on a one-way road to developing cancer before the tender age of thirty-five, sudden shocks were not something he looked forward to. So what if it made him a 'boring old geezer', as the materia-stealing pipsqueak from hell had put so eloquently? There were just certain things that he had learned to live without, and that was one of them.

So how he had gotten pulled into this entire saving-the-world gig was completely beyond his comprehension. But at the moment, there were many things that were completely beyond his comprehension, not the least of which was why their almighty leader had decided to pair him up with a wannabe vampire for their sleeping arrangements at the Ghost Square. Nothing against Strife, but they had found Vincent Valentine in a damned coffin. That would have rung alarm bells for anyone else, but either Cloud was immune to that type of shit or he had stopped listening to those because he was too busy chatting over tea and biscuits with the other voices in his head.

Or perhaps the boy just hadn't been thinking when he had split them up. Cloud had been in a bad mood as of late, and who could blame him? They had trekked all the way back to Gold Saucer in order to obtain the Keystone from Dio, only to have the man tell them that they could have it in a couple of days. As in, not at the moment. As in, if Cid was anyone to judge, when he felt like giving it to them, and who knew when that would happen? He'd been all for just stealing the thing and busting their way out, but unfortunately he had found himself voted down. A majority of the members had already enjoyed a fabulous, all-expense paid vacation in the prison and they had no interest in repeating that experience ever again. So Cloud had reluctantly agreed not to do anything illegal such as theft. It was fairly obvious that with the world at stake, the ex-SOLDIER was going to be in a bit of a hurry, but either Dio didn't notice or didn't care, and they had no choice but to sit on their asses for a couple more days until the Gold Saucer owner was ready to hand the blasted thing over.

All of that was enough to put their leader in a pet mood, but Cid still didn't know why it had to get taken out on him. Of course, he knew on some basic level that Cloud wasn't doing this on purpose, just as he had long ago realized that Vincent wasn't a bad person… but it didn't change the fact that the gunner was just plain creepy. And it wasn't the entire gothic set-up or the monsters in the head that got to him. No, it was the way Vincent carried himself. Some people might have just written it off as being quiet and perhaps uncomfortable with other people. To Cid, Vincent just seemed like he was hiding something. Also, it didn't seem like the type of thing that should be hidden either, leading to the very real possibility of a severe mental breakdown. And considering how much the man kept in, it wouldn't be any wonder if said breakdown happened really soon. Thus Cid had no personal interest in being anywhere in the vicinity of Vincent when it happened, and so he found himself rejecting the possibility of any long-term contact for the sake of personal safety.

But he didn't have a choice in this unless he decided to sleep in one of the coffins decorating the Ghost Inn. Which would have been a perfect place for Vincent, now that he thought of it, but he was kind enough to keep that thought to himself. Or perhaps he just enjoyed breathing. Well, it amounted to the same thing in the end anyway….

He sighed as he dropped his pack on the bed. The other had already been claimed by Vincent, who was sitting on it and staring at the wall and a truly horrific rendition of… Cid wasn't sure what. He had no idea what was in that painting besides paint, and he wasn't about to stick around to find out either. He had something he absolutely needed to do, for the sake of humanity and his sanity, and he wasn't going to let an ugly drawing stop him.

"Yo, Vince." The nickname slipped out before he could stop himself, and blood-red eyes glanced over at him without ever blinking. "Want to hit the bar?"

There was a long silence. If it wasn't for the faintly disapproving look on the gunner's face, he could have easily believed that Vincent had not even heard him.

"No, I think I will stay here," Vincent finally said in a voice that was so quiet that Cid almost wasn't sure if anything was even said. It took him a moment to register the soft rejection of his invitation, causing him to look like an idiot as he stood there with an odd look on his face.

Cid recovered nicely though, although he really shouldn't have bothered. "Aw, come on Vincent. This is the Gold Saucer for fuck's sake! We're stuck here until god knows when anyway, so we might as well enjoy it a bit, eh?"

A part of him was wondering why he was even bothering. Vincent obviously didn't want to be bothered – he just wanted to be left alone to brood. And it wasn't as if Cid was really eager to have company when he was trying to forget about the tasks ahead of them. But Cid was tired of watching the gunner brood, and in a way he knew that he wouldn't be able to drink well with the mental image of Vincent sitting in their room alone. Brooding. About only Bahumat knows what because Vincent wasn't talking, and none of them had psychic powers.

"I'd rather not, thank you."

He scowled, "Well, why the hell not?"

Vincent gave him a level stare. Anyone else would have taken that as a sign to move away if they wanted all their limbs intact, but Cid had always found it difficult to interpret subtlety. So he just glared back until those red eyes became a little too much for him to deal with. Then he resorted to pulling his cigarette pack out and stuffing one in his mouth before turning around and leaving the room, grumbling to himself.

"Jeez, Vincent. Why the hell did you even bother getting out of that coffin of yours if you're not going to live life," he muttered as he closed the door behind him before realizing a split-second later that he hadn't brought the keys with him. Quickly he whirled around and knocked on the door, yelling, "Vince! Open up, I forgot my keys!"

No reply.

Apparently he hadn't spoken quite as lowly as he should have. In fact, thanks to Vincent's supernatural hearing, he would have been better off keeping his mouth shut.

"Well, shit," the pilot mumbled, staring at the door dumbly. He hadn't really meant anything by that… scratch that, he had meant something, but it wasn't supposed to be an insult or anything. He was just starting to lose his temper with Vincent's entire silent suffering act, and it hadn't come out as he had hoped it would. Perhaps an apology would have set things straight, but Cid Highwind wasn't exactly the apologetic type, just as Vincent Valentine didn't exactly seem like the forgiving kind.

But seeing that he wasn't about to spend his night on a sofa in the lobby, he quickly proceeded to try and knock the door off the hinges in as polite a way as he could manage. "Yo! Valentine! I know you're in there, so stop acting like a kid and open up before I make it open!"

He nearly fell on his nose when the door was suddenly pulled open and the keys were not-so-gently thrown into his face, barely missing out on stabbing through an eyeball before it was slammed shut in his face. It seemed that Vincent wasn't quite as unemotional as he tried to be, although Cid wished sourly that he could have found that out in a kinder manner.

"Well good night to you too," he growled as he walked away, rubbing his forehead where the keys had hit him.

That night, Cid had quickly proceeded to drink himself to a peaceful oblivion, and how he managed to drag himself up the stairs and back to his room in the Ghost Inn was a mystery that would forever remain unsolved. But when morning approached, he found himself with a raging hangover that was not improved in the least by a certain wannabe ninja pounding on the door with a ferocity that was usually reserved for national emergencies or natural disasters.

"Oy, old man!" Yuffie screamed through the door, causing him to wince. "Open up, will ya? Cloud wants to have a meeting and it's nearly noon, sleepyhead! Come on, what are you still sleeping for! Come on, come on, come on!"

He groaned and resisted the urge to smother himself with the pillow. Probably the only thing that stopped him, in fact, was the knowledge that in his current state, he probably wouldn't succeed even if he tried. Those smoke-ridden lungs had quite a bit of life in them, expanded over the past years by his constant bellowing at workers to move faster. But beyond that, there was a tiny voice in his head that was quietly advocating strangulation of the sixteen-year old and perhaps dismemberment as well. Just to make sure that she really was dead, of course.

Of course, that would be immature. And seeing that Cid was at the ripe old age of thirty-two, he was beyond acting in such a juvenile fashion.

Because now the proper way of handling this was to spear her in the eye. Give her a chance to live and think about the consequences of her rash actions.

"Cidddddddddddd. Cid Highwind, are you awake? Are you alive? If you're not, can I have your materia?" The ninja paused in her pounding long enough to give the false impression that she had left before suddenly shattering the temporary peace with a piercing demand, "And while you're finally getting up, do you know where Vinny went? He's not in the inn and I don't really think he's the type of person who's going to voluntarily wander around Gold Saucer… he'll probably melt from the exposure to the light or something…."

At that point he wanted to point out that vampires turned to dust in the sun, which was a moot point anyway since Vincent wasn't a vampire. Sure, the guy looked like one, tried to act like one, and dare he mention the tiny fact that – no he was not obsessing – they had found him in a coffin, but that didn't make him one. Not really, anyway.

But since all of that would have taken too much effort to say, he settled for something a little more articulate.


"Gods old man, are you listening to me or are you just deaf? I asked if you know where Vinny is, although don't tell him I called him that!" Yuffie admonished from behind the door.

A soft groan somehow managed to catch his attention, causing Cid to immediately turn around to stare at the other occupant in the room. He immediately regretted that move when the splitting headache decided to kick it up a notch, but it wasn't enough for him to ignore that lying in the next bed was none other than the apparently elusive Vincent Valentine.

Which was, simply put, impossible. Because everyone knew that Vincent was not the kind of person who slept in… in fact, Vincent didn't seem to understand the concept of sleeping in. Without exception he had always been the first one up and the first one out, as if he was secretly afraid that he would mildew if he stayed in one place for too long. So the fact that the gunner was still here, still half-asleep and for the most part oblivious to the teenager happily trying to break down their door was a concept that was just too mind-boggling to be ignored.

"Cid!" the teenage ninja whined. "Are you ignoring me?"

He was starting to find it very difficult to concentrate on this when Yuffie was screaming at him, so he roared back, "For fuck's sake, Yuffie! Shut up!"

There was a muffled 'meep' from the other side but blissful silence followed shortly, and he let out a slight sigh of relief even as he pulled the covers off. He slid off the bed and nearly became intimate with the floor when the world decided to do a complete one-eighty, an experience he wouldn't have minded skipping the next time around. He swayed there for a moment, trying his best to see straight as he blinked blearily at his roommate, who after that soft groan had apparently decided to go back to sleep. It was hard to tell if the man had even woken up because of Yuffie's obnoxious behavior or just suffered an acute nightmare, which judging by Vincent's behavior wouldn't be too far off the mark.

But that wasn't really the point right now, and so he put his concentrating into moving. It took more effort than he thought he had to take the three steps over in order to roughly grab Vincent by the bare shoulder, shaking him as he growled, "God, what the hell is wrong with you Vincent? How the fuck did you even manage to sleep through that rack-"

His words abruptly trailed off as Vincent slowly sat up, turning around to look at him with uncharacteristically bleary eyes. And no matter how hung-over he was there were just some things that Cid could not ignore.

He blinked for a moment, stunned and sure that this was a hallucination. But last he heard, alcohol didn't cause random fits of insanity, and so he just proceeded to stare even as Vincent continued to blink dumbly, even as Vincent started to ask him groggily what was wrong, even as Vincent pushed his hand off with a painfully human left hand.

Then he did the only thing he could do, given the strange circumstance.

He started roaring.

For a person who had been experimented on more times than a pet gerbil in a fourth grade science class, Cloud Strife was a relatively easy-going guy. He managed this despite being slightly disturbed in the head, and in a way it slightly dampened the prevailing belief that he had a couple of screws loose. Still, there were times when he would lose control, and for the oddest reason, this was one of those occasions.

Cloud had been waiting for the others in his room – relaxing might have been a more appropriate term, considering how all he needed was an inner tube to complete the picture of a day at the beach – when the clamor had suddenly started. This was not an uncommon experience for the blond, and he could have ignored it if it wasn't for the fact that at the center of the commotion was a familiar rough voice screaming every curse word known to mankind and then some. Faster than a wiseass comparing his hair to a chocobo, Cloud had grabbed the nearest weapon and run out of the room, causing several people to shriek in surprise and run in the opposite direction.

It was amazing how many people were crowding around Cid and Vincent's room, and equally amazing why they would want to do so in the first place. But they didn't stick around for long to find out what the circus act was supposed to be about – a man waving around a giant sword while yelling at them to move could get quick results, even if said man looked no more dangerous than an overgrown puppy. But either it was the way Cloud so easily carried his weapon that caused them to scatter, or the sheer size of the Rune Blade that had sent them all scattering. Whatever it was though, they all left in a hurry until only the members of AVALANCHE were left, as they were used to their leader's…. unique qualities. (1)

The lack of people made Cid's cursing even more apparent, and considering how the steady stream of expletives had yet to cease the pilot must not have been aware of what had been happening outside his room just a few seconds before. Or perhaps he just did not care. Either way, Cloud might have found the entire thing amusing if he wasn't busy worrying that Cid was at risk of immediate death, and then quickly found himself engaged in a mental dialogue on how much he would have to pay the Ghost Inn's owner for the door that Barret had just broken down. Or how much more he would have to bribe the man in order to stay the next few nights, as they really had no other place to go until Dio handed over the keystone.

But what was done was done, and suppressing his feelings of bitterness towards the spandex-wearing cause of all his current troubles, Cloud leapt over the splintered remains of the door and rushed into the room, the others close on his heels.

"Cid? What's wrong!" he demanded as his attention immediately turned to the pilot who was currently plastered against the wall clutching his chest and trying not to have a heart attack, his eyes locked on the gunner. Cloud quickly followed his vision and found himself blinking at Vincent staring back at all of them emotionlessly. From there, his eyes immediately fell a little lower to an unclothed upper body, and unfortunately it didn't take a genius to see exactly what had terrified Cid so much.

As the information sank in, Cloud found the blood running into his cheeks to turn them into a brilliant shade of red.

Normally the blond wasn't very concerned with the sleeping patterns of his teammates, but at this point he really wished that Vincent was the type of person who slept with a shirt on.

Judging from the gasps and scattered murmurs and curses, it seemed that the others had also figured out what was going on. And because the current male population seemed too dumbstruck to do anything useful – raging hormones, perhaps? – the females quickly took over authority. While Cloud wondered how Vincent hadn't caught onto the extreme change in gender, he also experienced an abrupt shift in gravity when Tifa grabbed the back of his turtleneck and quite literally flung him into the hallway as Yuffie pulled out her Razor Ring and screeched for 'all perverts to get out of the room if they want you-know-what to remain attached'. As the bartender quickly shoved everyone of the male inclination out – including the still terrified Cid who was in the middle of having major heart palpitations – Aerith immediately ran over to Vincent and jerked the blankets up to cover his… her? chest.

Cloud wasn't able to see much else as Tifa slammed the remains of the door onto its frame before adding a second door – most likely what had used to be the bathroom door – slightly muffling Yuffie's continued shrieks. There was a brief silence between the group before they all turned as one to stare at Cid.

The pilot had yet to fully recover from the shock, but it didn't take a genius or even a fully conscious individual to notice the looks he was getting. Unfortunately, it did nothing to improve his mood as he gritted his teeth and snarled, "What?"

"What the hell do you mean, 'what?'!" Barret yelled back, waving his gun arm at Cid. "You're the only other person who was in that room, so that means you're the only person who knows what happened!"

"I don't know what the fuck happened! All I know is that stupid brat woke me up and Vincent was still there! And instead of being a vampire, he was suddenly a half-naked woman vampire!" Cid yelled back, surprisingly aggressive for a man suffering from a major hangover. Not that anyone else knew about that, or maybe they would have been sympathetic. Except considering the ragtag group he had gotten himself involved with, it was highly doubtful.

"Everyone, calm down already," Cloud interjected. Barret huffed and Cid glowered, but both listened to him. It was surprising that they did so, as anyone would have pointed out that Cloud didn't really seem like leader material, especially when compared to the two men he was subtlely reprimanding. "Yelling isn't going to make anything better, and we're disturbing the other guests."

Which they had been doing for quite a while, now that he thought about it, but that was a completely different story of course. So he quickly discarded that thought and hefted the Rune Blade onto his shoulder, "So why don't we just give it a rest. The other girls are taking care of Vincent right now and we'll try to figure this all out when…"

He paused at this point, looking rather uncomfortable. Because while Vincent was most definitely a 'he', the gunner was no longer quite male. But it was just plain odd to switch to calling him 'her', and luckily the others were intelligent enough to realize what the problem was. Even if they didn't, Cloud wasn't about to explain as he quickly shook his head before continuing, "Anyhow, I'm sure Vincent will explain it to us."

"If he even knows," Red XIII interjected.

"What do you mean by that!" Barret barked angrily. "It's not that difficult to notice a change like that!"

"Just because he was the one changed does not mean that Vincent knows what is going on," the fire-cat replied with astonishing patience. "After all, given a choice, I highly doubt that Vincent would wish to change gender. I am certain he is just as surprised as the rest of us by his transformation."

"He didn't look very surprised," Cait Sith suddenly piped up. "But then again, he never looks surprised by anything."

"You would think he would make an exception for something like this."

Cloud sighed, "Well, there's nothing we can do about it right now. The meeting's cancelled – we'll wait for the others to get back. You guys can go do whatever now; I'll call you on your PHS when the others get back."

There were a couple muttered agreements as his companions walked away. Nobody went towards the Gold Saucer, instead retiring to their respective rooms with the exception of Cid, who went with Barret. He had expected this, which was why he had not bothered to tell them to remain here – after what had happened that morning, he knew that nobody was going to be leaving until they got to the bottom of this.

Despite that tiny victory, he could feel the distinct throbbing of a headache coming on, making him wonder if he had caught something from Cid. A whole lot of trouble, perhaps, but he doubted that he could blame anything else on the pilot.

Except for the hotel manager who was currently barreling down on him, complete with rabid eyes and a distinct frothing at the mouth.

Ah, shit.


(1) During this scene, I always get a mental image of Will Turner at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, pushing his way through the crowds and yelling at them to move while waving around his sword. And no, I have no idea why….

And now that we're fairly certain that I'm on crack, that is the end of chapter one. Or something like that.

Chapter two will be up whenever it is finished. XP Unfortunately, I am not known for speed or promptness, so expect many moons to pass before I get my act together….