Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII belongs to Square-Enix, among other things. I'm jealous enough already, so I won't get into that.

Silence – Decades after Avalanche saved the planet, Vincent reflects on his past and a present that he no longer belongs to. Except, perhaps, when Sephiroth is involved. Sephiroth x Vincent.

Started this when I was in Taiwan. I would blame jet lag but it was rather far into the vacation when I came up with this, and since I'm really writing it weeks after all airplane trips, it's not exactly realistic of me to keep blaming time zone differences (although I could claim lasting damage).

This is, as mentioned in the summary, Sephiroth x Vincent. How Sephiroth is brought back is never explained, and I intend to leave it that way. There will also be Cid x Vincent and Cloud x Tifa, although all of those are in the past.

I actually really like Sephiroth x Vincent. I'm not sure if I like it as much as I like Cid x Vincent though, which might be why both are managing to show up in the same fic. Maybe Vincent is just fickle though… well, don't tell him I said that. I like my brains where they are, however few there are.

Enjoy!

Rated R (or M) for language, character death, shounen-ai, random undescribed sexual activities, and equally random, unexplained resurrections.

Vincent does not speak so Sephiroth says nothing, and because Sephiroth says nothing Vincent keeps his silence.

But it does not matter – silence is something that they are both used to. After all, being locked in a coffin for thirty years is not conducive to conversation, nor is being encased in a block of shimmering mako.

Nor is death, for that matter.

It seems that as time draws them farther from their respective crimes, it brings only more death. Perhaps that is the true curse – beyond the scars and seemingly irreparable mental traumas – of the extended lifetimes given to them by Hojo's abominable tinkering, or perhaps it is a punishment brought upon both by an unforgiving planet. They, who caused the deaths of enemies and loved ones alike. They, who should have died but instead live on to see those they have allowed themselves to care for pass on, so swift that sometimes Vincent cannot be sure if anyone was actually there.

In some respects, Vincent believes that Sephiroth is lucky. The deaths he caused were long ago, and although his rebirth returned his sanity and memory of the pointless destruction, he has met no one since that has passed on. He has lost no one precious to him; not even Cloud, who had died several years before Sephiroth's resurrection.

Vincent cannot claim the same. He never meant to become close to the group of delusional misfits who were so determined to save the world that was dead-set against them, but his original plans never did come to fruition. He had not properly evaluated Yuffie's power of annoyance or Nanaki's level-headedness, Barrett's odd acceptance or Cait Sith's misplaced loyalty, Tifa's affection or Cloud's unwavering trust. And he had certainly not known that he might fall for a certain foul-mouthed pilot, one who was unwilling to let him sleep the rest of his extended life away.

Those years after Meteor's destruction had been oddly satisfying. Painfully so too, looking back now. Because he might not have had Lucrecia, but while nobody could replace that beautiful woman who was always two steps out of reach, nobody could quite replace the mismatched members of Avalanche either. They each brought something to the table that was missing in all the others, and together they had rebuilt a world and their lives. Together, they had become something closer than friends or family; he supposed that saving the planet could do something like that.

But that was why it hurt so much more, their inevitable deaths. At first it was just the little things that he noticed – the way Yuffie stopped jumping on him because she no longer had the energy, the way Barret's mouth became a little less derisive, the way Cloud and Tifa no longer traveled because it took too much to cross a planet… the way that Cid's coarse blond hair started to turn more pale while Vincent showed no white in those luxurious raven locks. Then Barrett had died abruptly – even now the gunner could not be sure of the cause – forcing him to realize that eventually, the others would follow suit, leaving him to watch their descent to the afterlife with no way to follow. Because Cid, that manipulative bastard, had again staked an advantage over him by making him promise to live.

To live, Cid had grumbled as he chewed on a toothpick (Vincent had forced him to give up smoking, hating the taste of nicotine when they kissed). Live, you stupid bastard, because it was something that you had to do. No more moping, no more self-blame, no more pining for something that you could have had but don't. You only have one life to live, and you might as well make the most out of it.

He might have argued. Perhaps he should have. But looking at Cid's determined blue eyes and the stubborn clench of an unshaved jaw, and he knew better than to bother.

Cid could be oddly philosophical at times.

And if there was one thing that Cid depended on, it was that Vincent would never break a promise to him. Except for that one time when Vincent had been forced to abandon the meeting place they had agreed on because of rain. The gunner might not have been easily susceptible to disease, but it didn't mean that he particularly enjoyed looking like a drowned rat.

Even if he made a very pretty drowned rat. Cid Highwind could also have the oddest sense of humor at times.

Despite the distance between the members of the tight-knit group, the lack of presence caused by death turned out to be very different from the absence because they lived apart. Perhaps it was just the fact that no matter how many calls Vincent made, Reeve was not going to be picking up his PHS anymore after the once-Shinra employee succumbed to the stress of creating the world they had laid the foundations for. Yuffie was no longer going to show up unexpected on their doorstep, announcing her visit with an obnoxious grin and a demand for food. Cloud and Tifa were not going to be there to offer unconditional support and love.

And Cid was never going to curse him gruffly for dumping a hidden packet of cigarettes into the coffee. Cid was never going to drag him to Costa del Sol in a misplaced attempt to get him a tan, conveniently forgetting that Vincent was just going to remain pale and sunburned for the rest of his very long life. Cid wasn't going to be there to make him enjoy life anymore.

No more kisses, no more awkward bouts of affection, no more laughter. Sometimes he wondered if it was all just a dream.

There was always Nanaki of course, but the wildcat had problems of his own. Vincent could never visit without feeling like he was imposing, and despite Nanaki's invitations to live in Cosmo Canyon, he simply could not. He could not stay in Rocket Town either without remembering Cid, nor Calm Town without the presence Cloud and Tifa. He had wandered for a while before realizing that much of the cities were off-limit because of the memories they inspired, and perhaps that was how he had found himself back in North Crater. North Crater, where it had all ended, and yet begun.

He did not know how Sephiroth had come back from the dead. Nobody did. He doubted that it had anything to do with him, although Nanaki had theorized on his presence sparking some sort of unknown reaction. Whatever the reason, all he knew was that when he had wandered into the ruins, he discovered not a skeleton but a flesh-and-blood man waiting patiently for him.

The fact that Sephiroth was waiting so patiently should have been more than enough for him to deem the ex-general mad, but Sephiroth seemed inclined to disagree. The first words spoken were a calm greeting, followed by a simple statement.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you tried to kill me."

Vincent would not have been surprised either. He was perhaps more surprised by the fact that all he did was toss a jacket (Cid had forced him to give up the gothic attire Hojo had saddled him with, most likely as revenge for the cigarette-ban but maybe for other reasons as well) over Sephiroth's shoulders. Clothes had been bought at Icicle Inn – there was nothing he could do about the strange looks he got, although those surprised expressions no longer had anything to do with being in the presence of one of the saviors of the world – and as soon as Sephiroth had choked down enough food to Vincent's satisfaction, they had made their way to Cosmo Canyon. To Nanaki.

Tensions had been high on that trip. Sephiroth was quiet and unexpectedly moody, sometimes wanting nothing more than to talk and at other times wishing to be left alone. Vincent did not want to talk and spent most of the time worrying that someone might recognize the ex-general, but he had not taken into account the decades it had been. Sephiroth and Avalanche were ancient history now, and few seemed to remember that they were real people in their own rights.

Nanaki had not been very helpful, mainly because he had no real information to give. Vincent had pursed his lips at this but said nothing, as there was nothing that could be said. Sephiroth said nothing as well, although that was because he was the conversation piece rather than a conversation starter.

It was a wonder how they had ended up in Nibelheim henceforth. Vincent didn't understand it and he didn't talk about it, and if Sephiroth knew then he didn't say anything without an invitation to speak. Sometimes, Vincent wondered why Sephiroth stayed. There were places the man could go, places where he would no longer be recognized as the harbinger of doom.

But either Sephiroth didn't feel the same way or he didn't want to leave, and together the two of them fell into a routine marked by little change and silence.

Silence.

So they lived on for three decades. They lived because there was nothing else for them to do, not after death had cheated them of so much. Beyond the promise he had made – Vincent had no idea what kept Sephiroth here – it would be a crime to give in now, and if there was one thing that the two were, it was willfully prideful.

Vincent did not know what Sephiroth thought about during those thirty years. He barely understood what he thought about, the mixture of friendly faces and a greasy-haired scientist leering down at him before the coffin snapped shut dominating both his dreams and waking life. Why Hojo continued to haunt his life was a mystery; he had thought he'd escaped such morbidity when he had learned how to enjoy life again, but perhaps he had lost all of that when the others had passed away. Only his promise kept him from suicide, and only Sephiroth kept him from locking himself away.

Another five years before Sephiroth attempted conversation. It was a simple question, pent-up with thirty-five years worth of wondering.

"Why?"

Vincent had blinked before asking back, "Why what?" His voice was surprisingly rough from the disuse, but nowhere near as bad as Sephiroth's.

"Why didn't you kill me?"

He thought about this, and could only come up with one thing. "There was no need."

Of course, there was more. But he found it difficult to explain. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he had come to accept life as something precious, or maybe it was the fact that he had seen too much death that he could not bear to witness anymore. If there was one benefit of having Sephiroth as a companion, it was the realization that at least one person would not be going away anytime soon.

Anyhow, he did not want to explain it. He did not need to either. Sephiroth said nothing more.

There had been no need for words when they had shared their first kiss. They had said nothing as they fumbled with each other's clothes, awkward and unsure but desperate for something beside the silence that both were unwilling to break. And their love-making had been strangely silent too except for the obligatory sounds that sex often has, but they chose not to dwell on that as Vincent lay in Sephiroth's arms, staring at the ceiling and wondering vaguely why it had not caved in yet.

If it had happened only once, Vincent might have written it off as an act of pure desperation. But when they found themselves in the same position for thirteen consecutive nights, he decided not to write it off but instead stopped caring because it felt nice to be with someone again, even if he still could not find words to say.

Thirteen became thirty, and thirty became three hundred. Even when they didn't do anything, Vincent still found himself wrapped in arms almost as pale as his, looking at everything except Sephiroth's face. Because that would be acknowledgement, and acknowledgement might lead to speech.

Vincent wasn't sure if he was ready for that though, although he wasn't exactly sure what he was afraid of either.

When three hundred became thirteen hundred, Sephiroth finally spoke again. It was the same question, but this time Vincent knew what he was asking.

"Why?" Sephiroth whispered, those strong arms loose around his lithe figure.

He might have known what the ex-general was asking, but that didn't mean he knew the answer.

The ceiling had recently been repainted, so there was nothing to look at there. The walls had been repapered, and it was hard to see the pattern of pale gold flowering without the light of the moon. And if he looked down he would see the long silver hair being overcome by his black, although no white had yet to penetrate those long strands that Cid had often brushed without much success.

He had nowhere else to look except Sephiroth's face, and if he looked there then the silence would be forever broken.

But would that really be such a bad thing? He could not be sure, at times, but feeling Sephiroth's arms tighten slightly around his made him shiver slightly.

Live, you stupid bastard.

He couldn't smell the cigarettes anymore, but a small smile flittered across his lips.

"Because I love you."

Sephiroth smiled as Vincent turned around to face him, and the silence finally broke.

Ending Notes:

It kinda veered from what I wanted, but really I just wanted to explore what it would have been like for Vincent if he'd had his extended life while everyone just, I don't know, died. And I threw Sephiroth in for the hell of it because I like Sephiroth x Vincent and out of everyone, Sephiroth would probably be the only one who could really sympathize. Well, if he was sane. Which luckily he is, in this fic.

Too bad I'm not. (grin)

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September 1, 2005