Protect Me From the Storm

A portrait of Cid Highwind

and Vincent Valentine

WARNING: This fic contains MUCH shonen-ai romantic (Cid x Vincent) fluffy shit. And profanity. Because of Cid. And me. hehe. If you're not into that, DON'T READ IT. I'm to the point in my writing career where I no longer tolerate flames. They will be deleted, and ignored. :) Everyone is welcome to their opinion, and this is mine.

Disclaimer: All characters, settings are from Final Fantasy 7 and belong to Square Enix.

Cid Highwind stood on the hill overlooking Rocket Town, face to the sky, arms spread wide. A vicious wind blew inland from the ocean, cold, biting and relentless, but the lone pilot remained unphased. If anything, the high winds only excited him further. Wind ripped at his face, hair, and clothes, threatening to uproot him from his tentative connection with the planet. Maybe, just maybe, if the winds were a little stronger, if Cid himself were a little lighter, perhaps he would be swept away by the gales. Perhaps he would fly.

"You're going to get sick if you stay out here, Highwind." Cid dropped his arms, turning slowly to face yet another person -one more of very few- who was not phased by the winds. Most of Rocket Town had taken shelter in well-warmed homes for the day. Planes were tied down fast, the hangars shut tight, the engineers home with their wives. Cid turned slowly, a disappointed and slightly irritated expression crossing his previously placid features.

"Yeah yeah… just gotta fucking ruin all my fun, don'tcha?" He mumbled, moving past the pillar of a man. The wind ripped at Vincent Valentine's cape demanding, but not receiving, attention from the gunslinger.

"You would have less fun later if you fell ill, is all I'm saying." Vincent said, voice low and bland. It was not an apology. Cid wanted an apology. He had been having fun even though it didn't really show to anyone who didn't know him.

Nobody knew Cid Highwind. Not really. Vincent Valentine, least of all. Cid let out an irritated growl.

"I'm not stopping you. Simply warning." Vincent said, sensing Cid's mood but also not backing down.

"Why the hell you up here, anyway? You drag your spooky ass all the way up this hill just ta mother hen me and warn me about boogiemen?" Cid asked roughly.

"It's a nice view." Vincent countered. Cid hadn't moved far from where he'd been standing, and Vincent approached his side, looking out over the peaceful little town below. He lifted his face clear of the high collar of his cloak for a moment, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "The weather's changing."

"Cold front." Cid murmured. "Look." He pointed out towards the crystal clear sky, where a few high wispy clouds hung, lower, fluffier clouds marching up in spots behind. Vincent nodded. He'd seen cloud patterns like that before, though he'd never really paid them much mind.

"They look so serene." Vincent commented, gazing up at the closest wisps."

"They're ice crystals bein' blown around in the upper stratosphere." Cid said, forgetting his irritation with Vincent for a moment as he gazed upwards. "Called cirrus clouds."

"I never even knew they had a name."

"Everything's got a name, Vin." Cid said.

"Including me." Vincent bit back. "And it's not 'Vin.' I have asked you many times not to call me that."

"Yeah yeah, whatever." Cid waved off Vincent's request carelessly. Vincent's cape snapped in the wind, thrashing as if it were alive. The whole sky seemed livid. The thicker clouds on the horizon were growing rapidly. Cid noted them silently, chewing on his cigarette since it wouldn't stay lit. The wind got colder. Vincent paced some distance away, crouching low to the ground, though he still faced the wind. His hair caught, whipping about his face and shoulders in a dark banner. A particular gust nearly knocked Cid backwards. Vincent's headband was torn loose from his hair and slithered upwards from his head and back. Cid reached out and caught it easily. Examining the tattered cloth in his hand, Cid sighed.

"Why ya wear this old thing, anyway?" He asked. Vincent didn't answer him, simply stayed put. He knew Cid had caught the article and would retrieve it from him later. Cid, upon receiving no response, shrugged and tucked the headband into one of the deeper pockets of his jacket. It didn't fit entirely, and he held one elbow over it, holding it secure. The wispy cirrus clouds had disappeared and given way to large, towering clouds. The sky looked like deep fields of cotton , though further towards the horizon, the tallest clouds were a dark purple, almost black at the core. The blue sky was rapidly disappearing. Vincent lifted his nose to the air, breathing deeply. He was a wild visage to Cid, crouching with his head turned upwards, hair and cape loose and writhing in the wind.

"We should go." Vincent said, standing. He turned on his heel and strode past Cid. Cid took one last look up at the sky, decided he agreed, and then hurried after the crimson-clad gunman.

It was only about a twenty minute walk to Rocket town, but in that time, the weather had gone from a small drizzle which started almost as soon as they decided to get indoors, to an outright downpour. Cid dashed under the first awning they came to, yanking Vincent in roughly beside him. Cid was breathing heavily from the run, and leaning over slightly, hands braced on his thighs as he caught his breath. His house was right across the street. One more sprint through the mess, and he's be safe, warm, and dry.

"Where ya stayin?" He asked, still panting slightly. Over the pounding rain, Vincent's low voiced answer was almost inaudible.

"The Inn across town." Vincent said.

"Shit! That far!" Cid cried.

"It's nothing I can't handle." Vincent said. Inside the shop they'd taken shelter in front of, the owner stared out at them curiously. She was a plump, warmly-dressed women, and was currently wrapped in a large blanket and cradling a steaming mug in her hands. Vincent felt a pang of jealousy. He turned his eyes away from the warm scene.

"Why don't you just wait out the storm at my place?" Cid offered. Except for Vincent, Cid had never bothered to keep in touch with the rest of AVALANCHE, most of whom he held a certain level of disdain for. In the years since the ragtag teams' crusade against Sephiroth, Cid and Vincent had managed to forge a tentative friendship which grew, deteriorated, then reformed rapidly, much like rolling clouds in the sky on a clear day.

Since the defeat of Sephiroth, Vincent had lived a mostly nomadic life, constantly traveling. The only place he ever settled down for any length of time was Rocket Town. There weren't many places he felt comfortable enough to stay. Even among a pack of freaks like AVALANCHE, Vincent stood out in a crowd, and it didn't mater who he was with or where he went, there was always someone staring. He would travel about the globe, coming full circle to Rocket Town again every six to eight months, where he would stop and rest for a few weeks before moving on. He never really stayed very long, and kept to himself.

Last time, Cid had actually gotten the reclusive gunslinger to say goodbye before he disappeared from town.

This time, as far as Cid knew, Vincent had only been in town about two days. The town was used to his comings and goings and word of his arrival traveled fast.

Vincent thought on Cid's offer in silence, carefully weighing the situation. He didn't really want to have to get that wet. He glanced down at the gauntlet clasped around his left arm and hand. It was dull, dented and looking particularly unpleasant in the gray light and the rain. He looked back over at Cid to see the pilot glaring at him expectantly.

Why does he offer hospitality and then glare at me like that? There were many things about Cid Highwind that Vincent didn't understand. The man vexed him. He fixed Cid a stern look, and the scowl the other wore disappeared. "Sure." Vincent said at last. Cid sniffed a little, but smiled nonetheless.

"Good." He said, pulling down his goggles. Vincent couldn't help but notice how incredibly ridiculous Cid looked. He'd never seen Cid wear those old flight goggles any other way than on his forehead. He wondered if Cid knew he looked like a total moron. He wondered if Cid would even care. "You. Me. My place. Run for it. I'll meet you inside." Cid said. Vincent nodded. "Okay…Ready, Go!" Cid darted back out into the rain, slipping twice but not falling, and actually slammed his body into his front door, the momentum from his run too much for him to successfully stop on his own. Vincent followed behind, hopping up the few steps that led to his house, expecting Cid to have cleared the entry way by the time he arrived. He almost crashed clean into Cid, his metal-sheathed booths scraping sharply on the landing's wet cement as Cid rattled the door.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked. The little overhang poking out over the landing wasn't doing them much good.

"It's locked!" Cid cried incredulously. He began to pummel the door, hollering. "SHEEERRRAAAAA! OPEN UP, DAMNIT! IT'S FUCKING FREEZING OUT HERE!" Vincent cringed a little as Cid yelled, resisting the urge to cover his ears. There was a yelp inside and rapid footfalls. Vincent noticed that Cid was still carried his now thoroughly drenched headband in his right hand, and snatched it up before Shera could open the door. Cid glanced back at him with a mixed look of humor and embarrassment, then turned back quickly as the door opened. "Lemmie in!" He nearly flattened poor Shera bursting in the door. The woman leapt aside nimbly, frowning as both Cid and Vincent entered, dripping.

"I'll get some towels…" She muttered, turning and hurrying off. Cid reached past Vincent's shoulder to slam the door shut, and let out a tired whoop, sagging slightly and dumping his soaking jacket on the floor.

"Whoo, man!" Cid exclaimed, scrubbing at his hair with both hands and pushing his goggles back up. Vincent glanced around for a more appropriate spot to try and dispose of some of his over-wet clothing, but found none. He stood, dripping, grateful that at least the house was warm. Cid was shivering just a little by the time Shera returned with a large laundry bucket full of towels. She set the bucket down, took the carefully folded towels and put them on a table near the door, and then scooted the bucket towards the two men.

"Wet stuff in there, please." She said, pointedly glaring down at Cid's offending jacket which was draining a puddle around her feet. Cid smiled abashedly and picked it up and slopped it into the bucket, along with his scarf, socks and goggles. His boots were put as close to the door as possible. Smirking a little to himself at Shera's obvious preparedness for such a situation -it must happen often, he thought- Vincent undid his cloak and deposited it and his bandanna with a rather soggy splash. He removed his boots as well, leaving them by Cid's. He was thankful his socks were dry, and was rather happily planning to leave them on, but then accidentally stepped into one of the puddles that Cid's jacket had left. Sighing in defeat, he used the now discarded socks to mop up the mess before dumping them into the bucket as well. Cid was standing over it, trying to wring out the cuffs of his pants. Vincent frowned. He didn't think Shera would be able to lift all that water and soaking fabric on her own. He took a towel and methodically dabbed the worst of the moisture out of his remaining clothes, then dried his hair as best he could. Between the wind and the rain, and the loss of his headband, it was a tangled mess. He could tell by the smirk Cid was throwing him.

"Haha. You look like Shera in the morning." Cid said, running a towel over his own head and pulling it away, tossing it into the growing pile of sodden fabric. Vincent returned his smirk.

"And you look like Cloud." Cid frowned, turning to look at his reflection in the door window, then laughed.

"That's kind of scary…" he said by way of agreement, patting at his temporarily spiked hair. He turned back as Shera returned from wherever she'd disappeared to. She glanced down at the bucket and grimaced.

"Let me help you…" Vincent said, bending and lifting the load with more effort than he'd expected. Shera smiled at him gratefully. "Lead the way." Vincent added. Shera did as she was asked, and Cid stared after his friend in awe as Vincent marched, hauling a load of sopping wet clothes in a giant bucket, soaking wet himself, bare feet slapping on the floor loudly, with total dignity. Cid followed the pair down the hall, veering off into his own room to put on some dry clothes before he got himself sick.

Shera and Vincent returned from the very back of the house a few minutes later.

"Captain!" Shera called, thumping on his bedroom door lightly. "Do you have some spare clothes Mr. Valentine might be able to borrow? He's soaked to the bone! I don't want him getting sick." Cid poked his head out of his room, now dressed in dry pants, a sweatshirt he had not yet put on hanging limply from one hand.

"Vin ain't gunna get sick, Sher." Cid said carelessly. Shera frowned. "He's …" Cid paused. "Um. Special." Shera glanced back at Vincent quickly, and Vincent shot Cid a dark look. "Anyway-!" Cid went on, ignoring him. "C'mon in, Vin. Lessee if I kin find ya something that'll fucking fit ya…" Shera tottered off, glancing back at Vincent, who followed Cid into his room.

"You didn't have to say that. And don't call me 'Vin.'" Vincent said, voice lower than usual.

"Say what?" Cid asked dumbly. Vincent shot him a level, cold look, which was lost on Cid. Vincent never granted Cid a response, and so Cid shrugged it off, heading towards his closet. Vincent stood stock still in the middle of Cid's room, glaring at the pilot's back. Every now and then, a single droplet of water would slide off of Vincent's hair and fall to the floor with a soft thump. After a rather extensive search, Cid resurfaced from the closet with a few folded garments in his hands. "Here ya go." He said. "I'm sorry if those sweats are a little short for ya…yer so fucking tall… but it's the best I've got…" Cid sounded almost apologetic, and Vincent felt himself cooling just a little. He nodded a silent thanks, and left the room, heading down the hall to change in the bathroom.

Only when he'd undressed and began to put on the clothes Cid had given him, did Vincent look at what he was set to wear. He smirked. Black sweats and a red shirt. Cid chose the weirdest things to be thoughtful over. Shaking his head in awe and dismay, Vincent dressed, leaving his wet clothes to hang dry in the shower. After a moment of mental debate, Vincent removed his gauntlet as well, hiding it under his shirt, and left.

He found Cid and Shera in the living room, huddled under their separate blankets and hugging mugs to their chests. Cid had been looking a little blue by the time he'd finally managed to get dry clothes on and was now gladly soaking up heat.

As he approached, he realized there was a third blanket and mug waiting for him as well. He graced Cid and Shera with a rare, grateful smile. It was nice to be thought of, every now and then. Shera, deciding Vincent didn't seem quite so scary when he smiled, straightened up, pointing to the empty mug and two carafes on the coffee table.

"The Captain and I couldn't agree, so we have hot chocolate in one, and cinnamon tea in the other. There's plenty of both so don't be shy." Outside, the first clap of thunder rattled the windows slightly. Mother Nature had Rocket Town under siege, but those in the Highwind household were safe, and finally warm.

"Thank you…" Vincent moved foreword, staring at the two insulated decanters for a moment in contemplation. He sighed. Cid would never let him live this down… pouring the hot drink into his mug, Vincent took a deep breath, letting his eyes flutter just a little. He was sure that Cid was smirking at him by now. I don't care! Vincent thought rather petulantly. This is what I want it and no smart-assed, crusty old pilot is going to get under my skin over it! The fact was, Vincent had not been offered hot chocolate since he was about twelve. That was a very, very long time ago. True to character, Cid was smirking at him.

"Feh! You people don't know the meaning of good tastes."

"Since you're currently outnumbered, Highwind, I'm going to have to disagree with you." Vincent countered, holding his cup of cocoa almost defensively in both hands. Cid laughed for a moment, throwing his head back. Straightening up again, Cid looked his friend over for the first time.

"Holy shit!" Cid's sudden outcry made Shera jump and glare at him accusingly. He had one hand over his mouth in a gesture of surprise and shock, and the other extended and pointing towards Vincent. "He has an arm."

"Yes, Highwind. Two of them, in fact. Just like you"

"I didn't think you could remove that fucking claw-" he made a claw-like gesture with his hand "-thingy!" Vincent sighed at Cid's antics. "Don't sigh at me, damn it! I've seen you fucking sleep in that thing! I think I even saw you slip into the shower once with it!"

"That's because I knew if I left it around somewhere, some buffoon like you would find it and hurt himself." Vincent countered, sipping his cocoa with an air of dignity. Cid made a face.

"In fact…" Cid went on, recovering from yet another fierce blow from Vincent's rather wicked wits, "I dun think I've ever seen you this dressed down before…" Vincent shrugged at Cid's musings.

"I didn't really have a choice now, did I?" He said flatly. "Though I am quite comfortable now." He added when Cid gave him a look. Outside, there was a flash, and a clap of thunder. Cid jumped up suddenly and ran to the window. Just before he turned away, Vincent had spotted a rather unusual gleam of excitement in Cid's expressive eyes. By the time the thunder clapped, Cid was already leaning against the windowsill with his face nearly pressed against the glass, gazing up and out. There was another flash, lighting up the room and making Shera jump.

"WOW! Vin, you gotta come take a look at this!" Cid cried. His voice was partially drowned out by the third clap of thunder. Vincent stood calmly and went over to stand beside Cid, gazing out. Just as he made it to the window the world was lit up again as a multi-pronged bolt of lightning arched across the sky. A second bolt of lightning immediately after, a venomous shade of violet, struck a tree on the hill and Vincent blinked rapidly as he watched the brilliant explosion of wood and sparks. "Hot damn!" Cid cried. It was getting dark, leading way to a magnificent light show for the evening.

"The Captain is fond of the most unsettling things…" Shera commented from her huddled position on the couch.

"Don't like storms?" Vincent asked mildly, only turning away partially from the window so that he wouldn't miss the show. A double roll of thunder shook the house and Shera seemed to shrink within her blanket, shaking her head vigorously 'no.' Vincent lowered his chin to his chest for a moment, hiding a small smile behind a veil of hair. "True, they're dangerous and often frightening…but they can be beautiful too. You should come look." Vincent said sagely, holding out a beckoning hand to Shera.

"Yeah! Come and take a look Sher!" Cid added. Shera sat up but hesitated as more thunder clapped, louder and closer.

"Bring your blanket." Vincent suggested. Shera again hesitated, but stood finally, hugging her blanket to her firmly. Cid turned to watch in surprise as she walked over to them- jumping at another roll of thunder. She positioned herself safely between the two men, Cid solid and sturdy, Vincent rising up like a wall on the other side. Wedged between the two she felt quite secure.

Vincent, with his heightened senses could feel the electrical charge building in the air, even safe inside as they were. He knew when another bolt of lightning would break free from the storm clouds above.

"Watch now," He whispered, pointing out the window. Shera looked, and a brilliant blue bolt arched across the sky, skipping over clouds before hitting the old launch pad and spiraling down one of the support prongs, smaller tentacles of hot blue electricity arcing out but not connecting with anything. Shera gasped and backed into Vincent just slightly, bumping into his chest. He blinked, looking down at the mousy woman, but didn't move. Cid was watching him oddly, but he ignored it. "Beautiful, in a way, isn't it?" Vincent went on when Shera calmed down. Shera nodded, and the trio went on with their storm watching in silence.

It had grown peaceful inside, even though outside the winds were picking up, and the thunder rolled more and more frequently until Vincent swore the sky would explode. Instead of taking their turn coming down to earth, all the lightning bolts would strike down together, and the world would go up in shades of white, an electric Armageddon. His spiraling musings, which were growing darker and darker, were only interrupted by a thump and a dull crash coming loudly from the back of the house. Cid jumped, cursing.

"Shit!" He dashed through the house, footsteps thundering down the hallway, mixing and mingling with the drumming rain and thunder, and the steady groan and scratch of swaying trees outside. Tha tha tha tha BOOM-a tha tha tha…WHAM! Cid threw open the back door, the wind blowing it flat against the wall. "SHIT!" Cid's second outcry had Shera and Vincent looking, listening intently for some signal from Cid. "Vin! I'm gunna need yer help here!" Cid's holler was washed out and wet. Shera shifted uneasily, like she might go running out after Cid as well.

"Stay here. I'll go help him out." Vincent said, already hurrying across the room and heading for the hallway. Shera bit her lip.

Vincent found Cid outside in the wind and the rain, struggling with the Tiny Bronco. It had been tied down, but one of the ropes had snapped, and one wing kept gaining lift in the wind, forcing the plane up and into a turn. Cid had all his weight sunk into the mud holding his baby down. Vincent hurried to help him, bare feet splashing in the muddy grass as he leapt out, catching the lifting wing and using his weight to push it back down. He held the plane down as gently as he could-he didn't dare damage it- while Cid retied the ropes carefully. Cid's clothes were already drenched, and his hair hung like a blonde mop around his eyes and skull. Vincent didn't doubt that he looked much the same. Cid slipped once, dropping one knee into the mud, and cursed.

"C'mon Vin! I think she's okay now!" He didn't wait for Vincent, but turned on his heel and dashed, slipping and sliding, back into the house. Vincent stepped away from the plane, slipped in the mud himself, and fell. Cursing his luck, he climbed back to his feet, almost falling again, and paused to stare down at his feet. They were caked in mud, and muddy water was oozing up between his toes in pools. Disgusting. He skirted the fence, hoping for a little extra shelter.

Ten feet from the back door to Cid's house, Vincent's skin prickled, and his hair raised just slightly. Hissing, he hurried his pace. Without warning, white engulfed his vision, and there was a brilliant explosion just behind him. Vincent's feet left the mud as he was thrown up against the outer wall of the house. Vincent slid down the water-slicked wall with a groan, sinking into the mud in a heap, before passing out.

Cid had heard the explosion, turned and dashed back out to the back door. Kicking it open, the first thing he saw was the Tiny Bronco, sitting safe and sound. She hadn't been harmed. His fence, however, was nearly obliterated on one side, the remains smoking and hissing in the rain. Cid frowned, looking around. Where was Vincent?

"Vin…? Vincent!" Cid dashed into the rain, glancing about. He almost didn't see the crumpled heap not a yard from the doorstep. Vincent lay slumped upright against the wall, eyes open but rolling. "Shit! Shit shit shit SHIT!" Cid half slipped, half ran to his friend, pulling Vincent up. "Vincent!" He shook Vincent, but he didn't respond. Cid swore, lifting Vincent, wet, muddy and limp, into his arms. "SHERRRRRRRRRA! WE GOT A PROBLEM!" He hollered, already pulling himself and Vincent back inside. Vincent was groaning, his head rolling on Cid's shoulder. "Shit…" Cid said again, for good measure. "Fucking hell… Vin, you'd better be fucking okay or I'm going to have nightmares…" Vincent groaned again, coughing.

"'M fine…" He murmured. Cid frowned. Vincent wasn't fine. He was shivering head to toe, and his eyes were still rolling and unfocused. Shera came running down the hall, and gave a startled squeak at the sight of Vincent, limp and mostly unconscious in Cid's arms.

"Aah! I'll get blankets and more clothes for him!" She ran off again. Cid glanced out the window at the smoking fence, and his heart skipped a beat.

"Shit! You weren't--!" He knelt down on the floor, laying Vincent out, and yanked his sodden, mud-soaked shirt off. He remembered once seeing the tell-tale fern-shaped scarring that wove its way across the body of a lightning victim…

Cid sighed in relief. Vincent's shoulder and chest were bruised badly, but there were no signs of lightning strike. Vincent was shivering badly again, and his teeth were chattering. Wincing, Cid pulled his friend back up into his arms, standing. He found Shera in his room, tearing through his closet desperately for warm, dry clothes. Cid carried Vincent into the bathroom and began stripping his friend down. Vincent's eyelids fluttered, and his eyes fixed on Cid's, but he didn't fight, or argue, and Cid fought back a blush as he pulled the last of Vincent's clothing away and wrapped him in towels. Shera came skidding in, flushed and rumpled looking in her distress. Vincent sat, trembling, mostly upright but leaning heavily against Cid's shoulder. Shera paused, eyes fixing on Vincent- the enormous bruise, his bare, scar-laced skin like porcelain.

"Don't just fucking stare at 'em, gimme those, damnit!" Cid barked, yanking away the folded garments in the woman's arms. Shera winced, and hurried out. "Sorry Vin…" Cid said in a far softer, gentler tone. It took more work to get Vincent dressed again, though by now Vincent was lucid enough to at least try and help. "Sorry, buddy…I gotta just do this for ya… yer a mess, ya know…" Cid said softly. Vincent blinked hazily at him, blue eyes glassy looking. Cid dried Vincent's hair, wincing over the tangled knots that formed, as best he could, and finally lifted the man back up from the bathroom floor, blessedly carpeted, and carried Vincent to his room. Vincent squirmed a little in his grip, obviously wanting to walk for himself, but Cid held on. "You're in shock, Vin…" He said. "I'm afraid you'll just turf it again if I let you go…" He paused as a weird notion hit Cid, much belatedly. He looked back down at Vincent's face sharply, but Vincent only trembled in his arms, head dropping heavily to Cid's shoulder. Cid frowned, shaking his head. Reaching his room, Cid set Vincent out on his bed, and dug back into the closet for an extra blanket or six, and wrapped Vincent up securely before pulling the covers and a few more extra blankets over him. Vincent lay, shivering still, and Cid rubbed over his chest and shoulders through the blankets, trying to generate a little extra heat for the man.

Vincent lay staring up at Cid hazily, distantly awed at how gentle and careful the man was being.

"I'm going to go get some tea to help warm you up. Think you can take that?" Cid asked. His voice sounded distant and hazy to Vincent, but he nodded, understanding. Cid hurried out, and Vincent finally relaxed and let his teeth chatter lightly. God, he was cold.

When Cid returned to his room, and Vincent, he found his friend curled up in a tight ball, completely buried under his blankets, shivering violently. Cid swore softly under his breath, disturbed by the scene. He'd never, in all their years, seen Vincent even the slightest bit uncomfortable from the cold. Vincent never shivered, his teeth didn't chatter. Cid didn't even think he'd ever seen the man with goose bumps. He went and propped Vincent up into a sitting position.

"Look at me," He said softly. Vincent's eyes fixed on his, and Cid froze. Vincent's gaze had always been disturbingly piercing for Cid, but something else stopped him dead in his tracks as he realized what it was about his friend that he'd almost noticed earlier. Vincent's eyes had changed color. He blanched slightly, not understanding what that meant. Vincent gave him a sick, worried look and Cid sighed, patting Vincent's shoulder reassuringly. Vincent's pupils were tiny, despite the relative darkness of the room. "Got nailed pretty bad out there, huh buddy?" Vincent nodded, lifting a shaking hand as Cid handed him a cup of hot tea. Cid was surprised at Vincent's control. He hadn't expected Vincent to be able to hold the mug, but he managed, and drank greedily. Cid smiled a little in relief. He's going to be alright… "Hey Vin…?" He asked. Vincent looked at him over the cup, waiting in silence. "Since when did you have blue eyes?"

Vincent's eyes widened, pupils dilating slightly.

"I wha-?" He breathed.

"They're blue." Cid said, actually leaning forward to look closer. Vincent, senses oddly mixed in his partial delirium, was acutely aware of Cid's proximity. "I know I ain't that crazy…I swear I saw 'em all red 'n glowy just earlier this evening…"

"…I was born with blue eyes…" Vincent whispered. Cid frowned.

"Are you really okay? You're going to be alright, right?" He asked worriedly.

"Do you actually care, Cid?" Vincent asked suddenly. His voice was soft, barely audible, but it caught Cid's attention.

"Of course I fucking care about you, Vin! Yer my friend!" Cid said, a little put off. He was very, truly concerned.

"If you'd cared, you would have dropped that stupid nickname like I asked you." Vincent growled, turning away. He'd finished his tea and the cup sat empty and forgotten on the nightstand. Cid's jaw dropped. Irritated, and a little hurt, he turned and left in a hurry. Vincent rolled over, shaking, and tried to sleep. His back and chest hurt, and his mind was foggy. He would have loved to sleep it all away, but he was just so damned cold! He couldn't sleep. He stared at the ceiling instead, and waited for the tea and excessive blankets to work.

He waited.

And waited.

Vincent didn't think it had actually been very long, but it felt like an eternity, and if anything, he swore he felt even colder. A cold, hard dread was wiggling it's way into his stomach, and Vincent started to wonder if maybe Cid really was that concerned, and for a good reason… Anxious, Vincent wiggled out of the cocoon Cid had put him in, and slipped out of bed. He shook terribly, both from the cold and this lasting weakness, but he could stand. Wobbling across the dark room, he found his way to the door, and slipped out into the hallway. He could see the corner fireplace glowing warmly from where he stood, and felt instantly drawn to it's crackling heat. Leaning on the wall, he worked his way down the hall towards the living room, but paused just at the threshold. A mirror sat on the wall over a low cabinet, and he leaned foreword, blinking hazily at his own reflection. Blue eyes so dark they almost seemed black in the low light of the hall stared back at him in surprise. All taints of the red hue and glow were completely gone. The baggy but very soft sweater Cid had put him in hung loosely off his shoulders, exposing some of the dark bruise that crept up his body on one side. Vincent frowned. When was the last time he'd had bruising? He remembered a bar brawl Cid had gotten him into a couple of years ago, and a black eye he'd received as a souvenir, but even that hadn't lasted a half hour before it had disappeared along with the few other cuts and scrapes he'd received… He frowned, that dark worry growing inside of him.

"Vincent?" His given name tripped awkwardly out of Cid's lips, the man's voice so soft and startled that Vincent almost didn't register it belonging to Cid. He turned, looking out across the living room at Cid, who was seated near the fireplace, smoking. Shera had her back to Vincent, but turned to look at Cid's soft inquiry. A moment of silence stretched as Vincent stared back at Cid. He opened his mouth to say something, but Cid leapt up out of his seat. "Damn! Vincent! You shouldn't be up!" Cid was saying, dodging around the scattered bits of furniture in his house, his foot catching at the edge of the couch and nearly felling him as he stumbled. He'd already taken in the way Vincent slumped against the wall slightly, his stance just a little too wide to be normal as he struggled for balance. Vincent pushed away from the wall, walking slowly to meet Cid.

"I…" He shuddered, knees collapsing out from under him. Cid leapt over one last obstacle, catching Vincent before he could fall fully.

"Damn it!" Cid's hands were hot like brands on Vincent's arms, almost burning. "Vincent…what the hell are you doing…?" Cid almost whined, lifting Vincent, who was shaking again, and carrying him over to the couch.

"T-too cold…" Vincent breathed, leaning into Cid's chest. He was so warm…

"Still!" Cid cried. Shera sat watching the pair nervously in silence.

"Yeah…and…" Vincent held onto Cid, weak as he was, forcing the man to sit with him. "I…I don't know why my eyes…." He paused. "They were like they are now…until Hojo…" He trailed off, leaning on Cid, almost clinging. Cid didn't mind, barely gave it any thought.

He's scared…It was a hard idea for Cid to grasp. Vincent Valentine, Ex Turk, honestly scarier that most of the monsters they'd run into with AVALANCHE, and definitely more of an opponent (had he been on the wrong side), than Sephiroth could ever have been, was seemingly fearless.

"Hey…" Cid whispered, drawing Vincent's attention. "You'll be alright. You got me 'n Shera to take care of ya…" On impulse, he pulled Vincent a little closer to his side, seeing how the other man was already more or less attached to him anyway,. Cid wondered if Vincent would just pull away again. He didn't. In fact, he took the gesture as some sort of signal, and moved quite suddenly, pressing himself up against Cid as much as possible. Cid gasped, letting out a slightly nervous chuckle, trying not to let himself go tense. If this was what Vincent needed, well, then…

"Warm…" Vincent told Cid's shoulder.

"What?" Cid asked, looking down at his friend.

"You're…warm…I'm so…cold…" Cid bit his lip, reaching out and pulling Vincent into him further, almost onto his lap, hugging him.

"We'll get ya warmed up then…" He breathed. His chest was aching and his stomach fluttered with every little movement Vincent made, and Cid did not want to analyze those feelings at all, so he kept talking. "Shera, can you grab that blanket over there please? This guys' an ice cube…" Shera jumped up, glad to help.

"Sorry…" Vincent muttered. Cid grunted, nudging him.

"Don't apologize. Just relax." He said. He smiled thankfully at Shera as she draped a large, heavy blanket over both their shoulders. "You okay here or you wanna get closer to the fire?" Cid asked.

"This is fine…" Vincent said. Cid dared to imagine that his friend almost sounded sleepy.

"You falling asleep…?" Cid asked softly.


"Look up at me one more time, okay? I wanna make sure you're alright." Vincent drug his head up off of Cid's shoulder, looking up at him blearily. Cid checked his coloring and his eyes again. They were still…well, too natural looking and in Cid's mind not right, but the pupils were responding properly to light and dark now -Cid checked by shading Vincent's face with his hand- and so he wasn't quite as worried. "How's your back feel?" Cid asked, checking to make sure his arm wasn't pressing against the bruises.

"It's sore, but I've dealt with worse." Vincent admitted, then paused, looking up at Cid with sudden clarity. "You really do care, don't you?"

"I told you I did." Cid said.

"I'm sorry…" Vincent whispered.

"Stop apologizin' so damned much." Cid said, running a hand over Vincent's head gently. He watched as Vincent's eyes fluttered half shut at the touch, repeated the motion and fell into a rhythm. "You've had a crappy day, huh…? Hell, I should be the one apologizin' for getting' ya into this mess in the first place." Outside, the thunder and lightning had stopped, but the rain poured on, a steady hum behind the crack and popple of the fire inside. Shera had disappeared.

Cid continued soothing Vincent, letting his fingers lace into Vincent's dark hair, smoothing out tangles and clumps until it was warm and silken again. Vincent had long since fallen asleep with his head nestled on Cid's shoulder, and was breathing slow and evenly now. The fire was dieing down, and Cid found his eyes fixed on the cooling red embers, thinking of the owner of whose head his chin rested on. He was still worried about Vincent, but he found a certain amount of peace in the place that fate had found him this evening. Vincent had stopped shivering shortly after he'd dozed off, and the space between and around them was sweetly warm, body heat melting into Cid's bones and relaxing every muscle within him.

Cid only looked up as Shera returned, crossing the room and stirring the fire back to life, adding a few logs from a rack near the door. She sat in front of it, warming herself directly, for a moment before standing again. She shot Cid a warm smile.

"I'm tempted to go and get my camera." She said. Cid blinked.

"Eh?" His response was whispered. He didn't want do disturb the peacefully sleeping man in his arms.

"You two look really cute." Shera said, her sweet smile growing. Cid felt the kiss of a blush crawl across his face.

"Err.." Shera giggled at Cid's eloquent response, and hurried out of the room, only to return with the aforementioned camera. Cid jumped when the flash went off, then swore softly as Vincent groaned, shifting. Shera lowered her camera, grimacing. Cid went to work soothing Vincent back to sleep. "Shh… Go back to sleep…Shh…" He ran his hand through Vincent's hair, and the gunman sighed heavily, melting again. Cid lowered his face to rest on Vincent's head, sighing in relief. "There ya go… sweet dreams pal," he said softly, impulsively kissing the top of Vincent's head. He froze as he sat back, realizing belatedly what he had done. Across the room, Shera was also frozen, watching him curiously. Cid glanced back down at Vincent, who's breathing had not evened out into sleep. He too, apparently, was paying close attention to Cid. Cid sighed. "Yeah…" He said to no one in particular. "I guess so." He punctuated his comment with another gentle kiss to the top of Vincent's head. Shera blinked slowly, then smiled before leaving the room again. Vincent stayed very, very still. "Vincent?" Cid whispered.


"I duno. You seemed like you needed it." Cid answered. Another long, thoughtful pause.

"…Yah." Vincent shifted in Cid's grip, settling back down. He could hear Cid's heartbeat where his head was positioned over his friend's chest. It was just a little quick, and he realized that the moment the pilot had just shared with him was completely candid. Cid hadn't just surprised Vincent and Shera, he'd surprised himself. Vincent decided not press matters, though a thousand questions were bubbling up, and to just see where the moment would take them in the future. He went back to sleep, half-nuzzling Cid's chest drowsily, subconsciously returning his friend's sentiment.

Much later that evening, Vincent woke on his own to a quiet house. He was still pressed against Cid's side, and the pilot was sound asleep, head back and snoring slightly. Vincent glanced around from his position under the other man's arm, looking for some sort of signal as to the time. There was a clock on the far wall, but it was too dark for him to read it. The fire was mostly dead, and someone had shut off the lights, probably Shera. Vincent frowned. Usually, he had near-perfect night vision. He blinked, and the dark shapes of the numbers on the clock face appeared out of the darkness, but he couldn't focus on the hands of the clock at all. They were all but invisible to him. He sighed, leaning back.

Cid, apparently, hadn't been as asleep as he seemed, because even that simple motion woke him. He grunted softly, and his arms tightened around Vincent's shoulders reflexively. Vincent waited, wondering if Cid would just fall back asleep, or wake fully. After a moment, Cid lifted his head, sighing and blinking in the darkness.

"I'm sorry I woke you…" Vincent said after a moment. There was a dim light coming in from the kitchen, just bright enough to cast Cid's profile in silhouette, and Vincent could see the man shake his head.

"Naah… I'm fine." There was a pause. "…How ya feelin?" He asked. Vincent took his time answering, putting careful thought into his response.

"A little sore… weak…but I'm not cold anymore… And my night vision has completely deserted me." He said. He couldn't see, but knew Cid frowned.

"Huh…hang on…" Vincent bit back a small gasp of surprise as one of Cid's big hands cupped itself over his eyes slightly, even as he felt the man shift. Yellow lamp light filtered thinly through Cid's fingers, and the pilot removed his hand slowly, letting Vincent's eyes adjust gradually to the new light. It was still dim, but Vincent could see his surroundings now. Vincent glanced around, eyes falling on one of the front windows, silver and gold rain water spattering and sliding off the black glass. It was still raining heavily, and Vincent guessed that it would be for quite some time, though the worst of the storm had now passed. Vincent glanced back at Cid, saw that the other man was watching him carefully, searchingly. He knew what Cid was looking for, and he knew, from the pilot's expression, what he found. Vincent didn't want the questions, and he didn't want Cid's deep gaze locked on him-he feared he would dive into free fall forever if he looked too long. He dropped his head back to Cid's chest heavily, and Cid did not ask him to look up again. The silence stretched, both men lost in their own worlds.

"…It's so quiet…" Vincent whispered. Cid chuckled.

"It only seems quiet." He corrected. "Listen closely, and you can hear the trees swaying outside, the rain on the roof, the windows, the earth. You can hear the refrigerator hum in the kitchen, and what's left of our fire pop every now and then. Shera's awake in her room, too. You can just barely hear the TV going…" Cid glanced down at Vincent.

"I can hear your heart beat…"

"That too." Cid said after a pause. "All in all, it's pretty damned noisy considering how peaceful it is…"

"Yeah…'s what I meant…" Vincent murmured. Cid chuckled softly, the sound filling Vincent from where his ear connected with Cid's chest, spreading outward. It was soft, only truly a half sound, but it was rich and full of life. Vincent smiled slightly.

"Hey, since we're awake, you want a midnight snack? I'm starvin'…"

"…I guessed we missed supper, didn't we?" Vincent said by way of answer.

"Yeah… we were all a little preoccupied, I think." Cid said, smiling down at Vincent.

"Food would be nice." Vincent said softly. Cid grinned, the gentleness and concern fading in light of his usual confidence and pride.

"Any requests?" Cid asked, simultaneously standing and wrapping the blanket they'd shared firmly around Vincent. Vincent blinked.


"Food, choco-brain. What do you want?" Cid teased gently.

"…Anything is fine." Vincent leaned into the space Cid had taken up, soaking in the lingering warmth left in the couch cushions, and rested.

"Alright, alright." Cid said, waving lazily and shuffling into the kitchen.

Once he was out of Vincent's sight, Cid hugged himself, buffing his arms. He was cold…without Vincent. He swatted on the light, blinking against it, though his eyes were really turned inward anyway. Cid took the next few minutes to examine himself, marveling at this acute but not at all sudden affection for Vincent. Now that he consciously considered it, the butterflies began fluttering up into his chest, whispering warm warnings of something deeper than friendship. Cid was startled by these whisperings, but took it calmly, and with an almost detached interest. For now, he had to get food, and then he could get back to his friend's side. Hopefully. He realized belatedly that Vincent was not normally the touchy feely type…but then again, neither was Cid. Cid shook his head to clear it. Internal contradictions would get him nowhere.

Food, as it turned out, was much easier to come by than Cid could have even hoped. There was a note on the refrigerator from Shera. Cid smiled.

Vincent lifted his head in interest as Cid returned, awkwardly balancing a tray with two bowls of soup, a whole loaf of French bread, silverware, two beers, and a dish of butter. He smiled, his stomach growling softly at the warm, rich and welcoming smells. Cid set the tray down on the coffee table, flopping back onto the couch beside Vincent.

"Shera, bless that woman, made us dinner even though we were out cold." Cid said, smiling crookedly. Cid handed Vincent the note she'd left. Cid spoke as Vincent read. "She said you wouldn't ever feel better if you didn't eat right, and-" Vincent chuckled as he read Shera's own version of what Cid was summarizing. "-that she didn't trust me to fix anything more decent than a bowl of ice cream with a side of cigarettes and beer." Cid had ad-libbed the last part. The slip of paper in Vincent's hand made no mention of beer, only dinner consisting of ice cream and cigarettes. He smirked when Cid made no motion to deny the accusations.

"Ice cream?"

"Shera says I'm an addict." Cid admitted around a smirk. "There's nothin' funner than a summer time ice cream binge…" Vincent smiled imagining Cid bent over a whole bucket of ice cream, eating straight out of it, sitting atop the wing of his airplane in the sunshine. It was an endearing image. Vincent didn't think he was in quite the right state of mind for ice cream, though, and ate the soup happily. It was a simple meal, but the bread was warm and very fresh-Vincent wondered if it was home made, though he reasoned he would have smelt the bread baking long ago, even if he was partially unconscious- and everything was utterly delicious. He only drank half his beer, though, giving the rest to Cid. He did not want to experience the mental imbalance that alcohol caused, in his weakened state. His mind and senses were fuzzy enough as they were. Cid didn't mind, polished off the beverage in two swigs, as well as anything else Vincent didn't eat.

"You're going to make yourself fat eating and drinking like that someday." Vincent teased softly. He was too tired for any of his more creative jibes. Cid laughed.

"Who the hell ever heard of a fat pilot, Vin!" He demanded. Vincent snorted.

"That's my point."

"Yeah yeah…I'm fine…" Cid said, leaning back and shoving the tray, the dishes piled sloppily on top of it, further towards the center of the coffee table with his foot. A beer and a half with a full meal was just slightly less than what it would take for Cid to feel a light buzz, but he felt good anyway. He nor Vincent dared to look at the clock-they both knew it was well into the middle of the night, but they were enjoying the moment of friendship, of peace.

"Man…we need to do this more often…" Cid said, sighing happily. He blinked, lips quirking upwards into a crooked smile. "Except for the you getting the shit smashed out of you…that part royally sucked."

"I'll second that." Vincent muttered. His back still hurt. He was still nervous about how he hadn't healed already, how his senses were so muddy, but he held to Cid's confidence and optimism like a lifeline. He was grateful he had his friend's attitude to cling to.

"Just the stayin' up and enjoyin' the peace when nobody's around to fucking terrorize us." Cid amended.

"Yah…" Vincent dared to lean against Cid's shoulder again. He was feeling much stronger already, but he wanted the contact. He wasn't sure if Cid would be so welcoming, though. Cid turned and looked at him immediately.

"Hey, nodding off already?" Cid asked good naturedly. Vincent lifted his head, couldn't think of a decent answer. Cid smiled warmly, and stood. "Just lemmie put this shit in the sink at least and we can settle down again, alright?" Vincent nodded.

We…It seemed like such a nice notion. It even whispered of permanence. Vincent shook the thought away. Don't push your luck…Cid returned, slapping out the kitchen light as he went, and settled down onto the couch again. Vincent was sandwiched at his side almost instantly- a little too fast, in fact. He cringed, mentally slapping himself, but Cid didn't push him away, said nothing. He only turned out the light over his head. He sat for several long minutes in perfect silence, Vincent's head back on his shoulder.

"You know what Vin…Er Vincent?" Cid said. Vincent lifted his head, staring at his friend in the dark.


"I- huh…." Cid cut off his first sentence, staring at Vincent in wonderment. Even in the dark, Vincent could see his face relatively well.

"What? What?" Vincent asked. Cid's eyes were locked on his, even through the darkness, and Vincent felt his breath catch just a little. I'm going to drown…

"Your eyes…they're glowin' a bit again…"


"No…still blue…. Real dark, actually…"

"Yeah, they always were…" Vincent answered.

"It's weird…" Cid said, making Vincent frown in confusion. "They're too…normal…Too fucking ordinary for someone like you…"

"Like me?" Vincent asked, intrigued by Cid's sudden observation. Was that a compliment?

"I used to think the red was fuckin' creepy, but now I actually kind 'a miss it." Cid went on, ignoring Vincent's soft spoken query. The silence stretched after that, Vincent not knowing what to say, and Cid apparently having said his fill. It wasn't an entirely comfortable silence, at least not for Vincent.

"You started to say something else, before…"

"Oh yeah…" Cid muttered, sounding drowsy. He said no more.

"What were you saying?" Vincent pressed. Cid shifted, grunting.

"Yah… I can't sleep like this Vin…" He straightened up, pushing Vincent away from him. Vincent felt his heart spasm, his chest tighten. No! Don't push me away now! Please! "Hang on…" Cid added. He pushed Vincent to the very edge of the couch, and swung his legs up behind Vincent, turning and laying out flat on the couch, with his head resting on one of the armrests. He turned on his side slightly, pulled Vincent down in a similar position, the gunman's back pressed against Cid's chest, his head pillowed on Cid's crooked arm. He shifted the both of them around for a moment until their bodies aligned, falling into a perfect match like two pieces of the same puzzle. Locked together tightly by Cid's warm, vice like arms, they settled down into comfortable warmth again.

"That better?" Cid asked, even as he reached out and down to retrieve their forgotten blanket from the floor and throw it over the both of them. Vincent turned on his side to look up at Cid, slightly above him, through the darkness.

"Y-you don't mind?" Vincent nearly bit his own tongue in dismay. He did not just stutter…

"Do you?" Cid countered.


"Neither do I." Cid said. "In fact," he went on, voice softening. "It's pretty nice…"

"Cid…" Vincent began suddenly. He felt Cid tense at the tone of his voice.

"I don't want to talk about it yet…alright?" Cid said, voice low.

"What does this mean?" Vincent asked anyway, ignoring Cid's half-meant request.

"I don't know."

"You know something." Vincent countered.

"I don't know what I know. But yes, there's something."


"I said I don't know." Cid said. He sounded stressed.

"I bet you do. You just won't think about it."

"Does it matter?" Cid asked, voice straining. His whole body was tense against Vincent's. Vincent locked his gaze with Cid's through the shadows and the mere inches that separated their faces.

"It matters to me…" he said, very softly. Cid's face softened, his eyes averted. He took a deep breath.

"I feel… warm…happy…." He began, struggling. "I…feel protective…of you…which is stupid as hell, I know…I mean, really. You can take care of yourself just fine, right? You're stronger, smarter than me. You don't need me trying to protect you at all. I mean, hell!" Cid had started to babble, but Vincent listened thoughtfully, waiting for Cid's rambling to come to a preordained end that Vincent was already expecting. "If I hadn't tried to protect ya from that fucking storm earlier this evening, and brought you here, you'd be safe in that hotel without a single problem, wouldn't ya?" Cid fell silent suddenly, looking away as best he could.

"I would have been alone." Vincent said softly. "And we both would have been cold. We would have missed out on the peace of this night because we would have been asleep like normal people after a normal day. You're right, Cid-" Vincent went on, watching Cid's eyes flicker with pain. "I don't need protection…but…I value the sentiment." Vincent turned fully, facing Cid, and hugged him as best he could in their current position. He tucked his face under Cid's chin, relished the feeling of the warm, smooth skin of Cid's neck against his forehead. "Just because a man doesn't need something, Cid, does not mean he doesn't want it." Vincent did not move nor speak after that, simply remained curled against Cid, face planted securely over his collarbones. One hand had worked it's way up slightly under the hem of Cid's sweater as it rested at his hip, seeking further warmth, and that precious little skin contact.

Cid watched Vincent in perfect silence for a long time. He felt like crying for every tender way Vincent touched him. A gentle brush of an eyelash as he breathed deeply, sleeping, a single finger brushing his wrist…

Vincent had asked what it all meant, and Cid didn't know. He was a little nervous, but in a breathless, excited way. His heart swelled each time he looked at his friend, sleeping safely, and Cid realized that maybe, when Vincent had answered him, he had truly spoken for both of them. Vincent understood, on some fundamental level, even though Cid didn't and that was alright. As long as one of them knew what was going on, Cid was good to go. Relaxing, he closed his eyes and let himself drift to sleep.

"…Highwind…wake up…"

"You're going to have to do more than that to get him to wake up, Vincent."

"Cid…" Vincent tried again, nudging Cid with his elbow. He was trapped in the pilot's arms, still tangled together on the couch as they were. Shera stood by the side of the couch, rosy cheeked and smiling. Vincent scrunched his face up in frustration. "CID!" Cid snorted, shifted, and grumbling, went straight back to sleep. Shera had her hands over her lips, stifling a giggle, and Vincent chewed on his lip slightly, mildly irritated. Then he smiled, most deviously, as an idea hit him. "CID WAKE UP! THAT ShinRa BASTARD IS TRYING TO STEAL THE BRONCO AGAIN!" He cried, most urgently. Shera was trying to swallow her fist to stifle her bubbling laughter.

Sure enough, Cid sat bolt upright with a yell, eyes flashing.

"GAWDAMNIT I'M GUNNA FUCKING SKIN THAT FUCKTARD--!" Cid bellowed, already trying to move to do just as he announced. He only woke up fully when he got tangled up in Vincent's legs, and lost his balance, sending the both of them crashing to the floor. Cid let out a yelp-Vincent tried to but the wind was knocked out of him by Cid's elbow, and all he could manage was a pained wheeze- and Shera burst into shrieking laughter.

And so, life in the Highwind household began once again.

A short while later, after Vincent had managed to untangle Cid from himself, and the three of them were seated at the kitchen table, Cid with his tea, Shera and Vincent with their hot chocolate. Outside the rain had stopped, and the soggy gray morning lay hushed and misty over all of Rocket Town. A day of quiet respite followed their morning.

Things went slow. At first, they hadn't. Cid had immediately checked Vincent over to make sure he was "still alive" and as soon as he deemed Vincent healthy, he was out the door checking on the Tiny Bronco. She too, had survived the chaotic night.

While Cid was outside with his airplane, Vincent and Shera had briefly discussed Vincent suddenly taking precedence over the Bronco.

"I've never seen him so concerned…for anyone." Shera had said, smiling warmly at her houseguest. Vincent nodded, returning some of the smile.

"We…talked last night…sort of…" He blinked. "Your soup was wonderful, by the way." Shera smiled at this, nodding in thanks. "We…," Vincent went on, returning to the former subject, "…have some feelings to sort out, I think…"

"And what do you feel?"

"I feel that Cid doesn't understand what's happening to him." Vincent said with a gently wistful smile.

"He's falling in love." Shera said. Vincent's smile widened slightly, and he averted his gaze, down into his mug. At the back of the house, they both heard Cid slam the door shut. "…And what about you?" Shera asked quietly. Vincent shrugged noncommittally, but his smile grew. He looked up at Shera, that secretive smile sparkling in his eyes, and Shera had her answer.

Cid entered at that moment, veering straight for the stove for hot water to make his tea with, but he paused after dipping the teabag, smiling over at Vincent.

"The hell are you grinning about?" He said roughly. His own eyes sparkled merrily.

"Feeling much better this morning, Chief. Your careful application of TLC worked wonders." Vincent said.

"Eh?" Cid blinked. "The hell is 'TLC'?" Vincent choked on his hot chocolate slightly, sputtering around an astounded laugh.

" 'Tender Loving Care,' Captain." Shera said, smirking slightly. Cid froze, teacup half raised to his lips, staring across the table at Vincent, who smiled sweetly. Crimson eyes sparkled and glowed healthily, and it had been the greatest relief Cid had ever felt in his life to discover that they'd turned back to normal by morning. He caught himself sinking into Vincent's gaze, and Vincent chuckled knowingly.

"See? I'm all better. Thanks to you." Cid shook his head slightly in mixed negation and wonderment.

"Vin…Er, Vincent…"

"Vin is fine, Cid." Vincent said softly. Cid looked up, blinking in surprise, his former struggle momentarily forgotten. "You can call me 'Vin' if you like. I know it's out of friendship." Vincent repeated. Cid smiled nodding slowly.

"Vincent…" He said the name deliberately, around a smile. "You aah…." Cid glanced at Shera, who was giving him this impatient, expectant look, clearly saying 'Oh just spit it out, damnit!' "You wanna stick around for dinner?"

Vincent smiled.

"I'd love to."

Cid smiled.

"And lunch too of course…" He babbled slightly, suddenly excited. "And maybe breakfast tomorrow too? And-" Shera nudged him and he cut off abruptly, turning pink. Vincent held his smile.

"Cid, I'd love to."


AN: yaagh! THIS WOULD NOT FREAKING END! DIE DAMNIT DIE! stabs fic I started this all of…well, by now, probably two or three months ago. Worked on it a bit, got distracted, came back, got a ways, thought of something else, went back, wrote that in, and of course THAT built all kinds of other little sublines I had to write in… It totally deviated from what I initially had in mind…(which wasn't much anyway) But the list of unfinished fanfics was stacking up to alarming heights and I HAD to finish at least one of them…this was the most promising of the ones I hadn't posted, so I dove right in. J

…I'd honestly meant this to be about 5 pages long… in word, at 12 pt font, it's almost exactly 18 full pages. Closer to 18 ½ when I'm done with all my notes… lol.

1) I took the liberty of fixing Vincent's hand. Whether it's a realistic looking prosthetic, or just fine under that gauntlet is up to you, the reader, but for the purposes of this fic, it had to go. I wanted to avoid all of Vincent's cliché's (there's a freaking million of them), most of which are piles and piles of angst centered around that damned claw. So, I used my magical artistic license and got rid of it as soon as possible so it wouldn't cause our dear Vinnie grief later on. J

2) If you got through the whole fic and are still wondering what the hell happened out there with the Tiny Bronco, my theory is as this- Vincent got nailed pretty bad, and his body went into heavy shock. Any mere mortal would have been KO-ed for hours, and so all that extra genetic engineering in his system went into just making it so he could function (as I'm assuming he was at least partially 'built' as a weapon) instead of just going out like a light bulb. The changes that Hojo made to his body weren't natural, so when those energies were focused elsewhere, the physical effects diminished. (I.e., his senses dropped down to that of a normal person, his strength was lowered and he basically temporarily reverted back to his old self…I wanted to supply some physical evidence for that so I had his eyes change. It's like a damaged TV that suddenly goes to black and white from color, and back if it's roughed up or something….ok. Bad analogy. Don't kill me, lol J