Northern Crater

By...Zar, of course.

(I can't believe I can even get ideas from just watchin da "Cover" materia at work...^_^o)

Neither Cid nor Vincent had ever forgotten the incident at Gaea's Cliff. It haunted them day after day, always plaguing them with questions that had no answers. Why were they both willing to die for the other? To both, it made no sense whatsoever. Cloud sensed that something within his two companions had changed, but he was unable to figure out what. The morning after the episode, his two companions (one, actually. The other just stared disapprovingly) had told him exactly what they thought about how he had taken all the spare clothes and armor for himself. He had felt slight guilt over it, but nothing serious.

Afterwards, both Vincent and Cid had felt that something had happened. They had each willingly set down their life for the other, and by some unspoken law, this decreed that thereafter, they would have to try and make it up to the person who had offered their life. This meant that both Cid and Vincent were constantly trying to pay off this debt that they had both incurred without any knowledge of how to do so. Cloud, realizing that the two had to be together in order to fulfill the needs of the unspoken decree, had decided that they would be his two main companions through his journey.

Once, he had asked Vincent individually if he would accompany him to investigate a small disturbance outside of the Highwind. Vincent refused, insisting in his normal quiet way, that if he helped, this would put him further into debt with Cid. When Cloud has asked why, Vincent remained silent and walked away.

This confused the youth even more. Ever since his fall into the LifeStream, things had made less and less sense to Cloud. Especially his companions...it seemed before that, everyone knew who he was and he knew who everyone else was. There were no secrets...there were no hidden traumas. He knew who he was then. He was Cloud. Who was he now? He was still unsure. His companions erratic behavior did not help this in the least.

When he asked Cid to go and check, Cid twitched slightly, as if considering what this could do to his Highwind, and then shook his head. He asked if they could take Vincent along, and replied to Cloud's curious question why with a shrug and a obscenity. Cloud felt more confused and lost then ever as his two companions both seemed to become strange to him. He felt as if he had known them his entire life, they had been together so long, and now they were acting so odd.
Cloud had little time to think. They were deep in the Northern Crater and, as usual, it was Cloud, Cid, and Vincent who were lost in the vast catacombs, searching for Sephiroth.

"Where is this $&$#%& anyway?" Cid said angrily. He was frustrated by the enemies they kept encountering and seemed to be fidgeting more-so then usual. Cloud could not tell whether this was because he was nervous or Cid's mixture of chain-smoking and drinking coffee the night before to "prepare" him for the ordeal of fighting Sephiroth.

Also, it seemed that Cid had discovered a previously unknown hatred of Tonberries.

Vincent was as quiet and silent as he always was, only he seemed even more withdrawn. Ever since Chaos was allowed to manifest, Vincent had become even more depressed then before. Cloud had a vague idea of why, but decided not to pursue it. Vincent physically, however, seemed as unchanged as the day they had awakened him, only his cloak was torn around the edges slightly.

Vincent was lingering back as Cloud and Cid began to search for a way up to a ledge when Chaos spoke.

"I can sense we're near the end."

"The end of what?" Vincent asked mentally. Chaos had become more brave and more insidious after it's power was allowed to be released.

"Your life of course. Yours and your companions. Do you actually think you can stand up to Sephiroth?"

"I believe so." Vincent had tried for a long time to convince himself that he could do this, and he didn't want Chaos to begin disturbing his self-confidence.

"Really..." Death Giga's voice rumbled through his body. "Sephiroth is stronger, faster, smarter, and better."

"As long as he bleeds, I will be happy." Galian laughed hoarsely.

"No chance. No chance." Hellmasker smirked. "No chance you'll win..."

"I will win..."

"Why are you doing this? This will not help you atone." Chaos hissed. Vincent was struck by this.

"If I save the world..."

"You wish to atone for Lucrecia's pain by killing her son..." Chaos laughed softly. "You should give up before you do something foolish."

Vincent was unable to think of a reply, but luckily one came for him.

"Vin! Hey Vin!" Cid's voice called out to him. "We found a way! Get your %&@ over here!"

Vincent watched with relief as the demons retreated for the moment and moved forward. Cid and Cloud were perched on the edge of a ledge with some kind of green energy flowing across it.

"We can slide across this and get to those platforms..." Cloud pointed forward towards the floating rocks above this green energy. "I'm sure Sephiroth must be close. I can feel it."

"Are you sure?" Vincent said quietly. After being with him for so long, it was easy for Cloud and Cid to determine his voice from the strange pulsating roar of the area. Cid shrugged, his cigarette still burning despite the roaring wind that came from the pit below them.

"Best thing we got. Might as well try, right?" With that, Cid lept down. Vincent watched with concern. If Cid died, the debt and burden on his shoulders would increase a thousandfold.

However, Vincent's concern was of no use, as Cid's skill with aerial acrobatics soon landed him on the platform. He waved to the others cheerily, which seemed unusual. It must be the excess of energy he feels from all that caffeine...Vincent concluded to himself.

Cloud was next. He was less skilled then Cid, and only managed to grab the side of the ledge. With Cid's help, he was soon there. Now it was Vincent's turn.

Vincent was unsure, although he could not exactly place why. Usually, such aerial feats were of no effort to him. But now...this seemed very dangerous. He felt apprehension. Was it the jump or the prospect after it?

Forcing these thoughts from his head, he jumped onto the swirl of green energy. It carried him away quickly, as if bearing him towards some great creature. Feeling frightened, he looked upwards and saw that the speeding stream had already carried him past the ledge. Fear made Vincent's heart beat fast, and this was strange to him. He couldn't remember when he had ever felt this frightened. Why? If he died...perhaps that was it...if he died, the burden on Cid would be doubled...and thus his would also increase. He felt helpless as the thing was carrying him away...just like back in Nibelheim.
The fear gave rise to anger, and Vincent lept for the platform. He could see Cid at the edge, holding a hand out towards him. Vincent reached for it, but it was too far away...at the peak of his jump, he was still short.

He felt a deep rumbling in his chest and stopped short, looking back to see a tendril of the green energy was wrapping itself around his foot, pulling him back. Vincent felt anger rising within him. He would not allow himself to be helpless ever again. He would not allow someone to be hurt from his neglect.

The rumbling began to shake his whole body, and he felt two stabbing pains in his back. He knew what was coming, and he regretted his determination. He tried to keep it at bay, but his fear and anger had a hold of him, and they summoned the most adequate defender.

Vincent bit back a scream as two large, black, webbed wings burst from his back. He fought back the pain and felt the rest of Chaos trying to appear. He focused all his energy into keeping it under control, and found Cid still reaching. Expecting him to recoil at the wings and the bloody appearance of them, he found that Cid's expression did not change, still urgent and worried.

"Vin! Grab my hand!" Cid called to him. Vincent felt no other choice but to use the monstrosities that had appeared from within him. He flapped the powerful wings, guiding himself upwards. The stream, sensing it's prey was escaping, began to pull harder. As of such, the fear in him increased, and he could feel his feet beginning to transform into talons.

He reached forward desperatly for someone to pull him free from the stream, free from this fear and this form, and finally someone grabbed his hand. He opened his eyes and saw that Cid was hauling him upwards, straining against the stream. At Cid's touch, the demons seemed to have lost some of their determination. Of the manifesting Chaos, only the wings remained. Vincent looked in his mind for Chaos briefly, and found it to be missing. Flapping the wings furiously and hanging onto Cid with all his might, he tried to pull away.

More warm, strong hands gripped his own, and he saw that Cloud was now leaning his weight with him. Feeling strengthened by the determination of his friends, he fought as hard as he could, and the stream let go.
Vincent, shocked by the abruptness of the release of pressure, flew into the air. Cid and Cloud both fell back as Vincent whooshed past them. Flapping his wings furiously, Vincent controlled his ascent and returned to the ledge. He found Cid and Cloud waiting for him.

"Don't %&*#@^ do that again, Vin. That was a strain." Cid said, looking angry and slightly relieved. Vincent regarded him silently.

"That's twice you have saved my life."

"Stop talkin' about it, okay?" Cid turned around awkwardly and lit another cigarette, as his previous one had fallen off the ledge and into the green energy.

"Are you okay, Vincent?" Cloud asked with concern. Vincent knew he was talking about the wings. Sweeping them forward to look at them he found them smeared with blood. His blood. No doubt from appearing so violently. Vincent nodded to Cloud.

"There is no more pain. I am fine."

"Well...if you're sure...then let's keep on going."

The other ledges were far closer then the other one and were a matter of seconds to Vincent. He didn't use the wings. Cloud wondered mentally to himself why Vincent didn't want to use something that could prove so useful, but Cid just kept his distance.

On the next to last platform, Vincent stopped. He sat down. Cloud and Cid, confused, watched him curiously.

"Let me...be human..." Vincent said slowly, breathing deeply. Cloud shrugged and Cid looked off to one side.

Vincent closed his eyes and focused everything in his body to make the wings dissapear. They were stubborn, however. Chaos had gotten one lodging in Vincent's form and wasn't about to disapear without a fight. However, after a good deal of effort, the wings slowly retracted and folded back underneath his skin. He could feel Chaos' frustration and anger and knew that it wouldn't last for long.

He found Cid reaching a hand for him.

"Need help up?" he asked. Realizing that this was one of Cid's efforts to repay his debt, Vincent accepted his hand without thought. Cid pulled him up easily, sending a tendril of fear through Vincent's heart. Cid was so strong...he could probably snap him in half, if he so pleased. Why did this frighten him so? Cid would never do such a thing, yet...

"Sephiroth!" Cloud called out to the glowing center of the cavern. "Sephiroth! We've come to stop you!"

"$&@^, you think he's comin' out after that?" Cid laughed scornfully and watched Cloud turn to him angrily.

Vincent stood on slightly weak legs after all the pressure he had exerted to keep Chaos under control. He watched as Cloud glared at Cid, who laughed. He smiled faintly.Then he saw something that was instantly sobering. Standing behind Cloud, a full 6 inches taller then the youth, was someone with long silver hair and unmistakably intense green eyes.

"Strife! Highwind!" Vincent called. They turned to him and he pointed behind Cloud, trying to get his weak legs to obey him and carry him closer to his companions.

Sephiroth raised his masamune, but it was Vincent's warning and Cloud's swift reactions that saved him. Whipping the Ultima Weapon from his back he managed to barely block the giant sword. With a flick of the Masamune, Cloud was knocked back into Cid, who had his Venus Gospel at ready. Cloud steadied himself, obviously unprepared for such power. Vincent reached Cloud's side and drew his own weapon, the Death Penalty.

Sephiroth said nothing, only watching the three of them with a curious, odd look. Vincent pulled Cloud upwards, keeping his eyes on Sephiroth at all times. He noticed that Cloud was trembling, most likely from anger or nervousness.

"You %&#@!" Cid pointed at Sephiroth. His green eyes looked emotionlessly at the pilot. "We're here to take you the %#&# down, you $^@#@%!"

Despite this show of bravado, Vincent could see the nervousness on Cid's face, and even a touch of fear. Sephiroth then looked at Vincent and his gaze changed. It seemed to be one of familiarity.

"You know me." Vincent said quietly. "We met when you were a child. But now, I'm afraid this is the end..."

Sephiroth last looked at Cloud with another expression. This one was almost something of pity.

"Sephiroth!" Cloud shouted, his Ultima Weapon shaking in his hands. "I'm going to kill you! You've hurt everyone...it's going to stop!"

"Do you believe..." Sephiroth finally spoke, his voice calming and slow. This seemed to infuriate Cloud. "that you will beat me in a sword battle? I, who trained you?"

"Don't mock me! I'll kill you myself, Sephiroth, I swear it! For everything you've ever done to me and the ones I love!"

"Not alone, Strife." Vincent reminded the impetuous young man, looking at his claws with mixed emotions. "We're here, and we will help you."

"Yeah, you ain't killin this #&#%@$-up mother #$^&$@# without us!" Cid raised his Venus Gospel at ready. Sephiroth watched them with the same impassive look as before.

"If you wish to try, defeat Mother...and anything else in your way. If you make it to me, then we shall battle."

With that, Sephiroth vanished cleanly.

"$#&%!" Cid said loudly. "I thought we had him!"

Barely had these words come from his mouth then a large thing swooped from above and attacked them. Vincent could recognize the thing...it was Jenova...or at least, some form of it. Feeling anger rising in him at being so close to his objective and so far, Vincent simply summoned the Knights of The Round. Cid and Cloud watched silently as the Knights dealt their damage, defeating the thing instantly. Vincent smiled.

"How many more do you think there are?" Cloud asked. Vincent shrugged.

"I wouldn't know...but I can't cast that many more times...hopefully not many."

"Incoming!" Cid shouted as another thing bore down upon them. This time, Vincent was prepared, and the Knights came to the attack before the creature could even galvanize for a attack. However, this time, this wasn't enough to kill the thing. Vincent was forced to summon them twice, a incredible drain of power.

"That better be the last one." Cloud said, annoyed. Vincent could see his white grip on his sword and could almost feel the fury enamanating from the man. Cid didn't seem to notice, instead looking around cautiously lest Sephiroth attack them by surprise, like he had the last time they had come to the crater. Vincent, Cid, and Cloud waited, but found nothing to challenge them.

"Sephiroth! We've defeated the guardians! Come out!" Cloud called again. Despite Cid's caution, Sephiroth was the master of surprise. Before Cid or Vincent had registered that Sephiroth had re-appeared, Sephiroth had one of Cloud's arms behind his back and the Ultima Weapon on the floor. Cloud struggled in fury, but Sephiroth happened to be holding him in such a way that it seemed impossible for Cloud to escape.

"Do you really believe you can kill me?" Sephiroth said slowly.

"You $#&#& #&#%!" Cid shouted. "That's #$&%* cheatin', you-"

"Spare me your words." Sephiroth said, watching as Cid recoiled from the glow now enamanating from his eyes. "It's not cheating...Cloud learned while training where his precise weak-spot is. It's not my fault that he failed to protect himself."

Cloud was overcome with fury, kicking and struggling against the taller man.

"Let me go! I'll kill you for this, let me g-"

Sephiroth abruptly released Cloud, dropping him to the ground. Cloud grabbed his sword and raised it for the attack, only to find that Sephiroth was no longer there. He was knocked off his feet by a rocking explosion, and slowly stood, rubbing his head.

"Cloud..." Cid said, with a touch of fear in his voice. "I think we may have a problem..."

Cloud followed Cid's gaze, finding it drawn to a strange creature that had the vague appearance of Sephiroth...only deformed into some parody of a person.

"I am the One-Winged Angel..." Sephiroth said in a strange voice, something unworldly and eerie. "Your deaths come now."

Vincent readied his gun, Cid raised his spear, and Cloud held his sword. The One Winged Angel continued to watch them, as if daring them to attack.

"Vin, Knights of the Round! Now!" Cid called to him. Vincent shook his head.

"I don't have enough power...It's up to us alone."

"I'll start with you." The One Winged Angel said, raising it's wing into the air. From the wing flew a myriad of tiny feathers, lashing out towards Cid. Cid was surprised and caught off guard, and most of the feathers slashed into his skin, causing him to bleed from several places.

Vincent readied himself for a Cure of the third degree, while Cloud dashed forward, slashing the One Winged Angel with all his power. The Angel shrugged this off, focusing it's attention on Vincent.

Cid clenched his teeth angrily, fury rising within him. He felt a vague rush of energy from the third degree Cure, but this did not heal his bleeding wounds...only his life energy. He watched his own blood fall onto his glove, and he rushed forward, slashing the Angel across the chest. It recoiled backwards, struck by the fury, but seemed almost undamaged. The Angel turned towards Vincent, raising a large tentacle.

"Now for you..."

The Tentacle lashed forward at blinding speed, imbedding itself in Vincent's shoulder.

"VINCENT!" Cid cried, surprised by the quick and merciless attack.
Refusing to scream, Vincent gasped as the tentacle was withdrawn in the same amount of time. He could see the large red stain spreading underneath his cloak. He held his right hand over his left shoulder, in an effort to compress the pain. Chaos was rumbling beneath his skin as he kneeled in pain. He could feel it trying to break free, but he wasn't angry yet...strangely, this attack left him feeling empty...as if it had sucked away his energy.

"I'll finish you off...since I knew you first..." the Angel raised the wing high in anticipation of slashing Vincent. Vincent closed his blood colored eyes, expecting the end.

"NO!"

He opened his eyes to find someone had lept in front of him, holding his arms out in front in some weak semblance of protection. Vincent struggled to his feet, seeing blond hair and a flight jacket.

"You %&#%&@! You aren't hurting Vin! You'll have to get through ME first, punk-@$^!" Cid called bravely. Vincent could see Cid trembling with fear and moved forward.

"Highwind, no..." he said weakly, but the Angel's expression nor position didn't change.

"As you wish..."

The Wing came down with surprising speed, slashing Cid directly across the chest with a spatter of blood. Cid was knocked back from the blow, flying back a few feet. For once, perhaps the first time in his life, Cid screamed.

"CID!" Vincent shouted with a mixture of anger, concern, and pain. Cid slowly pushed himself upwards from the floor and stood on weak legs, limping towards Vincent. Vincent stared at the terrible wound on his chest and was overcome with amazement at Cid's willingness to take such pain for him....Cid got close to him, opened his mouth as if to say something, then collapsed in his arms.

Vincent wrapped his arms around the now unconcious pilot, ignoring the blood that smeared across him from the countless wounds Cid had recieved. Cid's head rested on his shoulder, and Vincent felt anger like he had never felt rising in his chest. The Wings ripped from his body with surprising speed, and his eyes glew an angry red. Cloud, seeing that Cid had taken the damage for Vincent, also felt a surge of anger and lept forward, dealing the Angel a swift and brutal Omnislash.
Vincent could feel his hands and feet changing into the taloned claws of Chaos, yet refused to let Cid go. This was the third time Cid had saved him...why? Vincent could not understand...but he did know one thing. He was not going to let the One-Winged Angel hurt his companion without retaliation. He felt the wings growing and spreading, flaring around him. His body changed it's form and took on Chaos. Vincent wondered idly as he waited for Chaos' mind to take over his own whether Chaos would take care of Cid or toss him aside.

The point proved to be moot, as, while fully transformed, Vincent retained control of his mind. Shocked and surprised at this strange turn of events, he decided to take use of this. He flapped Chaos' wings, bearing him easily in the air. Cid felt like a doll now, light and motionless, his head remaining on his shoulder. Vincent kept an arm on him, to protect him, then extended the other.

The Angel found itself on the recieving end of a series of Satan Slams and Chaos Sabers, all rapid-fire and deadly powerful. Another Omnislash by Cloud was enough to cause the Angel to keen in pain and all it took was another Chaos Saber, and the Angel was no more.

The anger kept rising in Vincent and he did not know why. The pilot laid limp in Chaos' arms and he watched as the ground began to break away beneath his taloned claws. Flapping the large wings, he now had the power to remain aloft. Chaos' wings required great strength to operate, and now his body could accomadate that. He held Cid in his arms, flying upwards. He didn't know where Cloud was...but he vaguely recalled seeing him with Tifa...

Strife is an adult and in good health...Vincent told himself. He can take care of himself. Highwind, on the other hand...

He dodged the flying debris that came down at him, using Chaos' body with ease. He spoke in Chaos' voice, a voice much like his own.

"Don't worry. I will make up for the times you have saved my life, Highwind. I won't let you die without me repaying you. Trust me..." he said, although he knew that Cid was far beyond hearing. Using the form, he found the Highwind, already loaded with the other passengers, yet unable to be flown without a pilot. The rest of his team, everyone who had escaped, watched with horror as the winged monstrosity that he was landed on the Highwind and walked to the control panel.

"Vincent?" Tifa asked, surprised. Vincent made a note to remember that not everyone had seen Chaos...only Cid and Cloud had...very rarely.

"It's me." he said simply. He tried to remember what Cid had taught him about flying. He sat down in the Pilot's chair and looked at all the buttons, painfully aware that each second he wasted meant that death was coming closer and closer to them. Holding Cid in his arms, he found a lever labeled Emergency.

"This is a emergency, if I ever knew one." Vincent thought to himself. He pulled.

The Highwind, which had been caught in a massive explosion, sprouted turbo boosters that had been previously hidden and managed to pull away from the powerful blast. His team dashed to the railing, looking at Midgar as Meteor edged closer.

Vincent, however, was watching Cid. The pilot remained unconcious, his flight goggles askew and his cigarette missing. His chest had been so deeply wounded that Vincent could almost see bone. In desperation, he cast the highest level of Cure repeatedly in hopes of closing the wound, but it did little. It did, however, stop the bleeding and recover some tissue. Vincent stared at the pilot from his viewpoint behind Chaos' eyes.

"Three times...three times you've saved me at risk of your own life...why? Why?" Vincent could not answer these questions. "I have saved yours at least...that must count for something."

Vincent turned and watched his team-mates. Cloud looking very tired and sad, Tifa clinging to Cloud, Barret mumbling the word "Marlene" to himself, Red XIII braced against Cait Sith's fluffy Moogle, which was lodged behind some cargo boxes. Cait Sith himself, however, had attached himself to Yuffie's head, clawing at her face hysterically in fear as Meteor came close. Yuffie was running in circles, waving her arms around and screaming for someone to take "the stupid hairball" off her face. Vincent smiled despite the situation at Yuffie's antics, then turned to Meteor. Walking forward, he perched easily on the railing, watching through the ruby eyes of Chaos. In his arms he held Cid protectively, as if something could possibly steal his life if he was not watching. The others looked at Vincent, but did not comment.

"I will not let you die...I will not. I will not add another sin to my life...I will atone...I will atone..." Vincent chanted to himself as he watched Meteor get closer and closer to Midgar. Wondering whether or not Holy had actually gone off or not, he held Cid closer. Cid was not going to die. Not while he was here. He was not going back on the decree...he would do everything in his power to protect Cid's life in exchange for saving his own. He would not let anything kill him. Not unless they killed him first.

Firelight reflected in his eyes as Meteor began methodically destroying Midgar. Barret was struck-dumb by this, and Tifa clutched Cloud's arm closer. Vincent could tell easily that Cloud's thoughts were not here, but back in the Northern Crater. What had happened while he had flown upwards?

Vincent sighed as he watched the destruction continue. He clutched Cid closer in desperation, more as a source of stress-relief then anything else. Holy had failed. The planet was doomed...everyone was going to-
Vincent focused on the green specks that were beginning to collect around Midgar. Confused, he looked to his companions for an explanation, but recieved none. He watched as it grew into trickles, then streams, then rivers of the green energy pouring forward, blocking the meteor with it's power. A blinding flash of light went through everyone and Vincent closed his eyes in pain. In that brief moment, he saw a girl with brown hair and green eyes smiling and looking at him.

~~~

He woke up to absolute stillness. That meant the Highwind had landed...but who had landed it?

Vincent looked around and changed his statement from landed to crashed. The Highwind had evidently gone out of control...but where were they? What had happened?

Well, the world was still around...so that meant Holy had worked. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"Where are we..." he heard Galian's raspy voice moan. His demons must have suffered as he did.

"The Highwind crashed." Death Gigas said simply. Chaos hissed angrily.

"What happened? Why did you retain control? Why wasn't I given control? I have such a headache now thanks to your handling of my body."

"I didn't have a choice." Vincent said mentally. He looked around. It appeared they were in some kind of Jungle. He was somewhere in the cockpit, nearly lodged underneath the desk. He tried to move, but found something weighing him down.

He looked and found that Cid remained unconcious, still in his arms. Vincent tried to remember what happened, but found his memory hazy and his cognitive skills even more so. Was anyone else around?

He looked around slowly and saw everyone else scattered in different places on the ship, still unconcious. Yuffie still had Cait Sith on her face.

Vincent tried to get up again before he remembered about Cid. He had done it...Cid was alive. He had kept his promise.

Using his claw, he gently lifted Cid off of him, moving him to one side. The gash on his chest had healed slightly which made Vincent wonder just how long everyone had been out.

He stood unsteadily, finding the Highwind was at a awkward tilt. He leaned down and picked Cid back up, holding him on his back so he could look around easier.

"This is insane! Where are we? What happened!?" Hellmasker said angrily. Vincent closed his eyes.

"I don't know. Give me some time."

Surprisingly enough, the Demons retreated for a moment. Vincent shifted Cid's weight and looked around, unsure of what he was looking for.

It was definitly a forest. A big one...and a fast growing one. He could see some vines trying to crawl onto the Highwind and he kicked them off. How long was he out? How long was everyone out?

Everyone seemed alive after a check, so Vincent was at a loss of what to do. He couldn't figure out any way to wake any of them up...perhaps it was Chaos' form that protected him from this when it had happened. Whatever this was it seemed like an enchantment of some kind...they wouldn't wake up to any amount of shaking, shouting, threatening, or lying ("Look! There's Sephiroth behind you!"). Vincent put Cid down, propping him against a wall, and sat down. He didn't know where he was, what happened, why everyone was asleep, when they would wake up, and what he should do.

"Sleep." Death Gigas said, as it usually did. However, this time, the suggestion seemed reasonable.

"I think I will..."

Vincent leaned back and wrapped himself in his cloak, noticing Cid next to him. Of them all, Cid was the only one injured. The enchantment, or whatever it was, apparently only put them to sleep.

"Don't worry, Highwind. I'll pay you back. I'll watch you, because you can't fight for yourself...I'll watch everyone."

After a good deal of work, he soon had everyone more or less within sight. Leaning back after his hard work, he looked at the pilot. His goggles had completly dissapeared, as had his jacket, apparently through the collision of the trees. Cid's hair was totally wild, no longer held back by the goggles, it flared around his head. Some of the strands that hung in his face were matted with blood from a cut on his forehead from what-seemed-like a battle from long ago. Dried blood flecked his face, although most was gone, and his clothes were ripped and torn. Numerous gashes and cuts lined his arms and the exposed areas of his legs. Vincent smirked to himself. If Cid could see himself now, no doubt he would swear enough to shatter the mirror.

The constant tilt of the Highwind made it hard to keep his balance, so Vincent moved to a corner so he was braced on both sides and closed his eyes. Cid, without the support that Vincent had been giving him by sitting next to him, slide down the deck and leaned heavily on his shoulder. Tired, weak, and exhausted, Vincent sighed and did not move, allowing Cid to sleep. He placed a claw around Cid's shoulders and stared at the sky.

"I will repay my debt to everyone...everyone...Lucrecia...Highwind...Strife...everyone. I'll watch and not let any more lives be lost. That is my duty. I owe everyone that much for the sins I have caused."

Vincent closed his crimson eyes and fell asleep, leaning his head slightly against Cid's as support.