Author's Beginning Note Thingy: I'd originally intended to end with the previous chapter, but I felt this story needed... a little more closure than that. Hehe, besides, I had some people saying this story was too short! Can you imagine? XD My writing's always so long-winded... people (teachers) always tell me to cut it down. Oh well, here's the last chapter, promise... I've been underestimating this story's length since I first estimated that the last chapter would be #12. For your reading enjoyment.

xxx

Never before had a so recently pregnant woman run so fast through such rough terrain. Lucrecia, fumbling the syringe filled with the CHAOS virus, and the Death Penalty weapon. She stumbled and slipped on the rocky paths. Thank god it was July, and the days still ended late...

Her mind was perfectly focused, thinking of nothing but to leave behind the dreaded ShinRa mansion for ever. By some fluke of luck, she found her way back to the secluded valley and lake that she and Vincent had visited together almost a year ago.

She practically fell down the wet, grassy slope. She stopped, fortunately, before the water's edge... if she'd fallen in, there would've been not only no strength, but no will to try and rescue herself.

She climbed to her feet from grass-stained knees, and torn clothes. Running around the shore of the clear, deep lake, she took a running jump, and came bursting through the sheet of water that concealed the cave entrance, and hit the ground hard, twisting an ankle.

There she lay, savoring the touch of cold rock against her sweaty skin. Being kept in that low dungeon for all the summer had been torture, and all the worse for Vincent, she was sure.

Vincent... she'd left him behind. He and Sephiroth together... the only two things she still cared about in this god-forsaken world, and they were both left in the hands, and at the mercy of Hojo. She shuddered at the thought of his name. Never before had the girl even conceived of such a perfect personification of pure evil. She had once saw him for a genius, a man who would bring great new things to the world... and that was why she endured him, and why she ultimately chose the scientist over the Turk.

Now, she looked down at her withered, bony hand... the Jenova cell treatments had done a number on her. She never felt so weak and strong all at once. She saw, in particular, the little diamond ring that Hojo had given her.

Grimacing, she let go the things she was carrying, letting the gun clatter off her chest to the floor, and the little capsule of serum roll away, as she used her now free hand to tear the jewel off her finger. Once this was done, she tossed it carelessly behind her, hearing it clink on the floor, before skidding, and finally passing through the waters into oblivion.

Wearily, she stood, taking the gun and syringe with her. Limping, she made it over to the crystalline altar, walking around the first row of shining mako, and collapsing there, leaning back on the last. It reacted with her touch even more vibrantly as it had before... she felt as if the huge jewel were draining the last bit of energy out of her... and she was obliged to let it.

She didn't want to think about what she had to do next to live. She didn't want to live... she had nothing left to live for. Vincent and Sephiroth... were gone. The girl consented to close her eyes, still tightly gripping the two artifacts from ShinRa mansion, as she drifted off into sleep.

Years and years later, Vincent awoke to a strange rapping on his coffin. If it were not for the fact that he opened his eyes to see blackness, and hear voices outside, he would've thought he'd actually died... and gone to hell. The nightmares that plagued him throughout the endless sleep, no doubt caused by the restless demons, had thoroughly convinced him of this. Instead he woke, to the scratched up inside of his tomb.

Lucrecia likewise woke similarly... she opened her eyes after... who knew how long. She couldn't tell. She didn't know what it was like to be so detached for so long. But the crystal had grown around her in the process of her sleep. For a moment, this terrified her. The inside was filled with a lukewarm liquid, and she held her breath for fear that she'd drown... but it was no use, there was no way out. Her lungs was burning, she had to inhale...

...she did... but the liquid came easily into her, like a substitute for air... it was the purest, most cleansing thing she'd ever felt... but it made something pulse within her... something that felt like a sickness rising... Jenova.

Vincent had seen her again. Against all odds, the two were reunited. It hadn't been the happiest of meetings... but it had put to rest a long-nagging worry of his. He'd lingered behind after the rest of his party had left, to talk with her a little more in-depth... he told Cid and Cloud to wait outside for him.

"Lucrecia..." he muttered, walking forward, despite her warnings to stay away.

"Vincent, please don't come near me... the lifestream is strong here, and it dislikes Jenova's presence... that's why I'm inside..." she looked down.

He nodded in understanding, and there was a silence.

"What will happen to you?" he finally asked. "What will it do to you, since you have Jenova... what about Reunion?"

"Yes, reunion... I have heard about it... thank god my baby, my Sephiroth could escape it... I'm not so lucky, I didn't die..."

He looked down... the guilt from telling her of Sephiroth's death sinking in doubly now.

"But the call is getting stronger..." she continued, "Jenova wants me very much... the mother of her son... and still, I can't come. I'm trapped here..."

He nodded.

"If the pull becomes too great, I imagine..." she gave a weak little smile, like he'd seen the last time he saw her, "...the lifestream will eat me away all together."

He looked up sharply.

"I'm already just a shell of what I was." she explained, "I can feel it... there's not much of me left. Jenova keeps me alive, the planet wants me dead."

He looked down, "Lucrecia, I'm... I couldn't..."

"Don't even start, Vincent... don't bring up the past." she shushed him, and he obeyed, immediately closing his lips. "You have to go now." she said. This made him look up again.

"Why?"

"Because your friends are waiting for you." the smile was still there.

"But you're here..."

"You've waited for me too long already, Vincent... and it wasn't even worth it... after what I did..."

"I thought you said not to bring up the past."

The smile widened, "Right... so you'd better get out of here, or else I might just keep talking..."

"We couldn't have that."

They always had the strangest spark of humor in them... even now, after all he'd been through, and even with her nightly tortures of Jenova's call. They had it, too, back in the ShinRa basement... and seeing that second smile of hers, Vincent, reliable as always, gave in.

"But when this is all over... Lucrecia, I will come back for you."

"All right. I think I can manage that. I'll wait for you, right here, if I can."

"I won't say goodbye..." Vincent began, having already turned to walk away. He paused at the threshold of the waterfall, seeing the distorted figures of his two blonde companions waiting around outside, glad that the rushing sound of water on rock blotted out anything he said. "I'll say... see you next time." he took one last glance at Lucrecia over his shoulder, "Which is good, because last time, we didn't even get that."

He did come back for her, as he'd given his word to do. He went alone, the next time the group was near Nibelheim... leaving in the night, his path lit by the full moon, and the blazing fire of Meteor. He climbed into the mountains, following the path to the lake. The gunman edged around the shore, his long hair flying in the nighttime wind. He slipped inside, eyes turned immediately to the pillar of materia in the far end. Lucrecia was there, standing... no, floating in the liquid within the crystal, her body limp, pale and lifeless... so she was dead then.

"No..." he choked. The man took off, running up to her, and leaping over the first few rows of crystal, touching down in front of her. He put his hands on the smooth glassy surface. It glowed slightly, illuminating her angelic form within.

He looked up helplessly... he was too late. Too late in returning for her... too late in killing Sephiroth, probably her last chance at life. Now there was nothing. Not even the planet had saved her... she was innocent! It was not her fault she was infected by Jenova.

He slid down to his knees, resting his head forward on the rock. Something strange off to one side glinting in the mako-given light. Weakly, he sat up, and leaned over, reaching out... he pulled from the shadowy corner, a familiar dusty gun, and a familiar dusty little needle.

He smirked, "CHAOS... I wonder if I'm ready yet." without a second thought, he stabbed it right through the fabric of his pants, and into his leg. Wincing, he injected the liquid into himself. A searing heat flared up... nothing out of the ordinary. He staggered back, away from Lucrecia... he wouldn't let this new demon desecrate her grave. He felt it fighting for control... it wanted to come forward... but no... not here. He wouldn't let it defile this purified place, this sacred place.

This thought in mind, thinking of Lucrecia always made the demons calm down, for the first time, he was able to hold back the power of the new presence within him. Then again, before, he'd been drugged, and feeble... no doubt it would be harder to restrain them.

The man smirked bitterly, as he sat back down, taking out his current gun, Outsider. He began to replace materia from it, into the Death Penalty, and as he did so, muttered beneath his breath, "I won."

Hojo's death was a sweet, sweet revenge... one Vincent had long been looking for. The very thought of it made his demon residents thirst for blood... and in the fight, he'd been crazed, even his own party members, he noticed, stepped back, and didn't dare interfere with one of his attacks.

He saw the scientist grow weak during the battle, staring fearfully, however, still defiantly up at him as he lowered the gun to his head for the final blow. But no... this wasn't revenge... at least, not the purest form of revenge. To taste it best, he would...

Vincent let himself go. He succumbed to the final transformation, which he'd never felt before. This, surprisingly, was the very least painful... his body hadn't been altered at all, for the most part. His skin bubbled black, claws extended out of his hands and feet. Fangs elongated in his mouth, and his eyes shifted to mere catlike slits.

The final stage, wings sprouted from his back, with a scream he felt himself fly into the air, the creature that was CHAOS now in complete control. Vincent's last thought as he disappeared into the darkness: "To be killed by his own creation."

When he awoke later, lying prone on the ground, he saw the mangled body of Hojo lying not far from him. CHAOS had done a thorough job, and he was even grateful he hadn't been there to see it. But one way or another, the deed was done.

After their little quest to save the world was fulfilled, Vincent returned to Nibelheim to mourn. He visited Lucrecia often, and as always, resided in the now even more dilapidated ShinRa mansion.

One day, he even ventured into his old room, on a whim that maybe his old flute was still there... his eyes fell on a curious relic, sitting on the nightstand in between the two beds. After all this time, the rose was still there, but nothing more was left of it than a shriveled, dried up shell. He approached it, reaching out with his left hand, and stroking a single petal oh-so-gently with the very tip of his claw. It crumbled away with his touch.