Cloud pulled Vincent out of the waterfall, somewhat clumsily, though he didn't care that he'd gotten wet. Outside was waiting a gold chocobo, plumage shimmering in the light.
"I... wasn't sure I'd find you here..." he explained while tugging him along toward the bird, "...so I only brought one."
"That's all right." Vincent said, watching him get up on top of the animal, which didn't seem to mind at all. Once settled, he looked back down and held out a hand yet again, which the gunman smiled and took, getting himself seated carefully behind Cloud on the chocobo. It fluffed it's feathers slightly, and shook a little in protest to the extra unwanted weight, but when the blonde pulled the reigns, it started off at a slow trot.
They were fairly silent on the path through the mountains, Cloud carefully planning out his idea, Vincent content just to be where he was right now, out in the sun compared to the dim cave, and in such close proximity to... well, one of the ones he loved, but more importantly, the one who was alive.
When they turned off the path Vincent had expected them to take, and continued on through the mountains, he carefully surveyed the area, finding it quite foreign... he didn't know where he was. The ex-Turk slowly leaned forward, and glanced at the swordsman from over his shoulder, "Where are we going?" he quietly inquired.
"You'll see." Cloud answered, apparently quite pleased with himself and his secrecy.
Vincent merely sighed and shook his head, leaning back again... if the man was taking so much pleasure in leaving him in the dark, so be it... whatever they were doing, it couldn't be bad right? Right? When they finally emerged from the hills, and had moved across a small valley, a small town came into sight, nestled at the feet of another set of mountains on the other side. It appeared to be made of, tents and rubble, mostly.
"Corel?" the gunman questioned unsurely, "Why are we going here?"
"I said you'll see!" Cloud said stubbornly, "Stop asking questions… or else I'll slip up and tell you, and will ruin the surprise." Vincent frowned. He was not getting a good feeling at all out of how giddy the man seemed to be. It reminded him of the time when Cloud was still Zack. Not that it was bad that he was happy, but it was a side seldom seen in the ex-Soldier.
They tied up the chocobo outside of town, and walked in among the rubble along an all too familiar path to the only part of Corel that was decently intact: the Tram station.
"Oh, we're not..." Vincent hissed.
"We are." Cloud couldn't help but smile.
"You know I hate that place..." the gunman looked at the swordsman with what came closest, for him, to pleading eyes.
"No..." Cloud began, a slight frown creasing his brow, "...actually, I didn't."
Vincent sighed, and looked away, "This had better be good, Strife..." he grumbled, "I banned myself from the presence of Lucrecia forever, and my only reward is you taking me to the Gold Saucer?" Nevertheless, they were already getting on, and as the door shut, the chopping sound of the propellers started up.
"Well, if you don't like it, you don't have to ban yourself forever." came a slightly annoyed answer.
"I am a man of my word, Strife... I trusted your judgment, promised I'd never return, and it looks like I've been shortchanged." despite himself there was a slight amusement in his tone.
"Vincent?" came Cloud's voice again, as he turned from staring out the window at the ground, now far below, to look at the gunman, who likewise looked up and met the mercenary's eye.
"It's been four years since we joined up on the quest for Sephiroth together, and in a way I've known you all my life..." he began, turning yet again to glance at the sun setting in the sky on the horizon out the window, "...would it kill ya to call me Cloud?"
Vincent merely blinked, then shook his head slowly, "Whatever you say." he agreed.
Cloud sighed somewhat frustratedly and leaned back. As far as he remembered, Vincent had only bothered to use his first name on one occasion... and that one occasion was while he was slightly drunk. Which of course led the ex-Soldier to believe that Vincent probably didn't remember.
The sound of the propellers died down, and the two sat up, neither quite realizing that the short distance had been bridged so fast. The door slid open, and the two walked out into the brightly lit, multicolored complex that was the station of the Gold Saucer. And that same annoying song was blaring on repeat over the radios again: Da da da danana da da danana na na na nananananana... and so on and so forth...
"I hope you have GP and a member's pass, or else this will be a short and unpleasant visit." Vincent looked over at Cloud as they approached the woman standing by the entrance.
"Yeah, yeah, I have it. All of it." he frowned a little, flashing his Gold Ticket as he passed by, so that the woman who had come forward to ask for it, stopped, and went back to her spot. "Keep an open mind about this, Vincent, please…" he looked at him unblinkingly for a moment, before turning and leading the two of them into the main entrance, "Just trust me, you'll enjoy yourself."
Vincent sighed, but decided to give Cloud the benefit of the doubt. He didn't say anything more, a little apprehensive about perhaps treading on the man's confidence, or otherwise disheartening him.
The two jumped down the selected chute, and were spit out in a graveyard at the bottom of a long winding path toward a creaky mansion.
"Tell me we're not staying the night." Vincent protested, unable to help himself despite the fact that he realized he'd been doing a lot of complaining.
"It's late already, and we haven't even done what I planned to get done yet." Cloud sighed, "Come on, I promise you'll like it." he murmured, obviously already faltering in his decision to come here.
The gunman was now silent. From so long being with him, he knew when the swordsman was beginning to second-guess himself. And despite the fact that he really didn't have much faith Cloud's idea, he didn't want to not do it, at this point. He followed the man up to the inn. They got a room, and Cloud ran up there to drop off a few things he'd been carrying. Supplies, mainly, that he'd been reluctant to leave in Corel with the chocobo.
"All right." he came jogging back down the stairs, rubbing his hands together, determination apparently rejuvenated, "Now close your eyes."
Vincent paused. "...what?"
Cloud sighed, "Do I have to repeat it?"
"No... please... you can't be serious..." the gunman pleaded.
Silence was his only reply.
With a heavy sigh, Vincent squeezed his eyelids shut... only because Cloud was acting so... excited, was it? Excited and nervous. And more than that. As if he had the whole thing planned out in his head for weeks and weeks, and wanted it to go just as perfectly as he'd first envisioned it. He knew that feeling. That was perhaps the only reason he was complying with all of these ridiculous requests.
The gunman's body tensed nervously as he felt careful hands place themselves cautiously on his shoulders. "Allright, I'll lead you along, okay?" Cloud asked to confirm his cooperation.
"I don't have much of a choice." the ex-Turk murmured.
He felt his hair blown slightly as the mercenary sighed. They started off. Slowly, and carefully. Vincent shuffling his way down the winding path to the gravestones that would inevitably drop them into a long winding tube which would spit them out at the place of Cloud's choosing.
The closer they got, the faster the man was pushing him, faster than he'd have liked to go... But despite this, he soon got used to it... not a trip or a stumble, probably at least somewhat in part to his own excellent balance, but he preferred to think that it was just because of Cloud watching out for him. He hid a smile... he was returning that favor after all this time.
"We're going down now." he heard the man's voice from behind him. He left a hand on Vincent's back, while leaning forward and reaching out to touch the proper gravestone with the other. As usual, his heart jumped into his throat as they fell, but as usual, they landed on their feet at the bottom... wherever they were.
Cloud glanced at the Lady in the small booth. She opened her mouth to greet them, but he quickly pressed a finger to his lips. She blinked, glancing confusedly between him and Vincent, then slowly nodded. He walked the ex-Turk forward, and silently handed her the appropriate amount of money.
"This way..." he cooed softly, sliding him through a doorway, just barely without knocking him into it. "Sit down." he instructed, aligning the gunman with a chair near a window. As Vincent groped around blindly in an almost comical fashion, before sitting slowly on the seat he was not positive was actually there, Cloud settled down across from him.
"Cloud... May I, please?" Vincent asked, frowning pointing a finger towards his eyes.
"Not quite yet..." he responded.
The ex-Turk was about to sigh, when whatever room they were in took off moving, and a look of evident surprise came over his face, "Cloud... we're moving..." he mentioned, puzzled.
"Yeah, and you can almost open your eyes."
An explosion rang out like a gunshot right next to them, and the usually calm gunman jumped in his seat, grimacing, mostly in part to being deprived one of his senses. His look, and he didn't even need his eyes to say it, read 'What is going on?'
Cloud smirked... he'd put him out of his torture now. "You can open your eyes..."
Vincent gladly did as he was told, and began to speak, but his words were stolen away after another loud bang. His eyes wandered to the window, and he leaned forward to look out. The wide red irises were stained with a vivid purple as sparks flew through the dark sky.
"Fireworks..." he mumbled, almost disbelievingly. His eyes darted down to see the ground far below, as their little gondola moved along on the wire.
The swordsman nodded, "Yeah. Like Aeris and I saw four years ago. Like you said you and Lucrecia saw from Cosmo Canyon... thirty four years ago. I thought you deserved to get an updated version from up close."
There was no answer. The gunman merely looked out the window, his normally stoic and frown-creased face now holding the innocence of a child's as he took in the spectacular sights...
...from literally within the fireworks show, his pupils darted around to follow the blazing trails of orange that cut through the darkness, the dazzling reds that burned the sky, the glimmering showers of emerald sparks that fell down toward the ground like a fountain...
The two were entirely silent throughout the experience. Cloud's whole face resonated with a smile, as he watched the man in front of him, whose eyes were on the light, and the light alone, the little ember bursts within the shadows that popped and lit up everything they touched with a magically beautiful glow.
The gondola slowed, stopping just before the station where it came to rest again, parking itself before the grand finale. Rockets shot into the air, shimmering gold crackled in the sky. There wasn't an inch of night that wasn't illuminated by the end. The smoke settled heavy around the amusement park as they climbed out of their seats. Cloud followed Vincent as he walked over to the rail at the edge of the balcony by the station. His cloak billowed even in the very slight breeze, and he would not take his eyes off the last dying glow as still-flaming pieces of paper fell to the ground beneath.
As the darkness once more settled in, he turned around to face Cloud, reaching, taking, and gently squeezing his hand, while giving him a truly, genuine smile. "Thank you." he breathed, the phrase so saturated with deeper meaning...
"Aren't you glad now?" Cloud whispered, "Knowing what you could have missed?"
The smile spread a little wider, and he came closer, still holding tight to that hand. "Let's go."
Author's Ending Note Thingy: Written for you all on the 4th of July! I'm a little fireworks obsessive, in case nobody could tell, and there's no way I can accurately capture their amazingness… but I try.