.: A Rose By Any Other Name :.

dedicated to Vincent Valentine; the tortured soul.

If you like this style of story, you might enjoy my dramatic romance novels 'Daddy's Girl' or 'Searching for Sara' located at my original fiction website.

Author's Note: This story has, understandably, always been close to my heart. Not only was it the third fanfic I wrote, it also involved my favorite VGC. I never tire of reading this story. Nor do I tire of imagining sequels or continuations. Often I have wondered why I couldn't continue the story for my Vincent. After all, there is the gap between the epilogue and the final chapter. Then there is, also, the backstory possibility to more fully explain the person that is Professor Natalie Long. And what of Cloud and Tifa? Do they marry? Do they move to Midgar? Do they help Vincent and Natalie with their future plans? I hope that, with all these futures waiting to be told, I might one day take up this story to yet again add some delicious chapters to its adventure...

The characters within this story and the world they live in are the property of SQUARE- Enix®. They are used without permission (though I would love to have permission) and not to be seen as my property. The character of Professor Natalie Long is my own creation. She is not to be used without permission.

.: I -- A Plea for Sleep :.

"...Let me sleep."

Natalie sat back from the coffin with a gasp. Then she set her rose lips into a thin line and pushed her shoulder-length auburn curls from her face. Her green eyes sparkled. "I don't think so, Mr. Valentine. I've been looking for you too long to turn away now."

Natalie leaned forward to give the lid a tug, startling backward when the cover flew off to smash against the bedrock wall. It dropped onto one of the other crypts, causing a cringe. A man clothed in black with a red cape rose from the coffin to perform a graceful back-flip midair before remaining suspended.

He stared down at her with intensely glowing red eyes. "Who are you?"

Natalie gulped hard, again brushing her tousled curls from her face. Her eyes took in his raven black hair and partially hidden but handsome face. "I'm-- My name is Natalie Long." She sat up, stomach and soul leaping with the possibility... "Vincent? Vincent Valentine?"

An eyebrow twitched. "Why did you wake me?"

"I..." Natalie cleared her throat. "I've been wanting to meet you for a long time." She rolled her eyes. Now's your chance, Nat. Don't botch it with flimsy answers like that!

Vincent's expression didn't change. "Let me sleep. I must atone." With that, he completed a full somersault and disappeared into the coffin. The lid clattered back into place.

"Wait! Can we talk? I have questions for you." Natalie scurried forward to pry the lid free yet again. It did the same fierce smack against the wall, but she jumped a little less. When he rose from the coffin this time, his expression showed strained irritation. "I don't mean to bother you, really, it's just... well... I wanted to ask some questions--"

"Your questions have no meaning for me. Go." Vincent withdrew back into the coffin.

Natalie scowled, long-fingered hands on slender hips. "For goodness sake." She stood to her feet and dusted off her jeans and shirt. "It would have been nice if you gave me a little more time to impress." She released a quick breath and shrugged. "Oh well. Maybe later."

Natalie moved toward the door, but something made her look back. She gave a slow smile and turned, leaning against the door as she crossed her arms. Then she chuckled softly, kicking at the ground with the toe of her hiking boot.

"I suppose I'll control my normal tendency toward irritating persistence and let you have your way," she said, not caring if he heard/listened or not. "But I will introduce myself." Natalie raised her green-eyed gaze from the ground as she absently brushed an auburn curl behind an ear. "As I said before, my name's Natalie Long. I'm a scientist. An archeologist, actually. A lover of mysteries and challenges alike."

Natalie adjusted her position against the door. "As a child I always loved hearing stories of buried treasure. It thrilled me to think I might actually solve a mystery and find a treasure, or something similar. That love grew to a fascination with histories of lost and unknown civilizations. In fact, I worked with the team that excavated Bone Village. I also participated in the cataloguing and stenciling of the Temple of the Ancients near Gongaga. Fascinating people. I truly enjoyed myself."

She uncrossed her arms and stepped forward, lowering herself to sit on the floor in the center of the room. "My reports and articles written on the project were popular. Selling thousands of copies, in fact. Maybe you've read one? In any case, they caught the eye of Shinra Corporation."

Natalie sighed, drawing her knees to her chest to wrap her arms around them. She rested her chin on her knees. "That is the reason I'm here now, and I know what you're thinking," she said as her eyes focused on the immobile and unwelcoming crypt. "'She's likely on their payroll.' But I never cared for big corporations. They have a tendency of being too stifling, and they usually have too many restrictions and regulations to suit me. Of course, you understand about that, don't you?"

Natalie absently smiled up at the black coffin, stretching her legs out in front of her to lean back on her hands. Then her smile wavered and vanished. "Sorry. Tangent. Where was I? Oh. Why I'm here. Right. I'm here at what people call 'Shinra Mansion' because of something I discovered about a scientist who used to work for the sprawling corporation. Gene splicing, interspecies breeding, DNA alteration, and forced experimentation to name but a few. True, much of it's unprecedented and what I would label bizarre, but I didn't want to be hasty and dismiss it. I am a scientist. Research is what we do."

Silence pressed in on Natalie, making her uncomfortable as she adjusted her hands and legs. She cleared her throat. And why did you do this Research? the silence seemed to ask. What pulled and tugged and consumed your interest, dragging you here? What desire forces you to spend more time with the dead than the living?

Natalie cleared her throat again as she stood to her feet, brushing the dirt and dust from her pants and hands yet again. "Research. Yes. I guess you could say that brought me here. That's why I wanted to talk to you. To ask questions. To find answers that Shinra hid away. To do my best to find the one answer I want."

Natalie again raised her gaze from the ground to the coffin. "It took a lot of time and effort to find where Shinra hid you. Their files have only just been declassified. That is how I discovered that Shinra had..." Natalie pressed her lips together and lowered her gaze again. "Shinra tossed you aside as if you had no importance at all. I suppose Shinra never did see the worth of a person. They cared only for Mako and the money that came from controlling it."

Natalie released a deep breath. She looked up. "Now that Shinra is no longer an issue, life has been a bit more bearable. People have found their self-respect, and that attitude is spreading like wildfire. I suppose it helps that Mako production is outlawed and Materia hoarding taboo..." Natalie suddenly smiled, releasing an embarrassed chuckle. "Sorry. Tangent. I have a tendency toward running after those. Bad habit. Where was I? Oh. Questions."

Natalie cleared her throat. "I'm planning an article on the progress the planet has made since Materia was put back into the Lifestream. I would like to talk to quite a few people in order to get the information. Not my favorite activity, but it's for a good cause. At least it will be over soon and I can go to the fossilized remains they discovered outside Mt. Nibel. Maybe then I can concentrate on my work. I've already sent word for your friends to come here to Nibelheim. I wanted to check up on their plans, see what and how they're doing, and see if I could help. I also hoped I could ask... well... I hoped I could ask some questions about... you, and Hojo, and the experiments."

Natalie released a deep breath. "I know. It's a touchy subject, and I'm sorry. I understand if you'd rather not. I just thought you should know why I was traipsing in here, stomping around and bothering coffins and asking annoying questions." She smiled, her green eyes sparkling. "Thank you for at least listening, Mr. Valentine. I appreciate it."

Natalie made her way to the door, opening it and stepping through to close it slowly behind her. Before it had closed the entire way, she whispered, "I'll be back, Vincent. Sleep well."