Yo! Okay, here's the sitch: first off, I haven't gone and abandoned anything, but I've got something like...eight FFVII fics in the works, and this one got the prologue done first. Charli isn't meant to be a representation of anyone, and she may OR may not find romance during her stay. Please remember, this is a mainly Cid/Vincent thing. Really. She's just here to...help things along, and make an attempt at keeping Ren odear out of everyone's hair. Ciao!
It always turned out, Vincent thought fiercely, that whenever he did something that his companions weren't used to, everyone was paying attention. Like just now, when he'd sneezed. All five of his companions gave him funny looks.

"Are you okay Vinny?" Yuffie wanted to know.

"Yes." He answered. Ignoring her and not answering wasn't an option, because she was sheltering under his cloak from the heavy sleet and was therefore too close to ignore. And she knew that his ribs were sensitive, a fact she had discovered when trying to get him out a windowsill. Yuffie plus information like that meant that the ninja had a decidedly unfair advantage over him.

The truth was, he didn't feel okay. He was more or less soaked through, and he had a headache. Add a sore throat and a Yuffie under his cloak, and it all summed up to a most definitely not okay Vincent. But, of course, he wasn't going to tell Yuffie that. Never.

When they reached the Highwind, Reno had hot cider ready and waiting for them. Joy. Vincent had completely forgotten about the redhead, who they were supposed to be keeping out of Rufus's hair for a while. Still, the cider was hot, which was a welcome thought after dealing with the crazy weather outside. He accepted a mug, and sipped. This turned out to be a bad idea. The cider stung his throat, and made him choke and sputter. Once again, everyone turned to look at him.

"You okay?" Cloud asked.

"Fine." Vincent growled, and retreated to one of the two couches in the living room/social gathering place thingy. (Yuffie's name for it)

"If I didn't know better, I'd say he didn't actually mean that." Reno said softly, eyeing Vincent over the rim of his mug.

"He didn't." The woman standing behind him murmured. Cloud jumped.

"Who're you?" He asked quickly. She laughed.

"Backup. I've been sent to help out in thanks for keeping Reno occupied. I'm Charlotte Wolfsbane. Call me Charli." She was on the tall side, at least four inches over Cloud's five feet six, and built on strong lines rather than the usual willowy woman's form. Her shoulders were broad, for a girl, with muscular arms and big hands. She was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt, with work boots. Her hairstyle was just as sensible as the rest of her; it was reddish brown, streaked with lighter strands, and restrained in a messy braid, the tail of which had been tucked into the rubber band holding it.

"Help out?" Cloud repeated.

"Yep. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it." Reno snickered, and she glared at him. "Not that way, you little freak." Reno pulled away from her, covering his mouth with his free hand in an attempt to stifle his laughter.

"Like what?" Cid asked. "Do ya specialize in something?"

"Mechanics. I can cook when I have to, and I can sew."

"Sounds good to me. I could use help with maintenance." Somewhere out of sight, Reno cracked up. Charli rolled her eyes.

"Honestly, that pesky carrot-top is asking for it. Shall I?"

"Don't bother." Cid said. "Cloud just went."


"What did you mean by that?"

"By what?"

"You said that Vincent didn't mean what he said."

"Exactly what it sounded like. He wasn't telling the truth."

"How could you tell?"

"Well, he hesitated before answering, for one, and he almost missed the stairs."

"I didn't even notice." Cid murmured. A quick check into the common room showed him a pair of boots and long legs sticking out from an armchair. Apparently, Vincent had moved. He tiptoed down the four steps and approached the gunman warily. He knew from prior experience that treating Vincent like he would attack at any moment when he was in a bad mood was a good idea. He needn't have bothered. Vincent was sound asleep, his half-empty cider mug sitting on the floor beside him. Charli followed him, and leaned over his shoulder to look. "Does he look a little…flushed to you?"

"Yeah…a bit. Hang on, lemme check." Charli reached around him, and Cid grabbed for her hand. If she woke Vincent up, they were both screwed! "Calm down, flyboy. I won't wake him."

"You'd better not."

"Mmhm." Charli carefully slid Vincent's headband up, then pressed the back of her hand to the exposed skin. "He's got a low fever." She murmured. Cid stared at her while she replaced the headband.

"You're sure it wasn't just warmer under the headband?"

"I was just holding a mug of cider, which makes my hand warmer than it should be. Therefore, even if your point is true, which it probably was, I'd still be able to make a pretty accurate guess."

"Are you a mechanic or a doctor?"

"More like tomboy-of-all-work. I deal with Reno on a regular basis, remember? He's a double-handful of work."

"What should we do about Vin?" Cid asked.

"I say let him sleep. He probably needs it, and I'm not gonna be the one to wake him up. Show me around the ship? Reno pointed out kitchen and common room, and that was it."

"Why not. Follow me."