for imadrablue (LJ), who requested "Vincent/Cloud -- Post-AC -- Weakness is what makes one strong." quote inspired by the movie Batman Begins.

Why do we fall down?

It is the sound of his voice he hears first, soft and monotone and knowledgeable, a gentle muttering of his name so close to his ear that the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and stand at attention to the chilly curl of breath that is rushing along his skin from the movement of the air around his body. Without turning around, he knows who is standing there. A familiarity, a sense of understanding and mutual agreement that has been between them from the beginning – you know Sephiroth? – lingers between them like a thread, tying them together indefinitely. He thinks that they will be the last ones left, when it comes down to that. He feels it is true deep in the dead cells that float about in his body like dead ice around the Northern Continent.

Cloud stands with his back to the mouth of the cave, a gaping beast's jaw that erupts from the earth around it and screams its echoing dirge of rushing water up into the night sky. The ground is solid and cool beneath him – he feels the chill in his body more so than on his flesh.

"It's over, then." A statement that is said around blood concealed lips, cloth that flutters like the wings of a great bat behind him, flap-flap in the breeze. Cloud does not respond verbally to this, as is his nature now – you've always been shy, haven't you, kid? – rather, he nods his head, and the reckless spikes of his hair dance in the breeze, threatening, to his discomfort, to fall into his eyes. He ignores them, and, instead, focuses his senses on the man behind him who he will not turn to face.

That is in the past, his mind chides him, a voice that is all his own now. That is in the past. That was when it was necessary and there was nothing else but Connections keeping him around (Tifa, Vincent, Aeris, Zack – that's all they ever were: connections keeping in him one piece; the glue that held 'him' together, the lines that drew him out).

"Yeah." There is a fluttering of bats' wings behind him, and he feels the breeze against his flesh once more, closer now, ruffling his hair just a bit, his skin prickling in fresh gooseflesh along the back of his neck. "I think I found what I was looking for."

It is Vincent's turn not to answer. They stand near each other with the thoughts of the past in their heads, the beast's mouth-cave screaming its song of mourning into the night, the flutter-flap-snap of bats' wings around them.

It is Vincent who breaks the silence.

"Why do we fall down?" He asks, calmly, in perfect seriousness, the wind seeming quieter now: his voice is the only thing Cloud can hear. For a moment, he does not know what Vincent is talking about – then it occurs to him, a beat of moth's wings in the back of his mind, a flutter of a memory, of a mother, warm and loving and foreign and unwanted, arms about him, holding him to her breast, whispering to his scraped knees: why do we fall down, Cloud? Why do we fall down?

"It's so we can learn to pick ourselves up again." His voice is even softer, but it sounds so terribly loud now that the dirge behind them has gurgled into a blood-choked, momentary silence.

"It's so we can learn to pick ourselves up again." Vincent repeats, as if he has made a grand discovery, the other half of a mystery that has been plaguing his mind, pulling at his thoughts, finally solved.

Connections: the glue holding the fragments of something from the past together.