©®™ Lt. Commander Richie

((Disclaimer: If I never claimed it in the first place, how can I disclaim it?))

Chapter 1

There was a storm raging outside, torrents of rain crashing down upon the roof of the ShinRa Mansion he resided in. The occasional flash of lightning made shadows of the windows on the floor of the hallway he was walking down. He had first been alerted to the presence of a living creature larger than a mouse when his door had flung open, smashing against the wall next to it and rebounding. When he had made it there, there were what looked like wet paw prints on the floor.

When he had gotten the door closed was when he had heard the whimpering. At first it was coming from the kitchen, but once he had gotten there Vincent was sure he was hearing it coming from the basement stairwell. That one had been a bad guess as well, but now he was sure he heard it coming from the master bedroom. Slowly and quietly he made his way along the hall, only pausing once to reload his gun. He slowly opened the door, wincing slightly at the creak, and made his way inside.

Now Vincent was a cautious man, brought on by Turk training and various battles alongside his team members in Avalanche. But there's a fine line between cautious and skittish, and when the breeze blew the door shut he promptly snapped around and aimed his gun at the door. There was a squeak of terror somewhere in the room, it was small and would have been nearly unnoticed by anyone but him. He once more brought his gun close, pulling back the hammer with his thumb and creeping around the side of the large red-sheeted bed.

A small black creature sat huddled next to the base of the headboard, between the nightstand and the sheets, and the gunslinger quickly aimed his weapon at it. But what surprised him was what the creature did next. It raised its head, revealing taut pale skin with large eyes and a tiny nose. It was a little girl, probably only six, malnourished and clad in rags of black clothing. Her bottom lip quivering, she stared down the gun's barrel.

"Please don't hurt me." She whispered, trying to shrink back farther into the shadows between the nightstand and the bed. Vincent quickly holstered his gun and got down on one knee, hiding his golden claw behind him and reaching out to the little girl with his human hand.

"I'm not going to hurt you, little one." He assured, in a soft voice that he usually only used with Marlene. The little girl only took the sudden motion as incentive to bundle herself tighter into the corner she had forced herself into. She slowly opened one eye, it was bright blue and clear as a sunny day, but brimmed with tears.

"Mumma always said not to talk to strangers." The little girl whimpered, and for a second Vincent was puzzled by the child's use of the past tense. The it dawned on him, the little girl was an orphan. He retracted his arm and placed it on his knee.

"My name is Vincent. Vincent Valentine." He said, trying to gain the little girl's trust. As soon as he got her out of that corner, he would get Tifa on the line and ask for assistance. He had no clue when it came to children. Both eyes were in view this time, and the gunslinger noted that the girl had a slight cut across her forehead.

"I'm Mira." The little girl answered. She pulled her face completely from her arms, exposing her thin face to him. It was then that Vincent noticed, startled and appalled, that her eyes were glowing just ever-so-slightly. She was six and Mako-infused? Had she escaped from one of Hojo's sick experiments? The little girl reached out with one thin rag-covered arm for Vincent's previously-extended arm, and he gently reached forward and took her tiny hand in his large gloved one. He lifted Mira to her feet gently, almost like he was afraid of breaking the poor twig of a girl's arm.

The little twig of a girl swayed gently on bare feet, grasping onto Vincent's hand with both of her own. Long black hair stuck to her back in chunks, small broken bits and burnt ends sticking out at odd angles. She was tiny, now that Vincent saw her properly, and she looked to be no more than five at the most.

"Do you have any family?" Vincent asked softly. The little girl shook her head, closing her large blue Mako eyes.

"Mumma went to sleep, she's been asleep for a long time now." Mira said, sniffling a bit. She looked up at Vincent a moment later, though, her eyes wide open and brimming with tears. The little girl blinked, two fat drops falling down her thin cheeks. Vincent slowly stood up from his crouched position on the floor, feeling a few vertebra snap back into place.

"I slept for a long time, too." Vincent said, hoping that the girl would somehow be cheered by his words. She nodded solemnly, blinking a few times to get the tears from her eyes. Vincent began slowly steering her out from behind the bed and towards the door while he talked.

"You woke up, though." Mira said, looking up at the gunslinger. He considered telling her that no, he had been woken rather rudely by a Kleptomaniac named Yuffie, but only for a moment.

"Yes," Vincent paused for a moment before continuing, "I woke up."

Yes, people, I plan on continuing this. Now, before I forget... -bow- Sumimasen, gomen asai, Jinxeh! You are the inspiration that spawned this! I bow to your greatness!