Random idea I had after playing Dirge of Cerberus. The ending gave me an idea. If Chaos was what kept Vincent alive, what would happen to him now that Chaos is gone? Mild spoilers for Dirge of Cerberus, mind you. Nothing major though.


Rating: Umm… T for language, mostly. We all know Cid and Barret have potty mouths.

Pairings: Nothing really… maybe a hint of Vincent/Cloud, but pretty much at a platonic level. If ya wanna see it as Vin/Cloud, be my guest. If ya don't, that's totally cool..


Disclaimer: FFVII doesn't belong to me. Y'hear that, Squenix? It's all yours. ALL OF IT.


Running out of Time, Chapter One.


It was nothing, really. Nobody noticed at first. Nobody DID notice for the longest time. Maybe if someone had, things would have turned out differently.


Vincent scowled at his reflection in the mirror. It wasn't the morning light. There was definitely a strand of silver in his hair. Of course, he knew what was happening. He just hadn't expected the situation to begin deteriorating so RAPIDLY. Sighing, he reached to pick up his gun holster. Then he hesitated. Rather than strapping it to the customary position on his right leg, he pondered leaving it on the table, for once. There really wasn't any need to carry it today. There wasn't any threat looming over Gaia at the moment. But that didn't keep him from jumping at shadows.

With a silent grace at odds with the ungainly appearance of his boots, Vincent left the gun on the table after a moment's debate. He slowly walked down the corridor to the stairs that led to the first floor of the 7th Heaven Bar. He wasn't sure why he'd let Cloud talk him into coming to their little get-together. The whole group was there, with the exception of Reeve, who was busy attending to some other matters. Something to do with the corporation, no doubt. But he'd sent Cait Sith No. 7 in his place. Vincent glanced around the large room with a dour expression on his face. It was a mistake coming here. It would be nearly impossible to avoid getting into a conversation with somebody in the semi-crowded room. He began pacing silently to a more secluded spot.

Vincent stumbled at a sudden twinge in his chest… the scar from Rosso's unanticipated assault on him had been aching lately. Cloud caught his eye from the corner, a silent inquiry. What's up? Vincent shook his head. It's nothing. But now Vincent was worried.

It wasn't anything profound; on the contrary- it was little things he was beginning to notice. Things that shouldn't be happening. Things out of place. A paper cut that wouldn't heal. This sudden fatigue. The twinge in his chest. The silver hair. Things that wouldn't be noticeable to someone on the outside, but they added up to something very wrong with him. The only thing that was PERHAPS understandable was the fatigue… though, without the constant strain on his mind caused by Chaos, he should have been experiencing the opposite effect. And yet… he supposed he did have a certain right to be tired. Unlike the other group members (with the exception of Cloud), he'd been fighting a lot longer than the rest of the lot. Being a Turk amounted to a life full of stress and dying young. He had escaped that fate, but only through twisted means. But he was even older than Cid. True, his body had the appearance of a man in his twenties, but in truth, Vincent was pushing sixty. He had a right to be tired.

But not this tired.

He blinked as he realized he had just zoned out. Cloud was gesturing with increasing impatience for Vincent to join him at the table in the back corner. With a heavy sigh, he (almost) woefully altered his trajectory. This conversation was inescapable; it'd be better to get it out of the way NOW, not later when everyone else might overhear.

He sat down facing the blonde swordsman, returning his blue eyed scrutiny impassively before finally growling a muffled, "What? Do I have something on my face?"

Cloud shook his head, glancing up briefly as the door opened and Shelke walked in.

"No… but something's up," he muttered. "…With you," he clarified. "You gonna tell me, or am I gonna have to dig it outta you on my own?"

Vincent averted his gaze. "It's nothing."

Cloud snorted. "That's bullshit, and you know it. You don't stumble. You never stumble. Though, I don't see how you can even WALK in those shoes of yours," he muttered the last more to himself than for Vincent's benefit. "Vince, you don't look so good, either. You're pale. More than usual, I mean."

Vincent scowled at that. "Am I? Huh. That's damn observant of you. So, what… you're keeping tabs on me now?" He turned back to face Cloud, suddenly hostile. "I'm not made out of glass, Cloud. You should leave well enough alone. It's none of your concern. I'm not going to break."

Cloud just met his gaze with troubled eyes and whispered, "But aren't you? That's what this is about, isn't it?" His eyes flickered away, resting thoughtfully on the form of Shelke for a moment. The girl… no, woman. She was twenty, he had to keep reminding himself… was in an animated (or at least, animated for Shelke) conversation with Tifa.

Vincent opened his mouth to reply, but words failed him. He hadn't been expecting that response. Finally, he shook his head. "I don't know. Not anymore."

Cloud frowned before whispering again, "… it is my concern, Vincent. You're my friend. Friends don't let friends hurt themselves. Or each other."

Vincent blinked in surprise and confusion. "But I'm not…"

Cloud shook his head, cutting him off with a glare. "Yeah, Vincent, you ARE! You're hurting yourself by withdrawing to the point of seclusion. And that's not all. You're hurting US, too. How do you think we feel, not hearing from you in a YEAR after the Deepground crisis, huh? I woulda thought you'd care enough to let us know how you're doing! And as it turns out, you're NOT doing fine. Now, what the hell is going on?"

Vincent smiled; it was more a baring of teeth than anything else. "Truth is, Cloud, I don't know. But I'll keep you informed if there are any changes; how's that?"

Cloud scowled. "Not good enough, but I guess that's all I'm gonna get out of you, for now, isn't it?"

Vincent returned the scowl. "Damn right…" he muttered. "I need some air."

He rose quickly to his feet and walked briskly out of the room, followed by Cloud's "Just as long as you don't stay out too long! What's the point of dragging you here if you stay outside?"

As soon as he crossed the threshold, Vincent slowed to a leisurely maunder. Then he was seized by a coughing fit.


End chapter one. R&R, folks. The more reviews I get, the sooner I post chapter two!