A/N: Yes, it took me approximately 100 years to put this out. It's only a prologue, but considering the amounts of time I had to steal from genuine use in order to get it written, I think of it as a small victory for procrastination in the war against time-management. Hurrah for wasting study time!

Anyway, this is the prologue for the fanfic formerly known as "Mentor", consider this my character study for Lucrecia Crescent. It will eventually explain some of her behavior in "Something Borrowed" as this story is chronologically set about two years before it. Not your typical Hojo x Lucrecia, though I've read so few of those, that I'm not sure if there IS a standard for that pairing. In other words, he's not a super-evil cartoony mofo, and she's not a damsel in distress that swoons at being forced into marriage, and separated from her "twue-wuv" Vincent.

Please excuse any shoddy punctuation and grating sentence structure. I didn't get it beta'd, so there you go.

For contradictory (thank you for putting up with me scribbling notes for this instead of paying attention in lab). Your reviews are healthily coveted and gratefully received!


Prologue: Thou Canst Save Amid Despair

It would be six months tomorrow.

Six months. Enough time for sutures already removed after sealing a gash on her forehead Enough time for the skin to have risen forth, pink and shiny, leaving a scar that was still tender under her fingers. Six months were enough to have bled the colour from the memory of waking up in a hospital bed, with tubes attached everywhere.

It was time enough for a bone to set, have a cast removed, but not long enough to erase the nightmares that came every night. Suffocating nightmares of blinding light, searing heat, screams, the sound of tearing flesh, bone crushing, glass shattering, and the smell of blood, or the feel of it - syrupy thick - gliding down arms and legs. Worse than any of those things was the panic of stumbling blindly, finally, crawling through splintered pieces of furniture, searching, reaching out... not finding him in the chaos.

There was no escaping, not in quiet moments when she was forced to sit and wait. So breathing became a chore, unwilling lungs choked on air, her mind teetered between reason and despair.

The soft purring of the telephone eventually drowned out the terrified scream in her head, and she found herself staring blankly at the methodical movements of the receptionist's hands as she switched lines. How long had she been doing that? She wondered. Long enough to not get her arms tangled up in the rubbery tentacles of the switchboard.

Waiting minutes were endless minutes. She had never been an anxious woman, her career demanded many moments of waiting, and through the years, she had cultivated a beautifully patient personality. Titers required time, polymeric compound analyses required time, as did specimen cultures and a myriad other procedures that had eventually become second nature to her.

Worse still, sitting in the waiting room of the Shinra R&D Department did not offer her the opportunity to relax. Her green eyes flitted nervously between the oversized double doors leading to the conference room and the clock on the wall behind the receptionist's desk. When did she become so preoccupied with time?

Outside, the approaching thunderstorm buffeted the floor-to-ceiling windowpanes, making them shudder with each rumble. Muted, grey thunderheads obscured the little light that permeated the tinted windows, leaving the waiting room to fend off the gloom with feeble yellow sconces glowing against deep mahogany paneled walls.

Lucrecia's fingernails tapped against her stack of folders in time with the ticking clock. The involuntary sigh that escaped her lips earned her a glare from the receptionist; an unfriendly, waspish woman who wore too much eyeshadow. It was her fifth sigh in less than ten minutes, according to the clock. She supposed that it was reason enough to be glared at… she must be annoying.

Too bad she wasn't feeling charitable enough to quit her fretting. It was hard to concentrate on the other woman's comfort when the future of her career lay on the chopping block.

A distinctive chirping from the receptionist's multi-tentacled machine caught her off-guard and her eyes immediately locked on the conference room doors. That nagging fluttering in her stomach started at double pace.

"Doctor Crescent? the receptionist barely spared her a glance as she switched off the intercom module and returned her attention to a wrinkled magazine in front of her. "They're ready for you now."

Her legs, long-since numbed by the weight of her folders and briefcase objected at the sudden shift in position. She was grateful for the lack of an audience as she straightened ram-rod and made her way across the waiting room on wobbly legs.