Honey, Vanilla, and Satin

--Disclaimer: I don't own any of the people in here, considering there are only two people in here. Cid and Shera. So don't sue, you ain't getting any money if you do anyway. shrugs--

--Little warning: This has lots and lots of colorful metaphors in here. Hell, it's Cid, what do you expect? And, just to let ya know, I got inspired to write this after reading two or three Cid/Shera stories that just caught my eye, so I apologize if they seem too similar. The writing's were too damn good not to emulate in *some* way. Geez, Cid's corrupting megrins Oh yeah, one more thing. The grammar. and and , I just wanted to point out this is in first person, so this is Cid narrating. I figured it'd be only natural for him to have the same drawl in the narration that he would when talking. shrugs But anywho--

Honey, Vanilla, and Satin

I look at the small town, the spires that held the rusted bucket of bolts casting shadows over the buildings as the sun drops below the tree line.

Goddamn, I've missed this place.

I stroll down the road, toward the ratty ass house on the corner. I turn and stare at it. Doesn't look as ragged now. Guess that's how Shera kept herself busy, then. Well, it's not like I give two shits. I got one day til Cloud wanted us back at the Highwind, to "find what we were fighting for" or some shit, and I've already wasted half of it trying to *get* here.

I know where the others went. Damn well should—I dropped them the hell off. Cloud went to play footsie with the dame, Tifa. Barret went to his kid Marlene. Cute lil' scamp, too, from what the others told me. Almost makes me wish I had kids. Almost. Vince probably went to that Lucky-something-or-other chick's cave. God only knows where the ninja girl Yuffie went to. Probably to steal her grandmother's watch or something. The dog went to that canyon he lives in.

Which leaves me here.

Whup-tee-fucking-do.

I open the old wooden door without knocking. Everything's still the same as it was. Not that I'd expected it *not* to be, Shera's too much of a damn perfectionist to change it. Always wantin' to serve her Captain. I smirk. Quit it, man. That road don't lead to nothin' but trouble.

And I ain't even on the sauce this time.

Yeah, the sauce makes ya think all kinds of wonderful ideas. Like inflatable do-hickeys for steering wheels in cars. Pfft, yeah right. Shit like that would scare the hell outta me. But nothin' can take the place of flying. Nothin'.

I walk through the house, looking to see if Shera's here or not. Not a trace of hair or glasses or nothin'. Damn, Cloud said to find what you're fighting for, but geez, this is a little too goddamn literal, don't ya think? I step into the kitchen. Two cups of tea waiting as the pot boils. Weird. Ah, what the hell, since it's thereShit, okay, I've seen Shera do it enough, I think I got an idea of how the hell to work this shit. I'm about to pour the hot water into my cup when I stop. I run a finger over it casually.

Dust.

*Really* weird.

I pull out a cigarette from my ear and light it, taking a drag off it. Ahnow that's the sweet stuff. I forget all about the tea, figuring I'd just leave it for now. Shit's too hot to be drinking anyway. I let the water cool, and I walk out to the back yard. The Tiny Bronco's bathed in a reddish-orange glow from the waning sunlight. My baby. I've missed ya. I start over, putting my hands on the dented and rusted pink metal. Goddamn Shinra bastards, shot you down. I wonder how Shera gotcha back here?

Shera. Where the fuck *is* she?

I hold my Partisan tighter, frowning. I don't like this. Not one fucking bit. First, if she wasn't here, she'd never leave the door unlocked. Two, she'd never leave a pot of tea boiling. Threewell, three, this is just fucking *weird*.

Then again, so's seeing a big goddamn meteor in the sky.

I guess the old rules don't apply anymore. Well, one thing's for sure. These *new* goddamn rules ain't fair.

I hear a noise from inside the house. Gotta be Shera—wait. She never makes noises when she walksstop it, man, you're being paranoid. Well, whatever. I'm goin to see who it is, and you can't fucking stop me. I walk up the small steps, tenser than with the rat bastard Sephiroth. The noise stops. Maybe it was rat. Yeah. One big fucking rat. Right. I grab the metal rod in my hand tighter, my leather glove keeping a nice grip to it. I pass by the table, turning to my left for a second. "*Stop*!"

I whip around, knocking whatever it is to the ground. I hold the painful end of the spear up, about to stab the puny little—"*Shera*?"

She's sitting flat on her ass, but with a gun trained right between my eyes. A fucking *gun*! She blinks, seeing who I am, and she still hesitates. Taking yer dear sweet time, arent'cha? "S-sir?" She asks quietly, like if someone hears I'm back, the house will explode.

"Who the hell *else* would it be?" I snap back, annoyed. She instantly drops the gun to her side, smiling. I can't help but smirk back, the cigarette in my mouth giving off a very eerie red glow in the dark house. I hold out my hand for her to get up, which she readily takes. "Damn, Shera," I start, "what the hell is yer problem?"

"Sorry, sir," she mumbles, turning on a light, putting the berretta down by the lamp.

"And why the hell do ya have a gun?" This is really fucking weird. "Did something happen while I was gone or something?"

She shakes her head, stray brown hairs sticking out of her ponytail in disarray. "No, no, sir. One of the Shinra soldiers dropped it, and I decided to carry it. Just to take precautions." And the weirdest thing yet—she doesn't even act like I've been gone at all. She crosses over to the tea pot. "Would you like some tea, Captain?"

"Yeah, that'd be nice." I put the Partisan down, and step outside, sitting on the Tiny Bronco's sturdy wing. I watch her from a window. She pours the cup with grace I could never have. Then again, I don't have any damn grace. With a little flick of her wrist, the pot turns, pouring water into the cup. "Oh," I call, "why does one of the cups have dust in it?"

She stops in mid pour, a small, almost embarrassed smirk playing about her lips. "Taking precautions."

Huh? Oh, I get it! She was waiting for me to come back. She was waiting for me come back? I mean, I know she would've, well, I think, butaw hell. That's pretty damn sweet of her. Grinning, I drop the nub of the cigarette on the ground and crush it with the tip of my foot before taking another out. I hold off lighting it when she hands me a cup, washed clean, and full of warm liquid. I take a sip of the lemony brew. Damn, she knows how to make good tea.

She sits upon the ground, sipping her own brew. I frown. "Shit, Shera," I mumble, gulping the tea down. "What the fuck're ya doin' sitting there on the ground?" I shift so I'm sitting on the Bronco's nose, motioning to the wing.

She stares at me for a second. "No, Captain, that's quite alright—"

"Goddammit," I yell. "It's Cid, Shera. You've known me for years, call me by my fucking name!" She blinks. "Please?" I add boldly for emphasis.

Her face pales, as if she's about to die of a heart attack right then and there. Yes, I, Captain Cid Highwind, astronaut and damn good pilot, just said please'. She nods, haltingly, and stands slowly. "OkayCid." I smirk, lighting up the cigarette in my hand.

It's a big jump for her, but she manages to rest her thin little rump on the Bronco's rusted wing. She's got way too much grace to know someone like me. Especially after how I've treated her for so long. The tea, the food, the cleaning, the reassuring words. And nada from me. Goddamn, it just me feel all warm and tingly inside. Geez.

I don't stare into the sky, instead, I look into the deep burgundy of the tea for solace. The stupid damn glorified water, though, doesn't wanna tell me the answers. Not like vodka would, no. But, I'm off that. Disgusting stuff, anyway. Burns like hell, too. And while I'm being a wuss, not wantin' to look at what I'm gonna hafta stop, she looks into the sky full on, taking sips of her tea. She's got more grace *and* courage than I got. "It's not over, is it?"

I shake my head. "No."

She nods, in a way some sage or soothsayer or any of those quacks would. "How long?"

I furrow my brows. Shit, this woman can be enigmatic when she wants. "How long before I hafta go back, or how long will I be gone?" She turns her head slightly in my direction, a ghost of a knowing smile tugging at her lips. Oh. Yeah. Both. I sigh. "I have til tomorrow morning before I hafta start off and get back."

I take a drag off my cigarette. The second question's the one I don't fucking like. My own mortality is something I hafta think about every day. As a pilot, as a guinea pig—oh, sorry, *test pilot*, for Shinra, as the guy that's gonna save the world, I'm gonna be staring Death's ugly mug right in the goddamn eyes all morning and night.

Ain't fun, though. Not one goddamn bit. And I *really* don't wanna spend my one damn day off thinking about it too. But then, I guess that's what Spike wanted me to do, and plus, Shera asked. I haven't lied to her yet. And I'll be damned if some giant chunk of rock is gonna make me start. "If all our plans go right," I start, "a week, maybe two, tops."

Alota things can happen in a week.

She sips more of her tea, staring up into the sky. I steady my nerves and do it too. The sky, normally as black as Sephiroth's coat, is tinted a pale shade of red. That's cause, hanging like a cloud, is that meteor, twisting and twirling like a ballet dancer. It looks almost as if we're about to be sucked up in the sun and burn to ashes.

A helluva lotta things can happen in a week.

"Maybe never," I say, immediately kicking myself for it. From the corner of my eye, I watch her pale before hiding it and nodding calmly. Yeah, Cid, way to go, ya fucking moron. Scare her to death, that's just what she needs. I suck in some more tobacco. God, I needed that. "Spike—er, Cloud sent us out for a couple of days to find what we're fighting for', or some bullshit," I explain, for some reason. Be damned if I know what it is, though. "I came here, Shera, well, I ain't nowhere else to go." I glance her way. "And I couldn't think of a place I'd sooner be."

She gazes back, expectant. I finally turn my head away from the sickening sight, looking at her in the face for the first time tonight, well, that is without having a gun in front of it. Her hair, normally up properly in a ponytail or some bun or whatever, is hanging about her pale features in patches, thanks to me knocking her on the damn ground like an ass. Sitting on the bridge of her button nose are those stupid damned glasses of hers. I keep telling her to get a new pair, but she's content with just taping them up when they break from me accidentally laying something on them. Her face itself is pale and drawn taut with fatigue and worry, that I've given her. God, what have I done to her? I've turned her into some nervous wreck that carries around a fucking gun, who winces whenever somebody yells because I've done it to her too many times.

Right about now, me burning up in the meteor's flames looks like a pretty damn good punishment. She smiles in that quaint, knowing little way of hers, and slides off the wing. Shera crosses over, gently taking the cold teacup out of my grip, her hand lingering there for a moment. She turns, sauntering back towards the house. Something in me screams at me to make her stay where she is. "Aw, fuck, Shera, could ya just leave the goddamn teacups for a little while and just *sit* with me?" Not exactly how I wanted it to come out, but it gets the job done.

Again, there's that little grin of hers. It's like she's thinking of an inside joke about me and I dunno what the hell it is. It'd almost be unnerving if it weren't for the fact that I know she's not mean like that. She sets the cups down upon the brick steps, making her way back to her seat on the Bronco. Her eyes travel up to the sky again. "Have you ever thought about what happens if you fail?"

A whole shit-load of things can happen in a week.

I sigh, blowing out a puff of smoke. "It's crossed my mind, yeah."

I again look at the big red orb in the night sky, and actually shudder. *That's* what I'm gonna hafta stop. *That's* her fate if I fail. Shera inches closer to me, her head cocked slightly. "Captain, are you alright?"

She places her slender hand on my shoulder, and I shake again for a moment. You're getting weak, old man, something in the back of my head says. I tell it to shut the fuck up. Suddenly—or maybe not suddenly, I don't fucking know—I feel like a kid; really alone and really, *really* afraid. But instead of telling myself to shut the hell up again, somethingsomething makes it impossible for the feeling to go away on it's own. Of it's own violation, my right hand goes up to Shera's, holding it on my shoulder. "No," I say, "no, I'm not." She can't be more shocked than I am at hearing that. I glimpse at her wide eyes. Okay, maybe she can be.

She recovers, as she always does, God bless her, and she stares above. "Is it that?"

I almost laugh. "What the fuck else would it be? Yer *tea*?"

Her lips twitch up, and then down. "Are you afraid of dying?"

I scoff. "I don't give a damn about dying. I stare that ugly bastard in the face every day." With my free hand, I pull the cigarette out of my mouth, flicking some of the ash off. "No, that ain't what's bugging me."

She knits her brows, pursing her lips for a moment, that great scientific mind of hers working. "Are you afraid of a friend dying?"

"I dunno, are ya a friend?" By the look on her face, she's thinking the same thing I am. Where the fuck did *that* come from?

She shifts her hand underneath mine, squeezing gently. She grins sadly. "Captain, that's very sweet. But, you shouldn't worry about me. I'll be fine."

"It's Cid, and no ya won't be," I growl, turning to glower at her again. "Goddammit, Shera, I know ya can take care of yerself. But this is all *me*. If I screw up—" I completely fucking forget what I'm gonna say when the palm of Shera's other hand caresses my cheek—feels like satin—before she pulls me down into a kiss. My eyes are frozen wide open. Did I say that shit *before* was weird? Yeah, well, forget that. *This* is weird. No, scratch that. This is fucking *crazy*. Abso-fucking-lutely mind-blowing. Wait, this goes totally beyond mind-blowing. This isnice, actually.

Before I have to return any damn vestige of the kiss, she breaks away, gazing at me with those deep eyes of hers. I never realized they were green "You won't screw up, Cid," she whispers, her hand still resting on my cheek. "You don't know how to."

For some reason, and I mean, this is really, *really* outta the fucking blue here, I laugh. "Christ, I hope you're right," I chuckle. I mean, I've been so worried about saving the world and all that nice bullshit that I forgot what I'm really saving the world for. Oh, so *that's* why Cloud did this. Hey, no one ever accused me of being the sharpest tool in the goddamn shed, okay?

Shera starts to laugh with me, and it's like hearing music. It sounds like bells mixed with the trickling of running water. I can't really explain it, but it's justbeautiful. And I dare that goddamn voice in my head to say shit about me now, which remains silent. Damn straight.

My ass is kicked back into reality when her laughter slowly turns to weeping. Her warm hands fall away from me, shaking, and make a move to cover her face. Shit, what the hell'd I say? "Shera? You alright?" No shit, Sherlock, of course she's not alright. Maybe she'd stop crying if ya used yer goddamn brain for once and stopped asking stupid questions. I put my hands on her shoulders, feeling like a jackass. I dunno why she's crying, but ain't got nothin' to do with the tea, that's for damned sure.

She wipes the tears away, heaving. "It-it's a-alrigh-ht," she stammers.

"No," I say quietly, my hands clumsily moving from her shoulders to her neck, and then to cup her face. Damn, these hands are steady as hell in every other occasion, and the one fucking time they decide to not do what I want them to, it has to be *now*. "No, it *ain't* alright, Shera." I gulp. I ain't used to doin this. But, like everything my sorry ass is afraid of doin, I just shove the thought down and do it anyway. "What's wrong?" My eyes flicker up to that bastard's creation. "It's *that*, ain't it?"

"I don't want you to go," she sobs.

Aw, fuck. Okay, jackass, here's ya chance to not screw up. Don't blow it. "I ain't goin yet," I assure her.

"But you *have* to, eventually," she sniffles, furiously wiping tears away.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. "I'll be back in a week! Tops!"

"Or maybe never," she shoots back, flatly.

*Fuck*. Fucking son of a goddamn bitch. I *knew* I shouldn't have said that.

Okay, words ain't getting me nowhere except into deeper piles of shit. Before I even know what the hell I'm doin, which for me is common, I grab her shoulders and draw her as close to me as possible without breaking any bones. I let her cry, her face buried in my leather flight jacket. Shera, always the strong one. Dealt with my shit for years, never said shit about it, cause she thought she deserved it. Ain't nobody deserves to be treated like that, cept for me. What goes around comes around, and all that bullshit.

I bring one of my hands to the top of her head, pulling the band out of her hair, and it cascades like a waterfall down her back. Damn, I never realized her hair was that long. "Yer ponytail was driving me nuts," I murmur, stroking her hair. She smells just like vanilla

She clutches my jacket like it was a life preserver, and I guess it is, in a way. Finally, I find my voice. "I'll come back," I whisper hoarsely, my voice thick with emotion. "I'll never leave ya, Shera. Hell, high water, a big goddamn meteor, or a psycho wielding a sword would never stop me. Do ya hear me? Never." She stops sobbing, but her thin frame's still shaking like a leaf. "I'll never let anyone or anything hurt ya. Especially not me. After all that hell I put'cha through, for no justification other than my own goddamned hurt pride. I shoulda listened to ya back then, maybe then ya wouldn't hafta deal with a jackass like me."

Shera shifts her head to the side, her eyes gazing up to mine. She even cracks a grin. "What can I say, I like jackasses," she quips.

I chuckle softly, relieved. I'm no good at this emotional shit. "Y'know, you're alright, kid," I say with, purposely slurring the words. I bring my hand to my face and realize my cigarette's gone. I look around for a sec, and see it laying in the grass, right by the other one, burning out. "Well, I'll be damned," I declare. "Ya made me drop a cigarette."

She pulls away from me so she can look me eye to eye. Well, about as close to eye to eye as someone three inches shorter than you can get. "Will you come back?"

Again, I cup her face in my gloved hands, wiping the tears away with my thumbs. "Guaran-goddamn-teed."

She smiles shyly, and then becomes embarrassed. "I'm sorry for breaking down like that—"

"Shit, Shera, stop apologizing," I tell her. "Ya ain't done nothin' wrong." She hasn't apologized for kissing me yet. Not that I *want* her to, though. I mean, I enjoyed it, although she probably just did it to shut me up. Not the first time it's happened.

She places her hands on mine for a moment or two, then brings both her and my hands to her lap. She opens her mouth to speak, but nothin' comes out. "Good night, si—Cid." For the second time tonight, she slides off the wing of the Bronco, sauntering inside, picking up the ice cold teacups along the way. She goes inside, fidgeting around with various things before finally turning off the light and going to her room.

She does all that, and I just sit there, watching her. I don't even care about the goddamn red rock in the sky anymore. That thing could crash down right now and I'd have no regrets. No. I have a regret. I regret I didn't do or say none of that beforehand. I regret that I made her life hell for five years. I regret being such a gruff, cold moron that I can't even tell her I

Tell her I what?

Aw, fuck, I hate this emotional shit. Cause I can't make heads or tails of it. Nah, I can make tails of it. I can make alota tails of it. C'mon, I'm a guy, waddaya expect?

Did Shera wear perfume? I can still smell vanilla. My lips taste like honey from where she kissed me. Maybe it's from the tea. Wait, did she put honey in the tea? Or just hers? Argh, I think I'm losing it. Nah, the voice coos. You know what it is. I blink. I do? Okay then, what the fuck's wrong with me?

My jaw drops. Wait, I'm—you—she—I'm—goddammit, waitaminute. Okay. I scratch my head, confused. What I wouldn't give for some monster to come out so I could kick the shit out of it and get my mind offa this. Whatever the fuck "this" even *is*. Ack, I'm getting a headache. Me and conscious thought don't mix. Like me and bad liquor.

I hop off the Tiny Bronco, taking a last glance at the meteor. Sephiroth, you son of a bitch. You're gonna get what's coming to ya in a couple days. Shaking my head, I go back inside the darkened house. I head down the small hall to my room, passing by Shera's door. For some stupid goddamn reason I can't understand, I push on it, opening the thing more. Idiot, I tell myself, this ain't right. This is *her* room. You made her life hell, but ya never invaded her personal privacy. Why the hell are ya starting now?

'Cause I could be dead in a week, I justify. I mean, I ain't gonna wake her *up* or anything. I lean on the doorframe, in the dark, watching her chest rise and fall. Damn, damn, damnshe's not half bad looking when horizontal—shit, that's rude...even for *me*. And I *said* it. The only moonlight is from the meteor, which bathes her in red. My breath catches in my throat when I think about it.

The meteor.

Sephiroth, a living Grim Reaper, for Christ's sake. I wasn't lyin' when I told her I ain't afraid to die. I'm not; I never feared death, and I fear it less now than I did then. But, just because I ain't afraid of *death* don't mean I ain't *afraid*. I get that weird feeling in my stomach again, the one that made me feel like a little kid lost in an unfamiliar town. And now it's fucking worse than it was before. Before it was just uncomfortable or whatever the hell ya wanna call it. Now it's full on *pain*. I wince, and rub my stomach. Fuck, I hate pain. Maybe I'm just hungry.

I think my limbs are mutinying. Cause again, yet a-fucking-*gain*, I'm doing something I don't really wanna do. I mean, I wanna, but, I know I shouldn't, and—fuck. Man, I ain't equipped mentally to deal with this shit. Anyway, I cross over the cramped room. Geez, she *lives* in here? This room is only big enough for a bed and a small desk, and that's a snug fit. I reach the bed, staring down at her peaceful face. Y'know, I almost died once. And I swear to God I thought I saw an angel. And y'know what? It looked exactly like her.

I lean over, whispering, "sweet dreams", and kiss her forehead. Hands then coil themselves around the back of my neck, and pull me to her lips. I think she must get a fucking kick out surprising me like this. And this *definitely* ain't about shutting me up.

Ya ever heard the term being "swept off yer feet"? Well, I think that just happened. Literally. I drop to my knees, completely, utterly, entirely blown away. She's managed to catch me off guard more times and with more force than an army of Sephiroth's ever would. Shit, not that *I* mind. This is *way* more fun than killing a certain white-haired scum-sucking pig.

I come up for air, gawking down at her red-hued form with nothin' short of amazement. Goddamn, she's a good kisser. I think I look like a deer caught in headlights. "Thanks for the good night kiss," I mumble.

"Hm," she hums, that same little grin playing about her lips. She runs a hand through my hair, gazing at me. "Y'know, that's what I love about you. Always quick on your feet."

I tense when I hear the big "L" word. Now I'm sure I look like a deer caught in head-lights. Fuck. She—sheshe can't. Holy shit, she *loves* me? "You—" I'm totally fucking speechless.

She nods.

The room starts spinning. Shit, I feel like I'm on a goddamn super-powered merry-go-round. I don't even *like* merry-go-rounds. They make me sicker to my fucking stomach than a quart and a half's worth of Bloody Mary's. I start to back away, against my will, sort of. I mean, it's not her fault—God, it's *definitely* not her fault—but I need time to think. Actually, more than that.

I need a goddamn drink. And the stronger, the better.

As fast as I can manage, I race outta the house, running into the darkness. There's no bar in Rocket Town, so I hafta provide my owningredients. I bolt through the trees and the bushes, not even knowing where the hell I'm goin. Apparently my sub-conscious, or whatever thing that's steering me right now is, does know. That's a plus. I think.

You're getting weak, old man, the voice repeats his earlier statement. I tell it, in the way any true echo works, to shut the fuck up. I gasp in the fresh night air for a moment or two before finally just claiming defeat and plopping down where I'm standing. From a hidden pocket in my jacket I pull out a flask of the strongest goddamn whiskey this side of Hell. Three swigs of this stuff and ya see God. I bought it while in Junon with Spike and the others. I recognized the name as a brand I used to*frequent* when I was drunk off my ass 364 outta 365 days a year. Strongest shit I've drank before or since, and I bought a flask of it in case I was injured. Hell, I figured, if I was dying God-only-knows where with a sword run through my chest, I could at least go with a damn good buzz. Seemed like a good idea at the time. That was almost a year ago, and I've never taken one goddamn sip off of it. Not once.

Well, now I'm about to make up for it.

I take a swig of the shit, and am rewarded with what feels like clawswell, clawing, I guess, down my throat. But about five seconds after the burning subsides, I feel muchlighter. Yeah, the shit works fast. See, I can't think about emotions and love and all that nice shit when sober. It just doesn't work. My brain doesn't like to comprehend words like "love". No offense to Shera. She's one hell of a woman—beautiful, intelligent, funny, and a damn good kisser. But *love*? I dunno. I've only fallen in love once before. And the bitch tore me to shreds. I mean, yeah, there were the school-boy crushes and whatnot, but those are crushes, ya know? They don't fuck with yer heart as much. PlusI gulp down another mouthful of the bitter brew. Plus, Shera doesn't deserve me. She's one hell of a gal. She deserves to love one hell of a guy. Not some rude, vulgar, mean, drunk pilot who can't even get his own goddamned *plane* to fly.

Piece of shit that it is, I don't care. It's my fucking plane. I'm gonna make that little bucket of bolts fly.

I think I'm drunk.

Let's seetwo swigs. Yeah. I'm drunk. I don't give a good goddamn, though. I don't wanna think about Shera. I don't wanna remember how she smelled when I held her. (vanilla) I don't wanna remember how her lips tasted. (honey) I don't wanna remember how her hand felt on my cheek or on the back of my neck. (satin) I don't wanna remember why I spent five years of my life making hers miserable. (oxygen tank no. 8) I don't wanna remember what she told me as she sobbed. (I don't want you to go) I don't wanna remember what I told her to calm her down. (I'll never leave ya, Shera) I don't wanna remember. Period. It hurts to.

Wuss, that fucking voice sneers.

I don't wanna hurt her. I've done that too many times. And if that means be being a wuss and running, then so fucking be it.

You love her, it says.

Huh?

Admit it. You do.

What the fuck makes ya think that? I snap. I'm in no good goddamn mood to be getting lip fromwhatever the hell that fucking voice is.

Well, he starts snidely, you don't want to hurt her.

That's being nice, I retort. Pompous bastard.

You remember the way she smells and tastes.

I'm a guy, ya moron. What do ya expect me to do?

You promised to never leave her.

She was *crying*! What, I was just supposed to fucking let her sob?

It's a possibility.

She was crying because of *me*! I couldn't just let her think I was gonna leave her! What part of that didn't ya get the *first* time I fucking said that?

Question is, *why* don't you wanna leave her?

Because I—

You what?

fuck.

You're cornered, old man. I'm right and you know it. You love her. Why else would you be so afraid to fail? You can only hurt the ones you love, right?

Shut up.

What? I'm only speaking the truth.

Shut up, shut *up*, shut *UP*! I don't! I *refuse* to!

Why? Cause of that two-timin' whore? You think Shera will do the same thing?

Course not!

Then why are you afraid?

Because! Becauseaw, fuck, I dunno. I dunno, I dunno, I dunno I take another swig of the whiskey, holding my head in my hands. It's just with Sephiroth, and that meteor, and Shera, and the shit I put on her, all this shit is unfamiliar territory. At least with space I had an idea of what the hell was comin'. All this happening, it's like nothin' I've been through before, and it scares the hell outta me. Ya think it's *fun* to be scared shitless?

So? You can overcome your fears.

Ya don't fucking *get* it, do ya? I don't wanna hurt her! *That's* what I'm afraid of! The meteor, Sephiroth, death, all that nice shit that keeps me busy! If it was just fucking me, I wouldn't care! But it ain't just me! If I die, *she* dies! I don't wanna think of that! I already hurt her so goddamn much, without so much as a single apology thrown her way! I don't wanna hurt her more!

And you think running away after she told you she loved you is making her feel *good*?

It's tough love, man. In the long run, she'll thank me.

Yeah. I'm sure she's thinking the same thing.

You can go straight to Hell! Rat bastard. I take another gulp of the fiery drink, wallowing in my own goddamn mess. In my drunken haze, I finally realize where my sorry ass ran. The fucking site for the rocket. In fact, I'm sitting in the blast crater right now, charred black earth beneath me. Guess I didn't run as far as I thought I did.

It ain't fair, goddammit. By the time either of us figure this whole fucking mess out, I hafta run off and save the world or die trying. I can't even enjoy it, cause of *that* meteor hurtling down towards us. I can't think of anything else other than what'll happen if it all goes *wrong* instead of thinking about what I'll do if it goes *right*.

Ain't I just the fucking image of heroism? Jesus H. Christ. Sitting in the dirt, whining over my own fucking stupidity. Maybe it's just cause I'm drunk, but nothin' fucking makes sense anymore. Nothing's the same. I can't be bitter at her, cause she was right. And I ain't justifying me acting like an ass anymore cause she wants to wallow in self pity and willingly be my servant—ha, fucking slave more like it. Ain't nobody deserves that existence. And I forced her to it for five years. Five fucking years. Not one I'm sorry. Not one. Why? Cause I'm a wuss. I'm a coward.

I press the heels of my palms into my eyes, trying to figure out what the fuck's goin on in my mind. It's not working. It's only making it worse, but I don't care. I don't wanna care. If ya don't care, ya don't hurt. I don't wanna hurt anymoreow, my fucking eyes sting. So much for not fucking hurting anymore. Can't a guy get a goddamn break? I start shaking again, and this time, there's no slender hand that feels like satin to stop it. So, I just sit there in the cold, shivering and I think, crying.

I hear something come near me, but I don't move. If it's a monster come to kill me, good. Put me out of my goddamn misery. But, last I checked, monsters don't have satin skin. If they do, I'm a helluva lot drunker than I thought. The fingers spider over my face, taking off my flight goggles and straightening my hair. How nice, groom me before ya kill me. Just fucking dandy. Wait. Monster's don't have fingers

"Shera?" I huff, turning my face towards hers.

She looks at me, and frowns. Her face is wet too. Aw, shit "You're drunk," she states, deadpan.

I look down, ashamed. I'd love to say, yes, I hit the fucking sauce for the first time in five years. Gimmie a goddamn break.' I'd like to say that. But it'd be wrong, cause she's right. Like always. She's always right, and I'm always wrong. Always. "Sorry," I grumble, almost incoherently.

She helps me to my feet, and we start off back home. We walk in silence, Shera's face downcast, almost like she specifically doesn't want me to see how much I hurt her. Fuck. Fuck a goddamn duck. I hurt her again. Even the little shit that I argued with a little while ago hasn't gloated or said "I told ya so" yet. "Shera," I say.

"What, Captain?" She replies, colder than the damn ice floes in winter. I wince. Back to formality. Ya fucked up bad this time, Cid, I berate myself. And ya just may *not* be able to bullshit yer way through it.

"Aw, shit, Shera," I groan, putting my hand on her sloped shoulder. "Why ya gotta do this?"

She freezes in mid step.

Shit.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. That came out wrong. It came out wrong and I'm gonna pay for it like a fucking dumbass. She turns, her dark green eyes wide with anger for the first time since I've ever known her. I gulp. Shit, I'm *really* gonna pay for it. "Why do *I* have to do this?"

Yeah, that meteor crashing right into my fucking numbskull is looking like a *really* good goddamn plan right now.

She stalks forward. "Why do *I* have to do this?!" My brain doesn't wanna fucking cooperate with me, cause I'm so shocked she's angry. I mean, she's got a helluva right to be, me being the loud-mouth idiot that I am, but to *show* it? Her silky palms materialize in front of her out of nowhere and she shoves me back. Hard. Either cause I'm drunk or I'm floored that I barely manage to keep my sailing right onto my ass. "How *dare* you ask me that!"

"Shera—"

"Shut the hell up!" She roars, pushing me back again. Holy shit, she *cusses*?? Well, shit, she heard it from *me* enough "Don't you even *think* about sweet talking your way out of this!"

"I *never* sweet-talked—" Another shove to the chest. Right. Shut up. Gotcha.

She stops pushing me, but her satin hands are clenched at her sides. Everything about her says coiled spring. Goddamn moron, next time *think* about what'cha say *before* ya say it?

Right. Like *that'll* ever happen.

"What gives you the *right* to ask me something like that?" She hisses, her anger dwindling to something else. Shit, she's gonna cry, and it's *my* stupid fucking fault.

Okay, jackass, here's yer *second* chance to not fuck up. Try to get it *right* this time. "I don't," I tell her frankly. "You're right. In fact," I start, "that's what I was gonna say." She just glares at me. Which means, get to the fucking point'. Yeah, good idea. "Look," I sigh, my eyes dropping to the ground like the loser I am. "I'm sorryfor all the stupid, mean, vicious things I did. It was *my* goddamned fault Shinra 26 never got off the fucking ground, not yers. I shoulda checked the damn tanks myself before starting the launch sequence." Shit, I hate swallowing my pride. I need a cigarette. "And after thatno excuse. No fucking excuse at all for how I treated ya. I don't deserve yer sympathy, or yeraffection. Not after what I did." Yeah. Slap some big brown ears on my head and a mane on my ass, and I'd be yer regular fucking jackass.

"I'll be the judge of that," is her only reply, and it sounds pretty damn heavy at that. Shit, fuck, goddammit all to hell and back. If I could kick myself in the fucking head right now without breaking something, I would.

She grabs my hand, half leading, half dragging me back to the house. Y'know, I'm pretty damn coherent for being drunk. I'm pretty damn proud of myself. Then again, how long it took my sorry ass to be led back I'll never know. I don't remember nothin' after that. It all kinda turned into a reddish-orange haze that eventually turned into the sunrise. Shit, it's morning *already*?

I open my eyes, and slam em right back shut. Oooowwwwow, ow, ow, son of a fucking bitch. Now I remember why I had that whisky for medicinal purposes only. The hangover alone is enough to fucking kill ya. A Midgar Zolom's bite feels like a goddamn love tap compared to this shit. It's sunrise, but I still can't think straight, and I check my watch. 7:15 a.m. I have half an hour before I need to go.

I flinch in pain as I sit up. You're getting weak, old man, that fucking little prick tells me a third time. And a third time, I tell the little bastard to shut the fuck up. And I add a little, stop repeating the same goddamn sentence, just for good measure. Yeah, ya think I'm foul-mouthed *normally*? Ya ain't never seen me hung over. And with one like this

"Fuck!" I hiss, clenching the edge of the bed hard enough to hear wood splintering, which echoes in a really painful way. As quick as I can manage, I slam the shutters on the window. There, that's better. Now if I could just *move*

I shuffle out of my room, and into the kitchen where Shera's waiting, dressed prim and proper like she always is, making tea. She even closed the blinds in the house to make it darker than usual. I grin as much as I can before another migraine sets in and winds up turning it into a scowl. I pull out a cigarette from my nearly endless supply, lighting it up as quick as my hands can move.

She turns from the stove, placing the tea tray down. Picking one of the cups up, she hands it to me. "Here," she almost whispers. "It'll help with the hangover."

"Thanks, Shera," I mumble, taking the china from her slender fingers. I sip the strange smelling liquid, and Shera's right as rain. It takes about five seconds for my goddamn headache to pound itself down to a more bearable level. "Is this the stuff you made last time I got drunk off my ass?"

She nods, holding her own cup in her satin hands. Satin hands. Oh *shit*. I nearly choke. Fuck that, I *do* choke, spluttering and coughing as I put the cup down without shattering it. "Are you okay, Captain?" She asks, putting on hand on my shoulder while putting the cup down.

"No," I gasp. "No, I'm not." Whoa. Talk about déjà vu. I think she gets the clue in too, because her eyes start to dart around like some little bunny trapped by a wolf.

That's bout how much I'm worth now.

"About last night—"

She cuts me off with a shake of her head and weak smile. "It's okay. It's forgotten."

Now it's my turn to shake my head, even though my brain bitches at me something awful for it. "No," I command. "I don't *want* it to be forgotten." I step closer to her, putting my hands on her shoulders. I try to say what I think I'm thinking, but the only fucking sound that comes out is a growl. "I'm no good at this emotional shit," I snarl to myself. "Fuck, Shera, you were right. Ya always were."

She purses her lips in that little way that makes me smirk uncontrollably. "About what?"

I hold my arms out wide for a minute. "About everything!" I sigh. "Goddammit, Shera, II'm sorry." My hands drop to my side.

"Do you love me?"

My eyes shoot right up to her face. Deer caught in headlights, deer caught in headlightsplease, God, don't make me look like a deer caught in headlights

She smirks. Yup. My fucking luck. "Well? Do you love me or not?"

I gulp. Did it suddenly go up twenty damn degrees or what? "Does that make any difference?"

The smirk fades. Shit. Ya goddamn moron, don't just *stand* there, *do* something! Move! "Yes, it does." *MOVE*!

I finally do what I should've done years ago, after I shut down the rocket, after I found out she was right, afterhell, everything. In a blink of an eye, I lock us lip to hip. Her hands caress my face in a way that brings goose bumps to my skin. Everything else in life disappears—the meteor, that goddamned sewer rat Sephiroth, the pressure—nothin' else matters. I finally stand up straight for air, which doesn't smell or taste half as sweet, and Shera collapses.

"Shera!" I catch her in my arms, and pull her up. She's not moving. At all. Oh my God. "Shera?" I ask, laying her on the kitchen floor. I shake my head, trying not to panic. It's not fucking working. I'm only becoming more afraid. "*Shera*?" I lower my ear to her chest, desperately listening for anything beating or breathing. Oh my God. Oh God oh God oh God oh God—

"I take that as a yes?"

I whip my head around to face her grinning widely. "Gotcha," she remarks.

I bolt up, backing up to the other side of the kitchen. Oh my God, I'm gonna kill her. That is the meanest fucking joke— "Jesus tap-dancing Christ, Shera! Don't *scare* me like that!"

"So, are you going to answer my question or not?" She inquires, a wry smile on her face. She sits up, awaiting an answer calmly.

I glare at her. That was so fucking mean! That wasn't funny at all. Not one goddamned bit. Scaring the shit outta me like that, what the hell is her goddamned problem? Then, I do something unexpected, even for me. I cross the room, kneel down next to her, and kiss her gently. "Waddaya think?"

She plants her lips on me in a frenzy, her arms wrapped around my neck so tightly that for a sec I think she's about to snap it clean in half. I don't give a shit, though. She's worth it. I snake away from her to breathe for the first time in, ohactually, I ain't sure. Ya kinda lose track of time when you're making life-altering decisions. Well, either that or drinking a flask full of really fucking strong whiskey.

"Hey," I begin, "where the hell'd ya learn to do that? Ya had no heartbeat."

There's that little grin again. "Yoga, Cid. Yoga. I've been doing it for years."

I blink. "You know Yoga? Well, shit, woman, why didn't ya tell me?"

She shrugged. "You never asked."

Well, shit if that ain't a nice little quaint reason. I shake my head, getting to my feet. She stands a second later, and the light moment between us passes. Goddammit, I hate reality. Well, fuck it. I'm gonna try and salvage what I can. "Y'know, you're gonna hafta teach me how to do that. That way my ass can play dead if a monster I can't handle comes around."

She knits her brows. "Then wouldn't they just *eat* you?"

I grimace. "Good point." I run a hand through her bangs, my fingers brushing her battered glasses. "You should get new glasses."

"You should stop smoking."

Damn. She's quick. But, then, I already knew that. I turn slowly away, grabbing my Partisan.

She gives me that little knowing gaze of hers. But I shouldn't give a shit. I got a job to do, a world to save, and she's *in* it, right? That'd at least make it a little more comforting, right?

Hell fucking no.

She doesn't kiss me goodbye, or give me a handshake. Shit, she doesn't even come near me, staying across the room, pouring another cup of tea for her. She takes a sip, sitting down in the chair, looking more like a queen than any royalty I've ever met. "Come back to me, Captain," she speaks.

Aw, shit I *am* getting weak. I tell the voice to shut the fuck up one last time, just to make sure it don't say shit. I hafta literally *force* myself to breathe regularly, ignoring the knife-like pain my chest. "Ya bet yer ass I will," I answer thickly. Without another word, I stalk out of the house and trek to the Highwind.

To taste honey, smell vanilla and feel satin at the same goddamn time *definitely* feels fucking weird.

But, shit, I could get used to it.

--There ya go!--