Standard disclaimers apply.
A/N: Half-a-commission, VincentxLucrecia with bits of bebe Sephiroth for the Delta theme set, the last of the 50sentence sets. I did most of this one by feel, so the timeframe's kind of funny, and I'm pretty sure it's fairly AU in parts, but oh well. Something like normalcy must have existed at one point, right? XD Some of the angst is still there, of course, but you can never quite be rid of that, can you?
She envies him his job, sometimes, especially when she's stuck working late nights—it may not ever be pretty work, but at least it gets him outdoors.
"A colleague of mine sent them from Banora," she explains, when she sees him glance questioningly at the basket sitting on her desk, and suddenly wonders how to ask him if he'd like to try one.
She holds one hand out for him to shake and tells him her name is Lucrecia Crescent; he nods and averts his gaze, remembering the shape of the moon.
"There are still some things I need to work out," she says, with an apologetic half-smile, gesturing at the pile of papers in front of her, "but you can go home if you want—I know you're tired."
She doesn't bother asking him how he takes his, and he's never bothered to say—but when she gives it to him black, Vincent almost smiles, and slips a packet of creamer into his pocket as soon as her back is turned.
Sometimes he dreams and remembers her face, but when he opens his eyes there is colorlessness on every side again.
He finds her for the first time in years, sleeping encased in layers of glass and crystal like something out of a fairytale, and suddenly it's all he can do not to sink down and bury his face in his hands.
She caps her pen and looks up to find him standing by the door, even if she remembers telling him hours ago that it'd be all right if he went on ahead.
"Can I offer you anything?" she asks, and refrains from looking at him so it won't be too obvious—but it takes a greater effort to suppress the disappointment when he answers, "No, thank you—I probably have to be leaving soon."
He can't keep the horror out of his face when she tells him what she intends to do with the child—she must have gone as insane as Hojo is, she looks so happy—and he swears right then and there that he'll convince her otherwise, or die.
No matter what Aerith says she hears the Planet saying, he can't bring himself to think too much about Sephiroth—he's sure he knows so much less than Aerith does, but also so much more.
Of course he's lying through his teeth when he tells her it's all over now, but she won't know that unless she sees the truth in her dreams, and at least the words help her sleep.
He is falling backward, but the floor is worlds away and his eyes are fixed on her face so it's the last thing he sees; it would be cruel—too cruel, he thinks—if it doesn't end with this.
He can imagine it well enough whenever Cloud talks about the fire, only the Sephiroth in his mind has a mouth like hers, and eyes like hers that shine through the smoke.
When Lucrecia asks him if he ever goes home, he answers politely—though she doesn't miss the flash of irony in his eyes—that he has to be ready to work round-the-clock, but he's well-paid for it, at the very least.
He's stopped feeling sick in those blasted helicopters, but his stomach still does a little turn when he realizes that she sits across from him, and Nibelheim is far away.
"Do you ever eat?" Tifa clucks at him, hands on her hips like a disapproving mother, though for all he knows it might be Aerith or Yuffie—he can never be sure, because he remembers someone else used to ask him that question all the time.
Vincent rarely speaks more than a few words, but Lucrecia thinks she might trust him more than anyone—she's seen how he walks in her footprints, like a shadow.
He doesn't smile when she tells him about the baby, or about her high hopes for the new project; on the contrary, his face turns cold and still, as though it were chiseled out of rock.
He considers Sephiroth and thinks those can't possibly be her eyes—but since his memory is hazy, part of him still asks how they can not be.
"You wear your hair so long now," she whispers to him from inside the crystal, in one of her rare waking moments, "so I can't really see your face anymore."
He catches glimpses of himself in glass or water, sometimes; he always shakes his head and looks away when he sees his eyes.
She knows she might have done more harm than good when she tried to save his life, but she just didn't think at the time that the right thing to do would be to let him die.
He walks out of her cave without looking back, though his own footsteps roar in his ears; he never means to return, but he always knows he will eventually, far more than just once.
He hears the lid being moved off his coffin and shuts his eyes against a light that isn't even there—he's forgotten that the basement has been almost pitch-dark for years.
"I can't find my pen," she mumbles, too tired out to even be irritated at herself; he clears his throat and offers her the one he's always kept in his pocket for just such an occasion.
His fingers are clasped gently around her elbow as he helps her into her car; she should know better, but now it's difficult for her to imagine them the way everyone else must—iron clamps around the handle of a gun.
Painful as it is, he can't do anything but stand by the door and listen to them babbling as excitedly as schoolchildren about the new project; Hojo doesn't deserve her, not in the least, but Vincent has to concede that this is also the first time he's seen her look so happy.
When he finally walks out of the coffin and away from the manor, he can't help but feel the ache in all his bones—he still isn't sure how long it's been, it only feels like it's been too long.
Cloud and the others, they might still find it, if they search hard enough; Vincent knows that he should really stop searching, that he doesn't have any such luck because he's already died once.
"You'll be killing yourself if you let this go on," he states, as flatly as he can, even if he can't look at her, because in spite of everything she still has to be so beautiful.
Hojo adjusts his glasses, shrugs his shoulders, calls her "pretty"; Vincent never says anything on the matter—even if "pretty" isn't the right word by any means, nobody's asking for his opinion anyway.
She looks out her window when she hears the first thunderclap, sees the rain come down and hopes he has an umbrella with him on today's job—never mind that he probably doesn't, and wouldn't have the chance to use it even if he did.
He remembers all the times he might have told her, the words always just on the tip of his tongue, but he also remembers all his excuses not to say them.
"They really are red, aren't they?" she asks, head tilted back a little to be able to look into his eyes; he steps back with a hasty nod and mutters, "From my father."
He finds that she tells him nearly everything—it's probably because he rarely ever speaks, and he wishes so much that she wouldn't, but who is he to complain?
He doesn't know why he thinks about it more than she seems to, but his insides writhe whenever he imagines the baby coiled inside her—how can she still treat this like a question of science?
"You're so pale, Vincent, don't you get any sun on those jobs of yours?" she inquires lightly, even if she knows she's not really one to talk; long, late hours in the labs have made her as wan as he is.
She tells him time and time again how important it is for a scientist's statements to be supported by rational evidence, and he thinks that must be the reason he's never spoken to her about what's been on his mind lately.
He has to shade his eyes with one hand when he follows Cloud out past the gates of the mansion; it's so bright out, and how strange it is to see flowers still blooming.
He wants to shake her, tell her all this nonsense Hojo's feeding her about breakthroughs and scientific revolutions is making her come unhinged—but she won't listen, will she, because that might just be what she wants?
"We've decided to name him Sephiroth," says Lucrecia, with all the joy of any other mother-to-be except there's something wrong about it that he can't place; Vincent only presses his lips together to keep from telling her what a strange name it is.
He comes to work in full uniform even in this insane weather, but she can't help smiling whenever she sees he's still human enough to carry his jacket in the crook of his arm when he goes to lunch.
Sometimes she thinks she might even love him, but then something always tells her that he probably wouldn't like the idea very much at all, and anyway she is a scientist.
When you look at it objectively, it was she who turned him into a monster, but he always, always finds ways to pin the blame on himself because he just can't bear to think about it like that.
He's been built like a weapon, and does a weapon's work better than anyone, and that scares her sometimes because she never knows quite what he's thinking about—of if he's even thinking at all.
She doesn't tell anybody how much it hurts, not even him; she shakes her head when she catches him looking, one hand pressed to her stomach, and mumbles, "I'm a little dehydrated, that's all."
"I don't really know my way around here yet," she says apologetically—and she has to say something because it's just the two of them in the elevator and the seventieth floor is too far away for silence—but he only inclines his head and asks her where it is she's trying to go.
She touches his hands and wonders at how cold they are, like ice; he has half a mind to tell her she's infinitely worse than he is, because her fingers burn his skin.
Whenever she says something wrong, she knocks once, twice, thrice on the wooden surface of her desk; he raises an eyebrow but doesn't comment on it—she may be a scientist, but she might as well be entitled to a superstitious practice, as long as it's a small one.