Lint - Chapter 3

If I owned Final Fantasy VII, I would make a Valenwind spin-off in which you get to pilot the Shera, and the faster you go, the more points you get. If you drove fast enough, Cid and Vincent's clothes would fly off. True story, and I'm not sorry at all.

xxx

9. Forgiven

"Vince, come to bed." Cid stifled a yawn with his fist as he leaned in the doorway, one elbow against the frame to steady himself. Vincent's huddled form was swathed in blankets, but his feet poked out from underneath as they stuck over the edge of the couch. He stirred once, but didn't reply. "You're still mad at me."

It wasn't a question. Cid knew the answer perfectly well anyway. He took a step closer into the living room.

"Go 'way, Highwind." Vincent's sleepy voice growled from somewhere under the fabric covering him. Even though the only light in the room was coming from the window, where dawn wasn't quite breaking but a faint blueish haze had crept across the sky, Cid could see the taller man glaring at him through narrowed eyes. He could barely remember what their fight had been about, but unlike him, Vincent Valentine had a mercilessly sharp memory, even at ungodly hours of the morning like this.

"Can't sleep," he retorted, though he was sure he heard Vincent snort. He shuffled over to the couch and stood over his lover, hands on his hips. "An' it looks like you can't, either."

He reached out to idly brush a wayward strand of dark hair from Vincent's face, but the gunman turned his head away and rolled over, burying his face against the back of the couch. Cid rolled his eyes. "Alrigh', fine. I'll jus' sleep in here then," he drawled as he sat down on the floor by Vincent's temporary sleeping-place. Vincent lifted his head to protest.

"That's not fair," he said reproachfully, but the blond pilot just shrugged.

"This is my house, an' I can sleep wherever I feel like. So deal with it." He yawned again and rested his head against his lover's blanket-covered leg. "Love ya." He heard Vincent's head flop back down, and a groan of defeat from the other man.

The seconds ticked by, and soon a faint snore from somewhere by Vincent's feet told him that Cid had already fallen asleep. He kept his gaze fixed firmly on the pattern of the couch as daylight gradually filtered in through the windows, turning the walls of the living room from dull grey to the beautiful sky-blue he and Cid had spent a whole day painting it last spring. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth at the memory, though he was still angry at the blond man, he had to sternly remind himself. Finally he could take the silence no more.

"I love you too…" he muttered into the blankets, not really sure if he wanted Cid to hear him or not. "…idiot."

xxx

10. Wark

"YELLOW, FEATHERY SON OF A-" Cid's yell startled a flock of small birds out from the long grass into the sky. A moment later they settled, only to be driven up once more as Cloud and the rest of his motley crew trotted over on their newly-acquired Chocobos. Highwind, not particularly a good multi-tasker, was alternating between nursing a bleeding hand and swearing colourfully and shaking his fist at a rapidly disappearing yellow speck in the distance.

"Did you toss him some Gyshal greens?" Tifa enquired kindly. Cid just scowled in return, even when she handed him a potion.

"Yes," he growled, "I tossed him some damn greens." The next few minutes were filled with the sound of muffled grunts from the pilot as he fumbled around with his remaining good hand, trying to heal himself, while Cloud shifted impatiently in his saddle, staring pointedly towards the horizon in the direction the group was meant to be heading. Cid, once he was sure that he wasn't about to bleed to death, just gave a resigned sort of sigh and lit up a cigarette. "It's no use," he shrugged as Nanaki came and sat beside him. "Those feathery bastards jus' don't like me. See, this is why I like flying. You don't get these problems with planes." Nanaki nodded in agreement and scratched his ear with his foot, his own equivalent of a shrug.

"I, too, have never gotten on well with Chocobos," he said matter-of-factly. "Though I admit I've always thought of them more as food than friends." Cid grimaced. "Might I suggest you ride behind someone else?" Nanaki went on, oblivious to the pilot's reaction. Cid wasn't really listening anymore, though – instead, he'd reverted to staring at his four legged comrade in a thoughtful sort of way. "…Ahem? Is there something wrong?"

"How… strong are you, Red?" Cid began, stroking the stubble on his chin with his thumb. Nanaki narrowed his eyes.

"Fairly strong. Why?" there was an unmistakable hint of defensiveness in his reply. Noting the glistening razor sharp teeth on display whenever Nanaki opened his mouth, Cid opted for a less direct approach.

"Oh, no reason. It's jes' you an' I seem to have something in common after all," he gave a casual chuckle. "Who'd have thought it, eh? Maybe we should, uh, stick together. Y'know, look out fer each other." Nanaki lowered his head to fix the blonde with a long, hard stare.

"What's your point, Highwind?" Cid gulped and nervously wiped away the beads of perspiration that had formed on his brow with the back of his hand.

"Can I… uh… c'nirideyou?" he forced out in a single breath. Shera had once told him that nodding at someone when making a suggestion made them more likely to agree with you – he had no clue as to whether this worked or not, but Nanaki was not looking very agreeable at all, so he bobbed his head up and down furiously.

There was a moment of silence between the pair, then Nanaki abruptly stood up and stalked away, leaving Cid sitting on his own nodding to himself. "Damn," he muttered, and clambered to his feet. "guess I'll have to share someone's else's stupid bird."

He gazed from ally to ally, wrinkling his nose with displeasure. No way in hell was he going to share with one of the girls – what kind of man rode Chocobo-back behind a woman, anyway? – so that only left the three other men – discounting Nanaki, of course.

There was easily enough room on Cloud's chocobo for two, but Cid grimaced nonetheless. The spiky-haired leader was still glowering at an obscure spot on the horizon, and the idea of asking him for a lift was about as attractive as being trampled by a rampaging dual horn… or chocobo, for that matter.

Barret's mount was a scraggly-looking creature that was obviously struggling to bear the bulky man's weight on his own, let alone with another fully grown man on the back. Somehow Cid didn't think the request would go down too well with the AVALANCHE leader.

…Then there was the mysterious caped man they had recently unearthed in the depths of the mansion in Nibelheim. It might have been something to do with his smoking habits, or maybe his irrepressible potty mouth, or perhaps even the remark Cid had made to Yuffie about grave-robbing being exactly the opposite of cradle-robbing… but the pilot had a sneaking suspicion that Vincent Valentine didn't like him much.

Even so, the man looked like he barely weighed anything, and there was plenty of room on the chocobo for the both of them… he was also less likely to laugh right in Cid's face outright – in fact, the man didn't seem to do much of anything, besides stare into space and mope. Ever the optimist, Cid shrugged and sauntered over to where Vincent sat atop his mount, frowning at nothing in particular.

"Hey there," he held up a hand in greeting, but Vincent just stared down at him dully, barely even acknowledging the shorter man. Cid repressed a shiver – it probably came from being stuck in a casket all by himself for nearly three decades, but the man's unblinking, oddly hued gaze still unnerved him. It was the kind of gaze that compelled him to keep talking, just to break the awkward silence between them. "How 'bout those chocobos, eh?" he went on, shoving his hands into his pockets casually.

"You want to ride behind me." Cid's jaw dropped, before he realised the gunman's response had been a statement rather than a question.

"You overheard me 'n Nanaki." Vincent nodded his head, and though most of his face was hidden behind his cape and behind a veil of black hair, Cid could have sworn he saw a glint of amusement in his gaze that hadn't been there before. "Well, you gunna give me a ride or what?" Vincent didn't reply to this, but inched forward in his saddle just enough to let the pilot scramble up behind him.

The chocobo, who had leaned down and was happily peck at a nearby tussock, gave a startled 'wark!' as Cid planted himself heavily on its back. Now it wriggled and flapped its stubby wings, trying to dislodge the sudden heavy weight on its back.

"KEEP STILL, BIRD-BRAIN!" Cid bellowed as Vincent struggled to keep the chocobo in place, slipping from side to side and hanging on to the taller man's cape for dear life. Startled by the yell, the chocobo evidently decided that enough was enough, and shook himself violently, sending first the cursing pilot, then the gunman he was clutching crashing to the ground with a mighty 'thud'.

Cid Highwind remained face-down on the ground amongst the smell of damp earth, blades of grass tickling his nose. It was surprisingly peaceful there, without the glare of the sun to aggravate his aching head, or the scornful glare Cloud was undoubtedly aiming at him, or. It would be a good place to stay for a while, he decided. Even with Yuffie's giggles and the fading warks of the fleeing chocobo in the background… and Vincent's menacing hiss of "what did you call me?" in his ear.