Cid was late. I could not help noticing it. Being late...annoyed me. I had only won the right to enjoy life, as it is opposed to as it was, recently. And waiting for someone who was late, regardless of excuses, was wasting time in which I could be discovering its pleasures.

"Cid. I'd be grateful if you'd join me for a drink in three day's time." I'd said, over my cellphone. The cellphone Yuffie had once accused me of being possessive of, and henceforth often stole. Strange child.

"Dangit, Vincent! Why we gotta use these damn cell-phones? I preferred the ol' PHS!" he'd answered, avoiding (or forgetting) my petition entirely. I sighed, but decided I'd get further along his branch of conversation. I was wrong; I often get such things wrong. People, unlike darkness, are...unpredictable.

"...Are you not an airship captain? Surely a simple cell phone presents no technological challenge." I'd responded. When I'd gotten my cell phone, it was a great challenge indeed. I believe I may have annoyed my friends by calling them accidentally whilst looking for these strange 'ring tones'. This is the real and enduring disadvantage of living in a coffin for years on end: one tends to get out of step with technology. Not relating to people is a secondary and relatively minor issue.

(That was sarcasm. That, at any rate, is what they tell me.)

"The difference is, Vincent," Cid had said, pronouncing my name in that strange tone he uses when he thinks I'm stupid, "is that airships don't break every frickin' time you drop them."

One thing I have noticed about Cid is that whenever he uses that tone, he's always about to say something stupid himself. Perhaps he does it purposefully, to give me a chance to redeem myself. Perhaps I give him no small amount of undue credit.

"Is dropping an airship not the same thing as crashing it?" Unbeknownst to him, a small smirk was playing around my lips.

"Aw, what the hell do you know?!"

To all who are unfamiliar with the ways of the pilot, that happens to be Cid's way of telling you that you are entirely right.

"So. You will accompany me?" I had asked, as gently as possible. When I had been a Turk, I used the very same words in a far less pleasant manner. Old habits, and speech patterns, die hard.

"Pah. Don't you have anything better to do with your time than putting your money in Tifa's pocket?" he'd grumbled. He only grumbles when he's losing. It's an extremely useful thing to know.

"No...I don't."

Tifa, whose pockets I was putting my money into, came over and took my glass away. We always drank at her bar. How could we not? It would have been almost traitorous to drink elsewhere after we had been through so much with one another. Likewise, if any of our group need a delivery, the job immediately falls to Cloud, who only ever buys the fuel that started life in Barret's oil fields. If we have a sudden, burning desire for philosophy, we eschew conventional books and papers, and head directly to Nanaki, safe in the knowledge that he has read them all anyway. If anyone has a part time job, whether that be tending bar, delivering packages or, indeed, monster hunting, Yuffie is the first person told. Yuffie herself will always 'hitch a ride' with Cid or Reeve, who both buy Barret's fuel, which Cloud, on occasion, delivers, allowing people like me to drive to Tifa's bar where we may put money in her pockets for the purchase of alcohol...

It all goes around in a circle. Eventually, we all find ourselves relying on another, regardless of how far apart we are. Sadly, I fall outside this circle; my only skill is once we all possess, the ability to dispatch marauding monsters with ease. Despite this, I am included. Often, I am asked along to Tifa's bar, or one of Cloud's more 'sketchy' deliveries, simply because I am, as they say, a visible deterrent to violence. Although few who possess the gift of sanity would willingly antagonise Cloud or Tifa, they don't seem to inspire the same fear as I do.

But, all this is, and was, neither here nor there; Cid was still late, and I was still sober. My mind, as minds occasionally do, set itself into motion thinking of reasons for Cid's tardiness. The options ranged from amusing to depressing. On one hand, he could have simply fallen asleep- as Shera told us, Cid is now 'getting on in years', and, according to her, is becoming even more erratic than usual due to the onset of senility.

That was the amusing option. The depressive option was that Cid had fallen asleep...at the helm of his airship, causing it to hurtle towards the ground and explode into so many shards of blazing wreckage, killing all those on the airship and any who happened to be in the way of it. This would leave Shera heartbroken, and deprive the world of one foul-mouthed, temperamental, but ultimately likeable pilot. And his crew. Whom, for the purposes of this example, aren't worth mentioning.

The cards of fate, however, had conspired against this outcome, and decided to lay down the joker card; as I was pondering the subtle ramifications of Cid's death, the pilot himself sat down next to me. And demanded a drink. Tifa smiled knowingly, and I believe I may have smiled also. Cid, or, as Yuffie memorably called him, 'Good old, old, old, incredibly old Pilot-Pants', was in truth one of my favourite people A.E- After Experimentation. I confess that I now tend to divide my life into before and after that event.

Whereas Cloud talked, and Red discussed, and Yuffie argued, Cid liaised with me. By that, I take the definition somewhat further. Red and I may discuss philosophy and metaphors, but we never drink together. Cloud and I may have talked about darkness, light and the past, but we didn't laugh or joke. Yuffie and I may drive each other insane, but that's a bad thing anyway. With Cid, we talk about old times, and laugh about them. We share a common bond- that we want those old times back so badly that it hurts, but have accepted that we cannot have them. We laugh to ease the pain, and we drink to help us laugh. Cid teaches me how to gamble, and I teach Cid philosophy, and then Cid teaches me a gambler's philosophy.

It is difficult to explain, in mere human speech, how different our relationship is to the others. We are closer. I think of it this way: if Cloud wants to talk, he must try to draw closer to me, rather than I come to him. If I wish to talk to Red, it is I who must draw closer, and he who sits stoically in his place, available to all who seek him. Yuffie...Well, Yuffie doesn't work that way. She stands at the other end of the metaphorical room of life, and shouts at me, hoping that I'll come to her. As I said, she is a strange child.

However, Cid and I meet halfway. And that is the difference.

The evening, as with every other, would eventually end. And it would end just as other evenings had ended, with Cid very drunk, and Tifa's pockets weighed heavily with all the gil we had spent. And that would be one more day gone, one more day in which there had been no crisis to avert, no threat to extinguish, no life to save. And, if I may spend such days in the company of friends, with jokes and no small amount of alcohol, then I shall be truly satisfied.

***

Well, I'm fairly happy with this. I think I got at least a little of Vincent's voice down, and perhaps captured the friendship between him and Cid. The awkward jokes part of it was a kind of author's improv; a Vincent with no monsters to fight and a new society to adjust to is bound to be at least trying to fit in, even if the effort is somewhat pathetic. The ending is, I know, corn in a can.

This is one of my fourteen dictionary prompts, and is the third of the group. The prompt for this was Liaise.

TheVulpineHero1