I reached up, and threaded my fingers into midnight-blue hair. I felt light, like I was floating. That feeling of waking up slowly, rested, not groggy, but weak, not able to move quickly.
"Am…I back?" I asked, finding that I was staring up at Adam, my hand in his hair. For a moment he was speechless, before he smiled and pulled my hand away.
"Yeah…I guess you are," he said.
"I was dreaming, then?" I whispered. I could see home, and my horses, and my family, but everything was a blurry flash. I remembered the woman—I'd seen her before, and I knew who she was, but the name was lost to me at the moment.
"You were dreaming," Adam confirmed, "Whatever happened just now, it wasn't real. You lost consciousness when someone broke through the shield and stopped the both of you."
"I think you should wake up more before I tell you any more," he said, straightening up and letting go of my hand completely. He'd been leaning over the bed, seemingly waiting. "You uh…Tory…" he was lost. He didn't know what to say, and that seemed so odd for Adam, who always had something to say. He put his hand next to my side, and I was aware of the weight of his hand, not from the bed dipping or anything, rather…like his hand was on a part of me.
And as I turned my head a little and looked down, and saw the white, feathery appendage folded close to my side, which his hand rested on, I realized that he was touching part of me.
I looked to my other side.
"…I have wings," I said, my voice catching. A thrill, wonder, joy, but at the same time…horror and guilt. Sorrow. I held out a hand, an unspoken request, and Adam helped me sit up. The wings were sprouting from my shoulder blades…and so, I flexed one, and the wing stretched just a bit. "Two of them."
"At first it was for Cloud…and then…then, I realized you guys have the same blood type…and I think…they tweaked it so that…it wasn't Jenova cells alone, but your Cetra DNA that…well, woke up."
"After Sephiroth dropped me…"
"I think…you went into a kind of instinctive defense mode…and Sephiroth was a threat to you, and…the planet probably rejects him, anyways…right?" Adam was so quiet, so gentle at the moment, it killed me a little. I didn't like this vulnerable Adam. I liked asshole Adam. Glancing around the room, I realized I had been taken to a hospital room (duh, how hadn't I figured that out before?), and he was the only one besides me in there. "…I told everyone to get some rest…it's really late right now…it's three AM. So…early, technically."
I looked at his eyes, and then the bags beneath. "Adam…were you worried about me?"
"Of course I was, you stupid little brat," the bluenette choked out, pained laughter bubbling up. A half-smile tugged up the right corner of my mouth, and I reached out, putting my left arm around his waist to pull him towards me, and I rested my head against his abdomen. He made a surprised sound, though it wasn't quite a gasp, and I found my left wing curling with my arm to hug him. My heart sank.
"…I'm such a Mary-Sue," I giggled despite the pain in my chest.
"That's what Beth said after she finally settled down a bit." Instead of shoving me away like I had expected him to, Adam put a hand behind my head and patted it. "…You don't think this means you're a monster, does it?"
I shook my head a little, sighing. My breath shuddered. "It feels…wrong…because I've always wanted wings, but now…"
"Yeah," Adam murmured after I trailed off. "It's how you got them…after all that you've been through…I get it… But…"
"Where is Sephiroth?" I asked, remembrance hitting me like a jolt. Adam had said he'd sent the others off to rest, and didn't say Genesis was an exception, but—
"He disappeared. It's okay. He's alright. Everyone's alright, now, nobody was killed." I looked up to his face, and found Adam wasn't looking at me, but rather at the wall behind me. It was like he couldn't bring himself to look at me. I knew him well enough to suspect that he was blaming himself for what was happening to me. That would have pleased me before, but now…now, knowing he wanted to comfort me, to stop me from hurting, I felt bad. I wanted to be happy for him, so he wouldn't feel bad.
But I didn't know what to say, so I just kept holding him.
"Thank you," I whispered, so quietly, not to mention muffled by his shirt, that I thought he wouldn't hear it.
Surprising me, he did, and asked, "For what?"
"For kidnapping me. Bad things have happened, but…I've made so many friends. Saved so many lives. Made so many people smile. Laugh. I changed things." I leaned back, and found that he was finally looking down at me. He was smiling, too.
"Kid…" he sighed, before he jerked a little, his eyes wide as his hand went to something on my throat. "Oh-"
"What?" I asked, alarmed.
"This…" I brought my fingers up to touch what he had poked at, and found…what felt, by its shape, to be…
"Nii-sama's Exsphere," I murmured. "When did he-" I froze. And then, I laughed. I looked at Adam, he looked horrified. "He wasn't going to kill me; he wanted me to be stronger." Adam's face relaxed, and he shook his head. The smile came back, and things started to feel right again.
"I think maybe he wanted you to have a piece of him," he suggested, "to be honest I didn't think he cared that much…I thought maybe he was just…with all of you for something to do, not because…"
"Lloyd reminds him of Zack," I explained, "and he's known Zelos for a while…our connection, though, is through the history of this planet. …I thought you would know that."
"Towards the end, I was leaving the watch more and more often…because things were getting so personal for you."
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to say to him about that…so I just nodded. Everything seemed normal in an odd sense, but looking back on things like being around Lloyd…it felt so much like a dream.
Adam held his hands out to me, and I took them. He pulled me to my feet, and we stood like that, hands still together, in close proximity to each other for a minute or two. It wasn't awkward or embarrassing; it was just calmness and understanding.
"I don't think it's over," I stated quietly. "I think Sephiroth will come back again…but how did he get here?"
"Strong magic," Adam replied, "the same way Larsa was brought here. The same way we'll get him back. A different kind than what your family had done, but similar in a sense…" he paused, and then asked, "what will you do?"
"When Nii-san comes back?" I asked, to be sure. He nodded. "I don't know…as Derik says…'We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.' Or…something like that." Smiling a tiny bit again, he nodded: approval. "For now, I…" I didn't know. Indecision was ripping my mind to shreds, because I was never the one making decisions. I was a follower, not a leader. "I can't go back to Edge. Not yet…it's just not home without Cloud. What do I do?"
"…" Adam didn't say anything at first. He seemed to be contemplating options. "Well…why don't you talk to everyone before you make your decision?"
"It's three in the friggin' morning," I deadpanned as a response.
He chuckled, shaking some hair from his eyes. It fell back to where it had been, and he took a piece of it and glared at it. I thought maybe he was thinking something along the lines of 'I'll cut it soon.' "Vincent's not asleep. I don't know if Weiss and Nero are awake, or Genesis, but, I know for sure that Beth isn't awake. Do you…wanna go back to your room, or…"
"I…think I'm too awake to fall asleep now." Adam nodded. I asked, "Where's Vincent…?"
"I think…he went outside. He said he wasn't leaving, so he's probably not far from here." I was a little surprised that nobody had left, but happy. I was cared for. Adam put an arm around my shoulders, leading me towards the door. I was a little startled by the contact. I didn't mind, but Adam was being a lot more touchy-feely than I ever thought he could be. "I'll show you the general direction…" When we got to the door, there was an awkward moment where I couldn't get my wings (wings, my wings, it sounded so weird!) to fold in enough to get through, but Adam carefully pushed them, and I made it through. And then, his arm was around me again, and I wondered if it was an assuring or protective gesture. Adam didn't seem entirely comfortable with it, himself, so I knew it wasn't him relaxing around me or just being nicer.
The WRO hallways seemed completely empty. Maybe Adam was just familiar with patrol routes and wanted to avoid being seen (or having me seen) by anyone, but I didn't want to ask.
"That girl…" he said suddenly, and I looked up at him. I waited for him to continue, and after he glanced down at me for a moment, he did. "That girl that was after you and Cloud…you didn't kill her." My stomach twisted, and I waited. "Tseng and Elena brought her in. She's in WRO custody, now." I relaxed a little, and nodded. "You wanna see her?" It was very considerate of him to ask, or at least I thought so. I wasn't sure if I should see her at all; I might kill her. I thought I had, already.
"…Maybe…not yet…" Remembering a comment Adam had made earlier, I asked, "Will you tell me who got between Sephiroth and I, now that I'm awake and aware?"
"Well, I know you had seen the Dirge of Cerberus Online cutscenes, right?" I nodded, waiting. Adam shrugged a little. "Argent's alive. She got between the two of you. She wasn't alone, though." I tilted my head, and Adam stopped walking. I stopped, too, as quickly as I could. He looked down at me, and smiled. "Shalua was with her."
I drew in a breath, my head spinning. "Oh my God," I whispered, laughed. "You mean Shalua is-"
"She's alive," he confirmed. I felt my eyes filling with tears, and I covered my mouth, laughing quietly. Relief. Shock. Confusion. Overall, joy.
"Although…" A pang went through my heart as his smile faded a little bit. "She doesn't remember you."
That much made sense immediately, from the head trauma. But. "She's alive, though, that's what matters, how much does she remember? Where, where is she?"
"They're here, and she's resting. Calm down. She remembers bits and pieces, and maybe her memory will come back. She remembers who Shelke is, and she's going to be here tomorrow to see her. I'll bring you to Argent and Shalua later if you want, when things settle down, but…"
"Argent," I said suddenly, another jolt of surprise hitting me, "she told me to wake up. I-in my dream," I added when he looked confused. "She said something…like, 'you've been asleep too long,' or 'long enough' or something…"
"…Weird," Adam said softly. "But…it doesn't really surprise me…this is your dream we're talking about…" He gave me a gentle shove, and we started walking again. "So…how about it, everything sinking in, make sense?"
I nodded. "Yes…I…just, everything's starting to happen so quickly again…like I keep expecting things to slow down…my God, I'm…I'm so relieved." I could have saved Shalua from the head trauma, had I thought to, but I hadn't, and…I'd blamed myself. "Adam, do you think—do you think Cloud will wake up soon?"
"Emily's been monitoring him for a few hours, actually…she told me his condition is improving, and he should be up and moving soon. She tweaked the antidote a bit…sorry, don't know all the details…and used it on him, said it helped."
"So…do you think maybe…we can prevent me from going nuts like that?" Adam chuckled, and I pouted. I didn't think it was funny. The fact that I attacked someone while unconscious freaked me out.
"We should…give Emily some time."
As we approached one of the exits, there were more and more people, and though a few people gasped, and stared, nobody seemed disgusted or…or scared…they just… I didn't know. But when nobody said anything outright, I started to relax.
We were outside soon, and the air was cool, the breeze soft. The wind blowing against my skin brought to my attention what I was wearing. It was an odd-looking outfit, but as I stretched my arm to feel beneath my wings, I realized it had probably…formed…when the wings had. The outfit, it looked…like some kind of battle-armor that wasn't really armor.
"You just noticed?" Adam asked suddenly. I shrugged a little. "Don't know what to say about it…I know it shows a little more than what you usually wear-" I looked at the little skirt and back up at him, raising an eyebrow. "—do you want to change? I mean, it's not like it shows off your panties when the wind blows, the outfit is kinda like a skirted swims-" I punched him in the arm, my face red.
"I appreciate you telling me I haven't been flashing people, but you can shut up."
"…Thanks, it was getting kinda awkward going on."
I nodded, and then it was silent. I looked around, at the expanse of the WRO HQ, and the men I could see patrolling.
"Tory…here." Adam shoved something into my hands before I could protest, and I recognized it immediately as Crystal Cerberus. My gun. "It went back to its normal shape when you passed out."
"…Hang onto it for now," I said, smiling as I handed it back to him. He looked a little surprised. "I…don't want to hold a weapon right now. But…I'm curious, how did it change shape?" Adam gestured to the crystal, then.
"This is…well, I don't like to call it magical, but that's what it is…the term just seems so girly." I snickered, and he sighed. "Well…more or less, this crystal is linked to you, your heart, your thoughts…"
"Who worked the magic?" I questioned, curiosity hitting me harder than it had in a while.
"You remember Alexandra?" Remembering her was almost too easy…Dustin's girlfriend, the one Derik had killed. I nodded. "Yeah…she was good with making magic and science meet…"
"…Adam, I'm sorry all this happened to them," I said. He shook his head, and opened his mouth, but I spoke faster than he could. "Don't say it's okay. He was your friend. All of them were."
"It will be okay someday," he replied firmly. "…Will…you be okay on your own?" He gestured towards the path that led out of HQ. I nodded, and felt a little upset and stupid for ruining the mood. He was probably dealing better before I said something… "…I'll put this in your room." He meant CC, and I nodded.
"Thanks, Adam…" After a short nod, he turned and walked back into the building. I moved my hands through my hair, sighing heavily. It hadn't tangled while I'd slept, though it was a little poofy. I smoothed it down and examined the ends. It wasn't too bad…considering I'd cut it with a sword.
Taking a moment to try stretching my wings out a little, I turned my head to watch. It was a limb, just like my arms in a sense…
You know Tory, I'm still expecting you to sprout a pair of chicken wings.
I smiled at the memory of Meghan's words. Words that had embarrassed me and made me self-conscious now allowed me to walk through, past the WRO troops on patrol, with a smile, a wave, and a hello to each of them. They looked surprised, but greeted me in response.
I'll learn how to fly eventually, I thought. And… Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to pull them in, too.
I was honestly getting nervous when I'd been wandering for a while, finding no sign of Vincent.
Knowing there were no towns in the area with people I had to worry about waking up, I put my hands near my mouth and shouted, "VIN-CEEENNNNT!" It reminded me of the time when he'd disappeared after Omega, but I was certain he was fine. Looking around, I sighed. There were trees, and rocky ledges. I hadn't been in this particular area before, and I didn't know where Vincent would be…didn't even have a freaking clue.
Maybe…maybe if I got into the air, if I could fly, I'd be able to find him easier…
Taking a deep breath, I spread out my wings, and tried to get into the air. I flapped them again, but only succeeded in bringing myself to my toes. I bent my knees, spreading my wings as far as they would go (it felt strange in a good way to stretch them out after trying to move them as little as possible). After a moment I jumped, kind of pushing down hard with my wings, and I was in the air, flapping my wings, laughing, but I couldn't keep myself in the air, and ended up on the ground again…thankfully I landed on my feet, and the fall wasn't far. I tried a couple more times, but it seemed I wasn't meant to get off the ground despite my wings.
"Try keeping your wings parallel to the ground."
I gasped sharply, twisting around. I knew the voice before I saw the face, he'd just…startled me. Holding my left hand over my racing heart, I tried to catch my breath. "Vincent…" I smiled. "Vincent…"
"You're…alright?" he asked with a slight nod.
"I'm…okay, now," I said, "Yes…I…I was going to try looking for you from the air…" I blushed a little, embarrassed that I had been caught in my failure.
Vincent came a little closer, and I could see the small smile on his face. Three long steps forward of my own, and I put my arms around his waist, hugging tightly, but not enough to cause discomfort. Hardly seeming surprised, Vincent hugged me back. "…"
"I…wanted to talk to you."
"I was hoping you could choose a subject, actually…"
I was gonna take more time to edit and whatnot, but…I owe it to you guys to upload this ASAP.