R e q u i e s c a t
I n
P a c e

Nanaki climbed the hill slowly, joints in his legs and paws aching. He had sent Kithari and Mikana to be with their mother--his grandcub--and he had remained here to pay his last respects to an old friend.

One rheumy eye traced its way across bluffs tinted rosy by encroaching dusk, finally spotting the familiar red cape silhouetted against the coloring sky. Doubtlessly the man knew he was approaching--however, such an old friend would neither spite him by turning to watch him make his way--step by arthritic step--up the bluffs; nor did he shame him by turning away.

Drawing alongside the man, Nanaki collapsed. His mouth opened as he drew in breath, surveying the redeemed carnage below him. Jungles of green covered the patches where harsh metal had once gleamed, and rivers of blue wound through the crevices. Gulls were just beginning to come to life below them, and the entire region smelled of life.

It has been a long time, Nanaki murmured. The years have been kind.

Vincent looked down at him, face the same ageless enigma it had always been. A deep and unreadable sadness lay in his eyes, and he was silent.

We always wanted to see you again, Nanaki chided softly. But you had left. One by one they all grew old... Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Reeve... they all passed away a long time ago. My cubs were raised on our stories, and their cubs, and theirs. You were the only one I never saw... we missed you.

Vincent turned away. he asked.

Nanaki bumped his head gently against Vincent's leg. You were our comrade-in-arms, he said. But, more importantly, you were our friend.

Vincent shook his head. I was not worthy of your company, he said. My hands are stained. I still seek absolution.

Nanaki chuckled deep in his throat. You have been penitent for too long, my friend, he said. Five centuries have passed. Your sins are absolved.

Vincent continued to stare off into the horizon. I can never accept, he stated. What I did, what I could not do. What greater sin is there to betray one's soul, and to betray one's very essence? I pay for my sins with my soul. I must become penitence.

Nanaki looked into the sky, gentle smile never leaving his countenance. For the last five hundred years, the world has changed. Why is it that you cannot?

Vincent turned to Nanaki, pain etched into his face. For the last five hundred years, the world has changed. Lands live, and die, and live; nations rise and fall. But there is yet one absolute. She is dead, and I alive.

Everything has its season to die. Every mortal must obey at some point. And you, my friend, are no god.

What use, then, is living forever?

Nanaki lay his head on his paws, a contented smile crossing his face as he closed his eyes. Death is no elixir.

It is an anodyne, or a punishment. If the former, I wish it to ease my pain; if the latter, I do not see why I am any less deserving of it than she.

A small yawn crept through Nanaki's lips. he rumbled softly. Do you crave death for justice, or do you crave it because you are now unused to craving anything else?

Vincent was silent. He stared into the distance and listened to the wind, as if it could offer him the answers which he did not know himself.

The sheer beauty of the landscape offered itself to his eyes. Here, now, it seemed as if the Planet was alive and only he was the darker element.

The warm glow of the sun dipped its last rays behind the horizon, leaving only a faint glow as if to remind the sky of its passing. he whispered, eyes never leaving that glow. How is it possible... to feel alive?

There was no answer. Vincent's eyes drifted downward to the figure laying on the warm dirt, held in the embrace of a sleep he no longer wished for himself. With a gentleness he would have deemed himself incapable of, he reached down to run a hand along the ancient mane.

Rest in peace, he whispered to his friend.