A/N : This story will probably be pretty long. It's set in a somewhat alternate universe, about two years after Advent Children, but plot-wise, it was pretty much the same until this point with only a few things differing. The Tsviet characters are reimaginings, some with little to do with their canon counter parts. Thoughts will be in italics, except demon thoughts, which will be bolded. POV will be mostly Vincent's, but will alternate with other characters later on. Expect some degree of violence and language throughout.
Disclaimer: I do not own final fantasy 7, or the characters and settings that appear in said work.
We're finally going back… Edge. As Vincent looked around the Canyon, at his friends, the WRO troops, the two siblings, all caught up in what had begun to feel like a never ending fight, he thought back to the events that had led him there… the tragedy, the struggles, the search for the ancient materia… And it had all started so… normally. It had started with something as mundane as a phone call… But on that day in August… everything changed.
Vincent Valentine was in his small apartment in Edge when his phone began ringing. Vincent glanced up from a book he was barely reading and sighed, tossing it onto a low standing table near him. The slightly metallic ring of his phone was mildly irritating. He glanced around for it.
Phone…phone…where did I put it?Vincent thought while overturning couch cushions. With the apartment's Spartan décor, the phone shouldn't have been too hard to locate. Another ring caused him to look up, listening for it. Unlike most phones those days, his sounded normal. It has a proper ring…instead of playing some stupid song. Vincent was actually a bit happy Yuffie took the time to set it up that way for him, though he didn't want to admit it after what she said.
"See, it's an old-timey sound for an old timer!" she had explained teasingly. That had been nearly two weeks ago. That had been the last time Vincent had spoken to one of his friends.
Vincent finally found the phone sitting atop the television set. It had been a moment too late, it seemed, as the phone had stopped ringing. Great… he thought, now how do I check missed calls again?
As he searched through phone options, it rang again. Ah! He started. Huh, close enough.
"Hello?" the other speaker asked before Vincent had a chance to answer.
"Tifa," he replied curtly, wondering what she wanted from him. Had he forgotten something important? …No, that wasn't it.
"Oh hey!" she said warmly, "Barret's in town. He and Reeve are talking in the bar right now." She paused expectantly. Vincent shuffled his feet on the hardwood floor.
"Oh…Well, tell them I say hello, I suppose," he finally said.
"Actually, Reeve said he wanted to talk to you here as well. And while you're here, you can say 'hello' in person."
"I don't know, I was planning on…"
"Sitting in your apartment alone all day?" she asked. Vincent could tell she was joking with him - for some reason she always did - trying to get him to "lighten up", but still, there was a genuine hint of concern in her voice. Maybe I am too reserved… but that's how I've always been, even in my days as a Turk.Oh, really? You sure that didn't start after-Stop. …That's how I've always been. That won't ever change.
"Just come over - please?" Tifa asked, interrupting Vincent's thoughts. He felt a bit sorry, but he still wasn't sure. I don't want to get too attached to these people…my friends.Liar,said the voice in the back of his head. Vincent ignored it.
"Please, just for a while… We really aren't that bad of company you know. Cid even showered today." Right back to joking. Why does she joke even when she's being serious? Never mind, Cid is there too?The pilot was always good for a laugh or two – when Vincent felt like laughing, of course. This wasn't very often. Still, if he visited them all now, it might save him trouble later.
"All right then, I'll be there soon," Vincent said hanging up. He didn't see much of a point for phone "goodbyes" at all. They took far too long, and didn't serve much of a purpose, especially when he would see the recipient later that day. Vincent grabbed Cerberus and his red cloak as he walked out the door.
The second Seventh Heaven was unusually crowded for the hour. Some of the patrons were bar regulars, others were faces Vincent saw less often. Reeve and Cid both sat at the bar; Reeve was flanked closely by two Turks as usual. After the crisis gripping the planet was over, Reeve had offered all four of them jobs at WRO. It worked well for everyone, they had their careers and Reeve had four highly trained body guards. Upon closer inspection, Vincent saw that the day's protection was provided by Elena and Tseng. Tifa was behind the bar, in the process of getting Cid a beer. Barret was standing across the room leaning on a wall. Marlene happily sat on her father's shoulders. It must have been a while since she had seen him.
It was a while before anyone noticed Vincent. They all went about their business, unaware of him. Barret finally spotted him, and strolled across the bar to greet him.
"Yo Vincent! How are you, man?" He asked pounding on Vincent's shoulder. The blow was forceful enough to make Vincent stagger, but it didn't hurt him. The same couldn't be said for Barret, who was shaking his hand in apparent pain.
"Ow! God, Vince. Why the hell are you so freakin' boney?"
"It's because he never eats!" Tifa said from behind the bar.
"I eat sometimes," Vincent said sheepishly as he stood back up. Liar,said the voice again, this time accompanied by another. I know, right? Ha ha ha! Never eats! Like he's starving…ooh, starving. Sounds like a fun torture. He he he!The other voice giggled menacingly. Stop, Vincent thought back at the two demons, Chaos and Hellmasker. He tried blocking them out, but they could often make themselves heard. At least Galian Beast and Death Gigas tended to stay fairly quiet. There wasn't much Vincent could do to suppress Chaos. That was just something he had to live with, like some sort of sick, twisted conscience.
"Uncle Vincent! Look at the necklace my dad got me!" Marlene held up the gift. It was a silver chain with a pink teardrop shaped pendant.
"Very nice. Did you thank him?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah, I did, Uncle Vincent." Marlene hugged her father's shoulders tighter.
Barret laughed, "'Uncle Vincent'? Is that your name now? Guess it's better than 'Vinnie' hah."
"I've asked Yuffie to stop calling me that," Vincent said, unamused.
"Yuffie doesn't listen very well, does she?" Marlene said. "Sometimes Cloud says she's more of a kid than I am."
Barret laughed again. "Sounds about right, don't you think Reeve, I mean she works for you?"
"Well, she's certainly…energetic. She's good at her job though. I couldn't ask for a better intelligence agent." Reeve walked over to where Vincent, Barret and Marlene stood.
"It's good to see you, Vincent Valentine," Reeve greeted. Reeve extended his left hand to shake Vincent's. Left hand…why did the guy have to be left handed?Vincent paused and lifted his own left hand a bit awkwardly, showing off the golden, clawed gauntlet that encased it.
"Oh, right! My apologies," Reeve said, quickly switching hands to shake.
"Not a problem," Vincent said in his low, quiet voice.
"That reminds me…Here catch," Barret said, tossing a black piece of leather through the air. Vincent deftly caught it and held it up. A glove? He thought.
"What is this?" Vincent asked.
"A glove." Obviously.
"I just figured you could use it to, you know, blend in a bit more if you ever wanted to. I got a right one for my gun arm, but they wouldn't let me buy just one…asses," he explained further.
"Why not just wear it on your other hand?" Reeve asked.
"Don't like the way the fingers feel," Barret replied, laughing.
Vincent slipped the glove on, it was bigger than what he'd normally wear, but it fit over the claw pretty well. He thanked Barret as he slipped the glove into his pocket.
Cloud walked down the stairs that led to his and Tifa's living space. He had the same unnaturally spiky hair as always, and the same unnaturally large fusion swords, First Tsurugi, in his hand. Denzel followed Cloud down the stairs. Vincent noticed he has carrying a metal striking staff. The pair of them glanced up at Vincent when they reached the bottom of the stairs. Each gave Vincent a small nod. It was a mannerism that Vincent and Cloud shared – the nodding. Denzel must have picked it up from one of us- probably Cloud. The kid pretty much worships Cloud.
"All right. I'm ready," Cloud said.
"Me too!" Denzel grinned.
"Denzel, you're not going… Don't look at me like that. I told you earlier," Tifa scolded. "Go put the staff up, that's for emergencies." Denzel grudgingly walked back upstairs to hide his staff away. Tifa glanced back at Cloud, who was still holding his sword.
"Why do you need the sword, anyway, Cloud?" Tifa asked him.
"Same reason Reeve is bringing Tseng and Elena along. Same reason Vincent's probably got his gun," Cloud explained, placing the sword on his back.
"…You're all paranoid?" Tifa asked.
Cloud smiled and kissed her on the cheek.
"Just in case. You never know what could happen."
"You're just walking around town!" she laughed.
"…We are?" Vincent asked. The rest of the group turned to look at him.
"Must have forgotten to mention…" Reeve said, "is that okay though? We won't be going too far, I just really need to get outside, but haven't had time. So I figured we could walk and talk."
"Well let's mosey, then," Cloud said opening the door.
Edge was a far cry from the bustling metropolis of Midgar. In truth, it looked more like the slums underneath the plate. Buildings of different sizes and materials stood side by side, they were all new, of course, but some looked worn down already. The towns people had scavenged what they could to rebuild. Life had at least improved since the geostigma outbreak died down. On most days, the sky was clear and somewhat blue, and a few hardy plants grew in places, a sign of life force returning to the area.
Reeve and Barret were locked in a conversation regarding a new energy source.
"Turns out oil is limited, might run out. We need something more permanent. Forces of nature are always gonna be around. If we could harness the sun, we'd have all the power we'd need," Barret said.
"So you told me. Zul and the rest of my engineers haven't quite figured that one out yet, " Reeve replied.
"But when I was out one day it hit me! This leaf blew right in my face!"
"I'm not sure I understand…"
"Wind power! Since there ain't no trees around here, the wind's crazy strong."
"Ah! So simple, yet so clever! I'll have to look into that. Elena, could you take a note of that?"
"Yes sir!" she said eagerly.
"We're body guards, not secretaries," Tseng said, annoyed.
Vincent lost track of the conversation. Why did they bring me along again? He wondered. As they walked around the corner, Reeve and Barret finally switched subjects.
"So, you gonna ask Grumpy or what?" Barret said.
Vincent looked up. Does he mean me? What am I saying, obviously he means me. What did Reeve want to ask anyway? Wait, what was that sound?
"Did you hear that?" Vincent asked.
"Hear what?" "I didn't." "What did you hear?"
It sounded like it came from the grate beside the curb. Vincent walked over and knelt by it, still facing the rest of the group. Tseng followed, tailed closely be Elena. Then something caught the older Turk's attention. He walked over to a store window, right behind Reeve. His eyes widened as he pressed his ears to the glass.
"Sir! GET DOWN!" Tseng suddenly cried as the street around them exploded. A series of deep "BOOM"s resounded from all sides. Vincent was thrown back from the curb. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was a sharp cry of pain, and several more loud "bang"s.
Vincent's vision was fuzzy. As he looked around him, he saw a beautiful green field. A tall, ancient tree rose toward the sky, on top of a green hill. All around him were the sounds of life. Whatever this place was, it certainly wasn't Edge. As his vision cleared, he noticed a young woman standing near him. He couldn't make out her features, but she had brown hair and lovely green eyes.
"Lucrecia?" he asked, uncertainly.
"Hmm, not quite," the woman said. "Try again, Vincent?"
"Aerith," he said, "this is a surprise."
"Sorry I'm not what you expected, guess I missed you," Aerith smiled. Vincent tried smiling back, but it came out to be a confused frown.
"I'm not sure, myself. Maybe I should be asking you."
Vincent shrugged and tentatively asked, "It's because…you have something to tell me? From the lifestream, maybe?" He knew she was able to keep her form within the lifestream, and she had spoken to Cloud once, when he was close to death. Maybe the same thing was happening now. Or maybe he was hallucinating.
"Well…. there was one thing I wanted to say."
Vincent looked at her, expectantly.
Aerith looked at him sadly, "Same old Vincent, huh."
"…Always," he replied.
She nodded, "I guess you should know, you have a lot ahead of you."
"…Can't you tell me more?"
"Not yet. I'm not even sure what's to come." She crouched down and plucked a flower out of the ground. She stood tiptoe and placed it in Vincent's shirt pocket.
"But know this: People you meet in this ordeal will ask for second chances. Some will seem untrustworthy. Give them the benefit of doubt. You may lose a lot, but know that everything returns from where it came from eventually. You're much stronger than you think you are. Don't blame yourself for what happens. And don't ever give up. " She looked at him seriously.
"…But… Aerith… what does any of that-"
She shook her head. "Not yet. Good luck Vincent."
"Aerith, wait-" The world of grass and sky began to dissolve, as Vincent regained consciousness back in Edge.
Coming to after a death dealing blow was always disorienting, and always very painful. This time was no exception. Vincent didn't recognize where he was until he realized he was upside down, suspended from a thick metal cord. He rolled his eyes as he tried to untangle himself, but something wasn't right. A pit formed in his stomach. Can't move legs…crap. My spine… He franticly twisted his arms and back until he heard until he, along with a lot of the wire, fell to the ground. He heard a soft "pop", and feeling began to rush back to the lower half of his body. Huh, didn't know I could heal that. Well that's good; I don't think I'd like wheel chairs.
He sat up, still checking for damage, but most of his wounds seemed to have healed. He slipped through the fallen wire that was still wrapped around him then stood and looked across the street…or at least, what was left of the street. WRO peace-corps were all over the scene, concrete and bricks were strewn around haphazardly, and there was a decent sized hole where the grate was. Vincent's stomach dropped when he saw the bodies on stretchers. He ran over, without a second thought.
"Barret…Elena…" Vincent stammered. Tendrils of green light were enveloping them.
"Hmmph," said a voice behind him, a wizened, elderly man in a white lab coat: a doctor, Vincent presumed," Wasn't us that did that, those two were dead when we got here. Poor sad saps. Never had a chance. Were they friends of yours?"
Vincent nodded, at a loss for words. How could this have happened? Why? Why these two? His eyes began to tear up. Why?
A mournful howl started up in the back of Vincent's mind. Why?Isn't that obvious? A building fell on them. A sinister laugh started up at Chaos's words. Stop. STOP!Why? Chaos mocked. Why? Why? Why?More laughter, more howling… Vincent shut his eyes in frustration.
"Reeve….Cloud…Tseng?" Vincent struggled to get the words out.
"Hmmph?" The doctor looked at him, and checked his clipboard.
"Oh, you must mean them… Reeve is okay for the most part. Which is good; I won't be out of a job. And 'Tseng' – how do you spell his name anyway? I know it's something weird… well, he is alive too…just barely, I wouldn't get my hopes up, he'll probably be joining the other Turk soon enough." What a lovely bedside manner this one has. Chaos growled. And what a lovely trophy his head would be on a bedside table, ha ha ha!Hellmasker laughed. STOP.
"Cloud… name sounds familiar…" ...Obviously. "...we haven't found anyone else yet… so I guess he's what the military types would call 'MIA.' There might not be anything to find, come to think of it. That was quite an explosion."
"No…I can't have lost three friends in a day."
"It seems like you have ...my condolences…" the old man said, insincerely, "by the way did you happen to know the young man across the street? He was dead too – not surprising, fractured bones, broken spine… not that much blood, but obvious trauma. He was all tangled up in wire though. Couldn't move him." The doctor gestured across the street and paused.
"W- Where did he go? …The team must have gotten him free? But where did they…? Wait…just a minute…are you…" The doctor squinted at Vincent through his thick rimmed glasses.
"Don't worry about him. Worry about finding my friend. He's made of stronger stuff than most people - ex SOLDIER- (sort of). He must have survived this! He's been through worse." Vincent said, desperately.
The doctor squinted again, "Well, I'll have someone tell you when the body is found." Vincent clenched his fists. He wasn't one to lose his temper, but after everything that day…After Barret…
Barret… I'm sorry.
"Don't blame yourself for what happens." Easy for her to say…
"Vincent!" A shout from across the street. Reeve. His head and arm were bandaged and a thin trickle of blood flowed from a cut on his face. Vincent approached him.
"What happened?" they both asked at once. Both men paused, watching for the other to give some explanation.
"…" It's no use. He has no clue.Neither do you.
Vincent walked back to where Barret now rested.
"I'm sorry, old friend," Vincent whispered as he closed the fellow gunman's eyes.