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The following is my neighbor's new firmware, modified so that their router would accept the content.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don’t own any of the boys. I just like to play with them once in a while. Square’s the genius behind all of them, so don’t sue the broke college student, ne?
Author’s Notes: This started out as an excuse for me to write myself some yummy images of a pairing that’s practically non-existent. It’s evolved into becoming more than a shameless PWP – yes, it actually does have some plot! Stay tuned for all the drama. ::grin::
Sea of Illusion
Prologue | Chapter I
A dream. All but a dream. Vincent lay wide awake, dark eyes watching the shadowed ceiling. The constant hum of engines was even louder now that the Highwind was drowned in the silence brought by the night. The mattress creaked softly beneath him as he forced himself to sit up. The thin sheets crumbled around his waist, loose, haphazard strands of silky ebony cascading over bare, pale shoulders. Vincent released a breath, pinching the bridge of his nose as if to ward off a sinus. His conscience was cruel – lately even more so than before. The look in those eyes, the glistening shine of green obviously enhanced by mako infusion, haunted the dark hours of the night with dreams he was far too embarrassed to even recall during daylight hours. He ran mildly trembling fingers through long tresses, revealing his unusual blood red visage to the rest of the slumbering room. He saw that Cloud was still soundly asleep on the only other bed across the room. Red XIII raised his head to look at him from his spot upon the floor. Vincent shook his head, not trusting his voice to explain himself, and lay back down upon the now cooled mattress.
A strange sort of familiarity always lingered after those dreams and yet he could not place it. Those eyes always remained, however. The intense look they held, the cold exterior hiding whatever was happening within. Vincent threw his right arm over his eyes, forcing his mind to clear, beckoning restful sleep. After the last few days of nothing but running – figuratively speaking – all over the world, even he was starting to tire, even if he would never admit it. Exhaling quietly, he turned onto his left side, facing the wall framed by the claws producing from his stretched arm across the mattress. The metal caught the faint light of approaching dawn. Fingers flexed once, twice, and upon deciding that he was far too tired to think about anything else, forced crimson eyes shut.
The morning found him with not a handful of hours of sleep. Hiding behind the high collar of his cloak and jagged bangs was nothing new, so as the airship engines droned on and Cid and Cloud argued with one another – or rather, Cid cursed and Cloud glared – Vincent took to his habitual corner, leaning against the wall with his head bowed, eyes closed, wishing his body would stop reacting to the images his mind was still taunting him with.
Crimson eyes snapped open. Thankfully he caught himself in time lest he look startled by being called so loudly. He noticed that six pairs of eyes were staring at him expectantly. Had he missed something? “What is it?” Vincent asked; his voice calm and quiet as usual, raising no suspicion – or he silently hoped.
“We’re here,” Tifa informed him as she worked at leading Cloud out of the bridge. Cid was back to muttering cusses around the cigarette butt that hung between his lips. Yuffie effectively distracted him by ogling the shimmering orbs of materia encased into the long rod of his weapon.
Vincent did not stay behind to see the chase that would no doubt lead the rest of the party from the airship; he wandered down the hall of the bridge, toward the loading platform. Northern winds whisked their way into the ‘ship, creating a wind tunnel that caused him to pause momentarily, shielding his eyes from the bright glow, enhanced by the whiteness of snow. Head bowed against the glare as well as the winds, he stepped out into the chill morning. The cold was enough to rouse him from the drowsy thoughts of the previous night. He stepped forward, joining the gathering group upon the wet, slippery snow. Jagged ebony strands danced in his eyes as he turned to face the wind, turning to look at the mountain crater that lifted into the darker sky in the distance. The colorful glow hanging high above them in the Northern sky cast a cloud of gloom much contrary to the almost cheerful pastel hues reflected off fluffy clouds. Vincent frowned thoughtfully.
Yuffie came bursting out of the airship, laughing so joyfully that one would suspect she had successfully acquired new materia. No one volunteered to keep Cid from attempting to flail her – perhaps because she could easily outrun the chain-smoking pilot, or the need for entertainment that morning had rose to a level that the girl would serve as a perfect victim. A faint smirk tugged at the corner of pale lips, effectively hidden behind the high collar of his cloak.
“Let’s get going,” he heard Cloud say, mirth in his voice as he too did nothing to hide his amusement.
The little snow village was lively by the time they stepped into the main street. Children ran to and from, tossing snowballs at one another from behind fortress walls they were bound to protect. Snow crunching underfoot, the party wandered into the Inn to indulge in the warmth found between its walls.
Vincent remained behind, shadowed eyes glimpsing toward the snowy mountain once more. Ever since they had emerged from the City of the Ancients, a strange foreboding had crept to him and there remained. Word that Sephiroth would be found within the crater had not eased that feeling; now that their suspicions had been confirmed, the knowledge did nothing to ease his apprehension, if anything, it only furthered the long restless nights. He shook his head, silky strands swaying in front of his eyes, taken in a dance by the constant cold breeze that blew from the northwest. Huddling deeper within the warm comfort of his high collar, he turned from the shimmering white sight and slipped into the Inn, passing silently by the unquestioning party to take a seat in a corner.
A sharp gasp brought him back to himself. It also brought the attention of Cid and Red XIII to him. The rest of the room was deserted. Where had everyone gone? There would be no way to question it without bringing a bout an interrogation.
“They’ve gone to get supplies before we leave,” It was Red XIII that answered his thoughts. Vincent regarded him quietly, thanking him with a slight nod.
“What the hell happened?” Cid burst out with blunt curiosity, which made him blink.
Vincent did not look at him at first, taking to priorities. He pushed himself up, sitting on the edge of the bed he had been laying on. His cloak fell open beneath him, the first few buttons of his black shirt, undone. How long had he been asleep? He brushed a gloved hand through his hair, coming away with the red bandana that had come loose from silken tresses. He looked at the red fabric blankly. “What?” He finally spoke quietly.
“What do you mean ‘what’?! You passed out three hours ago and we haven’t been able to wake you up!” Cid nearly flailed, dropping hot ashes on the dark wooden floor.
“…you’re burning the carpet.” Vincent uttered quietly, peering at the ashes that had caught the fringes of a carpet laid in the center of the room.
A string of curses were quickly muttered as he stomped at the small flame that had caught on the edge of the carpet. When the flame was out, he straightened himself up, huffing a few times before returning his attention to Vincent, who by that time was readjusting the bandana haphazardly as usual around his head. He knew Red XIII had more insight than he was portraying; he’d have to thank him later for remaining conveniently silent.
Vincent rose, turning as he buttoned up his shirt one-handedly. By that time Cid had crossed the small room, grasping his left elbow. Blood red eyes shifted to cast him a sidelong glance while he finished fastening the last button. He merely blinked as a whisk of smoke was blown in his general direction, which due to their closeness ended up gracing his pale face.
“Will you stop being so fucking secretive?!”
Cid was gradually gathering a faint crimson tint to his face, no doubt from the effort going into containing his usually more animated performance.
“Cid…” it was Red XIII.
“No! I want to know what the fuck is going on! It’s enough that I’ve been dragged into all of this and we’re now chasing ghosts, I don’t need any more of this mystery crap going on right under my nos—“
The click of a hammer froze any further words upon his lips as the very cold barrel of one of Vincent’s Lariat hovered right beneath his nose, thus completing the metaphor. From the look in those blue eyes, he had apparently not given the wide variety of guns a single thought. Vincent watched, blankly as always and nodded to his own arm with the silent request that Cid release him. When those gloved fingers finally let go, the gun was tucked back into the holster at his leg and the taller man turned away, snatching his long cloak from the bed to toss over his shoulders.
Cid scowled between a feverish muttered strings of curses. Though he paused momentarily as he saw the gun being removed from its holster, propped open and loaded with small silver bullets kept upon Vincent’s belt. “It wasn’t loaded…?”
“Son of a bitch!”
Perhaps it was the look Vincent gave him, or perhaps the devilish smirk that dared tug at the corner of his lips, but Cid faltered as if unsure of which colorful words to use next. Since none were spoken right away, the ex-Turk turned to walk from the stuffy room. He heard Red XIII chuckle throatily behind him before the door was closed. Feeling mildly accomplished, he stepped out into the early afternoon. The snow had began to fall once more. He had left with the intention to visit the shops and purchase supplies but all productive intentions left him as quickly as it had dawned upon him. Huddling behind the warm collar of his cloak, he wandered the small streets of Icicle Inn, his mind elsewhere but not too far away.
He felt the warmth of a gust of breath upon his neck, the light brush of soft lips, the taste of that kiss, the feel of hands sliding over pale skin. His senses taunted him, his body betrayed him. Behind the strong memory of the dream, always the same but always different, was again that strange familiarity. He could not place it, but did indeed recognize it. And perhaps worst of it all, craved it something fierce beyond the slumbering hours of the night. It was a craving he had not felt in years… long years, in fact. And even then it had never been like this; never this intense; never this…sinful. Vincent was far from religious – the gods were something he’d long given up hope on – but there was something about this desire that not retain a sense of innocence. It was pure lust and directed toward a body he could never consciously recall. Perhaps that was what bothered him the most, not having a conscious object at which to direct this sudden cravings. All he could remember were those eyes; eyes of the most glistening mako-green. Eyes like that were not hard to find, however. Not when Shinra was intoxicating most of the population with its mako production.
Vincent shook his head, coming to a halt as a snowball grazed his face, whisking silky ebony tresses aside in its flight. He blinked, feeling the cool, damp strands settle back down. A little head peeked out from behind a mound of snow. Big blue eyes looked at him before the boy ran out, apologizing through faint giggles he could not keep at bay. Halfway to him, the boy stumbled, falling face first into the fresh snow with an undignified “ugh!” Vincent moved forward, lowering one knee to the snow as he reached out to help the child back onto his feet. When the cheerful face gazed up at him, he gasped. Silvery strands fell across his forehead, over cheerful eyes. He knew it wasn’t possible…he knew it was his own mind tricking his senses and yet this child reminded him so clearly of…
He blinked and in doing so, saw that the sunlight caught the child’s hair differently, revealing a rich tone of ivory. He shook his head in silent apology. “Are you alright?”
“Mm!” A nod. “I’m sorry for almost getting you with the snowball…” the apology hardly sounded true with the innocent mirth that echoed in that young voice.
“It’s alright. Just be more careful.” A gloved hand touched the kid’s head lightly as he rose once more.
“Whoa...!” he heard the child utter and glanced down, following the awed gaze to the golden claws that had become of his left arm. To him it was just a reminder of what had happened nearly three decades ago; a painful reminder of his failure but also one that kept him on his trip. He supposed it could be something of an attraction to young eyes that had never seen such monstrosity. To his luck, the kid was quickly called back by a group of playmates that had appeared out of several other mounds of snow, thus leaving him to quiet contemplation.
Contemplation, however, did not come as easily as unreasonable thoughts that swept into his mind. It went beyond the dreams that had begun to stream into daytime hours due to his battle against such torturous subconscious. His mind went to long past years within the stark white halls of Shinra headquarters; the halls the public never had access to; the halls you would learn to fear after a couple of visits. He did not so much fear them as he despised them and all they stood for in his mind. It had been years but he remembered everything as if it had taken place just a fortnight past. Hojo’s manic laughter…her quiet pleas, mumbled in restless sleep. How he had tried to stop it – and how it had cost him. The cost went beyond whatever biological alterations that had ticked the insane bastard’s fancy. It extended to knowing he had lost something precious for three long decades, only to find the truth horribly twisted. It extended to a desperate, silent question for forgiveness when there was no one to give it to him.
<@a_lurker> wait, someone else died?
<+Bigblah> except no one will post in skills' thread
<+Jinn> Just now
<@a_lurker> oh rip
<+LZ> miss you oldier...
<+Ben[sleep]> everyone will just post a link to the ebaums gijoe video
<+Gech> quick check his Myspace page for the obit
<@a_lurker> brb editing his wiki entry
<+Ben[sleep]> do it lurker
<@a_lurker> also getting in my last defacements before i make the death announcement
<@a_lurker> since you can't deface after
<+Gech> Done in by bad gas :-(
<+Dullenplain> Gech, what do you think the economic value of Skill's farts are?
<+LZ> "Beloved son and internet nerd. Died a virgin"
<+Gech> On Ebay?
<+Dullenplain> If we can tap his ass (ugh . . .), perhaps we can solve the energy problem!