rynne: (heroes (final fantasy))
[personal profile] rynne
I have to be in class in less than six hours...so of course I'm posting fic.

Title: An Understanding, Of Sorts
Author: Rynne
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Pairing: Cloud/Vincent
Rating: PG
Summary: Cloud and Vincent come to an understanding, of sorts.
Author's Notes: Set during the game, right after you get Cloud back. Written for Jane for the [livejournal.com profile] finalfantasy100 FFVII ficathon.


Enthusiasm suffused almost the entire crew of the Highwind, AVALANCHE included, despite everything. Or perhaps because of everything.

Cloud wasn't sure anymore, but there wasn't much he really was sure of. Uncertainty was all too often his closest companion, and perhaps the only one that had never eventually left him.

When there was a knock on the door of the tiny cabin he took for himself, he wasn't surprised. Tifa, probably. She'd taken to checking up on him lately, whenever she could, as if he'd disappear into mist and Lifestream should she leave him alone for longer than an hour.

Still he said, "Come in," and lay back on the bunk, his eyes closed, one leg hanging off the side and aimlessly kicking back and forth. He heard the door slide open, and the soft footsteps of someone entering the room, but when the expected question of "Are you all right?" did not come, he opened his eyes and sat up.

Tifa was not there; instead Vincent Valentine stood, just inside the doorframe, stiff and straight as the Buster Sword. After a few moments the door slid shut behind him with a quiet swish, but Vincent did not blink, his face impassive, filled with a cold sort of chiseled beauty, almost inhuman. He gazed steadily at Cloud, who stared back at him with eyes wide open in surprise.

Finally, Cloud murmured, "Hello, Vincent." The room had no chairs, but Cloud slid over on the bed, making room in an unspoken offer to sit down. But Vincent stayed on his feet, and Cloud wasn't really surprised.

Vincent said nothing, and the silence between them grew. Cloud could hear the mechanic rumbling of the airship, the engines running below them, and heavy footsteps overhead; perhaps Yuffie racing to the open air again to empty her stomach over the rails, as she had once already during the meeting just half an hour ago.

Then he shrugged mentally. Maybe it was too much to expect, that Vincent would begin a conversation even when he was obviously the one who sought it out. "I wasn't expecting you," Cloud said frankly, looking up. It was almost discomfiting, how much taller Vincent was than Cloud.

Vincent shifted, a barely visible movement; perhaps Cloud would not have caught it had his Mako-tinted eyes not been trained recently to track every movement a monster made. Mako...that he had not gained officially, because he never had been a SOLDIER, just a failure--

"Tifa?" Vincent asked, the single word breaking Cloud's increasingly panicked thoughts into pieces. But it was just as well, and Cloud was grateful to him. His own mind was no longer a sanctuary--if it ever truly had been.

"Yeah," Cloud replied ruefully, with another careless shrug of his shoulders. "She checks up on me a lot."

"She worries about you." Which Cloud knew, of course; it was obvious to anyone who had ever seen her with him, especially lately. Never mind that he wasn't comfortable with those rust-colored eyes anxiously watching his every move, as if terrified that he would spontaneously combust, break apart into thousands of pieces that this time she would not be able to put back together.

Cloud almost wished that she had never found her way inside his mind, never broken his illusions, let him think that he was more than he was--

"Perhaps for good reason," Vincent murmured, and Cloud realized with a start that he had been silent for longer than he'd meant to be.

But then he sighed, because it wasn't a statement that could be denied, not after the bombshell he'd dropped on them all not long ago. I never was a SOLDIER...

"Maybe," he agreed. "Did she send you to check on me, then?"

Vincent's gaze sharpened, and the look in his eyes grew almost considering. "No," he said. "She didn't." And when Cloud opened his mouth to ask why he was there, he said, "But I told her I would. I told her that there might be a few things we could talk about."

Cloud closed his eyes, leaned against the wall, suddenly wanting a bit of support. "What is there to say?" he asked. "I already told you all the most important stuff."

Vincent nodded. "But you have woken from a nightmare," he said. "Dark dreams do not dissipate so easily."

Cloud's mouth twisted in a caricature of a smile. "Tifa broke my illusions." He opened his eyes again, slightly, looking up at Vincent through his eyelashes. He'd been teased about those when he was younger, a child in Nibelheim and a Shinra cadet. He'd been taunted about long, girlish eyelashes. Among other things.

"But your nightmare is not over," Vincent said--and unnecessarily. Cloud knew that the nightmare was not gone, just because he was awake now. Waking dreams, less fragile than illusions...Hojo was still alive, and so was Sephiroth.

But then Cloud frowned. "You came to talk about...this?" He waved a hand, knowing how vague he was, but knowing also that Vincent would understand. "You don't like talking about your nightmare. You want me to talk about mine?"

One of the first things AVALANCHE had learned about Vincent was that he was the only one allowed to bring up the nightmares that he had first mentioned in the basement of the Shinra mansion in Nibelheim. Should anyone broach the subject with him, he would look at them and say nothing, and they would hastily excuse themselves, all too aware of encroaching on private pain. Cloud, a different Cloud, the Zack-Cloud, had known that Vincent did not want his, or anyone else's, help in dealing with his demons,

Which made it all the more surprising that he was bringing up the subject with Cloud now.

"Yes," Vincent said, simply. "They do not understand. It is hard to speak with one who does not understand."

Cloud's frown deepened. "We aren't the only ones that Shinra's hurt," he pointed out. "That's why all of us are here, you know."

"Yes," Vincent said again. "But it is not just Shinra with you and me. We know Hojo."

Hojo. Involuntarily, Cloud flinched, and his eyes slipped closed again.

Project C...Project C--not as good as the other, does not respond as well--more docile, less aggressive, easier to break, to make over, to become the Sephiroth who should have been--failure. Failure. Failure.

Suddenly, desperately, he wanted Tifa again. She broke his illusions, smashed them into pieces, gave Zack back even though she'd had to give Hojo as well--and he wanted her, now, to take those calloused hands of hers, wrapped inside worn and cared-for leather, and smash apart the doubts as surely as she'd smashed apart the illusions.

But she was not here, and Vincent was--and Vincent was, was sitting next to him on the bed, as Cloud saw when he opened his eyes again, moved away from his head the hands that he hadn't even realized he'd raised to try and shield himself from the voices. Vincent's golden claw rested on Cloud's knee, and his real hand was gently brushing back unruly spikes of hair.

He'd never known that Vincent could be gentle before. He'd only ever seen the efficiency of a trained killer.

"I understand." Just a soothing voice, smooth as fine wine, aged to perfection. "I would that you did not, but you do. Cloud."

He liked the way that Vincent said his name. Careful, precise, the voice almost tangible, almost something he could reach out and touch, wrap around himself and hide from the world.

But there was no hiding from Vincent, because Vincent knew, in a way that even Tifa had not known, though she had been inside his mind with him. Vincent knew.

Then Cloud took a breath, deep and shuddering and weary, and reached out for the mantle of responsibility that he'd taken on his shoulders. Responsibility that would carry him through this confrontation with Hojo, with Shinra, with Jenova, with Sephiroth--straight to the end, wherever that was. Responsibility that would keep him from falling apart until he could find a way to glue himself back together. There was no room for uncertainty here.

"I understand why people say that ignorance is bliss," he said, wryly. Vincent's hand stopped moving in his hair, but he said nothing. Cloud looked down, at the claw on his knee, and touched it before Vincent could jerk it away. Softly, he said, "I wish you didn't understand."

Finally, something Cloud had never seen before--a smile twitched, at the corner of Vincent's lips, barely there before it was gone again. But for the moment it was there, Cloud felt something in his stomach somersault, a strange but not unpleasant feeling.

Vincent only said, "I know." But Cloud remembered that twitch of smile, the barely raised corners of Vincent's lips, and could only think, Vincent smiled for me.

Vincent never smiled.

And that tiny curve of lips that could barely even be called a smile--Cloud liked it. Vincent with a smile had a humanity that his normally impassive face seemed to lack.

Hold on to your humanity, Vincent. Hojo tried to take it away, but he didn't win. Hold on to your humanity.

Almost before he thought to say anything, Cloud blurted out, "Smile again."

Now Vincent looked startled; another novelty. "...What?"

Cloud almost thought he should look away--had Vincent's eyes always been that intense? But he refused to look down, because he wasn't ashamed, and he knew he shouldn't be. "Smile again," he said, more softly this time, gentler. "You have a nice smile. It looks good on you."

But it seemed Vincent had regained his composure, because he only said, "There is not much to smile about."

No, there wasn't, Cloud had to agree. Sephiroth was in the Northern Crater, and they were on their way to Junon to steal a Huge Materia, and WEAPONs were flying loose, and Shinra was still in power, and Hojo was still alive--

"Smile for me," Cloud said anyway. "Smile for yourself. We both woke up from our nightmares, didn't we?"

"But they still haunt us," Vincent murmured. He tried to pull his golden claw away, but Cloud wouldn't let go of it.

"Waking is only the beginning," he said. "And there's no getting off the train we're on." He couldn't help but grin to himself. "We'll get out. We can help each other. That's why you came by, isn't it?"

Tifa began the process, but somehow Cloud knew that it was Vincent who would finish it, because Vincent needed him, too.

"Yes," Vincent admitted, "but--"

Cloud didn't let him finish, rising up and swiftly pressing his lips against Vincent's as he'd felt the strange urge to do almost since he'd first met him, stopping the protest that was sure to come. He held the kiss for a moment, letting Vincent know that he wasn't going to just back away, and then he eased back.

Vincent stared at him for a moment before saying, quietly, "You shouldn't have done that."

"Yes, I should have," Cloud said firmly. Then he did it again, pulling Vincent closer and kissing him on the lips, holding it longer this time, opening his mouth just enough for his teeth to briefly catch Vincent's lower lip between them, gently. Vincent froze, and Cloud pulled away.

"You came by to listen," Cloud said. "Because you understand. Vincent, I know you understand. Maybe you came here for me, but I can do something for you, too. I'll let you help me, if you let me help you."

"...Yes," Vincent agreed, finally. There was no 'but'.

"Smile, Vincent," Cloud commanded softly. "Maybe there's not much to smile about, but we can find reason where we can."

Silence, for a moment. Then, slowly, Vincent said, "Perhaps you're right." A smile started then grew on his face, and the chiseled beauty became human again.
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