Fandom/Pairing: Kingdom Hearts; Vincent/Yuffie, possible Rikku/Auron, Leon/Aerith, possible implied Axel/Roxas.
Rating: ESRB Rating of M for Mature < blood, gore, violence, plot complexity >
Summary: True heroes don't let petty things like death stop them... and a hero's memories more often return in nightmares than in sweet dreams. [Reincarnation fic.]
Notes: Bloody, gory, and full of character death in this chapter. Also, this is the new and improved version! (No worries, character reincarnation in the next chapter.)
Chapter One: Fear the Fall
As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.
Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?
What love was ever as deep as a grave?
—Algernon Charles Swinburne, "A Forsaken Garden"
65 years ago
Lachesis set down her needles with a dry, rasping click. "Well, will you look at that?" She said, staring at her creation.
Neither of her sisters was particularly amused. Atropos, Lady of the Shears, merely raised a wizened eyebrow and clucked with her tongue. The scissors in her hands shone, but she continued to polish them. Blindness, as with Justice, walked with all but one of the Fates at any time.
Clotho, being the wordiest of the three, furrowed her brow and wailed, "And how are we to see it if you won't lend us the eye?"
Her sisters' complaining was a constant vexation to Lachesis. She'd long ago learned to deal with it, but it was still irritating. One hand flew to the eye, which she had been hogging—not that she would call it "hogging"—for the past week. Her fingers dug in, and with a squishy sound, the eye popped away. She placed it in Clotho's outstretched hand.
Clotho popped the eyeball into one of her eye sockets and peered at the crochet in Lachesis' lap.
"My, that's a pretty one, isn't it?" She asked, delicately brushing gnarled fingers against the intricate patterns.
Atropos held out her hand, into which Clotho obediently passed the eye. She peered at the stitching, blinking slowly. "One perfect stitch in a rat's nest of tangles."
The halves of the scissors slid against each other.
"I want to cut it," Atropos whined.
Clotho was the one who objected. "No, not yet! Not time at all! We've decades to go and you know it. Why don't we have something to eat first?"
But Lachesis looked at the knitting. She saw nothing, but she knew it was there all the same. She'd had to weave blind before. She did it all the time.
Her fingers, wrinkled and bony from being ages upon ages old, traced the patterns also. They found the perfect stitch, and with that flash of bright-dark liquid knowing, she knew this one's name.
"They're all tied to this one somehow," she said as future after future¬ flashed behind her eye-sockets. "And it isn't even born yet. Loop after loop—they're all going to end—" she found it, the place where thread after thread touched along Hades' burning strand, pointed. "Here. They'll all end here, but look, they're doubling back so they can tie into this one." Back to the Sora stitch.
"Well, I'll be," Atropos mumbled. "Never seen anything like that before. Ever. What do you think it means?"
Lachesis had no need to pass along her liquid knowledge. Though they were three, they operated, in times of need, from one well of knowledge and memory. They weren't, after all, the original Fates, and it was difficult to train a new Fate. So when they had need of a new one, they simply dumped her predecessor's portion of the Well into her.
The Well created about as many hassles as it solved, but they carried on. They were the Fates, after all.
Clotho nodded, solemnly. Only one of her sisters could see her, but she did it anyway. "Something big is coming. That Sora—"
"—a rascal, he's going to be. He's going to upset all your knitting, isn't he?" Atropos cackled, though at what, Lachesis wasn't sure.
Atropos was an odd one. Every Atropos was, and though it wasn't fair, Lachesis rather missed the Atropos before this one. The Lady of the Shears was always hard to handle—calling this one 'out there' just wasn't right.
Even if it was true.
"Well, yes, but I suppose I'll forgive him. Hard to knit lives in a dead universe, after all."
"Keyblade masters. They're wild ones, aren't they?"
"Hah! Atropos, you say that as if you remember the last one. I don't think Lachesis was around—"
"—I was around for him. I remember the first, too. I'm only the second Weaver, after all."
"That's right. I'd forgotten. Does anyone want tea?" Clotho stood. With an absolute certainty few have, she made her way to what passed for a kitchen, here in Erebus. "We've got wine, too, and biscuits. And a fortune cookie, if anyone wants that."
Neither of her sisters answered. They'd talked enough. It was time to work.
35 years ago
Yuffie's lungs burned in a raw fire that tore at her with every breath. The breath that hurt her came to her in short, bursting pants. She bent at the waist, her hands going to her knees, as she tried to force air into lungs that didn't want to work.
One of those things had gotten a claw in her ribs. It had ripped straight through the blue shirt she so loved. Blood oozed from the wound, and she could feel something, like an icy-hot claw, wending its way into one of her softer, squishier innards.
In medical terms, that thing had fractured one of her ribs with its slice. The tip of that rib had punctured her right lung, and was even now working its way in deeper, like a sentient thorn.
She knew this. She knew what it meant: she was going to die.
Her legs were roiling masses of pain. Fire stretched up from her calves, curling around her thighs, every time she moved.
Tifa, she noticed, was up to her elbows in blood. Blood dripped down her face, dribbled from numerous wounds. Watery and wet and the scent of it, tangy and metallic, heaved itself through the air and Yuffie was going to go insane.
Fact: they were beaten. Fact: they were dying. Opinion: it shouldn't have been this way. Opinion: they should have been able to carry this off.
Cold, hard, heartbreaking fact: they hadn't been able to carry this off.
And gawd, wasn't that a bitch?
"We're not going to die!" Reeve hissed at her, his left hand easily pumping the shotgun. He took aim. The shotgun melded with his arm. The stance was perfect. His aim was perfect.
But they couldn't hold back the teeming mass of whatever-these-were.
They couldn't hold them back.
Somewhere in front of her, she could see Cid. His clothes were spattered with blood. In fact, his kidney area was a great mass of red, had been for some time.
The spear was above his head, spinning—spinning—
"No!" Yuffie screamed, "Look out!" But it was only coming out a harsh burble. A loud one, but still, just a gurgle.
That blond head turned to look at her, eyes that flashing piercing Ice-2 blue made contact with hers.
She saw them widen as the threat she'd tried to warn him about got him in the gut. The blade-hand-thing slid in—Cid's body jerked—up—his body jerked more—and then out, covered in blood and a coil of something brown and red and oozing and love of Leviathan, Cid was falling, Cid was falling—
His body hit the ground with a heavy sound and both Yuffie and Tifa were moving forward.
He was dying, though, there was no escaping that, and running was working the rib deeper into her lung, she could feel it. She bent down. There was a slightly surprised expression on his face.
He was trying to talk, but all that was coming out of his lips were wet, gurgling sounds. He turned his head, spitting blood, and it reminded her of the time he'd spat out a cigarette, angrily stomping on it and swearing at Cloud.
"Hey there," she lied, "you're going to be just fine. We'll patch you right up." The lies and the tears and the rib in her lung all choked her, made her words come out watery and tearful and wrong, but that was okay because his expression was changing. He was smiling now, reaching up to touch her.
"That's m' girl," he tried to say, and she was crying now, knowing that he wasn't going to be okay, they weren't going to patch him up, that she could only understand him because she knew him so well, "thief 'n a liar."
And then Tifa was helping her close his eyes and they were moving forward. Yuffie didn't want to leave him, but Tifa was dragging her along.
Staying in one place would get them killed.
35 years ago
Vincent knew something was wrong because Yuffie had stopped talking, screaming, gasping. Her breath, he noted, was coming in very short gasps.
She came to a stop, her hand reaching out.
He stopped as well.
"Yuffie?" He asked.
The Four-Point shuriken dropped from her fingers.
She looked tired, and Vincent felt blind panic spring, thick and liquid and warm in his throat. Acidic.
She began to cough. Her eyes were too wide, the pupils too dilated. They were so white in her dark-skinned face.
Her hands were trembling, and he could hear her heartbeat, rapid and panicky.
"Yuffie?" He asked, watching as one hand flew to her right side.
Carefully, he peeled away part of her shirt. Modesty was no longer an issue. He couldn't remember it having ever been one. That had been too long ago, and too far away.
She was a mass of blood and cuts and, skies above, he could see her bones. He could see her ribs.
She was panting now, eyes flooding with tears. Pain or sorrow? He wasn't sure. No way to tell. "Don't wanna die," she murmured, her fingers tracing something odd in her ribs. Was she indicating her lung?
But then the coughing started, and he understood. He didn't like it, desperately didn't want it to be happening—she was young, so young, too young—but he knew what it was.
A deflating lung.
She was starting to cough-retch now. Hacking, violent coughs. Blood came up, staining her chin and her chest and god, god, god. Her body jerked and twitched, spasms wracking her.
She reached out with her arms, clinging to his shirt and coughing, coughing, coughing.
He wrapped one arm around her, his good arm, and cradled her close. She choked and sobbed and drowned within the circle of his arms, coughing blood onto his shirt.
He didn't mind.
Not like he was going to be wearing this shirt anywhere, anyway.
Her hands clenched against him, tightening. Around them, the darkness swirled and spun, and she, retching, edged away from it.
"I don't want to die," she hack-coughed the words again, forcing them out of her mouth like blood-drops, pushing her head until it was just beneath his chin.
He allowed her to nuzzle him. Call it a dying comfort. Call it too many years of guilt. "Then don't."
But she was already coughing again. Her side was a mass of blood, wet and scabbed and caking and his claw pressed against it—
And she stilled.
He closed her eyes, an unspeakable sorrow adding to the weight of his cloak.
35 years ago
Vincent Valentine was back-to-back with another man. This hadn't happened in years. Since Sephiroth.
He could hear the buster sword ringing against the weapons of the creatures. The demons.
Inside him, Galian raged some sort of battle. Galian was pushing him over the edge. Yuffie's pleas—don't wanna die—haunted him. Worse, they spurred Galian to snarl louder. Don't wanna die, don't wanna die, don't wanna die.
Lucrecia. Aerith. Marlene. Tifa. Yuffie. God, he'd failed them all. All of them, dead. Why was he fighting at all? He didn't deserve to live. He deserved whatever death these demonic things could give him.
A harsh clang, and Cloud's foot slid backward. A step, just a step. Just enough to regain his balance.
Vincent did the same. Their spines touched.
Sword and claw and gun—nothing was holding them back anymore. Bang-bang-bang, three dead, but here are ten more to replace them. Slash-clang-slash-clang-slash, three more dead and here are a thousand more, have fun, kiddies, I'll—
He was joking in his head during a battle. Never a good sign. Ever. And they weren't even good jokes, either. Of course, they never were good jokes, were they?
The Cerberus began to click empty. He immediately reloaded it. Running low on ammo, he noted. Not that it mattered. This was a last stand. They were going to die here, that was clear.
He was going to die here. His corpse was going to sink into the black ink made out of creatures, and nothing would stop it.
The Cerberus fired, point-blank. Not even really aiming anymore. What was the point? He was bound to hit something, no matter where he pointed it.
He lashed out with the claw, but there were a thousand of them. It was a swarm. A horde. It didn't matter what he did anymore: they were coming, they were pressing forward. Bent on killing him.
One surged forward. Springing at him. It had something on its arm; he wasn't sure what. The thing dodged shot after shot. Kept moving forward. Step, step, step, step.
Vincent moved backward, leaning against Cloud, firing point-blank, his thoughts a whirl. Have to keep control, don't want to die, please god please don't let me die—
But the thing latched on. Whatever was on the end of its arm, it was sharp. Straight into the very bottom of his sternum. In, and up. The sharp thing was long, too, piercing right through him.
A wet sound. Cloud cried out. Their backs were now fused together. Speared, actually. The two of them were, quite literally, a shish kebob.
Oh god. It hurt. It was wet and it was messy and it hurt. His gasps were wet and bloody. Thick sounding.
Vincent groaned, his chest heaving along the knife-edge of the thing's arm. He brought the Cerberus to bear. He wanted a parting shot. Literally.
The thing's head caved in under the force of the bullet, but the arm stayed.
He looked down. Very quickly, he looked back up. He had a strong stomach, but no stomach can be strong enough when one's own chest has somebody's knife-arm sticking out.
Cloud gasped. Vincent didn't look back, though he wanted to. He simply had too much on his end.
Another wet sound. Gurgling, harsh and long and loud, as Cloud attempted to scream.
His legs were failing him. As were Cloud's. Slowly, they began to sink to their knees. Together.
Together, they sank. Together, they knelt.
Together, the darkness swallowed them up.
28 years ago
To his right, Selphie was swinging her nunchaku. One of the ends of the weapon struck a creature along the temple. She reeled backwards, shoving her boot into the creature's stomach, swinging the nunchaku again, until she was holding both ends and strangling it with the chain.
Blood, fresh and hot and red, stained the yellow sundress she loved to practice in. The stain was spreading, growing outwards and marring that perfect yellow.
No matter how good she was—and she was excellent, she was amazing, Squall was so proud of her—she couldn't evade every attack. She'd evaded a lot of them, though.
That pride turned almost immediately to horror. Even as she took down one creature, another was moving behind her. She half turned, hearing it, but before she could block the attack, it swiped her in the lower back.
Anyone could have seen the shock on her face. She struck out at it (he was so proud) and moved away, moving towards Irvine.
Squall took down another creature, striking out with his gunblade. He turned, taking down one that had tried to attack him from behind.
These things, he realised, were weak against blades. Knives. Swords. Gunblades. Whatever. All of those would be better weapons than guns or nunchaku or, Hyne forbid—
But there he was, small and bright and loud, screaming in rage. His eyes were vivid. Electric. Such a true, perfect blue.
He was covered in blood. Blood dripped from his tattoo. His gloves were stained with the ink of the creatures, his wrists, his elbows—up to his shoulders.
Zell turned to face Squall, cracking a smile. And then he went into one of his acrobatic tricks.
Squall turned away, watching as Irvine easily caught on to Selphie, one hand spasming against her back, trademark hat tipped, deliberately casually firing off the Valiant. It was barely making a dent in their forces, now.
To his left, Raijin, Fujin, and Seifer were all taking down demons. Seifer's gunblade was jammed, but that wasn't much of a change. He was steamrolling them, slice after slice after slice, putting them down like dogs.
Ah, in front of him. There she was.
And there was that crazy bitch.
Squall started forward, cutting his way through, remembering the battlefield of Galbadia versus Balamb. There—she was there.
The crazy bitch in the black dress was laughing. Rinoa had her weapon levelled at her.
He was proud of Rinoa, too. There was hardly a stain on her. She'd evaded and evaded.
No doubt she was exhausted. But that was all right. Everything was going to be fine; he was coming. They would kill this crazy bitch together and all these demons would go away.
But as soon as he got there, the bitch turned on him. "Leonhart," she said.
And then it was Thundaga, and he screamed, remembering Seifer and the Desert Prison, lightning jolting down his spine, searching for the path of least resistance so it could hit the ground. He groaned, his voice raw, all of him raw, as his knees gave way.
He wasn't dead yet. He was going to take her out; he was going to take her on. He was going to kill her. They would kill her together.
His grip on the Lionheart shifted; he pulled himself up and charged.
She countered with the staff, the black metal sliding against the blade. Sparks flew. The weapons grated against each other and he winced at the sound.
The witch laughed, breaking their deadlock and moving forward even as he fell backward. The tip of the staff slid up, into his ribs. She had his lung, he realised; she had his left lung with that thing.
The staff slid out, wet with his blood. It slid back in, kept sliding in and out and in and out, like sex but painful and penetrating the wrong partner. It sliced deep into his gut. She was turning him into a fucking pincushion.
He groaned, falling to his knees. The staff came down again, its round tip striking him in the head, striking again and again. And again. White light flashed before his eyes—all he could see was brightness—and then everything around him was going painful and mushy and grey—
His spine curved. The back of his head made a cracking sound against the tile floor as he fell and lay down at the same time.
He was so tired. His eyelids had gotten so heavy. How had his eyelids gotten this heavy?
He could only watch, feeling his life slip out of him, as that staff pierced Rinoa's gut. Rinoa screamed, but the sound was fading. Everything was fading.
Rinoa slid to the floor. Her hand reached out, fingers spasming.
"Yes, dear," the bitch said, her voice going soft. She took Rinoa's hand. Their fingers clasped together.
He watched as with her dying breath, Rinoa passed along her Sorceress gift.
"This was all I wanted, really," the bitch told her, smiling.
And then she walked away, that long black dress going slither-slither against the floor. As she passed him, she cast Thundaga again.
His body jerked. He forced his eyes to close.
11 years ago
"Come on, kiddo," Cid said, trying to drag Yuffie out of the castle.
They were everywhere. The fucking Heartless were everywhere. He'd trusted Ansem, goddamnit, he'd trusted him. He'd thought he was a good king and oh god the kids were getting hurt because of the man he'd supported.
This was—this was—this was—this was wrong. How could this be happening?
Yuffie wasn't coming.
She was just a little kid—seven years old, seven years old, and Squall just fourteen, expecting them to handle this was insane—so how could she be so hard to drag? So tiny, like a little bird, light and small and with a piping voice, how could she be so hard to move?
God, they should never have seen this, never have—
"Come on, damn you!" He groaned. Helpless. God, he was twenty three. Wasn't he supposed to live a little? Just a motherfucking little?
Yuffie still wasn't moving.
He tugged a little harder. She squeaked and he winced. Likely, he'd nearly pulled her arm out of socket with that one. God, he felt like a complete asshole, but he had to get them out of here.
The castle was coming down around them. There wasn't even a safe place to step anymore. They had to get out of here.
"Come on, girly, come on," he murmured, not making a whole lot of sense, but who made sense under stress? Those feet finally began to move, step after step. Step after step after step, clickclickclick on the floor. "That's m' girl," he said, incoherently approving.
She froze, eyes widening, face going white. Panic. Oh shit, the brat was panicking. But why? What had sent her into it?
He continued to drag her, grabbing a tighter hold on Squall and pulling and pulling. They were like a knot of people, tightly tied, as they navigated the suddenly-deadly halls.
One of the Heatless in the purple hats—Wizards, Aerith had dubbed them, giggling like the schoolgirl she should have been—cast a Thunder spell. They ducked past it, but it hit a pipe.
Squall turned around, trying to shove Yuffie forward, out of the way.
The pressure in the pipe was building, Cid could hear it hissing. He'd worked with the pipes and computers enough to know what was happening.
"Squall. Squall. Come away—"
And Squall was, he was back-pedalling like crazy but he wasn't turning around.
The pipe snapped, filling the air with hot steam. As Squall went down, another pipe snapped. The edge caught him in the face, slicing down between his eyes.
Yuffie made little noises. Scared noises. Disgusted noise.
God. Fuck. Damnit. Shitfuck. Fuckdamnit. He couldn't think of any words strong enough. With a quick movement, he was casting Cure, Cura, Curaga, who the fuck knew what he was casting? It smelled like mint and tasted cold and thick and clean. Mint and lemon and something else.
The wound scabbed over, and he jerked Squall to his feet. "Come on. We gotta run."
And they ran.
They ran until his legs and his lungs burned, raw fire that spread everywhere. It burned in his toes and his nose and everywhere in between and g'damn, this was familiar.
Shouldn't he be swinging a spear?
He didn't know. Everything was confusing, tilting upside down and leftside out and everything was just crazy wrong.
And finally, they were there, the g'damn gummi ship. There should have been heavy metal pumping as he slid the door open and shoved both Yuffie and Squall into it. Instead, he heard guns firing and swords ringing against shadowed flesh.
"Aerith," he demanded. "Aerith do you—"
But here she was, such a good girl. They were such good kids, all of them. Well, Yuffie was a twerp. But she was good at it, kinda cute, just generally a good kid, even if at some points irritating.
"Let's go," he said.
"But what about—" Yuffie began.
Cid shook his head. "I know. We're leavin' anyway. Ain't nothin' we can do, got it?"
Squall touched the scabbed-over injury. "We don't have a choice."
"Don't," Cid said, smacking his hand away from it. "You'll open it back up."
The boy, for once, listened.