Fandom/Pairing: Kingdom Hearts; Vincent/Yuffie, possible Aurikku, possible Leon/Aerith
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: Playing tag with Hades is always fun. I actually really like the guy. Bet he's only so cranky because Disney forgot to give him a Persephone.
Chapter One: Fear the Fall
Chapter Three: No More Miracles, Please
Chapter Two: The Other Option
On days like these starts me thinking
...You gave him you blood
And your warm little diamond
He likes killing you after you're dead
—Blood Roses, Tori Amos
"When you jump off a cliff, there are two options. You can fall… or you can fly."
—Sandman, Neil Gaiman
33 years ago
Cid awoke somewhere cold. He could hear the ocean. Whatever was underneath him was cold, smooth, disturbing. This was not where he had fallen asleep. Shera had picked the covers, and they sometimes got hot in winter thanks to her taste.
But he hadn't fallen asleep at home, had he? He wasn't sure. He seemed to recall Yuffie staring down at him, but that was the damn dumbest thing he'd ever thought. There was no reason for Yuffie to be watchin' him fall asleep. There was a special hell for people who hurt girls that young.
Except Yuffie wasn't sixteen anymore, was she? She was—nineteen, now?
Why couldn't he remember?
"Whatever you're trying to remember," somebody said, "it's not important."
Cid sat up, looked around.
The speaker was a man wearing a black—fuck, the hell was that? He had fire for hair, for the love of god!
"I'm Hades. Welcome to the world of the dead. Just chock full of excitement and fun." Hades snickered. "But not."
"The world of the dead?" Cid wondered.
Was he dead? He didn't remember dying. He checked himself over for wounds, but didn't find anything.
"You're dead all right." Hades moved forward, offered him a hand. "You died the death of a hero. In most cases, that'd send you straight to the Elysian Fields, but you're from—"
"He won't be going to the Fields, Hades," a hideously old crone who fuck it all had not been there a minute ago chastised him.
A second little troll joined the first. "The world will soon have need of heroes. His is one of the threads doubling back."
"Joining with that Keyblade thread, huh?" Hades queried them. "Well. If that ain't a surprise…."
"It really shouldn't be!" A third, this one with only one eye—and it was here that Cid noticed that the other two crones lacked eyes, and wasn't that as gross as the space where his kidneys should be—added. "We've given you how much warning?"
Hades looked at him, dark lips pursing. Was this weirdo pouting? Like a little kid? Well, if that wasn't the damn weirdest thing he'd seen today. Well, not counting the fact that he could touch his kidneys with his finger and it didn't hurt. Actually, it did hurt, but not in the insistent, "stop that, you'll die" sort of way. More in a perfunctory, "hey, you're touching your kidneys, that should probably hurt" sort of way.
"Fine," Hades finally said. And then those crazy burning-coal eyes were peering intently at him. It was like being on the receiving end of one of Vincent's trademarked 'penetrating stares'. "In order to be born in another world, you'll have to die here."
"Die again?" He wasn't that wild about it. But hey, if it got him away from this guy with hair weirder than Cloud's, it couldn't be that bad, right? Especially if that meant he would have actual intact kidneys.
No, that wasn't true.
"Well, then I guess you can't be born ag—"
"Fine!" Cid snapped, wishing like hell for a cigarette. "Do it. Now."
It was instantaneous. And as Cid slid back into a thick, inky darkness, his last thought was, Well, shit. Wasn't it supposed to hurt?
26 years ago
Vincent awoke in a dark cavern. A huge black dog was peering at him. Sniffing him. It appeared to dislike his scent: it whimpered and back away.
Groaning, he sat up. As he looked around, his chest began to ache. He put his good hand to it.
There was a hole in his chest. Just under the bottom of his sternum.
That was right. Something had impaled him with its arm. It had gone right through him and into Cloud.
His head snapped up. He began to peer around, much more intently. He could tell: he was not alone here.
Somebody clapped their hands. It was a dry, rattling sound.
Vincent looked toward it.
The man clapping his hands was perhaps equally monstrous as Vincent himself. Flesh that particular shade between blue, white, and grey typical of bones. Hair made out of flame, blue flame. Eyes that burned like coal in that incredibly pale face. A black peplos, held together with skulls.
It would have been cheesy, if it hadn't been so hideous.
"You're a wary one," the peplos-clad man informed him. "I like that in a guy. Means we've got a live one." A chuckle, but then the stare turned serious. "Literally. Only the living feel fear. The dead don't feel much at all, but even if they did, fear wouldn't be it."
Vincent nodded. "I am incapable of death."
A nod from the other man. "Vincent Valentine. I'm Hades. You, you'd go right down there with Auron."
"But I'm not dead."
Hades smirked. "But you're not dead."
"I didn't arrive alone."
"No, you didn't. You were—stuck to somebody. Blonde. Crazy hair."
"Yeah, yeah, him. Crazy kid." Hades indicated his left arm. "We, ah, weren't sure whose was whose. You got here and everything was kind of mixed up. The Heartless blood tends to… melt things together."
Vincent peered down. The claw was gone, leaving only his arm. Gloved flesh, to hide the scarring. The skin had atrophied while he was dead the first time. Hojo had given him a prosthesis. Of sorts.
His cape was gone, too. How delightfully thoughtful of Hades. He had the feeling that if the stone floor under him was cold, then the rest of this place would be cold as well.
"You gave him my cape?"
"Thought he might get cold."
"I'm the living one."
Hades smirked some more. "You've been dead before. Him, though, he was tied into some twerp. Had to kill him."
Rage flared. Within him, Galian roared his fury. He drew the Cerberus, ready and willing to kill this man.
Hades snapped his fingers.
The Cerberus rammed itself back into its holster. Vincent blinked.
"Don't go doing things you don't mean. I killed him so he could be born again. He'll come back here in about twenty years."
Vincent nodded, moving toward Hades, eyeing the three-headed dog. "And I?"
Hades smirked. "You're not alive. I can't just let you leave. But you're not dead, either. So I can't just let you stay."
"Is that so." He just couldn't make it into a question. He didn't tend to ask actual questions in any case, but still—
"Yeah. Oh well. I guess we'll keep you. Welcome to Erebus, Vince. You don't mind if I call you that do you?"
"Then get over it." Hades vanished in a puff of black fog. Save for the three-headed dog after which he'd named his gun, Vincent was alone.
Just the way he liked it, right?
23 years ago
Squall woke up on something as cold and hard as whatever he'd fallen asleep in. He groaned and held his head. That was the last time he would ever listen to Selphie about relaxation or spas. Seriously. Sure, sensory deprivation was a great way to relax, and lying on flat things was good for your back because it was a change—or whatever expensive new reason the people who ran spas would come up with next—
But this was ridiculous.
"Did I pay money for this?" He demanded.
Somebody laughed. Turning around revealed that somebody to be a monster.
"Another of your loopy-thready people?" The monster demanded of three shadows Squall couldn't make out.
One of them nodded. "No mistake, he's tied to the boy."
His tone went flat. "The boy who isn't born yet."
"Tightly tied. He will aid him at least thrice."
"This is ridiculous. The brat's not even born yet. Can't I keep him for a while?"
Three old women screeched, "NO!"
Squall held his head and stood. "Who are you? What's going on here?"
He had fuzzy memories of Rinoa stretching out her hand to somebody. Lying on her back.
Had she…? No. That wasn't possible. Rinoa would never be unfaithful.
"Stop worrying about the girlfriend. It's not an issue. She's dead." The monster informed him. "I'm Hades, Lord of the Dead. Welcome to the Underworld." A wave of his finger and some of the fog slithering around them coalesced into a map.
According to the map, the Underworld had three levels accessible to the average dead soul: the Elysian Fields, on top, Tartarus, on bottom, and—YOU ARE HERE. Erebus.
"Erebus. The home of the River of Souls."
"I'm dead?" Squall found himself wondering aloud. When had that happened?
"Yes, you're dead." Hades eyed the three shadows Squall still couldn't see, no matter which way he shifted his head, they were moving out of his view. "But you don't have to stay that way."
"I can come back to life?"
Hades shrugged. The embers in that gaunt, hollow face bored into him. It was such an intense stare. He really didn't have words for that kind of intensity. He didn't want to have words for that kind of intensity.
"No. You'll never be Squall Leonhart, married to Rinoa Heartilly, Commander of Balamb Garden again. Rinoa is dead, too."
Rinoa—reaching out—mother of Hyne, she had been passing on her Power. And he had thought—
A hand patted, almost gently, onto his back. "Don't beat yourself up about that. Death's a crazy thing. Makes you talk crazy. Makes you think crazy. Now, you can't be Squall Leonhart of Balamb Garden ever again. Balamb quit existing about a year ago. Rinoa's been dead for that long, too."
"Kind of a long time to leave someone wherever I was."
Hades shrugged. "People all over the place are dyin', kid. Entire worlds. I got a backlog the size of the Fields. And heroes are zeroes down here, so it's not like I've got any special treatment for ya."
"If I can't be me, who am I going to be?"
Hades laughed. "Oh, you'll still be Squall Leonhart. That's part of the deal. But the Fates here are going to put you where you can help that pet boy of theirs."
Squall might have mentally travelled to the past and become a moron, thusly proving to his adopted sister that the past could not be changed. But he, Squall Leonhart, unlike Laguna Loire, was not a moron. He gave Hades a hard, calculating stare and finally asked, as slyly as he ever bothered to ask anything, "You don't know, do you?"
"I don't. Now this is my favourite part, so listen up. In order to be born in another world, you have to die here."
Squall nodded exactly once. "Get it over with," he said, steeling himself for pain.
It didn't even hurt.
17 years ago
Yuffie groaned as she awoke. Her entire body ached. Especially her lungs. Cuddling Vincent was the last thing she could remember. Which was crazy, because everybody knew vampires didn't cuddle. And it wasn't like she'd have wanted to cuddle Vincent, anyway, because he was—
That train of that ceased to be imporant. She wasn't alone. She realized that almost instantly. Her balance was off as she spun to face the newcomer.
It was a huge freaking dog. Big, black and three-headed. And it was slobbering.
Yuffie blinked and backed away from it. She backed away far enough and swift enough that she wound up bumping into somebody. A pair of arms wrapped around her waist from behind, preventing her from falling. She gasped a little, began to squirm. The arms released her.
"Yuffie?" That was Vincent's voice.
Yuffie turned, shocked to see Vincent. He looked so different. Thinner. Amazingly thin. Literally skin and bones.
"Love of Leviathan, Vincent, what the hell happened to you?!"
He shook his head. "That is not important."
"What are you talking about, not important?! You look like you've been starving for years! What—what happened?"
"I have given my answer."
"Well, that's a shitty answer, Vincent Valentine, and if you don't give me another one—" she stopped.
She had to stop. She had no threat for him. She never had, except for hugs or other physical contact, and those threats had stopped working lately. No matter how weird the situation had gotten, they probably wouldn't work now.
His expression turned sad. "…So you are no figment, then."
"I don't know, but I feel pretty damn real, thanks."
He nodded. That expression was still distant and sad. He didn't seem happy to see her at all. Not like he ever was, but she usually made him cheer up at least a little.
"Okay, what's going on here?"
"What? No I'm not!" The protest was automatic. Of course she wasn't dead. She was talking, wasn’t she? She felt pain, didn't she? How could she be dead?
But wouldn't that explain the pain in her lungs? The sensation of being cold, that feeling like she would never be warm again?
Vincent gave her his incredibly serious look.
Something cold clapped onto her shoulder. She gave little scream and a half-turn, realizing that it was a grey-white hand she saw.
"That's far enough, kiddos. I said I'd give you a little time alone, but I'm the one who has to do the explaining," said a man with a face like a square-jawed corpse. His eyes were looking straight past her. He was talking to Vincent, she realized, and she was supposed to be temporarily deaf or something.
"Because it's your favourite part," Vincent said. His voice was wry but there was an edge in it, a cutting edge. He was bitter, but more than that, he was bitter and going crazy. She'd bet her life on it.
Not that she had a life to bet, anymore. At least according to them.
"Vince was right, Miss Kisaragi," said corpse-face, this time looking at her, and she realized that she could burn herself on those eyes. "You're actually dead. D-e-d, dead. Previously expired. You are an ex-ninja."
"You made them wait six months before you told them they were dead, and now you turn around and steal their jokes," Vincent grumbled. Then again, Vincent was always grumbling about something.
Yuffie and corpse-face shared a look. "Okay, I'm dead," she said, "what's to explain?"
"Normally, you'd be going to the Elysian Fields." At her blank look, he explained, "Where heroes go after they die. Anyway, you WOULD be going there, but the Fates need you to live again."
"Right. Lemme guess. That means you have to kill me."
Corpse-face blinked. He turned to Vincent. "She's good. No wonder you like her." He turned to face her. "You're good, kid, you know that?"
"I'm religious," she replied. "We hear that kind of crap all the time."
The gasflame eyes flickered as he chuckled. "Yeah, yeah. Are you ready?"
She held up a hand. "Two questions. Am I ever going to see Leviathan again? And what about Vincent? Will I ever see him again?"
The god of the dead—because that was who had to be, she just knew it—gave her a sly, almost pained look. "That first one, I don't know. I don't know any 'Leviathan'. As for the second one, well, that's all up to you guys."
And then it was over. She almost smiled as all her pain ebbed away.