Fandom/Pairing: Kindgom Hearts; Vincent/Yuffie
Rating: ESRB Rating of M for Mature < 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: Yes, there are flashbacks. Hush.
Chapter Seven: When Our Distance Causes Silence
Every note and every word you hear
Comes from deep within
—Iced Earth, "Burnt Offerings"
(Roughly two weeks ago)
Olympus Coliseum: The Underworld
"He can help us? You're sure of it?" Vincent gave the undead man a look that might have been dubious. Of course, it wasn't actually dubious, but the expression was about as dubious as Vincent got.
Auron, as usual, smirked. "He likes to meddle."
Vincent didn't criticize the other man's attitude toward the person who could get them out. Auron wasn't an easy man to criticize. Not when they were so much alike. So he ignored what he felt was unfair commentary and asked, instead, "You're sure of this?"
Auron's tone took on an edge. "For the last time, yes."
And they closed the subject. Just like that. Within two days, Sora arrived with a friend in a ridiculous hat. They were participating in one of Hades' new tournaments. By prior arrangement, Auron joined them while Vincent stayed behind and killed Heartless for Munny. (Killing for money—how familiar it was, even if he no longer wore the blue suit.)
After the tournament, the silver-haired companion looked at him with more respect. Vincent didn't particularly care how the boy looked at him. Evidently, even Auron must occasionally stoop to 'meddling.'
"You wanna bust out of here?" The teen asked. He looked about the age Yuffie had been when she joined AVALANCHE.
The boy stared at him for a few long moments, as if to judge his character. Vincent didn't look away. He would not show submission to a child. At least, not to a child who hadn't saved the world with him twice. (And tried a third time, and failed, through no fault of her own.)
At last the boy spoke, thrusting out his hand and saying, "I'm Riku."
"Vincent," he replied, accepting the hand after a moment of hesitation. In his head, Yuffie—classic Yuffie, sixteen-year-old Yuffie—informed Riku that his hat was stupid.
"Nice to meet you! So, where do you want us to drop you off?"
Vincent shrugged a shoulder. "The nearest world in the circuit."
Sora, who had most likely been searching for Auron and was now loudly voicing frustration at Auron's ability to disappear, joined them. "Uh, the Coliseum's right between the Land of Dragons and Beast's Castle."
"The Land of Dragons," said Auron, melting from the shadows in an unsettling trick Vincent had long mastered (ironically, at Cait Sith's insistence).
The Land of Dragons. No. It wasn't an option. It would surely remind him too much of Yuffie. Wutai had called itself exactly that, once. When it had been a mighty empire and not a pitiful smattering of cities.
"Beast's Castle. It sounds… fitting."
In his mind, Galian let out a lonely howl. Vincent wasn't the only one who missed AVALANCHE.
The Land of Dragons: Mountain Village
"No food for three days?" Rikku stared at her, so aghast that she nearly dropped out of the air. She caught herself, though, and beat her wings extra hard to regain altitude. Once she was back up, Yuffie withdrew the hand she'd automatically thrown out to stop her friend's fall.
"And silent meditation on a shiny round rock, to bathe it in our 'spiritual energy.' I know it's all crazy, but it's my best shot." Yuffie shrugged.
Tu oui rydo sa dryd silr? Leviathan asked.
No offense, dude, she thought at him, but I want my brain back.
E fyc omfyc rana.
She snorted. You were not. After all, he hadn't been, right?
But they agreed not to argue. There was no point. She owned the body, so the worst he could do was give her headaches. Which he did occasionally.
E femm ku, ev dryd ec ouin vecr. Pid cissuh sa.
Olympus Coliseum: The Underworld
Riku had grabbed onto his left wrist and was pulling him forward. Every motion brought a jolt of pain along his spine. Moving toward the light was like swimming upstream in a river made of sharpened hooks. Invisible, painful forces were constantly pushing his limbs backward.
The only thing that was spurring him on was AVALANCHE. Yuffie. Cloud. Tifa. Cid. Reeve. Barret. Red. He wanted to see them. Every time he closed his eyes, their faces burned on his eyelids.
He would not give up. He would not give in. He would endure this.
Don't go back to the coffin, Vintard!
He would keep his promise, damn it.
In his mind, Galian roared. His eyes began to burn in that painful sensation that meant they had flooded red. The Wolf wanted out.
Vincent forced his body to surge forward. A step at a time. Faster. Quickly, before the Underworld could pull him back.
And then, the most welcome sensation in years washed over him. Sunlight.
The Land of Dragons: Mountain Village
The sunlight on her face was distracting. Yuffie tried to ignore it and channel heavy philosophical thoughts toward the stone.
She had never felt like a bigger idiot in her life. Wearing the chocobo hoodie in public would have been less embarrassing. Somehow impaling her spleen with a toaster would have made more sense and served a better purpose. And been a tonne less boring. It would have been performance art! She could have called it The Tragedy of the Feminine Role and the Ultimate Futility of the So-Called Sanctity of Marriage (One Performance Only). It would've been great!
This? Not so great. Actually rather dumb.
An imaginary river washed over her. Frah E ku, oui femm nasaspan.
Remember what, she asked, channeling puzzlement and what it felt like to cast Firaga into the stone.
Firaga ec y pyt etay. Blizzaga, oac. Firaga, hu.
Yuffie said nothing in reply, but gave the stone her coldest magic. She hoped it wasn't her imagination that the stone seemed to be drinking it.
Gummi Space: Olympus Coliseum
This was his first time on a Gummi ship, but it seemed grey and uninteresting. The world had gone blurry at the edges. Vincent knew what it meant, but he was too tired to worry. A short hibernation sounded like such a good idea. The mere thought was sweet as sugar.
He knew he should worry about Auron on the ship’s radio, arranging for a Gummi ship to be sent to Beast’s Castle. They barely had 800 Munny between them. How could they buy a Gummi ship?
But Vincent’s cabin—more like a closet, or a niche in a forgotten catacomb—was soft and dark. It would be so much easier and so much more pleasant to ignore everything.
“You guys are buying a Gummi ship?” He heard Sora ask.
But it didn’t matter. Vincent let sweet, velvety sleep claim him.
The Land of Dragons: Mountain River
The river sparkled in the sunlight. It was far warmer here than at the peak, though cool breezes strayed near the river’s banks.
Without hesitation, Yuffie waded in until the water burbled above her knees. She sat crosslegged on the riverbed and smiled at the rush of water past her chin. Strands of her hair lifted and floated in the stream.
She closed her eyes. The river’s pulse beat all around her. She could feel it. It washed over her, surrounded her, filled her.
She was the river because Leviathan was the river.
Somewhere, the ocean pounded itself against the beach in its endless, roaring push-pull. She could feel that, too. Could hear it with the river’s ears. Yearned for it as the river yearned, in a swift wordless churn of going somewhere.
Her mouth opened.
The river rose. Water forced its way down her throat. Leviathan was screaming something unintelligible in her head. She raised a hand, tried to swim. The river didn’t let her.
And, suddenly, the river was a sinuous, powerful form. Horned and scaled and perfect.
He opened his mouth. “Summon me, Kisaragi.”
She wasn’t drowning. Why had she thought she’d been drowning? This was what it felt like to be alive.
“Leviathan, god of Wutai, I summon you!” Was she screaming? Was she thinking? She wasn’t sure.
And the scales were real, the horns solid. He was slick with saltwater, slippery and strong.
She threw back her head and laughed. He was so beautiful.
Gummi Space: Beast’s Castle
Vincent startled awake. He jerked, staring at the man who had wakened him. Auron was looking at him with a grim frown.
He fought to keep his temper. Unlike the last time he had awakened from hibernation—had it truly been that long ago?—it wasn’t a losing battle. “Yes, Auron?”
Two bare words were all it took to bring him fully awake: “We’re there.”
Vincent nodded. “I see.”
Brief silence. Vincent shifted where he lay, wondering if Sora or Riku had a hair brush.
“You do the talking.”
Since he had slept for a day and a half, Auron had probably been called upon to socialize with the teenaged boys to whom they were in debt. Somehow, Vincent doubted that Auron had enjoyed that. Youthful people somehow seemed likely to irritate him. Auron wasn’t exactly the most patient of people.
“As you wish.”
“I will see to the delivery of a Gummi ship.”
“Understood.” Vincent stared hard at the other man. They were both observant enough, knew each other well enough, that the stare’s meaning should have been obvious.
Auron remained silent, staring back at him. After several moments, Auron replied, “Most of the money came from Hades’ private chamber. I considered it compensation for my services in trying to kill Cloud.”
Hmph. Theft. Even his friendly affection for Yuffie had not inured him to his dislike of stealing. But in this case, considering what Hades had stolen from them both, he could quite easily overlook such a minor transgression.
Vincent rolled off the bed, wondering why it had ever seemed comfortable. It was little more than a thin mattress pulled onto a hard cot.
The Land of Dragons: Mountain River
The dragon curled around her, his scales rubbing against her bare thighs. It was a strange, almost scary, moment. She closed her eyes, soaked up the sunlight and the feeling of slick scales against her skin.
The stone in her hand began to freeze, going so cold it burned her hand. She flinched at the pain but focused on Leviathan.
Around them, the world was water. Shimmering blue stretched as far as she could see. She could hear the river’s exultation; the Watergod was alive, the Watergod was risen.
But there was something sad in the way Leviathan looked at her.
He rested his head on top of hers. His scales scratched against her hair.
She closed her eyes.
The weight vanished.
The stone went calm, just a little chill. The river was no longer endless. She couldn’t feel the ocean’s heartbeat.
She looked at the shiny rock in her palm. Curled her fingers around it. Automatically, she lifted her fist behind her head. With just a quick flick of her arm, she could send that rock skipping out into the river. Never see it again. Leviathan would be gone.
She shook her head and tucked the stone into a pocket.
Her shoes made squishing sounds as she walked back to the village.
Beast's Castle: The South Gate
The stark, heavily-wrought iron gate seemed to keep the castle behind it at bay. The castle loomed, looking as if it weren't so much immobile as simply resting. The dark sky that burned above the castle seemed to press against the gates almost as much as the castle did.
Vincent closed his eyes and listened to the forest around him. He heard the heavy, breathing silence of the trees. The distant murmurs of a stream. But near the clearing that led to the castle, there was no sound save his own breathing. An unnatural quiet had descended upon this forest; Vincent somehow doubted it ever left.
He pressed his right hand against the cold metal. The roses wrought into the gate were of beautiful craftsmanship. In the privacy of his mind, he marvelled.
The gate creaked as it swung open. The flagstones of the walk to the courtyard couldn't seep their chill into his feet. For the first time in twenty years, he could feel warm.
The gate creaked again as Auron closed it.
"Quiet," the swordsman said.
Vincent nodded. "Yes."
He allowed a smirk. "Maybe a little."
Auron snorted, moving forward. For the barest of moments, once they were side by side, Auron placed his hand on Vincent's shoulder.
They stood silently and stared at the castle, with its decrepit beauty and that insolent sky that bore down on them.
But then Auron withdrew his hand and Vincent glided forward. It felt almost as if the shadows were carrying him.
It only took three knocks until the heavy wooden door swung open.