cheloya: (FF7 >> general joy)
[personal profile] cheloya
Title: Faith and Feather
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Pairing: Yuffie/Vincent
Words: 2922
Notes: To those who waited patiently, and those who did not, I am sorry this took so long, and so very glad to be able to give this to you at last. I dearly hope you find it worth the wait.

Chapter Eleven




Chapter 12: Revenant



[Day 10, 0610 Nibel Standard Time]

Aeris found Barret wedged in the window of the greenhouse, PHS crammed against one ear, and cupped hand over the other as he fought Nibelheim's natural aversion to reception. "Uh huh," he said, sounding dubious, and then more fiercely, "Baby girl, what I tell you about that?" The furrow in his brow eased slightly when he spotted her, and he jerked his chin in greeting.

She took a seat at the low stone bench and propped her chin on her hands, green eyes soft and warm as she watched the gunman speaking to his daughter. Never gentler than when he was around her; never fiercer than when he was protecting her; never more grateful than to those who kept her safe.

She wasn't sure which would apply in this situation, but she had an inkling.

"All right, baby girl," he said at last. "You give Momma 'Myra a big hug and a kiss from me, and then you go wash up. Remember to do your readin' before bed." He waited. Aeris couldn't understand Marlene's piping recitation from where she sat, but the words were easy to guess when she looked at Barret's grin. "Love you, too, baby."

"Sorry to interrupt," she said, when the PHS was safely clipped into his vest.

"Naw." Barret waved his good hand. "'m I on shift next?"

"No. I... I need to ask you something." Aeris' fingers twisted in her lap. "About Sephiroth."

Barret's mouth, open on some invitation, closed abruptly.

"I know it must seem crazy to you, but I can't help but think he's just as much a victim in all this as any of us." She could see he was struggling to contain a vehement disagreement from the swelling of his shoulders, the pinching at the corners of his mouth, and she hurried on before he had the chance to begin voicing it. "I think a show of trust will do a world of good, and Cloud said that if you agreed, we could put him on guard duty."

"Spike got a memory like a goddamn tea strainer," Barret snarled. "Maybe you forgot or maybe you just didn't get a good eyeful like the rest of us, but that psycho gave you one hell of a nasty belly button ring. I ain't about to let him do it again -- or to any of the rest of us." The PHS creaked in his grip. "Far as I'm concerned, you're lucky he ain't woke up with a hole through his head."

"Barret," Aeris hissed, appalled. "If anyone has the right to forgive Sephiroth for--"

There was a muffled thud from the hall. Aeris froze mid-tirade, head whipping toward the door. Missing Score whirred in response to Barret's sudden tension, and he laid his hand along it as if he could quell his own nerves like a twitchy wolfhound.

The boards in the corridor creaked, uneasy, and Aeris darted to the door just as Sephiroth's hesitance became solid forward motion. She glimpsed the tip of his braid flicking in the air above the staircase, and then it was gone.

He was gone.

White-faced, she pressed her fingers to her lips and leaned against the door jamb.

"Thankyou, Barret," she said faintly. "Never mind."

***

[Day 10, 0625 Nibel Standard Time]

The sub's steel exoskeleton creaked and groaned as the craft crawled south and the water warmed around it. Most of its occupants dozed fitfully, the near-silence unsettling after a lifetime on or under the plate. Only the pilot was fully awake, though she had spent the last few hours wishing dearly for a radio channel.

Lana's stub nails tinged occasionally on the console -- they were close enough to Junon now that they were coming into territory familiar from simulations and training runs in her academy days. The sea floor had changed a bit since then, especially along the path the Weapon had taken from the Crater, but they were nowhere near that deep. Nothing to do but hurry up and wait for Junon Harbour to blip into existence on her screens.

She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard dull footsteps behind her, swivelled sharply in the chair. The pale girl from the deep sea facility was taking slow, deliberate steps, her head slightly lifted toward the left side of the sub's ceiling. Her pale, blank eyes and the slackness to her expression made Lana think of slum junkies, following the ghostly impressions of people that still clung to the mako they'd injected.

"Hey, there. Something wrong?"

The girl didn't even blink. Lana firmed her jaw.

"Hey, honey," she said, coming to her feet and circling to her left, so Feather could still see her and her raised palms. "Y'all right? You're freaking me out a little."

"He's awake," the girl said, faint as an echo.

Lana's eyes flickered sideways to Reeve (out cold), to Reno (snuffling), back to Rude's inscrutable sunglasses, and grimaced at the hairs rising on the back of her hands.

"Who's that, sugar?" she asked, and had to strain to catch the word whispered, faint as breath:

"Odin."

***

[Day 10, 0625 Nibel Standard Time]

Yuffie was bored enough that she was laying the foundations for a book fort when she heard Barret's dulcet tones rumbling through the building. Enough walls between him and her that she couldn't make out a word of it; his usual frustrated incoherence, or the manor's tendency to chew up sound and spit out creepy, she didn't know.

The voice that rose alongside Barret's was nowhere near as loud, but every bit as strident. Yuffie was on her feet and wiping dusty fingers on her shorts before she finished wondering what Aeris would be shouting about.

The day was pale and grey, the watery light filtering down from sullen clouds bright, but ineffectual. Sephiroth stood at the top of the stairs, gazing upward at the stained glass window. His hands were fists at his sides. The light gave his pale hair a ghostly brilliance. He didn't move or make any comment as she slipped past, and she'd have pulled his hair or rifled his pockets, but he was Sephiroth, so she left him alone.

Later, she'd thank Ashura for that.

She heard Barret's low boom -- quieter, abashed -- as she descended the stairs, and met them in what Vincent called the recital room and Cid called the room with that godawful pianer. Aeris was paler than death, and she didn't even smile when Yuffie said so. "I could hear you two from the other end of the mansion," she said, hands on hips, and the fact that Barret chose to grimace rather than retort said this was worse, not just bad. "What happened?"

"I asked Barret about putting Sephiroth on watch," Aeris said. "Sephiroth overheard."

"Oh. ...oh." Yuffie thought of the fists clenched at Sephiroth's sides and the eerily calm expression on his face, and felt icicles sprouting in the pit of her stomach. "I passed him on my way down. He didn't..."

"He didn't look so good," Aeris finished. Yuffie nodded. "We need to talk to him. Calm him down."

"You first, sister," Yuffie retorted, but she was first down the corridor, straining her hearing, straining to keep her footsteps light and remember where the creaky boards were (everywhere) when she gained the entrance hall and swore softly under her breath.

The stained glass roses still glittered, but Sephiroth was gone.

***

Vincent only heard the voices when he shut the shower off. The creak and ring of the old pipes masked the words, but they could not detract from the sudden stillness in the house when the argument stopped.

He towelled and dressed himself swiftly, twisting his hair into a long, sopping tail down his back. The tiled panel at the end of the bath concealed Lariat and Peacemaker; he lifted the revolver from its bed and laid the lid of the compartment without sound. He broke, loaded, and after a moment's consideration left the safety on. The house was rarely this quiet, even with only himself inside it, but perhaps the wind had tired.

Perhaps the mountains bow.

The hall was empty; he cracked the door to the entrance hall and heard Barret's heavy footsteps immediately before he caught sight of Yuffie, unarmed but clearly wary. He pushed the door back far enough that she could see him and raised a brow when she tensed.

She beckoned, eyes on the stairs, teeth worrying at her lip. Vincent slid from the shadows of the hall just as Aeris and Barret emerged from the southern hall at a jog.

"Problem?"

"Sephiroth knows," Aeris said. No more was required.

"He was upstairs?"

"He was looking at the glass," Yuffie confirmed. "Could be anywhere, but he started in the south hall and went up, so..."

Vincent nodded. He'd head for the lab if he were lucid. If not, his memories would likely lead him there in any case. And for him to disappear so swiftly... "Go."

Yuffie was first on the stairs, Vincent and Barret covering her. Aeris followed until they reached the stained glass windows, and then hesitated. "You might need..."

Vincent jerked his head, telling her to follow, and drew Yuffie back behind him. He and Barret cleared the corner and a section of hall, and then Vincent traced his finger from the edge of a window sill and slammed his brass fingertips through the facade. Plaster shattered, white dust clinging to his slacks, as he twisted the claw and wrenched the panel aside.

Buntline gleamed alongside a trio of armlets and a row of high-level materia he generally preferred to avoid. He gestured to Aeris and Yuffie, knowing by the gleam in her eye that the ninja would spend the rest of her life tapping at his walls and not particularly caring. Peacemaker was still cool beneath his fingers, but there was time. He hoped there was time.

Barret was eyeing him with something like awe when he pressed the panel closed. "You got many of those?"

One in every room. "A few."

He didn't need to tell them to move on. Yuffie took the lead again, then Vincent, bare feet inaudible on the boards. She saw the mirror and slipped quickly beneath it; he eyed it as he edged closer to the doorway. No sign of the General.

Vincent glanced back at Barret. The larger man nodded. Yuffie touched two fingers to her armlet, eyes seeming to darken as the focus took her. Vincent slid around the doorframe in a crouch, and came to his feet almost immediately, grimacing and putting up his weapon.

"Clear," he said.

Yuffie gulped audibly. "That's what you call 'clear'?"

The passage was open, but opened the wrong way, and too far. The bookcase was wedged across the top of the spiral stair, books facing the drop. Sephiroth had written them a message in the dust on the case's back.

FOLLOW

"How can we follow if he's closed the passage?" Yuffie whispered. She was still near the door. She had not seen what Vincent had, and was even now moving to cover.

"Not that way," he ground out, a flare of adrenaline rousing the demon at last. "There's another stair to the left."

***

Movement at the corner of her eye. Tifa glanced up to see Nanaki shaking his head briskly, as if to dislodge an insect, or a stray thought. She had barely dropped her eyes back to the report (Dehydration in M2 Trial Subjects) when he raised his head again, ears pricked forward, stock-still and listening.

"What is it?" she murmured.

"Voices," said the guardian of the canyon. "I heard the shelves, but there are no footsteps."

Tifa's brow knit, and Nanaki's baleful gaze echoed her thought: there was no reason for the way to be closed while they were down here. No good reason, anyway. "Get Cloud."

As Nanaki trotted toward the far end of the lab, Tifa stepped around the doorframe into the damp stone corridor to let her eyes adjust. There was no movement she could sense, no sound apart from the infrequent drip of moisture seeping down through the earth above them. So why close the bookcase? Precaution? Boredom? Yuffie had been on shift, she recalled. Perhaps it was nothing more than the girl needing more supplies for her book fort.

She could hope.

Cloud's boots grated in the crushed stone and the dust. He squeezed her shoulder as he passed, frowning into the passageway as Nanaki's tail flame lit them both for a brief moment, and then plunged them back into darkness as he ran ahead. She stayed at Cloud's shoulder, trying not to let the blaze of light distract her.

But as far as they could tell, no one else had entered. Nanaki reported no new scents, just frowned upward when they came to the stairwell. "Barret," he said. "And Yuffie. Arguing."

"Surprised?" Cloud muttered under his breath. Tifa's lips twitched. "Nanaki."

The great cat took the lead, pausing where necessary to let them climb the stairs in safety. As they neared the top, however, the flame began to lash back and forth with his agitation. He reared up to rest his paws on...

"Books? On this side?" Tifa's voice was loud enough to startle herself, as well as the voices on the other side of the shelving.

"Tifaaaa? Are you there?" A curt murmur and then, in aside, "You quiet down, some of us are trying to help the people, not the hole in the wall. Tiiifaaaaa?"

"We're here. What's happened?"

"Barret used his powers of subtlety, that's what ha--"

"Sephiroth knows." Vincent's voice cut across the rest, crisp with thinly-veiled irritation. "Another passage has been opened to the left of the original. He has left sign for us to follow."

Cloud and Tifa traded wary glances in the flickering light of Nanaki's flame. "Just like old times," the ex-Soldier said. "Can you get us out?"

"We were trying when you came up. We have to block the other passage to do it, though, and someone won't move."

"As I said: I will go after him, while you extract Cloud and the others."

"As we said, pretty clearly, we're none of us given to mumbling: like hell you will."

Cloud beat twice on the bookcase for silence, and flexed his hand with a wince when he got it. "Vincent. Scope the passage, but stay close. We'll follow as soon as we can." When Yuffie began to protest, he added, "Yuffie, you and me next. You know what we'll need."

Tifa flinched as Nanaki's tail thudded into her calf. She dropped a hand to his bristling shoulder and buried her fingers in his pelt. He was tense.

"I can track him," he muttered, "but in the dark..."

"Vincent will track him this time," Cloud said, crouching to be at eye level. "We can't be blinded down there."

Nanaki nodded, apparently satisfied, but his tail never stopped lashing. Tifa ruffled his mane, but the guardian only lowered his head further, and then lay down. She frowned, but let it go; they had bigger worries.

Beyond the shelving, Barret and Yuffie were bickering again. Snatches of their conversation drifted through heavy wood: "--not that way, look, the track--" "--jus' get out the way and let me--"

With a shriek that made Nanaki snarl under his breath, the bookcase juddered to one side -- and then flipped, smooth as butter, giving them a brief view of Aeris' clasped hands and Barret's deep grimace before the shelves slid closed again -- this time with the books on the other side.

In the flickering light of Nanaki's tail, Tifa stared at the word written in the dust on the back of the bookshelf, and felt her stomach clench.

***

"Absolutely not."

"Listen to me!" Aeris' cheeks were still pale, but she was closer to stomping her foot than he had ever seen her. "This is only a problem because it was kept secret -- again, even after what happened last time. It needs to stop."

"It has stopped," he snapped. "We don't have time for this, Aeris. You are not going down there -- not with an escort, and certainly not without a weapon."

"I'd like to see you stop me," she said, and then paused, closed her eyes, as if even she was surprised by the harshness in her voice. Her hands made a gentle motion, as if she were pushing her anger aside. "I need to do this, Cloud. He needs us to do this. He needs to know we trust him."

Cloud had opened his mouth to tell her that Sephiroth needed to know as little as possible to prevent things like this from happening in the first place, when Tifa caught his eye. She was watching him, eyes dark with concern, and she was shaking her head. He took a deep breath, and let it out through his nose.

"You're not going down there without me." Or Ultima. "Barret, stay with Nanaki. Yuffie, go ahead with Vincent. We'll follow as soon as we're armed. All of us," he added, staring Aeris down.

Her lips compressed into a crinkled white line, but she followed Tifa from the room at the mention of armlets, furious, but Cloud couldn't find it in himself to care about her anger. If Sephiroth deserved their trust, he would want Aeris' most of all.

And if anything would trigger him, she would.




Chapter 13: The General
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

cheloya: (Default)
cheloya

June 2013

S M T W T F S
       1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 21st, 2017 12:42 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios