by Filthy

Disclaimer: FF7 ain't mine. Rei Desai is though.

// // thoughts

******** POV change

Chapter 1, Hey, this is my house!

"It's settled then, Ms. Desai. You are now the owner of the ShinRa mansion in Nibelheim." A young blonde woman said, and handed purchase documents to the redheaded woman across the desk.

”But why that house, if I may ask? I mean, it's so run down and will take forever to renovate. Not to mention how much it will cost.” The blonde continued.

”Well...”the redhead started while standing up. ”...I guess you could say that it's the interior I'm after.” And with a knowing smile, she walked out of the office.

A few days later the redhead opened the old rusted gates to the ShinRa mansion. She swept away a few loose strands of dark red hair out of her eyes as she fingered a newly bought dagger. The mansion towered above her, dark and brooding.

//I really hope that there aren't a lot of monsters in there. Ok, note to self: If I run into more than two at the same time, or anything big, I'll run out of there in a flash and call the exterminators. //

She took a deep breath and entered the house.

Inside, she walked around as quietly as she could to see the state the mansion was in. To her surprise, it was in far better shape than she had expected. She saw signs of recent repairs and there was hardly any dust. There didn't even seem to be any monsters around. And to her surprise, one of the rooms in the east wing even had a bed.

//It almost looks like someone's living here. //

She made her way over to the west wing, where she quickly opened up the secret passage to the real reason she bought the mansion: the lab.

//Be careful now, Desai. If there were monsters anywhere in this place, this would be it. // She thought as she made her way down the spiralling stairs.

There were no signs of maintenance in the basement like there were in the rest of the house. The dust laid thick everywhere and moisture ran down the cavelike walls. The air was stale and had a strange smell. The lab itself wasn't as damp as the corridor, but on the other hand the smell was stronger. The redhead sniffed the air to try to place the weird odour.

//Mako, various chemical...blood? Almost like... decaying...// she didn't really want to finish that thought so she carried on exploring instead, starting with the library. Most of the files and books related to the ”Jenova Project”. She put away her dagger and randomly picked up a map labelled ”Specimen C”, briefly looking it over.

”You really were an insane old bastard Hojo. But there might still be something here I can use.” She said with a sigh and put the map back. Going back to the outer room, she looked over the various scattered surgical instruments.

”Oh yes, I can defiantly use this.” She said with a small smile. The smile however disappeared when she heard a sharp click behind her and felt something hard press against the back of her head.

”Use for what exactly?” a dark voice asked.

She felt like her heart was going to burst out of her ribcage as she slowly turned around and found herself looking into a pair of blood red eyes.


Vincent Valentine was quite annoyed. After all, it wasn't every day that you had an uninvited quest snooping through your house.

”Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” He asked, still aiming the Death Penalty at her head.

”Eh... my name is Rei Desai, and... ah... technically... it's my house.” The woman said with a very nervous smile.

//What the..?//

”Your house?”

”Yes, I... bought it a few days ago.”

Vincent just stared at her with cold eyes. He could hardly believe what he was hearing.

//I did not even know the mansion was up for sale. No one has even cared about it in over thirty years.//

”I suggest you leave now.”

The woman's eyes widened at that.

”He-hey, didn't you hear what I said?”

Vincent just clenched his jaw, trying to calm his rising anger. He could almost hear Chaos laughing in the back of his head.

”Yes, I heard you perfectly. However, I do not really care.” He said while gripping her arm to drag her out of the mansion.

He didn't know what happened. If it was that he grabbed her arm to hard or that she tried to pull herself free, but he felt his claw dig into her flesh and heard her scream.

”Aahhh! Dammit, what the hell's wrong with you?!”

He immediately let her go. For a few seconds shame of hurting her paralyzed him. He lost himself in his own thoughts as Chaos laughed louder in his head.

He was roused from his brooding by the woman's voice.

”Hey! Are you listening?

It surprised him that she was still there. He had expected her to run away. It surprised him even more that she didn't look at him in fear. It was a look with a little anger, yes, but most of all, with a strong determination.

Taking his silence as a no, Rei continued.

”I said, do you have a potion or at least some bandages?”

Nodding he fished up a hi-potion from the folds of his cape.

”My name is Vincent if you still want to know.” he muttered as he grabbed her arm, more gently this time, and poured the potion into the wound his claw had torn open.

Within a few seconds the edges of the wound began to close up. Not even a minute later there wasn't a sign left to tell about what had happened, except for the blood drenched and torn sleeve of Rei's shirt and the blood on Vincent's claw. Fully healed she leaned on the old lab bench and looked him square in the eyes.

”Well then, Vincent, I think we have a few things to discuss.”

Chapter 2, Do we have a deal then?

They settled down in the kitchen over some coffee.

”First of all,” Rei started, ”this is my house now. I paid a lot for it, and I have no intention of giving it up. However, that doesn't mean I'm just gonna kick you out just like that. It's a big house, and I don't mind sharing it. I can see you've done some work on it.”

”Some; yes. And I was never aware that someone else owned it.” Vincent replied, taking a sip of his coffee.

”ShinRa still did, but no one really cared about it after Hojo left. I had been trying to buy it for quite some time, but neither president ShinRa or his bastard son really paid any attention to me.”

”You seem to know a lot about Hojo…”

”Yeah, we were related, I'm sorry to say. Never liked the old geezer. Glad he's dead.”

Vincent took another sip of his coffee to hide the smile that was threatening to show on his lips.

”So am I. What are you planning to use the lab for, if I may ask?”

”Well, it so happens that I'm a surgeon specializing in reconstructive surgery. I'm planning on starting my own practice here. Even though he was deranged, Hojo was smart. The stuff he left behind is very good, even if it's old. I just have to clean the lab up and modify some things and I'm basically good to go.”

Vincent grew quiet as he was thinking. Reconstructive surgery? Could she…? Did he dare ask? Dare to hope?

”Can you do anything about this?” he gestured to his claw.

”That's a prosthetic?” she asked with a frown. ”I thought it was some kind of gauntlet.”

”I think it is, but I am not entirely sure.”

”Who did that?”

A grim smile crept over Vincent's face.


Rei looked somewhat disbelieving at him.

”I was one of his experiments once.” He said quietly.

”Then I can see why you're glad he's dead.”

”Yes, it was a pleasure to put a bullet between his eyes.” He muttered.

”Wait a minute… You're Vincent Valentine? The ex-turk who was with AVALANCHE?”

He nodded.

”I thought I recognized you from somewhere. Well, since Hojo did that, he should have some files on you. I'll go check them out and see what I can come up with.”

Vincent just nodded. Seeing that the conversation was over, Rei made her way down to the basement again.


It took some time to dig out Vincent's files in the mess Sephiroth had made when he found out whom he was, but she managed to find a map labeled ”Valentine”. Inside, she found blueprints and reports of how the claw was made and grafted into Vincent's arm.

”You really didn't like him, did you Hojo?” she muttered as she continued to read.

Nearing the end of the report, she was very disturbed by the last few entries that Hojo had made.

”I have placed three entities inside V. It will be interesting to see how they evolve.”

”The Galian almost emerged today, however V managed to contain it. I am still working on breaking V's will. It will be such a nice little tool once it obeys me.”

”I am considering to add Chaos to V's internal residents. Requires some more thought though.”

”Galian broke loose today. It was far more powerful than expected. It killed several guards before changing back into V.

Have no means of controlling it at this point. Will place V in stasis for the time being.”

Rei was so deep in thought that she didn't even notice Vincent until he tapped on her shoulder.

”I figured you would be hungry since you have been down here all day.” He said when he saw her startled expression and placed a plate with a steak and potatoes in front of her.

The smell made her mouth water.

”Oh joy! I have a roommate - or rather housemate - that can cook. That is, if you accept my offer.” She said and attacked the plate.

”I think I will for now.” He dragged a chair over to the desk where she was sitting and sat down himself. ”Have you found anything useful?”

She nodded, chewing on a piece of meat.

”I think I have a fairly good idea of what to do with that arm of yours. It's kinda tricky, though. You see, it's not really a prosthetic. It seems that Hojo just removed all the soft tissue from it, replacing it with mechanics and a bit of electronics. The bones themselves seem to be covered with a layer of metal. I'm guessing that it was liquid when added…”

”I am not sure I need to know all the details.” Vincent interrupted, slightly paler than normal.

”Oh, sorry. There are some things in this report that puzzles me. He has written something about three, maybe four 'entities' that he has placed within you. Something about a Galian…? Chaos? Mean anything to you?”

Vincent's expression became very gloomy as she talked. This made Rei regret bringing it up.

”I'm sorry, maybe I don't need to know. I don't think it'll have any effect on my work on you arm.”

”There were three he gave me.” It surprised her that he spoke of it.

”Demons…” he continued. ”The Galian Beast was the first, followed by Death Gigas and Hellmasker. I… change into them whenever I have been injured badly or am angry enough. I have little control over them.

The last one, Chaos, was given to me by his wife, Lucrecia, while I was with AVALANCHE. I took that vial and drank it willingly, although I regret it now. I have no control whatsoever over him, and he is much harder to keep inside.”

”Why in the world would you willingly take a demon into you?”

”Because I loved her. She is also the reason Hojo did those experiments on me. He found out about our… I hate to call it affair, we never did do much more than talk…”

”I can guess the rest. I've always known my uncle to be the jealous type.”

”Yes. Now, even if it in some strange way feels good to talk about it, I would like to leave the past alone, if you don't mind.”

”Of course. Let's just concentrate on the task at hand then. I need to fix the lab before I can start working on your arm. Care to help?”

He nodded.

”We start tomorrow then.”

Chapter 3, Dinner guests

It was far more work to be done on the mansion than Rei had said. The whole basement was rebuilt. Proper floors, walls and ceilings were made. The room in the back, Hojo's old office, were made into a small, but very efficient lab. The outer room with the makotanks turned into a well-lit, sterile surgical room.

The small room where Vincent had laid in stasis served well as a storage room.

Figuring they would never get patients down the old half-rotten staircase, they installed an elevator.

Basically, the old, vile lab was turned into a sterile, modern research- and surgical ward.

One day while the two were working they had a visitor. It was around dinnertime. Vincent was down in the basement while Rei was making dinner. She felt somewhat competitive towards the ex-turk when it came to cooking. He turned out to be a great cook, so she tried to outclass him, often failing miserably. Sure, it was still edible, but it certainly didn't melt in your mouth like Vincent's food did.

//Now you pay for living on ramen and take-out for so long. Just hope that this doesn't result in food-poisoning.//

She was checking on the lasagna she was making when she heard someone out in the hall.

”Hello? Vincent, are you here?” a female voice called.

Rei made her way out of the kitchen and out to the hall. The first thing she saw was very long, rich dark brown hair.

From one day a few years earlier when Rei had found her first gray hair, she had been a little ashamed of her own hair, and quickly dyed it to the dark red color that it was now. And the fact that it didn't seem to get any longer than just below the shoulders didn't help either.

She felt quite jealous, and it didn't get any better as she looked at the rest of the young woman who owned the hair.

She had a curvy figure with long, shapely legs, clad in a thin summer dress. Just the kind of figure that Rei had gotten jealous of in her late teens.

//…and you still are.// she thought as she addressed the brunette to get her attention.

”Can I help you?”

”Eh..? Yes, I'm looking for Vincent.” The brunette answered, looking surprised to find Rei there.

”He's in the basement right now, but he should be coming up soon. Would ya like to have anything to drink while ya wait?”


Rei could see the wheels turning inside the woman's head as she tried to figure out who she was. She had to fight a smirk that were threatening to sneak up on her lips.

”Ice tea ok?”

”Yeah. I'm sorry but… who are you?”

”The name's Rei Desai. I own the house.”

She extended her hand to the brunette.

”I'm Tifa.”

”You were with AVALANCHE right?” Rei asked as she led her to the kitchen. ”Oh, and please excuse the mess. We're rebuilding.”

”Yeah, that's how I know him. We found him here in the basement. So how do you know him?”

”Well, when I bought the house and came to inspect it, he sorta held me at gunpoint.” Rei grinned as she poured two glasses of ice tea and gestured to Tifa to sit down at the table.

”I don't mind him living here though. He helps me out with the work.” She continued.

”It's amazing how much you've done with the place. I mean, it's been falling apart for as long as I can remember.”

”You should see the basement. Vincent's painting the last of now.”

”Correction, I am done painting the last of it.”

Hearing Vincent's familiar voice Tifa quickly turned around.

There stood Vincent like she had never seen him before. His usual black and red attire was missing and replaced by old worn jeans and a faded blue shirt. His hair was pulled back in a tight braid, and as if to make his look complete, he was splattered in various colors of paint.

Tifa just stared at him for a few seconds. This was the first time that she had actually seen his face. She found that strange, considering that they had traveled all around the world for over two years in AVALANCHE. But the again, he always had his hair falling into his eyes and the folds of his red cloak pulled up to his nose.

”Oh my God, I hardly recognized you!” she nearly shrieked. ”That look really suits you” she added with a teasing smile.

”Now now Tifa, there's no need to be sarcastic.”

Tifa thought she must be dreaming. //Did he just smile at me? I thought he never smiled.//

”By the way Tifa, would you like to stay for dinner? I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.” Rei asked.

”Well, I was actually here to ask Vincent if he would like to eat with me and Cloud if he was here. We just came back to town last night.”

”I suggest that you bring Cloud up here for dinner, and then we could all eat at your house tomorrow.” Vincent suggested.

”Sounds great! I'll go get him.” Quickly finishing her ice tea, she ran out the door to get the fearless leader of AVALANCHE.

About ten minutes later, Tifa barged in through the front doors, dragging Cloud behind her.

”I'm telling you, you have to see it for yourself. It's unbelievable!” she laughed. ”Vincent? Can you come here for a sec?”

”What is it?” the dark, somber voice made them look up the stairs as Vincent made his way down.

”Hiya Vincent.” Cloud said before looking back to Tifa. ”What are you talking about? He looks like he always has.”

”But… he's changed. I swear!”

”Is something the matter?” Vincent asked. He had indeed found time to wash up and change his clothes before the two of them came, and had decided to joke with Tifa. No one had really noticed it, but he did have a sense of humor.

”Well… were you dressed in old clothes and were splattered with paint earlier today?”

The dark gunman raised an eyebrow at that.

”Could you really imagine me looking like that?”

”That's what I thought. I heard something about dinner. Is it ready yet?”

”It should be. Just wait in the dining room.”

The pair did as he said. As they walked through the door, Vincent couldn't help but to chuckle softly when he heard Tifa trying to defend herself.

”But I swear! He even had a braid!”

During dinner Rei filled Cloud and Tifa in on her plans to turn the old mansion into a hospital. She figured that it would be a good idea if she could deal with people who had been in accidents and such. The upper east wing would be used for patients who had to stay the night.

But the basement was done and the supplies that she had ordered from Junon would arrive within a week. That meant it was time for Rei to figure out what to do with Vincent's claw.



Heheeh… I really have to draw the paint splattered Vincent someday. ^_^

Chapter 4, The surgery

After reading through Hojo's files on Vincent a few more times, Rei asked him to come in to her office to discuss what to do about the claw. The small room to the right on the main floor was still somewhat dusty and littered with various objects. The wallpapers was peeling off the walls pieced with holes where rats and mice had decided to live. Needless to say, the renovations hadn't reached that room yet. Rei had basically just thrown in a desk, a lamp and a file cabinet.

Vincent nearly sneezed in the dry, dusty air when he entered the room. Rei, still reading a file, waved vaguely at a chair, gesturing for him to sit down. She continued to read for a few minutes before slamming the file down on the desk and looking the dark gunman straight in the eyes. She knew she was acting like a drama queen, but she couldn't help herself. It was almost time for her period, and she could act somewhat melodramatic when suffering from PMS.

”Well, here's the deal. I know you hated Hojo, and I guess that you'd want to erase everything he did to you. Am I right?”

Vincent, silent as ever, just nodded.

”However…” Rei continued.”…that arm is a stroke of genius, even though cruel. I could sever it completely, but there's no way in hell that I can do something that'll function as good as that.”

”Are you saying that you will not do anything about it?”

”No, no, not at all. Like I said, I could cut it off for you if you want me to. But that seems like a waste of a good construction, at least according to me. So what I'm suggesting is that I give it a hell of a makeover.”

”…please elaborate on that.”

”Well, you know all that material I got from Junon? A large part of that is, to simply put it, artificial flesh, nerves and skin… stuff like that. So I was thinking that I could remove the outer metal shell and replace it with that. So after a while, when it's healed up, you'll have a normal looking arm. And the really good thing is that it will merge with your real flesh after a while. After about five years or so, your body will have taken over the artificial stuff completely.”

The ex-turk was looking at her like he thought it was to good to be true.

”So where is the catch?”

”Well… for my part it's that it'll be kinda tricky to create a blood flow and to attach the artificial nerves. For your part… before your body has taken over the lab made stuff, it'll be very sensitive to injuries. It'll take long to heal if you do injure it and the risk for infections are kinda big.”

Vincent seemed to be thinking about it. His face was void of emotions and his eyes was staring out at nothing.

”I will be able to feel with it again?”

”Yeah. And it'll most likely hurt a lot in the beginning.”

He snapped his eyes up to her face.

”Do it.”

The redhead leaned back in her chair.

”I wont lie you, it'll look like shit for starters, so be prepared for that. And you wont have any nails either for now. That's a later project. And seriously, it's gonna hurt.”

”I do not care. Anything is better than this.”

They agreed that the surgery would be done after they were done rebuilding the mansion, which were two weeks later. During that time they got another elevator next to the stairs in the main hall for those patients who for some reason couldn't walk up the stairs, and turned the round room in the east wing into a bathroom.

The surgery went as planned, save for one incident. Once Vincent was sedated, Rei cracked open the outer shell and set to work. But when she put the scalpel to his skin to peel of the skin where the mechanics were grafted into his arm, something happened. At first there was only a slight shifting in his skin color, so small that she wasn't sure that she had seen anything but made her pause nevertheless. When she continued and made the first cut, the shifting increased, turning his skin more and more purple. The redheaded surgeon grew quite anxious when patched of purple fur started to appear along his arm and chest. A minute later the fur was gone and his skin tone was back to normal. Rei couldn't help but to sigh with relief when she carefully made another cut and nothing happened. The rest of the surgery went without incidents.


When Vincent woke up from the narcosis, the first thing he noticed was a dull ache where there earlier had been nothing. He moved his left fingers a bit, but that only made the pain worse. When he looked down, all he could see was bandages.

His head felt heavy after the narcosis, almost like a hangover.

//I can not believe I still remember what that feels like. I have not been drunk since my days at ShinRa.//

A few minutes later, Rei walked in. With her she had a box covered with a cloth. She sat down on the side of the bed and placed the box on the floor. There was a sound like metal against metal.

”So how ya feelin'?”

”Drowsy. How did it go?”

”Good. You look good in purple by the way.”

Vincent frowned, trying to get that comment trough his still drugged mind.


”You started go grow fur.” She gave him a quick smile. ”So which one wanted to say hi?”

”Uh.. Galian I guess… Nothing else happened?”

”Relax Vincent, everything went fine. Nothing evil jumped out and bit me.”

That calmed him down a little, but he still had a frown etched on his face. For some reason, he didn't feel like life was very good to him at the moment.

”Anyway, here are your orders until tomorrow.” She continued. ”You will not do anything with the arm. When you get out of bed, you'll have it in a sling. I'll change the bandages tomorrow so we'll se how it looks then, ok?”


”Good. And I was wondering, what do you want to do with this?” she picked up the box and uncovered it. Inside lay the shell of the claw. It was somewhat dented and scratched, but otherwise in one piece.

”I was kinda bored so I put it back together. Hope you don't mind.”

Vincent just stared at it. The hated claw. It was finally separate from him, but he still couldn't stand to look at it.

”Destroy it. Burn it. I do not care, as long as you get it out of my sight!”

Rei froze for a moment, not expecting his rage.

”I'm… sorry. I didn't think…” she stammered, feeling quite stupid.

Seeing this calmed the dark gunman down a little.

”Please, just get it away from me. I am not angry, I just cannot bare to look at it.”

”I'm sorry. I just thought you'd might want to see it. Like a proof…” she said while covering it up again.

This made Vincent snap. He didn't know why, and for the moment he didn't care to find out either.

”Do not think you know what I feel! It has not been apart of you for thirty years! You can never even begin to understand.” He hissed the last, his eyes narrowing.

Rei nodded and got to her feet.

”I'll… come back later.” She muttered and made her way out of his room.

Chapter 5, What's wrong?

Rei felt restless when she had left Vincent's room. She walked around in the mansion, trying to occupy herself with something. After dumping the claw in the labs incinerator, she slumped down in her office chair to work. But her mind constantly wandered to the dark haired man.

//Why the hell am I letting this get to me? I know that he really didn't mean to yell at me.//

She knew very well that patients that woke up from a narcosis sometimes could be in a very bad mood. I could be a little like a bad trip or a severe case of waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

//So why am I feeling so bad about it?//

She lost herself in her thoughts, suddenly snapping to attention in a store, buying cigarettes.

//What the fuck am I doing? I quit this two years ago. I'm... I'm just gonna throw these away. Yeah, I'm not gonna fall back to this nasty habit!//

But her body did nothing like her mind said. On her way back to the mansion, she stopped a passing woman, asking her for a light. She drew in the smoke, feeling it irritate her throat and lungs. She held it there for a few seconds before blowing a cloud to the sky. It felt good, but she was still disappointed at herself.

//I guess what they say is true. Once a smoker, always a smoker… Fuck…//

She paused with her hand on the doorknob.

//Hello? Hospital and cigarettes do not go well together.//

Instead of going in, she leaned back against the wall, her face tilted up to the summer sun. She had never really liked the summer.

//But it's different here.//

It was nothing like the scorching summer days she was used to. Nothing like the ones in Midgar where she had grown up. Days where the sun had burned from the sky, reflecting in all the metal and glass that made up the plates. Days when she felt she couldn't breathe because the pungent smell of mako was so heavy in the air.

But here the sun was pleasantly warm and the air was fresh. And it was just so quiet. No cars or sirens or gunshots. Just the wind. The birds.

For a few moments Rei's spirits lifted. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of sun's warmth on her face, the cigarette between her fingers forgotten.


//What in the world did I say to her?//

The next day Vincent laid in his bed, trying to recall what had happened after the surgery. He knew he had been awake, but his memory was blurry to say the least. He could remember that he had been angry, but he didn't know why. And he remembered Rei quickly making her way out from his room. What had happened?

{Oh, you probably just were your old, charming self. You really shouldn't be surprised that people run from you, you know…} The voice came without warning. He almost felt something slithering along his spine and in the back of his head.

//I know that you have been quiet for some time now Chaos, but shut up! I am not in the mood.//

{Are you ever?}

//Leave me alone demon.//

{I will... for now. You've got a visitor anyway.}

True enough there was a knock on the door. Before Vincent could answer, it opened and Rei stepped in.

”It's time to change the bandages.”

She was unusually quiet and seemed to avoid to even looking at him.

”Um... did I… say anything yesterday?” he asked as she was carefully removing the bandages from his aching arm. She just answered with a nod.

”Was I angry?”

”Yeah, you were. But don't worry; it was brought on by the narcosis. You couldn't help it. I'm not mad at you.”

Vincent still felt like he should apologize, but he didn't know for what.

”What did I say?”

”It really doesn't matter.”

During the time of their brief dialogue, Rei had gotten the bandages of and Vincent could get a good look at his new arm for the first time. Even though she had warned him, he still felt chocked and somewhat repulsed by what he saw..

It was swollen and discolored in various shades of yellow, blue, purple and red. The sutures were everywhere. To Vincent, it looked like it was rooting, or at least were badly infected.

”Looks okay.” The redhead muttered as she examined it.

”Okay? This is okay?”

”Yeah. I did warn you.”

”Yes, but I did not expect this.”

”The swelling will go down and the discoloration will fade. After a year or so the scars will be close to nonexistent. So just give it time.” She quickly but gently wrapped it up in fresh bandages.

”I'll go and make dinner. You can come down in half an hour.” She said as she walked out, leaving Vincent wondering what was wrong.

He was still pondering that question as he made his way down to the dining room. The smell of curry chicken soup greeted him. Rei was just setting the table.

”Do you want any help?” Vincent offered.

Without a word she handed him the bowls as she grabbed the glasses and spoons. She had a strange empty expression on her face that he was not used to seeing. During the months that they had lived together, she had almost always been high-spirited and energetic.

”Care to tell me what is wrong?” he asked as he set the bowls on the table and sat down.

She remained standing, leaning on the table. Her head was bowed down as she opened her mouth as if to say something, yet she remained quiet.

”If I have done anything to upset you I apologize.”

”No, you haven't done anything Vincent. It's just… for some god damned reason you make me feel like a fuckin' schoolgirl again.”

”How do you mean?” he asked confused.

”Thoughtless. Ignorant. Far to sensitive when it comes to criticisms, even if it's not really meant. It's damn annoying to feel like that at my age.”

”Your age? Then what does that make me?” he asked, trying a small joke to lighten the mood.

”If you don't count those thirty years in stasis, which you really shouldn't, a young man.”

Vincent felt like this was starting to become a very strange day. First he had that little chat with Chaos who had left him alone for over six months, and now his housemate was acting weird.

The housemate in question raised her head to look at him.

”How old do you think I am? Twenty-five? Thirty?” She sneered. ”I'll be forty this winter.”

She sat down and poured some soup into her bowl.

”I never did tell you that I remember you from before, did I?”


”Around thirty-five years ago, when Hojo was working on the Jenova project, do you remember that he had a quest for a while?”

”His brother came to see him.”

”Do you remember the four year old child he left there for a month, much to Hojo's disliking.”

”His daughter. That was you I take it?”

”Yeah. You know... you were something of an idol for me back then. And to see you again, after all these years… You've changed so much, yet stayed the same…”

”What are you getting at?”

”Vincent, I just…” she paused as if she were trying to calm herself. ”What I mean is... I…”

She didn't get any further before the door slamming open to reveal a young ninja girl interrupted her.

”Yuffie?” Vincent said surprised.

”Hiya Vinnie! How ya doin'?” the shinobi stalked over and gave him a hug before he even had a chance to rise from the table.

”And you must be Rei. Tifa an' Chochobo-boy praised ya so much I had to come over m'self to see if they were right.” She continued almost without even taking a breath.

Vincent looked over at Rei.

”Can we continue this later?”

”…Yeah. Want do join us for dinner Yuffie?”

”Hell yeah! Where's the bowls?”

Chapter 6, Yuffie

Yuffie was invited to stay at the mansion for as long as she was in Nibelheim, which turned out to be a long time. She was, according to herself, on a well earned vacation away from her father. Rei simply interpreted that like she had run away from home.

Since Yuffie was such a social girl, she was almost always hanging around Vincent or the two of them whenever they were doing something together. Sure, she spent some time with Tifa and Cloud as well, mostly to annoy the former AVALANCHE leader it seemed, but most of the time she was hanging around Vincent.

She did however leave Rei alone most of the time. The surgeon guessed that it was because they didn't really know each other and that she was almost always working in one way or another.

Since Yuffe was with Vincent so much, Rei and he never had a chance to continue their earlier conversation. This was something Rei was grateful for. The morning after, when she had calmed herself down, she regretted even opening her mouth. She hoped that the dark gunman would forget it before Yuffie would leave.


For Vincent, Yuffie's presence meant some soul-searching. When he first had joined AVALANCHE, he had thought Yuffie was nothing more than a spoiled brat. But during their long quest his opinion of her changed. At the end he considered her to be a dear friend. Now, three years later, she had changed even more. She was nineteen now, and not a child anymore. She was still as spunky and energetic as ever, but she seemed to be more thoughtful and, dared he say, mature.

Another thing was that he was once again around people that he considered friends. The day that Rei had showed up had truly changed his daily life. For the first time in many years he felt like he was part of something. Something that didn't involve saving the world. Something close to normal, to every day life. As much as in shocked him, he had to admit to himself that he wasn't suited for being alone. Alone he just dug himself deeper in his misery.

And now that Yuffie had come, he felt like his spirits lifted even more. She continued to accompany him, cracking jokes and teasing him. Sometimes they even just sat and talked. Often about mundane things, but sometimes their conversations went a little deeper. He was still mostly quiet, that would never change he thought, and so it was she who did most of the talking. Still, he had never thought that she would be able to share her pains and sorrows with him of all people. He knew that he probably hadn't treated her very well during the AVALANCHE days. He probably hadn't treated anyone as they deserved to be treated, always being cold and distant. But they still wanted to be with him.

//So this is what it is like to have friends.//

Yuffie had stayed in Nibelheim for two months. It was in the beginning of the autumn. The leaves were slowly turning yellow and red, and the darkness came more quickly. It was getting late. Rei was still working in her office, so Vincent and Yuffie was sitting alone in the living room. Yuffie was somewhat quiet that evening. Vincent of course noticed this, but decided that he would not press the matter. He figured that she would tell him if something was up if she wanted to. Surely enough, she soon did.

”I'll be leaving tomorrow.”

Vincent looked up from the book he was reading and looked at her.

”Pop's birthday's comin' up soon. I figure that it'll be hell ta pay if I don't at least show up” she continued.

”Why did you leave Wutai?”

”I just wanted ta get away from him for a while. He's been botherin' me every day for six months before I left that I should marry. It's not like he can force me or anythin', but it just get on yer nerves ta hear the same speech about 'the duty to Wutai' and 'has to give birth to an heir', ya know?”

”I can imagine.”

Yuffie sighed.

”I don't really wanna go back. It gets so damn lonely.”

”How so?”

”It's just… I don't really have any friends there. Everyone just sees me as the heir of Wutai. I guess I miss the days when we were out on the road. With you guys I was simply Yuffie.”

She sank down deeper in the couch she was currently slouching in.

”I miss everyone. I haven't even seen Barret or Nanaki since we parted ways after the big fight.”

”Come to think of it, neither have I.”

”Ne Vinnie, wouldn't it be fun if we all could get together and do something? Like a reunion?”

Vincent seemed to think about it for a second.

”Yes, I think that would be nice.”

”What do you think about Christmas and New Year? We don't celebrate Christmas in Wutai.”

”But New Year is a big event if I remember correctly.”

”Yeah, it is… But I'm not really needed for that. Godo can take care of that himself. Besides, I'll just run away again in he gives me any trouble.” She grinned at that.

Vincent glanced at a clock on the wall.

”It is not that late. We could talk with Cloud and Tifa to see if they agree.”

Suddenly bursting with energy, Yuffie leaped out of the couch and dragged Vincent out of his chair.

”Ya know Vinnie, you turned out ta be a pretty nice person now that you've defrosted.” She teased and gave him a hug.

He gave her a sort of mock annoyed glare before leading her out the door and down to Tifa and Cloud's house.

Chapter 7, Phonecalls

The next morning a very tired Rei made her way down the stairs. Her eyes were bleary and her hair was standing on end. She had been up most of the night, working on patient files and looking over the hospitals economy. The later had not been very uplifting. The purchase of the mansion itself had not been expensive, but the renovations had really taken a big bite out of Rei's funds. The supplies had taken another. And to make things worse, she wasn't really making any money. She had stayed up trying to find solutions for this problem most of the night, which resulted in her nearly drying with exhaustion when her alarm clock went of at eight in the morning.

//Either I have to raise the price for those patients I have, which I really don't want to do, or I'll have to go back to doing nose-jobs and breast enlargements again… This sucks…//

She had never been a fan of that kind of plastic surgery. That was why she had specialized in purely reconstructive surgery. But she had still done a lot of liposuctions, facelifts and a lot of other cosmetic surgeries, so she knew that she could do it.

//But I can't do it alone. I have to hire another surgeon, but how the hell I can afford that is another question.//

She yawned and pulled her old, worn green and yellow bathrobe tighter around her body, and walked into the kitchen. Here she was surprised to see both Vincent and Yuffie eating breakfast. Seeing Vincent up was nothing odd, he was usually up at the crack of dawn, but Yuffie seemed to like to sleep late. Of course, she did seem rather tired.

”So…” the young ninja started and paused to yawn. ” Can you call Cid? I think he likes you better than me.”

”As you wish.” Vincent agreed.

”Mornin'.” Rei greeted and sniffed in the air. The sweet smell of pancakes made her mouth water. ”Is there anything left for me?”

”Of course” Vincent answered and started to get up.

”Naw, sit down. I can get it myself.”

A few seconds later she to was seated at the table, munching happily at the pancakes.

”It's unusual to see you up at this hour Yuffie.”

”It's not by my own choice mind you. I'm goin' home today, so Vampy here decided that I needed a good breakfast before I leave. Basically, he kicked me out of bed an hour ago.” Yuffie muttered and glared at said 'Vampy'.

”I think that is an exaggeration. I never kicked you.” He actually looked somewhat embarrassed.

”No, but you did slam the door open and turned on the lights.”

”I did knock first.”

”Hell no. I never heard anything. And you can't just barge in into a lady's room anyway. What if I'd been naked?”

”Ahem… but you were not.”

”No, but that's not the point.”

”Well, I am very sorry for… barging in to your room. But you would not wake up.”

Yuffie didn't have an answer to this. She just gaped at him for a moment before quickly turning to Rei.

”Oh yeah, there was something we were planning to ask you. Y'see, we´re planning on getting AVALANCHE together for Christmas. And we were wondering if it was alright if some of us stayed here and if we could hold Christmas-dinner here.”

Rei looked up from her plate. During Yuffie and Vincent's bickering, she had zoned out, and was now feeling, and looking, like she was half asleep. She shook her head in an attempt to clear her sleep deprived mind.

”Dinner's ok. As fer stayin' here… that depends on how many patients I have an' if I can set aside a room fer ya.” She paused as she realised that she still had food in her mouth. She quickly swallowed and cleared her throat. ”How many people are we talking about?”

”I dunno. Two or three maybe. What do you think Vinnie?”

”I think that would be accurate. Barret and Marlene could perhaps sleep at the inn. Cid would probably sleep at the Highwind even if we invited him to stay here, and I guess that Shera will to. That leaves Nanaki, Reeve and of course you Yuffie.”

”Yeah. And Nanaki always sleeps on the floor anyways.”

”I'm not making any promises, but I think we could work something out.” Rei said, taking another bite of her pancakes.

”Great! Let's hit the phone before I leave Vinnie.


A phone rang in Rocket Town. There was a loud 'thump' followed by a yell and a string of profanities.

”Fuckin' hell! Damned phone… Shera! Shera, can you get that?!”

Other than the phone's persistent ringing, there was no sound.

”Shera?! Where the fuck is that broad? Now I have to drag my ass out from this friggin' plane an' bang my head an' it fucking hurts!

A few second later the phone was answered.

”Yah, this is Cid Highwind. What the fuck do you want?”

”Well I'll be damned. You finally crawled out of your damned coffin, eh Vince? So what can I do for ya?”

”Chirstmas? Naah, I don't think I've got anythin' planned.”

”What? Well, hell yeah! Who the fuck came up with that idea? I can't have been you.”

”Because you're a fuckin' stiff who live in a box, that's why. The brat? She there?”

”Hey, I fuckin' heard that! Hit her over the head for me will ya?”

”Naah, I won't need a place to sleep. I'll be coming in the Hghwind. What? Who the fuck is Rei?”

”She lives with you? Hehehee… Well fuck, I never knew you had it in you.”

”Yeah, right.”

”Well, I'll fuckin' see you a few days before Christmas then. Tell the brat I said hi. You still haven't hit her over the head, have you?”

”Well, what the fuck are you waiting for?”

”Yeah, I'll see you later. Gotta go back to the friggin' plane now.”

”Yeah, you too. Bye”

The foul-mouthed pilot hung up the phone.

”Shera?! Shera, where t'hell are ya?! Don't invite your fuckin' family here for Christmas! We're goin' to Nibelheim!”


A phone rang in North Corel.

”Daddy, can I answer the phone?”

”Yeah, sure hun'”

The child answered the phone.


”I'm Marlene.”

”Auntie Yuffie! I miss you!”

”Uhu. Uhu. Yes, he's here.”

”Uhu. Sure, hang on.”

Marlene but the phone down.

”Daddy, it's for you.”

”Alright hun', give it here.”

The little girl handed the phone over.

”Yeah, Barret here.”

”Yuffie! Long time no see. How ya doin'?”

”I'm doin' great.”

”We were plannin' on a quiet Christmas, just the three of us.”

”Yeah, didn't ya know? Elmyra's livin' with us.”

”Christmas in Nibelheim? Sure, why not.”

”Yeah, I'll see all of you then. Yeah. Bye”

”Daddy, are we going to Nibelheim?”

”Yeah, it that's alright with you and Elmyra.”

”Yay! Auntie Yuffie's gonna be there right?”

”Yeah, she is. What do you say Elmyra?”

”I'd be delighted.”


An intercom buzzed in Midgar, which was currently being rebuilt.

”What is it Maggie?”

”There is a call for you sir. He wouldn't give me his name, but he said you knew him. Should I patch him through?”

”Please do Maggie. Thank you.”

Exactly two seconds later the phone rang.

”Yes, this is President Reeve.”

”Vincent? Hey, how are you?”

”I'm… stressed. Sometimes I don't know why I accepted this office. But it's fun in a way as well.”

”Christmas? I was planning on working.”

”You are? A reunion? And you are asking me to come? But I was never a part of AVALANCHE, Cait was.”

”Are you sure. Well, I'm sure I can take some time of. I'm sure they can manage a few days without me.”

”Heh yes, Cait is still around. Should I bring him?”

”Okey then, I'll see you later. Take care. Bye.


A phone rang in Cosmo Canyon.

”Hello, this is Nanaki.”

”Well, hello Yuffie. It is good to hear from you. How are things in Wutai?”

”Oh, really? Well then, please give my regards to Tifa and Cloud, and Vincent if you can find him.”

”He is? That's good. I was worried that he would go back to that coffin.”

”No I don't have anything planned.”

”Of course I would. Is everyone coming?”

”That's good. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again.”

”You too, Yuffie. I'll see you soon. Good bye.”


Back in Nibelheim Yuffie hung up the phone. She looked up at Vincent who was leaning on the wall and smiled.

”They're all coming.”

Vincent nodded and returned her smile.

Without warning she threw herself at him and gave him a hug. He was stunned at her sudden display of affection, but soon found himself hugging her back. But as sudden as she had gotten into his arms, she broke away just as sudden.

”It's getting late and I have a long way to go. I gotta go pack. Vinnie, could you do me a favour?”

”Umm... of course.”

”Can you saddle up Yuuhi for me?” She asked, referring to her gold chochobo who were in the town stables.

He just nodded.

”Thanks Vinnie, I'll be right down.”

As he watched her run up the stairs, he couldn't help but to feel like something was missing from his arms.

Ten minutes later Vincent led Yuuhi up to the mansion just as Yuffie walked out the door. He helped her to tie her two small bags to the saddle and looked over the reins and the saddle one more time.

”It looks like you are good to go.”

”Yeah, I guess I am.” She looked down at the ground and shuffled her feet before looking up to him again. ”Aww hell, I just gotta give you another hug since I'm not gonna see you for almost three months.”

Said and done, she hugged him again. This time Vincent was prepared for it so he quickly wrapped his arms around her small body. For reasons he was just beginning to understand, he leaned his cheek against her hair and breathed in her scent, trying to lock it away in his mind so that he would remember it until she came back.

Once again she drew back, quickly placing a small peck on his cheek and mounting Yuuhi.

”I'll see you in three months.” She said kicking the bird in its sides and trotted away.

Vincent remained outside, looking after her long after she was gone. Even though she had only been gone a few hours, he experienced a great sense of loss.

{You are an idiot, you know that Valentine? You should have never let her go, you stupid fool!}

//Yes, I know Chaos. I know.//

Chapter 8

A thick layer of snow covered Nibelheim two days before Christmas Eve. It was still early. Vincent and Rei were eating breakfast while they were waiting for Cloud and Tifa to show up. They ate in companiable silence, each focused own their own meal. That is, Rei wasn't really focused at all on her food, even though it was very good, but she was thinking.

This was the day that AVALANCHE was said to gather. Rei was really looking forward to meeting them all, these heroes of the planet. But somehow she couldn't help to feel a little irritated that Yuffie was coming back, but she couldn't understand why. She didn't have anything against the young ninja. Sure, she was a bit to hyper for the surgeon's taste, but she was still a very nice girl.

Thinking of this, she stole a glance at the dark haired man across the table. She was beginning to notice that she did that quite a lot. It was almost starting to become a habit.

//But he's just so damn easy on the eyes.//

That was when it hit her.

//What the..? I'm not jealous am I? Of Yuffie? About him?//

But when she thought about it, some of the feelings she had towards Yuffie was close to jealousy.

//Aw, come on Desai! It doesn't make any sense. It's not like you love the guy in that way. Right?//

No, she didn't, she was sure of that. He was just a close friend, and that was it.

//Then why the hell am I jealous?//

She looked at Vincent again. He looked like he was lost in thought as well, happy ones at that. Like he was daydreaming. She couldn't help a smile creeping up on her lips. It was not an expression you could see on his face very often. Even though the gunman seemed happier now than he had when she had first come to Nibelheim, he still usually looked a bit cold and distant. This was like seeing him without his mask on.

But suddenly the mask slid back on as a knock was heard on the front door. Quickly regaining herself and hoping that Vincent hadn't caught her staring, Rei stood up.

“Must be Cloud and Tifa.”

When coming in to the hall, the pair was already inside.

“Can you believe that it's snowing again?” Cloud said, brushing snow from the shoulders of his thick navy jacket. “If it continues like this, we're gonna be buried.”

“What's wrong with a little snow?” Rei asked smiling. It never did snow much in Midgar, so she had an almost childish fascination with it.

“There's nothing wrong with a little. Six feet however…”

“Now you're exaggerating honey.” Tifa replied and turned to Vincent. “Did everyone say when they were coming?”

“No, not except for Reeve who just said he would be early. Not very precise, I'm afraid.”


A bit earlier in Midgar, President Reeve's bodyguard walked in to the president's office. Reeve himself sat behind his desk, working as always.

The bodyguard cleared his throat in an attempt to get the president's attention.

“Sir? The helicopter is ready. I believe it is time to go.”

Reeve looked up, somewhat startled.

“Oh, it's you. I didn't hear you come in. But I should be used to it I suppose. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes Sir.”


Not that Reeve could understand why he would need a bodyguard when celebrating Christmas with close friends, but the board of directors had insisted on it. Sighing, he stood up and waked over to his luggage.

“Are you absolutely sure that you want me to go with you Sir?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“They will try to kill me you know.”

“That's what I'm afraid of.”

“Then why me? If I may ask Sir?”

“You were the only one suitable.”

”What about..?”

“Do you really think I would bring him?” Reeve interrupted. “That would be even worse.”

The bodyguard sighed.

“I guess you're right Sir.”


After two hours of socializing with Cloud and Tifa, Rei decided that she needed a break. She still hadn't managed to quit smoking, so the urge for nicotine drove her to throw on her winter coat and step out into the snow. Thankfully it had stopped snowing.

As she lit up her cigarette, she heard sounds of a helicopter approaching. Soon enough it came into view. It approached the mansion, stopping to hover just outside the gates. It seemed that it was unable to land because of the snow.

Two suitcases were thrown out, shortly followed by two men. Shielding her eyes from the flying snow that the helicopter whipped up as it flew away again, the surgeon went to meet them. “Well, that was not a very graceful landing, now was it?”

“Not really Sir.”

The two men had managed to fish out their bags from the snow when Rei came up to them.

“President Reeve?” She asked.

“Yes, but please loose the title. I'm on vacation, there's no need to be formal.”

”Alright. My name is Rei, pleased to meet you.”

“Ah yes, Vincent told me about you when I spoke to him yesterday.” He said and shook Rei's hand. “This is my bodyguard Tseng by the way. The board of directors decided I needed one.”

“Oh? Well, nice to meet you Tseng.”

After another handshake, the three walked up to the mansion. Before going in, Reeve halted.

“Tseng, would you mind waiting outside for a moment. I think I should warn them that you are here.”

“Very well Sir.”

As Reeve walked in, Rei decided to wait outside with Tseng. She was wondering why Reeve thought he had to warn everyone that he had a bodyguard with him.

“What was that about?” she asked.

“You don't know? I was the leader of the Turks before the original ShinRa collapsed.”

“So you were their enemy then?”

“I guess you could say that.”

“But not anymore?”

”I have no reason to be their enemy. I was just following orders back then. The Turks, as we were then, doesn't exist anymore. But AVALANCHE might still see me as their enemy.”

“Then I can understand why Reeve wanted to warn them.”

The snow had begun to fall again and Rei shivered in the cold.

“I really don't see why you'd have to stand out here. Let's at least go in to the hall.”

“That's not necessary.”

“Oh, shut up and come inside.” She insisted and opened the door. “I just have to ask, is it a Turk thing to be all stoic and stern all the time?”

“You obviously never met Reno.”

“Well, no. It's just that you remind me of Vincent.”


“Rei seems to be taking her time.” Tifa said while stirring down a spoon of sugar into her coffee.

“I bet that she's frozen to death out there.”

“You're exaggerating again Cloud. It's not that cold outside.”

“Alright, alright. She's buried in the snow then.”

Tifa laughed and smacked him lightly over the head.

“Ow! I was just kidding…”

“I know hon…”

“I can assure you, she's just fine. Or at least she was a minute ago.” Reeve said, walking into the dining room where they all were seated.

“Reeve! Where did you come from?” Tifa said and rose from her chair to give the ShinRa president a hug.

“A helicopter. We jumped off just now. Rei greeted us.” Reeve said and shook hands with the two men.

“So you brought Cait with you, huh?” Cloud asked.

“No, he'll be coming later. I had a few things for him to do first.”

Vincent looked a bit puzzled.

“Then who do you have with you?”

“Err… that's what I wanted to talk to you about. The board of directors decided that they didn't want to let me go without a bodyguard. There was only two available, and none of them were… suitable for the occasion. So I ended up picking the lesser of two evils, so to speak.”

“Anyone we know?”

“I'm afraid so. It's Tseng.”

There was a brief pause.

“You're kidding, right?” Tifa asked, disbelieving.

“No, I'm not. I just thought that it would be fair to warn you.”

“So who was the other evil?” Cloud asked.


For some reason, that made both Tifa and Cloud laugh. Even Vincent smirked a bit.

“Well, then I agree that you picked the lesser evil.” Cloud said, still laughing.

“I can't believe that you still have the Turks around.” Tifa muttered.

“They're strictly assigned to guard-duty these days. I don't feel I have the need for assassins.”

“I hope not. In that case, we'd have to overthrow you to.” Cloud replied and added with a sigh. “Well, let's go see our old enemy then, shall we?”

Tseng and Rei were just hanging up their coats when the others came out to the hall. Vincent could feel the tension building up in the two fighters beside him as they approached. Reeve seemed a bit anxious. Vincent himself didn't really care that much. He had fought the Turks on a few occasions, though never Tseng himself, but he knew what the Turks were about. They weren't necessarily evil or enjoyed killing and everything else that came with the job. They were just people that were able to set aside their own conscience and deSires. He himself had killed in duty many times.

Tseng bowed his head in a typical Wutainese greeting. Vincent, having Wutainese ancestors and knowing their custom very well, did the same.

“I think you know our feelings about having you here.” Cloud said with a bit of steel in his voice.

“Yes, I can imagine.”

“How are yours?”

“Neutral. I am here on duty as I guess you know.”

“How about a truce then? If you behave, we behave. Deal?” the former leader said, raising an eyebrow as if to dare the Turk to say no.


“Good. Then there's just the question how the others will react.”

Rei, having inched towards Vincent, whispered to him.

“So… do you think we'll have a merry Christmas then?”

“We can only hope.”

Chapter 9

Around noon the same day the next member of AVALANCHE showed up. He was announced by a scratch on the door, followed by a few loud thumps. Those gathered so far rose from the table in the dining room where they were seated.

“Well, I wonder who that could be.” Tifa said and smiled.

“Someone who hasn't learned to knock properly?” Rei replied.

“If I'm guessing right, it's Nanaki, and he might have a little troubble to do that.”

“That was the lion, right?”

“We are not entirely sure what he is.” Vincent said.

“He looked like a lion.” The surgeon replied and shrugged.

It was Nanaki who sat outside the door. The large feline looked very cold. The flame on his tail was smaller than normal and he had ice on his whiskers.

“Oh good, you heard me. I was afraid that you wouldn't. I ended up tackling the door.”

“We heard you alright. It sounded like you were going to knock the door down.” Cloud teased.

“Please come in Nanaki. It is good to see you.” Vincent said and stepped aside to let that large cat in.

“Likewise Vincent. Thank you.”

Well inside, said cat suddenly hissed as his fur stood on end and the flame on his tail burned brighter. He had spotted Tseng.

“You?! What in Cetra's name are you doing here?”

The bodyguard remained quiet.

“I'm sorry for the surprise Nanaki.” Reeve interfered. “He came as my bodyguard.”

“Your what? How can he even be alive?”

“I was wondering that myself…” Cloud said and ran a hand through his spiky hair..

“I guess you are thinking of the episode at the temple of the ancients. We retrieved him shortly after you had gone in. And ShinRa had good medical care in store for it's top employees.” Reeve explained.

“And only for those I suppose?” Tifa muttered.

“Yes, well… Now we're trying to treat everyone the same.”

“I still do not like him being here.”

For the first time since he and Reeve had arrived, Tseng spoke up.

“I think I can explain why. After all; I was the one who caught Red XIII. On Hojo's orders of course.”

The feline hissed again.

“It's Nanaki! Are you willing to do anything for orders?”

“Yes.” the Turk calmly answered.

This time Nanaki growled low in his throat and his flame burned even brighter.

“Please calm down Nanaki.” Vincent said.

“How can you be so calm about this?”

“Because I used to be the same as him once.” The gunman said. “ Please. Come with me for a moment. Perhaps I can make you understand.”

Still glaring death at the Turk, Nanaki did as he was asked and followed Vincent up the stairs. When they were gone, Tifa sighed.

“This really isn't turning out so well. And Barret isn't even here yet.” She turned towards Tseng and jabbed a finger in his chest. “You. The next time someone shows up, you will stay out of sight until we have a chance to explain the situation. Got it?”

The Turk stood his ground, as calm and collected as ever, with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Certainly.” He said and nodded.

A few minutes later, Vincent and Nanaki came back. It had gone better than he had thought, to convince Nanaki that he shouldn't tear the Turks throat out. He did understand that the large cat disliked Tseng, especially after hearing the story about Nanaki's capture. Appearenly, the Turks had ambushed him, and Tseng had managed to jam a tranquilizer in his neck. But having had the same job once, and even the same position, Vincent was able to understand Tseng as well. If his guess was correct, the Turk wasn't to thrilled to be there either.

The cat in question walked up to said Turk.

“I understand that you have been offered a truce once already today. I am willing to do the same thing, only under stricter circumstances. You stay out of my way, and I wont bite your head off. I don not want to worry about another needle in my neck. Do we understand each other?”

“Very clearly.”

Before anyone had a chance to say anything else, the front door bursted open, and Cid and Barret came barging in with big grins plastered on their faces. Those grins disappeared quickly however, as they noticed the Turk standing in front of a still irritated Nanaki.


Tseng was not happy. Not one bit.

When he had first arrived with President Reeve, he had thought that perhaps it wouldn't be so bad after all. The meeting with Rei had been a pleasant surprise, mostly since she didn't seem to hold a grudge against him. Not that they had ever met, but she was a friend of AVALANCHE after all.

And that Valentine had greeted him like an equal had put him more at ease.

And when it came to Strife and Lockheart, sure they had glared at him a bit but they had offered a truce.

But then came Red XIII. He knew that the cat had gotten much stronger since the time that he and the other Turks had managed to catch him. And since he was under orders not to hurt anyone of AVALANCHE, he wasn't so sure that he would be able to defend himself if the cat had attacked. Not unless he fought dirty, which most likely would have injured his adversary, so that was out of the question. Right before Valentine had calmed the beast down, he could imagine those large fangs sinking into his throat.

But as soon as one danger had been cleared, then came the next. Now Highwind and Wallace stood before him, and they looked like they had murder in their eyes. He cursed himself for not hearing the plane, the Highwind that they were supposed to arrive in.

Everyone seemed to have frozen.

//This is bad.//

A snarl from Barret Wallace broke the ice.

“ShinRa bastard!” He yelled before charging the Turk, throwing a punch at his face. Tseng dodged it, but nevertheless his face was met with the fist of Cid Highwind. The impact threw his head back and made him stagger a few feet back.

“What the fuck are you doin' here, you asshole?!” said pilot yelled.

Tseng didn't answer, which made the two more furious. They charged him again, and the Turk had to fight his instincts for fighting back as he dodged the punches and kicks that were directed at him. But as quickly as the attack had started, it stopped as the two men were restrained by Cloud and Tifa.

“Lemme go! I'm gonna kill him!” Barret snarled at Cloud who had locked him arms behind him back.

“No, you're not.” Cloud said in a calm but strained voice as he struggled to hold the much larger man back.

Tseng straightened up and wiped a small trickle of blood from his nose that the pilot's fist had hit head on. It wasn't broken, but it still hurt like hell.

“Barret. Cid, please calm down. He's here with me.” Reeve said.

“What the fuck?! Why the hell would you bring him?!” Cid cursed and tried to break loose.

The President of ShinRa sighed and started to explain again.


Vincent rubbed his eyes and leaned against a wall. This was not turning out as expected, and to make things worse, he felt a headache creeping up at him. But then he heard a voice that made him feel infinitely better.

“Hey, what's goin' on here? What´s all the ruckus about?” Yuffie said, walking through the door with Shera, Elmyra and Marlene in tow.

Seeing her, Vincent felt like something cracked inside him, and like something clicked into place. He had really missed her during the three months that she had been gone.

He quickly pushed himself of the wall and approached her as she saw Tseng.

“Oh…I see…” She said, answering her own question.

“You are not going to attack him, are you Yuffie? I do not wish to have to hold you down.”

She flashed a grin at him.

“If that's what it takes to get a hug from you Vinne, I'd be happy to.”

Smiling himself, he stepped closer to the young ninja and wrapped his arms around her.

“It is good to see you again Yuffie.”