There wasn't much, but it was still enough for the two men to split the delicious meal with their pint sized companions. The kids certainly took up the brunt of the conversation, topics ranging from what all had happened that night, to the colorful characters that would come into the bar. Apparently there was a pirate that came in the other day. Or at least an imaginative man who managed to convince them he was a pirate.
Cid inevitably cooled down against Marlene and Denzel's presence, solely for one very important reason – Vincent was finally relaxed. He was even smiling easier.
At one point, Marlene's phone started to ring. She fished it from her little purse, all joy immediately draining from her face. “Oh no.”
Denzel leaned over, to check the caller id. “Don't answer it.”
“His brain may explode, if I don't.”
Vincent finished off what food he had in his mouth, holding a hand out. “Hand it here.”
Marlene glanced up at him, unsure, then did as he asked. Vincent flipped the phone open, placed it to his ear, and waited.
“It is ten-thirty, where are you?” They could all hear Barret yell, through the line.
Vincent waited for him to finish before responding, “Hi, Barret.”
There was a brief pause. “Vincent? What the hell you doin there?” His voice sounded strange, whe he finally continued. Almost like he was caught in a lie... or possibly drunk. “Did you run away from Cid?”
“Of course not.” Why did everyone keep assuming he was gonna run away? “Apparently the projection broke again, and the kids kinda crashed our date.”
Marlene looked horrified, but Vincent winked at her. “Oh no, no. It fine. More than fine.”
“Well, uh wh-where are ya?”
“Eventually ended up taking the kids on a tour of the upper crust. It's a madhouse up here, and keeps taking a while to get into anything. I guess we lost track of time.”
At that point, it started to become clear why Vincent was talking a bit louder than he needed to. Marlene and Denzel looked to be in shock, but Cid was watching him with growing curiosity.
“The kids seem to be having fun, at least.”
“How much longer are ya gonna be out?”
“I'm uh, really not sure. We're currently trying to get in to see a play, but it's so packed in here, it may take an hour just to get in. I don't even think we can get out, for some time.”
Barret let out a sigh that could have either been from relief or frustration. “Well, thanks for lookin after them.”
“Oh, it's no problem.”
“Just make sure they don't stay out too late.”
“Course. We'll get them home as soon as we can.”
“Ya don't have to hurry it along. Just as long as I know they're alright.” He sighed again. “I'll let ya'll get back to it, then. Give Marlene my love.”
“Will do. See ya later tonight, then. Bye.” Vincent snapped the phone closed, handing it back to Marlene. “Barret sends his love, and if anyone asks, there was a fancier festival up top, with fire dancers and acrobats. That way you can still use the same stories you told us before. And we were going to see Loveless, but it was taking way too long, and finally managed to escape.”
Cid lowered his eyes in confusion. “Loveless? That doesn't sound like something you should watch on Valentine's day.”
“It's actually more romantic, than the title would indicate.” Vincent responded with a wry little smile.
Marlene laughed, dropping her phone back into the purse. “You know, Vincent, they say being able to lie so easily is a sign of a serial killer.”
Cid turned to her, not liking her saying that about Vincent. “How do you know something like that?”
She shrugged. “I watch TV.”
“TV don't make you an expert.”
“It's true though.” Vincent chimed in, attention returning to his food. “Lack of a physiological response, while lying, is a good way to identify a violent sociopath.” He smirked. “Or someone trained in the art of deception.”
“It was my job. But it's even more important to be able to know when someone, like that, is lying.” Leaning closer, Vincent pointed his fork at Marlene. “Don't you ever trust anyone who can lie as easily as I just did.” He shook his head, shoving the fork back into his plate. “Not even a Turk has any integrity anymore.”
Marlene considered asking if that meant she shouldn't trust him, but decided against it. Even she knew better.
Later on, in the night, Marlene had dragged Denzel back onto the glass floor. He was still a touch nervous about Cid's earlier joke, but figured the grown ups wouldn't let them go out there, if it was dangerous. They were now dancing along to the slow song playing over the radio, in that adorable way kids do. Vincent did find it a little strange that the kids actually knew some of these songs. It made him start to wonder just where Cid had compiled this mix.
Either way, Marlene and Denzel were way too adorable. Vincent's eyes drifted over towards Cid, who was watching them with a sappy smile on his face. “You've certainly given them a night to remember.”
Cid snorted a small laugh. “Just as long as you remember it, that's enough.”
Vincent looked back towards them. “I don't think I'll be forgetting tonight, for a long time.”
Cid glanced over at him, leaning against the table. “They kinda make me wish I had Sherra's camera.” Yes, the camera Yuffie was bombarding them with earlier, belonged to Sherra.
“Yea. They do, don't they.” Vincent's eyes lingered on them a bit longer, before finally facing Cid. “It was good of you to let them stay.”
“Eh, I didn't really have the heart to kick them out. May not seem the type, but I really do like kids.”
Vincent's demeanor fell slightly, pondering something that would, without doubt, cause problems with them pursuing a relationship. Nothing he could really do, but take a deep breath and ask. “Do you want kids someday, Cid?”
Apparently, this caused Cid to laugh. “Aw, man, could you imagine what my kids would be like?”
Actually, he could. “They would be the kid, on the playground, forcing everyone to be their friend.”
Cid laughed again. “Especially the little goth kid, trying to hide under the slide, huh?”
Vincent smiled, lowering his head. “Most likely.” He raised his head again, sighing deeply. “I”m sure you'd make a great father some day, Cid.”
“Well, don't sell yourself too short. I bet you'd make a good dad too. Especially with a daughter.”
Vincent's brow furrowed, confused. “Why a daughter?”
“You kiddin? Any boy comes sniffin around your little girl, you'd scare the piss outta him.” With the slight fall in Vincent's expression, Cid slid easily into elaboration. “All you'd have to do is display that gun collection of yours.” He sat up further, laying a hand across the table onto Vincent's. “Like I remember one time, in high school, I went to pick up this girl, for our first date. I walk into the den, and her daddy's sittin in his chair, with this big ass double barrel, in his lap.” Cid held his hands up, like he was aiming the gun. “He sticks it right in my face and says, 'that barrel look clean ta you, son?'.” He lowered his hands. “I about bolted right then, and he was loving it. Just said, 'Probly not, it's hard to get down in there. Guess I'll be up all night workin on it. Ya'll have fun, though.'.” Cid shook his head. “I'm pretty sure he wasn't gonna shoot me, but somehow, I feel that would be your tactic.”
“It's actually, more likely, than you think.” Vincent laughed, brushing his hair out of his face. “Because you'd probably have gotten a similar experience with my father.”
Cid's attention perked up. Vincent hardly mentioned anything about his past, let alone his family. “Your dad was protective, I take it?”
“Overly so.” He took a swig of his not-wine. “In fact, it's probably a good thing I wasn't a girl.”
“Eh, I dunno, Vince. I may have less of a chance getting shot, if you were a girl.”
Cid cocked an eyebrow at him. “So, are you saying I wouldn't get shot, being the man trying to turn his son?”
“Oh no.” Vincent laughed. “I'm saying your chances of getting shot would be equally as high.”
“Ouch.” Cid wasn't quite sure if he should be amused or not. “You're kidding, right?”
Vincent very much considered telling him no. “Yes, I'm kidding. My father only shot people in defense. Or if they hurt me.” He gave this a moments thought, draining the remaining contents of his glass. “Or if he thought they might hurt me.”
“Fair enough.” Cid laughed, watching Vincent's smile fade into nostalgia. “He sounds like a great man.”
Vincent was still smiling, but it was definitely sadder. “He was.”
Cid squeezed his hand, brightening the expression a little. He sighed. “Shit.”
Vincent gaze drifted up to him again. “I'm sorry. I really am having a good time.”
“No, it's ok. I mean, I'm glad to hear it, but that's not it.” Vincent watched curiously, as Cid made his way over to one of the computers, and started digging in the drawer underneath the screen. “I just remembered that I'd gotten you something, but I'm not too sure how you'll react to it.”
Well, that was an odd transition. “Cid, you didn't have to get me anything. This is more than enough.”
“Yea, well, this ain't really a Valentines thing.” Could have fooled Vincent, since Cid placed a small red box, tied with a white ribbon, on the table, before sliding back into his seat. “It was something I was gonna give you anyway.”
Vincent reached out, and pulled the box closer, looking it over. “Why are you afraid of how I'll react?”
Cid smiled. “You'll understand, when you open it.”
“I see.” For someone who's determined not to scare him off, he sure was throwing a lot of surprises his way. Vincent untied the ribbon, and pulled the lid off. Inside was a small silver locket. It was rectangular, roughly 2”x1”, with an engraving of his Cerberus chain, on the front. Vincent plucked it from the box. There were clamps, on either side, and he unlatched them, glancing up at Cid, who was watching him very carefully. He was a little nervous for how Vincent would react. However, when he unfolded the frame, Cid finally accomplished something he'd wanted for so long – He had taken Vincent's breath away.
“Cid.” He gasped, feeling tears burning in his eyes. “This is.”
There were four old photos placed carefully in the small frames. Vincent knew these photos. He knew them very well. The one on the far right was taken the day he graduated high school. He had on a forest green cap and gown, and this was one of the rare opportunities his father actually wore a suit. However, he was back to his traditional attire, in the next photo, but Vincent had to be about eight. In fact, he was sure he was, since he had a bright smile on his face, showing off his very first air gun. The third had a dull sepia overtone, and was one of those professional staged photos. Grimoire Valentine was sitting with his arm around a beautiful young woman, that Vincent didn't remember, but knew her face. She was holding a tiny infant, wrapped in a blanket. The last was certainly the oldest, but so well cared for that it hardly showed. It was a black and white wedding photo.
Vincent drew in a shuddering sigh, wiping his eyes. “These were in my father's wallet, for so many years.” He finally tore his eyes away, and up to Cid, still having some trouble breathing. “Where did you get this?”
Cid licked his lips, unsure of just how proud he should be yet, but ready with an answer. “The WRO confiscated a lot of stuff from ShinRa's science department. This included a lot of the scientist's personal items.” He shrugged. “I may have gone through some of your dad's stuff, and I asked Reeve not to tell you.”
Vincent's face drooped, the tears having been freed from his eyes. “Why would you ask him not to tell me?”
Cid recoiled, debating on whether or not that was a good move. “Because, I wanted to tell you.” He was openly avoiding looking at Vincent. “I'm kind of an old... stupid, romantic that way.”
Even though he wished he had known before, Vincent's eyes softened, falling back down to the locket. He sighed, laying a hand over Cid's, drawing his attention. Vincent smiled, tears sliding over his cheeks. “I can never thank you enough, for this.”
Cid's nerves drained away, and he grinned. “Tell ya what-” He leaned forward, pointing to the graduation photo. “If I can bring that genuine of a smile, back to your face, that's all the thanks I'll need.”
At a loss at what to say, Vincent's mouth hung open. “You are...”
Cid laughed. “Amazing? Incredible?” He offered, showing his full humility. “Insanely handsome?” Admittedly he was hoping Vincent would jump on him calling himself insane.
Vincent shook his head, a smile spreading over his face. “Unreal.”
That one stumped him. “Huh?”
“I just-” His eyes briefly fell down to the silver frame, then back up to Cid. “-can't believe someone like you really exists.”
Cid laughed, sliding his chair closer. Still a bit hesitant, he reached up and brushed the tears from Vincent's face. “Y'know, I've always thought the same thing about you.” It was good to see Vincent wasn't trying to stop him. “And I think I've realized something else.”
“Well, I always wondered why someone, who wants to blend into the background, would dress the way you did.”
Vincent smirked, lowering his eyes. He knew full well where Cid was going with this.
“But seeing this, I think I get it.” Cid looked down at the locket held protectively in Vincent's hands. “That cape is his, isn't it?”
Vincent nodded, his head falling over onto Cid's shoulder. “It is.”
Cid put an arm around him, squeezing his shoulder. His eyes lingered on the second photo. He couldn't help it. Vincent was already adorable, but seeing him that young, holding a big gun was too cute to handle. “You look just like him.” He was briefly startled by Vincent making an odd noise. Maybe he said something wrong, but When Vincent sat back, he still had a smile on his face, drying his eyes. “I used to hate it when people said that.”
Considering he said 'used to' Cid took this as a good sign.
“I loved my father, but I didn't want to be him, y'know?”
Cid just nodded. He certainly understood, but was willing to let Vincent say as much as he wanted to.
“But no matter where I went, all I kept hearing was how much like him I was. Even Lucrecia would say so.” He shook his head, staring down at the locket. “Not just in appearance. Apparently we shared a lot of personality traits. I wasn't necessarily ashamed of that, I just hated hearing it.” Slowly, his head drifted back down onto Cid's shoulder, receiving the arm around him again. “A lot of my high school friends thought I was weird because I didn't rebel against my father.”
Cid laughed, considering to mention that could be from fear of being shot, but still held back. Besides, Vincent would just say his father would never shoot him.
“I just didn't see any reason to. I never wanted to do anything to make him ashamed of me.” He sighed, his smile finally fading. “The only thing I ever did, that he didn't want me to, was join the Turks. Even then, he still supported me. Always talking about how proud he was.”
The small crack in his voice, made Cid squeeze his shoulder, laying his head on top of Vincent's.
Vincent folded the the locket, and fastened the clamp, to better hold it in one hand, and wrapped his arms around himself. “I often wonder if he'd still be proud of me.”
Yup, saw that one coming too.
“Or if he'd be ashamed at how broken I've become. For letting myself fall so far.” He wiped a hand over his eyes. “For all those years I spent just laying there, doing nothing.”
Cid took a moment to formulate his response. It would be way too simple to just say, 'of course he is'. “It's hard to say. From what I've heard about him, I don't think he'd be ashamed. Maybe sad that you're hurting. Sad, for those thirty years, because you had given up.”
Vincent drew in a shaky breath, covering his face, with his hand.
Cid squeezed his shoulder again. “But you got back up. It's taking some time to get your head back together, but you're still working on it. You're fighting again.” He smiled, batting Vincent's hand out of the way. “It just doesn't sound, to me, like your dad would be the kind of guy to blame you for failing. Not as long as you keep trying.” A small pause, and Cid placed a kiss on top of his head. “I know I'm proud of you.”
They sat in silence, for a while, listening as the music compensated for the adjustment. The longer they were quiet, the more clear it became, even though they still weren't paying much attention. Cid still had his arm around Vincent, relieved that he wasn't trying to pull away. Meanwhile, Vincent was contemplating whether he should. Cid had always been there when he needed him. Whenever the nightmares would return, or anxiety would get the better of him. Even with the slightest touch, he could feel all of that stress melt away. It was so unfair to Cid, for him to rely on him this way.
Finally, Cid was the first to pull away. “Hey. I just remembered something else.” He stood, offering Vincent a hand. “I promised you a dance.”
Vincent stared up at him, hand curling around the locket. “That's right.” He smiled, still a touch unsure. “You did.” Vincent placed his free hand into Cid's, rising to his feet. They walked out onto the glass, with Denzel and Marlene, who were whispering something to each other. Cid took the chain of the locket, unhooking the clasp. Vincent allowed him to take the locket, and fasten it around his neck.
Cid took one hand in his, the other timidly laying along Vincent's waist. Vincent's free hand wrapped around Cid's shoulder, setting his head beside it. This was a little more intimate, than he would like, but Vincent really didn't think he could look Cid in the eye right now. His own were still burning with tears. Instead, he diverted his focus on the song. The rapid beat of his heart made it difficult to fully make out, but he caught snippets of the chorus. It sounded as though the singer had told the person he loved that he didn't love them. That he didn't want them around him, and if they believed that was true, they must not have known him as well as they thought.
His mind initially wandered to Lucrecia. About how his anger, and grief had driven her away. Straight into Hojo's arms. However, even faster, he thought of Cid. How many times had Vincent told him to leave him alone? Told him that he'd be better off alone. Cid never listened. He never believed him, because he knew it wasn't true. Vincent didn't want to be alone. It was just a lot easier to be away from them. For their safety as well as his own.
“Whoa.” Cid stated, with a small chuckle.
Vincent lifted his head. “What?”
“Guess that's something else I won't be telling Barret.” He spoke low, trying not to draw the kid's attention.
Vincent looked to see what he meant. It only lasted for a few seconds, and from the startled expression on Denzel's face, Marlene had likely kissed him, but it was there. She pulled back, and giggled, her face reddening. Her arms wrapped around Denzel's neck, pulling him into a hug.
It was then that Vincent was reminded of something as well. Cid had asked for a kiss, if he had a good time, on their date. He was having a good time, and even though he was still nervous, about any intimacy with Cid, he had relaxed. If he didn't kiss Cid, it would be a lie. During this deliberation, Vincent unconsciously took a step back. To which, Cid's response was to wrap both arms around him, pulling him in tight. “Nu uh. I'm not letting you go.”
The motion forced Vincent's arms around Cid's neck, his fingers curling into his shirt.
“I can feel your heart beating.” Cid sighed. “Is it really that terrifying to be so close to me? Or for us to even be alone? It didn't used to be.”
Vincent breathed deep. “Conditions matter. The circumstances of us being together.”
“I ain't gonna do nothin to ya, Vince.”
“I know.” Vincent sighed, laying his head against Cid's shoulder. “I'm more worried about what I may do.”
Cid had to fight the urge to laugh. “Ok, when I said, 'you'd have to keep your hands off me', I was joking.”
“I don't mean it like that.” Vincent grunted. “It's just that, with all the time we were spending together, and how well you tended to me, I found I was starting to fall for you. And, I could deal with that. I was used to not getting what I wanted, so I could ignore my own feelings, and everything would be fine.” His fingers gripped tighter to Cid's shirt. “Then I started to realize that you felt the same, and it got harder to ignore. The two of us being together became an all too real possibility. I just-”
While Vincent searched for the words, Cid decided he didn't need to wait, this time. “I know your reasoning. And I don't want you to feel like you owe me anything. All I want is a chance. We can go at your pace.”
Vincent closed his eyes, trying to push down the persistent tears. He didn't really know what his pace was. “I'm scared.”
One of Cid's hands ran up to Vincent's shoulder, holding him close. Any movement of dancing had died down. “I know.”
By the time the Sherra returned to Midgar, it was past midnight, and Marlene and Denzel had fallen asleep, curled up in the middle of the glass. Apparently the fear, from Cid's bad joke, wasn't permanent.
Cid shut his ship down fully, and they were now carrying the children through the slums of Midgar. Denzel was slung over Cid's back, while Vincent had Marlene perched on his hip; mainly so that he could keep a better eye on preventing her dress from riding up. She was almost too big for this, laying heavily over his shoulder. Vincent had the cactuar clutched in his free hand.
“Y'know, Vince, I was thinkin-” Cid began, hiking the boy into a more comfortable position. “- about what Yuffie said about you just being able to 'monster up'.”
Vincent groaned, rolling his eyes. “I could have gone the rest of my life, without hearing that phrase ever again.”
Cid smirked. “Just listen.”
With an air of sarcasm, Vincent gave him his full attention.
“I just don't think she intended it, how you thought.”
“What do you mean? How else could I possibly take it?”
“Well, I'm not saying it didn't take the others a long time to see you the way I do. But whenever you transformed, I never saw ya as a monster. I always saw the transformations as something you could do. Not who you are.” He turned to Vincent, taking in the look of contemplation. At least he seemed to be considering his meaning. “Don't get me wrong, I'm still gonna smack her upside the head, for it, but I think that's where she was coming from.”
Vincent's gaze drifted to the path ahead of him, pondering these words. Could this be true, without him realizing? If so, how long had he been misinterpreting their actions.
“Plus, I've never seen these two be afraid of you.” He laughed. “In fact, I think Denzel's more scared of me.”
“Denzel's never seen me transform.”
“True, but Marlene has.”
Even though he couldn't see her face, from this position, Vincent glanced over at Marlene. He remembered that day. It was during the first time he stayed at 7:th heaven, after its recreation. There was still some undone construction, and one of the beams dislodged from its place, in the ceiling. Marlene was underneath, and Vincent pushed her out of the way, the beam knocking him hard in the head. It wasn't serious, at least not compared to other injuries, but it was enough to trigger something. It wasn't even a full transformation, passing quickly. Still, it was long enough to send anyone running for the hills. However, Marlene had reacted similarly to Cid. She ran over to him, to make sure he was ok, and thanked him for saving her. She even gave him a hug. They had only known each other for a few months, by then.
“I've never seen that little girl shy away from ya.”
Vincent smiled at the memory, shifting Marlene's position on his hip. She sighed, her arms closing around his neck.
“You may not see it. I mean, hell, it snuck up on me too, but we're a family now; and they want your happiness just as much as I do. Like it or not, you're stuck with us.”
Vincent's smile broadened. “Yea, I guess I am.”