Other: Implied Cid X Shera, Aeris/Vincent friendship.
Summary: Owing someone your very life can be tricky, but she's pretty sure she's found a way to repay the man who saved hers.
Teaser: Aeris leaned to her left a tad and peeked into the room. When Vincent realized those familiar, expectant eyes had fallen on him, a profound emotion took him by surprise. Hope lit her face, and apprehension tainted his. Hadn't Cid the common sense to just crack the door and peek out? Did he have to fling it open, so that he hadn't the option to deny his presence?
"The hell you doin' up here?"
Vincent looked up to find a familiar, stubbly face. "Hello, Cid."
"Why the hell ya' hidin'? We that unpleasant?"
"I've just been enjoying the peace."
"Aeris' been lookin' for ya' all day." Cid noted, huffing in defeat as he sat down on his bed, kicking off his muddy boots. Vincent's eyes met his for a moment before falling back to the book in his lap. "She wanted to give ya' proper thanks an' whatnot. Been annoyin' the shit outta' me; pesterin' me to get you to come out… by Gaia, I swear."
"Is that so?" Vincent's response was an apathetic one.
The pilot chuckled sarcastically in response. "I don't get you, man."
"What do you mean?"
" Ya' risked yer life to save hers… not once, but twice for cripes sake! But'cha can't even face 'er otherwise?"
"Kid said you saved 'er ass back in the Temple of the Ancients, too."
At his lack of response, Cid scoffed. "You might fool the others but ya' don't fool me. Yer always keep yer distance, but ya' sure do keep a watchful eye on 'er. I just 'unno if it's cute or if it's downright creepy."
"I don't understand how that translates to my not being able to fool you."
"I'unno what it is, but you got a thing for 'er, you idiot."
"Perhaps my ass."
Vincent shot Cid a somewhat spiteful glare. "And might I ask what it is that you're suggesting?"
"I'unno. Stop runnin' away, talk to 'er. She's desp'rate to thank you, at least give her that much. Last time I saw the poor girl she was nearly in tears. 'Sides, you can't avoid the girl forever. You're obviously not such a cold sum'bitch as you want us to b'lieve, so why ya' keep actin' that way?"
For a long moment, the ex-turk said nothing, but his eyes had narrowed in contemplation while the pilot stared intently, waiting for some form of response.
"You speak so wisely right now… and though I see your point, I can't help but find amusement in the fact that the pot's calling the kettle black."
It was then that Cid realized he'd struck a nerve; such an 'un-Vincent-like' response! It brought a wild grin to his lips. "That may very well be, but it sounds like I'm getting' somewhere! D'you hear yer'self? You sound like a bratty goddamn teenager!"
"Maybe I do, but –"
"I think you just need a slap right up'side your freaky head!" Cid teased playfully, standing up and making his way over to the hermit on the opposite bed. He poked at the man's shoulder a couple times, grinning wildly. "That what you need? A little beatin' around? Eh?"
"Stop touching me."
"Aww, come on, grump ass."
"I said get your hands off me!"
"Lookit' you, getting' all worked up! Guess I hit a nerve, huh?"
"Cid, you're really starting to-"
"Startin' to what? C'mon, pull the stick outta' yer-"
A knock at the door snagged their attention, and Cid snarled. "Now, who the hell's that?"
Vincent's angry red eyes followed the man to the door, which he hastily, carelessly threw open. "Whaddaya' wa-"
He was greeted by two bright green eyes. "Oh. 'Ey, kid. What can I do for ya?"
Aeris leaned to her left a tad and peeked into the room. When Vincent realized those familiar, expectant eyes had fallen on him, a profound emotion took him by surprise. Hope lit her face, and apprehension tainted his. Hadn't Cid the common sense to just crack the door and peek out? Did he have to fling it open, so that he hadn't the option to deny his presence?
Of course he did. Why would he pass on an opportunity like this? Stopping to think about it, the logical conclusion could be that Cid put her up to it in the first place. The sneaky bastard.
"Ah! He's here! Cid, do you mind if I speak with Mr. Valentine for a few?"
"Uh, sure. Actually, I'm goin' back downstairs," Cid began, glaring back at Vincent. "Man, if looks could kill, I tell ya' what! Sheesus, I'm goin'. C'mon in, Aeris."
With newly found zeal in his step, Cid grabbed his boots and closed the door behind the young woman, leaving the two with eyes locked, and a heavy, suffocating silence lingering in the air.
Aeris stood there, mouth askew: despite all her attempts to speak, her words were lost in the imposing silence. Her heart fluttered inside her chest, and lips trembled as she drew in a sharp breath.
"Hello." She finally cooed.
The simple greeting sounded foreign to Vincent's ears. Seldom was the occasion that she spoke directly to him, but even more seldom was the occasion that he let the poor woman do so.
Struggling for a long moment, Vincent realized none of his attempted vocal responses were successful, so he simply nodded in acknowlegement.
"Mind if I sit down?" Her voice sounded more subtle than before, he noted, and cautious was her approach. Still, he said nothing, and answered her with another simple gesture. She strode to the bed opposite him and sat down gingerly: dainty hands in her lap, her fingers tangled and pulled at the others nervously. "What'cha readin'?"
He tilted the cover so that the dim light reflected off of the metallic typography, illuminating the letters for the woman to see. She smiled; just as she had expected, an obscure title and an offbeat author she was unfamiliar with.
"You don't talk much, do you, Mr. Valentine?" Aeris waited patiently, only to get no response yet again. She smiled warmly and laughed at the man's persistence. "I suppose I should stop dilly-dallying." She rose to her feet and strolled to the window, drawing the curtain back and peeking outside. "It's so warm outside tonight... I doubt you'd want to take a stroll?" Her eyes trailed back to the bed, but the man's face was still downcast to the book he was preoccupied with. Whether or not he was actually reading, she wasn't sure.
In reality, Vincent had been reading until she entered the room, but now the book just served as a legitimate distraction, which he was thankful for.
"Alright, I'll get to the point then." Aeris let the curtain fall as she turned to face the man again. "I wanted to thank you for what you did, but I don't know how. Words can't express my thanks. I... I owe you my life."
"You owe me nothing." Vincent responded, looking straight up at her. She said nothing, as it wasn't quite the response she had anticipated. "I expect nothing from you. It was done of my own free will; it wasn't a favor or a debt to be repaid."
"But you should know me better than that by now, Mr. Valentine." There was a hint of playful mischief in her voice. "I'll repay you somehow, whether you like it or not."
"I forget how resilient you tend to be..."
Aeris smiled triumphantly, basking in her victory for a brief moment. "I thought you'd see it my way. But I can't help but wonder, Mr. Valentine... why did you do it? Not just once, but twice?"
"While everyone else was suspicious, you looked upon me without bias," Vincent began monotonously after a long moment of hesitation. "- and when I needed healed after I transformed, you were the only one who dared approach me. You've treated me like any other normal person, and for that I am truly grateful."
Their eyes met for a brief moment; Vincent's smoldering and sincere, while Aeris' reflected warmth and joy. She found herself at a loss for words. "Mr. Valentine..."
"If you insist on repaying me, could you please stop addressing me so formally?"
Aeris only smiled brightly at him. "I'd much rather earn your friendship." Her words confused the man a little, so she clarified. "I want to get to know you, Mr. Valentine, which I can't do if you won't let me. I'll only start addressing you casually when I feel I've accomplished that. Deal?"
"Regardless of my choice, I'm sure you'll find a way." His response warranted a compliance.
"Since I can't exactly give you my life, I'll try my best to help you move on with yours." She whispered vaguely.
When Vincent looked up in surprise, she was already standing at the door. "I'm going to bed now. Good night, Mr. Valentine, and thank you again." She turned on her heel and closed the door behind her before the man could speak. She leaned against the door for a moment with a big smile on her face; for the first time in a long time she honestly, truthfully, deep down in the pit of her stomach, felt giddy. She knew she had her work cut out, but she was determined.
Vincent stared at the door for a long moment before glancing back down at the book in his lap, her final words ringing through his ears; I'll try my best to help you move on with yours.
"She's such a benevolent young woman... I hope she realizes what a tremendous task she's undertaking."
He tried to continue reading, but he found himself unable to concentrate on anything but the strange turn of events that had just transpired. Curiousity gripped him; How will all of this play out? He wondered. Closing the book and placing it on the nightstand, he stretched his limbs out and sought out a comfortable position. With his mind racing as it was with this strange, newfound 'hope' of sorts, he knew sleep would not come easily.