Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, belonging purely to Squaresoft and such. The song belongs to Queen and its affiliates.

Author Notes: Yes, the damn thing is finally back up! It took long enough, ne? However, if you prefer the original version, it’s being put back up, too, in its unfinished glory.

Warning: Shounen-ai/yaoi, AU, angst, disturbing content, probably OOC, violence, masochism, fluff, spoilers, etc. (This covers the whole fic)

Rating: Goes up to NC-17

Beta: The beautiful Malfoy-hima


Chapter I

By tir-synni


"It's been two years!" Tifa Lockhart exploded, slamming one fist on the cherry wood desk. The surface shook wildly, multiple papers sliding to the floor. Uncaring, she retracted her hand to place it defiantly on her hip. "Two years, and there's been no sign of him! Aren't you worried at all!"

President Allen Reeve cringed, watching hours of paperwork fall haphazardly to the floor. Reluctantly, he tore his eyes away from the now littered carpet to meet Tifa's flaring, crimson eyes. He knew the drill. It happened at least once a month. Tifa would storm into his office, eyes flashing self-righteously, the lawyers milling around his desk would flee, his secretary would hold his calls, he would mentally recite his speech, and Tifa's tirade would begin. By Odin, when he took the seat of President for the newly formed Neo-ShinRa a year and a half ago, he never imagined he would have to worry about *this!*

"Cloud Strife did a great service to the Planet," Reeve recited patiently. "Many regard him as a hero and thus respect his wishes. Before he vanished two years ago, he made it empathically clear that he desired nothing but peace in return for his actions. If he still wishes to be left alone, as his friends, it's our duty to respect his wishes."

It was exactly what he said every time Tifa barged into his office. By now, the words were imprinted in his brain. One old girlfriend informed him that he mumbled it in his sleep.

Tifa pouted, and Reeve forced himself not to look away from her eyes. Again, the same old drill. He would refuse her, and she would pout and shake her extravagant breasts. Reeve feared she wanted to hypnotize him. He just didn't want to see the day that she fell out of that tight shirt.

"It's our duty as his friends to support him, and we can't do that if we don't know where he is!" Tifa retorted. Now two hands were on her hips. Reeve swore she purposely bounced a little. "The last thing he needs is to be left alone. He needs us!"

‘You mean he needs *you *,' Reeve thought sourly, but he didn't dare say it aloud. It was like kicking a puppy. That same thinking kept his finger those couple inches away from the tempting, bright red, security button.

"Cloud is a very independent young man," Reeve continued in his speech. "He was strong enough to defeat Sephiroth, not to mention lead you and the rest of AVALANCHE successfully in your mission. He is fine. If the time comes when he needs our help, he knows where to look."

Ugh. His mouth felt like it was going numb.

"But. . . ." Her lips trembled enticingly. No wonder Cloud often begged the others if he could bunk with them, even when given the option to have his own room. He was afraid Tifa would pounce him. Reeve shook such distracting thoughts away as Tifa leaned closer to his desk. Today might be the day she fell out of that shirt. Eyes, eyes, focus on the eyes! "He needed our help before, during the incident with Sephiroth, and didn't speak up. He needs someone to look after him."

Screw the puppy dog analogy. Pushing that button was looking very tempting . . . No! He was an adult. He could do this calmly and professionally.

"In the end, it's Cloud's decision," Reeve finished his speech. "I cannot abuse my position as the president of Neo-ShinRa to stalk a legendary hero and a good friend who obviously doesn't want to be found."

Tifa opened her mouth to protest, but Reeve stood up pointedly. "I'm currently working hard on a new project. I'm already behind schedule. If you would excuse me. . . ." he trailed off.

With one last indignant pout, Tifa whirled on her heel and stalked towards.

‘And just think,' Reeve reflected drolly, ‘I promised Cid an appointment tonight!' He glared disgustedly at the papers on the floor. Hojo's mind was difficult enough to follow when his private documents were in order. This foretold a loooong night.


Interns and experienced employees alike dove to one side as Cid Highwind stalked through the corridors of Neo-ShinRa, Inc. His cigarette burned hotly in his mouth, matching his flashing blue eyes. His temper and sharp tongue were as legendary at Neo-ShinRa as they were at ShinRa. At his side, Vincent Valentine provided an odd sense of balance. His passive crimson eyes sharply contrasted Cid's blazing blue. However, the cape sweeping behind him and his fearsome claw acted just as good as a deterrent as Cid's wild temper. Two members of the legendary group, AVALANCHE. Few had the courage to look at them, nonetheless stand in their way.

However, their conversation belied their intimidating appearances.

"You sound like an excited puppy," Vincent informed his lover, quirking an amused eyebrow.

"I have every right!" Cid snapped, his raised voice sending several young interns scurrying. Vincent noticed this and rolled his eyes. "It took years, but the new Air and Space program is finally going to be in the works!" Cid flashed Vincent a victorious smile. Vincent smiled back, knowing even as his cloak hid it his lover would sense it. "It took a while, but that punk is finally listening to me!"

Vincent decided not to point out the reconstruction and funding problems that dominated President Reeve's mind for so long. Instead, he kept his usual silence.

Besides, for the first year, Cid had been too busy with him to worry about the Air and Space program.

He ducked his head slightly, stepping behind Cid at the return of the bittersweet memories. Vincent had to admit, Cid proved his stubbornness more then than when they were fighting Sephiroth. For the first time in so long, he could recall his beloved Lucretia's face with gentle fondness rather than pain.

As if sensing his thoughts, Cid took a step back and wrapped a strong arm around Vincent's slender waist. "No moping, Lover," Cid said, squeezing lightly. His sky blue eyes sparkled. "This is a good day!"

‘Or night," Vincent thought, glancing out one of the many large windows that dominated the building. It was rather sad that the only time Reeve could schedule an appointment was 10:30 p.m. The time spoke much of his former teammate's schedule. Rebuilding this company back to its former strength without relying on the Mako Reactors was going to give Reeve a nervous breakdown within the next year.

"Just thinking," Vincent replied softly, leaning casually against Cid's side. Cid squeezed him again in what Vincent guessed was appreciation. He simply smiled quietly.

The number of frightened employees lessened somewhat as they approached Reeve's office. Like that of the former president, Reeve's office was isolated from the others'. Reeve claimed it was an attempt to attain some sort of peace in an otherwise hectic day. Judging by the number of people waiting impatiently outside Reeve's impressive double doors, Vincent had to wonder at how well he had succeeded.

Oblivious to all this, Cid assured him, "We'll still be able to live in Rocket Town. Over the phone–"

The double doors exploded open before Cid could get close enough to touch the doorknobs. One hapless employee was slammed in the nose as the rest darted away. Before Vincent could blink, he found himself swept in Cid's arms, feet dangling off the floor. Torn between amusement and indignance, Vincent watched as Tifa Lockhart stormed from Reeve's office. She never even noticed her former teammates.

For a moment, everything was silent. Then Vincent commented drolly, "The dreaded harpy has fled, O' mighty one. You can put me down now."

Cid grinned mischievously at him but relented. "Guessin' Reeve refused to look for the kid again," he commented.

Vincent didn't reply until his feet touched the floor again. He looked once at the stunned employees, huddles against the wall. One was holding his bleeding, possibly broken, nose. Raising an eyebrow, Vincent said simply, "The way is clear. You might want to run for it now."

Thoughts of Tifa forgotten, Cid grinned. "Kiss good-bye?"

"Kiss good-byes turn into long kiss hellos," Vincent pointed out. He squeezed Cid's hand with his flesh hand. "I'll meet you in the lobby."

Cid frowned but turned at Reeve's call. The doors still stood open. "Later," he agreed, the two syllables ringing like a warning in Vincent's ears. Vincent hid a small shiver.

Separating from Cid, Vincent walked silently back the way he had come. As always, his crimson eyes remained placid, his pale face calm. But still waters ran deep.

‘The two year anniversary of your disappearance has passed, Cloud,' Vincent mused. His feet guided him through the endless hall of Neo-ShinRa, Inc. Over the past six months, he and Cid had walked through this building often, trying to further Cid's ambitions for the Air and Space program. He could focus on his thoughts without worrying about getting lost. ‘When will your period of mourning be over?'

Even as he thought it, Vincent knew it was more than that nameless mourning that kept Cloud hidden from the eyes of his friends. Deep in the night, Vincent would start awake from a restless sleep, Cid still sleeping soundly beside him, with Cloud's name silent on his lips and a chill deep in his bones. However, even after two years, Cloud was undoubtedly his leader. Tifa alone attempted to break Cloud's final command, searching for her friend. No one helped her in her quest. Whatever anyone felt concerning Cloud's abrupt disappearance, they could not disobey.

Yet this did nothing to dispel the fear in Vincent's heart.

His feet led him to the lobby, where confused interns dominated, seeming to run around in circles as they tried to determine where they should be. Vincent gracefully sidestepped them all. He settled on one of the lush couches to wait for Cid, facing the storm that raged outside the windows.

//"It's not Sephiroth we're fighting!"//

Cloud's fervent words echoed in Vincent's mind. A handful of words, spoken recklessly on the Highwind's deck as they stared at Meteor. Cried out impetuously, the desperation in his voice reflecting that in his wide blue eyes. Cloud had never explained his strange words, having hastily pretended he had never spoken at all, but Vincent had recognized his anguished air.

Vincent closed his eyes, feeling the electricity rising in the air. The same feeling that had kept him awake so many nights. He listened to thunder the forecasters had foretold, and he clenched his metal claw.

Beautiful, psychotic, vulnerable Cloud. . . .

‘Cloud . . . where are you?'

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