“Hey, Cid?” he asked me softly.
“Uh, yeah, Vince?”
“Where are you taking me?”
I had to laugh. The question
had certainly been a long time coming, considering that we’d already reached
Midgar. “My place. Well, Shera and I share it, but yeah. My home.”
He stared at me for a long
time, heavy silence settling around us like a blanket of dust. I was actually
getting a bit concerned that this was too much and he wouldn’t be able to take
it when I heard his soft voice say “Cid, I… I just got out of prison.”
Raising my brows, I gave him a
wry look. “I know that.”
“Are you…” He cleared his
throat. “Are you sure you want someone like me in your home?”
There was a breathless moment
of shattering pain in my heart before anything would even come out of my mouth.
“If you ever ask me that question, I will slap you, Vincent Valentine. My home
is mine to open up to whomever I see fit. You are my friend; why on Gaia would
you not be welcome there?”
I would have sworn I saw a
sparkle of tears in the corner of his eyes, but it didn’t really matter. “Thank
you” was all that he said and the conversation dried up once more.
Finally, I broke the silence as
I pulled into my driveway and parked beside Shera’s truck. “Well, it looks
like Shera’s home. I think she said somethin’ about making cookies today. Why
do you go on in and see?”
His nod was enthusiastic and
almost comical as he scrambled to unfasten his seat belt and climb out of the
truck. Shera’s cookies were like baked ambrosia. I had no idea what her secret ingredient
was, but I did know that her cookies made our home incredibly popular with our
friends and they disappeared fast.
I was still chuckling as I climbed
the back stairs and walked into the kitchen. Vincent was seated at the table
and wrapped in my roommate’s arms. The embrace looked tight enough that he
probably should have had a fair amount of trouble breathing, yet no protest was
uttered or apparently thought of: he simply submitted to the fervent embrace as
if it were normal.
I wasn’t the sort of man who
got overly choked up by sentimental moments, but this one grabbed my heart and
would not let go. Finally, I cleared my throat. “Shera, Vincent needs to breathe,
so it’s time to let go now,” I informed her.
She laughed and released him. “Sorry,
Vincent, love. It has been so long since I’ve seen you that I got a little…
He smiled and I felt again that
I was in the presence of my old friend. “It’s fine, Shera.”
Still, she slid him a plate
full of what looked to be chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven. “Then
eat my feelings, dear, because I certainly can’t afford to.”
That got a chuckle out of him
and I wanted to kiss Shera on the lips for it. Well, you know, if I wasn’t
pretty sure she was my sister in another life. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“Oh, that reminds me!” I
declared before bellowing, “Gal!”
The huge blue-gray beast we
called our dog came charging into the room, running first to Shera and knocking
her chair back several inches.
“Damn it, Cid, I told you not
to do that!” she growled, but her tone lacked conviction as her hands were busy
stroking the surprisingly silky fur of our over-sized mutt.
“This is Galian Beast –Gal for
short. She’ll warm up to you awful fast, I promise.”
“And then you won’t be able to
get rid of her,” Shera muttered grumpily, snagging a warm cookie from the plate
in front of Vincent as Gal began nosing against my thigh.
As she tired of trying to get
my attention, she jumped up into my lap and licked my face until I laughed and
sputtered before pushing her away. “Hey, now, Gal,” I chuckled as I gently
pushed her back down. “I’m afraid she thinks she’s a lap dog,” I told Vincent
as she attempted to pull her full girth into my lap, only to slid off.
“I can see that,” he replied,
laughter dancing in his crimson eyes.
“Oh, Cid, don’t you have a
surprise for Vincent?” Shera asked as the dog finally gave up on getting into
my lap and curled up in front of my feet.
A finely arched brow was all
“Yeah, but surprises can wait
when they’re good,” I replied. “And it’s not really a surprise anymore. Thanks
for that, by the way.”
“You are ever so welcome,” she
Vincent snorted and I relaxed
into the atmosphere again. Shera just shook her head and I shrugged in reply,
as it to say, How can I help it? The
man had always had a strange effect on me, and I wasn’t about to apologize for
it. It would be like apologizing for breathing or liking his scent… or for
loving him in a strong way that worried me. Apologizing for things that seemed to be
written into my soul was a waste of time, because I wasn’t really sorry.
Shera reached out. “May I?” she
inquired, her fingertips inches from his mangled hand. The flesh was traversed
with dark ink and markings that seemed to have some sort of significance to him.
Still, there was something beautiful in the art on his skin.
He nodded slowly, reaching the
rest of the way, only to lay his fingertips across hers.
Her fingers traced the dark
lines with a sense of awe and wonder. “This is beautiful, Vincent.”
His chuckle was empty and
hollow. “There might as well be some beauty there.”
I fought the urge to grab his
hand and kiss each fingertip. That he managed to use the hand at all proved his
resilience. That he had gotten it fighting for justice for his father showed
his honor and courage. How could anything
be more beautiful than his hand?