~ LOUDER THAN WORDS ~
It was hard to say when Vincent had first become accustomed to having Cid around, particularly given he’d gotten fiercely protective of his personal space and the captain tended to be a bit tactile. Not to mention that the captain’s loud, quick-tempered, foul-mouthed persona should have grated on him more than anyone else. Gods knew he could only take Barret in small doses, generally across the room, with someone else in charge of the conversation. And it wasn’t that either man was better than the other, they both had good hearts under their rough exteriors, but Cid… Well. The captain was something else.
Speak of the devil and he doth appear. Vincent smiled, soft and fond behind his collar, and peered over the edge of the piece of machinery he’d sat on. Cid had half turned from his drafting table to look unerringly up at him. “Yes, Captain?”
“Good, thought you mighta fallen t’ sleep up there. Come look at this.” Cid crooked a finger at him, other hand tapping at the paper that even Vincent’s enhanced eyesight couldn’t quite make out. He didn’t miss the amusement in the captain’s eyes when he hopped off and drifted down, nor the little tilt of his head that always said he was trying to puzzle something out.
Landing with a soft tap of boots, Vincent smoothed his cloak back and made his way over. “And what have… oh.”
The initial draft had clearly been done under inspiration, sketched hastily with quick, light lines and marked with tiny notes around it. But much more had been applied in the second drafting, heavier lines flowing smoothly across the paper and details filled in with care. The brace was laid out in layers, the top suggesting some sort of alloy he didn’t recognize molded and reinforced for the forearm to take blows and redirect them from the vulnerable limb beneath, a slot for materia and the option of clawed tips. If he was reading it right, all he would have to do amounted to little more than a flex of his hand to go between deadly sharpness and something that would still allow for a gentler touch.
Vincent couldn’t tear his eyes away from it, even when he heard Cid shift in place. Dimly, he had a feeling the captain was probably a bit nervous with his silence, even though he normally managed it well. But that was going to have to wait, because he’d made him this… this…
“I know you do just fine with yours, of course, but it sure didn’t look comfortable that time you let me look at it t’ fix up some of the dents, an’ there’s a helluva lot better materials out there now t’ use, especially with the kinda shit you get up to. I mean, unless that’s special for transforming. Is that special for transforming? I mean, Chaos has one, too, an’ Galian but I didn't think the others had any not that I got real close ‘cause those two are a lil’ wild even for my tastes but-”
“Cid.” Vincent smiled softly, finally able to look at the captain when he heard the increasing nerves in his unusual rush of words. “Thank you.”
“Oh.” Cid grinned broadly, relief a quicksilver flash in his eyes that was overridden by satisfaction. “Great! I mean, I can change it however you might need it t’ be but I thought it was far enough along that you oughta see.”
“I’m glad you showed me.” Vincent touched the paper lightly, already trying to imagine what it would be like when he would be able to do so with either hand and not worry about tearing the paper. “I’d like to try it. Did you need to see this one, for measurements?”
“Well, I wasn’t gonna ask, but if you’re offerin’ it’d help t’ get whatever measures I can,” Cid admitted.
“Whatever…?” Vincent glanced back to him thoughtfully, seeing the younger man was debating his words. Just thinking about what must have made him hesitate made Vincent pause, putting it together after a moment. “Oh. All of it, then?”
“Well, everythin’ elbow down would be great, yeah.” Cid shrugged. “Wasn’t gonna press for that either, but I could get you an even better fit if you don’t mind it too much.”
That made him chuckle softly, flexing and clenching the hand in question with a delicate clink of metal. “I don’t think I mind too much, no.”
Cid was many things and not all of them good, but at some point Vincent had registered him as ‘safe’ and that was the end of it. As unbearable as his trademark behavior should have made him, there was also this side that casually got some tools together while the gauntlet was unstrapped and carefully set aside.
He felt the lack of support in seconds, his arm throbbing dully, and took a moment to bend and flex it, rotating his wrist carefully before getting up to his elbow to remove the close-fitting glove. The air always felt too harsh against hyper-sensitized skin when he took it off, making him shiver slightly. Disgust rarely got the same reaction, but he felt his lip curl all the same at the sight, pale as death until you got to the needle scars and mako burns. Some of it was his ‘fault’ arguably, trying to escape from the processes that had led to the rest. Either way, it remained a memory of pain and betrayal that had shaken him to his core.
“Vincent,” Cid’s voice was unusually gentle, and the blue eyes that met his own were calm and understanding. “You don’t have t’ do this now. I can measure your gauntlet, maybe do the rest later when you’ve thought about it some more. You don’t have t’ push for me.”
Vincent took a slow, even breath, and reminded himself that this was why Cid was safe. Offering a faint but genuine smile, he shook his head and set the glove down. “It’s fine, Cid. Just old scars.”
“Scars that run deep hurt like hell,” Cid retorted, smile gentler than his tone when he got a smile back. “If you’re sure, I’ll make it quick.”
“I know you will, Chief. I trust-”
The door to the hangar opened, several voices meaning several people, and Vincent snatched his hand back. He trusted Cid, but that was not Cid. He had just long enough to recognize disbelief and Cid’s temper hitting like a limit break as he wisped himself away in a blur of red.
Cid’s nostrils flared with a deep breath and he rounded on the group, certain Vincent was well out of reach by now. “You goddamn motherfuckin’ morons can’t remember that IF THE DOOR IS LOCKED YOU FUCKING KNOCK? It ain’t fucking rocket science an’ I think I’d know since ‘m the goddamn rocket scientist around here!”
“Git yer asses outta my hangar it’s a goddamn Saturday there ain’t no reason ta be here without callin’ first!” He snarled, pointing to the door when they didn’t move. “Don’ make me say it twice, I’ll throw ya out on yer ass so hard yer folks’ll feel it!”
“Did I give ya permission ta fuckin’ speak, idiot?” Cid started towards them, well aware that being shorter didn’t do diddly to take away from how intimidating he could be, and raised his voice to a full bellow. “GIT OUTTA MY HANGAR!”
They stumbled after each other, but all made it out fast. Cid marched himself off after them and slammed the door before locking it securely. “Goddamn idjits can’t remember th’ simplest courtesy! Folks outta be ashamed lettin’ brats out without th’ sense the gods gave a dog… there’s beach plugs smarter’n that, for fuck’s sake!”
A pointed throat clearing had him spinning, giving Vincent a sheepish smile. The former Turk was clearly amused. “I think you’ve traumatized them, Chief.”
Cid laughed quietly, rubbing a hand over his neck. “Yeah, well, they earned it. You okay?”
“Just startled, it’s fine.” Vincent came back down, cloak billowing out around him in a lighter ripple than physics said it should.
“How the hell does that even work?” The words were out of his mouth before he realized it and he was maybe just a little embarrassed, but Vincent had heard worse and just looked amused still. “The cloak. Is there an anti-grav device in there, an’ if so why haven’t you shared?”
“There’s no anti-gravity device in any of my clothing, Chief.” Vincent made his way back over, smiling softly. “Perhaps we should get the measurements down now?”
Cid huffed, nodding. “Yeah, we’ll do that. C’mon, might as well take it all up t’ my loft. I can put on some tea an’ it’ll be more comfortable.”
Vincent nodded, heading back to get the glove and gauntlet while Cid gathered his supplies. “You have a kitchenette up there?”
“Eh, enough t’ manage.” He shrugged, gesturing with the papers. “It’s just stairs t' get up there, no elevator.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
Cid huffed at him. “I’m not all machines, Vince. Here, come on up; lil’ steep but I imagine you’re light enough on your feet t’ manage.”
“… I’m imagining you carrying all manner of things up and down these,” Vincent admitted, voice quiet but close enough to be clear behind him. “It’s a bit worrisome.”
“Only fell the once, ‘m used to it now,” Cid said. “Besides, I can take some knocks.”
“That doesn’t make me any more inclined to want you to.”
“Aw, it’s fiiine, got myself a nice thick skull, haven’t you heard?” Cid let them in, taking a moment to swat at the light switch. “Lemme get that tea on.”
“I listen to everything, but I’m far more picky about what I believe,” Vincent said.
“Yeah well, good on you for that much, but I’m fine.” Cid set water to steep, then came back to see where Vincent had settled - or not, really, still standing near the desk he’d put his papers on, gauntlet laid down carefully beside them. The black glove held in his bare hand just made the paleness more striking, the deep scarring more vivid. He’d seen plenty of scars before, though, and didn’t flinch from it. “So, how sensitive is all that? I’m not a tailor, but I could see about a lined glove t’ go with this.”
Vincent froze a moment, but relaxed slowly at the calm questioning. “Most of it is fairly sensitive, but I can adjust.”
“Yeah, an’ usually you do, but I don’t want you t’ have a big change t’ adjust to.” Cid shrugged. “We can look into that later. I’ll need time t’ make this anyway, give you better mobility than that one you’ve got.”
Vincent nodded slowly, extending his arm once more to let Cid work. He was silent for most of it, answering questions when they were asked and watching Cid with intense red eyes.
Cid was calm under his stare, moving slow and doing his best to project his own calm and confidence as he worked. He was sure he only had the bare outline of what had happened to his friend, but that was enough to be honored by his trust, and he was damn well going to treat it accordingly.
Still, there was something that eased a bit when Vincent got his glove back on. Their silence was fairly comfortable, in fact. “Yours is an interesting art, Cid.”
“Hnn?” Cid glanced at him and shrugged, smiling at the compliment. “Thanks. Helps t’ have somethin’ t’ do that I really enjoy.”
“I’d honestly expected this more of Reeve,” he admitted, turning to admire the sketch again.
“Just ‘cause my machines are bigger doesn’t mean I don’t like all the fiddly details - just means people don’t see ‘em near so much.” Cid watched him a moment. “You know, you can take some of that off, too. If it’s comfortable.”
Vincent’s brows rose, heading for his bandanna. “You just want to look for the presumed anti-gravity devices.”
“Well, I’ll admit I’m goddamn curious about how you pull that fancy wispin’ maneuver of yours,” Cid said. “Looks awful close t’ flight. You know how I am.”
The teapot began to whistle and Cid headed back to get it, making two cups of tea and setting them to brew. He made a startled noise in the back of his throat when he turned to see Vincent standing without the obstruction of the omni-present red fabric, currently draped over his arm instead. “Well.”
“I know how you are,” he said simply, offering it for inspection.
Cid arched a brow, wondering at all that might be implied in that sentence. Still, he accepted the cloak in silence, marveling at how soft it was. “Well, no wonder you wear it. ‘S just like a blanket.”
Vincent chuckled softly, watching him spread it out and the gentle way he examined it. “It’s… comfortable.”
“Guess so.” He held it by the collar, trying to get a feel for the weight of it, only to stop when Vincent approached him. It was a little disappointing to have him gesture for it back, but he handed it over without complaint.
There weren’t really words for Cid’s surprise to have Vincent swing it around to rest on his shoulders, the weight settling differently than he’d pictured.
“I don’t think it’s quite your color,” Vincent said, amused.
“I probably look ridiculous,” Cid agreed dryly, aware that there was enough differences in height to make something that fell lightly on Vincent’s thighs to look odd on him. And that wasn’t even going into the style of it, not that Cid didn’t have plenty of raggedy things. “But it is comfy, yeah.”
“And does not, in fact, contain anti-gravity equipment or experimental materia,” Vincent added, lips twitching.
“I didn’t even get around t’ suggesting that one yet!” Cid huffed, but he couldn’t help a little smile. “So, how do I make it fly?”
“Never so at home as when you're in the sky, are you?” Vincent shook his head. “I couldn’t tell you. There’s no secret magic that I know of that makes it possible.”
Cid didn’t pout - he didn’t - but he wished there was something. Actual flight, without even a plane between him and the sky… that would be amazing. “Ah well. Life’s just like that sometimes, isn’t it? It's a nice dream t' have.”
“Sometimes it is,” Vincent agreed quietly. “But you’re good at watching things until you figure them out. Maybe sometime I can show you.”
It wasn't hard for Reeve to remember that Meteorfall had only been three years ago. That their mad rush to stop Sephiroth had only been a single year in itself was mind boggling, yes, but he had a very solid grasp on what all had been going on for the past three years - he'd been in the thick of it, even before an 'anonymous' benefactor had helped him fund the World Regenesis Organization. The irony of the fact that his efforts to make the world a better place had once been so thoroughly ignored by the late President Shinra wasn't lost on him, but it was hard to savor with how busy he was.
As fond as he was of AVALANCHE - at least this second incarnation that Barret had started and Cloud had finished - they were like so many civilians who just hadn't comprehended the necessary evil ShinRa Inc. had been. The loss of the reactors was only the tip of the iceberg, immediately cutting power from anything that may have survived in Midgar, and even out to Kalm. That meant no air conditioning and no heating, yes, but it went even further. Hospitals scrambled to get generators working, but many who would have managed to survive Meteor with proper medical equipment died as there just wasn't enough power to go around. Water systems came to a stall. Any stores of perishable foods had to be prepared quickly in ways that many people in the city simply weren't prepared for, and what could have helped feed the survivors in another situation was ruined before most thought to even look.
Yes, Reeve had memories of his own of that time, marshaling what forces he could to try and evacuate the city. And let people say what they would of the Turks, but he thanked anyone who was listening that Veld had brought back his team, because he'd been desperate for people to help take charge that he could trust the competency and efficiency of. Just getting people out of the city was complicated by a lot who stubbornly believed they'd be safe until it was nearly too late, and there were just so many of them. Trains were packed full, highways were clogged, military vehicles were stuffed and it still wasn't enough. Saying the population had been halved during Meteor and the aftermath was extremely conservative.
Sephiroth may have become 'the Nightmare' but Reeve's nightmares were haunted by memories of fire in the sky and panic thick in the air, screaming and sobbing and-
"If you're going to be ill, Commissioner, I'd appreciate a bit of warning."
Reeve glanced up and across the helicopter to where the current director of the remaining Turks sat, looking over some paperwork. It wasn't from him, but he didn't even try to guess what the man might be working on. ShinRa may only be whispered these days, but Rufus was busier than ever. "I'm fine."
Tseng arched a brow, giving him a look of open disbelief and waiting patiently for him to tell something a little closer to the truth.
"Thinking about the mess from Meteor," he said finally.
Tseng didn't put the papers away, but he laid them on the folder and gave him more direct attention. "This is a bit reminiscent, I suppose. As I understand it, Omega did a great deal of damage to the ruins."
"And Midgar was already a mess." Reeve sighed. "Joined now by Kalm and Junon."
"Kalm and Junon have both faced and recovered from disaster before," Tseng said mildly. "And I've been told you've continued to come up with better plans for dealing with Midgar. Do you think the battle with Deepground and Omega would have done enough to scrap those plans?"
"Not all of them, no." Reeve shook his head, mind going over several of his ideas just by habit. "But I'm not so optimistic as to think none of them will need reworking."
"We're quite fortunate you're creative, then."
"Oh is that what they're calling it these days?" Reeve chuckled softly, well aware that not so long ago the words used to describe him were not nearly so kind. Funny how the world almost ending made people appreciate practicality and a mind for civil engineering.
"Your ability to work with Mr. Wallace and Captain Highwind is also admirable." There was a hint of a smile on Tseng's lips, but his words were sincere; Barret and Cid were not the easiest people to work with, and they were a special breed of difficult for Rufus and the Turks.
"They do have very strong personalities," Reeve agreed. "You may find Vincent to be easier to approach than going straight to Cid."
That particular tidbit earned a brief lift of both brows before Tseng's expression smoothed to something more thoughtful. "The insight is appreciated."
Silence reigned for a while, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Then Reno's voice came back to them, relaxed but professional. "ETA about ten minutes, yo. Valentine's coordinates check out for landing."
"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised you felt the need to check," Reeve admitted. "Do you have someone on the ground?"
"Reno has an eye for that sort of thing." Tseng gave him a curious look. "Did you have someone waiting?"
"Not planned, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find a red-eyed shadow looming somewhere over my shoulder," Reeve said. "No slight to any of you, so much as I think sometimes he questions my survival instincts."
Tseng had a neutral expression down to default, though his eyes held a spark of amusement. "I can't imagine why."
"Mm." Reeve thought back over the years, smiling faintly. "It often seems my greatest strength is being underestimated."
Reeve hadn't been at 'ground zero' as it were since the battle with Deepground, and without the rush of adrenaline it was an even grimmer sight. It was only now in the calm and still of the aftermath that he could really process it all, the levels of damage done by both sides. Really, it had been unavoidable - he'd had to throw everything they had at them, no time to look for neater alternatives when they were trying to rouse Omega WEAPON and end all life. The damages here were nothing compared to having the whole planet wiped. But now that they'd survived the threat, he had to deal with the mess left behind. He had an entire portfolio of reports and blueprints from Shelke, a few notes in Vincent's flowing script often near the hasty markups and comments Cid had added. It was tremendously helpful, but not enough. "What a mess."
"No arguments here," Reno muttered, toeing at the rubble nearby with a huff. "A lot of this stuff has Scarlet all over it. Big, nasty machines were her MO, y'know?"
"Oh believe me, I know very well." Once upon a time, Reeve might have let himself comment on how much of his time and energy had to go into cleaning up after her messes back in their days at ShinRa, but it really wasn't worth it now. And if he was reading his Turk escorts correctly, they were remembering the same things from the angle of their department anyway. "The only warning we had, if you'd like to call it that, was from her files. It's entirely possible this is her handiwork."
"The robots would be her designs." Tseng looked the area over, keeping close to Reeve's side as the head of the WRO made his way further into the mess. "She was always fond of that sort of thing. The rocket launchers as well, very reminiscent of her previous works."
"Mm. I don't suppose you could suggest anyone who might be able to evaluate some of those for repurposing?" Reeve made a list off to the side of the notepad he'd attached to the front of his portfolio. "We'll salvage as much as we can, of course; the metal in particular will be useful to melt down and rework, but some of the engines would be good to get a look at. I can't imagine they all ran on mako, and more alternatives are always welcome."
"There are some individuals I could make requests from, certainly," Tseng said. "You have the manpower?"
"Some, yes, but I'm aiming to make more jobs. Getting people out where they can see the difference they're making is good for the morale of the workforce, and hopefully the sentiment will spread further into Edge at the least."
That was another thing that people took for granted until it was too late; ShinRa was the largest employer by far on the eastern continent, and Reeve didn't think he was exaggerating to say it was probably on a world scale too. And when ShinRa fell, it took the economy crashing down with it. Now people were scrounging to survive, desperate and more than a little bitter. It was a hard thing to be optimistic for the scared, battered survivors, but helping the people was what Reeve had always wanted to do. He just hadn't expected it to end up on such a big scale.
"The President was interested in hearing what plans you put together later." Tseng glanced towards their former headquarters with an expression Reeve would tentatively call nostalgic, though the small smile faded after a moment. "I can't help but wonder how much was collateral, and how much was in some way deliberate."
"Hm?" Reeve tried to follow his gaze, to see which parts of the damage he was fixed on. In that particular direction… "I think that was mostly from Sephiroth's visit last year."
"Visit." Tseng was unquestionably amused by the wording.
"I've found that word choice goes hand in hand with perception of events," Reeve explained. "I have no intention of giving anyone or anything more power to use against me than they already have. Sephiroth is no different."
Tseng nodded thoughtfully, saying no more on the matter.
Reno ended up interrupting the companionable silence with an apparent find, and Reeve banished his musings for later.
They spent the better part of the day weaving through the wreckage, making notes that Reeve would transcribe later on different sheets, sending them out to Cid and Vincent, a tentative request to Cloud and a promise of much more thorough discussion over a business dinner with Rufus. Reeve suspected that the business dinners were less about setting a calculated atmosphere and more about Tseng making sure Rufus stopped to rest and eat these days, though he'd never say so. For all the younger man had been a brat, he was shaping up to be a much better man than Reeve had dared to hope.
Sometimes he did let himself wonder what might have happened if Rufus had gotten the presidency under better circumstances, if Shinra Sr. hadn't been murdered and then Sephiroth started on his year long trek that had AVALANCHE chasing after him and the company trying to keep up and stabilize from the sudden shake-up. Having to jump in the perception of the executives from "too-young vice president" to claim absolute presidential authority, managing the significantly smaller forces of Turks, SOLDIER almost completely wiped out, and the army hindered by Heidegger's questionable leadership… honestly, giving credit where it was due, Rufus had done a commendable job only to have WEAPONs and Meteor wipe out the progress he'd carved out for himself.
That the man wasn't overwhelmingly bitter, was in fact willing to help from the shadows, spoke volumes of the changes it had brought to him personally. But that was the way of it now, more than topography had been drastically changed. Entire portions of the Planet were wiped to the point they would need a complete rebuild, the population drastically reduced, and there was only a vague semblance of society these days.
Reeve thought it could be done. Not that there was much choice, things needed to be changed and drawn together before they lost the little they had, but still… still, there was hope. Barret had struck oil last year, and while it wasn't a long-term solution, it would help in the meantime. Reeve had managed to wrangle Cloud into discussions, largely mechanics and recycling, as well as thoughts of how to thin monster populations and arrange for goods to be transported in bulk. Cid was extremely helpful once you roused the inventive and honestly brilliant mind that he hid under a very rough and often crude exterior; it was terribly easy to forget the man was a literal rocket scientist, and he didn't help by focusing far more on how he just enjoyed flying. But Reeve was a detail man, and he made a point to remember.
Vincent was helpful as well, when he let himself be tracked down. The man was an information hound, gathering everything he could find to catch up on the time he'd missed. 'Formerly of the Turks' he might claim, but apparently some habits never left. He helped make a tenuous connection to Veld as well; the pair's relationship beyond Reeve's full understanding, but it was enough to know the former Director was willing to give input if not actively help very often.
Shaking his head, Reeve finished up his last set of notes for the night, getting up and chuckling at the loud sigh and clearly heard 'finally!' from Cait Sith as the animatronic cat hopped down from whatever perch he'd settled in and tried to shoo him to bed. "You need your rest, Reeve."
"I know," he said, making his way down the hall and working off his suit. It had been a busy but productive day, and he was pleased with the outcome. "More to do tomorrow, best not to waste what hours I can spend for sleep."
"Good man. I didn' want t' have t' pull any dirty tricks."
"I'd really rather you not, myself." Having given himself permission to wind down, Reeve found himself yawning even though his mind was still buzzing with the long list of things he'd need to order and arrange, matching up the level of work that needed done with how many jobs it could make, and the ripple effect going through to bolster the economy. It would be slow going, but the big picture was there. Lots of jagged bits needed gathered and fit together with care, but Reeve was an engineer. Making things work was what he did. This time, it just happened to be the world.
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