Later, when everyone was relaxing comfortably on the Highwind, they began to discuss the issues at hand.
"First off, were getting Barret, an Yuffie, an Reeve, I suppose " Cid said, propping his feet up on the table in the meeting room and sipping a cup of tea Shera had prepared for him.
"Why do we need to alert the others?" Vincent asked, he was the only one of the group who had remained standing.
"Cause were Avalanche and we always stick together," Cid snorted. "We should at least get Barret. Hes big enough to handle Chaos if "
"I can control it if I have to." Vincent shuddered. "But its very, very hard."
"If you can stop it why dont you do it more often?" Cloud asked.
"Cloud, you have no idea how painful it is, just changing is agony, slowing the transformation down and stopping it is " By some strange twist of fate, or perhaps by the hand of an unseen entity, Vincent was cut off and sank to his knees on the ground.
"Vincent!" Lyria cried, kneeling beside him. "Whats wrong?"
Cloud grabbed her arm and pulled her away. "Get back, hes changing I dont know if hell be able to stop it "
"Lets get out of here!" Cid directed, ushering the others out the door. Lyria lingered for a moment, still spellbound by Vincents transformation until Cloud grabbed her again and dragged her out of the room
Cid and Cloud both slammed the heavy doors to the meeting room and Tifa pulled a large barrel in front of them.
"What are you doing?" Lyria exclaimed, broken out of her fascination. "You cant just leave him there!"
"If he changes while were there, well have to take him down or be killed. This way at least weve bought some time " Cloud looked at the doors, which now seemed very flimsy with the prospect of Chaos ripping through them in the other room. "Its not a heck of a lot of time though "
"So we just wait?" Lyria asked, glancing worriedly at the doors.
"Yeah thats about all we can do " Tifa sighed and sat down on top of the barrel.
"How long?" Shera asked, speaking for the first time.
"Im not sure What do you think Red?" Cloud asked.
"I do not know. I wasnt even aware he could stop his transformation "
Everyone waited in silence, Red swishing his tail nervously, Tifa examining her shoes as she dangled her legs over the side of the barrel she sat on, Cloud pacing and Cid lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag. A muffled and very weak sounding moan interrupted the silence and they all jumped as though a cannon had been fired. Tifa kicked aside the barrel and Lyria rushed into the room. Vincent was slumped against the wall and he shuddered as Lyria knelt and gently laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Vincent?" she half whispered, slipping an arm around his shoulders and helping him sit up. His breathing was shallow and uneven, almost ragged and Lyria lightly pressed a hand against his chest to feel for a heartbeat. "Oh, Vincent " Tears of sympathy welled in Lyrias eyes. "Im so sorry "
"I dont know because there are people out there who would inflict this sort of pain and suffering on another human being " One of the tears fell from her emerald eyes and she rubbed it away with her free hand.
"Its not your fault this is my punishment "
"No one could do anything to deserve this oh god, Vincent this is horrible " A choked sob escaped her lips and she closed her eyes. "Are you going to be all right?"
Vincent awkwardly patted her hand in an atypical attempt to comfort her. "Yes. Ill be better after I rest a bit "
"I Cloud, you help him I have to go " Lyria carefully slipped her arm from around Vincents shoulders and ran out of the room.
"Whats her problem?" Cid muttered. "Shera, go talk to her."
"Right, Captain." Shera gave Cid a mock salute and headed out the door after Lyria.
"Do you think you can stand?" Cloud asked Vincent, offering him a hand up.
"Yes " With Clouds help Vincent managed to rise and Cid helped him to one of the rooms Shera had insisted be made up for living quarters.
"So now what?" Tifa asked when Cid came back.
"I dunno. I guess we call the others."
"You do that and Ill go find Shera and Lyria," Tifa decided.
"Lyria?" Shera called softly, peeking into the small stable room. Lyria was perched on a crate, crying softly. The Chocobos who stood in the room were warking quietly from time to time in response to Lyrias sobs.
Lyria wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "H-hi Shera "
"Whats wrong?" Shera sat down next to the young doctor and wrapped an arm comfortingly around her shoulders.
"I just I I feel so bad for Vincent its not fair " Lyria sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief Shera gave her.
"Its terrible isnt it? But you mustnt let it get you this upset "
Lyria managed a strained laugh. "Yeah. I guess the other doctors are right I am weak and sentimental "
"Oh no! Honey, dont you ever say that!" Shera exclaimed. "I bet others mock you for your feelings and the passion you put into your job, even though you know in your heart that your way is right "
"Uh huh " Lyria sniffled again.
"And even when you feel like giving up and being a cocktail waitress or something else that will make people appreciate your femininity, you stick to it because you know that your way makes peoples lives better "
Lyria giggled, this time for real. "Yeah "
"That is what makes you such an incredible doctor you let your heart mix with your work. You take the time to make friends with your patients and that gives you the motivation to go all-out to pull them through."
"Oh, Shera, I didnt think anyone would ever understand " Lyria said gratefully.
"I do, Lyria, believe me I know what its like to get your heart so tangled in your work you forget everything else or if you get your heart tangled up with your patient " Shera looked meaningfully at Lyria who blushed.
"I didnt think anyone else would notice " she whispered.
"Dont worry, hon, I know what its like." Shera smiled. "I cost Cid his entire space career because I loved him " Shera hesitated. "No, let me rephrase that Cid cost himself his entire space career because I loved him and he loved me back."
"Wasnt he mad?" Lyria asked.
"Mad as hell but he had to decide which was more important to him, his dreams or me I feel bad that I cost him so dearly, but Im glad he chose me."
"I think hes glad too " Lyria stood up. "Thanks Shera, I feel so much better "
"Hey, did I miss the cheering up?" Tifa said, entering the stable. "Hi, Lyria are you ok now?"
"Yeah. I was just so horrified that there are people out there who would willingly do that to someone "
"Hojo wasnt sane. He couldnt have been," Tifa declared.
"Thanks for helping me hows Vincent doing?" Lyria asked.
"Hes asleep. He meant what he said about halting his transformation being difficult. Hes pretty much physically and mentally exhausted himself."
"Oh. I think Ill go to bed too. It may be early in the day for you people, but it feels like midnight for me. Is there somewhere I can sleep?"
"Sure, follow me," Shera instructed, leading Lyria down the hallway to a plain looking door. "Now, be quiet here thats Vincents room "
Lyria tiptoed past and entered the adjacent room where Shera was pointing. "Thanks. Im sorta tired Good umm morning you guys, Im going to bed."
"Have a good sleep Lyria," Shera said as Lyria shut the door behind her. She undressed and pulled her nightshirt over her head (shed run home to her apartment before theyd left and packed her things in another backpack). Crawling under the blankets of the surprisingly comfy bed, she let her mind drift to the man in the next room.
"I want to help you Vincent please just let me try "
Lyria froze in her tracks; she was almost certain she had been silent coming up onto the deck to get a look at the stars. And yet Vincent even with his back to her and seemingly absorbed in the movements of the heavens still knew she was there. "Hi, Vincent "
"Its late. Why are you awake?"
"This is like mid morning for me. I worked the night shift; back at the hospital you make an adjustment after two years."
"Are you feeling better?" Lyria asked, coming to stand beside him and leaning against the rail.
"Yes Im sorry I upset you." His statement was toneless, more something to say than a genuine apology.
"Its its all right. Really, it was my fault. Im too sensitive sometimes "
Vincent didnt answer instead he continued staring out at the stars.
"Where are we?" Lyria asked, looking down at the ground for some sort of landmark.
"Wutai area. Were picking up Yuffie Kisaragi tomorrow."
"A friend of Cloud and Tifas."
"Not your friend?"
"I cant remember the last time I called someone a friend."
"What about Cloud and the others? You could even call me a friend...if you wanted "
"My friendship would be a burden."
Lyria sighed. "Vincent I dont understand you "
"I mean when we were in ShinRa mansion you were well, almost kind. When we were playing together, you nearly smiled now you seem so cold "
"Memories in that place make me let my guard down sometimes."
"Memories? Or is it me?"
"You? No "
"Are you sure it cant be me? Just now you let something slip. You said memories of ShinRa mansion make you drop your guard. Why?"
Vincent remained silent; Lyria hadnt really expected an answer anyway so she continued. "I wish you would talk to me. Its sort of a habit for me to get to know my patients; Id like to know you."
"You still consider me a patient?"
Lyria punched him lightly on his wounded shoulder and he flinched. "If that still hurts, youre still a patient. If you arent going to talk to me, Ill have to tell you my life story "
"Im sure its better than mine."
"If you say so. Umm lets see where should I start? Well, I was born in Mideel my parents were Laura and Dawson Kindred and I had a big brother named Lore " Lyria smiled sadly. "We lived in Mideel until my brother was about fifteen and I was around six. Then my father was transferred and we moved to Nibelheim. Im lucky I had my brother, I know I used to annoy him sometimes, but I dont think he really minded "
"Hey, Lore!" Lyria shouted, running down the pathway leading from her house. "Wherere you goin Lore?" Lyria managed to catch up to her brother who was walking down the sidewalk, but caught the toe of her sneaker in a crack and tripped.
"Lyri!" A tall youth with sandy blonde hair and gray eyes knelt down beside his sister. "I told you not to run with your shoelaces untied."
Lyrias lower lip trembled as she stared at the scrape on her knee. "Lore I got a cut " She sniffed and tears slipped down her cheek as she examined the tiny wound. The salty water landed on her cut and she gasped. "Lore, it hurts "
"Dont worry kid, Ill make it better." Lore pulled an ordinary marble from his pocket. "Know what this is Lyri?"
"Its a healing materia. Dyou want me to make your cut get better?"
"You can use materia? I thought only ShinRa soldiers got tuse materia " Lyria stared wide-eyed at the marble. It didnt really look all that magical, but if Lore said so, it must be true "You gonna make it better Lore?"
"Of course, Lyri. Just hold still " Lore rolled the marble around his sisters knee while she watched breathlessly.
"Is it working Lore? My cuts still there " Lyria sounded slightly disappointed, but didnt consider for a second that her brother had lied to her. "Is the materia broken, Lore?"
"It doesnt hurt, does it?"
"Then it worked."
Lyria examined her knee again. A childish imagination deduced that the cut was even starting to look better and she hugged her brother. "Thank you Lore! I love you!"
"No problem kid, thats what big brothers are for."
"You would have liked Lore, you sorta remind me of him sometimes. When youre really quiet and youre just thinking, Lore used to do that he always looked so funny, because his hair would fall in his eyes and he wouldnt even notice because he was thinking so hard." Lyria smiled. "I remember I used to ask him what he was thinking about and he told me I wouldnt understand. But I kept asking and then one day he told me he was thinking about life and how it was all stretching out in front of him and he had so much to do with it he didnt know where he would find the time. I told him he should go start doing things instead of spending all his time thinking about the future "
"Yes. He went out and he tried to do it all. Everything he was looking forward to. I loved Lore so much " Lyria said, half to herself.
"He died Mako poisoning from when he joined Soldier. He was only eighteen " Lyria said softly.
"Im sorry. I lost my little sister when I was young after I was drafted."
"Not everyone joins the Turks willingly."
Vincent gasped for air as he ran through the alley. They were on his tail
again. He jumped onto the flight of stone steps, and shot up them in a second.
He needed to get to the tower, and fast. He climbed onto the General Store's
roof, and calmed his nerves. Once steadied, he spread his arms, and leaped
onto the old tower's closest battlement. He could hear the dark suited men
below him, having finally noticed him. If only the sun had gone down! They
might not have noticed him in his dark clothes. Yet in the half-light of
dusk, he could still be seen easily. He clambered up into the tower, and
began to fumble with the lock on his chest.
Why had he gone into the tower, though? Now those people knew where he lived! Angrily, he ripped open the chest, and picked up the Peacemaker. He had made one mistake, but he wouldn't make a second. He would end this right here, right now...
A sharp pain went through his back, and he collapsed. The gun in his hands fell back into the chest, and the box clicked shut as the dark-suited man pulled him up.
The man's eyes glowed with interest, even through his sunglasses, as he holstered his tranquilizer gun. He pulled out his phone. "It's me. The Kalm target, Valentine, is captured. We'll be back at HQ in a few hours. Turks out."
"Thats terrible so ShinRa killed someone you care about too "
"ShinRa killed everyone I cared about."
Vincent didnt answer, but this time Lyria didnt mind. "All right. If you dont want to talk anymore, I understand, but at least Ive learned something about you Good night Vincent, thanks for listening." Not waiting for the response she knew she wasnt going to get, Lyria turned and went back downstairs into the galley of the Highwind to look for some food.
Vincents answer was quiet, perhaps not even something he meant to say out loud and certainly not something meant to be heard, "Good night, Lyria."