A Rose By Any Other Name Chapter 1

By Mintbaby

"…Let me sleep."

Natalie brought a hand to her throat as she sat back on her heels, leaning away from the lid of the coffin in surprise and a little fear. After a moment's hesitation, she pressed her lips together and pushed her auburn curls from her face, her green eyes sparkling. "No. No, I don't think so. I've been looking for you for a long time and I'm not going to let you get away now."

Natalie was a scientist and an archeologist, but first and foremost she was a lover of mysteries and challenges. She'd always been thrilled with the prospect of discovering buried treasure as a child and that fascination had grown to a passion for uncovering the histories for lost or unknown cultures and civilizations. She'd worked on the team that had excavated the Bone Village by the Sleeping Forest. She had been present at the discovery of the hidden City of the Ancients beyond. She'd also worked on the team that had done a lot of the work in the Temple of the Ancients cataloguing artifacts and stenciling the hieroglyphs that had decorated the walls. Her reports and articles written about the work had sold thousands of copies and had even caught the eye of Shinra Corporation.

Such was the reason she was here now. Natalie wasn't on their payroll because she had never cared for big corporations. They had always been too stifling with too many restrictions and regulations to suit her free spirit. She was there at what was called Shinra mansion because of what she'd discovered about a certain scientist who used to work for them. A man by the name of Hojo. She had read his work and, while she had often thought it was off the wall, after what had happened with Sephiroth and Meteor she hadn't been so quick to dismiss it. She was sure some of the other things he had written about were true as well. Experiments such as gene splicing. Intra-species breeding. DNA alteration. Forced experimentation. All of the reports had seemed bizarre and inhumane, but she had researched them just the same.

She was a scientist, after all, and that was what they did.

When she had read of an experiment dealing with a man by the name of Vincent Valentine, she had been intrigued on a different level. She, of all people, had a connection with him. Vincent Valentine had been the close friend of Lucrecia. Lucrecia had been the best friend of Natalie's college roommate's sister. Natalie remembered days on end when her roommate, not having an incredibly exciting life of her own outside school, had told of her sister's friend's dealings (both romantic and corporate) with the Turk, as well as with Shinra and Hojo. Natalie had been enthralled, much as any young woman with dreams of romantic interludes would have been, and had vowed to find Vincent Valentine one day. It had been the only romantic fantasy she had allowed herself. Everything else had been work.

Now she was 25 years of age with no family, no beau waiting for her eventual return home, and no adventure except the one at that current moment.

Natalie tugged at the lid, falling backwards when the cover flew off to clatter against the wall and drop to rest on one of the other crypts. A man's body draped in red and black drifted up from the coffin, performed a graceful back-flip midair, and then remained suspended as he stared down at her with strangely glowing red eyes.

"Who are you?"

Natalie gulped hard, brushing her tousled curls back from her face as her eyes took in his raven black hair and partially hidden, but handsome face. "I'm… I'm Natalie Long." She hesitated and then sat up. "Vincent?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Why did you wake me?"

"I…" She gulped again. 'Now's your chance, Nat. Don't botch it!' "I've been wanting to meet you for a long time." It sounded a little flimsy, but what could she do?

His expression didn't change. "Let me sleep. I must atone for my sins."

With that, he did a full somersault and dived back into the coffin. Natalie gave a gasp when the lid violently clattered back in place. "Wait! I was hoping we could talk." She scurried forward and pried the lid off again. It did the same fierce smack against the wall, but she jumped a little less. When he floated up from the coffin this time, his expression was strained and a little irritated. "I really don't mean to be a pain, it's just that… um… well, I was wanting to ask some questions---"

"Your questions have no meaning for me. Go." He disappeared back into the coffin.

She scowled and put her hands on her hips. 'Drat!' After a moment or two of fierce argumentation as to whether or not to bother him again, she looked around the room and carefully stood, dusting off her jeans and shirt. She had hoped to have a little bit more of a chance to impress him before he disappeared into the coffin the second time. 'I guess I'm not all that interesting.'

"If only you knew," she mumbled. Natalie made her way to the door and paused, looking back at the coffin with a slow smile. She supposed she could have opened it again. And again. And again, until he was so sick of the sight of her that he released one of his mysterious alter egos on her. But, she restrained her innate passion and made due with the thought of tomorrow. "I'll be back, Vincent," she promised. "Sleep well."

She closed the door on her way out, locked it securely behind her, and then tucked the key back in her pocket. It had taken a little doing for her to find out where Shinra had disposed of his body. Once their files had been declassified and available to any who wanted to view them, she had found out that Shinra had tossed him aside as if he had no importance. Of course, Shinra had never been a big one for seeing the worth of a person. All they had cared about was Mako and the money that came from having a majority of it. Now that Shinra was no longer around, Mako production was outlawed, and Materia hording was taboo, life was a little more bearable. People had begun to gain back their self-respect and that attitude was spreading like wildfire.

Thanks to Vincent and his friends.

Natalie shook her head with a sigh. She'd always been a bit of a romantic. Always wanting some dashing and rich history enthusiast to snatch her up and take her away to his castle, or island, or whatever he called home. Other years, she had wanted to marry a love-starved soldier who had seen too many deaths. She had convinced herself that she would have been able to bring him around if given the proper chance. Then, of course, there had been the overwhelming desire to be swept off her feet by a super-hero type of man. The kind that could have had anything he wanted by snapping his fingers and winking, yet he chose a simple life with her.

Natalie laughed at herself now. There had been so many fantasies that she couldn't remember them all. The one that had remained with her for the longest time, though, had been the dream of finding Vincent and getting to know him. No one else had seemed to care about him. If they had, would he have still been buried in the basement of a building no one wanted?

'Now I've found him, but I don't know how to get him out of that infernal box.' It was a puzzle and she had always loved puzzles. 'I don't want to drive him nuts with visiting him each and every day,' she reasoned. 'But I don't want him to think that just telling me to run along like a good little girl will work. After all, he was a Turk once. He'll respect gumption more than sighs and fluttering lashes.'

Natalie made her way up the rickety, spiral staircase of the Shinra mansion and paused at the top to look back down. There had to be a way to get him out of the box. 'I know he believes he's responsible for whatever happened between Hojo and Lucrecia, but I also know that he's had a chance to think about it. Wasn't there an article I read somewhere saying that he had found her tomb and actually talked with her departed spirit?' She didn't know how much truth was to it, but the papers were usually good about reporting more fact than fiction.

A sudden idea put a smile on her face. She'd always wanted to talk with the other members of the party responsible for saving the planet. Maybe they could give her a clue as to what could bring Vincent out of his box. She frowned. 'But how do I find them? My research was solely focused on Vincent and not the others.' She sighed and turned away. 'Come on, Nat. It won't be all that difficult to find them. After all, Cloud and Tifa are from this town that you're calling 'home' for the next few weeks. Surely they'll come back sooner or later. And you know that Barret makes a pathological routine of visiting each and every town to make sure they have enough supplies to continue his work.' She took in another long breath. Patience had never been her strong suit and now that she'd found Vincent after so many years…

Natalie pressed her lips together. She'd send some messages to Cosmo Canyon, Midgar, Wutai, and Corel in hopes that she'd get a response from at least one of them. Then the rest was up to luck and her own determination. She was sure something would happen if she just stuck with it. 'Maybe even Vincent will come out of his box?' Natalie shook her head as she made her way to the inn for dinner and a nice long soak in the tub. There was no telling, but for him she'd be patient.


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