A Rose By Any Other Name Chapter 12

By Mintbaby

Cloud and Tifa arrived in Nibelheim a few days later with Cid and Shera in tow. As they entered the small town, there was the sound of an explosion.

"What the hell?" Cid boomed as he looked around for the source.

Cloud pulled his sword free and strode further into the town. "I don't know," he said slowly, "but I think it came from Mt. Nibel. Let's go."

They all ran toward the mountain.

* * *

Yuffie sat up and blinked her eyes rapidly, then stood and dusted herself off. "Damn. I thought that one was going to work for sure."

Vincent helped Natalie to her feet. "Are you all right?"

She smiled up at him with a nod and then brushed the debris from her jeans and T-shirt of their most recent attempt at natural power. "Yes, but I'm with Yuffie. I thought we'd gotten it right that time."

Red shook his mane and looked at the rubble of the waterwheel/power source with what was akin to disappointment. "I suppose we should start again, but so many failures has me a little depressed."

Yuffie nodded as she put her hands on her hips. "You're damn straight."

Vincent gently brushed some debris from Natalie's curls. "So, what do you propose?"

Natalie turned toward the small crater and sighed deeply. Vincent took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "I don't know. I need some time to think before we try it again."

"Fine. You can think all you want. Me and Red are going to go get some lunch. Come on." Yuffie pulled at Red's tail with a meaningful stare. "Don't worry, Nat, we'll get you guys something."

Natalie waved at them with an absent expression as she stared at her hard work turned to rubble. Tears sprung to her eyes. Tears of frustration and aggravation. Vincent's claw tightened slightly around her hand and she squeezed back. "I don't want to do this again, Vincent. I can't take it anymore. The expectancy of success and then the devastation of disappointment… I just can't."

He guided her into a comforting embrace and she wrapped her arms around his lower back as she closed her eyes with a sniff. "You are close to the answer, Natalie," he told her softly. "Each one has remained intact a little longer. This one remained operational for nearly an hour. Do not lose heart."

"I know," she sighed. "I just can't bear to see the look on your face each time it blows up."

"The expression is for you," he told her, "because I know how hurt you will be at the failure." Vincent pushed her back, holding her arms with a gentle grip as his eyes sought hers. After a moment's pause, he kissed her fondly on the cheek and turned her around to face the rubble, his arms encircling her again. "You will find the answer. Remember that each failure leads you closer to the victory."

"I wanted to be focusing this time on your cure, Vincent, not the power source." Natalie released a deep breath and rest her head back against his chest as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the strength of his arms around her. "Oh well. I guess we go back to the inn and look at the specifications again. Maybe the conversion rate is off?"

Natalie heard his chuckle and smiled. She'd never heard such a sensual sound in her life.

"You are sometimes too easily encouraged, Natalie," he whispered in her ear.

She laughed and turned in his arms, draping hers around his neck and smiling up into his face. "I can be stubborn, too. Believe me. It took a lot of determination to track you down and get you to admit that I existed."

He smirked. "I knew that you existed. How could I not, with you returning each day to allow me into another private and well-guarded section of your life? I suppose that was what first intrigued me. Your willingness to impart such secrets to someone who ignored you grabbed my attention and would not release it."

"Well, it's nice to know that you actually listened to all those stories," she told him with a silly smile. "It would have been nice if you would have at least opened the lid a crack to make some comment or other."

"I was hoping you would go away."

Natalie looked up at him with wide eyes and mouth, then laughed and stood on tip-toes to give him a feathery kiss. "I didn't, did I?"

His arms tightened around her, increasing the pressure of his lips against hers-

"What the hell!"

Natalie nearly jumped out of her skin. All she succeeded in doing, however, was stepping backward onto a stone and tripping herself. Vincent's agility and quickness of flight was the only thing that kept her from toppling into the rushing river below. Natalie murmured a 'thank you' as she hung suspended mid-air in his arms, and kept her gaze carefully averted from the group of people who had stumbled upon the couple's intimate time together.

Vincent set Natalie down on the ground and moved to stand protectively in front of her. Only then did he turn to Cid, Cloud, and Tifa. "Hello," he said simply. His eyes held a quiet warning.

Cid was about to comment when Cloud cut in. "We heard an explosion, Vincent." He looked beyond the couple to the pile of debris just behind. "That must have been it."

Natalie rest a hand momentarily on Vincent's back to voice her silent appreciation, and then she stepped forward with a glance toward her most recent failure. "Yes. That would be it."

"You mind telling me what it was supposed to be?"

Natalie sighed and then changed her gaze back to Cloud. "It was supposed to have been my answer to your predicament regarding a power source. I think the conversion rate is wrong, though."

"Conversion rate, huh?"

Natalie looked over at Cid Highwind. He had moved over to the pile of rubble and was rummaging through the pieces. "Yes, conversion rate. You're the engineer, Mr. Highwind. I wouldn't think I'd need to mention that to you."

Cid snorted with a crooked smile as he glanced over at her and Vincent. "You must be the braud who thinks she can cure this one. I thought you was just a reporter."

Natalie arched an eyebrow. "I do a multitude of things, Mr. Highwind. One of them seems to be pulling your butt out of the fire by inventing something in 1 day that you still haven't done in 1 month." She felt Vincent place a warning hand on her shoulder. 'I know. I know.'

Cloud and Tifa watched the altercation in silent amusement.

Cid stood slowly, eyeballing her and Vincent as he took a long drag on his cigarette. "You've got an attitude, lady."

"Of course I've got an attitude," she said in a tight voice. "I'm human and I've been working for 2 days straight trying to learn enough about mechanics and electrical engineering to get this blasted thing to stay running longer than an hour. My expertise is in the sciences, Mr. Highwind, so it has been anything but fun. Perhaps you'd care to look over the schematics and take over where I left off, so that I can concentrate on reversing Vincent's current problem?"

Cid's expression changed to something akin to respect. "Two days? You've learned enough about electrical engineering to design and build this contraption, and get it running in just 2 days?" He tossed his cigarette down and squelched it with the toe of his boot. "You deserve an apology from me, professor. I was an ass."

"Yes, but I've run across several of those in my lifetime. Most of them are worse than you, Mr. Highwind. Don't give it another thought." She looked over at Vincent. "I'm hungry and tired. Can you walk me back to the inn?"

He nodded wordlessly and took her hand, guiding her along the path away from Mt. Nibel as the others mutely looked on.

"You shocked him," Vincent finally said.

"I shocked myself. I should have known that was going to happen, though. I get cranky when I'm tired."

"Or when you're embarrassed."

Natalie flushed. "Do you blame me?"

"No. They trod into a delicate situation with the grace of a-"

"A Midgar Zolom," Natalie said with a twinkle of eyes at Vincent.

He smiled slightly and nodded. "I would say that is aptly put."

She wrapped her arms around his golden claw and rested her head against his arm as they walked. Vincent reached over to caress one of her hands and they walked on in silence.

* * *

"Shit. That was the spookiest sight I've ever seen."

Tifa looked at Cloud with a smile. "You were right," she said.

He smirked. "I knew that if we just butt out things would be okay. It's only when I try to help that things get all screwed up."

Cid strode up to them. "You knew about that… that…" He swore a blue streak and lit another cigarette with a shake of his head. "I didn't think he liked women."

Tifa grimaced and sent Cid a dirty look. "Oh shut up, Cid. Just shut up."

Cloud laughed, pulling Tifa away from Cid to send her back to Nibelheim for the schematics. Then he turned back to Cid. "So, what do you think? Will it work?"

"I don't even know what the hell the &%#$ thing is. How am I supposed to know if it's going to work or not?"

Cloud put a fist on his hip and struck his infamous SOLDIER pose as he stared at the rubble. "She said it was working for an hour, which is definitely better than nothing."

Cid reluctantly agreed. "Better than I've come up with." He snorted. "Damn. Out-witted by a braud. That's twice."

Cloud chuckled and then gestured toward Nibelheim with a jerk of his head. "Come on. Let's get over to the inn and see if she's cooled off enough to answer some questions. Be nicer than normal. Okay?"

"I'll act however I damn well please."

"Okay, if you want Vincent all over you."

Cid grumbled and followed Cloud toward town. "I won't be able to get used to that sight."

"What are you talking about?"


Cloud sent Cid a confused glance. "What?"

Cid took another long drag from his cigarette. "Kissing a woman." He shivered. "That was a bit too much information for me."

Cloud shook his head with a chuckle. "Maybe you're just mad that she didn't go for you first."

Cid swore and gave Cloud a dangerous glare. "That ain't funny, spike-boy. I don't need no woman messing up my life."

"Fine. Then leave them alone."

"Who said I was going to do anything!?"

Cloud chuckled again. "I didn't say that you would do anything, but I know you're more than willing to say whatever you want."

"If she can't take it, then she can leave the room."

"Oh, she can take it all right. Or did you forget?" Cloud glanced over at him. "You admitted that you were an ass. Remember? You said that-"

"I know what I said," Cid snapped after a long phrase of swearing.

Cloud smirked, but didn't say anything more.


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