A Rose By Any Other Name Epilogue

By Mintbaby

The woman with the long red curls smiled down at her swollen abdomen, caressing it with her hands just as there was a vicious kick. “Vincent. One of them is kicking again. Hurry.”

Vincent Valentine, husband and soon-to-be father of twins, hurried to his wife and knelt down to spread his hands wide across her belly. There was another kick and he smiled up at her. “This one will be strong.”

“Or just stubborn,” Natalie Valentine laughed down at him as he kissed her belly. “I can’t wait to find out.”

“You promised not to deliver until after Cloud and Tifa’s wedding. Remember?”

Natalie’s eyes twinkled with a mischievous smile as she once again began stirring the stew that bubbled a contented rhythm on the stove. “I know, but when they want out there will be little I can say about it. It doesn’t matter to the twins if their wedding is next week or next month.” Vincent massaged her shoulders and Natalie moaned as she closed her eyes. “I’ll give you about a hundred years to stop that,” she told him.

He chuckled and pulled her closer against him, his hands lightly caressing her bulging middle. “Have you ever been to Midgar?”

“Not since high school. I didn’t like it. Not enough history.” Natalie sighed and pulled away to turn the heat off on the stove. “It will be interesting to see what Barret and the others have accomplished. Cid said that the geothermal reactors are his latest feat of genius.”

“Genius that he wouldn’t have thought of without your help on the design.”

Natalie chuckled. “Hey, I don’t mind.” She turned and handed him the bowls and silverware, then caressed his cheek. “I’ve got all the things I need right here.”

His eyes twinkled with his smile as he brought her palm to his lips. Then, he turned toward the table and set out the bowls and silverware before turning for the cupboard for the glasses. “Can you believe it’s been a year?”

“No. No, I can’t. It seems like just yesterday. Yet here I am, married, owner and dean of the Valentine School for Gifted Children (formerly known as Shinra Mansion), doing research on the further rehabilitation of the planet in the basement laboratory that housed so many evil research projects before, and about to give birth to twins.” Natalie released a deep breath and then handed Vincent the hot pads to move the stew from the stove to the hot plate on the table. “Life couldn’t get better.”

“It will if they are both boys.”

Natalie laughed and sat in the chair he’d pulled out for her. “You and your fetish for an all-boy family.”

He nibbled on her neck as he pulled her hair back from her face. “I don’t wish you to be jealous of a daughter quite yet.”

She reached behind to caress his cheek. “Come on, Vincent. Eat your stew. We’ve got to leave early in the morning.”

* * *

“Vincent! Natalie! You made it!”

The couple turned toward the voice to see Red bounding toward them with a smile on his face.

Natalie smiled and gave him a wave. “Hello, Red. It’s been a while.” Red rubbed himself against her legs with a very loud purr and then sat, wrapping his tail around his forepaws as usual. “Thank you so much for speaking last month,” Natalie told him. “The children had so much fun listening to your stories. And the pictures were a spectacular touch.”

Red’s expression showed embarrassment. “It was my pleasure. I hope you ask me to speak again.”

“Oh, I will. Most definitely.”

Red looked to Vincent and smiled. “Marriage has agreed with you, Vincent. Fatherhood will too, I suspect.”

Vincent squeezed Natalie’s hand. “I have no doubt.”

“How are the twins?”

“Exuberant,” Natalie laughed.

“Eager to be out, more than likely.” Red stood and gestured for them to follow. “I’ll give you a tour.”

Natalie’s grip on Vincent’s hand tightened and she sent him a radiant smile. “I can hardly wait to see the geothermal reactor! To see how Cid finally decided to set it up. He had a lot of great ideas, but the conversion rate on a couple of them would not maximize the energy output. I really hope he chose the one that did the best all the way around. Imagine how many settlements can utilize the power that’s under this huge city if it’s converted to its maximum capacity!”

Vincent’s lips were tickled with a smile as he watched her animated expressions, the light dancing in her eyes. “I doubt that was to be Red’s first stop, Nat.”

“On the contrary,” Red put in with a smile toward the couple. “I knew that Professor Long would be the most interested in Cid’s project, especially since she had a great hand in its final design.”

Natalie looked at Red in surprise. “Pardon?”

“Cid was very clear on the matter of who should receive the credit for the reactor.”

Natalie flushed and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “My goodness. I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m sure something will come to you when we meet Cid and the others at the reactor. They are planning the possibility of synchronizing a second and third.”

“My goodness gracious!”

“After the wedding at the end of this week, they were hoping that you could be convinced to stay and help,” Red added.

“Of course I’ll stay. It’s a good thing I brought my bag…” Natalie’s voice drifted as her mind began to process and envision the answers to the challenge posed.

Vincent smiled down at her. As they made their way through Midgar, her bright green eyes took in each aspect of the scenery: its importance to the city’s smooth operation, its role in the city’s history, and the indeterminate amount of possibilities into making it run better. That was how her mind worked. It planned. It organized. It envisioned. It created. It never ceased to amaze him. A slight flush rose to her cheeks, sparkling in her eyes and clearly telling of her excitement at discovering the feasibility of the possibilities she had already envisioned. It also told of her eagerness at the opportunity of discussing her ideas with Cid.

Natalie’s brilliance enraptured Vincent.

“As you can see,” Red was telling her, “Barret and I decided the best way to encourage growth was to tear down the walls. We didn’t like the idea of ‘sectors’ making the people feel as if they were separated from one another. We wanted to encourage a feeling of community.”

“Of course!” Natalie exclaimed. “It makes perfect sense. What did you do about the original names of the initial settlements? Are you going to give the people the opportunity of reinstating those?”

“Undoubtedly,” Red said with a nod. “The name ‘Midgar’ has so many bad memories of oppression that Barret and I are almost positive the people will choose the original names. It will be an opportunity to invite back the previous times of peace. An opportunity to come full circle and embrace simpler times.”

Natalie nodded enthusiastically and then turned to Vincent with bright eyes, her cheeks still flushed in her excitement. “Vincent, I think I should look into the possibility of starting an Academy here as well. Don’t you think?”

Vincent gazed down at her in adoration and nodded. “I do.”

She grinned up at him and then refocused her attention on Red as they continued to discuss the rebirth of Midgar and the possibilities said rebirth meant for not only the people, but also the children not yet born. Vincent watched the life expressed in her eyes as well as in her expression and felt the warmth in his soul blossom yet again. The days after his own rebirth had been quick and painless. Natalie had never left his side, so determined had she been to monitor his every body function until she had been certain the danger had passed.

Then, exactly two weeks after her initial ‘experimental cure’ had first begun, they had been married.

Vincent still remembered the night before the ceremony. Remembered it as clearly as if it had happened the previous night. He and Natalie had decided to stay apart that day. Many reasons had led up to the decision, the most prominent being their common desire to experience anticipation at the sight of one another at the wedding ceremony. Natalie had used the day to contact her family and repair bridges long since thought forever lost. Vincent, however, had used the time to instigate a closure he had never before felt.

With Lucrecia.

Quite early in the morning of their voluntary separation, Vincent had made his way from Cloud’s house to the basement crypt. He had seemed to stare at the black sarcophagus for hours, wondering at the sanity of his decision to be there in order to remember and relive his memories of a past love. Thoughts of Lucrecia wouldn’t leave him in peace, though, and he knew that in order to have the life with Natalie that he wished to have, he had to put them to rest. He had to close them off from the rest of who he now was. He had to bury them with the creation of Hojo. A creation that he no longer was.

There had only been a slight hesitation before he had once again lowered himself into the crypt, closing out the light with the lid of the coffin. Surprisingly, sleep had come easily. So, too, had the image of Lucrecia…

… Vincent looked around him. He was in Nibelheim, outside the Shinra mansion, ages before Sephiroth had become twisted with his evil desire for godhood.

He focused his attention on Lucrecia as she stood outside the gate of the Shinra Mansion. “Lucrecia.”

She turned to him with a sad expression. “Vincent.” She looked down, removing her glasses to self-consciously tuck them into the breast pocket of her white lab coat. “You’ve been gone a long time.”

“I know.”

Lucrecia looked up and she held an expression of dread in her eyes. “Why?”

“I have a chance for a different life now. A chance at a better one. A chance for a family with a woman who loves me.”

Her eyes showed pain. “Do you love her?”

Vincent nodded, still keeping his distance from the shade of his past. “I do.”

“You once said you loved me,” she accused him softly.

“That was another life. Another Vincent.”

Lucrecia lowered her eyes. “Another Vincent? There is no other Vincent. There is you and you said you loved me. What right does she have to take you away?”

Vincent watched her face for a long moment, waiting for any hint of the tenderness he had once felt for her to resurface. It didn’t. “She did nothing, Lucrecia. As you made your decision to be with Hojo, I have made my decision to be with her.”

“Because she gave you back what you wanted.”

“No, because I love her.”

Lucrecia’s face twisted with pain. “You want me to go away now.”

“I want you to rest. There is nothing for you here. Go and sleep.”

Her eyes met his. “I don’t want to.”

“But I do. I love her, Lucrecia. I wish to dream of her. I wish her to bear my children. I wish to grow old with her. You cannot stay here. There is no longer any place for you in my dreams.”

Her chin tilted upward. “Then why am I here now? Why aren’t you dreaming of her now?”

“I wanted to say good-bye.”

“I don’t.”

Vincent shook his head. “It does not matter what you want, Lucrecia. You were a part of my old life. A life that is dead now. It is over now. So is your wandering…” A light sound of laughter tickled his ears and the breeze held the distinct aroma of Natalie. Vincent smiled briefly and then focused his attention back on Lucrecia. “She is coming. Please. Go now. Save yourself the pain of seeing us happy together and go.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Lucrecia.” He stepped forward and rested a hand on her shoulder as he caught her gaze. “Lucrecia, go. Rest. Sleep. Remember the good times and let yourself fade to a pleasant memory. It will be enough.”

“Vincent? Where are you?”

Vincent dropped his hand from her shoulder and turned. “Here, Natalie.”

He heard a sigh behind him and the whisper of a kiss on his cheek. “Good-bye, Vincent. My Turk.”

“Good-bye, Lucrecia,” he whispered back as Natalie came into view from the path to Mt. Nibel. She saw him and ran forward, throwing herself into his arms with a laugh. “Hello, Natalie.”…

Regret had passed then. Never again had he dreamt of the decision either of them had made. His mind had been free of its last torment. His heart had been released of its final doubt. And his soul had been free to love the woman that had sacrificed everything for his freedom.

He caressed a wispy curl from her temple and placed a kiss there. “I love you,” he whispered.

She turned toward him with a smile and fondly stroked his cheek as Red moved on ahead. “I know.”

Vincent’s eyes twinkled with a smile, tenderly twirling the wedding band on her finger as they replayed the moment of his proposal. “Will you marry me?”

Natalie moved closer, taking hold of both his hands and bringing his arms around her. “Yes.”

He pulled her closer, pressing her swollen belly a little tighter against him as he tickled her cheek with his lips. One of the twins kicked and he chuckled. “When?”

She moved to press her cheek against his chest, listening for the familiar thump of his heartbeat. “Today. Tomorrow. It doesn’t matter. Next week. Next year… I’ve waited this long for my Turk, I can wait a little longer.”

Vincent sighed deeply as he pressed his lips against the crown of her head. “Dearest Natalie. My professor.”

“I love you, Vincent.” Her arms tightened around him. “Whether you have red eyes or brown. Whether you have a claw or a hand. Whether you fly or have both feet firmly planted on the ground… I love you. Never forget that.”

He smiled and took in a deep breath of the scent of her hair. “I won’t.”

<The End>


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