Venus Gospel Logos Part 2

By Princess Artemis

A few hours later, during what both Cloud and Cid considered morning proper, the blond swordsman awoke to a most delicious aroma. It was frying Uribo bacon, crisp and thick. He got up off the couch and stretched the cramps out of his body. He wandered into the kitchen where Shera was preparing the cured meat. He looked over her shoulder, licking his chops like any hungry animal. "Looks good. Need any help?" he offered.

Shera looked back at Cloud as she turned over a few slices of bacon. "You can scramble some eggs if you like."

"OK," Cloud replied as he moved over to the refrigerator. He opened it and pulled out several black eggs, amused that Chocobos always laid eggs the same color as their feathers. These must be Setzer’s eggs. Cloud recalled that after he had returned to the land of the living from Mideel, he had been surprised to discover that Tifa and Cid had been busy breeding Chocobos. Someone had named the black female Setzer after some famous gambler from long ago. It wasn’t entirely inappropriate; Setzer had earned them a pretty penny at the Chocobo Races. Cloud took the eggs and began preparing them on the stove next to Shera. After cracking them, he wished there had been some yellow Chocobo eggs; the yolks were black as well. Or perhaps a mountain Chocobo’s—green eggs and ham anyone?

As Cloud prepared the eggs, Shera walked down the hall to awaken the others. She reached down to shake Red XIII’s large shoulder. The animal roused himself with a prodigious yawn and a thorough stretch. He had been sleeping in front of Cid’s door, keeping guard. This whole situation had definitely roused Red XIII’s maternal instincts.

Red XIII sniffed the air in delight. Fresh Uribo meat! "You are very kind, Shera. That smells wonderful." He wandered into the front room, leaving his post for the moment.

Shera softly rapped her knuckles against Cid’s door. When she heard no answer, she slowly opened the door and peeked in. Cid was lying huddled on his bed, ‘cocooned’ in sheets and a pillow over his head.

"Captain?" Shera asked quietly, just to see if he was awake. He stirred, then slowly sat up, leaving the pillow in his lap. He looked so lost and forlorn.

Cid looked down at his pillow and plucked at the tag. His voice barely above a whisper, he asked, "Shera, do you hate me?"

Shera jerked her head back in surprise. "Of course not. Why would I?"

Cid looked like he was about to cry. His voice rough, he replied, "Every thing I did…everything I said…" He paused, eyes unfocused and rubbing a thin scar on his right cheek.

That small movement stung Shera like a slap in the face. It was her fault he had that burn mark. "I…I’m sorry…I was angry, I didn’t mean to do that," she said. This was the first time she had apologized for that incident.

A tear made its way down Cid’s cheek and on to his chin, then it fell to the sheets. His voice was strained as he said, "Don’t apologize. I deserve much worse than that."

"Captain, don’t say that—" Shera began, but her words were cut off by Cid’s violent reaction. Hours ago he ran from her touch and now he tried to escape her words. She wished there was something she could do, but now it seemed as though he could not accept anything from her. That hurt; it didn’t feel right for her long-time companion to reject her like that. She didn’t know what to feel; anger and sadness predominated. She pulled at the sleeve of her robe and looked at the floor. She was silent for a moment, then asked, "Are you hungry? I cooked the Uribo meat Vincent sent us."

Cid didn’t respond, so Shera took that as a yes and used it as an excuse to leave. She felt strange, uncomfortable with Cid’s uncharacteristic gloominess. She passed Red XIII in the hall as she made her way back to the kitchen. Red XIII looked questioningly at her. She responded with a sad shrug.

Red XIII quietly slipped into Cid’s room to check on him. He had returned to his previous huddled position, but the pillow was left on his side. Red XIII watched him, unsure if he should listen to his protective instincts. His tail twitched in uncertainty. Finally, he decided to just go for it so he carefully hopped up on the bed and snuggled up next to Cid. He extended his legs in front of him as dogs do and set his head high as a cat does. He looked in Cid’s blue eyes with his one yellow. Cid returned the gaze, expressionless. Red XIII moved his muzzle close and licked Cid’s cheek with his raspy tongue. Cid closed his eyes and cried silently. He put one hand on the animal’s brown mane, stroking his soft fur. Normally, Red XIII would never allow such a thing—he felt it was beneath his dignity to let a human, a two-legged thing, pet him as though he were a dumb animal. The tribe to which he belonged shared much in common with both the wolf and the tiger; they were loyal and protective as the canine as well as prideful and independent as the feline. He, Nanaki, as his father Seto before him, was dedicated to protect that which he loved. It was for this reason he laid next to his tormented friend. He allowed Cid to pet him because Cid needed it. Red XIII purred deeply, discovering a different and higher dignity. His childhood pride was humbled by his more adult need to help ease Cid’s pain. And it didn’t hurt that Cid was scratching behind his ear in just the right spot. He realized he could allow his friends to show their affection in the only way they could without loosing his dignity. Red XIII kissed Cid again then laid his head on his legs, snuggling a little closer to his friend.

For a little while, the guilt and self-loathing that were beginning to tear Cid apart were banished by Red XIII’s kindness. For some reason he could accept it from the fiery animal whereas he could not from Shera, or perhaps anyone else. A measure of peace restored by Red XIII’s comforting presence, Cid soon fell asleep.

* * *

A few hours later, Red XIII lay next to Cid, facing him and trying to get the pilot to talk. Cid just stared at nothing and frowned from time to time.

"Cid, you can’t keep everything inside," the fiery animal declared.

Cid closed his eyes and shifted onto his back. Red XIII might be right, but he just couldn’t bring himself to share what was bothering him. The longer he mulled over it, the more truth he heard in Seir’s words. He was nothing but a monster.

"Cid…," Red XIII said, a slight touch of pleading in his gruff voice.

"I can’t, Red," Cid answered quietly. How could he be so cold to Shera, say such cruel things to someone who by ever right should have been his best friend? She probably hated him for it… "Red…I can’t stay here anymore…," he said, voice tight with emotion.

Red XIII sat up and looked at him carefully. "Stay here? This is your home. Why can’t you stay here?"

Cid began crying again, shaking with silent sobs. "Shera…," he finally choked out, "she, she…better off…if I left…"

The red animal sighed, flicking his fire-tipped tail. Red XIII knew that wasn’t true; it was plain for all to see that Shera cared a great deal for Cid, and if nothing else, she would miss her long-time companion. "I think she would have left by now if she thought the same," he commented. He licked his shoulder then asked, "Can you at least tell me how you feel?"

Cid turned to look at the fiery animal. He wiped away his tears and coughed a little, not noticing the dregs of the black tar discoloring his lips. It surprised Red XIII that not a half-minute after Cid stopped tearing, he wouldn’t know by looking that he had been crying at all. The animal carefully took the dirty cloth in his teeth and gave it to Cid. Cid took it and held it to his mouth, just in case he coughed up more of the black stuff.

He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked back at Red XIII. "What’s happening to me?" Cid asked, desperate for an answer. It wasn’t like him to cry all the time. He knew something was wrong; for the moment his head was clear and he knew that his powerful and frightening emotions were sick and beyond reason.

"I don’t know, Cid," Red XIII said, disappointed that he couldn’t answer. He added, "I think it has something to do with Seir, but I don’t know how yet. Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out." He dropped his head, looking a little sheepish. "I, um, I’ll stay with you if you want," he said. He wasn’t insincere, in fact, it was almost rhetorical. He had no intention of letting Cid out of his sight.

Cid reached over and scratched the back of Red XIII’s head, right below the ear. Red XIII leaned into his hand, lifting his head and smiling a very doggy-looking smile. A moment later, Cid sighed. "It scares me," he revealed, "It scares me, and I know it’s gonna ruin me…I feel like there’s this black pit that keeps getting’ bigger and bigger and soon I’m gonna get lost in it." He dropped his hand to Red XIII’s paw and looked away from the fiery beast, the fear he described clear in his features. "Help me, Red…it’s gonna kill me…"

Red XIII didn’t know how to respond. He had never experienced anything like that, and somehow he knew no words that would suffice. He let his head droop, lost in thought. They lingered in silence for several minutes. Cid got up and walked to his closet, pulled out a large Shin-Ra duffel and began stuffing it with a few articles of clothing, shoes, some gloves, and one of his blue flight jackets. He carried it over to his nightstand and set it down. He opened a drawer, took his pack of cigarettes out, and tossed them into the open duffel. Red XIII watched him, unhappy that he could do nothing to help. He asked, "Why do you have to leave your home? I don’t understand."

Cid straightened, dropping his lighter into the bag. He sighed heavily. "Red," he said sadly, "I can’t even look at her…." He kicked his bag in anger, mad that he couldn’t stay in his own house because his emotions were out of control. It was his home. He was forcing himself out of his own home because he could not stand to see Shera, even hear her voice, because it hurt him. Stabbing guilt accompanied the thought. He winced, his gut twisting again in fury… "I can’t hear her! What’s happening to me?!" he cried, panic and self-hatred rising like a gale-force wind…like a hurricane that fed on its own tumult. It was moving so fast that before he realized it, he lost all semblance of control. "I can’t even THINK ABOUT HER!!" he screamed, grabbing at his hair and pulling out some of it. Now he knew the cruelest irony, the greatest cosmic joke…and it pulled him under fast. He screamed louder, his voice rising to a shriek, all that was human absent from his voice. He continued to tear at his hair, his movements erratic. He stooped low, turning toward Red XIII and hitting his head on his footboard. He didn’t seem to notice; he just went on shrieking.

Red XIII flattened his ears, his one eye wide with fear. He was stunned into inactivity, dumbfounded at how fast Cid had lost control and the incoherent noise of that fury. Cloud and Shera rushed into the room, drawn by Cid’s cries. Red XIII pushed them out of the room before they could even react. He didn’t know what else to do.

"What’s going on?" Shera asked in concern as Red XIII herded them into the front room.

Red XIII shook his head, unsure how to answer. "I don’t know, I really don’t."

Shera looked back down the hall. "We can’t leave him like that!"

"I don’t think we have a choice," Red XIII replied.

Cloud shrugged, accepting it even if he didn’t like it. "So, now what? Do you think that Bahamut might know something about Seir?" He glanced back at Cid’s room. The horrible sounds he made were making Cloud’s skin crawl. "And do you think we could go somewhere else?"

Shera nodded. She hated what she heard. "We could go in the garage." They did, all circled around Shera’s classic roadster. Cloud noticed that Shera was immediately distracted by the parts she was fabricating. Without further notice, Shera started to fiddle with the parts and suiting up for work. Cloud and Red XIII exchanged a glance and decided to go outside. Shera clearly wished to concentrate all her energy on something else, to forget everything outside the existence of those parts.

As Cloud and Red XIII went out through the large door, Shera started up a grinder and began making a righteous noise. Cloud covered his ears, only uncovering one long enough to close the door. The two walked some distance away, far enough so they could hear each other over the din.

"So, what do you think? Should we summon Bahamut and see if he knows anything?" Cloud asked again.

"We could try," Red XIII replied, "I don’t know what else to do." They looked over the area surrounding Rocket Town and decided to head southeast toward the Nibel Mountains. When they had traveled a sufficient distance from Rocket Town, Cloud pulled his glowing red summon materia from a pocket and slipped it into a small round slot in his gauntlet. He quickly spoke the words the knowledge of the Ancients revealed to him and gathered up his magic to summon Bahamut. Only a few seconds later, a huge gray dragon swooped out of the clouds, spreading his vast wings and surveying the landscape. He settled down on his hind legs when he saw only the two companions. He stared into the eyes of the swordsman who summoned him. Then he leaned forward, crashing down on his front legs, one hand landing on either side of Cloud. Cloud stumbled as the ground shook from the impact. Bahamut’s huge snout was only a foot away from his face. Cloud felt the dragon’s surprisingly cold breath ruffle his hair. Bahamut continued to stare, his unblinking yellow eyes daring Cloud to speak.

Cloud found himself feeling unusually timid. This great dragon commanded a presence even Jenova would find daunting. He felt in his bones that he was standing before a great king; it suddenly seemed to be an act of wanton disrespect to summon him for anything, much less to chat about his kids! He cleared his throat, attempting to gather up a sufficient amount of bravado, but failing miserably. He didn’t make a sound.

Red XIII was in similar straits. He smelled Bahamut’s great age, his royalty above all other monsters, and it struck him speechless.

Bahamut narrowed his eyes. In a voice filled with ancient dignity, the dragon boomed, "DO NOT SUMMON ME FROM THE ANCIENT MOON WITHOUT REASON. I AM THE KING OF MONSTERS AND WILL NOT BE TOYED WITH." With that he jumped into the air, and with a great down beat that blew dirt in every direction, the dragon king flew back into the cloud cover.

Coughing and brushing dust out of his face, Cloud muttered, "Well, that didn’t work. Man, I feel dumb."

Red XIII shook the dirt from his fur, saying, "Yeah, I do as well. Hmmm, maybe not so much. He is the king of monsters, after all." He licked his nose then added, "Let’s head back."

When they returned to Cid’s house, they stood outside in silence. Each pondered what they knew about Seir, which was precious little. A moment later, Cloud turned toward the garage as the ruckus Shera was making stopped. Something hit the ground with a thud and Shera stomped out of the garage. She was decked in full machinist’s regalia: earmuffs resting below her ears, goggles over her eyes, face shield up, dust mask on her chin, long leather gloves up to her elbows, and a dirty white overcoat carefully belted so as not to offer anything for her grinder to grab onto. Her sleeves were rolled up over her elbows, also buckled so they wouldn’t fall. And she was fuming. Apparently, her efforts to fabricate parts were being frustrated. She stopped in front of them and asked, "What’s going on out here?"

"We tried to summon Bahamut and ask him about Seir, but, well, um…he was, um…really intimidating. So we don’t know anything more than before," Cloud answered. Just then, Cid emerged from his house. He was in his normal get up, cigarette in mouth and Venus Gospel in hand. He refused to look at anyone, but he did say something, although it was too quiet to hear.

"Huh?" Cloud asked.

Cid looked extremely nervous, fiddling with a strap on his duffel bag and shifting as though at any moment something might attack him. "I have to leave. I have to leave. I can’t stay here anymore," he said quietly.

"Huh?" Shera asked. "Why can’t you stay here? What do you mean ‘anymore’?" Cid turned away, wouldn’t look at her. Her face reddened, fists clenching in anger. "Answer me!" she demanded hotly. His words sounded too permanent; if he was just going to up and move out, she deserved an explanation.

He finally managed to look Shera in the eye for a second, his despairing blue to her fierce brown. He quickly lowered his gaze. "I’m sorry," Cid muttered, then began walking toward the outskirts of Rocket Town, carrying his spear on his shoulder.

Red XIII looked an apology at Shera, then went after Cid, bounding to catch up. Cloud opened his mouth to say something, but he didn’t know what. He looked to Shera; she was fuming, and well within her rights—if someone he had lived with for years up and walked away like that, he would most likely have relieved that person’s shoulders of the burden of carrying their head, no matter what the circumstances. In fact, he felt like bashing Cid’s head in on Shera’s behalf. Then he turned his head toward Cid and Red XIII; they were two of his closest friends—and Cid had traveled the world and risked his life with him at the drop of a hat, just because he didn’t have anything better to do. That deserved some respect… Cloud looked back to Shera, who was one of the gentlest and most hospitable people he’d ever met; she was soft spoken, polite, and saw good in everyone. He didn’t want to repay that with rudeness; she didn’t deserve his disrespect.

Shera sensed Cloud’s divided loyalties and waved her hand in a shooing motion. "Go take care of the Captain, Cloud. I’ll be all right."

Cloud nodded in gratitude then took off after Cid and Red XIII. He caught up with them at the Chocobo stables on the outer wall of the inn. Cid was tacking up Setzer, who cooed quietly. She was an easy-going Chocobo, hand raised by Cid. That left Cloud with Boco, the gold Chocobo. Boco warked loudly when Cloud approached him; this was Tifa’s pride and joy, given her by an old traveler in Kalm in exchange for the Desert Rose, and he didn’t like others riding him. He tolerated it, but just barely. Cloud sighed and retrieved Boco’s tack out of the shed. As he was laying the saddle pad on Boco’s back, he turned to glare at Cid.

"You know, Cid, that was a pretty cold trick you pulled back there," Cloud told him in a chilly voice.

Cid glared at Cloud darkly. Without responding, he turned back to his black Chocobo and cinched her saddle tight. Red XIII glanced questioningly at the swordsman as Cid mounted Setzer.

"It’s obvious she cares about you. I don’t care how bad you’re feeling, there’s no excuse for what you just did," Cloud continued as he finished tacking up Boco. He hopped up on the saddle.

"Warrrk!" Boco protested, but decided not to throw him.

Cid strapped the Venus Gospel in the leather mount on Setzer’s saddle. He moved Setzer alongside Boco and looked Cloud in the face, frowning darkly. "Damn you, Cloud. What the hell do you know?" Cid’s fists were clenched so tight on Setzer’s reins that his arms shook. He looked like he was going to add something, but thought better of it and rode the black Chocobo out of the stable.

"Cloud, what are you doing?" Red XIII asked as he and Cloud exited the stable.

Cloud sighed heavily. "I’m just mad. I know how I’d feel if someone did that to me. Not even saying goodbye."

"He isn’t well, Cloud," Red XIII commented.

"No, I guess not, but that still doesn’t excuse him. I don’t care if his head fell off and someone stuck it on backwards using duct tape and bailing wire. You just don’t do that to people," Cloud replied.

"True," Red XIII conceded, "but he feels guilty enough now without being reminded of another sin. He’s terrified of his feelings of guilt."

Cloud harumphed then dropped the subject. They continued over the mountains toward Costa del Sol, Red XIII and the gold Chocobo on foot and the black Chocobo flying. They intended on catching a boat to Junon then crossing the Misty Mountains to Kalm. "You know," he said after a moment of thought, "no one ever told Shera about that parasite shadow-thingy you told me about.

Red XIII grunted in response. They should have said something to her; it might not help much, but she deserved to know that Cid hadn’t just fallen apart. He stared into the distance, lost in thought. He wondered what they could do about that shadow as the three continued on their way to Kalm.

* * *

As Shera opened the door of her garage, a chill went up her spine. She saw a strange shadow pass overhead and wondered what it was. Once the dread chill passed, she pushed it out of her mind. Right now, she didn’t want to think about anything. So she grabbed her pneumatic grinder and lowered her face shield, throwing herself into her work

* * *

"I’ve been meaning to ask you," Cloud said as he turned to Cid, "Where did you get that scar?" He motioned to a thin burn mark extending from his cheek to just before his right ear. The skin around it and on his ear was slightly discolored. Cid rubbed the mark with his gloved hand and looked away for a moment. Tifa’s Empyrean Circle, a new bar she had built in Kalm after the abandonment of Midgar, was usually busy, but right now, only a few patrons were scattered about. Red XIII, whom Cid had finally decided was his official ‘baby-sitter,’ was lying near his chair. Little Marlene, young bartender extraordinare, was carefully layering some fancy rainbow colored drink for a rich looking young woman. Cid looked back at his blond friend with a clouded expression. He shook his head slightly then looked down at his drink.

"Shera cleaned my clock with a fryin’ pan," he finally answered, without the usual gruffness.

"Huh?" Cloud said, surprised. "But, I thought things were going pretty good before with you and Shera."

Cid picked at the leather fingertips of his gloves. He muttered something then took a deep drag off his cigarette. "I…," he began, then stopped. He fiddled with the stirring stick that came with his tea. He really didn’t want to talk about it, but somehow he figured that red mutt that was worrying over him like a mother hen would stop at nothing to get him to open up. Red XIII seemed to think it was important…he was probably right. He needed Red XIII’s presence more than he cared to admit; secretly he was grateful, but he outwardly he acted irritated. Cid sighed, blowing smoke out his nose.

Things had been going well. Just a few months ago, the Shin-Ra launched one of Cid’s mechanical babies, the Shin-Ra 26. The intention was to blow Meteor out of the sky. It didn’t work, but it did have one unintended side effect: it took Cid to the stars. Shera had hitched a ride as well; Cloud hadn’t known it at the time, but she had wanted to go into space every bit as badly as Cid. As the escape pod descended, Cid pressed one hand flat against the viewport. He watched the stars…his stars. There was something powerfully real about Cid’s possessive feelings. He felt his home out there in the dark. Home, his real home, not that chunk of rock below them with all its own cares and concerns, but the place for which he was made. It wasn’t in space, it wasn’t in the stars, it wasn’t anywhere…but he felt it touch him in a deeper place that he never knew was there. He did not belong to the Planet but to that true place for which everything he had ever seen was a shadow. Tears streamed down his face unheeded. He longed for it. No, longing didn’t come close to describing it. It was higher than longing, more his than anything he had ever felt, more right and true than words could express.

Without looking away from the seeming infinite sea of stars, Cid whispered, "Shera…Shera…," his voice faltered, cracking slightly. "I feel it, my Promised Land…?"

Shera wrapped one arm around Cid’s waist and set her other hand on his extended arm. She easily set her chin on his shoulder (she was actually an inch taller than Cid) and whispered in his ear, "I know; I feel it too."

"Can we ever…is it ever meant for us? I want it more than anything…is it even real?" Cid asked.

Shera just held him tighter and said, "I don’t know, Cid."

Cloud just watched them, confused. He was not sure what they were talking about; he had never felt as if he belonged anywhere, much less somewhere that could remotely be compared to the fabled Promised Land. Nibelheim, the only home he knew, had burned to the ground, destroyed by Sephiroth. That was five years ago; he had nothing now. Maybe they were just overwhelmed because they had finally had their dream come true. Maybe it was something else. He wished he could share it with them. He frowned, then smiled a bit when he thought about how painfully dense those two must be not to realize they were head over heels. Cloud raised an eyebrow at Red XIII, who bobbed his head in what apparently was supposed to be a bemused shrug.

Suffice it to say, it took a full thirty-six hours after the escape pod landed for Cid and Shera to return to good ol’ Terra Firma. It seemed like they were both drunk with excitement. Meteor be damned; they had been in space. So they went out and celebrated. For Shera, this meant dragging everyone to the neighborhood dance hall. There was some swing band playing; not everyone thought Meteor was a reason to stop enjoying life. Shera could not be deterred; even Vincent’s dark frown didn’t stop her from taking him along. No one was given time to change into more appropriate attire.

When they arrived, the band was playing a bright melody, suitable for those with two left feet. Cid and Shera immediately went out on the floor and performed a simple dance. Barret whispered in Cloud’s ear, "He may get the chills jus thinkin’ about marryin’ her, but he sho do look like he’s in love." Cloud nodded.

"How sweet," Tifa said, having overheard Barret’s remark.

Yuffie stuck a finger in her mouth and made pretend gagging noises.

The band began an authentic swing song from long ago. Most of the dancers formed a rough circle, leaving a large space for one couple to dance. Cloud moved over to the circle and peeked over some lady’s head. He dropped his jaw in amused wonder at what he saw. Good heavens, Cid could swing. Not in a thousand lifetimes would he have expected to find Cid Highwind dancing as if it were second nature. Shera was a fine dancer as well. Moogles couldn’t cut a rug so well. Cloud motioned the others to come and look. When Tifa peeked her head over Cloud’s shoulder, she put one hand over her mouth to suppress a delighted giggle.

Barret commented, "Next thing ya know, we’ll be findin’ Vincent snoozin’ wit a stuffed Moogle." The ex-Turk shot him a fierce look.

"C’mon Cloud!" Tifa grabbed his arm and tried to drag him into the circle.

"Oh no! Oh no! I don’t dance!" he cried, raising his hands in protest. Cloud had uncoordinated feet. Very uncoordinated.

Tifa stuck her fists on her hips and harumphed. She then looked at Barret. "Uh, um…it’s hard ta dance wit a gun for an arm?" he sputtered quickly, fumbling for an excuse, any excuse.

She was getting mad. "I want to dance!" She was quickly running out of options. In an act of desperation, her gaze landed on Vincent. He never noticed; he was watching Cid and Shera dance, pondering his own inscrutable thoughts.

"Not me," Yuffie warned. Tifa scowled, rolling her eyes at the young ninja.

Cait Sith hopped up and down on his huge Mog. "I’ll dance with you!" he exclaimed merrily. Tifa stomped one foot, but she did want to dance. The cat hopped off his Mog, hopes soaring. Glaring venom at Cloud, she went and took Cait Sith’s small, furry arm and led him to the dance floor. She was no less proficient at dancing than she was at fighting; Cait Sith did his best, his little red cape fluttering.

Cloud blinked a few times before his shocked mind would register what his eyes saw. Not only could Cid swing, but Cait Sith, Cait Sith, was a decent dancer as well. And that furball was dancing with Tifa.

"Smooth move, cat," Barret commented, grinning at Cloud.

Cloud fumed. "You’re just a regular smartass tonight, aren’t you?"

Barret just chuckled. Soon the circle broke up as the band began a slow tune. Cloud, against his better judgment, found himself cutting in with Tifa, roughly shoving the small cat away. Tifa grinned sweetly, but soon grimaced as one thick boot landed squarely on her foot. "We’ve gotta teach you how to dance."

A few hours later found the dance hall sparsely populated and Tifa’s embattled toes very sore. Cait Sith had managed to find another very amused dance partner; it was a slow dance, so the cat was sort of hugging his partner’s legs. Red XIII and Vincent both slept in a small alcove with a fireplace and a low table. Yuffie had been forcibly ejected some time earlier for her constant complaining about how bored and tired she was. Cid and Shera were completely oblivious to the outside world. Apparently, Barret had gone back to the inn.

"Did we bring some Restore materia?" Cloud quipped, glancing at Tifa’s feet.

Tifa smiled. "It’s OK."

The next day, the party gathered around Cid’s front door, debating exactly how to go about removing the pilot from his home. It was well into the afternoon and no amount of pounding on the front door could get him to come out. They had put up with Cid and Shera playing like a couple of kids (they couldn’t have stopped them if they had tried), but it was time to move on to more important matters such as killing Sephiroth. Enough was enough. Finally, Red XIII volunteered to go in and get Cid. The rest knew he had reached his objective when they heard Cid’s loud cursing and something crashing into a wall. A few moments later, Red XIII emerged with the half conscious pilot in tow, grumbling many an oath. Shera came to the door a moment later in a robe and slippers. She kissed Cid goodbye, perhaps a bit longer than she intended to.

"Oh gawd," Yuffie groaned.

It wasn’t until Cait Sith began whistling and shouting things like "Go Cid!" through his megaphone that Shera woke up enough to come to her senses and retreat into her house. She turned an interesting shade of pink and quickly closed the door. The rest dragged Cid back to the Highwind, where he promptly fell asleep in a meeting room chair, grinning like a fool.

For about a month after Sephiroth’s defeat, things continued to go well with Cid and Shera. He had, accompanied by many apologies, promised her he would never insult or degrade her with his words again. She accepted the apology and forgave him his many trespasses. Or so it seemed.

They still lived together as companions and nothing more, but the neighbors all agreed that they were finally on the road to figuring out for themselves what everybody else in Rocket Town had known for years. It seemed very peaceful over there in the Captain’s house. One morning, however, that all changed. Cid had, as they say, ‘gotten up on the wrong side of the bed’, and lapsed into his old ways. He made some loud, rude comment about how slow Shera was fixing something on the revamped Tiny Bronco. She glared hard at him and he had apologized immediately. It seemed she was content with that and let the matter drop.

Cid spent the better part of the day riding his black Chocobo aimlessly, thinking of such things as what an @#$&^%* he was and how little he deserved such a fine woman as Shera. Occasionally the Chocobo would stretch out its wings and fly. He couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t left his sorry #$% long ago. When he returned that evening, he found Shera deep frying some such for a recipe his aunt had given her. He sat down carefully at the table and rubbed his face, trying to think of something to say. He fumbled for better words a moment longer then gave up and said, "I am such a complete jackass. I’m really sorry about what I said earlier…Is something wrong?" He noticed that Shera was suddenly very tense. He walked up behind her and set one hand on her shoulder. He opened his mouth to say something, but his words were cut of by what sounded very much like a low growl.

In a fit of rage, Shera swung the frying pan, hitting Cid in the face with the edge of the hot metal pan and throwing oil all over the right side of his face and ear. By some bit of fortune, if it could really be called that, Cid went out cold. He fell like a rock to the kitchen floor, blissfully unaware that his face was burning.

When he came to, he found himself in his bed with one mother of a headache. After a few moments of deep thought, he remembered something hard and very hot smacking him in the face. The word ‘hot’ brought his attention to the terrific pain emanating from the right side of his face. "Damn, that hurts," he muttered. Bringing his hand up and expecting it to meet his cheek, he instead discovered some heavy gauze covering a good deal of his face. He explored further and found his ear in similar straits, but for some reason he didn’t hear the loud scratching he expected when he touched the gauze. Usually when something was that close to his ear, he could hear it clearly. "Uugh," he commented. Why hadn’t someone used the Restore materia instead of the Fire materia? He tried to get up, only to find a small hand pushing him back.

"Huh?" Cid asked. He hadn’t seen anyone in the room; the reason became clear when he realized his right eye had been covered as well. Who ever was there was apparently sitting on his right. He barely heard some muffled response, but he didn’t understand. "Say again?" he said a little louder.

"It’s me," Shera answered, her voice still muffled but clear this time. He could tell she felt bad about what she had done by the tone of her voice, but she didn’t say anything else.

"$%#@, woman!" Cid exclaimed. "Why in the nine circles of blazing hell didn’t you use the damn Restore materia?!"

Shera shrugged. "I couldn’t find it quick enough. I don’t know where you store it and you never gave me the key to the box holding your Master materia." That had been a safety precaution. If Yuffie knew anyone had Master materia, there was no telling to what lengths she would go to obtain it. "Besides," Shera continued, "you hardly have any defensive materia. Do you even have a Restore?"

"Why are you talkin’ s’damn quiet? Speak up!" Cid yelled, exasperated that he could hardly make her out.

Shera circled around to the other side, on Cid’s left, so he could see her. "I’m talking normally, Captain."

Cid turned to look at her straight on. "Now you are. Ya weren’t before."

Shaking her head, Shera turned her gaze to her fingernails. She picked at one as she said, "The doctor, he thought that…um, that…"

Cid groaned. "%&#@!! Spit it out, dammit!"

"Um, that you were probably deaf in your right ear…he didn’t sound hopeful," Shera finished quickly. "I got the doctor as soon as I could," she went on after a minute, "you know he can’t use materia."

It was true. The doctor didn’t even have enough magic to pull a gil out of a kid’s ear much less cast a real spell. Cid looked up at the wood beams that framed his small house. Deaf…he prayed he wasn’t also blind.

"I do have a Restore, by the way," he muttered. "I usually just leave ‘em in my weapons." Cid was quiet for a moment. Something lurking in his heart that he didn’t want to face was tickling the back of his mind. He considered asking Shera why she had hit him…with something so cliché as a frying pan no less…but he couldn’t. He knew he had something like that coming for a long time, but he didn’t understand why she had gotten so angry over one slip-up. It would be a long time before he could forget it. He shook off the thought. After a moment he asked, "Why’d ya keep me down? Just a burn, right?"

"Yeah, but the doctor told me to keep you in bed for a few days. It’s pretty bad, and you were in shock. He thought it would be best if you rested for a while," she answered. She got up from the chair in the corner and asked, "Are you hungry? I’ll make you something and bring it in."

Cid looked at her for a moment, somehow knowing she wanted to leave, that she wanted to run. "Yeah…thank you." He paused. "Nothin’ fried." He smiled weakly; his attempt at levity really wasn’t very good. Something hurt too much for any laughter.

"OK," Shera replied. Her smile seemed forced as well. Her feelings of guilt were clearly expressed. She turned to the door and when she left, she closed it softly behind her.

Cid touched the dressing again. Not long after he began to cry silently. This hadn’t been the first time she hit him. He had never once raised a hand to her and she had never said one harsh word to him; but she did from time to time vent her pain on him with her fists. It was a cycle that had gone on for years. But this time something had gone very wrong. He thought the cycle had been broken; she had forgiven him for his cruel words… He tried to wipe his tears away, but the heavy dressing prevented him. He tried to stop crying, to stop thinking about why she had been so angry. He wanted to run, too. But there was no where to go. The pain in his face would not allow him to forget her rage. He didn’t want to think of Shera so filled with fury that she would hurt him like this. A broken promise…one lapse…she couldn’t trust him not to hurt her. Tears came faster. He didn’t understand why, but he knew he could not trust her either. The fire he felt from the burns could not compare with the gash Shera’s rage had left in his heart.


Go To Logos Part 3

Return To FF7 Fanfic