Cid swallowed hard, fidgeting with the beads around his neck as they waited for the elders. Aeris had led them to the central, larger hut that was used for important meetings between the elders and other notable village people. Much like Vincent's own home, a fire burned vigorously in the center of the hut, smoke exiting through an outlet in the ceiling. Vincent stood tall and stoic beside the pilot, body coiled with tension. His usually expressive eyes were blank and showed nothing to what he was thinking.
As soon as the curtains covering the entrance to the hut opened, Cid whipped around to face the first elder to enter. His hair was lighter than most of the other natives' (though still not as light as Cid's) and, as a sign of sophistication and power, Cid supposed, wore long animal skin robes, rather than Vincent and the other tribal boys' more revealing ensembles. He smiled slightly at Cid as the other two elders entered behind him. A tall stern looking man with a long scar down his cheek entered next, his shorter, dark hair becoming overrun with grey. The third elder, a terse-looking man with black hair swept away from his face, closed the curtains behind him as soon as the three of them were inside.
Vincent immediately touched a hand to his brow and bowed, his jewelry and beads responding to his sudden movement. Cid awkwardly bowed as well. The light-haired one nodded in return.
"So we're finally introduced. We've heard quite a lot about you in the past week."
The one with the scar motioned them to sit. "We are interested by what we have heard. This is an important matter but I am sure you understand this."
Cid sat down slowly. "Yes, I know that. Should I start defending myself now, or later?"
Vincent, who had sat as well, hissed and slapped Cid across the back of his head for his lack of respect. The scarred one chuckled slightly in amusement. "No not yet. We have many things to ask you first."
"Okay," Cid said, raising his eyebrows expectantly. "Go ahead. Please," he added quickly.
"I am Veld," the scarred one said then motioned to the lighter haired one and then the terse looking one. "Lazard and Angeal." Veld steepled his hands and looked at Cid expectantly. "And you are Cid Highwind, from what I have heard. A leader of a ship, who sacrified his being for someone not even of his kind."
Cid nodded hesitantly. "That's right."
"You are unlike others that we have encountered before. You do not want they things that they did." Veld glanced at Vincent, who was intently staring at the ground, and back to Cid. "We want to know one thing namely," he paused, studying the man in front of him. "Why would a man of some standing of his people give it up in an instant?"
"Because I fell in love with Vincent, sir," Cid said firmly, eyes blazing.
Vincent glanced at the pilot out of the corner of his eye before looking down at the ground again. Veld held Cid's eyes steadily. "Without even knowing who or what he was?"
Cid wouldn't tear his gaze away. "With all due respect, I knew who he was. And couldn't care less what he was."
Veld chuckled lightly. "You have a strong spirit. One that is not commonly seen. I think you are a fine match for my nephew. And I must thank you personally for saving his life."
Cid's jaw slacked. "Nephew?" Vincent seemed to want to disappear into the ground, embarressment radiating off of him.
"Did he not tell you? 'Vincent' as you call him, is the son of my brother who was lost in a late war with your people. He was only a small boy then," Veld stated mildly.
Cid's eyebrows shot up, but he decided to transfer his gaze to the ceiling. "Well. That's... interesting."
"He was too young to take command of the village, of course, so I assumed resposibilty. He will take my place naturally once my time is done," Veld continued, as though he was merely commenting on the weather.
Cid pursed his lips. Great. I hooked up with some kind of native prince? "I didn't know," he said with some difficulty. "Thanks for mentioning it."
Veld watched as Vincent seemed to sink into himself, and he looked back to the pilot.
"Do not think poorly of my nephew for his decision not to tell you. It can be a tool when used in the wrong hands," Veld said gently. "Though I am glad to see that your chose him despite not knowing his heritage. This pleases me greatly."
Cid half-smiled. "Well, it's not going to affect my thoughts of him now, so don't worry about it. It's gonna take a lot more to tear me away."
Veld returned the smile and leaned back. "I have come to my decision," he stated, and then looked to his companions for theirs.
Lazard nodded. "As have I." Angeal simply nodded.
Veld nodded and looked to the pair in front of him.
"Let us confer among ourselves in private."
- - - - -
Cid paced around the entrance to the hut, occasionally sighing or running a hand through his hair. The elders had been in conversation for almost an hour at that point, and speaking so quietly that none of their conversation could be heard from outside.
Vincent stood against the wall of the hut, looking torn. "Cid... I'm sorry..."
Cid's eyes rose to look into Vincent's. "What, about not telling me that Veld guy's your uncle? Hell, I don't care about that."
"...I'm sorry about not telling you about... my responsibilities..."
Cid walked over to where Vincent was standing and took both of his hands. "And you'd still wanna leave with me if they said no?"
Vincent nodded, staring down at their joined hands. "Leaders can always be chosen if blood heirs are not able to take charge."
Cid nodded, looking slightly frustrated and more than a little guilty. "...Alright. But hopefully we're not gonna have to worry about that."
Vincent looked up at Cid, smiling, as the curtains of the hut parted, and Lazard stepped out.
"If you would come back inside, we've come to our decision."
Vincent gave Cid a nervous look, hands messing with the bandages around his waist. Cid followed Lazard back inside, where the other two elders were waiting. Lazard took his place on Veld's left once more.
Veld motioned for an anxious Vincent to wait outside and turned his attention to the pilot. As Vincent reluctantly shut the curtain, he spoke, "Please sit. We have much to talk about."
Cid awkwardly sat across from the three, glancing up at the smoke-filtering ceiling.
"What does our way of life mean to you?" All previous lightheartedness had left Veld's face, leaving it grim and serious.
Cid paused, grasping for an answer. "It's something that I could adapt to," he said clearly. "And a welcome relief from what I left behind."
Veld leaned back, sighing slightly. "Our way of life is once again threatened by these newcomers, thought why they are here again is unclear. I hoped that you would give us this answer."
"Veld. Sir." Cid leaned forward slightly. "I'm going to help you get rid of them. I hate them as much as you do."
"What do they want? I noticed Vincent did not come out of it... unscathed."
"Our... leader," Cid said, the word 'leader' sounding almost mocking, "came here saying he wanted to colonize the island, but I don't think that's what he really intended to do. It was just a bonus. He's looking for human test subjects."
The elders raised their brows sharply in anger and surprise but it was Veld who sat up instantly. "He got a hold of my nephew? Is Vincent alright?"
Cid nodded. "He is now. I got him out before anything worse could happen."
Veld nodded in satisfaction, "That is good to hear. I am glad that you are there for him," Veld paused and met the pilot's eyes fiercely. "If I do not make it out of this fight... I ask you to take Vincent's side and help run the village in my stead. The choice is yours."
Cid nodded almost instantly, making Lazard raise an eyebrow. "Of course," the pilot said firmly.
"Cid, it is not an easy task. Vincent will need you."
"And I'll be there."
Veld nodded slowly, looking to Lazard for his opinions. Lazard shook his head in disbelief.
"You're either the bravest man I've ever met, or the most foolish. But I don't doubt that every word you say is true." Cid bit back a snide remark.
Angeal spoke up for the first time, giving a slight nod of his head. "It's what makes a great leader, and I feel that his place is among us, and with Vincent."
"I agree," Lazard confirmed.
Veld gave Cid a small smile and nodded towards the door. "I believe someone is waiting for you."
Cid smiled, standing. "Thank you," he said, bowing slightly before hurrying out.
Vincent paced restlessly outside the hut, hand clasped around Cid's tags. He had started to pull his wound open with his continuous movement but he didn't notice. He felt ill to his stomach with worry.
When Cid came out of the tent, his face lit up with smugness, he ran over to Vincent and locked him in an embrace.
Vincent gasped and held the captian's face tightly. "Cid?"
"Guess who didn't get kicked out!" Cid roared, holding Vincent snugly to him. Vincent clung to the pilot, giving a carefree laugh as Cid lifted him up into the hug, and as the three elders emerged, Lazard smiled.
Veld cleared his throat and was highly amused at the embarressed flush that bloomed over Vincent's pale face. Cid immediately let him go.
Veld waved off Cid's apology and smiled. "You are free to return back to...your home." He motioned Vincent over and placed a scarred hand on the long hair. "I am glad that you are safe. I was frightened that you had met the same fate as your father."
Vincent smiled in response and bent his head as Veld placed a fatherly kiss on his brow.
Veld released Vincent and motioned Cid near.
Cid moved to stand in front of him, looking almost embarassed. Veld placed an identical kiss on the pilot's brow and looked at him, hand on his shoulder. "Thank you for your actions. Because of them, I have my nephew back and have gained a son in return."
Cid's lips tugged up into a smile. "Thank you, too," he said with a nod.
Veld shoved the two away lightly with a broad smile that made him seem years younger, "Be off already."
Cid gave the three elders a wave, afterwards joining his hand with Vincent's as they started moving back towards what was now their hut.
- - - - -
Vincent lay on his back in their furs that night, enjoying the feeling of being home after so long. Knowing that he no longer had to hide Cid and he had gotten his uncle's blessing, Vincent smiled in spite of himself.
Cid rolled over onto his stomach and propped himself onto his elbows. "I gotta admit, I didn't know how I was gonna get outta that. Thought they were gonna clobber me when I said I didn't much care about what the hell you were..."
Vincent's smile widened more. "Just because they are of greater age does not mean their speed or deadliness has decreased."
Cid sighed contentedly, resting his head on his arms. "So I live here now. Tell me more about you guys. I mean, where did you come from? Has this tribe always been here?"
Vincent shrugged. "We have lived here a long as the land has, or so the stories say. Living with the earth instead of against it like your people. We train ourselves in battle, as an art."
Cid frowned in confusion. "An art? You see battle as an art?"
Vincent struggled for the right words. "A way of life. To survive but keep what is sacred and respectful. There is only sadness otherwise."
Cid nodded. "Do... do you believe in a god?" he asked delicately. "I mean, is there any kinda... religious stuff around here?"
Vincent looked at Cid, eyes warm. "Life. We honor life and all it's forms."
Cid stared back into those amber orbs and understood. "No one I knew back at the camp thought anything like that," he admitted. But Vincent already knew that.
"It's... your people I don't understand. How they can do these evil things and not feel the sadness," Vincent whispered, stroking Cid's face lightly.
Cid shrugged one shoulder lightly. "I dunno. Some people they say're just pure evil. Don't feel any guilt, any pain at destroyin' things. Just see the gain from it." Vincent kissed him.
"No more talk of this. This is a good day."
Cid grinned, arms wrapping around Vincent's waist. "Told you so."
"Well you are either brave or foolish."
"Funny. That's exactly what Lazard said to me." Vincent gave Cid a smug smile, scooting closer to him. "Sleep," Cid murmured, kissing his hair. "Tomorrow, we gotta start on our second crisis."
"I don't want to."
"You don't have to," Cid offered, looking down at him. "You can stay safe, here. It'd probably make your uncle feel better."
"No. I will not stay back like one of your women. I am not helpless."
Cid rolled his eyes. "I figured." He took one of Vincent's hands, giving it a gentle squeeze. "But I swear, if I see any of them so much as fucking touch you again, they're all dead."
"It's not your fault. I just didn't see it in time. I should have been faster."
"I'm done blaming myself. It's them I'm after, now."
Vincent kissed Cid deeply, pulling the pilot closer to him. Cid's hands caught in Vincent's hair, as he rested his head in the crook of the younger man's neck and closed his eyes.
"You could be after me."
Vincent kissed him teasingly on the lips, looking up at Cid with a sly smile.
His smile was infectious, catching onto Cid's face as the pilot's hands wandered lower.
"Plenty'a time to take care of the crisis in the morning."