The next morning, Cid woke up without Vincent next to him. His mind clouded with worry before he remembered the events of the night before. He sighed and slumped back down for the moment, staring at the ceiling.
Vincent looked back at the hut for what had to have been the hundredth time. He refused to sleep and it showed on his fair features. He had spent the night running over everything in his mind and he couldn't figure out what to do. He wanted, no needed, the pilot but didn't want to be hurt again.
Cid got up, stretching, and went outside. He stood at the entrance of the hut for a while, looking at Vincent and willing him not to run away again.
"Come here," he said quietly.
After a quick mental debate, Vincent slowly stood and walked to the pilot, keeping his gaze trained on the ground.
Cid reached out and took his hand, leading him back inside to sit on the furs they used as their bed. "Look. I dunno what... went on, but I want you to know that... whatever it was... it'll never happen with me."
Vincent sat, staring at his hands in his lap.
"...She left," he said in a small voice after a long pause.
Cid ran a couple of fingers through Vincent's hair. "And you think I'm gonna leave?"
"...You can die... She died in the last war... There is another coming, and..." Vincent trailed off, unable to finish.
Cid paused, unsure of what to say or do. If he pulled Vincent closer, would he be pushed away? "I can't promise anything," he said eventually, speaking slowly. "but... I risked getting abandoned on this island... almost got killed by Hojo and the guards... gave up my ship and the rest of my life... just so I could be here. With you. Right now." He leaned closer to look Vincent in the eyes. "If you think that I am going to do anything less than make sure both of us get out of this thing safely, you're dead wrong. I lo--" He stopped himself, closing his eyes in frustration. "...I care about you too much for that."
Amber eyes locked with sky blue, full of guilt and sorrow.
"Cid... I do not want to fail again," he breathed.
Cid shook his head. "You're not gonna be able to get rid of me that easy. Love me or don't, I'm here with you till the end."
At Cid's words, Vincent leaned forward, lips brushing the pilot's lightly. It felt like a large weight had fallen from his shoulders, making him feel lighter than he had felt in years.
Cid pulled him into an embrace, burying his face in the dark, aromatic hair and closing his eyes.
Vincent clutched the pilot's back desperately, burying his face in the crook of Cid's neck. On impulse, he kissed the exposed skin there.
Cid made a small noise of content, tilting his head into the feeling.
Vincent trailed kisses to Cid's mouth and shakily breathed, "...Love me..."
Cid nodded, returning for a deeper kiss. "I love you," he murmured.
"...I love you too..."
"Hoping you'd say that." Cid smiled against Vincent's lips.
- - - - - - -
Vincent lay staring at the ceiling of the dark hut, Cid's arms wrapped around his waist. The pilot was sound asleep, snoring softly into Vincent's ear. In the days following their confessions and truths, they had grown near inseparable. Vincent knew that they were ready to face the village, but he wasn't ready for what he should tell them. Cid had mentioned the vile man, Hojo, and something about the man wanting Vincent again. But beyond that, he wasn't sure why the others were here.
Cid mumbled something in his sleep, hugging onto Vincent as if he were a pillow.
Vincent smiled slightly, turning in the pilot's hold to face him. He looked so peaceful when he slept. Vincent hoped that he would understand what he had to do.
- - - - - - -
Back at the settler's camp, Hojo was pacing.
"We need to increase productivity," he snapped. The workers' dark and silent leader, an exotic-looking man with long, straight hair tied back into a ponytail, sighed.
"Professor, if these men are pushed any more, they'll revolt. You know what happened to Captain Highwind. We can't have a repeat of that."
"Mr. Tseng," Hojo said, his tone condescending. "The total area of this island is 103,733 square miles. I want each and every one of those square miles colonized and mined before the year is out. And all of those hideous natives put to good use. It's not a hard thing to ask of you and your supposedly hardworking men."
"Professor, to colonize the entire island in that amount of time would be impossible. And we are not sure what these natives are capable of."
"You're honestly comparing an army of men with firearms to a group of savages with sharpened rocks?"
"I am saying that they have lived on this land for generations most likely. We would be wise to heed them."
Hojo shook his head. "Just get it done. I don't care how." He turned and stalked back towards the ship.
"I just hope that you know what you are up against, Hojo."
Hojo didn't reply, only humming softly to himself before disappearing.
- - - - - - -
Vincent stood at the entrance of the hut, strapping his knife around his waist. Pink had just begun to enter the sky, birds loudly answering the call of day. He looked back at Cid, sleeping soundly. Vincent's beaded necklace lay around the pilot's neck. For once, Vincent was glad the pilot slept late. He would be able to leave without Cid stopping him.
An hour or so later, Cid groaned and stretched his legs, reaching out to put his arms around Vincent and opening his eyes when he realized there was nothing there.
He sat upright, hearing a small clink and looking down at his chest. Vincent's beads rested there, bright and colorful against bare skin. A terrible feeling nested itself in Cid's stomach.
- - - - - - -
Vincent traveled through the jungle without break. In full health, he was able to make the trip to the settlement in two days. He knew Cid would be upset and confused. He gave a silent prayer to hoping that the pilot wouldn't follow him. At the end of the second day, he reached the settlement just as night was beginning to fall. Vincent carefully crept into the leaves, gasping at what he saw.
A large area of trees had been chopped down and cleared, a pile of them lying like corpses in a corner of the enlarged clearing. Dozens and dozens of men, like ants, worked with saws to topple more. Vincent stared, horrified, by what the men were doing to his home. He had come to this particular area as a child. To see it being destroyed caused an ache in his chest.
He scanned the clearing, spying Cid's airship. His heart sank when hundreds of men in strange uniforms stood between them. Suddenly, the sound of twigs cracking under footsteps rose from behind Vincent.
Vincent whipped around and pulled out his knife in the same instant, tackling the person to the ground. The stranger, a black-haired man with a bindi-like mark in the center of his forehead, let out an 'oof' of surprise, hands flying up to grab Vincent's wrist.
Vincent hissed, trying to get his wrist free.
"Stop!" Tseng snapped. "Do you want them to hear you?"
Vincent stopped hissing but remained where he was.
"Now, please get off of me, and we can talk about this civilly."
"Why should I trust you?" Vincent hissed menacingly. "How do I know that you will not kill me?"
"For one, I have no weapons on my person." Tseng let go of Vincent's wrist and put both hands up in surrender. Vincent watched him carefully, knife directly over the man's heart.
"How do I know you will not turn me in?"
"You're the native that ran away with Captain Highwind, aren't you?"
Vincent hissed, "Cid saved me. I did not run away with him."
"Whatever you'd like to call it." With surprising strength, Tseng reclaimed Vincent's wrist and thrust the knife away from him, just long enough to allow him to leap to his feet. Vincent followed a second later, hissing at him again. He really didn't like how cunning this man was.
"Shh." Tseng glared at him. "I'm trying to keep you from being caught. I figured you came back to get his things, right?" Vincent stopped hissing with a blink of surprise. He slowly nodded.
"I can help you, if you'd trust me," Tseng said smoothly.
Vincent gave him a suspicious look. "Why are you helping me?"
"I don't see how turning you in, or even turning you away, would help me," Tseng told him. "Besides," he added thoughtfully. "Anything that would unsettle Professor Hojo is appealing to me at the moment."
"Hojo? Why would you want him angry?"
"That's complicated," Tseng said quickly, realizing that he'd said too much. "Do you want my help or not?"
"...Fine. But I will take action if you do something against me."
"I wouldn't dream of it. What would you like me to get from his room?"
Vincent thought a while before answering, "His... jacket? And the headband that he wore on his head with the box in them. His spear and his odd metal necklace."
Tseng nodded, turning and leaving through the throng of men, who nodded to him in respect as he made his way through. Vincent crouched in the leaves, waiting for the odd man's return.
Why was he so willing to help him and betray Hojo?