Vincent stirred awake, feeling Cid tighten his hold around him and the soft warm furs covering them. "Somethin' wrong?" Cid murmured into Vincent's shoulder.
"...You're awake... and I'm tired..." Vincent murmured with his eyes closed, sleep slurring his words.
"Then go back to sleep," Cid said drowsily, yawning. Vincent curled back up into Cid's chest when distant gunshots filled the air.
Cid sat up, immediately leaping to his feet and pulling his pants on. "The fuck...?" Vincent dove out as well, pulling on his loincloth and strapping his knife to his thigh. In a matter of seconds, he had his bow strung and quiver strapped across his back.
Cid snatched up his metal spear and ran after Vincent out into the night, eyes searching for movement in the leaves. Vincent raced through the trees, not even bothering to slow down for Cid. His ear picked up the fierce cries of his people and the loud gunfire. He skidded to a stop as a scene suddenly appeared before them.
Arrows and spears littered the area and bullets splintered tree branches and plants. Natives engaged with uniformed soldiers, either hand to hand or attacking from a distance. Several of his people lie wounded on the ground while their companions tried to pull them into the safety of the trees. Amber eyes drifted and saw the soldiers commanders, the one with hair of fire and the one that had helped him a few days prior.
Vincent snarled and forgot about the pilot following him. Without a second thought, he charged into the clearing, firing deadly accurate arrows as he ran towards his people.
Tseng snapped his fingers, and a soldier immediately turned the gun on Vincent.
"HEY!" Cid grabbed the barrel of the gun and pulled it sideways. The shot burst into the air, high enough to save Vincent and the other natives.
Vincent helped to provide cover, his bowing singing with his constant shots, as his people rescued their wounded.
Cid raised his lance and skewered the soldier that had shot at Vincent, then raising the blood-smeared spear to Reno.
Reno caught the movement and swore, quickly moving out of the way. He trained his gun on Vincent, who was distracted by helping one of his people up.
"I wouldn't do it, yo."
"You'd seriously kill someone for no goddamn reason, Reno? You're more fucked up than I thought." Cid didn't lower the spear.
"Better him than me, and obviously you have some attachment to him. Aren't those your tags around his neck?" Reno pulled slightly on the trigger in warning.
"Damn straight." Cid narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing, guys?" he said, addressing both Tseng and Reno. "What's the draw, here? Is there any reason you can't kick Hojo out in the jungle and ditch?"
Tseng regarded him carefully and Reno continued to track Vincent with his gun. It was Tseng that finally spoke. "We didn't have the same options as you."
"What option is that?" Cid spat. "The only reason these people are trying to fucking kill you is because YOU'RE killing THEM."
Tseng grabbed Cid's spear and drew him close, speaking in a low voice, "I am trying to get this stopped, but it's not as easy as it would seem. You have to play along with us for a while as we have to keep up appearances. Understand?"
Cid stopped talking abruptly. "...I understand," he said slowly. "But he won't." He jabbed a thumb at Vincent. "So you gotta play along with me, too."
Tseng nodded just as Vincent's amber eyes locked onto them. Before they could narrow in question, Reno fired and a yelp sounded a moment later.
Cid didn't even think to turn around and scream at Reno. He bolted forward and caught Vincent before he could hit the bloody ground. Tseng looked on at Cid and the native, feeling a slight guilt. He motioned his men to fall back, the soldiers hastily retreating into the brush.
"Vincent!" Cid said urgently, leaning him against his shoulder and searching for the wound.
Vincent looked up confused, his skin turning ashy and body shaking, "...Cid?"
Cid raised a hand and found it was covered in blood. He'd found the bullet, lodged in Vincent's side. He cursed, standing clumsily with Vincent in his arms. "Don't worry," he said breathlessly. "It's gonna be okay, don't worry."
Vincent eyebrows furrowed, shock slowly taking over him.
"...Cid? What's... wrong?"
"You're hurt, but you gotta stay calm," Cid said hurriedly, looking around for any surviving natives. He didn't know if he could make it back to the hut carrying Vincent, barefoot and shaky.
"...Hurt?" Vincent mumbled, eyelids fluttering.
"Where can I take you?" Cid asked shakily. "Close by."
Vincent looked off to Cid's right, footprints visible in the wet earth. He closed his eyes, feeling suddenly drained and exhausted. Cid's eye caught the footprints, and he slung one of Vincent's arms over his shoulders to support him better before following them.
A rustle ahead caught his attention, moments later came the frightened form of Tifa. She froze and tentatively asked, "...Cid?"
"You!" Cid said sharply, in their native tongue. "We have to get him somewhere safe, quickly. No time to explain."
Tifa gasped as she saw the condition of Vincent in the man's arms. She raced forward, pulling the long tie off her hair. "Where is he hit?
"His side," Cid said quietly, kneeling and sitting Vincent on his thigh.
She hissed and pressed the crumpled fabric hard against the wound. "Do you know how to treat wounds like these? The ones from your strange weapons?"
"I think I could take it out," he said. "Let me come back to your people with you."
Tifa looked up sharply, considering the options, "You must listen to everything I say. This won't go over well. And you have to tell our healer how to heal these wounds."
Cid nodded. "I will. I promise."
- - - - - - -
Chaos. That was the first thing that came to mind on seeing the village. The rest of the huts were in the same design of Vincent's, grouped around a large fire pit. Villagers ran back and forth between houses, trying to treat the wounded and setting up defenses in case the village was directly attacked.
Unfortunately, Yuffie was the first one to see them. She ran up in a flurry, looking as if she would have beaten Cid senseless if he hadn't been holding Vincent.
"How could you let this happen, you idiot!? I knew we shouldn't have trusted you!"
Before Cid could come up with a response, Tifa grabbed the girl's arm and twisted it enought to gain her full attention.
"He will die if you stall us much longer. Get Aeris, quickly."
Yuffie nodded, glaring at Cid before turning and running back into the fray. She returned moments later with another native girl, about Tifa's age, wearing a long woven dress, with a large piece of cloth tying her hair up.
"Come with me," she said in seamless English, beckoning for Cid to follow her across the village and into her own hut, larger than the others and already the sleeping place of four wounded men.
She motioned for Cid to set Vincent on a cot in the back of the hut, herbs and dressings laying on every available surface.
Cid lay Vincent down gently, moving to the other side of the cot and taking the hand on his good side.
Aeris glanced up at Cid briefly, "You're not one of them are you? You were the one that saved him?"
Cid nodded slowly. "You can trust me," he said.
Aeris gave him an analyzing stare before returning her attention to Vincent. She placed a hand on his forehead and sighed. "He's burning up." She motioned for a bowl of water and a rag by Cid's arm. "Try and keep him cool. This isn't looking good," she murmured, inspecting the wound.
"You have to take the bullet out. The metal bit," Cid said, remembering Tifa's words, as he wrung out the cloth and draped it across Vincent's forehead. With nimble fingers, Aeris pulled the slug out of the wound and tossed it aside. She grabbed several clean rags and applied pressure. "Thankfully, everyone else was only grazed. I don't think I would have been able to care for them all if they were like this."
Cid nodded slowly, debating telling her about Tseng's warning, but decided against it. He mopped Vincent's sweating forehead and tried to swallow the panic rising from his chest.
Aeris worked silently for hours, trying to get Vincent into a stable condition. She had eventually given up, and bandaged the wound the best she could, pulling a blanket over Vincent's pale form. She placed a hand on the pilot's shoulder. "The rest is up to him now... and don't hold much hope. Stay here and keep him company. I will make sure no one will bother you until he improves, or..." She trailed off and gave his shoulder a slight squeeze. She stood up and pulled down large curtains, giving them privacy from the rest of the hut.
Cid took Vincent's hand in both of his and rested his forehead against them, forcing back any tears that burned into his eyes. He tried not to look at Vincent's face, but eventually made the mistake of doing so and bowed his head, shaking silently with sobs.
"My fault..." He murmured into the back of Vincent's hand. "If we hadn't... you'd be..." He let out a shuddering breath, squeezing his eyes shut. "Goddammit. Why'd I come to this stupid fucking island...?" he asked himself quietly. For a moment, he stayed silent, considering the question. What if he'd never came? He would never have... He raised his head, staring down at Vincent's frail form. "No.." he whispered hoarsely, giving Vincent's hand a squeeze. "Think I'd rather die than skip all this. Think I'd rather die."
Aeris came in a few hours later to check on Vincent but paused as she saw the distraught pilot resting his head on the edge of the cot, sound asleep. His large hands were wrapped Vincent's small one tightly. Careful not to wake the pilot, she checked Vincent's heartbeat, hoping that it had not stopped while the pilot was asleep. She laid her ear to Vincent's chest, concentrating on hearing any sign of life. A slow heartbeat reached her ears, still faint, but there. She stood up, taking in the half-clothed form of Cid, his face lined with worry. It was obvious that he cared deeply for the other. Aeris gently draped a spare blanket over the man's shoulders.
Cid stirred slightly at the sudden weight on his shoulders, but didn't wake, only mumbling Vincent's name and then falling silent. Aeris gave him a sad look before leaving and pulling the curtains shut. Even though Cid was an outsider, she hoped that Vincent would pull through for him.
"Is he okay!?" Yuffie cried as soon as Aeris had exited. "Can I go in and see him?"
Aeris held the younger girl back by her shoulders, "He is very, very weak Yuffie. He is in not condition to see anyone."
Yuffie scowled. "Then why is that guy in there?"
"Yuffie," Aeris started, uncharacteristically stern. "You need to stop doting after him. He belongs to Cid now, and you need to accept it. It's the best thing you can do for him."
Yuffie's lower lip trembled slightly and she turned, brushing past the groups of wounded and panicking caregivers and into the jungle.
Tifa came up beside the saddened healer. "How bad is it?"
Aeris shook her head. "Bad, very bad. I... I don't know if he's going to make it, Tifa. Cid is probably the only thing keeping him alive right now, as strange as it sounds."
"Let's hope that Cid pulls him through."