Title: Time in a Bottle: Valenwind Warnings: Yaoi (mild) Pairing: CidxVincent Disclaimer: The Usual, Square Enix owns 'em, just borrowing. Plot belongs to me.
Summary: A short tale that began with a conversation between Barret and Cid then laid aside awhile back, originally titled 'Burdens'. Folks kept asking if I would finish it, so I'm glad it finally happened.
"Don't he never do anythin' but brood? He's givin' me the creeps," growled Barret, glaring out through the great glass windows of the bridge to where Vincent sat alone on the deck, his head bowed to a bitter wind that spoke of the year's dying. His dark hair tangled about him like the remains of a nightmare; and as was too often the case, his posture spoke of a silent and crushing despair. If he felt the cold at all, he gave no indication.
"Leave 'im alone, Cid replied testily from where he stood at the wheel. He's carryin' a lot of weight."
Barret snorted, turning his glare upon the pilot. "An' the rest of us ain't?"
"Yeah, we all got a past," Cid replied testily, matching Barret's glare before falling silent once more. His knuckles were white where he gripped the great wheel. When he continued, there was something in the pilot's voice that spoke of a place beyond pity, his gaze traveling once more to rest upon Vincent. "But him? He's got the whole gods-damned thing; as if just havin' been killed and then dragged back wasn't more than enough. If what that Lucrecia woman said is true, he's carryin' the load of every damn thing that's ever happened since this rock was first thought up…an' the future too. No matter what happens, Vincent can't win." Cid's eyes, suspiciously bright, remained fastened upon the scarlet-cloaked figure huddled against a storm-ridden sky.
"I dunno," Barret replied, chastened. Almost deliberately, his large finger rubbed at a fitting on his gun arm. He fixed a long moment's speculative attention upon Vincent before he turned the same expression upon Cid. "I think he just might make it." He turned to go, speaking over his shoulder. "I'll take his turn tonight at late watch."
"I'll let him know," the pilot replied. He didn't thank Barret, but that was just the way things were between them; something they did that needed no acknowledgment.
On sudden inspiration, Cid spun the wheel to a new course; pointing the great airship southeast to warmer climes. He then set the helm to auto and grabbing his jacket from the rail, went to join Vincent on deck.
Lowering himself to sit beside the gunman, Cid brought his goggles down to protect his eyes from the flurry if ice crystals that would drive against skin like tiny daggers. It made him doubly glad to be leaving them behind for a little while.
The rainy season was just ending in Mideel; the southern world would be turning again toward spring.
They did not speak for more than an hour and Cid simply waited; letting Vincent decide whatever he would. If the gunman chose to acknowledge the pilot's presence, he would do so in his own time; so despite not being able to really feel his extremities anymore in the biting wind of their travel, Cid remained where he was.
Another hour and the beginnings of change could be felt around them; the ice gradually becoming mist in the wake of their journey.
Still Cid waited.
Another hour before Vincent blinked; his awareness once more upon his surroundings. They were over open ocean now; far enough south that the warmth of the Great Current flowing from Mideel was defined in sharp edges against the colder water surrounding it, folding in shades of deepest blue.
Another moment and the gunman glanced aside, as if noticing the pilot's presence for the first time.
"Welcome back," was all Cid said.
Vincent gave a small huff, and the way his eyes flashed gold for a moment gave the impression of amusement.
"How long?" the gunman eventually asked.
"Two days," came the reply. "That's a lot of thinkin.'"
"You would think thirty years' worth would have been enough," Vincent responded wryly.
"Huh…you ain't the only one over quota. I ain't figured out a damn thing in that length of time, neither." Cid tried to move his cold-stiffened body and ended up losing his balance and tipping against the gunman's shoulder. "I think I fuckin' petrified out here," he groused as Vincent caught and steadied him before rising easily to his feet.
"Let's get you inside," he said, reaching down a hand for Cid to grasp then pulling the pilot to stand.
The warmth of the bridge was almost painful after his time outdoors, but there was nothing to be done but endure the sharp tingling as blood began circulating more quickly again. Cid started his kettle; soon there would be hot tea to chase their chill away. He then took his place at the wheel once more; seeking to distract himself, his and Barret's conversation from earlier still heavy on his mind.
Vincent leaned against a bulkhead, silent once more and Cid hardly knew where to begin in asking his question. For fuck's sake, just spit it out, he snorted impatiently to himself.
"Ever have any regrets, Vin?" he almost winced then hurriedly continued. "I mean, stuff you always meant to say to people, stuff like that."
"Does it matter?" Vincent replied after a long moment. "There's no one left to hear it."
"Hmm"…Cid replied. "I met this man once, down in Mideel. He had the damndest collection of bottles ya ever seen…they were all over the place. Must've been thousands of them. He'd been finding' 'em all his life." Cid paused in his telling and lit a cigarette. "I had to know why he did it."
Vincent listened in patient silence; merely waiting. The pilot's eyes were turned to the past, as if he'd forgotten he wasn't alone. "What became of him?" he asked at last.
Cid blinked, a small smile curling one corner of his mouth. "No idea. He may still be there for all I know; him and his little boat and his bottles. He told me he sent messages in 'em. He rowed out every day the weather was fit, year after year, all the way out to the Current. Then he tossed his bottles out and rowed back."
When Vincent didn't reply, merely watching him, the pilot continued.
"He said he had a lot of stuff on his mind; things he always wished he'd said when he had the chance."
"How did you meet him?" the gunman asked, though he believed he already knew the answer.
Cid pointed to a small cabinet beneath an instrument panel, close to where Vincent was standing. "Look in there."
As he had known he would, Vincent withdrew a heavy glass wine bottle, its surface so pitted by time and exposure that it was almost completely opaque.
Within was the shadow of curled paper. He glanced to the pilot for permission and receiving a single nod, withdrew the heavily waxed cork. The paper within slid free easily when he tipped the bottle, its edges fragile with age as he carefully unrolled it to read. When he had come to the end, he allowed it to roll into its original curl and replaced it back within the bottle. After he'd replaced the cork also, he stood simply staring at it until he finally spoke again.
"Who were they?"
"His wife and child. They'd been gone twenty years when I met him."
Vincent looked away from the bottle, his ruby-jewelled gaze moving to where Cid stood before the wheel. "Do you have any regrets?"
Honest blue eyes met and held his own. "I don't want to."
That evening, Vincent wrote a letter; rolling it tightly and sealing it within a bottle Cid gave him.
The next morning he rose from the bed he'd shared with his friend and together they went out on deck; the great airship hovering low over the waves.
The pilot watched silently as Vincent dropped his message into the Great Current below.
Beside a sparkling stream banked with flowers underneath a perfect sky, a woman pointed to a shape bobbing in the water's swirling eddies.
Her husband, laughing, went to retrieve it.
They opened the bottle together; retrieving the message inside and began to read.
Bless...thank you! This was little more than a drabble for over a year...then it finished itself inside two hours. It used to make me crazy when bunnies did that, but it seems like they have their reasons!
Bless...thank you, kitten! This was originally just the short conversation between Cid and Barret and then sat around for over a year waiting to be finished....and then was done within three hours. Its another of those that made me wonder exactly where it came from...because I just sat down and started typing. I am so glad you like it!
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