There were certain tasks Cid seemed to enjoy more than others around the great airship, Vincent observed. De-icing her was one of these, strange as it may have seemed. While others of his crew were all too happy to remain inside where there was warmth, Cid actually smiled into the cold. In fact, the only concession he made to the weather was adding a woolen scarf to his standard pseudo-uniform, and the fact that the jacket normally tied around his waist was currently being worn properly. Everything else was the same; frost nipped-ears and all.
When Cid turned his head to adjust a valve on the machine he and Reeve had developed to handle the new, organic anti-icing mixture, he caught sight of Vincent watching and flashed him a bright grin.
"Almost done here," he yelled over the noise of the robotic trolley and its crane-arm as it returned to its preset path and trundled along under his watchful eye.
Satisfied that it was working properly, Cid pocketed its remote and jogged over to where his lover stood. Chilled lips and nose mingled with the warm vapor of breath as he stole a quick kiss from the gunman. "Ya ready to go?"
"I thought there was a snowstorm coming in," Vincent countered, smiling at his lover's enthusiasm.
"Yeah, there is. Best time of all to test the new mix, and a good excuse to get away. 'Sides, I got something I wanna show ya," Cid grinned.
"Has it got anything to do with you wanting me to wear this?" Vincent raised an eyebrow, indicating his metal-clad boots and gauntlet, long laid aside in these peaceful times and brought into service only in random necessities.
"Sure does, and I promise yer gonna love it."
Vincent grinned back at him and shook his head. The old battle armor seemed a bit strange when paired with his insulated coveralls, but that was of little concern.
He'd found over time that Cid's offbeat ideas were entertaining indeed and was more than willing to indulge him. Finding new and unusual ways of making Vincent happy made Cid happy...and that was the best of all.
And so it was that they were soon aboard and on their way, just as the first fat, lazy flakes began to spiral down upon the airship's hull.
They crested the Nibel range a short while later and Cid brought the airship gracefully about, descending to hover before a magnificent waterfall. Frozen from bottom to top, it was as breathtaking in its icy glory as it was in the warmer seasons, and was a favorite place for the pair to seek solitude. They'd often camped there, listening to the rushing roar of water beyond the circle of their fire, making love under a starlit sky, but never before had they visited it in the depth of winter.
Now, the cascade was almost eerily silent; giving truth to its name: the Ghost Falls.
When satisfied that the ship was secured, Cid moved to one of the storage lockers and began removing a series of unlikely-looking objects as Vincent watched over his shoulder.
"Where did you get all this?" the gunman asked. Cid's request for him to wear his gauntlet and sabatons made more sense now that he saw the equipment his lover was laying out on the deck beside him.
"Had some of it for years," Cid replied. "Used to do this a lot with one of the guys from the academy. Picked up the rest on that run up to Icicle last month."
Vincent reached for one of the axes. Simple and elegant of design, it was wickedly sharp; Vincent couldn't help but think of what an effective weapon it would make, should the need arise. Cid was still busily checking the two equipment belts he'd brought out from the locker, each one strung with a full range of clever tools suited perfectly to their purpose. A pair of deceptively strong coils of braided rope joined them.
The gunman then picked up one of the devices designed to strap over boots; a series of lethal spikes spreading from its surface in almost in imitation of fangs. Studying their clever construction, Vincent felt excitement rise within him and a rare grin spread over his features. Cid was right. This was going to be fun.
A short while later, after Cid had changed into his own insulated coveralls and helped Vincent adjust his belt and its accessories, they were skirting around the waterfall's frozen pool as the thickly falling snow continued to blanket their surroundings.
Arriving at the waterfall's base, they paused to listen. This close to it, the quiet hum of the airship's idling engines could not quite muffle the hushed, slithering slide of falling water encased an arm's length beneath the thick rime of ice.
The fall itself stretched above them to half the height of the old ShinRa tower; once they reached the top, they would be looking across the intervening distance to the deck of the Highwind II, rather than upward.
Grinning like children, Vincent watched closely as Cid struck his axe securely into the ice and started upward; fixing additional anchors as he went.
Vincent swiftly followed, copying the pilot's actions and well pleased at the way his gauntlet and boots were serving this pleasurable pursuit, rather than being used for destruction. He realized that the sabatons would have provided secure purchase even without the additional spikes, but was perfectly willing to acquiesce to his lover's unwillingness to take the risk that they might not.
Moving steadily and surely upward, It seemed to Vincent that the hidden water whispered secrets; and here and there were crystalline patches that offered windows to spy into its buried flow.
If he could claim any disappointment at all in the experience, it was that it was over too quickly.
All too soon, they reached the top; gazing down and across at a view from a point they would not have been able to reach were the falls in summer torrent.
In a world of white silence, they were winter's conquerors; the reward of their quest the experience itself and the memories they had made there.
"Looks like Reeve's mix is working just fine," the pilot observed; breaking the stillness. He was studying his ship with a critical eye, gleaming where it hovered beyond them. "Hull's as slick as can be."
"He will be pleased to know it," Vincent replied, smiling, admiring the ice-free surface.
"Ready to head back down?" Cid asked after awhile, when they'd captured their pictures and lingered for the fullest appreciation of their accomplishment.
"Hmm." Vincent replied, leaning forward to look down the way they had come. "How about across, instead?"
Cid laughed. "Works for me, babe. Ready when you are." He quickly worked their ropes free and coiled them, securing them to their belts again. When he had finished, Vincent turned his back to him and Cid made two, quick, careful slashes in his coveralls; just enough room for his wings to manifest.
Whooping and laughing, they took off; gliding across to land on the airship's deck, more than ready for the hot chocolate and warm bed that awaited them.