Cid didn't care if the music woven through his life since the time of his earliest memories made sense to no one else. It was music of a world now gone, as was the tall, laughing man who had made it and who had introduced him to smoky bars and lounges when he was still young enough for the world to be an obstacle course of knees and elbows to be avoided.
"Guard the hat," his grandfather ordered with a laugh and a wink as he tossed it upside-down to the dusty floor and settled Cid at his feet. "Do a good job of it an' there's candy fer ya later."
No worn, faded airman's cap had ever had a more dedicated guardian. The indulgent grins and hair-ruffles of those who made playful swipes at the tips earned the interlopers fierce glares even as Cid blinked owlishly, yawning as he fought the lullaby of piano, clarinet and drum, trumpet and trombone.
And oh, how they danced. There was a joy to them in that bright kaleidoscope of motion and laughter, the clink of glasses raised in defiance of the brooding shadows lying in wait beyond the dance hall's doors. But for Cid, the talk of war swirling above his head between sets and the names of faraway lands brought dreams of dragons and heroes and the freedom of the endless sky.
Fond memories of "Good job, boy" spoken in a whiskey-roughened voice and falling asleep upon his grandfather's shoulder after the bartender sounded 'last call' curled around the scent of a woolen overcoat as he was tucked inside to rest against the beat of that great heart. That in itself was reward enough, but the huge sticks of peppermint would be waiting for him when morning came and always, always, always there was the music.
In later years, life blended and blurred with chilly rehearsal halls where ceilings and walls were lost to shadows, the drone of propellers, the smell of engine grease and the pride of earning his place among all of them. Cid's hungry, brilliant mind heard and memorized, grinning as lines and strange characters upon pages overflowing instrument cases coalesced in sudden epiphany and blended with the equally captivating music of schematics.
Through it all that same voice, ringing in command, rose above staticy orchestras from an old-fashioned radio, a soundtrack forever playing in the background of humming machinery and the shifting well-oiled hiss of the immense wheel of his grandfather's airship.
"If they can't understand the music, they don't work for me," his grandfather spoke from the past. It was good enough for Cid, and in his own command, "What do ya play" carried as much weight as any other of a prospective crewman's qualifications.
The antique radio displayed so proudly on the bridge of his airship was long silent, but for Cid, its music lived on.
"Y'all keep goin,'" Cid told the small gathering of musicians that were the core of his crew. "I'm gonna step out and burn one." The sudden chill of the night as he passed from the building's warmth and stepped out under the tiny porch's overhang made the pilot duck his head down into the warmth of his scarf, his mind following the flow of music seeping through the closed doorway behind him as he searched jacket pockets for his lighter.
Beyond, branches of Solstice trees sparkled like a dusty rainbow of fallen stars.
But when he raised his head again and looked outward over the landscape beyond, cigarettes and even the musical score which had so relentlessly occupied his thoughts were forgotten. Huge flakes of snow drifted down, muting both sound and sight…and beneath the soft, snow-blurred spotlight cast by a single streetlamp, someone danced.
A tattered red cape out of fashion a generation ago and shoulder- length, dark hair seemed to float around the dancer as he moved, his beauty, grace, and precision causing Cid to hold his breath in fear of disturbing him.
Only when the music from inside faded to its final notes did the dancer pause, his back turned to the pilot as he gazed out into the night. Measured elegantly in the freshly-fallen snow was the only evidence his feet had ever touched the earth which seemed to have held him suspended above it only moments before.
At last the unknown man (it was a man, he'd been right) turned and caught his first glimpse of Cid as the pilot unconsciously descended the three stone steps leading from the little porch, closing the distance between them. His visitor flinched away almost as if he were a startled animal gathering itself for flight.
"Hey…" Cid called softly. "…don't go. I didn't mean t' bother ya."
The man paused, his head canted just far enough to reveal his profile. "I never meant for anyone to see me. I just wanted to listen," he finally responded.
Cid took the other's hesitation as an invitation, intentional or not. Still, the pilot moved slowly, carefully, keeping his hands open, relaxed and in plain view. "I'm glad ya did," was all he said. "Nobody much listens anymore…and nobody dances. They've forgotten too much."
The other tipped his face slightly upward, letting the soft flakes of snow drift and then melt against his skin. "Sometimes forgetfulness is a kindness," he replied at last.
"Not sayin' it ain't…but the good stuff goes too- an' it shouldn't." Cid immediately responded, in the same tone. He closed the remaining distance between them slowly and paused just inside his estimation of the other's reach, giving him his space. "Name's Cid." He then held out his hand in the time-honored, gesture of greeting; one that was somehow more than a polite social nicety endured in public.
His visitor turned fully to face him, his right hand twitching as toward a weapon before reconsidering and blinking at the outstretched hand, his expression bordering on disbelief. Reflected in garnet-shadowed eyes was the memory of meaning a time when a firm grip exchanged was the seal of a man's very honor.
Cid waited, infinitely patient…and that in itself was an astonishment even to himself.
"Vincent," his companion replied almost hesitantly, taking a slow step forward and grasping Cid's hand in the same manner it was offered, a token of genuine respect. Then, with more confidence: "Vincent Valentine."
Cid grinned. "Glad t' meetcha. "Mine's Highwind. Guess I shoulda said that before." He grinned sheepishly. "Say…we'll be here awhile. My SiC's sister owns the place and lets us stay however long as we want, just so's we sweep up after. What say we get inside where ya can listen in the warm?"
Vincent hesitated. "I…I'd really rather not. It was a pleasure meeting you though," he replied, taking a step back. He fell silent for another long moment, just watching Cid's expression as it shifted from smiling to reflect quiet disappointment, though the pilot brightened again as an idea seemed to form.
"No problem, friend…reckon I'll just stay out here with ya."
"You're rather…determined." Vincent replied at last, glancing to the building as the musicians within took up their instruments again and began to play. "Won't they be expecting you, though?"
"Yeah…that's what they tell me," Cid grinned. "and the boys can do without me a little while, we were just jammin' anyway." Cid responded easily, glancing over his shoulder. "Uh…stay right there a minute, would ya?" Without waiting for Vincent's reply, Cid turned and jogged over to the grey fieldstone building he'd emerged from a few minutes before and jerked the door open unceremoniously. Then he shouted to the building's occupants. "Hey- I'll be out here awhile. Keep workin' on that last piece 'til I get back!" Cid then slammed the door closed again and jogged back to where Vincent was standing. "There. That'll keep em busy awhile." He could have sworn Vincent was smiling softly with amusement before the other ducked within the shelter of his cloak's high collar.
Vincent's smoky voice was slightly muffled as he spoke again. "What is the name of the song they were playing? I don't think I've ever heard it before," he asked almost hesitantly, as if afraid of prying where he had no business.
But Cid answered readily, seemingly pleased by his interest as he tapped his temple beneath the strap of his old-fashioned aviator goggles. "That's because the rest of it is still up here. Grandpa called it 'Moonlight Serenade'…but he never got around to finishing it. Ya like?"
Something of boyish hopefulness bled into Cid's question and Vincent found himself smiling softly again, his face once more exposed to the light above. "Very much. A shame that it's incomplete." Cid smiled back at him, an intriguing smile that made the chill of the night fade to nonexistence, warming Vincent to his toes.
"Yeah, but that's the beauty of it. Thirty years it's been waitin'… but tonight its finally finished. I just needed a bit of the right inspiration. All I gotta do is write it down when I get back inside."
The look Vincent gave Cid made it seem as if he'd said something entirely different. "By th' way- you wouldn' happen to play, would ya?"
Vincent's withdrawal was almost tangible. "Not recently."
"Ya don't gotta hide it, y'know." The pilot responded immediately. At Vincent's startled glance Cid continued. "I saw it while ya were dancin'." In his voice was not only acceptance, but complete understanding. "My grandpa fought in two wars… got a wooden leg from the first one. Lost half a hand in the second. They didn' wanna let him fly no more, but he told 'em to go fuck theirselves and swapped his clarinet for a trombone."
Vincent simply stared at the pilot in astonishment for a moment. "I don't think…" but then he abandoned what he was originally going to say. "…Piano."
"Thought you might," Cid smiled softly. "It suits ya."
Vincent was quiet for a long moment, his gaze fixed upon the rapidly-filling tracks he had made a short while before. "I thought music was lost to me."
"Says the man I caught dancin'," Cid chuckled softly.
Vincent laughed lowly in response. "I suppose so."
"You should laugh more often," Cid observed. "Sounds nice."
"How did you…" Again, Vincent let the words trail away, his narrowed eyes watching the pilot carefully for any hint of ulterior motive, but the pilot's gaze upon him was open, as honest as his handshake had been.
"Ya seemed too surprised by it…and ya shouldn't hafta be." Cid replied softly as he held out his hand again, this time, palm upward in invitation. "Now, what say ya come on inside? You can play right hand, an' I'll play left."
The streetlight above them buzzed and hissed as snowflakes struck, melted, and passed into mist as Cid waited for his companion's reply, perfectly willing to stand there all night long if need be and certain he would count the time well spent.
At last Vincent smiled slowly, completely… and the protective mask fell away. His face was transformed, and in the wake of it the pilot dared daydream of waking up to the beauty of it every morning for the rest of their lives.
Vincent stared at the pilot's offered hand for another moment before accepting that strong, warm grip and closing his own hand around it. Jeweled eyes met Cid's own, accepting the challenge there. "I…I think I'd like that."
And here I thought my 'Winter' Valenwind muses had run out of steam.
This was, quite literally born from a dream image that came to me- soundtrack and all. Down at the base of the long hill I live upon is the very building where this fic takes place, snowfall, streetlight and all.
Now...the song Vincent danced to belongs entirely to the incomparable Glenn Miller. You can find it here: [link]
Most especially for as part of our fic exchange and who wanted snowballs but got this instead. *ducks*
I think if I had to choose one story as my own favorite, this would probably be the one...I've never had the muses come to me in a dream before...and what an incredible experience it was! Thank you so much for loving it too...I am so glad it pleased you!
You have such a way with words my dear...this is breathtakingly beautiful! And very in character. i can easily imagine Cid being a lover of old fashioned music. And Vince would of course know how to dance to it
Ah, Enide, you have truly made my day! Thank you! This little fic is especially dear to me, for so many reasons. I'd never actually dreamed the Muses before- and to have them appear in such a way? I sincerely hope they'll do it again.
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