Come Back: A Lover's Prayer

Recovery and Farewells

As soon as Craig was dead, the skies cleared again and the thunderstorm came to an end. It wasn’t until then that they realized how long they’d been fighting. When it all began, it had been around five or six o’clock, and there was still a good deal of sunlight to guide them. But not it had to be nearly eight o’clock, for the sun had already sank, but the moon wasn’t very high in the sky.

All the same, Shera was easy enough to find. She’d left the Tiny Bronco a couple of kilometres behind the hill Craig had stood in before his first attack. She sat on the pilot’s seat, arms crossed over her chest, her head bowed. She’d fallen asleep waiting for the others to arrive, and woke with a start and a little scream when Cid greeted her in his own special way.

“You <beep> lazy woman! Falling asleep on the job, are ya?”

“Whatever took you so long, anyway?” She replied while yawning and getting off the plane, very used to Cid’s roughness.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Shera. We ran into a bit of a mess on the way here,” Cloud explained. “And, I think we’ll need a bigger and faster transport towards Midgar now,” he added, looking around at his six companions, and thinking of Shimmer, Vincent and Sephiroth back at Nibelheim.

“Hmm, yes, I think you’re right,” Shera replied. “I think I can get the crew over to the crash site—”

“I did not crash the Highwind,” Cid interrupted.

“—and meanwhile, Reeve can get here with one of his jets and take you and that sick girl Cid mentioned to Midgar,” Shera continued, not minding the interruption.

“Reeve has jets?” Barret asked.

“Why, yes. I was there a month or so ago, fixing them up. They should be fully operational by now,” Shera said.

“Why the <beep> didn’t you say so in the first place?!” Cid demanded.

“Reeve didn’t seem very keen on letting the world know just yet,” the woman shrugged as she explained this.

“I’ll call Reeve and ask him to pick us up at Nibelheim, and to have rooms ready for all of us over at Midgar,” Cloud said.

“Swell,” Shera said while smiling. “I’ll get to work on the Highwind right now.” She hopped back into the plane and started the motors while everyone retreated. “I’ll call you and let you know how serious the damage is as soon as I can,” she said to Cid.

“Thanks. And be careful with her!”

“I will!” She shouted over the engine’s roar, and a couple of minutes later, the Tiny Bronco began the flight back towards Rocket Town.

“It’s time we left, too,” Vincent announced. Cloud held up his hand while speaking with Reeve over the phone. A short while later, the blonde man hanged the phone. “Well?”

“They’ll be here in about forty minutes; maybe a bit less if the weather’s fair. They’ll land right outside Nibelheim with medical equipment, should Shim’s condition worsen.”

“Let’s hurry back to Nibelheim, then,” Aerith said. “It’s getting dark and they must be worried about us.”

Everyone agreed and they set out for Nibelheim.

Little less than an hour later, Reeve and Reno arrived to Nibelheim in a navy blue jet, equipped, as promised, with medical equipment and food. As everyone got on board, Reeve greeted Vincent effusively, while Reno limited himself to shaking hands with the ex-Turk.

By the time Cloud and the others reached Nibelheim, Shimmer was still quite stable. But her condition worsened on the way to Midgar. She developed a mild fever, and felt as though her skin was burning. Vincent and Sephiroth wanted to believe it was due to Craig’s attacks, but Aerith knew better. She was no physician, of course, but she knew magic spells didn’t have that sort of effect without physical manifestation, and such was Shimmer’s case. She cast Healing Wind on her from time to time to calm the burning sensation, but after a while that wasn’t working so well. Their only hope was Daemon and Yuffie’s speedy return.

The trip back to Midgar took about an hour because there were some clouds over the Junon area, but all in all, there were no incidents. As soon as they arrived to Midgar, they moved in to the ShinRa building, were most of them went to sleep, leaving only Aerith, Cloud, Reeve, Sephiroth and both Vincents awake to keep an eye on Shimmer. It wasn’t until then that the two men named Vincent had a chance to talk with each other. It was Shimmer’s boyfriend who looked for his homologous.

He found him sitting on a chair outside Shimmer’s room, head and crossed arms resting over his chest, apparently sleeping. But when he approached him, his eyes opened. “Yes?”

“I… I would like a word with you, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t.”

The researcher sat down on the chair next to the gunman’s, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “It’s… I just want to thank you for looking after Shim,” he began, looking at the floor. “When we first got here and Cloud told us that monster had kidnapped her, there was this nasty voice at the back of my head telling me it was all over. I thought she was all alone, defenceless… especially when Cloud gave me this,” he said, taking Shimmer’s gun out of his jacket’s inner pocket. “I believe the doppelganger chose to use you as a means to get to her because of her relationship with me, and… well, I suppose I want to apologize for any trouble this might’ve caused you.”

“As I told her, there is no need to apologize. You two couldn’t help to fall in love with each other, and the fact that you and I are the same person, at least apparently, was mere chance. It could’ve been anyone else.”

“Yes, that is quite true. All the same, you helped her even when you had no need to, and for that I am grateful.”

“All I’ll say regarding that is that I saw myself in her, and couldn’t let her make the same mistakes I committed years ago.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’d be best if you asked her when she recovers. For once, I feel like I can put an end to that chapter of my life and, perhaps, move on.”

“I understand.”

They remained in silence for a few moments, and then Sephiroth came out from Shimmer’s room, visibly concerned and tired. “What is it?” asked his fellow researcher, standing up.

Sephiroth sat on the chair that Vincent had just vacated and rubbed his face with both hands. “Her fever has worsened and she’s hallucinating, Vincent. Whatever that monster did, it’s speeding up the virus’ process in a terrifying way. Unless Daemon and Yuffie get here within the next four to six hours, we’re going to lose her.”

Vincent ran his hand through his hair, leaning against the wall and slumping on the floor. “I can’t believe this…”

The ex-Turk looked towards Sephiroth, thinking. “Can’t we give her some sort of medicine to break down the fever?”

Sephiroth shook his head, sighing. “No, that wouldn’t be wise. Although they look just like regular human beings, Observers have a different metabolism. If we give her something now, we risk fuelling the virus and making it stronger. Or worse yet, faster.”

Aerith and Cloud exited the room a little while after, also visibly concerned and exhausted. “How is she doing?” their travelling companion asked.

“A little better,” Aerith said, wiping a few sweat beads from her forehead. “Fever’s still a bit high, but the hallucinations have diminished. I don’t think I can keep her stable much longer, though. Magic doesn’t work anymore, and my skills are beginning to be useless, as well.”

“You should rest,” Vincent –the one from the other planet– said. “After all you’ve done, it’s not only fair, but necessary, too.”

“Someone must stay with her,” Cloud said, “and you and Sephiroth need to rest, as well.”

“I can do it,” the man with the metal claw said.

“Are you sure?” the other Vincent asked.

“Yes. I’ve a feeling Daemon and Yuffie will return soon enough. And if I need any help, I can get one of you guys. But, I should be able to manage on my own.”

“Alright. Just make sure to keep her cool and comfortable, and if you need anything, just call me. I’m in the room next door.” Aerith kissed his forehead and hugged him. “Thank you, Vincent.”

“No problem,” he said, standing up and entering the girl’s room. “Get some rest, all of you.”

“Will do,” Sephiroth replied. “And, thank you.”

She had nightmares all through her illness. They were the kind of nightmares in which one saw herself as another person, and when one was aware that everything was a dream. But, as it often happens in such dreams, Shimmer couldn’t pull herself out of it, but was forced to watch helplessly as all sort of horrifying things happened before her mind’s eye.

It started, as it often did, with her parent’s death. Again, the doppelgangers were faceless, and it was then that she knew Craig had been defeated. This mattered little in the dream, as it went on the exact same way it had gone for the past ten years. Their village had been assaulted during the night, and her parents had made sure she and her brother could escape. In a moment of sheer panic, she saw herself as she disobeyed her mother’s orders and looked back, just in time to see the doppelgangers slitting her parents’ throats open, their crimson blood dampening their clothes, staining the walls, and splattering all over the place.

She screamed in terror, both her younger dream-self, and her present-day omniscient self. Her brother had to grab her arm and drag her out of the village, the flames consuming everything they had ever known and loved. As though it were a video, the dream fast-forwarded to the day she and her brother left their planet after a heated discussion with the elders concerning the race’s isolation and eventual downfall.

Fast-forward again, and she now was at the ShinRa Headquarters, explaining Reeve her plans of finding an alternate energy source for the planet, and everything she could tell him about the Observers and the Shifters. Fast-forward once more and she was facing Vincent for the first time in the planet where Aerith still lived, and where she found how to revive the other Aerith. But unlike the real first time, things went very wrong, and a doppelganger

Craig he’d been after you all along you knew it and didn’t do anything

followed her all the way over there, killing Vincent, Sephiroth, Cloud and Aerith, and eliminating any chances she might’ve had to revive this world’s Aerith.

The dream shifted again, and she was standing trial at the Elders’ Council back home. Her brother had already been found guilty of all charges –treason, disobedience, conspiracy– and killed. It was now her turn and there was nothing she could say to change the elders’ minds. She was hanged at court.

Here she woke with a start, gasping and sitting bolt upright on the bed, sobbing and sweating, her body red with fever. She felt a cold hand sliding on top of hers, and she screamed and jumped out of bed. When she looked at the dark figure standing next to her bed, she saw a faceless doppelganger with a knife in its bloodstained hand.

“Get away from me!” she yelled, covering her ears with her hands and falling to her knees on the floor.

Vincent, who had seen her through most of her nightmares, slowly raised his hands, palms extended, for her to see they were empty. “It is alright, Shimmer, it’s me, Vincent.”

All she heard was indistinct sounds that made no sense to her, and she yelled once more. “Leave me alone! Why are you doing this to me!?”

The ex-Turk then understood that she wasn’t seeing him, but someone –something– else. He slowly walked around the bed and approached her, speaking softly to her. “Shimmer, it is me, Vincent Valentine. Remember me? Remember the basement?”

‘Valentine’ and ‘basement’ were the only words that made any sense to her, and something seemed to click at the back of her head. “Who are you? What do you want?”

He was only a couple of steps away from her now, and decided to kneel. “Vincent Valentine. I am your friend.”

She began rocking back and forth, arms tightly wrapped around her, tears running down her cheeks. “What have you done to mom and dad?”

“I didn’t do anything to them; I never even met them.”

“Liar!! You killed my parents!” She stood up and tried to hit him, but he was faster than her and managed to pull her down, sit behind her and wrap his arms around her. “Let go of me! Let go, god damn it!”

Right then, Aerith, Cloud and Vincent came rushing in, obviously alarmed. “What happened?” Aerith asked.

“She was having a nightmare, and then she woke up and didn’t recognize me,” Vincent said, struggling with the young woman, trying to get her back into the bed. “She’s asking about her parents; seemingly, she thinks I killed them.”

Cloud and Vincent helped him get her to bed, and they had to tie her arms and legs down so she wouldn’t hurt them or herself. Aerith rushed back to her room to fetch a Tranquilizer, which they managed to get down her throat after much effort. At first, they thought it wouldn’t work, but a couple of minutes later, she was already sleeping again, and, apparently, the nightmares did not return.

Aerith sat next to the bed, washing Shimmer’s face with cold water, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Why anyone would want to do this to someone as kind as her, it’s beyond me…” She muttered. “It’s just…” Her voice broke and two tears slid down her face.

Cloud placed his hands on her shoulders, squeezing gently. “She’ll be alright, love, you’ll see. Daemon and Yuffie will be here soon.”

“I hope so,” she said, wiping the tears away.

“You should go back to bed,” Vincent said, untying Shimmer. “I’ll get some more Tranquilizers in here, and keep her calm while you rest.”

“Are you sure?” Shimmer’s boyfriend asked. “You seem tired, too. Maybe you should sleep some.”

The ex-Turk scoffed, shaking his head slowly. “Sleep is something I don’t think I’ll be craving anytime soon.” And with that, he left the room.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Vincent spent thirty years confined in a coffin at the mansion in Nibelheim,” Cloud explained. “It’s a long story, which we might tell you about later on.”

“There’s a lot of things about him I would like to find out… but he doesn’t seem keen on speaking of it, at least not to me.”

“Cloud and I know what he’s been through, to a certain extent. Not only because he shared his story with us once, but because we were also victims of experiments by the same twisted man. It doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t want to talk about it… I know I probably wouldn’t, either.” Aerith set the towel aside and brushed some stray strands of hair away from Shimmer’s face, sighing. “I’ll stay here. We can ask Reeve to bring a mattress or something, and I’ll sleep here. I don’t think she’ll get any better, and it’ll become a difficult task for one person alone. No offence meant, of course.”

“None taken, especially not from you,” Cloud said. “I’ll go see about those mattresses,” he said.

Cloud left the room, and a couple of minutes later, Shimmer opened her eyes. She looked around her, obviously not knowing where she was. Her gaze then focused on Aerith, and she asked, “Which one are you?”

“Which one what?”

“Which Aerith? The one who died or the one who didn’t?”

Aerith smiled, and said, “The one you helped bring back to life.”

Shimmer smiled – a weary yet satisfied smile. “Good. For a moment I thought it had all been a dream… that I was still back at Alpha.”


“That’s the name of the place Vincent’s at…” she replied.

“No, I am here,” Vincent said, sitting next to her.

She turned towards him and frowned, then said, “Wait… I’d already seen you, hadn’t I?” Vincent nodded, and she smiled weakly. “It’s still very good to see you again…” She closed her eyes and concentrated. “I’m very ill, am I not?” Aerith sighed, and nodded. “Have I been hallucinating?”

“Yes, dear,” Vincent said, taking her hand in his. “It’s been a bit rough, too.”

“Have I hurt anyone?” Vincent explained her last fit, and she sighed. “I don’t remember any of that… I’m sorry I’m being such trouble.”

“It’s not your fault,” Aerith said. “This was Craig’s doing.”

“I’m sorry I called him upon you at the fields. Did he give you a hard time?” Shimmer asked.

“Only at first,” Aerith answered. “It got a bit easier when Cloud and the rest joined up with us.”

“You did kill him, didn’t you?”

“Yes, we did. Daemon and Yuffie should be safe enough, don’t worry.”

“How long have they been gone?”

“I really can’t tell,” Aerith said, shaking her head. “About six hours or so.”

“And how much longer do I have?” Aerith looked into Vincent’s eyes, and by the expression in them, Shimmer knew the answer. She sighed and covered her eyes with her hand. “That bad, huh?”

“Seph said that if your brother doesn’t get back here with the antidote in about four hours, it’ll all be over…” Vincent explained. Shimmer nodded and sighed. “Is there anything we can do in the meantime to slow the virus down?”

“No… if it hadn’t been tampered with, there could be a way, but now I’m not even sure how everything’s supposed to go.” She chuckled bitterly and punched the bed. “Damn it!”

Aerith took Shimmer’s hand in hers and caressed it gently. “It’s okay, dear, your brother—”

“Will probably get here too late, if he gets here at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got caught by the elders, sent to trial and then hanged…”

“Shimmer, don’t say that…”

“I hate to be pessimistic, Vincent, but—” Pain shot through her head, white and searing.

Before Vincent or Aerith had a chance to ask her what was happening, a huge ruckus could be heard outside the room, apparently coming from the end of the hall. While Shimmer battled her headache, Vincent ran outside the room to find out the reason behind the scandal while Aerith tried to help Shimmer.

Gunshots could be heard from outside, making Aerith very nervous. Still, she did not dare leave her friend’s side. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary, for not five minutes after Vincent left, the other Vincent came rushing into the room, closely followed by Sephiroth, whom was carrying a small black suitcase. Vincent had his gun in his hands, and began reloading it as he leant against the door.

“What’s going on out there?” Aerith asked as Sephiroth rushed to the bed, opening the suitcase. “And what’s that?”

“Daemon and Yuffie got here,” Vincent said. “But they didn’t get here alone. Seemingly, a small unit from the Observers’ army tagged along. And, that’s the antidote,” he said, motioning towards Sephiroth with his head. Just then there was a loud, insistent bang on the door. “Password!” Vincent bellowed, readying his gun.

“Mog farm!” Came Vincent and Cloud’s voices.

The gunman opened the door, closing it hastily behind them. “How’s it going?”

Cloud and Vincent sat on the floor, panting and trying to catch their breath. Finally, Cloud answered, “Barret and the others pushed them towards the floor bellow, and Daemon will try to send them back home as soon as he fixes his bracelet thing. How’s that going, Sephiroth?”

“I’m no physician, but the instructions in here are quite clear. We just need to let it simmer down for a couple of minutes more, and then we can inject it. But, we’ll need to double our watches.”

“Why, what’s wrong?” Aerith asked, and Sephiroth handed her a small booklet while he observed the concoction. “Oh my god…”

“What?” Vincent, the researcher, asked.

“Side effects of the antidote include high fevers, dehydration, and severe head aches. She could also fall into a comma.”

“But, it’ll kill the virus, won’t it?” Cloud asked.

“Allegedly,” Sephiroth replied. “But, her case is special, and I dare say rare. I don’t know if the antidote will be effective enough given her situation.”

“It’ll have to be,” Vincent, the gunman, said.

“What happened to those mattresses?” Aerith asked.

“Oh, that,” Cloud said. “There are no mattresses, but Reeve says there are extra blankets and pillows beneath the bed and in the closet. We can arrange something with that.”

“Not that any of us will be able to get much sleep, I think,” Vincent said.

Sephiroth got the syringe ready and, after looking at everyone around him, said, “This is it.” He prepared Shimmer’s arm and then injected the blue liquid into her system. “And now, we wait.”

In the end, Daemon managed to drive the Observers away, and returned around four hours after Sephiroth administered the antidote to Shimmer. He looked pretty beaten up, but rather well, in spite of it. He said he had to leave again, otherwise the army would return with reinforcements to arrest him for theft and insurrection, amongst numerous other charges. But, before parting, he left a new Shifter for his sister, one that would allow her to move back to Vincent’s planet, should she choose to do so. Then he left, and none of them saw him again.

As for Shimmer, the wait was long and extenuating. Her fever, indeed, worsened, and so did her nightmares. There was a point when she had to be tied down again, for she was trashing about the bed, kicking and punching air, yelling incoherencies and sometimes talking in a weird language. Finally, after nearly eight hours of agonizing wait and fits, she fell into a calm slumber, and was soon enough joined by Aerith, Cloud, Sephiroth, and her boyfriend, who, for the first time since they’d found Shimmer, had a chance to go to their own rooms to rest up without being interrupted.

Vincent was the only one to stay awake and watch her through the whole night and part of the morning. He washed her face and arms, and sighed in relief when, after a very long time, her fever began to break, and her face relaxed. And, for the first time in more than thirty years, he smiled a genuinely happy smile as he softly caressed Shimmer’s temple with his knuckles.

“I just hope you’re not falling for her, buddy,” Cid’s voice came from the door.

Vincent scoffed softly and leant back on his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “No, I promised myself I wouldn’t do that ever again,” he whispered.

Cid walked towards him and took a seat next to him. “‘Ever again’ is a bit of a long time, don’tcha think?” Vincent gave him a sideways knowing look, and the pilot shrugged. “I’m just sayin’.”

“You know me more than the rest, Cid, so you more than anyone should know how wrong that statement is.”

“Yeah, maybe. Look, I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life or anything, all I’m saying is, you should give yourself a chance. Lucrecia doesn’t have to be the end of the line for you.” Vincent raised his left arm, and Cid held up his hand. “Don’t start with that, Vince.”

“I won’t, I just thought I’d remind you of one of many little details that do not allow me to ‘give myself a chance’.”

“What’re you going to do now, then?”

“There are a lot of things in my past that I need to know the truth about, so I think I’ll keep looking for information. It’s what I was doing when my identity was stolen.”

Just then Shimmer stirred in her bed, mumbling something, and Cid said, “Oh, darn, we woke her up.”

Shimmer slowly opened her eyes and looked around the room, disoriented and groggy. It took her a while to gather her thoughts and remember where she was and what had happened during the last few days. When her eyes locked on Vincent’s and then on Cid’s, it all fell into place. She smiled and said, “Hey.”

“Hey kid, how you doin’?”

“I know who you are, and where I am, so I’d say it’s all peachy,” she joked. “I’m just sore all over.”

“Yeah, well, stayin’ in bed for such a long time will do that to ya. Just ask Vince here,” Cid said, patting his friend’s arm. Shimmer giggled, and then coughed. “Whoa, there, easy girl. I don’t think you’re completely okay yet.”

Vincent gave her a glass of water while Cid helped her sit up. “Thanks, guys. So, I suppose Daemon made it in time, after all. Where is he now?”

“He said he had to leave to avoid having your planet’s army following him here again,” Vincent said, standing up. He went to the closet and got out Shimmer’s backpack, which Elena had held on to since they’d found it at the Crystal City, and the Shifter Daemon had left for Shimmer. “He asked us to give you this, though. He said you can go back to Vincent’s planet with it if you want. Also, he mentioned something about the elders not being able to track you down with it.”

Shimmer took her bag and the Shifter, which looked a lot like a cell phone, and smiled. “He probably stole this from Silia’s lab while getting the antidote. That kid’s asking for a jail ticket. Did he say where he was heading? Oh, never mind, of course he didn’t… that would’ve been silly.” She sighed and ran her hand through her hair.

“You alright, kid?”

“Yeah… just overwhelmed. I can’t believe I’ve caused so many people so much trouble.”

“You haven’t caused anyone any trouble,” Vincent repeated. “Each and every one of us involved in this is involved out of their own free will. Don’t blame yourself for things out of your reach… again, take it from someone who knows.”

Shimmer smiled, and took his hand on hers. “Thanks, Vincent… speaking of which, where are Sephiroth and Vince?”

“Sleeping, but I think I could get them for you.”

“No, it’s alright. I’d like to take a shower and change my clothes before seeing them. Not that it matters much, if they saw me raving like a lunatic.”

Cid and Vincent stood up, and the ex-Turk said, “Very well. The bathroom is behind that door, and that’s the wardrobe. Vincent’s room is right across the hall from yours. I’ll be at Reeve’s office on the floor above if you need me.”

“And I’ll be with him, making sure he doesn’t start making plans to return to a coffin.” Vincent glared at him, and Cid patted his back and pushed him towards the door. “C’mon, vamp boy, time to leave the lady alone.”

“I am not a vampire, Highwind.”

“Heh, you could’ve fooled me.”

About an hour later, Shimmer had showered and put on fresh clothes. The first thing she did before going to see Vincent was pack her stuff, and try out the Shifter her brother had left for her. After making sure she could, indeed, return to Vincent’s planet and bring him and Sephiroth along with her, she crossed the hall and slowly opened Vincent’s door.

She found him lying on his side, still wearing the clothes he’d arrived in. Shimmer noticed the bags under his eyes and the complete mess his hair was, and sighed. She walked over to his bed and lay on the bed next to him, facing him and taking one of his hands in hers. “Vince?”

He opened his eyes slowly and smiled when he saw her so refreshed and healthy-looking. “Hey, there. Feeling better already?”

“Yeah, somewhat.”

Vincent propped his head on his arm, and looked at her confused and slightly alarmed. “Somewhat? What do you mean, didn’t the antidote work?”

“No, no, it did, don’t worry about that.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“I… oh, I don’t know. I suppose I just got a bit depressed after the illness and stuff. I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“Maybe returning home with Seph and me will make you feel better.” Shimmer shrugged. “What is it? Don’t you want to come back with us?”

“I do. It’s just I’m not sure it’s safe for you, Seph, and everyone back there.”

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“I’ve been having nightmares… I know most of them were induced by the virus, and though they were very bad, they mostly showed things from my past. But… there are some other things that just…”

“What kind of things?”

Shimmer sighed and sat on the bed, facing the sheets. “I dreamt that Craig followed me to your planet, and there was a voice telling me I knew he’d been following me all along. And then he… he killed you and Seph, and Cloud and Aerith, too… Then Daemon was killed by the elders, and then I was in trial, too, and they killed me, too…” Vincent sat down and wrapped his arms around her, but before he could say anything, she went on. “I know they’re dreams I had while ill, but, Vince, what if they’re more than that? What if, I don’t know, Craig’s virus did something else to me and I’m having visions or something?”

“Honey, listen, you’re not having visions. Neither your brother nor you will stand trial, and neither of you will be hanged or burnt at the stake or anything of the sort.”

“How can you be so sure?” she asked, turning around to face him.

“Because Daemon got rid of nearly ten soldiers on his own, and because Seph, Cloud and I are not going to let them get to you. That’s how I know.”

“But you don’t know them; you don’t know what they’re capable of doing. That stunt with my Shifter was nothing for them. And they’re probably even more upset now that Daemon stole not only an antidote, but a new Shifter prototype.”

“Dear, you shouldn’t worry so much.”

“Well, I do!” She said, standing up and walking away from the bed. “I don’t want to be a hazard for everyone around me! I don’t want to keep running away and hiding from shape shifters like some animal! And as long as those things keep being a factor in my life, I’ll worry…!” Vincent stood up and held her while she sobbed. “I don’t want to die… and I don’t want you or anyone else to die because of me… it’s not fair.”

Vincent caressed her hair and kissed her forehead. “I know it’s not fair, and I know it bothers you. But you can’t live the rest of your life afraid of things that are not in your control… And, believe me; we’re not going to let them get to you. You mean so much for us…”

Shimmer hugged him tight and sighed. “I know… Still, there are things I need to see to before settling down and leave my worries behind.”

“We’ll be with you every step of the way, no matter whom or what comes our way.”

“You promise?”

“I swear,” he said before kissing her.

By the next day’s morning, Shimmer was feeling a whole lot better, and everyone had a chance to recover after what they had come to call ‘the Craig issue’. Even though Vincent and Sephiroth were very interested in hearing everybody’s stories –especially Vincent and Cloud’s, as well as everything about the Cetra–, Shimmer insisted on leaving as soon as possible, as to prevent her planet’s army to come barging in again.

Before leaving, however, she had a small chat with Vincent, the ex-Turk, at his room.

“Could I talk to you for a moment?” she asked, popping her head into the room through the slightly open door. Vincent nodded and motioned for her to come inside. She did and sat next to him on the bed, watching as he cleaned his Death Penalty, the rest of his gun collection –recently retrieved from Rocket Town by Shera– scattered all around the bed. “That’s your favourite gun, isn’t it?”

“Indeed it is. How did you know?”

“I saw you clean the revolvers you found back at Nibelheim, and you didn’t do it as carefully as you’re doing it now. There’s some sort of reverence in you now that wasn’t there before.”

Vincent nodded, still cleaning. “So, what will you do when you return to Vincent’s planet?”

“Rest a bit from all these comings and goings. Try to contact my brother, see how he’s doing. Then I’ll try to fix some stuff from my past.”

“About your parents’ deaths?”

“Yes… how did you know?”

“When you were hallucinating, you asked me what had I done to your parents, and right after that, you accused me of murdering them. I assumed you might have unresolved issues regarding that.”

Shimmer bowed her head and sighed. “Yeah, Vince and Aerith told me about that. And yes, I do have unresolved issues concerning that. I want to know who murdered them, and why we’re being hunted as though we were game or something.”

“It’s always important to clear one’s past up, but don’t let it consume you.”

“I won’t, don’t worry about that. So, did she give you that shotgun?”


“The woman Cid mentioned when you were talking yesterday. I don’t remember her name.” Vincent raised an eyebrow and looked at her curiously. “I wasn’t eavesdropping or anything,” she hastened to explain. “I listened to some of the things you said between sleep and awake, is all.” When she saw Vincent regained his composure again, she insisted. “Did she, then?”

“In a way, yes,” he replied. “It was a parting gift of sorts.”

“Is it because of her that you slept for so long? That you were atoning?”

“Partly, yes. Mostly, even.”

“What happened?”

“I was young and foolish, and made a huge mistake with the one woman I’ve ever loved… and her child. Then there were the experiments Hojo performed on me and… I suppose I didn’t handle things very well. But, I think that I can now close that chapter of my life and get on with it.”

Shimmer smiled. “That’s good to hear. I’m sure you’ll find someone soon enough, if you allow yourself to.”

“I don’t think I want to look for someone just yet.”

“As long as you don’t completely dismiss the possibility, it’ll be fine.”

Vincent smiled weakly, and looked at her. “You have no idea how much like Cid and Aerith you sound.”

The young woman giggled. “Well, if three people say it, so it can’t be wrong.”

Vincent’s eyes darkened again. “I’m afraid it can be.”

“Listen, if it’s about the arm and the monsters and the possibility of semi-eternal youth—”

“It’s mainly about that, yes.”

“—then stop worrying about it. If she loves you, she’ll overlook all that. Your friends do. I do.”

“You’re all extraordinary people. There aren’t a lot of people like you around, so I’d rather stay on the safe side.”

“What happened to not letting your past consume you?”

He began putting his shotgun back together, and simply said, “It is for the best.”

“No, it’s not… you should really give yourself a chance, Vince… you can’t be alone forever.”

“I won’t always be alone.”

“But you need a partner in life… how else are you going to weather the bad times? Who are you going to turn to when you have some important news to share?” Vincent stood up and stored the Death Penalty on a large wooden box. “Vincent, don’t ignore the questions like that…”

“Shimmer, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but you don’t know me enough to suggest I go out there and try to find a partner. But I suppose that even if you did know me well enough, like Cid does, the suggestion would still stand, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, it would. And, maybe you’re right,” she said, standing up and placing a reassuring hand on his arm. “All I know is you were really kind to me during these past few days. You looked after me, tended to me during my illness, gave me advice… That’s pretty much what every girl wants in a partner. Whatever inner demons are holding you back –and I don’t mean your transformations– you should get rid of them. It’s not healthy.”

“You do realize I’m not him, don’t you?”

Shimmer sighed and nodded. “Yes, I do realize that. But I hope you realize that across planets, there is always something akin to all alternate people. It’s not always the good stuff, sadly enough. But, in this case, it is.” She reached up and kissed his cheek gently. “I’ll go say goodbye to the rest and let you finish up with your guns.” She walked towards the door, but was stopped by Vincent’s hand on her shoulder. “Yes?” She said while turning around.

“Thank you,” he said simply. “For believing in me, for whatever reasons you may have.” He then did something that surprised not only Shimmer, but himself, as well. He kissed her forehead. “I’ll go see you off in a bit, alright?”

Shimmer nodded, feeling her cheeks blush slightly. “Sure, fine.” She then left the room.

Vincent stood where he was, staring at his metal arm, opening and closing the hand. He sighed and shook his head, then returned to the bed to clean the rest of his guns.

It was midday when Shimmer, Seph and Vincent prepared to part. The whole team who fought against Sephiroth, as well as the Turks, Shera, Elmyra and Marlene were there to see them off at the outskirts of Midgar. Shimmer hugged everyone again, wishing them good luck and asking them to take care. They wished her and her two companions the same. When it was Vincent’s turn, he was the one to hug her tightest and whisper something in her ear that made her giggle.

“Good for you!” She said.

After everyone had said their goodbyes, thank-you’s and pieces of advice, Sephiroth and Vincent stood at either side of Shimmer while she pressed a few buttons on the Shifter, and a small portal appeared behind them.

“Hey, I thought you said you vanished like a ghost?” Cloud said.

“That’s when you’re on your own,” Shimmer explained. “Plus, this little gadget here is state-of-the-art technology. It’s supposed to be awe inspiring.”

“Do you know how it works?” Sephiroth asked.

Shimmer giggled and stuck her tongue out at him. “Nuh uh, I don’t. And even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell ya.” Everyone laughed and Shimmer waved. “Take care, everybody, and thanks for everything. If things go right, we might drop by to visit you sometime in the not so distant future.”

“Oh, please do,” Aerith said. “It’ll be lovely seeing you again.”

“So, time to go, guys. You ready?”

“What do we have to do?”

“Just walk into the portal, and we’ll arrive safely at the lab.”

“Let’s hope your brother didn’t tamper with this gadget…” Vincent said, making everyone giggle. “Sure, laugh. You didn’t end up in the middle of a lake, did you?”

Shimmer rolled her eyes and waved once more. “Bye, guys!”

She then ran into the portal, closely followed by Vincent and Sephiroth. As soon as they passed it completely, the portal closed, and little by little they began to leave. In the end, there were only Aerith, Cloud, Cid and Vincent left.

“So, what was it you told Shimmer, Vince?” Cid asked, lighting a cigarette.

“I said ‘I’ll give myself a chance’,” he replied simply while turning around.

Cid’s eyes opened wide, and he laughed out loud. “Finally someone got through that hard head of yours, huh?”

“What does that mean, Cid?” Cloud asked.

“It means ol’ gloomy here is in the market, kiddo.”

Aerith and Cloud’s mouths opened wide, and the flower girl hugged Vincent tightly. “Vincent, that’s so wonderful! I’m so happy for you!”

Vincent hugged her back. “I’m only giving myself a chance, it’s not like I already found someone.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Cloud said. “Cid, Barret, Reno, Rude and I can help you with that, no problem.”

“Sure!” Cid chimed in. “But, you should enjoy the life of the bachelor before taking the plunge, unlike spikey here.”

“Yeah, well, at least I took the plunge, unlike some other friend of ours who’s been postponing it since forever.”

Vincent then raised an eyebrow and looked at Aerith. “I’m beginning to think this wasn’t such a good idea, after all…”

Aerith giggled and patted his arm. “At least you’re well trained in hiding techniques.” Everyone laughed, and Vincent chuckled softly. “Hey, that’s a good start. You’re going to do fine, Valentine.”

“I hope so,” he said.

“So, how about a beer?” Cid said.

“Sure,” Cloud said. “Let’s mosey.”

“Would you please stop saying it like a wimp!?”

They all laughed, and returned to the City.

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