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A Memoir on Parenting by V. Valentine, Semi-Retired Turk

Chapter Text

Alric left after breakfast, promising to keep the hunt mostly under wraps for the sake of Sephiroth.

Before they left the camp that morning, Sephiroth wordlessly showed the half-healed slash he'd gotten from a Behemoth on his upper arm. Vincent plucked at the cloth and pulled it aside to reveal a puckered scab underneath the purple knit.

"Do you want a Cure, Sephiroth?" He inquired softly.

"Yes Chichiue."

Vincent used his own, his touch gentle on the wound as he asked another question, "Did you hide this from me?"

"Yes." Sephiroth said, his shoulder stiff and hunched.

He inhaled and then sighed, gathering his son close after the green light of the Cure had faded. "May I ask why?"

"Hojo..." Sephiroth's breath hitched, as though waiting for the man to appear, and then he whispered the rest. "Hojo a-and Dreyfus... They didn't like it when I came back from missions with wounds. They thought it 'undermined their efforts' and that I should be grateful that they... That they even used Materia to Cure me."

Hellmasker and Galian roared at that, Chaos close behind them with his own and a forth presence, unlike the others, suddenly snapped to attention.

Death Gigas has awakened. I suggest you tackle him later, while you are still out of ShinRa's territory. Chaos suggested with a grunt, He's not easy to keep ahold of when he's angry.

Vincent heard Gigas as he gave a howl of pure fury, wordless but full of intent.

Sephiroth questioned softly, "Chichiue?"

He started breathing again, nuzzling against Sephiroth's silver hair as he swallowed the incandescent fury that threatened to overwhelm him. "They were wrong, my son. So very wrong. I would greatly appreciate it if you could show them to me if you feel uncomfortable saying it out loud. There is absolutely no reason to remain in pain if it can be healed."

"... I'll try, Chichiue."

"That is all I ask, that you try; if you can't show me, then perhaps your Mom." He compromised, his gauntlet gently stroking through the soft, silken strands. "Do you mind if I comb your hair?"

"There's a brush in my travel bag." Sephiroth grabbed it after Vincent reluctantly released his son. He brushed it through from the bottom, taking note of the slightly damaged ends.

"How long was it when you cut it with Masamune?" He questioned, attempting to soothe his demons by showing them that Sephiroth was under their protection, within arms reach.

"Down to my knees. I was nine, I think, and a technician mentioned that they could never grow it out to that length." He listened as Sephiroth willingly shared a piece of his past. "Hojo had been so proud... He said that he was finally seeing results. Results that burned me, that hurt more than the previous injections, that he could continue to hide how much I hurt... I wanted to break something."

Vincent understood his son's urge, had had it plenty of times as a child, though their reasons painfully differed. "Ahh."

"I was stuck behind the glass while they talked about my future. They'd left Masamune, this time, because I'd earned her with this latest success. So I thought, maybe, if I ruined something, they'd stop, just for a little while." His son continued, leaning into Vincent's scalp scratching.

"Oh, my son..."

"I cut it all in one go. I guess I'm lucky Masamune was well-taken care of as she was, because she sheared through all of my hair and nearly got the tip of my right thumb. I dropped Masamune and my hair at the same time to see if I'd cut myself. That was when Hojo came in. He... His face went from red to purple to white when I looked at him."

"I suspect you looked a great deal like I did at that age. My Kaa-San liked to say that I inherited my Otou-san's glare."

"I look like my Grandfather?" Sephiroth turned to look at him in amazement.

"Your eyes are your Mother's but you inherited your expressiveness from your Grandfather, yes." Vincent answered.

"Oh. He turned around after uttering the words that I looked like you and ordered me to regrow it. Dreyfus looked in the window, took Masamune and told me she would be returned when my hair did." Sephiroth finished. "I'm glad no one can take her now."

"... Don't tell your Mom this but you have my permission to break their fingers should someone try it again." Vincent murmured and Sephiroth gave a snort of laughter. "I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to share that with me."

Sephriroth shuffled so that he faced Vincent, playing with the fingers of his right hand with his left as he said, "You've yet to hurt me and something tells me that it's okay to trust you."

Vincent reached for his son's hands and squeezed them very gently in his own. "I'm grateful that you've decided to trust me."

They stopped at midday, taking shelter under a rock overhang from the hot sun.

Sephiroth poked at his reddened arm, watching as it slowly faded back to pale skin. "What is this, Chichiue?"

"Sunburn." He dug through his inventory and pulled out some aloe gel. "Your healing rate will be able to take care of it but I suggest you use this on your skin or it will flake and peel."

"Can Cloud get it?"

"Anyone who stays out in the sun too long can get it, even those with darker skin. Sunscreen is normally applied before outdoor activities but I hadn't thought to bring it along. I'll pack some in your inventory for your next mission." Vincent answered absently as he glanced at his PHS for the time. "We'll rest through the hottest part of the day and travel by dusk."

"Is sunscreen like Mom's lotion?"


"They used to smear it on me before missions. Something about preventative care and that Hojo didn't want me... unsightly." Sephiroth sneered at the last word, looking for all the world like Lucrecia.

He smoothed back some of Sephiroth's stray hairs, pulling back as his son ran through what looked like kata for the long dagger strapped to his hip. About halfway through, Sephiroth stopped mid-movement, hissed out a Nibel curse and tried again this time the movement near perfect.

Vincent cleared his throat, causing his son to pause. "May I show you a few more?"

The smile reached soft green eyes, the pupils oval as Sephiroth nodded.

He worked through them slowly, slowly gaining speed as he showed Sephiroth the advantages and disadvatages of a short dagger versus a longer one. He let his son make mistakes and then corrected them with positive reinforcement.

The map on the PHS had them roughly halfway across the plains. Vincent showed Sephiroth how to look for landmarks, how to get higher to see where one was and how to use Materia outside of their intended uses. Sephiroth learned all of it, the sandalwood of his scent spiking with his happiness.

They travelled as the sun set in the west the brilliance of the stars without city lights breathtaking as they appeared. Sephiroth looked at the stars, his eyes glowing and filled with wonder. They paused for the night, had dinner, and this time Vincent took first watch.

He meditated, the Libra, Shield and Silence already in place to protect their camp.

Finally, Host. Why did you prevent us from killing that human? Death Gigas hissed, green filtering across Vincent's mental landscape.

The matter is being taken care of the human way; we cannot kill those who hurt Sephiroth and have it traced back to us. Then we would be unable to protect him from other things. After he leaves ShinRa's employ, perhaps, but not a second before. Vincent countered. As it is, our son is ranked higher on our priority.

Gigas, Mako green eyes narrowing from the mists, sighed at that. Logic only takes us so far but you are in the right, for now. The Strifes take precedence above all others, our son most of all. You can suppress rage for only so long, Host.

Gods above do I know that, Gigas. Am I to call upon you for the sake of violence and violence alone? He fired back.

Violence, lust... Things you push away but know that you desire. The pilot features prominently in your deep dreams. What am I to do with those, Host? Accept them, reject them, hide behind logic and pain as you do? The way Gigas delivered Vincent's internal feelings was cutting, shrewd and yet—

You leave the Captain out of this.

No. You need to confront them now before they fester, Host. The others treat you with some form of respect but I know you at the core and I know otherwise. Talk about it before it is beyond your control. came the reply. Fix yourself before you attempt to help others.

Vincent deflated, sitting as he was in the mists, and said softly, I've been burned so many times, Gigas. I'm tired of being hurt like that. If I can get away with merely being good friends with Cid, then I'll take that chance with both hands. I don't know how long I can stretch it and I know that Cid will die before me. I am trying to remain hopeful, to live long past my time and to be myself to the best of my ability. I am human, much as Hojo and Lucrecia tried to make me not, and I make mistakes, I break down and I give in to the wrong thing at times. I am trying, Gigas, and that is all I can do.

Gigas hummed at that, And your feelings?

Those I cannot help. He is kind and clever and... very handsome. Cid carries many qualities but it is the combination of them in him which attracts me so. Omission is not the same thing as lying or denial, merely not telling. Vincent admitted frankly.

Hmph. Chaos was right when he said you talked in circles. Call when you have need of me, Host, and I hope we get the chance to kill at least one of our son's tormentors.

Chapter Text

Upon entering ShinRa, both of them were the center of attention before the employees went about their business. Both of them reported to the conference room that was neither Turk nor SOLDIER-affiliated.

"Sharpshooter, AAR on my desk by the end of the week. Strife, I'd like for you to compile one as well, strictly for admin reasons." Veld directed at both if them, giving Dreyfus the cold shoulder.

"Yes, sir."

Dreyfus was running his gaze over Sephiroth, alighting on the freshly pink scar. "I see Sharpshooter was correct in his assessment that you needed back-up, Lt. Strife. When did your standards fall so low as to get hit?"

Sephiroth's flinch was minute, there and gone again but Vincent's already taxed patience snapped at that. "Director, you go too far."

"Clearly, being away from Hojo has-"

"I said, Director," Vincent cut in, "that you have gone far enough. Lt. Strife has top marks across the board and to face a Behemoth is no small task." Veld's lips thinned out as Vincent's temper flared. "My loyalty only extends so far, Sir, and you are dangerously close to a repeat of our first meeting."

Dreyfus's hand reached for the bandages still wrapped around his throat and stepped back. "Strife, an AAR on my desk by the end of this week. Dismissed."


He turned on his heel and followed Sephiroth out, confused when Sephiroth pulled him to the side and took his gauntlet in hand. «Chichiue, your eyes are gold.» Vincent closed his eyes and gently pushed Chaos back, opening them to see Sephiroth give a discreet thumbs up that his eyes were back to normal. «Thank you.»

«You're more than welcome, my son.»

Sephiroth let go of his gauntlet after a small squeeze, both of them falling into synchronized steps as they headed home.

Both of them worked out the details, leaving Alric and Chaos out through mutual agreement. They turned them into the correct inboxes two days before it was due.

Veld reviewed it and then addressed the Elfadunk in the room. "You almost lost your temper in there, didn't you?"

"I lost my patience, Verdot, but my temper wasn't far behind." He agreed. "He knew what Hojo was doing to my son and approved. Have we made any progress?"

"Investigation is coming up with some, shall we say, incriminating evidence."

"You might want to hurry it along, courtesy of my golden-eyed friend." Vincent decided to admit. "Wait much longer and I'm afraid Dreyfus will be removed from ShinRa employ sooner rather than later."

Verdot blinked at that, "... I see."

"Sephiroth told me that Dreyfus worked closely with Hojo, knew and approved of any and all augmentations on my son. I'm sure you'll find the trail that matches." Vincent sighed as he settled against his old partner's desk.

"You don't want Sephiroth to know?" Verdot questioned.

"He knows that I intend to get rid of Dreyfus. I'm trying to give Sephiroth what little childhood he has left. I don't want him promoted, I don't want him going on dangerous mission without back-up and I'm trying to be a better Father than my own was to me." He said, picking at non-existent lint on his Turk-issued suit. "I'm doing the best I can but I cannot be everywhere at once."

"It's a good thing you have back-up then, isn't it?" Verdot snorted as he pressed his shoulder to Vincent's cloaked one.

"I... Thank you, Ver."

"You're more than welcome, Vin."

Dreyfus kept enough distance from Sephiroth after Vincent's response that Vincent let him be.

Terribly, the man was haunted by a creature with green eyes very similar to those of Lt. Strife, only more poisonous and predatory than an eleven-year-old's gaze could ever get.

According to ShinRa rumor, it was punishment for Dreyfus' past sins. According to SOLDIER gossip, it was an experiment of Hojo's that fixated on what was left of Hojo's cronies. Turk rumors, what precious little did escape them, amounted it to justice for the youngest member of SOLDIER.

Vincent, meanwhile, was meticulously combing over archives, his ability to read much faster and comprehend more used at full capacity in taking down his son's Director.

The Turks already had a replacement in mind, a Mr. Deusericus, but first they had to pull the rug out from under Dreyfus.

It was Tseng who spotted Dreyfus' demise.

The one thing ShinRa hated worse than spending money was losing it; Dreyfus was embezzling more Gil than he needed for the Department and funneling it into accounts on the Western Islands.

"Mr. President, we have a bit of a situation." Veld murmured as they met for the now monthly assessment of the company, ShinRa Sr.'s glacial gaze clear and as cold as thier color.

"Do explain, Veld."

"One of your Directors has been, for lack of a better word, been embezzling company funds for personal use. They've been funneling it into accounts on the Western Islands. There is also... evidence of corporate spying, sir."

ShinRa Sr.'s expression went from cold indifference to blistering fury in under ten seconds with the spat demand of, "Who."

"Director Dreyfus, sir." Vincent supplied, calm and steady under the temper his employer unleashed.

"Never liked that weasel anyway," came the cutting reply. "I trust you have a replacement?"

"We took into consideration your need to place Mr. Deusericus, sir, and acted accordingly. We're awaiting your approval pending Dreyfus' removal, sir." Veld said as he put down the thick evidence folder.

"Hmm. Director Deusericus has a nice ring to it. Very well, do your... research and do take pictures. Dreyfus always was too smug about his place on the board."

The day Dreyfus was informed of his removal from ShinRa's employ, Vincent took to the rafters to watch the show.

"I know that... That clawed freak of a Turk is behind this! Vice-President ShinRa, please! Director Veld, you don't actually mean to take that ungrateful brat's side?!"

"Your removal is due to your own actions, Director Dreyfus, unpleasant incidents within ShinRa aside. Your pension and severance will reach you within the week." came Veld's silky reply.

"I'll be dead by then! Don't you know what will happen?"

"Unfortunate, sir; I suppose it'll have to go to next of kin." Tseng answered dryly as he removed Dreyfus from his executive's office, "I do not possess knowledge of the future, sir."

"These actions are unbecoming of a Director," ShinRa Jr. drawled with a sneer. "do have some class, Dreyfus. Don't make them call up the Infantry."

At that, Dreyfus clenched his jaw and silently marched to the elevator, snatching his single box from their newest Turk.

Cessnei—the Turk in question—merely rose a red brow in censure as she stood aside.

When the doors closed on Dreyfus' fuming face, Vincent landed in the center of the Turks and the Vice without a sound from the rafters. Cessnei's expression didn't change but her body flinched, her shoulders tilting downward in a fighting stance.

Vincent silently approved even as he turned to Veld. "Now?"

"Not yet, Sharpshooter. At least let him leave the premises." Veld offered with a mirth clear in his tone.


"Umm, I thought we drew straws for—" Cessnei murmured.

"In this case, it's best to stay out of Sharpshooter's way." Tseng elaborated, Rufus Jr. turning on his heel with Tseng following.

Veld gently pulled her to the side and explained in low tones that Dreyfus had already been in Vincent's sights for other reasons. That Vincent had seniority and picked his 'research' rather than had it assigned to him.

Cessnei looked thoughtful, nodded to Veld's words and then approached Vincent herself, looking up with sharp hazel eyes.

"Can I ask?"

"Certainly," he replied.

"Why is Dreyfus on your shit list?" She got to the point, though her question looked to be inquiry from a distance.

"He targeted family. Blood family." Vincent answered. "The only thing I am more loyal to than the Turks."

Cessnei nodded at that, "Sounds fair; I wish you luck with your research."

Vincent allowed the severance package and Dreyfus to get to Junon, holding onto Death Gigas with all of the iron will granted by both the Himura and Valentine blood that flowed through him.

That week, however, if someone was not a Strife, a competent Turk or Director Veld, they were the recipient of a blistering, assessing stare that found them wanting.

Needless to say, it was mostly directed at the ever-growing pile of backed-up paperwork that Vincent dug for in regards to Dreyfus, Hojo and his son.

Vincent began listing his son's injuries, in the order he'd received them, and the list became an ominous stack of papers with spidery, slanted writing that was not, in fact, Vincent's—It was Death Gigas's plan for Dreyfus.

One that Vincent approved of, considering how much the man had harangued his son for even an injury as simple as a paper cut.

Exactly three people were brave enough to knock on his door the day Gigas finished the list.

Vincent answered it with the towering rage now tamped down to a manageable human level.

Cessnei offered her hand and Vincent took it with a half-bow, situating it in the crook of his elbow out of habit. "Sharpshooter, have you eaten at all this week?"

"... Do shitty ShinRa SOLDIER protein bars count?" He countered dryly, feeling more like himself than he had since the mission with Sephiroth.

"No, sir, they do not. You up for a buffet?"

"Hnn. Depends on the buffet, I suppose."

""Holy Ifrit, rookie just pulled him out. She's got Shiva's tits for sure.""

Chapter Text

The Wutainese chef took a long look at Vincent, shook his head at Cessnei and quipped, «First man you bring and he's not your boyfriend. Shame on you, little fox.»

«He's a widower, Itsuki, be nice.» Cessnei fired back.

«What do you expect of a man who's name means 'Go My Way'?» Vincent chuckled briefly at the chef's surprise. «She's more a wily vixen than she likes to admit.»

The food was excellent, top-notch and fuel enough to set his plans into action.


"You'll see me in a less than a week, wily fox." He set down enough Gil to pay for his half of the meal and vanished, streaking up to a height where he could call Verdot. "I'm done waiting. You can install the new Director before I get back; I know how 'efficient' ShinRa likes to be."

"Of course. Happy hunting."

"Oh, it will be." He promised.

Gigas inflicted the first paper cut within minutes of setting sight on Dreyfus.

"Ouch! What in Gaia's name? A paper cut?" The man reached for the spot where he Cure normally sat and found it missing. "How odd. Mariska, could you fetch me my spare Cure?"

""I would, sir, if I knew where it was; none of the building has seen their Healing Materia in hours."" came the reply.

Within three hours, the cuts had multiplied and were covered in increasingly bloody attempts to staunch them. "What in Minerva's name is going on?!"

"You see how difficult it is to live with such tiny wounds?" Gigas purred as he floated down from the rafters. "Imagine much bigger ones."


"Wrong, Dreyfus, and I'm not handing back any Materia until you beg for a Cure." came the silken reply.

"Beg? Ha, as if I would lower myself to such means."

"Words you may regret," Gigas sneered.

Twenty four hours into inflicting the wounds, Dreyfus was sporting bloody bandages that were beginning to fester.

Gigas was particularly proud of the latest cut, deep enough to strike a few tendons in the dominant hand and still leaking blood as Dreyfus stared fearfully at his desk.

"Ready to give in?" He asked as he sat atop the abandoned paperwork. "Or would you prefer that I draw it out?"


"Hmm. As you so desire."

Gigas methodically read down the itemized list, crossing off what had been done with blood, turning his claws this way and that in the harsh office lights to admire them. They glimmered wetly in part due to the most recent wounds on Dreyfus's thighs and back.



"Beg and this stops, Dreyfus. I'm sure you're already going to loose a few fingers for the sake of pride."

"Why are you doing this?!"

"Ahhh, now he asks. As Director, you approved quite a lot without reading the page but most especially when it came to Hojo's work. Each wound you have received, it was done to the subject you signed for. You made the subject beg for a Cure, even for something as... simple as a paper cut. What I have in my claws is what remains to be inflicted."

At the shocked inhale, Gigas allowed the folded list to drop. An entire ream of paper thudded to the floor.

"I'm not even close to being done, Dreyfus. Beg."

"That can't possibly—"

"'Subject S: cut with a scalpel, depth halfway through hand, twin lines with same scalpel to test for infection of Zolom venom.' You find yourself at my discretion, Dreyfus; be grateful I am not replicating them with the correct substances. I've made allowances for your non-enhanced state."

"What in Titan's name do you mean replicate?! W-Sephiroth. These were done to Sephiroth! You can't do this!"

"Done with your... approval as the acting ShinRa representative and you'll find that I can." Gigas purred as he lashed out and struck Dreyfus's ribs, "'Subject S: Fractured ribs following battle with Behemoth. Reset without numbing and bandages. Will see if healing factor multiplies in an effort to get subject well again in time for the next mission.'"


"You knew and still you signed."

"Beg, Dreyfus, and you may salvage what's left of your nerves." Gigas told the wreck at his feet, legs crossed as he looked at Dreyfus.




"Please what?" Gigas picked at the dried blood that went up his arm, letting it drop against the soiled flooring. A distant part of him pitied the janitorial team saddled with the clean-up of this job. Some of the spatter reached the ceiling thanks to Drefyus's squirming.

"Please... I need a Cure."

"Cura." The relief that swept through the man at his deliberate command made him smile. "Level. One."

"Y-You said—"

"Tsk, tsk, taking a monster at his word. A new low for you, I'm afraid. That is only the beginning; I told you, we're only halfway through the sheets." He allowed as he peeled off the rest of Dreyfus's debris that lingered on his arm. "Front and back, as you recall."

Dreyfus sobbed and crawled through his own offal and set a hand against Gigas's taloned foot. "Please, please, please! I didn't know what was in those papers and I never want to hear about them again! Haven't I done enough suffering?!"

Gigas kicked him back and snarled, "You cannot even handle half of what happened to Sephiroth and you're a grown man! How shameful, you tumbleweed of a coward, how embarassing must you be to the family name. You can inflict it, dish it out in spades but when it comes to accepting it, you're weaker than an eight-year-old child!"

Dreyfus broke into ugly sobs, his body heaving as he shook and snotted.

"Pathetic. You find yourself in luck as I am not the one who decides your fate."


"No, it's someone else. I only see it through." Gigas called Sephiroth, affecting Vincent's voice with ease. «I know this seems like an odd question but full or partial hunt, my son?»

«Full, I suppose, Chichiue. Are you coming home soon?»

«Yes, soon enough. Thank you for your answer.» Gigas hung up softly, his eyes lighting up as they zeroed in on the sluggishly bleeding wounds. He clucked his tongue as he cracked his claws for another round. "Too bad they decided mercy wasn't in your cards."

"NononoNO-!" The last no cut off into a wordless scream that made him cackle.

"'Subject S: Stomach wound from a Formula...'"

Vincent slipped through the back ways of ShinRa, the dried and smeared blood telling its own tale the second he set his boot in the Turk bullpen. All of them shrank back at the satisfied gleam in his eyes; save Cessnei, Tseng and Veld, who only rose a brow.

"I trust it went well?" Veld murmured as he offered Vincent a wet wipe.

He cleaned enough to answer without his face crackling, copper wafting up as he continued to his neck. "I filled in my list, though my research didn't appreciate it."

"The whole ream?"

"Down to the last page." He purred, his eyes flashing green for a moment as he left to get clean.

Sephiroth hugged him tight upon his return to the apartment.

"Chichiue! How did your mission go?"

"It went better than I expected. Do you remember what I said about how your Mother and I got Dreyfus removed?"

"Did he get removed or ShinRa "removed"?" Sephiroth questioned as he pillowed his chin on Vincent's chest to look up.

"The latter."

"... Oh." Silver brows furrowed at that, the question after the motion making him crack a brief smile— "Was it you or someone else?"

"I volunteered." Vincent admitted honestly.

Sephiroth started crying, burying his face against Vincent's chest, which alarmed him until he heard his son's muffled words. "Thankyouthankyouthankyou..."

"Seph? Oh, Vincent, you're back from your mission! How'd it go?" Anika greeted him before she noticed the tears. "Oh honey, what's wrong?"

"Dreyfus isn't coming back. We got a new Director this morning." The sheer volume of relief in Sephiroth's voice had Vincent vindictively pleased he'd handed off Dreyfus's punishment to the worst demon of the lot.

"Ah." By now, Anika had caught on and mouthed a 'Thank You' at him with Sephiroth cradled between them. Cloud somehow wriggled between them and hugged Sephiroth too, patting Vincent's hip too.

The photos, developed in high gloss, were carefully set on President ShinRa's desk in a manila folder.

Vincent stood to Veld's right side, his expression carefully sculpted into indifference.

After the first three, President ShinRa looked at Vincent with a godsawful chuckle leaving his lips. "Sharpshooter's work never fails to deliver but this... This was a work of art. I didn't think you capable of such a thing."

"I've had time to refine my technique, sir." He replied flatly. "I'm glad you approve."

"I'm charging his children for what's left, obviously. The brown, on the floor, what is it?"

"Dried blood, sir."

"A Cure?" The sharp question had Vincent merely raising a brow in reply.

"Level One, sir. I couldn't have my research dying on me from infection. It takes too long and far uglier than I prefer my work to be, sir."

At that the President drew back. "Standards on killing. Now that's something you don't hear from a Turk these days. You're dismissed."

Veld and Vincent held it in until they reached a clear room. Vincent blew out a breath and murmured, "I suppose I should be grateful that he didn't ask how long it took. That takes time and planning that I prefer not to be doing when I could be spending time with my son."

"That and you never do the same thing twice. Turks don't have signature methods." Verdot snorted. "Infection? Really?"

"He was too stubborn to beg when it might have spared him."

"Ah, Vincent...?" Verdot tapped the room's doorframe and Silence and Libra washed over the area. "Do you have... other guests?"

"I do. Three others and no, none so charitable as Chaos." He answered as he scraped back his hair briefly and flexed his left hand. "That is to be held closer than any secret past or present, Ver. I mean it."

"Understood, Vin."

Chapter Text

The routine he'd settled into slowly reasserted itself in his life, mostly in the form of Strifes barging into his office with food for him and for Cessnei.

Tseng and Reno got a lunch from Cloud, one of them wide-eyed at the sight of another child above the Plate.

"'M Reno. Who're you, yo?" The tiny tiger stripes of red tilted up as Reno smiled, a gap where his first front tooth had been.

"Cloud! Mr. Val-en-tine's my other Papa like Seph's my brother."

"Wait, wait, you mean Sharpshooter's your old man?!"

"No, my Papa's away on adventure. I gotta write him letters but he always writes back. Sharpshooter's my other Papa cause he's Seph's first." Cloud explained with all the logic of an adorable seven-year-old.

He sighed softly at the letters bit, knowing that Anika wrote them in the dead of night, painstakingly recreating her husband's pen strokes for her son. Vincent had taken the writing of them away from her a few times, knowing it hurt her to pretend more nights that most that Fenris Strife was alive.

"Huh. Don't know my old man and wouldn't wanna even if I did. My Mama says he wasn't nice anyways."

"Maybe Sharpshooter could be your Papa? Not your old man but... Better? Only if you ask though. Mama asked for Seph so maybe it works like that?" Cloud drew it out on his paper pad, Anika's figure holding a paper and a pan.

Vincent swallowed his tea before he sprayed it laughing.

"Is that your Mama's pan?" Reno pointed to the warped pan.

"Yeah. Used to be her favorite but she said it got an ouchie. It's retired now." Cloud told Reno with a shrug.


Reno trailed Vincent for a few days as his choice before apparently working up the courage to talk about what Cloud had told him.

After he'd finished, he twisted the strap of the taser Tseng had given him.

"Do you want me as that?" Vincent asked, kneeling to be at Reno's level. "Could you see me as someone you could trust?"

"No." Vincent hummed at Reno's simple response. "You're... You're not mad?"

"If given a choice between myself and Veld, who would you pick to rescue?" Vincent posed.

"Veld, yo." Reno's eyes lit up and he murmured, "oh."

"Would you like my help in asking him if he'd like a son?"

"... Can I?"

"Of course, Reno. You know better than I do who fits you best."

Veld's expression was stupefied as Vincent motioned Reno out of the room briefly.

"Adoption? Where did he get the idea?" Verdot drew his prosthetic down his face, the other currently occupied by a cup of Reno's coffee.

"He got it from Cloud." came the wry response.

"Ah. He approached you first?"

"It took him a few days. Reno's a smart boy, just understandably wary with the way the Slums are down there. What little trust he has in me is due to Cloud's outstanding faith." Vincent took a sip of his own mug, the chai scent making him smile against the rim.

"The littlest Strife certainly does instill a source of confidence." Verdot sighed as he looked at the red mug. "I'll have to talk with him and his Mother but... I suppose I could do with a son."

Vincent opened the door and motioned Reno back inside, much to the child's surprise. "In, please."

The door clicked shut and it was Verdot talking, not his and Reno's superior.

"Firstly, Reno, do not take advice from someone your age. However, seeing as the one dispensing it was a Strife, you're fine; they have rather sound logic when it comes to life matters. Secondly, I'll need to talk with your Mother first but your idea has merit. One guardian above the Plate, one below it. So, I suppose the question is... Would you like to be my son?"

Reno made a face and looked to Vincent. He made a 'go on' motion and Reno inhaled before, "Do I have to eat my vegetables?"


Blues widened at that, Reno's tiny brows furrowing as he thought over the reply. "Can I have dessert if I finish them?"

The wry smile that played at Verdot's lip said, perhaps, that he'd done this before. Vincent would have to ask later. "Not always, but I suppose so."

"Guess you're not so bad as an old man after all."

"Brat." The way the smile widened said more than either of them were willing to at the moment.

Chaos grumbled, Did you not say that you would return to the Canyon? after Reno had gotten into a routine with Veld.

The Firewolves, yes. Vincent sighed even as he attended to the President's snarled wrath with Lady Himura finding the secondary clause that had been snuck in. Nevermind the fact that the President insists that I stay on duty for another week with him.

"Turk, what is so fascinating that you cannot pay attention?" President ShinRa barked.

Vincent let his body do the talking, Cerberus spun and pointed at the hapless executive next to him. "The Honorable Lady Himura is adept at spotting underhanded deals. Her son runs the Wutainese underground, her daughter the legitimate side. Perhaps it is best to be honest with the Lady instead of listening to this one try to sneak his own personal deals, sir."

"Sharpshooter, put it away." the Vice President snorted. "However, he is correct, Father. Lady Himura is well versed in Eastern law and knife-edged subtly is not a ShinRa specialty."

Glacial eyes watched as he tucked Cerberus away, reverting to his stock-still stance. "Everyone out but the Vice and my guard. Yes, Scarlet, that includes you." When the click of the door signaled everyone's exit, Rufus ShinRa Sr. pinned him with a long look after the room was secured with Silence, Libra and a short Scan for listening devices. "How did you know that?"

"The Honorable Lady Himura and I may or may not be related, sir."

"... Might be related." The Vice drawled out with a raised blond brow.

"Himura cut through the bullshit, sir. It's an art most have forgotten."

The laughter of two ShinRas, as cold as a Blizzara and somehow more cruel for it, made Vincent's left eye twitch. The demons rattled around under his skin, the tips of his gauntlet sharpening into actual claws as the ShinRas continued.

"You've told Veld," came the comment.

"Veld has known for some time, sir. I conveyed the information upon my return to ShinRa service."

"Subtle we may not be, son, but we've hired others to do it for us. Carry on, Sharpshooter."

"... May I make a request?" President ShinRa shrugged and then left the room with Tseng. ShinRa Jr. motioned that he present his case. "I need some time for things that are relevant to ShinRa interest as well as my own. My business will take me to Cosmo Canyon; is there anything you'd like for me to convey to your 'friends'?"

"How very... clever of you; tell them that the Skeeskee is particularly weak in the belly. You're dismissed, Sharpshooter, but do get back to Veld or myself in regards to your time off." Rufus Jr. paused. "This wouldn't have to do with that golden-eyed friend of yours?"

"It does, sir." Vincent replied honestly.

"I wish you the best then."

Chapter Text

"You want to take Lt. Strife where now?" Major Wolf crossed his arms and looked at Vincent as though he'd sprouted wings.

Which, to be fair to the man, he didn't know Vincent could do that.

"I want to take my son to Cosmo Canyon so that he and I can spend time with the Firewolves. I made them a promise to visit more than a few months ago and have yet to follow through." Vincent sighed as he mimicked Sephiroth's commanding officer and leaned with his back against the wall. "I want him to experience the world outside of ShinRa before it collapses into war."

"... You think it's inevitable then?" Wolf prodded.

"The Honorable Lady Himura is no fool but she is old. There are those who support her daughter and those who support her son to take her place as Court Negotiator. When she dies, as Death comes for us all, the power imbalance in the Wutainese Court will be enough to destabilize the region. ShinRa may not be subtle but it is shrewd enough to strike while the iron is hot." He countered dryly.

"Dammit. I was hoping to keep Strife from ever having to use Masamune on people."

"You and I match in that regard, Major." Vincent scraped his hand through his hair and blew out a long breath. "My son needs what little childhood his Mom and I can manage to scrape from ShinRa's lock jaws. Lady Himura won't last more than four years, if we're lucky and Bahamut grants us enough provence."

"If I can help, let me know. Strife deserves to be a kid, even if it's just for a little while." Wolf told him, golden eyes soft at the thought of Sephiroth.

"I'll stall his promotion for as long as I can with Anika's help. I don't suppose you could..."

"'Lose' the paperwork if it ever makes its way to my desk?" The Major finished with a huffed chuckle.

"If it makes it?" Vincent prodded with an echo.

"You aren't the only one concentrating on giving Strife as much time as you can." came the reminder.

"I'm... not alone then." He murmured, hope blooming in his chest. "The one thing I can count on is that my son has more support than he can shake a stick at from more than one source at ShinRa."

"Damn. Turks too?"

"He's my son. Of course they support him. Who do you think 'disappeared' Dreyfus?"

"Ha, like you'd hand that off to anyone but yourself; Henderson smelled him in the back hallways even after they cleaned the blood from the floor." Wolf countered as he tapped his nose. "Subtle you may be but scent never lies."

"Then I thank you and Henderson for your discretion."

"Thank us by getting us that file you have on the bastard." came the request. "I know I'm not the only one who'll find vindictive pleasure in it."


"... Also, if you're planning a proper trip to Cosmo, talk to Staff Sgt. Selkirk. She's a native and has a soft spot for Sephiroth a mile long."

Vincent went without his cloak and in full Turk gear, knowing that this talk would need a more delicate touch. "I... need to speak with Staff Sgt. Selkirk. I was directed here by a Major Wolf?"

"Sarge, Turk wants a chat!" The Corporal hollered back, raising a brow when Vincent winced at the volume. "What, too enhanced to handle a holler?"

"Ah, leave off Justifiat. I think this one's related to our favorite kitten. Staff Sgt. Selkirk, sir, of Troop Platoon 25. What can I do for ya?" The severe bun and the scent led Vincent to raise a brow in surprise. "Yeah, yeah, a woman in ShinRa. I know how rare we are but if you hit on me, we're gonna have a problem sir."

"I wouldn't dare, Staff Sgt., out of respect for you as a person. My name is... Sharpshooter and I'm aware that you know Lt. Strife. Might you have an office where we can discuss this further?" He replied, already liking her.

"Come on in, sir." Selkirk led him to a tiny office and closed the door. Vincent tapped the frame and was relieved to feel the usual ShinRa based protections wash over the space. "What about Lt. Strife?"

"He's my son. Through circumstances out of my control, I could not be at his side for many years. I am attempting to make up for it now and I have business in Cosmo Canyon. Major Wolf told me that you are a Cosmo native and might have some insight into the area that I do not currently possess." Vincent admitted flatly, gingerly settling into one of the chairs in front of her desk. "Before you ask, my business is with the Firewolves and not humans."

Selkirk's eyes narrowed before she looked him over. "Circumstances like Professor Creepy or...?"

"Hojo had a hand in it, if you want a direct answer."

"Well shit. Can't fault you for that since Creepy was known to separate families because he could, let alone doing it out of sheer spite. I knew Strife couldn't have been his. Too pretty by far, that kid; you though, you I can see as his Dad. What did you need to know about Cosmo? I'm assuming you're taking him with you?"

"Of course." Vincent answered honestly.

"Hmm, in that case, here's what I have..."

"Sir, we can't just-Strife has a build-up of well over three years of vacation time and he hasn't taken a single day. Two weeks won't even put a dent in it!"

"I don't want to disturb his routine and two weeks is short enough that he won't get used to where we're going. You can make it three if you want, we're traveling on Chocobos anyway, but no more than that." Vincent argued. "I understand you want Lt. Strife to have a longer vacation but this is what he needs and I can feasibly coax him into taking more days off after this is finished."

The HR rep looked him over, looked at the parental paperwork and sighed. "Fine, I'll make it three. If you can coax him into taking even one day of the week off, you have yourself a deal."

"A deal it will have to be."

Staff Sgt. Selkirk saw them off in the dark, the hour such that Sephiroth was still halfway asleep. "Be safe, Sir. Koneko, you listen when your old man tells you about Cosmo. It's dangerous on foot."

"I know, Sgt." Sephiroth yawned. "Don't forget your appointment."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, sir."


Selkirk's full lips thinned at that, her eyes glowing faintly. "You didn't tell him, koneko?"

"... Not mine to tell." Sephiroth murmured as he buried his face against Vincent's chest.

"We were 'guests' of Prof. Creepy together. I was the only female SOLDIER Cadet to ever be inducted. Mako in a Cosmo Canyon resident. Think about how well that'd go down." She mentioned carefully, quietly enough that Vincent would've been unable to hear her without his enhancements.

Cosmo Canyon residents were more sensitive to the LifeStream Ifalna navigated with ease than people from any other area in the East. With Mako being the concentrated form...

"You almost died, didn't you?"

"Brain dead for thirty seconds. Worst and only near-death experience in my life. Koneko cast a Thundara without a Materia in the room and shocked me back. It turned out that one of the door guard's bracer's shattered when he used it for something other than hurting people."

Vincent's jaw worked. "That wouldn't have anything to do with the way his right hand is...?"

"It does. Creepy cut open his hand down to the bone but... Strife can only heal others, not himself." Selkirk added sadly, shaking her head. "Let's just say that my therapist got a full angry rant when they kept him from me."

"... It does my heart some good to know that there were those who would go to great lengths for my son, though not if they were hurt in the process." He sighed, curling around Sephiroth as though he would be enough against the world. "Thank you, Staff Sgt.; let me know if there is any way I can repay your kindness."

"Finding what the fuck happened to my family after Creepy took me from them would be nice." She offered, the acrid scent of loathing enough to coat the air with it. "No pressure or anything but you are a Turk."

"One of the best. I will do my utmost to recover what family you have left." Vincent promised.

Chapter Text

The transport out of the city wasn't ShinRa-based, the fruit truck rattling its way to Kalm in the early light of the dawn. Vincent kept an eye on his son, who slept with Masamune held like a plush toy. A sharper, more well-maintained security blanket, then, and one he wouldn't try to remove.

Sunlight spilled through the wooden slats in fractions, turning from pale pink to golden. It seemed to cradle Sephiroth, pooling around them both as the truck slowed to a stop just outside of Kalm. No monsters had disturbed them with Chaos's presence. The being was more than enough to keep them at bay, though Vincent had to push him down in order to pay the driver without frightening her.

He carried Sephiroth piggyback until Sephiroth stirred on his shoulder.


"We're on our way to the Chocobo ranch, my son." Vincent reassured. "Remember our trip to Cosmo?"

"Right," Sephiroth sounded much more awake, scrubbing at his eyes and blinking to take in their surroundings. "Umm, is it okay to stay like this?"

"I can... let you down, if you'd like." He murmured, even as he forced himself not to cling. The urge to wrap his son in about eight feet worth of bubble wrap was getting harder to ignore.

"No, no, I... I kinda like it up here." Sephiroth's arms tightened their grip and Vincent shifted so that Sephiroth rode a little higher on his back. The purr that rumbled its way up from Hellmasker was, to say the least, embarrassing but his son wanted him as much as he wanted his son.

It made his heart practically glow as he picked up the pace and loped his way across the flower-studded grasses of the Midgar Plains.

Sephiroth wriggled when they were close to the Ranch, wanting to run under his own power. He let his son down and Sephiroth hugged him tightly, almost enough to bruise if they hadn't been so enhanced. "Thank you."

"Was that... your first?"


Vincent sighed into the silver locks, his grip equally as firm as Sephiroth's own. "Well, we need to make our way to Cosmo. Which Chocobo do you want to take?"

"Jax but he's in the big box." Vincent followed his son into the barn and blinked when Sephiroth made a line straight for the largest black Chocobo he'd ever seen. "Hi."

'Jax' warked proudly, arching his neck and then bending down to preen Sephiroth's hair, hissing when he couldn't go the length of Sephiroth's hair.

"It's okay. I know I've got a lot of hair, Jax." Sephiroth buried his fingers into the lush feathers; both of them pleased as punch to be together.

Vincent felt a nudge against his shoulder and turned to see a snowy Chocobo studying him.

"Well, I guess the birds like ya. They tend to kick up a fuss when they don't," Chocobo Bill murmured. "She's downright hateful of most folks but she's good stock for well-mannered Goldens if she likes the other bird. You lookin' to hire-Huh. Lt. Strife, ya back for more trainin'?"

"I'm... actually off, Mr. Bill. Can I rent Jax out? We need to get to Cosmo and..."

"Then who's the fella with ya?"

"My Chichiue. Ah..."

"I'm his father but yes, we'll need birds for Cosmo."

"You can take Jax, free of charge but her, you'll need to cough up some Gil. She's a prize Chocobo and I want her well taken care of, y'hear?"

"Only the best," Vincent offered his hand and she shoved her face against his chest. "What's her name?"

"She's called Hurricane and she's earned it, by rights, but if her owner don't swing by soon, she'll be mine." Bill mentioned wryly. "Hasn't come back in a while, if you know what I mean."


"Possibly, or he just don't want an ornery beastie like Hurricane. You know how to saddle?"

"I do, Mr. Highwind."

"Aww shucks, did Cid go an' blab?"

"... You're remarkably similar in temperament and shape, save your careers of animal husbandry and mechanics." Vincent supplied.

"Alright, that's fair. I'll toss in some Greens for Hurricane but don't you be tellin' Cid I did it." Bill muttered as he took Vincent's Gil.

"Duly noted."

Bill rolled his eyes at that and handed over the saddles, both of them watching as Sephiroth double-checked all of Jax's straps and flicked his bird's chest to get the breast support to fit.

It was clear that Sephiroth and Jax were connected by a bond of kindred spirits; tied by events that left them to trust only themselves, only to find one another under better circumstances.

Hurricane shoved at him and he returned his attention to the snowy Chocobo that was supposed to be his own mount.

«My apologies, Wind Storm.» Vincent muttered in Wutainese, not expecting her to wark loudly in excitement and shove her face against his neck, the sharp curve of it pressed against his cheek. «Good... girl?»

Both Bill and his son looked between them and Bill snorted. "Of course she's a Wutainese bird. I thought her 'owner' was a fishy bastard but this takes the cake. He stole a bird from Wutai an' doesn't want to be caught out as a thief."

Vincent carded through her feathers and found a small jade tag just under her crest feathers. "... She's a Royal Mount. That fool stole from the Imperial Household and he is more than likely dead because of it. Her name is Wind Storm, not Hurricane."

"Well shit."

"We can't return her either or else we'll be complicit in the theft." Vincent groaned. "It looks like she's yours after all, Bill."

"Nah, I think she's yours and you can board her here." Bill fired back.

"I suppose it's a good thing we're not going to Wutai any time soon."

Jax and Wind Storm set a strong pace, the landscape passing them by at an impressive speed. They stopped halfway to Junon, resting thier Chocobos and having lunch near the foothills. "Sephiroth, do you want to go through Junon? There are other ways to get to the Canyon."

His son perked up at the thought of alternatives to Junon. "Can we? Is... Is that okay?"

"I have quite a few favors I can call in with hunting aquaintences. I know of a pilot who would be willing to get us across the way." Vincent mentioned.

"Can I meet some of them?" Green eyes looked at him hopefully, the way the pupils rounded into something soft coaxing him into curl an arm around Sephiroth.

"Holly and Mistle Jones run a ferry service for hunters wanting to get to and from the Eastern continent. We can take this a long or as slow as you'd like; we have three weeks to travel."

"... Are they related to Heather in the secretary pool on 36?"

"There is a possibility. I could ask them for you, if you'd like."

"That's a weird thing to ask people, right? I..." Sephiroth ripped at the grass beneath their feet, the waft of bittered sandalwood a sign of his son's frustration. "Sometimes I do stuff wrong. People, mostly, but I don't know how to fix it."

Vincent admitted with a shrug, "Somewhere else we match, my son. Your Mother had all of the social graces that came with her profession and then some. We Valentines may be awkward and taciturn but we are sincere in our efforts. Those you can trust will adjust to you or you will pick up something from them. Communication is rarely a one-sided road, Sephiroth."

"Oh. So it's okay to ask?"

"I have yet to hear a question out of your mouth that isn't clarifying or, at the very least, curious. Ask as much about the world as you care to learn, Sephiroth, but knowledge often comes with a price; whether it be interaction or something else."

"Like Wutainese."

"How is Capala coming with you lessons?"

"He says my kanji's so pretty that he feels bad correcting it."

"Oh? What else?"


Vincent listened contentedly as Sephiroth opened up like a morning glory that bloomed with the light.

Chapter Text

Holly met them at the gates before the ferry, hands on her hips before she broke her fierce expression to grin up at Vincent. "About time we got to meet the little BB to your Bullet!"

"... Must you put it like that?"

"Well, yeah, he's a little fella. How old are ya?" Mistle replied for her twin as she unlocked the travel gate for Chocobos.

Sephiroth looked at Vincent, who nodded, then back at Mistle. "I'm, umm, eleven ma'am."

"So polite, you must take after your old man more than we thought." Holly cooed, flicking her auburn braid over her shoulder and clucking her tongue at Wind Storm.

"Do you know a Heather Jones? She works for ShinRa." Vincent asked, knowing that Sephiroth was hesitating.

"Oh, Heather! Yeah, she's our sister. Mama wants her to take over the company's bookkeeping but she says she likes the chaos of ShinRa better. Something about an adorable little silver-Huh. You Lt. Strife?" Mistle prodded as Sephiroth dismounted to coax Jax into one of the Chocobo boxes on the ferry. Vincent followed, talking sweet nothings in Wutainese to get Wind Storm into the other box.

"... Yes." His son answered warily.

"You're as cute in person as she said you would be! She called about a week ago cause the paperwork for travel crossed her desk and she was hoping you'd swing this way but wasn't sure. Doing your old man proud, huh?" Holly chirruped.

Vincent contemplated rescuing his poor son from the clutches of the Jones women and then decided that this was a battle Sephiroth could fight in his own.

"I hope so, ma'am."

"None of that ma'am business, that's what Sharp does. You can call me Holly. That there is Mistletoe but she don't like the last bit so don't use it, okay?"

"Yes Ms. Holly."

"Oof, too many manners from a hunter's kid. Your Mama teach you those?"

"... Yes, Ms. Holly." Sephiroth cleared his throat, unwilling to share anymore.

"Oh. Oh, shit. I'm sorry honey. You wanna see the deck?" Holly offered after the long and pointed pause.

"No thank you, Ms. Holly." His son made a beeline for him and then buried himself in Vincent's cloak.

"We'll retire to the cabin for now, Ms. Jones. I suggest... caution and perhaps tact when speaking with my son." Vincent offered dryly as he hugged Sephiroth. "My son was adopted recently by a woman he views as a Mother and we're adjusting."

"Aww Hels, Holly. You gotta watch it. C'mon, lemme explain..." Mistle sighed as she dragged her twin away by the arm.

Evening found them on the deck, Sephiroth cradled under the cloak as the sea spray invigorated them both, the sun setting into the sea as they traveled.

"Chichiue, my Mother, would she have taught me manners?" Sephiroth asked, slit pupils so thin as to be mere pinpricks of black amongst wild green.

"... I'm not certain it would've been only her. Such a thing we can ony imagine, my son, for reality was not as kind to our family. What do you think?" He replied with caution, the ache in his chest all the deeper for mention of Lucrecia. It was tempered by the way his left hand clenched into a hidden fist, as she was also the reason he harbored so many beasts.

"I think you both would've done it." The confidence his son had made him soften. "You said you loved me, that you loved her almost more than anything but that she was also capable of bad things. He—" Sephiroth's small frame shuddered but he finished bravely. "He said that I was capable of bad things too. Am I?"

Vincent knelt to take his son's face in his hands, Sephiroth having turned around to ask him the last question. "We are all capable of many things, my son, both terrible and great. Being evil and being good are a choice; one made after many steps to get there. People cannot be placed at one end of the scale and be expected to be that end forever. They can be shoved and molded into a terrible role and still become good. Others can have the best life possible and be truly evil, Sephiroth. Your choices define you as a person, though no one tells you this until you're much older normally."

"They should tell people sooner." His son snorted.


"So, you're saying that its my choice to, um, ignore his words? To make room for better ones?"

"Yes. I can only guide you, my son, but I cannot make your choices for you." Sephiroth went silent for a moment, still leaning into Vincent's hold on his face. "Sephiroth?"

"... I'm not a weapon. I'm not a monster. I'm just me." Sephiroth said softly, "I'm...?"

"Anything you'd like to be, Sephiroth." Vincent crooned as Sephiroth sat in his lap.



"Hmm. A hero?"

"Of course."

"A... chef?"

"If you'd like."

"A... Chocobo?"

Vincent looked down at his son with a raised brow. "... Kweh."

Sephiroth giggled, "Okay, okay! So, I'm a big brother, your son and Mom's and I've got a lot more friends than I thought I did. I'm good with a nodachi, I'm good with my dagger and I guess I'm getting there with my throwing knives? I'm really good at paperwork even though I hate it. Ummm, anything else?"

"You're learning a language with two separate sets of rules, have mastered Common and Nibel and plan to learn as much as you can. You're kind and capable, bold and brave and you can master just about anything you put your mind to, my son. You are full of infinite potential." Vincent finished as the sun set the ocean aflame with color.

"I guess I'll find out, huh, Chichiue?"

"I suppose you will."

Chapter Text

A sturdy Blue Chocobo met them at the docks, ridden by none other than Alric Fair.

"Hello again, Mr. Fair." Sephiroth's eyes flicked to the unfortunate growth on Alric's chin. His manners prevented him from saying anything but his eyes gave him away each time they flicked to the hair patch.

"Oh gods, kiddo. You can't or won't say anything but the look on your face-!" Alric cracked up, slapping his own thigh as he laughed himself silent.

"... If it weren't for the growth, I'm sure all would be well." Vincent drawled.

"Hey! I'll have you know I worked hard on this beard of mine." Alric sniffed. "What's wrong kiddo?"

«Chichiue, would it be rude if I asked to touch?» His son blurted in Nibel before he bristled in defense at Vincent's chuckle. «It's just that none of the SOLDIERs can grow one and... Umm. I'd like to know what I can't grow.»

"Hay is for Chocobos. May Sephiroth touch your beard? SOLDIERs can't grow them and I doubt I will either; its the Mako, you see." He quipped back, hiding a smile in his collar.

"Oh. Well Hells, should've lead with that. Sure!" Sephiroth hesitantly petted the patch of hair masquerading as a beard and Alric chuckled. "So?"

"Thank you, Mr. Fair. It's got an interesting texture."

"You're welcome, kiddo. I'm gonna shave it cause my wife said the same thing you did, Vincent. Five 'o clock shadow it is for me!" Alric huffed as he clicked at his Chocobo. "C'mon, let me show you around before we head to the Canyon. Zack says hello, by the way."

"Tell him that I wish him well."he replied, Hellmasker purring at the mention of Alric's little one.

"How far is the Canyon, Mr. Fair?" Sephiroth asked as he matched the pace of the green Chocobo's stride with Jax.

"Mr. Fair's my old man but, since you're so polite, I'll let it slide kiddo." Alric snorted. "This is a good point..."

Sephiroth listened with rapturous attention, taking in the sights on the outskirts of Corel. Vincent watched them both and kept an eye out for an attack, be it AVALANCHE, ShinRa or monster-related.

Sephiroth hissed in a breath as he got off of Jax, letting Vincent know he had saddle sores.

He scooped his son up, confident that Wind Storm was well trained enough to stay with her flight. "Where does it hurt?"

«Inner thighs. It's been a while since I've ridden.» Sephiroth mumbled in embarassment, «Do you think a Blizzara would do the trick?»

«A Blizzara and a Cura, at the very least. We'll walk a bit tommorrow and ride in shifts, hmm? I'm sorry you're sore, my son.»

"Yikes kiddo. Here." Vincent caught the thrown can, examining it as he set Sephiroth down on a boulder. "That should help; that an' some wraps but I guess we're walking for a bit?"

"You understand Nibel, I take it?" He drawled as he removed his cloak to give Sephiroth some privacy. His son applied the salve with hissed breaths and a curse word that Vincent tactfully ignored.

"Not a lot but enough to muddle through a conversation or two. It does help that the subject's sorta on the nose."

"... or beak, as it were. Have you finished, Sephiroth?"

"Mmhmm. I bandaged them too. Is..." the hesitation was back, the deflection one he was heart-breakingly familiar with.

"Yes, it is, my son. If I don't use Cura now, they will develop into sores and then abscesses due to infection." Sephiroth shuffled under his gaze. Vincent sighed, draped his cloak over his son's lap and took the smaller hands in his own. "You've come far, farther than I thought in the months we have known each other, my son."

"... I know."

He reached up to stroke his thumb across Sephiroth's cheek, warmed by the way his son leaned into his touch. "Then extend your trust once more, Sephiroth, and know that it is safe within my grasp."


"Cura, Level Five." He murmured, feeling the sharp dip in his MP. Vincent cast Libra afterwards, the sores nearly gone and likely be healed by morning. Sephiroth had hidden his pain but Vincent was determined to not let it happen again.

"Chichiue..." Sephiroth wriggled back into his uniform and then stalked off, "thank you."

"You sure it's safe for... Huh." Jax and Wind Storm followed his son, both birds keeping a watchful eye out for predators.

"Sephiroth needs time to come to terms with the fact that someone who cares for him the proper way will not let him feel pain if it isn't necessary." He admitted flatly as he drew his hand down his face. "I'll have to cut some tulips after this."

"Tulips, Sharp?"

"Ah. Hojo was buried and his life force pushed into the flowers over his graves. Specifically..."

"Oh. Uhh, where...?"

"Midgar, under the watch of an old friend."

"Damn. Don't suppose I could get some?" Alric inquired with a faint strain to his voice.


"Hey, uh, did you ever meet Fenris Strife?" His friend hesitated, chewed a little more on the dried plains grass in his mouth.

"I knew him and Anika well before... my untimely nap. Why?" He replied.

"'Cause I saw his ghost watching over your kid after that Behemoth hunt we did together." Alric said, taking the dried grass stalk out of his mouth to fiddle with it.

"... explain." Vincent nearly barked, manners his only restraint.

"He sat with kiddo for a bit, wandered over to you and then sorta... disappeared, when he noticed I was looking. Does he do it a lot?"

"On occasion, I've heard his voice. He was a rather... strong-willed individual, come to think of it." Vincent mused.

Alric snorted, "Yeah, I think you mean that Nibel stubbornness that rivaled the stone of the mountain."

Sephiroth wandered back into the fire light with the Chocobos tailing him and stuffed himself into Vincent's lap without a word.

«I'm sorry.» His son mumbled against his neck. «Are you mad at me?»

«What for?» he hummed, curling an arm around Sephiroth.

«That I keep hiding things from you.»

«You don't have to tell me everything, son, but I would appreciate it if you told me about the pain you're in. You don't have to tolerate that anymore. I understand that you're still adjusting and I'm not angry at you.» he reassured, Hellmasker's purr starting up again.

«... is that why you didn't chase me?»

«I would rather you come back to me willingly.» Vincent countered gently.

«oh.» Sephiroth uttered quietly.

The morning of the second day saw them sparring across the distance, the wide open plains the perfect spot for ambush training and a little bit of fun as well.

Sephiroth was giggling as he flopped onto his back, fending off the beaks of all three adult Chocobos as he panted from exertion. "'Mfine! Can we... do that... again!?"

"After you've had a break and more water. Possibly more sunscreen as well." He allowed fondly.

"Ugggh. Do I have to?" Sephiroth sat up, twigs and grass tangled in his long hair.

"Unless you'd like to explain to your Mom why you're three shades darker than you left her, yes," Alric teased.

"And brush out your hair before it turns into a Tonberry nest." Vincent finished.

Sephiroth huffed but then laughed as the Chocobos noticed the dirt and twigs in his hair and started preening him, of all things. He sat perfectly still as the Chocobos picked out the mess in his hair and even detangled the knots, working the problem between the three of them with faint warks and kwehs.

"I suppose you'll make a magnificent Chocobo, my son. You've got preening down to an art." Vincent finally laughed, unable to contain himself any longer.

"Kwehehehe." Sephiroth snickered, reach up to groom the birds as well, ruffling through the cheek feathers and flicking out little bugs.

"Inside jokes, huh? Mind letting me in?" Alric ribbed Vincent as they filtered stream water through a Libra and Aero Materia-chipped mesh.

"One of Sephiroth's potential careers, as it were." He replied as they filled up the last of the canteens. "This is after hero, chef and Turk, to name a few. What he wants to be when he grows up."

"Ahhh, I see. Hunter's not in there, kiddo?"

"Too much work and I don't want to be a famous hunter but with the Valentine luck, I'd be like Chichiue."

"Unintentionally famous. I gotcha." Alric agreed with a solemn nod.

Chapter Text

The journey took them around Gongaga and through the Nibel foothills.

"This is where I leave you two; Grace can't make it up those hills. She's a Blue, not a Green." Alric gave a sloppy salute, hugged Sephiroth when he held out his arms and patted Vincent on the shoulder. "I'll see you on the way back out, kiddo, Sharp."

"May Bahamut be with you," Vincent replied.

"And Typhoon with the pair of you!" Alric called back, waving until he was a speck in the distance.

Vincent prodded at Chaos, Does any of this look familiar to you?

We'll have to look. That means leaving our son alone for the moment, as the Chocobos won't tolerate my presence. Chaos replied. The last time I was close to one, it almost kicked me.

Ah. Understood. He turned to Sephiroth, "Chaos and I will need to scout above for the path to the Canyon. We will be back as soon as possible."

"They won't like him, right?" Vincent smiled softly, pride welling up at his son's shrewd reasoning.

"No, but that's to be expected of such sensitive birds." Vincent replied as he dismounted Wind Storm. «Stay.»

He walked a fair distance, breathed in as himself and breathed out as Chaos.

The primordial being took flight, gliding as he had more than six months prior on their journey to Midgar. Alric was correct, you'll have to follow the foothills if you want to get near the Canyon's source river. The Ancient Forest is something we'll want to avoid.

Why? Vincent prodded, the reluctance of his internal guest incredibly clear.

It is a sacred Cetra place and though Ifalna and Aerith like us, the LifeStream may have a different opinion.

You're not telling me everything. He said flatly, a sour note of accusation curdling his tone.

Nor will I; there are secrets not even you are not privy to, nor shall you be until the time is right. Chaos admitted with the mental equivalent of a shrug. You may ask Ifalna, though I doubt she'll give much more than a cryptic answer as I have, Host.

Vincent sighed but tucked the information away, Very well, keep your secrets. Might we return to our son?

Chaos' swift mood change made him chuckle. He is still 'our' son?!

Mortal I may be, I'm no fool—I know that you love my son as your own. he responded with a quiet reassurance.

Though I have an animosity towards your former wife, I find myself grateful to her for having picked you as my Host. Perhaps there is wisdom yet to be found in her choice. Chaos murmured, the thoughtful pause in regards to Lucrecia's fate telling Vincent he'd made the right choice.

The foothills held small villages and smaller hamlets that allowed them to stay the night in exchange for hunting the Nibel wolves that strayed close to their homes.

Sephiroth killed them quickly but the look in his eyes as he whispered to them softly afterwards spoke of past clashing with present. The problem was that his son couldn't figure out why he was doing it. "Thank you, Wolf. I'm sorry."

On occasion, they had hunting companions, one of which noticed Sephiroth's unusual habit. «You follow the Old Ways. How did you come by them?»

Sephiroth's mouth opened, then closed and he murmured, «I don't remember. All I know is... green eyes with blond hair and a kind voice telling me that death is a part of life.»

«A Strife then! Rarer now than they used to be, those Strifes. Heard his widow left that godsdamned town some years ago now.» Vincent's jaw dropped behind his collar and never had he been more grateful for it. «It's shame he died but looks like you got to know him at least a little bit. You're a lucky child, hmm?»

«... more than you know.» Sephiroth managed after he'd collected himself briefly.

«You can stay with me tonight, if you like? Got some summer storms a brewin' and it's not a good night to be out.»

«We accept your offer of hospitality, kind sir.» Vincent responded.

«None of that now, the name's Bugenhagen. You heading for the Canyon?»

«How-?» Vincent nearly drew Cerberus at the simple statement. Galian growled in the shared headspace, Hellmasker bristled and Chaos made a noise of faint surprise.

«Your friends aren't the only ones who can hear the Lifestream.» came the retort, as though it were a simple fact instead of an insult to the Cetra he knew.

They followed Bugenhagen to the end of the foothills and then Vincent pinned the man with a look that wasn't out of place on his Turk compatriots as he flicked up the security trio of Shield, Silence and Libra.

"What is your business in Cosmo Canyon?" He questioned.

"The same as yours but different; I'm here to help Nanaki grow."

"... How long have you been following us?"

He is as he says he is, Vincent. Someone else capable of hearing the Planet. She likes you two, and if nothing else, he can teach both Nanaki and Sephiroth important lessons. Rest easy, I promise neither of you are in danger. Ifalna's faint voice made his shoulders slump out of their tense position.

"I still don't trust him." He complained to Ifalna.

"Then do not, Sharpshooter, for rarely are your instincts wrong." Bugenhagen replied with a smile.

"... Hnn."

"Oh! Is this the Canyon, Chichiue?!" Sephiroth dismounted Jax and the lead trailed in his hand as he skidded to a halt about a foot away from the Canyon's immense walls.

The question echoed on the wind, the cavernous cut in the world writ there by the river that had eroded it.

"Yes, my son, this is Cosmo Canyon. We seek its opposite end and the city that settled there." Vincent answered as he dismounted Wind Storm and looked over his son's head at such a sight.

Chapter Text

They found a Chocobo trail winding down to the Canyon's floor and let the Chocobos have their heads, the smooth pace eating up the distance.

They were joined by desert Chocobos, their yellow almost an orange that blended with the walls. Wind Storm's feathers changed color with the dust of the Canyon. Come nightfall, she preened until she was white again, Jax meticulously doing the same.

Both of them surrounded Sephiroth and Bugenhagen's Chocobo, a desert strain he'd caught and tamed before the descent into the Canyon, settled in Sephiroth's lap after dinner.

"The Chocobos like you," Bugenhagen murmured, his fingers dug into the dirt. "You'll get along splendidly with Nanaki."

"... Nanaki?" Sephiroth murmured, his fingers carding through soft feathers and flicking out bugs.

"A firewolf cub, my son. He and his mother protect the Canyon. You're... almost the same age range."

"... I've seen them in books but-" his son hesitated, shuffled closer to Jax and eyed Bugenhagen warily.

"Never in person?" He continued lightly.


"Rest assured that Elder Kira and her son will be welcoming. I met them on my travels to you, Sephiroth."

Three days into traversing the Canyon and Vincent heard the thud of familiar paws.

"Welcome, Sharpshooter and son of Sharpshooter. May I ask of your companion?" Kira asked as Nanaki peered over her shoulder at Sephiroth.

"Elder Kira, my name is Bugenhagen. I'm here to teach your son and help his understanding of the world, if it please you, madam."

"Hnn. You know our ways, Elder Bugenhagen. Come, rest and be merry for now." Kira said brightly, the azure flames of her tail burning bright.

Sephiroth dismounted and knelt in front of Nanaki, offering his hand.

Nanaki giggled, shook it with his paw and then licked a stripe up the side of Sephiroth's face. "Gross!"

"How do you groom your mane?" Nanaki asked as Sephiroth wiped away the wet mark, leaving a streak of orange Canyon dust on his face.

"It's not a mane, it's my hair." Sephiroth announced indignantly.

"Is too! It moves like one so it's your mane. I bet mine's going to be prettier than yours when I'm older."

"Is not! Besides," his son chattered away with the cub, hands animated as he and Nanaki played.

Kira watched them fondly before she turned to Vincent. "I see why he was the more pressing matter to you. May I have your real name?"

"Little escapes the firewolves, I see. My name is Vincent Valentine. My Kaa-San said you were wise beyond that of human experience and that I should seek you out should I encounter things I don't understand."

"Such as the beings you house within your soul," Kira murmured as Sephiroth tackled Nanaki into the dust. "Let's leave the pups to play; you and I have much to talk about. Yes, Elder Bugenhagen, this includes you."

For once, Bugenhagen merely nodded while keeping a faint eye on the two children. "They'll be alright?"

"The rest of the pack will keep an eye on them. Seto must speak with you in particular, Elder Bugenhagen."

Kira and Vincent settled into the same den as before, Vincent pulling out cushions from his inventory.

"You have some idea of the beings inside you now, yes?"

"Mmm. Chaos and I have become... allies. They all love my son, though I don't know if it's because he's my son or because they genuinely care, Elder Kira."

"Please, just Kira will do. They love him because of who he is and how easily he accepts them. You will need them in the years that follow, Vincent."

"Something is coming; I've been told as much."

"An Enemy of the Planet," Kira sighed, pillowing her chin on his knee. "The one your son calls Mother... Much has changed through her and will yet change though not all will do so."

"J... I don't think it's smart to give power to names." Vincent sighed as he carded his hands through her mane, "In this case, maybe its the wisest course that only Cetra speak of her."

"Perhaps your Mate, the one you lost, was gifted perception past what has been given."

"She also was given to madness," he countered, rubbing at the base of his gauntlet and grimacing, "Chaos said that not all of my scars are from Hojo."

"So too are prophets," Kira replied, "though they wish to hear it not."

"... You have a point." Vincent sighed.

"Enough of things that have yet to come, tell me of your son."

"He's... I wish I had been there for him but an old friend was..."

Sephiroth and Nanaki tumbled into the den, both of them covered head-to-toe in dust. Vincent had to stifle his laughter as  Bugenhagen followed at a stately pace, his peaceful expression troubled for once.

Kira's claws struck the earth three times before the security trio bloomed into being.

"Does Nanaki know of his Father's fate?" Bugenhagen interrogated.

"Not yet." Kira gave a long, careful sigh. "I want him to remain a cub, just a little while longer. He knows his Father was no coward, though other Canyoners might suggest it."

Vincent murmured solemnly at the sight of Sephiroth pillowing his head on Nanaki and the firewolf cub doing the same, "Let them be children, if only for a moment's peace in a world too often at war."

"... Agreed."

What he didn't expect to hear was Nanaki and Sephiroth reciting a phrase as he awoke, "Eat your meat, don't talk to too many strangers and don't ask questions that don't have answers!'"

"Umm," Sephiroth hesitated.

"Yes, some questions are more pertinent for humans than firewolves and vice versa." Kira huffed in amusement.

"What she means, my son, is that there are questions best left for when you've a bit more understanding of the world and how it works." Vincent explained, surprised to see that his son's hair was in a braid and that he was cleaner than the night before.

"Mom called, said I had to go take a bath in the river." Sephiroth hummed, "It's warm."

"Did she say anything else?"

"That we're supposed to have fun and that she'd call us back with Cloud on the PHS." His son chirruped faithfully.

"I look forward to the call then, Sephiroth. I've some business in the town, will you be alright with Nanaki and his Mother?"

His son mulled it over, silver brows furrowed in thought before he said, "I'll be safe with them, Chichiue. You'll come back, right?"

"As soon as possible, my son."

Chapter Text

Vincent tracked down AVALANCHE, the real one, quickly enough at the sight of Juniper Jones.

"Who goes there?"

"A friend of a friend locked in a Tower." Vincent replied coolly. "He said to tell you that the Skeeskee is particularly weak in the belly."

"Sharpshooter?! You're working with The Benefactor??" She gave a genuine smile at that.

"... I work for no side."

Juniper huffed as she leaned on her sniper rifle. "Figures you're out for your own skin-"

"I'd like there to be a future for my family," He snarled lowly, eyes flashing gold as he reached for Cerberus. "Should you get in the way of that, both the Tower and AVALANCHE will come crashing down."

"Jones, not him." The calm voice that sounded from the dimly lit bar had Vincent raising a brow. "Come, friend of a friend, sit with me." Vincent settled against the wall of the booth and looked over the owner of the voice. "My name is Fuhito. I co-run AVALANCHE but I had heard of your reputation through Juniper. What do you think of us?"

"That you and ShinRa are the same; two sides to a coin, out for your own gains and creators of monsters." He admitted flatly. "I know what you do to SOLDIERs that you catch."

Fuhito grimaced. "That section of AVALANCHE is unsanctioned by myself and my partner. The Ravens are uncontrollable and do not bend so much as break. You have my blessing to take them out should you encounter them and there will be no retaliation from AVALANCHE."

"Who said I needed a blessing?" Vincent snorted dryly. "If they get in the way of Turk business, they're gone."

Sharp grey eyes now looked him over and commented, "Playing both sides but loyal to none but your own. A smart move but at some point-"

"I've chosen the side of the Planet. Have you?" He said, standing and ordering a drink from the bar. "Whiskey, neat."

Vincent listened to Fuhito try to figure out what he meant by it but he wasn't above a little bit of intrigue himself.

"The Selkirks, you said?" The bartender chewed on his lip after Vincent had tipped well over the asking price of the drink.


"They live up top and sorta keep to themselves. Mourning their daughter, y'know. ShinRa took her years ago for, as they put it, "safekeeping", led by some whacko in a lab coat."

"I'm staying with the Firewolves but... should they be interested, I have some information about their missing child." He countered lightly. "Solid, confirmed information."

"... I'll send one of my bus boys when we're on break."

Vincent agreed with a hum, finished his drink and then left the bar.

Fuhito watched him go with quiet unrest lingering in his gaze. Vincent suspected the man might drop by the Firewolves sooner rather than later.

""How's -he Canyon?"" Anika asked over the unsteady connection.

"It's good for him-"

""Sharp, you know what I mean."" she chided.

"We're... learning to trust one another. He hid his saddle sores from me." he sighed as he drew his hand down his face. "How do you not wrap them up in eight layers of bubblewrap and never let go? Does it ever stop?"

Anika laughed, pressed a kiss to Cloud's hair, judging by the scuffle over the line and then said wryly, ""It doesn't; it's a life-long battle.""

"... I see I have much to learn. I came across someone who knew your husband. A... Mr. Bugenhagen, I believe?" Vincent reluctantly admitted.

""That sly old wolf's still kicking, huh? Tell him he can shove a spear up where the sun don't shine; he'll know who it's from. By the way, Seph said you'd been working. It's not just a vacation for our son, it's for you too, y'know.""

"... I'll keep that in mind. So, about your new rotation...?"

""Oh Knight's Bless, don't ask me that! They're all a little hopeless but I've got Nicky backing me up and teaching them...""

The Selkirks (or at least who Vincent assumed were the Selkirks) took nearly a week to reach out via the bartender, sending over a child not much older than Sephiroth.

"Elder Kira, is Sharpshooter in?"

"He's in the back with his cub and mine. Come along, dear."

Sephiroth, at that moment, had launched from the tip of a higher canyon wall to pounce on Nanaki.

The other child froze as Nanaki jumped to meet Sephiroth. They tussled with bared teeth that didn't mean a thing because before long they were giggling.

"Hello!" Nanaki said and the child blinked with wide eyes. "I'm Nanaki."

"I'm Sephiroth. Do you wanna play?"

"Umm, after I talk to Mr. Sharpshooter? Mama said I had to talk to him."

His son and Kira's traded a look and nodded in agreement.

"That's alright, Seph and I wanna try that again anyways. I heard you, you know." The last bit he directed at Sephiroth. "Spread your toes some more in your boot. You squished them again."

"... I did. I'll try again."

"Its not easy walking quiet outside as much as it is inside, but training is good!" Nanaki reassured gently, the sway of his tail unintentionally matched by the sway of Sephiroth's braid.

"Mr. Sharpshooter? I'm Ama Selkirk. My mama heard that you might have...?"

"Your sister, the one taken by ShinRa, she's alive and well." Ama's hands covered her mouth and she smiled, tears falling as she unexpectedly hugged Vincent himself. "Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

He resigned himself to the hug and gently patted her on the back. Sephiroth looked up from his scuffling with Nanaki, cheek smudged with red dirt and cub slobber, looked at the girl in his arms and mouthed, 'Do you want me to move her?'

Vincent gave a minute shake of his head before he gently pried the girl off himself. "Would you mind leading me to your home, Ms. Selkirk?"

"I have to ask but I'll be back!" She sprinted off, her feet barely brushing the ground for the grace she had. Sephiroth cocked his head to the side, narrowed his gaze at her gait and then mimicked it.

He fell flat on his face but the only sound was one of muffled understanding before he tried it again. Off his son went, bounding like a Cuahl up the steep cliffs and landing quietly as well. "I figured it out, Nanaki!"

"I guess so. The Selkirks are kinda, dunno, connected to the Canyon. I'm surprised you can move the way they do." Nanaki murmured as he rolled over onto his back and scrubbed against the Canyon floor.

"I get that a lot." Sephiroth back-flipped off of the high wall and spun to distribute the force of his fall. "I still say that my hair's gonna be equally as pretty when we're the same age."



"No way."

"Yes way."

"Boys," he grumbled. They both stuck out their tongues in the universal sign of arguing siblings, though neither of them were. "you'll both be handsome."

"Truce?" Sephiroth asked, gently bunting Nanaki's forehead.

"... Truce. Show me how you did it?"