So in BC, Veld says that everyone was taken to Nibelheim after the Kalm bombing, including himself and that’s presumably where he at least had his initial recovery and the prosthetic put on. I couldn’t help but ask myself a little what might have been, if he’d just looked around some…
“You shouldn’t be up.” Hojo was watching him from the doorway, features creased in a disapproving frown.
“If I don’t get out of here for a few hours, we’re going to have problems,” the Turk’s director informed him coolly, getting dressed slowly for the slight clumsiness he still had with his new limb. His voice had a rasp to it deeper than before, still not completely healed from the damages of hours breathing in scalding air. But it was enough, he could do this. He couldn’t stay put any longer or he’d go crazy. “I’m just going to walk the area.”
“I’m not giving you your gun back,” Hojo informed him. “Walk circuits in the manor if you have to, you have no business out in the weather right now.”
Veld grit his teeth, hands tightening briefly. “Do me a favor and don’t start that care taking shit. It doesn’t suit you.”
“Care taking? I consider it self-preservation. Your team would have my head if you didn’t recover,” Hojo said mildly.
“Heavy ordinance didn’t kill me, Hojo, a chill isn’t going to.” He finished dressing, rotating the wrist of his prosthetic. “I don’t think I’ll need a gun, but thanks.”
“Just don’t be stupid.” Hojo sighed.
Veld ended up staying in the manor, walking the halls a while, just getting used to stretching his legs again. Eventually, though, being without an actual weapon began to grate on him and he headed back over for the stairs leading down to the labs, certain he could at least find some materia to equip.
If someone had asked him, he wouldn’t have been able to say what made him go into the side room. Seeing the coffins flared up something ugly that was too new to bury, and he flicked one open, a quick jerk of his prosthetic using strength far beyond his usual to simply rip the metal away. They were blessedly empty, but he had to wonder why they were there at all. One after the other, empty, and-
Wine red eyes met startled brown, and Veld heard his breath hitch a moment as he stared. This coffin was not empty, and the dead man in it was horribly alive. “Vincent.”
There was a moment where Vincent stared, shocked enough to be vulnerable, hurting - an ugly, raw mix of grief and guilt - before he was shutting it down with the force of a slammed door, eyes going dark as he shifted . “You should go.”
Veld stared at him in disbelief. “… what?”
“You shouldn’t be here, just go,” Vincent said, leaning over to get the coffin lid. “Just leave me here. It’s where I belong.”
Maybe if he hadn’t literally just started getting back on his own feet after significant trauma, Veld would have been able to meet him evenly. But this was the first day he’d gotten out of the recovery room in weeks, and his losses were far too fresh for his partner’s drama. In a second, his hand darted out for that same lid, and it splintered under the force of his grip. “You get your ass up.”
Vincent went still, registering that particular rare tone, the sort that had led them into the kind of trouble that usually ended up with somebody dead. “Veld, you don’t understand -”
“You are so fucking right I don’t understand,” Veld agreed, wrenching the coffin lid away and sending it clattering loudly across the room. He swallowed hard, eyes burning. “I don’t understand what the hell your problem is. What you think you’re doing telling me to leave you here.”
“I’m not safe-”
“You were never safe,” Veld hissed, this time grabbing him by the strange red garment, getting a fist of the buckles and crimson cloth and hauling his partner up, stumbling out of the coffin before dumping him on the floor because Valentine was too tall and he was too angry. “You were a goddamn menace, you nearly got me killed more times than I could count. The only thing you did more than that was pull me back out of the fires you set. So whatever the hell is going on with you? I do not care.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Vincent said quietly, getting to his feet and smoothing out the ragged mantle. “I’ve changed.”
“Yeah? Because you seem like someone pressed pause and you’re still the same melodramatic little shit you were a couple decades ago.” Veld took vicious pleasure in the slight flinch that got. “But you’re not the boss this time. You don’t get to t’ tell me what t’ do. I’m the director now.”
“I believe my contract was terminated when I was,” Vincent said evenly.
“Maybe Alex did, but I damn sure never wrote you off,” Veld retorted. “An’ you’re right here. If you’re alive enough t’ be a pain in the ass, you’re alive enough t’ bemy pain in the ass. You’re comin’ home.”
“I died, Veld.”
“You’re here enough, I’m not losing anyone else!” He snapped, eyes burning again, and saw the moment when the words sunk in. Saw broad shoulders lose a little tension, concern bleeding into stoic features as Vincent watched him. His breath caught and he tipped his chin up defiantly, taking in a shaking breath. “I let you go once, Vin, but I wouldn’t have if I’d known you were here.”
“Safer you did,” Vincent said quietly, hands going up in surrender when Veld snarled at him. “What happened?”
Veld wet his lips, taking a moment to work past the ache in his throat. “There was an accident. Some kid didn’t get my full instructions… Kalm got bombed.”
The understanding there made it even worse and Veld had to look away, so he startled when a gloved hand took his metal one gently. “You were there.”
“Yeah.” Veld stared down, unable to meet Vincent’s eyes and see the look that would come with that quiet concern. “Looks like I’m the only survivor.”
There was a long moment of silence. “If Hojo came back here to ‘handle’ that, forgive my skepticism. Death never stopped him before.”
Icy forboding trickled down Veld’s spine, before a slow, seething anger rekindled. Because of course that was who did this to Vincent. Of course. “What did he do t’ you?”
“I’m not sure,” Vincent admitted, frowning to say it. “But I’m not… alone.”
Veld glanced up sharply, arching a brow and making a face when Vincent tapped his temple pointedly. But that wasn’t near enough to get him to let Vincent crawl back to that literal fucking coffin. “Well. I’ll be sure t’ introduce myself later.”
That startled a bark of laughter out of Vincent, who looked positively shocked for a moment. “You’re insane.”
“I’m the head of the Turks, Vin, practically certifiable by definition.” That pit of anger wasn’t letting up, a deep fire that made him a little dizzy with the implications, because there were two more bodies he hadn’t seen. Two more ‘deaths’ he’d taken on say so. Granted, at the time he’d been too weak to do anything about it but now… now… “Let’s go see the good professor.”
A slow, wicked smile touched Vincent’s lips, dark fury in his eyes. “You know, I think I could stay out for that.”
They headed down the hall together, and having Vincent at his back was like a puzzle piece slotting into place, no matter what had happened to make his eyes burn like hellfire, no matter if he was or wasn’t really alive. It was enough.
They found Hojo in the labs, looking over some printouts for gods knew what, but he didn’t turn to face them. “I’m still not giving you your gun back.”
“He won’t need it,” Vincent said quietly, raising his own to point unerringly at the professor.
Hojo looked up, an odd, wry sort of smile twisting his lips before he turned to face them, arching a brow. “Well now, you’ve finally decided to get up. And you’ve gone and upset your partner, I see. I wonder what you told him? Did you tell him it was my idea for you to sulk for decades?”
“Coffin was locked from the outside,” Veld pointed out quietly.
“You never could leave things be.” Hojo sighed, unbothered by the anger the pair were radiating. “You do have to know you can’t afford to kill me. I’m not going to fight you over it, but in the middle of a war? You know better than that, Veld.”
“I can think of a lot more satisfying things than killing you,” Veld said; he couldn’t argue about the coffin, not after Vincent tried to convince him to leave him there. “How many lies have you pulled on me?”
“I believe that depends on perspective,” Hojo said mildly. “Valentine did die. In fact, he was dead when I finished with him. The coup de grace was delivered by Lucrecia.”
The snarl that escaped Vincent told more of what had been done to him than his warnings, two toned in a way human vocal chords shouldn’t be able to produce and setting off the warnings of a predator ready to strike.
Hojo remained unimpressed, a hard smile twisting his lips. “I’m sure it’s quite fresh to you, but it’s been twenty years, Valentine. I had better things to do than obsess. If you’re ready to quit your childish brooding, it’s none of my concern.”
“You dare.” Vincent was on him in two great strides, long legs eating up the distance as he lifted the professor by a firm grasp of his shirt, gold talons flexing with want to strike. “I should kill you now.”
“If you’re expecting me to beg for my life, you’re going to be sorely disappointed,” Hojo managed, a little tight as he was pressed back against one of the mako tanks. “Do it or put me down. I have no time for your indecisiveness.”
There was a long pause before Veld stepped up beside Vincent, a hand on his arm to coax it down. Slowly, Vincent went along with it, eyes overbright in a way that suggested he was just barely keeping it together. If he’d been SOLDIER, Veld would have sedated him on principle. Part of him wondered if they had anything strong enough.
“What about the rest of my family?” Veld asked. “Any other surprises out there?”
“Presumably dead, most were.” Hojo shrugged, though there was a small smile of anticipation. “Dead by now, I’m sure.”
Veld hit him hard enough to knock him back into the tank, before he’d even registered the action. “Sonofabitch-”
“Veld.” This time it was Vincent stepping in, inhuman strength keeping him back from another blow as Hojo wheezed chuckles through a few coughs, licking blood off his teeth and taking a moment to straighten his glasses.
“Well, now. Here I thought you had that temper on a leash these days,” Hojo mused, carefully feeling his jaw. “I think you might have broken something.”
“I swear to god if I find out you used them there won’t be enough left of you for a phoenix down, fuck SOLDIER and Rupert’s war,” Veld breathed, trembling against Vincent’s hold.
“Is that right?” Hojo arched a brow, resting his head back against the tank with a lazy smile. “I had no idea you were so desperate.”
“You wouldn’t,” he spat, furious, and giving a sharp tug of his arm. Vincent still didn’t let go.
“Mm, no.” Hojo shook his head, squinting slightly at the pain, and got a clean cloth from his coat to wipe his mouth with, dabbing at the split lip a moment. His expression was calculating in a way that made Veld’s skin crawl. “Just how desperate are you to have them back, Veld? What would you do?”
Anything. He didn’t say it, but the word was there, and it must have shown on his face from the dark little chuckle it elicited.
“I see.” Hojo reached for one of the chairs, getting up and regarding him with a dangerous sort of amusement. “Well then, maybe I can help you. I did learn quite a lot working with your partner.”