Chapter 2:

It had begun to snow when Vincent brought her into his home, and he was thankful that they got home before the storm started. Vincent quickly put her to bed and tried as best as he could to accommodate her.

Despite what Vincent had just said to him, Cid wasted no time, after he got home, to call everyone else up about the latest news. Seeing Lucrecia, in the state that she was, made Cid wonder, "Does that damned guy even know how to take care of another person? He certainly doesn’t take very ^@$#-in' good care of himself, always lookin' so deathly pale and all..." And so he called up the Strifes, Barrett, Red XIII, Cait Sith, and yes, even Yuffie to see if anyone could help Vincent out. Out of all of them, Tifa was the only one who had any knowledge about nursing someone back to health, so the Strifes headed out to Nibelheim, their hometown.

Thinking back on it now, Vincent wondered if he could have ever saved her from her death. Lucrecia’s decline was gradual. For months, the three people monitored her around the clock, but it was getting them nowhere. Right before she passed away, Shera and Cid had stopped by to see how Lucrecia was doing, as well as making sure Vincent was alright himself. They were discussing Lucrecia's condition one afternoon, and Shera suggested that they should try a more…scientific…method of determining what was ailing her.

" know you do not like the idea of experimenting on anyone but…"

"I know what you are suggesting, Shera..."

"Well, I figured that since we still haven't pin-pointed the source of her illness, that the only option left is to…"

"I know." Vincent glanced from Shera to Cid and then back to Shera. Both of them looked like they had given up on any other way.

"Vince, you know we're here for ya. #^@#! This is the only thing left! We didn't ask you earlier, and we didn't want it to come to this, but…"

"If this is truly the last option there is, then we must do it. Shera, I wish to do the actual tests myself…I don't want you or anyone else to feel the burden of guilt if anything should go wrong…"

"Alright, Vincent...then we start tomorrow..."

For the next few days, Vincent, Cid, and Shera busied themselves with repairing what was left of the old lab in the basement and gathering the supplies they would need. Meanwhile, Cloud and Tifa kept watch over Lucrecia.

Lucrecia never woke up from whatever she was suffering and by the time they had figured it out, her body had suffered so much, it was beyond any human help.

"We finally got the results from those tests." Vincent dropped a manila folder on the table in front of him.

"And...How does it look, Vincent?"

"Not good...not good at all..." Vincent trailed off.

Tifa picked up the results and looked at them in disbelief. There, on the page, were written the indisputable words of death: Jenova cells and Mako poisoning. Vincent just stared off into space, muttering, "I wish we never did these tests...It would have been better never to have known...or would it? I don’t know...maybe I was meant to know...the fate she suffered without her side..."

Tifa turned her attention back to the neatly drawn out report Vincent and Shera had put together to the best of their knowledge.

"Lucrecia has both Jenova cells in her and normal human cells. These two, from what was gathered, react in two very different ways to Mako energy. Jenova cells are preserved by Mako, at best, but usually do not react violently with Mako. However, human cells do react violently with Mako energy. Her prolonged exposure (about 30 years) to Mako energy, have mutated her cells by massively poisoning her with Mako. The two different cell types living within her body can no longer co-exist, and so her body is fighting itself; one part consuming the other..." And there, the report abruptly ended.


Lucrecia’s funeral was a small one, and the clouds overhead only added their tears to the tears of those present. Although nobody said much, it was obvious what everyone wanted to say. Tifa and Cloud wished to offer words of condolence, but they didn’t know much about Vincent’s relationship with Lucrecia. Shera offered words of hope, and Cid did the only thing he could think of; being tough.

"You ok, Vince?"

After some hesitation, Vincent replied, "Yeah. I just can’t believe this twist of fate. I finally find her, Cid, and look how fate has robbed me again."

"Ya can't dwell on that now, Vince. What's done is done. Ya gotta go on livin'."

"I can't go on…Even if my body went on forever, my soul is dead…I want only to end this hell I'm living in and be one with Lucrecia."

"Now, that's not the Vincent I know!! @#%#! The Vincent I know would deal with this in a more rational way and @#%^-in' find a way to go on…I mean, hell, you've done it once before. You can do it again."

"It's different now. I once had an intense hatred and vengeance against Hojo to keep me going. I also had a glimmer of hope that maybe Lucrecia was alive. But now I have paid Hojo back our debt of pain and she is gone. I have nothing left to live for…"

"Sure you do, Vincent," Shera interjected. "For starters, you can rebuild this town."

"That's right," Tifa joined in. "Vince…Cloud and I can help you find a purpose to your life again. Besides, it would be nice if our hometown was filled with life once more."

"Life…" Vincent chuckled. Annoyance filled his voice. "What is it good for? I have been alive for so long, and have found nothing good in life. Do any of you even know how old I really am? This shell of a body hides my true age so well…I've lived for 58 years on this god-forsaken world. I've had enough of this thing called 'life.' Just let me go…"

"Vincent!!! If you keep on talking like this, I'm going to make you suffer so much worse than Hojo's worst experiments you're gonna wish Hojo himself would come back and kill you!!! Tifa yelled as she shook her fist at Vincent.

Silence…except for the pitter-patter of rain hitting the ground…

"I'm sorry, Tifa." Vincent looked down at the ground. "It's just that my life has been hell since the day I was born…I accept your help in rebuilding Nibelheim and I will try to find meaning to my life once again."

So Tifa and Cloud had stayed a little longer to help Vincent get over his loss. And to make sure he didn’t' try to hurt himself.

"The Strifes left about a month ago," thought Vincent as he looked away from the flames. "...And Lucrecia left two months ago." He looked out the window, and saw that the snow was still falling but that the sun had gone down most of the way.

"Two months…and I have yet to find a new purpose in life."

Nibelheim was slowly being repopulated, but despite all the joy the people in the town seemed to have, Vincent still felt incomplete and hopeless. The only reason he kept on going was because his friends would not allow him to die. And so, he trudged along; each day more depressing than the last.

Seeing that the sun had set while he was musing, Vincent decided it was time for bed. Yawning, Vincent got out of his chair, and suddenly felt more alone than usual. As he climbed the stairs to get ready for bed, he felt like something strange and special was about to happen.

"I have been thinking about Lucrecia a lot lately," he conceded to no one in particular, but wondered why that should make any difference on this cold, wintry night.

As he climbed into bed, he also felt a twinge of fear, and guilt, as if somehow, something was not quite right. "Then again, nothing ever feels right," Vincent mumbled to himself. "Since when have I ever been able to sleep right, knowing all the sins in my heart?"

Falling uncomfortably into sleep, Vincent was painfully aware that he was having the usual nightmares about Hojo again; those experiments and Hojo’s laughing as he lay on a cold table. But worse than that, there were eviler, nameless demons tearing at his soul. Vincent had never been able to figure out what they were. Tonight, however, would be the night he would see the demons for what they were. For the nightmare took an unexpected turn from its usual course and became something so very different.

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