Lariat
Doc Waterbearer.net

Chapters

0. A Lady's Request (Can't Be Denied)
1. The City of Ghosts
2. Find My Love's Ghost
3. The Demon's Lure and the Angel's Cry
4. The Never-Ending Fall
5. The Fine Line (Between Dreams and Nightmares)
6. The Demons Inside
7. And We Bleed Gold
8. Of Devils and Angels
9. Ethereal Games
10. God's Kingdom
11. From Heaven To Hell
12. Liberation Comes
13. One Step Forward
14. Purgatory Wandering
15. The Puppet's Betrayal
16. When the Sun Left the Earth
17. And There Was A Savior

The night's moon was not enough to penetrate the unmoving gloom of Midgar. The ghastly lights from neon signs and flashing light bulbs blocked out the stars and the moon, which, if the manmade glow had been dimmed, would have showed through from the holes in the piped ceilings. So many holes riddled the ceiling that it was impossible to think of it as such; the sky could be seen plainly, but only as a blackish-blue tint. If one were to climb higher up the skyscraper-like buildings, all that could be made out were a few dismal stars; the pollution settled in a thick haze nearest the bottom, where people and stores dwelled.

The rain fell slowly from the sky, so slowly in fact that one would think it to be snow rather than just the few simple drops from above. The streets, sidewalks, the distorted metal contraptions that passed as transportation vehicles, all sleek and covered with beads of tainted water. It brought with it a willing silence, almost strangely so. The moon cast deformed shadows of the towering buildings and below them, in the safety of their shade, the people walked. From this height they were simply faceless strangers, slithering on in quiet procession.

"So the dead can walk." Beneath the shadow that covered his face, the slightest of smiles touched his lips. The rain caused his long, uneven hair to stick to his cheeks and his red cloak to shimmer slightly under the moon's faint glow. He could see the moon plainly from his seat upon the roof of one of the tallest buildings in Midgar. "Brings back memories..." He crouched down upon the edge of the building, watching as people bumbled along below, as small and as meaningless to him as ants.

"I never did like memories." Cid stood behind Vincent and flicked his cigarette butt over the side of the rail Vincent so nimbly balanced upon. The rainwater doused the smoldering stub before it ever touched the ground below. "Especially of the past variety." He looked over the edge, smiled, and backed away. "Shit, come down from there, Vin."

Vincent, under the pushed up collar of his cloak, smirked briefly. "Afraid I will fall, Cid? Never knew you cared so much." Vincent spun around quickly on one boot, balanced on that same boot for a second more - one that seemed forever in Cid's mind - and jumped down from the railing. The crude metal tubes squeaked and shuddered before they stopped completely, only the rhythmical pounding of rain now echoing for minutes after.

Cid made a noise that sounded like "pfft" and took out the packet of cigarettes from behind the strap of his goggles, pushing one slender stick up close to his grinning lips. "Let's go. There's money to be made in this hole of a city."

*

The rain of last night did very little in cooling off the morning's stifling heat. Still, people lingered around the streets of Midgar, waiting for anyone who looked as if they carried a good amount of gil. The city of eternal darkness, that was Midgar. The scorched, polluted skies cast a forever dim appearance upon city and all its inhabitants, forcing them to be slaves of the night for as long as they lived their miserable lives. Their city was not one of money, so leaving for a better world with bright, sunny skies was more a pleasant and far away dream than a reality. If one were lucky to gather even enough gil to leave, chance has it they would be mugged, killed and thrown in a ditch before they ever made it to the train station.

"And why are we here again, Cid? If there are people with money, they're definitely not in the Slums." Vincent rolled his neck to rid it of kinks and began walking towards one of the many taverns scattered through out Midgar, not bothering to wait for his partner. Arms hidden under his scarlet colored cloak, Vincent padded his way across the dirt-carpeted ground and towards the bar doors. Even with the rain of last night, nothing seemed enough to quench the thirst of the dusty ground.

"Think for a minute, will ya?" Cid tapped his head with an unlit cigarette. "People who do have money are robbed here, right? Then the people who mug them are the ones with the money. But then those people are robbed by others like 'em -"

"And thus is the circle of life." Vincent slipped through the swinging pub doors, walking into the tavern before the wooden doors had the chance to swing back.

Cid stopped the doors' movement with one well-placed hand and followed him in. "Dammit, Valentine. I can't stand it when you do that. Leavin' me there lookin' like a jackass..." He mumbled, fishing through his pockets for his lighter. Shoving the cigarette in his mouth and cupping one hand around the slender stick's opposite end, he lit it without bothering to finish his sentence.

"Vincent? Where the hell did you go?" Cid looked up from the still lit lighter and scanned the small, crammed bar for his friend. But as usual, his search of only a few fleeting minutes came up with nothing. Finally giving up with his tedious search, Cid found an open seat by the front counter, where two beautiful blonds happened to be chatting. "The hell with it. It's his turn to find a job." Cid smiled, turning on his Highwind charm for the unsuspecting ladies. Never mind the fact that he already had someone waiting for him back in Rocket Town. Never mind that that particular someone would do almost anything for him. Cid couldn't be bothered with things like that.

Vincent pushed through the crowds of people, which almost resembled a wall around the tables and chairs, making it practically impossible to pass through. Vincent managed however, finally finding an open seat near the end of the bar, opposite of Cid at the other end, who could no longer be seen passed the people's heads. To his right there was an interesting looking woman with hair streaked a brilliant green and pink. Her lips and eyelids were painted with elaborate colors, which showed brightly against the otherwise somberness of the bar. She smiled at Vincent and, from what he could tell from her thick and most likely fake eyelashes, she winked at him. Vincent didn't pay much attention; he was more interested in what information the bartender could tell him. Every bartender withheld some secret and with the right persuasion, Vincent was confident that he could get to this information.

However, the bartender was busy with other customers, down near Cid's end, and from what Vincent could tell it would be a moment before he could get the man's attention. He knew Cid wouldn't be of any help this morning, for he seemed to be having a great time with the two blonds on either side of him. Vincent shook his head slightly, his long hair thrashing his cheeks.

Youíre worthless sometimes, Cid. I don't know why I put up with you.

Vincent smiled slightly when the taller of the two blondsí "boyfriend" pulled Cid back from off the barstool by the collar of his blue jacket. As worthless as Vincent deemed Cid at times, he couldn't picture a day without the cynical ex-pilot. He had been Cid's partner for longer than he remembered knowing and he was the only person Vincent trusted with his life, which Cid had saved more often than he cared to admit. Vincent sighed as Cid rose up in a drunken daze and landed a punch in the boyfriend's stomach. The hit, however, did little to deter the large man, larger than Cid both in height and muscle. Cid seemed to enjoy picking fights he knew he couldn't win. The rest of the brawl could no longer be seen by Vincent's eyes, for a mob of hustling men entered the pub and blocked his view.

He would save Cid later, after he suffered a few more bruises and scrapes. Besides, the bartender was more important now. Cid could handle himself in the meantime.

"Aren't you going to help your friend?"

Vincent looked casually to the right of him at the sound of the soft feminine voice. He half expected it to belong to the lady that was originally there. But the bright pink and green hair was gone, replaced now by a shorter, gentler looking woman with brown locks. At least Vincent assumed her hair was brown, for in the darkness of the pub it was hard to tell. The light from above them, which at a time when cigarette and cigar smoke wasn't hampering sight, would have been enough to see the woman's features better. But from what he could tell she was quite stunning - he found that strange for a girl in a place like this.

She looked terribly out of place, as well.

"Friend?" Vincent scoffed, his voice hard to hear above the cheers, hollers and bellows of the people around them. "Who says he's a friend?"

"I saw him calling after you when you came in...Vincent, was it?" She didn't look at him, almost like she did not want to meet with his gaze, and she continued to stare at the counter of the bar, as if something of immense importance lied there with the broken mugs and spilled beer.

Vincent watched her warily. Her large brown eyes shimmered under the faint light of the lamps above. She was...crying? He couldn't tell at first, but it became obvious that she indeed was; another shimmering tear descended down her face and fell to the counter she was leaning upon, mingling with the other liquids spilled there. She finally moved her head to look at him and he could tell now that her eyes were brimmed red. And with the shadows being dispelled with a simple turn of her head, he could see just how young she truly was. Vincent guessed her age to be around twenty.

"You shouldn't leave your friends when they are in trouble." She looked away again and fixed her gaze back upon the counter top, the shadows once more covering the upper portion of her face. "Sometimes... they are all we have."

"Cid can handle himself." Vincentís expressionless face did not alter and his eyes were no longer on the girl but on the bartender, still nearest the other end of the tavern.

I suppose I'll have to try another way to get his attention.

Vincent made a move to stand, as hard as that was with hundreds of bodies all around him, but the young woman's soft voice halted him.

"Are you a bounty hunter?" She asked.

Bounty hunter? Vincent never tried to label what he was. He only thought of himself as a drifter, constantly moving around, doing different jobs for different people. He placed his right hand, wrapped in leather, upon the counter. His other arm stayed hidden under his red cloak. "Sometimes."

he woman nodded, raised her hand, which was then enveloped by the shadows on her face, and brushed away another falling tear. "What are you now?"

"Whatever my employer wants me to be."

She looked back toward him at the same time his gaze fell again on her. She couldn't quite place the look within his eyes, which were a strange scarlet color, and for a moment they almost frightened her. Such a powerful and chilling stare... Yet there was something almost sadly haunting about those blood-red orbs of his. "Are you employed now?"

"No."

"Then... would you be willing to do a job for me?" Her method of asking was almost surprising to Vincent. Rather than subtly working it into the conversation, she was being explicitly blunt with what she wanted. Either she had little time or little experience with matters such as these.

Vincent was no longer worrying about the bartender. The single word "job" was enough to grab at his attention, which she now had, since she was so willingly offering him one. "It depends."

"On what?"

"The job. What do you want us to do?" Vincent's left hand was still concealed beneath his cloak and it was tapping something just as unseen upon his belt.

The young woman was impossibly still upon her seat. If she indeed was inexperienced with hiring bounty hunters, then she hid her uneasiness quite well. Her face stayed as impassive and as calm as Vincent's. The only one thing that betrayed her feelings were the tears that streaked her lovely face. "I want you and your friend to find someone for us."

""Us?"

"The people I work with." She looked at the pub doors for the first time, then settled her gaze back on the counter, as if she expected someone to be waiting there for her. "We'll pay whatever you want. I just want him back. Alive."

Him? Vincent guessed that the man of whom she spoke with such fondness was either her lover or a family member. But he would bother with the details later, such as the way of payment. Vincent had had plenty of people meet him in taverns asking for him to do a certain thing or to find a certain someone, but never anyone this young or with such candor. And while he was still wary of just whom she worked for and just how he and Cid were to be paid, a job was a job.

"You have yourself two bounty hunters, Lady."

The girl showed what appeared to be a smile, although it looked terribly pained, and she glanced at him with nothing less of a warm expression, which seemed somewhat odd in a city like this. It was the first time he saw her smile since he spoke with her. "Tifa," she said quietly.

"What?"

"My name is Tifa."