Sometimes Vincent wanted to go back and change things. It was a thought that had plagued him for twenty years while he slept in that coffin. Ever since the world ended the first time, Vincent stopped looking back just a little less. He had AVALANCHE, a world to explore, people to save. There was a place for him in this world. There was a place for a man broken by love and betrayed by those he trusted in a world that was still rebuilding.
But, still, he thought about it. Vincent thought about going back and facing his regrets.
That’s why when Reeve mentioned a time travel device, Vincent all but lept at the chance to try it out.
“Preparations are all set for you to travel, Vincent.” Reeve leaned over and adjusted the straps holding Vincent down. It was a necessary precaution to keep the subject from falling out of the chair during the procedure.
The changes, Reeve had said, wouldn’t affect their reality. For them it was more about experiencing the past again: the sights, the smells, the people who had been lost. That, more than anything else, hooked Vincent.
Vincent caught Reeve’s eyes before the commissioner could walk away. “Reeve. Thank you for this.”
Reeve shook his head. “No thanks are necessary. It - it’ll be… it should feel like you’ve had a dream. A nap that you don’t want to wake up from.”
Reeve had tried it out himself, Vincent knew; Vincent could only wonder what moments Reeve had visited, what regrets he had tried to counter. Vincent had his own demons to face.
“Remember, you only have five minutes.” Reeve smiled and walked away. “Good luck!”
Vincent closed his eyes and thought of the date. All the dials were configured, everything was set accordingly. That fateful day in February, when Lucrecia had told Vincent she was going to use her child as the subject.
It wouldn’t change anything that had happened, but maybe it would change her mind - maybe Vincent would have been able to change her mind if he had tried hard enough.
Part of him had to know. Could he have convinced her if he hadn’t been so ambivalent? Or was Lucrecia too strong-minded to bend to his concerns?
Vincent breathed out and closed his eyes.
A sense of vertigo swept over Vincent. He had been sitting but after a moment of wobbling he was upright fully, with his boots on the floor and standing. Vincent blinked against the glare of light; a halo of it surrounded a figure he couldn’t identify. The air was stuffy and reeked of medical supplies and mako: the laboratory then.
It wasn’t where Vincent had wanted to go, but he couldn’t deny that he had spent a lot of time with Lucrecia in the depths of the mansion. The picnic under that deciduous tree in the yard had been where Vincent had wanted to go. But this was fine, too.
“What?!” A voice shouted - Hojo’s voice, Vincent realized with a start. “How did you get free?”
Vincent’s eyes finally adjusted and he saw one Professor Hojo. And Hojo? Hojo was staring at him with a look of utter terror. Blood splattered his lab coat, and stained the operating table - a trail of it led in from the door of the lab. Aside from Hojo and Vincent there was no one here.
Considering Hojo’s habits, this was perfectly usual.
It struck Vincent, also, how young the madman looked. Hojo had spent years toiling on Vincent, bringing him out and playing with him whenever the mood fit. But the face that remained in his mind was the Hojo as he died in Midgar. It was startling to see him otherwise.
“Hn.” Vincent flicked at something itching his shoulder, and his fingers came away with blood.
Ah. So that was when they had gone back to. Vincent knew it wasn’t an exact science, that there were still kinks, but it was about eight months off from when Vincent had wanted to go back to. After all Vincent hadn’t confronted Hojo until Lucrecia was near term.
Well, what was a few months when he had jumped 30 years?
Vincent didn’t feel the bullet, even though it had brought him near death once upon a time. That was interesting.
“How are you even standing?” Hojo was pulling a gun. The professor, renown for his unwavering hands, was trembling just so.
Was this the same man who had laughed in the face of meteor and injected himself with Jenova? Ridiculous. Hilarious, even.
“My, aren’t you curious.” Vincent pulled out a handkerchief out and wiped the blood off his hand before folding it neatly and putting it back into his pocket. It was strange being in his Turk suit, but comfortable at the same time.
This wasn’t what Vincent had wanted to do, but damn if this wasn’t a power trip. Hojo - ever unflappable - afraid of Vincent, unarmed and bleeding out in front of him.
Vincent was surprisingly clear-headed, too. The rumble of Chaos wasn’t clouding his judgement, he didn’t feel the urge to kill and maim like he usually did when he thought of confronting Hojo. Overall this was pretty nice.
The gun wavered. “Well?” There was just a hint of strain in the professor’s voice.
“If you wanted to know, you’d have to become a Turk.” Vincent noticed the desk behind him. It was Lucrecia’s - scattered with papers like she always left it. Vincent leaned against it and casually rooted through the safe. It took only two tries to figure out the code - a little surprising he hadn’t forgotten it after all.
A bead of sweat went down Hojo’s temple; he looked ashen. “You shouldn’t even be alive.”
“What?” Vincent chuckled. “Haven’t you killed anyone before? You know it’s not that easy. You’re a scientist: figure it out.”
Vincent suddenly wondered if he had been the first death at Hojo’s hand. If he was just the first of many, the first that empowered the madman to take and take and take.
“I shot you. You died.”
“Did I?” Vincent found what he was looking for easily. “Ah. Here it is.” It was strange to hold the protomateria and feeling nothing from it. No ache in his chest, no resonance in his bones. It was just a beautiful work of the planet - a summon to end all things.
Hojo took a shaky breath at the sight of it. Did hojo know what it was? Did Hojo fear that Vincent would cast something?
“Do you know what this is, Hojo?” Vincent held the thing up to the light and admired it for just a second more. “The protomateria. Summoner of Chaos: executioner of all life and harbinger of death. Another of the Planet’s WEAPON. And it’s just sitting here on Lu’s desk.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Hojo barked. “There’s no proof -”
“There’s no proof that Jenova is an Ancient either. Perhaps it’s just an advanced alien species that will destroy all life on this world if given the chance.” Vincent held the materia close to his chest; he could feel his own heartbeat, distinct from it. “There’s no proof that what whatever Lu does to me when she gets the chance will work. But I know one thing for a fact: it’ll work a hell of a lot better than anything you could do.”
For all that Vincent’s senses were duller, his mind was clearer than it had been in ages.
The gun cocked. “You’re lying.”
The quickest way to rile Hojo up was still his pride. That is, until Sephiroth comes int othe picture.
“I wouldn’t bother with that.” Vincent said as he twirled the protomateria in his fingers. It was warm in his hands and separate from him. What a pleasant feeling. “You have piss poor aim.”
Hojo was a shaking, sweaty mess. It was like Hojo was meeting his maker when Vincent was standing there, bleeding out right in front of him.
“I’ll go in my own way.” Vincent looked at his manipulator, former ward, and betrayer with a sly look. “Just like Lucrecia will. And Gast. And Elmyra. And even Sephiroth.”
There was a split of confusion on Hojo’s face. Right. Too early for Elmyra to have stepped in, too early for them to know.
“I’ve seen it.” Vincent tapped the protomateria to his forehead. “Sephiroth might be the only weapon we have against Jenova. And yet your obsession will weaken him. Turn him against the world until he burns it to the ground.”
Hojo laughed - it sounded false, hysterical. “You’re hallucinating from blood loss.”
Vincent wondered if Hojo had always had his suspicions, had visions like Lucrecia.
“Hojo.” Vincent said with a smile. “You are very, very lucky that Jenova isn’t awake. That thing destroyed the Ancients, prompted the creation of WEAPON, and is sitting in a containment chamber thirty feet away. And here you are, trying to shoot little old me. Like I matter .”
Hojo gritted his teeth. “I think you should stop talking.”
The world was going blurry at the edges.
Vincent laughed. “I think you’re right.” Vincent looked right into the man’s eyes - deep into his soul. He wondered if there was still a man there left to salvage. “Have a nice life, Professor Hojo.”
And then darkness.
Vincent woke up in the WRO test chamber. He felt groggy, but surprisingly refreshed. There was a hum of voices in the back of his skull, and the familiar pulse of the protomateria in his chest. Reeve was right: it had been just like a nice nap.
“Well?” Reeve said it gently. “How was it?”
“Hmm.” Vincent closed his eyes and remembered the look on Hojo’s face, the smell of Lucrecia wafting in the air. “All in all, a pleasant dream.” Vincent hoped it gave that little shit nightmares.
His fingers flexed to draw Hojo’s blood.
Reeve’s relief was palpable. “I’m glad.”
Nothing in their world had changed, of course. They were still rebuilding from a third apocalypse, but it had been a nice vacation. Vincent felt freer after it.
Oddly, Vincent started having dreams about it. Dreams where Sephiroth had lived, had led the fight against Jenova and dismantled the Shinra Corporation in the meantime. Those were very pleasant dreams, if Vincent said so himself.
Vincent told Reeve about them; Reeve was riveted. Apparently it was highly unusual.
Maybe Vincent had saved that world. Who knew?