Chapter 1: Red
A habit that Ella picked up only weeks after meeting Vincent, was hiding in his cape. She wasn’t used to being around a lot of people the way she was in the towns they stopped in. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason. She would also hide in it when she was cold, lonely, or any reason she needed comfort.
Ella couldn’t tell if Vincent was bothered by it at first, seeing as she had only just met him and he wasn’t the easiest person to read, to begin with. If he was, he never told her.
Maybe it wasn’t the red cape that comforted her, but the person wearing it.
Chapter 2: Feathers
“Hey, Ella. What are you up to?”
The small brunette lifted a hand basket into view, full of lots of feathers. She beamed up at Angeal as he examined them.
”I’m collecting feathers so I can make my own wings! I wanna fly!”
”You’ll have quite... er... unique wings with feathers from so many birds.”
”I don’t care what my wings look like as long as I can use them!”
Angeal knew she would never actually be able to fly with those wings but decided not to crush the kid’s dreams just yet. Maybe he’d break it to her later.
Chapter 3: Angel's Wings
Ella came rushing up to the three warriors in a whirlwind of excitement, waving around a sheet of paper. Lifting the paper into view and finally stilling it revealed a novice drawing of Vincent, Angeal, and Genesis. The drawing depicted the former Turk in Chaos form and the two SOLDIERS with large, feathered wings.
Genesis inspected the artwork with interest, "A lovely drawing, my dear, but why do we look like that?"
"I was going to just draw you all normally but Angeal's name gave me inspiration! I think you'd look pretty with wings!"
Vincent was... very concerned...
Chapter 4: Please?
Ella pounced onto the hotel room couch next to Genesis, a book in hand, and pressed herself into his side. She ignored the way grumbled a little at being disturbed shoved the book into his hands.
"Can you read to me? Please, please, please?"
Genesis thought about it and glanced at the nine-year-old, "You could ask Angeal, you know."
"I could," she replied, drawing the last word out, "but you're more interesting to listen to."
"I am, am I?"
"Yes! So can you read to me?"
"Mmm. I suppose. What book is it?"
"The one about the hero!"
Chapter 5: Borrowed
When Angeal reached for his Buster sword one morning and found only empty air, he, of course, panicked a little. It was an heirloom and missing. He entered the living space of the hotel room their group had rented and saw Vincent and Genesis silently helping each other prepare the kitchen for breakfast.
"Have either of you seen my sword?"
Genesis raised an eyebrow, "It's missing?"
Vincent's stare directed behind Angeal had the latter turning his head. A tiny, fragile-looking Ella was somehow dragging the large sword into the room.
She shifted uncomfortably, "Sorry. I wanted to play."
Chapter 6: Vampire
"Are you a vampire?"
Vincent turned his red eyes down at the child that had been following him around ever since his wakening. The question was asked so innocently, out of pure curiosity, it had him pausing.
Is she serious? Would she really still be following me if she believed I was a vampire?
He stared blankly at her, "No."
It was a simple, blunt answer yet it had her smiling widely. Vincent was still trying to figure the girl out. She wasn't afraid of him in the slightest and didn't seem bothered by much. He wondered who she was...
Chapter 7: Role Model
Vincent hardly believed himself to be a good role model yet that didn't seem to stop the odd seven-year-old from trying to be like him. Sans the guns. She got twitchy around them. It wasn't just the big things she tried to copy, it was the little things too. Like the way he put on a shirt before bed. Or little gestures. He even caught her attempting to match his walk.
The kid couldn't be intimidating even if her life depended on it. But she still tried, especially when strangers started cooing at her. She flustered too easily.
Chapter 8: Roommates
Vincent was ill-prepared to deal with rooming with a child. He wasn't ready for the sudden dependence she had on him. Sure, she didn't ask for anything but he could tell without her saying anything, that she needed or wanted something. Ella was afraid of the dark and refused to sleep alone. She tried to on their first few nights but she would always end up crying and would try to sleep on the floor next to his bed because she didn't want to ask to share. After nights of that, he eventually got used to sharing his bed.
Chapter 9: Weird
Ella was a weird kid. Everyone she met knew this. She was smarter than average, anti-social, for the most part, and she said the strangest things. She'd do even stranger things. Like when she wandered off sometimes when they reached a town or city they hadn't been to before. She'd disappear for hours sometimes and when asked why she wouldn't respond and seemed confused about it herself.
Whenever Genesis and Angeal came to visit, she'd poke at their shoulder blades when she hugged them but didn't whenever she hugged Vincent. No one knew how or why she did things.
Chapter 10: Safe
Ella didn't have much experience with strangers. Vincent was quite popular amongst the monster hunters around the Eastern and Western Continents, so she had grown familiar with the ones they worked with often. Some tried to dote on her or keep her away from the fighting but she ignored them all. She'd never listened to Vincent when he tried to keep her away either. She had simply grabbed the nearest sharp thing and followed after him. He eventually just gave up and decided that if she was going to follow anyway, he'd make sure she was safe while doing so. She picked up on how to use materia easily enough and the same went for knives.
The child never used her newly acquired weapons on humans or normal wildlife. That, at least, Vincent took comfort in. It relieved him that she was innocent enough that it never crossed her mind. Unfortunately, that also meant she was completely unaware that other people did. Luckily, she never went anywhere without him, practically glued to his side. So any hostility from humans would be highly discouraged. Not everyone was like Ella. People were intimidated by him unlike her.
Now, at eleven-years-old, Vincent decided she was ready to venture back to the inn they were staying at by herself while he sold what they managed to haul in. He knew how bored she got waiting on him. She'd hesitated when he told her she could go but after a bit of thinking, she finally wandered away. He thought she'd be fine, was confident she knew her way around enough to find her way back.
That was... until she screamed.
It was a brief one, small even. But Vincent's enhanced senses picked up on it and he was running before his mind caught up with him. The being he shared a body with was raging, screaming to be allowed control. He blocked it out in favor of diverting all his focus into finding his kid.
Genesis and Angeal had a mission together after a while of solos. Simple monster extermination near Kalm. They would kill the beasts and spend the night at Kalm, then head back the next day. They had hardly been in Kalm for five minutes when they'd heard a familiar scream. But it wasn't the one they were used to. It wasn't one of playfulness, but one of fear.
Genesis was the first one to react, running in the direction of the sound. He turned down an alley and saw a man who was not Vincent, covering Ella's mouth and keeping her arms pinned to her side. The girl had tears streaming down her face, terror in her eyes. Genesis saw red. He rushed the man while he still had the element of surprise, barreling into him from the side. The impact had him releasing the child and the SOLDIER used his quick reflexes to catch her before she fell with the unenhanced man. That's when Angeal arrived and took in the situation. He quickly pinned the would-be kidnapper before he could recover and turned to Genesis.
"Get her out of here. I'll handle him."
Normally, Genesis would have protested seeing as the man had tried hurt someone he cared about, therefore making it personal. But seeing as he had said person clinging to him, trembling and crying, he would have to make an exception. He needed to find Vincent.
Lifting Ella into his arms, he made his way toward the inn. He hoped that Vincent was actually in town and not out hunting. It took less than a minute to find the man seeing as he was also looking for Ella. He must have heard her himself or realized she wasn't with him but had been farther away.
"I suppose we're all lucky Angeal and I happened to be right around the corner," Genesis said as Vincent approached them.
The dark-haired man's hands moved to take Ella and the SOLDIER passed her on, the child clinging to Vincent's red cloak the second she realized he was there. She was still shaken and unnervingly silent. Vincent checked her in a glance, likely searching for any injuries, but found none.
Genesis nodded, his usual theatrics absent in the serious situation, "We should get her inside."
Vincent was sitting beside Ella, trying to think of the best way to approach the subject. He wanted her to talk to him but she seemed bent on ignoring what had nearly happened. She remained silent and refused to look at him or Genesis, tightly gripping the mug of tea in her hands. She had yet to even take a sip and the steam was starting fade, indicating that it was getting cold.
Vincent could hear the sounds of Angeal's footsteps well before he entered the room. The young man looked disturbed. Genesis walked over to the tiny kitchenette connected the living space to make some more tea for his friend while he checked on Ella himself. She didn't acknowledge his presence any more than she had the others. Disappointing, but not unexpected.
Sighing, Angeal set his blade aside and took a seat beside Vincent as Genesis returned. He handed the mug off and returned to staring at the pre-teen.
"Ella, talk to us," he said firmly, finally having enough the silent treatment they were getting.
The red-head huffed briefly in annoyance, prompting a small flinch out of her. A negative reaction, but a reaction nonetheless. Angeal moved from his seat and placed his hands over Ella's which tightened even further around her mug.
"...Right before Gen showed up... the guy said there would be others... What-" she broke off as her voice cracked, "What if it happens again...?"
Vincent took the chance to speak up, "Then we make sure you're not alone. We'll protect you."
Genesis nodded his agreement, "My friend, the fates are cruel... If anyone dares try again, all you need do is let us know and we'll handle them. My soul, corrupted by vengeance..."
"LOVELESS, Act IV," Angeal hummed, "You'll be safe with us."
All Vincent knew was that it would be a while before he let her out of sight when they weren't with friends or in a safe place.
Chapter 11: Knight
This is likely to be crap. I was just writing for the sake of writing here.
Vincent almost couldn't believe it had been almost a year since he and Ella first crossed paths with Genesis and Angeal. The SOLDIER pair had this uncanny ability to just... show up... at the most random of times. At first, it was likely just coincidence and recognition upon sight but now he had the suspicion they were looking for them now, no matter how much they played it off as the former. Ella always welcomed them with open arms and wide smiles that were almost always reserved for himself. It was strange how she took to their presence so much better than anyone else. It didn't make sense. It seemed like such a one-time thing that he almost wrote it off as another oddity of hers. Or maybe she knew what they were despite the odds being against it and, in a very child-like fashion, believed they were like fairy-tales come to life. It wasn't like she questioned odd things like glowing eyes or enhanced senses. But maybe that one was on Vincent seeing as he had both of those and he was her normal.
Genesis still as temperamental as ever and Ella rarely took his little fits personally. It was probably the fact that she still considered him her friend and continued to put up with him that kept the teen from abandoning them, to begin with. Angeal was likely dragging him along beforehand seeing as he got along with Vincent and Ella swimmingly. Vincent especially, seeing as they usually bonded over being the only reasonable ones of their friends.
Ella also liked to act out adventure stories that Vincent read to her, all but forcing Genesis to play with her as the hero. Usually, Angeal ended up as the villain but she'd switch her roles with him sometimes because she "didn't want him to be a bad guy all the time". Of course, then he ended up as either a warrior princess or some other strong female character that Ella got attached to seeing as she liked being right up there in the action. Genesis would then cackle and tease his friend endlessly. He warmed up to playing with her pretty quickly after that. Not only did it provide tons of teasing and blackmail material, but it also put him in the position of the hero, a role he thoroughly enjoyed.
Not to mention, the adventure stories were likely for an older audience than an innocent nine-year-old but she enjoyed them far more than the books on "useless princesses locked away in a tower by an evil dragon and saved by handsome princes". Vincent was smart enough to tone down the books he read, of course. She was far too sensitive to some things for her to be okay with some of the content. The former Turk tried to get her into other things that she could read on her own but not much seemed to interest her. Fairies and rescued princesses and evil dragons never appealed. Nothing particularly girly, for that matter. She loved the stories that took place during war, stories that were more realistic but still had happy endings and heroes and villains, ever the naive child.
Ella seemed to think Genesis fit the role as the Dark Mage, Leonhart the most and, oftentimes, she'd play as the Dark Mage's bubbly younger sister, Lacey while Angeal played as the evil king Iago. Vincent would simply watch as they entertained each other, running about and pretending to fight monsters. Perhaps those reenactments encouraged Ella's fascination with weapons of almost any kind. She respected them, yes, but got a little too casual around them for his liking. Like when she tried to, ahem, borrow Genesis and Angeal's broadswords. They'd caught her before she could and she received a scolding from Vincent and Genesis plus a lecture from Angeal. That deterred her from trying again, at least.
One day, Vincent exposed her to another story a bit different than the others and, if she felt like it, she could read it on her own. It was about a man who came from a backwater town and was pulled into a journey to stop a corrupt king who'd taken his friends and planned to destroy the world. The king's kind-hearted daughter joined the man in his quest and he became her personal knight. A pretty basic story but it still captured Ella's attention none-the-less and eventually became her favorite book.
Of course, he'd then unintentionally set the events where Genesis gave the girl her nickname. The teen got so used to calling her 'princess' while they played that it started slipping out during normal conversations. And not long after, he began declaring that he was her knight. Vincent... almost regretted his decision.
Chapter 12: Trust
When Vincent first met the two newly-minted SOLDIER Seconds, he was suspicious. He had hoped to avoid ShinRa as a whole but in hindsight, that was wishful thinking. These kids were hard proof of that. Ella wasn't at all bothered by them, though, and dragged them into playing with her on their way to finding their prey. Genesis had been huffy about it at first but relaxed into his role as the hero fairly quick.
Vincent still didn't trust them by the time they parted but several more meetings with the pair had him getting used to their presence.
Chapter 13: Cooking/Baking
Ella could cook... in theory. She could bake things, so, really, it couldn't be all that difficult. As it turned out, no, she could not cook. Not really. She could boil water, and make pasta, and rice. But that was just about it. The only way she could cook something was if she had adult supervision so said adult could tell her if she was doing it right. She panicked otherwise.
"Am I doing this right?" she asked, looking up at Angeal.
"Yep. Just keep an eye on it. It changes color once it is cooked all the way through."