3 - Just Like Old Times

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He could smell the ocean.
Cid lay on the flagstones, breathing the rain-heavy air that carried a faint trace of sea salt. Consciousness, a dim and blurry thing, began to take form. His body was stiff, stilled to the core. Whether from the blood he'd lost or the driving rain, he couldn't say. Only his stomach, from which blood still flowed, was warm. His thoughts grew strangely poetic. He mused that the blood gushed from him like like lava from a volcano or somesuch. He harbored no delusions of being a poet.

Even as he danced with these stark thoughts, color and sound seemed to gently fade from the world around him.
As he lay there, a vaguely unpleasant sensation of spinning washed over his body. Round and round, round and round. Oi, this wasn't good.

Seeing the bullet open a hole in his gut, Cid felt as though he was watching it happen to someone else. He couldn't decide if that was because he'd been shot like this once before, or just that he'd lost so much blood he couldn't think clearly. He decided it was probably a little of both.

At first he thought he was alone, but then the weight of someone's gaze fell on him. He opened his eyes the slightest crack and looked up into the driving rain.
He thought he saw pale blue eyes looking down into his. He pushed the thought away. It couldn't be. That was impossible. There weren't any eyes the last time, why should there be now?

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An image flashed before him. There in silence stood a slender woman. Her dark, indigo hair was wet, and she wore a steady, dark expression. She mouthed words with blue-stained lips, but Cid couldn't hear her. He tried to open his own mouth in reply, but failed. Slowly, she raised her arm. A flash of light bloomed in the barrel of her gun. Fireworks. The gaze of those pale blue eyes, the spinning landscape. Finally, the smell of the ocean.
All of this had happened before. No. No, this time was different. Soon there would be no blood left to bleed. That was all it was. And then it would be over. She wasn't there. She hadn't shot him. She hadn't done this. He had to hold on.

Cid opened his eyes again. A dark mist clouded his vision. Stars danced. Determined to know if the eyes he'd seen were only his imagination, he lifted his head. He was alone. No one was standing over him. Satisfied of his solitude, he again rested his cheek on the rain-slick flagstone. The corners of his mouth curved back in a grin. Maybe things weren't so bad after all.

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What had he said then? He'd said he would live. He'd left behind his past, his duties, his obligations, everything. And now a ghost out of that very past had chosen to haunt him at the worst possible time. It was enough to make him laugh. The past didn't want to let go.
He had to hold on. He had to live. That's why he'd left in the first place.

But this was no time to worry over the past. No, there was the boy to worry over now. That strange boy who'd literally fallen out of the sky before Cid's own eyes.
He had to get back, that much he knew. Struggling to stand, it was clear his body wasn't going to cooperate. His arms and legs might as well have belonged to someone else. With great effort, he finally moved his right arm ever so slightly. As he did, he felt a rush of light-headedness. His vision went black, as though someone had tied a blindfold over his eyes. If this was what happened when he moved an arm, this wasn't going to go well.
If he passed out, he'd be done for. His body was ready to give in, but he refused to let it. He fought for consciousness, and won.
Over the ringing of his ears, he heard the distant crunch of gravel. The sound drew steadily nearer, until at last it stopped beside him. There was something black wavering before him. A piece of cloth. No, it was more than that, it was a cloak. Of course.

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Just like before. Lowering his gaze and drawing a breath, Cid addressed the figure standing beside him.
"I'm not ready to die yet. Come to save me again, have you, Judge?"
There was no answer, but the chill loosened its grip on his body, and the pain in his stomach eased. A gentle calm settled over him.
He would be all right. He would live.

The rain had slackened, and in its place a tepid wind caressed his cheek. Cid breathed in the air and gave himself over to sleep. He could smell the ocean on the wind.


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