I own nothing. Just playing.

Chapter Nine

Something Different Going Wrong

Buffy's POV

Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.

Mark Twain

I looked into Cloud's glowing eyes and was somehow reminded of seeing the disapproving stares of my friends back in Sunnydale. I didn't know exactly what I was in trouble for this time, but I wasn't going to stick around and wait for the inevitable chastisement. I started off down the trail, intent on getting a stiff drink at the bar I had visited earlier.

I felt Vincent fall into place behind me and we descended the mountain in silence, listening to Yuffie babbling inane promises at Tifa and Cloud to return their materia immediately. Everything that had happened and all she could think about was materia. She was even telling them she wanted the ones back that she had been using before.

Insane.

When we reached the main part of town, the blond swordsman, the busty martial artist, and the idiot ninja began heading off in the direction of Yuffie's house, but stopped when they realized we weren't with them. They, Cloud especially, glared at us with impatience.

I sighed, cast a longing glance at Turtle's Paradise, and resigned myself to chasing down the group's materia instead of cultivating a healthy buzz.

"Miss Summers," Vincent said quietly and I turned to him. He held out his arm. "Would you care to join me for a drink? I'm sure our compatriots will be more than happy to alert us when they have finished."

I took the proffered arm and glanced back at the staring group, daring them to say something, anything, derogatory about me, my companion, or anything else. But Cloud only gave us a sharp nod before turning on his heel and stalking away, the two girls following along behind him, casting bug-eyed looks over their shoulders.

I let Vincent lead me into the bar and up to the counter. He ordered drinks for both of us, scotch, neat, while I surveyed the room. Mostly a bunch of Asian-looking guys split between staring at us and staring at a table hidden in the shadows in the back corner of the room.

I studied it for a moment and, as Vincent handed me my drink, I could just make out the occupants at the table. The Turks. It seemed as though, even after all the life-threatening situations, they were still on vacation.

I grabbed Vincent's hand and led him to an empty table in the opposite corner as theirs. My dark-haired companion took the seat in the chair in the corner and I sat across from him. I was curious to see if he would drink with the cloak on, since the thing covered his mouth.

I watched entirely spellbound as he reached up and deftly undid the clasps, all of them, and quickly shrugged his shoulders, letting the cloak fall down his back and pool on his chair.

I had wondered if all the Turks, former as well as current, were preternaturally beautiful, and I found that they were. I wondered idly if it was by design as I stared at Vincent's full and soft pale lips as he took a long, slow sip of his drink.

He was watching me watching him, although he didn't seem to mind in the slightest. I took a slow, savoring sip of my scotch, and the burn at the back of my throat was a pleasant and familiar sensation.

I hadn't drunk a lot in Sunnydale. There was the time with the enchanted beer and the time I got entirely shitfaced with Spike and that was all. I had never understood the appeal until I was stranded on an island in my first dimension and all I had for company was my choice of a lecherous pirate or rum. I picked the rum, although I've had more than a few naughty daydreams about what might have happened if I had chosen the pirate instead.

Anyway, that incident was the beginning of my appreciation for liquor. And even though the scotch was delicious and strong, I was becoming more and more intoxicated by the glowing red eyes staring into mine.

I wanted to break the silence. I really did. There were a million things I wanted to ask him. Why the group had found him in a coffin. What had happened to him before that. What Yuffie had meant when about him turning into a monster.

Whether or not he wanted to go get a room at the nearest Inn because he was gorgeous and it had been a very long time for me.

But luckily, I didn't say any of those things, especially that last one. I felt that if Vincent ever wanted me to know anything, he would tell me, but he wouldn't appreciate prying, no matter how curious I was.

I was just about to completely embarrass myself by staring at his full, sexy lips again, when he threw his cloak back on, fastening it with practiced ease. A moment later, someone sat down beside me, flinging an arm around my shoulders.

"Hello, Reno," I said as I watched the fiery redhead from the corner of my eye. He really was a pretty one, with his wide, sardonic smile and those red scars beneath his eyes. He also had very long fingers that were playing in the hair that spilled over my left shoulder.

"Buffy," he acknowledged with a smile. Then he nodded at my companion. "Valentine."

Vincent raised an eyebrow at him, clearly questioning what he was doing sitting at our table. We drank in silence, Reno and I, while Vincent's drink sat forgotten and ignored in front of him, and I watched them both as much as I was able. When our glasses were finished, it was the Turk that signaled for another round.

We had barely started on our second drinks when Rude joined us, sliding in next to Vincent without a word, beer in hand. It was hard to tell behind the sunglasses, but I had the feeling he was glaring at Reno.

"You didn't have to say that," he said finally.

The man beside me looked over at him and I realized he had been staring at me. I glanced at Vincent in confusion, my rock in a strange situation and found that he was watching Reno with slightly narrowed eyes and a blank face.

"No, she needs to know," Reno said to his partner. "She's a Turk for god's sake. She can't act that weak or she shouldn't be part of the organization." He sighed and downed the rest of his drink before signaling for another round for the table. "Where is she now?"

"The Inn," Rude supplied.

Reno smirked. "Good. Maybe she won't be as bitchy after some sleep." Then he turned to Vincent and me. "So, what are you two doing with that group of yahoos, yo?" he asked curiously.

I glanced at Vincent, but I knew very well that he wasn't going to say anything. And I had put up with enough silent treatment from the rest of the team to deal with it while sitting in the bar.

"I have a debt to repay," I answered finally after a long sip of my drink.

"A debt to that Chocobo-haired loser?" Reno asked incredulously.

I smirked. "No, more like a debt to the Higher Powers. Helping Cloud's group just happens to fulfill the parameters."

"No honor among debtors, yo," Reno chuckled. "How'd you learn to fight so well? If you were in SOLDIER, you'd have mako eyes, but you don't. And no one fights like that without some kind of training." He narrowed his eyes at me as though he were going to find the answers hidden in my skin.

I was going to answer him, although I'm not entirely sure I was planning to be truthful, but I was interrupted by furious glowing eyes.

"First he offers you a job and now you're drinking with them?" Cloud bellowed.

The few remaining customers bolted for the doors and the bartender gave the swordsman a venomous glare before retreating to the back room. I guess he didn't want to get caught up in a fight, if it came to that. I was also betting that the Turks' tab was going to be outrageous.

"Please," I said jovially, "pull up a chair.

Strife eyed me, the distrust palpable in his gaze. He looked from me to Vincent and back again, ignoring the two other men at the table entirely.

Finally, after the nudging of his lone, buxom companion, he dragged a chair over for Tifa and one for himself, placing them at the end of the table. He sat in the one he put next to Rude, perhaps remembering that the bald Turk was the one with the crush on Tifa, leaving her to sit next to Reno. Then he looked at me pointedly, waiting for an answer.

"Hey, we're just having a drink. It's not like we're discussing strategy," I said in confusion. "Kinda not seeing the big deal."

The blond's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. "It's not a big deal?" he asked incredulously. He pointed at Reno for emphasis. "That guy dropped the Plate on Sector Seven! He's killed hundreds of people. He's nothing but a cold-blooded murderer. And you're both just calmly having a drink with him?"

"Yep," I replied easily, popping the 'p.' "Maybe you've forgotten, but I wasn't here for the beginning of your little crusade. And perhaps I don't understand the situation completely, because I was under the impression that the Plate was dropped to stop your group, AVALANCHE, from blowing up any more reactors." I looked to Rude and Reno for confirmation, and they both nodded solemnly. "And just out of curiosity, did anyone die in those reactor explosions?"

"Twenty-two engineers, five scientists, and a janitor," Reno answered grimly before taking a deep swig of his scotch.

"And Vincent?" I inquired politely of the stoic gunman. "Have you ever killed anyone?"

The redhead beside me began to snicker and Rude even looked over and raised an eyebrow over his glasses.

Vincent gazed at me, those limitless red eyes making things quiver deep inside me and I had to forcibly push myself to ignore it.

"Yes," he finally answered. "I have taken life before."

"As have I. So, it's safe to say that there are only murderers at this table," I surmised.

The three Turks, former and current, didn't exactly look shocked, but Tifa and Cloud looked absolutely stricken by the comparison.

"But," the brunette fighter sputtered, "we were trying to help people."

Her protests rang hollow in my ears. "Oh, so I guess since your reasons were slightly more altruistic than theirs," I said, gesturing at the Turks, "that makes those people that were caught in a fiery reactor explosion a little less dead? No. And since their blood is on your hands, I think judging people is a little bit hypocritical. Just because we all fight for a different reason doesn't mean any of us are better. As long as our ultimate aims are the same, that's all that should count. And I don't think these guys want that meteor to hit this planet any more than you do."

Cloud glared vehemently at me. "I don't agree with their methods," he spat self-righteously.

"Doesn't matter," I dismissed with a casual wave of my hand. "None of us want the planet destroyed or Sephiroth to take over, so we should all just stay out of each other's way."

I downed the rest of my drink and stood, grabbing my sword from where I had unceremoniously leaned it against the wall and slung it up on my shoulder. "Are we trekking back to the airship tonight or what?" I asked, eyeing the darkening windows. The dark didn't bother me. The Slayer gig comes with excellent night vision, but not everyone was like that.

Tifa shook her head. "We've got rooms at the Inn. You and Vincent are sharing one," she said as she held out a small, brass key.

I took it, ignoring the fact that my comments had caused her eyes to fill with tears, and after a moment's consideration, I leaned down and kissed Reno on the cheek. "Thanks for the drink," I said before I stalked out of the bar and into the night.