Stay With Me Chapter 12

By Lucrecia Marionette

Black. Black. Nothing but black.

There was so much of it.

Where had the red gone? The red was terrible; the red was haunting and hollow in a way it wanted to drive him mad. There was so much of it and yet he could have none. What was that old adage…? ‘Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink’ he recalled numbly. A bitter smile turned up mental lips as he decided to remain a little longer in this nurturing darkness.

It was empty and lifeless, but within that it was safe. A sanctity against real life and the horrors it had to torment him with.

And there are so many horrors. Too many. Even now… . There are monsters, there’s no place to hide from them. They find you eventually no matter how hard you hide…

Mental fists clenched in an effort to push back the tendrils of reality which stroked at his numbness. Here was safety. Here was the enveloping solace he had sought so badly and he couldn’t turn it away no matter how hard his body told him otherwise.

Like a starless night the vacuum seemed to shift and flow before his closed eyes in a somehow solid liquid. It ebbed and flowed with each beat of his heart. But gods... it was weak. He could only barely hear it. Even as he trained his ears to it now, it was subtle. No more than background noise to the silence which roared over the vibrating thuds. So feeble.

He needed help.

But I don’t want help. I’ve never wanted anything except to be left alone. Is that so much to ask? Especially now… oh gods… why did she have to come now? With me like this? She should’ve stayed away; it’s not safe. For her or for me but whilst she has only the monsters in the shadows of the mansion to fight, I have the one within me.

There are monsters, indeed.

I know.

For I am one of them.

Vincent sighed deeply in an action he hoped to calm his pounding nerves. Yet as the gust of air caught up an internal bloody froth it agitated his lungs and all of a sudden he was choking. Although his eyes remained shut, his mind was torn viscously from the delicious stillness it had experienced before and his hands clutched at his chest as though to tear away the offending anatomy.

They ripped at his chest and he could feel the razor-like tips of his claw slice through the thin pale skin. He cried out in pain but still he coughed until he felt as though he was shredding his throat to pieces. But, just then felt something.

So warm in comparison to his icy nerves both within and out of his mind. His eyes snapped open in alarm and his mouth gaped in shock. What was that?

The crimson irises searched around the room and were inexorably drawn towards a heart shaped visage nearby. Its owner leant across the bed he was lain upon and had rested her hands upon his shoulders. As his sight met her burgundy eyes she blanched for a moment before turning sharply away.

"I-It’s me Vincent," Tifa stuttered softly. "It’s alright; I won’t hurt you."

He stared at her tilted face intently. Her stature remained the same, one foot on the floor and the other tucked beneath her as she half knelt upon the white sheets which covered him. Her arms were still extended to press against his shoulders and her whole frame was turned towards him. But her eyes refused to meet his face.

A peculiar look flickered upon his fixed features as he studied her, but it was gone within the blink of any eye revealing nothing of it’s owner. He slowly lifted his hands and wrapped them around her wrists. She gave a gasp and looked down at where his icy appendages had gripped her before she could stop herself. Although he was weak, she was too overcome by puzzlement to react and could only comply when he pushed her away.

She stood up and took a step back from the bed apprehensively as he released his grasp and merely sat, half shrouded beneath the sheets looking down at his palms. They were no longer covered with blood as they had been, but he could smell it. His jaw tensed and he pulled up the sheets over his arms and sank back onto the ramp of pillows behind him. Blinking slowly, he looked up at the ceiling.

"This… this isn’t my room," he said eventually.

Tifa was bent double, wringing out a bloodstained cloth as he spoke and stopped as soon as the first wisps of his velvety voice touched her ears. It was still so unintrusive and calm, yet it persisted to have such a shocking effect on her body. She tried to carry on as though nothing was wrong.

"Your room… it wasn’t," she faltered despite her best attempts and cleared her throat as she stood up straight. "It was in a mess. I couldn’t take you there."

His eyes scanned the room, taking in every detail as they ran across the dusty surfaces. It didn’t seem as though he’d heard her wan response but she waited. He often did this as she recalled; seemed completely uninterested whereas in reality he was probably just searching for an answer. Always thinking so carefully before making so much as a slight gesture. A ghost of a smile touched her lips at the memory and she brushed away a few strands of hair with the back of her wrist. He blinked slowly once more as he looked at her.

"I see. You dragged me here?"

She nodded, not trusting the sound of her own voice as those blood-red eyes bored into her soul in an almost accusing fashion. Coughing nervously, she looked down at the bloody cloth in her hands.

"Thank you," he murmured and she looked at him, taken aback by his display of gratitude.

She paused. "I-It’s alright," she stammered uncertainly. "I couldn’t just leave you there on the landing. I brought you to the room that I was sleeping in."

His eyes flicked around. "Yes," was all he replied and Tifa began to shuffle nervously.

For a long time there was no more stilted conversation. Tifa played numbly with the damp cloth and Vincent averted his gaze to a spot on the wall opposite him. The young proprietress waited for a moment before taking a few shuffling steps towards the bedstand where there stood a bowl of red-tinted water. Busying herself with it, she wrung out the sodden material a few more times to shatter the silence and tried to study it critically in the fading twilight.

She slipped a hand into her back pocket and pulled out a match. Striking it against the rough wall with a disturbingly sharp grate, a spark illuminated the room in a tiny explosion.

From the corner of her eyes, she watched as Vincent flinched suddenly and turned to face the light. She chewed on her bottom lip worriedly and frowned in a sudden guilt at his reaction to the unexpected deed. Through some unconscious gesture, she manoeuvred herself between him and the match as she used it to light the wick of a new candle she’d bought that day. The harsh glare softened to a warming glow and she gave a weak smile of satisfaction.

"It’s getting dark outside," was all she said and he made no noise to respond. Turning around with the candle in her hand, she slotted it into the partially twisted candelabra which had stood on her dressing table. Although it tilted dangerously to one side, it hung there with a gravity defying grace and continued to burn cheerily. Turning around, she left it on the wooden furniture top opposite Vincent where she felt it could be most useful to her.

She walked back to the bedstand and persisted to try and rinse out the cloth in the already blood-saturated water; she grimaced visibly every time her hands came into contact with the liquid but persisted. It was then that Tifa noticed how Vincent was watching her impassively; his gaze unwavering and unashamedly intent on what she was doing.

"I cleaned you a little," she spoke conversationally to blunt the edge of his silent scrutiny. "I just washed you with a wet cloth though so…" she paused. "So don’t worry," she ended in an embarrassed murmur. "You’ve still got your boxers on."

She half expected him to lift up the sheets and look as any normal man might’ve done, but instead he continued to gaze at her.

"Your shirt was almost torn to pieces; I hope you have another you can wear. I can try to patch it up, but I doubt I’ll do a very good job. I mean, it’ll be alright won’t it? You usually wear a cape anyway. And everything you were wearing will need to be washed out thoroughly. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that blood stains. I know that your clothes are black and everything, but still," her voice trailed off and her obviously nervous actions slowed to a halt.

Frowning down at her futile and pointless action of washing out the once white cloth in the already bloody water Tifa stopped. This is meaningless she informed herself with a restrained anger. This is meaningless and he knows it.

Pushing down the ragged piece of material for the final time, she pulled up a chair and sat down on it. The feeling of trepidation around him seemed to have lessened with the dim but much-needed candlelight and in the weak illumination he seemed so much more exposed.

That pale skin, so unblemished by time, age and a summer’s day was gaunt and ghastly; sickly and feeble. His long, graceful fingers lay rested upon the golden claw as they had done in the Mansion kitchen the previous night as though to shield it from her gaze. Those demonic red eyes glittered back the warmness of the flame in the same glacial way as ice crystals refracted a sunbeam.

But through that mask of imperturbable ponderings she found a crack; his lips were pressed together very slightly making them almost as pale as the skin surrounding them. He was worried.

And with that, she suddenly realised that she was too.

Anything which troubled him to any physical extent could only hint at some grave danger; her brow creased at the observation. He seemed almost normal now, a little paler than usual perhaps. But for all she knew, he could’ve been perched in his usual point at the head of the Highwind; long tresses of ebony hair whipping out behind him and entwining amongst the scarlet ripples of his cape. Those impassionate eyes fixed on some distant beacon on the horizon, searching hungrily over the corn-filled fields which meant so much to her and others onboard yet emptiness to him.

Her subtle frown deepened a little. What was troubling the normally marble-like man?

Regardless of his troubles though, she had to know. She had to know what had happened earlier. Why had he been cut to pieces and lying in his own blood yet without a scratch upon his skin? Was it even his own fluid or that of some unseen intruder?

Whatever it was, the truth couldn’t be buried so firmly and she couldn’t allow it to be. Inhaling deeply to gather her courage, she rested her hands on chair either side of her and turned her head to look at him.

"Are you going to tell me why your room was covered in blood?" she blurted suddenly.

The effect was immediate and surprising. Vincent’s eyes widened as though in some deep, internal terror and he looked away from her. It was as though the tables had suddenly been reversed and Tifa found herself overcome with a mixture of confusion and worry.

"What happened?" she pressed when over the initial shock. "It looked like you’d been dragged through hell and back."

Vincent brought his hands up from beneath the sheets where he’d tucked them away and rested them upon his lap idly. Holding the palms skywards he stared dumbly down at them. Tifa blinked in astonishment at the immediate reaction she’d had upon him but held fast; she was a friend and needed to know if he was in trouble.

Was he facing a threat from someone? Had people from the town broken in…

…or perhaps they been trying to break out…?

Vincent’s head turned to her with a sharpness with literally made Tifa leap from her seat a few inches. Her stomach flew up to her mouth and her pulse raced at the unexpected gesture. As silence smothered the chamber once more however, she lowered herself back down onto the seat with a humiliated stiffness. She cleared her throat and swallowed hard.

"S-Sorry," she stuttered with a trembling voice. "I-I wasn’t expecting that…"

"Clearly," was all he replied and she cringed as she felt her face flush a vivid red.

Her hands gripped the arms of the chair so tightly that she felt the angular corners bite deep into her skin as his stare lingered on her. Those eyes fixed themselves into place as they bored into the side of her head; she found herself aware of them even as she purposefully tried to flick a few loose strands of hair over her visage. For once they didn’t comply and instead revelled in her malady.

In her peripheral vision she watched him blink and very slowly lean across the side of the bed towards her. She remained frozen and rigid in some childish hope that if she didn’t move then perhaps he’d forget she was there at all. The immature beliefs proved to be as laughable as she knew they were and he was suddenly so close to her that she could feel his breath on her ear.

The cool air tickled her exposed skin and she felt a strand of hair brush upon her cheek like a whispering spider-web. And yet, as her frame froze in unfounded terror a strange sense of peace and utter obedience swamped her; she couldn’t move, but it was suddenly because she didn’t want to.

However, with an almost agonising rending the tranquillity and defencelessness was torn from her to such a degree that after a few seconds of stationary torture, she leapt to her feet and turned quickly to the water bowl behind her. As she did so, Vincent quickly withdrew and assumed his sitting position once more.

"I shouldn’t leave this to soak," she mumbled under her breath as her shaking hands trembled beneath the water and persisted to frantically repeat her actions of the past hour.

"Of course," he returned in an equally subdued tone.

Lifting the bowl with a visible tremor she carried it over to the antique wash basin on the other side of the room, brushing past the foot of the bed as she walked. She tipped out the bloody liquid and felt a moment’s release in the roaring gush of the water as she turned on the taps. The bowl filled so much quicker than she wished it and with a grudging sigh she turned off the beautifully loud faucet. She carried the pure water over to the bedstand and cleaned out the cloth once more with a greater degree of success.

This time Vincent didn’t watch her; the spot on the wall opposite him appeared to have sparked off his interest once more- a fact she found herself grimly thankful for. Her heart slowed and she continued to rinse out the rag with more regular actions. Her eyes lifted to the town through the window before her as the inhabitants began to turn on their oil lamps for the night; there were only three street lamps and they were weak. It seemed almost as though the illumination cast out by the homely windows of the buildings surrounding the centre well gave all the light that was needed.

As she kneaded the cloth under the water in the bowl, she heard a rustling to her right and paused to watch Vincent slip from beneath the sheets and sit with his back facing her. He rested his elbows on his knees for a while, rubbing his face with his hands. He looked so haggard and weary for a moment that she felt a wave of pity gnaw at her mind. Slivers of silver curved down his bare skin and shimmered unnaturally in the steadily growing moonlight from outside. As he moved, his muscles tensing and flexing beneath the white, white skin, the old scars shifted with him as though harbouring no desire to be left behind. They wanted to stay with him; they wanted to hug to every bare patch of his frame and scream out the torture he had once experienced to anyone who came near to him.

She’d first noticed them as she undressed him; unconscious and still he’d put up no resistance. However, in the past he’d never so much as removed his cape before the members of AVALANCHE. He’d never wanted them to see his past in case they tried to ease him of it. He wanted his heavy shrouds close, his scars closer and his past so near to him that it practically weighed upon his soul.

Tifa’s hands slipped from the water as she turned fully to face him.

So isolated; so weary and alone she felt only pity where there had been terror before.

Vincent looked at her over his shoulder. "I’d like to get dressed now," he said quietly.

She gave a slight nod and wiped her hands idly on a dry towel resting near the candle; the blood which had soaked into it hard like a crust. It crumbled a little at her touch but she didn’t notice as she put it to one side and brushed down her jeans.

"Can I get you anything to eat?" she asked him gently and for a moment he froze.

"No," he said eventually with a note of terseness. "No thank you." There was a long halt in the conversation as Tifa stood rigid, waiting for him to speak again. He exhaled deeply and ran his claw back through his somehow un-knotted raven hair. As he did so he turned ever so slightly towards her, bending one knee and resting it on the bed beside him. He focused his eyes upon it as though harbouring a desire to deny all contact with her whatsoever.

"You’d… better go," he confided quietly. "I’ve lost a lot of blood and if I start moving around then… it’ll only get worse."

Tifa’s muscles tensed at the insight into his body. He’d lost blood; it didn’t take a genius to realise what that meant to him.

To the Vampire.

Suddenly she felt a ghost of a sigh upon her neck; the echo of his disturbingly close presence only a few minutes before as he leant across towards her. His breath touching her cheek and his hair practically brushing against her shoulder; the feverish gleam in his blood-red eyes and the way his breath was raggedly audible – quick and tensed. His muscles clenched in excitement and an unnatural eagerness.

She gave an involuntary shudder and nodded in firm understanding as she swallowed and walked to the door. She faltered for a moment as words bubbled at the back of her mind and screamed to be spoken, but she forced them back. She gave another nod before turning fully and leaving the chamber.

Vincent cradled his head in his hands for a little longer before giving a drawn out sigh and sitting straight. The cold air of the room was pleasing against his skin and he revelled in it, tilting his face to the ceiling in a moment of hollow relief.

It was only hollow however, and inside the hollowness grew a demon. But it would never fill the oblivion within his soul; there would never be too little space for the monster because as it expanded, so did the emptiness until he grimly knew he’d be swallowed by it. The demon rested there in the icy air, just below his skin. He could feel it, breathing with his breaths, bleeding with his blood.

But whilst he reviled it, it loved him. Not only did it wish for him to sink back into the peace he longed for, it readily offered to take his place. It would seize his mind and body, but as it offered these empty promises it grinned. It grinned with the fang-filled jaws of Chaos.

Its promises were nothing. Yes, the demon loved him but it was a sadistic love. Just as a masochist gains affection from pain, so the demon it felt it would show it’s devotion through his agony. It would consume his soul and let it fall into a dreamless lull where yes indeed it would find peace, but it would be the peace of selfishness. Fuck the world and let me go free.

But what scared Vincent more than anything, was that he was tempted to say yes.

While the soul would fade and die, only to reside in nothingness his mind would remain. Eaten away piece by tiny piece with insanity as he became the demon. And yet, Vincent mused as he stood up and walked over to his clothes, he was already a monster so what harm would the final step do?

He pulled on his black trousers and belt. He could live without a shirt for now; it was cold outside but nothing compared to the iciness within his body. He just needed his cape and that would be it.

His stomach lurched and he felt a sudden wash of thirst rush over his senses. With it came a sharp pain, for only a few seconds along the length of his top jaw. The night melted to the nothing which longed to embrace him and a myriad of colours and movement burst before his eyes. He took a step towards the door and took a deep sniff of the air. It was still heavy with the scent of his own blood but that meant nothing to the hunger. But in the air there was Her.

There was Tifa and his vampiric blood surged with a dizzying desire.

"Oh God…" he whispered in a voice so light that even he could barely hear it over the roaring of his own pulse. "Why did you have to come here…? Why did you have to come here now?"

Chapter 13

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic