Stay With Me Chapter 13
By Lucrecia Marionette
Walking out onto the landing, Vincent took a deep breath as he swaggered wearily down the red-carpeted corridor. Tifa was nowhere to be seen and his lips pulled into a straight line of grim satisfaction. It was better this way; it was how things were meant to be. He was alone.
The distant stained-glass window along the left-hand wall was so choked with dirt that the moonlight didnt even penetrate the gloomy hall. But he didnt need the feeble light; it was useless to him. He walked with an unnatural grace despite his weakness along the tunnel of crumbling plaster and dusty material, out into the amphitheatre of the night. Traces of smoke wisped at his nostrils delicately; Tifa had walked through only minutes before with the candle as her only saviour in this place of darkness.
With his arrival however, the shadows seem to shift and turn to him. Ever curious about the creature they held in their midsts, they watched with a distant caution. There was something about this figure that even they respected and at his will they shrunk back- they would not dare to torture this demon. But tonight he wanted them close; he wanted them to brush against the bare skin of his torso and consume the silver scars that marked his back like tiger stripes. He wanted them to beguile the angels and smother himself away like the beast he was.
Like the beast he always had been.
But no, he mused as he stepped silently down the staircase, his fingertips running lightly down the banister. A beast is mindless with the only desire to destroy. I have a mind and and yet
he faltered. .
His thoughts trailed to oblivion like the chiming notes of an unreachable clock. He frowned and gave a drawn out sigh as he paused and rubbed his face. Why did it always have to be so hard?
Straightening himself up his eyes flicked to a hook in the wall beside the Mansion doorway. A sheet of scarlet cloth lay draped over it, the hem lying in a pool of dust like some dead liquid. Resigning himself numbly, he walked along the creaky floorboards and out into one of the few open spaces of the huge building. He faltered for a moment, vampiric instincts heightening at the change of scenery. His crimson eyes ran over the surfaces and niches of the room searching vainly for a possible assailant. Or perhaps, meal.
"Damnit," he swore quietly as he gave a frustrated growl and pushed himself onwards. "Get a-hold of yourself man."
Striding somewhat angrily forward, he grabbed his cloak and swirled it over his shoulders, the fabric hugging his exposed skin like an old friend. He felt infinitely better to have it over him; so much less exposed now. Buckling up the neck hastily he reached for the door and pulled it open with a soft creak. Looking askance at the hall over his shoulder for a final time, he stepped out into the night beyond and closed his route to the Mansion.
The night air was as crisp and motionless as ever. The cloudless sky hinted at no atmospheric movement, and the stagnant branches of trees mirrored the lifelessness. The garden had been dipped in metal and glinted ethereally in the pearly moonlight. The shadows revealed their secrets readily to him but he brushed them off dismissively. The orchard was of no interest to him that night, not even the incapacitated, battered marble statues or stunted bushes.
His route was straight with no room for detours along the way; he simply wasnt at liberty to take such time. There was only one thing on his mind at that moment and it almost drove him mad. The intense desire, the unearthly longing was starting to wear down on his final shred of sanity and he was more than well aware of it; blood.
So far as he knew there were three options.
One, let himself be completely taken by the blood lust; become its slave and follow it unquestioningly with no time for reflection or remorse. How many times had he been close to this? How often had he shirked from his resistance to revel in the quenching of his eternal thirst? He physically shivered at the thought; as utterly inhuman and sadistic as it seemed, he had been tempted more times than he cared to count. More times than he dared to count.
Two, continue his futile stance against the demonic compulsion. And yet, as much as Vincent Valentine gripped and dug his fingertips into this last rock of sanctity he knew it was only time before he slipped. It was a fragile few months, years, perhaps even decades before he slipped from sanity and into the sea of madness which had been threatening to engulf him for almost forty years now. And then what? When his mind had been dashed to pieces and only the hollow husk of what was once human remained, what then?
He shook his head. No that would be the greatest crime. To set myself free and yet continue my reign over this town whether they are aware or not. But without my self-control (what little there remains) what is to stop me from going further? I could never kill someone not like not like that. But insane what would stop me ?
His tongue ran along his top teeth slowly, pausing at each of the two ivory canines which had extended in eager preparation of what they knew was to come. A wry smirk turned up one corner of Vincents mouth.
"I might disappoint you some time," he whispered to them. "I might not bother. What would you do then, hmm?"
He stopped and shook his head, the odd look of amusement static on his features. Talking to himself was nothing new, questioning his fangs whereas was almost worth worrying about.
Then finally there was option three.
Vincent huddled into his cape silently as he started down the pathway to the tree-lined avenue beyond. The smirk slipped off his face as it seemed to realise there was no longer anything to find amusement in. His visage reassumed its glacial mask and stayed that way as he slipped through the garden gates and strode determinedly down the narrow, overgrown road into town.
All was silent and he was glad.
As he walked, his eyes happened to glance down on his claw. He lifted his left forearm up to his eye level and examined it carefully. No one could deny it was terrifying, and at the same time it held such an intense thrall over all who saw it. The intricate joints, the elegantly tapering, almost skeletal fingers which ended in dagger-like tips, gleaming like molten gold. Hed been so tempted to somehow open up the wonderful contraption to take a look inside. He could feel his arm; it hurt when he jarred it and sometimes it itched and drove him nuts trying to find some way to scratch it. The skin had long since fused to the cold metal though, and peeling it back would be like skinning his arm.
He grimaced at the thought and yet could not tear his eyes from the gauntlet. In a glint of moonlight, a red eye stared back at him from his reflection; a cold gaze which chilled his very soul. He was even afraid of himself, he snorted. It was no surprise therefore that Tifa was, and even less of a shock that whenever their eyes met she either turned away immediately or yelped in horror.
A thin-lipped smile drew his lips into a sort of grimace as he stopped on the edge of the town square. The cobbles began to sprout from the over-grown track like some kind of fungi concentrated around the water tower. The only light in the shadowy town flickered from candles set on windows and three lonely oil-lamps which had replaced the electrically humming bulbs of three years ago.
His pupils shrank back with the minor light as they flicked instinctually over the scene before him. Nibelheim in its quaintness and naivety had no idea of his presence; perhaps that was why he felt such an urge to keep hold of his wavering sanity. He had killed too many innocents in his life and was not prepared to murder a villageful.
He certainly didnt comprehend the full extents of what Hojo had done to him and was not prepared to find out. For now, he had a balance.
Or at least he had. He had until the changes had begun.
With a low snarl, Vincent shoved back his dramatically dooming thoughts. Now isnt the time he reminded himself firmly.
As he paused on the edge of civilisation, a slight tapping caught his attention.
"Sue ? Oh come on, Sue!! Lemme in!"
Vincents eyes narrowed in a feral thoughtfulness as he lowered himself and took a vast stride sideways. He was showered with darkness in the shadow of a beamed building and found his crimson eyes drawn inevitably drawn across the cobbled square. Through the criss-cross of the well support-beams his eyes pierced the candlelight and found purchase on the ragged garments of a townsman.
"I know you can hear me, you dumb bitch! If you dont let me in Im gonna break down this fucking door!!" he bellowed. It was a wonder that the entire town hadnt been thrown into turmoil by the rants. And yet, Nibelheim in all its privacy and solitude found little interest in the outside world and often even less with its own inhabitants.
Vincent stared with a fixed gaze, every fibre of his being tensed and throbbing with excitement. This is what it was all about; forget the morbid nights of morose contemplation and endless hunger. His vampiric blood soared with the thrill of the hunt, as he had to suppress a wicked, fanged grin from splitting his face. This was beyond any mortal emotion or experience and every single time it swamped him eagerly, Vincent found himself battling the moment of pure energy.
He forced his eyes to close and muted his senses for just a few seconds as he inhaled deeply and released it in a puffy cloud of suspended diamonds. The droplets of water condensing in the frosty air gleamed back the candlelight in a myriad of glorious gems.
He felt his blood gradually slow and his muscles released their rigid stance. The invasive caterwauls of the man began to re-enter his delicate ears once more as his lids lifted. The ruby irises fell on the stumbling, brassy figure and spinning suddenly on his heel, the vampire was gone.
"Aww SUE! Please!" John screamed out at the top of his lungs.
Why wasnt the silly cow letting him in? Alright, so maybe hed had a few drinks. Maybe hed promised that he wouldnt, but couldnt they talk this over like adults?
"Look, open this door. I.. uh " He faltered and began to pat his trouser legs thoughtfully. As the palm of his right hand hit against an object beneath the line of his slacks, he gave a small cry of elation. It took him several attempts before he was able to slip his hand down the pocket and his uncertain fingers eventually folded around whatever was held within.
He dragged it out and held it before his eyes, squinting exaggeratedly and moving it back and forth, almost falling over before he was able to recognise it. A grin dragged up the corners of his unshaved mouth.
"I got you a present! Its, uh," he looked back down at the item hed pulled up from his pocket. The cigarette lighter gleamed back at him. "Its really shiny! That means its expensive, right?"
There was no reply and he kicked the door with a cry of rage.
"Damnit you ungrateful bitch! Ill go give it to someone who wants it!!"
His face contorted into a drunken mask of frustration as the lighter slipped from his thick grasp and shattered on the floor.
"Aww fuck," he moaned. That was my last one."
A deep, ponderous frown crumpled his forehead almost comically as his mind attempted to stitch together a few coherent thoughts. Now he needed matches, it concluded. The town store was closed and the neighbours certainly wouldnt appreciate his sudden need for a light. He fumbled in his jacket pockets for a few minutes in some earnest search without avail.
A long stream of vapour passed his lips like the hiss of a steam engine as his lungs emptied their alcohol-laced load. "Gdarnit," he muttered, kicking the cobbles.
His eyes drifted up the side of the building. As his bleary pupils focused somewhat dubiously on a blackened window, his nose wrinkled in disdain. Sue was certainly doing a good job of ignoring him. It had been, what? Three hours since shed last spoken to him? That beat the last record when at least shed had the decency to hurl him down a blanket and bag of clothes.
He licked his lips. "Sue..?"
Not even the curtain twitched and with a final sigh of defeat, he turned and slumped against the door. Sinking to his knees, he cradled his head in his hands and gave a shivering shudder. Why didnt he realise how cold it was when he was drunk? At least then he couldve bought an extra bottle to see him through the night. Ice didnt matter when you saturated your senses with brandy.
Resting the back of his head against the wooden door, he looked up at the hazy stars through the thin veil of candlelight. It was probably a very beautiful night; it always tended to be away from the smoke-covered cities like Junon and Gongaga. As wonderful as the prospect of moving away from mako was, the new trend of burning fossil fuels shipped in from the now prospering town of Correl had certainly had its negative points.
John had heard that some of the upper class folks in Junon had to walk around with cloth over their faces to stop inhaling the sooty air. At least that was better than in the slums where the less fortunate inhaled the tarry element and could be found littering the streets, their lungs turned black from dust.
It was pretty gruesome and he didnt much believe it. If that was true, then why hadnt the entire city come to a standstill? Like any other system, it was always the ones at the top that relied on those at the bottom to keep it going. If the entire working class of Junon had died from smoke inhalation, then why werent the rich out in trawlers and fishing boats, trying to pick up where their work force left off?
John gave a moan as he rubbed his temples. He hated this. Hed gone past nicely drunk, utterly slaughtered and was now entering the realms of contemplative which usually marked the evenings anticlimax. Damnit, where was a shot of whiskey when you needed it?
Scraping back a hand through his short blond hair he gave another sigh. So transfixed all of a sudden by the lines on the palm of his hand as it breezed over his vision, it was several minutes of alcohol dulled time before he noticed the noise in the alley. He frowned to himself thoughtfully as he peered down the lane which ran between his house and the one beside it.
There was a faint, almost silent scratching. If hed been sober at the time, he would have picked up on the fact that it was much too rhythmic and purposeful to have been anything but intelligent. However, such considerations never even flickered in his mind, and with a grin he pushed himself up off the floor and proceeded to crawl into the narrow, dark street.
"Here kitty, kitty," he cooed with a dumb grin.
The scratching seemed to stop, but the shuffling of his knees against the cobbles replaced it crassly as he scraped them against the stone. His head turned to either side as he moved, desperately seeking the cat he was so certain had been making the gentle rasps. Maybe it had been sharpening its claws or looking for something to eat.
As John persisted to drag his way through the shadows, garbage piled up on either side against the walls in increasing amounts. The poor kitty could have been trapped behind any one of the numerous bags and cans and his brain began to toy with the matter of pulling the place apart if only to find the feline. After all, he truly had nothing better to do and it would take his mind off the chill.
"Here kitty. Cmon, I aint gonna hurt ya."
As John swung his head from left to right, he somehow managed to stop himself from colliding with a pair of boots stood in the middle of the alley.
His face contorted into pure bafflement as he reached out in a moment of disbelief to pat the gold-toed garments. Who the hell would throw a pair of boots like this away?
"Hello boots," he smiled brightly at them. They didnt respond. "Whatre you doing here?"
Rocking back onto his heels, John allowed his gaze to drift up the garments. It took him longer than was healthy to understand that someone was actually wearing them. From the liquid darkness, a pair of garnet eyes glittered down at him, a peculiar glint in the crimson depths.
Johns mouth fell open in surprise at the previously unnoticed figure, but he soon recovered and thrust his hand brashly towards the stranger.
"Hey there, boot man!" he exclaimed. "Why are you standing in the middle of the alley?" His eyes fell on the naked and very pale skin of the mans chest. It was muscled, but not overly so and although he was unsure, it seemed as though several large, sliver scars ran over the parchment-like skin. "And where the hells your shirt?"
A very pale and shockingly cold hand reached out and grabbed his, pulling him unsteadily to his feet.
"Ive been waiting for you," the figure whispered in a lulling, velvety tone.
John frowned and he staggered back a little. "Waiting for me? Whyd you do that? Youre not one of them debt collectors are you? Cos if you are then I might just hafta " His voice trailed off as his eyes once more stared at the muscled chest, and drifted slowly to the gold, wickedly pointed gauntlet by the mans left side. "I might hafta run," he said firmly, his fists tensed as though his action of cowardice was a great, courageous statement on his behalf.
All of a sudden however the shadowy man was in front of him. He wasnt sure, but perhaps hed taken a large stride forward; and yet the fluidity and smoothness that he did it with suggested that he hadnt moved at all. John was becoming gradually more confused and he opened his mouth to speak, only to find that he had nothing to say.
"No," the velvety voice soothed. "Im not a debt collector. But dont run."
"Why not ?"
Those beautiful ruby eyes glimmered with some emotion that John couldnt grasp and somehow knew that he wouldnt if he were sober. "Because, if you run," the man murmured softly from behind the neck of a crimson cape. "I might enjoy myself far too much "
Johns face crumpled into its now familiar frown. "What do you want me for then? Have you got the kitty?"
The eyes flickered with a bitter, almost frightening amusement before John gasped. The icy, bone white hand held his chin lightly with the fondness of a lover and tilted it upwards to meet the direct gaze of the very tall figure. "No " the hidden mouth breathed. "I do not have the kitty. I only want you."
John reached up and batted away the hand, taking another few steps away until his back was in the light outside the narrow, black lane. "Yeah?"
The eyes nodded, and it struck John then how beautiful the man was. Although much of his face was hidden underneath the neck of the cloak which draped over his broad shoulders, there was an impression of great delicateness. A narrow, tapered nose sloped down the thin face, chiselled cheekbones running down with exaggerated shadows from beneath raven tresses of silky hair. The deathly pale face only heightened the appearance of some masterfully carved marble statue, a work of art which belonged in some distant museum or gallery.
The enchantingly sculpted gold claw reached up from behind the red cloak and the index finger beckoned him back into the darkness. Although every nerve in his body screamed with an indefinable terror, John nodded dumbly, eyes wide and walked towards the man.
"Come closer " the stranger whispered until John was pressed up against him.
Despite the iciness of his touch, an unspeakable heat seemed to flow from the man like an aura and it swamped his senses, numbing them to the world outside of him. And yet, the heat was not only terrifying for its ability to seemingly hypnotise him and block out the rest of the universe, it calmed his muscles and made his troubles seep away with every beat of his heart. It drew him in like a warm blanket and smothered him carefully, sheltering his frail soul from the evils of life.
He felt an arm slip around his back and press him so closely to the dark man that he felt as though he could lift his feet from the ground and remain vertical. The grasp was suffocating, but the pain was something wonderful. It drew him ever closer to the beautiful shadow.
Despite the complete calmness, a fear gripped at Johns heart so tensely that his eyes bulged and his limbs trembled violently,
"P-please... let m-me go," he begged with quiet trembles, amazed to find tears suddenly pooling in his eyes. "I dont know what you want. If you want my money then I-Im sorry but I-"
"Shh " the shadow breathed as he lay a finger gently over Johns mouth as a mother would to a child. "Dont speak. Dont say a thing its all right."
Although John pressed his lips shut, his eyes were still wide and misty; he felt tears stream down his cheeks. The tapered fingers reached up and brushed away the saline droplets, stroking back through his short hair lightly as the crimson eyes met his terrified stare unwavering and tranquil.
The calming effect was too much for him to fight, and John found his eyes steadily drooping. A few seconds more and he allowed himself to surrender to the figure. His head suddenly lolled back, his eyes shut and legs dead; he was asleep.
Vincent continued to gaze at the face for a little longer, before reaching up with his good hand to pull down the collar of his cape. Over his darkened lips, sat two stark white fangs which seemed to bring him pain with the nearness of their target. Pressing the man tightly to himself with his claw, he gently tilted his head to one side exposing a barely tanned neck; the long winter nights had allowed little sun to touch the skins of the townspeople.
For a moment, a flickering glimmer of sorrow found purchase in his eyes, but it soon faded. Drawing back his top lip and lunging forward with the speed and expertise of a predator, Vincent sank his fangs into the neck of the drunk.
The saline-iron taste of blood exploded in his mouth and he swallowed hard, the last conscious motion he made as his knees buckled under him through the sheer overwhelming experience of his bloodlust satiated. He held onto his victim, the unwilling if not innocent drunk with a vice-like grasp, pinning him close to his naked chest with a possessive strength. He felt the mans muscles tense through the agony of the puncture, but as the anaesthetic tint of the vampiric bite seeped into his system he fell completely comatose.
For a few insanely glorious minutes, Vincents senses reeled with delight. The earth seemed above him and heaven became hell as his soul recoiled in the horror of his actions, yet his body cried out in ecstasy. He knew it was wrong; he knew that every drop he drained from the human body would be another step towards damnation, but this one moment of release from his eternal hunger outweighed everything. Although his soul was in turmoil and his corporeal form praising its demonic virtues, his heart, in the middle found peace.
His mind slowly surfaced in the stagnant pool of his crime and ruby eyes slowly opened. His dark lips were still locked around the puncture marks and he felt himself swallowing hard and fast to deal with the intense pressure of the blood as it poured into his mouth. But it was suddenly all too real in comparison to the delicious, sensual dream of his initial feed. He could visibly see the skin around the wound across the mans cheek go gaunter and more pale as it was drained.
Inhaling deeply with a vehement concentration, he pushed the victim away from himself. Almost immediately he could see the two, perfectly round puncture marks close over as not even a speck of blood blemish the unconscious figures skin.
Vincent stood up and absently wiped the corner of his mouth with a finger. He felt it come away wet and stared with detached interest at the smudge of vivid red liquid there.
In his state of numb shock, the pain as his fangs retracted and his face softened a little from its predatorial expression was lessened until he wasnt even sure if he had changed or not. Experience had taught him to distance himself hastily however and taking a few deep breaths to calm his pulse, he stooped down and lifted John from the floor as though he were little more than a child.
With a perhaps surprising carefulness, Vincent lay the unconscious figure upon a bed of garbage, half covering him with a sheet of rotting cardboard. Anyone who found him would think that he stumbled down the alleyway and fell asleep. Hypothermia would soon set in, but no one would ever even consider that the original source of his illness was the hellish lust of an experiment gone wrong. He would live though. They always did.
Vincents usually imperturbable face flickered with an inner pain for a brief second as he looked down on the poorly concealed figure. It just wasnt fair.
"John ? John, this isnt funny now."
Vincent was so startled by the unexpected call that he leapt back a few feet from the mouth of the lane, his eyes wide and stance wider as though preparing to defend himself. His left hand clawed in preparation to lash out and a feral snarl curled up his top lip.
"Youve had your fun, now where are you?"
It was a female voice, harsh but with an underlying hint of worry. As he watched the mouth of the alley silently, a shadow grew steadily large across it as someone approached.
Sliding back quickly into the shadows, Vincent knelt down beside his victim and stared at him worriedly. He was only a young man; perhaps in his mid twenties. A shame that one so young should turn so quickly to spirits. The substance had poisoned his blood and as vile as it has tasted, it was of no consequence to the vampire.
"It was all a bad dream " he murmured as he looked down upon the gaunt man. " It was only a dream ."
John moaned a little; he was fighting the blood loss and coldness as it gnawed at his skin. Vincent pulled himself up straight once more and the corners of his lips pulled down in a grim expression. It would have to do.
Turning on his heel, Vincent burst down the lane, his feet pounding against the cobbles without making a single sound. A wall loomed in his vision and pushing his feet against the garbage-ridden floor, he bounded up the sheer face and jammed his claw into it. Not even a flash of strain blemished his cold features as he swung his legs up in a single fluidic movement and slipped onto the top.
Crouching low and swivelling back, he watched like some gargoyle over the scene laid out before him. He folded his arms impassively and observed with an unemotional silence as a woman stepped out across the alley. She held her hair back with one hand as she warily glanced down the passage; the other palm pressed against the brickwork which formed the gorge of rubbish between the houses.
As her eyes ran over the piles of rubbish gathered up against the buildings, a cry of alarm shrieked down the passage. Vincent cringed a little and turned slowly away, his feet clicking with near silent treads as the almost booming thuds of the womans feet stamped indelicately against the cobbles.
The vampire inhaled deeply and shook his head a little, a few strands of ebony draping over his face as he slipped down the other side of the wall and onto the frozen grass beyond.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic