Stay With Me Chapter 7
By Lucrecia Marionette
Their eyes locked for what felt like an eternity more; soft burgundy met the hellish flames of the ruby gaze and faltered quickly, turning away bashfully. But even though Tifa now focused her attention upon the bed-stand by her side, she could still feel those almond eyes boring into her very being. She swallowed hard despite the fact a sense of familiarity swept over her and fought with every ounce of her strength to face him once more.
Her eyes lingered more on his body than his face this time as she sought to rid herself of the knowledge that he seemed to be reading her soul like an open book. He still looks so thin, she mused numbly as she examined the wide belt which seemed to hang with a gravity defying grace around his waist. And those clothes are still far too big for him.
He donned exactly the same outfit as he had done over three years before; the cape of deepest crimson pouring from his shoulders like a waterfall of blood. And to mirror the ebony clothes beneath it, his raven hair tumbled luxuriously over the high neck of the cloak. It was from there that her eyes inevitably lifted upwards to finally meet with his own once more. This time she noted with a degree of surprise his stare had softened by a fraction and that marble-like visage seemed so much less deadly bathed in the silvery moonlight.
"H-Hello Vincent," she forced out in elaboration of her previous greeting. "Its me Tifa."
For a long time the hollow, tense silence of the invisible demons holding their breath in anticipation sucked energy from the room like a vacuum as they waited for their master to speak. As a solitary cloud drifted over the face of the pearly moon, she noticed Vincent shift a little, his eyes flicking outside in an almost impatient manner. Somehow spurned on by the change in light he tilted his head to one side in a curious gesture and blinked.
"Good evening, Tifa," he said in a simple salutation, his soft, deep voice carrying so well through the mansion air. "I have not forgotten who you are."
A cautious, wan smile turned the corners of her lips up a tiny amount as she gauged his mood. As always it was futile though, and shaking off the unfounded feeling of fear from their first encounter, she resorted to what she knew best. Her face breaking out into a completely bright smile which seemed to illuminate the dank chamber, she took a few steps forward and hugged him warmly with the joy of the delayed reunion. "Its been far too long, Vincent," she told him as she squeezed him tightly. "Youve missed out on a lot you know."
Despite her friendly monologue and prompts, it felt as though she were embracing a column for all the warmth she received in return from him. She felt him stiffen under her hold and a frown crumpled her prematurely cheerful face as she waited for a reaction of some kind. She soon realised that it would be like wishing for the tides to turn against nature however, and with a reluctant sigh stepped back with a humiliated expression.
Tifa shook her head sorrowfully feeling immensely uncomfortable in his company. "I only hugged you," she said in flat response, attempting to justify her friendly greeting as she tucked a bang of chocolate coloured hair behind her ear ashamedly. "It wont kill you."
"Perhaps not," he replied impassively. "But I am unused to such contact."
To emphasise his point he took a step back from the pool of moonlight and into the shadows that had given birth to his entrance. Only his red eyes were visible from the shroud of black and they fixed on her like the stare of a curious cat. She continually berated herself for her original reaction as she sat down on the bed once more making sure that she didnt fall back.
Resting her hands upon her lap a little nervously, she looked at them with a sigh. Clearing her throat as she sought for another topic of conversation, it was several minutes before the sound of their voices shattered the stillness once more.
"So uh, how long were you standing there for?" She turned her face to him. "Before I saw you I mean?"
He paused for a moment of careful thought as he leant very slightly against the doorframe with a contemplative glimmer in his eyes. "I awoke shortly after sunrise," he informed her matter-of-factly but displayed no such pride in his knowledge; only the monotone of cold and passionless words which came from his pallid lips. "I heard someone moving around earlier but thought it would be best for me to keep my whereabouts a secret. I came here about two hours ago."
"Two hours?" Tifa repeated in surprise, her eyebrows perched high on her forehead. "And youve just been watching over me?"
"It appeared as though you needed the rest." He stopped, his eyes looking to a crack on the wall before he turned slowly and purposefully to her. "I am not one with the right to deny any creature such a desire," he ended.
Tifa knew that had anyone else come up with such a statement after the dark mans past experience would have had a trace of irony or bitterness in their voice. But no, there was nothing. Not even a contempt over his ability to creep up on her whilst she slept; exposed and open to any kind of danger. She wondered whether or not this was his idea of a joke; dry and utterly inappropriate. But she detected no smile or humour in his voice and fell silent in fear of somehow embarrassing herself any further.
Once more they refrained from speaking. Tifas hands slipped down to her sides as she entwined her fingers within the sheets nervously. Stop acting like a child for Gods sake she snapped at herself angrily. Its Vincent! The same man who fought by your side as AVALANCHE plunged to the depths of the planet. Hes not some evil monster out to murder you as you sleep. If anything, it sounds like he kept you safe. He can probably tell how weak you are. Tifas vision fell upon her thighs. The once skin-tight blue jeans had hugged her legs so beautifully; Cloud always used to say that he loved her wearing them. But now they wrinkled and gathered over her wasted muscles exposing the sickly and faded strength beneath.
She smoothed them out awkwardly perhaps in some unconscious effort to disguise her state from the ex-Turk. Although, in all honesty she knew that he could see through any front that she attempted to put up around herself. Turks had a bad habit of doing that she recalled lazily. Vincent so much more than most.
To her minor astonishment, it was he who broke the next bout of hush as in the distance, church bells chimed eleven oclock and the audible bangs of people locking up their homes for the night travelled through the windowpanes. "If you have slept for such a long period of time, then you will be hungry," he said eventually; it was not a question.
Before she could even stop or think, her head turned to him sharply from the nightscape through the glass portal in the chamber. "You have food? But I didnt think you ate."
Suddenly feeling herself go a vivid red, she cringed in horror put her face in her hands. "Sorry, so sorry," she mumbled into them giving a moan of regret. "That was so insensitive. I cant believe that just came out. Im so sorry, Vincent."
He blinked slowly. "Food provides me with a some sustenance, so I do have a little. Nothing much I fear."
His voice was completely devoid of any emotion as ever, and as she glanced up at him there was no sign of insult or anger on his features. She found herself wishing that there was; no matter how drastic, anything would be better than this imperturbable visage she was confronted with. Looking over him once more for any more subtle signs as to his possible mood, she hesitantly came to her feet and brushed down her legs. Giving a nod of acceptance, she felt bile rising up the back of her throat in pure awkwardness. Pulling the lapels of her tan leather jacket further around her neck in a self-conscious gesture, Tifa stared at the floor.
He turned, and the only part of him that was discernible through the shadows, his eyes, disappeared. With her vision pointed downwards, Tifa didnt realise just how blind she was until she walked straight out into the landing and was consumed by the night. Her head lifting in alarm and staring sightlessly around the area, she stumbled back in worry.
"Vincent?" she hissed out. "Vincent!"
She gasped in shock as the ruby eyes suddenly appeared by her right shoulder. "Oh!" she gasped, panting heavily to regain her breath and composure. "Dont leave me like that! This place is terrifying in daylight, let alone now."
She somehow sensed the feeling of apprehension wash over him as he paused in thought and his eyes narrowed. Stopping and starting once before finally managing to get the words out, he turned slightly away from her as though in some inner shame. She didnt find the chance to dwell upon this odd act however as he began to speak.
"Put your hands on my shoulder," he said to her with the first sign of hesitance she had found in him since her arrival. She bit on her tongue so hard that she tasted blood to stop herself from screaming as the skeletal, golden claw of his left hand closed around her wrist and directed her to his shoulder. The icy metal digits clamped with a peculiar gentleness over her thin arm, the thumb and index finger of the gauntlet overlapping as they completely encircled her wasted limb. She grasped the soft material of his cape with desperate, fumbling movements and grabbed his other shoulder for extra reassurance. She felt him pull away from her and she stumbled after him anxious and blind; completely in awe of his ability to pierce the almost living darkness.
"Can you really see through all this?" she whispered in wonder as they hiked through the corridor. If her feet didnt creak and stamp so loudly upon the decaying floorboards then she would have believed herself to be suspended in oblivion. She knew that it shouldve terrified her, but having her old friend nearby subdued her fears until she found herself walking slightly faster if only to be that little closer to the person who seemed to have the blackness at his very command.
"Yes," he said simply after the vast period of silence.
And that was that.
It seemed an unnaturally long time before the narrow corridor opened out into the vast hallway to halt their joined journey. Feeble light made the wall of dust which had once been a stained glass window glow pathetically, shedding a very welcome illumination onto the crumbling chamber. Vincents pace quickened a little and she dropped her arms to her sides as he pulled away. He paused at the top of the sweeping flight of stairs to look at her in some silent gesture to do likewise and walked down them. She hesitated and observed him for a few seconds more before grudgingly moving in his footsteps, turning down the staircase with a loud creak as one of the floorboards moaned its objections beneath the moth-eaten carpet.
As she looked up, he disappeared with a confident gait into one of the multitude of doorways at the bottom of the vast hall; the exit swung shut behind him and her pace quickened a little in desire to be rid of her solitude. Moving through the doorway and closing it gently behind her, she felt her way down the small passage until she arrived in a small kitchen. He stood before a badly cracked window; the sound of running water filled the tiny chamber. There was only room for a small table in the minute floorspace forcing any inhabitants to brush past it whenever they travelled from one side of the kitchen to the other. The bench tops were bare and surprisingly clean considering the rest of the mansion; a bread bin sat to one side of the sink and a kettle began to boil quietly on the worktop beside her.
Vincent turned, wiping his hand dry on a tea-towel. He looked at her silently for a fraction of a second in thought before opening up a drawer beside him. He slipped his claw inside and produced a very dusty looking white candle. Producing a box of matches, he struck one, the brief illumination almost blinding the woman who watched him curiously. The spark settled into a warming glow as the wick began to flicker and heat up; he passed it to her.
"Here, this should help."
She took it gratefully and pulled up a chair by the table, sitting down on it as her eyes stared inquisitively around the room now that the small flame provided light. Eerie shadows skipped across the cob-web laced ceiling and the numerous creatures which had probably lived undisturbed for a great length of time scuttled back into their holes and peeked out with beady eyes. She saw none of them though she fixed her attention upon her companions back. As she did so, the kettle clicked loudly and he poured out the contents into a mug; the clinking of a spoon stirring it filled the air until he threw it into the sink and put it on the table before her.
"I dont have any tea Im afraid," he apologised. "If you are intending on staying for any great length of time then I can give you some Gil to buy things tomorrow."
She gave him a warm smile as she cupped the mug in her hands and took a sip from it. "Its nice," she complimented him. "You have a good memory."
He gave her a questioning glance as he sat opposite her.
"I dont take any sugar; Im impressed you remembered."
He gave a nod of understanding but said nothing as he stared immovably out of the partially shattered window; cracks snaking over it like the cobwebs which framed the pathetic screen. He seemed to stare straight through the imperfections and watched the silhouettes outside with slow blinks, his shoulders rising and falling an immeasurably small amount as he breathed.
She continued to examine him quietly with the candlelight in his contemplative position. If she ignored the circumstances of her arrival, then she realised that she might as well have still been on the Meteor Quest for all he had changed. He was like a moving photograph taken all those years ago; his skin and hair as smooth and unblemished as a picture. His claw rested across his lap and his good arm over that as though he was trying to shield it from her in an unconscious motive. He probably knew how terrified I was when he grabbed my arm she murmured mentally as she took another sip of her coffee. Damn, this couldve gone so much better. I virtually screamed in fright at the guy when I woke up, then I went and hugged him like he was Barret and openly questioned his vampirism. She set her mug down on the table and stared down at it fixedly with a grim face. He doesnt want me here and I havent exactly helped matters.
Another cloud drifted across the moon outside as she swirled her coffee absently, too deep in her thoughts to even notice as he turned to face her. As she happened to glance up and catch his eyes she almost gave a yelp in surprise and went bright red. "Just lost in my thoughts," she mumbled wishing that she could stop her stomach from lurching whenever those demonic red eyes fell upon her frame.
She played with her mug with a sigh and eventually resigned to putting it down as she placed her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her palms. Her eyes drifted around the kitchen once more as she sought vainly for a line of conversation. "So how long have you been here for then?" she asked him pleasantly and she heard the rustling of his cloak as he shifted back to look at her.
"Perhaps three years," he answered thoughtfully. "Maybe a little more. Its been three and a half years since we destroyed Meteor."
She nodded. "Yeah, something like that " Her voice trailed off as her brows furrowed a little. and three years since Cloud left she reminded herself emotionlessly. She swallowed hard and inhaled deeply; feeling his attention on her, she straightened herself out a little and ran a hand through her hair.
She shrugged. "It was just so ruined and dusty when I arrived that I figured you wouldve long gone."
He said nothing and turned away as she glanced at him. He showed no sign of curiosity and seemed more interested in the window for all its icy intrigue rather than her motives for arriving on his doorstep without notification or reason. She pulled a face and drummed her fingers along the table-top irritatedly as a line of melted wax dribbled lethargically down the side of the candle balanced a few inches from her. She prodded the warm, viscous liquid unenthusiastically and pondered whether she really should be there any more. If anything, any interaction between them was more stilted and restrained than it had been during the Meteor Crisis. Shed come with the inner hope that she could somehow prise him from his shell, open out his heart and see just what went on in that mind of his which could help her own loss. But now, all she could see was that white-marble statue with crimson eyes and a red cape, impassive and uncaring as to her life and troubles.
She found herself suddenly longing for the constant supervision and concern of the couple who had brought her to this miserable place; they were only in the inn and it would take her less than ten minutes to walk there. Their worrying and watchful care had been fully unappreciated then but now her body yearned for a warm fireplace and the company of her boisterous pilot and his wife. She missed Cids loud, raucous laugh vibrating up the walls as she rested her head against the magnolia walls of her bedroom at night, gazing out onto the snow covered landscape. She missed Sheras occasional intervals as the matronly technician tried her hardest to make some conversation or initiate some sense of enthusiasm within the broken young proprietress. But shed been unresponsive and cold, Just like Vincent she mused.
Perhaps I should say my good bye now, she sighed inwardly. He doesnt want me here and right now, I dont want to be here. There must be a better way to deal with this
As she turned to him, she noticed the slight frown which slightly buckled the skin on his forehead anxiously; it was the first show of any internal emotion she had seen in him since their meeting. Titling her head to one side curiously in a friendly concern, she reached out and very gently touched him on his right arm as it rested on the table opposite her. He physically flinched at the contact, snapping his head back from the window to stare at her with an almost angry panic as he held his fleshy forearm accusingly. She sat back from him in shock, but his face quickly became devoid of any thought as he narrowed his eyes and seemed to swallow forcefully.
"A-Are you okay?" she stammered worriedly.
He gave a single, slow nod as he sat up straight in his chair as though embarrassed in his unexpected display of alarm. "There is food in the cupboards," he stated tersely to drag them back to the original topic as she looked marginally taken aback by his sudden change in mood. "Just look around if you want something."
"Thanks," she replied hoarsely, unsure of how to take his demeanour.
He stood up with a glance around the chamber. "It should all be perfectly edible," he told her quickly in a cold reassurance. "Just throw out anything which isnt."
She nodded. "Yeah, thats fine Vincent. Really it is."
She looked up at him and noticed for the first time how tense he appeared; under the veil of raven hair his jaw was clenched and his fists were balled in an oddly anxious display. His gaze was continuously flicking to the windows and doors as he thought and that ever-impenetrable mask he wore over his visage was cracked with the signs of some inner-turmoil. He no longer met her eyes as though worried of what he would be showing her and even then his stare lingered hungrily over the exit. His breathing was quickened and audible even to her own ears as she watched him in amazement at the sudden change. The problem eventually dawned upon her with a hellish realisation and she squirmed awkwardly in the creaky chair.
"I-I know that you want to go now into town to " her voice trailed off awkwardly. "Dont worry about me, Ill just find my own way around," she told him with a restrained urgency and he sighed thankfully.
"Ill be back before sunrise," he said quietly. "I shouldve left a while ago "
She smiled up at him, but he was already walking around her to the doorway and took no notice of her forced reassurance. He paused at the mouth of the passage as he pressed his claw up against the wall. "Youre in no danger from any of the mansions previous inhabitants," he forced out as he faced the shadows beyond the chamber. "Theyve all gone now. But even still, be careful. There has been talk of creatures killing travellers up in the mountains recently and I imagine that it is only a matter of time before they venture down to the Nibelheim."
Clenching his hands he walked briskly from the kitchen, the click of the corridor-door shutting behind him was the only indicator of his progress. She listened for another few minutes to find some sign of his presence in the building but it was useless; not even the large front door made a tremor as he pulled it shut behind him.
Tifa sighed deeply as she leant back on the rickety wooden stool and held her empty coffee mug in her hands thoughtfully.
Their reunion had been brief and awkward to say the least; despite his slight lack of coldness when speaking with her it was like encountering a stranger. And a dangerous one at that. And yet still, despite his abruptness and preference of the solitude she had interrupted she couldnt help but smile wistfully with a bizarre feeling of comfort rushing her senses. His vampirism had been a curse to him since they had first uncovered him in the basement of this very house and yet he had never exposed them to it. It had been his own private problem; a source of ire he had no wish to inflict upon them and had always insisted on the utmost secrecy when he went about his business.
As she ran her fingers along the grain of the wooden table her eyelids drooped wearily. Who was to know how long it had been since hed last fed? But one thing was for certain, he didnt wish to press upon her the threat he posed when desperate for the unnatural thirst Hojo had bestowed upon him.
Despite everything, his cold demeanour and unfeeling comments, he still didnt want her to be hurt. He still didnt want to be the one to harm the people who he had saved the world with.
As Tifa stood and stretched luxuriously, the faint smile still played upon her lips. That was more reassuring than any kind words he could offer her or any gesture he could make. He was still the same old Vincent that had left them all those years ago and it made her very soul sing with happiness.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic