Stay With Me Chapter 8

By Lucrecia Marionette

As Tifa slept, she dreamt of music. Deep, trailing notes echoing with a sombre scale in her visionless coma acted as the tranquilliser to the prowling beast. And the nightmares of Him which had haunted her frail mind since He left her shrank back like demons to a flame. It washed over her like an inky sea over a silver beach and a smile played upon her numb lips as she sank into the dreamless lull she thirsted so desperately for.

A shaft of golden light playing upon Tifa’s face awoke her late the next morning. The warmth it bathed over her skin and the light which flooded through her lids caused her to stir with a light moan and stretch even before eyes were even open. Squinting against the mid-morning light, she slowly sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her gaze drifted leisurely to the window by her bedside and she smiled as she admired the sight of Nibelheim in the first hints of spring. It was already late winter and even the slight amount of warmth offered by the tepid season before summer was welcome. In fact, it was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever seen.

It stirred her blood with a hollow joy and she slipped from beneath the sheets and pulled on her jeans and pale pink T-shirt, brushing her hair and washing herself in the antique sink in one corner. She grimaced a little as she looked at her haggard visage in the dusty mirror over the basin but sighed as she realised that over the past few months she had looked worse, much worse. The shadows beneath her eyes had faded ever so slightly and there was the gleam of contentment and familiarity beginning to spark in her burgundy irises once more.

"Looks like moving away has done me good already," she announced with a forced attempt at optimism as she plaited her hair loosely, a few strands hanging over her face.

But still her skin was stretched taunt over sunken cheekbones and her face was the colour of cream; the tone of a faded tan and long-lost healthiness. Now she looked feeble and ill, it made her ache inside with a longing to return to how she once was. Unable to gaze at her reflection any longer she closed her eyes and tilted her face downwards.

Tucking her chocolate brown bangs behind one ear, she turned back to the room. Despite her unenthusiastic attempts however, the strands of hair soon fell forward over her eyes and lips once more in lines of chestnut across her vision. She blew them away in minor irritation but seemed to completely forget their presence as she scanned the chamber before her.

Had it really been only a few hours since she had stood at that window, cold and petrified of the demon who read her very soul? Had it really been only a few hours since she had talked with an old friend and caught a glimpse of the pain which still tormented him?

Tifa gave a deep sigh. But which of the two beings she had encountered was she about to place her life before? She had questioned herself brutally over the few minutes before she retired to bed the previous night. Having realised that Vincent was just the same as he always had been, the fellow fighter and adventurer and yet anguished demon and night-absorbing vampire, she began to realise that the answer was both.

Recalling images of the Meteor Crisis as she sat at her window in Kalm it was so easy to only view the good parts of their travels, the happy moments and positive events. It was so much harder to reminisce on the few times that Barret, Cid and Cloud had pinned down the ex-Turk to prevent the transformations which riddled his body completely enveloping him after a battle as he screamed and writhed in pain on the floor in his own blood. It was impossible back then to recollect the way that those red eyes would fall upon them hungrily like the sight of a ravenous beast as they made their way from one town to another, sometimes not stopping in any habitations for almost a week. It had almost drove him mad with pain as he fought back the urge to tear their throats out and drink his fill from the people closest to him in the world.

It was simply who he was, she’d never known him to be any different. And just as it comforted her to know he was still the ‘same old Vince’’, he was also a trained killer with the instincts of a demon and a bloodlust to rival the most depraved monster.

I’m so naïve she reprimanded herself rhetorically. To think that he was just ‘Vincent the depressed and lonely man who fell into love and never crawled out again’. I was so eager to get out of the bar that I forgot about his problems. Onboard the Highwind I don’t think I ever stayed in a room with him for more than five minutes and now here I am hoping to stay for as long as it takes for me to get over Cloud. What was I thinking?

Tifa gave a violent shudder. Vincent didn’t want to hurt her and he never had done as she remembered last night in his desire to leave her presence so hastily. But when AVALANCHE was together it was no mean feat to forget his ails; hiding amongst the group of friends she was a target in many and the protection was great. Now though, she was alone and isolated in this town of familiarity and yet strangers.

Despite the late winter sun flowing in through the windows, she felt suddenly cold and pulled on her leather jacket conscientiously. "Maybe I shouldn’t unpack just yet," she decided aloud.

As she walked slowly over to the window, she pressed her hand up against it as she had done the night before. The glass was a little warmer to the touch and her breath made smaller clouds of white vapour against the transparent screen. The dust and film of mud on the opposing side to her however was more obvious in the glinting sun like thousands of tiny diamonds as the frosty ice crystals attached themselves to the minute grains. She pulled a face.

Would I fail miserably if I were to back out of this now and try to solve my problems in my own time? Cid told me that I shouldn’t rush into these things without thinking about them, and I have been thinking. Maybe I’ve been thinking too much and not about the right things. I already know that I hadn’t considered how terrified I used to be of Vincent. He’s a friend, of course he is otherwise I wouldn’t be here in the first place. And I know he’s in pain from a lot of things, not just from what Hojo did to him. He’s human no matter what his body’s been through and surely he needs company. No one can live like this.

She stopped her train of thoughts for just a heartbeat.

But he does. He’s not entirely human and I can’t forget that. He has a human soul otherwise he never would’ve helped us or fallen in love. But no normal person has to drink blood to survive; no normal person turns into a ten-foot demon whenever they lose their temper. He’s not stable and maybe this is why he wants to be alone. My presence will only aggravate him. I might drive him into doing something bad!

Tifa gave a drawn out sigh as her fingertips ran down the pane of glass.

Was Cid right all along… or am I just giving up too easily?

Pushing back from the window, she took a final glazed glance around the bedroom with the intention of leaving before her sight landed upon a subtle object on her dressing table. Walking over to it carefully she was slightly taken aback to find a collection of five silver coins resting upon a small piece of paper. Sliding the money from the brief letter, she lifted it to eye-level and read aloud.

"’Tifa, Please find the two hundred-Gil upon this note. Use it to buy food and other essentials in the town; get what you wish, I have no desire for anything. I believe that it will be sufficient, Vincent’".

"Curt," was all she said with an almost mournful sigh as she scooped the Gil into her right hand and slipped it into a back pocket. Moving morosely to the doorway, Tifa exited the chamber and walked out into the hall in a contemplative gait. Her hiking boots made soft thuds in the musty carpet as she walked carefully down the dimly lit passageway. She stared down at the carpet nonchalantly as she moved, her eyes not bothering to focus on the threads as she took one step after another in slow, thoughtful movements. Suddenly finding herself out on the balcony, she paused.

Where was the man she had just been thinking about?

A frown creased her brow. He had reassured her grimly before he left that he would be back by sunrise, but where would he be back to? Her eyes drifted curiously to the opposite end of the landing. None of the doors in the corridor behind her appeared as though they had been opened for years, let alone hours. He had to be down the shadowy and more secretive route she had opted against the afternoon before. But was he in a room or had he indeed slunk back to that vile, ancient coffin in the basement as Cid had always jokingly suggested?

Although leaning unconsciously towards it, Tifa shrugged idly as she made her way down the crumbling staircase and into the hall beyond. Looking around herself numbly she pondered on the next course of action. She knew the building like the back of her hand thanks to the many times she’d visited it over three and a half years ago. The doorways to her right led to the front reception whilst the one slightly nearer her to her would open out into the once elegant and beautiful lounge; a huge fireplace and grand piano against one wall with chaise lounges and high-backed, gothic armchairs opposite. To her left, the entrances to the kitchen and parlour; and behind her the corridor to the backrooms.

Was there really any point in exploring?

She sniffed a little. The areas she had entered since her brief time spent there had been derelict and seemingly abandoned; common sense reasoned that the rest of the mansion would be the same. Vincent didn’t seem to care much for his surroundings; wherever he slept and the kitchen appeared to be the limit of his domain.

It was such a waste though she thought with an inner sigh. That wonderfully ornate glass window promised so much beauty in a place of sorrow and mournful secrets. And the intricate chandelier over her head could shed such a pleasant, crystalline glow to chase out the shadows which lurked in every cob-webby corner. Perhaps he liked it like this though. Perhaps the oppressive atmosphere and dour surroundings aided his desire to remain in seclusion. She mused upon the thought of how easy it would be to slip into his rut of depression if she were to stay in the dilapidated mansion for too long. It didn’t come as any great surprise that he was always so isolated and despondent; having slept for thirty-three years in the dour basement of such an edifice to despair he had probably absorbed the sadness into himself.

She scratched her arm in an absent worry as she once more found her eyes drawn to the unexplored branch of the landing. Perhaps she should go and see him. Maybe it would be a good idea to see where he slept; make sure that he hadn’t actually locked himself away back in that coffin of his.

But no, she shook her head. She had things to do elsewhere. Her mind reeled with guilt as she remembered her muttered promise to Cid and Shera that she would visit them the previous evening.

"Damn," she whispered as she chewed her lower lip contritely. "I bet they were tearing their hair out."

The frown still upon her worn features, Tifa slipped quietly over to the front door and opened it as quietly as she could. Vincent was normally emotionless at the best of times, but she doubted that he would appreciate being disturbed having only just returned to bed. Her eyes glanced over the colourless, stained-glass window over the landing before she turned and closed the door behind her.

Chapter 9

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic