Through the Looking Glass Chapter 24
In the Great Scheme of Things
By Lucrecia Marionette
Over the following weeks, he'd waited beside the window at the same time every evening and morning just so that he could catch a glimpse of the woman who had shattered his life so completely. They would always exchange pleasantries and greetings but to his frustrations, it never progressed. As time wore on, he saw less of her; she was often held back at the labs with whatever she'd been working on along with fellow scientists Hojo and Gast. Life couldnt have possibly been slower. But on the rare occasions that they did make eye contact, his futile waiting somehow became totally worthwhile.
On such a night he stood looking out of the window, idly attempting to find the stars through the haze of dull light cast out artificially by the many street lamps and homes on the upper plate. Since he'd spoken to her the first time, he felt numbed and oblivious to the world outside of her. The days passed by without incident or acknowledgement; a decade could've occurred in the time between morning and evening and he wouldn't have noticed. All that mattered was Her. Her alone and nothing else.
He clenched his fists and jaw. How had he been so weak as to allow someone affect him so badly? Many women had tried to get beneath his cold mask but none had ever succeeded. He didn't have the time, patience or desire to get involved in any kind of relationship. It was distracting and meaningless. But every time her saw Her, everything he'd ever believed suddenly crumbled into the arrogant dust and conceited opinions that they were.
Blinking slowly, he looked down at his wristwatch; it was half past midnight. She was late again.
He began to pace backwards and forwards irritably, his gaze shifting from his watch to the corridor that she would walk down every evening at eleven o'clock. Every night except for that one. He frowned. What could she be doing that held her back so late?
He could go and look for her. But how could he explain following and trying to find her like a lovesick puppy?
However, her tardiness was very strange... suspicious even. As a Turk it was his duty to examine anything out of order or unusual. The disappearance of one of the Shinra's top scientist's was odder than anything else that had happened in the past year.
With a smug smirk, he took a few seconds to check his appearance in the reflective window where he had first met her, his gaze unconsciously flicking over to where her reflection had been cast. He straightened out his thin black tie and brushed down his dark blue jacket and trousers, finally running a gloved right hand through his jet black curtained hair whilst looking into his own deep brown eyes. He pulled a face.
The long days and nights were beginning to show and shadows were starting to make their presence known under his eyes blemishing the otherwise pale skin. Sleep had become little more than an irritating necessity that prevented him from continuing the dull watch which allowed him to catch a five second glimpse of her face every morning and evening. The way he looked, he wondered whether she thought he was glued to the spot; never even bothering to go to bed. Judging by the way he had stood so diligently at his post, remaining only to pass a humble greeting in murmur to her every morning and evening that wasnt hard to believe.
Ah well, he sighed inwardly. He probably looked better than the old scientists where she worked did. Smiling outwardly in smug satisfaction, he suddenly forced his expression of happiness back as a dark feeling crept up his spine.
No, this was wrong. It was very wrong. Lucrecia
(such a wonderful name )
was married. Happily, perhaps not, but she was married nonetheless. She had been bound in body and word to another man
(but not in heart and emotion. Words are words but they cannot stop the calling of the soul)
and to think that he would be the one to change this was not only immoral, it was conceited. Conceited like him, conceited as he had always been up to their first exchanged words
(but Ive changed now . Only one with such divinity could alter the ways of such a twisted demon).
Surely she had felt something for him?
He had heard said in his travels and reading that love was only true if it was returned. He had never felt such emotions about anyone before, so she had to feel the same way. That was how things worked in the great scheme of things, wasnt it?
He had to find out. He had to know. Call it his impetuous or Turk-like nature, but he had to find out for certain if this feeling of intense longing and desire to protect was little more than an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. He had to see her again. That was the only way. He had to see her then, right at that second otherwise he thought he would go insane through wondering. One look in her eyes, one gesture of her delicate hands or one motion on her slight frame would tell him. The chance to discover what had been written about and dreamt about since the dawn of man could not wait until the morning. If love was something which could really happen, he wanted to know.
Smiling grimly to himself with determination he walked over to the elevators and stepped in, pressing the button for the sixty-seventh floor. After a brief ride (which lasted forever), he stepped out and was greeted with the stench of chemicals and clinical lighting shed over cold steel floors and walls.
The first level of the Science Department was worse than he remembered it. He tended to avoid the floor; mainly because of the sterile atmosphere but also due to the sneering scientists that looked at him as though he were something that they'd scrapped of their shoes when he glanced in their directions.
Shrugging off his fears, he sniffed arrogantly and strode forward with resolution. He had nothing to fear; he was President Shinra's pride and joy. The epitome of a Turk and proud of his job and work.
Still There was just something unnerving about being around men in white lab coats with clipboards... .
He brushed past several of the weak looking men and women as he walked hastily with poise towards the specimen area, taking the time to have a final glance in a useful piece of glass along his way to make sure he looked presentable.
He eventually stepped into the massive room identified with many of the Shinra's so-called 'scientific wonders'. He wasn't impressed. To him it was a big room full of scorning scientists and weird animals. But it certainly was big. The entire chamber took up half the entire floor, reaching up two levels. The ceiling was illuminated with the same, cold lights that flickered and buzzed in the corridors behind him. The same metal covered every possible surface, chemicals and disinfectants sprayed over every second bench in order to destroy the germs which could contaminate and destroy the most delicate pieces of work. Walkways spiralled around the walls, scientists that had taken the time out of their own schedules to work through the later hours scampered and crawled like spiders over the countless walkways and platforms. It reminded him of shooting games hed seen in carnivals and travelling fairs. "Ten Gil to for five shots! Shoot more than two scientists and win a prize!"
There was only one target he sought however and it was for the opposite reasons. Hed rather shield that fragile frame with his own body rather than fire a single bullet in its direction. He raised his eyebrows and almost gave a bark of cold laughter. What a soft-hearted fool he was turning into. The only other people he thought hed ever bite the bullet for would be his Turk companions, and even then it was due to regulations and training.
But out of choice...? Hed do this by choice ?
It didn't take his sharp eyes long to notice Lucrecia standing on the far side of the room with her back to him fawning over a desk beside another scientist. Trying to appear outwardly calm and cool, he walked over to the nearest animal cage and pretended to take slight interest in a small creature inside. It appeared to be a lion-cub only with ornate feathers and bangles adorning it's limbs and scruffy brown mane. It looked up at him with a curious golden eye that glittered like liquid gold and tilted its head to one side.
Vincent frowned and the small creature mirrored his expression with a feral quality. He felt a smile tug at one corner of his mouth and again the cub copied him.
"You're a strange little thing." Vincent murmured at the lion creature which stared up at him with an air of intelligence around it.
"I am?" questioned a childlike voice.
His eyes widened as he stared back at the animal with undisguised shock. He lowered his head until his eyes were level with the bizarre little creature. "Y, You did just say something... didn't you? I'm not imagining things."
The cub looked at him innocently and he scratched the back of his head in puzzlement. "I really should get some sleep." he muttered as he turned away.
Keeping one eye on the animal as he began to walk, he didn't notice the accident about to happen until it was too late. There was a yelp of surprise and an explosion of paper as he was knocked backwards. As the many sheets of paper that had been thrown out during the collision began to settle, he found himself looking at a dishevelled Lucrecia who sat messily on the floor facing him, numerous chemicals and files scattered around her being.
"Oh God," he said quickly. "I, I'm so sorry... I didn't see you."
She opened her mouth to speak but was cut off as another person interjected. "Well maybe you should begin to look where you walk you clumsy oaf," snarled a vicious voice.
Vincent looked up, his eyes narrowed threateningly to look up at a thin man who he recognised as having stood beside Lucrecia when he entered. He had long black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail with several messy strands hanging over a thin and contemptuous face upon which perched a pair of round glasses.
"Please, Hojo," started Lucrecia as she picked herself up off the floor. "It wasn't Vincent's fault. I was looking at one of the files and didn't notice him approaching."
"So... the inept imbecile has a name does he?" the man identified as Hojo sneered as he stood beside Lucrecia, looking down on the splayed Turk that glared back at him.
So this is Professor Hojo? The scientific prodigy that Lucrecia always talks about? Her her husband?? What a derisive and insulting bastard. If he wasn't so important then I'd shoot him right now... .
He stood and brushed himself down flashing an apologetic look at Lucrecia who pulled a helpless face, biting her bottom lip awkwardly. He couldnt bear to see her so unhappy .
"Vincent what?" Hojo asked, looking slightly overwhelmed by the taller Turk.
Hojo stared at him for some time until Vincent frowned.
"Sir," he spat eventually and the scientist grinned triumphantly.
"Well then Mr. Valentine. I cannot see what business a Turk could have up in the science department. Unless you would like to destroy any more of my research then I suggest that you leave immediately."
Vincent's gaze flicked back to Lucrecia who was stooped over picking up wads of paper.
"I may as well help to repair some of my damage," he excused quickly as he knelt down beside her and proceeded to pick up some of the broken bottles and test tubes that had once housed unknown substances.
"Careful," warned Lucrecia quietly. "Some of these chemicals are dangerous."
She flashed him a smile that warmed his heart and made his pulse flutter. There had been something in that gesture, no matter how slight it was. It was unmistakable as though she had created a sign and was parading around the lab with it above her head. But at the same time it was private, subtle and deliciously wonderful. His heart almost burst through indefinable joy and elation that he only thought possible in heaven.
As the overwhelmed Turk cleared up he dared a glance over his shoulder at the monstrous scientist he had met and found to be the husband of this innocent creature.
What was she doing with such a creep? How on earth had such an obvious demon tamed and captured the heart of this heavenly spirit?
Then again, why should he think himself any better ?
She stood and began to walk away; he watched her, absently scraping the shards into a pile. He inhaled sharply however as there was a biting sensation in his fingers. When he looked downwards, his eyes torn from the female scientist, he blanched to see a small syringe protruding from his right hand, the needle imbedded deeply under the skin. Lucrecia rushed over having heard his pain and gasped in alarm to see the needle.
"Oh no!" she whispered in obvious horror as she dropped to the floor and held his hand up to her eye level.
"Wh, What is it?" he asked fearfully and there were the sounds of shuffling behind him as someone approached.
"For God's sake!!" screamed a voice. "What the hell have you done??"
Hojo skuttered around to stand next to them and grabbed the hand roughly. He pulled out the syringe with surprising care but threw away Vincent's hand disdainfully once the needle had been completely removed. He held the fragile glass tube up to the light before examining it and swearing furiously under his breath.
He walked away quickly and Lucrecia leapt up and followed him, the two scientists involving themselves deeply in talks while Vincent clutched his hand that was beginning to feel numb. He squeezed the palm and a drop of blood sprang from the needle wound. He brushed it away angrily and stood up to look towards the conversing scientists.
"What was in the syringe?" he asked eventually.
Hojo turned back to him with anger on his face. "That syringe contained years of research!" he yelled furiously. "You have destroyed it!!"
Vincent's brow furrowed.
"The needle has been contaminated by your diseased touch and is unusable!" Hojo continued, his voice increasing in pitch. "You stupid, clumsy, moronic bastard!!"
Lucrecia put a hand on the raging scientist's shoulder in an effort to calm him. "Please, Darling. W, We can start again. Maybe we can even improve on the method of distillation and shorten the time it takes! This doesn't have to be a set-back!!"
Hojo gradually calmed and wiped his mouth free from the spittle that had been thrown out during his vehement screams. He nodded reluctantly to his wife, hurling a dangerous glare at the Turk before striding away towards the specimen elevator.
Lucrecia watched the Professor leave before running over to Vincent who had stood confused and numb during Hojo's fit. "Please," she begged tearfully, genuine concern marring her divine features. "You should leave now before he gets back."
He considered refusing but feeling weary and physically drained all of a sudden; he nodded and turned away from the room, walking slowly towards the exit certain that the voice of a young child had just thanked him for something.
"Uh... Vincent?" she called after him when he reached the doorway.
He paused and looked back at her.
"It might be a good idea if you rest up for a few days. You look exhausted. I'll stop by and see you some time. "
"I'd like that." he smiled wearily and left the room.
Despite the numbness creeping up his body and spreading from his right hand, he couldnt help but allow his weak smile to broaden as he stumbled down the Science Department corridor.
Life, he thought to himself as he leant up against the glass elevator wall, Is perfect .
"We are all created to be un-created". If only that were always true .
He wasn't sure how long he slept. When he finally did wake there were many messages on his answer phone and letters were piled up on his doormat. He surfaced only to eat and wash. Even that was brief. Exhaustion overcame him, robbing his body of all its energy and a terrible headache throbbed at the back of his mind. Drinking a glass of water, he slunk back to his bedroom and began to pull the covers up when there was a loud rapping on his front door.
Muttering obscenities to himself, he reluctantly got out of bed and dozily walked to open it, finding difficulty in controlling his muscles and co-ordination. After many pieces of the colourful language had escaped his lips, he eventually succeeded in opening the door, angry curses on his tongue. He found himself choking on them however as framed in the light from the hall that ran outside his apartment stood Lucrecia. He winced from the brightness of the radiance outside and immediately regretted his messy and unkempt appearance. They stared at each other in awkward silence for a few minutes before Vincent gathered his manners and coughed nervously.
"W, Would you like... to come in?" he asked hesitantly.
"If that's not too inconvenient," she replied shyly. "If this is a bad time I can come back later-"
"No!" he answered quickly to her surprise. "Er, I mean n, no. It's all right."
She gave him a smile and stepped into his home as he stood to one side. In normal circumstances he would've rushed ahead of her in a vain attempt to clear up. But at that moment he felt as though he was going to collapse. Tidying up was a physical impossibility.
She walked into the lounge and sat down on a couch, watching him enter slowly and lethargically.
"So... how have you been?" she asked pleasantly once he sat down on the opposite end of the couch as him. "I haven't seen you around for a few days. You really must've been tired."
A few days... . I didn't realise it was that long.
"I've just been feeling a bit low. It's been difficult dragging myself out of bed in the morning so I decided not to bother."
She nodded in understanding and watched worriedly as he cradled his head in his hands, rocking backwards and forwards slowly.
"You don't look very well. Can I help?" she questioned concernedly.
The headache seemed to be getting much worse since he'd moved around. It had now completely taken over his brain and he wanted to collapse in his bed and stay there forever. At that moment in time it seemed more appealing than most other things he could think of but Lucrecia was here and he couldn't usher her away like that. Especially not since she'd specifically come to see him. Especially not since he had become so certain of-
"I'll be fine. Just a headache," he lied quietly through gritted teeth. "I really haven't been sleeping well over the past few months. I guess it's just caught up with me."
She didn't look convinced. "Here... let me check you over," she offered and he didn't try to object.
She helped him to lie down on the couch and proceeded to test his temperature and pulse. He closed his eyes and welcomed the contact. He simply wished that it were under better circumstances.
She frowned after a few minutes of crude examination. "You've got a high fever and your pulse is racing."
He grimaced at the sound of her voice. It seemed harsh and grating although it was no different than always (wonderful and light). It somehow sounded louder and nearer as though she was yelling in his ear to torment him and drill into his brain.
"I'll be okay... ." he slurred wearily but her worry was furthered.
"Don't be moron. You're obviously not," she admonished and he flinched.
"Please don't shout." he begged softly and she knelt beside him.
"I'm not shouting, Vincent," she whispered. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"My head... you're shouting in my ear... ." he replied deliriously, obviously in pain.
"Heightened senses... exhaustion... ." Lucrecia mumbled to herself. She put a hand on his forehead that was now covered in sweat and although his eyes were closed, they were twitching violently in a restless coma.
"Vincent? Can you hear me?" she called softly and to her surprise the fit stopped immediately and Vincent's eyes opened, wide and staring.
"She's calling me... ." he muttered feverishly.
Lucrecia's face contorted in anguish. "Vincent? Wh, Who's... calling you?"
"She is... . I won't go... Lucrecia..."
He turned to her, fear in his eyes like she'd never seen in another human being before. "Please don't let her take me... !"
"Please!" he begged fearfully and he grabbed Lucrecia's hand with startling speed and strength. "Don't let her come!"
"You're hurting me!" Lucrecia exclaimed as his grip increased.
"I promise." she repeated. "Let go of me!"
"PROMISE ME!" he yelled and she pulled away, tears welling in her almond eyes.
"I PROMISE!" she shrieked and he cried out in agony and put his hands over his ears.
She leapt back, Vincent's hold no longer on her. She massaged her wrists and stood up, backing away from the delirious Turk who was writhing in agony, his hands still planted firmly over his ears from the loud sounds and phantoms which whispered unthinkable things into his mind.
"I am so sorry Vincent," she whispered tearfully. "This wasn't meant to happen... ."
He continued to twist in agony. She doubted that he even knew where he was and prayed that he wasn't aware of what was happening. She looked down at him; his face distorted in terrible pain and sweat dripping off his pale skin as he cried out in delirious sleep.
"I'm so sorry." she repeated and she ran from the apartment, tears falling down her face.
"Hojo!" Lucrecia cried as she threw herself into the laboratory. Her breath rattled in her lungs due to lack of exercise and the non-stop marathon from the elevator doors. Her heart pounded in her ears until she thought it would drive her insane. But still she continued, the harrowing image of the disturbed Turk in her mind. The cold scientist turned from his work and looked icily at her, nearly black eyes regarding her with cool curiosity. Her long brown hair hung over her face as she bent double in order to gain her breath without avail. Swallowing hard she pulled herself up straight and he pulled a disgusted face at red tear marks around her eyes. "It's Vincent," she began. "You, we can't do this to him!"
"The Turk?" Hojo inquired without a note of interest as he once more began to fiddle with the equipment before him.
"You know who I'm talking about!" she cried. "Of course it's the Turk! You know damn well it is!"
He swivelled around with startling speed and slapped her hard across the cheek. She gasped and stumbled back, almost falling to the floor as she clutched the stinging red mark.
"Get a-hold of yourself woman!" Hojo exclaimed angrily. "I will not have that kind of hysteria in my lab!"
It's not your lab; its Gast's Lucrecia contended mentally, her thoughts known only through the murderous glare that she gave him. She pulled herself up straight again and stared him directly in the eyes. "This isn't right. There must be a vaccine or something."
"Lucrecia my dear, you seem to forget that what was injected into his body is not a virus that can simply be destroyed by a series of treatments," he shook his head. "There is nothing we can do. It was his own stupidity that led to this-"
"It was my fault." Lucrecia argued in a low tone. "I've already told you that."
"Then let it be over your head." Hojo snarled maliciously as he stalked away from her over to a fumigated glass cabinet that stood in one corner of the lab. Lucrecia fell instantly silent but watched him as he pulled out a syringe that contained a softly glowing, magenta liquid. There were ten marks on the side of the glass tube but the liquid only reached as far as the second. "I must admit," he stated with a degree of admiration. "I'm surprised he hasn't died yet. Maybe his death will be considerably more lingering than I predicted it to be."
"You sick, heartless man," the female scientist whispered as she shook her head. "You want him to die."
Hojo glanced up at her over the instrument. "On the contrary my love," he began, placing a sarcastic emphasis on his term of affection. For a fraction of a second, Lucrecias heart leapt as he seemed to hint at something. Did he know? Had her husband realised exactly what she was so concerned about? Did the man she had bound herself to with a band of gold grasp what had been flitting around her heart for the past few weeks since her arrival in the HQ? As he continued, her suspicions slowly faded until they had gradually disappeared into irrelevancy.
"He is the first human to have pure Jenova cells transfused into him. I am most anxious to see the outcome. If he dies tomorrow then I shall find nothing."
Lucrecia's shoulders slumped and her head bowed. "I, I have to tell him... ."
"Oh please do tell me what, or even how you shall break this little piece of news." He put the syringe down on the desk and proceeded to flounce around the lab in an exaggerated feminine walk with a high pitched voice. "'Oh, by the way Vincent... while you were too busy drooling over me to look where you were going, you managed to inject yourself with the cells of an alien life form. It's quite possible that you'll turn into a hideous monster or you might even die in an unimaginably painful way but don't worry because I'll be around to act like a slut and take your mind off it!'"
"How DARE you!" Lucrecia screamed with her pale cheeks flushed a furious red. " Were married for Gods sake! How can you say something like that??"
Hojo ceased his taunting and looked at her blankly. "Because that's exactly what you would have to say. You want to tell him the truth? You may as well repeat what I've said."
He moved to sit at one of the lab stools that bordered the vast tiled floor. As he perched upon one, looking at her delicate figure that was trembling with anger and passion, he felt a twinge of sadness deep within his blackened heart. "As for your admirer, I accept that as who you are."
There was a long period of silence and he slowly stood and, moved over to stand next her. His cold, spidery hands reached up with the surprising gentleness used in his finest experiments and he stroked the side of her face.
"You are a very beautiful woman, Lucrecia. It is no surprise to me that men are falling over themselves to please you. However, no matter what they say or do, you're mine now," he said calmly in a soft voice full of an emotion no one in his lifetime would ever hear mixed with a touch of firmness. "Not only are you my wife in the eyes of God," he began, scornfully making his reference to religion. "But we are joined in science. You signed a contract to give yourself to me. I get your body and you get your name in history as the one to create the greatest creature the planet has ever known. Do you wish to jeopardise this?"
"No," Lucrecia answered quietly. "Of course I don't."
"Then be a good girl and stop flirting with the poor man. Don't you see that your girlish games shall only torment him further?" Hojo became thoughtful. "Actually... continue as you wish. I think I may find amusement in watching you increase his agonies."
Her eyes began to brim with tears. "If I do anything for him, then it will be of my own accord, not to further your own sick fantasies." She waved an arm towards the wall of caged animals that Hojo kept in the lab, the small red lion that Vincent had examined the night before watching the argument intently. "Have your fun on these but don't play with a human being so carelessly. It's not right!"
"And you torturing him so, is?"
She fell silent but her mind reeled with mixed emotions and conflicting thoughts.
After a while Hojo coughed to break the stiff quietness. "How is he?"
Lucrecia looked up. "Why should I tell you anything?"
"Because I am your superior as well as your husband and I am ordering you to," he growled. "How is Valentine?"
Lucrecia sighed wearily, painful memories of her last encounter with him flashing before her eyes tainted with the swirls of another strong emotion she could not yet grasp. "He's... not very well at all. From what I can tell he has heightened and highly receptive photosensitivity. I'm not certain but perhaps even his physical strength has altered also." She rubbed her wrists absently.
Hojo's eyes took on a glazed shine as he became increasingly interested in what she said. "Go on," he urged irritatedly.
"Other than that, he seems to be in a fever. His temperature is abnormally high and his brain is in a state of delirium. He kept on telling me that a woman was calling to him."
Hojos brow furrowed and he took a step closer to her.
"A woman? Who?"
Lucrecia shrugged contritely. "I don't know; I honestly don't. Whenever I tried to ask him, he just panicked and kept on referring to her as 'She'."
Hojo sank into his thoughts and walked nonchalantly across the room to stop next to a large metal dome into which was set a circular window. He stood on tiptoes and peered in through the window to examine the throbbing mass of pink cells within.
"So... you call to him do you?" he murmured. "You call to him but you do not speak to me, your loyal servant. What games are you playing with me now, hmm?"
"H, Hojo?" called Lucrecia with a puzzled expression.
The thin scientist snapped out of his brief moment of thought and turned to look at her. "You will watch Valentine," he ordered. "Perhaps his clumsy accident will not be such a bad thing. After all, that syringe was intended for one of these animals first in order to test out what the cells will do to another living organism. Having them injected directly into a human will save time. If Shinra asks, then we will not be lying when we explain that it was a mishap."
Lucrecia nodded curtly and began to walk out of the lab. Just as she was about to enter the corridor that ran outside the vast room of science, she paused and glanced back at her husband. "He won't... die will he?"
Hojo met her stare. "Why? Do you have feelings for him?"
"No," Lucrecia answered, a little too quickly to sound convincing in Hojo's mind. "I, I just think that it would be a shame if such a valuable specimen died so early."
A thin grimace touched Hojo's lips but he disguised it and gave a dismissive wave of his hand "Go on, stupid woman," he muttered icily. "You're disturbing my work."
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic