A Rose By Any Other Name Chapter 18

By Mintbaby

Natalie stared down at the tombstone in numbed grief.

‘Here rests Vincent Valentine. Comrade. Fellow Savior. Lover of Life. Searcher of Peace. Rest well.’

‘It wasn’t supposed to end this way…’ The thought drifted absently through her fogged mind as she set the flower on the top of the tombstone. No. No, it wasn’t supposed to have ended that way. He was supposed to have been cured. He was supposed to have taken her in his arms and made her feel whole. A part of him. Forever bonded in a way that would never be shared with another soul... Her heart writhed in agony and she lowered her gaze to the fresh turned soil that hid her one and only love from her view.

Natalie dropped to her knees and clutched at the earth with a soul-felt sob. “You weren’t supposed to die, Vincent,” she screeched through her tears. But her voice was only a choked moan.

“Natalie? Why are you here?”

She hunched over, digging her fingers deeper into the cool soil as the temptation to dig out his body nearly overwhelmed her. “I can’t leave him alone. Not here. Not anywhere. He needed to be loved. I needed to love him… Oh God, why didn’t I just leave him alone? Why did I have to find him?” Her throat closed over the words and her shoulders were racked with tears.

“You gave him new life,” the voice whispered in her ear. “You released his soul from torment and gave him peaceful rest. You gave him what no one else could offer. Love and serenity. Would you take it back?”

“Yes,” she rasped in desperation. “If it meant he’d still be alive, I would!”

“Then what of me?” Hands from the mysterious voice took hold of her arms and gently made her look up. “Dearest Natalie, do you no longer love me?”

Natalie gasped, her hands going to her mouth as she looked into the dark and rich brown eyes of Vincent…

…Natalie sat up with a groan, sliding from the bed as she covered her face with her hands. “A dream. It was a dream. It was only a dream,” she mumbled over and over.

A dream that had, again, seemed so real. Too real. It spoke volumes, revealing what she believed to be the truth. She was killing one so that the other could live. She was putting one to rest so that she could live the remainder of her days, in happiness, with the one she loved more than anything. Natalie turned to look over her shoulder at Vincent’s still form, her body following after a moment’s hesitation. ‘There you are.’ Her eyes clouded with tears and she slowly stepped forward, leaning her hands against the bed and letting her head fall forward as the tears dripped to the sheet.

Waiting had never been such hell.

* * *

The darkness pushed in at Vincent with suffocating clarity. Beasts’ howls and inhuman groans of anger, misery, and uncontrolled fury and vengeance. Leering at him. Accusing him of forgetting their power in his life and taking what they gave him for granted. He pushed away from them, scrambling backward.

“I never wanted you! I never wanted your power or your presence!” Vincent raged. A claw took hold of his arm and ripped at his sleeve. He jerked free, flinching as the talons tore into his flesh. “Your strength wanes, dark spirits. Your life force drains. Your power ebbs. Could it be that her lovely hands have bound you?”

They howled, red eyes glowing in the darkness fading to mere shadows. Whispers of inhumanity and callousness.

Vincent pulled a sleek gun from a holster on his hip. “I bid thee farewell, Hojo. All your creations will vanish. All your power ceases to exist in this world I have chosen. In this life I shall share with a pure woman. Do you feel it? Do you taste the bitterness of defeat on your lips.” He shot into the darkness and heard a wail of death. “You creatures of the night will receive no more shadows. No more feeding from the despair that has long harbored in my soul. I am free of you.” Vincent laughed and fired into the night again and again and again.

A figure leaped from the gloom and tackled him, burying its teeth and claws into his flesh. Vincent pushed and beat at the thing with his gun and fists, but still it dug in. Vincent bit back a growl of pain and shoved the barrel of his gun under the thing’s chin. Their eyes locked. Red and Brown. Vincent and Vincent.

“She wants me,” it hissed. “You are weak. You are not enough to satisfy her hunger.”

Vincent’s eyes went black with rage. “She wants me, for she is the one who designed the cure from you.”

The two grappled, dodging blows and causing bruises to form and blood to fall. Minutes faded to hours and still they fought, hurling insults and fists. Vincent detected a deterioration of strength in his hated alter ego and seized the opportunity, kicking him back to scramble to his feet. Red Vincent glared up at him and the barrel of his gun.

“You cannot kill what you know yourself to be,” it said harshly.

“I can kill what I detest, creation of Hojo. You.”

Red Vincent’s eyes widened in fear and he fired…

…Vincent opened his eyes suddenly and sat up. “Natalie?”

She vaulted to her feet from the cot at his side and paused a mere instant before throwing herself into his arms. “Vincent, oh my God, I thought you were dying. Vincent. Vincent…” She continued to sob his name as she kissed his mouth and face.

He pulled her tight against him, barely noticing the lack of tubes in his arms and the missing weight of the claw on his hand and forearm. All he could feel was the luscious warmth of her body against him, the sweet taste of her lips on his, the heavenly sparks of her hands in his hair, and the blessed freedom of silence in his mind.


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