I'm In Love With the Man Downstairs
Chapter Six: Dinner Plans
By Darknightdestiny

Kira made for the stairway and followed the caretaker up to the second floor. Mr. Valentine walked at a slow and steady pace, not being idle in his steps, but not in any apparent hurry. Kira winced when she put her foot on the third step and the wood made a distinct creaking sound. Mr. Valentine paused his movement, stopping in his tracks. He turned his head slightly and looked over his shoulder at Kira, who could do nothing but stare back, as she was afraid to move under his absorbent gaze. He resumed his walk, silent as ever, each step in perfect time with the ticking of the large grandfather clock in the lobby. Kira watched his feet touch the ground, one after the other, without an echo to follow. She wondered if he was allowing her to follow him, since he did not say anything to her. She decided to continue on behind him.

Kira studied him as she ascended the staircase, warm rays of orange filtering through the burgundy and white draperies as she climbed further. The light warmed her face when it reached her and played about her features, kissing them from afar with a piercing glint off of the mountain peaks in the distance. Kira ran her hand along the banister, revelling in the setting sun as it shone through the glass and changed the color of her skin from a pale and shaded white to a rosy peach, and a curtain of warmth passed over her.

Suddenly, the caretaker darted off to Kira's right, before resuming his pace and disappearing down the hallway. She picked up her own pace and ran after him into the colder shade of the corridors. His figure retreated down the hall, and she tried her best to keep up with him, but he had far too much of a head start. How he had gained so much time on her in such a short moment, she did not know, but when she reached the end of the hallway, it was a dead end, and Mr. Valentine was nowhere to be found. Kira tracked backwards, but she didn't see him in either of the rooms on her right or her left. She looked back down the corridor to the other end of the wing, where the room with the hidden staircase had been. 'He couldn't have...he was right here, wasn't he?'

Kira walked quickly past the staircase again, and towards the room in question. She peered in and looked around, searching for any sign of Mr. Valentine. 'Vincent, was it?' she thought to herself, as she tried to recall the name he had given to her. She saw that the passageway was left slightly ajar, and she stepped over to it, but paused when she reached it. She was sure of whether he had really gone down there, or if it had just been left that way from his exit. Even if he had gone down there, would he appreciate her following him? After a few moments of deliberation, she decided that he couldn't really do anything about it, since she did live there after all.

Kira lifted the hollowed, false wall over her head, and she bent down and walked through the entryway. She descended the staircase slowly, for fear that if she went too quickly, she might collide with Mr. Valentine somewhere at the end of the line. When she reached the bottom, she took a look around, but he was nowhere to be found in the hallway. That left only two rooms...

Kira walked to the end of the hall and into the study, peering around for any sign of the caretaker. She walked through the aisles of books, careful to make sure that she didn't pass him by. She didn't see him there, or at the end of the way, where the desk was.

'Where on earth could he have gone?' she wondered to herself. There was only one place left to look, and that was the other door back in the hallway. Kira gave one last look around the study, and then turned on her heels to leave.

Leaving the warm glow of the candle lit study, the hallway seemed much darker than before. Kira walked over the floor and listened as it echoed with each footstep. She approached the large wooden door that she had seen before and prepared to open it carefully.

It didn't budge.

Kira idly wondered if it was supposed to move at all, given the renovated state of the mansion, and she thought it was worth a try. She knocked softly on the wood and gave a call. "Mr. Valentine? Mr. Valentine, are you in there?"

It seemed an awkward conversation starter to her, and possibly an improper one, given her position in the matter. She was a young female, and not in any position of power. She still didn't have the rights to a public voice, and her mother and father would probably be furious if, bothering to notice her absence, they had found out that she'd left to follow the curious caretaker down into an isolated basement.

Should she be looking up at him with respect, or should he be looking to her with respect? As far as she knew, her family wasn't paying him anything, but she didn't know about her father's company. Was he one of their servants, or were they his guests?

Kira was under the impression that since they were staying there permanently, and he was there to take care of the place, for who knew how long, that they were on equal footing. She felt odd thinking that way about a man most obviously older than herself, but it was of no consequence. The position made him sound like a servant. For some reason, that bothered Kira.

The silence that accompanied Kira's thoughts was broken short with a soft, "...Just a moment." There was a rustling of fabric and a soft creaking sound behind the door. These sound seemed so far away to Kira, and yet almost immediately following them was a clicking of the doorknob. The door creaked as it was pulled open, but only enough to reveal a shadowy darkness behind the opening, accompanied by the pale face of Mr. Valentine.

Kira stared into his deep brown eyes, partially out of an unexplained fear while being in his presence, where he seemed completely confident in every step he took. He unnerved her, though she couldn't say why. Whatever the reason was, she couldn't seem to look away.

Mr. Valentine looked down at her blankly as she stood in silence. After a moment, he ventured a question, to which the answer was obvious. "...Is there something that I can help you with?"

Kira backed up a step and shook off her daze. "Well, that is...Mr. Valentine," she started rather shakily, "I thought that you were coming to dinner."

The caretaker furrowed his brow and frowned a bit, giving off a look of laboured concentration. "Did I say that?"

"Yes, you did."

Mr. Valentine seemed to waver in his thoughts for a while before his face took on a small grin, and he leaned against the doorframe ever so casually. "Actually, if I am not mistaken, I believe that what I said was, 'I will make my presence known to the rest of your companions at dinner.' It is dinner time now, is it not?"

Kira nodded her head.

"Well then, I suppose I have done what I set out to do. Now, if you'll excuse me-"

"Wait!" Kira let the impulsive exclamation slip past her closed lips in an eruption she hadn't foreseen. Wait for what? She wasn't sure.

Mr. Valentine stopped mid-turn and looked back at Kira over his shoulder. "...What is it?"

Kira grasped for something to keep his attention, and while she did so, her eyes kept wandering behind him. She couldn't keep her curiosity at bay, and she hadn't yet seen what was in that room. The caretaker followed her gaze with his, and then leaned a bit to the side, so that he was blocking her view. Kira was suddenly snapped from her thoughts, but luckily, she had found an answer. "You must be hungry."

There was a pause. "I...have already eaten."

What then? Something...anything to keep from going back to the rest of the family. And there it was, in all its glory. "Mr. Valentine...you said you would show me around the property sometime..."

Mr. Valentine looked straight into her eyes. "So I did." He moved out from behind the door and carefully shut it behind him, locking it with a key that looked to be of an elaborate design. He started to walk away from her, down the hallway to the study. "And...Vincent, if you please."

"What was that?" Kira asked the soft-spoken man as she hurried after him down the hallway.

"My name," he intoned quietly as he walked the echoing hallway, the cave-like atmosphere giving off a certain chilling effect to the room. "My name is Vincent."

"Oh. Say, Mr. Valentine-"

"Vincent," he said, effectively cutting her off.

"...Alright. Vincent. Why are we going back to the study?"

Vincent stopped at the doorway to the study and looked into Kira's eyes. "Did you want a tour of the mansion?" Kira nodded her head. "Have you already explored the study?"

"I know what is there, if I should desire to read a book at some time."

A small smile played on Vincent's lips, if only for the fact that she had already assumed she knew where she was welcome and where she was not. "Well, then. Let us begin." Vincent strode quickly away from the study and towards the stairwell at the other end of the hallway.

"Oh, Mr. Vincent-"

"Just Vincent," he cut her off again.

Kira dismissed it, shaking it away this time for the sake of her important reqest. "Can we keep to one side of the mansion tonight?" Vincent's eyebrows shot up as she watched him, though his own eyes were set ahead of them as they stepped onto the first section of the stairway. Here Kira fell back; Vincent led the way, and she followed behind him. "...I would like to avoid my family as much as possible tonight."

"...It is true that many people will deal with grief in separate ways..."

"I don't mean to sound insensitive, but that is not why I asked."

"Oh?" Vincent sounded slightly amused.

"I want to spend some time away from them...get to know the place. I don't think I could stand to sit around any longer, just putting a worried look on my face and not saying anything."

Vincent didn't respond with anything. Kira wondered briefly if it was because he agreed with her parents, but something had told her that Vincent was different from anyone else she had ever met. He was definitely a strange character, but hopefully she would get used to having him around. More or less, he would most likely become her excuse to get away from her confines and her family's expectations.

A/N: Many apologies for not updating this sooner! I got caught up in a couple of other fics...now I must go write something for my Chrono Trigger fic that has also been neglected for a while.

I'm feeling really down about this story. Maybe it's because I haven't written on it for a while, but I found myself with a major block on it a while ago. I'm just not feeling it anymore. [sigh] So depressing...

Back to the drawing board.