Author's note: I changed the introduction to Vincent. I always thought it would be funnier, if a little more difficult for the game designers, if Yuffie was the only one in there when he first emerged. So far that's the only change I intend on.
A Door Beyond Absolution
Chapter One: Hidden Away
He remembered everything. Every soft spoken promise, every uttered falsehood, every single condemning moment. And that is why he was here, that is why he sleeps: To Atone.
Yuffie peaked her head around the corner, into the room. Spotting the safe across the room from her, she strode in casually, with Barret and Cloud in tow.
"Yuffie, you still haven't…" Cloud began somewhat impatiently, Yuffie grinned at him.
"I found the combination tot eh safe! So lets pop this bad boy open and see what kinda stuff Shinra folks think should be locked up!" she said mischievously before turning her back to the two men. As she busied herself with the safe, Cloud looked around the room.
"Something doesn't feel right," he muttered to himself as the lock on the safe clicked open. Yuffie's triumphant cry became a strangled choke as the mismatched creature bounded out of it. Drawing Ultima Weapon, he sighed.
Life with Yuffie was never dull.
Somewhere above him a thud resounded, followed by several others. So irritating was the noise that he propped one crimson eye open for a few minutes to glare at the dark void above him. Something inside the man rationalized that there were several kinds of monsters scurrying about this horrid place, perhaps they had started a scuffle upstairs.
With this thought in mind, he screwed his eyes shut, and continued his nightmarish sleep.
Yuffie wiped some purple blood from the edge of her Conformer, grinning impishly at Cloud and Barret as she picked up an old key. Neither grinned back. Barret had managed to finish off the unusual beast with his Mindblow ability, but the creature had exploded from the force of it, spattering multicolored entrails, purple blood, pieces of brain and, fragments of bone on the three Avalanche members, Barret and Cloud receiving most of it. Cloud pacified himself with glaring at the piece of summon materia the creature had dropped, while Barret fought down the urge to open fire on Yuffie.
"Well, whatever door that key goes to is probably down in the basement…" Cloud began, finally storing away the materia, "perhaps we should mosey on down there and see if the others have found anything?"
Barret trumped out of the room without a word, and Yuffie stared at her feet for a moment.
"I didn't know that would happen!" She said before darting out of the room and towards the hidden stairwell. Cloud sighed heavily. He knew she didn't know anything would attack them from inside the safe, but she rarely gave anything the chance not to attack them. She had to open every treasure chest, climb into every hole, and drag her team mates through every inch of hell before she'd be satisfied that she hadn't missed anything. Some days, he wished he'd just killed her the moment he saw her.
Yuffie examined the door as everyone else simply passed it by, her curiosity spiked dangerously high as she pushed against it. Her fingers found an indentation, and Yuffie retrieved the key from her pocket. She glanced around her, everyone had proceeded down the hall. Slowly, she turned the key and opened the heavy door, it slammed shut behind her.
Swallowing heavily she surveyed the room, barely containing a gasp when she saw the coffins that lie before her. Any normal person would've left the room screaming, but not Yuffie. No, her desire for treasure urged her to remain and notice that only one coffin lay horizontal and closed, all the others were propped up, open, and empty. Her hand reached out to brush the smooth black surface, and, without thinking, Yuffie gave a tremendous push, allowing the lid to slide off.
There was a flurry of movement, Yuffie screamed as something fluttered by her face and threw herself back against the door, staring up at the figure poised on the edge of the coffin. He had long black hair held away from his face by a red bandana, crimson eyes, and handsome features. A red cloak adorned his black clad shoulders, leading her eyes to the golden claw that served as a left arm.
"Who are you?" he asked simply.
Red XII raised his head sharply at the piercing scream that ripped through the soft rustle of pages in the library. He and Cloud exchanged a quick look before racing towards the door by which they had last seen Yuffie. Cloud was the first to reach it, throwing his shoulder against the door instantly. A yelp was heard from the other side of the door.
"YUFFIE!" He shouted as he groped blindly for the doorknob and, in his haste, tried to open the door the wrong way.
Yuffie's chest was heaving in terror as she pressed herself as close to the door as she could, her eyes locked on the figure glaring at her from his perch on the coffin.
"W-what?" she stuttered finally, the figure's crimson eyes narrowed.
"Who. Are. You." He repeated in a dark monotone that made Yuffie swallow the lump that had formed in her throat.
A thud on the other side of the door caused Yuffie to leap away from it with a startled yelp. She managed to spin herself to look at the door as she stepped away from it, towards the red-eyed figure. Her foot caught on something and she began to fall backwards, only something caught her about the stomach, causing her to scream.
A small scuffle had broken out at the door. Cloud, not realizing the door swung outward, was still pushing it as he turned the doorknob. Red was yelling at him to hurry up, Tifa was trying to throw him out of the way, Aerith was shouting to Yuffie through the closed door, and Barret, Cid, and Cait Sith were watching with interest. A scream from within the room made everyone freeze in place.
Cloud finally figured out that the door swung in, and he opened it, just to have a frightened Yuffie tumble backwards and knock him off his feet.
A single warm arm looped around her stomach, keeping her from tumbling to the floor. A scream escaped her instantly and she jolted away from the figure to throw her back against the door once more.
No sooner had her back touched the comforting wood then the door was thrown open. And for the second time in a matter of seconds, Yuffie was tumbling backwards. The figure reached out towards her with his human hand, but she was already falling and he wouldn't be able to catch her the second time.
Her back was cushioned by Clouds lap as she toppled into him, her head smacking into his chest as they hit the floor. Her eyes remained focused on the figure inside, who stood watching them silently, his arm still extended to catch her. For a moment she was sure she saw a flicker of amusement, mild curiosity, and a bit of fear flicker across the handsome features before it fell into a blank stare.
Barret hauled Yuffie to her feet with his good hand, shoving her towards Tifa. Cid helped Cloud up and the three men stood in front of the door, staring imposingly at the man standing with his arm still outstretched. He quickly lowered his arm to his side as he looked back, his face a blank mask.
"Who are you?" he said simply, acting as if nothing had happened.
"We're AVALANCHE!" Barret rumbled out, crossing his arms and puffing out his chest.
"Never heard of them," the man replied.
"We're here to stop a man named Sephiroth…" Aerith began attentively, obviously about to launch into a long explanation, he cut her off.
"Sephiroth?" he repeated questioningly, "you know him?"
"Yes, and we have to find him." Cloud said firmly, "can you…"
"No," the man turned back to his coffin. "I cannot help you."
He climbed into the coffin deftly, slowly moving the lid to again conceal his form. Yuffie shoved herself away from Tifa and barged back into the room, unaware of the cries of her friends. She threw back the lid with remarkable strength, and the man leapt once more from his resting place.
"I said I would not help you," he stated, "what more do you want?"
"You scare the crap outta me for no reason, you obviously know about Sephiroth, but you won't help us!" She declared as she put her hands on her hips. "It's like you don't even know he's gonna destroy the world! That or you don't care!"
The man stared at her, his eyes widening only slightly.
"He… Is?" He asked suddenly, Yuffie's face faltered.
"You…" she paused suddenly, her hands falling away from her hips. "You didn't know…"
"No…" he said softly, "I did not. I cannot help you, no matter what her child is going to do, my apologies." And with that he returned to the coffin, Yuffie left the room silently, closing the large door behind her. Little did she know, that the man never closed the lid to the coffin.
"He… didn't know…" Yuffie said again, staring blankly at Cloud as if such detachment was beyond her understanding. "How could he not know?Sephiroth's all anybody'll talk about now, with the murder of that president what-his-face."
"Perhaps he's been down here for a while," Aerith stated finally, one hand fiddling with her braid. "It is possible he's been down here for a very long time."
Yuffie didn't reply at first, and the others seemed to lose interest quickly, opting instead to head for the staircase leading out of the basement. No one heard Yuffie's next words, at least she didn't think anyone did.
"Who would wanna hide like this?" she whispered before making to follow the others.
"Who would wanna hide like this?" he froze as he sat on the edge of his coffin.
'Why not hide?' he asked himself. He couldn't explain it, but somehow he felt going with them would do more for atonement than any of his wakeful nightmares would. He followed them into the hall.
"Wait," he said simply. The entire group froze in place, turning slowly to look at him. The young girl he had encountered first seeming mildly uncomfortable. "I changed my mind, I will go with you."
Cloud came bustling back over to them, his 'leader' look plastered to his face.
"What's your name?" he said.
"Vincent Valentine, formerly of Turk." Vincent replied, the two surveying one another.
"Welcome aboard, now let's mosey." he said to everyone before turning his back on Vincent. Yuffie stared at him a few seconds longer before registering a specific piece of injustice.
"YOU DIDN'T WANT TO KNOW MY NAME WHEN WE FIRST MET!"
Author's Closing Comments: Yeah, well. You weren't supposed to ask Yuffie her name if you wanted to get her in your party. Heh, I figured she'd be indignant about that.