Warning: This story contains mature content and adult themes. Abuse and rape are key themes to Vincent's past, so if you're not comfortable with it then this isn't the story for you. Also, it is a yaoi coupling, so if that is also not your thing, then please do not blame me for any distress you have when reading it.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Final Fantasy VII is the property of its rightful creators at Square Enix. I have borrowed the characters and world and the storyline. There are some alterations I've made for my own purposes, and I will be developing the characters to my liking, but they still belong to Square Enix.
Also, note that I've diverged from the game storyline. Cat Sithe is not present and Aeris does not die. The final battle is quite different than that in the game and I plan to take whatever liberties I feel will benefit the story to my telling.
Around the Campfire
The unlikely band of heroes sat around the fire as they settled down before turning in for the night. The sky was cloudless, full of stars and a sliver of the moon. The atmosphere was a little repressed as they all felt the end drawing near. Then again, with each step they took and move they made, the companions had the general mindset that the final battle was around the next corner. It had been quite some time since they'd begun to expect a final confrontation. They were almost used to it.
No one knew how things would turn out, they could only hope and believe they had the power to defeat Sephiroth.
Cloud had become slightly introverted in his manner as of late, though his arrogant air was long gone. As the group's leader, he had matured a great deal. They had been through too much together to not have all matured at least a little. Even Yuffie, in her happy-go-lucky and carefree personality had grown a tad solemn lately. At least, she'd stopped stealing everyone's possessions, for the time being.
One person, who didn't seem to be affected at all by the looming darkness, was Vincent.
There wasn't much anyone in the group knew about Vincent Valentine. For all they could tell, he was an undead vampire. Common sense, however, told them he was human, maybe. Quiet and reclusive, he kept to himself, even in the most perilous of circumstances. He relied on no one. Not even Cloud, in his commanding and leader role, could pry a word out of the man.
What a shock it had been, to chance upon that coffin in the mansion. An experiment of Hojo's was surely to be as horrific in appearance as Sephiroth was in his madness. And yet, after that lid was removed, each member felt a confused awe settle in. Layered in folds of cloth and that thick red cloak, only hints of the thin and slender frame could be detected beneath. Silky raven hair, falling past his shoulders, and bound loosely with that red headband. While his face usually remained hidden behind his long dark hair and high collar, some of them had distinctly seen him in the moments before he became conscious on that day. Pale white skin, smooth as marble. His eyes were but fringes of dark lashes, gently resting on his creamy cheeks in silent slumber. Soft red lips, motionless as he slept, they looked warm, as though he hadn't been sleeping for the past thirty years. His delicate facial features made them all wonder at his sex, there was something entirely androgynous about Vincent, even now.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of all was when he stirred, opening his eyes. Those deep crimson eyes, which seemed to change every so often, perhaps betraying an emotion beneath that well maintain countenance.
Though standing tall at six foot, it hardly seemed to factor in, when the rest of him was so utterly conflicting. He was a living conflict of traits. With his gleaming metal claw, and holstered guns, he was a fierce warrior. The Chaos within him was such a surge of rage and emotion, which was never shown in the man himself. But, when he wasn't in battle, he was like a silent angel, fallen from the heavens and carrying a sorrowful burden, which they could only guess at.
As far as they knew, from the bits and pieces contributed willingly, or whimpered in his nightmarish sleep, he was suffering from a twisted past. No one could claim to be his confident, since he never spoke openly. But, they had gathered that he had been in love with a woman named Lucrecia. Lucrecia they knew was the former wife of the mad scientist, Dr. Hojo. And, if rumors were true, Sephiroth was the odd couple's son.
From what they found out about Hojo he was an insane lunatic who cared nothing for human lives. Red XIII held no secret of the fact that he wanted revenge on the man, and from Vincent's seeming approval of the cat like creature's goal, they could only guess the scientist had crossed more than one member of the group.
Cloud lay on his back, much as Cid did, looking up at the stars and mulling facts and plans over in his head. More than once, he'd sought advice from the dark haired gunman, seeking the voice of reason and collected thoughts. There were times, when asking Barret, Cid, or Tifa just didn't work. Like the man he was before assisting Avalanche, they were a bit hot headed and tended to devise more offensive tactics. And Yuffie, Red XIII, and Aeris just weren't tactically savvy. During their quest, there were a few times when rushing into things was not the best idea, and Vincent came in handy for those times.
In battle Vincent could be the most erratic and unpredictable of them all, but the rest of the time, he was solemn and thoughtful, and smart. He always had sound advice for Cloud, though he never ventured to offer it freely. In that respect, Vincent was entirely willing to be lead, never speaking up or voicing his opinions, not even when asked. However, if Cloud approached him in all seriousness, Vincent would return the favor of respect and speak with Cloud.
It was during their few meetings to discuss their next move when Vincent spoke the most. Though hardly more than a handful of sentences, the spiky haired swordsman suspected it was the most he spoke to anyone.
Naturally Cloud would be the person Vincent spoke to most, since he was the leader. This was common sense in the blond fighter didn't need to read any further into the matter.
Vincent was their most recent addition, and while he hadn't been with them long, and didn't assimilate with the group, he was a part of their team as much as anyone else was. Cold and distant, they couldn't help but accept him for who he was. If nothing else, he was pleasing to look at and a great addition to their force.
Even Cid didn't joust him as often as he did everyone else. And, oddly, when the pilot did rant strings of insults or offending comments, they lacked in meaning and came off as nothing more than familiarizing banter.
Yuffie was positively dying to know Vincent better. Her thieving background and nosy personality gave the young girl a knack for prying. Though, she always meant well, she was beginning to become restless and willing to do anything to find out all his secrets.
No one could be certain Vincent had any secrets in the first place, but his personality screamed as much to each of them. Yuffie was perhaps the only person who couldn't handle the curiosity. While everyone put it aside in light of more pressing matters, Yuffie often found herself staring at the expressionless face, wondering at its beauty and pondering what went on in that head of the red eyed gunner.
The longhaired brunette, Tifa, stared into the fire, dazed in thought. Watching the flames dance, her eyes eventually focused on what lay beyond. There, sitting across from her, in the circular band, slightly more on the outside than anyone else, was Vincent. His knees were huddled to his chest casually, while his head rested comfortably. She thought his eyes were closed, but couldn't be sure since most of his face was obscured.
Briefly, Tifa wondered why he didn't just turn in for the night, as he was obviously tired. But, she was glad that he seemed to have some response to the way they functioned. They all spent much of their down time together, and that included the evenings of leisure and rest. Usually, the ruby-eyed man was a mere shadow in their presence and gone once the job was over. Although, he still didn't talk to them, he was at least with them now.
Lost in reverie, the kickboxing fighter let her eyes focus on Vincent's huddled form. They were all reluctant heroes. No one wanted the bloodshed or tears. None of them had asked for the lives they now lead. Still, they were all determined, in their own way, to end it all and bring peace back to the world, even if that world was poor and wretched from the abuse it had undergone.
It seemed to Tifa, that Sephiroth had a similar goal, of ending the destructive chaos that reigned under ShinRa. Only the silver haired warrior intended to destroy the world all together, believing it to be beyond repair.
As if her gaze bore into him, the soft raven hair of their companion stirred as he raised his head. Though his left eye was in the shadow of his headband, she could see a glint off it from the fire. His deep crimson eyes locked on hers, as if acknowledging her focus on him.
Blushing, Tifa turned her head quickly, knowing it was too late, but unable to continue staring. If only there was way to stare at him openly without being obvious.
Vincent felt weary, after a long day of fighting and walking. He was ready to curl up and fall into a forcefully induced dreamless sleep. Lately, he had found a way to use healing Materia to let him sleep without his subconscious getting the better of him. Thus far, he'd only done it twice, and only after particularly brutal days. Only when he truly needed a serious rest. Now, he thought it unnecessary. He deserved the nightmares that plagued him constantly. They were part of his atonement. To use this newfound method flippantly would be a disgrace and only make his sins worse.
Slowly, he nodded off, resting his head against his knee. It wasn't necessary to be on guard when surrounded by the rest of the group. Although, he never let his guard down completely, always ready to jump into action, he did find himself welcoming the heavy lidded drowsiness.
It was then he felt eyes upon him. This was nothing new. Ever since he joined resistance faction, in hopes of exacting revenge on Hojo, he knew they always stared at him. And, he couldn't blame them. Within him was a grotesque beast, which seemed to have manifested in his human form. Everyone stared at a wild beast, a freak show for the audience. He didn't complain, because it was to be expected. Instead, he was grateful that they kept insults and other such comments to themselves. They even tolerated his isolated silence. It was rare for any of them to demand his participation other than in battle. For this he was most grateful, and would extend his thanks after they had completed their mission.
Honestly, he was a man of few qualms, other than the sins he carried and disdain he held for himself and Hojo, he found little to complain about among his 'friends'. At first he had simply humored the idea of being a part of their group. His intentions were purely self-serving, using them as a means to an end. But, as time had past, short as it might have been since he first joined up, he was slowly incorporated and entwined with their fate.
Now, he would do everything in his power to help them, not just because it would invariably mean Hojo's demise, but because of their determination and resolve to save humanity.
The moment he had felt the darkness lift, he'd hardly believed it. Thirty years of a frozen stasis, his mind drifting and repenting for his misdeeds, had given him a feeling of despair. He had come to believe his fate was sealed and his life was condemned to an eternity of darkness and loneliness, riddled with relived horrors from his past.
Then, one day, he'd felt a rush of cool air, musty and heavy with Mako energy used from long ago. Fresh by no means, it was still an open breeze, and the first signal that he was no longer a captive of the darkness. The Chaos within him forever raged at his fate, telling him that he needn't repent for a damn thing, and that he should be exacting revenge.
This was the battle and rift in his mind. The monster within him, the monster that he had become, willed him to fight and hunt Hojo down. The man in him, believed his life of tragedy and loss was his own fault, and for which he deserved the dark fate of lonely solitude, forever entrapped in the coffin.
This battle raged wildly every moment he held conscious thought. Upon being released from his thirty years of confinement, his eyes had drift open to find the blue luminescent eyes of Cloud Strife. His freedom had been right before him, he needed have only pushed past the group and follow every whim Chaos felt. He could have run and hunted the scientist down to avenge Lucrecia. But, his other half had spoken up, saying he deserved this sorrow, and must not harbor such dishonorable thoughts as escaping.
Unable to decide his own actions, he'd remained frozen and confused. His eyes wandered the room, landing on each person. They'd all stared at him wide-eyed, and it had taken him a moment to realize why. He was a hideous monster, the embodiment of darkness and all that was horrific.
Slightly crestfallen at this remembrance, his eyes and head had fallen downward, ashamed at the creature he was. It had been that moment when he saw his claw, perhaps the most symbolic feature of the demon within.
Hojo had been right to seal him away. And, yet, he couldn't forgive the madman for what he'd done to Lucrecia. Vincent didn't know what he'd done to deserve his fate. Considering the pain and torture the madman had put him through, it must have been something terrible. But, Lucrecia didn't deserve her fate, and for that Vincent wanted revenge.
Wary of the group that had stood before him, his internal struggle had raged as the spiky haired man spoke to him.
Vincent had kept his eyes averted, knowing he would only see disgust and fear on everyone's face. His uncertainty had wavered back and forth, as he would decide on staying in the coffin and resuming his punishment, but then decide to go with the band and seek Hojo out.
Eventually, Chaos had won and he'd joined them, if only to find Hojo.
In the end, he could always return to the mansion and place himself back into darkness. Yes, this was a plan he'd been mulling over for some time. When Hojo was dead, and Sephiroth killed, the world would be saved and he would return to the mansion and continue his punishment. Lucrecia would be avenged and he could then freely atone for his sins. Perhaps, he'd be lucky enough to find out what he'd done in the first place, maybe Hojo would take pity on him, and tell him why he was such a monster and what he'd done to earn his fate.
That was all Vincent could hope for, to know the reason for his fate that was worse than death and for Chaos to rest within him knowing justice was served on Lucrecia's behalf.
These were Vincent's sleepy thoughts, as he rested his head. He understood his comrades' stares, and he accepted it.
When the eyes he felt upon him did not waver, he became curious as to who it was this time. Lifting his head, he found a pair of dark sultry eyes gaze into his. Tifa was just on the other side of the fire, staring at him. Presently she turned her head and blushed. He couldn't help but wonder why she felt, perhaps, embarrassed at staring at him. Surely she understood that it was to be expected. There was nothing wrong with ogling a freak show such as him, for this too was a part of his fate.
Sighing inwardly, Vincent resigned himself to replaying past events in his mind. After seeing Tifa turn from him, he felt a prick of guilt, and that had woken him up, even if he still felt tired.
He didn't know what was worse, the flash backs he had while he was awake or the nightmares of his unconscious. When asleep it all seemed so real, as if it were happening all over again. But, when he was awake, he had his mind to contend with, pointing out how he was deserving of such torture and pain. It was perhaps more difficult to consciously relive the events, since he couldn't wake up and sooth it over as a mere dream.
Flashing before his eyes were images of so many years ago. These images danced in the flames of their campfire, becoming animate and real.
The moment he saw Lucrecia his heart skipped a beat. Dr. Hojo had escorted Vincent inside the mansion and in the main entrance he stood just inside the doorway. The wide staircase ascended to a wall bearing a large glass window. There, he saw her figure. Wearing a light blue dress, long silver hair braided down her back. The glowing light shining in from behind, she stood gloriously silhouetted. Slowly she had made her descent, coming to greet him. In her arms she carried a white lab coat, which she swung on with practiced ease, as though the garment were a part of her.
Her delicate hand was extended to him, and he hesitated in awe to shake it. Her smile lit the room, if possible, even brighter.
Formal introductions were made, and he was informed that she was Hojo's wife, and partner in scientific research. From the moment he watched the husband and wife interact, he'd known something was awry. Hojo did not strike him as a man deserving of such a delicate beauty as his wife was. And, after his first few weeks of watchful guarding, he'd come to realize they didn't match up in more than one way.
Vincent had never been allowed to see their work, or experiments. He didn't need to, that wasn't his job. He was there to protect them from prying eyes, jealous backstabbing, and political attacks. Apparently they were working on top-notch stuff, something intricate and dealing with ShinRa and Mako energy. Regardless, he just needed to keep enemies away and the two scientists safe.
He failed miserably in his job. Not only had he fallen in love with a married woman, but he had also partaken in an illicit affair with her. Much of his memory was a blur, as a result of two versions of the tale. There were his own memories and then those Hojo supplied him with. He could remember distinctly up until the night Lucrecia snuck into his quarters and informed him she was pregnant. From there his memories pretty much revolved around what Hojo told him during their sessions together.
All he knew, though didn't remember on his own, was that he had been caught and taken captive by Hojo. There was no fighting the drugs the man slipped him. His days were then spent strapped down in a lab. Time passed in a manner that he couldn't keep track of, between being awake and being knocked out, from the drugs constantly administered.
Eventually, it was revealed to him, that Lucrecia had died giving birth, to what Hojo claimed was his son. But, the insane scientist was the furthest from a caring father, and chose to use his son in a new experiment, that dealt with someone called Jenova.
Hojo revealed that it was the birth, which killed Lucrecia. For that, Vincent was at fault, for he knew that the child was his own. He had killed Lucrecia, but Hojo had taken their son and used him for his own purposes. This was what Vincent sought revenge for. Lucrecia had expressed a love and happiness at her pregnancy, and Vincent had hoped for them to run away together.
Vincent had known from the first day that Lucrecia returned his feelings. He wanted nothing more than to go away and live happily with her, but his hopes were dashed and stomped out of him brutally.
With Lucrecia gone and his son taken away for experimentation, Vincent remained. Like his son, Vincent would become an experiment as well, and eventually much more. The horrors of Hojo's meddling were gory and painful. It wasn't until a month or two after Lucrecia's learned death that Hojo began to act differently around him.
Each day he was poked and prodded with needles and syringes. Painful fluids dripped into his blood stream, sometimes burning like acid. When his blood boiled and his skin crawled, he cried out in agony and could only imagine the deformed appearance his body must have been taking on.
This must have been why Hojo began to look at him lustfully. The mad scientist always found attraction in the most hideous of things, which would explain the change in Hojo's eyes.
There eventually came a day when the scientist entered the lab room, administering a drug into a tube running to his vein, to rouse the pale man from his already drug induced sleep. As Vincent came to, he knew from the look in the madman's eyes that this day of torture was to be different.
That day was the first of many, for Vincent to be told what a monster he was, while the scientist ground into him from behind. Though in excruciating pain, it wasn't as bad as certain other experiments the crazed man had done to him.
What made those days the darkest was the degrading and shameful feeling he felt within as the other man came inside him, yelling forth how sinful he was.
Apparently, not only did he carry Lucrecia's death, but also many others on his hands, though Hojo left out specifics. He was a horrible creature, who was impure and deserving of all his days of pain. At first he didn't believe Hojo. He would shout back that he wasn't evil, that Hojo was the evil one. But, then Hojo would ask who killed Lucrecia, and Vincent would be forced to face the fact that it was his fault. From this steppingstone, Hojo had ingrained the truth of how horrific he truly was. And each time Chaos thought to rebel and utter words of defiance, he would receive a harsh punishment. Whether in the form of surgeries without antiseptics or a harsh penetration from behind, he would be punished.
Finally, one day when he awoke, his eyes roamed down to settle on a metallic claw on his left arm. When he moved his muscles and tendons, the claw moved. Thankfully, whatever amputation had been done, he had been unconscious for. For this he was grateful.
As time passed, Hojo seemed to grow weary of his presence and more focused on his son. It was in these last few days, that Hojo said he was tired and bored of Vincent. It was time for his ultimate punishment. And so, to atone for his horrendous crimes against humanity, Vincent was stored away in the coffin, sustained in a lifeless sleep, where his conscious roamed for thirty long years.
Staring off into the flames, Vincent was lost in his memories, becoming more withdrawn and reclusive.
Tifa and Aeris had turned in for the night, leaving their tent flap open for Yuffie to join them later. The crickets had increased their strumming, which they'd been doing since dusk.
Yuffie had been sighing for the past ten minutes, watching Vincent. Her curiosity was restrained only by the sudden sadness that seemed to envelope the beautiful vampire's aura. She didn't know what to do. His demeanor just screamed out to her, and she wanted to jump up and tackled him in a hug, soothing that everything would be all right.
Sighing again, she pouted. It was times like these that she desperately wanted to know his past, to find out what made him the way he was. Why was he so quiet? Why was he so mysterious? Why did he seem like the least emotional guy in the world, and yet also seem to be the most emotional all at once? And why, for love of the Ancients, was he so damn beautiful? Yuffie still couldn't get over the fact that he managed being both the sexiest man and more beautiful than any woman she'd ever seen.
Biting her lip, Yuffie clenched her fists in an effort not to lose control. When she saw the firelight gleam on his half open eyes, she thought they were watering. If he started to cry, she would too, and then she'd give up and tackle him. 'What is wrong with him?' her mind cried out, wanting to know badly.
Cid was the next to leave the fire side, stalking to his tent and disappearing behind the flap.
They had three tents. The three girls shared the largest makeshift shelter, and the other two were split among the men. Red XIII preferred to sleep outside, keeping a night watch by the dying embers of their fire.
Barret had been snoring away for some time, more audible now as he drifted deeper into his sleep. This was the cue for the others to wake him and send him off to bed. Yuffie, desperate for the distraction stood and kicked Barret in the side, earning a harsh grunt from the large man.
"S'wrong?" the burly gunner slurred still half asleep, as he turned to face his disturbance.
"Go to bed. Don't sleep out here," Yuffie chastised, trying to sound all motherly like Aeris did, but failing miserably and taking a tone more of nagging annoyance.
Grumbling to himself, muttering a few obscenities about a 'klepto ninja', Barret sauntered up and into the same tent Cid had gone to.
Moments later, they heard a yell from Cid and a mumbled apology from Barret before everything quieted down again.
Yuffie paced for a moment, between where the dark skinned lug of a man had been lying to her own spot. But, she knew it was odd behavior, so she collapsed to the ground again, somewhere in between the two places.
Red XIII lifted his head at her antics, amused at the impatience of the ninja girl. For some time, he'd been feigning sleep along side Cloud, while studying their newest member. Vincent Valentine was a man of a tortured past, this much was evident in the glimpses of anguish he caught within the man's eyes.
It didn't take long for him to piece together that Hojo had scarred the man in a similar manner as he had done to himself. The day he became Red XIII was a sad day indeed. But, Vincent had been trapped for thirty years, and before that there was no telling how long the former Turk had been in the clutches of the mad scientist. As it was, he hadn't been imprisoned for very long, but it felt like an eternity between painful experiments and nervous waiting.
In the wild cat's point of view, he was the only person who could at least begin to sympathize with the mysterious and detached stranger. Not to mention, he wouldn't go about staring at the poor man like he was some piece of meat. There was an irony in such a fact.
Lazily lifting his head, Red XIII stood on his legs and stretched languidly before patting his way over to the pale man they called a vampire. Bravely and boldly, he nudged the gunman, almost nuzzling the pale face. This seemed to catch the solemn man wildly off guard, as red eyes stared into his bright yellow ones, startled and unsure.
Tentatively, as Vincent shifted, he plopped down and rested his head in the man's lap. Waiting for a few moments, wondering if this would ever work. He grinned as he felt Vincent relax and place a delicate hand upon his head in a soft stroke. After a few more minutes, his grin turned into a pleased smile, as Vincent became surer of what he'd been after, and gave way to petting the thick fiery red fur.
Purring softly after a little while, Red XIII was firm in his resolution to try and befriend this socially inept man, if only to have him run his fingers through his fur like this. There was a slight itch at his ear, and as soon as he felt it, Vincent's hand would scratch it. Sighing in a new found comfort, he let his eyes drift close, hoping to fall asleep before Vincent left.
Cloud watched half aware, as Yuffie struggled with some internal battle. Every once in a while he would steal glances over at their new recruit, wishing he could see the man's face like he had on their initial meeting.
Out of the corner of his eye, the blond watched as Red XIII made to find his bed for the night. He was mildly surprised when he noticed that the flaming tailed creature approached Vincent and…. Nuzzled his face! 'What!' Cloud's mind raged. Eyes wide and now completely trained on the activity going on only a few feet away, he didn't notice that Yuffie was having a similar reaction. Now the cat was resting his head in the other's lap!
As if Cloud wasn't shocked enough, Vincent actually began to pet the creature. Since when were they so close? If Cloud didn't know any better, he'd say Vincent was more familiar with Red XIII than with himself. He was the leader, the one who sat down and had private conversations with the pale beauty… not the Cosmo Canyon native they had rescued.
While Cloud felt shocked and pangs of jealousy, he became even more surprised upon recognizing his jealousy. Why, for the love of the Ancients, was he jealous that someone was closer to this vampire than he was? That was ridiculous!
It was then he looked over at Yuffie, who was gawking visibly, not even bothering to hide her shock. This stirred anger within the young leader, as he made a connection between his reaction and the young ninja who they all knew had some sort of curious infatuation with the cold gunman. He sure as hell was not infatuated in the least, and he resented finding any implication otherwise.
Standing quickly, Cloud swept off into the remaining tent, intent on falling asleep before Vincent joined him.