My Little Demons – Chapter 5
The gang was still hovering around in the morning, nursing headaches and whatnot. I felt fine. I cleaned my gun after breakfast, and spent some time with Nanaki afterwards.
I was on my way back to the inn to find Yuffie and to ask her where she wanted to start looking for the Leviathan scales when I saw her and Reeve speaking in an alleyway. Both of them were close enough that they could whisper to each other. Reeve leaned into her, one hand on her waist.
Somewhat disgusted, I turned away as quickly as I could, heading towards the inn with robust steps.
"Why does Reeve bother you so much?" Chaos asked, "I mean, you have already decided that you can't taint the innocent Yuffie, whatever the hell that means, so why are you so upset?"
'Stay out of it.'
"Listen, I'm just confused here, man," Chaos continued, unheeding, "She likes you, you like her, what's wrong? Most humans would be happy at this point."
I almost reacted as if someone had slapped me in earnest. 'I do not like her romantically.'
"Well you're sure acting like it bothers you when you see them together. Like you're jealous or something."
'I am not jealous.'
"This is starting to turn into a kid vs kid fight. 'Are too!' 'Am not!' Are you seeing where I'm going with this?"
I sighed, rubbing my temples. As usual, Chaos was a handful.
'I am simply upset because I feel like Reeve may be leading her on. I do not want to see her get burned. By him of all people.'
"You just have it out for this guy, don't you? He could be legit with his affections towards her. Not everyone is as cold as your dead bitch."
'Chaos…' I warned.
"Oh! Vincent!" Yuffie exclaimed, breaking me out of my annoying assault from Chaos. She was rounding the corner with Reeve in hand.
"Good morning Vincent," Reeve said, smiling at me.
"Good morning," I nodded, "I was just looking for you, Yuffie. When did you want to leave?"
"Well Reeve suggested that Reno or Rude might have some more information on exactly where the scale is. He thought maybe he could take us to Junon in the airship. Tifa has to go back to Edge today, and so does Reeve. We were thinking that we could leave after lunch."
"Lunch is fast approaching. I will go to Cloud's house to collect the rest of my things."
"We're gonna go there to eat lunch too," Yuffie said, walking with me towards Cloud's, "I refuse to eat at the inn again!"
We all walked towards Cloud's house. Cid was standing outside smoking a cigarette.
"Oi! Ya'll better be ready to leave when I am," Cid said, "I can't spend another night here. I made the mistake of crashing on Cloud's couch. Let's just say that he and Tifa didn't sleep much!"
"Ewww!" Yuffie exclaimed, "Don't ruin my appetite like that! I don't want to know about Spike and Tits doin' the dirty!"
"Stop calling me 'Tits'!" Tifa yelled through the open window, "Aren't we all adults here?!"
Cloud opened the door, smirking and scratching at his head, "Sorry Cid. Didn't know we kept you up."
"Pssh," Cid snorted, stabbing out his cigarette, "Ain't no man gotta apologize for gettin' some from a fine ass woman. Next time just let me know before ya let me crash on your couch!"
"Can we stop talking about what Cloud and I do behind closed doors!" Tifa said, coming into the doorway, hands on her hips, "I am, after all, making your lunch. I could poison it!"
"What did I say?" Cid smiled, going inside, "Fine ass woman!"
Yuffie snorted, and followed him inside, Reeve close behind.
We all ate in a companionable silence. A few conversations came up, but it was polite chitchat from this point forward. We did a lot of catching up last night, and we all had gone through so much together, it seemed that there was almost no such thing as an awkward silence. It was nice to be in enjoyable company.
It felt good to be in their presence. It had been a long time. I think I missed them. They were my cherished friends, even if they didn't know it. I had never said anything.
We all headed our separate ways after dinner. Reeve took Tifa, Yuffie and I into the airship, and Cid piloted us to Junon. As Yuffie and I were getting off, Reeve took a few minutes to speak quietly with Yuffie. I tried not to listen, focusing on anything else.
Tifa took this opportunity to approach me.
"Vincent, it was so nice to see you, and spend time with you," she said, wrapping me in another motherly hug, "We all hate it when you seclude yourself, Yuffie especially. I think it means a lot to her that you are going to help her out."
"I am sorry if I cause unnecessary worry," I said, patting her again on the back, "I enjoyed this time we had together. I should come around more often."
She released me and gave me a big smile, "Yes, you should."
We both turned to face Yuffie and Reeve. Reeve leaned in for a kiss goodbye, and I could tell Yuffie was embarrassed, but she quickly returned the kiss.
Tifa sighed from behind me, "I feel sorry for Yuffie. Having to marry so quickly. She has told me that she genuinely likes Reeve, but he has never stated his long-term intentions."
"I also asked Yuffie if there was some kind of alternative. She seemed to think there was not. Although she did say there was someone she would prefer to marry. She did not name names though."
Tifa gave me a sideways look, "…She is in love with someone. She hasn't told many people."
I returned her look, "And you are letting her continue on with this charade when she would be happier with someone else?"
"He does not return her sentiments."
"She has approached him?"
"…I can't talk about this with you, Vincent. I hope you understand. This is not my secret to tell."
I nodded, "I do not see why it has to be a secret, but I will concede. I just worry about her…"
Tifa pursed her lips, and crossed her arms, "Yes. I worry about her too. Please keep her safe."
Yuffie ran from Reeve's side, and out the door of the airship.
"Bye Teef!" she said, waving at her from the ground, "C'mon Vince! Let's get this over and done with!"
I nodded to Reeve, and turned and followed Yuffie out.
"You be careful too Vincent," Tifa said, as I exited.
The airship took to the air, leaving Yuffie and I outside of Junon.
Yuffie still looked embarrassed as we entered the city. I did not pry, and we continued walking down the plaza until we turned and entered a particularly sketchy bar. Of course, sitting at the bar was Reno and Rude, sunglasses still on, even in the dark lighting.
"Whoa! The princess and the freak!" Reno exclaimed, "Ha, that sounded like a storybook romance."
Yuffie narrowed her eyes, "Unless you want the 'princess and the freak' to turn you inside out, maybe you should be nicer to them…"
Reno swallowed, "Ha… Aw hell, you guys can't take a joke can you? I always forget how uptight your group is."
"Dude, you're still on my shit-list from that last 'prank' you pulled on me," Yuffie retorted, narrowing her eyes at Reno, "Don't think I forgot."
Reno scratched his head, smiling sheepishly.
My lips pulled downwards on my face as I surveyed the red-headed Turk.
"Jesus, Reno," Rude sighed, turning towards us, abandoning his drink, "One of these days I'm going to stop being surprised at the shit that you pull."
"Listen, let's all just keep cool," Reno said, trying to avoid my gaze, "Do you guys want a drink? I'll buy."
"We're here for information," I said harshly, "Not to socialize."
"We received a call from Reeve. A Leviathan scale," Rude confirmed.
"Those are really hard to come by," Reno said, "I'm not really sure we have a legit lead, but it is worth looking into. There's this black market that happens at night. Go find this guy called 'Dek.' He runs an illegal drug trade, but he use to have access to that old underwater reactor. We've heard him mention in passing that there use to be one there."
Yuffie nodded, "Thanks. We'll leave you to your drinks then."
"Pleasant, as always princess."
Yuffie narrowed her eyes, "See ya Rude."
Rude nodded at Yuffie and then at myself. Yuffie and I exited out into the daylight.
"Yeesh!" Yuffie said, rubbing her arms, "Those kind of shady bars give me the creeps. Give me Teef's bar any day."
"I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that she gives you free drinks."
"…Heh…hehe… Nothing slips by you, eh, Vince?" she chuckled, moving towards the Inn, "Well we've got nothin' but time. Might as well get a room."
"Agreed. Not too much to do in Junon except shop and stare at a giant gun."
"Well, we know you like guns, and I like shopping. I guess we will find something to occupy your time," she said, winking at me as she stepped inside the Inn.
Yuffie paid for her room and mine. We had adjoining doors since we were on a mission. That was what we usually did when we were on missions together. It felt like old times.
Yuffie gave me my keys, and we walked upstairs.
"I'm gonna take a nap I guess," Yuffie said, "I didn't get enough sleep last night."
"I don't really want to stare at Junon's gun, so I will also retire until nightfall."
She smirked at me, "My bed is big enough for two if you get scared."
I raised my eyebrow at her, giving her my own smirk, "I think we can both agree that you are the one that usually gets spooked by new sleeping quarters."
I recalled several times when, on our past missions, Yuffie had sprung through the adjoining door and leap into my bed, hysterical because she saw a ghost/monster/bug/bat/"creepster" near her window/bed/heating register/closet. The first few times I nearly stabbed her with my claw. However, I became accustomed to her random bouts of neediness. I have come to the conclusion that she doesn't really feel comfortable sleeping in new places.
I watched her smile and then watched the smile fall off of her face a bit. She clenched her hands nervously and pushed her right foot around the floor. She looked down at it, as if it were fascinating.
"Well, we could cut to the chase and I could just start off in your room…"
"Finally someone has the balls to initiate something," Chaos said.
I didn't really think of it as a romantic endeavor on her part, as Chaos suggested. She has slept in my bed many times, sometimes just because she can. I was uncertain why she seemed nervous about it this time. Usually she just burst in, declared that the bed was hers, and what was I going to do about it.
"If you wish," I responded, opening my door and gesturing her inside.
She bounced in, all smiles again.
'Chaos, I don't know why you must find meaning in everything she does. She has admitted to being in love with someone.'
"…Are we seriously going there, Valentine? She is in love with you!"
'Stop making presumptions. We are simply close. We always have been.'
"Oh. Em. Gee. You are blind. Didn't we just agree earlier that Yuffie liked you?"
'There is a difference between 'like' and 'love.' I'm not even sure that she really does like me. It might just be an attraction or something. Young hormones. There is nothing to love about me.'
"I think we are all tired of the 'I am worthless' spiel."
"Hey Vinne," Yuffie said, suddenly bouncing up and down in front of me, "Tell Chaos to 'shhh.' Us humans are talking!"
"She knows me so well."
"Yuffie, I apologize," I said, unloading my pack onto a nearby chair, "I initiated that one."
"It's okay," Yuffie said, "I just don't want you to do it for too long, y'know? The longer you internalize might be a trigger to an episode."
I looked at Yuffie again as if I didn't know her. I had not thought of that possibility before. I do tend to banter with Chaos when we are alone in the middle of nowhere. I thought it kept me sane to occasionally socialize with someone, even a demon.
"I had not thought of that, Yuffie. That is very insightful."
"Hey, give me a little more credit!" she laughed, throwing down her own pack, and slipping off her shoes, "I've never been dumb!"
"No, you have always been clever. I suppose I forget from time to time. Especially when it has been years since I've seen you."
She sat on the edge of the bed, her legs crossed. She had worn her usual short-shorts and a tank top this morning. She had put on some gloves and knee-high socks, but she had since taken them off. I took off my cape, my claw, and my boots.
"Guess we better turn in," Yuffie said, stretching her arms above her head.
She scooted back on the bed and proceeded to nestle under the covers. I nodded and laid down next to her, over the covers, as per our usual routine.
It was pretty dark in our room, even though it was daylight outside. The curtains were closed, and they were of a heavy material. I stared at the ceiling, not really tired, but somewhat exhausted from the night before. Just laying in bed felt restful.
"Say, Vince," Yuffie said, turned on her side towards me, "You know you never get under the covers. Why is that?"
I turned my head to look her in the eyes, "It is not appropriate."
She pursed her lips, "We aren't in the dark ages. Plus, I'm a full-grown woman. It's not like I'm a child anymore. How is it inappropriate? It's just a blanket not a steel wall."
"It feels even more inappropriate now that you are a grown woman…" I said softly.
We stared at each other for a time. I did not know what else to say.
"Tell her how beautiful her bright red blood will look on the walls when it sprays from her corpse!" Hellmasker squealed in delight.
"Ugh I was so hoping he would be quiet for another week or so. The sociopath in me says he's funny, but the other side of me is like 'ew gross.' Maybe I'm a neat freak, and I never knew it."
Another moment ruined by the monsters in my mind.
Yuffie sighed, turning her head to the ceiling, rolling away from me a bit. "Vincent, can I ask you a serious question?"
"What are you planning to do with the rest of your life? I heard you could age for awhile after the DeepGround thing."
"I stopped being able to age when my blackouts started for some reason."
"What about when we solve your monster mash problem? Think you'll be able to age again? What will you do then?"
I took a moment to consider her question. At first, when Chaos had been "released," everything had been quiet for a time. No demons spoke. Then, slowly and softly, I began to hear them again. Now it was to the point that they were so loud, it was like being the room with them. Like they were standing next to me. And who knows when it developed into more, them being able to take over my form.
"I have no plans, other than to stay away from humanity. I cannot be trusted not to turn into a monster."
"Yeah, but for awhile you were completely normal. It was like two years or so, right? You were a normal guy. What were you planning on doing with your life?"
I considered her question again. To have no demons? Yes, I had thought I was cured. Did I have plans then?
"I thought I would continue to work for the WRO for as long as possible. Then, when I could not be of service, I would retire to my coffin."
"…I do not deserve the simple treasures in life. The things I have done cannot be undone. I may have been freed of my literal inner demons, but I can never get rid of my guilt and shame from being a Turk, and from the time I endured with Hojo, unknowingly becoming part of making Sephiroth."
"Be honest with yourself. You have never TRIED to free yourself of the guilt and shame," Yuffie said, turning back to me to look into my eyes, "Vincent, there is NO ONE that deserves life's treasures more than you. No one."
I felt touched by her sentiment.
"Thank you, Yuffie. You flatter me, but I do not believe that your words ring true. I don't deserve happiness after the things I've done. No, I have not tried to let things go, but how can I? The first step eludes me, and for just cause. Do not let it bother you."
"It bothers me a lot. It bothers everyone a lot. I know you think you're some worthless piece of shit, but you are totally the opposite. You have atoned for your past crimes. You brought down Sephiroth! You brought down DeepGround! You have saved countless lives, and you continue to save lives. I'm positive you have saved more people than you killed. How do you not see that?"
"Saving one life does not cancel out taking another. To the person's loved ones, it will never bring that person back. It is not possible to atone."
"I think that if you talked to someone's loved one, and they could know and understand everything you've done, everything that you do, and everything that you will do, they would forgive you. It won't bring back that person, but people move on. No one can wallow in the past forever. It's not how the world works. You're cheating."
"You're cheating! If everyone's world stopped when someone they loved died, nothing would get done. People wouldn't make or grow the necessities, and we'd all die! Don't you think I wanted to go live under a rock forever when my mom died? Of course I did! But I didn't. I couldn't. Life goes on. You have to learn to deal and go forward with everyone else."
"…I guess I've never thought of it like that," I said thoughtfully, "…I am sorry if I implied that my suffering is not as important as yours."
"No, you didn't. It doesn't matter anyway. I have let go. It is the healthy thing to do. I want you to do the same."
"I don't think I can."
"Don't think you can? Or don't think you should?"
"…I can help you. I want to help you. I… We hate to see you this way," Yuffie said, "We…want to see you have a life, Vincent."
"I don't know what kind of life I would have, given different circumstances. I never had a normal childhood, and I didn't want to have a normal job. How could I have a normal life after this? Even if I did forgive myself and rid myself of the demons?"
"I never said you would have a normal life. Just a life. Going back into the coffin is not an option, not a life. Working at the WRO…okay. It's kind of a cop out, but if you enjoyed what you did, then sure. The point is after work you would go out with friends. On weekends you would smell the roses and bake bread. Garden. Whatever! You would have a full life. It may not be normal, but it would be satisfying."
"…I appreciate the sentiment. It touches me that you care. And I'm not being sarcastic," I said, giving her a smirk.
She smiled back at me, "Well it's true. I know you weren't expecting a heart-to-heart today, but I just wanted to get it out there in case we didn't have a chance later. I value you in every way Vince, and I want to help you get out of your funk and stop going all lumberjack-out-in-the-woods on us."
I laugh out loud for a moment. Yuffie jumped a bit, startled by my laughter.
"I'm sorry, Yuffie," I said, my laughter dying, but the smile still on my face, "But the way you express yourself sometimes is so amusing. 'Lumberjack.' Ha!"
"Lumberjacks go home to a nice warm home, lady. That is not what we do. I wish that's what we did."
She smiled back at me, "Good. I'm glad to hear you laugh. It gives me hope."
I turn my gaze back to the ceiling. It feels surreal to hear her speak so vehemently about my life, and how I should not throw it away so callously. Sometimes I feel the same as she has expressed. I feel like I am wasting something precious, but as soon as I have the slightest reminder of past crimes, I sink deep into myself, cursing myself.
"We are aware of how you feel."
And perhaps that is the core of why I still linger on this path I have chosen. The monsters inside of me are something I cannot forgive away, and they are the biggest obstacle to a "normal life."
It is as if Yuffie is reading my mind because she says, "After we find a Leviathan scale, I want to help you with your monster mash problem. Once you are free of them, for real, I want you to promise me you will try to forgive yourself."
And for once I feel like I will try. So I say, "I promise."
And we slowly fall into sleep.