Sorry this update has taken forever, but I've been redecorating my living room. Thankfully that nightmare is over and I can get back to doing what I like best. To make it up to those who are enjoying this, I've written a longer chapter than normal.
I'd like to say a big giant THANK YOU to everyone who has left me feedback. I love you all. Hope this doesn't disappoint.
Hugs, S xxx
P.S. A big special HI to Bleuwyn!
Tifa carefully ran the comb through her wet hair, wincing each time the prongs hit a tangle. God, she hated using other people's shampoo and conditioner. With her hair being as long as it was, she found only a few brands that kept it nice.
She gave her reflection an extra once over before putting the comb back where she found it and sighed. She shouldn't complain. Vincent was kind enough to let her use them, and at least she was clean and not looking like some hung over hell spawn.
Hands came up to cup her cheeks and Tifa squished them together, smiling at the fish face staring back at her. If only Vincent could see her now. He'd probably run a mile for fear whatever she had was contagious.
"C'mon Lockheart. You've hidden in here long enough. Time to go out and face the music." She gave her reflection a sarcastic sneer. "Or the wedding bells as the case may be." Fingers quickly rubbed the remaining black smudges from under her eyes and she paused when the light glinted off the plastic ring on the fourth digit of her left hand.
Living proof of what alcohol, and a really cute guy, could do to a sane woman.
A loud breath of air escaped and Tifa thumbed the ring for a moment before sliding it off, fully intent on leaving it in the bathroom. She rolled it this way and that, just looking at it as though it was going to sprout wings and fly away. A cold, odd emptiness gripped her when her gaze strayed to her naked finger. Guilt was hot on it's heels.
She felt horrible for taking the ring off, knowing Vincent hadn't. Sure, they didn't know each other all that well, but Tifa knew enough to know that he'd be a little bit hurt when he noticed the absence of it. She couldn't do that to him. Just the thought of hurting him hurt her. Not after the way he'd kissed her like that.
"Mmm…" Tifa's eyes glazed over with a fine fog of lust and her lips tingled with a recent, very pleasant memory. She nibbled on a fingertip and continued to stare off into space, happily wallowing in Vincent Land before snapping out of it.
Quickly, the ring was shoved back on and she nodded in approval, then groaned. How pathetic was she? She hated men and their charming masculine wiles and their big ruby eyes. Not that every man had charming masculine wiles and big ruby eyes, but never mind. How dare he make her feel guilty when she hadn't done anything wrong?
"God!" Tifa flung her hands up in frustration only to shriek and shed her skin in shock.
The knock was loud and accompanied by his husky voice. "I have extra towels if you require them."
The door almost left its hinges as she yanked it open to glare at him. "What is it with you and giving me coronaries?" Tifa demanded much to his amusement. Crikey, her heart was bruising her ribs.
Vincent merely shrugged. "My apologies." He stood there looking far too smug for her liking.
"Breakfast?" As if on cue, her stomach rumbled at the thought of finally being fed. One would think she'd never eaten a day in her life.
Jet black hair moved softly around his face as he shook his head. "It will arrive in ten minutes," Vincent explained, a slight flickering of lips signalled he wanted so much to smile. "According to Marjorie from Room Service that as newlyweds, we are welcome to the Honeymoon Special."
A cute little laugh broke out and Tifa squeezed the bridge of her nose. "Nothing can surprise me now." And it was scary how true that was. "So the Honeymoon Special. At least we don't have to eat in the dining area, in front of everyone." At last. Something was going right.
A dark eyebrow arched high. "You do not wish people to see us?" Vincent was rather proud of himself. His teasing was getting better. He took in the horrified look on her face. Maybe he was too good.
"No Vincent!" He winced at the loudness of her denying yell. How could he think that she'd be embarrassed to be seen with him? Had he forgotten last night? "That's not what I meant…"
"Then what did you mean?" Vincent knew he shouldn't tease her so cruelly, but he really couldn't help himself. Old insecurities, he figured, could be blamed for this.
Soft, gentle hands came up to stroke both his shoulders. He stood stock still as Tifa followed the breadcrumbs and touched each side of his face, thumbs tracing his jaw and mouth, and fingers brushing across his cheeks. Just as he was getting used to the sweet touching, it was gone. In it's place was a bone crushing full body hug that threatened to squeeze the air from his lungs.
Just as quickly as the hug came, that too was gone, and he was now looking down into a pair of beautiful eyes full of honest affection. "I don't care if people see us," Tifa's eyelashes fluttered in a way that made Vincent curse females the world over. "I want people to see us…"
"Then we are an us?"
She blinked owlishly. "What?"
The gunslinger swept a strand of damp hair over her shoulder. "Forgive my trickery, but it could not be helped. I did not care to see you shy away from what you want because of fear."
Honest affection slowly disappeared and was replaced with incredulity. Tifa stared at him for a second. "You know I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with you, right?"
This time Vincent did smile. Only a small one, but it was a smile nonetheless. "Yes." He really should feel guilty about it. "You never answered my question. Are we an us?"
She ignored the question and punched his arm hard enough to make him hiss out a pained ow. Tifa nodded. "Just checking. Did you find our clothes?"
Ah. "We may have a problem with clothing."
"Please tell me we have some." Oh God. What if they didn't have clothes? Tifa had a horrible thought of having to walk around in a towel. Or having to get one of the others to fetch her some clothes from the ship. Either way would end up in her face taking on a permanent shade of scarlet.
Oh well. Vincent needed something to match his eyes.
Blessedly, he said the magic words. "Yes, we have some." He didn't say they were their clothes.
Relief had Tifa's slender shoulders sagging and she sighed. "We don't have to walk around in towels and stolen underwear. Good. What's the problem?"
Thankfully, a knock on the room door prevented Vincent from having to answer. "Let us eat first. Come." His palm was warm against her skin and he smirked as she shivered in response to his gentle touch. He guided her out the bathroom, towards a table barely big enough for two, and pulled out a chair.
An adorable pink haze spread across her cheek bones. "Thank you."
"My pleasure." It was his pleasure indeed. Another, more impatient knock sounded and all it took was four powerful strides for Vincent to reach the door. He opened it and blinked.
Two middle aged women stood there. One was pushing a large cart covered in food, expensive silverware, and balloons saying Congratulations. The other woman held what appeared to be a garden. Flowers of all colours and species seemed to stand out against the blackness of her uniform.
"Good afternoon!" They both greeted with equally large smiles. "On behalf of the Ghost hotel, congratulations to your new wife and yourself. We hope you live a long and happy life together."
Vincent nodded and offered his version of a happy, newlywed smile as he reached out to bring the cart inside. "Many thanks. I am sure missus Valentine…" he ignored the muttered Valentone from behind him. "And I will enjoy this very much."
"Excellent." One woman clapped her hands together and the other placed the flowers in an empty space. "Again congratulations." They left, but he could hear them talking with all the whims of hopeless romantics.
"Vincent?" Tifa came up to peer over his shoulder before moving away to let him inside. She paused as she took in the amount of food and blooms. "Wow."
"Indeed." The little wheels squeaked a little as he pushed it up against the table. The brunette came trotting up to stand close enough so that her arm brushed his. He wondered if she'd done it on purpose. Only one way to find out.
"You've no need to seek excuses to touch me."
"Huh?" Surprise flittered across her face as she stared up at him, then down to where her flesh met his. "Oh. Sorry." She made a move to edge away, but he stopped her with no more than dark eyes that burned a deep red. Tifa swallowed back a forming lump and released a long, slow breath that did little to ease the tiny bit of awkwardness she felt.
Vincent indicated for her to sit, watching as she obeyed without an argument. "What? I'm assuming that our marriage vows included my obedience. Just fulfilling my end of the bargain. Now let's see what we have here. I'm so hungry, I could eat you."
"I have no objections to sating your appetite, but I doubt I could provide the correct sustenance."
Tifa glared and huffed at his comment, then set about removing the silver tops of the plates. Her eyes grew wider with everything she saw. "Oh my God! Look at all this!" She began to point things out. "Melon, prawn cocktail, salad, ham, eggs, fruit juice, champagne, croissants, and butter. Real butter! You hardly get that anymore. Normally it's low fat margarine that lowers cholesterol. Or supposed to lower cholesterol. That's not margarine. That's gross. Like low fat mayonnaise."
Vincent went to say something, but a raised hand stopped him. "I don't care what people say. That is not mayonnaise. Now let's not let all this yummy goodness go to waste."
"Most definitely a sin." Again, he pulled her chair out and waited until Tifa was sitting comfortably before pushing it in. "You would like a drink?"
She bit her lower lip indecisively. "I know alcohol is what got us into this mess, but I've never had a champagne breakfast. Seen it in movies and it always looks the thing to do, you know?"
His hand went for the bottle resting in a bucket of ice. A champagne breakfast she would have. Vincent began unscrewing it, carefully positioning the cork away from Tifa so it didn't take out a pretty eye when it went pop.
Pop it went and Tifa clapped in delight, watching excitedly as he filled her a glass half full. "Thanks. De ja vu," she commented dryly as he sat opposite her. "This is the second time we've eaten together. It's getting to be a habit."
Vincent began sharing out the food. "Not a bad one, I presume." He felt her foot nudge his, and nudged her back.
"Of course not. You're good company, even if you lead intoxicated women astray and marry them." Tifa nudged his foot a second time and grinned when it got returned. "That's a habit you want to get rid of."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "I do not have a habit of marrying intoxicated women."
Tifa innocently shrugged, using her fingers to pop a delicious piece of melon into her mouth. She hummed as the sweet juice coated her tongue and she savoured it before swallowing. "You married me, didn't you?" Hey, he teased her earlier. She was entitled to a little payback. Speaking of payback, her toes found his ankle and she gave him a gentle kick.
"That does not mean I have done it before." Vincent kicked her back. "If either of us has cause to worry, it is me. You are the one unable to remember last night." A single brow rose. "How many others have fallen into your trap, I wonder."
She could have continued the conversation, she would have enjoyed the flirtatious banter, but another growl from her stomach quickly ended that. "We'll never know," the words were breezy, careless, and came with a cheeky grin which brought a mischievous sparkle to her eyes. Tifa raised her glass. "Here's to the evils of alcohol," she paused for thought. "Here's to marrying each other and not total strangers."
Vincent dutifully joined her toast and took a sip when she did. He knew they had to talk, seriously talk, about what they were going to do about the circumstances, but not yet. It didn't seem right to ruin such a lovely breakfast with a conversation that had the power to destroy what he had found, what they both found.
"It's weird." Tifa broke the companionable silence. "I took my ring off in the bathroom," his averted gaze didn't go unnoticed. She felt awful, but she had to be honest. "Played with it for a few seconds and put it back on." She also noticed their game of footsy had stopped.
She felt the full intensity of his attention as he looked right at her. "Why?" He asked, his voice gruff and husky, the tone moved over her skin like fine grains of sand. "Why did you put it back on?"
She shrugged, and this time, it was her averting her gaze. "I don't know. My finger looked kind of naked without it. Then I thought about you. About how you wouldn't have taken yours off and I felt guilty. That maybe my taking it off, even for a second, would hurt you."
Usually, Tifa wasn't one to openly discuss her feelings and thoughts, but this was Vincent. She could trust him not to judge or laugh or do anything but listen respectfully. Despite knowing this, she still a tad foolish for admitting what she just did. Particularly as this couldn't be classed a proper marriage.
Gods, she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole. He was probably thinking she was some crazy, sentimental idiot whose idea of love came from a trashy romance novel written for bored housewives.
Long thick fingers closed around her smaller ones, heating them through a firm hold, a roughened thumb drew circles on a knuckle. "What is it you wish?" Vincent wasn't one to hope or become overwhelmed by silly notions of love at first sight. So he wasn't going to hope for her wanting to stay married.
He wasn't stupid enough to believe she'd suddenly fallen in love with him, or vice versa. So there was no reason to hope she might want to give things a go on the off chance that it might work, that they might have something good between them.
"Again, I don't know Vincent." He watched as she pushed her free hand through her hair, leaving it to flop around her face in a slightly messy way that only enhanced her features. "Last night, from what I can remember, was incredible. More than incredible, but…"
"We know very little of each other." Tifa nodded. "I understand. But it does not mean we cannot take this chance, despite how it begun."
"I never thought I'd get married, drunk or not, so I never gave it a second thought. At the same time, I thought I'd only get married once and it'd be done the way it's supposed to be done."
Vincent brought her hand up and pressed a soft kiss to each of her fingers. "Ah, yes. Date for a while, live together, then get married. It may not be the way you had hoped, yet it may not be the wrong way."
Tifa smiled as he tried to make her feel better about the whole thing. "What about you? Did you think of marriage?"
He didn't answer and she sucked in a deep breath, trying to control mild annoyance before it bubbled into righteous indignation. "Okay this," she gestured to them both, "Whatever it is, has to go both ways. We can't discuss me without discussing you. What did you want, Vincent? What did you dream of having?"
The gunslinger took time to take a sip of his champagne as he contemplated his response. She had been honest with him and he should be honest with her. "I dreamt of holding the woman I love. Dreamt of making love to her, of saving her from herself, from the world. From…"
"Hojo." It took every ounce of willpower Tifa owned not to spit that name out. It wouldn't do to show Vincent what she planned on doing with that man. He'd only try and talk her out of it. Or he'd get there before her.
"Yes. Hojo." Did she really think he couldn't see the rage burning inside her, that he couldn't see the gory death she was planning? Vincent couldn't help but feel flattered that Tifa wanted to defend his honour. Even if it should be the other way round.
It seemed as though the wrong way round was the theme of the day.
"Lucrecia." Her name brought with it the usual ache in his chest, but it wasn't like all those other times. "Lucrecia was that woman." Vincent inwardly winced at the flash of hurt he saw on Tifa's face. "Lucrecia was the dream I wanted."
Her hand slowly slipped out of his and placed in her lap. Probably to prevent the slap he envisioned receiving. He rapidly continued before her self control faded and she decided he wasn't worth a chance. "I often watched her. How her hair bounced in a ponytail, how her glasses would slide down her nose. I would dream of running a brush through that hair, pushing those glasses up…."
"Alright!" Tifa snapped and glared at the gunslinger. It was wrong of her, but all she could think of was the word bitch. "I get it. You. Lucrecia. Big love. God! All I asked was what you wanted, not a full recap of the romance of the century." She slammed a piece of melon into her mouth, and this time there was no sweet taste.
All that lingered on her tongue was the bitter, rotten taste of envy. It made her lips curl up in disgust. She thanked God for divorces and annulments.
Vincent ignored her outburst. "First love always has a habit of making a person dream of such things, as it has a habit of leaving a bittersweet ache. My dreams are different now, the woman is different." He studied her. Watched how she violently chomped on a chunk of melon before snatching up another and giving that one the same treatment.
Tifa was jealous. Exceedingly so if the twitching vein on her temple was anything to go by.
"Now I dream of leading intoxicated women astray and holding them at gun point until she agrees to marry me without so much as a first date."
Tifa gasped and her jaw hit the floor, a hand came up to nervously fiddle with her towel. He really hadn't held her at gun point, right? Because he wouldn't do that, right?
A deep chuckle cut through her unfounded worries. "I did not hold you at gun point," at least he didn't think it was Tifa. Vincent paused as a flashback ran through his head. "Although one or two uses for my gun were brought to my attention."
The hand fiddling with the towel covered her now burning face and she groaned into it. "I'm a pervert. A drunken, callous, husband-trapping pervert with a kink for guns." She peeked through her fingers in time to see a full blown, very rare smile gracing the face of Vincent. "Sorry for the childish jealousy. You were being honest with me and I was being stupid."
"There is nothing to forgive." He raised the champagne in offer of refilling her glass, which he immediately did once he got a nod. "Truly, I never gave marriage a thought. I was a Turk, Tifa. A dangerous line of work. In hindsight, Lucrecia and I would not have worked. Not with how I made my living."
Tifa thought before she answered. "Being a Turk isn't the only dangerous job. You have Soldier, Shin-Ra in general, security guards, plus countless other professions. It doesn't stop them from having relationships. I don't see why you couldn't have had something."
"Perhaps," Vincent mused quietly. He twirled the flute glass between skilled digits, watching as the bubbly liquid obeyed the motions. "I want…" Why was it harder saying what he wanted from her? "I would like to…"
Tifa understood more than he knew. A shy smile spread her lips wide enough for him to see two rows of shiny white teeth and a pretty blush stained her cheeks a sweet shade of pink. "Yes, I'd like that too."
Vincent, like everything else, took it all in his side. "Then it is settled. You are my wife." It seemed a little anticlimactic, perhaps a bit emotionless, considering the rest of the drama, but something had to go smoothly.
"And you're my husband…" Tifa tilted her head to one side. "That's gonna take some getting used to."
The gunslinger retook possession of her hand. "We have time."
That was one issue dealt with, now all they to do was retrieve their clothes, and tell the others.
"I can't believe we have to steal our clothes back," Tifa muttered as the elevator descended. It was either wander around in towels or wear the stolen wedding clothes. She chose the latter. It didn't hurt seeing Vincent in a tux. Without the cover of his cloak, she had an unobstructed view of his face.
"I cannot believe we are guilty of theft in the first place." He unconsciously straightened the bow tie. God, he hated bow ties. He noted the admiration as her eyes swept over his body and the tongue licking her lips. If it got him that reaction, then he'd wear a bow tie all day.
She rolled her eyes. "Well, we did. We're petty criminals. Get used to it. Okay the plan for getting our stuff back is what exactly?" He said nothing and the admiration turned into disbelief. "Oh, so what? We just poke our heads, already printed on Wanted sheets, round the corner. Check for a clear coast, sneak in, switch, and voila?"
Vincent's lips flickered. "Good plan. I go first. My attire is less…" His eyes drifted down to where she was almost spilling out of the white bodice. "Noticeable."
Long dark lashes fluttered flirtatiously. "I thought you liked noticeable." She suddenly felt the need to prove her point. Tifa deeply inhaled, which caused the dress to be pulled tight across her breasts.
Vincent's scarlet orbs darkened as he backed her up against the elevator wall. Then his breath was warm on her cheek and his low voice sent a sliver of lust vibrating down her spine. Her fingers gripped the jacket hem as she struggled to take in air.
"You won't be noticeable for anybody but me. Understand?" Each time he inhaled, he caught how sweet she smelled. His mouth brushed hers, just once, just enough to give everything and nothing. Then he was gone, leaving Tifa glassy eyed and growing warm.
"I understand." God, was that throaty noise her? She figured it was.
"Good." Satisfied, Vincent arranged her hair to the way she had it last night. A few stray strands to frame her face. "I go first, you wait for my signal, then follow."
Tifa rose up on her tiptoes to press a chaste kiss on his chin. "There's a lot to be said for marrying an ex-Turk." Since their earlier agreement to give them a chance, she hadn't been able to stop saying it. It almost made her giggle like a little girl. Of course, that could also be the champagne breakfast.
The elevator coming to a halt stopped Vincent's reply, and the moment the doors slid open, he inched his head around the corner. Good. There was no-one there. He wiggled his finger for her to follow him. Tifa edged cautiously around the same corner, always keeping an alert eye out for either trouble, cops, or any of their friends.
The gunslinger all but scurried through the lobby, the brunette hot on his heels, and both sniggering quietly. The plan would have worked if only a group of men holding various instruments hadn't ran out in front of them. They grinned in a completely fake manner. Vincent gathered they probably hated this job.
"Are you Mr and Mrs Valentone?" The one holding the trumpet asked hopefully. They'd been waiting in the lobby all day for these two to show up. "It's the new policy of the Ghost hotel that all Honeymooners receive a complimentary serenade."
Tifa and Vincent just stared at them before the gunslinger spoke up. "It is appreciated," they really needed to get their clothes before they were caught. "But unnecessary. The champagne breakfast will suffice."
Obviously, he was ignored. A squeaky noise reverberated through his ears and his head jerked to the side in response. The trumpet started up, then came the hand held organ, and finally the tambourine. "Congratulations on your wedding day…!"
Tifa inwardly cringed while Vincent just stood there, unable to do anything but stare as the three men bounced to the rhythmic beat. The words barely registered until the chorus came. Unfortunately, so did the crescendo. Stunned beyond belief, the couple took a few minutes to rescue their wits from the pits of insanity.
"Thank you very much." Tifa managed and gamely tried to keep her expression happy. "That was very nice of you." In a way it was. If their friends wouldn't be able to wish them good luck, then these strangers may as well. Besides, they were only doing their job.
"Indeed. Very… Melodic." Vincent complimented as much as he could. It probably sounded better to someone who didn't have demonic hearing.
An elbow to his gut got his attention and he looked at his wife, who hissed, "Tip."
Why? That wasn't music. It was borderline evil. He was going to say that, but the large crimson eyes looking up at him made him think twice. Vincent knew he did good when Tifa sent him a coy look as he handed over a few Gil. He made a mental note to find out what else got him that coy look.
"Thanks guys," Tifa beamed at them and began to drag Vincent towards the room where their much missed clothes were. She really couldn't wait to get out of the white marshmallow she was currently wearing. That lace itched in places she didn't know she had.
"Congratulations, and thanks for the tip Mrs. Valentone."
Vincent scowled. He was the one who did the tipping, she did the elbowing. This was one seriously screwed up world. Again, they didn't get very far before their well laid out plan was once more interrupted. Only this time, they were interrupted by a very familiar voice.
"Mrs. Valentone eh?" Barrett crossed muscled arms over an equally muscled chest, an unlit cigar was crunched between thick fingers. "Care to explain?"