A/N: This is for everyone who read the angst and liked it, particularly those who commented. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
The Angel (In Conclusion)
Now and then he thinks he notices the seasons passing, but he has lost all notion of time – has it been a year or more, a month or less? The flowers wilt in winter, the flowers bloom in spring, and in the sticky heat of summer the flowers become glazed and buzzed over with bees, and he does not tend to his garden, he hardly ventures outside. Cid calls, on occasion – he hears the wailing of babies over the phone line, and the gruffness against the mechanic's lips that means he is smoking again, against everyone's better judgment. Tifa invites him to get-togethers every other month, and she asks how he is doing, if he needs any help. Reeve contacts him for certain jobs – he does not know that Vincent takes other offers, and makes his living that way. The seasons pass and his aim grows sharper, the phone rings and he does not hear her voice –
She never calls.
She has no reason to.
Her scent has faded from the pillows, the tracks her boots left in the dust are removed by newer dirt and scratches, because sometimes he cannot help himself – he tears at the walls, at the floor, and the neighbors whisper about the ghosts who live in that house. It is no ghost, it is a demon, delirious with regret, destructive and desperate. He carves his pain into the wood and sometimes he thinks he might like to turn the claw on himself – but he's a coward, and he can't. It will not a change a thing; Hojo was not the head of the JENOVA project for nothing. He did his work meticulously, he left no openings for humanity.
That does not stop her laughter from ringing in his head – he indulges in whiskey and wine, in sadness, and one day he finds that she has replaced something priceless to him.
He has forgotten the cave, he has forgotten the scientist, he has exchanged beautiful for pretty, regret for possibility, but is too late. He has been saying her name instead, dreaming of her instead, and she is priceless, she means everything.
And it's like dying all over again.
He wonders when she changed him, he wonders how she could; it wasn't when she called him boring when he first appeared to their party, it wasn't when she took their materia, it wasn't when she barfed all over victory after Meteor was destroyed. It wasn't when she followed him into the phone shop after the Geostigma epidemic was dealt with, it wasn't when she turned up later as head of intelligence in Reeve's organization. It wasn't when he came to Wutai for a very brief visit and she told him he could have her cats and then, y'know, maybe the kittens because it's kinda hard for me to take care of them all alone; it wasn't when she decided to stay and kissed him, right after they had made apple pie.
He can't put his finger on it.
The effort isn't worth it.
He tells himself it's guilt again, that he's feeling this way because he's sorry for what he has done to her. Even Chaos snorts at that, and monsters are quite impartial to love; you fell good, Valentine, he rasps, delighted that his host is having trouble. But she's never coming back to you now, you always break the things you love, you always hurt yourself – it's kinda funny, and he laughs migraines into Vincent's head. He takes a nap and has a short string of nightmares:
She's against the bottom a cliff; she is fulfilling the Wutai marriage ceremonies; she is holding a baby against her chest but the child has a wicked smile and eyes that burn like a demon's; she is attempting to fight Sephiroth on her own, her knees are skinned and the bleeding just won't stop, she is standing by his doorframe looking uncertain and shy,
But the last one isn't a dream. He blinks the sleep away and stares.
"Been a while," she says, and the understatement is highlighted by her grin and her eyes –
- why can't she just stay away?
"No," he says, he tries to say; she just waltzes into the room like she owns it (she does, she owns it and everything inside it, because she owns him, his feelings).
"You are the biggest bum in history," she proclaims, like it has been written in stone for the future centuries. "This place is a mess."
I am a mess.
When he is finally able to speak again, he invites her to dinner, cordially, because it is already evening. She accepts the invitation with false haughtiness, and settles on the couch to wait. Trying to ignore the gravity of the situation, he begins to cook. "We stopped on a bad note," she tells him over the clinking that means she is sorting materia. "I don't want to die with any hard feelings for anyone, because it's possible that I will die very soon, my job being dangerous and exciting as it is. We may all die very soon. Yes, even you, Mr.-Never, you know, never say never!" And she seems to be fixed; there are no traces of tears in her voice, not the broken-glass that rang in it when she was staying with him.
When he throws back the usual reply of silence, she puts on her best ancient grandma voice and says, "Some things never change."
Some things do. Over dinner she looks at him through mouthfuls of pasta, and he cannot help himself staring into her eyes, just to see if she might be feeling the same way, because she's very good at pretending otherwise. But if she does feel the same...
It isn't like anything could be different. There is no for the better. He can only be for the worse.
"Percentages, Vinnie." He notices that she is rambling. "That's how I rate guys. Godo shows me off to marriage prospects, but I always gave Cloud ninety percent. The ten was taken away because he so belonged to Tifa, but then after we beat Sephiroth he got another minus fifteen for becoming an angsty jerk. Still, he's got the best eyes –" She smiles, "Next to yours. How's your Crecia-meter doin', huh? Full on hundred percent, still?"
The tea is unfamiliar on his tongue – he has sipped nothing but alcohol and water in a long while. Maybe it is the alien taste that makes him say, "No, less."
She looks startled for a moment, and then she laughs. "Eighty?"
"Maybe thirty." And before he can stop himself he has reached across the table and caught her hand, and it feels so small and flimsy despite the calluses she suffered from gripping her throwing stars. She stands the same time he does, and their utensils clatter to the floor – the table gets in their way as they move towards each other, and they can't help it – his lips are against hers, suddenly, maddeningly, it's strange to both of them, foreign, and her body relaxes in his hold but suddenly tenses again, rigid, and she pulls away, breathless, flushed, furious.
"If this is pity, I don't want it. That's not why I came back," her voice is low when she mutters, and she is tugging back her hand, trying to escape.
He drops his gaze and wants, not for the first time, to die, die, die.
But he never will, and maybe for once it's worth trying to live - but it won't change a thing, and we'll both get hurt - his lips part anyway, and he whispers, "It's not like that. When you left – no, even before that, I felt something, something different. I knew it, too, but...I didn't want to hurt you." He swallows.
"I have nothing to give you. I have nothing but sins, and I didn't want to commit any more."
She stares at him for a moment, wide-eyed. Then she puts her fist up and he thinks she might slap him, but she punches him instead. The impact rattles his skull. I deserve it, he tells himself, and she's hating me, and she'll leave.
But she doesn't move at all. When lifts his head to look at her, she is laughing, although it is not a happy sound – it is anger and sadness, and some regret, but she catches his shirt and pulls him towards her – and they kiss another time, a longer time.
(He is no longer dying - he is dead.)
"You're so stupid, so stupidstupidstupid," She wobbles when they break away. He puts his hand against her cheek (and it's like silk) to try and wipe the tears. She sticks a finger up and wags it in his face, her mouth trembling because she is still weeping. "Don't you know? Omission is a sin too."
And it's the truth.
He lets go - so many years late, but it doesn't matter. (She's smiling.)
"I'll fix you," she tells him, but she already has, and suddenly he is aware that it is already spring.
A/N: This is all wrong in all sorts of places when I read it. D: (I'm not kidding.) It's messy and uses all sorts of stylistic techniques that didn't appear in the first two chapters, and I know it's all choppy, but...ack. I hope it served its purpose as a conclusion, anyway. x.x I haven't finished with this storyline yet, though: I have a oneshot in progress that takes place before these events (it's a prologue of the prologue?), and I'd be happy if you read that too, when it's up. I also might write another story as to how exactly Yuffie carries out this 'fixing' of hers, but the idea's still on probation. :D
Thanks for reading this twisted 'happy ending'. All comments would be very much appreciated.