Disclaimer: This story was inspired by a fanart I saw by Ashley Cope at least that was what was on the picture) I tried emailing her, but the address may not be operational anymore. If anyone knows who she is, tell her that she inspired me.

Do note that this was written BEFORE Dirge of Cerberus came out, so this is not at all how things truly happened as revealed in that game.

Dark Corner by Cetrasai

It is dark here. Even during the day it is dark. There is a window above me, but it only lets a little light in. There are bars on it, distorting the shadows. I try to find solace in the shadows. They are more comforting than the utter blackness of the coffin. The nightmares come more frequently now. I do not understand why. Hojo is dead. I was there when he died.

--"That means, the one who should have slept...was you Hojo!"--

--"Rest in peace, Hojo."--

I do not know why I said that. He has no right to rest in peace after what he did to my Lucrecia. What he did to me is not important and never will be. Everything was his fault. He spawned every misfortune that has happened concerning Shinra Inc., starting with the death of my love.

My poor Lucy...how I still love her. Hojo killed her and I could have stopped it. But no, I was a weak simpleton, not even able to protect myself from a mad scientist. I was supposed to be a Turk! Why was I so weak? I still do not have an answer for this.

Professor Gast was killed by Hojo's bullet as his own love, an Ancient named Ifalna, escaped with their daughter Aeris. Aeris was such a lovely girl. Thinking of her death nearly brings tears to my eyes, just as Lucrecia's does. She reminded me so much of my beloved. I believe it was her hair...and the way she lovingly looked at everything in this world. I remember a time not long before her death, we were in Wutai I believe, for we were in a tall pagoda, and she had turned to smile at me. For a moment, I felt like rushing to her and taking her my arms. The moment passed however and I remembered that she was not my Lucy. Furthermore, the repercussions from Cloud for hugging the Cetra woman he held dear would not have been pleasant. The next instant, a normally bubbly ninja stumbled away from an important battle with her father, victorious.

"I won! I won! Aeris, mind healin' me? I won!" A small, energetic body plowed into me and excited arms wrapped around my neck before sliding away and moving on to the next person.

That memory fades away, leaving me in my dark corner once again. I do not wish to think about Yuffie at this time. I have already thought about her enough recently. A cigarette falls from my mouth. I do not remember when I started smoking, but it does not bring me the peace I seek.

My back slides down the stone wall a bit further and my limp claw screeches against the floor. My chin tucked against my chest, I close my bloody eyes to try and lose myself in the nightmares again.

"Vincent? Are you okay?"

Words jerk me from my sleep. I do not open my eyes, but instead try to remember my nightmare. It will give me something to ponder during the long, tedious hours of the day and night. Satisfied I could recall it, I open my eyes to the worried ones of a beautiful, shapely woman. She repeats her question, but I do not comprehend it.

Instead, I counter with my own, "Is there something you need me for, Tifa?" It was the first use of my voice in a time, so it sounded raspy and probably beastly to her.

She bites her lip and clasps her arms over her full chest. She seems very nervous for some reason. I watch her eyes take in the littered cigarette stubs and firearm shells, so similar in size and color and even the escapes they can promise. The girl releases her lip and looks down at me on the floor. "Vincent, we're...very worried about you," she states in a soft voice.

"Why is that?" I rasp to her, raising my hand to run my fingers though my long, mussed hair.

"It's just," she starts, but then trails off a bit. She is unsure of how to tell me that I do not need to shut myself away. That Sephiroth and Hojo are gone and I can live a normal life. That I have friends. I know everything she wants to say and probably how to say it better than she can. "If you need to talk..." Tifa sighs and starts for the door as she realizes I have no interest in taking her up on her offer. This was the third time she had come to me. Red XIII had come twice and Cloud once. "Well, bye," she ends awkwardly as she leaves.

Tifa is a beautiful, caring woman that deserves her happiness. She protects the ones she loves, unlike me. Her adoration of Cloud is apparent and I believe he is recovering from his loss of Aeris enough to finally accept her. If only this feat could be so easy for me. Though that is callous of me.

I know full well that it was not anything remotely resembling easy for Cloud to move beyond Aeris. I think that he takes comfort in the fact that Aeris is in the Promised Land, at peace. If the Promised Land is not only for Ancients, I know that Lucrecia is there too. Perhaps they are watching over Cloud and I, sipping tea and waiting for us to join them. Wishful thinking is so worthless, is it not?

Still, I often think how blissfully free I would be in death. No more plaguing nightmares or wrenching pain when my monsters begin to awaken.

My monsters. That is the only thing to call them. They all repulse me, but Chaos does far more than that. He terrifies me. I will admit it now. I know that these monsters are all a part of my own mind. Creations spawned from nightmares and depraved experiments.

Lights are flickering outside the window and I hear a loud thundering boom. It must be storming. Rain begins to fall though the bars on the window, dripping onto me. I make no move away from the corner. What is the point?

I close my eyes. My human hand slips slightly and touches cold metal. My fingers trace over the familiar curves and angles of my Death Penalty, the one gun I have kept handy the entire time I have been here. In the beginning, seemingly ages ago, I shot at the walls, but eventually gave up on that, leaving only a few bullets in the magazine.

Darkness hovers at the edges of my consciousness, tempting me into sleep. Why resist it? There is nothing else to do.

I jolt into an upright position, awareness flooding my being. My breaths come in gasping sobs and tears run unchecked down my face. The nightmare had been horrific. I look down at my hand and claw just to make sure there is no blood staining them. For a moment I stare, sure I had seen the viscous fluid dripping down my wrists and fingers. Trembling, my hand finds its way to my face, shielding it, and I slump back against the wall. The nightmares, though frequent, have not been so vivid in many years.

--"I'm sorry Vincent, but I'm about to have a baby and my job would get in the way. I do like you, but now is not the time in my life for love." Her voice was so calm, but she ran crying, back towards the Shinra Mansion.

A snarl appeared on my face and I leveled my handgun at her retreating back. How dare she get my hopes up like that! I pulled the trigger and watched in growing fury as she fell to the ground and blood spread from her wound.

"Vin-cent?" she choked out as I approached her prone form. I said nothing, but felt a dizzying shock of pain as demon wings ripped out of my back. My torn flesh dropped to the ground and I raised my hands-- no, claws. Lucrecia looked at me, pain filling her eyes. When she saw what I had become, the pain was immediately replaced with utter terror. She screamed, loud and long, a high-pitched horror shriek that pierced my hellish senses. I saw myself reflected in her glasses as I descended upon her, talons ready to shred and tear.--

Harsh panting fills the room as I try to bring myself together. It is in vain, however. Something is wrong. Was my dream not a mere dream, but instead a memory? Is that how Lucrecia really died? Did I...? I cannot remember! My mind is clouded with doubt and confusion.

My hand grips my gun tightly, seeking some sort of stability. Had I killed Lucrecia? I always knew I could have prevented her death, but had I spilled her blood with my own hands? Why is it that I am unable to recall? Had it never happened, or had Hojo mercifully blocked this memory when he did his experiments on me? If I killed her...then I never loved her. It would make my entire reason to fight a lie.

I raise my gun to my head. How stunningly adequate the name is now. I deserve the Death Penalty for all that I have done. The three cold metal barrels press into the flesh beneath the crimson cloth on my forehead. I will not be able to join Lucrecia in the Promised Land. My sins are far too great for that sort of bliss. But Hell is a salvation in itself. It is much more inviting than desecrating her legacy with my fabricated love for her. I can no longer pretend to love her, particularly now that I both know the truth of her death and that I have betrayed her with thoughts of another woman in the past months.

I do not say a prayer. I do not ask forgiveness, for I deserve none. My finger tightens around the trigger and my eyes slip closed to hide my bloody sins from the world before I die.

The door to my prison opens with a creak and small footsteps sound in the hollow room. Light footsteps.

"Oh my god, Vincent, no!" a feminine voice cries desperately. The footsteps hurry to my side and a small hand grabs my wrist, jerking the barrel from my head and back towards whomever seized it. The weapon discharges loudly and I hear a soft cry of pain. My eyes finally shoot open and the gun clatters from my hand, empty.

My eyes are blurred with both harsh shock and a mist of tears. "Lucrecia?" I whisper, blinking rapidly. She is on her knees, head bowed, as if in prayer and I know it is not Lucy, for she was not religious and did not look right praying. "Aeris?" But both Aeris and Lucrecia are dead and the dead cannot grasp the living. This head does not have brown hair either. It is jet black, like my own, and short, kept out of her eyes by a headband. "Yuffie?" I finally murmur, my eyes focusing to see her crystal clearly.

The kunoichi is clutching her right shoulder in agony, but she nods, a tremble in her movements. I sit up and reach out to her, but am not sure what to do. Her head tilts upward and she looks deeply into my eyes, tears rimming hers.

"Why Vincent? Why would you do that to yourself?" she whispers sorrowfully.

Her eyes are burning me. Stabbing me. Killing me more effectively than any bullet could. Amazing that a sixteen-year-old thief, who once stole every ounce of my materia, could have such an effect on me. My voice chokes and I look at her blankly. Droplets begin to slip down her face and she removes her hand from her wound. It looks as if her blood and tears are in time with each other, both beginning to rush away.

I do not answer, but instead unwrap the cloth from around my head and bandage it around her shoulder tightly. The shot had gone clean through and I see the bullet far behind her, bloodied and flattened. I keep my eyes averted from hers as she tries to search my soul.

"Vincent, answer me," she pleads and I finally look at her. She is so different from Lucrecia, yet strangely similar. Their appearances couldn't be more opposite, but deep down, I feel they share the same morals. The same kind of heart.

Again I choke up. It is not fair to Lucrecia that I would compare her to Yuffie. Lucy is the one I love...or so I still want to believe. "I killed her," I manage to say cryptically.

The girl just stares, trying to work out what I'd said. "Lucrecia?" she whispers, lowering her head for some reason. I do not nod, I do not make any move and still she knows. Her face hardens and she glares at the cold floor. "Hojo killed her, Vincent. You know that perfectly well."

"How do you know?" I surprise myself with my hasty response. I am looking for any reason to blame myself for Lucy's death.

Yuffie looks up at me momentarily, also a bit surprised, then she glances back down. Having nothing left to say but the truth as she knew it, she said, "Hojo injected her with Jenova's cells. That's what killed her when she gave birth to Sephiroth. We both know that. I was there too, when Hojo said it."

I had forgotten that. Yuffie was in the party when we killed Hojo.(1) She hadn't said much, but she didn't need to. She knew it wasn't her place. I had always appreciated that. My eyes search her face and catch hers. She really has lovely eyes. "I cannot clearly remember things that happened so long ago," I try to explain. "I shot Lucrecia, then I turned into Chaos and began to rip her apart." Even as it leaves my mouth, I begin to see the irrationality of my claim. Yuffie just gazes at me as I attempt to piece things together.

When Lucrecia said she could not love me, I did not yet have my demonic taint. I could not have turned into Chaos. I could not have shot her either, because it would have been a fatal wound and she lived to give birth to Sephiroth. And in that hidden waterfall cave near Nibelheim, her ghost had been happy to see me, not hateful or even resentful. So, no, I had not killed my lovely Lucrecia.

My eyes meet Yuffie's, wide and ashamed. She smiles comfortingly at me and puts a hand on my metal claw. My face does not change expression as I cover her hand with my own.

"Yuffie, you saved me..." It is the only way I can think of to thank her. She does not seem disappointed that it is not more eloquent though.

"You scared me, Vincent, you scared me really bad." She does not seem to be embarrassed by this. "I don't know what I would do if you were gone." Now she blushes. I almost want to smile in amusement.

I have known for some time now that Yuffie has a 'crush' on me. I never paid it any mind, considering it to be a temporary phase in her adolescence, but it did not pass. I found myself looking at her in a new light with every passing week. It was like the time with Aeris, when I wanted to take her in my arms, but this time it was not because she resembled Lucrecia. For that precise reason, I did not let anything become of my thoughts for Yuffie. They were betraying Lucrecia.

I have been staring at Yuffie as I think. My eyes come back into focus and a search her face. I discover worry and fading shock along with calm and devotion. She has just saved me from the very worst mistake of my life. I will forever more look at suicide as an escape, but not salvation.

"I am sorry, Yuffie. I will not scare you again," I said gently. She surprises me by wrapping her unwounded arm around my neck, far less energetically than the time in her father's pagoda. "Yuffie..."

She straightens and gazes at me. "I know you're still mourning Lucrecia, Vincent. I respect that, but you need to know," She smiles a little wistfully and runs a hand though her cropped hair. "You need to know that I'll always be waiting for you." Somehow, this is the most comforting thing I have ever heard. Even if she finds someone else far before I am ready to embrace her, it is still encouraging to hear that she will wait for me.

Yuffie holds out her hand as she rises to her feet. "You need to leave this place. It's too dark. It's much easier to cope when you're in the light, surrounded by the ones that care for you." A smile is on her face as I take her hand in my own.

I do not thank her, but I know she sees it in my eyes. It is a dark poetry to be able to read someone's words through the windows of their soul. That is what I think I love about Yuffie. She is so energetic, but she is not empty energy, for she knows things. Things about everything. Things she should not know. It's quite beautiful actually. I am sorry Lucrecia.

She leads me out of the hollow room. I leave behind the empty gun and cigarettes, for I have no use for them. Yuffie leads me out of the Shinra Mansion, into the light. After so much time in the dark, the sun is liberating. The others are waiting just outside the gate. Cloud and Tifa, hands intertwined, are smiling, while Cid and Barret appear to be attempting gruff indifference. Red XIII runs toward the girl and I, a joyful look on his animalistic face. As the three of us exit the mansion grounds, Cloud and Tifa step towards us.

"It's good to finally see you in the light, Vincent," Cloud murmurs and Tifa nods.

I do not look at them, for I am too busy studying Yuffie. "Yes," I respond absently. "Darkness is for cowards and the weak of heart. I will be in the light from now on." Yuffie looks up at me and smiles. I slip my fingers between hers and give her my own minute smile. And for once, I feel that Lucrecia might be smiling too.


(1) This is based on my party order during the game. Before Aeris died my "dream team" so to speak was Cloud, Aeris, and Vincent. After she died, Yuffie replaced her as my magic user.