Squinting against the harsh neon, Vincent gazed at the surreal incandescence of the Honeybee Inn's front entrance, unsure whether to be intrigued or disgusted. Huge, illuminated billboards proudly advertised the building's purpose, and, if you were too ignorant to pick up on double entendres and cleverly worded ads, the giant glowing women in bee costumes left no room for confusion. Exactly why Reeve intentionally sent him here to pick up a few documents would forever be a mystery to him, but he wasn't particularly shocked. People were always setting him up with friends, thinking that he spent too much time alone, and this was exactly the sort of thing he tried to avoid. Still, he had a duty to fill. After one final, incredulous glance, Vincent strode up to the club's doors, stopping beside the bouncer.
"You have a Member's Card?" The bald, heavily-built man chuckled to himself. Surely the boy with the cape and matching headband was just loitering. He just… didn't look the type to be a Member.
Vincent shoved a thin plastic card into the thug's calloused hands and brushed him aside, passing through several layers of pink door curtains without breaking stride.
As he entered the Inn's central lobby, he was suddenly overwhelmed with the thick musk of cologne and antiseptic. The room was spacious, but—aside from a decorated floor and ugly brown wallpaper—completely bare. Five doors (six if you counted the entrance) lined the hexagonal chamber, one per wall, and yellowish, stale lighting cemented the brothel's repulsive motif. Vincent shuddered instinctively as a hostess approached him, smiling weakly and tugging at her striped costume.
"Poo, I, uh, mean, Sir…" She seemed nervous, but it was understandable, considering her job and his appearance. "H-How may I help you?"
"I'm here to pick up a file—"
The door in the back corner of the Inn slammed open, and a group of girls spilled into the lobby, grinning and chatting loudly. Using the interruption as a means of escape, the hostess dove for the open corridor, the wiggling mass of excited bee-humans her convenient camouflage. Vincent cursed inwardly at her disappearance, steeled himself, and, despite every bit of his body screaming in protest, walked quietly up to the estrogen-laden party.
There were three of these new women, each dressed in a bumblebee outfit. One, a blonde, had been raving about a new Hollywood heartthrob. This had, in turn, prompted a crazed response from the others, and the group now huddled around their storyteller, listening intently as she described her crush.
"He's tall, with real dark hair and sharp eyes. Never says much, but he don't need to, right?" She paused as the room filled with high-pitched giggles. "He's always got a cape and a weapon, just in case a baddie shows up. And, oh, he got the sweetest voice…"
The girl shrieked at the sudden touch of bronze on her shoulder, and she spun around to face her attacker, ready to slap should the need arise. Vincent jerked back his gauntlet in shock, but quickly regained his composure.
The blonde paused for a moment, her glossy blue eyes scanning his form. She took a long, slow blink and smiled flirtatiously, her poorly-stained-white teeth reflecting the dim lighting. "What can I do for you?"
Vincent did everything he could to avoid eye contact; it was best not to excite these people. "Do you work here…?"
In retrospect, the bee costume had already told him, but it was too late. He was now obligated to hear her reply to his unnecessary question, and he mentally berated himself. Perhaps a quick errand was too much to hope for around here.
"Of course! And, may I say, you've come to the right place! You look lonely, hon. The girls and I" - she waited for the burst of high-pitched snickering to subside - "can fix that."
"Reeve Tuesti dropped off some documents for me. That's all I'm here for. Do you know where they are…?' He made sure to enunciate and speak very clearly. If these women were intelligent, they wouldn't be working here.
"Yeah, sure, whatever. But don't go running off, 'kay?" The blonde reached up, intending to ruffle his hair, and he shrank back, barely avoiding the touch of her plastic-pink fingernails. Slightly miffed by his refusal to play along, she turned to face her entourage.
"Hey, Trixxie! Get the man his… package."
A slim brunette broke away from the group and disappeared into one of the rooms. An awkward silence followed, the girls fixated on their newest plaything. Vincent studied the floor. Though the stillness was soon broken, it was hardly a relief to the latter - he'd have preferred the quiet.
The third member of the group, a well-built redhead, decided to continue her leader's game. "So… You sure you gotta leave after this? I mean, we got nothin' to do." She smirked and folded her arms, an invisible signal for the first girl to follow her lead.
The blonde chimed in. "Yeah, sugar. Don'tcha wanna have a little fun…?" She struck a pose.
"No, thank you."
"Aw, come on," the younger girl added, pouting. "You've gotta loosen up now and then. But, of course, I'm sure temptation is everywhere for you…" The redhead took a few paces toward Vincent, who promptly stepped back, determined to keep the distance between them to at least a one foot minimum.
"I'm not interested."
The leader of the girls drew closer, following her friend. "Why not?"
"Yeah, why not?" the redhead echoed in Vincent's ear. "Is there something wrong with you…?"
An excuse. I need an excuse. Anything. I'm gay. I have an STD. I left my wallet at home. I'm possessed. I'm prone to killing people in their sleep.
Instantly, the women cringed and backed away, as if Vincent were a deadly poison. Their expressions had changed from provocative to repulsed, and a moment passed in which they contemplated leaving him alone. It was not to last, and, to their victim's displeasure, the bluff was called.
"To whom?" the blonde asked, arching one eyebrow and smirking.
"…A beautiful young woman," he mumbled, thinking fast and wondering how long a person could possibly take to fetch a few papers.
"What's her name?" she shot back, voice thick with skepticism.
His answer came naturally, practiced thousands of times in front of bathroom mirrors. So automatic, in fact, that Vincent himself didn't quite register what he was saying until after the words had left his lips.
"…She's my fiancée."
Faced with the irrevocable evidence of a name, the girls were reduced to sullen nods. (Of course, they had noticed he wasn't wearing a ring, but between huge metal talons on one hand and a thick combat glove on the other, it was fairly understandable.)
"Lucky bitch," the redhead spat under her breath. They could do no more to him now - he was forbidden, and this made him all the more alluring. Angry at the loss, the redhead turned and stormed into a nearby room, hissing curses and hanging her head.
A shrill, overly feminine voice slit the air as the redhead disappeared from view. "Vincent Valentine?"
He turned at the sound of his name. The brunette, "Trixxie", scampered lightly toward him, a manila folder crammed with charts and memos somehow suspended by her stick-thin arms. She handed the file off placidly, and returned to her place beside the blonde. Vincent gave a slight nod of approval and started for the exit, glad to be a free man.
He was only a few feet from the outside world when the blonde spoke to him again. Perhaps she hadn't intended for him to hear, or was simply thinking aloud.
"Lucrecia Valentine… Pretty name."
He paused for a moment, then gave a brief backward glance. "It is, isn't it…?" Parting the transparent curtains with his shoulder, he strode from the Inn, silent with thought.
A/N: Everyone say, "Thank you!" to Nick Wright and xtifaxfinalxheavenx, my beta readers of total awesome. This was my first time writing FFVII fic, so ANY critique at all is greatly appreciated.