A/N: Own nothing, not the characters, not the planet…nada. Well, that which will pass as a plot is mine.
Vincent, the immortal...
Fiery hues of red, orange, and the faintest hint of violet were thrown across the early morning sky as though they were paint on a canvas. There were few clouds, wisps of white streaking by, racing the sun. The air was crisp, clean. In the distance one could hear the soft call of a wild chocobo, a dog or two barking in retort, the rumble of carts moving, and the steadily rising whisper of the town coming to life.
A lone figure sat atop one incredibly dilapidated church steeple. By all rights it should have fallen to the ground years ago, but then again it was the favorite of one very willful Cetra. It could be surmised that she willed the building to stand, and so it did as some sort of broken monument to the goodness she'd spread all across Gaia, and to the few hearts she'd been generous enough to touch.
Through all the hustle and bustle of the town and shifting ruins, one sound caught him quite by surprise.
"Vincent Valentine, I should have known." A cheerful voice called out from behind him. He smiled under the heavy crimson cloak, secretly relishing the feeling, muscles gliding into a well placed, and for once not so forced, grin.
"Hello, Tifa." He turned toward the woman. "How are you?"
"Surprised." She laughed as she spoke, casually walking over to him. Without asking permission she threw her arms around his shoulders in a hug. Awkwardly he attempted to return it, fumbling with his own arms. "It's okay, you'll get the hang of it one day." She joked, to which he smiled yet again.
"It is still a bit strange to be so casual with anyone, regardless of how long we've fought together." He replied in his usual tone of indifference. As always, nothing truly bothered him, perturbed him, caught his interest, nothing awakened the man who had been trapped in this eternal stasis, forced to live for eternity. A cruel twist of fate that Hojo would do this to him. He and Lucrecia both, trapped in their respective worlds, as close as his next breath and further than eternity was long.
"If it bothers you…" Tifa began, but silenced herself at a dismissive wave of his hand. "Would you like to come down for breakfast, coffee, or maybe just a quick hello?" She smiled that sad little knowing smile of hers. In these moments she reminded him of Lucrecia, always filled with some unnamable goodness, which was usually overshadowed by the incredible sorrow she carried.
"Of course." He smiled politely, easily following her down to the ground and off to the chocobo she'd ridden over on.
"I usually go out for a morning jog, but I have been neglecting these big babies." She playfully ruffled the feathers at the top of the large birds head. "Kite is the biggest sissy of them all." She waited as the bird knelt, thus making mounting significantly easier. Vincent slid on behind her, noticing the obviously customized saddle and bridle. They were made of fine leather that had been tanned and stained to be a deep mahogany. There were Wutaian engravings across the wither of the saddle. They were far too worn to be legible any longer.
"What does that say?" He nodded his head down toward the markings.
"Ah, this is Yuffie's saddle. I have no idea, maybe her name?" She furrowed her brows as if she could force the information out of the saddle. It apparently refused to change for her and she soon turned her attention ahead of her.
"No, too many characters. It's too worn out for me to read it." He spoke more to himself than Tifa.
"Maybe Riven wrote it, he speaks Wutaian." Tifa turned down a few streets, heading back toward the bar and her home.
"Riven?" Had it been so long since he'd been around?
"Her fiancé, he's really quite charming." Tifa chuckled to herself. "It's kind of funny that she would eventually marry a man from Wutai. Although she made Lord Godo hold off on forcing the title down her throat, she wants none of the responsibility. I believe Riven will take over her duties for the time being." They made their way quietly down the streets, Tifa waving and greeting a few children as they went. Upon arriving Vincent carefully maneuvered off the back of the large feathered beast. It cooed pleadingly at them, and Tifa being Tifa was quite taken with the birds obvious, although maybe only to Vincent, attempt to acquire an extra bushel of greens.
"Tifa! Tifa, I've gotta get down to the mar-" Yuffie came bounding out the side door, slipping on the second of three steps leading down, and nearly flew into Vincent's arms with a loud 'Oof.'
"Kite's in the back, I left everything on. Oh, I met up with Vincent while I was out." Tifa said with a smile as Yuffie was somehow tangled in his arms and cloak.
"I can see that." Came a muffled reply from Yuffie, who was still trying to right herself. She extracted herself carefully from his arms and clothing, and once she was standing upright once more, smiled. "Hiya, Vince. How's life?" She giggled at her own clumsy antics. "I'm sorry, still clumsy as ever, huh?" He returned her smile politely. He wondered if she'd launch herself at him as she had in the past, and to say he was mildly surprised when she slowly leaned in to offer the same greeting Tifa had would be an understatement. Inside he was very proud of her use of restraint. The hug was warm; she squeezed for all she was worth, whispering in his ear. "Gods' I've missed you." She let go, taking a step back to take him in. Same old clothes. He really was timeless. His face was the same pale white it had been, his eyes still bitter and crimson. "New clothes would do you some good, mister. I haven't ever seen you wear anything other than this."
"I should hope not," came a jovial remark, followed by the screen door slamming itself shut. "Hello, I'm Riven. You must be Mr. Valentine." A young man with a 'charming' as Tifa had put it, grin came out to greet him. He did so before Yuffie had a chance to start the introductions. If nothing else, there was obvious admiration behind the smile Riven held.
"I am," Vincent gave a guarded reply. His eyes narrowing on the man before him. His hazel eyes held no malice or consternation under his scrutinizing gaze. He was just a tad shorter than Vincent. Lean, healthy, and most of all…happy. His expression seemed sincere, his grin wasn't necessarily for Vincent…Yuffie was standing beside the man and had the same silly grin. Love was an emotion Vincent had never fully understood, his past experiences making him somewhat guarded against the emotion now. He had a similar complexion to Yuffie. Dark hair, his eyes of course differing from her warm brown ones. After a second or two of intense scrutiny Vincent released the man's hand, "nice to meet you." He rumbled. Yuffie sighed and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like 'Typical Vincent' before turning and heading to the stable.
"We'll be back later. Hey, Vince!" Yuffie called to his back. "You better be here when I get back! I promise it won't be long, just stick around for a little while this time, yeah?" He nodded curtly at her.
"What are you doing out here anyway?" Tifa stood beside him, watching Riven and Yuffie ride out towards town. "It's been four and a half years, Vincent, where have you been?" She spoke as though just realizing the extreme amount of time that had passed, eyes boring into him with dozens of unvoiced questions. She held herself down with the two already asked, silently begging him to answer.
"I've been wandering…aimlessly, as it were." He continued to watch the chocobo, once it was out of his field of vision he turned his gaze to the less colorful mid morning sky. "I hadn't realized it had been that long since my last visit." He noted absently.
"I'm sorry, Vincent. I wish we could help you find your cure, or something…I can't imagine what you must have gone through to become who or…what… you are, much less knowing that there is quite possibly no end. I do know, that for as long as we are able, you are welcome here, and we will be here for you…whatever you may find yourself in need of." He turned to her, her wine colored eyes turned down toward the gravel.
"Thank you, Tifa." He brushed past her toward the door. "I shall stay for a short while if you like."
"I don't think you have a choice." Tifa laughed. "Yuffie'd kill me if I let you leave." With that the pair made their way into the bar. "Cloud?" A distant 'what' echoed from somewhere upstairs. "Company." Tifa called out. Vincent couldn't help but notice the fault in her step and the sag in her smile. "Coffee?" Vincent nodded. "Hungry?" Another slight nod. She grinned at him, pouring a mug full of black coffee, Vincent made a sound of thanks as he removed the heavy cloak and draped it along the back of the chair.
"Whose here? I didn't have any late appointments did-"Cloud did a double take of Vincent as he sat, casually sipping coffee like any regular customer. "Oh, wow! Hey, Vince." The blond made his way quickly toward the gunslinger. A quick clap on the shoulder in place of Tifa and Yuffie's warm embraces. "How ya been? What brings you to town? Gosh, when was the last time we saw you? Wha-"
"Cloud!" Tifa carefully distracted the blond, causing Cloud to sheepishly rub his head, laughing lightly as he did so. "One question at a time, Cloud." She turned toward the kitchen. "I'm going to make breakfast, you two play nice." She smiled at the pair as she ducked into the cooking area.
Vincent couldn't help but chuckle at Cloud, who bounced right into the chair next to him. "This is so strange, Tifa and I were just talking about you the other day. She was saying it had been too long since we'd last seen you. Funny how you seem to show up at times like that." Cloud smiled at the older man. "I'm really glad you came by, how long can you stay?" Vincent pondered simply staying quiet, for all intents and purposes it appeared he wasn't actually required in this conversation. When Cloud sat, starring at him expectantly he replied.
"I often visit the church. I do not, however, often run into many people down in that area." Vincent took a long slow sip from his mug. "Tifa tells me it has been nearly five years since our last meeting."
"Mm…may have been, not since Weiss and your little fiasco with Hojo the sequel." Cloud stared thoughtfully at the back of the bar beside Vincent.
"Hm. When did Yuffie decide to wed?" Vincent chuckled, a lopsided grin gracing his ashen face. The very idea of Yuffie marrying was more than a little amusing.
"Ha, yeah…she's growing up a little too fast now. Oh, well if that's news to you then you probably didn't hear that Cid and Shera had a baby of their own. They named her Aria, she's adorable. She may have Shera's eyes but she somehow wound up with Cid's hair and unholy temper." Cloud snorted at the thought of the 'cute' little hellion.
"Well mayhap this is excuse enough for a reunion." Vincent pushed his now empty mug away from himself, the aroma of bacon, eggs, and maybe even toast wafting in made his mouth water. How long had it been since he'd had a real home cooked meal? Weeks, months…year's maybe? It'd been such a long time since he'd even needed to stop in a town to get supplies or materia he'd never bothered with the little luxuries, like a shower, real bed, or even social contact.
Tifa re-entered the bar, plates precariously balanced in her arms. Marlene and Denzel bound into the room with youthful exuberance. Tifa smiled warmly, her whole being brightening considerably as they smiled and thanked her profusely for their meal. Cloud nodded, casting his eyes away as though her smile was fire and he might get burned. Vincent noted absently that her smile dimmed when aimed at him. Had it been so long that he'd become as strange to them as they had always been to him? Did she no longer see the good in him? She must, she willingly embraced him and invited him into her home. The realization spread through his gut like cold water. He mumbled his thanks and praised Tifa's cooking, who seemed to blush at the compliment.
"It was nothing, Vincent, we're just glad to see you every once in a while." He noticed Cloud glance up at her, shove the remainder of his breakfast in his mouth and chew quickly. He downed the rest of his coffee and turned to Vincent.
"Well, I've got to go, work never seems to end." He chuckled and shook the man's metal hand. He nodded his thanks at Tifa before briskly exiting the room.
Vincent eyed Tifa a moment before he began to collect his plate and Clouds discarded dishes. Tifa placed a trembling hand on his, stilling his movements.
"A few things have changed…" Tifa mumbled, catching Vincent's eye as he watched her with a look of confusion. "It was never meant to work, he doesn't want what I have to offer, doesn't need me." Tifa confessed so suddenly Vincent felt the urge to cover his ears or run away. He'd wanted no part of that, however now that he knew he felt obligated to comfort Tifa. He stood there, completely at odds with himself as she stood trembling before him. He carefully placed both hands on her shoulders, squeezing gently.
"My apologies, Tifa…I am not sure what to say." Vincent watched her as she struggled to pull all her emotions back under control.
"Nothing, there is nothing anyone could say to make it any better…I'm sorry, I shouldn't be talk-" She looked up at him, again silenced by him.
"It is alright, Tifa." He stared a moment too long, Tifa became nervous and shifted. Her face lit up suddenly.
"Hey! You can help me get the truck loaded and head down to Rocket Town. Cid ordered some parts for the Shera and they're in. I told him I'd pick 'em up for him." She deposited the dishes into the sink, patting Denzel on the head as he ran by, stopping only to give her a quick hug before running out the door with Marlene. "Really I just wanted an excuse to see Aria again." She smiled to herself. "Oh! How rude…would you mind coming with me?" Tifa stopped midstride, not realizing Vincent had been following her until he collided with her. "Sorry, sorry!" She waved her hands, obviously a little more than embarrassed.
"It is fine, Tifa. I would not mind going to Rocket Town…" Vincent nodded his agreement even as he spoke it. "I could use some time away from the darker parts of Edge." Tifa smiled brightly up at him.
"Great, I'll call Yuffie and tell her…she and Riven can do their own thing for a while then." Tifa dialed quickly, Yuffie answered on the third ring. 'Moshi, moshi!' He heard the ninja answer. "Yuff, Vincent and I are going to take the parts to Cid, we'll be back tonight if you and Riven want to wait. Other wise have Elmyra take Marlene and Denzel before you leave." Tifa continued to move about the kitchen, cleaning as she went. 'Why don't Riven and I meet you two down there? I haven't given the old man hell in weeks! Ooh! Aria will be there!!" Yuffie babbled excitedly, Tifa's countenance brightened much to the gunslingers relief. "Sounds great! I can't wait to see that little munchkin." Tifa laughed at something Riven had said. "Tell that man of yours to give me nieces! Ha! I'll see you at Cid's." Tifa hung up the phone, laughing to herself.
"Yuffie can be such a brat." She mumbled.
"Good to see some things never change." Tifa stopped laughing and watched Vincent for a long moment. He stared at her intently, as if he were appraising her for something. She nodded after a moment, stuffing her phone into her pocket and grabbing the keys before she headed toward the delivery truck, smirking to herself as she started the vehicle.
"Thank you." She said finally, smiling over at him. "And I am so glad to have bumped into you today, Vincent." He nodded his agreement and turned his attention out the window as they drove. She had the radio tuned to the news and traffic; he let his mind wander as they headed for Rocket Town.
He had actually been more than a little glad to see the martial artist, it had been years since he'd felt readily accepted by anyone. He admittedly missed Yuffie and her antics, though he was slightly surprised and a little disheartened to hear she'd chosen a husband. It felt to him as though the world was moving on without him, leaving him behind. To see Tifa and talk to her again was like a breath of fresh air, despite how strange it felt to be in their company again. He watched her drive, her knuckles gripping the wheel, her eyes trained on the road, her mind focused on the radio. He'd missed something, he felt somewhat relieved being with her though and that seemed to make up for it. He didn't mind that she was dragging him halfway across the continent for a day or two. Vincent turned suddenly, eyeing Tifa. She smiled at him, her eyes darting away from his as soon as she'd made eye contact. The realization that he was somehow 'okay' with this caused him to start, staring at her for a moment...having decided just as quickly that it was simply a lack of contact and nothing more he resumed his staring out the window.
"You ok?" Tifa asked timidly.
"Yes. I apologize, I was struck by a thought…it was nothing." He replied dismissively.
"Ok." She smiled brightly at him.
He pondered his solitude, he needed to find a new home, especially since Kalm had been reduced to near rubble several years ago and he had yet to relocate. He'd resigned himself to simply wander endlessly…but now he realized how good it could feel to have people around. He eyed her out of the corner of one red eye, he'd seriously consider moving closer...
A/N: Never tried one of these, but they seem like they'd work really well together. Guess I'll find out soon enough, huh?