Watch You Breathe

(By "Wow, what a weird title!" Zar)
(Note: I am not responsible for any mental damage caused by reading this fic.)

Holding his thin arms, feeling slightly raised skin underneath his fingertips....at least...his flesh ones...

Vincent sat on the edge of his bed, trying to keep his body in the moonlight that was falling through the window. It was something simple he had attached safety and security too. If he could stay in the white light, perhaps the demon in his soul would rest and fall silent...

They had remained mostly silent, only mumbling and talking amongst themselves. This worried him, and he feared they would assault him while he was asleep, to take his shape and make him rampage, perhaps hurting those that he cared about...

He had taken off his shirt, although he hated it, because he wanted to shiver, to feel his body react in such a human way. To feel his skin prickle, reminding him that it still had that function, despite how the lower part of his left arm might as well have not existed.

He was sitting in a ball, his limbs crossed over his legs and grasping his upper arms. He was staring fixedly at the bedspread, trying not to give into the terror that darkness so freely bestowed upon him.

It was easy to say that he liked the darkness, because he had spent so much time there. That didn't mean he liked it. He was asleep for so long, he hardly remembered much of the time in the darkness. Chaos liked the dark, and the more dark there was, the stronger he got. He was frightened of the dark now that Chaos had been allowed to control his body, and he hated it.

He felt a wind brush against his thin spine, and he knew the scars that extended all over his shoulders also trailed down his back. Hojo's work, he knew it. He didn't remember much of the actual experimentation or the things that had been done to his body. He remembered being tested, and other horrors to prove that the extenstions were a success...

The very thought filled him with terror, thinking of the horrible spiraling stairs, and the table where so much blood had been spilled...

His body shook, but not because of the cold. He closed his eyes and buried his head in his arms, feeling his hair slid off of his back until it framed his face. The fear was so strong, the hatred and sorrow he felt for his own mistake was destroying him inwardly, and he knew he could not live like this much longer, not without a clear purpose, not this alone...or rather...not alone with the four who lived in his mind...

Why had he been cursed this way...?

Despite everything, all the things he had killed, from birds to Sephiroth and even Hojo himself, it only made him feel more empty and hate himself even more. What did it all mean? It only made the blood on his claws thicker and hard to get off.

He heard a small metallic squeak as he twitched one of the fingers on the claw. It hurt.

A sudden noise in the room brought him about sharply, his breath coming in sharply and his claw gripping his other arm so tightly that it drew blood. Looking across, he found in the companion bed across the room that his roommate had turned over restlessly, one arm extended above his head and the other crossed across his stomach. His small size made the bed seem so large.

Vincent looked at himself and cursed himself for his own jitteryness. The cold was getting to be too much, and he finally moved out of the moonlight and replaced his dark black shirt. What right did he have to be in the moonlight anyway? What right did he have to be in any light at all...

He returned to his bed, leaning his head against the backboard, staring at the ceiling sadly. There was a noise from his companion as he turned his head the other, away from Vincent.

Curious, Vincent turned to watch him. The sudden movement seemed to be the last one, as he began to sleep rather soundly.

Vincent admired him for that. To be able to sleep without nightmares...to not BE a nightmare...

Loneliness made his heart ache.

He had slept alone for so long, he had been alone in the dark for so long, and now...

He dug his own claws into his arms to bring his thoughts away from the path. No. No. That was not an option. Not an option.

Vincent turned his scarlet eyes back to Cid, who was still sleeping almost motionlessly, his chest moving up and down in an even rhythm. Vincent watched him breathe for a while, finding it relaxing on some level. His claws released their grip and he felt something warm come down his arm.

Cursing his own stupidity for hurting himself in such a way for such thoughts, he walked towards the one bathroom the hotel room had and held his arm underneath the sink, watching the red tint overflow the water, then slowly fade away. It saddened him.

What right did he even have to be here...? He had a grudge to settle with Hojo...but he had done that, hadn't he? Why was he here? Did Cloud and the others need him? They couldn't...he had no use, he was just a monster...

Why did he even continue to live...?

He walked back into the room and found himself stopping, his toes gripping the carpet suddenly. He stared inbetween his own empty, rumpled bed and Cid's, both an equal distance away.

I can't...I can't...

Did he say that outloud?

The loneliness is tearing me apart inside...

His own mind had almost become a personality. That's what the demons said. Vincent Valentine was just another personality inhabiting the body, and they refused to believe it belonged to him originally...they had continued to mumble, hopefully ignoring him. He was sure that they would not agree...

Who said he had agreed anyway?

He eventually sank down on the floor, holding his head in his hands. The loneliness tore at him. He didn't want to sleep alone. If he could only feel someone breathing near him, someone's body warmth adding to his, just the knowledge that someone was there that cared about him...just some one, anyone...he...

He didn't want to be alone anymore...not in the dark...not when everything became so horrible...

He slowly stood, leaning on the desk in front of him, and stared at Cid. He was still sleeping soundly, seemingly without movement except for his breathing. Vincent realized after a few short moments that he had been walking towards the bed unconsciously and now stood above the pilot, staring down at him.

He could curl at the edge of the bed, that would be okay, wouldn't it? Surely Cid wouldn't be mad at him for that...if he got kicked in the night, that was okay...as long as someone was there to kick him, he didn't care...

"Weak..." Chaos remarked offhand, but he still wasn't paying attention. The argument the demons were getting into was apparently quite involved. Even this kind of emotional duress wasn't getting their attention. Thankfully.

Vincent moved to the foot of the bed and crawled onto the end, noting how Highwind's toes didn't even reach the end. He was full streched out and yet, the bed still dwarfed him. It was hard to remember how tall he was at times, since he seemed so strong and sure.

Vincent felt huge compared to him. Huge and monstrous.

Guilt overwhelmed him and he closed his eyes in anguish, trying to ignore the shaking that overcame his limbs.

When he opened them again, he found Cid's face underneath him.

Starting slightly, he realized that he had continued crawling while his eyes were closed, and now he was over Cid, his black hair falling softly on the pilot's face. Cid's eyes were closed and he looked so calm and so silent when he was asleep...so different then he was awake...

Thoughts fluttered through his head unfinished and unbidden...

Would you hold me, Highwind? Would you end my loneliness...? Would you, or is that too much to ask of you...ask of anyone...so lonely...so afraid and so small...so small and so frightened and so alone...could I wake you now and not have you recoil in horror...would you hold me...I would never ask for anything more...just the ending of this horrible, aching loneliness...

Guilt was racking his body. He saw his shivering hand near Cid's face, fingertips only an inch away from touching him, waking him, as his mind was so desperate for some company, for anything, even if it was just the pilot shouting at him to go away. Any recognition would mean he wasn't alone.

Cid took a deep breath and sighed, and Vincent retracted his hand sharply.

It would be so easy and....so wrong...

Vincent could see his claw arm, only inches away from Cid, and knew that there was no way that anyone could ever hold him if that was there. Who would hold cold metal...? Cold...stained metal...

Cid breathed underneath him, and Vincent's heart panged with guilt and loneliness. He moved off him silently and crushed himself against the wall, wishing that he didn't exist if he had to do such shameful things from loneliness. How could he live this way...being such a horrible person as to try and take advantage of one of his only friends while he was sleeping!

He felt a sob rising in his throat but forced tears away from years of practice. He turned his back to Cid, wishing he could disappear into the wall, to vanish, to take his tortured, scarred body and his demons and his evil thoughts away forever...

How could he ever atone for this...?

He could feel Cid shifting and he froze, unable to move. He closed his eyes and prepared himself to hear his rough, angry voice, asking him what he was doing here. He was prepared for the hatred and the glares, prepared to slink off to his own bed like a small animal that had done something wrong, because that's what he was, an animal, a demon, nothing more...

He closed his eyes and waited, trying to brace his body.

Cid wasn't waking up. He was turning.

Cid shifted his weight easily and with a small sleepy noise, threw his arm over to where Vincent was pressed against the wall.

Vincent was paralyzed with fear. Now everything would be known, now Cid would wake, now everything would be over and one of his only friends would hate him, hate him for being so lonely and desperate for company...desperate for any kind of care.

Cid automatically pulled his arm inwards once he grasped something, and Vincent was dragged half against his will away from the wall, instead next to Cid's chest.

His eyes were tearing and he closed them in hatred, struggling not to say anything. How could he let this continue? How could he let Cid continue with this without telling him he was holding a monster? He couldn't let him do this, he had to wake him and tell him...

But he couldn't, he couldn't. The loneliness was gone, it was gone, the aching hurt in his chest was gone and his body was so relieved it would not let him speak, it would not let the pain come back, not when it was gone.

His body and his mind fought against eachother, against comfort or guilt, and Cid slept on, oblivious to how much turmoil he was causing the dark man.

He couldn't do this...but it felt...no, he couldn't...but how could he give this up...he couldn't just make the pain come back...he couldn't live with that pain anymore...

Cid sighed. Vincent felt a tear fall from one of his eyes at the sensation of someone's hand around his chest, something he had almost never felt in his entire life. He couldn't help but cry, silently, but he wasn't sure why. He wanted to believe it was because he was so torn, so sad, but he could not say that for sure...he could not say that because inside he knew he was relieved and happy, but he could not cry for that...he shouldn't cry for that...

Vincent eventually cried himself to sleep, almost without a sound, and Cid slept, without any knowledge of what was happening.

~~~

He had slept alone for so long, sleeping with someone's arm around him made his rest fitful and worried. Dark dreams tormented his mind, with one recurring factor...

Demonic wings, glowing red eyes, think clawed hands and feet, and blood smeared across his lips...his own lips...

Himself, haunting him...and he knew who the blood belonged to.

The guilt was tearing him apart inside. As if loneliness had to have a replacement once it was removed, as if he could never truly have peace, not with the demons that constantly tormented his thoughts, even in dreams.

That can't be me, this can't be right...

The conflicting emotions and illogic of the situation only made his dreams even worse. The more he remained where he was, with an oblivious arm around him as he slept, the larger the demon version of himself grew. The look in it's eyes was confusing, part hatred, part guilt, part sympathy, part sadness...so many conflicting emotions in the scarlet eyes that matched his own.

The demon fluttered around his mind, speaking softly with Chaos' voice, telling Vincent constantly of how what he was doing was wrong, so wrong...and he knew it, but couldn't bring himself to do anything about it...it felt...

It felt so good...so good to have the loneliness gone, even if it was replaced by this horrible demon.

If the loneliness was gone forever, he would willingly live with such a demon, as long as the aching within his soul stopped.
The fitful dreams. He knew he had to be twitching in his sleep, had to be making small whimpering noises, because he knew that much...he could feel it in some part of his mind...he knew because the demons knew, and they weren't asleep...

How had he managed to avoid waking Cid? How had he managed to keep himself a secret? And how would he react...what would he do when Cid found out what he had tried to do...?

His blood-red eyes opened slowly, and he could see Cid's soft hands in front of them, the pilot's arm still slung around his body. He felt as if he was closer to Cid then he was when he had originally fell asleep, though it was hard to tell. Now conscious, he could feel Cid's heartbeat against his back and feel his body-heat, and his slow breathing. He was asleep. He had to be asleep.

How could he be doing this? He shouldn't be doing this, he never ever should be doing this...he never ever should be allowed to be this fulfilled...he should never stop living alone...

He didn't deserve this...he didn't deserve anything.

His muscles clenched involuntarily and he could feel himself curling up into a ball, wishing that he could simple disappear with the memory of this happy moment untainted in his memory. He could feel his arms tensing and unconsciously bringing Cid's arm tighter against his chest and that caused a fresh wave of guilt to wash over him. He tried to force himself to let go, but trying to take that kind of action only caused him to cling tighter.

Don't wake up...don't wake up...

Vincent pleaded silently, closing his eyes as more tears fell. He couldn't let this happen and he was, he had learned nothing from what had happened, he hadn't changed, he was just the same monster that had let Lucrecia suffer, he had learned nothing. Nothing...

Nothing had changed, just as he had feared. Nothing had ever changed, even with the death of the person who he had assumed had caused all this pain. He had no one to blame for this but himself, and he was a fool to think that killing Hojo would solve his problems. Killing had solved nothing and had only worsened the ache in his soul.

He didn't deserve this...he had never deserved this...

Please don't wake up...

He tried to keep the metallic claw away from Cid by putting it underneath his body, pinning it so it couldn't move. His other hand, free from such restrictions, trembling touched the center of Cid's palm, as if testing new territory. Vincent cursed himself over and over, called himself every name he could think, tried as hard as possible to stop himself from doing this, and in the end his hand still reached forward, shaking as it was, and grasped Cid's, hoping for something that Vincent could never ever hope to have. Acceptance.

Cid mumbled something in his sleep that was unintelligible and Vincent was sure that this would be the end, this would be it. His attempt to take his hand had finally ruined everything, and now everything would be torn apart and he would be alone...alone...

The pilot mumbled for only a few moments, but his fingers responded to Vincent's, and intertwined with them, almost like an instinctual reaction. Vincent shivered with disgust at his own weakness and with disbelief, and Cid only pulled him closer, returning back to the world of dreams with almost no disturbance.

Tell me this isn't happening...tell me this is wrong...tell me he'll wake up...but please...don't let him wake up...

Vincent shook and tried to stop himself from crying, but his self-hatred refused to lessen, even with Cid taking his hand in sleep. He was taking advantage of him, Cid was asleep...how could he be doing this? How could he be letting himself do this? There would be no way to make up for this sin, there was no way he could ever make up for this. This would forever remain on his soul as his darkest day, taking advantage of one of his own friends like this...

How could he even bear to live, being this kind of hideous monster...?

He could feel Cid's blood rushing in and out of his fingertips which seemed so warm compared to his own icy hands. He wanted to withdraw, he wanted to take his hand out, to stop pretending that someone could ever possible want him, could ever possibly...

Possibly love him...

No, he did not just think that.

Oh god, he deserved to die.

Vincent tried to stop himself, but he couldn't. A sob escaped his throat, a gasping one that was made all the more obvious by the sharp motion in his chest and how he convulsively clutched Cid's hand, harder then he had intended, so hard he knew that there was no way that Cid could remain asleep.

"Mmph..." Cid made an annoyed noise as he levered himself up with his free arm, looking about curiously for the source of what had woken him. Vincent turned slightly, his frightened tearful staring upwards as Cid slowly realized where he was and who was with him. Blue met red, and the terror was not hidden. Vincent could not stop crying now.

"Vin?" Cid's voice was just confused, not hateful or scornful or mocking, just sleepy and confused. "Jesus Christ, Vin, what th' #$^$#-"

"Oh god Highwind, don't hate me, please, don't hate me, I was just..." Vincent spoke far too quickly for Cid's sluggish mind to understand. He noted that he was still holding his hand and let go quickly, moving so that his claw came back into sight. He couldn't even bear to look at it anymore. "It was just, I don't know, it had been, no, that would never justify it, I have no justification for something this terrible, please don't hate me, I won't even presume to ask for forgiveness, but please don't hate me, I couldn't bear it, please don't hate me..."

Vincent's voice was quavering and shaky and he could barely organize any of his thoughts. Cid simply stared at him, the look on his face quizzical, as if not comprehending. He sat up completely and rubbed his eyes harshly, as if trying to wake himself, then finally leaned his hand against his forehead.

"Wait wait wait..." His voice was still slow and tired. "How did you get here, Vin?"

The waves of guilt were slowly making him curl up, drawing his legs further upwards and almost cringing away from Cid, as if expecting a blow of some kind. Vincent tried to think of a way to explain and eventually decided that all he could really say was the truth. "I...I crawled into your bed..."

The realization of what he had just said hit him and he put both his hands over his eyes, even though the metal claw was sharp against his forehead. "Oh god, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry, I never ever should have done this, I never meant to..."

Cid was shaking his head and trying to snap out of his sleepy state, but he was woken in the middle of deep sleep, therefore wasn't going to come to full consciousness quite yet. He put both his hands against his head and talked slowly. "Jesus #$@%in' Chris Vin, for god's sake, could you've done this some other time, it's just too god#$^# early for this, jesus christ..."

Cid turned away from Vincent sharply and flopped back onto the bed, shaking the entire thing. Vincent stared at him in shock, not sure of what to think. Cid was already asleep in seconds, pulling the covers up over his shoulders and unintentionally over Vincent as well.

Vincent stared at his back in disbelief.

A second chance...this was his chance to get out of the bed...Cid probably wouldn't remember this at all, he could go back to his own bed and Cid would never know...

His own bed in the dark...the moon had moved so that it no longer shone on his bed...he would be alone, in the dark...

He didn't want to be alone...

No, this was his only chance to redeem himself, to fix what he had done wrong...

No, he didn't want to be lonely anymore...he didn't want to be alone...

He couldn't force his body to move. It seemed frozen and unresponsive, completely unwilling to do anything that he supposedly wished it would. He lay there, his metal arm hidden underneath his back so as not to disturb the sleeping pilot, and he tried to figure out what to do.
Nothing made any sense. What was he supposed to do?
Nothing had changed...

Cid mumbled something in his sleep about "god#^$# early morning" and then fell silent.

Vincent could still feel Cid's heat next to him. Cid had flopped back over, and Vincent had somehow regained his previous place beside him, this time without the arm over his chest.

Did he...no...he never...he couldn't...

Vincent, even when beside him, still felt slight pangs of loneliness within his heart. Their return made it all the more painful for him. Raising his hand to his own eyes, he dried his face, ashamed at himself for his own weakness. He was supposed to be strong...

How could he bear to be strong under the weight of so many sins? So many things he had done wrong...

What right did he have to pretend he was strong? To pretend he knew was he was talking about? What right did he really have to even pretend that he, Vincent, wasn't frightened and scared inside? Why did he even try to fight it anymore?

He was just a weak monster inside, not even worthy of fighting, not even worthy of anything, only death to help strengthen the genetic line...

A frightened, scared, child inside a man's body that didn't even truly belong to him anymore...the scars and claw were proof of that...had his body truly belonged to him, then this would not have happened, he would not have allowed it to be altered...

He was a fool...a dark, monstrous fool...who was so afraid and alone...

Within the depths of his own despair, Vincent turned his scarlet eyes towards Cid's back, still raising and falling evenly. He could still feel his heat coming over him, warming his own frail, cold, white skin.

I have nothing more to lose...I have lost everything...my love, my purpose, my body, my soul, my life...I have nothing left to lose...why even fight anymore...?

He turned slightly onto his side, his head still slightly above the shorter pilots. He lifted his claw arm, which moved with a slight metallic noise. He ignored the guilt he was feeling and raised it, feeling nothing as he reached forward with it.

Don't forgive me...

His thoughts came bitter and almost mocking in his own mind, enough to make Chaos proud. He placed the claw gently across Cid's chest, gently holding him. The lanky pilot didn't even seem to respond truly, only curling slightly against Vincent's chest, still deep in slumber. The loneliness went away, and in the depths of all his sorrow and anguish Vincent found the time to shed tears, because now he had truly lost everything.

I don't deserve it...