Anti.ShinRa.Protection.Society

I've decided to edit this, after so long- I did write it when I was 15, so I think the quality pales compared to my more recent work! Disregard this if you've already read it- it's a slow process, and I'm working on combining some chapters together to make the story seem more digestible. 53 chapters does sound daunting, though some are short.

Also, sorry if the story suddenly goes into bold- I've done everything I can think of to stop it, but it doesn't seem to be working!

Thanks, JessicaJ

A late flight

When I opened my front door to see him standing there, I can't really tell you what I was feeling: Curious, no doubt about that, but there was something else- maybe a little apprehension, or even fear.

His dark hair was over his eyes, the rain pouring down on him like there was no tomorrow. It had been raining for three days solid now; the river had burst its banks. The streets, including the one my house was situated on, were water logged; The drains couldn't handle the surges of floodwater any longer.

His ruby eyes swept to both sides of the street behind him before his gaze returned to me. He must have read my expression, for he said;"I know the hour is late, but it's very important."

Of course I was going to let him in. Even though I didn't know him well enough to class him as one of my close friends, I hadn't seen him for at least a year; I would be lying if I denied that I hadn't thought about his whereabouts in the past.

I stepped aside, feeling his body brush past mine ever so slightly. I peered out on to the street curiously, before shutting the door, and after a second, locking it.

He wasted no time at all.

"Tifa, I have reason to believe that your life is in danger." He was never one to cushion the truth.

This told me that in the past year, while the rest of us had settled and tried to forget the horrors that ShinRa had created, he had done the polar opposite. He had made himself a free lance mercenary of a sort; working for himself, only for others if he needed the money, or so I had heard from Barret the last time I saw him.

"What?" I repeated incredulously. Was this man, who was cold and cruel on the outside and god knows what on the inside, concerned for me?

"ShinRa have developed a new underground Rebel faction." He said flatly, going over to stand by my window.

"Like SOLDIER? Or the Turks?" I asked. I was too nervous by now to sit.

"No. SOLDIER failed after ShinRa's greatest experiment went wrong, and when their failure succeeded in bringing around their downfall." He said.

Of course I knew he was talking about Sephiroth, the man who had taken away everything precious in my life, and Cloud. The man who had been my childhood friend, who had left to join SOLDIER, but never actually came back.

"So what are they then?" I scratched agitatedly at the table with my fingers.

"An elite force. I'm not really sure what makes them so hard to beat, but I'm sure we'll find out. If it was developed by them, then I can guarantee it's not going to be something nice." He muttered, anger evident in his voice.

"But we've beaten them before!" I cried incredulously. "Surely its nothing we can't handle! AVALANCHE was untouchable then, why not now, why?"

"Tifa… ShinRa have moved on to bigger and worse things since the days of reactors and the Turks."

"Surely not human experimentation, again?" I shook my head.

ShinRa were well known for meddling with human DNA, genetic make-up; everything they should not. I had seen for myself what horrors they could create. Things, that were so far from being the humans that they once were.

"Not this time. They haven't got Jenova to toy with anymore…" I detected slight relief in his tone. "But still, if this can surpass the power of Jenova, then I'm not really sure what we can do about it. Not with the intelligence we have at the moment…" he trailed off thoughtfully.

"Um… Vincent… whose 'we'?" I inquired, slightly curious.

"You'll see. AVALANCHE will no longer be the only Anti- ShinRa rebel group. People are revolting. They don't want things to go back to how they were. They have realised how much better it has been since Meteor." He told me. I smiled ruefully. The word of AVALANCHE had spread and it made me feel proud. "But still, we are in the dark over this, Tifa. That's why I can't afford to let you stay here." He turned around, leaning back on the window, so now I could see him properly in the light from my kitchen.

He'd had a haircut recently; it was cropped to his jaw line, and fell quite attractively over his eyes; those eyes… So haunting, and yet so beautiful; the deepest amber you could imagine, red like wine. The haircut flattered his narrow bone structure, and I found myself hiding a smile.

"You don't think I can look after myself?" I said with false sternness. He didn't seem to find me amusing.

"This is serious, Tifa. I can't tell you why at this time, but you have to come with me right now. I can't afford another casualty to stain my hands." He shook his head slightly. My smile disappeared.

There were thousands of questions I wanted to ask, welling up inside of me, but I rushed up the stairs at his words. I heard him follow me up.

"What do I need to bring with me?" I asked, as I dashed over to my wardrobe to grab a small packing case. I paused to look back at him, waiting. He was leaning on my doorframe.

"Only things to travel with. We could be up to three days." He told me. I opened a drawer and stuffed in a t-shirt.

"Three days? Where are we going?" I asked, reaching for my diary.

"It would be best if I didn't disclose that to you right now." He replied mysteriously.

"You worried someone may be spying?" I enquired, opening my underwear drawer and rummaging around inside.

"Yes. It's a possibility." He answered, his voice getting quieter. I turned around to see he had left the room. I smiled: Always a gentleman, Vincent.

I packed some spare underwear, and then left my room to retrieve my toothbrush from the bathroom cabinet. He was already in there, examining a bottle of pills from inside. I felt a spasm of panic.

"Anti-depressants?" he shook the bottle, the sound of only a few pills rattling inside. "Tifa, what-"

Thunder cracked overhead, shocking both of us. I took the bottle, a little forcefully, out of his fingers.

"My doctor prescribed them to me a few months ago." I admitted, my hands shaking slightly. I put them in the packing case I had, along with my toothbrush.

"I see."

I was surprised when he left the bathroom, and didn't ask any more questions. I think it annoyed me more than it would have, if he had of queried as to why I had them hidden behind the soap. What he may have or may not have assumed, I had to tell him the truth.

"I wasn't sleeping…" I called helplessly after him. I heard his footsteps falter.

"I know, Tifa." He answered. I felt a rush of gratitude for him.

Of course he knew what it was like. I had seen it in his face, still saw it now, if I cared to look hard enough. He was one of those people who kept his emotions inside, and did a good job at hiding what he was feeling, and thinking. But sometimes his eyes betrayed him. They showed pain, and sometimes they glowered in anger, making you cower under his gaze. Not that I had been a victim to one of his stares, but I had seen it.

"I couldn't face it alone…" I mumbled, more to myself than him. But I knew he was listening.

"Face what, Tifa?" he asked. His voice sounded closer. He was leaning on the wall outside the bathroom, waiting for my answer.

"Everything. I felt so drained. I wasn't eating. I wasn't caring anymore; guess I was lonely… I just needed someone to talk to…" I admitted. My hand gripped the sink's edge nervously. I heard him shift.

"Tifa, I'm sorry to interrupt but we really need to get going. Now." He pushed open the bathroom door.

I stared at him; He was holding my coat out to me. I reached out my hand and took it, and couldn't help smiling when he helped me into it. I shrugged my bag over my shoulders and followed him down the stairs.

He helped me rush around, turning off the lights and closing the doors. I took one look back over my shoulder, while at the front door.

My living room was cast into darkness. I followed him out of the front door into the night and the pouring rain. I locked the door behind me.

"Ready?" He asked me, his hands inside his jacket.

"Yes. If not now then never, right?" I asked, adding a nervous laugh. He nodded.

"Then let's go. They're waiting for me to come back with you."

Again I had that urge to ask whom it was he was taking me to, where, and why was I in danger. 'What's going on, Vincent?' I wanted to scream at him, but I held my tongue, and followed in his stride.

The town I now lived in had grown since the old days of ShinRa, when they were afraid of a power greater than themselves. Their ways of solving things, removing threats, were violent and unjust. Often they would try to eradicate people by killing a large section of the population (the bombing of the plate a prime example), with only the hope that they'd hit the right people. And more often than not, they failed.

Kalm was more of a city now, by rights. It had grown so, so much since before meteor. Small businesses flourished in its expanding streets, and more houses sprung up, to habilitate the people who fled from Midgar, using their newfound freedom to start over again somewhere new.

Just like me.

When everything was over, I didn't know where to go. I knew I had to go somewhere to start over, just like everyone around me. My hometown, Nibelheim was only a reconstruction of what it was, before it had been reduced to a pile of smoking rubble and ash. Midgar had been my home for several years when I owned my own bar, but that had been destroyed by ShinRa at the beginning of our journey, a year before.

I decided it would be best to live somewhere new, with new faces, but with no bad memories, a place where I could make my own. So I'd decided on Kalm. The money we'd collected on our journey allowed me to afford a small terrace with my share. I made it my own, and it felt more like home than any other place.

But now, once again in my life I was leaving my home behind, heading into danger, with the feeling I would never come back. I felt afraid again, as Vincent lead me through winding back streets and alleyways.

I knew New Kalm pretty well by now, and if I was correct, Vincent was taking me the short way to the train station.

Where we would go from there I had no idea. All I knew was that if you took the train as far as it would go in any direction, it was a three-hour train journey. That confirmed to me that most of our journey would be carried out on foot, considering he had alluded to a three day journey. I was privately glad I was wearing my sturdy boots, as I trudged through yet another puddle in a crack in the asphalt. Finally, we emerged out of the alleyways, into a well-lit street.

"We're here." He told me needlessly.

He strode over to the ticket office and bought two tickets, one for each of us. I didn't catch the location exactly, but I'm sure he said 'day pass'. The ticket office attendant looked at the clock in a confused manner, informing Vincent that the day was almost over. I saw Vincent give the man a swift smile, and reply, 'I know.'

He returned to me, as I stood shivering under the light from a street lamp.

"What was all that about?" I asked, my teeth chattering slightly. He took my upper arm in his grip and steered me towards the platform, his red eyes glancing up at the large mechanical clock, above the station building. It read quarter to eleven.

"If we are, indeed, being followed, then it would be hard for them to know where we went." He told me.

"How so?" I questioned, my interest piqued.

"Well in the next…" he glanced at the clock again. "Hour, three different trains will arrive in fast succession, each one going three different ways, to the end of the line. I bought us both a day pass, which means that I wouldn't need to specify which train we were taking. They won't know where we've gone for definite." He informed me, with a light smirk.

"Wow…" I murmured. "You sure put a lot of thought into that…"

"No, actually." I laughed at his answer.

"Of course not." I didn't say anything else to him.

I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, shivering still in the rain. My hair was stuck to my skin, the raindrops dripping from the shorter layers around my cheeks. I shook my head, watching them tumble. I was wearing a black flight jacket, but still, It wasn't as effective as Cid's had been at trapping out the cold. Vincent must have noticed this.

"Here." He said simply. I turned my head towards him. He had taken off his black jacket and was holding it out to me. I closed my fingers around it, accidentally brushing against the skin of his. I smiled shyly, noticing how he withdrew his hand like he'd touched something hot. I pulled it on, grateful.

"Won't you be cold?" I asked, concerned. He was only wearing a close fitted black t-shirt now. I could see his well-formed arm muscles and upper body, as the wet cotton clung to his skin. I shook myself mentally. He only laughed slightly in reply.

He was wearing a gun holster; I could see the leather straps across his shoulders, glimmering black in the rain. The guns themselves were ones I recognised. One of them was 'death penalty', the other, 'peacemaker'. He used 'death penalty' less frequently; it was more powerful, louder, and it needed frequent maintenance. Peacemaker was docile; it was silenced, and easier to manage.

"Won't people be asking questions?" I raised an eyebrow, burying myself inside his coat. He shrugged.

"That's their problem."

I stayed silent once more.

Soon enough, the sound of wheels screeching to a halt on wet, metal railway lines could be heard shattering the silence of the night, save for the pounding of the rain. The train skidded to a halt inside the station, the bright lights from the windows blinding me temporarily; I had gotten used to the darkness.

.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Vincent ushered me onto one of the carriages, his hand firmly gripping my forearm, leading me forwards. A ticket officer eyed Vincent suspiciously. His hand wandered to the inside of his jacket. Vincent, still holding onto my arm, let one hand move downwards.

"Hold it!" the guard cried, his gun aimed at Vincent, square between the eyes.

"Wait. I have I.D." Vincent said, calmly raising his free hand. The other still held onto me fast.

"Ma'am are you alright?" The guard asked, his eyes flicking towards me, filled with concern.

"Yes. I'm fine." I told the guard, glancing back at Vincent. I broke away from his grip and took a step back towards him. "He's with me…" I tried to reason.

"What are you doing?" He whispered furiously.

"Just getting us out of trouble." I hissed back. "Show him the I.D." I said loudly.

Vincent shrugged and slid a hand slowly into his pocket, bringing out a white card. He passed it to me, and then I showed it to the guard. The guard's eyebrows shot up, and he lowered his gun immediately.

"So sorry, sir. Follow me I'll get you seated right away." He said in a hushed way, his eyes darting this way and that. I handed Vincent his card back, giving him one last curious look before heading after the guard.

By now the train had started to move, and I almost fell as it jerked forwards. Vincent grabbed my wrist, saving me from a fall.

"Careful." He intoned under his breath. I swallowed. The nervous guard led us into what looked like the best, private cabin they had. I gave him a wide, timid smile as he left, calling him back before he slid the door shut. I rummaged into my bag and pulled out my purse. I handed him a folded 100gil note, winking as I did so. I noticed he was about to protest, but I silenced him.

"For your trouble." I said softly, ushering him out, refusing to take it back. He managed to call out a thank you through the gap, before I shut the door completely, and slid the latch across that would lock it. I turned around, my hands on my hips.

"Why did you do that?" I cried incredulously. His gun was laid across his lap, and he looked up from it with a sigh.

"Do what?" He sounded defeated.

"Scare the poor man to death! You made it look like I was a female hostage! I am perfectly capable of walking down a trains' gangway, thanks very much!" I fumed to him, my voice not quite a shout, lest anyone else wonder what was going on.

"I was just leading you to-"

"Well you could have walked in front!" I interjected, gesturing wildly with my hands.

"How could I have watched out for you if you were behind me?" His normally quiet voice was getting louder. I ignored his glaring eyes on me as I stood before of him.

"What you think I'm going to get kidnapped on a moving train?" I asked, a sneer in my tone. He bolted upright, his gun clattering to the floor. I knew I had crossed the line. He was a good head taller than me, His eyes boring down into mine menacingly. I swallowed, but stood my ground. I resolved not to let him walk all over me. It was just a stare, Tifa, I kept telling myself.

"It wasn't moving when we got on." His voice was a deathly whisper, close to my ear. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

"So?" my voice was faltering. He closed his eyes for a moment.

"Tifa… I don't want to argue. Please…. Just… it was for your own safety, all right. I'm just doing my job." He sighed, slumping back down into his seat, his head back, hands over his face.

"I see…" I whispered, feeling angry all over again. "So you're really just worried about the pay check you're going to get when we arrive, is that it?"

"Tifa, that's not it…" he mumbled through his hands.

"Goddamn it, look at me when I'm talking to you!" my voice wavered with fury. He pulled his hands away and leant forwards in his seat, his hands folded, his chin resting on them. His features were calm, but they only succeeded in enraging me further.

"What would you have me take care of you for, Tifa?" He asked me, his voice steady and calm.

"Oh it doesn't matter, for god's sake…" I threw my hands up in agitation and resignation, landing heavily on the seat opposite him, as far away as I could get.

I knew I shouldn't be angry, but grateful; he was trying to help me.

But I wanted answers.

I was confused, and lonely, even if he was with me. To be honest, he wasn't really much company. Then again, I suppose I had myself to blame; I was the one shouting at him.

I took my diary out of my packing case and began to write down the events of the night. Flicking back over my past entries, I realised how much I missed my futile, yet peaceful, even if uninteresting life. Finishing with the outcome of our argument, I closed to diary, and slipped it back into my bag. It had helped me to calm down, and set out my thoughts and feelings.

Feeling guilty, and slight embarrassed, I looked up from where I had been staring at the floor. He was gazing resolutely out of the window, even though it was too dark to see anything, his jaw clenched tightly.

I searched for the gun he had let fall to the floor; he hadn't picked it up.

I got out of my seat, aware of his eyes watching me. I avoided meeting his gaze, as I crouched to pick it up. I brushed the shining silver needlessly, as it was a clean as it could be- I could see my worried reflection in its surface.

I held it carefully for a moment, before rising to my feet, the gun clutched firmly in my hand.

"Tifa…" he began, his eyes widening slightly.

I had to laugh.

"I'm not going to shoot you!" I said, laughing despite myself. "Here… look I'm sorry… I just want answers that I know you can't give me yet. My temper is a little fragile so, forgive me in advance if I do it again."

I gave him my apology humbly, staring straight into his eyes. The way they softened at my words made me smile. I sat next to him now, my hands folded in front of me. He seemed contented with my choice of seating.

"We'll be another few hours at least. Try to get some rest…" He said after a while. I nodded and got up to return to my seat, when he took hold of my wrist. He looked up at me, his eyes meeting mine perhaps a little shyly.

"Forgive me. I'm not very good at talking at the best of times. Thank you for humouring me this far." He lowered his head, as if in shame. I shook my head and placed a hand softly on his shoulder.

"Not at all. It's my fault. I should understand that you're not the most articulate person at the best of times…" We both hid a smile. "What I mean is…" My expression grew serious. "I would have had no other person come rescue me. I trust you. Thank you for this, whatever it is, and I mean it."

Pleased that I had said my piece, I sat down on the opposite seat and turned off my overhead lamp. The only remaining light was his lamp, and the light filtering through the frosted glass of the cabin door. His light soon joined mine in the darkness, the cabin plunged into shadow.

"Tifa…" He began. I smiled to myself, knowing he couldn't see. I raised myself up onto my elbow, the coat I had draped across myself shifting as I moved. "I want you to know that I'm going to protect you as best I can. I don't want you to be afraid…"

I rested my head back down on my arm, smiling wider.

"I'm not afraid Vincent. And I believe in you, but also… I want to fight too. I can protect the both of us if I need to, so don't feel it's all on you, ok?" I turned over onto my back, my arms behind my head, ankles crossed over. I heard him let out a small laugh.

"Of course not. I wasn't expecting you of all people to sit back and let me have all the fun. Am I right?"

"Dead on." I laughed. "Good night Vincent. Wake me up just before we arrive." I closed my eyes.

"I will. Goodnight, Tifa."

After a time, the soft swaying of the train and the rhythmic clinking of the wheels on the rails sent me into a deep sleep. But still, I could not evade my dreams.

I dreamt I was running. Nothing else: just running down an endless, cobbled street, while it poured with rain. Soon, I came to a heavy wooden door.

Desperate to get out of the rain, I was pounding on the wood. It felt damp and sturdy under my fists. Then a voice said:

"You need a key, to get in." I looked to see Vincent leant against the door frame, a gold key on a chain swinging from his hand. "Everything has a key… Doors, questions, people …" I didn't understand what he was telling me. It was imperative that I opened the door before me.

"Can I have it?" I called to him. He smiled at me, and then straightened up off of the wall, closing his palm around the key. He came so close to me, I could feel his breathe on my cheek. It made me nervous.

"Some doors are best left locked, Tifa…" He whispered. His breathing was slow and warm on my cheek.

"Wake up Tifa." He said suddenly. Gone was the dreamlike mysticism, replaced by an urgent, worried look. I looked at him, raising a brow at his meaningless comment. "Wake up!"

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I opened my eyes, the darkness closing in around me as I battled to remember exactly where I was. It was impossible to see. I began to wonder what had woken me, when my eyes focused, and I saw two eyes, glowing a dull red out of the gloom.

"Vincent? Is that you?" I asked stupidly. The overhead light turned on, blinding me. I shielded my eyes with my arm.

"Yes. We're a few miles away from where we are headed." He answered obviously, aware that I was still in my tired stupor, heading back to his seat.

"I had a strange dream…" I began, running a hand through my hair, as I swung my legs over the side of the seat and sat upright.

"You did?" He asked me, his gaze resting on me softly as I rubbed my sleep-heavy eyes.

"You wouldn't give me the key to open this door… you told me…" I struggled to remember the details. The dream was slipping away like sand through my fingers. The more I tried to hold on to it, it just crumbled away; like blowing on smouldering paper.

"I told you…" He urged, his eyes shifting to the door, where a shadow had passed it. His eyes followed me as I walked towards the window.

I placed my palm against the glass, the cold shocking me. I rested my heated forehead on the cool surface, breathing out as I did so. In the talent I had left on the glass, I drew a love heart with my finger lazily, before shrugging, and using my sleeve to wipe the window clean and flawless once more.

"I have forgotten." I stated plainly, sitting back down, my hands folded before me. "Isn't that frustrating?" I asked rhetorically, placing my face in my cupped palms.

"Not really…" Vincent replied oddly. "I would gladly trade with you…" He mumbled.

"What?" I asked, confused.

"I would rather forget my dreams… but they stay fresh in my mind, no matter what duration of time has passed." He sighed, and for the first time, I saw how weary he was.

I also realised that I was lucky to be hearing about this subject matter; He was never one to disclose information about himself, at the best of times. I seized the opportunity.

"Are they bad?" I asked tenderly, looking up from my palms.

"Yes…" He replied, his eyes looking down at the gun he was turning over and over in his hands.

He looked slightly afraid and vulnerable, just sitting there and not looking at me. He was never one to avoid gazes, unless he had something to hide. I knew that much.

"Do they ever go away?" I said softly, regarding him from my circle of light. He was sat outside of it, in dim darkness. Where he liked to be, I thought.

"No…" He answered, ever more quiet. "Never." I waited, realised I was holding my breath. I tilted my head to one side, my long hair falling over my shoulder. It was still damp from being outside in the heavy rainfall, three hours before. It seemed an age away. "That's why I don't like to sleep. If I'm awake then… they can't hurt me, can they?" He told me. It sounded as though he was reading from a diary; a very personal diary.

I knew this topic was over.

"No. I guess not." I was going to say more, tell him how much I suffered from nightmares and broken sleep in the past over many different things, tell him he wasn't alone, wasn't the only one. But the train was slowing. He took this as an opportunity to get up, cancelling any hopes of continuing the conversation.

I would have to wait for another time.

I threw his coat back to him; I may need it later, but for the time being it would be best if he kept his weapons hidden. It was then I thought to ask about the I.D card.

"What was the I.D card for?" I asked him as I shrugged my pack on.

"It was a Junon police force badge." He told me, without any evidence of a smirk on his face.

"You're a cop?" I asked, smiling.

"Let's just say I'm doing an outside project at the moment." He told me, a small smile creeping onto his expression. "I lived in Junon for a year. I needed work to keep me occupied… Why, what did you think the pass was going to be?" He asked.

"Well I thought it could either be a fake ShinRa employee card; that'd frighten anyone into laying off you, or a card for whatever organisation it is you belong to," I told him my suspicions. "But I thought that would have been risky, seeing as ShinRa could have spies everywhere."

"Well both assumptions were plausible." He reasoned, while he was adjusting his coat to hide his holster.

"I just didn't see you working on the police force as the way you used to be," I admitted after a thought, with an apologetic tone.

"Yeah, neither did they. So I had to change a little." He lifted his eyes upwards to his hair. "Good thing I suppose. I can see better now." I almost laughed at the light-hearted turn our conversation was taking.

"It suits you." I dared to say.

"Thanks. So does yours."

I'd had a haircut since AVALANCHE, too. It now only fell down my back, no longer brushing my thighs. There were layers around my face, and I didn't have a fringe to get in my way anymore. I was pleased he'd noticed.

"It'll be easier to manage now, what with fighting and all…" I told him. "Will I need to equip myself?"

"Yes, that would be best." He said back, after a pause.

I slid my tight leather gloves over my hands and flexed my fingers, satisfied in how the material creaked. The knuckles were reinforced with hidden metal plates, and I recalled how I'd once had a pair with studs on them.

The train screeched to a halt. I looked out of the window. There didn't seem to be a station in sight, just a lonely stone platform in the middle of nowhere. I looked to Vincent.

"Guess we're the only ones getting off here?"

"Only if we managed to mislead anyone who may be following. This was the last train of the day so…" He trailed off.

There was a knock at the cabin door.

"Sir? Madam?" the guard from earlier called through to us. "It's your stop."

Vincent strode forwards and unlocked the door, sliding it open fast enough to startle the unsuspecting guard.

"Sorry about earlier," Vincent muttered as he walked past him, only stopping when he was at the door of the train, waiting to exit. I reached his side.

"You're going out first, right?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

He reached his hand inside his coat, and pulled out Peacemaker. The metal gleamed in the glow from the overhead lights. He stepped outside, his head looking in all directions for someone, anyone who may be a threat.

Apparently satisfied that the barren station would stay that way, he signalled for me to get off. I stepped of the warmth of the train, into the chill of the early morning hour.

"Where are we?" I asked, drawing my coat tightly round me.

"Do you have your PHS?" He asked randomly. The PHS was a phone device we had used to keep in contact with each other while we were on the field. I shook my head. Apparently satisfied, he went on to answer my question. "Somewhere east of Junon." He informed me, as the train's doors hissed shut, and it began to pull away from the station. I waited till the roar of the engines had died away before speaking again.

"Where do we go now?" I looked after the train wistfully, wishing I was still aboard it, heading back home where I could curl up to sleep in the warmth and dryness of my own bed…

"To my house. I have to let them know I've got you and that you are safe." He shifted so that his gun hand was relaxed at his side. But I knew he was still alert beneath the surface.

"Can't you just phone them with a PHS?" I asked.

"No. I could, but I'd have no way of knowing if the line was secure. Someone could have traced every step I took. I have had no communication with anyone since I set off for Kalm yesterday."

He began walking away from the station, towards a set of stairs that cut off the stone from the grassy terrain. The station seemed to be placed in the middle of a farmer's field, and was oddly out of place in such an empty, sparsely populated area.

"Wasn't that a little risky?" I asked, creasing my brow, following him down the stairs. "Not having any contact with them? Something could have gone horribly wrong, and they wouldn't have known any better."

"That was a risk I was willing to take." He replied. I felt grateful all over again. He didn't seem to want to talk anymore, I noted, as he kept his eyes to the ground as we walked.

The terrain around us was slightly hilly, with a few crags and knolls here and there. The fallow field was dotted with large oak trees, standing tall and ghost like in the darkness. It was not raining this far away from Kalm, and so the sky was clear. The light from the moon guided us across the expanse of land, until we came to the outskirts of a forest.

"We're going in there?" I asked, although I knew what the answer was going to be. It looked scary; the trees were swaying, moaning in the wake of a passing breeze. An owl hooted not far from where I was standing. I stamped my feet to keep warm.

"Yes we are." He stepped through a gap in the trees and was undoubtedly swallowed by the impending darkness. I hesitated, looking behind me at the solitary lamp shining at the station. I longed to be at home. Sighing and realising it was useless to dwell on the unreachable, I followed.

It was distinctly cooler under the tree's canopy. The leaves whispered, and the branches whined in the wind. The dirt crunched softly under my boots. A sudden movement ahead of me made my heart jump, but it was only a rat, scampering into a hollow beneath a tree.

However, in the dark, underneath the sub-sounds of the forest it was silent: I couldn't hear Vincent.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

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I honestly have no idea why the site makes some bits bold. I've reuploaded and it's done the same, so my apologies.