I wanted to revise this, because I know how it ends, and I know what is wrong with it. Sorry for updates if you've favourited it! I've mixed up chapters together, to make them longer.
He could tell by looking out of his window that morning that the day was going to be one of those strange days; the sky was split down the centre, one half broiling with angry bruise-coloured clouds, yet the other side was the clearest blue, dotted with puffs of white cumulus mediocris.
He didn't think he would bother placing the patio tables outside this morning and risk being drenched to the bone; For he owned a seafront café on the Junon main street, an old building which once belonged to the army. Its façade was all rusted metal, pretty much identical to all of those on the street, blending into the ramparts of the city's fortified walls. It's name was Caffé Azurro, or literally, blue café; for in the past, and sometimes still, its tables were frequented by the navy-suited men and women of the Turks. It was well known for its famous smoky, bitter coffee infusions, bought from the farthest corners of the globe for the citizen's enjoyment.
It was eight thirty, a swift glance up at the clock confirmed, and it was about time he should head downstairs to open up.
He set about raising the shutters, hurrying back inside to escape the cold and the ever imminent threat of rain from above in the cloven sky. Then, he began to methodically lift each chair down from atop the tables, shoving each one under forcefully. And that's when he heard it; a sound that boomed out, shaking the building and rattling the windows in their frames. That distinctive sound of thunder.
He'd always been one to enjoy a storm. The raw, unforgiving and unrelenting power that was nature fascinated him. Humans may have been on the planet for a relatively short time, and be intelligent enough to build cities, planes, and the economy, yet nature was a force not to be reckoned with by any. He stopped by the large front window, arms folded across his shirt bearing the café's logo, gazing up at the strange, schizophrenic sky…
…And that's when he saw her.
He'd noticed her before; he got to see a lot of people each day passing by on their way to work, and he'd always been good with faces. She often wore bright colours, and he got to notice her more and more as the weeks went by. She was neither tall, nor short- of average build, from what he could tell at least, with long tumbling locks of copper-brown hair. Today, she wore a bright blue rain coat over her grey skirt suit, her black shiny heels clicking as she walked. Then the heavens opened.
She had stopped, taking the umbrella from its place hooked over her arm and commencing to struggle with it. The stubborn object seemed to have locked however, and although he could only see her lips moving from the other side of the glass, he was sure she was swearing. Her hair, dripping with rainwater, glistened and sparkled, the surreal golden light from the light side of the sky setting her skin on fire. She looked… stunning, almost too beautiful to be of this world. His lips parted, an involuntary gasp escaping his lips. Then amber eyes met his, the annoyance at her misfortune flickering there.
Before he knew what he was doing, he had opened the front door to Caffé Azurro, the little bell tinkling above his head, gesturing for her to step inside. And to his surprise she ran towards him, ducking into the warm, dry space gratefully. Her body brushed past his lightly, and he became aware of the delicate, floral scent of her perfume.
"It's a strange day, isn't it?" He found himself saying, taking her umbrella from her hands, inspecting the mechanism.
"Strange or not, I am going to be late!" She fumed, brushing her wet hair from her face. "-And I have an interview to go to- looking like this!"
I think you look wonderful- he thought to himself, setting the stubborn umbrella down in the corner, watching her carefully, as she sank into a seat. After a moment in which he collected himself, he passed her a clean towel from behind the counter. "Can I offer you anything?"
"Does it count as hospitality, if it's not opening time yet?" Her frown wavered as she daubed at her face and neck with the towel.
"Of course," He smiled softly, stepping behind the counter and reaching for the coffee. "Only I get to pick what I give you."
She smiled as the man's face vanishing behind one of the machines, all sounds drowned out by the whistling of the steamer. She'd never really taken much notice of this place before; an old establishment, very much integrated in the history of this old military city. But she wished she had noticed it sooner.
The man was tall, his skin a pale olive colour, eyes a startling shade of brown that managed to be everything else otherwise. Wine, amber, hazel? She'd have to look a little closer next time she had the opportunity. His hair was blacker than the skies outside, sweeping attractively over his eyes, pulled out of the way at the back by an aptly coloured blue elastic. The uniform, a fitted black polo bearing the café's emblem, did justice to the shape of his refined shoulders and biceps.
He emerged through the cloud of steam a few monents later, a takeout cup gripped in his hand, embellished with the same logo from his shirt. Don't look at his chest, don't look- Too late, she was looking.
"Here. See how you like that. If you take sugar, I would advise that you don't, just this once."
She smiled appreciatively, bringing the cup to her lips and blowing gently, before taking a tentative sip. She was proud to tell anyone she was a coffee nut, and that she knew some of the best places the city had to offer if you were after a great cup of Joe. Yet she was presented with the realisation that she had a gaping hole in her knowledge. It was also the second occurrence of the thought, why haven't I been here before, she'd had today.
She licked her lips. "It's… the best coffee I've had in a long while," she admitted, enjoying his small, quirked-lip smile.
"Fort Condor Blend. It's certainly something, isn't it?" He stared at her intently. She lost herself for a moment. Definitely wine.
"It certainly is."
"Vincent Valentine," He outstretched a hand.
"Tifa Lockheart," It was smooth, and warm.
He got to his feet- only then did she realised he had been sitting- and crossed to the front door. He took a black umbrella from the stand, and tested the mechanism. It opened out smoothly. "You may need this. Though I do expect you to bring it back, sometime soon." An invite?
"Of course." I'll be glad to drop by. She took a few more mouthfuls of coffee, before getting to her feet and adjusting her coat. He opened the door, propping it open with his foot, cold, wet air accosting her now-warm body. She shivered, stepping out and under the open umbrella he held aloft for her. "Thank you for your kindness, Vincent." Their fingers touched as he passed her the handle.
"It's been my pleasure, Ms Lockheart." He shot her a smile that made her knees go weak, before he turned back and re-entered into the coffee house. With a sigh tinged with many emotions, she turned and began over again to make her way towards her destination.
The rest of the day passed without event. Yuffie, one of his few employees arrived for her shift (5 minutes late, duly noted), and spent the majority of it absently loading the rack for the dishwasher to pass the time.
For business was a little slower than usual. People bustled past, not raising theirs eyes from the puddle-spattered ground, umbrellas held close and newspapers aloft to shelter them from the sky's violent onslaught. The darkness had eventually closed in, swallowing all light, although in the last few moments of sunlight a brilliant rainbow had erupted over the sea, and then faded as the darkness became absolute. Lightning forked across the sky; violet and acid yellow spikes tearing through the blackness, burning their imprints onto the back of his retinas. Thunder periodically boomed, shaking the windows. Vincent eyed them worriedly from time to time.
"Oh, man it's so boring!" Yuffie moaned, sitting at one of the café's empty tables, a cup of coffee held steady between her palms to warm them. "Why does it have to be so miserable?"
All of the mugs had been washed, and due to lack of traffic the place wasn't really in any need of cleaning. Vincent found nothing for the girl to do. Sighing, he joined her at the table, staring absently out of the window.
"It's a strange day, that's for sure." He ran a hand through his hair.
"Isn't your friend comin' up from Rocket, the engineer?"
"Yeah, in a couple of days, contract allowing."
"You goin' out? Hittin' the town?" She joked, playfully punching his shoulder. "Me and my girls might be out, could show you two old men a good time- or cardiac arrest!" She hooted with laughter at her own joke.
"Damn, you kids." Vincent rolled his eyes, taking a drink from his mug. "Well, you may as well get off early," He twisted his wrist around, glancing at his watch. "I know how long it takes you girls to get ready."
"Don't try and fool me, you ain't had a date in years." He heard her mutter as she tripped past, towards the staff room. "Cheers, Vince, I owe you one."
"Just arrive on time in future, will you?" He waved goodbye, ignoring her protruding tongue. The kid worked hard despite her slightly unruly nature, and notwithstanding all the grumbling he did, he enjoyed her company. Most of the time.
Tonight was one of three early closes in the week. He needed a shower, and then he supposed that the stack of uncompleted books that had been vying for his attention for some time now could be returned to. Reading was always a great way to lose himself for a couple of hours.
He stepped outside, surprised to find that the rain seemed to have stopped for the time being, the dark black clouds now a washed out grey, allowing the weak evening sun to shine through. He shivered, stretching up to tug on the shutter for the window. He grunted, battling with the old cantankerous shutter. He was positive it was getting stiffer more and more each day. With one last violent tug it came loose, almost sending him flying, clanking and clattering down to the pavement where he locked it into place.
The end of another day. The blue light of the caffé Azurro sign buzzed into the night.
It had dropped dark outside pretty quickly; a lot quicker than she had anticipated. Her shoes scuffed the floor far too loudly as she walked, her breath rising in a mist about her face. Not far now until she reached the underground, then she could catch the night train home. She glanced up, eyes wide and alert at the sound of someone calling to her. Not to her, it could have been anyone she instructed herself.
She lowered her head and quickened her pace, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to trip on the uneven cobbles of the alleyway. It was a faster route, though as the dark wet walls stretched before her, she regretted her decision to come this way. Ahead on the black bulky shadows she knew to be dumpsters, most likely for the shops that lined the front of the next street, she could make out a blue glow; probably a shop sign or a weird street light. Perhaps it wasn't such a good sign that she didn't know exactly where she was.
She quickened her pace again, skipping a few steps to break into a hurried jog.
Bursting out into the blue light, eyes blinking stupidly, she tried to steady her racing heart and her ragged breathing. Was there someone still following? Her head told her to just keep on going, and not turn back on the well-lit main street, where surely she would be safe. Instead, her instinct forced her to turn her head and look behind her to search the shadows for any unknown, dangerous form that might be lurking there.
She only managed to fill her lungs and force out a few seconds of a strangled, high pitched warning scream before the hand closed over her mouth, strong arms yanking her, dragging back towards the darkness of the alleyway. Her teeth closed over whatever she could find; a hand encased in leather, though she felt something crack between her jaws, causing her attacker to swallow a strangled cry of pain.
His fingers gripped at her waist, leaving instant bruises, though she splayed her legs, trying to keep herself grounded and more importantly out in the open, where surely someone would see her, her sneakers scraping on the concrete as she began to lose traction, lose the vicious battle of tugging. He took a fistful of her hair, yanking her backward and forcing her to twist her spine around. The pain of her hair being nearly torn from her scalp was enough to get her to give in a little, though she wasn't quite done yet.
She kicked out with her feet, finding his shins, frantically clawing at any exposed skin she could find, secretly triumphant when hot blood seeped out from beneath her fingernails, drawing a hiss from her attacker. Adrenalin pumped in her veins, though her muscles were screaming with fatigue, aching from the strain of her resistance. Her head bumped against brickwork, sending her dizzy, her muscles relaxing involuntarily as she tried to regain her faculties.
His fist collided with her face, her lip splitting open at the impact against her teeth, bitter, salty blood filling her mouth. She coughed, spat it out, feebly struggling in his hold, as his fist hit her face again.
Then there was a gunshot. Her captor released her instantly, though in her dazed state, she only managed to throw a hand out to stop her hitting the ground face first.
"Run- fast, or I'll shoot your other knee cap." A man's voice, his tone clipped and demanding. She raised her head, staring up through puffed, bruised eyes at her savoir. His arm held still, staring true down the barrel of his gun. Another shot. "Can you stand?" Voice filled with hate, contempt. Fury.
"I think so…" She struggled to her feet, steadying herself on the wall with a bloody, bruised hand.
"Can you walk?"
"I don't… know."
"Don't worry, you're safe now." Softer now, more soothing. Her vision started to swirl, though she said nothing, following the man in silence. He opened a door in the alley way, his hand steady at her elbow, helping her across the threshold. They were in the back of some kind of commercial building; a store room, walls lined with shelves full of boxes, and large fridges that whirred softly in the darkness.
She followed him up a set of stairs, refusing his offer for assistance, thinking she wanted to retain some of her dignity. It took all of her concentration to find each step, walking forwards blindly.
He led her into a warmly lit living room, seating her in a comfortable arm chair. She could smell coffee.
"Who are you?"
"Vincent Valentine, I own the Caffé Azurro downstairs. Are you alright miss…?"
"Nice to meet you, again." His face underwent a series of expression changes. Had she not been in such a beaten state, she would have laughed. Her ribs ached.
"Tifa?" He cupped her face gently, turning it this way and that to inspect the damage. She winced a little.
"I hadn't counted on our next meeting being quite like this," He cursed smoothly under his breath. "Is anything broken?" He called back from the kitchen, hurriedly filling bowl with hot, steaming water.
"Perhaps; I think a knuckle or two." He returned, tentatively taking her bloodstained, dirt streaked hands in his, using a warm soaked cloth to gentle ease the blood away.
"I think he was a little worse off than you." He then reached for her face, after squeezing out the cloth into the bowl of steaming, and now dirtied water, daubing at her swollen lip. "Although that's a nasty bust lip."
She stifled a sob. "Thank you so much, Vincent… I could have been dead by now, if it weren't for you."
"It's nothing." He shrugged, running a thumb gently over her lip, to check for more lacerations. Had their predicament been less out of urgency than intimacy, she would have shivered.
"No, it's not 'nothing'. You saved my life." She smiled, changing it to a flinch as her cheek bones throbbed. Vincent chuckled a little. "I don't know what I could do to repay you."
"You know, you still haven't returned my umbrella." He smiled gently, tending to her swollen eye sockets. "Perhaps if you promised to return once in a while... you know, to keep my business going."
" I guess I could promise to buy a cup from you once in a while, and I will tell my friends about you- The coffee Barista-hero."
He said nothing for a few minutes, taking care to clean her face of blood, checking each wound. She sat still, wincing and gasping periodically at his probing, to which he responded with a muttered apology.
"I think you're going to need stitches, Tifa." He grimaced. She felt something hot slide down the side of her cheek. "We'd better get you to the hospital." She nodded rigidly, thinking that perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea, seeing as her sides ached so much. After a short struggle back down the stairwell and a terrifying revisit to the alleyway, she was in his car. She was safe, and most importantly alive. She couldn't help but wonder though, her forehead resting against the cool window as they sped along the city roads, what a coffee shop owner was doing with a revolver.