Well, I've wanted to write a finale for this microcosm of mine for some time. I got this idea in my head, and I wrote most of this in one day. I hope you like it, any comments are greatly appreciated.

JJ, March 2013


Epilogue: Characters

He looked so beautiful in the moonlight; a man in monochrome, a blend of darkness and light so perfect and tangible…

She recalled with flawless clarity how he had kissed her, how his body had pressed against hers. She knew exactly what he desired, though various signals, physical or otherwise, and despite the yearnings of her own body, she had turned him down.

Her palms pressed against his chest, pushing him away. She was resolute; she loved someone else, and it would be dishonest to sleep with Vincent under false pretences. No doubt she was attracted; her lips had parted to admit him, begging him to just deepen the kiss, to tear away her resistance…

Vincent wasn't that kind of man.

And she wasn't that girl.

Six weeks on from that night, in a world that was struggling to get back its breath, she wonders if that moment could be recreated without the pressures that had existed before. She had come to terms somewhat with her broken heart and had spent some time in Vincent's company, as she had bid him to. The curiosity was still there, no doubt, yet the fire was gone, perhaps no longer fanned by the urgency of an impending apocalypse.

She spent some time contemplating this conundrum. Vincent was no longer pressured into acting on his feelings; there was no 'one last chance' anymore. They had all the nights in the world, it seemed.

That's what worried her.

She suggested that they return to Wutai with Yuffie; now that she had the luxury of time and freedom, she wanted to explore the Vermillion Kingdom some more, suggesting sweetly that Vincent be her guide, if he had nowhere else to be.

He had nodded curtly, acceding to the fact that indeed, he did have nowhere else to be, and would be happy to show her around. The request was lost on Yuffie of course; why couldn't she show her around? Tifa only smiled. Yuffie had much else to be worrying about now, what with starting off the material trade in Wutai again. She wouldn't have the time.

That seemed enough to distract the young Ninja from Tifa's true agenda.


Surprising how much you could buy with your gil these days. She grinned in spite of herself, shielding her eyes as she squinted at the long path meandering through what would have once been a carefully manicured garden. This was her new residence; complete with Koi pond and moon viewing Pavilion—whatever that was.

"It's got a great view of the mountains," Vincent remarked from behind her, setting down his armful of bags. She turned to look behind her, appreciated the view that Vincent alluded to. Her Wutai home was a short walk from the pagoda square, surrounded by tall spruce trees. The scent was wonderful.

"Thanks for helping me with my things," She threaded her arm through his, leaning against him as they absorbed their surroundings. She had rather suddenly decided that buying a house here would be her next move, upon finding out that this property was for sale. She had quite fallen in love with it.

"Anytime." He shifts beside her, perhaps uncomfortably, she wasn't sure. "Perhaps I should um…" She smiled as he slipped out of her grasp and began a walk around the perimeter of her estate, appraising the roof, the rain spouts and the footings of the building.

She left him to it, ladening her arms with her belongings and more recent purchases before heading towards the main entrance of the house. The heavy door slid open with a persistent shove, the wooden grooves swollen a little. The matting seemed in good condition at first appraisal, though she could smell damp leaf litter. Indeed, the house had stood empty for some time, and showed signs of needing repair.

Still, she smiled softly to herself, rolling up her sleeves and walking through the bright, barren rooms, throwing open the screen doors to allow air and sunlight to penetrate the rooms. This space was hers now, and she could do anything she wanted with it.

The rest of her life started now.


Several days they spent repairing the roofing, and the drainage, in lieu of the rain season approaching. Wiping sweat from her brow as she toiled under the high midday sun, she wished for a sudden bout of rain to bring her some reprieve.

Vincent had recruited some help in getting the water heating problems fixed, and he emerged victorious one afternoon, sweating and covered in oil, to announce that the boiler was fixed. She thought that perhaps it was a little too soon into their venture to suggest him joining her for a well-deserved soak.

The moon viewing pavilion of her house was an area of decking outside one of the sleeping chambers, well positioned to sit out and view the heavens in all their splendour. She and Vincent had scrubbed the weather-beaten wood and stained it afresh, a task taking several days of arduous labour. She had headed out to market one day and returned with several plush cushions on which to sit. Each night, she took to setting them out after preparing a pot of Wutaiin tea. They sipped at their porcelain cups in relative silence.

Slowly, it was coming together. She had procured some furniture for the rooms, and it arrived piece by piece, slowly bringing some substance to her home.

Vincent hung what he called 'rain chimes' at the eaves of her house, and told her it was considered good luck. She had chuckled, questioning his superstitions. "It's tradition. Everyone in Wutai will perform certain rituals when moving into a new home, to ensure it is auspicious." He half shrugged, prodding the dangling metal chimes. They hummed pleasantly, chiming out gentle, soothing notes.

"What else do you have to do—you know, to make sure your house is—auspicious?"

"Well, some people will hang scrolls in their house bearing calligraphy. A Wutaiin character can be made up of any number of strokes, but depending on the year, or perhaps what luck you wish to be bestowed upon you, you must chose a character with a certain number of strokes." She blinked once, then again. "I see I have lost you. Well… are you busy tonight?"

She smiled, tucking hair behind her ears. "Of course not."

"I will bring some things over later on, then. We can make one."

"You have forgotten how bad I am at drawing, right?" She calls after his retreating back, hands on her hips.

"Calligraphy is different." He shouts back over his shoulder.

"We'll see!"


Vincent had been staying up at the Kisaragi estate- something about not wanting to impose himself upon her. After all, it was her house, and although he had kindly offered to help her with the manual tasks involved in bringing the place to order, he didn't expect that she would want him around in the evenings. Of course, she had never declined an opportunity to spend time with him as of yet.

Several hours after sundown he was sliding open the entrance door after a polite tap, rolls of rice paper under his arm along with a few packages bound in brown paper and string.

The main room that she used in the evenings for eating contained a low table which she and any guests would sit around, though tonight she had moved it to one side of the room to allow maximal floor space. The room was lit by kerosene lamps; they had not quite gotten around to fitting electric lighting yet.

He left his shoes outside the door, as was customary in any Wutaiin home, and crossed the room with his burdens.

"Well, this looks exciting!" she exclaimed, taking the packages from his arms and seating herself cross legged on the floor. She politely offered him tea, of which he gratefully accepted a cup.

"This isn't tea," He remarked, sniffing at the hot liquid.

"Did I say tea? I meant hot sake!" She winked, draining a cup of her own.

"Hm. If I didn't know any better, I would say that you were trying your best to level the playing field, Ms Lockheart."

"You know me too well. Let's get started shall we?"


"You're supposed to get the ink on the paper," He remarked dryly, glancing up from his roll of rice paper, brush poised expertly over it. With the sleeves of his Wutaiin shirt rolled up, the collar done up, he looked quite scholarly.

She scowled at him in response, grimacing at the ink splodges on the heel on her hand that had somehow made it to her face. "I don't know why I bother with these things," She blew hair from her face, rather than try and move it with her hands again. "I am absolutely useless." She cast her eyes intermittently to a reference sheet that he had drawn for her, detailing several basic Wutaiin characters and what they meant. Currently she had tried and failed with the characters for 'happiness', 'wealth' and 'prosperity'.

He chuckled, rapidly tracing out a complex Wutainese character with his brush before setting it aside. He set his scroll aside to dry. His calligraphy was elegant and beautiful, as she had expected. "Come here."


"Just trust me," He urged, beckoning her to come closer.

"You know, you look as if you've tanned out there this past week," She shuffled towards him on her knees, trying not to touch anything with her inky palms.

"Thankfully. I thought I would never get rid of that 'I've just crawled out of a coffin' look." He rolled his eyes, while she giggled. "You, meanwhile, look as if you have been rolling in that ink." He reached out tenderly to wipe away the smudges of ink, though for all his efforts, it only got worse.

"I told you I was hopeless," she peers up at him through her lashes.

"It's only going to come out in the bath," He remarked, letting his hands fall back to his side.

"Is that so?" She considers her options and their situation carefully. Maybe, just maybe… She plucks the forgotten brush from the ink pot at his side, daubing it in the ink before gripping his flesh forearm tightly. "Maybe I just needed a more… versatile canvas to work with."

He raised a brow, though made no move to pull away from her as she sets the tip of the brush to the outside of his forearm. She lets its glide upwards in the stroke that he taught her, before lifting the brush away to carry out the next stroke.

All characters are made up of a number of strokes, meaning each one must be executed in a single line, a movement of the wrist.

Her tongue pressed against her teeth as she concentrated, she didn't notice his gaze appraising her thoughtfully. "There! How is that?"

"Hm…" He raised his wrist to eye level. "Not bad, actually. Though it needs a little work. The third stroke looks a little wobbly. It could say 'Fork' instead of 'hope', for all I know."

"Ok, ok, let me try again. I'll try the symbol for 'wisdom'." She turns the arm over to expose the tender underside, re-whetting her brush before resting the tip against his skin, beginning the first stroke, more of a curve than a line. Messing up once, she moved onto his other arm, producing a more passable character on her second attempt there.

"How is that?" She asks a few moments later, eyes wide and hopeful.

"It's… an improvement." He tells her cautiously, turning both arms to compare the progression of her characters.

"Let me try again, please?" She begged.

She realised their predicament the second these words left his lips: "We're running out of skin."

Her mouth opens, and then closes again as he reached for the buttons of his shirt. If she had entertained any doubts about the fire no longer burning, well… consider the flames fanned.

In the light from the lanterns, his skin was gold, subtle shade hinting at the curve of muscle. "W-where should I…?" The brush is raised, though her boldness is gone for the moment. If he knew, he gave nothing away. Muscular shoulders, sculpted arms, intriguing dips and shading at the taper of his waist…

"Wherever you want," He shuffled around, sitting cross legged with his back toward her. Well, at least she would be able to hide her blush, for the moment.

She sets to work on her latest character, trailing a black line from the apex of one shoulder blade to the indentation of his spine. His skin was warm against her palm, placed on the opposite shoulder to steady herself. He remained perfectly still. She paused, forgetting what she was attempting to create, using his body as her canvas; she glanced down at the scroll upon which he had expertly laid out the examples she had been following. Looking back to hers, it was almost laughable how poor her attempts were. He had to know that.

He had to.

"I… I can't do this, Vincent." She lets her hands drop to her sides, disappointed. He sure knew how to make her lose her concentration.

"Then perhaps it's my turn," He half- pivots around to consider her, and she feels the heat creeping up her neck.

She says nothing, instead allowing him to manoeuvre her around to sit with her back to him. She almost gasps aloud as his fingertips brush her waist, griping the hem of her shirt and lifting it up and away from her skin. She raised her arms mindlessly to aid him, cool air assaulting her body. He then mumbled a brief apology before undoing the catch of her bra. It slips from her shoulders of its own accord. She bites on her lower lip, anticipation gnawing in the pit of her stomach. Fingertip drag across her scalp sending little jolts through her body, as he gathers up her hair into a messy bun exposing more flesh for him to work with.

She is half naked in front of him, sitting tall and straight and frozen in anticipation, one arm covering her breasts. His fingertips brush her spine, his canvas.

Where her characters had been large and sprawling, his were small and intricate. He began on the left at the crest of her shoulder, slowly working his way down with tiny, controlled brush strokes. She didn't know how long she was sat there, though afterward she could not recall if she breathed during the whole exchange. Her heart was in her mouth, her skin raised in goosebumps; braille he must be able to read by now.

Outside, her rain chimes start to sing softly; rain patters against the roof soothingly, cooling the humid air.

"What characters did you write?" Not daring to speak louder than a whisper.

"It's a poem," He leans in closer, completing a complex character at the dip of her waist. His warm breath against her skin sends a tremor across her body. "A bright moon rises over the sea; Shores apart, watching the same, Is someone dear to me. I loathe this endless night and could not sleep but think of thee."

"Is there more?"

"I'm almost done…" He mumbled, the trajectory of his writing now taking him into the curve of her hip. "I wish to offer you moonlight in a handful, but to my real shame it's impossible. Retiring to my bed it seems… I might find happier days in dreams."

"It's beautiful," She breathes, conscious that he had finally stopped in his writing.

"It was a poem on my mind that night… not so long ago."

"I remember it well."


"I want to finish my character," She stated resolutely, raising up on her knees and turning around to face him once again. He purposefully avoids looking at her, modesty spared only by one arm draped across her upper body. She takes the brush from his hand and scoots closer, setting the tip to the centre of his chest. She performed each of the ten strokes, creating a legible character for 'trust'.

"You can look," She adds, setting the brush aside, and folding her palms in her lap.

He lowered his eyes to his midriff, noting the character's legibility, before noticing what she had really meant. She is exquisite. He can just make out the first characters of his poem at the top of her shoulders from the front, tendrils of hair escaping his makeshift bun. Full breasts are bisected by a faint but prominent arc- the scar from her encounter with Sephiroth. She raises a hand to cover it, though he takes her wrist delicately between trembling fingers. There would be no hiding tonight.

He lowers her to the matting, mouth finding hers instantly, stomach clenching as she hungrily accepts him; lips parting, hot and wanting, her tongue darting out to taste him. The sensation of her breasts against his body was almost too much to bear; he longed to kiss her everywhere, kisses moving to her throat, using tongue and teeth to abuse the skin. Her fingers knot it his hair, forcing him lower- A bite at her breast and her back arches, the hollow of her stomach enticing him lower. He reaches her hips, gently nibbling at the flesh there- Does he go further?- a glance up at her reveals that she is far gone and showing no signs of resisting him.

He undoes her jeans and pulls, pupils dilating at the sight of black lace…

Her body seems to sink into the matting at his touch, tongue and teeth exploring parts of her that she had forgotten felt so good to be touched in the way he was touching her now… His mouth found her most sensitive spots, and it was all she could do to keep him there, fingers locked in his hair, her hips grinding into him.

As she climaxed, sounds passing her lips that she had never made before, he returned to kiss her lips, his expression setting her insides afire. His eyes were wild with want, and she would give him whatever he silently begged of her...

She pushed him back to the floor, aware that they were probably crushing the usable scrolls they had created earlier. Dragging her palm down his chest, the still-drying ink smeared across flawless skin. Groaning as she grips him firmly in her hand, his skull makes contact with the matting with a thud, years of tension dissipating under her wondrous touch.

No, no delay. He would not wait for her any longer.

Hands guide her astride him, and seconds stretch impossibly in the moment their bodies join. Sweat glides from the nape of her neck along the curve of her spine. The lines eventually run black, erasing the verse that had been inscribed upon her flesh. Clutching hands come away stained, only to leave their mark elsewhere.

They made love well into the night; the rain chime singing softly as the first of the autumn rains fell.

Later, they lay still, breathing together in the quiet. Around them lay scrolls of rice paper, one bearing an inky handprint, while another bore a near perfect transfer of the first half of the poem written on her back. "I think I might hang this on the wall, you know…" They lie on their backs, appraising the paper she holds aloft. "This one says...?"

He traces the characters with blackened fingers. "Friendship, trust and love. Not sure what the handprint is supposed to represent, though…"

"Hm. Perfect." She tossed the paper aside, burying her face in his neck as she laughed. "I think it's the symbol of passion."

"In this case, I suppose it is." He chuckled, drawing her body tight against him.

"We should probably take a bath and get rid of all this ink." She remarks, trailing her fingers over the smears on his chest, though apparently unwilling to move. "I… I enjoyed tonight," She admits, squeezing him a little. "I guess it was a long time coming, huh?"

"Thank you for inviting me over. Though you do realise that you are going to have trouble getting rid of me now?"

"I have no problem with that."

He kissed the tip of her nose before they released one another, sitting upright and searching for discarded garments.

She half dresses, slipping on underwear and her shirt before heading outside into the rain, towards the adjoining bathhouse.

He huffs a breath when she is gone, glancing down at himself before dressing again. Who knew something as innocent and perceptibly dull as calligraphy could turn out to be so… erotic? He chuckled to himself as he gathered up the scrolls and set them to one side, amazed that in all their activity, they hadn't managed to upset the inkpot.

He set the scroll into the hanging frame he had brought, hooking it on the Southern wall of the room. He stepped back to appraise his work just as Tifa re-entered the room smelling of hot coals and jasmine.

"Ready to wash this ink off?" She slips her arms around his waist, nodding to the scroll now hung on the wall. "Looks good—does this mean the house is auspicious now?"

"Something like that. There is one small problem though. Either you replace the matting or move the table permanently, because I think that inky handprints of two different sizes are going to be a lot harder to explain to visitors than the one on the scroll."