There's something bothering Vincent, but Tifa knows you can't just up and confront Vincent Valentine. Not unless you're the right person, at the opportune moment.


Last Call



Tifa sets another drink on the bar-top, and it is quickly corralled into the hook of her patron's arm, drawing the tumbler of whisky close to his body. An almost protective gesture, when one ignores that he will soon tip the glass to his lips and inhale his companion's character giving life-blood and discard the shell in favour of a new victim; just as soon as he can focus his wits about him long enough to coordinate the lifting of the drink to his mouth without slipping, dropping or otherwise proving incompetency. He knows Tifa is watching for the signs of his stupor, waiting like a vulture to whisper "that's enough" and gently pry the tumbler away from him before he ends up breaking more of her glassware.

Down the way, a teammate, contemporary, almost (but damn it if he didn't try hard enough) friend faces the wooden bar as well. His long dark hair curtains around his face, and his claw, shiny like the ring on Tifa's finger, is loosely curled around his own drink. Scowling, he looks to Tifa, who has not left her place before him, watching like a hawk, like a guardian angel, for him to slur a word, for an eyelid to droop.

"Don't you think he's had enough?" He suggests, stabbing a thumb awkwardly in Vincent's direction and annunciating every word carefully.

The barmaid's eyes close softly and she shakes her head, not in disagreement, but rather in disbelief. She opens her mouth and he cringes as familiar words fall from her lips.

"Naw' Teef, see?" He tries and fails to lift his whisky to his lips. His hand gets dizzy, it seems, on the way to his mouth, and he hangs his head as hand and glass fall together back to the table with a resounding thud.

He can see that Valentine man glance up momentarily, mockingly, from his place down the row. "Fuckin' Turk was fed the shit straight from the bottle." In his mind he tosses around a few other accusations; pertaining mostly to the creatures in his head and the experiments preformed on his body, but even drunk he knows better than to voice them out loud. If he knows Vincent at all, and he likes to believe he could, he knows the gunslinger is already accusing those very components of the fact that his misery hasn't been numbed down to the sadness that is 'last call'.

He grumbles something inaudible when Tifa plucks the glass from his hand, and reaches instantly for the next likely vice to cause his death. Sticking the cigarette in his mouth he fumbles for a lighter. Any other inebriated man would have had trouble getting the lighter to work, but practice means perfection when you've practiced as much as he has. With a satisfying click a flame is procured from the device and he mewls quietly in pleasure as the intoxicating aroma of tobacco infiltrates his senses.

"Nauseating."

Eyes shift to the left. "You got a problem, vampire?"

Crimson eyes lift to meet his. The other man is silent, as usual, but there is still general disdain for the thin object hanging from his lips signified in those haunting, haunted red reflections of a past and a future stained with sin.

He's not sure why, and chalks it up to the alcohol, but he blows a lungful of smoke at the gunner as he leans over the two stools between them. Blue-grey wisps tangle in the air, curling around the imaginary barrier the gunman usually stood behind and caused the usually stoic expression on his face to twist into one of distaste.

"Fuck ye looksh more shour than usual, Valentine." He was willingly letting his words run together; his whisky had been taken, and no longer had his pride or possession to protect.

"Your breath is vile," he says by way of explanation and excuse.

"I meant 'fore that, vampy."

He grunts and turns away, tilting his chin back and drinking, almost mockingly, from his glass the last clinging remnants of scotch. Ice clinks loudly back to the bottom once he is finished and Tifa swiftly removes it the instant it hits the bar top.

"Another, Vincent?"

His chin still has not fallen from before, and he pauses to ponder her offer. He drops his head into a slight nod. "Please."

His voice is gruff, something the onlooker (he who has had significantly less to drink and yet cannot stand for fear of falling) notices immediately. He is wondering and waiting and watching with a curiosity not unlike the one that affects him sober. He concludes that tonight, of all nights, must be worse for some reason.

"Y'never drink, Valentine."

His dark eyelashes contrast his pale skin as his eyes close softly. Tifa sets another drink in front of him. "Clearly you are mistaken, Highwind." He does not slur like the drunken airship pilot, but the huskiness and reluctance to reply suggests something, if not inebriation, is off.

"Naw. I ain't never wrong, Valentine. Jusht fashe't."

An elegant eyebrow is raised. "I beg your pardon?"

"Jusht fashe it," he attempts again, and the other man looks away, apparently unconcerned with the fact that he can't understand him. Cid sympathizes, it wasn't very important anyway. Still, he tries to get his lips and tongue to coordinate. "Fashe it. Fasss. Fasth. Faaaaeee... sh'it." He makes a displeased face. "Fuck."

"It seems you can pronounce that just fine."

He guffaws loudly, languidly moving to slump over the bar, forearm creating a cushion for his brow. In the corner of his eye he can see Vincent standing, removing himself and his alcoholic friend from the bar. "Where ya' going?"

He doesn't answer and continues toward the staircase, one that will lead him to a dark bedroom and a sleepless night. The bitterness of it stings at his conviction, and with all of his might he heaves himself up off his stool, tottering to follow. "Y'shouldn't be upther wallowering all by yer'self, Valentine."

He doesn't stop to reply, or to help when Cid crashes into the wall just left of the stairway.

"Fuckin' piece'a'shit buildin'. Tifa! Make yer'fuckin' doorways wider, for fuck's...hey, vampire! Wait!"

The stairs were a feat, and he felt tremendously triumphant once he reached to top and stumbled into the room serving as a bedroom while the gang was staying at the bar. Vincent was perched in the window, one knee crooked up and the other dangling outside. If he hadn't been still cradling his drink, he would have looked like he was about to escape, and had he not been Vincent, with amazing strength and skill, he would have looked like he was about to jump. His expression certainly called for it.

"Fuck, Vince."

Red eyes shifted, catching the moonlight as he gave the pilot a once-over. "Go to sleep, Cid. It's two o'clock in the morning, and you can't stand up straight."

The accused felt oddly un-offended and almost warm at his comrade's apparent concern. "Y'never drink, Valentine." He repeated, this time consciously. "The scientist chick." He was impressed with his ability to make his words sound they were meant to. "Not even Hojo drove you to drink like this before."

The man looked away, out into the night. He did not tell him he was right, but he certainly did not suggest that he was wrong.

"What's different?" He was worried. Concerned: Almost threatened. He had never felt anything like it; this thing that he was feeling. It was all encompassing and depressingly sobering. His vision still swam, but his thoughts were only getting clearer.

Yet however clear his mind, nothing could have prepared him for the gunman's response. "I suppose you heard that Yuffie is getting married."

His eyes widened. "Yuffie? That brat?"

"Well of course, it is required of her."

Cid shook his head forcefully. "Naw, I mean, she's what's got you sulking?"

Vincent shot him a look. It was a look that explained everything in the clearest of details. It was a look that revealed all of the thoughts and feelings that before this night (before the eleven glasses of scotch) Vincent had taken particular care to hide.

Cid stumbled backward a couple steps, as if physically knocked back by the realization. "We talkin' bout the same Yuffie?"

Vincent sighed.

"Fuckin' hell, Vince, you gotta give me a break. Last I seen, the two of you didn't exactly get along. Hell, at Marleen's birthday you couldn't even stand to be in the same room. The two of ya buggered off…" The gears were finally working well enough in his head that when two and two came together, his eyes widened and a loud yell woke the people sleeping in the next room. "You fucked her?"

"No, Cid. Please get out."

"Hell no," he shouted stubbornly. "What the hell is going on with you two?" He regretted it the moment he asked, because Vincent suddenly stood, and the pilot was very abruptly aware of how much shorter than him he was.

He was also forced to see the pained expression on the usually emotionless face of his comrade.

"She…"

Cidd listened intently, knowing it was likely the only time the gunman would ever open up on the subject (or any subject at all) and it was likely due to the drinks consumed earlier.

He was struggling to describe it without losing whatever semblance of control he was clinging to. "She is…"

"Fuck all, Vince, are you in love with the girl or not?"

It was clear by the look in his eyes that the prospect of being in love with her was terrifying. Cid couldn't blame him—after all, everyone had been aware that Yuffie's father had been fixing to arrange her a nice marriage with a nice Wutaiin boy who would be able to strap her down and make her into the perfect Wutaiin housewife.

As Yuffie's friends, the idea hadn't sat well with any of them. She wasn't the kind of person who would take being tied down very well. She would either break her bonds, or they would break her.

"Well?" he knew he shouldn't be pressuring the man—he'd come quite a ways in one night as it was, but he had intuition or alcohol to blame it on, depending on the impending outcome.

He was quiet for a moment longer, and then, as if snapping out of a trance, he lifted his drink to his lips and drank. The ice rattled in the bottom of his glass.

"Yes."

"Yes what?"

"Yes, I am in love with her."

"Shit."

Vincent sneered, and in a movement that Cid's blurred perception could not entirely comprehend, his glass was hurled across the room and shattered against the wall.

"Ifrit, Valentine, watch where you're throwin'," he hissed, cowering with his arms over his head.

He was enraged. Cid could see it in his eyes; it was an emotion that the pilot could understand and was familiar with. He had dealt with things similarly himself once. Straightening himself, Cid sighed loudly. "That's a rough spot you in, vamp."

Vincent snorted at his comment. "So there you have it," he said quietly.

"Listen, Vince…"

They were left in silence as Cid drifted off, suddenly aware that he really didn't know what to say.

"What do I do?"

The burly blond blinked, wondering if he had heard him correctly. He knew the man was hurting, but Cid had been drinking, and it would be just like the alcohol to make him believe he was being asked to give Vincent advice he didn't want. Still, he felt warmth spread inside him, and he wondered if all his efforts to befriend the older man hadn't been so pointless after all. "Uhh, what?"

He turned toward the window, and his claw flexed, the metal gleaming in the moonlight. "I am, for lack of a will to lie, in quite a desperate situation."

"Yeh, booze'll do that to ya," Cid muttered, adding as an afterthought "the lying thing, I mean."

"Cid."

The pilot's hand fell heavily on the gunner's shoulder. "First, you drink. Check. Secondly, you come to me. Check. Third, you don't go sleep in a coffin for thirty years, capiche?"

"I wouldn't last thirty years without her."

"Fourth, quit with the fucking mushy talk. It's gross." Vincent snorted, provoking a nudge from Cid.

"So, if lying in the dirt is out of the option, you better fight for her, eh?"

"Fight for her?"

"You wouldn't be able to live with yourself if you didn't."

They can both hear Tifa coming up the stairs, having closed up shop and shoed the last of the stragglers home in taxis. Her soft knock on doorframe was expected, as was her gentle smile.

"Going to bed, guys?" she asked quietly, by which she meant "stop bothering Vincent before he lashes out and breaks more of my dishes," gesturing across the hall to Cid's room.

Cid shook his head. "Nope, sorry. We got a princess to sweep off her feet and carry off into the sunset."

"Cid." Vincent's voice was followed by a firm hand on his shoulder. "I will take care of this. In the morning," he emphasized.

"Oh, right, right." He wobbled carefully to the door, smiling enthusiastically at the barmaid who looked up at him with a smile.

"Thank you, Cid," she whispered quietly closing Vincent's bedroom door behind her. "He really needed that."

"Eh?" Cid waved his hand dismissively. "That was nothin'. Just a little guy talk, that's all. Bitches and hoes. Y'know how it is."

She smiled again. "Whatever it was, he looks like he feels so much better. Thank you, Cid. Someone just needed to be straight with him."

"Well I sure as hell wasn't gonna be gay with him."

"Goodnight, Cid!"

"Yeah, yeah. Don't let the bed bugs bite ye on yer ass, Teef."

Cid closed to door and smirked. Goddamn barkeep, he –knew- there was a reason she hadn't cut him off earlier. Well he'd be damned if he was going to be her little puppet again.

He kicked off his boots and headed for the bed.

Next time he'd show her.

Unceremoniously, he dropped onto the mattress, face-first in the pillows.

He'd drink the weak shit for the whole fucking night if he had to.


End


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