Where did this idea come from? I'm not really sure. But I don't own either FFVII or xxxholic…
Sleep like the Dead
A Final Fantasy VII and xxxholic Crossover.
Vincent Valentine had long ago lost track of the flow of time. It hurt less that way, than to pay attention to the constant flow of birth, life, death… all in the blink of an eye to him. In the same way he didn't know how old he was, as he had lost count somewhere in the six hundreds.
Vincent Valentine was immortal. He could not die. He realized that when the members of AVALANCHE began to age around him, them and their families, while he… he stayed the same. Hojo was at fault for that, and to an extent… Lucrecia, as well. A madman's experiments, coupled with his old love's attempts to keep him alive, had cursed him to forever walk the changing lands of Gaia. Living while others did not.
And he was tired of living. He was tired of walking, tired of seeing, tired of being isolated from the flow of time. If he slept, the dreams would wake him, another curse he was burdened from. So he did not sleep.
Vincent Valentine simply existed. As he had for hundreds of years.
If he had bothered to make contact with civilization at any point, which he had started avoiding in his first few centuries, he would have been rather amused to find that all sorts of stories had sprung up about him. The legend of AVALANCHE had faded with time, but echoes of its legacy still remained, and mixed with his now mysterious person, the imagination was sparked within hundreds of minds. One town claimed he was a wandering ghost, seeking for his lost lover, tragically taken from him. Another said he was a demon once bound in service to an evil ruler, but had broken free and devoured the soul of any unlucky to cross his path.
Some had actually claimed he was the spirit of the mad man who had once tried to call down the heavens and destroy the world, but many were skeptical of this.
None of these were actually true, of course. But at the root of each was a small inkling of fact, so as a whole; all of the stories could technically be called truth. And stories about him would never die, not while people could still see the glimpse of a tattered red cloak, or the gleam of a golden metal claw, as the man called Vincent Valentine continued to walk.
The face of Gaia had changed as he walked. The torn planet had slowly recovered from the ravages of the company once called Shinra, and while the human race was still not perfect, they had learned to respect the planet a little more. Great cities grew from small towns, while forests grew from once barren earth. One of the reasons Vincent had shied away from contact with civilization was that he had started to feel outdated. Rather like when he had woken from thirty-years' self-imprisonment in a coffin. It had simply become harder and harder to adapt until finally, he gave up trying to fit to each new century.
Instead, he walked. He had nothing else to do, as he could not die. At one point he had contemplated suicide, but dismissed it, as it didn't seem like the right way to go, not after all he had been through. Besides, if he truly were immortal, then injury by his own hand would hardly damage him anymore than otherwise.
Returning to civilization now would be impossible at his age, whenever that thought came up as well. He'd never fit in. He'd seen too much. And when a chance encounter left him with a piece of technology from the current century, he hadn't even figured out how to turn it on, much less see what it was anyway.
The world was growing. His wilderness was becoming smaller, less concealing, and he… he was simply a relic of the past that did not belong.
He wandered. Wandering, though, in the end, was tiring. And the thing that Vincent longingly wished for now… was rest. Eternal rest.
At one point along in his travels, things seemed to blur in his eyes. He had as good as memorized every road on Gaia, yet there came a day when he found a fork he did not remember. Curiosity raised, he chose to follow it.
Things changed even more after that.
The landscape was different. There were formations that were strange, small towns he came upon that he did not know, and vastly different from the soaring cities of Gaia. He stayed away from these towns, but wondered. Foliage changed. There were plants and animals he'd never seen before, and that was saying something.
Most curious of all was an encounter with a man in strange kimono-like clothes, which he accidentally had converged upon at night. One look at his looming form had sent the man screaming in utter hysterics down the road, shouting something about demons at the top of his lungs. There was always some reaction when he was seen, but it had been a long time since the reaction was that extreme. It was rather refreshing, yes, but once again was a puzzle.
After some time, Vincent realized that something was calling him. Well, not so much calling, as pulling him. Some deep instinct was guiding him down the path he was currently walking, and for lack of something else to do, he followed it. Until the instinct very clearly was pointing him directly down a road that lead straight to a small, but bustling town. It was then that he hesitated.
Obviously, he had not made contact with humans for… a long time. Yet, here was a town, and his instinct was telling him to travel into this town. It made him uncertain. He was so undecided in fact, that he spent a good few days sitting quietly in a copse of forest and thinking it over. Finally he decided to heck with it and made up his mind. And so, for the first time in… a very long time, Vincent Valentine set foot in the lives of mortals of his own accord.
The looks people gave him were interesting, at best. He was quite different from the norm, even though he had taken a little time to tone down his appearance in order not to cause panic, for the people of this strange land seemed much easier to frighten.
His clothing choice had changed over the years, which he hadn't much control over. The last piece of original clothing he had left was his dirtied and battered red cloak, something that had seemed to simply become a part of his person. Something that still proclaimed him as Vincent Valentine.
Otherwise, his gold-plated boots had long ago been traded for a pair of comfortable yet well-broken black hiking boots. Several pairs, in fact, since boots simply didn't last for hundreds of years. His old leather suit had changed as well for a long-sleeved black top and black leather pants, both very worn in his travels. His golden claw had remained, but this was wrapped securely in his cloak to avoid attention. Then, as Vincent strode in the bustling town, he allowed his tangled black hair to fall in front of his eyes and mask the glowing red irises that surely would have caused panic.
The pull guided him, but thanks to his nature he avoided the busiest of streets. Passing bystanders shied away, seeing a strange man with tangled, ill-kept hair and a tattered cloak, walking with downcast eyes. He wasn't someone they saw everyday, but he didn't seem to be causing trouble, so they left him alone.
Vincent found this town interesting. It was devoid of the technology he had left behind in the cities he knew, and reminded him rather of old Wutai. It gave him a nostalgic feeling, and eventually brought up some memories from the past. His eyes went distant as he remembered. He almost didn't notice when his body came to a stop, in front of a wide wooden gate. The house beyond it dispelled any other stray thoughts as he stared at it.
It was a strange house, almost alien compared to the buildings around it. Old wooden walls, glass windows, silver crescent-moon spires from its pointy roofs and gate posts… it stood out completely from the Wutai-like buildings around it, which didn't even have proper glass windows. It was as if it came from a different country completely. But this place… this was the place that had been calling him. He felt it. Which was why he was walking down the cobblestone walkway and up to the weathered doors. They slid silently open as he reached for them, with a life of their own…
"Mistress! We have a guest! We have a guest!"
A chorus of two young voices jumped at him, and Vincent was slightly startled. Two girls were in front of him and grinning was widely as Yuffie had. Another point for strangeness was chalked up in his mind as he blinked.
"Welcome to our shop," chirped the one on the left, a girl with sea foam-colored hair that trailed to the ground in two high ponytails.
"Come, the mistress will see you now!" the one on the right chimed in, and her hair was a surprising shade of pink, cut short and curled into two buns at the top of her head.
Vincent did not have time to speak as the two girls promptly grabbed his arms and proceeded to lead him through the elegant looking hallway. He was actually finding it hard to say anything, as he had not used his voice for again, a long time. He was out of practice…
A shoji-screen door slid open in front of them as the two girls pushed him through.
"Here we are!"
"The customer is here!"
Customer? Vincent thought, taking all this in stride, when a new voice joined them. A voice as cool as ice.
"Thank you, Maru, Moro."
A woman lay sprawled in front of him on an old divan. Very quickly Vincent found himself drawn to the woman's pale face, and blood red eyes. Red eyes, just like his own… Smoke was trailing from her mouth, and the small silver pipe in her hand. It hung all around her, filling the room with its smoky scent as she regarded him with those red eyes. Her clothing could be called somewhat indecent at best, but he had a feeling that this woman did not care about common dress codes. A silence stretched between them. They stared at each other, calculating, analyzing. Watching. Waiting to see what the other would do.
Finally, the woman flicked her pipe, and the two children ran forward with a cushion.
"Have a seat, you look absolutely exhausted," she said with a faint twitch of her mouth, "You… have come from very far to this place… haven't you?"
Vincent Valentine took her offer and settled himself on the seat offered to him, a faint sigh of relief escaping. The tired man then spoke for the first time in many, many years.
His voice sounded gravely, even to himself. The woman smiled at him, before stretching out even further on her divan. Her black hair shifted slightly, running in waves down her back and over the arms.
"Tea?" She offered as one of the children appeared with a tray and two cups. Vincent hesitated, and shook his head. The woman shrugged. One cup was snatched up and greedily drained, followed by a satisfied smacking of lips.
"So, what name do you go by, Mr. Mysterious?" she asked quite bluntly.
"…Vincent Valentine," he replied with a low rumble, and she nodded her head thoughtfully.
"A good name… You may call me Yúko Ichihara. I run this shop, as you can see."
She waved a hand vaguely.
"A shop…" he murmured, red eyes taking in everything. "This place… has been calling me, I think." The woman, Yúko, said nothing, watching him with her own ruby irises.
"What does this shop offer?" his question floated in the air like the smoke that twisted around him, and once again, Yúko smiled.
"This is a shop," she said, with another cloud of smoke escaping her mouth, "that sells wishes."
Wishes. Something tightened inside him. If she noticed how his one hand clenched, she gave no indication, and instead flicked some ash from her pipe.
"Mm-hmm. And the fact that you have found this shop means that you have a wish, don't you, Mr. Valentine? That you have crossed time and space itself gives me reason to think that this wish means much to you…" With that said she rolled onto her stomach, to stare at him again with her chin on one hand.
A wish. A shop that granted wishes. A shop… that could grant his wish.
"Yes…" Vincent said with the barest of whispers. Anticipation was making a knot in his stomach, as for the first time, he allowed himself to hope… just a little.
"Then most likely, I can grant it. But if should have you know, Mr. Valentine, that with every wish… there is a price you must pay." Her voice became serious as she sat upright.
"Then state your wish."
Vincent found his mouth had gone dry as slowly, he straightened, to look directly in her eyes. To show how much this wish meant to him.
"I wish to die."
Silence fell again, as Yúko frowned and set her pipe down with a soft clack.
"That is a rare wish I don't often hear," she murmured. Then, she slithered from her divan in a cloud of smoke and pale violet silk like an ever-elegant snake, to kneel directly in front of him. Vincent was only slightly taken aback when she placed one pale hand flat against his chest, and closed her eyes.
The smoke settled as the quiet stretched. There was a tension in the air; one a knife could cut to use that expression. Vincent did not dare move; something was happening beneath her closed lids.
"Galian, Death Gigas, Hellmasker, and traces of… Chaos."
Yúko opened her eyes, as she recited each of the demons that were housed in Vincent's body. She saw the startled look in his eyes, as her hand pulled away.
"You used to be a man, once," she stated simply, "Until someone fused their souls with yours. Not to mention the Lifestream of your land, injected unwillingly into your blood… it was those elements that made you immortal."
Vincent had figured it was those things. But why was she telling him this…?
"Those demons' souls used to be separate from yours, did you know?" she continued absently, "But now… they are one and the same with your own. You are a demon now, and have been for many centuries."
Monster. His eyes hardened. He knew what he was. It was not any easier to hear it again, from this strange woman who claimed she could grant his wish. Yúko suddenly sigh, leaning back, and the look in her eyes now…
It was… pity?
"I am sorry, Mr. Valentine," she said softly, "But I cannot grant your wish."
A chill stole down his spine as the words sank in. Even as expressionless as he was, for a moment his breath caught, before releasing in a sharp hiss.
"Is that so?" Vincent said bitterly. Of course. He was a fool to hope.
"Don't give me that look," Yúko said with a sigh. "It's not that I can't grant it, you simply cannot afford it."
"Afford? What is it you charge? I could—"
"No, Mr. Valentine, it wouldn't be that easy." Yúko reached for her pipe again, pondering on how to phrase her words.
"You are immortal. For me to grant your wish would mean to end the life of your Soul itself. Immortal Souls are different, as they have only one life to live. And it would not be only your part of Soul, but the parts of the demons that inhabit you. And that is a pricey wish." She was drawing from the pipe again, renewing the smoky tendrils around them. "Quite honestly, nothing you have is enough. I could ask for your Soul as payment, but that would go against my work, as I need to end it to comply with your wish. Memories that you hold in high regard are few. Not even the gun you have at your side is as precious as you think."
Her words ceased. Vincent had sat silently, listening to her reasons, and now that she was finished, he abruptly rose.
"Then I have no reason to be here," he said hollowly, turning towards the shoji-screen door. To have come all this way, only to be denied once again…
"Now just wait a moment, Mr. Valentine." Yúko had snagged his cape, with a stubborn look on her face. "I never said I wouldn't help you. If you walk out of here without me doing everything I can, I'll look bad."
She received a red-eyed glare, but steadfastly stared right back. "Sit. I have a different proposition for you."
Vincent was starting to feel fed up with this woman. But, he warily sank back down to the floor, and Yúko looked pleased.
"Now," she said, setting her pipe aside and folding her hands in a businesslike manner. "I can't grant you your real wish, but… there might come a time when the opportunity arises that would grant it. You see Mr. Valentine, you look so tired, so until that day… would you like it if I put you to sleep?"
The dark-haired man laughed. He couldn't help it. Yúko looked affronted.
"Miss… Ichihara, was it? I have not slept for centuries," Vincent declared when his shoulders ceased shaking. "How exactly can putting me to sleep even compare to my wish in any way?"
"It's the dreams that keep you awake, isn't it?" Yúko responded quietly. Vincent stilled. She smiled, leaning forward.
"Here is my proposition to you, Mr. Valentine. As I am unable to grant your real wish, I will grant you a sleep without dreams. I will grant you a slumber you will be unable to wake from." Yúko's hand was drifting up to skate lightly across his pale face. "Slumber one step away from death itself. You will have no conscience, no attachment to the world as it passes, and above all… no dreams. Only darkness."
"You…" the tired man in front of her whispered with the barest of volume, "You can… do that?"
The woman nodded.
"I can… afford this?"
He stared at her with his red, tired eyes, set in a face worn and weathered from years of traveling, yet unable to rest. Vincent Valentine wanted rest. And so he decided, his hand and his golden claw thudding to the floor as he clenched them tightly.
"What is the price?"
Yúko abruptly clapped her hands, a wide grin splitting across her face.
"Maru! Moro!" she called loudly in the still space of the room, and the two children, having been sitting quietly in a corner, ran forward.
"Go to the storeroom and fetch me something," she ordered, "The black-lacquered box, with the poppies on it."
The two children disappeared into the depths of the shop, the soft pattering of their feet fading away as Yúko smoothed back her onyx hair and adjusted her pale violet robe.
"Let's see… for your price, Mr. Valentine… It will be a two-part payment, I suppose."
Vincent was suddenly suspicious of the mischievous glint in her eye.
"You must not hold many events in your life with much regard, Mr. Valentine, since there's hardly anything with true worth to you," the woman said with a dramatic sigh. "But there's one thing you cherish. It'll serve quite well for payment."
"What is it?" Vincent asked stiffly, since she was reminding him of Yuffie again with her eyes.
"Simple. Your price… is your first kiss."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me. The first kiss you ever gave. It was to your first love, I believe, but the whole affair ended tragically if I read you right. The one woman who chose another over you."
Lucrecia. His throat constricted a little with the memory the name called. He still thought about her, though he had let her go all those years ago. But how would a kiss be payment…? He was about to voice this when Yúko wagged a finger in his face.
"I see that question on your face. This is a special type of shop you know, and takes every kind of payment. I mentioned that I could take your soul as payment, did I not? A kiss is quite normal around here."
With that the woman tapped her lips, grinning deviously and Vincent actually considered calling it off for a whole second. Then he sighed heavily, resigned.
"That's right," Yúko said cheerfully. "Now, it must be exactly as you gave it. It should come quite naturally, so go on."
"You're not making this any easier," he said dryly. He shut his eyes for a moment, gathering his will.
Carefully, his human hand rose forward between them, tracing the pale jawbone of the woman in front of him. Their eyes met, two pairs of blood-colored irises gazing steadily into the other. Neither blinked. And Vincent leaned forward, supporting Yúko's chin with his hand, as his lips met hers.
Heat. Something was slipping away from him, into her, as the memory of his first gentle kiss to Lucrecia surfaced. He had acted first, taking her in his arms as she fell against him, trembling slightly for reasons he did not know at the time. A full kiss, as they clung together, just as he was doing now to a stranger, and for one split second, the waking memory could have made him swear that it actually was Lucrecia he was holding. Not the strange woman with onyx colored hair and ruby-red eyes who had slipped her tongue into his mouth, clutching at his arm with milky fingers juxtaposed against his dark leather clothing. He held her slightly tighter, for one last moment, until it ended.
They broke apart. Vincent was left with an odd tingle on his lips and a haze in his memory, while Yúko was panting slightly, looking caught between delighted and… sad.
"My, you are a good kisser, Vincent," She said quite breathlessly, and just then the shoji-screen door slid open with an overly large bang to reveal Maru and Mora, carrying a black box between them both.
"We found it!"
"We found it!" They sang, dancing up to the two adults and setting it directly between the two of them. Vincent now wondered if Yúko had sent them away when she did on purpose.
With a rustle of silk, the woman in question rested a hand on the glossy lid. It was a small box, one he would have held easily with both hands. Unremarkable to look it, it was a simple black with two brightly colored painted flowers—poppies. He found himself inspecting them closely. They looked surprisingly real, the fine detail created by an obviously gifted artist.
With a click, Yúko's pale hand freed a latch, lifting the lid on silent hinges.
"The payment has been received," she murmured "And now it must be answered."
Inside the box, nestled in a bed of faded yellow, lay four sticks of incense, two white, and two black. Her fingers reached in and plucked one stick of black from its place, looking at it thoughtfully.
"This is what will send you to sleep," she said simply. One of the children, Moro, came forward with a small jade dish and a box of matches. Yúko placed these on the surface of the box once she closed it again. The incense was balanced, matches taken in hand, and Vincent watched this with impatience, and intrigue. But Yúko paused right before striking a match, to look directly in his eyes.
"Once you are asleep, nothing will wake you, save for the companion piece of this scent," she stated, "And before I go through, I must tell you of the second half of your payment."
Vincent felt his impatience surge forward, but pushed it back with a nod.
"You called it a two part payment."
"You remembered! Good." The match struck and caught with a sizzle of sulfur, dark smoke trailing into the air. Yuko held it in two fingers, bringing it to the tip of the incense.
"There will come a day when you will be woken from your slumber, Mr. Valentine. It could be a few years. It could be a few centuries. But the day will come when I will have need of you. If I wake you, then you must obey what I ask of you. And most likely," she added as the first wisp of scented smoke rose between them, "It will lead to the granting of your first wish."
"I will do this, then," Vincent spoke, nodding, as the musky scent of incense came to him.
At once, his vision blurred. The sweetest thing he had ever smelled, a mix of fragrance he could not place wafted in his senses. Vincent Valentine only had time for one genuinely relieved smile as his blood-red eyes closed in slumber for the first time in many, many years.
Yúko gently caught him as he keeled forward. Maru and Moro had brought another set of cushions, and these were arranged underneath as she rested his body upon them, smoothing a stray strand of tangled black hair away from his face.
"You've truly been suffering all this time, haven't you?" she mused almost sadly. Then she rose, leaving the quiet room with Maru and Moro at her side. The shoji-screen door slid shut with a quiet clack.
A/N: Oh man, this turned out much, much longer than planned. I'm still not sure how I came up with this idea. I might make a larger story out of it at some point, but for now it's a strange little oneshot… Hey, this is the first story in the FFVII/xxxholic section! Ha ha.
If you found this, thank you for reading… and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE review and tell me how you liked it! I think I portrayed both characters well enough. Heck, I made this a sort of Vincent/Yúko of all things…
Anyway. Hope you enjoyed.