Authors: Madisuzy (Tseng) and Calvi sama (Vincent)
Warnings: Yaoi, violence, swearing
Disclaimer: We do not own, nor profit from, the characters and/or locations of Final Fantasy
Summary: Vincent revisits his past looking for an explanation to the nightmare, only to discover an unexpected intruder on a mission of his own. First story in the Salvaged Fate Trilogy.
A/N: Takes place after Final Fantasy VII and before Advent Children Complete.
It was the same. It was just as he remembered, except for the decay. There was more of it now; the grand wrap-around staircase leading up to the second floor had one side collapsed, and there was a massive hole in the ornate skylight over his head, but it was still the Shinra Mansion… his own, personal hell. The memories ghosted around in the shadows, peeking out at him, teasing him, haunting him, and all he wanted to do was run, to leave and get out before they caught him and tormented him with epileptic tenacity. But Vincent was here for a reason, he had to know. He had to find some proof he existed here, in that other time… he had to find out what was done to him.
He began in the depths of hell: Hojo's laboratory. Each step he took down the decaying spiral staircase was harder than the last and when he finally reached the bottom, there was a cold, heavy weight in his chest. Carefully, he moved forward, anticipating being attacked by some of the residual monsters that chose to inhabit the ruins of Shinra Mansion, but none ever came. They either feared him or sensed a kinship with him. He didn't know, nor did he really care.
A door was ajar off to his left and he paused, slowly turning towards it. He knew this door and what lay beyond it. Walking up to it, he held out his hand and eased the decrepit wooden door open. It gave a little on its hinges but held. His enhanced eyesight easily made out the shape and detail of the coffin, its purple color now faded with time. Vincent stood over his old prison and looked down into it dispassionately; the satin in it covered by a thick layer of dust now, was still molded to his form. He was mildly horrified at his unexpected and sudden desire to lay back down in it; after all it had been where he was safe while the world turned without him, quietly serving out his punishment. But that wasn't for him now, was it.
Cloud had put an end to his penance; in not so many words told him that his debt had been paid, and that it was time for him to move on. He had, as much as he could…
Turning away from the coffin with a flip and swirl of his cape, Vincent exited the tiny room and continued on his search for information. Entering Hojo's main laboratory, he pointedly ignored the metal table and the rusty, ancient equipment over it. He knew that table far too intimately. Even now he could still hear his screams when he regained consciousness and looked down to see the claws of the Galian Beast where his own hands had been. Shaking his head, he moved into what had been Hojo's study. There wasn't much left, some old books, some papers scattered around and no electronic equipment, not that he expected it to work if there had been, what with no power running to the mansion.
He gathered the papers, taking a seat in the rickety chair, and scanned them, but they were just random notes about other experiments, several of which appeared to be journal entries pertaining to Sephiroth. Until, that is, he arrived at the last sheet. His eyes widened as he read, committing it to memory. Only certain words popped out at him… failure… genetic splicing… experimentation… SOLDIER… DNA manipulation… until finally he came to the end and he flipped the paper over looking for more, but there wasn't any.
With a sigh he removed the single book of matches he had brought with him and meticulously burned every page he had found, with the exception of his own, which, he carefully folded twice and slipped it into his pocket. He would remember everything he had read here anyway. Next he looked at the books, but they were only reference materials and yielded nothing of importance. In the end he carefully stacked the books in the upper right hand corner of the desk, not wanting to burn them as they could do no harm. Finally he stood and went through the rest of the lab from floor to ceiling, even checking for hidden cubbies and nooks but finding nothing.
With relief, he left Hojo's laboratory and made his way slowly up the spiral staircase. He stopped though, when he reached the secret door at the top as his enhanced hearing picked up sounds that came from no monster. What he heard was a human. What was a human doing here? Narrowing his eyes he slowly made his way into the mansion, invisibly stalking his prey.
Tseng flicked his phone closed and slipped it back into his pocket, stopping to take a good look around the foyer before he continued. He hated this building and Neilbelheim for a variety of reasons, all of which he'd rather forget. The reactor in the nearby mountains had been the last place he'd seen Zack, even though the first class thankfully hadn't seen him. Standing by and watching as Hojo took Fair's broken body away had been hard, memories of the far too cheery soldier and the girl waiting vainly for him back in Midgar, giving his conscience a tug. Yes, he'd watched others fall victim to the scientist before, even brought a few to him in person. Zack had been the first one he'd known personally though, even if they were barely more than mere acquaintances, rather than friends.
At the time, Tseng hadn't even giving a second thought to the blonde taken at the same time, the then trooper, Cloud Strife, being just another face in the crowd. How things had changed since that day and even though the passage of time had been relatively short, it seemed like a lifetime to the head Turk.
Pulling out his gun, Tseng clicked off the safety and headed straight for the stairs leading to the second floor. He wanted to achieve his mission as quickly as possible and get back to Midgar where the memories would fade to nothing in the midst of endless days of work.
Rufus had all the surviving Turks putting in twelve hour days, obsessed as he was with trying to piece together the shattered Shinra Corporation. Apart from the pointless, as far as Tseng was concerned, task of trying to win the public's trust, Rufus had also insisted they start gathering all information they could on the Jenova project and any other bits and pieces of Hojo's notes, in the hopes of understanding the new threat to the inhabitants of Midgar. The Geostigma was spreading quickly through the populace with no knowledge of how it was transmitted, let alone if there was a cure.
A final check of the already well-searched lab for anything that may have been previously missed was Tseng's main mission, although he thought it was a huge waste of his time and more likely an excuse for him to complete his second mission. Rufus had specifically asked for anything Hojo had on Vincent Valentine, the ex-Turk who had joined Cloud in his attempts to save the planet. Tseng was curious as to what lay behind Rufus' sudden interest in the mysterious man, but had not yet had the opportunity to question the President about his motives. He could only hope it was something to do with trying to lure the man back to the Turks and not something underhanded, as the ex-Turk had shown himself to be a force to be reckoned with.
As Tseng reached the top of the stairs, he paused briefly, his senses telling him that something was indeed watching his progress. Scanning his surroundings, he saw nothing to indicate he was correct, but still the feeling persisted as he cautiously made his way to the secret door that would lead him down to Hojo's lab.
A muscle began to tick in Vincent's jaw as he watched the dark-haired man's progress toward the stairs leading down to Hojo's laboratory. He would know that suit anywhere, having worn one himself over thirty years ago. But what did the Shinra want here? There was nothing left and surely Rufus had sent Turks here before to search the place for data. He would have. Curious, he dropped noiselessly to the floor from where he had been perched in the rafters and followed Tseng down the stairs he had just come up.
Walking into the lab, Tseng shrugged off his gut feeling and looked around. He almost sighed out loud at the sight of the near empty room. Reno and Rude had been sent to bring back all they could find some time ago and apart from a neatly placed stack of books on a nearby desk, the rest of the room seemed to be void of any papers or notes. Tseng figured that maybe Hojo had hidden all of his notes on the ex-Turk, the scientist knowing that Valentine's death may lead to an investigation.
Slowly walking around the perimeter of the room, the Wutain began running one hand along the various surfaces, checking for any hidden areas or hiding places.
Vincent listened to Tseng's progress from where he lurked just outside the door to Hojo's study on top of the large bookshelves, with amusement. He could imagine the Turk's ire at being sent on such an empty mission. But still, why was he here? What did he possibly hope to find? Now he was glad for his having burned the notes he had found. The last thing he wanted was for Shinra to get a hold of Hojo's notes on the Jenova Project. He needed to find out just what Shinra was doing here, and if that meant exposing his presence, then so be it.
"You won't find anything," he said, his voice deep and carrying in the empty, echoing space of the abandoned rooms.
Tseng spun around, his gun coming up to point in the direction the voice had come from, only to find nothing there. Scanning the room, the Turk's concern began to rise as he slowly stepped forward. He paused, his eyes darting around nervously but found only shadows greeting his gaze. "Who are you?" he finally demanded, keeping his voice even as his pulse raced.
Vincent, by this time, had leapt to the far bookshelf that was deeper in shadow. He rumbled a chuckle. "No one you need concern yourself with. Only another interested party," he said, amused at Tseng waving his little toy gun around. "A party that got here first."
Tseng raised an eyebrow, the line of his gun following the voice, but still he could see nothing. "You are trespassing on private property," he murmured, trying to peer into the darkness. "Everything here belongs to Shinra."
"Not anymore," Vincent said ominously. How appropriate it was, that a former Shinra 'possession' was scavenging through the remains. "I am only here searching for what is rightfully mine and gathering intel on… everything else. Besides, the last I heard, Shinra is now defunct anyway."
"Shrina has not fallen, simply stumbled," Tseng retorted, slowly beginning to walk forward. "If you are searching for something that is yours, you must have worked for Hojo in the past. There is no use trying to continue his work. Shinra no longer supports his ideas and we will stop you if you try."
Oh, that was rich. "Oh, I wouldn't say Shinra has stumbled. Rather I would say it has fallen and broken its neck… and who said I worked for Hojo?" he said, his voice cold and dispassionate. "One might say the same for you and the "stumbled" company you laughably still work for. If you disapprove of Hojo's work so much, why are you fumbling around in what is left of his lab?"
"Who I work for is none of your concern," Tseng retorted, ignoring the insult to the Shinra Corporation as he continued to approach the voice's location. "If you did not work for Hojo, than what is your interest here?"
The Turk was getting too close. Vincent collected his energy and did a short teleport to the shadows at the far end of the opposite bookshelf. "Who you work for is absolutely my concern, and regarding the second issue, I have already answered it. My interest here is personal."
Tseng spun around as the voice suddenly seemed to be coming from behind him now. "I am a Turk," Tseng growled, fast losing his patience even though his face showed nothing but slight irritation. "If you know what's good for you, you will answer my questions and stop your childish games."
Vincent chuckled again. "Childish games? Why little Turk, you sound dangerously close to a temper tantrum." This really shouldn't be so entertaining, Vincent thought wryly. But it was. "There was a time, say two or three years ago when the threat 'I am a Turk' held some weight, but why pray tell should I be afraid of that threat now, let alone respect it? Turks mean nothing to me; it is but a word. They are mindless pawns to a self-proclaimed businessman who suffers from a god complex who happened to inherit dead company."
"Enough," Tseng growled, trying to restrain his anger. "One such as you obviously knows nothing of what it is to be a Turk. You throw out barbed words while hiding in the shadows like a frightened child, criticizing something you know nothing about." Just one movement, one indication of where to aim and Tseng would take his shot, no longer caring who was taunting him.
Vincent teleported again, back to the other bookcase. This Turk was trying to get a rise out of him, baiting him like he was. "Oh, I know more about what it's like being a Turk that you ever will, and what you call 'hiding', I call utilizing my environment to size up my adversary." He 'tsked' at the frustrated Turk. "Has Turk training degraded so much that you cannot keep control of your temper? Quite frankly, I'm surprised that you're still alive."
Spinning around once more, Tseng's face smirked towards his tormenter, his anger only showing in his eyes. "And yet I am still alive, without having to utilize my environment. I have heard many excuses for cowardice in my life, but yours is a new one."
Vincent laughed outright at that. "Cowardice? All right if that is what you wish to call it, far be it from me to change your mind. But do you really consider yourself that invulnerable that you throw caution to the wind so readily? Do you always walk into situations trusting to blind luck that you won't get gunned down? My, my but you do think highly of yourself. No wonder Shinra fell, if you all are so stupidly arrogant."
"I assume if you were going to shoot me, you would have done so immediately and saved yourself the trouble of conversation," Tseng retorted, stepping closer once more. "Although, you must be a lonely figure to find such amusement in arguing with a stranger. You are not a Turk or one of Hojo's men… the only other things that walk these halls are monsters. Pray tell, are you one of those?"
"Ah, but if I shot you without engaging in conversation I would not have found out what you were doing here. I think we can both agree that dead men tell no tales," Vincent said, watching the Turk's slow advance. He grinned in the darkness. "I'm a little bit of everything and that is all you need know," he said cryptically.
The last line made Tseng pause, a tinge of true fear flashing through him. He'd just been trying to provoke a reaction when he'd asked if the other was a monster, never considering that he actually could be.
Images of Hojo's abominations flashed through his mind, making him wish he hadn't looked through the scientist's file last night. He was going to kill Reno when… if… he got back to Midgar. The redhead had sworn they'd cleared the house and the only risk would be from something more natural wandering in from the surrounding mountains.
"While you may have a point, there is no chance I will be telling you anything," Tseng responded flatly, his body still paused in its advance. "Are you a survivor of Hojo's experiments?" he risked, hoping that the being before him was as human as he sounded.
"Define 'survivor'?" Vincent said, his voice little more than a low, feral growl. He was silent a moment longer before he said in a little more conversational tone of voice, "You've already told me a great deal, Turk, and what you haven't told me I can extrapolate from the provided data and come to a sufficient conclusion."
"You've discovered information that was previously missed?" Tseng murmured, frowning into the shadows. Whoever this was, they'd managed to discover something that Reno had left behind… something that may be the key to the Geostigma or even the mystery of Vincent Valentine. But considering this being wouldn't even show themselves, how was Tseng supposed to get it back? "I assume you are not the type to surrender what you've found?"
Vincent grinned, leaning down closer to the bookshelf in his crouch. "Correct," he said simply.
"That is… unfortunate," Tseng muttered, his hand twitching on his gun. The head Turk knew his limits and usually only took calculated risks. If this was a normal man he was facing, he wouldn't have even thought about how to proceed, knowing that his skills were sufficient to best most. But this was one of Hojo's survivors, possibly augmented with goddess knows what and completely unpredictable in strength and ability. Trying to retrieve the information by force was a risk that could very well end in his death but what choice did he have? There was nowhere else to gain information from, no other hope for a cure to the Geostigma that Rufus had already contracted….
"For you, perhaps," Vincent conceded. "But I am finished here. You are more than welcome to continue your search. You shall find nothing, but something tells me you won't believe me. Good day to you, Sir." With that, Vincent prepared himself for the short teleportation jump that would take him to the top of the spiral staircase.
Tseng sucked in a breath when he realized that his opponent was about to disappear, reacting on instinct as he raised his gun quickly, firing in the direction of the voice. At best, he hoped the shot would connect, wounding or killing the other so he could retrieve the data. At worst, he would miss or the shot would not do enough damage to stop his opponent from leaving… or just piss it off enough that it turned on him. Either way, he couldn't let this chance pass by when he was so close. Keeping his gun up, he paused, staring into the shadows as he tried to judge his next step.
The unexpected bullet that whizzed by his head, laying open his cheek in a shallow cut, both startled him and roused his anger. Without thinking, he teleported down to right behind the Turk and with very little effort he grabbed the man's arm and twisted it up behind his back, causing the gun to fall to the floor where he promptly kicked away. "Bad move, Turk," he growled in Tseng's ear, his gauntlet coming up to wrap around a pale throat. "Very bad move, discharging your firearm in this place and not having a definite sight on your target. You must have a death wish or just no credible intelligence."
"It achieved… my aim," Tseng gasped, wincing as his arm was disabled. "You have what I need. I cannot just let you leave with it." His mind was working quickly, trying to put together the clues of who or what this was attacking him. There was a claw wrapped around his neck which didn't feel like a monster's. It was hard, like armor or something similar and he'd seen a flash of gold as he was grabbed. The voice in his ear was deep but definitely human and the other hand holding his arm behind his back seemed to be normal.
It couldn't be, could it?
"Valentine?" he whispered, not sure whether he should be relieved or more worried if his guess was correct.
"Did it?" Vincent breathed, amused despite his anger. The scent of the Turk's nervousness was coming off of him in waves, thick and sharp, despite the man's attempts to remain outwardly calm. Vincent grinned. The body never lied, no matter how much the mind told it to. He lowered his nose to the Turk's neck and inhaled slowly. "Well, I guess it did. But you'll not collect what I have taken, what is mine," he said as the Turk's scent slowly enveloped his senses. "Valentine, Valentine…," he said a little dreamily. "I suppose once upon a time I was called that… and who might you be, Shinra?" he asked, moving his head to slowly sniff the other side of the Turk's neck, knowing full well who it was in his grasp, but deciding to play with his prey a little longer. His eyelids lowered, became hooded as the musky scent of his prize grew stronger the longer he held him in place.
"Tseng, head of the Turks," Tseng answered, managing to keep the nervousness out of his voice as he was… sniffed? Shit… he's sniffing me? The Turk wriggled a little, trying to test the hold he was trapped in. Unfortunately, there was no give at all so he decided words would be his only weapon right now as he fought down the disappointment at not being remembered from their previous encounters. "Can we not come to an agreement? The information you hold may lead to the cure of many. Is it not selfish of you to withhold it?"
"Ooooohhhh," Vincent sighed, bringing his nose up to bury it in the Turk's hair. It smelled, lightly floral, but certainly clean, as though the man was meticulous about his hygiene. "An idealistic Turk," he said, grinning into Tseng's hair while simultaneously pulling the man back against him more firmly. "Careful Tseng, 'Head of the Turks'; idealism can get you killed. I have firsthand experience." Tseng's body was hard, sculpted and refined and he could feel the honed muscles of the trained killer, coiled and steely, the body fit and ready for combat, for a fight. Discipline seemed to ooze from the man's pores and Vincent found himself excited by this, wanting to test that discipline however he could. "Why would I care about this faceless 'many' of which you speak? I think I have every right to be selfish."
"You… you don't care if thousands die? I thought you were supposed to be one of the good guys," Tseng murmured, trying to keep the conversation going. He was far too aware of the body pressed against his back, the breath warm against his hair and the deep voice that seemed to vibrate along his spine with the new proximity. Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply, calming himself outwardly despite the quickening pace of his pulse. "Furthermore, I am not idealistic. I just realize that there is no point in supporting a President if he has nobody left to lead."
Vincent could hear Tseng's heartbeat; a deep, low throb that his own responded to. He tightened his grip a little. "What have the thousands done for me?" he murmured. "What a funny phrase, 'good guys'. No one is completely good and no one is completely bad… though, that last might be debatable." He chuckled to himself. "So you are saying that the thousands who might die mean so little to you as your employer's desire to lead? That's awfully shallow of you, Tseng." But still, what the man said was troubling. The thousands mattered little to him, but his friends might be included in that number and that did matter to him. "So what is this new fear that grips our good president?"
"I never claimed to be deep, Valentine," Tseng retorted, his temper rising at the other man's continued hold and his own body's reaction to it. "The disease is called Geostigma; Jenova's legacy to the people of Gia. It is spreading quickly and there is no cure or treatment. We are trying to collect any information we can on Jenova and Hojo's experiments in the hope of finding some way to fight it. Nobody is immune and it targets the old and the young, without bias." Tseng began to wriggle once more, testing the other's continued hold, but achieved nothing but a further tightening of the grip around him. Somehow, he had to get free before Valentine noticed his traitorous body's arousal.
Well this was troubling news indeed. The first image that popped into his head was of Marlene, the sweet child that looked upon him without fear or distrust, who treated him like he was normal. "Geostigma," Vincent murmured thoughtfully. "I only found a few documents that pertained to Sephiroth… and there was nothing mentioned about Jenova, specifically. Have you obtained Jenova's remains? As with any disease, if the originator of the disease is found, the primary carrier, then a "cure" might be derived from the subject's existent immune system. But I'm sure your scientists have already…" He broke off as a new scent reached his overly-sensitive sniffer.
This smell held a spicy, excited texture… one that caused Vincent's body to react quite strongly. Without warning he spun them both around to slam Tseng up against a dusty bookshelf face first, pressing against the man quite firmly. "Why Tseng," he rumbled, leaning in to inhale deeply just behind the Turk's ear. "Do you really think this is the time or the place for that?"
Tseng gasped, sucking in a breath as he was slammed hard against the bookcase. "Are you insane?" he demanded, wincing as his vision blurred. "Your body may be able to take this kind of treatment, but mine cannot." His one free arm had managed to save his body from the impact into the shelves, but his head had not been so lucky. "And what the fuck are you babbling about? Time or the place for what?"
"You don't desire me, do you, Turk?" Vincent growled, pushing his pelvis into Tseng's buttocks. "I can smell it. It secretes from your pores, it's in the hitch of your breath, the cadence of your heart. This is dangerous..." With a rough, abrupt twisting motion he released his hold on Tseng and spun the Turk around only to take the man's wrists and pin them back against the crumbling bookshelf, holding them effortlessly. There was a smudge of dirt under the man's left eye. "…since I am, in fact, not quite sane. You're still breathing aren't you?" he finished, raising an eyebrow in wry amusement.
"The fact you think I desire you demonstrates clearly that you are not sane," Tseng retorted, glaring up at the taller man. As Vincent looked back, one eyebrow raised skeptically, Tseng noticed how attractive the man was and glared harder. He would not let his body's wants rule his better judgment, his commonsense insisting that getting Vincent to release him in one piece should be his priority right now. "If the information you hold has nothing that will assist me in my search than we have nothing further to discuss."
"Hn, is that so…," Vincent said, eyes unfocused, pupils dilated. He leaned down to bury his nose in Tseng's neck again, inhaling slowly. The Turk's scent was hypnotic and as he pushed one of his thighs between the man's legs, his tongue came out to slowly lick up the side of Tseng's neck. The man tasted good, salty seduction and throbbing, sweet desire. He pressed up with his thigh, feeling something rather telling in the other man's composure, and grinned into Tseng's neck.
"No, clearly you do not desire me; perhaps it is the… spiders, then? That have your attention?" He pulled back and looked down at Tseng in a mixture of humor and raw lust. "Well, I guess we're through here." And just like that, he released Tseng, and with a dramatic flip of his cape turned and began making his way back up the hallway toward the spiral staircase.
Tseng's mind started racing as soon as Vincent turned his back, knowing that somehow he had to retrieve the information for the President. His eyes darted around the room, looking around for something to stun the other man with, as he guessed shooting him in the arm or leg would just further anger the ex-Turk and he already knew that killing him outright would anger Rufus.
Looking after the retreating figure, he noticed him step over a discarded piece of metal pipe and immediately moved into action. Running after Vincent, he scooped up his chosen weapon, brandishing it in both hands and bringing it down as hard as he could into the back of Valentine's head.