Part III: Waking
Tifa x Vincent
Music. He could hear music. It entered his dreams, and he knew that somehow, it had nothing to do with his imagination. He could recognise the vibrations of the old grande, in the main hall of the mansion, even two stories above him, separated by thick stone walls. He'd heard it played before, but he knew that the pianist in his memories had long been dead.
Instead, a mystery person was playing a beautiful, haunting song, almost a dirge. It was uplifting as well as being mournful, and he felt his heart swell a little in his chest as he awoke, his nightmares having given up on him for now.
Over the sounds of the ivory and ebony keys, he heard footsteps belonging to several pairs of feet, and soon enough, the door to his cell opened. The first time he had seem light in… how long? He didn't know. All that he knew was that he had come here to hide away from himself, horrified at what he had become. He didn't care that his bed was a tank of Hojo's creation, of which time held no sway over. It could have been days, weeks, months…
And he barely felt the energy to raise his eyebrow when he discovered it had been three decades; three whole decades of nothing. And still his loss felt as poignant as it did the moment he stepped inside, resolute in the need for his confinement. Time always behaved curiously.
"Wait. I will come with you. I am Vincent Valentine, Ex- Turk." His voice seemed different from years of misuse; or perhaps he had simply forgotten what it sounded like. Deeper, softer, and, he realised, edged with pain. He would have to monitor it closely. He did not want to give too much away.
"Perhaps I could be of assistance to you," He added. And he was curious as to the source of that beautiful insistent music, though none of the others seemed to give any indication that they were hearing the same thing.
He chose to be silent, and once out of the basement, he drifted down the stair case and entered into the grande hall, aware that the music became louder as he approached. His fingers twitched at his side-arm. He'd heard of monsters in the form of intelligent creatures, and knew better than to enter a room blind.
A young woman sat at the piano, ankles crossed beneath the rickety piano stool, her fingers drifting across the keys gracefully. Her shoulders seemed heavy with emotion, and he was positive she had tears glistening at her cheeks.
"You found him." She stopped playing, her fingers still poised, turning her face only slightly to address the man stood behind him, who had introduced himself as Cloud.
How were they looking for him? How could they know of his self-inflicted enshrinement?
The young woman stood gracefully, her movements slow and deliberate, her long braid of hair that had been pulled to one side slid like a sheet of silk over her shoulders. He watched her with a guarded expression as she turned to face him, her eyes widening a little as she took in his face, his clothes.
"He used to be in ShinRa." Cloud said from behind, as she considered him thoughtfully for a moment.
"Tifa Lockheart." She said softly, not offering her hand, instead, a strained smile. "And how long ago were you in ShinRa?"
"Thirty years. Or so I hear." He replied, voice level and controlled. She raised a perfectly shaped brow.
"You've been here all that time? You survived the fire?" She winced a little, as though recalling a painful memory. "The whole town perished in the fire. Except this place…"
She glanced around her then, her ivory skin dancing with the different colours scattered in the stained glass of the windows. Trailing her fingers along the piano's top, she observed the peeling wallpaper, the dusty chandeliers, and the broken furniture.
"Perhaps it should have burned." He said with bitterness, staring down at the threadbare flooring.
"Do not say such things. Death will come to us all when it is our time." She shared a saddened glance with Cloud.
"Don't." She offered him a weak smile, though even she realised its lack of effort, and gave up, seating herself at the piano again. Behind him, he heard Cloud and the others leave, muttering something about waiting outside until they were ready. He remained in his position by the door, watching her tuck her hair behind her ears and trace her finger along the filthy keys.
"You play beautifully." He whispered, taking a few silent steps closer. She gave a small laugh; a rush of air through her nose.
"I haven't touched a piano in years. I bet it sounded dreadful."
"You woke me."
"Is that bad?"
"No. You… saved me from a nightmare."
"Then… I guess that's good?"
"Believe me." A flash of understanding passed between them, as she gazed up at him from her seat.
"I suppose we should go. They'll be wondering where we've got to. Forgive Cloud for obsessively worrying. We have… recently lost one of our friends."
Not knowing what to say, feeling that condolences were a little too impromptu after knowing her only for such a short time, he offered her his hand to aid her to her feet. It was then, looking at what was his hand, he remembered. No longer so human. He winced at the notion, and then offered her his right hand- his human hand.
She showed no aversion to it however; she gazed at it wonderingly for a moment, before slipping her slender fingers into his waiting palm.
Authors note: This was a chunk of substance; something that I had hoped would grow into something else. Eventually after a few years it may be become incorporated into my tales somewhere, but I wanted to share this fragment as it is.
May it now rest.