((Author's Notes: This story takes place in my Irony of Fate AU, following that fic and its two direct sequels. It can be read on its own, however, if you simply accept my continuity. Sephiroth was snapped out of his insanity by Aeris, Vincent, and Lucrecia's ghost before he got to the crater. He joined Avalanche, found out Vincent is actually his father and fell in love with Aeris, and after stopping Meteor the team took over Junon Harbor. Those are the basics you need to know. I also subscribe to the original game only for my interpretation of Vincent and Lucrecia's relationship and all other information. So yeah, enjoy! ~ JenesisX))
A lone woman stood just outside the city of Junon Harbor, bathed in the shadows of the first of its buildings and staring up at the large military base just ahead with distant recognition. Had it really been over thirty years since she'd last laid eyes on the sleepy fishing town and the hulking city that dominated the skyline behind it? Though she physically looked and felt no older, her soul bore the burden of those years, and she knew with certainty that she was correct. It really had been that long... And the town was showing its age.
When she'd last been there, Junon Harbor Town had been alive with a thriving fishing economy, filled with fishermen, boaters, and other merchants. There were many other residents who lived there as well, supporting themselves mostly through small private businesses. But now, as she walked through the town and looked about, she saw that most of the shops had closed down, though a few remained, struggling to stay alive like the dying fish floundering about in the polluted harbor. It was so much quieter, emptier... There were very few people on the streets ahead, and most of the buildings remained dark and silent despite the fact that it was the middle of the afternoon. Though she was glad not to have to face a crowd, the emptiness was still disturbing, and she shivered involuntarily.
She sighed as she continued to walk, wondering what had happened to the town. She supposed that having a huge military base lurking over its shoulder had eventually run off most of the small businesses... And the pollution and noise from all of the battleships docking there had probably killed or scared off most of the fish. She realized that made sense, as sad as it was... Once the Junon Harbor military base had been built, it was only been a matter of time before the original town was choked out beneath it. It was just like what happened to the Midgar slums. Just like what happened everywhere Shin-ra expanded...
She could see evidence that the town was beginning to fight back, however. There were a few new shops open, and some of the others looked as if they were preparing to do the same. Several displayed sale signs, and she spotted a handful of people working on general repairs and improvements. Maybe, with a little funding and effort, the town could still be saved. But that wasn't why she had come to Junon Harbor, she reminded herself. As bad as the situation there might have been, she had other things on her mind.
The woman swallowed hard, nearly overwhelmed by the mixed excitement and nervousness that twisted her stomach in knots every time she thought about her reason for traveling so far, all the way from Midgar and down the coastline. Most of it had been on chocobo-back, but there had been stretches where she'd had to walk as well, her aching feet more than happy to remind her of that fact. Now that she'd reached the town, she was exhausted, her every muscle aching and longing for rest. But she knew that the most trying part of her journey still awaited...
Steeling her nerves, she shoved her hands into her pockets so they wouldn't tremble so badly. She trained her eyes on the lift up ahead, which would take her into the military base above the small town. She hoped.
Her heart pounded when she saw an armed guard stationed there, outfitted in what was clearly a military uniform with a sword sheathed at one hip. His pants were loose and solid black, and his shirt was black as well, a gold phoenix spread out across the chest and a line of off-centered gold buttons running down one side. A medal denoting some rank or other, most likely a low one, was pinned to his lapel. The young man yawned lazily, obviously bored. He didn't even notice her when she stopped just a few feet away and cleared her throat, trying to work up the nerve to speak.
"Umm... Excuse me?" she asked quietly, suddenly feeling very timid. She'd always been rather shy, never very sure of herself even among friends, but now she felt even more awkward. It was as if she was simply out of practice dealing with people and had to struggle to remember how to act. Thirty years of being dead could do that to a person.
The man jumped, surprised, then quickly collected himself. "Uh... Ahem! Good afternoon, Ma'am. Can I help you?"
"I hope so. I... I'm looking for... an old friend of mine. I heard that he's been living here. I was wondering if you might know...?" she trailed off uncertainly, suddenly afraid to go through with it and ask the question that had raged in her mind since she first heard the rumor back in Kalm. Was he really living here? Could she actually find him again after so long? She could scarcely dare to believe he was still alive.
"I might," the young man answered, not appearing very interested. "Is he in the military? It's not that large yet, so we all pretty much know each other."
"Umm... " She paused, pondering the answer. No, she didn't think so… It wouldn't have been like him. "I... don't know for sure, but I doubt it."
"Okay," the man said, looking a little annoyed by now, as if he wanted her to go away and leave him to his daydreaming. She cringed, hating to be a bother and already feeling guilty for disturbing him. "What's his name? Maybe I've heard of him."
"…Vincent," she said after a pause, her voice trembling with emotion even as she spoke his name again after so long.
The soldier's brown eyes widened in surprise, and he made an obvious effort to stand up straighter. He suddenly looked a lot less bored and gave her his full attention. "Vincent? You mean Vincent Valentine?"
She nodded rapidly, blinking the tears from her eyes. "Y-yes. Does he... live here?" She tried not to become too hopeful in case the man was thinking of someone else, as improbable as that seemed with a name such as his.
"Yup! He's in charge of security, actually. Wow... I didn't think he had any friends."
The woman bit back the tears that still threatened to fall, forcing herself to take a deep breath. She wondered what the young soldier meant by that, and why he looked so utterly stunned, but didn't waste time worrying about it. Vincent was here. She had found him! That was all that mattered, and she couldn't turn back now, no matter how nervous she was.
"Could you... tell me where he lives? I... I really need to see him."
The guard looked reluctant for a moment, then shrugged his broad shoulders. "I guess so. Not much for me to do here, and it's almost time for my lunch break anyway. It's been so quiet lately... Too quiet, Sephiroth says. Like something bad is going to happen any minute. But then, he always thinks something bad is going to happen." The guard chuckled to himself, but the woman had heard nothing he said past Sephiroth's name.
"Sephiroth," she whispered, lifting a trembling hand to cover her mouth, fighting to control her emotions. "He... He lives here, too?" Could she really have found both of them so easily? Why had it not occurred to her that they might still be together after they'd both been present in the cave?
The guard nodded, studying her quizzically, visibly baffled by her reaction. He could not possibly guess who Sephiroth was to her, after all, or how desperately she needed to see both he and Vincent.
"Yeah, why? Do you know him, too?" the man asked skeptically, as if he thought she might be an escaped mental patient. He wasn't all that far off... She nodded mutely, not trusting herself to speak. The guard grunted with surprise, then turned toward the elevator's control panel. "Well, come on up. I'll show ya where Vincent lives, and he can direct you to Sephiroth's place from there if you want."
She nodded mutely, her throat tight with emotion, then stepped onto the lift after the guard as the door slid open. She could scarcely believe her luck. They were both there in Junon Harbor, and she was going to see them again that very day. If she didn't drop dead a second time from nerves beforehand, that was. She willed herself to stop trembling with only limited success.
She forced herself to take calming breaths as the lift rose, wringing her hands before her and not noticing the looks the guard was giving her out of the corner of his eye until he spoke again. "I take it you know them well?" he asked, now clearly curious about his visitor, looking her over more closely.
She jumped, then cursed herself mentally. "I... I know Vincent well. Or I did. Sephiroth, I... met only once. But he's very important to me."
"Okay…" the man said, giving her another strange look. She couldn't blame him, for as much sense as she was making. "Well, it's good that someone is coming to see Vincent, I guess. I don't think anyone's ever actually been inside his place."
The lift stopped and she stepped out after her escort, looking around the somewhat familiar gray hallways of the barracks. She turned to the guard with concern as they began to walk again, wondering how Vincent had been doing since she last saw him. Had he gotten over what happened by now? Could he really still be clinging to the past after so many years? While part of her hoped he had moved on and found happiness, a larger and more selfish part wished it was all as fresh in his mind and heart as it was in hers.
"Really? No one...?" she asked, filled with intense worry all over again. That did not sound look a good sign.
"Nope," the guard confirmed, shaking his head as they traveled along the narrow corridor. "Some say he lives in the basement of that old building with rats and vampire bats, and that he sleeps in a coffin... Then roams around at night, sometimes in the form of a demon."
She stared at him, taken aback. "You... you're kidding..." It sounded like a ridiculous child's tale to her, but after a moment she realized that he was completely serious and actually looked a bit frightened.
The young man simply shrugged in reply, his eyes wide. "I dunno, just what I heard. Like I said, no one has actually been inside his home. He is pretty weird though... Umm, no offense." He at least had the good graces to blush.
She frowned, blinking the tears back from her green eyes once more. What had happened to him since they were last together? What did that evil bastard do to him? She had known something was done to alter him, and that he would most likely look and act a bit differently now. She'd noticed it when she'd seen him briefly over a year ago, but her memory was not entirely clear, and her ghost's mind had been focused on other things at the time. But this guard was talking as if he was a complete outcast, even a freak. The thought of him living his life that way broke her heart, especially since she knew that he had never had it easy, not even as a child.
What happened to you because of me...?
She pushed away the tortured thought, unable to think about it any further. She simply couldn't bear it... Coming so far to find him again after all the things she'd done was hard enough.
"Are you okay?" the guard asked, noting her pained expression.
She forced herself to stop biting her lip and nodded, her legs feeling very weak beneath her. "I'm fine," she nearly whispered. "Just... a little nervous."
"Ah. Guess he was a close friend of yours?"
She nodded and forced a shy smile. "Yeah..."
"Huh." Something in his voice led her to believe he simply couldn't picture it.
She followed the soldier through the rear exit of the barracks and out onto Main Street, the large road that ran through the base from one end to the other. It was lined with apartments for the higher ranking soldiers and families living on the base, along with many small shops, taverns, and businesses. This part of Junon Harbor, at least, was thriving. There were ships resting peacefully at the docks up ahead, from small passenger vessels to enormous battleships. Black flags featuring the same golden phoenix she'd noticed on her guide's uniform flew from the masts of many of the vessels.
"Vincent usually works evening shifts, so I guess he's probably at home now, maybe sleeping. He doesn't seem to be much of a day person," the guard was saying, coming to a stop outside a little cafe on one side of the street. He pointed to a tall, slender building up ahead at the very edge of town. "See that old building there?"
She nodded, her heart racing, her eyes scanning the place he indicated from behind her glasses.
"That's where he lives. On the lowest level, I think... I dunno, never been in there. And I'm not going in today, either! This is as far as I go." The man actually looked afraid, and she swallowed hard. She would not be afraid of Vincent no matter how he'd changed. He had always been the sweetest, most gentle man she'd ever met.
"All right... Thank you," she said quietly. The guard nodded to her, then turned and hurried off, soon vanishing into the cafe for his afore-mentioned lunch break. Somehow, left standing there alone in the middle of the street, she felt even more nervous than before. She was almost there now. He was just ahead...
She forced herself to put one foot in front of the other, her heart pounding in her chest and her mind racing with memories of the past and fears for the future. What if he wasn't there? What if he didn't remember her? What if he did, and hated her? What if he just didn't care? So many questions occupied her thoughts as she drew closer, noting that the entire building was dark, and looked quite abandoned. Where all of the other structures were connected in long rows, the building before her stood alone. It appeared to have been long neglected, its dark bricks crumbling away in some places, several of the upper windows cracked or shattered. If she'd had to make a judgment, she would have assumed the place was abandoned and unsafe for habitation. But the guard had told her Vincent was living there, and she had no reason not to believe him. She took a deep breath, then forced herself to go on. She would not be a coward this time... This time, she would do what was right.
Soon, she stood on the crooked covered porch of the aging structure, the wooden beams groaning beneath her feet. She wondered if the building had been allowed to remain standing simply because no one had ever gotten around to knocking it down. She froze for a moment, images of Vincent flashing before her eyes. She could see him smiling at her, always a bit shyly, an expression he wore for she alone. She remembered the way he'd always looked at her, the love so obvious in his warm brown eyes that it was almost embarrassing. She didn't deserve such open, unconditional love... She could still see the hurt in his expression each time she left him to return to her husband, the pain in his eyes when she told him they couldn't run away together shortly before her death. It was the biggest mistake she'd ever made, and she hoped by some miracle there might still be time to try to fix it. She swallowed nervously, then lifted a shaking hand to open the wooden door.
She expected it to creak loudly, and it did not disappoint her. The sound echoed down the entrance hallway ahead of her, and she had to blink to adjust her eyes to the dimness that greeted her. The air was stale and dusty, and she fought the urge to sneeze or cough as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. Apparently, her new body had allergies, too. Glancing back at the heavy door, she realized that her fate was sealed... She had to continue.
Looking around the vacant room, she spotted a stairway to her left. She slowly approached it, staring downward at the row of steps, thinking of how much closer each one would take her to Vincent. Carefully she began to descend, holding on to the warped railing and taking her time because of the poor lighting. It wouldn't do to fall down the stairs and break her neck after all of this. Soon, she reached the bottom and headed down another long, narrow hallway. It was nearly black by then, and she ran her hands along the cold stone walls as a guide.
She nearly walked into a door at the end of the corridor, but saw it just in time and stopped only inches away, her heart pounding so loudly that she swore it was echoing down the hallway behind her. She found herself frozen in position, her entire body trembling. This was it. Blinking, her eyes gradually adjusting to the poor lighting, she could see that there was a bronze plate nailed haphazardly to the door. It read "V. Valentine."
She lifted a hand to the wall to steady herself, afraid she might faint. He really did live there... Somehow, it hadn't been real until she saw his name on the door. She now knew for certain that he did indeed reside in the room before her, only a few feet away. He was alive. Her search was over... If only she could find the courage to continue.
She stood there for a full five minutes, lightly tracing her fingers over the letters of his name and fighting to breathe against the tightness in her chest. She did her best to control the nervous shaking of her limbs, her stomach turning over on itself. Could she do it? Should she just leave him in peace and go on her way? Would she only hurt him again by throwing herself back into his life? And even if that were so... could she stay away?
The answer, she knew, was no. As soon as she'd woken up, she had thought of him. She'd needed to know where he was and if he was all right. She longed to find out if he still loved and missed her. Thoughts of Sephiroth soon followed, but somehow, she knew that he was safe, and that he wasn't alone any more. He had someone watching over him. She could sense it, and it warmed her heart and gave her some measure of peace and relief from her guilt. It was Vincent she felt such intense worry for... and she had known immediately that she had to break free and find him.
Well, here I am... She almost laughed hysterically with nervousness, then slowly lowered her hand to the cold door knob and forced herself to turn it. Knocking felt wrong somehow, though she realized in the back of her mind that she was intruding without permission. This door opened silently, into an equally silent room. It was so quiet that she almost turned and fled, trying to convince herself that he wasn't at home, and that she really shouldn't be trespassing. Once she stepped inside, however, an invisible force seemed to urge her forward, forcing her to soundlessly close the door behind her and move ahead.
It was almost as dark as the hallway had been, with only a single small window at the very top of opposite wall, since the room was almost entirely below ground. The walls were formed from a cold gray stone, the floor nothing but bare concrete. There were several ragged throw rugs tossed overtop of it, but no real carpeting to soften the ground or create warmth. There was a well-worn couch against one wall, a lopsided coffee table placed in front of it. Aside from an end table and lamp, there was no other furniture. She began to wonder if the place was really lived in after all. It was so cold and dark... No one could possibly choose to stay there, could they?
The thought that Vincent was living in such dark, lonely conditions further tore at her heart, and she had to fight to keep from crying out in guilt and anguish. It was then that she noticed the tall gold boots placed neatly against one wall, not far from the doorway. Above it, a long red cape hung on a hook, trailing almost gracefully down the wall and resting on the very tops of the boots. Her heart began to pound even louder, her eyes widening as she stared at the items. They were his, she knew, even though he'd owned nothing like them in the past. He had been wearing them in the cave, she recalled a moment later, a hazy image flashing through her mind.
She next noticed a tall wooden bookcase tucked into a shadowy corner, warped with age and packed with many dusty volumes. Some, however, looked newer... And one was even lying on its side with a bookmark sticking out of the top. She walked over as quietly as she could, her footsteps soft even on the cement, and carefully picked it up. Its title was The Art of Criminal Investigation, and it was incredibly thick and heavy. Her hands began to shake as she held it against her chest. He was reading it, the very book she now held... The guard had said he was the head of security, she recalled, and he must have been studying to do the best job he possibly could. Something, at least, had not changed. She replaced it almost reverently, as if afraid to disturb it further.
She noticed that there was another door at the opposite end of the room, and that it appeared to lead into a back room. It was not closed all the way, left cracked open several inches. She had to fight to continue to breathe as her chest tightened, her heart crying out with the knowledge that Vincent was just on the other side of that door. She wasn't sure how she knew with such certainty, but she didn't doubt the feeling for a second. It was far too intense, as if the bond between them remained so strong that she felt it in her soul.
With painful slowness, she began to cross the room, one careful, nervous step at a time, until she stood before the door. There she remained for several tense moments, before she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and gently pushed it open the rest of the way.
The room was just as dark as the larger one, and even more empty. In fact, there was nothing inside but an old chest of drawers and a night table. She almost turned and left when she spotted the mattress on the floor, pushed carelessly up against the far wall and almost lost in the darkness. There was a lump on top of it, covered by a dark blanket that lay spread across it. And the lump had long, jet black hair.
She gasped aloud, instantly lifting one hand to cover her mouth. She dared to creep a bit closer, realizing that someone was asleep on their side, facing away toward the wall. It was Vincent, of that she had no doubt. When she listened closely, she could hear the deep, even sound of his breathing over the rapid pounding of her heart. There he was, only a few feet away, sleeping peacefully. The sight brought tears to her eyes, and she hastily lifted her hand to brush them away. She bit her lip, staring at him in awe. Finding him laying there was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.
Now that she was there, and so close to him, she was at a loss as to what she ought to do next. Should she wake him? Part of her wanted to simply crawl onto the mattress and curl up at his side. She quickly reminded herself that it had been over thirty years. She couldn't just walk back into his life and do that, could she? No, no matter how badly she wanted to be close to him, it wouldn't be right. They needed to talk... Which meant she had to wake him somehow.
She almost laughed out loud at her predicament. After all she had gone through to return to life, free herself, and locate him, she was hung up on how to awaken him! "Hi, Vincent... Look, I'm not dead any more!" "Hello, my love... Wow, it's been a while!" "Honey, I'm home!" She shook her head with annoyance at herself. Just say something! Just-
She had no more time to decide as Vincent suddenly bolted up in bed, a gun instantly in his right hand and pointed directly at her head. He still slept with his gun... At one time in their lives, that had really bothered her, but it was a work habit he could never seem to break.
"What are you- ..." He interrupted himself the second he caught sight of the intruder, a slender woman with long brown hair, emerald green eyes, and wire-framed glasses. "Lucrecia..." He sighed, a heavy, sad sound, shaking his head and closing his eyes. She noticed they were now blood red instead of the soft brown she remembered. "I am dreaming again..." With that, he laid back down and rolled over, pulling a pillow over his head after replacing the gun between the mattress and the wall.
"Vincent!" she couldn't help but cry out, stunned from her shock by the sight of his face and the sound of his voice. It was so familiar, yet so strange and different… It was still unusually deep, yet so quiet with a slight Wutaiian accent she'd always found so endearing. Now there was an odd ghostly quality to his words, and his affect was completely flat. But all Lucrecia saw and heard was the man she had known and loved so many years before.
For a moment, she thought he was going to ignore her and go back to sleep. But then, after laying still for a moment longer, he suddenly rolled over and sat up again. He blinked sleepily before turning to stare at her through the long strands of hair that fell across his face, so intensely that she shivered and took a step backwards. His red eyes were a bit unnerving, and she felt as if they were burning a hole through her. The gun was in his hand again, but he was cradling it in his lap for the moment.
"Vincent?" she whispered, a single tear falling from her eye and trailing down her cheek. Did he remember everything they'd been to each other, or was he so changed that she was nothing but a ghost from a past he'd rather forget? She wanted to go to him, touch him, hold him… but she was unsure of what he might do and unable to read his expression.
He tilted his head a bit, staring at her even harder. He studied her from head to foot, his expression one of confusion and suspicion. "No... You are dead. This is only a dream. Go away and let me sleep." He shook the hair from his face and sighed quietly, then pulled back the blankets and seemed about to do just that.
Lucrecia was not about to leave without trying everything she could to reach him. She had come too far, and she was desperate to make everything right. She could see the gears turning in his mind as he paused and glanced up at her again, and decided to give him something to think about before he wrote her off as a mere dream. She swallowed nervously and stepped forward, taking a hold of his upper arm. He froze, and she held onto him as she met his eyes.
"Do dreams do this?" she asked him softly, feeling his muscles tense beneath her hand. She was instantly filled with guilt and more than a bit worried about his reaction. Vincent pulled away instinctively, his red eyes widening as he shifted back across the mattress. He was on his feet almost too fast for her to see the movement.
"Who are you and what do you want?" he asked coldly, aiming his gun at her once more. His finger was already positioned over the trigger, his expression cool and focused, his eyes locked upon her. His weapon was different than the pistol he'd owned while with the Turks, much larger and possessing three separate barrels. It definitely looked lethal, and she knew he was a very good shot. Oh, gods, he wasn't going to shoot her after all of this, was he? What a cruel irony that would be...
"Vincent, it's me!" Lucrecia exclaimed, tears flowing down her cheeks. "You haven't forgotten... have you?"
He remained rigid and tense, his gun still trained on her as his left hand hung limply at his side, as if it were injured and useless. Her eyes were drawn to it for a moment, her heart racing when she saw the golden metal claw that had replaced his hand and arm to his elbow. His eye color, the claw... but aside from that, and his hair being much longer, he looked so much like he had back then that it both broke and melted her heart at once. It seemed he hadn't aged a day, though the pain in his eyes and the tension in his expression made him seem much older and wiser somehow.
"This is a trick," he said, so quietly that she almost didn't hear him. "Go now, and tell whoever sent you that it will not work. I will not be fooled..."
"Vincent, please," Lucrecia said, choking off a sob as she held out a hand toward him. "It's me... This isn't a trick."
Vincent moved farther away from her until his back was almost against the wall, eyeing her suspiciously through the wild black hair that had fallen across his pale face. His gun hand wavered a bit when he met her eyes, and neither could look away for long moments. Lucrecia felt as if time had stopped as the familiar bond seemed to flare to life between them, drawing them together despite how long it had been.
Vincent turned away first, and when he dared to look back at her again he no longer seemed quite so certain about his position. His eyes darted about and a muscle twitched in his jaw. She could nearly see his mind struggling to process what he was experiencing.
"Lucrecia?" he asked hesitantly, lowering his gun a bit more. "Is that...? But how...?"
A smile of relief crossed her face as the tears continued to fall, and she rapidly nodded her head in the affirmative. "Yes! It's me! Oh, Vincent, I really found you. It's been so long..."
Vincent seemed to struggle with himself and his emotions as he stared at her, his face expressionless even as a battle raged on behind his eyes.
"I... I know what you must be thinking... and I understand!" she said desperately, wanting to get through to him before he changed his mind and either shot her or threw her out of his home. "I can explain everything. I... I just need you to trust me and give me a chance..."
She lowered her head to stare at the floor, the tears dripping from her chin and onto the cold cement. She suddenly felt so vulnerable, so ashamed, that she couldn't look at him any longer. How could she ever expect him to accept her, to forgive her, after all she had done?
Silence hung in the dark room for over a minute, Lucrecia staring at her feet and feeling completely helpless and uncertain. She heard a deep sigh, and the sound of soft, hesitant footsteps approaching her a moment later. Vincent's thin but strong arms found their way around her, pulling her close and holding her so tightly against his chest that she had to struggle a bit to breathe. The embrace took her completely off guard and she felt herself tense involuntarily at the contact. She quickly relaxed, lifting her arms to wrap around his neck. She felt pathetically needy and nearly overwhelmed by the desire just to be held. She could feel the cold, sharp metal claw that had taken the place of his left hand against her back, but somehow it didn't matter. She choked back a sob of pure joy and relief, laying her head against him as they clung to each other in a desperate embrace that was hauntingly familiar, yet oddly distant and surreal.
"I don't care why you are here right now, or who might have sent you," Vincent said quietly, sounding choked with all the emotions he was fighting very hard to contain. "Somehow... you are Lucrecia. I could see it in your eyes..."
"I wouldn't lie to you," she mumbled against him, lifting her face to look at him. He looked terrible, she realized, now that she could see him up close. His complexion was extremely pale, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes. His body felt so thin, nearly frail, though she still fit perfectly against his tall form when he held her close. His long hair was wild and untamed, and his eyes were tired and filled with an intense pain that made her wince. She had caused him to feel that way... She had caused all of the pain she saw on his face. The guilt washed over her like a wave, and she fought desperately to keep her head above the swells. When he lowered his eyes to meet hers, she again felt the strong jolt of feeling course through her body, the reawakening of a bond they had once shared... and perhaps still did, she thought with wonder, even after death and so much pain.
Lucrecia lifted a shaking hand to tenderly stroke his cheek, watching as he heaved a contented sigh and closed his eyes, having gone from holding her at gunpoint to letting her hold him simply by looking in her eyes. With her other arm still around his neck, she gently eased him down and touched her lips to his, nearly overflowing with relief. It felt as if a hole had opened up and swallowed the rest of the universe in that moment, leaving just the two of them, together again. It felt so right, as if nothing had changed. She was thrilled when he began to softly kiss her back, still holding her against his body as if he never wanted to let go.
Vincent looked dazed for a moment when the kiss ended, as if he didn't know what to think or feel. He probably didn't, she realized. She'd had time since waking up to think about all that had happened, and the possibilities for she and those she cared for now that she had returned to the Planet. Vincent had been taken utterly by surprise, a man who'd apparently been living in isolation suddenly faced with the woman he once loved returned from the dead. She knew that in his place, she would not have been able to handle it as well, but as always, Vincent seemed able to carry the burden.
He blinked rapidly as if trying to clear his thoughts, then carefully released her from his grip and stepped back, turning to face the wall with his arms folded over his chest as though pulling away from her so abruptly physically pained him. Lucrecia watched him intently, wondering what he was thinking and what he would do next. He sighed after a moment, then turned to face her again, looking torn between running back into her arms and fleeing into solitude. His posture was again defensive, as if he was trying desperately to control his emotions and losing.
"I... I do not know what to think," he admitted, his deep, quiet voice wavering ever so slightly. No one else would have noticed but her. "It has been over thirty years. I have been changed... You were dead. I saw your ghost not even a year ago. Now you are here... I believe you when you say you are Lucrecia. But how...?"
He was so confused and torn between wanting to believe that she was back and needing to follow his logic that she wanted to go to him and take him in her arms again, but she stopped herself, suddenly feeling shy and uneasy. She hadn't expected him to simply accept that she'd returned from the dead without explanation, after all. She would have been suspicious, too, and afraid of being hurt again.
"We need to talk," she managed to say, wiping away a few more tears. "I'll explain everything to you, Vincent, I promise. I... I love you..."
He inhaled sharply at those words, turning back to face her, his eyes bright with tears though his expression remained guarded. "I have always loved you, Lucrecia," he whispered. "I never stopped... I never will. But this is... it is too good to be true..." She saw him absently pinch his normal arm with his clawed hand and had to fight a smile. He still thought he was dreaming. He sighed heavily, then gestured toward the main room of his home.
"You are right... We need to talk."