[r]ating: R, at the moment
[s]ummary: The past is coming back to haunt him. Literally. And no amount of hiding in the coffin or self-flagellation is going to make them go away.
[n]otes: meh. inspited by my current music. This song is AWESOME.
Wrong Way on a One-Way Track
Odd, how he couldn't seem to remember how he'd gotten here.
Had he not sworn to avoid the coffin? Had he had not vowed to himself that he wouldn't do this to himself? That he would live, damnit— not rot, staining Lucrecia's name with his vile guilt?
So why was he standing with the coffin at his back? Why did his body feel stiff and achy? What possible aches could he retain?
But if he'd broken his promise, wouldn't he remember it?
His feet started to itch. The soles of his boots felt light. One foot moved in front of the other in a haphazard pattern. He swayed and staggered. To anyone who didn't know him, he would look drunk off his ass.
As he made his way through the darkened, rodent-infested halls, the floor gave out. It was, thankfully, a supported bit of hardwood flooring. Had it been anything but, he would have fallen through.
As it was, his left foot had gotten stuck inside the hole.
Sighing, he withdrew it, absently kicking at a wall as he moved on his way.
And then he heard it.
He heard... Children.
There had only been children in this house once. Once, towards the end, but before she had come to him and said I'm pregnant and I'm dying and I'm marrying him and I love him.
And he had understood, then, that he was not enough. Would never be enough. Somehow, that madman had been worthy and he hadn't, and he had been bitter. Bitterness had choked him like poison, like cigarette smoke, and he had wanted to weep.
Those had been the good days.
The children, he recalled, had been here for a Deathnight party, and Lucrecia had made him wear that stupid Dracula costume and Hojo had laughed and laughed.
A little girl dressed in a white yukata chased past him, her hair streaming out behind her, a wreath of flowers around her neck.
He watched her passing, leaned heavily against the wall when she was gone.
Sayo. Hibiki Sayo.
She had never been solemn. Ever. Even the day her father had died, the day of his funeral and cremation, when she had worn the colour of death... She had wreathed flowers and laughed.
She had died at the age of fourteen, to three Shinra guards, a broken beer bottle, and too much alcohol.
Hold my hand, Tetsu-onii-san! She had laughed. Come run down the hill with me.
And he had been older and told her that it was her father's funeral, she should be standing and watching, not wanting to run down green hills and get grass stains on her kimono.
This... this.... this damned place was full of his memories, be they of Shinra or—
Another child, this one a sober boy. Dressed in a dark blue hakama with a white haori. Pale brown hair, pale eyes.
He'd been half-foreign, Vincent knew. Uchiyamada Nobuo.
He too, had died to Shinra. A horrendous accident on the Eastern Continent, something about a truck carrying waste Mako from a Mako Reactor. A storm. Nobuo hitchhiking in a flat-bed truck.
It had taken months to put out the fires.
This mansion was nothing if not self-absorbed. Or maybe he was self-absorbed, projecting his memories onto this vile place.
He passed from the room, following the sober little half-Eastern boy and the dancing girl with the flowers around her neck. He followed them into the living room, where the couch lay on its side. Ages earlier, a monster or three had kicked or shoved it onto its side, ripped it to bits. Pulled bits of stuffing out. Monster waste and blood and years of idiot teenagers, at first the native Nibel children, and then the children of the Nibel-stock Shinra employees, had used the place to party.
He swore, sometimes, that he could feel and hear echoes of music and drinking, of come on baby why don't you want to and I said no and even sometimes ungh Omni I love you.
There were empty bottles of beer all over the place. Disgusting.
But towards the end, when she'd come and said I'm pregnant and I'm marrying him, hadn't there been bottle upon bottle? He had lived in a fort built of empty beer bottles and spent shotgun shells.
He had been so pathetic, towards the end. So pathetic.
Just as real as the children, perhaps even more real, a young man sat on the couch. Clearly of Nibel mountain stock, with his pale skin, light hair, and light eyes. But he was wearing a blue suit, with a white shirt, a blue tie— even a tie clip.
They had been required, in those days.
And in his lap, he held his gun.
"Barker," Vincent breathed.
Barker looked up.
"Hey, Vince. What's up?"
"What... How? You—"
Died. The word he was looking for was died.
And oh, had Barker died. Barker had died because of him. His mistake. One miscalculation, just one, had sent Barker tumbling to his death.
They'd stopped for him as they exited the premises. At the time he'd actually fallen, they'd been unable to hold him as he died, unable to do anything for his pain. They hadn't even had time to stop to end him quickly.
Not when he'd actually fallen, no.
But once he was dead and cold, stiff and battered... They'd held him then. They'd watched him then.
Vincent had picked Barker up himself and carried him to the helicopter.
"How's it hangin', Vince?"
"—You doin' okay? You haven't been, like, fired or anything, right? Not too many injuries, right?"
Vincent didn't say anything. There was no point in talking to a memory, an illusion.
He was going insane, wasn't he?
"And how's the Luke chick? I read a little 'bout her. She's fucking hot, man. And she's single."
"Dead. All of you. Dead to Shinra," Vincent replied. He closed his eyes.
Who next? His father? Lucrecia?
Broken, he dropped to his knees on the floor.
He was going insane.