It’s Always the Quiet Ones.
Author: The Magic Rat
Word Count: 1158
Website – Ex Libris: www.winter-wood.net/ex-libris/…
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Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy Seven characters, places and situations are the property of Square Soft/Square Enix and are used without permission and without intent of plagiarism or profit. Copyright for all stories and original characters is with the author, and may not be published, copied, distributed or archived without the author's prior written consent.
Summary: Tifa, Yuffie and Aeris get familiar with the newest member of the group.
Author’s notes: This is what comes out of my brain when I’m too sick to play outside. The owed fics are coming - they're just not being co-operative.
They were spending the night in one of the traveller’s shacks that dotted the area around Nibelheim and Rocket Town. There was no cost to stay in one – other than to ensure that visitors left the place clean, in order, and stocked with any non-perishable food they could spare. The roads were long here, and lonely, and there were many dangerous beasts. The traveller’s shacks were set up by those who frequented the roads, and were generally quite cozy, if not luxurious.
“Not enough beds for nine people,” said Tifa.
“Some of us could double up,” said Barret.
“Says the man who uses a king-sized bed for a single,” said Cid.
The latest member of the party strolled into the room – silent, graceful, dark. They knew little more than his name – Vincent Valentine. He’d been with them five hours, and so far all the information they had was his name, and a strong implication that he had more reason than most to hate Hojo. Apart from that, he said little. He placed himself in a chair, and watched as a spider popped out of the cushion, surprised someone had sat on it. There was the predictable chaos as the offending arachnid was sighted. Vincent breathed out a long-suffering sigh, rose to his feet, and carried the spider safely away from the roomful of crazy people. When he returned he seated himself down on one of the beds. He looked… distant. Possibly even addled. It was hard to tell.
“How long were you asleep in that coffin?” asked Cid.
One of Vincent’s eyebrows crept up as he pondered the question. Tifa and Cid exchanged glances.
“I’ll make coffee,” said Tifa.
“Yeah don’t forget the lard,” grumbled Cid.
“I said I was making coffee, not tea, Mr. Grumpy-Pants,” said Tifa.
Cid turned on her with mock anger. “Hey! My pants never grumped a day in their life. If they had I woulda killed them with fire. Who puts lard in perfectly good tea?!”
“Palmer, apparently,” said Cloud, and shuddered.
They bantered. They chatted. They sorted their packs and washed their clothes and discussed routes to take, all while Vincent sat in silence, head down, a million miles away in his own mind. His new companions left him alone. It just seemed the most safe and sane thing to do. After all they had only known him a few hours; they had no idea what he was like. He was clearly dangerous. He was also clearly no longer human. And those brass claws on his left hand and the blades on his shoes spoke of a man who could do considerable damage even without the large and very intimidating triple-barreled gun on his hip. He seemed to just want to be left to his thoughts, although he clearly appreciated the coffee Tifa gave him.
“Here,” she said, smiling. “There’s no milk, sorry. But I put in a little sugar to smooth it out.”
“It’s fine. Thank you.”
“Tifa likes her coffee the same way she likes her men,” quipped Yuffie.
“Hot, sweet and black?” said Barret.
“Ground up and stuffed in the freezer,” said Cid.
“Highwind, you’re a jackass.”
Vincent sipped his coffee, and ignored Yuffie as she sat beside him, her dark eyes bright, gauging the reactions of the tall, thin wraith on the bed. As Cloud tried to find something on the TV they could all agree to watch, Yuffie slowly edged closer to Vincent, who continued to ignore her, though he did tense slightly. Never a good sign. Yuffie was arrogant but she wasn’t an idiot; she knew this man could make a mess of her if he had the urge. But after a few moments he seemed to relax, and she edged closer yet. Then, finally, she was right beside him. Slowly, carefully, she reached up, took hold of two of the matts in his hair, and held them aloft.
“Kitty ears!” she announced.
Vincent sipped his coffee and said nothing. Yuffie held aloft two more matts.
“Yuffie!” said Tifa, mortified. Yuffie of course was undaunted. She held aloft a truly epic matt.
“Alien space ship communication device! Look!” She slowly turned the tall, spiky spear of hair back and forth. “Boop-di-boop-boop-boop-beep-di-boop…”
“Hey look look look… this is the best.” She next held aloft two large, fuzzy tangles. “Moth feelers! Or bunny ears. Hard to tell. I AM BUNNY-MOTH-MAN!”
She made the matts flap.
“Yuffie leave the man alone,” said Barret.
Yuffie hastily used a piece of ribbon to tie the matts together, so they stuck up like a spray of bizarre plants on top of Vincent’s head. “There! Now all we need is some ferns and a few daisies and it’s a bouquet!”
“It’s grounds for justifiable homicide,” said Cait Sith.
“Yuffie,” sighed Aeris, moving her aside. “You’re a menace.” She untied the ribbon and stared at the tangles, matts, and knots, all made blindingly obvious by Yuffie’s game.
“What a mess,” said Tifa. “Well… there’s nothing for it. Where’s the de-tangler?”
Vincent sipped his coffee, unmoving, silent, and long-suffering as Tifa and Aeris spritzed him liberally with de-tangler and spray-on conditioner and went to work on the no-man’s-land of his hair. Yuffie offered colour commentary.
“Oh my gawd what is that? No… to the left… yeah, is that…? OH MY GAWD IT IS, IT’S A MUMMIFIED FROG!”
“Vincent,” said Tifa with exasperation, “I don’t mean to judge, but…”
The look of disgust on her face was worthy of a photograph as she held aloft a very cranky centipede, now silky-smooth and watermelon scented. Vincent sipped his coffee, red eyes blinking as he was combed and spritzed and fussed over. Finally, when the combing was done, Tifa dampened his hair with a mister, and began carefully trimming the ragged ends. He closed his eyes, looking thoroughly content.
“Next,” said Aeris, unbuckling the cape, “this thing meets Mr. Washing Machine.”
The males of the group exchanged glances. Finally Barret spoke up.
“Valentine, you have a lot of trouble telling women “no”, don’t you?”
“Maybe,” he said, his voice low and very soft, eyes closed, looking peaceful. Then a faint smile touched his lips. “But I have three women fussing over me and you don’t have any.”