An Angels Pain
Chapter 13: Compromise
Vincent watched the amber liquid twirl in his glass as he spun it a few times, admiring its glossy features. //I should drink it; after all, I did buy it. But I don't drink liquor; at least stuff not this strong. Shit, what's the point of just staring at it?//
In a single swallow, Vincent downed the shot of liquor and slammed the glass back down on to the bar table. He coughed a bit as he felt the burning liquid go down his throat, numbing his senses. A few of the other drinkers at the bar laughed when Vincent choked on the strong drink, but he couldn't hear them. He blocked them out as he did with other things.
The gunslinger place a hand to his forehead, rubbing it gently. //I should stop. This shit is giving me a fucking headache. I should…//
"Another." Vincent mumbled to the barkeeper, who shrugged and obliged by pouring him another shot. He looked at the brownish liquid, tensed up, and placed the glass to his lips, swallowing the meager amount of liquid. He leaned forward and coughed hard, his body wanting to reject whatever poisons Vincent was pouring into it. He took a deep breath to steady himself then looked up at the barkeeper.
"Again." He grumbled, his speech beginning to slur. The barkeeper shot a wary eye towards Vincent.
"Boy, if you want to start drinking, this is a bad way to start. I don't think your body can handle another shot of this stuff. It's our strongest liquor and…"
The bartender trailed off when he noticed the look Vincent was giving him. His crimson eyes burned into the innocent man, those blood red eyes reflecting a fiery rage only a demon could possess. The barkeeper felt a sweat suddenly break out on his forehead. Quickly wiping the sweat away with his towel, he gaped at Vincent, unable to break the gaze with him.
"Give me another shot." Vincent growled, annunciating each word so that he pushed his point through. The bartender shuttered and nodded, filling Vincent's glass. He downed the liquid immediately, but held back any coughs his body begged to illicit. He winced as he held back the burning liquid, feeling his body submit to the alcohol. His body couldn't take it any longer. Vincent could feel the liquid crawling back up his throat as everything around him went black.
"Vincent...Vincent, wake up!:
Vincent shot open his eyes and looked up. A pair of bright, worry-stricken sapphire eyes stared back down at him.
"Cloud..." he mumbled, his speech still a bit slurred.
"Yeah, Red found you at the bar, passed out. Why the hell were you drinking?" Cloud asked, sounding a bit irritated. Vincent ignored the question as he sat up and immediately reeled back, a throbbing headache attacking his nerves.
"Here, drink this."
Vincent focused his vision to the glass of water being handed to him. His eyes traveled up to see who offered him the water. "Thanks, Tifa." He murmured, accepting the glass and taking a large gulp.
"Vincent, you never answered my question. Why were you drinking? For as long as I've known you, you have never drunken that much liquor, actually, I didn't even know you drank at all."
"I don't..." the gunslinger retorted quietly. Cloud gave him a confused look. Vincent sighed. "It's nothing. No...reason, nothing, I...I think I should head back now..."
"Head back? Head back where?" Tifa interrupted. Cloud stared at him, waiting for an answer.
"My home. I'm no longer needed, so I'll just go back now." He tried to stand up, but Tifa roughly pushed him back down.
"Well, if you must leave, you're not leaving right now. It's nearly dark and you don't need to be traveling at night, especially in your condition."
Vincent looked up at her, then to Cloud. "I've no where to stay."
"You'll stay here." Tifa immediately replied with such a strong tone of finality that Vincent dared not argue. Instead, he put his head down and mumbled a 'thank you' while he finished the rest of his water. Tifa smiled. "I'll set up the guest bedroom." She said, leaving the room. Cloud stared at Vincent. He knew deep down why Vincent had been drinking and the pain struck him profoundly. //I loved...no, I still love him...but Tifa...//
Cloud sat up and began to walk away. Vincent looked up. "Where are you going?"
"Out." Cloud said simply as he shut the door behind him.
Cloud settled on a clear spot on the beach where he could watch the sun set.
//What do I do? I still love Tifa, but I', in love with Vincent. And the more I stay with Tifa, the more Vincent is hurt. But if I leave Tifa for Vincent, then...//
A soft clap on his shoulder interrupted his thoughts. "Something bothering you?"
Cloud turned to face Aeris, a concerned expression reflecting off her emerald eyes. "Nothing." He replied quietly.
"You're a bad liar, Cloud Strife." Aeris chided cheerfully.
Cloud shot a glare, but immediately retracted it, realizing there was no reason to be mad at her. After all, she was right.
"So, what's wrong?" Aeris asked, taking a seat next to Cloud. The blonde remained silent.
"I see..." Aeris said at length, examining the silent swordsman. "Alright, we'll do it this way. I'll as you questions and you'll answer yes or no."
"Whatever." Cloud mumbled.
"Right. First question. Does it have to do with Tifa?"
"Now we're getting somewhere. Does it also have to do with your feelings for Vincent?"
Cloud gaped at her. Aeris laughed. "To sum it all up," she began, "You love Tifa. But when she died, Vincent came to you and you fell in love with him. But now Tifa is back and you don't know what to do since you love both of them."
Cloud couldn't seem to stop gaping. "How...?"
"Call it a 'woman's intuition.'" She replied. "Cloud, if this really worries you, I suggest you talk to Tifa and talk to her soon, because your chance to solve all of this may leave tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? Oh, Vincent..." Cloud said more to himself than to Aeris. He ran a hand through his thick golden hair, rustling the spikes a bit. He turned to Aeris and smiled. "Thanks." He said as he got up and walked away.
Aeris watched him leave. She looked out into the water, watching the last of the sun's light reflect off the surface. She grinned, then said, "So when are you going to tell him?"
Shocked that Aeris had noticed her without even turning, Tifa said down next to the Ancient.
"You never cease to amaze me." Tifa whispered.
Aeris smiled. "You never answered my question. When?"
"Soon...soon." She replied, wrapping an arm around Aeris' slender waist. Aeris leaned into her as Tifa placed her head on Aeris' soft hair.
"You had better tell him soon, love, else he'll be hurt more than you think." Aeris rebuked lightly.
Tifa lifted her head. "What do you mean?"
Aeris shook her head, remembering Tifa did not know about Cloud's feelings toward Vincent. She lifted her head and pressed her lips against Tifa's in a soothing kiss. "You'll find out soon enough. For now, let's just enjoy the sunset together."
Tifa entered the bedroom, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger nervously. She noticed Cloud, sitting on the bed, gazing out the window.
"Where've you been?" Cloud asked, not turning to meet her garnet eyes.
"The beach." She replied quietly, taking a seat next to the blonde.
"Did you see Aeris there?"
"No..." she lied. "Why do you ask?"
"Just trying to make conversation."
A few moments lingered between them, both wanting to say something, but neither knowing how to start.
"Hey Tifa...?" "Cloud, um..."
They paused, waiting for the other to continue. "Go on, Cloud." Tifa finally said after the foreboding silence.
Cloud took a deep breath to steady himself. "There's something I need to tell you."
"Go on, I'm listening."
"After you..." Cloud paused, finding the word difficult to say now that she was sitting her with him.
"...died..." Tifa said for him.
"Yes..." he replied quietly. "You must understand that I was devastated when you died. I broke down. I had nothing left for me and everyone was worried. So they called Vincent over to take care of me. He stayed with me for two months, always with me, never once leaving my side..." Cloud paused, looking into Tifa's garnet eyes. He saw in those deep pools of red that she knew what was coming.
"You fell in love with Vincent, didn't you Cloud?" Tifa asked, the revelation dawning on her. Cloud jerked his head back in surprise. He let out a sigh and nodded, averting his gaze, afraid to he might have hurt her.
"I don't know what to do...I still love you, Tifa. I love you very much. But Vincent, I'm -in- love with him and whatever I do, someone will get hurt, but-"
"Cloud." Tifa interrupted.
Cloud stopped and looked at her. She was smiling. "Tifa?"
Tifa took Cloud's hand and stroked it gently. "This works out perfectly, Cloud."
"Cloud, -you- have to understand that I, too, was devastated by leaving my home, my friends, my life, and most of all, leaving you. But someone also came to me and comforted me."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying the same thing happened to me as it did to you. I fell in love with someone else."
Cloud looked at her, his sapphire eyes shining with excitement. "Who?"
Tifa smiled. "Aeris."
"Aeris?" Cloud echoed. He couldn't believe this. Tifa was right. It -was- working out. As he thought about these new revelations, a look of confused sorrow fell over him.
"Cloud? What's wrong?"
"What about us?"
Tifa smiled as she let out a sigh of relief. "Cloud, I -died.- I fully expected you to fall in love with another eventually. I just didn't expect I would. I didn't even expect I would return to a mortal life, more or less, Aeris giving up her angelhood to be mortal as well, right around the same time I returned. Regardless, I love you and always will and I believe you feel the same way. We've just moved on. It's natural. So there's no wrong."
Cloud stared at the brunette for a long moment, worrying Tifa. //Does he not agree with me?// She thought as she stared into his confused sky blue eyes. Cloud suddenly smiled and wrapped Tifa up in a strong embrace. She returned the hug gratefully as he whispered, "Thank you, Tifa."
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