*L* a whole mess of AIM posts.))
He looked almost as shocked to see her as she was him. Was this an illusion dreamt up by the town, or real? He was asking her if she was a ghost? As he stammered out "How?", all she could do was stare. A mixture of relief and anger welled up inside her. When she'd driven that knife into him, it had haunted her for ever after, as though, when the clarity and calm after the storm kicked in as she lay in Brahms hospital, she realised that she had killed a part of herself, that it was not simply "nothing important".
"I could ask you the same question!" she blurted out. On both counts, she thought. She shook her head and took a step backwards and mumbled, more to herself than to him, "You can't be real. You can't be real, Vincent. I killed you. This is...this is just the town...reminding me of my sins..."
Vincent stepped away, turning his head and pretending to adjust his glasses so as she wouldn't see him stifle a bitter laugh.So. Claudia. Here. Not dead.
and still zealous after all these years. "oh," he said, "I'm real alright. I'm really the town, reminding you of your sins." he made a 'scary' face. "BOO!"
and stepped back, cautiously, lest she take him serious.
Scared people could be pretty unpredictable, and he may have survived once, but he didn't know if she was armed or not, and last thing he needed now was a repeat performance of his 'murder'...
Claudia's eyes flew wide with shock and her shoulders shook with alarm. She was still unsure whether or not he was real, or if even as a ghost his humour was, as ever, in exceptionally bad taste. She found herself fervently wishing he was real, and rebuking herself accordingly. The pale priestess shook her head slowly. "Now I believe the angels taunt my laughs and bless my sighs..." she murmured under her breath to herself, before looking him in the eye and demanding, "Vincent, is that really you?" Her tone was no-nonsense, but her voice shook a little.
for every move forward he perceived her making he took a not-so-subtle step backwards; he was clearly afraid of her.
Given the circumstances, who could blame him? in the end, she'd finally once and for all shown him his place, hadn't she?
"..and if I said that I was...what then?" his expression couldn't help but go hard; his mouth all but snarling. "you'd kill me again? make sure you got it right this time? Oh, I should have known you hated me all along." that, perhaps, had hurt worse than the stabbings... Almost. "or...was it just one of those secret high rituals you and your father kept to yourselves? something requiring, oh...the blood of a clergyman, perhaps? Nothing personal, sport. Just need you for this..."
"No..." she mused, taken aback certainly, but not surprised by his anger, "...no, Vincent. It was very much personal." And it had been. If she was being honest with herself, it hadn't just been about the birth of God. He posed no threat, he was powerless to stop God being born, but she had stabbed him...killed him so she thought...because, in truth, he was under her skin and she hated him for it. He had always been that nagging little voice in the back of her head, he had always been her ruin, and she had just wanted it to stop. She thought if she had Alessa back, it wouldn't matter so much, but she had realised that Alessa was gone forever, and she had lost it. It was her last chance to be free of him, so she thought, before God was born and the whole world...the whole damned, cruel, horrible world....was purified through fire and destruction. And she'd regretted it, bitterly. Not her attempts to bring God into the world, that was something which still had to be done. Her timing may have been wrong but that was her goal, and it would always be her goal. But she had regretted so very much that haze of blind anger which had made her drive the knife into him. "You could have gone home. I told you to go home, remember?"
What home was that?!" now he was laughing, or maybe crying? he turned away from her. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson not to turn his back on her. "I didn't have anywhere else. That apartment I rented? I let it go. Back to Leonard's? that was never MY home. No. YOU invaded MY church with your premature invite to God, and you KNOW what you had planned for me, or you wouldn't have been carrying that dagger in the first place!"
not only had he his back to her, he started to walk off, "I knew coming here was a mistake. I'm going now. The church? it's yours. You can have it."
"It was never YOUR church!" she cried out, suddenly overwhelmed with guilt and rage. "It belonged to GOD, it still belongs to God! You could have left, you could have gone anywhere, but YOU CHOSE to stay and meddle in things you didn't understand, and poison Alessa's mind and lead her to kill MY father! Did you think it could possibly end any other way? Did you think that, somehow, if you made enough sarcastic comments and caused me enough pain that I would suddenly decide that the world didn't need saving, that mankind didn't need God after all?! I fail to see the logic, Vincent!" She threw her hands up in an exasperated gesture. "Have you learned NOTHING? Somehow, by the grace of God, you're still alive, and yet nothing has changed. You're still playing with Hellfire, and you WILL burn."
Vincent stopped. Turned. Began back.
Now, Claudia would have no way of knowing what he'd done since his little 'accident' with her. ((and, as we've not finished that bit of backstory, neither do I)) But..whereas Claudia had undeniably hurt him, he'd been hurt plenty more since then. So far Claudia hadn't seen him in full on light, but he had come back with more scars than just the ones her knife had made... he moved close enough for her to really see him. "oh, I've been burned, Claudia. I know how far off I am from Heaven, but as for Hell? I've been much much closer than YOU could ever send me..."
Claudia's lips parted in shock as she stared, horrified, at the mark on Vincent's neck where a branding iron had marred the flesh. She didn't understand the symbols, they weren't of The Order, but they gave her a sickening feeling in her stomach. He seemed...pitiful wasn't the right word...but there was something hunted about his appearence which hadn't been there before, a vulnerability underneath the smugness which she had only seen a few times in her life, and never in such force as it presented now. "Oh Vincent..." she said, in the tone a mother might use if her child had been playing with matches. She could feel something awful welling up in her chest, a violent mournfulness brought on by the sight of that scar, and for Heaven itself she couldn't stop herself. She flung her arms around him compulsively and, in true erratic fashion, began to sob as though her heart would break.
He stiffened at first, a leftover part of the flight instinct he'd been moving with thus far. But...this was unexpected. Unexpected, but not unfamilar...Claudia had shown her feelings before, and it never failed to melt his facade when she did.
Now was no exception. Even if I had resolved to kill her if I found her still alive...he pushed the thought aside and awkwardly put his arms around her, hugging her back.
She clung to him for dear life, her shoulders shaking. In all that time in the asylum she had been so cold and alone, completely wracked with guilt, with her own personal demons, and she could no longer contain the abject relief which had come with his being alive, as much as she so desperately wanted to. She still resented him so very much, but he was here, he was alive, and warm, and however much she tried to tell herself otherwise, this meant the whole world. There were so many things she'd done during that time which she could justify to herself as being for a greater purpose, but what she'd done to him, she had never, no matter how she tried, been able to reconcile herself to.
"I'm sorry," she wept. It was an apology she felt sure that she would no doubt recant, as she recanted all her moments of weakness with him, but for now, it was urgent, and it was heartfelt.
They stood that way for a long time.
Unfortunately he was not at all used to the fog anymore, it was chilling him to the bone. She would feel his shivering, and might even realize it was not all from the emotional overload. "Is there," he said finally, "do you have somewhere we can go? it's very cold here, and I've just arrived. there was an accident. my car. back on the road."
She pulled away and inclined her head gently. "I've been staying in the church all this past week. It's...surprisingly intact. It was rubble the last time..." she trailed off and looked away. Those wounds were still fresh and raw, and always would be despite the passage of time. "...but when I arrived, it was almost as it always had been. The hand of God, perhaps..." She wondered if, soon, the walls would be crawling with blood once more, but that could be dealt with later. For now, perhaps, they both deserved a little sanctuary. Even Claudia realised that there was a time and a place for fire and brimstone, and this exact moment was not it. This was the calm before the storm, and she would embrace it, and take strength for the journey to come. "We could go there, if that is acceptable?" There was something a little awkward and forced about her tone. Being civil to Vincent was not her default form of address, but the sentiment was genuine at least.
"Please. I think I need something a little less...haunted, maybe." Vincent sighed. "I was going to walk up the road... after all this, I ~really~ need a drink. I know that's not your particular poison, but then..." he straightened his glasses. coughed. rubbed his neck idly. at times, the scar still hurt, as all scars do. "the hotel. Has showers at least. I could use one. If you can't bear my presence so close we could take over adjoining rooms....
I don't like the idea of you being here all alone." he admitted finally.
Claudia didn't particularly like the idea of her being her all alone either. She wasn't concerned about the monsters, or the fog, or anything else that Silent Hill had to offer, but the deafening silence seemed to be fodder for her own personal demons. And she was a little afraid that if she let him leave now, it might really have all been an illusion. Being in an asylum for so long made even the most steadfast of individuals doubt their sanity. After some thought, she nodded in assent. "I suppose I could accompany you. Alcohol and physical comfort are not something the church could offer, I suspect." She neglected to mention that one of the first things she had done on her return was pour Vincent's little stash of whiskey out of the window. She especially neglected to mention that the only reason she had found the aforementioned stash was because, for the first few nights she'd been here, she had slept in his bed.
"Not any decent alcohol, anyway. Nothing but communion wine and that rotgut whiskey your father gave me," he muttered, not knowing she'd found and chucked that (or maybe he did..he did have a bit of the Sight, after all.) "anyway, if anyone's left alive in this town at all, the past place they'd be looking for anyone is in an old ruin. We stand a better chance of finding help if we stay where people congregate." and, he figured, if she turned on him again, someplace he could get help...last thing they'd need. Trapped together, alone, the last survivors. Killing each other over past resentments, forced then to haunt the town as two quarreling specters...
Claudia winced a little at the mention of her father. "Is it so very wrong that I'm...a little glad that he's not here any more?" she wondered aloud, before deciding that the answer to that question was "yes", and frowning at herself. "I didn't come here for help," she pointed out, although she continued to walk alongside him towards central Silent Hill. "Not in that sense, anyhow. I came back because this is my home, and because..." an exceptionally rare moment of wry humour crossed her lips, "I had nowhere else to go after I escaped from Primrose Hill asylum." Claudia Wolf had nerves of steel but, as she reflected upon the situation as it was, she could almost understand the need for a stiff drink. There was something strangely surreal about it, and she wasn't entirely sure if it was because Vincent was alive, or because she wasn't yelling at him, but somehow the town felt like home again.
Perhaps in the past Vincent might have explained it off with something he'd read in school, some glib little textbook pop psychology... something to make her feel small, really. Tonight tho, he just said "Your father was a monster, Claudia. I'm sorry, but I think we're all a little glad he's gone." Once again he picked up his satchel and started walking- well, limping, as said he had banged up his leg a bit in the crash- towards the road.
If only Nathan Avenue weren't so long...
Tentatively, she offered him an arm to lean on. Once upon a time, it might have been a snide gesture, and she had always used the fact that she was taller as something to wield over him, but for now she simply wished to offer him assistance.
..and he, for that matter, left off his years old fear to accept the help. He leaned far too heavily on her, and she'd be able to feel how loping his gait was, perhaps in the way he leaned.
He'd been hurting a lot worse than he would have admitted to anyone.
There was a lot perhaps, that might have changed in their time apart, and as he'd been thinking on the drive out, they'd never been ~exactly~, ever, friends. More than, in ways, perhaps, but never friends. Still. There was a weird comfort in their long running mutual discomfort. For the first time in years since he'd left he felt like he could relax.
For better or for worse, he had Claudia back...
The road seemed both interminably long, and far too short at the same time. She could feel him struggling, and it pained her to see him broken like this, because she knew it was partially her fault. It struck her as ironic, perhaps even a little amusing, in a twisted way, that it had taken her almost killing him for them to be able to let down their guards and drop their constant stream of mutual bitterness. She shook her head as she realised that there was still a voice in the back of her head that told her this man was, and always would be her undoing, but for now, she didn't care, or give those trepidations heed. Partly from curiosity, and partly in an attempt to take his mind off the obvious pain he was in, she enquired. "How did you manage to survive?"
K:((eek! should I tell this whole long story again,. or just make a subtle little URL link to all the backstory?
I'd opt fer that. and a 'time passes' post.
you know, kinda like the UFO ending.
"..and that's what happened." altho if Claudia then goes "oh, my poor little Vincent, I'm going to Silent Hill and bust some heads.: in a squeaky voice, i'ma giggle to death.))
J: ((It's up to you. Maybe just a kind of anecdotal "and then vincent explained it" type affair. *dies laughing* Now it's too tempting to do that!))
K: ((*L* well, if YOU're logging you can leave this part in.))
J: ((How can I not? It's a classic.)
"well.." Vincent said, watching his breath mist up in the cold air, "I spent a long time sitting in the dark after you both missed me crawling away..." Vincent had told this story now, a dozen times to at least as many disinterested parties. it was odd, in a way, to finally tell it to people who would have understood what he really felt, first Heather and now Claudia. he left nothing out, not even his fear and hatred of her; she'd want to know. and it was, in the end, about two entirely different people now...they'd both had plenty of time to hate who they were and what they'd been then. He told it all. The stagger up the road. The hospital. But to her? he told the one thing he'd told none of the others...the vision he had had in the hospital that had sent him off on his quest...
She listened solemnly, taking in every word. Although his honesty stung in parts, she appreciated it, and she had a profound respect for his candour at that moment, knowing as she did how fond he was of his facades. The vision that he'd had was especially surprising. Not that he'd had it, so much as that he'd confided in her about it. But then, if anyone understood, it was her. She still, even now, found it desperately hard to accept that God would whisper in the ear of someone so seccular, but at the same time, things which had once been black and white now presented themselves in shades of grey. "And, in the end, it all lead you back here. Where all begins," she said, almost in a whisper, trying to process it all. Silent Hill...where everything began, and everything ended. For all his travels in the big wide world, it seemed that all roads, no matter how hard travelled, lead back here. "For we few...this town will never let go, I suspect," she mused. They both seemed bound to this place, even when it was destroying them, even when the reason in them told them that they should get as far away as possible. Their respective relationships with Silent Hill were not unlike their relationship with each other, although perhaps neither of them fully realised that. They were approaching the town centre now, Vincent's tale having lasted most of the walk, and she glanced around with a contemplative stare.
"and how many times have whole colonies of people just vanished in their honor, their reverence of this town and its secrets, Claudia? by plague..by fire.. whole ships drowned, buildings collapsed...and here it comes round again. The whole cursed cycle. We're the last, us and whoever else has been called here, this time. Whatever's to happen this time. The will of God. She's harsh, but I just knew, finally knew- who was I to question it? so... the Hill called. I've answered. There's just one thing I need it to know," he added, "I may have been broken, in more ways than one. But I will not die. I can not die. I'm not going to just become another number in the history books..."
"There is something...final about this, isn't there?" Claudia replied. "But you survived by divine providence alone. Because God willed it. Perhaps this is a chance for redemption, or perhaps, Vincent, you have a job to do, a part to play in God's plan. But either way..."she trailed off and shook her head, almost fondly, "You always had such trouble trusting in God. And yet, time and again, we abandon ourselves to this town. It can only be by Her hand." It might have been a sermon, but the tone of her voice was anything but preaching. It was just how things were. "I don't expect that either of us are destined to live to old age, but for what it might be worth, you won't die by my hand." When she had plunged that knife into his back, she had followed it up by telling him that God loved even him. But she realised now, even by the very fact that he was still alive, that God simply loved him. No "in spite of"s.
"not even in your arms, huh?" cheeky bastard. oh he had to, he just had to. if only to get a laugh out of her, if she had one for him, at least a spot of her old anger. anything to make the moment less solemn, less somber.
sure the Hill could eat them alive, and chances were, it would.
but they weren't dead yet. "a kiss before dying. maybe even a mercy f-.." he stumbled, no, danced back, expecting her to cuff him, or at least drop her support of him.
Divine intervention or not, he was still the same brat he had always been. He hoped she appreciated it more now, anyway.
"..for God's sake, Vincent!" Claudia interjected before he could finish that word, and gave him a shove by way of rebuke. Her mouth was as stern as it had ever been, but there might have been a hint of a smile about her eyes, even as she glared, or at least tried to. "You can't take anything seriously, can you?" She threw up her hand in exasperation and raised her eyes heavenwards. "I'll pray for your soul. God knows, after all this time, you still need it." She took his arm and resumed walking. "And for your information, the only reason you are still standing after a disgusting comment like that is because I have no desire to carry you the rest of the way into town." Claudia looked away and supressed a slight smile.
THAT was better. Just the response he'd expected. he limped after her hurriedly. "oh, now Claudia, don't pray for me all alone. I told you...it isn't safe. At least let me stay with you... I've been told. I'm a LOT better on my knees now than I was before I left this place." oh, he did NOT know when to quit.
but he did. he had his bit of a laugh and then caught up. "I know how to cook better too. at least let me rustle us up something before you abandon me to my evil. I'll want a drink or two as well, and I know better than to ask you to join me in that."
Claudia pinched the bridge of her nose and waiting for him to catch up. "That is vile. For the love of God, would you at least TRY to not spew out filth every time you open your mouth?!" her tone was throughly shocked. "I'll stay with you, Vincent, but only because you're a complete danger to yourself in that state," she informed him, "And if you're hellbent on drinking yourself into a stupor as usual, I couldn't in conscience leave you to drown in your own vomit, which you would no doubt do, because you are a complete..." she gestured to him and sighed wearily, trying to find exactly the word to sum up the state he was in, "...disaster."
"I don't drink that much anymore, Claudia," he said, and if his tone was lighter, perhaps it was because a lot of his old masks were long gone as well. "I've discovered the hard way there are far viler people out there than even the worst we've met here, and to be too drunken is to be far too easily taken advantage of. In more ways than one." he made one of his overlavish gestures, and nearly knocked himself off balance doing so, "as for being a complete disaster I acquiesce to your judgement and condemnation of same. I've been thru, my most virtuous Sister, a LOT since last you'd seen me. But... lost? perhaps. Devoid of my sanity? without question. But an alcoholic? I am not."
A chuckle escaped Claudia's lips, a rather alien sound from such a wyrd looking woman, but an expression of mirth nonetheless. He was outlandish, sarcastic and pretentious as ever, and a complete fool, but God, would she really have him any other way? "Quite frankly, Vincent, I strongly suspect you've been drinking already," she replied only half seriously, as she grabbed him by the arm to stop him doing himself further injury. There always had been, in a strange, twisted way, a desire to take care of him. Sometimes, the rants she had directed against him in the past might easily have been maternal disappointment, which was a little perverse, all things considered. "But no, I don't believe you're an alcoholic. Somewhat lacking in common sense, perhaps, but not to that degree."
Vincent chuckled, a little bitterly. "wait'll I tell you what happened to me in Tangier..." he said.