"You look frustrated, Lockheart."
It was all Valentine's fault.
Why did he have to be so damned persuasive?
It had to be a challenge and it had to be tonight. Of course, Tifa never turned down a challenge, especially something as... interesting as the one he had offered. Vincent knew this. Vincent preyed on this. He had, out of the blue of the night, crept up behind her - or perhaps he had been there the whole time - and whispered into her ear with that intense voice of his-
"You look frustrated, Lockheart."
And she had looked frustrated, no doubt. Cloud was being his normal, oblivious self. Tifa rethought her previous accusations then. She supposed that it wasn't all Vincent's fault. Some - most of the blame was on the spiky head of that air-headed Strife. He was the one who frustrated her; Vincent was simply there to seize the opportunity.
Valentine challenged and Lockheart had been more than happy to oblige.
Now was another story. Tifa didn't know that this particular challenge would involve guns. She had seen him setting up cans and bottles in the golden light of dusk, somewhere in the shade of trees. But it had to involve guns, didn't it? After all, this was Vincent Valentine, master of all things firearm. And just cans alone weren't quite enough.
The challenge was a simple one: fire the gun at several targets, all of which had been carefully positioned in difficult and almost impossible locations throughout the forest's edge. Whoever hit the most targets won. Tifa had asked what exactly she would win if she beat Vincent at his own game.
"Knowing that you beat me is a prize in itself, " Vincent had said.
She didn't know if he was actually serious.
Vincent had the obvious advantage, being a former Turk and an expert at various kinds of pistols, rifles, revolvers... And his eyes worked well in the darkness; in fact, his whole self worked better after the sun had crawled beneath the horizon. Tifa didn't know much about guns - she knew of them, she had been acquainted with a few, but she couldn't possibly hope to rival Vincent's knowledge. She wondered why he didn't just choose something that would be equally challenging for both of them. Tifa guessed there must have been a lesson to learn. With Vincent there usually was.
So now here she was, on the outskirts of the forest, a ways down from their camp, aiming Vincent's gun at ghosts.
"Vincent, I don't think I can-"
Tifa felt his warm body behind her, pressed firmly against her back, and she let her words trail off to nothingness. Vincent wasn't going to let her give up, apparently. His lips brushed against her right ear and his hair fell against her cheek.
"Look at that target."
"I can't see the damn target-"
"Look." His calm voice replied. Always calm, always composed. She often wondered how he did it constantly.
An exasperated sigh forced its way past her lips, and she squinted vainly at the target in the distance. Each object was a different thing; a can, a good sized rock, a bottle, anything he could find that had been lying around. Tifa recognized a bottle as the one Cid had been drinking from earlier. However, this particular target was a can. And she had originally thought it to be an easy one, too. After all, the label was bright red. But the opaque shadows were covering every object with their silky fingers and the thick blanket of leaves in the forest were enough to block out the light of the full moon. The only thing that remained illuminated was Vincent, herself, and the gun.
Vincent, who had thrown off his scarlet cloak, every now and then would disappear beneath the shadows of the clouds, only to reappear moments later, once the moon's light broke through.
Another piece of his raven hair fell into her face. "You don't need to see the target to know it's there, Tifa. Visualize it."
"Visualize..." She scoffed.
"Yes, visualize. Imagine what it looks like, sitting there. You've seen it earlier. It's in the same place it was when the sun was out. Nothing has changed."
"Other than the impenetrable darkness, you mean?"
Vincent smirked. "Of course."
That would be the whole challenge part.
Tifa held her breath, aimed blindly through the night, and pulled the trigger. She felt the gun's power beneath her tightly wound fingers, and the pull of the weapon as it forced her hands to the right. The bullet echoed through the forest, finally embedding itself moments later into the trunk of an unfortunate tree. It had missed the target and by how much, she didn't know.
"Again." Vincent's voice slashed curtly through the brief pause.
"Aren't you supposed to go now? Isn't that part of the whole challenge thing?" Tifa tilted the gun, watching as the moon's light caught on the metal and illuminated the dark, sleek object in her hands.
"I'll take a turn once you've actually hit a target."
Tifa turned her head slightly to her right, and she felt his lips smile against her cheek. She suppressed a grin. "I think I forfeit."
"It's too dark now."
Vincent sighed softly and he shifted to the side, still behind her, another wave of various spices tickling her nose. He placed both his arms around her, then a hand and a claw over her slender fingers, which were still clutching the gun. Vincent moved the smooth, sleek weapon, with her still attached to it and holding it like it was a matter of life and death, further to the left. "Do you see that ray of moonlight through the trees?" Tifa squinted her eyes and nodded. His warm cheek pressed against hers. "Do you see the way it bends over the can?" Another nod.
"Look at it, Tifa."
She looked at it. Perhaps if she pictured the can as something else - some/one/ else - then she could successfully hit at least one target this night. Tifa squinted intensely at the tin can in the distance. The light of the moon passing through the canopy of leaves finally graced the object. She realized for the first time that the can's label had yellow in it... and the lid, which had been removed partway, was spiky and sticking upwards.
Yellow and spiky...
Tifa squeezed the trigger and a resounding crack told her ears that the target had been hit. The can tumbled to the forest's floor, rolling a few feet before it stopped at the root of another tree.
"Hmm." Vincent's smooth voice purred in her right ear. "Nice shot."