Not everyone is a Vincent Valentine fan. A character studu in one act.
"Ozzy, this is hard," Marshall said simply.
With a slight grin, the man returned, "Doc, I think that's the first time I've heard you say that about anything. Just do me a favor. If you two are gonna start swingin', take it outside."
"I just can't seem to complete a thought. I pull one up and a half-dozen others come up with it," the medic said, shaking his head.
"Well, do me a favor, Doc. The next time a bunch come up, could they maybe come up a bit quieter? You're spookin' the customers."
Ozzy never failed to bring a smile to Marshall's face, and the one that broke through now was genuine. This place was his sanctuary, however noisy or crowded. His sense of humor re-ignited the pilot light on his sense of reason; the part of him that had accepted and dealt with everything he was now trying to get out.
The part of him that could, conceivably, forgive Vincent Valentine. Or perhaps already had.
"Thanks, Ozzy," he said with a grin.
"What for?" the barman asked.
"Just for being you. You'd be amazed at the miracles that works without you even knowing it." The medic rose from the stool, calling out an order for another bottle of 'Needles before heading back toward that booth.
He was himself again, and there was someone he needed to talk to.
Vincent pulled the bottle and glass away from the wall. If he was going to have to sit and wait for who knew how long, he may as well drink.
He filled the unused water glass nearly to the brim. It was half emptied by the time Vincent spotted Marshall walking back toward the booth. From the look on the young man's face, his chat with the bald man had evidently wound his gears down a bit.
Marshall sat down at the booth again and looked directly into Vincent's red and gold eyes.
"Look, I've been all over the place tonight. You probably think I'm a head case. I guess in some respects I am, but I'm going to try and get this out without all the extra dramatics," he said plainly. He refilled his shot glass, and took the drink in one swallow. "I at least owe you that much," he finished.
Vincent took a long swallow from the tall glass. Maybe in greater quantities and with more frequency, the green stuff might actually work. At least it tasted good.
"I don't think you're a 'head case'," Vincent replied, "and I'm still listening."
The medic heaved a sigh, and poured himself another. He had already lost count of which number he was on, but he was feeling decidedly more mellow, and didn't want to lose that right now.
"Like I was saying earlier, my parents had helped rebuild Mideel, and I was visiting when I had my 'accident'," he said, looking up at the green bangs on his forehead. "It's a hard lesson to learn, but in this world, sometimes disaster breeds opportunity for the unscrupulous. When I had my head dunked in the Lifestream, I was pretty much unconscious. At least, I assume that's what it looked like to the casual observer."
"My mind was somewhere else as I lay head-first in that stuff, "the medic explained. "I was out for several hours, and that's when it happened. One of the local gangs had ridden in to town. It seemed that one of their members had gotten too close to a fissure, had fallen in, and developed Mako poisoning."
His voice became slower and quieter. "They ordered my parents to fix him..." he trailed off as the memory came back. This time however, it was tempered by the fact that he was actually sharing it, and he let it flow from his mind to his mouth without the usual flare of temper.
"When they explained that they couldn't cure a case that severe...they...they executed them both," Marshall said quietly. "I was off in la-la land...I didn't even find out it had happened until later..."
His voice trembled. He cleared his throat and shook his head, then downed the shot. "Anyway, one of the townspeople informed them that I was some kind of whiz-kid that had just come back from med school, so the next thing I know, I'm being hauled out of the 'Stream with a gun put in my face," Marshall said with a flush of anger. It wasn't for Vincent; the scowl was directed off into space, back at the faces of his captors.
"They gave me the same ultimatum: fix their partner or die. I didn't even know that they had already killed my mother and father for explaining that they couldn't. I was nineteen. I was staring down a barrel, and to be honest, I was pretty sure I could do it," he said with a rueful chuckle.
He looked over at the gunman, his eyes wide and sincere. "That was when I started waiting for the heroes of Meteorfall to show up."
As promised, Vincent listened. As usual, he was expressionless while doing so. The gunman finished off the other half of his drink in one long swallow. He pushed the glass away.
"I realize it sounds trite," said Vincent, "but I truly am sorry about your parents. That's a hell of a lot of loss for anyone to have to deal with at one time."
He poured another shot of the Cactuar tequila for Marshall, and poured the remainder into his glass to fill it halfway. With the empty bottle in hand, he turned toward the bar to flag down the barkeep for another. The man was already on his way to the booth with one in tow. When the bald man set it on the table, Vincent slid his tab toward him with a nod. Understanding the gunman wanted the charge added to his tab for the new bottle, the man picked up the paper, cast a concerned glance in Marshall's direction, then went back to his post.
Vincent put the glass to his lips and took a moderate drink. His head had finally arrived in a slightly warm, calm and quiet place, and he wanted to keep it right there for the present.
"I would have been in the Sleeping Forest by then. My self-imposed exile. I would have had no way of knowing. I can't speak for the others; even now, I'm not completely sure what they all did in my absence. I didn't come back until the remnants arrived." Vincent finished off the glass; he opened the new bottle and poured his glass full again. Maybe he wasn't quite there yet, after all.
Though he probably should have, Vincent didn't look at Marshall's eyes when he spoke. He had no idea how his next comment was going to sit with the medic.
"Had I known, I most likely would have been there." Vincent took a healthy swig of the green liquor. "I have something of a reputation for yanking young men with unusual hair out of trouble."