Not everyone is a Vincent Valentine fan. A character study in one act.
A half-grin formed on the medic's face at the mention of the unruly green mop atop his head. He wanted to make sure that his next words had the impact he intended them to, and reached across the table to gently grasp Vincent's wrist.
"That's just it. The logical part of me knows it wasn't your fault," he said quietly.
He retracted his hand, placing it instead around the shot glass. He shook his head slowly, before tossing the drink back. "That's why I act like such a lunatic sometimes. I am constantly at war with myself. One minute I'll think I'm over all of this, and the next I want to see heads mounted on pikes, just so I can scream at them as long as I want to for not rescuing my parents...or me," he explained.
"I just wanted you to hear that, in case I lose it again," Marshall uttered, pouring out a half-shot.
Vincent looked up when the hand touched his wrist. The green eyes had mellowed. Their color, softer.
Vincent-who often forgot about his own unnatural irises-had never ceased to be mesmerized by the way their eyes changed, those infused with either Mako or the raw Spirit Energy from the LifeStream. Cloud's did to some degree, and Reno's would fluctuate so wildly when his temper was riled or when he became otherwise upset that there weren't enough names for the colors. But while Reno's and Cloud's eyes were different shades of blue, the ebb and tide of the green was strangely hypnotic. Perhaps only because he wasn't accustomed to it.
"Your logic tells you it wasn't my fault, but your heart still needs someone to blame," Vincent nodded. "That, coupled with my former career, makes me your best option, doesn't it."
The gunman finished off his latest pour of alcohol. "I can't defend what I was before; I wouldn't even presume to try. And nothing I do now, regardless of how benevolent and unselfish my motives or how great the deed, can ever make up for it. There can be no redemption for me. It's simply not possible. I shouldn't even bother trying. But I try anyway. That's the best I can offer at this point."
"Part of it is needing someone to blame, yes," Marshall replied. "But again, that part I can come to terms with. What happened to me wasn't your fault. Oddly enough, it wasn't until I gave up on you all, that Cid actually showed up."
A mixture of emotions played across the emerald eyes as he remembered the final rescue. His face finally settled on a small grin, as he recounted the rest of the story. "I ended up curing the bastard. I actually pioneered the technique they use today for Mako poisoning," he said with a shrug.
"And that was it. They had what they wanted, and I was useless to them. I thought they were going to simply execute me, and after almost a year of non-stop testing and theories and trial and error...I was almost glad, to tell you the truth," he said, the grin still there, but with a grim undertone behind it.
"Instead, they set me up in a cage in the center of town. Everyone else had fled. And the man I cured? He tossed me a canteen and said, 'Good luck, kid'," the medic recalled bitterly.
He looked up into the gunman's eyes for a second. "I know, I'm rambling. I'll get there," he said with an apologetic smirk. "Anyway, I knew no one was coming back. Mideel had just seen one too many disasters. There was too much heartache there for to call the place home anymore. I lived in that cage for almost a month, and I waited and waited to die."
Marshall absentmindedly ran a hand through his hair. "Just a second," he said, as he reached for the bottle and poured himself a shot. "You?" He nodded at Vincent's glass.
"Please," Vincent said, sliding his glass forward. "How did anyone discover you were there?"
"It was Cid. He was just cruising around, and saw me," Marshall explained as he poured another refill for Vincent. "The irony is, that by that point, I had already given up."
The young medic sighed. "Apparently, the Lifestream has an odd sense of humor. I didn't find out until later, but my hair is actually photosynthetic. As far as my stomach knew, I was starving to death. I was processing sunlight to stay alive without even knowing it."
"I passed out when the Shera swooped overhead," Marshall continued, "convinced that I had hit the end of the road and that this was some kind of mirage. I woke up on board, and the rest is pretty much history. Cid's chief medic was about to retire, so he offered me the position. I agreed on the condition that I got to run sickbay my way."
Marshall drank the shot and closed his eyes as he felt the warmth wash through him. When he opened them again, he felt somewhat renewed after going through the whole story with someone else.
"Cid explained the whole story to me, about the remnants and everything that had happened. For the first few weeks, I was downright hostile to him," he said, with a slight twinge of shame in his eyes and his voice. "I couldn't help but think that you all were only 'on-call' when Sephiroth showed up. I was still too wound up with the 'Heroes of Meteorfall' bit to think of you as normal people. I kept thinking, 'Any one of them could have stopped everything that had happened to me'."
The green-haired medic frowned for second, looking away from both Vincent and the table. "I'm not sure, but I think that's always going to stick, way back there in my mind," he uttered. "And like you said earlier, yes, your past makes you the obvious target."
The gunman drank, emptying his glass by a third. "I really am sorry, Marshall, that you got such a raw deal."
The gunman was getting the unmistakable impression that Marshall's hatred of him was a projection of the anger he felt toward himself. Had the medic not been so curious to see a fissure first-hand-the areas of which were well known to harbor unstable ground-the young man may have been home to help his parents himself/. Vincent kept the impression to himself. It would likely incense the medic, and Vincent saw no point in doing that now. He was quite certain he was the /last person from whom Marshall would want to hear such an analysis.
Vincent finished another portion of his drink, then set the glass down. "If venting your anger toward me helps you sleep at night, consider me at your disposal. I'm not sure what else I can say or do at this point. I can't make amends. All I can do is privately atone. And if there's something you want from me, by all means, please ask."
The gunman emptied his glass. "Just for the record, I don't like the term 'hero' any more than I like the term 'collateral damage'," he remarked. "While the moral implications are certainly different, they're both incredibly dehumanizing."
"That's just it, though," Marshall said, looking into the man's eyes. "You sit there, dispassionate, and tell me you're atoning. But people like us can't change who we are. You can't simply put down the gun and walk away, any more than I could put down the stethoscope. We're forged in the fires of what happened to us, and what we did. We're branded."
He glanced down at the prosthetic arm for a second, then returned his gaze to that pale face, framed by a halo of darkness. "For as long as I live, there will always be someone to save. For as long as you live, there will always be someone who needs killing."
Vincent briefly followed Marshall's gaze down at his left arm, immediately returning his eyes to the medic's.
"So what you're telling me, is that you don't believe it's at all possible for a man to change?" Vincent asked.
"You said it yourself. The term 'hero' can be dehumanizing," the green-haired man retuned, still holding Vincent's gaze. "We're not allowed to be men. Too many people depend on us to be who and what we are for us to have the luxury of changing it."
Marshall shook his head, and glanced over at the bartender in thought. "If I were to resign my position on the Shera, and go into...farming, for example, that's just a job description. If 'Farmer Marshall' came in here for a few drinks, and Ozzy over there started having a heart attack, it's not like I could simply look at the patrons and say, 'Oh, nothing I can do. I'm a farmer now'." The medic reached for the bottle of 'Needles. He poured himself another shot, holding it up to his chin as looked across it at the sniper.
"If someone showed up with plans for wiping out humanity and had the power to enact them, could you turn your back on everyone? Would you simply let the world and the people you know be swept away? Or would you take him down?" Marshall asked.
"I'd take him out without a second thought," Vincent replied quickly, "but that's not a valid comparison to what I used to do. Blowing away someone with the power to end civilization, and blowing away a man because he looked sideways at your boss and you were instructed to do so aren't remotely the same thing. No, I didn't put my guns down. I just made a conscious decision to change how I use them."
The medic raised an eyebrow at the response. "I suppose, in a way, that makes you luckier than me. I don't get to pick and choose like that. If someone ends up on that table, I do my job, regardless," he said. He thought for a second and a wry smile creased his face.
"Actually, I guess that makes me more similar to you, prior to this reformation of yours. Neither one of us asked who or why, we just did/," he mused. "What angers me is that when /I don't ask who or why, I'm still saving a life. When you didn't ask who or why, someone died."