Vincent's chamber was dark when he arrived. That, in itself, was not unusual; Vincent could see perfectly well in what looked like pitch darkness to anyone else. But it was unlike him not to leave at least a candle burning. “Vincent?” he called, stepping into the chamber. He couldn't see a thing except a glitter in the corner; the reflection, he realized, of Vincent's eyes.
He was crouched in a narrow corner that should have been impossible for him to crawl into, as tall as he'd become. Yet Vincent had done it and as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could just barely see Vincent, cross-legged and staring into nothing. “Vincent,” he said again, lighting a candle to see better and hobbling closer to kneel in front of his son.
“Yes, Father?” Vincent said distantly. Father didn't like that tone; it was the sound of shame and isolation and utter dejection. He hadn't heard it since Devin's disappearance and could have gone a full lifetime without ever hearing it again.
“Are you...well?” Father tilted the candle closer and the candlelight reflected off the tear tracks on the sharp planes of his son's face.
“I hurt her, Father. Is she....?” Vincent asked quietly.
“She's fine,” Father replied. “Just a few scratches. What happened?”
Vincent scrubbed at his face with the back of one hand. “Leave me alone,” he said desperately. “I can't...I don't want to talk about it.”
There were a few constants Father had learned over the years in raising Vincent. When he wanted to talk, he would. When he didn't want to, he wouldn't...and nothing and no one would make him speak. And when Vincent wanted to be left alone, it was best to listen. “Very well,” Father said calmly, reassuringly. “If you want to talk, you know where to find me.” He stood up and backed away slowly as he would with any wild creature in so much pain. Though Father longed to take his son in his arms, these were no wounds he could heal.
The next morning was taken up with the minutiae of Lisa's move Above; Madame Delacroix being not quite as prepared for Lisa as Father had led Lisa to believe, but welcoming of her new boarder just the same. She had taken Lisa's arm and her one suitcase and as the door slid shut behind them, Father was conscious only of a immense sense of relief. Lisa hadn't looked back, not once, as she'd left, and now, perhaps Vincent would heal and return from his silences.
Vincent didn't appear for breakfast, nor lunch either. When he didn't appear for dinner, Father went to find him in his chambers. “Lisa's gone,” Vincent said flatly, angrily.
“Yes,” Father said, conscious only that he must protect Vincent from further hurt. “She went Above this morning, for her dance. Remember? There was talk of it.”
Abruptly, Vincent's anger collapsed on itself and his voice grew rougher. “It's because of me,” he said haltingly.
“No, Vincent,” Father said. “She went to dance, to her new life Above. It had nothing to do with you.”
Vincent gazed at him then as if he didn't quite believe him, and in another whiplash of mood change, stalked to the other side of the chamber and began pacing. “I hurt her!”
Father didn't know quite what to say. What words could he use, after all? “She's gone, Vincent. Nothing like that will ever happen again.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Vincent whirled on him, his words biting in the cool, still air. “Why? Because no one will love a beast like me? I loved her, Father, and I hurt her!” Father was struck, suddenly, by how big Vincent had gotten, how imposing his presence had become.
Heavily, Father sat down on the bed. Vincent and his hurts had always wounded Father to the quick; even as a small child, it had been near impossible for Father to see him hurt. “Lisa had her own path to follow, Vincent. She will not be back. Your path is always, will always, be here. You know that.”
He turned his head, then realized he'd spoken to empty air. Vincent had fled.
Father refused to worry. Vincent went to ground when he was hurting; after Devin's disappearance, he'd fled into one of the caves lining the Maze and holed up there for a few days. Surely Vincent would return, under his own power and if not precisely healed, then at least more at peace. It was nothing he needed other people for, only time and solitude.
Vincent sat in the shelter of a dark cave and closed his eyes, letting the darkness cover him like a warm blanket. Lisa is gone, he thought, dully, but the images, the rages at that simple statement burned through him like lightening. She left. She left me. The scene had replayed over and over in his head: Lisa's feather-light touches, the softness of her skirts around his legs as she twirled, her scent increasing as she perspired. Then when he had taken her in his arms, she had brought her face up to his and his hands had held her and....Vincent buried his face in his hands and felt the guilt wash over him. Not since Devin had he hurt someone with his hateful claws. And to have hurt Lisa, of all people....
She fought us. That was an odd thought, a whisper of darkness at the edge of his consciousness. “I'm going mad,” he said aloud.
And nearly jumped out of his skin when his own voice answered back, though his lips hadn't moved. “No, you're not.”
“Who...who are you?” Vincent asked the apparition, which was emerging from the shadows of the cave. It perched on a rocky outcropping just to the left of him and looked for all the world like him, just...darker. Somehow, more lethal, more intent. And dark. Very dark. “I am losing my mind.”
The apparition smiled, evilly. “Think that if you want. But I'm you. And you're not insane.” He climbed down from the outcropping and sat down on his haunches. “We hurt her. So she left us.”
“I didn't want to hurt her,” Vincent muttered, wondering how he'd ever explain this conversation to Father. Perhaps he wouldn't, then.
“Lisa offered herself to us,” that malevolent voice continued, as if they were discussing the weather, no particular emotional impact beyond the bare facts. “We do not like it when prey struggles. Or changes her mind.”
This was all so horribly askew, Father's instructions about you must be careful now, gentle contorting and clashing with the instinct to hold on tightly to who and what he loved. “You could go find her,” his dark counterpart said.
It was possible too---he knew where she'd be. But this parting was final, and for the greater good and he couldn't do that. He couldn't love her, couldn't have her, wasn't fit, wasn't right... Vincent clenched his fists, feeling the hated claws biting into his skin. There would be blood, he knew, but didn't care. “Leave me,” he rasped.
“I'm a part of you,” the creature said, mockingly.
“No!” Vincent howled. This primal demon, a part of him? The instinct to harm instead of heal, hurt instead of care? A part of him? It couldn't be.
“I'm going now,” his darker self said. “But I'm not leaving. Not ever.”
And he was gone. Vincent rubbed his face, and wept. But was unable to drown out the sound of the creature's laughter.
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