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There Are Secrets To Give

'We were engaged just yesterday,' said Lucrecia Crescent, behind her eyelids and their fierce stars.

But Vincent Valentine, who in his day withstood the blows of bullet and rusted iron and the eyes of his fellow Turks, Vincent Valentine fingered a hole in his gloves.

'In fact, we were surprised you did not attend, as our true friend. You received the invitation, you must have. It was a small affair. We held it in the one room of the mansion which gathers the morning sun.'

'A black ink monogram,' said Vincent.

Hojo's hair and his own, matching darkness, a signature curled upon a white silk pillow.

'The invitation? Oh, yes.'

'And the lacquered woodwork.'

Lucrecia, bare pink knees against the floorboards, gloved fingers forked around Vincent's sheathed prick, intensity a pure expression.

'That's the room, yes.'

'Are you happy? Is he happy?' Vincent's humility was ice, which glittered in the sunlight and was prone to shatter.

Lucrecia smiled fondly. She had very small hands, deft, which at times seemed innocent of motive as a child's. She gathered Vincent's hand in both of hers and squeezed it tightly, and kept him from unravelling the emotional shreds of his glove.

Red opened and opened, folded and unfolded, a flat serenity of anaesthetic and command. Offering between spasms the possibility of a face, if with too many teeth, and fur which sprang unwarranted from within the wrap of flesh where light had never before touched. All this, brought into being by their hands.

'Interesting,' Hojo said. His careful scalpel touched the knot of changed flesh, the flat of the blade caressing, revealing. 'The transmutation was faster than we thought it could possibly be.'

Lucrecia leaned forward to look, intrigued. With her small gloved fingers she reached into the cavity and palpitated the flesh.

' Every day the marvels increase,' she enthused.

From the gallery above, Vincent looked down into the red-stained room. He licked his lips.

He blinked and looked away, feebly resisting the moment of his transparence. The snow beneath him was white, his life already turning inky on the surface. The blood made shadows behind his lids. Hojo was at his side in a trice.

Seven dark holes in the world's surface marked the places where the terrorists fell, seven ripping red fans behind where his own bullets had struck. Vincent went to his knees, Hojo following. The doctors had not been struck. This was important to Vincent, that he had succeeded. His eyes sought hers, then his. There were days when their faces did not open to him, when his solitude was a melancholy fact which was not enough, but not today.

Today he let his gun find its place in the snow. He waited for the act which would now be performed.

'The sheath at his spine, where he keeps the army knife.'

His jacket removed, his shirt ripped by Lucrecia's hands. Hojo's pressure on the bullet hole unrelenting, blood all over his fine arms, his fine surgeon's hands. He was smiling.

The shirt became bandages, a pad pressed hard on entry and exit wound, a pad over that, wrapped with the reconfigured shirt and twisted into place with the sheathed knife as the stick through an improvised tourniquet, tighter than any knot could have held.

'Oh,' said Vincent. He was disappointed.

'Does it hurt?' Lucrecia was cool. 'The pain pills they give you Turks will thin your blood. You should not take any.'

There were certain conventions of expression and behaviour to be observed by the wounded bodyguard and those under his guard. Their deftness and calm contravened these expectations already. He spoke without shame.

'You're not cutting it out.' His heart ached, and he felt it necessary to be explicit. 'The bullet.'

'Not here. You'll die from blood loss, and then what shall we do for you.' Thoughtfully, Hojo was tracing the fine dark veins along Vincent's arms. His fingers did not hold the answers. Fingers lied. Hands held the truth, and his hands were hot.

'Soon,' Lucrecia said gently. She was stroking his hair, her heat held back by tiny cute mittens, cats' paws. 'Soon.'

From its hole in the snow, Hojo took Vincent's gun. Then they held his sides and walked him back to Nibelheim, lighthearted and laughing.

His desperation chewed at him, and only now did he see their own desperation bite, just as strong as his, branching suddenly and peculiarly between the three of them, a life which sprang from his mouth and his words and might have been uprooted by any of their hands as cruelly and suddenly as any weed might die. But they did not uproot it or him or his want, instead agreeing all in silence.

'It' s not the transformation which appeals,' said Vincent. 'But that you and he will be performing it.'

Lucrecia was generous, and let Hojo hold the gun.

Opened like a grave, from edge to edge, his insides becoming outsides; an exotic garden in which their fingers frolicked, making the correct patterns of his native disorder, yawns behind grey-green masks betraying how much of their efforts they expended on his unworthy self. How hard it was not to love them.

Vincent remembered when they first met, two pale, thin-legged strangers descending from the transport which had delivered them with a second gentleman doctor, who did not cut and therefore did not interest. From the outset Vincent had been unwilling in his admiration, in the graveness after sex when they sponged away their fluids with the meticulousness learned through their occupation. He had read into that motion, much, imagined himself a blade, or a piece of meat, penetration or penetrated, sexual mechanics becoming instead the fluid perfection of a surgery.

I would like them to see me as so perfect, he thought, but their eyes could carve him open with pity and see the natural occurrence within. He was none the less grateful to them, to come this far for him.

'How far will you go?' they had asked.

He replied, 'However far you want.'

Now he would be all the stronger for the knowledge they lay claim to, long since numbed to suffering. Lucrecia's eyes were smiling, her hands within him. Hojo took scissors from the steel table outside, and brought the metal to the inside. All the boundaries were blurred, terrifying and uncomfortable, and desired.

Each metal tipped tool, magnificent in its use, unexpected, profound, was touched with his blood. They were touched with his blood. Their hands found him, burrowed, shifted and moved parts no other would ever touch. Vincent remembered reasons for wanting this, and the end result of this, a distant perfection of marble and ice. But perfection was fragile, breakable. Forget it. Reasons did not matter at the moment, reasons were superfluous when he was at last opened to their eyes and hands, their hands. The hands were hot.

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