Sunshine in Winter

the last day

It was green.

It was the first thing I got impression of; green. Muted and soft and bright,
glowing, studded like lights in the dark so that the darkness was in the
deepest shades of forest.

And it was warm. Everything was warm. The heart of me was warm. It was like
lying in a bath and the water was warm as tea – I was lying in water. It
caressed my wrists like oil and I floated, weightless, just watching in wonder
at the green.

So this was what being dead was like. It was kind of a relief, actually, to be
dead, though I really expected… more. It was like meeting somebody famous and
being disappointed. Hey, Lifestream, I thought you'd be taller in person.

Lazy, I turned over in the water, and realized a number of things:

It was green. It was warm. I was naked.

My eyes finally focused on the roof of the cavern, which was glowing with
little green lights like stars, gloomy and strangely… I don't know. Beautiful.
Welcoming. I hate caves; hate them hate them hate them, but this was kind of

There was a light coming from the far end that hurt my eyes, causing me to
blink and for water to drip from my lashes. I felt heavy and dreamy and pulsing
with some inner beat, like a rhythm, that wasn't my heart.

It was awfully curiously like being alive.


I couldn't be alive. The rhythm inside me began to race. No. That would just
take the goddamn cake. Not after that fall – not after I felt myself die
could I be alive. No. I didn't feel alive.

"You're not," said a voice, "but you're not quite dead, either."

With a half-squeal and a splash I submerged myself beneath the water, treading
it clumsily with one foot, turning around and bobbing clumsily like an apple in
the warmth as I turned around to stare. There, on the half-lit rocky shore, all
green light and steaming rocks, was a man.

And there were snakes.

Dozens of snakes. Hundreds of snakes. Snakes. I hate snakes. They were
strangely silent, their coils slapping against scales without so much as a
rustle, curled in a halfcircle around… a man. It hurt to look at him, to
perceive him, almost; he was wearing a long white robe with blood down the
front and thinning white hair peppered with grey. His face was ageless,
timeless; lined and young and not quite a face. Just… a skin, a shell, encasing
something different inside; like an egg and a yolk.

I was suddenly half-terrified. The only thing that stopped me from losing
bladder control was that I didn't have any in the first place, which makes
sense if you're me and kind of dead.

"Aesculapius," I said, and looked up.

There was a crack in the roof of the cavern, an opening, where chunks of rock
had fallen down into the water. Snow and ice had layered over the hole, dulling
the sunshine, but I could still squint and see through it.

I'd fallen through that.

As I'd died.

"That is a name," the figure said dryly, "but one I'm used to."

I stared, trying to figure it all out. "You're not a Summon, are you. You're
actually God or something. Um, I've been worshipping the Wutai spirits all the
time, but I'm really open to new ideas so if you're thinking of sending me to
the deepest fiery eternal pits of hell I'd just like to say that I never liked
that damn Da-Chao anyway, he can kiss my ass, you look much – "

"I'm sure the gods weep bitter crystalline tears at your piety." Aesculapius
sighed and sat down on a rock, gripping a staff in one hand as he watched me
tread water. "You know, I never get any rest, some utter idiot always has to
come and die across my doorstep every thousand years."

I was insulted. "I was busily carking it, thank you very much. I didn't mean to
fall into your stupid cave."

"Yes, you did," he said tiredly. "Or, at least, your friend over there did."

I turn and stare. Underneath the crack that is being industriously covered over
by ice is a raggedy shape I thought was a rock; it's Chaos, it's Vincent,
hunched over and floating as stiff and silent as a corpse. He's not dead, I can
hear it in the heartbeat of the walls, not like me, but Vincent –

He caught me when the light behind my eyes was going bright and wavery and
fluttering and he spread his wings and howled into the valleys and you never
could let anything go ever Vinnie could you not even when I said to and your
claws went through my hands as you bundled my corpse up like a little limp
bunch of feathers –
I stood, unsteadily, one-legged, on a rock in the underground lake. Steam clung
to my body and I stared at my hands; they were burst bright and open until I
could see the flesh and the bones through the raggedy holes. There was blood
staining my hands and my wrists but it wasn't flowing; just stuck, as if I was
stuck perpetually in the moment of breaking.

"He saved my life?"

"No, Wutaian. You were entering the point of death when you fell through my
roof. However, you were not quite past the point of leaving this place. You are
moving merely on magic, and you cannot remain in that state for long."

I looked at him through the holes in my hands, as it was an experience I would
surely never have again. "This is grossness. This is the grossest thing I have
ever seen." Tentatively, I reached out with one finger and prodded at some of
the snapped bones. I felt nothing much; just the numb not-really-painful
sensation of wiggling a tooth. "I will never eat again. Oh, I would so barf if
I had a stomach right now. All over the place. It would be a pukeathon."

"… Your situation has not quite sunk in yet, has it."

"Look, I can see you through the holes. Oh, Gods, I'll never be able to play
peekaboo ever. Look, my tongue goes right through it. Ynnrraaaaarr. Hey, water
goes right through it."

"Yuff… ie?"

I turned around. The formerly-unconscious Chaos was dwindling down into the
normal form of my beautiful raggedy Vincent, bleary-eyed and bleeding though I
could see the cuts close up on him as if they were nothing. They would have
killed a lesser man. His hair was slicked back to his head and his shirt and
jacket had come off long ago – we had all learnt that turning into an enormous
frothing tooth-demon was bad on his clothes – and were decorative rags around
his chest. His pants had exploded slightly, but he was still apparently decent.
He was also staring at my nude wet body as if I was some kind of goddess

There is nothing more warm and wonderful and beautiful than the way he looked
at me then.

"Vincent!" I slipped off the rock and laughed as it bubbled up in my wake, my
rotten leg stiff and wooden and blissfully nerveless as I flailed in the green.
He was over to me in a few strong strokes of his arms and he wrapped them
around me as if he would never let me go, burying his face in my hair.

"Yuffie," he whispered. "I just died a thousand deaths."

"I just died one. Go fig."

The life in his face drained out as he grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back
a little, looking me over, fingers immediately wandering over one twig shoulder
to my neck. He frowned, then bit one lip; a nervous habit. He was searching for
a pulse, and he couldn't find one; he saw my hands and widened his eyes in
remembrance, bringing them up out of the water to stare at the gaping holes
flash-frozen at the point of gouged bleeding-ness.

"Aren't they cool?" I said flippantly. I brought them up to my face and looked
at him through the gashes. "Peekaboo."

He gave me the stoniest of stony-Vincent Looks, chilling me to the bone. There
was real grief in his face, and something close to the despair that had
perpetually moulded itself to his features when he donned the red cloak and
guns in AVALANCHE, looking for Jenova.

"I'm sorry," I muttered, suddenly ashamed and guilty and miserable all over
again. "I'm sorry, Vinnie."

"No." His voice was petrified in pain. "No, no, no, no. I won't let this
happen. I won't fail you."

"You didn't." My own voice half-shook. "Vincent, you were so wonderful to me,
it was more than I could bear – "

"If you'll excuse me?"

We both looked around at a glowering Aesculapius. Vincent's breath caught; I
nodded sharply and shushed him with a finger. His hand laced needily with mine
as I dropped it, both of us clinging like children and turning to watch the
Summon. "As heartwarming as you two are, I simply cannot take much more of this
for fear that I will simply go insane and get the urge to blow myself up. Bahamut
help me, but it happens more than you'd think."

"Why haven't I passed over yet?"

"Because I haven't let you."

My heart caught in my throat. I didn't dare look at Vincent, whose hand had
tightened over mine, who I knew would at any moment return into one of the
demon forms and spring over to the summon and threaten her life or death.

I swallowed. It didn't feel right. "There a good reason?"

Aesculapius gave me a very piercing, calculating look. "There are very few of
us who can truly bring those who are dead back to life, Wutaian. Reanimation is
one thing; resurrection is another."

Though I couldn't find my voice, Vincent found his. "So what are you?"

"I am one of those who can truly bring the dead back to life."

Slowly closing my eyes, I ducked my head underneath Vincent's chin and counted
to a breathless ten. Then I raised it again and stared straight at the Summon,
his face as pale as paper and his proud features chiselled in stone. "Can you
bring me back?"


"Why not?" I could feel the anger build in Vincent, dangerous. "Why?"

"Do you think she would not just die again? Her system is clogged with poison
and infection; her body is wasted away, she's crippled and useless."

"You're a healing summon and you can't fix that?!"

"… Well, yes, I can," the ancient summon admitted. "I was just toying with you.
You have no idea how boring it is, being sealed up here like this with nobody
to talk to but a bunch of snakes. Half of these snakes aren't even real, you
know, I just created the illusion so that it would look like there were a lot
of snakes. What kind of snake in their right mind would live in a mountain cave
surrounded by snow, anyway?"

If I was a Summon, I would have wanted to be Aesculapius.

"We are not in the mood for playing games," Vincent said darkly. I knew
instinctively I was not included in that we. We had chainsaws and frothed at
the mouth and lived inside Vincent's head.

"You're in the mood for whatever I throw at you, aren't you?" he said
simply. "I am not benevolent. I always get paid for my services. Besides, give
me a good reason to heal the girl."

"Because I'd really like you to?" I suggested, ignoring Vincent's nudge with
his elbow to my ribs.


"Because I'm going to come over there and kick your stupid butt if you don't?
Why are you wearing a dress?"


"I've never met a Summon with a sexual identity problem before. Except maybe

"No. Although I agree with you on Ramuh."


Aesculapius reclined back on a rock, watching both of us. "It depends," he said
smoothly, "on what you are willing to pay. I want something precious from

"Materia? Gil?" I looked up hopefully. "You'll have all of that you want. I
swear, I've got tons of it, you'll be able to roll around on a big pile of it
all day – "

"Something precious." His eyes pierced into mine. "You neither have that with
you nor really care for it. I have taken many things before. Voices; graces;
first-born-babies; jewels, trinkets. I've taken beauty. I've taken soul. My
price is high, Yuffie Kisaragi."

"How do you know my – never mind."

Aesculapius went over to the water and knelt down in it, his hands resting down
on the surface, looking at the unhappy duo of the dark-haired ex-Turk and me.
What a picture both of us must have made; me a corpse, my ribs sticking out of
my skin and my colour blue-grey-white and my lips probably grey and huge holes
through my hands, clinging to bloodstained Vincent, who was gnawing on his lip
until it bled and whose golden hand was warmed by the water, clutching one of
my wrists as he attempted to enfold me in a protective embrace. I kept on
feeling his fingers hesitantly move up my arm and try to feel for veins,
pulsebeats, anything. Oh, Vinnie, Vinnie, I couldn't let go now, because his
heart wasn't broken but it was going to be pulverized and he'd follow me
immediately into the dark. Out of love, this time, and loyalty, not just

I got the feeling, deep in the heart of the water, that he had atoned.

"You know," Aesculapius said softly, "maybe it would better if I just let you
die. Life is, for humans, meaningless and sadistic and painful. You'll walk out
of here and get struck down by something else. You're going to become one with
the Planet eventually. Death is relief and peace and warm. You never hurt.
You're never harmed. Life is like a knife drawn across your tongue. You chose
death once. What was the meaning of your life before, Yuffie Kisaragi?"

"I chose death once and I regretted it like nothing else I've ever regretted.

He turned to Vincent. "You stink of immortality, Chaos. Can you honestly say
that life is sweet? That life is better than letting go, that the world is not
full of misery and hatred and panic?"

"Yes," Vincent said softly, "because although what you say is true, the world
is also beautiful."

"You wanted to die once and let it all end."


"If you let her die, she'll never hurt again. She'll be taken care of. If you
let her go, you'll never have to worry about her ever, or fear for her pain.
She'll be able to have what you cannot."

His good hand tightened around my wrist. "The world is dark and cruel, Summon.
I readily agree to that."


"… She gave me meaning." His jaw tightened. "And she needs to be alive so she
can find her own in turn."

Like I said, Vincent Valentine's a fascinating person. He can stay with you for
months on end and have you puke on him and die on him and cry and yell and
scream at him but he still can claim that you gave him grace like that.

"So what are you willing to pay, Kisaragi? What is more precious to you than
anything else?"

I looked at Vincent and I saw the thought form in his head even as he said

"Me." Vincent looked him straight in the eye without hesitation. "Take me. Use
my life as payment for hers."

"No!" I immediately rounded on him. "Vincent, that's stupid! I love you! You're
my meaning! You're my everything! I don't want to live without you and I can't
and I won't and – "

"Very noble," Aesculapius noted; then, making me practically melt in relief,
"but impossible. You are not hers to give. You did not come from her flesh and
she does not own you."

Ha, shows how much he knew. Mutual eternal bondage. I began to understand why
Vincent had jumped after me.

My mind raced. What else did I have precious on me? Nothing. Nothing had been
precious to me in the last year or so but Vincent, and life, and I couldn't pay
with my own life because that was just moronic. I would have offered my first-
born child, but that rang hollow and empty; I didn't really care at that moment
about children. My body. I wasn't beautiful in any way, shape or form so I
couldn't give that; I'd never treasured anything except my skills as a ninja –

" - I would never do this to you if I did not feel the need, but I feel that
for the sake of your life we need to ampu - "

"My leg," I said slowly. "You want my leg."

"Give it to me."

"You wanna come get it or something?" I paused. "Y'know, what are you going to
use it for? It'd make a gnarly sockpuppet."

"Remove it." His eyes glinted. "Remove it and give it to me."

Vincent looked down at his claw, and back at me.

"You sick fuck," I muttered. "I bet the other Summons laugh at you behind your
back and say that you're a creep. I bet you get drunk at parties and hit on
Shiva. No wonder they lock you down here in this cave. I bet it's because you

"Her leg," Vincent said slowly, "for restoration."


"Can she feel pain?"

"Now she can."

All my pain centers opened up in one glorious symphony of agony and I clung to
Vincent, my eyes rolling back in my head, gurgling as fire poured through my
veins and blood simmered in them that wasn't moving. My heart could not pump;
my body was stuck in stasis, save for the pain, so I was safely curled into the
state of death.

Oh, Gods, I was meant to die, I was meant to die, I wanted to die, it hurt it
hurt it hurt it hurt it hurt. I wanted to pass out but I couldn't; all I could
do was feel, my skin sensitive and hurting as Vincent lifted me up in the arms,
wading through to shore past Aesculapius, murmuring cooing little noises of
comfort and meaningless phrases as, tender as a mother with a newborn, he laid
me down on the rock.

"Almost all over, Yuffie, it's going to be okay, just keep still – keep still…
it's going to be over. All over." Mutters. "I can't cut cleanly with this. Damn
it. Yuffie – I'm going to take it off above the knee, otherwise I'm going to
split you right open. Can you nod? You agree? Yes?"

His fingers curled around mine, and it hurt, and just before it began I heard
him whisper; "Damn it, Lucrecia, please help me."

The pain, eventually, was the relief. Since I was hurting all over from the
hands that wouldn't bleed and the body that wouldn't die and the organs that
wanted to shut down but were frozen in stasis, it all just melded into
something I could half-cope with as Vincent crouched down before me and ripped
the razor-sharp claw into the bone and I screamed and screamed and screamed.

It felt, basically, like someone was ripping my leg off with imperfect tools.

Eventually it was all over. The wound didn't bleed and blood didn't spurt. Poor
Vinnie had done the best job he could but his face was still shaded with guilt
as he gave the ugly limb to the Summon, passing it up, unwilling to go much
further from me.

Smiling, Aesculapius threw the leg into the water. It turned bright red like
blood and the limb disappeared. "Done and done. Take her into the waters,

Vincent hauled me up in his arms, me twitching, and I looked at his face for
what seemed like eternity. Me and him, we'd come a long way together. He had
given me his strength and his weakness and his tears, something I hadn't known
two years ago that he physically had. My breath quickened, though I didn't have
it, just out of habit to deal with the screech of my nervous system. He looked
at me, crimson eyes fathomless, and I huddled closer to his chest as he began
walking into the water.

"… This had better work," he informed Aesculapius darkly.

"Have faith, Chaos."

When the waters finally touched me, when Vincent took his feet from the shallow
floor beneath and let me go and I floated and eyes closed as everything started
to go bright. It was my mother in the morning, touching my forehead and then my
shoulder to wake me up and lift me into her arms and whirl me around as I
sleepily wailed my discontent. It was my father, slowly wrapping the first
bindings around my hands as I took my first steps down the path to becoming a
ninja. It was Aeris, hand brought up to her mouth as it to try and muffle her
giggles as she grinned at me, warm and bright. It was everything good I had
ever felt and pressure began to build up inside my chest until I burst out in a
spluttery laugh –

The first beat of my heart rang loud as a bell, and the waters were warm like
sunshine and birthwater and I was being reborn while Vincent watched in silent

And the last thing I heard was a mutter; "I do not smell."

I know I'll die someday. That day just won't be today.

When I woke up, it was very cold.

"Come on, Yuffie," somebody was saying gently, a voice familiar like hot tea on
a cold night. "Wake up."

"Lemme sleep s'more, Vinnie," I complained tiredly. "S'unfair."

There was – something - in his voice. "Wake up."

I woke up, and the remembrance shivered down my spine.

There was a chill in the air and my body ached slightly, like it does when you
awaken, a tingle running through my body that kept it oddly warm. I blinked
slowly, the bright white hurting my eyes.

There wasn't any more pain.

I looked up into the face of Vincent, and looked around at the snow. We were
out in the middle of a random snowfield, and he was clutching my body as close
as he could – I wasn't naked any more; I was dressed in the ratty sweatstained
cotton shirt and loose pants of before, my flight down the mountain. One of the
legs of the pants flapped loose and empty, and I suddenly felt as clumsy and
unshielded as a baby.

"My leg," I said, and I don't know why but tears stung at my eyes.

"Look." Although the wind whipped at us, he turned around to try to lessen the
bite of it on me. He was barely-dressed himself, exposed to the snow and the
ice and the freezing cold; however, he felt as oddly warm as I did.

Aesculapius' gift. We would not die out here. Rolling the flapping leg of my
trousers up, we both examined the stump of my thigh; it was smooth and clean as
if I'd suffered the wound ten years ago. "It will be fine."

"But…" I looked down at my arms and widened my eyes. Before, they had looked
like twigs; now they were the old confident punch-punch-parry shape, leanly
muscled and strong. The other arm matched it; frantically, I checked the rest
of my body. There were no more poison marks. My stomach was no longer the
swollen-starvation flap it had been; it was flat and taut, and the good leg –
the only leg – was as sharply defined as before the accident. And my chest…

"Look!" I cried out. "Hallelujah! I've got boobs!"

Vincent declined looking, just trying to keep hold of me as I wriggled and
stretched and gurgled like a stream in his arms out of joyousness. He just
watched my face, bloodied eyes intent on it as my entire body momentarily burst
out in an expression of happiness. I stopped, pensive and worried again, as I
stared down at the clumsy stump.

"Vincent," I said. "Vinnie, I'm never going to walk again."

"Yes, you will," he said, and the simplicity and faith of his statement made me
believe. "Just as I learnt to hold a gun again, and fire it."

"You were left-handed," I realized.

He shifted me to one hip, raising the golden claw so that we could both watch
the sunbeams sparkle off the surface. "It's not so bad," he murmured. "And I
learnt, though it was so very hard. I used to think it was fitting. A claw for
a monster."

"I think it's hot," I said stubbornly. "Alluring. Besides, gold goes with

He laughed at that, sudden and amused.

"Think they come in green?" I batted my eyelashes, reckless, his face turning
towards mine with a smile still melting his mouth. I had to swallow, throat
suddenly dry, him too heart-stoppingly gorgeous to almost look upon. Vincent
Kisaragi; mine. I think he was mine. "Gold just won't go with my outfits."

"We'll get you one in green."

"Even if we have to spraypaint it?"

"Even if we have to spraypaint it."

I clung to him, precarious, my cheek fitting in the familiar space between his
neck and shoulder as I breathed in his scent. Far away, in the distance and
getting closer, was the noise of an airship.

"…here comes Strife and Highwind," Vincent said, half-resigned. "They've been
looking for us all night."

"Hey!" I let go from around his neck and waved my arms up, so that he had to
pull me straight so that I didn't topple off into the snow. "Over here, you

My eyesight had improved, too. Everything was in sharp relief; the mountains,
the true blue dream of sky, the Highwind slowly chugging along towards us and
Vincent's hair whipped by the wind. When I turned back to him, he was looking
at me, devouring my face again with his gaze like he had done before I had
flung myself off the mountain. I knew, instinctively, that I would get much
grief and scolding for that later.

Or maybe I wouldn't. "What're you lookin' at?" I demanded, half-shy.


"I'm that ugly?"

"Yuffie," and his voice was deep, a note of huskiness in it, the kind that sent
my toes curling and my stomach up in knots as my heart fluttered – and this
time, not in medically-related death-throes; "you are the most beautiful thing
I have ever seen in my life."

They found us kissing, breathing life into each other's mouths, over and over
and over again as if we would never stop.



I won't say, "And then we lived happily ever after!" because we didn't. Not
immediately. Anyway, who on earth could live happily with me? I bitch about
everything from the weather to shoes to the updates on guns, and after a while
even unrufflable Vincent will have the urge to verbally smack me upside the

But I skip ahead too far.

I could say that the biggest party ever was immediately flung upon the
Highwind, which was true, with long talks with Reeve-talking-through-Cait about
prosthetics and immediately declaring I wanted a Gun Leg like Barret's Gun Arm,
which wouldn't work because as cool as spraying bullets into somebody every
time I kicked them might sound, I would probably end up killing myself. A pity,
because it would have been a great trick at long boring dinners to shoot
people's feet who I didn't like. Cid and I attempted a manly unemotional hug
until we gave up and clung to each other, him hoisting me easily up into his
embrace as he muttered, voice thick, "I thought I was never gonna !#ing see
you again."

And nobody raised eyebrows that Vincent wouldn't put me down and carried me
around like a baby rather than let me sit. We held hands and didn't realize
that we frequently got lost looking in each other's eyes until Cloud and Tifa
started letting out piercing wolf-whistles. I had my first moment of fright
when I felt nauseous and it all came back to me, the terror and the depression,
but he held my hand as I looked green and clutched the railing and, you know,
half-retching isn't supposed to be romantic.

Everything looked wonderful and fresh and different, because I hadn't seen it
for months and months. It had felt like a decade, my being sick, and I realized
that even before when I was wandering the world I hadn't really taken the time
to look at anybody and I exclaimed over the littlest things – "Tifa, your hair's
grown so long!" and "Red, you look all sexy – are feathers coming back in?"
and "Cloud, your manboobs! They're huge!" although I just said that so that
he would fling me down to the floor of the airship and tickle me.

They were afraid to touch me, at first, feeling that I'd break, knowing that
when I stood – oh Gods how wonderful it was, to stand! – I wouldn't be able to
keep my balance for long before I fell down into a frustrated little heap of
limbs. However, that didn't stop me leaping from my chair to fling myself
bodily to the ground, startling Vincent something awful, crabwalking over to do
things like tug at people's legs and look up Tifa's skirt. They had realized
that I was old unbreakable Yuffie when I had pulled Red's tail on the sly, made
him yowl, and wrestle with me like I used to do until Vinnie pulled me off and
smacked my nose.

He was treated different, too. Although he still devolved into helpless bouts
of "…", they approached him more, finding it easier to ask questions of him.
Probably because they realized that after a year or so of being my nurse
nothing could really annoy him any more, in hindsight.

And I whispered fervent frequent prayers of thanksgiving to Aesculapius, mostly
along the lines of, "Thank you so goddamn much, you dress-wearing no-pants

I think he heard.

When we got home, my ears burst from the two-way weeping relief and heartless
shouting match that immediately was given by my father and Asako. Godo couldn't
stop touching me, as if maybe I wasn't really real and he would wake up at any
second, and I do believe that it is the only time in his entire life that he would
ever be caught dead flinging himself at my feet – foot – to rest his cheek on one
knee and weep "My daughter," to me. I was higher than a cloudhead on ten shots
of calenture, floating on a sea of love.

And I don't think anyone was more surprised - when, triumphant, taken in to
measure up for my prosthetics - than Dr. Malachi Bannon, who was given my
middle finger by way of hello and told that he could fuck himself.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Kisaragi," he said dryly, as Vincent rolled his eyes in despair
at me. "My mother always said that would make me go blind."

They weren't green, by the way – the prosthetics; they were shining steel,
completely inhuman, smooth shiny fitted-in poles and attached to my leg in a
way that I could pull the entire contraption off, leaving the stump and a
permanent steel fixture that the thing plugged into. Reeve helped build them
himself, his long perfect engineer's fingers fixing up the wiring as I flexed
my new toes.

"Do you want me to fix them up? Fake flesh?" he asked.

"Nah," I said, extremely satisfied. "I like it naked."

My first cartwheel was in the woods outside Junon, and my tears fell into the
soil like rain. Yuffie Kisaragi, Wutaian ninja, had officially Gotten Her
Groove Back.

I'm kind of like a vase, a broken one. I got shattered when I fell so I had to
be picked up and all the pieces glued back on, only some jerk lost a bit on the
way so I had to be patched up. Now I'm a definitely odd-looking vase, all
cracked and one piece that didn't belong to the original model, but I'm more
interesting this way.

Besides, the man who superglued me back together says so, and I love him.

That wasn't all we did in Junon, either. The moment I walked out the door, my
first outside trip with my prosthetics and half-afraid of walking, I forgot to
be afraid and dragged Vincent to the tattoo parlour. I got out a notepad and a
pencil and got creative, then showed it to the artist.

He scratched his head slowly, one eyebrow raised. He had really neat sideburns.
I wanted sideburns momentarily, but then I remembered I couldn't grow them,
being a woman. "Are you sure, p'tit? This is a big job. Going to hurt like a

I smiled mirthlessly, long and masochistic. "Do me."

And, of course, it hurt like a bitch when it was going over the bone and
Vincent held my hand – with the real one, which I thought was a nice gesture,
because I think I dislocated most of his fingers – as it got done. The ink was
blueblack like a midnight bruise, which I thought was fitting; when it was
done, there were marks spiralled up from my thigh to my hip to my stomach,
small and quiet and lethal. The poison curves, perfectly rendered from memory.

"Battlescars," I told Vincent, when he asked why.

And when I had healed up and the tattoo had stopped itching I dressed him up
sexy – blood-red shirt, black pants, that long beautiful hair combed painstakingly
by me and tied at the nape of his neck – and he was such a bloody knock-out I'm
surprised no woman came up and asked him right out to contribute to her next
generation with his genetic material. I wore a short skirt so that everybody
could see every detail of my artificial leg and possibly my underwear if I bent
too low, and enjoyed every damn minute.

No, I didn't barf. I was falling unsurprisingly in love with the idea of eating
food and having it stay down.

That took up the long winter, which we spent teaching me to move properly again
with grace until I beat my father hands-down-pat once more with the Conformer
gleaming deadly in my hand. Vincent kicked my ass, but I let him. Honest.

We burnt all the old bedding, and got rid of the medicine, and stripped out my
little house until it held no sign nor scent of sickness. When I hadn't been
looking, Vincent had disabled my traps and made the basement inhabitable, which
I pouted about. Living in a house where I could not trap unsuspecting victims
any time I liked was going to be hard going in my mind.

In the spring, he took me hiking out to the waterflow that flowed down from Li
Xue. I picked jonquils on the way and tucked them behind my ears and into the
straps of my top and down the back of his shirt when he wasn't looking, and we
sat up the top next to the rocks and watched the water fall. We ate melting
fudge ripple from our fingers and from each other's fingers and got sticky,
especially me, half my face getting covered and the next half hour spent
sucking it from my lips.

After that, we did not immediately swim in the river, because in fact the
icecream had prompted something quite different. I licked the sweet chocolate
stickiness from my lips and then, just to be thorough, I started licking it from
his, whereupon things got wonderfully out of hand. We ended up on the grass
bank near the top of the waterfall with him slowly pulling flowers from my
clothing, and then with almost-hesitancy clothing from my body, proceeding
to very gently –

I won't go into that. But I will always, always remember the scent of crushed

We skinny-dipped afterwards in the water and I examined the unripe gooseberries
with dreamy intensity as we dried out on the shore. I tried to catch the fishes
with my hands, but never made it.

Go fig.

In the end, when my father retired in late summer when the bees hung heavy over
blossoms, Vinnie was made Lord Vincent Kisaragi of Wutai. However, in the same
ceremony, I was also made Lady Yuffie Kisaragi of Wutai, with a marriage to
keep things convenient.

"Were you holding out to marry somebody else?" I demanded my ex-Turk when he
opened his mouth to protest. Although he poutily declared that he wasn't – yes!
He pouted! – he still held a very disgruntled expression on his face until we were
declared husband and wife, as if I'd hit him on the head with the Conformer and
dragged him back to my cave.

We were married in the bright sunshine, and I was twenty years old. The entire
village – town; oh, how big my Wutai had gotten, I was so proud I could burst –
came to watch as the seat of power passed to Vincent and I, and as we held
hands and promised to love and cherish and protect. Asako complained about the
too-short length of time she'd had to organize my wedding dress. I wore green
and blue and violet, and he looked almost uncomfortable to be in red and orange
and saffron; for once, he was clad in something that he couldn't immediately
attend a funeral in, understandably a new experience.

Why am I talking about the clothes? I spent the entire ceremony unaware of
anything but his face, the warmth of his fingers bound to mine as Godo
instructed him to lean down and kiss me.

Cloud and Tifa cheered the loudest, both coming to kiss our cheeks as was
ritual with sneaky little smiles on their faces, as if they had somehow
organized the entire affair. When Cid came up with Shera and bouncy little
Kain, who never walked if he could hop and never hopped if he could leap
forward dangerously and fall down on his blonde head, he was sniffling.

"He always cries at weddings," Shera explained tenderly even as he thickly
snapped, "I got an eye disease that does it!"

Love. I felt like I was brimming full of it, about to spill over. It had all
been worth it, every moment of it, and I would never again be starved of that
bullet-blown feeling like I had wandering desperately around the planet trying
to find meaning in my materia-driven life.

Later, the same night, our wedding night, we went over to the rocks of Li Xue
and watched the sun set; red and gold and purple and orange.

"I can't believe I got so much materia for frigging wedding presents," I
half-complained, happily resting with my cheek on his shoulder. "That's very
stereotypical and biased."

"… I do not recall seeing you look unhappy when Cloud presented you with his
mastered Knights of the Round."

"I'm keeping that baby in bed with me at night," I said enthusiastically.


"Yeah… love?" The words were new on my lips.

"I have… been thinking."

"Try not to. It gives you wrinkles."

His arm tightened around my waist. "Once, you told me a story. It never had an


"As you said, that's for bears – and princesses."

"Well, it is."

"I think it should get an ending."

"All right." I wiggled my toes. "So how do we end, then?"

"Happily-ever-after," – and he pulled me into his arms, familiar and warm,
cradling me and protecting me long after I outwardly needed it – "my Wutaian

You can't help loving somebody who says completely soppy stuff like that.

"I love you, Vincent Valentine," I said.

I have always been a traveller. It's just what I do. It just took me a long
while to learn that the travelling of the body's nothing without the travelling
of the soul to go with it.

And we lived happily ever after. Despite him not being a bear.

the end

A/N: It is done!

I have had a great deal of fun writing this story. I think it showed. Which
isn't to say that there weren't points where I wasn't having fun, because I
still didn't know the ending even when I was writing it. I started writing
Sunshine In Winter because my mother had deep-vein-thrombosis, a blood clot,
in – you guessed it – her leg. There was a very good chance of her dying, and
as some subconscious outpouring of frustration, this story began. My mother
lived so I was free to shout at her and argue and wish her dead later on, as
all teenagers do; I am very thankful. Love you, mum.

But yes. For the past year or so there have been shouted conversations between
me and my esteemed beta-reader, who happens to be my brother. Brothers are the
best beta-readers ever. He used to sit at his computer and shout encouragement
like, "You stupid piece of shit, Yuffie's not going to say that" and "Vincent's
cardboard. Give him a personality before it becomes the story of Yuffie The
Personality Vampire. Oh, and you suck, and you can't spell, and you were

Discussion on the ending ran as follows:

Me: "So how should I end SiW?"
Him: thoughtfully "Well, Yuffie can get kidnapped by the Running Man, and
Reno can discover that the main female villain is actually his estranged wife."
Me: "You're completely useless. And mommy never loved you."

Now, for the promised thank-yous, because this fanfic was powered on Mountain
Dew and worshipping my Final Fantasy VII Yuffie and Vincent dolls in hopes
elves would write the next chapter and – most importantly - my reviewers. I
realize that this set of author's notes is quickly becoming longer than some of
my fanfics, but bear me out; this needs to be said.

For And Thank You:

I'd leave a message after everyone's name, but I don't think I could say
anything meaningful enough to you. Just... thank you, thank you everyone.
There are some of you who have been with me and this 'fic for ages; I know your
names and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Everybody, have a big big

For Yuffie Valentine, who first archived it and liked it, and who holds my
deepest admiration.

For Yuffie fans everywhere, and for Vincent fans, because you know you just are
so awesome.

Piett/Andrew, thank you for being a great brother and a great beta, and for
leaving my first piece of constructive criticism (through a fake name.
Tim?!) ...Though you're still a jerkwad. And I lied about you being a good
brother, you suck. Don't believe him, the Chocolate Mousse story is a lie. …
okay, it isn't, but that's a secret between you and me, okay guys?

And thank you freedom, love, caffeine, and everybody's equivalent of Woolly
Chocobo everywhere!

- Guardian