Not to toot my own horn, but this has gotta be my cutest story yet. ^_^ Read on, fellow L/Y-ers!

Disclaimer: Raise your hands if you believe I own Kingdom Hearts. If you did, you would be correct. I do own the game. But do I own it, as in its ideas, characters, concepts, etc? No. That stuff belongs to Squaresoft and Disney.

Note: "Suki da" is Japanese for "I love you." It's actually a bit more complicated than that (it's a little different from the other Japanese phrase that means "I love you" which is "Ai Shiteru") but we'll just keep it simple for now.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"I beg of you!"

"No."

"It's just one little favor!"

"No!"

"I'll do anything!"

"NO!"

Sixteen-year-old Squall was losing his patience with his fifteen-year-old female friend, Aerith. She was asking him to do something he'd rather not spend his Saturday night doing. It was the weekend, and after a grueling week of SeeD training and his part-time job working for Lord Ansem, he was ready to just sit around and do nothing for the rest of the day. The last thing he wanted to do was more work. And what Aerith was asking him to do as he was taking a walk at the Moogle Marketplace was definitely more work.

"Just tonight," Aerith pleaded. "You just need to baby-sit Yuffie for tonight and the Kisaragis will pay you what they were going to give me. And you just got your paycheck from Ansem today, correct? Wouldn't you like more money?"

Squall sighed. "Yeah, I would. But I think I'd rather take my chances selling my body to science before I baby-sit that brat."

"But Yuffie likes you. She won't cause any problems."

Squall shuddered. Yuffie did like him. And to him, that was a curse.

He quickened his pace and tried to escape Aerith, but she wasn't ready to give up.

"Squall, you know I rarely ask you for favors…" she began, but Squall turned around, glaring at her.

"Aerith, no! You aren't going to change my mind so leave me alone! Baby-sit the brat yourself."

"But…"

Squall rolled his eyes and groaned. Her persistence was very annoying. He waited to see her reaction, but Aerith stood silent, casting her eyes downward. He was about to turn away and leave when she finally spoke up.

"Cloud's back."

This caught Squall's attention. Cloud was off at a military school, a different one than SeeD. It was called SOLDIER he believed. The great Sephiroth went there and Cloud had great admiration for him. He wanted to be like him in every way possible, making Squall unsuccessful in trying to convince him to join SeeD. But SOLDIER was far away whereas SeeD was close to home so Cloud had to leave all his friends and family behind for seven months to attend. He came back every break, but the SeeD school year and SOLDIER school year were different so the only time he could see him was during the Christmas/Winter break and the late spring/summer months off.

Squall also knew Aerith was deeply in love with him.

"I wonder why he didn't call me." Squall thought aloud.

"He wanted to surprise you, but being the stubborn oaf you are, this was the only way I could get you to listen." Aerith spat.

Squall raised his hands in mock defeat. "Whatever. Sorry, I guess." That was usually the best apology he gave. "So Cloud's back. What's he planning?" He noticed Aerith slightly blushing.

"He wants to take me out tonight. For a moonlight picnic in Chocobo Park." She said.

"Sounds romantic." Squall said blandly, but Aerith was too caught up in her thoughts of Cloud to care.

"But I have plans to baby-sit Yuffie tonight and the Kisaragis don't have anyone else to baby-sit her so," she clasped her hands together and looked at him willingly. "That's where you come in! I could go on my date with Cloud if you can take my place."

A small smile crept across the brunette's face. He understood the importance of this date very well. And he wouldn't step in Cloud's way and ruin things for him. Even if it meant babysitting the little monster. He never let people know, but he wished for that kind of love someday.

"Fine. I'll do it. For Cloud." He said. Aerith threw her arms around the boy, squealing in joy.

"Thank you! You're so great, Squall! I knew you had a heart! You won't regret it, I promise!"

"I sure hope not," the SeeD trainee grumbled.

***

Seven o'clock in the evening. Squall reluctantly walked the cobblestone path to the white Kisaragi house. It didn't look like the other houses and was rather secluded from the rest. It had a very different look, kind of like a dojo where ninjas or martial artists would train, surrounded by trees. It was very beautiful, Squall had to admit. Much better than where he lived.

Squall reached the front steps of the house and looked around for a doorbell or knocker of any sort, but there were none. 

"Um, hello?" he called out. The door slid open. In front of him stood a tall, beautiful woman dressed in a kimono. A waterfall of black hair flowed down her back.

"Are you the young man filling in for Aerith?" she asked in a nice, polite voice. Squall nodded.

"Yeah, Squall Leonhart."

"Oh good. You're on time, too. Please, do step inside."

She stepped out of the doorway and watched Squall tread into the house. Now Squall was able to check out the insides of the house. The walls were made of rice paper and the ground of smooth, wooden planks. A lot of fine art, painted in watercolors hung all over the house. A statue of a samurai warrior adorned the foyer along with a scroll with a symbol composed of ink marks hanging right beside the doorway to the inner house.

"Irasshai." The woman informed, noticing Squall staring at the sign. "It means 'welcome.'"

"Oh." said the brunette. He stepped into the inner house and surveyed his surroundings. "Nice place you got here."

"Arigatou," the woman smiled. "I'm Yuffie's mother. My husband should be downstairs any minute now."

"You look pretty," Squall complemented, "Something special happening tonight?" Yuffie's mother blushed.

"Well, it's our anniversary. My husband's taking me out somewhere special tonight. He says it's a surprise."

"That's nice," Squall said. "Is there anything I should know concerning Yuffie?"

"Not much. She's a fairly good girl. Though there is her…" Yuffie's mother hesitated for a moment.

"Her what?" Squall asked.

"She has a 'problem'." Mrs. Kisaragi finally answered. Squall raised an eyebrow.

"Uh oh," he gulped, "This doesn't have anything to do with the bathroom, does it?"

"Heavens no," Yuffie's mother chuckled, "She just has a problem with sugar. Too much and she goes berserk. Limit her sweets, or don't give her any at all. But that's pretty much it."

Guess she won't be much trouble after all, Squall thought.

He turned his attention to the sound of a door sliding open. In walked a tall man, dressed in similar attire to the woman's, but more masculine. Squall figured him to be Yuffie's father. Next to him was a small girl with dark pigtails dressed in clothes Squall was more familiar with. She was bearing a huge smile on her face at the sight of him. Squall was scared of that smile.

"H-Hey, Yuffie," he greeted nervously.

"Squally-chan!" she squealed, running up to him and latching herself on to his leg. Squall blinked.

"Did she just call me 'Squally-chan'?"

The parents chuckled at Yuffie's childish behavior.

"There's a list of things you ought to do for her, plus suggestions in case you need to entertain her on the fridge. You'll find my cell phone number on there as well, should any problems arise." Informed Mr. Kisaragi

"We'll we're off. Be good, now, aijou." Mrs. Kisaragi said, prying Yuffie off Squall's leg and giving her a kiss on her forehead.

"Don't worry, kaasan! Everything is good with Squally-chan!" Yuffie squeaked. The parents smiled.

"Mata ne, Leonhart-san. We'll try to be back by midnight." Mr. Kisaragi said. Yuffie's parents left, leaving Squall to peep out the word, "Try?"

As the door closed, Yuffie turned around and smiled brightly.

"What we'll we do tonight, Squally-chan?" she asked in the sweetest voice. Squall grimaced.

"First, you're going to stop calling me 'Squally-chan.' Second, we aren't going to do anything. You will go to your room and play. I am going to take a nap." Squall said in a stern voice.

"But I want to have fun with you!" the seven-year-old chirped. "Can't you play with me? Aerith plays with me."

Squall could feel his eyebrows twitching already. Why was he doing this, again? Oh, right, Aerith & Cloud. Damn lovebirds.

The brunette teen knelt down to Yuffie's eye level.

"All right, squirt, what do you want to play?" he asked as sincerely as he could.

"Yay!" Yuffie clapped her hands playfully, showcasing a big, toothy grin. Squall groaned and rubbed his brow. He closed his eyes while doing this, which proved to be a mistake. He wasn't able to catch the little girl jumping onto his back.

"Piggyback ride!"

"What the?! No!" Squall said shooting up from the ground, causing Yuffie to fall flat on her butt.

"Ow, my tushie," Yuffie whined, rubbing it.

"Sorry, I don't do piggyback rides." He said, tersely.

"What do you do?" Yuffie asked curiously, looking up at him.

"I work. I sleep." Squall answered.

"Don't you do anything fun?" Yuffie inquired. Squall shook his head.

"I stopped having fun a long time ago."

"Well that's not good." Yuffie grabbed Squall's hands and looked up at him with sparkles in her eyes. "I can show you how to have fun again, can't I?"

"…"

"Can't I, Squally-chan?"

Squall sighed. He realized he shouldn't act cold toward Yuffie, since she was just a child. And she did seem to like him a lot.

"Okay, fine," Squall finally said, "Show me how to have fun."

***

"This isn't fun," Squall said bluntly.

"I like it. So it must be fun!" Yuffie said cheerfully.

"Just 'cause you like Barbies, doesn't mean everyone does." Squall pointed out.

"But if you use your imaginimanation, they can be great!" Yuffie rebutted, while mangling the word "imagination."

"Well, I guess I wouldn't of minded so much, if I wasn't the one playing Barbie!" Squall raged, waving the blonde girl-doll in the air.

Yuffie held up her Ken doll and said, "Well I don't think you woulda did Ken right. You'd make him all gloomy and crabby like you."

Squall grumbled in frustration. "I don't know how you even talked me into this. I must be on crack."

"What's crack?" Yuffie asked innocently. Squall mentally smacked himself for speaking that way around the kid.

"Er, nothing. Listen, I'm going to go look at your parents' note on the fridge and see what I'm suppose to do. Stay here and play or…something…" Squall said, making his way toward the bedroom exit.

"Daijoubu," Yuffie squeaked, "demo, you'll come back, right?"

"Of course."

"Good, Squally-chan. I'll be waiting." Yuffie smiled. Squall groaned irritably.

"It's Squall. What the hell's a 'chan', anyway?" he muttered. But Yuffie was oblivious to Squall's irritation with her. All she saw was a young man she liked having around. Not like how she liked having Aerith around, but different. She couldn't quite place her finger on it, but she definitely knew that whatever she was feeling, she liked it. She hoped Squall felt the same way.

***

"So what do I gotta do for this brat?" Squall asked himself. He checked the note on the fridge and read "when she gets hungry use the money on the counter to order pizza." He assumed the same went for when he was hungry, since he was famished and hadn't eaten since this morning.

He grabbed the money from the counter and stuffed it in his pocket. He was about pick up the phone when Yuffie bounded into the kitchen, eyes glistening as she looked at him.

"Yuffie, what are you doing down here?"

"Ano, I was, uh, hungry." Yuffie lied. She wasn't sure if she should tell him that she just wanted to see him. She also wasn't sure why she wasn't sure. She was always happy to tell her parents or Aerith when she just wanted to see them. Why was Squall so different?

Squall shrugged, not getting Yuffie's hesitation, but not really caring either.

"Well, your folks left money for me to order something with."

"Really? Sugoi! I love pizza." Yuffie said brightly, pronouncing "pizza" exactly as it was spelt.

The SeeD trainee cocked an eyebrow at her as she smiled at him, oddly.

"Um…okay…I'll just order it now, then," he said then thought in his head, there's gotta be another word for weird.

After placing the order, he walked up to the little girl and ruffled her hair.

"Okay, squirt, the pizza will be here in thirty minutes so I guess we can play till then."

Squall left the kitchen, leaving Yuffie's young, chocolate brown eyes to linger where he once stood. She placed her hand over heart, looked down, and whispered, "Wagakokoro."

***

Squall searched tirelessly through the Kisaragi house, cursing himself for agreeing to play hide-and-seek. Really, of all the games to play.

He checked behind the couch, in closets, every bedroom, and came up with nothing. He grew a little worried, hoping nothing bad happened. If anything did, he would definitely not get paid, that much he knew. Oh yeah, and he guessed he'd get in major trouble as well.

The pizza guy eventually came before he found Yuffie. Hopefully the smell of the food would get the annoying brat out of her hiding place, he thought. But she wasn't coming. He brought the pizza inside and still saw no sign of her. He was filled with frustration, now.

"All right, Yuffie, come out now!" he yelled, tired of this stupid game. But there was still no sign of her. Throwing his hands up in the air in aggravation, he mercilessly searched the rest of the house, searching every corner and practically turning it upside down to find the damn kid.

Finally, he came across the door leading into the backyard, slightly open. His immediate instinct was to panic, but managed to keep himself calm.

He pushed open the door and was amazed at what he saw. A masterpiece of plants and flowers adorned the yard, all blending together, matching perfectly. The bushes were trimmed to perfection, symmetrical, while others were fashioned in shapes of animals and objects. A fountain stood tall with water cascading down to its base, flowing endlessly. And, finally, a truly unique centerpiece sat in the middle of this swarm of beauty. A small, dark-haired girl sat, arms wrapped around her legs, staring up at the stars.

Squall walked up to the little girl and looked down at her.

"Yuffie, what are you doing out here?" he asked. "This isn't a very good spot to hide for hide-and-seek."

"I'm not hiding anymore, Squally-chan." Yuffie said softly.

"It's Squall." The teen corrected, rolling his eyes. Yuffie's eyes twinkled in the starlight.

"Suteki da ne?" she spoke softly.

"Hn?"

"Isn't it beautiful?"

"What? The stars?" Squall gazed up at the black blanket decorated in sparkling white dots that covered the sky. "Yeah, I guess. Never really cared about 'em."

"Kaasan and tousan said that if you have any troubles or questions, you should look to the stars. The heavenly bodies will help you find your way." Yuffie said poetically.

"Whatever." was Squall's response.

He looked back down at Yuffie. "Come inside. The pizza's here." He was about to turn around and walk away when the little girl said some startling words.

"You're sad."

Squall froze. He narrowed his eyes and glared at Yuffie. "The hell do you mean by that?" Yuffie looked down at her legs, eyes consumed by sorrow.

"You're sad." She repeated. "You're sad and you're mad and I don't think you like me. But I like you. And I don't know why."

Squall's shoulder sagged as he heaved a sigh. He rubbed his temples, trying to think of how he would explain this to Yuffie. He did feel bad for painting this picture of jerk for her. Why were kids so good at giving guilt trips?

He knelt down and placed a hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Look, Yuffie, things have happened in my life, okay?"

"What kind of things?" she inquired, looking up at him. Their eyes were now locked on each other.

"Bad things. Stressful things. Stuff like that. I don't mean to be an assh-, uh, jerk, especially not to you. I do like you, Yuffie. You're not that bad of a kid."

Yuffie smiled at him, eyes full of hope. "You really mean that?"

"Yeah. I guess I do." Squall stood up and brushed the dirt off his pants. "Now let's head back inside. Pizza's probably cold by now."

He headed back inside the house, leaving Yuffie to look up at the stars once more. She placed her hand on her chest. There it was, that feeling. That warm feeling. What was it? Why did it happen when she thought about Squally-chan? She just shared a moment with him, and, realistically, it was no different than the moments she shared with her parents or Aerith. But it felt different. What was it?

***

"Here you go."

Squall handed her a slice of pizza on a plate and a glass of juice (he remembered not to give her anything sugary since he wanted to avoid headaches at all costs). Yuffie happily accepted it.

"Arigatou, Squally-chan!" she chirped.

"It's Squall," the teen said dryly. This "Squally-chan/It's Squall" thing was getting to be routine. He hoped she would eventually quit it in the future.

Yuffie bounded into the living room, probably to play one of her games. He helped himself to a slice and pulled up a chair near the kitchen counter. He bit into the pizza and looked at the clock. It was a quarter to ten. Yuffie's mother said they'd be home by midnight so he still had about two hours left. While Yuffie was annoying, she at least didn't cause major trouble. And that talk they had in the garden. To him, it was just any old talk, but the way Yuffie looked at him felt…strange. When he looked at her, he just saw a kid, but he couldn't help but feel that when she was looking at him, she was looking at something else.

He shook his head. It probably wasn't important.

CRASH!

He jumped up from his chair, alert.

"Yuffie?"

He ran into the living room and saw Yuffie on the floor, her juice spilled all over her. A cat was on top of her, licking her wet clothes. He breathed a sigh of relief, but groaned when he realized he would have to clean this mess up.

"Bad Neko-chan! You spilled my juice!" Yuffie scolded the cat.

"Where'd he come from?" asked Squall as he came into the room.

"This is my kaineko. My pet cat. He just came inside from the backyard." Yuffie explained, getting up. Neko-chan picked up the half-eaten pizza slice in his mouth and strolled away.

"Looks like we'll have to get you cleaned up." Squall observed. "Like a bath or something."

Was he allowed to? He didn't see "give her a bath" on the list Yuffie's parents left without saying so he assumed they had done it before he came. He took Yuffie's hand and led her to the bathroom.

***

Squall finished drawing the bath for her and swirled his hand in the water to make sure the temperature was warm enough.

When he was done, he dried his hands and looked at the little girl.

"Get undressed," he commanded. Yuffie shook her head, eyebrows narrowed and frowning. "Why not?" Squall asked, not wanting to put up with a fight.

"I don't want you to see me naked." she said. Squall smirked. How cute, the annoying brat knew shame. He raised his hands in mock defeat.

"Ok, have it your way. Just don't cause a mess." Squall said as he left the bathroom. He went downstairs to clean up the mess left by the cat. After he finished, he plopped himself down on the couch and took a breather.

Yuffie trotted downstairs into the living room, still in her juice-stained clothes. Squall raised an eyebrow and asked what she was doing down here.

"I had an accident."

Squall gulped. "Uh, what kind of accident."

Yuffie hung her head low and went upstairs. Squall felt a droplet of water hit his head. He looked up and saw small pool on the ceiling leaking water drops.

Squall let out a moan as he rushed upstairs and saw a mini-flood in the bathroom. The tub was filled to the brim with water and then some. The liquid poured over the sides and slid down to the floor, flowing freely like it was a running river. But the bathroom was no river; it was turning into a lake!

"Yuffie!" he screamed, "What did you do?!"

"The water was too cold so I tried to make it hot." She answered timidly.

"Too cold?! What are you talking about?!"

"It just didn't feel warm enough!"

"Argh!" Squall raced up to the tub and tried to pull the plug out, but the water was scorching. He pulled his hand back and blew on it. He quickly turned off the faucet and examined the entire bathroom. Water everywhere. Lord, this would take forever to clean up. And it was hot, too. Not as hot as his anger, though. He looked ready to explode.

"I'm sorry." Yuffie apologized in a soft voice. But Squall was beyond letting her off easy.

"Damn it, Yuffie, just go to your room!" he yelled with fierce hostility. Yuffie sniffed and did what she was told.

Squall looked at the mess and sighed angrily. This huge flood would take at least an hour, especially since he had to wait for the water to cool off.

He groaned. Things were going so well, too. Why did Yuffie have to screw it up?

***

"Why did I mess it up?"

Yuffie sat on her bed, in her pajamas and her legs crossed. Neko-chan snuggled happily in her lap, with Yuffie's soft hands caressing his furry body.

It had been an hour since the boy she had these strange feelings for yelled at her. She still couldn't figure them out. She thought of her parents. Nothing. She thought of Aerith. Nothing. She thought of Squally-chan and that feeling in her heart showed up again. What was it, she kept asking herself.

Well it didn't matter. Squall hated her. And for some reason, it felt like her world had faded into oblivion.

The door slowly opened ajar. A brunette head peeked into her room, looking at her.

"Are you okay?" he asked as he fully opened the door. The little girl turned away.

Squall hung his head. He knew she would be angry with him. He walked inside the room and pulled a chair from her desk. He brought it close to her bedside and took a seat. He rested his elbows on his knees and his head in his intertwined hands.

"Sorry I yelled at you." He said. Yuffie shook her head.

"It's not that," she said softly, "I know I did bad."

Squall blinked. How many little kids did he know that were able to admit there own mistakes? He was impressed.

"Well, why are you so quiet? You tired?"

Yuffie shook her head and mumbled something.

"Hn?"

Yuffie sighed. "You don't really like me."

Squall rolled his eyes. "I thought we went over this."

Yuffie glared at him. The unexpected glower surprised the teen.

"Don't lie. I know you hate me. I saw it in your eyes when you were yelling. It was like a fire was burning and…and…I was in it."

Squall ran his fingers through his hair, trying to think what to say. Yuffie was such a little girl yet it seemed like she could understand a lot. He didn't know any other kid like her. He should treat her better.

"Yeah I was mad, because what you did was stupid. But, hey, we all do stupid things. Like me making you feel bad." Squall said softly. Yuffie looked at him. Was he being…sincere? Yes, he was. For her!

For the second time that night, their were eyes were locked in each others' sight.

"I…I like you, Squally-chan." Yuffie said hesitantly. Squall tilted his head.

"It's Squall. And I can see that. Like I said earlier, you're not that bad yourself."

Shoot! Yuffie thought. That's not what I wanted to say at all! She wanted to say something more than "I like you", but it didn't come out. What did you say to someone when you wanted to say you liked him a lot? Even more than simply "liking" them, you…you…

"How 'bout I read you a story before you go to bed?" Squall suggested, pulling a book from her bookcase. "The Little Yellow Chocobo. I remember this story. You like it?"

Yuffie nodded. Squall sat back at his seat and proceeded to read the book. It was a simple story, about a yellow chocobo that wanted to make bread and went through each stage of making it. At each stage, she would ask the moogle, the cactuar, and the cait sith if they would help her, and they'd keep saying no until she was finished. It ended with the three others not getting a piece because they didn't help the chocobo. A lesson was in there somewhere, but Squall and Yuffie didn't really care for it.

Squall finished the book and set it down on Yuffie's desk. The little girl was near sleep, still trying to figure her feelings out.

"Good night," Squall said when he saw her eyes slowly closing.

"Wait," she said, "Um, can you tell me your favorite story when you were a kid?"

"I still am a kid," Squall said lightly. "But, well, it's not much of a 'manly' story, but I was always fond of Beauty and The Beast."

"What is that?"

Squall leaned back; eyes closed, and stretched his arms.

"It's a story about a man that gets turned into a beast by a witch for being so cruel. He was a real cold-hearted bast-, uh, jerk and didn't seem to care much about anything."

A smile spread across Yuffie's features. Kind of like you.

"He would only return to a normal human being if a girl would fall in love with him. A girl comes across him, a beautiful girl, and he keeps her in his castle. The girl is sweet, fun-loving, and always trying to do what's right."

Kind of like me.

"The beast wants to fall in love the girl but can't. Meanwhile the girl tries to turn the beast around. You know, show him how to be more light-hearted and fun."

Just like what I did.

"Then the girl starts feeling strange. A weird, warm feeling in her heart whenever she was around him. She didn't know why or how it happened. She just…liked him. Soon she realized that she didn't just like the beast, she loved him. That feeling in her heart…it was love."

Love? Is that what it is? Yuffie nuzzled under the covers, her eyes drooping slowly. Sleep was coming. But she had to stay up and learn about this new revelation called "love."

"The girl loved the beast. The beast became more sincere towards her and soon he was able to fall in love with her. Now that they both loved each other, the curse would be lifted and the beast turned back into a handsome prince."

Kokoro. Ai. Koi. Love.

Squall looked at the little girl lying in bed, eyes closed, ready for dreamland. Squall sighed contentedly.

"Finally," he said, "Maybe now I can get some peace until the Kisaragis are back."

He got up from his chair and yawned. His eyes trailed back to Yuffie's face, which was slowly twisting into a smile. He wondered what was going through her head. But he tried not to think about it. What he wanted to do was escape from this room and fast.

"Annoying brat," he muttered. But as he gazed at the girl's sweet face he couldn't help but smile. "But she's cute." He admitted. He bent down and kissed Yuffie on her forehead. Ready to leave, he headed for the door. But Yuffie wasn't quite ready to sleep yet. She had finally figured out what to say, now that she knew her feelings. The words you use, when you want to express your love to someone for the first time.

"Squally-chan?"

Squall stopped in the doorway. "It's Squall," he said dryly. Then more lightly, "…and what?"

Yuffie gathered up her courage and took a deep breath and spoke softly.

"Suki da."

Squall looked at her and blinked confusedly. Then his face softened as he turned out the lights and said just as softly, "Suki da."

He closed the door and left leaving Yuffie to smile and have sweet dreams.

Happily outside her room, Squall walked downstairs and sat on the couch. He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 11:30. He exhaled deeply.

"Suki da," he repeated and shrugged. "Must mean goodnight or something."

His eyelids grew heavy and he soon drifted off to sleep.

Nine years later…

Traverse Town. It was nighttime and twenty-five-year-old Squall Leonhart, now known as "Leon," looked up at the stars from the hotel balcony, holding an icepack to his head. A new scar made itself home on his left cheek, the result of an early battle with the Heartless. Actually, it was more than a battle. It was a full out war between him and the Heartless. Why was he in the fight with the Heartless when the keyblade bearer should have been taking care of them?

They had attacked Yuffie. That was reason enough.

Earlier that day, Yuffie, now sixteen, had gone out to get supplies, but she was ambushed by Heartless assassins. Hearing her screams pierce the sky, Leon rushed to her aide and fended them off. Yuffie could very well defend herself, being The Greatest Female Ninja Ever, but there were way too many Heartless. Armed with claws, ready to tear out flesh and teeth made for sinking into one's heart, the vast number of Heartless attacked. Leon swung his Gunblade and Yuffie threw her ninja stars. Back-to-back, they attacked, but the Heartless kept on coming. Cloud eventually showed up to help them out and it was still hard. Forced to retreat, they headed back to the hotel. Leon scolded Yuffie, but she assured him that she could've handled it. Her confidence was irritating. Did she not see that they nearly died?

He seized her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye and yelled, "Yuffie, you nearly lost your life! Do you know how that would've made me feel?!" The entire room was silent and Cid's, Cloud's, and Aerith's attention were caught. Leon had said that with fiery passion and emotion. Was there more than meets the eye?

Leon slowly released her, not sure of why he said that the way he did.

That was earlier today. Now he gazed up at the stars, as if looking for answers like Yuffie suggested so long ago.

Leon had watched Yuffie grow up. He noticed how she was no longer a little girl, but a young woman. She was beautiful now he had to admit. Her attitudes had changed, from sweet and innocent to perky and confident. Well there's one thing that hadn't changed about her: she was still annoying.

He had a visitor on that balcony. He turned to his right and saw Cloud looking up at the stars as well.

"When did you get here?" he asked. Cloud glanced at him.

"You just noticed?"

Leon chuckled. "Guess I was deep in thought."

"About today? Quite a scare."

"Yeah. Yuffie is so reckless. It feels like I'm babysitting her half the time."

"Didn't you once?"

"Don't remind me."

Silence. Cloud spoke up again.

"Yuffie can very well take care of herself. I know that for a fact. So why do you stick by her?"

Leon looked at the blonde warrior.

"Made a promise."

"Hn?"

"You know when the Heartless took over Hollow Bastion, we lost many people. Yuffie's parents never made it. Their final request was for me to watch over her and protect her. I promised them I would. And I never break a promise."

"Ah."

"Besides…"

Silence.

"Besides what?" Cloud inquired.

"…Nothing." Leon didn't know what he was going to say. But there was definitely another reason he had for watching over Yuffie. He just wasn't sure if he could say it. He wasn't entirely sure of what the reason, either. "I'm going inside. You coming?"

Cloud shook his head and continued stargazing.

Leon walked back inside the hotel room and sat on his bed. Across from him was the other bed with a sleeping form under the covers. Leon got up from his bed and walked over to Yuffie's. He peered at her. She had a bruise on one of her cheeks from the Heartless attack. The brat could've been killed today and yet she was smiling, having sweet dreams.

A half-smile crept across his lips. To be like that, so carefree. It was truly annoying.

"Annoying brat," he muttered. He brushed her bangs off her forehead, admiring her face. His eyes softened. "But she's still cute." He bent down and kissed her forehead. He headed back to his own bed, but the sleeping form wasn't quite sleeping after all.

"Squall?"

Leon turned around, looking at Yuffie. "It's Leon." He corrected, then added, "…and what?"

Yuffie opened her eyes halfway and smiled at him warmly. "Suki da." She said softly.

Leon sat on his bed and looked her in the eye and said just as softly, "Suki da."

He lay down and pulled the covers over himself, drifting off to sleep.

Yuffie giggled softly. She closed her eyes completely, and went to sleep after thinking one final thought for the night:

The poor guy still thought it meant "good-night." One of these days, she'll have to tell him otherwise.

~*Owari*~

Yeesh! What a lengthy one-shot! Is anyone still there? =P

Well, I enjoyed writing it. Did you enjoy reading it? Or did you hate it? Would you like me to continue it? If so, send some ideas my way because I can't think of anything. =P At least not anything that hasn't been done.

Please review! I'd hate to think all this writing was in vain, especially since it took four days to write. I'd love to hear what you all think and any C&C would be very much appreciated.

Sankyuu for your time and have a good day/night!

JAPANESE WORD TRANSLATIONS (simple definitions)

Irrashai – Welcome

Arigatou – Thank you

Aijou – beloved

(O)kaasan – mother

Mata ne – See you soon

Daijobou – Okay/Are you okay?

Demo – but, however

Ano – uh/um

Sugoi – Wow!/Cool!

Wagakokoro – my heart

Suteki da ne? – Isn't it wonderful/beautiful?

(O)tousan – father

Kaineko – pet cat

Kokoro – heart

Ai/Koi – love

Suki da – I love you (more casual than "ai shiteru" which is the super deep version of "I love you.")

Owari - End

If any of this is incorrect, please let me know. I am a beginner, after all.