Author's Note: Okay, this is just a quick little one-shot that I wrote for the SquffieLove LJ community when we had a writing contest. Surprisingly, it won, even though there was a tie for awhile. Although, the only reason it won was because the person who I was tied with voted for mine. But, anyways, I'm a review junkie, so I thought I would post it here and let you guys review it for me.
[Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or the characters therein. If I did, I think most of you guys have read enough of my work to know what I would do with that certain Gunblade wielder, don't you?]
NOW OR NEVER
Yuffie hastily walked down the winding staircase found deep within the fortress of Hollow Bastion, her hand barely sliding across the smooth oaken railing as she quickened her pace. The phrase 'now or never' kept repeating itself over and over again in her mind until she was sure the repetition would cause her head to surely explode. Finally reaching the bottom of the staircase, she reached out to push the large doors open to let herself into the waterway under the castle. The very place were she was sure to find Squall Leonhart, both her partner and her crush from the time she was thirteen years old. With her palm flat on the door, she paused, taking a deep breath to steady her nerves while she thought about the past few months.
Three months ago to the day, Sora had defeated Ansem. At least, everyone assumed he had defeated Ansem. No one had seen the young Keyblade Master or his companions since they took their Gummi ship and flew to the strange world that had appeared past Hollow Bastion. But, people believed Ansem had been defeated simply because the Heartless had disappeared and the world barriers had been restored. So, for the past three months, Yuffie had been living within the walls of Hollow Bastion with her companions.
Of course, it had been a rough three months at that. When Cloud returned from who knows where, everything had been in turmoil. For if Cloud, a friend they had all believed to be dead, could return, who else among their past companions could also return. Everyone had a secret hope inside their heart that a parent, best friend, or lover would someday return to them. Even the stoic Squall Leonhart, a man everyone believed had an ice cube for a heart, would sit for hours on end upon the balcony of the Great Crest and simply stare at the sky, as though he were waiting for a ship to appear carrying his loved one. And many a time, Yuffie had secretly watched from her own balcony, all the while silently cursing the one she believed he waited for.
Although she had only been seven years old at the time of the fall of the Bastion, she could still vividly remember following her hero, the then sixteen year old Squall Leonhart. And everywhere he went, his girlfriend Rinoa was sure to be there with him, making him laugh when others had failed. She managed to break through the icy wall he had erected around himself when his parents died, leaving him an orphan at the age of twelve.
The seven year old Yuffie, even practicing her ninja skills then, would sneak around, hiding behind pillars and watch the two teenagers share soft kisses when they thought no one was looking. And the young ninja would have to quickly clamp a hand over her mouth to prevent herself from singing the 'K-I-S-S-I-N-G' song her babysitter Aerith Gainesborough had taught her.
And, now, nearly nine and a half years later, the seventeen year old Yuffie, who had been forced to grow up when Hollow Bastion had fallen, would still sneak around and follow her idol, only to watch him mope over someone everyone knew was dead. They had all seen the Heartless attack and kill Rinoa, pulling her heart out and leaving only her still, lifeless body behind. And they had all watched Squall race across the chapel to her fallen form, clutching her and willing her to live. It was on that day that Yuffie watched her idol Squall Leonhart become Leon before her very eyes.
Shaking her head to clear the flood of memories from her mind, Yuffie took another breath as she pushed open the door and entered the waterway, her eyes searching the darkened area for Squall, or Leon, as he insisted everyone call him. The swishing sound of a blade slicing through the air gave away his position, causing her to nervously smile as she remembered the reason she had come down here. "Now or never, Yuf," she quietly whispered to herself as she stealthily crossed the room to her partner. She had always relished the few times she had managed to sneak up on the man, though they were few and far between.
"Now or never what?" Leon asked as he swung his blade in a wide arc, slicing the imaginary enemies he always fought down here. Although at times, it seemed his adversaries were not imaginary, but actually his own demons that he found himself facing day after day. He turned around to find the ninja glaring at him, her arms crossed over her chest before she threw her hands into the air in defeat.
"How do you do it?" Yuffie questioned in frustration as she leaned against the cold, stone wall and pulled a shuriken out to polish, a nervous habit she had picked up years ago when she had first begun carrying the stars. As she rubbed the cloth over the metal surface, she kept her head lowered but watched Leon through the ebony bangs that fell over her eyes.
Lowering his Gunblade to the ground and leaning upon the hilt, Leon watched the ninja curiously, knowing full well that she only polished her stars when she was anxious. "How do I do what?"
Yuffie raised her head and looked at him incredulously, her indigo eyes wide as she rolled them. "How do you always know when I'm coming? I mean, I didn't make a noise. I wouldn't even have been able to hear myself coming."
"I heard you talking to yourself. You said something about it being 'now or never.'" Curious, he watched as she squirmed under his eyes, her own eyes lowered and refusing to meet his gaze. "Now, what were you talking about?"
At his inquiry, the ninja's head shot up and her eyes took on the look of an animal caught in headlights. "N-n-nothing," she stuttered, cursing her tongue for causing her to trip over her words. Now was not the time for the traitorous muscle to make her sound weak. Now was the time for strength... that is, if she was ready for this. But, the repeating phrase of 'now or never' began to grow in intensity, causing her to clutch her head and wince.
Leon watched as her small hands flew to her ears as if they were trying to block out some unwanted noise. His azure eyes narrowed in worry as he realized that there was nothing in the room making any noise, except for him and her. "Yuffie, what's wrong?" he questioned softly as he grabbed her elbows and forcibly lowered her arms.
"The voices... the voices, Squall. Please..." she pleaded as she struggled to remove her arms from his grasp and recover her ears. Somewhere deep inside her, she knew the voices were only in her head. But the rational part of her being was roughly shoved aside as a new chorus began chanting 'now or never.' As the voices grew even louder, she dropped to her knees, still clutching her head tightly within her hands.
Genuinely afraid his young partner might be losing her grip on reality, Leon quickly scooped her up in his arms and cradled her to his chest as he raced out the door and up the winding staircase to the North wing of the castle, the wing Aerith and Cloud had claimed as their own. Normally, he would leave the newly reunited couple to themselves, only venturing there when he acquired a wound that demanded to be healed. But, with Yuffie rapidly losing her lucidity, he decided that now would be a time for the flower girl to work her healing magic... that is, if she could heal a broken mind.
Somewhere in the back recesses of her psyche, Yuffie realized that she was in the place she had yearned to be for the past four years, in Squall's arms. But, the ever growing sea of voices screaming 'now or never' quickly doused that thought as their volume reached a new intensity. She began crying out Squall's name, tears streaming down her face and wetting his white t-shirt.
Sparing a quick glance down at her when he heard his name, Leon forced his legs to carry them even faster to the North wing. "It's okay, Yuffie. Everything's going to be okay," he soothingly murmured as he ran, not knowing if she could hear him in the cage her mind had constructed around itself, but he sincerely hoped she could. The thought of her going through this undeserved anguish tore his heart in two, especially when he thought of how cold he had been to her since the fall of the Bastion.
A last turn to the right in the long hallway brought them to the Aerith and Cloud's doorway. Leon slid to a stop before he crashed into it, injuring both him and the girl in his arms. Seeing as his hands were full and he was unable to knock, the Gunblade wielder did the next best thing. He swiftly kicked the door with his left foot and bellowed for the flower girl to let him in, all the while still managing to keep his balance and not drop the ninja to the marble floor below.
The thick oaken door swung open, revealing an obviously worried Aerith in a pink flowing robe and an annoyed looking Cloud behind her, clad only in his pajama bottoms. "Leon, I know you like to get up this early, but other people like to sleep in. So, you better have a good reason--" The blonde man was cut off when he heard a loud gasp come from Aerith, causing him to look over her shoulder and realize that Leon was carrying a distraught ninja in his arms.
"Put her on the bed," Aerith commanded as she opened the door wider and gently pushed Cloud out of the way. Wrapping the robe around her form tighter, she ran across the room and sat on the edge of the bed near the ninja, who was still clutching her head and crying. "What happened, Leon?"
"I don't know. She came down to the waterway, mumbling something about 'now or never.' And when I asked her about it, her eyes went wild and she clutched her head, muttering something about voices," Leon explained as he stood at the side of the bed, not wanting to leave Yuffie's side.
Closing her bright green eyes, the flower girl began mumbling soft and soothing words with her hands hovering over the ninja's small body. When she heard Yuffie's cries soften and then quit completely, she opened her eyes and stood up. "That should help," Aerith said as she began to pace in front of the bed. The two men in the room gave her questioning looks, demanding answers with only their eyes. "I put her to sleep. It was the only way I could think of to make her calm down," she explained as she tiredly massaged her temples.
"Aerith, is she going to be okay?" Leon demanded, taking the flower girl roughly by her shoulders and making her look at him. The thought of losing Yuffie, his Yuffie as he did Rinoa sent his mind spiraling down into madness. It was at this very moment that he realized how much the ninja meant to him. How much she did to him. How much he needed her.
"I don't know, Leon. I really don't." The flower girl let out a soft sigh and slipped from the man's grasp, turning to look at the bed while she bit her lower lip. "It's up to her, really. I can't get into her mind anymore than you can. She has to sort this out on her own." She walked over to the bedside, taking Yuffie's wrist in her hand and checking the pulse. "Let's move her to her own room. She needs to wake up in familiar surroundings."
Cloud moved to pick her up, only to find that Leon had beat him to it. The Gunblade wielder carefully carried her out of the room, causing the two left behind to stare in wonder as he left them. "You don't think he..." Cloud began, turning to his wife with confused blue eyes.
"Of course he does. And so does she. They're just too stubborn to admit it," Aerith said quietly as she turned back to the blonde. "And I think that might be part of her problem. She's been squelching these emotions for years now. And I believe they are finally starting to get to her."
I'm floating, Yuffie thought dazedly as she looked around her. Everywhere she looked, she only saw hazy white. As far as her eyes could see, there was only the same hazy white. Even below her, where, by rights, the ground should be, was only the hazy whiteness of this strange place she was in. "Where am I?" she asked out loud, not expecting an answer in the vast place of nothingness.
"You're in your mind, Yuffie," a voice answered, seeming to come from everywhere all at once.
Scared, the ninja looked around quickly, trying to find the owner of the strangely familiar voice. "Who are you?" she questioned timidly, wrapping her arms around herself and wishing she had her shuriken in this place, if only to give her a false sense of protection.
"Who am I? Why, I'm you." As soon as this was said, a mirror image of herself appeared in front of the ninja, walking across the nothing with her hand outstretched in greeting.
"What do you mean, 'you're me'?"
"I'm the part of you you've been pushing back. I'm the little voice that's been telling you now or never for the past year," the mirror self said matter of factly, smiling in the same way that Yuffie always smiled.
The real Yuffie glared at the other Yuffie. "You're the one who drove me to this?!" she yelled, pointing her finger in accusation. "Why?"
"Because, this is the only way you'll listen. You need to tell him or else you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive," the mirror Yuffie replied, nodding her head.
The real Yuffie bit the inside of her cheek and looked around the area in apprehension before turning back to the mirror Yuffie. "Just one problem, how do I get out of here?"
"Just open your eyes."
"Just open your eyes." As the mirror Yuffie said this, her voice began to change, becoming a deep timbre, becoming a voice she had grown to love over the past few years. She slowly opened her eyes to see Squall sitting on the edge of her bed and stroking her hand.
The bright light of the room caused her to wince and with great weariness she brought her arm across her eyes. "Squall?" she murmured softly as she felt his fingers stop their soothing ministrations upon her hand.
"Yes, Yuffie?" he asked quietly, not wanting to disturb the silence in the room, the silence that had stayed in the room for the past eight hours until he could no longer stand it and had begged her to open her eyes moments before, never believing she would actually do so.
"Wha-" she stopped herself, about to ask what had happened when she remembered the conversation she had conducted with herself just moments before. "Squall, when I went down to the waterway this morning, I wanted to tell you something," she began, taking the arm off her eyes and turning to look out the window.
"Shhh," he murmured, taking her hand within his own once more and beginning to stroke the smooth skin once again. "Don't worry about it now. You just need to concentrate on getting better right now."
Yuffie rolled her eyes before turning back to look at him. "That's why I have to tell you. It's the reason I went bonkers down there." She took a deep breath and pulled her hand out of Squall's and laid it across her stomach with the other. "I wanted to tell you..." she paused, looking into his eyes and momentarily getting lost within their stormy depths. "I wanted to tell you that I... I... love you." She quickly turned her head away as she heard his sharp intake of breath, tears already forming in her eyes. "I know you don't love me and I know you still miss Rinoa, but I had to tell you. Keeping it bottled up was slowly killing me from the inside. And I'll-"
Leon stopped the flood of words from coming out of her mouth when his lips pressed firmly against hers, causing her to look at him with wild eyes. He slowly raised his head, giving her one of his rare smiles before answering her questioning look. "Yuffie, you didn't let me answer you. You didn't let me tell you that I love you, too."
"You do? But... but... you never acted like it," she protested, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
"I didn't know it until today, when you had your... episode, for lack of a better word." He pressed his forehead to hers, his long brown hair falling around her face.
Her old confidence coming back, Yuffie smiled slyly at him with a twinkle in her eye. "So, if I hadn't gone crazy down there, we'd still be back at square one, huh?" Squall nodded before lowering his lips back down to hers in a more intense kiss than before. "Good, 'cause if going insane always has results like this, then I'm going to make it a habit," she whispered when his lips left hers before pulling him down onto the mattress beside her.
Author's Note: Well, there you go. I hope you liked it. Eventually, I might take this down and expand it into a chaptered story. But, for now, it remains as is.