Author's Note: Okay. So, I was listening to the radio on the way to school and "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down came on. And my muse just goes crazy and creates a whole scenario for the song. BUT, I really don't feel like taking the time to make this little one-shot plot fit in exactly with the lyrics, so we'll just SAY that this story is INSPIRED by "Here Without You" and not an actual songfic. Kay?
A little explanation about the format in case it's hard to understand. The first paragraph is the present, then at the scene break line, I backtrack some, and then I'll eventually get back to the present again. But, this is a one-shot, so it'll all be right here. And this fic is more narrative in the first half or so than anything else... so, hang with me.
And I started this fic about a month ago, but have had the worst writer's block with EVERYTHING. So, now that you're reading this, it means the fic has been finished and I want to dedicate it to all the members of the Squffielove community at livejournal for listening to me complain about my stress and monstrously large stainless steel writer's block. I especially want to thank MysticAngel, Annjirika, and Ellyrianna for giving me writer's block destruction advice. Let's just say that the block for this story is now a molten puddle of metal for now. And Vulpes Lapis and Pingpong for just listening to me gripe about the block sometimes. Mental constipation, eh VL?
–Disclaimer: I only own the plot. Everything else is copyrighted to Disney and Square.
HERE WITHOUT YOU
Sitting on the edge of the bed he once shared with Yuffie in the Green Room, Squall dragged a trembling hand through his hair while the other fingered a shuriken. As he ran his thumb along the sharp edges, he winced ever so slightly when the metal sliced through his skin and allowed the blood to fall unheeded to the worn carpet below. The pain in his thumb was nothing compared to the mental anguish he had been suffering from for the past three months. To him, however, the events of that day three months ago seemed as though they had happened only moments before.
- - - - - - - - - - -
It had been nearly three years since Sora had disappeared into the darkness, and in those three years, the world barriers had fallen once more and Heartless activity had increased to the point where it was worse than when Ansem had been in power. Traverse Town, finding itself without the heroes that had once protected it, sent word to Hollow Bastion, begging their past protectors to return.
That was the chance the lion and the ninja had been waiting for, the chance to escape the painful memories of the past they found themselves unable to cope with. Aerith and Cloud followed reluctantly behind the two warriors; the flower girl claiming that they would need someone to heal them after battle and Cloud going to protect his wife. Yes, the two had married soon after they were reunited and had refused to be separated since then.
And while love was in full-bloom with the newly married couple, it had just started to blossom between Squall and Yuffie soon after that. It had shocked everyone to learn that the stoic Leon everyone knew had fallen for the perky ninja. It had even shocked Yuffie, who had believed her love for the swordsman would continue to go unrequited. But the night that Squall had kissed her quite suddenly in the middle of a heated argument had quickly changed that viewpoint.
They had plunged headfirst into the relationship, sharing a bed and more within a month. Squall decided he was lucky that Cid had never had good aim or the swordsman would have found a bullet lodged in his groin when the Gummi pilot discovered that his adoptive daughter wasn't quite so innocent any longer. As it was, the bullet had grazed Squall's thigh and Yuffie had to help him limp to Aerith for healing, where both the lion and the ninja received a lecture which went unheeded.
But that event was a little over a year ago and Aerith, Cloud, and even Cid came to accept the relationship, especially when they realized how committed to each other the two were despite the almost nine year age gap.
The plea for help from Traverse Town had arrived about seven months ago, and after a month of deliberating whether they should go or not, with Squall and Yuffie leaning towards going while everyone else thought they should stay at Hollow Bastion, the two swordsmen, flower girl, and ninja had finally returned to the eternally dark town. It had been decided that Cid would take care of things at their past home and inform them if they were needed for anything.
Their arrival in Traverse Town was a quiet one, surprising the warriors as they had been expecting at least the mayor of the town to greet them. But, when the first Heartless emerged in front of the World's Exit in the First District, a place formerly free of the creatures, the group realized that things were worse than they had originally believed. Apparently, the timid townspeople were being held prisoner in their own town, terrified to emerge from their houses for fear of being attacked.
Taking their positions, Cloud, Squall, and Yuffie quickly dispatched the first wave of shadow type Heartless, amazed at the strength these previously weak creatures now possessed. And over the noises of the battle, Aerith's dulcet voice could heard as she chanted healing spells for her comrades and occasionally threw a fire or thunder spell at the shadows.
It wasn't long before a second and even third wave of Heartless, this time including various flying Heartless, attacked, tiring the warriors more than they would like to admit. But, after the third wave, no more creatures appeared in the First District and the group hurriedly ran to the hotel entrance, taking the back way to avoid more battles.
At the hotel, they found the desk clerk hiding behind the desk, cowering at the clanking noise that accompanied Squall, courtesy of his four belts. It was then that Yuffie realized that noise sounded almost exactly like a Defender pacing the hallways and she doubled over in laughter, causing the terrified clerk to peek over the desk and see the returning protectors. Without a word, he handed them the keys to the rooms they had earlier occupied, but unlike before, Yuffie gladly shared a room with her lover rather than Aerith, who was more than happy to stay in the same room as her husband.
For three months, the four of them ventured out from the hotel, battling the seemingly never ending waves of Heartless. As soon as one district was completely cleared, they would move onto the next which would have been a good plan had not the Heartless become more intelligent than they were before and would quickly take over the newly cleared district. That was when Squall, the makeshift leader of the small group, decided that it would be best for one member of the team to patrol the cleared districts while the others continued to battle in the others. And it was Yuffie who volunteered to go on the patrols, claiming that the two swordsmen could more efficiently destroy the Heartless in the 'infected' districts together and would need Aerith for her magic while she, herself, could rely on her ninja speed and grace to slay any unfortunate Heartless that crossed her path. Begrudgingly, Squall agreed that she was right and left her alone in the newly cleared Second District while the rest of them went to clear the Third District.
It was a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
After a particularly grueling battle in the large open area of the Third District, the exhausted swordsmen and healer trudged through the large double doors leading to the First District, having told Yuffie earlier to meet them at the café for dinner that night. Seeing the ninja had not yet arrived, the trio sat down to patiently await the girl, knowing that she had never learned the definition of 'punctual.' But, after waiting for half an hour with still no sign from her, Squall began to grow anxious and left the married couple while he went to search for his ninja.
A sense of dread filled him upon reaching the Second District doors, a seemingly unnatural silence saturating the air around the large, oaken doors. Without a second thought, the Gunblade wielder threw open the doors and watched as his world shattered down around him for the second time in his life, the first time being when he looked on helplessly as a certain young sorceress had her heart ripped out from her chest and devoured in front of him.
The district lay in shambles, dark pools of Heartless blood staining the cobblestones as they slowly evaporated into the night air. Unique ninja stars littered the walls and storefronts; their windows having been shattered in the battle that had rampaged through the area. Squall realized that, once again, he had underestimated the new found intelligence of the creatures as they had obviously attacked the district while it was under the protection of one lone warrior.
All thoughts save one flew from the swordsmen head as he rushed into the battlefield, his eyes scanning the area as he called out her name. He only grew more panicked when he didn't hear her perky voice making a teasing remark about how she didn't know he cared. At this point, any reply, even a whimper or groan, from Yuffie would have been a welcome relief because that would mean she was still alive.
After scouring the area for an hour, Squall very nearly retreated back into the First District to grab Cloud and Aerith, hoping the extra eyes would aide him in his relentless search. In the back of his mind, he wondered why the couple had not yet come to check on them, but dismissed it when he caught a glimpse of something pale peeking out from beneath a pile of charred Heartless flesh that had yet to dissipate and he soon found himself racing across the courtyard to that small corner, tucked between the base of the Gizmo Shop clock and the easternmost wall.
Gloved hands quickly tugged the dark bodies aside, vaguely realizing that it was a thunder spell that had destroyed them. But that thought didn't stay in his mind long when he found the frayed ends of Yuffie's yellow scarf and followed that to her ashen face, her face calm as though she were only asleep. He prayed fervently that would prove to be true, as unlikely as it was. However, when she responded to neither his touch nor his voice, he feared the worst and quickly searched for a pulse.
It was there, beating just faintly beneath her skin, but still beating. Finding himself not able to do anything else, Squall sat down next to her and pulled her into his arms, using his upper body as a shield to protect her from the rain that began to fall from the sky in torrents.
That was how Cloud and Aerith found them only minutes later, Squall drenched from the rain as he hunched over Yuffie and Yuffie lying there too still for the hyperactive ninja.
- - - - - - - - - -
And now it was three months later with no change in Yuffie's condition. Cure spells only healed the minor cuts and scrapes found on her body, but nothing could bring her out of the coma she had been in since the day Squall found her limp body. Doctors in the small and overcrowded hospital only gave her passing glances, deciding that since there had been no brain activity from the night she was brought there, there was little hope on her making a recovery. Even Cloud and Aerith were beginning to mourn for their friend, as though she were already dead. And what little hope Squall had remaining was beginning to wane a little more each day while his guilt in the matter only grew.
So, it was sitting there on the barely-slept-in bed that Squall toyed with one of her ninja stars, ignoring the slight pain as the edge sliced his thumb. He had been trained to deal with physical pain, but emotional pain was another matter entirely and it was slowly destroying him. The soft sound of his blood hitting the carpet below finally pulled him out his reverie and icy blue eyes watched impassively as the drops gathered and the stain slowly grew bigger.
Without realizing it, the blood slowly mesmerized him, his eyes following each drop of the life-giving substance as it fell from the slice in his thumb to the floor below. And as the wound slowly clotted, his sleep-deprived mind quickly sliced it open once more, deeper this time, to watch the more steady flow.
A small circle of the carpet was now saturated with the red substance, but it wasn't enough. Squall wanted the whole floor to be flooded with his blood, perhaps hoping it would cleanse his body of the guilt-tainted blood. Or, perhaps, it was the idea that since it had essentially been his hand that led Yuffie to slaughter, it should be by a weapon once held by her hands that ended his life. But, either way, he felt as though he needed the blood flow to increase.
Shifting the shuriken to his wounded hand, bloodstained fingers shakily brought the equally bloodstained edge of the ninja star, a star that had been in countless battles and had been held almost tenderly by its owner, to his wrist in preparation of the quick downward slice.
Slender fingers wrapped the hand holding the weapon and prevented the action from ever happening.
Squall was about to raise his head and berate Aerith for stopping him when he realized that the hand holding his did not belong to the flower girl. There was only one woman he knew who bit her nails to the quick yet still managed to keep a lethal look about her hands.
Hardly daring to believe, icy blue eyes slowly trailed up from the hands to the arm and then to the face to be met with the vivid indigo eyes of only one ninja. "Yuffie," he breathed softly, blinking a few times to make sure he wasn't seeing things.
"Squall, I know these things are made for killing, but not for killing yourself," she chastised as she pulled the star out of his hand, finding it relatively easy since he was still in a state of shock. Expertly, she twirled the star in her fingers for a few moments before setting it down upon the dresser and turned her eyes back upon the still figure on the bed.
"Are you... are you really here?" Squall finally managed to stammer out after finding his voice, having had to clear his throat a few times even then to work past the lump forming there.
Her nose wrinkled as he asked that question while she thought for a moment. Not finding a satisfactory answer, or an answer that would be satisfactory to him, she sat down on the bed next to him. "I'm here in a sense, but my body is still over there in the hospital," Yuffie explained, hoping that would suffice as she couldn't explain it any better.
Squall seemed to mull it over for a minute or two, his mind still in shock at not only what he had been about to do, but also that Yuffie appeared to be in the room with him. For him, that left two explanations for the current situation: one, he had finally lost his mind, or, two, she was dead and her ghost, even though he had always adamantly denied the existence of such beings, was visiting him. But, seeing that he seemed to have all his facilities about him (does a crazy person know when their crazy? he pondered then ignored), he decided to question the second option as much as her answer might kill him. "Are you dead?"
That seemed to take her by surprise as she jumped off the bed and whirled around, staring at him in absolute terror. "Dead! I better not be dead! When I left that place, the machine I was hooked up to was still beeping that infernal noise it's been making since they put me there." She paused a moment, then raised a hand to her forehead and started pacing the floor as she had done countless times before when trying to think something out.
"I must be dreaming," Squall muttered as he slowly shook his head and brought his unwounded hand up to rub his eyes. Since it was apparently a dream, he decided to play along with it and hopefully awaken soon. "If you're not dead, then what are you doing out of your body?"
"Hm?" Yuffie questioned, confusion marring her features as she hadn't been paying attention to him but rather was still pacing across the floor. "Oh! Yeah... I don't know how it happened, per say, but I've been like this ever since that Heartless attack. You get used to it after awhile." She paused in her pacing long enough to answer him, then launched herself at him and wrapped her arms around his chest in a tight hug. "And let me tell you how glad I was when you finally pulled those Heartless bodies off of me. I mean, grossness!"
If it was a dream, then Squall had never had a dream as vivid yet as surreal as this one; her grip around him was surprisingly lifelike and he could smell her orange blossom shampoo in her hair as he buried his face in it. Regrettably, he pulled away, not wanting to divulge in this dream much longer. "Then why didn't I see you before?" he asked, hoping that perhaps by using logic he could end this dream. As nice as it was to see her, it would only serve to cause him more pain when he awoke and found her still in a coma.
"I dunno," she shrugged as she dropped her arms from him and sat down beside him on the bed. "I could see all of you guys and I kept trying to talk to you but it didn't work. So, I eventually just gave up and just sat there in that hospital. And, the stories I could tell you about those doctors and nurses. Being invisible and kinda ghostlike has its perks. I mean, this one nurse and doctor kept sneaking off into the closet anytime no one was watching and I followed them one day–."
Squall cut her off, running a hand down his face. Only Yuffie (or dream Yuffie since he was still holding fast to that theory) could still find something funny about being out of her body. "Yuffie, what are you doing here?"
She stuck her lower lip out in that familiar pout, the one she had found him to be particularly vulnerable to, and her eyes went big in what she had termed the 'patented Yuffie puppy eyes.' "You don't want me here?" she said softly, picking at her cuticles on her right hand while she awaited his answer.
"It's not that, Yuf," Squall sighed, falling backwards onto the bed and staring at the ceiling with his hands resting on his abdomen. "It's just... this is only a dream..." He trailed off, seeing her vigorously shaking her head at that and about to interrupt him. "Or, if it's not a dream, then why did it take so long for you to get here?"
"I've been trying, Squall! But it's hard to get this far away from my body. I'm surprised I was able to this time." Her voice took on first, a frustrated tone that then changed to a slightly scared tone, her voice trembling at the last statement and its the implications. "Since you didn't ask about it, I'm assuming you can't see it. But, there's this long silver rope attached to me right here," she pointed to right below her breastplate at where her solar plexus was, "and it's connected to my body. The farther away from my body I get, the thinner the rope gets. Usually, if I get more than ten feet away, it snaps me back. But... it didn't this time. I don't think that's good."
Squall reached up from his prone position, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her down onto the mattress next to him. "Then why did you come here in the first place?" he asked softly as he gently stroked her back, wondering how someone who was without a corporeal body right now could feel so real.
"I just..." she trailed off and rested her head upon his chest, listening to his heartbeat which sounded incredibly loud and almost foreign in her ears. "Something told me I needed to be here tonight so I just kinda fought with the rope the whole way here. Not that I haven't tried before," she quickly amended, seeing the slightly hurt look on his face. "And apparently, I was needed here tonight. I mean, Squall, you had the shuriken against your wrist! What were you thinking!"
"It's my fa–."
Yuffie cut him off before he could finish his sentence. "And don't give me that crap that it's your fault that I'm in the hospital right now. We both know that's not true. I'm the one who told you I would be fine. And I would've been if I hadn't been so cocky out there and practically begged the Heartless to come out and fight."
"But I should have–."
"Squall! It is not your fault! How many times do I have to tell you that?!" Yuffie sat up from the bed and stared down at him, noticing for the first time since she had been there the dark rings around his eyes and the completely worn look on his face. She had seen from her silent and invisible position the countless hours he would spend at the hospital, just sitting in the room with her. Her voice softened and she lay back down next to him, curling up against him like she had done every other night they had shared a bed. "You need to get some sleep, Squall. You're tired and you're not thinking straight."
Sighing, he realized she was right; he was tired. Ever since her accident, he had only gotten a handful of hours of sleep per week. Added onto that was the fact that Traverse Town still needed someone to defend it and Cloud and Aerith couldn't do it alone. But, if Yuffie was with him right now, he didn't want to sleep and wake up without her. Or, if it was only a dream, he didn't want it to end. However, he found it almost impossibly hard to keep his eyes open with the comfort of her lying next to him soothing his soul. "Will you be here in the morning?" he whispered as sleep began to descend upon him.
"I... I don't know," Yuffie quietly admitted, closing her eyes to hide the tears forming in the back of them from Squall. "I don't know if the rope will snap me back or if... if... it'll just break off in the middle." At that, she felt his grip on her tighten and she regretted telling him. "I'll try my hardest to be here in the morning."
Not thinking of anything to say to that, Squall simply told her the first words he could think of. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Yuffie whispered back, snuggling into him and offering what comfort she could as he fell into a deep sleep.
- - - - - - - - - -
The next morning, Squall awoke to find himself alone on the bed, still lying atop the sheets and blankets. He had hoped to find Yuffie still curled up next to him, but she wasn't. In fact, if it hadn't been for the lingering scent of orange blossom in the room, he would have dismissed the events of the previous night as an extremely vivid dream. But, that scent let him hold onto that shred of hope that it wasn't a dream.
A look at the clock hanging over the door showed that it was nearing noon, the latest that he had slept... well... since he was a teenager. Usually, he would awaken before seven and in the last three months, he rarely slept for longer than three hours at a time. Yet, last night, he had slept for twelve straight hours without disturbance.
Just as he was rising from the bed to prepare for that day's visit to the hospital, something he did first thing in the morning, before he even ate his breakfast or trained, a gentle knocking sounded on his door. "It's open," he called out, knowing it was either Cloud or Aerith coming to check on him since it was so late in the day.
Aerith timidly stepped into her room, tiny rivulets of tears running down her face. "Leon," she began with a quiver in her voice. "The hospital just called..."
Squall spun around at that word, and seeing the tears on the flower girl's face, he feared the worst and ran out of the room before she could finish her sentence. Yuffie's words from the night before flew back into his mind. "The farther away from my body I get, the thinner the rope gets. Usually, if I get more than ten feet away, it snaps me back. But... it didn't this time. I don't think that's good."
Upon reaching the hospital, he pushed past the doctors and nurses, ignoring their demands that he stop, and ran to Yuffie's room. She was still lying on the bed, in the same position she had been in for the past three months... only, the reassuring beeps from the machine she had been hooked up to were no longer there. In fact, the machine was not even in the room any longer.
Fighting back tears, Squall sat down on the chair next to her bed, assuming that since the machine was gone, Yuffie had to be gone as well. He gently took her limp hand in his and lowered his head to the mattress, letting the tears fall onto the sheets where they would be hidden from any observer.
But, the feel of weak fingers sifting through his hair caused him to jerk his head up to find indigo eyes looking down at him from the head of the bed. "I figured it would be better for me to wake up here than beside you this morning," Yuffie whispered, her voice hoarse from three months of disuse.
Before she could say more, Squall wrapped her in a fierce hug and buried his face in the crook of her neck. "Don't leave me again," he breathed against her skin.
Sorry if the fic is unbelievable or too sappy or too crappy or anything. But, I'm working through a major writer's block and decided that I would just force myself to write this even though I wanted to give up countless times. Anyways, for the readers of "Honor Amongst Thieves," I WANT to update this week, but I'm not sure if I can. I'm still having issues on how to write the next chapter. And I have other story ideas begging for attention that I might have to pursue in order to get back into the writing habit. But, fear not, HAT has not been abandoned. Just put on hold for now. I will continue it because that story is very close to my heart. Oh, and the deal with Yuffie's silver rope thingy connecting her to her body, I read about something like that in this book by Christopher Pike... uh... "The Witch," I think. So, yeah... it's not completely out there... it came from somewhere. :)