DISCLAIMER: I have no creative ideas for disclaimers anymore, so I'll simply say "not mine" and leave it at that. Because it's the truth and the truth hurts.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Ahhh, part two! Once again a songfic, with the lyrics edited out so's I can post it up here on ff.n. I think this segment flows slightly better than the other one did when you take out the song lyrics, but that's my opinion. Yeah, I was going for WAFF, but Squall (the bastard) wouldn't let me do it - grrr. But I kinda like that it isn't really very WAFFy, 'cause, I don't know, I'm a nerd like that ;) And I managed to get a little in at the end!
This is the second half of "Simple," the end of this short story, and my first try at writing something from Yuffie-in-the-game's POV ("Last Resort" doesn't count yet 'cause she's still eight, even though I'm kinda writing it out of order). You may notice I used "Leon" when talking about Squall in the last chapter, and "Squall" throughout this chapter except for one segment, and that's because I decided that Squall would refer to himself as Leon but Yuffie would use Squall. It's another way to show who's POV we're in at the time.
Both "Hikari" and "Simple and Clean" are property of Utada Hikaru and various others, and I make no profit nor claim any ownership of those songs. They're simply very good songs - ones that I enjoy and ones that inspired this story. I can only hope I've done them justice.
I'm thinking I could knock this down to a K+ rating. I rated it at T just to be on the "safe side," but it's really pretty mild. Should I change the rating?
Remember, the unedited version of this fic is posted on my LJ (user name "tairako"), which is linked through my author's bio page, as well as tidbits, explanations, discussions, and review replies. Onward!
"Yuffie… what do you feel about me?"
He just had to ask that now, didn't he?
Her relationship with Squall was the most tumultuous and, ironically, one of the most fulfilling of her life. They were more than just partners, they were partners in everything: fighting, eating, arguing. Especially arguing. Their fights could blow the roof off the house and land it in the Coliseum if they let it get out of hand, as they had a few times in the past. Both of them had incredibly strong personalities that wouldn't back down when they thought they were right. She couldn't even remember the number of times they had ended up actually wrestling, still arguing at the top of their lungs (and she always started that and of course he always won, being almost a foot taller and a good seventy pounds heavier, damn him).
But at the same time, they needed each other. While they'd adjusted well and lived comfortably in Traverse Town, both of them needed an outlet for the personalities that were just too big to shut up in the small town, incapable of embracing the space fully as Aerith's had. And they'd found that outlet in each other. She knew what he was thinking; she'd known exactly what he'd take her actions for earlier. Of course it didn't help that he'd figured out the truth.
She supposed it was almost inevitable that she'd fallen for him; knowing a person as thoroughly as she did him was extremely attractive. Not to mention his looks, with all that leather and thin t-shirts and those muscles and that hair and those eyes… Plus the fact that she knew they wouldn't kill each other in a fight was a nice reassurance too, she guessed. But she also knew that he didn't think of her that way at all. She knew he trusted her almost infinitely, but romance? Not happening. Not with her. Not with anyone, if his past track record was any indication; he hadn't had a girlfriend in the nine years since they'd gotten there, not that there hadn't been plenty of opportunities. But until the Heartless were vanquished and the worlds restored, he had one all-consuming goal that completely erased any trace of romance from his mind. She could probably prance around naked in front of him and he'd just throw some clothes at her and tell her to get dressed.
All in all she'd done a good job hiding it, considering it had been going on for a year and a half. Only one instance of panic before today, and nothing said to Aerith. The woman was like her big sister, yes, a wonderful person with wonderful intentions, but she could also be a wonderful meddler when she wanted. She wouldn't put it past her at all to discreetly let the information slip to Squall in order to try and push something into happening, if she didn't have a problem with their age difference, and Yuffie needed to handle this on her own. When she first figured it out she was horrified with her fourteen-year-old self, calling herself stupid for an entire week for getting a crush on someone who was pretty much her teacher. She'd packed it down inside and kept mum, sure that it would die out at some point soon, but the more time went by the more it grew instead of shrinking. It grew from an admiration of his talent and looks, the basis of her and every other Traverse girl's crushes on him, to an appreciation of him for himself, from his ever-stoic front to the occasional glimpses of humor that slipped through every once in awhile to sheer delight in having an argument partner who could match her every comeback. There was almost nothing about him she didn't love – but she didn't want to tell him that.
"Yuffie." His tone rang with warning in the darkness; he had more patience with her than almost anyone else, but she was fast reaching the end of it.
"It's nothing, Squall."
"Leon," he almost snapped, "and yes it is. What?"
Oh, why did men have to be so dense?
"You'll think I'm an idiot," Yuffie muttered into her knees where she'd buried her head. Even in the darkness she didn't want to look at him.
"You not saying anything now is making me think you're an idiot."
She winced. Ouch. But she guessed she kind of deserved it. "…You make me feel… simple."
That took him aback. He was silent for a moment. "…Ignoring what I just said, I don't think you're an idiot, Yuffie."
She groaned into her knees. "No, no, not like that." And sighed. "Simple… uncomplicated. Happy." She mumbled the last word, telling him the truth but hoping he wouldn't probe too far. "We're living in a complicated time, with Sora and the Heartless and everything. We go out and fight and protect these people and that's our job and we're heroes but we're just normal people too, ya know? I don't like living on a pedestal. I thought I did, but now I'd rather just have an uninterrupted night's sleep. They don't tell you the downside at hero school." She shook her head again, almost huffing to herself, trying to get her thoughts in order. "But with you, it's all better. It's like… it's just you, and it's like when we're training, just the two of us, and then the Heartless are nothing more than another drill you've cooked up. It's like we're playing a game, almost. We do all the normal things together, so you keep me locked down into the 'normal' section of life, which is something I really need someone to do or else I'll go stark raving crazy." She took a deep breath to replace the air that had rushed out of her while speaking. "I just… that's it, that's how I feel about you, and I really don't want to stop feeling that way either. I need to feel that way, and I need you to help me do it."
Squall was silent for a long, long time, still standing in the middle of her floor. She could picture him perfectly, in that messed up white t-shirt he'd worn that day that didn't entirely conceal his muscles, arms crossed over his chest with his head tilted downward, allowing his bangs to fall in front of his piercing blue eyes while he stared at the floor, trying to take it all in. "I'm… normal?"
"No… you let me be normal. You let me be Yuffie. Ever try and have a fight with Aerith?" She knew he was shaking his head at the utter futility of that undertaking. "I wanna kill you sometimes and I wanna kiss you sometimes, but that's just a part of life. You confuse the hell outta me, but not in the watch-out-the-world-is-ending way we've seen too many times. It's… it's different from our normal, and I like it."
"…You want to kiss me?" For once, she had no clue if the complete neutrality in his voice was a good thing or a bad thing, and she cursed herself violently for ever letting that slip. Hadn't she wanted to hide the fact that she was really head-over-heals for him? Maybe she should just stop dealing in half-truths with him, he always caught where she left things out. But there was no going back now.
"…Yes," she replied, almost meekly. "I told you you'd think I was stupid."
Without warning, she suddenly heard her bed creak and felt it sink under his weight as he sat down again next to her feet, not any closer – nor farther away – than he had been before. How had she not heard him move? "I… I don't think you're stupid, Yuffie. It's just… a lot to take in."
Yuffie wanted nothing more than to dive under her blankets right then and there, certain she was practically radiating heat with the force of her embarrassment, but they were both sitting on them and there was no way she could move him that easily. Feeling her cheeks glowing like radiators, she turned more towards the wall, hating herself as well for being so weak and girly. "You don't have to talk to me again, if you don't want."
"I think that would be a little difficult," he remarked somewhat dryly, "considering we spend half the day together anyway."
Normally the fact that he didn't just walk away would make her feel better, but she seemed determined to embarrass herself tonight. "You don't have to do that anymore if you don't want to, either."
He sighed, that characteristic sigh of his that was more of a groan. She knew he was fingering the bridge of his nose as he made that noise; she knew all too much about him. "I can't do that, you're my annoying other half." Squall seemed to be completely incapable of giving straight compliments. "But… what do you expect? I've been convincing myself for a year that you didn't… like me that way, and then all of a sudden this all comes out."
"I didn't ask for it to come out, I spent a damn good lot of my time hiding it!" she snapped. "I didn't want to tell you but it just slipped out and I couldn't take it back without you getting more suspicious. God, I wish I could just turn back time and stop this from ever happening," she groaned into her knees. "Life was so much less complicated ten minutes ago."
"I thought you said you liked that I gave you 'normal' problems."
"Oh, grow up."
"I am, Yuf. I did. Or, right now, you are. You're…" Squall paused, which in the darkness was agonizing because she couldn't see his expression, couldn't tell whether he was going to give her a lecture or console her or just leave. "You are…" But apparently he decided to go with the last option, because he sighed heavily again and stood, making the bed creak again as he headed for the door.
"Oh no you don't," Yuffie growled, finally bringing her head up and being rewarded with the sounds of Squall's footsteps ceasing. "You're the one who dragged it outta me, so you get to sit here until I figure this thing out with you."
"And what if I want to go to sleep so I can train well tomorrow?"
"Don't give me that, you already got at least seven hours."
"Yuffie, I want to go to sleep."
"Well I want to erase the past fifteen minutes, and we don't always get what we want so sit down."
"Yuffie, no matter what you say I am going to go t-"
She knew exactly where he was. One special talent she had that he didn't was keen night vision, and once she'd gotten her face out of her kneecaps that white t-shirt of his glowed like a beacon in the scant light that filtered through the window behind her.
So it was no problem to put a shuriken into the door about an inch from his nose.
Squall himself had beat her into the habit of sleeping armed, saying (rightly, though she absolutely hated to admit it) that if they were awoken in the middle of the night for an emergency, she'd be twice as likely to forget her weapons behind her as to remember them, not being the easiest of people to pull out of a sound sleep. With them in easy reach during the night, if there ever was an emergency, she'd grab them out of instinct.
The shuriken landed with a solid THUNK in the door, quivering slightly in front of his eyes only a moment after she'd thrown it. He blinked, but made no other outward reaction other than halt his progress; the door was peppered with other shuriken holes that had collected there over the years of their fights. "Aerith won't like that you put another hole in that door."
In a stark contrast to his neutral voice and his ritual phrase, Yuffie was nearly growling as she responded. "Aerith doesn't care anymore as you damn well know, she knows it's hopeless. Now get over here and sit down or the next one is in your arm."
While she'd said things like that before, she'd been able to detect a tone in her voice that made even her shiver – and clearly put Squall on guard, as she could just see him turning to her and narrowing his eyes in her direction in the dim light. "You never would." Though he managed to keep his neutral tone, she could see enough of his face to know that suddenly it wasn't a joke anymore to him, either. And the one thing she didn't want above anything else was a physical fight – because truthfully, he was frightening in a physical fight. If he wasn't on her side, she'd be running for cover as fast as she could. She could get away, certainly, his speed was no match for hers, but she also knew that would shatter any attempts that might work for fixing this now, with a minimum of damage.
Yuffie forced herself to bite her tongue and hold her breath for a slow count of ten, letting the tension build up within her as she counted, and let it all out in a great whoosh as he just stood there, waiting. Her muscles seemed to turn into overcooked noodles, and she slumped back against the headboard, suddenly much more tired than she had been. "Maybe I should go to sleep, too," she croaked, even her voice sounding overstrained to her ears.
But once again the situation reversed, and Squall relaxed back into his negligent posture, and when he spoke again it actually seemed to be with concern. "You're never going to sleep like this, Yuffie." He was such an expert at hiding himself that no one besides the three of them would be able to detect anything different in his tone, but it was plain as day to Yuffie. And she could easily guess what he was thinking.
Something like "I don't want to do this, I want to avoid this, I just want this to go away." I can't be too far off the mark. I know I'd be like that. If I didn't tease the poor bastard's head off, that is.
He came back toward her at a slow pace, pulling the shuriken from the door before he moved and handing it to her silently when he reached the bed. She put it, just as silently, with the others, not quite looking at him. Instead of blushing, now she was pale, and listless, as if the angry spat had drained all the energy from her. "I'm a complete fool," she said flatly, not turning to him. "I am turning into a complete fool, and I wish you'd kill me now before I do something to seriously embarrass myself."
"You're not a fool, Yuffie." Leon was fantastically confused. All right, Aerith had been correct (and if she found out she'd never let them forget it), but Yuffie was acting nothing like the love struck girls that had sometimes – quite literally – thrown themselves at his feet and proclaimed their undying love for him. Yuffie had laughed at him for days for that… No, no, she wouldn't do that, if only to not act so idiotic. But the way she was acting was such a tempestuous mixture that no sooner had he gotten a grip on one personality then it whirled away into another. He supposed that that was normal; after all, her Deepest Secret had been dragged out of her by the one person that wasn't supposed to know, and to make it even worse they had plenty of history of a thoroughly non-romantic nature between them already. And that history… "You didn't want to ruin the partnership, isn't that correct? You didn't want this to complicate things, or make things worse?"
She nodded and finally looked at him as he easily and correctly deduced her motivations, and didn't shove them back in her face. "You're Sq- Leon," she corrected herself, almost ironically. "I throw shoes at you to get revenge for your training sessions. I'm not exactly the best-looking girl around, y'know, and you've known me for ages and I've known you since I could walk. You could have your pick of the girls in this town if you wanted, but you don't have many other options for a partner out there. And we've been together for so long anyway, that that would only… make things weird," she finished up with a slight shrug. "Weird isn't good, not in a situation where someone might die."
"No, no it isn't," he agreed neutrally, sitting in the same place on her bed for the third time that night. Yuffie supposed she should be glad that he wasn't walking out anymore, but the damage had been done. No matter if Squall was able to put it out of his mind, forget it, she knew she never would. She'd spent too much time hiding it to forget that it was out in the open. And would she ever be able to work in their partnership again…?
His voice broke through her contemplation, and she shook her head a little. "I mean it, Squall. You don't have to keep me as your partner if you don't want to. If it'd be too strange."
"…Would it be too strange for you?" was all he asked, quietly.
It's hard to let it go, Squall, she thought, not missing the irony that he didn't correct her that time for the name slip. Or maybe had chosen not to correct her. You're you and I'm me and we know each other better than anyone and there's a large part of me I couldn't show you but you stumbled on by accident. It's really hard, Squall.
In the dim moonlight, she could see him nod. "Then it isn't too strange for me. We work too well together to break it up."
"Yeah, we do."
Silence fell. And grew more uncomfortable by the minute.
"I should go back to my room," he suddenly said, at the same time she burst out with, "We should sleep, training, y'know." The silence came crashing down on them again as each stopped to let the other continue speaking, and neither took the initiative. It stretched out in the darkness, pushing them apart even though neither was moving, further and further away from each other… closer and closer to cracking the partnership in half.
Until finally he sighed, and stood, boots thudding dully on the floor but not moving from the bed. "I can't promise anything, Yuffie... I'll need a day or two to think about it. So I suppose you can sleep in if you want tomorrow."
She held her tongue, though mentally she was cursing herself with language even Cid would be startled by for even thinking that he would be able to ignore it and go on as if nothing had happened. After all, this was him, and this was her, and this was them. Sparring partners, argument buddies…
Nothing could be the same as it was before.
"But I don't want to lose my partner."
A second later she felt lips press against her forehead, stunning her so much she was unable to say anything, a very rare occurrence. "Get some sleep," he said, voice absolutely no different than usual, and no other physical gestures came before he turned and walked out of the room, before she could shake off her surprise and move.
And when he was gone, the ninja, to her surprise, was able to smile, and whisper, "All right… Squall."
AUTHOR'S NOTES II: .:scuffs the ground with her toe:. Well? Did I fail miserably?