Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII.

AN: Sorry for the long delay in updates…I have been "enjoying" Statistics for while, haha…but anyway, here's the next chapter! And yes, I do play the piano, so there will be a bit of musical vocabulary. nods as she munches toast at four in the afternoon Don't ask why I eat toast in the afternoon.

Arg...I've been influenced by too much Tsubasa Chronicles. Now I can visualize everything I write in a series of CLAMP style panels on the page. If only I could draw as well as they do...then I'd do a doujinshi.

Soundtrack: "You Are My Love..." from the Tsubasa Chronicles OST


"Okay, we're going to train here for a while, everybody," said Cloud as the members of AVALANCHE lounged about on the Nibelheim inn's beds in various states of fatigue, unpacking with slow motions. "It's more comfortable than staying in the mountains, so don't complain. Now we need to discuss some important matters."

Yuffie groaned loudly. "Oh gawd! Don't we have something better to do? This is so boring!"

Cloud ignored her. "This is a matter of grave importance. All members of the team have to pay attention, and that includes certain ninjas." Cloud turned to give her a sly glance, only to find that Yuffie had already crept to the wardrobe and was attempting to reach the megaelixir on the high shelf inside. "Yuffie!"


"Pay attention! For once, we're all together when we're not fighting some huge monster and screaming our heads off, so we might as well talk about our equipment!"

Reluctantly, Yuffie slunk down from the cabinet and jumped to the ground. She looked around for a comfortable-looking seat and found none. And neither did she find a certain person. "Hey Cloud. Vincent's missing."

"What?" A quick glance verified that. Cloud groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "We need everybody here for this. Yuffie, go look for him and bring him back."

"Why me?"

"Because you weren't paying attention."

"Hey, you're starting to sound like an elementary school teacher. Always telling us to pay attention like we're little kids. What are you going to next? Tell me to stand in the corner and carry your big-ass sword over my head for punishment? I might as well start calling you Miss Cloud! Isn't that why you bought the little blue dress with all the pink bows?"

Cloud's face was gradually turning a lovely shade of pink that was rather reminiscent of said bows, and at this point, Yuffie decided that it was an excellent time to high tail it out of there. "Okay, you all have a nice day that's free of killing Yuffie's! I'll be back soon!" she cried as she leapt straight out of the inn's window to drop to the ground two stories below.

The town square was bathed in midday sun, and the heat rose from the cobbled path ways in curling tendrils of distorted air. The air was humid, and her hair immediately stuck to the sides of her face as sweat began to bead on her skin. It was the type of day when no one ventured out, when everyone slept the afternoon away in the cool darkness of their wooden houses. As she skirted the blinding liquid sun of the square, Yuffie walked into the weapon smith's shop in search of shade.

"Hello?" She knocked on the rough wooden door, but no one answered. "They sure are friendly to customers," she muttered, and turned away. Shading her eyes with a hand, she stepped out across the square with a wince as the sun burnt into her skin. "Now where's Mr. Tall, Dark, and Depressing?" Her eyes fell on the imposing, decrepit edifice that stood at the outskirts of town.

"Shinra Mansion, huh?" she said with a slight sigh. The mansion's character certainly suited Vincent very well, but she never felt at ease in the place. It had the old, sick air of years of repressed memories and joyless remorse. It was a place where dementia bred in dark halls, where tears were shed into silent rooms of stone. She shuddered even as her young legs catapulted her light body over the metal fence to land with a dusty thump among the weeds that littered the dying yard in front of the mansion.

The mansion was listless in the heat—the linden trees that once darkened its walls had wilted long ago, and their bare skeletons cast stark stripes of shadow on the ground. Yuffie walked up to the door and hesitated, then put her ear to the wood. A soft whisper of a melody reverberated faintly through, and she quietly pushed the door, knowing it would be unlocked. It opened without a creak, thanks to her shinobi skills, and the sound of the piano was much clearer. The notes were muted through the many walls of the mansion, but they rang clear with singing tone.

Yuffie tiptoed across the central hall toward the piano room. She wondered how long it had been since the mansion had heard the instrument. Of course, the team had come just months ago and had certainly banged disordered notes in their frustration as they searched for the second combination number, but it had probably been three decades since the piano had been played by a true pianist. Turning past the hall of stained glass windows, she walked silently to the doorway and stood there for a moment.

There sat Vincent at the instrument, playing the soft piece's melody with one hand. He had taken his cloak off and left it on the bench beside him; his claw rested lightly in his lap, the fingers moving lightly in the memory of a bass line that he once could play. His right hand played the rippling arpeggios of the melody effortlessly, each note placed carefully in an intricate dance of sound. Yuffie smiled and closed her eyes—she had never really had the patience to properly learn music, as most princesses were supposed to. Listening to Vincent play now gave her a slight sense of regret.

The melody wound past a final set of cadences, drifting down a diminuendo toward the final chord. It suddenly stopped as Vincent pressed a key, but nothing sounded in the piano. She opened her eyes. He lifted his hand slowly from the keyboard, his face shadowed by his long bangs.

"It was Lucrecia's favorite piece," he murmured, his voice directed to Yuffie. A bittersweet smile edged the corner of his mouth. "Reverie... . a dream of love, she'd say, almost a liebestraum. A fantasy that can never be finished on this instrument, in this mansion."

There was something broken in the way he sat there, his head bowed over his hands, locks of his dark hair escaping the red headband. She wanted to hug him then, just to hold him tightly until his pain disappeared. She started forward, but stopped. The awkwardness stretched like the silence between them. No, she couldn't do it.

Biting her lip, she looked up to his rigid form, outlined by the afternoon sun. Perhaps she didn't have the boldness to comfort him as she truly wished, but neither would she leave him there. Treading quietly, she approached the piano bench and lifted his cloak to sit beside him, leaning her back against his side. She could feel him tense slightly at the touch, then relax. Looking out the stained-glass windows that spanned the wall, she spoke.

"If you can't finish that piece on this piano, then play something else. Play another piece that can end."

"There will be breaks in the middle. This instrument was damaged long ago."

"There are always breaks. It's not like we're one of those perfect pianists on those recordings, so it's okay. It doesn't matter."

She could feel him turn his head from her. "Even if this were a piano crafted by the most skilled maker, even if I were a virtuoso, these hands..."

She took a breath, then twisted to rest her chin lightly on his shoulder. "It wouldn't matter to me. Anything you play, I think, will be warm..."


"Yep. Warm like the sun," she said. He turned to her and cast his clear, crimson gaze into her eyes. There was gratitude in those eyes, those eyes that sometimes seemed adamantine with fury but were now soft, framed gently with dark lashes. She beamed...then realized that they were only about two inches apart. Jerking back abruptly and whipping her head around before he could see the blush on her face, she waved vaguely behind her (unknowingly nearly impaling his eye with her finger) and said, "Well, hurry up and play something!"

Vincent turned and set his hand on the piano, pausing a bit. Inexplicably, a smile came to his face as he began the piece.

As the dulcet notes softly eased her mind, the dust motes in the air drifted in their minute dances across bejeweled shafts of light, floating in their transformation from specks of rubescent light to little motes of gold. Vincent played on, the notes of the Berceuse passing through his mind like the words of a familiar poem. In minutes, the quiet sigh beside him told him that Yuffie had fallen asleep to the lullaby tone. She slid a bit to the side, before he reached out and held her carefully with his claw. She did not wake at the touch, as he had expected she would.

He smiled as he played, and a part of him wished that he could just play there forever. Even as the piece was brought closer to its pianissimo end, he didn't want to leave. For a moment, he just sat there with Yuffie by his side, enjoying the warmth of the slanting afternoon sun.

Perhaps what she said was true. Perhaps there was no perfect pianist or piano in the world—or perhaps there were. But it didn't matter to him if he wasn't one, because he now knew of one who would always listen.

AN: Thank you for waiting!