A/N: I'd just like to clarify the setting, since it's definitely a problem with regards to KH. The setting of this first chapter is KH1; up until three years ago, the Squaresoft people were living in Hollow Bastion, because their respective worlds got swallowed by the Heartless (I took the liberty of considering the various towns and cities in FF games 'worlds'). I tried to follow canon, but it was too hard. In any case, I didn't explain too much, so just fill in wherever you think is apt. :D
Slow Moon Sink
"I should not have waited. It would have been better to have slept and dreamed, Than to have watched the night pass, And this slow moon sink."
- Lady Akezome Emon, translated by Kenneth Rexroth
Vincent Valentine has turned me into the one thing I always told him not to be: a ghost.
So the days are long and dreary and marked by a few unimportant ventures into town, to buy potions they don't need, to fight Heartless that they know, with some sickly resignation, will be wiped out completely by a kid in the end. To converse with Cid, who sits companionably in the first district with moogles and chipmunks. Moogles and chipmunks. The sadness of it all makes Yuffie want to swallow her throwing stars until they puncture her insides to shreds. Every day there are more monsters and less men, and even the animals are getting their hearts sucked out. She tells herself not to feel too bad – at least they can succumb and forget. When you're expected to be brave and help save not just the world, but the worlds, you can't wake up in the morning and not try to fight, not want to. It just ain't right.
She's not even allowed to stop smiling – then everyone would stop floating in a no-nothing-ever-happened bubble, and she'd practically be shouting yes it did happen, and we're close as ever to dead, now, and no one wants to know that. Leon didn't smile much even when he was Squall, and Aeris does more of a pretty quirk of the lips than a real full-blown smile, but Yuffie used to make it a point to cheer up (not annoy, of course, never to annoy) the castle's occupants with her toothy smirks and matching cat-closed eyes. No one really returned the gesture, of course, but she could always do it anyways. Now it takes an effort like spellcasting to drag up the edges of her lips, but she can't tell them that, although sometimes she wonders, why am I the only one that's pretending?
For his sake?
Like he'd even appreciate it.
Because he'd hate to have another sin pegged on him, another chain added to the bindings around his soul. Well, he can't escape from this one, she figures, and there's a lot of it too: semi-suicide, breaking promises, breaking hearts, murder (okay, so it's murdering the bad guys, but she just wants to add as much as she can to that list) and the smaller things like drinking or cursing. She grew up giggling at his emotional baggage, poking fun at his troubles, because she thought that would make them go away; but now he's turned the tables around and forced her to carry a share of his sadness, and it hardly seems comical.
If Leon appears to be made of gravel, then Vincent was – had been (but she's not supposed to think in past tense, is she?) made of stone: two gorgeous gargoyles hunched together doing boring things like polishing their guns or reading, or wallowing in their self-induced angst, which she could never really understand (even until now). Hollow Bastion suited them well (hello, the name alone made perfect sense) – dark corridors and too-fancy stairs, intricate designs on the furniture and black magic brewing in the basement. They'd known none of it, of course. Ansem had played the generous king, he had spared them their castle until their worlds could be restored, and all the tenants (some Yuffie had known better than others, some less) had a strange, formal, respectful gratitude towards the man.
Yuffie had been a princess living in another's castle, and that had been a strange idea, although in Wutai she had always been more of a ninja than royalty. Of course, Ansem wasn't really a king, either, but he fit the bill well enough. She had been one of the last few to arrive, cold and clueless, Wutai a black hole behind her and the sky was dark and scary. And something had approached – a man (but she had thought he was a shadow, at first, slinking through the darkness towards her with a hiss – the cape - and clink – the claw), and she had thrown a shuriken at him (as if there were any more stars left to throw, because that was how her world had been swallowed, the stars fading one by one until even the sun was gone). It must have hit home, actually, ripped through his cloak, and cut him, although she didn't know it then, because he never mentioned pain no matter how bad it was.
Yeah, never, as if you were the strongest slab of red-eyed stone in the world and you're not macho, you've never been, because you don't have biceps or an eight-pack like the others do. And you know what, Vinnie, we can't ALL be that tough and selfless, we can't ALL cut ourselves open and bleed and pretend it's nothing the way you did. That's just stupid.
Vincent (although she hadn't known his name, yet) had stooped to her level and put a milk-white (moonlit?) finger against her lips, which was probably poised to scream, and he had told her he wouldn't hurt her. He had promised.
And you didn't seem like a liar.
It had been hollow, a mess of orphans and similarly lost non-kids, but it had also been sanctuary, for the seven or so years she had lived in it. Ansem didn't talk to them much either, so no one really suspected anything was wrong when he didn't appear for a while. That explained why, when Aeris ran into the great hall one day and screamed that there were dark, creepy things coming up from Angel Falls, everyone had gone stone cold. It was the end, the end, the end. Yuffie said as much, crying and running around in circles (while repeating to herself, in between hiccups, you're a ninja, get a grip, dammit). She didn't even care who was telling her to shut up anymore. Hell, she knew they were all saying the same thing, only not aloud, and it made her feel better to voice it anyway.
Cloud (the unofficial leader, although Leon – Squall, then, would also take charge on occasion) sorted out shifts and allotted weaponry and armor. Aeris was put on healing duty, along with Rinoa (who could actually fight quite well too, when she and Leon – then Squall – weren't making puppy eyes at each other). Tifa said she would take the first shift, and Cloud almost didn't let her, but she had bashed in a stone pillar (they had all held their breath then, expecting Ansem to appear out of nowhere and berate her) and said that she could take care of the darkness as good as anyone, so why not let her?
Yuffie almost felt sorry for Cloud when he turned away and said a grudging yes.
Not sorry enough to forgive him for putting Vincent out there, though. She knew he was never fully alive, knew that he had monsters inside him (although that didn't make his claim to be just like them any less ridiculous), knew that he was chasing after death himself, because the reaper wouldn't take him through the normal, un-painful means of ages-long sleep. She knew why, also: Lucretia, Lucretia, beautiful Lucretia, Lucretia in his waking, Lucretia in his sleep, every sentence he breathed rang her name. Yuffie, bored and not particularly useful in the kitchen like the other girls, had prodded him about it often enough. And those were the only times when he'd seem a monster. He'd actually snarl. "Yuffie, stop."
And sometimes she was jealous, but mostly she was mad. "You have to stop moping after someone who isn't there, Vinnie, else you're gonna turn into a ghost yourself."
Right back at ya, Great Ninja Yuffie, although really it should be Great Idiot Yuffie instead.
And sometimes she is jealous, but mostly she is mad, and she pretends it's nothing when every moment she is secretly asking, with a growing vehemence, How could he?
Leon is entitled to mope and grope, because he believes he was powerless and he thinks it's his own fault for losing her, but Yuffie knows that in her own case, she had no say in what happened (she'd have fought the darkness, too, if they had let her).
It was all his fault. Blame, blame, blame, blame, blame, blame, him.
For having red eyes, for losing his world and finding recluse in Hollow Bastion where she arrived, too; for being forced to put up with her because no one else would mind her; for treating her like a sister, for making her hate that ghost's name he'd mutter; for allowing himself to be swallowed up by the darkness when there was enough space for one more, there had to be, and no she didn't care how cramped it would be in that stupid sissy gummi ship of Cid if he had clambered into it. For not coming back.
For pushing her away when she tried to kiss him, as if she were twelve and he was timeless (and, when she considered it, thirteen was not much older than twelve, and he was timeless – gorgeous and broken and breathing, but never dead).
"I have to go, Yuffie," He ruffled her hair and turned to leave.
For haunting her. Making her haunted herself. Whatever.
Yuffie can't angst (she could never pull of brooding, nuh-uh, and she doesn't even want to, actually, with the way everyone else is doing it so it ain't cool and special anymore). But she can be mad, and she doesn't care if it pisses off Leon or not. Hey, at least her denial doesn't involve totally confusing people by switching her name – not that she has anything good to fall back on. (Let's see – Squall Leonhart. Yuffie Kisaragi. Kisa? Grossness.) "Gawd, I hate this! Hate this!" This, referring to everything: their lame little Third District house, Cid refusing to take her around in his Gummi, Sora not saving the world fast enough, Leon standing there pouting, resembling him so much that she feels like tearing his face off to stop it mocking her, she's being unreasonable but she's also sixteen and tired of waiting, so it figures.
He treats her like a bully. Ignore them and they'll go away. Hah. She keeps on.
"This sucks! I hate, hate, hate this."
"You mean him."
His words catch her off-guard so badly she almost feels winded. "What!"
No, she needs a better comeback than that to jolt him out of his stand-and-look-cool-smugness. She ignores the sting at the corner of her eyes and almost sobs, "Ugh, Squall, I hate you."
To his credit, he doesn't quip back with something like, the feeling is mutual.
Instead, he almost looks sorry. But people that gorgeous never need to apologize, and he doesn't, although he does shake his head and say, "Look, it'll all go back to normal someday, okay?"
She takes comfort in this and sits down on a box in their little loveshack, hands propping up her chin. Aeris is out to visit Cid and then Merlin, although Yuffie suspects that she also wants a nice cup of tea from either. She imagines where he might be, in any of the worlds Sora told them about. In the Graveyard of Halloween Town, sleeping in a coffin. In Neverland, flying instead of his creepy vampiric floating. Vinnie with freaking fins. Why not? He'd make a wicked hot merman if he weren't so skinny and pale – if he became a merman at all, and not a turtle or crab (shells, walls and worlds away). In the Hundred Acre Wood. He'd be mortified. He'd slash Pooh to bits with that doomsday claw of his.
I'll patch him up and tear you apart instead.
Vinnie in her waking, but she won't let him occupy her sleep, not the way Lucretia did his, not as a ghost that appears from some grave to converse with her.
Although you DID sleep in a coffin for some time. Until I forced you not to. Where are you lying now? I'd force you out of there, too, if I could.
And the rip that she makes on her lower lip doesn't hurt quite as much as the rip in her heart.
"I can fight with you guys, Vinnie, honest, don't go, don't leave me behind -"
She's sobbing, sick with fear, and Cid is yelling at her to climb into the ship already. Their non-kiss doesn't sting her as much as she expects it to. Even less when he stoops down (like that evening so many years ago, when she was cold and clueless for nearly the same reasons) and puts a milk-white (moonlit?) finger against her lips which are probably poised to scream, and tells her,
"I'll be back."
And she knows it's for her sake.
…You know, you didn't seem like a liar.
A/N: In case it wasn't so clear, in this fic's background story Tifa, Rinoa and Vincent had also lived in Hollow Bastion before; the other FF7 and FF8 characters may have, but I'll just leave that open to deliberation. I hope you liked it, and if you did, please leave a review. All comments are, as usual, well-appreciated. There's actually a second chapter finished already, no matter how much this seems like a oneshot. :D I'll post it soon enough.
I felt I ought to say this: Guardian1's The Lion in the Meadow and Karasu Kurokiba's Tamatebako also had Vincent as a part of KH Yuffie's past. They're both really great stories, which I have read and really liked. I have a different backstory, but I'm sure there will be similarities, for which I apologize. ;