A/N: This chapter takes place a little after the ending of KH1.
Slow Moon Sink
One for materia, one for Heartless, and one for the dead man who isn't quite gone.
Yuffie's personal radars, and they're all working quite well with the exception of the last one, because she has had too many false alarms and each time it gets harder to bear.
The first was right after the flight from Hollow Bastion. Cid was rusty, the ship was rusty, and Yuffie had been banged up so much on the way that she had been seeing stars (or were they yellow Heartless eyes, creeping out from knockout-induced darkness to haunt her, and was she ever going to escape?). Not to mention the fact that Leon had to haul her in over his shoulder like a baby while she scratched the feathers off his jacket. Not to mention the barf that had spoiled the flight even worse – her pride had been blown to smithereens when Aeris raised her dainty hands to cover her nose. They couldn't open the windows. No gravity.
She fell asleep crying, even while the ship dived around shots from a Heartless enemy (what, those things are in space, too?). She woke up with a misplaced memory and the feeling that she had just had the worst Nightmare ever, and when she titled her head up from the bed to make sure she was quite awake, the first thing she saw was half a dozen belts against black. And then she threw her arms out to hug him, and found that the belts were actually – ew – Leon's.
So the End of the World had come, after all.
False alarm number two was their first visit to Olympia. Yuffie had tried her best not to be hysterical, keeping her feet firmly planted on the ground while she showed Phil her Hero's License. The goat man had squinted at her, hard, and she knew he was burning to ask, little kid made of skin and bones, are you SURE? but then Leon had come up behind her and registered as well, so he let her pass. And all through the battles she was looking, unable to help herself, looking hard. Dodging the Heartless and searching for a trace of Galian Beast (who was NOT Behemoth) or Chaos (who was NOT an Invincible) or even Gigas (who wasn't remotely anywhere), and she never thought she'd actually be unhappy not seeing them. She had even bothered to jump onto Cerberus, wobble onto one giant head, and (while Leon was charging a Firaga spell) whisper in one humongous ear, "Vinnie?"
Then it had turned to sink its giant teeth into her, and she had flipped away just in time.
Cerberus had red eyes, but they weren't his. She knew that he had never had a three-headed dog inside him, anyway, but that didn't stop her hoping (in vain, haha, although she hates sounding lovesick almost as much as hates feeling it. Almost). Leon delivered the finishing blow (both ways, actually). Down came the gunblade on Cerberus. Down came the near-roar on Yuffie. "Are you INSANE?"
Not quite as much as she would have liked to be, actually, but at that moment her reply was cut off by the slow swish of red cloth.
Torn red cloth. Red cape. Gold fingers. She tackled the wearer like a wrestling pro and had started whacking him good on either side of the chest, and she would have been laughing if she weren't deliriously angry because hahaha, the match hadn't started yet. And she started asking, "Where have you been, you stupid freaking zombie, you're so gonna get it now," only, to her infinite horror, it melted into, "Why the hell are you wearing that, Cloud Strife?"
Cloud wasn't him, and Leon wasn't him, and they were both trying hard to fix the situation, but how could they? They couldn't. She didn't see the exchange of raised eyebrows, but she knew it was taking place. Cloud shifted from underneath her (that was wrong-sounding, and she'd actually be quite gleeful about that if the situation weren't so horrible) and then, as gently as he could, he hoisted himself upright, so that she ended up kneeling on his boots. One fist she curled around the cape (all shredded down one end and missing all its buckles but she still knew it was his, and Cloud was a bastard for wearing it), the other she kept smashing against the back of Cloud's calves.
Leon pulled her away while Cloud muttered an awkward apology, and she cuddled the cape like a worn-out blankie, both wanting and not wanting to ask. In the end, she picked the former.
And Cloud was forced to apologize a second time.
She was happy to see him. Of course she was. But she wasn't happy to see him alone.
The third false alarm, and probably the worst, was thinking that, with Hollow Bastion restored, he'd be back. They weren't certain how they knew, exactly – there was an earth-shattering click like a giant key turning in the center of the universe, and Leon had looked up from his boring old texts, and said, in a voice that was more tombstone that usual, "That's it. Sora did it." And Aeris clapped her hands and give a delighted little laugh, and Yuffie felt something like hope clench miserably inside her. Cid arrived two days later carrying a cool-eyed Cloud, who stood like a pillar while Aeris walked around him, smiling, concerned, relieved but upset – because, well, although they all try not to mention it, but Cloud has changed terribly too. Either it's Sephiroth clouding his heart, or he still hasn't recovered from losing Tifa.
And now Cloud really is full of strife, which makes three gargoyles, only one of them is missing.
Yuffie doesn't know what to expect, at first – not fireworks and fanfare, certainly, but she doesn't think they might have to rebuild the whole freaking world from scratch, either. She has known for a long time that Wutai is gone for good, and Traverse has never been home, so that the only place left is here, but...now it is more hollow than ever, full of empty holes and wreckage and people that act as if they are made of ice (coughLeoncough). But the days pass, and more villagers come back, a little dazed; Cid starts coming up with new restoration machines, and even Merlin comes over and decides to help them out.
They start rebuilding the world from nothing.
And she wakes up every day with the furious spark of maybe, although she tries her hardest not to. Leon keeps the disappointment from showing best as he can, too, although when their eyes meet in the morning (at least they have separate rooms, now), both pairs seem to say, another day and it's getting more hopeless. He still hasn't changed his name – which is fine, because she's gotten used to this one by now. She has stopped saying names from the past if she can help it, picking them out of her surfacing thoughts like weeds (but they cling persistently instead, like poison ivy).
There is a call to celebration once the marketplace is up and running again. Aeris plans it for nearly a week, and even Cid stops building defense mechanisms long enough to device some fireworks for the feast. Yuffie, for old time's sake and because she doesn't want Aeris to think thar she's turned into a zombie like everyone else, somersaults around singing about how fun its gonna be, and hey can she show off some of her fantastical uber-cool ninja skills? Leon grimaces and folds his arms, all set to be a killjoy.
Aeris turns to him, lifts a coy eyebrow and says, "You will dance with Yuffie, won't you?"
"Leon dancing?" Yuffie stops in mid-jump and falls on her face laughing incredulously.
But to their mutual horror, they end up dancing anyway. After all, Aeris always has her way, even without threats or excessive persuasion. (Why does pouting never work for Yuffie?) While the flower girl sits and chats with an unusually amiable Cloud, and Cid asks Merlin if magic can be used to power his machines, Leon trods on all her toes in succession, squishing them in his big black boots of death. She isn't very good at dancing, but she doesn't suck as bad as him, at least.
"I thought you said Rinoa taught you to dance?"
He stomps on her little toe and sighs, and she sees him fighting the urge to swallow. "She did."
And the quiet is almost solid.
"What for? You're the one who won't be able to walk tomorrow."
She pinches his arm. "You don't have to sound so gleeful about it." They sneak out when Aeris isn't looking (and besides, Cid has started to do his bizarre tipsy walk into the dance floor, so perhaps it really is all for the best) and Yuffie kicks off her shoes and stretches. It would've been worse if her dance partner had been wearing metal shoes, she decides. A lot worse.
And the cape would have twirled better than the both of us, anyways, right?
They go out the next day to buy new clothes, although Leon grumbles about how they should save a bit more for reconstruction.
"Hey, we're the heroes here, they can spare a little cash for us." Yuffie buys some nifty shoes (really pretty high-top sneakers that take eons to lace but so what, they're crazy-cool anyways) because her old ones were officially killed last night, as well as new shorts and a new top and a new headband too (she decides to replace the scarf with a hooded vest).
Leon looks the outfit over. "Less colors," He states blankly.
"Yeah whatever, Mr. Rainbows," She grumbles, although she is a little surprised to find that everything in her shopping bag is colored shades of gray. Huh. She hadn't noticed. Cid doesn't get anything – he never changes once he's used to something, if he can help it, stinky old work clothes included, but Aeris surprises everyone by buying an unusually showy dress ("You look like a birthday present," Yuffie says brightly). Even Leon gives in and tries on a leather jacket with fluffy feathers (Yuffie pointedly tries not to think about how she ruined his first one), and she and Aeris exchange smiles when he takes it to the counter.
He hasn't changed his name yet. But the jacket is a start. Maybe even the scar will fade, in time.
But some scars last forever, don't they, jagged lines on your face or limbs, and I always expected you to have a ton of scars underneath your buckles and black suit – heeheehee – but the real scars were in your brain and heart and soul, weren't they? I got myself scraped a ton of times since you were gone – Sora is a real pain in the ass when you're matched up against him in the Coliseum – but the ones that really hurt are inside, too.
They don't stop training. The worlds are restored but the Heartless aren't gone, and there are new monsters to face every day. Yuffie does her practicing in the bailey, because it's a lot more comfy there without Leon frowning out of Merlin's window. She works on the traditional ninja jutsu, casting her fingers together to form symbols, and one day she finds herself flitting from one place to another without having to move her feet, smoke clouds dancing around her ankles while she disappears for a moment and finds herself the next.
She shows it off when she gets back, and even Cloud says it could come in handy.
Someday, I'll stretch this spell so far it'll teleport me to where you are, and if they haven't gotten your heart yet by then, I will.
Days pass, time stretches, Yuffie gets a wee bit older, Leon gets a little softer (like butter, Aeris whispers conspiratorially, while she tries to teach Yuffie how to bake – if you beat it long enough, it'll soften eventually), Cloud chases after his silver-haired nemesis to still his doubt, and Hollow Bastion feels a little more filled in. The cream puff getting its center again. She offers to taste-test for old Scrooge in town, and gets a free ice cream nearly every day.
Presently she turns over the memory graveyard of her mind, sticks in some incense and burns it with the fieriest sadness she can muster, because even the anger has left her now. She wants to smile for real, already. She wants to let go. None of her radars ring anymore, except for the Heartless one, and she doesn't like hearing that one anyway. She does the ceremony with her hands fastened around a teacup (while everyone is visiting Leon's new finds in the castle), mixing meticulously and drinking in the tasteless water, hitting the brass bell with a little stick so that it goes ping really gently and fades out slowly like rippling water.
One for materia, because magic works different here. One for Wutai, because I want a place to call my home.
"Hey Vinnie, why do you sleep in a coffin?" Vincent is creepy like a good ghost story and he doesn't have the guts to push her away like everyone else does, or maybe he's too lazy to get up and walk away, and he'd be pretty freaky if he weren't so cool, and Yuffie admires him because of the shiny on his hand and his eyes are pretty neat too. No one else has got eyes like that.
"Because I'm dead." He answers her questions, too, which is another reason why she likes him, although she doesn't really get what he says half the time, and the rest of the time she doesn't agree with what he says. Like now.
"No you aren't. Look," She grabs his hand and uses it to cover the right side of his chest and then she pushes down on it, hard. "There's somethin going thump here."
He is too surprised to deny it.
The seconds tick by and she finds she can't let go of that last one after all. She sighs, long and slow like the giant turtles drying out along the shores of Wutai's oceans.
And one for hoping, but I still love you, Vincent Valentine, and you can't die because you weren't ever alive, not really – but you weren't Heartless at least, I know that much. You're a living memory and I can't bury you if I tried, so I guess you won't leave until I do, because there's something still going thump here...but I'm allowed to live a little, right?
He'd want her to.
And the tea grows stale.
A/N: The last chapter I typed out so far, although I might do another one set in KH2 (to clear up stuff with Tifa); also, if Vincent shows up in KH3 (please, Square-Enix, please) I might tackle that as well. Thanks for reading; all comments will be very greatly appreciated. :D