A/N: My take on Yuffie and the absence of her mother. Liberties abound.

Like Paper for Wings

You want her back.

You want to be able to form her features out of nothing – moon for a face, lips in flower petals, nose the strokes of ink on paper. Eyes like stormclouds, or stones at the bottom of a river. You want to fashion a fairy, with skin like the white of a carp's underbelly and a voice like flutes playing in the distance. You want to hear her sweet words against your ear. You want her to pat your head soft and slow, smoothing the bangs from your face, the wrinkles from your creasing eyebrows, because you are really too young to have them. You want her to hold you and tuck you in like the little girl you were never allowed to be. You want her to side with you in an argument; her opinion on the worst sort of stealth; her tales about the water god rising from a crystal sea.

You want, and dream, and sometimes demand, but she stays a shapeless mist of memories.

You're not used to being denied.

-xx-

In your country they praise the god of All Creation, and you take part in the prayers, as well. Only fair – you are his incarnate, of course, or rather, Taninim his wife, the duty that you were forced to take when she decided to leave, and everyone in court had knelt and wept. You joined in, although you were a little too young to understand. You accepted the soul she had forfeited, the legacy, the title. Perhaps when you were older you would also inherit the jewels for her hair and all her silken finery, but that wasn't so: most of those were ruined in the war. The loss did not mean much to you. You had not cared for them, anyway.

Belief is a difficult thing; faith is just a word when you are a child, still trying to find your footing, trying to find your self. A god will not descend from the heavens only to suit your whim; he will not let you lean your head on his scaly side and whisper soothing nothings. You know the truth. He is not only creation, but destruction as well – the murky side of the endless oceans, the inverse glass of a mirror, in which the only thing anyone notices is the exquisite golden frame. They see the way his great gnarled fangs part to breathe the breath of life, ignoring how easily he could spit a flood and wash it all out of existence. How he could raise the seas, let fall the rain, until you were swallowed by his majesty, drowned in his glory.

One did not just fashion life with fingers built for killing. Why else would he have such pointed claws?

You know it is sacrilege, but sometimes you do not care. It was not your fault, and not hers, but someone needs to take the blame. Some days, your father is an all too easy target – his eyes were dry, so dry, and his mouth was so hard, even if she was leaving forever – and then you remember that he is also Leviathan, in a sense, and there is no way you can worship a man who has such a hill for a belly.

-xx-

It can mean paper, or god, or hair, she told you one day, legs folded over her wooden sandals as you tried to imitate the way she sat. That's the beauty of the language.

You agreed, of course, although it puzzled you immensely – one thing should mean only one thing, nothing else. (At that time, you had not yet learned to understand the trickeries of being a ninja: how to tell the footfall of a warrior from a civilian; the way to tuck a needle into your clothing in case of a locked door; the steps in turning a cartwheel, landing on your feet but not making a sound.) Luckily you didn't have to puzzle it over much, at least not right then. She picked up the white sheet that she had drawn the syllables on, and said, I'll show you how to make something pretty.

She folded it between her fingers, doing it slowly so you could see: crease and fold along the edge here, flatten it into a triangle, lift it up just so, and then...

You must have given some sort of exclamation (ooh or wow or pretty!), and she returned it with a laugh. Now you try.

You did, but it turned out all wrong, and you gave up in the end. Stopped imitating her, the same way you had to sprawl on the floor long ago, because your legs were cramping, attempting to kneel the way she did.

I can't do it, you said, and then you started to cry, although that was childish of you. Not like you.

Of course you can, she whispered hastily, a little too furiously, and all of a sudden she was crying too. Of course you can! And then she collected herself, only sixteen years older than your measly four, but already everything you wanted to be. She wiped away her tears, then she tickled you until you laughed. I'll show you again, more slowly.

She taught you the whole afternoon, fold after fold and after fold, killing the trees, you giggled, because what a waste of paper that had been. But you got it right, in the end. Mostly, at least, because one wing was still smaller than the other – but that didn't matter, because when you threw it in the air to catch the wind, it flew anyway.

-xx-

I want her back, you tell him one day, out of the blue, attempting to cling to the ceiling with fingers that are too slick with sweat. You have been training the whole day. It comes out all wheezy and unimportant. He is below you looking over last week's profits, the papers sitting on his sagging belly. (You think, fleetingly, that you would like to jump down and fold all those sheets into nicer shapes and send them away, never to bother you again, because this country needs more passion and less poison. Then the idea leaves.)

Someone brought his whole family last week – the inn got an additional two thousand, isn't that nice, he buzzes up to where you are still doing your best to act like a lizard.

I said I want her back, equally demanding, equally not-listening.

You can't have everything you want. Vehemence. You think of claws. Don't you know that by now? Please, Yuffie.

Not a request, despite the pleading. You fall from the ceiling and curse him.

Don't act so spoiled, is all he says.

You run to your room and slam the door – you are only twelve, he should cut you some slack.

-xx-

Sometimes they are so lovely, you think you might forget her. You hardly knew her, after all. When someone is that motherly, and she is right beside you, you want to put the intangible figures aside and look for something you can grasp, hold, love. You don't tell them, of course, considering the embarrassment and the fact that you're usually too busy fighting off monsters to talk about something like families, which very few of them have. They tell you about things you would never have learned from your father: the difference between cute and drop-dead gorgeous, hairstyles, how to use your elbow to jab someone in the gut.

They make very good substitutes.

But Aeris smells too much like roses, and Tifa's front jiggles more than anyone's.

It's not the same, you know that. You are sixteen, and you should forget.

-xx-

But you can't, and you don't, and you never will.

Obstinacy or childish resolve, perseverance or pride, it does not really matter to you anymore. Your father told you to stifle it; and then your friends made you feel so much at home that for a while, you wanted to. But it's just not possible. You can't lose a memory if it is in your blood and bone; you can't erase a dream that is in your flesh and feeling. She is in your breath like smoke rising from the incense you place into her ashes, beside her picture, in her shrine. Gracing her memory with white flowers and paper birds. You learn this, a little more, every day.

She left you – was taken from you? – when you were five, but by then you had already learned to love her. Her smile and her laugh, her eyes that were so bright, even if they were the color of faded ashes. She is memory as much as mother, always was. But that's enough.

You're not acting spoiled. You know you'll get her back someday.

Maybe when you look in the mirror.

Or maybe when you look up into the sky, where birds fly with paper wings.


A/N: Comments would be very greatly appreciated, especially since I'm not too used to writing in second person. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. :D