"W-wait, Yuffie!"

Blindly charging into battle as always, the younger ninja doesn't listen to his words. Leon just sighs, rolls his eyes and hacks down a few more shadows, hoping something bigger doesn't come up. Radiant Garden is a lot nicer these days – not nearly as many heartless. They're lucky.

Places the back of his hand to his forehead. Stares at the sun. Leon watches Yuffie playfully toy with the heartless before swinging her shuriken wildly and knocking them down. One of these days…

He scowls. He knows Yuffie's a better fighter than that. She's not about to get herself taken out by a few measly little heartless. He sets back to work, slicing through heartless with the heavy gunblade, taking them down easier than he ought to. Yuffie flashes him a smile over her shoulder. Yeah, that's Yuffie all right.

They're hardly uncomfortable around each other anymore. Yuffie talks and talks and talks whenever they're together, and Leon won't say that he enjoys it, but he doesn't tell her to quiet down, either. Sometimes when they're lingering around the town together, watching for stray heartless, she'll slide her tiny hand into his own and she'll pretend that they're married. Yuffie's still a child at heart, but regardless of that, she can fight. She's strong.

Leon sometimes thinks that she's stronger than he is.

"Aw, don't worry, she'll be back!"

Leon scowls. He knows Yuffie will be back. She just went to pester Scrooge, after all. Aerith chides him from where she stands; she thinks he's far too possessive. "Leon, it's not like she's dead or anything," says Aerith, smiling. Cid snorts where he's sitting, chewing on a straw as he taps large fingers over keys, plotting out some new kind of defense system for the town.

The brunet rolls his eyes. "I know."

She's staring up at him.

Leon's not looking at her, but her body is awfully close to his. He's leaning against the wall in the bailey, as per usual, but he didn't expect Yuffie to come and see him. It's late. She's usually snoring and drooling in bed right now. "Hey, Squall?" she says, softly. It's the first time in her life he's ever heard her speak like that.

"It's Leon," he murmurs, looking down to face her. In a split second, she's kissing him and he's frozen. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

So he kisses her back.

"Wait! Y-Yuffie."

He finds himself being dragged along after her. It's a rare occasion when they're alone, so Yuffie's taking full advantage of that. "Oh, c'mon, Squall! Live a little!" she giggles, pulling on his fingers. They're out of the town, and Yuffie thinks it's fun to play in the various passages around the town.

Squall trips over a rock, nearly stumbles, but catches himself before he falls. Lately, he's taken to using his old name; after all, Yuffie likes it better. They've become something of a couple as of late, and really, Squall doesn't mind anymore. Cid, Aerith, Tifa, Cloud and even Sephiroth acknowledge it; Squall's happier now.

They're at the destination Yuffie was intending on. As soon as he pulls himself up from the last ledge, he finds thin arms wrapped around his waist, and he's got the significantly smaller figure against his own. It's in his nature to stiffen, so he does, and Yuffie calms him down and pulls him down for a kiss. Fingers threaded in his hair. Soft lips against his own chapped ones.

They aren't too far from the town. Squall's already worried. He pulls away, glancing over, wondering if Cloud's training anywhere around. She grasps his jaw with strong fingers, forcefully turning his head so he has to look at her. Sometimes he forgets she's a warrior. "Don't worry 'bout it. If anyone finds us, I'll just tell 'em to eat their hearts out."

Squall almost smiles. Yuffie grins up at him before pulling him into another kiss. She's already got her hands under his shirt, she wants his clothes off. Yuffie's always been one to be a little bizarre.

But she suddenly stops.

Stops moving, stops everything.

Squall pulls away, scowling, looks her in the eyes. Her mouth is open in a little 'o' shape, and her eyes are wide and slightly glazed. He's a little worried. And then he feels the warmth on his chest.


He backpedals as a reflex, watching in horror as long, pointed, obsidian fingers press through Yuffie's chest, tear the flesh and snap the bones. He can hear the sickening crack of her ribs as she's torn right in half like some kind of rat to be dissected. He's in shock. He can't even react as a measly shadow crawls right out of her chest cavity, holding its prize in hand.

Her heart.

And you thought you owned it, Leon.

All too quickly, the heartless disappears. Leon stares blankly. He can think of a million excuses as to why he didn't even hear the thing or have his weapon; he was distracted, he was busy, he couldn't hear, it wasn't there, he was in love, he forgot, he was sorry.

Leon dropped to his knees and stared at Yuffie's carcass.

And for the first time since he was a teenager, he cried.

Aerith visits him every day. Leon's depressed. He hasn't gone outside for days. She brings him tea as he sits on the floor in his room, kneeling down beside him to offer him a cup. He shakes his head, declines and continues scowling at the floor. Aerith sighs. "Squall… you need to drink or eat something," she murmurs. She understands why he's grieving, but he's lost so much weight.

"My name is Leon."

Aerith stands up straight, taking the glass back with her into the kitchen. Standing against the counter, she covers her mouth and muffles a sob. The Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee isn't quite what it used to be. Cid is mostly the same, but he's not one to publicly grieve. Tifa's sad, but she doesn't show it on her face. Cloud shows his grief through fighting Sephiroth.

But Leon? He's just the way he was before.

Broken and tired.

And Yuffie's not there to fix him anymore.