Much Ado About Yuffie
Please, review! I crave feedback. I need to know whether I should continue
with this or leave it in the trashcan as hand-warming material.
Suggestions would be wonderful.

I wrote this WWI - writing whilst inebriated. Of course, I was only
inebriated on Mountain Dew, but hey.

The title is purely out of fun. There are so many things you can
do with the word Yuffie, although I pointedly ignore my brother calling
my genre of writing 'Yuffie the Vampire Layer'.

On we go.


Much Ado About Yuffie

I hate Kalm. I hate Kalm. I hate Kalm. I hate Kalm.

Yuffie lay on her bed in Tifa's and Cloud's house and
groaned miserably, turning over.

I hate Kalm. I hate Kalm. I hate Kalm. I hate -

"Hey, Yuffie!" Cloud said, coming through the door with
a big smile. "What do you think of Kalm so far?"

"It's great," Yuffie said with a wan smile. Sixteen-year-old
Yuffie would have not been proud of this new, upgraded,
five-year older version.

Cloud read the lie and sat down on her bed. "I know it's
pretty much boring at the moment. But this month there'll
be all sorts of festivals and things, so you can take your
mind off... things," he finished lamely.

"My father's dead, Cloud," Yuffie said kindly. "You can
say it if you want."

Cloud sighed. "So you can take your mind off Godo's death.
We like having you here, Yuffie." He smiled at her and pinched
the corner of her mouth lightly. "So give me a smile?"

Yuffie groaned and turned over. "Clou-ouud! Stop it!" The
goofy smile on Cloud's face was getting goofier by the minute.

Cloud chuckled. "Okay. Want to join us for dinner? You
haven't eaten since you got here."

The tiny ninja shook her head, her unkempt dark hair
falling into her eyes. "I'm not really hungry," she half-whispered.

"Oh, Yuffie.."

Yuffie turned over. She couldn't bear the pity she saw, the
poor Yuffie look practically everyone had in their eyes.
Cloud ruffled up her brown hair and left as she clutched at her
pillow, waiting for the tears that never came.
Better to be back in the jungle, walking to Kalm, than to be
here and drowned in the pity of those that did not understand.
It must have been forever that she tossed and turned in the
spare bed in Cloud's house; but finally she slept, an empty
sleep devoid of dreams.

The morning light shone through her window and she awoke
gently, all her losses stabbing in her heart. That had all been
last night. She felt no different. Why? Would she ever
feel different?

Dad, why am I such a bad daughter?

Why did I never obey you before? Why can't I cry for you?

It's not like... it's not like I didn't love you, or maybe I never did
love you, maybe I'm incapable of loving? Is that why I'm not crying
now? Is that why I can't feel your death inside my heart?

I cried when my mother died. I cried when Aeris died. I cried
so much I thought I'd die. Have I only ever loved them?
Or maybe I just joked myself into loving them?

Maybe... I just cried out of pure selfishness, out of inconvenience
that they wouldn't be there any more.... but... that's evil, isn't it?

If I had been a proper daughter and known what to do, would you
have died of that fever?

Didn't even go to your funeral...

She willed tears to gather in her dry eyes and course down her cheeks,
for the knot inside her to be vomited up.

I hate Kalm. I should be in Wutai. Kalm doesn't.. doesn't smell of
my father, doesn't smell of the cherry trees that would be blossoming,
doesn't smell like the dust on Da Chao -

Yuffie swore and kicked the pillow to the other end of the room.
"This is no damn time to become a poet, Yuffie," she hissed harshly to herself.
She stood and looked up into the mirror on the wall.
"Gawd, I look like a mess."

Her short, choppy bob was everywhere, up in the air, making her
look insane. Her light black eyes were dull and her skin dusty and blotchy -
When was the last time I bathed? Putting all these things together,
she looked like hell. Gah, I barely look female. I barely look human!

She grabbed a towel and poked her head out the door.

"Tifa! I'm having a bath, is that okay?"

"Sure," floated up the reply. "Good morning, Yuffie! Cloud, I hope
you cleaned up from the last time you bathed, otherwise there are
going to be all these little hairs dotted around the tu -"


"It's true! I do not know how one man can accumulate so
much dirt and hair! Are you slowly going bald?"

Yuffie smiled and went into the bathroom. She liked the playful
teasing going on between those two. They weren't married,
she doubted they ever would be. Tifa may have held a torch
for Cloud, but he held a forest fire for Aeris. And Aeris was dead,
so all they could ever be was the close brother-sister relationship
they held now.

She sighed, depressed now. "Is nobody in this world happy?" she
muttered to herself, turning on the water. She pulled off her
dirty vest and shorts - must burn those, I've been wearing them
for what, three years now? - and looked at herself critically in
the mirror as she loosened her bindings. Ugh... Ug-leeee.

She unwrapped a purple bandanna from her head and jumped
into the running water with a sigh. It felt so good, cleansing,
making her feel alive instead of a dead weight.
Yuffie relaxed a little while, then fervently rinsed the dirt of
her journey from her trip. She had staggered in last night,
with only about two baths from Wutai to Kalm, exhausted
but not feeling it properly.

She cleaned her hair, feeling a little happier and refreshed.
After a careful cleansing of the bath, not wanting to be
another Cloud, Yuffie dumped her clothes in the laundry basket
and hurried into her room, wrapped in a towel. She felt shy
and awkward being in a house with lots of people - back in Wutai,
she could walk around naked all day singing striptease songs.

Hey, I did that once, she realized. When I got into my father's
sake last year... She choked down a hysterical laugh, rememering
her hangover. Wishing she was back there, with Godo to tell
her off the next day...

Yuffie opened her knapsack and removed her clothing. Ninety
percent of the garments were fighting gear. Then she had
some underwear, a nightie covered in Mogs, and one dress.
She ran her hands over it lovingly. Tifa had given this to her
last year, her first grown-up dress. It reached a little above
the knee and was pale blue, spaghetti straps with a modest
neckline. My first real dress... at twenty-one?
That's pretty pathetic, Yuffie Kisaragi.

She pulled underwear on, thought about the bindings then
recklessly pulled on her dress without them. Yuffie wasn't
fighting now, and there was no Gorkii or Shake to remonstrate
her about flopping. It wasn't like she had anything to flop,

She left her room and bumped into Cloud, who gave a very
fake wolf-whistle. "Lookin' good!"

Yuffie rolled her eyes at him. "Spare me. What's the time?"

"Roundabout eleven, but there must be some breakfast
left somewhere. Tifa's gone to the bar, left a little while
after you bathed."

"Okay. Eleven? Gawd, I slept in."

"You're allowed to. Don't worry." Cloud looked at her.
"You know, Yuffie, if you ever feel really really bad...
you can talk to me."

"I know." Don't remind me. Don't remind me I have a
reason to talk to you. I want to forget.

"Okay." His face cleared. "Shall we see what's
here for breakfast?"

He chatted to her on the way down. Yuffie couldn't
remember the last time he was this talkative. He told her
that Barret and Cid and Shera and Red were coming down
for the summer festival and they were trying to get Reeve,
too, but he was pretty busy in Junon so they didn't know.

"Geez, Cloud," she broke in. "When did you get so perky?"

He smiled easily at her. "I'm just.. content here, I guess.
Found my niche."

"You own the weapons and armoury shops and stuff, right?"

"Oh. Who's the co-owner?"

Cloud looked at her curiously, then smiled, eyes twinkling.
"Oh.. just a nice guy. Really cute. Maybe we could set you up with him."

Yuffie rolled her eyes. "Please. I'm not desperate."

"I know, I know! It was a joke." He patted her damp hair
and rifled around in the pantry. "Want a drink?"

"Water, thanks." She sat herself down at the oaken table
in the sunny living room and looked out the window. "Nice day."

"Yup. I only have to be at work in a couple of hours, so
I can show you around town."

"Thanks," Yuffie said softly and stretched as the kettle boiled.
She hadn't worn a dress in ages, and it made her feel...
grown up, in a silly way. She could feel how her body had
matured, and how her hair had grown to brush the back of
her neck. Yuffie liked it.

Cloud smiled at her as he sat down with a mug and a glass of water.
"I meant the looking-good part. Have you had a boyfriend?"

She grinned and sipped her drink. "Closest thing I've ever had
is little Hoshi in Wutai. We were six. He was playing mothers
and fathers with me and tried to kiss me, so I punched him
in the gut. Not too romantic."

"Hah, sounds kind of like me." Cloud brewed his tea,
then added more sugar.

Yuffie sipped a little more, then gulped. "Cloud... do you..
miss Aeris still... lots?" Ugh, I sound so stupid.

A shadow of unhappiness passed over his face.
"Yeah... I do... I have nightmares about it sometimes,
but other times..." his eyes became dreamy. "She tells
me that we'll be together one day. In the Lifestream.
So... I'm looking forward to that."

There was silence, but it was a comfortable one as
they both mulled over the dead Cetra.


Yuffie liked Kalm after she had walked around it with Cloud.
It had merit; it wasn't Wutai and she had never been there with Godo.

After a while, Cloud had left to go to his weaponry and she had
walked around, sniffing the fresh air and sighing to herself.
Nobody knew her here, which explained the wolf-whistles
she got when she entered Tifa's bar and the pinch on the
rear she recieved from one particularly brave barfly.

"Hey! Hands off," Tifa yelled. "This lady is a respectable one, Kief!"

"And I'm showin' my appreciation for her," Kief said,
winking at an amused Yuffie.

"I'm sure your girlfriend would be interested in your appreciation
of her," Tifa snorted and turned to the ninja. "Had a good time?"

"Yep." Yuffie sat down on a stool and smiled. "Nice bar."

"Yeah, it's better than the original Seventh Heaven." The long-haired
woman smiled and wiped a glass. "Marlene tended the drinks
half of the time, because we were on missions."

"But she must have been about four!" Yuffie blinked.

"And she made a damn good martini. Want a drink?"

"Water, please. I can't hold alcohol at the moment."

"Water comin' up." Tifa quickly handed her a glass full of the stuff,
which she absently sipped. "Cloud show you his shop?"

"Nope." Yuffie smiled at the bartender. "We were too busy
being accosted by all the men."

"Hah! They see one piece of new skirt and they're all over her."
Tifa looked at the ninja in front of her, then got an odd gleam in
her eyes. "Maybe you should start looking for a guy to throw them off."

She sipped again. "Of course! Yuffie is in the department to
look for a man! Can anybody find me somebody to looove?"
Yuffie chuckled. "Don't be silly, Tifa. I bet you the men were
after Cloud or something."

Tifa crossed her arms and leaned on her bench. "You know,
Yuffs, I think I know just who to set you up with."

Yuffie groaned. "I was kidding!"

"No, wait! This guy needs a bit of companionship. At least
become friends? He's the co-owner with Cloud."

"Oh, yes, Cloud already suggested I date him." Yuffie gulped down
the last of her water. "Okay. What've I got to lose?"

It'll take my mind off everything, at least.

"Great! I'll set you up sometime." Tifa chuckled to herself
and took Yuffie's glass. "You'll be friends, if nothing else."

She shrugged, gave a little wave to Tifa and left. Tifa was
acting awfully strange about this whole deal.

He'll turn out to be eighty and bald. Or fifteen and all hyperactive.
Kind of like you were back at that age, eh, Yuffie? Oh, shut
up, brain. Geez.

Yuffie went back to Cloud's house, flopped down on her bed
and immediately forgot about the whole thing as the now-familiar
knot of pain clenched inside her.


Tifa set Anton to watch over the bar as she jogged out her
bar to the weapon shop, an evil grin on her face. She slowed
as she entered the door and gave an innocent, twinkling smile
to the proprietor.

"Vincent! Just the person I wanted to see."

Vincent Valentine looked at Tifa curiously and put down
the sword he was so carefully polishing. "What is wrong?"

Tifa scuffled her shoe on the floor and her smile got even
bigger. "Nothing's wrong," she said innocently.

The tall, dark-haired man knew that look and stood up. "What do
you need, Tifa?" he asked with a sigh.

"Why, Vincent! For shame!" She leant against the counter and
gave him her most wide-eyed look. "Well, you see, a friend
I know has just come into town, and.."


"Vincent." Her brown eyes became pleading. "Just one night.
She's really sweet, and wants to meet you so much, and -"

"Tifa, how many times do I have to say no?" He sat down
again abruptly and picked up his sword again.

"I don't want you to really date her. Just take her somewhere
and make her happy..."

Vincent raised an eyebrow at her. "Tifa, I do not believe I am
capable of making someone I have just met 'happy'."

She pulled out her last trump card. "Her father just died."

"..." The black-wearing man stopped polishing for a moment
and closed his eyes. "How long ago?"

"Three weeks."

A faint shadow of pain passed over his face. Probably thinking
about Lucrecia. "The hurt must be great. Please send my
sympathies, but..."

"Vincent, if you do this for me, I promise I'll never try to set
you up with anyone ever again!"

He rubbed his temples, weighing the merits of yes and no in
his mind. "All right," he said finally. "But not too long. And
strictly friendship," he warned her.

Tifa vaulted over the counter and hugged him tight. "Oh,
Vincent, thank you! Thank you! I - "

"Go back to your bar, Tifa."

She nodded obediently and vaulted back, a big smile on her face.


"Tifa, I'm not wearing that."

"Yes, you are."

"Tifa Lockheart." Yuffie turned around and pressed her
hands over the neckline of the dress. "If I bend over, I'm
going to flop out."

"You look good in it."

"Yeah, right." Yuffie snorted, pulled the dress off and
grabbed vainly at another dress. "See, blue. My colour."

Tifa groaned. "That's the dress you were wearing before!"

"It's perfect." Yuffie wriggled it over her head. "See, fine."

"It's boring."

"It's me!"

Tifa rolled her eyes and checked the clock. "You have about
ten minutes, go brush your hair."

"Yes, ma'am!" Yuffie gave Tifa a silly salute and marched
off to the bathroom.

Cloud sidled past the ninja as she made her way past and hissed
in Tifa's ear. "Why on earth did you set her up with Vincent,
of all people?! They have nothing in common. It's... it's Vincent.
And it's Yuffie... And it's Vincent, and Yuffie. And she probably
thinks he's weird, and he'll think she's as annoying as -"

Tifa grinned at him mischievously. "So are you saying they
won't get together?"

"Not in a million years."

Of course not. But it's fun trying. "Hah, I bet you they will."

"Okay." Cloud lit up. "If they don't, you have to make me
breakfast for the rest of the year."

"And if they do, you have to do the washing up for the
rest of the year."

"Done!" They shook hands fiercely as Tifa smiled benevolently
at him. "You don't eat breakfast anyway."

"I'll start if I win!"


Yuffie smoothed her dress self-consciously down to her
mid-thigh and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She
didn't know what to think of herself; the only times she
had really looked in a mirror before was to check how many
good places there were to stuff materia down her clothes.

"Are you done yet?"

"I'm going, I'm going!" Yuffie opened the door and rushed
past Tifa, anxious to leave as soon as possible before Tifa
started giving her pointers. "See, I'm gone!"


Yuffie smiled to herself as she darted out the house.
This date was going to be horrendous, she knew,
but it might be fun in some perverse way.

She looked up at the night sky. It was beautiful; a
dark velvet blue frosted with stars.

I wish I could fly. Then I could be up there instead of
embarrassing myself in front of Cloud and Tifa's friend.

Yuffie slowly trudged up the stairs of Kalm and opened
the door of the weapons shop hesitantly. There was a
candle at the back of the shop, flickering light on a dark
figure working on a table at something. "Hello?"

Then the figure looked at her and her jaw dropped open.


Vincent blinked. "Hello?"

The girl in front of him blinked back, then strode forward.

"Vincent, don't you recognize me? It's me, Yuffie!"

"Yuffie...?" Vincent stood up and looked at her,
up and down. "You've grown."

She blushed. "Yeah, probably sideways. Are you the co-
owner of the weaponry?"

"Yes. Are you Tifa's 'friend from out of town'?"

Yuffie sighed and nodded. "Yes. I am so going to kill her...
Gawd… I'll leave now, and not -"

He caught her arm gently and shook his head. "It's... your
father who died?"


"Godo..." Vincent looked almost dreamy for a moment,
then snapped back. "I am so very sorry, Yuffie. He was
a strong man and makes me think about my own mortality."

What mortality? She swung herself up on the counter.
"You met him? I thought it was only Cloud and Aeris who
came to Wutai."

Vincent sat down in a chair again and nodded. "Yes, but...
I met him before."

"As a Turk?"

"As a child."

She blinked again. "What..?"

"I am a Wutaian, born and bred." His eyebrows quirked.
"I was a little older than Godo, but we grew up together -
as I recall, he was an extremely bossy boy. He once tied
me up from the head of one of the statues and left me
dangling next to the nose. Afterwards, though, he gave me
one of his best knives and that was that." A dry chuckle
escaped his lips.

Yuffie looked at him with wide eyes. "Vincent Valentine isn't a
Wutaian name."

"My father was from Mideel. My mother - Ayami - was wed
to him there and they moved back to her hometown. As I
recall, our house was almost directly left of the entrance.
That, however, was before the war."

Yuffie mapped out Wutai in her mind. "Where the armoury now
is, I bet. How come you didn't tell me before?"

He shrugged. "It did not cross my mind to."

Yuffie jumped down off the counter and bowed to him gracefully.
"Konnichiwa, Vincent-sempai," she greeted him, her black eyes laughing.

He stood up in front of her and graced her with a fluid bow in return.
"Konnichiwa, Yuffie-san," he said gravely.

Yuffie scuffled her sandalled foot on the floor in much the
same way Tifa had. "Want to go for a walk?" she asked, half-shy.

Vincent looked at her, an almost amused tone to his eyes.
This isn't the Yuffie I knew, is it? "Hai. That would be... very nice."

He fatherly slipped his arm through hers and led her outside the shop.


Two figures lay on the roof of the armoury in peaceful silence.
Vincent was slightly awed. The Yuffie he had known had abhorred
silence like it was poisonous.



Vincent rolled onto his hip. "How... did Godo die?"

"Sickness, what else?" Yuffie folded up her arms.
"Funny, isn't it. He broke both his legs and got the infection
and he lived. He was shot in the stomach and he lived.
Then he gets a cold and..." she clicked her fingers.
"Whoof. That's that."

"He was old, Yuffie."

"Old!" she cried out. "Old my ass! He was going to
go on forever."

"Nobody goes on forever, Yuffie," replied a soft whisper.

She rolled onto her stomach, looking down at her hands.
"I guess."

"You run Wutai now."

Yuffie laughed, mirthlessly. "Lady Kisaragi! I don't think so.
Gorkii can do it. I couldn't run anything if my life depended on it."

Vincent moved onto his back again. "If you have no faith
in yourself, then I doubt you are suited for the job."

"Oh, thank you for your faith in me. What about Godo?"

"He wasn't a leader, either."

Yuffie glared at him. "Godo was a good leader!"

He shrugged. "I suppose he eventually melded to it.
He didn't expect to become one as a child. He... had
dreams of other things.." It must have been a trick of
the light, but the corners of Vincent's mouth turned up slightly.

"So, what are you going to do in Kalm?"

Yuffie shrugged. "Hang around, clean up Cloud's house,
feel like a dead weight, etcetera."

"You... may always come and help in the weaponry, if
you wish..." Why am I suggesting that? I don't wish for

"Thanks, Vincent." Yuffie curled up on the roof, shivering
slightly. "S'cold."

"You'd better go home."

"You going, too?"

"...maybe later."

"G'night then, Vince." Yuffie bounded down from the roof
before he could protest at the nickname.


Yuffie turned her head slightly.

"Do you miss Godo, Yuffie?"

Suddenly her palms felt all slick and shaky. "Gawd, who'd miss him,"
she said loudly. "He must have been the worst father who ever lived."

Then she ran home.


Vincent lay on the tiles of his roof, looking up at the sky long after
Yuffie had gone, thinking his own thoughts, his eyes closed.

As much as he tried to quell them, visions danced through his head.

"Hah, when I grow up, I'm going to marry Michiko," Godo boasted.
"And she's going to give me twenty daughters, thirty sons, and -"

"And ten dogs?" Vincent chuckled. "And Michiko would even look at you?"

"She will, Vin," fourteen-year-old Godo said confidently. They were lying in
a blossoming cherry tree, on different branches. "After all, who couldn't fall
in love with the magnificent Godo?"

Vincent's gentle smirk evolved into a slow grin. "Well, you never know,
Godo... after all, there is always the chance she may go blind and deaf."

With a yell, Godo chased Vincent out of the tree.

She's so like him...

Michiko had died in childbirth with Yuffie, he'd heard that much.
Vincent allowed himself a pang of grief. She always had been a sweet girl;
he was amazed she'd fallen in love with his childhood friend. Not that
he was ever interested in her; he'd never thought he'd fall in love until...


His features hardening again, Vincent slipped off his roof and
walked inside his shop.



Vincent, unlocking the door of his weaponry, opened the
door fully and nodded, slightly surprised. "...good morning,
Yuffie. I assume you slept well?"

"Like a log." Yuffie - clad in tight black shorts and a white
top that was more than entertaining for the morning male
population of Kalm - bounced up the stairs and smiled at
Vincent widely. "You?"

"I stayed up late to finish a spearhead at the last moment.
However, I am used to late nights."

"What, all the parties?" Yuffie joked lamely.

Vincent shook his head and grabbed a nearby broom, silently
sweeping out his doorstep. "What are you here for, so early in
the morning? The materia shop?"

She snorted derisively. "Come onnn... Gawd, I could
restock them about ten times!"

The corner of Vincent's mouth turned up. This was old Yuffie.
"So I gather you have not stolen from them..."

"Well, my last Heal got lost, so..."


"Anyway! I was wondering if I could take you up for help in
the shop?" At Vincent's raised eyebrow, Yuffie continued
hurriedly. "Only it's so boring at Tifa's, I think I actually started
to clean her kitchen before I realized what I was doing, and I
thought 'Hey, my wonderful good pal Vincent will need some
help with his shop..' "

His mouth quirked again. "You'll have to work."

"I can do that."

"You can't steal anything."

"What, I'm going to hide some guns down my shorts?"

I wouldn't put it past you in a pinch. "I don't like being
disturbed when I'm finishing off the weapons."

"I'll just dust and stuff like that, and talk to customers, and
not get in your way... please?" she wheedled.

He handed the broom to her silently.

"Yay!" Yuffie giggled and began to waltz with the broom.

Cloud walked up the stairs to the armoury and inserted his
key into the lock on the door. "You're certainly perky this morning,"
he commented. Then he smirked at both of them. "Nice date?"

She nodded, putting on a serious face. "I've found my one
true love from it... this broom." Yuffie bent the broom over
and began making fake kissing noises over it.

"Seems like she's back to her normal self," Cloud told Vincent.
"We knew it couldn't last..."

"Hey!" Yuffie pouted, straightened up the broom and began sweeping.
"Can't I lose control of reality sometimes?"

"Well, you've had your quota for the day. If you like, you can
sweep my doorstep too," he added generously.

"Thanks, Cloud, for your thoughtfulness."

Vincent shook his head and went inside the weaponry.

Yuffie followed soon after and just stood in the middle of the
shop for a moment, looking around. The walls were decorated
with large, delicately crafted sabres and axes and rifles; the
smaller knives, pistols, gloves and throwing stars were kept
inside a case at the front. A rack of shiny staves and spears
was pushed against the right wall, and another of shuriken
was at the left. Yuffie examined them for a moment with a
critical eye, then proudly thought of her Conformer in her
closet back in Tifa's house. The whole room smelt of polish
and metal and paint, and gleamed dull silver. And as well as
being useful, Vincent's weapons had a finesse Yuffie seldom

"Did you make all of this?"

Vincent looked up from behind the counter, cleaning a sword.
"Most of it... I had the heavier things casted elsewhere, however."

"They're beautiful," Yuffie said admiringly.

"Weapons are not supposed to be beautiful. They are...
instruments of destruction."

Yuffie ran her finger carefully over some intricate engravings
in a sword-hilt. "It doesn't stop some of them from being works
of art."

"I suppose..." Vincent held the sword up to the light critically.
"Can you place this in the empty holder to the far left?"

She took it wordlessly, carrying it as if it was made of glass,
and placed it lovingly on the wooden pegs. It made something
inside Vincent smile, which startled him momentarily.

"Hey, Vincent, did you manage to work out how that shield was
cast?" Cloud had popped his head through the doorway behind
the counter that led to his armoury.

He shook his head. "No, but someone did not roll the mythril properly...
it's of bad quality; I suggest you complain."

"Damn, damn." Cloud sighed, then perked up, a too-innocent
grin on his face. "You guys want tea or something?"

"No," Vincent said, almost hurriedly.

"I'll have tea," Yuffie volunteered. Geez, Vincent must really
not like tea.

Cloud nodded slightly viciously and left.

The dark-haired man cocked an eyebrow at Yuffie.
"I gather you've never tasted Cloud's tea before?"

"What's wrong with it?"

"It's very... strong."

"That's good! I like strong tea."

Cloud came out a few minutes later with two cups of steaming tea,
one of which Yuffie gratefully cupped in her hands. Then she sipped
carefully, swilling the contents around in her mouth like a wine-taster.

"Tea leaves," she said after her second sip, then took another. "Milk.
I detect sugar.. and paint-stripper."

Cloud laughed goodnaturedly and held the tray out to her. "Put it back.
Not even Vincent can stand it."

"No, this is interesting! I swear, layers are peeling off my teeth."
Yuffie winked at both of the men in front of her and flexed one of
her arms, holding the tea in the other. "And to test my strength,
I will drink the rest of the cup... one-handed!" She tipped her head
up and bravely tilted the rest of the liquid into her mouth.

Cloud applauded and she put the empty cup back on the tray.
"Brave girl," he commented and left the room.

Yuffie grinned at Vincent and plonked herself down in a chair.
"Now, what can I do?"

For the next hour, they sat in silence, the only noise the one of a
cloth loudly applying polish to various items of mythril and steel.
There was the occasional 'ow' as Yuffie pricked herself, but other
than that, nothing.

Eventually, she felt herself being watched, and looked
up to see Vincent's crimson eyes on her. "What are you
looking at?" she asked, slightly joking, but also worried.
Have I broken something?

"I was just thinking how you've changed, Yuffie."

That was a particularly long sentence for him, she immediately
thought, but all joking was gone and seriousness settled over her,
familiarly now. "For the worse?"

"I don't know..." Vincent settled down with a dagger and
began carefully checking it. "You are most definitely less... perky."

She blinked, surprised. Yuffie had tried to be as cheerful
as possible all morning. "I am?"

"Yes, no matter how hard you try." Almost as if reading
her mind, he looked at her carefully. "You miss Godo."

"Don't be stupid," she spat out, the knot tightening
inside her and rebounding around her body before
she could stop it or the words.

"..." Vincent shrugged, then flipped his dagger over.

Yuffie was trying to think up some suitable retort
for silence when a customer came through the door.

She cheered up later when Vincent let her take the till and
she could gossip with everyone buying throwing-weapons.
Yuffie was good at counting change - she'd always made
careful count of how much people would miss in her younger
days - and Vincent trusted her with selling people stuff.
Occasionally he came to the fore when there was a question
of make, but other than that, Yuffie was left to herself.

Later on in the day Vincent stood up and motioned for Yuffie
to take the counter. "I need to retrieve some papers from my
house; I won't be long..."

"Leave it to me, Vin," Yuffie said breezily. Vincent looked slightly
sick at the nickname, but left.

He returned quickly, only after about ten minutes, with a
large stack of official-looking papers in his hands. Vincent
set them down on the counter and a smallish white square
slipped out onto the floor. Yuffie immediately snatched it.

Once she saw what it was, she blushed slightly; it was a
black and white photograph of a young man - a very
handsome young man - dressed in a dark business suit
and tie. His eyes were serious, his face carrying the
same expression... Yuffie just knew that if he smiled,
this man would be probably the most good-looking she'd
ever seen...

The photo slipped from her grasp when she realised
it was Vincent.

She was scrabbling on the floor for it when she looked up at
Vincent, red-faced. Eventually it made it's way into her
hands and she handed it back to him shyly. He took it
delicately in his claw.

"How old were you?"

He looked at the photo mutely. ".... twenty-five,"
he finally offered.

"You had really cute hair," Yuffie responded, then
prayed for the Planet to let her sink into it's depths. Oh, no.
Could I have sounded more like an idiot airhead? Gawd!

Instead of a pitying look, a slight warmth touched his eyes.
"No matter how much I combed it, it would not stay flat...
it was my despair when I was younger." He ran a hand
though his tumbling black locks. "Strange how one can
become obsessed with such things during puberty."

"You're lucky it was just your hair," Yuffie said gloomily.
"I didn't grow properly until I was about fifteen years old."

"I was small, too," he said unexpectedly. "Thin… weedy."
Vincent abruptly stopped for a moment, staring into space,
then shook his head and slipped the photo into his pocket.
"But it's all in the past now…"

All in the past now, Yuffie thought. Everything was all in the past now,
it seemed; everything that was good, and light, and happy.
The future held little comfort and everything just hurt so bad,
so much that it seemed her heart was swollen in her chest and
trying to explode.

All in the past now, Vincent thought. Everyone that was important
was merely past, and history, a turned page in the faded notebook
that seemed to be his life. The years were long and dragging, and it
seemed he didn't have a soul or a heart now, shrivelling in his chest
until it dwindled away to nothing.

They looked at eachother and knew the other understood,
so they turned different ways and Yuffie left to go home,
because somebody else knowing was the most unnerving part.

Yuffie's heart thudded in her chest as she raced down the steps
to Cloud's house, and her one coherent thought was that she had
to stop running away from Vincent like that.


"Oh, so you can come, Barret?" Tifa gushed. "It'll be so great,
Marlene and everything." There was a pause. "No, Reeve's in
Junon, he'll be sending… oh, come on! He's not so bad…"

Yuffie sat sipping her tea calmly that evening, Tifa using the
PHS. Cloud was off somewhere doing complicated things with
the plumbing.

"Yes, Yuffie's here –"

"Hi, Barret!" Yuffie shouted from the table from his benefit.

" – as you can hear… It's a one-week thing, yes… we'd
love to have you with us!"

Barret and Marlene, here, Yuffie thought. With a kind of ashamed
affection she realized she'd like to see the big man and his little
daughter again, that she'd like to see all the others and talk
and have fun and see if they'd changed. Foul-mouthed Cid and
mousy Shera, intelligent Red. They did mean a lot to her, she
realized. Even Cait, who'd looked more like something she'd
have taken to bed as a child than a companion and fighter.

Tifa hung up the PHS and smiled at Yuffie, breathing in the
warm, slightly breezy air that signalled hot summer. It wasn't
Costa del Sol, and it wasn't dead dry like Wutai, but it was
a lovely, temperate summer. "Warming up. You like summer, Yuffie?"

"I never really thought about it." She sipped her tea
and smiled. "But I think… autumn, definitely. Crunching

Tifa began to pack away mats on the table from dinner.
"At least you can decide. When it's spring, I tell myself it's
my favourite; when it's autumn, I decide I like that best;
and the same thing in winter. Now it's summer and I say
that it's definitely my favourite season!" Her laughter
was silvery and she closed a drawer. "I'm silly."

"No, I like that," Yuffie said, oddly charmed by the description.
"It means you're happy the whole year round." She shook
her head and looked up. "When's Barret coming?"

"Two weeks, Red as well… a few days before the festival."

"When is the… Midsummer Festival?"

"Two weeks; we'll be decorating a week before then,
though. Everywhere you look, there'll be red and
yellow streamers and posters and –"

"Cheap cardboard?"

Tifa snorted. "Okay, it does look a little tacky. But it's fun;
there's always dancing…"

"Dancing?" Yuffie looked horrified. "Like… waltz, and all that?"

"Yeah…" Tifa smiled wistfully and placed her hands
on an invisible partner, humming to herself and waltzing
lightly around the table.

The ninja grinned and clapped for the other dark-haired
woman as she ended her dance and bowed to the unseen
person opposite her.

Immediately Cloud, who had been quietly watching from the door,
cut between Tifa and her invisible partner. "My dance, if you please!"
he winked.


"Can't I waltz with one of the beautiful women in this house?" He grabbed
her lightly and began twirling her around, as she laughed and
wrapped her arms around him, head on his shoulder. Yuffie could
see the wet shine to her eyes.

She grinned softly and excused herself, moving out the
door and up the stairs to her room.

Things were starting to make her happy again, even if it
was just a little.


End Part One