-materia-

People would always gasp or stare in disbelief when Cloud drew his sword. They couldn't imagine the slight young man carrying such a weapon with ease. Like it was made of paper, not steel. They didn't understand that compared to his other burdens, it was.

Yuffie understood, though. She saw the times when his shoulders slumped, his steps slowed, and it looked almost like he was wading through water, every step dragging against the mire of his past. Something about him took on a dreamy quality then, as if he was a specter of the past that haunted him. As if he was already gone, and what she was seeing was no more than a memory.

It didn't happen as often as it had before. He was learning to let go. More importantly, he was learning to let others help him carry the burden.

It was dusk and Yuffie sat on a low wall a few blocks away from 7th Heaven. She was waiting for Cloud, kicking her feet back and forth, the drumming of her heels on cement echoing loudly down the otherwise empty street. She had meant to catch him before he headed to Aerith's church but had missed him. He'd left Fenrir. She knew how to read his moods and decided that she would wait for him to return rather than trying to catch up to him.

It was only half an hour before she saw him step out of a side street in front of her. She leapt off the wall.

"Cloud!" Yuffie called, running up behind Cloud and jumping onto his back. She hooked her arms around his shoulders and wrapped her legs around his waist. His steps never faltered, and the only sign that he even noticed the ninja now hanging on him was an amused snort. Yuffie propped her chin on Cloud's shoulder. "Hey! Where's my materia?"

Instead of his usual "Wherever the hell you left it." he reached into his pocket and pulled out a softly glowing red sphere. He held it in front of her face, still not even turning his head to look at her. "I found it near Gold Saucer." He said.

Yuffie let go with one arm to take it, rolling it between her fingers, eyes wide. "I've never seen a summon like this before." she said wonderingly.

Cloud shrugged, then absently reached up to grip Yuffie's legs and hoist her back into a more secure position. She hadn't even realized that she'd been slipping. "I haven't tried it yet. I thought that you'd want to be the first. Since it's yours."

Yuffie squealed in delight, clutching it in her hand tighter. "Cloud, you're so awesome!" she said. She leaned forward and pressed her lips noisily and messily against his cheek in a series of exaggerated kisses. "Let's go try it!" She hopped down and grabbed his hand.

Cloud's lips curved into one of his rare smiles as she led him towards Fenrir.