A/N: This is mainly something I wrote for the yuffentine community on LJ, a couple months back, as I was trying to get my writing muscles back in shape for writing Yuffie herself; pulling it out as I try to write Another Country, I looked it over again. (And it is still fluff fluff fluff, but.)
Tastes Like Green
When she is still sixteen, they abruptly find themselves in the same bar; surprisingly enough, he is not occupying the dark mysterious corner and drinking a dark mysterious cocktail, but being cheap and getting water from the barman right there at the front. It is a terrible thing to be wearing a depressing red cape and ordering water right there at the front where anyone can see you; so she slams her hand helpfully down on the bar until his glass rattles. "Barman! One vodka for me and one Traffic Light for my youthful companion!"
The barman gives her an up-and-down look, which is mad unfair. "ID?"
So she forks one (of many) out of her wallet and shows it to him, which he squints at, which is even more mad unfair. "Cooper Trelisse? And you're thirty-nine?"
She breaks out in a sweat. That is the problem of having sixty-three fake IDs. "I moisturise? I moisturise a lot. I eat healthy. I never smoke - "
"She's with me," Vincent Valentine finally says, though he more looks like he would like her to be, say, in outer space. Considering both him and her and the general situation divided by Vincent being a cheapskate another water is dumped down in front of Yuffie Kisaragi's waiting and critical hands: she gives Vincent a long, cool, blue-eyed look before nonetheless drinking it down in one gulp. Junon is a thirsty city, and the slummy back-door bars are the thirstiest part.
"I guess I would find you here, nursing a hard water and picking up chicks," she says.
"I'm here to stage an intervention," she says. "Water kills. It's scientifically proven."
"It's also addictive," she says, proving it by edging a quick little hand towards his good one and stealing his glass. It is razed with a serious gulp before she hands it back. "You probably shouldn't drink that any more, by the way, I made sure I got cooties on it."
"Are you following me, Yuffie?"
"No, this is actually happy coincidence." (He, finally, pushes his water towards her. She takes it all generously.) "I think there's something wrong with your cellphone, by the way, I sent you a chain text along with seven other people because I was told otherwise I would be run down in the street by a large truck, and you never thanked me for it."
"...I don't check those messages."
"You may be run over by a truck, it has been less than sixty days."
"Those things are puerile and the realm of the pre-pubescent, Yuffie. I'm not in the habit of answering them. ... and it may surprise you to learn that I do not worry about being run over by trucks."
"Oh, ouch. I think that's one of the longest things you've ever said to me. It breaks my heart that it has to be that. Look at me crying. Look at my single tear."
"I - "
"I'm coming back when you're not PMSing," she says, pushes herself off the barstool with the terrible screech of wood on linoleum, and saunters off into the dusty dusk of the bar. She disappears, and he turns - and she reappears about forty seconds later, brandishing a little packet of flavoured rice snacks which she pulls open with her teeth. (He notices her hair is long and straggling down her neck, like she's cut it with a razor; that she's wearing a beaten-up jacket with frayed sleeves pushed up to her skinny and unlovely elbows, that there are deep circles underneath her eyes. There is a man's tie around her neck and she has grazed knees, just like a little girl.)
"Are you still PMSing," she says, and - not waiting for an answer - tosses one in her mouth. "No? Good. It is a totally retarded thing for a man to be PMSing, even one with your beautiful man-hair."
"... I never know exactly what to say to you," he says, quite suddenly, and she nearly ends her life right there by choking on a rice cracker.
"I don't know," she says, sixteen and awkward all of a sudden. "Why can't we have a cool conversation, Vinnie? We could talk about sealing-wax and movies and our deep philosophies and the colour red and stuff. I - I don't know. Normal people have conversations about that kind of thing."
"You'll find I'm not a good companion with... 'normal' conversations."
"Can't we just test? How about this: Red. Discuss."
There is a long silence. The bar is filled with old cigarette smoke and the low whine of the refridgerators for the bar, and every so often, an ominous crackling sound from the electric lights.
"Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Red is red. Boy, this is an awesome conversation. You are an intellectual giant, Vinnie."
He looks at her, and for a moment, she is sorry for her tongue; she is sorry for being sixteen, she is sorry for everything, and then she forces rice crackers into her acidic mouth and offers him the bag. He keeps looking at her; and then he he selects something orange that is shaped like a fish if a fish had a terrible accident, and stares at the bar instead. His bronze claw resting on the old wood looks like a polished ornament, she thinks, all sharp fingers and festivals.
"You are not with Tifa," he says, and it is not a question.
"Nope. You either."
"I guess everyone does things differently," she announces, filling the silence, and she throws one of the crackers up in the air and catches it between her front teeth. She crunches it a while, before she adds: "Like you and me."
"We hardly do things the same, Yuffie." (He does not eat the cracker. She cannot blame him.)
"No, because I am a badass Wutaian ninja with murder on my mind and a gun in my hand only it is not in fact a gun, whereas I think you are a sad and lonely depressobot and that you should answer my text messages," she says. She says, she says, she says - "and you should smile at me, you have nice gums."
For some reason, when he looks at her then - she has to stand up and get off the chair and collect herself, and abandon everything entirely, all to pieces with only her extremely obnoxious tie to hold in her hot heart. She looks at the hem of his ripped-up cloak rather than his face; and she gabbles - "Well, it's been nice sitting and having this AVALANCHE-ly talk with you, but I have to go off and do bitchin' ninja things, in fact I should have been gone ten minutes ago so I have to actually travel back in time thanks a lot, I bet I'll see you in another six months - "
She runs out the door so hard that she actually runs into it, smacking her nose on it, throwing it open and letting in the cold city night. "Hey, maybe we'll make it up to the other colours in the rainbow next time! Bye, Vinnie!"
And then she is gone. He stares at the crumbly pack of unnaturally-coloured rice crackers: and he says nothing.
When she is seventeen - and it is longer than six months - she actually runs straight into his back with two dripping sno-cones clutched in her hands, headfirst like the truck that never got him underneath the blazing sun of Costa del Sol. He has acknowledged the weather by wearing just his shirt, and his trousers, which makes him a black beacon of distress; she is wearing a one-piece swimsuit with a pirate flag on it which had entertained her yesterday and right then was thoroughly awful. They ended up on a covered bench with her eating the red sno-cone, and him eating the green one. (Usually she just ends up eating both and getting thoroughly and grievously ill.)
"We could get up to blue," she says. "Have you thought a lot on blue? I bet you spent the last, like, year - "
" - it has been less than a year - "
" - thinking on blue, thinking, 'I better impress Yuffie with my deep and sustained knowledge on blue', so here's me overturning your hopes and dreams: what do you think of green."
He obviously thinks about it (his hair is scraped back, she sees, scraped back away from his sweaty forehead with a rubberband; there are light and snowy scars on his elbow, where his shirtsleeve is rolled and buttoned, little light feathery scars at the terrible join of flesh to metal) and settles on his sno-cone for deep thought.
"It's green," he says, poker-faced. To her great surprise, bereft of spoons, he then actually takes a bite.
"You are a retarded philosopher," she says cheerfully, and slomps on her own until her tongue is red. "What's it taste like?"
"I almost swear you are making a joke. C'mon."
"... bad citrus flavouring out of a packet."
"Oh my gawd that really was almost a joke. I am really glad and relieved to see you actually eating, by the way, I once told Tifa that you were a vampire. Are you a vampire? Because that would also be pretty cool. I mean, you do sleep in a coffin. Do you still sleep in a coffin? Do you lug it around with you?"
"Mine tastes like the terrible artificial cherries of depression. I should have given it to you. Do you want a lick?" (He declines.) "I did goober a lot on it. I produce a lot of venomous spit naturally." (He declines further.)
She sticks her feet out straight so that the sun can beat down on them: all around them are the sound of children's screams, and people talking, and the underlying ache of the sea. Yuffie wriggles her toes very carefully for all-over tan.
"I never expected to find you here," she breaks in again, after turning over on her stomach to try in scientific vain for a soles-of-her-feet browning. "This isn't really your kind of place - by the way, your outfit is grossness. I bet you are burning to smithereens. You are also fitting in with the locals like a frog on a submarine."
"... Are you having fun here, Yuffie?"
Wow, she thinks, he actually knows the word fun -
"No. I hate this place."
Silence. She eats her sno-cone in it.
"We're still doing our own thing," she adds presently. "By our itty bitty selves. Of course, I am naturally better at it than you. I have been wandering around since I was eight years old. I can lick water from a tree and from the back of a fish and things. It's only natural I should worry about you as you try to read maps and fall into holes and things. I bet when you grew up you just skulked in the basement sewing up your capes and not seeing the outside of the world - "
"I was a city boy," he says.
She rolls it on her tongue for a moment: I was a city boy, he said, he was a city boy, it is a not-secret he has shared with her, a tiny little terrible admission - of him as a boy, of him with a city, something he has shared with her free of price.
"I wasn't," she fumbles a little, - "for one thing, obviously, I have no penis."
They dwell on that a little.
"I have breasts instead," she blurts, in case there was any worry on his part.
"They're huge, as big as mountains. Look. They're right here. On my chest. You probably can't see my face, they're so big. They are terrible natural dangers. Tifa is jealous, my boobs are so enormous. I am a fertility icon. Look. Look."
For some unfathomable reason, he does not take up her invitation to examine her a-cups but very strongly eats the rest of his sno-cone. Swivelling, she attempts to put her arms behind her head and jiggle them like she has seen other women do, but Yuffie's breasts are not made for jiggling: they are made for her to be in a circus, in her opinion, the Girl with the Tiniest Breasts. She puts her hands forward and attempts to jiggle them manually, but is distracted by a sort of slow and pained choking noise coming from Vincent's throat. He is dying like he is embarrassed about it, which strikes her as perverse.
"Are you dying? I can give you the Kiss of Life. Or I can get one of those burly lifeguards to give you the Kiss of Life. I bet you'd love getting the Kiss of Life from a burly lifeguard. You might get sand in your monsterclaw, though."
"... What are you doing here?"
"That's a secret."
There are so many silences between them, she thinks, that their whole themness is like a play with too many intermissions. She used to fill them up with her own dialogue: it doesn't work any more, if it ever worked, if it ever will work. His silence is a badly-written dialogue all of its own.
"I could ask you what you're doing here - "
"... but you won't."
"I already know." She swings her feet back and forth. "You're here with me eating sno-cones on a bench sweating in your black pyjamas. Which is pretty fascinating, actually. You eat sno-cones like a cow who just got a tongue implant. You are way too demure about it. Stick out your tongue." (Amazingly, he does, in the manner of a man dreading a doctor's appointment.) "See? Your tongue is only mildly green. Your tongue is meant to be hypersonic plague green."
"You'd know, I suppose," he says.
"Damn straight I would."
"I still never know what to say to you."
"Every time you say that I just want to kiss you so hard your jaw breaks," she says, only she doesn't: she has a terrible cold sweat, because she just thought that, she thought it in her head, sneaky and private like a prank. She worries at the thought like a wiggly tooth until the thought evolves into, "and then after that I want to kiss you all over your slobbery broken jaw, and then I want to unbutton your shirt and make you hold me in your stupid depressing gorgeous man-arms. And then maybe some sex, because I'm seventeen."
"I have to go," she says, and before he can say anything - she drops her snocone on the ground, in a terrible red puddle, and she plants her hands on the sandy gravel to spring herself up to the bench-umbrella and back and away, away, away, away, away, and never again. The sea gives her a 9.5.
"Goodbye, Yuffie," Vincent says to the sno-cone.
When she is one month away from eighteen she follows him through the hard dust of the canyons, out of sight and not far behind, swallowing his steps in the moonlight: eating the shadow of his long-legged stride, devouring the breeze that blows in his ragged hair, living solely on the pulse of his heart a mile away. She does this for six days, until she is one month minus six days away from being eighteen: she flicks in her pocket a Restore materia, a worry-ball, to comfort her through the cold rocks and the night and her terrible existential Vincent Valentine-style despair - and one night she throws it so hard away that she can hear the tiny plink at the bottom of a crevasse, and when she's throwing perfectly good materia away over Vincent Valentine something is dreadfully wrong.
She stops on the sixth night: stops following, anyway, gives up, and walks into his makeshift camp - he is standing-leaning against a rock and watching his fire, doing something with oil and a cloth to his metallic arm, and she wants to pull his limbs off and break his head and hurt him. (It is a very terrible thing to be nearly eighteen.)
"... I'm not kind," he says, to the fire, to her. "I am not gentle, Yuffie. I don't have what you want. I have no inclination - I have nothing to give you. Go away and leave me be."
"You don't know what I want," she says.
"I was eighteen once."
"I am not eighteen, smartass. I am seventeen and over three hundred days."
"I was seventeen and over three hundred days once." He sounds even a little mocking now; under that dreadful, crushing nothing, that venom, that hate. (It is the disdain above everything else that has her hands shaking.)
"Like a billion years ago, and I don't think you remember. Besides, it was back in the days when materia walked the earth on big dinosaur legs - "
"You never understood, Yuffie. I remember everything. I am not nice, I am not kind. I am not human. Don't expect these things from me. Don't. I don't know how to talk to - to little girls."
Ice burn! It is meant to cut her down to the quick: and she wants to laugh at his ineptitude, but she is furious instead and she is running, she is on him with her legs wrapped around his waist and punching into his shoulders like the truck that never came - his knees buckling, falling into the dusty ground, her taking fistfuls of his stupid cloak and pulling like a baby. She has dropped Conformer on the ground and she is five again. He will never see a woman in her: when she stamps her foot on the back of his kneecap he does not make a sound. "City boy," is all that she can yell, to the canyon, the only thing he ever gave her and her last inexpert weapon - "city boy, city boy, city boy - "
When Yuffie stops there is nothing, she is as weightless as air. She makes herself a place for her cheek on the hollow of his shoulder, muffled by the thick worn velvet of his cloak. He is still; and she's weeping for him, not for her.
"You can still go," he tells his girlfriends, the rocks. He is still and stiff, and she understands, she always knew - the self-disdain, the baby-hatred, his terrible loathing of everything and every atom Vincent Valentine. Maybe she's hurting him unbelievably, sticking his hand in the fire, the source of his shame - just another sin to pile on the rest, she thinks, just another sin. "You can still go, Yuffie."
"I never know how to go," she whispers into his back, ninja deadweight. "I never know how to leave you."
"... there's still..."
"I'm hurting you and I'll go," she says, just as much a martyr as him: nail her up on her own red cross, get her her own stylish black clothing, she's gone down to his level. She just needs her own drag-along coffin - "I'll go but I think I might just possibly die and never make it to eighteen if you don't kiss me."
"... time," he says, and he tips her to the ground and he kisses her.
"I hate what you do to me," he says, and he kisses her.
"I hate what you turn me into," he says, and he kisses her.
"I hate what you want," he says, and he kisses her: he kisses her, he kisses her, he tastes like green and he is kissing her until she is weightless and sudden and shocked. She was never a little girl to him - and he is kissing her - because maybe all girls are little girls to him, because he is fifty years old and Chaos and frothing alone in the dark like the Galian Beast, dark and ancient and always always forever twenty-seven. And twenty-seven, when all is said and done, is not too painfully different from being nearly eighteen - and he is kissing her, as if he'll never get to kiss her again - and maybe he won't - tongue and teeth and his really nice gums, the pinpricks of his claws digging into her shoulder and making her bleed with it, putting on her head all of the sins committed from the world's inception down. She did not know there were these gates; she feels wholly insignificant having held the key - but who gives a damn, he's kissing her, ripping her mouth to shreds and drinking her dry. She will never be kissed like this again, maybe, not with her aware of everything in the entire world, the fire crackling on the dry deadwood and the warmth of his fingers on her cold skin: this is him, this is what he keeps buttoned up in himself lest all his gore slip out and show to the world, this is him oh Gaa-aa-aaawd did he just do that? - shifting his hand down, rending the world as he traces with extraordinary gentleness the circle of her nipple through her shirt. And he stops: she has been born again, seventeen and over three hundred days, and he is looking at her with terrible red-rose eyes.
"Thank you," she says, punch-drunk and addled, and - "Also: 9.9."
"I don't know if I will ever be able to do anything but hurt you," he says: gentle, no crushing self-hate, simple and clean. "I - or me - or what I am. I'm sorry."
"I'm not. I do love you, you know, Vinnie Valentine. I love you love you love you."
"Yes," - and he smiles, and he breaks her heart with it, just softly. "I was once seventeen."
She is shaking like a leaf. Her knees buckle when she stands - and she leans to cup his face, to kiss his eyebrows and the tip of his nose. She dusts herself off; she feels like her skin will come off and her slimy innards will slip out, steaming and vile. "I'll probably be back again," she says, offhandedly (never offhandedly) - "Some day. I guess. We have just got to stop meeting like this, don't you think. It's not cool."
He hates himself even more; and because he does, he back to his old faraway self, the corner of his mouth just a little crooked as he regards her. "... I suppose."
"Unless you'd like to, I don't know, have hot and kinky sex!"
Yuffie feels it very depressing that he chokes a little on that, raises one eyebrow, as if he was totally not just feeling her up. Monster-vampires are such retarded liars. Then again, his knuckles - if she went a little closer, she'd never leave. She'd never ever ever ever leave. "Goodnight, Yuffie."
She walks away from him, and sticks her hands in her pockets, and she whistles a very gay and merry Wutaian tune as she moves into the darkness - terribly out of tune, through swollen lips and a beating heart, - she walks off like a boy. And then, when he can't see, she runs like a bat out of hell until she can't run any more and flings herself down to hold herself closed. Goodnight, she repeats to herself, goodnight, goodnight, goodnight -
When she is nearly nineteen, she vows, she will hit him in the face as hard as she can and maybe steal his cloak. Because she's grown up now, and cloaks are bitching cool.
"Otherwise," she says out loud, "I am going to stay away from Vincent Valentine. Away! Finito. Separation. Long-distance. Divide. Estrangement. Splitsville - "
That night she goes back and steals half of his materia, while he's asleep. Sucker.