Silk and Hot Metal

He is dead

She is not

She kinda wishes she was sometimes.

All in all, it's a sucky situation. Sucky like a whirlpool, sucky like a vacuum, sucky like…something really sucky.

Yuffie's not all that great with words. It's not hard to tell. She babbles when she's angry, when she's confused, when she's sad, basically when she's feeling emotional. But if Yuffie's not good with words, then he was basically a mute. She suspects that when she wasn't looking, he would mime things to her. And make faces. That was what the cloak was for, actually. So she wouldn't notice when he made faces at her babbling.

Leon doesn't make faces when she babbles. He just gels his hair and shines his gunblade and says "hn." Leon's boring, boring like a whole lot of rusty nails in a brown paper bag, and it's sort of crappy because Vincent wasn't boring like a broken glass and rusty nails, Vincent was boring like…like…iron encased in black silk, dark and flowing and surreal on the outside and ready to wrap you up and caress you, but once you got too close and really tried to hug him, he was hard as a rock and about as emotional as one too.

Then again, he was more like…volcano rock. Yuffie doesn't really know what volcano rock is like but she likes to think it looks like rock on the outside but is sort of hot and gooey and oozy and malleable on the inside. Because just when you thought you would give up, tear your hair out trying to get close to Vincent Valentine The Rock, his heat would explode in your face and engulf you in a terrible embrace that would burn you alive. But it was good. It was just good and if a person felt it, that person would know why it was just good.

But really, Yuffie was the only person who had known quite how good it was. Or so she liked to babble to herself when she ended up thinking about it too hard and wondering how he had shared that with the other woman, the dead one with the scientist boyfriend. Yuffie didn't like to think about that woman. That woman had hurt Vincent, and the only person who was allowed to hurt Vincent in Yuffie's book had been Yuffie.

Sometimes when she finds herself covered in that sticky black stuff that comes off of Heartless when you flay them alive, she wonders what it'd be like to have him there all brooding and tall and dark and handsome and terribly, dramatically tragic in his stupid red cape with his stupid brass boots and his STUPID beautiful face.

He'd probably rival Leon in the Angsty McAngst department. Heck, they'd probably have Angst contests. She could just see it now:

"We will duel," Vincent would say.

"Hn," Leon would say.

And then they would stare at each other and think of dark things to see which of them could hold out longer.

Sometimes she likes to compare them. It's her own way of hurting herself, a kind of self-mutilation, putting notches up her legs and waist and stomach and shoulders and arms and up her neck until she looked like some kind of horrible, horrible tiger of pain and sorrow. And when she's done she remembers that being a horrible tiger of pain and sorrow was Leon's job. Or Vincent's. Something like that.

Leon has spiked brown hair like that paper bag filled with nails and glass and Vincent had long, beautiful black hair like burned spider silk. Leon has ice-blue eyes that were like reflecting pools and Vincent had blood red eyes like blood, only not in the bad way, in the good way like your heart beating and warm fires on a winter day. Leon has that kind of hot, rakish scar over that one part of his face and Vincent had that freaky golden claw that he had to be careful with when around her.

It aches when she does that. But then she just keeps on, because feeling pain reminds her that she's not quite a Heartless and she's not quite a Nobody, and even though she's not quite a person, the pain reminds her that there's still some Yuffie-ness left there for her to run on, like an engine with no gasoline left, going on the fumes.

Cid and Aerith don't talk about him. Not after that first time when Cid tried to get her to open up and she smashed every little breakable thing in his shop. He got tired of trying after that one time. That was good ol' Cid—leaving her to her vices and her Heartless-decimating and trying to play jump-rope with the bendy arms on Dusks.

No, Leon is the one who always tries to make her stop doing stupid things, always telling her to stop babbling, always using his Yuffie Sense to make sure he was beating her when she was down. Vincent never did that. Vincent was always unbearably gentle from the get-go, letting her abuse him like a dog lying down in the dirt and taking it, just taking it like he deserved it from her and he loved her all the same. She hated him for that so she railed at him even more, and he just took it all like the penance that he thought he deserved, letting her kill him like another bit of karma.

Leon is the one who fights her back. He doesn't take that crap from her, and she honestly doesn't mind. That's one thing that she loves about Leon over Vincent (oh, god it hurtshurtshurts to think that Leon is better at something than Vincent). He kicks her right back, straight in the gut, but when they're through with the mutual abuse they sob into each other's arms with snot and drool and salty tears and then they have super-hawt makeup sex against the wall in the library, where no one really goes, not even Aerith because she's too busy caring for everyone that's not herself.

The book dust and the sweat are something she always likes the smell of and she always wonders why she never just jumped Vinnie's bones while she had the chance 'cause that's one more thing she can't compare between Leon and Vincent. A little less salt she can rub in her bloody notches.

The days run by together until they become one long blur of dead Heartless and kissing Leon until he bleeds and staring at her shoes and wondering where all the hope in her went. There was even a bit left after Vincent was taken by those little crawly bastard Shadows, but when she had grieved and grieved and finally forgiven herself for wasting all that time on something as worthless as emotion, Cloud walked up in Vincent's red cloak and wearing that STUPID gold claw (oh, god he was so messed up so fucking fucked, that fucking idiot), she really knew that something had drained out of her then because Cloud was absolutely cuckoo, gaga, crazy, bonkers, and she couldn't stand to look at him, not when he was swirling around in that cape and pretending to be Vincent, not when he wasn't gonna save them all this time, not when the fate of everything she had left was in the hands of a twelve-year-old with crappy hair and shoes the size of boats.

Leon didn't pretend to be Vincent, and Yuffie didn't pretend to be Rinoa, and it was good for them.

She knew that it was mostly that they shared a room, and that they saved each other's asses every day, and that they were bleeding all over each other at every given opportunity, but it felt better than anything ever since Vincent was taken just being with Leon, and really she supposed that they weren't so much touching each other as taking turns holding all the anger and hurt they had in the both of them, collectively. When one finally collapsed, it was the other's turn, and that one shouldered the burden for his or her allotted time.

Cid and Aerith and Tifa and Cloud have to know by now what's going on—well, maybe not Cloud because he's too busy pretending to be Vincent and straining to see if maybe he can pop out a baby Chaos, and maybe not Tifa because she's too busy trying to rip Cloud to shreds for being an idiot, and maybe not Aerith because she's what stands between Cloud and complete and utter madness (the kind where you chew on your arms and legs and then make murals on the bathroom wall with your own feces), and maybe not Cid because he doesn't want to look at any more changes and he's certainly had enough of them since Shera went down without a sound that horrible day. So, yeah, they don't know what's going on, and Yuffie and Leon are fine, either way, because they're beyond the point of being criticized.

Sometimes she tells him about Vincent. About his eyes and his hair and his tragic-ness and his beautiful red cloak and the way he smelled like gunpowder and old wood and wind. Yuffie's not sure what wind smells like, but she knows that that was what Vincent smelled like because his cape was always billowing in a phantom breeze so what else could that particular Vincent-y scent have been. Then she told Leon that Leon smelled like hot metal and leather and book dust and that she hates it that he's not Vincent, and he kissed her hard, invading her mouth and every other part of her body, and told her he didn't care because he hates it that she's not Rinoa.

And they both know that it doesn't matter what they hate because they hate themselves for hating each other and the hate is so strong that they don't know how to handle it and they both know hate that strong is really love, even though they never, ever say it. They just tell each other with their hands and their teeth and their tongues and their stupid, stupid, stupid pain.

Yuffie figures that Leon is less like a brown paper bag full of rusty nails and broken glass and more like hot metal: ready to be shaped and made into something beautiful or something sharp or something dark and twisty and full of turns or maybe all of those things, but you can't touch it with your bare hands. You have to touch it with gloves on, and you have to beat at it until it does what you want and even then it has a mind of its own because you have to respect it or else it just gets away from you.

Yuffie figures Leon is like hot metal and she guesses that hot metal and volcano rocks aren't all that different, even with the black silk, so she buries her nose in his stupid girl-jacket and takes refuge there, just for a little while.