Penance

©®™ Lt. Commander Richie

((Disclaimer:The last chapter. I swear. I also swear that, since Kushina is constantly portrayed as orange or red-headed, that Pein is really Uzumaki Kushina. That would be rather ironic. I'm talking Naruto, please ignore me. So... Yeah. Merry Christmas, happy whatever else you celebrate, and please refrain from hitting me too hard for the crappy ending.))

Dedicated to: All my reviewers. It's been great, guys.

Chapter 26


"I don't want to go!" Yuffie, her arm still in its cast with its baker's dozen of signatures, held onto Mira's hand as they stared down the door to the First Grade classroom of Nibel Elementary. "Nobody the same age as me likes me much."

"C'mon, they don't even know you!" Yuffie protested, looking down at the seven-year-old at her side. With big glowing and baleful eyes, Mira attempted to simper her way out of the situation. The woman smiled down at her and pulled her frayed red ribbon from her forehead, resting it behind the largest spikes of hair on her head.

"Exactly!" The little girl cried, her puppy eyes melting into anger at the total apparent incompetence of the people around her. "I don' wanna go." She pouted, pulling her hand from Yuffie's and crossing hr arms haughtily.

"You have to." In a cloud of red that was so out of place in the bright and beautiful colors of the Elementary school's hall, Vincent came into view from around the backpacks. His boots clicked on the wooden floor, the sharp points leaving small nicks in the lacquer. "You're already signed up."

"You can't make me." Running to the nearest water fountain, Mira sat herself on the soggy mat beneath it and held onto the plumbing underneath. "I'm not going." Yuffie sighed, walking over to the seven-year-old and hunching down in front of her.

"You're being a brat." She said frankly, unfazed when blue Mako eyes narrowed at her. "You're being a brat and you're being spoiled." Vincent walked to where the little girl held onto the plumbing, peering down at her over the collar of his cloak. Mira faltered under the gaze, giving one last-ditch effort to get out of going to school. The sides of the gunslinger's eyes crinkled every-so-slightly, belying a smile beneath the layers of red cloth he shrouded himself in.

"You have to, you know. Otherwise you'll grow up and you won't know anything." He said, and Mira's eyes widened. She gasped, jumping to her feet and hitting her head on the bottom of the water fountain before ducking and running to his side and pulling at his golden claw.

"I wanna know stuff!" She protested, jumping up and down as she tugged at the claw. Yuffie got to her feet and freed one of the seven-year-old's hands from its death-like grip on Vincent's wrist, holding it in her own good hand.

"Then you have to go to school." Yuffie chided, fixing the younger girl with a look. Mira sighed and pouted, but pulled both of her hands away and put one of her hands in her single pocket. Her fingers found her Summon Materia, and she acquiesced.

"Fine. But I don't want to come back t'morrow." The little girl said with a sense of finality, and marched sullenly towards the closed door to the First Grade classroom. She stood on her tip-toes, peering inside the one window set in the center of the door, and looked around at the colorful room. The teacher, seeing many of the students turn their attention to the door, beckoned her in. Mira sunk down from her toes, turning back to the couple behind her.

"Go." Vincent nodded, and Mira smiled brightly and pulled at the door handle. The door swung open, and bounced against the wall as she walked in. It didn't close, and the seven-year-old walked boldly into the classroom with the eyes of a dozen other children on her.

"Everyone, this is our newest addition. Can you tell the class your name, and a little bit about yourself?" The teacher was a graying woman with a loving smile, frizzy hair pulled back into a messy bun that was held with pencils. Mira swallowed, and turned towards the classroom. Everyone looked to be about her age, if not a little younger or older, but she was definitely the smallest.

"My name is Mira Fair-Leirbach." The seven-year-old began, swaying lightly in her red rubber clogs. Her hand in her pocket, she began again. "I'm seven years old, an' both my parents were Shin'a SOLDIERs." She removed her hand from her pocket, drawing from it her Summon the Dead Materia. The teacher looked at her approvingly, smiling. The rest of the class watched in fascination as the little girl continued, slowly gaining courage.

"She'll like it here." Yuffie smiled up at Vincent, leaning onto him in an awkward embrace with her casted arm trapped between their bodies. He wrapped his arms around her, cradling her like she was breakable.

"When all the kids got taken, me an' my friend went with'em. I got away, an' I came here. Vins'nt Valentine found me, an' I got to stay with the guys that saved the world!" The little girl finished with a flourishing waving of her arms above her head, before smiling and stowing her Materia in her pocket once again.

"S'not nice to lie." A little girl in a blue sundress, a fur-edged and matching hairband holding back blond locks, said. The well-printed name on the front of her desk said that she was Anna Wachovia, and the little blue high heels with pristine white balls of fur attached to the fronts that adorned her feet that barely touched the floor said that she would be trouble.

"Perhaps not." Vincent muttered, as Mira began to break down. She sniffled, crumpling to sit on the floor.

"'M not lying!" She insisted, wiping at her eyes. Anna fixed her with an incredulous glare, and many of the other girls around the room did the same.

"Girls, girls, I'm certain that Mira has a good reason for saying all this." The teacher sunk to her knees next to the sobbing seven-year-old, putting a hand awkwardly on her back. "There, there. I know you're not lying." Anna made a face, brushing blond curls from her face with one dainty hand.

"Of course she isn't." Vincent let Yuffie go, throwing his torn cloak to the side so as to expose the golden claw that adorned his left arm. A collective gasp came from the little kids in the classroom as he strode in, metal-plated boots clicking on the wood. "She would have no reason to lie."

"If she needs a few days to adjust to the school system, or to decide on whether or not she wants to come here, she can come back next Monday." The teacher offered in a quiet tone. Vincent sunk down next the slowly-quieting little girl, his human hand resting on her shoulder.

"Will you stay?" He asked, and Mira nodded quietly. She got to her feet, holding tightly with one hand to the gunman's cloak. Vincent stood as well, scarlet swishing about his body in tatters. The scene, while impressive, just had something subtracted by the bright and cheery colors of the First Grade classroom. In the back of the class, a small girl banged loudly on the plastic and empty seat across an aisle from her. The hastily-scrawled and barely legible name on the tag on the front of her desk could be read as Kelsey Fishork, a cracker fish drawn at the end of the name in pink magic marker.

"Sit over here!" The girl called, and with a nod to the man standing next to her, Mira ran to her new seat. Vincent inclined his head slightly to the teacher before turning, a move accentuated by the swishing of ripped scarlet behind him as he left. Yuffie tilted her head to the side as she leaned against the wall opposite the door, one eyebrow raised in skepticism.

"Were the theatrics necessary?" She asked, her face breaking into a grin as she bounced herself from the wall and balanced herself against his chest. He smiled slightly, wrapping an arm around the Kunoichi with the greatest of care.

"Of course." He said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. Yuffie laughed, digging in her pocket with her one good hand and pulling out a ring of keys.

"Let's go back to the mansion. We've got the whole day to ourselves." She smiled, pulling out of the gunman's arms and walking towards the front of the school. Vincent quickly caught up to her with his long strides, looking down at her questioningly.

"Do you really feel that you are up to something such as that?" He asked, only the smallest of smirks pulling at the corner of his mouth. The Ninja frowned, looking down at her arm with its thirteen permanent signatures. She smiled at the iridescent pink one, and the looked back to Vincent.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm up to fixing that old piano, why?" Yuffie trailed off, realization dawning on her features. Her face heated up, a blush creeping all over her cheeks. "Vinnie!" She yelled, stopping and shaking her fist at him. The gunman continued his long stride, not stopping as he turned the corner at the end of the hall. "You pervert!"


And this is where I fear I must end it. 'S been great, y'all.


Four years ago.

If defying orders means I keep my daughter alive and away from you, so be it.

Many people have died.

Sorry Ariana, just following orders.

(A woman raises both arms, her lower arms in silver gauntlets inset with Materia)

Milorr, no!

What will happen...

(Rosso the Crimson looks upwards, smiling)

Hail Weiss.

When the killers return?

(Mira wrenches Zack's Buster Blade from the ground with both hands, barely able to hold it up)

Stay away from me!

(Vincent turns and fires three shots, Yuffie leaps over his head and throws the Conformer. Behind them Barret fires off several shots at an unseen enemy, and Nanaki jumps towards several Deepground soldiers with a roar)

(A woman with silver hair tied back with a black ribbon gets up from an outcropping of rock, glowing blue lines shining at the sides of her coat. She turns, exposing slitted blue-green eyes and an evil smile. She holds up one hand, and clutched in her metal gauntlet's claws is a bright pink piece of Materia.

Mother.

Well, at least they're not trying to bring back Sephiroth.

Remnant of Dreams.

Coming January/February 2008.


Having heart attacks yet? The sequel won't be posted until I have at least three chapters on it. Until then, enjoy the various one-shots and short stories that come from the mind of this total madwoman. Richie-chan's a good girl, yes she is. Richie-chan's not crazy... No she's not. The fiction didn't drive Richie-chan crazy, no it didn't! Richie-chan needs to stop talking to herself, yes she does.