©®™ Lt. Commander Richie
Disclaimer:Because I put my cover Materia on Vincent, and whenever he jumps in front of Yuffie I get all warm and fuzzy. I think it might be indigestion.
"Hey, I remember this!" Yuffie triumphantly held above her head a purple and pink pinwheel, the plastic stem just big enough to have several Materia slots in it. She had dug it out of a box in the Seventh Heaven's attic, aptly named 'The Brat's shit' in a permanent marker in Cid's messy writing. The Ninja whipped the plastic weapon around a few times experimentally, a cloud of dust flying from the weapon in motes that caught the light of the only window in the attic. "Man... I got this thing right before I started throwing paper birds at everyone!" She smiled, peering down into the musty three-year-old box. Rusted shuriken littered the bottom, and resting on top was a single set of clothes and armor. She drug them out, laying each piece out on the floor. They were creased from their time in the box, but they had yet to sustain damage from moths. Idly, Yuffie picked at a rust-colored stain on her long off-white arm guard, reliving everything she had done way back when. It was then that an idea struck her, and with a grin she gathered up the old clothing, armor and weapons and jumped down the staircase to the second floor of the bar.
"What do you think you're doing?" Yuffie froze, her arms full of all her old gear. She whipped around, grinning wildly and somewhat guiltily at Tifa. "I'll bet that stuff won't fit you."
"How much do you want to bet?" The Ninja asked, her grin turning from guilty to devious in a heartbeat. "I mean, it's not like I've actually... Grown or anything, right?"
"Twenty-four hours worth of bar-sitting says that you can't fit into those old clothes." The martial artist smiled, and even though it was a benevolent one it still came across as sarcastic and somewhat cruel. "In fact, if you can't fit in those clothes, I'll take the rest of the day off and you'll have to mind the bar."
"And if I fit in them?" Yuffie asked, shifting the ball of clothes and armor over onto her hip so that one of her legwarmers wasn't falling off the pile.
"I'll give you my mastered Earth Materia." Tifa offered, clicking the piece of hardened Lifestream out of the Materia belt around her waist. She held it out, and with her free hand Yuffie made a grab for it. But Tifa was taller, and she held the muddy brown Materia above her head.
"Meanie..." The Ninja muttered, gathering up her clothing into one big wad in both of her arms again. She turned up her nose and whirled around, running to the guest bedroom to change.
"Well... Crap." Her shoes were a size too small, her shirt a size too small, some of her armor didn't quite fit, and her headband kept slipping over her eyes. The only things that really fit were her gloves and her pants, but the pants only fit because they were three sizes too big to begin with. Now they were just barely one size too big, and they occasionally slipped down to reveal one strap or the other of her underwear. How had she kept them up originally, she wondered. Sliding her left arm through the hole in her largest piece of armor, she reached around to her back and pulled the straps that would hold it in place to the front. The first one she could just barely buckle onto the second hole, but she couldn't see the second buckle to fasten it.
"Stupid boobs." She muttered, blindly buckling the bottom strap with clumsy fingers. The tightness left her slightly short of breath, but with a barely-there sigh the Ninja opened up the guest bedroom door and walked back out into the hall.
"You breathing alright? That shirt looks a bit small." Tifa smiled, tilting her head to the side. Clenching her teeth, Yuffie kept her mouth shut and simply pointed at the martial artist as if she was ready to threaten her.
"Gimmie the Materia. These old duds fit just fine." The Kunoichi insisted, striking a pose. Her shorts tilted to the side, exposing a part of her underwear yet again.
"Nope." Tifa shook her head and pointed down the stairs to the bar. "Go get to work. I have sleep to catch up on."
"But they fit!" In a quick movement Tifa had taken a few steps and grabbed the lower strap of Yuffie's armor harness, cinching it to the second hole. The action left the Ninja gasping for breath like a fish out of water, and the martial artist let the harness back out to the first hole.
"I'm sure they do. Now get to work, the bar's nearly full and people are thirsty." She ordered, giving Yuffie a small shove towards the stairs. The Kunoichi grumbled incoherently, but descended the stairs to the bar. As soon as she was gone, Tifa looked up the open trap door to the attic with a questioning look on her face.
"I wonder if my old things are still up there?" She asked aloud, before shrugging and climbing the ladder.
Nightfall came quickly, and the lunch rush died out. Then the dinner molasses came, and then the late-night drinkers that wanted to hit the bottle before going home. Aging businessmen in old and disgusting suits ate reheated barbecue with their ties over their shoulders, occasionally passing a glance at the Ninja behind the counter.
"You certainly look like you're about to go on an adventure." Cue the red-headed sleazebag and his shadow. "You haven't worn that for what... Three years now?"
"Thanksgiving was yesterday, Turkeys. Scram before I call management on you." Yuffie smiled sarcastically, looking up from the nail file she was using.
"That's real cold, Kisaragi. Ain't that right, Rude?" Reno asked, inclining his head slightly in the larger man's direction. He nodded, and the two sat down at the last two seats at the bar. "Speaking of which, Scotch on the rocks."
"If you think for a second that I'm actually serving you two..." Yuffie trailed off as Reno flicked a little lump of light blue Materia encased in a silver earring at her head. She whipped up one arm and caught it, inspecting it next to a florescent light. "Ice Three, huh?" She asked, taking the back off the earring and sliding it into the bare hole in the upper cartilage of her left ear. "You run out of holes in your own ears, or did your girlfriend walk out on you?"
"Nah... I just got a better piece." The Turk folded his right ear forward, showing off the dark red stone set in gold with a small fire symbol in it.
"You have an Ifrit Summon." Reno nodded, cocking a grin. "In your ear."
"Matches my hair, too." He grinned, and Yuffie folded her arms over her chest as well as she could with the large piece of armor over her left arm.
"You are the girliest straight guy I have ever met." She said, before turning and bending over to get the alcohol. Reno wolf-whistled, pounding one hand on the bar a few times.
"Hey Kisaragi, your thong's showing!" He said, laughing. Several of the older businessmen jumped, flabbergasted at the near-yelling of the name of a type of women's underwear. Their ties landed in their barbecue, making stains that would never come out without a hefty dry cleaning bill.
"Oh shut up, you stupid Turkey." Yuffie muttered, pulling out two glasses and setting them on the table before hitching up her shorts. "You've probably seen other women in less." She accused. Several of the older businessmen, tucking their soiled ties into their front coat pockets, left the table with several piles of Gil and uneaten barbecue in their wake.
"But that's the point, ain't it? I have yet to see you in less." The Turk grinned, dodging a swipe from Yuffie's armored arm. She shoved the two's drinks in their general directions, sitting back down at her chair and tipping it backwards.
"Mhmm..." She nodded noncommittally. "And you've been thrown out of... How many bars tonight?"
"Three." Rude muttered, taking a drink of his Scotch. "But I was the one throwing him out."
"And it was hardly fair!" Reno argued, gulping down his drink and setting the empty glass on the table. "I mean, I'm not even drunk yet!"
"Sure you're not." After several hours in the harness, the leather was beginning to stretch back out. But the Kunoichi wearing it was hardly far from where she had started out, at being short of breath and totally out of it.
"My offer still stands, you know." Reno said, throwing the requisite Gil onto the counter and standing to leave. Yuffie sneered in disgust, flipping the Turk the bird with her visible hand. "C'mon, Rude. The night is young, and we have tomorrow off." Rude gulped down what was left of his drink and paid, hesitating for a moment before setting down an extra five-Gil note.
"Sorry about his mouth. He thinks his alcohol tolerance is higher than it is." The large man apologized, turning and following his comrade out into the lamp-lit night.
If she had known last call was at midnight, she never would have bet Tifa that she could still fit in her old clothes. Well, technically she had known, but she had figured that the martial artist would have relieved her long before. Her feet had long since gone numb from both the constant standing and the size-too-small orange sneakers jammed on her feet, glaringly neon green laces nearly fluorescent in the dim lighting. At eleven she had turned off all the house lights except the ones directly over the bar, and it was until closing time that she sat, fiddling with the new earring in her ear and idly blowing her purple and pink pinwheel in lazy circles with overly-exaggerated breaths.
"Gawd. I swear, as soon as I get out of this stuff the better." She muttered, taking her hand away from the earring before it began to fester and beginning to pick at the small balls of lint in the front of her green turtleneck. "I can't even remember the last time I wore something this garishly colorful." A car drove by, the first in ten minutes. It puttered along, its headlights making the stripes from the blinds on the windows move across the floor and tables. The entire scene was like something from an old crime Noir movie, and any second now the Ninja expected a tall, dark, handsome Private Eye in a trench coat and fedora to walk through the door and order something with a name that was nearly as long as the tails on his coat.
"Yuffie." Instead, she got something much better. "I remember that outfit." Vincent Valentine. Maybe it really was an old crime Noir; his language certainly dictated as such. For a moment the Kunoichi felt like leaning on a piano, saying "Play it again, Sam." with what was left of a fuzzy animal wrapped around her neck, and while trying not to breathe too hard lest she bust the seams out of her taffeta dress.
"Well, duh. I only drug your ass outta that coffin in it." Moment over. Technicolor set back in. Mystique gone. Vincent sat down across the bar from her, all glaringly red and smelling of wet dog, the inside of a leather wholesale outlet and that tangy scent that's really a taste of metal that you get when you lick hairclips.
"You had that pinwheel at the time, too, if I do remember." Even though his mouth was moving, she couldn't exactly see it. It was somewhat infuriating, and with a groan she lurched her chair back onto all four legs and sat her feet back on the ground. With one hand, the Ninja used her pinwheel to tilt the red cloak's collar down so that she could see all of his face and a part of his neck.
"Much better. Now I can talk to you without feeling like I'm talking to a turtle." An exhale, and she was back to having both her feet on the bar and her arms hanging at her sides. Her purple and pink pinwheel turned dejectedly, as though it was sad it had been nearly forgotten.
"You regularly talk to turtles?" The gunman asked, leaning on the bar. Yuffie nodded, crossing her arms to mimic the man across from her.
"Much more interesting than, say, going out and getting turned into a frog." The Ninja faltered for a moment, thinking of something. "You smell coppery. What'd you kill?" She asked bluntly, her head snapping up from where it had begun to nod down onto her chest. "Was it Shelke?"
"If only." Vincent let his head drop straight onto his arms, sighing an uncharacteristic sigh. "I need a drink."
"Never thought I'd hear it. What'll you be having, then? Scotch?" The Kunoichi asked, scrambling to her feet and pulling out a glass.
"Please." She heard him mutter into the bar, and she bent over and grabbed the bottle from one of the cabinets. It was then that Vincent looked up, but quickly looked away as he realized that her pants were sagging to the side and exposing one of the straps of her underwear. A filled glass was set in front of him, but he didn't dare look up until he heard her sit back down and tilt her chair back again.
"On the house, since Teef would do the same." He nodded into the bar, straightening up and taking the glass in one hand.
"Thank you." He nodded once, taking a drink of his alcohol. The moments passed in silence, another car passing by and sending the lines of light from the blinds flitting across the floor. For a while, it was as though the world was grayscale again, and any moment two thugs would come through the door with machine guns in their cello cases.
"What's so captivating about this stupid old thing anyway?" Snap back to Technicolor, no matter how grainy the old stuff may be. Vincent was silent for a while, before finally setting his glass down on the bar and looking up and across at the woman in clothing too small for her frame that had spent three years folded on top of rusty throwing stars in a slowly crumbling cardboard box.
"I can truthfully say that you were wearing it when I fell for you." Mannerisms be damned on her part, it was like he was trying to be old-fashioned. Stopping and considering his original time period, Yuffie figured it only came with the package. But still, it was like everything he said was meant to set the clock back seventy years, all the way back to Era 0007 942 when everything was grayscale and crime Noir were some of the best movies ever made. He was the one displacement out of everything, the man from Casablanca that fought off Nazis with nothing more than a few words. He was the one that came up to the piano she leaned against, telling him "Sam, I thought I told you never to play that song." and cutting himself off mid-sentence as he realized that she was there.
"And when would that have been?" This time the moment wasn't gone, and she was still leaning against the piano in a dress too small for her own good and a stole around her neck that would make animal rights activists scream.
"The first time I saw you kill a giant bug with a plastic pinwheel." This time he was the one to kill the moment, all the Noir draining away into the Technicolor of rerun cartoons from every teenager's early childhood of feminist women in skirts and toting large swords.
"That was what, thirty... Maybe forty-five minutes after we drug your ass outta the basement?" Yuffie asked, taking her feet off the bar and tipping her chair back onto all four of its legs. Vincent nodded, drinking what was left of his Scotch and setting the glass behind the counter.
"Such is the hand I am delt." The gunman muttered, and Yuffie rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"If you're going to be emo, do it someone else's bar." The Kunoichi said, both of her eyebrows disappearing underneath her old headband. The moment had yet to return, and Vincent was beginning to look more and more like a turtle wrapped in red. His cloak had returned to its original place, hiding his mouth and any expression he might make.
"I regret the intrusion." He went as though to stand, but Yuffie drug him back down into his seat with one hand and a glare.
"If you leave, I know you'll be going back to that coffin. You never have before, but since you've now basically confessed to me that you've had the hots for me since who knows when, you'll bring it upon yourself to call it another of your sins and head for the hills. Sit down for once and just talk to someone." The Kunoichi was angry, but her voice never really reached a shout because of the constricting leather harness around her ribs. "Even if that someone is me." The Scotch was poured again, and the gunman took a sip.
"That's why I love you." The look on his face was nonchalant, his bandanna giving the same shadow a fedora would in the sepia lighting of the vivified olden days. "So contradictory." Yuffie stayed silent for a while, content simply to watch him in the lone lights of the bar. Try as she might, she couldn't bring back the moment. There were no roulette tables and no Russian bartenders, as least not as far as she knew, no piano and no taffeta.
"You're not afraid to tell convention to screw itself, I suppose." His surprisingly vulgar sentence shocked the Ninja out of her reverie, and she blinked several times in surprise. That was a new one.
"I beg your pardon?" She asked, confused for a moment. But it was as if Vincent hadn't heard her, because he continued to talk in a hushed tone.
"-After all, there's only a certain amount of seduction that comes with the irony of throwing a Fairy Tale at a Dragon." The gunslinger looked up, his face completely visible from his cloak, and the grayscale was turned back on again. "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine." He seemed to say, and the mystique of taffeta and pearls and diamond earrings that shone like a million pieces of Materia enveloped the both of them like a cloud of smoke.
"I remember that. I had no shuriken left, so I threw one of Aerith's old staffs, right?" By then the Ninja was leaning on the wooden bar, smiling like she had Lady Luck on her side.
"You killed a Dragon with a Fairy Tale." Vincent nodded, his eyes half lidded in the dim light of the bar. "And you did it very well." Finally, she couldn't take it anymore, and sat her head in her hands and her elbows on the counter.
"Thanks for loving me." The Ninja said, pouring herself a glass of the same Scotch and bringing it to her lips for a drink. She drained it in a few gulps, setting the cup down in the sink next to her. To her, the bar was still in shades of gray that only added to the scene, a million voices all in her head that served no more purpose than background music. "So... Here's looking at you." And she leaned forward and kissed him, leaning over the bar and trying hard not to put her hand in the ashtray. He tasted like Scotch, which made sense once she thought about it, opening her mouth to his and trying to get more of the smoky taste from him. He was unrelenting in his assault on her, roughly three years of passion culminating into one heated moment and one passionate kiss. She reached forward with the hand she wasn't leaning on to keep herself upright, threading her fingers through his metal-plated ones. Finally the kiss broke, but the mystique was still there. The vivified world of yesteryear was still its lustrous black and white, but Yuffie could still tell that his eyes were red and the world around them was a million shades of brown and black.
"I suppose you'll be leaving, then." She sighed, going to sit back down. Her fingers were still twined with his, cool metal barely pinching the soft skin on the sides of her fingers.
"I think I can bear to stay a little longer."
You must remember this,
A kiss is just a kiss,
A sigh is just a sigh,
The fundamental things apply,
As time goes by.
I can honestly tell you that I have no clue as to what posessed me to write this. It was originally going to be called 'Fairy Tale', but then the last part got just a bit too heavy on the references to Casablanca and I renamed it. But yeah. Sudden inspiration, because I really DID kill a Dragon with a Fairy Tale. Seriously. It was made of win.
Until I reach a higher calling, I just hope I never get sued by Squaresoft, Square Enix, anything with 'Square' in the name, or Warner Brothers.
Okay, so I revamped the ending. I only hope it's a bit better.