Warning: Lots of Fluff, Lemon-ish, MxF, etc.

Shattered Traditions : Chapter Seven

Awake in a Dream

"You are certain we cannot convince you to stay?" Kalan asked the young demi-human sitting in front of him.

Nanaki took a moment to look around him, taking in the d├ęcor and battle memoribilia, taking in everything that was a part of him and yet was so distant he could never consider it of importance in his life. The Iyatokan were his heritage, they were in his blood, they would always be his kind, but they weren't where he belonged. He would never be fully happy there.

He finally understood that.

Seto's son shook his head. "I do not belong here," he explained finally, returning his gaze to the elder. "You have been hospitable and kind in showing my the life of an Iyatokan but... perhaps I have lived among humans for too long. My heart lies with them."

The elder's eyes softened. "Or to one in particular," he responded sagely, understanding blooming in his expression. In the time that Nanaki had been among them, he had grown attached to the youngling. Seto had been one of his students, he couldn't help but feel a measure of responsibility for the warrior's son.

A small flush spread across Nanaki's cheeks, nevertheless, he knew what Kalan spoke was true. "Yes," he agreed, shifting slightly where he stood. "I couldn't entirely abandon my heritage though. If it is not too bold of me, I had hoped you wouldn't mind an occasional visit."

"You are always welcome in my home."

Nanaki ducked his head, immensely relieved by the offer. "And of course, I vow to protect your secret, as well as the tunnel. No harm will come to the Iyatoka under my watch."

Kalan smiled toothily. "You are your father's son. Seto would be proud to know you, to see all you have accomplished."

The demi-human was more than glad to hear that. "Thank you," he said before rising to his feet, smoothing down non-existent wrinkles in his jeans. "Especially for understanding."

"If you ever change your mind, you are always welcome here," Kalan insisted, rising to his feet to walk Nanaki to the door.

"That is a good thing to know. Goodbye, Kalan." With that, Nanaki stepped through the entranceway and into the warmth of the midmorning sun, barely glimmering through the leaves of the trees. He could hear all around him the sounds of the Iyatokans, the cubs chasing one another in play, the conversation. He saw signs of a life that he wasn't meant to live.

He turned and walked away, heading through the forest to where he had left his mountain chocobo hitched just beyond the barrier. He would keep his promise to Kalan, having already sealed off the Gi Nattak cave once and for all, going so far as to reseal the tunnel that led to the Iyatokan's secret home.

Nanaki didn't regret his choice, having thought long and hard about it. He would never forget what he had learned, nor would he stay completely away. They were too much a part of his past and his heritage. But he had learned that he didn't belong with them. Not when his heart belonged to a human female.

He only wished he had figured it out sooner.

He half-expected to feel as if he were leaving something behind when he stepped beyond the barrier, the amulet glinting lightly as he did so. But instead, he felt greatly relieved, almost free. As if a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. That sense of loneliness which had haunted him all those months ago was gone and he no longer felt lost.

His worries were abated now that he understood the amulet. And maybe somewhere in the past few months, he had matured a little bit. Or at least, he hoped he did.

Though Nanaki half-dreaded the prospect of returning to useless meetings and trivial arguments, he knew he couldn't just turn his back on Cosmo Canyon. They did need him even if it was in only a small way. He owed his Grandfather that much, to watch over the city that he had fought so long to protect. And he owed it to himself. Because Cosmo Canyon was his home.

It was mid afternoon by the time he pulled into the Cosmo Canyon stables, leaving his chocobo with the stable hand and heading through the streets towards the house he had once shared with Yuffie. It seemed like so long ago to him. That empty place inside, the one that continuously ached now that she was gone gave a sharp pang. He didn't want to think about how quiet it would be from now on.

He wondered, as he unlocked the door and stepped into a house that had been unlived in for far too long, if she had finally chosen a suitor yet. If she was happy or too stressed. Nanaki wondered if she missed him as much as he missed her.

The demi-human sighed and dropped his pack, the one laden with all the belongings he had retrieved from the room that had been loaned to him at Kalan's, onto the ground, wincing as a few items clanked within. He wasn't up to sorting through the jumble at the moment and left it there, sitting in the small sitting room.

All he could hear was the quiet tick-tock of the clock he had rescued from Bugenhagen's destroyed home and promptly hung up on the wall. A brief glance told him it was nearing three in the afternoon, not that he had any plans or anything. He was going to inform the council of his return tomorrow so for the moment, he had nothing but free time. And nothing to do with it.

Flicking on a few lights, Nanaki slid into the easy chair in the sitting room, slumping into the plush cushions with a weary sigh. His heart ached, he realized. This melancholy was loneliness, was missing Yuffie when he had gotten so used to having her by his side. He wondered what her reaction would be if he told her what he had chosen.

Or had he hurt her far too much with his selfishness? There was always that possibility. He had been stupid and oblivious to her pain and now, she was in Wutai and he was here in Cosmo Canyon, sitting in an empty, quiet house for two.

Nanaki had the thought that he should call her. His hand dug into his pocket, pulling out the much battered but still functional slim phone. It beeped at him, letting him know he had full service. Yuffie was on speed dial one. All he had to do was press the button.

After a moment of staring, Nanaki sighed and draped his hand over the side of the chair, dropping the phone to the floor with a quiet thump. He had no right to ask her to come when he was the one to push her away in the first place. Let her find her happiness.

He thumped his head against the back of the chair and closed his eyes, thinking of big brown eyes and mischievous fingers.

Somewhere in the distance, he heard the sound of knocking. It stirred him from his thoughts and he sat up, frowning slightly. He cocked his head to the side, listening. There was another knock. On his front door. Perhaps someone had seen him come home and wanted to talk to him. It wasn't completely outside the realm of possibilities.

"Coming," he called out as he hauled himself to his feet, leaving his phone on the floor near the chair, doubting he would miss any important calls.

He threaded his way back through the small house to the front door, barely able to see a silhouette through the frosted glass. It was actually rather short. Probably the elderly lady from next door who had often brought over home cooked casseroles for he and Yuffie. There were many a day they had eaten well thanks to her.

Nanaki reached for the knob and turned it, pulling the door open... only to have his eyes fall on someone who was not elderly and carrying a ceramic, warmed dish. He blinked in surprise.

"Yuffie?" he managed to get out, fingers tightening around the knob.

She looked up at him, the expression on her face unreadable. "I came for you," the ninja responded simply, looking as beautiful as the last time he had seen her. Yuffie's hair had lengthened some in the past few months, and there was something different about her that he couldn't quite place but she still made his heart skip a beat.

Yet, Nanaki was still confused. "What?"

Her lips curled into a smile as she stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck, nearly throwing him off balance. "I was waiting but you never came," she began as his hands fell to her hips seemingly over their own accord. "I decided to come get you instead."

She fit in his arms perfectly, her body warm and pliant, her scent as fresh and welcoming as always. The ache in his heart, the one that had nearly been overwhelming, eased as he realized she was meaning to stay. She had forgiven him.

Nanaki's hands slid until they were rested on the small of her back, almost shaking with the urge to grip her close and never let go. "But I thought..."

She shook her head, cutting him off before he could even finish the question. "You always did think too much," she said with a grin before rising up on her toes and kissing him soundly, her lips pressed firmly to his.

For a moment, he was stunned by the return of the familiar, yet slightly different now that it came with greater assurance. But the second passed quickly and he eagerly returned the kiss, his eyes sliding closed as he let her citrus taste wash over him. Her tongue slipped out of her mouth, teasing gently at the seam of his lips and he opened for her, gladly tangling their tongues together.

It was passion, it was perfect, it was exactly like coming home. She pressed against him, molding against his body as his hands roamed against her back. She was exactly what he wanted.

Finally, Yuffie pulled away, her hand teasing playfully at his long hair. "You know, I realized something."

Somehow he already knew what she was going to say. "It doesn't matter," Nanaki completed for her. "Yes, I realized that, too." He paused, looking away. "They had asked me to stay."

"And?"

"I said no," he confessed. "It wasn't where I belonged."

She lifted up a brow. "Oh? And why not?"

"Are you going to make me say it?"

Yuffie grinned at him, her eyes sparkling. "Is it wrong that I want to hear it?" She paused and traced her fingers over the flesh at his neck. "After all, which one of us worked up the courage to come to the other, hmm?"

"You have a point," he conceded, before abruptly realizing that they were still standing in the doorway where anyone passing by could see them. "Come on in, why don't you? It's still your house, too, you know."

She uncoiled her arms from her neck and slipped past him, heading into the home. "I know. But I lost my key."

"You left it behind," he corrected as he shut the door, following her into the living room. "Understandable, given the situation."

She made a noncommittal sound in her throat, coming to a stop inside the room and staring at the furniture around her, but not taking a seat. "You didn't come with me."

"You didn't ask me to," he countered, his voice equally quiet.

There as a moment of silence before she looked over her shoulder. "There was one point when I wouldn't have had to." One hand rose, fiddling with the amulet around her neck, the one he recognized as the elders having given it to her. "But then, I guess we all have to grow up sometime, ne?"

In that moment, he felt incredibly guilty, not that he hadn't before. It really set in, weighing heavily on his heart. He hadn't forgotten how blind he had been to her hurt, or that a part of him had known he should have gone but never even mentioned it. He was as much to blame for the mess as circumstance itself.

"Yuffie, I'm sorry. I was being... stupid."

She smiled lightly at that. "I think we both were. So wanna tell me why you didn't stay? I thought you wanted to find them?"

The tips of his ears flushed and he looked away from her, staring at the curtain covered window. "I did but... I wanted to be with you more." It was something he should have said a long time ago. "You're my best friend, Yuffie."

"Only a best friend?" she asked lightly, a note of hope in her voice.

"More if you would let me."

Her eyes widened slightly and he was gratified to find a very cute blush spread across the bridge of her nose. "More, huh?" she repeated, turning back towards him and folding her arms behind her back. "I have a confession to make. I had an ulterior motive for coming here. I wanted to ask for your help."

"My help?"

Yuffie nodded. "I discovered that ruling Wutai just isn't something I'm cut out for. And honestly, the world's moved past things like lords and ladies and heirs. I think it's time that Wutai moved on with it."

He tilted his head, understanding where she was coming from. "It makes sense," he agreed, beginning to grow curious. "Why did you want my help though?"

"You're smarter than me when it comes to stuff like this," she explained with a grin that made his heart skip a beat. "I don't even know where to begin in figuring out a new government and whatnot. I thought you might like to give me a hand."

Yuffie took a step closer, within arms reach. "I wouldn't mind having you around after all... for more if you would let me."

She said that as if he hadn't spent the last three months pining for her absence and wishing he hadn't been such a fool. They had always toed that line before, playing best friends, playing lovers who weren't quite lovers. They had avoided talking about it, avoided facing what was happening between them. And in the end, it had almost ruined them for everything.

Even the love that had quietly blossomed without either of them realizing it.

Nanaki understood in that moment, exactly what he felt for her. What the pattering in his heart meant, the piercing pain that had struck when he thought she no longer needed him. He realized what it meant whenever he looked at her and felt warmth bloom in his chest.

He loved Yuffie. And judging from the gleam in her eyes, the feeling was mutual.

Nanaki looked up at her, for once finding the courage to take the first step. "There's nothing I would want more than you," he admitted, his heart beating so loudly in his chest he was certain she could hear him.

Then, before she could even speak, he closed the distance between them and cupped her face with his hands, kissing Yuffie deeply. Her hands rose, gripping his arms as she immediately responded to the kiss, returning it eagerly.

It took a moment for him to realize that the strange humming he felt wasn't a result of his emotions but the fact that his amulet was thrumming and emitting a soft light. They broke off the kiss simultaneously, looking down at the golden glow between them. Nanaki was astonished to see that Yuffie's was luminescent as well.

Her eyes widened. "What... what's going on?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. Akili said nothing of this," he responded, somewhat in awe as Yuffie lifted her hand and curiously wrapped her fingers around his amulet.

The moment she touched the medal, the light flared so brightly that the both of them were forced to look away and a shock of energy raced through the room, throwing them apart. Nanaki hit the ground hard, hearing Yuffie's groan echo his own as a very familiar sensation wracked his body. Though he hadn't felt it in around five months.

When the light faded mere seconds later, Nanaki grimaced and rose shakily to four limbs, trying to get used to the feeling of his lupine shape once more. According to what Kalan and Akili had explained, he would have thought the transformations would be voluntary since he understood.

He blinked and turned his head to the side, only to gape when he realized something incredible, something beyond what he would have been able to believe if he hadn't already witnessed his own change. Where Yuffie had landed was now a smaller version of his current form, attempting to rise unsteadily to her feet.

She looked up at him, her eyes a beautiful gleaming mix of amber and onyx. "What...?" the former human breathed. "I'm... I'm...?"

Nanaki gaped at her beauty, sleek and trim with her fur a dark brown. "Yeah, you are." He eyed her warily, wondering if she was at all bothered by the sudden change that still shocked him. "Are you okay?"

There was a moment of surprised quiet.

"This is..." She trailed off, taking a few tentative steps that were shaky but rapidly growing in certainty. Her eyes suddenly sparkled. "Awesome!" she suddenly exclaimed, performing a bit of a jump. "I'll bet I'm super fast now. Want to test it?"

He showed have known better than to expect she would be upset. He chuckled, a teasing glint taking over his features. He looked as if he was going to say no before suddenly bounding out of the room, heading for the door. He was stopped only momentarily by getting it open before he was out and racing madly for the open space of the plains outside of Cosmo Canyon.

"Hey!" Laughter echoed and he knew that Yuffie followed, mere seconds behind him. They left the door wide open.

They raced through the streets of Cosmo Canyon, dodging pedestrians who gave them startled looks, moving so quickly that they kicked up dust in their wake. A great sense of freedom overcame Nanaki as he ran and he couldn't help but grin as he headed for the brilliant green outside the city.

"I think I'm faster than you," Yuffie called out breathlessly as she drew up beside him, easily matching his stride.

He turned his head briefly to look at her before concentrating again on the path in front of him. "We'll see," he said loudly, enjoying the banter. "I've more experience."

"Oh?"

He had only a second to register the tone of her voice before she threw herself at him and they collided in a flurry of laughter and fiery tails, rolling across the ground. Luckily, she had tackled him in the direction of the thick grass and not the bare earth. They tumbled across the green for the span of a minute before finally coming to an abrupt stop, sprawled out over the ground.

Nanaki panted as he lay next to Yuffie, his eyes rolling up to gaze at the sky above them, a brilliant blue without a cloud in sight. He felt elated, happier than he ever expected in his entire life. Beside him, the Wutaiian-turned-lion wolf panted as well, her tail restlessly twitching.

She flopped over, scooting next to him so that her head tucked under his. "It's beautiful," she breathed, nudging him with her nose.

He agreed with her. "But not as much as you."

A moment passed where a breath of wind stirred before Yuffie chuckled lightly.

"What?" he said, somewhat affronted that she would laugh at him. "That was a compliment."

She nosed him again, affection in the gesture. "I know. But it sounded so corny that I couldn't help myself." Her eyes sparkled with joy. "If it makes you feel better, I think you're pretty."

"That's worse," Nanaki argued, though he couldn't help the amusement that stole onto his features. "Males are supposed to be strong or handsome or..."

"This would be the part where I interrupt you with a kiss," she inserted, cutting off his diatribe. "But I don't think I can in this form."

He wished he could kiss her as well.

And then he felt it, the tingling in his extremities. The amulet hummed, warming against his chest and in a flash, he felt the slightly more painful transformation into his more human form, bones lengthening and stretching as greater power infused into his muscles.

Nanaki stretched and glanced out of the corner of his eye. Yuffie was wincing slightly, cracking her neck.

"Ergh, it hurts a bit more the other way around," she commented, wrinkling her nose. Her hand came up and she rubbed her shoulder, otherwise unbothered by the abrupt change. It seemed as if she hadn't completely ignored Akili's lecture after all.

"I should have warned you about that," Nanaki said quietly, watching as she stretched, muscles shifting beneath her skin.

Yuffie truly was beautiful; he hadn't just been speaking for mere words. And she was his. He wanted nothing more than to draw her into his arms and never let her go, as he should have done those few months ago.

"It's not anything I couldn't handle," Yuffie was commenting thoughtfully, watching as she clenched and unclenched her own hand as if fascinated. "Still, I feel a bit less power--"

He kissed her, cupping her face with his hands and drawing her near him. She tasted sweet as always, sweet with a hint of citrus. A mystery he still hadn't solved. Nanaki carded his fingers through her hair, tangling in long dark strands and tilted her head so that he could kiss her deeper. Yuffie readily complied, molding against him. One of her hands gripped onto his shoulder, refusing to let go, as the other curled around his waist.

Nanaki slipped his arm around her and tugged her closer, practically into his lap. She murmured low in her throat, pressing against the front of his body. Yuffie was warm and sweet-smelling and everything he wants, fitting perfectly in his arms where she squirmed, turning his blood to molten lava.

His lips left her mouth with some reluctance and he latched eagerly onto her throat, licking and sucking, just wanting to taste her flesh. He wanted to memorize the way she smelled, devour more of that beautiful skin. She gasped, pushing closer to him.

"Nanaki," Yuffie moaned, sounding both breathless and needy.

Her hands slid from his shoulder around to his back where she slipped both hands under his shirt, her fingers tracing up and down his back. She shifted on his lap, her legs falling around his hips until she was straddling him as he devoured her throat. He dipped his explorations lower, marking her collarbone with his mouth before snaking a tongue into her ear.

He wanted nothing more than to continue touching her. Here, there, everywhere he could lay his hands. He moved to cup her ass, kneading one shapely cheek with his fingers and tugging the ninja forward until their clothed groins came in contact. Another sharp gasp poured from his lips as his arousal pressed against the heat between her thighs.

She moaned his name again.

"You taste good," he murmured against her skin, rolling his hips upwards even as she ground down to meet his motions.

"You feel good," Yuffie countered breathlessly, her hands a constant presence against his back.

Nanaki raised his head to kiss her again, passionately laying siege to her mouth. All the feelings and all the sensations were so good he could feel them burning through his body, making him ache with need, his heart thundering loudly in his ears.

Yuffie suddenly gave a quick tug on him, leaning her weight backwards. The demi-human took the hint and shifted carefully, moving to lay her down on the grass where he steadily tangled their tongues. He braced himself with one hand, hovering over her body as she lifted her hands to his chest, brushing over the fabric of his t-shirt before sliding beneath the cotton.

Her fingers were warm on his skin, delicately touching everywhere and causing his body to heat, his mind to go white with desire. Nestled between her legs, Nanaki ground against her, satisfied when she writhed up towards him. The both of them were desperately seeking something that neither could seem to express coherently.

Nanaki's free hand moved to her own shirt, hesitating briefly at the hem. When she arched up into his touch, however, he moved with more confidence, sliding his fingers beneath the fabric and seeking out her breast. He fondled the soft mound over her bra briefly before daring to pull down the fabric, brushing his palm over her bare breast.

A moan echoed deep in her throat, her body eagerly responding to his touch. Her nipple slowly hardened beneath his hand. Fascinated, he brushed a curious finger over the nub and was gifted with an impatient growl of interest. He flicked the digit over her nipple once more.

Yuffie abruptly broke off the consuming kiss with a gasp. "Nanaki!" she cried, trying to pull him down closer to her. "That feels so good."

His breath quickening, Nanaki had the sudden urge to taste her. His mouth salivated at the thought of touching her so intimately, even as his cheeks burned from the mere forwardness of the suggestion. But to produce more of those sounds, to make her say his name like that again... he wanted to hear it. He wanted to continue seeing her flushed red and breathless.

Without another thought, he tugged up her shirt and moved downwards, his eyes roaming over her revealed breasts, peach-colored nipples hardened into nubs. His groin tightened at the sight and before he could lose his nerve, he dipped his head and ran his tongue over it. As if electricity had struck, Yuffie whimpered, her fingers gripping onto him eagerly, her hips moving restlessly.

Encouraged, and mindful of his fangs, Nanaki licked her again before drawing the pert flesh into his mouth, sucking gently. She writhed, absolutely writhed, the sounds pouring from her throat causing his body to flush with heat. He wanted to touch her everywhere, to see how else he could bring her pleasure. His body liked that idea, arousal throbbing behind the wall of his jeans. The need becoming so great that Nanaki wondered if he was capable of stopping.

"Nanaki," Yuffie moaned. "Please don't stop."

But he did. Because her words almost sounded like a request and his desire-hungry body was all too willing to take advantage. After having made everything right again, he didn't want to screw their relationship up.

With some regret, he released her breast from his mouth and moved so that he could look into her eyes, all too aware of the fact that their groins were still touching, the heat between them palpable. Her face was flushed with need, her eyes dilated and dark with lust and she looked beautiful.

"You're so beautiful," he murmured, cupping her face with his hand and rubbing a thumb across her cheek.

Frustration flitted across her features and she rubbed her hand over his chest. "Why'd you stop?" she demanded without any hesitation.

Nanaki blinked, surprised by her response. "Because I don't want to ruin this," he answered honestly, licking his lips. "I don't want to push you into anything that neither of us are ready for."

The ninja felt her heart swell at that, the deep feelings growing even further. That was Nanaki, pure and simple, always prepared to take care of her and infinitely sweet. It was only one of the many reasons she cared for him. Besides, she fought Sephiroth and she faced down evil deities. She was pretty sure that at this point she could handle sex with the man she loved, especially since she knew he would rather slit his own throat than hurt her. Because she was certain that although it hadn't been voiced, this was love.

"I trust you," Yuffie said after a moment. "I trust you to watch my back in battle. I trust you to be my best friend." She paused, her eyes roving over his face searchingly. "And I trust that you care for me."

Stunned by her words, Nanaki could only lean down and kiss her again, slow and gentle. The Wutaiian responded eagerly, melting into his arms and hoping that meant the discussion was over. But he was not yet completely certain.

"Are you sure?" he asked, his words a warm breath on her lips.

She didn't even need to think any longer, nodding as her hand deviously slid between their bodies to his groin, fingers brushing deftly over his clothed erection. "I'm sure," she breathed as he stifled a groan, shivers racing down his spine.

The demi-human swallowed thickly. "Okay then," he managed and moved to shift away from her, sitting back on his knees.

"Where are you going?" Yuffie asked with a frown.

Golden eyes glanced around them, taking in the wide open space. "We're in the middle of a field. It's not exactly where I want our first time to be," he explained as he stood and offered her a hand, ready to pull her to her feet. She accepted the motion and was soon on her feet, Nanaki helpfully adjusting her shirt though his touch lingered on her breast.

"I don't want anyone else to see what's for my eyes alone."

"Possessive much?" Yuffie joked, but inwardly, it made her insides squirmy to hear it. She could see just how aroused, just how hungry for her he looked and it caused her belly to tighten with anticipation, a low fire burning in her belly.

Instead of answering, however, Nanaki chose to kiss her again before grabbing her hand and hurrying back towards Cosmo Canyon. She held no protest as she followed. Luckily, they hadn't made it far from the town and were back within the limits rather quickly, anticipation building steadily.

The two best friends returned to the home they had shared in record time, kicking off their footwear at the front door before heading to Nanaki's room in unspoken agreement. The bed was larger, Yuffie recalled to herself with a faint blush. And far more comfortable.

She didn't give Nanaki time to think as they stepped in the room, he pulling the door shut behind him. Yuffie immediately turned and practically tackled him against the thick wood, her lips finding his as she wound her arms around his neck. His hands settled at the base of her back, squeezing gently as she sucked on his bottom lip, her body pressed completely to his. She felt his arousal prod against her thigh and the full extent of what they were about to do flashed across her mind.

She broke off the kiss, shooting him a curious expression. "Do you even know what you're doing?" she questioned, wanting to ask herself the same question. She knew how it all worked in theory but having no experience left her feeling a little... concerned for lack of a better word.

To her astonishment, the moment she asked, he blushed such a cute, bright red that it nearly outmatched his hair. "I... sort of," he admitted.

Yuffie lifted a brow. "Sort of?" the ninja repeated, unable to help the suspicion that crept into her tone.

"I've never done it before," Nanaki amended hastily, able to guess the misunderstanding that could develop. "But there are books and..." he trailed off, biting his lower lip.

"And?"

The blush deepened as hi gaze fell to the floor. "I asked some advice," the demi-human mumbled.

Yuffie blinked, trying her best to hold back a grin. "From who?" came the curious query as she inwardly giggled at the thought of Nanaki asking obviously gay Cid or Tseng how to have sex with a woman. She would have loved to see that.

He still refused to look at her. "Archer," Nanaki mumbled once more, this time so low she almost didn't catch it. It was so cute but she knew better than to say that aloud. He had his pride after all.

"Good guy, that Archer," Yuffie responded, managing to return to seriousness. She rose up on her tiptoes, kissing lightly at Nanaki's ear. "Now I'm even surer."

The grip on her hips tightened. "I'm relieved to hear that," he murmured, turning his head and capturing her lips.

It became a blur after that. A blur of emotion and feeling and sweet touches. He was so tender with her, gentle and skilled. It was about as perfect as she believed her first time could be. She should have known it would be like that.

She memorized the scent of him, fell deeper in love with the taste of him. And he, in turn, was fascinated by her softness, by her response.

Inwardly, Nanaki was vowing to send Archer a gift basket.

And when the tremors faded, they collapsed onto the bed, breathing heavily and wrapped around one another. Nanaki kissed her gently, able to feel her heart pounding against him as he pulled her against him, molding her sweaty, softness to his. His hand settled on his hip, her leg sliding around his as they traded soft kisses.

Yuffie hummed low in her throat, carding her fingers through his hair. "That was wonderful," she murmured contentedly.

He felt his cheeks heat. "I should have lasted longer," he mumbled.

She chuckled tiredly, pressing a kiss to his throat where she tasted the salt of his sweat and the flavor that was her Nanaki. She couldn't have imagined it to be anymore perfect.

Nanaki's hand slid comfortably up her back before he kissed the top of her forehead and tried to disengage himself from their entwined limbs. "I'll be right back," he assured her, rising from the bed with all of his usual languid grace.

She openly ogled his backside, the muscles shifting beautifully beneath his skin as he walked to his adjoining bathroom. 'Mine,' she thought to herself with a grin. 'He's all mine.' Her body was tingling and she thought that she'd just rather not move. In her mind, she was thanking Archer repeatedly, wondering how Nanaki had worked up the courage to go ask the man such an embarrassing question. And when for that matter.

"You look like the cat that's gotten the cream," Nanaki said as he stepped back into the room, "and the canary as well," he added, sliding back into the bed next to her. She immediately turned towards him, cuddling up against his greater warmth. It always amazed her how well they fit together.

"Maybe I have," she responded teasingly, fingers tracing nonsensical designs on his bare chest. They trekked downwards, touching the line of hair before darting back upwards.

"No regrets?" he asked after a moment and she as able to hear the reverberations of his words in his chest.

She smiled. "None. You?"

His hand slid down her back. "I'd never regret you."

When had her Nanaki become such a sap? After a moment, her giggle escaped her and she buried her face in his chest.

"What?" he asked, slightly perturbed though his voice hinted at playful. "Are you laughing at me?"

She looked up at him, eyes sparkling. "I wouldn't dare."

He kissed her again, if only to prove to himself that she really was there in his arms and it wasn't a dream. "Now what?" he asked.

She shrugged, snuggling sleepily against him. "Whatever we want. I've got to go to Wutai eventually. I can't leave until I've got everything settled. But so long as you're with me, it doesn't really matter."

"You're right," Nanaki agreed, enjoying the feel of her warmth next to him. It was almost hard for him to believe that he could be that happy. That after the mistakes he had made, he still managed to get what he wanted.

There was a moment of comfortable silence before Yuffie shifted. "Ne Nanaki... would you have ever come to see me if I hadn't come here first?"

He sighed, his hand brushing across her bare back. "Of course," he answered immediately, knowing then and there that it was the truth. "Though it might have taken me a bit of time to work up the courage." He paused, considering. "I wouldn't have been able to stay away too long."

A smile curved her lips. "Thought so. Get the lights will you?" Yuffie yawned. "I think it's time that I take a nap."

The demi-human lifted a brow. "A nap."

"I need my energy," she responded, pressing against him meaningfully. "For later."

He felt his heart pick up a beat at just that, his sated organ twitching in interest. His eyes flickered to the light switch on the far corner of the room, where he would have to rise to turn it off. He really didn't want to move from the comfortable position.

All of a sudden, Yuffie shifted and her hand darted upwards, flicking casually through the air. He watched with wide eyes as a throwing dart flew across the room, neatly clipping the switch and bathing them in darkness. Her skill never ceased to amaze him.

"There," she said with another yawn. "Problem solved."

Nanaki chuckled and groped for the blankets shoved down beneath them, pulling the covers over their naked forms. "You're mine now, Yuffie Kisaragi. I hope you know that."

She hummed noncommittally in her throat, sounding very sleepy. "Sounds good to me. Night, Nanaki."

Words of love went unspoken, unnecessary when the emotion was so very obvious on its own. Soon, the sounds of quiet breathing were all that filled the room. And somewhere beyond their eyes, the sun set in the distance.


(continued in Shattered Children, the last of the series)

A/N: And thus we reach the end! -dramatic drum roll- Ta da! Now I only have to finish Shattered Children and this series will be complete. -wipes sweat from brow- Shattered is two and a half years old and still going strong. With over 140 chapters, 2500 pages, and many, many long hours spent wiling away at my computer I can honestly say I'm looking forward to the end.

Whew.

Feedback is muchly craved. Yes it is.

Thanks everyone!

Now go read Shattered Children!