a/n: *sniffle* I'm sad to see it go, but this is the end. And what a wonderful four years it has been! I really appreciate everyone who has followed this fic from the beginning, all the fans old and new, and anyone who has ever stopped to leave a comment.
It's been a long, hard road but I'm glad we stuck together. I hope you enjoy the epilogue and thanks so much!
~500 Years Later~
Dust rising, heart thrumming in her chest, breathing a little more difficult now that she was so much older, but Yuffie ran anyways. Behind her, several pursued, their laughter echoing in the air. She sucked in a breath, tasting fresh and clean, and oddly of rainfall. Her eyes flickered to the sky. Yes, it was definitely going to rain later, but for now, the sky dawned blue and bright.
Tail flickering behind her, Yuffie raced forward, climbing the high bluff and following the trail as it wound across the dusky landscape. She could just see the edge ahead of her, a small stand of trees lingering strongly against the elements, swaying lightly in the winds. And Yuffie skidded to a stop, sending dust and rocks skittering, some of them tumbling right over the edge.
She couldn't help but grin, admiring the view that spread out before her. Midgar – or what was left of it to be more precise – covered in greenery. Old reactors little more than broken pieces of metal and debris, completely taken over by vegetation. Five hundred years later, it had almost been completely swallowed by nature. Yuffie had to admit she liked it better that way.
Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the little ones finally catching up to her, Nanaki trailing a few meters behind. Not out of lack of speed but concern, ensuring that they didn't lose any grandchildren along the way. With four cubs to to keep track of, they would need all four of their eyes and a good portion of their attention. Especially rambunctious little ones as theirs.
"Getting slow in your old age," Yuffie teased, turning away from the view to pad quietly to his side. She rubbed her head against his affectionately.
Nanaki rolled his eyes, playfully nipping at her and missing when she danced out of reach. "And five centuries later, you've yet to mature."
"It's what keeps me young."
"Why'd we come here?" one of their grandchildren, Malik, inquired inquisitively, his brothers and sisters crowding around him with the same question in their lupine eyes.
Nanaki trotted past her, gesturing towards Midgar below them with a flick of his tail. "So you could see this," he explained, sitting back on his haunches and tracing the view with his own eyes. "Once, long ago, there was a city there. It has since been reclaimed by the planet."
"And for the better," Yuffie murmured, more to herself than to Nanaki. She planted herself down at his side, and they watched as their grandchildren crowded to the edge, ooh'ing and aah'ing over the scene. Her tail twitched behind her, not as bright and hot as it had been in her youth, but still going strong.
Various shades of orange, red, and brown decorated the furs of their grandchildren. Fire-lit tails flaming brightly, reflecting the exuberance of youth. Malik and Yoshino were twins, brothers in blood. Reto was an only child, while Skyla's younger sister had been too young to accompany them on this trip. So many grandchildren, and yet, Yuffie would be happier with quite a few more.
"Wahh, it's pretty," Skyla said, tail wagging in interest.
"It's boring!" Reto complained, already twitching restlessly. He looked over his shoulder, brown eyes pleading. "Can we go somewhere else now?"
Nanaki sighed with the patience of an adult who had dealt with children for most of his natural life. "You may play if you wish," he granted, much to the excitement of the cubs.
They yipped and laughed as they danced around each other, thankfully away from the edge.
"But stay in sight," he added as the four young ones bounded back to the flatter, safer ground, tackling one another and mock fighting.
Yuffie rolled her eyes and rose to her feet, padding softly away from the edge herself. "You spoil them," she teased, idly stretching with a satisfactory groan and eying the stand of thick trees. She was most interested in the shade they offered, a relief from the heat of the high sun bearing down on them.
"No more than you, Yufs," Nanaki retorted, following along after her, looking quite distinguished with the streaks of grey that sifted through his air in sporadic intervals.
"I'm less obvious about it."
Nanaki chuckled, playfully swatting at her with his tail. "You're still no better than a cub yourself. Look at you, already wanting a nap."
Snapping her mouth shut over a cropping yawn, Yuffie tossed a look at her mate and plopped down on the ground under the blessed shade. The wind that stirred through her was much cooler and she sighed in relief. Ah, nothing could get much better than this. Her old bones were grateful for it and as she stretched to get comfortable, old scars pulled and tugged in familiar ways, bringing with them the memories.
Nanaki circled until he plopped down behind her, too close for the heat of the afternoon sun. But she liked having him near. Ah, a conundrum.
Without warning, Yuffie melded back into human form, something she did far more often than Nanaki. "This is more comfortable," she sighed to herself, leaning against his fur-covered bulk which made for a nice pillow. Her hand found his fur, stroking the softness of it.
He nosed at her side, a nuzzle if she ever saw one. "It's strange how you got more used to the shifting than I did."
"Well, maybe I'm just more adaptable to change," Yuffie answered, snuggling against him and easing her body into rest mode. She kept one awake and alert eye on their grandchildren, who happily amused themselves. The lazy heat was making her rather sleepy, the gentle peace settling into her bones and blood.
Nanaki snorted but settled down, letting the clinging heat seep into him as well. His tail swished lightly against the ground, much older than her but still distinguished.
She leaned against his softness and pondered, the image of Midgar covered in vegetation still strong in her mind. "You know," Yuffie began, stretching her legs out in front of her. "Being here is pretty nostalgic."
"Now you sound like an old woman."
She playfully elbowed him. "Shut up. I'm being serious here."
He breathed out, and she felt the warmth of his breath on her skin. "I know. I miss them, too. It's been many, many years for us."
"But it won't be long now. Before we join them, I mean," Yuffie commented, because even she could feel the age catching up on her.
She wasn't as fast, wasn't as agile. It took her longer to wake in the mornings, and sometimes, she lay in bed staring up at the ceiling for hours, sleep an impossibility. There was a restlessness to her spirit that had nothing to do with peace, and everything to do with increasing age.
Nanaki hummed in agreement. "They've all been waiting for quite some time."
"We are the last," Yuffie mused, a smile tugging at her lips as she thought of their friends and how many years – centuries and decades really – it had been since they passed.
After the final struggle against Jenova, a remarkable peace had swept through their planet. Other than the disagreements between man itself, the world had settled into an easygoing harmony. No more threats from beyond. No more men bent on world destruction. No more demi-gods dissatisfied with their lives. It was just a calm, and uneventful existence. At once, the heroes could finally breathe.
Shera went on to have two more children with Rude, the two of them living together until the end. And true to suspicion, all three of their kids turned out to be remarkable. Brilliant and strong, but raised much differently than Sephiroth had been. They were happy, satisfied with their lives. Her eldest daughter had followed in Shera's footsteps, and Dominic had pledged service to the WRO. And their youngest eventually became a famous chef, known for new and inventive dishes.
The old man and Vince spent the rest of their days aboard the Valenwind, with Cid eventually obtaining an apprentice or two to spread the knowledge. He retired in Rocket Town where he spent the last of his days designing one more rocket and lived long enough to see it reach space.
Reeve and Reno patched things up with Reeve's parents and soon had not just one daughter, but two to spoil into pretty princesses. Their youngest admired Reis to the point that she, too, became a doctor, but Revan – despite both her father's protests – pledged allegiance to the WRO and eventually inherited Reeve's position. It flourished after that, becoming the type of company Reeve had always dreamed of.
Barret continued to rebuild North Corel, turning it into a massive extension of Gold Saucer and by proxy, a tourist town. It might not have been what he intended for North Corel to become, but the people were happy and that was all that mattered to him.
Sephiroth and Tseng – once they worked out their relationship to both of their satisfaction – officially adopted Denzel as their son. They never worried about any other children, and both remained in the military until reaching an age such an occupation was no longer possible. And later, they celebrated Denzel's graduation and marriage, ever the proud papas.
Of course, Sephiroth was also uncle to many children himself. Yazoo and Reis' eventual marriage resulted in three beautiful offspring, all boys, giving poor Reis quite the handful. But they turned out to be good kids, real charmers at school. Yuffie never envied her for her brood. Loz and Illiana's only child – a beautiful young woman – turned out to be of genius level and helped usher in a new age of technology. Yuffie had never seen prouder parents.
Archer and Kadaj never really worried about children. They had enough nieces and nephews to spoil as it were. Yuffie had just been glad to see Archer smile for once, rather than the sorrowful cast that he'd always carried.
Zack and Aeris remained only friends for the longest time, many, many years after Elena's death. It was only later that they realized there was no better way to honor their loved ones than to be happy together. And when Midori was nearing her teen years, she was treated to a half-brother, whom all three blindly doted on.
Lucky for all three of them, the threat of Jenova never returned. She had been completely wiped from their planet. And all that remained was the shards of her left within Sephiroth and the brothers, though thanks to Tseng, they had all been carefully locked away.
The wars were over. Peace was actually a possibility, and their family – their mottled collection of thieves and killers and soldiers and ninja and demi-beings – were all thankful for it. They flourished in it, in a world that didn't swim in strife.
It seemed poetic to think of it now. Five-hundred years later, when all those that Yuffie knew and loved had passed. Their legacy remained, as did the memories. But more often than not, Yuffie missed them, even the later additions to her family. She missed all of them, and she knew Nanaki did too.
She loved her current life, her grandchildren, everything in it. But even so, she was ready for the next step. The Lifestream and her family waited for them. It was their last adventure.
"Do you ever regret it?" Nanaki asked, nuzzling against her side, his warmth a soothing and comforting presence.
Yuffie furrowed her brow, fingers slowing in their slow motion. "Regret what?" She turned to look at him, meeting golden eyes evenly.
"Giving up your human lifespan."
It was a fair question. Yuffie pondered why he hadn't asked before. Perhaps he had been too afraid of her answer, which was silly. Yuffie loved Nanaki; there was never any question in her mind about that. And honestly, she would never forgive herself if she died early and left him behind. What would he do without her, the great ninja Yuffie?
"Perhaps if I'd been lonely, I would," she answered softly, tilting her head back to watch the wind as it made the branches sway. "But I was here with you. That makes all the difference." Her fingers picked up their motion again. "So you better not leave first."
Nanaki chuckled, his tone incredibly relieved. "I wouldn't leave you behind," he murmured, and his tail fell back against the ground as he relaxed.
She smiled. "It's kinda nice. Lazy days like this."
"Strange to hear you say that, Ms. Adventure, herself."
"Hey! Did you happen to forget I fought in like three wars?" Yuffie grinned, closing her eyes and enjoying the gentle banner. "I think that's enough adventure to last a lifetime."
Nanaki hummed in agreement. "Peace is nice, in it's own way."
Out of nowhere, Skyla leapt onto Yuffie's belly, causing the ninja to let out a whoosh of air as she struggled to catch her squirming grandchild. "C'mon, Nona. Play with us!"
Yuffie laughed as Skyla's tail waggled through the air, the other cubs bounding up to join her. "Nona's too old to play," she said, even as Reto tackled her as well, larger than Skyla and much heavier.
"Play with us!" the two urged in chorus.
Behind her, Nanaki abruptly stood, losing Yuffie's backrest. She tumbled backwards, under the weight of her grandchild, and watched as her husband stretched languidly. Grey-tinted fur gleaming in the speckled half-light under the tree.
He growled playfully, snatching Skyla up by the back of her neck and pulling her away from Yuffie. "Popa has enough energy for the both of us," Nanaki assured them, dropping Skyla to the ground and bounding away.
Laughing, Skyla scrabbled to follow, prompting Reto and the others to do the same, their glee echoing into the blue afternoon.
Shaking her head, Yuffie rose to her feet and shifted her body back into Iyatokan form, something that had become more like instinct over the years. She was not old yet! She would show those impertinent cubs!
Feeling the happiness surge inside of her, Yuffie pounced after her family, surprising all five of them by tackling Nanaki mid-stride. They tumbled across the dusty ground, laughing like a bunch of little children, their grandchildren joining the pile of furry limbs and flaming tails.
It felt like peace, like a world finally moving on again. And Yuffie wouldn't trade it for anything.
Nothing at all.
a/n: I promised myself I would not weep. So here I am, strong and hale! Absolutely not weeping.
It was a good run. I had a lot of fun with this story. And if any of you readers find yourself missing it, you can always check out my original fiction "War of the Animum" which borrows heavily from Shattered Dreams and can be found on my homesite. Also, I will be writing a Sephiroth/Tseng fic in the future as a thank you to one of my readers. Keep an eye out for that, as well as the completion of Chronicles of Valentine.
Much love to everyone who ever read, alerted, favorited, criticized, flamed (even), and most of all, reviewed any story in this series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
If you have any questions about the story, feel free to ask them! I'll add on a Q&A if I get some that I few everyone would benefit from reading the answer.