In Yuffie's room, there is a little black box, a box of treasures from a time long ago, from a time that was before the Heartless had invaded Radiant Garden. A treasure box which contains just about everything she had to remind her of that time: some of her favourite books, tacky hairclips, several diaries that she never finished, her mother's necklace...
And a cell phone.
And every night, right before she goes to sleep, she goes to her little black box of treasures, digs through the stuff, takes out her cell phone, and turns it on. Never does she have it on for more than a minute; there is no technology left in this world that could recharge the batteries.
She checks her mail.
And tonight, like always, there is no change. The black letters that shine against the neon background are familiar. Tired. Old. Worn out.
ZERO new message(s). ONE old message(s).
DELETE old message(s)?
She's waiting for his call, his voice mail when he apologizes for leaving her alone, for not finding her sooner, forgive him, he was looking for the perfect coffin for her so she could be a vampire with him together, forever, eternally, love, Vincent.
Sooner or later, she knows the battery will run out, dead forever. She never thinks of that time.
There is a little less than half of the battery left.
She turns off the phone.
And goes to sleep.
Today when she is snooping (exploring) the castle, she finds the library has a very extensive section on genealogy and family records. It is so very extensive and detailed that she finds out a very wondrous and amazing thing: She is related to Leon. In fact, he is her mother's younger brother's wife's aunt's cousin's daughter's son.
Family is a very wondrous and amazing thing.
IN FACT, she thinks she remembers seeing Leon at the last family reunion! Yes, she remembers it quiet well indeed—well, it was her mother's funeral, but that doesn't matter—and she recalls seeing a young boy, with spiky hair and piercing blue eyes (well, not the piercing blue part. Actually, she doesn't really remember his eye colour because she was so fascinated by his hair, but adding the piercing blue eyes part makes it sound so much more romantic.) And she remembers that little boy pigging out on the donuts. IN FACT, (the capslock is necessary for dramatic purposes) they pigged out of the donuts together. And she took the chocolate ones, so he took the glazed. And she laughed at him and said he was going to get fat.
Ah, such a sweet boy, he didn't even tease her back. She might have been crying and choking at the same time, but still! There's nothing that says 'I love you and you are the holy goddess of life' more than being a willing punching bag.
IN FACT, she will test it today. TODAY, she will see if Leon remembers her.
And so she does.
In the morning, she goes to her little black treasure box, takes a deep breath, and opens it.
She doesn't even have to look. The necklace sticks out like a daisy in a field of mud (though would a daisy stick out in a field of mud?), the jewel in the middle sparkling and shining every shade of blue that exists, along with a few shades of purple. And red. And yellow. And maybe some other colours. She remembers the time when her mother gave the necklace to her, or rather, the day she didn't. It was her father who had first wrapped it around her tiny neck, speaking words that she wasn't listening to, words like, "I'm sorry, she should be the one doing this." She only remembers how heavy it felt, how leaden it felt, how old, how stiff it felt, how wrong it felt.
She only it wore for that one day, that day of the funeral (which doesn't mean anything at all), that day she (might have) met Leon, that day that day that day.
And when she wears it again, today, she feels like nothing has changed. It still is heavy, leaden, old, stiff, wrong…But maybe it'll get better? Maybe it's just a load she has to carry for a while until she gets used to it? Her mother would wear it all the time, all the time, everywhere, everyday, even in the shower.
Maybe Yuffie could do the same.
And maybe Leon could recognize his donut buddy.
And so, Yuffie struts around with her hot new bitchin' necklace (which isn't really new, but that's besides the point), and yeah, it feels really weird, and sorta heavy and her neck is just a taaad bit itchy and oosh, it tingles it tickles it BUUURNS. Well not really. (But gotta admit, wearing a necklace on fire would be really amusing. It's the necklace of dancing flurries of flame! And ice cream.)
But no one really notices, the plain black chord camouflaging with her vest and shirt. Not that she minds. Too much. A lot. Okay, she does mind. A lot. Like FREAKING HELL SHE'S WEARING A BITCHIN COOL NECKLACE AND NO ONE'S NOTICING. It's a very sad thing, a very sad thing indeed,
And then, it's not until she sees Cid, arguing with Merlin (again) over some lame thing, that she remembers Shera. Shera, one of her mother's best friends, Shera, her beautiful auntie who took care of her long after her mother died and always gave her candy, Shera, the woman that Cid loved.
And suddenly, she feels guilty about wearing her precious necklace.
She can't really identify why, why she suddenly feels so terrible and selfish, the reason why her stomach feels so sick and twisted, why she doesn't want to eat, why she doesn't want to do anything but sit in her room and stare out the window while she feels up the black twisted necklace cord. Harsh calico meets rough, calloused fingers and she just feels it and feels it and feels it…
It doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter that she doesn't know why.
It doesn't matter at all.
So when Aerith calls her down for dinner, Yuffie breaks out of her trance. Dinner, food, where? Food as in yummy food? Food like food like oh my gawd food food food is total love food?
"Coming!" She yells back loudly and starts to stride for the door—when she stops. Harsh calico meets rough, calloused fingers, warmth meets cold, unfeeling meets living and alive.
And— She pauses.
For a moment, all she can hear is her deep breathing, her heavy deep breathing and it's weird how languid she feels, how bored and blasé she feels, and it's all silence, silence and her white walls.
(Will things ever be the same again?)
She takes off the necklace. And puts it in her treasure box, along with her books and hairclips and the cell phone.
And she closes it, locking it away.
When she finally comes downstairs, it's weird how different she feels, how lightened and giddy and bright she feels, and she doesn't care if no one notices because she's happy, she's free, she's a different—she's a better person now.
Yeah, she's a better person now. (And it doesn't matter why—because it's not worth it.)
When she glances at Leon, she finds his eyes lingering over her neck, where the necklace once was. Only for a second or two do his eyes look, and then he looks away, his not!piercingblueyes (because they're actually quite a mellow ocean colour) moving to the food that Aerith prepared for them.
(ZERO new message(s). ONE old message(s). )
(DELETE old message(s)? )
One fourth of the battery is left.
She turns off the phone.
And goes to sleep.
She finds Cid today in his workshop, attempting to build a spare Gummi Ship for the committee to use. Yuffie always finds that Cid is scariest in his workshop, because everything is so…neat. And clean. And if that wrench isn't in the right box then he'll kill you all. (Yuffie knows this from personal experience.)
"Heya, Cid!" She chirps cheerfully, setting down a mug next to his stool. "I brought you some coffee! How's life?"
She waits patiently with a happy smile on her face as Cid stops tweaking whatever crap he was doing to notice the cup she put down. (Yes my sweet, eat the apple and DIE, mwahahaha.) With a sigh, he looks at her with narrowed eyes and asks, "Alright, whatddya want now?"
Ah, Cid knew her so well. They really just are the bested buds, bosom friends, kindred spirits, BFF4EVAH like totally.
With a bright smile (be blinded by my sparkling and slightly yellow tinted pearly teeth, minion!), she responds, "Only to see if you can somehow build a recharger for my cell phone?"
Cid doesn't even think of it for second; before Yuffie can even blink he's already back at playing around with his oh-so-special gummi parts.
Yuffie lets out a whine. "Oh come ooon!"
"Yuffie, you know that a lot ot the technology was lost. Give it up."
"But you could try…?"
"Not a priority."
With an annoyed snort, Yuffie stomps off, muttering to herself. "Fine. Be that way you old geezer."
(ZERO new message(s)s. ONE old message(s). )
One third of the battery left.
She turns the cell phone off before the familiar words flash across the screen.
And goes to sleep.
She can't find her headband. It's not by the window, it's not on her bedside table, it's not on the floor, it's not h e r e and it's not there and it's not there or there or there or there and…DAMNIT WHERE IS HER FUCKING HEADBAND?
And with a resigned sigh she looks in the mirror and sees a boy. A very annoying looking boy with fluffy hair and bangs—oh gawd, those bangs are terrible and bushy and just—bangs, bangs, and even more bangs. She (or rather he, as her current hair suggests) needs her headband. Or she was going to die from all the bad luck caused by all the mirrors that she broke by looking into them.
So she gets out her little black box, unlocks it, and takes out her hairclips. She remembers these hairclips: it was a birthday gift from her father. Eighth birthday.
Her heart seeming to drift and flutter about, she holds up the four clips, all shaped like butterflies. Emerald rhinestones dot the black metal and she remembers how she used to be obsessed with green, any and every shade of green. (Lime, neon, forest, olive…) Originally, there had been five, she recalls, and with a sad pang, she remembers how she had lost one of them long ago, and she can't even remember how or why or even when.
And so, she's standing in front of the mirror, the clips in her right hand. How should she do it? How should she style her hair? Braids? She used to like braids, but now her hair was so short. Side-swept? But then it got so messy? How should she do it, how should she do it?
She doesn't realize how long she's taking to decide until Aerith comes up, knocking on the door. With a jump, Yuffie turns around, a sheepish smile on her face.
"A-haaaah…Hey there, Aerith." Yuffie greets. "I'm guessing I missed breakfast?"
"Don't worry, I saved you some," Aerith assures and before Yuffie knows it, Aerith is by her side and looking in the mirror with her. "Do you need some help?"
Yuffie lets her shoulders sag with relief. "Yes, thank you. Huuuh, I never knew hair could be so…frustrating. How do you deal with such long hair?"
Aerith takes the clips from Yuffie's hand and starts to smooth her hair over, parting it into four separate sections. "It's just experience. I'm sure if you had hair as long as mine, you'd be good with hair as well."
Yuffie snorts, finding the feeling of Aerith's fingers running through her hair almost…soothing. Almost as if she was a little sister, wiggling around as her older sister attempts to do her hair. "Me? Long hair? No way."
And somehow, within the span of seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds (though it's not like Yuffie was timing it or anything), Aerith has tamed her hair and has clipped her bangs back perfectly, smoothly, neatly and whoa, she starts to look like a girl again. Amazing, just absolutely fantabously amazing.
And not only that, but the feeling of wind on Yuffie's forehead is somewhat cool, both metaphorically and literally. After all, for once, she is actually feeling the wind on her forehead! Like totally cool and sorta romantic and Pocahontas-ish sorta kinda!
Later that night, she finds her headband under her pillow.
So she takes out her hairclips and just before she puts them back in her box, she takes one last look at the mirror. Maybe she'll try to grow her hair long. Just…maybe.
Tonight, she forgets to check her cell phone. (One fourth of the battery is left.)
And she goes to sleep.
She's just waiting for the battery to run out. For the past two weeks, all she's seen is just red, crimson, scarlet slivers of health left, all screaming warning warning WARNING CHARGE THE BATTERY. And her heart is sinking lower and lower every time she sees it and sometimes, she almost wishes it would just die already, please just die already, but then at the same time she's praying please please please don't die yet, I don't want you to die, please don't die, not just yet, just one more day please.
But the inevitable will happen.
She knows it.
And so she's passing her time reading, reading anything (interesting) that she can find in the library, and when that is done, going to Leon's personal library (she looks through those books in less than a day though, that boring guy), before finally, reading books out of her treasure box until she is left with only one: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
At age ten, she used to hate the book. She hated the main character because she was such an obnoxious brat, she hated the little boy, who was such a good-two shoes, she hated the maid because her name was annoying, she hated it hated it hated it and had put it away forever.
But then at thirteen when she was pissed off and mad and cleaning her room, she found the book and started to read it. And suddenly, she couldn't stop. Every word, the characters, the family, it hit too close, much too close to home and she couldn't believe it. She spent weeks rereading the book, combing through it for answers, explanation, just some guidance on how to get on with her life, with her father, with…everything.
And now as she reads it, she can't help but remember, remember her fights with her father and the days where she would cry at night, hiding under the bed, murmuring just for someone to hug her, hold her, Mother please come back I'm so lost, Auntie Shera, Precious Auntie Shera, I wish you were here, Tifa, can you hear me, someone please hear me, notice me, notice that I'm sad and I'm terrible and I just want to be loved please please please…
And then she remembers…she met Vincent.
It's funny how much she is remembering. It's funny how much she forgets.
(ZERO new message(s). ONE old message(s). )
(DELETE old message? )
There's barely anything left anymore.
She's scared to listen.
She's scared to listen to that one saved voice mail, that one last voice mail.
Three weeks. Three weeks and the cell phone isn't dead yet and she knows it can't last much longer, that she might never have a chance to hear his voice again, might never be able to remember him, might never remember the way he talked, or really, the way he didn't talk, might never remember the way he was and yet...and yet…
She's scared that if she does, she might never heal again.
Her hand is wavering, shaking, lingering right over that green button, and her eyes are stinging and burning and she wants to cry, she wants to cry so much, and yet the tears won't come, for she has no reason to cry, no she shouldn't cry but she wants to she wants to, she wants to be selfish, she wants to be selfish and she wants to be miserable and wallow in self-pity because then at least it'd make sense, at least then everything would have meaning have justification have a reason because it's all because of her, her and her damn stupidity and how she can't move on and let go and…
She wouldn't be able to live with herself, she—she wouldn't be herself
Her thumb touches the button, twitching, almost pushing it down—
—But she can't.
And it doesn't matter why, or how, or if it makes sense—she just can't.
(I'm sorry Vinnie for abandoning you, I'm sorry, Vinnie for forgetting you, I'm sorry for not forgiving you when you didn't call back like you promised, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…I'm sorry that I stopped loving you.)
And she's just standing there, shaking, barely even able to support herself as she leans against her bed. And she's glad she's alone, she's glad that no one's hear to hold her up, to soothe her, to hold her, to be there—It's with an odd sense of accomplishment that she realizes that she can be weak, and she can be vulnerable, and that she can cry cry cry me a river and no one will know.
(Because she's strong like that, isn't she?)
And somehow, through the veil of stinging eyes, a stuffy nose, a burning face, shaking hands, she starts to dial a familiar number. A number she's remembered forever, hoping that someday, her phone would vibrate with those digits appearing on the screen, a number that's engraved itself in habit on her fingers, that she would often would put it, just because.
But now, she's actually calling him.
With unsteady hands, she shakily brings it up her ear, fiercely hoping, hoping, hoping…for something. A miracle. Actually, anything would be nice, really, thank you.
And for a moment—nothing.
(She holds her breath.)
And then, to her amazement, the phone starts to ring. Du-du-du-du-du. Pause. Pause. Pause. Du-du-du-du-du. Pause. Pause. Pause. And the process repeats one time, two times…
(Her heart is beating so fast it's like summer rain falling down and she's nervous and she's scared but she's e x c i t e d she's giddy she's…smiling. And then she starts to wonder about the irony of how the phone towers still work.)
And then—Her voice. His, her, their voicemail message, so familiar, so old, so…amazing: "Heya, it's the Brood King of TEH DOOMZ—C'mon Vinnie, say something, it's recording. Okay, fine, I'll record a bitching cool recording that you can be jealous of—AHEM. Please leave a message after the beep. Or—BEEP."
And with a belated start, Yuffie realizes that the phone has already started recording her message—Oh yeah, she forgot about how the phone cut her off. She forgot…a lot, didn't she?
And before she knows it, anything that she might have wanted to say, any words that might have been at the tip of her tongue, of her brain, of her heart—are lost. She finds herself stammering, unable to find anything to say, unable to figure out what she wants to say, and just lost, just lost.
"Ah…um…er, yeah. Vinnie, it's been a whi-while. Well, you're dead, well I think you are, well, but I hope…nevermind. It doesn't matter. …Yeah. This message is just me saying that…" She swallows, suddenly finding a thick lump caught in her throat, and she can't talk anymore, she's lost her voice and there's only silence silence and silence and…"I'm sorry. I don't even know what I'm saying sorry for but I'm sure there's a lot of things I should be saying sorry for like all the times that I kept bugging you about Lucretia yeah I'm sorta pushy I'm sorry for calling you King of THE DOOMZ because in fact you are really the master of THE BROODZ so my bad and then there was that time that I stole your ice cream that was really terrible of me even if it was rainbow sherbet…"
And she keeps talking, just saying words, thoughts, anything that comes to mind, even long after the machine stops recording, because she has to get it all out or she will die, just anything to fill the silence. And it's like throwing up after eating some bad chicken, it's like coughing up some water after drowing drowning drowning in memories she didn't remember, memories she created for the sake of memories, feelings she created for the sake of reminiscing and remembrance and she can't live like that anymore, she can't forget, she can't forget what really happened and it doesn't matter anymore, just because.
And somehow, that's enough.
And finally, it all came to an end.
"…Yeah. I'll miss you." She pauses, her voice barely a croak, barely a whisper above the dead air. And she waits, just waiting and waiting (stalling) just so for maybe one moment, she can be selfish. And then: "…Bye."
She pushes the end button and clicks the phone shut, finding herself staring at the wall, the white white blank new wall.
And just breathes…and breathes…and breathes…
Is she alive? …Yeah, she is.
When she looks at this moment later on, she will realize that she doesn't remember much. She won't remember if she was relieved, nostalgic, joyous, sad, happy, angry, mad...
(Because in the end, she cried herself to sleep.)
The next day, when she goes to breakfast, she smiles at everyone, she smiles at Aerith, at Cid, at Merlin, even at stupid old Leon (he doesn't deserve it, that bastard), and even though it's tired, it's a real smile.
Though that doesn't really matter.
(After all, hasn't she been always smiling?)
When she goes to bed that night, her eyes land on her bedside table where she left her cell phone the night before. To her surprise, not only did she forget to turn it off, but it still is surviving, the battery still barely running. When she opens it up, warnings flash every two seconds, reminding her low battery, please recharge.
ZERO new message(s). ONE old message(s).
DELETE old message(s)?
For a moment, she pauses, almost about to delete the message. It didn't matter anymore, it shouldn't matter anymore but…it did. And somehow, that mattered.
Her thumbs twitches, about to press the button, when in some random moment of enlightenment, she changes her mind.
And with a satisfied smile, she shuts it close and sets it on the table. When morning comes, for sure the phone would be dead, a hunk of useless metal. Goodbye memories, goodnight Vincent Valentine, I'll see you in the morning and I love you.
Nothing's left anymore.
And it doesn't matter.
She goes to sleep—
—she stops, frozen in her position. There's a weird noise in the room. It's strange because she hears this weird buzzing, like a bee is in the room, a weird sort of vibration, like a someone is humming, a waterfall of shaking, like, like—like wood moving and the sound…
And the sound is coming from her bedside table.
The phone's ringing.
Do you pick up?