A/N: Credit where credit is due, there are quotes in here from Shakespear and one from Judy Garland. I didn't mark them, but you'll know them when you see them. In the previous chapter I quoted the Merchant of Venice…C'mon, I'm not that talented ;p.

(Joey, this one is yours.)

As always, I own nothing but that which passes for plot. Enjoy!

-Must I forget everything?! There is a bit of Atonement in here as well...I apologize.-


It was dusk by the time the pair had reached the bar, and Yuffie was near ready to succumb to exhaustion. They clumsily dismounted an equally weary chocobo. Yuffie led Jezebel to her stall, filled the feed trough with greens and gave her feathered head a thankful pat, murmuring how grateful she truly was. He watched her as she spoke, her heavy leather riding jacket hung off her shoulders, her black shirt clung to her curves and her black cargo pants hung dangerously low. She smiled once at him before returning her attention to the bird, talking animatedly with Jezebel as she groomed her feathers and cleaned the mud clinging to her legs. The golden chocobo would wark gently in response to Yuffie's encouraging cooing and soft words, nuzzling her beak against the ninjas hip, grateful for the attention.

"We've come a long way, haven't we?" Yuffie spoke suddenly.

Vincent stood by, leaning heavily against the door to the stable and watching with an almost impassive stare as Yuffie carefully replaced the saddle and bridle to their rightful places. She turned and met his gaze, her own emotions in a sorry state of chaos.

"I thought for sure I'd failed you…" She hung her head in shame, feeling a bitter twist in her stomach as she closed her eyes and saw his face, frightened, hopeful, confused, and resigned all at once. She had abandoned him, just like Lucrecia.

His eyes studied her with a strange intensity she'd never seen. There was something dark and frightening hidden behind garnet hues, something extraordinarily intoxicating, it felt as though she were being lured, seduced into some dark fantasy…and with little surprise she realized she was trembling as she closed the space between them.

As she stood before him she was struck by the scent of gunpowder and musk that so uniquely defined him. She was inches from him, her eyes closing as she took in the simple feel of him being near her.

"I'm so sorry, Vincent." She didn't dare look up at him, afraid she would see his disappointment in her.

She heard the sound of his cloak rustling as he moved, melting into him as his arms slowly wrapped around her. His name left her in a hushed whisper as he buried his face in her silken hair, breathing in deeply. The very core of his being pulsed with need for the smaller woman held firmly against him.

"Do not apologize, not you." His voice was shaking ever so slightly. "You are my salvation…"

Yuffie lifted her head slowly, her eyes traveling slowly up the column of his neck and along his jaw to his lips. The taste of them still fresh in her memory. He inched toward her haltingly, as though unsure she would accept him. She felt her pulse race as his lips brushed hers and she realized then that there would never be anything or anyone she'd want more than him.

"I am sorry, I left you in the dark, I loved you and I never spoke of it…You owe me no such apology." Her breath caught in her throat as his lips brushed hers with every word.

With every attempt to deepen the kiss he pulled back just enough to deny her, though not far enough to fully break the kiss. She hummed with need as his hands began to slowly move beneath her riding jacket, lifting it off her shoulders and allowing it to fall to the ground. Yuffie lifted her small hands to his chest, attempting to unbuckle the heavy leather armor as his lips moved lower along her jaw. She gasped and sighed, hands rendered useless as his warm fingers made contact with her slightly cooler skin. He nipped at a particularly sensitive point along her collar bone, again stilling her movements and earning him a soft mewling sound. She let out a breathy moan as both hands gently cupped her breasts, thumbs teasing the taut skin. His lips captured hers in a chaste kiss as his fingers traced slow, ecstasy inducing lines along her toned stomach and lower to the buckle of her pants.

She began to pant with need, willing her hands with all her might to move, wrapping her fingers in his long pitch dark hair.

"Vincent…wha-" He nipped at her lips, silencing her momentarily. She once again leaned forward, longing for deeper contact and sighing as his lips moved away and down her neck to her pulse point. She gasped as warm hands moved down her now bare thighs, her mind reeling at the loss of pants and feeling of his strong fingers digging into the firm muscle of her legs. She hardly registered him lifting her up and shoving her back against the wall of winter blankets for the birds.

"Ple-please, I want to-to touch…" He pulled back, all movement ceasing as she struggled to speak. She saw the heady look in his eyes and was reminded of first time they'd tasted this desire. "I need to touch you…" She'd hardly had time to blink has his lips were upon hers in a burning kiss, his tongue dueling with hers as her legs reflexively tightened and pulled him deeper into her. One hand wrapped in his thick hair while the other held his cheek. She moaned into the kiss as his hands were once again moving against her nearly unclothed form. Her deft fingers made quick work of the buckles and bindings of his leather, and with a small gasp of delight she let it fall to the ground, her fingers moving lightly along the muscles of his chest, delighting in the way his breath caught as she lovingly traced the scars of his past, mindful of his wounded shoulder and ribs. She tightened her legs around his waist, gasping against his lips. She sighed as his bare chest was against her, his muscles rippling enticingly as he moved and kissed along her neck, her nails digging into his shoulders.

Vincent growled against her ear, sending a delightful shudder down her spine. She breathed his name, her fingers struggling with the buckles of his leather pants as his thumbs once again found the sensitive peaks of her breasts, moving them in slow circles against the hardened flesh. Her hands gripped his biceps roughly as she let out a shallow cry, her hips bucking against his. He let out a hoarse groan, his own eyes closing at the sensation.

He quickly withdrew his hands, his eyes meeting hers as he nearly ripped the shirt off her. She gasped in shock and an overwhelming desire to feel his lips against her skin again.

He murmured her name softly as he took in her olive complexion, the beautiful splash of pink in her cheeks, and his own burning desire mirrored in her eyes. "Beautiful…" He whispered as his lips sought hers again. Then slowly moved back along her neck and lower. He lifted her higher against the wall, capturing one pert nipple between his teeth. Yuffie let out an unsteady moan, her nails digging into his skin.

He set to the task of driving her mad, teasing her with tongue and teeth. She held back for fear of making too much noise, biting her lip and covering her mouth. Vincent nipped again at her soft skin as she covered another cry.

He brought a hand up to the one covering her mouth, pulling it away as his tongue traced languid circles around one nipple, his thumb tracing the other. She cried out, gasping in shock and embarrassment.

"They cannot hear you…" His voice was dark, demanding.

"Vin-Vincent…oh, Gods…" She clutched his shoulders, her short fingernails digging in as her body quivered from the intensity of what he was doing.

"I can…let me," His lips traveled between her breasts and made a burning trail lower. "let me hear you…" Yuffie's breathing hitched as she gasped in anticipation.

Before she knew it she was practically chanting his name, writhing in ecstasy as he took his time drawing out her release. His skin was on fire, the evidence of his own need now painfully obvious. Though he didn't care, he wanted to taste her, touch her, hear her screaming his name…it was an irrational desire to prove his need for her, to show her in his way how he loved her. And though the physical aspect was incredible, he was at a loss for words to tell her and this was something he now knew she understood. Her skin, voice, the essence of her, it was all almost too much for him. It was a high he'd never before known, and once he'd tasted her he realized he'd never find anything that could replete his desires as she could. Nothing could quell the raging fires that would eternally burn within him like she could.

Her body shook hard against him, he glanced up in time to see her throw her head back and cry his name as her release reached its crescendo. Never had she been more beautiful than that moment. His name had never sounded so erotic as it did coming from her pink lips in the heat of passion. He stood quickly, lowering her to the ground delicately as he did. She wobbled against him, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist as he held her damp cheek, her platinum eyes locked with his own heavy lidded claret. She gasped as her hand brushed against his hardness and her eyes widened with curiosity. He simply shook his head, lifting her off her feet and carrying her to the door. The bar was dark, Cloud and Tifa had gone searching for the pair and closed the bar down in the mean time. Yuffie, however, had a spare key.

He made his way slowly toward the room he used when he came to visit, practically kicking it open. He let her stand once inside, she dropped her clothes at the foot of his bed and stood with her back to him for a moment. He had only his leather pants on, burning inside and out to simply touch her. She turned slowly toward him, her hair loose and ruffled…she was beautiful in the moonlight. His breath caught as she slowly made her way toward him, never breaking eye contact.

"Vincent?" He felt his throat tighten at the sensual tone in her voice.

"Hn?" Was all he could utter as her hands brushed against his cheek.

"I need you…" She kissed his wounded shoulder softly, something like sorrow passing over her features quickly as her fingers danced across the bandage. Her lips left a burning trail down to the star shaped scar in the center of his chest before moving toward his broken ribs. "Please…let me show you." He gasped, his eyes sliding shut as he felt his pants sliding down to the ground. He bent his head toward her lips, returning her affections with as much enthusiasm as she offered. His arms looped around her, groaning at the feel of her bare skin against his. She pulled him back toward his bed. He carefully eased her back down onto the mattress, aligning himself carefully between her shapely legs. She broke from the kiss, her eyes meeting his, smiling lovingly up at him.

His heart jumped into his throat at the sight of her bathed in moonlight, sighing as his hands continued to move on their own accord, her eyes shimmering with equal parts lust and love. He never had the acceptance she so readily offered him then, that she had always given him. It was as if he was seeing it for the fist time.

"Vincent?" Her voice shook unsteadily as he lay atop her, his own body positioned to delve into her inviting heaven. The look in her eyes froze him in place.

"Yuffie…" He was mildly surprised to hear the slight tremble of his own voice.

"I love you." She breathed. He gasped in relief and offered her a small smile, his body trembling against his own restraint.

"I love you." He repeated, his deep voice sending a chill right through her. She whimpered, her hands tightening around his neck, pulling herself up off the mattress to meet his lips. He gasped as they made contact, shocked at the ease with which he'd admitted his feelings aloud to the young woman.

"Vincent…" Her voice was a whisper against his ear, enticing and seductive. She coaxed him gently with a nudge of her hips. A rumbling moan slipped past his lips as his hands held her firmly against the mattress, strong fingers digging into her hips with bruising intensity.

He was inside her then and she was crying out his name as he felt her body pulse around him. Gods above, did he love this woman, his light in the darkness. Her voice, her lips, the way she moaned for him, the heat and passion only he would ever know…yes, she was purely his. She'd never known the pleasures of the flesh before him, and he secretly wondered if she'd waited for him as long as he waited for her.

"I'll follow you…" He whispered against her ear in time with each languid thrust. Her legs reflexively tightened from the sensation as she threw her head back with another loud, erotic moan. "I'll make a heaven out of hell…" She mewled softly as her eyes clamped shut from the dizzying sensation.

"I love you…I love you…" She repeated in a breathy whisper in time with him, each thrust stronger and harder than the one before. It didn't take long, soon she felt that now familiar, delirious sensation building a second time. She felt it, every inch of her tingled in excitement as it drew nearer. She gasped his name like a mantra as she neared the edge of oblivion, urging him along with her as his hands spasmodically clawed at her hips, his own end approaching. He growled her name, Yuffie was reduced to whimpering his.

Suddenly her nails raked roughly across his back, drawing thin rivulets of blood, as her head fell back, letting loose a deep and powerful cry in ecstasy.

And Vincent roared, a rumbling, bestial cry. Her name ripping itself from his lungs as he fell into bliss right along with her. He gasped and shuddered against her quaking form, holding her as tight as he dared, willing the moment to never end.

"I love you, Vincent…" She moaned softly against his sweat soaked and heaving chest.

"And I will die by your hand which I love so well…" He closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers, the constant stirring of demons for once was blessedly absent as he lay with her in their bed of delicious sin. "…love so well…" Yuffie kissed him sweetly, soft and gentle as if to calm her dark lover, the gunman who had stolen her heart a lifetime ago.

They lay wrapped in a down comforter and bathed in the moonlight, she rested her head against his chest, lulled to sleep by the steady beat of his heart. He lay awake, not out of fear of his nightmares. He was transfixed by her beauty as she slept, the soft pout of her lips and faint blush staining her cheeks. His life had been darkened with betrayal, loss, and irrefutable guilt, she was the one faint glimmer of hope in all that emptiness.

He kissed the top of her head, whispering softly against her hair. She stirred, sighing his name in her sleep. Her love was quite a thing, it was young and strong. It was her persistence that kept her ever on his mind and so begrudgingly close to his haggard and retched old heart…no, not begrudging. It was completely against his will and yet he had wanted it…Leviathan, how he had wanted her. To have this spark of life, this silver eyed beauty who had taken all that was broken and rotten in him and made him whole…brought him back from the depths of the darkness. She strode into that nightmare, down into the darkest places where even he feared to tread, and she went bravely forward with only that incredible love for him to guide her. She conquered his demons, made light the shadow, and still she gave. He would never know how to repay her, how to reciprocate that kind of emotion, he would simply give of himself until he was nothing more than ashes in the wind. He would give everything he had, anything she wanted to keep her in his arms and near his heart. Eternity had threatened to break them, but tonight he managed to stave off that fear.

Smiling to himself he glanced down at her face one more, untouched by the weariness of old age, young and vibrant still. He felt a certain pang in his heart at knowing she may very well die before he could, she was frail in that respect. He wished he could age with her, to see them grow old and, as morbid as he knew it sounded…to die at her side.

Sighing contentedly he let his head rest against the headboard, closing his eyes momentarily. If not for his extended life, his immortality as it were, he would have never lived to see this night.

"Thank you…for that…" He whispered to her, knowing that somehow she would hear him.

'Vincent…' He heard her voice, echoing faintly in his memory. He smiled, she sounded different, at peace with herself finally. His eyes fluttered, as if trying to wake himself, though he held fast to the dream. Something warm was suddenly gripped in his palm, it was light and feather soft. Blinking slowly as he felt her presence vanish again he noticed Yuffie still slept, her hands flinching as he shifted his weight. He held up his hand, inspecting what looked to be a tuft of pale orange phoenix down. It was a single feather, or rather fire dancing in the shape of a feather. It did not burn, nor was it cold.

"What is…?" The fire began to dance and change shape again, he gasped as he felt something in the back of his mind stir. As if she could sense his distress, Yuffie was awake and alert in an instant, her hands resting against his ribs, her palladium eyes locking with startled crimson. There was the briefest glint of panic there, she took a slow breath as she brought one small hand to his cheek.

"Breathe…" She whispered, her voice echoing Lucrecia's thoughts. He closed his eyes, focusing on the fire swirling, changing shape and color to their shared surprise. His mind began to reel, it felt like the very life was being sucked out of him by this tiny dancing spark of a flame. "Breathe…" Yuffie urged gently, her hands smoothing themselves against his chest, cradling his face as he took in another shallow breath.

The small flame grew brighter and warmer with every gasp, glowing as radiantly as the first rays of dawn and then in a flash of brilliance it was gone and Vincent lay panting and confused beyond all reason.

"What…what was that?" He asked a softly smiling Yuffie.

"It was a dream…" She replied quietly, placing a soothing kiss against the corner of his mouth. "Just a dream." She pulled herself up so her forehead rested against his as her fingers traced lazy circles against his shoulders. He shuddered as her slight frame settled against his, her body a comforting weight as he lay shocked and feeling suddenly bereft of some unnamable emotion. He searched his heart and soul, longing to know what the fire had taken from him and finding nothing.

He gave a startled gasp, startling the young woman. "Yuffie…they're gone." She stared a moment, and for the briefest second he thought himself crazy. She watched him, a slow realization reaching her eyes as he began to smile, truly smile at her. "They…are gone." He breathed, her lips trembling as tears of joy brimmed behind her eyes. "The beasts no longer lurk within me." He took in a shaky breath. "She's taken them from me…" She gasped as he spoke. "Gone." He stared at his now empty palm in wonder.

"Oh, Vincent…" She let a happy sob slip, his smile sending warmth through her down to her toes. She kissed him for all she was worth, not sure she could trust her voice not to break. She hadn't been expecting this, Lucrecia had only told her she could drive them back into his subconscious. Maybe…maybe she'd taken them once Yuffie had sent them running. Either way, Yuffie sent out thousands of silent prayers of thanks to Leviathan and Lucrecia, thanking them for blessing her so.

"Thank you…" He whispered against Yuffie's hair, her grip tightening just slightly. She knew he was thanking her, too. It was her who had done the last part of it all, she had pulled the remaining three demons from him. He closed his eyes, Yuffie cradled protectively in his arms, and slept.


Tifa and Cloud arrived early the next morning after having spent the last few days away from the empty bar. Tifa couldn't stand to be there knowing her friends were lost…or worse.

She walked in, startled by the warmth she felt as she crossed the threshold. Glancing around she first noticed a fire had been started recently, upon further inspection she noticed Yuffie's black riding jacket hanging haphazardly off a chair and beside it…Vincent's cloak. Tifa gasped, her knees feeling weak and yet she dove for the stairs, driven by the all consuming need to see if what she saw was true. She ran down the hall, flinging Yuffie's door open wide.

Tifa let out a small, anguished cry to find it empty and essentially unused. She collapsed to her knees, tears flowing freely as she clung to the door frame, her shoulders shaking with each sob.

Outside, Cloud noticed Jezebel had returned. She was groomed and fed, warking happily at the sight of him. He took a few tentative steps toward her, her golden feathers glittered in the early light and she showed no signs of fatigue. He walked toward the stables, the door was slightly ajar. Inside he noticed a pair of winter blankets had fallen to the ground. Without thinking too much of it, Cloud carefully lifted them and replaced them against the wall.

A flash of crimson at his feet caught his eye, he glanced and realized with a start he was standing on Vincent's crimson headband. He sighed wearily, wondering if this were a cruel joke or if they had truly come here. With another heavy sigh he bent and collected the cloth before slowly heading toward the home he shared with Tifa.

Tifa bit back the bitter tears of defeat, so lost in her grief she did not hear the deep baritone asking if she were alright or notice the black hair pooling with her own. A hand jarred her from her misery, thinking it to be Cloud she placed a hand on his. Immediately she realized it was not. This hand was larger, stronger in a way. Slowly she turned her head, noticing this hands pale color as opposed to Cloud's slightly darker tone. She lifted her head just enough to realize the hair falling around her eyes was in fact not hers. Her breath caught then, as concern etched clearly through a pair of crimson eyes staring back at her.

"Vincent…?" She gasped, shock written as plain as day across her face. He nodded slowly, his grip tightening slightly as she again started to cry. "Oh God's above, you are alive!" She wailed, throwing her arms around his neck, sobbing against his hair.

She felt a smaller hand carefully take her own, burgundy meeting silver, and she quickly leapt from Vincent's arms to Yuffie's. "I swear on Jenova's unholy soul, if either of you ever…ever pull a stunt like this again, you'll be wishing Sephiroth had won." She laughed through her tears, Yuffie felt tears of her own burning her eyes, agreeing enthusiastically that she wouldn't leave again.

"We are home…here to stay." Yuffie whispered into her hair. "I promise, Tifa." Vincent placed a hand on Tifa's shoulder, nodding his agreement with Yuffie.

Cloud came through the door, hearing nothing but Tifa's tears he ran up the stairs prepared to offer her whatever comfort he could. "Sweet mother of Gaia…you're-" He didn't finish as Yuffie had launched herself toward him, nearly sending the pair down the stairs, if not for the quick hand of Vincent. Cloud closed his eyes, hugging his friend close. He released her, clapping Vincent on the shoulder as he did. "You did it again." He stated as calmly as he could.

"I apologize." Vincent replied with a simple nod.

"Did you figure it out?" Cloud's eyes flickered to Yuffie and back to the gunman.

"We did." Cloud sensed something passed between the two, they shared a brief hint of a smile before turning back to Cloud. "I assure you, I will not be leaving again any time soon." With that the four made their way down stairs to the kitchen where Yuffie had begun to prepare breakfast. It had always been her philosophy that full stomachs made for a happy heart.

She decided to cook for Tifa and Cloud as Vincent explained what had happened. Every so often she would catch Vincent's eye and offered a secret smile in his direction, his lips would tip up in his barely there smirk as his eyes greedily took in the sight of her in her as she moved about the kitchen.

Tifa had assured Vincent that Juno had taken none of what happened to heart, she had not counted on the additional influence of three demons long thought dead. Tifa frowned at the solemn expression both Yuffie and Vincent wore in that instant, demanding someone tell her just what Juno wasn't upset about. Yuffie shook her head quietly as Vincent artfully dodged the question by moving on to something Cloud had asked about earlier.

Breakfast was a long, drawn out, affair. They had all praised Yuffie's culinary skill and eaten their fill. Cloud sat out on the patio with Vincent, mulling over the events of the last few months. They sat in a comfortable silence, neither having much to say to the other. Tifa and Yuffie sat above them on the roof, as the ninja had a fondness for high places. Yuffie told of her traveling to find Vincent, of meeting Lucrecia…she spoke little of what Vincent had said to her, he was quiet and private, what was said was meant for her ears alone. Tifa marveled at the change between her friends, saying something along the lines of "Took you two long enough" and laughing good naturedly. She was happy, beyond happy that Vincent had found serenity in the arms of the young former heir of Wutai.

Tifa excused herself a short while later, as the chill drove the two women back inside, and left to her room with a gently smiling swordsman. As he passed Yuffie he turned, embracing her in a sudden show of brotherly love. He thanked her for coming home, she knew he thanked her for much more…though she wouldn't push him just to hear it said.

"Thank you, Yuffie…for coming home." His eyes glittered like the shores of Costa Del Sol and spoke volumes he chose to keep silent. 'Thank you for giving him peace and love…for bringing him home.' They had all spent many a sleepless night over Vincent when he'd been lost for the time following Omega's defeat. Cloud mostly, Yuffie would sleep through the second reckoning if she could help it. Screw crazy aliens and purity challenged madmen. However, when Vincent had been gone…She'd stayed up late, begging Leviathan and the infinite stars to guide him back to them.

Yuffie stood silently in the center of the living room, unaware Vincent was mere inches behind her. She stared out the large window, smiling softly to the brightly painted heavens that had answered her prayers all those years ago.

He smiled at her sharp intake of breath as his hand snaked around her lithe waist. His lips left a searing trail along her shoulder, ending at her ear.

"When I saw you I fell in love…" She whispered as he buried his face against her neck. She turned slowly, her illustrious silver eyes shinning with all she felt for him. "…and you smiled because you knew."

Vincent's lips were upon hers as she was melting into him.

"Yuffie…" His lips turned up into the most beautiful smile she'd ever seen. "It was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart." She felt warm tears trail down her cheeks as his deep voice reverberated within her. "It was not my lips you kissed," His lips molded to hers in a slow and sensual dance. "but my soul." She gasped, her eyes alight with all her love for him. "I will love you, today, tomorrow…I have always loved you and will for the rest of time. I am yours, for as long as you will have me."

"Forever…Vincent, I would have you forever." Tears poured down her cheeks, disappearing into his hair and against his clothes. "I love you, I love you…God's above, Vincent, do I love you. With my first and last breath, I love…you." Her lips shakily met his, pouring her heart and soul into him. The very essence of her seeping into him.

They remained that way a long while, held in each others arms, not caring who may see them. His love was delirium, heaven, surely she would never survive without it…addicted, mind, body, and soul to him as he was to her.

XxXxX

-Fin-

Of all my chapters, this is the one I am most proud of. It is dedicated to the author who inspired me, Valentine'sNinja, to Star Anise for sticking by all this time, and of course to Sorceress Fujin who's been an endless source of encouragement. Thank you everyone for all the kind reviews and helpful criticism. This has been a great story to write, hopefully you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

On another note, everyone should run to you tube and check out katethegreat19. Her voice is incredible, she wrote lyrics to Aerith's theme and I have to say…it's the most beautiful song I've heard in a long time. If you want to find it and can't, let me know and I'll send you a link. FF net doesn't allow for that here :(