Disclaimer: All the following characters and places mentioned belong to SquareSoft (Enix).

He sits at the top of Da Chao with his crimson cape billowing around his strong, lean frame and listens to her laugh echo in the wind, ricocheting off of the rocky slope surrounding them. He sinks into his memories because the setting is so clearly tranquil, like the feel of curative magic washing over throbbing wounds or blistering burns or even the feel of her cool hands soothing his own fevered forehead as he dreamt in violent nightmares that only she could banish. The memories he begins to relive are not those of a tragic scientist, but those of a lost, lonely man who had no light in his life, only sleep and starless, midnight darkness. They are the memories of a man who was brought out of the inky night by a young, mischievous ninja-princess. Because she had always been there with her goofy grin and too-bright sneakers that were extremely un-ninja-like, and her bouncing gait and loud, untamed laughter that never failed to bring a smile to his face behind his collar. She had always been there for him. Even when he was brooding and hateful and silent and unresponsive to her diligent prodding and careful coaxing, trying to get him out of his shell.

And get him out of his shell she did, although it probably very nearly took the young ninja's life with the amount of emotional agony he must have caused her. Because somewhere along the line she had fallen in love with him, and he had refused to return the feelings initially, still comparing the sprightly teenager to an elegant woman, long-dead. But as that loud, flitting sprite imposed her company on him more and more frequently, desires embodied by a swirling white lab coat with a delicate, thoughtful face began to mesh with the flash of shuriken steel and storm grey eyes, framed by determination. But still he fought, his inner turmoil not letting him forget, the literal demons almost as devilish and evil as the figurative ones. And as he continued to battle himself, always there was that tiny hand, calloused beyond its years, yet smooth and ladylike with skin that smelled of sand and mountain dust and open air, pulling him through the darkness, dragging him out into the sunlight of a new dawn. She had always been there for him with her huge smile and haunting eyes and the biggest heart he'd ever been privy to.

She was with him, even then.

And his own heart which had been sleeping for years longer than even his body began to wake up with the heat from the sun she dragged him into, the campfire that their group sat around each night, and her sugary breath when she screamed in his face for drifting back into memories of a woman dead and crystallized in Mako.

"C'mon Vince! Cheer up for once, ya big broodster!"

"If you keep thinking about the skeletons in your closet, they're gonna waltz on out and eat ya!"

"You just gotta let go Vinnie…let go of the past and look to the future."

"You just can't see what's right in front of your face, can you?"

"You're just wishing on the memory of someone, for a happy ending that is never going to come."

"But…it doesn't have to be that way…"

"I…love you."

He snaps back to the present as her bubbling giggle continues to wash over him and his musings. He can't pinpoint at what time in their journey his thoughts shifted from an intelligent, driven woman to a hyperactive, determined ninja-princess. But time ceases to matter as long as he keeps moving forward. With her presence so prominent behind him—because she was always so hard to ignore—and her smile blinding his eyesight without his glance even fixed upon it—although it had often been there—he realizes that even through her loud, obnoxious exterior, she was always more mature than he. She knew when to let go, when to push on through the times of discord and strife. He had only known how to regret and wallow and waste life away in a pine box with velvet lining, until he met her.

In his pocket rests a different, smaller box with a velvet lining housing a treasure of promise and affection. Because after years of being there for him, he had finally realized that he could be there for her once and for all.

"I…love you."

Her laugh continues to encircle him, even though it isn't really there, and the box sits untouched in his pocket because before he had the chance to give it to her she was gone. The last words flowing from her broken, bruised lips as blood dribbled from her mouth sluggishly, a fatal battle with terrorist opposed to her taking the throne barely behind her.

"I…love you." The voice just as strong as she had always stayed for him, even as her strength left her.

He never had the chance to return those three small, yet so evocative words, because her slate eyes had closed before he could. So he whispers it to the wind before heading down the mountain trail.

"I love you too, Yuffie Kisaragi. I will continue living…for you."

As his boots crunch down the russet, dusty path of Da Chao, her laugh continues to chime like bells as her smile sparkles in the setting sun. He will continue to live for her, just as she will continue to haunt the mountains with her laugh and dance in the quiet streets of Wutai with her spirit and hold his heart firmly in her grasp.

(AN: Just something that came to me last night when I should've been studying for exams…and I realize that I really need to stop hurting Yuffie in my fics…Review if you liked it, hated it, think I should never write again, wish for a prequel/continuation, want me to burn in hell… whatever!)