A vignette based on Reading Chick's story, Never Too Late, a post-DoC AU concerning the aftermath of the Deepground conflict and the what-if situation of Nero's survival. This takes place in the as-yet-undetermined future of her story, as an impromptu conversation between Nero and Yuffie over morals, ethics, the differences between them, and whether anyone in Deepground actually had either one.

This story came about during a conversation between myself and Reading Chick concerning the differences between morals and ethics and how they would apply to the Tsviets; thanks to Reading Chick for the glimmer of a now-story.

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and its subsequent sequel belong to Square Enix.

"You're insane."

Nero paused in his perusal of Shelke's files and blinked, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. This was the fourth time this week, in three days, that the young Wutaian had decided to come in here and bother him with an argument of some sort. Though this was the first time his sanity had been called into question. Nero supposed that he should have seen it coming, and decided that, as this could either be entertaining or annoying, he would indulge the Princess Kisaragi.

"And what, pray tell, makes you come to that conclusion?" he asked, returning his gaze to the computer screen.

Apparently, however, Yuffie wanted his visual attention as well, as she stalked over to him and leaned over into his field of vision before explaining herself. "You have no morals! None at all. You go around killing people and hurting people. That's just sick."

Nero smiled slightly. This argument would definitely be entertaining. "I have no morals. Then, dear princess, how do you explain my refusal to hurt my brother, my decision not to hurt you or my father, Shelke, any of your friends?" he returned, moving back slightly so he could look her in the eye comfortably.

"You made a decision," Yuffie said, crossing her arms and straightening. "Exactly. It's just a decision, nothing more."

Nero sighed internally. This was liable to get ridiculous quickly, and so he opted to steer the conversation into a more serious vein before that occurred. "A decision. Yes. Is that all you would call my distaste for the, penchant, shall we say, of some SOLDIERs for raping their prisoners and victims?"

Yuffie's back stiffened slightly. "Ah, well, that's a decision, yes. A, personal decision, but - "

Excellent. He had apparently taken her aback, and she had made her first major error. "A personal decision. And what is another term for a personal decision, my dear princess?" Nero asked, leaning back slightly, enjoying the position of power she had inadvertently given him by standing while he remained seated.

Her jaw clenched, and she turned her gaze to the floor, refusing to answer him. Nero smiled again. She couldn't bring herself to admit he was right. How wonderful.

"So you do see my point," he continued. "I have morals, Princess. Perhaps not your morals, but I have morals nonetheless. What makes you so reluctant to accept that is that our ethics differ."

Yuffie's head snapped up so quickly Nero would have sworn he heard her vertebrae crack. "Ethics? Oh, don't get me started on ethics."

"Oh? And why not?"

Her eyes flashed in anger and she crossed her arms over her chest. "That's something you definitely do not have."

Nero couldn't help it any longer, and finally laughed at her. This was getting to be too much. "Do you truly know what ethics are?"

The Princess squared her chin. "Morals."

Nero gazed up at her, holding her eyes and letting her see him relax further. If things were going to continue in this vein, he was going to amuse himself further by irritating her as much as he could. "All right, then," he said with a lazy smile, "indulge me for a moment. If you are willing to admit I have morals, but not ethics, and you say that ethics are morals, where is your error?" He could see her move to reply and cut her off, allowing his voice to drift into the condescending. She should not have chosen to debate philosophy with him. "Wait, do not interrupt me. Besides your obvious error in logic, you have an error in definition. Ethics are, in actuality, the morals, if you insist, and belief systems of what is acceptable to a group at large. So do I have ethics or not?"

"Ethics aren't always morals," she snapped at him, patience obviously wearing thin.

"So you can reason! Excellent. But you have not answered my question."

Yuffie shifted from one foot to the other. "All right," she said, obviously reluctant, "you have morals, and - " She shook her head and dropped her arms to her sides. "But, no. I can't see you as ever having any ethics at all."

Nero watched her closely. Despite her disavowal, her body language practically screamed her interest in the topic, so he decided to discontinue teasing her and treat her as a relatively intelligent individual, given that she seemed to have something of an open mind. "Fine," he said, standing up. "Ethics govern a group's actions, yes?

Yuffie's eyes took on a wary cast. "Yes."

"Does the WRO have a set of ethics to which it conforms?" Nero asked her, refusing to break her gaze.

"Yes," she said, drawing out the word slowly.

Nero resisted the urge to grin. She obviously had no idea where he was going. Now, all he needed was a suitable example with which to disrupt her hold on her ideas further. "So then what makes you so sure that Deepground did not have a set of ethics to which we conformed? Or even more specifically, the Tsviets? Would you say that Shelke had no set of ethics by which she functioned?" That would do it, as, unless he missed his guess, Shelke and Yuffie were getting along rather well lately.

The comment worked perfectly, as Yuffie began to falter in her speech again. "No! Of course she did, she just - Wait. She - You - "

"So why are you so quick to separate us?" Nero asked, his voice soft. "We were part of the same organization, the same group, even, after all."

Yuffie turned away from him and placed one hand on her head, thinking. "Wait. Just wait. Shelke didn't just go around acting as you do, as you did."

Nero smiled briefly. He was getting to her, if she was willing to admit his actions now were not the same as his actions during the Omega crisis. "You knew Shelke under different circumstances. If you had met her on the battlefield, you would not think such things of her. Was that not the topic of a conversation you had some days ago?"

Yuffie spun back to look at him. "How do you know about that? You weren't even there."

Nero shrugged. "Shelke tells me things."

"She was upset at me for thinking she wasn't just as much of a fighter as me," Yuffie admitted, sighing slightly.

"That in and of itself should tell you something, Princess," Nero said, He tilted his head, eyebrows raised, waiting for her to either make the connection or refuse to do so. If she refused, the conversation would be over, in his opinion. This would cease to be engaging and he would see to it that she left him in peace.

Yuffie pursed her lips and fluttered her fingers before bouncing on her heels. Nero kept looking at her, willing to give her time to formulate an answer. He could wait, and her propensity for moving while thinking was new to him. At least it gave him something to observe until she finally spoke.

When she did reply, her words came prefaced with another sigh. "Okay. I'll accept that Shelke acted differently before, and that she did some dangerous things, but I don't think she was as dangerous as you. And, I know, I know," she said, waving a hand at him, "she has ethics. She definitely had morals then, or she wouldn't have helped us, but that wasn't her ethics or else all of you would've been helping us, and so then she had ethics," Yuffie was rambling now, looking everywhere but at him, thinking the answer out aloud. "And if she had ethics and those weren't her morals then her ethics were, what is acceptable to a group at large. Her fighting code. What governed the way she fought," she finished, looking at him again.

Nero nodded once, keeping her gaze. "And the way she fought was the way she lived."

"Like me. Like the ninjas."


"So if the way Shelke fought was the way she lived, and the way she fought is her, was her, ethics, then it was Deepground's ethics, too, that's what you're trying to tell me?" Yuffie asked, rocking back on her heels and crossing her arms again, visibly more at ease now that she had managed to wrap her mind around the issue.

"And so if Deepground had ethics, and I was a part of Deepground, logic does dictate..." he said, not willing to give her an out until she admitted to everything he wanted to hear her say.

"Oh, all right," she said, tossing her hands in the air. "You've got ethics."

"And that, my dear Princess, is exactly what I have been trying to get you to realize. It is impossible to tell you anything," Nero returned, finding himself unable to resist insulting her again now that she saw things from his point of view.

"Hey!" she said, placing her hands on her hips. "I'll have you know Shelke says the same about you."

Nero raised his eyebrows, taken aback at this new piece of information. He was not aware he was a topic of conversation between Shelke and the Wutaian princess. However, before he could insist that she explain, Yuffie had darted out the door, apparently deciding the conversation was over, but still taking the time to have the last word.

"I don't think your ethics are the same any more, though! Now you hang out with us!"

Nero finally rolled his eyes and returned to Shelke's files. He would leave that alone for now, as it was bound to come up in another argument. Perhaps tomorrow's.