Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All rights belong to Square Enix. I'm just borrowing their characters for a little bit. I'll give them back. Really!

"Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!" Yuffie chanted, legs pumping as she zig-zagged along the edge of the Ancient Forest. "This is all Godo's fault," she wailed as the crashes behind her closed in.

Four days ago, Godo had called Yuffie into the Pagoda. "Yuffie!" he greeted cheerfully, which should have told her right then and there that something was up and she wasn't going to like it. "I have some wonderful news for you, daughter." This should have been her second clue. Yuffie's idea of wonderful was very, very different from that of her father.

"You found a new type of materia?" Yuffie asked, bouncing excitingly.

Rolling his eyes, Godo shook his head, "No, Yuffie, as wonderful as that would be what I am about to tell you is wonderful news for all of Wutai. I have chosen a husband for you."

Yuffie stopped bouncing. "W-what?"

The Emperor of Wutai beamed. "You shall wed Lord Hiroshiama in two days."

Yuffie stopped bouncing. "W-what?"

The Emperor of Wutai beamed. "You shall wed Lord Hiroshiama in two days."

"Two days! No. No, no, no, NO, dammit!" Yuffie yelled throwing out her arms, "You can't just arrange a marriage for me without discussing it with me!"

Eyes narrowing, Godo snapped, "I am your father and your Emperor. I certainly can do so and I have. The betrothal contract was signed this morning." Descending from the dias, Godo glared down at his daughter, "You know that the Hiroshiama clan has long been loyal to the House of Kisaragi. A marriage between you will only strengthen that bond."

"He's like a freakin' bajillion years old!" Yuffie screeched.

"He's my age!" Godo glowered.

Glaring back at her father, Yuffie snapped, "Exactly. That's what I said. And I am NOT going to marry him. I told you that I'm not ready to get married!"

Grabbing his daughter by the arm, Godo gave her hard shake. "Ready or not you will be married in two days. This is your duty, Yuffie! This is your duty to Wutai! I thought that you finally understood that. Apparently I was wrong. I'm disappointed in you, Yuffie."

Keeping a grimace of pain from showing on her pretty features, Yuffie spat, "You told me my duty was to 'go forth and gather materia for the glory of Wutai'. Well guess what, Dad, I did it. I

saved the world while I was at it, old man. Actually, I've helped saved the frickin' world three times. My duty is done! You care more about your damned throne than you do about me!"

Grasping her other arm, Godo shook her so hard that she thought her brain would turn to scrambled eggs, "You WILL marry him! If you will not do your duty willingly, then I will make sure that you do. GUARDS!"

Yuffie watched frozen horror as the guards came running into the room. "D-Dad? What are you doing?"

"Take the princess to her chamber and lock her in," Godo ordered imperiously, "Also, station guards outside her window. No one goes in and she does not come out, understood?"

The ass-kissing captain of the guards had bowed and grasped Yuffie tightly by the shoulders when Godo thrust her in his direction. "At once, my lord."

"Damn you, Godo!" Yuffie screamed, as she was dragged kicking from the room, "I hate you! I'll never forgive you for this, do you hear me! I HATE YOU!!"

When her bedroom door had slammed behind her Yuffie had briefly given into tears. But only for a few moments. Then, she began scheming. During the next few hours, she had carefully gathered her weapons and materia and then waited impatiently until night had fallen. Peeking out her window, she saw that as her father had ordered there were several guards stationed below. "Well," she muttered, "That would be dandy for them if I was going down. But guess what assholes, I'm going up."

Hooking her bag over her shoulder, and ignoring the finger-shaped bruises on her arm, Yuffie carefully eased onto the windowsill and then grasped the awning above her, easily pulling her slender frame up. It took nearly two hours for Yuffie to reach the top of the Pagoda and then ease herself back down the other side. As soon as her feet hit the ground, she nimbly rose from her crouch and broke into a run. I don't have long, she thought, One of those jerks are going to realize I'm gone. I gotta hurry or I'm gonna end up Mrs. Old-Geezer-Who-Farts-And-Scratches-His-Ass-In-Public.

Yuffie had fled first to Cosmo Canyon only to find that Nanaki wasn't there. She'd learned that he'd gone to Edge to visit Cloud and Tifa. So, the ninja had carried on. Cloud and Tifa would let her stay with them and that would give her time to figure out her next move.

I knew I should have headed north to Gold Saucer. Instead, Yuffie had opted to head East through Gongaga and the Temple of the Ancients. Godo knows I hate Gongaga 'cause it's hot and nasty and has all those bugs . . .eugh. He'd expect me to go north to Gold Saucer or probably to Corel 'cause he knows Barret is there. But I'm too clever for the old geezer. I'll head east and reach Edge without being seen. No one can't outsmart the Great Ninja Yuffie! Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.

As she neared the Ancient Forest Yuffie had encountered a Behemoth in a particularly awful mood. The girl attempted to fight the creature but quickly realized she was too worn out from her escape from Wutai. Bleeding from a deep laceration in her right side, and ignoring the blood dripping into her eyes from the large gash above her eye, Yuffie began to run.

Turning sharply to her left, Yuffie used her agility to her advantage. Though strong, a behemoth was not as nimble as she. Maybe I can out maneuver it. It would have worked if Yuffie hadn't leapt around a tree and nearly bounced off the leg and another behemoth.

Letting out a roar, the creature batted her with one mighty paw, sharp claws raking across her abdomen. Letting out a scream, Yuffie flew through the air, colliding painful with a nearby tree. The ninja was so dazed that she didn't even feel the ten foot drop to the forest floor. Coughing up blood, Yuffie raised her head to find the other behemoth had caught up and both of the creatures were quickly advancing. Blood lust blazed in their eyes as they scented victory and more importantly, fresh meat.

Defeated, Yuffie dropped her head back to the ground. I won't have to marry that old geezer, at least. I-I wish I could have seen the gang one last time. Closing her eyes, she waited for the blow that would take her life.

Instead, a roar of a different kind split the air. I know that sound! Hearing something land next to her, Yuffie forced open her eyes and came face to feet with two pointy golden boots. Vincent! Oh Leviathan, get me out of this and I will never make fun of Vincent's pointy shoes again . . . even if they are totally weird . . .and ugly.

Ceberus barked again and then three more times before all fell silent.


Yuffie hadn't realized her eyes had closed again until she heard Vincent call her name in that smooth, low voice of his. "Vinnie," Yuffie smiled softly, blinking away the blood in her eyes so that she could see her friend clearly.

"Yuffie, I'm going to roll you over so I can see how badly you're hurt," Vincent told her, "I'll try to be gentle."

Hearing the warning in Vincent's voice, Yuffie braced herself and nodded. Despite the warning, she still cried out at the pain that simple movement cost her.

Hearing Vincent's sharp intake of breath Yuffie frowned and whispered, "That bad huh?"

"Ssh, Yuffie," Vincent admonished gently, "Save your strength."

"That bad."

Ignoring that last statement, Vincent dug around in his cloak for his Cure materia. It was only a Cure 2 and the gunman highly doubted that it would be enough to heal injures this extensive. It certainly wouldn't heal the cracked or broken ribs he suspected she had. Hopefully, it will at least stem the internal bleeding. I need to get her stabilized and then get her somewhere safe where she can heal. Quietly casting Cure 2, Vincent channeled most of his energy into the spell. Some of the color returned to Yuffie's face but the girl was still badly hurt.

"It h-hurts, Vinnie," Yuffie whimpered.

"I know," Vincent murmured, his good hand reaching out on its own to brush bloody bangs from her eyes. "Yuffie," he said after a moment, "I'm going to cast sleep on you. I'm taking you to Gongaga and I'll have travel quickly. If you are asleep it will be less painful for you. I'm going to transform into the Galian Beast so I can travel faster. Don't be afraid."

Meeting her friend's crimson gaze, Yuffie smiled sweetly, "I could never be afraid of you, Vinnie."

"Thank you, Yuffie," Vincent whispered, voice gruffer than usual. He cleared his throat. "We must go."

"D-don't forget my bag and Conformer," Yuffie whispered.

Pulling out a recently acquired sleep materia, Vincent was grateful that he had it. Casting the spell, he sighed in relief as Yuffie's pained features relaxed in sleep. Glancing around quickly, Vincent spotted Yuffie's bag and weapon lying several yards away. Quickly gathering their belongings, Vincent placed Cerberus in its holster at his hip and then carefully gathered Yuffie into his arms. Despite his attempts at gentleness, Yuffie still whimpered in her sleep.

Frowning, Vincent got a closer look at the bruises on her arm. Those weren't caused by a behemoth, he realized, Those are finger marks. Never mind. I don't have time for this now. I'll ask her about it when she is safe.

"Hang on, Yuffie," he murmured before reaching down deep for the Beast. Rise, beast. I need all of your speed.

You are desperate human to ask for my help. This will benefit me little,the creature growled, But, I will do this. I will take my reward later.

Black light surrounded Vincent and moments later, the fearsome Galian Beast stood in his place. Adjusting his grip on the injured ninja, he loped off in the direction of Gongaga, each long stride covering yards at a time.

When Yuffie next awoke, she was still in a great deal of pain but this time she lay upon a soft mattress instead of the hard ground. Vaguely, through the fog of pain, she heard two voices. One that was unfamiliar, and another that was very familiar and filled her with a sense of calm despite the pain. Fighting her way to full consciousness, Yuffie opened her eyes just as she heard a door shut softly.


Turning her head, she saw Vincent quickly approaching the bed upon which she lay. "W-where are we?" Yuffie whispered, licking dry lips.

Grabbing a glass of water off a nearby table, Vincent slid his good arm under Yuffie's shoulder and lifted her so that she rested comfortably against his chest. Holding the glass to Yuffie's lips, he explained softly as she drank.

"We're at the Inn in Gongaga," Vincent said, "The doctor just left. He repaired your internal injuries. You had a punctured lung amongst other things. However, materia can only do so much, as you know. You'll heal but you'll be sore and weak for awhile." The gunman lifted the glass away from Yuffie. "Wait a moment. You wouldn't want to make yourself sick."

Nodded, and blushing slightly at being held so in Vincent's arms she asked, "How did you find me?"

"It was an accident," Vincent admitted, "I was wandering and was in the right place at the right time."

Lifting her arms weakly, Yuffie gave Vincent a light hug. "Thanks, Vincent. You saved my life."

Averting his eyes, Vincent lifted the glass again. "Drink some more. You lost a lot of blood."

Smirking at Vincent's discomforted, Yuffie obeyed because, well, she was damned thirsty. Laying Yuffie back down once she was done, Vincent stood. "The doctor left something for the pain. It will help you to rest. You should take it and get some more sleep."

"No," Yuffie shook her head, "Wait a minute, Vince. There's something I need to tell you. My father . . ."

"Is looking for you," Vincent finished gently when Yuffie trailed off. "I know." When Yuffie gave him a startled look, Vincent elaborated. "Godo sent men to Corel, Edge, and Rocket Town. Cloud told me when I contacted him to tell him that you were injured. Godo demanded that he be informed immediately if any of us heard from you."

"You didn't, did you?!" Yuffie exclaimed, struggling to sit back up, "I can't go back, Vincent. I won't."

Placing a hand on Yuffie's shoulder and gently pushing her back down, the gunman gave her a chastising and mildly hurt look. "Of course not. We're your friends, Yuffie. You should know better."

Sagging back onto the bed with relief, Yuffie sighed. "I do. It's just that I really, really, don't want to marry that guy. What am I gonna do?"

"You are going to rest," Vincent said firmly. "Cid is on his way in the Shera. He'll take us to Edge. You should be safe at 7th Heaven at least for a while since Godo has already searched there." Vincent hesitated then sat back down next to the ninja. "Yuffie, when I found you, there were bruises on your arms that were not caused by the behemoths. Did Godo . . . hurt you?"

Looking away, Yuffie shrugged. "Not really. He just kinda shook me a bit. It's nothing."

The ninja looked so exhausted and her pretty features so pale that Vincent let the subject drop for the moment. Godo could be dealt with later. Grabbing a medicine bottle from the table Vincent tapped out two pills then refilled the glass from a pitcher. "Take these pills and try to rest, Yuffie. It will be several hours before Cid gets here. We will wait until nightfall to lessen our chances of being seen."

When Yuffie shook her head in denial, Vincent let out a sigh.

"Yuffie, the trip from here to the Shera will be painful for you. You'll need your strength. Besides that, you need to rest so that you can heal. Why won't you take them?"

"Godo –,"

"Is not getting near you," Vincent cut in sharply, steely resolve apparent in his deep voice, "I will protect you. You trust me, don't you?"

Looking up into worried crimson eyes, Yuffie saw a hint of vulnerability hidden behind the resolve and concern. She'd hurt him if she continued to protest. He'd think she didn't trust him. She did trust him, more than anything. So, swallowing her fear, she nodded. "Of course I trust you, Vinnie. I'll take the pills and try to rest. I promise."

Holding out the pills and helping Yuffie to sit up a bit, Vincent watched carefully to make sure the ninja swallowed the pills. Seeing his suspicious look, Yuffie stuck her tongue out. "See, Vince, I took them. I told you I would!"

"Of course," Vincent drawled, thinking of many times that Yuffie had promised to do something . . . or not do something and then went and did it anyway. "Get some sleep, Yuffie."

"You – you won't go anywhere, will you?" Yuffie asked, hating how small her voice sounded."

Vincent's face softened. She really is frightened. "I promise, Yuffie," he said firmly, "I'll be right here." Heart doing a little flop at the sweet smile the ninja gave him, Vincent waited until her breathing evened out before he returned to the chair by the bed.

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