A/N: Okay, readers, here is the final author note for The Strong, Silent Type.
I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the read so far. If you didn't, let me know what sucked so I can improve. If you laughed, I'm glad I could bring a smile to your face. If I made this crack pairing a little more plausible to a nonbeliever, let me know. It'll brighten my day. Thanks to all my reviewers. You are all appreciated.
Many thanks go to the best beta in the world, VulcanElf. She came on board this fic when it was 20,000 words long, and I sent it to her for a read to see what she thought. She sent it back to me covered in red (and blue for stuff she liked thank god). I was surprised and later, elated. This was our first bonding expedition, and I look forward to many more projects with VulcanElf on board. Thanks, doll.
Thanks to Mengde for being awesome. As usual. Freak.
And a special shout-out to S. Zix for her thoughtful comments left on chapter twenty. You're awesome.
One last comment, my faithful readers: This is not the end of Yuffie and Rude. You haven't seen the last of this pairing from me. You haven't seen the last of this continuity from me, either. Fear it. ;D
So in a whirlwind of events, almost quicker than I could comprehend, me and Rude were home again. Risa Vetter was recovering slowly in the hospital – and was soon to be tried for attempted murder and a lot of other things, and then put away for a real long time in an even smaller, more isolated cell than before.
Which meant it was time to talk. It hadn't even been a day since the events, but it was time to get some things out of the way.
And talk we did. For hours and hours. About everything. The first thing I did was explain to Rude that what he had seen was not what it looked like. It helped that Vincent came to apologize personally.
The scene went something like this. Rude and I were in my room at Seventh Heaven, with him sort of resting after his ordeal. He was mostly recovered, what with the whole Leviathan's magical healing powers that I hadn't known it had.
(Turns out that Leviathan was responding to my insane rage and concern for someone I cared about by manifesting himself without being called and then carrying out the necessary actions to save a loved one. According to Godo – who explained this to me via phone when he called to ask why I was being seen all over the television for something new – this happened once in a while with the owners of the Leviathan materia. Yay, infodump!)
Rude and I were talking, when there was a knock on the door. I opened it, revealing none other than my (re)new buddy Vincent Valentine.
"Hey, Vincent," I said. "What do ya need?"
He cleared his throat and stepped into the room as I moved out of the way. In a gesture that sort of shocked me (and sort of didn't I mean god it's Vincent, he's just the kind of old and musty that this sort of thing seems natural to him), he actually bowed to Rude. The way people in Wutai would. Highly respectful.
"Mr. Rude, I apologize for anything you might have gotten the wrong impression of in these past few days. The scene you happened upon was entirely innocent, I assure you, and it was my fault that it was initiated at all."
Whoa. What the hell was Rude going to say? I braced myself.
Rude actually smiled a little. "Yuffie explained it. It's fine."
"My sincerest, deepest apologies for ever having caused trouble between the two of you."
"Don't worry about it, Valentine," Rude said. "Really. Water under the bridge."
And for Rude, that just warmed my heart. I couldn't help it, I actually teared up a little. Turning away, I rubbed my eyes.
"Are you crying?" Rude asked. He was incredulous.
"No! I got somethin' in my eye, dammit! Shut up and keep being awesome."
Vincent and Rude snorted at the same time. That was it.
"Okay, as much as this has been great," I said, shuffling Vincent toward the door, "I have a sick boyfriend to tend to, and honestly, this whole potential-best-friends doing-things-at-the-same-time stuff is weirding me out. I'll see you later, okay, Vinnie?"
That was the first time I had called him by my nickname for him in a long time. Something in him softened, and he nodded. "Thank you, Yuffie."
"No, Vince." I smiled. "Thank you."
When he was gone, I turned to Rude, took a deep breath, and said, "Who was Chelsea?"
His gaze flicked to somewhere over my shoulder, looking distant. "How did you…?"
"I saw the photo album. You left it open on that page."
I crossed my arms. "You left it out!"
He shrugged. "You're right."
"Who was she?"
He looked down at his hands in his lap. "Someone I cared about a great deal."
Softly, I said, "Tell me about her, Rude."
He patted the covers next to him, and I curled up there, nuzzled into his side. Then Uncle Rudey told me a story.
Back before Barret's sect of AVALANCHE rolled around, when Rude was in the Turks, there was a young, pretty new Turk named Chelsea. She was a good Turk, did her job well, and she and Rude got to know each other and eventually came to have certain… feelings for each other. (Hm. Must tamp down that irrational surge of jealousy.)
They were "together" for about a month before it was revealed that Chelsea was actually a spy for a group of vigilantes calling themselves AVALANCHE. But before anyone could catch her and prosecute her, she left AVALANCHE, with the message that her feelings for Rude were too great to work against Shinra anymore. She disappeared off the map, and she said one day she hoped she and Rude could meet in the next life.
(Hmph. Not if I have anything to do with it.)
"Where do you think she is now?"
"Dead? Married? Who knows." Rude stroked the side of my face, staring at me. "I stopped wondering a long time ago."
"You don't think about her at all anymore?"
"I do sometimes. That's when I take out the pictures."
"Do you miss her?"
"Not really. Not anymore."
He stared at me, face gentle. A flash of his expression from what I thought had been a dream went through my head, and suddenly, I felt very, very warm. And I felt safe. Rude made me feel safe.
At an almost inaudible volume, he said, "Why do you think?"
Then he kissed me. Slow. Languorous. Tingles down to my toes. That kind of kiss.
Then we got interrupted. Again. Sheesh, people, find something to do besides bother me! I'm great, I'm entertaining, I know. You can't keep yourselves away. But really, I don't want this attention all the time!
There was a knock, and Reno entered without being invited. I glared as he slipped in, hands in his pockets, slouching about.
He lifted his eyebrows as he saw me halfway in Rude's lap. "I see you're feelin' better, partner."
Rude smirked, tightening his arm around my waist. Wait, what the hell was this? Some sort of territorial claim? Reno smirked back.
Men. Even gay men. Psh.
"Well, I told you not to hurt my buddy, and what did you go and do, Kisaragi? You hurt his feelings."
"Reno," Rude said, his voice holding a warning.
Rude's partner-in-crime and a personal annoyance to me waved one hand lazily. "Nah, don't worry about it. I'm just here to say anyone who saves Rude's ass like that is okay in my book."
"Wait, wait, wait." I held up my hands, face serious. "You can read?"
Reno gave me the finger and continued. "And look at it this way, now that you saved his life with your patron god and all, none of the Turks will ever cross you again."
"No, seriously, I didn't even know you knew what books were."
"Anyway, I just wanted to drop in to see how Rude was doing." Reno looked at Rude's arm around my waist. "Seems just fine to me. Call me later, pal, and we'll go to a bar or something."
And with that, Reno was gone.
I turned to Rude, who looked at me and shrugged, obviously at a loss for words. Not that Rude ever really had that many words to begin with.
I shrugged as well. Whatever. Reno was weird. "So what's the deal? How'd Risa get a hold of you anyway?"
Turns out Risa broke out of the jail while Rude was in another part of the building, not after he was gone. She checked all the cars in the parking lot and hid, waiting for him. And when it was dark, and Rude was leaving, she got the jump on him.
"Stupid of me," he said, scratching his head. "Should've seen her coming."
"Where was she hiding?"
"Behind the next car over. Hit me over the head with something."
I shrugged. "You couldn't have anticipated that. We all have our moments."
Then, next thing he knew, he was waking up in a dark warehouse with crates everywhere. We assumed she must have taken his keys and ditched the car somewhere, then dragged him to the warehouse under the cover of darkness. Other crooks aren't gonna rat suspicious looking people out.
And with Rude's car missing from the lot like it was supposed to be, assuming he had taken it and departed to his hotel, no one at the jail had bothered to inform the WRO that Rude was missing. Because they didn't even know. They were too concerned with catching Risa.
"She hurt you," I said, frowning.
"Kicked my ass. A lot."
"Yep. But you got me out." He caressed my face. He kissed me again, this one more insistent.
Ooh, Rude was getting his mojo back. I would have to take advantage of that later.
I pulled out a glowing red materia from one of my pouches. "You better thank Leviathan for saving your ass. If not for him, well. I dunno."
He placed a hand over mine on the shiny sphere and closed his eyes, seeming to think deeply. My eyes widened as the materia actually flashed brightly under his hand and then dimmed again.
"What was that?"
His eyes snapped open, meeting my inquisitive ones. "It said something."
"What? What'd it say?"
"It said… 'you're welcome.'"
I glared at it. "Sounds like Leviathan, all right."
Rude looked at me. I looked at Rude. And then I blurted something out.
"I think I might love you."
I clapped my hands over my mouth, flushing.
Rude laughed, then kissed my forehead. "I think I might love you too."
And that was good enough for me.
And so the princess found her prince, and they lived happily ever after. Not really, though. 'Cause that's just boring!
There was a lot of tongue-tied-ness, and blabbering, and mess-ups, and chicken at Tifa's bar, and getting drunk with Reno, and double dates with Cloud and Tifa (oh, awkward), and playing tiddlywinks with Cait Sith, and the prince helping the princess teach Marlene how to ride a bike, and explaining to Vincent how satellite TV works, and food fights, and pissing Reeve off, and miscommunications, and chalk drawings with Denzel, and terrible movies, and sleeping over, and dance parties.
There weren't any towers or girls with long hair, and there weren't any perfect sleeping beauties, and the princess was kind of a sucky princess, but she loved her country, and she loved her prince (she was just starting to realize that, really), and maybe she didn't suck at strong, quiet men like she thought she did. Maybe all the other men just sucked.
I'm Yuffie Kisaragi, and I have some personal philosophies. Hell if I'm gonna list 'em again. Infer for yourself. Make up your own or something. I have a prince to make out with.