Author's Note: Uhhhhh... Absence makes the heart grow fonder? I'm sorry about the terribly long wait. I'm sure you've all lost hope by now, but alas, I have another chapter for you!
"Miss Kisaragi is here to see you, Mr Tuesti."
I blinked at my secretary, but she just smiled and placed a fresh cup of coffee in front of me, picking up the files in the 'out' bin on her way back to her desk.
Yuffie walked in shortly after she left.
It was the best thing I could come up with that didn't involve collapsing into a heap of exhausted sobs.
"I see this."
She chewed on the inside of her cheek. "I was wondering if there was any work to be done around here, you know, like… spy stuff."
"Gongaga," I blurted abruptly.
"Gongaga?" she repeated, lifting an eyebrow.
"Yeah. Uh…" I shuffled some papers around, looking for the file that contained the reports about black market activity in the jungles of Gongaga, something I had been saving for her so I could send her as far away from Edge as possible when she decided to show her face. Finding it (naturally) at the bottom of the heap, I thrust it toward her, and she fumbled to take it from me. "Some shifty black market stuff… I need a pair of eyes down there."
She tucked the file under her arm. "Oh, by the way, I've been talking to Vinnie."
Talking? Oh I bet you have.
"He's been meaning to stop by, let you know he's willing to help out again—"
"Tseng has taken over all of his responsibilities. He need not feel obligated to return."
She shifted slightly. "He needs to get out of the house more anyway. I'll let him know you're super excited."
"Well, that was all. I'll… see you when I'm done in Gongaga."
"Three months." I supplied, motioning to the file.
I nodded vaguely. "It's really quite important, Yuffie."
I had been expecting more of an argument, but didn't say anything to provoke one.
I stared at her a minute, then turned away abruptly, shuffling papers that didn't need to be shuffled. "If that's all then, Yuffie, I have a ton of work to get back to."
"Oh. Yeah. See you Reevey."
I didn't even look up at her when she left, and continued to stare at my desk long after I had heard the door close behind her, the shutters on the door rattling against the glass.
"You're certainly spending an awful lot of time at the bar lately," Cloud greeted accusingly, plopping down on a bar stool beside me.
"I'm trying to meet women," I muttered in bland sarcasm. Cloud chuckled.
"I like that you come to visit me," Tifa interjected, placing a drink in front of me. "Don't let Cloud scare you off."
The blond to my right frowned. "I just think there are healthier methods of moving on than alcohol," he said. "Yuffie wouldn't be very happy to know you've been attempting to pickle your liver since she and Vincent hooked up."
"Yes, well," I muttered, corralling my drink into the crook of my arm. "We can't all be happy all of the time, can we?"
"Apparently not," Tifa agreed. "I hear you're sending her to Gongaga."
I should have known word would travel quickly between females. "She came to me to ask for work. I gave her work."
"South of the equator," Cloud pointed out skeptically.
"Well you know how it is down there."
"All too well," Tifa muttered. "It's no place to send a young woman."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Yuffie's not just any 'young woman', you know. She'd skin you if she ever heard you say that she was incapable of following through on a mission."
Tifa sighed and looked away. "Of course I know that, but after everything can you blame me for wanting to keep the people I love close?"
My mouth twisted into a frown and I apologized quietly. Of course she had a right to want to keep her friends safe, and I should have taken that into account instead of arbitrarily sending another of our people off into danger; so soon after the last one was miraculously returned to us.
I took solace in the fact that Vincent was probably with her, but perhaps I had made a mistake.
The mistake was made obvious when I arrived at work the one morning a couple weeks later to find Vincent waiting patiently for me in my office. He had his psych files neatly piled in his lap and was sipping a cup of coffee as he flipped through them absent-mindedly.
"Vincent? What are you doing here?" I asked.
He looked up. "You asked me to come in when I had time to discuss resuming my position at the WRO."
I shoved my hand through my hair. "Yeah, I remember, but—where's Yuffie?"
"Gongaga. You sent her."
"I know that." I frantically tugged at my tie, straightening the knot. It was beginning to occur to me that I had just sent Yuffie alone into the jungles of Gongaga to deal with black market activity by herself. "But why are you here?"
Vincent blinked slowly at me. "You asked me to come here—"
"Why aren't you with her!" I snapped finally.
"She's on assignment."
"So I'm letting her do her job—Tuesti, am I missing something? Do you have reason to think that Yuffie is not capable of performing the duties you assigned her to?"
My eyes snapped to his. "No… No!" I sighed. I had to remember that she was a more than capable ninja, and that she could hold her own. Still I didn't want to have to face Tifa's wrath if anything ever happened to her. "Let me see your files, has the shrink cleared you?"
He wordlessly handed over the paperwork.
I took a breath and opened the file, scanning over the in-house psychiatrist's chicken scratch notes taken over the three mandatory assessments I make any soldier returning to work attend after any involvement (primary or secondary) in a high stress situation.
Yuffie had been mandated to attend these sessions as well, and she passed narrowly on her sixth session, due to the psychiatrist's suggestion that perhaps she'd mend better if her mind was kept from idling.
According to the concluding notes on Vincent's file, he was 'emotionally and mentally stable enough to resume his post'. My eyes floated over a portion of text describing Vincent's emotional stability as being satisfactory. I narrowed my eyes and read the sentence again.
"She's suggesting prolonged sessions," I said, scanning the sheet.
"Optional," he pointed out.
I glanced at him briefly, but as his eyes reluctantly rose to meet mine, I looked away again, flipping through past psych assessments. "Are you considering…"
He shot me a look, and I knew better than to press the matter any further. Whether or not he went to therapy was hardly any of my business as his commanding officer, just so long as he was successfully cleared to return to duty, which he was.
Anything else was personal.
"Tseng has taken over special ops training."
"So I have heard."
I didn't doubt that Yuffie had had a thing or two to say about how I had so easily given up and replaced him. I grit my teeth. "I'd like to introduce you back into that program—it was your brainchild, after all, and the squads would learn best under your instruction."
"I will be working with Tseng, then?" He didn't sound overly enthused.
"For now," I replied. "Let's all get back up onto our feet again and we'll see where things go from there." I closed his file and handed it back to him with a meaningful look. "The WRO has taken quite a hit in the public eye. I need my heroes."
He looked grim. "I would suggest sticking Cloud in an infantry uniform, then," he said, staring down at his folder and taking another sip of coffee.
"It'd clash with his hair."
A ghost of a smile flickered across his face before he looked up at me. "Reeve…"
Oh dear. That was a bad tone of voice. That was a 'something serious to discuss' voice. I didn't like that voice unless I was the one using it.
"I wanted to thank you."
Oh, now that's not so bad. Thank you I can handle. "No trouble at all. I'm quite enthused to have you back."
He shook his head slightly. "I mean for taking care of Yuffie."
My eyes widened.
"She's been telling me about all of the things you did for her," he said quietly. "I appreciate it."
I swallowed, trying to shake the feeling that I had just been punched in the throat. "It was nothing."
It was everything. I would have given her anything.
"I've got a council meeting in fifteen minutes, and I need to get going. It's good to have you back, Vincent," I said, sticking my hand out and shaking his vigorously (obnoxiously). I grabbed the papers I needed from my desk and left the room before him.
There was just something bothersome about the fact that he was able to come back from the brink of Ifrit-knows-what and be deemed "mentally and emotionally stable" when the rest of us (while relieved) were still reeling in the aftermath.
A/N: Leave a review, if you don't mind. I'd like to know if people are actually still interested in this story continuing or not.