Title: White Rose, Blue Violet
Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: I took no part in the creation of FFVII. I only own the OCs.
Spoilers: FFVII & Compilation
Timeframe: Post DC, or [ ν ] - εуλ 0011.
Warnings: None, really. Angst. No fluff/sap. Mild swearing. No yaoi, yuri, or smut. Mild Vincent/Lucrecia, is mostly Cloud/Tifa and Vincent/Yuffie. Story is not betaed, so I apologize in advance for any typos.
Summary: Valentine's Day. The day Vincent and Cloud run or hide from the world. After three years of this, Yuffie and Tifa have had enough. Yuffentine. Cloti. Oneshot.
A/N: Perhaps this is a plot that's been done before. I could hardly care less, so as long as the romance bunnies stop poking me.
A/N #2: Line breaks signify either a change in POV or a time change.
A note: I honestly don't know if Vincent was/is immortal after DC. Either way is fine with me. For this story, though, he isn't.
New note: Edited some typos; thanks go to Jean V for catching one of them.
White Rose, Blue Violet
It's the month when the red and white decorations go up in the store windows, when the candy is consumed by the bagful, and when the flowers start selling at exorbitant prices.
It's the week when the tragic, romantic, heroic epics are sold, when the young people start investing in diamonds, and when the soaps and the songs on the radio get sickly sweet.
It's the day that Vincent detests.
He hates the generic printed cards, the sickly sweet smell of candy, and the sparkly trinkets.
Ironically, he wears red. Even more ironically, his last name is Valentine.
It doesn't make a difference to him.
And so he disappears whenever the day comes by.
He's in the cave, where the only decorations are the crystals. Hidden and lost in contemplation.
It's worked for three years now. His friends know he won't be around. He has always given various excuses.
This year, he doesn't have an excuse.
But he thinks it shouldn't be any different.
Other people take different approaches. While some run and hide, others simply run.
To Cloud, Valentine's Day is a child's holiday.
He doesn't understand why adults should make a fuss over it.
The only reason he doesn't hide like Vincent is because he's too busy delivering packages from awkward men to starry-eyed girls. Even though Tifa tells him to take off on Valentine's Day just this once, he only says he'll consider it.
He tries to turn a blind eye to all the advertisements, but he can't help paying attention to some of them…
He remembers Tifa's eyes, silently pleading with him.
But he couldn't.
And so he wakes up earlier today, leaving a note for Tifa on his desk.
He would be working late tonight.
"Vincent Valentine." Only one person regularly calls him by his full name.
He stops in the doorway to look back. Shelke sat at a table, looking up at him. As usual, her face holds little or no expression, hiding any emotions.
"Where are you going?" she asks, the cadence of her voice never changing.
He looks down, not wanting to answer. But Shelke wasn't one to go about saying things.
"Lucrecia's cave," he finally replies, "And I would feel better if no one else knew."
"I'll be back tomorrow." And with that, he leaves the bar.
Running and hiding…Yuffie had wanted him to stick around, but he didn't want to.
Didn't want to deal with it.
If Valentine's Day was about showing love, fine then. He would show it—
By spending the day in the cave as he usually did.
Yet as he walks down the street, a breeze playing at his hair and cape, he wonders if he is wrong.
Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic at heart, he thinks bitterly as he avoids a street lined with flower vendors. The flowers will never compare to the ones that Aerith grew, anyway. Everyone says that our love is a hopeless case.
Visiting Lucrecia had become something of a ritual. Year after year…
Vincent pauses to look back; the bar was still in sight, beckoning to him.
"Please, Vince?" he remembers Yuffie's hopeful look. "It wouldn't hurt'cha, you know."
"Why?" he had asked.
"Oh…" She gave him her best "Yuffie" grin. "You'll see."
All too clearly.
Ever since they had worked together to clean up Deepground, he had been sensing it.
There was more than just admiration in her eyes…
The casual insults she threw at him, the nicknames she comes up with…
He turns away and continues walking. And what if he was interpreting it all wrong?
"If you want to find me, Yuffie," he says aloud, "You of all people should know where to find me."
Cloud's phone rings.
He casually holds it up and looks at the screen; it's Reeve.
He doesn't bother to answer it.
After the third ring, his answering machine kicks in.
"Hello, Cloud. This is Reeve. I'll assume you're on the road, though I can't understand why you don't take off today—"
I don't know why, either.
"—Yuffie wants to find Vincent to give him something." There was a smile behind his words. "I tried contacting him, but he's not available. If you know where he is, tell Yuffie. She's on her way to Seventh Heaven…"
Vincent's hiding, Reeve. Just like me. I don't think he'll appreciate her 'gift' at the moment.
"…well, I hope you get this message. I'll call you tomorrow."
The phone goes silent.
Cloud slips the phone away and adjusts his sunglasses.
February this year was beautiful; unlike the previous years, the skies held more than just a hint of blue. It seemed that the Planet was finally healing itself of the various grievances now that usage of mako was forbidden.
His phone rings again.
Yuffie this time.
Definitely not answering it.
He winces at the sounds of a high-pitched voice pierces his ears. Really, all he needs is to record the volume of it and he would have a perfect alarm clock at hand…
"Hey, Cloudy-boy! Vincent's gone again and I can't find him." She sounds like a petulant child. "I told him to stick around today, but he wouldn't listen. He was in one of those moods, the 'get-away-from-me-everyone-or-else-you'll-regret-it' kind. I don't understand why, though. "
No surprise there. He's only told a few people.
"Anyways, if you see him, tell him to get his butt over to Tifa's place so I can give him something. Cid's giving me a lift later, then he's running off to spend the day with Shera." A dramatic sigh. "You know, Cloud, you and Vince don't seem to hear very well, even with all that mako stuck between your ears and Vincent's crazy genetic enhancements—"
Yuffie, just please end the conversation…
"When I was talking with Tifa, she didn't sound happy."
"—I asked where you were, and she said you had left early today." Yuffie snorts. "What's gotten into you? You run off every year—honestly, you're as bad at Vince when it comes to holidays. I always have to drag Vincent to our yearly Winter Solstice gathering. Or I get Cid to do it. Either way, Vincent's all moody—"
…Yuffie, you've talked for five minutes straight. I don't need you giving me advice. And I don't want to hear your complaints about Vincent.
"Well, gotta run. Call me when you find the great Vincent Valentine. Wish you'd answer this." A pause. " I'll bet you're listening to this without answering, as usual. Hm, well, 'bye now!"
Cloud shakes his head. Did all teenage girls act like Yuffie? True enough, Yuffie would turn twenty-one this fall, but sometimes she seemed so…immature. He couldn't remember Tifa being that—
Tifa. Yuffie had said she didn't sound happy.
Truth was, he wasn't sure what to do about the entire situation.
If only the argument was simply about chocolate and cards. But it wasn't.
I've disappointed you so many times, he thinks he continues speeding across the empty wasteland. And you believe in me…
Cloud reaches up to touch his left ear lobe, feeling for the earring he wears.
I didn't want to disappoint you again.
"I got cards from all the girls, but none from the boys." Marlene sifts through her bag. "Too bad today's a Saturday; we would've gotten a party if it was a school day."
"Boys don't give out Valentine cards, Marlene. We just give each other candy."
"Because it's icky. All that yucky romance and those 'roses are red, violets are blue' stuff. Bleh!" Denzel wrinkles his nose. "And I got mostly nasty-tasting heart-shaped candies this time."
"Can I have them?"
"I'll trade you for those chocolates…"
Tifa watches them with a fond smile from behind the bar. Denzel has dumped out a bag of candy on one of the tables, spreading the different kinds out. Marlene was doing the same.
"You can have that, that, and that—"
"Can I have that one?" Denzel points at a particularly large square-shaped candy.
"No! Reyna gave it to me."
"She's the one with the father who owns the candy store, right?"
"That's why she always gives out the best ones. You can't have it, Denzel." Marlene snatches it up.
Denzel looks imploringly at her. "Please? You can have all my candy. I really want it. It's my favorite. Please, Marlene?"
"C'mon—you can have the whole bag."
"Hmm…" Marlene tips her head to one side in thought.
Tifa stifles a laugh. Oh, dear…
"I got it!" She smiles sweetly. "I'll give you it if you give me a kiss—on the cheek."
"What?" The boy's mouth drops open.
Tifa begins laughing softly. "Marlene, you shouldn't…"
She pouts. "Maybe if I got more candy from the boys, I wouldn't make him."
"Fine, I'll do it." Denzel's face is red, but he leans over the table and bumps his mouth against Marlene's cheek. He snatches up the piece of candy, mumbling something about watching TV, and leaves the room.
Marlene puts a hand to a cheek, grinning. "Reyna owes me more candy."
"You two were betting?" Tifa raises an eyebrow. "At Denzel's expense?"
"Well…" The girl squirms a bit. "Reyna got a kiss from Tiryn. She dared me to get a kiss from Denzel, even though I told her he wouldn't do it."
"Well, now that Denzel's done it, what's the bet?"
"A whole bag of that candy Denzel likes." At Tifa's look, she hurries on. "I was planning to share it with all of you once Cloud comes back."
"That's very nice of you," Tifa replies softly, turning to put away a cup. It almost makes up for the fact that Cloud's gone again…
Marlene was saying something, but she wasn't paying any attention anymore. Her fingers tighten on the rag she was using to wipe the countertop.
Why don't you ever stay for Valentine's Day? I don't want anything from you…
She glances up at one of Marlene's drawings pinned on the wall, the "family portrait" that always made her smile.
Except for you to say those three words—
She shouldn't be blaming Cloud. Tifa tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. As much as she wants to, she knew she would never be able to say those words to him, either.
I love you, Cloud Strife, so much that it hurts—
The door crashes open. Tifa glances up to see Yuffie lurch in, a shuriken in one one hand and a paper brown bag in the other.
"I'm here!!!" she sings out. "Miss me, anyone?"
"Yuffie!" Marlene runs forward to hug her.
The ninja returns the hug. "How you've been? Get anything today? Cards? Candy?"
"Denzel kissed me!" She grins, eyes sparkling.
"She made me!" Denzel pops his head out from a doorway, glaring at Marlene and waving to Yuffie at the same time. "I wanted that candy! She tricked me!"
"It worked, though!"
Yuffie giggles. "You'll regret that you won't have another chance, Denz." She ran over to ruffle his hair. "And here." She produces two small tin containers of Wutainese sweets. "Happy Valentine's Day to both of you."
"Thanks!" Two pairs of eager hands snatched up the sweets.
"Remember that there's supposed to be no eating candy under the blankets tonight, all right?" Tifa calls out as they run up the stairs. "Or else I'm taking away the candy!"
"Yes, Tifa!" they chorused.
"That's what makes candy taste good, Tifa." Yuffie hops up onto one of the chairs. "Eating it in secret and all."
"I know. But the last time that happened, I had a difficult time getting the taffy out of Denzel's hair."
"Ooh, painful. Happened once to me; I've hated taffy ever since." Yuffie winces, then her eyes light up. "I haven't forgotten you, Tifa." She tosses to her a box. "I know you loved it when we were in Wutai." She flings another one to her. "This is for your delivery boy."
Tifa easily catches both boxes, setting one aside. "Thanks, Yuffie," she said, unwrapping the string and opening it. She pops the candy into a her mouth, sighing a little. "I'll give you mine before you run off again."
"No need to rush." Yuffie watches her. "Something's eating you."
She only shrugs. "It's nothing," she mumbles around her mouthful. The taste of fruit mixed into chocolate was heavenly; it had been too long since she had last eaten this. She's not going to let thoughts of Cloud ruin this day…
"Let me guess: Cloud." The short-haired ninja props her chin in her hand. "That thick-skulled chocobo-head's gone again this year."
Apparently, Yuffie knows her too well. "I was hoping it would be different. He's improved so much already." Tifa finishes the piece and reaches for another one. "But I guess I can wait a little bit longer."
"It's been four years." Yuffie traces a pattern on the counter. "One of you's gotta make the first move. Maybe—"
"Damn it, Yuffie!" Tifa slams the dishwasher shut, poking the buttons with more force than necessary. "Just—just stay out of this, all right?"
Tifa almost never swears. That is, unless she's extremely irate. The anger and sadness, simmering since the beginning of htis week, is on the verge of breaking out. If Yuffie says anything more, she might just storm out…
She looks at Yuffie, ready to argue.
"You know he loves you, though."
And the anger disappears. "I'm sorry I said that," She leans on the counter, sighing. "I just don't know what to do." She glances at the silent radio in the corner. "I can't even listen to the radio today without hearing a cheesy love song that I know will make me break into tears."
"You had every right to yell at me, Teef," Yuffie twists the strap on her shoulder. "Anyway, I think you and Cloud are trying to see who's going to win the 'Most Stubborn Person Ever' contest every year."
"Me? Stubborn? That's Cloud's department."
"Tifa, if you weren't the persistent person you were, Cloud wouldn't still be here."
"It's not just me; Marlene and Denzel—"
"—Also play a part. But you're like the glue that holds everything together." Yuffie spreads her hands out. "You might be the most dysfunctional family on the Planet, but at least you're a family."
She's heard this before. "You mean a half-functioning one."
"Bitterness doesn't suit you, Tifa." The ninja tells her. "You know what?"
"What about my name?"
"Lockhart." Yuffie says her last name slowly, the way Shelke does. "You keep your heart locked, waiting for the right person to turn the key. Guess what?" She leans forward. "Someone has the key. But he doesn't know how to open that lock. And the only way you're going to make it happen is if you show him how to find it."
Tifa avoids her look. "I—"
"Does that make sense? Makes perfect sense to me."
"What if…he doesn't have the key?"
Yuffie's laugh is loud and fills the place. "Tifa, it's plain to everyone but you and he that the both of you are meant for each other!"
She blushes, fingering the ring on her right hand. "What do think I should do, then? Call him and add a message to his overflowing inbox?"
"Nah. I tried calling him earlier—he's not replying again. It's time for something more drastic—" Yuffie whispers in her ear.
Tifa frowns. "Oh, that would be cruel!"
"Nuh-uh. You're not throwing him out."
"I'll think about it." Tifa turns away to check on the dishwasher. Maybe I should…it could work…
Yuffie grins knowingly.
She hums a song under her breath, all the while clicking away on her phone, clearing her inbox and her cache of pictures.
Maybe I oughta try calling him.
Nah. Vincent won't pick up when he sees the caller ID.
Now where would that bloody vampire go? Not Nibelheim, of course. Junon? Nope, Reeve said he hasn't heard from him—
The sound of the door opening makes her look up.
It's only Shelke.
Yuffie sighs and taps her fingers against the countertop. She's already finished one glass, and she still has no idea where Vincent is.
Maybe I should give up. He probably won't even appreciate it. He doesn't even appreciate my company…
"Why are you so eager to find him?"
"Gotta give him something," Yuffie replies without thinking too much about what she said.
"Giving him something?"
"What?" She is startled out of her reverie. "No, it's not what you think!" She glares at the smiling Tifa. "Gods, Tifa, it's a traditional thing to do."
"Why this year?"
"Because only last year…" She waves one hand in the air in agitation. "Gah, it's too complicated to explain! And no," Yuffie frowns. "It has nothing to do with love." Not in this lifetime am I going to admit anything of the sort…
But Tifa still smiles. "And to think you were just 'counseling' me fifteen minutes ago," she murmured.
"You—" she gets ready to rant.
"Are you looking for Vincent Valentine?"
Yuffie turns. "The one and only."
"Oh," Shelke walks away to sit down at one of the table.
Suddenly suspicious, Yuffie follows her. "Do you know where he is?"
Shelke hesitates, but she finally nods her head.
"Where?" Yuffie sounds annoyed now. "And why didn't he tell me?"
"He didn't want to tell me, either," Shelke replies, "but I guess it's because he trusts me not to tell anyone."
"Look, Shelke." Yuffie's losing her patience. After a week of begging Vincent for a week to stay only to find that today he's gone frustrates her more than she's letting on. "Vincent's been doing this for the past three years. I'm sick of it. Why can't he be more sociable?" She folds her arms and huffs. "All I want to do is give him something. It's not like I'm going to steal his materia."
"Maybe he is afraid you'll steal something else." Shelke takes out her phone and studies it.
"Like what? His gun? Too heavy. His swirly cape? Would be nice, but he's too attached to it. That claw of his? Ew." Yuffie rolls her eyes. "He doesn't have anything worth stealing."
"What about…" Shelke looks up, blue eyes revealing nothing. "…his heart?"
Yuffie looks at her.
Shelke looks back.
"What does everyone think I'm in love with him?" Yuffie does an angry little dance, stomping her foot. "How I can fall in love with him? He's—he's darkish, moody, grumpy, ah—" Running out of adjectives, she ends with, "everything I'm not!" She ignores Tifa's soft laughter. "Besides, he's too busy thinking about Lucrecia—"
And it clicks in her mind.
"Lucrecia! Of course—why didn't I think of it?" Yuffie's stomping around the bar now. "Where else would he run off to? That Vincent!" She looks ready to murder said-person. "That impossible, demonic—"
"What?" She glances up to see everyone staring at her. "Oh." She blushes. "Well, I…I'm going to go find him. Thanks for the tip, Shelke. Here," She holds a box out to Shelke, who takes it slowly. "Forgot to give this to you. See you guys later!" And she disappears out the door.
Tifa glances at the girl in the corner. "Vincent won't be happy."
"I said nothing." Shelke says calmly. "She came to her own conclusions." She gazes at the box in her hands. "It's been a long time since I last celebrated Valentine's Day."
"All the more to celebrate it," Tifa tells her. "Wutainese candy is quite good. I think you'll like it."
"Perhaps." Shelke looks out the door. "Is she really in love with Vincent Valentine?"
"With Yuffie, who can tell?" Tifa sighs. "I just hope she won't be disappointed."
He stands at the entrance of the cave, gazing at it silently.
Go, a part of him urges.
Stay, the other argues.
Vincent crosses his arms and bows his head, his crimson eyes vacant.
He holds a scrap of white paper in one hand. He doesn't remember where it came from—a letter, a wrapper—it could have been anything.
But it is white, pure white, and unblemished.
After a cursory glance around the area, he sits down, taking the paper in both hands and folds it in half.
His actions are quick and precise; he doesn't want to think about what he is doing. He bends over his work, shaking his head a little to toss his hair away from his face.
There's no turning back now, Vincent Valentine.
The briefest of smiles touches his face; and no, it's not bitter at all.
He's back at Edge, only a few minutes away from home.
Standing in front of the store window, Cloud stares into it, not really seeing the display.
Instead, he sees Tifa's disappointed face.
He hears her frustrated voice.
Denzel's eyes, blue like his, full of questions.
He reaches out a hand to cup something, as if testing it out.
Material possessions won't make her happy, Cloud.
They might keep her from shoving her fist in my face…
"Fogging up my glass?"
He jumps and turns. The storekeeper stands there, arms cross and an annoyed expression on his face. "You've been standing there for maybe five minutes now."
"Sorry," he mutters.
"You really want that one, don't you?" He gestures with his chin. "That's one of my best; not factory-made. I handled it myself, with the help of my daughter." He looks at Cloud. "I can give you a good deal."
"I—I'll take it." He says the words before he can regret it.
"I thought you might." The man opens the door. "Come on in."
With some hesitancy, Cloud complies.
And, then and there, he knows this isn't the last stop he'll make today.
There's no turning back now, Cloud Strife.
He hopes that Aerith can help, though…
"Stupid stone." She digs the pebble out of her shoe and throws it away. "Stupid Vincent!"
It's been nearly seven hours since she set out to find him. Seven miserable hours of walking, running, and hitching rides. It's a good thing what she's carrying is durable and—she hopes—immune to the heat. If it weren't, she and certain someone would have a talk when she got back to Wutai…
When did it get so cold? Just a few hours ago, she was sweating to fill an ocean. Now she's about to freeze her toes and fingers off.
Yuffie huffs and crosses her arms, feeling more frustrated than ever. February was still dark; she could make out a few yards beyond her, but that was it.
"Maybe I oughta steal myself a motorcycle like Cloud's," she says to herself. "But that would mean paying all those stupid bills to make it look all cool. Forget about that." She kicks the ground. "Besides, who's ever heard of a ninja with a motorcycle?"
"You aren't one to be stereotypical. You might just do it."
"Eep!" She squeaks and stumbles, falling on her face. As she looks up, she sees a pair of metal-tipped boots, along with the tell-tale cape.
"VINCENT!!" The scream is enough to wake the dead. "Vincent Valentine!"
He flinches as she jumps up. "That's my name." He's sitting on the ground, right hand across his knee, left hand supporting him—his usual position.
"Hah, hah." Yuffie holds in her excitement as she remembers why she's been running around looking for him. "Now, what do you have to say for yourself, Vince?"
"Nothing." His eyes meet hers.
"Nothing?" Her eyes widen, and she steps forward to jab a finger at him. "After I spend most of the day looking for you?" She waves the bag at him and sits down. "I told you to stick around."
"A matter came up."
"Like it does every year? C'mon, I'm not that naïve." Yuffie rolls her eyes. "You're as bad as Chocobo-Head."
"Cloud's reasons are different from mine."
"No, they aren't."
"Yes, they're are."
"No!" She's had enough. "You're just hiding with your memories again."
Dangerous ground, Yuffie. As least he's still calm…
"Vince, I don't blame you for mourning." She tries to see his point of view. "But…isn't time you…you lived a little? What's been done is done; you can't change the past." Yuffie hurries on, not wanting to give him a chance to speak. "You loved her, she loved you. You both know that. But it's all in the past." Damn it—she's already running out of things to say. "Didn't you say that as long as she's happy, you—you would be, too?"
She's ruined it now…he's going to give her that look, the one that says "you-can't-possibly-understand-what-I'm-going-through" and walk away from her.
But he surprises her. "Why did you come here, Yuffie?"
"…" For once, she doesn't know what to say. Somehow, her reasons seem very insignificant.
Vincent blinks. "Do you know how many years I spent in that mansion?"
"Twenty-eight years." She wasn't even that old yet. "You don't look it, though." Even though you're supposedly as mortal as the rest of us now, you still only look slightly older than Cloud. "What's that got to do with anything?"
"The world. It was different from what I once knew it to be."
"Eh?" She tips her head. "Can things really change so much?"
"Yes." Vincent looks back at her. "And while now I no longer condemn myself, sometimes…" He lowers his head. "I wish it were possible to change the past."
More silence. Yuffie bites her lip, trying to come up with something to say. This really isn't one of my areas of expertise—talking to someone who's slept in a coffin for nearly thirty years and has no sense of humor. Even Cloud smiles more often, and that's saying a lot—
She realizes that she's been lost in her thoughts. "Sorry, what were you saying?"
Vincent shakes his head. "Why did you come?"
He's not going to let that go, is he? As nonchalantly as she can, she says, "Because I wanted to give you this." She holds out the paper bag. "Giri-choko," she says.
"Giri-choko?" He tries out the word and takes the bag from her.
"It's a Wutainese tradition—a relatively new one. That's why I bother following it." Yuffie nervously tugs at a loose thread in her sweater. "On Valentine's Day, women are supposed to give them to the men they work with."
"Who did you give them to?"
"Reeve, Cid, Barret—he laughed at me, but I saw him wolfing it down—I left Cloud's with Tifa." She watches him. "Everyone except you."
Vincent doesn't reply. He's looking down at the box in his hands.
"Don't I get any thanks?" Yuffie forces a smile on her face; this is only getting more and more awkward. Really, she shouldn't have come out all this way just to give him—of all things—chocolate.
"Thank you," he says simply.
"Well, enjoy it!" Yuffie stands up, ready to leave. There's no point in staying longer.
"Hm?" She twirls back around.
"Here." He holds something up.
Confused, Yuffie walks back. "What do you—"
He holds a white paper rose in his left hand. The delicate flower contrasts sharply with the gold-colored claw, but somehow it seems to fit there, nestled securely.
"I'm glad you asked," she remembers saying. "I am the champion of the earth and the sky. I am the conqueror of evil. The single white rose of Wutai…"
He had been listening when she said that?
She reaches out a hand to touch it. "You know how to make origami roses?"
"I learned a long time ago," he tells her. "I've forgotten most of them, but I remembered the first rose I made." He clears his throat and continues. "It's been a long time since I last made any."
Yuffie takes the rose, cupping it between her hands. She eyes it from every angle; it's flawless and neat, every crease sharp and defined.
Perfection. She couldn't have made a better one.
A thought suddenly occurs to her.
"You knew I was coming." She looks up accusingly into those crimson eyes.
"I had my suspicions." The faintest of smiles crosses his face.
"Hmph. Your suspicions, huh?" Yuffie grins.
He shrugs. "It seemed to fit the occasion."
"Oh," Unsure of what to say, Yuffie changes the subject. "Well, aren't you going to eat it?" She looks pointedly at the bag.
Vincent complies, taking out a square. "What kind is it?"
"Dark chocolate." She shrugs one shoulder. "I, ah, didn't know what you liked."
"Hn." He takes a bite.
Yuffie can't help but stare at his face. Wonder how he got those eyes…I love his features, especially his lips…
She snaps her mouth shut and blushes, hurriedly adverting her gaze. "Sorry," she mumbles, all the while staring at the paper rose she holds. "Was it good?"
"I liked it." He holds her gaze.
What a relief. She flashes him one of her grins. "Does that mean I can get some materia for that? Will you let me call you whenever I want?"
Vincent groans. "Yuffie…"
"Aw." The ninja pouts and crosses her arms. "You're no fun at all, Vinnie."
"When was I ever fun?"
"I'm sure you were when you were a kid."
"I—I don't remember."
Great. Just as he's beginning to loosen up, she has to go and ruin it. Yuffie tries to amend herself. "Then…what's your definition of fun?" She rubs her arms, shivering slightly. It's getting colder now, and she wishes she brought her cloak with her. "There's got to be something."
Vincent stands very still, his eyes distant.
For a moment, she thinks he's going to ignore her, but just as she's about to speak, he replies.
"Times like these…" He hesitates. "Spent with...those I care about."
She realizes he won't openly admit it, but everything he wants to say is clear in his eyes.
"When a person has someone they care about that much," she remembers what he said to Shelke, only a year ago. "Giving their life is sometimes the least they can do…and maybe that's what makes us human."
Maybe…she's a little unfair in calling him an unsociable person. He's done his part in helping to save the Planet, even if the Planet hadn't returned the favor.
But just a little.
Her stupid teeth are beginning to chatter, tearing her away from her thoughts. "If you don't mind, Vincent, I'm going to leave before I freeze—"
A red cape lands on her head, the frayed edges trailing in the wind.
Yuffie pulls it off her head, looking curiously at Vincent.
"You said you were cold," was his only reply.
A little nonplussed, she sits back down, tugging at the cape until it covers her from neck down. "Thanks, Vincent."
"Hn." A nod.
"Back to the single word replies, are we?" Yuffie says, more to herself, hugging her knees. The cape, despite its shabby appearance, does wonders in warming her up. She presses her nose against, and is able to breathe in the wonderful, wonderful scent of Vincent. Mm…
"I don't want to give you a heart attack."
"Hah, hah." She pokes him in the shoulder. "Very funny, Vince."
"I was being serious."
"Serious, my—" she sputters.
And Yuffie can't help but join in. Snuggling deeper into the cape, she gazes up at the stars, immediately picking out her favorite constellations.
"Like materia…" Her lips part in a smile.
"The stars." She reaches a hand out to cup a handful of them. "They're shiny like materia…"
He shakes his head, an amused look on his face. "Materia…is that all you ever think about, Yuffie?"
"Of course not!" She glares at him. "At least, not anymore," she adds as an afterthought. "I think about my family. And friends..."
She's still holding the rose, underneath the folds of the cape. "Materia's just the side benefits, nowadays." She glances sideways at him. "You don't believe me, do you?"
"What do you think?" He's looking up at the sky.
"Not a bit."
"You would be correct."
"Tch," she sighs. "And here I thought that after Deepground it would all be past us."
Probably most of AVALANCHE still saw her as the bouncy, too-cheery little girl of sixteen who's obsessed with stealing materia. She doesn't mind the "bouncy, too-cheery" part, but a part of her wants the respect she feels she deserves.
Yuffie blows a loose strand of hair out of her face. Maybe that day would never come. She steals a glance at Vincent, who is once against silent.
"Are you going to stay here all night?"
"Oh." She fidgets, trying to muster her courage to ask—
"You can stay—if you wish."
Her mouth drops open, and she quickly looks at Vincent.
He looks back at her, face revealing nothing.
"I'll stay." She drops her gaze, before something occurs to hear. "Hey, Vince."
"Do you think that one day the stars will rain down and turn into materia?"
She giggles. "I know, it's silly, but—" she gazes up at the sky. "Stars have always fascinated me."
"They've always been a source of hope to me."
That was something new. Yuffie looks curiously at him. "They are?"
She realizes he's not going to say anything more, so she contents herself with watching the stars come out, one by one.
Vincent's got a lot of layers. She touches the rose gently. And I've only scratched the surface of it all.
But at least she knows he's not going to run again. Not anymore.
I've got plenty of time.
She yawns, unconsciously let her head nod onto Vincent's shoulder. She won't admit, but the past week had been rather hectic—running back and forth from Wutai and the WRO HQs, all the while trying to find Vincent—it's left her feeling more tired than she would have liked. "Happy Valentine's Day, Vinnie." she manages to mumble. "Sorry…didn't mean to do this, but—"
"The same to you, Yuffie." She feels a hand tucking the edges more tightly around her frame.
She grins to herself. Just wait 'til I tell Tifa, she thinks before succumbing to sleep. I hope Cloud didn't disappoint her…
Tifa enters Marlene's room. The little girl is curled up on her side, one arm wrapped around her pillow. Tifa smiles and tucks the blankets over her shoulder, kissing her gently on the forehead.
She does the same for Denzel, even when he sometimes insists he's too old. Tonight, though, he returns her embrace, awkwardly whispering.
And she knows. "Don't be," she says, even though her throat tightens up. "He'll be back tonight..."
The words come out half-choked, and she hurries out, taking care to leave an inch between the door and the frame. Kicking off her shoes, she takes the stairs two at a time, landing sloppily.
She hardly cares.
Somehow, she finds her way into the living room and collapses on the sofa, pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging them tightly.
It's been a long time since Tifa Lockhart has last cried, and tears have a way of building up.
She presses a fist against her mouth, gulping in air as fast as she can while tightly squeezing her eyes shut.
You can't break down now…
She hears the rattling of a door. Stiffening her shoulders, she takes a deep breath.
"Tifa?" she hears Cloud softly call out. The sound of a key turning in the lock.
She allows herself a small, triumphant smile.
"Tifa? What's going on?"
She's barred the door with a small cabinet—Yuffie's advice, of course.
Bam. "Tifa!" Cloud's voice was loud, and urgent.
She gets up quickly and goes to the door. "I'm not opening this door, Cloud," she says, amazed that her voice is so steady, "Not until we've talked."
"Why, Cloud?" she doesn't give him a chance for excuses. "Do you hate me this much?"
"I don't hate—"
"Listen to me." Tifa ignores him. "Every year. You take off and leave me alone with the kids. Don't you know how disappointed they are? Even Barret stopped by this morning." The more she talks, the angrier and more helpless she feels. "It's not like I'm asking you to take me out on a date or anything like that. It's just a day that I—we want to spend together. With you." She tightens her hands into fists. "I thought we were past this stage already, Cloud."
"Don't give me that. I don't want to hear it." Tifa closes her eyes. "I'm tired of your apologies."
"We're supposed to be a family." She places emphasis on that last word. "But you—"
The cabinet is shoved backwards at the door flies open. Startled, Tifa moves backwards.
Cloud's blue eyes are indecipherable as he pushes the cabinet aside to squeeze through the doorway.
She swallows hard, opening her mouth to say something—
She pauses, not really knowing why.
"I—" Cloud looks uncomfortable; she's put him in an awkward spot. "I know I shouldn't have…done what I did."
"One minute, Cloud, then I'm going to bed," she interrupts, turning around to face the wall.
A touch on her arm makes her stiffen. She tries to resist as those fingers tighten on her arm and turn her around. Tifa closes her eyes, not wanting to see what she usually sees in Cloud's eyes.
She feels his breath ghosting against her face and neck. He's struggling for the words again…
Much to her surprise, she feels him press something into her hand and close her fingers around it. Before she can react, he kisses her on the mouth.
The kiss was like the one Denzel gave Marlene—quick, tentative, and awkward.
Nonetheless, it was a kiss that leaves her senses tingling.
Tifa opens her eyes. Cloud is watching her, a blush on his face.
She looks down at her hand, and sees a flower she doesn't know the name of.
But in the dim light, she can see that it's blue—the color she's always associated herself with.
And a smile touches her face as she recites the old children's rhyme. "Violets…are blue."
"Aerith told me they meant…faithfulness," he says softly. He shuffles his feet, like Denzel does when he wants out of something but can't come up with a good excuse.
"Do they?" She rubs one of the petals, holding it up to her nose and breathing in the fragrance.
"I should've stayed," he continues.
"But you're here now," she cuts him off.
She holds the flower up. "Is this supposed to represent me, or is this…" She hesitates. "A promise?"
"Both." He hasn't let go of her hand yet.
"And what about—" She cuts herself off.
"I—I forgot something." Reluctantly moving away, she hurries into the kitchen to retrieve a wrapped parcel. Tifa returns, thrusting it into his hands. "Happy Valentine's Day, Cloud," she says.
He looks at her, than at the parcel. "You didn't have to."
"Maybe, but I wanted to." Tifa clasps her hands together, still holding the flower. "Go ahead and try one," she encourages him. "I know you've never had a Valentine before."
He pops one of the squares into his mouth. "No, I haven't," he admits. "I wish I did."
I wish you did, too, she thinks as she watches him. The simple little pleasures in life…you never really experienced them, did you?
He holds up something glittering between his thumb and forefinger. The blush in his face is quite prominent now, even in the poor lighting.
Her heart skips a beat. Was he really going to—
"I don't really know where to begin." Cloud rubs the back of his head with his free hand. "Tifa, I—"
"Just tell me what I want to hear, Cloud Strife." Tifa interrupts, grabbing him by the shoulders. Her breath is short and fast. "Just say it."
His lips part.
She tenses, her heartbeat pulsing in her ears, so thick was the silence.
"I love you."
Words she's waited years to hear. She's imagined this scene over and over in her mind, but never did she know how sweet those three words could sound, coming from the person she's loved since they were children.
The next thing she knows, he's slid the ring on her finger and is kissing her—for real, this time.
Tifa wraps her arms around his neck and returns the kiss. She can taste the combination of chocolate and Cloud—sweet, heady and intoxicating.
"I love you, too, Cloud," she says when they reluctantly break apart. She gazes into those brilliant blue eyes of his, smiling up at him. "Even if I did have to wait three years."
"If I had known how it felt, I might've done it sooner."
"Dilly-dally," she responds, eyes gleaming. "shilly-shally…"
They share a laugh, and Tifa leans against him, breathing in the scent of leather and all-things-Cloud.
Guess Yuffie was right. She smiles to herself. I wonder how much luck she's had with Vincent…
He wasn't one for apologizes. But, perhaps in this instance, he had been wrong.
Vincent's back at Seventh Heaven. He watches Yuffie talking animatedly with Shelke and Marlene, Tifa smiling at their antics, and Denzel leaning over Cloud's shoulder and reading something.
Yuffie catches his eyes and winks.
He doesn't return the wink, but he tips his chin up and smiles.
It's enough for her. She puts a hand to her hair, where she's managed to stick the paper rose. It's not so fresh now; after a day, it's become slightly wrinkled. But it's still white and flawless.
'I don't know what the future will be, Yuffie,' he thinks, 'But with you in my life…I can no longer stand still and let the world pass by.'
Meanwhile, Cloud ruffles Denzel's hair, and tells him to memorize a passage in the book. He leans back in his chair to watch the boy meticulously write on a scrap of paper.
As he reaches for his glass, his eyes meet Tifa's.
He smiles, and his gaze drifts to the ring on her left hand.
Tifa blushes, but she waves back, the diamond on her finger catching the rays of sunshine and causing him to blink.
He watches as she reaches up on a shelf to touch the violet. The petals, despite being a day old, still look new and soft.
'I'm watching over you, Tifa,' he silently says. 'And that's a promise.'
White roses mean "innocence, purity, etc." Yuffie calls herself the "Single White Rose of Wutai" in Dirge of Cerberus.
As for origami roses—they take time to make, but finished product is worth it. Directions for the rose used in this story can be found at http colon slash slash danoftoasters dot org slash ?page=3&catnum=2 (Replace the words "colon," "Dot," and "dash" with the actual symbols and remove any spaces you see, or Google "DofTNet, Roses, Caffeine, Books, and other things made from paper").
Blue violets mean "faithfulness, 'I'll always be true,' and watchfulness." As for Tifa and the color blue, I've always thought it suited her. I ran her through a couple of color personality tests; all of them came up as blue.
*slumps* Now the romance plotbunnies can stop attacking me…maybe next time I can come up with something that actually has a plot.
And…I think somewhere in this story the verb tenses went a little off. I usually write in past tense, but this story wanted to be written in present. Also, I'm sure the travel-times are messed up. I've never played the game/s (And I don't have time to, sorry), so I don't know proper distances.
Finally—enjoy the day. :)