DISCLAIMED: (08/31/09)
EDITED: (09/16/09)

Characters: Cloud/Yuffie, Godo, mentions of Rufus, eventually all of AVALANCHE
Rating: M – and if you're this far along already, you know why.
Warning: Unmitigated fluff. Forgive me, but Cloud needs to have his moments sometimes and this is it.
Summary: Cloud is on the road again, his inability to tell Tifa how he felt sending her into Reeve's arms. Now his only contact with the rest of the world is Rufus for a job and Yuffie, because she could. All games/movies compliant.

A/N: Hey guys. This is the last chapter of Part I. It wraps up the beginning of the Cloud and Yuffie relationship and sets you up for a lot more exciting things to come. I'm out-of-state right now but this was already uploaded on my account so I thought I'd post it on time. This one Part was heavy on the mush and filler but I have a feeling there'll be a lot more adventure the second time around. But then I'm sure the second part will be much longer. So check it out when I get my act together. I posted a sneak peek and check out the trailer in my profile again to guess at what else is to come;D


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ЄөЦŕҐїŊģЭфΘμÐ

Chapter 十二

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After reaching the large divot where the Temple of Ancients previously was, Cloud and Yuffie deal with their toughest challenge yet. Once they manage to escape, they discuss the Quest and her other suitors.

"Be nice to know what else to expect. Zurui can't be the only other one competing."

Her frown deepened. "Why not? I told you, I'm not that popular at home. At least not with the men."

"Why not?"

She gave him an absurd look. "Uh, I ain't exactly a man's idea of a wet dream here. And being the fighting Master of the Pagoda makes me less desirable. No man wants to be beat by a woman." Her tone showed exactly what she thought of that.

Cloud gave her a bizarre look. "How do you know what a wet dream is?"

Her cheeks heated annoyingly. "Doesn't matter. Look, Zurui's the only one we'll have to deal with and since you are the savior of the world several times over, he'll be trying to trip us up."

Cloud decided not to argue with her. He would be keeping an eye out for others though.

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When they'd reached Reynar, they headed out of the area at a fast pace, heading for Junon. It was very late when they finally reached the harbor port, but both still made sure to shower off the grime of the fiend and road before hitting the sack. Both were too tired to do anything more than sleep.

Cloud woke early and found them breakfast, which he brought back to their room where he woke Yuffie. Without opening her eyes, she reached behind her and slapped the bed where Cloud used to be. He lifted a brow at the rather abrupt gesture, and that was the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes. Sighing, she turned her face into the pillow as she rolled onto her knees before sitting up in a mess of dried hair.

Tucking the sheet around her nakedness, she accepted the plate of food from him sleepily. He kept his grin at her messy hair to himself as he ate his own food. He was content to not speak until Yuffie had woken up properly and they ate in silence. When she was finished, she set her plate on the side table.

"What time is it?" She asked, stretching fully.

Cloud watched the movement shortly before looking away. "7:45. Boat leaves at 8."

She slumped as her stretch ended and she grimaced. "Can't we just take Reynar?"

Knowing without asking, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small vial. She took it with a bemused look as he handed it to her.

"Man at the general store says it's perfect for the truly weak-stomachs."

She frowned at the words, but looked distinctly more optimistic about their boat trip than before. She got up to get dressed in her now dry clothes, hanging from the shower rod after rinsing them out the night before.

They quickly got cleaned up and ready before heading out to grab Reynar to board. Cloud had another surprise for Yuffie before they left. She now wore, under protest, the thick-clothed green cloak as they stood at the very front of the ship. The large framing hood had fallen back in the relentless wind, but Cloud let it go. Yuffie had stopped the unconscious shivering that had started once she got out of bed after he pulled the cloak around her telling her to wear it for his sake. It helped that he'd gotten a gray one for himself, the material thinner than hers, and also wore it in the bitter ocean wind.

Other passengers wandered up front where they were. Cloud shifted and pulled Yuffie gently to stand in front of him. She buried her suddenly hot cheeks in the front of her cloak as he surrounded her. She nearly jumped when his soft deep voice sounded right next to her ear and rumbled through her.

"So how does the whole Empress and Consort thing work?"

She blinked, feeling heat slowly work its way through her at his interest. She knew Cloud could merely be curious and forced her hope down.

"Er, I'm not sure. Godo's the first in centuries to not have a male heir."

"Well, how would you like it to work then?"

"Uh…" His breath on the side of her face was quite distracting. "Well, I'd like to share decisions, I guess. As appealing as having a boytoy sounds in theory, it's not quite the same in practice."

He smirked against her hair. "Anything else?"

"Well, I suppose if I were out of the country or unreachable, the next Pagoda master would be the one to make important rulings, but I think I'd prefer if y—I mean, the Consort did so." Her cheeks burned in the chafing wind at her near blunder. She'd almost said 'you' as in Cloud. As if it was already decided he would be the one to take the place of her Consort.

Cloud pretended he didn't notice. "And what would the Consort's duties be when his Empress is around to make the tough decisions?"

She turned to give him a frown. "You're laughing at me."

He smirked and shook his head. "Of course not. Now what would I—I mean, the Consort have to do when not at his Empress's beck and call?"

Yuffie rolled her eyes at his obvious slip of tongue, even as her heart leapt, as she turned back to the front with a huff. "He could do whatever he wanted. Be a blacksmith, teach warriors to fight, paint. I don't care. As long as he's happy."

"Paint?"

Something in his voice made her turn again. He was looking off into the distance, looking contemplative. "Cloud?" He glanced down at her voice. She suddenly realized how close his face was to hers. His eyes flicked down to her lips and she belatedly realized she was biting her bottom lip. Seeing the intent in his gaze, she released it with a barely audible gasp and turned away. He wasn't having it though.

Turning her back around, he dipped his head and caught her lips with his. With the hardest part past, meaning getting over her own silliness, she leaned into him immediately, letting him deepen the kiss as her arms wound their way around his neck under his cloak. His own arms slid around her waist as he worked his lips over hers, exploring her mouth. The light touch of her tongue against his had him tightening his hold. She let out a soft squeak against his mouth as she was pulled flush against him.

He shifted, pressing her smaller frame between the railing and his body as their tongues dueled for dominance. Despite her desire to win their erotic little game, he kept the pace slow, not wanting to get overexcited in their current circumstances. Kissing her was enough. For now. She tasted amazing and it simply felt right holding her.

When they finally came up for air, Yuffie's breathing was ragged and even Cloud's chest lifted and fell heavily. He pressed his lips to her temple as he let his heart slow. A tingle went through her as she too tried to calm her racing pulse.

She let out a nervous laugh. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that."

He lifted his head to look at her, causing her to lift her eyes shyly. "Used to what?

"…uh, you and…the kissing." Her cheeks heated ridiculously.

Cloud suddenly knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted to see in if he could still make her blush like that in thirty, forty years. If she'd still be receptive then as she was today to his touch. He wanted a real chance to prove he was worthy of her hand.

"Yuffie."

She blinked up at his suddenly serious tone. Meeting his eyes, she saw he looked just as serious as he sounded and became worried. "Y-yeah?"

"Will you allow me to fight for you?"

This was met with more blinking. "Fight for me?" Her tone plainly said she wasn't sure what he was asking.

He nodded. "I know you may not feel the same way about me as I do you, but I would like a chance to show you I am capable of being exactly what you need."

Yuffie felt as if she were in a fog. Surely Cloud wasn't saying these things to her. Such wonderful things. He wanted to finish the quest, despite not knowing what she really felt about him, simply for the hope of gaining her hand in marriage. It was surreal and terrifying. No one had ever risked so much just for her. She wasn't quite sure how she felt about it beyond the excited fluttering in her stomach and the sudden incessant urge to shout "OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD" at the top of her lungs. Still, it really was too good to be true. And she was paranoid by nature.

"But…I told you, you don't have to ask for my—"

"I want to. I want you to know I'm doing this for you and nothing else. Not out of pity, not out of life-long friendship, but simply for you. Will you let me?"

No one had ever asked her permission for anything before. Even her ladies maids dressed her for ceremonies without asking if she'd like to be wrapped, poked, and prodded to be presented like a poodle on display. And Cloud's thoughtfulness is what decided her.

"Yes." She cursed inwardly at how breathy her voice sounded. "I mean, only if it's what you really want…"

"I do want to."

Looking up into his mako blue-green gaze, so intent and full of promise on hers, she felt hope bloom fully in her chest. Maybe, just maybe this whole thing would work out.

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ЄөЦŕҐїŊģЭфΘμÐ

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A/N: Fin~Lol, for now. Part II is coming up. The couple is now set so expect lots of twists and surprises. The adventure continues in the Ancient Forest where you will see more adventure, lots of romance, and secrets galore. Review and all will be revealed. Lol, dramatic-yes. Again, don't forget to click my profile for the link to my fancy trailer for this. It gives you hints at what is to come. But other than that I felt bad about how short this chap came out to be so here is a sneak peek at PART II.


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~ :: Part II :: ~

The Ancient Forest chirped and hummed in the dim light of twilight. The overhang of exotic trees dimmed it further with their thick fronds, making the humid air grow cool.

A loud frog was suddenly silenced as it landed, sliding down the eager carnivorous stem of the Venus Fly-Trap. The silent figure who was the indirect culprit of the poor frog's demise walked by coolly, the dangerous plant now preoccupied.

Dressed in full black, a matching hood covering their head, the figure paused at the base of a large tree. It was different from the other trees, with a much wider trunk. Pulling out a short gunblade, he lifted it straight out towards a hidden gong amidst the leafy vines. A free hand shot out in front to catch the rectangular stone that fell seemingly from nowhere at the sound of the gong being hit.

Lowering the short gunblade, a muttered "chuujitsu" had the tree rotating on the spot, revealing a large archway to walk through, previously hidden by the high ground set behind it. With a quirk of the lips, the figure disappeared into the tree's depths.

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"Akubi-san. Doko desu ka?" (Where are you?)

"Fort Condor, Hiroki-sama. My men could not persuade the locals to release me and I was kept another night."

An aggravated huff. "I told you not to underestimate the shinobi."

"Hai, otou-san."(Yes, father)

"Doesn't matter. I have men on her trail. The gaijin was with her?"

"Hai. But she claims she is doing the quest for herself."

"She's always been stubbornly independent. Atarashii ja nai. Hayaku. (This is not new. Hurry.) Finish the quest and leave the shinobi to me. The people will not accept a woman or her gaijin as ruler of Wutai."

"Hai, otousan."

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ЄөЦŕҐїŊģЭфΘμÐ

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Hope to see you guys again. Thank you so much for reading and to those who review. As always, you rock.

UPDATE: Alright, I usually do this with my stories but I forgot to this time around. I just added previous chapter recaps at the beginning of chapters 2-12 to try and help everyone who can't read it all in one go or have been away from the story for a while keep track.

As for PART II, I sat down a few weeks ago and wrote out a comprehensive outline to help me out. But since the chapters for this one will be twice as long, and I have 15 chapters listed, it may take me a while. But I do plan to post an update to this story when I post PART II to let you know, so no worries if you've already story-alerted this one. Thanks again everyone for reading and supporting Clouffie! ;D