Title: Surveillance
Request: FFVII (during/after OGC, AC, or DoC): Yuffie and Vincent, romance is preferred. Working together for Rufus and his Turks leads to all sorts of fun-filled adventures, maybe like espionage or breaking and entering. A silly but still smart Yuffie makes me happy. Prompt suggestions: learning to be a ninja, rooftops, costumes.
Summary: Yuffie is more attentive than you might expect.

Contrary to popular opinion, Yuffie was a remarkably observant and -- when circumstances warranted -- exceedingly focused individual. She simply chose not to advertise either fact. While letting her mouth run at dizzying speeds and distracting volume, she was quite capable of a variety of other activities: reading lips, counting cards, conducting surveillance. On several occasions she'd stolen materia while virtually incapacitated from motion sickness, and she could pick pockets while holding her own in combat.

She noticed things.

They encountered the first unavoidable patrol on the second floor, where the guests had thinned to an occasional expensively dressed man, and a few cheaply dressed women.

Although Vincent could be taken for the former, Yuffie would never pass for the latter. Her clothing was too fine, her curves too understated.

But she could fake it.

Grabbing the gunman by the lapels, she backed into a corner and pulled him into a clench: her arms around his shoulders, her fingers buried in his long hair, and one slim leg hooked over his hip, silky skirt riding up her thigh.

When the guards passed, they saw only another wealthy man enjoying their boss' hospitality. Yuffie thought the gasping moan on her part was an especially convincing touch.

"Vince, you are spending far too much time with the Turks," she opined, plopping bonelessly down onto the couch in Rufus Shinra's office. "You're always here whenever Reeve sends me on one of these joint assignments." Knowing it would annoy both Tseng and Rufus -- and not having missed Shinra's wince at her lack of concern for his furniture -- she propped her feet up on the glass and metal concoction that passed for a table. "I hope you haven't picked up any bad habits from Reno."

Vincent arched one ebony brow at that ludicrous concern, his mouth quirking just slightly. "I'm fairly certain all of my habits, whether good or bad, are solely my own."

"You can never be too careful," Yuffie blithely remarked, "Reno is like a fungus or mold or something: insidious, quick to spread, and hard to kill."

Rufus cleared his throat for attention before Reno managed to do more than straighten in outrage, and she stuck her tongue out in impish triumph.

Vincent coughed.

They took turns subduing the guards on the fourth floor, Yuffie using a combination of sleep and confuse materia, while Vincent opted for knockout rounds. When she -- rather gleefully -- suggested they keep score, he responded by taking out the next three guards in rapid succession.

Pouting, she let her competitive enthusiasm wane in favor of focusing on the mission.

When they entered the east wing, things started to get serious. The number of guards doubled, and shifted to armed and alert rather than casual and unconcerned -- a sure sign that they were getting closer to something Thorne wanted to keep secret. The question was what: Lab? Office? Safe?

Yuffie almost didn't care, having become deeply engrossed in the mysteries of fighting in a skirt. She resolved to ask Tifa how she'd ever managed it, because her dress was really starting to hamper her movements and cramp her style. Undercover had it's uses, but she would still opt for the direct approach in comfortable clothes any day.

"As I'm sure Tuesti has already informed you," Rufus began, "our target is Doctor Gavin Thorne."

"Right," Yuffie interrupted, "one of creepy Hojo's creepy flunkies who's gotten rich by selling creepy secrets."

"That is what we suspect, yes." The businessman refrained from grinding his teeth, but his tone proclaimed that he wanted to -- oh, how he wanted to.

"He's amassed quite a fortune within a very short span of time," Tseng elaborated, "and has absolutely no background in business, architecture, art, or other ventures to which we can attribute his sudden wealth."

"Nothing but his front-row seat for Hojo's experiments. Yeah, we get it," Yuffie's tone was a blend of disgusted and dismissive. A sidelong glance revealed Vincent's expression was as stoic as ever, but she doubted that he was entirely comfortable with the subject of discussion. "Reeve says you've got the ball on this one, so what's the plan?"

"Thorne is holding a party this weekend, ostensibly for charity. Tickets to the event have been on sale for the last month." Thin fingers pushed an envelope across the desk, where Yuffie snatched it up to examine the contents. "I will be attending along with Tseng and Elena as the blatantly obvious and suspicious distraction. You and Valentine will be undercover." There was a pause, during which Shinra's mouth slowly curved into a mocking smile. "Whether you choose to cast yourself as a debutante or streetwalker is up to you, just make sure the end result is both unremarkable and unrecognizable."

Yuffie grinned back, wide and toothy. "I dunno… Vincent's gorgeous, but I don't think he'd make a very good woman."

"He was referring to you, brat!" Reno snarked, and Yuffie shrugged.

"I know, Reno, but I was attempting to ignore the fact that he would insinuate anything so crass."

Vincent cleared his throat, once again diffusing the tension Yuffie was so artfully building.


"I'm sure we can find something appropriate."

"Next time, you can be the woman, and I'll come as a boy," she stated flatly, adjusting her skirt and slipping back into her heels for the third time in ten minutes. "This is harder than television makes it look."

Unruffled in his silk suit, Vincent continued calmly reloading, a definite smirk playing around his lips. He'd switched to live ammo: the armed guards weren't innocent dupes just trying to make a living, but hired killers.

"I don't wear dresses," he commented blandly.

"Neither do I."

'Something appropriate' turned out to be a tailored charcoal suit and crimson shirt for him, and a tiered cocktail dress in shades of emerald and navy for her. After considerable thought, she even deigned to go for all the trimmings: hair, makeup, jewelry -- even heels high enough to let her rest her cheek against Vincent's shoulder when they danced. Given the way Reno stared, Yuffie decided she 'cleaned up nice' as the saying went. And if pressed, she'd have to admit that she enjoyed the chance to be girly while they were casing the main floor and mingling with the other guests.

Not as much as she enjoyed chasing after materia or spying for Reeve, of course… but it was a novel sort of experience. She even danced with Thorne himself, just to prove she could.

The temptation to steal something was almost irresistible.

"Skeleton keys are a wonderful thing," she murmured to Vincent, opening the door to a rather impressive laboratory.

He eyed her tiny handbag with surprise. It didn't look large enough to contain the two materia she'd used, much less anything else.

"Ancient Wutaian secret," she whispered, winking, "it's bigger on the inside."

Dark eyes crinkled slightly at the corners, but Vincent didn't otherwise respond.

For the next half hour, the room was quiet except for the rustle of paper. They found the expected formulations for various mako-based injections and serums, along with schematics for small-scale munitions. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Thorne had records going back more than a decade, detailing almost every experiment Hojo had performed at the main Shin-Ra facility in Midgar.

"We have enough evidence," Vincent finally murmured, returning the file he'd just finished perusing to its place, "and the guards have been quiet for too long. Thorne is the suspicious type; someone is going to notice that they haven't checked in."

"Right." Yuffie closed and relocked the bottom drawer on the massive desk in the center of the room, and moved to join him at the door.

Leaning into Vincent's larger, more solid frame, Yuffie let him guide her up the sweeping staircase from the foyer to the second floor. Anyone watching would -- hopefully -- mistake them for a couple: a little far gone on alcohol and atmosphere, looking for someplace they could be alone.

This, too, was enjoyable. Vincent smelled wonderful -- masculine with hints of leather and spice -- and felt strong and capable. Exactly the same as when he'd pulled her out of Nero's darkness, saving her life and sanity. This time, though, she was awake to enjoy it, and the danger they were in was minimal: just enough to get their adrenaline flowing.

Maybe she'd do something about that before the night was over. Let him know that he wasn't fooling her, despite his ability to downplay his reactions.

Their exit was as smooth as their entry, at least at first. They were three corridors away from Thorne's lab before they encountered the backup patrol.

"I know this guy is paranoid," Yuffie remarked, staring at the small army coming up the hallway, "but this is excessive."

"Time for a change of plans," Vincent agreed.

Backtracking, they went out a window and dropped down to the ground, Yuffie cursing when an easy landing became something akin to jumping off a high wire while wearing stilts. "I am never going undercover like this again!" she exclaimed emphatically, nursing her twisted ankle after kicking her shoes under a nearby shrub. "It's bad enough not having a weapon, but I draw the line when my own clothing tries to sabotage me."

"Can you walk?" Vincent's voice was concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine." As if to prove it, she spun and kicked a guard in the chin, scant seconds before Vincent put a bullet between another's eyes. His pinpoint precision was as distinct and recognizable as a fingerprint. "I'll let you kiss it better after you get us out of here."

Vincent froze.

Yuffie rolled her eyes.

"C'mon, Vince, I've known for weeks," she told him, pausing to knee another guard in the groin. "Ever since that mission in Costa del Sol. You know, the one at the villa? I made my entry on the fourth floor, and exited over the roofs... and every single Deepground remnant I encountered had a bullet square between the eyes. It was the most boring mission I've ever been on."

He continued to move through the flow of people, clearing a path as she watched his back, but didn't say a word.

"If you were trying to be subtle, you should've left me a few to take care of on my own," she went on, "or made some sort of mistake. You could've let me catch a glimpse of your gun in the moonlight, or 'forgot' to use a silencer... heck, even if you just failed to hit a few dead center it would've made me uncertain!"

Reaching out, she grabbed his jacket and pulled him to a halt in the shadow of the garage. "So give it up, Vincent," she said, grinning and obviously pleased with her own cleverness. "I'd know your work anywhere. And I'm flattered, really, but I'd much rather have a lover than a secret admirer-slash-guardian."

He watched her for a long moment, before carefully taking aim over her shoulder and dropping another of Thorne's men.

"I knew you were smarter than you let on," he said, reaching down to grab her hand, "but I'm not kissing your feet."