Author's notes: I know, I know. It's a Yuffinetine. But it's a Yuffinetine when Yuffie's 42. Hopefully that makes a difference.

I may or may not have been listening to bad (good?) Russian pop music when I wrote this. All credit goes to 'Clowns' by t.A.T.u. I apologize in advance.

Written for valentineninja over on lj. Luckily, she enjoyed it. I hope other people will like it too.

This is Not a Love Story

It had been almost thirty years since they'd known each other and Vincent had to admit that age looked good on Yuffie. It was partially that his unusually spotty memory sometimes had difficulty juxtaposing the person she had once been – the self-titled ninja who couldn't always handle her own shoelaces – with the woman she had so properly become. Vincent knew that a person's leadership abilities could normally be judged by their eagerness or reluctance to take power. Since Yuffie had literally fled halfway around the world to avoid hers, he'd had a feeling that she'd turn out half-decent as the 'Lady of Wutai', capitals included.

The day after she'd had the silver circlet placed upon her head by her now very aged father, she'd shorn her hair shockingly short. She still wore it that way; barely enough to grab on to. As far as quiet protests went, Vincent thought that it suited her. When she was in the right kind of mood, Yuffie would still smile that way at him and make comments about friction.

Vincent probably should have guessed that, out of all of them, Yuffie would have the hardest time giving up on it. She'd been barely sixteen when she met up with them. Whatever her reasons for joining were originally, she'd still had to endure all the blood, sweat, and heartache they had. Teenagers weren't exactly known for their coping mechanisms. Coming to turn with your own identity issues while literally fighting against Armageddon wasn't exactly an ideal situation.

It was probably why Vincent still bothered to drop by Wutai. Yuffie had had a hard time moving on from their misbegotten adventure and Vincent, for his own reasons, couldn't quite manage it either. They were convenient co-conspirators in their evasions of the present.

And now they were essentially drinking buddies. In another life, Vincent had hated sake. Only the Wutaians would be perverse enough to decide that making hard liquor from rice was a good idea. The drink had grown on him over the past several years though. That change was at least partly due to the flush on Yuffie's cheeks and the slightly breathless tone in her voice.

One night she had asked him – just once – why he kept on visiting. That kind of question nudged them towards dangerous territory, a description of details that neither of them wanted to hear, least of all Yuffie. Vincent hadn't told her the truth then but it was fairly simple to work out.

Tifa could cope better than any of them and Cloud had learnt to deal with his faults years ago. Cid had cigarettes and Shera; Barret, Marlene; Red XIII, Cosmo Canyon; Reeve his mission and his city. They had all had very good reasons to move on from that time, so long ago.

… but every time Vincent saw his eyes in the mirror, it was the same face as back then. He'd changed as best he could. Cid sometimes laughed at him for how domestic he'd become. He had an apartment now; a permanent address and phone that he could be reached at. He did odd jobs around town. It was not, he knew, a bad way to live.

But sometimes his life felt like standing still in a crowded intersection. Pure, unadulterated vertigo. Every once in a while he needed someone with enough of that time left in them to ground him firmly in place.

Enter Yuffie – her eternal manic energy cooled to a warm glow by twenty-six years of laughter, tears, and disappointments... but at least her alcohol tolerance had improved.

Slightly. He often had to forgive her the fact that she'd deliberately rub her toes against the length of his shin folded beneath the short wutaian tables that were as impractical now as they'd always been.

It wasn't exactly attraction; not really. It was enough to know that they were still present, still very much alive. Yuffie had always been nothing if not expressive. Her veiled comments, deliberately lingering hands, and not so veiled innuendos were all just her way of reminding him of that fact. And if he was being particularly stubborn…

Vincent smiled at the memory.

"What?" Yuffie asked, sliding deliberately closer to the table so that her toes could curl more comfortably against Vincent's pant leg.

"Costa del Sol," he replied simply. They were playing a kind of wutaian matching game. Vincent was a terrible player but he was improving slightly. He had, after all, had ample time to practice.

Yuffie smirked.

"The Costans put too much rum in their drinks."

"You weren't complaining then."

"Neither were you," she quipped back. Vincent smirked again.

It had been almost nine years ago now. Yuffie had (naturally) given the slip to her aides on one of her (numerous) commerce expeditions off the island. Diplomacy obviously required a personal touch.

They hadn't expected to see each other. In fact, he could distinctly recall Yuffie making comments about how he needed to stay out of the sun; something about his likelihood of disappearing into a cloud of dust.

He hadn't really been surprised when she'd shown up at his Inn room a few hours later with an entire bag on ingredients and a distinctly Yuffie-esque look on her face.

Still, Vincent reflected, smirking slightly, he had at least managed to catch her off guard that night. She'd been going on the same way she always did – something about how Cointreau was a multi-purpose liquid when –

The first thing he realized was that Yuffie tasted exactly like the drinks she'd been making. Too much sugar; too many fruits. It was intoxicating.

But not nearly as much as the sound she made when he pressed her up against the room's back wall – a kind of half gasp, half chortle.

Her embrace was bruising and Vincent was certain that he'd never wanted anything more than the feeling of her brushing her hand between them to slowly unzip her own pants.

"Maybe not," he replied.

Vincent knew that one day he would have to leave all of these places for good. The others would mourn him, perhaps, but Yuffie…

Yuffie would drink to his memory and light fireworks at the peak of Da Chao for him. She'd cavort in the streets and maybe – just maybe – take someone else home.

There were worse ways to be remembered.

Can you see me now?

-T. pirate