It had been an eventful day, to be sure. Very little shakes the senses quite so much as Yuffie suddenly bounding into one's cubicle, brandishing pictures that, at a glance, are vaguely incriminating.
"Bwhahaha! Tifa and Cloud, sittin' in a tree..." she sang, bouncing around my workspace.
"Yes, Yuffie. It is common knowledge that Cloud and Tifa are currently in a relationship. I believe there was a party to mark the occasion, which we both attended." I groaned.
"But Vinnie, they're kissing." she said, as if it were the most scandalous thing ever. She kept thrusting a photograph under my nose, trying to get me to look; I declined. I didn't particularly feel like appraising Cloud's kissing technique.
"Yes, Yuffie, they're kissing. That's what adults in a relationship do." I explained.
Yuffie made a sound that certainly wasn't from any language I knew, and was almost certainly rude.
"This is Cloud and Teef! Blondie and Brawler! Chocobo and Boobs! What part of this are you not getting?" she huffed.
"It's perfectly normal for them to be doing these things. What part of this are you not getting?" I shot back.
We had an angry silence, which culminated in Yuffie accusing me of being boring, and stalking off. Sometimes I wonder what exactly motivates her to provoke these discussions.
In fact, not merely sometimes; more and more frequently, we would argue over trifling matters. Our arguments were most frequently heard echoing around the box-shaped façades of the WRO office, bouncing from wall to flimsy, farcical, unforgiving wall. We disturbed each and every one of our co-workers on such occasions, and I had chanced to hear some shadowy, malignant whispers about our persons making their way around the office.
The situation, of course, demanded action. It could not remain as it had been. But in my mind, action was somehow irrepressibly tied up with the image of Yuffie, and the current tempestuous state of our relations prompted me to avoid doing anything that reminded me of her. Instead, I chose my own path, a path I had walked before, and one that was far more frightening than the prospect of conceding Yuffie was right; I waited.
All things must atrophy. Memories, friendships, and the people who form those things are not exempt from the abrasive edges of time. If you wait and persevere, most problems will simply fall away around you, provided that you wait long enough.
The problem I faced was that, although I detested our frequent arguments, I enjoyed Yuffie's company. I enjoyed the fledgeling bond we had created, the brief flashes of insight into a mind so very much unlike my own. If nothing else, her unique perspective on life was interesting; and, as I fear that my emotions are still less than normally active (I have no way of knowing this for sure, as one cannot simply compare activity of emotions to another person), if I make an intellectual attachment to something, I must be sure to pursue it.
And, of course, all this procrastination and thinking about the problems that Yuffie was causing caused problems by itself. For one thing, my paperwork was three days late, and Reeve very much desired that it be finished as soon as possible. My efficiency in fieldwork was down, too- I was taking an estimated 0.12 seconds longer to make decisions than I had been before the advent of my disagreement with Yuffie. Although Reeve didn't particularly care, this was, to me, unacceptable. Quick decisions in battle were the essence of being a Turk, or at least a living Turk, and this mindset was one I had preserved.
The difficulty was that I was reluctant to take any method of the solving the problem that I thought Yuffie might take, which ruled out simply talking about the problem or expunging it via a blazing argument. This left me with only two methods of solving problems that I am familiar with, the first being to wait for it to go away and the second being to shoot it in the head. These would both be detrimental to the situation.
I was distracted from my thoughts for a time by an immense form of pressure that can only be exuded by a stack of paper the height of a head, sitting resolutely in your to-do pile. In fact, this distraction took me the rest of the day. Although I worked diligently, my work was slowed by my inadvertent ripping of the paper with my metal gauntlet, and the fact that my other hand was accustomed to holding a gun far more than a pen. Yuffie occasionally walked by, carrying an air of angry silence and a polystyrene cup full of coffee in each hand.
As the day approached its end, and I approached the final portion of my backlog, Yuffie drew into my cubicle, and set a cup of coffee down on my desk. Of course, she took great care to position it directly over my paperwork, so as to leave a coffee ring on each and every piece of paper I had dealt with today. Even when angry, Yuffie still has a penchant for practical jokes.
"Are you ready to apologise yet?" she pouted angrily.
I took a moment to consider my options. Although apologising would provide a remedy for our current argument, it would not fix the source of the problem. In addition, it would create false expectations of me in future interaction. I decided that the best ploy was a feint and sting manoeuvre.
"Yes, Yuffie. I apologise for not humouring you in whatever trivial observation you felt you were making." I said, flashing my eyes downwards.
"What? Hey, just because it's not poetry, or rocket science, or, or, bullet trajectories or something like that, doesn't mean it's worthless!" she spat.
"You were merely pointing out obvious physical manifestations of Cloud and Tifa's relationship." I growled. "Such thinking is wasteful, and will not further your development either emotionally or intellectually."
"Oh, like you can talk about 'emotional development'! You're about as developed as a blank photograph!" she hissed.
"At least I make a concerted effort to improve my development." I spat back. Where was all this venom coming from?
"And that's exactly why you never do develop!" she all but screamed. Her hands clenched the desk; her knuckles were white, and she was shaking so much that my pens were starting to bounce.
Abruptly, she turned and left, like a departing desert wind. The tension in the air dissipated; the tension within myself did not. As the clock inched nearer and nearer to the end of the day, I sank a little closer to the desk as I finished my paperwork.
Even in my own home, there was little respite from the day's events. The air seemed stiflingly warm, even though the temperature was only fractionally above normal levels. I wondered, briefly, if I should consider wearing clothes that weren't made of leather, for the sake of coolness. But I remembered distinctly that I didn't currently own such articles. An idea formed.
In retrospect, what I was doing was futile. My thoughts were floating around the hostility at the office like dust motes swirling in a sunbeam, and I was trying to distract myself with the prospect of a simple foray to the shopping outlet to purchase clothes, an activity I had little interest in. Still, I blithely tried to hammer out the details, until I realised that I had no idea what was fashionable or not in this day and age. I would need someone to accompany me and give me feedback.
There, my idea broke. I knew only one person who had time and energy enough to teach me the ins and outs of modern clothing, and she was currently furious at me. I realised that my problem was not going to go away. I needed to deal with it.
Pretending to myself that I was only attempting to reconcile with Yuffie for the temporary benefit of a new set of clothes (it is far easier, I find, to be motivated by a solid and materialistic goal than one focused on intangible things like relationships and emotions), I went about my problem methodically. When exactly had our hostilities began?
The obvious answer was that we had begun to argue shortly shortly after I escorted Yuffie to Tifa's bar, and the issue of her alcohol-fuelled indiscretion had come up.
Due to Tifa and Cloud's celebration of their newly-founded relationship, Yuffie took in more alcohol than was strictly possible. Some people, Reeve for example, grow quiet and sombre when drunk. For others, like Cid, alcohol has the same effect as a truth serum, with the additional side effect of increasing the amount of nonsense spoken. And people like Barret grow even more...lively, when drunk.
However, Yuffie's drunken character is somewhat of a mystery; although she occasionally drinks, she does not often drink in the presence of our group (Tifa refuses to serve her, on most occasions. And all the fake ID in the world cannot persuade Tifa that Yuffie is 28). So, by default, I disregarded everything she said that night.
Until, of course, she lolled her head back, flashed me a cheery grin and said, "Y'know, Vince, if we weren't so tight, and you weren't such a dork, I would so fall in love with you. Hell, I would be your freakin' fangirl. Honestly, why? Why the leather trousers, Vince? Just take them off."
As soon as she said this, the entire room broke into laughter. I was a little nonplussed, to say the least. However, that was soon remedied by Cloud taking me to one side and interpreting what she'd said.
This presented a quandary. How to act on the knowledge that I was held in such esteem in Yuffie's eyes? The obvious answer was to pretend I'd never heard her say it. The another answer was to regard the information as unreliable, as it had been gleaned with the help of rather too much alcohol.
The third course of action, and the one I chose, was one I imagined to be after Yuffie's own heart: to simply treat the occurrence as some sort of joke. Which is why I made treated it as 'blackmail material', again like Yuffie would have.
It seemed strange, then, that we argued vehemently about it. She seemed hurt, and lashed out; I lashed back, in self defence, and things grew frosty between us. That was how this entire predicament started.
Of course, the entire situation had started because I had acted like Yuffie would act, instead of how I would act. So, obviously, the person most adept at solving the problem would be Yuffie, who was part of the problem. And hence my quandary.
I groaned in the empty silence of my own house. The only way to remain friends with Yuffie was to deal with things the way Yuffie would. But what would Yuffie do in a situation like this?
As soon as I shelved my reservations about taking Yuffie-like actions and started actually thinking about it, the answer became startlingly clear. She'd solve the problem the same way she solved every other problem: by flooding my answerphone with messages.
Hesitantly, I tapped in the number. Phones were not my strong suit. What would happen if she picked the phone up and it didn't go to answerphone? What if we argued again? But it was too late; the phone was starting to connect, and if I cancelled the call now, it would seem like I was harassing her.
She picked it up at the second ring. I should have known.
"Ah, Yuffie. How do I leave a message?"
This was the wrong thing to say. Now she must think that I didn't want to talk to her, or that I was being rude.
"What? Why can't you say what you wanna say now, you vampire reject? Why are you calling, anyways?"
It is a strange thing. Despite the inhuman effect of the phone, despite the distance that separated us, despite the blank anonymity that the mobile phone gifted us with, I could still imagine the look on her face as she spoke. There was no real difference from talking to her face-to-face; no shielding effect from morality and emotion, contrary to what I had read in the papers. It was just me talking to her, like in the office. The office...Yes, apologies.
"Actually, I had called in order to leave a message to affirm my regret for what transpired at our workplace today."
"Speak like a normal person, Vinnie." In my mind's eye, she was suppressing a smile.
"I am sorry for arguing with you."
Now she would have a look of mild surprise.
"Uh...Well, thanks, I guess. I s'pose I was kinda bothering you, so...Yeah, I'll, um, overlook it this time. 'Cause I'm mature like that."
"In addition...I wish to apologise for mocking your indiscretion at Cloud and Tifa's party." I said. Suddenly, my mouth was dry, and I realised that this was the heart of the issue.
"Oh. That." She would look embarrassed. Wrong footed.
"Yes. I merely thought it would be the least awkward way to proceed. However, I seem to have offended you, for which I sincerely apologise."
"Gawd, Vince..." she muttered. I could see her, biting her bottom lip, trying to rearrange her wild thoughts into cogent sentences. "I mean, it's not like you were ragging on me, or anything...It's just that you're not really the joking type. I honestly thought that you thought I was an idiot."
"That is not the case, I assure you." I said. Waiting.
"Yeah, I know...But...Well, Vince, I was drunk, but even so, I said I was falling in love with you. Whether I was drunk or not, whether it's even true or not, you don't laugh and joke around when someone says that...It's, like, you think they're not good enough for you, y'know?"
"Anyway...Let's just forget about it, mmkay?" she said, attempting to draw the conversation to a close. I couldn't let that happen.
"Wait, Yuffie. You also told me something along the lines of taking my leather trousers off."
"Oh, Gawd, Vinnie. Don't get into that. Just don't." she groaned.
"My only response to that is that all my trousers are fashioned from leather, and I require someone to aid me in searching for a pair that aren't." I blurted out, quickly and awkwardly. It was strangely reminiscent of my teenage years.
"Wait. You wanna go shopping? For, like, normal people clothes? Am I hearing this right?" she said. She would be making a fake gasp on the other end of the line.
"You are indeed. If you would care to accompany me to the shopping outlet to record the moment for posterity, as well as provide some degree of taste, I would be very appreciative." I smiled.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world. Never thought I'd get you outta those leather kecks of yours. We'll go...uh...Thursday?"
"Thursday it shall be. Thank you."
"Umm...Okay. Well, I'll, uh, see you at work." she said, disconnecting the call before I could respond.
I continued to stare at the phone even after she hung up. Such a very useful artefact, and I had never once bothered to explore its many possibilities. Perhaps I should.
The next day, all was well in the office. A few whispers still circulated, but Yuffie and I were back on far more friendly terms. It was somewhat wobbly at first, but soon enough, she was telling me all sorts of stories about her friends outside of Avalanche and the crazy things they did.
However, a small beep sounded, which was soon followed by an intricate pattern of beeps. Yuffie looked at me with some suspicion.
"Vince, why is the theme from Loveless coming from your back pocket?" she asked, eyebrows narrowed.
I took my phone out, and it continued to play revolting, processed pop music. My landlord was putting up rents again. I sighed, and looked at Yuffie.
"I tried setting a ringtone. It doesn't appear to have worked as I expected it to."
A/N: Well, there's another chapter of Black And White, which I...really didn't plan. Spur of the moment thing, I guess. Hope you enjoyed it.