A/N: Folks, cycle backwards for a moment, to the break of the New Year, 2012. Now, imagine for yourselves a young guy, painfully skinny and awfully lazy, who decides that, as a gesture of seasonal getting-off-his-assness, he would restart an old story that was much loved by a subsection of an online community.

Now imagine it's a whole third of a year later and he's finally gotten around to doing it.

Hell yeah.

Chapter 16: Mommy, He Killed Lassie

Okay, stop. Before we start up the story again and get to the bit where Awesome McNinja Yuffie finds her mojo, saves the world and shanks Shelke in the ass, I have a couple things to clear up real quick.

First of all, Vincent is a whore. He is the biggest whore in all known history, in all the known world. Ever. There are cave paintings and hieroglpyhics detailing just how easy it is to get into his pants, if you have the patience to remove those stupid leather trousers. In fact, I'm pretty sure half of the current population of the world is a direct result of his colossal whoredom. Not the half I'm in, obviously. That'd just be weird.

Secondly, you think I'm an unreliable narrator? Really, Vince? Okay, let's play a game. It's called 'Take a shot every time Clownshoes has vital information and doesn't fancy telling me about it.' No, go on, the story will wait. It'll wait a long time, obviously, seeing as you're going to have to die of alcohol poisoning, reincarnate and then make your way back here, but hey, at least I'm promoting Boobs' business.

Seriously, I don't wanna hear about 'unreliable' from a guy who couldn't even set a goddamn alarm clock and save himself fifty years of being a whiny little bitch.

Okay, we're ready to start now. Contrary to what Captain Anecdote said when he finished fulfilling his fail quota all over my awesome story, we're gonna pick up at the bit where me and Cloud rode triumphantly into Edge, with the sun shining above us and life finally starting to look okay again.

Psyche, we're skipping to the bit where Mr. Road Safety skidded into Gloomsberg at six hundred miles an hour and totalled a dog.

"Oh my gawd, Cloud. Please tell me we didn't just take out some kid's pooch," I whined as Cloud got off the bike to inspect the damage. To the dog, obviously, not Fenrir. I mean, Cloud's an ass, but he's not that much of an ass.

He looked it up and down for a moment. From where I was sitting, it looked like a huge, brown, shaggy doormat, and a pretty damn dead one at that. Cloud, however, murmured appreciatively, so maybe he knew a bit more than I did. You never know, maybe one of the deadly arts they teach you when you work for Shinra is how to be a veterinarian. Nothing stops the invading armies of doom like a vaccination against myxmatosis.

"Give it a quick blast of Cure and some tranquillisers. It'll be fine," he said eventually, and after a little bit of hesitation (as well as fumbling in Cloud's oversized drugs cache), I complied. After all, it'd suck if, in order to save the planet, we had to pass up on saving a dog.

After the obligatory green glow, it clambered to its feet (which stuck out ridiculously from its shaggy fur coat), sniffed around Cloud for a few minutes, gave a giddy bark and ran away. Satisfied that we hadn't doomed little Timmy to stay stuck in the well, we clambered back onto Fenrir and made it to Seventh Heaven, but a half-hour's ride from the place where I would recapture my inner ninja, laze about talking to Teef, and generally live a fulfilling life. Or so I thought.

Here's a hint, kids: nothing I do ever works out according to plan.

Anyways, back to the city of Edge. Edge is one of those cities where I just wanna grab the architect and tell them to turn down the suck. I mean, the place is just so damn gloomy, even considering there's a bunch of posters of Awesome Ninja Yuffie and her clown crew plastered over the walls. All the houses were drawn with rulers, all the alleyways straight as a board. Hell, one of the great things about Wutai is that, well, we pretty much looked at the rest of the world in their box houses, and we said 'Screw that, let's carve five fat guys into a mountain and worship a sea serpent.' Edge, on the other hand, had no imagination whatsoever, and to top it off, the entire place smells of rain, even when it wasn't raining. All in all, Edge had all the excitement of a blocked toilet.

Of course, the one place Edge had going for it was the Seventh Heaven, a bar famous for being run by the woman who suplexed Emerald Weapon, and AVALANCHE's favourite hang. As we pulled up outside, I noticed Cloud's face lighting up contentedly, which really would have been quite sweet if he hadn't mown down Lassie fifteen minutes ago.

"Tifa? We're home," Cloud called as he walked in, strangely subdued. Oh, wait, did I say 'subdued'? I meant whipped.

After rubbing my aching thighs (how does he sit on that damn hunk of metal all day?) I followed him in, and looked around the place. It was still spotless, still small enough to be cosy but big enough to stage a bar fight. Still didn't have a pinball machine, despite the fact Boobs was always saying she was going to get one. Good to know that even if aliens are taking over the world, Seventh Heaven will still be the same. Well, Seventh Heaven mark II, anyway.

However, instead of being greeted by woman with breasts the size of a small country and a heart to match 'em, we were greeted by a veritable mountain of post-it notes spread over the counter. They were of every size and colour you could ever want, provided that you only ever wanted small and neon pink. Cloud's face visibly fell.

"Let's see," he murmured, and started rifling through them. "Picked up Marlene for school...Going to grocery store...Ah. Here's today's date."

"Hate to intrude, fluffy, but what's the deal?" I asked. I was lying about the first bit, obviously. I love to intrude. It usually leads to shiny things, which usually find themselves in my pockets.

"We don't see each other too often, since I'm always working. We leave post-its to each other when we can't talk before I have to leave," he said distantly, still looking through the ones from today. There was a not inconsiderable amount.

"Aw. Poor Teef," I said, and sniffed in sympathy. Teef was awesome. She didn't need to be alone all day, every day, waiting for Cloud's spiky ass to get home. I mean, get him a leash or something. The guy pretty much smells like wet dog and machine oil anyway, thanks to his stupid leatherwear. I'd stopped smelling it recently, though. Probably because I'd spent so much time on the back of his bike, trying to strike a good balance between throttling him so I didn't fall off, and screaming. I managed about 50-50.

"Heard Yuffie is to arrive, so have gone out to get a welcome present. It's a pity about our date, but can't be helped. Love you," Cloud read in a voice that he probably imagined was under his breath. Bitch, please. I am a ninja. I can hear spiders shivering fifty feet away. Maybe.

He sighed, dropping his shoulders low, and started putting the post-it notes behind the bar. I felt somewhat guilty (sounded like I'd spoiled Cloud's endless quest for tail), but honestly too tired to do anything about it. Long motorbike journeys take it outta ya, especially when you lose five ounces worth of fluid in travel sickness. I sat down in one of Teef's faux wooden chairs; she preferred them, she said. Reminded her of the slums, and how grateful she was for what she had now.

And what did she have? An empty bar and an ever-growing stack of sticky notes. More than I had, admittedly, but wow.

"Yuffie," Cloud said, and his voice sounded strangely out-of-focus. "Were you ever planning on returning my Choco/Mog materia?"

"Long answer: yes with a few conditions. Short answer, hell and no," I answered, and lifted a hand to my brow. I was sweating. Did Teef leave her heating on? I mean, I'm already pretty hot. I didn't need to be warm, too.

"What...Cid teaching...Yuffie?" Cloud asked, and his voice was starting to filter in and out. My eyes were getting heavy. I let them rest for a while. Cloud could wait. It's not like he was the main character or anything.

Then I heard a thud, and realised I'd fallen off my chair. It didn't seem to matter. I saw Cloud start to walk over, and realised that the dog from earlier had peed on his shoes. Serves him right. Jerk.

I woke up after one of those ridiculously deep sleeps, where you feel like you're at the bottom of a deep pool and you're rising gently to the surface, but your shoes are too heavy so you can't kick your feet to rise faster. But wake up I did, and the first thing I remember was being annoyed at how much of my time I was spending ko'd lately.

"Oh, Yuffie! You're awake!" a very familar and very soft voice said.

I made my very best effort to leap out of bed, grab Tifa and give her a bear hug that Barret would be proud of. Finally, female company! Someone who could actually smile without being all ironic about it! A person who didn't wear fifty gazillion belts and fifteen metric tonnes of leather!

Naturally, my efforts ended with a thump and a taste of the carpet. Teef laughed, scooped me off the floor and back into bed. My legs were not feeling co-operative. That's fine, that's fine. You know, they were ninja legs, and ninja legs don't take lip from nobody, not even their lovable and attractive owner.

"It's so good to see you. We worried," Tifa smiled, and lifted a stray hair off my face. "You look terrible, you know."

"Boy, Teef. Way to make me feel better. Doesn't help that your stupid man-slut thinks I'm a boy," I mock-frowned, before sticking out my tongue. Getting other people into trouble is one of the great joys in life.

"You're so thin, Yuffie. When you're better, I'll treat you to some home cooking," she said, and my heart fluttered. As much as I love the way Captain Cancer turns his bacon into charcoal before he gives it to you, Tifa's home cooking is literally the best thing ever. She could cook Vinnie's leather trousers and they'd melt in your mouth. She's that good.

"Hey, I want home cooking now. What's with all this 'when I'm better' crap?" I grouched.

"Gongaga fever," Cloud deadpanned, opening the door and dropping a tray on the bedside table. "You got lucky. It's a one-day thing, once the incubation period's over."

"Yeah. Lucky. I get to greet the only person I know who's not crazy and not a dog by faceplanting and dribbling all over her carpet."

"Take it. It's a tranquiliser. It'll help you sleep," Cloud said, ignoring me and pointing to the bottle on the trap.

"Oh, gawd. Is that your answer to everything, Cloud? 'Oh, Yuffie, aliens are taking over the planet and you're sick as a dog, but it'll be fine if you just take some drugs!'"

"I got two solutions to my problems, Yuffie. One's drugs and the other's violence. Punches or potions, take your pick," he smirked. Oh, so as soon as Teef's in the room he thinks he's awesome. I'd give him punches and potions. Later, maybe, when my legs weren't trying to riverdance without my permission.

Tifa stopped us butting heads by breaking out laughing. She's got a really soft laugh. In fact, Teef's just a huge, cuddly, loveable person who just so happens to be able to punch through metal.

"I see you too are getting along better. I bet things are going to get very lively here," she said in between giggles.

'Better'. Now there's a subjective word for ya. Seeing as our previous relationship had pretty much been 'Hey Clod, where'd all your materia go?' and 'Damn you to hell, sexy ninja girl, you have purloined my sparkly balls of magic and secreted them somewhere upon your person, and for that I shall bisect you with my giant freaking butcher knife!', sure, it was an improvement, kinda. But now I had to listen to him being emo.

"Whatever," we said at the same time, setting Tifa into another giggle fit. Cloud sighed affectionately before waltzing his bishie ass out of the room where it belonged.

"So, Teef. Got any gossip to cheer up an ailing ninja?" I asked when he'd gone.

"I have gossip, but it's mostly about you," Boobs smiled.

"Oh, gawd. Well, I may as well hear it," I groaned.

She put a finger to her temple in mock thought, and I got the distinct feeling I was about to be teased. "Well, Cid tells me that you and Vincent have been getting on," she said, with just the slightest inflection on getting on to inform me that she was leaving out the 'it' that went in the middle.

"Asswipe. He would say that. Actually, Teef, we're not even speaking at the moment, since he decided to ditch me and go play animal husbandry, or whatever creepy b-s Reeve and his stupid beard wants him to do," I spat.

"And you don't miss him? Not even a little?" Tifa asked, with her big brown eyes open wide and searching for signs of lying. I weighed up my options, and decided that if Teef could psychoanalyse her fluffy-haired headcase of a boyfriend, she could probably catch me out.

"Well, maybe a little. Only because Cloud's, like, five times worse. It's nice to have him around, since he doesn't change," I said, more honestly than I'd meant to.

"Is that so? But Vincent's changed a lot since Deepground."

I snorted. On the surface, maybe. But underneath, he was still the same screwed up, dog-breathed lunatic he'd always been, taking responsibility for stuff he didn't have to and getting all angsty when he couldn't. Sure, saving the world had helped him, but it'd take more than that to fix all the stuff he'd gone through.

To save myself from having to answer her, I took a swig of Cloud's tranq and chased it down with some water.

"...I also heard you'd slept with Reeve," she added after a moment.

You know spit takes? How they look so funny in films and all that? Lemme tell ya, folks, that when you involuntarily spit out what you're drinking and it's been laced with tranquillisers and some of it decides to exit at great velocity from your nose, it freakin' stings, and it makes you look like an idiot whilst you sit there dribbling it down your chin. Not pleasant.

"I was sort've hoping you wouldn't have heard about that. I mean, it's not like I'm not into Reeve, what with his weird beard and his lack of fashion sense and him being like ten years older than me, but I was sorta too drunk to remember my name at the time," I said as quickly as I could in between fits of coughing.

"I gathered. I also heard you broke his nose," Tifa carried on, with a straight face that might've belonged to her boyfriend. I bet it's the same face she wears in bed. Gawds knows, Cloud's in love with himself anyways.

"Yeah, I did. So what?"

"It's...impressive," she said, with a snort added in there for flavour. "Consider Reeve conducts business away from the battlefield, you may well the only one ever to actually lay a hand on him."

I didn't miss the double entendre. Thanks, Boobs, for making light of my drunken tryst. You'd never know she spent most of her time around lushes.

"Anyway, you rest up today, and you'll be back on your feet tomorrow. I'll teach you how to tend bar," Teef said with some sort've goofy grin. The sort've goofy grin that says 'well, lookee here. Free labour'. "Oh, and I got you a present. Sort've a coming-home gift."

Out of her pocket (miniskirts with pockets- science, what have you done?) she took out a phone. Oh, man. A phone. Voicemail, text messages and Yankee Doodle for a ringtone, baby. I was going up in the world. Or maybe less down, anyway. I seized it eagerly (think I tossed an apology in there somewhere) and began to press the buttons with barely concealed delight. All of the buttons. It was like I was connected to the big, wide world again.

"I thought you'd like it. Well, I'll leave you alone then. Remember, try and rest up," Tifa smiled, and almost skipped from the room. Probably heading straight for Chocobo-Head. I made a note to self: buy earplugs, for sake of sanity.

Fifteen minutes later, the tranq was finally kicking in, and I lolled my head back to look at the ceiling. I hadn't even bothered to look around the bedroom I was in, now that I came to think of it. Didn't matter. It wasn't as though it wasn't secure, what with a sword nut and the karate queen making out downstairs. It was a nice ceiling, though.

As I snoozed, my new cell rested in its cradle. In the outbox, there was one message.

To: Vincent Valentine
Re: Your Face
It sucks.
Love, Yuffie (new number!)


A/N: And, for the moment, we shall cut there. Next chapter resumes the action proper. For those of you who want an actual excuse for the ridiculous delay, what can I say?I took a break, and then got distracted, and then suddenly it was half a year later. Then, when I started again, I read over my work, and thought to myself, "Wow. Just, wow. Plainly in the creation process, someone, somewhere, smoked something pretty damn potent. How on earth did I do this?" So, yeah. I entirely forgot how to write Yuffie's voice in this story. However, after having thought on it (for just about forever), I now have a better idea where I want the plot to go, about Yuffie's characterisation (both as a character and as a narrator) and of the medium the story is recreating. (To give new people an idea of how long it's been, I have now worn the space bar on my laptop down enough that it has stopped working reliably.)

TL;DR? The Ballad Of The Gunslinger and The Cat: now 20% more meta. Roll on next chapter! (Hopefully in slightly less time than this one!)