A/N: So, this is the a landmark oneshot to celebrate The Ballad Of The Gunslinger And The Cat receiving its thirtieth review. The previous landmark oneshot for the tenth review was a happy success, so I decided I may as well follow it on. Here it is: a sequel, or rather, a continuation, of Cage.
She's upside down again, her hair falling away from her eyes like a wave of stalactites. Her chest rises and falls silently, almost laboriously, in the summer heat. But her eyes are still twinkling, and she sticks her tongue out playfully. I make no sound, and focus on carrying the washing upstairs to our chamber. She huffs, and goes back to whatever she was thinking about.
I don't know many people who, when the day is warm and the house is warmer, choose to alleviate the heat by lying at the top of the stairs and dangling their head through the railings, whilst sticking their tongue out at anyone foolish enough to seek the shady respite of the rooms above. But, so very few people think like Yuffie does. As I relieve myself of the burden of the clothes (hers marked by loud and vibrant colours, mine by interplaying textures), I realise that she has padded into the room behind me. I smile and realise that it is one of 'those' days.
She follows me across the landing, as I predicted. It's something that she does, usually when nothing of interest strikes her. She seems to take great pleasure in following me like a cat follows whoever has its bowl, stalking behind me with utmost silence and laughing when I forget she's there and turn around too quickly. Some days, she incorporates it into a game of sorts; on one day, she might try to only step in my footsteps, on another she might decide that she is only allowed to hide within my shadow. (Except in the basement, where the light is always off due to faulty wiring. It's all shadows there, she tells me, without bothering to explain why it's relevant to the rules of the game she hasn't told me she's playing.)
Today, however, there's a change in routine; as I reach the top of the stairs, she clambers onto my back, wrapping her arms firmly around my neck. Her knees crush against my thighs, and I groan. I lose count of the number of times I have almost toppled down the stairs because of these 'piggybacks'. But, as always, she leans her ear against my neck and tells me she can hear my pulse, and I lose the heart to remove her.
We manage to get down the stairs without becoming a human boulder, and she releases me from her grasp, immediately padding to the kitchen to check the fridge. She never bothers with piggybacks on the way up, and I've never worked out her reasoning; when I ask, I receive a firm shrug of the shoulders, and a completely different conversation. She takes out a breakfast burrito, and plops it into the microwave. As usual, she diverts her attention from her meal for a moment to try and make the different 'beeps' from the microwave buttons form a tune. Her success varies. On some days, the flow is so definitely the theme of one of her favourite television programs that I feel the urge to fold myself onto the sofa and watch one of the episodes. (Her televisual tastes differ wildly from mine; the urge is always a foolish one.) On other days, she races up to me and asks me to listen to the song she's making, and all I can hear is blips and beeps, until she hums the tune along with it. Whether I know or recognise the tune or not, I simply nod and say 'ah'. This seems to please her immensely.
Despite Yuffie's attempts to program the microwave to cook her burrito according to Canon in D Minor, the device eventually starts cooking. I lean in the doorway, and watch as Yuffie begins to march. She swings her arms and legs dramatically, like the toy soldiers you see in children's books, making an about face every two to three paces. Why she feels the need to stand guard over her burrito is beyond my comprehension. None of our friends eat microwaved burritos, and I certainly have never tried their delights (and considering that even Barret, whose iron stomach remains the stuff of legend, refuses to try them, I am not sure I wish to). Nevertheless, Yuffie marches up and down, giggling occasionally when she sees my quizzical look, until the microwave makes its final, tuneless ding.
She opens the door immediately, and grabs her snack- forgetting that the snack has been in the microwave, and is therefore very hot. She tosses it upon the plate I set out whilst she was marching (to avoid accidents and the task of wiping the remains of a very hot burrito from the wall), and swears vehemently. She opens the freezer and grabs an ice-pole, letting out a juddery sigh as it cools her palms. She shoots me a glare, and asks why I didn't help. I motion to the plate, and she huffs indignantly, before demanding that I come over and kiss her hands better. I smile and do so, and she jokes that I'll get my tongue stuck if I try 'frenching'. I don't recognise the vocabulary, and simply decide not to ask. It's usually easier, unless Yuffie realises that I've decided not to ask and endeavours to poke me until I go back on my decision. This time she doesn't, and just giggles as I press my lips to her hands.
After calling it her 'Goldilocks moment' ("not too hot, not too cold, but just right"), she grabs her now-cooling burrito and starts to devour it. I wait patiently for her to finish. She doesn't particularly care about her lack of table manners, or the somewhat ferocious spectacle she makes when eating with her hands. Come to think of it, neither do I; it's charming, in it's own way. As soon as she's finished, she makes a strange and mysterious motion with her hand. It's part of her own brand of sign-language, none of which means anything, but all of which makes its meaning very implicit. This one consists of making the same motion used to wave away flies, then pushing the air away with both hands. I take it to mean that I should start moving again, and for once I have guessed correctly. She resumes the game of padding in my footsteps with great delight, and it continues for the rest of the day.
Yuffie's mercurial nature means that she is affected very abruptly by weather. Her behaviour on hot days (such as this one) differs wildly from her behaviour when snow falls. Generally, the warmer she is, the lazier and less purposeful she becomes. In cold weather, Yuffie bounces rather than pads, is restless rather than restful, and tries to annoy rather than confuse me. Cloud once made a bet that, if there were three consecutive days of heavy snow, Yuffie would end up burying the entire town in snowballs. So far, the three consecutive days have not occurred, and so Cid's money remains in his wallet. (Although, I must say, he made a rather foolish choice in what to bet against.)
Her night-time habits are probably the thing about her that changes the least. On the (now rare) occasion that I do not sleep through the night, Yuffie is usually not in the bed. I usually find her downstairs, the kettle boiling (our kettle is exceedingly loud; I am always astounded that it doesn't wake me), and a spoon sticking out of her mouth like a cigarette would stick out of a cowboy's. She grins at me, and tells me to go back to bed, because she's only having a cup of tea and perhaps a few biscuits and maybe some vanilla ice cream. I unfailingly join her in her midnight snack (except for the ice cream, of course), and nowadays it seems that she fills the kettle with enough water for two- just in case.
Of course, as with all of Yuffie's habits, there are fluctuations. I have previously shuffled down the stairs at three o' clock in the morning to find Yuffie in the kitchen, wearing nothing more than an apron, baking brownies. (She, of course, behaved like it was completely normal. Perhaps it is. I'm hardly a reliable judge on the subject.) I made a poor joke about there being a burglar in my kitchen (Yuffie's fingers were still somewhat on the sticky side, and it had nothing to do with the fact they were currently coated in cake mixture), and sat down to watch. As soon as I did, the brownies started to burn, prompting Yuffie to label me a cooking imp and banish me back to the bedroom. Such is life, apparently.
It is only on the very hottest and laziest days that Yuffie will talk about something that isn't abstract but charming, and I enjoy those days very much. Although her ordinary conversation is interesting, enlightening and frequently baffling, I find her conversation on these days to be especially riveting, mainly because they are the only times Yuffie deigns to talk about her childhood.
She talks, in the irrepressible floaty tones of someone whose mind is enjoying a scene that occurred years ago, of the games she used to play, and the people she used to play them with. Her language becomes littered with colours and shapes and metaphors, and every figure she describes seems vivid and lifelike. She talks of Jin, whose nose was the shape of a green-bean, and Sakura, whose fingers were like tiny feathers. She tells me of the times when she used to see the bi-planes fly overhead (not realising at the time that they were Shinra's air forces), and immediately stuck her arms out and pretended they were wings.
Her stories are poignant, and she can scarcely keep the emotion from her voice as she tells me that she dreamt of flying for days afterwards, back when she was young and innocent. I smile, and tell her that she has gotten her wish, and it only caused her travel sickness. Immediately she pats me on the back, commending me for 'ruining a joke that would've been funny from anyone who wasn't a complete spook'. And immediately she is back on top of the world, watching her burrito and swinging her arms and sticking her tongue out.
I think that perhaps it takes two people to fly. And I will be her wing, if she will continue to be mine.
A/N: Well, this is less pointed than its predecessor, but it examines the same themes and in roughly the same style. I hope you've enjoyed it!