"So is it true?"

Vincent took a sip of his tea and kept his eyes on the report laid out in several sections on the table in front of him. "No."

"Dragoon says it's true."

"Veld is mistaken," he replied, a little sharper than intended. That tended to happen whenever the new WRO field director came up in conversation. Most of the other agents had noticed this, and steered clear of the topic when they found themselves dealing with the red-cloaked immortal formally known as Agent First Class Valentine. The young woman seated across from him, however—Agent First Class Kisaragi—was undeterred. Quite frankly, her eagerness to dig into his business made Vincent want to pick her up by the belt loop on the back of her shorts and deposit her soundly outside the mess hall.

Preferably through a window.

Most days, that imaginary Yuffie-out window was open. Not so today.

Heaving a sigh, he reached up and ran his good hand through his hair, brushing it back so he could pinch the bridge of his nose. "I really don't see why it matters, regardless."

"Because," Yuffie replied simply. At a flat look from Vincent, she rolled her eyes. "It's making the other agents feel better about working with you. Gives you a…human element."

The flat expression flattened further, the irony of the statement taking no time in sinking in.

Yuffie scowled in response. "You know what I mean."

"I really don't," Vincent stated, looking back down to the report and picking his pen back up to make another notation in the margin. He had better things to do with his fleeting time at headquarters than argue with banished Wutain princesses, whether they were friends or not.

He paused at the thought, a slight frown pulling at his expression. The fact that he had no problems referring to Yuffie as a friend, even internally, spoke volumes to his supposed "human element." He really didn't understand why some stupid rumor would mean more to people than the fact that he actually allowed himself to have friends, that he hadn't disappeared for more than three months at a time in the last two years—and at that point was only six weeks behind in his reckoning of time.

His presence here to begin with should have meant so much more: How often could one expect to find Vincent Valentine seated in the mess hall, cloak and headband discarded in his room, with stacks of paperwork laid out on the table in front of him, along with a glass of half-cooled, oversweetened tea? Vincent never allowed anyone to see him like this before, worrying what mockery he was making of himself by playing at being human when he so clearly wasn't anymore.

As far as Vincent was concerned, he'd long since provided more than enough "human element" to win the trust of the other agents. Whether or not this was true was a moot point—once Vincent believed something, getting him to change his mind could take decades.

…Maybe that was exactly why. Everyone knew how hard it was to get Vincent to admit to anything he didn't agree with, or own up to anything he didn't want to take credit or responsibility for. They knew how hard he worked to keep his distance, to hold up the image that kept him from having many friends, regardless of his willingness to call them such.

He chewed on the end of his pen.

"See, like that," Yuffie said with a smile, crossing her arms on the table and leaning her chin ontop of them. "People like you better when they know you're a person. When you do person stuff. Eating, drinking, doing your laundry. Chewing on your pen."

That was it, then. He looked at the pen for a moment, then lifted his eyes, burning bright red, and looked at Yuffie again.

"It's true."

She sat bolt upright. "Seriously?" Vincent nodded, and she practically cackled. "Oh, oh Leviathan you've gotta be kidding me."

"Is it really that strange?"

"Well yeah!" She exclaimed, eyes gleaming. "Think about it—the great Vincent Valentine, top agent for the WRO, the terror that flaps in the night—"

"I hate that name."

"—is allergic to iapples/i."

"Was," he corrected. Vincent regretted admitting it already. "I'm not anymore—the experiments burned out my ability to get sick in any fashion."

Yuffie grinned. "So what kind of reaction did you get?"

"I don't think that's any of your business."

"Dragoon said you turned bright pink from your head to your toes."

Vincent blinked slowly, set the pen down again and once more pinched the bridge of his nose with a wince. "You need to stop talking to him."

"Because he tells the truth?"

"…Because he tells the truth."