Written as part five of the prompting shenanigans I am doing with my lovelies, Le Requiem and junealondra. As a warning, I love run-on sentences and the excessive use of the word "and." I also disclaim anything and everything you recognize!
Prompt 5: Ring Around the Rosie
He watches as she twirls, wondering how he ended up paired with the youngest—loudest—of them all. She twirls and twirls and twirls, arms windmiling and laughter crashing from her throat and none of it is the least bit graceful.
He files this information away as she flops to the ground, looking slightly green and still grinning. Obviously she is not the ninja she claims to be, he concludes. Obviously he will have to pick up her slack.
They were on the last bit of the grassy expanse at the foot of Mount Nibel, when she stopped abruptly, beginning her whirling, spastic dance. Now she simply lies in the grass, looking at the sky and him and he wonders what she sees. He thinks he should speak to her, to move her along, but he hasn't learned her name yet. "Hey, you" seems too insensitive, even for him. Also much too informal.
As he mulls over his options, she flips backwards and stands, unfolding long, lithe limbs and maybe he maybe sees a little grace in her after all.
"It's Vincent, right?" She cocks her head as she asks the question, gray eyes narrowed slightly. At his nod, she brightens. "Nice to meetcha, Vin-Vin! I'm Yuffie, but you should call me the Great Ninja Master Yuffie, or just Master. Either works fine for me, as long as we're clear on who's in charge here!" And then she's off, winking and spinning and sprinting up towards the mountain, leaving him dumbfounded and blinking and wondering if he really just let himself be called "Vin-Vin."
She is stunning and shining and bright, sharp edges and whistling metal and he can't afford to stop and watch as she flies, because he's flying too. Their bullets and blades tear into the dragon and it roars its displeasure, the cave walls trembling in its wake. One clawed foot catches her mid-flip and sends her hurtling towards one wall of rock in a sick imitation of her earlier dance. She connects with a crunch like grinding teeth and falls to the floor in a heap of pale skin and sharp angles.
A final slew of bullets fills the dragon's head, and Vincent is at her side, Cure2 already flowing from his fingertips. She's tiny, he realizes, all floss arms and willow legs and white as spun sugar. She's proved herself, though; proved that there won't be any slack for him to carry, and as her eyes snap open, he pulls himself back from staring too close.
She's up in a flash, shadow boxing and hopping from foot to foot, all polish and elegance gone as soon as her feet touch the floor. "Where is he, Vinnie? Let me at 'im!" Her eyes take in the dissolving carcass and she glares at him. "Are you freaking kidding me? You didn't leave any of the fun for me? You big jerk-head!" And she storms away, flouncing off in a huff as only a teenage girl can.
And Vincent is once again left speechless (an event that's really not so unusual), because he's pretty sure the girl he just saved had just called him a… jerk-head.
They meet up with the rest of their patchwork team on the outskirts of Rocket Town, and Vincent grows suspicious as she grows shifty. All around the campfire she hugs the girls and noogies the men and flits between them all, yet there's something sly in her gaze. She meets their eyes a little too assuredly, confidence and youthfulness and innocence leaking from her every pore, and he believes none of it. She circles them like a kitten, wide-eyed and dewy and planning to eat the canary as soon as they take their eyes off her.
He meets her gaze and thinks that she freezes for a hair of a second. Then she is bouncing towards him, vim and vigor and life and he's exhausted before she's a foot away.
"Come join the group, Vincent McVinster!" she chirps as she draws him closer to the fire, hand firmly clasped around his claw. He tenses at the contact, half afraid of hurting her but mostly just afraid of her, and it isn't until he notices that his gun feels slightly lighter and he's missing his Mastered Fire that he realizes the reason behind her touch.
From across the fire, she sticks out her tongue and tosses the Materia back with a practiced flick of her wrist.
The kitten behind her eyes is back, slinking and shimmering in the firelight and his suspicions continue to grow with her grin.
"Smile, Vinniekins, or your face'll freeze like that!" She sings the words over the flames and he glares right back, frown deepening.
She just laughs from her belly, rolling on the ground beneath her.
The next time he sees her, other than in passing, fleeting moments, she is strung up by her ankles, dangling from the face of Da Chao. He wants to revel in her misfortune—a fitting punishment for her crime—yet something cold and uncomfortable clenches in his chest.
He hasn't learned much about her in their time together, but she's young and bright and free. Life pulses in her stronger than he's ever seen, and the possibility of seeing it snuffed out fills him with a peculiar sense of dread. It's a feeling he hasn't experienced since learning the true details of the Jenova Project, but he instantly berates himself for the thought, for even attempting to compare anything to his feelings for Lucrecia. Another sin, to tarnish her memory.
Still, he pushes on along with the group, fights for the deceitful ninja, the she-wolf in sheep's clothing. He watches as the two Turks, his ex-brethren, toss her kidnapper off the cliff without a second glance. And when she returns their materia to them at last, he notes that his Mastered Fire is right where it should be—the only piece she bothered to place correctly.
She is allowed to journey on with them, and they are still paired together following the materia theft. Still, Vincent sees that something in her has dimmed. She no longer struts ahead of him, hips swaying from side to side with cocky, teenage confidence. She no longer skips and leaps and twirls and guffaws. She walks a few paces behind him, fights when necessary, and does not speak.
It continues on like this for days, an endless circle of silence and discomfort. Her quiet disquiets him, if he's honest with himself, and he can't find it within him to hold a grudge against her for her actions. She is young, after all, and impulsive.
And, he soon learns, she has a purpose.
"You're Wutaiian." It's the first thing she's said to him in a week. He answers with a simple, affirmative nod, though he's really only half. "But you don't know who I am… do you? You weren't with the others when I explained it all to them."
He is silent, giving her all the time she needs to continue.
"I'm Yuffie Kisaragi. Daughter of Godo Kisaragi. White Rose of Wutai." The words ring with meaning, important and ritual.
If she'd given her last name at the beginning, he would have known immediately, and perhaps that is why she didn't tell him. He may have been sleeping for thirty years, but the bloodlines of Wutai last for centuries, and the name Kisaragi once had great power.
He looks at her again, and sees beyond all the prideful boasting she's spewed over the last few months. Sees past her teenage exuberance and into the hurt and agony of a destroyed past. He sees the future of a nation resting on her slim shoulders and suddenly her confidence seems brave and right.
"That's why I stole from you guys. You were all nothing to me and… and Wutai is everything. I dunno if all those years in that stuffy coffin beat that loyalty out of you, but if they didn't, then you should get it. More than any of the others, at least."
She is silent again, and there is a look on her face that borders on maturity. "But… after what you all did back there… you aren't nothing to me anymore." She pauses, flickering between sixteen and forty-six, child and Empress. He sees both at once, grainy holograms superimposed upon one another, and he's torn between whether to scold her in annoyance or bow in respect. Then she smirks, and pokes his side. "See, Vinnie? You're something to me! So stop moping all the time!"
Whatever spell she wove around him vanishes in an instant as she launches ahead, whirling and laughing and sticking her tongue out to catch the first drops of a summer rain.
His next breath is ragged, ash and salt and shards of glass.
Suddenly and painfully, he realizes that he is jealous of her. It hits him as they're riding the tram up to the Gold Saucer. She's flailing about with huge gestures, grinning and chattering away about her exploits from the previous night.
"So I bet Teef and Aeris than neither of them could get Cloud out on a date tonight—I bet my mastered Ice! Not that I'm actually gonna give it to 'em if they win, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! I'll just run really fast and hide up a tree or something and they'll get over it eventually."
It's just the two of them in the tram car—they had lagged behind the others due to Yuffie's obsessive need to level Leviathan—and the full extent of her energy and brightness is bestowed upon him, barely contained by the walls surrounding them. He's surprised when the wooden car doesn't go up in flames; her expression could outshine the sun.
She's been through so much heartache, a lifetime of it, and yet she sits in front of him beaming and bursting with laughter and enjoying life as though she's any other girl.
If she really were any other girl though, she wouldn't be half as effulgent, nor would she be as strong. She wouldn't be her, he thinks, and that would be a shame. Vincent puts that thought to the back of his mind, uncomfortable with the lurking implications.
He wishes he could use his past as a stepping stone, a bolster for determination and success. But all he knows how to do is hold onto the hurt and attempt to atone. He is nothing like the brilliant girl blazing in front of him.
He is jerked, rather literally, from these thoughts as they reach the Gold Saucer and a small hand creeps into his, tugging him from the tram.
"C'mon, Vince! We've gotta meet up with the others!"
He lets her pull him along, lets her drag him into the Chocobo Square where she bets an obscene amount of money on Chocobo racing and somehow manages to win it all back three-fold.
He lets her pull him to the Wonder Square where she forces him to play against her in a ridiculous snowboarding game, only for her to beat him by a ridiculous amount of points.
She tugs him into the Speed Square and he finally finds something he can win at—after all, no one will ever beat him when it comes to a firing weapon, be it a revolver, shotgun or stupid little turret.
Then they're off to the Battle Square, and Yuffie charms the attendant into letting them compete as a team. Their time stuck together has paid off and as they battle monsters, it feels more like an intricate, choreographed dance than anything else. He knows how she will move without watching her, and the only thing that distracts him is the appealing rasp in her labored breathing.
She whisks him away to the Event Square to cool off, and whoops in excitement when it turns out that Cloud and Tifa will be starring in that night's production, as the knight and princess, of course. At the moment of the kiss—though nothing more than on the hand—she squeals in delight and Vincent cracks a tiny smile at her girlish antics. It's hidden behind his collar, and he wonders how she would react were she to see it.
When they finally enter the Round Square, he comes to the realization that none of this has been about looking for the rest of the group. Her hand is in his again as she leads him into the gondola, and as they fly high above the lights of the Gold Saucer, he finds it doesn't bother him. The fireworks seem to explode mere inches from their faces, and the thought that Yuffie should be enjoying this with someone else hits him like a battering ram.
She turns to him with explosions gleaming in her eyes, and smiles a smile so soft that for once he almost believes she is a princess.
The ride comes to an end and she dances her way off the gondola, whirling as only she can. He follows at a markedly subdued pace, meeting her a few yards from the ride's entrance.
"Well Vince, I suppose this is 'goodnight'!" She winks at him before turning and beginning to saunter away. At the last moment she turns slightly, her profile etched strong and beautiful against the fluorescent lights. "I hope you had fun on our date!" And then she is off and running, leaving Vincent with the fleeting, visceral thankfulness that he was the one with her in the gondola that night.
Then Aeris is gone and Yuffie won't stop crying. She's curled in the corner of their tent, somewhere past Icicle Inn, shuddering and shaking. She's buried her face in her knees and horrible, wet sniffles emerge with steady, streaming consistency.
The last time Vincent comforted anyone, he was dealing with Lucrecia, and she and Yuffie are so universally, wholly, basely different that he's not even sure where to begin with the ninja across the tent.
Still, he tries.
His hand trembles as he touches her shoulder, rubbing gently, and in an instant his arms are full of a weeping, breaking Yuffie. She gnashes her teeth in his cloak, and her body wracks with vicious, painful sobs.
His arms circle her with only slight hesitation, and he thinks the two of them are like puzzle pieces that aren't meant to fit together but do anyway. Even after she calms down, even when the tears stop their furious race down her cheeks, she doesn't try to leave his embrace and he's reluctant to let her. They sit in the tent, she curled around him and he wrapped around her, and mourn their loss as the snow spirals fiercely outside their tent.
Her breathing is a prayer and his heartbeat a lullaby and as he drifts off to sleep he feels a pair of snow-soft lips ghost against his cheek, and a whispered thank you float through the air.
Life goes on even if Aeris's does not, and their journey continues. They watch as their friends are kidnapped and rescued, watch as their "fearless leader"—which is how Yuffie refers to Cloud and more and more her vocabulary sneaks into Vincent's thoughts—falls apart and is put back together again. They watch as the Planet's ancient guardians rise to save it from inescapable turmoil, watch as the world begins to end.
And finally, before the last, fateful showdown, Cloud sends them all home. Gives them the option to escape the blood and battle and probable death. Vincent and Yuffie barely have a moment to themselves before each is ushered off the Highwind and toward whatever home remains for either of them.
Still, he takes in their last moment. He drinks it in greedily as Yuffie stares at him hard, her gray eyes unreadable, before she disappears in an instant with a flickering wave.
The mansion, which had never really felt like home at all, feels even emptier when he returns. He tries going to the waterfall after that, but Lucrecia's face looks closed and cold. No sunlight touches her, she does not grin or laugh or crack jokes. She doesn't twirl or make fun of his attire. She doesn't live. For the first time since Lucrecia entered Vincent's life, he finds she comes up lacking.
He must return to the group, he decides. For better or worse, towards death or success, he cannot stay away from them, from her, any longer.
When he arrives, everyone is there save for Yuffie and Cait Sith. The latter enters moments later, louder and more obnoxious than his ninja counterpart, and Vincent's mood begins to sink as her absence stretches on. Just because he felt the desire to return doesn't mean that Yuffie felt the same, he notes, and he feels a little lost at the idea that he may never see her again.
And then she is there, shadowboxing; cocky, grinning and brimming with the youthful exuberance she's always had. Before she leaves to hide in the hallway behind her pile of crates, her gaze finds his and blazes with something molten that sends hope flaring in his chest.
Later that night, as he's heading to his cabin, a hand snakes out from the shadowed hallway and drags him around a corner. He finds himself pressed against the metal wall of the airship, an armful of Yuffie holding him there. Her eyes gleam cat-like under the dim lights and his hands somehow find their way to her waist.
"I didn't think you were gonna come back," she whisper-purrs, and he doesn't have even a moment to respond before her mouth crashes against his.
It's a kiss he feels like he's been waiting for his entire life, and there's a sense of completion that comes with it. Completion, yes, but also the opening of a new door, the beginning of a new trail.
Her fingertips scrape lightly against his scalp and his arms tighten their ring around her and if they could stay that way forever he feels he'd never have to breathe again.
When she pulls away, it is with breathless satisfaction, and though the world might be ending in a few hours, he feels as though he is whirling as she has always done, right along with her. Yuffie's brightness fills him as she smiles and tugs a lock of his hair, and Vincent has hope that they'll make it out of this alive.
It all falls apart in an instant. One moment, she is spinning her way through the Northern Crater, her smiles and laughter out of place among the rank, desolate place, and the next she is slipping, falling backwards over a cliff in a morbid caricature of her usual routine. It is not grass she collapses onto this time, but a stalagmite, ancient and wickedly pointed. It slices through her abdomen, slick as you please, leaving her gaping in shock at this turn of events.
When he jumps down to join her in horror, her face has emptied of all color and cold sweat beads along her brow. She continues to stare and he continues to stare and all they can do for a few, long, excruciating seconds is watch each other and the spike saluting its way out of her stomach.
He nearly loses his hand as he tries to chip away at the rock with his gauntlet. The metal dents and crushes the appendage held within, yet he finally manages to hack away the stalagmite's top, leaving only an inch of rock between her wound and freedom.
She still has not said a single word.
Abruptly and without permission, he pulls her from the spike, wincing at the wet squelching the wound makes and the sharp cry of pain that tears past her throat.
And then she's bleeding out and all over his hands and her face is still shocked and pained and sweating. As she leaks crimson, he loses hope and something in his chest begins to ebb away.
He fishes in their bag for the right piece of Materia, looking for anything that might help heal her. But Cloud had used up all their potions after Tifa encountered a large Tonberry the day before, and the only first aid he has is a weak Cure1.
And there's more red leaking, but this time it's his eyes and that awful organ pounding away in his chest as hers is beginning to slow.
She's still being quiet, quiet as the dead and deader and he thinks if she doesn't speak now he might go insane.
And then, suddenly, he is the one speaking.
"You're foolish and immature and loud. You're the least graceful ninja I've ever seen when you've got both feet on the ground, and I wish you'd stop braiding my hair when you think I'm asleep. You're young and insane and I've never met anyone more irritating." He can't stop the words from pouring out of his mouth, every last word that got caught in his throat every time she left him speechless, because someone has to talk and for once she's not doing it and that means it's up to him and—oh, gods, he continues, "You lead me around in circles until I don't know which way is up or down, and I can't even breathe properly anymore. And somehow, impossibly, I'm beginning to realize that all of that means I'm falling in love with you, you stupid, psychotic girl, and if you die, I'm going to beat you senseless."
And her eyes are crinkling like tissue paper and there's salt on her cheeks and he thinks she would be laughing hysterically if it weren't for the giant hole in her chest. The giant, gaping slice that he can't even hope to heal.
"S-screw you, Vinnie…. Don't you know you're supposed to tell a girl all that stuff before she's on her death bed? Except the part about how I'm irritating. And… all that other mean stuff you said that I'm willing to overlook because I am totally made of that much awesome." A pause. "And I already fell in love with you, like, forever ago, you big idiot. So there."
He wants to laugh, but hasn't in so long he's not sure he knows how to anymore. He also thinks it's probably inappropriate to greet a dying girl's declaration of love with laughter.
So he speaks quietly, intensely instead. There's so much to tell her and he hasn't said enough, not enough at all.
"You're beautiful and bright… and if you die I'll be back in the darkness."
She slaps him with a weak imitation of the strength she's always had. "You do that, and I'm gonna come back to haunt you forever. I'll… I'll steal all your shampoo and…. eat all your c-cookies and un-unmake your bed a-after you make it. And I'll s-still braid your hair, 'cause it's just too fabulous not to."
This time he does laugh, hollow, manic and afraid. Then his arms are around her, desperately clinging as the blood continues to flow from her stomach. Strong, trembling arms circle the girl and her pulsing, red wound; ring around the rosie, we all fall down. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
And for the first time in over thirty years, Vincent prays.
Fun Fact: Contrary to what you all might believe, I actually do like happy endings. I just find tragedy a whole lot more interesting to write.
Fun Fact2: I honestly don't know if Yuffie dies at the end of this or not. I haven't let myself think about it too hard to preserve the open-endedness.
Fun Fact3: I'm posting this from 36,050 feet I the sky over Kansas. Wifi on airplanes makes my life.
For those of you waiting on Burning Alive to be updated… uh…. Consider this your Bru-style dose of Yuffentine? And please don't kill me. But do feel free to review! Since they make my day and all.