When she was seven years old, Yuffie Kisaragi saved her father from an assassin. It hadn't been deliberate, no matter what she tried to claim later. She might have been an awesome ninja-in-training but she was still only seven.
She had crept into her father's rooms one night when she should have been asleep, as quiet as, well not at all like a ninja really, but with the absolute silence of a child who knows they are doing something naughty. She opened the locked chest under her father's desk (one of the first locks she had learned to pick) and started rummaging inside, admiring all the different coloured materia inside. Some of the materia was too powerful for her to even attempt to use and all of it, as she was constantly reminded, was not a toy.
That didn't stop her from sneaking in and running her hands over the smooth orbs to feel the warmth trapped inside, or holding them up to the window to admire the pretty way it glowed in the moonlight. She'd been taught that it was materia that kept Wutai strong, and that it was materia that would keep the Shinra away. Between that and all the bright colours, it was really no wonder materia had captured her interest from such a young age.
When she heard a noise outside the door, she immediately wriggled under the desk, behind the chest and held her breath. If anyone had noticed she wasn't in her bed, she would end up in a lot of trouble. But the man who entered gave her a bad feeling. He wasn't dressed in the uniform of her father's guardsmen, and even in the moonlight she could tell he had his face covered, so he couldn't be one of the servants.
He had even less business in her father's rooms than she did. She didn't know if she should shout, try and wake her father up or something. But she didn't want him to yell at her, and she definitely didn't want the strange man to find her. The quiet, purposeful way he walked made coldness prickle down the back of her neck. As she trembled in indecision, she dropped the materia she had been clutching while she hid. It hit the floor with a tiny thud and rolled across the floor - directly under the intruder's foot. He staggered in surprise, tripping forwards and sprawling across the floor with a huge crashing sound that must have woken everyone in the pagoda up.
Then Yuffie felt as if it was okay to shout. "Daddy, daddy wake up!"
Godo was already in the doorway, the oversized shuriken he was teaching her to use in his hand. His eyes flickered from the man on the ground, cursing and starting to rise, to his daughter crouched under the desk and the open chest of materia next to her.
It didn't take long for him to subdue the trespasser and hand him over to the guards who had come running at the first noise, before he picked up the materia she had dropped, rolling it between his fingers thoughtfully.
She expected him to tell her off, instead he pressed the materia into the palm of her hand and ruffled her hair, giving her a small, approving smile, the first since her mother had died, months before.
It would be years; not until Meteor, Geostigma and Deepground had all been dealt with before she received another one.
She had bided her time, waited for her moment, and now it was the perfect time to strike.
The group she had spent the last few weeks tagging along with had the biggest, best collection of materia she had seen since the Shinra had taken her father's chest of it away and forbidden them from ever getting more. With this much materia, she could restore her people's strength and pride, and then they could tell the Shinra where they could stick it.
She just had to get away with it. She'd waited too long as it was (because the right moment hadn't presented itself, of course, not because she cared about them or anything), but now they were close enough to Wutai that she could make it home and hide before they caught up with her.
More importantly, it was old man Cid's turn to watch tonight. She knew that he would sit staring into the fire while puffing on one of his stinky cigarettes, oblivious to the world's greatest ninja sneaking away behind him. And even more importantly, Vincent, Barret and Red had all been asleep for hours. If it came down to it, she could dodge a sword, fist or spear, but she couldn't outrun a bullet or a lion-dog-thing.
All she had to do was gather up the materia and leave. She crept out of the tent she shared with the other girls, and began to pry the materia out of Aerith's staff. It wasn't until the shadows around the fire started flickering in an odd way that she glanced upwards and saw the overgrown beast about to chomp the dozing, unsuspecting Cid into bite-sized chunks.
"Hey! Watch out, Cid," she yelled, snatching up her weapon from where it lay next to Aerith's and hurling it towards the monster at the same time. It struck it in the side of its head and made it howl with pain.
Cid's head jerked upwards at the commotion and he instinctively rolled to the side, just in time to miss a swiping claw. He grabbed his spear as he stood, and between the two of them, they brought the creature down without trouble, even as the rest of Avalanche scrambled out of their tents, ready for a fight.
"What happened?" Cloud asked, staring at the scene.
"Well, you know how it is, Spiky. Some old people have a little trouble staying up so late," she replied with a smirk, wiping monster blood from her shuriken.
"Shut your mouth, brat! I wasn't asleep!" Cid yelled at her from across the fire.
"Suuure you weren't," she drawled back, knowing it would annoy him. Cloud rubbed his forehead in a long-suffering gesture that made her snigger.
"Well, it's a good thing you were awake, Yuffie," Aerith declared brightly.
Yuffie felt herself squirm (with cold, not guilt, of course). "I, uh, needed to pee." She squirmed again when the subject was dropped without further question (it really was cold, after all).
It took a little while for their camp to be set to rights, and longer still for everyone to settle back down again. Yuffie decided to postpone her plan until another night.
(Because it was too late, and because the others were too alert now, not because she needed to make sure they were okay. She couldn't care about them. Wutai needed her.)
It was another night watch, months later. Her brilliant plan hadn't gone according to, well, plan, and now somehow she was helping to save the world with the people she had tried to steal from, and who had rescued her anyway. So much had happened since then; they had been through so much together that she couldn't imagine ever walking away from them now.
She had circled their campsite to make sure nothing was sneaking up on them, while Vincent sat with his back to the fire, staring blankly at one point in the distance. Annoyingly, he would probably still spot danger long before her, and probably long before danger knew he was there, what with being cloaked in Perpetual Gloom and all.
He tilted his head slightly to the side as she approached him and sat down, indicating he was listening. "Did you sit on a thistle or something?" When that received no answer she tried again. "Trip over your stupid shoes?"
"No, Yuffie," he replied shortly, with plenty of stop bothering me undertones in his voice.
"Then what's up with all the grim?" she asked, not deterred at all. He didn't answer at first, but she had nothing better to do, the night was silent and still, and for once her patience outlasted his.
"I was reflecting on my past," he told her with dull impatience, "and my mistakes. My…"
"Your sins, yeah, I get it," she cut in. She'd pegged Vincent as boring right from their first meeting, and time had only proven her right. That didn't explain why she was so fascinated by him, however. "Can I ask you something?"
She took his silence as a "Yes, go ahead, Yuffie."
"Does it do any good?" she asked, and after a second of silence he turned to face her. The way the firelight reflected in his red eyes would have made her nervous a few months ago. Now, it was just normal. "Going over the past over and over again? Does it make you feel better?" She was genuinely curious. She didn't understand why anyone would put themselves through such emotional masochism on a daily basis. Surely it would grow old after a while?
"I don't do it to feel better," he replied, but there was something in his voice that wasn't quite dismissive. Surprise, perhaps, or just anger, which was better than his usual bland tone.
"Wouldn't it be better to try and, you know, make up for your mistakes? Try and fix the things you did wrong the first time?" Fixing Wutai had been her goal since the day after the war ended. And now, for the first time, she saw the Planet in bigger terms than just Wutai. She couldn't imagine just sitting around thinking about how bad things were. It would drive her mad. Then again, he had been sleeping in a coffin when they found him…
"By returning stolen materia, for instance?" Vincent shot back with uncharacteristic spite.
She shrugged with a smile, not rising to the bait. She was quite proud he was actually arguing with her. "Why do you think I'm still hanging around with you dorks?"
He turned his head sharply away from her and didn't reply. She didn't expect him to; he'd spoken to her more tonight than in all the months she'd known him put together.
She bounded to her feet and stretched, ready to make another circle of their camp. "Have fun brooding," she said as a goodbye, even waving a little as she left him behind.
She never realised how often he thought about their conversation. He never told her that it was her words that dissuaded him from returning to his coffin once the final battle was over with.
Fighting Bahamut in the streets of Edge was oddly exhilarating.
She's spent the two years since Avalanche had separated searching for a cure for Geostigma, and getting nowhere at all. Her friends - those of them that answered their phones on a regular basis, anyway - had all had their own struggles to deal with.
It felt good to unleash all that frustration on something that really needed to have its ass kicked.
She leapt and twirled as she threw her weapon and caught it again on the rebound, running and flipping her way across the metal beams, weaving in and out of the others' paths in a complex dance that her body remembered well, even though it had been years since they had all fought together.
Until, perhaps inevitably, she missed her footing and fell, barely catching herself on another beam just below her. She grumbled to herself, hoping that no-one had noticed, before realising that she had accidentally landed in the perfect position to distract Bahamut, giving Cid a chance to move just before he got himself squished, and Vincent a chance to sneak in close and shoot it right in the face.
Yuffie thought they could have handled it themselves just fine, even before Cloud turned up to take all the glory at the end.
Who said being clumsy was a bad thing?
She saved Reeve's life on her first day as the WRO's Head of Intelligence.
She'd been running late, which was not a good thing on the first day (though to be fair, both thieving and ninja-ing tended to be nocturnal jobs. She had no practice at the whole early-morning thing) and to try and save herself a few vital minutes, she dashed up the fire escape, carrying a polystyrene cup of Reeve's favourite hazelnut coffee for bribery purposes, just in case he caught her out.
His office was the floor above hers, and his windows were wide open. She slowed down as she neared the top, so that Reeve wouldn't hear her footsteps on the metal stairs. So the voice that was currently threatening Reeve floated clearly out on the (still too early) morning air.
She flattened herself out and wriggled her way to the top of the fire escape. One of Midgar's slumlords, who had cockroach-like, managed to survive both the falling plate and the falling Meteor and re-established himself in Edge, was holding a gun directly at him. She knew that Reeve had a gun of his in his top desk drawer, but that would do him no good if he got himself killed reaching for it.
When Reeve had told her that the WRO had received some opposition, she hadn't pictured anything like this. She was unarmed as well, aside from a couple of kunai blades in the top of her boots, and they wouldn't do her much good from this angle.
Reeve's calm refusals were only infuriating the jerk with a gun, which didn't leave her much time to come up with a plan. She swung herself in through the window, counting on there being a brief moment of surprise before the trigger got pulled, and hurled the still boiling contents of her coffee-cup directly into the gunman's face. He shrieked (like a girl, she noted with not-entirely hidden glee) and dropped the gun, throwing his hands up to his eyes.
Yuffie ducked down and picked up his gun (and kicked him in the crotch for good measure) while Reeve retrieved his own weapon. The hapless slumlord almost seemed pleased to be arrested after that.
"So," Yuffie said as he was taken away. "Sorry I'm late."
"I think I'll let you off," Reeve replied generously, "Just this once."
"Anyway, first things first," she continued. "Maybe we should think about upgrading your security…"
And one time she planned for it
Tracking down all the remaining Deepground cells had taken months of reconnaissance. Months of following suspects, weeks and weeks of sneaking around in the dark, spying on numbers and weapon-types, adding them all to the ever-growing map she'd put up on the wall of her office. Reeve had given her a team of operatives for her investigations, and one by one they destroyed each of the remaining bases in a series of stealthy strikes in the best of ninja traditions.
When she had finished the plan for taking down the largest, best defended, and most importantly the last remaining base, Reeve informed her that Vincent had requested to join her on her mission.
"I don't know," she replied, putting a hand on her hip and frowning at him with mock sternness. "Do you think you can follow orders, Mr. Valentine?"
And Vincent did the strangest thing in response. He smiled, just a little, and there was something in the way that he looked at her that made her excited, and far, far more nervous than the thought of leading the assault did. Things had really changed between them, recently. Well, things had always been changing between them, it was inevitable really. They were so different, they constantly had to learn and re-learn how to relate to each other.
But ever since she had rescued him after he lost his protomateria Vincent had been looking at her differently, and he'd been looking at her with that something in his eyesever since he'd returned from wherever he had been lurking after Omega's defeat. Every time she noticed it she felt queasy, though in a good way, but she still couldn't quite worked out what it meant.
But because she could be professional, instead of dwelling on whatever it was he made her feel, she showed Vincent the blueprint of the base and explained her plan, very aware of his eyes on her face. His single nod of unquestioning approval meant more to her than any words he could have offered her.
The plan went mostly without a hitch. Most of the Deepground remnants surrendered, and the ones who didn't were taken down swiftly. They took all the weaponry and intelligence they could find from the base, before Yuffie set the explosive charges to ensure that no-one else would ever be able to use the base again (admittedly, she enjoyed this part a little too much).
It wasn't until after she'd set the charger, one of her team told her that Vincent was still inside the base. Cursing under her breath, she sent him to join the others, very aware of the fact that she only had ten minutes to find him and get them both clear of the base.
She found him in one of the labs, fighting both one of the hideously mako-mutated monsters they had all assumed were already dead (it was so big and misshapen she couldn't believe it could even hold its bulk upright, let alone fight) and two soldiers she guessed had been left to guard the lab.
She cursed again; Vincent was badass and all, but he wasn't invulnerable, and he wasn't immortal anymore. There was no way he could fight them both alone and escape the explosion in time.
As she watched him dive out of the way of the creature, she noticed that its legs seemed far too thin and brittle to hold it up. It took just a second to adjust her aim before she threw her Conformer, neatly slicing through its back legs.
Unbalanced and wounded, the monster simply crashed to the floor and slid headfirst into the wall, knocking itself out. Buy the time it was twitching in its death-throes, Vincent had taken care of the two guards.
"Yuffie," he said urgently. "What's the quickest way out of here?"
She had spent so long studying the blueprint that she didn't even have to think about it. "This way!" she exclaimed, grabbing his clawed hand and tugging him behind her as she ran.
He didn't pull away.
They reached the Shadowfox with two minutes to spare, and had an excellent view of the explosion as they sped away. Yuffie sighed. It was prettier than a sunset.
"Yuffie" She turned to look at Vincent, who was studying her intensely with that look in his eyes again. "Thank you."
And just like the first time he had thanked her in this vehicle, she felt herself blush. "Well, what would you do without me, Vince?" she asked with a laugh, hoping that he didn't notice.
"I really don't know, Yuffie," he replied dryly, but it made her smile because it seemed that the something between them meant something to him too.
They were nearly back at WRO headquarters before she noticed he still hadn't let go of her hand. She didn't mind at all.
Wow, it's been ages since I've written anything Yuffentine! This one is for the Girl Saves Boy ficathon over on LJ. Reviews are always welcome!