Wah! It's been ages again! I'm not dead, and hopefully my writing isn't, either. I've been kind of busy with school and work, and add to that a major case of writer's block, and it doesn't equal to quick updates. Still, I'm hoping that I still have some readers left and that you'll be interested in this new VinceYuffie fic I'm bringing you. I'm really inspired by this one, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to update quickly.

Also, keep in mind that this fic will have strong language and probably some adult scenes later on. While in the following chapters there will be some angst, talk on depression, and probably(though I'm not quite sure yet) some suicide themes, though there won't be character deaths. Oh, and fluff. If you don't like any of these things, then please don't read!

Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII or any of the characters used in this piece of fiction. I am making no money off of them.

Head above Water

to stay…

need… awake…


Her vision was blurred and nearly the entirety of her body was numb. She couldn't quite figure out if she had been fighting, or why she was in the state she was in, but the world kept fading in and out every few minutes. It was possible that someone had been talking to her, too, but she couldn't be sure.

The white ceiling tiles were in motion and she could do nothing more than stare up at them, her breathing rushing out in quick gasps, her heart thundering in her ears. It left her feeling breathless and with a painful, heavy sensation in her chest.

know how conscious she is?...

she's… into… shock…

Oh, there was the pain, beginning to come back with a roar, and so was the sound of the world around her. Her eyelids felt heavy, and sticky red liquid was falling over her eyes. But despite the feeling of wrongness in her numb body, she recognized his voice, and from the corner of her eye she could see a blurred shape of black and red.


"I'm here," he replied quickly, gazing down at her. "Yuffie? We're going to get you some help. You'll be okay. You will get out of this," he said in a tone of voice she couldn't quite place.


"The WRO trauma center. They will help you."

She swore that she tried lifting her hand toward him, but her body was not responding to her commands. "Stay."

"I won't leave your side," he promised, voice even deeper in his worry.

A long breath left her just as darkness swallowed her whole.

"She's not breathing!" Vincent growled, but already the medical staff had started to work on her, wheeling her into a trauma room. One started with a respirator, while another pumped Yuffie's bloodied chest, and another hooked up various machines to her wounded body.

For the first time in his entire life—past and present—he found himself filled with panic at the sight of a bloodied body. She was too young to die, having barely lived her life, and there he stood, unable to do anything else but watch.

He had been sitting at home, having a quiet night and perusing a gardening magazine when he had gotten the call from Reeve regarding the incident at Midgar's ground zero. At first, Reeve hadn't wanted to tell him who had been involved, only that one of the reactors that they had thought shutdown had gone off in flames. But Vincent had quickly realized that Reeve would only have been offering the information if it pertained to something involving him or the rest of AVALANCHE directly…

He had been instructed to head towards the medical wing of the WRO, and to the emergency room on the first floor to be exact. He had stared incredulously when a helicopter had landed right in front of the building's entrance, and even more so when a stretcher and various medical staff had raced out to meet the chopper.

But he'd understood when one of the WRO soldiers stepping out of the helicopter had carried with him a large and familiar weapon.

"Yuffie," he whispered in shock when his eyes took in the state her body was in. The blood had been leaking from her generously while the nurses and doctors tried to cover the wounds with gauze. He'd also caught sight of some burns, and possibly a broken arm. He'd been rendered completely speechless at the sight of her.

Her eyes had opened a sliver at the sound of his voice, but it had taken them minutes to get her lucid enough to speak to him.

Then she had stopped breathing.

His heart had stuttered in his chest when the machine had garbled that flat line as soon as it had been hooked up to her, and he had waited with bated breath while they got her breathing again and her vital signs registered. He tuned out the doctor's assessment of her injuries and just focused on Yuffie herself, wishing that he could move closer and at least hold her hand, but he knew he'd only be getting underfoot.

Her eyes were closed, her face bloodied and covered with smudges of black, and the blood had soaked the front of her clothes. She looked nothing like the woman he had come to know and care for.

"Sir? Mr. Valentine?"

He looked up, finally realizing that one of the nurses had been trying to catch his attention. "What?"

"You need to step out. We will be removing her clothes to treat the rest of her wounds and I don't suppose that she would appreciate anyone seeing her. Unless… you have a connection with her that would allow you to stay?"

Vincent shook his head once and moved to leave the room, only stopping to get a last look at her bruised face. You can make it out of this, Yuffie. I believe in you, he told her silently. Then he turned and left her in the hands of the medical team working hard to save her, taking up a post outside the door.

He spent the longest moments of his life waiting in that hallway.

Vincent had seen Reeve pass down the hall a few times, his ear glued to the phone and harassing the nurses for updates on Yuffie, but there had been nothing to say, only that they were still working to stabilize her.

But he'd stood there silently, waiting.

It took more than two hours to finally hear from one of the trauma doctors. Since Reeve was the closest thing to family Yuffie had in the city, he was allowed to receive the report of her health.

The explosion had done a number on her and the other survivors apparently. They would need to be under close observation for Mako poisoning and their other serious injuries and burns. One of her arms was in a cast, she had various contusions and cuts, a concussion, and she would probably be on forced bed rest for at least two weeks once she was released. Then it would be even more weeks before she would be able to return to work at the WRO.

He wondered how Yuffie would take all of the information once she awoke.

Vincent supposed that none of it mattered as long as she lived. The next few days would probably be physically painful for her, but she would be okay. This was Yuffie, and he had seen her bounce back from worse situations.

Sighing to himself, Vincent waited patiently to hear when they would be able to see her next. There was a worry in his chest that wouldn't abate until he was allowed to see her for himself. Strangely, this thought didn't worry him. What worried him was seeing the state she had been left in…

A week and a half later and the hospital seemed to have become his second home. Yuffie had remained under a medically induced coma so that she could heal from the concussion she had suffered. They had all taken turns watching over her, and while he had been used to solitude and silence, he had to admit that it unnerved him to be in a room with Yuffie and not have her voice chattering on about inane things.

The sight of her bruised face, the bandages, and the cast on her broken arm—green because he knew she would probably annoy him for allowing the doctors to give her a "lame" white cast— made her look vulnerable and he didn't like the feeling invading his heart.

He'd learned to deal with loss and not let it influence his emotions while a Turk, but despite the training still present in his mind, he wasn't that man anymore. He had died that night more than thirty years ago on the dusty floor of the ShinRa manor. He'd been reborn thinking himself a monster, but had it not been for all of his enhancements and the demons in his head, the world would've perished. Yuffie and AVALANCHE along with it.

Now here he was, watching the slow rise and fall of Yuffie's chest as she breathed on her own. The machines next to her were steady and had been for a day now, signaling the fact that she was healing. The doctor had told Reeve that this meant that she would be allowed to awaken sometime soon.

Until then, Vincent found that he would weather the silence without Yuffie there to constantly irritate him. He'd already gone through several books in a matter of days, though he could just about imagine what the ninja would have to say to him about that.

Setting the old book on her bedside table, he leaned his elbows on his knees and crossed his fingers, eyes on her face. Some of the bruises were beginning to change color, and the swelling of some of her wounds had left completely. He managed a feeble smirk at the thought of Yuffie seeing herself in a mirror in the condition she was in.

The smirk quickly died down at the sight of her slack face. She didn't look the same without some kind of emotion on her features… Silly as she was sometimes, she always had a smile or some sign of playfulness on her face, and he hadn't realized how eager he was to see it again.

Leaning back in his chair he grabbed his book once more. The day had just started and he would remain by her side for as long as possible. He wouldn't hear the end of it if she awoke and found out that he hadn't been guarding her sleep like the rest of their friends.

She felt herself groan even before her eyes opened. Her entire body felt as if it had been hit by Bahamut SIN, and her head was pounding a steady rhythm; it was far worse than any hangover she'd suffered through in the past, she realized. Opening her eyes slowly, Yuffie was thankful that the room was only dimly lit, but found that the light still burned through her eyes. "W-where…?" she trailed off, throat scratchy and dry.

"Here," muttered someone from nearby. "You're in the medical wing of the WRO."

Yuffie turned her head slightly to look at the source and found Cid's grimacing face. "Hey," she whispered. "What are you doing here and how long was I out?"

"You nearly croaked," Cid replied gruffly, but despite his tone Yuffie could tell that he had been worried. "It's been more than a week."

Had she taken her drink any sooner, she would've spat it back out at that piece of information. But as it was, Yuffie found herself quite thirty so she took another sip of water before speaking. "Old man, you should know me better than that by now. I'm too stubborn to die. Being passed out for a week isn't so bad." She tried to smile but didn't know if she'd been successful.

Cid was not amused, but his worry for her was touching. Despite feeling warm at the fact that Cid would miss her if she were gone, she was annoyed by his continued staring.

"What?" she asked.

"You died. You stopped breathing for a while and they brought you back," Cid said in a low voice. "Then you were in a fuckin' coma for nearly two weeks!"

She tried to shrug and barely twitched. "But I'm awake now."

"Damn it, stop taking this so easily!" Cid yelled, making her jump slightly.

"What the fuck do you want me to do, jackass?" She would've screamed the words at him if she hadn't felt out of breath, but instead her voice came out breathy and small.

The door to her room opened at the commotion and a doctor walked in, followed closely by Vincent and Tifa.

"What's going on?" asked the brunette.

"Nothing is fuckin' wrong!" Cid snarled, nearly stomping out of the room.

Yuffie sighed quietly to herself and looked away from her other two friends as they gave her worried looks. Well, Tifa looked worried; Vincent just gave her a neutral look.

"I'm not dead, okay? I may not be kicking yet, but I'm still here!"

"Yuffie..." Tifa started.


Tifa stared, wondering what had come over her but she didn't pry. Yuffie had been through enough already and the last thing she needed was to be bombarded with questions and worries.

"I'm going to give you a brief examination, Miss Kisaragi," the doctor said, interrupting the tension in the room.

Vincent stepped out to give her some privacy and only stepped back in once the doctor left. Tifa had taken a seat at Yuffie's bedside and was holding her uninjured hand, but the ninja didn't look like she wanted to be touched. He supposed that she hadn't pulled away so as not to hurt the martial artist's feelings.

"I need the two of you to be honest with me. How many people died in the explosion of the reactor?" Yuffie asked in a solemn tone.

Vincent shifted his stance and Tifa turned to look at him in worry.

"I'll find out sooner or later," Yuffie snapped.

The brunette released her hand and stood, crossing her arms over her chest. "What you need now is some rest. No, don't fight me," Tifa warned with a look she probably used on the children; it seemed to work on Yuffie, too. "You rest up and we'll help heal those injuries little by little with materia if the doctor okays it. After that, Reeve will want to debrief you and you will know what went on. But for now, no."

Yuffie looked like she wanted to argue, or maybe throw a tantrum, but she turned to stare at the opposite wall like a petulant child. "Fine."

"Good. I'm going to go call your father to let him know that you're okay," said Tifa before she walked out of the room.

Vincent watched Yuffie sigh forlornly and wondered over her change of attitude. He knew that she must've been in pain—both physical and emotional—but she had always taken things in stride. Now, now she just seemed like a jumble of emotions, starting with anger.

He took the seat Tifa had vacated and remained quiet as he let her get her thoughts in order.

"The doc said that I won't be able to use Conformer for a while," she said, motioning vaguely to her broken arm.

"I… have faith that you will be able to handle it," he replied in a low voice.

Her eyes returned to his in a flash and she sighed quietly. "I don't—" She paused, frustrated. "I've never been at fault for the death of people. I've taken out plenty, but it was a life or death situation. This—they were under my command and I must've missed something. Now they're dead because of me and you won't tell me how many of my squad are gone."

"It's not as if you willingly sent them in to die, Yuffie. This was an accident."

She didn't offer a reply to his words, instead staring down at her cast. "I hate hospitals," she muttered, hoping he would drop it.

"You will be here for a few more days," Vincent supplied. "The doctors need to test you every few hours to make sure that the Mako that touched you does not turn dangerous."

Another sigh. "Can I at least sit up?" she asked, forcing her body up, and promptly beginning to cough and groan as her ribs gave her a very painful protest. "Fuck!"

Vincent got quickly to his feet and pressed her back down as gently as he possibly could, his eyes narrowed at her foolish action. "Should I call for a nurse to tranquilize you?" he asked when she tried to shove off his arms.

Yuffie glared at him. "You wouldn't dare."

"I'll hold you down myself while she doses you."

They had a tense moment of glaring before Yuffie relaxed back against the bed and coughed a few more times, her ribs painfully reminding her that she had done something stupid just now. But she hated being bedridden, and she hated the fact that Vincent and Tifa were keeping things from her, and even more, she hated the fact that she had worried her friends to the point where Cid was angry and Tifa had regained that look of distress she'd lost when Cloud had returned.

Tears came unbidden to her eyes then and Yuffie turned her face away from Vincent, not wanting him to see her in that state. She must've looked pathetic because he released the pressure he had been exerting on her shoulders and simply squeezed the uninjured one gently.

"You have been through a traumatic experience, Yuffie. The best you can do is rest now," he said, quiet.

She coughed a little more and closed her eyes, hoping that sleep would reclaim her quickly. She didn't want to deal with her feelings of failure, or of guilt. People had died because of her, and she was honestly beginning to wonder why she hadn't gone with them.

I feel bad for Yuffie now(and this is just the beginning), but I've been in the mood for angst lately and this is the result of it. I'm not quite sure how long this will be, but it won't be an epic like my other fics. I might just keep it at five or less, if the plot-bunnies cooperate with me, or I might just do shorter chapters and quicker updates. Dunno, want to vote on which you'd prefer? Long chapter and slow updates, or short chapters and quicker updates? But anyway, thanks so much for reading and please pardon any typos or grammar errors!