Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy or the characters presented in this story.

Author's Note: So... I've been wanting to write this story for some time, but I just haven't found the will to do it until now. This will be a modern-day AU...sort of :)


Chapter I

Settling In

"Aw, c'mon, Tifa! Just for a couple of weeks... or even days! Until I can find something better!"

The barmaid glanced up from wiping down the polished redwood counter. Her russet colored eyes took in the bouncing female across from it, noting with amusement the pleading expression plastered across her face.

"You know I would, Yuffie, but I can't risk it. You're underage."

"Tch, underage...by a year! Who's gunna know?"

Tifa sighed, giving the counter one last swipe. "Yuffie, I just got licensed to open this place up. I'm not going to start this business off on the wrong foot. You understand, right?"

Yuffie let out a frustrated growl and resisted the urge to stomp her foot. Tifa's apologetic look stopped her, she wasn't about to argue further. She placed a hand on her forehead and sighed. "Yeah...I guess...Well, what about Cloud? Maybe I can help him out with his deliveries?"

Tifa gave a small wince and glanced away. She busied herself with pulling some new glass tumblers out of the boxes they arrived in earlier.

Yuffie watched for a moment, she saw the hurt flash briefly across her friend's face. She wondered what had gone on during her time away. She knew the two had issues, or more, Cloud had issues and Tifa floundered about, trying to fix them.

"What'd I miss? You guys split, or what?"

Tifa held a tumbler in her hand, staring unseeingly crystal as she turned it over and over. "A while ago, Yuffie," she said quietly.

Yuffie slumped into the barstool behind her, dropping her elbows onto the counter and her chin into her palm. She was sorry to hear that. She knew how much Tifa had fawned over the blond these past couple of years. But Cloud...he was always somewhere else, mentally. There wasn't enough in him to give Tifa the emotional attention she herself gave to everyone around her. Yuffie never could grasp the appeal Cloud held to her friend. It only fueled her long term belief that Tifa was a weirdo. An emotional, caring weirdo.

"Aw...I'm sorry, Teefs." Yuffie then jumped up suddenly. Tifa looked up in alarm, fearing the girl had fallen. But Yuffie only waved her hand in the air while resting the other on her hip. "Who needs that chocobo head anyway!" Tifa's lips quirked despite the fading hurt residing in her heart. "I always said he was a stiff, just like his hair, ya know! You can do better, much better. Trust me. You need a man, a real man, Tifa, with man looks and stuff. When I first saw Cloud, I'm sorry, but I thought he was a girl."

Tiffa couldn't stop the giggle that bubbled up in her throat. Yuffie grinned in triumph after seeing her friend's mood brighten and plopped back down in the stool.

After calming herself Tifa leaned against the counter and smiled at the petite girl. "Thanks, Yuffie."

Yuffie smiled slyly after a moment as a thought hit her. "You know what would be the ultimate thanks? Letting me work here for a couple days." She waggled her eyebrows for emphasis.

Letting out a sigh, Tifa pushed some of her dark hair behind her ear. "Can't, Yuffie." Yuffie 'awed' again with a pout and Tifa added, "Didn't your dad give you money when you left?"

At the mention of her father, Yuffie scowled. "You'd have to pry his wallet open with a crowbar. No, he didn't even know I left until a day later. Blew up my phone with calls. You want a quick way to go deaf? Listen to my voice mail."

Yuffie quickly brought out her phone and pressed the buttons rapidly, holding it up after a moment later. Tifa could hear the screaming coming from the speaker and winced. She could imagine Godo's face while she listened. Cherry red with fury, spittle flying out of his running mouth, vein ready to burst at his temple. The words 'Yuffie' and 'Disgrace' and 'Wutai' could be discerned a couple of times.

"Maybe you shouldn't anger him...he's not going to be very welcoming when you go back."

Yuffie slapped her hands flat onto the counter and stood. "I'm not going back, Teefs, I'm not! That's why you gotta help me! I need to make some cash and quick. So I can finally live on my own, ya know? I'm tired of depending on him...it just gives him something to hold over me." Yuffie huffed and sat back down.

Tifa tapped her chin in thought. "Well...I can't have you working here. But..."

"But what!"

"You can stay upstairs in the extra room if you want. There's still a lot of boxes everywhere but it has a mattress at least. I've only just got my own room settled."

Yuffie's face broke into a beaming smile, she launched herself over the counter toward the other female and tackled her into a crushing hug. "Thanks, Tifa! Oh and don't worry," she said as she released her, "I won't mooch off you for too long. Just until I find something that'll make me some cash!"

Tifa crossed her arms. "Nothing illegal though, right?"

Yuffie scuffed the wooden floor with her beige boot as she clasped her hands behind her back. "Erm...right! Gawsh, do I look like someone who would partake in illegal activities?" Tifa gave her a dubious look before walking behind the bar to finish unpacking, Yuffie called out, "Teef? Tifa?" No response came from the other room. Yuffie pressed her tongue against her cheek and bounced lightly on the balls of her feet. "Oh...okay then. I'll be upstairs..."

With that she grabbed her bag that she'd stuffed with a few clothes and bolted for the second floor to get settled.

Two weeks had gone by. Tifa's bar 7th Heaven wasn't doing so well since its grand opening. There were a few regular customers, but it definitely wasn't gaining the business Tifa had initially imagined. It might have explained why the place had been for sale for so long, perhaps it was a bad location...

"You know what you need to do?" Yuffie said one day while they mopped the floor. Though the younger girl hadn't found a steady job yet, she helped the barmaid out with the domestic duties around the place during closed hours. "Like...advertise or something...Maybe have a free drink night. Sure, you'll lose money at first, but it'll bring people in and that's what you need! Maybe even offer a spread of free food, put the chocobo races on the TV. C'mon Teef, you can do a lot of things! Liven this place up!"

Tifa stopped and looked up, leaning against the mop. I did sound like a good idea, and just putting up the 'Open' sign wasn't working. The place had to gain some reknown somehow. "I...I suppose we can try."

Yuffie sat back on her heels and nodded quickly. "Yeah! You should invite people too, get 'em to come in so it looks like people are actually digging this place. Then others will have more incentive, ya know?"

That was how Yuffie found herself in a parking lot, walking around and slipping blue flyers under car windshield wipers. She helped Tifa out by having them made a day earlier at a printer shop. Anyone who showed up at the bar with one of those flyers would be privy to a free drink. The flyer was Yuffie's idea after they spoke about the 'Drink night' more. It would bring more attention to Tifa's bar, and it doubled as a ticket. The free drink would only be served if the patron presented a flyer, if otherwise, Tifa feared people would take advantage and drain her of her stock without ever paying. Tifa was a generous person, just not that generous.

Yuffie had volunteered to go out and spread the flyers everywhere. She'd ordered around two hundred, alternating from handing them out, to putting them on cars. The stack she held in her hand had dwindled significantly and she figured that after putting two hundred of these things out, someone has to show.

She was in the process of trying to slip the flyer between the windshield and wiper of a red truck. It was more of a struggle for her since she wasn't the tallest of people. The truck was lifted to top it off, adding to her plight. She balanced on the tip of her beige knee-high boots while her hand shook with the flyer.

"Almost there..." she breathed. Why the truck was lifted was beyond her. It seemed unnecessary for a place like Edge, more suitable for Cosmo Canyon, or so she imagined. She'd never been there herself as Godo kept a tight leash on her. But once and awhile she'd escape the man, though, every time she'd just hide out with Tifa. She never got to do much traveling aside from that.

But that would change since she had no plans whatsoever of heading back to Wutai. She felt suffocated, and for years longed to be free of tradition. It was such a culture shock traveling from Wutai to well...anywhere else! The ancient ways had to go, times had begun changing a long time ago, but her father refused to acknowledge it.

"Excuse you?" a sharp voice came from behind. Yuffie squeaked in surprise while giving a small jump. She lost her balance and fell backwards onto the pavement. She groaned at the protest her tailbone gave as she sat up, rubbing her back. In her vision she could see a pair of dark boots and equally dark slacks connected to them.

Yuffie looked up to complain, but found herself stumped by his appearance. He was really pale, set off even more so by his dark clothing. A red bandana rested on his forehead, keeping most of his black hair at bay. His eyes, claret and intense, pierced her as she sat on the ground. He was an odd looking character if she did say so herself. Though, instead what she did say was, "You shouldn't sneak up on people, you know."

The man stood with crossed arms, surveying her as she sat pouting on the ground. "Just as you shouldn't touch other people's cars." His was voice, grave, solemn, and all around bored.

Yuffie glared as she stood, dusting the seat of her shorts off as she did. She waved the flyer she had been in the process of placing on the truck around in front of him. "Hey man, I was just trying to do you a favor." She made a show of eying him and added, "You look like you would benefit from this more than most."

It took him a moment before he decided to just grab the paper she was waving. He scanned its contest for only a second, while Yuffie waited with her hands on her hips.

He gave a grunt that sounded very much like "Hn" and let the flyer fall from his hand as if he couldn't be bothered by it any longer. Yuffie's eyes widened as she watched it float to the ground, she sputtered a "Hey!" but the man only ignored her as he walked over to the front of the truck where she had been struggling to place the flyer.

He pulled out a red cloth from the pocket of his trousers and begun wiping a spot on the hood. Yuffie, curious, stood on her tiptoes to see, only to have anger bubble up at the action. He was wiping her fingerprints—which were small!—she had left on the paint. Like he couldn't have waited until she left!

Offended, she shouted, "That's so rude! You're a real jerk, you know!" He turned to stare to stare at her while neatly folding the cloth and stuffing it in his pocket again. His expression had not changed from its emotionless set since she first saw him and it only angered her further. "I was just trying to offer you a chance for some free food and drinks like a nice person! But you know what? I'm glad you're not interested, the place doesn't need rude jerks like you to bring it down."

The man grunted slightly as his eyes narrowed before replying boredly, "Yes, if you are anything to go by, I imagine the place has enough of those already."

Yuffie took a step back, her eyes could not get any wider. Her mouth opened and closed, unable to form any words. He remained just where he was, stoically watching her.

She raised a hand and pointed. "You...you..." He raised an arched brow, silently telling her 'Me what?' Yuffie's brows pinched as she shook. She slapped her hand back down to her side and stomped her foot, yelling, "Ugh!" before storming away. He stepped aside quickly when he saw she made to shoulder bump him.

She failed to hear the "Yuffie?" from a familiar voice as she walked away angrily, with fists clenched at her sides.

The one who called her name watched her leave with confusion before he turned to where his friend stood. "What was all that?"

Vincent only grunted and lifted one shoulder in a shrug, turning his attention over to his truck, busying himself with getting in.

Cloud gazed at him for a moment, until blue caught his eye. On the ground were scattered flyers. He bent to pick one up looking over the information, his eyes widening only a little when he saw it was advertising Tifa's bar. Indecision fought with his insides as he stared at the date.

"Are you coming?" Vincent's deep voice cut in his thoughts. Cloud nodded and folded the flyer a few times before stuffing it in his pocket. A quick glance at Vincent waiting in the driver's seat had him reaching towards the ground and grabbing another flyer, doing the same with the first and putting it in his pocket.

"Yeah," he said quietly as he walked around the truck, "I'm coming."

Tifa rushed around the bar in a manic fashion. Her hair was frazzled, and she couldn't stay still for even a second. Yuffie watched in amusement from her seat at the bar as she sucked on a lollypop. The bar was fine, they had spent all morning and most the early afternoon setting everything up. The catered food had arrived just moments ago and was set up on a display table against the wall. Tifa insisted everything be perfect, she was treating this like a grand opening since she hadn't had one when it was originally opened two weeks ago.

Yuffie turned in her stool when a knock came to the door. A glance at Tifa's harried actions told her she should probably answer it. Upon opening the door, she was greeted with a giant bouquet of colorful flowers. A gentle face peeked over the side.

"I come bearing flowers," Aerith said with a smile.

Yuffie grinned and opened the door wider to let her in. "How unlike you," she teased as they walked toward the counter. Aerith placed the bouquet in the center and looked around the bar.

"Wow, this is very nice. The food smells really good," Aerith said in approval, she glanced around for another second. "Where's Tifa?"

"I'm up here!" came her shout from the stairs. "I'll be down in a few minutes!"

Yuffie was busy pushing her nose up against the flowers sniffing loudly, Aerith giggled quietly. "Do you like them? I combined the best I had."

Yuffie moved back. "Yeah! Flowers aren't my thing, but they sure smell pretty, like a bathroom after someone sprays air freshener." Yuffie paused and tilted her head. "Oh man, that sounded better in my head."

Aeith only shook her head with a smile. Both girls jumped in fright when the front door burst open, slamming into the wall behind it. A cloud of smoke entered, followed boxes carried by a blond and a darker skinned man.

The blond looked over at the girls and spoke through his cigarette dangling between his lips, "That you, brat? Where the hell's Tifa? Tell her we brought her shit."

"Hey!" Yuffie protested with a small glare. It irritated her that they still insisted on calling her that. "I have a name, you know..."

Cid waved her off with a swing of his hand.

Barret placed the boxes he was carrying onto an empty table and stretched his back with a groan while glancing at Yuffie. "Yeah, an' it's called Brat." He noticed the brunette sitting next to her and smiled widely. "Good ta see ya, Aerith."

Aerith waved. "You too, Barret! How's Marlene?"

"Doin' good. She's at home poutin' 'cause she couldn't come. But I told her this was a grown ups only party."

Cid blew a cloud a smoke toward the ceiling and then shot Yuffie a look. "If that's so, what the hell's the brat still doing here?"

Yuffie was about to let out an indignant 'Hey!' when Tifa came down the stairs and said, "Hey guys! Oh good you brought the glasses!" Tifa hugged Aerith and praised the bouquet she had brought. She slapped Barret's hand when he tried to open up the trays of warmed food, grabbed Cid's cigarette from his lips and put it out in the sink, just as soon as she did he pulled out another in record time and was already puffing away by the time she turned around. She glared with crossed arms, and he gave her a rare grin that Yuffie had not seen on the older man before. Yuffie's brows pinched curiously.

Before she could analyze the two anymore, the door once again slammed open and a flash of red caught her eye. "Alrighhhht! Let's get this party started! Where's the free booze! Hey, look Rude, it's the brat."

The party was loud. Yuffie huffed for the hundredth time as she laid flopped on the couch upstairs in the room Tifa dubbed the living room. The remote dangled from her hand while she flipped through the channels with boredom. After Reno and Rude showed up, more and more people entered the bar. Yuffie was excited to see that the flyer idea had clearly worked because everyone carried the blue paper as they entered. She could see Tifa was amazed as well and very happy with the turnout. Yuffie had busied herself with watching everyone move about and Tifa work behind the bar, Aerith had taken it upon herself to help the barmaid out, while Barret made sure everyone stayed in line and out of trouble. Cid remained at the bar, smoking and occasionally chatting with Barret or the silent Rude who had seated himself next the the pilot.

Only a few moments into it, Tifa had glanced over and caught Yuffie's eye. Yuffie had smiled and gave her a thumbs up, only to frown in confusion when an apologetic look crossed Tifa's face as she walked over to her.

"What's up, Teef? Hey wasn't this such a good idea? Aren't I a genius?"

Tifa nodded and gave a small smile. "Yeah it was. I owe you, Yuffie. But..."


Tifa sighed and looked around. "You gotta go upstairs, Yuffie. You can't be down here during open hours."

"Aw, c'mon Tifa! This was my idea!"

"I know! And I'm grateful, but if they someone comes in and finds out you're underage I can get in serious trouble, they can shut me down!"

"No one will know! I won't even drink!"

"That's not the point, Yuffie."

"Gawd...this sucks, you know..."

"I know, Yuffie. I'll make it up to you!" Tifa had called while Yuffie stomped up the stairs.

Which was where she sat now. She huffed and changed positions on the couch. She was twenty, soon to be twenty one, the drinking age. But she didn't look to be twenty, not at all. So it wasn't as if she could 'pass' as twenty one if she didn't even look twenty. She grumbled annoyed when a loud crash came from downstairs, followed by a few boisterous laughs.

Yuffie hopped up and peeked down the stairs. There was a good amount of people there. She spotted Aerith walking around carrying mugs of placing them on a few tables. She found that odd, since the seemingly innocent florist looked out of place acting as a waitress of alcohol. Yuffie took a few steps down until she could lean around the wall and see the bar. Cid was still there, as was Barret and Rude. A bunch of others whom she didn't recognize as well. Then again, the people she did know here were only because of Tifa. She for certain wouldn't approach someone like Cid willingly on her own. As the years went by though, she got used to the grouchy pilot. He had brought her back and forth from Wutai many of times on her spur of the moment visits.

Reno looked to be passed out on a table in the corner, hand curled around a mug tightly. She rolled her eyes at his figure. His excessive drinking was annoying to her, he was bad enough sober, drunk, he was intolerable. A glance back to the bar showed Tifa filling up some more mugs for Aerith while she spoke to Cid, he'd say something every now and then, causing her to smile and her cheeks to flush. Yuffie narrowed her eyes at that, and leaner further around the wall until she lost her balance and fell onto the wood floor with a squawk.

Yuffie quickly glanced around to make sure she had drawn no attention. Hopping up and brushing her grey shorts, she grinned slyly as she snuck through the inebriated people. The door to the bar was open wide, letting the night air in as people came in and out as they pleased. A flash of blond spikes drew her eye and she froze. Quickly she pushed her way through the people as she tried to confirm in he was indeed here.

When she had view of him, Yuffie watched with apprehension. Why was he here? She wondered if Tifa invited him, but that made no sense if they were no longer together. One glance to the bar told her that Tifa in fact did not invite Cloud judging by the frozen expression on the barmaid's face. Yuffie moved closer, Cid turned in his seat to see what Tifa was staring at, catching sight of Cloud. An annoyed scowl marred his face as he pulled the cigarette from his lips.

"The fuck you doing here, Spike?"

When Cloud opened his mouth to answer, Yuffie hurriedly tried to slip closer, only to smack into an unmoving wall of a person. She teetered on the heel of her boot clumsily before falling. Her back hit what she could only assume was a tray of mugs, which, after a feminine gasp and squeak that sounded very much like Aerith, proved her correct. Yuffie fell onto her rear, and a split second later liquid splashed onto her head, drenching her hair and clothing. The now empty mugs clattered to the ground around her.

Yuffie slowly looked behind her to see Aerith with her hands clasped over her mouth, green eyes wide and apologetic. A male stood behind her, who seemed to be holding her steady, clad in black leathers which set off his silver, silver hair.

"I'm so sorry, Yuffie!" Aerith gasped.

Yuffie waved her off and moved to stand. "It's fine. It was my—" She paused when a black gloved hand entered her vision. Taking it, she allowed the person to help her up. When she looked to his face she slowly finished her sentence, "—fault..."

"You should watch where you are going, someone could have been injured."

Yuffie pushed her soaked hair from her face as she stared at the man from the parking lot. The same red, unfazed eyes stared back.

Yuffie sucked in a sharp breath. "You!"

Author's note: So...that's the first chapter. It's much longer than I planned, but well... that's usually how all my chapters turn out. This was originally going to be a one-shot, but I couldn't seem to make it so. Anyway, I do hope someone enjoyed it enough to want more. Let me know what you thought :)

Thanks for reading!