Fandom/Pairing: Kindgom Hearts; Vincent/Yuffie
Rating: ESRB Rating of M for Mature < violence, plot complexity >
Summary: True heroes don't let petty things like death stop them... and a hero's memories more often return in nightmares than in sweet dreams. [Reincarnation fic.]
Notes: No, there will be no translations of the Japanese until later in the fic. The point of including the Japanese was that Yuffie is hearing it and not understanding it. (And, well, translating one of the phrases would SPOIL you for a plot point.)
Chapter One: Fear the Fall
Chapter Two: The Other Option
Chapter Three: No More Miracles, Please
Chapter Four: Modern-Day Orpheus
Chapter Five: And Eurydice Behind
A woman's figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
—Dylan Thomas, "The Hunchback in the Park"
Radiant Garden: Squall and Aerith's House
This time, Yuffie dreamed of a city. Red wood and bright green tile. Brass that gleamed, except where it was ancient. Tall, tiered towers. Rickety bridges. Narrow, meandering streets. It was a place of dry, dry heat, where the sun was a hammer and the earth was an anvil. The only solace to be found was in the river that coiled through, rollicking under the bridges and sparkling in the light.
The river whispered things to her in a language she understood, the way every language was comprehensible in dreams. But if she'd had to paraphrase it, she would have failed.
She sat on one of the lowest bridges and let her feet dangle above the water, toes pointed down. She was short enough that she couldn't dip her feet to the surface of the water.
You'll miss me, the river said, and suddenly it wasn't a river, it was a giant blue-green snake with shimmering scales, horned and radiant. The colours changed, melting from varied shades of blue to shades of green as it moved, sinuous and inexorable—roiling—as a river.
Radiant Garden: Merlin's House
Cid ignored Merlin's sleepy mumbles and snores as he entered data into the computer he'd built himself. Though they still bickered frequently, the two had settled into a comfortable routine. As much as Merlin might complain about his late nights, he didn't actually disturb the old wizard's sleep. And Cid had the feeling that in the coming while, his nights would grow shorter and shorter and sleep would come sooner. Until, at least, he got old enough that it didn't come at all.
Rattling around somewhere in his head was Yuffie's bitterly cheerful exclamation: Dude didn't know shit.
The program that kept track of the Highwind, Sora's Gummi Ship—and he hoped to hell it was coincidence that it was named after him; he was paranoid enough that he wasn't sure, and if it wasn't coincidence, well, things would just be getting even weirder—flashed a notification.
Sora had definitely shifted course from the King's castle to Radiant Garden. They'd be getting their answers soon enough. After all, if anybody could tell them about Vincent Valentine, it would be the kid who'd fought beside him. However briefly.
Cid ached for a cigarette in ways he hadn't since the rise of the Heartless, since they'd fled the city. There were pieces of this puzzle that just didn't fit. It was as if 'How does Vincent know Cloud' was a completely different question, utterly unrelated to 'Where the hell is Cloud.' And why he got that feeling, he wasn't sure.
What he really wanted, right this goshdarn minute, was to roll a cigarette between his fingers and wonder why the name Vincent Valentine sounded so familiar.
Radiant Garden: Squall and Aerith’s House
Thanks to the Heartless, you learned not to sleep too soundly. Apart from Soldiers and the Lance Soldiers, the smaller to medium-sized Heartless were virtually soundless when they moved. In order to stay alive, you had to notice the slightest changes in your surroundings, even if you were asleep.
At least, that was Aerith’s excuse for being such a light sleeper. And it was mostly the truth.
In any case, it was partly because of this that Aerith awoke in time to hear Yuffie’s muffled sobs.
She rolled out of bed, careful not to pull her own or Tifa’s hair in the process—which was harder than it might have sounded, considering that they both had long hair—and quietly padded through the halls. She heard another set of footsteps, just as quiet as hers, and had to bite back a smile.
So, Squall slept as lightly as she did, too.
It brought back memories. Not all of them were unpleasant.
They met at the door to Yuffie’s room. She tapped his upper arm and he nodded once. They listened.
The sounds from within were muffled, even more than the distance and the door would have muffled them. Aerith ached inside. The girl she thought of as a little sister didn’t seem to realize that they would love her despite her “weakness.” And so she refused to show it, refused even to acknowledge that she cried at all.
“Is this because of that mission?” Aerith murmured.
Squall shook his head once. “No.”
They exchanged a look. The expression on his face spoke clearly. She remembered how easy it had been to read each other, back before the Nobodies had appeared. They’d been in their prime around the time Sora first showed up.
This night was just dredging up old memories for all of them, she supposed.
Squall retreated back to the living room, his movements still the graceful, predatory pace of a lion. Despite his tiredness. She’d long subdued her envy of his careless grace, found a grace of her own. But she still found him beautiful. There probably wasn’t anybody who knew him who didn’t.
Aerith took a step forward, knocked gently on the door. “Yuffie? Are you alright?”
The only response was a barely audible sniffle.
She silently forced open the door, a trick she’d known for years, and made her way into the room. As always, it was a haven of organized chaos, everything strewn in patterns that only made sense to Yuffie. As always, it didn’t bother her. They’d all long accepted each other’s quirks and oddities.
She found the teen in bed, curled up against her pillow. Tear tracks glistened on her cheeks in the dim light.
Without thinking about it, Aerith slipped into bed beside her and curled around the girl who’d been matchmaker, thief, sister, friend. She stroked the soft, short hair; at times finger-combing it, at times simply sliding her hand along it. She hugged Yuffie close, murmuring the comforting nonsense she’d been murmuring for years, and felt herself relax as the shudders slowly ceased and the sniffles became sighs, then silence.
When it was over, she whispered, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Bad dream,” Yuffie replied. “Something about a city. And a river. Except it was a talking snake.”
“The city or the river?”
“The river. It said—it said—Oui’mm secc sa. And I knew what it meant in the dream, but I don’t remember.” There was a quiet, choked sound, and then Yuffie added in a wet, broken whisper, “I think I’ve been to that place.”
Aerith struggled to find something practical to say. She settled for kissing Yuffie’s tearstained cheek and murmuring, “Well, Sora’s been a lot of places. Why don’t you ask him about it the next time you see him?”
In the darkness, Yuffie nodded.
She placed a kiss to the younger woman’s forehead and retreated from the room, already mulling over the girl’s words. Oui’mm secc sa. What did it mean? Was this just a dream, or was something else going on?
For the first time since they’d returned to Hollow Bastion, once more Radiant Garden, Aerith missed Belle. Belle had understood all the problems that plagued her. They’d had an understanding, she and Belle.
Radiant Garden: Aerith's House
Yuffie stood in the shower and let the water roll over her, mulling over the words she'd told Aerith. Mulling over that roiling, rollicking serpent in the city.
Its scales had been wet. Slick with saltwater. Slick like the blue-green tile she was currently standing on.
She put a hand to the wall of the shower, brushing her fingers along the tile.
E ys ouin Fydankut.
Yuffie leaned her head against the tile, felt its lukewarm wetness seep onto her forehead, and let herself cry again.
Oui’mm secc sa. E ys ouin Fydankut. What did it mean? Why was she hearing it? Why did it make her ache for—that place, with the red wood and the green-roofed towers?
She shook her head and pushed everything else aside. Forced herself to shower, towel herself off. Get dressed.
She entered the kitchen to find Sora sitting at the table—in her spot, no less, she was so going to kick his skinny ass—and chowing down on Tifa's Breakfast of Doom. She fixed herself a plate, naturally full of all the good things in life, perhaps minus the donuts, and sat down next to him.
Tifa smiled at her and put a mug of hot cocoa in front of her plate. "How did you sleep?"
Yuffie looked up and smiled so hard she wound up squinting. She flashed a thumbs-up. "Slept great!"
Tifa's lips pursed for a moment. Her expression said, quite clearly, That's not what Aerith told me.
Yuffie grinned and ignored Tifa's expression. "Have you seen Squall?"
Tifa shook her head, her voice mild. "Not since this morning. You slept pretty late, you know." Since almost had two syllables, the r in morning was almost completely absent.
Sora drained a glass of orange juice in one go. He set it down just in time to ask, "How come you're always looking for Squall?"
"Because he has permanent five o'clock shadow and I like making fun of it," she replied, automatically giving him a nonsense answer.
They both knew it was a nonsense answer. Hell, everyone in the room knew it. They all stayed quiet for a moment.
After a minute, Sora grinned brightly. "Aerith said you had something to ask me?"
No, Yuffie choked back and then thought, wondering what the hell Aerith was talking about. In her mind, sunlight sparkled on green roofs and she gasped. "Yeah, yeah, I did, actually! Have you ever been to a place with, like, tiered towers and green-tiled roofs?"
At the prospect of being useful, Sora's eyes lit up. "And a lot of red paint and sliding paper doors? Yeah, I have! That's the Land of Dragons!"
The Land of Dragons. A speaking serpent that flowed like a river through a city. E ys ouin Fydankut. Oui’mm secc sa. That had to be it! The Land of Dragons! She was remembering that place!
She grinned back at him. "How can I get there?"
"Gummi ship. It's actually not too far from the Coliseum." He grinned. "Want me to take you there?"
It might be best if I went on my own, she wanted to say, but then she realized that no, that wouldn't be best. How could she pilot a Gummi ship if she was in this condition from just a week's worth of bad dreams? She might need to stay alone, but she couldn't leave alone.
"In a couple of days, maybe? I probably should settle stuff here first."
Like tell Rikku she'd be going. That'd be loads and loads of fun, she was sure. Rikku could get emotional at the best of times. Finding out that her Way Totally Bestest Friend Ever was leaving for a while and could be gone for up to a month? No way. She'd be all over tears.
And damned if Yuffie probably wouldn't cry along with her.
Radiant Garden: Merlin's House
"Sorry I'm late, everybody," Yuffie said as she ducked in the door. "I was talking to Sora."
Squall, Cid, Aerith, and Merlin were seated at the round stone table. They turned as one to look at her. Merlin with his habitual grumpy old man 'I hate meetings oh thank god you'll make them get on with it' look, Cid with a slightly startled expression on his face, Aerith and Squall with their own renditions of concern.
"Yeah?" Cid rasped. "And what'd he have to say?"
Yuffie sat down and wriggled her brows at the tea set. Merlin gave her a conspiratory look, then made the teaset dance in time with her brow wrigglings. She whistled a nameless tune and the teaset finally got around to pouring her a drink. She accepted the cup and took a sip.
"The Land of Dragons. That's the place I'm remembering."
Cid's look turned confused. He took a heavy swallow of his own tea, then stared into the dregs as if he could read the future with them. "But you've never been there. Hell, I've never been there, and I've bounced around all over this da—dang 'verse."
She shrugged. "So I'm remembering places I've never been. Weirder things have happened."
Squall slapped a palm on the table. Dishes jumped. His own teacup spilled, and Aerith squealed a little as cold tea poured into her lap. "How can you be so blasé about this?"
"Because if I let myself panic, I'll have a total freakout and be all like I have a kraaaaken from the seeeea inside my head and Hooooofuck I'm remembering places I've never been and let me tell you, freakouts are not fun!"
Merlin waved a hand and the spilled tea vanished. Sugar cubes stumbled over themselves to go back into their tin. Squall's teacup floated its way toward the teapot, accepting a stream of steaming tea. "Calm down, everyone. Yuffie, I find your comment about something else living inside your head very interesting. Do you believe that you aren't alone in your mind?"
Yuffie blinked. His voice had been mild, but there was something intense in the way he looked at her. As if he was trying to pretend that he wasn't interested, but he really was. Very interested. Like, 'Cid encountering a new kind of engine' sort of interested.
"Uh, do you know what E ys ouin Fydankut means? 'Cos I sure don't, and it's been circling around inside my head since I took a shower this morning."
Merlin stared at her. He shook his head, slowly. "No. But it does sound like something you might hear in the Land of Dragons. I think you should go."
Yuffie relaxed. "Good, 'cos I do too."
Squall sat up and treated the entire table to his glare. "Well, I don't. We don't know that they'll welcome her. She could be in danger!"
At the sight of that glare, something in Yuffie ached. She had to fight to keep her eyes dry. In her head, something murmured, Ajanodrehk femm dinh uid vun dra pacd. It wasn't her voice, she realized. That wasn't what her thoughts sounded like. It was more masculine, older.
"So I won't go alone!" Yuffie scowled at him and ignored the voice in her head.
"But none of us have the time to go with you. Believe it or not, Yuffie, we are trying to reconstruct this town!"
Yuffie stood up and glared. "I have to go! I'm getting to the point where I can't sleep, Squall. I'm no good to anybody when I'm here." She looked over to Aerith, pleading. "I might find some info on Cloud if I go."
Aerith looked down, pain clear on her face. She looked at her hands, murmuring, "That wasn't fair, Yuffie."
"It's true! The Land of Dragons isn't far from the Coliseum. If nothing else, I might be able to get some more out of Vincent."
Aerith looked up, confused. "Who's Vincent?"
Squall looked to Cid. "You mean you didn't tell her?"
Cid stared back at Squall, a horrified expression on his face. "Well, you live with her... I thought you would."
Oh god. Aerith didn't know. Yuffie sat down, took both of Aerith's hands in hers. "Aerith, there wasn't any Gummi ship crash in the Coliseum. Sora told us somebody named Vincent in a red cloak had mentioned knowing Cloud. We went there to see what he knew."
Aerith stared at her with a beautifully confused expression on her face. She looked first to Squall—she always looked to Squall first—and then to Cid. There was something crestfallen in her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Cid looked down, clearly uncomfortable. He never had been good at this sort of discussion. "Well, at first, we didn't want to get your hopes up. And then Vincent told 'em a whole lot a nothin'. I figured Leon'd be the best one to tell ya."
Aerith looked back to Squall.
Squall shifted in his seat, looked at the teacup loosely gripped in one hand. It had stopped steaming. "I didn't know what to say. I thought Cid had told you."
"That's how you knew Yuffie wasn't having nightmares about the mission," she said, voice numb. "You knew there wasn't any mission. How could you hide that from me?"
Squall spread his hands. "How I knew didn't seem relevant at the time."
Merlin cleared his throat. "Ahem. Perhaps we should leave the domestic squabbles for later? We are here to discuss the reconstruction, after all."
Yuffie thought for a moment. It was a thought she wanted to save for later, but it demanded to be heard. "I could take Rikku with me!"
Squall and Cid both turned to stare at her. Exactly what they thought of that was clear: Yuffie and Rikku in one place spelled disaster. However, the natural havoc they created just by being around each other could protect them...
Cid at last rasped, "All right. But you get Sora to drop you there, got it? I don't want you flyin', the condition you're in."
The issue settled--Fro yna oui cu rybbo?--Yuffie sat back down and tried to contain the happiness. This was totally perfect! She'd have so much fun! Except for the dreams, anyway.
And the voice in her head. The one that was growing clearer and clearer.
Radiant Garden: The Castle Gate
As usual, the three fairies were floating in midair, their conversation a quiet buzz. It was Paine who saw her first, and, thus, Paine who tapped Rikku and pointed.
There was an immediate blur of blonde hair, wings, and suddenly Yuffie was stumbling backward, her arms full of skin and feathers and a teenager's weight. She gasped for breath and tried not to fall over.
"Been a while," Paine told her, flitting over much more sedately than Rikku had.
Yuna, on the other hand, was dancing toward her in graceful loops. She made flight look like an art, while for Paine, it was just a form of transportation. And for Rikku, it was like breathing--she made it look so effortless. Flight was what Rikku was.
Rikku squeezed her tight and swung one of her feet up until she was balancing on one leg, with her other knee bent. "Yeah! We need your help! We're looking for our treasure!"
Yuffie frowned. "I'd love to treasure-hunt with you guys, but I have to go somewhere."
All three figures gave her a look of horror. Well, except for Paine, but Paine had settled into her 'not happy' expression, which might well have meant horror.
"But you can't go!" Yuna drooped in the air, her wings bending earthward. "We need your help!"
An idea struck. Yuffie mentally closed her eyes and crossed her fingers for luck. "Hey, wait a minute! You guys are fairies! Is there some kind of spell on me?"
All three of them stared her up and down. Rikku popped back into fairy form and watched her for several moments. None of them said a word.
"Not on you," Yuna said at last, frowning in concentration, "more like inside you."
Oh, good. Well, at least the voice in her head wasn't just her going crazy.
"I have to find out what that spell is. And I have to get it out. That's where I'm going."
The three fairies nodded.
"Uh, I'm not supposed to go alone..."
Paie nodded again and intoned, "And you want Rikku to go with you."
"How do you do that?" Yuffie asked.
Paine shrugged and said nothing. That was classic Paine for you.
Yuffie turned to Rikku. "So, do you want to come?"
Radiant Garden: Squall and Aerith's House
"Are you sure?" Sora bit his lip. "I mean, both of you guys alone?"
There was an unspoken On a strange world that you don't know a lot about? that everyone concerned ignored. He was obviously afraid for what might happen to his Gummmi ship. Hmph. It wasn't like they were going to destroy it. Sure, chaos followed them aroud like a lovestruck puppy, but they weren't destructive.
"I have to know, Sora. I'm dreaming about some place that I've never seen. I need to know why."
Sora stared into her eyes. Suddenly, she was reminded of Cloud. And suddenly she knew why Aerith avoided him and why Tifa spent so much time around him.
"One more thing." Squall stood. From the way he'd folded his arms across his chest, she knew he was still upset. "What did you think of Vincent?"
Sora thought to himself, then shrugged. "He didn't seem like a bad guy. Why?"
Riku, who sat beside him, folded his arms across his chest and smirked. "Why, are you worried about him being just a Gummi hop away from Yuffie?"
Yuffie glared and made a threatening gesture with her fists. "I am going to make you eat that stupid beanie, girlface."
Squall shook his head. When he spoke, his tone was dry, "He wasn't the person you cracked him up to be."
Riku gave Sora a dubius look. Sora scratched his head.
Yuffie took matters into her own hands. She pulled into a cartwheel, then launched herself into a series of back handsprings, stopping right by the arm of Sora's chair. "Vince was kinda way unhelpful for us, kiddo. Like, 'stayed up all night coming up with cryptic answers' kind of unhelpful."
Sora stared. Whether that had anything to do with the acrobatics or with the fact that Vincent had been unhelpful, Yuffie neither knew nor cared.
"Vincent was pretty nice to me," he said, confusion in his voice. "I mean, he's kind of quiet, but..."
Squall and Yuffie exchanged a look.
"Quiet. Right." Squall's voice had become painfully dry. "He gave us exactly what would make us go away."
"Which made us kind of suspicious," Yuffie added. "And we wouldn't exactly say 'no' to an opportunity to explore the Caverns with you and him. Well, I wouldn't. I think Squall just wants to throttle him."
Squall protested, but Yuffie didn't exactly care what he said at this point. She wanted to make damn sure she was going to the Land of Dragons.
"Anyway, you guys'll take me?"
Sora and Riku looked at each other again. And then Sora stood, with his habitual big cheesy smile, stuck out his hand, and said, "Of course!"
Yuffie idly patted Rikku, who had been napping on her shoulder, and smiled.
There was only one thing left to say, then.
"When do we leave?"