Chapter 9

Yuffie opened her eyes and couldn't see.

She flailed her arms up, felt them brush against fabric, and clawed back the blanket that lay over her head.

She was lying in an unfamiliar bed. A painting of a bridge hung on the wall to her left, just beside a roaring fireplace. She turned her head in the other direction, and sitting patiently on another bed beside her was--

"Vinny?" she croaked. "What're you doing here?"

"Just passing through," Vincent said calmly. "It seems my timing was fortuitous."

"Huh?" she said.

"Earlier this morning, a girl found you in the water. I heard her shouting and came to her assistance."

"You pulled me out?"

Vincent nodded.

Yuffie lay back, staring at the ceiling. She remembered going under, and then... She shivered, and she wasn't sure if it was because of the memory or because her hair was still damp.

With a start, she lifted the blanket to glance down at herself. Her shirt was dry, and it was not hers. "Wait, who changed my clothes?"

"The woman whose house this is," said Vincent. "I thought that would be preferable. You have on several occasions referred to me as 'creepy.'"

Had she done that in earshot? Maybe his hearing was sharper than she thought. She'd have to remember that. Yuffie chewed on her lip for a second and then said, "But you didn't have to... I mean, when you got me out of the water..."

Vincent didn't say anything, but it was answer enough.

"Oh, gods," Yuffie said. She dragged the blanket back up over her head. Could anything be more embarrassing? What a pathetic way that would've been to go out. Her! Yuffie Kisaragi! Drowning! And then to top it all off, Vincent had had to give her mouth-to-mouth. She could just die.

And there he sat, all calm and mature, like it was no big deal. He'd saved her life, and here she was acting like it was the end of the world because he'd had to touch her to do it. He must've thought she was such a baby.

Yuffie peeked cautiously out from beneath the blanket. "Um... thanks," she said.

Vincent nodded. "I'll get you some tea," he offered mildly, "and then perhaps you can explain what's going on."

He stood from the bed, and Yuffie pushed herself up against the pillow. The house only really had the one room, and Vincent crossed to a stove at the far end of it. Yuffie looked around, but the windows all had their curtains drawn, so she couldn't see outside for any frame of reference. She'd never been inside any of the houses in lower Junon before.

Faintly, she could make out raised voices somewhere outside. Were they looking for her?

They had to be. Tseng wouldn't assume she was dead just because she'd fallen in the ocean.

Blinking, Yuffie pushed the blanket back and lifted the hem of her shirt. Her side was bandaged, but she hardly felt it. The bullet must've just grazed her.

Vincent returned and offered her a mug of tea, which she accepted gratefully, and then he sat, looking at her expectantly.

"...you're not really up to speed on anything, are you?" Yuffie realized.

He shook his head. "I last spoke to Nanaki more than a month ago. You were still in Wutai."

"Wow. That was ages ago."

Before Bugenhagen had even gotten sick. Nanaki must have been doing well, all settled back home after their victory. AVALANCHE had just gotten set up in Kalm, and things had been looking rosy. Now it was all messed up.

"Hell. Okay." Yuffie drew in a breath. "A lot's been going on the past couple weeks..." And so she told him, about Shinra's plans for the Huge Materia, and how they'd successfully gotten all three of them, only for Tseng to show up in Cosmo Canyon. She made sure to emphasize how close she'd come to getting it back, but, reluctantly, she had to admit to her failure.

She didn't tell him about the conversation with her mother. It felt too fragile, like something that might evaporate from her mind if she spoke of it too soon. And... it was private, too.

Kasumi had called her her child. Not her daughter, her child. Did she know?

"The odds were against you," said Vincent. "You escaped with your life. That's enough."

Was he trying to comfort her? Yuffie squinted at him over her tea. It was weird, coming from him. "So, uh, does the lady who lives here have some kind of pull with the Shinra? How come they're not barging in here looking for me?"

"We waited until they'd already searched this house to bring you inside," Vincent explained. "She's keeping watch outside now."

"I wonder how long they'll keep it up, when they don't find me..."

"They may eventually conclude your body washed out to sea," he considered, "but I expect we'll be here a while."

Yuffie shook her head. "No, but... I've gotta talk to Aeris. Where's my phone?"

"Waterlogged," said Vincent. He nodded to the kitchen table, and at the sight of her cell phone sitting there by itself, Yuffie remembered the worse part.

"Damn it, they've got all my stuff," she lamented. Sure, she'd left plenty at the Junon apartment, but they had her shuriken, her flashbangs, her materia...

"Anything important?" Vincent asked.

"Yeah, it was important! It was mine! Man, I can't believe I lost my shuriken to the godsdamned Shinra..."

Vincent drew a breath to reply, but instead he stood abruptly. He drew his gun as the front door opened and aimed it directly at the Shinra soldier who appeared there.

"Woah, hang on!" Yuffie exclaimed. "This one's friendly!"

Sash had frozen in the doorway. Vincent glanced at Yuffie out of the corner of his eye, and at her nod, he lowered his weapon, though he didn't holster it. Sash cautiously stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

"Friend of yours?" she asked Yuffie.

Yuffie nodded. "Vinny, this is Sash. Sash, Vinny."

"Vincent," he amended.

At the introduction, Sash pulled her helmet off and nodded to Vincent. "You're the ex-Turk, right? I heard about you from Zack."

"Oh, good," said Yuffie, "then I don't have to explain what a weirdo he is."

Sash's expression said that maybe Zack hadn't elaborated on that part, which was annoying but not all that surprising. Zack would leave out the important stuff. But, Sash didn't ask for clarification.

"Anyway, I'm glad to see you're all right," she said. "Marisol said you almost drowned."

"Marisol?"

"This is her house," Sash explained. "I made a few connections here before I went topside; she's sort of the unofficial mayor down here."

"Oh." That explained why this Marisol lady had let Sash in without any commotion.

"Seems like the search is concentrated by the water now," Sash went on, "but they've blocked off the road out of town, and there's already a bulletin on the news about an AVALANCHE spy on the loose."

"So quickly?" Vincent wondered.

"I'm pretty sure they already had the story ready to go. They're saying she stole plans for a weapon; it's set-up for scapegoating AVALANCHE again. Yuffie actually being here just... lends it a little more credibility."

Yuffie bit her lip. She hated that. She hated that she'd tried to do something right and the Shinra could just use it no matter what had happened. In the pause, Vincent finally holstered his gun, but he wasn't looking at her.

"Look..." said Sash. "These people, they would've bought it anyway. I might've, too, once upon a time. Kinda makes a person think..." About what? Yuffie wondered. How shitty the whole situation was? "Anyhow, you can't stay in Junon, but I'm not sure how we're gonna get you out."

She hadn't even asked, Yuffie realized. Sash must have heard about what Yuffie was trying to do from Tifa, but she hadn't asked.

Yuffie swallowed. "I didn't... I didn't get the Huge Materia."

"I figured. There was a whole procession down to the underwater research lab after the Gelnika got in. They're probably working with it now."

She said that so matter-of-factly, like it wasn't even that big a deal. Like they weren't working on a bomb to wipe out thousands of people.

"Does Tifa know?" Vincent asked. Yuffie made a show of sipping her tea, trying to disguise whatever expression her face had to be making right now.

Sash nodded. "She knows that much. But yeah, we should let her know you're all right, Yuffie."

"Oh!" Yuffie exclaimed. "Yeah, you have your phone? Mine's junk and Vinny's not up on modern stuff."

"Yeah, sure." Sash dug her phone out of her pocket as she crossed the room, passing Vincent with a wary glance.

Yuffie took the phone from her and went into the contacts. Aeris's name came up first, and she hesitated... but that was a conversation she needed to have in person. Tifa was in charge of things, Yuffie would call her first.

Tifa answered immediately, like she'd been waiting on it. "Sash? You're safe to talk?"

"It's Yuffie--"

"Yuffie! Are you all right? What happened?"

"I'm okay. But I couldn't get the Huge Materia."

"That's okay," said Tifa, again without an ounce of blame. "It was too much to expect."

"But--"

"No buts," Tifa insisted. "We'll figure it out, okay?"

"...yeah." But they wouldn't have had to figure it out if Yuffie hadn't messed up.

"So you met up with Sash?"

"Uh-huh. We're in lower Junon. Actually, Vinny's here, too."

"Vincent is?"

Yuffie glanced at him, but he didn't speak up to announce himself, so she went on. "Yeah, go figure, right? Anyway, listen-- they almost caught me, but it wasn't a total bust. I found out Scarlet's still alive."

"You saw her?"

"Yeah. She must've been laid up a while, she had scars I think, but she's back now. She's probably leading the whole Huge Materia project."

"That's not great news, but it's good to know..."

"And-- I really need to talk to Aeris," Yuffie said. "What's the plan? Should we meet up with you in Kalm?"

"Actually, we're regrouping in Midgar," said Tifa, and as she went on, Yuffie noticed for the first time how tired she sounded. "I've been hashing things out with Reeve... Um, Barret and Jessie should be back later today with Aeris. They're stopping in at Kalm first."

"Okay. Midgar then."

"Wedge and Shera are on their way to you already. If you can meet up with them, they can give you a lift here."

"What? But the Highwind--"

"We sent the Highwind to Wutai," Tifa interrupted before she could finish. "They're headed your way by truck."

Yuffie relaxed. It had been decided a while ago that they couldn't risk flying the Highwind too close to Shinra territory; it was too important an asset. "How're they getting past the checkpoints?" she asked instead.

"By not being persons of interest," Tifa explained. "They've never been arrested, so Shinra shouldn't be on the lookout for them... hopefully."

"I haven't seen anything about them," Sash put in helpfully.

"We'll get in touch with 'em," said Yuffie. "You'll let Barret and everybody know I'm okay, right?"

"You don't want to call Barret yourself?" Tifa wondered. "He's been worried."

"He'll get all mushy on me." And she couldn't handle any more of that right now. "You do it."

"All right, but I hope you know you're in for a lot of hugs when you get here."

"Yeah, yeah. You're all saps."

"...I'm glad you're okay," Tifa added more softly. She'd been worried, too. Of course she had.

"...thanks," said Yuffie. "See you soon."

A call to Shera determined (after the initial effusion of relief) that they'd just come through the mountain pass, and were headed for the first checkpoint at the river. They'd be a while yet reaching Junon, but maybe it'd be enough time for the Shinra to call off the search... or at least not to have so many men committed to it.

Shera promised to call again once they were closer. Sash took her phone back and excused herself to go on 'helping' with the search so she could keep an eye on things, leaving Yuffie alone again with Vincent.

And she realized, she'd just been assuming this whole time, but she didn't actually know--

"So, are you coming with us?" she asked him.

"It sounds like you could use the help," said Vincent.

Yuffie nodded. "Yeah... Thanks, I guess."

He raised an eyebrow.

"Well, I don't know. I mean, do you even want to get involved, or had you planned on being done with the whole AVALANCHE thing? I never really got why you joined up in the first place, and then..."

And then Lucrecia had died. So if he'd been doing it for her, she was gone, and if he'd been counting on a future with her, she was gone. Yuffie didn't know what that meant for him.

Vincent didn't answer right away either, but then he said, "I may not know what lies ahead for me, but that's no reason to abandon my allies. If you need help, I can provide it. That's enough for now."

It didn't exactly answer her questions, but Yuffie expected it was as close as she was going to get, so she nodded. "...how've you been, anyway? What've you been up to since Nanaki saw you?"

"Travelling," he said. "I went back to Nibelheim, for a time."

Yuffie made a face. "You didn't go back to that coffin, did you?"

"No. But we left so quickly before. I wanted to see... if there was anything left of hers."

"Oh."

They'd gone through the main part of the mansion before ever meeting Vincent or figuring out what had happened there; it had just been a lot of junk belonging to nameless strangers, and Yuffie hadn't given it a second thought since. But Vincent and Lucrecia had both lived in that place, hadn't they? There'd been a lot of books and letters and stuff, and maybe some of it had meaning she didn't know about, like the stuff in her mother's basement.

"You find anything?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

Yuffie waited a beat. "What, is it a secret?" Not that she should've expected otherwise. The only thing Vincent had ever made obvious were his feelings for Lucrecia. Anything else and he got all cagey and cryptic.

"I didn't realize you'd be so interested," said Vincent.

"I'm gonna be stuck in this house with you for hours. What do you want me to do, read a book?"

"She does seem to own a few..."

Yuffie huffed. "Fine, don't tell me."

They sat for a few minutes in silence before Vincent at last drew something from the pocket of his shirt. He held it out to her.

It was a photograph: four people standing in front of the Shinra mansion on a sunny day in Nibelheim, but it took Yuffie a second to recognize them. The man in the middle, with the moustache, that was Aeris's father, Professor Gast--she knew him from those videos he'd made. Standing to his right was Hojo, who she'd only seen alive in the same video. Beside him... must've been Lucrecia. A Lucrecia more than 30 years younger than the one Yuffie had met.

And the man standing to Gast's left, a little apart... Was that really Vincent? The face was the same, but his hair was short, and he had both arms, and in that Turks' uniform, he almost looked like a normal person.

"You look weird," Yuffie told him, handing the photo back to him. "But she was pretty. You sure you want one with Hojo in it though?"

"It's the only photo with the both of us."

"You should let Jessie take a pass at it. I bet she could edit him out with her computer skills."

Vincent carefully tucked the photo away again. "Maybe."

"She made me a fake ID and everything, y'know."

"I'm sure you've put that to good use."

Yuffie couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic. "I mean, yeah, she made me older so I can hang around bars and stuff. For the intel." She paused. "Man, what do you even say about your age? You're like a bunch of old man stories in the body of a 30-year-old."

"Please," said Vincent. "I'm only 57."

"Holy shit, was that a joke?"

"Was it?"

Yuffie shook her head. "They are not your strong suit, but man am I glad to see you trying. The whole brooding thing is a pain in my ass."

"Sorry to be a bother," said Vincent, in a way that absolutely wasn't sincere. Yuffie decided to let it go, on account of his loss actually being recent instead of decades ago like they'd thought when they first pulled him out of that coffin.

The rain kept up all day. Even though she couldn't look outside to see it, and the airstrip was too far overhead to hear it, Yuffie could smell it in the air. It battled with the stench of the Mako pollution, trying to wash it away.

She thought about her mother, but just the edges of the dream, or the vision, whatever it was. Just the shape of it. She didn't want to think too hard about the details, afraid to find out in the trying that they weren't there anymore. They'd spoken, with Leviathan to connect them, and she let the smell of the rain keep her certain of that much.

Wedge and Shera arrived late in the afternoon. Sash had checked back in to walk through the plan with them, and they waited on her signal to know when it was time to move. Yuffie had changed back into her Shinra uniform; even missing the helmet, she figured it would help her blend in a lot more than some old lady's pajamas.

At Sash's quiet knock, Vincent eased the door open. It was late enough that the daylight was failing, and Junon's under city in the downpour was especially dim, but not so dark that they wouldn't have been spotted had anybody been looking. But, just up the street, at the town entrance, Wedge and Shera were kicking up a fuss about the blockade, holding the full attention of the soldiers there.

Yuffie followed Vincent out of the house and, keeping low, they crept along the outside of the fence that ran beside the road.

"Look, she lives just up there!" Wedge was exclaiming, gesturing emphatically towards a house on the far side of the street. A few of the soldiers followed his gesture, their heads turning completely the opposite direction from where Yuffie and Vincent made their way. "You're telling me we can't visit?"

"Not without ID," one of the soldiers stated flatly.

"That's crazy, we've never needed ID in the lower city before..."

While he and Shera continued to protest, Yuffie and Vincent came up alongside their truck. They hopped the fence, ducked down, and crept around to the back, where the vehicle itself hid them completely from view. They slipped beneath a tarp in the truck bed and lay still.

At that point, Sash approached the soldiers to 'help,' and made a pretty convincing play of finally convincing Wedge and Shera to give up and leave. As the truck backed up to turn around, Yuffie's stomach turned with it. Under the tarp, about all she could make out were Vincent's eyes, which brought him right back to creepy and definitely not a calming sight at all. She shut hers and kept still, not wanting to give them away while they could be in sight of Junon.

Rain came down hard against the tarp as they emerged from beneath the air base, and Yuffie concentrated on that steady rush of sound, and the cold of the rivulets of water that leaked past the edges and made their way across the truck bed beneath her. She thought she could feel the slow turn east, away from Junon, and as at last the hammering of the rain eased into a steady patter, the truck slowed to a stop. The doors opened, and as Yuffie began to shift, someone pulled back the tarp.

"Yuffie, I'm so glad you're all right," said Shera. Her relief looked funny, in the red glow of the tail lights, with the rain coming down her face.

"Yeah," was all Wedge said, but she could see the way his shoulders relaxed at the sight of her. "Hi, Vincent," he added. "It's been a while."

Vincent only nodded, because he was Vincent.

"I'd say thanks for the ride," said Yuffie, "but..."

"I'm sorry about that," said Shera. "We should've taken a different car. Why don't you come sit up front...?" Her suggestion trailed off with an uncertain glance at Vincent, since there was no way all four of them would fit.

"It's fine," said Vincent. "Yuffie's the one who does poorly with vehicles."

Yuffie stuck her tongue out at him, even if it was true and she wasn't about to argue the point. She hopped down from the back of the truck and hurried to claim her seat.

"Sorry, Vincent..." Wedge was saying behind her. "How 'bout we switch after the next checkpoint?"

If Vincent made any reply to that, Yuffie didn't hear it. Shera climbed into the seat beside her, shutting the door, and then Wedge returned to the driver's side. For a second, the prospect of continuing on didn't seem so bad. The three of them dripped water onto the seats, and even the inside of the truck smelled like rain.

"What's the plan for the checkpoints anyway?" Yuffie wondered. "We just counting on the dark?"

Wedge gave her a sheepish look. "I think so. You and Vincent are sneaky like that, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so." She liked to think it was more her specialty than Vincent's, but she had to admit he could be pretty good at it for a guy who looked as weird as he did. She hadn't actually asked him how he'd gotten through Junon with no ID.

Anyway, the checkpoints would be easy enough for them to bypass under cover of night, even if the rain let up. Wedge and Shera could drive on through the same way they'd come, and she and Vincent could sneak past while they were distracted.

Unfortunately, that didn't leave her with anything to puzzle through. No distractions. They were out of Junon, almost home free. On their way back to Midgar, where the others waited.

Aeris, too...

None of it would be happening like this if Yuffie hadn't lost the Huge Materia. Barret and Jessie could've gone on home to Kalm, and stayed there. Tifa wouldn't be losing sleep trying to plan for an attack worse than anybody had ever seen before. And nobody would've had to come rescue Yuffie from Junon, the place she'd so confidently volunteered to make her home base for this leg of her AVALANCHE experience.

It was hard to say if the twisting in her stomach had anything to do with the drive, or if she could chalk all of it up to feeling like a screw-up. On either side of her, neither Wedge nor Shera said anything about it.

After the first checkpoint, Wedge offered, as promised, to switch places with Vincent, but by then they'd left the rain behind them, and Vincent refused. Shera took over driving, though, to let Wedge get some sleep. He was out pretty quickly, somehow.

"If you want to get some rest, too, go ahead," Shera said to her. "It's a long drive yet; it'll be late when we get back."

Yuffie leaned back against the seat with a grimace. "I don't know how anybody sleeps in cars," she said.

"Well, when you don't get motion sickness, the hum of the engine can be... sort of soothing."

"Huh."

She could see Shera looking at her in concern out of the corner of her eye. "Are you all right? It must have been harrowing, escaping on your own."

"I guess."

"That's not what's bothering you?"

"Well, it would've been fine if I hadn't--" Yuffie broke off, but Shera hadn't given any sign of interrupting her. Maybe this time someone would actually let her say it. "It was my idea to leave the Huge Materia in Cosmo Canyon, where the Shinra could just show up and grab it. But nobody's come out and said it. Nobody's saying it's my fault, they're all just trying to make me feel better. Even Vincent."

"Maybe that's honestly how they feel," Shera suggested gently. "I haven't heard any differently."

So nobody was saying it behind her back? "Maybe," Yuffie conceded. "I don't know, you're probably right. They're all so nice..."

Godo would have blamed her, came the thought at last. A reckless brat of a child, she always acted without thinking through the consequences for other people. Now, all of Midgar was in danger. And what happened after that, if Shinra succeeded? She'd gotten Wutai involved...

"I can tell you that no one blames you," said Shera, "but... I don't think that will really change how responsible you feel for it, yourself."

Yuffie sat up, surprised to hear that. "...you have somethin' like that?" she wondered.

Shera had really stuck her neck out for her back when they'd met, so it was hard for Yuffie not to like her, but she didn't actually know a lot about her. She was a big technology nerd, like Jessie, only she used to work for Shinra. Yuffie had never actually held that against her.

"Well... yes," Shera confessed. "The Captain--Cid, he was supposed to be the first man in space. But, because of my mistake, the launch was cancelled, and then Shinra pulled the funding for the entire program. Jessie's told me any number of times, it was Shinra, not me, but either way his dream was ruined."

"Huh..." She cared an awful lot about that Cid guy, when Yuffie had already made up her mind to dislike him. "What about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"The whole space thing, was that your dream, too?"

Shera gave a little shrug, her expression wistful. "I just wanted to be a part of making it happen," she said. "It would have been an incredible achievement."

"I can't say I get it," Yuffie admitted, "but like, you're not all old and wrinkly yet. If we can manage not to screw up any more down here, maybe you'll get another shot."

"I think Reeve's going to have quite enough on his plate, for a long time yet. And that's not even considering the expense..."

"Don't worry about that. We'll just clean out Rufus's bank account once we beat his ass into the ground."

The remark seemed to stun Shera into silence for a moment, before she let out a laugh. "You really are something," she said, and this time it made Yuffie feel better.

She actually might have wound up dozing. For a little while, she was sure it was raining again. It sounded almost like music, like her mother humming to her... But when she came back into focus, the windshield was clear, the headlights catching only in the lingering droplets of the earlier rain.

Midgar came into sight on the horizon not like a mass of artificial lights shouting into the night, but as a hulking silhouette rising up from the wasteland. There were lights here and there, as they drew closer, but they were clustered in places, like lone constellations. It was only Yuffie's second visit to Midgar; she hadn't been back since Holy.

Shera drove them into the city, taking one of the long ramps up to the highway running across the plate. Yuffie remembered the hurried drive through these streets to the Shinra building, traffic teaming around them, so many unaware of what was about to hit them. Lights on in the towering buildings on either side.

It felt like a ghost town now, dark and empty. She knew a lot of people had left, she'd helped with relocating them, she'd seen the refugees in Kalm and Junon, but she hadn't pictured the empty spaces they left behind. Not like Wutai, though. These empty buildings still had people who could come back to them, if their home could be made safe again.

Shera was yawning when they reached Reeve's headquarters in Sector 3. Yuffie elbowed Wedge hard to wake him, and climbed out of the truck after him. Vincent was the only one of them who didn't seem sleepy, and she wondered if he'd actually been able to sleep in the back of the truck. Maybe. Guy could sleep in a coffin for decades, he could probably sleep anywhere.

Barret was waiting for them outside the building, and it was probably because of how little Yuffie had been sleeping that she was too sluggish to avoid his hug-- or at least, that's what she told herself. His arms enveloped her, his flesh arm firm against her back, his prosthetic still a light and careful pressure.

"I'm so glad," he said quietly. "I'm so glad you're safe."

"C-c'mon, it wasn't that big a deal. We've been in worse spots."

"But you were in it on your own. Shoulda never been on your own... I'm sorry we left so soon."

It hadn't occurred to Yuffie until that moment that the others might have felt guilty over it, too. It had been her idea to leave the Huge Materia there, and her decision to stay--but it had been their decision to go, leaving her behind. Every time they'd told her it was okay, had they been telling themselves, too?

"Look..." she said. "Don't worry about it. I'm fine."

Barret finally pulled back, nodding. He didn't look like he'd gotten much sleep either, and his gaze finally went past her to the others. "Good to see you guys back again. And Vincent..." He offered his hand. "Thanks. For bein' there for her."

"...of course," said Vincent, accepting his hand.

Yuffie realized then that Barret wasn't the only one who'd come outside in anticipation of their arrival. Aeris had hung back behind him, but she was walking up to them now, and Yuffie froze for a second at the sight of her. Words flooded into her head in a jumble, and absolutely none of them made it past her throat. She'd been pushing this down all day, knowing she needed to share what she'd learned, but afraid that even thinking about it again would change the memory, make her lose some piece of it.

In her hesitation, Aeris hugged her, too, without Yuffie even trying to fend her off. When she pulled back, there was a knowing smile on her face. "We need to talk, right?"

"You know?" Yuffie asked stupidly.

"You mentioned it to Tifa," Aeris said. "But... I get the feeling I might know what it's about."

"Oh, good."

It was a relief, that gentle reminder that Aeris knew about this kind of stuff. She'd been dealing with cryptic messages from dead people almost her whole life. It wouldn't feel as weird, or as fragile, talking about it with her.

"C'mon," said Barret. "Let's get you inside."

And out of the uniform, his glance seemed to add. Yuffie sure wouldn't mind that either.


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