Because she hasn’t called in three months.
That’s why he’s here, that’s what he tells himself when she looks at him like she can’t figure out what he was thinking. (Maybe this is somehow his fault, for assuming that she would always call him to pester him, for assuming he’d be glad if she stopped.)
She tells the children something in Wutain, something he supposes is “keep working while I talk to this weird man,” and then she moves over to him, the daggers in her hand all but disappearing onto her person. “You caught me training the new shinobi,” she points out, a hand falling onto her hip. “You didn’t call to say you were coming, or I would have cleared my schedule.”
“You did not return my phone call,” he tells her.
Something in her expression tightens, her grey eyes darkening like gathering storm clouds, and she says, “Guess not. Well, does it make us even?”
Were he so easily cowed, he’d flinch, and he wonders what has her so - on-edge, though he thinks he can guess as his gaze flickers down to the ring on her finger, glinting in the low light of the practice room. Yuffie juts her chin out and it has nothing of her former youth. She is all sharp lines and harsh angles now, twirling blades and cutting words.
(Reeve had tried to tell him, but Vincent had refused to believe that the gawky teenager of his memories had hardened further).
Her expression softens slightly, like she sees his discomfort. “How about a drink?”
Vincent nods. “Very well,” he says, “I will leave you to your training.”
Wutai has changed from the last time he was here. For one, people speak Wutain on the streets instead of Midgarian, and he doesn’t see the peddlers with plastic replicas of Da Chao anywhere. It seems that, despite the influence of her new husband, Yuffie has begun the slow process of returning Wutai to the past splendor she often speaks of.
Vincent finds himself outside of her old house and is not surprised to see that it still appears lived in, cats running around everywhere, and he can’t help but remember a time, so long ago, when Yuffie was sixteen and still smarting from her own betrayal, when he’d been petting her cats and she’d said, “My cats aren’t people persons,” looking surprised at his presence.
Time passes too quickly, sometimes, and he refuses to think of the kiss they shared over a year ago.
Yuffie will always be Yuffie - ruthless and Wutain and selfish and bold. Expecting her to be one thing, to stick to one thing other than Wutai is something that will get no one anywhere.
She meets him in the bar about an hour later, chirping at him about how much her children have improved and how they’ll be awesome shinobi like her someday, but her eyes do not match her smile and he orders both of them drinks.
Yuffie flashes him a grin.
They spend time drinking, talking of frivolous things. The freak-weather in Rocket Town, the oil in New Corel, Tifa and Cloud’s troubles with Marlene and Denzel. They talk about the WRO in passing, though her brows knits together unhappily, and he remembers that she had quit suddenly about three months ago. A fresh wound, then.
Reeve still has never explained what happened to him, but that is not so surprising. That is not his business, is it?
Silence becomes a fast companion, then, and he is used to her chatter. It sets him on edge, makes him drink more than perhaps he should, and he watches her drink. Yuffie, it seems, has learned to drink quickly and efficiently and there’s a brightness to her eyes that is not the youthful glint he remembers. She is twenty-one, now. Is that such a jump from sixteen?
(Perhaps it is. He remembers growing up between sixteen and twenty-one, but he likes to think that his journey is not the norm, his road paved by Shinra and blood. But, then, him and Yuffie have never been so dissimilar.)
“Yuffie,” he says, quietly, and she grins at him, “You have not called me in three months.”
“Been busy,” she tells him, like that explains everything.
And maybe it does. They fall back to not talking, drinking instead, and he has never heard her be so silent, never seen her so still. Yuffie sits with perfect poise, all strength and grace. “Say, Vincent. You’ve been in love with a married woman.”
Vincent stiffens, hand pausing half-way to his mouth. It seems that, for all that has changed, Yuffie hasn’t lost her skill at asking the worst questions.
Luckily, she doesn’t wait for an answer, just knocks back the remainder of her drink and resumes speaking. “I mean, I know that it’s wrong to cheat on your spouse. Dishonorable, even. I mean, it used to be punishable by death, if a woman did it,” she looks distant for a moment, “But I mean, if you’re in love with someone... At what point does fidelity become damaging? Like - it’s possible to love more than one person at time, so why should a ring dictate who you can fuck?”
He looks at her and does not know what to say. Obviously, he does not have the answers. If she is looking for his permission to cheat on the husband everyone knows she does not love (which he finds highly unlikely, because Yuffie does not ask anyone’s permission to do anything), he does not exactly have the best track record.
After all, he has only ever been the other man in his wildest daydreams.
(Vincent tries hard to think about Lucrecia here, and not the Mako shard that he still has. The shard Yuffie gave him so long ago, with a carefree smile. He does not think of her lips against his, chapped and warm and demanding.)
“Is this about Shelke?” he asks, quietly, because it seems safest considering the almost-relationship the two women had not too long ago.
For a moment, Yuffie looks surprised that he knows about that, and then she throws her head back and laughs. “No, Vince. My ring means less than nothing to me. No, I’m talking about marriage that means shit... I - “ she falters, looking at him unsure, and then she says, almost too quiet to hear, “I’m talking about Cid.”
Vincent honestly thinks he’s misheard for a few seconds and then he realizes he hasn’t.
Well, Yuffie never was the person to get tied down to one or two things, when she could have five or six. He takes another swallow of his drink, and marvels that something angry wells in the pit of his stomach. Expectations have always let him down and Yuffie has never been one to live up to anyone’s expectations about anything.
She looks at him and then shakes her head, waving for another drink. “Guess you’re not the person to ask.”
This time, the silence is even more uncomfortable, and it lingers longer. He asks the question because he was meaning to before but never found the opportunity, he asks the question because she is still dressed in purple and while there is much of Wutai he does not remember, he does remember that purple is their color of mourning.
“Your father is dying?”
This time, Yuffie goes still, watching him with too-bright eyes. For a moment, he thinks she’s not going to answer, but then she’s grinning that cocksure grin that really only comes into play when she’s hiding something. “Godo’s been dying for a long time.”
“And you never felt the need to inform us?”
“Why?” she shrugs at him, “What would that change? No one knew what to say when I got married; I bet it would be harder to say something about the old man croaking.”
It’s callous and Yuffie and more than a little true. He’s nearly taken a sip of his drink, when Yuffie says, a little more quietly, “And death’s a lot more permanent than marriage.”
Vincent doesn’t misunderstand her. After all, he was a Turk - he knows exactly what that glint in her eye means. He takes a swallow of his drink and can’t help but ask, “I take it your husband is that terrible?” he pauses, continues quietly, “Or simply unwilling to allow you all the power?”
“Aren’t they the same thing?” she asks him softly, laughing.
Well, Yuffie is nothing if not a politician. A shrewd and dangerous one, at that.
After a pause, he asks, “Is there no way to compromise?”
Her shoulders sag for the briefest of instants, exhaustion darkening her eyes nearly to black, and then the mask is back, smirking and certain and bright for all her darkness, and she shakes her head. “He’s a good enough person, I guess,” she whispers, quiet enough that they won’t be heard, “But he’s very... Locked in tradition. And while we agree on some things, there are some huge issues we don’t see eye to eye in. I’ve been training for this my whole life. He’s been training to kiss up to nobles.”
Yuffie’s eyes flash. “I’m not letting power hungry morons ruin my country again.”
And that’s that, he realizes. He can disagree with her all he likes, can try to get her to see another path. But Yuffie is Yuffie is Yuffie. She will always take her own path, all others be damned.
“Hey, Vince?” he’s already rising to pay, to leave, when she says it, “I’m sorry. About what happened before. I -”
She stops speaking then, and he is relieved. He has never wanted her apologies. Wanted other things from her, certainly. But not her apologies.
“Take care, Yuffie.”
And then, after paying for both of their drinks, he leaves.