"Seriously, Vinnie," Yuffie whined to her unconscious companion. "You need to lose some weight."
This always seemed to happen to her, dragging a KO'd Vincent to a safe place, despite the fact he weighed a bazillion tonnes. Okay, so it had only happened once before. And okay, he had got knocked out taking the hit for her, so she supposed it was only fair she carried him. But still, she hadn't asked him to, she was the Great Ninja Yuffie, she didn't need someone fighting her battles for her. And if she had been the one knocked out, she was at least easily portable.
But underneath her grouchiness at the ache in her arms and annoyance at the fact he was ruining her favourite top by bleeding all over it, she was very worried about the fact he was losing a lot of blood, and about the fact he hadn't come round yet.
Finally stopping underneath some trees, far enough from the site of their battle against that… thing… that other monsters wouldn't be attracted to them; she lowered him gently to the ground and checked his breathing. Rubbing her arms as she dropped to her knees beside him, she unbuckled his cloak and tugged it off, and somehow managed to strip him of his leather shirt to get access to the wound.
It healed quickly enough once she tenderly dabbed a high-potion onto it. Now that Chaos was gone, Vinnie didn't have that weird insta-heal thing anymore, but he still healed much faster than the average human.
She gave a little sigh of relief as the wound closed completely, her aching muscles suddenly making themselves known as the adrenaline wore off. She supposed she should ring Reeve to inform him of their success while she waited for Vince to come round.
But of course, she didn't have long to wait. Even as she was reaching for her PHS, Vincent stirred, eyes opening blearily. "Whoa, not so fast!" she exclaimed, putting a hand on his bare shoulder to keep him still. "You lost quite a lot of blood."
He frowned at her, obviously trying to process what had happened, then focused on the blood-stains on her shirt and stomach. "Were you hurt?" he asked.
"Nope, it's all yours," she informed him cheerily. "And you totally owe me a new shirt, by the way." By which she meant; thanks. She knew Vincent would understand, he was pretty fluent in Yuffie-ese by now.
Vincent nodded slightly. She knew that meant; you're welcome. Obviously, she'd picked up a bit of Vincent-ese over the years, too.
Ignoring her restraining hand and disapproving huff, he sat up, examining the site of the wound. Clearly satisfied that it had healed, he looked around for his clothing and began to re-dress with a haste that surprised her. It wasn't as if she had been staring at him, or anything. She'd been far too worried about the giant hole in his side for anything else to register other than peripherally (though now that the crisis was over, some part of her mind mourned the lost opportunity to ogle). But Vincent seemed uncomfortable and tense in a way that made no sense to her.
So Yuffie just said the first ridiculous thing that came into her head, hoping to break the sudden, inexplicable tension. "What's wrong, Vinnie? Embarrassed about your man-boobs?"
Vincent's human fingers had been busily fastening his shirt up one-handedly, but they fumbled and missed the button hole in surprise at her words. The shirt hung slightly open, revealing a jagged X-shaped scar in the centre of his chest, where his protomateria had been ripped from his body, as well as the edges of several other painful looking scars.
Her eyes widened in understanding as she looked at them. "Oh," she said softly. She suppressed a shudder as she remembered the day he had lost the protomateria. For one horrible, horrible moment, she had really thought that he was dead. And she guessed he'd got those other scars from that creepy Hojo. Just thinking about that guy made her skin crawl! However, she didn't want him to think that she was disgusted, or made uncomfortable by the scars.
"You know, they're just scars. They're nothing to be ashamed of," she tried, keeping her tone deliberately light and casual.
Vincent carefully avoided her eyes as he finished doing up his shirt. "It's not just the scars, Yuffie," he murmured quietly. "It's what they represent."
His expression turned stony, his eyes darkened as he looked inward. Yuffie knew what he thought his scars represented. Failure. Guilt. Sin. Being a monster. She barely held in an exasperated sigh. Since Deepground, Vincent really had made an effort to move out of the shadows and regrets of his past, but he did have the occasional relapse into angst. She supposed it was a hard habit to break all at once. Like smoking, or something.
"Why don't you try thinking of them in another way?" she suggested, trying to be helpful. "Like, they show that you went through some hard stuff, but they also show that you survived."
He didn't reply, but his flat look informed her that he was not persuaded by her attempt at positive thinking. So, with a thoughtful frown, she moved her hands to unfasten the buckle that held up the strap of her top.
"What are you doing?" Vincent asked, the slightest hint of curiosity in his voice.
"Making things fair," she informed him. His eyes widened in alarm. "Relax, Vince, I'm not gonna take my shirt off." She paused, and then smiled a wicked smile. "Not unless you want me to, anyway."
Laughing openly at the look of uncomfortable shock on his face, she removed the strap and revealed a patch of uneven, badly-healed skin on her shoulder. "That's where I got bitten by a baby behemoth a few years ago. Well, I say baby, it was nearly as big as me. Had to go to the clinic in Mideel to get the tooth removed." She shuddered in remembrance. "Total grossness."
She glanced up at Vincent's expression. He'd relaxed as it had become clear what she meant and even looked a little interested in her story. Perhaps if he realised that she wasn't ashamed of her scars, he would start to think of his own differently.
So, wanting to keep him distracted, she rolled down one of her long socks so that Vincent could see the curving scar on her knee. "That's from when I fell down Da Chao and broke my leg. It took ages and ages to heal properly. I had to wear a leg-brace for a while, do you remember?"
He nodded and she grinned at him, pulling off her wristband to display the long, shiny burn on the back of her hand. "That's from when I burned my hand taking a pizza out of the oven for Marlene and Denzel," she said with a laugh.
Vincent snorted. "Dramatic."
She poked her tongue out at him good-humouredly, before straightening from her cross-legged position to kneeling upright. She tugged the waistband of her shorts down just enough to reveal the knife-wound on her hipbone. "I don't actually remember how I got that one, but this one-" she twisted around, pulling up her top so that he could see the stab-mark in her side, "- I got after winning a load of materia and gil in a poker match in a dodgy bar in Midgar when I was about thirteen. The men I played against didn't exactly take losing well."
Vincent actually gaped at her, before frowning at her disapprovingly. She flapped her burned hand at him. "I know, I know. I totally learned my lesson after that." She eased herself back into a comfortable sitting position, before tilting her head back, letting him see the thin, almost invisible, white line across her throat.
"I got that one during the war, when some jerk from Shinra tried to kidnap me." Vincent unconsciously leaned forward to see it better, eyes wider than usual. "Yeah. It wasn't much fun. But my mama kicked his ass for me."
Then, seeing that the conversation had got more serious than she had intended, she lightly touched the lump on the side of her head, hidden underneath her hair. "And that's where I bumped my head in the Shadowfox. Not that you cared," she added, pouting playfully at him.
He sighed in response, shaking his head. Though his expression was lighter, it was also very thoughtful. "… do the memories not trouble you?" he asked, still looking at the line across her throat.
She shrugged. "I lived to tell the tales, didn't I? Besides, I'm a ninja. We think scars are cool, like badges of honour, you know?" Finally, he gave her a tiny smile, not totally convinced but not brooding any more, either. Mission accomplished.
She beamed at him in response. "So, what do my scars represent, then, Vinnie?" she asked, mostly just teasing. But before he could answer, her PHS rang. Reeve was obviously anxious for an update. She smirked at Vincent. "Saved by the bell!" She flipped open her phone to give Reeve an entertaining version of the battle they'd just fought. If he wanted an accurate description, he would just have to wait and talk to Vincent.
Vincent watched the ninja in amusement as she chattered enthusiastically down the phone to Reeve, using wild hand-gestures despite the fact he couldn't see her. He considered her question as he listened to her account (in which he sat on his ass doing nothing while her ninja skills saved the day, apparently). He decided that her scars represented a woman who was both a clumsy child and a warrior who would never give in, a person who was both a sneaky thief, and the most loyal companion he had ever had. Someone who rose above her past and tried to make things better for everyone around her. Someone who didn't flinch away from his scars, his past.
Perhaps his scars were not as shameful as he had always thought, after all.