Hey everyone! This, too, will be a fairly short little fanfic. I'm planning on making it about 3 chapters long, so by 'short' i mean 'tiny'. This is set during Dirge of Cerberus; it's been a little while since I've played the actual game, so let me know if I accidentally mess anything up. Basically, I wrote this because I wasn't satisfied with Vincent getting a grapefruit-sized protomateria ripped out of his chest, and him waking up all magically healed the next day. I mean, I know he has healing powers, but c'mon! His healing abilities weren't even that strong in the first game! Well, anyways. Suggestions are happily accepted, and please review!

Niebelhiem was a far different place than it had been three years ago. With the 'actors' Shinra had hired long gone, the town had been repopulated by survivors of Midgar. At least, it had been. Now it appeared to be abandoned yet again, a ghost town, without a single soul. But closer inspection revealed that the residents had not left willingly. Bullet holes riddled the sides of the houses. Doors had been smashed in. Glass from shattered windows and broken bricks littered the ground. And more than one wall was stained with blood spatters.

Yuffie Kisaragi swore under her breath; she had thought things in Wutai were bad. But Wutaians were warriors, born and raised. Every man, woman, and child could hold a kunai. That's why, when Deepground emerged from the darkness and began the invasion, three-fourths of the populace got out safely.

Niebelhiem wasn't so lucky. The ninja wasn't even sure if there were any survivors.

She picked her way around the still smoldering remains of a house, scanning everything with her eyes. This place wasn't like any of the other cities that were hit; there were no civilians, no Deepground soldiers, not even any bodies. Yuffie realized that this was probably what Deepground had envisioned for all the cities: a complete eradication. She shuddered; she couldn't stomach to think what they were going to do with the corpses of the 'impure'.

After thoroughly searching the town – twice – she pulled out her phone and punched in a number. It rang only once before a male voice answered.

"Well? What did you find, Yuffie?"

"Nothing," the ninja replied, pulling her white cloak tighter against the chilled wind, "There's nothing left, Reeve. No one's here, not even any bodies. Deepground took everything worth taking. There's just…nothing."

She heard her boss suck in a deep breath, and exhale deeply. When he spoke again, she could hear the sorrow and guilt in his voice.

"…I was afraid of that. Then the men we deployed there were…"

His voice trailed off, and Yuffie understood. Losing his own men was hard on Reeve, especially knowing that their deaths had done nothing to prevent the rest of the town from falling victim.

Yuffie spoke up softly.

"Hey…Reeve, it isn't your fault. You did all you could. If the WRO wasn't around, all the cities would be like this."

There was a pause, before he replied.

"…thank you. And you're right. If we want to prevent this from happening again, I have to focus on the task at hand."

The ninja smiled, and tried her best to sound cheerful.

"That's the spirit, chief! Now, got any more missions planned for me? Particularly ones involving my shuriken meeting Deepground ass?"

"Perhaps," the commissioner said, and the girl was pleased to note he sounded a little less grim, "For now, I want you to rendezvous with Vincent."

In spite of herself, Yuffie's heart skipped a beat.

"Vincent? Vincent's here?"

"Yes. At Shinra Manor. Meet with him, and make your way back to headquarters. We'll convene there."

"Got it, chief. See you soon."

"Oh, and Yuffie…" Reeve hesitated before continuing, "Be – considerate – to him. That place is hard on him, even if he won't admit it."

Before she could reply, the call ended. Yuffie snapped her phone shut and stuffed it into her pocket. In spite of Reeve's beat-around-the-bush way of putting it, she knew what he meant. He wanted her to tone down her spunky ninja charm and be gentle with him, though Reeve would never even suggest the notion that Vincent Valentine would need to be treated 'gently'.

The ninja sighed. Being gentle was not something she excelled at. It wasn't a skill highly valued by most ninja, but, after sticking her foot in her mouth and hurting her friends on numerous occasions, it was a skill she wished she had developed more.

Hauling her large shuriken onto her back, the ninja set out back through the town, and towards the ruined manor just beyond.

In spite of all the recent tragedy, and all the chaos going on, Yuffie felt a twinge of happy excitement at the thought of seeing Vincent again. Although she relished teasing him, she was actually quite fond of him. Truth be told, she had a bit of a crush on the gunslinger. Who wouldn't? He was drop dead gorgeous, with that beautiful pale face and long black hair, and those crimson eyes that seemed to stare right into the depths of her soul…

Okay, so she had a big crush on the gunslinger.

Back in the day, it had been an endless source of amusement for Tifa and Aerith. Once, Aerith had asked why she liked him so much. Without thinking, she had replied, "He's freaking insane with a gun, and he's damn sexy!"

It had taken ten minutes for the two other women to stop rolling around on the floor laughing, and, much to Yuffie's embarrassment, took to giggling it into her ear whenever they saw her gazing at the gunman.

But that wasn't really the truth. Granted, those were two good reasons, but it was more than that. Something a lot harder to explain.

Yuffie shook her head furiously. She was a little frustrated that she, the Greatest Ninja of All Time and Princess of Wutai, could be reduced to acting like a silly schoolgirl because of one man. It wasn't like she was sixteen anymore; she was nineteen now, almost twenty. A grown woman, by anyone's standards. It stood to reason she should have outgrown her crush by now.

Unfortunately, it didn't work that way.

Her mind was thankfully jerked back to reality by a sudden gust of wind ripping at her cloak. She pulled it tighter around her, and glared up at the sky. It was dark and overcast; a storm was brewing. Yuffie huffed.

Well, wasn't that just nifty? Looks like she'd probably be spending the night holed up in Shinra Manor. Oh the fun.

Crush or no crush, if the ex-Turk tried to sleep in his coffin again, she swore to herself she'd beat the depressing snot right out of him.

The decrepit old mansion loomed in front of her now, and Yuffie grudgingly admitted it was a welcome sight. Anything was better than the icy wind biting at her skin. But as she neared the building, something caught her ear.

Her eyes widened. Gunfire?

Without warning, a window exploded into bits, and an electric shriek filled the air. Something heavy and metallic fell to the ground. Then…silence.

Yuffie bent low and ran at full speed. Shinra Manor had a reputation for harboring unpleasant things, and that definitely sounded like one of them. She hopped up a collapsed portion of the wall and looked inside the newly-shattered window.

Vincent Valentine stood over what looked to be a spider-like machine. It was covered in bullet holes and claw marks, and sparked harmlessly in a heap near the middle of the room. Vincent kept Cerberus trained on it just in case.

Suddenly, Yuffie saw a flash of movement from the corner of her eye, and watched as a woman clothed in red sprinted up behind him. Vincent whirled around, but it was too late; the woman thrust one of her clawed hands deep into his chest. The ninja watched in unbelieving horror as she jerked it out, spattering blood and chunks of flesh as she did so.

Vincent choked, eyes wide with pain and shock. Cerberus clattered to the ground as he fell to his knees, blood gushing from the gaping wound, staining his clothes. He collapsed to the ground, gasping for air, his body spasming.

Almost immediately, he began to glow dark crimson, and his body quickly changed. Soon, it was Chaos lying there on the ground. But even his transformation could do nothing; Chaos sputtered a few times, his demon wings jerking in pain, and within seconds, he had reverted back.

The woman was saying something now, but Yuffie wasn't listening. Her attention was solely focused on her friend, lying defenselessly in a rapidly growing pool of blood.

Unconsciously, the ninja had already pulled out a Materia. Gripping her shuriken in her hand, her body tensed, automatically preparing for what she had to do.

When the assassin woman bent down over Vincent, bloodlust in her eyes, her claws poised to rip out his heart, Yuffie sprang from the window, running faster than she ever had in her life, and hurled her shuriken straight towards the woman's throat.

The red-haired woman saw it just in time and jumped backwards, looking at the ninja in surprise and rage. Yuffie turned sharply and leapt up, catching her weapon in midair. She sprinted towards the fallen gunslinger, and threw her shuriken again, not bothering for careful aim; it was just meant to distract her. It served its purpose, and Yuffie dived to the ground. Pulling her wounded comrade into her arms, she activated the Exit Materia.

A brilliant light surrounded both of them. When the assassin saw the room next, she'd find it empty. Just as the ruined entrance hall of Shinra Manor vanished completely, she heard a furious voice scream,


When the light cleared, Yuffie was already running. Vincent dangled limply from her back. Pain and blood loss had robbed the gunman of conciousness. She clutched his arms to keep him from falling off. Terror was thundering through Yuffie's veins, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

"Don't you die on me, Vincent Valentine!" Yuffie whispered to him, pulling him up farther, urging her aching muscles to go faster, "Please don't die!"