There was an impossibility waiting for her, standing casually amidst the piles of smelly clothes, unwashed bedding, rusty pipes and careworn photographs of the room Tifa shared with Cloud, grinning at her with blatant mischief.
"Miss me?" Aeris asked, cheerfully, and Tifa needed to apologize to Cloud for not quite believing him when he'd said he saw her, as real as if she were still inhabiting a body made of flesh and blood.
He hadn't mentioned the wings.
They were transparent, shifting shades the same gentle greens and yellows of her beloved flowers. One flicked out and in, a quick settling of insubstantial feathers, and as it did the tip passed straight through the bed and out the far wall.
"I'm really here, you know. You didn't think I would say goodbye to Cloud and forget about you?"
Well, yes. Yes, that's exactly what she'd thought. It must have shown on her face, because Aries' smile turned sad.
"I wouldn't," she said, and that tone, all Aeris, finally unrooted Tifa's feet from their position of braced shock in the doorway.
Aeris' hand, dainty compared to Tifa's heavy callouses and thick fighter's knuckles, seemed real enough in her own. As did her cheek, her hair… Tifa's eyes drifted helplessly to the wings again, a blatant flag of otherworldliness in a situation that otherwise would have been surreal in its normality.
They felt as insubstantial as they looked. Warm, soft, not like kitten down but a candle-lit bath after a hard day on her feet, floating in hot water up to her neck. Aeris was smiling at her, gentle and perhaps just a touch wistful.
"The Planet likes to change things."
Aeris smile turned beautific. "I'm glad you think so. I couldn't show them to Cloud, because, well…"
"Yes," Tifa agreed, thoughts turning to long silver hair and chilling eyes. They didn't stay there long, however. This moment was too precious to waste on such things.
"I miss you." She whispered it, like admitting to some deep sin.
Aeris took both her hands, squeezing them between her own. "I miss you, too." She leaned forward, a playful light in her eyes so familiar and so missed Tifa's heart seized in breathless longing. "I may, on occasion, be watching you while you sleep."
Tifa laughed, helplessly. Laughed long and hard and sad and relieved and happy, Aeris giggling and crying right along with her, until the tight grip on her hands began to fade. Tifa looked up to find herself alone in the rundown little room, not even a lingering trace of light to mark her visitor's presence. Yet somehow, the solitude didn't cut quite so deeply as before.