Strange eyes fill strange rooms

Voices will signal their tired end

The hostess is grinning

Her guests sleep from sinning

-The Doors

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

Morning. It was morning already. Time to get up...time to face her.

Tifa groaned as she rolled over and extended her body to unnatural proportions. The light from today's impending glory saturated the young girl's face in an attempt to completely rouse her. She had indeed slept on the floor, Reno hadn't exaggerated about that, but besides the fornicating couple on the couch to the right, her night had not been all that bad.

"Great show last night," the brunette declared to the once again fondling couple, getting up from her makeshift bed and straightening out her wrinkled jeans in a failed attempt, "You prove to every misguided yet acrobatically inclined soul 'Why bother with higher learning when you've got all the moves necessary to better yourself in a successful porn career.' "

The curvaceous, wavy haired blonde on couch broke away from the passionate kiss with a sneer before venomously flipping off the younger girl. The man underneath did the same but not before checking out the shrew who interrupted his precious moment with girl number nine.

"And sweet too. When you're sexually promiscuous, there's nothing you can't do. Another life lesson well learned," Tifa proclaimed while making her way through the living room and into the kitchen where cigarette smoke came pouring out from like a signal.

"Morning sunshine," Reno declared not looking up from his newspaper, yet paying especially vigilant attention to the limp cigarette hanging from parted lips, "Just as I expected, you're making strong, life lasting friendships. I knew you'd fit in just nicely."

"People were...having sex right next to me," she pointed out indignantly with a shiver, "Don't people know how to get a room? Whatever happened to old fashioned ideals and expectations of a good lay."

The red head sighed, closed the paper before him, removed the cigarette from his mouth, and stubbed it carelessly out on the wooden table. Looking up, he smiled and rested his chin on the palm of his hand, "First of all, they had a room. You just so happened to crash yourself right into it. Secondly, there is no such thing as old fashioned ideals and expectations of a good lay. When you wanna fuck, you fuck. An audience just provides a more stimulating atmosphere, so you being there probably did them a favor."

"Ew," Tifa shuddered before reaching into one of the cabinets, pulling out a mug, and pouring herself an extra strong cup of black coffee, "And you just let people have sex right on your couch."

"I didn't exactly give them an invitation but if they were gonna do it, they were gonna do it - with or without my consent. It's just sex, whether someone has it on my furniture or out on the front lawn, the world still rotates all the same. Life continues, just with an extra stain to color your otherwise mundane existence with," Reno pointed out, fingering the pack of smokes beside him but without removing his eyes from his guest, "Plus, stains can prove to be a very interesting conversation starter."

"You're sick."

"I wasn't the one who slept next to the rabbits all night long without complaint."

Tifa opened her mouth but immediately shut it, rolling her eyes and ending the topic with a muttered, "Whatever." Drinking the piping hot fluid from the cup, she moved towards the table and sat down across from the proprietor of the house. Dark eyes scaled the man's face and noticed the undeniable roughness in his features. Two lightly crimson scars adorned the bottom of his eyes on protruding cheekbones as the color of his face was a pale and tired shade of ivory. Aquamarine was the savior of an otherwise deathly pallor, adding vibrancy and even attractiveness to an ordinary man. Red strands, color coordinating with the most obvious of scars, fell over his eyes as the majority lay along his back in a loose ponytail. Reno definitely wasn't a conventional form of handsome, but the mystery of his past lacing together with a quick wit and very foreign features could explain the many different women she previously saw him with every other night.

"What are you looking at, jailbait?"

Thoughts became one with a scatterbrained mentality as the pensive girl allowed reality to settle in. He had noticed she had been staring at him, and by the way he was looking, most likely formulating the wrong idea. Placing the mug on the table, Tifa quirked an eyebrow up and bluntly answered, "A potential playmate for Butch when our federal system wizens up and busts you."

"Well, since I housed you for a night maybe during one of your conjugal visits you can tell Butch, Spike, and Tank to take it easy on me when our federal system 'wizens up' and busts me."

Reno gave the feisty firecracker a lopsided smirk and placed another cigarette in his mouth. Reaching in his pants pocket, he freed a cheap plastic lighter and blazed the stick to life. The playful color of his hair danced with the orange of the ember as the green of oval eyes lightened in a sparkled ocean effect. Tifa, even though reeling over the older individual's comment, became entranced with the many shades joining together to transform a shabby canvas into a one of a kind masterpiece. This man was truly full of many surprises.

"Where did you get those scars?" The cigarette inhaled into two tarnished lungs as the expression on his face hardened. The topic at hand was anything but accessible and he wanted to make that painfully clear to his interrogator. Much to his dismay, many had tried in vain to unlock the mystery of this one man's past, especially women. In his mentality, if women who had given themselves or promised to in exchange for discovery of his deep, dark secret had failed, it would be a cold day in hell before Reno would talk for the first time to a brash, virginal nymph.

"Some nameless girl decided to leave her passion marks on my face instead of my back"

"You're lying," Tifa coolly countered, her finger absently trailing the rim of the blue coffee cup, "Did someone close to you do it? Your face contorted when I asked you so I know it wasn't something as airy as an unattached sexual encounter"

"Wow," Reno breathed while exhaling gray carbon monoxide in exaggerated intrigue and patronizingly leaning forward, "I didn't know I took in a psychiatrist last night"

"Cut the crap, Reno! I'm asking you a simple question not play by play accounts of your entire legacy"

"Oh yeah? Then let me ask you a question of my own, why were you sleeping outside last night"

"This isn't about me"

"Ain't such a 'simple question' when it's redirected, is it princess?" The red head interrupted before falling back into his normal relaxed stance against the chair, "You've got a lot to learn before you start sporting the nifty two piece suit and believing that possession of a microphone gives you the golden ticket to meddle in other people's lives, striving for the greater good. Do yourself a favor and keep your nose on your face, not in other people's business. The world can only take one Oprah"

Tifa watched intently as the human chimney folded up the currently insignificant piece of literature and placed it to the side while continuing to enjoy the dwindling cigarette in peace.

Sighing, she cocked her head to side in understanding and smirked, "You're reluctance in telling me what happened is suddenly starting to paint me a picture. It's ok; I guess you can take it as a lesson learned"

"And that lesson would be"

The youngster's smile broadened, "Never operate a tricycle under the influence of cheap booze while succumbing to the advances of inflatable blondes. You already have enough trouble steering that type of vehicle sober and soft"

Reno smirked back, his lips twisting up in good humor. He was glad she had let up as opposed to the normal hour and a half it usually took most women in his life to ease off a tense subject. What was with chicks and their constant need to know the exact diameter and count of the bones the skeleton locked securely in his closet was constructed of? If that kind of prodding wasn't sufficient enough, they also yearned to be the heroine in the story of a dastardly life. His dream girl kept to herself and didn't ask questions she knew he would never answer. True love, in beautiful sea green eyes, lied within ambiguity.

The small degrader, satisfied with her burn, huddled her legs into her chest and continued to drink her caffeine in bliss. She would never admit it aloud, but Tifa didn't mind being in the presence of this socially inept leper. He had proven to be an intelligently decent conversationalist and, surprisingly enough, a gentleman who not once grazed his eyes any lower than her nose. Sleeping on the ground wasn't all that bad either and would be considered as a future restoration area if the moaning along with those responsible would migrate to the kitchen when the time came.

"I'm surprised you didn't start gagging yet," he blurted out after moments of silence. His usual cocky smirk made another appearance on his face after mounting discomfort of the previously asked question left an interior decorator's worst nightmare behind.

"Me too...I've been looking at you for the past twenty minutes and I haven't once had a breathing complication"

Scratching the side of his face with a middle finger, Reno continued, "I meant you being able to drink coffee a la Reno without cream and sugar. In my other previous guests' opinions, I make coffee that rivals the strength of Mako energy. One even swore they started glowing in the dark after they drank it, but to be fair, I think the hit of acid he took beforehand had something to do with that little illusion"

"What can I say, I'm a caffeine fiend," Tifa mumbled. She suddenly felt uncomfortable about being reminded of the generous man's history with ingesting and distributing narcotics to drug addicts within Nibelheim's ten mile radius. Everyone had known what went on in the mist of Reno Krieger and his associates but no one had ever dared confront him of his felonies. Instead of voicing out their opinions, the citizens had just pretended he didn't exist and cut off any communication with the twenty year old punk. It made things easier for the people of a quiet, anti-scandal town, especially Reno, who no longer felt the previous insatiable amount of pressure.

"Problem"

"You're a drug dealer," Tifa declared, not bothering to censor her observation. Lithe fingers unconscienously twirled wavy chestnut locks as pools of the finest red wine studied her stoic counterpart without reservation. The discomfort returned with renegade intentions of capturing a soul; yearning for a companion when exile was sure to shower rejection's loneliness upon it.
Reno, for one, did not enjoy the shit end of the stick and held her audacity in contempt. His own fingers twitched in annoyance; the cigarette making its final resting place alongside its originator on a beautifully crafted table. The topic of his roots were becoming old and he decided, on this beautiful, cloudless morning, it was as good a time as any to nip this incessant buzzing in the bud.

"I'm tired of the U-turns so this is what we're gonna do," the mediator explained in an even tone, "You're welcomed to stay here on the floor, drink my noxious coffee, and eat Ramen noodles to your heart's content on one condition - and that's to mind your own business. Treat me like a ghost, someone who has no past but lingers in purgatory until the day they eventually have what it takes to be welcomed into the afterlife. If you have a problem and absolutely in a 'my life is hanging in the balance' type of way need your questions answered...there's the door, don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out. Understood"

"It's no huge mystery, so it's not like I'm asking you. Everyone knows you're a drug dealer"

"Shh..." Reno exclaimed, placing a finger to his lips to hush the loaded pistol in front of him, "If everyone knows than there's no use in talking about it, is there? Now, do you agree to my terms or do I have to kick you out of my house"

She sighed, not all too convinced that staying under the same roof as someone with so many secrets was that wise of a decision. In a way, this was a golden opportunity. Here stood a man who offered a place to crash, for as long as she desired, with no necessary explanation. It was something not many people, if any, would offer. She also wasn't sure if he was a little stoned or drunk when he asked her to come back with him, considering the scrutiny of inviting an underage girl back to his place would only intensify the resolution on the magnifying glass that was already fixated on his wretched life. But, nonetheless, Tifa didn't care. She couldn't pass up this chance even if his most horrifying confidence was the number of dead bodies adorning his closet at the moment.

"Fine," the doe eyed beauty agreed while nodding her head in response, "From now on, I won't butt into your past, present, or future. I am but a bohemian desperately seeking a stable roof over this little head of mine"

"Good. Now get lost. Thirty minutes of my time is the maximum I give guests and you're bordering on thirty five"

Tifa's eyes partially widened as Reno arose from his chair and ushered her up. Taking one last desperate sip of coffee, she placed the mug down and exclaimed, "You should've dropped the words cruel and unusual when you mentioned the rules and expectations of staying here"

"Go write a poem about it," the red head proclaimed before shoving his petite roommate into the living room without remorse.

"Jackass," the brunette muttered before brushing herself off and steering her way through the spacious room, past the lovers, and up the stairs to the second floor. After all this drama, she was in serious need of some TLC induced downtime - nothing saying relaxation better than a nice bath. And for Reno's consideration, Tifa would make sure to use more hot water than necessary. After all, with all the dogs he crawled into bed with, he needed a cold shower. It had more power when came to expelling fleas.

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

"So Reno," Dr. Crawford began, pushing a stray lock of gold behind her ear, "he housed you, took care of you for some time"
Tifa smiled but continued to stare up at the tiled ceiling in refusal to glance anywhere else.

Kicking a limber leg off the couch and allowing her eager foot to touch the floor, she sardonically stated, "Oh, he took care of me alright"

The young PhD sighed impatiently before removing spectacles from tired eyes and hanging them off of her vest. Placing the notepad on the oak table beside her chair, she declared without remorse, "Look, I understand you don't want to be here and find it your prerogative to explain your situation in riddles so you can leave this session knowing you cooperated and spoke but about nothing relevant to our topic. You may not believe this, but I'm here to help you. I know you've been through a lot of incredibly difficult moments and I also know you think you can handle all the pressure on your own but this is more serious than you may believe. You need help because all this guilt and regret is going to do nothing more than crush you in the end"

"I think you're a little late on that aspect, doc, because I've been crushed long before I met you," the patient stated after a long lapse of silence, "And, yes, Reno gave me a roof over my head. But then again he also corrupted and put me in therapy to begin with so I wouldn't exactly qualify the man for a medal just yet"

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

"Where were you"

The immediate question as she tried to sneak into the room startled the home invader. Large green eyes, possessing the essence of a wandering soul, turned to the side and took in the sight of her lover sitting on their bed watching the news. She challengingly smirked before closing the door and inching closer to him with her hands behind her back.

"Do I need your written consent to go out for some air"

Zack, not taking the playfulness as lightly as it should have been, turned the television off and got out of bed in a single gesture. His direction channeled towards the kitchen while Aeris stood behind rolling her eyes and following soon after.

"What's wrong with you? This attitude is everyday now and I'm starting to get sick of it," Aeris declared as she stopped dead in her tracks at the entrance of Zack's small yet impressive and neatly kept kitchen space. Her arms folded across a full chest; eyes penetrating his very life form in avid search for the truth to explain his strange and consistent behavior.

"Don't give me that. If you're playing me for a fool, I at least have the right to keep the brooding without your self righteous holier than thou act"

"Zack," the Lolita proclaimed, stomping forward and grabbing two broad shoulders, which proved to be harder than she pictured considering his towering height, before looking up with two pleading eyes, "Please, baby, talk to me. What's bothering you"

Zack shrugged her off and perched himself up on the counter. Black coffee stared passionately into lush meadows while, in a reluctant fashion, briefly stating, "I love you so much and you have no idea how much you affected me but as long as your boyfriend's in the picture, I can't be with you anymore"

"Well, if he was in the picture, I'd have to agree with you"

The light angelically hit a tanned face, bringing his hopes and aspirations to the surface as the corners of his mouth shook themselves into a smirk. Running a tame hand through tangled hair, Zack asked, "Are you saying what I think you're saying"

"If you're thinking I'm saying Cloud and I broke up than you're heading down the right path"

"When did this happen?" He asked, the smirk dissolving as skeptical thoughts made their way into an unbalanced mentality. Zack could never truly believe the words that came out of her mouth; for Aeris did anything she could to sidestep an argument. She was but a soldier in combat dancing through a field of landmines and putting to action any maneuver that could distract from an explosion. He was never too sure of her sincerity but only hoped that when he was the sentiment didn't disguise itself within vanity.

"Last night," Aeris explained, leaning back against the counter in a replicate motion but removing a thoughtful gaze away from the man she shadowed, "I went to see Cloud when you fell asleep because I couldn't be with him. I love you and wasn't going to take part in the deceit anymore"

The older native bore a hole through the physical manifestation of his aesthetic philosophy and frowned. There was a pull, a force which further knotted intestinal disarray and caused him to doubt the woman's words. He wanted to believe her but lacked the inspiration necessary in giving her speech the proper power to move him. In a way, he felt the words stir an opposite, more confrontational reaction within.

"Who broke up with whom"

The question surprised her and for a split second she was scatterbrained. Shielding her bitter expression from revealing the truth, Aeris fixed starry eyes back on the near argument's instigator and defensively queried, "What does that matter"

"It matters"

She stood vapidly still, pursed mouth slightly agape, as a battle waged against her thought process for the right thing to say. It had proven to be a fruitless war with no disappointment evident towards the final result. Zack had that particular expression on his face, the one which fed off of reason. Aeris knew whatever excuse she gave him would be dissected and thrown precariously back. The right thing to say, at the moment, was nothing more than myth.

"You're unbelievable, Zack," Aeris spat after erecting her slouching figure to face the doubting Thomas, "You wanted me and Cloud to break up for as long as I can remember and now that it happened you're still not satisfied. It's no use trying to please you because I'm starting to realize it's an impossibility"

Zack smirked, his eyes mischievously twinkling. Jumping from the counter, he chuckled before bluntly observing, "He dumped you because the resentment's just hemorrhaging out. You better close up that wound before it becomes fatal"

"You're an asshole"

The lovers' quarrel left the kitchen and re-emerged where it had originally began - through the living room lapsing into the bedroom. The bitter discourse rummaging through the fisherman's blood stream imploded and opened the vaulted door of demons. All the anger and jealousy escaped in childish glee leaving behind a fuming mortal to pick up the pieces.

"You're right, I am an asshole," Zack shouted with a closed throat pleading for oxygen, "I'm an asshole for letting you play with me for as long as you have. I can't believe I let a spoiled little girl get under my skin. You're giving me more trouble than you're worth"

"I can say the same for you! I can't believe I put my reputation on the line for a nobody who brings home "little girls" and seduces them. You're a pig"

"Well, Oink oink, baby"

Taken aback, Aeris turned and stormed out with a small sheen of tears in her eyes. The exit left Zack frozen in place, a sane mind slowly bringing about stable thoughts. He had made her cry. He had, yet again, pushed her further away with his petty jealousy. He told her she was giving him trouble and that he didn't care about her. Cloud Strife had yet again gotten in between Aeris and himself because of unnecessary insecurities. Stepping forward, he slammed his fist into the wall with no remorse.

"Damn"

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

"I broke up with Aeris last night. She came by and I told her exactly how I felt. I told her I couldn't be with her anymore because my attention always seems to be going right back to you. It's getting to the point where I can't even remotely think about anyone else but you"

"Oh, Cloud, now we can actually be together officially. I'm so happy"
'Now if only fantasy meets reality and I can actually get a moment like that,' Cloud thought to himself as he scratched the back of his head and paced on the front porch of the Lockhart's humble abode. He needed to be upfront with Tifa but sans the potential cheesiness associated with his choice words. She needed to know how he felt but without being put off by the intensity of his proposition. There was a lots of needs laced with dos and don'ts and the more he thought about what he would and could say, the more he realized how badly he needed a shot.

"Come on, man. Now's your chance, don't blow it"

Raising a balled up hand, Cloud efficiently knocked on the door while swallowing any lingering fear into the pit of his ever exasperated stomach. In these remaining moments, normalcy will cease to exist in the present and replaced by growth. He couldn't believe the dream was becoming a very attainable reality. Soon, everything would change as imagination would get put to the test in order to determine whether Tifa Lockheart was prime choice for a more satisfying existence.

"Hello, Cloud," Mrs. Lockheart declared after opening the door wide in greeting. Her eyes scoured his entire being until they expanded to the left, right, and eventually behind the visiting blonde. The original sorrow engraved on her features before her friendly hello returned once she finally comprehended he was standing in her presence alone.

"Hey, Mrs. Lockheart. Is Tifa around"

Confusion racked the young man's brain as he digested the pained expression on his neighbor's face. Why was she looking at him that way? Did he know something she didn't? The confusion only proliferated when the pained mask on the usual happy-go-lucky woman morphed into one matching his exact baffled state of mind. What was going on here and where the hell was Tifa?

"Tifa's not here," Sarah softly pointed out as matter-of-factly before glancing behind her and slightly closing the door so her upper body was the only proportion outside company could see, "She hasn't been home since last night. I have no idea where she went. I thought she would be with you"

She hasn't been home since last night? Cloud began to reel from the processed information. Gold eyebrows furrowed in disgust while cerulean orbs looked down at the floor in reverie. The last time he had seen her was by the well where they had began what he had originally come here to finish. Where could she have gone? In normal circumstances and disagreements with mostly her father, the Strife house would be Tifa's first choice hideout. He heard a faint sniffle coming from the cracked door and realized Mrs. Lockheart had broken down her strong exterior with worrisome thoughts and dreadful predictions.

"Tifa didn't mention anything before she left? Maybe sleeping over at Elena's?" Cloud hopefully interrogated after his eyes reinstated their attention to the grieving mother.

"We've tried Elena already. Tifa was supposed to meet her at the movies but she never showed up. Damn it, where the hell is she? She knows better than to run off like that without calling. She knows it drives me crazy"

"I know. Look, I'll go around and ask people if they've seen her. If I hear anything, I'll get back to you"

Sarah Lockheart did nothing more than nod, offer a thank you along with a small gracious smile before retreating back into the comfort of her own home. Cloud remained staring at the door with distant eyes while thoughts of aggressive situations played cruelly with his sanity. Kidnapped? Mugged? Hospitalized? Murdered? It could be anything. She could be anywhere, severely hurt and alone. She needed him.

That's what you want to believe. It's a whole lot easier than accepting the truth. Tifa ran away from home. She not only ran away from home but ran somewhere besides into your scrawny arms. Face the facts. She wants a capable man, not some scrub.

No. She had told him she wanted him last night by the well. He refused to believe feelings could change so drastically. That kiss was incredible, evoking in him feelings that went beyond just south of the equator. There was something there when she kissed him, something pure and unconditional. Something he needed to discover. Something that only one person could revive within him.

You're going nowhere fast, chump, so get ready for the downward spiral.

"Shut up," Cloud hissed to himself while shutting his eyes and banishing the evil thoughts from an overactive conscience. She didn't run from him and if she did, there was a logical explanation that would sedate the cynical voices. He needed to find her and ask for them. His pessimism was wrong, he was certain, and when he found Tifa it would be proven.

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

Yuffie splashed her injury with freezing water in desperation to calm the swelling around her cheek. The bastard went for her face again and she was starting to believe it was purposely done. The more scars and battle wounds obtained, the less confidence she possessed, and the less confidence she possessed the less frequent she would leave the confines of the Kisaragi house. She didn't need the pity of outside influence and she certainly didn't need the trauma of being yanked away from her home into an orphanage. It was like exchanging one prison for another and if she needed to choose between which of the facilities she would rather spend her teenage years in, she would choose her father's house of horrors. At least her freedom, as little as she had left, was less restricted that way.

After patting at the large, bloodied bruise with her father's towel, the youngster threw it on the bathroom floor in resentment. Yuffie knew once she thought about her action and the repercussions it would ultimately bring, she would be upstairs in the blink of an eye hanging the towel right back up where it belonged. But right now, with no restrictions, she left the object on the ground and enjoyed the surge of power that small act of rebellion instilled her with.

She couldn't believe she was thinking this, but attending school was suddenly becoming more appealing than she ever thought it could be. If the past provided her with any insight it was when Yuffie was in school, Godo hit her less - at least facial-wise. With a face looking more human and less like a roadmap, Yuffie would finally be able to get out there and meet new people. The people of Nibelheim seemed less uptight than Wutai's citizens so maybe there was indeed hope in making a friend or two here. A friend or two, to be more specific, who didn't find backstabbing and trash talking to be terms of endearment. RING! RING! RING! RING!

Sighing, Yuffie exited the bathroom and jogged down the hall into her father's room where one of the two phones were stationed. She flopped down on the large bed and picked up the phone with an enlightened yet agitated, "'Ello"

Silence rang over the phone as soft static was the only indication that someone actually resided on the other end of the line. Yuffie offered another 'hello? anybody out there?' before muttering an unfriendly disclaimer and reaching over to place it back on the cradle. Her arm suddenly froze in place when a hopeful inkling of an idea crossed her disgruntled mind. Her Aunt Clara was still, as far as Yuffie knew, in touch with the out of action Mrs. Kisaragi. Clara also knew where Godo and Yuffie currently resided and even though she refused to spill any information to either late husband or daughter, she was quite open with her sister.

Yuffie placed the receiver back against the side of her face at lightning speed before whispering in an audible tone, "Mom? Is that you"

Silence.

"Please talk to me. I missed you a whole lot since you left. I know you're still in touch with Aunt Clara and I'm pretty sure she told you where I was and how to reach me. Dad's not home if that's what you're afraid of"

Silence.

Yuffie's eyes began to fill with tears as her finger absently played with the cord, "I hate it here and I hate being with dad. I need you, mama. Please, please talk to me. If you're not coming back for me like you promised at least let me hear your voice. Let me know you're okay. Let me know you still care"

"Hang in there kiddo"

The line went dead as a tear escaped from the endless depths of despondent eyes. She had called. She had actually called and displayed some kind of interest in her daughter's deterioration of a life in a one sentence word of advice. Slowly hanging up the phone, Yuffie smiled. Pain was consistent in her short life but maybe she could finally break the cycle. Maybe there was a light at the all too often spoken about end of the tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, there was hope after all.

oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

She stood outside her home with a piping hot cup of coffee in her grasp. Thoughts of the encounter she would without a doubt have with her parents plagued an otherwise carefree mentality. Grumbling stomach entangled itself into a protective knot as her chest burned incessantly. She felt weak and her body's hay wiring functions did nothing more than rub the emotional incontinency in her face. There was no comfort, at least nothing that her own person could provide.

Sighing, Tifa reached up through curtains of straight silk and touched the lone earring which adorned her ear. Her mother had purchased these earrings when she was but a mere child at Cosmo Canyon. They were gorgeous, dangling decorations with an onyx stone sitting in the center of a small hoop of intricate designs and small turquoise pebble below wired posts. Throughout the years, Mrs. Lockheart had worn them religiously - deeming them her favorite pair.

"Happy birthday, sweetheart. Here, open my gift first"

"Wow, mom, they're beautiful," a fourteen year old Tifa Lockheart proclaimed in glee as she picked up a single earring from the pair in fascination.

"When I was your age, I took a trip to Cosmo Canyon with my parents and these earrings caught my eye," Mrs. Lockheart explained with a smile, "They were blessed by a high priest and cost me an arm and a leg to buy but it was worth it. These bad boys were my favorite earrings from that moment until this one where I give my favorite earrings to my favorite girl"

"Thank you so much," she exclaimed, placing an earring on as she closed the box with the other securely within.

"You're only gonna wear one"

"I don't want there to be a chance to loose both...I don't know what I'd do if I lost both of your favorite earrings so if I only wear one and keep the other in its box, I could only misplace one. I promise to take good care of them but accidents happen"

Her finger trailed the smoothness of the onyx while dark eyes lowered to the ground. Guilt resurfaced in her core and memories overcame pride; she was left with tears in her eyes and a loss of inhibition. The water had reached Tifa's eyes and she could no longer breathe. It was only a matter of time before she would be completely submerged and drown.

She frowned and turned around before walking away. It wasn't time yet. She would see her parents and comprehend the situation when it was. Because that was exactly what her homecoming signified - that she was ready to fully accept her mother's death sentence. Would there be a time when Tifa would truly give her blessing to such an unholy occurrence? Doubtful, but the fates were funny where epiphanies were concerned.