Aeris sniffed at the air outside Delta Pizza and grinned at Tifa. "Smells good."

Tifa, prepared for many conversations on the date, was not ready for this specific comment. "Sorry?"

"The pizza." Aeris gestured to the shop. Her grin faltered a moment later and her movements became a little awkward. "It smells so good. Haven't had pizza in ages." She dropped her gaze to the ground and away from Tifa's. "I should have visited Sector Seven sooner. Sector Five's great and all, but-." Aeris glanced back up, smiling again. "I like the look of this place."

Now was not the time to get into the oddity of the comment. Instead Tifa said "It's the best in the sector," smiled back and held the door open; she followed Aeris through and under the filters. The filters working to remove the Mako taint from the air.

In here melting cheeses, hints of garlic, sizzling grease and other foods accented the air. Foods that would taste better than something typically falling into a range between not precisely wrong, but off somehow - to outright inedible. And all of that remained undetectable outside the building.

Mako taint remained one of those aspects of city life that had faded more or less into the background; for a time it had seemed like something that Tifa would never be able to overlook. Nibelheim had never been this bad – even during that period before the fire; here Mako was omnipresent and unavoidable. So many people cooked with only the most potent spices and these attempts never quite worked. Nothing seemed able to truly last against the encroaching, persistent odor.

The pollutant delineated cooking and eateries in the city based on the establishment's profitability. A pricey restaurant – or one aiming to become such - would ensure at least some manner of bulky devices on egresses to filter the air. Most would aim for better functioning installations in the kitchens; cooking in the tainted air was enough to rapidly integrate the smell into the food and was best avoided.

That taste had been a huge shock the first time; what should have been some nice sandwiches made with bread obtained from a run-down stall in Sector Seven left Tifa gagging and both her lunch and the remainder of the bread thrown in the trash. The experience forced more attention on the places she bought her food. Combined with the less effective spices and various sauces, Mako was now barely detectable where filters were in use and thus hardly noting.

The Seventh Heaven had its own filters by necessity – even if strained to their limits thanks to age and Jessie's various patch-jobs. Not any kind of purpose-built machine either; the mechanisms bodged together by a previous owner of the bar and crudely maintained ever since. They did at least work: the head remained on the beer and the food escaped the worst of the contamination. The additional fringe benefit was regaining a sense of smell while inside.

Those on the upper plates were reportedly blessed with reduced issues; fewer vents up there and the plate itself prevented most of the fumes. Some said there were even filters on the swankiest places, hinting at food that tasted unlike anything that could be had down in the slums no matter how hard anyone tried.

Aeris's estimation of the food smelling good from outside the restaurant was therefore weird. She revisited the comment briefly once they were sat at their table and pretended to look at the menus while sneaking glances at each other. "My brain's a little fried today," Aeris said with an apologetic grin as if seeking to imply her words explained everything.

"We can rearrange? Or go somewhere else?"

"No, this is fine." Aeris shook her head. "Some food'll help." She studied the menu intently.

"I was thinking of getting some garlic bread," Tifa said. No reason to not allow the deflection. "If that's okay." Garlic was one of a handful of foods that came close to overcoming the Mako taint. But- Stupid films with their portrayal of allegedly typical dating conventions. The unavoidable smell of garlic on her person would only be an issue if they got close - and if Aeris was unappreciative of garlic. Which might mean that if Tifa's lips and tongue tasted of the stuff then-

"I love garlic," Aeris said derailing the train of thought. "Why don't we split one?"

Aeris projected an odd sense of innocence at times, somehow divorced from the realities of life in Midgar and the slums. In some moments Tifa might believe that the connotations of her own thought process regarding garlic would sail right over Aeris's head – and why wouldn't they? Not really what the first reaction to eating garlic bread should be. But. This was a date. Aeris had called it a date. She had even asked her out. And the joke she cracked mere moments ago was too risqué for an innocent to utter.

But she could not forget the comment about smelling the pizza outside so easily. Had she actually been able to smell the pizza? If she could, how was Aeris able to overcome the Mako-taint? If not why say anything? Presumably she was not lying – giving how she tried to distract from the comment. Was it some quirk of her genetics? Did the Mako somehow not blunt her sense of smell?

Could Aeris smell Tifa's deodorant? Wait. What scent was it? Before such matters had been hard to care about too much; why bother with expensive perfumes or a specific choice if no one could smell them down here? Deodorants did what was necessary. Wasn't hers vanilla-scented? Something like that. But how to ask if Aeris could smell it? The waitress arrived at that point and took their order.

The restaurant might not have the best pizza in the world, but certainly it was the best in Sector Seven, and somehow the evening was going well. Whole swathes of worries and possible obstacles passed almost without Tifa's notice. The conversation was not an awkward stop-start, scramble from either of them for something to say – a huge worry in the run-up. It helped that Aeris seemed unwilling to ever let the conversation die; she asked all manner of questions about the Seventh Heaven, Jessie, Barret, Biggs, Wedge, Marlene, Sector Seven-

But she was not the most tactful person in the world; more than once she tried to press a point on elements of Tifa's past that were not up for discussion, particularly when Tifa let slip she had only been living in Midgar for five years. Aeris seized on the subject and asked what had she been doing five years ago, where she grew up, and why she came to Midgar?

It took a few short, increasingly blunt responses from Tifa to get her to drop the subject. Aeris blinked rapidly when she seemed to realise she was not getting past the deflections and swiftly changed subjects. By now they were well into the main course; Tifa waited until Aeris was busily chewing at a slice of pizza before managing to ask one of her own questions. "How long have you been selling flowers?"

Aeris gazed at a distant point over Tifa's shoulder chewing the pizza and counted on her fingers. Her nails were short and painted pink; Tifa twitched and composed herself before Aeris met her gaze again. Aeris swallowed her mouthful. "Eleven years? Almost twelve?"

"Wow." Tifa frowned. "But where do you get them from?"

"I grow them myself," she replied with a blithe smile and started on another slice.

"I thought that wasn't possible?" Tifa blinked at her date's flippant answer. Was that claim about the impossibility of plants in the city real, imagined or outright hearsay? It was - by itself - not strictly accurate given the gardens and greenery on the Upper Plate; Tifa had caught fleeting glimpses of them during expensive trips. But even then, the upkeep and resources poured into keeping those plants going was a long-standing point of contention in the slums; Shinra would pay absurd amounts to keep the plants going instead of helping anyone below plate.

"I heard that too." Aeris grinned. "Guess I'm better at it?" A pause. "Are you free next Friday?"

"I- Sorry?"

Aeris put down her half-eaten slice of pizza and swallowed her mouthful. "I realise that I should say it at the end of the evening, but I'm having a lovely time and wondered if you'd like to go out again?"

More nerve than Tifa would have had; too much risk the remainder of the meal would be miserable while they both had to feign indifferent conversation while time dragged on and the food turned to ashes and Tifa pretended she did not want to crawl into the nearest hole. Or she would bolt in a panic at embarrassment, but with things worse given Yvonne – the owner - would know she ran out, and she couldn't do that to a business down here that had a hard enough time operating and- Too long; Aeris looked worried. "That was too forward wasn't it?"

"Ah, no, I mean-" Tifa took a long swig of her drink and gulped. Think. "Maybe during the day?" Most evenings needed Tifa at work and it would not be fair to beg another favor out of Jessie so soon. Despite the slightly awkward prying and the not quite taking a hint fast enough – a secondary consideration all things considered - Aeris was a delight to be with.

"Day-time," Aeris echoed with a nod and smiled. "I have some ideas." She picked up her slice of pizza, nail polish catching the light. Where was the nearest love hotel maybe? Tifa twitched; her brain was getting away from itself again. "How about something over in Sector Five?"

"Never had the chance to visit." Mostly because Sector Six was in the way. Not that Tifa could not cope with anything she might run into, but she avoided the place unless she had to. She would brave it this time however.

"Great. I can show you around a bit." The actual nature of the date seemed to be a surprise. After they finished the pizza and paid, Tifa insisted she walk Aeris to at least the gate into Sector Six. "I'll be okay, you know."

"I know." Aeris had lived in Midgar longer than Tifa and must therefore be able to take care of herself. Her heart seemed about to burst as she forced the rest out. "But I just wanted to spend a bit longer with you." That made Aeris smile again. Definitely worth the prickling heat in her cheeks.

A slight awkwardness at the border gate; the date had gone well. Should they kiss? It would be easy. Lean towards her- Aeris moved before Tifa could think and suddenly she was close. Was she-? Aeris's arms were around her and her head was on Tifa's shoulder. A hug. Nothing more than a hug. It still felt good – and a relief, even if the kiss was still an appealing thought.

There was a sense of something around Aeris, almost masked by the Mako, only detectable thanks to her proximity. Perfume or her flowers? Something floral in any case, and reminiscent of moments in the wilderness on Mount Nibel – well away from the reactor. What would Aeris make of her thundering heartbeat? She did not comment on it despite the impossibility of not feeling it. They parted, waved and promised to see each other soon; Aeris set off. "Do you like vanilla?" Tifa blurted a second later.

"On you-" Aeris turned back to reply and cut herself off, looking wary. "Yes," she said. She brightened again. "See you Friday!"

Wrong time to ask; while Mako wiped most things out, she would have been able to smell the lingering traces of her deodorant's scent on her clothes because of the hug. Despite that it was hard to shake a daring notion; but was the plan worth the cost? Tifa spent two days mentally arguing for and against the idea. For eventually won out – pending an investigation on the Upper Plate.

Perfume did not sell in the slums – at all. Deodorants were a necessity, but while scented, none designed for the slums specifically and as a result were consistently overwhelmed. The few shops in the slums stocking anything sold whatever they got from elsewhere; typically the lower end of the market.

The Upper plate was better. Up there it was possible to distinguish smells, the air was clearer and thus perfume was more of a thing – if frustratingly expensive with high-end stuff obscenely priced. The date with Aeris had gone well - but next would only be their second date and spending so much on both a weird conjecture and what was basically a whim was outright terrible thinking. There might be others willing to blow money like that, but she could not.

After much consideration, Tifa settled on a tiny bottle of floral scent. Sharper than the traces clinging to Aeris. From her flowers perhaps? For Tifa's first foray into this kind of territory it smelled fine. Was fine good? Perfume was one of those things adults used and Tifa had been - at one stage - anticipating getting into with Mom's guidance. If only her past been different. Father was not at all forthcoming with girly pursuits and her own focus on exploration of Mount Nibel meant prioritising handling sweating over smelling nice.

Now she had perfume; how to apply it? The shop assistant gave her a condescending, dismissive look when she asked and insisted they couldn't possibly comment on how one applied perfume. Desperation had her asking Jessie who was more forthcoming, thanks to a family who once had aspirations of moving in high society. "You dab it where your blood's warmest." She blinked and widened her eyes. "Oh that did not sound right."

Tifa couldn't quite help the laugh. "A bit odd, yeah."

Jessie grimaced and sighed. "Let's try; the places where you can feel your pulse. The heat of your body activates it; so you want to put it behind your ears, your elbows, on your wrists, neck…"

Tifa complied and dabbed the perfume onto her skin. "How's that?" she asked. Jessie dithered, leant closer and sniffed. A shuffle of feet and she was right on top of her.

"It's okay," Jessie said after a long pause.

"Just okay?"

Jessie grinned. "Well, it's not a bad one." Not a bad one. A less than stellar estimation. Maybe she should have asked Jessie for a recommendation before making the shopping trip. Not too late though; if she really skimped on spending this month she could afford one of the pricier options- Jessie's hand clasped Tifa's, tightening her grip on the bottle. "Sorry. It smells nice. I think she'll like it." She was grinning again. Tifa said nothing and instead scurried behind the bar to find something to do.

Aeris's eyes widened when she met up with Tifa mid-morning on the Friday in Sector Five – even before she enveloped Tifa in a hug. The same soft floral scent lingered on the other woman when they embraced; Tifa's perfume seeming that much more artificial by contrast. Aeris let go, her previous reaction all but gone and she showed Tifa the way to a restaurant for brunch, pointing out some differences in the sectors while they walked. Better than Sector Six, but still felt less welcoming than Sector Seven.

Vast trash piles loomed like mountains all around them and there were furtive movements in the distant gloom. And here was something else; a glimpse of the world outside Midgar. A straight road lead between the trash heaps and right to the outer edge of the city. A distant blue blur implied Shinra infantry, but here at least was a door. Sector Seven, jammed up against a cliff, had no such exit.

Brunch was not something Tifa had ever had opportunity to try before; another meal out, but far lighter this time. "This was my second idea for the date." Aeris said while they ate. "My first idea was something quite different. But that needed you to have the evening free."

"Oh?"

Aeris was grinning. "I was thinking of taking you to a burlesque show-" Tifa squeaked and her cheeks seemed to ignite. "-but I thought this was safer."

Tifa gulped at her water. A burlesque show? People did speak highly and openly of such events, and there was an unavoidable curiosity and there was no shamed in watching it. It was art. And uncomfortable to imagine watching anything like her imaginings in a room with a load of strangers - plus her date. Something of a shame- "This was a good idea." Calming breath.

"Sorry," Aeris said. "Sprung that on you rather."

"It's fine." Brunch passed in a flash; no time for Tifa to dawdle before heading for home and the bar's opening. Easier to be the one to ask to see Aeris again this time; enormous confidence boost when the other woman enthusiastically agreed to dinner at Tifa's apartment. "I'll try and wow you with my cooking." And also meant she could help out in the morning before leaving the Seventh Heaven to Jessie and the others. Despite that part of the plan, she excused herself at noon to ready the apartment, buy ingredients and psyche herself up for whatever the evening would bring. Dinner and something more?

On arrival Aeris was not content to settle onto the sofa and instead leant against the counter while Tifa cooked dinner, her small filter system awkwardly loud somehow now she had company. Aeris's distracting presence caused minor mishaps; a vigorous stir left a pool of sauce on the hob and the food was perhaps cooked a touch longer than needed. No huge problems and hopefully easily overlooked.

The food was not fancy; stir-fry noodles and some rice-wine. They settled on either side of the small table in the cramped apartment; Aeris complimenting the food periodically while they chatted. Tifa's worries subsided a little; it might be politeness, but Aeris ate everything on her plate with no signs of reticence. After dinner and clean up - Aeris insisting on helping - they took to the sofa.

For a few moments Tifa contemplated putting on a video while they finished the wine. The moment passed when Aeris sat close beside her. More talking in subdued tones, more wine, the world increasingly delightfully distant and fuzzy. Maybe a shade too warm. Easy to blame the wine for the moment when it came; it started with nothing more than Tifa topping up both wine glasses. But when she sat back, she kissed Aeris's cheek, her own flaring with heat a moment later.

Her date turned and kissed her cheek in response. Time slowed, Tifa's heart fluttering in her chest. Another kiss on Aeris's cheek, another kiss in return and so close to her lips. Then- Aeris's lips touched Tifa's; Tifa closed her eyes to surrender- It was over in a moment. Too quick, too fleeting. Tifa opened her eyes ready to protest. Aeris was smiling.

"Don't want to spill anything," Aeris murmured, tugging Tifa's wine glass from her hand and set it on the table. Her pulse raced when Aeris turned back, eyes hooded, lips slightly parted. Aeris settled her hands onto Tifa's hips; Tifa draped hers around Aeris's neck. Small kisses, lips opening and closing on each other. The teasing tip of Aeris's tongue at intervals and Tifa's attempt to mimic. The kiss went on. No, not one kiss. A million smaller ones that became oh so much more.

There was the odd awkward moment; the point where her teeth collided with Aeris's, the growing pins and needles where Tifa's leg lay twisted under her. The latter forced Tifa to come up for air. She straightened her leg to regain sensation, murmuring to Aeris she needed a moment. Despite temptation she did not stamp on the floor for fear of annoying her neighbour. A scant few minutes later and her leg felt better. Tifa smiled at Aeris; she smiled back and leant into her.

Tifa lay back, Aeris moving with her to wind up lying between her legs. The pressure, the feel of Aeris on top of her only added to the pleasurable sensations. Tifa could do this forever. Her hands clutched at Aeris's back; would it be wrong to move them lower? Or perhaps around to her chest? Aeris made no move to touch her further, content to continue kissing her.

Tifa took another breath, but Aeris stayed close. A soft trail of kisses behind her ear urged a moan from Tifa. That was embarrassing. Almost no time to process the effect; Aeris's lips touched her neck. Was she tracing where she had applied the perfume? Another touch of lips behind her other ear; Tifa bit her tongue but could not quite stop the gasp of pleasure. Another kiss – another spot where the perfume was. The next kiss and resulting moan was far too loud.

Embarrassing; Tifa needed to squirm, needed to cool off. But their first kissing felt so good. The neck kisses were better but seemed to short-circuit her vocal cords and she was going to die if she was that loud again. How did one stop this without being too blunt?

For want of any better idea, she crossed her arms over Aeris's back and squeezed her closer. Her date seemed to pick up on the hint quickly and stopped kissing her; she panted, her head beside Tifa's. "Sorry," Aeris murmured. "I got carried away.

"No." Tifa breathed. "It's okay. Just…"

"You know you can just push me off right?" True in any sense. "But we agreed before and it still stands; we'll take things at your pace."

"Thank you," Tifa said.

"Want to sit up?" Tifa nodded and Aeris sat back, reaching for her wine glass. Tifa's own drink did not help so much with the heat that now seemed to cling to her. Conversation took a little while to get going after that, but they found the flow again without too much issue. More kissing a little while later – again at Tifa's instigation though they stayed sitting beside each other – this time only their lips meeting each other. And all too soon it was time for Aeris to go; her leaving was suddenly unwanted.

"Are you doing anything Sunday?"

Aeris glanced at the hallway ceiling. "Nothing urgent – or at least nothing that can't be put off. You want to do something?"

Something not here. Not that the kissing had not been amazing and not that she might not end up replaying the entire encounter in her head soon, but- Something to slow everything down. Something with more people present. "I do. We- I mean, my friends from the bar – we usually get together to play games. If you'd like to come along and meet them?" Spoken out loud the notion seemed off somehow. Not a date thing; more something to do in an established relationship. And also subjecting the two of them to Jessie's insinuations. She opened her mouth to take back her words, but Aeris got there first.

"Sounds fun. I have some games I could bring too if that's okay?"

Tifa blinked. "Sure."

The fourth date was possibly not something that most would consider a date; hanging around with Tifa's friends playing a variety of board games, missing pieces looted from other boxes with their own displaced items. Aeris brought a pack of playing cards and a few other old games Tifa had not seen in years. She taught the group a few card games, joined in their jokes, fitting in perfectly.

Marlene's usual shyness with strangers was absent and soon insinuated herself on Aeris's lap, despite Barret's attempts to stop her. Aeris instead insisted she was fine and that Marlene could help her out. Much like Marlene, the rest of the Seventh Heaven crowd rapidly took to Aeris.

Afterwards, Tifa again walked her to the gate to Sector Six. This time the hug goodbye turned into a kiss goodbye. A long kiss goodbye. One that they needed to finish so Aeris could get home, but stopping was even harder and- Aeris let out a moan, the two of them more or less alone out here.

The sound made Tifa's knees weaken; she coaxed another gasp from Aeris by kissing her neck. The sounds from Aeris were intoxicating. Was this then what she felt when Tifa moaned? Aeris looked flushed when they parted - they promised to meet up Friday again; Tifa invited her for another home-cooked dinner, heart thundering at a new idea.

Thankfully Aeris agreed. Which only sent her pulse racing faster. She was ready for something more. Pretty sure at least. Talking to Jessie when she begged another Friday night did not really help much. To her credit did not joke or tease Tifa when she asked her about the situation and merely said the only person who knew if Tifa really was ready was Tifa herself. And to check if Aeris was pressuring her at all.

Was she going to do this? In the moments before Tifa went to sleep that night the answer was an emphatic yes. That yes seemed all kinds of weird come the morning and felt somehow wrong. But then the day went on and she let herself think of Aeris; the no was unsatisfying and yes was clearly the right choice. Until the next morning when the cycle repeated.

Aeris had mentioned burlesque; should she get something fancier for the occasion? Tifa took one secretive trip to a lingerie store in Sector Seven, but demurred at buying anything unfamiliar; she settled for a same matched set similar to what she usually wore. Better to be comfortable and more or less confident than try and wow Aeris with frills and lace.

Once home new doubts crept in. Maybe that appealing black and frilly number would better divert attention from her scar? It would have covered more as well- No. Comfort was better now she was preparing to intimately expose herself to another. Plus, no guarantee Aeris would see anything; could change her mind at any point – and in that event did it matter what she was wearing if no one saw it? And would Aeris really care about that if things if they wound up in bed together?

Tifa sniggered at the absurd notion of Aeris wearing novelty underwear; unlikely to turn Tifa off. Okay, Shinra-print panties might prompt awkward questions. Tifa shook her head, applied her perfume – heat racing all the while - and prepared for the evening.

Aeris brought a bottle of wine, a chocolate cake for desert, and her chest - highlighted in no small way thanks to the low cut top Aeris wore. Leftover cake could be had by with the Seventh Heaven gang she said with a grin, her words snapping Tifa's attention back to the here and now. She met Aeris's gaze, trying to shake the resulting guilty feeling. Somehow Tifa focused on everything else through dinner, was able to converse with Aeris still, eat food and drink the wine – and not think about what might come after. When they would move to the couch and-

Everything was slowing somehow. Dinner lasted an ice-age, the cake a century and the washing up a decade. They almost stopped with the job half-done; Aeris kissing Tifa suddenly and stopping quickly, licking her lips. "Stray bit of chocolate," she said by way of explanation. That brief kiss only served to excite Tifa more.

How much more washing up? Too much. The mountain of washing up dwindled over the course of years until at last she placed the last item on the draining board; Aeris plucked it up and wiped the soap suds away. And suddenly time was passing in a blur. They moved to the sofa, everything playing out more or less as Tifa imagined. She could do this. She wanted to do this. Aeris had already set her glass down when Tifa cupped her cheek and kissed her.

The initial brush of lips grew in intensity; small gentle kisses giving way to fierce, fiery passion. Aeris let out a few short moans; Tifa echoed with only a minor sting of embarrassment. If Aeris was not embarrassed, then why should she be? The sensation was amazing, her moans spurring Aeris on; Aeris's moans made Tifa a little more daring, her hands dipping to her lower back.

Like last time she lay back on the sofa, Aeris pausing for a moment to be sure it was okay before leant over her. And now a paradoxical moment of frustration; the kiss, Aeris's back, bare skin beneath her hands where her top had ridden up, the weight of her lying on Tifa. When would she trace the spots of perfume again?

Tifa broke off the kiss to seek out Aeris's left clavicle, then her neck. One, two, three kisses - each with a gasp from Aeris - until she reached her ear and planted another kiss there. A smile from Aeris and she moved to mimic the movements. Tifa's heart really was going to explode at this rate; Aeris kissed down onto her neck. Another kiss on her clavicle, her throat, her other clavicle- Aeris paused for a second and moved a little higher. She lingered for a moment, face close beside Tifa's.

"Something wrong?" Tifa said her voice close to cracking.

"It's- Nothing," Aeris said with a slight shake of her head. She pressed her lips to Tifa's throat; Tifa let out a shuddering sigh.

"Not wondering why there's no perfume on that side?" A jolt shot through Tifa – a deciding moment was coming and fast.

Aeris raised herself up to meet Tifa's gaze. "The thought had crossed my mind." She looked amused, playful.

Tifa bit her lip. She could do this. She wanted to do this. Moving her hands from Aeris's back was hard but necessary. "I decided to change how I was wearing it," Tifa said, the first hurdle cleared though her nerves were threatening to crumble and her heart was racing. She could do this. Turn the tables a little and try to tease Aeris. A raised eyebrow from the other woman. Tifa's fingers gripped the collar of her sweater. Deep-breath.

Aeris would see the scar soon. Should she have warned her? Would that kill the mood now? Not to mention questions about how she wound up with such an injury. Her grip on her collar tightened. Not worrying about that right now. She had to do this. A tug and her neckline slipped lower. "I put some here."

Aeris's lips parted; she moved forward a fraction and paused. "Are you… Are you sure?"

Tifa nodded. "Yes. Please."

Her partner wriggled back a little, the wait almost unbearable; Aeris kissed Tifa's skin and tugged the collar to expose more of her. She paused after a moment. "It'd be easier if we could take this off…" Tifa fumbled with her top; Aeris leant back to give her space. Trying to hurry too much; the neck of the sweater caught on her chin, the sleeves were endless prisons of fabric for her arms and she tugged near futilely to get the garment out from behind her back. Arms burning from the exertion and awkward angles, Tifa wadded the sweater up and flung it away; right into the wine glasses.

Aeris's wobbled in place, but Tifa's tipped and clattered to one side. It did not break, but the dregs splashed out onto the table and the floor. Mercifully it missed the sweater now lying crumpled on the floor. Tifa swore and struggled upright. "Can I help?" Aeris asked as Tifa hurried to the kitchen.

"It's fine," Tifa called, hands fumbling for a damp cloth. The wooden floor would stain; so would the table but at least it was hers. Aeris perched on the sofa, tensed as Tifa wiped at the table, the glass and made an effort on the floor. Maybe she caught it in time? Impossible to know right now, the wood darkened from both the wine and the water. And all the while time was hurtling past. Maybe she could find something to fix the floor; if not to remove the stain, at least hide it. Cloth dropped in the sink and she returned to the sofa.

"Everything okay?" Aeris asked draining her glass fully.

"Yeah. Sorry about that-" Aeris got up from the sofa. Oh no. No, no, no- She picked up both wine glasses and the bottle and carried them into the kitchen. She emerged a moment later with a grin. Tifa smiled back reflexively. She was not wearing her sweater still. And Aeris was crawling over to her; Tifa laid back, Aeris's hands moving up her body, stroking across her hips, to her sides- Then she was lying over her and ducked her head to run her kiss Tifa's chest.

"This doesn't seen entirely fair," Tifa panted when she came up for air a little later.

Aeris continued her exploration of Tifa's skin for a few more moments and sat back; a quick movement and her own top was off. Unlike Tifa, she managed this with something approaching grace, though the movement pulled part of her braid out of position, her bangs mussed. Aeris blew upwards in a futile effort. "Better?" she asked, giving up. Tifa moved instead of answering; she rose up to meet the other woman's chest with her lips and straight into that floral scent that seemed to suffuse Aeris's skin.

The need to feel more, to be closer kept on growing and growing. More skin-contact, more kisses, caresses, moans. Still a few nerves even after getting so close and so intimate, but they faded away while the pleasurable itch built; as with their previous make-out sessions, Tifa would need to relieve it somehow. Fumbling fingers from them both; hooks proved stubborn, socks broke the flow when they tugged them free and leggings took ages to remove, left inside out somewhere between the living room and the bedroom. "We can stop whenever you want," Aeris murmured in a breathy whisper when they settled onto Tifa's bed, the last of their clothing discarded, the springs groaning under the two of them.

"I don't want to."

Aeris paused again. "Then?" Tifa nodded; Aeris made her moan ever louder. She kissed her lips, her neck. Licked across her clavicles, across her chest and moved lower. Across Tifa's stomach, along each of her thighs. Aeris settled onto the floor and ducked her head between Tifa's legs. Tifa sucked in a breath, fingers tangled in Aeris's hair; she panted and moaned. She was going to come undone. Going to come undone. Going to come- Everyone in the world must have heard her when she reached her crescendo.

Afterwards they lay curled together; Aeris now behind Tifa, kissing and nuzzling her. She was still focused on the some spots Tifa had applied her perfume. Tifa let out a satisfied murmur and wriggled against Aeris. The heat that clung to her before - the sensation that the air was molten - was fading slowly, the cool air of the apartment hinting they would need to move under the covers. Eventually anyway; if Tifa ever felt like moving again. And she would need to; Tifa needed to reciprocate.

"Can you stay?" Tifa blurted half-fearful, conscious of the evening evaporating.

"I can," Aeris said and planted another kiss on her neck.

Tifa kissed Aeris's arm in response, content in the embrace. "Thank you for not saying anything about my scar," she said.

A pause. "Scar?" Tifa rolled over; Aeris looked confused.

"Yeah." Tifa frowned. "This one-" She pointed to the white, puckered line that crossed her chest in a diagonal; a near fateful souvenir of her encounter with Sephiroth. Aeris blinked and reached out gingerly with a finger – and stopped.

"Does it hurt?" she asked. Tifa shook her head. Aeris traced it lightly with the pad of one finger and then left a trail of kisses along it. "I didn't notice."

Tifa tried to bite back the laugh. Didn't notice? How could she miss it? The permanent damage, the constant reminder of the loss of her home, of waking up in the city without any idea of how she came to be here. She shouldn't care, not really. What was one scar like that to anyone else? But people would notice, people would ask questions. Deflection could only help so much. "You didn't notice?" Incredulous now.

Aeris shook her head. "Honest, I never… Doesn't matter though. It's part of you." Her fingers traced the scar of a moment again and slid around to Tifa's back. "I wouldn't have said anything in any case." Aeris didn't pry any further and Tifa's concerns melted away with the lazy kisses that followed. Lazy kisses gave way to longer, more intense, more passionate kisses, caresses and moans; Tifa moved to straddle Aeris. She explored her partner's body with her lips and tongue and fingers; she moved and teased, licked and nibbled until Aeris's voice echoed in the cramped room.

When Aeris was utterly sated, Tifa clambered back onto the bed and the lovers curled together to sleep until morning.