Running a bar was an easy enough sounding job when Tifa got her life together in Midgar. It was sociable – and she needed friends alone in the cavernous darkness of the slums. It appealed to her habits at home; how father relied on her to cook meals. Drinks were something a bit murkier in her experience, though exotic cocktails remained rarely requested. Mostly straight spirits, beer, cider and wine. All easy.
She offered food too, figuring the more reason for someone to stay in the Seventh Heaven would mean more profits. This was not an incorrect assumption but came – as did running a bar – with unforeseen caveats.
Three years after waking in the slums and Tifa still ended each day way past midnight and exhausted. Far too much effort and care to remain upright and smiling. To shrug off the lewd or aggressive comments, to navigate as calmly as possible the impossible tangled maze of a drunkard's soliloquy. To cope with drinks orders, food orders, remember to over-spice this dish past what might be acceptable back home, but was essential in Midgar to overcome the issues of air with such high Mako content.
Repeat. Each day new and old faces would cross the threshold. Looking for friends, solitude, gear up for something further or wind down before sleep. Find a partner, hide from a partner, juggle more than one and prevent all from hitting the ground at the same time. And through it all Tifa would maintain her composure, her smiles, her quiet interest as her mind reeled with jobs still not done, or further actions required. Stock levels. How many glasses broken this week. And all of it on top of her clandestine activities as a member of Avalanche.
Today was at least not an occasion requiring anything more of her after the bar closed. After the doors locked and bolted; after the floor swept and mopped, chairs stacked on tables. The washing up done, last inventory checks and she could clamber up the rickety stair outside to the apartment.
Barret was already out of his chair by the time she swung the door open. He pressed a kiss to her forehead on the way past, slipping into the bathroom. A well-rehearsed dance between them; dialogue unnecessary for what passed for a relaxed evening to unfold. Barret would run the bath; Tifa shrugged off her coat and her boots. A smile and a touch of hands as they crossed paths again; Barret to the kitchen and the kettle, Tifa to peek into Marlene's room and observe Barret's daughter slumbering peacefully, her arm curled around a plushie Chocobo close.
Easing the door closed, Tifa and Barret switched sides of the apartment again; he returned to the bathroom and she shuffled into the bedroom. Her back to the mirror as she undressed, still unwilling to see the mark across her chest. Whites separated out, everything else crushed into a hamper. Barret had taken care of the washing earlier. One less thing to worry about. Tifa slipped a camisole over her head followed by one of Barret's old shirts, the garment huge on her.
The strange tactile pleasure of bare feet against the wooden floor, against the rug as she padded back into the hall. Steam spilled from the bathroom; the bath three quarters full. Good enough. She twisted the taps off and shrugged out of Barret's shirt. Scalding hot water enveloped her foot as she stepped in; almost too hot, but she could cope. Slipping down into the water, glorious warmth all around her, the camisole soaked against her skin.
Tifa sighed in contentment, smiling naturally at Barret as he placed a cup to floral tea on the edge of the bath. She reached for him, a brief clasp of hands, a quirking of his lips in response and he withdrew. Another sigh. Tifa sank lower, closed her eyes and relaxed.