Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own anything even remotely associated with Final Fantasy VII. I may have kidnapped Vincent and Tifa (and whoever else I decide to throw into the pot) for this story, but they're not mine to keep. Yup. Now, read.

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by thelittletree

It was cold out. Tifa stood at the railing of the bridge and let the wind pluck at her hair as she stared up at the night sky, its encompassing blackness punctured liberally with dim, far-off stars. She'd left her coat at home, but she didn't really feel the cold. She was already dead, she told herself, as cold-blooded as her ex-lover. Fish were cold-blooded, and they never felt the chill of the water.

Barret would cry. He'd cried for Jesse and Biggs and Wedge. He'd sobbed unashamedly for Marlene when Meteor had struck Midgar, before he knew she was safe in Kalm. He would cry for her. It was a little bit of a comfort to know that someone would visit her burial site.

She slipped out of her shoes. She'd seen someone do that on television once, and it had struck her as particularly meaningful, like a stepping out from the confines of gravity, or out of an old skin. The craggy cement was cold on her bare feet, but she told herself she didn't notice. She told herself she wasn't afraid. This was what she had decided to do. She was no longer the hesitating, indecisive girl with her heart hidden away, trapped under her tongue. She was going to be reckless, like Cloud. She, too, would leave everything behind.

There was so little traffic on this bridge. No one would know she was gone until they found her body somewhere downstream, waterlogged and grey as ashes. She climbed carefully over the railing, conscious of the drop in front of her. Her hands were trembling. She ignored them. She wasn't afraid. Aeris had won Cloud with a blade whistling through her body. Maybe Tifa could win him with burst lungs and cold, blue lips.

The water looked dark and she could see the stars reflected in it. They shimmered with each breath of wind. Tifa closed her eyes and flew to her watery grave in the sky below. The impact knocked her mind to a place without stars.

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She awoke suddenly. It was dark, and she was somewhere warm and comfortable. Dreaming? Had she been dreaming? This place was unfamiliar. Was she dead? Weak; that was what she was. She felt so weak. Could you feel weak when you were dead? And then she sensed the presence of someone nearby. Something in her quivered as if she should be afraid, but there was so much warmth around her it was impossible to feel like she was in danger. She opened her mouth and her lips felt chapped. "Father?" Her voice was no more than a croaking whisper. She didn't know why she thought it would be her father. She'd just always imagined that he would be the first one she met after her death.


This time, she felt a ripple of fear and tried to sit up, but her body felt like it was full of sand. She flailed and gave up, shivering with the effort and feeling uncomfortable with her feebleness. She was alive and in a bed, under blankets until she was sweating. Someone had brought her here, and she knew enough about people to be wary. "Who are you?"

There was a sudden scraping sound, and then a lit match was illuminating a featureless, incomplete form in a chair. In a moment, a flame spurted to life in an oil lamp and the match was snuffed out. The heady smell of lingering phosphorus reminded Tifa of something indistinct from years ago. The light did little to dispel the shadows. "Who are you?" she asked again.

The person leaned forward, into the glow of the flame. Tifa gasped and her lungs burned. "Vincent?"

He withdrew into the darkness again, though Tifa could now make out the telltale mako red of his eyes. She stared at him in confusion. "Where am I?"


The sound of his voice brought with it memories of the Highwind, the acrid smell of gunpowder, and a whirlwind of images from a myriad of inns around the world. What she remembered was all empty and nondescript, black and white pictures. She hadn't really known him; maybe none of them had. With the others, there were associated feelings -- things that had revealed them: Cid's surprising humanity, Yuffie's fierce pride despite her lingering immaturity, Red XIII's underlying loneliness. The most revealing thing about Vincent that she could remember was the one time she'd seen him with his hair down, and even that had only been no more than a superficial glimpse. "What...what happened?" She struggled to say something else because the question sounded wrong, like something you'd say after waking up from an accident. ('What happened?' 'Oh, you were hit by a car. You fell down the stairs. You bumped your head -- water is harder than it looks. Don't you remember?') But this hadn't been an accident, and she was somehow ashamed that there were no words to ask it differently, as if to make it sound more like a confession. She felt his eyes on her, measuring her hesitating silence, and she shut her mouth.

"You jumped from a bridge," he answered. There was nothing soft about his voice to cushion the truth, and she suddenly felt that she probably knew as much about him as anyone did. She could recognize the quality of his tone, the same that had crept into his words when he'd spoken of himself -- a quiet despising that seemed almost more painful than something loud and violent. He judged himself, it had never been hard to see, and he was judging her for her actions, too. Though she knew she would receive no lecture from him. He had saved her, maybe out of a kind of pitying anger. She thought she could understand it. To him, she imagined it must seem as if she had hundreds of reasons to live.

Though she didn't want to believe that right now. She'd made up her own mind to be selfish for once. She didn't want to be responsible anymore. She was so tired of being the person she was, and she deserved a break, didn't she? Ironic that, after all this time, someone would take responsibility for her when she finally wished to be left alone.

Strange, in the end, that it had been Vincent, someone she thought probably understood the desire to die. Though maybe it was because he understood that he'd stopped her.

"I knew what I was doing," she told him quietly, staring at the two specks of red in the room, trying to sound completely sure. This time she hadn't been indecisive and she hadn't backed down. She'd had the courage to go through with it. She wasn't stupid; she knew what it meant to die. And with nothing to live for, death wasn't so scary. It was a doorway to something new, where things would be different, even if there was no consciousness after death except for people like the Ancients. She'd thought it out and made a decision. Who was Vincent -- who was anyone -- to stop her? Her choice for her life, and there had been a freedom in knowing that she didn't have to justify her feelings to anyone for once.

Vincent didn't say anything, but he got up from the chair. She saw a ripple of something, maybe the hem of his shirt, as he ducked in and out of the light before walking away.

"I knew," Tifa tried to call after him, feeling angry at him for the sudden spurt of shame she felt. She didn't have to justify herself to him. She wasn't his responsibility -- she wasn't anyone's responsibility. "You should've just left me!" Her voice cracked. She choked on the pain in her throat and began to cough weakly.

"Water. By the bed." His voice came out of the darkness, and then she heard the click of a door being drawn shut as he left the room.

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Wow, I must be desperate to write something if I'm pairing up two characters from the game! This is an idea that's been done to death, but now I'm doing it. Character driven and starring two angsty people who are torn between wanting to be left alone and wanting to be figured out and saved. You tell me if it's worth it to keep writing, tho maybe I'll write it anyway. *grin*