Windows
by Jess Angel

Please don't turn your eyes my way:
They're unnerving and undeniable.
Underneath all the work that you do
I can feel the real you. I can see the real you.

–The Juliana Theory, "Jewel To Sparkle"

They say eyes are the windows to the soul. It's a beautiful cliché that everyone thinks of at least once in his or her life. For me, it was twice.

The first time happened when I found him. Whoever thought taking a leisurely walk to the train station and back would reunite her with a childhood friend. I didn't. But there he was… as real as the air you breathe, but never see.

I didn't know what to think, let alone say. I was shocked. Surprised.

He was right there.

I would know that spiky blond hair anywhere. But they… were different.

What should I have expected? He had been in SOLDIER first-class, or so I thought. He had been exposed to Mako. They were the result.

And they were stunning.

The blue his eyes had been were still visible. A deep blue of the sky moments before it blackened into night. But the other blue dominated. It was eerily bright and alive. A mercury of aqua.

In them I saw everything and nothing. Now that things are clearer about Cloud's past, I can see why. He didn't understand anything then; he didn't want to. His own eyes had seen the truth, but his mind was blind to it. Maybe, just as I was.

But my heart only wanted him to be okay. Shove the lies and show what was really there. It would've killed him, stuck as someone you never were. It would've killed me, speaking words and not knowing they were lines. Living: a game of pretend you were never supposed know.

He was still in there though. The Cloud I always wondered about. The one I longed to really know. As kids, we weren't the best of friends. But I think we could've been, had he stayed. Maybe that's why we met at that well so many years ago. We knew, somehow. The few moments and words we had shared were enough.

The fire crackles hungrily into the air. I'm distracted from my thoughts for a moment.

The burning wood smells like incense.

It's almost comforting.

We decided to take a break from training for the final fight with Sephiroth. We came here. Cosmo Canyon.

Everyone else had retired for the night. Only the three of us remained at the bonfire. Red XIII was curled up at my left, and I absently pat the fur on his head. He purrs slightly, and I smile. It's strange to believe that he's like a teenage boy.

He was still up too.

He sat across from me, the fire between us. The flames weren't as high, but they hid his mouth time to time.

All of us were lost in our thoughts. Well, I had been but decided to put them to rest for the night. I had now settled for observing everything around me.

I eventually focused on the brooding man staring into the flames.

This was the second time.

Fire danced in blood and was devoured. It licked and burned only to drown. They were red. The color of wine. Hypnotizing in its depth. Frightening in its color.

And they were intoxicating.

I couldn't pull my eyes away. They were mystery like the man himself. Dangerous and dark… and attractive. It was a crazy thought to have, but it was aimed at me point-blank. That's what he was. To any woman it was undeniable.

I wasn't born yesterday, and I did have eyes.

Yet there was much more in them. Agony I would never know. Torture I could never believe. A past more terrible than my own. And there had been times in my life where I thought I was the Queen of Tragedy. They were haunting.

There was a shift.

The power of his gaze is too much to stand full on. I quickly look away, my fingers back in Red's fur. My eyes watch the movements in feigned fascination. 'Hopefully its dark enough to hide my blush,' my mind seems to mumble.

God, even his name was romantic.

I blush harder at the strangely random thought and tilt my face down at an angle, thankful that my hair is untied. The dark chocolate curtain successfully hides the right side of my face from view.

The feline beneath my hand begins to stretch lazily and rise. I give him another scratch behind the ears.

"As much as I've enjoyed lounging around with you two, it's really late. We should get some rest." Red looks to each of us, his expression turning into something that resembles a grin.

Vincent nods, and I reply, "Yeah, we should."

I follow Red XIII down the few steps with Vincent not too far behind.

Red turns around. "Goodnight."

My eyes follow as he runs up to his room.

I'm almost to my own.

Before I can take another step a voice startles me.

"Tifa."

I curse myself for thinking how perfect it is. Not too deep and smooth enough not to be considered slick like Rufus Shinra's. It feels like my heart's in my throat, and I swallow involuntarily. Had he come to confront me about my little staring session?

"Yes, Vin-cent?" I inwardly berate myself for the pause in the pronunciation and turn to face him.

I still couldn't look him in the eye.

"You left this." His gloved hand extends with my red hair tie.

Relief washes over me, and I grin sheepishly up at him.

I fumble for the tie, accidentally brushing his uncovered fingers with mine. So much for avoiding mortification. Amusingly enough, we both snatch our hands away simultaneously. "Thanks," I say trying to ease the awkwardness of the moment.

"Goodnight," he nods.

"Sweet dreams" was my automatic reply. Nice one, Lockheart. I suddenly want to slap myself. It's not enough that he's ranted on and on about being trapped in nightmares when we first met him, but now I have to go and remind him.

I had to chance a glance to assess the damage.

Luckily, there didn't seem to be any. I think he understood… what I meant to say. He even surprised me with a "same to you."

I look away.

I feel my mouth form a small smile and turn back towards my room.

They were watching me again, burning and intense on my back.

They made me want to run.

Where?

It was a scary thought.

Away from them and… to them.

Fin.


Author's Note: My first FF7 story ever, and I was just as shocked with the Vincent and Tifa direction it sort of went, since I was a Cloud and Tifa fan first. Writing this note presently (2012) and looking back to when it was published (2003), just wow. It was certainly just the beginning.

Final Fantasy VII and its characters © Squaresoft, Inc. n.k.a. Square-Enix, Inc.