You Don't See Me

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"…how do you turn your eyes from the romantic glare…

…how do you block the sound of a voice you'd know anywhere…"

-jann arden (insensitive)

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I don't know when this became complicated. I always thought it was rather simple – I loved him, he looked at me as a friend, an ally, never more.  Unrequited, definitely. But simple.  I think it was, at least, at one time...  Things have changed, and although I have not been powerless to stop them, Fate must play her part as well, and she has not been especially kind.  I've been lucky enough to get by – enough to survive – and I suppose I should be grateful for that, especially in the aftermath of so much death... so many lives lost, so many dreams shattered; a city destroyed.

And yet there is a part of me that wishes, especially on those gray, lonely Tuesday mornings like this one that seem to drag on until you could almost buckle under their cloying monotony, that it had been my body that Cloud had lowered into that Planet-forsaken pool, three years ago now.  He may have cried at my passing – what is it that they say, but that you never know love until it has passed you by? – but this ache, this hurt I feel... it would no longer plague my thoughts, no longer burn at my eyes every time I look at him and he looks right through me. And perhaps, if I had been the one to fall, once again, under Sephiroth's maddened blade, Aeris would have stood where I do now.

No. . . not in my place; not here.  Not two doors down a dimly lit hallway above a bar from her heart's desire.  She'd be with him; wrapped up carefully, almost worshipfully in his arms, the one golden strand of his hair that actually listened to gravity dusting her shoulder, his breath tickling her neck as their breathing slowed in sleep. 

She'd be Aeris Strife, probably; a beautiful, radiant bride in gossamer white, Cid walking her down the first half of the aisle and gruffly pretending that tears of joy weren't forming at the edges of his eyes.  They'd all be there - Nanaki, perhaps with a cub or two of his own. . . Barret, with Marlene tucked under his arm, and accompanying Elmyra, who would sit in the front row and undoubtedly glow with pride for her adopted daughter; a daughter she loved more than most mothers loved the daughters of their blood.  In contrast, Reeve would sit calmly, but his professional exterior would be betrayed by his dark, dancing eyes; eyes that hinted at the playfulness of his alter ego.   And Yuffie… Yuffie would drag Vincent from wherever he was and attach herself to his side until he assured her in patently amused tones that he would, indeed, attend the ceremony.  Now there was an unlikely pair, but the two balanced each other; he tempered her, and she pulled him out of his shell.  They'd sit somewhere in the middle of the church – a compromise between front and center, and the shadows of the further rows.  It would be a beautiful day... Heavens only knows where the nuptials would happen, but the Planet owed Aeris at least some good weather on the day of her wedding for all that it put her through.  She'd be carrying roses of every hue, and have pink flowers in her hair – although his brilliantly blue eyes would shine at her from where he stood at the end of the aisle, and he probably wouldn't even notice the clothes.  She could parade around quite literally in a paper bag and he would find her captivating.

And yet, I will not bring myself to hate, or even be envious of her.  I can't. . . it's rather difficult to hate an angel, after all.

But there is nothing in these thoughts that should hold me… to lose myself in reveries is tempting; a rare luxury in which I can at least numb the pain.  But that way lies madness… and that is the last thing that I can afford. 

And this is mostly because there are some days that I am one of the few things that hold him to this planet.  At times when his eyes are unnaturally wide with fright, and he wakes from the nightmares that haunt him, sometimes for weeks on end, in a cold sweat, I'm there.  Unasked, usually unnoticed;  I am merely a comforting shadow that dissipates the wraiths that taunt him.  It doesn't happen as often as it used to… perhaps, he is finally coming to peace with his past.  But on the nights that the nightmares slip through, I've been there more times than I can clearly remember, laying a cool cloth at his furrowed brow, holding his hand when it was really bad. 

He calls her name in his dreams.  Wildly, sometimes, like a lost child… and sometimes, reverently, as he did too few times when she was alive.  He's called her name as I've sat beside his bed, my own rest forgotten, as I smooth his hair and croon unintelligible snippets of folk songs that I've picked up since we've taken over the small bar at Rocket Town. The mornings after those nights, he comes down the stairs into the bar with traces of pain and guilt dancing across his face; he knows that I know.

It's on mornings like that that I wonder how Yuffie coaxed Vincent out of his nightmares; when I first met the young ninja, she hardly struck me as someone who had even the slightest amount of patience, or even really any empathy…  And yet, the last time I saw the two of them, barely two months ago, she had grown.  Not any taller, not any curvier – much to her chagrin, as she proceeded to exclaim (yet again) how lucky I was to have the figure I did – but wiser.  A bit of Vincent's patience swirled in her eyes, and it was clear to see that he had come to treasure her – perhaps not to understand her completely, and certainly, there was a time or two when he certainly looked like he would gladly drop-kick her out the door – not least when she was blatantly looking at his hand while the four of us played cards.  But he had not gone through her acquaintance unscathed, either… for the first time in my memory, I recall seeing warmth in my dark-haired friend's eyes.  

And while he eventually did pick Yuffie up by the scruff of her collar, and drag her outside for a 'talking-to' about the rules and regulations of certain card games and what One Does Not Do during the above, she returned to the room minutes later, not only with the usual bounce to her step, but also with a dazed, peaceful look in her eyes. He followed in her shadow, her strange guardian-lover-friend, just a heartbeat behind her.  Love?  Definitely too conventional a word for them.  But there certainly was something.

It's more than a little ironic that she, my impetuous, immature, reckless, but ineffably lovable ninja of a friend could manage to coax a man out of thirty years of nightmares, whereas I… I am giving up, after nearly thirty months.  I'm not sure when I came to this conclusion; maybe I woke up one morning and realized that he could never love me in return; maybe it was always complicated, and I simply never noticed before…  

Perhaps – though this is hardest to swallow – perhaps I've really stopped wanting to keep hurting myself to be near him.  I can't hold it against him for never noticing that I could – that I did love him with everything that my heart could offer.

After all, I can't hate him, if he doesn't see me.  But I can't love him, either.

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finis.

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DISCLAIMER: I don't own Tifa or any of the FF folks… they all belong to Square/Square Enix.  Nor do I possess any aspect of Jann Arden's music, much less this song (Insensitive) – which, while wistful, is beautifully written, and the lyrics are poignant. Good post-breakup song, actually. *smiles*

SABRIEL'S SCRIBBLES: Well… this sort of came out of nowhere… I was listening to 'Insensitive' the other day, and went "well, this would make an excellent Tifa/Cloud," albeit a sad one, and the story came out of those thoughts.  Please review; I'd like to know if I kept Tifa well enough within character…

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