9. "So this is goodbye..."

Tifa sat leaning over the table, one arm resting on the table the other supporting her head as she stared emptily ahed. Everything was quiet. She had no more tears to cry and no more strength to cry them with even if she had. Holy failed, but the Life stream had saved them all. No... not everyone. Tifa drew a shivering breath; they had won, but the cost was so high. Two had died and a third was yet to come out of a coma. If she never had to go to another funeral, it would be too soon. But the planet was safe, and people continued their lives like nothing had happened. She even watched her remaining friends go each to their place to rebuild their lives and still she sat there. What had she to go back to? Tifa closed her eyes as they burned with dry tears. She almost wished she had died in the Northern Crater, but what good was it to wish? Tifa smiled bitterly. She knew too well how little use it was in wishing; hers never came true. The empty room almost seemed to strangle her and Tifa forced herself to take a deep breath. She had to decide what to do with herself. At that moment, the door opened and Rufus appeared.

"Hey, here you are," he said and walked over to sit opposite of her. "I was looking for you." Rufus crossed his arms and leaned them on the table. He was still looking a bit pale, but no one could belive that he was so close to dying only 24 hours ago.

Tifa tilted her head and gave a weak smile; "Oh, really? What for?" She had been so sure she'd lost him until she saw his Restore Materia on his shotgun. Praying wildly it wasn't too late, she cast Cure3 and sobbed relived when the wounds closed and his breathing was calm and regular. Sephiroth hadn't injured any major organs beyond repair like he had pierced Aeris' heart. Tifa had clutched him so hard on board the Highwind, determined to never let him go again, but now... now she'd had time to think.

Rufus hesitated and cleared his throat as he pretended that the table was terribly interesting; "I've just talked to Scarlet..." He wasn't quite sure how to tell her, ask her...

Tifa felt her heart sink at the mentioning of that name and swallowed; "I see... and when will she be here?" She had known he would go back to his former life, in fact; Rufus had never tried to hide it, but still... she'd hoped.

Rufus finally met her eyes and shrugged slightly; "within the hour... Tifa, I..." He straightened and exhaled, not sure why it made him so uneasy to ask a simple question.

Tifa reached out and took his hand, not wanting to hear what he had to say, not really. It would only hurt too much! Rufus gazed down at their hands and this time he gave a faint smile. And this time the silence felt good.

Tifa started when the door opened behind Rufus, scolding herself for almost forgetting what was going to happen. Scarlet appeared with two ShinRa soldiers behind her, eyeing Tifa coolly. Rufus didn't turn around, merely kept his eyes locked with Tifa's. Their time was up. He was going to leave. Tears welled up in her eyes again, proving her wrong about having no more to shed.

A wild sense of panic came over Rufus and he clutched her hand harder; "come with me," he whispered intensely.

Tifa sobbed quietly and placed her other hand over theirs as well; "to what? You're going to rebuild ShinRa company, aren't you?"

Rufus nodded with a sinking feeling in his stomach; "yes..."

Tifa pulled her hands away and folded them awkwardly in her lap, "I can't... I've seen what your company does to people, Rufus. So have you. But I can't turn my back on it."

Rufus' face became an expressionless mask and Tifa bit back a whimper under the cold gaze; "I see..."

If he'd listened to reason, he'd realise she was right. He wanted her to come with him because she pleased him, and would certainly not tolerate any interference with his business. The common people had meant nothing to him, they still didn't. And Tifa was obviously just a commoner.

Rufus got up rigid and Tifa gazed pleadingly at him. Hoping for... something. She knew it would never work as long as he sat ShinRa inc over everything, even himself.

"Well then..." Rufus said in nothing then a hoarse whisper, "good luck, Miss Lockhart. I would say, maybe we'll meet again, but that is rather far fetched, don't you think?"

Before she could answer, Rufus walked stiffly out, and Scarlet sent Tifa a triumphant look before following him and the soldiers closed the door. Tifa sat silently for almost an entire minute, great tears falling down her cheeks before she finally broke down and cried as heartbreaking as humanly possible.


It was six months later now, but Tifa still hadn't recovered. True, she looked very much the same, but all those who knew her could sense something broken in her. Cloud had left as well, pleading for her to come with him, but she declined. He was worried about her, but not in the way she wanted. Besides, she wasn't even sure he could help her forget... So, Tifa had returned to Midgar. She knew no other place she even felt remotely connected to, and in a way; she wanted to disappear in the slums. Everyone knew about Cloud and his team that had defeated Sephiroth and saved them from Meteor, but she didn't want the attention. Tifa didn't live anymore; she existed. Reaching Midgar, she'd began working as a waitress at a bar called The Wicked Wench and held to herself most of the time when she wasn't working. It was a day like any other, with nothing out of the ordinary as Tifa numbly walked across the crowded bar with an empty tray. Her mind was also as usual occupied with nothing particular when a voice broke through her haze;

"Tifa." That voice! She froze and slowly turned around, pressing the tray to her chest with shivering hands.

She turned to see Rufus ShinRa stand a meter away from her. Oh, yes, it was him. Tifa would've recognized him on a miles distance and certainly now that he merely had a heavy, black trenchcoat over his trademark suit. "Rufus..." She whispered disbelievingly, not quite believing her eyes. Neither moved for a few seconds, then Tifa let her arms sink and unknowingly dropped the tray to the floor and Rufus were over by her in two steps.

She reached up and caught his face between her hands and they met in a kiss that made both of them forget about the cheering crowd. Suddenly the whistling and howling broke through to Tifa and she began pulling away, but Rufus' hand behind her neck barely let her lower her lips from his.

"I... I need to talk to you," he said in a strained voice and all Tifa could do was nod.

"N-not here," she finally stuttered and was allowed to take a step away, "let's go in the back-room."

Rufus cleared his throat and faintly gesticulated for her to take the lead, receiving a nostalgic smile from Tifa that went straight to his heart, but also left him a little puzzled; what was that for? Still, he followed her and turned to face her when she closed the door behind them.

"Tifa... " Rufus began, but the words got stuck in his throat as she gazed at him with her wine-coloured eyes.

"Yes, Rufus...?" Tifa asked, not even allowing herself to wonder why he'd come there. She saw he was a little worn out, probably from too little sleep and too much hard work. Even Tifa in her private little corner of hell couldn't avoid to hear and see how ShinRa inc's power grew and even went pass it's previous size. What could he possibly want from her? Did he come to tear up old wounds? Hoping to find an easy prey? Unknowingly, Tifa placed her arms around herself to protect herself from those blue eyes and her own weakness.

Rufus walked over to her and hesitated before stroking a light hand over her cheek, making her meet his eyes; "I've missed you."

It sounded honest enough, and Tifa couldn't help herself; "I missed you too."

He bent down to meet her lips again, but Tifa forced herself to slide pass him and tightened her grip around herself. "So... how have you been...?"

Rufus sighed and stuck his hands into his pockets as he turned to look at her; "Ok, I guess... You? I would've thought you'd joined Strife on his journeys."

Tifa forced herself to smile as she turned to meet his gaze; "He asked me to, but I didn't feel like it."

She noticed a quizzical look in his eyes, but refrained from answering the unasked question.

Rufus shifted his weight slightly, "uh... anyway... "

Tifa drew a deep breath, gazing desperately at the door, feeling her longing for him was tearing down her defences; "Listen, Rufus, I should be going back to work or..."

He inhaled sharply, realising she was slipping out of his hands again and took a step towards her; "dammit, Lockhart, what do you want me to say?! I-I really miss you..."

Tifa closed her eyes hard, like every word hurt her like a fist. "Rufus... don't..." She whispered, turning her face away.

Rufus exhaled agitated as he took another step towards her; "I've tried to stop thinking of you! I really have! I did my damndest to get you off my mind, but you just wouldn't leave me alone! I've never..." He watched her almost desperately, not sure what to say.

All the days and nights he'd spent longing for her had finally brought him to his knees. Nothing mattered anymore, only she did. She was the only one who'd worried about him, cared for him... and loved him. Everything he'd always wanted, yet never had. "Tifa... please..."

His weak and shivering voice made her open her eyes again and gazed at him through a fog of tears. As he stood in front of her, Tifa had managed what no hateful father, cold teachers and loneliness had; she had broken Rufus ShinRa.

A weak hope fluttered inside of her, the first for six months, and Tifa fought for composure. "I can't support what you're doing..."

Her voice were even weaker and unstable then his, but Rufus shook his head as he took the final step towards her; "so I'll change. It doesn't matter. Tell me what you want and I'll do it."

She knew right there and then that he spoke the truth; she could see it in his eyes. Rufus would change, he would listen to her if she talked and there was hope.

With shivering hands, she placed her arms around his neck while tears ran freely down her cheeks and placed a light kiss on his lips;

"take me away from here...?"

Rufus exhaled relived and gave her a soft smile; "the lady wishes..."

Tifa giggled surprised as Rufus swooped her up in his arms and waved sheepishly to the cheering crowd as he carried her out to the waiting carriage.

the end...

What about Vincent, you ask? His fate will be revealed in the sibling story; Unforgivable Sinner! (comming to a site near you!)

R & R, people!

Huge thank you to AchikaMiyu for praise and guidance!