Here's my newest fic for the Final Fantasy VII fandom. Sorry I left you guys hanging for so long. It seems one-shots are the only things I am fit for. Anyway, here's a littlenon-cliched conventionalism, which this fandom so needs. There are too many authors trying to be 'original.' They can make nice plots but can't flesh them out very well.This fandom is out of control with them. But forgive me my ranting and read.

Disclaimer: I don't own. Square-Enix does. Got it?

Setup: This fic takes place right after the party escapes from Midgar and Shin-Ra HQ, way at the beginning of the game. Tifa reflects on what it's like to have a dream and what it's like to have a dream crushed.

"We're finally out," Cloud says to me and saunters over carefully. All of us, that is, all of Avalanche, new members and old, stand just outside Midgar. We're past the slums, past the walls, past the corruption. At the edge of the city's shadow, we wait carefully and timidly like babies, clutching at our mothers' skirts.

I shed my hesitation first and dive headlong into the sunlight. The sun rays hit me like a blush gone rampant on my cheeks. I run with my eyes closed and when I stop and my eyes open again, I feel them well up with tears.

The Color of the Sky by KyuuketsukiShounen

I had forgotten how beautiful the sky was. My first thought as I raised my head up was, 'It's blue.' Of course I had known that. It's not as if I'd lived in Midgar all my life as some of the unfortunate people of the slums have. But I always remembered it as bleak and grey or burning red.

Back in Nibelheim I'd always been staring up at the sky, dreaming for a hero to come take me away. I would climb up on the well by my house and I would sit at its edge, watching the clouds, the sun. When I was old enough to stay later, I found the moon and the stars to be just as enchanting. I loved the night sky, a sea of dark velvet spangled with dew drops and jewels. I wished on the stars that I'd grow up to marry a handsome prince. I was so stupid.

How could I think that life would ever be so sweet? Why must little girls grow up believing they can become princesses? But I suppose you can't really rebuke a child's dreaming. And that's all it amounted to be. A dream. I don't suppose I ever dreamt about pretending to be a prostitute and being rescued by a flower-girl and an old friend dressed in drag. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I remember when I stopped being such a stupid girl. It was when my mother died. The sky that day, it was gray. I stared up at it, even though the bright emptiness hurt my eyes, I tried to see what happened to the sky to make life turn out so horribly. I was already somewhat grown, but somehow I still expected some part of the sky to be torn from the ceiling of the universe, just to prove to me that it was where all goodness and dreams came from and that only something that could harm that enormous and awful sky could have been so cruel to take my mother away. But the next day, when I looked up at the sky, even though my vision blurred from the tears, all I saw was that endless blue and the clouds that crowded it with such adulation. It acted as though nothing had happened, as though it was just another day.

What a fit I threw. I was quite ego-centric then, as you can see, but I had quite a right to be upset. No one wants death, save for those who aren't allowed a life. Every day of the week that my mother died, I stared out the window. I was immobile from the chair by the glass panels. I fell asleep sometimes, but never did I dream.

Sometimes I wonder what I had actually expected to happen. Maybe I wanted some spectre, some angel, to swoop down from that impossible azure and bring me my Mom. Maybe I was waiting for the rain to come, just to prove that the sky wasn't as cold as to forget my mother, forget me. I wanted it to cry with me, that sky of my dreams. But it didn't rain that week. And my mother never came back to tend to her flower garden, her most prized possession aside from her family and friends.

In later years, I never would be able to look at the ugly patch of ground that had been such a beautiful array of colors and smells. Within a month, it had already gone wild and untamed. I guess it mirrored my life. Once my mother wasn't there, all the harsh realities of life grew like weeds in my mind. Dad didn't know a thing about gardening and he was just as hopeless, trying to shield me from the world.

But back to those terrible first seven days. You see, my father never cried that week. At the time, I though he was trying to be brave. Now I know that he was just as human, just as vulnerable as I was. He had been too preoccupied trying to comfort me, too busy arranging the funeral to let himself cry. Maybe that had been his intention, not to feel the blow until he was ready for it, letting himself get distracted with purpose. But who is ever ready to feel death snatch away your loved ones from beneath your nose?

My father, he tried to console me, got all those stupid kids to come visit me as if I really thought they were my friends. All the kids in the village, they were always ready to wield the knife when your back was turned. They were no comfort. But then there was Cloud. Of course I didn't see him the same way as I do now. He was a little runt back then. Always so quiet and brooding. But still, just as lovable.

He was the boy next door and to comfort me, he read me a story from my mother's book of fairy tales and local folk tales. In the story he told me, an orphan girl crosses the Nibel Mountains. She falls from one of the peaks, but she doesn't die. She finds her parents. waiting for her to join them. I don't know what I thought I was doing when I dragged him by the hand to the foothills with me. The other boys followed along too, but for some reason I didn't care about them anymore.

I was so naive back then, so unwilling to let go. I thought I was giving one last chance for my dreams to rescue me from this hell. In reality I was on my hand and knees, begging. My mind was a mess. I guess I just went crazy. I remember running, running to the cliffs at the edge of our town. I had to see for myself, would Mom be there?

I remember leaving Cloud behind and just running as fast as I could. My heart was pounding as fast as it could and I stopped at an old rickety bridge. The other kids bailed as soon as I step foot on it. I walked, trying to keep calm and not upset the rotting ropes that held me up, trying not to think too hard about my mother. Cloud, he came. He saw me lose my step and he came after me.

And then we fell.

As I was falling, I remember I was so happy. I thought that my dreams had returned. And as Cloud's hand clasped mine, I leaned back into the fall, smiling. Cloud was so afraid. He was screaming, kicking and fighting the air as if he would be able to climb the currents like a kite. I tried to tell him that he would be okay. That he was with me to see my Mom and that I was glad that he was the one with me. But I couldn't find my voice and then I realized that I was scared too.

I try not to remember hitting the ground. Pain is a familiar face in my life, but never do I hope to hear that deafening thud, the crunch of my own bones, again. Cloud, he was lucky. Somehow he had avoided getting too hurt, but he was knocked unconscious immediately. I lay there, for hours it seemed, on my back. I had to face that damned sky that had betrayed me. It was watching me, too. Just a blank stare. And I couldn't move. I couldn't move! It pained me too much to even try to talk. Everything was over then, it seemed. I couldn't even bring myself to cry.

I remember closing my eyes then.

They tell me I was in a coma for seven days. They all blamed Cloud. And I let them. You see, it didn't really matter to me. Not anymore. I never really saw them pick on little Cloud. And since then, I hardly ever talked to him. Cloud, the boy next door.

Since that time we fell. . . I never wanted to look up at the sky again. Of course I still saw it. Unless you live underground, its nigh impossible to never see the sky. But I swore, never again would I smile at it, wish upon its stars, send my dreams into it. Because, you understand, when my mother died, so it seemed all my dreams went with her. The princess was just another girl and the prince would never settle. Royal kingdoms crumbled to ruins in my mind and a kiss was just a touch, only as significant and meaningful as an accidental brushing of hands.

Now I am older. Not that stupid girl anymore, nor will I ever be her again. I see now that I didn't ignore Cloud. I never forgot what he had done. At the time I had blamed him for crushing my dreams telling me that fairy tales don't really exist, although I should have known better anyway. I guess I just could never bear the guilt that I just let him take the hardships for me, letting everyone else blame him for my accident while he was only trying to save me. I was just being selfish.

So the sky was just another foreign place. Until Cloud came back to me. He came back, even after all I had done to him.

"I'm going to join SOLDIER," he tells me and expects something of me. So I play along. After some time, I realize he's being serious.

"Promise me," I told him. And I made him swear he would come save me. Like a knight on his valiant steed come to take his fair maiden away.

That knight, when he told me to meet him at the well, there were so many stars. Hundreds and thousands. And when I saw his face, so serious, I knew I would break my promise. I looked up at the sky that night and wished on every star I could name that he would be safe. I didn't want him to join SOLDIER. So many of the boys were doing that. So many of the boys were dying. So I didn't wish for that. I just wished he would stay alive for me. I needed somebody to keep me wishing. I was so stingy with my happiness.

Then, something happened. It was two years later. I was a little older and a little smarter. I heard some Shin-Ra troops were coming to Nibelheim. I was so excited. I really was. I thought I would see Cloud. But did I? I remember thinking he would be one of the SOLDIERs coming along. But it wasn't his face on that uniform. It wasn't him standing beside Sephiroth. No.

Before they came, I read all the newspapers, the magazines, searching for his name. Nowhere. I wondered why. I even thought once that he knew what I was doing, that he didn't want to be found. I must have been such a conceited little girl.

But then, why do I remember him, his eyes filled with tears as were mine, with the taste of blood in my mouth and incredible pain in my chest? Why is there the hazy outline of his figure, standing there in the doorway, when he couldn't possibly have been there? Why, when I remember those red fires, why do I see Cloud there? The sky is filled with fire!

Maybe I was just so delusional, as I lay there bleeding to death, that I was hallucinating. Maybe I wanted so hard for him to come to me, come rescue me from this nightmare that I thought I saw him. I guess I just wanted dreams to be real again. I just wanted my hero to come save me like promised.

I thought Cloud was long gone when I came to Midgar. I didn't think of him. At least I tried not to. He was just another person that I had lost. Somewhere in the collection of my memories, buried with my mother and father, collapsed with the smoldering ashes of my hometown. It's quite appropriate for me to have come to Midgar. It's all about working hard and keeping out of the way. There's no room for dreams. The plate keeps your head out of the clouds and on the floor where it belongs. I lived like that for five years. I thought nothing of it, until Avalanche came.

They were different. They knew how ill the city was. They knew the planet was in danger. I guess I must've cared a little. I let them shack up in my bar. Hold their little secret meetings there. I only got to care about the cause when I found myself caring for the members. Barret, Biggs, Wedge, Jesse. And then Cloud. Form the gutters, I took him.

My first thought was that I was dreaming. That's just like me. But I found out he was real and I carried him home. Then he helped Avalanche out on their first big attack on Shin-Ra and tried to bail. I tugged on his arm to keep him here. I even brought up that silly little promise of seven years ago. Just to keep him here. That's me, being selfish again. But it worked.

Cloud stayed put. And then I saw him fall from the reactor. And I felt like an eight year old girl again, falling from a bridge with the boy next door going down with her. But this time I didn't fall with Cloud. But another time, he left me.

Then, just like all those other times someone has left me, life is a blur and I'll do absolutely anything to distract myself. So I let myself be dressed up like a doll and pretended to sell myself to that sleazy Don Corneo.

Now, let's count up the score. I've been crushed once when my mother died, once when we fell from the bridge, again when Cloud didn't come, and a last time when Cloud fell from the plate. That's four against me. By then, I could've officially declared myself ill-fated. But again, Cloud appears to save me. He's there and so is my new friend Aeris, who has joined our cause. What's more is that he's in drag. I'm beginning to think he'll do anything if he thinks he can save a friend.

Then we infiltrated Shin-Ra HQ and next thing, we're here out by the edge of the plate's shadow. And I see that blue I thought I had forgotten.


Cloud strolls by me and he smiles like a dope while I gape at the sky and the sun and the clouds. I acknowledge him beside me and he scratches the back of his head the way he always does. We both stare off toward a flock of ducks or geese or whatever birds they are flying east.

"Pretty amazing to see this after being under that big shadow for so long, huh?"

I nod in reply and turn to him. He faces me and the tension comes.

"Cloud," I start off awkwardly, "you've done a lot for us all lately. I'm always getting in trouble, but now you're here to bail me out, right?"

He smiles and for some reason I want to just hug him and laugh and cry when I see him cock his head and furrow his brows. "What are you trying to say?"

I stutter and fumble when I realize how easily he has gauged my intentions. "I guess I just want to say. . ." I scour my mind for the right words, but I'm not even quite sure what it is I want him to know. So I just blurt out anything. "Thank you."

And strangely, that's it. That what I wanted to say, what I really meant.

"Thank you, Cloud," I affirm. "You know, back there with the Don and everything. And for taking me along on this adventure."

He looks kind of confused. "You're welcome, I guess?"

"Look, Cloud," I say. "There's nothing I can give you to show you just how much I'm happy to see you again. But I'll just have to make do. So here." And on impulse I go up and my toes and give him a quick peck on the cheek.

I turn heel and run off to hide how red my face is, though by doing that it just proves how embarrassed I am. And even though I don't turn around, I know he's standing there, watching me run away with his hand on his face where my lips were.

As I run away, I smile. I smile even though I feel like crying, too. Aeris chases after me, asking me to slow down, she can't run that fast. So I stop and Aeris catches up beside me and leans against me, huffing to catch her breath. I look toward Cloud and I can barely catch his spiky head on the skyline.

Thank you Cloud, I say to myself. I can see the sky again. And it's blue! It's blue.

AN: What did you think? Is it alright? Hope the symbolism wasn't too subtle. Review and tell me what you thought, because I can't remember what it's like, getting a review for a Final Fantasy fic. And especially tell me if you find something that really jars you out of the story, or somehow detracts from the effect of this fic. I'll fix it on your behalf so further readers can enjoy it without having to be patient with my quirks.