The Eremite
Cloud D.

"Hey Teef, do you see that house on the hill?" Lucy Higgins, who was Tifa Lockheart's best friend, pointed up to the so-called "Strife-Hill", where a huge, dark house stood. "Yeah", Tifa replied. "What's the matter with it?" "Cloud Strife is living up there. The village people use to say that he is crazy." Tifa sighed and rolled her eyes. There was it again, the stupid village-chattering she hated so much. "And why do they think that?" she asked, sounding slightly annoyed. "Well...he's living up there, all alone, without telephone or so...and Chuck - the postman - says he only gets one letter every month, from the government. I wonder what he's doing up there all day long...and what he does for living?" Lucy wondered out loud. "I don't really care." Tifa answered. "And I also think that this is none of the villagers business." "Hey, don't rip off my head." Lucy pouted. "I just wanted to tell you about it. You've been away for six years now, and I thought maybe you'd like to hear some news." "News are ok." Tifa informed her friend. "But it's not okay to say someone's crazy just because he wants to be left alone. Strife surely has his reasons for living up there, but I'm not really interested in them at all. So, can we change the subject now?"

~~ Two days later ~~

"So you're leaving again?" Lucy asked, while watching Tifa who was busy with loading her suitcase in her small car. "Yeah, I've got to. Sorry Luce. I'll come again, I promise." "You also said that when you left last time, and it took you six years to come again." Lucy whined. Tifa gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "This time it won't take so long. Trust me." "Okay." Lucy gave a heavy sigh and hugged Tifa. Tifa returned the hug, then she got into her car and drove off.
The car made it's way up Strife-hill, making dangerous stutter-noises all the way up. "Don't let me down now." Tifa pleaded silently. "If you do, I'll have to go to Mr. Strifes house and ask him for help...maybe he's like that Dr. Lecter guy from "Silence of the lambs"? Maybe he'll eat me...oh, Tifa, snap out of it!" Tifa slapped herself on the forehead for thinking such awful things about a guy she didn't even know. In the next moment, the car lost it's grip on the icy ground. Tifa screamed in shock as her car slid down into the woods. It crashed hard in a tree, and Tifa could feel her rips break as she was thrown against the steering wheel. She wanted to scream in pain, but before she could do so, she passed out.
Cloud Strife was on his daily walk when he suddenly heard a shocked scream, followed by the noise of metal hitting wood. "What the...?" he wondered out loud - in the years of living alone he had started talking to himself - and quickly ran into the direction the crashing noise had come from. He soon found the car, all crumpled up against a tree, smoke rising up from it's gear. "Holy shit" Cloud cursed when he saw the young woman, sitting in the frontseat unconscious. "Hey! Hey, Miss, can you hear me?" He touched Tifas shoulder and shook her slightly, but she didn't react. Cloud gave a heavy sigh, bent into the car and lifted Tifa up on his strong arms. She stirred in his arms, and he comforted her with a few mumbled words. "It's okay, I won't hurt you. Just hold still, otherwise I'll drop you." After a few moments, Tifa lay still again, and Cloud carried her up to his house.
Cloud fixed the bandage around Tifas chest, covered her with a blanket and took a seat next to the bed she lay in. He watched her in her sleep, wondering who she was, where she lived, if she was married...."AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Tifa's scream roughly pulled him out of his fantasies about her, he jumped from his chair startled and tried to silence her. "Hey...hey, calm down! I won't hurt you, I promise!" "Who are you? Why am I here? What do you want from me?" Tifa asked, panicking. "Sh, calm down. I am Cloud Strife, and you are here because you had an accident. Remember?" "Yeah...I remember my car hitting a tree....but that's all. Did I pass out?" "Yes you did." Cloud told her. "I walked past you in your car, and I couldn't let you out there, hurt...so I took you to my house." "Oh, I see...besides, I'm Tifa. Tifa Lockheart." Cloud nodded, then gave her a concerned look. "What about your rips? Do they hurt?" "Yeah, a little bit...are they broken?" "I am afraid they are. I would take you to a doctor, but it's snowing outside, that means..." Cloud trailed off. "Are we stuck here?" Tifa asked curious. "Stuck, until the snow stops falling?" "Yeah, more or less. As long as you are not 100 percent healthy, it's to much of a risk to take you down. I can't carry you all the way if you fall unconscious, you know." "I'm afraid you are right." Tifa sighed, eyeing her savior carefully if she could find any sign of madness, but she failed."I am not crazy." Cloud suddenly said. Tifa felt caught and blushed to a deep shade of red. "I never said..." "Yes, but you thought about it. Right? I bet you heard thousands of stories about that crazy guy who lives on the hill all alone." "Yes...yes, I have. But I didn't believe the people who told me." "Oh, c'mon" Cloud said, sounding really pissed. "It's true!" Tifa defended herself. "I didn't even mind about that stories! It's none of my business what you are doing here!" Cloud just sighed. "See, Ms. Lockheart..." "Please call me Tifa." Tifa interrupted him. Cloud gave her a surprised look. "Okay...but only if you call me Cloud." "No Prob." Tifa gave him a warm smile, and he returned it shily. "What I wanted to say was..." he then continued, "I don't mind if the people down there call me crazy or nuts or whatever. I just don't want you to stare at me as if I was a seldom animal in a cage." "I stared at you?" Tifa blushed again. "Yeah, you did. It couldn't be overseen." Cloud gave her a bigger smile this time. "But don't worry about that, Tifa. I am used to people staring at me, even if I saved them from freezing to death in a crumpled car." "I'm...sorry." Tifa said softly. "I didn't want to..." "Hey, I said it's okay. Don't worry about it." Cloud calmed her. Afterwards, he stood up from his chair and asked Tifa if she wanted something to drink. "I have soda, tea...wahtever you want." "Um, tea would be nice." Tifa answered. Cloud just nodded and went off in the kitchen. Tifa could hear him clattering around with the dishes, and after 15 minutes he came back with a cup of tea. "There you go. You need anything, like sugar or milk...?" "No thanks." Tifa took the cup from him, and their hands touched. Cloud held hers for a moment longer than necessary, and she gave him a warm smile. "He's so cute." Tifa thought to herself. "God, she's so beautiful..." Cloud couldn't help but stare at Tifa as she took a sip from the tea. "Now you are staring." she teased him when she realized. "What?" Clouds face turned bright red, and Tifa gave him a girlish giggle. "You look like a tomatoe." "Oh, really?" Cloud asked her, trying to sound angry, but he failed miserably. "Better watch out, or I'll eat you for supper!" "Oh, you wouldn't be happy with me as a meal." Tifa stated. "I am way too old to be eaten. You would bite your teeth out." "Oh c'mon, how old are you?" Cloud asked. "20? 22?" "I am 25." Tifa declared, a little happy because he guessed her age wrong. "What about you?" "32." "WHAT?" Tifa stared at Cloud with wide eyes. "You don't look like that! I thought you are... I dunno, 26 or so!" "Oh, thank you very much." Cloud gave her a big big grin, and Tifa couldn't help but laugh when she saw him grinning at her like the cat from "Alice in Wonderland". "Jeez, you look like the cat from that Alice movie with this huge grin on your face!" Cloud chuckled, then his handsome face got all serious. "Well...did you know that the cat always had a huge crush on Alice?" "What? You are kidding me." Tifa pouted. "No I don't. In this case...if I am the cat...you are Alice." And with that, he bent over and kissed her.