Note: I wrote this story intending it to be a re-write of the series at certain points, but I submitted this to a literary thing and it turned out very different from my original idea, but I am pleased with the result. This will just be a one-shot. Hearts—Mena
Disclaimer: I do not Final Fantasy, VII, or any related characters and so on.
"Hey, wake up."
"C'mon, we're nearing Midgar! Get up!"
"Are you seriously gonna moan the whole time? C'mon, it'll be fun."
"Hey, don't pass out again! Okay…One-two-three…one-two-three…Can't this hunka junk move any faster, old man?"
"Shu'up! You should be glad you're gettin' a ride anyway!"
"Just think, Midgar! There we can start over! We could shack up with my girl…ah, her mom lives there, too. Oh well. No matter. We can make it. Hey! What do you think we should do?"
"I know! We can be mercenaries! Swords for hire! Just you and me! We'll make a killing!"
"Hey! You said somethin'! Well, I mean, at least you started moaning again."
"…! Don't worry, we're gonna make it just fine. You'll see, Cloud."
You remember that day, don't you?
Who are you?
That doesn't matter now. You're at Midgar now, remember?
…Yeah. I remember.
You can carry out the plan. You're strong. You can get by. Back then, it was only skinned knees…
What? Skinned knees?
C'mon! Up and at'em! Someone's coming to get you!
Groaning slightly, Cloud Strife pried his eyes open. "What was that? Was it a dream? An illusion? A memory?"
"Cloud? What are you talking about? Is it really you, Cloud?"
"Wha?" Cloud's eyes finally focused on the source of the delicately sonorous voice addressing him. When he did so, he couldn't help the involuntary catch of his throat upon sight of the girl standing before him. Did he really know her? It—was—so---familiar—
Of course you remember her! It's all about her! It's really her!
Don't be stupid! It's all because of her! You remember! It's…
"Tifa?" Cloud choked it out, his breathing quickening as he did so.
The girl's dark hazel eyes widened ever so slowly as her whole body seemed to light up at this recognition. "Yes, Cloud, it's me, Tifa! We haven't seen each other for…"
Tifa gave a slight start. "Five years?"
"Yeah," Cloud asserted, his feelings shimmering down to a slight tremor. "When I came to Nibelheim to check out the reactor…with…"
Him. The Great Sephiroth.
"Him. The Great Sephiroth," he added with a snort of disdain.
"Yes," Tifa clenched her jaw. "Uhm, Cloud?"
"What," Cloud said, trying to keep his thoughts focused.
"…um, about five years ago…"
"Don't worry," Cloud reached out to place his hand on Tifa's forearm, the slight blush on both their faces being obscured by the dim lamp-posts. "I'm going to make Sephiroth pay for what he did."
Smiling slightly, Tifa dropped the subject. "So what are you doing here?"
"Oh, you know, Ex-SOLDIER for hire. I've been doing some odd jobs here and there—pretty much anything for some Gil—but I think I'll be moving out to try and find Sephiroth soon."
"What do you mean? I thought Sephiroth was dead," Tifa murmured.
Of course not. Sephiroth won't die that easily.
"Of course not. Sephiroth won't die that easily."
"Of course not."
Cloud grimaced as he tried to shift his position. Tifa's eyes hardened immediately and she placed her hand on his. "Cloud, don't strain yourself. You're hurt."
"Well, you groaned."
"What's wrong with that? Can't I groan without an interrogation?"
Cloud really did groan when Tifa smacked him across the shoulder. "Ow…when did you get so strong? Oh, wait, you were with us when we went to the reactor. I almost forgot."
"…C'mon, Cloud. Let's go back to my place," Tifa softly helped Cloud to his feet.
"It's nothing. I've had worse," Cloud grumbled as he shrugged Tifa's arm off his own regretting the action immediately. Tifa pursed her lips and started walking toward Sector 7.
Way to go. Push her away. It's only because you're so ashamed.
Ashamed? What do I have to be ashamed about?
"Tifa, I'm…what I mean is…I didn't really…" Cloud squirmed as he shifted his Buster Sword from one side to the other.
Tifa stopped suddenly in front of him. With her back turned, Cloud couldn't tell what was going across her face, but for some reason he felt as though his insides were being wrapped round and round. "It's been…so hard these last few years…not knowing whether…ahh…"
Cloud stepped forward as if to place his hand on her shoulder, but closed it instead and let it fall to his side.
"Have you ever noticed that the things we want to say the most are usually the hardest to say? It's obvious when you think about…but…but that still doesn't stop it from hurting. What I'm trying to say is that I….is that I—I've missed you, Cloud," Tifa's shoulders drooped.
"Tifa," Cloud said and this time he did place his hand on her shoulder. Standing there for what seemed ages, Cloud felt a rush of feelings overwhelm him. He tried to pin down these feelings with words, or even thoughts, but all of that eluded him.
Tifa cleared her throat and exhaled loudly. "Well, we'd better get going! I have a bar down here called the "7th Heaven" and I think that there might be a job for you there."
Tifa turned so Cloud's grip wouldn't be broken and smiled gently up at him. "Yeah, I think so." With that, Tifa released herself from Cloud and started walking into Sector 7 once again.
After a few moments Cloud rushed to catch up with her.
Did that really happen? Was it just something Tifa told me?
"Cloud is based on the memories that Tifa told him."
Just a memory? I'm just a memory?
You're just a puppet.
…Yeah. I'm not Cloud.
You exist to serve Sephiroth.
…Right. Jenova…Jenova created me from Tifa's memories. What's the point anymore? Sephiroth is going to destroy the Planet with Meteor that I gave him at the Reunion. Cloud isn't real. Cloud doesn't exist.
"Cloud? Is that really you?"
All of it, just a memory. Just like me. Just like Cloud….Sorry, Tifa. Cloud doesn't exist anymore—only in your memories.
If only the voices would stop, then she could find Cloud. The last thing Tifa remembered was Ultima weapon hurtling towards Mideel…running from the hospital with Cloud…falling into the Lifestream…Cloud. It was Cloud. Tifa had to admit it was lucky he survived the first fall into the Lifestream, but he had not come out of it unscathed—Cloud wouldn't talk. It's like Cloud wasn't even there. Then again, Tifa wondered, where was she now? It was dark and there were so many voices, all crying and screaming at her.
"Cloud! Where are you Cloud? Cloud, I'm scared!"
Tifa started running. She didn't know where she was running to—no, what she was running from. Was it the voices? The pain? Or was it the memories? There was so much running through Tifa's head—she felt woozy from all these thoughts, tired from all the endless running, confused from the feelings.
"Cloud!" Tifa screamed. Breathing heavily Tifa collapsed, unable to keep up with anything. "Please. I want to see Cloud. Just…once more…"Tifa felt her eyes start to droop. "Is this…the end? It can't be…I don't want to…"
"It's okay to die. Do you believe that?"
"What?" Tifa started, but found she lacked the energy to stand up.
"Are you all right, Tifa? You want to see him, don't you?"
"Aeris…"Tifa struggled to remain conscious. "But…you're…"
"You'll help Cloud, won't you? Oh, of course you will! I…I was unable to…"
Tifa gasped as a blinding light enveloped her. Shielding her eyes from the light, Tifa felt all of the darkness dissolve beneath her. When she opened her eyes, Tifa felt as if she was in a dream. Her vision wasn't blurred, only hazy. She was standing in a field full of beautiful flowers, flowers that she'd seen before, somewhere…That's when Tifa realized she was not alone. Tifa felt it, the warmth against her back, the presence so close to her that she couldn't see it. As if sensing Tifa's thoughts, the other body convulsed in airy giggles.
"…Aeris?" Tifa inclined her head towards Aeris, but stopped herself from looking at her, as if she couldn't behold Aeris' face. Perhaps it was out of fear or maybe…
"Tifa? Are you scared?"
"…Yeah. Is this…the Promised Land?"
"Aeris, there's so much I want to tell you. I…I miss you. We all miss you."
Tifa forced the lump in her throat to recede. "It is rather beautiful here. Like you. Like your dreams. So many flowers. Just like your dreams."
"I suppose so."
Tifa's jaw clenched as she struggled to repress her tears, but they came anyway. Her shoulders heaving, Tifa relived all of the memories of Aeris. They were different from the other memories she had—maybe because these memories were locked deep in her heart. Tifa knew that these memories could never be manipulated or erased because however painful or joyous they may be, they were chained to her heart, like the feelings were likewise chained to her memories.
Tifa slowly opened her eyes as Aeris placed her hand upon Tifa's shoulder and laid her head on Tifa's back. Tifa closed her eyes again. It felt as it time was being compressed into this single moment.
"Tifa, you need to be strong now. You need to help Cloud. I'll take you to him."
Tifa murmured her agreement. Right now her life seemed to be miles away…
"No more hiding! And no more pouting, too! Cloud needs you to bring him back!"
"…Sephiroth said that isn't the real Cloud."
Tifa smirked a bit at Aeris' indignant response. "I'm kidding. It is the real Cloud. He…he just doesn't believe it. But I'll help him. There must be something in Cloud that remembers something."
"Okay! Come with me!"
Tifa couldn't help the involuntary laugh that escaped her lips as Aeris grabbed her hand and started running through the fields. In mere moments, Tifa gasped as she came upon a hazy portal. On closer introspection, Tifa realized that she saw Cloud there—no, several Clouds. Gripping Aeris' hand more tightly, Tifa moved forward when Aeris spoke.
"I can't go with you, Tifa."
"What? Why not?" Tifa was in front of Aeris, and she was getting a little upset at not being able to face her friend.
"Take care of Cloud and the others, okay?"
Tifa smiled slowly as she felt that Aeris was doing the same. In her mind, Tifa could just imagine that smile, the one that blossomed upon Aeris' face time to time like an exquisite flower.
"I will. And Aeris…"
Tifa whirled around to face Aeris, even though the image she saw before her became more hazy. "I'm glad I got to see you again. I lo--" Tifa was cut off as she fell down into Cloud's heart, courtesy of Lifestream, but as she was falling Tifa felt a few drops of tears from Aeris as she smiled down at Tifa.
"Don't worry, Cloud. We'll get your memories back. We'll get you back."
Cloud's voice rang out from nowhere: "...A sealed up secret...wish...tender feelings... that no one can ever know..."