A/N: This all of a sudden came to me one day in one of those lovely 'what if…' stories for the end of the FFVII:AC movie. As always, CloTi, maybe oneshot, depends really on how much time I have before classes start up again since I have two other big projects that I would like to finish. R&R please! And disclaimer is: If Square-Enix would have done this, I might have been happier but oh well, I have this now so yay. Square-Enix own all characters and such of FFVII.
(All Tifa's POV)
Part I: The Death
Tifa watched in horror as his body fell, one bullet to the chest taking him down on the rooftop below. She was powerless to do anything from above in the Highwind and had to watch helplessly as he bled to death, all alone except for the rain soaking him and diluting the red pool around him. When she finally reached him, he was wet and so cold, deathly cold. Tifa bent over his battered form, getting a good look at the wound that did so much damage and she couldn't help it, couldn't do anything for him at all now, it was too late. No longer able to hold herself, she collapsed over him, shielding him while the rain pelted away, each sting feeling like needles against her back. Her tears mingled with the rain drops still reaching his face and she didn't move, not wanting to let him go from her like this.
Barret was the one to remove Tifa's drained form from the fallen hero while Vincent held her in place, partly from concern but mostly because she could not stand without effort that she just did not have in her. Vincent turned her away as Barret dealt with Cloud's broken body and she was glad for it; her vision full of red even before meeting his red cape-covered shoulder to cry uncontrollably onto still. Somehow they had all reached the Highwind and returned to Seventh Heaven, where she was gratefully left alone to deal with her grief.
All of AVALANCHE knew what Cloud and Tifa's relationship consisted of, even if the two did not know it for themselves. Each had their own opinion on the matter, but all agreed on one thing: Tifa lost the man she loved tonight and now had to be given time to mourn and to accept Cloud's death, as they all would have to on a different level eventually. Time was the only thing that could heal and it was all they had left on their side, no longer looking over there shoulders now after the defeat of Sephiroth.
Yuffie was never one to be patient and when Vincent mentioned this "time to heal" concept, she had politely brushed it aside. She would never belittle anything that mattered to Vincent since she loved him so but still, she had the mindset that Tifa needed her friends more than ever. That is what Yuffie was: Tifa's friend and so with that in mind, she walked up to the woman's bedroom door and knocked. This was the first big step since Yuffie's style was more along the lines of barging in without warning, but this time was an exception. After getting no response, she tried the knob only to find it locked.
"Tifa…open the door."
Nothing…except a sniffling noise that was easily distinctive as Tifa's tears, even though she tried to cover them up in the solitude of her own room. Of course she would be crying, but why would she want to be alone at a time like this? Didn't she know how much her friends cared for her and wanted her to be happy, even now?
"Please, don't shut me out."
It was a little more than a whisper as Yuffie pressed her form against the solid wood, listening for any kind of response. Moments passed, and more sadness seeped in with each minute until Tifa gave the final blow.
"Just go, leave me be."
The words were chocked with sobs and Yuffie had no choice but to do as Tifa wished and leave her in her misery.
Part II: Blood Rain
The water was warm against her skin, caressing each bend and fold of her form as she stood under the spray. Tifa turned the hot water on full blast and felt the scalding heat try to burn her flesh; she wanted it to melt this away…this feeling of never ending despair that threatened to overtake her with each heart beat, each breath she took alive while he was dead. She had been covered in Cloud's blood and watched mesmerized as the red swirled and changed to pink before flowing down the drain, her life going along with it. Tifa sat on the tiled floor of the shower among the diluted blood, steam rising to shroud her in warmth from above even as her heart froze over.
Memories forced their way into her mind, of her and Cloud as kids growing up next to each other…of him leaving for SOLDIER…of her finding him that fateful day alone and so confused…She balled her hands into fists, forcing her nails to bite painfully into the tender flesh of her palms to stop the past from returning. It did not work as missions with Cloud and AVALANCHE flashed behind her eyes….as he caught her during the collapse of the cave…of nights alone together at Seventh Heaven, just talking…of her endless love for the boy next door who had been forced to be this hardened man much too soon in life.
The one moment of her time with Cloud that would haunt her forever would be the night at the well…"Promise me if I ever need you, you'll be there for me. You'll be my hero…won't you, Cloud?" She looked hopefully at their interlaced fingers and then back into his intent gaze.
"Of course," he said, slightly relieved that that's what it was, and not something that should cause her hopeless tone, or something that would make him reconsider leaving to join SOLDIER even more than he already had.
"I'm serious, Cloud," Tifa explained, trying to make her demand clear and reasonably acceptable.
"I know," he said, still pondering her slightly crestfallen look. He lifted her chin with his now free fingertips, forcing her to look at him in the eye.
"I'll always be there, I promise."...
He had promised to be there for her in her time of need, no matter what. What about now, Cloud? I need you now! She could taste the salt of her tears mixed with the hot water, not holding back as sobs racked her body painfully, draining her of all she had left to give within her. All of those memories with Cloud, all of the good and the bad poured out of her with those tears until she had nothing left. She had no more to give, and that was a blessing.
Slowly, Tifa removed her worn body from the assault of the now cooling spray, reaching for a towel to dry off before stepping into the warm haze of the bathroom. Once covered, she moved towards the mirror, so covered with steam that nothing was visible. Without thinking, she wiped it clean to see a reflection that seemed scarily unreal. Damp dark hair framed a washed out face, expression unknown as hollow hazel eyes stared back at her.
Tifa couldn't stand to look at her reflection a moment longer and instead turned to her hands, which stung for some reason. Uncurling her fingers, she saw four clear cut crescent moons on each palm, filling with her blood. She didn't move to clean them, just stared at the pools of crimson that slowly filled-flashes of Cloud's blood on her hands from the rooftop filling her vision. Quickly, she turned on the sink and rinsed off her hands, once again fighting the pull of the liquid life force being washed away as it played at her thoughts.
Part III: Realization
Numbly, Tifa returned to her room, now clean of body but soiled more so of the mind and spirit. Cloud's face would not leave her mind: his unruly mass of spiky blond hair that defied gravity no matter what he did and so he had given up trying, those dazzling mako blue eyes that glinted with cunning, knowledge and a little something special for her alone. She would miss his smile the most, so rare that if you were not paying attention, you would miss it in an instant, but if you saw it, it felt like the sun coming out after a day of rain.
Her vision began to blur as she stood in the middle of her room, turning somewhat towards her bed. There, Cloud's face followed, filling her eyes completely with his image, never allowing her a moment's peace. Her tears rolled out effortlessly; she had no more will to force them out anymore and did not care to stop them. Cloud was dead, nothing mattered anymore.
His figure moved towards her slowly with obvious effort, stopping to stand right in front of her. She looked at his pale face, wet hair with damp spikes, and his mouth that sat in a thin line after wincing in pain. Her brain did not register what her eyes were seeing as she stood still, unable to move. His hands were on her shoulders, bracing her, but still, she felt nothing, only a comforting numbness after this sudden shock of loss to her system. Cloud's azure gaze bore into hers….slowly pulling her our of her fog, making his image become clear.
"Cloud?" Tifa breathed, not daring to hope for the impossible. He was not real. He couldn't be. He was dead, being prepared to be put into the earth, so cold and alone. She had never even told him…
"I'm here, Tifa."
"No you're not," she said rationally, "I must be dreaming. You can't be here…you're gone from me, forever." This all came out robotically, emotions, expressions, feeling, unseen with the words besides this cold taking over more and more of her heart, freezing from the inside out. His fingers were warm against her skin as he caressed her cheek tenderly, causing an odd sensation within her. He shouldn't be warm.
"Teef, I'll never leave you."
He had said those exact words to her eight years ago, under a full moon surrounded by millions of stars at their well…his promise to her that he had always kept. That could only mean…
"You're alive!" she said, more hopeful than she should have allowed.
"Yes, very much so, in fact." He pointed to his shoulder and chest area above his heart, covered with a big white bandage. "This is just a minor flesh wound."
Tifa could not believe he was joking at a time like this but couldn't help throwing herself into his arms, emitting an "Owe" from him as he moved back a few steps from the force. He still held her close, and she tightened her grip until she heard him hiss in pain.
"I hate to let go, but this isn't a little cut, you know."
She quickly jumped back, releasing him and looking at the bandage once again. "I'm sorry."
Cloud brushed her apology aside as he took a step deliberately towards her, smiling despite his injury. "That does not mean you have to be all the way over there."
He continued to move towards her and she saved him the effort, meeting his open arms eagerly. His breath tickled her ear where they stood, lost in each others arms for a moment before logic once again got Tifa's attention.
"You're really hurt, Cloud. You should lie down." He did not complain as she pulled him towards her bed, arranging him comfortably under the blankets. When he didn't let go of her hand, she laid down next to him along the uninjured side of his body. As moments passed in silence, Tifa's pulse rang in her ears and her heart beat quickened at a thought.
"I thought you were dead."
"Me too," he answered solemnly, the lightness of before replaced with the weight of reality. "When I felt Yazoo's bullet pierce through, I thought, 'This is it; my time is up.' And I never even got to tell you something I have wanted to for so long now."
"I had the same thought." She admitted, no longer afraid to share her feelings.
"I love you."
They said those three small words in unison, telling each other something that they had felt unspoken for all of the years they had been friends. Finally, everything was out in the open and Tifa did not fit the urge to bring Cloud closer to her in a hug. His sigh of pain once again alerted her of her mistake and she let go.
"I need to stop doing that," she said softly and Cloud replied, "It's okay…it's a good pain."
She could not fight the smile at his lightheartedness; maybe this newest near death experience had brought some of the old Cloud out; his youthful softer side seemed to be making an appearance. All thoughts left her and she was soon lost in the taste of his lips on hers, slowly massaging life back through his love for her. She was breathless when they finally parted, only to snuggle at his side in her bed as sleep threatened to overtake her.
"This isn't a dream? You'll be here when I wake up?" She needed to know before sleep fully took her away from reality. Tifa felt his chest reverberate with the words he spoke next to her.
"I'll be here. I'm always with you, Tifa. Always."