To Heal a Broken Heart
Chapter One - Changes
Disclaimer: I do not own FF7 and its characters, settings or the like. These words, however, are mine.
A broken home.
A broken life.
That was all Tifa had anymore.
She felt the familiar nip of tears in her eyes and she had to stop her excessive cleaning of the bar to close her eyes and take a minute to regain herself. Tears had never helped her before. They wouldn't now. She had children to look after and she had a bar to clean. She lowered her eyes to the floor.
It was amazing how fast things could change when someone walked out of your life.
For good? She couldn't say.
Cloud; he'd left a few days ago, saying he needed to take care of something. Tifa knew what he meant by that.
Tifa could feel no animosity towards the flower girl; she was her best friend. She'd never done anything to intentionally hurt Tifa when it had come to Cloud. She'd been open with her feelings, but how could Tifa blame her? She knew well enough that you couldn't deny your feelings for someone. Some people were just more forward with it, like Aerith.
No, Cloud was so caught up in his... whatever it was that he was feeling. He hardly came home anymore. He never returned her calls, he stayed over at many of their friends' houses... Tifa shook her head and began to scrub ferociously at the counter.
The tears were returning and this time, Tifa couldn't stop them. She let out a quiet sob of anguish and slid to the floor. She covered her eyes with her hand and shook her head furiously.
Why was she like this!
Cloud... This needed to stop.
She needed to stop. She needed to move on, that much was clear. It was so hard, though, to think of leaving him. He'd been her stronghold for the longest time before he'd been infected with Geostigma. After he'd been cured and Avalanche went back to their daily lives, he been happier then usual. Then, suddenly, he fell into a depressive state, similar to the one he'd gone through before.
She couldn't believe... How much he'd changed.
He had to go and blow it all, didn't he? Typical Cloud.
Tifa's head shot up and at seeing the confused and worried look on Marlene's face, Tifa shook her head clear and stood quickly, brushing herself off and trying to discreetly dry her tears. Marlene noticed though, to her dismay, and questioned her further.
"Tifa, why are you crying?" Marlene asked, a look of pure innocence on her face. Tifa couldn't help but smile. She knelt down to her eye level and winked. "It's nothing, Marlene. I just miss my friend's a lot." She said and stood.
"Are you sure...?" Marlene asked, a bit of disbelief lacing her voice.
Tifa turned to her and smiled in reassurance. Marlene smiled and nodded. Tifa laughed. "Alright. How about you go and find Denzel and tell him to get ready so we can go for a walk around Midgar. Perhaps we might just accidentally pass the ice cream shop on the way."
Marlene's face lit up at that. "Really?"
Tifa nodded. Marlene turned quickly and scampered up the stairs, calling out Denzel's name.
Tifa scolded herself silently for letting herself be found by Marlene. She was too intuitive and knowing for her own good and Tifa knew she'd piece everything together on her own. She sighed and threw the cloth into the sink. She gazed at the dusty window in front of her and couldn't help but feel a certain longing to be out there.
She missed traveling. Seeing the world, meeting the people.
Avalanche had become something of a celebrity group -- they were known all over the world and called in for various different things. Exterminations, moving, building... You name it. The other's were called in more due to the fact that many were aware of her situation; living at home with the children, working to make some extra money.
Or all now.
She felt her first ever inkling of anger towards Cloud. How could he do this to her? They'd agreed to do this together, to help each other! Now he'd left her all alone!
Tifa flexed her hands subconsciously. How she needed to vent that anger on someone... Something.
"Tifaaaa!" Marlene and Denzel called simultaneously. Tifa turned towards them and her anger vanished; it was funny how that happened.
"Ready to leave?" She asked as cheerfully as she could.
"Yep!" Denzel said. She loved how perked up they got at something so simple as a walk through the streets of Midgar. She could never understand why, until she'd overheard a conversation between the two of them.
"Do you... think we'll be here forever?" Marlene asked Denzel, something like longing passing over her features.
Denzel shook his head. "I don't know... Tifa and Cloud never talk about it..."
It was then she realized they disliked living in the city. Tifa had talked to Cloud about it but he'd brushed her off with a, 'they'll learn to love it.' Tifa had felt so guilty ever since that day; she wanted them to be happy. She knew this was hardly the place she'd want to grow up in. Something more like Costa or Cosmo Canyon would be better, she thought.
One day, she would do it, hard as it would be.
She'd pack up and leave the bar, with both the kids. With or without Cloud.
With or without telling him.
"Tifa, let's go!" Denzel cried impatiently, stamping his foot. Tifa started and Denzel looked at her sheepishly.
"Sorry, I was..." She shook her head and walked toward the door, ushering them out in front of her. They ran out into the packed streets and cried in relief. Tifa had restricted their time outside -- especially without her -- because of the increasing violence in Midgar. She'd been hearing more about murder, rape, gang fights and all other sorts of trouble and she couldn't let them out of her sight for too long before she got worried. She hated to do it, as they lived to play outside with their many friends, but it was too much of a risk.
Then again, would anyone really harm the children of two saviors of the Planet? They had defeated Sephiroth. Surely a small gang or two wouldn't take any trouble.
Cloud had told her that; Tifa hated thinking along those same lines as him, but it was the sore truth.
They hadn't walked very far before they'd come upon the ice cream shop. It was a somewhat dingy and desolate place as many people didn't even know it existed. Tifa only knew because of the children. She walked up with them and got the two what they wanted before they all sat down at one of the benches nearby. Tifa laid her head in her hands and looked up at the sky.
How things had changed. Before now, you wouldn't have been able to see the sky. The children never knew what it looked like, day or night, until now.
"Tifa." Marlene popped up in front of her and Tifa couldn't help but look at her uninterestedly; Marlene hated it and she knew it, but it always seemed to make her happy that she was teasing her. Tifa couldn't say why, but it didn't really matter. The fact that she was happy was enough for her.
"Sorry." Marlene grinned. Her face fell then and Tifa looked at her questioningly. "When is daddy coming home?" She asked in a small voice.
Tifa sighed. When was the last time she'd seen Barret? "I don't know, sweetie. I'll see if I can give him a call today and maybe you could talk to him?"
Marlene didn't look particularly happy with that but she said no more about it. Instead, she switched the topic to a rather sore subject. "Can we go and see the flower lady's church?"
"Yeah. We can go see Aerith's church." Tifa said, sighing lightly and raising her eyes to the sky.
Marlene smiled and jumped up, pulling Denzel off the bench. "Let's go Denzel!"
Tifa called out to them when they ran too far ahead, but either they chose to ignore her or they hadn't heard her. She turned back to the seller of the ice cream and thanked him before hurrying after them. She couldn't ignore the state of everything around her as she walked. Some people had it so much harder then her, but she couldn't help the way she was feeling. She was flawed -- they all were. Few people seemed to realize that though.
Children who had been abandoned by their parents due to lack of money, food, patience and every other poor excuse there was lay outside in the searing sunlight. They had few possessions and they looked really roughed up. Tifa had to avert her gaze; how disgusting. To give up a child for such a reason; it was unthinkable. They would be better off in a home with no food then outside with no food.
Did anybody care for danger anymore?
Maybe this was Tifa's experienced side showing through. She knew what it was like to face a great danger. She pulled through many times, but it always left a scar on her view of life.
She walked around a corner and froze at the sight that met her.
Marlene and Denzel were surrounded and being talked to by three frenzied adults. She couldn't see their faces -- they were hidden entirely by clothing, but Tifa narrowed her eyes and ran over to them. She wasn't about to attack them, knowing it could be a group of perfectly friendly elders, but she also wasn't going to give them to upper hand should they be dangerous.
Quicker then she could expect however, the closest one to her as she neared them grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back, causing her to cry out in alarm and slight discomfort. Most of the people around them scattered, not wishing to face whatever it was that was happening and that seemed to make whoever was holding her -- a man, from what she could tell, loosen his hold on her. She took advantage of the situation and threw a well aimed punch at her holder and he let go of her with a very... familiar cry.
Tifa raised an eyebrow. "Reno?" She listened in total amusement at his mutterings before turning to the other two. She knew who they were now and discerned each of them by their figures. She walked up to the smallest of the two and went to lift the hood up off her head but she gasped and grabbed hold of it, keeping it in place.
"Tifa, no, we can't!" Elena whispered furiously, looking around them nervously.
"Why are you three dressed like this?" She asked, turning to Reno when his string of curses had yet to cease. "Alright, alright, I'm sorry Reno."
"God damn, woman. Fucking sexy as hell but --"
Tifa gave him a warning look and he trailed off, kicking at the pavement beneath him.
"We uh... Well, we aren't exactly liked by many... All, actually, of these people so we're just... Trying to keep a low profile. We needed to find you though, we need your help! So we had to disguise ourselves." She chattered onward, looking around and around again and again before Rude laid a hand on her shoulder. She sighed and shrugged him off with a look that clearly said she got the point.
"Oh. Why did you need to find me?" Tifa asked, crossing her arms over her chest. She glanced at the two waiting children; they were listening in on the conversation intently.
"We uh... Uh..." Elena began to chatter away nervously again about nothing in particular until Rude finally stepped in.
"We need a favor." Rude said solemnly, as per usual.
Now Tifa put up her guard. She leaned backwards, her hands on her hips and looked between the three of them. "What kind of favor...?"
"There's really no time to explain." Elena said hurriedly and with that, she turned around and walked off. Tifa was about to say something when she felt Reno and Rude taking her by the arms and pulling her forward, following after their younger companion.
"H-hey?" Tifa cried out.
She could only listen in a strange sort of horror and confusion as Reno called the kids to follow after them, which they only listened to when Tifa told them to just follow.
The truth of the matter was, she couldn't free herself. Reno and Rude had both gotten stronger.
'Unbelievable.' She thought to herself, inwardly imagining all the possible reasons the Turks might want a favor from her. She had to stop after a few horrid mental images and unwelcome thoughts entered her mind.
Resigned, she slumped slightly in their hold and just gave in. After a while however, Tifa began to wonder. They were heading towards Healin.
'What's at Healin?' She thought miserably, looking over her shoulder to make sure the kids were still following. They were, to her relief and yet did she really want them to get mixed up in one of the Turks' crazy schemes? Certainly not, but she couldn't just leave them on their own.
They walked through the door of the crumbling building and Reno and Rude released her before walking back out the door towards the city they'd just come from. Elena stood in the entranceway and apologized. Tifa waited for the verdict and was horrified once she knew what it was.
"I... We... Need you to look after the president. We have some business to attend to elsewhere and, well, in his condition we can't exactly leave him here alone."
"Wait a minute! You can't be serious! I have a job, I have children to take care of, I have --" Tifa cut herself short and lowered her eyes to the ground.
"Nothing to go back to. Nothing worth it, anyway." Elena said, taking one of Tifa's hands in her own to let her know she had someone to talk to. Tifa felt strangely comforted by this.
"I..." Tifa whispered. "I... You're right. I don't have anything to go back to."
Elena gave her a sympathetic look. "Look... We won't be long."
She turned and walked out the door. Tifa only heard two more words from Elena before she was gone.
"I'm sorry..." Tifa repeated, shaking with anger. She clenched her fists. "Sorry is all I ever seem to get!" She yelled, punching the wall in rage. She paid no heed to the shocked gasps coming from Marlene and Denzel behind her.
"I'm sorry, Tif. I'll be back soon."
"I didn't... I'm sorry."
"Cloud... Why?" Tifa whispered loud enough so only she could hear it. A few moments passed as she wallowed in her self pity before she heard anyone speak up, and when she did, she was hardly looking forward to laying her eyes on the speaker himself.
"Well. We can't have any of that now, can we?" Rufus Shinra said, amused.