To Heal a Broken Heart

Chapter Thirty - To Heal a Broken Heart

Disclaimer: I do not own FF7, its characters, settings, etc. These words, however, are mine.

She was running blindly; away from Rufus, from her feelings, from the humiliation and devastation she knew she would soon be feeling so deeply she wasn't sure she'd be able to get past it. She should have just walked away, what in the hell had she been thinking telling him that she loved him!? Now not only did he have the satisfaction of getting to her, but he had the lethal information that he could use to further make her miserable.

But, she thought, she didn't really think him capable of that. 'No, that was something I might have thought he would do... A long time ago. Not anymore. He's not that man, I know that now.' And it almost made it worse, she thought -- to think he wouldn't acknowledge what she felt towards him. Maybe he'd pretend he'd never heard it and maybe he'd spare her the visible and verbal rejection and just leave her alone.

Her heart was already breaking.

She hadn't even given him the chance to respond because she felt sure she knew what he would say to her.

But she would never really know.

Fumbling and trying to see through the tears, she pulled out her PHS and leaned against a large tree in the forest she'd subconsciously ran into. She felt calm here, at peace -- at least, she used to. Nothing could stop the furious beating of her heart, the sputtering sobs she was trying so hard to hold back, all the while trying to convince herself she was okay.

Pressing the familiar button, she sagged and waited, listening to the sound of the dial tone lifelessly. She felt numb and she had to force herself to respond to the gruff voice on the other end. "Yeah, what the fuck do ya want Yuffie? I told you not to--"

"Cid?" Tifa gasped, failing in her resolve to keep her voice level.


"Tifa, what the hell happ--"

"Can you please come and get me?" She cried, rubbing her face with her hands. The tears seemed to be endless. "I can't-- I need to get away from here now, away from him, please come and get me." She sounded feeble and scared, but she didn't care. Cid was one of her best friends, like a father to her. But she would be inconveniencing him, she really shouldn't be doing this. No, she would wait. Besides, Elena was here, she was in Mideel for her and she really shouldn't leave... "I'm so sorry for asking this, Cid, I'm sorry, never mind--"

"Where are you? Mideel?" He cut her off, not standing for her sudden change of heart. She sounded like hell and a half and if she wanted to get away from the bastard that she'd gone with, whom he was beyond sure was the cause of her current state, he was getting his ass down there as fast as he could.

Her voice went quiet as she started to fully comprehend her situation. She became calmer and calmer until, finally, she felt tired and about ready to fall asleep from the emotional turmoil she'd thrown herself into head-first. "Yeah, Mideel." Coughing lightly to clear her throat so she didn't sound so stuffed up and throaty, she continued to apologize for bothering him.

"Don't be sorry, I'll be there in an hour at the least. And then," he said sternly, almost angrily, "you'll tell me what he did to you."

Tifa couldn't help but smile at the familiarity of the situation. "Okay Cid. Thank you."

Tifa went, against her better judgement, to Elena's hospital room. She was positive that both Reno and Rude would be there -- she didn't know where Rufus might be. He was drunk out of his right mind and he may have wandered here knowing it was where his friends were, but she wasn't sure. Did she bother to take the chance? Of course. If Elena was still asleep, she would feel better about leaving as long as she'd seen her first. If she was awake and she left without going to see her, she would feel terrible afterward, she knew she would.

And so, she pushed the elegant glass doors to the hospital open and walked inside the sterile-smelling facility, making her way through the route she'd taken many times over the last week and into Elena's room.

To her relief, Rufus wasn't there. Reno and Rude were, but they didn't say anything out of the ordinary to make her think Rufus had called or already been by.

"Did the doctor give her the antidote yet?" She asked, smoothing back Elena's blonde hair.

Rude nodded and Reno spoke for him. "He said he'd taken all of the 'necessary precautions' to make sure that the dragon grass was safe for ingestion by her... And now all we do is wait. Fuckin' long time so far." He finished impatiently, tapping his fingers idly against the handle of his nightstick. Rude laid back against his own chair and took off his glasses -- Tifa was in awe in that moment -- and rubbed his forehead tiredly.

She smiled appreciatively at the pair. "You guys are so good for her, you know."

"'Course we are." Reno shrugged. "Her life would be damn boring without us." He flashed a grin and Rude gave him a 'look' before he slipped his shades back on.

Silence passed between the three for a long time, Tifa wasn't quite sure how long. Eventually, though, she decided she needed to leave. Not only because Cid was on his way, but because she didn't need to be caught here in a hospital by Rufus where he could possibly tear into her. It wasn't the place and she was tired of that particular conversation about Cloud.

She didn't really even understand where his outburst was coming from; she was not pining after Cloud. She never had been, she'd simply let herself wait for too long. Sure, she'd let him take advantage of her kindness and her willingness to try not only for them but for the kids, but she'd always had a place in her head that constantly told her she didn't belong here, doing this over and over with him.

That part of her life was over and she'd done damn well to get past it in such a short amount of time. She'd slowly been shedding the old Tifa and becoming the new Tifa. The one who cared about herself and was trying to make a life for herself that was better for her.

Why couldn't he see that?

"I..." She started, but stopped. What could she say to them? What should she say to them? "I called Cid a while ago... He's coming to pick me up any minute now. I need to get back to the kids... I'm sorry. When you guys are all home, I'll come by to see her and I'll be sure to phone her before that but I really need to go. It's not fair of me to leave them, or at least Denzel, with Barret, especially with everything that's been happening lately."

"We'll make sure to tell her." Rude said, surprising her. Tifa smile gratefully and nodded, standing.

"Thank you." She said.

"See ya, babe." Reno waved a dismissive hand in the air.

Rude nodded his head politely. "Goodbye Tifa. We'll see you in Midgar."

"We sure will." She grinned, stepping out and closing the door. She sighed, still feeling bad even though she'd come, seen Elena and explained why she was leaving.

'Perhaps because half of it wasn't even true.' She thought wryly.

But they didn't need to know the real reason and she didn't feel like telling them about it. She just wanted to get home, wherever that may be.

They had enough on their mind anyway.

The second she was on the airship, she had a barrage of questions thrown at her from Cid and, to her surprise, Yuffie.

"Ahhh!" Yuffie squealed, launching herself at Tifa. She was still the petite little ninja she had been the last time Tifa had seen her and she couldn't help but feel a fresh round of tears build in her eyes at the sight of the young girl. "Oh my god Tifa, it's so great to see you, I've missed you so much! We can't do this ever again, we need to see each other like, every week, okay!?"

"Okay, okay, I know... I'm really sorry, Yuffie." She muttered into the girl's shoulder. Laughing, she raised her head. Both Yuffie and Tifa stood hugging each other with one arm and held their other arm out towards Cid.

"Group hug, old man!" Yuffie giggled, her eyes shining similarly to Tifa's.

Cid rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, huffing and chewing on the cigarette in his mouth. "Women." He shook his head. "You're all fuckin' crazy!" He said in reference to their near-crying state. But, when neither Tifa and Yuffie relented, his features softened just the smallest amount and he walked over somewhat reluctantly to them and joined in on the hug.

"Not a word of this to anyone, I'll or kick both yer asses." He sighed in afterthought. "Well, I'll kick the brat's ass anyway, because I don't think with Tifa it'd end very well."

"Hey!" Yuffie protested, but was cut off when Cid pulled back and stared at Tifa questioningly.

"So? What did he do?" He asked, taking in her disheveled appearance and her puffy red eyes that were in no way present simply because she'd seen him and Yuffie.

"Yeah!" Yuffie jumped in, punching the air several times. "Tell me so I can get him for ya!"

Tifa looked at them and wondered why she'd ever stopped going to visit them. How selfish and stupid could she have been? "Guys, no... I appreciate it, really, I do, but... I just want to leave, okay? I'll tell you everything on the way home. But no going to kick any ass and no saying anything to him. I just want to forget... It happened. I just want to forget about him for a little while."

Cid looked like he was going to shoot her down, but he sighed and raked a hand through his hair, clearly frustrated and ready to come to her defense against him, but accepting the fact that she wanted to leave it all alone and deal with it personally. "Fuck, fine. But if I ever see him..." He trailed off, decided that his threat had better be left open to options.

Yuffie shook her head and smiled sadly. "Tifa, I'm so sorry. I know..." She didn't say anything else because Cid was there, but Tifa knew she was expressing her sadness over Tifa losing out to another broken heart. "You'll get it right one day, you'll find it."

Tifa returned the gesture and clasped her hands behind her back, staring off into the distance in nostalgia. "I'm sorry too, Yuffie."

But she feared as much as loved the fact that she already knew she'd found the right love.

The right guy.

It had been a long week, one very long week. Cid had taken her down to Corel, where she decided to stay with Barret for an indefinite amount of time.

After telling Cid and Yuffie what had gone on in Mideel, Cid had been furious and ready to fly back to the small island but she'd asked him not to, insisting that it would be better for her, for him and, to herself, for Rufus that there be no more interference. He had agreed, but he'd been enraged and by now, Tifa knew that all of Avalanche was aware of the reason she was in Corel, fueled by the same anger coursing through Cid. She'd received phone calls from almost everyone, the most recent being Vincent whom had also relayed to her his condolences and willingness to help to put Rufus in his place.

Of course, it didn't drown out her regret and her depression over recent events, all of this catching up with her friends. She tried to sleep and instead found his face in her dreams or his voice in her head. She would be waiting for him to pop out of somewhere to randomly crack a joke to her or to teasingly insult her, something they'd both enjoyed doing with no hard feelings over what was actually said. She even sat down on the couch in front of the TV and picked up the remote in her hands, cradling it and envisioning all of their stupid little fights over something to frivolous as the TV station.

Yuffie, who'd also elected to stay with Barret for Tifa's sake, had found Tifa alone and crying several times at any odd time of the day. Tifa had sworn her to secrecy, to tell nobody, but now felt safer about dishing her feelings out to the ninja instead of being off somewhere alone and could be found less and less often moping over her life, instead trying to pick up the pieces with all of her feelings out on the table.

Slowly, things were falling into place. Her friends were back, her children were with her and she was getting ready to make the big movie from Midgar to a much more cleaned up and enjoyable place for herself and the kids. But where did she go? She knew she wanted to be somewhere that had transportation to many different areas when the need arose for her to travel out to Nibelheim or Rocket Town or Wutai... And there were many places she could go that would give her that kind of freedom. She also wanted the kids' approval because of the fact that they'd had to stay in a large city for so long that clearly was as undesirable to them as it had been to her.

But every time she thought of one of those places she could move to, she stopped herself from making the decision and decided to do it another time, telling herself she would be okay if she waited a little longer.

Rufus. She kept thinking about him.

And foolishly, she waited. She waited for that phone call or that appearance at the door to tell her he was sorry and that he'd made mistakes... That he didn't want to leave things the way they had.

She didn't want to leave Corel because she wanted him to come and drag her back to wherever he was so that they could move on with whatever they'd had going on between them.

But he hadn't called.

And he hadn't come racing to Corel to see her.

She didn't even know what he'd done after she'd left him alone in the bar. She'd called Reno and Rude several times, each having no information on Rufus. Thinking it might have been their protecting him, she turned to Elena who, to her delight, had awoken and fully recovered about three days after she'd left. But even Elena had nothing for her and so she knew that Rufus was being quiet about the entire situation, offering his three closest friends no details.

Maybe he didn't care. Maybe he never did in the first place.

Perhaps she'd been stupid to tell him; had she scared him off? Telling someone that you loved them... Was big. It was such a big change and such a big commitment.

Maybe he just wasn't ready for that.

Tifa was cleaning up for Barret, something that had become almost routine. It didn't matter how thoroughly she cleaned and how many times she told him to try and keep it clean, it became a mess only an hour later and there was as much to tidy up as there had been the first time she'd decided to rummage through everything he had stuffed away here and there.

She didn't see or hear Marlene saunter in the room with a mischievous gleam in her eyes until she finally cleared her throat. Tifa's head snapped around, caught off guard, but she smiled when she saw the little girl. "Marlene, hi. I thought you and Denzel were going--"

"He loves you." Marlene said, tilting her head.

Tifa froze. "What?"

"Mr. Rufus, he... Likes you. Loves you. So why are you here and he isn't?"

Tifa averted her eyes, turning back around to focus on something else. Sometimes she had to wonder where Marlene got these topics of conversation and how she seemed to know more than most people did. "It's not that simple, Marlene and really, it's between Rufus and I."

"I know." She nodded. "But... You cried. A lot. Because of Cloud."

Tifa felt saddened by her words, knowing that it was true and that she'd never hidden it from the kids as well as she should have. She hadn't made the same mistake this time, so she had to ask what she was getting at.

"You cried over Cloud... Because he wasn't gonna come back. But... Rufus will come back."

"And why would he do that?" Tifa sighed, putting dishes away and thinking that Marlene was rambling... About what, she wasn't sure. Yes, she'd cried over Cloud. She had known, she supposed, that Cloud would never come back and perhaps that was why she shed so many tears; because she knew she'd lost the love, if there had indeed even been any.

But she'd cried over Rufus, maybe not as much... But she hadn't told herself he was coming back. She honestly believed it was over and she was trying to move forward, trying not to repeat earlier mistakes. Was she wondering if she loved Rufus? Why her attitude and take on cleaning herself up was so profoundly different?

And so she was surprised when she heard the joking voice behind her, responding to Tifa's question instead of Marlene. "Because I wanted to see you again."

She was sure she'd never spun around so fast and when her eyes locked with a pair of icy blue ones, she knew she hadn't just been experiencing a very vivid and real sounding hallucination. He was there. Standing in front of her. Grinning as though everything was okay in the world. She was in such a state of shock she let minutes pass without a word being spoken. When she finally caught up with herself, the only thing she could say -- ask -- was what he was doing here, in Barret's kitchen no less...

Looking happy.

It hurt, she admitted. But she forced it down, determined not to turn into a blubbering child.

"Well..." Rufus started, but he stopped, eyeing Marlene pointedly. She smiled and jumped off her chair, racing out of the room without a glance back.

Leaving her alone with her nervous heart and the man who could either turn her life around or make her wonder what she'd even done by deeming him worthy of her trust and her affection.

"As I said and as you seem to be having difficulty understanding, I'm here to see you." His face was somber now, serious and her heart jumped into her throat as her palms started to sweat. She didn't want to do this, she didn't, she wanted to tell him to get the hell out and to spare her, but she stayed quiet, retaining an impassive expression and a relaxed composure.

"I'm not in the mood for jokes, Rufus." She shook her head, glad she could do something with her buzzing body, not content to sit still.

"Well then," he said, stepping closer to her until there was almost no space between them. He was too close, too close-- "Let's get straight to the point, shall we?" She didn't struggle against him when he cupped her face and leaned down to kiss her; she had no choice but to respond and with as much fervor as she could, because what if she never got the chance to do so again? But what if this was his way of getting to her only to let her down?

'I don't care...' She thought sadly. 'I don't.'

She wished the moment could have lasted forever, having him there, his hands on her neck and tangled in her hair... Feeling like she was the only living, breathing human being in the world that he could see.

But he broke away eventually and she squeezed her eyes shut, her hands fisted against his chest. "Don't do this to me Rufus, okay? I can't do this constant game with you, I won't, I don't want to..." She was going to cry, it was inevitable.

It became impossible with his next words.

"I've never been good at this." He started, his hands running up and down her arms. "In fact, I never have and I never will be. But I'm willing to try. I've only ever really loved four people in my life. My mother, those three idiots that are waiting for me outside... And you." When her eyes shot open in disbelief and hope, he nodded, smiling apprehensively. "Yes, you. I love you, Tifa Lockheart and I'm sorry for what happened at the bar. I was out of line..."

"Why did you do it?" She asked, stepping away from him and closing herself up to him, remembering all the pain he'd managed to make her feel, the anger and all with one single conversation. Hurt and shame flashed across his face, something new for him and she realized that he really was opening himself up to her in a last effort to regain her trust.

"I did it on purpose. I'd been wanting to for a while, actually. I've never been great at civil conversations, you should know, but I wanted to know what you would say. How you would react. If you felt the same way about me and I was positive it would work. And, well... It did. How like my father, right?"

Tifa opened her mouth to object at the stupid comment but he held a hand up to silence her. "No, it's true. It was wrong and I hated myself like never before for what I did to you. And I didn't know how to rectify it."

She looked down at the floor, at the wall, anywhere but at him and she tried to absorb everything he was saying. The emotion was building inside of her... He loved her. He'd just told her he loved her.

"I..." She tried, but she stopped. She was at a loss for words. She swallowed deeply. "I didn't know what to do either. I mean," she explained. "I didn't know how to... Find out how you felt. To tell you how I felt. I didn't want this to be another... Cloud situation. Where I gave and didn't get. Where I was left behind."

"I'm not Cloud." He reminded her.

"I know, but it's not that easy." She cried, digging her fingers into her scalp. Sighing in frustration, she couldn't help but laugh. "I'm so stupid."

"No." He shook his head, smiling. "We're stupid."

"Yeah... You are." Marlene said, walking back into the room with and interested looking Denzel following along.

Tifa gasped with humor. "Marlene, no, you can't...!" She trailed off into laughter.

She sighed, as if it were such a task. "I know. Denzel knew, too, though, but he doesn't want to get in trouble for telling you."

Tifa's eyes filled with tears again -- god, she was such a bag full of twists and turns of emotions. "I'm really sorry. All of you. I'm so..."

"Ready to give up?" Rufus sighed. "So am I. Talk about difficulty when it could've been so damned simple."

"Yeah." Tifa all but whispered, feeling joy and giddiness sweep through her, watching him happily... Lovingly.

Rufus returned her look, though with much less outward emotion and leaned down to kiss her again.

Marlene and Denzel immediately erupted into a chorus of moans and protests against such an act being performed in front of their innocent eyes.

Rufus broke away and mock glared at them before breaking out into a smirk.

"Please, get used to it and quickly -- I'm not going to deny myself the pleasure of kissing your mother whenever I see her. Not anymore."

"I think I like the sound of that." Tifa giggled, trying to tell herself that she was going to be okay, that he was here to stay. It was difficult to listen to, but easy to see. He looked so determined, so ready...

She knew she had nothing to worry about.

And maybe that broken heart of hers might finally be healed for good.

( AN. ) It's over, wow. I'm quite happy how I wrapped it up, actually. :D

I know some of you are going to tell me that this story had... Little romance. It may have, I don't know, I tried to make it so it had quite a bit. I may have failed. But I would like to explain to you the point of the story so you, maybe, hopefully feel better about the story and it's resolution should you be one of those people that are unsatisfied with the romance level.

I wanted to show the struggle to actually get to the point where they could even begin to think of full-fledged romance. Both had been hurt in the past -- Tifa by Cloud and Rufus by the people around him as he grew up, most importantly his father. To get swept up in romance and the feeling of security, comfortable with everything around each other... I just don't see them doing that until it's established by both of them that there is something remarkably worthwhile to follow. And so we followed them through emotions and situations in which they were forced to admit some things, to run away from feelings... All to lead back to the point where they could say, yeah, I want this. I'm ready to follow this, to work on us and not give up. So them giving into lust and romance without reason to believe they wouldn't be hurt would have been entirely out of the question, at least with the characterization I chose to give Tifa and Rufus.

And that's why, perhaps, there was less courting, less cute and fuzzy moments.

And hopefully you understand it the way I see it and can love the story for what it is... What it's become.

I owe all my readers and most especially my reviewers a huge thanks. This story would have gone absolutely nowhere had it not been for the support I had and the constructive criticism. Just to know that someone was enjoying the story and found it interesting enough to have potential and to keep going made my day and I wrote this for all of you, not me.

I hope you enjoyed the story and are satisfied by the conclusion and the length. I know I've loved every moment of writing this and discussing the story with everyone who's stuck by me. Thank you.