Disclaimer: Nothing but the idea.


No More Stars

She could see the glow from his cigarette long before she saw him, hunched as he was against the railing. The collar on his dark suit jacket was turned up as always, white–blonde hair ruffled from the cold wind, and she watched as his hand trembled as he sucked on the filter like it was the last thing he'd ever taste. Maybe it is, She told herself.

All the same, she couldn't keep the scolding tone out of her voice, the tone she'd learned from her years of surrogate–parenting. "I thought you quit, Cid."

He turned to glare at her then, a deep snarl across his rugged face, an expression so fierce she was taken aback. "What the fuck do you think, Tifa?"

She took a step back, her high heel clicking against the sheet metal of the walkway, and he turned to look back over the town that held nothing for him, now. Swallowing her alarm, she began to cross to him, offer him comfort. Instantly, he shot out one hand, keeping her at bay. "Just don't, Teef? Alright? I've had enough of that pity train."

Indeed. When she and the others had arrived, long before any other mourners, they had kept their mouths shut. Tifa and Yuffie had pried the bottle out of his hand, Vincent and Cloud had led him to his room to get dressed. The rest had cleaned, clearing out a week's worth of liquor bottles and dust and broken furniture, arranging the sent flowers, trying to make it bright in a house that never could be again.

But when everyone else began to arrive, Cid, once a proud, loudmouth pilot, had stood there like a broken man, accepting tearful hugs and sorrowful laments from near–strangers and friends alike, and Tifa watched as the muscles in his jaw grew tighter and tighter until she thought he would snap, snatching the spear off his wall and… I don't want to know what he would've done. Instead, he disappeared rather unobtrusively, and she found him, high above, gazing up at the stars.

She was silent for a long, long time. Finally, he dropped the smothered stub of a cigarette, watching it fall to the frost–bitten grass below the launching pad, and he breathed a shuddering sigh. Cid's breath came out in white waves as he reached for the pack again, tapping it against his palm and sliding another slender stick out. It took him almost a full minute to light it, and Tifa had to force herself to refrain from helping. "It all started here. Where I first laid eyes on her, where I asked her to marry me, where we set up blankets and candlelight and a telescope, the night we…"

Before he knew it, she was beside him, covering his shaking hand with a steady one of her own, and she looked up at him with quiet, maroon eyes he hated – Don't give me that compassion, girl – But he also loved, because she understood that there were no more stars to him.

He clutched at her hand liked he'd been sucking at his cigarette only moments before, and he let his eyes mist over as they gazed down on the two crosses in the yard – A tiny one next to the full–sized one– that hadn't been there a week before.