Not sure when this is supposed to take place. It doesn't really matter other than being after the main game. If you're one of those people that must stick every thing in a box, then you can say it's between FF7 and AC.
You may notice that this is very similar to my other story 'Reunion' That's because they were written at the same time and based off the same idea. I couldn't decide how I wanted to execute that Idea so I just wrote it both ways.
"Tifa... Tifa! Have you seen the charger for my phone?" Cloud called down to her from upstairs.
"Look in my nightstand!" came her reply.
Going into their room he sat on the edge of her bed and opened the drawer to the nightstand. In there amongst the clutter he saw... "Oh god."
Tifa stood behind the counter of her new bar washing the last of the glasses. She dried the last one with a towel and set it on its shelf. "Hmm..." She hadn't heard from Cloud in a while and wondered if he had found what he was looking for. She lived here with him, above the bar in a small apartment where they looked after Marlene when Barretwas away. Though they weren't really a family; they weren't together, she and him. They shared a room, but to her vexation not a bed, and that was only because the place was so small. She loved him, but he didn't feel the same, and she wondered why he stayed. It was torture on her having him so close physically yet so distant in every other regard. Yet she didn't want him to leave, that would be worse. And for that reason she kept her feelings secret from him, for she feared it driving him away.
"Cloud?" Tifa called, climbing the stairs. "Did you find it? Cloud?" She made her way to their room and found him sitting on the bed, his back to her. "Cloud..." He still didn't answer. "What's the matter with you?" Walking around to the other side she could see he was holding something. "Oh... I forgot I had that." In his hand was a piece of cloth, a light pink ribbon. Tifa sat beside her friend, not knowing what to say to him.
"I miss her." The pain in his voice was jarring to her.
"...I loved her."
That she didn't know, though she had suspected. The words seemed to cut her deeply. She knew it would make his pain all the worse, and at the same time it evoked her own pain and jealousy. Yet feeling jealous towards the girl who was so kind and who had been so friendly towards her, especially now that she was gone, made Tifa feel incredibly guilty.
"We... went on a date once." he continued, "That time we were stranded at the Gold Saucer. She came to my room that night and asked me out... we went all over the park together... and wound up taking a gondola ride. I was so nervous I could hardly speak. But it was ok; she talked enough for the both of us... I... I wanted to tell her right there... but I was a coward. And then we got caught up with that whole business at the Temple of the Ancients... then she ran off... and..." He took a deep breath and shuddered, Tifa could see tears welling up in his eyes. "I had it all planed out. I'd tell her as soon as I saw her again. I knew exactly what I was going to say too...But... I never... got the chance... she..."
Tifa threw her arms around him as he broke down. "Shhh... It's ok. It's ok. She knew... as perceptive as she was... she knew."
"But I... wanted to tell her... to see her face... her reaction, and hear... her answer." His broken words came through his sobs. Tifa pulled him to her and held him tight, rocking back and forth. She'd never seen him cry for her before, not even when it happened. She supposed there was too much going on at the time, to much anger and thoughts of revenge, and a task to be completed. He had no time for tears then. Or was it that he was trying to show a strong face to the rest of the group? She didn't know, but either way he had been holding it back all this time. She squeezed him tighter.
When he had finally calmed down she pulled away a little to look him in the face. He looked so lost and hopeless. She gave him a reassuring smile and put her hand to his face, wiping the tears from his cheek. "Tifa..." His voice was harsh from crying. "I don't know what I do without you. I... think I'd have given up long ago."
"You've always been there... through everything... everything we've endured. You... give me strength... I...I'm really grateful for you."
Suddenly as if on impulse she kissed him. Though shocked, he did kiss her back, if only briefly before gently pushing her away. "Tifa... don't... I..."
"Oh god, I'm sorry... I didn't mean to... I... I don't know why I did that, I didn't... It's not... I'm sorry."
"It's alright, I'm not upset. I know how you feel."
"What do you mean?" she said getting nervous.
"I know how you feel about me... that you love me."
"Uh... don't... don't be ridiculous...I... we're just friends... that kiss... I was just..."
"Tifa..." He took her hands in his. "I've know for a while now. It's pretty obvious... I... I don't know why you thought you had to hide it, but it's ok, because... because I... love you too."
"You- You do?" she said surprised by this revelation. She had been sure he didn't return her feelings.
"Yes... but I..."
"No. No but."
"...but I can't... we can't... be together like that... At least not yet I... I'm not ready."
"It's too soon. She's still... and I... It... it still hurts... it still hurts... so much." he said as he started to cry again, and again Tifa took him in her arms. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I just... need more time."
"It's alright. I'll wait. As long as it takes, I'll wait for you." she said and pulled him to her chest and kissed the top of his head "Till then, I'll be there by your side. I'll be your strength."
As she held him she glanced down at the ribbon clutched in his hand and slowly tears came to her eyes as well as she remembered her fallen friend. She ran a piece of the cloth between her thumb and index finger, feeling its soft velvety texture. Forcing her hand into his, she took hold of the memento, so they were holding hands while holding the ribbon at the same time. "I... I miss her too... you know." she said as her voice cracked and tears flowed down her face.
"Yeah... I know." He looked up to see her crying as well. Now it was his turn to hold and comfort her.
"She seemed... more alive than... any of us." Tifa managed to say.
"Hey... let's... let's go see her."
"Huh... You mean go to her grave."
She nodded "We... we could bring her flowers... from her garden...she'd like that... Right?" she said, her words broken by tears.
"Yeah... yeah, she would. I'll call everyone together and we can..."
"No, just... the two of us." She cut him off.
About a week later the two of them, Cloud and Tifa, walked down the stony path that led up to that grove of trees. The grove that hid a small lake that now served as a grave. Cloud stopped mid-stride as he stared at the opening in the trees. His heart retched at the sight of it. The last time he walked through that passageway, what followed was the worst moment of his life, and now he was more than a little apprehensive about returning.
"You ok?" Tifa asked.
"Uh... yeah. I'll be ok."
They proceeded down the path and eventually came to the edge of the lake. Cloud stood there looking out over the water. He took a deep breath; this was it, all the memories from that day came rushing back. He winced at the pain they caused in his chest; it was as if someone had their hand in there and was crushing his heart in an iron grip. Seeing his anguish Tifa put her hand on his back, patting him gently. "Come on..." She led him to the water's edge where they knelt in silence for a long while.
After a while Tifa turned to Cloud. "Do you want to say anything?" she asked.
"I... I don't know what to say."
"Just talk to her."
"I... can't... this is... too much." He turned his head away.
"It's alright." She took a deep breath and sighed. "Marlene, is really getting big now; she's grown so much. She's been staying with us since Barret is so busy all the time. She...She really looked up to you. She tries to emulate you all the time, and even did her hair like yours. Uh...the reconstruction is coming along really well... I... I have a new bar, business is pretty good, most people are getting back on their feet I guess, getting back to normal lives...the church is a bit of a mess though. But your garden is looking well. Cloud's been taking care of it, Marlene too sometimes. The flowers are coming in strong now... we... we brought you some...Cloud." She nudged him.
"Uh, yeah." He set the flowers adrift on the lake's surface and watched as they floated away.
"I hope they pass inspection." she said with a slight laugh. She looked over at Cloud who looked completely despondent. She reached out to him and ran her hand through his hair. "I... I've been trying to take care of Cloud... as best I can...Though he can be really difficult at times. But... I guess it's been pretty difficult for him as well... He umm... really misses you." His head sunk even lower. "Cloud? Don't you want to say anything?"
"Wasn't there something important you wanted to tell her?"
"Mm, yeah..." He took a deep breath and stared out over the water; it was a while before he finally spoke. "I... I love you...and... sorry I couldn't tell you before... when... when you were... still here. I..." Tears ran down his face as he stood and turned his back to the water. Tifa went to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "Can we go now... I... don't like this place."
As they walked away Tifa took his hand and held tightly. Cloud glanced at her face; the twilight like light of the Sleeping Forest glistened off her skin. In that moment he felt something he hadn't since...she died. He felt a small spark of life within himself. He loved her... he knew that already, but just how very much he loved her he didn't realize till now. She had always been there, part of his life for as long as he'd been alive. And they had been through so much together, good and bad. The memories played out in his mind; their somewhat awkward friendship as children, that almost magical night they talked atop the water tower, the destruction of their home town, their epic quest to stop Shin-Ra and Sephiroth where she had been by his side the entire time, how she found him and saved him when he had even lost himself. And of course now, in this difficult time, he wouldn't have been able to cope if it hadn't been for Tifa. And he knew that she loved him and had for a very long time. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to her to make her wait that long. They should be together, there was no reason why they shouldn't... except...
He stopped dead in his tracks, when he realized what he must now do. Holding his hand Tifa was yanked to a stop as well. She turned, looking questioningly at him; he stared back, she was so pretty... He reached out and caressed her face and with her cheek cupped in his palm he took a step towards her so that they were only inches apart. His expression was unreadable as he stared at her, though she saw great sorrow in it. He then kissed her tenderly. It surprised her. Why was he doing this now of all times? Though she didn't object, it's what she had longed for, for so very long. When he broke the kiss he immediately embraced her tightly, so tightly she thought he would squeeze the life out of her. "Give me a moment with her." he said before releasing her, turning, and walking away.
"...y-yeah... ok..." She stood and watched as he went back to the water's edge, confused by what had just happened.
He stood looking down at the water, not sure how to say what he knew he had to say. "Hey... It's me again...I um, I don't know how to say this... I have to... I have to do something... something that's really difficult for me." His voice was shaking as he spoke to her. "It's the most... difficult thing I've ever... had to do." The tears came again as he thought over his words. "I... I have to... let you go." He took in a gasp of air. "Tifa and I... we... I can't give her what she needs... what she deserves...if I'm still hung up over you. So... I have to let you go." With that he started sobbing. "But I w-want you to know... this doesn't... change anything between us...Doesn't change... the way I feel... I...I..." He was shaking as he fell to his knees. "I still love you! And I always will!" he wailed. "But I... have to get over... losing you... for her sake... and for mine. This pain is eating away at me; I don't think I can stand it much longer... So..." His lips quivered as he tried to force the words out. "Goodbye. Goodbye Aeris!" He fell forward, crumpled over himself, face buried in his knees, sobbing "Goodbye" over and over.
He then felt a pair of gentle reassuring hands on his shoulders. Sitting up he looked over to see Tifa knelling beside him with a hand on his shoulder, rubbing softly. "I said I'd wait. You didn't have to do that. Not for me... not if you weren't ready."
"I would never have been ready to do that... If not now... I don't think I would have ever been able to. And I've made you wait for far too long now. Sorry."
Tifa took his face in her hands and wiped his tears away, then drew him in and hugged him. He hugged her back and they stayed like that for a short while. When she stood she pulled him to his feet with her, and the two of them walked off together. "I... I think I feel a little better now." he said then took her hand and leaned against her as they walked.
Glancing back at the water she nodded and smiled "Goodbye." she whispered.
Characters owned by Square Enix, not me. Don't sue, I have no money to begin with.
If you want to contact me do so here: G3Rain1 at Gmail com