You & I

( rufus ♥ tifa )

;; heart and soul...

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

Put all the past in a box and seal it with shrink-wrap
Send it away to a place you'll never go
Smash all the glass that is keeping you trapped in a bottle
Take your first cold breath of hope

-- Melissa O'Neil

When she first saw him and looked into his eyes, she could see everything. The loneliness, the pain, the grief... The want and need for some sort of love. Everything she felt reflected in his cool blue iris'. And somehow, despite their situation, she was filled with a relieved peace.

I'm not the only one.

It could have been a normal day. Her entire life could have been comprised of normal days, but the truth of it was that she'd ended up with one of the most abnormal lives that could be had on the Planet. She didn't regret it, not really. Some deaths could have been avoided, but it was what it was.

"Tifa!" A voice yelled from up the stairs -- Marlene. Another thing that added to the hilarity of the situation. Here she was, twenty-two, having fought and saved the world twice now and she was trying to lead a semi-comfortable life and take care of a child. Children. Two. Denzel appeared beside Marlene as soon as she'd yelled her adoptive mother's name. Their bright eyes indicated an oncoming question and Tifa sighed, placing her towel and the glass she'd been cleaning on the bar table.

"What would you like now?" She asked, a small smile gracing her features. Marlene played with the bow in her hair subconsciously and Tifa had to swallow the lump in her throat at the sight of the pink lace. Aerith. Marlene had grown accustomed to Tifa's late best friend and had taken on a ribbon similar to the one her father and all of Avalanche had agreed to wear for the rest of their lives in memory of the flower girl. Even after two years, it was difficult to look at it and now be broken down by the sheer clarity of the images that raced through her mind.

"Can Denzel and I go outside for a while? Cassie and Jason and Josh are out there, waiting for us." She said while walking down the stairs, her older brother just a step behind her. "Please?"

Tifa looked over at the window; she didn't see why not. It was a beautiful day outside, rare for the inhabitants of Midgar and they didn't get out enough as it was. "Yeah, of course you can. Just make sure you be careful and watch what's going on around you. I want you two back here in time for dinner, okay?"

Marlene nodded her head vigorously. "Okay! Let's go Denzel!" She squealed, grabbing the boy's hand and running out the door, their shoes already on in anticipation of Tifa's answer.

"Alone, again." Tifa muttered to herself, deciding to clean up the bar and upstairs living quarters while she had the free time and the peace. Sometime she wondered why she stayed in such a desolate place. It wasn't satisfactory in terms of what they could be living like, but something just seemed to keep her there. It wasn't fair to the children, though they didn't ever complain or show any negative feeling to the barren city.

Maybe it's the memories, she thought.

"Or maybe," she thought aloud, scrubbing furiously at the windows. "Maybe it's because you're still waiting."

"Talking to yourself? That is an admirable trait."

Tifa froze and snapped around at the suddenly intrusive voice. She narrowed her eyes at the sarcasm that laced the statement and also at the man who'd said it. "What do you want, Rufus? And how did you get in here?"

"Well, I believe I opened the door." He said, smirking. He hadn't changed very much. Tifa was surprised, and at first enraged, when she found out he'd survived the decimation of the Shinra company headquarters. How, he'd never told her, but she knew he'd taken a lot of damage, though he'd recovered rather quickly. He hadn't shed his regular outfit, he hadn't had a restyling of his hair, that smirk hadn't gone away -- he was the same as ever.

And for some reason, she was glad for it. Something of her old life hadn't changed and it was a welcome relief.

"That can't be right." Tifa said, walking over to the door and looking up at the corner. There was a chime sitting there, that was supposed to go off whenever someone entered. She didn't need herself caught off guard, in a bar no less -- some shady characters came in every so often and she liked to be aware of their presence as soon as they walked in. Pushing it open herself, she found that it didn't go off -- why was questionable. Standing up on her toes, she tried to reach it and move it, but found that she couldn't.

Cloud had done this the last time she was here. It was his idea, saying he'd wanted her as safe as possible while he was away.

"Here." Rufus said and she jumped at the closeness of his voice. Standing right behind her, he reached up with little effort and moved it for her. Opening the door himself, the jangle of the chime rang out clearly. Feeling suddenly self-conscious she moved away and uttered a thank you.

"So, um. You never said why you're here."

"Come now, Lockheart--"


"Tifa. Even I can't deny that you're one of the better bartenders and drink-mixers out here." His face fell with his next thought. "And I certainly need a drink; those Turks are driving me up the wall these days."

"How are they?"

"Driving me up the wall."

"No, really. How are they?" She repeated, delighted by the fact that she was actually having a normal conversation with another adult, even if it was Rufus Shinra. She obviously hadn't gotten out very much in the last little while, but then she hadn't exactly been trying.

"Reno is still drinking himself into a stupor. Elena is trying to keep him in line. And then Rude is the one standing by, watching Elena as she tries without success to keep said Turk in line. I'd surmise that they're fine."

"Sounds normal enough to me." Tifa said softly, smiling. She held up a bottle for Rufus to see and he nodded. She started to pour him his drink when the unexpected question came from his lips. It almost sounding taunting.

"So. How about you? How is your lovely life?"

Her throat clamped shut involuntarily. "My life?" She said airily. "Why, it's wonderful. I couldn't ask for more."

"I doubt that."

She narrowed her eyes and passed him his drink. "You certainly like to think you know everything, don't you?"

"When it comes to this, I believe I may be right, yes." He said, his blue eyes strikingly intent on hers. They were searching hers and for a moment she entertained the notion that perhaps those eyes could see everything within her own. Maybe he really did know, maybe he really did understand.

Maybe you're thinking too hard, she thought bitterly, pouring herself her own glass. Raising the glass to her lips, she let herself relax as the alcohol did it's job.

"How is Cloud?" Rufus asked, knowing just what to say to hit home. Frowning, she kept on pouring the liquid from the bottle into the glass.

"Why do you keep coming back here?" Wrong thing to say. That name was the key to her misery and he knew it now that she'd tried to avoid having a conversation about it. But her own question was valid enough -- he seemed to be here a lot these days, asking for drinks, trying to sustain a conversation with her. She believed she'd seen him at least once every week for two months now and each time he came back, he tried to pry into her personal life.

She was becoming more relaxed around him, more trusting and she figured that was probably his motive, but she was too far gone to care. They shared something mutual -- a distant wish for a better life, a wish that something in their said life had been different and had led them on different paths. They'd formed a bond, such as it was.

"It is so difficult to believe I might enjoy your company?"

"Maybe. Just a little." She whispered heatedly, slamming her glass down. Rufus simply raised an eyebrow at her, not at all fazed. Leaning down behind the counter, she took out a few more bottles and started to mix a more potent drink. She knew she was being irresponsible, bordering on having lost her mind completely given that she did have two children who were coming home in a few hours, but she'd been avoiding something like this for a long time.

She'd been avoiding realizing a lot of things. And this was her opportunity wasn't it?

"What is with you men?" She said, pronouncing the last word with a small bit of venom. "You always think you're so amazing, always telling us you're trying to do the right thing when really, you're just avoiding the issues at hand. I mean, what's so wrong with actually dealing with it?"

"Maybe it's the fact that then, we'd have to deal with it?" He replied, smirking a bit at her attitude. He'd never seen her go off like this, but decided he'd humor her.

"Do you ever think about anybody but yourselves?"

"Decidedly not."

"Fucking bastards..." She swore under her breath, turning away and leaning against the bar tiredly, her eyes following the swishing liquid as she rocked her glass back and forth. "I don't know why I ever did it."

"Neither do I."

"It's not like he ever cared." She continued, her voice becoming throaty. Rufus said nothing, knowing when to stop -- obviously she was getting emotional about it, something he didn't feel he could really deal with (or wanted turned on himself). "Nobody ever cares." She whispered the last bit and felt the tears pricking her eyes.

"Why cry about it then?" Rufus interfered, standing and walking over to stand in front of her. He was close -- closer than she normally would of liked, but she welcomed his presence at that moment, on her way to being drunk or not and she looked up at him with shimmering eyes.

"Why not?"

"Well, if he doesn't care..." He started, pushing her hair out of her face. "Then why should you? He's not worth crying over."

"You're being nice." She sniffed, teasing. "Rufus Shinra."

"It's not that hard to do." He said. "Besides, you obviously need someone to harness you and your emotions." She punched him in the arm at that. "God, women..."

"Twenty question, Rufus." Tifa exclaimed, raising her hand and her drink in the air, brushing past him to sit at one of the cleaner tables in the room. Rufus followed, though reluctantly, and sat across from her.

"Twenty questions."

"Do you..." She began, trailing off and making a face to show she was thinking of a good question to ask him. He smiled unknowingly at the contemplation. "Do you wish things were different? Do you wish you were somewhere else? Doing something else?"

"Can't count?" Rufus asked, eyeing her. She gave him a look that said, just answer the question, and he shut up. For now. "No, I don't wish anything was different. What's the point in wishing when it's not going to happen?"

"You can't answer a question with a question." She said sweetly, leaning her head onto the table.

"Why on earth are you still here, in Midgar?" He asked.

Tifa raised her eyes to meet his and then lowered them to her glass -- the object of her undivided attention at the moment. Taking another drink, she smiled sadly. "I was waiting. I still am waiting, I guess, for... For him to come back. But I don't think he will, so... Maybe I'll finally leave this place." She got up to grab the actual bottle of alcohol and came and sat back down with it. "I hate how I portray myself, you know? Waiting for this same guy to come back here to finally sweep me off my feet. It's not really like that, though, but it is a small part of it. Cloud and I never really clicked. We connected in a way nobody else will understand, but not the way I used to wish we would. We never could, not after Aerith. So I stayed because of the kids. They adore him and they always ask about him. They love him and want him to come back. I promised he would and I promised we would stay for him. So... That's really why I stay here. I can't break their hearts like that."

"But you'll still wait, even though you think you need to leave?"

"That's your new question? I didn't even get to go yet, though I guess I just did." She mused, going off track. "But yes, I'll still wait I guess. I don't know. I don't know what I think of feel anymore." She laughed. "Look at this little sob story..."

"What do you really want?" Rufus asked, making her look at him. She lost her sense of everything then, captivated by him. His eyes, his aura, his presence right across from her. He was watching her intensely. She remembered something then, from a very long time ago. When she first saw him and looked into his eyes, she could see everything. The loneliness, the pain, the grief... The want and need for some sort of love. Everything she felt reflected in his cool blue iris'. And somehow, despite their situation, she was filled with a relieved peace.

I'm not the only one.

It was the same now, only it was much more fervent. Given that she'd gotten the chance to know him a little bit, it was much more of a passionate affair between them. A sweet temptation they'd never dared to explore before this moment.

"I..." Despite the hazy cloud created by her bingeing, she was aware of the thought racing through her mind that she should stop now before anything happened. She didn't want to be hurt by something she hadn't even had the sense to think about because she'd been drinking. "Why do you keep coming back here to see me?" She asked quickly, standing and slowly making her way over to the bar, trying to put a safe distance between them.

Her attempt was futile.

And maybe, just maybe, that was the way she wanted it.

His large hands were on her shoulders, running up and down her arms, tantalizing her. She could feel the strong muscles of his abdomen against her back and his strong, muscular arms were encircling her as he wrapped his arms around her stomach, pulling her against him. His breath was hot against her neck and she felt herself losing her control to say no to him. "I come back here, because you just... Draw me to you. You fascinate me... Now..." He pressed his lips against the skin of her neck, moving slowly downward. "What do you really want...?"

She forced herself to turn around in the circle of his arms and she leaned up against him, her hands splayed out against his chest and one of her legs lying slightly in between his own. "What if I don't know what I want?" She breathed, closing her eyes when he leaned down to take her earlobe into his mouth, tauntingly. His hands started to roam over her sides, slipping underneath her shirt slightly, teasing her, as he pushed her back over to the door of bar, locking it and closing the blinds.

"Then I can show you." He said, pushing her up against the wall and capturing her soft lips with his own. She moved beneath him hungrily, sliding her hands under his shirt, silently admiring his broad shoulders, his pectorals and everything that was just so masculine about him, wanting more, wanting something. He complied.

"Wait." She broke away, breathing hard. His lips were just a breadth away from her own and she closed her eyes, listening to his own labored breathing, imagining the rise and fall of his chest and feeling safe and just a little scared but ready with his body hovering over so close to her own. She was conflicted.

She didn't know why.

"What?" He growled huskily, moving back over her, claiming her as his own with his lips, his hands... She was shaking from the anticipation and the tangible passion in the air. He brought her up and then down again, looking at her through eyes that were slightly hooded, filled with want for her.

For her.


She didn't even have the chance to answer before he spoke the answer. "I can make you feel everything you wish you had. I can let you forget all of the painful memories that claw at you every moment of every day..." He looked her straight in the eyes as he said his next words. "But I cannot love you."

This time it was she who initiated the kiss.

And then they let themselves go to the sweet oblivion.

"I don't regret it, you know." Tifa said sleepily, shaking her head. She was laying beside him in her bed, covered only by a single blanket, feeling content as ever. She could hear his heartbeat -- something she once thought he might not have had and now wondered why -- and it was lulling her pleasured body into submission.

He looked down at her. "You know, now that you've had me, you'll never want anyone else."

She giggled and laced her legs with his. "You're so arrogant..."

"But I'm right."

"Mmm..." She acquiesced, slowly falling asleep.

He sat there, for how long he didn't know, just watching her rest peacefully.

Eventually, he untangled himself from her and clothed himself, all the while watching her and wondering what he was going to do now. Sighing, he tugged the blanket more securely around her and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

"But I cannot love you."

"I can't." He thought aloud, starting to walk away, leaving the bar, and Tifa, behind him.

"And yet I do."

x . ♥ . x