Okay, I know that the poll said that a Vincent/Yuffie was next, but I have had this idea for a while now and I just ran with it. Some of you may not have noticed that I deleted my fic 'Truth Is.' Well, I did it because I kinda lost interest and I was having trouble figuring out where to go. So I started over with this fic. I basically used the same idea of what if Cloud had left and worked it from a different angle. Unfortunately, Tifa is not alive in this fic and their daughter is a teenager. Don't kill me just yet, at least wait until the end of the fic and then give me a piece of your minds, okay? Thanks, and I hope you all enjoy!
Warnings: Just language.
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII or any of the characters used in this piece of fiction. I am making absolutely no money off of them.
Never Give Up
There were no words to describe what he was feeling at the moment. Nothing to describe the cold numbness that had settled around his heart with the knowledge that he had been too late. He stood on the shelter of a few trees as the sky opened up and seemed to cry for the loss of one of the sweetest human beings to ever walk the planet. He had a faint feeling that the rain was really Aerith's tears for her friend because the sky was blue and with very few clouds.
The whole of Avalanche were gathered around a fresh grave, many beautiful flowers surrounding them. Most of them were the lilies that even now grew in the church, but they had always been Tifa's favorites. From where he stood, he could see Barret standing next to Elmyra and Marlene, who was standing next to Denzel, holding his hand and crying on his shoulder. Next to them were Cid, Shera, and their three children, who were young adults already. All three were boys and they shared Shera's looks, but Cid's foul mouth. Then came Vincent and Yuffie. Seeing them together should have been more of a shock to him, but he was glad that Vincent had moved on. Next to them stood a tall young man, and two girls; their kids. Reeve was also there, standing next to the Turks and Rufus, who had come to pay their respects.
Cloud was glad that Tifa hadn't been alone, though there would always be an emptiness in his heart because he hadn't made it back in time to see her when she had still been alive. He had received messages from all of his old friends, telling him that he needed to race back to Edge before it was too late. He had been too late anyway. Now Tifa was gone, and he would live with his failure for the rest of his days. It seemed that his entire life revolved around his failures. Failure to save Zack, to save Aerith, to make Tifa happy, to take control of his own life and his own mind.
He still didn't know why she was gone, and if he was honest with himself, he was afraid of confronting any of the Avalanche members. He had been gone for sixteen years—he had left a year after Omega's defeat—and he knew that no one would welcome him with open arms. He didn't deserve it and he knew it. He looked up when he spotted a girl step forward from behind Reeve. He couldn't see her too clearly from where he stood, but she was crying inconsolably, falling to her knees in front of the grave and fisting her hands in the dirt as Reeve tried to get her to calm down.
Cloud wondered who she was and decided that though his life would very well be in danger, he would visit everyone once the burial was over. He watched them all as they began to leave in small groups until only the girl and Reeve were left. He supposed that she was Tifa and Reeve's daughter. None of the other Avalanche members had reacted this way, though they had been obviously torn up at the loss of a great friend.
He had seen the news of Reeve and Tifa's wedding months after it had actually happened, and it had hurt more than anything he had ever felt. But he supposed that he had no right to hold that against Tifa now that she was gone. He couldn't. Cloud watched as Reeve pulled the girl to her feet and guided her away as she cried on his shoulder. He supposed he would have to meet Tifa's daughter to give her his condolences. Once he was sure everyone was gone, he made his way to where the love of his life would forever sleep. The scent of flowers and wet ground was overpowering, but quite suiting.
He felt his breath shudder out of him and he could admit to himself that the rain drops falling on his face were mingling with his tears. Tifa was gone and he would never hear her soft spoken voice, or see her beautiful, encouraging smile. He would never again see the furrow of her eyebrows when she was angry, or that sad glint that always made her eyes appear glassy. All those years ago, he had left out of their mutual accord. He hadn't been in his right mind, and Tifa had deserved so much better than him. She had agreed that him leaving would be the best thing. He had always written to her but had given no return address, nor had he answered her phone calls whenever she had tried calling him.
Cloud fell to his knees in front of her freshly placed tombstone and stared at the dirt that covered her. "I'm sorry that I couldn't be a better person for you. I tried to come back before… before you…" he couldn't even say it.
"But you're here now. That's all that matters."
Cloud stared at the letters on her gravestone and felt his heartbeat quicken, a sense of déjà vu washing over him at those words. He couldn't remember if he had heard those words in real life, or in a dream. "I always failed you. But I'm glad that you spent these years with the people you loved."
"But you weren't there."
"It was for the best. I would've caused you more harm than anything. I just… I just came to say goodbye and I will be on my way again," he said, taking a handful of dirt in his hand, not caring that his black glove would become stained.
"You can't go now."
Cloud looked at the beautiful engraving of her name. "Why not?"
"You have to stay. Promise me you will stay."
"I… Tifa, you know that I can't stay," he murmured, and after years of hearing Aerith and Zack talk to him, it wasn't so strange to be talking to the woman he had loved more than his life. Unless he had officially lost his mind.
"Promise me you will go back."
How could he not? He owed it to her for not returning in time to see her, for causing her heartache when he had promised to be her knight in shining armor. "Okay, I promise to go back."
"Please take care of her Cloud. She really needs you."
"Take care of who? Tifa?" he questioned, but there was no answer, only the sound of the wind and the rain as he sat there on his knees, both hands in the dirt now. He moved back and dusted off his hands before he reached up and removed the wolf earring he had been wearing for years. He hadn't known it would last so long, but it had, and he wanted for Tifa to keep it now. He dug a small hole in the dirt of her grave and placed it inside. "I love you Tifa," he said before standing and making his way back towards his bike.
Watching him go from the grave, stood three silhouettes of people who had always meant the world to Cloud Strife. "I actually liked my service, though it had nothing on being 'buried' in a great lake."
Green eyes sparkled in the sun shining through the rain. "It'll be easier for them to come visit you here."
"Personally, I like that my grave is on a cliff," said another, deeper voice.
"You would," said the silhouette of a once proud fighter as she kneeled close to the dirt and dug out the wolf earring. "I just hope that the gang isn't too harsh on him. Cloud has had too much heartache in his life."
"They're good people, and they'll understand," said the soft voice of a flower girl.
As their silhouettes began to fade away, mahogany eyes turned to the distance where she knew Cloud was headed. He had another rough road ahead of him, but if he managed to get through it, he would finally be happy.
Cloud had taken a wild guess and had been right to assume that the group would be in Tifa's old bar. It looked remodeled, but he had to wonder who would take care of it now that Tifa was gone. Maybe they would close it now? It didn't matter. He parked his bike next to the various cars parked at the front of Seventh Heaven and stared up at the sign above the door for a long moment.
He wanted to believe that Tifa had really asked him to come see his friends. He couldn't really turn down her last wish. He moved slowly towards the door and tried the doorknob but it was locked. He let out a deep breath and knocked. There were sounds of a chair scraping against the floor before the lock clicked and the door opened.
Cloud blinked, startled at the person standing in front of him. It was like Tifa was staring back at him, from the long dark hair, to the soft, rounded, beautiful face. But her eyes, her eyes were all wrong. They weren't the deep mahogany Tifa's had been. They were an icy blue, like his own. The girl stared at him just as dumbfounded before she began to back away from the door. Cloud stepped inside and met various familiar eyes that he hadn't seen in years. They all watched him in silence until he was confronted with Yuffie.
"Yuffie," Vincent started when he saw the look on her face, but she paid him no heed.
Before Cloud knew it, his head had snapped to the side and pain exploded from his face, courtesy of Yuffie's fist. "What are you doing here?" she hissed angrily. "You couldn't even make it in time before she… before she…" Yuffie gasped out, not protesting when Vincent took her into his arms and moved her away from him.
"I tried," Cloud murmured. "I tried to get here on time."
"Did ya even go to her grave?" asked Cid darkly.
Cloud nodded. "I was there when you were. I already said my goodbyes." His eyes went to the girl who was now standing next to Reeve and he blinked a few times. She was… all Tifa, but her eyes were what made her different.
"Have a seat, Cloud," Reeve offered, ignoring the scoffs and curses coming from Cid.
Barret was oddly quiet, and coming from him, it was not a good sign. Cloud took a seat opposite of the dark man and looked around the room at the new faces who were watching him in near awe. The two girls that had been with Yuffie and Vincent were a perfect mix of the two up close. The boy had Vincent's coloring and height, but his face resembled Yuffie's the most. Cid's sons really did look more like Shera, but they had an air of Cid that was undeniable.
The sounds of footsteps averted his gaze towards the stairs and he blinked in surprise when he saw Denzel and Marlene up close. Marlene was holding a baby in her arms, and Denzel was smiling and rubbing a hand over the little boy's hair. Both of them stopped when they spotted Cloud sitting there. He had last seen them when they had been small children, now they were adults and he was an old man, though he hadn't changed very much.
"Cloud?" Marlene asked uncertainly, her eyes darting to the other people in the room. She looked at her father, who was still silent and moved towards him. "Poppa, are you okay?" she asked him.
Barret nodded. "I'm awright, baby girl. How is this little one doin'?" he asked taking the baby in his arms when he reached for him.
"He's happy thanks to the nap he just took." Her smile dimmed when she turned to look at Cloud again. She sighed. "It's been a long time Cloud. I suppose you came to say goodbye to Tifa."
Cloud nodded but said nothing as he watched Denzel storm out of the room without a word. "I know I'm not welcome here, so I might as well be on my way," he said as he stood.
"Sit your ass down, Cloud," Yuffie said angrily. "You can't just come here for five minutes and expect us to welcome you with open arms. Where the hell have you been all this time? How could you leave us without news from you all these years?"
"Tifa knew that I was okay," was his simple reply.
"But didn't we count, ya fool?!" exploded Barret. The boy in his arms began to cry and he apologized profusely to his daughter and to the baby. He stood and tried to calm the scared child.
"This wasn't just my decision," Cloud started. He wasn't in the mood to talk about his and Tifa's past, but he knew that their friends deserved an explanation after all the years he had been gone. "Tifa and I agreed that it would be best if I left. It wasn't just me. I wrote to her, to let her know that I was okay, but I never gave her a return address. I'm sorry if I caused you all grief, but it was all for the best."
Everyone turned to look at the door when it slammed shut behind someone. Reeve looked around for his daughter and found that she was gone. "Terry…" he murmured sadly. He turned back to Cloud and let out a heavy sigh. "You should go after her."
"Isn't she your daughter?" Cloud asked quietly. He didn't miss the look that everyone shared, eyes darting and looking uncomfortable and suspicious at the same time. "What's going on?" he asked, feeling something gnawing at his heart.
"No one in my family has blue eyes Cloud, and as far as Tifa told me, no one in her family did either," Reeve pointed out, looking older than he was. Though his hair had grayed he looked much the same way he had years ago.
"What are you trying to say?" asked the blond anxiously.
"When I asked Tifa to marry me, Terry had already been born," Reeve said with meaning. "Cloud, in case I need to come out and say it, I'm not Terry's father. You are," he said quietly.
Cloud realized that if he hadn't been sitting down, he would've fallen to his knees out of shock. That feeling of numbness was creeping over his chest again. She had been pregnant when he had left? Why… why had she asked him to leave then? He'd had a right to know! But he couldn't be angry at Tifa, not after all the heartbreak he had caused her. Now her words had more meaning and he understood who needed him. He stood from his chair and made for the door.
"You better not be getting ready to leave town, or we'll hunt your skinny ass down and we'll skin ya," snapped Cid as he got to his feet.
"Where did she go?" Cloud asked impatiently.
"Aerith's church," said Vincent and Yuffie's son. He flushed red when everyone turned to look at him in amusement.
"Should I start planning a wedding?" Yuffie asked him as he glared at her. His sisters began to tease him about having a crush on Terry, but Cloud was not in a very patient mood.
"Does she know who I am?" he asked Reeve.
The retired president of the WRO nodded. "She knew from the beginning. Tifa and I never lied to her, and though she didn't understand why you were gone, she was always very respectful of what Tifa told her about you. But, Cloud… she just lost her mother. She's not in a very accepting mood right now. Whatever she says to you, please don't take it to heart. She's hurting," said Reeve.
Cloud nodded. He didn't have much experience with teens, but he would take anything his daughter wanted to throw at him. Geez, he was a father. Tifa had made him a father and he had had no idea. He was still trying to come to terms with what he would say to her when he saw the girl face to face again, but he knew that he couldn't waste more time. "I'll try my best," he said vaguely before he was out the door.
The drive was a quick one, and he was shocked to see that she was already at the church by the time he had arrived. The distance from the bar to the remains of Midgar was not a short one and Cloud had to wonder if she had run the entire distance, or if she had found some type of transportation. Various memories assaulted him as he stepped into the ruined church. Not surprisingly, the flowers that Aerith had cared for were still growing there, with a small lake of the 'holy water' surrounding them.
Terry was sitting at the edge of the floor boards where the water began. Her hair was just as long as Tifa's, but the color was a slightly lighter brown. Her shoulders were shaking as he approached, and for the moment he was at a loss as to what to say to her. "Do you come here often?" he asked quietly, not wanting to startle her.
She was silent for a moment and Cloud could see her brush away her tears from where he stood. "Mom didn't like it when I came here. She said that the remains were unsafe and that she didn't want to find me under a bunch of rubble some day. But I… I always felt a connection to this place." She stayed quiet for a long moment. "Why are you here? I would've expected my dad, Yuffie, or even Cid to come instead of you."
He did catch the emphasis she put on the word dad. "I'm sorry that my return disrupted your life more than was necessary. I just… I had no idea that you existed."
"Had you returned before, you would've known," she said, voice full of resentment. "Maybe we could've met years before and not on the day that I buried my mom," she said, standing and finally facing him.
Cloud couldn't hold that gaze for too long. It was eerie to see his own cold eyes in Tifa's face, but he supposed that he deserved every second of it. "I'm sorry it had to happen this way too. But… I don't want you to think that I left because I didn't love your mother. I have loved her since I was able to understand what love is."
"Then why did you leave?" she asked abruptly.
"Did she tell you why I left?"
Terry shook her head and kicked at a rock by her feet. "She just told me that I shouldn't hate you. That you were a good man who deserved to be happy because you had done so much for the world. I never understood why she continued to love you when she had such a great man like my dad Reeve."
"I have to ask… why did she… how did she die?" Cloud murmured, feeling his heart constrict in his chest.
"She got sick," said Terry, voice cracking. "After I was born. At the time it was a new type of cancer that no treatment could cure. She survived fifteen years with it, but she started to deteriorate. These last few months were the worse and I try to remember her when she was strong and beautiful, but all I can think of is of her looking so pale and lifeless," she said, voice taking on an almost hysterical note.
Cloud didn't know what to do. What kind of comfort could he give her when physical touch still made him a little squeamish? "She really needs you," echoed Tifa's voice with the wind, and he wondered if the girl had heard it. He stepped forward and hesitantly wrapped her in his arms.
"I'm sorry you had to go through all that," he murmured. It didn't feel wrong at all to hold the sobbing girl in his arms. "Tifa was always stronger than me. Remember her that way. Remember her smile, and her hugs, and her cooking. Remember all of the good things and none of the bad."
Terry nodded and clung to him, blue eyes blurred with tears. In some small part of her heart, she had held so much hate and resentment for this man, but… there was nothing now but the feeling of pain and sadness and the knowledge that she would never see her mother again. She understood that it was better that she was gone and no longer suffering, but it didn't take away the hurt. She just… wasn't ready to accept this man so easily into her life. No matter what her mother had said, all the stories and all the good things, he was a stranger. Reeve had always been there to tuck her in, to place a band-aid on her scraped knee, and to celebrate each and every one of her birthdays. It wouldn't be fair to him accept this man so effortlessly.
She pushed away from him and wiped at her tears. "My mom asked me to give you a chance, but… you have to understand that it's not that easy," she said in a small voice.
Cloud nodded and forced down the feeling of disappointment. He couldn't blame her for what she was feeling. He was after all a stranger to this girl. All they shared was DNA and the color of their eyes. He didn't know her and she didn't know him. She had a father who had been there for her all these years and he had no right to intrude on them. "I do understand," he said in a raspy tone. "At least… let me take you back to the bar."
Terry nodded and was almost set to tears again at the look in his eyes. She turned to look at the flowers with the sun shining brightly on them. She could've sworn that there were two women and a man standing there, but there was nothing now. She walked out of the church at the sound of a motorcycle being revved and silently admired the bike. She had heard stories of Fenrir, but she hadn't realized that she would be riding it some day. The thing practically belonged in a museum. When they arrived at the bar, she spotted Oren Valentine outside. He was only two years older than her, but he was her best friend and Terry hoped that some day he would be more.
Cloud left them outside and walked back into the bar. Everyone was drinking and eating small finger foods while they talked or played a hand of poker. It didn't seem out of place, but he supposed that it was more fitting than them crying at every corner of the bar. Someone had brought down a baby bed where Marlene and Denzel's baby was snoozing, and the aforementioned couple was at the bar, talking quietly. He approached them slowly, once again feeling at a loss as to what to say to them. They had been young when he had left and he had been the only father figure they had seen for a while. He supposed they had the right to hate him if they wanted to.
Reeve stopped him before he could approach the other two. "Did you talk to Terry?"
Cloud nodded. "She's outside with Yuffie's kid. I'll be leaving tomorrow, Reeve."
Reeve frowned. "Why? Did she say something that made you want to leave?"
He shook his head and let out a sigh. "I don't have a place in her life, and if she doesn't want me near, I'll go. I don't have a problem with that. You're her father and you have been there for every stage in her life. I'm just the man who put in half of her cells and DNA," Cloud said quietly.
"You're a fuckin' coward," Cid sneered from behind him. "If you had the balls to do it, you would stay and show that girl that you care about her. That the love you felt for her mother wasn't just words."
"I'm leaving for her," Cloud said impatiently. "She doesn't need me disrupting her life. If she asked me to stay, I would. But she doesn't want me here either so I will go and I will be okay. I'll even write to her so that we can keep in touch if she wants."
Reeve and Cid just walked away from him, shaking their heads, but Cloud ignored them. He had made up his mind and no one's belittling would make him change it. He moved towards the bar counter and looked at the two kids who had once idolized him, though they weren't kids anymore. "When did you two marry?"
Marlene smiled and her eyes darted to Denzel. "Nearly three years ago. Daniel is barely five months old. We… wished you could've been there," she said quietly.
"I don't," said Denzel snidely, taking a sip of some dark alcohol in his glass.
Cloud flinched at his words and nodded. "I deserve that, but I won't apologize for leaving you all. I will apologize for missing so much of your lives. I just… I wasn't the best person for you all to be around. Tifa knew that and she agreed with me. I was unstable and I would've only hurt you all more in the long run."
"Did you find what you were looking for?" asked Denzel. "Did you find the peace you needed?"
Cloud nodded. "But I lost you all in exchange. And it's a price that I never would've willingly paid. I'm sorry that I hurt you, including Terry."
Denzel did not look at him as he asked his next question. "Are you sorry that you hurt Tifa?"
"I'll be sorry for the rest of my days," Cloud replied. "But she had a good family surrounding her. She had you two, Terry, and Reeve. She didn't need me."
"She thought of you until her dying second," said Denzel, a tear escaping from his stronghold. "She asked us to forgive you, and to enjoy the time we would still have with you once you returned. She was so sure that you would return. I… I can't understand how she could believe so much in you when you caused her nothing but grief."
"I don't know either," Cloud admitted, taking the drink that Marlene offered with a slight smile. "But, tomorrow I'll be out of everybody's hair and I'll keep in touch this time." He stood and looked at them both. "Congratulations on the marriage and the baby," he said before he walked off.
He walked outside to the back porch of the bar and sat down with his drink, his gaze on the ruins of Midgar. He couldn't stay. He wanted what was best for Denzel, Marlene, and Terry, and the further from them he was, the better for them all. All he had ever done was hurt those who were close to him. His mother, Tifa, Denzel, Marlene, and his own daughter.
Cloud blinked and the next thing he knew, he was standing in a white, familiar void. But something was different. He was sitting on the well back at home, and there was a warm weight pressed to his back.
"I'm glad you decided to stay," said her soft, almost melodious voice.
Cloud wanted so badly to turn to see her, but he knew that if he tried, the vision, dream, moment would break. He swallowed hard with the effort and nodded. "Why didn't you tell me about her? You knew about her when you asked me to leave, didn't you?" It wasn't an accusation, but he needed to know.
Tifa sighed and wished she could look into his eyes and ask him to forgive her. She hadn't wanted things to end the way they did with Cloud, but she had known in her heart that if he stayed, they would all be unhappy. "I… I think I did more damage than help, didn't I?" she asked softly.
"She hates me. I can't blame her, or you, but it would've been nice to know about her from the beginning," replied Cloud.
"Would you have still left if you had known that she was on her way to this world?"
Cloud thought about it for a moment and grunted. "I honestly don't know. Maybe not." He let out a laugh that was borderline bitter. "I would've made a bad father. This way, she had Reeve to be there every step of the way. She had a good man watching over her."
Tifa smiled to herself. "But despite the fact that you were far away, she was always a lot like you. She even has a sword that was forged after Zack's buster sword and your own. Reeve would take her to the WRO every other day so that she could train, but I think he's gotten a little too old for that now. She'll need you to continue her training."
"I'm leaving, Tifa," said Cloud sadly. "I think it would've been better if I had never come back. She would've let go of your death much more easier and with the help of her father."
Tifa sighed impatiently. "You can't just give up, Cloud. Not with this. She may act all tough on the outside, but on the inside, she's a scared little girl who needs her daddy, her real daddy. She's just like you in that sense as well. I knew that under that distant frown and hard exterior, there was a young man who needed all the love in the world. But you didn't allow me to help, and there wasn't much else I could do for you Cloud, that's why I asked you to go too. She's still young and there's time to fix things with her."
"I'm sorry I made you so unhappy," said Cloud. He felt the touch of her hand on his.
"But it wasn't all unhappiness. You gave me a beautiful daughter. You gave me a constant reminder of yourself, a pure and untouched little person with your eyes. She was the most beautiful baby, and everyone would stop to admire the color of her eyes. I would always tell them that she had gotten them from her father. Before she was old enough to understand anger and resentment, she would love it when I told her that she had your eyes. She would look at your picture for long periods of time and she would ask when you would come back. She's hurt now, because I left her, but she doesn't want you out of her life. I know my little girl," said Tifa as she turned to kneel behind him, hugging him from behind.
"I don't know Tifa," said Cloud, hands covering hers. "I don't know a thing about raising a teenager and I wouldn't dream of taking her away from Reeve."
She sighed against him. "Reeve always knew that this day would come, and he has long since accepted it. He wants you to be a part of her life."
Cloud hesitated before asking his next question. "Did you… did you love him?"
Tifa nodded to herself. "As much as I could. But my heart has always belonged to you. He was a good man for understanding that too. He never rushed me and he was very patient. I loved him because he was good to me and the children, and he never once had anything bad to say about you. I do hope that I was able to make him happy." She let out an unhappy sigh and drew away from him. "Give her the ring, Cloud. The one that I gave back to you the day you left. Tell her that I want her to have it."
"She'll think I'm crazy if I tell her that," muttered Cloud.
Tifa smiled at the back of his head. "You always were a strange boy," she said with a little giggle, enjoying the irritated sigh coming from him. She reached a hand up to touch his still golden spikes, but stopped short. "It's time for me to go."
"No!" he exclaimed, turning to look at her. But all he got was a glimpse of her wonderfully sweet eyes before the vision disintegrated and he was back in Edge, gazing at the now dark ruins of Midgar.
"You plan to sleep out here?" asked a deep voice.
Cloud turned to find Vincent sitting in the shadows to his right. "No. I was… just… dreaming," he muttered as he stood and stretched his sore muscles. "What brings you out here?"
"Cid and Barret have gotten rather… emotional. I understand, and I feel Tifa's loss… but they were getting ready to physically assault me because I couldn't shed a tear. I have no tears left in me," murmured Vincent.
"Shinra beat it out of us, didn't they?" asked Cloud bitterly.
"I suppose," replied the other man.
Cloud suddenly remembered that this man had suffered through things that would last ten lifetimes, and he had allowed himself to love another woman and raise children of his own. Cloud never knew he would admire Vincent Valentine so much. "How do you handle being a father to three teenagers?"
"Yuffie usually handles the discipline. You wouldn't know it, but she has an interesting way with her words," Vincent said in amusement. "The three know better than to come to me behind their mother's back."
"You're happy?" asked Cloud. Vincent looked off into the distance and nodded once. "Did you ever find out if sins can be forgiven?"
"They can," said the gunman. "At least… that's what Yuffie has beaten into my head all these years we have been together." He was quiet for a moment. "You have a child that needs you. She seems affected because you are leaving."
"Why?" asked Cloud. "She doesn't know me, and I don't know her. We're strangers to each other and there's no reason for her to care about me."
"She is half of you, and she is in need of guidance. She may have lost her mother, but she gained another father. Do not throw away something as amazing as the bond between a parent and his child."
Cloud swallowed hard and nodded once. "I'm at a loss as to what to do. I can't stay here if she doesn't want me here."
"The loss of her mother is very recent and she will not accept you so easily. You have to earn her respect and her love," said Vincent as he stood and made for the back door. "Yuffie and Marlene have prepared a room for you to sleep in, if you wish. The bar will remain closed all month in memory of Tifa."
"Who has been running it all this time?" asked Cloud.
"Tifa became too sick to care for the bar. Marlene and Yuffie took is upon themselves, since they do not allow Terry to be near the patrons or the alcohol. She is a very pretty girl that attracts more attention than her mother did before her." He smirked. "I think her eyes are what attracts the most."
Cloud smirked slightly. "Your son seems to be attached."
"From the moment she could sit up and crawl for herself, Oren was always at her side," Vincent said. His eyes sparkled with amusement. "I suspect that it will extend to more once Terry is old enough."
"She'll be in good hands then," said Cloud as he walked through the door first. "Goodnight, Vincent."
"Goodnight, Cloud," replied Vincent as he watched the other man go.
As he trudged up the stairs, avoiding the drunken angst in the main bar section, more memories came to him. The countless nights of arriving at the bar after everyone was asleep. He would check on the children and then on Tifa. Other days he would wake up early and leave before they were awake as well. Sometimes he would be gone from home many days at a time. Tifa would never yell at him or demand to know why he hadn't come home, but she would look at him with those eyes, so full of sadness and disappointment, and he would feel like an asshole.
The door to his old office was open and the bed there had clean sheets and a pillow. There was nothing else in the room except the dust covered desk with old delivery receipts and a few random images of landscapes. He supposed Tifa had moved the pictures of them as a family and with their friends to some other place in the house. He closed the door to the room and sat on the bed to pull off his boots and the jacket he had been wearing. It was still early to be sleeping, but he wanted to be alone for the rest of the night.
As he lay back against the pillow, he felt something hard under his head. He felt under the pillow and pulled out a small, black leather-bound book. When he opened it, he discovered that it was a photo album and he wondered if it had been Marlene who had put it there. The first photo was the one of all four of them together, a few of him with Marlene and Denzel, and a few of Tifa. Then, when there were no more of Cloud, there were many of Tifa while she had been pregnant. She looked radiant and beautiful with her rounded belly. A few more ahead, she was holding a tiny girl in pretty outfits and with big blue eyes. Through the pictures, he saw Terry as she grew. One year, two, and three, until he saw her the way she was now, sitting side by side with Tifa before her illness had taken its toll on her. They were both beautiful women and Cloud found his fingers running over the similar faces, something clenching his chest once again.
He missed Tifa so much it was hard to breathe. He supposed that for his own sanity, he needed to be away from his own daughter as well. She was a beautiful being, and he had no right to taint her with his past deeds. He had to leave. He would get up early in the morning and leave before anyone was awake. That way he would avoid more confrontations and hard feelings. It was for the best, he told himself as he shut off the lamp by his bedside.
At sunrise, he was wide awake. His stomach rumbled with hunger, but he decided he would find some place to eat when he hit the road. He tucked in the small photo album in his pocket and made his way out of the room, avoiding the creaking sections of the floor almost automatically. He could still recall the steps that had made a loud, drawn out creak as if he had passed by them yesterday. He knew that if anyone discovered him, they would force him to stay, and there was no going back on his decision.
He walked over to Tifa's old room and was right on his guess that Terry would be there, sleeping. He entered as quietly as he could, taking a moment to survey the room. It was personalized to the girl's style, and in one corner, Cloud caught sight of a large sword, just how Tifa had described it. He admired it from afar and then approached the bed where the girl was sleeping peacefully. Asleep, she was the spitting image of Tifa, but he could still see a resemblance to his mother. Terry would grow to be a beautiful woman if her looks now were any indication. Just the knowledge that she was half his made his heart beat stronger, despite the loss of Tifa.
He sat down gently on the side of the bed and hoped that she wasn't a light sleeper. He touched her chin gently and then leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead in apology. Cloud wished he could've been there from the start to see her grow up, but Tifa had been right. He had been in no condition to raise anybody back then. He didn't even know if he could do it now, and that was why he was leaving.
Cloud sighed to himself and pulled a silver chain from around his neck, taking a moment to gaze at the ring he had given to Tifa years and years ago. He would never forget the smile that had lit her face when he had presented the gift to her, nor would he forget the first real hug he had ever received from her as well. Cloud sighed and placed the chain and the ring in Terry's hand, wrapping the chain around her knuckles so that it wouldn't fall.
"I wish things could've been different," Cloud murmured before tucking the blankets around her. "I wish you the best in life. I want you to grow up and be happy and don't ever hesitate to go for what you want. I… I will miss you, but I have to go. Goodbye, Terry," he said, standing and walking out the door.
As he moved down the stairs, Terry came awake with a gasp, one hand clutching at her heart. She could've sworn that her mother had woken her, telling her not to let her father go. She looked down at the chain she was clutching in her hand. Her eyes filled with tears when she remembered her mother telling her about the ring that her father had given her a few years before her birth. Pulling on a sweater and some slippers, Terry walked to the room her other dad had been sleeping in for the night. She had heard from her dad Reeve that Cloud would be leaving today, and she hadn't known what to think, but something in her heart was dying at the thought of never seeing him again. She opened the door quietly, in case he was asleep, and felt her heart plummet when she found and empty room.
There was the sound of a motorcycle revving, and she ran off in a near blur, taking the stairs to at a time and not worrying about falling on her head in case she missed one. He couldn't leave without saying goodbye. He just couldn't.
Cloud sighed in annoyance as he walked out of the bar. To make his life a little more miserable, it was raining again. Now he was hungry, soaked, and depressed. Why couldn't he just get some slack and get struck by lightning already? He moved over to Fenrir and pulled out his goggles to protect his eyes from the rain. If the weather didn't get better, he would have to stop at an inn or get some shelter before he even left the city. He let out a sigh and gazed at the bar one last time. He didn't know how many more years would pass before he was able to see the place again.
He revved the engine to Fenrir and pulled away from the bar. He began to drive off, but he heard the wind carry Tifa's voice. "You can't give up."
"Wait!" Cloud heard someone call. He stopped Fenrir a small distance away and turned, wondering who that had been. His eyes widened when he saw Terry running towards him, the rain had soaked her completely already, but she paid the water no heed.
"You should be sleeping," Cloud said, moving his motorcycle to the side and getting off. "What are you doing out here?" he asked in worry. The last thing he wanted was for her to get sick.
"You were going to leave without saying goodbye?" asked Terry angrily.
"I said my goodbye to you. I left you your mother's ring," said Cloud uncomfortably.
"Didn't you have enough courage to say goodbye to me face to face?" she demanded.
Cloud looked away from those eyes and shook his head. "I didn't want to hurt you more than I have already done. I have no place in your life," he muttered.
Terry ruthlessly beat down her tears and shook her head. "If that's what you really think, then just leave," she said, turning to walk back to the bar.
Cloud felt her dejection in his own heart. "I thought that this was what you wanted."
"Well, it's not!" she yelled at him. "You're my dad!" she cried, her tears blending with the rain drops falling over her face. "My mom asked me to give you a chance and I didn't know if I wanted to, but I don't want you to leave."
Hope bloomed in his heart and he took a step towards her. "Are you sure?"
Terry nodded. "You're my dad, and I waited years to meet you," she said in a small voice. "And my mom taught me to never give up. To never give up my hope that one day the man who gave me half of what I am would come back to meet me and I would get to call him dad," she said with a choked sob.
He moved forward and pulled her into his arms, kissing her head when she cried into his chest. This was his baby girl, no matter how old she was. He may have missed the first years of her life, but he would make damn sure that he didn't miss the rest. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "For everything."
"I never thought I would have two dads," she said once her sobs had died down to hiccups. "Sounds kinda creepy when you say it like that, but that's okay."
"You know," Cloud started. "Your mother told me that you train with a buster sword. I can continue to train you if you'd like."
Terry moved away from him and looked at him suspiciously. "That sounds great, but, when did she tell you that if you guys didn't keep in touch?"
"Did she ever tell you that I can talk to my dead friends?" asked Cloud.
"Yeah, but I didn't believe her. You spoke to her? When?" the girl asked eagerly.
"Yesterday. But… you don't think I'm crazy?" Cloud asked with a faint smirk.
Terry shook her soaked head and smiled. "I haven't spoken to them, but I always get a feeling that Zack and Aerith are watching over me. Whenever I turn to look, there's nothing there though," she admitted.
Cloud nodded and felt a smile curling at his lips. "Well, now you have your mother to watch over you as well. We… we can mourn her together," he murmured.
"Getting used to having another dad will take time. Just… be patient with me, okay?" she asked, eyes big and blue with her hair all plastered down by the rain.
"All the time you need," he assured her. "Let's go back to the bar. The last thing we need is to get sick."
Terry smiled and it was like seeing Tifa again. Cloud knew that it would take him time to get used to fact that she looked so much like her, and that he would never see Tifa again, but he would try his hardest to be a good father. He would be a better person for Terry. All he had to figure out was what he would do when the subject of her dating a boy came up. He supposed he could leave that to Reeve. Cloud let out a long sigh and moved Fenrir back to the bar. He had a chance to make things right again, and he would keep his promise to Tifa of staying and watching over his daughter. He realized now that he wasn't ready to give up.
Many, many years later…
Well, there wasn't much to be said about being dead. Cloud looked around him and realized that he was in that familiar, white void where Aerith, Zack, and then Tifa had visited him in. He looked around for a few minutes and wondered if he was alone. He knew his daughter had been sad when he had gone, but she was a grown, married woman with grandchildren of her own. She had had a full life and she had been happy. Besides, it had been his time to go.
"Dying of old age must have been boring," said a familiar voice from behind him.
Cloud smirked and turned to look at Zack. "It was, not to mention that when your hair starts going white, it's a little depressing. But I didn't mind much. I got to be called grandpa, then great grandpa. I was the oldest man on the block," he said.
"Fortunately for you and I, we don't grow old here and we go back to looking young," said Zack, motioning to his black attire and his once again golden locks.
"Why am I here?" asked Cloud.
"I think this place is where we go when we die and have unfinished business," his old friend replied.
"What unfinished business did I have? I mean, not to brag, but I saved the world, and watched my daughter grow to be happy," said Cloud.
"Did you forget about me in all these years? We had unfinished business with each other."
Cloud whirled around and came face to face with… "Tifa," he murmured. Behind her was Aerith, who only smiled and walked over to stand next to Zack.
"We'll give you two a moment," said the flower girl with a smile. "Come along, Zack. You've been getting better at tending to the flowers every day, but there's much you need to learn," she said with a grin.
"Geez… eternity spent tending to flowers," muttered Zack before they both faded away.
Tifa smiled and reached up to caress Cloud's cheek gently. "I've missed you," she murmured.
Cloud nodded and pulled her into his arms. They may have been dead, but she felt real in his arms. "Will we be able to spend eternity together?" he asked, pressing his lips to her temple.
"I think so," said Tifa. She was quiet for a moment. "I'm happy you decided to stay with Terry, Marlene, and Denzel. They forgave you and loved you very much. You have no idea how much they needed you in their lives."
He nodded. He did know because he had needed them just as much. "Hn. Terry named her first son Cloud," he said with a faint smile. "He had blond hair and blue eyes. He looked nothing like Yuffie and Vincent's son."
Tifa smiled. "I can't picture Vincent or Yuffie as grandparents," she said.
Cloud looked her in the eyes. "Thank you... for never allowing either one of us to give up hope. I didn't think I would ever see you again, but I am glad that we're here. I'll get my wish and I'll be with you forever," he said, cupping her cheek gently.
Tifa smiled and moved forward to gently press her lips to his. "You know, no matter what I said, I never gave up my hope in you either. I knew that one day you would find your way. Now we have eternity to make up for all these years that we were apart."
"I like the sound of eternity with you," murmured Cloud as he took her hand in his and they began to fade away together.
How was that? I'm not losing my touch, am I? I know it's all sad and a little vague, but I liked how it went. I kinda lost interest in the old fic, Truth Is, so I started over with this one. I feel like I left out many things, but those can serve as other fics in case anyone is interested. I've been thinking of writing the prequel to this one, starting from the moment that Tifa finds out she's pregnant, Cloud leaves, and when the baby is actually born, but I'm not too sure yet. Let me know what you guys thought and I'll let you vote. I will either leave the fic this way, or write the prequel, you decide.
I may have gone a little off with the place where Zack and Aerith are, but I think Tifa and Cloud would end up in the same place. I don't know why, it's just a hunch. Anyway, I hope it was to everyone's liking and that I didn't disappoint anyone, and for the typos that I'm sure are there, sorry! I don't know when I'll write more for Cloud/Tifa because Vince/Yuffie are next. I hope everyone has a great week!
P.S. Shameless plug… if anyone likes the Zack/Tifa pairing, check out my fic, Turn The Page. I just love Zack and I'm having so much fun writing his character. Other pairings would include some Vincent/Yuffie and possibly some Sephiroth/Aerith. I finished playing Crisis Core, and though it's incredibly sad, I loved every challenge of it. Zack is the hottest good guy ever, and Seph takes the sexiest evil guy spot too. For anyone who has played the game, don't you just love Seph's attitude before he goes crazy? Hehehe… thanks for reading!