I Don't Need You, Cloud Strife
I don't need you, Cloud Strife.
I did. Once. Every little girl needs a hero, I think. Marlene has one. The same one I had when I was her age. You. You were always my hero. I know you don't like to hear that, that it makes you feel guilty and failable – but you are. You're a hero. Marlene's. Mine. But you were my hero first and so I think you will always be my hero especially. I'm rambling… dilly dally, shilly shally as Marlene would say.
I needed a hero and you were my hero. Long ago when you were just a skinny boy with eyes that were large enough to make girls envious and only the dream of wanting to be something more. I needed to believe in someone that was more. I needed to have my own personal hero that would come charging to my rescue whenever I was in trouble. I needed to be that damsel in all the childhood stories that gets rescued and then gets to live 'happily ever after'. I needed to mean that much to someone. And you let me mean that much to you.
You'd laugh if you knew how many boys I turned down growing up because they couldn't live up to the promise of what you'd promised me you'd be for me. I can't say I mind. Not even now.
You're the reason I took up my studies with Master Zangan, you know. Or – you don't know. But I did it because – somewhere along the way I realized I didn't want to just show up at the end of the fairy tale, just in time to be rescued and kissed so that the story could end. No. I wanted to be with you all the way through the fairy tale – and get rescued and kissed at the end too of course. But I couldn't just be helpless or I wouldn't be any good to you during the 'adventure' I had vaguely planned in my head. So I started to study fighting. Not because I didn't want you to still have to come and rescue me – but so that I could help you with all the rest of the story too.
So that I could be by your side through the rest of the story too…
Isn't it silly – what we decide as children? I decided that I needed you and I decided that I had to be ready for you when you came back. It wasn't a bad decision, I don't think that even now. But it was – it probably would have sounded foolish if I'd ever told anyone else. Which is probably why I never told anyone else. That I was waiting for you to come back for me.
I always knew you would.
Even as a child you were determined. Stubborn. Always. It didn't matter how many times you failed at something or how many times you fell down – you always got back up again. No crying, no calling 'not fair', no – no, nothing. You'd just get back up and try again. Until you won. I knew it made you someone special back then, instinctively. I know it makes you someone amazing now – even if you can't see it yourself.
So I learned how to fit by your side and I learned how to ignore the other boys and I waited. I waited for you to come back. I needed you to come back. I needed you to come back for me. To be that determined and stubborn about me. I needed that to know I was worth something that strong and important.
And you did come back. So late that I had thought you weren't coming at all and all my teenage heartbreak had just poured out along with my blood. You know you're not supposed to believe in dreams by that age – but you still believe in them anyway. You came back though and I think – I think that was why I lived. Because my hero had come and had proved I was that important, I was that special to someone else. I mattered. And I needed to live so that I could have my 'happy ever after'. So the story could finish the way it was supposed to.
But it didn't. Life doesn't fade into light and music. It just keeps going and you have to stumble over what you thought was supposed to be the end and keep going too.
We kept going, didn't we? Through it all. The fevers, the fog, the confusion, the pain, the battles, the loss. We just kept going. And I needed you to be there. I needed to believe in you because – because sometimes you were all there was I could believe in. I needed – I think that was when I realized that I needed to take care of you too. That fighting at your side was even better than being rescued – even if I didn't get my kiss at the end. We never seemed to reach the end – there was always something more we needed to do first. And somewhere along the way you became my best friend too. I'd never had a best friend before even though I had more friends than I knew what to do about. But never a – never a heart friend. A soul match. Never someone that knew me better than I knew myself. That I could know the same way. But you were – you did - you do... – and I learned that I could be that too. Even when there were times I wasn't sure you'd kiss me at 'the end'. When I worried that you might even kiss someone else instead… I still knew I was your best friend. Because nothing was stronger than that.
We won. We lost. We saved the planet – but a part of you didn't manage to be saved. It was all right though, because I knew how stubborn and determined you were, even when you didn't know it yourself. I knew you'd heal. Even when you think you've broken – I know better. I know you don't give up, not really – even when you think you have. Sometimes... you just need a push. That's all. And you came with me after the final battle. We belonged together and you came with me. We were going to live, really live, and I knew there was hope. I knew there was a future.
Two years. Its not really a very long time at all, is it? At first I thought everything was going to be all right – even though I still hadn't gotten my kiss yet. You were trying. I knew you were struggling but I knew you were trying too. We were all trying. You weren't the only one that was trying to remember what being 'normal' and 'mundane' was. I understood. And I knew about the guilt too – I felt it as well though never as deeply as you did. I had made my peace with the ghosts you weren't ready to let go of yet. I knew but I also knew if you stayed surrounded by life, by our family, you would heal. You were healing. I saw it - felt it, deep in my heart. In your eyes. At first things were going to be 'happily ever after' or at least 'right after ever'. But then you disappeared. I didn't know it at the time – but now I understand. Geostigma. You found out you were carrying it. I didn't know why you suddenly stopped coming home – but Marlene has just found the bandages. Even through the flowers I can smell the pus and the decay and the rot and it doesn't smell sick to me – it smells – it smells like healing because I finally understand the last piece of the puzzle that's brought us here, to this point in our lives. You're dying. Like Denzel. I understand now. I cried over him – just that once. I never cry. I haven't even cried over your absence - though I have snuck in to sleep on your bed almost every night I'm not falling asleep in the kids' room. I know you'll come back to me. You always come back to me. You can't help yourself.
Just like I always come and find you. Because I can't help myself either...
But – that once – I cried. Because Denzel was being so brave and so young and so hurt and acting so strong and so lost at the same time. He reminded me of you... and I think I was crying for both of you. You came into my room in the middle of the night – how did you know? – and you found me lying on my side, crying, watching the rain come down outside the window. You lay next to me and held me in your arms and didn't say anything - just let me be weak and cry because you were strong. And you think you're never there for me when its important...
The next day you left – and never came back.
You are dying and you don't want me to cry for you too. I know now.
But I'm not who I was before, Cloud. I'm a lot older than I was at the beginning of all of this in Nibelheim. I've seen more, done more. Been more. I've been a hero all on my own. And I've learned to fight in other places that aren't right by your side too. I don't always win - but I'll always fight. I have people that need me now too.
Because, even though I don't need you to tell me who I am anymore, Cloud, I think you need me. I think you need me because I believe in you. I think you need me to fight for. I think you need to be there for me despite yourself. I think you need to live in my world. It's why you can't stay away – even when you're trying to. I think you need me to be there for you no matter what. And you know what? It's all right. I can be that. I couldn't have before - but I'm stronger now. I learned to be strong standing at your side and watching you. I can stand here in the church looking at your bandage and I can say I'll be here when you come back. I'm strong enough to be light in the darkness now, Cloud. For you – I could be that strong forever.
Because – I may not need you the way I did before. I may be strong enough to stand on my own and wise enough to know that being alone sometimes isn't a bad thing. I know I'm important – even if no one else ever tells me so and I know I'm loved. I know you love me too – even if you haven't been able to tell me with words yet, just the ring you gave me and the children. I know I'm going to get that kiss one of these days, geostigma or not. I don't need you to make me who I am anymore, Cloud Strife. I know who I am. I learned that from you...
Now... I think its my turn to remind you who you are...
I'm not going to lose you, Cloud Strife. Not then. Not now. Not ever. We're both too stubborn now. I learned that from you too.
So, no – I don't need you.
But I do want you. Always.
Inspired by all the weepy Tifa fics and animeangelash's awesome picture over at Deviantart "I'm stronger now. I don't need a knight to save me. But… I still want you by my side."