Author's Note: This is the re-written version of "The Blue One", which originaly was posted on December 18th last year. I decided to re-write it after some 'confusion' with a similiar story, and the results are finally in. I hope that you will enjoy the new version.
The Blue One
Her body ached when she stirred awake, lids fluttering unwillingly. Eyes sore as her vision was still blurry, laced with the remains of sleep and the golden specks of dusts that danced in the air. Lazily, she rubbed the reddened lids with one hand, feeling every muscle in her body strain.
She had to get up, she had to leave to soft comfort of her bed, get dressed and get ready… The dull pain through her body slowed her down however and Tifa found her completely unwilling to leave the bed.
Just a minute longer, just for once, for a little while…
With a heavy sigh, she pushed herself up, her hand fluttering to her ribs as the pain throbbed during the motion. It will take time for the bruises and bumps to heal, the brunette thought as she stood in front of a mirror. One arm bloomed in yellow and purple, ribs swollen and red, the bruise stretching towards the upper part of her stomach.
But they made it. One more time, they managed to make it through. They came out beaten and bloody and ever-doubting, drained of all hope for a brighter tomorrow at first.
But they came out victorious.
After everything, after all the events of the last three years, Tifa was careful to finally give into hope. To believe that the Planet would not turn against them this time. To believe that ghosts would stop resurfacing and stop haunting their days and nights. But as she tied the pale pink of a ribbon around her arm, the fabric an all too familiar brush against skin, the young woman felt a small bubble form in the depths of her heart.
Because they were alive, so wonderfully alive…!
Fingers accustomed to forming fists traced the all too familiar leather of her top, before one corner of her mouth arched upwards.
She would not wear that.
Instead, the simple thread of cotton felt like bliss against healing skin, the ruby red fabric enfolding her in a flame of comfort. Slightly too big, it slipped off her shoulder, its loose folds allowing her to breathe freely.
Tifa didn't need any kind of armor today, be it solid metal or fine leather.
Her feet made soft, sock-muted sounds on the wooden stairs, after she took a careful look into the kids bedroom. They were deep in slumber, a peaceful one, not haunted by seeping black pus or death itself. Downstairs, just before she pushed the door open, she heard a snore, coming from the living room and plush lips curled at the sight. Sure enough, they were all there – and was that drool hanging from Yuffie's mouth? – alcohol still pleasantly buzzing through their systems. Reeve surely will not be happy with the way Nanaki chew on Cait's ear … Her eyes rested on the mass of tattered red and messy black, the only one with a straight back and a calm face. Obviously comfortable and content with sleeping in a sturdy wooden chair. Tifa allowed her a sly smile, already imagining all the teasing about sleeping in coffins making Vincent immune to house furniture, that the former Turk would hear later on. She closed the door then, careful not to disturb their much needed rest, and finally made her way to the bar area of the house.
The air reeked of cigarettes, sweat and spilled drinks – vodka and rum underlined by the smoked fragrance of whisky. Between empty glasses and overflowing ashtrays, a flash of dusted gold welcomed her, followed by a curious look of electric blue.
"Good morning" Tifa welcomed him, leaning heavily onto the door frame.
Her chest tightened and now she realized, how much she feared he was not going to be here, that he left, that he was gone… not to the Church, but somewhere much, much far away, someplace she could not yet follow.
"Did I wake you?" Cloud's voice was light, tinted with an unspoken apology as he placed the brand new PHS onto the counter, before pointing at is with his head.
He turned in the chair, facing her, eyes open wide and bright and young. He was lighter, Tifa realized with a sudden tug ,sharp and strangely unpleasant, at her heart.
"No, it's time to get up…get ready…" she paused there, letting her words trail off as she took in the sight.
Cloud looked like he was finally in the right place, still quiet and still cautious, busy with his own business. Finally at peace with himself, his ghosts and the world. No longer the memories of past shadowed the dazzling blue.
Something inside her chest fluttered and in the next moment she was right beside him, her hands slipping into the mass of golden spikes, and they were soft and familiar against her skin.
Cloud was here, right here in front of her, right beneath her fingertips.
Watching her with clear eyes, his hands finding their way to rest on her hips, sword calloused palms a familiar warmth on the thin layer of linen pants. There was no more memories of past clouding the blue.
"Tifa" his voice was quiet, but sure, and it brought her attention to him.
Cloud kept looking at her, straight into her as her arms sneaked around strong shoulders. Maybe it was because the corners of his stubbornly quiet mouth were arched upwards. Maybe because he twisted in his seat, keeping her between his legs, burying his face between the slender neck and bare shoulder.
Maybe she just needed to feel him.
"Tifa…" his breath tickled skin and her hold on him tightened, her scent most welcome.
She smelled like dust and spilled wine.
"I'm glad…. I'm glad you made it" her voice was tight, forcing its way from a raw throat.
Despite the fact that she never doubted him, never lost her faith in him – even when he lost his – there was that one terrifying moment, when Tifa thought she lost him.
Cloud slipped his hands under the loose shirt, a small tingle running down his spine at the feel of smooth skin under his fingers.
"There's so much I want to tell you" he breathed against her shoulder.
"We got time" his hair smelled of shampoo and wind and victory as she nuzzled the sunlight spikes with her nose.
She almost forgot how really soft that unruly mass was.
Thumbs brushed against sore ribs and at the sharp intake of air he looked up, brilliant blue meeting with smoked red. They finally looked at each other, into themselves, just a breath away.
"We're going to make it…" he whispered "I know it now"
It was hours and days and months that have slipped between them, since that question first fell between them. Between then and now, there were tears and blood, pain and suffering, despair and broken hopes, and the image of death in the corner of a child's eyes. But he remembered and finally answered, and that made her heart swell.
Something between a choked sob and a desperate laugh found its way out of her throat, as Cloud held her tight, both allowing themselves to simply cling to one another. They were going to make it. And maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright with the world for once.
"I need new boots…" Cloud finally broke the golden silence, a hint of humor appearing in his voice as he looked up at her.
Tifa nodded, smiling lightly, as she touched one cheek with her fingers. She already figured that much yesterday, when she tripped over his boots in the dark of the corridor and took a closer look at them seconds later.
"And new gloves" she added, letting go and slipping out of his much welcomed embrace.
Appreciating the small flash of amuse in his eyes, she turned to the bar. Things needed to be done here after all, and they would have more of their moments. Later. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but definitely later.
She scratched at a sticky stain with one finger – how did she miss anyone spilling their drinks onto the mahogany? – before reaching for one of her trays. It fit against her hip almost comfortably, as she pocketed a clean rag for later use.
Cloud watched her for a moment, as she moved around the bar, collecting glasses and empty bottles, balancing the tray with the greatest of ease. It's been years since the first time she picked up waitressing, back at the original Seventh Heaven.
On her own for so long, rebuilding the debris of her life into something solid.
Gold spikes swayed gently as he shook his head, turning his attention to the phone again. New and its memory still empty, the blonde rearranged its setting's to his liking. His lips curled as the sound of glasses tinkling reached his ears, before it was drowned by the soft hum of water.
"She was there… in the church, wasn't she?" something soft, so soft he almost missed it, in her voice made him look up.
Her pretty face was veiled with dark strands, as she busied herself with washing the glasses. A memory of light and green and black flickered in his mind.
It still hurt, but it was better than barely yesterday.
"They both were" he said after a while, watching her intently.
Hands stopped, cloth on glass, and Cloud could swear he saw the minimal twitch of shoulder blades. She stopped herself from tensing, stopped her spine from straightening and it caused his brows to furrow.
"Both…?" Tifa shifted her weight from right foot to the other, the air around her heavy and uncomfortable all of the sudden "… Zack?" there was much uncertainty, hesitation in her voice.
"Cocky as ever, I should add" he lowered his head, watching her from beneath sunlit bangs.
Wet fingers traced the pink on her arm, moisture sinking into the ribbon at the touch before Tifa nodded, and through the curtain of dark hair, Cloud saw her lips curl in a tender smile.
The day seemed to stretch into eternity and when Seventh Heaven finally emptied of its clients, it seemed like years have passed, not mere hours. It was nothing Tifa couldn't handle, of that Cloud was sure of, and she did it with the greatest ease and a welcoming smile.
Was it serving drinks for Edge's inhabitants or a hangover remedy for a sick pilot or cleaning up after a Wutaian Princess.
The last of their friends were getting ready to leave the homey quarters of the bar, Cid's loud voice coming from downstairs. Tifa rubbed the tight knot that formed in the back of her neck, as she made her way towards the children's bedroom where Barret was still saying goodbye to his daughter. Downstairs his truck was already packed, front door open and the cool air of the night mixed with the stuffy atmosphere of the bar.
Red fur was visible against dark floors. Nanaki was obviously shedding and Tifa smiled at the strange thought, pushing the wooden wing open.
Marlene's small arms were wrapped around a strong neck, her face buried in dark skin as the man murmured something into her ear. It was always hard to part, neither of them wanting to let go. His good hand was stroking the childish back with love and affection and Tifa's heart swelled at the sight.
"Barret" she kept her voice low and soft, trying not to break the soft atmosphere in the room.
Barret's eyes seemed black as he looked up, unshaven cheek pressed against soft hair. The barmaid leaned onto the door frame, offering him a warm smile, as he tightened his hold over the small girl.
"Marlene…" his voice was thick "Baby, Papa has to go…"
The girl nodded, still not looking up at her father, still trying to burry herself deeper in his embrace as Tifa came over, kneeling and placing one hand on the man's knee.
"No, Barret wait"
Upon hearing those words, or maybe something slightly off in Tifa's voice, Marlene turned around, eyes glazed and red and so hopeful. Her father straightened his back, brows wandering up on the usually creased forehead.
"Edge… needs to be rebuilt" the sigh came out much heavier than she intended it to "Reeve will bring heavy machinery in, cranes and trucks. Scaffoldings and piles of twisted steel and stone… Me and Cloud volunteered to help"
"Want me to stay an' help out?"
"Take the kids with you"
"Corel's no place for kids, Teef"
"Take them to Shera" her voice was calm and collected, her mind already set on the idea "Cid's still waiting. It's just a few days, and you'll be not far away from them. You can visit daily"
Marlene reached out, her small fingers touching Tifa's cheek. The girl's eyes shining and serious.
"You don't mind?" she asked quietly "Can we really go?"
"Of course you can go, sweetheart" it pained her to be away from the children, but she didn't want them around the city when it was turned into one, big construction site "You and Denzel deserve some peace"
"Ya' really mean it, Tifa?" the affection in the man's voice was a stark contrast to his rough looks.
"Either it's that or I'll be left with Vincent" she sighed, but a sparkle of amusement appeared in her eyes.
The image of the antisocial gunslinger holding hands with Marlene and Denzel tugging at red, tattered cape appeared in Barret's mind and he smirked. While it was an amusing thought, the chance to spend more time with his little girl was far more appealing.
Barret looked straight into his daughter's eyes, wide and shining, as she still clinged to him. His fingers pulled at the end of a neat braid and smiled with affection.
"Alright then" he grinned and got off his knees, his daughter easily lifted off the floor.
Tifa smiled as she straightened as well, ignoring the unpleasant feeling of something in her back falling into place. She still had to pack Denzel's things.
"Where's Denzel?" Barret asked as the barmaid moved to the boy's closet, small duffel bag in hand.
"Currently busy with making sure Cloud is going to be here when they come back" there was a darker note in her voice, but she still kept her smile up "He's a very persistent boy"
Only few pieces of clothing found their way into the bags, children not needing too much for a short trip, and soon they were looking down from the Shera's glass deck, waving their hands at their guardians. The magnificent ship rose quickly, its wings rising dust off the ground, before finally turning into a black spot in the darkening sky.
Cloud's fingers brushed against Tifa's bare shoulder and she snapped out of her reverie.
"Come on.. let's go inside"
Tifa nodded her head, maybe the tiniest bit absentmindedly and wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keep the chill out. Fingers grazed against the pink ribbon, before she turned to face Cloud, as he held the door open for her.
The insides of Seventh Heaven were warm and cozy, the silence inside so much different than the one that's been lingering here for the last few days. Cloud made his way towards the bar, intent on making himself a drink.
A hard one.
Yesterday, everything happened too fast, too much, and he still had to relive all of it. He still had to just sit down with the woman, who never left his side.
Even when he left hers.
"Pour me one"
Her voice startled him, the neck of the bottle clinging against the edge of the glass, causing him to look up with disbelief. Tifa never was the one to drink without a reason, and now.... She seemed strangely sad right now, he thought, as she slowly made her way from the door to one of the high chairs. One bare foot placed carefully in front of the other. He placed the glass on the wooden surface of the bar, when she slipped into the seat gracefully, curling her legs up waiting for him to join her. Arms brushed as he stood next to her.
"A new beginning…isn't it?" Cloud's voice was quiet, laced with hope for a better tomorrow as he finally took a seat next to her.
"Another one, yes"
"Mhm…?" the bartender took a drink, her throat barely moving as she swallowed the burning alcohol, heavy lids sweeping slowly over red shadows.
"That I am… but aren't we all?"
With half-lidded eyes she failed to notice the suddenly cautious look he gave her. Failed to notice how the crystal blue of his eyes sharpened, green flaring in a poisonous ring as he noticed something unfamiliar.
"What's the ribbon for?" His hand brushed against her arm, catching her attention, causing his friend to look at him.
Claret eyes widened as one brow wandered up, but then her lips arched in a small smile.
"What kind of question is that?" she looked at the piece of cloth around his arm "Just like…"
"I was talking about the other one" his fingers reached out towards the curled up foot "I mean the blue one"
To the tattered one, with rough edges, and long lost shine. The piece of soft material was tied securely around her ankle, its ends frayed and dangling miserably against pale skin. Darker stains marred the once dazzling cobalt -was it dirt or blood? Cloud was reluctant to know.
The familiar blue hue brought a stir of pain, and he didn't know did this both him, or the fact that she kept it so well hidden. That he never saw it before.
"I think… it might be for… broken dreams" Tifa sighed against the glass that chilled her lips.
"Yours?" before he could stop his mouth from moving, the question slipped and stretched between them.
Some questions were better left without an answer.
People said that only truth brought true freedom. Maybe it did, but it also crushed souls and spirits, it broke dreams of those who dared to weave them. And a heavy weight was lifted from his heart as Tifa shook her head a silent "no", dark hair dancing around strained shoulders. With her tired eyes locked on the window, looking but not seeing, she untied the ribbon, feeling the all too familiar texture under her fingers.
Cold wrapped its fingers around his heart.
Fighting Sephiroth over and over again wouldn't scare him as much as her strange, unexpected silence. Because right now, right in front of him, she was so very different, so quiet and lost within herself. And what scared him the most, weren't the soft shadows right above her cheeks or the way her shoulders slumped. It was the fact that she still remained the Tifa he knew.
Her hand was small and fragile when Cloud took it into his.
"I'm so sorry" his thumbs brushed against its back.
Sorry for running, for leaving them, leaving her in the company of doubt, tears and fevers.
Sorry for not being there when she fell.
"It's ok now" she smiled gently "I was angry, and sad, but it's ok now. You're here and with me, right?" her eyes were soft, golden flecks appearing in the claret depths.
Cloud nodded, lips flat and eyes serious, but his shoulders relaxed as she leaned in, brushing her lips against his.
"There's something I need to do now" she kissed the corner of his mouth.
He wanted to hold her, stop her from whatever she wanted to do. To keep her close, feel her and let her feel him. But there was a dark need in her voice and a pained light in her eyes and Cloud didn't do anything to keep her from moving away.
Her fingers tightened their grip on the tattered blue cloth as she pulled on the shoes left by the door. She gave him one last look and another smile, causing his chest to tighten, and she stepped out of the warm bar into the chill of night.
He heard the engine of the old truck she used, and placed the half emptied glass away, a frown on his face and worry in his heart.
The winds were harsh, unforgiving and long hair flapped around her head, hitting the skin of her shoulders and face with anger.
Tifa came here for a reason and it stood there, right in front of her.
Slightly crocked to the left now, its pride and glory nothing but a long lost memory.
She remembered how it looked like, years ago, strapped on a proud back.
Rust and wear all that was left.
Blood and tears.
The ribbon's ends fluttered in the strong wind, reminding her again of its presence.
With a deep breath and a steel resolve, the brunette took the last missing steps, hand outstretched…
The clean, horrifying in its intensity, white blinded her and Tifa stumbled, eyes closing on instinct at the sudden flash. Her body tensed, prepared for the fall that was yet to come.
Her legs moved then and she regained her balance, the light replaced by darkness and faint green glow, uneven stones under her feet. Stench of metal and mold hit her nose, eyes growing accustomed to the dark and Tifa recognized the broken machinery and destroyed tanks.
Papers scattered all over the floor and a fluorescent substance seeping through the cracks.
The memory of blood and chemicals and cut skin wrapped around her senses.
"Of all places…" Tifa mumbled under her breath, shaking off the unease that settled in "This one…?"
"I find the field of flowers not manly enough" a low chuckle heard right behind her "Fits her better"
Her heart fluttered with sudden relief, feeling a broad back pressed against hers. She leaned, frayed nerves and tense muscles finally relaxing at the unexpected warmth.
"Nice of you to drop by" the cheerful man rubbed the back of his head, a gesture Cloud has picked up at one point of time "You are the last person I expected to meet"
Biting her lip, Tifa kicked a broken part of a machine –she desperately didn't want to recognize its purpose – watching it bounce away, the metal making a cluttering sound against cold rocks.
"I … there are things I need to end"
He shifted his weight, from one foot to another, humming thoughtfully and she felt it vibrate in his chest.
"You two spend too much time together" he finally said and there was a smile in his voice "You sound like him"
"Not that much…"
"I know you had a pretty hard day yesterday…"
"Today was no better" she muttered and he picked it up, laughter again echoing in the murky room.
"Maybe it was a little bit … drastic. Knowing that he could die, and then seeing him die and come back again…"
"You sure know how to make a person feel like a ray of sunshine, don't you?" but Tifa couldn't surpress the smile that formed on her lips.
"One of my biggest traits!"
Her grin grew bigger and she could picture the wide, unabashed grin he used to flash her with. Cheeky as ever, not even death could change him. She looked down at the worn out piece of blue in her hand and her small died a little.
"So you wanted to see me that badly…"
Funny, how he could still make her smile even if her heart was heavy.
"Ah admit it, you always had a soft spot in you vast heart for me!" he teased and Tifa shook her head in disbelief.
"How does she put up with you for all this time?"
"I like the dirty places. She's usually humming and skipping through the flowers"
Tears stung her eyes and she blinked the away, the memory of a warm smile and green flashing in her mind.
"I miss her" Tifa said after a while "Tell her that"
"She knows. Chocobo boy was a handful…"
"He would kill you with your own sword for that"
"… so everyone else was left without guidance. Not that you ever needed any" he paused for a moment to think about something "Be it guidance or forgiveness"
A drop of green splashed somewhere, the sickening sound making her shiver violently.
But despite what he believed, what he said, Tifa was in desperate need of forgiveness.
But there was always something more important, there was always someone, whose world was threatened to shatter into thousands of pieces.
"I never apologized" her voice cracked and she felt her skin burn.
He straightened behind her, drew his shoulders and rocked on his heels slightly, obviously confused.
"Apologize…?" he scratched the back of his head again, his forearm muffling her own tresses a bit.
"I never … mean what I said. About you" her head lowered and she concentrated on the ribbon "I'm so sorry Zack…."
Oh how clear she remembered that day. When everything turned from right to oh so very, very wrong…
She lay there, all broken and bloody. The Masamune ripping though flesh and clothes, then her body tumbling down the stairs, only to rest in a crimson pile of pain.
Opening her eyes hurt, so did every little breath. The stench of scorched flesh hit her nose, it's odor making her feel sick.
"Sephiroth did this… didn't he?" the SOLDIER that found her was scared… eyes wide and disbelieving.
His hand brushed away some blood drenched strands of her hair out of the pale, wax like face. Despite the gloves, she could feel the gentleness of the unintended caress.
"You guys came to this village only to investigate… didn't you…?"she was so broken… not only her bones and voice… "That's why I was your guide…that's all you guys came here for…" her spirit broken "But why this…?" tears mingled with the blood.
"I hate them… ShinRa…. SOLDIER… I hate you! I hate you all!!" she spat and that hand that brought so much peace in this little hell jerked back, falling to his side. Out of the corner of one tired eye she saw it clench into a fist, the leather shining on the knuckles.
"I'm sorry. I won't ask for your forgiveness… But… Let me make things right…."
She hated him from her very core of being. For being a SOLDIER. A ShinRa lackey.
She hated him on that day for that touch that burned her already bruised skin. And for running up those steep stair, for wanting to fix things that were already too broken to do so.
She never saw him again after he disappeared at the top of the stairs.
Tifa took a deep breath, feeling her heart hammer against her chest and she looked up at the stone ceiling above their heads.
She missed his touch as soon as he vanished from her sight.
"I had no right to say that" she blinked the tears away, those silent stubborn ones that always came when she thought of that day "You said…. You said you'll make things right…"
"Tifa…" he turned slowly, so slowly she felt every muscle move.
"And you did too. You brought him back" another shuddering breath and she prayed that she would be able to continue " And you went up there, taking your hand away, leaving me laying there broken without your touch"
Zack was warm, his arms strong and sure and he held her close, resting his chin on top of her head.
"So you see… I need your forgiveness" Tifa smiled as tears finally broke, staining her face and falling onto his arms "I want to say I'm sorry"
"You never had to" his whisper was soft, calming her and giving her strength to carry on.
"I need to let you go, Zack" she paused, looking at the tattered ribbon that was in the same shade as his eyes "Even if… I don't really want to" his hold tightened, possessive and Tifa knew painfuly well now, that he didn't want to let go as well.
Zack was her ghost and her darkness.
Tifa was his moment of weakness, one kiss in the dark behind closed doors of the old barn.
"Did you ever wonder, how would it be…? If I lived…?" bitterness laced his words, even if Zack tried to kept his voice neutral and light.
The shadows of the laboratory closed around them, his embrace tight and burning her skin as her breath hitched. Pink and green again stirred in her memory and Tifa closed her eyes tight, feeling small ugly claws digging into her heart.
"Less confusing … I guess" the words came out as a breathy whisper against her lips.
Still as painful.
He shifted behind her, pulling her closer, hiding his face in the soft mass of dark hair. Warm breath washed over Tifa's ear and her body shivered against his.
"I would win you over" Zack whispered against her ear.
She tried to turn her head, to brush her nose against the defined jaw, but as soon as her muscles pulsed beneath soft skin , calloused fingers keeping her chin in place.
"Don't move… not yet, please Tifa, don't move…"
It would be over if she did.
"I wouldn't fight you" the woman still struggled against his arms.
"You would, but thanks for lying" it was a small, yet bitter laugh that escaped his lips "You always fought for what you loved and that boy was always on your mi-mph…!"
Tifa turned, despite the strong embrace and her lips silenced him. Fingers touched his face and blue eyes closed, plush lips opening and inviting. She pressed more against him, hands slipping in the midnight of his hair.
His lips slanted, strong fingers full of soft cotton as he pressed, tongue stroked and he tasted cinnamon. So much stronger than the first time.
Thoughts of moving away, of pushing her away, wiped clear as he pulled her close, warmth seeping into him. They shouldn't, as he was just a whisper from the past, and she was still breathing and alive.
Alive, so much alive and pouring into him.
"Tifa…" he pulled away, feeling her lashes flutter ever so slightly against his cheek as she forced them to stay closed.
The faint glow danced on moist lips.
"Not yet… don't let me open my eyes right now" voice as shaky as the fingers that were still buried in his hair "Just…this one moment…" she whispered against his cheek, feeling the crisscross scar under the soft tissue "Please…"
One short moment of what could have been and what will never be.
"You have to leave now" his mouth found hers again, soft and suddenly shy "Or I won't be able to let you go…"
Behind closed lids Tifa could see his smile, small and sad as one hand cupped her cheek. The touch was barely there anymore and she swallowed hard. There was still so much more she wanted to say. To thank him, to reassure him, to…
"Thank you" a ghostly whisper of his mouth against her forehead "I'll be seeing you, Tifa"
Tifa felt the moisture under her lids, and squeezed them tight. This was so much harder.
"See you, Zack…"
It got colder and Zack's presence faded, almost gone, but his taste still lingered and his fingers still slid down the sides of her face.
"No Tifa…I'll see you…" his voice melted with the winds now, and it cut like the reality she had to face now "But you won't be seeing me."
Eyes snapped open and Tifa saw the wide, true smile in the briefest flash of white, before she felt metal and rust under her fingertips, small rocks digging into the skin on her knees. Hot tears stung her eyes and she blinked their blur away, the stained cobalt of the blue ribbon a stark contrast to the sword's former glory.
"Goodbye, Zack" she whispered and her words were carried with the winds "I will see you again"
His voice was different, not quite that deep and not so sure, but its pitch soothed her. And so Tifa wiped her eyes clean, fingers tightening on the blue, and she stood up to face Cloud.
His eyes were a sharp azure, with the softest tint of worry in them and she smiled at the sight.
"Cloud" she acknowledged him and the man came closer, slowly, giving her time to calm her breathing.
The ribbon fluttered in the wind as she released it, both of them watching as it disappeared into the night, before Cloud finally took her small hand in his. His hold was sure, not too tight and not too loose and Tifa smiled as she twined their fingers together.
He knew, as well as she did about the flower girl months ago.
It didn't matter anymore.
"Let's go home, Tifa" it was barely a murmur against her temple, lips grazing skin, as she rested her forehead on his shoulder, feeling his other hand thread through her hair.
Tifa's smile widened, heart softened under the gentle touch, and all she could do was nod lightly. Her own past lifted from her shoulders and she could breathe again.
It took long days and even longer months, it took despair and the shadow of death, but they were at peace now.
And their ghosts turned into guardians.
And both of them were finally going home.