A/N: I had a story in mind for a sequel to "Extremities" right after I wrote it, and my wonderful reviewers' encouragement got me in the mood to write it. You've created a monster, guys. ;)
The usual disclaimer: Sephiroth, Tifa and the rest of the FF7 characters belong to Square Enix, but since I clearly have a lot of time on my hands, I'll be happy to entertain them for a while. Just don't ask me to explain the huge grins they'll have on their faces when I turn them back in. The only characters of mine are the psychologist, Dr. Holden, and any other supporting or minor characters and extras that may turn up along the way.
"Have you had any of the dreams since I last saw you, Tifa?" Asked Dr. Retha Holden, an elegant woman in her sixties who was the psychologist recommended by Reeve Tuesti. She had been the personal counselor to Shinra executives, and from the looks of her tailored, expensive suit and her well-appointed office, the fall of the company hadn't made too much of an impact on her practice after she'd moved it to Edge to go public.
"Not as often." Tifa stared absently at an arrangement of sweet-smelling freesias on the glass coffee table in front of her. "But they're different."
"In what way?" The woman crossed her legs and poised her pen over her notebook, which sat on the table beside her. The other hand smoothed over her immaculately styled gray hair.
"He wants me to go to him," she replied quietly, her gaze dropping to her hands, which rested in her lap. "He says he needs me."
Recalling the dreams made her anxious. They were no longer as simple as they were before. Instead of her waking immediately after they'd finish, he would pin her down and stare into her eyes, his own filled with a different kind of need.
"Tifa, I have to see you," he would whisper against her lips.
"You're seeing me right now," she would reply, not understanding and thinking it was still all part of the game.
"Please," he would say, kissing her as his eyes burned and his hands tightened around her wrists, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to convey his seriousness. "Find me. I want so much to come to you, but it isn't possible. Don't deny me, woman."
At that point he would release her to wakefulness with his pleas ringing in her head: "I will never let you go. I can't…"
The doctor paused thoughtfully for a moment. "Tifa, do you remember what I told you when you first came to see me? About dreams?"
"That dreams are symbolic. Not to be taken literally. They're…um…"
Holden helped her remember. "They're representative of needs that are going unfulfilled, or issues that need to be addressed." She made a few notes. "The unconscious is frustratingly abstract, so it is left up to us to assign meaning to the symbols that illustrate those needs and issues. When you dream of having sex with someone you would never touch in real life, it doesn't necessarily mean that's what you want from that person."
Oh, if you only knew, doctor, she thought, embarrassed by how her cheeks flushed when she recalled the dreams' intensity and clarity. "So what does it mean? I know we've talked about this lots of times, but I still need to hear it."
"It could mean a lot of things. Maybe on some level you need to connect with him and tell him something." After an uncomfortable silence, Holden continued. "Where does he ask you to go? I'm going to guess that it's Nibelheim. Is that right?"
"What do you think that means?"
"With all due respect, if I knew that I wouldn't be here."
Tifa let out quiet sigh and thought about it. "It's where it all went to hell. Where he ruined my life." After a heartbeat she lifted her gaze to Holden with a look of revelation.
The psychologist picked up where she left off. "It's pretty clear, isn't it? You have spent the last eleven years obsessing over this man and what he has done. You try to move on, but that won't happen until you get closure."
"So you're saying I should go to Nibelheim?"
"If that's what it takes, but I would use that as a last resort," Holden replied. "Nibelheim has been abandoned since Shinra collapsed. Monsters no doubt have the run of the place by now. If not them, then all manner of squatters have taken up residence, and I don't need to tell you what they would no doubt have in mind for a woman traveling alone." She set her pen down and faced Tifa. "I was thinking more along the lines of finally facing what happened full on and putting it behind you for good. I can't help but think you've been avoiding the issue; that it was never truly resolved for you. As long as you can't close the book, Sephiroth will always haunt you in one way or another. These dreams are a way of telling you that."
"So if going back to Nibelheim is out of the question, what should I do?"
The doctor took a moment to uncross her legs and smooth the creases from her lavender skirt. "It won't be easy, in fact, it may be the most difficult thing you've ever had to do. You have to forgive him."
The doctor's words left Tifa momentarily speechless. The rational side of her understood that what Holden said was true, she just never expected to hear it out loud. She was correct, though, that it would be the hardest thing Tifa would ever face. Perhaps it was beyond her abilities. "I- I don't know…"
"It's the most important first step. Forgiving him will release him. As long as your life has ground to a halt because of him, he will always have a symbolic hold. Nothing can excuse the things he has done, not even his illness. Forgiveness will be strictly for your own well-being."
"So if I do that, he'll leave me alone?"
"No, you'll leave him alone. He has been dead for a long time, Tifa. He can't hurt you anymore. At this point, it is in your control. He was a very, very sick man, and there's not a person on this planet that he hasn't hurt, but he's gone now. He's only a memory, and that memory needs to be retired so you can truly begin to heal."
Tifa let out a mirthless laugh. "I will…never be a memory," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"It was the last thing he said to Cloud. 'I will never be a memory.'"
"I'd say it's time to prove him wrong." After a brief period of silence, the clock on the table beside Holden dinged softly. "That's our hour. Do you need more time?"
"I think I'm okay," Tifa said, rising from the overstuffed chair she was sitting in.
"Good. So I'll see you in a week?"
"Just think about we discussed today. We can work on a plan when you come back." She rose, reached out a well-manicured hand to take Tifa's and shook it. "Okay?"
"Sure." She allowed the psychologist to lead her to the door and open it for her, but she paused. "Dr., you mentioned Sephiroth's illness."
"Yes. Without seeing him I can't make a true diagnosis, but his mental state has been speculated upon in psychiatric journals since Shinra released his records. From all descriptions of his behavior that I've seen and heard, I believe he was deeply psychotic, and that the illness was brought about by several days of sleep deprivation and malnutrition in that library, as well as severe stress."
The woman's expression darkened slightly, as she had an idea of what Tifa was thinking. "Yes, if someone had realized what was going on and paid closer attention to him, the results might have been different." She chose her next words carefully. "But he was Cloud and his friend's superior, he ordered them to leave him alone and they were too young to understand what he was going through. I'm sure that if anyone who cared about him knew what could happen, they would have knocked him out somehow and dragged him out of there." She put a hand on Tifa's shoulder. "Nothing can change what's been done. Don't torture yourself with what-ifs. You have more immediate things to focus on."
"I know," she replied, saddened but accepting of the doctor's words. "See you next week."
With that, she left the office and headed home. She didn't know where to start with her assigned task, but the doctor's words stayed with her. If she didn't at least try to forgive him and turn her back on him, she would always belong to Sephiroth.
The doctor had it wrong, though. She didn't realize how powerful he truly was, and that if he wanted to badly enough, he could return to the world of the living. It wouldn't be anywhere near as cut and dried as Holden thought it would be, because after all of the dreams she had, filled lately with his insistent pleas to see her, it wasn't simply a matter of purging him from her mind. There was a lot more going on, she just wasn't entirely aware of the implications.
She resolved to go straight back to Seventh Heaven, leave the bar in Barret's capable hands for a few days, and take a long-overdue trip home. The good doctor had said that going back was a last resort and that she should concentrate on forgiveness, but she was beginning to believe that one could not be done without the other.
Additional A/N: Looks like this one is going to have a few more chapters than I originally intended. I hope you don't mind. Don't worry, there will be plenty of the smoofy stuff later.
I pictured Vanessa Redgrave when writing Dr. Holden.