Valiant Hearts II
Special Chapter I
Emerald Flower – Black Ribbon
"Aren't you done yet?"
Tifa was standing in the doorframe, tapping her red pumps on the ground, looking rather annoyed. Her hair was styled into an imitation of Aerith's usual braided hairstyle, tied with a black ribbon. Wearing a short black dress that blatantly showed off her good figure, Tifa was all styled up for going out.
"Would you drop it? It was you who took forever getting my hair right."
Aerith was standing in front of a huge mirror inside their bedroom. Her long red dress that almost reached her ankles was accompanied by black high heels. If one didn't know it was Aerith, they could've mistaken her for someone else. The long braid was gone and her hair was smooth and open, with an emerald-colored hairpin holding a few strands back from hanging in her face.
"I'm sorry, but you always wear your hair in a braid, and it was hell to get it like that. But it was totally worth it, you look wonderful."
"There has to be a law you're breaking by looking this sexy, Tifa. And thanks for the compliment."
Aerith looked at her lover from the corner of her eyes and let out a sigh. It was true, Tifa was absolutely stunning. But they had every reason to dress up like this. A year ago, Aerith had declared her love for Tifa and asked her to go out with her.
"What's the occasion, Aerith? Inviting me like this…I mean come on, this is Reeve's place we're talking about! I can't even afford the appetizers here!"
"You're embarrassing me, Tifa."
The pink-clad woman had invited the martial artist to the most expensive restaurant in the rebuilt Hollow Bastion. Reeve, sort of an acquaintance from their old world, had opened it and it had gotten to be famous for its Chinese food overnight.
"No, really, what's the occasion? You've been odd for a while now."
"I'll tell you after dinner." Aerith couldn't remember the last time she was this nervous.
"Don't be such a tease."
"No is no. We'll have '18, Jenelle." The waitress bowed and left the two woman alone.
Tifa stared at the former flower girl with big eyes. Whatever the reason was, Aerith was making a real big deal out of it.
"It's all right. You look stunning, Tifa."
"Did you just compliment me? Are you really Aerith, the teasing and big-mouthed girl?"
It hurt a bit to hear Tifa saying that, but the woman forced a smile nevertheless. "It's the truth."
Tifa was blushing for a second and looked down at herself. Her hair was nothing special, she had only changed her ribbon to a white one she had borrowed from Aerith. Wearing a short dark blue dress, the only dress she had, and a pair of pumps Aerith had given her for birthday, Tifa thought that Aerith was just being nice.
Looking around, everyone else was much more classily dressed, including Aerith. A pink dress that flowed down her body like silk, her hair made into a ponytail with a pink ribbon. Tifa couldn't see what shoes Aerith was wearing but it would be awkward to check. It made her feel awkward and out of place.
The wine came and it was so high-class that Tifa felt nauseous just thinking about the bill. What could be so important that Aerith invited her to this?
"I'll have the number sixty-three. Tifa?"
The black-haired woman hastily looked at the card. Too occupied with her thoughts, Tifa hadn't chosen anything. "The same thing she's getting."
"I am very sorry, but we're very busy today, so it will take up to thirty minutes for the food to be ready. I have no excuse. If I may suggest…the dance platform is free and our band will shortly start playing."
"Thirty minutes? Really?"
"I am truly sorry, but we're booked to the limit today."
It was not surprising. Saturday night was a popular time to go out. Now that Tifa looked around, it was full of couples.
"You aren't going to kick me out, right?" Tifa had to ask, she had to know.
Tifa had come and asked Aerith to allow her to stay at her place. Tifa couldn't bear living in the same apartment as Cloud anymore, as she had reached her limit of love a long time ago. Aerith had comforted her and had let her unconditionally stay at her place.
"You think I would do that?"
"I'm not kicking you out."
The band started playing the moment Tifa let out a heavy sigh of relief. It was a slow, romantic song. When the fighter looked up, the brunette woman stand next to her seat, holding out her hand.
"Will you dance with me?"
Tifa looked over to the dance platform. Only couples were dancing, closely wrapped around each other. It would be embarrassing as hell to dance like that. But Aerith was paying for all this, and Tifa felt like it would be really rude to tell her off.
Taking the flower girl's hand, Tifa walked with her over to the dance platform.
Aerith took a deep breath, collected all her courage, and took one of Tifa's hands, directed it to her own shoulder, finally laying both her arms around Tifa's waist.
The martial artist was so surprised that she followed, and before she knew it, the two women were dancing like the other couples.
"What are you doing, Aerith? This is really embarrassing!"
A weird sensation, dancing with the pink dressed woman like that. Not only that, but her voice was really sweet, and she smelled no less good than she was looking. Tifa couldn't help but stare at Aerith, listening to every movement her lips made.
"I feel terrible for doing this now, but I would feel worse if I hid it from you any longer."
So there was something bad coming. Tifa felt sick and numb. Whatever Aerith was going to say, it must be so bad that she had brought her to this expensive place to keep her from making a scene.
But Aerith didn't say anything, only stopped dancing for a moment. Closing her eyes, Aerith took a deep breath, stepping forward while holding Tifa. Sweet soft lips met and thoughts froze. The sickness was gone, but now her whole body was numb, including her mind. Aerith was kissing her! Not just any kiss, it was a kiss that clearly said 'I love you'.
After eternal seconds, Aerith stepped away and looked nervously at the woman in front of her. What would her reaction be?
Nothing. Tifa just stood there, staring at Aerith, gravely confused. Aerith had kissed her, and a message had come across.
"I love you, Tifa. I want you to go out with me."
"Oh…so…well…I don't know…what to say. Can that…wait until after dinner?"
"Sure. You're paying half if you let me down."
Tifa couldn't tell if Aerith was being serious about the bill, but it was very clear that she was serious about her.
Aerith had been in love with her all this time, and all Tifa ever did was complain about Cloud. Looking at it carefully, Aerith really cared for her more than anyone else.
They continued to dance, and Aerith enjoyed it a lot. Tifa found herself smiling now that she knew the fearsome news weren't really bad news at all.
A faster song followed, and the women kept on dancing, this time not as close but smiling and giggling while having fun. Tifa knew what her answer would be. She felt it when Aerith had kissed her, and she felt it now too.
Exhausted from dancing, they went back to their seats and just gazed at each other. Tifa had the unpleasant feeling that the flower girl was getting bored but she didn't know what to talk about.
"You look stunning."
Tifa blushed yet again and looked down at the table. "You already told me that earlier."
"But you didn't have this cute reaction before."
"You're a terrible tease, Aerith." Tifa blushed even more while Aerith started giggling.
They continued to be silent, mainly because Tifa was too embarrassed to say anything. Nobody had ever confessed to her before, and especially not like Aerith had! It felt good, even though the long-awaited confession had come from a woman.
"Two Milano buns with Illuski salad. I'm sorry for the wait, but I hope you will enjoy our specialty."
Tifa looked at the food and almost fainted. Heart-shaped buns filled with something pink-colored. A little piece of paper, a note from the waitress, was next to her food.
Good luck! She's a real cutie~
"What's it say?" Aerith leaned over and tried to snatch the note.
"N-nothing!" Tifa put the note under her plate and blushed furiously. It wasn't like her to be all flustered and embarrassed, but this was a first time for her too.
"Try it, the food is excellent."
It really was, and finally with something to do besides being embarrassed, Tifa spent her time eating. But once she was done, Aerith finishing just seconds before her, the awkwardness returned.
Tifa had promised to give an answer now. To answer to the question that was silently flowing over them. And she had her answer, had it all along. The black-dressed woman had only wanted to wait to see if it was only excitement over the kiss.
"I still remember how awkward you were at dinner, after I kissed you."
Aerith laid her hand on her lover's on the table. Both of them were sitting on the veranda of Cat 'nu Fu, Reeve's Chinese restaurant. It was warm out and the stars were clearly visible. It was a clear, beautiful night, and both women could see a familiar brilliance in each other's eyes.
"I was so frightened you'd kick me out or something. I never expected you to tell me you loved me."
"You looked so happy after it, I knew you'd say yes."
"I'm happy I did."
The owner, Reeve, passed by and stopped at their table. Even though he looked like a gentlemen and behaved like it, he was a weird fellow and neither Tifa nor Aerith knew what he was really thinking.
"You two look beautiful. This is your anniversary of getting together, right?"
"Yes, it is." Tifa said, looking with dreamy eyes at her partner.
"You're both good friends, so you'll get the the food on the house. But only because you two look absolutely stunning." He was good with words, and even Aerith blushed a bit at his straightforward compliment.
"Thank you, Reeve."
"I have an important guest I shouldn't keep waiting. See you two around." With that, the man in the expensive-looking dark blue suit walked off, greeting a old man a few tables away.
"He's a nice…guy, don't you think?" Tifa looked over her shoulder at the owner of the place.
"I never made sense of him, but he seems okay."
"Say, Aerith…what would you have done if I said 'no' back then?"
Two emerald-colored eyes stared into two dark red ones. "I don't know. I always assumed you'd say yes."
"Huh? I mean, what if—"
Aerith leaned forward and put a single finger on Tifa's lips to make her shut up. "No 'ifs', Tifa. We're together, that is all that counts to me."
Smiling and blushing a little bit, Tifa kissed Aerith's finger and looked up into the sky. "I hope we can stay like this forever."
"I hope so too," Aerith whispered in agreement.
The food came, and later they went for a dance. The evening was over in a blink and they were on their way back home. It had gotten quite cold, and Cat 'nu Fu was quite a way from their house. In a side alley, Aerith stopped, suddenly pulling Tifa with her.
"What are you doing? We're going to get dirty, and it's cold. Let's go ho—"
Aerith held Tifa closely, both arms wrapped tightly around her back. Aerith's soft sweet lips met Tifa's full red lips and they shared a secret kiss in the cold, dark side alley, with only the stars watching them as they shone far above.
When they finally parted, Tifa had long ago laid her arms around the flower girl, keeping her close. They had gone quite a bit inside the alley, and the ground was dirty and muddy. It took only a little effort to lift the pink-clad girl up.
Carrying her like a princess, Tifa left the alley and continued to walk home. The black-haired woman had no interest in letting her lover down, and the princess was comfortable like that. Laying her arms around Tifa's neck, she nuzzled herself close to her shoulder, closing her eyes and enjoying the warmth she was sharing with the woman she loved.
"Aerith, we're here."
"I know. Can't we stay like this for a bit more?"
"You're such a princess character, you know?"
Tifa smiled and sat down on a wall next to their house. The brunette finally moved and sat on Tifa's lap, facing her. No words were needed and none were spoken. They silently enjoyed being together.
Leaning onto Tifa's shoulder yet again, the fighter started to comb the flower girl's hair with her fingers, going through it, enjoying the silky feel of it. It was the first time Aerith wore her hair loose like this, and it felt nice to feel over it.
"I'm not going to let you comb it every day. I like my braid."
Tifa smiled and kissed her lover on the forehead. It was a pain to comb Aerith's hair, and she would always tease Tifa while doing it. Aerith's usual style was fine too, but then again no matter what she did, she always looked beautiful in Tifa's eyes.
"It's getting really cold. Let's go in." Tifa could feel the goosebumps on Aerith's skin, and even though she also wanted to stay like this, the night was far from over.
Aerith left her position and waited patiently next to the door for Tifa to open it. She was just a little bit taller than Aerith and could easier reach the place they hid the key when they were going out. There weren't any thieves in Hollow Bastion, but it had become a habit.
Quietly, they entered the house, and Aerith reached for Tifa's hand. She didn't want to be separated from her, not even for a second. A life without her was unthinkable. In the past year, Tifa had been everything to her, and she had been everything to Tifa. A new love had developed into an unbreakable bond, a bond they cherished and cared for every day.
Passing the living room and the stairs, they found their way to their bedroom. Before, Tifa had always slept in the room next to this one. Even in the first days after they had gotten together, she didn't sleep in the same bed as Aerith.
But now, things were different. While the left side of the room was rather tomboyishly decorated, the right side was really girly, full of flowers. They never slept alone, they always waited for the other.
Taking the pumps off, Tifa crawled on the bed, making a seductive pose for Aerith. The pink-dressed woman only smiled and sat on the edge, taking her high heels off with great care. Barefoot, Aerith moved towards her lover, only to lay down on her lap.
Aerith was the soft type, and unexpectedly, Tifa really adored that about her. Aerith rested her head on Tifa's lap, looking up into her lover's face, then closed her eyes. Tifa was touched Aerith's cheek, slowly rubbing over it, enjoying the soft feel of the skin.
The black-haired woman could have stayed like that for hours. After a while, Aerith reached out with her hand and put her own hand on Tifa's, fixating hers on her cheek.
"I don't understand how you can have such soft skin when you always work yourself so hard. It's so unfair." Aerith had her eyes closed, but could imagine how Tifa was devilishly smiling.
"Of course, so that you can complain about it."
"Do you think we will be able to go back to our own world one day?"
It came out of nowhere, but Aerith had a habit of picking such topics at weird times. For Tifa, it was a difficult question. She enjoyed being together with Aerith, and here at Hollow Bastion, everyone had learned that prejudice against people only led toward darkness.
Her own world, Gaia, was different. They wouldn't have accepted it. But if their world was restored one day, her friends would be too. Vincent, Nanaki, Barret, Marlene, and the others. She missed them, but she did not miss her home there. Hollow Bastion, the house she lived with Aerith in, had become her home.
"If that world is restored, we will have our friends back. But we would lose all the people here. I don't want to go back if it means giving up my life with you."
"I figured you'd say that." Aerith smiled and got up.
"Why did you ask, then?"
Slowly crawling behind Tifa, Aerith took a comb from a little table next to her side of the bed. If Tifa left her hair like that, it would be a neverending job to get it back to normal.
"I wanted to hear it from you. I know you better than anyone, but it doesn't mean anything to me if you don't say it yourself."
Sitting on the bed, her knees bent and drawn to her chest, Tifa waited patiently for Aerith to start undoing the braid. It had been her idea to go with switched hairstyles, and it really looked good on both of them, but it was just too much work every day. Instead, Aerith embraced her from behind, suddenly starting to kiss her lover's neck.
Tifa was only slightly surprised and giggled. "You really are a hopeless romantic."
Instead of an answer, two tender arms moved from Tifa's waist to her shoulders, pulling on her dress. The flower girl's kisses steadily wandered further down and had soon reached Tifa's spine.
With an excited moan, Tifa could only think of what an amazing night it had been.
Only wrapped in the bed blanket, Tifa was moving around the bedroom, looking for something but without any luck of finding it. It had already been a few minutes and Aerith was lying on the bed, covered with her own blanket.
They usually shared both, but in this moment, Aerith didn't really feel like getting up and looking for a comb. It had been lost somewhere and now Tifa was looking for it with her hair still in a braid.
It looked rather funny, Tifa stumbling through the room. She could've been much faster if she just looked for it naked, but deep down, Tifa was still embarrassed walking around the house naked. Aerith didn't mind it either way, the blanket gave plenty away of her figure.
"Stop that and come back to bed. I'll do it with my fingers."
"You still want to do it? Can't you wait until I do my hair?"
Aerith blushed from being misunderstood and threw a small pillow at Tifa. "Not that! I mean I'll do your hair."
Tifa laughed at seeing Aerith so embarrassed. It was quite rare to see her like that at all. "You can do that?"
"I do my braid with my hands every day."
Tifa came back to bed, and sat backwards before Aerith, waiting for her to start undoing the braid. It was so well done that it had survived everything until now, even sex.
"Down with you!" Aerith said, and pushed Tifa forwards, making her lay on the bed, positioning herself right on top of Tifa's back.
"It's not very romantic this way, Aerith."
"You can sleep on the couch if it annoys you that much."
Tifa felt that it was time to stop teasing Aerith. Usually, it would have been no problem, but today the flower girl didn't want any of it.
"I'm sorry. Can you undo my hair now?"
Taking a deep breath, Aerith started undoing the braid, slowly and with utmost care. If hair wasn't used to that style, it easily broke, and Tifa really cared about her hair.
Tifa didn't say a word for a while, and Aerith was almost done when she finally spoke up.
"Would you go back to your world? If you go, I will too. I would follow you anywhere."
Aerith had always had her answer. The Lifestream, a flow of energy in their old world, had already told her what her fate would be. What her mission was, her role in the play. If she went back, she would die—had to die—to stop Sephiroth. But to tell Tifa that would cause more harm than good. Tifa would attack Sephiroth, but even if they fought together, there was little chance they could beat him.
Tifa wanted to ask why not, but from her tone, Aerith wouldn't answer. There were some things she didn't tell anyone. Things about her life from before she met Avalanche, from before she joined Cloud and the others. Things about her family. Tifa knew almost none of it.
"One day…I'll tell you why," Aerith said, and finished her work.
Tifa's hair was loose and fine again, but she continued to feel through it with her fingers, loosening up little knots and just enjoying the feel of her satin-like hair.
"I feel stupid sometimes for not knowing anything about you from before we first met in Sector Six."
Aerith could hear the sadness out of Tifa's voice. It hurt a bit to keep silent about it, but…to hell with all the secrets. "You know about Jenova and what I am. As Cetra, I had a mission to protect the planet from damage. We can hear the planet, something normal humans can't. That's the reason Hojo was so interested in me. I'm a freak."
The woman moved so suddenly that Aerith was thrown down from Tifa's back. Just a second later, Tifa was embracing Aerith, holding her tightly.
"Don't ever call yourself that. Nothing you said makes you a freak, just different."
"Tifa…thank you. I'm grateful for that."
"I don't want you to look at yourself like that. Cetra or not, you are human, and you're my only true love."
Aerith blushed at the sudden declaration of love. Laying her own arms around Tifa, allowing herself to be held dearly, she felt much better, knowing Tifa didn't care the slightest that she was different than others.
"Back then, the planet told me that my fate was to go with Avalanche. I think my true destination was always there, right next to me."
Aerith moved closer, so close, that they could feel each other's breath on their faces. Her own emerald eyes were staring directly into Tifa's dark red ones. Staying like that for sheer endless seconds, Tifa finally made her move and kissed the flower girl, a sweet soft kiss that still managed to bring across the message of burning love.
"You remember when I left the group and headed for the lost town on my own, right?"
"I do. The temple was the last time I saw you for a long time. But why did you leave back then?"
"Before I tell you, you have to promise me something. You won't lose your head over it. You won't go and do something stupid."
Tifa made a sulking face for a moment. If Aerith was that cautious, then it must be something really bad. But to tell her all these things, she really had changed.
"When have I ever done something like that?"
Aerith's only response was an icy glare and Tifa looked down, rather embarrassed.
"Okay, point taken. I won't get all angry."
Taking Tifa with her, Aerith let herself fall on the bed. Moving closer together under the blankets, Aerith started to tell Tifa the whole truth.
"The planet told me that the only way to stop Sephiroth was to summon Holy. Only a Cetra can become the essence needed for Holy, and for that, she has to give up her body. Going back to our world…and I'm sure Sephiroth wouldn't stop his plans, means I will die and become Holy, and there is no way around that."
"I'm so going to kick his sorry ass for putting you in this situation, I will—ouch, Aerith, what was that for?"
Aerith had just hit Tifa with a pillow, thrown with all her might. The fighter was up and about to dress herself for battle and Aerith was just as angry as Tifa seemed to be.
"You promised that you wouldn't do this! Do it anyway, and you'll see what you get from it."
With that last angry response, Aerith turned around and looked at the wall, more sad and disappointed than angry. It had taken a lot to tell Tifa about it, about the fate the Lifestream mercilessly had decided on and the fate of the Cetra to follow its decisions.
Tifa stood there motionless, shocked, and her anger slowly passed. Just how stupid and impulsive could she be? After promising her that she wouldn't get angry, she had jumped out of bed in the middle of the night, ready to go out and look for him. That had to be the most stupid thing she had ever done.
Undressing herself, feeling stupid, Tifa slowly crawled back into bed. She touched the shoulder of the flower girl from behind, and she turned around, looking at Tifa with her green shimmering eyes.
"You're still here?"
"I'm sorry. I just…I don't know. I'm really sorry, Aerith." Taking a deep breath, Tifa went back to her own side of the bed, thinking that if anything, Aerith didn't want her to be close now. But before she had even turned fully around, a soft hand grabbed her wrist, holding her back.
"Do you understand why I didn't tell you all that before?"
"Because I would have rushed off and done something stupid like fighting Sephiroth?"
"Exactly. And now that you know why, come back and cuddle with me, you stupid woman," Aerith said, and pulled Tifa towards her.
"Holy…what time is it?"
Tifa woke up from the sound of someone knocking on her door, an annoying and repetitive knocking. That could only mean one thing. Next to her was Aerith, still sleeping. It was dark in the room, and Tifa went up to open the curtains. Blinding light shone into the room, and the fighter had to cover her eyes for a moment.
Looking around, the room was a mess from the previous night. Clothes and shoes all over the place, their dresses on the ground, and a lot of other things on the ground from the night. Picking the other things up first, Tifa put them hastily into a drawer and then proceeded to wake up Aerith.
It was a dangerous thing. The flower girl had really low blood pressure after waking up and it took her at least ten minutes to become her usual happy self. Tifa had no problem getting up, but Aerith often slept in.
"Aerith, wake up. It's…"
What time was it? Looking for the alarm clock, Tifa started choking on nothing.
"Aerith, it's four in the afternoon! Wake up!"
The knocking could only be from one person at that time. Leon. They were three hours late for their weekly meeting, and Leon must have been about to explode.
"What the hell did you wake me up for…uah…it's so bright, close the damn curtains, Tif." With that, Aerith turned around, still beat from the previous night, and tried to fall asleep.
"We're three hours late for meeting and Leon is down at the door. Get up!"
Tifa took Aerith's blanket away and the flower girl gave the fighter an amazingly evil gaze. Like that, she would make the perfect villain, merciless and scary.
"You've got five seconds to give me that blanket or I'll blast ya up."
"Get a grip on yourself, Aerith!"
Tifa ignored her warning and started to dress herself in whatever she found that was clean. A black summer dress and a white skirt were the first things she got a hold of. Not bothering to look for a bra, as the room was a complete mess, she threw a white summer dress to Aerith's side of the bed. Aerith unwillingly got up, took the dress and put it on, still looking pissed. She was always like that when she didn't get enough sleep. An easy comparison was a really bad hangover from a party. It was just that Aerith was pissed and cynical instead of just being hungover.
"We'll have to clean this mess up later."
"Yeah, sure, as if we don't have enough work already."
"Stop being a bitch and get a grip on yourself, damn it," Tifa hissed, taking a deep breath.
She took Aerith's hand but the flower girl quickly freed herself and with a rather scary expression walked out the room, down the stairs. The knocking was still going on.
"What the hell? Can't you tell if people are sleeping?"
"Still sleeping? I have no issues with you two getting it on, but get up in time for the meetings, damn it."
Leon ground his teeth and looked away, letting out an annoyed sigh. "Get yourselves moving. The others are all there. Even Yuffie was there on time. You two are the only ones left."
"You aren't there either. So how about you get your own ass moving first?"
With that, Aerith slammed the door shut and walked into the kitchen. She needed coffee right now.
"You really need to work on your morning attitude, Aerith."
"Oh, drop it already. I hear this every morning."
Tifa walked past Aerith and put some extra sugar in her own coffee. During the time Aerith wasted talking with Leon, she had already made a cup. "Here. Extra sweet, just how you like it."
Aerith was a completely different person before she had her first cup of coffee and she knew it but couldn't help herself. It was like a magic spell that forced her to be a demon after waking up. Ever since Tifa moved in, she had made her coffee in the morning to wake her up and get her out of her demon attitude, only to go back to bed herself.
Taking a sip, Aerith hastily dropped another little sugar cube in. It was almost right.
Slowly losing her fierce expression, Aerith looked rather embarrassedly at Tifa, who was sitting on the sideboard the coffee machine was on.
"Feeling better now?"
"Much. I'm sorry for…you know."
"We all know that you don't want to be like that. Cid is like that too. I hear he's a major pain in the ass after waking up. Not much different than normal, though."
Drinking even the last drop of coffee, Aerith was finally back to her usual self. "Let's go. I don't want to have them all waiting any longer. You look nice, by the way."
"Thanks. You too. You should wear this stuff more often."
"I'll think about it."