(A/N) This probably could have been put in the hurt/comfort genre, but I felt that romance and friendship aspects were more dominant, so I choose them. There's really no sexual content, but some risqué stuff is discussed and there's a tiny bit of bad language, so I thought I'd be safe and rate it T. O.o
The title comes from a song by Maroon 5, because even though the concept of the story and the song are a bit different, the beautiful lyrics are what gave me the inspiration to write this. :3 This takes place after Advent Children, and, like a lot of my other FFVII stories, it's told from Cloud's point of view. :3
She will be Loved
I lie awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to the pouring rain falling on the roof, begging my mind to give me some peace. No matter how hard I try, the same thoughts keep replaying over and over within my mind: what I could have done differently, how I could have changed things, and most importantly, how absolutely stupid I was to let her go. I had my opportunity, I know I did, but I let it slip through my fingers, and now I'm paying for it.
Tifa and I have been friends for a long time, and nearly a year ago, during the time that I ran away from our family when I found out that I had Geostigma, I learned that she would be there for me no matter what. She accepted me, flaws and all, and when I came back home I finally realized that was where I belonged; with her and the kids. We were a family, and even though deep down I knew that I felt much more for her, I was content to be her friend. I knew that I would have to tell her how I felt someday, but I was afraid to push our relationship for fear of messing it up, so I kept putting it off. I should have known though, that she couldn't wait for me forever.
It seemed innocent enough the first time Tifa told me that she was going out on a date. It was just some guy who was a regular at the bar, so I didn't see any harm in it. The problem was, it turned out not to just be one date like I had hoped it would be. She began seeing him on a regular basis, but even then I suppose that I must have been blind to just how hard she was falling for him, because a few months later when they told everyone that they were engaged, the news hit me like a slap in the face.
I was numb for a little while after their announcement, but when it began to sink in I realized that if this was really happening, then I needed to think practically about things. Tifa obviously couldn't move in with him after the wedding, because she still would need to run Seventh Heaven, so she would have to continue living there. As much as I hated to do it, I knew that it was really the only option, so I offered to move out. Tifa was upset the first time I suggested it, but eventually she realized, like I had, that it was the only way.
Marlene and Denzel were a bit harder to tell that I was leaving, because unlike Tifa, the made no attempt to hide how vehemently they protested it. Only when I promised to visit them as often as I could and I told them that they were welcome to stay with me whenever they wanted did they finally stop begging me to stay, though the dejected looks on their faces still made it hard for me to go through with my plan.
Tifa insisted on helping me move out, though it really wasn't all that difficult because I didn't have a whole lot of personal things. That was a few weeks ago, and since then I've been living alone in this little apartment. I hadn't realized just how hard it would be for me to be away from her, but I find myself wishing that I was able to see her at breakfast or when I come home from work, and when I sit on the couch by myself in the evenings it leaves me with an odd, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The only positive thing about this new living situation is that I don't have to watch Tifa and that guy together anymore. It was strange, but Tifa always seemed to be uncomfortable around him somehow, like it bothered her when he tried to touch her or lean over to kiss her. I didn't think much of it, because I just assumed that she was embarrassed about having him do that in front of me. Regardless of how she reacted though, it still made me sick to have to see them with each other, so I'm glad that I can at least be away from that.
My trouble sleeping started even while I was still living with Tifa and the kids at the bar; from the time of their marriage announcement and every night after that. I've been so tired lately that it's been difficult for me to keep up with my deliveries, not to mention all of the extra things that I've been doing to help Tifa with preparation for the wedding. The ceremony is set for the middle of November, which is only three weeks away now. The closer the date gets though, the more hours I spend up at night; unable to stop myself from wondering how I could have prevented this from happening, and trying to figure out if there's something I can still do.
I've thought about it before, if only for a fleeting moment before deciding that it would be wrong of me, but the thought of telling Tifa that I care about her and she should be with me instead has crossed my mind more than once. It wouldn't be right of me to do that though, because I had my chance before, and I didn't take it when it was right there in front of me. If she's happy with this guy, then I should want her to be with him, right? Shouldn't I want her to have whatever makes her happy, despite how miserable it's going to make me? Or am I supposed to tell her how I feel before she gets married, and let her make her decision then? Is that fair to do that to her, or will it haunt me forever if I never get to find out if we could have had something?
Questions like these have been continually bouncing around in my head since I found out that I was loosing Tifa to him, and just like every other night, right now they are refusing to let me get any semblance of sleep. I sigh heavily, frustrated with myself for always being able to come up with an infinite amount of questions, but never being able to find any answers for them. I roll over onto my side and squeeze my eyes shut; trying to use the pitter-pattering sound of the rain outside to drown out all of my other thoughts so I can finally get some rest.
Another noise interrupts my concentration though, and I realize belatedly that it's the sound of a knock at my front door. I almost consider trying to ignore it, just because of how tired I am, but I eventually convince myself that I need to at least go see who it is. I sit up slowly, groaning when I glance at the glowing numbers on my alarm clock, and wondering who on Gaia could possibly be looking for me this late.
Pushing myself out of bed and flicking on the lamp so I can see, I reach down to grab my pants off the floor and pull them on quickly. I choose not to worry about covering up my top half with anything more than the t-shirt I was already wearing, even though it is pretty chilly in the house, and even colder outside this time of year. I can't imagine what possessed Tifa to want to have her wedding now, but I have a feeling that her fiancé is probably responsible for the big rush to get to the altar.
Another knock resonates from outside the door when I'm almost halfway down the staircase, though this time it sounds oddly quieter than the first time I heard it, like whoever is outside is thinking about giving up.
"I'm coming," I mumble to myself, stifling an exhausted yawn as I move toward the door.
When I finally reach it I unlatch the lock first, and as soon as I hear it click into place I grab the handle to pull the door inward, opening it a slight amount so I can peer beyond it. The air blowing in from outside makes goose bumps appear up my arms, but that's not nearly as shocking to me as who I see standing on my porch. I blink in astonishment, trying, in my state of only really being halfway awake, to understand why Tifa would have a need to come see me at this time of night.
Seventh Heaven is only a few blocks away from my apartment, but Tifa must have been smart enough not to try and walk over here in the pouring rain, because I see the little car she bought a few months ago parked at the curb outside. She's soaking wet though, with both her hair and her jacket completely drenched, but I realize that it must just be from the time she spent standing outside my front door waiting for me to answer it. There's a heartbroken look in her dark eyes, one that tugs at something within my chest, and I can tell despite the water droplets running down her face that she's been crying recently, or maybe still is.
She stares back at me silently for a short moment, but before I even have a chance to say anything to her she rushes forward and throws her arms around my waist, holding on to me tightly. Her hands ball into fists against my back, clutching handfuls of my shirt, and as she leans her face into my chest she starts sobbing uncontrollably. It takes me a moment to react after being so surprised, but when my mind finally catches up and starts working again I move back into the house slowly, pulling her with me and shutting the door behind both of us.
I can feel the wetness beginning to soak into my shirt as she continues to hang on to me, both from the rain and from her tears, but I can't find it in myself to mind that in the least. I bring my arms around her hesitantly, letting one of my hands trail up and down her back in an attempt to soothe her. Although I can't imagine what could have happened that would upset her this much, especially considering how strong she normally is, I decide not to ask her about it yet, and instead let her cry into my chest until her sobs finally subside.
Tifa pulls back from me tentatively when she's calmed down most of the way, though her breath is still coming in shuddering gasps, and she tries to wipe the last of the tears from her cheeks as she looks up at me. She shivers a little, and I realize that she's probably cold wearing that wet jacket. I reach for her, and when she realizes my intention she shrugs out of it and hands it over to me. I take a few steps past her, walking over to the hook at the side of the door where my own jacket is hanging. I switch their places, leaving hers there to dry out and taking my jacket over to her, which she slips into a moment later. It's much too big for her, and if she didn't look so upset I might have smiled at the adorable way she has to push up the sleeves so she can free her hands.
"Thank you," she whispers, crossing her arms over her chest to try and get warm.
I give her a nod, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do in this situation. Because of all the bizarre things that happened to me when I was younger which led to me losing most of my teenage years, almost all of my time learning how to interact with people has taken place over the last few years. Tifa is the one that I'm the most comfortable with, but she's hardly ever upset, or at least she hides it well, so I'm at a loss for what to do now. After standing awkwardly with her for a few moments, I end up glancing towards the kitchen, and that's when an idea finally hits me.
"Do you want some hot chocolate?" I ask her without really thinking it through.
That's what she has always done for the kids when they're cold or having a rough day, and considering the fact that Tifa seems to be having a little of both right now, it makes sense to me.
A very small smile appears at the corners of her lips, and although her eyes still look sad, it makes me feel a little better to see some kind of lift in her mood.
"That sounds nice," she says quietly, giving me a slight nod.
Tifa follows after me as I walk into my little kitchen, and I pull a chair out for her at the table while I go to prepare our drinks, where she gladly sits down. It takes me a moment of rummaging through the cupboards, but I'm finally able to locate two cups and the box of cocoa mix that she sent with me when I moved out. I actually don't have much in my kitchen, mostly because I can't cook to save my life, but it just so happens that my organization skills are bad enough that it's still a challenge to find things.
She's quiet during the whole time that I'm fixing our hot chocolate, and I am unable to stop myself from repeatedly glancing over at her to make sure she's alright. It normally isn't unusual at all for us to sit together without any words, because the silence is always comfortable between us, but in this case it makes me worry about her. When I look over at her the third time I see a blank stare forming on her face and a crease appearing between her eyebrows as if she's deep in thought, so I decide to wait and let her tell me about whatever happened when she's ready.
It seems to startle her out of her trance when I sit the steaming mug down on the table in front of her, but she smiles at me in thanks when she looks up again. I sit down at the table across from her, watching her take a careful sip of her cocoa. She seems to know that I'm waiting for some kind of explanation for her showing up like this, but it's still several more minutes before she finally speaks up.
"We were supposed to be going out on a date tonight, but he canceled on me," Tifa begins slowly, staring down at the cup in her hands and letting her finger trace along the rim.
I instantly realize that she must be talking about her fiancé, but I know this can't be the reason that she looks so hurt, so I wait silently for her to carry on.
"He said he was sick, so I thought I'd go over to his house to see how he was doing," she continues, speaking quietly like she has been all night. "When I got there he didn't answer the door, which worried me since I knew he should have been home, so I decided to use that extra key he gave me to come in and check on him."
An awful look of pain flashes across her face then, and I notice that she's biting down forcefully on her lower lip; more than likely trying to hold back tears. I'm afraid to interrupt her, so I resist the urge to reach across the table to try and touch her hand comfortingly; it probably wouldn't help things if I did anyway. Her breath is shaky, and it takes her a moment to regain her composure so she can finish her explanation.
"He wasn't sick," Tifa says, looking up at me with a wry smile on her lips, but tears shining in her eyes, "just in bed with some woman." Her voice is bitter when she finishes speaking, and she glances away from me again.
I feel my mouth fall open slightly from the shock, but more than being surprised, I feel absolutely horrible for Tifa. I can't believe that somebody, anybody, would do this to someone like her; somebody so fun to be with, and loving, and so incredibly beautiful. Those thoughts drown out the feelings of sympathy and bring out another emotion in me: anger, and hatred for the bastard who had the nerve to cheat on her. I know Tifa probably wouldn't like it if I hurt him, even after what he did to her, but right now I'm seriously beginning to consider it. Tifa's voice interrupts my violent thoughts though, and I return my attention to her.
"It happened earlier tonight, but the kids are with Barret, so I was by myself in the house when I got home. I thought I could handle it alone, but I really needed someone to talk to, and I know it's really late but I didn't know who else to turn to except you…" Tifa trails off, looking back up at me with an apologetic look in her eyes.
"It's fine," I tell her, shaking my head. "I don't mind you being here, really," I assure her.
Tifa tries to smile at me in thanks, but that solemn look returns to her eyes, and I know that she must be thinking about what happened again. I don't really know what to say to her about this, and I'm not sure if anything I say could possibly make it better, but I decide that I need to at least try.
"I'm really sorry, Tifa," I say softly.
She takes another sip from her mug, but her focus remains on the swirling liquid inside of it rather than me. "I'll be alright," she promises, though the way she says it is hardly convincing. "I'm better off without someone like him," she adds, sounding much more sure of herself now.
Tifa is a tough woman, so I know that even if it takes some time, she'll be back to her old self eventually. She tends to try and put on a brave face and pretend that she's okay even when she's not, but during the past few years that I've spent living so close to her I've learned how to see through that, so I can tell that this betrayal has really hurt her.
"At least you found out before you married him, right?" I offer, trying to find something, anything, to make her feel better.
To my surprise, she shakes her head, seeming to be in disagreement with my statement. I frown, trying to figure out what she means.
"I needed to call off the wedding off anyway," she clarifies, finally meeting my eyes again.
I blink, stunned. "Why?" I ask, unable to stop myself even though I know I don't really have the right to ask her to tell me about any of this.
She sighs, leaning her cheek into the palm of her hand as she appears to be trying to sort out how she's going to explain it. "It just…didn't feel right, when I was with him. It all happened way too fast, and I kept feeling like there was something missing." She trails off towards the end of her explanation, staring down at her hands and chewing on her lower lip thoughtfully, like she's trying to analyze something from the past.
My mind touches briefly on the memory of how awkward Tifa always seemed when she was with him, and I wonder for a moment if that has anything to do with what she's saying now, though I choose not to voice my question.
"I thought you could do better," I say honestly.
Tifa looks up to smile at me quickly, and we both go back to sipping on our cocoa in a peaceful silence for the next few minutes. I notice when she's lifting her cup to her lips that her engagement ring is no longer on her finger, and something about that gives me a great sense of relief. I finish my drink soon enough, and when she's done with hers I take both of our mugs over to the sink, setting them down in the basin gently but deciding to leave the chore of washing them for the morning. Tifa gets up from the table too, and when I walk past her and head towards the living room she trails after me silently.
We end up sitting on my little couch together, because I know that she doesn't want to leave yet, and this will be much more comfortable than sitting in the dinning room all night. Tifa yawns sleepily, leaning over and resting her head against my shoulder. I bring my arm around her back easily, just like we used to always sit with each other after a long day, and I find myself enjoying having her this close after being away from her for what feels like such a long time; I must have missed her more than I originally thought I did.
I let my eye lids slide closed after a few minutes, because despite the circumstances, this is the most perfect moment that I've had with Tifa in a long time, so I want to savor it. She speaks up again eventually, although her voice is so soft that it doesn't rouse me enough to make me open my eyes again.
"Cloud?" she asks, though she doesn't lift her head to look at me.
"Hm?" I reply, though it's little more than a sleepy grunt.
"Thank you," she says simply.
A little half-smile appears on my lips, and I don't have to ask her to know that she's thanking me for being here for her tonight.
"Anytime," I promise.
Neither of us says anything else after that, and I get the feeling that she probably just needed my company more than she needed to talk things out. I'm suddenly aware of how exhausted I am due to my lack of sleep lately, and I know that Tifa is probably really tired too, considering everything she's had to go through today. Sure enough, after only a few short minutes of sitting in silence together, her breathing slows down into a slow and steady rhythm, one that lets me know she's slipped off into a peaceful sleep.
I debate for a moment on how I should go about this, since it's obviously not going to be easy for both of us to sleep on the couch like this, but there happens to only be one bed in my house. It was never a problem when she used to fall asleep in the living room while we lived together, because I could just carry her up to her room and then go to my own. This is different though, because if she wakes up tomorrow morning in my bed next to me with no idea how she got there, I know things are going to be awkward for both of us.
Eventually I settle on taking her up to my room anyway, so she can have the bed while I go sleep on the couch; it's not that uncomfortable for one person anyway. I lean forward, placing her arms around my neck before trying to lift her up off the couch as gently as possible, so I won't wake her. It works out well enough, with her cheek ending up resting against my shoulder and my hands hooked under thighs to support her, so I move carefully towards the stairs.
Thankfully, even despite my drowsiness I'm able to make it up the stairs and into my room without incident, and Tifa remains fast asleep in my arms the whole way. When I lean over and try to lie her down on the bed, however, is when my plan starts to backfire. Tifa's arms remain around my neck, and for whatever reason she refuses to let go of me; her fingers clutching to back of my shirt.
I'm too tired right now to try to think of another way out of this situation, so I give up and climb over her carefully, where I end up lying next to her on the other side of the bed. Tifa's grip around my neck finally loosens then, and I take the opportunity to sit up briefly and grab the edge of my blanket; pulling it over both of us so we'll stay warm, though she already looks fairly content being bundled up in my jacket. She curls up against me when I lie back down, and I tuck her head beneath my chin as I give myself into sleep.
I have very nearly drifted off to sleep when the sound of Tifa's voice pulls me back into consciousness again, though it's so quiet and such a familiar, welcome sound that it doesn't startle me in the least when I hear it. It does, however, make me question exactly how long she's been awake, although maybe she was only half asleep the whole time I carried her up here.
"Cloud?" she whispers, causing her warm breath to brush across my neck.
"Yeah?" I ask, trying to force myself to be more awake so I can concentrate on what she's saying.
It takes her a moment to respond, and I find myself wondering if she's taking her time to figure out how she's going to say whatever is on her mind, or if she's just trying to fight against the urge to fall asleep like I am.
"Would you mind…coming back home?" she asks hesitantly. "I know the kids miss you and…I've really missed you too."
Her voice is nearly silent by the time she finishes speaking, but I can feel a smile spread across my face in response to her words.
"Of course I will," I agree.
Tifa doesn't say any more after that, but instead she yawns a little and makes herself comfortable against my chest. Just before sleep finally overtakes me, a final thought runs through my mind: I should thank the man who almost stole Tifa away from me. Not because he hurt her, of course, but because now that he's made the mistake of letting her go, maybe this means that I'm getting my second chance to be with her. This time, I'm not going to let it slip by me.
(A/N) I hope that the middle part didn't drag too much… I've actually written two versions of this story, but the first one had way too much dialogue during the time that they're talking in the kitchen, so I decided that a lot of it needed to be cut, considering that it's only a oneshot. Hopefully I fixed it alright. O.o And hopefully this happy ending makes up for all of the tragedy I've been writing lately. ;)
My next goal is to finish writing the chaptered, alternate universe story that I started awhile back, (see the info about Black and White in the "stories in the works" section on my profile) but I won't begin posting it until it's completed, so it may be a little while before you see any more updates from me. I have a lot of inspiration for it though, (and some great encouragement from one of my amazing reviewers :P) so hopefully it will be finished soon. :3
This is a given, but please take a moment to let me know what you think; I love feedback of any kind. :D