Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII.
"Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy -- in fact, they're almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other. Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil..." -Robert Heinlein
It was that day again, the unforgettable one. Funny, how a day so important and well-known could find a way to sneak up on a person. You realize what day it is when you least expect it, which is exactly how Tifa felt. She usually mourned on this particular day, but nowadays she loathed it like a hammer to the head. It wasn't like she wasn't sad; she was, just not as much as she had wanted to be. Touching the pink ribbon on her arm, she bent her head in respect and sighed. Today was the anniversary of Aerith's death and the city was especially dark today.
Tifa stood behind the counter to 7th Heaven and was arranging the booze to her liking. From the cheapest to the best tasting liquor you have ever tasted. The bottles chirped when they touched one another as they were placed on the shelf. The fan above her head groaned as the blades spun to keep her cool. A few regulars sat either at the counter or at tables and chatted accordingly. They paid no attention to the bartender.
And why should they? Tifa had asked this question to herself many times. There is nothing particularly special about her. She was their bartender, nothing more. Boots stomped down the stairs that led to the living space above 7th Heaven and revealed to be Cloud. He walked behind the counter and squatted down next to Tifa. Tifa watched how her customers eyed Cloud, some even shaking their heads. They could sense his dark mood and were weary of him. Many times female customers have come up to her and asked why she stayed with such an emotionally unstable man and did she think it was safe to be near him. Tifa laughed in their faces, stating that Cloud was her long time friend and not to worry about her.
Cloud dug through a cubby hole underneath the cash register and pulled out silver keys. The keys dangled between his fingers as he silently shut the cubby and walked out the door. Tifa waited until she heard the roar of Fenrir before she picked up an empty mug. She roughly began to clean it, rubbing it down with a rag. She knew where Cloud was going. Probably the Buster Sword memorial first, to pay his respects and to make sure the sword was still there. Then probably to Sector 5 Church, Aerith's Church. Tifa had been there before, even fought inside it once. Cloud, on the other hand, was there almost all the time. Tifa knew that her friend had once harbored feelings for the departed, but nowadays she believed that those feelings existed more so than when Aerith was alive.
It made her upset, just thinking about it. Her grip on the same mug tightened in her grasp and broke. She cursed as she picked up the fallen glass pieces from the ground. The drinkers in the bar stared curiously at her for a sceond before continuing to their drinks. She put on a fake smile and realized that her hand had been cut by the glass. The cut slowly began to ooze with blood. Tifa quickly went upstairs to clean and wrap the wound so that she could get right back to work. As she got back behind the counter, she sighed. That was the third mug today that she had broken.
"Someone seems to be a bit clumsy today," a familiar voice observed.
Tifa's head spun to see the vocal customer. She put on a smile when she noticed it was the Turks, Reno and Rude.
"I guess that I am," she falsely laughed. "What can I get you boys?"
Reno and Rude both stared at her with concern. She could tell that they knew something was off about her today, but she wasn't going to let them address the issue.
"Are you okay?" Rude asked with his deep voice.
"I'm fine," she replied, her smile still glued to her face. "Now, what will you have?"
Reno and Rude exchanged glances and shrugged.
"Well, I had a hard day at work today," Reno exaggerrated, completely his display by stretching his arms like he was exhausted. "I'll have a draft of one of your finest beers. One so great that it has been deemed holy."
"Make that two," Rude said as Tifa pulled out two mugs.
As she was pouring the alcohol, Reno's words began to register in her mind. Deemed holy. That's what he had said and what brought her thoughts back to Aerith and her church. It irritated her how everything today seemed to remind her of the deceased woman. She filled the mugs to the brim with beer and slid them down the counter in front of the Turks.
The men said, "Cheers!" before they clanked the glasses together and took large sips of the liquid. When they looked up from their glasses, the Turks were surprised to see that Tifa was heading towards the door.
"Hey!" Reno remarked curiously. "Where are you going?"
She held the door open and turned back to her dark suit customers. "I'm just going out for a while. Do you think that you could watch the bar for me?"
Reno looked to Rude and shrugged. It wasn't like they had anything better to do.
"Sure, why not-..." Reno had started.
But Tifa had already left.
Tifa walked down the streets of Midgar, her head hung down low in thought. She had hoped that the city would somehow distract her mind with its sights and sounds, but it still reminded her of Aerith. Thunder echoed in the sky above her, but no rain fell. Tifa wished, if it was to rain, that she had taken her umbrella with her. She promised herself that she would return to the bar before the rain began to pour.
Before she knew it, Tifa had somehow directed herself to Sector 5 Church. What had caused her to end up there was beyond her . She observed the run-down area and noticed that Cloud's motorcycle was not around. Either he had already been to the church or had yet to arrive.
She opened the door, leaving it ajar as she sauntered in. It was just as she remembered it. The flower garden that had been destroyed during the remnant attack a year or two before was now a blossoming patch of lilies. They were always lilies, yellow and white lilies. It was said that these colors represent purity and treachery. Fitting themes in Tifa's mind.
Light from the hole in the roof shone down on the patch of lilies and entranced Tifa to come forward. She stepped into the center of the flowers and glanced up at the stain glass window that faced down at her. It was beautiful and elegant. For some reason it enraged her and Tifa threw a stone at it. The glass broke into millions of colorful pieces, showering the ground. Only a few bits of the window remained within the window panel.
Tifa slummed down to her knees as her eyes began to water.
"Why has he chosen you?" Tifa shouted to the sky all of a sudden. "What possibly makes you so much better than me?"
All of her emotions that she had kept hidden throughout the day surfaced at once. A sense of hatred engulfed her most of all and startled her on how strongly it flowed within her. She was naturally a good person and Aerith had been one of her friends. But why, why did she feel the need to hate Aerith so much?
"You took his heart from me, twisting it so that he loved you more," Tifa yelled inbetween sobs. "He couldn't answer me when I asked if he loved me a couple of years ago and I blame you for it. Aerith, I hate you so much!"
The thunder sounded again, followed by droplets of rain. They entered through the gap in the church ceiling and landing on Tifa's face. She tried to blink them away, but they increased in intensity.
"Oh, stop crying Aerith," Tifa snapped to the sky, slamming her fists into the flowers. "You've won, don't you see? He will never love me like he loved you."
"Who won't love you?"
She became rigid with shock. Slightly moving her head around, Tifa's eyes grew wide when Cloud stood at the Church entrance. Unfortunately for her, Cloud had not been to Aerith's church yet.
"Why are you here Tifa?"
The words seemed to be formed less as a curious question and more as a demanding statement. She felt herself fall into a furious rage. Did he not want her here? She could be in this church if she wanted to. Her brow furrowed.
"Is there a problem with me being here?" she asked, hoping that he could catch the venom that laced her words.
He paused for a moment. She couldn't believe that he had to think about it. Tifa got to her feet, dusting the petals from her outfit.
"It's just that I don't feel comfortable with you in here with me," he finally said, averting his eyes from her own.
Tifa's face fell. After all the years they had known each other, she figured that he could share his feelings with her and be honest about it. She now knew that she was wrong. He didn't trust her with his feelings at all. There was a pregnant silence between them, the rain still cascading from the dark clouds. It was Tifa that finally spoke.
"Do you love her?"
The question came out of no where, catching Cloud in surprise. He just looked at her curiously, not answering.
"Do you love Aerith?" she specified, her hands crossing over her chest.
"Why?" he asked. "Does it matter?"
"Yes Cloud, it does."
Why was he avoiding her question? He was making her restless. She was going to have to tell him the truth. It was the only way to make him answer her completely. Tifa took a deep breath and felt the knot in her chest. It hurt drastically and she turned her head to the side so she didn't have to face him directly.
"Because I do," she said, practically in a whisper. She eyed him slightly before she added, "So once again, do you love her?"
This was it, he was going to tell her that he didn't think of her in the same way. Her heartbeat quickened as she anticipated an answer. When he didn't answer immediatley, she began to cry. She believed that his prolonged silence meant that her prediction was true. He loved Aerith, not her.
It came all of a sudden. His arms wrapped around her, embracing her close to him. She didn't even see him coming. Tifa still sobbed as he held her.
"Tifa, I loved Aerith," he stated emotionlessly.
She pushed back quickly and stared at him furiously. Once again, she caught him by surprise as she gave him a punch to the face. Her hand that she had cut with the glass made contact with his cheek and sent him flying into one of the pews. Her palm ached and she could see the white bandage turn a light pink. She watched as Cloud rose from the depris of wood and make his way back towards her. Tifa wanted nothing to do with him and started towards the door. He caught up to her first and grabbed her hand. She tried to punch him, but he caught her fist.
As she struggled to get free, he sternly put, "You did not let me finish."
"What more is there to say?" she angrily spat. "You have already gave me an answer."
"No I didn't," he said. "Yes, I loved Aerith, but not in the way you think."
Tifa ceased in her struggle and decided to listen just for a second. Her lips pursed into a frown. Cloud took this time to continue.
"She was always cheerful and strong; I liked her," he explained. "The thing was she had been with Zack before she met me and to be with her seemed wrong because Zack was my friend. However, there was one thing about her that troubled me."
"So the Great Aerith had a flaw," Tifa said, crossing her arms. "Okay then, let's hear it. It's probably something small like she had a mole on the back of her neck or something like that."
"Tifa, she wasn't you."
Tifa kept her arms crossed and narrowed her eyes a bit so that he didn't see the surprise in them. That wasn't the response she had expected. Did he just say that she triumphed over Aerith? That she had won? Impossible, she must of heard him wrong.
"Don't mess around with me Cloud," she muttered.
His large gloved hands rested on her shoulders and he looked deep into her eyes. The blue orbs were steady and truthful, Tifa could always find a way to detect a lie in them. However, this time she couldn't. She quickly looked away from him. The rain softly poured onto them.
"Why do you hate Aerith, Tifa?" he asked her calmly, his stare locked onto her face.
"I don't exactly hate her," Tifa replied meekly. "It's just that I was supposely jealous of her."
Her head snapped back towards him. "Okay, I was completely jealous of her. Happy?"
A slight smirk planted itself on his lips and Cloud pulled her closer. "What do you have to be jealous about? Because she had a close relationship with me?"
Tifa pouted against him, "...yes."
Cloud sighed, "Tifa you're as oblivious as always. Can't you realize that I have had a crush on you since we were kids? And before you say anything, I'm not lying to you."
She was shocked. How could she have missed it? Well it was sort of difficult, Cloud was never one to show that much emotion. But after all these years, he had developed a crush on her?
Tifa glanced up at him to see him leaning in closer. His lips softly rested against her own causing a sensation to flood her body. She felt his hands run through her long hair and caress her cheeks. Eventually, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in. When their lips parted, he held her face in his hands. Her once hard brown eyes became soft and light. Tifa grinned and laid her head against his chest.
"I love you Tifa and I never want you to feel jealous of Aerith," Cloud said holding her. "Do you think you can accept that she wasn't trying to win my heart?"
She tilted her head as if to carefully think about it and replied with a smile, "Yeah, I believe I can."
Cloud took her hand and began to led her out of the church. She was about to follow when she said, "Could you wait for me outside for a second? There's something I have to do first."
Cloud nodded and released her hand. Tifa waited until his body had completely disappeared behind the church's large wooden doors. She looked up through the gap in the roof and smiled.
"I'm sorry Aerith," she whispered to the air. "It was wrong of me to act the way I did a moment ago. I hope you can forgive me."
It had stopped raining and now sunlight streamed through the clouds. The light encircled her, warming her skin. She was no longer mad at Aerith, finally becoming at peace with the other woman. She plucked a white lily from the ground and held it close to her heart. Waving to the sky, Tifa descended outside to meet Cloud and to go home.
Author's Note: My first time writing about FF7. For some reason Cloud seems OOC to me. What do you guys think? Do you like it? Please review! :)