Title: Falling Stars and Paper Cranes
Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII in any way.
Spoilers: FFVII & Compilation. The timeline I use is the one given in the Ultimania Guides.
Warnings: Angst, implied violence, etc. Mild swearing (Use of the word "damn" and "dammit"). No yaoi or yuri. This is a fic with more emphasis on character and plot exploration, rather than a romance-centric story.
Pairings: Cloti, with some Clerith and mentions of other pairings.
Summary: Cloud wishes on falling stars, but Tifa wishes on a thousand origami cranes. Would any of those wishes come true? A four-part fic that spans FFVII and the Compilation.
A/N: The concept of a thousand paper cranes has long been used; I wanted to try that idea.
A/N #2: ~~~~~~~ signifies a time change. *:*:*:*:*:*:*:* signify a change in POV. The seven succeeding single dash lines are just used to provide extra spacing.
Falling Stars and Paper Cranes
~~~~~~~Nibelheim, [ μ ] – εуλ 1991~~~~~~~
A pair of bright blue eyes stares out of the open window, watching the twinkling lights in the sky. The wind gently blows into the room, catching the curtains and ruffling his messy hair tied back in a ponytail. He rubs at his eyes, feeling tired, but he couldn't sleep—not yet.
"Catch a falling star, and make a wish," his mother had said. "But use them carefully, and never waste them."
As he continues to gaze up at the sky, a star falls, skittering across the heavens, and he cups it with his hand in order to follow its path. He grins, knowing what he wants to say.
"I wish…" he whispers, "that I could be friends with Tifa."
And Cloud Strife makes his first wish.
She huddles underneath her blankets, flashlight lying on her pillow to provide some light. Her fingers move swiftly as she bends forward, concentrating on her task. She yawns, for the umpteenth time, but she ignores that because she had something to do before she goes to sleep.
"Make one thousand paper cranes, and your wish will come true," the Wutainese legend had said. "But only one wish at a time."
Nine hundred ninety-nine…she reaches for her last piece of paper; a gum wrapper she saved. A few folds, a few creases—one thousand. She grabs pen under her pillow, lifting the wing on her final crane and scribbling a short sentence there.
"I wish that Cloud could be happy."
And Tifa Lockhart makes her first wish.
~~~~~~~Nibelheim, [ μ ] – εуλ 1995~~~~~~~
If his mother knew he was out at this time of the night, she would kill him.
It hardly matters now, though.
He has one hand pressed to his nose, and his other hand clutches the side of his head. He doesn't have a chance to wipe away the stupid tears that are running down his face, stinging the cuts there.
I'm such an idiot.
Why…why couldn't I hold on to her?
Why couldn't I have been the one to be more injured?
It's all my fault.
He moves his hand away from his face, cautiously. Good—it stopped bleeding. Using his free hand, he angrily drags his sleeve across his face, smearing the tears and blood.
Even though it's my fault, it still hurts…
Underneath the moonlight, he surveys his various injuries. Cuts, bruises—nothing out of the usual.
I'm so useless. I can't even protect myself.
He feels the urge to slam his fist into the ground.
It's been half a year since Tifa's accident, and I'm still weak and useless.
But at least I'm different from all of them.
They don't understand me.
They won't ever understand me.
A half-choked sob.
Why can't I fit in?
He stares down at his bloody hands.
The blue eyes tightly close for a moment, before opening to gaze up at the night sky. He remembers the first wish he made, when he was five.
That one almost came true, but now there was no chase of it ever becoming reality.
And it's all my fault.
Movement out of the corner of his eye makes him look to the right. Reaching out, he barely manages to catch the star before it disappears beyond the horizon.
"I wish I could be stronger," he says aloud, the tears drying on his cheeks.
And Cloud Strife makes his second wish.
She doesn't understand why they won't let her out of this room. She's already better; she's awake, and she can move.
Stupid adults, she frets as she snatches a brightly coloured piece of paper.
Well, at least she has something to do.
One of friends told her what had happened while she was unconscious—"that Cloud Strife really had some nerve, and now he's getting what he had coming"—and no matter how hard she had protested that it wasn't his fault, they wouldn't listen.
"Keep away from that kid; he's a menace."
"You think that he would learn his lesson."
"Idiot bastard—why doesn't his mother do anything about him?"
Those words echo in her mind, and tears splash down on her hands, staining the paper.
It's not your fault. It was my own for thinking I could get my mother back.
She sets the finished crane next to the other ones she's already made.
But why don't you come see me? If you thought it was your fault, you would come apologize, and then I could hit you over the head for blaming yourself.
I wish Father would let me out already, but no—he says I need to wait another week.
And I don't care what he says—I'm going to find in the moment I'm out of this room.
Her fingers almost tear the paper when she irately creases it.
Everyone should stop saying it was his fault—they should listen to me.
She completes another crane, absently selecting a sky-blue coloured paper.
But they don't listen.
It's not fair.
Maybe if I kicked their butts, then they would.
The one thousandth crane is finished in silence, and once again, she writes on the wing.
"I wish that I could get stronger, so that people would listen to me."
And Tifa Lockhart makes her second wish.
~~~~~~~Nibelheim, [ μ ] – εуλ 1999~~~~~~~
He shows up ten minutes early at the water tower, and spends the time kicking the ground and tugging at the loose threads on his t-shirt.
Maybe I shouldn't have asked her.
His palms were sweaty, and he constantly checks his pocket.
He jumps when he hears her voice, whirling around just to catch her giggling.
Tifa's wearing a sleeveless blue dress with light brown sandals. The blue accentuates her dark hair and red-brown eyes, and he finds himself forgetting what he was going to say.
"Stop staring." She whacks his shoulder good-naturedly, still giggling.
"…sorry." He sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Anyway…"
"Spit it out already." Tifa climbs onto one of the boxes, dress and sandals notwithstanding. Cloud scrambles after her, climbing up so that he's higher than her position.
"I'm going for SOLDIER next spring."
"What?" Her eyes widen at this. "Cloud, you can't be serious!"
"Don't tell me you're doing it just because Johnny's doing it, too."
"I'm not!" This comes out louder than he intends. "It mean, it's not because of him." He swings his legs against the box. "I wanna get into SOLDIER, and be like Sephiroth." His eyes glaze over a little bit. "Strong and brave—a hero."
Unsaid were the words "If I got into SOLDIER, everyone would like me."
"I don't really like him, though." Tifa makes a face. "I don't like his face, and he looks so proud."
"But he's really good. He helps Shinra, and kills all the enemies."
"I don't know…"
"C'mon." He racks mind for things to say. "It'll be great. I'll be famous, and maybe your father will stop hating me."
"I guess so…" Then her face lights up. "Hey Cloud, let's make a promise."
"How's this? If you get really famous and if I'm ever in trouble—Cloud, you come save me, okay?"
"Whenever I'm in trouble, my hero will come and rescue me." She grins at him. "I want to experience that at least once."
"Stop saying 'what'—come on, just promise me!"
"All right." It wouldn't hurt, anyway. "I…promise."
He wonders if he should jump down to sit next to her. He fidgets, looking up at the sky. As a star suddenly falls, he unconsciously reaches out to grab it, muttering under his breath.
Shuffling sounds coming from the bottom, making him look down. He sees Tifa, trying to climb up. Without thinking too much about it, he reaches out, grabbing her hands.
The last time I did this…we fell…
He pushes the thoughts of that terrible day out of his mind, helping Tifa up.
"Thanks." She sits next to him, tapping the back of her foot against the wooden crate. He's trying not to look at her, but failing dismally.
"Cloud, what were you saying?"
"What?" she mimics him. "You were mumbling something and holding your hand up to the sky."
"Oh," Embarrassed, he looks away. "I was making a wish." He watches her from the corner of his eye.
"Really?" She smiles. "I make wishes on paper cranes."
"It's an old Wutainese myth." She reaches into a pocket, pulling out a slightly-wrinkled paper bird. "You make a thousand cranes, and then you make a wish, and it'll come true. See?" Tifa holds it out.
"A thousand cranes…" he laughs a little at this. "Doesn't that take a long time?"
"Who cares? It's worth it."
"You could wish on falling stars."
"But everyone does that."
"I want to be different."
Different, huh. The exact opposite of what he wants. "Well, what's your wish?"
"I haven't made one yet." She holds the crane up to the sky. "This is my three-thousandth crane, so it has to be special." Those eyes look shyly at him. "I'm thinking about making one for you."
Tifa nods, taking a pen out of her pocket and flipping the bird upside down to write on the wing. "I wish that…Cloud…could always...be my hero." She says, writing the words down. "Here."
He takes the proffered bird hesitantly. "Then-then I'll make a wish for you."
"Oh, no, you don't have to."
"But that's only fair," he insists, pulling a small stone out of his pocket. "I..uh—well, I found it in a stream." He brushes some dust off it. "It looks a star if you hold it up to the moonlight." He demonstrates, and to his word, the stone glitters brightly. "I wish that Tifa could always wait for me to come save her."
She takes the stone from him. "Thanks, Cloud." Another smile. "I'll wait till you get in SOLDIER and you're all famous, and then you can return my bird, and then I'll return your stone. Promise?"
"It's a promise." He grins back before glancing at his watch. "I gotta get back, before my mom starts to worry." He jumps off the crate, uncaring of the distance.
"See you around?"
"Maybe." He waves to her before running off, making sure the crane was safely tucked away.
I hope that the wish will come true…and that I can keep our promise.
"It shouldn't…be that hard," he muses aloud as he runs, "right?"
Tifa stays a little longer at the water tower, gazing up at the myriad of stars. It's times like these that she wishes she knew their names.
She's never wished on stars before; she never wanted to, and even more so after listening to the old tale of paper cranes. Cranes were so much more interesting—she made them, and out of the work of her hands, she could make a wish. As long as she has plenty of paper, she can make her wishes.
Still, to think that Cloud wished on stars was something she didn't expect. Cloud—a boy who's brash and shy at the same time, with the odd spiky hair and vibrant blue eyes—wished on falling stars.
She glances down at her hand, stone tightly clenched. It's rough to the touch, but whenever she holds it up, it glitters like diamonds.
"A fallen star…" Tifa says to herself. "The sound of anything 'fallen' is sad." Maybe that's another reason why she doesn't wish on stars. Fallen angels, fallen stars—it was all sad to hear. Why not wish on something happier, like paper cranes?
But she's surprised that Cloud told her. He doesn't strike her as the person to wish on anything. Oh, he definitely daydreamed, but this was something else.
Maybe because…he doesn't have anything else. She twists her mouth in a frown. Cloud isn't rich, doesn't get along with others, and gets shoved about.
Yet he still can wish and aim high despite that.
He wants be in SOLDIER, with all that cool armour, the fame, and power. Strong.
She realizes that they all start with "s."
Tifa's not one to care so much about words, but the sound of so many 's's makes her think of snakes, those slithering reptiles with their long flickering tongues.
What if they're all like snakes?
She's not stupid, she's heard some people worry about mako and the Lifestream. The rumours bother her, a little, but not too much—because Nibelheim's future does depend on its reactor. What if Shinra was just a giant snake, curling itself around the Planet, the Lifestream, the mako—just to feed itself while squeezing the life out of the people without caring?
She shakes herself out of her thoughts.
This is ridiculous.
She laughs at herself.
Guess I should stop eavesdropping on people's conversations.
Let the adults worry about it.
"I just hope…Cloud will keep his promise." She's never made a promise with him, so she doesn't know what expect.
But she trusts him…
Maybe it was his hesitant tone of voice, or his smile that made her so sure.
She just trusts him.
I still don't really understand why the other kids don't like him.
He's not much different.
Well, maybe he is different, but he's supposed to be just another person.
She's not blind to the bruise on his forehead he was sporting, but…what can she say? She's just a girl.
Well-liked, but still a girl, and boys don't listen to her that well because of that.
One day, I'll beat them all up and show them who's boss. She's already been taking lessons in the martial arts, and her teacher said she's got talent (the only reason her father lets her continue with them).
It suddenly occurs to her that Cloud's last name also starts with an "s," just like SOLDIER, Shinra, and Sephiroth.
But this was different.
The "s" combined with the "t" and "r" make a different sound, unlike the hissy, annoying sound of "s."
"Str…Strife," she whispers.
An uncommon name. But it fits him. Most boys had the ordinary names like John or James (There's a kid called Marcus, but she doesn't think much of him at all).
Cloud Strife—of all names, she doesn't know a better name for him. It sticks out but fits like a glove.
Sephiroth's an even weirder name, but it makes no sense to her. Some random word from an ancient language she didn't know of—what's the use of that. It just made him sound mysterious and more beautiful than he already was (well, that's what some of her female friends said as they were mooning over that giant poster). Plus, it just distanced him from everybody else.
It didn't have the trusting, familiar feeling that the name "Cloud Strife" provided.
Why am I thinking so much about him?
It's not like we're going to marry or anything.
She wrinkles her nose at this.
"It's just a promise. That's it," she tells herself.
Nevertheless, she hopes that Cloud will have the best of luck, all the same. SOLDIER was tough, she heard.
"You stay alive, all right, Cloud? Don't get yourself beat up trying to become a hero." She jumps down the crate, uncaring of her attire.
"One Sephiroth's enough for the Planet. We don't need another perfect hero."
Cloud, the flawed hero. Brave but introverted. Golden hair (never mind the spikes) and bright blue eyes instead of unearthly silver hair with frozen green eyes.
She likes that.
Tifa tosses the stone up, watching it gleam and sparkle before she catches it and makes a fist around it.
"I'll wait for you…Cloud."
End Part I.
A/N: The "Cloud-and-Tifa water tower scene" was slightly paraphrased.