Timeframe: Pre-ACC, ACC, and Post-ACC. Months/exact dates are not given because I don't know when the events of ACC took place.
A/N: The previous part was written under a time limit (I was going abroad), and had a lot of mistakes. I've gone back and edited them.
Falling Stars and Paper Cranes
~~~~~~~Edge, [ν] – εуλ 2009, Pre-ACC~~~~~~~
A cool breeze flutters into the small confines of the room. One piece of paper drifts off the cluttered desk. It floats in the air for a few moments before it's snatched up by a hand.
Absently, Cloud sticks the paper under a book and continues writing. Though it's nearing midnight, he's still up.
Maybe only a few more months of searching, he tells himself. Just a little more…
Half of the year was spent chasing down cases of Geostigma and the less-than-pleasant details. Days of questioning grieving parents, times of forcing himself to interview doctors.
The more he searches, the more he wants to find a cure. It was somewhere. Everything had an answer. The answer was linked to the Planet and maybe even Meteor. But he can't find the one thing that would connect everything together to make it make sense.
Wouldn't it be better to have someone else help? Someone with the expertise?
He remembers Tifa asking him that.
I won't let that happen. I just can't…can't trust a kid to people I don't know.
Isn't that being biased?
Tifa, there's more than a hundred cases of Geostigma. None are cured, and all of them are slowly dying. What are the chances that a doctor's going to do better than what I'm already doing?
But they're helping. What's so different about him? He's suffering the same as they are. It's the same problem. Everyone's trying their best, but you're not a doctor. Surely—
No, it's because…because of circumstances.
He remembers at this point, he grabs her hands and holds them tightly. He is different, Tifa. I don't want to see him in the hands of strangers…
She gives in, of course, and says nothing more, but instead helps him find information.
He realizes that she's been quite gracious, and it makes him frown when he remembers the absent-minded way he sometimes treats her.
I…I'll make it up to you, he decides as he turns off his light, ready to end his day. I haven't forgotten—
He turns in his seat to see Denzel standing at the doorway. "Yeah?"
"You're still up?"
"I was just going to bed." He tips his head to the side. "Do you need something?"
"…" Cloud rubs the back of head, not sure what to say.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Well..." He watches Denzel's eyes dart to his sword leaning against the wall, and understands.
"When you're a little older."
"But…Tifa's already teaching Marlene her moves."
"So can I?"
"Why, though?" He feels like the officer who was in charge of questioning those to enrolled in the army. He even remembers his answer.
"—to be a hero."
He blinks at the boy still standing in the doorway.
Denzel shifts on his feet. "It's so that I can be like you."
No, you shouldn't want that, he silently replies. I'm not even a hero. Just a murderer who let himself be manipulated by a maniac.
He knows he ought to say no. Now was not the right time, and who knows what ideas he might be putting into the boy's head? But he catches the spark of determination, hope, and desperate pleading that he recognizes all too well.
"I'll teach you one move," he says, "the others will wait until you're all better, all right?"
He nods, and Cloud reaches over to disengage the switchblade from his sword. Out of all his blades, this was the smallest and lightest one.
Denzel handles it with great care. Cloud grins a little at the way he has his feet planted apart, his hands firmly holding the hilt.
"You start by holding it over your head…"
In less than half an hour, Denzel can execute the move. Despite the lateness of the hour, his eyes are sparkling with a joy that also makes Cloud smile.
He puts a hand on the boy's shoulder. "You should sleep before Tifa finds out."
"You're not telling her?"
"Not at the moment."
He watches the boy leave the room before he sighs.
Don't be like me, Denzel. I don't want to you to become like the person I am now.
A glitter in the corner of his eye makes him glance out the window. He catches the trail of a star just before it disappears behind the silhouettes of the buildings.
I wish the best in life for Denzel, Marlene, and…Tifa—
His fingers trace the outline of the crane in his pocket.
—because I keep my promises, even if it takes years for me to do that.
The light flickers a little, making the shadows dance and move in an annoying sort of way. The light bulb brightens for a moment before going entirely out, throwing the room into darkness.
Tifa glares at it, sighing to herself. The electricity often acted up, especially during the day. But it couldn't be helped; Edge was still a growing city, and one could expect it to be perfect. At least the plumbing works just fine; she was sure she would go mad if she didn't have a working bathroom or kitchen.
She leans over and pulls the curtains open, letting the starlight flood the room.
He's probably still awake, she mentally notes. Searching…
One had to give him credit for determination. But she still wonders if it's the best choice. He starts the day at five and ends at midnight. The day is spent doing his deliveries, and the night is spent in his room. He sleeps for five hours, and the cycle repeats itself. On weekends, he sleeps in, eats lunch with her and the kids, and in the afternoon he goes out, sometimes taking Denzel and Marlene with him. It's a routine she's so familiar with that she can count the number of times he goes up and down the stairs. She can predict when he'll get into one of his "moods" and sits alone in the bar, nursing those old wounds of his. Even his words and actions are becoming a little predictable—
It's not that she wants to know all this. It just…comes to her after a year and a half of living with Cloud Strife.
Tifa draws her breath in, letting it out slowly as she cuts a piece of paper into ten squares. She marvels that they have come this far.
And, in just one year, we've changed.
These days, she reads Cloud's emotions through his eyes and reactions, not by what he says. She longs to hear his voice more often, especially the way he says her name…
Could it be that Vincent's rubbing off on him? All that brooding and dragging around guilt—huh, at least he hasn't picked Cid's swearing at every little thing that goes wrong. Her fingernails scratch at a jagged corner on her paper. You're like a sitting duck sometimes, she berates Cloud in her mind. You think that if you don't move and just let the world pass by, things are going to get better that way.
As she counts the pieces of paper, she realizes she's miscalculated. Nine thousand, nine hundred eighty-eight cranes are packed into that little bag of hers, and she needs eleven, not ten, scraps of paper.
Well, I'll first make ten before I find more paper.
As she creases the piece, she realizes that's always been her unofficial motto in life—do what you can first, and others will be there to catch you when make a mistake.
But…why can't he see that?
Whenever Cloud gets that look on his eyes and avoids her gaze, it's on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he doesn't need to hesitate. But she can't bring herself to scold him.
It's not like he'll break apart if I give him a shake or two. She flicks a completed crane onto her desk. Maybe…I love him too much. Maybe I'm afraid of what he'll think of him. After all, I'm not his wife. I'm just a good—maybe a very good—friend in his eyes. I…
I just don't know.
She's been waiting and waiting. One and a half years have gone by. And it seems that she's being forced to a standstill, for his sake. She's gone down this path, and every time it leaves her feeling more like she's missing half of her heart.
The next few cranes are completed hastily. Blindly, she feels around her desk for some paper. As her fingers move, she bumps against something that falls on the ground.
But it's larger than the ones I make.
She seizes it. Disappointment washes over her when she realizes it's black, not blue. A bit of searching reveals a namecard on her desk, with Marlene's handwriting on the back.
She smiles at this.
My ten-thousandth crane.
Thank you, Marlene.
The drawer rattles loudly while Tifa tries to find a non-black/blue/red pen. She comes across one of Marlene's glittery pink ones. Lifting the wing, she blows her hair out of her face and bends over, squinting at the words.
I wish you'll give me an answer soon, Cloud…
Because mine won't ever change.
~~~~~~~Aerith's Church, [ν] – εуλ 2009, ACC (A little before the first battle scene)~~~~~~~
He clutches his arm and grits his teeth. Just when he thinks he feels a little better, the stupid, damn pain comes back, piercing at his senses and making him feel sick. What's worse are the flashes of blue-green and the image of his face ghosting in his vision, with that deep voice taunting him over and over again.
It's like being stabbed all over again, then facing those endless days of torture, agony, and frustration at Hojo's hands.
…I hate this…
He hates it so much that he can taste it in his mouth. Swearing under his breath as the pain fades away to a tingling feeling, Cloud releases his grip on his arm and rubs the sweat away from his face. He draws a shaky breath as he sits up to get a drink of water.
Just when life seemed to get better, a little nudge brought everything down.
He was dying.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but he was going to die—soon.
And just what have I done during this lifetime?
Oh, yeah, I helped the world out a little and defeated an insane, power-hungry freak, but what else?
I forgot Zack.
I let Aerith die.
I forgot my promise to Tifa.
I let them down.
That's why he's staying here. They can't know that this has happened to him. It's just another thing on his list of "things I've failed at."
I'm a complete mess…
A broken puppet with its strings cut loose. But he tells me at anytime he can pick up the loose ends and tie me to his will at any time.
Glassy blue eyes close.
Just exactly what am I good for if I can't even help myself?
So many of his dreams were shattered and trodden down. He tries building new ones, but they still fell apart.
He crosses his arms and leans against the pillar, the cool stone easing some of the aches in his head. It doesn't do anything for the ache in his heart, though.
That pain, buried for two years, was burning with a new vengeance.
I was supposed to be a hero. Someone's legacy. A savior.
And here I am, sitting in a broken church, getting killed by Geostigma.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing but an idiot who had his hopes up.
He doesn't want to turn into one of those despairing people who kill themselves to find release in death. No, he's not even going to consider that.
Maybe this is payment for my sins…
There was a time when he thought Vincent was over-dramatic about atonement. Now, he understands.
I wonder what will come faster, he wonders. Death by Geostigma, or death by my suffocating thoughts?
What he regrets most is his abrupt departure. A note on his desk, that was all. He just couldn't face their questions, their anger, and most of all, their disappointment. But he had to go. How could they stand him? He was supposed to support them, but he couldn't, not like this, weak, sick, a shadow of himself.
It felt like he was drowning. Drowning in guilt, to be exact. He presses a hand to his forehead, wishing he can stop the accusations form crowding his thoughts and sleep.
He gazes up at the gaping hole in the roof, remembering how he had fallen in and crushed a number of flowers on his way. He remembers the smiling girl who always made him forget his problems.
And to think I nearly killed you.
I don't deserve to have known you, do I?
Thoughts of Aerith make him think of Tifa—the one who took his hand and guided him.
I'm sorry, Tifa…
His gaze follows the path of a star streaking across the heavens, and out of habit he clasps it.
I wish I could turn back time, and take away the things that ruined our life.
An empty wish, this one. He sighs and touches his hand to his left ear lobe, where the earring is.
I want to keep our promise, but…how can I?
Seventh Heaven, [ν] – εуλ 2009, ACC
Her fingers hurt, and there's an ache in her neck, but she doesn't care. Gaia help her or not, she's folding a thousand cranes today to make her wish come true.
She pauses only now and then to sip from the glass of wine on her nightstand. Even though it's a Monday, she hadn't opened the bar. From seven to eleven-thirty, she's been up in her room.
Her day starts at five-thirty. When she went downstairs, she saw the note on the counter.
Even before opening it, she knows what it'll say. But she reads it, anyway, in hopes that she was wrong.
The next hour and half pass by in a blur. Somehow she manages to scrawl an excuse on a piece cardboard, hang it outside, get the kids breakfast, and clean the kitchen before going back to her room.
I never thought you would run.
Why did you run?
Did you think you didn't have a place here?
Tears stings her eyes, but she forces the them away. Damn it, she's not going to cry like a lovesick teenager who just got dumped. She didn't get dumped (In fact, she was the one who did the dumping when she was growing up in Nibelheim).
Then why did it feel as if her heart's been stabbed?
Was it something she said? Something she did? Or something she didn't do?
We take five steps forward together, and then when I think we're getting somewhere, you take ten steps back.
I don't understand. When you need my help, I was there for you. But I need you most, you're not there.
Where are you? I call you but you don't answer.
She accidentally rips a piece of paper.
Crumple. Toss. The paper rolls a few inches, stopping next to the ring she pulled off her finger and dropped on the ground that morning.
Her once-neat folds are haphazard, and she's not bothering with making little cranes, going instead for the big ones. She just wants her wish today.
I should hate you for leaving, but I can't even bring myself to do that. I can't hate something that's part of me—my heart.
A choked sob.
Do you hate me?
I need you. I thought you needed me.
I thought we understood each other, Cloud.
Maybe she should have seen it coming. The late returns, the avoiding of her questions, the way he walks past her into his room. The silence.
You don't need me anymore, Cloud?
But Denzel and Marlene need you, too. It's not just me!
How can you do this? To us? Your family?
Another ripped paper. She flings it away and punches her bed, her frustration getting the better of her.
"Tifa?" Marlene's voice.
"Come in." She looks up and offers them a tight smile.
The two are hesitant. Denzel peeks around the door, and Marlene clings to the doorframe.
She glances at the clock. "I'm sorry—I forgot about lunch, didn't I?"
"We're not hungry." Marlene stoops down to pick up the crinkled paper and the ring.
"Tifa…" Denzel begins.
"He'll come back…"
"…he always does."
The boy holds the ring out to her. "I'll—I'll protect you, Tifa." He blushes at these words. "You and Marlene."
Tifa feels the inexplicable urge to cry.
"I know." She closes her hand around the piece of jewelry, the knobby parts digging into her palm. Glancing over, she sees that Marlene's smoothed out the wrinkled paper and made a crane.
Denzel follows her, and Tifa watches them folding cranes, the pile on her bed growing.
Little by little, the tension gives way to the familiar heavy feeling in her heart, but the ache there isn't as painful as before.
She picks up a sheet of paper.
Fifteen minutes later, they're finished—eleven thousand cranes to her name now.
Silently, she fingers her last crane before writing on the back wing.
I wish we could be a family—Cloud, Marlene, Denzel, and me…
She hugs the kids tightly, and they don't protest.
That's what I want most, now.
~~~~~~~Aerith's Church, [ν] – εуλ 2009, Post-ACC~~~~~~~
For the first time since he regained his memories, two years ago, his heart is lighter. The dark, thick, oppressiveness on him is finally gone. The pain of losing those he loved is still there, but it no longer weighs upon him.
Is this…what it feels like? To have my sins forgiven?
I tried it.
It was so much easier than I thought it would be.
He takes a deep breath, listening to the sound of water lapping against the broken floorboards of the church. It's only been two weeks since he defeated Sephiroth—for the third time, he might add (That man simply refused to stay dead). Life was hectic; people practically thronged into this little church. He didn't mind this, of course. What he minded more were those people who wanted to see him.
Heh, I'm famous again. He sits next to the large pool of water, watching the little ripple and waves. I just…saved the world again.
Seven years ago, he would've been proud of the fact that he was a hero. He would have wanted the glory. He would have wanted people to admire him, to say, "He really is something."
Seven years ago, if had been famous, he would have gone up to those people who slandered him and said, "You were wrong. All of you."
It's odd how it all quickly changed for me.
The world loves its heroes. It hangs on them, glorifying them, etc, etc.
But they don't know that heroes comes with an expensive pricetag. You can't just pop out of nowhere.
It takes sacrifice…sacrifice of yourself, and of others.
He had been such a selfish boy, dreaming about making a name for himself. He had wanted to prove his worth. It took him five years to learn that it didn't matter what others thought about him. They could go on thinking he was the clumsy idiotic boy who hurt Tifa—he didn't care, because what was fame if you didn't have friends?
He thinks of Tifa. Her support. Her words.
(He didn't get at first until Yuffie told him it was a Wutainese onomatopoeia word for "dragging")
He reaches into a pocket and closes his hand around the paper crane and pulls it out for inspection.
It's hard to believe it's with him after so long a time. The blue is faded, the paper soft and worn, but he can still make out the childish handwriting on the bottom of a wing.
I didn't really keep this promise well, did I?
He jerks out of his thoughts, turning around so quickly that he slips and topples backwards—right into the water.
"Gyah!" He gasps in surprise, shooting up to surface.
He blushes and clambers out as fast as he can. Water drips down his face, and he knows he must look a sight.
"You look like a drowned Chocobo."
"Hn." Cloud runs a hand through his hair, kicking his boots away and slipping his gloves off. "You startled me."
"I assumed you would hear me."
"Ah…" Where's an excuse when he needs it? "I was thinking."
She walks toward him, still smiling. "Well, you still look like a drowned Chocobo."
"They can swim, you know."
"I know you can."
"Tifa," he half-heartedly protests. That joke was so old, he can't believe it's still around.
He stares at her face, focusing on her lips as to avoid her gaze.
They look so soft…
Wait, what am I thinking?
"N-never mind." He sits down, and she follows suit.
A few minutes pass, and he wonders if he should break the silence, but Tifa beats him to it. "What were you thinking about?"
He shrugs, and feels water running down the back of his neck into his shirt. "Life. Myself." And you.
"Are you satisfied?"
"With all that you did, I mean." She plays with the hem of her shorts. "I hope you finally understand what I've been trying to tell you, though."
"Yeah. I do."
"I think it's one of the few times in my life that I've gotten mad at you," she continues, "had you been sitting next to me at that time, I would've punched you."
"I'm glad I wasn't, then."
"I didn't want to hurt you."
"I probably deserved it." He looks up, daring to meet her dark brown-red eyes.
"I'm sorry." He blurts, finally deciding to give it a go.
She looks confused. "You don't have to—"
"No, it's not just that." He leans forward a little. "I'm sorry because I'm such an idiot." A deep breath. "I should've been there when you needed me. I was late, I didn't think about you and the kids. I didn't realize I needed you with me. I—"
"Stop it." Tifa cuts him off. "Don't you remember what I said that night, under the Highwind?" She meets his eyes, letting him see the sincerity. "You can say you're sorry a million times, and I'll forgive you a million times."
"How can you though? I've failed you."
"Does it matter?" A gentle shake of her head makes the dim moonlight catch at the earrings she wears. "We're a family, and families don't abandon their people that easily."
'I thought you said we weren't a real family.'
He realizes he said that out loud.
But she still smiles at him. "I was wrong to say that," she replies, "because we are a family, whether you like it or not." A deliberate pause. "So you can run to the end of world, and we'll come and drag you back."
"Is that…a promise?"
"...I haven't really kept ours, have I?"
"Yes, you did keep it."
"I was late."
"But you came for me. For us." She takes his hands. "That's good enough for me."
'Really?' His eyes question.
'Really,' she answers.
He suddenly remembers the crane. "Uh, could you excuse me, Tifa?" He pulls away from her and dangles his feet over the pool.
He dives in, blinking in the water. It's one of the few times he's thankful for mako in his system; underwater vision was a side benefit. Spotting the crane, he grabs at it and stands to his feet.
In reply to her questioning gaze, he holds up the crane.
Her mouth parts and her eyes widen. "You…you've kept it?"
Cloud clambers back up. "Yeah." He holds it carefully. "Somehow, it's always followed me, even when I didn't remember it." He looks at her. "What about—?"
She holds up something glittery between her fingers and smiles. "I always keep it with me."
Their long-ago conversation repeats itself in his mind.
"Do you still wish on falling stars?"
"Do you still make paper cranes?"
"I asked you first."
She snorts. "Fine. Yes, I still do." A soft chuckle. "I'm on twelve-thousand now."
Twelve-thousand, he marvels. "I still do, but…"
"I wonder if any of them came true." He remembers each of them; the childish ones, the selfish ones, and the empty ones.
"You don't believe in it?"
"I—" He chews on the inside of his mouth. I want to.
Her hand rests on his shoulder, squeezing it. "I think all of them came true. Just not in the way you wanted them to."
I wish that I could be friends with Tifa.
I wish I could be stronger.
I wish that Tifa could always wait for me to come save her.
I need to be in SOLDIER.
Let me live and survive this.
I wish that I'll find myself.
I wish I were the world's hero.
I wish I wouldn't forget this day.
I wish that Tifa will always be there to help me.
I wish the best in life for Denzel, Marlene, and Tifa.
I wish I could turn back time, and take away the things that ruined our life.
'Just not the way you wanted them to…'
He follows her finger to see a bright star plummeting gracefully. He stretches out and catches it, bringing his fist to himself.
I want you to be mine.
But I'm not ready yet.
His heartbeats speeds up at these thoughts.
"Tifa…" He wants to reach out and touch her face, but something holds him back.
He knows he should say more, but he can't. The words stick in his throat, making him edgy.
Yet one look at her face lets him know he has all the time in the world to say what he wants.
I shouldn't wait. I've stalled for two years, and it wouldn't be fair to her.
But how can I say it? I'm…afraid to.
She doesn't whether to break the mood or to continue it. The poor man was looking more and more uncomfortable with each moment.
Had you been someone else, you would have already kissed me. Maybe even proposed.
But she's not going to push him. Cloud Strife isn't one to be hurried.
"Relax," she tells him. "We have all night to talk." Denzel and Marlene are in the care of their friends, so she doesn't have to worry about her responsibilities right now.
It's funny, because half of AVALANCHE was pushing for her to talk to him.
Barret: 'I think it's time you two got together.'
Cid: 'Haven't you waited long enough?'
Yuffie: 'Does this mean we can start planning a wedding?'
Huh, had Cloud been paying more attention, he would have wondered why no one was in the church tonight save for himself and her. But he's not. In fact, he's spacing out so much that she wonders how this man could be the one who defeated Sephiroth.
So she gives him a smile and decided to lead the conversation to something else. "What are you going to do now?"
"Continue with life, I guess." He shrugs a little. "If you don't mind having me around."
You can stay forever. "Silly, Denzel and Marlene want you back." She looks pointedly at his box of things, sitting in a corner. "And it's been two weeks."
"What about you?"
"I'd like you back, yes." She chooses her words carefully. "I miss our night talks." Her hands finger the stone. "And the others will be glad to see you more often."
"You could always call."
"But it's different. Talking on the phone and talking face-to-face…"
"Even when you're doing most of the talking?"
"Cloud!" Tifa smacks his shoulder for that and instantly regrets it, because she just hit his pauldroned shoulder. "Gaia," she rubs her fingers.
"Are you all right? I'm so—"
"It's fine. Don't go blaming yourself for something as significant as this."
"Let me see." He takes her hand in his, the moisture on his fingers wetting hers. She feels the calluses underneath her fingertips, and she curls her fingers around his palm, nestling in the warmth there.
Don't let go...
Drat, he just repeated his question. "…yes." She swallows hard, trying to quell the thoughts in her head.
"Next time, just punch me in the arm, okay?"
"I'll remember that." She tugs at the pauldron with her free hand. "Or maybe I'll just wait until you're vulnerable."
"You're coming back, right? So I'll just wait until a Saturday, when you're sleeping in and—"
"All right, I get the point." He cracks a small smile, and as always, it makes her heart melt.
"Cloud, you should smile more often." I wonder if I should touch his face.
"Well, it makes you look so much more…" Ack, I need a word that doesn't make me sound like I'm fawning over him. "Nicer."
"Nicer? I thought I was already nice."
"No, no, it's not that." She rubs the stone in her hand nervously. "It's because…it makes other people want to smile."
The look on his face is a mixture of confusion and contemplation. She catches his eyes.
'I don't like it when you're sad. When you really smile, it shows in your eyes and lights up your face.'
She recalls how he smiled at her, after Denzel was cured. The tired, strained look was gone, replaced by the smile she remembers he had as a child.
"Try to remember that, yeah?"
"Mm-hn." He looks away, self-conscious. "I'll try it."
I know you will.
She has a feeling that now, when they take ten steps together, he'll only take two steps back.
She looks at him.
"Do you want your crane back? I know I never fulfilled this promise, so..."
She frowns a little, trying to understand his words.
'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.'
When it comes back her, she shakes her head. "Keep it. You fulfilled half of the promise, after all." She closes her hand around the bird. "What's more important is that you kept your other promise."
Maybe she's wrong to say that she doesn't believe in "love at first sight."
She loved Cloud the moment they were friends.
She just didn't realize it at that time.
When she was little, Tifa didn't think so much about fairytales. She preferred more outlandish tales, like ones about warriors battling monsters. Maybe that's why she never wishes on stars. It's ironic, though, how as a girl, she wanted Cloud to come save her whenever she's in trouble.
A princess? Hardly? And Cloud couldn't be a prince.
No, he's a guardian.
Not a fallen angel like Sephiroth, but a guardian angel who's always there for me.
Tifa smiles a little.
Even if he sometimes had bad timing.
But even angels aren't perfect, and I don't want you perfect.
That's good enough for me.
She pulls out her twelve-thousandth crane. It's a little crooked, and greasy (The paper was courtesy of Cid's). While Cloud had been battling Sephiroth, she had been watching from the window, her hands rapidly folding cranes (Yuffie called her crazy, but she didn't care). When Sephiroth had faded, she had more or less dropped stopped her task, too engrossed in watching him.
When he disappeared though, her heart had stopped. The next few hours had passed in a blur of voices, sounds, and colors. Meaningless. She thought she had lost him. Until she saw him again, she had slowly folded her last few cranes, not knowing what to expect.
Her old wishes run through her mind, one by one.
I wish that Cloud could be happy.
I wish that I could get stronger, so that people would listen to me.
I wish that Cloud could always be my hero.
I with that I could be stronger.
Cloud, please come back to me, because I'm waiting for you.
I wish that things will look up now.
I wish that I could understand Cloud.
I wish that Cloud would make his feelings clear.
I wish that one day you'd say you love me.
I wish you'll give me an answer soon, Cloud.
I wish we could be a family—Cloud, Marlene, Denzel, and me…
All her wishes, except the last four, had already come true.
And what would this wish be?
I'll be daring, then.
I want you to be mine.
She doesn't have a pen on her; instead, she traces the words on the wing.
"Tifa, what did you wish?"
As if she would say it. "What did you wish?"
"I asked you first."
She groans. "Cloud, I—"
Her eyes meet his.
Does he know?
Those blue eyes are clear and intense.
'I want to say it, but I'm afraid.' His hand still covers hers, and she feels his tension. She wants to say it, more than anything.
'…So am I.'
'Same time, then?'
"I want you to be mine."
There. It was out, and she marvel at the feelings inside of her.
His fingers trace the ring she wears on her right hand. "Tifa, I—" He flushes. "Can we take this slow?"
"I can wait as long as you want me to." What are a few more months, now that everything is clear?
She watches as he slides the ring off her finger and takes her other hand, slipping it on.
"I'll be yours—" he begins.
"—if you'll be mine," she finishes.
Still holding her hands, he leans forward.
Hardly breathing, she does the same.
"I love you, Tifa," He whispers, pulling her against himself to kiss her, and she responds by gripping his arms.
All too soon, he releases her. She offers him a smile, which he returns.
"I love you too, Cloud."
He glances at her. "I got you wet."
She laughs. "Do you honestly think I care?"
"Then don't worry about it." Too late, she catches the glint in his eyes, and she lets out a shriek when he yanks her down with him into the pool.
Tifa comes up spluttering and laughing, nearly choking on the water. "Cloud!"
"You said not to worry about it."
"But I didn't mea—"
Cloud wraps his arms around her and gives her another kiss. 'What's that?' his gaze questions.
'Never mind,' she answers. 'Don't you dare stop kissing me.'
'Good. Because I won't stop.'
She smiles against his lips.
I guess it doesn't matter how we wish.
It'll all come true, eventually.
~~~~~~~A Few Years Later~~~~~~~
The morning sunlight spills into the room, pushing through the curtains that are fluttering in the gentle breezes.
"Do you remember when we wished…on stars and cranes?"
"Do you still wish?"
"I do, too."
"It's what brought us together."
The rays linger on a shelf in the far corner, where a faded blue paper crane and a small glittering stone are nestled.
"Would I be selfish to wish for an eternity with you?"
"No, because I would wish the same thing, Tifa."
I've always loved the story about making one thousand origami cranes to get a wish. I vaguely remember reading only one story that had that integrated into an FFVII (It was a Yuffentine).
In the very beginning, the story was only going to be a oneshot. However, when I started writing it, I realized it wasn't enough to show Cloud and Tifa's dreams and relationships. After a bit of thinking, I settled on four parts, splitting up Cloud and Tifa's lives into four stages.
The other thing that inspired this story was a song. Anyone ever heard of Tonghua? I had never heard of it, until one of my friends wore a shirt with the lyrics. She told me what they meant, and I went home and looked them up and pretty much fell in love with that song. *grin* Tonghua means "Fairytale" in Chinese, and the chorus (the English translation doesn't really capture the beauty of the original Chinese, though, but maybe I'm biased because I myself am Chinese) goes something like "I'm willing to become like that angel you love in those fairytales/And open my hands and change them into wings that will guard you/You must believe, believe that our life will be like those fairytales/With a blessed and happy ending." (My translation; you can't actually sing with them, LOL) I won't type all the lyrics them out, but do go look up the song on Youtube (BTW, if anyone's interested, someone did a Zaerith music vid with this video, and song fits them, too).
On a unrelated note, this is only my third FFVII story posted on FF-Net, my second Cloti romance fic, and my second fic to involve origami. :P I think I have a thing for symbolism these days…
Originally, this story was going to have an open ending with no resolve, but after a bit of thought, I changed the ending to what you now read because it was more satisfying to me.
When I first watched AC, I was thinking, "Isn't Cloud married to Tifa? Why wasn't there a kiss scene?" Only later did I learn of the infamous Cleris-Cloti debate. Even so, I've always felt it should be Cloti. Don't ask why. I just think they were made for each other.
I could write a whole essay on why I think Cloti is the perfect pairing in FFVII, so I'll just close by saying that I hope/wish Nomura will decide this for us in the next addition to the Compilation. :)
My list of where I get my information.
The Final Fantasy Wikia
The Final Fantasy Citadel
The Lifestream Dot Net
Strife: A Tribute to Cloud Strife (Fansite)
Never Ever // Lockheart Love (Fansite)
GameFAQ for scripts
Silent Tweak's Crisis Core Walkthrough
Gunshot Romance's Before Crisis Fansite
XComp's Final Fantasy Novel site, for translations of the On the Way to a Smile novellas.
EDIT: Finally found one of the fanarts that inspired me--
http : // ladyshieru . deviantart . com / art / CloudxTifa-Blessed-Moment-51080547
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Thanks to everyone who have either reviewed, favorited, or put this story on their alerts. I appreciate it. I hope everyone has enjoyed this story.
What next after this? Unknown. The muse comes and goes, and because I write in various fandoms, it might be some time before I write another FFVII fic. But I'll definitely continue in this fandom, as I can never stay away to long. I have some ideas, and I'll work them out.
Thank you again for reading. :)