"I'm in the business of misery, let's take it from the top. She's got a body like an hourglass that's ticking like a clock. It's a matter of time before we all run out, when I thought he was mine she caught him by the mouth. I waited eight long months, she finally set him free, I told him I couldn't lie, he was the only one for me. Two weeks and we caught on fire, she's got it out for me, but I wear the biggest smile." - Misery Business, from RIOT!
Hello, and welcome to Misery Business, formerly titled Throwing Punches. If you love Paramore this is definitely the story for you, because that's what its based off of: Paramore songs. While the story will mainly follow the opening lines of Misery Business (written above), every chapter will be titled, and based off of, a different song. Everything will hopefully start to make sense as the story progresses.
Author's Note:First off, I'm sorry for the title change. But I have no idea why I even titled this story "Throwing Punches" in the first place, Misery Business is a much better choice, and for those of you who have already been following this story, it matches the plotline almost perfectly. But, instead of two girls fighting over one guy (like in the song) it's two guys fighting over one girl. Secondly, a lot more changes have been made besides the title, I revised this chapter completely and added the prologue, which was its own chapter in the first version. Thirdly, this whole story is under revision, I got too excited when I first posted it and much of the writing was rushed, and therefore produced sloppy grammar and plot.
Warning:This chapter contains mild violence and one obscenity, just figured I'd tell you.
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of the songs used in this story.
Dedication:The dedication of this story goes to Paramore. I know it seems a little pointless and silly to dedicate it to people who will never read it, but they as a band and their music has gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life when I thought I had no where to turn for comfort, the music was always there. They are my main source of inspiration, for this story and the many others I have published and they are by far my favorite band. So, thank-you Paramore, this one's for you.
The Prologue To Misery…
Two months…it had been two months since I had been cured of my Geostigma, two months since I had been relieved of my consuming guilt that I had decided to tell her how I felt. I had wanted to tell her that first day, that first minute that I had felt free, but it would have been wrong to do that. Because, despite my newfound freedom, I was still a broken man, a broken man with a horrible past, a past that I could never escape from. I didn't want to burden her with that, even though, to an extent, she shares that past with me.
There are parts of that past she doesn't know about, that she wouldn't understand, and maybe would never understand, but I know that deep down I want to tell her, I want her to understand…and I know that she would want me to let her in. It took me another month to discover that hidden truth…but I was too late, because the night I had decided to tell her, the night I had decided to confess everything to her…she had met him.
It had been one of those more turbulent nights in the bar, the kind where the whole of Edge seemed to be filing in through the front door, so I was helping Tifa with the overload of customers. Thankfully, things had finally calmed down around midnight, and Tifa and I had retreated behind the counter, washing the night's dishes in comfortable silence, preparing to close in a few hours time.
I was thinking of telling her then, but nervousness and fear griped at me, refusing to let go. I was never good with words, what if I said something wrong, said something to upset her? But…it would be worse to say nothing at all.
That's when he walked in, his entrance announced by the ringing of a small bell above the door. He was a taller man, with hard features and long, black hair pulled back in a neat plait. He was well dressed, more than likely from the classier side of Edge and walked toward Tifa and I with long and confident strides, a dashing smile flashing across his face as his eyes met Tifa's.
She had returned his smile weakly, and I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was tired. But she motioned for him to sit down a few seats from us anyway, and when she finished washing one last glass, she walked over to serve him.
I had watched her walk away, watched the way her hips swayed with every tired footfall, the way she smiled when she greeted him…
That was six months ago.
At the time, I had thought he was just another normal customer, that it was just another normal night in Seventh Heaven. Little did I know that this seemingly normal guy was about to change my life forever…little did I know that he was about to take away from me the thing I held most dear.
Chapter 1: Misery Business
"Cloud, can you zip me up?" asks Tifa hurriedly as she exits the bathroom and runs over to me, her toothbrush clenched in between her back teeth.
I oblige her wordlessly as she turns her back to me, and lifts her dark raven hair away from the ivory skin of her back. I fumble slightly with the pull of the zipper, my hand grazing lightly against her exposed skin, causing white hot feelings of longing and desire spring up inside my chest as she walks away from me and enters the bathroom once again to finish getting ready for yet another night out with Xander.
That had been his name, the man in the bar that night. After he had come in, he and Tifa talked for a few hours. I stayed close by, not wanting to leave her alone with him. There was something about him that didn't sit right with me. The way he looked at her, the way he still looked at her even after eight months of dating, it was different from the way every other sleazebag that comes into the bar looks at her. His eyes, his expressions, everything about him gave off a single emotion…lust.
There had once been a time when I thought that every male patron of Seventh Heaven held the same impure and twisted desires for Tifa within his heart. But after talking with them and getting to know them as Tifa did, their thoughts were not as I had believed. While they had on occasion desired Tifa, a normal trait of most men who came to the bar, their hearts and minds usually remained true to the women that were already in their lives, a wife or girlfriend. But Xander, he looks at her with an unhealthy need, a hunger that cannot be sated.
I had always thought that I would be happy for her if she found someone else…happy that she was moving on, moving on from me and my burdens. But I was wrong, I can't be happy for her, not when I feel this way for her…not when she's with him. It would be easier if he treated her differently…treated her like the goddess she truly is. She at least deserves that much, to be loved unconditionally, so irrevocably for everything she does…for everything she is.
The faint sound of someone knocking at the front door, as well as Tifa's quiet complaining, interrupts my train of thought and brings me back to my harsh reality.
"He's early again." she says under her breath as she rolls her eyes, her tone one of annoyance. "Cloud, could you get the door?"
I push myself away from the frame of my bedroom door, from where I had been watching her. I make my way downstairs. I breathe in deeply, trying to subdue my hearts rampant beating. The longer I try to suppress my feelings for her, something always happens to make those feelings rise again, making me want so badly to tell her, to take her in my arms and confess everything to her. But I can't do that, I won't do that, not when she's with him…not when he makes her happy.
Once I enter the bar, I make my way to the front door and fling it open maliciously, almost hitting Xander. I glare down at him, the hate for me in his eyes mirroring the hate for him in my own.
"Are you going to let me in, or are we just going to stand here for the rest of the night?" he asks after almost a minute, trying to contain the anger in his voice.
I don't say anything; I simply turn around and walk back toward the staircase. I lean against the wall there, crossing my arms tightly over my chest, my fists and jaw clenched. A moment later he enters the bar and walks forward to stand by the counter. He leans against it slightly, and resting a hand on its smooth surface, he allows his eyes to wander lazily around the room. My eyes, however, don't leave him, and I can feel my anger toward him rising more and more with each passing second.
I know I shouldn't be this angry with him, other than taking her away from me; he's done nothing to me. He knows that, he knows that having to watch her with him hurts me, he knows that every time he kisses her, touches her…its like being ran through by Sephiroth's Masamune all over again, and Xander never misses a chance to twist the blade.
We stand in silence for several minutes, each lost in our own distractions. But finally he breaks the silence. He clears his throat and stands up straight, his eyes flashing with anger when he finds me already looking at him.
"Where is Tifa?" he asks loudly, his voice shaking slightly, but whether from fear or anger I cannot tell.
The anger he feels toward me may come from the fact that he's losing her to me. He knows that, even though Tifa loves him, there is still a part of her that continues to love me, and that love won't die until I'm out of her life. But he knows I'll never leave her again, knows that even if she does decide to marry him, if they start a life together, I'll always be there, waiting and watching. That's where his fear stems from, and it's the only thing we have in common, the fear of losing her.
"Answer me, Strife!" yells Xander, pounding his fist on the counter.
"She's upstairs getting ready." I answer coldly, motioning up the stairs with a nod of my head. "She'll be down in a minute."
I drop my gaze, concentrating on the patterns of the wood floor, memorizing the grain of the wood, the numerous knots and imperfections, and soon silence surrounds Xander and I again, a silence where the air is thick with tension, and every breath seems magnified.
"You know, Cloud." he says after a minute. "We could try to be friends…for Tifa's sake."
"I've got enough friends, Xander." I say coolly, looking up at him.
"That's too bad." he says, shrugging. "Especially if she gives me a positive answer tonight, it would be a shame if her best friend and fiancé…"
The world stopped before the last syllable fell, preventing me from hearing the rest of his sentence. I feel my arms drop down to my sides, and I clench my fists so tightly that my fingernails cut into my palms. My breathing quickens and my eyes widen as a deep ache begins to build inside my chest.
Tifa…married…to him? Just the thought of that is enough to make me feel like I've been punched in the stomach by Barret. No…this pain is much worse than that, its like everything I've ever endured thrown at me all at once, its pain piercing through me with one sharp thrust.
"That's right, Cloud. I intend on proposing to her tonight." he says evilly, flashing me a wicked and antagonizing smile. "I don't know why you're so angry, I always thought that you wanted to see Tifa happy. That's where you and I are not so different, I want to see her happy as well. Besides, you've had years to have her, to tell her how you feel. She's told me that she would not have said no to you, said that she had loved you deeply since you were kids, but that you were too consumed by the shadows of your past…by your guilt. She says that you're still trying to heal, but personally, I think you're incapable of loving her…"
I explode then, my anger peaks, and my vision blurs with rage. I run at him, my feet barely making contact with the floor. A moment later, my hand is clenched around his throat, and I push him back and slam him against the far wall of the bar.
"Let go of me you crazy son-of-a-bitch!" he wheezes as he tries to pry my hand away.
"Don't you ever say that I am incapable of loving her." I say calmly, despite my almost uncontainable fury. "I love her more deeply than you could even begin to comprehend, and if you ever hurt her I'll…"
"You'll what, Cloud? Kill me?" he gasps. "Killing me would hurt her, and we both know that you could never do that."
"I've hurt her before." I growl as I tighten my grasp. "I think I could do it again."
I release him as the sound of Tifa's descending footsteps on the stairs fills the bar. I turn away from Xander and my way toward the stairs once again, reaching them just as Tifa makes it to the bottom step. When I see her, my anger begins to fade away, only to be replaced by an overwhelming sense of calm…and regret.
She's stunning, her dress hugging her perfect form, her hair done up in the most intricate
of curls, and the lightest traces of make-up enhancing her already dazzling features. I have to wonder, does he even see her for what she really is, that she's not just another pretty face? Does he see that she's a kind, caring and simple person, an embodiment of love? While she is undoubtedly beautiful tonight, the women standing before me now is not the real Tifa. The real Tifa is the one I have the privilege of coming home to everyday, the one that greets me with a smile even after having just endured the hardest of days, that's the real Tifa, and the women I'm in love with.
When she descends the last step her eyes come to rest with mine. I smile lightly, trying to hide the last remnants of my waning anger.
"You look nice tonight." I say quietly.
"Thanks, Cloud." she replies, smiling widely.
Her eyes linger with mine a moment longer before she directs her gaze to Xander, and as she moves past me toward him, I'm blessed with the feeling of her fingers brushing lightly against the back of my hand. That small, accidental touch is enough to cause my heart to race, my thoughts to blur and my breath to catch in my throat. When she reaches him their eyes meet for no more than a second before he pulls her into an awkward one-armed hug and kisses her, and when they part, Xander looks down at her with a look of utmost hunger in his eyes.
"Are you ready to leave?" he asks her apprehensively, forcing a smile.
"Just a second…"
She pulls herself away from him and makes her way back to me, her hips swaying suggestively with every step. She stops in front of me, her body just an inch or two away from mine.
"Remember, Yuffie has the kids until eight, and since she picked them up from school its more than likely they'll have homework. Make sure they get it done." she says quickly, her eyes stern.
I can only nod, unable to form any coherent thoughts. I can only focus on her, and the slight warmth I can feel emanating from her.
"Thanks, Cloud. I won't be late, okay?"
Another nod, which is answered by one of her wonderful smiles. She places a light kiss on my cheek before returning to Xander, who shifts his weight uncomfortably and throws me a disgusted look before wrapping his arm around Tifa's waist and pulling her toward the front door.
As they exit the bar, I can feel my heart sink, my chest start to ache. She will say yes to his proposal tonight. I know that, and there is nothing that I can do to stop it. When tomorrow dawns, everything will have changed, leading the way to days filled with grief and uncertainty. There is, however, one thing that I am absolutely sure of: if there was the slightest chance for Tifa and I be together, I would take it, no matter the consequences. But I will not break up a perfectly happy couple because my own selfish wants and desires.
So, what did you think? Please leave a review and tell me, I spent a lot of time on it. Um...some of you who have already reviewed might have trouble reviewing again, considering I didn't delete the story and you're previous reviews and still logged. Maybe you could send me a PM and I can just post your review here at the end of the chapter? Well, thanks for reading, and be sure to watch for the updated versions of chapters 2 and 3, and the never-before-posted chapter 4.
Thanks so much!