A/N: Hey readers, how's it goin? PEANUT here with yet another Cloti story. This story is going to be a bit different than "The Journey", which focused mainly on personal growth and feelings. This one focuses more on a suspenseful story, full of drama, sorrow, chaos, and, of course, love.

Something useful you need to know about the story: It takes place a little bit after Dirge of Cerberus. I won't be referencing the game too much, so don't worry about that. Just one thing...pretend Cloud wasn't in that game at all. You'll see how it fits into the story later.

Alrighty, enjoy the prologue. (:


Prologue

One week earlier...

It was 6:00 PM on a Friday night. Seventh Heaven was closed early due to the fact that Tifa was going on a date that night. Her boyfriend would be coming around 6:30 to pick her up, then they would head out to the hills outside the city to enjoy the star-filled sky. It truly was a beautiful night, and Tifa was glad to get out. And yet...

Tifa sighed. She just got nervous whenever she was going out on a date. She had no clue why this was; she greatly liked her boyfriend and wasn't shy around him at all. In fact, they were a pretty good fit. Tifa enjoyed his company and smiled a lot when they were together.

"Tifa!"

The young woman turned around at the sound of her name, brown eyes wandering downward to the source. "Yes, Marlene?"

"Are you goin out tonight again?"

Tifa smiled softly. "Yes sweetheart, I am."

"Are me and Denzel gonna be all alone?"

"No, Barret will come over and take care of you," Tifa said patiently, brushing some of Marlene's brown hair out of her eyes.

"Daddy's coming? Oh boy!" she cried out in delight, running toward the stairs. "Denzel! My daddy is comin tonight!"

Tifa smiled, standing up fully again. Marlene was so precious to her; the seven year-old's spirit was never broken down by anything that happened to her in her past. She may have lost her biological parents, but she had fallen in love with Barret and accepted how life had turned out. Even when she lived fearing she would lose Denzel, she always was trying to make him smile. And Denzel, bless his soul, would humor her and laugh at all her ridiculous jokes. But now that the geostigma was gone, there was no need for corny jokes. Everyone was naturally happy again.

It had been only six months since the day Sephiroth was defeated and the geostigma of all the children in Edge was cured. It was such a glorious day; never before had victory tasted so sweet. Well, at least, Tifa thought so. She always did have a heart for children, and she was thrilled when they were healed of the stigma.

Since that day, Tifa had kept herself busy with her work. People always said that the world kept turning no matter what happened, and that was absolutely true. Business at the bar continued to keep her occupied and on the side, Tifa started a charity to feed a lot of the children who lost their remaining family to the stigma. Her workload was overwhelming, but it was alright. She was just so glad she could do something to impact others in a good way.

Tifa looked down at her watch. 6:15. She gasped and rushed up the stairs to put the finishing touches for makeup and hair.

Precisely seventeen minutes later, the doorbell rang downstairs. Smiling at her mirror image, Tifa tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Ah, perfect timing, she thought, exiting the bathroom and heading downstairs. She hurried to the door, careful not to trip on the stairs. For the date, she had put on flats instead of her normal sneakers. Even though her appearance didn't matter for where they were going and what they were doing, Tifa still wanted to look like she was dressing up special for her date. Once she was at the bottom, she headed to the door, straightening her fashionable blue jacket and white pants. She took a deep breath before opening the door, a smile appearing on her face when she saw her date.

"Hello, Rude."

"Hi Tifa," the Turk said with a smile. "Are you ready to go?" Tifa nodded and put her hand in his. Rude gave her hand a gentle squeeze and widened his smile in response to her silent answer. "Let's go."


No more than half an hour later, they were at their designated location: a lone hill outside edge. It was grassy and pretty bare at the top, except for one lone tree that would have provided great shade during the day. However, it wasn't day time now; the sun was just starting to set as they opened up a picnic basket and enjoyed their dinner.

The meal and the date in general were terrific. Rude had a great sense of humor, always making Tifa laugh and giggle. And Tifa, always kindhearted, knew how to make Rude smile by giving him a peck on the cheek or playfully stealing the sunglasses he wore despite the fact it was getting dark out.

"That's not funny," Rude told Tifa, scolding her for taking away his glasses.

"Oh, then why are you laughing, Mr. Serious?" Tifa said through her giggles. "Oh, look at me, I'm Rude. I don't say anything unless you're Reno or my enemy and when I do I use two words."

"Ouch. Your words hurt me." Rude sounded serious, but Tifa could see him smiling.

"Oh, you know I love it," Tifa laughed, setting a hand on his cheek. "You never say anything without meaning, which makes it even more important when you do speak," she said tenderly, stroking his cheek. Rude smirked, making Tifa laugh again. "Oh come on Rude, say something."

"Why? I believe you just said it all."

Tifa playfully hit him on the arm, an action which made him chuckle. "Alright, I'll say something. I'll say that you're right. I only speak when I have something to say. When I'm with you, always have something to say, but at the same time you always keep me at a loss for words. What am I to do with you, Tifa Lockhart?"

She blushed in the darkness, turning her head away. Rude took that as an opportunity to steal back his sunglasses. He slid them off her face and allowed them to settle back onto his before Tifa could take them back. A smile appeared on his face as he reached forward and brushed some of her hair out of her face. "Are you going to let me see those beautiful eyes, pretty lady?"

The young woman turned to look at him, but something was wrong. Her smile and blush were completely gone. "Rude..."

He froze. What had he done wrong?

Tifa smiled weakly. "Rude...I...have something I need to say tonight."

"What is it?"

Silence hung between them for a moment. "I think we should stop seeing each other."

No! This was a nightmare for him. The love of his life.... "W-why?"

"It's been a terrific six months, but Rude, it only feels like a great friendship to me. Nothing more," Tifa said softly.

"You must feel something...."

"I do," Tifa replied. "I feel like I love you. As a brother. And as somebody I can run to whenever I need something."

Rude felt his heart breaking. "Tifa...."

"I'm so, so sorry, Rude. I....hope you can see it someday."

Being the Turk that he was, Rude put on an all-business face and nodded. "Right." He rose to his feet and offered Tifa a hand and a weak smile, letting her know he didn't hate her completely. Or at all, really. He loved her, and he would continue to love her the rest of his life. "Let's get you home now."