Quiet: This was done for the Wall Market FF7 Forum's Secret Santa Event (the link is in my profile) for Clan Dragoodle. If you're an avid reader of Aeris/Tifa, you should totally check her work out. It's much better than my own sad dabbles into yuri. XD

Much love to my beta. I love you, Liz! =D

It's the dead of night, near midnight when I hear my door slide open. I was expecting it; it was a normal occurrence for the near-silent pad of bare feet to come into whatever room I happened to be in when we were separated, and tonight was no different. I don't betray the fact that I'm awake and aware of her, but somehow, she knows.

I smile.

"Tifa?" she calls, light voice careful to whisper with Barret's deep snores only separated by a thin wall.

"I couldn't sleep," she explains. And I have it almost timed by the second as the covers lift and I feel a brief draft of cold air sliding over my back before she scoots beneath the covers and then closes them, cocooning us both in warmth.

I pay attention to the telltale signs of her settling in; a light shuffle as her body curls around mine from behind, then the light sounds of her breathing as she lays her head on the pillow the tiniest bit away from mine, eyes burning into the back of my head. I give her a few seconds after she lays her head on her hands, then I carefully roll over so that we are nearly nose to nose, her eyes giving off an odd luminescence in the darkened room. My smile is still there and she greets it with a wide one of her own.

"Hi," I say.

"Hi," she answers cheerfully.

Her hand reaches up to brush at my hair and I resist the urge to shiver; this was a game we played with each other, an open kind of hide and seek. She knew what she did to me and actively sought new ways to feel me and familiarize me with her touch at the same time. In response, I reach up and tug at a stray curl that lies against her neck.

Her hand uncurls and it takes me a moment to see that she has something cradled in her palm and recognize what it is—a sea shell. I remember her delight from earlier today at the discovery of one once we touched down in Costa, while I was busy drowning in my memories of Sephiroth and Nibelheim—the encounter on the cargo ship had shaken me.

I peer at it curiously; unlike Aeris, I had been outside Midgar, but something like this was still foreign to me. I was from the mountains, and the journey from Nibelheim to Midgar hadn't exactly been a sight-seeing trip for me.

As if sensing my thoughts—and with her heredity, maybe she could—she lightly bumps her forehead against mine. Here and now, her eyes say, and I feel muscles I don't remember tensing relax.

"I heard you're supposed to be able to hear the ocean inside," she whispers, as if we're conspirators hidden in a dark alley. She looks down at her treasure and smiles, holding it up to her ear. A faint look of concentration takes over her features, and I watch her breathe, in and out, slow and easy before a blissful calm steals over her face. Her eyes open and the scent of the flowers she sold back in Midgar is suddenly thick around us—I don't know if she notices the deepening of my breaths, but her hand reaches out to grasp mine and place the shell in it.

"You should try it, Tifa," she says, and I know that it's not a request, but a command. I nod and accept it, nostrils faintly flaring as the scent begins to dissipate; now there's only the subtle bit of hotel soap on her, but it's still over lined by what's uniquely her. She wants me to hear what she does, and if it's one thing I've learned, it's better to go along with Aeris; anything else would futile—like fighting against nature itself.

"Can you hear it?" she asks, and I squeeze my eyes shut tight and breathe, listening with all my might. Because she is close enough that I'm not listening for myself but her, too. Whether it is the beat and rush of my own heart or the phantom sounds of waves crashing against a shore, it's a foreign sound that we're both unused to hearing.


Her legs tangle in mine, and I open my eyes to see her smile grow mischievous. "What do you hear?" she asks, almost as if she already knows.

The secrets in her eyes tell a lot of stories, but she's always been gracious enough to let them be told by who they belong to. If were to lie right this moment, she wouldn't call me on it. She'd just smile and tuck herself against me before falling asleep.

"I hear…" The moment drags on as she silently awaits my response, and I close my eyes and hum along with the ebb and flow pulling me in through my very heartbeat. I don't want to say 'our hearts'; that's cheesy, even for a country girl like me.

Her body slides closer and she pretends to tilt her head and focus, lips pursed as she taps her finger against them. "Well, if I listen really hard, I can hear the Planet singing," she says, a smile spreading across her lips.

Her thoughtful admission surprises me; I would have thought she wouldn't want to talk about her ancestry after all the trouble in Midgar. I lower the shell away from my ear and gaze at her in curiosity. "I could hear a heartbeat," I blurt in honesty, then blush at myself for being so fanciful. It's just a game, I scold myself, don't be silly.

"Oh," she breathes, the light of interest in her eyes plain to see. "That's a sign!" Her excitement is nearly tangible as she happily clasps my hands in her own.

Of what? I wonder, bewildered and amused by her excitement. Her hands are warm and solid in mine, but so much smaller and softer; they make my callused palms feel like blocky, chiseled stone, and I suddenly have the urge to pull them back and tuck them out of sight. Again, her uncanny perception kicks in and she grips them tighter then pulls me closer, locking us together as if we were holding something precious between us.

"Close your eyes—no peeking!" she orders, and the childish demand makes me raise a brow in surprise; her light pout is both cute and sly, so I smile at her and comply.

At first there's nothing. Just the muted sounds of Barret snoring, the light stirring of the breeze in the open curtains, and faintly, the rush of the ocean behind the ever-present sounds of the city.

"What do you hear?" she whispers again, and the emphasis makes me furrow my brows. I want to tell her that it's no use; that I just wasn't attuned to things like she was, but then I feel a light pressure on my hands and stop thinking for a moment.

Quiet laughs come from the bar in the inn's lobby. A light sound echoes from a room a few doors down and my heart leaps in joyous surprise at the noise—it's a baby's cry. There's a hard thump and I pause, eyes flying open to see Aeris' closed, face serene and lips parted. And suddenly, the thump comes again, lighter and a lot calmer; one, two, one, two…another joins it and they blend and echo together in the night like a measure in some silent sonata. I knew music when I heard it; it was no allegro, but an andante—a steady, paced piece that encompassed all that ever was.

Her eyes blaze with it, and her heart beat matches mine as it pounds with realization.

"Life," she says fiercely, and for some reason my throat tightens with unshed tears. Maybe it's the sight of her, burning green eyes locked on mine, and shadows at her back. Or maybe it's the sudden emptiness that assails me as I'm freed from her grip.

Her arms close around me and I lean into her, face burying into her shoulder as I finally lose the fight for composure that I've been struggling with all day.

Quiet: ZOMG! FIC NUMBER 30!!!!!! PARTY TIME! I'm so happy! :'D