Author's Note: So, I've got a few oneshots under my belt, so I thought I would try a chaptered fic. I'm hoping to keep everyone in character as much as possible, but don't be surprised to see some OOC behavior. ;) I'll try to update regularly, so enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I am paid nothing, but I enjoy playing with FFVII's characters! :D
Cloud looked at the clock and sighed. There were never enough hours in the day. He often found himself wondering how Tifa had managed to keep everything running so smoothly when he had been gone so often. Guilt stabbed his heart at the memory of being so selfish by running away and leaving her there to run his delivery service, keep the bar open and turning a profit all the while keeping Marlene and Denzel safe, clothed, and fed. He shook his head and forced the guilt down. Tifa had assured him that everything was forgiven and that she understood why he had to leave so often.
"Cloud, don't forget that you promised Marlene and Denzel you would take them to visit Yuffie in Wutai after you pick them up from Barrett," Tifa said as she skipped down the stairs. She smiled at the look on his face. "Don't worry, Cloud. Vincent is going to meet you there so you'll have someone to brood with."
Cloud smiled slightly. "My brooding days are over, Tifa…but I'll be glad to have someone to talk to who isn't as hyper as Yuffie."
She nodded and smiled. "Barrett said he may go with you to Wutai if everything works out, so enjoy yourself. Stay as long as you want. I can handle everything here."
"Are you sure?" Cloud asked doubtfully. "I think I've let you handle everything here by yourself for far too long."
"But this is different, Cloud," she assured him. "You aren't running away."
"I don't know what I ever did to deserve a friend like you," Cloud said.
"You're just saying that so I take your bike in for that estimate while your gone," she teased lightly.
"That too," he said. "Listen, I'm going to head out then. You know, you could always join us in Wutai if we stay longer than we plan. You need a break too."
"What about the bar?" Tifa asked. "Money doesn't grow on trees, Cloud."
"A few days won't kill the finances of this place," Cloud assured her. "Besides, Reno will be suffering some major withdrawal effects after not getting to drink and hit on you for more than twenty-four hours so by the time we return, he'll probably drop enough cash to cover our time away."
Tifa laughed and smiled. "That's true. Let me know if you'll be staying on longer and I'll let you know if I can make it."
"That's deal," Cloud said as he picked up his bag and head for the door. He stopped and turned back to face Tifa once more. "And Tifa? If you call, I promise I'll answer."
Tifa smiled as she watched him walk out the door. "I know you will."
Tifa pulled up in front of the shop and dismounted Fenrir. She walked into the shop reception area and smiled at the man behind the counter.
"Well, if it isn't Tifa Lockheart," he said with a smile.
"It been a while, Gus," she said happily.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Well, Cloud wanted an estimate on some repairs for Fenrir," Tifa explained. It got pretty banged up in that last battle. Plus, he was hoping to see if some kind of storage area could be added for some of our smaller delivery items."
Gus nodded thoughtfully. "I'm sure we could do that. I'll send my new body guy out to have a look at the damage and see if we can come up with an estimate for you."
"You have a new body guy?" Tifa asked. "It's been a while since you took on any new apprentices."
Gus smiled. "Well, that last attack by that huge creature damaged a lot of cars and bikes Tifa! I have been running around like a chocobo with its head cut off since then! It became too much work for just me and my son to keep up with. Actually, Jake is the one who found him. It was the weirdest thing he said. This guy was in the wastelands fixing his bike. It was almost as though he had just been dropped there out of nowhere."
Tifa frowned. "That is weird."
"I know," Gus said. "But the guy is amazing with bikes. He does customizations that neither Jake nor I ever even thought of! I think Cloud will be happy with any work my guy comes up with."
"That's perfect," Tifa said as she turned towards the door. "I'll wait for him outside then."
"Sure thing," Gus replied. "He'll be there in just a moment."
Tifa nodded and walked out to wait for the new guy. She looked at all the scratches on Fenrir and shook her head. It had taken quite the beating and she was anxious to see it returned to its natural pristine shape.
"Hey Tifa! Long time no see!" Jake called from behind her.
She turned with a smile on her face, but she froze when she saw the other man walking beside him. She immediately flashed back to the church.
"You wanna play" his deep voice rumbled. "I guess that's a no."
She made eye contact with his eerie mako green eyes, but noticed they seemed different. The catlike slits were gone, replaced with normal pupils. He looked back at her but showed no sign of recognition of her.
"Tifa? Hey, Teef, you okay?" Jake's voice cut through her thoughts.
She shook her head and looked back at him. "Sorry, Jake. I was lost in a memory."
"That's okay," he said with a bright smile. "So, dad told you about our find here huh?"
Tifa again looked at the silver-haired man and nodded. "Yes."
"Well, this is Loz," Jake said as he turned to look up at the man beside him. "Loz, this is Tifa. She owns that bar I was telling you about."
He inclined his head. "It's nice to meet you."
"Likewise," she murmured as she noticed his discomfort with polite conversation.
"So what does Cloud want done?" Jake asked.
Tifa again noted no sign of recognition on Loz's face at the mention of Cloud. She turned her attention to Jake again. "He would like all the damage to the body repaired, but he was hoping to have some sort of concealed storage areas added too, if that's possible."
Loz knelt beside the bike and frowned as he looked at it. He popped out the storage for the blades Cloud normally carried with him and nodded as he got to his feet. He turned and looked down at Tifa.
"Is it for more swords or other weapons?" he asked.
Tifa involuntarily shivered as his voice prodded at her memories of him. She could almost feel the stinging jolt from his Dual Hound. She managed to find her voice and shook her head. "It's for medium packages. Cloud does deliveries and needs a place for the smaller packages."
"It's doable," Loz eventually said. He smirked and looked down at Jake. "This is going to be a fun bike to work on."
"Fenrir has always been my favorite custom we've done," Jake said. He smiled at Tifa. "We'll take it in and have a good look at it before we price it out for you. I'll give you a call in about an hour, okay?"
She nodded, anxious to get away from Loz so she could figure out what to do. "Okay, I'll be at the bar."
"Do you need a ride Teef?" Jake asked as she began to walk away. "I'm sure Loz could give you a lift."
"No!" she said quickly causing both men to raise their eyebrows in surprise. "I just…I need the walk and it's nice out. Call me when you have a price!"
She hurried away while trying not to look like she was running away. Once she was out of sight, she leaned against a nearby wall and took a few deep breaths. One of the remnants was back! He didn't seem to remember her though. Were they all back? Was Sephiroth only a breath away from returning? There were so many thoughts running through her head.
"What am I going to do?" she asked herself.
Author's Note part 2: So, first chapter! Hopefully it's interesting enough to pique your curiosity and Chapter 2 should be up soon!