Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah, I own nothing you recognize, blah.
AN: My second prompt-challenge of the summer! For those of you who don't know, my best friend, Le Requiem, and I are doing this fun little prompt-experiment/challenge/exercise for the whole summer. Each week we're going to be sending each other a prompt, taking one week to write up something for that prompt, sending the finished piece to each other for initial comments, and then posting it here. So this is my piece for prompt #2.
Prompt #2: A Taste of Your Own Medicine
If silence is a knife, then her body should be a latticework of slices, crimson cascading over her pale skin to pool in a sticky puddle beneath her feet. She remembers how it felt to be cut from collarbone to navel, Sephiroth's blade slicing between her breasts, cutting skin and muscle and splitting her open like a watermelon, her insides exposed and ready to be devoured.
She will always remember that pain. Still, it pales in comparison to the agony of his silences.
Dawn comes, the sun lighting the early sky in a pathetic watercolor of greys. Marlene and Denzel had left one day prior, heading to Corel for the summer and laughing as they drove away with Barret, some hideous rap song blasting on the radio. The idea had been Barret's, of course, and while she appreciated the sentiment, she had known that, when faced with the prospect of a whole three months alone in the bar with her, Cloud would disappear.
Yet waking to the complete and total quiet of a bar devoid of life still cuts deep, that first morning. Deeper than she ever thought possible. She looks down at her body as she dresses, half-expecting to see a new wound shedding tears of blood across her flesh. She knows there have been no delivery orders recently, knows that he hasn't left for work.
He has left because she isn't what he wants. She isn't enough. She isn't her.
With a sigh to stir the dead, she takes a seat at the bay window in her bedroom, watching specks of dust dance in the shafts of light splitting the air. A smirk quirks her lips as she imagines them mocking her. Her loyalty, her blindness, her inability to realize that she should just give in, already.
And then Aeris is beside her, holding her hand and smiling a smile to strike the living.
Tifa has never been, will never be able to hate her. Instead, she squeezes the hand around hers and smiles back, hers a sad imitation of what it used to be.
"You'd stay, if you were in my place. You'd probably run out there and find him and drag him back by his hair, telling him he was being immature, or an idiot, or something else like that. And you'd do it all with a smile on your face, and he'd love you for it."
Russet bangs frame sad eyes as Aeris shakes her head. 'If our places were reversed, and you had died the way I did, he'd be acting just the same. I sometimes think he lives to wallow.'
Tifa laughs, but it is hollow. Empty. Silent in its lack of joy. "Let's look at it this way. If I had died, he wouldn't be sitting by himself, wallowing in the remnants of the old Seventh Heaven. You'd be together and he would maybe feel some guilt, but then he'd look into your eyes and everything would be right in his world again."
'It's a two-way street, Tifa. I have Zack. That never changed. Not even Cloud could change that.'
Tifa feels a wave of nausea crash over her at the thought of the other Soldier. The real Soldier. So unlike Cloud in his energy and exuberance and constant chatter. Then Aeris squeezes her hand again, and the sick twisting in her stomach dissipates.
'He's happy, now. We both are. And we both want you to be happy, too.'
Tifa's gaze strays to the window again, the sun continuing its struggle to win against the clouds. "I thought things would change after the stigma. I thought once he, and everyone else, was healed…. Once we found a cure, that things would get better." She smiles wryly at the cold, metal cityscape before her. "I think I need to learn not to get my hopes up."
'What has he done to you?' The sharp incredulity snatches her attention from the dreariness that embodies Edge, and Tifa turns fully to face the flower girl. 'Where is the Tifa Lockhart I knew? You're not her. You can't be.'
At the acrid accusation in her friend's voice, something clenches in Tifa's chest. She blinks once and opens her eyes to finally see things clearly. She may not be able to hate the spirit seated beside her, but she can hate the man who won't stop running. She can hate him for cutting her open without a care and bleeding her dry until she was nothing more than an empty husk of the bright, strong woman she once was. And she can take his power over her away from him, for good, forever, finally.
She feels something within her that had been trampled and pounded into a fine dust, blaze to life, feels the muffle of numbness slip away. The grey sky beyond her window looks less pitiful now. There is the warm brush of lips against her forehead, and a whispered 'There you are.'
And then Tifa is alone again in her bedroom. Alone, but not. Where she once heard only silence, she now hears the steady drumming of her heart. She hears the giggle of children playing in the street below, their parents chiding them gently. She hears the rumbles and thuds of cars tearing over the concrete, the footfalls of people hurrying about their day.
She hears life go on.
She moves, quick as a cat's wink, and has a duffel packed and slung over her shoulder before she realizes the enormity of the decision she's making. Her feet carry her down the stairs and out the front door and to her pickup truck, and she lets them. She doesn't know where she's going, and that is half the fun. She's twenty-three and alive and blazing and free.
Before she climbs into her truck, to be carried away by whichever whim she chooses to heed, Tifa takes a quick glance down once more. Her skin is clean and creamy, no blood leaking through her clothes or down her limbs, nor any trace of it pooling beneath her boots. Silence's blade no longer mars her.
Into the truck she goes, smiling ear to ear.
Cloud's smile is decidedly smaller as he strides into the bar not two hours later, a mass of blue perennials clutched in one hand. Yet while that smile is smaller, it is still present, strong and ready to stay. He is ready to stay, ready to face the future.
Until the silence hits him.
Two weeks later, when Tifa hasn't returned and the perennials have wilted into ugly, brown crisps, Cloud sits in her empty room, full of empty drawers and dusty sheets. He hears nothing.
At his back, he feels the cold press of a knife, skimming across his skin like a promise.
The promise of retribution.
Fun Fact: This piece was originally going to be from Cloud's POV, centering around him having a conversation with Zack out by his grave, wherein he realizes that he's ready to stop running away from Tifa/his past/his regrets/etc., etc. He then would return to the bar to find that she had made up her mind to leave for good. So, that's sort of where I imagine Cloud is coming from at the end of this piece.
Please, please, if you liked this at all or even hated it with the burning passion of a thousand suns, please leave a review. Comments and critiques are always appreciated. Writing can be a lonely business, and they really do make my day; I'll even respond to your review telling you as much ^.^