Disclaimer: I own nothing. Square Enix does.
A/N: I wanted to write another CloTi, my Yuffentine story has hit a mild dry spell (worrying over college turns out to be taking a toll on my creativity) but fear not! It too will be finished and worked on shortly.
By Miranda Panda-chan
Sometimes she wondered why things happened. Normally, she wouldn't bother. She had become so used to irrational and unfair and unjust events happening that she didn't bother pondering the whys so very often as she wondered how to prevent/resolve it. Tifa wasn't one to feel sorry for herself, ever. She had blood on her hands that would never ever wash away no matter how much bleach and alcohol and lye she poured on them. Things like guilt weighed on her shoulders despite the fact that Sephiroth hadn't resurfaced in two years. She counted her every blessing—that Denzel wasn't dead yet, that he still had good days where he seemed to be getting better, that Marlene was as healthy as a little girl in the slums could ever be, and that she had a steady-income and a place of business with flexible hours that came with being one's own boss. She had everything she could ask for, even Cloud had been looking to finally getting over his own guilt about Aeris's death…
…and then he'd left.
She didn't ask why, because she knew why. She'd seen the delivery request from Elmyra, and while the young martial artist didn't fault the grieving older woman her request for a memorial bouquet to be placed in or near the lake where her adopted daughter had been laid to rest, she wished that she'd chosen some other delivery boy. Cloud Strife was a strong man, but he'd been through so much…and the request had torn open the half-healed wounds, making them far worse than they had been before.
The why didn't matter, the how to prevent it time had come and gone, and the resolution was…
She didn't know yet. She was hurt, far worse than she'd ever admit to anyone, and she was angry. He'd abandoned her and the kids and their life that they'd rebuilt together from the ground up—literally. He'd built the revamped Seventh Heaven in Edge with the remains of demolished structures from old Midgar. He'd been gone for two months now, at least—no phone calls, didn't even bother picking up when she got over her own pride and called him.
The whys weren't important, they never had been.
So she didn't ask or ponder on it when she awoke to her thigh leaking thick black goo on to her bed sheets in the middle of the night. She didn't ask why when pain like fire and a thousand knives shot through it and left her trying to catch her breath, she didn't ask what it was because she inherently knew what it was without even looking.
The why didn't matter, and with a sigh that made her feel years older than she was. There was no use trying to find a solution, because there was simply nothing to be done.
Tifa had geostigma, two kids to look after, a bar to tend, abandonment issues that were creating anger issues, and a guilty conscience.
Things that all seemed suddenly inconsequential next to the pain that coursed through her. She had managed to stay quiet for the two or three minutes that it felt like her bones were splitting open, and then the pain slackened, dulled, and disappeared. She wondered how Denzel did it, with the patch of it being on his head. He was far stronger than she had ever given him credit for.
She decided, after what felt like hours of wondering how to do this—work was not an option, it was a demand, she had bills to pay—to try and move. She twitched her toes, flexed her fingers, and pushed up on her arms, slowly pushing herself toward the edge of the bed. She vaguely recognized that the sheet was stuck to her, tangled around the infected leg. The viscous black liquid was acting as glue in the worst way, the skin itself seemed to throb beneath the linen. She grit her teeth, carefully unwrapping and untangling, grunting in mild disgust at her ruined sheets, and thinking about the cost of new ones and the pros and cons of going out to buy some.
New sheets went for a good couple gil these days…and she needed another shipment of Corel wine, plus the dress Marlene had been wanting (her birthday was coming up and she'd been crossing her fingers for it), and Denzel's medical supplies (which cost far more than she'd let the boy or girl in her care know, that kind of thing had been hard enough to get in the days before Shinra and Sephiroth), she wasn't hardly going to be able to keep the water running.
She ran her hands through her hair, deciding before she actually knew her options that she'd forgo the sheets. She'd only stain them again, just as Denzel had done to his pillow case, she just thanked the Lifestream that the smell could be washed away.
Tifa listened, the creaking of the house putting her on edge—if Marlene knew, she'd try and get ahold of Cloud, and bringing Cloud into the mess that would undoubtedly turn into something far larger than just having a terminal illness. Something that would probably involve memories, feelings, emotions that he wasn't ready to deal with, and truth that she didn't care to.
She padded to the laundry room as quietly as she could, listening carefully for the sound of even breathing and crickets as she stuffed her sheets in the washer and turned it on.
The stars and moon shown through the front glass window as she walked back out, exhausted from lack of sleep, worry and anxiety over so many things that she couldn't help and so many things that she could. Geostigma wasn't going to magically disappear—she was going to die.
The urge to vomit hit her hard as the thought sunk in.
She steadied herself though, swallowing mouthfuls of air as she leaned closer to the glass hoping the cold night air would radiate through. The stars seemed to be shining brightly, and she couldn't help the rueful smile that curled her lips up.
"Hey, why don't we make a promise? Umm…if you get really famous and I'm ever in a bind…You come save me, alright?"
"Whenever I'm in trouble, my hero will come and rescue me. I want to at least experience that once…Come on-! Promise me!"
Somehow, the feelings she'd had that had brought a slight blush to her face whenever she recalled that particular memory did not hold the positivity that they had once upon a time. Her heart beat remained calm, no flutterings of unexpressed sentiments, just cold hard facts. She hadn't been a child in a long time, hadn't had the time to daydream, or maybe it was just that she didn't want too. Daydreams were things that had caused her feelings of betrayal when Cloud had left. Daydreams gave her hope that he'd return.
For now, she just wanted to sleep. She was tired, and the childish notion to run away from her problems like Cloud had, she thought bitterly appealed to her, but she knew she wouldn't—her Master had taught her better than that—he'd taught her how to face life head on, and without her willingness to use that she'd have never survived for this long.
Wine-red eyes blinked back sleep as she stood up, she needed a shower and bandages. Her sheets would be dry and clean by the time she got out—or, they would once she put them in the dryer.
She stumbled slightly, realizing too late that she was shaking unsteadily. She caught herself quickly, but not before she heard the quiet gasp upstairs.
Please don't think it's a burglar, please don't think it's a-!
"LET TIFA GO!" a childish yell and a flashlight later, her adoptive daughter holding a bat, her son holding a crowbar he'd picked up on the streets, Tifa was caught (she was just happy she'd put on her sweatpants before she'd left her room). Marlene squinted, eyesight still fuzzy from sleep when she gasped and turned off the light, "Tifa? What are you doing down here?"
"I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get some laundry done to get my mind off things."
"See, Marlene? I told you it wasn't a burglar. No burglar would make it past Tifa." Denzel said, yawning.
"I'm sorry I woke you both up, c'mon, I'll tuck you back in." Denzel nodded, bleary eyed and half-asleep, Marlene seemed to scrutinize her for a moment, the more perceptive of the two, but seemed to deem her reason acceptable enough.
She tucked them into bed, deciding that she'd just clean her leg with warm wash cloth. Her sheets were dried, and she was finding it difficult to stay awake.
Emotionally, mentally, and physically drained, Tifa drifted off to sleep—the bandage around her leg slowly being stained black.
A/N: So I know this has been done, several times—but I gotta say, Tifa has never acted the way I thought she would, so I decided to take my own spin on things. See if I could and all that jazz, ya know? So here we are! Please review!