Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII—all SquareEnix :)
Author's note: I haven't written in a long, long time. But, I'm still obsessed with FFVII as ever! :) This story takes place about 6 months after the Deepground. I haven't played DoC (nor Before Crisis and Crisis Core…and what else?) so I may be wrong on some facts throughout the story. Enjoy!
Obviously, he doesn't have those feelings for me anymore. It was too late.
Have I ruined him, because of my very existence?
"I joined SOLDIER...for you."
Why didn't I realized it back then? True, we weren't the best of friends, but...
"I was alone."
I've always thought of him as a childhood friend...or, was he...? He was my next door neighbor...but we were never close.
"I wanted you to notice me."
Did I play with my own memories as well? Maybe I'm just as confused as he is. It's come to the point where I don't even understand my true feelings. I need an answer…
We're a "family" now. Just...not a normal one.
"Why aren't you and Cloud dating?" Marlene asked.
"W-what?" It caught Tifa by surprise. She stopped stirring the simmering soup. Dating? Why would we?
"You two were about to, right?"
The woman standing behind the stove shuffled the dirty towels in her hands and turned to look at the eight year old girl like she's her own daughter. "This is nothing you should be worried about," Tifa said sternly. "If I were you, I'd stop lazying around and clean up the table so I could serve dinner, ok?" She turned abruptly toward the pot of vegetables soup, but Marlene grabbed her wrist.
"Tifa!" she exclaimed. "Haven't you two gone through enough already? How much longer are you going to put off this? I want you two to talk properly! To get your feelings straight!"
The older woman blinked. "Marlene..."
The barmaid turned away and returned to the soup. "Marlene, if you don't hurry up with the table, the soup's going to overcook."
She heard the young girl grumble and her wet towel splattered onto the wooden surface. Tifa turned around just in time to see Marlene's brown braid disappear behind the bar door.
Marlene...who would have known that such a young girl knew more than me? TIfa laughed bitterly. How pathetic... Anyway, I knew it was never going to work out. I think I've finally moved on-no, I have to accept the fact that it's time to move on. That way, it won't hurt as much thinking that we're never meant to be.
The door swung again. Tifa turned, expecting to see Marlene, but it wasn't. Her heart skipped a beat. Why?
The blonde spikes were bent at awkward angles as the man took off his sunglasses. His graying leather boots made the wooden floors creak pleadingly as he stepped inside.
"Cloud?" Tifa breathed.
The chocobo-head looked embarrassed and apologetic, like a little boy caught in trouble. "Sorry Tifa, I should've called you, but the battery's dead," he said, showing his childhood friend his cell phone.
"I see," Tifa replied as she took Cloud's phone and connected it to the charger. She returned to the soup, unable to speak. I wasn't expecting him to be back so soon. He said that he'll be away for the entire week...
"Tifa? Are you...mad that I didn't call I'll be home for dinner?"
Stirring the soup absentmindedly, Tifa looked up and saw the Mako-blue eyes, piercing straight through her. Home? Since when did he ever call this "home"?
"Oh, no, I was just worried I didn't cook enough-"
The two turned to the door. Marlene and Denzel ran toward Cloud, their arms reaching out.
"You're home early!" Denzel exclaimed.
"Did you bring home anything?" Marlene asked excitedly as she wrapped her arms around Cloud.
The man chuckled, patting the two children on their heads. "Yeah, I bought something all of you would love." He turned to Tifa and added, "Tifa, you'll love this too."
TIfa felt Marlene's eyes glancing toward her, but she didn't return her glance. "Oh? What did you get us this time?"
He opened his bag and grabbed an icebox. Marlene and Denzel were standing on their toes as they stared at the box eagerly. The box clicked open and inside were three blue orbs and a large bucket of ice cream.
"Ice cream!" Marlene squealed.
"Wow! I haven't had ice cream for so long..." Denzel said softly.
Marlene took the boy's hands in her own. "We can have them after dinner!"
Denzel beamed and nodded.
"I bet you haven't had ice cream in a long time, let alone this brand..." Cloud raised the bucket of vanilla ice cream to Tifa's dark red eyes.
"Huh?" Tifa blinked. It was ice cream from home. Rather, what used to be "home". Kids back then love this brand-Nibel Ice Cream.
"Nibel Ice Cream..." Tifa smiled reminiscently. "Where did you get it?"
"Their factory moved to the Northern Continent, near the Icicle Inn," Cloud said as he put the ice cream into the freezer. "Better environment for their chocobo I suppose."
Tifa looked up in surprise. "The...the Northern Continent? You went to the Northern Continent?"
"Yeah, went to find the Chocobo Sage," Cloud replied.
"You flew there?"
"Yeah, Cid said he'll fly me with SHERA."
"Oh. And that's why you're back early, is it? Because Cid flew you?"
Marlene and Denzel looked back and forth between the two adults' conversation, which was starting to sound extremely nerve-racking.
"And you told him you were heading to the Northern Continent?"
"Well, sort of..." Cloud paused.
"And you never bothered to tell me where you're headed to...even though we live under the same roof?"
"I..." Cloud stammered. "TIfa, is something wrong?"
The martial artist grabbed four bowls on the shelf and placed them onto the table a little too roughly. "Nothing!" she snapped. Her heart was beating fast. Why do I feel so mad?
The four sat at the table, like a family. The only difference was, they were unrelated-blood-wise. Marlene served soup for everyone, making sure not to create a mess to avoid getting scolded by a bad-tempered Tifa. Meanwhile, Denzel placed a butter roll on each of their plates with extra care. The two of them shared a nervous look, urging the other to speak.
Denzel gave up and spoke, a little too loudly, "let's eat!"
"Yeah, then we could have ice cream!" Marlene smiled nervously at Tifa.
Suddenly, Tifa stood up. "You guys go ahead, I'm not hungry." She stalked off upstairs. A moment later, they heard the sound of closed door.
Cloud glanced at the stairs, but did not get up. He turned back to the children. "Let's eat up."
Marlene looked anxious. "Uhm...How's Shelke?" Marlene asked.
"I dropped her off at Kalm. She says she's planning to help the homeless there..."
Meanwhile, in her room, TIfa clambered onto her bed and threw her covers over her head.
What am I so mad about? It's not like he ever confided in me his whereabouts...But I felt so mad when I heard Cid flew him. That means Cid knows his whereabouts. And not me. Probably everyone knows it except me. Well, I'm not his anything so it's no surprise. I just thought that...we've lived together for more than three years, he could have been more open with me-at least give me a hint of where he's headed to during his trips! So I'm not even considered a friend to him after all since he doesn't even bother to tell me anything. Sometimes I wonder why he's even staying here-no, he never "stayed" here, he's just "here," physically...
The normally calm Tifa drifted off into sleep, still feeling hot-tempered.
Tifa stirred in her sleep.
"Hmm..." Stumbling out of her bed, Tifa stretched her arms and yawned sleepily. Her head was pounding painfully. She fumbled for the door knob and opened the door. It was pitch dark outside in the hallway, except for the faded street lights from downstairs. Tifa glanced around the empty hall and wondered whether she was dreaming of the knocking.
Just when she was about to close the door, she peered down and saw something on the floor. She kneeled and saw a bowl of ice cream. As she reached out, she saw a note tucked underneath it. Picking up the note and bowl, she returned to her table, closing the door behind her. She placed the ice cream onto the table and sat down, flipping open the folded note.
"I'm sorry for being so inconsiderate.
That's why I wanted to bring this ice cream home for you.
Home. Tifa bit her lips, muffling a sniff. She stared down at the bowl of vanilla ice cream-three scoops placed neatly in the bowl, with crushed nuts sprinkled on top.
She sighed and smiled softly. "How am I supposed to eat this without a spoon, silly..." She got up and opened the door again, only to find Cloud, standing right in front of her, holding a spoon.
He caught her by surprise and she gasped, covering her mouth with her hands, eyes wide.
"Clou-!" Tifa punched the man playfully on the chest. "You scared me!" she hissed.
Suddenly, he grabbed her punching fist swiftly and wrapped his strong arms around the woman. Cloud's heart was beating wildly, afraid that the figure on his chest would feel the thumping.
Author's note: Second chapter should be up in no time.