Disclaimer: I don't own anything. FFVII belongs to SquareEnix :)

Author's note: Here it is...the last chapter.


Chapter 8: One Day


August 13, 0013

The glow of the cell phone screen blacked out in the dark. Tifa looked up, sighing. No, I'll just wait patiently...

She climbed up to the second floor. The hallway was dark, quiet, and...lonely. Tifa glanced toward the closed door leading to Cloud's room. She opened it softly and looked around. The dusty nightstand, the closed curtains, the wooden cabinet, the empty bed, the wrinkled blanket, the navy-blue slippers...Tifa bit her lips.

Cloud, Cloud, Cloud. Was she making the right choice? Her red eyes fell down to the diamond ring still on her finger. She slumped down onto the bed, burying her face in her hands. She hated herself for ever falling for Cloud. Again. She hated herself for ever being with Rufus. She hated herself for ever believing that she would get over Cloud. It was a lie. A big fat lie. A lie that ripped her heart, Rufus' heart - they were bleeding unbearable pain. Guilt overwhelmed her like a shadow.

Yet, she honestly didn't imagine herself falling for the man again upon his return. She was wholeheartedly expecting him to join the others in the party, to congratulate her as a friend...who would had known the man got feelings for her? Those past emotions that Tifa locked deep within her heart for the past two years overflowed - flooded - her at the sight of the blonde, at the sight of the aqua-blue eyes...And Rufus knew it. He knew she'd fall back for the spiky-head. Yet, he still wanted her...

"Why?"

"Because I wanted to marry you."

"Even though you know I don't love you as much as him...?"

The Shinra President smoothed his blonde strands and nodded, eyes never leaving the woman.

"Rufus...I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize." The man held her hands in his, icy-blue eyes piercing her heart. "Do you love him?"

The barmaid bit her lips and nodded. "...My feelings never changed...I realized."

"Then be happy. For me."

Never once was Rufus angry with her decision. He didn't even bothered to "fight" for her. Because he knew that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, the man would never ever capture her heart again. He just wanted me to be happy. The monster growled inside of her again. She stared at the sparkling stone. Sighing, she teared her eyes away from the ring and smiled bitterly at the ceiling. Cloud would come back for her. Didn't he promise?

"You will come back, right?" she whispered in the dark.

"He will, he promised."

The woman turned around and saw a sleepy-looking Marlene. Her long brown hair was curled at odd angles.

"He promised?" the barmaid asked.

Marlene nodded and held Tifa's hand tightly, comforting her. "He promised. Don't worry, Tifa. Cloud is Cloud. He'll be back. I know he will."

Tifa hugged the girl, whispering, "am I doing the right thing, Marlene?"

The brunette hugged her back. "Of course. You love Cloud more than anything, more than anyone, right?"

Smiling, Tifa stroked the girl's hair, grateful that the children were back with her in the empty house.


August 18, 0013

Sounds of bottles clanking and utensils hitting plates surrounded the bar. Yuffie sat by the counter, her skinny legs swinging nonchalantly. She was waiting for Vincent to finish his mission for the night. Tifa and Shelke were busy serving customers, while the kids were off to bed already. The ninja was bored. Being bored spiked her irritation.

"Ughhh when is the vampire done with his work?!" she grumbled.

Clink clink clink clink. Her fingers tapped on the beer bottle frustratingly.

Tifa caught her friend's annoyance and smiled. "What's wrong, Yuffie?"

"I'm sooooo bored!" the ninja moaned.

The barmaid chuckled as she poured contents for a mixed cocktail.

"Where's the chocobo-face anyway? When is he coming back? Did he find you?" Yuffie bellowed.

Ruby eyes flashed at the girl. Of course, every so often, the barmaid wondered the same thing too. Where is he? When is he back? Tifa shrugged. It had been nearly a week. Yet, she was hopeful. He did promise after all.

"Huh? Tifa? Where's Cloud? Huh? Huh? HUH?" The agitated ninja threw her hands into her hair. "Where is he?!"

"I don't know, Yuffie," Tifa sighed, then smiled. "But I know he'll be back."

"Really?"

The barmaid nodded. "I got confidence in him."

Yuffie grinned and gave Tifa's hand a squeeze. "Me too."

"Well, here comes your man," the older woman winked toward the door.

The girl flipped around. "Finally!" She skipped toward the cloaked man and jumped on him. Vincent swooped down and gave her a kiss, ruffling her brown hair.

Tifa laughed.


August 23, 0013

Ring ring. Ring rin-

"Hello, Seventh Heaven."

"Hi, Tifa."

A pause. "Cloud?" The man could hear excitement on the other end.

"Yeah, it's me." The man's lips curled.

"What a surprise...!" Tifa smiled into the phone. "It's been a while."

"Yeah, I thought...I should give you a call. I mean," Cloud murmured, "it's been nearly two weeks since I left, and we haven't contacted each other..." The man was embarrassed. He had, after all, took initiative and made the call, which was quite unlike him.

"You're right," Tifa started, "and I'm very glad you called. It means you care."

There was a moment's pause in which Cloud scratched his head. Then the barmaid spoke again. "I thought you were going to be busy doing your 'stuff,' so I didn't call you...Anyway, I've been so busy these last few days. The delivery boy's quitting, so I'm trying to hire a new one again. It's driving me crazy -"

"Have you found a new one?" Cloud interrupted.

"Well, not yet -"

"I know someone who'd be interested."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I...I think he'll be available by the end of this month. I'll let you know."

The blonde heard the barmaid giggle.

"All right, Cloud, let me know when he's ready."


August 24, 0013

It was a bright summer day, with clear blue skies. Tifa glanced out of the window, watching Marlene and Denzel play with the other children. She smiled to herself. Grabbing the towel by the sink, she rinsed it with soap, washing her dirty hands at the same time. She kept her eyes on the laughing children.

Cling-cling-cling-CLANK.

Her ruby eyes flew to the sink in alarm, just in time to see a sparkling round object disappear down the drain.

"Oh my..." Tifa gasped.

For a several minutes, all she did was stare at the drain. The water was still running, washing away the soapsuds. Her fingers twitched toward the cabinet underneath the sink. But she stopped, fingers lingering in midair.

"I guess it's for the better," the barmaid smiled as she turned off the faucet.


August 30, 0013

Dear Tifa,

The new delivery boy will come tomorrow noon.

Cloud ^ ^

\*

Dear Cloud,

Thanks for letting me know. Can't wait to see...him. :)

Love,

Tifa


August 31, 0013

Tifa woke up early. It was only 7AM, but she couldn't fall back into sleep. The warm summer sun drifted through the white curtains, which silhouetted the leafy trees outside. She lay curled up in her bed, wondering how it would feel like to live with him again...a sweet smile appeared on her porcelain face.

Choosing a cute - yet moderate enough for working - outfit, she slipped into a white tank top and black skirt, reminiscent of her wardrobe back in the old days.

"It'll get him remembering..." She smiled at herself in the mirror.

Walking toward the kitchen, she made scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast. She finished her cooking, her eating, and her cleaning in less than 45 minutes altogether. Tifa glanced at the clock. It was just 8:15AM. She sighed and sat down. Her heart was twirling and swarming. Butterflies, bees, everything was flying around in her stomach, like they were throwing a party.

"Settle down, would you?" Tifa muttered. "This is no good, I should have gone back to bed."

She stared at the clock again and frowned: 8:17AM. "It's going to be a long day..."

Knowing that time would pass particularly slowly today, Tifa decided to clean up Cloud's room. However, when she got upstairs, she found the door ajar. She peeked into the room and saw Marlene and Denzel busy moving things.

"Kids...?"

The children turned around and grinned.

"Good morning, Tifa!" Marlene beamed. "We're cleaning up Cloud's room!"

"To - wel - come - him - back," Denzel added with great effort as he placed a heavy box of clanking objects onto the wooden floor. He kneeled down next to the box. "Say, Tifa, what are these?"

"Hmm?" The woman kneeled beside the boy and peered into the box.

Odd-looking metal objects were intertwined with each other. Some were rusty with decay. A piece of bronze spike caught Tifa's attention. "Oh!" She picked the spike in her hands and smiled reminiscently. It was part of an old glove that she once used back in the Meteor Crisis days. Cloud, Barret, and Tifa had packed their old weapons into boxes when they first settled into the Edge. She had no idea these boxes were in Cloud's room though; she had forgotten about them.

"Tifa?" Marlene kneeled down next to her.

The woman smiled. "These are our old weapons. Broken pieces of our old weapons."

"Oh, I recognize this!" Marlene's face lit up as she picked up a many-sided-metal nut. "Isn't this the little screw on Papa's old gun? I remember the funny shape...it's like a snowflake!"

"Cool!" Denzel grinned as he picked up an iron part that resembled that of a 4-materia-slot.

The three spent most of the early morning rummaging the boxes, with Tifa recalling various funny events during their battles. Marlene and Denzel listened eagerly.

Suddenly, a growling noise erupted from the boy's stomach. He looked up guiltily. Marlene and Tifa giggled.

"All right, breakfast time for both of you," the older woman smiled. Unintentionally, her eyes darted to the clock on the nightstand: 10:40AM. Her smile brightened, heartbeat quickened.

After a while, the children settled themselves with ham and cheese omelets.

"Hmm mmm! Your omelets are getting fluffier and fluffier!" Marlene beamed as she took a large bite. "You should put these on your menu, Tifa."

Behind the counter, the barmaid stopped chopping vegetables and glanced thoughtfully at the girl. "Hmm, you're right Marlene, I should put them in the menu. I guess it's time for a new menu again."

The young girl's eyes widened in excitement. "Can I help?"

"I wanna help too!" Denzel added, mouth full of egg.

About half an hour later, the first customer of the day arrived. It was Johnny.

"Welcome to Seventh Heaven!" Marlene smiled shyly by the door.

"Hi Marlene!" Johnny said brightly. He waved at Tifa and Denzel. "Hey Tifa, hey Denzel!"

"Hi Johnny!"

The man sat down by the counter in front of Tifa. She smiled at him. "What would you like to have today?"

He winked at her. "Same ol' same ol'."

Winking back, the barmaid turned to the stove and began beating eggs. Johnny often visited them once a week. His outdoor bar, Johnny's Heaven, was still in business, though obviously not as successful as Tifa's.

"How's Kira?" Tifa asked over her shoulder. "And little Melody?"

"Ah, they're fine, just out shoppin'," Johnny replied, shoulders slouching. "I'll bring them over next time. Those women are drivin' me crazy -"

VROOOM.

The barmaid's red eyes opened wide. It's him! She dropped the pan of frying eggs and dashed toward the door, leaving an open-mouthed Johnny staring after her. Ba-bump ba-bump. Running down the stairs, she saw...a Hardy-Daytona. Hardy-Daytona?! Tifa stared at the rider. He was wearing a thick black helmet, but if she squinted her eyes, she could see strands of blonde hair...

"Cloud...?" Tifa murmured uncertainly as she stepped toward the bike.

The rider threw his helmet off and revealed blonde hair that was not spiked up, but slicked back...

Her jaws dropped. "Rufus?!" Tifa exclaimed in disbelief.

"Hey," the Shinra President gave a little wave.

The barmaid's eyes scanned the man, the bike, everything. No way was he able to hide a man in that bike. Her heart fell.

"Hi, Rufus." She managed a smile, but faded to a frown. She couldn't hide her disappointment.

The blonde rummaged in his back-pocket and took out a small object. He got off his bike and stepped toward the woman, who was staring down at her boots.

"I got a delivery for you," the man said.

"H-huh? You're not the new delivery boy Cloud was talking about, are you?" Tifa blurted.

Rufus gave her an incredulous look and shrugged his shoulders. He raised his hands in front of the woman's eyes. Slowly, he revealed a black box in his palm. His long fingers unlocked the switch, and the lid snapped open. A small round stone blinked dazzlingly at Tifa.

"Rufus...?!" she uttered, eyes glaring daggers at the man. What's going on?! What is he doing with a -

"Relax, Tifa," the man smirked slightly. "It's not from me, it's from -"

"Me."

A voice appeared behind the barmaid. She turned around hastily and saw him. Ba-bump. The same blonde spikes that resemble that of a chocobo; the same Mako-blue eyes that swam in an obscured sea; the same shy smile that curl up just ever-so-slightly on the thin lips. The breathtaking smile...turned into a wide grin. A grin that Tifa had never seen before...

"I'm back."

"Cloud!"

She flung her arms around the man, the man she had longed for so many years; the man she had ever only wanted by her side; the man who was her childhood friend, her lover, her everything; the man who had finally returned...

"Welcome home."

*End*


Author's note: And this is the end of Dear Cloud. First of all, thank you so so so very much for all the reviews, for all the comments, for all the alerts and favorites. You guys gave me the motivation to keep writing and writing and writing. My mind is spinning with ideas. Hopefully, more stories to come!

Now, I had been fighting for a long time whether to end the story as CloTi or TifaXRufus. My initial idea of the story was to have Tifa marry another guy after letting Cloud leave. I've never written TifaXRufus before and was urged to give Cloud a sad ending, with him dwelling and loving Aerith and everything. BUT, while writing chapter 3 "The Call", I had Cloud throw his sword and crack the wall after congratulating Tifa on her engagement. It was this part that really determined the ending for me. I mean, if Cloud didn't have feelings for Tifa, why would he be so angry? Though I can't say I'm 100% happy with this ending, because I truly believe Rufus deserved Tifa more than Cloud D': Anyway, good job, Cloud, you get Tifa because you threw your Side Blade. :D

Again, thank you so much everyone for reading! You guys rock :)