Once she grabbed a towel and closed the door behind her Aerith allowed herself to lean against the door and catch her breath. Her heart was still pounding from the feel of Tifa's hand against her skin and her thoughts were racing.
She'd thought she'd gotten over her little crush, but with the way things had been going…it was back with a vengeance. The way she now felt…well the word crush no longer applied.
Aerith let out a low groan and let her eyes slip shut and she admitted the dire truth. She didn't have a mere crush on her friend. She was in love with her. Completely head over heels.
She'd always known that her feelings were more than friendly. She'd come to terms with that when she'd realized that her feelings for Cloud were platonic. But she'd never expected things to get so out of hand.
And now they were living together. The chances of Tifa touching her the way she had earlier had increased exponentially. And she knew that every accidental brush of a body part and every friendly caress would slowly drive her insane.
And Aerith would be lying if she didn't admit that she'd love every moment of it.
Tifa entered her room and glanced around slowly to make sure there wasn't anything lying out that would make her new roommate uncomfortable, not that she could really think of anything she could possibly have that would do so. With a second look she confirmed that everything was in order.
She walked over to the bed and grabbed the tank top and boxers that she used for sleeping. Crush or not, she didn't see any reason to change her nightwear just because there would be another person around. The outfit was damned comfy and she'd spent the last month breaking them in.
Tifa let her mind wander as she unbuttoned her jeans and slid them down her legs before kicking them off and tossing them into the laundry basket. She was in the process of pulling on her boxer shorts when a repetitive ringing drew her attention.
She looked around slowly, trying to identify the origin before realizing the sound was emitting from her phone. She rolled her eyes as she grabbed the phone. As she held the phone in her hand she couldn't help but be perplexed as to who might be calling.
Tifa stared at the device intently, half regretting her refusal to pay the extra money for caller id as she debated ignoring it. After a moment she decided it couldn't hurt to answer. Mostly because she wasn't doing anything and there was a slim chance the person on the other end would be Cloud. And if she ignored his call he'd remind her about all the times she ragged on him about not answering his phone. She tapped the button to connect the call and lifted it to her ear. "Tifa here."
Tifa blinked and subconsciously tilted her head. "Cloud?" While she had answered the phone just in case it was her blond friend, Tifa hadn't actually expected it to be him. "Aren't you on a date?"
There was a soft chuckle over the line. "Yes Tifa. We're just having coffee. Leon knows the owner and they're just catching up a bit so I decided to take the time to call and see how you and Aerith are making out."
Tifa lowered herself onto her couch. "Everything went fine. We finish moving all her things here and we're planning on dealing with them tomorrow. So if you're bored and want to help…" She trailed off, already knowing what his answer would be.
"Uh…thanks but no thanks. Besides, Leon and I have some things to do tomorrow. But I hadn't really meant the moving Tifa. I'm more referring to how you're feeling about her living with you considering the fact that you're head over heels in love with her."
"I-…I- what?" Tifa nearly choked on her own tongue as she absorbed the man's words. "What are you talking about Cloud?"
Cloud sighed softly. "Tifa, it's obvious that you love her. I thought you would have come to terms with it by now. Aren't you the one who's always telling me not to run from my feelings?"
A small grimace formed on her features. "Really? Out of all the things I've told you and you've ignored, this is the one that you remember? The one thing that could come back and bite me in the ass?" She sighed and rolled her eyes good naturedly. "That is far from fair."
"Fair isn't really the goal. I just want you to be happy Tifa. And I think you and Aerith would be good for each other." His concern was easily discernible in his voice and Tifa couldn't help but smile.
At the same time however, she wasn't really sure what to say in response. She wanted to dispel her friend's fears but she didn't think she could. Not when the thing he was attempting to encourage was the one thing she wanted to avoid at all costs. "Whatever you say weirdo."
Another sigh was heard across the line and Tifa knew Cloud was rolling his eyes. "I'm serious Tifa. It doesn't feel right to try this whole being happy thing without you. We've known each other for so long. You're the closest thing I have to family."
Sincerity practically shone in the man's voice and Tifa couldn't help but feel awed. "This guy, Leon right?" She waited for confirmation then continued. "Knowing you I assume you developed strong feelings for him before you even allowed yourself to go on a date with him."
The blond cleared his throat and she knew that he was probably blushing and wished they were talking in person so she could tease him about. "I guess. Not that I really admitted it to myself. But something about him drew me, and no matter how much I resisted…" There was a pause and then a small snort. "On top of it all, I could hear your voice in my head telling me to take a chance. Saying everything that there could be between us would be worth the possible consequences."
Tifa blinked and couldn't seem to manage a response. This was clearly a very serious matter in Cloud's eyes. He never offered up his inner thoughts so easily otherwise. "You really want me to take a chance with this don't you?"
His response came back clear and firm. "I'm not trying to be invasive or pushy. I just want the both of you to be happy and from what I've seen and what I know I think that you're both the best candidates to make each other happy."
A soft breath escaped her and Tifa bit her lip. "I don't know Cloud. It's just…it's not that simple. Maybe if she was a stranger I would go for it. But I don't know how she feels and I don't want to ruin our friendship. I don't think I'll ever find another friend like her again."
"Maybe she won't return your feelings and maybe a relationship won't work between the two of you. But do you truly believe Aerith would let something like that ruin your friendship? That just isn't who she is. No matter what happens, you won't lose her."
Tifa finally stopped worrying her lip between her teeth and smiled tightly. "I know you're right. But at the same time…" She shook her head slowly. "I've never felt this unsure of anything before."
"That's what love's all about isn't it? All that crap about it being perfect and easy is just that, utter crap. But I know you Tifa, no matter what the outcome you'll come through it better than you went in. Besides, the Tifa I know is no coward."
Tifa scoffed as she heard the tone in her friend's voice. "Not going to lie Strife, I'm pretty sure you're issuing a challenge here."
The smirk was evident in the man's tone as he responded. "I'm fairly sure you're right Tifa. The question is whether or not you'll step up."
"Fine. You win for now Cloud. I'll think about it and maybe…" She took a deep breath as she made to say her next words. "Maybe I'll take a shot."
Both knew what Tifa was really saying. No matter how scared she was, she wouldn't back down. She would say something to Aerith, make some sort of move. Only neither knew which.
"I'm glad to hear it Tifa. And you had better make sure you let me know what happens." While his voice was still calm and solid as ever, there was a soft threat underneath.
Tifa smiled warmly in response to it. Threatened or not, Tifa knew Cloud would never do anything that wasn't for her own good. "Alright. I'll make sure to do just that."
"You'd better. Anyway it looks like Leon's almost done so I'll let you go and rile Aerith up."
She snorted then adopted a false innocent tone. "Yeah right, like I'd do that."
Cloud chuckled softly. "Ah, perhaps I should have said don't tease her too much."
She rolled her eyes and laughed. "Okay, okay. I'll go easy on her. And Cloud?" She paused to make sure he was paying attention. She took his grunt as confirmation of that. "You're the closest thing I have to family too."
"Tifa…" The usually stoic man's voice sounded choked and Tifa could tell that she'd evoked an emotional response.
"Don't worry Cloud, you don't have to say anything else. I know. Now, you get back to your hot boyfriend. Your boyfriend who I have yet to meet. You'd better get on rectifying that mistake real soon." Tifa chided and wished once again that she could see her friend. He was the most fun to tease and she hadn't had such good ammo in a long time.
Her initial answer was a scoff and then a sigh. "Fine. I'll arrange a day where we can all get together. I'll let you know when. Until then I'll talk to you soon."
Tifa beamed. "Alright. Sounds good. Love you Cloudy." Before he could kick up a fuss about the reviled nickname she pressed the end button and grinned as she thought about her friend's various reactions.
Aerith's soft voice startled her out of her thoughts and she stood quickly to greet her friend. But Aerith's appearance was far from what she expected and she couldn't help the sound of shock that escaped her. Aerith stood in the doorway clothed in a small white towel, her wet hair hanging down her back in a mess of waves. All in all, she looked as beautiful as ever and Tifa was having a hard time remembering how to speak.
Aerith tilted her head and gave her friend a curious stare. "I was just asking if you could remember where we put the box with all of my clothes."
A thoughtful frown crossed her features as she viewed the boxes scattered in the room about her. She couldn't seem to recall which ones held what and considering how they were stacked she wasn't really in the mood to start moving them all around to find the right one. "I'm not really sure. You can just take whatever you need out of my closet. I'm sure my clothes will fit you decently well."
A mischievous glint flared in green eyes as they drifted down to the other woman's obviously larger chest. "At least they'll fit me in most areas. But in others…" She trailed off and grinned as the dark-haired woman flushed. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
Tifa rolled her eyes. "Of course I don't mind. I mean really, it's bound to happen at some point. We're two women living in the same house. It's apparently inevitable."
"Of course." Aerith laughed lightly. "Thank you Tifa. For everything."
Tifa nodded absently and tried not to stare too much as her friend turned away. It didn't matter how attractive she found Aerith to be, she was going to need to get used to seeing her in various states of undress without turning into a gaping idiot. Otherwise, she was going to begin causing some very awkward situations.
Then again…she was pretty sure things were already pretty awkward.
The next few weeks flew by and Tifa found herself constantly amazed by how easy it was to fall into a routine with her best friend. It was almost as if living together made their daily lives easier. And rather than degrading their friendship, as Tifa had feared it would, it only strengthened it.
Unfortunately their friendship wasn't the only thing being strengthened. As each day passed Tifa found herself becoming more and more used to having Aerith around, to the point where she realized she depended on the other woman.
It was inevitable that Aerith would eventually move out. She'd either get sick of living with her best friend or she'd find a nice guy and want to settle down. Either option left Tifa on her own again. And though she knew this, she couldn't help but adjust her routines to fit around Aerith to the point where she couldn't even remember the things she'd done when the other woman hadn't been around.
In fact, she'd become so content and absorbed in the comfort of her situation with Aerith that she didn't notice where the passage of time was leading until Aerith brought the date up one morning.
"Tifa?" Green eyes were focused and unmoving as they waited for a response.
Once again Tifa had been lost in thought as she tried to avoid thinking about how ravishable Aerith was looking that morning with her mussed up hair and pink-striped pajama shorts. "Yeah Aerith?"
"I've been living here for over a month."
Tifa nodded in a slightly distracted fashion. "I guess that's right. It doesn't seem like it's been that long."
Aerith chuckled. "I can't help but agree. However that doesn't change the fact that I've been living with you, rent-free, for a whole month."
"I suppose that's true." Tifa hummed thoughtfully and turned her eyes on her friend. "However, that doesn't change the fact that I don't care."
Aerith's eyes widened for a moment before she laughed. "Come on Tifa, I don't like the thought of using you like this."
"By all means Aerith, you are welcome to use me in any way you wish." Tifa grinned mischievously before giving her friend a more genuine smile. "Seriously though Aerith, if I were to let you pay rent money, I'd feel obligated to pay you for all the cooking and cleaning you do. So as far as I'm concerned, you and I are even."
Aerith opened her mouth to retort only to find she had nothing to respond with. After a few more moments of thought she sighed and conceded the other woman's point. "If you ever need me to leave Tifa, please don't worry about saying so."
Tifa rolled her eyes. "Aerith, I cannot express how much I've enjoyed having you here. I'm not quite sure why, but I can't really recall not having you around."
Aerith blushed lightly and smiled. "Oh Tifa, that's so sweet."
Tifa grinned mischievously. "Not really. I was kind of thinking that you're like a fungus and you've just really grown on me." Her grin turned into peals of laughter as she was harshly pelted with a pillow.
Aerith crossed her arms and tried to look annoyed, only to give in and laugh along with her friend. Though she still couldn't help the soft glow of warmth she felt at Tifa's admission and it was then that she decided that as long as Tifa was happy to have her around, she was there to stay.
Initially it was easy to ignore. Everything about them meshed perfectly, their personalities, their jobs, their lifestyles, even their interests. There was no reason them living together should have been anything but ideal.
Except there was.
As the weeks bled into months, a tension began to underlie their easy camaraderie. A tension that grew from mildly annoying, to nearly unbearable. And it took a toll. Slowly but surely they began avoiding each other, to avoid the things they left unsaid.
And it seemed that it was obvious to everyone what the problem was, at least to everyone but the two women involved.
It seemed inevitable that the 'ideal' situation they landed in would eventually turn sour.
"I can't do this anymore!"
Aerith's voice rang throughout the room, seemingly much louder due to the difference from her usual gentle tone. In fact, Tifa couldn't remember the last time she'd heard Aerith adopt such an angry lilt to her soft soprano. "What are you talking about Aer?"
Green eyes flicked over to settle on her face and it was easy to see the mixture of frustration and sadness swirling in their depths. "This Tifa. This messed up dance we've been doing for god knows how long."
"Dance…?" Tifa's first thought was that Aerith had noticed her affectionate words and longing glances and she couldn't manage to think beyond it. And there was no way she was going to offer up the information if that wasn't what Aerith was referring to.
Intense irritation played over Aerith's delicate features and she shook her head, her distress clear in her every movement. "How can you be so close to me and not see what everyone else finds so obvious?" When she got nothing more than a blank look from her friend she wrung her hands and threw all caution to the wind. "I'm in love with you Tifa! I have been for years."
There was a pronounced silence as they stared at each other, Aerith waiting for some sort of reply and Tifa too blown away to give her one. After a few more moments Aerith shook her head once more, this time with a look of reservation rather than irritation. "So this is how it's going to be? We're just going to ignore how I feel? Pretend that I don't want so much more? I don't think I can do this Tifa."
Panic overtook her as she understood the gravity of what her friend was saying and Tifa willed herself to say something, to say anything. But she couldn't manage to get the words out and before she knew it, Aerith had stood, leaving only the sound of the front door closing behind her as an indicator that she had left.
Only then did Tifa finally manage to utter the words that had frozen in her throat. "I love you too Aerith."
Minutes passed into hours as she sat there, frozen in place by her overwhelming emotions, and more importantly her all-consuming fear. Fear that she'd lost her only shot at being with the woman she loved. Not only that, but that she'd also lost her best friend.
As that knowledge seeped through her thoughts and pervaded every sense she had, Tifa's body finally began to move as her knees gave way and she sank to the floor.
As she knelt there she found herself at a loss. She didn't know what to do, how to feel, what to say. So she did the only thing she could manage. She curled up and let herself cry until she had no more tears left. Eventually, she fell asleep only to be tormented by dreams that repeated the scene that had upended her life as she knew it in a thousand different ways.
Tifa remained there for longer than she could keep track of. Eventually she started to feel her stomach cramp with the need for food and a vague sense that she was exhausted but neither encouraged her to move. It wasn't until there was a knock at the door that she reacted at all and even then it was only to look towards the door in acknowledgement that it was the source of the disturbance.
The knocking continued and Tifa continued to ignore it, preferring to remain in her prone position and attempt to block everything out once more. She didn't want to think and she especially didn't want to think about her reasons for not wanting to think.
So she didn't. She just remained there, staring at the wall but seeing nothing and with enough effort she stopped hearing the knocking. Either that or the person had left. She didn't know and she didn't care.
A few minutes later she'd nearly reached her previous state of numbness when a figure infiltrated the edge of her vision. But like the knock on the door, she didn't react and this time she didn't even bother to acknowledge it.
There was a low growl, presumably from a man. The sound was the only warning before a rough hand grabbed her shoulder and turned her to look at the unwelcome visitor.
A slight widening of brown eyes was the only indication gave to let Cloud know she recognized him and had taken his presence into account. Other than that she did nothing.
"Tifa. Jesus Christ. I called. Several times. Since when do you not answer the phone? What the hell happened?"
Cloud's words were little more than a blur and once more Tifa didn't respond in any kind.
The blond growled once more and ran his fingers through his spiky hair, obviously trying to keep himself from shaking the woman in front of him until he got the answers he was looking for. "If you don't say something Tifa, I swear I'll make you regret it. I've been going out of my mind since last night when Aerith came to my door crying. And she won't tell me anything either!"
The frustration and concern were written all over her friend's face to such an intense degree that Tifa couldn't help but feel a dull twinge of guilt. And that twinge acted as the floodgate to the rest of the emotions she'd been struggling so hard not to feel. She opened her mouth to attempt to comfort her friend only to find her throat too tight to allow any sounds through. And before she knew it her cheeks were coated in tears.
Cloud was on his knees in front of her in an instant, pulling her against his lean frame and muttering sweet nothings into her ear to soothe her. As the minutes passed he eventually seated himself to pull her into his lap and they remained that way until Tifa's sobs faded and the stream of tears slowed.
"What happened Tif?"
Another sob tore from her body as she attempted to talk once more and she raised sodden eyes to meet the blue gaze that was focus on her unwaveringly. The heartrending concern that was displayed in them somehow made it easier for her to finally speak. "Honestly? I don't really know. But I know I fucked up Cloud."
She let out a shaky breath and buried her face against his chest. "We were just…talking like we normally do and…all of a sudden she was so close and I was trying so hard not to just lean in and kiss her." Her throat constricted once more and she lapsed into another silence as she tried to regain her ability to speak.
In response Cloud tightened his arms around her and rested his chin on the top of her head, silently waiting for her to continue and soothing her with his mere presence.
Tifa fisted her hands in his shirt and took a fortifying breath. "Suddenly she burst out about how she couldn't do it anymore and how…" Her voice choked up once more and she leaned back slightly to look into her friend's eyes as she spoke again. "She said she loved me Cloud. She told me she loved me and I was too stupid to say anything in return."
Understanding flooded into Cloud's eyes and he kissed his friend's forehead lightly. "Want to tell me what happened? It might help you figure out what stopped you from saying anything. Or at least that's how people say things like this work."
Tifa's lips quirked at the edges as she saw the flicker of disbelief in the man's baby blue eyes. It was easier for her to understand its origin. Cloud had always felt that anything requiring talking was unnecessary. That in itself entertained her, but it wasn't what motivated the smile that ghosted across her mouth. What really eased the painful pressure in her chest was her stoic friend's willingness to do anything that might help her.
"It's okay Cloud. I don't really think there was a reason. It just happened." If she'd hadn't been in the middle of something that felt akin to the fabled tale of heartbreak she would have laughed at the relieved look Cloud gave her. "But if you have any ideas on how I can get myself out of this mess, I'm all ears."
Cloud ran his hand up and down her arm in a comforting gesture as he stared forward, clearly deep in thought. "I'm not really the best person to ask about these kinds of things. But I think I might actually have an idea."
His words caught Tifa's interest immediately. She hadn't actually expected the man to give her an answer. Her question had been more rhetorical than anything. But after reconsidering the situation for a moment she realized that Cloud was the best person to ask. There was no one else who knew her or Aerith better excluding each other.
Noticing that he had caught the brunette's interest Cloud gave her a crooked smile. "This is going to sound useless and pretty cliché Tifa, so bear with me." Once she'd given him a slight nod he continued. "Aerith's in love with you. And I'm pretty sure she has been almost as long as you've been heads over heels for her. Maybe even longer. She knows you."
Tifa nodded slowly, trying to comprehend the possibility that her friend had had such feelings for so long. She was so busy absorbing the information that she nearly missed Cloud's advice.
"Talk to her."
There was silence as Tifa waited for her friend to say he was joking or something of the like. Then she smiled wryly as she recalled who she was thinking of. Cloud didn't joke about many things, and her love life was definitely not on the list. "Talk to her?"
Cloud nodded. "I told you it would sound useless. But I think that's the best approach with Aerith. It can be easier to hurt her, but it's just as easy to heal her so to speak. So I honestly think that if you just go and confront her with your feelings, everything will work out."
Tifa laughed weakly. "Confront her with my feelings hey? You make it sound so aggressive. You do realize that confessing requited love is supposed to be romantic right?"
The blond shifted and stood up with his friend in his arms. "Romance is what you make it Tifa. And I suggest you go out and make romance yours before you lose your chance."
Tifa shook her head in disbelief as she was gently set on her feet. "You are definitely an odd one Cloud."
"Odd or not, you know I'm right Tifa."
She sighed and nodded, wrapping her arms around the blond tightly. "Thanks Cloud."
He hugged her back and rubbed his hand down her back. "Anytime Tifa." He pulled away gently and placed his hands on her shoulders. "My bike is outside. I suggest you get your ass to my place as soon as possible. I'll be waiting here for you two when you get back."
Tifa took the keys that were handed to her in a swift motion and bit her lip as tears came to her eyes once more. But this time they were tears she could handle, tears that came from the overwhelming thankfulness she felt knowing that her best friend cared for her to such an extent. "I'll be back soon Cloud. I swear."
Cloud gave her a soft smirk. "I know you don't need it, but good luck."
With a quick nod and smile Tifa was dashing out the door.
Not long later Tifa stood in front of Cloud's apartment door, bent over and panting. It took her a few moments to even out her breathing and straighten up. But as she stared at the door she could feel her heart beating as fast and hard as it had as she'd run up the stairs. That alone made her sure that it was trepidation causing the irregularity.
She let her eyes close slowly and took a deep breath. After her talk with Cloud she'd been ready, she'd known exactly what to do, what to say. But now, now that she was within feet of Aerith, it felt like every plan she'd had vanished into thin air, leaving her terrified and unsure. There was a part of her that couldn't help but want to turn around and avoid the possible rejection that faced her.
The instant the urge to do so came over her, she frowned deeply. It had never been her style to give up and walk away. For her to do so now, in a moment that was arguably one of the most important of her life, would be asinine to say the least.
Without a second thought her hand was turning the knob. She moved into the apartment quietly, not intentionally but due to habit. She wandered through the entrance and into the living room without interference and stopped to see if she could figure out Aerith's location.
There was the soft sound of metal against plastic and Tifa was instantly positive that Aerith was in the kitchen. More than likely the woman was baking as she so often did when she was distraught. Tifa frowned once again and felt a clenching in her gut as she forced herself to face the knowledge that she had done that. She had made the serene woman sad and had hurt her in the way Tifa herself feared being hurt the most. And now she had to rectify it. There would be no more avoidances, no more denial. It was time for her to lay out her feelings and let the pieces fall where they would.
As she approached the kitchen she wondered if she should call out a warning or something to let the woman know that she was no longer alone. But she discarded that idea, knowing that it would help her to see the other woman before they began the inevitable conversation they'd been dancing around for so long.
Tifa nearly smiled as she observed the sight before her. There were various kitchen implements spread about accompanied by a grand variety of ingredients. Aerith herself stood in the middle of it all, bent over a large plastic bowl, stirring something that Tifa couldn't identify.
Somehow, the picture only strengthened Tifa's resolve. And with a soft inhalation she made her presence known. "Aerith."
The bowl that the brunette had been holding clattered to the counter as she whirled around. As her eyes landed on Tifa her face belied a fluctuation of emotion. First surprise, then confusion followed by a deep sadness. "Tifa."
They stood that way for what seemed like an eternity, merely staring at each other longingly.
It took her more effort than she could have expected, but Tifa finally broke the silence. "We need to talk about what happened-"
"No." Aerith bit her lip and wrung her hands as she blustered on. "We don't need to Tifa. I'm sorry, I really am. I never wanted to ruin what we have. I never wanted…I…" Aerith's words trailed off into a type of nonsensical babbling that neither she nor Tifa could understand.
The instant Tifa saw the tears welling up in the other woman's eyes she surged forward and pulled her into her arms. "Aerith." When her friend didn't react and continued to let loose her flow of words Tifa sighed and gently gripped her chin, forcing the other woman's eyes to meet her own. "Shut up."
With a soft apology Aerith lapsed into silence. Her eyes darted away as she felt Tifa continued to stare at her intently. After a few short moments Aerith opened her mouth once more, needing to break the silence, only to be interrupted.
"I'm sorry." Even as Aerith's eyes widened in surprise Tifa shook her head. "No, sorry really doesn't cut it. I can't even begin to tell you how I feel. I don't even really know what happened before. When you said what you did…" Tifa trailed off and shook her head once more. "I know it might be hard to believe, but I didn't…the reason I didn't say anything had nothing to do with me not returning your feelings or being uncomfortable with them."
Aerith nodded slowly, trying to urge her friend to go on but not understanding what the other woman was saying.
Tifa released her friend and rubbed her hand over her face, leaning against the counter heavily. "I need you to understand that the things you said…what you told me…I've dreamed of hearing you say those exact words. I've dreamed of it so many damned times that I can't even count them anymore. And to have you finally say them…"
"Wait…" Aerith shook her head as she tried to grasp what the brunette was saying to her. "I don't…I don't think I understand. And I…I just…I don't know what's happening here."
Tifa chuckled softly. "I was going to try to be romantic about this, or at least endearing, but that's never really been my style. So I guess I'll just say it straight." Aerith gave a sharp nod of agreement as Tifa paused, encouraging her to continue. "I froze earlier. I expected you to laugh at any moment and deliver some sort of punch line. To me, the things you were saying were too perfect to be real."
As Tifa began to continue she found her throat tightening to the extent that she couldn't get the words out. The air around her felt heavy and oppressive and it seemed to her like she couldn't manage to breath in enough air. The feeling was probably was contributed to her breathless tone as she finally uttered the words she'd been holding back for so long. "I love you Aerith."
Astonished green eyes locked with the other's sincere brown gaze. "I…" Aerith's mouth opened and closed repeatedly as she tried to come up with the words to respond. "Am I still sleeping?"
Tifa blinked. "Wait…what?"
The instant Tifa's features pursed into a confused frown Aerith knew everything she needed to. She knew Tifa was being serious and she knew she was telling the truth. She knew that everything she'd hoped for, longed for, had just become a reality. Tifa had never been one to lie just to make someone happy and she would never play such a cruel joke on anyone, friend or foe.
A soft smile flowed over her features for the first time in what felt like forever. "You're wrong about one thing Tifa."
Tifa's frown deepened as she surveyed the teasing smile that adorned the other woman's lips. "What do you mean?"
Aerith stepped forward and gripped Tifa's shirt gently in her hands. She tilted her head slightly as she gazed into warm brown eyes. "That was romantic and endearing." As surprise and disbelief flitted through the other woman's eyes Aerith grinned. "Then again, they do say that love is blind. It stands to reason that love is probably oblivious as well. So you might be completely the opposite of those things and I'd never know."
Tifa snorted and leaned inward, hovering her mouth mere centimeters from Aerith's own. "Is that so?"
Aerith's tongue darted out to wet her lips as she tried to formulate a response. "I…well…"
"That's what I thought." Tifa smirked at the spark of indignation that flared in the other woman's eyes before she finally gave into the urges she'd been denying for so long.
And it was worth it. The instant her lips met Aerith and she felt the other woman's tentative but enthusiastic response she felt as though everything had finally fallen into place.
It wasn't until a few moments after they'd separated that some of Tifa's anxieties came back full force. Even though they'd just confessed their feelings for one another, it didn't exactly mean that anything was going to come of it. Furthermore, even if Aerith were still willing to give a relationship between them a shot, Tifa may have been pushing her too far too fast.
Her fears were allayed as the woman in front of her chuckled and leaned in to kiss her chastely. "I can practically hear you thinking Tifa. And even if I can't read minds, I can read you well enough to know that the answer to all your questions is no."
Tifa swallowed a bit harder than usual as she bit her lip nervously, torn between feelings of elation and persistent worry. "No?"
Aerith's smile was bright and warm. "Exactly. No, this isn't too much, too soon. And no, I'm not going to turn away from you. And no, I'm not imagining the way I'm feeling about you and these feelings aren't a spur of the moment thing. I want this Tifa. And from I gather I want it just as much as you do."
"You sure about that? Even though I'm stubborn as hell and a real pain in the ass?" Tifa joked weakly.
"No." Aerith gave her a teasing grin as her eyes widened. "I want you because of those things. I want to be with you because you hate mornings, and that you're incredibly unwilling to move unless bribed with coffee. I love you because you don't generally love everyone but you're always willing to step in for those you care about. I love how stubborn you are because it means you never give in to something you don't believe in. I love the good parts of you and the bad Tifa. And I know what those parts are because I've seen them all."
Tifa exhaled slowly, taking in every word the other woman uttered. "I need you to be completely sure Aerith. Because once I have you…I don't think I'll ever be willing to let you go."
Aerith's grin turned into a luminous smile. "Haven't you been listening to what I've been saying?" She watched with amusement as the brunette pursed her lips in a confused frown. "I know who you are Tifa. I know that with you, saying yes is an equivalent to saying I do. And I'm prepared for that. More importantly, that's what I want."
All the remaining tension eased out of Tifa's shoulders as she smiled softly. "I should have known."
This time it was Aerith's turn to be confused. "I don't follow."
Tifa's lips curved into a teasing smirk. "Aerith Gainsborough is always right. It was silly of me to even begin to think otherwise."
Aerith laughed and rolled her eyes. "Exactly. I'm glad you've finally accepted it."
Tifa chuckled softly before her expression became serious once more. "So this is…" She trailed off for a moment as she steadied her voice and took in a fortifying breath. "We're really going to try this?"
"If by 'this' you mean 'us'. Yes." There was a moment of hesitation in Aerith's eyes before she nodded in a determined fashion and met Tifa's gaze. "I want there to be an 'us'. After this…after finding out that you feel the same way, I don't think I would be okay with not giving this a chance. I think you and I could really work."
Tifa grinned. "Who would have thought hey? Everyone thought we'd never even really be friends, but look at us now."
Aerith emitted a small chuckle and shook her head. "To be honest, I never would have expected things would come to this." She shook her head once more, gently conveying her disbelief. "But now…I'm so glad I was mistaken."
"I can't say I disagree." Tifa smiled warmly and pulled the other woman against her, holding her tightly. "I don't want to sound negative or anything but…I don't really know what I'm doing here. Everything about this is new to me."
"New?" Aerith tilted her head and surveyed the other woman with a curious gaze. "I assume you mean being with a woman?"
Tifa flushed a deep shade of red. "Um, no. Not that." At Aerith's incredulous stare Tifa groaned. "I was young and curious!"
"Yes, because you're so old now."
Tifa wilted slightly under Aerith's narrowed stare. "Well…okay so I wasn't young. But I actually meant the relationship factor."
There was a moment of silence as Aerith caught on. "Oh. Oh! I see. Well then, I suppose that's good. There will be something new to each of us."
Tifa snorted at the other woman's predictably positive outlook. "Of course you'd say that."
"Mhmm." Aerith smiled and leaned forward to press a soft kiss against the brunette's lips. As she pulled away she spoke once again. "You know what our friends will say right?"
It took Tifa a moment to recover from the wave of giddiness that had encompassed her mind. But once it had she grinned wickedly. "We're not official until we're friend approved."
"Exactly." Aerith laughed and pulled away reluctantly. "And I think we both know who we're telling first."
"Mmm, very true. Though you know Yuffie will be furious that she isn't the one." Tifa raised her eyebrows and gave Aerith a solemn look.
Aerith attempted to respond in kind only to let loose a small giggle. "I'm going to enjoy this a great deal."
Tifa smirked. "I'm with you there. Let's go blow some minds."
Aerith took Tifa's offered hand in her own and smiled brightly. "Agreed."
End of Taking Chances
So here it is, Chapter Two and the final piece of this little story. I enjoyed writing it a great deal, and I hope you did too.