I'm back! Words cannot express how excited I am to be sharing new material with you all for the first time in almost THREE years. Even though this is my own work, I am in love with it. I think that its a fantastic way to come back from my hiatus here at FanFiction!

Author's Note:I have another story entitled "Misery Business" that uses Paramore songs for the basis of each chapter, (it's probably my best work, go check it out AFTER you've read and reviewed this story.) I took alot of my inspiration for this story from Anberlin songs, especially those found on the "Cities" album, but the song I'm using mainly for the story is their song entitled "Dismantle/Repair." I chose it because it is a song about love, but a terrible and epic love, much like the one Cloud and Tifa share in so many fan stories. It is also a song that play quite frequently in the background of my life, and I wanted to take this chance to immortalize it in my own way.

New chapters are on the way! Please enjoy!

Dismantle, Repair

"Give me time to prove,

Prove I want the rest of yours,
Call this a prelude to a lifetime of you.
It's not that I hang on every word;
I hang myself on what you repeat.
It's not that I keep hanging on,
I'm never letting go.

Hands, like secrets, are the hardest thing to keep from you.
Lines and phrases, like knives, your words can cut me through.
Dismantle me down, repair.
You dismantle me."

Prelude To A Lifetime Of You...

I'm sitting at one of the long benches that line the old church, staring over the small pool that is now occupying a portion of where the alter had once stood. I can hear people outside, still celebrating the curing of the geostigma. I can hear Barret talking loudly with Cid, and Yuffie bothering Vincent about something or another. It's good to have them all so close again; I just can't bring myself to talk to them now.

Quiet footsteps approach, equal and measured. Tifa sits down on the bench a few inches from me. I can feel her looking at me, so I turn to return her gaze. She looks tired, still covered in dirt and minor scratches from our battle today.

"Hi." she says, smiling lightly.

"Hi." I return, mimicking the smile.

"That's something I haven't seen you do in quite sometime." she laughs.

"What?" I ask.

"Smile. You should do it more often."

"There hasn't been much to smile about in the last few months." I say, feeling the smile fade as I look back to the water.

"No, I guess there hasn't been." she sighs. "Maybe things can change for the better now."

Silence falls between us, an awkward and maddening silence because I know I should be saying something, doing anything other than just sitting here. But all the things I should say, want to say, don't sound right even inside my own head.

"Are you ever going to be able to let them go?" she asks quietly.

"I don't think you can ever let a loved one go completely." I sigh.

"No, and you shouldn't. But you can't let their memory prevent you from living."

"Memories are all I have, Tifa, and I'm not even sure they're mine." I say, placing my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands.

"A life shouldn't be led just to remember."

"But I need to remember. I don't remember who I am."

"You remember enough. Besides, it's our choices that make us who we are. And that's all you've been left with, a choice. You can sit here until you rot, trying to remember things that honestly might not matter, or you can move forward and find a new way to define yourself that has nothing to do with your past. You've been hiding in its shadow for far too long, Cloud." It almost sounds like she's scolding me. She should be. If the last few days have helped me to do anything, it's to realize how much of my life I have wasted hanging on to things that do not matter. I take my hands away from my face but keep my eyes focused on the ground.

"I just feel so lost." I say.

"Just remember that you are your own worst enemy. Sephiroth is easy compared to the damage you can do to yourself when you're stuck inside your own head all of the time."

I reach down and pick up a flower from the ground. It's crumpled and torn, it's yellow petals covered in dirt, trampled by the hundreds of feet that had occupied the church just over an hour ago. I can't help but feel that the flower and I are one and the same. I feel broken, beaten, and torn, but unlike the flower, it's not too late for me. I can be revived, born anew…

"I don't deserve you." I say quietly, my voice barely more than a whisper.

"Don't say that." she says, placing her hand on my shoulder. I look over at her hand, and then finally find her eyes.

"But I don't." I persist.

"Cloud…" she pulls her hand away, but I catch it. I take her hands in mine and move a little closer to her on the bench.

"Tifa, I'm amazed that you're still around." I say, trying to put as much sincerity and conviction into my words as possible. "I'm amazed that you still want to be my friend even though you've seen all of my faults. I'm amazed that you still try and get through to me. I don't know why I even allow myself to accept any of the love you give me, because I know I don't deserve it. I would have given up on me a long time ago..."

"Tifa! Cloud! Let's go, we got drinkin' to do!" yells Barret from the doorway. Tifa and I look back at him then to one another. She smiles lightly, squeezes my hands, then stands up and walks back to the front of the church, leaving me to sit alone. I hang my head, sigh, and follow her.

"There will be time later." I say inwardly. "Time to tell her exactly how I feel, there will be time to explain everything, apologize…finally tell her that I'm in love with her."

Chapter 1: Your Words Can Cut Me Through...

Chaos would not have been a proper description.

After the geostigma was cured, the whole population of Edge packed themselves into the small city square. There was dancing, singing, and it seemed that everyone had some sort of alcohol in their hands. Some of the more ambitious citizens had even climbed atop the now demolished Meteor monument and began shooting off fireworks.

The other members of Avalanche and myself didn't stay to celebrate with them for long. We stayed just long enough to talk to a few newscasters, and listen to the praise and thanks of anyone who could catch our attention long enough to give it. I must have shaken hundreds of hands. Tifa had to save me from the throng. She fought her way into the mass of people surrounding me, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me to where our friends stood laughing. She laughed with them, and to my surprise, I was laughing too.

That was four hours ago. It is now midnight, and the party at Seventh Heaven is still in full swing. I'm sitting at a table in a dim corner of the bar, sipping on the same beer Tifa handed me when we arrived back from the square. It's one of those cheap brews, the kind that Barret refers to as "piss-water", the kind you have to be already drunk to really enjoy.

Tifa is standing behind the counter, sipping at a deep blue mixed drink and talking to Yuffie, who is recounting the battle excitedly, and she is laughing as Yuffie demonstrates all of the different kicks and punches she'd used during the fray. Tifa's eyes wander to mine. Normally, I'd quickly look away, and pretend that I hadn't been watching her. But instead I hold her gaze. She doesn't smile; she simply mouths "we need to talk". We do. But I don't even know where to begin…

Soon, everyone returns to the Shera for the night. Cid landed it just outside of the city limits, where a small crowd had gathered to marvel and its immense size. Denzel and Marlene had gone with them, having pestered Cid and Barret relentlessly to let them stay the night aboard. Yuffie was the one to finally get them to consent, murmuring something about "alone time" to Barret, which caused them both to laugh hysterically. Tifa and I do need some "alone time," and even though my idea of "alone time" differs from Yuffie's, we definitely need time to talk, to sort things out, and it will help if we don't have to worry about raised voices and sleeping children.

After everyone has left, Tifa and I begin to clean the bar. Wiping down tables, washing glasses, and throwing the empty beer bottles into the recycle bin behind the counter. We work in complete weighted silence, waiting for the other to speak.

"It was nice having the group together again, even under these circumstances." she says finally, shattering the silence.

"Yeah." I reply, putting the last of the clean glasses away under the counter. "We should try and get together more often."

"Too bad that it will be next to impossible." she says with a sigh, sitting down at the counter. "Barret's always at some drilling site, Yuffie is usually pre-occupied with Wutai's affairs, and who knows what Vincent does with his free time."

"It is amazing how we all came together and parted ways in such a short time." I offer, leaning against the counter in front of her.

"What will you do now, Cloud?" she asks, crossing her arms in front of her on the counter.

"I don't know." I shrug.

"You must have an idea." she says, leaning closer. "I mean, you're free now, right? You no longer feel responsible for Zack or Aerith, you can move on now."

"I will always feel responsible for what happened to them." I say quietly. "I know now that they never blamed me, but that doesn't change the fact that I played a role in their demise." I reach down under the counter and pull out the first bottle I can find. It's old, and covered in a thin layer of dust, and the label appears to have been burn away.

"I keep forgetting that's down there." she says thoughtfully.

"What is it?" I ask, turning the bottle in my hand.

"Whiskey. Home-made I believe. It was my father's."

"Your father's?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.

"It was a gift. Do you remember that older man who lived at the end of our street?" she asks.

"Yeah, he lived in that run down house that everyone swore was haunted." I reply, surprised by how quickly I answered.

"You really do remember." she says, smiling.

"I've been having flashes lately. I'm starting to remember a lot more about my childhood and growing up." I return her smile.

"Anyway, the man that lived there used to make this stuff in his shed. Dad loved it. And there was something special about this particular bottle, but I can't remember what it is."

"So, how did you get it?"

"It was one of the only things that survived the razing, that's why the label's gone. It was also in the first Seventh Heaven when it was destroyed. It's one of the only things I have left from my past." she says thoughtfully.

"Well, let's save it for something special then." I say, moving to replace it under the counter.

"There's no time like the present." she says, a mischievous look in her eyes. I smile at her for a moment, and I grab to shot glasses from under the counter. I uncork the bottle and pour the deep amber liquid into them. I hand one to her, and lift up my own.

"Ready?" I ask. She smiles and takes her shot, and I down mine as well. The strong taste and sensation send us into a coughing fit, and when we're finally able to stop, she begins to laugh.

"I can't tell if it's really good or really bad." she says, wiping tears from her eyes.

"I think it's a little bit of both." I reply, pouring each of us another shot. "Let's have another and find out." She downs her immediately, and then pushes her glass forward for another. I oblige, and then hold up my own glass, studying it for a moment before drinking it.

"Damn." I mutter, shuddering slightly as the liquid lights my stomach on fire.

"Why didn't you tell me that you were sick?" she asks suddenly.

"Tifa, I…" I start.

"No," she breaks in. "You are not getting out of this. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you to see me as anything less than strong." I reply, pouring another drink. "I couldn't let you watch me die."

"So you just thought you'd take off without saying a word?" she asks, her voice rising. "What if you never made it back?"

"I was hoping this would happen." I say, gesturing at her and taking another swallow of whiskey. "I was hoping that you would get mad at me. I wanted you to hate me."

"Why?" she demands, throwing back her drink.

"It would have given you a reason to forget about me, to move on." I say, pouring us both another drink. "If I had told you that I was sick, if I didn't go out and try to find a cure, you would have stayed with me until the end. You would have held onto the memory of me for as long as you lived."

"What makes you think that?" she asks defensively, sipping at her drink.

"Because that's what I have done with you. Three times I've seen you at the edge of death, and three times I've almost lost you."

"Three times?" she interrupts. "The cliff when we were children, that battle with Sephiroth…"

"The incident with the remnant?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.

"That was hardly life-threatening. It was nothing."

I stare at her for a moment, then jump over the counter and spin her around so she's facing me. Her eyes are searching mine, her breath coming in short gasps.

"Cloud, what are you doing?" she asks, her voice shaking.

I grab the zipper on the front of her vest and slowly pull it down. She shrugs it off, allowing it to fall to the floor. Her eyes are still locked with mine as I pull up one side of her plain white tank top. She shudders at my touch, closing her eyes briefly as I reveal the wound that Loz had given her. I trace lines around the burn marks, the deep purple bruises, the scabs where the weapon broke the skin…

"That doesn't look like nothing." I say quietly, allowing her shirt to fall back into place.

"It's healing." she says, tugging at the fabric.

"It shouldn't have happened." I say firmly, stepping away from her. "When I saw you lying there in the church…everything stopped. "My lungs, my heart, the entire world came to a screeching halt. If you had just stayed home…"

"I will not stay home waiting for you to get done playing the tragic hero, Cloud." she half yells, getting up from the stool. "I've spent the better part of the last decade waiting on you." she crosses behind the counter and grabs the bottle of whiskey, taking two long draws on it before slamming it back on the counter. She glares at me for a moment, her eyes on fire and her chest heaving. "You want to talk about preventable wounds, Cloud" she practically charges at me, grabs the zipper on my shirt and yanks it down, pulls it from my shoulders and throws it onto the counter. She stops for a moment and stares at my exposed skin, tracing every scar and muscle with her eyes. She reaches out her hand and tentatively traces the three deepest and darkest scars, the two on my abdomen and the one on my shoulder, each marking a place where I had been run through by Sephiroth's blade. After a few moments, her eyes begin to dart back and forth, her mouth moving slightly as she tries in vain to count the marks that little my body.

"I never realized that there were so many." she says quietly, sounding as though she's on the verge of tears.

"Honestly, neither did I." I say, rubbing the back of my neck. "I think I know what point you were trying to make, and you're wrong. This is the life that I was destined to lead, and I don't think it could have turned out any other way." I place my hands on her shoulders and pull her a little closer to me. "In the end, only I could defeat Sephiroth…if I had chosen to stay in Nibelheim with you, the entire planet would be nothing but ash. You know that." she pulls away from me, trying to hide the unbidden tears now streaking down her face.

"Tell me that you don't love me." she says suddenly.

"Tifa, I think you've had a little too much…"

"Just because I serve alcohol doesn't mean that I can't drink it, I hold it better than half the customers."


"Do you want to know how I feel? Or how many nights I've stayed up thinking about you, wishing that you'd love me, hoping that you'd come into my room late one night and confess everything to me? I know I'm a stupid woman, a girl intoxicated by the fantasy of unrequited love. But I can't help it. Not when I've loved you for so long..." she turns away from me and I see her shoulders begin to shake slightly. I down the rest of my drink, shuttering at the warm sensation that grips my stomach. I get up and move to stand behind her. I reach out to touch her, but I stop myself. I dig my hands into my pockets and sigh quietly.

"I don't know what you want me to say." I murmur.

"It's not about what I want you to say." she replies, turning to face me. "What do you want to say?" She's so close to me, her face only an inch or so from mine. She crosses her arms, her eyes bore into mine.

"I...I don't know." I choke, hanging my head.

"Gods, Cloud!" she exclaims. She jabs her finger into my chest, right over my heart. "Beneath all of that mako and your hardened mercenary persona lies a beating heart. A soul. Allow yourself to feel something for just once!"

I stay silent, avoiding her eyes, at a complete loss for words. She stands there a moment more, and then drops her hand to her side, letting out a defeated sigh.

"I'm done, Cloud. You're welcome to stay here if you'd like, but I'm not going to fight to keep you here. Good night." she shuts off the lights and walks upstairs, leaving me alone in the dark.

It only gets better after this.

Please review, I'm really interested and excited to hear feedback. I am so proud of this fiction. I can't wait to hear what you all think!