Chapter 5: Tifa Lockhart

Here’s Tifa, though not shown with her ass-kicking punches and kicks yet 😛

Chapter 5: Tifa Lockhart

                “Papa!” a young brown haired little girl exclaimed as she saw Barret who picked her up and swayed her around.

                Cloud’s mouth twitched. Funny, Barret could be gentle when around Marlene. Such a sharp contrast with his usual attitude! Then again, it was hard not to be like that around the bright little girl. She was, in Tifa’s words, “So adorable!”. Cloud almost smiled.

                “Marlene!” Tifa scolded. “Aren’t you going to say anything to Cloud?”

                Cloud looked at his childhood friend. She changed a lot since the day he left her on a burnt Nibelheim, thinking she was dead and it was all his fault. Her face seemed harder, her eyes sharper.

                And other stuff as well. He thought, involuntarily looking at the length of her. Well he was a guy. But seriously, that skirt was too short!

                He sighed inwardly. Better not go down that road though. Tifa’s looks were deceiving. He glanced at a hole on the wall beside him. That was made the last time she got angry.

                “Welcome back Cloud.” Tifa smiled. “Looks like everything went well. Did you fight with Barret?”

                “A little… Well, a lot, really.” He admitted.

                She sighed.

                “I should have known. He’s always pushing people around and you’ve always been in fights since you were little… I was worried.”

                He didn’t know what to reply so they went silent for a while. Then, Cloud laid out the things he found (and nicked) during the mission and laid them out on the bar.

                “Oh, a flower!” Tifa exclaimed in surprise. “You almost never see one of those in the slums…”

                He wasn’t really planning to do anything with it so he supposed he could just give it to Tifa since she seemed to like it.

                “Oh, it’s for me?” Tifa asked, blushing. “You shouldn’t have…”

                And now I’m feeling awkward again. Cloud thought.

                “Anyway, thank you.” Tifa said, beaming. “They smell wonderful. Maybe I should fill the store with flowers!”

                Tifa looked at him, probably expecting a reply. Okay, now what was he supposed to say? She just held his gaze for a moment then turned to Barret.

                “You all right, Barret?”

                “Great!” Barret said, a smile on his face as he brought down Marlene. He almost looked like a nice guy. Then, he grimaced as he turned to the rest of them. “Get in here fools, we’re starting the meeting.”

                So much for him being nice. He’d scare less people if he tried to frown less. Wait, never mind, that’d be weird.

                Cloud sat on the bar and watched as the others went to the bed which doubled as an elevator to the basement. He shook his head. He had to admit, THAT was a bit cool.

                He turned to Tifa on the bar. She was still cleaning up.

                “How about something to drink?” Tifa asked, not looking up.

                “Give me something hard.” It’s been too long since his last drink.

                “I was worried about you, you know.” Tifa said as she shoved him a glass. “That was a bit dangerous.”

                Huh? That was dangerous?

                “What’s with you all of a sudden?” he asked. “That job wasn’t even hard!”

                “I guess. You were in SOLDIER after all.” She still didn’t sound convinced.

                “Look, Tifa, I’m fine, okay? I can take care of myself now.”

                “If you say so… You should go down.” She turned away.

                Now what on earth did he say wrong this time? He shook his head and made for the elevator.

<O><O>

                Barret turned when he heard the elevator go down. He had to ask.

                “Yo! Cloud, there’s somethin’ I wanna ask ‘ya. Was there anyone from SOLDIER fighting us today?”

                The ex-SOLDIER’s head came up.

                “None, I’m positive.” Cloud said in a voice with no hesitation.

                “You sound pretty sure.” Barret frowned. He was hoping that they’d fought them already. If those were the best that Shin Ra could send…

                “If there was anyone from SOLDIER there, you guys wouldn’t be alive right now.” Cloud grinned mockingly.

                Why that little-!!!! Yet what stung was that it was true.

                “Don’t go thinking you’re so bad just coz you was in SOLDIER!” Barret yelled, moving forward “Yeah, you’re strong. Probably all them guys in SOLDIER are. But don’t forget that your skinny ass’s workin’ for AVALANCHE now! Don’t get no ideas ’bout hangin’ with Shin Ra!”

                He threw Biggs away, who was trying to stop him. Cloud rose and moved towards him as well. At least he’s got pluck.

                “Stayin’ with Shin Ra?” Those blue eyes seemed colder than ever.  “You asked me a question and I answered it…that’s all. I’m going upstairs. I want to talk about my money.”

                “Wait, Cloud!” Tifa pleaded.

                When did she get here? She probably heard the arguing and went down. Tch. If only he wasn’t so strong… AVALANCHE needed guys like him but like hell was he going to take insults lying around.

                “Tifa! Let him go! Looks like he still misses the Shin Ra!”

                “Shut up! I don’t care about either Shin Ra or SOLDIER!” he glared at Barret. “But don’t get me wrong! I don’t care about AVALANCHE or the Planet for that matter!”

                He stalked to the elevator. Good riddance. That guy gets my blood boiling. Argh! Barret went to the punching bag. He needed to relieve some stress. He glanced behind him. Looks like Tifa followed Cloud, huh…

<O><O>

                Tifa ran to Cloud who was about to go out. He was still the same, after all these years. Aloof and alone, pushing everyone away… He walked to the door in a measured pace, sword behind him, looking, for all the world like the first class SOLDIER he was.

                “Cloud, I’m asking you, please join us.” Tifa pleaded. She knew she had no right to ask this of him and he was a mercenary. They couldn’t afford him. But AVALANCHE needed him. And she needed to know. He knew things he shouldn’t have, had memories where he wasn’t there.

                Cloud looked sad for a moment.

                “Sorry Tifa…”

                “The Planet is dying. Slowly but surely it’s dying. Someone has to do something.” She looked at him. “We can’t do this alone, we need someone with strength.”

                “But it’s got nothing to do with me. I told you before, Tifa. I’m a mercenary now. I do jobs for money. This was a favor to you, but I-“

                She cut him off. Any more and she’d be unable to stop him.

                “So you’re just gonna leave? You’re just going to walk out, ignoring your childhood friend?” she couldn’t help but put a bit of bitterness in her voice. They all left her. One way or another, she was always left alone.

                “I… Sorry.” Cloud went silent, at a loss for words. But he sat down, at least.

                “You forgot the promise, too.” She accused then bit her lip. She was letting her emotions get the better of her. This was about AVALANCHE, not her. Tifa sat beside him.

                Yet her words seemed to have an effect. He flinched and looked down.

                “That promise seven years ago, huh?” Cloud finally said, looking out the window, at the stars they couldn’t see.

                And for a few moments they remained like that, sitting beside each other, neither saying a word, thinking of the ghosts of their past.

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