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Rarer than Snow

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“Tifa, Tifa! Do you think it’ll snow tonight?” Marlene asked with great excitement in her voice and barely able to sit still on the bar stool.

It was late fall, not yet winter so the snow was doubtful at this time of year. Moreso, seeing snow in the slums was sometimes hard but she wasn’t about to tell the little girl otherwise. 

“Hmm.” Tifa wiped her hands on an off-white fluffy towel that had seen better days. She put on a pensive look for Marlene and tapped her chin with her index finger. “Could be,” she said with a soft smile.

Her big brown eyes grew even bigger and gasped, “Really?” They were so full of wonder and delight at the idea and the chance of snow coming.

“Why not? After all, anything is possible and I think the snow would be pretty and bring some smiles around here.”

“That’s what Betty said too!”

“Well then, I think you and Betty may just be right!” she said with a smile and wink.

“Daddy says I’m always right,” she giggled with a cheeky grin.

“Nice try, angel.” Barret’s hearty laughter boomed as he walked into Seventh Heaven. “You’re right almost always.”

“Welcome back!” Tifa smiled warmly as Barret scooped up Marlene into his arm. “How did it go?”

“The usual, pretty much,” he answered back absent-mindedly, more entertained with Marlene but no one could really blame him; the little girl was his world and life.

Tifa rolled her eyes slightly but her smile didn’t fade until she noticed no one had followed Barret in. “Um, where is everyone else?”

“Gone their separate ways for the day.”

“Daddy, I think Tifa wants to know especially about Cloud!” Marlene’s head suddenly lowered and her eyes saddened a little. “He’s not leaving us again, is he?”

Barret hugged her tightly. “Of course not, honey. You know Cloud’s just being a big dumb-dumb somedays.”

She nodded and pressed herself closer to Barret. “He should never forget we’re his family!”

“He won’t, Marlene,” Tifa piped in. “Never again.”

“Tifa’s right, angel, and for now, it’s bedtime,” Barret said gently and began to walk away.

“But, daddy, I want to wait for Cloud to show him the snow!”

“Marlene, when Cloud gets home, I’ll let him know to come see you. Sound good?” Tifa hoped it would be enough to pacify the little girl.

Marlene, in return, smiled and gave her a nod. “Okay, Tifa!”

Barret chuckled and resumed walking away with Marlene but then paused. “It’s a quiet night, Tifa.” He gave her a quick glance over his shoulder before leaving the girl with the deep carmine-colored eyes alone.

Tifa was at first confused by his words but then their deeper meaning rang clearly within her chest. She grabbed her warmer fall coat, a quilted red one that everyone had insisted matched her eyes. She thought it silly until Cloud had said the same; it admittedly made her heart race, and she couldn’t deny that.

Seventh Heaven was pretty much done for the night so she made quick work of closing before she headed to the nearest chocobo post. She was grateful their free ride passes were still good, she was going pretty far after all. She watched the dark scenery as the slums passed her by. She glanced down at her boots and remembered the last time she had taken a chocobo carriage ride by herself.

Back then, the mission had been so clear in her mind: Get picked by Don Corneo and interrogate him. Never did she think that Cloud would have caught her on her journey over. All she could do was reassure him that she would be fine despite having been consumed with worry all day thinking she had lost him during the Mako Reactor 5 bombing. Despite assuring him, she saw those mako-stained eyes he didn't fully believe her, but still, she continued.

Her fists clenched, she had just gotten him back, how could she lose him again so soon? Every time she’d see anyone related to Shinra in Nibelheim, she would ask if they knew of a blonde SOLDIER, but no one ever did. And ever since the incident, she had all but lost hope of finding him again. Until she finally did, at the train station. He was there and the moment had been real and not one of her “perfect case” scenario daydreams she had had many times before. 

“Chilly night, ain’t it?” The driver asked, breaking Tifa out of her thoughts as they continued on the path to her destination. 

“It is,” she answered back quietly. “It might even snow,” she added in an even quieter voice. 

“Now that’ll be a true miracle. Well, we have arrived. Need me to wait out here for you, miss?”

She shook her head as she got out. “It’s fine, but thank you.” She waved and headed into the old and familiar dilapidated church; an old Hardy Daytona not too far off.

The church was comfortably quiet, no longer stifling like it had felt after its caretaker had just returned to the planet. It was slowly being cleaned up here and there. Some wanted to tear it down and build it over again but the idea was quickly shot down. The old church, just the way it was, was perfect to Aerith and Zack thus perfect to everyone else. She smiled seeing the innocent yellow flowers that still bloomed beautifully despite the cold. “Hello, Aerith.”

A gentle wind blew through the church, warm despite the cold, late autumn night, and caused a few stray yellow petals to dance around her until they flew up and out through a hole in the roof. 

Tifa’s smile grew. “Thank you.” She went through the doors behind the altar and up a series of stairs, a path that Cloud had long shown her. She made it up to the roof and, sure enough, Cloud Strife sat on the tiled roof, looking up at the hazy and silent moon.

He didn’t turn, he didn’t have to. He could sense it was Tifa. “Barret tell you where I was?” he asked in a low, soft voice as though fearing if he spoke any louder it would somehow break the stillness of the night.

“Kind of.” She carefully walked over to him, settling down beside him, their legs just barely grazing each other. “He said something along the lines of it being a ‘quiet night’.”

Cloud raised an eyebrow at her. “You made me being out here from just that clue alone?”

Tifa laughed a little. “You forget so easily how much I truly know you, Cloud.”

He couldn’t help a tiny smile tug at his lips as he looked away. “Think you know me that well?”

“Not perfectly. No one can know another person perfectly, but…” She looked down at her gloved hands. “I’d like to at least believe I know you enough.”

Cloud looked back at her, and though he couldn’t see those swirling carmine eyes, he knew they were filled with sincerity and care. Hesitantly, he reached out and placed his hand on hers. By instinct, their fingers intertwined with the other’s touch. “You gotta give yourself more credit than that, Tifa. You practically know me better than I know myself.”

“Cloud,” her tone was immediately concerned. She looked at him, the same concern in her voice was all over her face as well.

“I’m not thinking about the past, Tifa, don’t worry. I know that some moments are harder than others.”

“That and I feel like… I feel like I may lose you and the past and everything it brings will take you away again.” Her nails dug into her gloved palm. Those days had left scars on all of them but of course, no one carried as many wounds as Cloud did. Wherever he’d linger on them or his past life, they all grew worried, Tifa most of all. He had already punished himself so much, she couldn’t bear him leaving them—her—again. She hadn’t felt the tear go down her face until she felt Cloud’s gentle touch brush it away.

“Tifa,” his voice was serious and so were his deep-sea blue-green eyes. “I already swore to everyone and you that I wouldn’t leave. I don’t go back on my word”—he bit his lip slightly before continuing—“especially not to you.”

She turned and met his gaze; the swirling depths of blue tinged with green never lied and they certainly were not lying now. He wasn’t leaving, not ever. “I’m sorry. Crying is such a stupid waste of time especially over something pointless.”

Cloud pulled their intertwined hands to rest on their legs that were now perfectly pressed together. “It’s not stupid at all.” He reached up and tucked a loose strand of obsidian away. “And nothing you cry over could ever be pointless, not to me.”

Tifa’s heart did a flip in her chest and unease filled her stomach in a good kind of way. She reached up and cupped his cheek, stroking his slightly painted skin. Her heart swelled seeing him press into her palm and his eyes, more blue than green, gazed too deeply into her own. So deep, her body felt too many things to even begin to understand. “Cloud…” She didn’t even know when she had said his name nor when she began to lean forward.

He hadn’t realized it either as he leaned forward as well until their lips met, sweet and yet causing oceans to roar within him. His arms wrapped around Tifa’s petite waist, smiling a little into their kiss when her hands rested on his chest, bunching up the fabric of his sweater.

‘Is this a dream?’ Tifa asked herself. If it was, she hoped she would wake up with Cloud by her side. How long had she wished she could at last muster the courage to do this? Too long, much too long. She didn’t care, it was happening now.

When they at last parted from their deep and warm kiss, Cloud hugged her close, lips nuzzled close to her ear. “I love you, Tifa. Thank you for always being there by my side.”

This had to be a dream, right? It had to be. She ignored any sense of logic and rejected any notion of reality, and snuggled closer to Cloud, her Cloud. She nuzzled her cheek against his. “I love you, Cloud. Thank you for keeping your promise…”

They met each other's gaze again for a few moments before their lips found each other once more. Nothing else mattered but them, this moment long overdue, and the peace that surrounded them. The world didn’t exist. Neither realized when the air grew colder and the snow began to fall around them, gentle and innocent. They only pulled each other closer, lost in this delicate world around them, the snow a perfected silence on their quiet night.