“You know, I always wanted to dance,” Aerith sighed wistfully as she gazed longingly out her window down at the villagers dancing in the town square, music and lights festive as laughter and singing filled the air, Tifa seated beside her as they watched the celebrations from the window of their shared room.
“You could join the villagers,” Tifa suggested.
Tifa missed the suggestive tone in her friend’s (crush) remark. “Well, I’m sure the villagers won’t mind, and you could also ask Cloud…”
Aerith huffed exasperatedly under her breath, rolling her eyes. “Oh, it’s fine, I can let it slip this time,” she shrugged nonchalantly, Tifa blinking in confusion at her sudden change in mood.
“Are you sure?” the brawler asked uncertainly. “I mean, if you really want to, you should go for it.” Aerith didn’t know whether to laugh or yell.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she assured, pushing her chair back and getting to her feet, “I’ll just turn in early.” She walked to her single bed, stopping abruptly halfway when she decided to drop one last hint to the oblivious raven-haired young woman. “Dancing is more fun with someone cute anyway.”
Tifa watched as Aerith pulled back the covers and slipped into bed, turning over to her side, and looked back towards the festivities, wanting to soak up more cheer that brought back memories of her childhood before calling it a night herself. It was only when she had closed her eyes, almost on the verge of sleep, that she actually processed what Aerith had said.
It wasn’t until months later that Tifa finally comprehended the subtle hints Aerith had distilled that night, and only after they had declared their mutual affection that she finally understood:
Aerith wanted to dance, but she only wanted to dance with Tifa. And the bartender decided that she would finally make her girlfriend’s dream come true. She wanted to dance? Tifa would dance with her.
But the bartender would only find the opportunity (and courage) when she saw Aerith buzzing excitedly with the others in Seventh Heaven after the dinner that Tifa had hosted to celebrate the flower girl’s birthday. The lights were warm, and laughter danced around in the air as they toasted to Aerith’s good health and fortune, everyone’s faces filled with a gleefulness that only seemed to amplify even on ordinary days after the great calamity. It seemed like the right moment.
Tifa cued Cloud by making eye contact with him, the blonde crossing over to the jukebox as the bartender stood by the light switches, clapping her hands to draw everyone’s attention.
“Aerith, your birthday is perfect but it’s missing one last thing,” Tifa declared, a mirthful tilt in her warm voice.
The flower girl blinked in confusion. “What’s that?” she asked, eyes darting to the empty plate that had contained her birthday cake as she tilted her head like a puppy.
Tifa grinned. “Your birthday is missing a dance.” She hit the lights as Cloud changed the song, and the entire mood in the bar shifted.
“Yeah!” Jessie yelled as she and Biggs jumped to their feet and sashayed to the middle of the room, Marlene joining them as Barret watched from the side. Soon everyone was on the dance floor – everyone except Aerith and Tifa.
Seventh Heaven seemed to transform from sombreness with the slightly drunk, overly excited members of AVALANCHE grooving and prancing about, who even managed to pull Cloud to dance with them despite the spiky blonde’s protests.
Aerith burst out laughing at Jessie trying to get Cloud to dance while Wedge grooved with Marlene beside them, twirling the little girl around the floor with drunken expertise. Cloud looked so pained that Tifa would have felt bad for him if she wasn’t focused on the only one still standing by the tables.
Tifa moved close beside Aerith, calling out softly, “Hey.” When Aerith turned to look at her, she continued, “Remember that night in Kalm, where we saw the villagers celebrating a festival?”
The flower girl cocked her head to the side. “Uh huh.”
“So, I figured out what you meant then,” Tifa exhaled, her eyes glinting with nervousness as her fingertips ghosted over Aerith’s.
“Figured out what?” Aerith squeaked, a little unhinged due to the alcohol swimming in her system, her breath catching slightly when Tifa leaned in.
“I figured out why you didn’t want to join the villagers to dance,” she said it in almost a whisper, as though she was divulging a secret.
“Oh?” Aerith finally smiled, leaning in until their foreheads were touching, eyes alight with tipsy amusement. “And what is that?”
Tifa maintained eye contact with Aerith, mustered as much confidence and charm she could, and her voice dipped low when she husked, “You wanted to dance with me.” She slowly uprighted her back and extended her hand, saying formally with a chivalrous bow, “Aerith Gainsborough, would you do me the honour of dancing with me tonight?’
The smile that blossomed into a grin set her lovely features ablaze even in the low lights of the bar, beautiful green eyes that Tifa could never get enough of gleaming with the joy of a child whose wish finally came true.
Aerith took Tifa’s hand, her voice pleased yet playful, “I thought you would never ask.”
Tifa led the flower girl to the dance floor as the others cleared the centre stage for them, Aerith almost floating on air as she twirled around with Tifa, laughter rumbling from the depths of her belly. Jessie hollered rowdily at the couple while Cloud gave a subtle thumbs-up as he took the opportunity to slinker off to the sanctuary of the bar, Barret even grinning at the two as he finally joined Marlene.
The scene continued well into the night, feet aching but hearts soaring towards the skyline.
“It took you long enough to figure it out.”
Tifa laughed. "Trust me, I was too shy and crushing too hard on you to believe that you were even talking about me.”
“You really didn’t know? Even when I was so brazen and obvious about my crush on you?” Aerith gasped incredulously.
“To be fair, you were always flirting with other people too!”
“Yeah, but I didn’t just flirt with you,” she snorted, “I literally fell head over heels for you.”
“Well, at least now I’m fully aware of that.”
Aerith snuggled closer into Tifa, inhaling the brawler’s earthly scent and sighing contentedly.
“Good,” she murmured with a smile, “because I want to dance with you for a long, long time.”