Stay With Me Chapter 2

By Lucrecia Marionette

Cid played numbly with his cigarette, flipping the cylindrical object along the back of his fingers and them rolling it along his fingertips back to the ashtray. He had been watching it for the past few minutes now, but had ceased focusing on it long before. If anyone had cared to ask him exactly what he was doing it would have taken him half an hour to re-adjust himself and notice his surroundings. His mind was just in that state; the state between consciousness and unconsciousness. He’d had far too much time to think recently and in his own opinion it was more detrimental to his health than any smoke or shot of whiskey. You could recover from those, but the things that crept into a man's mind when he had too much time on his hands could never be erased.

That was how Shera found him as she quietly, and with restrained excitement, opened the kitchen door. Cid glanced up at her without apparent interest and quickly turned his eyes back down to their previous position. He did a double take however as he was momentarily taken aback to notice the broad grin covering her weary features. He loved that smile; the way it illuminated her whole face despite the fact they’d been sat together worrying for the past four months. Her bright brown irises twinkled gleefully behind her large, round glasses and faint laughter lines wrinkled in the corners of her eyes. Even the sight of her so happy made his own lips turn upwards in half-puzzlement, half empathic joy.

"What’re you smiling at?" he asked her, his blonde brows knitted together although he spoke through smiling teeth.

Shera beamed happily back at him for a few seconds before hastily sitting down on a chair opposite him. She planted her palms on the soft wooden top and leant across it towards him as though he couldn’t hear her from a metre away and bit her bottom lip through restrained excitement. "She’s coming downstairs!" she told him. At the thoroughly simple and apparently meaningless statement, Cid leapt up off his feet and ran over to her side.

"Wh-what?" he gasped in delight. "Tifa? She’s coming down here??"

Shera nodded quickly and Cid lifted her off the chair and embraced her joyfully, the shorter female scientist wrapping her arms around his middle. Cid gave a whoop of happiness and they danced around the small kitchen table, almost knocking chairs down as they twirled around ecstatically.

"I can’t believe it!" Cid exclaimed breathlessly when they found themselves bent over double in an attempt to reclaim their breath. "She’s been up there for the past four months! What did you say to change her mind?"

Shera shook her head with one hand on her chest as she inhaled deeply and let it out as a contented sigh. "I honestly don’t know, Cid. We were talking, which was wonderful enough! But then I started to leave and she asked me to make her a drink because she’s coming down here!"

Cid grinned broadly and rubbed his temples with disbelief. "All this time…" he breathed emphatically. "She’s been up there all this time moping after that idiot who left her. He deserves all he damned well gets, but to leave her alone like that…! What a bastard, I can’t believe him!"

"Cid!" Shera hissed suddenly. "Don’t say things like that! If she comes down here and hears you she’ll go running back upstairs and start crying all over again."

"But Shera, I only meant-!"

"No buts!" the technician contended firmly. "It took her three months to stop when we first came here. If you set her off again then only God knows how long it’ll take her to calm down once more."

The pilot nodded weakly in response, scratching the back of his head remorsefully. "I suppose," he murmured gently. "But just thinking about it makes me so mad! If he walked in through that door right now I’d punch him so hard in the face he wouldn’t be able to remember what he came back for."

"Sit down, Cid," Shera ordered gently as she placed a hand on his shoulder. "We have to remain normal. If she thinks we were ever giving her any kind of special treatment or worrying about her to the extent we have been, she’ll regret us ever being here. I don’t think I could live with myself if the poor dear sent us away and something happened to her. She’s already wasted away…"

Her voice trailed off as she recalled her touch of the dry, brittle hair. It had once felt so silky and smooth in her touch; now it was lifeless and flat like its owner. It was a tragic, tragic sight. At the memory she began to wonder herself whether she’d be pushing her husband out of the way to get a good hard slap on the face of the man who had turned such an angel into a dull mortal. She tensed her jaw and walked sullenly to the coal stove in one corner of the kitchen.

Cid leant back in his old creaky chair and lit a cigarette idly blowing a plume of smoke into the warm air. A fire crackled before him and he extended his bare feet towards it feeling the heat spread up his legs. What had seemed like such an empty room only five minutes ago now seemed full of a renewed hope and trust. His eyes glazed over in thought as he unconsciously took another drag from his cigarette and stared into the hot yellow flames before him. The air had felt so stagnant and humid but now it embraced him warmly and clung to his skin and clothes with the orange light of the blaze which bathed his front half.

He could’ve stayed like that comfortably forever simply knowing that one of his best friends had overcome an immense personal battle regardless of situation and his work was almost over. It was a completely delicious feeling and his eyes drooped lazily for a few minutes. On the stove behind him, a black kettle whistled and a door opened quietly as a slip of a once-healthy woman stepped through conscientiously.

Her wide burgundy eyes flitted over the scene before her with a sense of sadness. Cid perched on a chair beside the fire almost falling asleep and Shera busying herself with the cooker. That should’ve been Cloud and I she told herself mournfully. That should be him there, half-asleep with aching muscles after a day out chasing monsters. And I should be the one at the stove making him a meal so we can sit together quietly and talk about what we’ve done today.

Her eyes quickly brimmed with tears and she suddenly choked on a sob, blinking hard and covering her mouth with her hands.

Cid jerked around in startlement to see her lurking in the shadows behind him in the doorway. He stood up hastily and moved over to her softly with one hand outstretched. "Tifa…" he consoled gently. "What’s wrong?"

The young woman shook her head and waved a hand dismissively as she fought back her tears. "I-It’s nothing, Cid," she lied in a whisper. "I was just reminded of something, that’s all."

He wore a concerned frown as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and helped her walk to the chair he had occupied before standing to her aid. Ensuring that she was comfortable, he stood aside as Shera set down a cup of coffee by her side. The couple eventually stood together, exchanging worried glances as they observed their care stare impassively into the fire. Swallowing to clear her throat, Tifa slowly turned her head to face them. They met her gaze uncomfortably, suddenly feeling intrusive in her private time as she once more acquainted herself with the room she hadn’t seen for four months.

"Please," she began to alleviate their fears. "Sit down."

They did as she asked and the three faced the fire with an awkward period of silence as the logs spluttered and sparked lazily in the flames. The couple watched her for a moment longer and observed as every now and then her long lashes fluttered hastily over her eyes to keep back the tears they knew wanted to brim from her soul. She was a proud one though, one who was never ready to succumb to the will of emotions. That’s why it had taken an entire year after the Meteor Crisis to admit her feelings to Cloud. That’s why it had taken three years for her to finally break down after he had upped and left her in the solitary town of Kalm to cope with a business and life on her own.

Cid stubbed out his cigarette and gritted his teeth sorrowfully. He no longer felt angry; he was hurt. Hurt for himself and hurt for her. It’s a damned shame he muttered mentally. No matter what anyone else says, it’s a damned shame… .

Her eyes shone with a haunted gleam as though she had looked into the very corners of her soul and not liked what she saw. Her frame was weak and wane; nothing like the build of that strong, and wonderfully healthy woman he had admired so much only three years ago.

"You’re both wondering why I’ve decided to leave my room," Tifa spoke unexpectedly and her audience lifted their heads at the sound, pulled thoroughly from their personal meditations. They looked to one-another in a moment’s hesitation and began falteringly.

"I won’t lie to you, Tifa. I won’t insult you," Cid answered for them. "It was great to hear that you wanted to get out of that room but you don’t look any better. You know we’ve been worrying so this is a huge step for you."

Tifa gave a single, slow nod but didn’t turn to look at them. They continued to gaze at her however and awaited her explanation with baited breath.

"You’re right. It was hard leaving... I didn’t want to. In fact, a part of me still wants to go back up there… but I won’t." She clenched a fist and closed her eyes tightly. "I won’t," she repeated with an almost angry firmness. "It’s time I pulled myself together and got on with my life. But…. I can’t do it on my own."

Shera gave a comforting smile and placed a hand over one of Cid’s. Their fingers entwined lovingly and their eyes met. "We’ll be here if you need us, Tifa," the older woman told her. "We’ve no business left in Rocket Town and we’ve enjoyed every minute of tending the bar." She cut herself short and bit her tongue as she felt herself about to say how much they’d enjoyed looking after her but realised her mistake in time. "What I’m trying to say, is that if you’re asking us to stay for longer we truly won’t mind."

Tifa eventually looked over at them with a forced, weak smile but gave a shake of her head, her dull hair falling around her shoulders. "No," she said simply.

Cid’s brow furrowed and he leant slightly towards her. "What do you mean? Shera wasn’t saying that just to comfort you, y’know. We really will stay here if you want us to. You know me; if I don’t want to do something then I’ll sure as hell say so!"

Tifa gave another smile, much more genuine but still shook her head sadly.

"It’s not like that," she responded softly. "I can’t thank you both enough for what you’ve done. If you hadn’t been here for all this time, I seriously feel as though I would’ve…" her voice died to a whisper and her vision went blurry as tears formed again. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand in a half-irritated gesture and continued. "You’re both in the prime of your lives and you shouldn’t be here looking after a fully-grown woman. By now you should have kids of your own to worry about; you should be making plans for the future and trying to decide what colour schemes you’ll be using in your living room. But not this; anything but this."

There was another period of silence which seemed to creep from the shadows at their back and pounce on them at the remorseful statement. Shera’s hand squeezed Cid’s and he patted her lap fondly in return. There was no use in denying what Tifa had said; the past few months had been quiet and calming certainly, but they’d had no time to plan their own lives. They’d been so busy worrying about their friend’s that whatever they had left back in Rocket Town had fallen into obscurity.

Maybe it was time they left her alone; maybe it was time to quit stifling her and force her to live out the life they had been running for her. Shera felt a sudden wave of guilt wash over her at the thought that it was their fault that Tifa had been so depressed. Without the motivation to continue, had the young woman just sunk into sorrow? "I’m so sorry," Shera whispered tearfully and her companions looked at her questioningly. "We’ve been stopping you from moving on, haven’t we? It’s our fault you’ve been like this-"

Tifa shook her head violently. "No!" she cried in horror. She stood up and walked quickly over to Shera’s side where she wrapped her arms around the woman’s shoulders. "Shera, over the past few months you’ve been like the mother I lost! You’ve been so caring and kind that it’s made me realise how much I’m missing out on and how people are suffering because of me. It’s because of your care with Cid that I’ve finally dragged my life together and made a choice."


Tifa nodded deliberately at the technician and stood before the fireplace with a look of resolve on her face which reminded Cid happily of the Meteor Quest. All of a sudden the young woman who had sunk and drowned without a trace in the ocean of sorrow had surfaced and was back with vehemence. The sight almost made him grin, but he refrained himself from doing so as he held Shera tightly and tried to understand what on earth he was hearing.

"So what’s the choice you’ve made then?" he asked her after tense silence had passed for a few minutes.

Tifa took a deep breath. "I’m leaving," she replied resolutely. "I’m getting out of my house and I’m getting off this damned continent."

The couple’s eyes widened alarmingly. They’d been hoping for a change, but this was beyond what they had even dared to dream for! "L-Leave the continent??" Cid stuttered in shock once he had rediscovered his voice. "Where are you going??"

Tifa’s front quickly fell and once again she was the tired, weak looking girl that had been sat up in her bedroom for the past four months. Her eyes were shadowed by the lack of sleep playing on her body, and her shoulders slumped exhaustedly. They almost stood in order to make sure she didn’t collapse, but through some hidden strength she continued to lean upon the mantelpiece above the fire. "H-He… Cloud told me that if he wasn’t back in a year I was to move on with my life. He hasn’t come back but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t forget him," she murmured over the subdued crackling of the fire. Cid’s face crumpled and he tilted his head downward, unable to meet Tifa’s gaze in fear of the hurt he would see in her once vivacious and energetic eyes. "I can’t forget him, not while I’m here. Not while I’m in the home that we built together when I decided how much I loved him and how much he means to me."

Her voice trembled and Cid forced himself to look up once more in morbid curiosity but instead of a sobbing heap he saw a gradually growing determination in her. Once more she seemed to stand tall, but her eyes… oh god her eyes… .

"We spent the first few months of our lives together after the defeat of Meteor travelling this continent. If I were to walk into Junon, or Fort Condor I’d think only of him. I’d see a dent in a road where he’d once trod in a puddle or a tree his eyes would wander to as they used to whenever he spoke. I just couldn’t live with that. I can’t completely ignore the life I’ve made for myself here, but I can’t carry on with it either. I need to start afresh, in here," she told them, clenching a fist and placing it over her heart.

"You’ve both been so supportive, everyone has, but it isn’t enough. I needed the company to keep myself sane. But in my heart I’m still screaming out loud and there’s no one to listen."

Her eyes closed and she sighed deeply as though gathering the courage to announce herself. "I need someone to listen," she breathed wistfully. "You’re all such wonderful, wonderful friends but you all have what you hold most dear close to you. I’ve lost the only thing I think I’ll ever love and I just don’t know how to cope. Barret has Marlene and Nanaki has the Canyon to occupy himself with.

"There is only one I know of who is still trying to deal with being alone."

Cid whistled through his teeth and blinked a few times to clear his mind of surprise. "Vincent," was all he said.

Tifa made no physical motion to agree or disagree, but as she raised her eyes the glint in the wine-coloured depths said it all. "Yes…" she whispered. "Vincent."

Shera glanced between the two members of AVALANCHE with an element of uncertainty. Eventually her stare fell upon Tifa. "Mr Valentine… . He lives in Nibelheim doesn’t he?"

Cid nodded by her side. "Yeah. He moved there after we all split; he lives in the Mansion I think."

"Correct me if I’m wrong, and forgive me for sounding discourteous, but I don’t think he’s the best person in the world to speak with about coping with heartbreak. We’ve heard nothing from him since he left your group and on the few occasions I met him he wasn’t the kind of man I thought of as owning a happy past. He was always so dark and brooding… so melancholy and depressed. Tifa dear," she pleaded with a beseeching look. "If you go to him, you might end up just like him. You’ll learn how to get over this in all the wrong ways and any spirit you have will be finally crushed!"

Cid was silent for a while before slowly raising his eyes to meet Tifa’s. "She’s right," he agreed carefully. "Vincent’s the kind of person who thinks that sleeping in a coffin for thirty-three years, and moping around in shadows without talking to anyone is the best way to forget a loved one."

"But Vincent didn’t want to forget," Tifa argued. "That’s why he was always so secretive and broody. He was too busy thinking about her, about Lucrecia to pay attention to us. You two and everyone else wants me to just forget about Cloud as though he never existed! I can’t do that! I grew up with him and ever since I first met him I knew I loved him and I can’t move on and deny that. I need to find out how I can return to my normal life and always cherish the feelings I have for him in my soul. Vincent is the only one who I know can manage that."

She stood trembling, passion overwhelming her senses as she justified herself to the two people who had been her parents for the past few months. But she wasn’t a child! Who were they to stop her from leaving and going where she wanted??

They’re your friends a voice deep inside reminded her. You know that they only want what’s best for you.

She blinked hard and stared at them with an ambiguous mixture of anger and pain.

"He’s been through more than any of us," Cid sighed after a prolonged period of suffocating stillness. He put his hands on the table before him and looked down at them with an unfocused stare. "The pain he’s been through… not all of it’s the same as yours. Hojo put him through hell remember and what you may learn from him won’t be right for you. Each man’s personal agony is different and you may find that you start punishing yourself for things which never happened."

Tifa took a few steps forward and then dropped to her knees opposite the table to the Pilot. She leant her elbows on the wooden surface and placed her thin, worn hands over his own weathered ones. He looked at her.

"Why do you want to stop me from going, Cid?" she whispered and his steely blue eyes were blacked as he blinked several times to centre his attention on her. She tried to read his face, but the only thing that was apparent was pure and unadulterated concern. She wasn’t sure whether to hate him for his pity or love him for it.

"Because," he started falteringly. "They guy’s not… right Tifa. He travelled with us all for about a year and we learnt nothing about him. He’s just like one big mystery wrapped up in a vampiric little package, y’know?"

"But what we do know about him is that he hates all that part of himself. He doesn’t revel in it and he never took advantage of his abilities or us. Right from the very start, even when you weren’t there we knew about his transformations and his," she hesitated. "… Vampirism. It’s nothing to do with us and he doesn’t need to tell us that. I’m not going to Nibelheim to start probing into the very depths of his history. I’m just going to find out how to remember Cloud. I mean; do I see him for his cocky little way of standing and his tone of voice when he was ordering us around? Or do I see the way that he loved Aeris so deeply, right until the end?" Her voice cracked and Cid felt her hands tense feebly over his own. "Or do I just remember everything? The nights we spent gazing up at the stars and the petty little arguments we’d have over ‘who owned what materia’."

"And you think Vince is just gonna hand out a booklet telling you how to mourn the loss of a loved one?"

Tifa glared at him with an unconstrained ire. "You’re not making this easy for me, Cid," she admonished angrily. "If you were a true friend then you’d let me go and not hold me here like a child!"

She pushed up off the table away from him and gagged on a sob as she fled the room slamming the door behind her. The fire flickered more brightly in the grate at the sudden gush of air and a chair toppled as she shoved past it. Other than that however the room was as still and lifeless as it had before the young woman’s arrival. Any good humour and joy which had laced the atmosphere with a lost happiness was consumed in the vivid flames and swept up the flume before the couple remaining could draw a breath.

Cid silently stubbed out his cigarette and rubbed his face.

"Damn," was all he could think to say.


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