Love and Life Chapter 8
Dust in the Wind
Ive gotta get her to Kalm, thought Cloud frantically as he spurred Wraith on even more. The poor, exhausted chocobo complained weakly as it tried to push itself farther and faster. Boco was doing a bit better, since it had had more time to rest back at Icicle Inn, but nonetheless, was still struggling. They were two-thirds of the way there; the Midgar forest was coming up on the horizon. They had just one more small sea to cross and they would be near.
Tifa, how are you doing? he asked her. She was now sitting up, and clutching the birds long neck, though still bundled in her blanket. Tifa looked up at cloud and attempted to smile, though it only let Cloud see how pale she was, and the dark circles under her eyes. At least she was still conscious.
Dont you worry -- well be in Kalm in no time, he tired to assure her. She nodded, and rested her head on the chocobo again. Why was he assuring her? She was already in a state of that incomprehensible near-death calm that came over people. He was the one who needed assurance, and the best thing that he could come up with right now were his own hollow words. Damn, damn, damn...
Almost there... he told himself now: Kalm was right past the Midgar forest which they were coming upon and needed to cross through. He looked at Tifa again -- she seemed limp, and was barely conscious now.
Cmon, baby-doll, stay strong! We just have to hurry thought the forest, he told her, though not sure if she could hear him. She stirred slightly and fluttered an eyelid open, acknowledging him, but she quickly slipped back into sleep. Keep fighting, Tifa!
The forest path was windy, and the chocobos were utterly pooped. The day was nearly over now, and the stars were just beginning to dot the sky, but also, the chill wind whipped through, making it hard to keep any warmth.
Cloud... we need to stop... a voice told Cloud. He looked around, wondering if the chocobos had learned to speak, then saw Tifa, straining to lift her head up to look at him.
We only have the forest to go through, Tifa, just hold on for another thirty minutes, please? he told her with urgency on his voice.
Cloud... dont do this to me... I wont make it... I... I want to see our special place again... she hoarsely whispered to him. Cloud slowed the chocobos to a stop, much to their relief. He knew what she meant by this -- he had just hoped that he wouldnt have to do it now, but time was never by ones own choosing. He looked at her with his eye full of tears of sorrow, and she looked back. Her expression betrayed her state -- she looked happy, almost lively now; she wanted this.
He turned his gaze down, and forced a smile out of his tears. Then thats where well go. You can rest up, and the chocobos can take a breather, then we can get going on to Kalm, he told her, lying to himself.
Thank you... she told him, her face still happy. He spurred the chocobos on in a different direction, and then, when they came to the wall of trees, he had the gold chocobos use their special flying/climbing ability to get to the other side. The place looked even more beautiful in the dusky light than it had when he and Tifa had originally come here before. The dull light that shone in was like a curtain of ethereal presence, waiting for him, waiting for Tifa.
He hopped off of Wraith, who proceeded to take a drink from the spring and begin on some grass, and then he gently carried Tifa down from Bocos back. She had managed to stay awake, and was gazing about the place, trying to take as much of it in as she could. He set her down amidst the mako blooms that scattered the field, and then lay down next to her. Tifa looked up into the sky and watched the stars become brighter as the moments passed, and the moon, a waning gibbous this evening, shedding its small light over the planet. Never had she felt so at peace, so one with everything than she did at this moment, never had she felt more alive than now, at this moment of her own passing. She felt Clouds hand and clutched it with all of the might that she had left. She felt his grasp. Everything was perfect now -- she was safe, and there was nothing left to be worried about, not even the unfinished business that she now had to deal with.
Cloud, she said, Im sorry for brushing you off all those years ago back at home. I didnt realize what a great guy you were until I thought that you were gone, she finished the whole sentence without a stammer. Cloud sat up and looked down at her, his eyes full of concern. Shh, Tifa, dont worry about it--
I need to, or this will never be said, she stopped him by saying. And then, when Aeris came, I was jealous of what she had with you... and she never really did anything consciously to provoke me. I didnt deserve you friendship at all, and now, it makes me so happy to know that you care... but tell me one thing, Cloud... do you love me? Now, dont lie because Im dying, I can take it, she told him, looking up into his blue eyes in earnest. This time, he didnt have to think at all: he knew.
Of course I love you, Tifa, I have since the day we met... It may have been convoluted and disrupted over time, but I never lost it, he said, stroking her hair again.
Tifas eyes welled up with tears. Thank you, thank you so much... but Ill still... never understand... why you do... she was becoming too weak to continue on. I want to sleep now... could you just lie next to me... to keep me warm? Without any hesitation, he cuddled up next to her, in the way that he knew she liked. It was too late now for remedies, for doctors. But he was just glad to be able to spend these finally bittersweet moments with her. He closed his eyes, and held her, one last time.
Cloud... she whispered slowly, dont cry.
The morning sun peeped down into the alcove, where Cloud still lay, sleeping, with Tifa next to him. The light slowly moved down to hit him in the face, and he woke up.
Tifa... Its morning, he said, looking at the woman who had fallen asleep next to him. Then it shook him, it shook him hard. Oh Tifa, he stroked her hair again, hoping to God that she might wake up, but merely felt the coldness to her. No, Tifa, whyd you have to leave me too? he said in sorrow as he scooped her body into his arms and hugged her form tightly. The chocobos sat at the other side of the field, knowing innately, the way animals do, that something was amiss. They were completely silent. Cloud sat for a while, just hugging the body of the second girl that he had lost.
Suddenly, the Lifestream pool that was in the center of the alcove began to glow and emit bubbles of green energy. Cloud watched in amazement as the energy flowed out and wrapped around Tifas body. He let go, and backed off as the energy carried her back to the pool. Once there, the light came up much like those pools that were in the Temple of the Ancients, and Tifas body floated there, preserved in the energy of the Lifestream.
Whats going on?
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