Chapter o2. Welcome Back

"Damn," I cursed, lightly hitting my head to numb the pain.

My head throbbed with such agility I thought it would burst. This is it; I was never ever going to touch alcohol ever again. Sure, I finally turned legal to drink, but I wasn't going to use that privilege. I hear all these stories about drinking. For instance, there are always car accidents related with drunk driving. Girls get in "accidents" too and then they go crying when the male doesn't take responsibility. So you know what, screw alcohol. Water is way more beneficial. But it's a little too late to regret drinking now. This hang over wasn't going away for a while. I groaned and turned in my bed. A ray of bright sunshine shone through my curtains. Annoyingly, I turned my back towards it. I faced my digital clock, which read 11:11 a.m. WHAT!? 11:11? I cursed under my breath. Hurriedly, I grabbed my white robe and threw it on, running into the restroom. On my way there, I tripped a bit. See what alcohol does to you?

When I was fully dressed and ready, I glanced at the clock once more, realizing it was a minute before 11:30. I rushed down to the study room. Quickly, I slid my identification, ran down the stairs, and then did my fingerprint scanning. The door opened and I rushed in.

"Sorry," I apologized.

Gloria looked at me with a pitiful smile. I glanced at Yuffie then Vincent with a questionable look. Vincent shrugged carelessly, so I asked Yuffie for an answer.

"Teef, are you feeling better?" Yuffie inquired. Huh? Oh.

I nodded sheepishly and sat down across from…an empty seat.

"Where's Cloud?" I asked.

"Teef, do you know last night, you came back in a mess? We were so scared! You murmured a bunch of nonsense too!" Yuffie ignored my question.

"Nonsense?" I questioned.

"Something about 'You are not Aerith.' and something about Cloud, but I couldn't hear what you said," Yuffie replied.

"Ahem," Gloria interrupted.

Yuffie and I looked at Gloria apologetically and said, "Sorry."

"Today, I only have two missions in hand. Tifa, you shouldn't be here. It's better if you take today off. Yuffie and Vincent can handle the two missions, since Cloud has the day off too." Gloria spoke dismissing me.

"Cloud has the day off?" I repeated Gloria's statement.

"Um, it's her birthday today," Gloria answered, hesitantly. Oh.

With a nod, I exited the meeting room. I took slow steps, with too many thoughts in my head. Massaging my temples, I silently walked out of the house. Outside, the birds chirped with innocence. Even though snow covered most of the sidewalks, a warm feeling lingered in my heart. Flashbacks of Christmas celebrations flowed in my mind and aimlessly, I walked down the streets, stopping at the one place I had forbidden myself to go to. I stood in front of my old house, with yellow daffodils in hand. Closing my eyes, I managed to breath a bit better. However, my nightmare still would not leave me alone. Was this my fate? Pushing the thought aside, I stepped through the alley to my backyard. In no way was I surprised to see Cloud seated in the old wooden porch swing. This backyard had been their place – my sister and Cloud's. For the past seven years – on this day, I'd come here and find Cloud seated on the swing.

"Hey," I whispered cautiously.

Cloud stared up to my direction but then looked away. With a sigh, I kneeled down on the dead grass. Placing the daffodils down next to a picture frame, a tear escaped the corners of my eyes but I ignored it. Gently, I wiped the dirt off of the picture.

"Happy Birthday, Aerie," I mumbled, trying to suppress my trembling voice.

From my right, I heard Cloud sigh. Standing up, I stared at him with a sad smile. Maybe, this nightmare wasn't only haunting me, but Cloud also. With a troubled expression, he closed his eyes, attempting to breath in Aerith's long gone scent.

"You wanna go inside?" I asked softly.

Hearing no answer, I swallowed down the pain and headed for the back door. Taking out my keys, I watched as my hands shook with fear. Can you believe even after seven years, I was still scared of opening the door? What had I feared? With my left hand, I tried holding down my shaking right one, but I was still trembling too much to even just stick the key in the keyhole. A hand swiftly took hold of mine and guided it to open the door. I stared at Cloud, his hand still holding mine. Peering into my eyes, he swung his hand away from mine, a little too cruel for my fragile heart. As Cloud stepped into my house, I placed a hand on my heart, leaning against the house's outer wall. The door slammed shut. Looking upwards, I tried to breath, but I couldn't. Finally, I slid down the wall, tears running down my cheeks profusely.

"Weakling," I whispered, sadly laughing at myself.

Looking at my empty hands, I laughed again, "He even took my keys."

Standing up, I turned the knob, hoping that he had left the door unlocked. However, the door wouldn't open. With an empty heart, I walked out of the backyard, giving the swing one last glance.

Okay, so he took my keys. How was I supposed to go home? Yuffie and Vincent are on missions and Gloria wouldn't be home at this time. Pointlessly, I wondered the streets. My arms wrapped around my body to keep warmth. I had a light jacket on – not your typical winter coat. There were a couple of stares from passersby, perhaps wondering why a stupid girl would come out in such cold weather with a spring jacket.

"Hey Tifa," a girl called.

I turned around and smiled at Mary, the neighborhood flower girl – no, not the wedding kind. She held out a dozen of white roses with a sweet smile. Laughing, I took the flowers and sniffed in its beautiful scent.

"Pretty, no?" Mary spoke.

"Yeah," I replied, taking out my wallet.

"No need, Tifa. You always come and buy flowers from me," she shoved the money back at me.

Shaking my head I said, "Costumers pay producers. That's the rules." Damn, I sound like Cloud.

Laughing, Mary reasoned, "Producer? You're so lame, Tifa. We're friends, aren't we. Can't a friend give a friend flowers?"

Raising an eyebrow, I asked, "Doesn't that usually happen when a guy tries to woo a girl?"

"Oh boy, I see someone's experienced," she teased.

Rolling my eyes, I picked up a bunch of daisies and smiled.

"Visiting Cloud's grandma, again?" Mary's tone turned serious.

Nodding, I took the flowers and stuffed money into a random bunch so that Mary couldn't say 'no'. With that, I waved goodbye and walked off. Seeing that I didn't have my car keys, I waited for a taxi to pass.

"Where would you like to go, ma'am?" the driver asked politely.

"Westside Hospital," I answered briefly.

It was approximately a fifteen-minute ride to the hospital. I climbed out of the taxi after paying and thanking the driver. Hugging the flowers, I walked into the hospital, stopping before the front desk. I skillfully held my flowers in one hand, while grabbing the clipboard and signing in with the other hand. With a smile, I stepped into the elevator and pressed "7". Skipping my way over to room 711, I knocked on the door politely before going in.

"Surprise!" I exclaimed, laughing.

"Tifa, Honey, you came!" a woman around her early 70's said excitedly.

"How are you doing?" I questioned, putting the flowers in a vase.

"Sweetie, I've been good…although I'd be better if you and Cloud come together next time," she hinted.

"Grandma…" I whined.

"Aww, Sweetie, you're blushing," she laughed as I placed both hands on my flushing cheeks.

"You like teasing me, don't you?" I pouted.

Sighing, she held my hands, gently tapping them. Truthfully, I knew what she wanted – Grandma wanted Cloud and I to get married. She knew all about my nightmare and about Aerith and Cloud, yet she still insisted on us getting married. Silently, I apologized, for I knew it would never happen.

"He's been neglecting you, hasn't he?" Grandma asked knowingly.

"Of course not. We're just friends, Grandma. Just friends," I laughed nervously.

She squeezed my hand and smiled sadly. A minute of silence passed between us and then I heard wheezing. Nervously, I stroked her back, hoping her breathing would return to normal, but no avail. As she started choking on her coughs, I started slamming and mashing the emergency button.

"Are you okay?" I continuously asked worriedly, while still stroking her back.

A nurse came rushing in. Seeing what was happening, she spoke a few words into a speaker. Doctors dashed into the room, pushing me out. Worriedly, I slid down a wall for the second time of the day. I was so scared – so scared that I'd lose another important person to me. Grandma treated me like her real granddaughter ever since Cloud brought me home from that sinful day. She was the only one who knew I loved Cloud and still encouraged me to go for it. Grandma was the only one I could talk to. I sat still on the floor, tears brimming in my bloodshot eyes. A doctor exited the room and quickly, I scurried over to him.

"How is she?" I blurted out.

"Are you related to her?" the doctor asked and I shook my head.

"One of her arteries are blocked and we need to perform a surgery. Could you contact her relatives?" he spoke, and then left.

Immediately, I took out my phone and dialed Cloud's digits. I waited as the dial tone sounded and then I heard his voicemail. With a sigh, I left a message. By now, I understood that he ignored my calls, but he still checked his voicemail for messages. To my surprise, it took him two minutes before he called back, cursing at me over the phone. I didn't even get to speak one word to him before he hung up on me, threatening to murder me if anything happened to Grandma. So I sat on the hospital chairs waiting patiently for fifteen minutes for Cloud to appear.

"Tifa, where is she?" Cloud questioned, running up to me.

Quickly, I got up and replied, "In the operation room."

Without taking a split second, Cloud raced to the operation room. Quietly, I followed behind. We stood outside the room for a good five minutes before Cloud spoke up again.

"What the heck did you tell her this time?" he accused.

I stared up into Cloud's eyes speechlessly. "I…I…"

"Every time you come here, something happens!" he yelled.

Okay, that was it! First, he acts all cold in front of me, locks me out of my own house, take my freakin' keys, and now he's blaming me for Grandma's health. You know what, I've seriously had it with him.

"Give me my damn keys!" I hollered.

Cloud's eyes widened in shock at my sudden mood swings. He rummaged through his pockets, taking my keys out. Walking towards me, he held them forward and I snatched them out of his hands.

"Hey, I didn't mean to take your keys," he said softly.

Folding my arms over my chest, I turned so that my back was facing him.

"Just because of your stupid mood swings I had to stand out in the stupid cold, wandering for a place to go to. You freakin' ignore my damn calls and now you come here hollering that I am trying to murder your grandmother. As if I haven't been through enough that you can't even be nice to me for a day," I murmured then turned around, "to you it's like I am cold blooded, right? That I don't care what the heck happens to anyone," tears cascaded down by cheeks and with a cracking voice I spoke, "she's my sister…you know...I love her too."

I covered my mouth so that no more of my unnecessary words would slip out. Eventually, I covered my whole face so that Cloud couldn't see my tears, but I knew he was staring intently at me. Hesitantly, Cloud walked over to me and touched my hand, trying to pry it off my face, but I slapped his hand away. Sighing, he wrapped his arms around me.

"Sorry, Tifa. You know me…I never know the right words to say," he started, stroking my back, "I shouldn't have said…err what I have said…Sorry."

Just like that, he let me go and tried to pry my hands off my face again and this time I let him. I pouted as he wiped a tear from my eyes. Before anything else could happen, the doctor came out, asking for a relative. Cloud poured questions at the innocent doctor, while I quietly waited for answers. After confirming that Grandma was okay, we both walked into her room to see how she was. I smiled at her sleeping form. Taking a piece of paper and a pen, I wrote: Cloud was here. I shoved the paper in Cloud's face harshly. Sighing, he jotted down a quick note to Grandma and handed it back to me. I placed the note on the table next to the bed and stood up. Quietly, I walked out of the room with Cloud following me. Yes, the OH MIGHTY Cloud follows the Loser Tifa. As I walked out of the hospital, I pretended to wait for a taxi to pass. Cloud stood next to me but I ignored him.

"Hey, I have my car," he offered but once again I ignored him.

Sighing, he walked away. YES, HE FREAKIN' WALKED AWAY and left me standing there, when it was clearly midnight.

"Curse you," I mumbled under my breath, shivering from the cold weather.

Frustrated, I stomped my feet on the cold snow, only to regret it when snow seeped up my flats. Lesson number one: never, ever wear flats when it's 30 degrees outside with pretty white snow. Just as I was about to throw another tantrum, a black Mercedes drove up, shining its lights in my eyes. Curse you, curse you, Cloud. He honked his horn at me as if I didn't know it was him already.

"Get in. Taxis don't come here at such a late time," he informed.

I crossed my arms over my chest and looked away. Curse me and my pride. Shivering, I coughed while my teeth clattered. That got Cloud! He stepped out of his car and literally hauled me into the passenger seat. Once seated in, I refused to buckle my seatbelt, so he had to buckle it for me. As we drove, I didn't speak a word.

"Still not talking to me?" Cloud asked.

"Wow, Cloud knows how to talk?" I mocked coldly.

Sighing, he said, "I know these seven years, I haven't been myself. I guess I didn't know how to accept everything. Sorry."

Hearing me sigh, he spoke, "So, friends again?"

I rolled my eyes and mocked again, "Oh, so no more 'Leaders pay assistants. That the rules'?"

"If you say so. Hey, then I save a lot of money!" he joked, successfully making me laugh.

"Meanie. I hate you," I teased.

"Hey watch that mouth, Twerp," he said.

"Oh no you don't!" I replied, hitting his head, "I am twenty-one!"

"Don't hit my head, when I am the driver!" he warned.

"I'll drive then!" I exclaimed, dangerously going for the wheel.

"HEY! Sit back down, Tony!" he ordered.

"Did you just call me 'Tony'?" I screamed into his ear and he winced.

"Yeah, 'cause you're acting like a man. Talking all rude!" he defended.

"Shush, you Caroline!" I snapped back and pouted.

We looked at each other and cracked up. Yep, the old Cloud was back.

"Welcome back, Cloud," I whispered.

He looked at me and chuckled.

Cloud drove the car right in front of our house and parked. Happily, I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out, skipping to the door entrance. Chuckling again, Cloud hit my head at my childish actions. I paused at opening the door, turning to give him a glare while sticking my tongue out. I gaped as he mocked me with the exact face.

"Hey, Doofus!" I shrieked.

"It's Roofus, Twerp," he laughed, taking my keys out of my hands to open the door.

"Roofus is that naked mole rat from Kim Possible! You're not cute enough to be Roofus!" I defended, walking into the house.

"Pervert," he joked.

"Hey, naked mole rat is the name of the animal!" I argued back, slapping his arm.

"Am I seeing things?" Yuffie's voice sounded.

Cloud and I turned towards the sofa to see Yuffie and Vincent staring at us, while eating popcorn and chips.

Yuffie elbowed Vincent lightly in the chest, "Hey, was that Cloud talking?" AH HAH! Score for Tifa!

"See! I told you! I am not the only one amazed that you're talking," I spoke, dragging Cloud by the arm towards the sofa.

Yuffie gave Vincent the "look" then raised her brow at me. Quickly, I shot her the look back, grabbing her popcorn from her.

"Hey, you Twerp!" Yuffie snatched the bag of popcorn back.

"In your face, Twerp!" Cloud teased.

Pouting, I shrunk my shoulders and whined, "Why does everyone call me a Twerp! I am twenty-one!"

"And we're all twenty-four," Yuffie said, pinching my cheeks.

"Three years, guys. Three years!" I defended.

"No, no. Three and a half years," Cloud joked, placing his arm over my shoulders.

"You guys are just OLD! Twenty-one is a big number! I can legally drink!" I shot back.

"Oh my. NO, Tifa. No drinking for you. You should have seen yourself last night. Throwing up and crying. Not to mention you were talking nonsense! 'I am not Aerith!' and 'Cloud, why don't you understand' or whatever," Yuffie tried to imitate my words.

Cloud removed his arms from around me and looked away. I too looked away, biting my lips with guilt. Vincent shoved Yuffie a little. She had a guilty look on and quickly apologized. Silently, Cloud stood up and walked up the stairs, leaving me to watch as he did so. Excusing myself, I stood up and followed him. Cloud was in his room, staring at a picture frame – a picture of Aerith and him. Sighing, I softly knocked on the slightly opened door before entering.

"Hey, Cloud…I am sorry," I whispered.

Putting the frame down, he turned and smiled, shaking his head, "No, I should be saying sorry. You did nothing wrong. I just couldn't accept the fact that Aerith is gone."

I lowered my head and remained silent. "Do you think it's time I moved on?" Cloud spoke smiling.

I looked up confused at his question. Gently, he took my small hands into his big ones and gave me a foolish grin. My heart raced with lightning speed, fluttering with warmth. My eyes threatened to pop out considering how wide my eyes were opened up to.

"Wh-what are you talking about?" I asked nervously laughing.

"Are you ready to give us a chance?" Cloud asked sweetly.

Okay, I was dreaming. This was not real. Cloud did not just say that. I stood still dumbfounded. Just as my lips opened to speak, the door screeched and in came the falling Yuffie.

"Woops. My bad…please continue," she laughed and nervously hurried out.

Cloud and I looked at each other and cracked up. When we calmed down, I nodded and whispered, "Okay". Emotions rushed through my body as Cloud wrapped his arms around me. I dug my head in his chest but from the corners of my eyes, I stared at the picture of Aerith that stood still on his table. Deep down inside, I knew Cloud wasn't asking me "out" because he liked me, but because he felt responsible for my seven years or perhaps more of pain.

"Ahem," someone interrupted purposely. Oh, Gloria, you couldn't let us hug for just a few more seconds?

Hesitantly, Cloud let go of me and we both looked at Gloria questionably. She pointed her finger from Cloud to me and back and forth. Blushing, I hid behind Cloud shyly. Cloud looked at me and stuck his tongue out. I giggled at his reaction, already forgetting that Gloria was still there.

"Okay, enough fooling around, Twerps. Emergency meeting in 5," Gloria said and left the room.

"Twerp!?" Cloud hollered, "You're only a year older than me, Gloria."

Rolling my eyes, I began to leave his room to head for study room but he pulled me back. I raised my eyebrows at him and pouted. Swiftly, he brought my forehead against his lips and I shivered under the touch. With a smirk, Cloud walked off for the study room, leaving me smiling foolishly while blushing. As I calmed my rapid beating heart, I took a glance at Aerith's picture again. Somehow, it felt like she was staring at me with accusation.

"Sorry," I whispered and left the room.

I met up with Cloud in the study room and we approached the meeting room together. As we sat down in our usual seats, I felt stares aiming towards us. Closing my eyes then opening them again, I faced Yuffie, who was smirking straight at me. I turned around to face Cloud, who shrugged.

"Hey, Gloria…guess who's date—" Yuffie started but I shot her a glare, so she quieted.

"Okay, I called this Emergency meeting because a client has requested a mission that takes place in two hours," Gloria began.

I looked at Cloud with a worried look and he foolishly winked at me. I giggled softly but soon regretted it when Gloria cleared her throat. Cloud and I apologized.

"The mission involves this necklace," she said passing out a picture of a diamond necklace.

"That's a beauty!" Yuffie exclaimed.

"This necklace is made with flawless diamonds. There's only one set of this necklace in the whole world. Today at 3:00 a.m. sharp, the necklace will be modeled at a ball for auction," Gloria informed as Cloud and I exchanged eye contact.

"Cloud and Tifa you two make up the front team and Yuffie, Vincent backup team. Got it?" Gloria ordered.

"Yes, ma'am," we all replied and watched her leave.

Without waiting another second to pass, Cloud and I rushed upstairs to change. I grabbed a dark blue evening gown and slipped it on. Quickly, I applied light make up and threw on a pair of earrings. Picking up a nearby purse, I placed a set of black clothes, my wallet and cell phone in it. I rushed out of my room just in time to see Cloud walk out of his. I laughed nervously as he looked at me from head to toe. Why does this always happen when I dress up for a mission? When he finally snapped out of it, he extended his hand out to mine. We held hands and walked down the stairs. Cloud opened the passenger door for me and I got in. Shortly after, Cloud sat in the driver's seat. We had to wait for Yuffie and Vincent to come, so we decided to go over what was happening.

"I knock the real model out, model the necklace in her place. When they are done auctioning, I steal it from the jewelry room. Good?" I summarized my plan.

"Knock the girl out? Being violent, aren't we," Cloud spoke leaning forwards.

I closed my eyes, waiting for his lips to meet mine, but our moment was interrupted.

"Okay, we're ready!" Yuffie's cheerful voice was heard.

We both opened our eyes and sat back in our seats as Yuffie and Vincent got into the back seats of Cloud's Mercedes. The ride to the ball was around half an hour. By the time we arrived it was 2:30 a.m. – 30 minutes before the auctioning started. Without another word, I stepped out of the car. Cloud and I walked into the ballroom, much looking like any ordinary guest. When we were halfway across the ballroom, it was decided that we separate and scout for the model. Casually, I walked up the long flights of stairs to the second floor. There was a set of rooms that lined up until the end of the hallway. I walked down the halls, smiling sweetly at any passersby, until I reached a room labeled "Dressing Room". Smirking, I opened the door. A girl around the same age as me was applying make up. I read her nametag with the corners of my eyes and smirked.

"So you're Carol?" I asked politely.

"Yes, who are you? Are you one of the guest?" she had a high-pitched voice.

"Um, I am Carol," I replied, standing behind her.

I knocked her on the neck and immediately she fainted. Opening a closet, I hid her inside, not forgetting to take her nametag. Quickly, I walked out to meet a female and two guards. She held a velvet box in her hands.

"Hi," I greeted with a smile.

She stared at my nametag and smiled back, "You must be the model, Carol. I am Rita," she extended her hand and I shook it politely.

"Oh, Rita! Is that the necklace?" I asked eyeing the velvet box.

She nodded and led me back into the dressing room. Rita sat me down and opened the box. The diamonds sparkled and reflected across the room. Rita took the necklace carefully out of the box and placed it around my neck. Touching the diamonds gently, I smiled and thanked her. She informed me that there was five minutes before the auctioning start and so I got up and headed for the stage.

"Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for coming here today. We would now like to auction a few precious items for charity," a man spoke from the stage and the audience clapped.

"First we have "Reflection" a valuable necklace made with hundreds of flawless diamonds," the man introduced.

Hearing my cue, I walked up on stage. Cameras flashed in every direction as I did my catwalk. I smiled and winked at Cloud, who was seated in the front row. As I turned around to stand next to the MC, an uneasy feeling crept in my heart.

"Starting bid at $100,000," the MC spoke.

"$150,000!" one bidder shouted.

"$200,000!" another hollered.

A red light reflected off my necklace and my eyes widened. A red laser pointed at my abdomen. Hurriedly, I scanned the area for the owner, stopping at a black-dressed girl with a gun. My eyes widened and I quickly pushed the MC. A gunshot sounded as I dodged across the stage. The MC crawled nervously off the stage as everyone starting screaming and trampling each other to leave. I held on my injured side, preparing for another move.

Rushing up the stage, Cloud helped me up, "Are you okay?"

Nodding, I explained, "It's not a bullet. She shot acid, a small amount hit me."

Just as Cloud was getting me off stage, a set of guards surrounded us.

"Ms. Carol, take the necklace off," a guard suggested.

Hesitantly, I removed the necklace from my neck and so they left.

"What the heck is that, guarding the necklace or the model?" I complained, still holding on my side.

Cringing at my state, Cloud lifted me in his arms and scurried out to the car, where Yuffie and Vincent had been waiting. They both gaped seeing me. Yuffie sprinted to the trunk for a first aid kit. Gently, Cloud placed me down in the backseat.

"She got shot with acid," Cloud told Yuffie, who had begun removing my gown to check my wound.

Abruptly, Yuffie stopped, "Ahem…turn around," she ordered Cloud and Vincent.

I winced in pain as Yuffie cleaned my injury with rubbing alcohol. I squeezed my eyes shut and wailed. Cloud turned to check on me but instantly turned back, realizing that I was undressed. Without looking, Cloud extended his hand to hold mine, stroking it with his thumb.

"She bleeding a bit, but it's not bad. It's just that acid burns," Yuffie explained, bandaging my wound.

"What happened?" Vincent spoke up.

"Seems like someone else wants the necklace," Cloud answered a bit dazed.

Yuffie zipped my dress, careful not to hurt my wound. Putting away the first aid kit, Yuffie walked over to the passenger seat, where Vincent was and dragged him out of the car.

"Looks like the back up team has to finish the mission," Yuffie cheerfully said.

"Hey, Tifa, did you put a tracker on the necklace?" Vincent questioned and I nodded weakly.

As the backup team left, Cloud let go of my hand. I opened my eyes, searching for him. Not long after, he had left the driver seat and was sitting by my side. He moved me so that I was now leaning against him, my head on his broad shoulder.

"Does it hurt?" Cloud asked, stroking my arm.

"Stings a bit, but I am okay," I whispered.

I rested on Cloud's shoulder, under his protection. A smile crept on my lips as he leaned in and kissed my forehead. Wrapping my arms around his waist, I sniffed in his scent. It was a fresh and peaceful scent, something that you don't smell everyday.

"Hmm…you smell nice," I slurred and Cloud laughed.

"Argh! Vincent! Vincent! Are you okay? Damn you!" Yuffie's holler was heard through an intercom attached to Cloud's car.

Cloud and I released each other. I grabbed the intercom.

"Yuffie, what's happening?" I questioned, speaking into the intercom.

"She's too strong. Vincent's hurt. We need help," Yuffie screeched.

Cloud looked at me and then at my wound.

" I am fine," I pushed aside his worries.

"Okay then, let's go," Cloud said.

"Um, turn around," I spoke, blushing.

"Why?" he asked.

"Um, do you really want to see me doing cartwheels in this dress?" I inquired sarcastically.

"Oh," Cloud turned around.

Quickly, I slipped my dress off, throwing it in the front seats. Bending down, I found my purse under the passenger seat. Rummaging through it, I took the set of black clothes I had prepared earlier. As I slid my top on, I unintentionally scratched my injury and hissed. Cloud turned around to find me pressing down on my wound.

"Okay, You're not going, I'll go," Cloud insisted but I shook my head and held him down from leaving.

"I'm fine. Let's go," I announced, getting out of the car with Cloud close at my side.

We ran towards the building where the ball had been held. Going off to the side of the building, I pulled out a rope that had an anchor looking thing at the end. Backing off, I threw it up to the window of the jewelry room. The anchor dug into the sides of the window. Using it to advantage, I climbed the robe, kicking the window down. Cloud followed behind. The room was dark, with two beams of red security lasers.

"Yuffie?" I whispered.

"DUCK!" Yuffie's voice screamed.

Cloud and I both ducked just in time to avoid another acid attack. In front of us stood the same girl that had shot me before. In her left hand was her gun and on her right was a velvet box.

"Get Vincent and Yuffie out, I fight her," I told Cloud, not giving him the option to say "no".

Once I confirmed that Cloud heard, I took out my gun and pointed it towards the girl. Even though there was no lighting in the room, I knew she was glaring at me. Slowly, we began taking steps towards each other, until we were two feet away. Seeing our close distance, she launched herself at me. Using the back of my gun, I knocked her on the neck. She fell back a little but remained standing. For a split second, I surveyed around to check if Cloud had gotten Vincent and Yuffie out yet. Seeing that they were all gone, I knew I didn't have to hold back. Aiming my gun at the velvet box, I shot, successfully making the box slip out of the hands. We both dove for the item, our hands held on an opposite corners of the box. Pulling hard, we both weren't surprised when the steel formation of the box cracked. She took this as a chance and shoved the steel into my shoulders. I hissed in pain as blood seeped out of my new wound. The box now lied in the hands of the enemy. Suppressing the pain, I shot at the box again, but she dodged the bullet. Racing with her to the window, I aimed to kick her hard on the neck, but she ducked. For another five minutes, we exchanged moves, attacking each other. Both our guns had been kicked to the ground. However, she had the advantage. The necklace was still in her hands. Dragging me, she aimed to slam we against the wall, but luckily, I kicked my heels and did a flip, ending my move with a kick against the velvet box. The image of the culprit as he kicked Ayden out of my arms appeared in my head. My eyes widened and I froze in place. With that, she kicked me hard against my side wound from earlier. I slammed backwards into the wall, a centimeter from hitting a laser.

"Tifa!" Cloud called out.

Alarmed by his appearance, I threw the necklace to him and he caught it with ease. As he ran forward to get me, our female enemy swiped a gun from the floor – which seemed to be mine – and held it against my head. She dragged me up to stand.

"If you don't want her dead then throw the box over," she threatened.

I winced at her words, not because I was scared, but because her voice sounded so familiar. No, not possible. As she led us to walk towards Cloud, I purposely stuck my foot out, touching a laser. Sirens beeped loudly and the lights turned on. Grabbing her hand that held the gun, I aimed it at the floor and shot. She jumped back for a split second and so I took my chance and raced towards Cloud. We both jumped down from the window and ran, hiding behind a nearby department store.

"There's guards everywhere," I whispered, hissing at my injuries.

"Tifa!" Cloud said in a low tone, "Why would you fight her alone? Look at you now."

"Hey, she was good," I laughed but then quieted.

"Cloud…" I said softly, "Her voice…doesn't her voice sound familiar?"

"I know what you're thinking, but I am telling you it's not her. Aerith's gone, Tifa," Cloud insisted.

"But what if someone rescued her? What if she survived?" I asked both Cloud and myself.

"Even if she did, that girl isn't her. The Aerith I know isn't a thief," he said firmly.

"The Tifa you knew seven years ago wasn't a thief either," I shot back.

"It's – It's not her," Cloud responded not looking at me.

But what if it is her, do we welcome her back? What will happen to us? Will you be with her again, Cloud? Of course you will…you never even really liked me. I stared at Cloud's side profile and smiled sadly. Our relationship might have only lasted a few hours, but I couldn't bring myself to complain if he were to go back to Aerith's side. I was satisfied…satisfied that he was nice enough to give me a chance. With watery eyes, I leaned forward and kissed Cloud softly, on his cheek. Pulling back, I looked at Cloud straight in the eyes.

"Tifa, she's not Aerith," he tried to reassure me but I wasn't convinced.

"I know," I lied. I know you still love her.

A/N I actually wrote this story more than a year ago, but I didn't like it so I didn't post it up, buh now I thought I'd give it a try! Comments make me happy (: so leave comments!