Hello, my loves. Been a while, huh? I know I've been jabbing about other projects, but let's face it: we all know how I am. Anyway, this was inspired by The Tales of Genesis Rhapsodos by Executortionist. So, darling, if you're reading this - thank you! When all of you are finished with this go check that out, kay? This is going to be a drabblish series, mostly about Genesis and Tifa. There will be some interlude-shots with other characters, though. Really not much more to say.
Special thanks to Elise - Blue-Winter-Angel - for proof-reading, and actually naming, this series. Where would I be without you, my love?
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but the plot.
"I still can't understand why you don't like the winter," Tifa says to her companion as they stroll along the snow-laden sidewalk.
Genesis huffs. "It's cold and wet and gray. And despite my stupendous physical wellness, I am inexplicably susceptible to the common cold. I'm only here right now because you asked me to be."
She touches her temple to his upper arm. "Yes, you're very sweet to me. I'm glad you're here."
This seems to placate Genesis. He softens, allowing their bodies to sink into each other and fall into a steady pace. He looks around, reluctantly admiring the brightness of the snow and how it seems to transform the usually dank city into something else entirely. It could almost be considered magical.
"So what do you think the boys will like?" Tifa asks, reminding Genesis that they are out Christmas shopping. Tifa finished buying for everyone else earlier in the week. All that remain are his friends. He considers her question.
"Zack likes video games, Angeal likes books. Sephiroth doesn't like anything."
Tifa laughs. "That's not true. He likes classical music and coconut macaroons, at least."
Genesis is mildly surprised. "Does he? How do you know this?"
"He told me."
"When exactly did you and the Great General find time to discuss his taste in music and confectioneries?"
"Last Sunday, when he stopped by for tea."
Genesis comes to an abrupt halt. Tifa, her arm having been looped with his, is forced to stop as well. Genesis is gazing down at her incredulously and she blinks up at him with innocent dark eyes. "What?"
"Since when does Sephiroth stop by your house to have tea?"
"Since two months ago. The day after you two had that fight, I suppose he just wanted somewhere quiet to be and he ended up at my place. I offered him tea to be a polite hostess, and since then we've just started having tea every Sunday. You would know this, if you could be bothered to visit me on Sundays, like I ask you to."
Genesis pouts. "You didn't tell me that Sundays entailed having tea with Sephiroth."
Tifa smiles, her eyes twinkling. "You sound petulant. Jealous?"
"Certainly not!" he sputters. Tifa only laughs and pulls him along down the sidewalk.
"What about this place?"
Tifa stops in front of what looks to be a quaint bookstore. The windows are frosted over, with snow collecting along the panes; the wooden exterior looks suspiciously rotted. Inside, though, it is bright and most likely warm. It is the latter prospect that makes Genesis concede to enter.
He was right, it's very warm inside. Warm enough that he wants to shed his scarf and knit cap. There are strands of white Christmas lights strung about the ceiling and along the tops of the bookshelves, flickering in various patterns. There is a thin layer of dust over everything that is somehow welcoming. It smells of old paper and ink.
He spots a coffee machine near the register and makes a beeline for it while Tifa wanders off into Historical Romance. Blessedly, as he is short on coin change, the coffee is complimentary. He grabs one of the waxed paper cups and fills it to the brim, then dumps a small heap of sugar into it. Genesis likes his coffee sweet and black. He puts a lid on it and, with a polite smile to the cashier, goes in search of Tifa.
She has moved from Historical Romance to Biography, her brows drawn down in thought. She sees him coming and looks up, obviously relieved. "As many times as I've spoken with Angeal, you'd think I'd know what kind of books he likes."
Genesis sips his coffee. "He likes mysteries."
Tifa blinks. "Oh. Well, those are over here. What kind of mysteries?"
"Mysterious mysteries?" Genesis offers, slightly confused by her question.
"Very funny," she says flatly. "I meant, does he like any specific authors?"
"I can't say for certain, but I believe he's brought up Agatha Christie more than once. I do know that he likes Sherlock Holmes."
Tifa's smile is delighted. "Angeal Hewley likes Miss Marple? That's just perfect! Hm, maybe James Patterson, or Patricia Cornwell. I've read some of their works. Not half bad. But this gift is from you – what do you think?"
Genesis contemplates this while he polishes off his coffee. "Patterson, for something new. Christie, in case he doesn't like Patterson."
"Excellent choices." Tifa plucks a few novels from the shelves and hands them to him. "You go pay for these. There's a few books I want to get for myself."
He nods and takes the books to the register. The young girl there – she can't be more than six- or seventeen – smiles brightly at him. "Will this be all, sir?"
"I believe so, unless I am to purchase Tifa's books as well."
"I can just ring these up and wait for her, then." As she does this, she asks, "So, is she your girlfriend? She's very pretty. I'd kill to have her skin."
Despite being startled by her question, Genesis notes that the girl's skin is relatively clear. "No, she isn't. She's a very close friend, though. She was kind enough to help me pick out gifts for my friends."
The girl smiles. "That's sweet. Shame, though. You two'd look lovely together."
Genesis, feeling more than uncomfortable with the conversation, merely smiles. He is relieved when Tifa arrives at the counter, an international cookbook and a fiction series in tow. "Oh, you didn't have to wait. I'll pay for my own things."
"Are you sure? It's no trouble."
Tifa waves away his offer. "No, it's fine. Save your money for the other two guys."
Genesis shrugs and pays the girl. He fixes a second cup of sweet black coffee while Tifa makes her own purchases. Within minutes she's ready to go and they wave goodbye to the teenager. Outside, the air seems to be even colder – Genesis knows he's only imagining it – and he clutches his coffee tighter, trying to usurp its warmth.
The next stop is a toy store to find gift for Zack. Genesis snorts. "It isn't surprising we would find a gift for him here."
"He's a child at heart," Tifa chuckles.
They peruse the aisles, and Tifa actually finds a couple more things for Denzel and Marlene before they find something Zack would like. A small gaming system, and shelved beside it a stack of recent popular games. Tifa checks the price and deems it acceptable. They make their purchases quickly and are all too soon back out into the cold.
"Well, what do you want to get for Sephiroth?" Tifa asks, as they near the high-end division of the shopping district.
"I'm not sure." Genesis sniffles and he is certain his nose is getting red. He really does try to think of what his stoic friend would like. Sephiroth is a practical, no-nonsense man. Something frivolous would more than likely go amiss. His humor was of a dry sort, very hard to detect. He was not much of a morning person, though he could rise and go about his business. Genesis smiles faintly as he recalls a morning the previous summer, when he had woken Sephiroth and nearly had his hair chopped off. A cup of coffee had soothed the General's ire, but Genesis remained in his bad graces for a week afterward. And then he has it.
"What about a coffee maker? A new one, I mean. The one he has now is borderline prehistoric."
Tifa's eyes brightened. "That would be perfect. I was nagging him about getting one of those Keurig machines."
"Whatever those are."
"I'll show you when we get to a store that carries them."
"They aren't difficult to use, are they? You know how he gets with his appliances." He grimaces, knowing himself just how fed up Sephiroth became when using technology. The results aren't pretty.
"They're ridiculously easy to use, trust me." Tifa smiles reassuringly. "I might get one for myself."
It isn't long before they come to a department store, one of the more popular ones with frequent television advertisements. They go inside and the warmth hits Genesis like a ton of bricks. He shudders, his body expelling the cold. I'll catch a cold if we keep switching temperatures like this, he thinks grumpily.
Tifa seems to know exactly where to find this coffee maker and it doesn't take long before they're standing in front of the display. Genesis admits that they look nice, black and sleek and modern. They look like the kind of thing one would find in Sephiroth's immaculate apartment. At the bottom of the display are several boxes of what look to be various flavors of coffee, in small cups.
"Those are K-cups," Tifa tells him when he asks. "You fill the back of the machine with water and when you lift the lid, there's a pair of sharp needles to puncture the K-cup after you close it. Then it works like any other coffee machine. It also has a portion setting, if you were to use a smaller or larger cup."
"That doesn't sound very difficult to use," Genesis concedes, mildly impressed.
Tifa nods. "Yeah, he'll have no trouble with it. For every one K-cup you get about two servings. They have tea, too, so he'll really like that. Here," She hands him one of the machines and he holds it gingerly. "you hold that and I'll pick the flavors. I'm going to assume, not without affection, that you don't know what kinds of coffee and teas he likes."
"You're not wrong."
"These things are pretty expensive, so I'll get him one box of coffee, and then a couple of teas. We'll need to go to the actual aisle for the tea; it's not in the display."
Genesis follows along behind her, content to let her run the show. Tifa quickly picks up two kinds of tea – jasmine and oolong – and turns to him, ready to go.
"He likes oriental teas?"
"Mhm. He says they have a more calming effect on him. He does like other kinds, but I've noticed that these two seem to be his favorite. So, is this it? Did you want to get anything while we're here?"
Genesis shakes his head. "No, I'm ready."
Carrying their items to the check out, they purchase them quickly and are once again plunged into the cold. Genesis, though, is thinking. He feels guilty that Tifa knows more about his best friend than he himself does. He ought to know that Sephiroth prefers jasmine and oolong tea. True, he isn't as close to Sephiroth as he is to Angeal – whom he knows everything about – but that doesn't mean he cannot make a better effort. He decides that he will.
"So," Tifa chirps, snapping him out of his reverie. "you wanna get something to eat? We made really good time shopping today – it's barely one o'clock!"
Genesis reflects that, seeing as she had dragged him out of his house at close to seven o'clock, six hours of shopping doesn't seem like making good time. Perhaps females had a different perspective. He discovers, though, that he is quite hungry. Famished. "I think food sounds like a wonderful idea."
Tifa smiles. "I thought you might. We haven't had anything since we bought those scones this morning. C'mon, there's a nice place at the corner down here. Yuffie and I go all the time."
They weave their way along the avenue, more crowded now than earlier that morning, making relatively idle chatter until they come to the eatery. It is a quaint, but pretty place. Polished dark wood exterior with spotless glass windows and words scrawled in gold paint proclaiming Ira's. Inside, it isn't as crowded as Genesis had predicted, despite the teeming droves of people outside. It is dimly lit, though there are Christmas lights strung tastefully along the walls, and framing the windows. The tables were all round, small in a way meant to create intimacy between patrons. He likes it.
Tifa, to his surprise, makes her own way to a table by the window and seats herself. Once he confirms that no fuss will be made, he follows suit. Tifa is arranging their bags on the floor between the table and the window; when she looks up, Genesis quirks an eyebrow at her.
"This is the table I usually eat at with Yuffie. We come here often enough that Ira just tells us to sit wherever we like." She shrugs elegantly, and Genesis follows the movement involuntarily.
It isn't long before a waitress comes to them. She is slim and pretty, with dark brown hair and eyes the rich brown-black of coffee. Her heart-shaped face is free of any cosmetic enhancement and her smile is genuine, likely because she is friends with Tifa. Her nametag says Lena.
"Tifa, it's so good to see you!" She bends down to give Tifa a quick hug. "It's not Friday yet, what are you doing here?"
"I was out Christmas shopping with Genesis and we ended up close to Ira's, so we came here. Lena, this is Genesis," she says, her good-hostess personality kicking in."Genesis, this is Lena."
Genesis inclines his head politely. "A pleasure."
"It's nice to meet you, too." Lena smiles. "You sure know how to keep handsome company, Tif. He's as pretty as the other one you bring in." Still smiling, Lena takes down their orders and with a wink, she's off.
"The other one?" Genesis asks. He is amused, but also something else. Something that he isn't sure he wants to confront. Not now, at least, when Tifa is right in front of him.
"Oh," Tifa chuckles. "Yuffie and I have brought Zack in several times. Yuffie's actually trying to set him up with Lena, and it might be working. You may see her again soon."
"That would be nice. A woman in his life could be beneficial to Zackary."
Tifa laughs again, and Lena swings by with their drinks and a basket of light dinner rolls. Genesis takes one and bites into it, savoring the warmth of the soft bread. Tifa sips her raspberry iced tea and carefully butters her own roll. They talk quietly, eating through the rolls. They are midway through another conversation thread when Lena arrives with their meals.
While Tifa digs into her alfredo with much relish, Genesis eyes his plate curiously. He hadn't really payed much attention when he'd placed his order, just rattling off one of the daily specials. His order seems to be a kind of thick soup that smells of cheese and potatoes.
"Something wrong with your food?" Tifa asks, noticing his hesitation.
"I'm not quite sure what it is. I wasn't paying attention when I ordered it." It does smell awfully good, though. He is sure he wouldn't die of poisoning if he ate it.
"It's just potato soup. It's funny; you were talking about getting a cold earlier this morning. Potato soup works better than medicine." Tifa smiles. "Maybe your brain was subconsciously trying to treat you."
"Perhaps." Genesis, now reassured, dips his spoon in. There is a thick layer of melted cheese that stretches gloriously as he lifts the spoon. The soup is hot, almost too much for his mouth, but it is welcome after a morning spent in the cold.
"As I was saying," Tifa begins, picking their conversation back up. "What are you doing for Christmas Day? We have the party on Christmas Eve – are you coming over for Christmas dinner?"
He smiles gently. "Where else would I go?"
Tifa says carefully, "I didn't know if you would go to visit your parents. I was nervous asking about it; I didn't want to upset you. I'm not really sure how things are with you and your family."
He is touched by her concern. "Tifa, you are my family. You, and Angeal, Sephiroth, Zack. Even Cloud and Yuffie and your group of comrades. My parents and I are fine with one another, but they'll never be close to me in the way that you and the others are." You most of all, I think.
He clamps down on his tongue to ensure that he keeps this last thing to himself. He is surprised by how easily – and accidentally – he admits it to himself, and irked that he did so while in Tifa's company. He isn't sure how she feels about him, and that leaves him at a disadvantage. Genesis hates to be left at a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Tifa is glowing. Her cheeks are a lovely shade of pink that he finds endearing. "It's good to know how you feel, then."
You don't know half of what I feel, he thinks. He keeps this to himself as well, and they finish their meals in contented silence.
It is late in the evening and Genesis has spent all the time in Tifa's home, the apartment above her bar. Seventh Heaven is closed on the weekends, though, so there will be no frantic preparation for the coming patrons. Instead, they have wrapped all of the gifts bought that morning, including a few that Tifa had bought days ago.
There is an empty plate on the coffee table that had been laden with gingerbread cookies, and two cups of unfinished coffee, now cold. The fire place still crackles along, keeping the apartment warm. The Christmas tree in the corner twinkles gently, the lights catching off the ornaments. Many of them are homemade, the clumsy handiwork of the children. Others are old and fragile-looking, kept over the years to be used continually. The angel at the top of the tree, he knows, belonged to Tifa's mother. There is a garland along the mantel, threaded with silver tinsel, and below it hang three stockings. Marlene lives with Barrett now, but Tifa still fills one for her each year.
Tifa is asleep on her antique sofa, wrapped up in the quilt Angeal had painstakingly sewn for her birthday. Genesis smiles when he remembers all of the teasing his friend received. The memory passes and his thoughts are replaced by Tifa. Though the words spoken by the girl in the bookstore were unexpected, Genesis has been thinking of Tifa as more than a close friend for a long time, if he were honest with himself. He sometimes thinks that perhaps Tifa feels the same. Remembering all the little favors she does for him, the things she lets him alone get away with, he wonders if he is correct.
The past few months, he has also wondered if he oughtn't come out with it, tell her how he feels about her. That he likes the messy way her hair falls after working the night shift. That she is the strongest person he has ever known. That the way she cares for children who are not of her womb inspires him to better himself for her. That her laughter is more enthralling than the story of Loveless, and her smile is like his very own sun. He wonders if he should tell her that he loves her.
He lets his gaze roam over her. She is curled into a loose ball, as she is apt to do, the quilt twisted around her legs. Her hair, now free from its knot, spills across the gray pillow like the blackest ink. Her long lashes brush the tops of her cheeks, which are pink from the warmth of the fire. Her breathing is deep and even, peaceful in her rest. She is beautiful.
Genesis is nearly convinced that he will tell her. Christmas is barely two weeks away, and perhaps he can do something special for her. He glances at the analog clock hung above the fireplace and notes that it is well after eleven. His apartment isn't far, but with the dark comes a fiercer cold that he doesn't feel like braving. He kicks off his boots and tugs the afghan off the the back of the couch. Wrapping up and settling down, he makes a mental note to consult Sephiroth and Angeal when next they meet.
Until then, until he can have Tifa in his waking life, he is content to dream of her