So, this is waaaaay past Christmas, and I'm so sorry for that. That was the busiest Christmas of my life. The following months have been no less hectic, either. But, being on Spring Break, I have had time to write, and so I present you with this! This is completely unedited, by the way. Elise has been working a ton of hours and I kind of wrote all this up on a whim. Well, the second part, anyway. I totally scrapped and rewrote it all. Hopefully you don't find it lacking.

Also, on another bright note, I GOT MY PROM DRESS WOOT. Hee. Sorry. You have no idea the trouble we went through to get it. Anywho. I'll leave you to the reading.


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"You know," Yuffie mutters around a mouthful of food. "This shopping stuff is starting to grow on me."

"I think you just like spending money."Aerith smiles and takes a civilized bite of her ravioli. "That's something you've always been good at."

"Har har. Well, you might have a point. But whatever."

Tifa listens to her best friends banter back and forth and she feels content. With Christmas rapidly approaching, they've all been too busy making preparations for parties and visits to actually spend time together. Today, though, they are out dress shopping for the Christmas Eve party, so they are making preparations and spending time together. Aerith picked a pretty ivory velvet dress with long sleeves and a modest neckline. Something sweet that suited her demure personality. Yuffie, who has developed a sense of fashion in recent years, selected a short, sheer green number with loose sleeves, a collar, and dark gold polka-dots. It is an unusual dress, but Yuffie makes it work, especially now that her hair has grown out some.

Tifa, on the other hand, has yet to find something she likes. Yuffie and Aerith are pointing this out for the hundredth time as she tunes back into the conversation.

"So when are you going to pick something already?" Yuffie whines, pouting around her fork. "We've been out all morning and you're the only one without a dress."

"I know, I know. But I can't help that I'm so picky." Tifa takes a sip of her iced tea. "It just.. it has to be perfect. I feel like this Christmas is different from the others we've had. More special."

Aerith looks at her curiously. "Why do you feel that way?"

Tifa blushes, realizing that she has halfway revealed something maybe too personal. "Oh, I – well, I just... um..."

Yuffie, with the impeccable perception possessed only by a ninja of her caliber, hones in immediately on Tifa's poorly constructed defense. "You like someone, don't you? You do! Who is he? Spill it!"

"Yuffie, don't interrogate her," Aerith scolds. She looks kindly at Tifa. "You don't have to tell us anything you don't want to. Just know that if you do, it stays with us. Right Yuffie?"

"Right, right." Yuffie waves an impatient hand. "Seriously, who is it? I bet I can guess it. Is it Seph? I know he's at your place every Sunday."

"No, it's not Sephiroth." At least she can form a denial.

Yuffie reconsiders. "Well, it's not Zack. Not Cloud – he's with Aerith, obviously. Angeal's not quite right... Oh. Oh. It's Genesis. It's Genesis, right? I'm right, aren't I? I am."

Tifa thinks her face must be as red as her scarf. Or Genesis's coat. She is embarrassed, but can find no reason to continue the pitiful charade. "Yes."

"I knew it!" Yuffie crows, delighted by her discovery. "So, what, are you in love with him? Or do you just want to sleep with him?"

"Yuffie." Aerith is appalled.

Yuffie, however, is utterly nonplussed. "What? He's hot. If I didn't have Vincent, I'd be all over Genesis. If that's what Tifa wants to do, more power to her."

While Aerith argues with Yuffie the finer points of tact and discretion, Tifa sighs. She had, of course, planned to tell her friends about her feelings for Genesis. This isn't quite how she had imagined her confession going, though she really didn't expect anything less. Still, she isn't keen on having a huge fuss made over it. Just because she gets weak in the knees every time Genesis smirks at her, or tugs on her hair when he wants her attention, or laughs that raspy laugh of his, or pouts because he's miffed...

Perhaps it is a big deal. I'm hopeless, she thinks, half miserable, half amused.

"While sleeping with him does sound appealing," she says, interrupting their feud. "I'm actually in love with him. I want to tell him during the party."

"How perfect," Aerith sighs, ever the dreamy romantic.

Yuffie grins. "Yeah. Confess your undying devotion, then nail him."

"Yuffie, must you?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. I must."

Tifa rolls her eyes. "Can we focus, please? I'm going to tell him on Christmas Eve, so everything has to be perfect. This includes my dress."

"Absolutely." Aerith wipes her mouth and flags down their waiter. "I know just the place."

Their lunches now forgotten, they pay the tab and collect their shopping bags. While Yuffie continues to drop innuendos, Aerith leads them to a boutique three streets over. It's in the high-end area of the shopping district, the part Tifa usually avoids because even with her profitable business she cannot afford to shop there.

Inside, the boutique is warm and smells of expensive perfume. The interior is somewhat small, but cozy and tastefully decorated in ivory and gold. There is rack upon rack of elegant dresses, and dozens of shelves containing shoes and jewelry. Aerith, who Tifa now believes comes here often, is chatting up an associate, who comes right over and introduces herself.

"Hello," she says, smiling with bright blue eyes. "My name is Mara. What can I help you with?"

Tifa relaxes. Though the store is high-end fashion, the employees are friendly. "I need a dress for a Christmas party we're having."

Mara nods, her pale brown ponytail bouncing. "We've had a lot of those come in lately. Hm. You've got a fantastic shape. And your coloring is lovely. I suggest a shorter dress, in red or black. What do you think?"

"That sounds good. Let's try red, though. I wear too much black."

Mara laughs, gesturing at her uniform of a black frock dress and oxfords. "I'm not fond of the color myself, but I have to wear it for work. Come on."

She leads them to a small dressing area, with a circular platform in the center, semi-framed by mirrors. There are four dressing stalls off to the right. While Aerith and Yuffie put the bags down and take a seat, Mara motions for Tifa to go into a stall. "You get undressed and I'll bring you a few items to try on."

"Alright." Tifa drops her purse next to Yuffie's chair and closes the stall door behind her. By the time she has stripped to her underclothes, Mara has returned with four red dresses. All are short, but tastefully so.

"Here, try these."

Without looking at it, Tifa slips the first dress over her head and steps out. She stands on the platform, admiring the bright hue and the way the multitude of sequins catches the light. The dark of her hair and the pallor of her skin are complimented; the smooth neckline accentuates her collarbone. She likes it, but doesn't think it's the right one. She turns to her friends.

"What do you think?"

Aerith tilts her head. "You look great."

"Duh," Yuffie quips. "She looks great in anything. That dress is nice, but it's not The One. Next."

Smiling at Yuffie's candor, Tifa returns to her stall. She shimmies out of the dress and returns it to its hook. The next dress is a tad shorter, dark and made of a rich and expensive velvet. It is similar to Aerith's in cut and shape, though the neckline is lower, more revealing. The velvet is soft and cool against her skin. Perhaps this dress will elicit a better response.

"That one's better." Yuffie nods her approval. "Makes your legs look great."

"I agree. And the velvet keeps the sexiness in so it's subtle." Aerith smiles. "What do you think?"

Tifa considers. "I do like it, but it looks pretty much the same as yours. Not that your dress isn't lovely, but I'd like something a little more distinguished."

"An excellent point," Yuffie concurs, shooing Tifa back into her stall. "Next."

The last two dresses are also rejected, as well as the next five Mara brings out. They have been in the store for two hours and Tifa is growing despondent. How is she to make Christmas Eve work if they cannot even find her dress? Just as fed up as Tifa, Yuffie snaps and loses her patience.

"That's it." She stands up and points a slim finger at Mara, who is fairly startled. "You stay right here. I will find her a dress and it will be freaking magnificent."

"Okay," Mara murmurs, watching Yuffie with wide eyes as the smaller woman stalks off into the maze of dresses.

Aerith sighs heavily. "I'm sorry. She's always been... assertive."

"To put it kindly," Tifa remarks drily from her stall. Standing in only her bra and panties, pretty though they are, she is getting a chill.

"It's all right," Mara smiles. "I'm sorry none of these dresses are working out for you."

"Oh, don't be sorry," Tifa says reassuringly. "It's not your fault. I'm just finicky."

It isn't long before Yuffie comes storming back over. Without warning, and much to Tifa's utter horror, she throws open the stall door and tosses the dress at Tifa's face. "That's the one," she declares, shutting the door. "Put it on and come out here."

"Of course, your highness," Tifa mutters, yanking the dress over her head. When she comes out, she immediately sees the looks on her friends' faces, including Mara's. This dress is something special. When she steps onto the platform and faces her reflection, she sees that she is right.

There are two layers to the dress: a solid, strapless layer, and over it a long-sleeved sheath of lace. It is thigh-length, and completely backless. Tifa finds something distinctly attractive about this detail and wonders what Genesis would think, to see her bare back. The fabric is a lovely shade of red, like ripe cherries or a glass of red wine. It is flattering.

She smooths her hands down the front of it, slightly mesmerized. When was the last time she looked so good? She can't remember. Mara, beaming, steps up beside her, hair clip in hand. "May I?"

Tifa nods her consent and Mara gently sweeps the black tresses off Tifa's neck, winding them up into a coil and clipping them to the crown of her head. With her hair up, the higher neckline of the dress draws attention to her throat, which looks quite graceful, and the elegance of the open back is highlighted. There is no contest – this dress is The One. She adores it.

"This one. I'll take it."

Aerith claps her hands and Yuffie drops several snarky comments as Tifa changes back into her jeans and cable-knit sweater. Mara collects the rejected dresses from the stall and hangs them on a rack behind the check-out counter. While another employee – this one named Aline – rings up the purchase, Tifa's thoughts inevitably wander to Genesis.

Pretty dress or not, she thinks, half-imagining he might somehow hear her. I hope you feel the same.


Banora is as beautiful as it ever was, and Genesis looks nostalgically upon his childhood home as he rides through it. He caught the evening train the night before and arrived at the station in Banora early the following morning. From the station, he paid a few coins to a villager for a ride to the orchard. The man, who owned a small orchard of his own, specializing in peaches, was agreeable to the terms and soon Genesis was well on his way to seeing his parents.

He is mildly fretting over this when the man speaks. "So, what brings ya ta Banora? 'S not really the time a' year for vis'ters."

"I'm visiting my parents. They own the apple orchard on the outskirts of the village." Genesis feels more than sees the man squinting at him.

"Yer Ro and Stark's kid? That scrawny little feller used ta ride that big ol' horse?"

Genesis does not know whether to groan or laugh. "Yes. That would be me."

"Hell. You sure growed up big, ain't ya? Not so scrawny anymore."

"Not anymore, no. I'm flattered that you remember me, but I'm afraid I can't say the same of you."

The man smiles good-naturedly. "Didn't think so. You was always runnin' around with them other boys, chasin' monsters. I only came 'round yer folks' place once in a blue moon."

"I suppose I was a little absorbed in my youthful escapades."

"Shit, I'll say. Ain't seen ya in a long while. Been up ta anything?"

Genesis considered dodging the inquiry with a vague answer, but decided to confide in the old man. Maybe some practice will help calm him down. "That's actually why I'm here. I was a hard boy to handle growing up, and because of that I've drifted from my parents. I regret that immensely, and now I need their help. You see, I've fallen in love and I plan to confess my feelings during my friends' annual Christmas party. I want to have a special gift for her when I tell her, and what I had in mind is still in my mother's possession."

The smiles a very knowing smile. "That's right romantic of ya, sonny. Also man of ya ta come all the way back 'ere to make peace with yer folks. I doubt they'd turn ya away."

Genesis is grateful for the man's easy faith in him. "I hope you're right. There are other gifts I could give her, but none like this. And I want my parents to be a part of this new chapter of my life. It would mean very much to me."

"You ain't got nothin' ta worry 'bout," the man reassures him. They may have spoken more on the subject, but just at that moment they were pulling up the long driveway that lead to his parents' house. A thick bundle of nerves rose within Genesis, knotting up in his belly. He swallowed hard.

I am Genesis Rhapsodos, he thinks. There is no obstacle I cannot overcome.

Then they stop, and he is there, and the moment is upon him. He looks to the man.

"What is your name, sir?"

"Samuel Chase. But just Sam's fine."

"Thank you, Sam. I appreciate your kindness, and your words have given me, I believe, the courage I need to do this." He climbs out of the truck, closes the door behind him. He leans down to speak through the open window. "I hope this isn't the last we see of each other."

"'M sure it won't be, sonny. Good luck, and tell yer folks I said hello."

Genesis promises to relay the regards and then Sam Chase is gone, a long cloud of fine dust trailing in his wake. With a deep breath, Genesis turns to face the the house, the two-story building of red brick, as solid and constant now as it was when he was growing up in it. He follows the path of flagstones to wide veranda, where there is outdoor furniture arranged to the right of the double doors. The firmly and quickly presses the doorbell, giving himself no time to back out.

It is mere seconds before the right door opens, revealing an aged, but infinitely elegant, woman. Her bright white hair is pulled into a tight knot that rests on the nape of her neck, her fine features and keen eyes akin to Genesis's own. She looks startled to see him. Startled – and wary.

"Genesis?"

He swallows for the hundredth time, tamping down on the nerves. For Tifa, he reminds himself. I am doing this for Tifa. It is now or never.

"Hello, Mother."

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I would apologize for the cliffhanger, but I'm not sorry. Honestly, I need time to map out the scene with Genesis and his mother. It may not even be in the next chapter. I've been away from this story for so long that I need to revisit the notes I made for it and see where I was taking the plot. I know there are three other relationships involved in this fic, Yuffie and Vincent included in these, so I may visit them and introduce one of the other two. Please bear with me. I couldn't do any of this without you lovely fellows!