Light was an intrusive entity, hell-bent on making Tifa miserable. At least...that's what she believed.
As the morning came filtering in through the closed curtains of Tifa's living room window, she became aware of stiffness in her neck and a funny taste in her mouth. Grimacing, the woman sat up with a groan, rubbing the back of her neck. Looking around, she let out a loud sigh. "Fell asleep on the couch again...Shiva, I don't know why I bother owning a bed."
Standing groggily to her feet, she stretched and rubbed at her eyes, turning off the television before trudging through the kitchen, stopping for a moment to turn on the coffee machine, then continuing down the hall into the bathroom. There she shed her clothes and turned on the shower, savoring the feeling of the warm water cascading down her skin. When she was bathed and clean, she turned the water off and grabbed a towel from the nearby rack, using it to dry herself off a bit before wrapping it around herself. Tossing her dirty clothes into the hamper, she stepped back out into the hall, continuing to the door at the end.
This was her room. Tifa, this time, used a red and black color scheme...though, admittedly, her bed was still cluttered with pillows and her dressers lined with nothing but candles. Tifa may have aspired to classier and more elegant things...but she wasn't much of a designer.
Choosing her outfit for the day, Tifa chose a simple pair of faded blue jeans, and a white long sleeved shirt. Quickly dressing, she pulled on a pair of strap on sandals before returning to her kitchen, her hair still damp and dripping. Opening her fridge again, the fighter made a face at its lack of contents, and shutting the door shut, she grabbed the loaf of bread sitting on the kitchen counter. Pulling out two bread slices, she pushed them into the toaster whilst simultaneously opening a cabinet door, pulling out a coffee mug when she did so. By now the coffee maker had a full pot ready, so Tifa poured herself a cup, putting in the sugar, stirring it, and drinking it black.
This was Tifa's morning routine...though today would be different, because she planned on heading to the local grocery store when she finished eating...unbeknownst to her, a motorbike was also currently speeding into the city limits, it's destination: her home. With only a cup of coffee and two pieces of bread as her breakfast, Tifa finished eating fast, unaware that another turning point in her life was fast coming.
Stopping only for a moment to brush her teeth, the fighter grabbed her purse and headed out the door, her sandals slapping against the pavement as she stepped onto the sidewalk. Walking with a steady pace, Tifa glanced around. Not many were out at the moment. It was early...but she was used to getting up early. It was just what she did. No amount of late-night TV and beer drinking could keep her in bed, or rather, on the couch, any later than 6:30.
Tiesmire was a rural town, not unlike Rocket Town or Nibleheim. (Granted, both towns had grown into cities now.) Tifa loved Tiesmire for its atmosphere, because she felt at home here. It was her habitat.
Crossing the street, Tifa entered the town square. Here she headed to the grocers, which were just opening their door. The owner, as he flipped the 'closed' sign to 'open', spotted Tifa nearing, and smiled. He had gray hair and a receding hairline, his large belly showing through his white apron. Smiling good naturedly, the man ushered her in, "Good morning, Ms. Lockhart!"
"Good morning, Mr. Smithly," the woman returned sweetly. "How are you feeling today?"
"Fantastic as usual," The man said, grinning. He stepped behind the counter. "But today I feel like I could take on a behemoth!"
Tifa chuckled, "Is that so?"
"Yep...I feel fine indeed...Finally went on that candlelit dinner with mah wife."
"Really?" Tifa stopped perusing the aisle and stood on her tiptoes so that she could look at Smithly over the shelves. "How'd that go? I know you two have been planning that for some time now..."
"It went splendidly." Smithly said with a rich smile. Tifa smiled widely.
Soon, she had everything she needed. As she was paying, Smithly gave her a sidelong glance. "So...how have you been holding up? You been okay?"
Tifa blinked at him. "Um...yeah! I've been fine. Why do you ask?"
Smithly shrugged, shaking his head. "No reason...just that-"
he paused as he placed the last item in the bag. "You always come in before everyone else. And I never see you around town. It's like you're hiding yourself in that house o' yours."
Tifa smiled softly. "Your concern's very sweet, Mr. Smithly...but I'm fine. Really."
Smithly nodded, smiling sadly. "Sure. Remember that tomorrow they're gonna have a crafts festival in the square. You should go. There'll be food and music and all sorts of fun."
Tifa nodded. "I'll think about it."
"All right...you go on now. I don't wanna hold you up or anything..."
Tifa smiled at him again as she hefted the paper bag into her arms. Waving her goodbye, the woman left the grocer's just as others began to enter. She continued back to her house, a blank look on her face. It belied the torrent of thoughts going through her head at the moment, however.
"So I don't get out too much... It's not like I block myself from the world. I can go visit Cid and Shera whenever I want. They live so close-by, it's not like it would be any trouble. And it's not like much is happening in this town anyway. ...I'm...I'm not being a hermit. I'm not."
Tifa, engrossed in her thoughts, didn't notice the person standing in her yard, trying to peep into her windows. A large duffel bag was dumped at their feet, and parked on the curb just outside Tifa's home was a motorbike.
As Tifa neared, the person turned and their eyes grew wide at the sight of her. Tifa, still didn't seem to notice, and so moved up the path to her door as usual.
Tifa jumped with a small shout, her grocery bag slipping from her grasp and crashing to the floor, spilling its contents. Hand flying to her mouth, she stared for a moment before removing her hand long enough to cry-
Sure enough, standing in a pair of dark denim straight jeans and biker boots was none other than Yuffie herself. A yellow scarf was tied around her neck and a dark jean jacket was thrown on her shoulders, a white tank top that cut just above the navel underneath. She seemed pleased at Tifa's reaction. Nevertheless, she stooped down to help as Tifa began to gather the spilled groceries. "Real graceful, Tif. Do you always greet friends this way?" she said jokingly.
Tifa, huffed indignantly. "You surprised me, that's all! What're you doing here?"
"What?" Yuffie said, as the both of them stood. She placed a gloved hand on her heart, feigning hurt. "No, 'hey Yuffie, how ya' doin', great ta see ya'? That hurts my feelings Tifa...it really does! I guess I should just go pack my things n' go. I know when I'm not wanted."
"Hey! I didn't mean all that! Its just...wow. This was really sudden."
Yuffie chuckled, rubbing the back of her neck, "Yeah, it kinda was. But hey!" She snapped her fingers and struck a pose, "You don't mind my hanging around for a bit, do ya?"
Tifa blinked. "Uh, well-"
"Great!" Yuffie clapped her hands, "It'll be just like old times! ...Or...wait," the girl thought for a moment. "I guess it won't...But that's okay! We'll have fun anyhow!"
The girl stooped down and slung her duffel bag over her shoulder. Straightening, she gave Tifa an ecstatic grin.
The woman stared back at her, her mouth slightly open. There she was. Yuffie Kisaragi, standing on her lawn, still oozing the youthful energy she did when she was sixteen, granted, she had matured greatly over the years. Her hair was slightly longer than it was before, but only slightly. It fell into her eyes, which were so wide with life and keen sense that Tifa felt like a bug under a microscope.
Shutting her mouth, the woman moved to the door, fumbling slightly as she opened it with her key. She stepped into her living room, opening the door wide so that Yuffie may pass through. The girl in question began eyeing everything the moment she came in, a distinct smirk on her lips as she took in all the pillows and candles. Tifa shut the door after her, wondering idly just what it was she was getting herself into.
Setting her bag down in the kitchen, Tifa turned to Yuffie. "You can...um, s-set the bag down a-anywhere you like." Yuffie nodded and dropped the bag onto the floor next to the couch. Moving into the kitchen with Tifa, the ninja examined the room. "Nice place you have here, Tif. Not bad. Simple as hell, but still, not bad."
Tifa shot the girl a look as she began to take her groceries out of the bag. "So...what brings you here, Yuffie?" she asked, after a moment.
"Traveling again." Yuffie said with a bright grin. "I had to get outta Wutai. My dad was starting to drive me crazy...but then again, the old coot always drives me crazy, so let's jes' say he was being worse than usual."
"Oh really? Where've you been to so far?"
"I've only visited Cosmo Canyon and Nibleheim so far. Nanaki's doing okay. Nibelhiem's changed a lot. They tore down a lot of the buildings. The only thing left standing from what it was before is the Shinra Mansion."
Tifa shook her head. "Figures."
Yuffie gave Tifa a mischievous look. "So how's miss 'big breasts' been, eh?"
The fighter grit her teeth, going slightly red in the cheeks. "Don't call me that."
The younger girl waved her off, "Re-lax. You know I'm just joshin' ya." She paused. "But really. How've you been? It's been a while since I've last spoken to you."
Tifa shrugged as she began placing things in the fridge. "I've been fine. Haven't done anything special, really..."
"Have you still been training? Cuz', no offense but you look like you're getting rusty."
The woman chuckled some. "I'm more than just rusty, I'm down right falling apart."
"Tell me about it...I can't believe you didn't see me standing there in the middle of your lawn with my bike parked outside your house! The Tifa I knew three years ago was sharp and on her toes!" Yuffie fell into fighting stance and punched the air a few times as she said this.
"Yeah...I keep telling myself I have to start training again...but...I dunno. It brings back too many memories of Meteor. Of...y'know. Nibleheim."
Yuffie sobered, allowing her fists to lower.
Silence fell between the two of them. Tifa tried to look busy, putting away her newly bought food, but she was nearly done. Yuffie just stood, her hands shoved into her back pockets, glancing occasionally at Tifa as she continued to examine the kitchen.
"So what've you been doing to keep yourself from going crazy? As I hear it, you don't have a job." The girl said after a moment.
Tifa paused as she picked up a peanut butter jar, the last of her groceries. "Well...I've been working on this truck I bought from Nibleheim."
Yuffie's eyes brightened. "Really? Is it in your garage?"
Without another word, the young girl turned on her heel and went into the garage. Hearing the door open, Tifa turned and went after her. "Hey, wait a minute-!"
"Wow, this thing's a piece of crap." Yuffie said, placing her hands high on her hips as she stood before the truck.
Tifa glared at her. "I haven't been working on making it pretty! I've just been trying to get it to run! But..." the woman sighed and crossed her arms. "This thing just won't work. I guess I'm no mechanic..."
Yuffie wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, I haven't seen ya do much mechanic-y stuff. Why don't you just ask Cid to help you? The cranky bastard could fix this up in no time I bet."
"I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. And besides...Cid's been so busy with Misty and Shera...plus he never stops working on the Highwind, you know that."
The young girl shuddered at the thought of the airship. "Ah, god! Bad memories! You know, after riding that thing for the first time, I couldn't get the taste of vomit from my mouth for a week!"
Tifa blinked. "That's..." she made a face. "Disgusting!"
Yuffie nodded grimly, "It wasn't fun." Moving towards the truck, the ninja ran a hand over the closed hood. "So what'cha gonna do when this hunk-of-junk is fixed?"
Tifa shrugged, "I dunno...I have to fix the truck first before I can do anything, and honestly, I dunno if that's ever gonna happen." She said this with a heavy sigh, and Yuffie turned to give her a quizzical look.
"...Tifa, I think you need to get out more." The girl said as she straightened again. "Life isn't meant to be spent sitting and fiddling with some damn Shinra truck that won't even work."
The woman stared at her, and in turn, the girl returned her stare. It was a quiet, somber look, one that Tifa never thought Yuffie'd be able to achieve. But she was nineteen now. It had been three years. She wasn't a child anymore.
Shaking her head, Tifa walked to the side table, leaning against the wood. "Life's not the same anymore."
"The world isn't the same, Tif. You've gotta change with things, y'know?" Yuffie placed one hand on her right hip as she gestured with the other, "Evolve n' stuff. Like..." she snapped her fingers, "Like a butterfly! Be a butterfly Tif! I'll help you."
Tifa laughed slightly, and Yuffie gave her an indignant look. "Hey! I was being serious!" the ninja cried, going red in the face. The fighter raised her hand, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's just...I got this image in my head of you helping me into a giant butterfly suit." She laughed again.
Yuffie gave her a weird look.
Coughing awkwardly, Tifa quieted down.
Another silence fell between them. This time, it was Tifa who broke it. "You want something to eat? I can make you something. I may not live the glamorous life, but I can still cook one heck of a meal."
Yuffie grinned so huge that Tifa was shocked the grin could fit on her face. "That'd be great!" she exclaimed.
Tifa nodded, smiling softly, "All right...what would you like? I'll see if I can make it."
That night was spent reminiscing and laughing about past experiences shared while adventuring as Avalanche members. Yuffie, with her animated reenactments, brought to life moments that Tifa had long since forgotten. She couldn't remember a time she had laughed so much.
Having an extra room on the offhand chance of a guest coming to her home, Tifa offered for Yuffie to spend the night. Yuffie, grinning like a fox, accepted.
It was now late night. Tifa was lying in, of all places, her bed, the pillows rearranged to accommodate the bed's negligent host. Staring up at her ceiling, the fighter tried to fight down the anxiety brought on by the change in her routine. Lifting her head, she looked over at the clock and groaned to see it was nearly two in the morning. Blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes, Tifa looked around her once before getting to her feet and leaving the room, pulling the bed cover along with her.
She crept past Yuffie's room, eyeing her door as she passed with a considerable amount of apprehension. When she had safely passed the door without any bites or scratches and all limbs attached, she continued her venture to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she pulled out a beer bottle and twisted off the cap, tossing it on the kitchen table as she passed into the living room, her bed cover draped over her shoulders like a cloak. Crashing onto the couch, she reached for the controller and turned on the television, making sure to put the volume low so as not to wake her guest.
Tilting the bottle up, Tifa took a few large gulps as she changed the channels, the television set playing shadows across her face. She continued to cycle through the channels, not stopping, until she returned to the beginning. Disgruntled, Tifa continued her channel surfing.
A random assortment of images flashed her eyes before disappearing in a wink. Each image appeared and disappeared in a black void.
A fat chocobo. Wink. A woman holding up a bottle and smiling. Wink. A car driving down a street. Wink. A zombie. Wink. A family posing. Wink.
"It's hard, finding anything to watch at this hour, huh?"
Tifa choked on her beer. Coughing and wiping quickly at her mouth and chin, she turned to see Yuffie standing in the entrance to the kitchen. "Yuffie?"
"So," the girl flopped onto the couch next to Tifa. "Couldn't sleep either, eh?"
The fighter nodded mutely, choosing to take another swig of her beer rather than try and say anything.
Yuffie eyed the bottle. "...Ya got another one of those?"
Tifa raised an eyebrow at her. "I don't think you're old enough to drink this yet."
The ninja rolled her eyes at her as she stood and went into the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she pulled one out. "They say you gotta acquire a taste for this stuff."
Tifa continued flipping through the channels. "If you have one of those, don't tell anyone else I gave it to you. They'll think I was a bad influence."
"Oh please, Tifa. I'm nineteen. Not four."
Yuffie flopped back onto the couch with a sigh. Twisting the cap off, she tossed it onto the coffee table just as she was placed her feet there. Tifa gave her a look, raised her eyes to the ceiling, then continued staring at the television.
Yuffie took a swig of the beer and immediately grimaced, "Ugh, grossness! Who would bother trying to 'acquire' anything from this?"
"Some don't have to try so hard. Just sip it, Yuffie. Concentrate less on the bitter taste and try to find the tasty tang in it."
Yuffie chuckled. "'Tasty tang'...that's catchy."
Tifa smiled absently.
"Why haven't you opened up another bar? I hear Seventh Heaven was pretty popular in Midgar."
"I dunno...I just haven't found the drive I guess."
"But you have enough to drive to sit and tinker with a truck that doesn't work?"
Tifa pursed her lips. "Yeah. I do."
Yuffie shook her head as she took another sip of her beer. "I'm tellin' ya, ya have to get out more often. I know this town is small, but they've gotta have something going on."
Tifa's eyes narrowed. "You haven't been here even a day and already you think I should--Oh." Her eyes brightened.
Yuffie looked at her, the beer bottle halting just short of her lips. "'Oh' what?" she asked.
The fighter bit her lip. "Well...there was going to be a crafts festival today in the town square-"
"Really? That's great!" Yuffie bounced around in her seat. The movements jostled Tifa, and the older woman gave the girl a scandalized look. "They have all kinds of things at crafts festivals! It'll be fun!" Yuffie said excitedly.
"I dunno if I wanna go..."
"...Tifa, I have no idea what you've been doing these past few years, but I've never seen you act like such a...hermit!"
Tifa went red in the face. "I am not a hermit!"
"Then come on! Don't be such a lame ass! It's a festival! Let's go have some fun!" Yuffie gave Tifa's shoulder a slight push, "I'm telling you, its gonna be fantastic!"
"How can you have so much enthusiasm at two in the morning?" The other woman mumbled.
Yuffie laughed at the pout on Tifa's face. Leaning back, she sighed luxuriously, but as Tifa flipped past yet another channel, the young girl shot straight again, her eyes wide. "Ohmigod, go back. Go back!"
Tifa stared at her, startled. "What! Why?"
Yuffie snatched the controller from her hand, "Gimme!" Cycling back, the girl stopped on a channel featuring a young man singing and dancing. "It's Guilly!"
Tifa made a face. "'Guilly'?"
The ninja sighed and leaned forward on her knees. "He's so hot. Don't you think?"
The fighter raised an eyebrow as she looked at the television and back at Yuffie. The man, though he honestly was handsome, had a cheesy quality to him. His golden blonde hair was slick back and he wore a pair of dark sunglasses. He wore a green button up t-shirt that was open at the front to show off his muscles. A teen idol. Tifa couldn't help but snicker slightly.
Yuffie, not catching it, jumped to her feet, using her beer bottle as a mic. Doing a bit of a dance, she sang, "'So let it begin! Moving through a hazy oblivion with a grin. Take destiny and chance and you'll find the romance of the ages, locked within steel cages, separate, until you set them free, so come with me...Come with me.' Come on Tifa!" Yuffie added as she jumped onto the couch and extended her hand. Bewildered, Tifa took it, and the two were up on the couch, one dancing, and the other standing and feeling stupid.
"'Come with me, and we'll show these poor dead souls what living was really meant to be. So let it begin!'" Yuffie sang the lyrics by heart, closing her eyes as she swayed her hips in a rhythm Tifa couldn't follow.
Awed and humbled, Tifa watched as Yuffie danced next to her on the couch, struggling to keep her balance on the cushion while Yuffie moved next to her. In the light of the television set, Tifa realized that Yuffie truly had grown. It seemed her growth spurt had finally come, taking her away from the simple, innocent body of a child, to the mature and beautiful body of a woman.
Tifa swallowed hard at this realization, and fell to the couch with a plop, her cheeks flaming.
Yuffie, finished with her song, blew a kiss to the television as Guilly's music video ended. Seating herself on the couch again, the ninja looked over to Tifa, who seemed to be staring off into space. Concerned, the girl waved a hand before her eyes. "Hey, Tif? You all right?"
Tifa didn't look at her, only muttered. "Time's have really changed."
Yuffie blinked. "...Tifa?"
Tifa looked at her, blinking as though coming out of a trance. "Huh? Oh...sorry, Yuffie. I was just...thinking."
Yuffie shook her head, an exasperated smile on her face. "You think too much. So what if times have changed? That's what time does. Life's impossible without it. Time is the one thing we can't control, and quite frankly, it should stay that way. Y'know? Human beings are so damn determined to control everything; it's good that there are still something's we'll never even get to touch. Real good."
Tifa stared at the girl next to her. "Yuffie...that was really deep."
The ninja grinned. "Yeah...I know." She took a swig of her beer. Wiping at her lips with her arm, she said, "When you're on the road, by yourself, with no one to talk to, you tend to think about a lot of stuff you didn't before. Before I didn't use to...but now...now it's kinda hard avoiding thoughts like that. Sometimes it can get annoying."
"Because when you think a lot, you tend to realize things. And when you realize some of the truths of the world...you get sad."
Tifa looked at Yuffie as the girl looked at her. There was a tinge of sadness in her eyes, though Tifa couldn't see what it was for exactly. There were plenty of things for them and the rest of the Avalanche members to be sad about. The disaster at Mideel, the battle with Shinra...the death of Aeris. Tifa knew that Yuffie's mother died when she was young. It was one of the few personal facts the ninja had revealed during their adventures. When all the others, Tifa included, tended to wave the young ninja away in annoyance, the mage would stop and listen to anything the girl had to say. It was easy for the group to forget that, then, Yuffie was still only a child, and like any child, she sought guidance and comfort.
Tifa looked away, suddenly ashamed. "Yuffie..."
The ninja, who had taken to watching the television, looked back at the woman. "Yeah, Tif?"
Yuffie gave her a confused look and Tifa continued, tapping her fingers on her beer bottle nervously. "I'm sorry that, you know, during our fight against Sephiroth, I didn't stop to think that maybe you'd...I mean...you were so young and none of us...none of us but Aeris-"
Tifa looked at her, and again, she was struck by how much the girl had changed physically.
"Don't worry about it. I was a pest, and I still am. Just know that I'm really glad you let me stay here instead of some motel in town."
Yuffie returned it, and turned her attention back to the television. For a time, the two sat watching music videos from various artists. The music industry, with the fall of Shinra, boomed, along with the movie industry. Both were now steadily rising in pop culture, and Yuffie informed Tifa of all the latest rumors and insights on the artists that the music channel featured. They did this for a while before Tifa stretched and yawned.
"It's really late," she said sleepily, getting to her feet.
Yuffie nodded. "Yeah, we should hit the sack. Can't be tired for the festival today!"
"I think we're a bit late for that, but yeah, getting to bed is a great idea."
Yuffie chuckled, getting to her feet. "All righty then...G'night Tif...or good morning I guess I should say." Yuffie grinned and left for her room.
Tifa stared after her, a funny feeling in her chest.
"Time's have changed." Tifa said as she stood, draping her bed cover over her shoulders. "They've...definitely changed."
Turning off the television, the woman was cast in shadow.