Story: Vagrants Rhapsody (all chapters)

Authors: NineCalaveras

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Chapter 1

Title: The State of Things

[Author's notes:

Hello readers. Welcome to my little fan-fiction. I've already worked on this story for several months now, though I'll be honest, I haven't completely outlined this. Just as a general disclaimer: I do not claim this to be exceptional or grand. However, if you manage to derive some sort of joy from this, whether it be one of a deep nature or of shallow amusement, I'll be sufficiently satisfied. That being said, I hope you enjoy my story.

 Disclaimer:  I do not own Final Fantasy VII or its characters, however, whatever original characters and ideas (though they're probably few in number) belong to me and me only.


We're all, each and every one of us, searching for the answer to our existence through the sordid and convulsed affairs shared between us each day. The misinterpretations and expectations experienced by the masses can be nothing short of exhausting. Even the most bright minded and seemingly optimistic can be taken down by these daily strifes, turning them jaded...and when jaded, one grows desperate for a connection. Desperate for a feeling. Desperate for a belief.


Tifa Lockheart was desperate for anything.

Between wishing she could fix her truck and wishing she could fix her life, there was no peace of mind for the young martial artist.

Three years past, and still things felt so unsolved. With no Shinra dominating the world, organizations and companies of all sorts and shapes and sizes were now coming out of the woodwork. It was a world freed of the oppression experienced by the Shinra Corporation and Sephiroth. This world was one driven to rebuild, to spread out, to expand, and to dominate. New towns, new cities, new technologies...

Quite suddenly, Tifa felt old.

Quite suddenly, Tifa felt abandoned.

Like all heroes, she learned quickly that with its safety guaranteed for the time being, the world no longer required the services of a warrior. Sure, Avalanche had its fifteen minutes of fame but after that, they became prey for tabloids and ridiculous conspiracy theories. They became figureheads...symbols with no use and no meaning.

Well...perhaps Barret Wallace and Cait Sith, otherwise known as Reeve, could say differently. Barret (as all expected) returned to Corel and helped it become the prime supplier of energy through use of its coalmines. It quadrupled in size and was now considered the 'city of opportunity'. Tifa couldn't have been prouder.

Reeve, for all extensive purposes, found it necessary to help those in Mideel and Midgar. Thus far he had built the citizens of Mideel a new town on the island, one that he named quite aptly, "New Mideel". He also managed to rebuild two-fourths of Midgar, making it safer, and better, than it was before.

Red XIII, otherwise known as Nanaki, returned to Cosmo Canyon after Meteor. Two years later Bugenhagen died, and Nanaki became the leader and guardian of the Canyon. Cid, returning to Shera, married the young scientist, and the two had a baby last year. The baby was a girl. They named her 'Misty'. Vincent, being the silent and anti-social person that he was, took to wandering the world, not unlike Yuffie did when Avalanche first met her. The ninja herself had returned to Wutai, bringing with her the materia the group had been willing to part with (which was still a substantial amount) and more money than perhaps even her father had. Yuffie was indeed, smug.

Cloud...though he had regained his memory, chose to isolate himself. Tifa would like to say that he was as bad as Vincent, but at least Vincent called by every so often. Cloud avoided them all. Tifa wasn't even sure where he was at the moment.

Thoughts of the blonde led the woman to abandon her efforts with her truck for the time being. Tifa was standing in her garage, smudges on her cheeks and chin, dirty denim overalls held up by a single strap whilst the other side of the overalls hung limp. Sighing, the woman dumped the wrench she held in her hand in the toolbox to her side. Stooping down briefly, she picked the toolbox from the floor and placed it on the shelf at the back. "Another day..." Tifa said, snatching a rag from the same shelf and wiping her hands, which were black with oil. Glaring back at her truck, an old Shinra model, she pointed her finger at it and said, "You're gonna work, or else!"

When the truck didn't reply, the woman rolled her eyes and switched the light off as she exited through the door to the kitchen. The linoleum floor was checkered black and white, the fridge an aged relic of times now long past. Opening its door, Tifa took a beer from inside, twisting off the cap and muttering, "Need to get some groceries..." she shut the refrigerator door with a bump of her side. Taking a swig of the beer, Tifa migrated from her kitchen into her living room, which she had decorated with an excess of pillows and candles. The overall color scheme was a rich and soft lavender and indigo.

Crashing into her couch, Tifa already felt the tension in her muscles melt away and she sighed luxuriously. Kicking off her boots, she lay out on the sofa completely, her head propped up by a pillow and her feet dangling over the armrest on the other end. Half stretching, half reaching, Tifa grabbed the remote control from the coffee table, and pushing the power button, her TV turned on.

This was how Tifa Lockheart lived. Each day, she'd wake up, have breakfast, work on the truck till noon, stop and eat lunch, continue working on the truck until late evening, then she'd stop, have a beer, and fall asleep on the couch. Occasionally she did volunteer work, but she didn't really need a steady job. The money she earned with her adventures in Avalanche was enough to put her in retirement. Even after three years, Tifa barely spent any money on anything more than she needed. She had always been simple that way.

Though, at times, the loneliness would get to her, she would only have to remember that Corel was only a few hours away, and Rocket Town? It was barely a forty-five minute drive. ("If I can get the truck to work." Tifa thought with a roll of her eyes.) She had, by now, come to terms with the fact that she and Cloud would never be. Cloud still felt responsible for Aeris' death, and was still in a short of shock over all that had happened to him. Tifa supposed she understood how he felt.

She was still in a bit of shock too.

The town she lived in, a generally new and still growing town, was called Tiesmire. Here, Tifa chose to start her new life...if one could call her current existence that. Dissatisfaction and depression rested deep within Tifa, as much as she tried to remain optimistic about things. She tended to avoid the locals, burying herself in her work in the garage. The truck she had taken from Nibleheim. It hadn't run for years and it became almost a town landmark...however, Tifa felt, despite the pain and tragedy experienced within the limits of the town, she needed to take a piece of it with her. Somehow, in her head, she had managed to convince herself that if she fixed the truck...

...Then she'd fix the past.

The television set washed Tifa's wearied face in its glow. The volume was low, so the woman couldn't understand what was being said. She focused on the lips of the man on the screen, who was currently holding up a book. His face seemed waxy and stretched, and his teeth looked false. Placing a hand on the book he was holding up, the man mouthed the word 'destiny'. Slowly, Tifa's eyes began to droop and the word appeared in her head as vivid and as real as if it were a living breathing creature sitting before her.


Whispering the word to herself, Tifa gradually slipped into an uneasy sleep.

Chapter 2

Title: The Unexpected Arrival

[Author's notes: Please forgive me for the cheesy lyrics in this chapter.  I just needed something to pass as a song.

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. " 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 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 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 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, 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 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 it's kinda hard avoiding thoughts like that. Sometimes it can get annoying."

"Why annoying?"

"Because when you think a lot, you tend to realize things. And when you realize some of the truths of the 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?"

"I'm sorry..."

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 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."

Tifa smiled.

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.

Chapter 3

Title: Festival of Reassimilation

[Author's notes: Again...I apologize for the god-awful lyrics of my make-believe songs. When I upload the files, I have to go over them and edit a few things, so I see how ridiculously cheesy my story gets at times. Then again, I never claimed this to be great, simply something for fun. Perhaps during summer break I'll go back and re-do some of these chapters. After all, you can always make a story better.

They awoke later in the morning groggy and disoriented. Hair tussled and mussed, Tifa and Yuffie came out of their bedrooms at the same time, muttering 'good mornings' as they shuffled down the hall. Pausing at the bathroom, they looked to one another for a moment before the fighter gestured for the ninja to go on. The girl smiled her thanks, shuffling into the bathroom with a yawn. Tifa continued past the bathroom into the kitchen, where she proceeded to make breakfast.


Feeling the need to expand on things a bit, she set out to make pancakes, taking out the necessary bowls and ingredients to make the batter. A moment later, Yuffie joined her in the kitchen, seating herself at the table. "Ooh! What'cha gonna make, Tif?"

"Pancakes...Is that all right?"

Yuffie grinned. "Can't wait. I'm starving!"

"That's good, cuz I never make a few pancakes." Tifa began to mix the batter. Glancing back at Yuffie, she asked, "Where do you plan on going to next?"

Yuffie shrugged fiddling with the beer cap Tifa had tossed onto the table earlier that morning. "I'll stop by Cid's I suppose...but I dun' wanna impose on 'em. I'm annoying enough. Imagine someone trying to take care of a baby with me around!"

Tifa frowned slightly. "Yuffie, you're not annoying."

Yuffie grinned, "Nice of you to say, Tif, but we both know that isn't true."

"Well...all right, you can be a bit of a pain sometimes-"

"Hey, you weren't supposed to agree with me!"

"'Re-lax'!" Tifa mimicked, glancing at the younger girl over her shoulder with a grin. "I was only kidding."

Yuffie stuck her tongue out at her. "Big breasted jerk." She mumbled.

"Pesky thieving runt." Tifa returned with a laugh.

The ninja ran a hand through her hair, smiling softly. "Sooo..." she propped her feet up on another chair. "We're going to that festival today, right?"

Tifa sighed. "Yeah...sure. Why not."

"Great!" Yuffie said with a genuine smile. "It'll be fun, you'll see!"

"Yeah loads of fun..." Tifa grumbled.

Soon the pancakes were ready, and setting out the syrup, butter, and whipped cream, the two began to eat. The ninja hadn't lied when she said she was hungry, for she consumed her first three pancakes with such zeal and voracious enthusiasm that Tifa couldn't help but stare.

When all the pancakes were gone, Tifa stood to clear the table, however, Yuffie waved her off. "Go on. I'll take care of this. It's a fifty-fifty deal. You cook, I clean."

Tifa blinked rapidly, "Um, thank you, Yuffie, but you don't have to-"

"'Course I do!" the girl said, proceeding to clear the table.

Tifa nodded and muttered her thanks choosing to lean against the counter as she watched Yuffie work. That had certainly been unexpected. The ninja had never offered to do such things before, as far as Tifa remembered. "Time's have changed." Tifa said with a small sigh.

Yuffie glanced at her sharply. "Geez, come on, Tif. You're starting to sound old!"

"I feel old."

"You're only...what? Twenty-four? You're so not old!"

"Twenty-three actually."

"Yeah, like I said, you're not old."

Tifa smiled absently. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she frowned softly. "I guess we should get ready if we want to get to that crafts festival early."

Yuffie frowned as she looked up from washing a plate. "What's the rush?"

"I like being, we'll have first pick on what they have to sell."

Yuffie nodded. "You go ahead and get ready, I'll finish this."

"You sure you don't want me to help?"

"I wouldn't be a good house guest if I told you 'yes'."

"All right..." Tifa said shoving off of the counter and going to her room. There she chose a pair of dark shorts, a black tank top, and a navy blue vest. Slipping on a pair of sneakers, she snagged a hair-tie from her bedside table and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. Going back to the kitchen, she saw that Yuffie had finished and had gone back to her room to change.

Biting her lip, Tifa glanced back at the hall for a moment before going into the garage, flicking the light on as she opened the door. The truck, with its paint peeling, mud and dirt covered body illuminated by the dull light of the overhanging light-bulb, Tifa felt a sense of loss and longing wash over her. A deep-rooted filling that squirmed in her gut, tightening her throat, and causing her eyes to turn overcast.

"You're never gonna work..." Tifa breathed, disdain creeping into her voice as her face turned cold.

"Tifa, what're you doing?"

Tifa jumped at the sound of Yuffie's voice behind her. Turning, the fighter glared. "Geez, Yuffie! Why do you have to keep scaring me like that?"

Yuffie held her hands up with a smirk, "Hey, hey, hey! You're the one who's rusty! I'm a ninja, remember? You can't forget these things, Tif!"

Tifa rolled her eyes. "You ready?"

Yuffie was dressed in her old khaki shorts, the material frayed and worn, and her old orange sneakers, which looked ready to fall apart. Her shirt was a yellow tee that, again, cut above the navel. She wore her old orange gloves and thrown over her shirt was a long beige jacket whose sleeves cut at the elbows.

Tifa raised an eyebrow. "You've got a thing for your belly button, don't you?"

Yuffie grinned, lifting her shirt some. "'Course I do! It's just so darned cute! Don't you think?"

The fighter rolled her eyes as she grabbed her purse from the kitchen table. "Come on, the town square isn't that far off. Just a few blocks or so."

The two left the house, Tifa leading and Yuffie following. The morning was clear and bright, the sunlight turning dewdrops into diamonds. The two women were a sight to see, should any of the citizens of Tiesmire glance out their windows as they walked by. The ninja, feeling playful, took to balancing on the curb. She held both her arms out at her sides so as to keep her balance. "Hey, Tifa!"

Tifa glanced back at her. Seeing what Yuffie was doing, the woman smirked slightly. "Kinda big to do that, don't you think?"

"Yer just jealous cuz your rusty. That's what I'm gonna call you from now on. Rusty. Come on, Rusty. Let's see you do this!" the girl taunted.

Tifa tongued her cheek, "All right, here, watch this, Ms. Fancy Feet." the woman stepped onto the curb, placing one foot after the other as she balanced herself with her arms. "Easy!" she exclaimed.

Grinning like a devil, Yuffie gave Tifa a slight shove from behind.

"Hey!" Tifa cried, struggling to keep from falling off the curb. "That isn't fair!"

Yuffie cackled, "Life ain't fair, sweetheart!"

"Tell me about it." Tifa said, shaking her head, but she was grinning.

They continued like that until they reached the town square. They earned many stares from the other early festivalgoers, but the two were in high spirits and were not deterred by the judgmental looks. As they neared the end of the curb, Yuffie lost balance and slipped off, stumbling in an attempt to regain composure. Tifa went to her aid, grabbing her arm so that she steadied. "You okay?" the woman asked.

The ninja nodded, a mildly surprised look on her face. But that quickly disappeared as a smile spread across her face. "Guess you're not so rusty after all, Rusty."

Tifa laughed and gave Yuffie a playful shove.

Turning she stopped as she spotted Smithly and his wife near one of the booths. The man waved to her, and she waved back, smiling sheepishly. Yuffie, seeing whom she was waving to, grabbed her hand, "Come on! Introduce me!"

Sputtering, Tifa cried, "Hey-!" but she could only sigh in resignation as the young girl dragged her to the elderly couple. Smiling politely, Tifa nodded to them both. "Mr. Smithly, Mrs. Smithly. How are you two this morning?" they nodded in turn.

"Fine, just fine." Mr. Smithly said. He gestured to Yuffie, "And who is this lovely young lady with you?"

"Yuffie Kisaragi, at your service!" Yuffie stuck her hand out, and Smithly shook it, chuckling in amusement. "Ah...I've heard a lot about you."

"Only half of its true," Yuffie said with a wink.

Smithly chuckled again.

Mrs. Smithly, her gray hair covered by a black shawl, extended her hand, smiling sweetly. "Mrs. Smithly. Pleased to meet you dear."

"Right back at ya." Yuffie said, shaking her hand firmly.

Tifa, clearing her throat, nudged Yuffie with her elbow. "If you'll excuse us, Mr. Smithly, Mrs. Smithly." She nodded to them, Yuffie giving them a wave as they walked away.

The festival was already beginning to thrum with life as people came, walking between booths. The air was filled with a small din, laughter and conversations clashing into one another in an ambience of sound. Tifa and Yuffie stuck close together as they maneuvered through the thickening crowd...however, only one of them was nervous.

Tifa didn't realize how used to being alone she had become, and this truth didn't become blatantly apparent until now that she was stuck here in a place of deep social connection. The noises and activity made the fighter's stomach turn to knots. This type of atmosphere was a distant memory that had paled and withered over time. Now, however, it was all around her, pulsating and moving and changing. Tifa found herself unconsciously grabbing Yuffie's arm and stepping even closer to her.

The ninja, feeling the tension in the woman's touch, turned to look at her companion with an inquisitive look. Seeing that she was preoccupied with all that was going around her, the girl decided to get the woman's attention a different way.

"Geez, Tifa. Look, I know I'm hot n' all, but can't we wait till we're some place private?"

Tifa's eyes snapped onto Yuffie's face, her cheeks immediately flaming. "W-What?" Then, looking down at her hands, she quickly let go of the ninja's arm. "Sorry..." she mumbled.

Yuffie shrugged. "I didn't mind that. It was just that you seemed tense."

Tifa bit her lip as she looked around her. "I'm not used to this." She said quietly.

"And you say you're not a hermit..." The younger girl rolled her eyes. "Come on." Grabbing her hand, Yuffie led Tifa to one of the nearby booths. "We'll cycle around, m'kay? Don't look so twitchy."

"I'm not twitchy!" Tifa exclaimed, earning herself some looks from those around her. Hunching her shoulders some, the woman moved to the other side of the booth.

One by one, Yuffie and Tifa visited each booth, examining what each vendor had to offer. Both admired the creative trinkets each vendor displayed, their skill in craftsmanship shown in the designs and assembly of their goods. Yuffie always spent a little more time on the jewelry, her eyes turning wide at the sight of bracelets and rings. It was at one particular jewelry booth, that Yuffie picked out a necklace.

This necklace, with its thin silver chain, had a pendant of a butterfly, it's wings decorated with what looked like obsidian. "Tifa!" the ninja cried, holding the necklace up to the fighter. "This is perfect for you!"

Tifa took the pendant in between her fingers. "It's pretty." The woman said, smiling softly.

Yuffie held the necklace up higher, screwing her face up as she examined it. Then, glancing once at Tifa, she said. "I'm buying this for you."

At this, the woman glanced at her sharply. "What?"

Yuffie ignored her and turned to the vendor, reaching into her back pocket. "I'll take this, please."

"But Yuffie-"

"Shush!" The ninja said, as she handed the money. Unhooking the necklace, she held it up. "C'mere."


Yuffie stamped her foot. "C'mere, Rusty! Or I'll pop you in the lip."

Tifa sighed as she stepped toward the girl. "That's one way to put a necklace on somebody..." she grumbled.

"Hair please."

Tifa lifted her hair away from her neck and Yuffie stepped forward, reaching around her. "Stupid hook..." the girl muttered as she fumbled with the latch.

The fighter stiffened at the feel of the girl's breath against her neck. Biting her lip at the light contact the ninja's finger's made against her skin, Tifa tried to distract herself with something else.

When Yuffie stepped away, Tifa was positively red in the face.

"It looks good on you! Beautiful in fact!" the ninja said proudly, placing her hands high on her hips.

Tifa only muttered a small 'thank you' as she crossed her arms.

Not noticing her companion's discomfort, Yuffie turned and her eyes brightened. "Oh look! There's a band setting up over there!"

Tifa looked in the direction Yuffie was looking. "Well there's the music Smithly promised..."

Yuffie grabbed Tifa's hand. "C'mon, let's go see what they're gonna play."

Learning there was no use in fighting, Tifa allowed the younger girl to drag her clear across the town square to where the band was preparing to perform. A crowd was already forming around them. Worming their way into the heart of the crowd, Yuffie tapped her foot impatiently whilst Tifa glanced around her anxiously.

One of the band members tapped the microphone, getting a slight feedback as he did so. Speaking into the mic, he muttered. "Testing, testing..." When all seemed to check out, he waved to the crowd and smiled. "Howdy folks!"

The crowd answered him back simultaneously and his smile widened. "Nice to see y'all here today. Well my name's Orvan and I'm the lead singer and one of the guitarists for our lil' band, Meteor!"

"Catchy name..." Tifa grumbled.

'Orvan' proceeded to introduce the rest of the band. There was 'Edgar' the bassist, 'Neal' the drummer, and 'Bob' the other guitarist.

Yuffie giggled at the last name. "Heh...'Bob'."

Tifa gave her a weird look.

"Now here's a little number," Orvan began, "That I'm sure a lot of you will recognize."

He strummed a few notes on his guitar and Tifa's ears perked at the melody. "Hey, isn't that-"

"OHMIGOD!" Yuffie jumped into the air. "Yes! Yes!"

Other young girls joined in her glee, while the male portion of the crowd groaned collectively. Tifa, bewildered, watched as those around her began to dance and move. Yuffie turned to her, and the fighter paled.

"Let's dance, Tifa!" the girl exclaimed, already bopping to the beat and music the band made.

"Uh...Yuffie I think I'll sit this one out..."

Yuffie glared at her. "Tif, yer borin' me! Now come on! Don't you know how to dance?"

"Of course I do!" Tifa said, sounding indignant. "It's just..."

Yuffie grabbed her shoulders and shook her. "Stop thinking so much and move! Get your mind off that truck! Forget about time! Just dance will you?"

Sputtering, Tifa didn't fight as the other girl grabbed her hand and twirled her about. "That's it!" the ninja said, laughing.

Tifa began to sway her hips to the beat, only slightly at first, then more and more as the song progressed. A smile grew on her face as her movements matched those around her. People gave wide berth to what they could only perceive as two beautiful women having fun and dancing their hearts out.

"'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!'"

The music was different from the original song. It was much more raw. Faster, less dreamy, and more energized. Tifa found she liked this grungy, adrenaline-fueled version of the song better opposed to the original's slower, techno pumped version. The music, which pulsated from the speakers and amps, seemed to flow out and wash the crowd in its essence. It drowned Tifa, filling her chest and head with a light headed abandon that caused her to close her eyes and throw her hands up in the air.

And then, just like that. The song was over.

The crowd, coming out of its trance, clapped and cheered their appreciation. Yuffie, pink faced and out of breath, looked to Tifa, who was in a similar state. The girl was looking at her with what seemed to be admiration and joy. "Wow, Tif. You really got into it, didn't you? See! You had fun!"

Tifa, smiling meekly, nodded.

The rest of the day was spent dancing to Meteor's music, the butterfly necklace swinging from around Tifa's neck and glinting in the sunlight.

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