Chapter 11: Introductions
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 1) – Honeybee Manor]
“Don’t touch that!” A yelp came from a certain blonde.
“Why not?” A lecherous chuckle came from a certain brunette, “It’s squishy.”
“Because it’s mine! Go grab your own, you leech.”
“But.. Come on, please? Can’t I just hold it for another few minutes?”
A soft, exasperated sigh came from the blonde. She finally caved in. It’s almost impossible for her to say no to the brunette. “Fine.”
“Yay!” Tifa wrapped both of her arms around it.
“H-Hey! Be careful with it! I wanna keep it for a while..”
The oversized moogle had an adorably blank expression on its face as a teenaged Tifa squeezed the stuffing out of it. She had originally won it for Elena at a festival in Kalm during a shooting game. They went to the festival during their rare day off and Tifa wanted to impress the girl claiming that the moogle’s cuteness paled in comparison to the blonde. That earned a blush from Elena and Tifa swelled with pride at the thought that she was such a good girlfriend. However, Elena, ever-competitive, had to win one for Tifa so she wouldn’t feel spoiled. So to the amazement of the man at the booth, she won an equally large, equally cute, chocobo plushie for Tifa.
Of course, getting a chocobo plushie for Tifa resulted in one of her lewd comments, “Is this your secret way of saying, ‘I’d like to ride you’?” She said with a suggestive smirk.
Elena just rolled her eyes at the time.
Tifa was almost regretting letting go of the giant moogle, though. It was so soft and cuddly and much like Elena herself, “Wanna trade for Chokey?”
A disappointed pout came from the blonde. She figured Tifa should have known that it didn’t matter what kind of gift it was, just as long as it was from her.. But if she took away the gift and replaced it with one that she got for Tifa..! Then that’s just like saying, ‘Here! I don’t want yours, I want mine! Give it back!’
Tifa looked up from the cuddling of the giant white animal and caught sight of the pout and inevitable silence from the blonde, “Hey.. Come on, I was just joking..”
Elena reached out and grabbed the equally soft and fluffy, yet unloved, chocobo, hugging it tightly without another word to her girlfriend. The bird’s big blue eyes stared innocently at nothing while the blonde rested her head on it, sitting on her bed away from Tifa.
Tifa, however, wouldn’t take the silent treatment. Taking the moogle with her onto Elena’s bed, she poked her head into the girl’s vision, offering her apologetic puppy dog eyes.
Elena turned her head the other way to avoid looking at her. At least the chocobo loved her! Obviously, Tifa didn’t know what her gifts meant to her.
Tifa took control of the moogle’s limbs and poked the blonde gently with it, “Chokey.. Moggy’s sorry for cheating on you with Tifa!” The brunette then wrapped both of her arms around the blonde so she could wrap the moogle’s arms around the chocobo for one big, soft hug.
Elena loosened her grip on the yellow plush toy, feeling Tifa’s arms around her from behind. She couldn’t fight the smile that was creeping onto her lips.
“Nothing, not even some stupid moogle plushie, would ever replace my Elena,” Tifa said softly into her ear.
Elena shut her eyes and leaned back into the brunette’s arms. She was happy with that line.
“You’re my favorite toy!” Tifa said in a louder voice, squeezing the other girl around the midsection.
“Oh Shiva, that was so cheesy!” Elena yelped, attempting to squirm out of the girl’s grip.
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 4) – A Full Scale Attack]
Elena hated survival training. She absolutely detested it. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t handle it, but Elena was more of a sheltered, city girl. A boot camp in the middle of Junon forest with these twisted drill sergeants wasn’t exactly her idea of a vacation.
“453.. 454..” She counted out loud as she pulled her body weight up until her chin was above the bar. In the blistering heat, even the most biologically engineered SOLDIERs would be craving water. She was at least one hundred chin ups ahead of the others in her squad since she was lighter, but had just as much, if not more, arm power. A stream of sweat made its way from her forehead, down the side of her face, causing her blonde hair to mat and stick hairs to her face..
And to make matters worse, they separated her from Tifa for the day! Granted, she’d see her when they reached the cabin at night.. But she’d probably be beat by then and she’ll just want to crash and sleep.
Still, she wasn’t allowed to complain because she and Tifa agreed to keep their relationship with each other as much of a secret as they could. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ you know? It didn’t really stop Tifa from attempting public displays of affection, but at least they never said it out loud in public.
Tifa, on the other hand, was in the field right now with the Wrath Squad. She was spending time with each squad to get a feel for how to give them orders in emergency situations. She also felt that to be a good leader, she had to develop bonds between herself and the troops under her.
However, switching between squads on the field meant that she would be separated from Elena.
That made Tifa pout inside.
The fact that she missed her probably showed how attached she was getting.
There was one discovery she made during this stupid boot camp assignment, though. And she was eager to show Elena later that night.
“Wrath Squad, move out! Over.” She commanded over the walkie-talkie.
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 3) – The Flow of Life]
When night falls on Junon forest, all is illuminated by the moon stars alone. The neon glow of the city’s bar signs and streetlamps were too far away to show their way, but who needs sight anyways? Moonlight was good enough for Tifa.
That pseudo-light filtered through the trees, washing the two girls’ faces in its essence. There were no cabins that they had expected. There was no lunch or dinner to be provided for them.. No, in a real situation, getting stuck in the forest would not have guaranteed sleeping quarters or meals. No one’s going to hold your hand and guide you like in the city.. No. Out there, you had to fend for yourself, down to the very last primal detail (much to Elena’s disbelief).
“Psst.. Wake up,” Tifa whispered into an uncomfortably sleeping Elena’s ear.
The blonde was leaned up against a tree, blade in hand and head tilted down. There was a little trace of drool coming from the side of her mouth, but it was quickly sipped up again once the girl awoke, “Hn..?”
“AH!” Her senses snapped into place once she saw the figure next to her and she hopped to her feet in frenzy of different scenarios. Once she saw the silhouette of her partner, though, she immediately calmed. “Geez, Tif, you scared the crap out of me!” She whispered in an angry tone.
“Shows how much you know about these sessions,” Tifa said with a bit of a cocky grin, “You shouldn’t even be sleeping, Sergeant.” The brunette stood from her crouched position, putting her hands on her hips and continuing her little lesson, “If I were a monster, you’d already be dead.” The experienced Lieutenant reflected on her own first experiences with survival training and shuddered slightly, “If you need sleep so badly, you need to learn how to sleep with your eyes open.”
Elena nodded, still remaining seated with her arms now crossed, “So how do you sleep with your eyes open, then, Lieutenant?”
“You don’t,” Tifa said simply, “But don’t stay up for more than 3 days straight. You might start hallucinating.”
Elena face faulted. She was serious?
“But there’s something I want to show you, Elena..” Tifa whispered with a mysterious air about her, which was only enhanced by the strange blue moonlight atmosphere around them. “Follow me.” And with that said, she took off in a sprint.
Elena, still a little dazed by the sudden wake up call, looked upon her commanding officer with bewilderment. ‘What the hell is going o-..’ She began to think, but she quickly realized she had no time to think before she would lose sight of her!
“Dammit, Tifa!” She jumped to her feet, her body objecting due to the horrible torment it had to endure earlier in the day. Still, she quickly stretched upwards, and sprinted in pursuit of the brunette. ‘Where would she have gone..’
By now, Tifa had been hidden by the thick forest, but Elena had her own tricks up her sleeve. Her eyes were well adjusted to the darkness now to the point that she could run at her full speed without crashing into any unwanted trees or branches. Her ears, however, were a different story. The night was quiet save for the few crickets or fireflies.. As well as a waterfall? So she could hear every step and every broken twig from a mile away. She listened and figured Tifa was running northbound, judging from the footsteps..
She sprinted in that direction, but suddenly Tifa’s trail was gone. Even her sound.. She couldn’t hear her! Her footsteps weren’t on the ground anymore! “What the hell!” Elena stopped to listen again carefully. Was Tifa testing her or something? ‘Ugh.. Well, I’ll show her!’ When it came down to Elena proving herself.. She was quite stubborn.
Tifa, as if she knew how frustrated Elena was becoming, had climbed a tree. It was a childish tactic, but an effective one. She held back a snicker and held her position in the tree by the surprise she had discovered. If Elena was as good as Tifa thought she was, she should arrive in.. Three.. Two..
“There you are!” A voice came from behind her.
Ah, Tifa knew her girlfriend too well.
Elena put her hands on her hips and pouted angrily at her commanding officer, “If that was your idea of a game, then you’re such a cheater!”
Tifa swung herself upside down so her long hair cascaded behind her head like a curtain to hide the scene behind her, and she grinned at the girl, her face lit, yet shadowed by the moonlight, “Who said climbing a tree was a part of the rules?” She put her hands behind her head and continued, “I just said, ‘Follow me.’ And you did. Congratulations, babe!”
Elena stepped closer to the upside down figure in front of her. The branch she was hanging from wasn’t exactly high off the ground, so Tifa’s eyes were about the same level as her own. The blonde simply narrowed her eyes at the brunette, “So what did you want to show me?” It wasn’t like Elena was irritated. She was just a tad.. Grumpy. She didn’t exactly get enough sleep.
Tifa just smiled knowingly at the girl and swung her body forward a little bit, placing an upside-down kiss on Elena’s forehead.
Elena feigned annoyance, but then she discarded the façade and just smiled, closing her eyes. There was no way she could stay irritated at Tifa, anyways.
Tifa touched the blonde’s cheek with her fingertips and whispered softly, “Well, while I was out here, trying to lead those Wrath Squad idiots through a mission..” She began, her voice containing a joking air, “I found something I think you’ll like.” Her long hair was still acting as a curtain, hiding the scene behind her head effectively. The opening wasn’t exactly a very big one.
Elena, now curious as to what it was, arched an eyebrow.
“But it’s a surprise, so you have to close your eyes first!”
Elena grinned a little, secretly loving surprises when they came from Tifa. Still, she rolled her eyes good-naturedly and said with a mock-exasperated sigh, “Okay, fine.. You win.” And she brought her hands up to cover her eyes.
Tifa waved her hand and made a few funny faces to see if Elena was peeking. Once she was sure she had her eyes covered, she flipped off of the branch and landed behind Elena, putting her hands on top of her hands to cover them more so, “No peeking!”
Then, leading Elena through the little opening in the forest, into a clearing, Tifa said softly as she pulled her hands from the girl’s face, “Alright, open them.”
Elena opened her eyes and was breathless once she saw the scene before her. That waterfall she had heard earlier, but not quite paid attention to, was right in this clearing. It looked like a tropical paradise, except with the light of the moon and the hundreds of fireflies playing in the air instead of a blazing sun and salty beaches. The water looked like a mirror, and if there were no ripples from the waterfall, it would have perfectly reflected the trees and moon above them. However, since it did have ripples, the reflection was distorted a little, but in an artistic way..
Elena didn’t think that such a beautiful scene could exist in Junon Forest. Junon, a place with such industry and metallic, unnatural machines. It was like a paradoxical dream. And it gave her that little hope that there’s still beauty in this ugly, twisted world. It almost brought tears to her eyes. Almost.
“Wow.. It’s beautiful..” A breathy whisper came from the blonde.
Tifa had to nod in agreement, but her attention wasn’t on the scene. Her attention was on Elena, “Yeah.. Beautiful.”
Elena turned her gaze to the brunette and smiled an almost-teary, “I love it.. Thanks for bringing me here.”
Tifa took a step forward and wrapped her arms around the girl’s waist, “You’re welcome..”
Elena’s body replied by wrapping her arms around Tifa’s neck, looking into her similar brown eyes. She felt like she should say something at a time like this, but her mind was so overwhelmed that she couldn’t even form complete thoughts, let alone sentences. She was so dumbfounded by the scene that all she could really do was smile and shake her head while trying to think of something witty to say.
Instead of exchanging words, though, they simply joined in a gentle kiss. It wasn’t excessively passionate or hungry, but it also wasn’t your typical ‘Honey, I’m home’ kind of kiss either. It was soft, warm, romantic, and most of all, it was..
“I love you..” The soft whisper came from Tifa’s lips and it was barely audible. It was such a rush for her senses, being around Elena. She felt energized, yet so relaxed.
“Huh..?” Suddenly, Elena’s vision was blurring. What did she say? Did she even say anything? Elena
Tifa repeated herself a little louder, “I…”
Tifa’s proclamation fell upon deaf ears. Elena’s eyes stared into space, a glaze overcoming them as she slowly fell from consciousness. Her body slumped against her commanding officer’s and her breathing lessened.
“Elena..?” Tifa held the blonde in her arms, easily holding her up and shaking her a little, panic settling into her, “Elena!”
But the girl just wouldn’t wake up..
Tifa’s mind went into full-blown panic mode now, “Shit! Elena..!” She repeated in her head, ‘Please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead..’ And even though the breathing could still be felt and heard, she was praying inwardly to whatever entity was up there to not let Elena die. Of course, she was over exaggerating, but..
No! No. Tifa had to stay calm and remember her training.
She reached for her communicator, keeping the blonde safely secured in her arms. This had never happened before! It looked like similar side effects from the injections that they had on common occasion.. But they never lost consciousness before.
“Medic! SOLDIER down at Vector 7-9, over!”
It’ll be alright..
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 2) – Ahead on Our Way]
It’s so familiar.
Who could it be..?
Elena could feel her fingers tingle. It didn’t hurt.. It just kind of tickled. A little movement and slowly the feeling would return. Awakening from their numbness, Elena’s hands could once again feel the covers of the bed. It wasn’t soft and familiar like the ones back in their cabin, but it wasn’t unpleasant. A little rough and a little starchy, like a mass produced bed. The return of her sense of touch slithered up her body like slow-moving electricity. As if she was reactivating, and the blood was finally coursing through her veins once again. There was something warm and soft against her right hand, which was a stark contrast to the feeling in the left one.. But it didn’t alarm the girl. It felt natural. It felt normal.. And it felt familiar.
Like this scent that lingered in the air. What could it be?
Elena opened her eyes, but her sight did not return. Perhaps it was dark? Who knows how long she was out for.. ‘Ah! Tifa.. And that beautiful scene! Ugh.. Why did I have to faint at such an inconvenient time?’ Her thoughts grazed her mind as she tried to recall her last memory completely. She had kissed Tifa under the moonlit sky, by an oasis with fireflies surrounding it.. They broke the kiss.. And Tifa had said something.
‘What did she say?’ Elena asked herself.. She couldn’t hear her at the time. She couldn’t even see her lips move. But she could feel the vibrations from Tifa’s neck when her arms were around her.. And the way her heartbeat was changing..
Oh, right. Back to reality.
Elena tried to focus on regaining the rest of her senses.. Let’s see.. Touch. Check. Smell. Check. Sight? Uh.. Not check. Taste? Well, can’t really check that right now.. Hearing? The sound of footsteps was fading, footsteps of someone with high heels, to be exact.. Sounded like they were walking away from the room. It was nice to know she could hear, at least.
Finally, her hazel eyes began to adjust.. It was a grey roof. It looked rather unwelcoming, but what part of ShinRa was welcoming to begin with? As her eyes adjusted to the roof, she saw a fan. It wasn’t anything extravagant, but she didn’t expect it to be. Her brain finally clicked in to allow some of her other body parts to move and she turned her head to see a figure at her right side. They were holding her hand and..
That scent.. She recognized it..
And without thinking, she uttered the word, “..Mama?”
The figure beside her didn’t move. The only movement that came from them was the soft rise and fall of their breathing. It was the dark haired girl, by her side as always.
Elena’s eyes focused in and out, and suddenly she realized, “Ah! Tifa!” Elena was a little embarrassed, but she was thankful that the girl was asleep. She’d never hear the end of her teasing if she heard Elena call her “Mama”. Her vision was still a little blurry, but she was certain it was Tifa. She must have fallen asleep watching over her.
Elena moved her body closer to the girl’s sleeping form and closed her eyes again, “Thanks.. As always.” Now this scent was more like it! Tifa always smelled good. It was a natural thing for the brunette.. Like her body emitted a gentle perfume of cherries.. Or was it strawberries? Or maybe a strange mixture of scents that she just couldn’t pinpoint.. Either way, it still made Tifa unique and smell very good. And Elena loved basking in her smell.
Tifa slowly began to stir, her sleepy eyes reluctantly opening. She lifted her head, focusing her eyes and allowing her brain to wake up and remember exactly where the hell she was. Her cheek was marked by the folding of the sheet she had her head on, but she wasn’t aware of it. Then she saw Elena’s form in front of her, and she recalled the night’s events. Elena must still be sleeping.. Or?
“Wait a sec, you’re awake!” Tifa caught the smile on Elena’s face and the changed position, then shook her head at the girl, “Lazy bum. If everything was exhausting you that much, you should have said so!”
Elena opened one eye to acknowledge the girl had said something, then shut it again quickly as if choosing to ignore her, “Hmph!” She wasn’t about to show weakness to her commanding officer! It was true though. The intensive injections she had to endure before the boot camp and field work.. Then not being allowed to sleep? It had all taken its toll on Elena, and even though she was an enhanced SOLDIER, she was still human.
“Well, how are you feeling? Are you all right now?” Tifa asked with worry hinting in her eyes.
Elena nodded, “I’m okay. Still a little dizzy and blurry, but it’s coming back.”
Tifa breathed a sigh of relief, “They injected you with extra stuff, didn’t they?” Tifa clenched one of her fists, gripping some of the bed sheet along with it. “Those bastards need to learn some restraint!”
Elena smirked and placed her hand on Tifa’s cheek, trying to calm her, “Don’t worry about it.. They just want me to catch up to you, is all.”
Tifa pouted. She honestly thought that Elena was equal, or even better, than her! Why would they need to inject her with more? Tifa narrowed her eyes towards the door, and had a thought in the back of her mind, ‘If those jerks pull another stunt like that, I’ll personally take care of them.. I’m not going to lose Elena to ShinRa too..’
Her eyes then softened when she looked back to Elena. She smiled and brushed some loose strands of blonde hair from the girl’s face, “What matters most to me right now..” She leaned forward and kissed Elena’s forehead, “Is that you’re all right..”
Elena could feel a blush creeping onto her cheeks, so she simply nodded her head.
But now, Tifa was curious about the night before. Did Elena remember what happened? “Hey, ‘Lena..” She blinked a couple of times, “Just curious, but.. Do you remember last night at all?”
Elena looked up at the ceiling in thought, “Actually.. I was gonna ask, but..” She looked at Tifa and sweatdropped, “Who are you, exactly?”
Tifa’s eyes widened in disbelief, “N-No way.. You.. You can’t be serious!”
The blonde couldn’t help but crack up at her girlfriend’s expression. She tried to hold back, but she burst out in laughter. “Your face! Haha! Priceless!” She had a little giggle here and there, but she calmed herself down and grinned at her girlfriend, “I’m just joking, Tif.”
Tifa nearly keeled over. Thank Shiva she was joking, but that really freaked her out. She almost had a heart attack! “Don’t do that!” She said, her hand grasping her own chest, “Geez!”
Elena went back to trying to remember the night before, “Last night, huh?”
“I love it.. Thanks for bringing me here.”
Elena snapped, “Ah! You brought me to that oasis!” She smiled, nodding to herself, “Then we kissed.. Then I fainted, right?”
Tifa looked a little disappointed, “I thought that was all you’d remember.”
Elena blinked a couple of times at Tifa’s sudden saddened disposition, “Hey.. What’s wrong? Did I forget something?”
Tifa cynically thought for a second, ‘No, not really. Just the first time I officially say ‘I love you’ to you..’ Then decided to let the girl rest before putting anymore stress on her, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not really too important.”
Elena arched an eyebrow.. Tifa wouldn’t look so disappointed over something unimportant.. But did she really want to force it out of her? Nah, better to let Tifa tell her on her own terms.. Now to take a different approach to the situation! “Did you try to do something to me while I was asleep?” She asked with an impish grin.
“No!” Tifa exclaimed, crossing her arms, “You should know I’m not like that when you’re unconscious!”
“Well how would I know? I’d be unconscious, after all.” Elena replied, a smug grin on her face.
Tifa deadpanned. How was she supposed to reply to that?
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 4) – On The Other Side of The Mountain]
“Elena, I’m bored.”
“Yeah, I know.. But we have to finish these scenario assignments.”
Tifa was lying on her stomach, staring down at the paper on the bed sheet in front of her. She thought she was finished with school when she left Nibelheim. She knew everything she needed to in order to fight, and anything she didn’t know, she would adapt to on the field. So why did ShinRa insist on making her suffer mentally as well as physically?
Elena had fully recovered, but instead of being sent back to Midgar, they remained in Junon for the Comprehension Tests. The week before had been the physical stuff.. And it looked like this week was the mental stuff.
Yeah, mental as in crazy mental!
A groan escaped from the brunette’s throat. She wasn’t normally one to complain, but the two of them have been training and working non-stop since.. Well, Tifa couldn’t remember when they last had a break. Rolling onto her back, Tifa put her hands behind her head and stared up at the ceiling.
“The way I see it,” Elena began, leaning back in her chair and stretching her arms up, “Is that if you finish faster, then you have more free time later. Didn’t you ever have homework in Nibelheim?”
“Well, yeah..” Tifa said, pushing her lips to the side in thought, “But I never really did my homework. Johnny helped me! As long as I did well on tests, then the teacher was happy.”
Elena sharply turned her head towards the brunette on the bed and narrowed her eyes at her, “’Help’ as in you got someone else to do the homework for you, like you tried to make me do earlier, right?”
“Exactly.” Tifa replied innocently, a wide grin on her face.
The blonde rolled her eyes and looked back at the paper. When it came to academics, her parents were always strict on her. She wasn’t allowed to go out and play with her dog or her friends unless she was finished her homework, so she was used to studying. This kind of scenario assignment wasn’t too difficult for her.. It’s just taking longer because Tifa kept distracting her.
They had been temporarily transported to the Junon base when the EVA Project facilities received more funding from the higher-ups to upgrade the Midgar location. Elena thought it was nice to see the sun clearly for a change, but she didn’t look forward to going back to that other lifeless dump. But still, in the middle of summer, it was getting pretty warm without any air conditioning in their new quarters.
Tifa, ever the optimist, laid sprawled on her bed, mock-suffering from the heat, “It’s so warm here..” She complained, forgetting about the assignment and using it as a makeshift fan instead.
Elena couldn’t disagree with that one. They were used to colder conditions, considering everything in Midgar was basically made out of concrete, metal and Mako. She was getting used to the new living quarters, but she had to admit that she was already adapted to their other location. Now that the discomfort had set in, though, she couldn’t continue working on some unrealistic scenario paper. “You know what..” She said with an exasperated sigh, “Let’s take a bit of a break, then.”
Tifa’s eyes lit up at the word ‘break’ and she sat up like an excited puppy, “Really?” She knew that Miss Responsibility would see things her way after a little persuasion. She hopped off of the bed and dropped her blank assignment paper on the desk with Elena’s nearly completed one and took the blonde’s hand, “Great! Let’s go into town and get some ice cream!”
Elena glanced at the girl’s paper, “Hey, you didn’t even sta- Whoa!“
“No time to think about that! Life is short, Elena, so we need to make the most of the time we have!”
And in a rush, and excited Tifa dragged her partner out the door by the hand.
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 2) – Cait Sith’s Theme]
Okay, so ice cream was a good idea on a hot day such as this, but where were they even supposed to buy ice cream in an industrial sector such as Junon? Sure, they got military discounts everywhere in the city, but everything in this place was so.. Dull. Just like Midgar! No ice cream, no arcades, not even a beach! And they were right by the water, too..
Tifa stopped and leaned against one of the buildings, arms crossed in frustration. The heat was getting to her, and so was the fact that nothing was going her way today. “This is sad..”
Elena, however, didn’t mind the lack of things to do. She was just glad to get out of that stuffy room and spend some time with Tifa, “It’s not that bad. At least we’re not wearing our uniforms.”
“Yeah..” Tifa nodded in response, knowing that if they were on duty and forced to wear those awful, suffocating uniforms on a day like this, she definitely wouldn’t have survived. Her eyes wandered about the scenery. It was a nice day and she was out with Elena, so that was all she really needed. Her gaze fell upon the blonde beside her, wondering about the glowing aura she always seemed to emit. Maybe it’s just natural or something.
Elena looked up at the clear, blue sky. A rare sight of not-quite-so-polluted skies and the afternoon sun made the blonde shield her eyes from the brightness of it all. They stood on a boardwalk close to the sea in front of an item shop, and from there they could see the monstrous metallic sea vessels and weaponry that was in the water and sticking out of the buildings. The water had this odd tinge of green that was reflected with the sun’s light, and it made Elena suddenly want to visit a beach as well, where white sand and blue waters would welcome them to relax and just lay on the beach with no cares in the world.
A soft sigh escaped from the blonde’s lips. Funny how unnatural machinery and natural beauty, like the skies and water, don’t mix, but they could still blend in the right circumstances.
While the blonde was lost in her thoughts, Tifa watched her contentedly. The brunette barely noticed that Elena had turned towards her again. Her eyes quickly darted away towards the water, trying to conceal the redness creeping onto her cheeks from being caught staring.
Elena simply smiled and said with a sly grin, “You know.. You see that ship there?” She pointed towards the cargo ship, wide open, in the bay, “It goes directly across the sea to a resort town called Costa Del Sol.”
Tifa’s eyes widened for a second at the thought.. Then a smirk slowly began to creep onto her face, “What are you suggesting, my dear?”
“I’m saying..” Elena grazed the girl’s arm with her own before taking her hand and locking their fingers together, “That we deserve a bit of a vacation, wouldn’t you agree?” Elena took a couple of steps forward, pulling Tifa along.
Tifa smiled at that, “And that’s one of the reasons I lo-..” No.. The timing isn’t right, “Like you so much!”
Elena heard the little hesitation, but she didn’t question it.. She just wanted to get out of this heat! No guards and a wide open cargo hold, huh? Could be a trap..
The duo snuck behind the wall of the ship. It looked like the coast was clear, but it was safer to send one at a time. Usually Tifa would go first, but.. “Go on ahead, Sergeant. You initiated the mission.” She said with a grin.
The blonde smiled and nodded, stealthily taking off and heading into the ship. She hid behind a few crates and signaled an ‘okay’ for Tifa to follow.
It wasn’t much of a mission. They just snuck to an opening in the crates that made a little fort around their position.. Then they awaited their arrival at the resort.
“Shh, you don’t want anyone to hear us.”
“Then keep your hands to yourself! You know how I get when you touch me there..”
“Well, how about..” Rustling of clothes could be heard.
“Hey!” A playful slap.
It wasn’t too dark since the light filtered in a bit from the staircase entrance from the deck. A shadowy figure of a crewmember cast their silhouette on the square of light on the wall and called out, “Who’s there?”
Elena, the victim of the earlier voluntary molestation, clamped her hand over Tifa’s mouth to shut her up. What was the point of getting onto the ship if they were just going to get caught by a sailor anyway? They were supposed to be SOLDIERs! Stealthy and tactful! Still, Tifa was such an idiot for touching her in places that made her..
“Ah! T-Ti..!” A deep red blush was now on the blonde’s normally fair skin.
..And that lecherous grin was still on Tifa’s.
Then a flash of light appeared from the flashlight that the sailor held. And it was obvious that the girls’ position was rather awkward. “Y-You..”
Elena, already a red tomato, pulled herself away from Tifa and stormed towards the sailor, electricity in her eyes. “You saw nothing!” was the last thing the man heard before being knocked out by a hard hit from the blonde’s fist.
It was needless to say that the two were caught. Sure, they could have simply beat down every crew member on the ship, but they had no clue on how to navigate or drive the thing.. Regardless, they got to the beach, at least! Too bad they didn’t get to enjoy it as much as they’d like.
“We’re being sent back to Midgar?” Tifa complained, “But we just got here!”
“Yeah, but you’re not even supposed to be here!” Tseng said through a frustrated sigh. These two girls were going to cause problems for him. “You should know better, Lieutenant Lockhart. You’re a Lieutenant for Ifrit’s sake..” He massaged the bridge of his nose. This wasn’t what he needed during his vacation.
And before they knew it, they were on a jet heading back towards Midgar.
“Sorry, Tif.. I blew our cover,” Elena apologized, feeling really hopeless. She got the brunette in trouble for her plan and her mistake. She wouldn’t be surprised if Tifa was annoyed at her.
Tifa grinned and shook her head, “Nah, don’t worry about it.” She crossed one of her legs over the other and put her hands behind her head in thought, “Such a pity, though..” She started, “That beach looked really nice from the.. What.. Thirty seconds we stood on it?” A bit of a laugh came from her, but it wasn’t bitter or cynical. It was merely amused. “I was really looking forward to seeing you in a swimsuit, though.”
Elena just shook her head with a smile, “I didn’t even have a swimsuit, you know.”
Tifa smirked, “All the better.”
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 2) – On That Day Five Years Ago]
“Dad..” Sometimes nightmares allow the truth to come out. Elena tossed and turned in her bed, drenched in a cold sweat and her muscles tensing unconsciously. “I’ll avenge you..” She uttered out, her eyes shutting tighter, “ShinRa.. Bastards..”
Tifa was still awake. She looked over at the blonde from her desk, the only light in the room being her desk light. Late night cramming for Tifa really meant late night cramming. She arched an eyebrow at the girl’s sleep talking. ‘Dad, avenge, ShinRa..’ Tifa thought, ‘Almost sounds like something I’d say.’ She stood from her seat and stepped over to her girlfriend’s bed.
“Dad..! No!” Elena woke up with a start, her eyes wide and her bangs matted to her forehead. Tifa sat on the edge of her bed and held her hand.. Elena had been having nightmares lately, and she could tell. The blonde hadn’t had a full night’s rest in a while.
“Nightmares again, huh?” Tifa said softly, using her sleeve to gently wipe the moisture off of the girl’s forehead.
“Y-Yeah.. Same one.” Elena replied, a tad short of breath.
Tifa looked concerned in the dim light. Forgetting about the written tests she had to take, Tifa made Elena first priority, “Want to tell me about it?”
Elena sat up and ran a hand through her hair in an attempt to clear her mind. Should she actually tell Tifa?
“All I seemed to pick up was ShinRa being a bastard for some reason,” Tifa tried to lighten the mood a little, clearing the girl’s face from the hair that fell over her eyes. “Which is reasonable, but I’m just curious as to why that is a recurring nightmare.” Elena had always kept her hair that way, cut short and simply falling in her face.. Not long enough to be tied up, but still long enough to fit so conveniently behind her ears. Tifa knew her mind shouldn’t be wandering, but it was so damn hard not to get distracted by this girl!
Elena smiled with a bittersweet tinge to it, “Do I have to have a reason to think that way?” Sure, she trusted Tifa, but if telling her the personal reasons that led her to joining SOLDIER would hinder her mission in any way.. She didn’t want to risk it.
“Everyone has their own reason,” Tifa started, “Company failure due to their expansion, homes being destroyed or taken away..” Her list trailed off, a guilty look overcoming her face, “Loss of a family member..”
And that hit Elena hard. Memories of a time that had since passed created a whirlwind of emotions within her, and honestly, she didn’t know how to feel. Here she was, Sergeant Elena of the Pride Squad, led by the notorious Tifa Lockhart. She was a pawn to the corporation she hated the most, the corporation that took away her family, and yet this was the best thing that could have ever happened to her. Even through all of the emotional hardships, the painful injections, the rigorous training, and the seclusion from the rest of the world.. She felt safe and secure with Tifa. Tifa was the only family she felt she would ever need, but her whole reason for joining was because of her father. She needed to avenge him and stop ShinRa from ever doing their horrible deeds to others, ruining their lives and killing innocent people.. Yet here she was, personally staining her hands with the blood of other people for the sake of ShinRa, and why? Because she was fighting for a lost cause in bringing them down. She wanted to take them down from the inside, but it was proving to be more difficult than she initially expected.
“You were calling for your dad,” Tifa stated softly. She didn’t mean to pour salt on the wound, but there was something she needed to express to her comrade as well, “And that’s when I realized, I know nothing about your past.” Tifa caught the guilty look on Elena’s face and she tried to reassure her, “And you basically know nothing about mine.”
Elena opened her mouth to talk, but Tifa’s quick reflexes allowed her to put a finger over the blonde’s lips and silence her, “Wait! Let me finish.” Elena just nodded in reply.
Tifa had nothing to be afraid of now. She pieced all of the clues together and she knew she could trust Elena. After all, Elena was her girlfriend. She put on her best tour guide voice and began her introduction, “My name is Lieutenant Tifa Lockhart. I’m Seventeen years old and I grew up in a mountain village called Nibelheim.” The grin on her face sobered a little but she continued anyway, “Two years ago, a platoon of SOLDIERs came to my village, led by the ‘Great Sephiroth’. A childhood friend of mine was in that squad too, his name was Cloud Strife.”
Elena simply listened, not knowing where Tifa was going with this story.
“I was the best tour guide in town, so they hired me to lead them to the Mount Nibel Mako Reactor. We discovered some of the experiments ShinRa was performing on SOLDIERs with the Jenova cells, and that drove Sephiroth mad. He locked himself in the basement of the ShinRa mansion back in town and no one really knew what happened in there.” Tifa cast her eyes away, “But not too long after, Sephiroth went back to the reactor to retrieve the Jenova specimen there.. And on his way, he set fire to the whole village.. And murdered my father.”
During her story, Elena’s eyes became slowly more concerned. He murdered her father? That sounds rather familiar.. “Then that means..”
“My hometown.. Everyone I knew and grew up with..” Tifa’s knuckles began to pale and turn white from clenching her fists so tightly. She grit her teeth to hold back her burning rage, the deep hatred that was so embedded into her being, “They all died that night except Cloud, my teacher Zangan, and myself. Master brought me to Midgar and disappeared after that.” Tifa had a somber look on her face, recalling the events of that time, “I was alone to face life, no family, no friends.. And all of that with this revenge looming over my head.” She shifted her eyes back to Elena, who was now looking at the lamp on the desk, “I hated ShinRa.. SOLDIER.. Sephiroth.. All of it.”
Elena looked back to Tifa, knowing now where this was going. It was all so clear now, but at the same time, it was all so confusing. “But you still..”
“I joined SOLDIER to take them out from the inside. I had no where else to turn.” Tifa finally admitted, “And even then, I was alone to face this.. Until I met you.” She leaned in closer to press her forehead against Elena’s, then smiled and said, “So that’s me. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Elena grinned a bit at the last line, then started her own story, “My name is Sergeant Elena White, I’m sixteen years old and I never really had a set hometown. I was born in Kalm, my father was a Turk, and my mother was a scientist, and both of those jobs made us move around a lot. I have two older siblings, a brother and a sister, and I used to have a dog.” Elena chose not to disclose too much information about her family.. She wasn’t exactly ready for that yet. She didn’t know who could be listening to them at that moment, “When I was really young, my brother was sent for adoption, taking our dog with him and when I turned eleven, my older sister became a Turk like my father.”
Well, that was sure a lot of information that Tifa had no knowledge of. And it looked like there was still more to it, too.
“My sister had moved away, so it was just me and my parents, but even they were never home because of their jobs. Especially my mother. She practically lived at work.” Elena fumbled with her bed sheets between her fingers, “I was a real big daddy’s girl..” She bit her bottom lip, minimally holding back the tears welling up in her eyes. She wasn’t as mentally strong as Tifa was, so she couldn’t exactly joke about her history. So through near-tears and choked words, she continued, “But last year.. He was murdered by ShinRa for leaking information to outside sources..”
Tifa couldn’t bear to see the other girl cry. She wrapped her arms around the girl carefully and held her close. Elena hadn’t cried about her father’s death in a long time, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have nightmares about it. She was being haunted by the memories, but until now, she hadn't expressed herself. The blonde buried her head into the crook of her girlfriend's neck, salty tears slipping from the sides of her eyes. Through a choked, stifled laugh, she said, "Nice to meet you, too."
[Suggested BGM: Final Fantasy 7 OST (Disk 3) – Interrupted By Fireworks]
Tifa simply smiled and shook her head at the stupidity of the situation. Still, "Now you're officially the person who knows the most about me.. And it turns out we both hate ShinRa and joined for the same reasons, huh?" She pulled back from the girl a little and used her thumb to wipe away the remaining tears on her cheeks. Seeing the nodding reply from the blonde, she decided to remind the blonde of something, "And if that doesn't prove what I said before you fainted.."
Elena looked at her with a questioning look.. She didn't recall Tifa saying anything before she fainted at the Oasis.
"So you really didn't remember!" Tifa said, disappointed, "It was such a good set up, too!"
"Oh.." Elena said, also downtrodden now as well as confused, "Sorry, I must not have caught it."
Tifa rolled her eyes and sighed, "Well.." She placed her hand against the blonde's pale cheek, dimly lit by the desk's lamp, "Let me remind you.." And with that said, she pressed her lips against Elena's softly once again, hoping this time, she doesn't faint.
And the memory came rushing back to the blonde. The oasis, the fireflies, the reflection of the water, the sand on her feet, the warmth that Tifa gave her.. And of course, the words she uttered after they kissed. She returned the kiss with fully anxious fervor, as if it were the last kiss she would get to share with the brunette.
But once it was broken, she opened her eyes to shoot herself from her daze and put her finger on Tifa's lips to silence her before she could say anything.
"..I love you too, Tifa."