Ex-SOLDIER TifaChapter 8: Pillow Talk
Tifa stepped into the dark cabin, the door hissing behind her. To her, it felt like this night would never end. Morning seemed so far away, but she knew it was fast approaching. All she had to do was get some rest and it would be daylight. And yet, here she was, still wide awake and on her feet. She knew that sleep would be the best option. That way, she wouldn’t be too tired during the day, she’d have a clearer, more rational mind for planning and decision making.. Still, it was easier to count the reasons she should get to sleep - trying to force herself to fall asleep was another matter entirely.
Although it was difficult in the dark, Tifa managed to make her way over to one of the beds without injuring herself. To be stealthy and silent were some of the minimum requirements for SOLDIER, so it just came naturally to Tifa now. Still, at times, stealth wouldn’t be enough against an opponent with sensitive hearing, or sharp eyes. It seemed, though, that the only person Tifa could never sneak past was Elena. She would try to surprise the blonde when she was asleep, back when they were SOLDIERs, but Elena would always wake up and stalemate it somehow.
‘Right.. She’s always been a really light sleeper, hasn’t she?’ Tifa remembered with a small smile on her face. Even through the dark, she glanced in the direction of the blonde’s bed, ‘She probably woke up when the door opened.’
As if on cue, the rustling of sheets could be heard from the other bed, indicating the blonde was shifting herself. A soft sigh could be heard, but the figure soon relaxed again.
“Hmm..” Tifa examined the figure on the other bed for a moment, a smirk appearing on her lips, “Quit pretending to sleep, you little liar.”
A soft “Hmph” could be heard from the blonde, but she kept her back turned towards Tifa. She saw the whole scene at the door with Yuffie. How dare that annoying little ninja suddenly call and jump into their mission? From what she remembered, Yuffie was thieving, conniving, rude, hot-tempered, and impulsive! Of course, she didn’t know the Wutaian as well as the members of AVALANCHE, but Elena did know that she was going to intrude on this mission..
And she also felt irritated by those good-night words she said to Tifa.. ‘And the fact that Tifa actually went to pick up the spoiled brat!’ Elena shifted her body in the guest bed uncomfortably..
She was not jealous!
What would she be jealous of? Yuffie Kisaragi? Hardly. Just because she was able to travel with Tifa during Meteor.. And Elena hadn’t even known of her feelings until a couple of days ago..
Just because of the way Yuffie thanked her and touched her arm, and how Tifa responded with that warm smile.. Elena had tensed up, her insecure anger boiling up inside her.. So maybe she was a little jealous. Elena wanted Tifa to look at her that way!
There was more movement in the room again. This time, the rustling came from Tifa’s end of the room. However, they weren’t sheets that were in motion. They were clothes. Since she had to go down and pick up Yuffie; that meant she had to change back into her usual attire. Tifa wanted to wear something a little more comfortable when she went to bed. So she was glad the lights were off because she could simply take off the black vest and dark shorts.
She knew she previously had a relationship with Elena, but it had still been a long while since she was actually undressed in front of the woman. That meant she was still a little shy and self-conscious about her own body. It has been a while since she had done any fighting, so she may have put on a bit of weight.. That would make any girl feel a little self-conscious.
It was strange.. Just a little while ago, Tifa and Elena were practically strangers. Elena was merely a Turk and Tifa was merely a Bartender and ex-AVALANCHE Member. Neither would have guessed that they shared a hidden past with each other.. And even though they had the memories of SOLDIER, they also had the memories of Meteor. Things were definitely different, now that she compared the two.
“You just have to work on your stealth, Tif.” Elena finally responded, a little smirk now present on her face. How entertaining.
A silent moment, then a little more rustling could be heard from Tifa’s side, this time from the sheets of her bed. It wasn’t nearly enough to indicate she actually slipped into the bed, so Elena assumed she just laid herself down without putting on the covers.
The blonde had a lot on her mind to contemplate while she waited for Tifa to pick up Yuffie. Sometimes it was exactly what she would need to sort out her troubles, a few moments alone, lying in her bed. She’d stare into nothingness just to clear her mind of uncertainties. So to have those rare moments disturbed, and by a certain annoying ninja accompanying Tifa to their room no less.. It caused a small flame of jealousy to ignite in Elena’s stomach again, as she had felt earlier, and she grit her teeth discreetly when she had listened to their conversation. Still, Elena could sense.. No, Elena just knew.. That Tifa didn’t have any feelings for the Ninja. It wasn’t just her gut feeling or a sense of denial and stubborn pride within her. She knew for sure. Elena just had to remind herself of that fact so her worries would be admonished. ‘Tifa doesn’t like Yuffie!’ She repeated in her mind.
Still, that didn’t stop her from feeling a little uneasy.
The two former lovers currently lay there in their respective, separate beds for another long, dragging moment. Neither really knew what to say, though they knew they wanted to say so much that was on their minds. Neither even knew what to think, really, even though they subconsciously thought about everything that had happened anyways. And through the past few hours, even though they had so much time together and opportunities to speak about the still confusing issue, they still haven’t addressed it seriously.
What had taken place that night.. What had been happening in their minds through the past few days.. It all came so quickly that they couldn’t even really stop to smell the roses. They didn’t have time to stop and smell the roses. Hell, they didn’t even have time to pack anything!
They both knew the other was awake.. They both wanted to say something. But what would they say?
“..So we picked up a new recruit,” When it came to ice-breakers, Tifa was the master. She wanted to lighten this thick mood, even if it was just temporarily, “Yuffie Kisaragi. You probably remember her from that little incident in Wutai,” It was clear there was a grin on Tifa’s lips, even if Elena’s back was turned to her.
“Ugh.. How could I forget?” Elena grimaced at the memory of Don Corneo and his lackeys hanging her and Yuffie off of the Da Chao Mountains. A fat, old pervert kidnapping young women for his own sick pleasure. Geez, how creepy can you get? Thank goodness Rude and Reno were there.. Oh, and AVALANCHE, of course. But even though she recalled that event so clearly that it would still give her nightmares sometimes, she still didn’t know Yuffie too well. She only knew the fact that she was unbearably annoying.
“I think she’d be an asset to our mission,” Tifa rolled onto her side so she could face Elena, whose back was still turned to her, and she continued to smile to herself. The fighter could sense the venom in Elena’s voice, and she could see how she tensed up through her silhouette. Could it be that she was jealous? Aww, how cute. “She could infiltrate the security systems and disable the alarms before we go in to attack.”
Another small “Hmph” could be heard from Elena’s side of the room, but she didn’t say anything other than that.
That confirmed it for Tifa. Elena was jealous! She hopped off her bed and sat on the edge of Elena’s, laughing a little. The sudden addition of weight caused Elena to bounce a little, though she tried to remain nonchalant. Tifa leaned over so she could see the blonde’s face, that smug grin still on her face, “Are you jealous?” Tifa asked. She knew the other woman would deny it, but she wanted to tease her about it anyways.
Elena blinked as the smirking brunette suddenly came into view, but she regained that composure and she frowned almost immediately, “I am not jealous!”
See? She knew she would deny it! “You are so jealous! It’s written all over your face!” Tifa poked at her forehead some.
Elena swatted her hand away and allowed a little smile through her proud façade, “Why would I be jealous?” She quickly reverted back to her faux-mask of nonchalance, turning over to face the brunette and redirecting Tifa so she wouldn’t be towering over her.
“No reason!” Tifa rested her head on the opposite end of Elena’s pillow, that smug smirk still on her face as she watched the frustrated blonde, “Because you have nothing to worry about.” Tifa smiled and snaked one of her hands around Elena’s waist, “I don’t have any feelings for Yuffie.”
Elena almost sighed in relief, but she kept silent. She didn’t know what to make of the contact.. Was Tifa coming on to her? Did she still have feelings for her? All Elena felt she could do was to stare into this strong brunette’s eyes and hope for the best. The feelings she had so many years ago were still burning deep inside herself, and judging from the way Tifa looked at her and how she acted towards her.. She probably felt the same way.. Of course, Elena wasn’t going to assume, but she could still hope. So there they lay, side by side, silently staring at each other through the darkness.
Once again, it was Tifa who broke the silence, “Elena..” She was thinking of similar things, and now with the blonde so close to her for the first time in years. To have her in her arms again after such a long separation.. She just had to ask.
She had to know, “What are we?”
What a vague question, Elena thought. Is there really an answer to it? The blonde’s mind raced and her heart pounded against her chest. What were they? They were 23-year-old women on the run from a major corporation. They were former employees of a bar in the slums. They were Ex-SOLDIERs who rebelled and got their memories erased. They were fighters who yearned for the heat of battle once again. They were survivors, even in a world as cruel as theirs.. They were once lovers, together in some kind of fateful bond that didn’t want to be broken. But really, what were they? Guess that all depends on what Tifa meant by the question, probably.. “I don’t know, Tifa..”
The brunette didn’t move, she didn’t want to shift her body; She feared that if she were to move even an inch, she would wake up and this would all be some kind of weird dream.. She feared that if she were to move, Elena would wiggle away from her grasp, from her touch, and she would have lost her once again.. But still, the answer that Elena gave her wasn’t satisfying enough.
Although she feared the outcome of her actions, Tifa inched a little bit forward. She moved the hand that was wrapped around Elena’s waist up to her face, not losing eye contact with her. Then, tucking a loose lock of blonde hair behind Elena’s ear, she gently cupped her cheek, whispering, “Elena.. Do you still have feelings for me?”
“Wh-.. I-I..” She stuttered out, a lump catching in her throat. She knew her cheeks must have been a dark red because she could feel the heat rising to them. She was so close.. Elena could almost feel her breath on her lips! Just a little closer and..! ‘Oh man..’ Her mind raced a million miles a minute, ‘What do I say? Do I still like her? Well, yes.. But am I ready to say so? What’ll happen if I do? Maybe she’s just playing around because she remembers we used to be together. Well, she doesn’t seem like she’s playing around.. Maybe she still likes me! It sure seems like it, but.. Oh Shiva, that’s hoping for too much. Crap, I’ve been silent for too long! I have to say something! Anything! Just speak, Elena!’
Instead of speaking, though, Elena figured her actions were a thousand times more meaningful. She was acting impulsively, but she didn’t care. Elena closed the space between her and Tifa, wrapping her arm around her waist and pressing her lips firmly against the brunette’s. Years of separation and loneliness poured forth into the passion of that one kiss, that one little interaction between the two women meaning so much deeper within. And although the kiss probably only lasted a short time, it felt like an eternity for the two.
Once they finally, reluctantly, pulled away, they were breathless. Not only had it been so long since they’ve felt the love of another in that way, but it had never felt so dizzying before.
Finally, Tifa decided to respond, a warm smile present on her lips, “I’ll take that as a yes..”
“Likewise..” Elena replied, a similar smile on her face.
Soon enough, the effects of the day and the comfort the other brought were enough to lull the two to sleep. There were so many things to worry about, so many things to plan, and so many things to stress over.. But for now, for at least this one night, both of them could forget about it all and just focus on the warmth of the other and the sounds of their interlaced heartbeats.
Where am I..?
I don’t know..
Wait, remember what they taught me.. Analyze the situation..
This black room with no windows. My eyes are open, but I don’t see anything. There’s no light coming in from anywhere.. ‘Am I dead?’ Ow! Okay, shouldn’t have pinched myself.. Well, at least I know I’m not dead.
I’m lying in a bed, but I don’t know where.. It’s harder than my bed at home. The sheets feel stiff and this pillow feels flat.. I must be somewhere where they have a lot of these beds.
In a hospital? Did I get hurt?
I don’t remember getting hurt..
What’s that sound? Footsteps? It’s soft, but I can hear something other than myself now.. That must mean I’m not here alone!
The question now is if they’re here to help me or not.
I try my voice, but it doesn’t work.. Exactly how long have I been asleep for?
Ow again. Okay, blinding light! At least now I see something!
Examine your surroundings again, get a feel for the area.. My eyes are finally adjusting to the sudden bright light and.. I’m actually in a white room. There’s a mirror on the wall and the furniture is silver. The ceiling has a fan in the middle, and the bed I’m in has a little teddy bear in the corner of it.. It sure looks like a hospital.
Those footsteps were coming closer, so I guess it’s probably a doctor. Sounded like they were wearing heels, so it’s probably a woman.
Wait a second.. Since when could I hear so well?
“Are you awake now, my prodigy?” Prodigy..? The door’s opening and.. I was right. It’s a woman and she has blonde hair. She looks like she’s in her thirties, but then again, a lot of old people look pretty young nowadays.. Anyways, I didn’t say anything back. I couldn’t seem to get my voice working..
“Ah, right.. You can’t speak right now. Well, you can see me, yes?” I nodded, but I had never seen this woman before.. Was this really a hospital..?
“Good, that means you haven’t lost your sight.” She has a clipboard with her.. She’s writing stuff.. Was I supposed to go blind or something?
She’s checking her watch.. “Seems just about time for the next injection. Can you sit up?” INJECTION? Oh, well if this is a hospital, I guess they’d give injections.. But why do I need one..?
“It seems you’ve forgotten what’s happened as well. I suppose that’s a good thing. Now be a good girl and hold still..” I did as I was told, even though I hate getting shots. But then, my body suddenly felt tired and heavy again.. It wasn’t until the last second did I see the ShinRa logo on the opposite wall.
Tifa’s eyes opened suddenly, staring up at the silver, metallic ceiling of the airship’s cabin. What was that..? Another memory? Was that what happened to them when they were still in SOLDIER? Or maybe it was a glimpse of what Marlene was experiencing right now?
No, Tifa.. Calm down. It was just a hallucination. It was probably just another memory. They wouldn’t do that so soon to Marlene, would they?
Her head ached again, that familiar throbbing feeling that she felt whenever her mind went through the process of pondering ShinRa’s actions. She had a cold sweat on her forehead, indicating that she was being disturbed by that dream even in her subconscious state. Now she was worried.. She knew that they only took Denzel and Marlene as hostages for her and Elena to return to them.. But what if they decide to do some of their unorthodox experiments on those kids?
Just thinking about it made Tifa’s stomach churn..
Her eyes were staring straight up, but in the corner of her eye, she could see something else.. Oh, but not only that, she could feel something else as well. Something warm and inviting was wrapped around her. Tifa slowly turned her head and her eyes met with the similar brown ones of Elena.
“What’s wrong, Tif..? Had a nightmare?” Elena asked, her concerned eyes staring back into the brunette’s. Elena had her head on Tifa’s shoulder ever since they fell asleep, but once she had started squirming around, the blonde immediately woke up. Elena could tell from the distressed look on Tifa’s face that something was disturbing her. So until the woman woke up, the blonde just wrapped her arms around her midsection, hoping she could offer some comfort.
“I hope it was just a nightmare..” Tifa whispered softly in reply, “Either a nightmare or another memory.. Or maybe it’s what Marlene’s going through..” She brought up her free hand to her forehead and tried to tame the beast of a headache she had. It was times like this she wished she carried around a Remedy or something.. Some kind of pain killer. Well, she would just have to bear through it again..
However, as any mother, surrogate or not, would do.. Her mind wandered back to those kids.
“Marlene.. Denzel..” Inwardly, the brunette was beating herself up over what happened. If she had taken better care of the children, this ordeal wouldn’t have happened. If she had been a better surrogate mother and paid attention to those kids, rather than just on herself and her job.. They’d still be with her. Tifa, however, didn’t voice her thoughts. She didn’t want to burden Elena with her issues because she had dragged the blonde far enough into her life. She didn’t want to have to rely on her too much for support.. Tifa wanted to be the one to support her.
The dark-haired woman turned her head away again, staring up at the ceiling once more. She didn’t want Elena to see her weak. So if she were to let loose and start to cry, she didn’t want Elena to know.
Elena could sense the stubborn pride in the woman, though. She knew she was holding back and she wouldn’t let her! Elena wanted to be involved in her life. Elena wanted to be the only one Tifa could really rely on for support when she can’t support others any longer. As cliché as it sounds.. Elena wanted to be the shoulder Tifa could cry on. “What happened wasn’t your fault, okay?” She placed her hand on Tifa’s cheek and turned the brunette’s head back towards her, looking into her eyes with a small, reassuring smile. “But I can tell you right now that we’ll definitely get them back..”
Tifa stared back at the Turk, her eyes glassy with near-tears. They weren’t tears of sadness, but of hope. Perhaps she just needed that reassurance that she could get through this.. Maybe she just wanted to be the one to be cheered up for once, rather than having to always be the optimist of the group. Or maybe it was just the determination, reliability and trust in Elena’s eyes that made Tifa just want to melt into her arms and never be released..
So, even despite all of the pride and inhibitions, Tifa allowed a single tear to slide down her cheek.
Elena was proud that she could break through that wall that Tifa managed to build around herself through the years. Gently wiping away that tear and placing a gentle kiss on the fighter’s forehead, she sealed the silent oath. Elena promised herself in her own mind that she would use every ounce of her being to ensure that those tears would never appear again through sorrow.
And so, Tifa pulled herself closer to the blonde. She fit her head perfectly into the crook of Elena’s neck and whispered a soft, “Thank you..” Before once again attempting to sleep. How grateful Tifa was to have Elena there.. The Turk was like a pain-killer that she was getting addicted to. The only thing Tifa could really do was pray that nothing would take that away from her.