Steve
Steve Shriver bethefaceless wrote in memebells
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426: What's it good for?
Away at War/Battle Meme


We all know war can be a hard time for everyone but those left behind? It can be torture. Hoping you get a letter or a call, staying glued to the television and cringing at those news stories. Guess what happens to you now? Your loved one has gone off to fight a war (battle, fight, in that ilk of things) and some time has passed. Sadly the letters and e-mails have stopped so you are left wondering the fate of your loved one. What do you do? Do you move on or are you holding on to hope they'll come back?

Warning: There are triggers inside.

1. Post as your characters (List whether you prefer to be the one left behind or the returnee).
2. Others go to RNG and roll 1-8 for a scenes then respond.
3. Feel free to make up your own scenes too!
4. Respect others' preferences!
5. Have fun!
6. Angst away!


One: You get a call, or you get a knock at the door. You are told the person you love is dead and you feel like your whole world has caved in. The healing takes time but after awhile you pick up the pieces and you've finally moved on. You've never forgotten them and you know they'd want you to be happy. Then one day you get another call and you feel like you've been punched in the gut. Surprise! Your loved one is alive and has been rescued. What do you do now? Or if you are the one returning home how do you handle knowing the person you love is with another? Do you try to get them back? Or do you let them stay happy and walk away?

Two: You are so relieved to hear that they've found your loved one. You go to the hospital to see them but when you go to kiss them they stop you. Oh...wait...they have a big chunk of their memory gone. Oh no! Can you get them to remember your lives together? Does it hurt too much that you walk away rather than deal with it? You with the memory loss do you try to find yourself letting this person guide you. Do you refuse and walk away? Are those memories ever return, or are they gone forever?

Three: They have come back safe and sound. Though they cringe away from your touch and can be a little violent. Something about them has changed because of what they've seen. They rarely sleep and when they do they wake up screaming. The intimacy seems to be gone because you can't seen to get close to them. Can you handle it? Can you work with them? Or have you had enough? Do you leave? The returnee how do you feel? Do you wish you could just hold them and be normal again? Do you seek help or think you can handle it yourself?

Four: Even before they left it was as if the love was gone between the two of you. Plans have been made to break-up or divorce but after the hell they went through? You feel obligated to stay. You try your best to rekindle what was lost but it's gone. Finally you are at the breaking point and it's time to tell your significant other that it's over. You want to end it. Either one of you has this feeling and are acting to end the charade. Ready to break it to the hometown hero or to your sweetheart that waited for you?

Five: You've lost them and it was just too much for you. People have told you to move on yet you never could. Now you get a call. They've been found but it's unclear if they'll make it. Better hurry and rush to their side just in case. You don't want them to go without you getting to tell them one last time you love them just in case. Alternately you are injured and you know it might be the end and you refuse surgery until you get to see them one last time. You want them to know you love them.

Six: You lost your other half and you still aren't over it. Might be that little one asleep in the other room that has their eyes or smile. You are always reminded of what you lost when you look at that. The sad part is you never got to tell them the good news. Never got to hear their excitement. Or maybe you had an adoption in motion and were just waiting and it happened while they were gone. It still reminds you of what you and your love had planned for their future. Then you get the call they were found, and now you are nervous. How will they get along with their child? Will they still want that life? How do you take it the first time you see your eyes when looking at the child?

Seven: Finally news comes in and they've been found and you couldn't be happier. They were injured pretty badly and had to undergo surgery. They are alive but they've lost a limb or one of their senses. How do you two deal with this? Do you try to work on it together? Do you leave unable to handle it? Or let your loved one go so they can have a normal life? It'll be a long stressful road, can the relationship survive? For better or for worse?

Eight: Make up your own if I've missed something.

Tifa Lockheart/Final Fantasy VII

either/or

2. RNG is a conspiracy I swear to god

[ Alive. That's how they'd found him -- alive, if not precisely well, where he'd been lying in the dry, red dust bare feet from the edge of the Cosmo Canyon preserve, a mess of wounds, dehydrated and listless with fatigue. That he'd lived at all was a miracle, given that it had been weeks since the battle, since his abrupt and total disappearance.

But his recovery would be complete, fitting of the remarkably resilient weapon time and testing had made of him, and once word got out, it was fast to reach the few who knew him as more than simply some vague, heroic concept, more than a small part of one already not-so-widely believed myth. There were just a few unimportant details that hadn't quite made their way along the grapevine, yet.

Strange behavior. Outright confusion. Memory loss.

Even after he'd recovered his wits, he had been avoidant, distant, stoic nearly to a fault. He'd offered his name but had copped to little else; he was as adrift as he'd been out there in the desert, dragging himself aimless, toward some indistinct, impossible goal. And when they finally came, people who claimed to know him...

He shrugged back defensively, eyes narrowing as his brows drew down in sudden suspicion, perhaps even a hint of fear. He was only barely Cloud, anymore, a patchwork of bandages masking half of his face, no singular hint of recognition in too bright blue eyes as he attempted to fend off his oldest friend with the arm not bound to the sling across his chest. ]


Hey, wait-- Just... Who are you?

it's the meme's revenge for us messing with the bondage scenario last round

{her heart had been living in her throat all these weeks, dry and dusty, threatening to choke her. There hadn't been tears. Their friends had worried, in fact, about how well she seemed to be holding up. What no one seemed to understand was that Tifa was waiting.

Cloud always came back to her. Always. So she'd waited, the kind of frozen waiting that didn't rest or end, that always had her jumping at the sound of her phone ringing, always turning her head a little too fast when the front door opened. The hope behind the waiting had been fragile. Dying. But the waiting itself, that patience, had been the forever kind. Cloud would come back. He always found her again, even when it took years. Even if it took an entire lifetime - hers - she would have waited if that was what it took to find him again. It wasn't hope that had been prepared to wait. It had been her faith in him. In them. Life - and death - didn't change that faith.

So there had been no tears up until the moment she saw him again, pulling her hood back with a choked off sound when she'd stepped into the room and her eyes had finally assured her that he really was still alive, still breathing, and that single caught sound had held every one of those unshed drops. She'd reached for him without a thought or hesitation.

His reaction had gutted her.

Through everything, even when he didn't even know himself, Cloud had always known her. He's said her name first in the train station so long ago, said it the way only Cloud ever did, and he'd never stopped saying it since. He was her anchor and even when the rest of the world had decided she was something she really wasn't, Cloud had never lost his hold on who she was. On her.

They were a very long way from a now ruined clinic in Mideel... but the feelings that hit her suddenly tasted the same way they had back then. Except... this was worse, this was impossibly, nightmarishly worse, because his blue eyes were aware this time - and there was nothing of her in them.

She went to her knees next to his bed because it was better than letting her legs collapse on their own the way they were threatening to and all the natural warmth of Cosmo Canyon seemed to run out of her like water, leaving the tips of her fingers, her toes, her nose, cold and numb. Her fingers shook and so she closed them into fists, pressing them down into her lap.}


Tifa. {it came out weak, fragile edged as if it were a word that was seconds away from breaking entirely. She pulled in a breath around the heart that had turned into coal in her throat and tried to make it stronger.} I'm Tifa. I'm your - we're - I'm your friend.

I FEEL NO REMORSE

(Tifa...)

I... I don't remember that.

[ Cure had taken care of the worst of his injuries, and the rest the villagers had tended to with their very particular brand of natural medicine -- but there was nothing they could do for the damage done where there was no wound, no memory, no nothing. And though he had tried his hardest not to think of it with such finality, himself, there was only so long he could play oblivious. Avoidant.

Uncertain, he settled back against the spare bed (really nothing more than a thin mattress, a bedroll, and some borrowed pillows), his alien gaze following her every little movement in case she should try to reach for him, again. He didn't know her, had no idea whether he should trust her at her word, but would he have the heart to push her away a second time?

(Maybe not.)

A trace of discomfort, embarrassment, crossed his face, then, but not all of his steely resolve was shaken. That feeling was a sort of numbness, in its own right, self-inflicted in self-defense to shut down the hateful vulnerability that came with not knowing. He knew his own name, even knew himself up to a point, and in poor focus he could recall the faces of people he'd loved, once, what felt now like it must've been such an incredibly long time ago -- but none of them were hers.

She was someone native to the foreign world in which he'd woken, not to the one he remembered (for what of it he could remember). ]


...I'm sorry.

[ He meant the words, but they still came up sounding somehow shallow, an apology to a stranger who'd stepped on his toes when he hadn't been watching where he was going. An apology in passing.

His brow furrowed deeply again (twisted to grotesque where just the edge of new scars crept out from underneath the gauze patched across the side of his face), and he shook his head, ducking that hopeless-hopeful look as guilt drew tense lines through his shock. ]
I don't know who you are.

(I barely know who I am.)

It's okay.

{it wasn't. Even if her voice hadn't shook when she said it, it still would have been an obvious lie.

She didn't know if there was anything worse that the world could have done to her than have Cloud forget her...

Her chin ducked, lashes falling to hide her eyes and, for a heart beat, for the space of an inhale, she almost got up and left. Left the room, left Cosmo Canyon. Left him.

How could she do this? Again? How many times was she going to drag her own heart through the fire and the blades to find his? How many times was she going to come so far, finally have it all - and then go back to the very beginning, with him a stranger and her the only one that remembered what that meant?

How many times was she going to stand in the gap for him before she finally just fell apart under the weight of it?

...

one more time.

So she lifted her head and she gave him one of those horrible smiles she always pasted on when her heart was breaking and she didn't want him to know. She pulled in a shaking breath and ignored the wetness at the corner of one eye.

one more time -

Cloud...
}


Okay. It's okay. Tell me what you do remember. I'll help with the rest.

[ What did he remember? Cloud had been hesitant to take full inventory of those hazy, indistinct moments that he could still recall, mere blurs of memory that all seemed to move too fast to decipher.

Most of all, he remembered fighting for his life.

Most recently, in the barren wasteland that surrounded the bustling little canyon oasis that had saved him from utterly certain death. Dragging himself through the dust and along a trail marked with too much of his own blood -- he'd a distressingly sharp recollection of living that way, hinged only on the fiercest need to survive as the blazing heat of the sun burned away sanity and sense bit by bit. At nightfall, he'd hidden from the twisted, broken monsters that wandered the desert (those other than himself). Cowering with the sharp, metallic taste of his own fear lingering for each inhale every time he tried and failed to hold his ragged breath had been his earliest memory in this new life.

It wasn't until later that more of him began to trickle back through the white filter his mind or his injuries had cast over the forgotten person trapped somewhere inside.

Everything else was a chronological mess, chunks of time that made no sense apart or in a whole.

There was pain in the grimace that sank further into his ruined features, the frustration of a futile effort forced not for the first time. ]


I remember... Someone taking care of me.

(We're running from something, and it's bad. Worse if we're caught. It's hard to move. I can't do that.)

His name was-- I don't know. But it... Hurts a little. Thinking about that.

(Did I lose him out there? Was I only alone at the end?)

I remember fighting all the time, too. That sword-- [ He paused, pointed toward the weapon he had somehow hauled along with him (sometimes aware of it, sometimes assuming it was only the weight of his own body as it pulled him toward the ground and prayed only for death). Lying there where the ones who'd found him had propped it against the wall, the blade looked impossibly huge, imposing. A bad omen, so completely out of place. ] I'm supposed to know how to use it, but I don't think I do. I don't even think I could... I could lift it, if I had to.

[ He kept his eyes on the far wall as self-conscious replaced just a fraction of his frustration. ]

...There's other stuff, too, but it's... Hard to tell what's important and what's not. I don't remember these clothes, but I remember a big city. The mountains. I think I remember being a kid, but I don't know where I grew up. It's all... Backwards. It's wrong.

{she watched him as he spoke and the enormity of what he was telling her sunk slowly in, seeping down through her chest like ice water through the cracks in a rock.

oh god.

At least last time, he'd had something. There had been memories that weren't his, memories that were. There had been jumbled, tangled threads of endings and beginnings, but at least he'd been full of something. This time... there was nothing. Nothing at all.

Where did she even start helping him rebuild if they didn't even have a foundation to begin with?

His face absolutely broke her heart at he spoke too. Some people might happily trade away their memories for a clean slate if they'd endured what Cloud Strife had but Cloud... she couldn't think of much that would hurt him worse. Knowing she shouldn't, her hand still slipped out and covered his good one, fingers curling to make the touch solid without making it too strong for him to feel he could break. The battered leather of her gloves kept most of their skin from each other but her fingers were still bare and she pressed them over his.

Not so long ago she could have done it with the faith that his own hadn would turn and link with hers. Now... now she didn't even have faith that he wouldn't withdraw from even that simple touch. She gave it to him anyway. They had to start somewhere... if they were going to start at all. Who said he would want her at the end of all of this? She was nothing more than yet another pointless face to him and who promised that would ever change? If she thought about it too hard, it would break her, so she thought about him instead. No matter what he decided in the future, at the moment, he needed her. Whether he knew it or not.}


All right. {determination settled in her dark eyes next to her own heartbreak as she lifted them to look at him.} It's a start. We'll go from there. As long as it takes, Cloud. We'll fill in all the holes. I promise.

{An exhale and she pressed her lips together, trying to find a beginning. What if he never remembered any of it? What if the memory loss was permanent? Her eyes found his again, brows low over her own. One step at a time. Cloud needed her and Tifa wasn't going to fail him. Not now. Not this time.} I'll tell you everything I know. It's a very long, hard story. But we can start with this. I'm Tifa Lockheart. I grew up next door to you. You've been my best friend for a very long time.

Edited at 2011-11-22 08:31 am (UTC)

[ It's a start.

An ugly impulse to scoff at that went quashed underneath his silent morbidity; his concept of time passed was as muddled as the shallow, translucent things he called memories, now. A start, an end -- all he knew for certain was the pain and confusion of being born into the world bloody and half alive, and even those days had all run together, overlapped, intertwined, until one fleeting moment of clarity became no more significant than the next.

He let his hand lie limp in hers, tensing only briefly as she touched him. Her name may not have brought up any more of his supposed past, any poignant feeling in him, but his enduring silence was more than just a front. The longer it lasted, the deeper it ran, and something else came to light in quiet revelation far beneath his stiff, placid surface.

How quick had he been, just then, to throw away his initial suspicion of her? He hadn't said half as much to all of the villagers, combined, and yet...

As soon as she had asked him, he'd spilled it all. He hadn't thought twice about it, though he'd no earthly reason to take her at her word. His lips drew together into a thin, pale line as he listened, the ruined right half of his face stretching past the clean, white boundaries of gauze as delicate, damaged muscle fought to match the disquiet in his unmarred expression.

The man he saw in the mirror was older than the one he thought he remembered. Not by much, but by enough. If they had really known each other their whole lives, then she'd know everything about that person, that stranger with the sullen, sullied face and only desperate searching in his unwholesome green-blue gaze. ]


How... Old am I?

(How long is 'a very long time'?)

AUland - here we come!

{she watched the part of his face she could see at the edge of the bandages twist and for the first time it registered to her that there were bandages on his face. She'd noticed, but that masking gauze simply hadn't made it passed everything else to register as important. Now she watched the way it crinkled at the edges of cotton and tape and resisted the urge to reach up and touch it. She hadn't talked to anyone when she'd ghosted her way in. No one even knew she was here - yet. The ones that knew who - what - Cloud was would be expecting her to come but the majority of the canyon had no idea who healed buried deep in their mountain home. It was just as well. Tifa knew they were the stuff of half-forgotten legends... and ghost stories.

Her eyes, dark liquid garnet, found his again at his question. At least he hadn't taken his hand away and her fingers curved almost too softly now, the gesture a warning sign he would have recognized if he'd recognized her... them... at all. She was going to have to teach him those things all over again too, all the ways they'd come to communicate without a single word.

They'd had a long time to develop those unspoken ways...}


Very old. It's part of that whole very long, very hard story. {for a moment, she floundered and her fingers tightened again. It wasn't in warning this time though. This time it was because she needed him. The whole situation rushed over her again like a wave, feeling overwhelming. She didn't know how she was supposed to do this. The wave subsided though and she pulled in a breath. If it felt overwhelming for her, it was worse for Cloud and so she steeled herself. She would do this. She could. Cloud needed her. Looking down at her hand over his, her thumb shifted. Not the nervous picking habit, not yet, but a forerunner mix of both that and the need to touch him for reassurance. She looked back up into his eyes of electric blue, sharp even if they didn't look at her the way she'd grown so used to seeing. Her heart could break over that later though; right now, Cloud was all that was important.}

I don't know how to do this, Cloud. I don't know if I should start the story at the beginning and tell it all in a straight line or if I should answer the bits and pieces that are most important first. {the words were as much a tip off that the answer to his question would be normal as the way she met his eyes.} I'd have to know the year, to tell you your exact age...

YES I LOVE IT. LET'S BE FOREVER, TIFA

[ That wasn't the answer he'd been expecting, and it showed in the faintest flicker of bewilderment striking through his solemn mask. At his best estimate, he looked no better than the young men he'd idly observed in his restless wandering of the desert camp. The face he had been forced eventually to accept as his own was weary and damaged and quietly embittered somewhere deep, deep down, but definitely not old, not by any stretch of the imagination. Had he been asking the wrong questions of himself, all this time? ]

(What am I?)

[ His eyes, caught, stuck on the sharpness in hers broke free of that unnervingly intent gaze at the last second, unfocused as he stifled something like horror threatening to break loose inside of him. The memory didn't creep back, slowly leaching through the barrier, fading into focus -- but instead struck him all at once, the intangible force of it tearing the breath from his lungs in a soft, hurt sigh of sound. In his mind's eye, the whole world was suddenly aflame, so real he could smell the acrid scent of it, everything around him burning to cinders.

He thought he'd become well-acquainted with the feeling of roasting in his own skin over the past few weeks, but this wasn't the heat of the sun, beating down, driving him to the earth as he crawled through the desert; it was somehow far, far worse. A jumble of confused images and sense-memories that passed as quickly as they'd come, illuminating nothing.

Well, nearly nothing. ]

(...Monster. I'm...)


I need to know it... [ The sound of him swallowing so much ancient terror was nothing but a dry click in his throat. ] Everything.

[ That tight feeling in his chest was back, almost doubling him over. He tried to make a fist of his right hand, to clutch at that hateful, drawing void in him, but the fingers only twitched. A lance of bright, new pain shot up his arm.

If he heard her out, now, would he even survive?

If he didn't, would he ever ask her to speak of the past, again? ]


Just... Start from the beginning.

/cues Highlander theme song

{Cloud's reactions were subtle... but Tifa had known him for too long not to feel them all at full strength. Her reaction to him was the same, immediate, an instinctive outflow of motion that had her arms reaching for him again. She didn't move to embrace him though, isntead it was to support. Scarred fingertips touched his elbow as long fingers curved under it and her other hand was halfway to his face before she stopped it. Before she stopped herself.

How long had it been since she'd hesitated over touching Cloud?

Her hand fluttered down to rest on his shoulder instead of his cheek and her body didn't move forward to fill the empty space between them. Supportive but thwarted in her comforting by the fact she was, for the first time in their lives, a stranger to him, it sang down through the lines of her form, whispered in the emptiness between them. She pulled in a breath thick with it and when her eyes lifted to his face there was nothing of her left in them. Only Cloud reflected back in Tifa's eyes. It wasn't the Cloud sitting in front of her though, or rather - it wasn't only the Cloud in front of her that mirrored back out of those dark depths at him. What was in her eyes was all the heartbreak and healing, the sorrow and the impossible joy, the broken bits and the steel strength, the wounded warrior, the caring best friend, the love of her life and the hero of her own personal stories. For just a moment, the unguarded recognition of him that had grown with each year, each decade, each century, reflected back at the face that held in that wine depth. It breathed in the way she whispered his name back to him like some secret buried deep inside.}


Cloud...

{But then the light muted in the depths of her eyes, heart locking away inside of her, the secrets hiding away and when she blinked he was safely back to himself, sitting lost and much loved, on the thin mat of his bed and her hands were just supportive and offering help.}

Everything. I'll tell you everything. {her hands slipped away} But you have to trust me. I can't tell it all in one sitting. It's too long and it's too much. You'll need it in bites that you can swallow. I won't leave anything though. Not even the hard things.

{her hand went to her own wrist and for a minute, she hesitated. Then, brows down, she stripped off her glove. Looking back at him, she offered her naked hand.}

Will you trust me for that? Please?

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE ...or however many we need for the team. there can be like eight.

[ The way she stopped short so abruptly was too obvious for even Cloud to miss, through the fog of fading agony; there was something between them, solid as if it were corporeal, too, and it was the nothing in his head. The things he didn't (the things he couldn't) remember sat in the breadth of space she left between them, a miasma that made him sicker by the second. The sweet, herbal scent of the salve painted thickly over the mesh of scars beneath his bandages was cloying, suddenly, nauseating as it mingled with the aftertaste of some subtle perfume that he couldn't recall ever having breathed, before.

A few deep breaths helped marginally to clear his mind. A few seconds of silence steeling himself against the sound of his name (the name he no longer felt any real attachment to -- the name that was merely a fact of his being and nothing more) calmed him almost enough to bear it on the heartfelt whisper of a total stranger's voice.

He missed the depth of emotion in the look she turned upon him, but the silence that spun out after was as heavy as if he'd seen it all, as if he hadn't needed to. Gradually, the pained lines drawn taut across his face began to fade, though he couldn't quite relinquish the hard set of his jaw, the firm grit of his teeth. This wasn't relief. This wasn't acceptance.

This was resignation.

Her bare hand skimmed into his field of vision -- better on her side, clear and unclouded, and he glanced from her palm to her eyes with a quieted, dull gaze. ]


...Okay.

[ He nodded, then, just slightly, and turned his head away, the illusion of a whole Cloud there in the way the simple, defensive gesture hid bandaging and wounds alike -- if only for an instant, if only the ruined rest of him could be ignored.

He took her hand in his without looking back. ]

/cues DANCE MIX of Highlander theme song

{her fingers shifted, wove through his, and for a second the feeling was so familiar that her grip tightened almost desperately, as if she was clinging to something that was about to slip away forever. Carefully, methodically, she forced her hand to relaxed in his, a simple link again. She wasn't interested in illusions though, not with Cloud. So she reached out with her other hand and very gently, careful and aware there must be healing skin underneath, brushed her fingers over his bandaged cheek, pressure light to coax him back to facing her.}

It'll be all right. We'll make it all right. Cloud - I promise. We'll fix things.

{She had to promise it, because she had to believe in it. He'd lost himself before, been even further gone than he was now. If they could find his way back from that, they could find his way back from this. They had to. She didn't know if she could start living without him now, after all this time. She knew she didn't want to. She didn't want him to have to either. They'd find a way back to his memories... or they'd find a way to let him make peace with their lack. He'd fought too hard, come too far, to be left nothing but a shell, not after all this time.

Cloud deserved better - and she was going to make sure he got it. Time hadn't worn away her determination when it came to the ones she loved, hardening and honing it instead into diamond. Gentle, her thumb smoothed over a bandage and then she stood up, still holding his hand.

For just a moment... she sounded like the him that he'd forgotten.}


Come on. I'm hungry. Find me some food and I'll tell you about your mother and the house you grew up in.

whippin out the glowsticks and pacifiers. we're raving in the ruins of Midgar tonight

[ The twinge of pain that ginger touch sent singing along his nerves was inconsequential, easy to ignore as he allowed himself to be led, however little. But he cringed, anyway, the eye half-buried between gauzy wrappings narrowed along with its unencumbered mirror image (there was no symmetry left to his appearance, not even the bridge of his nose unmarred, but his eyes were sharp and clear as ever). It hurt in some other way, some infinitely more cumbersome way to look at her, looking at him as though he were the entire world.

Had he been this useless every time someone had needed him? For her to think so highly of him, it must not've been true; he must have been someone worth relying on, once. He wanted to be that person, again, if he could regain nothing else of his past life.

His grip tightened on her hand as she rose to her feet, and with what was left of the awe-inspiring strength he'd once possessed, Cloud pulled himself up to stand beside her.

A part of him was still out there, lost in the desert -- would probably always be, as he dragged himself on through the harsh, stinging wind, cresting dune and butte to find nothing, to see nothing. To be no one, but constantly moving on. There was nowhere left to go but forward.

His nod was solemn, faint, but not hesitant in the least. ]


Let's go.

{by the time she'd finished her meal, and made sure Cloud ate his too, the story she was telling him had wound its way up mountain passes, over breaking bridges, through one room homes and beyond a well and a starry night sky made for wishes and promises the heart would hide deep inside its depths for lifetimes. Tifa didn't hold back and gloss over what she told. She gave it to him in all its mountain, wind whipped pain and shelter. It hadn't all been bad. There had been good times. She didn't shy away from the truth though and somewhere during the meal her hand had found his again and fastened tightly there. She knew the story from her own eyes... but she knew it from his too and she told him both. No excuses. No sheltering lies. Just what his life had been before he'd boarded the truck taking young boys off to another continent and a life of war. By the time he was leaving Nibelheim for the first time in the story, they were safely back in his room and she let it rest there for the time, gave him the silence to digest so much more than the meal.

With the door safely closed between them and the world again, she finally let go of his hand, stepping to the side to slowly strip off the heavy cloak, hanging it from the peg in the earthen wall. It was the first real sign that she was going to stay. Thick fabric was pulled away to reveal simple travel wear underneath, mostly leather but surprise splashes of delicate silk too. Her hair almost reached the heels of her boots when it came free, braid starting at about her waist and trapping her hair downward. Delicate chains hung from the combs in her hair and sleepy, glowing, colored orbs caught at their ends, whispering in and out of the strands of her dark hair. Physically, she looked no older than Cloud did, the one year difference between them almost forgettable.

The fact it took her a minute to remember to take off her other glove however might have hinted at habits and lifestyles that didn't match the clear looking skin. Her eyes were apologetic and a little upset at forgetting the leather barrier as she stripped it off, metal on its worn knuckles catching the lantern light. Her voice, when she finally spoke, was soft, careful not to intrude on the spoken memories that still lingered between them.}


I had eat first. I didn't have any energy left. {she gestured toward the bed, the only seat in the small room, waiting to see if he'd take it or if he still needed to stand to deal with what she'd given him so far.} I can heal you now. Your body at least. If you'll let me.

[ His efforts to eat had been lackluster, at best -- food had yet to regain its appeal, by and large, when eating too much of it still made him sick to his stomach, and even the simple act of chewing proved such a pain. But under the watchful eye of the indomitably persistent person he was only just beginning to recognize Tifa as, he managed to make the best of the meal, eating in static, solemn repose as he listened to her story. His story.

He didn't stop to sit, though his hurt side was just beginning to ache in an imminently irritating fashion, moving no farther than his first few steps into the room where his erstwhile sickbed lie. In the periphery of his vision, he'd watched as she finally slipped out of the cloak that had kept most of her hidden since she'd arrived -- what felt as if it must've been days ago, now, for as much as had happened in such a short space of hours.

Had he seen her like that from the start, he might not have had any trouble at all believing her some ethereal being come to escort him beyond the last broken remnants of his miserable life.

Shaking his head as soon as he realized what she was asking him (as much for the offer to sit as that to heal what remained of his injuries), he stood his ground. ]


It's not that bad... Anymore. You don't need to do that.

[ Perhaps not as solid a no as he should've given, but more than a small part of him did want to selfishly accept. He'd no idea what she was capable of, no reason to doubt her ability, and was still somehow certain that the refusal came from another place, entirely, but there was no shaking the notion. Even if it only turned out to be a token front for the sake of his pride (whatever that he could claim to have, any longer). ]

Cloud...

{she said it softly but there was no mistaking the chiding in its depths and she stepped forward into his space, movements silent over the rag woven rug covering the stone floor. It was her place, there with him, even if he didn't remember it anymore. She did still. She hadn't been hurt the way he had, hadn't suffered and burned and bled... but she had been without him. Had lived with the fear that, maybe, this time, after everything else, Cloud wouldn't be coming back to her. Her heart at least wasn't healed and her eyes kept slipping sideways to watch him from their corners, silently making sure he wasn't going to vanish into wind and blown sand. It was selfish of her to push but the feel of him, real and solid and there shored up her splintered heart, gave her the strength she needed to keep going as if there really was hope somewhere ahead of them. Bare hands lifted to rest against his chest.}

I want to do that. Haven't you figured it out by now? {one hand lifted to brush his smooth cheek} We take care of each other, you and I. You're the one that started it, after all. {her fingers brushed through the hair that hung, soft and pale, against his cheek.} Let me take care of you because it's what we do. Because it's what I want to do. {her palm found his cheek, eyes on his face.} Let me take away at least a little of the pain. Please, Cloud...

[ It was difficult not to be taken aback by that sudden, strangely intimate gesture, but by the skin of his teeth he just managed to avoid another uncomfortable confrontation. It was reflex, it was self-defense, and it'd take some getting used to, again (at least a little), before he could convince that deeper core of himself (the new one, painted over the old) to relent, to remember that whatever it was he thought he was running from, that was long over, now.

Longer than he could imagine, it seemed, if all that she'd told him was true.

Relenting with a quiet, stubborn reluctance that echoed strongly of his former self, Cloud gave her one short, stiff nod. He hadn't the strength to keep arguing the point -- but more than that, he wanted to take her up on the offer. He wanted back as much of that capability as he could yet grasp, to be not the person he thought he was (weak, frightened, confused) but the one she described. Even if it wasn't really him... That man sounded as if he might actually have been worth her trouble, once. ]


...Mm. Go ahead.

Mm. {she echoed the sound back to him as well as the single nod, though both of hers were softer and slower. It was all she could do not to take him in her arms and just hang on, for him, for her... mostly for her. It was hard to leave space between them after all this time, harder still to remember why. She wouldn't force though, couldn't force, not even all these centuries later. He's had his life taken out of his hands already before; she wasn't going to do it to him as well. Not then and not now. No matter how much she just wanted to burrow close and convince herself he was real.}

It won't hurt. It just feels a little funny. {she left her hand on his cheek, her other over his heart. It wasn't necessary to touch him but it was a good excuse. Closing her eyes she exhaled, lines of her body softening, and her hands warmed as opal colors whispered in the air around first her and then across the man in front of her. In her hair, first one orb flared to life and then another, linking strands of light like fireflies through the dark strands.

She hadn't exactly been truthful. He hadn't caught it however and so she didn't consider it a lie. She had honestly drained herself getting here. A single meal and no rest weren't exactly restorative enough. He was in pain though, hurt, and she wouldn't let that last a moment longer than it needed to, so she tapped into herself and the magic stored in the materia in her hair, feeding that through the healing and into him. Her knees locked to stay upright and she let it drain her. She could sleep after this, take her time about building up her reserves again. He was immediate and her most precious heart treasure. He could have all of her, always.

It wouldn't be enough to put him back at full strength, but only because Cloud at full strength was almost more than she could manage even when she was at full strength herself. It would be enough though. Hand slipping off his cheek to steady herself with his shoulder, it would be enough.}

[ The hand that caught her by the shoulder was more sure in grip than he'd seemed capable of mere moments ago, the immediate reflex to support her as she faltered briefly hesitant but impossible to shake. There was as much reproach as shock in the single syllable that escaped him ]

You--

[ but the former was meant more for himself than Tifa. Stupid, selfish. He'd known he shouldn't have let her-- But he'd relented, anyway, and maybe it wasn't the first time she'd gotten him to forget good sense a moment or more with that tone of voice and that look on her face. Not that he'd foist the fault off on her. It had been his mistake, and even as he worked the fingers of his injured hand, still wrapped safely in its sling, with no more than a distant twinge of pain, he was set to make up for it. ]

...Should get some rest. [ He could look out for himself another night; that was nothing. Especially so, now. With the phantom itch of finally-healed wounds still lingering beneath the surface of so much scarred flesh, he was anxious to remove the bandages plastered over what'd begun to feel like one whole half of his body. A process he rather doubted would be pleasant enough to want to share. ]

{his voice and his touch drew her out of it, breaking off her concentration and the flow of the healing energy, set her swaying lightly on her feet as it finished catching up to her. Eyelids heavy, sparks of opal red still fading in her dark eyes, she looked up at him, reassured to see the color on his face looked more natural, the lines around his eyes not so gaunt. What was in his eyes though...}

Sorry. {a half whisper, a little rough at its edges, and anyone that knew the slightest thing about her would know she wasn't apologizing for what she'd done but for not doing enough. Tomorrow. They had a tomorrow again. She'd finish tomorrow. He was right though. She needed sleep. It had been too long without him. With a soft hum and a whispered smile, she gave him a nod, taking his order even if he hadn't meant it that way. Brief, the backs of her fingers touched the skin of his cheek before she let her hand drop, stepped back away from him and then around to pad silently over to his bed. Dropping down to sit on the mattress, she waited for the wave of vertigo to pass and then started unbuckling her boots, movements so familiar and habitual that she didn't even think about them. Eyes lifting under the fringe of her bangs, she asked:}

Are you going to take off the bandages now?

[ He took the seat by the door, a spartan armchair cobbled together out of driftwood bleached clean by the desert sun and backed with another couple of those handwoven pillows. The slow creak it gave as he settled into it might as well have been the sound of slowly bending ancient bone and muscle, instead.

Was he showing his age? (If he'd had any idea of what it was, he might've thought so.)

Offering Tifa the momentary, cursory privacy of averting his gaze (or, more aptly, simply letting it lie like a stone on that far wall), he continued to cautiously stretch his fingers, lifting his arm in its sling just as gingerly as possible. No pain but a dull ache, and the stiff pull of so much knotted scar tissue.

Belatedly, he looked up again, thinking himself suddenly, guiltily remiss for having been so short with her, then, but she preempts whatever it was he'd opened his mouth to say with that suspiciously apt query. ]


...Yeah.

[ No point in lying, if she knew him that well; he nodded, instead, leaning forward in his chair as unscathed fingertips (thick with callouses he couldn't remember wearing into his own skin, fumbling touch far from the reverent tenderness in hers) traced the line of gauze along his jaw, down his throat. A soft, indecisive sound escaped him, as he studied the red stone wall again. ]

Thanks.

You're welcome.

{It made her smile soften and she set her boots in their customary spot near the foot of the bed. The empty space for another pair of boots right next to them was almost tangible. She had nowhere else to sleep but his bed, considering the only people that knew she was here outside of him where the ones that they'd seen in their search for food and none of them had recognized her. This was the room she and Cloud usually stayed in when they stayed here.

She also hadn't wanted to be out of eyesight of him.

If he'd acted uncomfortable with her settling in though, she would have given him the room and slept outside in the hallway. Not because there were no other rooms she could have found but because she wasn't ready to be out of earshot of him yet. He might not remember her yet but she remembered for both of them and the ties that bound her, willingly, to him were still tender and wounded from too many days and nights without news of him. They had been apart before, but there had always been only a phone call to close that distance or even the simple knowledge of a future return. Losing him now... it had struck hard at old memories of exploding floods of mako and broken souls and empty bodies in the Lifestream. It had resurrected old desolation and broken heart. Drawing her now bare legs up to her chest and threading her arms loosely around them, Tifa quietly watched Cloud from across the room, studying each shift, each twitch of his brow, the line of his mouth, each soft sound. She wanted to be there for him and yet she didn't want to encroach more than she already was and would continue to. Her voice was very soft as she asked:}


Do you want help with it?

Don't think that's such a good idea.

[ His hand dropped back to his side, the coarse bark of the armrest scraping against tough, sun-baked skin, and as he shook his head, the look on his face was still of quietly contemplating something grim. Where visible, the majority of his right side (face, neck, shoulder, arm) was covered in a mosaic of gauze, to varying degrees of white, spotted sparsely, here and there, with the beginnings of dark red bleeding through. Underneath his clothes, the damage done had been considerably more severe, and the bandages wound around his chest, his hip, a deep gouge through his calf.

(He'd walk with a slight limp for quite a time, if not the rest of his life -- however long that would be, yet -- they'd said, but he'd been incredibly lucky to come away with just that.)

Peeling off all of the bandaging would take a good deal of meticulous, cautious work, but in that, he supposed, he wouldn't actually have minded a hand. It was at the prospect of showing off what a hideous mess he'd become that he shied away; that wouldn't faze him, couldn't possibly after what he'd been through, but what of her?

He wasn't an idiot, much as he could be oblivious to even the overt, at times, and that was still the same-- So they weren't just friends, as she'd so casually phrased it. He didn't know what they were, without his memories of her, but he didn't want to burn the only bridge he might've had left back to his previous self. If he wasn't enough like that man, in the end, she'd probably want to leave him, anyway. But for now... Looking like him had to be enough. And he was sure he wouldn't, with the blank white barring her from full realizing the extent of his mutilation.

She'd still have to see him in the light of day, in the morning with the fatigue of worry-fraught travel and the favor she'd done him washed away by a good night's rest, and that he wasn't sure how he'd deal with, just yet. But if he stole out for a few moments of privacy to unwind the bindings and wash away the drying salve on his mostly sealed wounds, perhaps he'd have time to reacquaint himself with peace of mind enough to think up a better answer than I don't know. ]


I mean... [ That crushing weight of insecurity he hadn't known so intimately since he was far too young, and his shoulders slump together as all his words come out in a jumble rush, barely above a whisper. ] I can do that on my own.

oh Cloud...

{he broke her heart. Over and over again, he broke her heart. So she was back on her feet again and silently across the floor before she even had to think about it, sliding down to sit between his feet on the floor in front of him, her own long legs tucked under her. Rising up on her knees, her arms slipped around his shoulders, body rising to met the slump forward of his, fingers twining like her arms to wrap close and hold as much of him as she could. It was no doubt far too early for hugs between them. He didn't know her from anyone. She couldn't not touch him though when he curled into himself that way, couldn't leave him alone and unsupported when the weight of everything fell on his shoulders. It was all she could do to bite back the whisper that almost slipped free of I love you.

It was too early for that though. It might always be too early for that now if he chose a path away from her once he was healed. Too early to tell him; far too late for it to be anything other than true. Her cheek rested against his, skin to skin.}


You don't have to. You're not alone. Not anymore. I'm here now. For as long as you want me, for anything you need me for. {she drew back just enough to meet his eyes, so close that the blue of his was still blurry. Gentle, again, her fingers touched his bandaged cheek, lingered, traced the very edge where the gauze was taped to skin.} This isn't the first time we've put you back together.

{Her fingertips brushed the tape again, asking permission but not about to intrude. Maybe he needed the time that unwrapping on his own would give him to readjust to himself. Or maybe he'd been too long alone with nothing but himself and a body he didn't recognize. She didn't know what was best for him. Just... that she wanted to be there for him. For him... and for her own wounded heart.}

Don't turn away from me, Cloud. Please...

(no subject) - whysocirrus, 2011-11-29 10:52 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - morethanwords, 2011-12-01 09:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - whysocirrus, 2011-12-07 10:11 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - morethanwords, 2011-12-07 03:05 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - whysocirrus, 2011-12-12 05:56 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - morethanwords, 2011-12-14 10:38 pm (UTC)(Expand)
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