Title: Light Pink Dress
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Characters: Tifa, Cloud, Aerith
Prompt: 001: Beginnings
Word Count: 1225
Summary: Set just before the events of Advent Children; Tifa and Cloud are plagued by nightmares
Author's Notes: Not as campy as the summary makes it sound--I wrote this eons ago but forgot to actually post it :) A little surreal, and while not quite spoiler-y, having seen Advent Children will make this make more sense :)
Sometimes when she woke up, she didn’t know who she was.
She blamed it on a number of things. Guilt and remorse from a past none of them could shake, painful memories which often clouded her vision of the real world, the constant worry about the children—but mostly she blamed it on sleeping alone. Over the past two years, it had become increasingly difficult, but lately the frequency had grown far too common. Though they always started the night in separate beds, knowing that she had only to walk across the room and she would be welcomed was enough to sooth her from her nightmares. He always pretended not to wake up, but she could guess his act, and it was the comfort she needed.
However, just as habitual as those nights had once been, she now saw nights where no matter how long sleep evaded her, or how early her nightmares shook her awake, his bed remained the same—clean sheets, meticulously turned down, awaiting his return. His absence frightened her, and brought to mind endless possibilities, all of them unbearable. She worried about him—far more than she worried about herself, and though it pained her to think of it, more than she worried about the children. She knew he could look after himself, but it did nothing to console her fear that he wasn’t coming home, and she didn’t know what she would do without him. Since they had been reunited two years ago he become such a pillar in her life that she began to imagine that he would always be there. Not just to imagine—she had truly begun to believe it. Now, in the short time since his departure, she already couldn’t sleep, found herself distracted at work, and often caught Denzel and Marlene giving her pitying looks when she tucked them into bed. They couldn’t know the extent of her grief, but the missing link in their family was hard on them, and they knew it was even worse for her.
What scared her more than anything though, was when she awoke. Awoke, with heavy muscles, and for the first few seconds, time seems to stretch eternally and she found her falling in total darkness—darkness, except for her own pale skin, adorned with a light pink dress.
* * *
Guilt consumed him. Guilt over every event of his life for as long as his memory would reach. It seemed that caring for someone went hand in hand with hurting them, and as a result, losing them. It amazed him that just two years ago he had been happy—or at least as happy as he’d ever been. He had believed he could start over, that despite the losses he’d suffered, he knew why, and he would come to be at peace with his past. But he was wrong. Now, he could no longer even see the waking world, and walked only in a kaleidoscope of a broken past filled with mountain paths, crumbling altars, a town on fire—he returned to the church because he saw it so often in his mind it seemed the only way he might still experience reality—but it only led to more guilt. His entire body clenched with pain when he thought of what she was going through—what effect his sudden departure would have. Sometimes at night he could still feel her slip quietly into bed beside him. Nights like that he would pretend to sleep until her breathing turned deep and even, and then he would hold her as she slept, afraid that even in his arms she might somehow slip away from him. Now though, as he began to press her close—he would find he held only air. It was one of the many reasons he had to leave. He knew it was selfish, but he also knew that she had enough of her own demons, knew that whatever he felt, she would adopt into her own psyche. He didn’t want her to have to experience this fake reality he now walked in. The truly selfish act would be staying with her just because it gave him comfort, despite the new hell she would soon find herself in.
Selfish, and unfair, for right before he left, new nightmares began—nightmares which always ended in him jolting awake to see the woman beside him fade from the image of pale skin, and a light pink dress.
* * *
She awoke, frightened. She'd felt a sudden pull, as though her world of liquid voices was suddenly caught in a whirlwind. She still clearly remembered the last time she sensed that pull—right after she’d died. And when she woke, she immediately became aware of the world she’d left behind, and it shocked her. Two years ago, she had given her friends a final smile before giving way to her new world, believing they would be okay.
She saw now how wrong she had been, and blamed herself for resting too soon, for her incorrect interpretation of her mission. She grieved, and in doing so, she realized she was not alone in her guilt. A figure appeared beside her, and in a few precious moments nearly ten years of memories rushed through her and she knew two things. First, she had to help the people she’d left behind. That vortex pull could only mean one thing, and there were only a few people on the planet with the power to stop it. Those people—one in particular—had lost the will to fight to a power the living world could never hope to heal.
Her second realization, was that she could not succeed alone—and nor did she want to. She’d found her support, and knew they could only succeed as a team.
She remembered two years ago watching a scene between her waking friends that occurred in her world, and how she had helped them escape their memories by speaking through another soul. She hoped the same thing would work again. Not knowing how to bring herself to the planet separately, night after night she melded her spirit with that of her living friend, causing her to resonate with a new consciousness.
But it didn’t work. Instead of speaking to them she had only driven them further into their memories and further away from each other, almost at a point of no return.
Biting her lip in frustration, she looked beside her for help, and in the radiating energy and idea came to her. She searched the minds of those on the planet, and in doing so, found herself watching a familiar figure in a distorted location, a tiny blue speck wandering blindly in a sea of green, white, and yellow, wandering until he finally collapsed alongside a dot of black. The figure next to her nodded, and as he left her side to make his second visit to the world they had left behind, she prepared for her first, summoning all the energy she had saved during her sleep to transport herself to that sea of subconscious, until finally, she broke free.
She glided upward, and faintly, in a world of liquid light, an image began to form, resonant against the blue green landscape, of a girl with pale skin and a light pink dress.