Tifa's first trip out of Midgar leaves her with some unanswered questions. (Aeris/Tifa)
The sun was beginning to set. They had been walking for what seemed like a lifetime now, just the two of them, and it was only just beginning to get dark. Tifa yawned, covering her mouth with the back of one hand, the sound of it the only noticeable noise apart from the scuffing of her shoes against the ground.
She and Aeris had been walking since leaving Midgar, and the whole trip had been eerily quiet. Cloud had left them where the Plate met the sky, standing in Midgar's shadow; he had given them directions to Kalm and then left without a second thought, Barret and Red XIII trailing after him as he marched ahead. That had been hours ago; idly, she wondered where they were now. Were they at Kalm already, waiting?
Tifa couldn't say she hadn't been disappointed by the group split. Cloud had given neither of them, her or Aeris, a second glance. It wasn't that she felt afraid: they could carry on just fine, they were both more than capable of taking care of themselves. Absently, Tifa tugged on her left glove as she walked, pulling it taut around the knuckles. They had been attacked only twice so far, by malformed lupine creatures, and both times the fight had been ended quickly and neatly. And from what she had seen so far, Tifa couldn't help but think that fighting out here, under the curve of the sky, was much more preferable than fending off muggers in the gloom of the slums.
Still, she was a little wary, on guard, she had to admit. Aeris had said next to nothing as they had made their way, and what she had said had been strange, distant. Not directed at Tifa; to herself, maybe.
Thoughtfully, Tifa recalled AVALANCHE's trip to Shinra Headquarters. They had gone there for only one reason, after all. She remembered the President's speech: Aeris was an Ancient, the last of her kind, able to talk to the Planet...
Had that been it, then? Had she been listening to the Planet the whole time? Tifa glanced over at Aeris, noticed the way her fingertips trailed at her side, along the tips of the tallest plants. Her eyes had been oddly unfocused ever since they had left the city. The sharp green of them had seemed out of place in the slums, but here they almost seemed to match. They were the green of life, of leaves and buds. The green of newly formed materia.
Tifa looked away from Aeris, suddenly aware that she was staring. The grass tickled her bare legs, and the way the wind blew sent ripples through her hair; it was strange, she thought, nature's existence, when she had spent the last five years of her life sheltered from it.
"Do you miss her?"
At the sound of Aeris' voice, Tifa turned to look at her, confused. Was she talking to the Planet again?
But the way Aeris' eyes glittered and turned to meet hers suggested otherwise. She paused, and then-- "Who?" Tifa asked.
"Your mother." The way Aeris said it, expectantly, made Tifa stop midstep.
She could remember her mother vividly, and all the pain that came with thoughts of her. Crying in her room, her father standing and staring out of the window; running up into the mountains to see her again, and falling... Tifa shook her head. She didn't want to remember. "Of course I miss her," she said, wondering whether her voice would break.
Aeris nodded, a smile creeping onto her face. "I miss mine, too."
It was strange how easily Aeris could provoke her like this. But she seemed that way with everyone-- Cloud had agreed to be her bodyguard, when it had taken all of Tifa's determination to wring that promise out of him. Marlene was shy and wary of everybody, but she had taken to Aeris instantly.
Tifa knew that she could trust her; there was nothing about Aeris that suggested otherwise, and Tifa had been living in the slums for long enough to notice things like that. Her confidence was unnerving, though. Tifa knew which subjects to avoid around certain people, but Aeris had had no problems probing into them one by one so far.
If it had been anybody else, Tifa would have been a little bitter. But there was something about Aeris that drew her in; she knew that Aeris would never try to hurt them, her family. Not intentionally, at least. It still hurt a little, the way that Cloud looked at her, but the way that Aeris was looking at her now made her want to forget.
"Do you think we'll be there soon?" Aeris asked, turning away from Tifa to watch the setting sun. The fading light made her look somehow older and younger all at once. Her eyes were bright.
"We'll probably get there before it's dark." Tifa frowned slightly. "But we should speed up, just in case." She didn't want to take too long and get them lost in the dark, what with the monsters around.
Aeris looked at her again and nodded. She moved a little closer, so that they were walking side by side, and hefted her staff up over one shoulder. The green of the materia glittered in its handle, and Tifa lazily wondered how Aeris had known about her mother.
It didn't matter anyway, she realised. Tifa knew she could trust her.