Tifa finds herself drawn to the piano in the Shinra Mansion. Someone wants her to understand the sins that happened there, while Vincent waits to awake from his nightmares.
Author's Note: This idea came to me after replaying FFVII and realizing that there was a piano in Tifa's room as well as in the Shinra Mansion. I've always found Vincent's story interesting, so I thought I'd incorporate this into the quest to find him. A requiem is a song meant to put the dead to rest. Interpret that however you want. I don't actually play piano, so please excuse any errors in this fic.
The piano was old, like everything else in the mansion. It had once been a fine instrument, Tifa supposed, and it seemed too refined for such a scary place. She moved closer out of curiosity, trailing her fingers across the dark mahogany surface and finding that it was marred by several deep scratches. This discovery made her feel inexplicably sad, as though she were witnessing the decay through sickness and age of a close friend. She wondered if the marks were merely products of years of disuse and falling prey to the occasional monster, or was the baby grand piano a victim of more deliberate violence? The thought made her shudder, and Tifa would never know unless the ghosts of this house decided to wake up and tell her.
"Tifa?" She was startled out of her thoughts by Cloud's voice behind her. She must have been standing there like an idiot, and they were supposed to be looking for combinations to a safe they had found on the second floor. A man had apparently been trapped in the basement and they needed a key to let him out. Some sick mind had thought it would be amusing to turn it into a game, leaving a letter and some clues. Tifa had lived in Nibelheim for most of her life, but she never thought that the Shinra Mansion might really be haunted. She wanted to solve this mystery, but she wasn't sure she wanted to know what they would find.
To cover up her embarrassment she asked, "What was the second clue again, Cloud?" The blond-haired man held the yellowed paper up to the light.
"Uh... 'Behind the Ivory's short of tea and ray,'" he said, his voice showing that he had no idea what to make of the clue. It had been Aerith who solved the mystery of the first clue and led them to the greenhouse, but now the party had split up to find the rest, and Tifa and Cloud were left alone to figure out this one.
"I thought so," Tifa said, and turned back to look at the piano. "I think it's referring to this."
"A piano?" He was eyeing the instrument with skepticism. It seemed an unlikely place to hide a clue, but she had a gut feeling that this was it. Tifa thought that a little lesson in music might help to explain it better. She carefully sat down on the wooden chair serving as a piano bench and gestured for Cloud to come closer. When he raised his eyebrows in question, she said, "I'll show you." He walked beside her to see better, his arm touching hers. For the first time in a long while, she felt the stirrings of all the old feelings she had for him. Maybe it was his close proximity, but she knew that she'd never be able to keep her mind on the piano if she was distracted like this.
Suddenly, Tifa had the strange sensation that these feelings of discomfort were not merely her own. It was as though she was looking through someone else's eyes, and then she was there, and the piano was no longer covered with scratches but new and shining. And it was no longer Cloud standing beside her but an unfamiliar man, all dark hair and pale skin. She looked up into a strange pair of light brown eyes narrowed with an emotion that she knew all too well. It was the kind of look that she must have given Cloud sometimes when she thought no one was looking, keeping her feelings locked away except for the admiration that would seep through into her gaze. It was the kind of look she wished Cloud would give her in return. The fact that she received it by a man who wasn't Cloud made her sad, and then she remembered that it wasn't Tifa Lockheart he was gazing at with love, but a stranger whose eyes she was somehow seeing through. She turned with the strange woman away in embarrassment at receiving such a look, and when she spoke it was with a stranger's voice, yet she knew she said it to Cloud too.
"I'll need a little space," she said, and thedark-haired man/Cloud stepped back with a quickly muttered, "Sorry." Her dream-body's fingers touched the piano keys, and Tifa herself began to play as well. She had never heard the song before, but her fingers seemed to move of their own accord, and she closed her eyes, letting the music wash over her. Whoever's presence she was feeling wanted this song to be played.
The melody began slowly, and she wondered briefly that she could even still play after five years. But it's been even longer for her, she thought of the stranger. She can't even remember the names of the notes. Then she became lost in the harmonies of the music, and all thoughts fled her. It was a slow, mournful kind of song, and it just felt so right, to be played at this broken piano (for she realized, rather belatedly, that two of the piano's keys were broken), at this particular moment, with Cloud beside her. Aerith had said, upon entering the mansion, that there was a lingering sadness in this house, and as she played, Tifa could feel it too. Sins were committed here, in this room even, and the music was almost Her way of asking forgiveness, of telling Tifa what had happened so someone would understand. The piano was the connection between them. Tifa didn't have a name for the woman's presence, but she felt her as surely as if she was sitting at the piano beside her.
The music was an almost tangible presence, sliding across her fingers on the keyboard, flitting around Cloud's sleeve, up into the tattered, moth-eaten drapes, and down into the worn stones of the floor. Who had once walked this room with Her? Who had watched Her with such tenderness as She played? With a few last notes the music faded and finally died, leaving the room cloaked in a heavy silence, almost as if the music was never really there at all. Tifa opened her eyes and blinked as if waking up from a long daydream. She thought, for a moment, that she could smell the faint scent of lavender perfume.
"Tifa." It was Cloud, not that dark-eyed stranger, and she met his blue mako eyes with relief. "I still don't understand," he said.
"Neither do I," she half-whispered, and she wondered if she had really just been sitting her for the last few minutes. Maybe it had alljust been a dream, brought on by the dusty heavyness of the air in the room.
She quickly explained to Cloud how the "Ivory" in the clue meant the piano, and "tea" and "ray" were terms for the sounds the notes made. Sure enough, after a thorough search, they found the next number in the combination scratched into the stone floor between the two broken keys. It seemed cruel to Tifa that someone would use this instrument for their twisted game; there was already enough pain here. Tifa shook her head, clearing away the strange thoughts. Really, what was wrong with her today? With one last glance at the piano, Tifa followed Cloud out of the room to look for the rest of the numbers, and to see if the others had had any luck with their clues.
In a locked room far below the Shinra Mansion, a sleeping man began humming along to a familiar melody. The stone walls of his prison were not enough to keep out the piano's music, not if She wanted him to hear it.
"Lucrecia," he muttered, as the music stopped and he returned to his nightmares.