Yuffie-perspective. Two years after they saved the world, the heroes go about their lives. Yuffie, however, is still trying to find hers and she isn't keen on admitting that she wants it to include...
Known facts - The stars are always brighter after you save the world. The air smells sweeter. The grass feels softer. Your heart overflows with hope and love and gratitude and fuzzy kittens. Everyone knows this stuff, right? 'Course they do. It's the stuff of great story endings.
It's also a whole steaming pile of chocobo crap. Don't believe me? Fine. Don't. I mean, gee, how would I know, huh? I'm way too cute to know that, after you save the world, you can't even see your perky little nose on your face, even if you cross your eyes as far as you can, because of all the stuff in the air. Forget the stars, buddy. Just try not to choke on every breath of dusty, nasty air. Grass? No grass. It got burnt up. Though maybe your heart does overflow with kittens and all but you sure don't notice. You're too busy not-bawling and counting heads as you kind of absently hope that your arm/leg/back/little toe isn't broken.
That's what it's really like after you save the world. The fairy stuff happens way later. If it ever does.
I mean, it doesn't have to end with a Happily Ever After (though that's so what we deserve) and, really, just having an Ever After is nice when you thought everything was going to go poof right out of existence but it's not necessary to get right to the Happily part. In fact, in my experience, the bit right after is less happy and more check your friends, check your limbs, check your panties. Yes, in that order. That stuff really sticks in your head, by the way. The looks on faces, the way the air tastes, the shakes you get. If you're not a tough ninja chick, it'll wake you up at night.
Me? Good memory and all, quick eyes. I remember those looks. We won. We done good. But Cloud looked like he was still seeing Aeris playing martyr. I swear to you. Even his stupid spikes drooped. Barret looked wiped and that was something new, too. Tifa just... Well, okay, don't ever want to see that look on her face again. Like she knew what was going to come next was even worse than what we'd just done. Red, Cait just kind of... Stood there, quiet and tense. Cid wasn't even swearing and that said more than anything. Vincent... What would you expect from him? He just stood there, guns smoking, waiting. Wasn't quite sure if he was happy or not that we saved the world but that was about the most normal thing at that moment. Vinnie, huh.
Anyway, yeah. You see any singing flowers and frolicking kittens in that picture? Don't think so.
It's okay, though. Now, at least. Because it's over. We got through it, moved on, walked away and now I hear the grass is starting to come back there in the Crater. It's about time, of course. I mean, it's been two years. I'd say it was about damn time we start the Happily. Grass is part of that. Not waking up from some nutso dream about... Never mind. Anyway, the others are doing pretty good for themselves. I stop by to see 'em sometimes, you know? Don't stay anywhere too long. I've got too much to do. Too much to see.
... Okay, I'm pretty much avoiding going home to Wutai because Godo'll probably try to make me into Lady Kisaragi and that doesn't appeal one bit. Like Cid said - I can't keep my own goddamn self out of trouble. How am I going to keep a whole mess of other people out of fucking trouble? Direct quote. Honest. Do you think I have a filthy mouth like that? So I swing by here and there. Check up on my friends. Barret and Marlene equals cute and she's really getting good at baking cookies. Shera's actually gotten Cid trained up to wipe his feet before coming into the house which makes me just think that she's got a whip somewhere but, hey, that isn't the kind of image I want in my head. I'd rather think of Red running free somewhere green. Which is pretty much what he does so I don't get to see him much at all. Let's see. Cait Sith is hard to find, too, but I ran into Reeve in Junon a few months back and he was still the same mouth on legs. Imagine. He thinks I talk too much.
Then there's Cloud and Tifa who are doing alright for Cloud and Tifa. She's good for him, keeps him out of cutting his own head off with that big silly sword and all. She's too good for him, actually, but he knows it at least so I don't have to tell him about it or beat him up for it. He helps her run Seventh Heaven and they keep a nice little house above the bar and they let me crash there when I visit. Tifa is a shit housekeeper but the place looks nice so I think Cloud secretly likes to wear ruffly aprons and tidy the place up. So I guess he treats her well, too, in his own way. They try not to talk about Aeris except on important days. Like ones ending in "y". Cloud does most of the talking, of course, and Tifa lets him like you let a puppy with three legs drool on your leg. I once caught Cloud talking about her in present tense and looked over at Tifa, half-expecting her to have little trails of steam coming out of her ears, two seconds from shouting "She's gone, she's dead, she's past tense", but she wasn't and she didn't. She just had this horrible sad look on her face as if every "is" and "likes" and "does" was a special little shot right through her heart. I wanted to hug her and mean it. I mean, you get used to thinking of people in a certain way, right? Tifa is strength and stubbornness and practicality in my noggin. To see her looking like she's standing on a crumbling cliff and isn't quite sure if she gives a damn... It hurts a lot more than Cloud looking like that, okay? You get used to Cloud looking like that. Even if he doesn't do it as much as he first did, he does it and, Aeris help us all, you get used to it so much that it seems normal.
That's when I knew that Tifa misses Aeris just as much as the rest of us do, maybe more. More and more, probably. Just below Cloud in that sick-sad contest, probably. For all the times that she looked like she wanted to swing our little Pink Princess around by that pretty braid, for all the times that she used laser death eye beams on her because of how she distracted Cloud and wrapped him around her dainty little finger, well, she still cared. Which makes me finally understand something Godo once tried to teach me yonks ago. He said that, sometimes, the only person you can trust is your rival and, sometimes, the only person you care about is your enemy because they know the goal you're chasing after better than anyone else. I thought he was nuts at the time but Tifa cleared it all up for me. She counted on Aeris to be there and to provide a block for Fighter Tifa to work against, to overcome, right? Like Cloud was a big stuffed chocobo you won at a fair. Then I guess it changed and she just needed Aeris because Aeris was so very much not Tifa.
Once my poor little innocent eyes found one of Cid's books on a visit and my poor innocent little mind started seeing ways to resolve that. Sharing Cloud, you know? Come on. I know you follow. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. All that stuff.
Of course, that would require one of the three to not be, y'know, /dead/.
I think I stole Cid's cigarettes more for that hurt than for any kind of scarring images of a really big bed and those three.
Anyway, Tifa hides it in front of the rest of us but she might show Cloud or maybe she doesn't. I don't know. I just know that her and Cloud are doing the best they can and that is a lot better than what they could be doing. It's better that they take care of each other than go off the deep end. Yeah, I know. Cloud couldn't take care of a dead chocobo most days but I like to think he surfaces out of la-la land enough to be Tifa's shoulder. I've seen him blink suddenly when she passes by him in their way-too-neat kitchen and look up and do one of those stupid Cloud smiles at her. It kind of looks like a five-year-old, trying to figure out if that pretty lady is his mama or his future wife. Which is really messed up but it works for them. Tifa may not get the Happily Ever After she wants (and totally deserves) but I think she's getting something close enough that it makes her happy in another way. It makes Cloud happy, too. I figure I'll visit them every year until they're a hundred-billion years old and sit in their kitchen and watch them give each other those looks and drink their tea and laugh at Cloud doing the dishes and all that. I, of course, will still look deliciously fresh and young but that goes without saying, right?
So the world goes like that. Things change and things start looking up. The heroes of Planet get their lives, kind of, and grow up. Even Cloud and Tifa. Maybe that's why I like to visit them the most. They're kind of like those sparkly bright candles you get when you're a kid. They go in and out but it doesn't matter because, wow, they're pretty and special and everything looks better when they're flaming up.
Okay, okay. Maybe they also make me think that maybe someday even I'll sort myself out in some kind of acceptable Happily Ever After. Which sometimes I think I might like. Those are the days that the old head wounds are in full force, though, of course. My head wounds have a special name even.
I try not to run into their namesake. Just for my own sanity, you know? Because the day I look at Vincent Valentine and think Happily Ever After is the day that you can just put me in a cage and feed me pudding so I don't hurt myself or anyone because, hell, /Vincent Valentine/? Head wound ahoy.