Golden Feeling

Tifa was woken up by a loud bang from outside the Gold Saucer bedroom she was snoring away in. She groaned in annoyance, swiping to take off the Moogle-stitched night-mask that clung snugly to her eyes, attempting to keep her from worrying and go back to sleep. That wasn’t an option, unfortunately — even if the group was taking a bit of a break from their mission, they still needed to be alert.

Tifa finally managed to rip the mask off of her face, throwing it to the wall next to her in frustration. She took a look around the room and saw that none of the other girls were around, leaving her alone to investigate the disturbance.

“Thanks a lot, everyone,” she said to herself, rolling her eyes. She pushed herself off the bed, still groggy, and cautiously took a few steps to the entrance of the room.

Please don’t be a thing I actually have to deal with, Tifa thought, readying herself for a fight. I am…so tired.

Tifa took a beat, before kicking the door open and jumping into the hallway outside, fists raised.

“Eep!”

Aerith was standing in front of her, hands covering her face in a flinch. Tifa dropped her fists and relaxed her shoulders. A frown was still on her face, however.

“Aerith, what the hell are you doing out here? And what was that noise?”

When Aerith realized it was Tifa, she, too, relaxed her guard. “Oh, Tifa…sorry, I was on may back to the room to put some of the stuff that I won at the Wonder Square away, but I dropped some Materia…”

Sure enough, Tifa turned her gaze downward to see a few pieces of shattered glass, swirling with elemental energy that was already beginning to fade away. Tifa put a palm to her head, sighing.

“Oh boy…here, let me clean this up before someone gets nicked and turns into ice or something.”

Tifa withdrew into the Inn room, grabbing a pan and broom to sweep the mess away. Aerith stood awkwardly in the hallway, half-protecting passerby from stepping on the Materia, half-not knowing what to do with her hands.

“There,” Tifa said, wiping her hands as the last of the debris was cleared. “All better. I’m gonna head back to bed now. G’night!”

Before she could step through into the room, Tifa felt a small, delicate hand grab her own. She turned to see Aerith looking up at her with sparkling eyes.

“Well that won’t do after you helped me out! Come, come hang out with me!”

Tifa toyed with a strand of her hair. “Eh…I dunno…”

Please? Cloud and Barret are off to do whatever bro-nonsense they occupy themselves with, Yuffie won’t leave the Casino, Red stopped accepting my petting, and Vincent is…well he’s Vincent! I’m on my own here!”

Aerith gave the girl the best pout she could. Tifa’s face was scrunched in conflict, but she eventually had to acquiesce. How could you say no to a cute face like that?

“Fine, fine,” she said. Aerith squealed in happiness as Tifa went back inside to put on a full outfit to join her.


“So…what is there to do here?” Tifa asked as she and her date stood in the Gold Saucer’s Event Square. “Whenever we end up here I usually just use the time to catch up on sleep, so…”

“Oh, there’s so much!” Aerith replied, eyes glittering in excitement. “Here, I’ll take you to the best spots! Come on!” She grabbed the girl’s hand and half-pulled, half-dragged her to the Terminal Floor.

“Okay, so first is the Chocobo Square! Let’s go!” Aerith shoved Tifa through the tunnel that led to the feathered friends, catching the girl off guard — she sometimes forgot that Aerith’s strength belied her demure stature.

The pair appeared on the other side, greeted by the strong earthy smell of chocobo feathers, even though they were housed in stables far past the stadium and reception area. Despite herself, the scent sent Tifa’s memories tumbling back to Nibelheim for a brief moment. She shook her head, speaking to clear her thoughts.

“So…you watch the Chocobo Races here, then?” Tifa asked. Aerith shrugged her shoulders, hands behind her back as the pair climbed the steps to the stadium.

“Sometimes! Sometimes I race, too. But we aren’t doing either of those today!”

Tifa’s focus snapped to the girl. “Wait, you race at these things? Like, how often?”

Aerith gave a dismissive wave, preferring to not address the topic further. Tifa couldn’t stop staring at the girl. Aerith was a continuous surprise on all fronts.

And that would only further prove to be the case as the pair made their way past the Stadium’s front entrance, trailing around the main building and to the Chocobo Stables. Tifa glanced around nervously as Aerith swung the door to them open with a powerful shove. The warks of the chocobos increased in intensity as they stepped through.

“Uh…are we allowed to be here?” she asked. Aerith giggled.

“Yes, silly! All I had to do was bat my eyelashes at the stable-hand a little bit. Now I get to come in and pet the chocobos whenever I want!”

“Really? It was that easy?”

“Yep! Look!”

Tifa stopped examining the green chocobo in the stable in front of her to turn to Aerith. She gave a doe-like bat of her eyes, their emerald shine popping out even more than usual in the dusky light of the stables. A small, seductive smile was on her lips. Tifa gulped. Finally, Aerith broke the spell, throwing her head back with a laugh.

“See? Guys fall for this sort of thing so easily.”

“I don’t think just guys do…” Tifa muttered under her breath. Aerith turned back toward the girl.

“Did you say something, Tifa?” she asked.

“Uh, n-no! So, which chocobo here is your favorite?” she asked, hastily attempting to change the subject. Aerith clapped her hands in excitement, rushing over to a nearby crimson-colored chocobo.

“Here, here! Come pet him!” she shouted. Tifa sighed.

Crisis averted.


“Where to now?” Tifa asked, after petting the chocobos to Aerith’s satisfaction. The girl held a finger to her chin in thought.

“Hmm…oh, how about the Battle Square? I don’t go there very often.”

Tifa snorted. “Really? I would have guessed you were moonlighting as the arena champion if you hadn’t told me otherwise.

“Eh.” Aerith shrugged her shoulders as she and Tifa walked through the tunnel that led to the Battle Square. “We already fight so much on the road, I didn’t really want to do more of it on vacation, you know?”

“Fair. It’s good to take a break now and again.”

The duo found themselves in the Battle Square lobby. Though it was pretty late into the night by this point, there was still a large number of people roaming about, watching the monsters that were kept in see-through cages for spectators to look at in fear and awe. Aerith noticed a booth off to the corner of the area and skipped over to it, Tifa walking behind her while keeping a close watch on the people around them. She couldn’t help it — one of their enemies could have been planning a sneak-attack at any moment.

Tifa’s musings were interrupted by a gasp from Aerith. She turned to see the girl holding a giant cactaur plush.

“Oh my God, look at it Tifa! It’s adorable!”

Tifa nodded in agreement. “How much is it?” Aerith looked up at the shopkeeper expectantly.

“For you miss? 100 BP,” he said, stroking his moustache.

“BP?”

“Battle Points! You get them either by betting or participating in the Arena.”

“Oh, dang it!” Aerith said, dejected. “We don’t have any of those. Come on Tifa, let’s go.”

Tifa put a hand on her hip. “Now hang on a second. How much BP do you get in a fight?” she asked.

“About 1000 BP a match, all things considered,” the shopkeeper replied. “But the beasties in there are pretty tough, miss.”

Tifa snorted. “I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and say that I’ve probably fought tougher. I’m down.”

Aerith grabbed Tifa’s hand, a small frown on her face. “You don’t have to do that, Tifa. We just talked about enjoying our downtime!”

“You want the cactaur plush, right?”

“Well yeah, but—”

“Then you’re getting the cactaur plush. Go find a good spot to watch. I’ll see you after.”


The Arena in the Battle Square was musky and dank. In all honesty, they really needed to open a window. Such was Tifa’s first thought as she stood at the center of the ring — not that she could hear herself very well, with the crowd around her screaming in excitement. She wasn’t used to so much focus being put on her.

Tifa looked at the floor. On it, “The Brave Do Not Fear the Grave” was written in blocky yellow text. She scoffed at the message.

“If you’re not scared, you aren’t brave — you’re either not being challenged, or a total fool,” she muttered under her breath. A horn billowed, signifying the entrance of the monster. The gates in front of her opened, and a giant troll with a club stomped out onto the ring in front of her. Tifa sized the thing up. It was a slow-moving beast. She smiled.

This was going to be even more of a breeze than she thought.

Another horn billowed. The start of the match. Tifa lightly hopped from foot to foot, punching her fist into an open palm. The troll was only able to take a step forward before she broke into a sprint. The beast, caught off guard, went in for a swing. Tifa let her weight drop down, her momentum carrying her into a slide under the troll’s club. It whistled harmlessly over her hair as she moved through the troll’s legs. Tifa leapt into the air as the monster attempted to understand what was happening, giving a few flips as she did so — may as well entertain the crowd a bit while she was here, after all. At the apex of her jump, she readied her fist. Gravity lent her a hand as she shot downwards. She pulled back, slamming her fist into the troll’s face as she blew past it.

When Tifa landed on the ground, the troll was already collapsing behind her. She slammed a foot onto the monster’s corpse, throwing her arm into a flex and grabbing her bicep in triumph. The crowd erupted into cheers.


“No, I’m good. I’ll just take the Battle Points, please.”

Tifa was waving off a Golden Saucer Sponsor when Aerith found her. Her moves during the fight had garnered quite a bit of interest. The suited man walked away, dejected, when Aerith hopped in front of her in excitement.

“Tifa, that was incredible! You’re so strong!”

Tifa blushed, turning away from the girl.

“T-thanks.”

“Do that thing again!”

“What thing?”

“The thing you did at the end of the fight!”

“Oh, you mean, like this?”

Tifa flexed her bicep again. Without warning, Aerith grabbed onto it, poking and squeezing at Tifa’s large muscle. She flinched in surprise.

“Wha—”

“You know, I never really noticed before, but you’re really buff, huh Tifa?” Aerith asked. It didn’t really feel like a question.

“Yeah, I…I guess so,” Tifa sputtered. For a flash of a second, she thought she saw Aerith bite her bottom lip, but the moment flashed by so quickly, Tifa couldn’t be sure. She let go of Tifa’s arm.

“Come on, let’s go get the plush!” she said, rushing the pair over to the shop booth yet again. The shopkeeper was already holding out the cactaur plush for Aerith.

“I assume you’ve come for this, miss?”

“Yeah, but…that still leaves us with 900 points, now that I think about it…” Aerith and Tifa exchanged glances.


Tifa dropped the last of the giant stuffed animals they procured onto the desk next to her, before sighing and falling back onto her own bed.

“Where are we even going to put all this stuff?”

“Hmm…I dunno!” Aerith replied, dropping her own haul as well. Maybe we can send some of it back to Midgar. I bet Marlene would be pretty happy.”

“True.” Tifa adjusted so that she could stretch herself out on her bed in full.

“Well, that was fun, but I’m beat,” she said. She felt the weight on her bed shift. Aerith had hopped onto the bed, having kicked her boots off. Tifa’s heartrate suddenly sky-rocketed against her will.

“Scoot over, I’m tired too!” Aerith said. Tifa moved, trying to make word sounds come out of her mouth, but doing a terrible job. They lay like that for a while, staring up at the ceiling in silence, the only sounds Aerith’s breath, and the blood pounding in Tifa’s head. Ever so often, the flower-girl would kick her feet into the air, matching the motions of the fan above them. Finally, she spoke.

“Wanna know something?” she asked.

“What?”

“I heard what you said. In the stables.”

Tifa shot up, looking down on the girl frantically. “You did?”

Aerith giggled, sitting up as well. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to push it if you didn’t want to talk about it.”

Tifa stammered. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—”

“—You don’t have to apologize! You wanna know something else?”

“What?”

Aerith inched closer to Tifa. The hairs on the girl’s arms stood on end.

“I like you too,” she whispered.

“You do? Since…since when?”

“Hmm, I don’t know…when did we meet?”

“At Corneo’s.”

“So, then!”

“What!?”

Aerith pouted. “Is it really that much of a surprise? You’re a knock-out, Tifa — literally, sometimes! You’re really nice, and smart, and have you seen your muscles? Because I have, and let me tell you, phew—”

“—Wait, wait,” Tifa said, holding a hand up. “So we’ve been mutually crushing on each other this entire time? How long have you known that I like you? Did you figure it out at the Stables?”

Aerith interlocked her fingers. “No, I’ve known for a while.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I wasn’t sure if you were ready or not! I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re kind of in the middle of some stuff right now…”

Tifa’s eyebrows furrowed. “Well that’s dumb. I’m definitely ready.”

Aerith’s eyes narrowed as she smiled. “Good. Then you won’t mind if I do this, then?”

Aerith leaned over Tifa, letting her lips press against hers for a fraction of a second before pulling back. She looked at Tifa questioningly, waiting for her consent. Tifa nodded.

“I don’t mind at all…” her cheeks were red, but for once, it wasn’t out of embarrassment. Aerith moved to kiss the girl again, with more force this time. Tifa shut her eyes as their lips met, grabbing Aerith’s waist to pull her closer. Feelings that had existed unrequited for so long were finally being realized as the pair fell backwards onto Tifa’s bed.


They lay together, blissfully, before Tifa’s eyes shot open in realization.

“We have to get ready before Yuffie comes back,” she said, starting to rise from the bed. Aerith grabbed the girl’s arm before she could move further, a lazy smile on her face.

“First of all, she won’t be back for a while. Second of all, she already knows.”

Tifa covered her face with her hands. “Is there anyone that didn’t know about us before me?”

Aerith looked upwards in thought.

“Hmm…Cloud, probably?”

The two girls looked at each other, before finally bursting into a fit of laughter. Aerith grabbed the her new girlfriend to kiss her a few more times before the night was over.

French Kisses

This was a piece for @bunnifuku, who you should definitely check out! She does super cute art and is really great!


There was an ethereal quality to the dusk Anais found herself walking in. It felt like at any moment the overcast clouds would give way to the sun could shine onto the cobblestone streets she was crossing. Though most were in their homes, there was a buzzing energy to the air — soon the tension would snap, and the day would begin in earnest. Normally the streets were filled with students on their way to class, their boots stamping through the spring-time rain, and various business owners opening up shop, getting their stalls ready for passerby. Instead, Anais was traveling alone. It was nice — like getting a second look at the town as if she were only just getting a better view of the trees and flowers that helped give it its beauty.

Anais had a reason to be out and about so early, and she was looking up at it with a proud gleam in her eyes by the end of her short walk. She could hardly believe it if you were to ask her. Years of sweat, work, disappointment, more work, more disappointment — and yes, even a few tears, though she’d never admit it — had led her to this moment. The French Kisses bakery was hers. It didn’t feel real, even as she ran a finger over the wooden sign that had its name emblazoned on it, lazily swinging in the air next to the door. She gave it a good tap, before stepping inside.

Everything inside the bakery was spotless. Anais had made sure of that beforehand, ruthlessly combing over every bit of dirt and dust she came across and forcing her boyfriend Donnie to wipe every surface of the building down somewhere between two and two-hundred times. What remained was a bright and open room that had the morning light filtering into it from the front windows, welcoming to any customer that happened to walk by and notice it.

Anais cracked her knuckles as she made her way past her bakery’s lobby and into the kitchen that sat behind it. Somehow, this section of French Kisses was even cleaner than outside, but that was inevitable — a clean bakery was a happy one. She tied her long, silver-blue hair into a ponytail to keep it out of the way, throwing on an apron and taking note of her stock. She had gone over what she wanted the first batch of goods to be in her head a hundred times the night before, but it was a different thing entirely to be making it. Sure, Anais had been baking for a while now — enough to open a shop, actually — but it was always for her, or her friends. This would be the first time she’d be serving a customer alone. She had to make sure that everything came out perfectly.

Thus she started with cookies. Not exactly a breakfast meal, but a good warm-up. Everyone loves a cookie, no matter the time of day. There were a million ways to make them and just as many ways to decorate them. Anais prepped the dough and frosting as the shadows outside grew longer, with the sun finally deciding to show a trace of its face to the world. As that first batch sat in the oven after Anais politely told the cookies to make sure they tasted delicious, she could feel herself getting into the groove, deciding to multitask with some croissants, moving between the butter that needed to be made while shaping them into petite crescents. Anais debated whether to give them a filling or not, before deciding to drizzle them with a chocolate syrup she had made up a few days ago as a happy compromise. Satisfied, she turned back to the now baked cookies, deftly frosting them with a variety of cute heart-shapes.

The bakery was beginning to fill with the smell of fresh goods, lulling Anais into an almost hypnotic state as she went from one pastry to the next, humming quietly to herself all the while. She was happy she had given herself enough time this morning to prepare, as she found herself making more than she anticipated. That wasn’t a huge issue, however — anything she didn’t sell she could take home with her. A perk of the job, she’d say.

Finished, Anais took the trays of food outside and meticulously placed them on the displays in front of the store, as well as next to the cash register. It was more work than using mock deserts, but she needed to make a good impression on opening day. And speaking of opening…

Anais took the “Closed” sign and held it in her hand for a moment, taking a deep breath. This was it! She flipped it so that “Open” faced towards the outside world, welcoming any and all to enjoy themselves at French Kisses.

…Oh dear.

Anais hadn’t thought this far ahead. What was she going to do while waiting for a customer to show up? She had already made everything she wanted to for the day. The girl paced back and forth for a few seconds in distress, before deciding to plop herself on the stool in front of the cash register. She smoothed her pleated skirt and tried to look as natural as possible, which was admittedly difficult, considering she was staring straight ahead and waiting for someone to walk through the door.

The day had finally begun for the rest of the town, as demonstrated by the foot traffic that Anais could see filtering past French Kisses’ windows. Each time someone walked past the store, her heart would jump just a little bit higher from her chest. She gulped, patting her knees in comfort. Anais had considered the possibility that the day would be slow, even with all of her marketing attempts.

Though hers was the first bakery on this side of town, it was always difficult to get the attention of people, let alone asking them to give you their money. Plus, they were probably busy…should she have started later in the day? Or waited for the weekend? Or maybe—

But before Anais could ruminate further, biting her nails with anxiety, she heard the tinkling of the bell at the front door. If her heart jumping in her chest before, it had now definitely leaped out of her body entirely and took a ride on the nearest roller- coaster. Anais shot up from the stool and gave a sharp bow to her potential first customer.

“Welcome to French Kisses!” she said. It might have been too loud. Was it too loud? Oh well, no turning back now. Anais looked back up to see a small old woman hunched over in front of her, leaning on a cane.

“French Kisses, huh? That’s quite the name…thank you dear, I didn’t realize this was a hot spring, as opposed to a bakery,” the woman said, rather drolly. Anais blushed a deep crimson, bouncing from one foot to the other.

“I…um, sorry. You’re my first customer.”

“Of the day?” the woman asked, an eyebrow raised. “E-ever!” Anais said, stuttering.

The woman clacked her cane lightly against the store’s stone tiles. “Ah! No wonder this place didn’t seem familiar. I’ve been in this neighborhood for decades, you know. Something or another is always changing or getting replaced. Oh but I’m rambling. First customer, ‘eh? That’s quite the honor.”

“The honor is mine, ma’am!” Anais said, bowing again. Such vigor was in her movements that her ponytail uncoiled itself back into its full length, reaching to her skirt. The older woman gestured at the girl dismissively.

“Cut that out before you hurt yourself. And my name is Gladys — it is most certainly not ‘ma’am.’”

“Oh! Mine is Anais.”

“Very good Anais. Do you mind if I take a look at what you’re selling?”

“Of course! I mean, of course not!”

Anais stepped aside and let the woman past to examine the display. She made to look busy, even though she absolutely wasn’t, while occasionally stealing glances at Gladys as she focused intensely on the food she had laid out. It was taking her quite a while. Anais was about to make a recommendation when the older woman finally spoke up.

“I’ll take one of each of these please,” she said, pointing.

Anais moved so quickly behind the display she may as well have materialized there. “One brownie and one croissant coming up!” she said. She took a small breath to calm her nerves so as not to drop the pastries as she pulled them out from the display and on to the counter.

“Will that be for here or to go?” Anais asked, finally starting to feel a bit more like a professional.

“For here, young lady. Lord knows I don’t have anything else to do.”

Anais couldn’t suppress a smile as she laid the pastries out on two plates and moved them over to the counter where Gladys was sitting.

“Thank you, Anais,” she said. Anais nodded. The woman looked up at her as silence grew between the two.

“Anais?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you standing there?”

Anais clasped her hands together. “I have to see you take the first bite!” “You do?”

“Yes, I do! I have to know if it’s good! You can always tell in the first bite, you know.”

“I…hmm. Fine,” Gladys said, shrugging her shoulders. She cut a piece of the brownie off with her fork and plopped it into her mouth. Anais held her breath while she waited.

Gladys chewed for a moment before her eyes widened in surprise. Anais leaned forward.

“Well?”

“This is…” the older woman started, before stopping. She took another bite of the brownie.

“Well!?” Anais repeated, her eyes glowing in excitement.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood a long time, Anais, as I’ve mentioned. And I have to say, this is the best dessert I’ve ever had here.”

Anais jumped into the air, clapping in excitement.

“That’s great to hear, thank you so much! Please enjoy the rest!” The girl retreated back to the counter while Gladys ate.

“Would you like some tea or anything?” she asked. The older woman waved her away. “No, no, I had some before I left this morning, thank you.”

“Where were you going before you stopped in?” Anais asked, leaning her chin on her hands behind the cash register.

“It’s the same routine every day, really: morning walk, then chess at a friend’s house.” “Wow, that sounds really nice!”

Gladys chuckled. “Well, it certainly keeps the mind sharp. But tell me, Anais — what got you to open a Bakery in this little town?”

Anais looked up at the ceiling, watching the fan above lazily spin to keep the bakery’s air from getting stale. She smiled.

“It’s always been a dream of mine! I just always thought the idea was cute, and I was always pretty good at baking, so…having a place where people could come enjoy themselves with a pastry after a busy day really appealed to me.”

“That’s quite the dream, especially for someone so young,” Gladys said, biting into her croissant. Anais shrugged.

“I guess! But it’s coming true! And that’s partly thanks to you. Thank you!”

“You might be giving me too much credit, but I suppose I’ll take it,” the old woman said, shaking her head with a laugh.

“What about you, Gladys? You’ve had a dream you always wanted to make come true, haven’t you?”

“I did.”

“Did you get to make it come true?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong,” Gladys said, waving away the frown that was spreading across Anais’ face. “I’m very happy with the life I’ve lived. No regrets there. But there’s always that ‘what if?’ that lingers in the back of your mind. I didn’t think I could make it happen, so I never tried. But you’re trying. I suppose that’s what’s so impressive about this little bakery.”

“What was it that you wanted to do?” Anais asked, leaning forward.

“Hmm…maybe I’ll tell you the next time I swing by. You are very easy to talk to, Anais.”

The girl grinned in response. “Thank you! I get that a lot.”

Gladys rose from her seat, having finished off her food. She handed the money to Anais, but the girl refused to accept it.

“You’re my first customer,” she said. “It’s on the house. Just tell your friends that French Kisses is open!”

Gladys nodded. “I most certainly will, Anais. Make sure to bake enough for all of them.”

“I will!”

Anais held the door open for the older woman to walk out of the bakery. As she let it swing closed, Anais looked out the window with a smile. Her dream officially wasn’t a dream anymore.

One down.

The rest of the town to go!