Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Characters: CloudxTifa, Denzel, Marlene and mention of Zack and Aeris.
Rating: PG-13 Sexual situations, but nothing explicit. Language is edited the same way the game does it.
Word count: about 6000
Summary: The first step forward in Cloud and Tifa's relationship after the events of Advent Children.
Author’s note: Repost from FF.net. I was inspired to write Full Circle after having my FF7 mania re-ignited by the media blitz over Crisis Core’s release in September 2007. Couldn't take a train or turn on the TV without being bombarded by game promos then! Anyway, it made me want to fill in the gaps and loose ends left in the compilation. Full Circle is set in the year between Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus, and I refer to all parts of the FF7 compilation (except for Last Order). I update monthly, and the project is actually almost finished. And of course, I own nothing in the FF7 universe.
It took several weeks for Cloud to find the opportunity to talk to Tifa alone. The reunion of their gang and the euphoric atmosphere in Edge over the mass healing of the Geostigma turned into an impromptu party that lasted well into the wee hours the first night. Beer and Corel wine flowed freely, and it was all he and the kids could do to try to help Tifa provide food and drink for everyone while relaying the tales of the fights over the past few days as best he could. Social situations tended to fluster him, and he was more embarrassed than pleased when others praised his heroism. If he rather desperately offered his help to Tifa behind the bar to avoid conversations at times, she hid her knowing smiles and gave him work to hide behind.
More than a few customers ended up sleeping off their celebratory inebriation on the floor of the bar, and Cloud himself shared Denzel’s bed that night. Their gang turned 7th heaven into a temporary base as they helped clean up and repair the destruction caused in the fights with Kadaj’s gang and Bahamut for almost a week afterwards. The kids were so over the moon with excitement over the visitors and Denzel’s recovered health that they added to the hubbub more than usual. Marlene acted like a social butterfly, flitting from person to person without an ounce of shyness. Denzel was more cautious, but his smile appeared more often as he became more familiar with the various members of their extended family.
And after everyone went off on their separate ways again, they were so happy to have Cloud home that they clamored for his attention every waking hour- all while he and Tifa were working overtime to reclaim the normalcy their lives had almost attained. Deliveries were piled up, more wine desperately had to be made, and the kids had to be enrolled in school with the proper supplies.
The delay was both frustrating and helpful- he wanted to explain himself fully to her but had no idea where to start. He spent the long hours zipping to and from destinations on Fenrir trying out different scenarios in his head and obsessing over their relationship even more than he had used to.
It was wonderful to finally feel free to relax in the warmth and laughter of his home without feeling guilt over how Zack and Aeris had been denied the same thing. Coming home to the three of them every night was something that he looked forward to from the moment he left in the morning. And now he was finally able to shake off the choking feeling of betrayal and sadness when he thought of how much he longed to be more than just her friend, more than just a co-parent to their children. Every time his eyes met her warm, humor-filled red-brown ones over the heads of the children, each time he saw her smile as she welcomed him home, even when he took his lunchbox from her and murmured his thanks, he struggled against the need to restrain himself. He was an old study at hiding his feelings around her now, and had perfected the friends-only act over the past two years.
It was easiest, of course, if he was just not in the same place as her. He privately thought that people had no idea what an expert at running away the hero Cloud Strife was. He had had these feelings for her since he was a child- even the experiments that had made him into what he was couldn’t change them. But he’d also had feelings for Aeris two years ago and then she had been killed so dramatically. The question of Aeris would be sure to come up- and even now he wasn’t sure how much of what he had felt for her was Zack’s memory or his own feelings- but he had finally been able to lay her ghost to rest.
He needed to apologize to Tifa for his morose, self-indulgent behavior and thank her for helping to wake him up from the fugue he had put himself into. He also wondered if she would be willing to accept him as such: broken but mended, physically strong, but mentally and emotionally vulnerable. She deserved a perfect guy really, one like Zack, whom he had tried to emulate, but couldn’t. She’d stood by him throughout his struggles to find himself again. She knew every weakness of his, but still continued to support him despite the pain it sometimes caused her…
Cloud frowned and shook his head impatiently, knowing he had to let go of the guilt, or he would end up just as bad as before. He wasn’t afraid she wouldn’t forgive him- he was sure in fact that she already had. But it wouldn’t be right for him not to acknowledge the pain he’d caused to her and their family unit. And it wouldn’t be right not to try to set things right. He was determined to do at least that, even if he wasn’t man enough to become…
He forced his thoughts away from their newest favorite repetitive cycle and checked the address on the delivery slip. He was about to enter the Ancient forest, where encounters with Red dragons were frequent, and he just wanted to check that he had chosen the best route.
Sure enough, minutes after his entry into the gloom, he heard a roar of challenge, and flipped open the sword compartment, choosing one of the blades.
The First Tsurugi, made from his own design, had cost him most of his residual gil after Meteorfall, but it had been worth it. He’d never had such a versatile weapon, and each blade was more like an extension of his arm. The metalsmith in Rocket Town was the only person who could produce such a weapon, made of his own secret blend of metal ores. The sword was impervious to damage- at least everything he’d done with it yet- and was remarkably low maintenance. Almost everyone in the gang had upgraded their own weapons with him after Meteorfall, despite the steep prices. His weapons were good for a lifetime, and his location in the engineering hotspot Rocket Town had become ensured that he had steady access to materials and technology.
Predictably, the dragon started off the battle with a swipe of its tail, hoping to knock its adversary into submission with minimal effort. Speedy prey was best dealt with using quick physical attacks, and this noisy creature resembled a chocobo, a rare, fleet footed treat.
To its surprise, Cloud swerved and slid Fenrir under the arc of that whip-like lash. A moment later, the dragon shrieked in unexpected agony- he had neatly severed the sinuous length as he punched the bike underneath, and it rolled into the undergrowth with the inertia of its erstwhile owner’s original strike.
Maddened with pain, it staggered back and inhaled deeply to deal a scorching breath as payback. Meat never tasted as good charred, but this creature was obviously more dangerous than the average meal. It hastily reassessed their relative positions in the food chain, inexperienced with losing out on the top spot.
Cloud had gunned Fenrir’s engine, speeding out of range after making that first strike. Monsters always pulled out their worst attacks when they were grievously injured, and he knew what that meant for Red dragons. He spun the bike around and focused a Blade Beam straight into the chest of the dragon as it leaned forward and blasted the clearing he had occupied moments before.
The energy attack sliced through the raging torrent of flame, abruptly cutting it off when it struck home between its ribs.
The dragon died almost instantly, its eyes widening with shock over the mortal strike before awareness flickered out. For a moment, the massive body remained teetering upright as cinders flew up into the air. Then it fell over with a crash, acrid smoke still dribbling from its lips, and with a final spasmodic twitch, lay still.
Cloud circled back to the fallen hulk of its body, extinguishing a couple of residual flames under his boots before he parked the bike. Dressing bodies for spoils was messy and unpleasant, but it was the only way to profit from battle. Dragon hide was always great to exchange for major gil due to its flame absorbent qualities. And it was amazing what kind of trinkets could be found lodged in the guts of predators. Heavy metals were hard to pass, and all manner of bracelets and rings could often be unearthed, although he tried not to think too much about the fate of their previous owners.
As he worked, his mind returned to Tifa again. He considered buying her a present to start things rolling, as she had been so pleased by his wolf ring presents to her, Barrett, Marlene and Denzel. Marlene had rarely worn hers, unimpressed by the non-girliness of the ring (“Cloud, you know I like butterflies better!”), although she always kept it in her box of treasures at home. As he cleaned the blood off the blade of his sword, carefully polishing it to a gleam again, he suddenly realized exactly what he should do.
“We can’t help each other because we aren’t really a family.”
Tifa had spoken those words miserably, and he’d cursed himself for bringing her pain again through his weakness. He smiled faintly at the simplicity of the solution to his conundrum, happily resigned to spending a lot more time on the road to raise the gil. He might just farm a few more dragons on the way back from the delivery, he thought, and then he’d have more space to fit the saleable parts. There was a certain lightness in his step as he carried the bundle over to Fenrir.
Cloud was hiding something from her again, Tifa thought a little uneasily, although he showed no signs of the futile depression that he had fallen into before leaving. In fact, their home life had returned to normal- no, better than before- now that he was back. He smiled so much more easily now, showing his affection more openly to the members of their family with a squeeze to Denzel’s shoulder as thanks for helping with his maps or even hugging Marlene when she ran out squealing to greet him when he got home, although still with a trace of self-consciousness.
She thought of how both of them had flushed and looked away in embarrassment when they’d hugged last week. He’d noticed the misty look in her eyes as the children left for school on their own for the first time, and had squeezed her reassuringly as they stood in the doorway, watching Denzel and Marlene scamper off.
“I’ve just gotten so used to them being around,” she’d explained with a shaky laugh, but she’d squeezed back, resting her head on his shoulder for a second, appreciating- and quietly reveling in- the support and comfort in his embrace.
She’d been careful to hide her feelings for him for years, determined not to drive him away with emotional demands, especially when she was aware of his feelings for Aeris. She would never dare to compete with his memory of her, and when their relationship deteriorated over the months before he left, she had come to realize that it was simply not meant to be.
Perhaps it was her penance for the lives she’d taken in her time in Avalanche. Perhaps dreams and fantasies were meant to stay unrealized sometimes. But after the Geostigma healings, there was something in the looks that he gave her that had her daring to start hoping again. She wondered if she was just imagining that tender, yearning expression on his face or the hot flash of desire in his eyes before he turned away or that blank expression of his switched on.
Down girl, she thought sternly, cubing carrots for the stew she was making as their house special tonight. There was probably only heartache in the direction her thoughts were headed. It was so nice just to have him back that she shouldn’t spoil it for herself with impossible dreams.
Besides, it seemed more like when he had first secretly delivered packages in order to earn a little extra money to fix up Fenrir. He was so eager to go to work each day although he was often dead on his feet with exhaustion when he got back. He was obviously doing a lot of monster hunting as well; by the gory state of his clothes and the stack of gil and mastered materia he brought home on a regular basis now. She wondered what he was saving up for, trying to suppress the fear that it was something that would take him out of their lives again. Whatever it was was obviously expensive, and she couldn’t imagine what could cost that much besides a place of his own. Fenrir was in perfect condition, as was the First Tsurugi.
Her hands didn’t slow in their automated actions, and cubes of potatoes, onions and meat joined the pile of carrots as she brooded. She was so lost in thought that the bright chime of the timer made her gasp with surprise. She chided herself, grateful to the noise for interrupting her unhappy thoughts. She rarely brooded this long, as she was usually distracted by the children. One more thing to get used to because they were at school now.
She went over to the oven to take out the buns, and smiled at the sight of their round, golden perfection, inhaling their delicious smell greedily when she opened the door. Well, if it came down to it, the man would still come around for her cooking. He’d wrangled a deal for a lifetime of food and drink once he struck out on his own with Strife’s delivery service, and he would likely continue to hold her to it even if he did move out.
And if he didn’t, she would, she decided, giving herself a determined nod. With that, she pushed her mind back to running her bar.
The estimate that he’d gotten was a fraction of what he had saved up, and he only had to wait a month for them to be ready, much to his surprise. He’d surprised the smith with his request as well, which might have been part of the reason for the low estimate. There was no denying the gleam in his eyes over the unusual challenge Cloud had presented him with, and they had spent an hour or so discussing the details before they had reached an agreement.
In the meantime, he supposed that he should find out about just how to go about making his offer to Tifa. Luckily, he had a friend with experience living right in town, and so he was sitting in Cid’s kitchen as Shera bustled about getting tea, his cheeks flaming as Cid rocked back on his chair, roaring with laughter.
“Look, if you’d rather not tell me…” Cloud said, scowling.
“Never even &#! kissed her-“ Cid wheezed, tears leaking from his eyes, “You’ve got to be &-# me! Within arms reach, half the bleedin’ men in Edge !&- fantasizin’ about #&# and YOU-“
“I’m leaving,” he growled, standing abruptly.
“Now, Cloud, don’t be hasty. You’re hardly asking the man who has the monopoly on romance,” Shera said, catching hold of his arm as he stalked over to the door. Cid rocked back so far in his mirth that he and the chair toppled right over with a crash, and she rolled her eyes as she tugged on Cloud’s arm again. “Sit! I’ll tell you what this nitwit won’t be able to without swearing at least a dozen times. I haven’t spent all this time brewing such a lovely pot of tea to waste it on this uncouth, insensitive lout.”
Cid rolled about on the floor, oblivious, wheezing random obscenities and words like, “Never!” and “Years!”
Shera sent her spouse another poisonous look as she marched Cloud over to the table and forced him to sit. She poured them both cream and tea and then picking up her cup, gave him a stern look over the top until he sighed and drank. Satisfied, she took a sip of her own cup and then she began her story.
“He’s early,” Tifa murmured, surprised to hear the low rumble of Fenrir. The evening’s business was just starting, with the kids finishing their homework at one of the tables and some customers enjoying a couple of after work beers at the counter.
The dinner rush would start in about an hour, and he usually got back about halfway through it, taking the kids off to bathe and then help him organize his deliveries the next day. She glanced at the table where Denzel and Marlene were sitting, both absorbed in their exercises. Neither of them had noticed the sound, and scratched away with their pencils in their workbooks. So she was the only one looking at the door when he walked in, carrying a bag in one hand, and his empty lunchbox in the other. Her breath caught in her throat at the hungry look he gave her as she called out his welcome with a smile. The kids both leapt up and rushed to greet him at that, but his warm, shy smile as he answered was only for her.
“Cloud, what’s in that? Let me carry it.”
“I wrote a whole page just now, Cloud, want to see?”
He moved slowly towards the bar as he tried to respond to their excited chatter. They were always raring to talk about their new school, and Tifa had already heard their stories. They exchanged an amused glance over the heads of the kids as Marlene interrupted his reply to Denzel’s question with her excited announcement that she was class representative next week.
“Marlene, that’s wonderful. It sounds very important. Denzel, it’s food for Tifa. Are you two finished your homework yet? I’m so hungry and we can’t start eating until you’re done, right?”
“We’ll finish right away,” Denzel promised, nodding at Marlene, and they both raced back to the table. Reprieved temporarily, he made his way behind the bar.
“You’re back early,” she commented, taking the lunchbox and the proffered bag.
“Shera’s cookies and some local vegetables. I was in Rocket Town today. Finished my deliveries really quickly. You said you wished you could have some of their dishes last week, so I picked up some ingredients,” he said, shrugging. Her pleased gasp as she looked into the bag and beaming smile made him wonder why he had never thought to do so before. They had tried all sorts of different dishes when they had made their journey around the world, and she had sometimes wished aloud for one or the other as they reminisced.
“Oh, these are wonderful! I can make Kanplanya and Sem root soup tomorrow. So thoughtful of you, Cloud, thank you. How are Shera and Cid doing?” she asked, handing him the cookies and happily stowing the vegetables in the fridge.
He put them on the counter, thinking they would be good for dessert. He glanced at the kids and saw that Marlene was already packing up her school things, while Denzel was frowning in mild competition. He should probably join him so that Denzel didn’t rush through the last few just to be finished more quickly. He poured himself a pint as he answered carefully, “They’re both relieved that she’s cured of the Stigma. Working hard on the refining process. Cid was being a bit of an ass today.”
“Is he ever not a bit of an ass?” she laughed, leaning up against the counter. He took a deep breath, drinking in the sight of her hungrily. He could see the wondering expression on her face, and he knew his mask had slipped again.
“Just do it. Or you’ll end up thinking too much about it and give yourself a fine mental block again,” Shera had advised. So he plunged bravely on.
“No, I guess not. Listen, Tifa, think I could talk to you later? It doesn’t have to be today, but- I need to ask you something,” he said quietly. Emotions flickered rapidly across her face- pain, fear, sadness, worry- before she fixed her expression into a determined smile. She had to grip the counter to steady herself, her heart squeezing painfully in her chest, but her voice was steady and cheerful when she answered.
“Sure. I’ll try to close up early. It’s a school night after all. There shouldn’t be too many people out for a drink.”
Guilt slammed into him as he watched her put on her happy face. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it determinedly, frowning.
“Tifa,” he said intensely, “it’s not-“
She tore her eyes from his, holding tightly to the façade as she saw a lifeline standing behind Cloud.
“Marlene, all done? Bet you’re hungry,” she said brightly. Marlene wasn’t fooled. She’d watched the latter part of the exchange and she hated how they both always tried to hide how they felt.
“Cloud, are you going away again?” she demanded.
“No!” he stated vehemently. His eyes seemed to almost glow as they raked over Tifa, Marlene, a stricken looking Denzel, and then the three dumbstruck customers at the end of the bar.
“No,” he repeated more softly,” I promise. I just need to talk to Tifa later. About something private,” he added, as Marlene opened her mouth, doubtless to point out that he could just ask her now. He sighed, picking up his pint. This would be so much simpler without the kids, and yet he couldn’t imagine his life without them.
“C’mon. Let’s go check to see if Denzel’s got his answers right. My stomach is making noises.” He gave Tifa’s hand another reassuring squeeze before he relinquished it and was relieved to see the hopeful look in her eyes, although she still seemed baffled.
“Denzel always gets more wrong when he rushes,” Marlene piped up, satisfied. Judging by the way Denzel dove for his eraser, he had been doing just that. One of the customers pulled out his cell phone and began to text as Tifa started to pull out dishes with a confused expression on her face, and Cloud and Marlene joined Denzel at the table.
Looks like the hot barmaid at 7th heaven is going to be off the market.
Marlene had been determined to stay awake as long as possible in order to make sure Cloud and Tifa were honest with each other, but she fell asleep soon after Cloud put them to bed. Denzel stayed awake a little longer, looking through the open door to Cloud’s room, watching as he worked at his desk, counting stacks of gil. He was worried that despite what Cloud had said, he might be leaving again. But eventually, he closed his eyes to just rest them for a moment and fell asleep. When Tifa came in to kiss them goodnight, she could see how pinched his face looked as he dreamed.
“You’re worried too, hmm? It’ll be all right. We’ll always be a family, even if we are in different places,” she whispered, smoothing the hair off his forehead. She had to believe it herself. He cared for her and the children, she was sure. Living apart wouldn’t change that feeling in the slightest. The fact that he slept under the same roof didn’t make them a family. It was that feeling that did. She had to trust that he would do what was right for them. Denzel’s face relaxed, and she kissed the place where the Stigma had been. Then she kissed Marlene, dreaming with a slight smile on her face, and left their room, quietly closing the door.
She had only the slightest feeling of trepidation as she walked the short distance to Cloud’s room. He was asleep at his desk, his head pillowed on his arms, his spiky hair brushing the pictures he kept on the desk.
“We’ll be all right, won’t we?” she asked quietly, looking around the room. He’d organized the gil he’d been saving tonight, and there was a neat pile on the desk, as well as two cases on the floor. All the materia had been put into a case at his feet too, instead of being randomly scattered around the room. Whatever he was preparing for, it was going to happen soon. She wondered whether she should wake him at all, but the creak the bed made when she sat did the trick, and his eyes flew open with a start.
“Sorry to wake you. You’ve been working so hard lately,” she said, as he blinked and sat up, turning to face her.
“I should have helped you clear up. I guess I fell asleep,” he said thickly, struggling to put his thoughts in order. He wished he had written down what he intended to say earlier. He always got so tongue-tied and this was so important.
“It’s alright. I actually closed up a little earlier than usual because it was pretty slow by the end,” she said, smoothing her skirt as she waited for him to get to the point. They were sitting so close together that she could smell the windblown scent of his skin, but she couldn’t bring herself to look into his eyes, and looked around the room instead. “That’s quite a stash you have there.”
He smiled ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly as he looked at it.
“I was saving up for something, but it turns out that it wasn’t as expensive as I thought,” he said, looking back at her carefully composed expression in profile. “Tifa.”
She finally looked him square in the eye and he took a deep breath before going on.
“I never apologized to you for leaving. I’m sorry. It hurt you- it hurt all of you. I shouldn’t have left. And I won’t again, ever. Unless you tell me to,” he amended.
Tifa blinked in surprise and then laughed.
“I might want to kick your ass for being a jerk sometimes, but I’ll never toss you out on it! We’re like family and we’ll always care about each other, right?” she said, smiling. “I understood what you were going through. I thought you knew that. We’ve all forgiven you. Look at how happy the children are nowadays. It’s enough that you’ve come back,” she said, faltering. She wasn’t imagining that fervent look on his face, and he’d taken hold of both of her hands. The hope that she always kept squashed down flickered eagerly to life again.
“Is it what?” she gasped, her heart suddenly beating much too quickly. His face was just inches from hers, and she shivered as his breath brushed over her lips.
They were both breathing hard now, and she could see the naked longing and desire on his face that she knew was mirrored on hers. His gaze dropped to her lips for an instant and then a moment later he had cut off her longing cry with a kiss.
She couldn’t help the tears that escaped her eyes as the feelings and hopes she’d repressed for so long blazed forth with sudden intensity. If his hands and mouth were a little rough as he tried to physically express how much she meant to him, she gripped him close and kissed him back just as hard.
Her lips felt swollen and bee stung when they finally came up for air minutes later, still embracing tightly. She squeezed her eyes shut as he pressed a kiss to her forehead, both of them still panting. She knew that she needed to answer the question burning in her. But the knowledge didn't quell the bitter desperation to hold on to what she had ached for for so long.
“Cloud, I can’t- I’d never ask you to- If Aeris-“ she gasped miserably, wishing she could gloss over this problem as she had tried to do to so many others. His lips and hands stilled, and she could barely see the wolf ornament on his shoulder through the haze of tears.
But she knew that he would have to walk away again if she was merely a substitute for what was truly in his heart. And she didn’t know if she could survive the heartbreak if that was the case. Resolved, she raised her head to meet his somber, brilliantly blue eyes, unashamed of the tears in her eyes.
“I won’t be second place. I love you, but it would never be enough if you didn’t feel the same. I’ve learned that it just hurts more in the end to pretend,” she admitted.
“Tifa,” he gasped, stunned.
“If you need time to think about it-“
“Tifa, I love you,” he said urgently, framing her face with his hands. “I’ve loved you for years. You helped me piece my own memories back together, you should know that. That was a crush when I was young, maybe, an infatuation. But you’ve been my friend and family for 2 years now, and my feelings have just gotten stronger the whole time. Don’t tell me it hasn’t been the same for you,” he demanded, and she shook her head mutely. She wouldn’t. His voice was heavy with regret as he continued.
“I know I’ve been too screwed up to try to do anything about them. I know I’m not good enough for you. You should have a man who you can always count on. One who would never walk out on you and the kids. One who never makes you cry,” he said, thumbing away her tears. “I want to try to be that man.”
She nodded, and he sighed and continued, “About Aeris… I did feel something for Aeris as well during our journey. It wasn’t the same as what I feel for you now, but it was there. I still don’t know if part of it was Zack’s memories that attracted me to her, but there was a point when I definitely wanted both of you. I felt so guilty about letting her die. I often felt that part of it was my weakness over not being able to choose. Did I let her die so I wouldn’t have to? Why didn’t I try to do something? Was it betraying her memory to still want you after she was gone? I couldn’t come to terms with it. But she was there in spirit, you know, during everything that happened with Kadaj. She helped me, told me she never hated me for it, admonished me to forgive myself and move on already. She and Zack are together now, I could hear and see them together and they’re happy. So I think I can finally let myself be happy now too. That is, if you’ll still have me,” he said humbly, searching her eyes, “I’m not a prize, I know, and I’ll probably still make mistakes. But I love you. And I’ll try my best to earn the right to be with you.”
Tifa nodded again, her eyes still filled with tears, but a tremulous smile was on her lips.
“Say something,” he begged, and she laughed and kissed him until they were both breathless again.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say so much at once before,” she teased, chuckling. He glared at her in mock outrage, but couldn’t help smiling ruefully.
“I was thinking I should have written it down first. I’m terrible with words,” he confessed. He felt quite giddy now that it was all finally out in the open and she was here, in his arms, laughing and kissing him back.
“Well, that’s true. Expressing yourself is hardly your strong suit. But you know, you can always show me how you feel instead,” she said, sliding the zipper of his turtleneck further down and placing her hand over the strong beat of his heart. She flushed at the way his eyes heated and how predatory his grin became, but her eyes danced with delighted promise as she tugged him back onto the bed with her with her other hand.
Cloud had valued his body only as an instrument that could protect people, dismayed when the Geostigma, to his eyes, had rendered him worthless. He’d honed his skill and built his strength so that he could defend the ones he loved at need. But he’d never realized how much pleasure he could give and receive with that same body until that night.
Each loving stroke and caress was a revelation; each hungry kiss and lick fanned the flames of passion that engulfed them until they were completely lost in an inferno of sensation. And after they both hurtled over the brink in an explosion that left him completely shattered and utterly spent, he felt paradoxically, joyously complete for the first time, cradling her in his arms even as she cradled him.
“God, I love you, Tifa. I’m sorry I wasted so much time,” he panted when he finally regained the ability to speak, his forehead resting on hers, his body still trembling and his heart brimming in the aftermath.
She was smiling up at him languidly, her face glowing with happiness and satiation, dreamily running her hands through that spiky hair. As he gazed at her, awash in emotion, he wondered how much redemption he had earned by putting that look on her face.
“You weren’t ready yet. But it’s ok. It wouldn’t have been right until you were. And we have all the time in the world now,” she said, pulling him down for another kiss.
“I’m so happy,” she whispered against his mouth, and he groaned at the rush of joy those words brought, crushing her close as he tried to show her what he had so much trouble expressing.
And so commenced round two. They slept in brief snatches between passionate bouts of “showing feelings” and silly, tender conversations, too elated to care overmuch about the discomfort of squeezing onto the too narrow bed. And even though they purchased and installed a new double bed the very next day, they still kept that narrow bed beside the desk in their bedroom. The memories they had created that night were evoked every time they looked upon it, and never failed to make them smile.
A/N: I wanted to resolve some of the issues from “The case of Tifa” in Aftermath. She starts to be honest with herself and Cloud in AC, but never to the point where her feelings for him are addressed. So I wanted to take her one step further, even if it’s only in my imagination.
Let me know what you thought of it.