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Post Crisis

Chapter Text

Midnight Talk

 

It was late at night. The bar was draped mostly in darkness, save for the lamp hanging above the bar counter, and it was completely silent save for the little symphony that was Cid and Barret's snoring echoing from the living area upstairs. In a weird way it was a comforting sound, since it made her remember that crazy and turbulent time from two years ago, filled with joy, heartbreak and more than one heated argument alike; but in the end they always had each other's back.

Tifa chuckled. Even if they didn't always manage to get a full night's rest because Barret and Cid were sawing entire woods in their sleep.

But after today's events no one had any problems sleeping. Well, no one except her. With all the excitement from earlier, her body just seemed to refuse the notion of sleep, so she had decided to clean up after their not so little celebration in hopes that the mundane task would relax her enough so that fatigue would finally set in.

Tifa released a sigh as she wiped her hands dry, nodding in satisfaction at the stack cleaned of dishes in front of her. Closing her eyes, a small smile formed on her lips, and she remained that way until she heard footsteps approaching from behind.

"Can't sleep either?" she asked while turning around, already knowing who it was. Cloud was standing there, still dressed in his damaged clothes. Thankfully, all the blood had been washed off by the water, but she still wondered if it would be possible to salvage them, or if it would be easier to just throw them into the trash and go buy a new set.

"Mhm." was Cloud's response and he put his arm on the counter. "Guess even the drinks earlier didn't manage to calm me down."

They stood there in silence, simply looking at each other for a moment. Tifa reflected on the past few months where he had left her and the children behind. To run away and die alone. Seeing him leave had hurt her deeply. Had made her feel inadequate, like what they shared wasn't important to him. No, even before he had left, before Denzel had entered their life, he had withdrawn from her.

"Do you love me?" she had asked his sleeping form, not having the courage to ask him upfront. Would it have helped if she had?

Shortly after that he had stopped sleeping in their bedroom altogether, holing himself up in his office instead, and leaving her alone with her thoughts and doubts.

A shameful part of her had enjoyed finally berating him the night before, if only so that she could just get it off her chest and ask that one question that had been nagging her for so long now.

"Have we… lost to our memories?" It was such a loaded question and part of her wished he had answered her then and there, while the other part dreaded it at the same time. In the end his answer was to go rescue the kids. While that hadn't alleviated her worries about them and their little family at the time, it had been a start.

But he was here now. For the first time in what felt like ages he was truly looking at her with unclouded eyes. Tifa could see that the man, that had told her he was ready to move forward with his life, was returning. It wouldn't be tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but he would return.

"So want another one?" she asked playfully and crossed her arms. "I can make you an extra hard one."

"I'm good. Wouldn't want to make all your hard work be in vain." he pointed towards the dishes. With a shrug he then said. "I was thinking of taking a walk."

Tifa then saw his eyebrows furrow in what she liked to call his 'thinking face'. Not the deep brooding one that had plagued him for almost a year now. No, the one that he had always worn on his face ever since they were children, the one he wore on the night when he asked her out to the well.

"Would you like to come with me?" he asked. She blinked in surprise before the corners of her lips curled into a smile.

"I'd love to."

They left 7th Heaven and walked in silence. It was a comfortable silence, unlike the ones that they had shared so many months ago. When she had been desperately trying to keep their little makeshift family intact, while he was drifting further and further away until she couldn't reach him anymore.

She couldn't help but feel elated when he walked closer to her, close enough so that she could feel the heat radiating from his body, actively seeking her out.

The streets of Edge were empty, which was unusual for any other day. You would always find people going somewhere at all times. But after the attack on the town and the miraculous healing rain, the people wanted to be with those closest to them and celebrate, not unlike their little group had done.

After a short while the two of them arrived at the town center where the shattered remains of the Meteor monument were scattered around the small crater in the center of it. That Bahamut really had done a number on it. A few WRO barriers were placed around it, to keep people away and show that things were being taken care off.

They managed to locate a bench at the far side that hadn't been hit during the battle and sat down on it. Almost immediately Tifa's eyes were drawn to the night sky where the stars were shining brightly above them, even if not as clearly as in Nibelheim on that night so many years ago. She watched them for a few minutes before turning her eyes towards Cloud, sitting there with his eyes closed and an almost serene expression on his face.

He must have felt her eyes on him as he shifted slightly towards her before saying "I saw them. Earlier, at the church."

"Them?"

"Zack and...Aerith."

Her breath hitched when he said that name. Ever since they had defeated Sephiroth two years ago he had adamantly refused to say her name, because doing so was too painful for him. They all missed her, but Cloud did so the most. She knew that in his own way Cloud had loved Aerith, even if they had only known each other for such a short time.

How could he not?

Aerith had this talent of wriggling herself into the hearts of people, even someone as rough around the edges as Cid or as guarded as Vincent. Even as she had been jealous of the bond that Cloud and Aerith had shared during their travels, she could never bring herself to be mad at the other woman because she quickly had become one of her dearest friends. Back when she had been reeling from grief at the loss of Biggs, Wedge and her best friend Jessie, it had been Aerith that had picked her up and that was something she would be eternally grateful for.

Losing Aerith had left a hole in the heart of their entire group, but in the end it was also what forged them together and find the strength to fight for the future of the planet. The ribbon that they all wore was testament to that.

The relationship between the three of them had been complicated to say the least, but in the end she knew Aerith was happy for them. Tifa could almost envision that knowing smile on her face.

He smiled and opened his eyes to look at her. "She asked me 'Everything's fine now, right?'"

"And is everything fine?"

"Mhm. Because I'm not alone," he said and looked at her, eyes shining with a multitude of emotions. Part eager and part shy like the boy that had made a promise to her under a starry sky such as this, all those years ago. "Never was. I was just too caught up in my own problems to notice. You, Denzel, Marlene and all the others, you made me realize that."

Tifa smiled and placed her hand gently on top of his, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "And did Zack say anything?"

"No, he just stood there all cool, waved his hand and left."

Her other hand moved to her mouth as she suppressed a giggle. She hadn't known Zack that well but that sure sounded like the friendly SOLDIER she had met years ago in Nibelheim. The silence returned as they simply sat there, enjoying each other's company and Tifa found her gaze returning to the stars.

"I'm sorry. For what I've put you through. I should've been open about my problems instead of shutting you out."

Oh, Cloud… Tifa shook her head, knowing that his eyes were on her. "I'm sorry too. I guess I've also given up. If not for Marlene I might have just resigned myself to it instead of going to look for you at the church."

They both had lost so much. Their hometown, their parents, Aerith and Zack, Jessie, Biggs and Wedge; all dead. They both carried a lot of guilt and regrets; Cloud just forgot for a while that they were supposed to share their burden and pick each other up if one of them fell down.

"Marlene had to nudge both of us in the right direction, huh?"

They shared a laugh. In a way, Marlene was the most mature of them all, in all her six year old glory.

"Tifa..."

"Hm?"

"I'm done with running away," Cloud said and she turned to look at him again, carmine colored eyes meeting Mako tinted ones. "No more dragging around. For real this time."

If she had any doubts remaining then seeing the resolve reflected in his eyes right now caused them to evaporate into nothingness. Turning, she leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder as she gently placed her hand on his chest.

"Hmm, I don't know..." she said in a teasing tone as Cloud's free arm wrapped around her shoulders to hug her closer to him and in turn rested his head against hers. "Promise me?"

She could hear and feel the grin forming on his lips. "Mhm, I promise."

High above the two of them a shooting star passed by them in the night sky, acting as a silent witness to this new promise between them.

They would be alright.

Chapter Text

Fatherly Advice

 

Almost a week had passed since the fateful events involving the remnants of Sephiroth, and as things had started to calm down their friend's started to leave one after another. Vincent had obviously been the first, leaving after he had gotten his new shiny phone. Red left later that same day, saying he had lots to tell the people of Cosmo Canyon. Cid had left to get Shera's Geostigma cured at the church, while Yuffie had lingered until yesterday before leaving with the promise that she would come visit again soon.

To Barret it almost sounded like a threat.

He had decided to stay a little longer, obviously because he had promised Marlene that he would, but he had wanted to visit anyway. No, there was another reason why he lingered. That reason was currently standing behind the bar going over the finances, humming a tune to herself.

The kids were currently out playing, which was good. He was planning for Marlene to attend the recently opened school here in Edge after summer. So he wanted her to enjoy the amount of freedom she currently had, before homework would cut some of it short. It also gave Barret some time to think things over. After what happened, Cloud had moved back in, and seemed better from what Marlene had told him in her calls, but part of him was still worried.

"So how ya doin'?" Barret asked Tifa as she typed something into the calculator on the table in front of her.

"Yesterday was kinda crazy," she said, closing her eyes and counting something in her mind before typing again. "I didn't expect so many people to come back now that Geostigma is being cured. Customers have been wary ever since Denzel started living here so I'm running the numbers in case I need to order more stuff."

"That's not what I meant." he grunted and sat down in front of the bar. He stared at her as she looked up from her work, giving him a searching look for a moment before exhaling. Her lips forming one of her little smiles as she did so.

"I'm good. Better in fact." she ran her finger along the frame of the calculator. "Cloud too...We're gonna be alright."

"That so?" he propped his face up with his mechanical arm. "I'm not so sure myself."

He watched as she narrowed her eyes at him and he silently chuckled to himself at the fire inside those eyes. Barret remembered when he first saw that fire, years ago when she was only an 18 year old girl living with a street doctor that he had paid a visit to get his gun arm checked. Marlene had been crying, 2 years old and afraid to be left alone in these strange, new surroundings and he hadn't the foggiest what he should do to calm her down. But then out of the blue Tifa suggested she take care of Marlene while he was with the doctor and somehow she had managed to win his little girl over.

After his check up was done she had handed him Marlene and looked him in the eye, and while there was kindness in them, there was also something that reminded him of the fire of his hometown. He had dismissed it then, too preoccupied to get Marlene and himself properly settled in and then planning his next move.

Weeks later when he had subtly asked around for people that had a grudge against ShinRa one of the people pointed him towards an underground cage fight club in the Sector 3 slums. He had expected a lot but definitely not seeing the kind 18 year old he had met the other day not only in the club, but inside the ring, facing off against an opponent two feet taller than her. This didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary too, since half the crowd had been chanting her stage name even before the match began. After the battle was over she only sported a bruise on her cheek and a bloody lip, while her adversary suffered a broken arm, a broken jaw and had to be carried out of the ring. It was then that he recognized what had been hidden in her eyes; that fire inside them.

It was the same fire he saw every morning in the mirror.

Afterwards he had approached her, told her that he was gathering a group to fight against Shinra and save the planet from their greed, a pretty little lie he had told himself to mask his own very personal vendetta at the time. Imagine his surprise when one day she had invited him over to 7th Heaven to show him the newly discovered bunker underneath it. He hadn't wasted any time introducing her to the others.

Over the years the fire had subsided. In fact, he had thought it was gone shortly after they had defeated Sephiroth, but here it was, telling him that she was ready to fight, only this time it wasn't for revenge but something much more precious. Just like in the days when Cloud had gone missing and she had stood up to him after he had thought Cloud a lost cause. Before Tifa could say something he lifted his organic hand.

"Alright alright," he said as he stood up. "If ya say so, then I believe ya."

"Good."

Barret frowned. In the years that they had known each other Tifa had become a bit of a daughter to him as well. If Marlene was his little baby then Tifa was the grown up daughter that was being independent and living her own life. But that never stops a father from worrying.

It must have shown on his face, or she was just that good at reading him, because Tifa sighed and turned to face him fully, fixing her eyes on his.

"I know you're concerned about us, and I'm grateful for that. I really am." she brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear before crossing her arms. "But Cloud and I, we're going to put what happened behind us and we've decided to take it a day at a time."

With an inward sigh Barret scratched the back of his head. His mind flashed back to two years ago where Tifa had cared for Cloud as he was suffering from Mako poisoning, bags starting to form under her eyes from the pressure of it all, but she still had remained by his side because she loved him just that much. In the blink of an eye the image was gone, replaced with the here and now, where the same young woman was standing before him, a quiet confidence to her that he hadn't seen in a long time. Cloud and Tifa had been in a rough spot, but Barret could see that Tifa was still very much in love as she was back then, if not more so now.

He exhaled through his nostrils. Maybe he really should trust them?

Crossing his arms he looked away, but nodded. Can't have her thinking he was growing soft now. "Fine."

He just couldn't win against her, could he?

Tifa just gave him another one of her smiles and went back to what she was doing. He was going to trust them, and try not to worry too much. The big soft fatherly part – that he would never admit he had, except for Marlene – would instead wait patiently until his help or advice was needed in one way or another.

In fact, he already had a piece of advice to give.

"Hmm, going somewhere?" Tifa asked as he started walking away.

"Hm," he grunted again. "Gonna help that boyfriend of yours with his bike. It got banged up pretty bad, didn't it?"

As he walked away, he didn't see Tifa biting her lip and shake her head as she chuckled quietly to herself.

Inside the garage the smell of oil entered his nostrils and he couldn't help a small grin from forming on his lips. This was definitely the Man Zone of the household. He looked around to find the person he was looking for lying on the floor as he was tinkering with something underneath Fenrir.

"Yo Spike," he said in greeting and walked up to him. He wanted to run his hand across the hull of the bike, but he wasn't here to admire a fine piece of machinery. She was beauty though. "Need some help?"

"Barret?" Cloud asked in surprise, but didn't stop what he was doing. "Sure, could you hand me the wrench?"

"So is she gonna be ready soon?" Barret asked as he lowered himself, grabbed the tool and held it out towards Cloud.

"Hmm, she's tough," Cloud said and rapped his knuckles against the frame. He made to grab the wrench. But when Barret pulled it away from him he crawled out from under the bike and Barret fixed him with his most stern face.

"Ya got a very special lady out there." Barret pointed the wrench towards the door and watched as a frown formed on Cloud's face.

"I know, and there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful to have her," Cloud said. He was about to continue what would no doubt be a lengthily apology when Barret pressed the tip of the wrench against Cloud's chest.

"Fatherly advice: don't make her wait too long, got it?" he told him, then handed him the tool.

The young man took the offered tool and looked at him for a moment, before nodding. Barret let out a satisfied grunt. Despite their differences when they started out, he liked Cloud. The kid was a pain in the ass, but also a good man, so he wanted for this to work.

"So, do I call you 'Dad' now?" Cloud asked, giving him one of his annoying smirks that told Barret he truly was back to his old self.

"Oh fuck you, Spike!"

They spend some more time in companionable silence, working on Fenrir. Barret had said what he had come to say so there was no need for anymore words between the two men. Ah, no. There was one more thing.

"Ya know I can always take the kids for the weekend if ya two ever need some alone time," Barret said, a giant grin splitting his face as he heard Cloud's thick skull collide against something hard with a satisfying clong.

His booming laugh could be heard by Tifa inside the bar.

Chapter Text

Gesture of Love

 

It was past midday when Cloud turned around the corner and came to a halt inside the garage of the 7th Heaven. Turning off the engine, he took off his riding shades, got off the bike and headed towards the bar. The lunch rush had already come and gone so the bar was empty aside from Tifa and a set of crates that weren't there this morning, filled with all sorts of bottles. Business definitely had picked up again, which was good because they could always use more money in a household with two kids. But he would be lying if he said that he didn't have some choice words he wanted to share with the patrons that decided to stay away, just because the owner was kind enough to take care of a sick young boy.

"Cloud," Tifa greeted him, a smile on her lips. She was currently drying her hands with a towel as he walked over to the bar door, turned the sign on the outside so that it read 'Closed' and shut the door. "Thanks, I was kinda busy here."

"Already done with your deliveries?" she asked after he had crossed the distance between them, walking behind the bar to join her. He spotted the stacks of freshly cleaned dishes sorted in an orderly manner next to her and a few more still in the sink.

"No, I've got a few more to make but I figured eating lunch here for once would be nice and...you know." he cleared his throat as he saw her smile widen. "Anyway I should be back by dinner."

"Good, I'm sure they'll be happy to hear that."

"Mhm."

Silence set in between them, but it was a pleasant one and Cloud found himself staring at Tifa, feeling not unlike the boy with a crush that he had been in Nibelheim.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, he thought. He noticed that some of her hair had come loose during her work and, feeling especially brave today, Cloud reached out and brushed it behind her ear.

He saw her eyes widen and he was about to pull his hand back when Tifa gently placed hers on top of it, moving it from behind her ear to her cheek and gently nuzzling it.

"Of course, I'm also happy to hear that," she said in a much quieter voice. Cloud's heart thumped in his chest like he had just come back from a marathon and he was sure he was blushing like a fool from the way his face was heating up. He wanted to say so much right now. That he was an idiot for having shut her out in the first place, that he loved her. But not riding on the high of the whole deal with Kadaj and his 'siblings' anymore, words seemed to elude him again. So he went with what he was more confident with: physical affection.

Thankfully Tifa didn't seem to mind and he was about to pull her closer into a hug when he heard a pair of feet rushing down from the living area. Now it was Tifa's turn to flush a bright red as she released his hand and put a little space between them, turning towards the sink to finish the last few dishes. Cloud felt his face split into a small grin. At least he wasn't the only one.

He turned around just in time to see Marlene round the corner and found himself unconsciously kneeling down to be on eye level with her.

"Cloud!" she hugged him, clearly excited to see him this early. "Are you done working?"

"Sorry, only here to grab a quick bite, but as I was just telling Tifa, I'll be home on time tonight." he took a quick look around. "Is Denzel out?"

"He's playing with one of his new friends. I think you've seen her around, that girl with the moogle doll?" Tifa chimed in from the sink. Cloud nodded. Yeah he knew her, from the church. He sometimes passed by her since she lived in the nearby orphanage that Reeve had opened a couple of weeks ago on Tifa's suggestion.

Marlene leaned towards him, a conspiratorial smile on her face. "I think he likes her, but don't tell him I said that!"

Cloud chuckled. "I see. Your secret's safe with us, right?"

"What secret?" Tifa asked and he knew that she was grinning just by the tone of her voice.

"See?" that earned him a giggle from Marlene, making his heart swell with affection. He was glad that that these moments were back.

"Marlene, why don't you take Cloud and keep him company while he's eating, I've still got some work to do?" Tifa asked the little girl, drying her hands again and stepping closer to them.

"Sure! Come on, Cloud." Marlene grabbed his hand and started to pull him in the direction of their living area.

"You sure don't need some help?" he asked, pointing towards the crates.

"Absolutely. Now off you go. The food should still be warm," she said and affectionately brushed her shoulder against his as she passed the two of them. As Cloud was led away by Marlene he watched as Tifa piled a few of the crates on one another and shook his head as she lifted them up like it was nothing.

It amazed him how strong Tifa was. Sure he was plenty strong himself, but most of his enhanced strength came from the experiments done to him while Tifa's was entirely trained and even after their adventure was over she hadn't stopped her training, even if it hadn't been as intensive as it used to be. At least until the Remnants. Ever since then, Tifa had intensified her training again, all the more to protect their little family. Hopefully she didn't break the training dummy, it had taken quite some time to find one that survived a single one of her training sessions.

"Dainty as a flower, but built like a brick shithouse," Cid had once said to describe her and aside from the foul language Cloud agreed with the older man's assessment. She was also the reason the bar never had been in any need of a bouncer. Don't start any shit in 7th Heaven was a much an unwritten rule here as it had been years ago in the slums of Sector 7.

Letting himself be led by Marlene, he sat down at their small dining table and he watched the girl all but bounce around while serving him his food.

"Thanks," he said with a grateful smile before taking a bite. Most of the time Cloud would eat on the road, either in some roadside diner or some breakfast leftovers he had taken with him, so eating Tifa's homemade cooking while it was still warm was sort of a rare treat to him and as he savored the taste, he was seriously considering taking more breaks if his deliveries so permitted. It definitely would be good for their little family.

Marlene sat down on the opposite side of the table, watching him while he was eating and resting her face on her left hand as she dangled her legs underneath the table in an even rhythm.

"So are you and Tifa back together again?" she asked after a few more moments of silence, making Cloud stop his fork halfway away from his mouth.

Looking at her for a moment he put the fork into his mouth, before nodding. "Mhm."

"So why do you still sleep in your office?" she asked in that blunt way only a kid could do.

That was a good question. It just felt wrong to simply join her like nothing had happened. He needed to feel that he had earned the right to sleep by her side again.

After the 'talk' Barret had with him, he had resolved to put even more effort into mending their relationship, and they had taken great strides, but there were still some things he hadn't dared to do.

"It's not that easy. I don't want to complicate things," he told her. A frown formed on the girl's face, tilting her head to the side.

"Just tell her you love her, isn't that what this is all about?" she shook her head, making the pink bow holding her braid in place bounce a little.

He placed his fork onto the plate and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Was it really that simple?

As he was wondering about that, his mind went back to a conversation he had with Tifa, way back when he had first started to grow distant from her.

"Do you love Marlene?" Tifa's question rang through his mind. He had been half asleep at the time, but there was something about it that bothered him, like he was missing a vital piece. She had asked him another question before that. He was sure of that, it had woken him in the first place.

But was it?

The realization hit him like a stampeding herd of Chocobo as the fog over his memory started to clear.

"Do you love me?"

He exhaled sharply through his nose. He was an idiot wasn't he?

If only he had let her in, maybe they could have avoided a lot of pain and heartache. But he wasn't too late, he would make up for it, just like he promised her to. He just had to do even better now.

"Cloud?" Marlene's voice startled him out of his thoughts. "Is something wrong?"

He shook his head and, with a smile, placed his hand on her head. As always, Marlene was wise beyond her years and he was once more grateful that this amazing girl had entered his life in such an unexpected way 2 years ago. "I'm fine. I just realized that you're right."

And he already had an idea what he would do.

 


 

It was evening when he returned. The bar had closed early today, which didn't surprise him much since, aside from some very crazy days, they mostly had only a few regulars that would come by during work days to get a drink or two to relax, before heading home themselves. It certainly helped Cloud and Tifa make time for the kids.

Making sure the door was locked, he walked up into the living area. "I'm home."

"Welcome home," Tifa greeted him as the kids rushed towards him.

"Wow, watch it! I'm all dusty," he said to Marlene and Denzel before they could hug him. "Just let me wash up first, and then you two can help me work out my routes for tomorrow."

"Alright!" Denzel and Marlene said in unison, then went back to what they were doing before he arrived.

He walked up to Tifa, absentmindedly brushing his hand over his pocket to make sure the gift he had gotten her was still there.

"There's a fresh set of clothes in your office, so don't let me stop you from a hot shower," she said with a wink, before gently pushing him towards the hallway. Entering his office, he pushed his hand inside his pocket and pulled out a single yellow flower. After having finished his last delivery, Cloud had taken a bit of a detour to pick this one up from the church. Tifa had always loved Aerith's flowers and a smile crept onto his face as he remembered when he had first given her one back in the original 7th Heaven, acting like it had been nothing. But to her it had been special, he could tell now.

After a quick shower, Cloud changed into his new clothes and pocketed the flower again for later, glad that they really were as robust as Aerith had described them as. They survived his ass dropping on them after all. As promised, the next hour was spent with the kids helping him work on his delivery routes. They weren't necessarily the most effective routes, and he would undoubtedly fix some of them on the fly later, but as long as the kids were having fun that was the most important thing.

With the routes complete he spent the rest of the evening listening to Marlene and Denzel recount events from their day while exchanging smiles with Tifa as they ate dinner. Soon it was time for the kids to go to bed. Cloud lingered at the door as Tifa tucked them in, planting a kiss on each of their foreheads before joining him at the door.

"Good night," the kids said to them.

"Sleep well," he said and shut the light off, then closed the door as Tifa and him left the room. Tifa was making her way to their bedroom, but Cloud placed a gentle hand on her shoulder before she could get even halfway there.

"Hm?" Tifa turned around to look at him with questioning eyes. As she opened her mouth to ask if something was the matter he stopped her by placing a finger on her lips, then slowly pulled out the flower that was hidden away inside his pocket, holding it out to her. Her eyes widened as they flickered from the flower towards his eyes and back again. Gingerly she reached out and took it from him, her fingers brushing against his in a ghost of a touch.

"Cloud, I—" she licked her lips, pink staining her face, holding the flower close to her. "Thank you. But this wasn't really necessary, you know?"

He took a deep breath, suddenly feeling like the little boy from Nibelheim that never managed to talk with his crush. But the couldn't be that boy anymore. He had to be the man she deserved, the man that would make her and their family happy. "It was. And I've realized something, that I should've said a long time ago. Maybe it could've prevented us from drifting apart, maybe not, but I still should've done so."

He looked into her eyes, placing his left hand on the small of her back to pull her closer. When she didn't resist he lowered his head so that their foreheads were touching. He felt a rush of excitement when Tifa's free hand brushed against his chest. For all his nervousness his next words came surprisingly easy. "I know you've always said that words aren't the only way to tell someone what you're thinking, but I need to say it. I love you. Always have since we were kids and that never changed, even on my worst days."

"Cloud..." Tifa closed her eyes, a stray tear running down her cheek as the most beautiful smile he had ever seen formed on her lips. "I love you too."

Their faces inched closer, lips only a hair's breadth away, when a giggle from behind made them stop. Untangling from one another, Cloud whirled around to see the door to the kid's bedroom ajar with Marlene and Denzel watching them through the gap.

"Don't pay us any mind. Go on," Marlene said through her giggles while Denzel just stood there with curiosity in his eyes since he had never seen the both of them this affectionate before. Cloud had to hand it to them, the kids were getting sly.

But Tifa wouldn't have any of that. Placing a hand on her hip, she narrowed her eyes and walked towards the kids, Mom Mode activated. "You better return to your bed right this instant or we're going to have a serious talk!"

Feeling that he owed Marlene for earlier, and partially because he really wanted to kiss Tifa, he reached out towards her, spun her around—

"What are y—"

—and captured her lips with his own, gently cupping her cheek. She only struggled for a second at most before she sighed into the kiss and her eyes fluttered closed. Pressing herself closer to him, she didn't pay any attention to Denzel and Marlene anymore, the latter clapping in delight at the display.

Looking over to the kids, Cloud gave them a look that told them it was now their chance to scram, before turning his full attention back to Tifa. It wasn't a particularly passionate or deep kiss, but it was enough to make his entire body tingle and from the way she held onto him it must be having the same effect on her.

He didn't know how long they had remained like this, but when they slowly and reluctantly separated, sure enough, the door to Denzel and Marlene's room was closed.

"They're gonna get an earful tomorrow," Tifa promised as she hugged Cloud, burying her face into the crook of his neck, sending a pleasant shiver down his spine as her breath tickled his skin.

"Mhm, go a bit easy on them, they didn't mean any harm by it."

"I'll think about it."

Silence had once again set in between them, but Cloud felt that right here, right now, everything had fallen into place. Slowly Tifa pulled away from him, taking hold of one of his hands, while the other still clasped the flower.

"Come on," she said, lacing their fingers as she pulled him along with her towards her – no – their bedroom. "Let's go to bed."

 

 

Chapter Text

Home Alone

 

Sweat glistened on Tifa’s forehead as she was tirelessly working the stove, glad that for now the air conditioning was working properly. One of the downsides to living in the wasteland around Midgar was that, when it was hot, it was damn hot. Summer had hit the town like a freight train did a poor Chocobo at night about a week ago and was turning most of the homes into heat boxes. While every single building was equipped with air conditioning, power could still sometimes be an issue with Mako energy not being an option anymore. And while on most normal days the ceiling fans in the bar were enough, when even those weren’t working anymore like it had been the case yesterday, Tifa was just about to lie down and have it end right there.

Nibelheim certainly never had summers like this, with it’s temperate mountain climate and while the slums underneath Midgar were far from cold, due to the residual heat from the Mako reactors, the gigantic plate at least served as a shield from the glaring sun.

It was lunch time and Tifa was currently being busy manning the field alone. Cloud was away on the job for a few days now and had taken Marlene and Denzel with him, to have them stay with Barret for a while, to enjoy a bit of a summer vacation before school would start for both of them in five weeks. And with Costa del Sol in relatively close proximity, Tifa would be lying if she said she didn’t want to immediately close up shop and head there herself right now.

Maybe later, she thought to herself, releasing a sigh as she fanned herself. Her black zip up top has been long since discarded, leaving her standing there dressed in the white top that she wore underneath. At least Cloud would be returning soon, so they could discuss the topic of a vacation in person. With the kids gone they had plenty of time to do so.

Ever since Cloud and her had started sleeping in the same bed again, things had been steadily progressing between the two of them. First order of business had been, to move his clothes back into the much bigger closet in their room. After that, they got rid of the bed inside the office. Cloud had wanted to keep it at first. To sleep in it in case he got home very late. But she had shut that idea down almost instantly, telling him she didn’t care about waking up in the dead of the night if it meant knowing that he was there.

He also had started taking less jobs again, like when Denzel had first come into their lives, and he planned his routes in a way so that he could spend lunch with them as often as possible. Of course he still did lengthy jobs on occasion since they paid especially well, but they were far and between now, while family outings had become a much more regular thing.

Another change was that he had also started touching her more. Gentle gestures, like a hand on the small of her back or her shoulder. To show her that he was there. That he wouldn’t leave again. They had become a daily thing and one she started to miss whenever he was away for long.

It felt strange, having the house only to herself right now. Usually there was always something to do with the children, or Cloud and her would have a quiet talk at night, but now she found herself with more free time than she knew what to do with after the bar was closed.

But knowing that Cloud would be joining her soon made her all sorts of excited. A side effect of his more physical attention was that the fire that had burned down to embers deep inside of her, had been rekindled.

Tifa had never been much of a sexual creature. She wasn’t one to simply jump into bed with a person, and the loss of her hometown and the emotional trauma it had caused had done a number on her love life to say the least, but Cloud had this ability to revert her back to that girl that had freshly entered puberty, who had just started crushing hard on the cute, but silent neighbor that promised to become her hero. In those two years after he had left she had spent many a night fantasizing about him in the most heated of ways that had her sneak her bed sheets into the laundry the next morning.

Her eyes wandered over to the other side of the counter, where she had sat as they made out just a few days ago. She felt another sort of heat creeping onto her face and was glad that she was standing in front of the stove to explain the sudden blush away.

And that concludes the latest news regarding the lawsuit against ShinRa Corporation. And now to the weather,” Tifa turned her head into the direction of the radio while everyone else in the bar quieted down to listen. “Sunny weather all over the continent with no signs of rain anytime soon. Perfect weather to take your family on a little trip but it also means that the heatwave in the area of Edge and around it will continue for the time being.”

A collective groan went through the bar. Tifa just closed her eyes and tried to focus on her cooking, thinking cooling thoughts, like plunging head first into the snow at Icicle Inn. Thankfully she was soon done with cooking and, putting the food on two plates, delivered it to two of their regulars; a pair of construction workers.

“Thanks,” one of them said. “Cloud and the kids out?”

“Yeah, last bit of true freedom before school starts for them. And with the heat as it is, it was the perfect opportunity.”

The other chuckled. “So home alone with the husband, eh?”

“Oh, uh, we’re not married.” she told them and brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Marriage hasn’t been anything they really had entertained in the two years since Meteorfall. They had been much too busy getting their lives in order, and that didn’t even include the amount of self doubt and guilt on both of their sides that had put a strain on their relationship.

The two men looked at each other with a small look of disbelief.

“Could’ve fooled me. With you acting like newlyweds,” the first one said with a shrug. “Figured you finally got hitched after resolving that tussle of yours.”

Once more her face heated up, but this time she couldn’t take a working stove as an excuse. Did they really act like that?

She felt her thumb rub against the ring on her right hand, wondering for only the fracture of a second how it would feel to wear one on her other hand, but quickly brushed that thought aside. One step at a time. If they ever found themselves at that line they would cross it together.

As if on cue the familiar sound of Fenrir’s engine drew near and came to a halt in front of the bar. Her heart skipped a beat in excitement. Cloud was earlier than expected. She was just turning around, to see him walking into the bar and she walked over to greet him with a hug, glad that he was back and to have an out to a potential embarrassing conversation.

“Welcome home,” she said as she let go of him. His forehead was glistening with sweat and his hair had become kinda droopy, looking like the tail of an exhausted Chocobo. She giggled as she gently brushed her hand across his scruffy jaw. “You need a shave. And a shower.”

“Yeah, forgot my razor the other day.” They locked eyes with one another, smiles forming on their lips. A snicker from behind her reminded Tifa that she was in the middle of the bar. Whirling around, she threw the two men in the corner her most heated glare, placing a hand on her hip, before walking back behind the bar with a huff as they burst into laughter.

Cloud just stood there with a confused look on his face.

 


 

It was later that evening, after the bar had closed, that they found themselves in their small living room. Sitting on the sofa that had been their first major piece of furniture, they talked about the past few days, like when a bunch of salarymen had been dragged into the bar by their boss the other day and it had turned into an impromptu karaoke session that she had to break up. Fun times.

“So let me get this straight.” Tifa giggled and ran her finger over the rim of her glass. “You just helped her find her way to the Inn and she gave you her number?”

“Mhm.” Cloud confirmed and refilled his own glass with the bottle of Cosmo Whiskey that he had gotten as bonus payment for his delivery, the ice cubes inside his glass cracking as they made contact with the much warmer liquid. He wasn’t much of a drinker, but it would be a shame to let the bottle go to waste so she had insisted they drink it today to celebrate his return. “I don’t see what’s so funny about it.”

“I just have to imagine you standing there all serious as you show her where to go only for you to look all confused when she hands you her number.” She giggled again, trying to mimic his ‘confused face’. “So did you keep it?”

“What!?” Cloud’s eyes widened and he nearly spilled his drink. “Of course not. I threw it away as soon as she was gone. Why would I keep it?”

“Just joking,” she said with a grin and took a sip from her own drink, savoring the taste. It definitely was a fine brand, though not the hardest stuff she had ever drank, and she could hold her liquor pretty damn well. Years of owning a bar had given her some experience. Another giggle escaped her as she saw Cloud’s surly expression and she leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek.

If she was honest with herself, she felt a bit jealous. How often did Cloud get propositioned like that? Did he only tell her about it this time because they had a few glasses already?

He was a good looking guy. Very good looking. And while she was no stranger to being hit on, that had stopped ever since Cloud became a permanent part of her life. No one was crazy enough to flirt with the girlfriend of a perceived ex-SOLDIER, even when he had disappeared on her, which she was thankful for in a way. But when Cloud was traveling around she wasn’t there to keep women from coming onto him. She knew that she could trust Cloud, but there was still a part of her that felt threatened.

And her reawakened libido wanted to lay a claim, and she had just about enough alcohol in her system to think of something.

Biting her lip Tifa emptied her glass in one gulp, placed it onto the table, and leaned towards Cloud. He looked at her, a puzzled expression on his face and clearly caught off guard, making it easy for her to snatch the glass out of his hand.

“Hey!” he exclaimed as she emptied his glass as well. But before he could do anything Tifa had straddled him, cupped his face with both of her hands and pulled him into a deep kiss, letting the whiskey flow out of her mouth and into his as their tongues brushed against one another. Tifa didn't pay any mind to the stains she was leaving on her top as some of the alcohol ran down their chins in small streams. She felt Cloud circle his arms around her waist and let herself be pulled closer, seeking comfort in his warmth despite the general heat in the room.

After they parted lips Tifa buried her face in the crook of his neck.

“What was that?” he asked her, gently stroking her sides, and a pleasant shiver went up her body at the feeling, making her press herself even closer to him.

“You’re too popular with the girls, it makes me want to do crazy stuff when I’m alone with you,” she murmured as she started to plant kisses over his neck, smiling inwardly when he inhaled sharply. Feeling very brave, she darted out her tongue, brushing it against the sensitive skin, and was rewarded with a groan that caused a different kind of warmth to spread through her body.

With only the slightest bit of force Cloud pulled her away from his neck to lock his eyes with hers.

“And you’re the only one I need,” he said before crashing his lips against hers into another, much more hungrier kiss. She released a moan inside his mouth as their tongues started their heated dance, and she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. In response Cloud placed his hand on her hips and pressed her down so that her pelvis was brushing against his. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she felt his erection pressing against her even through all their layer of clothes.

Too much, she thought and ripped her lips away from his, pulling one of her hands back to unzip his top and instantly covered his chest in kisses. She didn’t get far because Cloud pulled her face up once more and kissed her fiercely. He nibbled on her lower lip for but a moment before moving his lips away from her mouth and to her neck, intent on giving her some payback. Oh how she liked payback!

As he attacked her neck with kisses and bites, the dampness between her legs started to become too much. She wanted their clothes gone. Gathering all of her willpower she leaned towards his ear. “Take me to bed.”

Pausing, Cloud’s eyes flickered towards hers, his Mako green having grown darker as they were drowned in lust, then used his incredible strength to lift her up. Laughing she grabbed onto him with one hand while her other one quickly grabbed the bottle of whiskey, earning herself an amused eyebrow but nothing else as he carried her to their room.

Inside, he playfully threw Tifa onto the soft mattress, making her yelp a little bit in surprise but she still grinned at him and unscrewed the bottle to take another sip while she watched Cloud get rid of his unzipped top, revealing his toned chest to her. Placing the bottle on the nightstand beside their bed, she started to get rid of her shoes, throwing them carelessly to the floor. Her hands went down to her shorts as Cloud joined her on top of the bed, capturing her lips in another kiss and helping her get rid of that pesky article.

This is finally happening!

Once cast aside, she moved to return the favor and help him out of his pants, giggling into the kiss as they fumbled with his zipper until, with one final pull they were down to his knees. She barely gave him enough time to pull them off as she pressed her pelvis against his, rubbing herself against his erection.

Still too much. Tifa pushed Cloud away and pulled her top over her head, then removed her bra in one fluid practiced movement as he watched her intently, his eyes moving over every curve of her body before coming to a halt at her face. 

Tifa laid back onto the mattress, placing a pillow under head, and lifted her lower body to take off her soaked panties, watching as the object of her desire discarded the last bit of clothing as well. Her gaze traveled down his body towards his member and she felt the heat between her legs become almost unbearable.

“Cloud...” she exhaled pleadingly as her hand traveled down her body and between her legs, stroking herself to take some of the edge off. But she only managed to increase her need as she watched his manhood twitch in anticipation. She parted her legs further, inviting him to where he belonged. No more words needed to be said, as Cloud slowly took his place on top of her and, with one smooth push, entered her pussy.

They both moaned out, not moving as they enjoyed the feeling of one another. It had really been too long. She had almost forgotten this feeling of him filling her just right. She planted kisses on his shoulder and let out another moan as he started to pull out, before thrusting himself back in, slowly falling into a steady rhythm. One of her legs moved to wrap around his waist, giving herself a little bit of leverage to meet his thrusts with movement of her own.

“Tifa,” Cloud murmured into her ear and she moved her kisses towards his neck and face, making him look into her eyes before their lips crashed against one another, drowning her moans as their tongues danced in tune to the sound of their lovemaking. His movements started to become faster and she gripped onto him for dear life as she too felt her orgasm approaching.

Nearly there, nearly there, I’m— she couldn’t even finish that thought as stars exploded in her mind, her entire body tensing up. Above her Cloud thrust himself into her a few more times, face visibly strained as she tightened around him like a vice before he joined her over the edge with one last push, collapsing on top of her as he came.

She gently nuzzled his neck when her body started to obey her once more, basking in the afterglow and the feeling of him on top of her. After a while he slowly lifted himself off her, and a sudden feeling of loss overcame her as he pulled himself out of her. Loss and something else.

As he smiled down at her she couldn’t help but squirm and look at him with a guilty expression. His smile turned into confusion as Tifa grabbed hold of his arm and locked her leg with his before twisting them around, reversing their positions.

“What the—” He didn’t manage to utter anything more as a moan ripped through his throat when Tifa attacked his neck with her lips, nibbling and sucking the sensitive flesh while her fingernails brushed gently over his shaft.

“I’m sorry, Cloud. But I’m not satisfied yet,” she told him. It has just been too long. And now the fire inside her had become an inferno that needed to be put out by him and him alone. She pushed him into the mattress and let her lips wander lower, planting kisses over his chest and stomach until she arrived at her desired destination.

She lied down, propping herself up with her elbows so that her breasts were resting against his cock. Giving Cloud a teasing look, she started to move her upper body, rubbing her breasts against him, enjoying the sounds that he was producing. When she felt him harden again she moved so that he was resting in the valley of her breasts and darted her tongue out to brush against his tip. The taste of their mixed fluids only added more fuel to the fire of her arousal and her left hand moved down to rub herself as she licked Cloud clean, watching him intently as he threw his head back with a moan.

With one final flick of her tongue she let him go, crawling back on top of him and playfully placed a kiss on his nose. Cloud opened his eyes, smirking at her as she gave him a seductive smile, slightly pushing himself up with his elbows while she took hold of his cock and guided it to her entrance. Tifa sighed happily as she felt him enter her again, remaining like that for a moment to savor the feeling before she placed her hands on his chest and started moving up and down in a steady rhythm.

Underneath her, Cloud placed his left hand on her waist as she rode him, while his right reached out towards the nightstand to grab the bottle of whiskey left unattended by them. As he was about to take a sip Tifa snatched it out of his hand and leaned back so that she was out of reach, bringing her hips down to grind against him as she did so. She locked her eyes with his for a brief second, then emptied the rest of the bottle onto her chest. The whiskey had long since grown warm from the heat inside the room, but to her overheated body it felt like she had just stepped into the cooling spring rain of their home region.

A strange sound escaped Cloud as he pushed himself up, grabbing her waist with both hands. She moved to circle her legs around him while dropping the bottle onto the mattress, from where it rolled down to the floor as the bed started to shake from their rhythmic movement. She buried her hands into the hair on the back of his head as he greedily started to kiss and lick all over her chest, trying to gather every last drop on it, making her moan whenever he stopped to pay special attention to her aching nipples.

Her breath became erratic as she felt another climax approaching and she hugged Cloud’s head closer to her chest. With a cry she threw her head back, toes curling as she came hard. She felt him grit his teeth against her chest as her inner walls squeezed his dick, and he held her in place as she rode out her orgasm. After it passed she sagged against him, leaning her head against his.

With a sort of growl his grip on her waist tightened and with one movement he lifted her up, making her cry out in surprise for a second. He carried her to a nearby wall and all but crashed them into it. Instantly she wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, moaning and loving every second of it as he thrust into her with abandon. It was a good thing that the kids were away, because she was very sure the sounds that they were making could be heard throughout the entire building, but right now she couldn't care less if their neighbors heard them. With every thrust she felt her mind slipping away and being replaced with something more old, more primal, as he fucked her, letting out a cry of pleasure whenever he pushed especially deep.

Tifa dug her nails into his back, eliciting a hiss from Cloud as he buried his face into her neck. Breath hot on her skin, he started to mutter her name like it was the mantra of a madman as his thrusts became more and more intense, seeking his release with a ferocity that turned her on like nothing else.

With a mixture of a moan and a growl he buried himself deep inside her as he came in one hot burst. The feeling of his release was enough to send her over the edge for a third time that night and her body responded by sheer instinct, hugging him tightly against her until their spasms subsided. Out of breath, they both sunk to the ground as Cloud’s legs started to give out, their hearts thumping in unison inside their chests. After having calmed down Tifa released a contented sigh, lazily running her hands over his back.

“I love you,” she murmured before kissing him.

 


 

Tifa awoke to the sound of their alarm clock. Without taking a look she slammed her hand on it to shut it off, then opened one of her eyes a crack to glare at the bright green digits reading 6 AM. She was still exhausted from the night before. With a groan she wanted to push herself off the mattress when she felt an arm circle around her waist.

“Let’s just stay in bed,” Cloud murmured as he pulled her closer to his naked body. They were both sticky with sweat, and a bit of whiskey on her part, and it was already way too hot for her liking this early in the morning. Despite that, she nestled against him.

“You sure?” she asked and smiled as he rubbed his nose against her shoulder.

“Yeah. I’ve got no deliveries today, so let’s both take the day off.”

She laughed. “I don’t think I can walk straight anyway, so fine by me.”

“Mhm.”

As they lay there, Tifa drew lazy circles on Cloud’s arm, about to close her eyes to go back to sleep, as she remembered something. “Hey Cloud?”

“Yeah?” Tifa turned around in his arm, looking at him with a smile on her face.

“Instead of just today why don’t we take some more time off?”

He lifted an eyebrow. “What, like a vacation?”

“Yup.” She nodded. “We could join Denzel and Marlene, have some fun and relax. I think we’ve earned it after everything that's happened.”

Cloud seemed to mull the idea over for a moment, but then nodded with a smile. “Sure. I’ve even got an idea. Remember the place we’ve bought in Costa del Sol?”

“Of course, that was pretty expensive.” Tifa muttered. For someone that was desperate to get rid of the place the guy had asked for a pretty horrendous sum of Gil.

“I recently went through some of our old things and guess what I found?”

“No way.” She looked at him, surprise clear on her face. “The deed?”

He nodded. “The deed. So how about he go there and tidy up the place before meeting Barret and the kids?”

Her smile widened as she started to get excited about a family vacation at the sea, when another thought entered her head.

“Think it would be alright if we could spend a day or two alone there after we’re finished cleaning up?” she asked, stroking a finger over his chest. Was she being selfish by wanting to spend some quality time alone with him?

If she was then Cloud made no indication of it as he simply smiled at her, fingers brushing some of her messy hair out of her face.

“I’m sure that can be arranged.” Cloud said before meeting her lips halfway.

Maybe...Maybe being selfish once in a while was not so bad.


Chapter Text

Casa del Sol

 

Tifa walked across Costa del Sol, the small heels of her sandals click-clacking on the stony walkway of the coastal town. A huge laundry bag was slung over shoulder and he held her mobile phone in her left hand as she was talked to Barret on the other end of the line.

“I’m surprised myself,” she said and stopped at the railing of the bridge that led to their place, leaning against it with her back and looking out towards the sea. “Guess we were lucky. So how are the kids doing?”

“They’re out playing at the new playground we’ve built recently,” Barret told her and Tifa felt relieved that the kids were having fun. She knew Marlene wouldn’t care either way as long as she was with her dad but Denzel she was never too sure about. Maybe she worried too much about him? He was an active kid, especially now without his Geostigma.

So how long do you think you’ll need?”

“Almost done actually, it’s just some cleaning and stocking up on food.” They've been hard at work since they arrived and Tifa felt a surge of pride at how good of a job they were doing. Of course, it helped that the place was still in good condition, despite no one having been here for two years now. Part of her had been afraid that the place would have been beset by rats or been trashed by a bunch of drunk kids after an especially rowdy beach party.

“So we should be done by tomorrow.”

I see,” Barret said, then yelped, followed by curse that made Tifa REALLY glad the kids were out playing. She couldn’t help but laugh in amusement. Barret and a kitchen were never a good combination. With a huff he continued: “Just say the word and I’ll bring the kids over. And don't worry about spending a couple of days alone, ya more than earned it."

“Thanks, Barret.”

Don't mention it. Say 'hi' to Spike, will ya?”

Tifa smiled at the nickname. It had started out as a way to insult Cloud but over time it had become an affectionate nickname between the two men. “I will. Tell Marlene and Denzel I said hello.”

After exchanging goodbyes, Tifa put her phone into her small purse and resumed her walk back to the mansion.

 


 

“Cloud?” she called out as she closed the door, placing the bag that contained freshly washed bed linen on the floor for now.

“Down here,” his voice echoed through the house. Following his voice, Tifa headed down into the basement where she found Cloud inspecting the fuse box, dressed in a simple black T-shirt and green shorts. With a satisfied nod he closed it and turned towards her. “Was afraid we might have to replace the fuse, but still looks pretty good in there. Also no old guy sleeping here anymore.”

Tifa covered her mouth in an effort to stifle a giggle as Cloud talked about the former housekeeper. The man had never been told that the house was sold and had thus stayed behind and quietly take care of the building. She wagered it wasn’t until he noticed that he didn't receive any payment anymore, that he finally did leave. She resolved that would thank him for his work should she ever run into him again.

After heading back upstairs, they put the bed linen on all the beds, then headed into the living room to take a break. As soon as they had sat down, Tifa discarded her sandals, then smoothed out her sundress before lying down, putting her head on top of Cloud’s lap and closing her eyes. She released a contented sigh when she felt Cloud’s fingers weave through her hair. Barret was right.They deserved this. Cloud and her had been through so much and had spent every day since then to get back to this level of intimacy. They were...happy.

Lazily, she turned around to look at him, a smile on her face. Cloud mirrored the expression with one of his smaller, and sometimes a bit goofier looking ones. “What are you thinking about?” he asked.

“How I’d love to just stay this way for the rest of the day,” she confessed, putting her head in a slightly more comfortable position to emphasize her point. “But, we still need to buy some stuff for dinner. How else am I supposed to use this magnificent kitchen?”

Maybe she was exaggerating a bit, but the kitchen here was hands down better than the one they had in Edge, and the cook inside her wanted to get cracking. The last few meals they've had were from the local restaurants and while the food was good, eating out would become expensive real fast with the prices they've had around here. It made her wonder if she should be charging more back home, even if their menu wasn’t as vast as a real restaurant's.

With a small sigh she started to sit up again. No rest for the wicked. “OK, let’s go.”

After they left the house, Tifa playfully hooked her arm through Cloud’s as they walked side by side towards the part of town where they sold local ingredients. Costa del Sol certainly had gotten bigger over the years, most likely due to becoming the only tourist attraction again after the Gold Saucer was shut down.

Buying groceries didn’t take long, but Cloud wasn't in the mood to go back just yet, since he had spend the majority of the day inside the house, so they agreed to go to a nearby ice cream parlor, with him leading the way.

Sitting outside the parlor, under the cooling shade of a parasol, Tifa came to realization that Cloud Strife was still a puzzle to her, and probably would remain that way for the rest of their lives, but not in the bad way it used to be. She prided herself for knowing him the best out of all their friends, but she found that there was always something new to learn about the man she loved. Like, for example, that he apparently had a voracious love for ice cream, which made him order the biggest, most exotic sundae on the entire menu. It was filled to the brim with various flavors, fruits, syrup and cute cafe curls that served as decorations. She watched him as he dug in, a look of pure concentration on his face. Apparently ice cream was serious business as well.

Looking down towards her much more modest strawberry sundae, she felt only a teensy bit envious, but still had to smile at the sight of him. Back in Nibelheim they didn’t have ice cream. The mountain town just wasn’t equipped for that sort of thing, and her first exposure to it had been years ago after she had first arrived in Midgar. Was it the same for him?

“I didn’t know you liked ice cream that much,” she said in a teasing tone, crossing her legs as she rested her face on her hand.

“Mhm. We haven’t really had the chance to eat some together.” A guilty look crossed his features and she was reminded of a puppy that was caught doing something it shouldn’t. “I...sometimes get some when I’m in the area.”

She laughed and gently brushed her foot against his leg in a ‘there there’ gesture. “It’s alright. I just didn’t expect it, since it seemed so unlike you. But now that I think about it, it does feels very much like you.”

He blushed a little. “In a good way?”

She smiled and took a spoonful of her ice cream. “A very good way.”

A moment of comfortable silence passed between them before Cloud spoke up again. “I haven’t been to this place for years though.”

Tifa looked at him, but didn’t pry. He would tell her when he was ready.

“Zack was the first one to introduce me to ice cream, back when I was stationed in Midgar. He took me to a small place in the slums. At first I was confused and asked why we didn’t just go to one atop the plate and he just said: ‘The stuff up there tastes good but it got no heart to it’,” Cloud said in a pretty good imitation of the cheerful SOLDIER, gently rapping his fist against his chest where his heart rested. “It was a small place and only had simple flavors but it tasted good. Later on I went to a place on the plate on my own, and Zack had been right. It lacked heart.”

Tifa listened intently, watching him take another spoonful of ice cream and savoring the taste for a moment.

“A year later we were both passing through Costa del Sol and he took me here.” he gestured towards the parlor, then knocked his spoon against the glass of his huge cup. “Bought me one of these saying ‘Now you’re ready for some big boy ice cream. Who knows, maybe you’ll take a girl you like on a date here?’”

Tifa watched him, knowing exactly what he meant with ‘passing through’. It must have been one of the last happy memories he had of Zack. The look in his eyes still held sadness, and it always would, but now it was mostly replaced by fondness for his fallen friend.

“So, uh—” he cleared his throat. “Does this... feel like a date?”

She was stunned for a second upon hearing his question, but then a smile crept onto her face and she once more brushed her foot against his leg. “Yeah, I think it does.”

“Ah. I’m glad.”

She giggled. “We kinda skipped that step.”

Cloud looked at her, giving her a crooked smile. “We did, didn’t we?”

Meeting again after so many years, going on a journey to save the world, recovering their shared past and realizing their mutual feelings among all the chaos had them fall into bed together instead of going the more traditional rout. And now they had a small family. But that was alright, she wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.

They continued to eat their ice cream in peace, Tifa obviously being the first to finish, so she contented herself with watching him enjoy his, happy to have found another piece of the beautiful puzzle that was Cloud Strife. But there was one thing that he said that really piqued her curiosity. “Say, that place Zack took you to, which sector was it?”

Cloud looked up, scratching the back of his head. “I think it was...Sector 3?” he nodded. “Yeah Sector 3.”

“Frosty Delights?”

He looked at her in surprise. “Yeah, how did you know?”

Tifa giggled, covering her lips with the back of her hand. Now this was a coincidence! “I also had my first ice cream there.”

“No way!”

“Yes way.” she nodded. “I was only in Midgar for about half a year at the time, and I didn’t want to depend on Dr. Hiragi’s kindness all the time, so I was looking for a job. But nobody wanted to hire a 16 year old country girl and I felt a little down. Then I stumbled upon Frosty Delights and decided to finally try some ice cream as a pick me up.”

“Wow.” Cloud chuckled then became thoughtful for a second. “You know, I've heard something recently.”

Tifa tilted her head to the side. “Oh?”

“Mhm. There’s a new Frosty Delights in Edge. Same owner too,” he said, a small smile crossing his face. “Maybe...we can go there when we get back. You know, just the two of us.”

Biting her lip she moved her hand across the table, placing it on top of his, as her eyes locked onto his Mako tinted ones.

“It’s a date.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Seaside

 

Here is a little secret: Cloud actually liked the sea. It filled him with a sort of peace to just look out at the wide, open horizon and the occasional waves. Always did, even as a kid, when the townsfolk would travel to the cliff side beach near Nibelheim. It gave him time to think. Of course back then his thoughts weren't always happy. But now he could appreciate it in ways that he couldn’t back then.

Like spending a relaxing day at the beach together with his family, something he could have never imagined back in the day.

He looked over to the others while lounging on his beach towel. Marlene was standing near the water but not going in herself as she watched Denzel standing hip deep inside, a pair of diving goggles with attached snorkel resting on his head.

"Come on, I'll teach you!" Denzel called out to her, a wide grin on his face, his hair plastered against his skin. He was a very good swimmer, a fact that the boy was very proud of. Marlene on the other hand couldn't swim at all, never having had the time to learn it in the slums of Midgar or in the years after Meteorfall, and her father, being the mining man that he was, also wasn't the best at swimming. Said man was currently busy blowing up a pair of floaties so that Marlene could still enjoy the water, while the little girl was starting to look a bit impatient.

Cloud laughed to himself. "Need some help?" he called towards Barret "You aren't getting any younger after all."

The only answer that he got from the older man was a discrete flipping of the bird, when Marlene wasn't looking. Shaking his head he leaned back onto his elbows. Looking around, he spied Tifa walking towards him, a can of soda in each hand and looking absolutely striking.

Suddenly he was reminded of the other reason he had liked the beach as a kid; because she would also be there. So whenever he wasn't busy brooding over how he could be worthy of his crush, he was usually staring at her as she jumped around the water in a frilly, navy blue bikini. Puberty had been really rough on him.

Years later he still couldn't get himself to look away. The cute girl that had made his boyish heart beat wildly in his chest was now a beautiful woman. And while she had exchanged the frilly two piece with a more conservative black halter neck one-piece, that covered her entire front, the way that it hugged against her body, as well as the amount of back that it revealed, made her no less an eye turner, and he found himself frowning when he noticed a few guys staring at her as she walked by.

Tifa herself seemed to be oblivious to her good looks, which also reminded him of their childhood, where she never seemed to realize the effect that she had on all the boys in their age group. Except for Bryan, who never paid her much mind, and Cloud was pretty sure that he had been sweet on Timothy.

While he lamented that random piece of childhood memory he felt Tifa sit down next to him on their shared towel, making him look at her.

"Gil for your thought?" she asked, handing him his drink and pushing her shades up to rest on her head. He took the offered drink, opened the can and took a long sip of the refreshing beverage.

"Guys were staring at you," he said quickly and took another sip. Out of the corner of his eyes he noticed Tifa tilting her head.

"They did?" she asked with a hint of amusement in her voice.

"Mhm," he grumbled slightly. To his surprise Tifa started to laugh, making him turn fully towards her.

"You're jealous?" she asked him, leaning against him as she shook with laughter. He just frowned. He didn't find it very funny at all. "Sorry, it's just -haha- just the other day I was all jealous about some woman giving you her number and it was you reassuring me that I'm the only one you need."

He did, didn't he? Now he just felt silly. And like a hypocrite. Which just made it worse right now, as he felt his face and ears heat up from embarrassment.

Way to go. Cloud Strife's an idiot. More news at 11, he thought to himself, looking away from her and towards the sea once more.

He felt her arm circle around his back as she placed her head on his shoulder. "We're both pretty silly, aren't we?"

Well, Cloud wasn't so sure about the both part but he felt plenty silly right now. Exhaling through his nose, he pulled her even closer to him, letting her closeness calm him down.

"Here we are, getting jealous, when it's them that should be jealous," she said, making his head turn to look at her. "Because we got each other and they don't."

A small smile crept onto his face, and he saw her mirror his expression before leaning in and nuzzling the side of his face. "And for your information: You're the only one I need. Who cares about some beach dudes giving me looks or girls in skimpy bikinis peeling those shorts off you with their eyes?"

"Mhm." he nodded, then furrowed his brows in confusion. Bikini girls? "Wait, what?"

He was about to further inquire what she meant when another voice interrupted him.

"Don't let me stop ya two lovebirds," Cloud heard Barret say, followed by a laugh by the older man as Tifa and him jumped apart a little. Heat was rushing into his face once more as he watched Barret pick up his shades before walking back towards the shore, giving Cloud a shit eating grin the entire time. Despite his feeling of embarrassment, Cloud kept his arm around Tifa’s waist and discretely flipped off Barret, making him laugh even more.

Next to him Tifa opened her can of soda, using it hide her own blush as she drank from it. His gaze moved to the water where Marlene had finally joined Denzel. The boy was making good on his promise to teach Marlene how to swim under the watchful eye of her father. "By the time we're going back to Edge, Marlene will be hooked and ask us to come here all the time."

Tifa nodded in agreement. "I guess this has to become a regular thing then, hm?"

"Yeah. I think it should." He smiled, pulling her once more closer so that she was snug against him. He closed his eyes as he felt Tifa rest her head on his shoulder again, mulling over what she had said to him just now.

Yeah, it was silly and he shouldn’t be jealous. Because this woman, the girl of his childhood dreams, loved him despite his faults. Their shared experiences in the Lifestream and beyond had created a bond that wasn’t so easily severed, even when he had pushed her away in the past. So really; who cares about some guys, and apparently girls, giving them looks on the beach?

“...”

Girls were giving him looks, though?

Opening his eyes, Cloud started to move them around, trying not to be too obvious while scanning the beach. When Tifa started to shake in subdued laughter it told him he didn’t succeed, or that she just knew him too well. He preferred the latter.

“On your ten, soldier boy,” she said, not taking her eyes of the kids and covering her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Ah.” He discreetly moved his head and spied two women about their age, with sun tanned skin and, indeed, wearing rather skimpy beach apparel. One of them was still looking their way, though her gaze was now focused on the woman in his arms in a subtle glare. He would be lying if he said they weren’t attractive but—

“Lookin’ good?” Tifa asked him after managing not to laugh.

“Not as good as you.” —he wasn’t interested in the slightest.

“Mhm, you’re looking handsome too, from where I’m sitting,” she said and he felt himself blush at her compliment. Today was one of those blushing days, wasn’t it?

They remained like this for a while, just basking in the peacefulness of the moment, before Tifa pulled away from him. He watched as she rose to her feet and held out her hand towards him.

“Come on, time to join me for a swim instead of sitting around and looking at the sea like when we were kids.” A teasing smile formed on her lips as she said that. For a brief moment he was a young boy again, and she the girl in the frilly bikini on that beach near Nibelheim. With a smile of his own, Cloud took her hand and let himself be pulled to his feet. She didn’t let got of his hand, instead lacing their fingers together as she led him to the shore.

Yeah, he definitely wouldn’t mind if this became a regular thing.

 

Chapter Text

 

Maternal Bond

 

She hummed to herself as she wiped the bar counter, her shoulders moving to the music from the stereo that was resting behind her. Once it was clean enough to her liking she moved from behind the bar to the tables, passing Denzel who was eagerly sweeping the floor in tune with the music, giving her a big grin that she returned.

"Yippie yi ooohhh, Yippie yi yaaaay," she sang along to the deep voice of Billy Gil. "Doomtrain in the sky."

"You like this kind of music a lot, right?" Denzel asked her.

"I love it." Tifa laughed. "I was the only kid my age that did. Everyone else only liked rock or the newest pop songs. Not me though, country gal through and through."

She looked at Denzel. "What kind of music do you like?"

"I...don't know," he admitted after thinking for a moment, then shrugged. "Never really heard a lot of music in the past. I like this song though!"

"Heh, we're gonna make a Chocobo Boy out of you yet."

"What kind of music does Cloud like?"

"That...is a good question." Tifa looked up from her work. In the past 2 years she never really witnessed him listening to music. A small part of her tried to imagine him listening to country music by his lonesome and sometimes, when he felt he wasn't being watched, letting out a YEEHAW! Tifa had to use all of her willpower not to laugh at that mental image.

She fixed Denzel with a look. "You know what? We're gonna ask him when he gets back."

"Sure!" Denzel grinned. It warmed her heart to see the boy be this cheerful. Back when he had Geostigma there was always something sad about him, despite the cheer he put on. But not anymore. Now he could be a normal kid.

It was Saturday, and both of them were alone in the house right now. Cloud had just left yesterday, on a delivery that would take him until tomorrow to complete, and Barret had picked up Marlene, to spend the day with him while he was in Edge for some business. So that left the two of them all day to do some stuff around the house, before they would open the bar in the evening.

"Alright, I think we're done here!" Tifa said, putting her hands on her hips and looking around the bar in satisfaction, like a queen looking over her realm. Walking over to the bar she put the rag into the sink for her to clean up later. In her mind she went over the list of chores for the day, and found that there was only one thing to be done now.

"Hmm, I guess shopping is next!"

"Are we going to the market?" Denzel asked as he placed the broom behind the bar. Tifa looked at the clock on the wall; the market was still open for a few more hours. Maybe she could do some additional shopping then!

"Sure!" Tifa turned off the stereo and headed upstairs to get a bag. When she returned Denzel was already at the door, bouncing on his feet, making Tifa giggle. She locked the door behind them and they made their way down the street, passing and greeting some of their neighbors along the way.

The market was a relatively new addition to Edge, and it was a place where people from the areas around Edge, namely Kalm and even places as far as the Chocobo Ranch, would offer their wares to the prospering city. As they walked through the crowd of people, Tifa offered Denzel her hand so that they wouldn't be separated.

Together they bought groceries and some ingredients that she could use for tonight's menu. Denzel insisted that he would carry the bag, something that Tifa found endearing enough that she accepted. They stopped in front of a few other stalls, Tifa being especially captivated by one selling jewelry. But the prices were just a little over their budget. Ah, but it's nice to fantasize a little.

At the next stand, on the other hand, she could afford a bit of a spending spree. A flower merchant wasn't something you saw every day, and fond memories of her dear departed friend overcame her. Besides, they were very pretty flowers, so she decided to buy some for the bar.

"Here you go, ma'am," the friendly middle aged man said as he handed her a bouquet. His eyes fell on Denzel and he gave him a big grin. "Doing a man's duty, huh?"

"Yes!" Denzel pushed out his chest proudly as he held the bag in his left hand.

"That's good. I'm sure your mother appreciates the help."

Tifa frowned as she saw the look on Denzel's face darken a little as he gave the man a nod. "Hm."

She gave the merchant a friendly goodbye and left together with Denzel, who was staring ahead, lost in thought, and when she offered him her hand again he ignored her. Did it bother him that people thought they were mother and son?

The boy had lost his parents in a very violent way, one that they were partly responsible for, and she realized that them taking care of him was their way of atoning for their sins. But what had started out as atonement had long since become genuine motherly love, and she was sure Cloud also loved him like he was their own.

Maybe Denzel needed to realize that? That they loved him the same way his parents loved him?

"Denzel?"

"Hm?"

"Do you want to help me make some cupcakes?"

 


 

After they left the market they had made a little detour to a store, that Tifa liked to frequent when it came to baking, before returning to 7th Heaven. Back there she put away their purchases and filled a few vases with water to place the flowers inside. With that done, she and Denzel headed into their private kitchen upstairs, where she immediately went to work making the batter, making sure to involve the boy as much as possible.

After the batter was done she divided it up into a special cupcake pan, before putting it into the oven. They both sat down at the table staring at the oven, silence setting over them as they waited. Tifa glanced over to him, the look in his eyes still far away, and she sighed through her nose.

"I know how you feel," she said to Denzel, making the boy look at her. "I also lost my mother when I was young. I was as old as you are now."

"Sorry," he mumbled and she gave him a small smile.

"It hurt a lot back then. Still does."

"How did she die?" he asked after a pause.

"She was sick. Nobody knew what it was exactly," she told him as a nostalgic sadness gripped her heart. "To me it felt like the world was ending. In fact, I did something very stupid soon after; something that nearly got me killed, too."

"What was that?"

"Where I'm from, we believed that the spirits of the deceased would travel across the mountain," she explained to him. "So I was trying to follow her, because I wanted to see her.

"I got hurt pretty badly. If not for Cloud I might have been dead. He was the only one that was brave enough to follow me." She smiled inwardly at the look of awe on the boy's face at the mention of Cloud's bravery. He was most likely imagining it more epicly than it truly was.

Rising to her feet, she walked over to Denzel and knelt in front of him, looking him in the eyes. "I know how it feels like to lose one's parents. My father died when I was 15, and soon after I found myself alone in a strange city." She shook her head. "No, that's not true. I wasn't alone."

She took one of Denzel's hands in her own. "There was a kind man, a stranger at the time, that took it upon himself to take care of me, a girl with nowhere to go, and after a while it felt like I had a father again. Denzel, I know I can never replace your mother, and I'm not going to ask you to call me 'Mom'. But as far as I'm concerned, you're my son."

The boy started to shake as sobs racked his body, and in a flash he all but tackled her to the ground as he hugged her. She moved her free arm around to hug him back and placed a kiss on top of his head. After his sobs had quieted down they let go of each other, and Tifa brushed the last remaining tears out of his face.

"I love you," she told him, and a small grin split her face as she saw him look down in a bashful manner.

"Love you too," he mumbled, and Tifa ruffled his hair, before pulling him into another hug.

 

Chapter Text

Need

 

Cloud groaned as the hot water of the little motel shower hit his body, and he finally felt how exhausted he really was. Leaning his head against the wall, he just wanted to be home again. He SHOULD be home again, but something with one of his customers had come up and, bleeding heart that he was, he offered to help out.

It had earned him a nice bonus, but it also meant he couldn't sleep in the same bed as Tifa tonight. She had sounded disappointed when he called her earlier, but mostly she was just glad that he was safe.

"I'll miss you," she had said, and it was only his tired body that kept him from jumping on Fenrir and hightailing it towards Edge. It was strange; for a time he had dreaded going back home, pulling away from the people he loved, plagued by guilt that told him he didn't deserve any of it, that dying alone would be for the better. And now he hated being away from them longer than was necessary.

Finally letting go of his guilt did go a long way.

Releasing a sigh, he closed his eyes and pretended that he was in the shower back home. It was a very nice shower. They had a very nice bathroom in general, with enough room that two people could navigate it without problems. A necessity, really, with two kids in the house as well. And with them going to school now it was always pretty busy in the morning, so Cloud and Tifa had started to share bathroom time.

It was actually kinda nice to converse with someone while getting ready for the day. Just another sign that things were settling down again.

And sometimes they would even share the shower…

Cloud groaned again as the thought created an all too pleasant image in his head that caused Little Cloud to stand to attention.

Ever since that night over a bottle of whiskey, sex had once more become a much more regular thing as well. Maybe even more so than before. Not that Little Cloud had any complaints about that.

All the more frustrating was that the last few times they wanted to be intimate, something always managed to interrupt them. Like that one time Yuffie called them about a problem she was having. She didn't want to go into detail, but it involved a ship in a bottle, three types of status Materia, and a crossbow she had gotten from who knows where at the time. No one walked out of that situation looking pretty.

Then there was that time when Marlene interrupted them.

He grimaced as he remembered that night. Tifa had just gotten on top and started to ride him, when the first roll of thunder crashed through the sky. They hadn't realized it at first, Tifa being too busy moving up and down on his cock while he had focused all his attention on her ample chest, when shortly after the door burst open, and a scared Marlene ran inside.

In a flash Tifa had grabbed the bed sheet and rolled off him, covering herself in the same motion, while Cloud had rolled off the other side of the bed and grabbed his boxers, putting them on as Tifa was comforting the little girl.

Neither of them had ever moved that fast in all their lives.

Lucky for them, Marlene was none the wiser. Barret would have his head if he learned that his daughter had caught them having sex. And Cloud wasn't sure if it would be the one on his shoulders, either.

With another sigh he turned the water cold to calm himself down. Tomorrow he would be back home, with Tifa and the kids. Any amorous endeavors would have to wait until then.

After getting out of the shower, he laid down on the motel bed, falling asleep as soon as his head landed on the pillow.

Tifa moaned loudly as she rode him, bouncing up and down as she impaled herself on his shaft. The shitty motel bed squeaked under them as Cloud met her with thrusts of his own, pushing himself as deeply as possible. She gave him a saucy little grin and licked her lips, running her hands sensually up her delicious body to pinch her nipples.

Cloud grunted and pulled her down, crashing his lips to her. Their tongues engaged in a fierce battle of lust while Tifa pressed herself as close as possible, seeking closeness to him like a drug addict looking for their next fix. A squeal escaped her as Cloud placed his arms around her waist and turned them so that he was lying on top now. He felt her hands bury into the back of his hair and her legs wrapped around his waist as he thrust into her with abandon, inching closer, ever closer, to his release.

They broke the kiss and he buried his face into the crook of Tifa's neck, covering it in kisses and little bites.

"Yes!" she moaned into his ear. "Fuck me! Fuck me!"

Hearing these words just fanned the flames inside him even further, and he picked up his pace. Their moaning grew louder, and he was pretty sure the headrest was banging against the wall, but Cloud couldn't give two shits if they woke up the entire motel as he drilled into Tifa.

"I'm nearly there. Give it to me!" she cried and just a few seconds later he felt her convulse around his cock as she cried out even louder.

Cloud growled into her hair and buried himself deep inside her.

Cloud opened his eyes not to the erotic sight of Tifa, but to the beige colored ceiling of his motel room. Well, that was different. The last time he had a dream like that, he had been a teenager, working for Shinra and still going through puberty. He looked at himself and noticed the raging stiffy he had.

He sighed. Did he really turn into such a needy bastard?

"Fuck me! Fuck me!" he heard her words echo in his mind. Wow. Tifa would never say that. She wasn't much for swearing. The most he heard out of her mouth in that regard had been the odd "Damn!", "Hell!" or rarely "Shit!", and never when the children were around.

The irony of Marlene having heard enough swear words from Barret himself didn't escape him, of course.

Cloud turned over in bed and grabbed his phone from under his pillow and checked the time. It was pretty early in the morning. He should get some more sleep.

Or he could get himself ready, check out and arrive back home much earlier. He'd probably need a little nap later on, but it was worth it, if it meant doing so in his own bed.

And if you come back at the right time, you could do some catching up, a devious little voice said in the back of his mind.

Wow, he really had become a needy bastard. Still, Cloud got out of bed and went into the bathroom.

 


 

It was past noon by the time Cloud returned to Edge, and he was pretty happy with the time he made. He slowly drove down the alley that 7th Heaven was located at and took note of the closed sign hanging on the door of the bar.

Good.

He rounded the corner and parked Fenrir in the garage before removing his shades and heading into the bar. As he expected, Tifa was busy cleaning the dishes from lunch.

Cloud leaned against the doorway, simply looking at her. Tifa was a beautiful person, inside and out. It was what had drawn him to her all those years ago, and still did.

If he had to pick a favorite part of her, then it was her face. Many men, and some women, would focus on her, admittedly, amazing body, but it was her face that truly drew him in. Eyes always filled with kindness that were the most exotic shade that he'd ever seen, a very pretty nose, even that little mole on her left cheek you could barely see; it all added to her beauty.

And then there were her rosy lips, soft like silk and always with a smile for the people important to her.

She must have finally noticed his presence, as she turned her head towards him, and he saw her face light up into a smile that was solely reserved for him; the same she had given him that day in the church.

"Cloud!" she giggled as he walked towards her, drying her hands with a towel. "Trying to sneak up on me?"

"Just watching."

"You're home earlier than expected."

"Mhm. Woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep, so I figured I might as well head here early."

"Well, I'm certainly not complaining, and neither will the kids," she said and leaned against the counter, arms crossed in front of her chest. "Are you hungry?"

Cloud shook his head. "I stopped by a diner."

"You got some calls. I put a note on your table," she told him.

"I'll take a look later," he replied and slowly closed in on her. He saw amusement flicker in her eyes as he placed his hands on the counter on both of her sides.

"And what is this going to be, Cloud Strife?" she asked. Slowly, he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers. "Ah, I see."

Tifa closed her eyes and circled her arms around his neck, as he leaned in for another, much deeper kiss.

He snaked his arms around her waist and slowly moved his hands down, and past her little leather cape, until they were firmly resting on her behind. Tifa let out a gasp when Cloud gave her a good squeeze and he didn't waste any time to gently push his tongue past her lips.

Tifa pushed herself a little closer, brushing her tongue against his. They remained like that for a bit until Cloud pulled away.

"Hello to you, too," Tifa said with another giggle, followed by a sharp intake of breath as Cloud started to plant kisses along her neck, before capturing her lips again in another kiss she eagerly returned.

His hands moved from her behind to the front of her shorts, and he stealthily started to work the buttons open.

Tifa's eyes opened wide as her shorts dropped to the ground, pooling around her feet, and she broke the kiss. "Wow, wow! Wait a sec. We can't do that here. The kids might be back soon!"

But Cloud didn't really listen to her, instead planting a few open mouthed kisses along her neck and pressing his pelvis against her, telling her just how much he needed her right now. Another gasp escaped her, but she didn't push him away, and he moved down to her vest, capturing the zipper between his teeth and pulling it down as he lowered himself to his knees.

"Tell me you really wanna stop and I will," he said, pulling her white top up and planting kisses on her toned stomach. It would take an immense amount of willpower on his part, but he would stop if she really didn't want to. His eyes flickered to her face and the way she bit her lip, as well as the look in her eyes, told him all he needed to know.

Cloud slipped his tongue into her belly button, eliciting a moan from her, before lifting her onto the counter, so that he was face to face with a pair of white panties that she decided to wear for the day.

He kissed his way up her right thigh, feeling pleased when he spotted a bit of dampness on the white cotton. Hooking his fingers under the hem of her panties, he slowly stripped them off her, revealing neatly trimmed pubes and the true prize resting underneath.

Giving Tifa a look, he dove in.

"Oh, Cloud!" Tifa moaned out and buried her fingers into his hair as he started to eat her out. He grabbed one of her legs and placed it over his shoulder to draw her a little closer, stroking her pussy with the length of his tongue. He smirked a little at the sweet sounds that she was making, then guided his tongue to carefully circle around her clit teasingly, barely touching.

Tifa squirmed in front of him, trying to move her pelvis closer, but Cloud managed to hold her in place, and she led out a small whine. "Please..."

"Please, what?" Cloud asked, still smirking.

"Please...stop teasing me..." she whined out again and looked down at him, eyes filled with lust. Now how could he refuse this look?

With that he leaned in more and started to suck on her clit, the moans she was producing were music to his ears, that made his erection strain against his pants, wanting to be let out and in on the action.

One of her hands let go of his head and grabbed one of her own breasts, massaging it through the fabric of her top. Her breath hitched,and the way that her hips were bucking told him that she wouldn't last long. Seemed like she was especially sensitive today.

It took all of his willpower not to drop his pants and screw her right here and now; but that devious part of him had another idea.

And it was that idea that made him pull back just as she was nearing her climax.

"C-Cloud?" Tifa asked as he move out from under her leg and rose back to his feet. She gave him a confused look as he smirked at her and waltzed off. "Wha—Cloud!"

But Cloud ignored her, instead he headed towards the stairs to their living quarters, unzipping his top and dropping it carelessly to the floor.

"Cloud Strife, get back here!" Tifa called after him and he could hear her steps following before she stopped and turned around. "Shit!"

Hearing her swear turned the smirk into a full blown grin, and he casually removed his gloves as he walked into their room. Inside he removed his boots and pants then, as he laid down on their bed, his shorts joined the rest of his clothes as well.

He had barely made himself comfortable when he heard Tifa stomp towards him. Face beat red, her eyes flashed in anger as she entered their bedroom, carrying all of their discarded clothes. The anger vanished momentarily as her eyes fell on his erection, replaced by a hungry look, but she quickly scowled again and kicked the door closed with her foot, then threw the clothes on the floor.

"You, Cloud Strife, are an ass!" she grumbled, kicking off her shoes and jumping on the bed, where she proceeded to straddle him, hands planted on both shoulders.

"You better finish what you started right now or—Aahn!" The rest of her words were replaced by another moan, as Cloud placed his hand against her wet pussy, gently teasing the little nub with his thumb, then pushing two of his fingers inside her. The heat around his fingers made his cock twitch against her leg and Tifa proceeded to rub herself against him, as she removed her top and bra. Now being face to face with her beautiful tits, Cloud couldn't resist anymore. He raised his torso and took one of her hardened nipples between his teeth, tugging a little and flicking the tip of his tongue over it.

Her breath started to grow ragged and he knew she wasn't far off, so he pushed his fingers further inside and rubbed her clit even more. "Come for me," he commanded.

Almost on demand he felt her tighten around his fingers and release a strangled cry as she came. Tifa gripped his shoulders tightly and leaned forward, burying her face in his hair as she rode out her orgasm.

"Still an ass?" he asked after she had calmed down, earning himself a slap on the shoulder.

"Yes," she said, but there was no anger in her voice, and she planted a little kiss on his forehead.

"Mhm." He smiled and cupped her face, drawing her into a deep kiss. She hummed pleasantly into the kiss as he drew her closer. His cock brushed against her thigh again and he groaned at the sensation of her soft skin, making Tifa smile into the kiss, before pulling.

"Guess it's unfair that only I got some attention," she said, then gave him another short, affectionate kiss as she pushed him against the headrest. Giving him a saucy smile, Tifa leaned down and planted small kisses on his neck, slowly wandering down to his chest. Darting out her tongue she drew small circles around his left nipple, and Cloud closed his eyes at the sensation. Slowly, ever slowly she made her way down until he could feel her breath on his erection.

Cracking open an eye he saw her give him another smile, before she leaned in to kiss his balls, occasionally brushing her tongue against them, as she took hold of the base of his shaft. She locked eyes with him and brushed her nose against his dick, inching her way up, her breath tickling him with every exhale until she finally arrived at the tip.

Her lips hovered inches away from him, and she darted her tongue out to lick them, almost touching him in the process but still shy of that desired sensation. She let out a giggle as he twitched in anticipation, but remained exactly where she was, carmine eyes never leaving his.

After a few more torturous moments, Tifa decided to be merciful and brushed her tongue over his slit, licking up the precum gathered there, then engulfed his cock with her hot mouth. Cloud moaned as he saw those pretty lips moving up and down, gently sucking, and the vision alone was about to finish him off. He moved his hand to tangle it inside her hair as he closed his eyes, simply enjoying the feeling of Tifa's lips and tongue, letting out a moan when she focused on an especially sensitive part.

It was then, when a familiar voice called from downstairs. "Tifa!?"

Clouds eyes shot wide open. Denzel. "Shit!" he hissed out and tried to get Tifa to stop, but she just swatted his hand away and continued to suck him off, head bobbing up and down.

He swallowed, his heart beating like a drum as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He could already picture it in his mind's eye: Denzel walking in on them, closely followed by Marlene, and soon after it was him on the way to his execution by Barret, because how dare Tifa blow him and have his little girl witness it, too!

"Tifa?" Denzel called out again and it sounded like he was already in the hallway.

But thankfully his savior arrived in the form of the little girl that could absolutely never learn about what Tifa and him were doing behind closed doors. "I found a note from her!" Marlene shouted.

"What does it say!?" Denzel shouted back, and Cloud decided that he would be having a talk with him about shouting in the house at a more appropriate moment.

"That she has to take care of something and that she'll be back later!" Marlene stopped for a moment, seemingly reading the words. "She left us some money!"

"Huh, OK," Cloud heard Denzel say to himself before shouting back. "Wanna get burgers!?"

"Sure!" Marlene's voice took on a teasing tone. "Wanna invite your girlfriend!?"

"She's not my girlfriend!" Denzel shouted back, as only a boy with a crush could, and Cloud heard him descend the stairs again.

He released a sigh of relief. "That was some quick think—Ack!"

His words were cut off by Tifa biting him lightly, not enough to really hurt him, but enough to serve as a warning, and she glared at him before pulling his dick out of her mouth.

"You deserved that scare for your stunt earlier," she said, running her tongue up his length, then engulfing him again.

Yeah, he supposed he did deserve that one.

"Sorry," he muttered, looking away in embarrassment, and Tifa's glare turned into a look of mischief as she smiled around his cock. She pulled back until the tip was between her lips and sucked on it like it was a straw. Cloud threw his head back, gripping the bed sheets tightly. He couldn't last much longer. "I'm about to—Ngh!"

Hearing his words she swallowed him whole again, circling her tongue around the edge of his glans, coaxing him closer and closer to his release until he exploded inside her mouth with a loud moan.

Tifa didn't stop, sucking up all of his cum with a moan of her own, her free hand moving down her body to pleasure herself as she didn't let a single drop go to waste. After he had come down from his post orgasmic high, he looked at her, a blissful smile on his lips. He had really needed that.

After thoroughly cleaning him, she climbed back up to him and kissed his neck, her hardened nipples pressing into his chest.

"Done?" she asked and moved to his ear, nibbling on his earlobe. Cloud smirked at the way that she was grinding against him; someone was apparently eager to continue.

"Just a sec," Cloud said and Tifa hummed again as he placed a hand on the small of her back, her own hand wandering down to play with the hair of his happy trail. The heat that radiated from between her legs was enough to make his little friend start to look lively again. One of the advantages of having a SOLDIER physique, he mused.

He captured her lips with his own, moaning into the kiss when he felt her fingers on his growing erection. They broke the kiss once he was sufficiently hard again and Cloud locked eyes with her, both clouded over by lust.

"From behind," was all he managed to say. He moved away from her, and Tifa got onto her knees, resting her hands on top of the headrest as she arched her back a little and held her ass towards him.

Getting into position behind her, he placed a hand on her hip and guided his cock to her wet entrance, teasingly running his glans up and down her between her velvety fold, and pulling back when Tifa tried to impale herself on him.

"Cloud...Take me..." she begged, looking over her shoulder at him, biting her lip, and her eyes were filled with anticipation. Her body was flushed and covered in sweat, making her look downright erotic, and the sight made his cock even harder.

Locking his mako infused eyes with hers, he slowly drilled into her. He moaned at the feeling of her hot insides as they clung to his dick, and he remained like this for a moment, watching as Tifa shook in pleasure.

"Oh, yes!" she breathed out and closed her eyes as he pulled out and pushed back inside in a steady rhythm. Cloud, too, closed his eyes.

She felt amazing; no fantasy could ever compare to the reality that was Tifa Lockhart.

Using the leverage of the headrest, Tifa pushed back, meeting his thrusts as they grew in intensity, moaning his name, and the flame inside his loins burned even hotter.

"Guh!" Cloud gasped out as she contracted around him, gripping tightly for just a second.

"What's wrong?" Tifa asked and his eyes flickered to her as she glanced over her shoulder, a small smirk on her lips. "Tight fit?"

As if to emphasize her words she once more tightened around him, and another groan erupted from his chest.

You little minx! But two could play this game. Grabbing her around her waist, Cloud started to pound into her with abandon, wiping the smirk off her face as she lost hold of the headrest and dropped face first into the pillows.

Her moans and the slapping of skin on skin echoed through the room as he fucked her like an animal. He gritted his teeth in concentration as he pounded away, loving every sound and shiver of ecstasy that he produced in her. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that she was waving one of her hands in his direction. He grasped her by her wrist, pulling her up until her back was flush against his chest, and his arm snaked around her waist to hold her in place.

He moved her long hair aside and attacked her neck with open mouthed kisses, sucking greedily on the sensitive flesh, as his now free hand roamed her body. She grabbed it, guiding it towards her chest.

"Don't neglect them," she told him, managing a teasing tone, and he proceeded to pinch and twist one of her hardened nipples. "Mmh, like that..."

She started to tighten around him again, and he felt the last bit of his reason slip away, being reduced to his most basest of instincts.

"Nearly there..." Cloud gasped into her neck, his thrusts growing more and more desperate as his hips bucked, seeking release as the pressure became almost too much to bear.

"Me too! Just a little more!" She turned her head, swollen lips slightly parted and her tongue sticking out eagerly. "I want us to kiss while we come."

Turning his head as well, he crashed his lips against hers, tongues immediately seeking each other out in an familiar erotic dance. Not long after Tifa started to seize up, and she cried into the kiss as she came, her walls clamping down hard on his dick, eager to milk every last drop of cum out of him.

A growl rumbled up from inside his chest as he finally stopped holding back, and he pushed himself balls deep inside her, just in time for his own release. He clutched her tightly as he pumped his load deep inside.

Another cry escaped Tifa, swallowed by their kiss and she pressed her backside against him as best as he could as a second orgasm raked through her body. They collapsed on top of each other, bodies slick with sweat, gasping for air as their lips finally parted and clinging to each other as they rode out their orgasms. When their bodies finally obeyed their will again, Cloud slowly pulled himself out out of her, some of his cum dripping out of her slit because of the sheer size of his load, and pushed himself up with his arms so that Tifa could roll out from under him.

As soon as he collapsed onto the mattress again, Tifa circled her arms around his neck, pulling him into another loving kiss, and it almost sounded like she was purring a little as he returned his affections.

"Mhm," Tifa hummed after pulling back, resting her forehead against his, face still flushed from their lovemaking. "That was intense."

"Hm. Sorry."

"Don't be!" She giggled and bit her lip, looking a bit bashful now. "I like it when you're passionate. And I think we both needed that."

They remained there, enjoying the afterglow, and Tifa drew lazy circles over his chest. After a while she withdrew from him and sat back up, stretching herself and giving Cloud quite the enjoyable view as she did so. She smiled at him and playfully slapped his shoulder.

"Come on. Can't laze around in bed all day. You've got some calls to answer," she said and got out of bed, starting to pick up her discarded clothes. Cloud for his part remained where he was for a bit longer, enjoying the view immensely as she leaned down to pick up her shorts, before he too got out of bed. Truth be told, he would rather stay here.

It must have shown on his face, because when Tifa looked at him, she gave him a smile and walked up to him, clothes held tightly in front of her chest.

"You know..." she began, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. "We could continue where we stopped...perhaps tonight, when the kids are sleeping?"

That made him perk up a little, and he looked at her with raised brows. Tifa giggled and ran a finger up his chest, then gave him a peck on the lips.

"I'll go shower first," she said before sauntering off, giving her hips some additional sway as she left.

His lips curled up into a smile and he started to pick up his own things, shaking his head.

 


 

"So what were you doing earlier?" Marlene asked later that evening, as they were all sitting around dinner. Cloud looked at the girl, currently chewing on his food, then his eyes flickered over to Tifa, who had just taken a sip from her drink.

Instantly, the woman became beet red and looked away, which caused the girl to turn her gaze towards him instead in her search for answers.

Cloud just shrugged, swallowing his bite. "She had to buy some tube cleaner," he said, looking sideways at Tifa. "Something about a blocked pipe?"

Close enough to the truth, right?

The kids just looked at each other in confusion, cocking their heads to the side as he went back to enjoying his dinner, while Tifa tried to hide her blush with the hand she was holding her glass in.

Chapter Text

Recess

 

Marlene liked school. It was interesting and new. Years ago something like a school would have been unimaginable to her. Not only because she was too young for it at the time, but also because the people in the slums didn't have any schools. That was only something for kids above the plate.

But even there it had been a relatively new concept, with a lot of people still opting to homeschool their kids instead. Denzel had lived on the plate, right above her head, and he said he had never gone to school and was tutored at home instead. For many parents it was easier that way, she supposed.

Cloud and Tifa never went to school either. All they knew, they were taught by their parents or learned themselves. When Tifa had started to watch over her, back when they still lived in the slums, she had begun to teach her a few small things, similar to how Tifa had been taught those things herself as a child. Thanks to that, Marlene was already pretty good at reading and math!

It was her dad that insisted on them going to the newly built school.

"Ya two are busy enough as is, and it'll do the kids good to be with other kids their age," he had told them. At first Cloud and Tifa had been unsure about it, not having school experience themselves, but when Denzel and her had told them that they wanted to try it, they were quick to give in.

Of course, there was also the fact that Denzel and her wanted to give them both some space. It was something they had agreed on, after they had seen their guardians kiss. They had always taken care of them. And while Cloud had been gone for a little while, he had always thought of them as well. So to them it was only fair that they gave them something back, even if it was just a few hours.

Besides, like her dad had said, it was really fun to be around kids her age. No offense to Cloud and Tifa, but sometimes they were just so grown up.

Marlene's eyes roamed the schoolyard, looking at the other kids. With everything that happened in the last few years and with it being the only school in the area, classes were pretty mixed. Which was why Denzel and her, despite being two years apart, were sharing the same classes. The kids from the local orphanage were also attending school with them.

She found Denzel, standing a few feet away, talking with Jody, the girl with the Moogle doll they had met when those bad men came to abduct them months ago. They had become fast friends after everything that happened.

Failing to suppress a giggle, Marlene covered her mouth with a hand. It was pretty obvious Denzel liked her, a fact that Marlene was using to tease him relentlessly. That Jody had been a rather frequent dinner guest, with permission from the orphanage of course, only gave her more ammo to fire at him.

But honestly, she was happy for him. It did make her feel a bit left out sometimes. Like right now, for instance. But they weren't doing it on purpose; they were just 'off in their own world' like her dad had once described Cloud and Tifa during their stay at the beach, where the two had sat at the shore and watched the sunset.

She'd just tease them later.

A sound from the center of the schoolyard caught her attention and she turned her head to see what was going on. What she saw there was sadly not an unfamiliar sight.

It was Scott, a boy from a different homeroom than her, bullying one of the kids again. Being one of the oldest kids around, he seemed to think he had some special rights around here, and the school didn't have enough staff yet to have someone supervise them effectively while out on the yard.

Marlene frowned. The other kids were either afraid of him, or just straight up didn't want to be involved. She, too, had turned a blind eye a few times in the past, something she wasn't proud of. But when she saw him lay in on one of the girls from the orphanage, she felt that enough was enough. She glanced over to Denzel, who was still talking with Jody and hadn't seemed to have noticed what was going on. Setting her jaw, Marlene walked over to them, just in time for Scott to push the girl down to the ground.

"Shouldn't a slant eye like you be back home!?" she heard him ask the girl, her short black hair looking a little dishevelled after being pushed to the ground.

"I don't have a home," the girl said weakly.

"You have one, and it's called Wutai. So why don't you go back to whe—"

"Stop it!" Marlene pushed the taller boy away.

She turned while holding out her hand to the other girl to help her back to her feet. "I'm Marlene, what's your name?"

"M-Maya," she replied, taking her hand. Marlene pushed Maya behind her, to stand in front of her the same way Tifa would do. It looked just a tiny bit silly since they were roughly the same size.

"What's your problem!?" Marlene asked Scott, who had recovered from the surprise of being pushed back by a girl. "Why do you have to be so mean all the time!?"

The boy, with dark brown hair and a good head taller than Marlene, glared at her. Taking a few steps towards her, he did his best to look imposing, and while that might have been enough to scare the other kids, Marlene had seen far scarier.

"I know what you are," he said after looking her up and down. "You're a rat eating slummer. Come to defend your little friend?"

So that was it. Scott was a former plate dweller who seemed to think he was better than the rest. Even after two years there were still some of these people left.

"...You shouldn't be calling people rat eaters just because they lived below the city. You're down here with the rest of us, too," she said to him, looking him straight in the eye.

"Why you—!" He grabbed her by her shirt and lifted her up a little, forcing her to stand on her tiptoes. He had just raised his hand to hit her, when another voice joined the conversation from one end of the schoolyard.

"Hey, get your hands off her!" Denzel shouted, having finally taken notice of the situation. He made his way over to them, Jody trailing not far behind him. Now the other kids around them seemed to take notice as well, and started to murmur amongst each other.

"This doesn't concern you!"

"I said get your hands of my sister, now!" Denzel said, glaring daggers at the other boy.

Scott let go of her and stalked over to Denzel as she plopped to the ground. "Your sister, huh?" He scoffed. "So you're just another rat eater."

Denzel stared back at the boy, anger flaring in his eyes, and he started to shake. Marlene looked at him worryingly, . She had never seen him this angry before. Neither did Jody, who was putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Denzel..."

Marlene knew that he was going to lash out if nothing was done. She was about to join Jody in trying to calm him down, when the loud roar of a motorcycle engine echoed from down the street towards the school. The kids that had gathered around them turned to see what the sound was about and Marlene spotted none other than Cloud speeding down the street towards them, only slowing down once he closed in on the front gate of the schoolyard.

"Cloud!" she called out, taking Maya's hand and heading over to the gate, where Cloud was coming to a stop. She noticed Denzel being pulled after her by Jody, who murmured something to him to which he only nodded.

"Hey," Cloud greeted them casually, taking off his shades and moving over to open Fenrir's trunk. He pulled out two boxes that he handed Denzel and her over the small gate. "Tifa says she's sorry that she forgot to pack them for you earlier."

"Thanks, Cloud," Marlene said, a little smile on her face. She was trying not to let him know what nearly transpired, but from the way he was frowning she didn't succeed.

"Everything alright?" he asked in a low voice. "Did something happen?"

"Just someone being stupid," she replied, deciding to be honest.

Cloud looked over to Denzel, who in turn was glaring at Scott in the distance. Around them the kids were murmuring again.

"Isn't that one of the people that fought the dragon?" a girl asked.

"What a cool bike!" a boy said.

"I see..." Cloud murmured, his gaze following to where Denzel was looking until it came to rest on Scott. The boy became a little smaller all of a sudden. Cloud's mako eyes narrowed for a moment and she could have sworn she heard Scott squeak a little.

"Denzel," he said and the boy looked at him. They seemed to communicate without the need for words, just looking at one another. After a moment they shared a nod and Denzel visibly relaxed. Cloud turned to look at her again, his lips curling into a little smile.

"Who's your friend?" he asked her.

"M-M-Maya, sir," said the girl.

"Sir?" he shook his head. "Way to make me feel old. Just call me Cloud."

"...OK."

"Hey, Cloud? Would it be alright if Maya comes over to play after school?" Marlene asked him with a giggle.

"Sure. If that's what she wants, that is."

She turned to look at Maya, giving her an encouraging smile. With just a little bit of hesitation the Wutaian girl smiled and nodded.

Cloud pulled his phone out of his pocket to check something. "Alright, I gotta go. I should be back relatively early. I'll let Tifa know to expect a new visitor. I'm guessing you'll be coming over too, Jody?"

Jody grinned. "Sure thing."

Cloud gave each of them one last look, got on Fenrir and put on his shades. He did a quick U-turn, then rode off into the distance.

"Did you see his eyes?" she heard a boy ask.

"Yeah. Those were mako eyes. Only SOLDIERs have them."

"That guy was in SOLDIER!?"

Marlene turned to look over at Scott, standing alone in the distance. The boy returned her look for a moment, before averting his eyes and scurrying off like a scared animal.

"Was that your dad?" Maya asked her and Marlene had to laugh.

"One of my two dads," she replied. She might not call him that, but in his own way he was. Just like Tifa was her mother.

Dad, Cloud, Tifa, Denzel and her. They were family, and nothing would ever change that.

Maya blinked and tilted her head to the side.

"I'll tell you about it later," Marlene said to her new friend and held up her box. "Wanna share?"

 

 

Chapter Text

Reunion

 

The bar was quiet. Above her, the ceiling fans were spinning lazily in the wind wafting through the windows. The only sound was coming from the newspaper in front of her. The rustling of the pages reminded her of the autumn leaves back home. Tifa looked for something that might catch her eye, but everything seemed to be the same old in Edge.

She lifted her gaze to look at the calendar hanging on the far wall behind the bar.

It was already October.

Time sure flies these days, she thought while grasping the glass standing next to the newspaper. The reddish-brown liquid swished around as she lifted it to her lips. She closed her eyes as the taste of cherry, with just a hint of spice, filled her mouth, and she savored it just a little bit before swallowing. She had discovered this whiskey shortly after they had opened the new 7th Heaven and had instantly taken a liking to it. It reminded her of shortly after she had taken over the old bar and joined Avalanche. Back then she had tried to recreate an old Nibelheim drink, the Nibel Dragon Special, and had her friends taste test every attempt. She never had gotten it right, but it was still a memory that she liked to think back on.

Smiling, she placed the glass on the counter. It was past midday and she had just closed the bar until the late afternoon rush. She wasn't one to drink this early in the day to be honest, but she was in a reflective mood right now.

It had been October when she had found Cloud at the train station. She still remembered like it was yesterday. That mix of elation of seeing him again, and the anxiety upon their conflicting memories, her gut immediately telling her that something was wrong.

At the time she didn't even know the half of it.

But...he had come back into her life, and that was something she would be eternally happy about. It hadn't been easy, but she wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.

They were together, and that was what mattered.

Tifa smiled again while folding up the newspaper. Enough waxing nostalgic for today. She still had some work to do. She emptied the glass with one last sip, then walked behind the bar to put it with the rest of the dishes to be washed.

As she washed the dishes, Tifa went over a mental list of things they needed to stock up on. The Ghost Light Festival was still four weeks away, but it wouldn't hurt to get things in advance. Maybe she should ask Cloud to pick up some stuff?

A giggle escaped her, thinking back to the first few times she asked him to pick up stuff for her; he hardly had known his veggies, but had long since improved a great deal.

She had just placed one of the dishes to the side and moved on to the next, when the front door opened. Shoot, I forgot to lock the door again!

"I'm sorry, but we're closed. Please come back in a few hours," she said without looking away from what she was doing.

"And here I was hoping you would make an exception for an old friend." She nearly dropped the plate upon hearing a voice she hadn't heard in years now. Slowly looking up, she found none other than Dr. Hiragi standing near the door. Taking off his hat, the man gave her that kind smile of his that she had resigned herself to never see again.

"No..." she managed to put the plate back into the sink with shaking hands, then slowly walked out from behind the counter, her eyes never leaving the man for a second. "Nononono."

She had to be dreaming. This couldn't be real. As soon as she blinked he would be gone, like a desert mirage of wishful thinking.

Once she had stepped out to the front of the bar, Tifa couldn't stop herself anymore and ran towards him. He nearly toppled over backwards as she slammed into him, her arms moving around the man in a tight embrace.

He laughed and returned the hug. Tifa was trying and failing miserably to hold back her tears. The man that had become like another father to her was really standing in front of her.

They remained standing like that for a moment, simply holding one another, before Tifa stepped out of the hug. Taking a closer look at him, she noticed that his hair had become a bit more grey since she had last seen him.

"You've grown thin," she commented, brushing away the last of her tears.

"What can I say? Two years without your cooking does that to a man," he replied, and they both laughed at his little joke. But it lasted only a brief moment, as Tifa's expression soon grew serious.

"I've searched for you," she said. "But we only found your abandoned clinic. And after Meteorfall I was sure I would never see you again. Where were you?"

Dr. Hiragi inhaled deeply. "I think this is probably a conversation we shouldn't have standing in the doorway, don't you think?"

"Oh, yes! Of course," she said, feeling just a tad embarrassed. "Let's go upstairs."

Locking the front door, she led him to the private area above the bar.

"Would you like some tea?" she asked him as they entered the small living room, the corners of her lips curling into a smile. "I've got some Ryokucha."

He shot her a little grin as he sat down on the sofa. "Now how can I resist an offer such as this?"

"You can't," she quipped and went to make some tea. When she returned with two steaming cups, she noticed Dr. Hiragi looking around the room from his sitting position.

"Did you build this place yourself?" he asked her as she sat down next to him, offering her a 'thank you' when she handed him his cup.

"Yes. Well, we all did together. Cloud, Barret and I," she told him, taking a sip from her cup. "We've made some improvements over time. It used to look a bit more cobbled together."

"You've build yourself a fine home."

She chuckled. "It was Marlene's idea to open up a bar again."

"So, you're still taking care of her?" he asked.

"Yeah." Tifa nodded. "Her father has been helping to rebuild Corel these past two years and is otherwise busy with his new business."

"Oh, what does he do?"

"Well, aside from the Corel mines being opened up again they also started digging for oil. So he's usually making sure that everything goes smoothly with his claim," she explained to him. "He and some of the others have recently struck a deal with Reeve to sell him some of that oil."

"Reeve?" he asked.

"Oh!" She chuckled. "Reeve Tuesti. The head of the WRO. A friend of ours."

Dr. Hiragi looked at her in surprise. "My...you sure have made some friends in these two years."

"Let's just say we've traveled together. It's kind of a long story." Tifa shook her head and placed her cup on the table. A frown formed on her face. "...Where were you?"

He sighed and looked into his cup for a moment before speaking. "After what happened at Sector 7, I tried to find you, hoping that you might have gotten away, but when I saw the destruction with my own eyes..."

The man shook his head. "I returned back home when I realized that I couldn't do anything. Didn't treat any patients, and when Meteor appeared in the sky only weeks later I didn't see the point of staying any longer. I packed all my things and returned to Wutai. If the world was ending, I at least wanted to spend the rest of my time with family."

Tifa covered her eyes with her hand. Guilt gnawed at her for not having told him that she was alive, but everything had been going so fast, and then there was the issue with Cloud as well...

"I'm sorry," she breathed out, removing her hand to look at him. But he only smiled at her.

"Imagine my surprise when I heard you were one of the wanted Avalanche fugitives that had escaped from Junon." He chuckled. "I was halfway to Wutai when I saw it on the news."

"Ah..." Tifa took her cup and looked at the pale green liquid inside it. "So you know."

"Let's just say I wasn't exactly sure how I should feel at the time. On the one hand I was happy you were alive, but on the other I just learned you were part of the group that killed a lot of innocent people by blowing up the reactors." he released a shaky sigh at the memory. "For a time I was angry. At you, and me. I thought that perhaps I had done something wrong, because I didn't see how far your hate for Shinra went."

Tifa bit her lip. She had feared as much.

"I was never fully on board with the idea. I knew that saying 'pretty please' wouldn't help against people like Shinra." She shook her head. "But not like that. I just...didn't know what to do. And once the first bomb went off, there was no going back. We paid the price on the day Sector 7 fell. Jessie, Biggs, Wedge and so many innocent people are dead because of us. There's not a day that goes by where we don't try to make up for our mistakes."

A hand placed itself onto her shoulder and Tifa lifted her gaze to look at him once more.

"For what it's worth, I forgive you. But I'm a sentimental old fool," he said and sighed again. "And...I'm sorry about your friends. They seemed like good people to me."

"They were. Despite it all, they were trying to do good," she said.

"We've all made mistakes. The only thing we can do is move forward..."

"...And never forget," she finished his sentence, a small smile forming on her lips. "I know."

"Anyway," he said and took a sip of his tea. "After Meteorfall I was planning to see if I could help the people of Midgar, but before I could leave, Geostigma happened."

"You've been taking care of your people then?" she asked.

"Yes. And I did my own research on it as well. I would occasionally report my findings to a mutual friend of ours. The young Kisaragi heiress?"

She looked at him in surprise. "You know Yuffie?"

"Trust me. In Wutai, everyone knows her." He shot her a little grin. "Quite the personality, isn't she?"

"You can say that again." But she was also a great friend, who would have your back once you earned her trust.

"She clued me in that you were in Edge. Mentioned something about 'we gotta have another party at Spike's and Tifa's when we're done' to that pilot friend of hers when they picked up people to be taken to that healing spring in Midgar. After that, I packed up and came here." He shrugged. "You weren't hard to find, when I saw a flier with the name 7th Heaven on it I knew it was you."

"But Yuffie getting her people cured was months ago. Surely it couldn't have taken this long to travel?" she wondered out loud.

"Oh, I've been here for months now," he said it like it was nothing.

Tifa's eyes widened in surprise. "Why are you only coming over now, then?"

"I...think I needed some time to prepare. It's been two years and I wasn't sure if you even wanted to see an old coot like me again."

So she hadn't been the only one with doubts. Reaching out, she placed a hand on top of his. "I think I can make room for one more," she said teasingly.

He chuckled, but she could see in his eyes that he was grateful. Clearing his throat he continued. "And it takes a bit of time to get a place set up."

"Oh?" she looked at him quizzically.

"I've decided to open up another clinic here."

Immediately her face brightened. "That's wonderful!"

Edge might already have Dr. Drake and his clinic, but the town was growing fast, so more doctors in the area could only be beneficial.

"You already have an idea where you want to settle?" she asked.

"I actually do, yes. That vacant building down the street. The owner made a very good offer, too. I just didn't want to commit before talking with you."

"Well, no choice now!" she quipped, a feeling of excitement overcoming her at the prospect. It would be almost like old times. "I have to insist that you'll be eating your lunch here, though."

"Already trying to fatten me up again, are you?"

They laughed once more. But a small frown soon found its way back on her face. "But what about your patients back home?"

"I've trained my daughter-in-law these past years. She was more than ready to take over," he said before he held up his now empty cup, smiling. "More tea, perhaps?"

Tifa grinned. "Of course."

 


 

It was a few hours later, and Tifa was just recounting their group's misadventure in Wutai, when she heard the door opening downstairs and Denzel's voice call out.

"Tifa?"

"Upstairs!" she called back, and she saw Dr. Hiragi give her a questioning look. "Marlene isn't the only kid living here."

Two sets of feet could be heard walking up the stairs.

"You won't believe what happened to—" Marlene was saying, but came to an abrupt stop when Denzel and her had entered the room and spotted the unfamiliar man sitting on the sofa.

Denzel looked between Dr. Hiragi and her, unsure about this situation. Tifa rose to her feet and walked over to them, a smile on her face.

"This is an old friend of mine," she said to them and took both their hands to guide them to him. "Doctor, I'm sure you still remember Marlene?"

"Of course," he said, and leaned forward to take a closer look at her. "My my, you've grown since I've last seen you."

"You know me?" Marlene asked with a tilt of her head.

"Yes, I do."

Tifa could see Marlene narrow her eyes in the way she always did when she thought hard about something. But then, all of a sudden, her face lit up with recognition.

"You're that doctor from when I was sick!" she exclaimed with a grin.

"That I am!" Dr. Hiragi mirrored her expression with a grin of his own. Tifa moved to stand behind Denzel, who was shyly looking down at the ground.

"And this is Denzel," she said and placed her hand on both of his shoulders. A little smile formed on her lips. "My son."

The boy looked at her in surprise for a moment before his face brightened, and he, too, grinned at their visitor, looking just a tiny bit proud. "Nice to meetcha!"

Dr. Hiragi looked at her for a moment, before turning to face Denzel. "It's a pleasure to meet you as well."

"Are you two hungry yet?" Tifa asked to which they only shook their heads.

"We just wanted to bring these back and go play with our friends." Marlene pointed at her backpack. "Can we?"

"Hmm." Tifa put a hand on her hip and lifted an eyebrow. "How much homework do you two have?"

"Just math today," Denzel said.

If Cloud was here he would say: "Well if it's just math then you can do it before playing." He could be surprisingly strict when he wanted to. Tifa, on the other hand, only insisted they do their homework immediately when it was way too much to put it off until the evening. She was soft like that, she supposed.

"Fine. But don't come back too late." The kids grinned and exchanged a high five, before running to their room. "And remember that we will check your homework!"

Chuckling, she shook her head and sat back down.

"Son?" Dr. Hiragi asked with an amused quirk of his eyebrow.

"Cloud found him wandering the ruins one day, sick with Geostigma. We've taken care of him ever since." And to this day she believed that Cloud finding him had been a gift from Aerith. He helped mend their strained relationship, if only for a bit. But she was sure they wouldn't be together today without him. She hesitated for a moment before adding: "He's a survivor from Sector 7."

"I see," he said, then offered her his kind smile. "I guess I'm not the only one that likes to help kids in need."

Tifa giggled. "I learned from the best."

The kids returned from their room to say a quick goodbye before heading out again.

"So Mr. Strife, huh?" he asked. "How is he, by the way?"

"He's doing good," she assured him. "He works as a courier."

"And I'm assuming you two are together?"

Tifa felt her cheeks growing warm and she brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Uhm, we are, yeah."

He chuckled. "I'm not going to grill you. You're an adult woman and can make your own decisions. In fact, years ago I thought you and Mr. Wallace might be an item from the way you treated Marlene."

"What!?" Tifa looked at him with wide eyes.

"Now I know it was because of you being part of Avalanche, but what was I supposed to think back then?"

That was a good point, Tifa had to admit. She had pretty much taken over as a sort of mother for Marlene. She took a deep breath and shook her head, smiling.

They talked for a bit longer, before Dr. Hiragi started to rise to his feet. "Look at the time. I better get going."

"Yeah, I still have some more work to do," Tifa said, also getting up. She accompanied him downstairs and out the front door, where they shared another hug.

"The door is always open, so don't be a stranger!" she told him as she let go of him again. "I'll introduce you to Cloud, next time."

"I'll try to call next time, though," he said and put on his hat. Turning around, he walked down the street, and Tifa watched him for a moment, the smile never leaving her face. As she turned to walk back inside, she couldn't help the little spring in her step.

Just wait until Cloud hears about this! She could hardly wait!

Chapter Text

Check up

 

The street was empty as he stood in front of the building. It was a relatively new addition to the neighborhood, having been built around the time he had left due to his sickness and personal issues. His gaze shifted so that he was looking down the street towards 7th Heaven, his home, before returning to the building in front of him.

How long had he been standing here now?

Ten minutes?

Twenty?

An hour perhaps?

Cloud had been surprised when he had come home nearly four weeks ago and Tifa had almost instantly bombarded him with the news that the man that had taken care of her in Midgar was back. He didn't really get the full story, but she was smiling the entire time, so that was enough for him.

Then, just a few days ago, Tifa dropped a bombshell on him. Dr. Hiragi would like to meet him in his new clinic, just down the street.

"What for?" he had asked.

"He wanted to properly introduce himself," she replied with a little shrug.

So that's why he was standing in front of this building, unsure how to proceed. On the one hand, he was really curious about the man, only ever having heard stories about him. But on the other he was still a doctor. Him and doctors didn't exactly have the best history.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he took a deep, calming breath and stepped forward to open the door. He almost jumped at the sound of a bell ringing as he stepped inside.

Calm down, he told himself. Just a check up. He's not gonna strap you to a table and experiment on you.

Right?

Cloud looked around for a moment. A small room. Hardly furnished, but what was there gave the room more of a homely feel. It didn't exactly look like a clinic. Certainly a far cry from Dr. Drake's place.

"Just a second!" a voice called out just as he was about to sit down on one of the chairs of this little waiting area. Shortly after, a man walked in. His greying hair was pulled into a tight ponytail and a neatly trimmed mustache adorned his round face. A pair of glasses rested on his nose. "Ah, Mr. Strife. Welcome."

"...Doctor," Cloud replied, his hand gripping the back of the chair as he stood there. He watched as the older man bowed, as was custom in Wutai. The gesture made him feel a little awkward, since he never knew how to respond. But now it was obvious where Tifa had picked it up.

"Please come in," the doctor said in a friendly tone before he ushered him into the back and into another room. His office, it seemed. Just like the front it was hardly furnished. "I'm sorry if it looks a bit messy. I'm still getting everything in order."

"Would you like some tea?" Dr. Hiragi asked while Cloud sat down in a comfy looking chair in front of the man's desk. "I just made some."

Why is he offering me tea? Is he trying to pull something? The paranoid part of his mind immediately jumped up, and Cloud felt tension wind up in his gut. He could be slipping him some sleep powder to knock him out, only to then strap him to a table and cut him open.

"Let's try upping the dosage, shall we?" he heard a familiar voice in the back of his mind followed by a mad cackle. He felt his breathing grow erratic and he looked around, gripping the armrests of his chair tightly as his mind returned to those agonizing days beneath Shinra mansion.

"Mr. Strife?" He jumped when a voice startled him out of his nightmarish reverie. His head shot up to look into the brown eyes of the doctor, radiating a calmness that somehow managed to return him to the here and now.

This isn't Hojo. This is the man that took care of Tifa, he reminded himself.

"Are you alright?" he asked. Cloud closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath before nodding his head.

"Yeah. Also a cup of tea would be nice," he replied. The older man let go of his shoulder and gave him a look, then left the office to fetch the tea, leaving Cloud to his thoughts.

He continued to inhale and exhale, resting the back of his head against the backrest until he heard the man come back.

"Here you go," the doctor said while handing him a warm cup of tea. He watched the cup for the longest time, the paranoid part of his mind screaming to throw it away and run. But Tifa trusted this man, and Cloud trusted Tifa above all. Slowly he guided the cup to his lips and took a sip. It tasted earthy, with a hint of bitterness. As he swallowed, Cloud could feel the warmth of the tea spreading through his body, comforting and calming his mind.

It was delicious. And familiar.

"It's the same tea Tifa likes to drink," he found himself murmuring, and he looked up when he heard the doctor chuckle from behind the desk. When did he sit down?

"I'm afraid I'm to blame for that. Got her hooked on the stuff," Dr. Hiragi said with a grin, and Cloud found himself relaxing.

"And now she's trying to get the kids and me hooked on it as well," Cloud chuckled.

They remained silent for a moment, simply drinking their tea. Cloud didn't really know what to say now that he was sitting in front of the man that had taken care of Tifa when she was at her lowest.

No. That was wrong. There was actually something he could and wanted to say.

"Thank you. For all that you've done for Tifa, I mean."

The older man looked at him for a brief moment, before setting his cup aside.

"It was the right thing to do. I have some first hand experience with Shinra's cruelties myself." The doctor gave him a pointed look, before smiling. "Besides, her companionship was something I came to cherish very fast. It felt good having someone to talk to in the evening again. So let's say it was my pleasure and leave it at that, Mr. Strife."

Cloud grimaced at the name. "Just Cloud, please. 'Mr. Strife' makes me feel a bit old."

Dr. Hiragi let out a little laugh. "Cloud then."

Cloud watched as a little frown formed on the doctor's face. "You're looking much better than the last time I saw you."

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "I'm sorry. Did we meet?"

"Kind of. At the time you were completely out of it. Tifa had just found you at the train station and didn't know what to do," he explained.

"Ah." Cloud nodded. That made sense. Of course Tifa would do that.

"She's a very special woman, you know?"

Cloud found himself chuckling. "Believe me, you're not the only one that's been telling me that."

"Well what can one more hurt then?" Dr. Hiragi joked a little, but became serious again. "If I may ask: you've been suffering from Geostigma until recently, hadn't you?"

"Yeah." Cloud nodded, looking down at the desk. "Is this why you called me here?"

"I would be lying if I said this was purely social. I'm a doctor. People's health is something important to me," he said with concern in his voice.

Cloud's first reaction was to tell him that he was fine, that he didn't need to be checked, but something stopped him from uttering those words. In his mind he saw the look in Tifa's eyes as she asked him if he had contracted Geostigma. He knew his medical history wasn't good. Two cases of Mako poisoning and recently Geostigma. That he was even sitting here right now was a miracle in itself.

What if he wouldn't be so lucky next time?

"I understand if this is uncomfortable for you," the doctor said.

"...I don't have a lot of font memories of doctors," he admitted.

"Shinra?"

"Yeah." He nodded and took a sip from his tea to help him to calm himself.

"I can only imagine what it was they did to you. But I want to assure you that I won't force anything on you," Dr. Hiragi said. "We can simply sit here, drink our tea and then you can walk out of that door."

Cloud took a deep breath. He would be lying if he said he didn't want to leave right now. But then he reminded himself of how much pain he had caused Tifa and the children.

He loved his little family. And that love was enough to chase away the ghosts of his past.

"Alright..." he said. "Just no needles, OK? Not yet anyway."

Dr. Hiragi gave him a calm smile. "I promise. Let me earn your trust and then we tackle that issue together."

"Tifa trusts you," Cloud commented. "That's enough for me."

"Be that as it may, I want you to trust me," the older man said earnestly and despite himself, Cloud found himself smiling slightly.

"That sounds good."

After finishing their tea, Dr. Hiragi led him into another room that was already looking much more like he'd expect a clinic to look like. The smell of antiseptics invaded his nostrils, and he resisted the urge to gag.

"Please, sit down," the man said while pointing towards an examination bench and taking a little notepad on which he started to write something. "Let's start with a few questions. For the patient file."

"Sure," Cloud mumbled.

"Date of birth?"

"11th of August, 1986," Cloud replied.

"23 years old then," Dr. Hiragi said, his tone taking of a professional tone, but never losing that calm edge.

"Size?"

"1.73m."

"Blood type?"

"Uh, AB."

"Impressive, not a lot of people remember their own blood type. Any sickness or allergies common in the family?"

"No." Cloud shook his head. "Not that I'm aware of. I do suffer from motion sickness when in a car, boat or airship."

"Not a fan of tight, moving spaces I assume?"

"Yeah."

Hiragi scribbled some more on the notepad, then looked Cloud in the eyes. "Now...as much as I wish I didn't have to ask," he began in a calm, if apologetic, tone, "but, do you have a surgical history?"

Cloud was sure he knew he did have one, it was obvious looking at him. He dropped his eyes, involuntarily looking at the glove that covered his right hand and forearm, used to cover up the injection scars. No one except Tifa had ever seen them before. "Yeah," he admitted, sounding almost ashamed of the fact.

"Would you like to elaborate? We can put it on hold for another time if you're more comfortable with that."

"Later sounds good," Cloud muttered.

"Alright." The doctor sighed and wrote something on the notepad before he placed it back on the table. He put on a pair of medical gloves, then took a pen light out of his pocket and moved closer to him. "Try not to blink, please."

Cloud did as he was told as the doctor inspected his eyes. After that, Dr. Hiragi took out a stethoscope and told him to remove his shirt and turn around.

He noticed a frown forming on his face as soon as he had undressed, eyes focused on the scar on his stomach. Nervously, Cloud turned around. He jumped when a hand gingerly touched where its twin rested on his back.

"You're lucky to have survived that," the doctor commented calmly. "This could have gone straight through your Aorta."

"I'm guessing that's bad?"

"Very bad. Now let's see."

"Shit!" Cloud swore when the cold diaphragm pressed against his back.

"Really?" he heard the doctor chuckle.

"I just don't like cold things!" Cloud shot back and wanted to slap himself for sounding a bit whiny.

"Take a few deep breaths."

Cloud breathed in and out a few times just as he was instructed.

"You can put your shirt back on again," Dr. Hiragi said and took off the stethoscope. "Sounds like a healthy set of lungs you got there."

After he got dressed again, they did a few more checks, before the doctor removed his gloves and took his notepad again.

"Scars aside, you're the picture of perfect health as far as I can tell," he said. Cloud released the breath he didn't know he was holding and found himself relaxing. "So how did this feel?"

"It wasn't bad, I suppose," Cloud admitted.

"Good. Being comfortable is very important," Dr. Hiragi said as he took a few notes. "And of course anything said in here is strictly confidential, so no worries I would spill something to Tifa."

"She'd be the first person I'd tell if we find something wrong with me," he replied.

"Good!" The notepad was put away again and the other man looked at Cloud. He did a little shrug. "Anyway. That's it. Anything else, we'll do once you're more comfortable."

"Thanks, doc." And Cloud meant it. They left the examination room and headed towards the front door. He was about to leave when the doctor's voice stopped him.

"Ah, before you go. You're a courier, if I remember correctly?"

"Yes. Strife Delivery Service," he said with a small measure of pride in his voice.

"Then might I perhaps ask you to deliver something to my daughter in Wutai?"

"Hmm, that's pretty far away, but sure, I can do that. It'll cost extra, though." He did try to cut down on spending too much time away from Tifa and the kids. Longer deliveries should be more worth his while now.

"That shouldn't be a problem." The older man rubbed his chin and Cloud could see some amusement in his eyes. "You know, Wutai is lovely this time of year. Perfect to spend some days with the family. Perhaps in a ryokan?"

Cloud cocked his eyebrow. "Do you really want something delivered, or are you just telling me to make a family trip?"

"Both. I really have a package I want delivered. But my daughter owns a ryokan, and since Wutai isn't exactly around the corner I thought it might be a good idea to make up for it by inviting your family to stay for a few days and enjoy some time together. Consider it a generous tip."

Cloud stared at the man. He looked kind and patient, but now the blond also noticed that he could be a pretty sly individual.

The corner of his lips rose into a little smirk. He was starting to like him.

"When and where?"

"In two weeks."

Enough time to make arrangements for a trip.

"Deal."

Chapter Text

Hiragi Ryokan

 

Tifa smiled to herself as she watched Denzel and Marlene run around the bridge of the Shera, looking out of the large window in front of them before running off to lookat something else the next second. It being their first time on the airship made the kids want to explore every nook and cranny it had to offer.

Next to her, Cid chuckled as he held onto the helm.

"Thanks for doing this for us," she said to him with a grateful smile on her lips.

"No sweat. A promise is a promise."

Cid had promised her that he would take her on grand tour with the Shera, but Tifa had opted to use his offer for their little trip instead.

"Just make sure the little ones ain't picking the Shera apart," he added with a smirk in return.

"I can tell them to stop if you want?"

"Nah. Let 'em play. So, Spike's holed himself up in the cargo room?"

"Yeah." She chuckled. Not long after they had taken off, his motion sickness had reared its ugly head again. Luckily for him, the cargo room was spacious enough that he could train to take the edge off and focus on something else.

Cid just laughed to himself and put a cigarette between his lips. He was about to move his hand to grab his lighter, when he noticed her putting a hand on her hip and giving him a pointed look. "Shit! Shera told you?"

"That you were admirably trying to quit smoking? Of course." Now it was her turn to smirk. "Not the only habit that dies hard, huh?"

Cid grumbled and pulled the cigarette out again, before throwing it across the bridge. "The damn patches don't work as much. I need to get better ones."

"Still. It's great you want to quit."

"Yeah, well, Shera having been sick was kind of an eye opener. And I ain't gettin' any younger either," he said.

"Ah, that explains why you two married out of the blue, too." Tifa shook her head. "You didn't even invite us over."

"We all had our own stuff to deal with," Cid retorted before looking up ahead and snorting. "Besides. You and Cloud are practically hitched yourself!"

Tifa felt heat rush into her face. "No we aren't!"

"You say that now, but soon you'll be arguing who takes the last name of the other."

"I'll take both last names," Tifa mumbled to herself.

"What's that?"

"Nothing!" Tifa said and turned around to leave the bridge and this conversation behind. "I'm gonna check on Cloud."

Outside the bridge, she took a deep breath and headed down to the cargo area. Marriage was still nothing they were really giving much thought to be honest, but when Tifa did catch herself entertaining the idea, she liked the idea of being Tifa Lockhart Strife. Lockhart was one of the few things that she had left of her parents, so she would like to hang onto it. Knowing him, he'd just tell her to keep her last name. His parents had done the same; something that had raised more than one eyebrow in their little mountain town.

Well, tough luck. She'd wear both their names with pride!

Her blush intensified as she realized just where her thoughts were going. She covered her face with both of her hands out of embarrassment.

Get a grip, Tifa, she chided to herself.

Not being able to see where she was going, she only noticed the wall in front of her when her forehead collided with it. Hissing in pain, she removed her hands and placed one of them on a soon to be bruise while glaring daggers at the wall, like it had personally attacked her.

She was still holding her forehead by the time she made it to the cargo hold where Cloud was currently busy doing squats. For just a brief moment, Tifa found her eyes flicker down to his behind. His baggy pants didn't exactly show off a lot, but she had seen what was underneath and could confirm that the training was doing wonders in that particular area.

Having noticed her presence, Cloud turned his head to look over his shoulder.

"Hey," he greeted her, causing her eyes to instantly shift to his face. A small frown formed on his face, but he didn't stop what he was doing. "You alright?"

"Just stumbled," she lied and removed her hand from her head. Luckily there didn't seem to be a bump forming. That would have been even more embarrassing.

"How are you holding up?" she asked, immediately changing the topic.

"As expected," Cloud said while he did one more squat before walking over to her. "I just wish there was a deck where I could get some fresh air."

"We'll be there soon," she said with a smile.

"Yeah. Let's just take the ferry on the way back."

Letting out a giggle, she nodded. "Fine."

As if on cue, the intercom sprung to life and Cid's voice echoed through the cargo hold.

"ETA 15 minutes. Better find your little rascals."

Cloud and her shared a little grin, then left to do as Cid suggested. It took a little bit, as the Shera wasn't exactly small, but they eventually found them in the sick bay, looking at the computer in utter amazement. By the time they made it back to the bridge, they were about to land.

After the Shera had sat down, Cid accompanied them to the hangar, where the crew was starting to unload the cargo.

"Thank you again for doing this," Tifa said, accompanied by an affirmative "Mhm" from Cloud as he slung one of their bags over his shoulder. They were traveling lightly, as most would be provided to them at the inn.

"Just tell me if the place is any good. Might be takin' the missus there then," he said with a grin. "And better not let Yuffie know you're here. Wouldn't want to ruin yer vacation."

With one last goodbye, the little family left the airship and walked the rest of the way to town, where they proceeded to rent a Chocobo cab that would take them to their destination in the south.

After Meteorfall, the country had been ravaged by the Lifestream, and many people had contracted Geostigma in the process, but one would never be able to tell with how everything looked. The people of Wutai were nothing if not resilient and had rebuilt everything stronger and better, with many villages growing in size little by little.

The same applied to the place they were heading to right now. It took a while, but eventually Tifa spotted a pagoda in the distance, looming above the tiny mountain town.

After arriving, they paid the driver and gave him a generous tip on top of it before making their way into town. It looked peaceful, not unlike their old home, but that was where the similarities ended. It was surrounded by a small forest of Wutai maple, their leaves having turned into various shades of red, orange and brown that were simply a beautiful sight to behold. The houses were built in the old traditional way of the area. It was amazing.

As they walked, some of the townsfolk gave them curious looks, wanting to know who these newcomers might be. But it didn't last long and soon the people went back to whatever they were doing.

Tifa couldn't help but feel amused. In Nibelheim, people would have already started gossiping.

Guess not every mountain town's the same, she thought as she pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket.

"Where are we supposed to go?" Cloud asked.

"It's to the east. At the edge of town," Tifa said after reading the note. Heading into that direction, she couldn't help but smile as she watched the kids look around in amazement.

"This is cool," she heard Denzel whisper to Marlene.

It didn't take long for them to arrive at their destination: a large building resting on a little hill, its exterior giving off a warm and homely feel that was still in line with the traditions of the country. Off to the side of the inn, Tifa noticed steam rising lazily into the air from the onsen. To their right was a small, empty stable.

"Well, here we are," Tifa announced while walking to the entrance. Cloud and her looked at one another. He shrugged and slid the door open.

"Hello?" he called out as they stepped inside. There was a yelp and the sound of something being dropped, followed by a voice calling back: "Just a second!"

Footsteps hurried down the hallway and soon a pretty if slightly dishevelled looking young woman stepped into the entrance hall. Her hair was tied into a messy ponytail and there was something that looked like flour on her brow. An apron was tied in front of the dark green kimono that she was wearing.

"Welcome to Hiragi Ryokan, what can we do—" The woman blinked for a second, before her hands went to her cheeks. "Oh sh-shoot! You're the visitors we're expecting. I totally forgot!"

Before either of them could say something, the woman stepped up to Tifa and took her hand. "That means you must be Tifa! Dad told me a lot about you!"

"H-he did?" Tifa asked as the woman who was obviously the doctor's daughter shook her hand vigorously.

"Oh, yes. Only good things, don't worry." She let go of her hand. "Ah, where are my manners? I'm Junko."

"Nice to meet you," Tifa said, a little flustered. She had to admit, this was not how she imagined Dr. Hiragi's daughter to be. Next to her, Cloud stepped up to the woman, pulling a small package from one of their bags together with a small clipboard and pen.

"Cloud Strife of Strife Delivery Service. I need you to sign this," Cloud said in a professional tone.

"Eh?" Junko looked at him confusion before it dawned on her. "Oh yes, of course!"

After signing the papers, she took the package and gave Cloud a little grin. "Nice to meet you too, by the way."

Cloud just nodded. "Mhm."

"Silent type aren't ya?" Junko chuckled and turned her attention to the kids. "Oh my, and who are you two?"

"I'm Marlene, and this is Denzel," the girl introduced both of them while Denzel did his best Cloud impression by nodding as well.

"Aww, you're so cute," she said to Marlene, then looked at Denzel. "And you're gonna be quite the handsome fellow, I can already tell."

The corners of Tifa's lips rose into a small grin as she watched the boy puff out his chest just a little bit, while simultaneously blushing.

"Well let's get you all settled in, shall we? Ah, please take off your shoes. You can leave them right there," she told them while pointing towards a shoe locker in the corner. After they did so, she led them down a hallway and into one of the rooms. It was spacious and had a table placed in the middle.

"Just let me put this away and I'll be right back," Junko said before leaving. Cloud and Tifa sat down on pillows resting on the tatami floor while the kids looked around the room with curiosity.

"Where are the beds?" Denzel asked.

"In Wutai there are no beds. You sleep on a futon that's placed on the floor," Cloud explained. They both were no strangers to Wutaian sleeping customs from the last time they were here.

Denzel frowned at the prospect of sleeping on the ground.

"Don't worry. They're pretty comfy," Tifa assured him.

Junko soon returned with a set of neatly folded blue yukatas that she handed to them.

"You can put these on. I guarantee you they're more comfortable than the clothes you're wearing right now," she said with a wink to the kids. "The bathroom is down the hallway to the right."

"Mhm. Come on, Denzel," Cloud said and he rose to his feet, before leaving the room with Denzel to give Marlene and Tifa some privacy. Junko excused herself as well and closed the door behind her.

They undressed, and Tifa helped the girl dress in the foreign garment before putting on her own, grateful for all the things that Dr. Hiragi had told her about his culture in the past.

"You look pretty!" Marlene told her once she was finished. Tifa giggled and ruffled the girl's hair.

"So do you."

"You lady's decent?" she heard Cloud ask from the other side of the sliding door.

"Yup!"

As Cloud and Denzel entered, Tifa noticed that the garment was a size too large for Cloud. He didn't seem to be bothered by it and sat down opposite to her, and she couldn't help but enjoy the view as her eyes were immediately drawn to his exposed chest.

His behind wasn't the only thing in top shape.

"Tifa?" she heard him ask.

Her eyes instantly shot up to find his Mako tinted ones looking directly at her, and she felt a blush creep onto her cheeks. "Yeah?"

"Something the matter?"

"No, no. Everything's alright!" she replied. More than alright.

Is it getting warm in here? she wondered.

The door slid open and Junko walked in, looking a bit more put together now and holding a tray with tea on it, which she placed on the table.

"You must be tired from the journey," she said while pouring each of them a cup.

"Not really. We arrived here by airship and took a Chocobo cab on the way here," Tifa replied.

"Ah, I see. Are any of you hungry? Dinner is still a few hours, but I can whip something up real quick if you want?"

"Don't worry. We're good," Cloud said. "By the way, is it always this empty here? I thought there would be more guests, to be honest."

"Well, you're kinda our first guests," Junko said sheepishly while sitting down herself. "Vicky and I only recently re-opened this place."

"Vicky?" Tifa asked.

"My wife," Junko said cheerfully. "She's out of town though. Taking care of some patients in a nearby village."

"You're married to another woman?" Marlene asked tilting her head to the side. "You can do that?"

The Wutaian woman giggled. "You can do a lot of things. But you're a bit too young for that. Anyway, after Meteorfall, this town was pretty much abandoned because everyone had contracted Geostigma. Most of them passed away, you see."

Cloud and Tifa gave her a solemn nod in understanding.

"This ryokan used to be pretty popular back in the day, and I want to return it to its former glory. So please, tell everyone you know about this place!" she said the last part with a huge grin.

"I'll be sure to do that. Maybe make some fliers that I can hand out in my bar?"

"Oooh, that's such a good idea." Junko snapped her fingers. "Why didn't I think of that?"

"Sometimes it needs an outside perspective," Tifa said and took a sip of her tea.

"I guess so." Junko rose to her feet and took the tablet. "I should get back to work. You're free to look around, or simply relax. The onsen is open all day and there's some games I can bring you if you'd like."

Tifa turned to look at the kids. "Well, what'll it be?"

"I wanna explore!" Denzel said with a grin, and Marlene nodded vigorously.

"There's your answer," Cloud said with a chuckle. "Let's explore."

Chapter Text

Onsen Fun

 

The four had spent the rest of the day exploring the area. Or to be precise: Denzel and Marlene explored the area, while Cloud and Tifa were dragged along for the ride by the excited children, causing the townsfolk to chuckle at the sight of their little family. Neither of them really minded, since they children were happy.

As they explored, they had stopped at a nearby cliff that offered the perfect view to the valley below. It was a beautiful sight that made Tifa wish she had brought her phone with her to snap a photo or two. Out of the corner of her eye, she had spotted Cloud looking out at the horizon, an almost serene smile on his face. She couldn't help but swallow as the sun highlighted his handsome features just right, causing her heart to do a little jump while her body heated up in that special way that made her want to press herself against him and claim his lips with her own.

He must've noticed her staring, because he turned to look at her, not once dropping that smile. Luckily for her, the kids had started dragging them off before he could ask any questions.

After that she couldn't stop herself from glancing at him the entire rest of the day whenever she was sure that he wouldn't notice. But her eyes wouldn't remain on his face for long, eventually starting to wander down towards his exposed chest and from there even lower until they landed on that very special part of his body, that she knew was hidden behind the fabric of the yukata.

By the time they returned to the ryokan, dinner had been prepared. Junko served them a traditional fall specialty of Wutai: Chuka Okowa. It was a simple dish, yet Tifa couldn't help but close her eyes as the savory aroma of the meat and the sweet taste of the chestnuts mixed with the rice. It was delicious.

"You have to give me that recipe later," Tifa said.

"Only if you share some of yours. Dad was always mentioning how good your cooking was. Seeing how fat he was, it must be true," Junko replied with a grin.

After they had finished dinner, their hostess retrieved their dishes and returned with a bottle of sake for the adults to enjoy.

"So then I told her 'back off, rich girl. I'm armed!' while holding a manikin arm like a baseball bat. We were all so drunk." Junko shook her head. "Next thing I know, I was dancing with her to some music and, well, the rest is history I suppose."

She took a sip from the sake, before leaning on the table, a curious look in her eyes. "And how did you two meet?"

"Nothing as fancy or hilarious as your story, I'm afraid. Cloud and I knew each other since we were kids," Tifa said before sending him a fond smile.

"Aww. Childhood sweethearts."

"Of a sort," Cloud quipped.

A soft sound made Tifa look down at her lap, where Marlene was resting her head, fast asleep. Next to Cloud, Denzel was starting to nod off as well.

"I think it's time to put them to bed," Tifa said as she brushed a hand over Marlene's head.

"Can you help me with the table?" Junko asked Cloud. Together they carried it to the side, before the Wutaian woman proceeded to get their futons from a cleverly placed wall closet. After rolling them out, they placed the two kids on them.

"I think I'll call it a night as well. Sleep tight," Junko said. After she left, Cloud and Tifa sat down and watched as the children slept soundly.

"Guess it was an exciting day for them," Tifa said. Everything was so new to them. Add to that the clean mountain air, and it was no surprise they were knocked out.

"Mhm." Cloud hummed, then a chuckle escaped him.

"Hm?"

"I just remembered back when we first arrived in Wutai. When Yuffie stole our materia. I think I've never seen you so pissed off before."

Tifa let out a huff, but still grinned. Oh, she had been pissed off alright.

"What did you say back then? 'I'm never gonna forgive her, I won't let her get away with it!'?"

"Yeah." Tifa grinned. "I was ready to kick her ass."

"We've come a long way since then, huh?" he asked her, his eyes firmly resting on the sleeping children.

"We did."

From out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Cloud rise to his feet, and she turned her head to look at him.

"I'm not tired yet. I was thinking of checking out that onsen. Wanna come too?" he asked her.

"Sure." Truth be told, she had been looking forward to the hot spring the entire day. As they silently made their way towards the door, Tifa halted in her tracks and walked back to the table, where she grabbed the bottle of sake and their two cups before she joined Cloud once more, a mischievous look in her carmine eyes.

Looking at the sleeping kids one final time, they slid the door shut and headed down the hallway to where they knew the onsen was.

Heading into the women's changing area, Tifa undressed and put everything into one of the provided lockers. She tied her hair into a bun, then washed her body before stepping out into the night air. A shiver ran through her as the chilly autumn air hit her skin. Quickly, she made her way to the steamy spring and placed the sake on the edge, then slowly slid into the hot water.

A low moan escaped her as the pleasant heat surrounded her, the water covering her body just above her nipples as she sat down. Taking the bottle and one of the cups, she poured herself a drink and leaned her back against the edge, wiggling her toes a little as the water worked its magic on her body. A sound from behind her made her open her eyes and turn her head only to see Cloud walking towards her. Once again her eyes were drawn to his body, wandering down his toned chest until they landed on his manhood, hanging free for all the world to see.

Forcing herself to look away, Tifa emptied her cup in one gulp, all the while trying to ignore a different kind of heat that had been building up inside of her over the course of the day. Maybe it was the relaxing atmosphere, or perhaps she was just really horny, but she would enjoy nothing more than to have sex with him.

It'd be nice, but… At home it would have been as simple as waiting for the kids to go to bed, but here they were, sharing a room with them. She'd rather not have to give them 'The Talk' just yet. So it was better to just ignore it until they were back home.

As Cloud slipped into the water next to her, she lifted her gaze to look at him, then handed him the bottle of sake after pouring herself another one.

"Thanks," he said and filled his cup.

A smile forming on her lips, Tifa scooted closer to him, resting her head against him as his arm circled around her shoulders.

"Remind me to thank the doc for his idea," Cloud said after a sip of his sake.

"Mhm, will do," she replied, placing a hand on his chest and gently stroking it. They sat there in comfortable silence for a long while, but the close contact they were having only stoked the flames of desire burning inside her right now.

You know, you're all alone… a traitorous little voice said in the back of her mind. No, they couldn't...Or could they?

Like the voice said, they were all alone right now.

Biting her lip, she slowly trailed her hand down, inching closer to the part of him that set her entire body aflame with need. All of a sudden she was stopped when the hand that had previously held a sake cup took hold of her own. She heard him chuckle, making her turn her gaze towards his face, and she could see the corners of his lips turned upwards into a smirk.

"Looking for something? Here, let me help ya," he said and guided her hand downward. He let out a little groan and another chuckle as her fingertips brushed against his already erect cock. "Is this it?"

Before she could utter an answer, Cloud captured her lips in a deep kiss, plunging his tongue into her mouth. The hand that was holding hers let go and moved up to squeeze one of her breasts. Letting out a moan, she wrapped her fingers around his shaft and gently started to pump up and down as their tongues danced sensually with one another, the slightly fruity aroma of the sake intoxicating her on a whole new level.

She was just starting to get into it when Cloud broke the kiss and pressed his forehead against hers.

"Naughty naughty," he teased, and she couldn't help but giggle a little.

"I dunno. You seem plenty—" she gave his dick a little tug. "—naughty yourself."

"I haven't been ogling you all day though," he murmured into her ear before giving it a little nibble. So he had noticed her eating the eye candy all day.

"And what are you planning to do about it?" she shot back teasingly.

"You're gonna make it up to me," he answered, then untangled himself from her. She watched him as he rose to his feet and sat down on the edge, the smirk never leaving his face as he looked at her. The look in his eyes told her exactly what he wanted right now and Tifa bit her lip as her gaze landed on his hard cock, looking eager to receive some of her loving attention.

A smirk of her own formed on her lips. Two could play this game.

Instead of giving him what he desired right now, she rose to her feet and sauntered over to where the bottle of sake stood, lazily swinging her hips as she moved. She could feel his eyes burning into her backside as she leaned down to pick up the bottle. Not even bothering with the cups, she took a sip right from the bottle and watched Cloud from out of the corner of her eyes, enjoying the heat reflected in those Mako pools as she shook her body to give a certain part of her body just the right amount of jiggle.

Tifa heard him growl in the back of his throat, before she felt a pair of arms circle around her waist and pull her roughly on his lap.

"Impatient," she teased with another giggle but enjoying the feeling of his dick against her ass. A gasp escaped her when his teeth bit gently into her shoulder, and he started to rub his cock between her ass cheeks.

"Tease," he shot back and grabbed the bottle, putting it away before she dropped it because of the sensation of his throbbing member against her. He rubbed himself against her a few more times, before turning her around none too gently. Their eyes locked with one another, cheeks flushed from a combination of drink, heat and desire, and Tifa pressed her lips against his in a single, long kiss, before leaning over to whisper in his ear.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

"You know what I want."

"I still want you to tell me..." she breathed out, the tip of her tongue drawing a little circle around the stud in his earlobe.

"Use your tits."

"Gladly." Tifa planted a kiss on his cheek before slowly trailing her way down his body until she was on her knees in front of him and his cock was firmly resting in the valley of her breasts. Using her hands, she pushed them together and started to rub them against his shaft, eliciting a pleasant groan from Cloud.

She giggled as his glans poked out while he unconsciously pushed his hips up.

"Hello there," Tifa playfully said and ran her tongue over the tip. Cloud hissed out at the sensation, his hand moving behind her head to hold her there as he rocked his hips. She planted a single kiss against his glans, then engulfed it with her lips, sucking it into her mouth.

"Tifa..." He let out a strangled moan as he started to twitch wildly from the pleasure she was giving him. Tifa smiled around his cock as he fucked her tits, her tongue dancing around him teasingly. Turning her eyes upward, she looked deep into his own, telling him what it was that she wanted. One, two, three thrusts later, another moan ripped through him as he exploded inside her mouth, and she wasted no time to swallow every drop of his hot load with a little moan of her own.

After he stopped coming, Tifa cleaned his tip with her tongue before releasing it and smiling at him.

"Did you enjoy that?" she asked, still rubbing him between her breasts.

"Yeah." He nodded and gave her that little smirk of his. The hand that had been resting behind her head went to her shoulder and he started to pull her up into his lap. "Come 'ere."

She didn't resist and immediately straddled him, placing her own hands on his shoulders to keep her steady. He leaned in to kiss her, but she stopped him just shy of her lips and reached past him to retrieve the discarded bottle. Without paying him any mind, she lifted it to her lips and made a little show out of drinking from it.

Cloud tried to make a grab for it with a playful grumble, but she pulled her hand back to hold it out of his reach.

"Now you can kiss me," she told him and used her free hand to pull him into a deep kiss. Her tongue darted forth, seeking out his to continue that exquisite dance they started earlier. Mewling into the kiss, she pressed her chest into his, her hardened nipples digging into his hot skin.

Underneath her, his cock was coming to life again, and her sopping wet hole was screaming out for it as the ache was becoming unbearable. She wanted, no, needed him right now.

Tifa lowered herself, but Cloud planted his hands firmly on her waist to keep her where she was and broke the kiss.

"Not yet," he told her and planted open mouthed kisses along her neck. She squirmed in his grip as he rubbed his cock just shy of her entrance, but never making that final, delicious plunge. "Do you want me to fuck you?"

"Y-yeah."

"Do you want my cock deep inside you?"

"Please..."

"Say it~" he sing-songed into her ear.

"C-Clou—aah!" she let out a moan as the tip of his dick brushed against her clit. She swallowed hard. "I-I want you to put your cock inside me and f-fuck me!"

"That's the spirit." He kissed her temple and guided himself to her entrance. With one little push, he finally entered her, letting out a little groan that was drowned out by her loud moan.

Everything became white for just a second as her inside welcomed their desired guest, and she had to force herself not to come right away. Neither of them moved for a moment, simply basking in the feel of one another, but soon enough Cloud's hands guided her hips up, before pulling them down again, eliciting a moan from her. He did that a few more times before Tifa joined him and moved her hips on her own.

She watched him lean back a little, to undoubtedly enjoy the view, and she placed her left hand against his chest to steady herself a bit more. Another moan escaped her, followed by a giggle as his cock hit all her little sweet spots that made her toes curl. Noticing that she was miraculously still holding the bottle in her right hand, she gave Cloud a saucy little smile and emptied it before leaning over to share that last bit of sake with him in a deep kiss.

"Mhm, tasty." Cloud smirked while licking his lips. Dropping the bottle into the water, she let her now free hand join its twin on his chest and started to move her hips in earnest.

The slapping of skin on skin, the leaves rustling in the wind and the lapping of the water joined their moans in a symphony of love and lust as Tifa rode herself closer to the edge. He reached out and placed a hand on top of one of her bouncing tits, squeezing it just the way she liked it.

"I—mhm—nearly there," she moaned out.

"Don't hold back. I want you to come!"

Her hips slammed down on him a few more times until she cried out, her back arching backwards as an earth shattering orgasm rocked through her. Cloud had to hold onto her so that she didn't fall backwards into the onsen. After her orgasm subsided she sunk against him, resting her face in the nape of his neck and leaving affectionate little kisses on it as she enjoyed the afterglow. It was perfect. Almost perfect, if not for the fact that he hadn't come yet.

That wouldn't do.

"Fuck me until you come," she murmured into his ear and she could hear him chuckle deep in his throat.

"That was my intention," he replied. As if it was nothing, she found herself lifted up, and reflexively locked her legs behind his back while lazily moving her arms around him. He instantly started to pound into her.

"Yeah, just like that," Tifa gasped out, resting her head on his shoulder as he used her to satisfy his burning need, each of his furious thrusts extending that beautiful feeling of orgasmic bliss inside her. She could feel him twitch inside her and knew that he wasn't going to last much longer after the riding she had given him. "Come deep inside me..."

With a loud moan, he slammed himself to the hilt, making Tifa bite her lip at the sensation of his violently twitching cock releasing hot cum all over her insides. She held onto him, murmuring sweet nothings into his ear until his own orgasm subsided, and he slowly sunk to the ground with her. He pulled himself out of her and she untangled herself from him so that they could both lie down near the edge. With a satisfied sigh she rested her head on his chest.

"We need to get that bottle out," Cloud said after a while.

"Later. Let's just enjoy the moment for now," Tifa said with a little grin. "Maybe we can get some actual onsen time, too."

"And whose fault is that, I wonder?" he teased.

"I'm pretty sure a certain someone already had a stiffy when I was trying to make a move."

They both shared a laugh.

After a while, they slipped back into the onsen, where Tifa snuggled close to Cloud as soon as he had gotten rid of the bottle. Closing her eyes, she listened to the soothing sounds of the night wind.

She would definitely recommend this place.