Author's Note: Alright, so, here's the deal. I know it has been forever since I've updated this. FOREVER. I know. And I apologize, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't into the whole fanfiction thing much for a while. But now I am back, and so without further ado (because I don't feel like going into more detail right now. It's 3am as I am writing this), here is the looooong awaited eighteenth chapter!

The Face on the Soda Bottle Label

Chapter Eighteen: "When the Time Comes"

The noise from the television in the living room was distracting me from my history project. I was in my bedroom, so it wasn't too loud. It was just the occasional rumble of an explosion, barrage of gunfire, or indistinct shouting of a supporting character, but it was still a lot more interesting than my schoolwork.

I tried my best to ignore it and just power through my project, but after maybe ten minutes – surprisingly enough, when everything fell silent – it proved to be too much. I had to know why the action had suddenly stopped, even though I had no idea what movie was even playing.

In the living room, I found that the volume had just been muted. The lights were off and Cloud was sitting on the couch. I studied him, silhouetted against the flickering glow of the TV screen. He had one leg up on the cushions, the opposite elbow perched on his knee, and his fingers curled around his chin; the index wandered back and forth along his lip as he stared at a spot on the wall a good two or three feet away from the TV.

Cloud almost never turned the television on. When he did it was not to watch a bad action movie and it certainly wasn't to put on a bad action movie and not watch it. Pouting, I realized this meant that something was troubling him. Then, for what was probably a fraction of a split second, I caught myself wondering if it was me. Not only did I wonder, though...I kind of hoped it was.

I bit my lip. I didn't want to deal with anything like this right now. Yeah, I had to admit that I had a crush on Cloud. There was no denying that after I had just hoped that he was upset because he liked me and didn't know if I liked him too. It was just that I had so much more to worry about, and those issues were so much bigger than having a crush on my roommate.

Sighing, I decided to head into the kitchen, grab a glass of water, and then just go back to my room and try my damnedest to finish up my project. When I turned on the faucet I heard a rustle of cloth and felt Cloud's gaze on my back. It lingered only a moment longer than it would have taken to figure out who I was – not that it was hard to tell the difference between Tifa and, at all. His hesitation was more than enough. I all but chugged my water, put the glass in the sink, then turned into the living room and stood beside the couch. Cloud didn't look up at me, or even reach for the remote to turn the up the volume. I started to regret my decision and considered going back to my room.

"How's the project going?" he asked, without budging.

"It's not," I answered. My heartbeat was starting to feel too weak and at the same time too fast.

Cloud didn't respond, but when I went to sit next to him he moved his foot to make room for me and finally un-muted the television. I tried to pay attention to the movie, but it was totally uninteresting; at least, compared to the constant buzz of Cloud's presence in my thoughts. Outside, it was raining and the first really chilly night of the fall. Cloud had a blanket draped across his lap. I screwed my eyes shut, took a deep breath as quietly as I could, and then reached over and pulled at the hem, dragging it until the extra fabric that had bunched up over Cloud was covering my own lap.

My roommate turned to look at me, but I kept my attention on the TV. I knew I was blushing, though, and I just hoped that it wasn't visible in the dim light. If it was, Cloud didn't say anything. He stared at me for longer than I liked, but I pretended not to notice and he kept quiet.

After a minute or two, Cloud sat up straight and rearranged himself. He was maybe an inch closer to me than he'd been before. I held my breath as long as I could, listening to my heart beat in my ears and telling myself, silently, not to look at Cloud.

Don't look at him. Don't. Look at him.

I looked over at him and then back at the TV as quickly as possible, but at that same moment he had also looked to the side and our eyes had met. Before I'd freaked out and looked away, that is. Mentally, I berated myself for it. What could have happened if I had held his gaze? Would he have known, just from looking at me, that I liked him too, and leaned over and kissed me?

But he had to already know. It was too obvious. If he knew, was I wrong then?

I clenched my jaw, wishing I could shake my head and clear it of those thoughts. I was not wrong.

I leaned a little towards him, putting my elbow on the cushion as if I were just lounging. I tried to convince myself it was smooth and totally subtle and counted to thirty in my head. Then I sat up, sliding my legs under my torso so that I ended up closer to Cloud. We were still a good foot-and-a-half apart.

Cloud lifted his arm and draped it along the back of the couch, behind me. I scooted closer to him, still staring at the TV, until I could feel the heat of his thigh on mine but was not so close that we were actually touching yet. I decided to leave that move up to him.

And I regretted that decision as I sat staring straight ahead, trying desperately not to look at him, or whimper, or sigh…or throw up. Maybe I was wrong after all. The thought made me want to curl up in a ball, roll to my room, and just go right to sleep on the floor, without even bothering to hoist myself onto the bed.

I made the tiniest move to stand up and get back to my project, but Cloud stopped me, his arm sliding off the back of the couch to drop onto my shoulders.

I froze, suddenly nervous. I had been waiting for this, hoping it would happen, but now I had no idea what to do. I worried I would get the hiccups. I don't know why that was what I worried about, but it was. Then I remembered when I'd first met Cloud. I'd admired him so much. He was fearless; he didn't care what the world thought of him. He knew what he wanted, he didn't apologize for it, and he knew how to take steps to get it.

I'd convinced myself then that being more like Cloud was the key to making Riku like me. Then again, I'd also convinced myself that I loved Riku.

But I knew that wasn't the case with Cloud. It couldn't be, not when having a crush on my older, super attractive roommate was as heinously inconvenient as it was.

I clenched my fists, closed my eyes, gave myself an imaginary but firmly resolute nod, and then closed the remaining distance between Cloud and myself. After a long moment of careful consideration, one of frantic worry, another of self-admonition, and ultimately a moment of decisiveness I made the final move. I uncrossed my arms, dropping them to my sides and placing my hand on Cloud's thigh.

As Cloud turned to examine me, I looked straight ahead and somehow managed not to blush. He continued staring at me and I continued staring at anything but him. I wanted him to be the one to take this further. I needed that, needed proof.

After a long while of his watching me, I finally got fed up and turned to him. Immediately, I tried to catch his gaze with my own. But by then, Cloud was far too fixated on my lips to notice I was trying to get his attention. I took a deep breath in and relaxed my mouth as much as I could manage. He wound his arm more tightly around my shoulders and pulled me closer. His tongue darted out to lick his lips, and then he smiled.

"Would it be alright," he murmured as I moved my fingers in gentle circles on his thigh, "if I kissed you?"

I nodded.

Cloud's hand wandered upward until his fingers curled in my hair. He watched me closely for a moment. I moved my own hands to grab at his shirt. When he leaned forward and pressed his mouth to mine it was a lot different from what I'd expected. He did not hesitate at all to pry my lips apart and run his tongue along the roof of my mouth, sending shivers down my arms. Almost without my noticing it, both his hands were in my hair, pulling my head backwards as he pressed into me, pushing against me until I was forced into lying on the couch. He was heavy and solid on top of me, and as he rolled his hips forward, grinding them against mine, I realized that he'd wanted this for much longer than I'd noticed.

I broke away for a breath and Cloud took the opportunity to nip at my earlobe. I pulled his face back towards mine and when we kissed again I tried to respond eagerly, to match his fervor. It was not hard. At that moment there was nothing sexier than how much he wanted me.

How long had he waited for this? Judging by the way his hands roamed in my hair and across my back – always pulling me closer, even when I was pressed flush against him – and the quick, hard way he swept his tongue against mine, it had been forever. It felt like he'd wanted me since the beginning of time, and I loved it. I loved feeling like I'd been worth the wait, thinking that Cloud had been tortured by how close I'd been all along.

His touch slid over my sides, coming to rest on my hips. He lifted himself away from me just enough to slip his hands between us. Still he devoured me, lips, tongue, and mouth working endlessly to conquer mine. His fingertips flirted with the waistband of my jeans. A surge of anxiety assaulted me as they found the button. I told myself to calm down, to forget everything but the giddiness of being wanted, the elation of fulfilled longing, the heat of Cloud's touch.

He unbuttoned my jeans and I failed. I drew back and he followed laughingly, thinking I was teasing. When his lips found mine again, though, I did not respond, and he stopped.

Neither of us spoke. We were still lying on the couch. He was still on top of me. We just said nothing, did nothing. Until, after a long moment spent studying me, Cloud rested his forehead on mine.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, breathing hard. "I'm sorry, it's just…"

"Mmhmm," I nodded, agreeing with his unspoken sentiment.

"Mmhmm?" he questioned back, smiling.

I realized I had never before seen him look so perfectly happy. I bit my lip and nodded again. He took my face in his hands and kissed me.

This time our kiss was slower. It was quiet, content. There was no need to make up for lost time; not when there was so much more ahead.

When I woke up the next morning we were still on the couch. The TV was on, but very quiet, and Cloud was curled behind me, wedged uncomfortably between me and the back of the couch. We shifted position until once more he was lying on top of me. I looked up at him. He was going to kiss me.

"Cloud," I said first, "if we do this, won't it be…too weird? We're roommates."

He thought about that for a moment, then laughed. "I think it's a little late to worry about that."

I nodded. We had already kissed. A lot. We knew there was something between us. It would be just as weird if we didn't do anything about it.

"Besides," he continued, "every relationship has its own set of problems. Let's not worry about that one now. We'll deal with it when the time comes."

Again I nodded, smiling and reaching up to clasp my hands together behind Cloud's neck.

"Do you have to work on your project today?" he asked, nuzzling his nose into the crook of my neck.

"Yes," I sighed. His lips found the corner of my jaw. "Well, no. I mean, I guess I could put it off until later."

"Good," the word came from deep within his throat and as he kissed me firmly, I laughed and forgot about my homework.