Title: Daily Routine
Their routine is like one for any other family somehow.
Not sure if it counts as a moment but the end probably does.

Every morning, he awakes at five, trains until six, makes his own breakfast and then leaves at seven. She's only up just as he finishes washing the plates he'd used. Settling the rinsed crockery, he tells her that he's made them rice with fish and a bit of natto for breakfast on the counter. She thanks him and tells him to be careful. He nods, thus taking his leave.

At eight, Denzel and Marlene come down for breakfast. They all eat together and a little later, she walks them to the little school Shinra has recently set up to educate the street urchins running about in Edge. She sees them safely to class and returns to open up the bar. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, she serves drinks and food to the customers who come. She makes a note to pay their electricity and water bills just before the kids come back – it wouldn't do to have water cut off at a bar.

The calls she gets, needing Strife's Delivery Service, are duly taken down and passed onto Cloud, who could have been all over and beyond Midgar by now, via cell phone. Their conversations are all short and to the point: she will tell him the pick up address and where to go. He will acknowledge it and after her reminder to take care, says he will and hangs up.

At three, she keeps an eye out for her two charges who eventually come running through the door. She greets them and ushers them upstairs to shower and change. Their lunch is already kept to one side, ready and waiting. Marlene and Denzel emerge downstairs again at fifteen minutes past three, have their lunch and offer to help her out as much as they can. She asks if their homework is done and sheepishly, both exchange looks. With a shake of her head, she shoos them back upstairs to complete their assignments.

When they come down again at about four, they declare their readiness to work and will not take no for an answer. So Denzel is assigned to wash duty and serving this time while Marlene wipes the tables dry. The bar patrons know better than to bully these two helpers. Those who have tried have never set foot into the bar ever again after breaking both legs on a very short and painful flight out the door and on one occasion, through a window. (She tries not to do that too often but at the time, that particular pathetic lout had been picking on both Marlene and Denzel.)

As a matter of fact, the arrival of the two helpers usually result in bigger tips and more frequent "keep the change" phrases. She knows it, Marlene knows it, Denzel knows it and everyone else in the bar knows it. But they aren't about to say anything and their customers aren't about to change their habits anytime soon.

It carries on until about six when she forces the two to stop working and go upstairs. She won't have them working for more than two hours: Barret would have her head. And she'd be dragged away to jail for child abuse to boot, she tells them. They pout, knowing she means it and reluctantly go back upstairs, leaving her with the bar and the customers for some time more. At seven, she tries to make dinner as carefully as possible while still keeping an eye on everything.

The phone suddenly rings and she hurries to pick it up. It's him. He says he won't be back till much later to do extra deliveries. She replies that she'll leave some dinner for him and for the last time today, tells him to be careful. He will, he responds and hangs up, like he always does.

She carries on and at a quarter to eight, she calls the two for their dinner. They eat their meal in a small room at the back, away from the Edge city workers who come in after a day's work for drinks. She won't have them around these workers too long. Most of their conversations aren't suitable for children. She isn't even sure if they should be suitable for adults. When they are finished, they wash up before heading back upstairs once more. They know she will not hear of them helping out after seven. Goodness knows how many times they've tried but to no avail.

At nine, she announces closing and everyone gets up to leave, chugging down the last of their drinks and chewing the last mouthful of their meals. It's a good time to close up – no one is so drunk till they can't walk out.

There is cleaning to be done but it can wait. She climbs the stairs and quietly watches Denzel read and Marlene draw for a few minutes from the doorway before clearing her throat. Both look up and sigh, putting away their things.

She tucks them into their beds after they brush their teeth and kisses Marlene on her forehead and Denzel on his. She takes a moment to brush her fingers against his healed skin and smiles widely. Denzel knows why and he smiles back. Straightening, she whispers goodnight and snaps the light off. She knows they murmur in the dark to each other once she closes the door but she doesn't reprimand them. It won't be long before they drift off to sleep, thinking they're still talking.

It is half past ten when she finally eats her dinner amidst the neatened and clean bar, leaving some on another plate for him. In the meantime, she checks the day's mail, sorting through them. A postcard from Yuffie is stuck to the wall where the others can read them while the junk mail is put into the recycling compartment. She heads on upstairs to take a shower and change into more comfortable clothes.

She checks on the children once more at eleven. They are already far away in Dreamland. She heads on to her own room but pauses when she reaches his. She smiles a little. Every night, he seems to return only after she has given into the sandman. He should be on his way back by now.

Her room light is switched off and she tumbles into her soft bed, her tiredness finally catching up with her. But even though she shuts her eyes with a small sigh, she does not sleep. Not yet.

It isn't long before her room door opens again but deliberately, so as not to wake her. Someone goes over to her side of the bed and kneels by the side to meet her face, murmuring.


She can see Cloud's eyes are tired and the lines on his face are visible from where she lies. He smells of petrol fumes, sweat and dirt. His skin is oily, coated with grime and his clothes are dirty from the long day he has had. But his lips are stretched into the tiny smile he will only give her and the children.

He is home.

Tifa smiles at this revelation and a kind of warmth fills her. It is the same kind that emerged when she first learned how he always comes in to say these goodnights, whether she has fallen asleep or not.