A.N.: It's not late! ..Err, kind of. The point is it's done and here it is for Valentine's Day! Personally, I don't care much for the holiday. And I wrote a fic anyway. Huh. Right, well.
The time of the fic may be a little different than expected. Just know that instead of it being the February right after the last chapter, it's the February a year later. That should help.
This fic is dedicated to my darling Tina, for she is my valentine this year XD Happy Valentine's Day lovey!
And to you all as well.
Valentine's Day was definitely better with someone. He'd easily come to that conclusion when she cooked him his favorite meal for dinner, and it was only becoming more apparent as the evening went on. It was the little things she did that made it so nice. The dinner, the affection and… well, it was fairly obvious that the dress was solely for his benefit. He hadn't seen her wear that since that New Year's party way back when. Oh yes, he remembered that party well…
She must have too, if she'd chosen that outfit.
She couldn't believe she was kissing him in front of everyone. In front of Cloud! At that thought, she couldn't stop her eyes from flying open, despite how unromantic it was.
Oh God, he was literally gaping at them… so was everyone.
Suddenly Reno's grip on her tightened, pulling her closer and she let her eyes fall shut again. Yuffie's voice was audible even over the returning din of the room.
"Cloud! Come have some champagne with me!"
She pushed Reno away slightly, so she could watch Yuffie drag Cloud across the room. Reno grinned at her. "Happy New Year."
If she wasn't red before from everyone watching, she definitely was now. "Y-you too," She couldn't help watching over his shoulder to see if Cloud was sufficiently distracted yet.
He wasn't. He just continued staring at them like he had been before. If he was going to say something she wished he'd just go ahead and do it already. He didn't even seem to notice Yuffie thrusting a glass of champagne under his nose. She continually tugged at his sleeve, trying to get him to look at anything but the couple near the mistletoe. But that wasn't working, so…
Tifa's eyes grew impossibly large. "Oh my God…"
"She just kissed him!"
"What? Who?" Reno spun around to look in the direction she was looking, but the crowd had already moved in the way.
"Yuffie just kissed Cloud." It was taking a while for that to sink in. God, that was something weird to witness.
He turned back to her with a look of utmost confusion. "Why would she do that?"
She giggled. "It must be the champagne," She was surprised to find that she wasn't jealous, intoxication involved or not. "Come on," She took his hand from her waist and held it in her own. Now was a perfect time to make a break for it. She led him to the entrance, pushing the doors open and watching the snowfall. "Let's take a walk."
He looked at her quizzically. "Aren't you going to be cold?"
She used the hand she was holding to hoist his arm around her shoulders and leaned into him. "I'll be fine," she said smiling contently, already enjoying her new year.
He put the last dish away and crept up behind her, to where she was leaning on the counter eating from the box of chocolates she'd bought to keep in the apartment. "I think you need to buy another brand next time," he said after grabbing one, biting into it and grimacing.
She popped another chocolate into her mouth and turned to look at him over her shoulder. "Why?"
"This is like the third coconut one I've gotten in a row."
"Well of course it is," she said turning back to the cardboard container. "They're all coconut."
"Why the hell are they all coconut? No one likes the coconut ones."
"I do," she said, perfectly innocent at first, reaching for another chocolate. But in her barely-concealed smirk, he saw her whole devious plan.
"That's evil," he said, shaking his head.
"No it's not," She abandoned the box and walked towards the living room. "It's just a very clever and sneaky way to get a whole box of chocolates to myself."
"You know," he started after her once he put the lid on the box, "I only let you get away with this cause you look so damn good in that dress."
She merely stopped and raised an eyebrow as he grinned. "Now where have I heard that before?"
Tifa looked around the restaurant, biting her lip and severely lamenting the fact that she had nothing interesting to say. "I've never been here before," she said, suddenly remembering that she was holding a menu in her hand. "It's very nice." She was also suddenly very glad that she was holding a menu, as she could hide her face in it when she was feeling particularly awkward. Now was a good time.
"Me neither," Reno put down his menu and she could feel his eyes on her. "But it seemed fancy and y'know… foreign."
"Yes it certainly is…" she scanned the menu and found she couldn't pronounce any of the dishes, "…Foreign." She let out the breath she'd apparently been holding. Setting down her menu, she hoped the waiter would be able to take her order based on the description rather than the name. She didn't want to embarrass herself.
Much to her dismay, she found she couldn't understand the waiter either. She briefly wondered if his incomprehensible accent was even of the same region as the dishes on the menu. She couldn't tell. At least he took her order without requiring what was sure to be a sad excuse for correct pronunciation. She fidgeted uncomfortably while Reno ordered a bottle of wine. The waiter turned back to her.
"Your drink, miss?" Well that she understood at least.
"I, um… I guess I'm having wine," She caught Reno's eye and he grinned at her. She couldn't fight the blush that surfaced. Not noticing the waiter impatiently waiting for her to hand over her menu, she blushed even more when it was unexpectedly taken from her hands.
She bit her lip again, resuming her observation of the restaurant in lieu of conversation. "You know," she spoke up suddenly, finding it in her to actually look him in the eye again. "It's nice to really have a date on Valentine's Day for once."
He grinned again. Or maybe he had never stopped—she was developing quite a habit of looking everywhere but at her date. "Oh I definitely agree."
She smiled shyly and looked away, becoming fascinated with the patterns on the wallpaper. When she turned back to him, she found that his eyes were still on her. "Why…" she fidgeted in her seat, "Why are you staring at me?"
"Well," he leaned forward, the beginnings of a smirk on his face. "The main reason would have to be that dress." He noticeably looked her over to prove his point.
Despite the fact that she was painfully embarrassed and undoubtedly as red as a cherry, she couldn't stop herself from asking. "And the other reason?"
The smirk was full-fledged. "What's underneath the dress."
Oh right. The first date, when she had chosen to wear an equally revealing dress. "I can't believe you let me get away with that. I thought you'd punch me in the nose and as soon as the wine arrived you'd pour a glass and throw it in my face for good measure."
"I thought about it," she admitted. "But I didn't think you'd try anything for real, and if you did, I could just—"
"Kick my ass," he finished for her.
She laughed. "Right. Now come on," she implored, grabbing his hand and leading him to the couch. "It's gift time."
"Okay, but can I give you mine first?" he asked her, grabbing the boxes off the coffee table as they sat down. She nodded. "I just hope you like it."
She smiled. "Oh, I'm sure it will be fine. Just as long as you didn't get me skimpy underwear or anything," She easily caught the look on his face. "…Did you get me skimpy underwear?"
He handed over the box, feigning dejection. "Well now you've gone and ruined it."
"Not entirely," she said, undoing the ribbon as her smile grew wider. "I'm very interested to see what you got," Her eyebrows went up when she finally revealed what was in the package. "It's surprisingly tasteful and surprisingly my style," She giggled. "I'm impressed."
He matched her grin. "I aim to please. But that's not your real gift."
"Check underneath it."
She picked up the little red box with the tag that had her named on it in his best penmanship—which still wasn't very good. He watched the excitement enter her face as she opened the box.
"Oh," she breathed, "It's beautiful." She lifted the item out of the box, revealing it to be a garnet solitaire on a platinum chain.
"Ya like it?" he asked, helping her put it on.
"I love it. You know…" She lifted the gem and admired it. "When I was little, my mother had a necklace exactly like this," She smiled, recalling the seemingly fond memory. "I coveted it like you wouldn't believe. My mom said that I could have it when I turned eighteen but… but then she died long before that. I thought about taking it, but I decided she should be buried with it."
He frowned for a moment, wondering if all he'd given her was a painful reminder. But then she lifted her eyes again to meet his, and he knew he didn't have to worry.
"Thank you," she said, quickly pulling him into a hug.
"Oh!" she said after a brief moment, pushing away from him. "I have to give you your gift." She handed him what looked like a booklet with a ribbon on it.
"What is it?" he asked, confused.
"Just look at it. You'll figure it out." She scooted closer as he untied the bow.
He was definitely more than a little curious. He flipped open the book, finally understanding what it was. It was a 'coupon' book of sorts, filled with all kinds of favors she would do for him. The favors, he quickly realized, started out innocent enough—free massage, cooking a favorite meal. Though as more and more pages were turned, his eyebrows rose higher and higher.
"Do you like it?" She asked, apparently amused by his reaction.
"Oh I certainly do. I can see you put a lot of thought and…" he paused on page 39 and his eyebrows went even higher, "Imagination into this."
She just smiled.
"Though it kinda makes me wonder where you got all these ideas from when I wasn't involved." He looked at her from the corners of his eyes, smirking.
She cast her eyes to the ceiling and feigned complete blamelessness. "Aww, but it would ruin the fun if you knew that."
It hadn't surprised her that out of all the people she'd invited for dinner—her party from AVALANCHE, in an informal sort of reunion—that only two were able to show up. But she didn't mind. All it meant was less food, less hassle, and less cleanup. And if she really had to admit it, Yuffie and Vincent were the two people out of the group that she most enjoyed spending an evening with.
"Thank you for helping, Vincent," she said as he finished helping her put the dishes in the dishwasher. She put her hand on his shoulder so she could stand on her toes—he really was very tall—and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "You're my honorary valentine this year," she said with a smile.
He didn't reply, but she now knew better than to be put off, especially now that she had learned to determine whether or not he was smiling even with the cloak in the way, learned to read the smile in his eyes when she couldn't see it on his face.
She turned to Yuffie, seated on a stool by the bar counter. "And Yuff, thanks for sitting there while we cleared the table."
"Oh shut UP," she mumbled in response, flipping through a magazine.
Tifa giggled and joined her at the counter, just catching a glimpse of Vincent stealing the book she'd left on the coffee table and stretching out on the couch to read it. "That's all right Yuffie. I need you to help me with something else."
"Yeah?" She put down her magazine and suddenly looked interested.
Tifa smiled. "Yeah," She leaned in closer so she could speak a bit more quietly. Though she doubted Vincent was listening—and it was nearly impossible to tell when he was—it wasn't going to be a conversation she really wanted him overhearing. "Okay, so I'm doing this thing for Reno for Valentine's Day…"
"It's sort of like a, um… coupon book."
"With um… 'favors,' if you get my idea." Tifa fidgeted and bit her lip, plan finally revealed.
"Uh-huh… Oh… Oh! Gawd Teef, that's naughty."
"No it's not!" She was beet red by the time Yuffie finished her sentence. "Okay well… I guess it is, but… It isn't, and that's why I need help… are you understanding this at all?"
"I think so…" Yuffie put her finger to her chin thoughtfully. "So you want me to help you come up with ideas for your dirty coupon book, is that it?"
"Well geez, you could have just said 'Hey Yuffie, I need a list of sex things Ican do for my boyfriend!' We could have saved about five minutes!"
"Shh!" Did she HAVE to yell like that? Tifa didn't even dare turning around to see if Vincent had heard.
"Chill out Teef," Yuffie said with exasperation, grabbing the nearby notepad and pen. "How are you going to actually do any of these things if you can't even talk about them?"
Well… it was different when she was with Reno, different in a way that she also was too embarrassed to talk about. She just sat in silence, occasionally glancing over to the girl beside her furiously scribbling on the notepad, not actually letting Tifa see what she was writing.
Somehow Vincent had appeared behind them, alarming both girls who were too lost in thought to see him approach. Yuffie looked up at him arching an eyebrow in annoyance. "Can I help you?" She let out a squeak of shock when the gold claw darted past her to snatch up the paper and pen. "Hey!" She was immediately on her feet. "What are you—don't cross that out! Give that—!"
All her attempts in trying to get the list back were failing miserably, as she jumped up and down, trying at least to see what he was writing. "Can't I just—? Ugh, fine!" She gave up only a split second before he returned the list to her, once again retreating to the couch and book. She started looking it over. "Gawd, what was THAT abo—" Her eyes widened as they traveled down the list. "Oh wow…" she said, cheeks faintly tinged with pink.
Tifa grew suspicious. "What?" If it was something to make Yuffie blush…
"Damn Vinny, I had no idea! Course, I definitely wasn't lookin' for one, but… wow," She repeated, apparently at a loss for anything else to say.
"What? What is it?" Yuffie relinquished the notepad. "Oh…" Tifa's blush was returning tenfold. To think that Vincent of all people would come up with…"I guess, um," she feigned a cough to hide her embarrassment, "I guess this list will work." She risked turning around to see if Vincent was watching their reactions, and she could clearly make out the signs of an amused smirk.
"Yeah," Yuffie agreed. "I think that will make a… very…" she faltered briefly and her face was red as well, "A very… generous Valentine's Day gift."
Tifa read the list over a few more times. Generous indeed.
Reno thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, I guess you're right," He let his head fall back on the couch for just an instant before sitting up abruptly. "Oh! I need to ask you something."
He leaned in close and put on the cheesiest grin he could manage. "Will you be my valentine?"
"Well… I dunno…" She pretended to be thinking. "Mmmm… okay!" She closed the minimal distance between them with a kiss.
When they parted, he grabbed her hand and silently urged her to stand with him. "You know what the best part about Valentine's Day is?" he asked her, oh-so-subtly leading her towards the bedroom.
She immediately caught his implication—oh, he had taught her well—and imitated the smirk that had formed on his face. "What's that?"
"The celebrating doesn't end until morning."
She clucked her tongue and shook her head teasingly. "That's bad…"
He waved the booklet at her, which was still in his other hand, and grinned. "Well apparently you're not one to talk…"
Smiling deviously and pushing him through the doorway to the bedroom, she stole the book from him and tossed it on the floor behind her, where it lay forgotten.
…Until the next morning, when Reno decided to cash in on coupon number 6.
A.N.: Special thanks to my dear friend Rachie and lady winde for giving me the ideas for two of the three flashbacks. Speaking of which, I hope that wasn't too confusing.
Please, please, please leave lots of reviews!