Claustrophobic
By Henrika

Henrika- Finally had to write a Cloud/Tifa. Advent Children is beautiful. And they make such a good couple.

Oh, and I know that the first two paragraphs don't match tense with the rest of the story. I meant to do that.

Enjoy and review!


She's woken up by the screaming echoing through the rooms above Seventh Heaven. It's not the first time it's happened, but the blood-curdling scream still catapults her out of bed with the same fear that it did the first time. She bolts to the room across from hers and rips open the door, revealing the screaming man within.

Two children appear at her side, who she instantly shoos away. The pair stare with wide eyes as the brown-haired woman rushes to the man's side and tries to wake him. He struggles against her with inhuman strength, but she manages to hold him to the bed and call his name loudly enough that his eyes snap open, glowing with the strange blue light that mako imbues. He pulls the woman off him and instantly tears the tangled sheets away from his body. Only after he has thrown them across the room does he close his eyes and wipe the sweat from his forehead, unable to do anything for the sweat drenching his t-shirt and flannel shorts.

"Tifa?"

"It's me. I'm here." He pulled his hand from his forehead and looked beyond her to the two pairs of frightened eyes that are staring at him from the doorframe.

"I'm okay. It's all right. Just a bad dream." He said, smiling at them.

"Are you sure?" Marlene piped up.

"Yeah, you were screaming really loudly." Denzel added.

"Just a bad dream. I'm sorry I woke you up." The blonde-haired man smiled at them, albeit somewhat shakily, but it reassured the children.

"Why don't you two head back to bed?" Tifa said, though it was more of a command than a question.

"You're sure you're okay?" Marlene asked one last time.

"I'm fine. You two go back to bed." Reluctantly the two obeyed, Denzel shutting the door behind them.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Tifa rounded on the blonde man. "What was it Cloud?"

He turned to her, his eyes still glowing in the dark. "Do you want to know something I've never told anyone Tifa?"

"Cloud?"

"I'm claustrophobic."

"What?"

"I'm claustrophobic." He repeated as he stared across the room at the sheets that had bound his legs.

"I don't understand."

"I wonder if Vincent's claustrophobic too?" He mused. He shook his head, "Then again he wanted to stay in his coffin."

Tifa, who was beginning to catch on to what Cloud was talking about, decided to ask the question she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to. "What made you claustrophobic?"

"I didn't used to be claustrophobic when I was little. I could hide in the littlest spaces and nobody would see me. Then again, they never saw me anyways, unless I did something wrong."

"Cloud." She whispered.

"I hated that tank. Being tied up in my sheets reminded me. I hated it so much. I hated Hojo and I hated Shin-ra and I hated Nibelheim and I hated Sephiroth and I especially hated having to see Zack in the exact same situation. I wanted so badly to escape, for the experiments to end. But I was trapped there and I was too weak to escape. And they kept us in glass tanks like we were no better than…like we were no better than…like we…"

Tifa pulled her childhood friend against her ample chest and let him muffle his sobs and unreleased tears in her nightgown.

"What were you dreaming about?" She finally asked when he leaned back from her.

"Sephiroth." He answered, with shame in his voice that Tifa didn't understand.

"Cloud, he's…"

"He's not gone Tifa. He told me that."

"But…"

"He won't be gone until I'm gone. Maybe I should just…" And he stops abruptly to cup the cheek that Tifa just slapped. "Tifa?" Even in the dark he can see the tears shining in her eyes.

"Don't you dare leave. If you leave me, who's going to come to my rescue when I'm in a jam, hmm?"

"But Tifa…"

"I don't care."

"Why do you think he keeps coming back?" Cloud asked, anger rising in tandem with desperation. "Why do you think Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz showed up? It was because of me. Jenova…"

"Is no more a part of you than Sephiroth. You are Cloud Strife, the scrawny little kid from Nibelheim who wanted to be in SOLDIER to impress me and the town."

"I was never a SOLDIER."

"No, you weren't. But you know what?"

"What?"

"You still managed to impress me. You kept the promise we made by the well that night. That impressed me more than any rank."

"…"

"Cloud, I know what you want to believe. I know that you want to be able to blame everything that goes wrong on yourself. But you can't fix every little thing that goes wrong."

"But I…"

Tifa interrupted him. "Do you know what Barrett told me once?" Cloud shook his head. "He told me that you were the kind of person who wouldn't stop until they had either run away from all their memories or until they had saved them all. I know what he meant now."

"And what's that?"

She pushed her hair back behind her ear and grabbed the man's chin, forcing him to look at her. "That you're the kind who saves everyone. You told me once that you didn't think you could save anyone. And I know now that you were lying. Because you saved Marlene and Denzel. You saved all the children that Kadaj and the others kidnapped. You saved the city from Bahamut. You saved the Planet from Meteor. And you saved us all from Sephiroth. And most importantly, you saved me. Again and again you've saved me."

"Teef…" He reached out a hand hesitantly, brushing away the tears staining her cheeks. "You're right." She looked up, nearly blinded by the glowing sapphires in the dark. "I've always felt like a failure. I was a failed clone of Sephiroth. I failed to make the town like me. I failed to become a SOLDIER. I…I failed Aeris. But I thought if I could save someone, then maybe I could make all that right. And when I thought I couldn't do even that, when Geostigma guaranteed I was going to die, I felt like I was hopeless again. But you wouldn't let me give up. You kept fighting even when I had stopped. Thank you."

With that, he got up from the bed and gathered the crumpled sheets into his arms. "You're welcome." He heard the whisper sound through the dark.

He returned to the bed, spreading out the sheets on one side. "Would you…" He paused, praying that Tifa wouldn't notice his blush in the dark, then reminding himself that he didn't blush. "Would you stay with me?"

"Of course." Cloud climbed back onto the bed and lay down, letting Tifa rest against his chest.

"He's going to come back you know." He said into her hair.

She turned over in his arms. "I know. I also know that we'll defeat him. As many times as he comes back, he doesn't stand a chance against…" She's cut off when he suddenly kisses her.

"Thank you…for saving me." And even with Tifa's arms wrapped tightly around him or perhaps because of them, he doesn't feel the fear of claustrophobia anymore.


Henrika- Agh, I'm covered in sap! Look at this; I'm covered in sap and cliches! Ah well, hope you enjoyed.